Thursday, December 31, 2020

Hindsight is 2020

 For my Ugandan family the above title is already a reality. Here in the U.S. we still have a few hours of 2020 left to enjoy of our weirdest year Ev-Ah. 

I suspect the little phrase I've utilized as my title will quickly become quite cliche, as no doubt I am NOT the only one to think of it.

In March of 2020, who knew that we'd all know what that is? 

So much has already been said about 2020. So much has been experienced this year. So much strain has been upon so many. How will 2021 measure up to the hope that multitudes of earth-dwellers are placing upon its shoulders? 

22 x 8 = 176 

When I think about what 2021 might hold and how it may or may not measure up, the above equation is where I place my true hope.

What does it represent? 

It represents a place to look for truth, instruction, encouragement, strength, wisdom, knowledge, warning, guidance and the reason for ultimate peace. And we all need that!!!

Throughout 2020 I was drawn to a specific focus. Many days I read parts of the 22 x 8 =176. It speaks of a love for words that are ultimate Word. I was reminded that there is right and wrong and One who is the author of Truth. That there is a reason to obey and a reward for commitment. I heard daily that there is a Hand ready to help me. That there is One who watches over me, and He never sleeps. I was reminded that despite my struggles and challenges there is One who preserves my life. If I want light and right, I go to the One who is righteous. 

Psalm 119 is 176 verses long, separated into 22 sections of 8 verses each. The words of this Psalm expound a deep love for God's word. It fosters in me a deep love for God's word. And it brings me hope. Hope beyond what I see before me.

I welcome 2021, but not because I'm placing my hope in it and expecting it to obliterate challenges. I welcome it as I stand on and base my life on God and His Truth as my ultimate hope.


This sign, placed at the entrance to New Hope Uganda's secondary school site, is one I painted many years ago. It is to ensure entrance to only those who are supposed to be on the secondary site. It reminds me that moving forward is a gift. We can't move forward with real hope if we are not following the One who authors hope and invites us to move with Him.  (Acts 17:28, "In Him we live and move and have our being.")

My prayer for you is that you accept His invitation to live in His promise of hope.

I will be glad when 2020 is in the rearview mirror, but mostly because I know that whatever the future holds, He holds my future.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Revelations from Weddings and Potato Peelers

 Potato Peeler Problems

La Paz, Bolivia, 1992

I was just as shocked and surprised as he was proud when he triumphantly handed his gift to the woman. As I watched her receive it with a quizzical look, turn it over in her hand, and offer it to the others sitting with her in the kitchen courtyard, I realized she didn’t know then what to do with it and I doubt it’s been used since that day. What I didn’t understand then was that not only is necessity the mother of invention but is also often subservient to poverty. When poor, one makes do with what they have. And over time, necessary tools wrought from what is available gives strength to, “that’s the way it’s done,” and more pieces of the worldview puzzle are fitted into the design of subtle, understood,  unspoken cultural norms. When there is no money to buy gadgets, there is often no idea that gadgets are actually needed. And, truly, ARE they NEEDED? When potatoes have been successfully peeled with a knife for generations and done so with success, why is there a need for a peeler? My initial shocked response described above was due to realizing the woman had never used a potato peeler. I contemplated, eyes popped and mouth gaping, how someone could NOT know the significant necessity of a potato peeler!



Now? After visiting numerous cultures and living in Uganda steadily for thirteen years, a replay of that scene would have my shocked eyes firmly fixed on the giver of the potato peeler and I would have to fight the critic in me wanting to bust out with, “Why do you think that’s a great gift? Do you realize you’re blind to what is valued here?” 

There is so much more here than potatoes and peelers, knives and gadgets. 


