Heavy Lifting

I nod, sleepy, trying not to doze as I look out on a pool of black, inquisitive faces patiently waiting, waiting, for things to start as they bake in the hot sun

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I hear mamas caring for babies out back.

DSC00525Someone is pumping water from the new well to the right of where I sit.

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I feel a drop of sweat meander down my back even though I have a seat of honor in the shaded porch of the school.

I watch the children, trying to focus on each individual child’s face instead of the nameless group.  I notice the musical instruments these Zambian kids have fashioned out of bottle caps, wood, string, and cardboard.

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It’s hot and I’m nodding, nodding.  The faces blur as in slow-mo my eyes close and then I jerk awake, lifting my head again.  It’s the story of my life.  Striving to pay attention. To not miss the God-moments. Continue reading

What Really Breaks God’s Heart?

I hate it when people go on mission trips and come home all “Oooh, you couldn’t possibly understand it, but we went to Abracadabra and Bibbidybobbityboo and that’s in the southeastern corner of the district of Allacazam in the country of Boolaboola (don’tcha know) and it was AMAZING!  The poor people there need so much but are so full of joy!  We need to help them and you should have been there!” 

And those who haven’t been think, “Well, I wasn’t there.” And eyes glaze over and they think “No, I couldn’t possibly understand, and what could I do even if I did understand and you’re being a little obnoxious right now.” 

All that to say that as I post from Africa I’m going to try not to do that and I pray you find these thoughts relevant for you.  

There is a much repeated prayer in World Vision, “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.”  There’s a lot that I know breaks God’s heart around the world.  Obvious stuff like poverty, injustice, violence, corruption…

Whenever we travel in the developing world and we pray that prayer, our go-to response is to be sad and compassionate and prayerful about what we’re seeing.  We want to know how we can partner with God to bring His kingdom to every corner of the world.  And that’s a good thing mostly, I think.

But poverty isn’t just “out there” or “over there”.

It’s here too. In me.  Poverty of spirit, of humility, of understanding, of awareness. Continue reading

Sitting with Dirty Hands

As I write this it’s 10 p.m.  I’m in Lusaka, Zambia, sitting outside with John at our hotel trying to take in the day.  There’s a small alligator in the hotel pond next to us and a gigantic cock roach who keeps coming around our feet, but we’re trying to ignore them and pay attention to other things.

Paying attention is a big deal any day of the week for me, but even more so on these trips.  And so, as a group we’re trying to do a version of the Examen each evening, looking for the places we’ve failed to cooperate with God in His goodness, and the places we’ve been present to Him, partnering with Him in His work.

Frankly, it’s darn easy to be present to…me.  My comfort, my will, my convenience, my agenda…But pay attention to Jesus?  Not so much.

And then you add in a team of folks you’re just getting to know and visits everyday with desperately poor but faithful people in another culture?  It’s kind of like playing one of those video games where you’re a race car driver and on the screen you see all these lights and images rushing at you as you try to steer the vehicle. 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

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.