How You are Part of Her Story

Last night we arrived at our destination on the Zambezi river in Zambia in time to see this sunset while zebras grazed behind us.

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This afternoon as I write this I am sitting under an umbrella on the same deck, looking at a herd (a pod? a bunch? John and I can’t decide and we don’t have internet access to Google it) of Hippos in the water about a hundred yards out.  Every once in awhile (of course never when my camera is trained on them) one will lift his head high, open his mouth and roar.  How crazy is that??!!

Quite a contrast to our day yesterday when we bumped and lurched for hours in a Land Rover over narrow dusty paths through the bush in an area called Moyo.  Over tracks not made for vehicles, but worn through the grass instead by the toughened bare feet of our sponsored children, cared for by World Vision.  We had the privilege of visiting all three of our precious kids for the second time in two and a half years yesterday. Continue reading

Afraid of Getting it Wrong and Getting it Right

It’s Fearless Friday and the half-marathon is tomorrow.  I have a lot to be afraid about.  You may too.  But I also have lots to celebrate.  Among my blessings are so many of you who have supported, encouraged and prayed for me.  Thank you to the moon!   Since the half-marathon is about raising money for clean water through World Vision, today I want to share a related fear and some good news.

I’m a first born.  A Rule Follower.  I hate “getting it wrong”!  I get so embarrassed by my mistakes.

When someone dies, I’m scared to death of saying the wrong thing, inadvertently being “that person” who was somehow insensitive or oblivious.

When helping those in need it’s the same.  Over the years I’ve found that there are so many ways that well-meaning folks (Read: “me”) can cause more problems than they solve, creating dependency, or taking away dignity, or upsetting the country’s economy or…

Also, poverty is overwhelming.  Injustice seems intractable.  Often I just want to cover my ears, shut my eyes and yell “Lalalalala…”  The problems are so big it’s hard to know where to start.  When we do DO something we don’t want to hear it’s the wrong thing!  So it was with fear and trepidation that I started reading the book, Toxic Charity recently.

One of the criticisms the author, Robert Lupton levels is at organizations who create dependency instead of equipping and empowering those in need.  We need to do with and not just for others.

As I read this terrific book, yes, there were some little things that I hadn’t thought about that I need to change, but there was good news too. Continue reading

Why are You Doing the Hard Thing?

33 days from today is the Half-Marathon.  13.1 miles.  It’s hard thing.  But everyone reading this is doing a hard thing.  Or a lot of hard things.

This was the text I sent to Katy and Maggie the other day after I ran.  It is similar to many other texts I’ve sent over the past six months.

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I questioned myself once again, “WHY the heck am I doing this?”

Just like you may ask yourself,

“Why did I commit to lead this small group?

Why do I keep tutoring this under-resourced kid who doesn’t seem to care?

Why should I stay in this hard marriage?

Why did I move here?

Why am I serving on this board?

Why did I start this business?…”

“Why did I choose to do this hard thing?” Continue reading

Fear, Small Things, and a Big God

One of the ways God reassures me is to say “do not despise the day of small things.”*  He uses the ordinary, and the overlooked, and the seemingly inconsequential.  And even the things He does with these can go overlooked.  Unnoticed.

I used to think that if it was “of God” it had to be big and bold and dramatic and flashy.  Like a super hero.  But then I learned that if he can use flour and oil, and widows, and dropouts, there’s hope for me.  I’m thankful for that, because my life is mostly a life of “small things”.

But lately I’ve been convicted that I’ve gone too far.  I’m settling for too little. I’m settling for a small god, instead of the real thing.   It’s not me who’s flashy and dramatic, but I can trust in God to do amazing things through me, beyond my ability.

Sometimes He wants to do big things.

Continue reading

What I’m Learning as I Scuffle Along

It’s Fearless Friday!  A few weeks ago I shared that, in spite of my fears, I had been convinced (tricked?  shamed?  hornswaggled?) into running a half marathon in Minneapolis with Team World Vision to raise money for clean water for Africa.

It’s on October 26th and is called the Monster Dash.  “Dash”??  Really?  How can a half marathon be called a “dash”?  For me it may be a shuffle or a trudge or a slog, but I will definitely not be dashing!

No, I’m not a “runner”.  I do more of a scuffle that’s so slow 80 year old men in wheelchairs could pass me.  Before a few weeks ago, I don’t think I had run more than 3 miles in my whole life.

