January 14, 2011

Sometimes I just want to say, “Enough.” Today was one of those times. I was headed down to visit akeary and the other children like I do every week. It’s a lot of work, but I really enjoy the time I spend with them and I don’t really mind that it messes up a whole day.

So there I was, walking through the lower part of town. The snow was about calf deep and I was making good time, but then the road ended. What had just been slushy snow on top of a stone road became slushy snow on top of mushy mud. My feet started to get stuck in the muck and I was starting to feel dread at the thought of having to clean my boots when I got back home.

Of course God wouldn’t let me spend much time being self absorbed – worrying about my own inconveniences. I saw a man walking towards me – only he didn’t have any boots to get muddy. He just had a couple of rags wrapped around his feet. As he passed me he said, “Good day, brother. It’s a nice day for a walk, isn’t it?”

I agreed with him and said something about the weather being warmer. As he walked away he left me thinking about whether I was more grateful that I had boots or more upset that I has to clean them. I thanked God for my boots and continued sledging onward, thinking about how cold it was and wishing I had a heaver coat on.

As I turned the corner I saw an older woman setting in the doorway on a building. She was wrapped in blankets with her hands and feet hidden inside. I was uncomfortable, wondering if I should say something when she said, “Good morning. Beautiful day isn’t it?”

“Yes it is,” I said, then I stopped in mid-breath, I didn’t know what else to say. Here I was wishing for a heaver coat when this woman didn’t have any. What should I say, “Keep warm”? Should I buy her a coat? I can’t buy a coat for everyone I see that needs one, but should I buy some of them one? I finally said the non-committal, “You have a good day,” as I walked by.

A little farther and I came upon a lean-to covered with snow that was listing to one side. As I walked towards it I could see it leaning farther and farther to one side. Then with a loud crack – the main support must have broken – the whole thing came crashing to the ground. My heart stopped as I watched the wood and snow crumble into a heap; then I heard the sound that I had been afraid I might, a woman’s scream.

I dropped my bag and ran to the pile. I started pulling the branches out and tossing them in the road behind me. As I continued to pull the branches out, I also started to call to the woman – she didn’t answer. Several other men and women came and started to help me remove the pile.

We worked frantically for four or five minutes before we reached the trapped woman’s body. Once we found her we slowed done a bit and carefully uncovered her. As soon as I could, I knelt down next to her to see how she was doing. Her condition was grave – her face had been smashed, a stick was stuck in her side, and her left arm was broken and pointing the wrong way, but she was alive.

As the other people continued to unbury her and look for others buried in the snow, I started to pray for her. It didn’t take long before God granted me the power to heal her and blue light flowed from my hands to pool around her wounds. As her wounds started to heal, she began to shiver. When the power finished leaving me I took off my coat, then lifted her up and wrapped it around her. As I held her and tried to warm her up, the lady from the doorway came over and laid one of her blankets over the woman.

The woman’s shivering started to ease when I noticed one of the other men walking over to me holding a young boy. He laid the boy down next to his mother. He was shivering, too, but otherwise looked unhurt. I pulled the blanket over him as well.

I sat with the two of them, wondering what to do now. They had no shelter for the night and I knew it was going to be cold. As I sat there I had lost track of what everyone else was doing. When I came to my senses I saw that they had removed all of the branches and snow, and were starting to build the woman a new lean-to.

I found a couple of shirts and made a pillow for her and then I helped the others build her “house.” It was a lot of work, but together we finished faster than I thought we could. I helped the woman and her son into their new shelter and told them I would check in on them later.

I was late now, not just to meet the kids, but for the appointment after that. In fact, I was almost late for the appointment after that. I took a deep breath, rolled my shoulders to relive the tension that had settled there and said to myself, “Why me?”

I decided to see the kids, even if I couldn’t stay very long. I turned around and started to walk back to where I had dropped my things when I ran to help the trapped woman. My stuff was gone. All I could do was shake my head back and forth, and let out a sigh.

More decisions. The kids were expecting treats – should I go get more? Having asked myself the question, I knew the answer. I started to run back to the nearest store to buy some more. Of course I had forgotten how slippery the mud was hiding under the snow and I soon found myself sliding on my side as my feet lost their hold.

I was covered in mud from head to foot. I slowly picked myself up and wiped some of the mud off with my hand. I just stood there for a minute – my mind in a fog. Then I realized I was cold – the combination of not wearing a coat and being soaked insured the fact. I headed for the store again, only this time walking.

I reached the store – still shaking my hands trying fling the mud off of them. I hesitated before going in. I found a shirt and coat that fit and quickly changed. While I was warming up I found some treats for the kids. Then I went back to the coats and found one that I thought the woman I had seen earlier could wear. I took everything over to the counter to pay.

I reached for my coin purse and realized with sudden fear that it was gone. I must have lost it when I slid in the mud. I started to explain to the shop keeper how I must have lost my purse and to my surprise he stopped me and told me I was good for it and that I could pay him the next time I came in.

As I walked back towards where I had seen the woman, I realize that I’ve been coming to this part of town for quite a while now. I also realized that the owner of the store knew that I didn’t live around here, but he knew I was here helping people. It made me pause to think that before I had been robbed I had never come to this part of town.

I found the woman sitting in her doorway again. I gave her the coat I had purchased and then talked with her for a while. She was looking forward to spring and warmer nights. She thanked me for the coat again when I left and I walked on to find the kids.

