A Clouded Pillar of Fire

Oh man do I wish that I had a pillar of fire today….or a cloud of smoke….just to guide me where I’m supposed to be going.  Do you have those days?  Where you think you should be going one way, but there’s no clear “sign” and you get confused?

Maybe you don’t have a specific question you’re looking for an answer about…..but rather the general direction of….where is my life going?…where is it going to take me, who am I going to be, what am I supposed to learn, ….what should be my focus? 

Days like this….I want a clear vision….I have dreams, like many of us do I suppose, and a “vision” of where I’d like to end….but I desire a few goals along the way, and they seem to be cloudy today.  I don’t know why, but it’s like…..today, I just feel like I’m living until tomorrow, not really with a purpose, which is pretty sad when I think about it.  I’d love to be one of those Israelites, living day to day following a giant pillar of fire, or a cloud of smoke….they knew that there would be an ultimate end point, but until then, just following the fire & smoke was enough. 

I’m trying to live a better story, something that’s worth being a character in it…..but I don’t know where I want this story to go….I don’t know where God might have written the scene already. 

Do you know what I mean? ….thoughts?


A fork in the Road

Alright, I just HAD to share this story I read last night… An older man “the Sage” and a young boy were walking through the woods. These were woods that were WAY out in the middle of untouched land. They followed a footpath that had been worn down & when they were completely immersed in the woods, the path split into three directions. The two men stopped & wondered which way would take them to the waterfalls they were seeking. The Sage asked the boy which he would take, if only one would lead them to the falls. The boy didn’t know, because none of the paths were marked and said if he chose one, he’d be worried the whole time that he had chosen the wrong path. Then the Sage posed the question…what if all three paths led to the falls, then which would you choose?

That’s how the story ended….them deciding which path to choose. I’m not completely through the whole thought of this chapter, but basically…..it’s about us, on our walk with God. Sometimes we have choices in front of us, that aren’t marked. All three look good, all three unknown paths…. It’s hard to choose if you think that only one path is the “correct” one. But if God is so good, and big, can’t he direct us all to where He wants us to go, no matter the choices we make?

If we take too much time trying to figure out what God’s will is for our life….what path he wants us to take…we will bog ourselves down with “stuff” instead of just DOING what God’s will is, and that’s to love God & love people. He can you use wherever, whatever your choices, whichever your path. Are we DOING God’s will right now? Or are we just THINKING about what He wants us to do?


You know, I’ve been told to grow where you’re planted….find out why God has you wherever you are…just go with it. And I’m trying, I really am. It’s hard though, when some days you yearn for so much more. You see a window opening, and when you try to go through, you find out it’s just REALLY clean glass…it’s not open for you. Sorry. Finding purpose in where you are, is so difficult. Why am I here, and not there. Why is this person my friend instead of someone else? Where can I feel so needed in some place, and such a good fit, and then not be allowed in?

I know that God’s purposes are so much greater & better than any that I could come up with….but greater & better also might suggest that they’re more complicated & intricate, meaning they have more possibilities of being not just GOOD but also DIFFICULT. Interweaving desires, gifts, locations, social community & situations….they all come together in some great purpose that I don’t understand. It probably won’t make sense to me either….until it’s done.

But sometimes, it’s like…you pray for something, and then when that prayer is answered, but not the way you wanted it to be, it’s like DARN! I didn’t want THAT. …like when in NY I prayed for humility….and left in a really bad way, that made me say…. “yep, I don’t always know what’s right.” And now, I’m praying for God to use me….and then get a door shut in one area, and realize that He probably saying… “I want to use you HERE, not THERE.” Sick. It makes me sad, …and I think that’s okay. I can be sad for a bit, as long as I hold on to the understanding that I can’t give up. Now, it just means that I need to renew my focus of trying to bless people in every situation….whether the circumstances are happy or sad. Nothing can be better than what God has for us…yet there are probably some things that would be more fun. Until then…I’ll just keep trusting that I’m here for a purpose….

To wrap up, here’s a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

Why Romania? Part 2

So what really is going on in my mind about all this? Well, recently, I’ve been challenged here and there, by “random” people who’ve taken risks & steps forward in their calling, despite the circumstances that surround them. Some of the risks are going out even when the money isn’t all there, or going to an unknown land without knowing the language, or making choices on what to stay home for or what to miss. It all comes down to what they value. What values more…financial security or trusting God’s provision? What values more…cultural know-how or hoping God will bring you just the right words? What values more…your social life or trusting that God might have another person He wants you to be with that day?

What matters to me, admittedly more on some days than others, is just how much God has blessed me, and how I can give away what I’ve been given. In my life, I have been given two parents who love me & care for me, four siblings from two completely different worlds & situations, a home that I can call my own, food to fill my fridge (and some that even rots), I’ve been raised in a family that is built on a strong Biblical foundation, and I’ve been blessed with people who’ve taught me the value of working hard and praying harder. And how will any of this matter unless it benefits someone else? If it ends with me, then it is truly wasted. It’s like an inheritance…unless there is an heir, what is the point to all the billions upon billions that one has saved or acquired? Who will it go to once the person is gone?

I want my earthly inheritance to be spent before it’s stockpiled…I hope to give it away, and to bless those who may never be encouraged to take a step of faith into a life they never dreamed of. In Psalms 68, it talks about putting the lonely in families. Well, I’ve been given a family, but others have not. They are the lonely, and they can be part of our family…my family…God’s family. The love, care & provision that I have been blessed with all my life, can be someone else’s if you or I care enough to share it with them. Sharing not only the practical things like food, shelter, & water, but God’s blessings of love, acceptance, forgiveness & encouragement.