And, yes, as much as I hate to admit it, I’m 55 years old and have rods and screws in my back.  So, if I can give this a go, anyone can.  Today I want to encourage you to sign up to run with me, and to give you a little update.

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Continue reading

Prayer Failure “So that…”

I understand prayer about as well as I understand car repair.  That is to say I might recognize some of the bigger parts, like the engine, say.  But how the whole thing works?  It’s totally beyond me.

Still, I pray.  The illustration that has been most helpful to me in framing my prayer life is that of a small boat on a lake, tethered by a rope to the shore.  We, in the boat, would be crazy to try to make the shore move to us.  Instead, our job is to pull ourselves to the shore.  In other words, align ourselves with God’s will and pray that way.

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I’ve written before about a question that helps.  In 2 Kings 19 Hezekiah prays:

“Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, Lord, are God.”

I was moved by Bill Hybel’s challenge to ask ourselves, “What is the ‘so that’ of our prayers?” 

It would seem like praying things “so that” God would be glorified and His kingdom would be furthered on earth would be a sure thing.  God’s will, right?  Well, apparently God and I aren’t on the same page on this one because He has been totally unpredictable in this department lately.

A few years ago I was moved by the need for clean water in the world.  I started praying about raising money for a well.

We had just bought our first stock.  Ever.

In a passionate moment of prayer I committed every penny we would earn from that stock to go towards a well so that kids in Africa could have clean water and God would be glorified.  Doesn’t that seem like a prayer God would want to answer in the affirmative?

Our stock was BP.  The oil spill happened a couple of weeks later.  We still haven’t recovered our losses.

Still, I prayed and was committed to raising money for water.  Some friends and I did a fund-raiser.

The first time I prayed and we had moderate success, but certainly not the dramatic answer I thought would honor God.  Why didn’t He want to show off?

The second time, I prayed more.  A lot.  I did prayer walks around the place where we were going to hold the event, repeatedly asking for God’s favor so that kids could have clean water.

We had about 12 people show up and we raised $135.

“LORD!” I yelled!  “What’s up with that?”

Still, I prayed.  But with a lot less gusto.

Then last Sunday, after more prayer and preparation, we did a fund-raising brunch at a nearby restaurant.  We raised more than $8000 and then had someone offer to give $15,000 more!  Two wells, not one!  Over and above.  Abundance beyond my prayer.

Why?  What was God’s “so that” in all this?

Isaiah 65:24 says “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.”

Did He delay so that He could form something in me or others in this drawn out process?  So that He could teach us to trust Him more?  So that He could teach us perseverance?

I don’t know.  Prayer is still about as foreign as car repair to me, but I’m thinking maybe God’s “so that” is more important than mine.

Do you have any experience with prayer like this?

When God Invites You to do a Big Thing and Fear says You Can’t

I had a lunch meeting a few weeks ago.  The purpose was for me to help a World Vision guy do some brainstorming and networking.  At least that’s what I thought.

I’m pretty creative.  I’m good at ideas.  I’m good at making work for other people.  It’s a gift.  My family likes to say “God loves you and Laura has a wonderful plan for your life.”  So I was feeling good about meeting with Bradley (the guy) and giving him some ideas.  That is until he finished telling his story, turned to me and said, “I want you to run a half-marathon with Team World Vision to raise money for clean water in Zambia.”

What the what?!  Not much surprises me.  Even less than that leaves me speechless. This did.

I don’t run.  Unless I’m running from a bear.

I’ve tried running.  I hate it.  Truly hate it.  Bike, walk, play tennis, golf?  Absolutely!  Run? Ugh, please no!

As I reflected on the possibility, Fear whispered in my ear:

  • What if you really can’t do it?  What if you don’t finish?
  • What if you let people down?
  • What if you don’t raise any money?
  • What if you don’t motivate others to run?
  • What if you hurt yourself and it compromises your ability to enjoy other things?

Honestly, one of the loudest whispers was:  This will be a painful, grueling boatload of work and you don’t want to do it.

But Bradley said three things in that meeting that made me think maybe his idea was so crazy that God might actually be in it and I needed to pay attention.

1. He said this run is for clean water, something I’m passionate about.  Dirty water is the leading killer of kids under 5 in the world.

IMG_1977In Zambia two years ago I danced with women as a well was dug and fresh water gushed out.  They sang “Come and see what God has done.”  The old woman next to me spoke in wonder “He saw us. He answered our prayers.”  Wouldn’t be incredible to part of an answer to someone’s prayers?