For instance, in considering what is “needed” for efficiency, we must go deeper and ask, “is efficiency even valued in the culture?” What is wrong with taking a long time to peel potatoes? When you peel you talk while you unhurriedly sit with your family and/or your friends. Is there a need to hurry? Hurry indeed produces demand for a tool which provides efficiency. Why does one culture expect that efficiency should be valued and another expects only that the end result be accomplished, regardless of the time taken. Is efficiency of a higher value than simply reaching an end product? Well, that depends on who you ask! Both scenarios contain the common denominator of elusive and underlying stealth expectations. Our default perspective and approach reveal expectations, often even undetectable to ourselves. Under the radar expectations can create chaos in a situation that doesn’t warrant chaotic response. 


Culture shock. It’s that experience where awareness of the differences between a primary and a host culture opens eyes to new understanding, but is also prone to hosting a grain of irritating sand in the organ of vision. Wonder in the newness of surroundings and observed norms can quickly change to irritation with having to incorporate activities and behaviors and ways of doing things that might not line up with the values of an ingrained primary culture, values that one may not even realize are in the bedrock of who they are and how they relate to others around them. This is where the real irritation of culture stress hones character! 


 Wedding Worries, on time or in time?

Kasana, Uganda, 2006



Consider what happens when I arrive to a wedding and after more than an hour of waiting, realize it still won’t start for probably another hour? I begin to fidget because I scheduled another activity for immediately after the wedding, which now will start and end late. Why did I set another appointment for immediately after the wedding? Because I EXPECTED it to start and end on time. But, not every culture values being on time! A Ugandan’s expectation is that it is acceptable for an event to start long after the announced time and for guests to arrive at any point during an event as long as they stay until the end. This is called being “in time”. Hence, when a visitor judges that because he arrived at the stated start time he has earned the right to leave early, he demonstrates his furtive cultural bent in respect to time keeping.  In this situation, I subconsciously inserted my own expectations and when they weren’t met I struggled with impatience. Unmet expectations yield numerous emotions: sadness, frustration, anger, pride, or fill in the blank of what your response might be.

The truth is, when we don’t know of the expectations buried deep within we are vulnerable to stress. Think, for instance, of the last time you felt unappreciated. What was your self-talk around why you justified that you should have been appreciated? What hidden expectation drove your response? Can you dig deep enough to uncover it? 

 And then, consider this, years of performing tasks according to the norms of a new culture can then produce impatience when with those of one’s primary or home culture who don’t get it. Amnesia to our own initial struggle often creates a rub with those who haven’t had years of life in the crucible of cultural adjustment leading to lifestyle transformation. Sometimes this is what I have dealt with in the past year and a half back in the U.S., my primary culture. I don’t want to have to explain things. I get weary of trying to fit in. I give up or get quiet when social situations demand I fit into a societal mold I no longer value. Have I changed? Yes. Is grace still applicable? Yes. Is humility a wise stance? Yes. 

I could go on and on about cultural awareness and the lack thereof. It’s where I live. I spent 13 years learning Ugandan culture and was still learning when we left last June. I’ve now been back in the U.S. for 17 months, but strangely find that so much has changed I can’t get my bearings some days. I need a daily reminder that wherever I find myself I must be a learner, even when I have to learn again how to function in my home culture. But, sometimes I tire of trying to flex and interpret what’s going on around me. 

Does that previous sentence strike a chord in you?

I find myself, with all of you, in crazy, unpredictable 2020. This is a culture that none of us has a handle on. It’s new to everyone, because in our lifetime we have never been dealt a worldwide pandemic. We Americans in particular have never been told that we CAN’T move freely about the country. And we’ve never been subjected to governmental controls as far reaching as they now are. But, though 2020 has dealt us some fairly extensive unexpected changes to how we function in society, the basic stress exerted against each one of us is familiar. The stress of the unknown, of getting our toes stepped on, of having to adjust long-standing behaviors, of worry about our loved ones. But, wait just a minute. Let’s review the “newness” of the situation we’re now in. Didn’t 9/11 take away our freedom to move freely, or at least as we’d been accustomed to, about the country and the world? Weren’t new governmental controls put in place in regard to our travel—what we could and couldn’t pack, for instance? Didn’t we worry about our loved ones as suddenly our seemingly inherent safety in the U.S. was threatened? Different circumstances completely, but definitely a challenge to what we had always known as usual.

