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Lead more gently

In Lead more gently/ Live more simply

What On Earth Are We Doing?

When NASA recently released its second Blue Marble photo in 43 years, I was captured by the intense beauty of planet Earth. When they released their first Blue Marble photograph in 1972, I was a child and oblivious. Now I am an adult and I am enraptured.

Earth.

What an extraordinary gift God has given to mankind.

The beauty, the depth, the intensity and the pure genius of this planet are far beyond the most talented artist or brilliant scientist.

Apollo 17 astronaut Eugene Cernan has been quoted several times in articles about the Blue Marble photo. It is a worthy quote, repeated here:

“…you’re looking at the most beautiful star in the heavens — the most beautiful because it’s the one we understand and we know, it’s home, it’s people, family, love, life — and besides that it is beautiful. You can see from pole to pole and across oceans and continents and you can watch it turn and there’s no strings holding it up, and it’s moving in a blackness that is almost beyond conception.”

Earth.

I write this as I sit and watch zebra drinking a few yards from me. I am beyond privileged to visit this National Reserve. It is one of the most beautiful places on this planet and sacred in it’s task of preserving Africa’s wildlife.

zebra

jackal

giraffe

lodge rock

As I sit in the shade of this African rock, and I look at the stunning image of this Blue Marble rock we call home, I am compelled to ask, “What on earth are we doing?”

We live in a world where baby parts are harvested then sold over lunch. Where abortion clinics purport to care for the safety of women, but do so at the expense of their babies. What on earth are we doing? I want to live in a world where women are optimally cared for as well as a world where babies are born. Not one or the other but both.

I recently visited two women who live in tin shacks. One had a two-roomed shack made of rusted corrugated iron and broken pieces of cardboard. The roof leaked badly above her as she lay in her sick bed. This is living at its worse. Or so I thought until I visited the second woman. She lived in a cardboard hovel with no windows and no door. She, too, was sick. The rain poured in. The bed on which she lay, as well as her thin blankets, were soaking wet.

“Dear God!” I cried. “Why?”

What on earth are we doing?

I am happy to report that both women received homes made from new corrugated iron with windows and doors and no leaks. This is a huge step forward but … I want to live in a world where nobody has to live in a tin shack.

This I write, not to make anybody feel guilty for what they own. In fact, I urge you to get as educated as you can and work at the best organizations and earn as much as you can so that you can help women like these who will never have the same opportunities.

We live in a world where people shoot each other, almost any time and any place.  Where churches are not held as safe and sacred places and where authorities randomly shoot and get shot. What on earth are we doing?  I want to live in a world where communities stand together and build up not tear down, where children are safely and wonderfully educated and where all have opportunities for development and growth.

This amazing Blue Marble plant called Earth is filled with animals, both small and large, full of majesty and dignity. We live in a world where beloved animals get lured out of their safe sanctuaries to get shot and beheaded. For no good reason. Or they have their horns hacked out and sold for the lie of extended sexual pleasure. Seriously? What on earth are we doing?

rhino

elephan eye

lion

What about our role as keepers of this planet? What happened to that?

Mankind is a steward of planet Earth. According to scripture we have been given the responsibility to rule over this beautiful creation. God has made us in his image. If we are like him, then surely we are to rule with love and with justice?  Surely?

Where is the love when babies are legally hacked up? Where is the justice when protected animals are beheaded? Where is our humanity when a sick woman lies in a soaking wet bed under a leaking roof made of cardboard?

I know that beautiful acts of compassion happen every day.  I know that love and justice exist and I know that good abounds.  But, today, as I look at our stunning Blue Marble planet, there are just too many issues that bother me. Deeply.

Surely we should ALL be asking, “What on earth are we doing?”

I know I can’t save the whole world. Neither can you. But, each of us can have influence in our circle. Each of us can make a change, no matter how small. We can speak up for those who have no voice. We can come alongside those who are fallen. We can stand up for those who have no platform. We can join together and with each contribution, large or small, we can change this planet we call home. Then, when we ask, “What on earth are we doing?” we can answer with certainty and with clarity, “We are about our Father’s business.”

“And he [Jesus] said to them: How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be about my father’s business?” Luke 2:49

If you want to do something meaningful, but don’t know what or where, how about here?

Blue Marble image, NASA.  All other images belong to Michelle Tessendorf.