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2.  80% of the people who run on Team World Vision are not runners (as in, never done it).  And that’s both scary and inspiring.  When Bradley speaks to churches his theme is fear not.  My one word for this year is Fearless, the word I’m trying to live into.  As he spoke I sensed a little nudge.  Perhaps this is a tailor made (albeit crazy) invitation to step into something scary that God desires to use.

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3.  My first response was unequivocal.  There is no way I can do this.  (Did I mention I. Don’t. Run. Ever.?).  But maybe that’s an additional reason why this might be of God.  Perhaps, besides providing water, there is something He wants to show me of Himself in this hard thing.  His power perfected in my weakness.

There are many days of “small things”, but sometimes God invites us into something big and hard and seemingly impossible.

I think, in this case, God’s answer to Fear is “What if I run with you and do something bigger in and through you for others than you think is possible?”

So, although I have visions of my daughter (who may be running with me), dragging my lifeless body across the finish line, October 26th (Lord willing) I will be running (or shuffling) the Twin Cities Monster Dash half-marathon.  You can join me running here! They have a great training program – starting from zero.

You can donate here.

The Most Brilliant Investment You Can Make

Those who know me know I am NOT a money person.  I’m not a good budgeter.  In fact, I don’t even have a budget. (gasp!)

I’m generous, but not particularly responsible.  I don’t understand what a “short sale” is, and I’ve never done my own taxes.

Once a year when John and I meet for lunch with our financial advisor, Jay, my eyes glaze over unless he uses the silverware and cups and plates as visuals to try to explain the state of our finances.  Note to Jay: Cartoon characters would be helpful as would talking fruits and vegetables.

A couple of years ago, though, I got super excited because I had always really wanted to try my hand at the stock market and the guys said, ok.  I was sure this was my ticket to the promised land of limitless generosity, and, let’s be honest, a limitless clothes budget.

So, I asked a friend who’s a whiz in this area and excitedly bought 500 shares of a stock that I was assured would do great (because it was “diversifying” – my new stock word).  I put the “stock tracker” app on my iphone and was thrilled as I watched it go up and up and up.

Around that time I was in a worship gathering focused on Micah 6:8 “He has shown all you people what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

And in addition to high-lighting the needs around the world, they suggested a lot of ways to respond and bring the kingdom – the world that God desires, like back in Eden before we messed up.  Where everyone has justice and all the hungry are fed and all the thirsty have clean water and everyone cares about everyone else.

In what I felt was a moment of divine inspiration I thought, “Aha!  My stock!  My vibrant, up and up stock!  Before I know it, it will earn enough for me to buy a well!  It’s Yours, Lord, all Yours!  Clean water for people who need it!  Bam, done!”

That was in early April 2010.

On April 21st, we awoke to the news of the BP oil spill and my up and up stock went down and down

And SERIOUSLY down.

Yep, that’s my stock.  BP.  And I was like “Um, Lord, did You miss the ‘It’s all Yours‘ prayer?  Do you not want kids in Africa to have water?  What’s the deal here?  I was down with being part of the ‘Your kingdom come’ plan!”

What do we do when we invest time or money in something that we think is of God, for His kingdom, and it just doesn’t work out the way we anticipate?  The way WE plan?

The passages that I read in the Bible about the kingdom of God are filled with weeds and stones, and pesky birds, and delinquent workers and some imagery I don’t fully understand.  It’s not all easy-peasy “Occupy Garden of Eden.”

But here’s the important thing I see over an over again.

We’re told to invest in kingdom stuff no matter what.  The stuff that makes the world more like heaven on earth.  No matter how crazy or hopeless it seems.

You may be a kingdom-bringer serving, in your cafeteria or a courtroom, or on Capitol Hill, or in Congo but never see the eternal dividends this side of heaven.

And there’s the outer kingdom that we can see, where justice is restored and the hungry are fed, but there’s another kingdom to be restored.  This inner kingdom where we’re on the throne and we need to hop down and let the true king take His rightful place and transform our character.

Maybe I thought I was investing in the outer kingdom, bringing water relief, but God wanted to invest in refining my inner kingdom, allowing me to be in a position to trust Him and His ways when I don’t understand.

If it’s a kingdom investment it’s a good investment, seen or unseen.  The Lord reminds me with 1 Cor. 15:58 “…be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”

What are some of  the (even little) ways you’re investing in (or SEEING) the outside/inside kingdom of God?