My desktop is a snapshot of where my week is. There are the bibliographies under construction for two papers, the papers themselves (with a good leg up), and a couple of manuscripts underway. When inspiration hits here or there, or when another piece of the research puzzle clicks, I can easily add in to the work in progress before I lose the thought in the moment. I’m sure a little more dedicated focus would move all of this along a bit faster.
And yet it is the open physical notebook on my desk that captures my attention. It is the one I shared from in India, gleanings from study and prayer that became something different than topical sermons in India. I still muse on much that happened there. We shared the Walk, our life lessons with leaders in the middle of things we may never face, and I am still processing our many discussions there. All our time together in the Indian days from early morning to late night dealt with our hearts, hands, and feet. So much exchanged in the questions & answers, in the meal time conversations, in the sessions themselves, adjusted (for all of us) heart attitudes, deepened relationships with God and each other, and dealt with how we view what we do, and where obedience will take us. Passages that I taught from included the fascinating battle scene of 1 Chronicles 11:11-14 (particularly in the Hebrew language of it) and the amazing victory by the Lord ‘meeting them in the middle.’ It perfectly underscores that it matters who your friends are.
Challenges facing many of the leaders also felt like the press of the Ezra-Nehemiah generation, who balanced the work of the Lord with fear of Him (in the reverential sense), who gained the strength of the Lord when fully dependent on Him while they worked. In their labors, they cleaved to His presence and the thought of Him, trusting Him while resisting an enemy and discerning that enemy’s intent. Even in all the struggle, they continued in their God-given commission. My missionary/pastor friend Paul Troquille says it like this, “We have to learn to rest while we press!” Since God is outside the realm of time and space, we can. In daily prayer, in Sabbath rest and in worship, we draw into Him, lean on Him, draw our breath and strength…we enjoy His time and space (or rather, His timelessness!) then we pick up our pens or trowels or whatever we work with, and go back to building what we are called to again. Maybe that’s in your home, with your kids, or in the workplace. The beauty of life in the Spirit is that He goes with you everywhere, and gives you rest (Exodus 33:14).
Our days in India were filled with moments when almost-visible light bulbs would go off over the tops of heads hearing Hebraic truths for the first time or hearing an encouraging word over a cup of tea (or Ruth’s World’s Greatest Coffee…It’s a Breakfast unto itself). But it was a very different moment – or hour – that still hangs in my heart as a reminder of a world far beyond my doors. It was the last day, bags were packed, and I stood in the courtyard saying goodbye to the kids and teachers for the last time. A sorrowful woman on the patio helping the lower kindergarten had a toddler pulling on her, and she struggled to return my smile. I stepped in to the principal’s office to ask about her.
“She’s just come to us today… she was left at the bus station and one of the teachers brought her…” Turns out this young mother of two had been rejected by her husband for a new wife because the brother’s wife didn’t like her. In their culture, sons and their families live closely in community with their parents, in some occasion with large extended families living ‘under the same roof.’ A sister in law took issue with this woman and to keep peace, the husband remarried, leaving this mother and children with nothing. They were not Christians. They were outcasts, and on hearing her story, Dass and the principal decided to take them in. The school will educate the children and give the mother a little work, while feeding them as long as necessary for the fatherless family to get on their feet.
I will never forget the young mother’s eyes… nor Dass’ as he told me, “We sponsor 56 like this. One situation or another.” The principal, Anitha, had the same impact on me as she said, “Nearly every day I hear these stories and tears stream down my face. What can we do but help? What can we do?”
In our walk as believers, as ministers of reconciliation, in the going, in the doing, in the middle - we find the greatness of Him turning to us…when we make room for Him, when we live in true community alliance with one another, allied in Him as we help each other hold onto a promise or a piece of ground, and He graces us with Himself as we reverence both Him and the work at hand. This is life without taking it for granted, in an atmosphere of humility that welcomes His involvement. Pride, self-reliance, and fear of man shut Him out as surely as the woman and her two young children.
Some of my parting words to the dear leaders and teachers we left for now were a condensed version of Nehemiah’s prayers, and they are simple enough to commit to heart and daily remembrance. Strengthen our hands to do, our hearts to hear, our minds to know…and our feet to Go.
Study, Prepare, Speak, Serve. Heal others and lead the way.