I concede that although my cultural experiences in Uganda stretched me significantly, we’ve all had to adjust almost daily here in the U.S. in the past several months with the restrictions and injunctions frequently changing. When we landed from Uganda last June I first focused my hand at navigating cultural subtleties I had largely forgotten. Now, you and I together have witnessed our collective usual taken from us. No one denies the stress of our current situation. You would think that because of the cultural demand I’ve lived under for many years, I’d be able to respond effortlessly to the new Covid culture. Nope. I am daily reminded of my shortcomings in regard to a graceful response. And so, I have more work to do in uncovering what deep-seated expectations lurk under the surface of what I consider to be a “normal” or at the very least, acceptable reaction to the stress of 2020. 

I’m thankful that my Father God never leaves me. He’s patient with me. He reveals to me where change is needed in my heart and mind. And I would do well to respond to Him first, rather than to quickly speak my mind or throw up my hands when presented with what I wasn’t expecting—whether or not I knew my expectations is secondary to the fact that they are there. 

Maybe my rambling has sparked attention to expectations, emotions and behaviors. May we all allow His grace to define us in increasing measure each day. 



Thursday, October 1, 2020

Grateful

 I enjoyed reading Psalm 27 this morning while soaking up the light of the aptly placed big ball of fire. (God is so good and wise!) I listened to the bird pair chattering about their breakfast and happily squinted at the glistening reflection of rays on the nearby lake.


                                        The view from the back deck overlooking the lake.

I'm grateful, not just for the obvious beauty around me, but for everything. EVERY good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of Lights in whom there is not shadow of turning.  (James 1:17) It is a truth we bank our lives upon, and one of the first memory verses our kids learned---long before we left for Uganda. And we all still live by it today--here in this sometimes seemingly foreign land of the U.S. 

I am deeply grateful. The people who have invited us to stay in their house have given us a respite I doubt they can come close to understanding. God is active in their lives, having called them out of the country for a season. We needed a change, one that would give us privacy in a place MUCH closer to the kids' school. Is it an arrangement that just happened? No, it is an arrangement made by the Giver of all good and perfect gifts. We couldn't have dreamed up this arrangement--He orchestrated it to perfection.

The kids entering the school. We're so grateful that they are able to attend in person every day!!

I am overwhelmingly grateful. This short distance to the kids' school means we can ferry them back and forth 3-4 times a day and still not spend as much time in the car in that many jaunts as we would traveling just one direction from Aurora to Littleton. The location of this temporary housing means we don't spend between 3 and 6 hours a day in the car anymore!!!! Plus, the kids are able to ride their bikes to school on many days as well.

               Kevin was able to purchase a scooter recently and many days he rides it to school.

The above may seem small, but small steps comprise a journey. Small pebbles cover a stream bed offering habitat and stability to God's creatures. Small gestures build a lifelong friendship. Small thoughts breed dreams resulting in change for good. And small amounts of faith in a BIG God yield transformation. And this small blog is a means for me to get back into writing which I have neglected for awhile.

I am forever grateful. God provides for us a way to look for Him and find Him. He prods us to look, He invites us to look, He encourages us to look and He wants to be seen by us. I have to ask myself, how often am I looking? What am I doing when I'm not looking? And whatever I'm engaged in when I'm not looking--why and how did it garner my attention? Oh, Lord draw me into the awareness of You because You are always with me. Psalm 27:9, 10, 14 all tell me that God has been my help, He will take care of me, and He strengthens my heart. I am grateful for the reminder of these truths.

And so, I am humbly grateful, every day. I'm grateful that He is God, perfect, good, loving, wise, forgiving, powerful, light and life.

