neighbors

I start every day with prayer.

Not my own.

The mosque a few doors down rattles our little street awake at 5 am with broadcasted prayer and songs.

I open my front gate to a small shrine in front of the Hindu family's house across the street.

It smolders with incense and is stacked high with flowers and rice offerings carefully placed in honor of their god.

Living side by side by side.

We all pray.

We all have our convictions and peculiar ways that identify us with our tribe.

What are mine?

What can I contribute here?

How do I love these neighbors of mine?

This is how Jesus loved his…

"So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father's one and only Son." John 1:14

Unfailing love and faithfulness.

I can not give what I do not have.

So as backwards as it sounds I love my neighbors best by letting Jesus love me right in front of them.

I fail and rely on his faithfulness again and again and in my weakness they will see what's really real to me, and I will too.

And I'll make my home among them. I'll love my husband and raise my kids and walk to market and learn the rhythm of this foreign place until it becomes my own.

I'll pray quiet but big and offer what's been given me.

Maybe they'll see Jesus. Maybe I will too.

It is the Holy Spirit, Val

I was genuinely confused.

Our conversation 7 months ago was about how he was 9 years old, smoking, roaming the cemetery at night, uncontrolalbe and refusing going to school.

What could we do?

Boarding school?

Orphanage?

Look for extended family in far away village?

Pray.

Now. Here he was. In school uniform. Sitting calmly. Playing card games and singing songs with friends he invited to the center after school.

I asked my my friend, What happened?

And readied myself for the story.

And here it is. The whole story in her words.

"It is the Holy Spirit, Val."

And I keep thinking about the man Jesus met in the cemeterynaked, wild, tortured and how Jesus left him clothed, at peace and in his his right mind (Mark 5:1-20)

And how God is doing the same for this little boy and how he is doing the same for me.

And it's ok if I don't know how.

"It is the Holy Spirit, Val."

Mau Kembali

I stared at her and saw myself.

Fighting against the only people fighting for her.

She only wanted what she already knew.

We promised something better.

Too big a stretch for her for now.

She went back.

We questioned, cried.

And slipped her a note on her way out.

You are precious to God. Even when you are tired and give up on your life, we will never give up on loving you.

She said don’t come for me again.

But we were already on our way.

 "This is the story of God: he pursues you with his love and pursues you with his love and pursues you with his love. And even if you reject his love, he pursues you even still. …for in the issues of love,  you must go yourself. And so God has come. This is the story of Jesus, that God has walked among us and he pursues us with his love. He is very familiar with rejection but is still undeterred. And he is even now, still pursuing you with his love…

If anyone knows the pain of a love unreturned, it must be God." (Erwin Mcmanus, Soul Cravings)

 

 

 

 

 

How the church will change the world

The poor and abused have become my teachers.

My highest hope is to honor them by inviting lessons from their lives to reshape and inform my own. I cannot speak for them, but my friends have so much to offer. Life with them lately has been teaching me a lot  regarding the role of the church in the healing of the world.

These are my words inspired by their lives…


I have yet to see a child with chains around her wrists or physically tied to her captor, she doesn’t need to be. He has her heart.

We were made for intimacy and for belonging. Sadly, sometimes nobody seems to understand or leverage that more effectively than those with evil intent.

If we want to change the world, we don’t need to add another program or outreach to our church calendars.

In my experience many congregations are willing to “reach out” into the lives of the poor and lonely but are rather hesitant to embrace and draw them in close.

I mean, how would we feel about the homeless, drug addicted, prostituted, transgendered showing up on Sunday morning or at a midweek small group not designated specifically for the homeless, drug addicted, prostituted or transgendered?

Sometimes our language and outreach events highlight the segregation between the “ins” and the “outs”and everyone there knows which camp they’re in.

I’ve been wondering would happen if we swung the door wide open?

What if we were committed to the messy message…You don’t have to believe to belong. You don’t have to look like us to be with us.

What if we preach Bible, live grace, lay down our rights and self appointed roles in sin management and focused on living fully and contagiously alive?

Risky.

Disruptive.

Complicated.

A great big glorious mess.

I think we’d lose some people, gain some critics and change the world.

I’ve held a child kicking, wailing and begging to return to the people renting her out every night. Another is still angry we arranged a rescue from her pimp. It’s not a matter of whips and chains, it’s about fragile hearts and gaping voids and human connection.

