Thirst

Thirst.

Longing. Desire. A need to be satiated. Quenched.

Such a basic need it is, to satisfy the feeling that parches our tongue and grips our lips. And probably because it is such a need, we don’t lack experiences of knowing thirst. I mean, not the half conscious drive to flippantly fill up a plastic tumbler from the kitchen faucet each morning only to take a few sips and dump the rest down the drain. But thirst. The kind that makes your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth and then feels like its swelling. The kind that makes you wonder how many more breathes you can breathe before its going to hurt. The kind that makes your mind start thinking illogically (creatively?) about how to attain water. The kind that stay etched in your memory forever.

Those times – the times where there wasn’t much we wouldn’t do for a sip of water – remind of what it means to be lacking of the most essential longing. When parched, there is little thought given to anything, save the solution. We know the pain, we want relief.

But my soul – my heart. Have I allowed it to thirst?

It has longed for unfulfilled desires. It has hurt when it felt it lacked. It has felt what I thought “soul thirst” to be.

I am afraid I have stood in the way too often. Thinking I was filling the empty cup of my heart with quenching things. But really? Looking back, I wonder if the “things” – the sometimes good things – are what my soul needed. Were they indeed the things for which my heart was desperately begging? When plans seemed to be crushed and dreams and hopes felt broken, was “re-assessing” and re-writing MY five year plan adequately filling the dry vessel of my heart? Was telling and re-telling the pains that made my soul feel dry allowing me to truly thirst?

Maybe I just needed to be reminded of the cry of David’s heart in Psalm 63 –

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.”

To thirst means to hope. To know there is satisfaction. To know there is an answer to the undesirable pain I am now experiencing. May I seek to only be satisfied in the only thing that can quench my soul thirst.

And may I stop trying to fill up the longing places of my heart with an empty pitcher.

#writewednesday
#thirst

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Giving Up

I spun my cup mindlessly with my thumb and middle finger making imaginary circles across the plain wooden high top table in Caribou Coffee. Listening. And talking. And sharing where God had brought me the last few months and where I anticipated him leading. And questioning. Wondering. Courtney listened to me pour out my open-ended thoughts and half completed questions. Just like she had so many times throughout the years and tears.   Gently encouraging and sharing the lessons Christ had been teaching her, this friend had already caused me to look at things differently before my Americano had stopped steaming.

 

“What would life look like if we didn’t care for things so much?” And “Christ has called us to serve, to give. Not to be the next person to reach the elusive ‘American Dream’”

 

True. What if things . . . objects . . . tools . . . personal achievement – didn’t hold such a lofty place in my heart? What would a heart totally determined to give – to love like Christ – look like? I was outwardly nodding my head and inwardly praying these questions took root in my heart and would not be forgotten. My thoughts started to scatter and then dance and then . . ..

 

“Come to Haiti with me.”

 

What? Already? I mean she already has a tangible way to experience the thought – the idea of giving up things to go and be the hands and feet of Christ?

 

Courtney explained how God had led her to the desire to go on a mission trip to Haiti this summer. How she was sacrificing to make it happen. How she was already starting to pray for these people she was going to meet.

 

I wanted to sign up immediately.

 

But really, how could I make it happen? My Americano was almost gone and time for remembering priorities quickly returned. Priorities. Man made, self imposed priorities. Like finances. And safety. And comfort. And silly things like that.

 

I started praying that God would make a way possible and that more importantly he would change they way I viewed things. And people. That people, his people, would always be more of a priority than my comfort and my things.

 

Then there was a speaker at church who spoke of going to Haiti and preaching there. He showed pictures of beautiful faces with sparkling smiles who literally had nothing. Photos of places still re-building. I knew that night I needed to go. To see those faces and learn from them what contentment in Christ alone means.

 

I emailed Courtney that night and told her I was going with her to Haiti.

 

So – one month from now, Lord willing I will be standing on Haitian soil, working alongside the Haitian people, serving and learning. (Trip dates – June 6 – 15, 2014)

 

I know it will be difficult. I realize my heart will probably break a hundred times over. I am praying that God would change me as a result of this trip. I am seeing that he already has.

 

Will you pray for me? Pray as I prepare for this adventure? Pray for the people Courtney and I will be working with? Pray that the impact of this trip would have eternal reach?

 

Mission of Hope, Haiti is the group that we are going with and I highly recommend spending a few minutes checking out their website and the ministries they are doing in Haiti – www.mohhati.org.

 

Also – keep following along here for details of this trip and please contact me with any questions, thoughts, etc. you might have. I would love to talk about this to anyone and everyone who has the time and interest to listen.Image

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Return

The words blanketed my heart at almost the exact moment it had begun to fold under the exhaustion. The hurriedness. The primacy of the first 32 things on my “to-do” list.  The senior portfolio that needed to be done tomorrow. The relationships in which I missed the moment to say the right words that still lived on in my mind.  The people I had failed to reach out to in my chaotic coming and going. 

