Thursday, November 11, 2010

No Conditions

It has been so quiet here on the blog the last few weeks, but life has been zipping by at what seems to be a faster than normal pace. In just the last month we have prepared for and then postponed a major fundraiser, gone through shoulder surgery (Danny),celebrated a birthday (Danny again), spent much needed time together as a family (thanks to recovery time), rescheduled a Guate trip (more about that a little later), traveled to MS to speak on Orphan Sunday, tried to clean the house without total success, worked on water filter project plans, worked on everything else AAB, joined the Y, started one book and then another, celebrated our third Family Day, finished a Bible study, looked for a house closer to the city and then decided to stay put for a while longer, finally made the important pre-school decision and the list goes on and on. It never stops. I love the busyness of life, but with that busyness comes a mind that sometimes doesn't seem to be able to stop, not even for a moment. So often I find myself longing for a quiet, still mind and it never fails that during these times I think back to the occasions that I remember being just that. Quiet. Still. Restful. Sometimes I just want to stop..turn every thing off, shut it all down and be...still. I know that I long for moments like this because it is in those moments that I feel closer to God than ever. When moments like this come during my time in Guatemala (and they so often do because I intentionally make that time), it is even sweeter, if that is possible. So during all of the busyness over the last few weeks, I have also spent a lot of time reflecting on an evening in August.

On my last day in Guatemala in August, after visiting Hermano Pedro and another children's home, I walked into a very familiar hotel in Guatemala City with only one intention. To be still. I was originally scheduled on the earliest flight out the next day and arranged for a room at my favorite hotel to avoid an extremely early morning drive from Parramos to the airport. When my flight was changed to the afternoon, I kept my reservation because I felt like I needed that time. I remember telling a friend about the overwhelming feeling of needing to lock myself away and spend the night...just me and God. I spent weeks excited about this and throughout the entire trip, as awesome as it was, I continued to look forward to the stillness that was coming.

Once at the hotel, I had dinner at my favorite restaurant, picked up coffee and a pastry, made a few phone calls and chatted for a while with people that I love, took the longest, hottest shower of my life, put on the coziest PJs I own and crawled into a heavenly bed. For some that would have been the end of the night and so the case could have been for me and I would have declared it one of the most relaxing evenings ever. But I was there for so much more.

As I sat there I realized that what I had come for is what I was experiencing. There was absolutely nothing on my mind. It is rarely the case, but that night my mind was clear. There were no questions, no doubts. I had not gone there to spend time asking God for anything. There was nothing to ask for. I went to be still, knowing that I would feel His presence around me. I just wanted to worship Him. I wasn't expecting anything from Him. For once I wasn't even asking Him to speak to me. As I prayed, the words that escaped my lips were much different than they usually are. I did not ask for guidance or wisdom. I did not ask for clarity. I didn't ask for protection for me or my family and I did not even ask for forgiveness. I asked for nothing. Instead I just praised Him. His presence was so overwhelming that tears began to well in my eyes and quickly began to fall from them. It wasn't long before I was crying the most refreshing, cleansing cry. I can't explain it, but each tear that fell seemed to be the removal of something in me that needed to come out. I have no idea how long I sat there, praying and crying, but as suddenly as it started it ended with the most quiet whisper spoken to my soul.

"No conditions."

Sometimes the Lord speaks so quietly that if you are not paying attention, you may miss it. Other times He speaks so clearly that there is no denying it. That night, on a night when I did not expect to hear from Him, He spoke so clearly. There was no mistaking His voice. But I had no idea what He was talking about.

"No conditions? What does that mean?"

I began to think of so many miracles and things that a lot of people believe are unbelievable..."Let there be light," all of creation, from dust became man, water into wine, mud and saliva to sight, instant healing, walking on water, fish and loaves, God became man, the Cross, "He is risen!" In all of that, my thoughts were most heavily on the miracles of Jesus. People asked to be healed and they were healed. People didn't ask to be healed and He healed them anyway. If someone was hungry, He fed them. Thirsty? He gave them water. Unloved? He loved them. An outcast? He declared them friend. If there was a need, He met it. All the way to the Cross. He was despised by many, but poured out more love than this world had ever known. He didn't look away from the uncomfortable and unpleasant. No, He walked right up to whatever situation there was and with every step taught us what it means to serve and what it means to love. There is nothing He would have turned from. No need to great. No need too small. It didn't matter who you were or where you lived. It didn't matter what your religious beliefs were, if you didn't believe at all or if demons were involved. He walked into what was ugly and made it beautiful. Every time.