Wherever I go, whoever I become, this is the person I want to be: I want to be someone who serves others, who cares about the people who are rejected from society, who is involved with missions, who goes wherever I’m needed to so I can meet a need, who seeks God first, who is unashamedly Christian, who gives all that I am to love on people & listen to them when they need it.

This is why….and this is how it will happen…loving God & loving people.

Why Romania? Part 1

Someone recently asked, “If you’ve had the same dream for 15 years, what are you still doing here?” If got me thinking, and so here I am, writing about what my heart yearns for, and how I hope to begin the process of “getting there.” Growing up, I was a pastor’s kid…expected to be nice to people, to love & care for those around me. I learned that well, but also took it to heart that it is a critical part of this whole “Christian walk” thing…to love others truly & deeply. I watched this love manifest itself through my parents, as they worked & prayed seemingly endless hours to bring my brother home from Romania. Though such a small country, the need was great and the frustrations overflowing. Children were left to die on carts, abandoned after birth by people who only wanted a child for a tax credit. Whatever the consequence, these babies were given no choice in the matter & abandoned to a desolate future. As I watched this scene unfold, knowing at six years old that my brother was just one of hundreds upon thousands of these, it struck me hard. When the outlook was grim, our family drew together, and pressed on, knowing that only a miracle of God could keep things going and bring hope to such a child. Through two long years, this hope & faith in an unseen God was something I learned to lean on. When my brother finally came to us, it was simply amazing. He was such a curious child, imaginative, loving and deeply sensitive toward others. There was so much behind his frail frame. To think that he could have easily gone without a future, to be left on that cart, and have not known the love of a family or hope of a future. I thought about this, and how many others were still there, untouched and uncared for. Forgotten. Many were saved, but many more were not. What happened to the few that lived through the isolated torture? I learned the answer. On one of the times my parents had driven through the pot-holed streets of a Romanian city, past the gray gated orphanages, they saw the answer. Through rain streaked windows, they noticed a girl, young and crying; begging to be let into the gate, in the confines of the orphanage. Asking about this scene, their driver explained that when the children reach a certain age, the orphanage no longer keeps them. They’re out on their own, given only what is on their back. No money, no skills, no food and no direction. Without a clue, most of these children are left the gutters for homes, and glue for sustenance. Over half are raped the first night out, and with boys anxious to prove themselves on the street, a gang gives much needed acceptance. If only they were given some place to go, taught how to live life, and encouraged to believe in a God that would bring hope & forgiveness. People could help them; teach young girls how to cook, how to take care of a house, how to sew and how to take care of themselves. It would be neat if the people to teach them could be Romanians; teaching the girls the customs of their heritage, showing them the love of Christ through simple care and respect. This became my vision. I decided that if no one else would do this, I would. And my dream expanded to include abandoned babies…before they get to the spot these young girls did. The girls would learn love, in loving & caring for babies also abandoned by their mothers and fathers.

Sometimes I think that this vision & passion was concocted through my own imaginings, yet most days I believe that the experiences thrown at me as a child, and the things that I was exposed to, were put there for a reason bigger than my mind could ever come up with on its own. Why would a child at such a young age care so much, and be impacted so much without fully understanding the scope of the issue? Why would a dream and passion last with a person for fifteen years, unless God was somehow putting those yearnings inside their heart? Throughout the past seven years, I’ve been blessed to travel to Romania four times, seeing miracles, meeting missionaries, being loved on by orphans and talking with women who used to live on the same streets we were walking on. Seeing both transformation & regression of these women and the children they bore, emboldened me to just keep going back. Not always knowing the purpose of why I went, but trusting that God would use me where He knew it was necessary. One of these experiences came through a lady named Gina. She was the mother of three boys. The youngest was still a baby, and had been the target of many health problems since birth. One evening, Gina started to spoon feed the baby, but when the feverish baby wouldn’t take the food, Gina got angry and dumped the bowl of oatmeal all over the child and started screaming at the child that he could die and she wouldn’t care. The child started crying so hard I thought he would stop breathing. His temperature increased, and it looked dangerous. Because of his previous & ongoing health conditions, we urged Gina to take him into the clinic to be checked. She refused, replying that she wanted him to die and that she never wanted to see him again. She would allow him to die before she would take him to the doctor. After much pleading and stubbornness on the missionary’s part, Gina angrily agreed to go with us to the clinic. In the back seat, Gina stared angrily out the window while she held the babe tightly to her, keeping him quiet. Once we got Gina inside the clinic, myself and two of the missionaries sat in the waiting room, praying fervently that the child would be okay and that Gina would gain a sense of compassion for him. After a few hours of waiting, Gina emerged, obviously softened to the baby’s situation. She was armed with medicine and a quiet demeanor. Things didn’t turn around completely, but just seeing the broad spectrum of emotions, intentions and conviction in those few hours really showed me how this work can be done. That night, I had no plans to go to the clinic, to be in prayer for so long, but I was just trying to be open. It taught me so much of how God uses us, if we are only open to what might happen around us.

So much has happened during those short excursions that every time I leave, I long to turn around immediately and return. God feels so real to me there, not just because of the location, but I believe because of the heart of the people. They teach me such simplicity, a plainness that is hard to comprehend in a society like ours. There, it is just love. Christ is simple. He’s not some grand scheme, a huge manufactured lifestyle, or a fad, He just is. Meeting the people with a bag of groceries & a listening ear will speak to them. Taking time to read with them, or teach that child how to read for their self is too practical we might think, but it’s not. So many times people have counted them as un-teachable, or not worth the effort. Simply showing them that they matter….to you and more importantly to God, does more than millions and millions of well-intentioned dollars could ever do. Being allowed to be there with them, does cost money, it’s true, but the act of loving costs nothing.