 

Pastor was carefully preaching through Psalm 116 and I was following along, scribbling notes in the lined margin of my Bible, underlining the hope I have in the promises of a God who has heard my cry.  But I failed to read ahead. Because these words came out of nowhere and at the same time came out of the perfect place as I sat in there in the presence of a faithful God and in the midst of my failures and chaos:

 

“Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.”  (Psalm 116:7)

 

Return. Go back. Recall. Remember that place of safety.  That place where your soul was refreshed. That place restoration happened.  That time when your heart knew what it meant to rest in hope.  To wait with anticipation and peace.

And while my heart surely had not gone through the same struggles and anguish the writer of the Psalms had, it had felt all the crushing weight I had placed on it when I chose to fill my thoughts and actions with the multiplying pressures of the immediate.  Those minutes I chose to say I would rather be caught up in the whirlwind of worry and the unsettling feeling of chaos than to stay in the arms of rest. Those days I chose to let my hours be caught up in the franticness of doing instead of being. Those weeks where I let my heart become faint because I refused to believe that rest, that peace could come when life was coming at me this fast and this mad.   

 

To rest. Because the Lord has dealt bountifully with me.  To remember that it because of his favor that I live.  To look back over the footprints of this journey and see his marked grace.  The live again in the memory of what it is for my soul to be quiet.  To know that the Lord’s blessings alone are overwhelmingly more than enough to satisfy – they bring the safety and solace that my soul craves. 

 

So hey – next time anxiety tries to seep the cracks of a life-weary heart, next time restlessness seems more familiar than peace, that moment with one more “thing” threatens to cause the heart to beat faster . . . .

 

May these words come flooding back, not simply because I seek peace from the wildness of life, but because this is what it means to relish and live in the overwhelmingly complex and simple grace of the Lord. 

 

Return.

Rest.  

 

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Not Entirely New

Twelve days old, but it still feels new.  The year 2014 holds the promise of 353 more days of hope. Of joy. Of growth.  Of renewed focus.  The cold, clouded days of January don’t seem as bitter as they should because this is just the beginning.  There is an entire year waiting at the doorstep of this season.  I have already breathed in a taste of what this year will be and it leaves me eager for the moments, the memories to come. 

 

Beginnings. That is what the New Year is all about, right?  The opportunity to “wipe the slate” and start fresh as the calendar is full of blank grids to be filled in with life.  I will admit, I get caught up in the excitement and fervor surrounding resolutions and goals that start as soon as the Christmas festivities wrap up and the carefully lines pages of my Moleskine journal pretty much beg to be written on and filled up with daring goals and bravely lived dreams. This year.  The 353 days that still lay ahead that seem so far removed from the blur of the busyness of last year.  Two weeks into the year and determination to savor and make resolutions become the norm in my life is still strong.  There seems to be no end to the list of things that I WILL do this year.  The beauty of tomorrow can’t help but infiltrate my thoughts today.

 

But maybe yesterday, last year shouldn’t be forgotten in the dreaming of tomorrow. 

 

As much as my life feels like it wants to be written anew on the unending lines of this year, there are still incomplete stories and dreams of last year that must be part of my life this year.  The projects I started eagerly and then gave up on when I allowed other priorities to slowly eat away at my time.  The words I was once determined to write that I silently set aside when creativity seemed to evade me.  The relationships I let slide when I didn’t know how to respond in a loving way.  The resolutions I gave up on because I allowed complacency to overtake vision.  Too often I am guilty of giving up on the goals of yesterday because it seems like too much work today.  And in doing so I am saying that tomorrow isn’t worth it. 

 

That isn’t going to be my story this year.  New things will come into my life, I am sure.  New goals, new dreams have already been carefully written in my journal.  But I am not going to give up on yesterday because it didn’t look like what I thought my dreams would be.  It is the difficult, the unexpected things of life that teach us more than the perfectly planned moments.  The times when my dreams seem crushed are the times God has pieced them together seamlessly and given me blessings I wouldn’t have lived otherwise.

 

“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” – Psalm 90:12.  Wisdom doesn’t come from forgetting the past and dreaming of a new life tomorrow.  Wisdom comes from realizing each day is a gift and determining to live in a way today, right now, that makes the most of the opportunities given us.  It isn’t just about dreaming of the possibilities.  It is making the things I deem “imperfect” a part of my story too. 

 

Maybe that’s why this year feels so different.  Because I am determining not to forget about the yesterdays while dreaming of the tomorrows.  Because the beauty of tomorrow is painted with the tears of today.Image

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Just like Sarah

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Momma said her name was deep in the soil underneath our feet.

The land that spread from the northern row of evergreens

to the sparkling stream in the south, to the gravel road on the east

to the softly sloping western hill – the last place the sun touched every dusk.

Momma said she left her name buried in the dirt when she left

and knew it was still there when she – when we – stepped on this land again.

I, a child and new to this land, didn’t know where her name was buried,

but I wanted to dig.

