It didn’t seem like much at first.
Monday night on my flight back to the U.S. my throat was a little scratchy and my voice was hoarse. But nothing awful. I expected it to blow over in a day or two.
But in a day or two it moved from my throat into my lungs. My airways began crackling and whistling so loudly upon exhaling that the noise actually kept me awake.
By Friday morning I was coughing my head off and I could feel my eustachian tubes. It’s never a good thing when you can feel your eustachian tubes.
Rather than risk getting worse over the weekend, I called the family doc and he worked me in that morning. He figured it was a virus, but gave me a prescription for a Z-pak and some Happy Syrup to help with the cough. He told me to wait 3-4 days on the Z-pack unless I spiked a fever or got significantly worse. That was fine with me; I don’t like taking antibiotics unless absolutely necessary.
By Saturday evening it was obvious that I needed to start the Z-pak. I was aching, chilling, and pushing the upper bounds of 101 degrees. I could tell you what the fox says because I’m pretty sure I was doing fox calls every time I opened my mouth, and it was like coughing razor blades.
And today? Today the creeping crud done crept into my sinuses.
I wasn’t planning on bringing much back from Brazil, and I certainly wasn’t planning on this. But let me make one thing abundantly clear:
It was totally worth it.
I’ve been processing all that happened through a fever-induced haze. But it won’t be that way forever. My immune system is getting some steam on it, and that Z-pak is kicking in. And on the other side of the aches and the barks and the fever sweats, some things will still be true:
Like how I saw a woman get her sight back in her eye. Like how I saw a man come out of a wheelchair and not only regain the use of his legs, but also his broken mind. Like how I saw a man with shattered heels do a flying acrobatic flip off of a stage and land on his feet with a bounce and a triumphant smile. Like how I saw numerous people with frozen shoulders suddenly able to swing their arms with full range of motion, and painful knees suddenly able to kneel and do deep bends.
I saw these things and more, and I can’t unsee them.
This bug wracking my body will be history, but what I saw in Brazil?
That I get to keep.
The moment came
when wonder turned to tears
and tears turned
to great gasps of panicked breath.
She leaned forward
and drew her shoulders in
and tucked her chin
as she wrapped
her arms around herself,
to not blow apart,
unaware that she already had.
As she sat there
as tightly as she could manage,
the hand of mercy
reached down and rested
upon her back,
the pressure somehow
stemming the bleeding
from an unknown source.
And though she
could not stop
she was not immune
to the comfort
flowing from that hand,
flooding her being
with the strength it would
need for the coming days.
Had she known
she needed strength
it is possible she would not
the hand to stay.
is bliss, they say,
and there on the floor,
a hair’s breadth away
she clung to that thin thread
with all she had,
unable to fathom
Loud, boisterous, crowded, littered, graffiti-ed, opinionated, don’t-drink-from-the-tap, exuberant, colorful, generous, laughing, trendy, fiery…
I stood in the crowded church and looked around. The place was packed. Seating consisted of plastic lawn chairs, something that has been consistent in all the churches we’ve visited. No pews or fancy seats. Just plastic chairs, quick and easy to move.
Not only was the main floor of the church packed in like sardines, but so was the balcony. Glancing at every entrance, I could see people pushed in, lined against the walls and rails, willing to stand, unwilling to miss any possibility that God would manifest His power and glory in the place.
It was noisy. Even during the quiet times like prayer and teaching, the place sounded the way most American churches do before the service even starts. Lots of conversation and rustling, kids fidgeting and fussing, the sound of lighweight movable chairs, well, moving.
And then the worship. At a glance it looked like any young hip church with lights and a band. But the sound…oh, the sound.
All around me were people with arms raised, dancing in their seats, crying out to God. It was a glorious cacophony, an extended shout of praise in Portuguese and English and French and who knows what else. Good thing God understands them all.
The service began. Story after story of how God has healed in the recent past. Not thousands of years ago, but last month. Not through God’s Man Of Power For The Hour but by regular people: grocery clerks and engineers and artists and construction workers and grandmas and bus drivers.
You could feel faith rising in the room.
