Old Leaves

The tree was quite naked
Only a few leaves remained
They seemed determined
They would hang until spring
But like all else in life
Once winter has come
We must release old
If we want God newness to bring
Old habits, and attitudes
Old language and such
May be comfortable
And even accepted
But God wants to do new things
In all of our lives
So the old leaves must drop
As expected
Let God have His way
In the winter of your life
It is cold, it is bitter
For a season
He is preparing you for spring
He is setting the stage
He demands you let go
Of the old for this reason
A leaf spends more time on the ground
Than it ever does on the tree
If all my old leaves refuse to fall down
What kind of man will I be?
Let God have His way
Let Him shake the old loose
Don’t refuse the changes
He wants to bring
Your refusal hurts you
As you cling to the old
And celebrate death
While new life comes in the spring

Isaiah 43:19 Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.

I Don’t Go to Church

Funerals, weddings, Christmas and Easter
And maybe a baptism or two
I have plenty of reasons to attend worship service
You see, I just mentioned a few
I don’t get caught up with Bible study
Or into that faith sharing stuff
As listed above, I’ve got six reasons to go
By my count, that’s quite enough
I know I will make it to heaven no doubt
For I am a honest, good, righteous dude
I treat people nice, give old ladies seats
And have a good attitude
So preacher forget it If you think I behave
Like some unbelieving self righteous fools
I don’t have to sing, worship, or praise
I live by my own set of rules
But then I read somewhere to gather is good
For it helps me to set out life’s plans
It is not about mine, or what’s in it for me
It is about how I serve God, serving man
So if you are like me, attending, arriving
Going to a church now and then
It is those in attendance that we are depriving
For God has given us something for them

Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:

Hebrews 10:25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as ye see the day drawing nigh.

Prove You are God

I asked Him out loud
Can you prove it?
You see that big mountain
Can you move it?
That mountain of fears
Of old grudges and doubt
It causes me tears
So I called God out
He looked very puzzled at me
He laughed and then shook His head
He said I am God, don’t you see
Move it? I’ll move you instead!
I won’t be tied down by request
That make me a genie, magician
I know how to do what is best
See things from My eternal position
If you truly want to believe
He said as he took my hand
Then He quietly rolled up His sleeve
And said do just as I command
Walk forward and never look back
Don’t review sins and mistakes in your past
I have all the things that you lack
Now hold on, we are moving quite fast
And in an instant the mountain was gone
But in fact we just moved right through it
As He said, it would not take long
When God is determined to do it
For the Father is not on some leash
Like some dog to fetch, sit, and heel
All your fears and doubts just release
Bend in faith, bow before Him and kneel
The challenges that you face today
Are no different from those He’s seen before
And He delivers just to hear you say

‘Father it is You alone I adore’

Ps 115:1 Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake.

Ps 34:4 I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.

I Scraped My Plate

I scraped my plate.  I should have eaten just desert, but I needed a balanced meal.  So, I scraped my plate and stacked it on the other half empty one.  I was not full.  I was not even satisfied.  I just wanted to eat another variety of Buffalo wings, some ribs and top it off with some more sushi before eating something sweet. 

This joy of eating was interrupted by pictures on the overhanging television.  Something about some disaster in some god-forsaken place with some god-forsaken pagan people who deserve the wrath of god because of the evil in their lives.  They deserve what they get!  Their just deserts!  Speaking of desert, the variety was mind boggling.

Fruit salad, ice cream, donuts, bread pudding, brownies and that very essential cherry pie with whipped cream on top were just the beginning.  I left my plate on the table this time.  This is a buffet and they hire people to pick up and clean up after me.  Ain’t God good!

Proverbs 30:8 Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me:

Proverbs 30:9 Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.