To find her name. To ask her why she left it amongst the fields of alfalfa

and the hills hemmed by the green rows of soybeans.

I asked her about the places she went after she had written her name

on the heart of the farm. And why did she come back?

When she lived in the golden ranchland of Nebraska, didn’t she want her roots to grow deep beside the fields of wheat?

Or later when her home was in the warm and welcoming South, didn’t she want her name there in the land shadowed by the Appalachians?

When the Colorado mountains filled with rocks and twiggy pines cradled her home why didn’t she write her name there – beneath the columbine?

Her answer to my questions came. Not in words, but in who she was and how she moved on this land.  How she hung the white linen napkins on the twisting wire underneath the noonday sun and how the white squares seemed to sway to her song. How her face glistened in the fresh wind of May when she dug and planted and pulled and plucked and prodded the tendrils of the yielding dirt and when she danced in the rows.

The sun slipped past that curving western field night after night and left streams of light across the land where her name was written.  The land stayed the same after each setting of the sun. But I changed one of those nights and I began to know what it meant – to write my name in the land.

To let my heart pour out through my hands and into the land, just as the sand.

To know this land holds my plans and my place when dreams take me away for a season.

And remember this is where I belong.

This land where my name is written

right beside my momma’s.

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Community – like Margaret’s

She was everything I was not. In her seventies, gratefully retired, and more than willing to let the memories of yesterday tumble out as her hands carefully capitalized every letter in the quarter-folded newspaper’s crossword puzzle.  I made assumptions and built a story around her persona after only having been with her an hour and a half.  Thankfully working a school board election is a thirteen-hour shift – or approximately seven hours more than I needed to have Margaret change my perspective about many things, except the necessity of a newspaper subscription.

I walked into the dated Lutheran church that dark morning and started shuffling chairs as muted thoughts swirled.  My life. My goals. My purpose. Surely none of it could happen here – here where I had lived the last ten years of my life. I needed to go. Needed to escape before I could live, before everything meant anything.  Because somehow in the confusion of what it meant to be me, I planted the idea that to do something, I needed to surround myself in anonymity; That my impact would only be felt if my possibilities were beyond the people and experiences of my young twenty-four years.

Turnout that day was predictable for a school board election.  Enough to keep Margaret from finishing the puzzle before 10am, but slow enough for her to try to explain the necessity of having a newspaper delivered to one’s front porch every morning.  We shared stories.  I showed her how I edited photos on my MacBook.  She explained the basics of Bridge. She taught me what is meant to be satisfied with community.

It became apparent by the seventeenth voter that Margaret knew just about everyone and their connection to this farm community turned sprawling suburb.  She had lived in Ankeny for fifty some years and hadn’t let anyone move in without getting to know them and their father’s occupation, or so it seemed.  Mary stumbled in and Margaret gracefully asked how her sister was doing after the passing of her husband.  Margaret was already asking Jim how the harvest was progressing before the door shut behind him.  And Karen was greeted by asking if her photos from her recent trip to the Holy Land had turned out and where was the next trip going to be?

A connection – To everyone in this community, or at least most everyone that showed up at the polls that day.  I didn’t just have the opportunity of meeting many new people and learning interesting stories and facts, I saw what community meant.

It wasn’t that Margaret knew everyone, it was that she had made a difference in each of these people’s lives.  Because the story that could have been written could have been the story of each one of these school board voters and how Margaret had touched them.  The meals she had brought.  The extra curricular school activities she had planned and hosted.  The outreach as president of the Ladies’ Aid Society.  The children she had babysat.  And on and on.

My thoughts about community changed that day because of Margaret.  Maybe making a difference didn’t mean moving on to the next biggest and better thing.  Maybe it meant living purposefully and seeing beyond oneself to the struggling person that lives next door.

Because sometimes staying where you are doesn’t mean stagnation.  It means the opportunity to deepen roots that spread and provide stability and comfort to those around you. Image

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Poems of this land and a farmer boy

THIS LAND

 

This land – it is my home.

It was given to me from others,

who lived, worked, and died

to make this land. To give it

Character.

I am proud – this is my home.

 

It is now my turn.  I will

write my name in the dirt.  I will

make my mark.  I will

work for this land.  I will

protect it.  This

is my land. 

 

This is my home.

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FARMER BOY

 

The only thing moving slower than his feet was his will.  Wind whispering among the scent of lilacs as the path led to the last place he wanted to be.  And there, there among the tangled, matted green bed of grass lay the lifeless, yet furry form. Gone before he knew it was.  Farmer boy knelt with mercy and lifted with care.

 

That day his hands had to hold the end.  That day that his eyes itched with burning tears, knowing this wasn’t how it was supposed to be.  The beginning sighed and the end came too soon. 

 

Son of a farmer, heart of compassion.  Stance of a warrior, soul of justice.  Hands roughened by the work of yesterday, now reaching to give tomorrow’s life its last touch. 

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