In America we so often get wrapped around the axel of being afraid we’re promising that God’s going to do something that He’s not going to do. No such fear exists here. God is good, healing is for today, and the Spirit is willing. In Brazil they simply believe it. They believe the bible is true and that God is really good and longing to give His kids good gifts.
And as words of knowledge are given in the room, people begin to find themselves healed of seemingly hopeless issues, delivered of a lifetime of plagues.
The team was called to the platform to give whatever words of knowledge we’d received. I stood there and looked out on the crowd. They were so hopeful. So willing to be squished in anticipation of seeing Him move. So lost without His intervention.
I thought of the scripture where it says that Jesus looked out on the crowds and had compassion. My throat caught. He loves the people of Brazil. He has no need of anyone playing small in order to attempt to protect His reputation. He wants to be Himself amongst them. Amongst us.
“Do you want to receive the Jesus who has done these wonders here today?” Randy asked. After all I was seeing, I wondered if maybe I needed to rush to the front myself. This was so incredibly far out of the grid of American church. People did rush to the front.
A truly compassionate, powerful Jesus is very attractive.
After the invitation the team found spots down on the main floor to pray for people. Some of us had translators, some didn’t. Mine’s English skills were only slightly better than my Portuguese, but that was good enough, and it turned out I wouldn’t get to keep her anyway. So many teams, not enough translators.
And the crowd pressed forward.
An injured ankle restored to pain-free strength, on the spot.
A woman with head and stomach pain. I prayed, and the pain left.
A man with lumbar pain…and another man with lumbar pain…then a woman with lumbar pain. All backs healed, all pain ordered out.
And then that last woman dropped the bomb. She was blind in one eye. She could see really bright lights if they were big, but that was it.
We prayed, The Spirit touched her with His goodness, and her eye was opened to normal vision. We tested it before and after, and had to pray a few times to get it all the way to normal. But it did become normal.
The blind really do see when He touches them. I saw it. I was there, I prayed, and it happened in front of my own eyes.
I’ve heard plenty of folks in the States fuss that this couldn’t possibly be God. I mean, look—people get touched, they sometimes holler and shake, they often fall to the ground, they feel heat and electricity and sometimes they act like they are being electrocuted. How could this be God?
But my question is: how could it not?
Praises sung to Jesus, prayers lifted to Him…people get saved, people return to the heart of their Dad. God’s kids ask for bread and fish. He will not give them stones and snakes.
Like them, I ask and receive. And this I know: we have a good Dad. He loves to give His kids good gifts. He loves to thrill us, fascinate us, inspire us, fill us….transform us.
I am captivated by this place, by what I’m seeing here, what I’m experiencing here. I am enthralled by my God, by His beautiful hungry children who are willing to trade pride and dignity for a chance to be touched by His power and presence.
My body misses Florida, but my heart?
In this place, with this ministry team and these people, it’s at home.
I watched as they rushed forward, desperate to know if God would touch them, heal them, love them with love that could be felt. I watched them as they rushed towards me, because I was one of a line of people there to help them discover the answers to their questions.
Over and over again He answered yes…I will.
And He did. He tangibly touched them, healed them, loved them.
For many years I felt guilty because I wanted to feel God’s love. I believed it, so that should be enough, right?
Except not feeling it kept me in a shame-induced limbo: if I really believed it, I would not need to feel it., and the fact that I needed to feel it only indicated that I was immature and not very spiritual.
This only drove me deeper into a “faith” that fed my brain and not so much my heart. I felt guilty about that, too, because scripture is clear that God is after our hearts.
My head and my heart were at war, and there was no way I could win. In fact, I was about to learn some terrible but valuable lessons about collateral damage.
I am so grateful for the patience of my Daddy. He gently taught me how to live loved as He set to cleaning up the war zone.
There are days I don’t feel much. There are days I feel good things and days I feel bad things. There are days that I have some serious doubts about His affinity for the human race.
But I never feel unloved.
Once I gave myself permission to really pursue what my heart needed, He met me in my hunger and need. It was a painful pursuit and still sometimes is when I find myself aching between the now and the not yet. But He is not a liar. He told the truth when He said that those who seek Him will eventually find Him.
