Throwing Pebbles in Guatemala

Oswald Chambers says, “Prayer does not equip us for greater works—prayer is the greater work.” As I blog about tossing pebbles out into the world that ripple change, I’m encouraged to see God at work through prayer.

  • God open doors for the Gospel through prayer.
  • God heals through prayer.
  • God convicts and restores relationships through prayer.
  • God sets captives free through prayer.

Today I’d like to do two things. First, let me introduce some pebble throwers down in Guatemala. It’s the yellow/gold country to the left of Honduras (purple):

guatemala-map

Meet David and Regina White and their children, Cruz and Ben.whites-8-16

They are on mission in Guatemala loving people and sharing the Good News. Second, let’s do the great work of prayer and partner with them as they bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of Guatemala. Please pray for:

1)  Anointing of the Holy Spirit as they teach Bible studies in Muyurco, Lagunetas, and Nearar. Pray for the hearts of those in each village who will be hearing God’s Word.

2)  Regina as she homeschools their boys. For God’s power, peace, and patience as she juggles home, school, and ministry.

3)  Ministry partner Miguel as he takes seminary classes and for his bold witness to his family, neighbors, and friends. For God to meet his physical, spiritual, and financial needs.

4)  Village leaders: Rafa, Julio, Anacleto, and Reyes to stay strong in their faith despite persecution from neighbors and community leaders.  For God’s protection over them and their families lives.  For filling of the Holy Spirit to boldly share Christ.

David shared recently that “We cannot think of anything else we’d rather be doing with our lives.” What a joy to see the satisfaction that flows from tossing the exact pebbles God prepared in advance for this family to throw. Glory to God!

Six Things: When You Feel Like Quitting

It’s that thing your heart beats for. It’s part of you; something you’re wired to do. It’s your high calling, your pebble throwing mission.

Perhaps it’s freeing girls from human trafficking. Maybe it’s rescuing endangered animals. Or caring for foster children, or the environment, or helping frazzled moms love their families well.

As you’ve pursued your mission, have you ever felt like quitting?

I have.

(If you haven’t, feel free to save this for a rainy day. There may come a time when you wonder if you heard God wrong or if what you’re doing is making a lick of difference.)

For the rest of us, here are six things when you’re having one of those days:

1. “Just” pray. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Why do we say this? I’ve said it. “Is there anything else I can do besides just pray for you?” The truth is, if we all “just prayed” instead of spinning our wheels trying to do stuff, the world would be a dramatically different place. If your bent is toward “doing” rather than “being,” remember this: the next time you go to take action (send an e-mail, plant a tree, write a chapter, begin a recycling campaign, sign up for a mission trip, organize a fund raiser or whatever) take a breath. Ask God to use your efforts, edit your words, multiply your work, or stop you if it’s not the way He’d have you go.1thessalonians5-17

2. Every time you say yes to the wrong thing you’re saying no to the right thing.

When you commit to something that’s not part of your highest calling, it diminishes your ability to complete your highest calling. Whenever possible, each yes should propel you toward your mission. Do you feel ineffective in what you’re doing? Pause to evaluate your yeses. Give yourself permission to say no in order to free up time to pursue your Best Yes, as Lysa Terkeurst calls it. Jesus did this. He said yes to only those things that aligned with His highest calling.

3. Spend time with those who embrace your highest calling.

Not everyone will completely get your mission. But seek out friends on social media and in your school, neighborhood, and community who do. Seek out others whose hearts beat for what you’re doing to help spur you on. And most importantly, spend time with the Author of your highest calling, getting quiet with God, reading His word, and just being with Him. Psalm 63:1

4. Recruit others to pray specifically for this calling with you. Acts 12:12

Every other Tuesday morning, I circle up with four women. These friends are on my write-the-book journey for the long haul. They were praying for my book long before I traveled to Africa or began blogging. When I tire of updating them on my progress (or lack thereof), they still pray for me. Thanks to them and others, I’ve not given up on this book.

5. Expect things will get messy and don’t give up when they do. Galatians 6:9

galatians6_91

You will have “those days” when you hit a wall and are D-O-N-E, done! Michael Hyatt calls it the messy middle.“Everything is harder than you expect it to be. The hill is steeper. The road is longer. You are not sure you have what it takes to finish.”

Preparing for this season helps you push through instead of being devastated and giving up. Consider writing a “messy middle” letter to yourself on a day when you have a fresh vision of your mission. When you hit your wall, read it out loud and allow God to reignite your passion for His calling.

6. Remember who got you into this. Ephesians 2:10

onewhohovers

This photos reminds me of three things:

  1. The author of my calling is God. I didn’t think it up myself. I responded to His holy invitation.
  2. The One who called me has unlimited power and resources. All I must do is ask.
  3. Ultimately, my Heavenly Father is the only one I need to please.