I was wondering if they would still be around – I was over an hour late. When I got there the kids were waiting and playing games. We talked and we shared the treats I brought. The kids never brought up the fact that I was late or that my pants were muddy, we all just enjoyed being with each other.

When I got back to the Abby I cleaned myself up and found brother Paul. I apologized for being two hours late for our meeting, but he told me not to worry about it, that he had been three minutes less than two hours late himself. We laughed about our adventures and shared the joys we had found along the way.

It’s funny how I wanted to give up so many times today – how I wanted to yell at God, “Enough,” but now, looking back on the day, I am so glad that God gave me the strength and the prompting to keep going and that I had the humility to listen.


Categories: Life.

Today at church

February 8, 2010

I saw little Jenny today before service. She was wearing her “special dress” and looked so happy. When she saw me she came running over and gave me a huge hug. I wonder if she knows how special that makes me feel? A few minutes later Sara and John arrived and came over to where I was standing as Jenny ran off to explore.

As we stood and talked about the weather and how John’s hunting had been going, I couldn’t help but notice how Sara and John were dressed compared to most of the other people around. They weren’t dirty or anything, and in fact from my visit to their home I know they were wearing their nice clothes. But as I saw the women walking by in their brightly color skirts, and saw Sara in her taupe-colored threadbare dress, I couldn’t help noticing that she looked out of place.

Even compared to me, their clothes were simple. It actually made me feel a little uncomfortable. I wear simple clothes by choice – as part of my turning away from worldly things – but their fancy clothes were simpler than my simple clothes. It made me wonder how much I had really turned away.

So there I was thinking all this as we were talking, and then Sara asked me, “What do you think of my new dress? Is it too much?”

It caught me total off guard and I didn’t know what to say. I ended up saying something like, “What do you mean? It’s a very nice dress.”

Sara face flushed and she looked the other way. After a few moments – and a few breaths – she turned back towards me. “I told John it was too nice, but he insisted I get it.”

John looked very serious, “I keep telling Sara that it’s okay to have nice things. We live very simple lives, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have nice things. We try to be content with what we have, but if we work hard it’s okay to have nice things too.”

“I see.” was all I said. How lame was that?

“I think it’s been ten years since I’ve owned a new dress, and wearing this one feels so strange. I keep asking myself if I deserve it, if I’m worth it, but John says…”

“I say yes, you deserve it.” John interrupted her. “You work hard for our family. You don’t complain about anything. But most of all God said that each of his children is worth more than all the gold in the world, and if God thinks you’re that valuable, then your worth enough to own a beautiful dress.”

Sara blushed again. “Yeah, that’s what he says and he makes me blush every time. I think he says it just to make me blush.”

We were all quiet for a while and I tried to think of something to say, the Sara added in a hushed voice, “I feel a little guilty wearing it. I usually am able to put in five or six copper pieces in the offering, but this week I only have a single copper half-piece. I have a new dress and I’m shorting God five pieces of copper.”

I tried to smile at Sara as God was convicting my own heart. I loose more copper pieces each week than they probably have to live on. I felt around in my pocket and felt three coins. I pulled them out and found that they were all copper pieces. I handed them to Sara and said, “I know this isn’t the whole amount you’re short, but will you add these to your offering today.”

Sara smiled at me. “This is a nice gesture, but it doesn’t make any difference if you give me money to put in and then put that much less in yourself.”

“That would be true,” I said, “if I was going to put in less. But I’ve already put in my offering, so I can’t put in less. In fact after talking with you I’m going to go back to my room and get some more to give.” I looked around and saw Julie. I called her over. “Hi Julie. Do you have a few extra copper piece I could have?” Julie felt around in her pocket and pulled out three coins and handed them to me. “Thanks, I’ll talk with you later.”

As Julie walked off, I gave the coins to Sara. “I want you to have these, too. You came here and I want you to know that God values your gift more than any other gift that’s given here. You come here and give what you can’t afford to give because you love God. Like you told me when I came to your house, God will provide. Today God has provided an offering for you to give, and a beautiful dress to adorn the beautiful woman he made you.”

Sara blushed again.

“She does that when I tell her she’s beautiful, too.” John said.

“Sara. You are beautiful, on the outside and on the inside. If you want proof just look at your daughter. She’s one of the happiest children I know, and she is always ready to help someone else in need. Did I ever tell you how I first met her? Jenny was comforting a little boy who had been knocked down by a man who was running away from me with my coin purse. She has such a big heart, and I know she got it from you.”

Sara looked back at me. She smiled. “Thank you. I think that’s the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me,” then she reached out and gave me a hug. When she released me John took my hand and shook it, then the two of them walked into the chapel.

I stood there thinking about how precious Sara was and how much I could learn about living in faith by following her example. I went back to my room and got the thirty silver pieces I had been saving up for a new riding cloak. I slipped it quietly into the offering bowl. I figure I don’t really need a new riding cloak. The cloak I have is fine, and I don’t really get to ride much.

Categories: Uncategorized.

The Stranger

November 13, 2009


I walked into the Ranger’s Arrow Inn and sat down next to the fire like I usually do. The place was half full – lots of regulars were there that I had seen before. I was waiting patiently for someone to come and get my order, when all of a sudden I jumped out of my seat. There was a woman sitting in the chair next to me. How she got there I had no clue. I tried to calm myself and I sat back down.

