Sending love across the globe:The energy in compassion

Sending love across the globe:The energy in compassion

The room was filled with whispers and giggles. As I looked around me, the kids were all sprawled out on the floor of the church sanctuary. Some had concentrated looks, others were squealing in delight at the progress being made-yet others were waiting anxiously for me to come and see their poster boards they had just finished.

You see they had all just learned about other kids across the globe-kids just like them. Except there was a huge difference, the kids they had just learned about were living in refugee camps, or fleeing as refugees to other countries-leaving behind clothes, toys, friends, a life.

My friends-the kids in Tres Rios community do not have it very easy either. They are growing up in a neighborhood where poverty, drugs, and crime are the norm. But I wanted them to know that the atmosphere surrounding them does not have to define them. They can be world changers, right where they are- even in this neighborhood.

We explained as gently as possible the crisis in the Middle East to all of the kids. At the end, I asked them their thoughts on what they had just learned. One child raised their hand and said- “We need to pray for them.” Yes, oh yes how spot on.
I asked them if they knew of ways we might help make a difference amidst the crisis. Shouts of ideas began to bubble up out of them as they took turns talking over one another. “They need clothes, we can fill a big truck with clothes for them!” Others said, food, toys, water, medicines, etc.

I was grinning from ear to ear as I heard their ideas. I loved them all. However, one very sweet voice suggested the one thing we all know is needed most. It’s the one thing that makes all the difference. It’s the one thing that shatters darkness.The sweet voice called out ever so simply- “love.”

Doesn’t that just mark you? No long winded answer on love and how and why-just simply stated. It came from a place of pure innocence, a perfect resting place of hope.

So we got out the poster board and crayons and let their imaginations take them away.Tears sprang to my eyes as they were met with smiles, enthusiasm and creativity.

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The kids came up with ideas to host fundraisers in order to send money to organizations we knew who were doing something for the kids, just like them-across the globe. All their own ideas! We gave no hints, help or suggestions. I genuinely wanted to know their thoughts and if they could respond, what would be their response. A child’s response to a hurting world is powerful.

 

I was so impacted. They weren’t sad, scared or consumed with a dooming sense of helplessness. There in the midst of glitter and glue, crayons and markers- change was happening.  A change coming from little minds working away and I saw what He sees- faith like a child.

To a child, faith is so easy- so simple. In one child’s mind, why not drive a truck full of clothes to Syria from Costa Rica?! To him, this child-distance, money and time have no factor. Their hope was contagious. They were not focussing on their own lack of clothes, some even suggested they could run home and grab (what little they had) of their own clothes to give away.

What would the world be like if children were consulted more on world affairs? The innocent responses while so simple, are often the most accurate. We forget that some of the greatest answers are found within a simple idea.

Oh I know there seems to be a lot of complexity in the world today. Between social media, world news and local news-anger and hate are loud. But not this day, this day the kids chose hope and love. At the end of the day-hope and love are louder.

The energy in the sanctuary was exciting as the kids of all different ages were full of ideas, of hope. And there, I felt it. I mean I really felt it-the energy in compassion. It’s transformational. We stop thinking about the sadness and the despair. We stop thinking about the lack and the worry. We simply start thinking like Jesus. Our hearts beat hard for Him-for His hope.

We are praying and loving our family from Syria and Iraq all the way from Tres Rios, Cartago, Costa Rica.

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Grace-My Compass.

“Grace is a painting God’s still completing over our torn canvases.” Bob Goff

It was an unusually cold night, that night in San Jose. As we drove around the city serving coffee and cookies in the red light sections-I spotted her. Even from a distance, in the dark-I saw her determined jaw. She and I had settled into sort of a routine-each week I offered her coffee and cookies, each week she refused. However, with every refusal, her eyes would betray her words.

This particularly cold night, I approached her corner and found her sitting on a stoop near the street alone. I asked her if I could sit next to her and she nodded. We sat in silence for one whole minute. The lines in her face made her look angry but I saw she wasn’t angry-she was sad. I waited for her to speak. I could have sat in silence for as long as needed. Finally, she peered sideways at me, “Girl, do you know what I do? Do you know why I am out here?” I replied, “Yes, I do know why you are here. Do you know why I am here?”

She shook her head no and waited for my explanation. I opened my mouth to give a little synopsis of why I come to the streets but something stopped me. I saw deep within her eyes she held shame. She was waiting for me to say I was a Christian. She was waiting for me to tell her God wanted different for her life. While both of those are true, her context would  take these two truths as condemnation. In that moment, I was overcome with love for her. I wanted to be her friend. So the words came out, ” I just really want to be your friend.”