On the dark days when you feel like you’re a crazy person for thinking you could do what you’ve set out to do, # 6 is everything. And when number 6 is even hard to do, repeat #1.

What has God called you to do? Have you experienced the messy middle? When everything screams “give up!” what has helped you stay the course?

When It Feels Like You’re Swimming Upstream in Molasses

It was the dreaded question. “How’s your book coming?” I sighed and confessed to my friend, “Some days when I write, I feel like I’m swimming upstream in molasses.” There’s a reason it’s called writer’s block. You feel like you’re moving—or typing—but not getting anywhere.

The next day, a writing partner threw me a pebble that rippled a lifeline into my molasses stream. She texted me a one-hour writing challenge and offered to pray for me. That afternoon, I wrote like Michael Phelps swims, my hands skimmed swiftly across the keyboard and the ideas overflowed. Her pebble made all the difference.swimmer

Years ago, when battling through a particularly dark season of my life, the postal carrier delivered a box with a butterfly on the front. My friend knew about my trial and remembered how I’d seen beautiful butterflies nearly every day—God’s creatures of transformation, a reminder of our new nature in Christ. I opened the butterfly box and discovered a huge stack of index cards inside (like 40 or more). On each one she’d hand-written a scripture dated with when she prayed it for me! That small box of encouragement still ripples truth into my life and I remain forever grateful for this extreme act of encouragement.

Before You Throw, Consider Who

The butterfly box was significant because words matter to me. As a communicator and writer, I adore words and my friend knew that. So, before you pick up your go-to pebble of encouragement, consider who you’re uplifting and how they are wired.

cookiesFor you, agape love might come in the form of a plate full of warm, gooey chocolate chip cookies. But how does the person you’re encouraging best receive love? Do you know their love language? If not, find out. A words of affirmation person might want a long note, but a quality time person might prefer a quiet walk together. Your acts of service friend might appreciate a homemade meal more than words can say.

Be Specific

My friend is wading through an extremely difficult chapter in her life. I asked her, “What’s the best way others have encouraged you?” It didn’t take her long to answer.

“Those who helped most were specific in their offers to help.”

Instead of:“I’m so sorry for your loss. Let me know what I can do for you.”

They said: “I want to give you a break next week. Could I keep your children so you can take a walk, have lunch with your mom, or get your nails done? I’m free next Tuesday if that works for you?”

love hands photo courtesy of Farid Iqbal Ibrahim

My hope for this blog is not to simply talk about throwing pebbles but to inspire you to act. So here’s my “molasses challenge.” Take a moment to think of one person who’s in a dark season, knee deep in molasses. How can you ripple some light into their darkness? I’ve started a list of ideas, but I’d love to hear from you. Please share below and I’ll draw from all who leave comments and send the winner a gift card!

Keep it simple:

  • Pray for them and then send a text/e-mail to say they’re on your mind
  • Phone them and offer to listen without offering advice
  • Hand write and snail mail a card or note of encouragement. Remember that humor can be just the right anecdote in the midst of pain
  • Hit the kitchen and whip up a home cooked meal or swing by your favorite take-out place. Even a simple entrée offered in love can make the heart smile.

woman thinking with penFor all you crafty people:

  • Purchase or hand paint a coffee mug and insert a Starbucks gift card, or a bundle of tea bags with a cute spoon and tag: “When the storms of life are stirred, we all need a moment to sit and sip.”
  • Pray and ask God to show you a special scripture just for them. Spend an evening creating a scripture doodle. Roll it up and tie it with a bow, or mail it to them.
  • Decorate a tin can, fill with flowers, and attach note: “ONLY GOD CAN: turn a mess into a message, a test into a testimony, a trial into a triumph, and a victim into a victory.”
  • Tie a note on a bottle of 7-up that promises: “I will be UP-lifting you in prayer for the next 7 days. Have a blessed week!”
  • Leave some Mentos or a tin of Altoids with a note of “encourage-mint”

Now it’s your turn …

Why Walking A Tight Rope in the Dark is a Good Thing

Life is hard. We live in a fallen world and people suffer.

“God’s in control,” says the resolute Christian.

Yes. He is. As Christ followers, we know that there’s nothing outside the realm of God’s all-knowing, all-powerful dominion. But when the dark days come and things are closing in around us, our humanity—our fearful weakness—causes us to crave control.

stressHere’s the thing. There lies a uniquely ripe opportunity for pebble throwing right smack dab in the middle of ugly suffering. I’d even say that the potential to throw especially powerful and effective pebbles is at an all time high because of suffering. Let’s break this down some more.

I’d like you to meet Jane, Alice, and Rhonda. Three kind, thoughtful, Jesus-loving women.

