Stormy Seasons

Life seems to have seasons that are stormy, despite our best efforts for stability, serenity & certainty.  Stormy seasons can include:  getting laid off from a job, a marital crisis, a literal tornado, health accident or diagnosis and LOADS more.  If we’ve invited Jesus into our lives as storm prevention insurance, there’s a good chance that we’ll be disappointed.  I say this because Jesus never promises us that walking with Him will prevent all storms.  Indeed, walking with Jesus can make for some stormy times in life, both in our interior and exterior.

The exterior stormy seasons happen for lots of reasons, but thankfully Jesus gives us peace on the inside that can be greater than the external storm.  Sometimes we have seasons in our lives where our guts feel stormy:  when we’re unsettled, hurt, disappointed with God, wrestling with temptation, feeling discouraged, depleted or depressed, etc.

I’m thankful that Jesus is the Prince of Peace and that there is no storm, internal or external, that Jesus cannot calm.  Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus, no matter the season of life in which we find ourselves!

Easy or Hard?

I like the “easy button” and easy for me includes: washing dishes, ironing, international travel, languages, grocery shopping, simple cooking and reading my Bible.  In contrast, I don’t like to do stuff that’s hard, which includes:  getting in shape, seeing suffering babies, recovering from jet lag and being gracious rather than snarky.

No doubt, you have your own lists of things that are easy and hard.  But just because something is hard, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done or we shouldn’t try to do it.  I say this because of my morning Bible reading in Philippians 2:7, where Paul says about Jesus, “He emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”  This verse speaks to Jesus entering the human race, from start to finish, and experiencing human existence.  From my perspective, I would think that might have been difficult for Jesus to do – but He did it nonetheless.

If God asks you to do hard stuff, ask for divine Help and try!  Whethere something is hard or easy, let’s pre-decide to remain obedient and faithful to God!

Doing More

I’m making my way back to Denver from Angola Africa, where I’ve been for a week working with our baby malnutrition initiative with Saving Moses. I think this is my 6th trip to Angola & it never fails to bring me to my knees, almost literally. 

On this trip, I’ve never seen, held or experienced so many malnourished babies possibly combined in my whole life – over the course of close to 5days. And I’m coming home with all of these experiences swirling in my heart, thoughts & emotions. Clearly, this will be a journey for processing, literally. And at the same time, I’m compelled to do more. 

It seems to me like we all want to do more. But I wonder if we want to do more of the right stuff?  Sometimes maybe we should think about what it means to “do more” prayerfully considering if our more is being directed by God. 

Unable But Yielded

I’ve never had a day Ike today, feeling overwhelmed & inadequate to everything around me. I visited one of our malnutrition clinics here in Angola & when we landed this morning, there were 98 babies who were being looked after for malnutrition. That’s a HEAP OF BABIES & I’ve never experienced malnutrition in such high numbers. So walking around the buildings this morning, I seeing babies at various severities of malnutrition, this was definitely challenging. And I don’t find myself numb from the sheer numbers of babies. I’m able to recognize the distended bellies, stringy arms, knobby knees, glassy eyes, xylophone ribs, lightened hair . . . . I know the symptoms & it’s difficult to see each baby struggling to survive, along w each mom, abundantly stretched with worry & care from looking after their baby whom they deeply love. 

By the time we left this afternoon, the clinic had 125 babies & everyone was trying to figure out where to let everyone settle for some space & hopeful rest / recovery. 

When I’m past my breaking point, it helps me remember that whatever we do to the least, we do to Jesus. So let’s love well, no matter where we are nor what’s happening around us. 

No Crickets

When I’m in a malnutrition clinic here in Angola, I’m delighted to hear crying babies drown out any cricket noises. A crying baby in a malnutrition clinic means they have enough strength to cry. A quiet & lethargic baby in a malnutrition clinic can be very disturbing to me. It’s even worse when a quiet baby in these clinics looks into my eyes & I don’t see anything beyond a glassy stare.  

I’ve just spent the day at one of our 6 malnutrition clinics here in Angola & it’s uniquely unraveling to watch a baby struggle to survive.  Add in a stretched thin mom, worried for her baby’s life, and this can become very unsettling. So how do I process not just one mom & baby in this scenario but not less than ten?  

It helps to pray, for sure & it helps me to spend time & give genuine love. I know that God lives to spend time with you & enjoys your company!

Getting Better

Arriving & Improving: I prefer arriving over improving because to me the difference is destination versus journey. And yet here in Angola, with Saving Moses, I’m reminding myself that improvement is an essential ingredient for destination & change. 

I say this having driven by one of our malnutrition clinics today & observing the improvements to the lodging arrangements. In the past, this clinic had 3 large huts, poorly ventilated & lit, concrete floors & abundant flies. Today, the lodging has vastly improved – I’ll describe it here on my blog tomorrow. 