Humble Stumble

The moment I think it’s really there
Like vapor it vanishes into air
It’s when I think I’m humble
Is when I fall and stumble

I mark my meekness not by grace
But by the pious look upon my face
I call all to note every goodly deed
Applause and approval is what I need

I serve and make sure to show
My good so others will quickly know
I am kind and truly good
And have done all the best I think I should

But quiet service is God’s delight
Done without fanfare, yes out of sight
No man knows, no man sees
That is humility and with that He’s pleased

Matthew 6:3-6 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

Good To Be Humble

Lord I feel so good to be humble
So completely mild and so meek
It gives me a sense that I’m righteous
I don’t have to be soft or weak
I can vent all my self righteous anger
My desire for perfect revenge
And since humility knows no real danger
I can all the evil avenge
I know it is not in your book Lord
And I know it is not in your will
But you really don’t have to look Lord
I’ll do as I want, just be still
Then I’ll ask your forgiveness, not blessing
I will ask for mercy and grace
It is admission, not really confessing
I accept I have caused you disgrace
Oh the sin of selfish ambition
And the sin of pretending no shame
As I give in to this sinful admission
Bring glory and grace to Your Name

Pr 16:5 Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished.

The Real Dying Starts

Now the real dying starts.  From the red cage we sit in, the ten of us can see there will be some real dying soon.  Americans are not used to riding in the back of a caged truck.  It is not safe.  None of the benches on which we sit have seat belts and the luggage and supplies between our legs are not secured.  One sudden stop, or, tilting the wrong way to avoid an earthquake crater and we could find ourselves in a tangled pile of bottled water and battered bodies.

On the positive side, the cage serves some good purposes.  One is to keep us from falling out and another to keep people from reaching in and getting our goodies (clean water and snack food).  On the downside, it interferes with getting good pictures of these same desperate people and it fails to keep out the dust.  Welcome to Haiti.  Take good pictures.

To define a good picture is easy.  Good pictures will relate how heavy the death toll will be after the 230,000 dead have already been delivered by trucks and then buried by bulldozers in mass graves.  That was the estimated death toll as of my arrival to Haiti in late January.  I happened to be diverted by this disaster as I went home for a few speaking engagements.  Kay strongly advised me that since I was going to cross the Atlantic, it made sense to be diverted from my previous itinerary and see this unfolding disaster.  World Gospel Mission was in agreement with this diversion and encouraged me and Dr. Daniel Tolan to make a survey of possible interventions we could make.  That is why I found myself caged in the back of this truck trying to take good pictures.

World Health Organization expects that once the rains start, the clean water runs out, the septic systems overflow and the tents, sheets and blankets that serve as housing fall down into the mud, the real dying will start. With people living under these conditions, the death toll will indeed rise so, take good pictures.  Some of these people won’t be here.  Malaria, meningitis, malnutrition are the order of the day when things are good.  Keep your camera handy.

Who will die?  The good pictures tell the story.  Take a good shot of that line of people over there.  Many of them will be those we see in that ‘one item only’ line.  You know the kind of line we complain about when someone has the audacity to get in the express line with five items.  Unfortunately, everyone is in the one item only line as it is the only kind of line in town.

This line wraps around the corners of the communities we pass.  Only women and young children are in line.  The men have been kept away by the soldiers.  That is because many of the men will fight for the food and then sell it instead of feeding their families.  One item only is what the women carry away.  They will carry on their heads, a 40 pound bag of meal, or rice, or maybe beans.  It is rationed out by uniformed troops, men and women from many nations and various complexions.

One item only is all they expect.  They are not paying so there is no hurry to get to the cash register.   There is a hurry to get into the next line of one item only.  That one will have water.  Let’s push on.  We have enough pictures.

We arrived at our clinic site just about 3 hours after our departure from Port Au Prince.  The crowds had gathered long before and the doctors and nurses who were just completing their 5 day stay were glad to see us arrive.  They were exhausted, emotionally and physically.  We gave them relief.