Jane and Alice are catching up after their Bible study one evening. Jane, who lives a perfectly ordered, peaceful, and pious life, pats the back of Alice, who has just miscarried late in the second trimester of her first pregnancy. Jane quotes Romans 8:28 and assures Alice that God will use this horrible experience for good so there’s hope. “Just fix your eyes on Jesus,” she quips. “This too shall pass.” Alice isn’t sure why, but Jane’s words crash against her heart. They feel heavy and burdensome instead of light and hopeful.

Later that same week, Alice bumps into her friend Rhonda at the grocery store.

frozen

photo credit: Anthony Albright

Several years ago, Rhonda lost three babies, each little life ended during the second trimester of pregnancy. As the grieving moms bond in the produce aisle, Rhonda leans into hear Alice’s quiet pain and remembers the hurt. With tears in her eyes, she hugs her tightly. “I know. It hurts. Go ahead and cry. Jesus has your baby. I know because I’ve lost three. I still miss those babies but we will see them one day. You’re going to make it to the other side of this, and it will get better. Just hold onto Jesus and He will walk you through it. One step at a time. One day at a time.”

 

Consider the impact of scripture-spouting Jane versus how things went with Rhonda. Both women were attempting to throw a pebble of kindness to ripple healing and comfort into Alice’s life. And Jane is right. God takes horrible things and uses them in the lives of those He loves, His children, to bring about His purposes. He does it all the time and it’s an astoundingly beautiful thing.

But Rhonda’s words carried more weight. Not the kind of weight that leaves another feeling heavy and burdened. Her pebbles made deeper ripples in Alice’s heart with greater effect. Rhonda has walked the tightrope of miscarriage and through that nightmare she has earned the right to speak weighty words of hope and significance into Alice’s life.

These are fictional scenarios but the reality is, I miscarried our third child many years ago. Our daughter’s heart stopped beating very late in my second trimester. There were well-meaning, kind people who spoke good words—Biblical words even—that had very little impact on me. Little impact other than making me feel like I wasn’t being hopeful enough. And then there was the call from my friend, Lynn, who had walked the wilderness of multiple miscarriages.

I will never forget my conversation with Lynn. She listened well and we spoke about things no one else understood. I can’t remember her exact words, but that one pebble-throwing phone call carried weight and its ripple effects were significant—so significant that her words prompted this blog post several years later.

 

My friend, Art, has an adult daughter who’s in a fierce battle with ALS. It has been a long, hard, and at times very frightening rollercoaster ride. But Jesus Christ has been their rock. I do my best to encourage Art, his wife, and daughter on their journey, with prayer, words of hope, and hugs. But recently, he shared an e-mail with some powerful pebble-throwing words. They came from a family friend whose high school son has a brain tumor. The family had just received inconclusive scan results. The mother wrote:

“We are a bit discouraged with the results . . . because in our humanness we want a sense of control.  We want to know exactly what is going on and what to expect.  I want to be able to walk down a big, broad path that is well lit and there is visibility down the road.  I want to be able to run and skip and be carefree down the path, but that is not the case.  Instead, God has called us to walk on a tight rope in the dark.  It feels scary and the road is uncertain.  But the best part of this path is that I am tightly holding onto my Savior’s hand. When He walks with me, He gives me, not only guidance, direction, and security, but He lavishes His peace because I am held by Him.  There is no better place to be.”

That last line bears repeating. A mom of a high school senior with brain cancer, who has no idea of her son’s outcome, says “There is no better place to be.”

Not because she likes the tightrope God’s chosen for her to walk, but because she’s held by the One who holds both ends of the rope. These weighty words lifted Art’s faith at a time when my encouragement most likely falls a bit short.

heart stoneIt’s hard to know the right thing to say. Sometimes just listening is better, unless your experience compels you to share a nugget of wisdom packaged up with a large dose of compassion. Shared experience uniquely qualifies you to be a pebble thrower whose words carry wisdom. I pray that your weighty words will ripple encouragement and hope into the lives of those who need them most.

What tightrope has God called you to walk in the dark? How might you toss a pebble by allowing your experience to ripple some light into another’s dark pain? please share below…

The Aroma of Christ

We brought Uganda home on our feet. We’ve rinsed and scrubbed, yet our shoes still wear the orange-red soil that daily crept in between our toes as we served as missionaries. There are shadows of terracotta hands on our white t-shirts. The smell of burning trash and charcoal clings to our hair.

DSC_0385A few days ago, dozens of joy-ridden children sat on our laps, curiously fingered our long wavy hair, squeezed our hands, and searched our eyes for a look—one you-are-loved look. To be honest, as they snuggled in close, their scent was often pungent. But the overwhelming aroma that lingered after our time together was that of Jesus Christ. The smell that brings life in a place where death runs rampant.