“How are you doing today?” she asked me with a sweet voice.

“I’m doing fine, and you?”

“No really, how are you doing?” This time her voice sounded sweet and sincere.

I sat there for a moment wondering who this was and what I should say. How much of my life do I show to a stranger? “Really, I’m doing fine.”

She looked at me and I could see a sadness in her eyes. There was something about her that kept me looking at her. Her skin was perfect.  Her nose just the right size. Her ears were small and covered by her long flowing locks. But her eyes held me.

She said, “How is your mother?” A tear rolled down her cheek,

I sat there, hardly breathing, my mind was racing. Who was this woman, and how did she know about my mother? My heart was telling me to trust her, but my mind was telling me to run. I sat there, unable to move. A tear rolled down my cheek.

“How are you doing today?” she asked again, but this time her voice was firm, yet gracious. My mind felt compelled to answer, but my heart already felt comforted by the fact she seemed to really care how I was doing.

“I feel like a failure. I feel lost.” I paused for a moment and took a deep breath. “How do you know about my mother, and why do you care about how I’m doing?”

The woman smiled at me and reached out one of her hands towards me. When I didn’t take it, she rested it on the table. “I know many things, and the one who sent me knows all things. I know that you need to know that someone cares, and I know that you are not a failure or lost.”

I don’t know how long I sat there in silence.

“How?” was all I said as I looked at a stain on the table cloth.

She smiled. “A good first question. I have seen your mother’s plight. I heard her crying in the dark. I saw that you tried to help, but distances and time were against you. I have seen you tossing and turning at night.”

I looked up at her, and her eyes caught me again.

“No, I haven’t been peering in your window at night, but I have seen into your heart. I know you wanted to go to her when you first heard the news, but you have commitments here as well. I know it has been tearing you apart.”

She lifted her hand and held it out to me again. “Take it.”

I looked at her hand, held there in front of me. I started to move my hand, but then hesitated.

“Take it. I will not harm you. I am here to restore you.”

Her words were so soft, yet carried so much force. She spoke like she expected me to act. I fought with myself, struggling with the decision of whether to do as she asked, or to run. Then I heard this small voice telling me to trust her, and I felt a peace come over me.

I reached out my hand and took her’s. Her skin was soft and smooth – perfect like every other part of her. It felt right to be holding her hand, but at the same time wrong. She held my hand tenderly, but forcefully – like a father holding the hand of his child in a crowded marketplace. I could feel the power within her.

Sitting at that table, holding the hand of a women I didn’t know, but who seemed to know me, I didn’t know what to think. I had made a vow to refrain from physical contact with women, but here I was.

She broke my train of thought. “You have not broken your vow. Your vow is to refrain from sharing physical pleasures. There is nothing wrong with sharing Godly compassion.”

“But how can I do one without stumbling into the other?”

She squeezed my hand. “By knowing the difference, and desiring the better.”

I pondered her words and felt a strength from her presence – from her touch. My heart began to lighten.

“How can you restore me? What do I need to be restored to?”

“Another good question. You have heard that your mother has became ill, that she may already be dead. You thought to go to her, but you were needed here. You thought you might be able to reach her in time – that you might have been able to save her.”


“But you didn’t go, and so you healed many people here. Now you feel like a failure even though you know that God has been using you here.”


“What is God’s domain?”

I looked up towards the ceiling. “Heaven.” She waited for me to continue. “and all of creation.” I looked back into her eyes.

“And your mother’s life?”

“Yes. And my mother’s life.”

“Is God supreme?”


“Over your mother’s life?”

I tried to say yes, but the words got caught.

“If God chose to call her home, would that be his right?”

“Yes, but …”

“Who is supreme?”

“God is.”

“Yet you punish yourself for staying here and doing God’s work.”

“I …”

“God is proud of you for obeying. He want’s you to have peace in his plans.”

I nodded.

“Do you accept that God is in control?”

“Yes, I do.” As I said those words a peace flowed over me – a peace that only comes from feeling God’s presence.

“Hi, are you Hector?” The voice came from behind me. I turned and looked. A man stood there wearing traveling cloths. He looked cold and tired.

“Yes, I am.”

“Good, I have news from your mother.”

“Please, come sit with my friend and me.” I motioned to a chair.

My eyes followed him as he walked around me to the table. I noticed with a start that the beautiful young woman I had been talking to was gone. I quickly looked around, but she was no where in sight. The man sat down beside me.

“I don’t have much news, but your mother wanted me to tell you that she is doing much better, and that she is very proud of you. She also said that she thought she would be coming to visit you this spring.”

I don’t know what came over me, but I leaned over and gave him a big hug. He was a bit startled. The man didn’t have any more news of my mother for me, but I bought him dinner and we talked for hours about nothing.

That night I had given my mother to God, and he had given her back. More than that, however, he let me see a little more of who he is, and let me feel his presence.

Categories: Faith, God.

Hospitality (town part 3)

October 19, 2009

I had dinner tonight with Jenny and her parents, Sara and John. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I offered to take them to a restaurant, but Sara insisted that she was going to make dinner. She said, “It’s the least I can do after all you’ve done for Jenny and her friend.”

I tried to tell her that I really hadn’t done anything, but she insisted that I had made a real difference in her daughter’s life.

I walked down to the lower town just before dusk. I walked to the place where I usually met the kids. Jenny was waiting for me there. When she saw me, she ran to me and threw her arms around me.