This is simply an attempt to regain some of the ability I haven't exercised in awhile of writing what my heart feels toward Him. May this small expression of gratefulness bless you as it's blessed me.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

The Democrat

We live in Colorado now. That sounds strange to my ears. For how long we'll be here only our good God knows. While we're here we have some ideas on how to fully enjoy "Colorful Colorado"! Last August we bought a Colorado State Parks pass and have frequently hiked hills, mountains, canyons and around lakes. When our friend, Mary Lynn Vander Ploeg, posted on Facebook in January that one of her 2020 New Year's resolutions was to hike a 14-er, we got inspired to accomplish the same!! We met Mike and Mary Lynn last fall when our kids began school at Front Range Christian School. We've enjoyed getting to know them through shared dinners, "Financial Peace University" classes, our kids' sports activities, and social gatherings. When Mary Lynn said she wanted to climb a 14-er we asked if we could join her. Both she and Mike graciously let us plan with them.

Yesterday, August 8, 2020, the goal, the prize, the literal pinnacle of my view became the ground underneath our feet--all 14,154 ft. of Mt. Democrat!!!!!

 Democrat's summit holds a commanding view of the valleys and other nearby 14-ers. I did it! I didn't do it alone!!! I wouldn't want to have done it alone! Mike and Mary Lynn, me and Geoff at 14,154 ft. on the summit of Mt. Democrat!!

It was not easy. About 80% of the climb entailed rock scrambling and 95% of the ascent was at a steep incline. And during our descent I enjoyed my second case of altitude sickness. (The first was in LaPaz, Bolivia, in 1992 where I sipped Coca tea to combat the headache and intense nausea--no Coca tea available yesterday!) The descent was almost as slow as the ascent because if I'd moved any faster things might have not remained contained, so to speak.

What did I learn? It's so cliche, but true, I learned to not quit, to not give in to weakness, but to keep my eyes on the prize and silence whispers of, "it's too hard, you won't make it." I kept going and believing I was going to make it to the summit--even when we all experienced the"false summit"!

A beautiful stream, which fed Kite Lake, greeted us early in the hike and comforted us near the end of our trek.

We began early, around 5:30 a.m. from our parking spot about a half mile down the road from the already full parking lot!!! Geoff is in the foreground here with Mary Lynn and Mike close behind. 

Early on in our ascent the sun rose on the mountains before our view of Mt. Democrat was realized.

So, many of our hikes this year have been chosen with an eye on it being part of our training. We've also been consistently walking up hills in the mornings about 5-6 days a week. We've pushed ourselves to remain active. We believed we were ready. But, our lungs weren't prepared for beginning a hike at 12,000 feet and within only two miles reaching 14,000 ft. Honestly, I thought I was in pretty good shape, but as the 20-something young man said to me with labored breathing as he rested on a rock on his way up, "It doesn't matter even if you're in good shape, the altitude affects everyone." I was thankful to be on my way down at that point!

Mary Lynn & Mike descending Mt. Democrat's summit.

The enjoyment of accomplishing with friends while climbing, summiting, and then the labored descent overtook the strain. We encouraged each other throughout the climb and together we shared the victory!!! May I have such a take on all of my days. The joy God gives with His presence through difficulty overtakes the human strain I must put forth in this life. 

I climbed a 14-er! As I exhaled the little oxygen afforded at such an altitude I reflected that I've done most of my important feats in life later than most other people. I got married later, had kids later and now, at 56, climbed my first 14-er! Best. Time. Ever. And it won't be my last! Our eyes are already scanning the countryside for the next one.  Although Mary Lynn mentioned as we were descending yesterday that said next one will be easier and near a hotel. I quickly agreed.

Mary Lynn and I already thinking about the next 14-er!!!Mary Lynn and I are summit happy!!!


Thursday, June 4, 2020

Humility—A Relational Game Changer

“I’m thankful for the ability to give life, to pursue hearts, to honor God as we sacrifice time, self, energy and finances to see the next generation of young Ugandans believe that God is their Father and is worthy of their lives.”