DSC_0339There are two Hands of Love schools in Uganda that care for more than 1,600 abandoned and orphaned children. After spending several days at the more developed school near the big city of Kampala, it was time to trek to the second location. The Namadhi orphanage, located in the remote Kayunge district of Uganda, is way out there. It took our team nearly five hours to reach it.

As the Hands of Love van rattled and heaved along the bumpy, unpaved roads carved by the heavy downpours of the rainy season, we took in the unusual scenery. We noticed mud and wattle huts, half-clothed children playing with cardboard boxes, women carrying fire wood and bananas on their heads, and mosques.DSC_0411

Every four to ten kilometers or so, a concrete building with turrets appeared. The turrets were crowned with the unmistakable crescent moon and star of Islam. The building of these rural mosques is funded by Islamic supporters in the middle east whose investment includes a well. Thirsty villagers, who might otherwise walk miles each day to gather water, are offered a shortcut: convert to Islam and receive full access to the well. How ironic. The very source that brings them physical life is used to rob them of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

DSC_0450But at Hands of Love Namadhi, the smell of life pervades the air. Joy surprised our team at every turn. Children chanting “wel-o-come” greeted us with personalized signs and waved palm branches as if we were queens.DSC_0620

Though these Hands of Love children are dusty, they are loved. Though they are hungry, they are fed—both with sponsored meals and the Living Word of Jesus Christ. DSC_0414 (2)The fragrance of Christ saturated the atmosphere and we breathed it in deeply.

Our afternoon in the bush flew by. We blew bubbles, attended a school performance, taught classes, gave gifts, and loved the children.

DSC_0289We threw pebbles in every direction, touching as many young lives as we could. Later that night, our weary team returned to our Kampala hotel. We entered air-conditioned rooms and ran clean water in pristine showers until it steamed hot. The orange-red water disappeared into the drain, rinsing off the day’s dust. But the fragrance of Christ forever lingers in our hearts.

As you move through your day, what do you leave behind? Does the “scent” of Jesus’ love linger as a result of your interactions? How can you be more intentional about the way you love others to point them to Jesus? Please share a comment below!

Was Jesus a pebble thrower?

Jesus didn’t cast stones. But did He throw pebbles?

When I look at Jesus through a pebble thrower lens, I am struck by the way He responded to—and welcomed—interruptions. He threw pebbles by welcoming people with love regardless of whether it was part of His plan.

Sometimes the pebbles we throw are planned.day 10 (84) My daughter and I are planning a mission trip to Africa. We leave next week. Are we planning to throw pebbles? By all means. But if we want to follow Jesus’ example, we must also welcome unplanned and unexpected opportunities to love others.

When Jesus ministered to those around Him, he often stopped what he was doing or where He was going. He stopped to engage with people—sinful, dirty, greedy, sick people—much to the dismay and annoyance of his disciples. These interactions had huge ripple effects in the lives of those who interrupted His day.

well2Jesus was tired from a long, hot journey when He encountered the woman at the well. He was ready for a break and a drink. Instead of grabbing a quick sip, avoiding eye contact, and dodging the Samaritan woman, He made time for her. He not only engaged her in conversation, but offered her words of life. His words rippled into her own salvation and countless others who ultimately received him as their personal Messiah.

many samaritans

John 4:39

How many would have missed out on eternal life if Jesus had prioritized His real need for a quiet water break over her need for the Living Water? And just keeping it real, how many have missed out on Jesus because of my concern with being on time for a meeting rather than being engaged with my own personal woman at the well… or the post office… or Wal-mart?

One reason I’m drawn to pebble throwing is because it’s simple. I like simplicity. Being a pebble thrower doesn’t mean we have to do something super spiritual or extravagantly sacrificial like starting a non-profit organization or selling our possessions and moving to Africa. It’s as simple as leaving a crazy big tip for a grouchy waitress or stopping at a lemonade stand when you don’t even drink lemonade.

It could be the words you speak to the girl selling lemonade that bring the hope she needed that day. The ripple effect of welcoming that interruption might make all the difference, just as it did when Jesus spoke words of life to the Samaritan woman.

Jesus, I thank you for demonstrating the power of holy interruptions. Thank you for showing us we are worthy of your time. Help me to keep in step with your Spirit and welcome those You send into my day—even the ones who are annoying and dirty. heart stoneForgive me for the times I’ve failed to engage with one who needed Your love. Open my eyes and help me to throw pebbles. May my small acts of love show others that You “indeed are the Savior of the World.”

Do you struggle with interruptions? Are you an introvert? Do you shy away from engaging with others? What are some ways you might throw pebbles without words? Please comment below!