He wants to be found…and loved.
It does my heart good to see the level of hunger and pursuit here in Brazil. They come with such hunger and childlike faith that He will really touch them. They are not disappointed.
And as I watch the scene before me unfold, neither am I.
My suitcases are open on the bedroom floor, waiting for the final items to be tucked inside and the zippers pulled closed.
Cats do not count as final items. I just feel the need to make that clear in case Mr. Sparky gets any bright ideas.
I only have a little bit more to do before leaving tomorrow.
I’ve been trying to balance out the weight I have to cart around on this trip. One suitcase for checking, one carry-on for…well, carrying on, and one fabulous hand-crafted crossbody hobo bag for the stuff I want to keep on hand.
And yet…the most important thing I carry to Brazil isn’t in any of those bags.
Anywhere we carry the Light and the name of Jesus, we’ve just tilted the scales on the baggage allowance. Infinite love backed by infinite power is a weighty thing. Thank heavens it’s not measured in pounds or kilos or some planes would never make it off the ground. Shoot, some people wouldn’t even be able to walk.
I will be part of a prayer ministry team for various meetings and trainings. I love doing that sort of thing. It’s seriously one of my favorite things to do…someone walks up with a problem, we talk to Jesus about it and maybe make some spiritual transactions, and then the person walks away restored. It’s one wild, glorious, holy moment after another as the Holy Spirit works to see that Jesus gets what He paid for: all His siblings made free and whole to dance before their Father without fear or shame, love flowing freely both ways.
It’s tempting to try to make these spiritual transactions as matters of principle. And there is a level on which that works, because the One who established those principles is unfailingly faithful. But some principles are simply that: principles. They aren’t rules. And He doesn’t bind Himself to them simply because we humans have a penchant for rules and step-by-step programs. He can pull the Sovereign Card and do things pretty much any way He wants.
Frankly, His ways don’t always make sense.
I find that if you’re going to be in the business of brokering spiritual transactions, you’d best tank up on the preferred currency of heaven.
The fractured world is starving for it. Freedom and wholeness are good as principles, but as the outflow of love they are deeply powerful to change hearts, minds, families, communities, countries.
That is what I really want to carry to Brazil. I want to go loaded with love and all the hope and power that partner with it. I want to help reconnect some kids with their Daddy who longs to love them like they never knew they could be loved.
And that just won’t fit in a suitcase.
Lists and piles. Organizing and before-I-go chores. Suitcases waiting to be filled with the laundry that’s waiting to be done.
The trip to Brazil with Global Awakening is only a day away.
Two weeks from now I will be on the other end of the trip. Some things will automatically be different from now. I will have been to Brazil—my first time in that country, or South America, or the southern hemisphere. I will have traveled alone internationally. I will have navigated a culture that doesn’t bother much with English, and I will have tested the language boundaries of all decent Portuguese comprehension by native speakers who may be wondering why that American keeps asking for striped hamster glue.
Interesting stuff, but none of that is why I’m going.
From where I sit now, the questions filter wordlessly through my mind.
What will I see there?
What will God do there?
How will I get to participate in what He’s doing?
Will I hear Him clearly enough?
What does it look like to bring the kingdom of God to the people of Brazil?
What does spiritual hunger look like in the people I’ll meet?
How will this trip change me?
I can’t know any of this ahead of time. Life simply has to happen. The story has to unfold.
And I want to be in the mix as it does.
I wonder why birds’ feet don’t freeze in the winter?
What I mean to say is I want a bowl of cornflakes. I don’t really want a bowl of cornflakes; I want warm chocolate chip cookies, but I don’t have any of those and I’m trying not to eat much of that kind of stuff anyway.
My brain is done. It is connecting random firings of half-awake neurons and processing them without a time stamp.
Sounds like maybe it’s going postal. And it’s doing it to the soundtrack of little bits of songs to which I don’t know all the words. Not that that’s a hindrance in any way. I’ll just keep singing the same dozen words or so over and over again.
And over again.
I am going to eat rice krispies and watch youtube videos about how to pack a suitcase.
I figure I’ll be snoozing in no time flat.