Tuesday, April 29, 2014

On Nigeria and Not Looking Away

I wasn't planning to post about slavery and justice and hard stuff that I don't know what to do about tonight.
I wasn't planning to talk about Nigeria and school girls and terrorist kidnappers and abductions.
I wasn't.

But I am.

Even though I do not know what to tell you to think or say or do about it. Even though I cannot think of any possible way we can help this specific situation right now. I am going to make sure I put it before your eyes. Because I have an all too familiar ache in my stomach.

As I read head lines and shared stories tonight and wished the world would wake up from its sleepy acceptance of horrors as far-away issues that have little to do with us, I realized that I had to speak in some way.

Because girls should be able to celebrate making it to the day they sit for their final exams in school with a Coke and shared giggles. They should not be kidnapped in a mass raid by terrorists that have long threatened their region. They should not sit at home afraid that an education may cost them the little freedom they have.

But that is happening, people. Tonight. In your world. In your global neighborhood.

I was going to share all the links here for you to click over and read. But you know what. I'm not. You do it. Google it. Read it. Educate yourself. I'm laying down a challenge. If you don't know what I am talking about, make it your responsibility to find out.

After that, I am not sure what to tell you to do next. Heck, I am typing red-faced fury into the keyboard because I don't know what else to do.

But you know what? I am tired of us ignoring injustice because we can't fix it, because we can't impose a comfortable solution and walk away, raise a little cash and throw it at a problem. And when we can't, squirming uncomfortably and shuffling our feet quietly over to the next conversation.

If we are going to be justice walkers and mercy lovers and freedom fighters, we've got to learn to sit and suffer in the hard stuff. The stuff for which there is no easy fix.

We have to acknowledge the gut-wrenching realities of rape and incest and trafficking and slavery and orphans and AIDS epidemics and tornadoes and floods and our ineptitude in it all and just sit in that brokenness, bleeding sweat if it is all that we can do. But caring passionately enough about the broken ugliness of our world that at the very least its sweat and tears and desperate prayers are worth are our company.

Let us not fall into lazy slumber at the world's agony. At a school girl's agony. At her mother's cries across the oceans of dark night. Please. Sit with them. Sit with me.

I don't know what to do. But I will not look away for my own comfort.

I can pray. I can keep company with the broken and the hurting of the world. I can light a candle and send a flicker of mercy across the oceans of pain.

If you light yours too, if we keep vigil together in the midst of the world's agony, then maybe, just maybe, we can light a path to freedom together. And maybe Spirit fire will blaze in a heart somewhere and someone will discover a calling that leads to a solution, that leads to freedom.

Let's keep company with the more than 230 families wondering where their daughters are right now. Let our legacy be that we refused to look away when there were no easy answers.

I can see your candle flickering from here.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

On Sabbath and Savior Complexes and Why It's Good to Step Away

So you might know that we stepped away from our ministry and our life here in Costa Rica for a while back at the end of February. We spent March and the first week of April in the States, with a little side jaunt to Africa in the middle.

Since we've been back in Costa Rica, moving and getting settled in the new mission home and getting organized for a full scale medical mission in May have occupied the bulk of  our time. We are still doing some preparation work for our new and improved St. Francis Emmaus Center, and while we are open to women who need us, we have not yet really begun to do the full level of promotion work and educational programming that is planned for the future.

Mostly, I feel like we stepped away and have yet to return full swing to the focus of our ministry here. And some days, even though I know it's a necessary place to be, it makes me edgy and grumpy. I see this big vision right on the verge of unfolding, and I am frustrated to have to step back from it. When we were getting ready to leave for our trip to the States, I was down right sad and anxious about stepping away. Like we were leaving some sort of missionary Brigadoon or something and risking it would not be here when we came back.