They were exhausted.  Imagine how hard it is to talk to anyone about the pain in their chest from the piece of cement that hit them and acknowledge the pain in their heart from knowing their daughters were killed by those same slabs of cement.  An average day was two hundred patients.  A heavy day could be as many as 600.  Many of them were very ill.  Diarrhea, heat stroke, pneumonia and uncontrolled diabetes were the order of the day as the nearest hospital was nearly completely destroyed.  All of them were affected physically or afflicted emotionally and spiritually.

Volunteers from a variety of disciplines in medicine, firefighters and first responders, from all around the globe provided services in tents, under trees, and tarpaulins.  At night these volunteers slept in tents, under mosquito nets, hoping the dogs would scare the rats and the rats would scare the tarantulas.  They shared toilets, took 3 minute cold water showers, and ate unfamiliar foods at inconvenient times, hoping that the next day the crowds would be thinner and with fewer sick people.

Even the Haitians volunteered support by nursing, translating, cooking, and cleaning.  They showed evidence of the emotional strain of a seemingly endless march of people.  To them, it was their own people.  To us as visitors, it was a mass of strangers in need.  Many just wanted to know what to do when the next aftershocks hit.  They awakened many of us at night.  We had the luxury of sleeping in tents.  They slept outside to avoid another slab of concrete.

They asked questions.  What do we do when the rains come, the water runs out, or even more importantly, when the one item lines disappear and the world turns their heads to the next disaster? 

WGM wants to be there to help provide answers for people when the real dying starts.  Will you go there with us?

Call Me Stupid…But.

Call me stupid but, I must have enough to live on.

The phrase ‘to live on’ has taken on a different meaning as my days in Haiti come to a close.  I have watched women drenched in sweat, stand for hours in the hot sun in the ‘one item or less’ line.  Don’t you hate those lines?  They never move fast enough. Neither do these lines.  Thousands of women arrive as early as 6 a.m. and wait for hours for something to take home to feed their families.  They are waiting for their one item of, a bag of rice or beans.  They get water in buckets from another line and carry that home later.  As I recall this scene I step away from my kitchen faucet.  I let the water run so it is cold enough not to need ice cubes that I don’t add ice cubes.  I use that time to choose my favorite glass.

I took care of some of these women as they arrived in the clinic.  They had carried 40 pound bag of food, five to ten gallons of water, on their heads, along crowded uneven and dusty roads.  It may take or seem to take an hour to get back to their homes.  It is not a house.  It is home.  It is made of sheets, blankets, tents and cardboard, and if very fortunate, some donated tarpaulins.  They came to clinic, or were brought there, confused, lethargic, sweating and near death from dehydration and sun stroke.  As I interview them through an interpreter, I ask myself; ‘What do I need to live on?’  I need to narrow that list.  I think the water is cold enough to fill my glass now.

Call me insensitive, but a refrigerator that keeps food just long enough for me to dump in the garbage or feed my dogs is not essential to life. I confess.  If I can recognize the color as original, I will eat it.  Let me narrow my list.  It no longer includes bottled water or that green stuff I just threw out.  The dog would not touch it.

Call me out of touch, but spending for reality T.V. is off of my list of essentials after seeing the reality of people searching the garbage for food hoping to find enough to eat before the dogs, or neighbors get it or before nightfall comes. It is hard to find good garbage to eat in the dark and avoid the rats.

Call me out of step, but it seems that the $17 I recently spent on popcorn, soda and a movie may have been a bit extravagant on my part. How far does 17$ go in Haiti, street sweepers make 4 dollars a day Of course I work hard and I deserve to be entertained and amused.  But a movie about rescuing people who are being devastated by an alien force pales in comparison to helping people who are being decimated by a natural disaster.  I could have actually spent a bit more here helping them, micro-waved a bag, had some Kool-Aid and read a good book.

Call me ridiculous, but now I realize that telling people I have been called to serve about my fears and frustrations does not make sense to them.  They don’t really care to know about the problems I will face retiring because I did not put enough aside for my later years.  They just want to make it through the day.  They have seen too much death, even this week.