And still I see friendly moms with malnourished babies, waiting daily for their baby to improve & hopefully return home healthy & strong. Malnourished babies & toddlers meet your eyes with a dull stare or achy eyes. Their motions are lethargic & labored, so as to minimize the energy expense. Sometimes their bellies are swollen with edema & almost always their ribcages look like xylophone strips. And their heads are disproportionately large on their underdeveloped frames. 

So when I see babies in these conditions, it’s difficult to look at the building improvements because people always trump facilities. Nonetheless, I can choose to celebrate progress even if I have yet to see the full realization of helping Angola live in the state of declining infant mortality. 

Avoiding Tough

I’m flying to Angola today, where we have 6 malnutrition clinics to save babies & toddlers. I haven’t been in Angola for 3years because of various technicalities. And Saving Moses has these malnutrition clinics in Angola, because of such a high infant mortality rate.  Angola is the country where I first experienced the realities of emaciated babies with xylophone ribcages, hallow eyes & labored breathing. I have yet to experience anything in my life that compares with holding a baby who is feather light with fleeting breathes from being malnourished. So this is a tough trip. 

I like to avoid tough & embrace comfort, reject inconvenient but welcome smoothy groovy. 

But genuine love steps into things that are tough, heartbreaking & impossible, even though I drag my feet. Choose genuine love with me 🙂

Finding Impossible

“I don’t see how that’s going to work.” This is a common sentence I hear in lots of different contexts that include stuff with Saving Moses, family challenges, ministry obstacles & even some personal goals.
It seems to me that people often want to know how something is going to work before they ever try to do it. It’s almost like we want the clear path to success before we’ll even set foot on the path. In my life, I’m learning that as I walk toward success or whatever seems to be impossible that my journey ultimately reaches the destination or goal of doing the impossible & succeeding. At the core of me, I know that walking with the Holy Spirit is how the impossible gets done & more often than not, walking with the Holy Spirit is nothing less than an adventure with the impossible. So LETS GO!!!

Uber Rides

Today’s Uber driver is from Darfur Sudan. He has 7 brothers, 2 sisters & both parents all back in Darfur. This is the place where they had a genocide almost 15years ago so I was fascinated to listen to my driver talk about his circuitous journey to the US. Whenever I uber it, the drivers are always from a distant country: Mali, Philippines, Turkey, Vietnam, etc. When I listen to each of these drivers, it’s astounding to hear their stories & think about how they’ve navigated various tragedies, twists & opportunities.
Everyone we meet has had their own journeys, culminating to the moment we meet them & get to hear about their lives. Sometimes when we hear their stories it helps us understand some of their behaviors & choices. Regardless of their backgrounds or experiences, let’s choose to love & be gracious. We don’t have to know people to be loving, kind or gracious 🙂

Crazy Ideas

I have heaps of crazy ideas & what’s really interesting is that I’m not afraid to try out lots of these ideas. Sometimes it works out well & sometimes it’s a disaster. Over the course of time, I’ve grown accustomed to the raised eyebrows & quizzical looks that people give me, but there are few friends who give me the thumbs up & seem to enjoy these grand adventures.

Sometimes, I think the Holy Spirit has some crazy ideas as well. I’ve had the Holy Spirit direct my steps to do some really incredible things, like starting nightcare with Saving Moses, teaching German in China & learning some fun languages! Let’s be careful that we don’t automatically dismiss something crazy & miss an opportunity to follow the Holy Spirit on a fun adventure!!

Keep Looking

“Where is Jo-Jo?”  I’d circled through the stark malnutrition clinic in Angola with Saving Moses, looking for the struggling little baby that I’d met just before we took a break for lunch.  I remembered seeing Jo-Jo’s mom: she was extremely tired and her nerves were obviously frayed.  But I was hopeful for Jo-Jo, since she was in our clinic now and could receive some medical care and a steady supply of the malnutrition formula that has kept literally thousands of babies from dying.

I talked with my friends about Jo-Jo over lunch and I was eager return to the clinic and  encourage her mom that we would do our level best to help her frail daughter to survive and even thrive.  I walked through our clinic again, slower this time, looking for little Jo-Jo in her bright red shirt.  I couldn’t find her so I asked our translator to check in with the nurse to see where Jo-Jo was.  “Her mom took her and left,” was the nurse’s reply.  “We have to find her!  She doesn’t stand a chance of surviving without our help!  Where’s her file, find her address, call the phone number, let’s go to her house, let DO SOMETHING!!!”  I was really upset and I could tell the nurse was also very disturbed.  We looked at Jo-Jo’s chart, found a phone number and only the name of the neighborhood where she lived, since Angola doesn’t use an address system like we do in the US. There was no chance of finding her in the neighborhood listed, it was HUGE.  When we called the number listed on the chart, there was no answer.  So how could we keep trying to find Jo-Jo?  Could we send someone to her neighborhood in the very remote chance we’d find her?