She peered at me suspiciously-“I don’t have friends.”  I smiled back and didn’t reply. It was the beginning of an unlikely friendship. She would often speak of desiring to leave the streets but how fear would hold her back. But one day she found the courage to leave the streets and make peace with her family. We lost touch but every time I pass her old corner, I smile to myself. God softens hearts-the hardest of hearts-by His unrelenting love.

God makes crooked, awkward and unforgiving paths become straight. He turns the seemingly impossible into possible. Enemies become friends. Dark becomes light. Hopelessness transforms to hope. All because of this thing called, love.

Love is a funny thing, isn’t it? We all crave it yet struggle to truly understand it. Our definition of love is often defined to us by our past or present circumstances. We want to receive it so easily but sometimes we can’t. We want to give it so easily but sometimes we can’t.

Love is an incredible weapon though against shame, hate and violence. Love brings freedom.

It takes time to grow in our understanding of love. God gave us this incredible tool to help us better understand how love works-it’s called grace. We have to have grace for ourselves and for others. No one wakes up one day and all of the sudden perfects loving well.

Love is a journey and grace is my map.

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The Energy In Compassion

The Energy In Compassion

“This is a time when we have a great fear amongst us in the city of Amman, and in Jordan. We see it coming[ but] we have an energy among us-it’s an energy of compassion.” Mayor Biltaji

You could have heard a pen drop when Mayor Biltaji began to address the battle of fear and the number of refugees flooding Jordan’s borders. One third of the nation’s population are now refugees from Syriah and Iraq. Jordan is turning no one away. While fear, sadness and uncertainty are stirring in the hearts of people, so is compassion.

As he spoke, he looked off into the distance, weighing his words.

I weighed his words too.

Is the energy of compassion enough to combat the energy of fear? Fear can be a really loud voice-if we let it speak.

Can compassion speak louder than fear? I think so.

Compassion will give way to love and perfect love casts out fear. The closer I get to Jesus, the more compassion turns to a radical love-it’s unrelenting. A love that refuses to give up.

The God of an all consuming love-inside of me-pushes me with an energy that is unexplainable.

There are a lot of thoughts, talk and anger when it comes to the subject of ISIS. But the truth is that the fight is not against a group of people . The fight is against a deep lie that takes life, rapes little girls and produces martyrs on both sides. What is the solution? How can this violence be stopped? I feel helpless at times when I read the news.

And it is not just the Middle East. Recently two little kids in Costa Rica were walking to school, they were kidnapped and raped. One got away. One did not, he died. I felt overwhelmed with sadness at the news all around me. While many emotions have stirred inside of me these past few days- I choose to operate from compassion. It brings peace. It brings ideas. My heart begins to lift-I remember that God is Perfect Love. I have perfect love inside of me.

As love begins to speak louder than fear and sadness-an idea begins to take shape. I pray. A question forms out of prayer-How can the kids in a poor community of Costa Rica use their voice for the kids in Iraq? How can we send love from one side of the world to the other?

I write my friend, Canon Andrew White. His organization, FRRME helps children in Iraq and Jordan.  A partial plan is set into motion. Hope begins to rise and I see that the energy of compassion is loud. It will grow louder from the hearts of our kids here.

Stay tuned. Watch as we shine a light of love from Tres Rios, San Jose, Costa Rica to Iraq and Jordan.

Our little plan of love, details coming soon!

Getting Acquainted With Jesus

Getting Acquainted With Jesus

I stood on top of Elijah’s hill where it is believed his ascension to heaven took place. I looked at the cave that is believed to be a place where John the Baptist lived. I caught a view of the wilderness around as it was when John lived and Elijah ascended. I saw where Jacob wrestled with an angel and his name was changed to Israel. I looked out at the view of the promised land as Moses once did atop of Mt. Nebo.  I walked by the Jordan River and saw the baptismal site of Jesus-the birthing of Christianity. I connected deeply with Jesus as a man who once walked the earth. It is important to learn and understand the heritage of faith as a follower of Jesus Christ. The most amazing part of all that I have mentioned is that these encounters took place in a nation where Christianity is a minority and their neighboring nations are seeing Christians killed.

To be in that part of the world would seem to be a scary and dangerous thing to do these days-yet I felt safe. Even more, I felt freedom. Jordan is safe for a Christian-not easy, but safe. While there may be social persecution or pressure, Christians are accepted and encouraged to come and see the history of their faith. I didn’t expect to encounter the person of Jesus Christ in such a profound way as I did. To walk where he walked and learn the culture of his time in a deeper way connected me to the man who lived and died so I could be free.

I couldn’t stop thinking about freedom everywhere I went in Jordan. I knew I wasn’t experiencing freedom because Jordan was safe, I was experiencing freedom because every piece of history from the bible that we explored was a reminder of the reason I exist.