After our greeting, Jenny took my hand and started leading me to her house. She was so excited – she was dancing all around. “I can’t wait to show you my room. I have a little bed and a dresser, and even a mirror.”

I smiled at her and tried to keep up with her as she kept pulling me to go faster. “I can’t wait to see it either, I bet it’s really nice.”

“It is!” Jenny beamed.

As we walked on I noticed that we were leaving the wood shacks and muddy streets of the poor part of town. What I hadn’t known was that there was an even poorer part of town.

“Is this where you live?” I asked her.

“Yes, we’re all most there. Hurry up.”

The houses here were little more than temporary huts, some made of animals skins, others from reeds tied together. I was sure none would keep the rain out, and that most would collapse with the first snow.

We turned around the corner of a shack made of branches and reeds, and I could see our destination. Jenny’s house might have been better than those around it, but it looked like it might fall in the first strong wind.

It was built against the town’s outer wall, where the wall got thicker because of the guard post on the top of the wall. Thus the town wall provided two of the house’s walls.

The house was build as a lean-to, with larger branches making the main supports. Tied between these supports were horizontal branches. Layered vertically on these were pine branches.

I saw Sara cooking over an open pit in front of the house. There was a large metal pot hanging over the fire. There was a large piece of the pot missing, broken off from some previous drop or overheating.

Jenny released my hand and ran to her mother. After hugging her daughter, Sara looked up and waved to me. “Welcome, Hector. Dinner is almost ready. I hope you’re hungry.”

“Yes ma’am, I am. I brought some bread and fresh berries. Where should I put them?”

“Oh, you didn’t need to do that, but they will both go well with dinner. You can just put them on the table. Jenny will show you where.”

With that Jenny grabbed my hand again and pulled me into her home. We passed through the cloth door and into the main room.

The room was lit by three tallow candles. In the middle of the room was a table made from a piece of wood cut from a log, sitting on a smaller chunk of wood. The table was low, maybe two feet high, and it appeared that we would be sitting on the ground to eat.

In addition to the table there was a sleeping mat along the back of the room – against the stone wall of the town wall. There were also some wooden crates that held food, and a few pans and dishes stacked neatly.

Jenny pulled me to the other side of the room and showed me a little hole in the wall. She quickly crawled through and called for me to follow. I set my bag on the table, got down on my hands and knees, and followed her through the hole.

Jenny had brought one of the candles with her and it lit up her room. The room was two feet by five feet, and five feet high at its tallest and two feet at its lowest.

Most of the small room was covered by a straw sleeping mat. At the foot of her bed was a small chest, which she showed me held her three dresses, three pairs of underwear, and a jacket for when it got cold.

Folded neatly at the head of the bed was a comforter, which I recognized from the handiwork as being one made by Mrs. Jenkens. There was also a little pillow and a nightgown.

Jenny was so proud as she showed me each of her dresses, especially her special dress that she wore to church. Then she showed me Mrs. Smiles, her rag doll. She gave her to me so I could hug her.

I have to admit I was a bit torn inside. Part of me wanted to pity her – living in such poverty, but part of me was happy for her – that she could be filling such joy from life.

It wasn’t long until we heard Sara calling us for dinner. Jenny and I crawled back through the little doorway into the main room. John was sitting at the table. Now that I saw him, I realized that I had spoken to him before as he had been heading out of town to hunt.

“Hello John, it’s nice to see you again.”

“As it is you. Come and sit. Jenny, help your mother bring in the food.”

Jenny ran out to help her mother and soon the two of them came in with dinner.

I’m not sure what I expected for dinner. All I know is this wasn’t it.

John sliced thick pieces of bread from the loaf I brought and put one on each plate. Sara brought in the cracked pot and set it on the table. Jenny brought in a smaller pan and set it on the table, too.

Sara used a cup to ladle the contents of the pot onto each slice of bread. The mixture consisted of some sort boiled greens, fresh onions, mushrooms, pine nuts, and some spices in a light gravy.

Jenny handed me the small pot. I looked inside and paused for a second. The pot was full of fried crickets. I used the a spoon and placed a few on the edge of my plate.

After we finished dishing up our food, John stretched his hands to Jenny and me. Jenny grabbed his hand and held her other hand out to her mother, who took it and then held out her hand to me. I smiled and took both of their hands.

We all bowed our heard and John prayed. “Heavenly Father. Thank you for the bounty you have provided. You provide so wonderfully for those who trust you. Thank you for bring Hector to be with us this evening. Bless him and keep him. Be with us tonight, be in our hearts and words. And all God’s people say …”

Then we all said together, “Let it be so.”

When I opened our eyes, the three of them had all started eating. I steadied myself and joined them. The vegetables were surprisingly tasty and the gravy made the bread wonderful. I was a bit hesitant to try the crickets, but Jenny was eating them like they were candy. The crickets were crunchy and a little bitter. They were also hot, and the glass of water did little to relive the burning in my mouth.

As we ate, we talked. John said it was so nice of me to spend time with the children. I told him my story of being robbed and how the kids had been teaching me a lot.

When John was finished with his plate he took a piece of bread and wiped the rest of the gravy from the pot and ate it. Jenny, Sara and John all licked their plates clean, then Sara took the pot back outside.