That feeling rattled around a lot in my thoughts while we were away, and it came to the forefront again this weekend as I thought about sabbath with the lovely ladies of Velvet Ashes. You see, I have realized that this is exactly what I have been walking in my life lately. When we think of sabbath. we ordinarily think about the one day of the week we set aside for worship and rest. But I think there are also sabbath seasons in our lives, when we are called to step away from our work and our service for a time. A time to reflect, build vision, but also a time to worship and rest.

I love the idea of sabbath, theoretically speaking. But when I am called to live it, I realize I am not so fond of it in practice. I like to rest, for sure. On my time, when I decide that I am tired and ready to step away (or when I decide I am frustrated and stomp away in a huff). But stepping away as a spiritual discipline? Not quite as easy.

You see, we ministry-minded, missional-living Jesus-lovers, we are generally passionate, fiery, and compelled about the callings God has placed on our hearts. And while that often serves us well, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes, we spend so much time battling back loneliness, frustration, and the hardships of this life we live chanting to ourselves the mantra that what we are doing is important--important to God, important to the church, important to the people that we serve--that we get an overinflated view of our own importance.

We can begin to convince ourselves that the very life of a place or an organization or a church or a people depends on our presence and availability, and that stepping away will mean the very demise, or at least severe slow-down, of a work we have sacrificed so much to bring about. We can easily get attached to the idea that the work is ours and depends on us. That the saving is ours to do. We coyly refer to this as a Savior complex. But it is no joke. It is real. And it is an awful feeling when you recognize it in yourself.

As I walked in sadness and insecurity of stepping away for a month, I realized I had let it creep into me --again. A sense of self-importance that makes me feel overly responsible for people. I wholeheartedly believe that the work we are doing with pregnant moms here is important, that it will save lives. But the truth is, I am not the author of life. And He who is was at work long before I arrived and will still be at work long after I am gone.

This place, these people went on for generations without me. And yet, I had begun to fret that so much would unravel in my short absence. Stepping away gave me an awareness of some really out of order attachments I was developing. And it forced me to surrender them, to trade them off for rest.

And I came back, and do you know what? Everyone's lives had gone on pretty much as normal. There was nothing catastrophic to report. I am sure people died and babies were born and some people lived some pretty poignant moments in their lives in that month. But they managed to survive it without me at their sides.

And this is very good. It reminds me and them that the very best work we can do here, all of us, is to day after day put ourselves in God's hands and at His disposal. And when He whispers "Come away with me, my love," we should obey. Because He sometimes takes us out of one place so we can remember that we are dust. Not unimportant or inconsequential in the least, but a very small part of the work of a very big God, who sustains and moves and loves with or without us.

There is no reason for us to overburden ourselves with responsibilities that are not ours to bear. If God has called us to a work, He will certainly equip us to do it. But He will also keep working through other ways and means in that place, and at times, He will call us to step back from the work so we can see the masterpiece He is creating in our midst and remember the work is and always has been and always will be His.

Yes, it is good for us to step away and honor the Sabbath. Whether it means that we step back from the running and the pursuit of perfection in our everyday laundry load, kitchen floor, car ride lives, or whether it mean we take a season to pull back and let God linger in the work He has called us to while He directs us elsewhere for a while.

Because we can let the race of striving and self-importance push us through dishes and laundry while building secret resentment behind a facade of competence just as easily as we can bubble ourselves into the proverbial hamster wheel of our ministry or our calling and forget that we are not made for a race. We are made for a love affair.

And sabbath is the love note of the Lover of our souls. And if we do not have time to read a love note slipped into the week of our lives, or to savor a long love letter penned across a season of our lives, we have missed it, friends. Jumped the shark on this Jesus thing.

Yes, yes, Love does. But first, Loves loves. And if we forget the love affair for the doing, forget the rest for the fervor, the passionate fire burning in our bellies will end up all burned embers and smoke screens, and all too soon we will find ourselves going through the motions confused about who we are and pretending to love something we don't.

So step away. Run away with Him when He calls. Take the world off your shoulders for a while Atlas, and look there! See how it still spins without you. There is great freedom and great humility in that recognition. And it is good.

