This ball is really rolling.
I alternate between wanting to jump up and down squealing hysterically, and wanting to hide in the closet and take deep breaths into a paper bag. The former generally wins out, but I’d be lying if I said the latter didn’t occasionally have its moments of temptation.
And this is why: I’ve been accepted as a member of the ministry team for the Lighting Fires trip to Brazil with Global Awakening Ministries, led by Randy Clark and Tom Jones.
I typed that so calmly. You know…like I go to Brazil every other week, I do this sort of thing all the time, no big deal.
Except I’ve never been to Brazil, or anywhere in South America, for that matter. I’ve never gone on a trip like this alone, not knowing anybody at the outset, not knowing what to expect, not knowing how to prepare, not even knowing where all the financial provision will come from.
This is easy stuff for God. But it’s a Big Deal for me.
Last August I was leafing through a brochure about upcoming ministry trips with Global Awakening when I came upon the page for the Lighting Fires trip. The Holy Spirit lit that baby up like the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. I knew it was an invitation, a whispered offering of adventure with Him. But then came January, and knee surgery, and what has felt like a mountain of obstacles.
Like the obstacle of the cost of the trip. It’s currently estimated to be $3500. I don’t have that waiting in my bank account. It will have to come from sources prompted by Him to invest in this, invest in the kingdom, invest in me.
He reminded me that I raised more than that for Project Jubilee. Which is true. Like, over $1600 more.
But then He said something to me that sucked the air out of my lungs.
You believed Me to raise that money for the good of others, but you don’t believe I’ll do the same thing for you.
And I could not argue. He was right, as He always is.
Lord, help my unbelief.
I decided then that I only had one legitimate option: press forward. Every excuse to do anything else meant tolerating unbelief. I had to move in the opposite spirit, and let Him move in His own way.
So here I am. I have 16 days (July 21st) before I need to mail all contribution checks to Global Awakening. I am setting my face toward September 25, when I board a plane for Brazil. I have a lot to do before then, but He’s not only the God of finances, but the God of time and energy. He can make this work. There is no good thing that can come of choosing to entertain anxiety over the unknown. Choosing anxiety means missing joy.
And I don’t want to miss a thing.
I need some help. I need people who pray, people who give, people who encourage. If any of those categories describe you, then I need YOU.
You can get details about the trip and what I need by commenting on this post. I will send you the email that many other people received tonight. Or you can search Facebook groups for “Adventures in Brazil!” and ask to be added. I will gladly do so. The Facebook group is a good place to hear up to date information about what’s happening and also stories about what I experience on the trip.
This adventure isn’t just about me. God has hungry kids in Brazil. He does amazing things for them, things we don’t see so often here in the US. Blind people see, deaf people hear, tumors disappear, sicknesses flee, crooked limbs become straight and strong. I want to see what He’s doing. I want to participate in it. And I want to bring it back to benefit all who come in contact with me. I don’t know what all that means, but, well…that is my blank check to Him.
Only seems right it should go both ways.
Last weekend we gathered in southeastern Ohio to celebrate my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary.
That’s a lot of years, y’all.
It’s a lot of loads of laundry, a lot of head colds, a lot of technological advances, a lot of pancakes, a lot of choosing the hard thing when you’re already tired, a lot of vehicles, a lot of yard mowing, a lot of packing lunches, a lot of miles in the car.
For an afternoon the house was filled with extended family. The Baton Rouge Sparkette flew in (in an airplane, of course…we’re an advanced people, but not that advanced), The Far-Away Sparkette and her husband and all the Grand Sparks drove in, the Sparkette came with Mr. Sparky and myself, and lots of uncles, aunts, and cousins came and filled the back yard, the living room, the back porch, the dining room, and the garage. The garage was temporarily set up as Party Central, and we made a few tables groan with the weight of a delicious potluck dinner. My sister, the master planner of this shindig, did a bang-up job.
The next evening the Baton Rouge Sparkette and my dad went into the garage to take down some balloons still hanging in there as decorations. I was busy inside when they came back in.
“There’s an awesome sunset,” the Baton Rouge Sparkette informed me. “We’re going to see if we can see it better from the backyard.”
I immediately dropped what I was doing and followed her and my Dad out into the backyard. It was our last night in Ohio and I didn’t want to miss a good Ohio Valley sky.