Those are the words I effortlessly wrote in answer to a question in a cross-cultural debriefing book I’m utilizing.

In our thirteen years in Uganda there were multiple benefits as well as many stressors on our minds, emotions, bodies and family life.

In all the examination I’ve done lately of our time at New Hope Uganda, I often get bogged down remembering the stressors we lived under. I relive negative emotions as I review, analyze and scrutinize events and disappointments we experienced. There are times when looking back becomes overwhelming and I have to step away for a short time from the process. In it all though, I’ve found that trudging through memories, even when painful, helps illuminate numerous opportunities and successes we had in impacting lives—despite our shortcomings. I’m thankful. And I want to express my thanks to God for the unique treasure of living cross-culturally among people whom we now consider family. 

In fact, the question following the one I answered above asked how I would choose to express my thankfulness to my Creator in response to the cross-cultural life I lived in Uganda.  I choose to express through writing. Writing helps me often gain understanding and peace.

With regrets and disappointments come a reframing, by His sovereignty as I humbly go to Him, of both the past and the future. Sometimes the mistakes made glare and sting, but God’s forgiveness and ability to make something out of nothing bring hope and a laying down of missed opportunities and failures. Some would call it letting go and letting God—letting Him speak to me of His ways coming to pass, even when I can’t seem to comprehend or see all the good that was actually wrought through trial.

At first my “Thank You God,” may not appear to align with traditional-type praise, but His work through difficult experiences yields His good—in me and others.

Thank you LORD for the rejection we experienced by the young one who hated us for crossing her will. We now see that the rejection we felt was minuscule compared to what orphans carry in their hearts, but feeling it opened our eyes and hearts to the very real hurt felt deep, deep within by those to whom we had come to minister. There was no opening of her heart afforded us. We could do nothing of our own power to cultivate restoration. Every time I saw her my heart sank, then quickened, as You drew me again to prayer, the only activity that made headway toward positive change. Change did not quickly appear. I learned to truly rely on Your promise that You hear prayer and act for good. Now, years later there is vibrancy and life in our relationship because of Your faithful nurturing of her heart. But, if I hadn’t taken my hands off the situation and accepted the call to pray, such would not be. In all of it You intensified my understanding that You are the Savior and I am not.

Thank you God for our “accident spot” which reminds me each and every time we pass it to offer up thanks and praise to You for our lives. When we approached the corner and saw the massive, speeding charcoal lorry on our side of the road I quietly said, “God.” Our lives were truly in Your hands and in that moment I was calm and Geoff was able to steer us mostly out of a worse accident. That was Your miracle work. Still, it overturned on us, dumping most of its overloaded contents onto our windshield, trapping me, breaking Kevin’s leg and lacerating his face. You brought friends from many places to the site in record time with just the tools we needed to pry out my legs (though we hadn’t asked for the iron bar they brought, they said they heard us speak the request!) You gave Geoff adept Luganda to communicate effectively, so much so that one of our Ugandan friends marveled that Geoff was speaking it so well and clear. But, my anger got the best of me when I looked up, bloodied face, and still trapped to see a random onlooker taking my photo. I yelled at him which alerted Geoff, who took the man’s phone and threw it far across the road. It was not our most stellar moment, nor was it when once at the local hospital I firmly and impatiently directed the health care personnel exactly how to start my IV. But, God Your forgiveness is always at the ready and even now humbles me when I think back to our accident. So many more stories within this one could be shared. You never fail us. I learned that regardless of the circumstances You ARE faithful and sovereign. It was not our time to die. I will not fear death for you are LORD over all.
The faithful return of irises and peonies each year speak of your faithfulness and sovereignty over all your creation, as well as the touch of splendor you give to your creation.

New life and restoration are clearly seen in what you’ve made God.