We did this and we kept calling the phone number, but we never found Jo-Jo and given the extremely frail state of her little body, I would suppose that she died.  This has really bothered me for a very long time because Jo-Jo’s mom seemed to have given up all hope for her daughter to live.  What kind of hell does a mom go through to get to the point of giving up hope for her baby to live?  Could I have been more sensitive to the mom’s exhausted state?  What would I do differently in this situation for the future?

Some things are deeply disturbing and this is probably a good thing because such experiences can interrupt our comfortable living and provoke us to bring genuine love and life to the world in which we live.  Let’s keep looking for ways to let God love the world through us.

Celebrate Progress :)

The other day I was packing my suitcase for a trip & sometimes packing makes me discouraged because I often forget something. Things I’ve forgotten include: makeup, my passport, entrance visas for various countries, my notes for preaching, various clothing necessities & the list goes on without limit. But I’m choosing to celebrate progress because lately, I’ve forgotten less than usual 🙂

And this is my encouragement to you today: celebrate progress more than conclusion. So many times I’ve been discouraged with myself for not having everything together. Discouragement can often become disheartening & ultimately depressing. So let’s chose today to celebrate progress rather than discouragement. Here are some ideas for celebrating:

  • Maybe your less late than usual
  • Maybe you gave someone a complement when usually you’re awkwardly quiet
  • Maybe you said less than what was running around in your mind & emotions
  • Maybe you showed up when you wanted to disappear
  • Maybe you chose courage rather than fear / intimidation
  • Maybe you listened instead of talking mindlessly to fill what seemed to be an awkward quiet 
  • Maybe you prayed a little more than worried
  • Maybe you chose to be vulnerable rather than amored 
  • Maybe you purposely gave without expecting a complementary payback
  • Maybe you chose to walk out your stress rather than eat the chocolate ,)
  • Maybe you chose water instead of coffee

Progress my friends – it’s a good thing ,)

Celebrate Progress :)

The other day I was packing my suitcase for a trip & sometimes packing makes me discouraged because I often forget something. Things I’ve forgotten include: makeup, my passport, entrance visas for various countries, my notes for preaching, various clothing necessities & the list goes on without limit. But I’m choosing to celebrate progress because lately, I’ve forgotten less than usual 🙂

And this is my encouragement to you today: celebrate progress more than conclusion. So many times I’ve been discouraged with myself for not having everything together. Discouragement can often become disheartening & ultimately depressing. So let’s chose today to celebrate progress rather than discouragement. Here are some ideas for celebrating:

  • Maybe your less late than usual
  • Maybe you gave someone a complement when usually you’re awkwardly quiet
  • Maybe you said less than what was running around in your mind & emotions
  • Maybe you showed up when you wanted to disappear
  • Maybe you chose courage rather than fear / intimidation
  • Maybe you listened instead of talking mindlessly to fill what seemed to be an awkward quiet 
  • Maybe you prayed a little more than worried
  • Maybe you chose to be vulnerable rather than amored 
  • Maybe you purposely gave without expecting a complementary payback
  • Maybe you chose to walk out your stress rather than eat the chocolate ,)
  • Maybe you chose water instead of coffee

Progress my friends – it’s a good thing ,)

Being Hungry

When I come home from an Int’l trip, I’m often hungry for a hamburger or a salad – familiar food that are in my home culture. This isn’t to say that I don’t like ethnic food. I TOTALLY love to try new foods in various cultures. Some of the foods I’ve tried were not that tasty when I first tried them, but the more I ate them, the more I liked these different foods. 
Sometimes I think spiritual food can be similar. I find that there are some spiritual foods that are tasty & appealing. For example, we like where the Bible says that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us in Phil 4:13. But some verses aren’t quite as appealing. For example, James 1:4 says that we should let endurance have its perfect work so that we can be perfect & complete, not lacking anything. 

Let’s be certain that we let the Holy Spirit cultivate our appetites so that we eat spiritual food that helps us grow & become mature followers of Jesus 🙂

Reach For More

Earlier this week, I wrote about celebrating ordinary & normal as I was traveling home from a long weekend in Singapore. But yesterday, I started reading the book of Judges in the OT & some crazy stuff happened in that book. Judges includes the stories of Samson, Jael (driving a nail through a guy’s head), Gideon & lots more. In the beginning, it talks a lot about how the Israelites didn’t drive out the Canaanites from the Promised Land. Israel allowed the common & natural to remain in their land & this shortfall became a stumbling block for Israel. The stories in Judges that are noteworthy aren’t the ones about what’s ordinary, believable or natural. 