We found ourselves a bit disappointed by the view. The trees and grown so much that they blocked all but some of the color higher in the sky.
“In the winter we can see straight through,” said Dad. “The leaves really change things for the summer.”
We stood a moment, admiring what little we could see. And then Dad got an idea.
“We could hop in the car and drive up to the top of the hill to see it there.”
“We could do that?” the BR Sparkette asked hopefully.
“Sure. Let’s go!”
We sped back through the house, slipping on shoes as we headed to the car. Within a couple of minutes we were at the highest point in the neighborhood, and…more trees.
We once again tried to mitigate our disappointment by admiring the color high in the sky. And then the Sparkette got an idea.
“Could we maybe drive down towards the river to see if we could see it there?”
“Sure,” Dad said, immediately turning the car to head down the hill. We left the neighborhood and crossed the highway for a clear view of the river valley. No trees blocking our view. Just pure, glorious color lighting up the sky as the hills around us and the cornfield in front of us slowly settled into dusk.
But I couldn’t get a photo to do it justice. The bridge right in front of us didn’t even show up on any of the photos.
Dad tried, too.
I did get a nice shot of the Baton Rouge Sparkette. She is easily as pretty as a sunset.
We stood for a while, watching the sky grow brighter as the cornfields in front of us grew darker. Traffic whizzed by on the highway behind us, but we barely noticed. We were too enraptured by the show in front of us.
And then came the dancers.
Up from the grass in front of us arose a troupe of the stars of the ballet of the summer evening: fireflies. Or as we call them, lightning bugs. They lit the fields with their sparkle and glow, gracefully arcing across the landscape with an enchanting blink…blink…blink…
In that moment I thought I must surely be the most blessed woman on the face of the earth. I was watching the splendor of a glorious sunset with my Dad and my daughter in the place I call home (even though I haven’t actually lived there in 28 years) as the cooling damp of the Ohio River air crept across the cornfields and lifted a chorus of illuminated dancers into the air right in front of us, accompanied by the chirp and buzz of crickets and other nighttime singers.
If this isn’t abundance, I don’t know what is.
And it all started because a quick glance at the sky told my dad and my daughter that there was something at hand worth pursuing. Worth leaving what we were doing, worth heading outdoors into the backyard, worth putting on our shoes, worth getting in the car, worth driving up the hill, worth driving down the hill, worth getting out of the car, worth waiting, worth watching.
I have to wonder how many times God flashes potential abundance before us and we miss it because we do not recognize the worth of the bit of potential.
Had we accepted the limitations of our back yard view, it still would have been a good evening. We would have thought the sky beautiful and we would have been glad to have seen it. It would have been enough, and we would have been grateful for it.
But the simple act of chasing sunset transformed enough into more than enough. Into abundance.
Into life with overflow.
I don’t know why it is, but it seems like every shirt I own has a tag in the back with a bitey little corner on it. I fidget and cringe and otherwise wiggle around, trying to rearrange my clothing so that bitey corner doesn’t touch my skin. And the weird thing is that when I poke around back there, my fingers can’t feel the bitey corner. But the back of my neck sure can.
It’s super hard to ignore, and very annoying.
I’ve thought of going through my wardrobe and cutting out all the tags in my shirts. But then I wouldn’t know where the shirt came from or what size it is, and while I guess it shouldn’t matter, for some reason it does.
There’s this other thought that nags at me, too. You see, it’s the same bitey corner in every shirt. I feel it in the same place no matter what shirt I’m wearing, no matter where it came from or how it’s designed or what it’s made of.
That means that I’m the common denominator in all of my annoying shirt experiences.
And I have to wonder: is it possible that my shirts have normal tags that are properly sewn in, and it’s actually my neck that is hyper-sensitive? Maybe I just have a touchy spot.
I mean really…who doesn’t have a touchy spot of some kind?
It’s easy to blame our touchy spots on other things and other people. After all, we feel just fine until someone or something else pokes our touchy spot. And then it’s like someone detonated a bomb in our emotions. Suddenly we feel angry or rejected or depressed or anxious or afraid or whatever negative thing our touchy spot covers. We feel it, and we feel it BIG. And it’s highly likely that the poor hapless soul who poked our touchy spot is going to get the full brunt of our Touchy Spot Fury.