As I reflected on the reason of my existence as a daughter of God, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmingly aware that I come from a nation that freely allows me to worship God openly and share of Jesus to anyone I meet. I can go out my front door right now and tell everyone of Jesus and I won’t be arrested or be killed. I have that freedom. I teared up a bit at the Jordan River, not for nostalgia and the thought of Jesus being there but because of the reason he came. And standing in the place that most likely He stood, gave me chills. It was real-his life, death and resurrection, it was real. It had a purpose and it was not just a story for Easter.

On one of our final days, I had a quiet moment alone on top of the Castle where John the Baptist was held prisoner and later killed. I looked out to the vast hillsides and the serenity around me. Then a gentle breeze blew and a still small voice reminded me-freely you have received, freely give.

I had a lot of ideas and guesses as to why God had purposed for me to go to Jordan but I never would have guessed that it was to get truly acquainted with Jesus. We claim to know him, we sing about Him in our church services. A few weeks ago, churches everywhere in America celebrated His sacrifice but do we know Him? His life, His culture then and now? Do we know how to portray Him to a world He died for? To be a follower of Jesus means to be acquainted with all of His ways-your identity mirroring His. Can that be said of me? I want it to be the thing that defines my life-a follower of Jesus.

Our guide Raed gave us these parting words: “The world is starving for love and true friendship. We must recover Christianity because Christianity is suffering. Let’s love the world.” Raed knows all too well the suffering of Christianity, please read this interview with him here.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

Jesus changed history forever for you and me. He made a way for all of us to change the world through a message of radical love. I am challenged in my display of His love. I want to love better, I want to love well. I want to be Jesus with skin on to everyone I meet.

“And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” Revelation 12:11

 

My Jordan Journey-  The  Journey’s  End  (or is it?)

My Jordan Journey-  The  Journey’s  End  (or is it?)

Every day of this trek brought spectacular scenery, incredible food and beautiful hospitality. I came into this trip unsure as to what to expect. I did not know much about Jordan, its culture or its biblical history. Now, I find myself coming away with a love for the nation, its people, food and culture. I learned on a greater magnitude, the heritage of my faith and the birthing of Christianity. I discovered that as a Christian, I could feel safe and accepted in a predominantly muslim Jordan.

On one particular day as we were out seeing the sites, our tour guide announced that there had been a change in our schedule-we were crashing a wedding! Okay, technically we were last minute invited guests but it is so much more exciting to say we “crashed” the wedding. Time only permitted us to attend the ceremony but it was fascinating. My favorite part was when the bride arrived, everyone was outside the church waiting-including the groom. Upon her arrival, he went out to greet her and walked her to the church. I have never seen that before and it was beautiful.

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( photos courtesy of http://denisebossert.com/ )

 

In our final leg of the trip, we took a jeep ride through the desert of Wadi Rum, also known as, “The Valley of the Moon.” We drove through miles of desert and took in the various Bedouin camps, stopping at one for lunch.          

The only animal I ever saw was a camel! So much of the vast, open space seemed virtually untouched by anyone. God is an amazing artist and I couldn’t help but dwell on that fact as we drove around.

The exciting part of the day came as we pulled over to a group of men and a pack of camels. And the opportunity I had been hoping for came-I could ride a camel through the desert.

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Later on. we took a little hike up to Herod’s Hill. Also known as the location where John the Baptist was held and beheaded. I took a moment to sit on top of the hill and take in the quiet scene laid out before me. I could hear sheep in the distance and the wind as it lazily blew across the fields.

Our journey came to an end with a few days spent at the Dead Sea-World’s Largest (natural) Spa. We had time to explore, rest, write and fellowship with one another.

When one visits the Dead Sea- a mud bath is a must!

I covered myself in mud, waited until it was dry (such a weird feeling) and then I washed it off in the sea. It was the best and cheapest spa day I have ever experienced.

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This sunset was such a perfect ending to a spectacular journey.The people I met, the stories I heard and the places I stood are forever etched into my heart. Jordan was life changing and while the “My Jordan Journey” segment of the blog is done-I have a few more posts coming with final thoughts and reflections of lessons learned.

My Jordan Journey-  Indiana Jones and The Lost City

After several amazing days in Amman, we checked out of the hotel, loaded onto the bus and headed for Petra. Before coming to Jordan, I tried hard to read up on Petra and prepare for our trek through this famous lost city-nothing can truly prepare you for this world wonder.

Before we started our hike, the entrance of the site has a bit more commercial shopping than any other tourist site I visited. This was by far my favorite shop to see at the entrance!

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Petra, also known as the “Rose-Red City”,  was the capital of the Nabataean Arabs and was carved out of the mountains. Although no ones knows exactly when the city was built, it’s prosperous trade and growth can be found dating all the way back to the 1st century.