She returned with a dutch oven. She opened it and the room was filled with the smell of fresh crisp. Sara dished up the crisp and then put the fresh berries I brought on top. “Isn’t it wonderful how these things always work out. It makes you wonder if God planed it this way.”

We all finished our desert and all of us licked our plates clean. Hey, I didn’t want to be impolite.

Sara cleared the table as we continued to talk. I watched her put the pots away, and then carefully stack the plates back on the shelf. That’s when I realized that she wasn’t going to wash the dishes. I’m not sure what I think about that now, but at the time I thought I was glad I didn’t know about it until after we ate.

We talked for another hour or so, then Sara got up and took the last two candles out of a little box and lit them. I tried several times to excuse myself so they wouldn’t waste their last two candles talking to me, but they wouldn’t let me leave. As the candles began to flicker I tried to cast a light spell, but God didn’t answer my prayer, or rather, he said “No.” There was something important about this family giving all they had to honor someone who had honored their daughter.

As the second to last candle went out Sara apologized and said something about them not making candles like they use to. I agreed with her and said I needed to be going anyway – that I had early prayers in the morning – even though I knew she had probably made the candles herself.

We left their little house and said our goodbyes around the fire pit, which was now just a few glowing coals. I noticed that Sara blew out the last candle before she joined us.

After getting a big hug from Jenny, John walked me back to the main road. He thanked me again for visiting and said I was welcome to drop by any time. I told him that next time it would be my turn to show him some hospitality.

We shook hands and I started the long walk back to my stone apartment, with its fireplace and oil lamps. As I walked I wondered who would sleep better tonight. – the three who had just given all they had to make me feel welcome, or me who was wondering how I could have ever complained about wanting anything.

Categories: Faith, Life.

Joy (town part 2)

October 8, 2009


I had dinner with Julie tonight. The food was great, but the conversation was even better. We started talking about how we both feel like we’re living in two overlapping worlds.

Julie brought it up first, well she actually wrote about it earlier today and then I commented on what she had written. She wrote about her two worlds – the wilderness and Maple Grove. She feels at home in both places, and longs to be in both places.

As we talked I shared about how I feel like I’m in two worlds. I’m living in a broken world where there is pain and suffering. I’m also living in a world that has been made whole again, where there is love and joy. Unlike Julie who wants to be in both of her worlds, I would much rather be in the world of love and joy. However, since I’m being called to love the people around me, I’m being called to love the broken world, too.

I believe that God is in the process of repairing the broken world, and in some small way he is using me to help in that process. I would be happy going off and living in a monastery. I think that sometimes I try to do that right here in Maple Grove. I try not to see the brokenness around me. Then God shows me some brokenness and breaks my heart in the process. Then the only way to mend my heart is to help heal the brokenness in the world.

Three days ago I wrote about one of those times. I thought it was about sharing God’s good news. Well, it was, but not in the way I thought. I thought sharing God’s good news was telling people about what God is doing. It turns out that God’s good news is not just about what God is doing – it is about God doing things and using me to help do them. The good news is that God loves this world – this broken world – and that he is in the process of restoring it. Not that he is going to restore it, or has restored it, but that right now, right in this place, he is restoring it – and I’m one of the tools God is using.

So I met these kids while I was running through the poorer part of town trying to get my coin purse back. God touched my heart and opened my eyes so I could see the brokenness around me. He showed me his love flowing from one little child to another. I stepped in and shared his love, too. I made a commitment to come and pray with the children everyday for a week.

I’ve fulfilled that commitment now. I’m free to come back to my happy world. But guess what, praying with those children for a week was just the beginning of God’s good news. I spent a couple minutes a day with them for a week, and now they’re in my heart. On the fourth day I took muffins to share with them. They devoured the muffins. The next day I took three apples. Three of their friends joined us to pray that day – so we each got half an apple.

On the sixth day I took a whole bag of apples and some rolls. Three more friends joined us. The nine of us sat together and ate the apples, and ate the bread as we talked and then we all prayed together. I had enough to send them each home with an extra apple. One little boy asked if he could have an extra one for his little sister.

Today was a repeat of yesterday. The last of the original ten children showed up, and I made jelly sandwiches for us all to eat. We had a good time. One of the little girls brought her stuffed toy, Snuggles, and introduced her to me. We ate. We prayed. We even played some freeze tag.

My commitment of praying with the little boy for a week has ended. So, do I walk away – go back to my comfortable and happy world? I can’t. A piece of me is now part of these children’s world. In one week I’ve seen more of God’s handiwork in the lives of these children, than I have in a month of going to church.

I can’t afford to take time to see them everyday, but I can see them every week. When I left them today, Jenny – the little girl who was comforting Jimmy – came up and gave me a hug. She said, “Thank you for coming and seeing us. Thank you for not being is such a hurry, like that other man. I love you.”

I told them all that I would come next week, and bring a picnic lunch for all of us to share. I also asked Jenny if she would ask her parents if their family would like to have dinner with me sometime.

What started as a pickpocket taking 20 pieces of silver, has already cost me at least that much more. But it’s not the silver that matters. Ten little children have also each taken a little part of my heart. So far, however, I’ve gotten the better part of the deal. The joy that God has given me, as he used me to help heal this little part of the world, is so much more amazing than the joy I experience in my world of “love and joy.”


Categories: Life.

In Town (town part 1)

September 23, 2009

I’ve heard it said before, “Be careful what you pray for, God might answer you.” One of those times was when I was going to be working with ten and eleven year old boys for a week, one of my instructors said I didn’t need to pray and ask for God to teach me patience! That we were already going to be taught to be patient.