It became clear what He meant with the simple words "no conditions" though I couldn't fully grasp it until now and maybe not even still.

I admit it. There are times when I look at situations and think, "But things are so much worse (somewhere else)." There have been many times when I have questioned every thing from where we work in Guatemala to working in Guatemala altogether. Because aren't things "worse" in some other villages in Guatemala than the one AAB works in? And aren't things "worse" in some other countries than in Guatemala? These are questions that have brought confusion and doubt into my life more times than I want to think about. They are doubts that the enemy loves to stir.

Because what is "worse"?

Who has the worst life...the millionaire that lives in the U.S. and appears to have it all, but does not have hope in eternity because he does not know Christ or the poorest man in the world that has nothing and yet has everything because He trusts in the Lord?

It goes back to what I have always known AAB has to be. We have to meet physical needs and in every thing that we do, we have to share the love of Christ, making Him known wherever we are because there is no hope without Him. That is nothing new for us, but that night I was left with a new perspective.

Two years ago this month we announced that AAB would be officially "launched" early the next year. Two months later, we were rolling. Slowly, but we were on our way. Since then we have been turned upside down and inside out. I have never in my life experienced so much personal growth in such a short period of time and am thankful that growth continues. We started AAB not knowing anything about this and admittedly still have no idea how to do a lot of what needs to be done. Our feet have slipped, doubts have rocked us to the core, confusion has threatened to bring it all to an end. Through it all I have never felt closer to God and never have I heard His voice so clearly as I have over the past couple of years. That night He answered a question I had been asking Him for more than a year even though the question was far from my mind that night.

There are to be no conditions in serving. Not for AAB anyway. Never again am I to say, "but the need is so much worse in (name a country)." Because no, it's not. There may be more physical hunger in countries all over Africa and even in Guatemala. Three meals a week sounds like need to us, but it would be an answered prayer to some children. Rotting plywood walls, flooded dirt floors and almost non-existent tin roofs may be better shelter than tents in Haiti. Highly contaminated water is better than no water at all. Poverty in a developing country is poverty. There is no reason to compare it to another. Needs must be met. We are commanded to love and serve our brothers and sisters in Christ. If we know that one of our brothers or sisters is in need, we have to do whatever we can to help them. What better way than walking with them, helping them lift themselves out of poverty.

And then there are those that do not know Him. I can honestly say that years ago, way back when I dreamed of serving orphans and people in need, I never thought about this. Meeting physical needs was all I was concerned about. Isn't it amazing how He reaches in, wakes you up and makes His plan clear? It wouldn't matter if physical poverty were not an issue in Pueblo Nuevo. We would continue to go back. Because there are more people there than we first realized that do not know Him.

"No conditions." No matter how bad things appear. No matter what physical needs exist. No matter if someone is a Christian or not. No matter what anyone thinks or says. We have to follow Him. We have to do our best to do what He calls us to. And He calls us to do what He did. To walk into the ugly. To walk into the darkness. To fight for justice. To love the poor AND the rich. To meet physical AND spiritual needs. Whatever is needed. Above all, to bring His love to the nations. To make Him known. And it doesn't matter where.

After all, isn't that what He does for each of us? Loves us unconditionally? No matter what our needs are, no matter what we have done or haven't done, no matter where we live or the color of our skin? He has no conditions for loving us. Oh how thankful I am for such a love as this!

We love Guatemala. I cannot imagine God ever calling us to leave Guatemala completely. He may and if He does I will forever believe that His plans are better than ours, but with the heart we have for the people of Guatemala I cannot imagine that happening any time soon. I believe that we will always work in Guatemala. But there is more. I don't know where He will take us, but I do know that because He loves us without condition, He calls us to do the same. For now it is Pueblo Nuevo. A small village where the need is great...greater than we first realized and greater in more ways than one.