Call me stupid but if I can’t go a week or a month to help people, should I be willing to spend a week salary, or even a month’s salary to help someone do it in my stead?

Now you can really call me stupid, insensitive, out of touch, out of step, and ridiculous.  Give a whole week’s or month’s salary to help?  Let me see how bad it really is.  Turn on CNN and get the real story.   Don’t be stupid. After all, you must have enough to live on.

Haiti needs help.  Go, give or send.  That is smart.  That pleases God.

Desperate Departure

Just 24 hours ago, I was feeling very sorry for myself.  Now, I wish this bus window was not so scarred so that I could get some good pictures to take home.  Of course opening the window would allow dust in the bus and let the cold air conditioned air out, or is it warm air in?  I can’t remember.  Anyway, there are a lot of desperate people, dilapidated buildings and other good things which I will only be able to talk about, all because I can’t roll down the window.

Such are the challenges of my desperate departure.  As I said, just 24 hours ago, I was feeling very sorry for myself because my flight out was overbooked.  It seemed I would have to spend an extra day or two in Haiti.  I was tired of seeing dirt, feeling the dust and thinking about disease.  I was desperate to depart.  I tried going to the airport at least twice, sourcing other means of transport from UN or mission agencies and even American armed forces.  Nothing came of these forays.  I sat on a rock outside of the airport thinking of just how I could get out.

Our hosts picked me up and took me back to the guest house.  We ate lunch, talked, laughed and planned strategies.  I used their computers went online and looked for cheap tickets and ready transport to go to neighboring Dominican Republic so I could fly to the US and on to Kenya.  I found it!  The next morning I am aboard a bus for $40 plus $30 for…?   I don’t know what the other $30 was for.  I am just glad to be on the bus.  I was desperate to depart to see my family and most importantly my wife whom I have left in Kenya.

As I peered through the filmy window pane, sipping on my cold, clear, bottled water, it occurred to me just how self absorbed I really am.  Most everyone outside of this bus is desperate to depart.  They have neither the cash, credit, connections nor contacts to depart.  They will live in this state of perfect poverty.  Perfect poverty is poverty without options.  It is depicted by living in a cardboard house that wilts when it rains because you don’t have plastic sheets nor clothes pins to it to make it ‘waterproof’.  Perfect poverty is not being able to boil the food you were given because you can’t afford the charcoal, or it is still wet from the rain (if we only had waterproofed the cardboard).  Perfect poverty is when you give up looking and mourning for 3 of your 4 children who were in that pile of rubble because you could not house, feed or clothe them anyway without their mother who died from her injuries.  Given your present circumstances they are better off dead.  You keep on with life even though a view from my seat on the bus says you should give up.  You have perfected poverty.

My desperate departure is about me and my inability to consider any more sights of people who have no options.  I pulled the curtain on the window.  The air conditioning feels good.  It is now I should feel sorry for myself.

Take A Bath My Friend

You need a bath my friend
A thorough cleansing too
In fact we could all benefit
From a bit of God’s shampoo
We wreak so much of self
We smell of covetous and greed
We got used to the stench
We forgot the bath we need
We use lots of body powder
Douse with deodorant and perfume
But the taint of self ambition
Takes the air out of the room
As we arise from bed each morning
This may sound a bit absurd
But we should not leave the house
Without bathing in God’s word
Let the Holy Ghost wash over
Let Him cleanse each pit, zit and pore
The blemishes you can’t see
That is what His word is for
He’ll anoint you with His sweetness
With the fragrance of His oil
You bend down a smelly servant
You rise up smelling royal
Take a bath.

Psalm 45:7
Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest
wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath
anointed thee with the oil of gladness
above thy fellows.

Psalm 45:8
All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes,
and cassia, out of the ivory palaces,
whereby they have made thee glad.