Well, this week in service we prayed a prayer together, “God, I ask you to lead me into the places of this town where your good news needs to be heard.” I prayed along with everyone else and then promptly forgot all about it. I know, I shouldn’t be admitting that I didn’t take that prayer to heart, but at the same time I wouldn’t want to lie and imply I did. But, God took it to heart.

Two days later I was walking along the promenade, minding my own business, on my way to a meeting. All of a sudden I noticed that the weight at my left hip was gone – someone had just snatched my coin purse. I turned around and saw a cloaked figure moving quickly away from me through the crowd. I started following the figure, trying not to run into anyone, but he or she was leaving me behind. By the time I reached the end of the promenade, the figure was a good half a block ahead of me and headed down into the lower town.

I started running, as did the figure. I was keeping up, but getting no closer. At this point I guess I should tell you a little bit about the town I live in. Maple Grove is a beautiful town in a beautiful valley, tucked way in the mountains. Just about 3,000 people live in town, with a few hundred more in the farms around town. That’s 3,000 officially; I would guess there are a lot more. The town is built in three parts. There is the old town, which is on top of a hill. It is filled with very old stone buildings. It is where the fancy shops are and the fancy people live. It’s where I live, but in one of the less fancy places. At the bottom of the hill, to the north and to the south are the two lower towns. There the buildings are mostly made of wood, and mostly are not fancy at all. A stone wall encircles the the lower towns, and another stone wall encircles the old town.

As I ran after the cloaked figure we headed deeper and deeper into the northern lower town. I kept losing site of my quarry as he or she disappeared around corners. The stone street turned to dirt and then into mud as I ran. I was slowing dow, breathing hard, and then I rounded a corner and saw a group of children huddled together. I didn’t see the cloaked figure, but I heard crying. In an instance I had to make a decision – do I keep following the cloaked figure, or I stop and see why someone is crying? I stopped.

Holding my side, I walked up to the group of children. There were six of them. Four were standing in a circle looking at the other two. One was laying on the ground crying. The last one was holding the crying one’s head in her hands, stroking his hair softly, and talking quietly. “Don’t cry Jimmy. You’ll be okay. Don’t be mad at the man, he was just in a hurry.” Jimmy stop crying as he was comforted by the young girl.

“You know Jimmy, I think we should pray for that man. He was in too much of a hurry. Will you pray with me?”

Jimmy nodded his head yes and the little girl continued to stroke his hair.

“God, please be with the man who was just here. Speak to him and let him know that you love him. Let him know that there is more to life than running from here to there. Let him know your peace.”

Jimmy nodded his head and added, “God, help him to be slower.”

“Amen,” the little girl added and gave Jimmy an little hug.

I stood there watching this, wondering how a little girl of seven or eight could be so wise. I wondered how her prayer for the thief who robbed me, might apply to me as well. I had run like him. I had run through these streets not seeing where I was. If I hadn’t been so tired, I might have run right past the children like he did. But I didn’t run by them. I stopped and watched and listened. Then I remembered my prayer earlier in the week, “… lead me into the places of this town where your good news needs to be heard.” Here I was, in a part of the town I had never been in, and hearing God’s good news coming from the mouth of a child.

I knelt down next to Jimmy. “How are you doing, Jimmy?”

Jimmy looked up to me and smiled. “I’m doing fine now.” Then he looked up into the girls eyes and smiled.

“Do you believe what you just heard? Do you believe that the man who ran by here needs God’s love?”

“I think so. At first I was just mad at him for running into me, but I think Jenny is right. He was in too much of a hurry and God needs to help him.”

“Do you know what believe means, Jimmy? It means to trust and to do. It looks to me like you believe. You trusted Jenny and you prayed with her, too. Do you know what the next step is?”

Jimmy shook his head no.

“It is to follow. Do you want to follow, too?”

“I guess so.”

“Then you should pray for that man everyday for a week. Can you do that?”

“Yes – but I don’t know If I can.”

I smiled at Jimmy. “I’m trying to believe and follow what God is showing me, too. How about if I meet you here everyday for the next week and we can pray for the man together?”

“I would like that,” Jimmy said.

“Me too.” added Jenny.

We’ve meet now for three days, Jimmy, Jenny and me. We’ve only spent a couple minutes together each day, but it has changed my week. Today I’m taking some muffins with me so we can spend a little longer together.

Categories: Faith.


September 14, 2009

Great Desert

A couple of years ago I went on a long journey to the city of Blue Spring, which is in the southern part of the Great Desert. For part of that journey, the part from White Water to Blue Spring, I hiked cross country. At times I was following paths made by other travelers. At times I followed the trails that animals had created. Sometimes I was forced to make my own way.

As I continued, the amount of time I was forging my own trail increased, until the prairie turned to sand. At that point there were no trails or paths, and the trail I made as I went disappeared behind me as the winds moved the shifting sand.

On the third day crossing the sands of the Great Desert, I came upon another group of travelers. These travelers, I quickly learned, were nomadic herdsmen. The group consisted of three families and their fifty-three cattle.

It was approaching evening and one of the men, Bindan, invited me to spend the evening with them. They shared their milk and meat with me, and I shared my hard biscuits and dried fruits with them.