Maybe we live common, natural & ordinary lives because we tolerate average & safe. 
Perhaps God wants us to live different lives:
Super + natural = supernatural

Extra + ordinary = extraordinary

Credible + in = incredible
Let’s allow more space for God in our lives & less space for ordinary, credible & natural 🙂

I like people

People are interesting without a doubt.  Sit in a Starbux, visit an airpot, watch in Walmart, socialize in church, etc & its high grade entertainment value to see what people do & how they behave.  Sometimes I just like to stop what I’m doing, adjust my attention & look at what the people are doing around me – so MUCH FUN!!!!

Here are some reasons why I like people:

  • diversity:  no two people are the same in any way, no matter how much effort they make to imitate & blend
  • creative: everyone seems to see things from unique & often highly creative perspectives, causing them to behave in very creative ways & do creative things
  • beautiful:  each person has a distinct beauty (in their visage, mannerisms, interactions, clothing, makeup, etc)
  • surprises:  just when you think you have a handle on human behavior someone does something entirely unexpected, rogue & outlier-ish
  • community:  it’s always fun to watch the ways in which we interact with each other, endeavoring to honor, connect, communicate & engage

Today, let’s celebrate people, God’s highest & most valuable creation 🙂

Fools Gold

When I was growing up, I learned about the Gold Rush & how some people were tricked by “Fools Gold”, thinking they’d found gold only to be disappointed that the shiny metal was nothing more than shiny metal. 

This lesson is speaking to me again here in Angola, where Saving Moses has 6 malnutrition clinics.   Two of our clinics are less than an hour apart. The first clinic is very rustic, seemingly primitive & seems to lack even the bare essentials. The electricity has only been added in the last few years & whenever I hang out there, it almost feels like I’m camping, but our moms will live with their babies in this place for an average of 3-4 weeks in what we would consider primitive & seemingly uncivilized conditions at first glance. Some of the staff are frequently high school graduates interested in going into medical school so they get their feet wet, literally, starting at this malnutrition clinic. 
The second clinic, about an hours drive away, is a seemingly sharp contrast. It’s definitely a more modern building, adjacent to a medical school & staffed with medical students & health professionals running around in white lab coats. On the outside, it looks like it’s far more developed & we would often conclude more effective than the first clinic. 
But the reality is the opposite. The first clinic, albeit rustic, is highly regarded & well renowned for specializing in malnutrition. With our therapeutic milk, 80% of the babies in this clinic survive & grow to be healthy kids. In this seemingly backwater clinic, people will travel for literally hundreds of miles to get their babies to what they consider the best possible care to survive the ravages of malnutrition – all in a place that barely has running water. While the second clinic looks better appointed, it’s not as effective nor well regarded for its malnutrition work. 
Just because something looks shiny & bright on the outside doesn’t mean that it’s golden, effective & even healthy on the inside. Paul tells us in the New Testament not to be deceived by the external & what we see but rather to be led by the Holy Spirit in our hearts, attentive to the Spirit of Truth 🙂

Just When You Think it’s Safe

We live in a highly sophisticated world where I can do the milk delivery order from my phone in remote Angola & where we can monitor brain waves with highly technical equipment & medical discoveries & developments that are thoroughly revolutionary. And yet life is still very frail & can hang by a breathless thread. The first baby when I got out of the car in Angola a few days ago was dead & being carried away to be prepared for burial. The last baby I saw before leaving Angola was gasping for shallow breaths & gazed with a fixed glaze, looking death in the eye. In the middle few days, we’ve had massive joys, experiences & beautiful connections. 

One lesson I bring home from this trip is that I am most alive when I love well. Please be praying for Josiana, her picture below  She’s 1year & 2 months & she’s the last baby I saw before leaving



Sometimes

I’m taking a pause here in Angola, sitting on the ledge in one of our malnutrition clinics for Saving Moses. I’m pausing for lots of reasons, one of which is to have a few minutes to absorb & process. I can get so thick in the middle of all of these babies & moms that I get more than a little overwhelmed. I don’t get overwhelmed by the smells, milk mustaches nor knobby knees or elbows. I get overwhelmed by love – the love of Jesus for each baby, in all of her frail humanity, sometimes suspended in each rapid breath. I get overwhelmed by her eyes looking deep into me with curiosity, some anxiety of the unknown but most of all by the common life we share as humans. We live different lives but we are glued together & anchored in love. 

Sometimes a person should pause to reflect, absorb & let the feet get rooted deeper & deeper into genuine love. I find myself deeply in love with Jesus, sitting on the ledge here in Angola & I’d love to have you sitting next to me sharing this experience of deeply rooted genuine love.