In Lead more gently/ Live more simply

Why Your Next Small Endeavor Should Not Be Ignored

I am walking with my two-and-a-half year old grandson. He is small and, whilst in the stroller, he is even closer to the ground than usual. He chatters and comments about every little thing he spots lying around. From my high vantage point I can see ahead and there, to my dismay, lies a dead squirrel. I push a little faster and point out the berries in the tree above. It doesn’t work. We are no sooner past the dead critter when a little voice loudly shouts for me to stop. “Backup!” he instructs. I meekly comply because I know that arguing with him will accomplish Absolutely. Nothing. I back the stroller up to the sounds of beep-beep-beep coming from below. The two of us contemplate the dead squirrel. The creature is laying on his back, mouth gaping open, eyes stock-still in his head, legs sticking out like pegs. The once fluffy tail lies bedraggled beside him. I gape in horror, thankful that there is no blood and no guts hanging out anywhere. The child inspects the small creature for some time and then in a soft, sad voice he says, “Aww, the little squirrel.” Shamefully, I kick into overprotective grandma mode. “Oh, don’t worry,” I soothe. “Perhaps he’s just taking a nap.” My grandson looks incredulously at the stiff-as-a-plank, wide eyed squirrel and frowns at me.  Then all nonplussed and matter-of-fact he says, “Naaaah, I think he’s dead.”

Okay then.

We move on.

The moral of the story – small can be just as smart as big. (In this case, smarter.)

squirrel

I’m not sure where the phrase “go big or go home” originated but I’m not particularly impressed by it. I see God in the small all the time. The honesty and smartness of small children, the life changing effects of small kindnesses, the small daily choice to not loose our temper, or the small step of asking for forgiveness when we do. God, in all his magnificent glory, is in each one of these small acts.

Life is seldom determined by big, bold, over-the-top decisions. It is mostly small, daily moments and daily choices that set us on our path. When we, step-by-step, follow Jesus we find ourselves on the right path.

tiny feet

ladybug

Our ministry – that unique work that God wants to do through us – is typically not large and complicated and unattainable. It is one-step-at-a-time simple. It’s when we are overly impressed with wide and large and big that we miss the point entirely. It is not that big is bad and small is sacred. It is that both are immaterial to God. Jesus had immense impact in the lives of small groups as well as large crowds. He went about his Father’s business, proclaiming that the Kingdom of God has come, to the outcast and to the king and neither was more important than the other.

It is not that big is bad and small is sacred. It is that both are immaterial to God.

I’ve noticed that in creation, God has taken as much care with tiny flowers as he has with large trees. Both reflect his glory and his character. Both are beautiful beyond measure.

blue daisies

mushrooms in bark

small flowers

soft grass

orange berries

We live in a world that seems to disparage small and honor big.  This cultural trend can lead us to ignore small beginnings or small decisions or small moments.  Yet most endeavors big started off small.  If you truly look you will find that it grew large through the small, faithful steps of a few.

The small moments and small steps that are taken in obedience to God are important. They matter. These small steps deserve our attention when we take them.  Also, our support is needed when we see them taken in others. It is often these small steps that are the biggest leaps of faith.

“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones.” -Luke 16:10

In Lead more gently

As a mom prepares to leave

She lifts her chin, looks me in the eye and says, “Mom, I’ve got this.”   My bottom lip quivers and my chin is a wriggling mess. “It hurts and is difficult but I’m a big girl now.” Oh dear God, that she is and that’s what’s given my chin a life of its own. She’s a full-grown adult. When she was a little girl with soft curly pigtails, I could take charge of the hurt. I could run a warm bath, wash away the dirt, disinfect the wound. I could wrap her in her fuzzy pajamas and read a story about safe places. Now, all I get to do is watch her over the rim of my cup and babble until I run out of steam. I listen and watch her set her chin and say, “I’ve got this, Mom. You raised me strong.”

I watch my son as he figures out new systems. He works and plans and does a far better job than I have ever done. He is confident and strong – much stronger than me. “I’ve got this, Mom,” he says. And that he does. I step away, fingers ready to take a hold again but there’s nothing to take. He’s got it.

A lump big enough to choke me sits in my throat. I breathe and allow the air back in my lungs.   They’ve got this. This growing up, adult thing. I raised them strong and now I reap the outcome of my labor. They’ve got this.

These two adults of mine, once children, can look life directly in the eye and they are skilled to live it. Better than I ever was. The years have passed and in the blur I see them. I see, not me raising them but the grace of God turning them into these strong adults. Not because of me but despite me. I gave them all I had and when that was not nearly enough, that grace, that amazing, beautiful grace took them and transformed them and made them strong.

You raised me strong, is not entirely true. I leaned heavily on grace and it is this grace that kept them and it is this grace that still does.

As an era of my life closes and I pack for a new journey, my heart rests.

Amazing grace.

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them–yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” – 1 Corinthians 15:10

In Lead more gently/ Worship more fully

This Matters

On the Southern tip of Africa there is a community that lies just beyond the shadow of Table Mountain. Millions of people have migrated from distant villages on the Eastern side of the country to make this community their home. It has a name of Xhosa origin which is aptly named Khayelitsha, meaning ‘new home’.

It is one of the poorest communities in South Africa. Mixed in with low cost government housing, there are miles and miles of tin shacks, of people living in some of the worst conditions you can imagine. Yet, it is also filled with vibrant people who, despite poverty, have so much potential. This community matters to God.

In the middle of this year we will be planting a church in Khayelitsha. Taking new ground for the Kingdom of God matters. The hope that only Jesus gives matters.