The Grove - Sabbath
Linking this post up over at
The Grove at Velvet Ashes

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Birthday Blessings from Beautiful Friends

So, last week, while I was out in the jungle far away from the internets, recovering from a birthday pity party, my friend Elizabeth was cooking up a little birthday surprise for me. I am grateful to know that this had to have been imagined far before my miserably lonely e-mails from the day before arrived. And I am grateful for the heart with which my sweet friend holds me. On the good days and the bad.

What I was doing while you all were rocking my world with your generous hearts! Crossing rivers to get to the villages we shared the Word in on Good Friday.

She sent out a not so secret plea to her friends and followers via her blog and social media:

Hey, come close! Let's hatch a secret plan;-). My sweet friend, Colleen Mitchell celebrated a birthday yesterday. It was kind of a lonely affair down on the mission field in Costa Rica. Today, she and her men are off to the jungle for three days, bringing gospel joy to the indigenous folks who are their neighbors. They will be far from internet access. While they are out, might we send some birthday love her way? An anonymous donor has promised to match donations made to The St. Bryce Foundation, up to $500. Wouldn't it be *grand* for Colleen to see $1K in the St. Bryce account in honor of her birthday when she returns to the mission house for Easter?

Sharing the Gospel in the home of our Cabecar friends on Good Friday

And you responded! Oh, how so many of you responded! I am humbled by your generosity and the kind greetings and wishes tucked away in each the donation e-mails I received and I thank each and every one of you.

Elizabeth DID NOT get her wish for my birthday. I did not return home to find that grand $1K in the account. I returned home to find TRIPLE GRAND $3,000 in birthday donations! 

My darling boy and his Cabecar brother carrying the crosses during our Way of the Cross service.
And there were tears. And my darling husband was giddy with joy and amazement. And relief, quite honestly, because for perspective, here's what $3,000 can do for the work of St. Bryce Missions:

  • pay our family's health insurance in Costa Rica for a year AND
  • pay the electricity bill on the mission house and St. Francis Emmaus Center for a year AND
  • have a bit left over to get two more beds in order to house and help more mamas and their babies
You know what is amazing about this? The large majority of the the donations were under $15. A tribe of friends spreading birthday joy in small doses made a huge heaping difference with a cherry on top.

And that might just be the best present I have ever received. I am blessed and grateful and counting each and every one of you who participated among my #1000Gifts.

This is what my wise and wonderful friend had to say to me the day before she hatched her secret plan, when I zipped off a tearful e-mail about how sad and lonely I was and what a mess up I was feeling like on my birthday, and how it had zapped all my desire to strike off into the jungle the next day to serve God:

My inch is that God will shine forth in obvious ways in the jungle. He’ll show up and you’ll say, “Hey!” and y’all will kiss and make up.
He makes all things new, even when we feel old and defeated.
I’m praying for you!

Know what? She was totally right. And He showed up in the jungle and He showed up in my heart and He showed up in my inbox because you all said "yes"! So a million times in a million ways, thank you for being Jesus to me and with us at St. Bryce Missions! 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Back From Around the World

and my first post is over at CatholicMom.com.


When we pray the “Our Father”, taking the time to meditate upon the meaning of each of its phrases, we often have to remind ourselves what it means for the Lord to “give us this day our daily bread.”
For the large majority of us, it is a metaphor for trusting God to provide for our needs on a daily basis, maybe not with a lot stored up in advance but always what we need when we need it. For some of us, it is a reminder that the desperate car repair bill will somehow get paid. For others, that He will indeed find the perfect house for our growing family when the time is right. Maybe you or your spouse are waiting on a promotion that will provide a much needed income increase. Whatever it is, most of us, even though we sigh at the rising grocery bill, are not worried literally about bread, about whether or not our children will eat tomorrow.
But for my friend Esther, whom I met on my trip to Tanzania last month, this is exactly what praying for her daily bread means....read the rest here.