As we ate, and afterwards watching the stars dominate the sky, we talked. They asked me about where I lived and what it was like. I told them of the mountains, the trees and grass, the rain and snow. I told them about the great cities and the herds of deer.

I was a little surprised by their response. I expected them to envy me, to wish they could live in such a wonderful place, a place favored by God. But they weren’t. In fact Bindan said, “I feel sorry for you, but at least you are in God’s country now. May God bless you and teach you his ways.”

I have to admit I was a little taken aback. I don’t want to sound like I’m boasting, but I thought God had taught me his ways. God had blessed me in so many ways. Then I remembered why I was here in this place. I was headed to Blue Spring on a pilgrimage. I had been instructed to travel there because God had something to teach me.

I had assumed that the thing I was suppose to learn was in Blue Spring, but sitting there on a warm evening, looking at an uncountable number of stars, I wondered, if maybe the lesson was on the journey, not at the destination.

“Why would you call this God’s country,” I asked Bindan.

Bindan poked a stick at the small fire for a few moments before he answered. “This place is hard. There is no place here to make a home. We must wander the dunes and hills looking for grass and water for our cattle. I cannot look at that dune over there and tell you if there is water on the other side. How many days have you walked through this wilderness? How many pools of water have you seen?”

“I’ve traveled three days and I haven’t seen any pools.”

“If we travel more than a day without finding water our supplies will be exhausted. If we traveled two days without water some of our cattle would die. Three days without water and we would all be on the verge of death. Four days and there will be no fifth for any of us. So how do we survive?”

“You find water. You must know how to find it.”

“We do know how, but it is not a skill we have. Every morning we gather and pray. We ask God which way to walk. We ask Him to guide our footsteps. Everyday someone in the group knows the way to walk, they feel it. Everyday we listen to that person and follow him or her. Everyday we find water. We have found water everyday for as long as I’ve been alive.”

“But if you lived where I do, you wouldn’t have to…” I stopped in mid-sentence and Bindan finished it for me.

“trust God.”

I sat in silence. I didn’t know what to say. I wasn’t going to say “trust God,” but his words convicted me. That was what was in my heart.

“We live here because it forces us to trust God. We know in our hearts that if we didn’t have to follow God’s leading we would each follow our own hearts. We also know it is so much better to follow God’s. But that’s not all. Because we follow God he has blessed us. Do you know the last time one of us was sick? I couldn’t tell you how many generations. Do any of us want for anything? No. We have our cattle. From them we have everything we need. They supply our food and clothing, our utensils and tents, and God keeps them alive for us.”

“I must be honest with you, what I told you before was a half truth. Everyday that we pray to God and ask for his guidance we find water, but sometimes we don’t pray. Sometimes we want to prove to ourselves that we can take care of ourselves. We become arrogant. On those days, when our memories have become short and we don’t remember what happened the last time we didn’t pray, we head off into the wilderness and find no water.”

“Sometimes we even go two days on our own. God humbles us and we return to him and ask for forgiveness. For some reason God is always merciful to us, and forgives us, and leads us again. He blessed us again, and we know we are loved.”

I moved closer to Bindan, feeling very humbled myself and not wanting to have my voice heard by anyone else, and said to him, “Forgive me.”

“He looked at me, the fire light dancing off of his eyes. “You have done nothing that I need forgive you for. It may be God that you need to ask.”

I nodded. I got up and walked out across the sand, I sat alone and thought and prayed. I took a quick inventory of my life and didn’t like what I saw. There was pride. There was a feeling that I could live without God if I chose to. There was my attachment to my belongings. More than anything else there was my belief that I understood God.

I fell asleep sitting there. When I woke I fond that someone had covered me with a blanket. I rose and made my way back into the camp and found Bindan. He smiled at me and nodded his head.

“Are you ready Hector?”


“We have prayed to God and he has told us that it is you who are to pray and lead us today.”

“Me? No I can’t”

“Are you saying God has lied to us?”

“No. But perhaps you where mistaken.”

“Why do you doubt Hector?”

“I … I’m afraid. What if God doesn’t speak to me? What if I lead you in the wrong direction?”

“Our faith is sufficient. God said that you will lead us, and so you will. God does not lie. Come now, it is time.”

I didn’t know what else to do so I followed him. He lead me to the rest of the group and we prayed together. And God spoke to me. I didn’t hear him say words to me, but I knew which hills to walk over; I saw each one in my mind.

God gave me the faith to trust the vision he had given me. That day I led Bindan and his people to the water God had prepared for us. It was a very humbling journey because I knew I didn’t find the water, but that God had used me.

That second evening we talked again and Bindan finished his explanation of why his people chose to live in this place. Not only do they have to trust God and feel his leading in their lives, by living in this place God has prepared their hearts and sends them to do his work.

By keeping pride out of their hearts, by removing greed from their minds, by having each of them in turn carry out God’s leading, he has build a community. A place where all belong and everyone loves everyone else.

God had prepared them to meet me in the wilderness. They had crossed my path because God had told them to wait for me, and being obedient they had waited. He had prepared them to believe that I, a stranger, could also be the one who speaks for God. And finally he prepared them to prepare me and send me off with a new understanding of where I fit in to this world.

I thought about staying with them, but they said that God had other plans for me. They also told me that if I ever felt lost I was always welcome to come back and discover the simple truths of listening and obeying God, in this land where God dwells because his people are here listening.