At Orchard: Africa we aren’t afraid of the hard places. In fact, we purposely go to these hard places. We don’t try and escape to something better. Rather, we bring something better.

Khayelitsha matters to God and because it matters to him it matters to us. Those of us who will serve in this church invite you to join us.  Watch this video and read about this new church plant. May the Holy Spirit lead you in a response.

Your Kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” – Matthew 6:10

In Lead more gently

Divine Opportunities

I knew that when I stepped through that door my life would change.

The comfortable and the predictable would give way to uncertainty, to roads never before travelled and to possibility. It was that last one – possibility – that captured me.

A God-inspired possibility is simultaneously terrifying and breathtakingly beautiful. When, like Moses, you come face to face with a burning bush and it speaks to you, you have but two options. Run away in fear. Fall to your knees in awe.

I chose the latter.

It seems like a lifetime ago when I stepped through that door that presented me with the choice of remaining in my secure pastoral job or leading a fledgling ministry with a million needs and absolutely no funding.

I was mother to two growing children. These are expensive responsibilities. In exchange for my joy filled pastoral job, I was faced with working amongst people who were dying of a disease that carried with it many stigmas. Poverty in the village where I was to work was gut wrenchingly high. My task was to bring hope and life and change. Did I mention I had absolutely no funding? Continue Reading →

In Lead more gently

Do our choices always end in consequence, or is there another way?

There’s this series of photographs taken of four sisters over forty years. It’s a stunning work of art.

It begins with defiance and youthful energy written all over the faces of four young women. The first photograph is a breathtaking etching of attitude. Four sisters, on the cusp of their life, choices and consequences all before them. The horizon is wide and life is for the taking.

It ends four decades later with the same women, but now there is a softness in their eye, a tenderness around their jaw, a raw beauty that hurts while it draws you in and gives you peace. When I study these pictures it is not the young four sisters but rather the older four that give me a sense of hope for the future.

This series of photographs is a masterpiece of art.

When we are young (in years or in maturity) we have a tendency to think and act in terms of choice and consequence; if you do this (choice) then that will need to happen (consequence). As we mature, we realize that it is a little more complex than that. Two people can look at the exact same event and interpret it and respond to it in very different ways. A mom who removes a sharp object from her two year old sees averted danger; her toddler sees injustice. Parents who struggle through the hard times in their marriage and stick at it sees family commitment; their teenage child sees weakness.

Life demands choice and consequence. If you made a good choice, the outcome is favorable. If you chose poorly, the outcome can hurt badly. This is true, but it is right here that life and grace collide. Continue Reading →

In Lead more gently

The truth about giving to your church or a non-profit

My husband and I walk hand-in-hand toward the church doors. Three boys race past.  Moms and dads with babies in arms chatter to one another. There are grey-haired ones and young newly-weds. We all make our way up the path and through the doors of the church.

I love the Church – this group organically grown by God and set on a mission. This messy movement to which I belong called The Church has captured my heart.

I particularly love the local church. Not the one where I am a part (although I do love that one) but the concept of a local church.

All over the world there are pockets of people who dress weirdly in the same way, speak a language in a similar manner, have strange ceremonies that everybody gets, laugh at what seems to outsiders to be not-so-funny jokes and behave in incomprehensible ways that are familiar and comforting to them. Despite these cultural idiosyncrasies, the local church finds a way around them and continues to help people follow Jesus.

I’m often asked whether giving a tenth of our income to God holds true for modern day Christians. I’m also asked whether that ten percent should all go to the local church or if some of it can go to other Christ serving non-profit ministries. Continue Reading →

In Lead more gently/ Live more simply

What to do with manipulation

The clouds reflect in the water, tight with swirling tension. They are brooding and full. My mood matches the melancholy of the weather as I walk along the water’s edge, deep in thought.

 

We all know that leadership is about influence but we also know that there is a fine line between influence and manipulation. I believe Jesus modeled one and abhorred the other. Most of us know that we don’t always have the answers and we are open to being influenced but we feel used and uncomfortable when we suspect we are being manipulated.

Manipulation is the tactic of the enemy of our soul. It pushes instead of guides, it is self-serving rather than loving and it sets one person up to lord it over the other.

I brooded over these thoughts as I watched the clouds billowing in the dark water. Fresh into this young year, I felt manipulated by someone. My contemplative nature took over and it gnawed at me, chomping away at my peace and joy. My initial response was to dig my heels in and become stubborn but this posture of stubbornness soon lost its sparkle. So there I was, late afternoon on a day threatening rain, watching the clouds gather. What to do? I know that the Christ-like response is to bless those who persecute me, to bless and not curse. Yet, I felt cornered, out of sorts and just plain miserable about it all.

The enemy of my soul was busily playing games with me but the lover of my soul was right there at the water’s edge, walking with me.

That night, while struggling to turn away from my stubbornness (my own form of manipulation) and toward Jesus, I came across this in a reading: Continue Reading →