Yay for them.
If it’s the back of your neck, by all means, avoid the touchy spot. But if it’s something in you, then that touchy spot is trying to tell you something. It wants you to know that you have a hurt place that needs to be healed. It’s disrupting your life, and it’s making having a relationship with you like walking through a field of buried land mines.
You can cut all the tags out of your shirts, but you can’t cut the humanness out of your relationships. Someone’s gonna trounce on your touchy spot. They probably won’t mean to (or maybe they will), but it will happen. When it happens, you can detonate and release a furious torrent of your touchy spot emotion.
Or you can consciously, intentionally, and purposefully choose love, which is stronger than touchy spots.
You get to pick.
This evening’s mostly random thoughts:
-My scientific experiments prove that it is impossible to eat just one cashew.
-Some folks simply refuse to be happy. Turn ‘em loose in a cake factory and they’ll rant that they only like pie.
-There’s more joy in wondering how God is going to do an “impossible” thing than in considering the consequences of its impossibility.
-Every cat we’ve ever owned has been the weirdest cat we’ve ever owned.
-It’s kind of like Christmas when you’re digging through a can of cashew halves and pieces and you find an intact whole one.
-Teeny tiny frogs can make incredibly loud noises.
-Tiredness is an enemy of creativity.
-Humidity is the enemy of flat-ironed hair.
-Only a true friend would share her discovery of an ad for “Classic Culottes for $7.” 100% no-iron, people. Seven colors. You know you want some to go with your velcro sneakers.
-I am out of cashews.
Sometimes it really does seem as if the world has gone stark raving mad. Ten minutes of watching/listening, or reading the news is enough to make a person wonder if our moral compasses have all lost the ability to find true north.
Then again…the news makes money by exploiting the very worst of humanity. They’ll exploit “heartwarming” too, if they can find it. But fear and anger fuel an appetite for more of the addictive sludge they cook up, so it seems to be the default mode.
This is precisely why I limit how much of it I watch/hear/read.
It’s not that I’m playing ostrich. I’m not pretending the world is all glitter and cake-balls-on-a-stick. I’m keenly aware that it’s not.
I’m also keenly aware that I carry the Remedy.
There’s no way to make a problem seem overbearingly large and powerful than by giving it a lot of focus and attention. The moment the problem gains momentum in your mind, it starts stomping around in big boots and pooping in the corners. Before long it seems as if it’s impervious to any remedy, and so those who actually hold the keys to fixing the problem have either become too intimidated to try, or they’ve stopped believing the remedy is strong enough to overcome the problem.
I’m not interested in falling into that trap.
The world has been messy since that day in Eden when naughtiness trumped obedience and Adam and Even drew a red card. We like to believe it’s gotten worse. In reality, there are just more of us to misbehave in closer proximity to one another, and we’ve got the technology to do it in more spectacular ways, as well as the media to broadcast it so it doesn’t get overlooked. If you don’t believe me, really read the scriptures. Some of those folks were beyond brutal and lawless. We’ve got nothing on them.
See, here’s the thing: if you keep finding dark places in the world, then there’s a problem, and it’s not with the world.
We were created to bear light. Those of us who carry light weren’t meant to carry it out into the sunshine. A lantern in the afternoon sun has little impact. But a lantern in a dark room illuminates it. It transforms it.
And the Remedy we carry is strong enough for anything. No problem is too big. No situation too hopeless. No family too dysfunctional. No heart too broken. No room too dark.
The gospel truly is good news. Jesus changed everything.
And still does.
I had one goal today: paint the Sparkette’s room.
It seems the universe was conspiring to make the event an obstacle course.
I thought the job would be at least half done by noon, if not nearly finished. Instead, I was finishing the walls around 10:00pm this evening. The trim will have to wait until tomorrow. I don’t have the energy to even tell you why it took so long. It just did.
In the middle of the afternoon it began to thunder outside while I was painting.
Jake the Jerk-Faced Dog does not like thunder.
Jake the Jerk-Faced Dog wants to sit on my foot when he hears thunder, or any sort of loud booming, for that matter.
Jake the Jerk-Faced Dog came running to join me when it started to rumble.
And that, Sparky Nation, is how I came to have a pretty peach dog.