So then, what brought this story to my mind today? I was talking to a friend about the pilgrimage he made to Blue Spring. He was telling me of the magnificent building on the edge of the oasis. He went on and on about the date trees and the wonderful food. He said that it had changed his life.

I listened to his story, but my own played back in my head. I felt sorry for him that he had not met Bindan in the wilderness. I thought for a moment that it might have been nice to see Blue Spring, but then again I remembered that on the second morning I had prayed to God and asked which way I should walk. He lead and I followed. He didn’t led me to Blue Spring, but I have never regretted where he has led me.

Categories: Faith, prayer.

God’s Plan

August 23, 2009


Today at church the sermon was about God’s plan. I’m probably like most people and was immediately asking the question in my head, “Yeah, what is God’s plan for my life.” It didn’t take very long to get the answer.

God’s plan is bigger than my life. While God cares about me, and his plans include me, his plan is not for me. God’s plan, since the foundations of the universe, has always been to bring the universe back into harmony – to have fellowship with him again.

His plan is not to bring me back into fellowship with him, or even all of humanity. He wants nothing less than to bring everything in the entire universe back into fellowship with him. That’s a big plan, and my life looks pretty small compare to it.

So what is God’s plan for my life? I always seem to come back to that. Again I didn’t have very long to wait. God’s plan for my life is to use me as part of his plan for the whole universe. He has a plan to use me to bring harmony back.

Okay, now I’m worried. How could God use me to bring harmony to the whole universe? Of course the problem is that I keep thinking more of myself than I should. God is not going to use just me, he going to use me and a billion billion other things to bring about harmony.

Is my part important, of course. Can he do it without me? Sure. He could probably do it a lot easier without me. But doing it without me, without the other billion billion things, would defeat the whole plan. By using me and all the other people and things as part of his plan, before we bring harmony to the universe, he will have brought harmony to us.

The speaker told of a story of missionaries who went to a small island before going out to spread God’s word. “Okay, that seems strange,” I said to myself. They went to the island so they could experience the tides. The rhythm of the tides made the island what it is today. The constant rising and falling formed its coast line. The continual beating of the waves formed its beaches.

The missionaries went there to watch the tide so they would remember that there lives have been formed by the rhythms of life. A they leave the island, they would remember that there will be high and lows; there will be a constant stream of waves hitting them. And this is how it should be, for it is these rhythms are what make them who they are.

Knowing this they will also remember that the rhythms that they bring to their own lives will shape them. They will remember that it is important to pray – everyday – multiple times everyday – in a rhythmic way everyday, that by going to God in prayer everyday, it will keep them focused on who’s mission they are on. By thanking God everyday, it will keep them focused on where their blessings come from.

The last reason to go to an island before going out to be a missionary was so that they could experience God’s grace. “Grace on and Island,” I said to myself. Grace is a hard thing to explain. I don’t know if I agree with what the speaker said, but I know that what he said is part of grace.

Grace is that time, when for reasons that have no explanations, God comes to an individual and offers an invitation to join Him. God calls individuals, not just to rescue them, but, to invite them into a community. The missionaries come together on a deserted island to find community before they go off into the world. The strength of the knowledge, the knowledge that they are not alone, that there are others that are praying for them, that there are others that need their prayers, gives them a sense of peace in the midst of the highs and the lows, in the midst of the beating waves that they know will be waiting for them once they leave.

Being together, all knowing that they are doing their own small part in Gods gigantic plan, helps them keep perspective, and allows God’s fellowship and harmony be something that is real in their lives, so that when they go out into the world to share about God’s plan for harmony, the people they talk to will see it in their lives as a testimony of God’s plan.

So what is God’s plan for my life? To have fellowship with Him. To live in harmony with Him. To be loved by him. To live in harmony and have fellowship with others – to love others – so that when I tell them of God’s love and his desire for harmony and fellowship, I will be telling them with my words what they can already see in my life.

As I left church I thought about those words. God’s plan for me is to be a living example of his love, his fellowship, and he harmony. Sounds like a pretty good plan to me.

Categories: God.

The Power of God

August 22, 2009

Some people ask me how I know God is real?

Honestly I want to say, how could you even ask such a question. Don’t you have eyes. Of course that’s not what I say. I usually smile, give God a quick thank you for bring a searching person to me, and then take a deep breath.

I guess it’s easier for me to know that God is real, that he’s involved with our lives. I’m a cleric and I can feel God’s power flowing through me. Sometimes it’s impressive, like when I lay my hands on someone and God’s power flows through me and I can see their wounds go away. More often it is quiet, like when I talk to someone and I know just the right words to say, and I see a life healed.

I don’t know how to describe this feeling, other than to say the word joy. When I know that God is using me I am filled with joy. I’m filled with a contentment. I’d like to say peace, but sometimes when God is using me, peace is the last word I would describe the environment I’m in, or the inner turmoil that fills me.

You see, even though I know God is using me, I know that God is involved and has a plan. Most of the time I have no clue what that plan is. In fact lots of times I get frustrated because God doesn’t seem to be doing what I know needs to happen. In those times I have to stop and realize that God is using me and that is enough. If I can tell what little thing he want’s me to do, then I can forget about everything else and just be content that I’m doing what I’m suppose to be doing.

When I stop and realize that, the peace does come despite the turmoil that surrounds me. It is in those moments, like no others, that I know God is real, because only he could give me that peace.

Categories: Faith, God.