Thank you God for the girl who lied to us repeatedly and even accused us of not loving her, when we quietly took her aside and asked her if we could walk alongside her when we suspected she was pregnant. Months later, when the pregnancy was obvious, she remained estranged from us. 

The lies and rejection hurt, but I was determined to forgive despite my hurt and anger. I relentlessly prayed for four months to You God to help me let go of bitterness and forgive. Sometimes it seemed like a cement blockade that would never wear down, but You worked a miracle in my heart and I forgave her. The next time she came to our house I spoke honestly, lovingly, and forthrightly of my love for her and forgiveness of her deceitful and rejecting behavior even before she expressed regret for her actions. The relationship is restored. I’m thankful that I learned in that situation that though forgiveness is hard for me to extend on my own, when I come to You God asking You to help me, You heal my heart.

And, thank You God for the young lady who angrily left New Hope stating that she didn’t need anyone, who within six months was pregnant, unwed and being beaten. Two more children and one more abusive man later, she lives as a single mom trying to make a way through the struggle.

Now, years later our relationship has been repaired. The journey has taught me faith and hope and to respond to Your invitation to relentlessly pray with expectation for life-giving change despite what situations look like on the surface. Growth, maturing, and focus in a current relationship of mutual respect has forged a platform of Your mercy and grace.

Furthermore, how can I ever forget to thank You for the severe disappointment of a young man’s seemingly wasted life? Theft, lying, deceit, arrests, and multiple scams utilized to siphon funds off the unsuspecting cultivated distrust and suspicion. With multiple children birthed to various women— all while refusing to return home to family and friends who were begging him to return, there is perpetuation of the orphan crisis, the very crisis which brought him to New Hope Uganda all those years ago.

To date, we are still walking in a level of separation from this young man. There has not been confession, repentance, or restoration on his part, despite our expressed love for him. This heartbreak is a current professor teaching my scarred heart to truly let God be God over one who will not allow others into his pain. This walk of prayer and hope for his life strengthens me in reliance on You God, who sees and knows the hearts of all men and desires them to come into a life-giving relationship with You. I know Your love for him goes phenomenally deeper than I can imagine. Your love humbles me.
The beauty of this newly opened peony in our current yard is brilliant, but pales in comparison to the beauty of God’s love for each one of us.


Thank you for the times my words were misunderstood by others. Sometimes it was by Ugandans, sometimes by the British, and sometimes by other Americans. I learned to humbly not seek my own defense or put up an endless string of words of explanation. Again, to let go and trust Your hand Lord to bring the truth to bear in Your time, even if at all. Being misunderstood doesn’t always destroy relationships, it merely gives insight for the next inevitable encounter. Difficult interactions reveal that we are all in need of Your forgiveness and mercy.


Yet, for the times when misunderstandings and a misread of motives HAVE destroyed relationships, also, Thank You. You see the bigger picture that is veiled by our wounded hearts. So, yes, thank You for that year when so many failed to see clearly and instead left bitter, angry and with an appetite for vengeance.

Each and every time vengeance rears its ugliness there is again opportunity to breathe deep and revisit the forgiveness that You’ve enabled me to extend even though in a wounded state. I’m still learning humility and forgiveness. Thank You for the opportunities to release myself to You. In hindsight we can see things we could have done differently and from that comes a honing and improvement in the execution of this Kingdom walk.

In release comes growth and a deepening of my relationship with You.

Thank you for my multiple (too numerous to list!!) cultural faux pas which sometimes were simply laughable, but other times brought division, hurt, pain and misunderstanding. I was required to daily maintain a humble stance toward my fellow staff, the children to whom we ministered and my own family. How many times did I have to speak my acknowledgement that I’d done wrong and ask for restoration of relationship? I’ve lost count. To walk in humility is a miracle act for my heart desires the opposite. As I look back at my mistakes and blunders I see the same challenges of my proud heart shining these days— in America. No matter where I am, the lesson of humility is a journey never complete. “Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked turn from his way, and the unrighteousness man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” I’m still learning this lesson and still reminding myself daily to return to the LORD for mercy and pardon.

