Friday, March 30, 2012

As the song begins to fade...

It seems that life is a music album of beautiful songs... songs about life the way God intended it, full of loving actions and graceful truth. Each song's lyrics are faces of people I have known and loved; each melody is the story of our lives crossing paths for a season,  to build each other up, challenge and strengthen each other, carry each other through difficult times and dance together through the miracles and blessings. This song is so incredible, so rich and full and perfect, that I don't want it to ever end...

And then the song fades away as we change and move and move on to the next song, the next community that will build, challenge, strengthen, carry and dance in a different way. And this new song becomes beautiful and precious in its own way, and I almost forget how much I loved the old song, and I begin to hope that this song won't end...

And as we change and move on and it slips away, I try desperately to hang on to the last chords, but it resonates and sounds so much like an older song I now remember... just enough that it makes my heart ache. And now I long for not just the song that is slipping away, but all the songs that came before... so much so that I just don't want the next song to start, for fear that it will one day end as well.

When we hear the final chorus, we tell each other that nothing will change, but we know inside that everything will change... and it must. The next song must come, and the album must have many different songs to be complete. The beauty is enhanced by the brevity of each tune, sweet and perfect in its own special, unique way. And the compilation will bear witness to the faithfulness of God, the love of Christ, the power of the Spirit, and the wonder of true relationship. The album will be just a shimmering echo of the reality of heaven and eternity.

As another song begins to fade, I try to slow it down, try to hold on to the sweet, familiar notes that I cherish. The key and rhythm will change, and even as I resist it, I know the next song will be beautiful too, and it will be just the one I need to hear. Lord, thank you for the songs you've already written into my life, and give me grace to receive a new song from You.

(Note to clarify: No, I am not leaving Fort Wayne now; this entry is not about me going anywhere.)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Palms and Hearts and Living Water

Pastor Meng Pu's homework assignment this week was to read and study Mark 11:1-11, and then translate it into English. Yesterday we were talking about Palm Sunday coming up, and why we should celebrate it as followers of Jesus. He asked me several times about the significance of palm branches... why did they wave palms? Why do we still use palms in our celebration? I had to confess I had no idea. I guess I've always just associated palms with the triumphant entry, but never went deeper. He seemed to think they were a symbol, significant as more...

Today when he came back, he explained it to me. The country of Israel - in fact, most of the land in that part of the world - is dry and arid, with very little lush plant life. But there are palm trees, and where there are palm trees, deep down there must be water. He said our hearts are dry too, and lifeless, and in need of water. Jesus said he is the Living Water in John 4:10, 13 - "...whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life." When we receive Jesus into our hearts, his Living Water fills us and makes our hearts full of life.

The green, vibrant palm leaves are a symbol, the evidence of new and flourishing life - the way our hearts look when Jesus comes and fills us. How wonderful, then, that we wave palm branches as we shout: "Hosanna!" - a word which is a cry for salvation and a word of praise as we acknowledge Jesus as the one who saves.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My Favorite Pair of Shoes

We're at the Earth House in Indianapolis, a cool little venue in an old church building, with the stain-glass windows and hard-wood floors all still in good condition. It took six mighty men to carry Kevan up the two flights of stairs, and one mighty Tall Hannah to get me up there too, but the music is totally worth it. I'm sitting in a Queen Lucy-esque chair, with my dangling feet propped up in front of me, on the right side of the stage. It's dark, but I am not anxious. In fact, I feel happy. I had a great dinner, I got to explore a little bit of downtown Indy in great weather, the venue is beautiful, and Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors are one of my favorite bands, so seeing them live is pretty sweet. But I'm really happy because I get to sit here next to my best friend for a couple hours.

Kevan is beside me, with his long, skinny fingers wrapped around mine. His thumb taps my palm to the rhythm of the song, and after each tune we tap our pointer fingers together in a mini-applause designed by us. I can't hear him, but I know he's humming along as he bobs his head. And I know his favorite lyrics by the way his eyes crinkle in the corners when they're sung.

"With you, I can be myself
With you, I don't have to be somebody else
It's like putting on my favorite pair of shoes
I like to be with me, when I'm with you."

And in this sweet, happy moment, I get misty-eyed, because it's true. I look at my Peter Pan Converses - my favorite pair of shoes - and look at Kevan's hand in mine. I give it a little squeeze, because there aren't a lot of people I know who really get me like Kevan does. And while I really try to be real and authentic with people, Kevan knows me better than I know myself and draws the "true me" out better than most.

He had to go back to North Carolina this morning, and I am already looking forward to the next time I get to see him. Maybe we'll just listen to music, tapping our thumbs, reclining and looking at the sky... it doesn't really matter, Kev, as long as I just get to be with you.

Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Bake Sale for Malawi

In January, I asked our youth night girls what their goals were for this year. The overwhelming unanimous response was that they want to help others and make a difference in the world. Since then, we've been praying for local and global opportunities for them to do just that.

Last week, we learned from some International Teams missionaries in Malawi that there is a food shortage crisis in the refugee camp there. You can read the details about it here: So Hannah and I told the girls about it on Wednesday night, and they jumped at the chance to do something to help - a fundraiser... a bake sale! Oh goodness... when was the last time I did a bake sale? ...Have I EVER done a bake sale...?!

Yesterday morning started at 7:30 for Hannah and I... we had a pot of coffee, made a grocery list of supplies and ingredients, checked it twice, and then left our list at home when we went to the store. This was not on purpose. We tried and were actually successful in remembering and buying everything we needed. Then we picked up one of the girls and ran home. Thet Thet and I organized the mixing, baking, cooling/decorating, cleaning, and publicizing stations around Little Burma, while Hannah and Shannon gathered the rest of the girls.

At 11:00, the girls started working. In three hours, they mixed, baked, decorated, and packaged four dozen brownies, two dozen cupcakes, two dozen chocolate chip cookies, two dozen sugar cookies, three dozen peanut butter cookies, two dozen cake pops, and two bowls of "Chips O' Joy." They also made and posted signs around our block, set up an attractive sales table, decorated price placards, and wrote little thank you notes for our potential customers.

At 2:00, they took their places on the sidewalk with signs and at the table, giggling and bouncing and anticipating a great response. They made up a cheer that they shouted until they were hoarse: "HELP re-fu-GEES in MaLAWi - Whoop!" At one point, one girl was very concerned that none of our signs said anything about our cause, so she made a long banner that said it in big, bright words. Near the end of the time, they even walked door-to-door in the neighborhood with their goodies. The result was $170! Today we took the leftovers to our ESL classes and earned about $35 more. We still expect a few sales tonight and tomorrow - our goal is $240. $10 can provide enough food for one person for one month, and $80 can provide food for one person for the rest of the year.

I was so impressed with the girls, and am still amazed when I think about their love - their eagerness to help, the joy they found in serving others and campaigning for the support of the hungry. That kind of love-in-action changes lives, and changes the world!

Making signs

The Street Team


...And Baking!

The Packaging Table

The Cake Pop Masters!

The Sale Table

We are so excited!

The Epic Sign

The Advertising Team

"HELP re-fu-GEES in Ma-LAW-i!"
If you weren't able to come to the bake sale but would like to give to help feed the refugees in Malawi, go to the link above, and it will tell you how to give. We invite you to join us in this cause!