Petra became famous and it’s economy grew through the trading of spices, frankincense and myrrh. Later it was conquered by the Roman Empire but continued to thrive. However, due to an earthquake and trade routes changing, Petra ultimately became abandoned and was left lost for a few centuries.

Petra was “rediscovered” in 1812 by a Swiss explorer, Johannes Burckhardt  and once again became a fascinating place. The ancient Nabataen city is magnificent and I truly walked around in awe and wonder.

Upon entering the gate, you are greeted by two Nabatean guards to give you an idea of how it would have been log ago.

I will let a few of the photos speak for themselves!

Our group of writers trying to listen to the guide, capture photos and memorize all that we are learning of this city-not easy at all. 

We walked and walked for what felt like miles and yet we had not even officially entered the city, only its gate. When we rounded the corner, the Treasury in all its glory began peaking through the rocks. It is more spectacular in person, than any photo taken!

  

I thought we had arrived and were done only to discover that this was literally just the beginning of the famous city!  We walked on to meet Bedouins who live in the area and were the last people group to inhabit Petra. Along the way, we were entertained by some local Bedouin music!

Of course what is any trip without a selfie!!


      

The city is truly amazing and I find it hard to describe. I would easily return to visit this place again and take two-three days just exploring. There were multiple places to hike and caves to explore that I simply did not have time to cover. It is worth seeing!

We ended the day with shopping and a traditional Jordanian dinner cooked by our own hands!  Of course, we might have had a little help from a chef 😉

Denise and I trying some traditional Bedouin tea while we shopped for myrrh and frankincense.

The shop keeper insisted I try on the traditional attire and eyeliner.

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I purchased some myrrh oil perfume from the area where it is believed the three wise men traveled to see Jesus in Bethlehem.

Cooking our meal at Petra’s Kitchen! Clearly Connor and I are the hardest working members of our cooking group!

A Lesson at Mt. Nebo

A Lesson at Mt. Nebo

I stood on Mt. Nebo in the spot where God showed Moses the promised land that he would never enter. My heart was filled with wonder at the thought of Moses’ journey of faith in God and in the promise of a nation.

Moses has always been one of my favorite characters in the Old Testament. Perhaps it’s because I can identify with him in the fight against slavery. He was an abolitionist, used by God to free the Israelites from captivity in Egypt. Moses faithfully lead the Israelites for years in the wilderness.

The Iraelites’ journey and their struggle to trust God is often a great parallel  to my own journey of faith.  The children of Israel struggled to trust God. They complained, doubted God and at one point thought that slavery in Egypt was better than freedom in the wilderness. Yet in all of that, God provided everything they needed to live. 

So many times, I have found myself struggling to trust God in the unknown seasons. Fear has sometimes become more comfortable than faith but just like the Israelites, God has always provided for my every need. He patiently leads me out of the wilderness of fear, doubt, insecurity and discouragement and into freedom. 

I wonder if Moses was disappointed to not enter the promised land? He fought hard to free his people, so maybe leading a great nation toward freedom was enough.

Looking out at the vast view of Mt. Nebo toward Jericho and beyond, the word freedom came to mind.

Freedom is a word that I feel I so often take for granted. Over the years, God has taught me the power of freedom when he called me to be a voice in the social justice movement. 

I thought I had a good grasp of the word freedom, until I spent a day in Jordan visiting the baptismal site of Jesus and the place where Moses stood to look out at the promised land. Two places representing promises made and promises being fulfilled. 

To walk where Jesus actually walked and remember why he walked the earth truly captivated my heart. From now on, when I read the account of John baptizing Jesus, I no longer have to imagine how the site might have appeared. I just have to look at this picture and remember just how real that baptism was and just how real of a sacrifice He made. 

 

Bethany Beyond the Jordan and Mt. Nebo represent the journey of slavery to freedom. The Holy Spirit reminded me of the moment I first made Jesus the leader of my life. The feeling of forgiveness and freedom came rushing into my heart all over again. I am free and I walk freely in the love and forgiveness of God.

King David wrote, “He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.”  (2 Samuel 22:20; Psalm 18:19) 

To anyone reading this, do you feel stuck or enslaved to an idea or a lie about yourself or God? How has your journey from slavery to freedom been? Maybe fear has been your captor? I don’t know at what point of your journey you might be in but I do know this-He created us to walk in the freedom of the promise of being His sons and daughters. 

I am not the greatest writer and in fact, except for the grace of God, I have no idea how I was picked to attend this press tour. I’m grateful, I know that much.

As we pulled away from Mt. Nebo, tears came to my eyes as I realized that I had left a part of myself on top of that mountain. The encounter I had with God, looking out to the same distance as Moses did so many years before, changed my life. I felt challenged to surrender every fear and doubt to God. 

In that moment with God, on the same mountain where Moses once stood, my heart was renewed at the reminder of the goodness of God.