Without those years of daily, dire need to seek forgiveness for my sin, I might not be as keen as I am now to perpetually desire to make things right. I will never be above needing my LORD’s help with forgiveness, for I am still an imperfect, proud human needing daily realization of His perfection and ability to heal me in the midst of relationship with other humans!

Above all let me remember LORD that Your thoughts are not my thoughts and Your ways are not my ways. Yours are higher, I seek to rise to You. Thank You that when I draw near to You and ask for help, You are always willing to draw near to me and give the help I need.

How could I ever go a day and NOT say THANK YOU? These and many more hard experiences have deepened my reliance on You and my faith and hope in Your ways. Thank You.

Thank You LORD for this time of looking back. It has helped me realize how much change You’ve brought to my heart. You’re clearly in the business of changing lives. Thank You.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

This Time

There is a movie I watched many years ago, but occasionally it still haunts me. And of late, in this unexpected circumstance we humans find ourselves in worldwide, the theme disturbs me.

The film is driven thematically with giving the ultimate sacrifice of self in the most extreme way possible—death. 

I awakened a few nights ago with “Seven Pounds” which stars Will Smith, interrupting me. Immediately my mind questioned, “am I giving enough of myself.” “Enough.” What amount is enough? What effort is enough? What energy is enough? Who decides what is enough? Is anything I give ever going to be enough?

In this current global season, in which we are almost all curtailed in our physical, in-person interaction with others, numerous sources encourage us to not let this time be wasted. Spiritual leaders challenge us to see this God-given moment as an opportunity to go deeper and give ourselves to Him. Even I have started a number of times to write blogs with the intention of encouraging us to not fritter away this time, but instead utilize this time to go deeper in relationship with God.

The thought is good, and should definitely be explored. But, on its heels comes the clamoring pressure to make sure I am giving enough of myself to the time I’ve been afforded. Suddenly, the pressure to maximize distorts genuine motive to simply seek God and rest in His presence.

The sweetness of having more time to read and study the Bible, to pray, to listen to what God has to say gets muddled up with me asking if I’m giving enough time for such during this unprecedented opportunity of worldwide slowdown.

So, I want God’s wisdom on it, not my self-induced pressure to maximize every moment, possibly wrought with wrong motives.

And yet, even with possible misplaced motives I know from experience that God’s Word powerfully gives peace, wisdom, strength, joy, focus, purpose and security among other benefits. And that should be enough for me.  Spending time during this unusual season of the corona virus “shelter in place” to read and study God’s Word means it will sit deep in me and direct who I am, how I think, how I react and how I thrive in the months and years to come. I want to be moved by God’s Word most of all, so I am going to give time to letting his word mold and shape me.

In the future when struggles or pressures come, I want to have a deep well of His truth to draw instantaneously from within me. 

So, now is the time and for that I am grateful. 

I don’t want to worry if I’ve given enough, I want to simply be thankful that I have this time to sit at His feet and listen to His truth. I don’t want to ridicule myself if I spend less time on one day than another. One step at a time. One day at a time. I don’t want to cave to pressure to reach some self-prescribed or other-suggested amount of depth, but I desire to give myself to just spending time with Father God.

I pray you also are able to spend time with Him, to rest in Him and to go deeper as He directs you.

—Mary

Friday, March 27, 2020

7 miles

The week here in Denver has been beautiful. We’ve soaked in some sweet T-shirt weather while refinishing the deck, washing windows and preparing the garden for planting. 
Kevin and Toby worked hard this week at washing all the outside windows

But, not too long ago a very wet, sticky, deep spring snow blanketed the metro area.
Sometime last week, around the corner, the boys built a giant wall. But, to me, in these present COVID-19 times? It looks like a giant toilet paper wall. 