In our work in very poor communities, there's no shortage of well-meaning groups offering food hand outs and used clothes drives, but few stick around when invited to fill the greater human needs of  acceptance and genuine friendship. 

But where light pulls back, darkness rushes in.. spewing lies, winning affections, collecting hearts and tightening its grip.

The challenge has not been lack charity projects but of invitation into relationship within the church. It's not uncommon for a church (of any religion) to proudly  list the poor as a ministry focus, but not treat them as equal or as friends. Maybe a need is met but everyone keeps divided up and in their place.

It's not the richest,  most well groomed, or best resourced churches God will use. But those trading aspirations for tallest steeple for being home to the loneliest person.


Governments, education and nonprofits can make the world better.  But  I am convinced only Love can heal hearts and make it whole.

Love means hurdling barriers and coming in close

skin to skin

life on life

 acceptance

 belonging

a place called home

Church.

 

A little bit longer

We recently made a decision to change our return home from this month to next year.

Still some days somebody here wakes up wanting to go home. Sometimes that someone is me. Not because we don’t love here, but because we love home too.

img_6191Recently a friend told me what I already knew but needed to hear again.

Don’t come because of guilt or stay out of obligation.

Come cause you’re invited, stay because of love.

Cause it costs. And you’ll end up more bitter than you’ve made the world better.

Life keeps going

Milestones pass

Babies don’t stop growing 

Graduation ceremonies won’t wait

Family keeps gathering for birthdays and Christmas 

You see it all on Facebook.

But that’s not at all the same

I think it’s good to count the cost cause it reminds us of her worth. 

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But what we have and what we give is teeny tiny compared to what LOVE gave and gives for us. I am realizing this more and more and can’t believe we get to give anything at all.

Love comes for us then invites us on its pursuit of someone else. Sometimes I’ve wished I could go where Love leads without leaving where I am. But that’s not how it works.

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Choosing Love’s path isn’t a diversion from our own, it’s one and the same. It’s the one we were always intended to take.

The only path more costly than the Way of Love is any other path at all. And THAT’s one price I’m not willing to pay.

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.Come visit us =)

 

Our boys, our best things.

Jaxon.

Luke.

Levi.

They are joy to Dirk and me and always my greatest concern. Their childhood has been a hodgepodge of moves and adventures and sometimes I wonder what in the world and what have we done? 

But then I remember God told Jaxon first. Said we should come to Indo and then we did and here we are.

A few years back a mom at school told me “Your boys have a reputaion for being compassionate on the playground.” I remember because I was really proud and a little bit surprised. Nothing could have been more meaningful.  I really can’t think of a thing.

And maybe that’s what it’s about. Compassion and courage and expanding our playground.

The days of little boys trying to keep up in our house are long gone. I’m now chasing them and I know it’s just the beginning.

The days of coddling corraling and containment are evolving into wild and free. The space would be too much if not for Something bigger holding us all together.

There’s purpose and possibility on the playground because God is there. There’s heartbreak and hard stuff on the playground because people are there too. There’s poverty and wealth and suffering and celebration and conflict and disappointment and passion and hope because that’s the stuff of life’s playground.

As I watch in awe these boys turning men stand up to bullies and pick the last as first on their team, I’m inspired to wake up to play another day.

And if compassion on the playground is the legacy we leave, I’ll be really proud and a little bit surprised. Nothing would mean more to me.

 

Father’s Day by Levi 

Dad, Gede and me.
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Jaxon on sky stairs

How did you spend you Father’s Day?

I spent mine swinging from the trees with my dad!!

On Father’s Day we went to Bali Treetop Adventure with Gede and our family. Bali Treetop Adventure is an awesome ropes course with ziplines and extraordinary obstacles high in the trees.

My favorite part was the ziplines because it made it seem like you are flying!


We ended the day at the hot springs which is a pool heated by lava deep underground.

I think this was the best Father’s Day ever!!!

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Can you find Luke in this picture? He is the only one of us to make through the hardest course. He is kinda like a monkey.
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Luke about to jump off this high platform. It is higher than it looks and super scary.
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We all wore harnesses and caribeaners for safety
Our own hot tub bubbling with warm sping water.

 

The best part of the day was hanging out with my awesome dad.