And another giant toilet paper wall was built later in the afternoon back at the house. Notice my African kids have flip flops on as they work with the snow! 

 On one of those snow-laden days Geoff and I headed out to pick up some things for a little home improvement task.  Not too far from Lowe’s we saw a man walking in the wet, slushy street due to impassable sidewalks layered high with snow thrown by the plows. As cars approached he knew he was going to get mucky wetness sloshed onto him, so he jumped into deep snow to try the sidewalk. We couldn’t watch that and not do something. We both said at about the same time, “We need to give that guy a ride.” So, we slowed, lowered the window and hollered out, “Can we give you a ride?” Big smile, “YES! Thanks!” And over the piles he bounded into the back seat. 

We asked where he was going and though we didn’t recognize the cross street, he said it connected to the nearest main street. Off we went and along the way we found out he’d only been in Denver for 3 days. “Why?” We queried. “I needed a new start and I figured this was the place to try. I have a friend here and she said there were jobs, so I thought, ‘why not?’ So here I am.” Silently we entertained the reasons behind why he would need a new start. Are we harboring a criminal? A struggling drug addict? A delinquent father? A runaway husband? We decided to ask a few more questions.

“So, where did you come from 3 days ago?” 

“Mobile, Alabama. I’m 22 and have been in customer service and a few other jobs, so I thought I’d get out and try something new. Matter of fact, I was just coming from a job interview. I’m hoping to get something soon.” He began listing the types of jobs he’s done and highlighting what he’d like to do—I think he was hoping we’d have an opportunity for him. Ha! Ha! Of all the people to get into a car with, we are NOT the ones with abounding job opportunities at the moment!

We didn’t get very far into the conversation before I wanted to ask if he’d found a church yet, but before I could, he asked if we went to church around there anywhere. This was an encouraging development. We told him about where we’ve been going and shared why we have enjoyed it, but then lamented that because of the new injunctions in place regarding limited meeting sizes (this was a couple weeks ago) the church wasn’t currently meeting. I worried about him not getting plugged into a good group of people right away due to the coronavirus situation, so I handed him Geoff’s NHUM business card and told him he could call us anytime.

He got all excited about Uganda and asked us a few questions. We loved being able to talk about, "home" with someone eager to listen.

A few miles more and we were still driving. It was a bit farther than we originally guessed. Whatever cross street he’d thought he lived on didn’t seem to exist. 

He didn’t lack for conversation, including how great the bus route is along Smoky Hill, the street we were on. Contrasting Aurora’s public transport system against Mobile’s he has found Aurora’s to be excellent. Something those of us with cars know nothing of. I mentally counted my blessings.

Quite a few more miles down the road we turned left and into his apartment complex. His polite, friendly demeanor lasted throughout the entire ride. “Yes, ma’am. Yes, sir” was the norm, after all he’s from Mobile, Alabama, where people still speak with respect to their elders.

I noted the crowded parking lot and the numerous apartments built close together. I mentally counted more blessings. 

Just before we dropped him off he mentioned that he’d walked to his interview that morning. We were shocked! We had no idea how far down Smoky Hill we’d gone, but we knew it wasn’t just two or even three miles. 

It was such a pleasant encounter we hated for it to end. As we drove away Geoff reset the trip counter. 

Heading back east on Smoky Hill, we passed two miles, four miles, six miles . . . The end of our journey was the Lowe’s parking lot, near where we'd started. The trip counter registered almost 7 miles. SEVEN MILES.

Our new friend had walked SEVEN MILES in the slushy snow and ice to get to a job interview. He was not delinquent. He was truly hungry for a new start and whatever it took was his M.O. If he was addicted to anything it was his passion to make a new way in a new place.

It is a severe understatement to say we were stunned. Humbled. In awe.

My one regret? We didn’t ask for his contact information. Although we know which apartment complex he lives in, we don’t remember the exact apartment. 

I pray that he contacts us and we can get another installment in the quest for a new friendship.