Friday, September 30, 2016

When I am Homesick





I was born in Camp Creek, TN.  From the moment I came into this world, I was surrounded by the Appalachian mountains, cold mountain creeks, and rolling hills.  I have memories early in life of things like black bears in trees, watching the mountains burn from natural forest fires, and jumping on hay bales when I got to play on somebody's farm.  The scent of mud, dairy farms, and clover are things that are woven into the very core of me.

I spent most of my summers tucked into those mountains at church camp.  I remember looking for Indian soap in the streams, catching crawl daddys, and sitting on logs around the camp fire.  I can still hear the voices of my sweet TN family singing around that fire and sharing their hearts.  There was a poster on the tree where we would gather that urged us all to, "be still and know that I am God".  There were many quiet moments right there.  I learned to be still and listen.  I listened to the mountain sounds, the crackling fire, and the hums of Mrs. Judy as she would start us on another song.


The mornings were filled with Harvey's biscuits and Sarah and Madge serving us in the mess hall.  We would head over to the screened-in tabernacle and open God's word together.  The fans were turning, the mountains were right there outside the screen, and the charred logs still sat in the fire ring.

Because my parents worked a lot at the camp, I spent more time there than most kids.  There was a couple of us that sort of grew up there.  Sometimes, if we were lucky, we were given the freedom to run about the place without much thought.  I got really good at catching frogs.  I loved to take off on a path with the Smith girls as they would show me water falls and old houses.  I fell into the water more than once, and nothing stings the lungs like a mountain stream.


But more than fun and memories, I did business with God there.  It was a place that my Creator used to speak tenderly to my heart.  Amidst the fun and dearest friends, there was an understanding in my heart that I came to that camp to be still...and know God.

Over the years, many different people came and went from that camp.  Many preachers and teachers would share their hearts.  There were the ones that would shout and jump, the ones that were softer and more gentle, and then there were the missionaries.

Something inside my very soul would stir to life with the missionaries.  Of course, I had my favorites. My "uncle"Neil would come sometimes.  He wasn't really my uncle, but everybody called him that... although I was pretty sure I had more rites to it than others.  He grew up with my parents and went to my Papaw's church.  He even shared years in those mountains working alongside my mom and dad.  But--he would come and tell us of Africa.  I don't know why, but I was enamored with the thoughts of Africa.  I can still hear the sound of the slide projector going to the next slide as he would share with us kids of what God was doing on the other side of the world.

In the evenings, around that same fire, I would ask God to send me to Africa.  I would ask Him to let me be a missionary all over the world.  I would see the dancing flames and pray in my heart that I too could be a part of the story.  I'd head back to my cabin and slide into my sleeping bag hoping that God would see fit to send me.

Years later, I still remember the feeling of the air leaving my lungs as I looked out of the tiny window to the dessert below me as I was flying to Africa.  Sitting in that plane, I felt the tug of heart remembering those precious prayers in Camp Creek.  And suddenly, there I was, looking down at the Sahara preparing to land in the Ivory Coast.  God had sent me to Africa. God had let this little girl from Tennessee travel to the other side of the world.

He has taken me all over the world since then.  This stirring in my heart He put there has seen countries and people I would have never known to dream about.  From the desserts of Africa, to the Ural Mountain region of Russia, and many other places between-  God and I have traveled together over the years. The sleeping bag prayers of a little girl, the Word instilled to me from my family, and those precious years in the mountains have all taught me that the journey with God will always outweigh any treasure in this world.

But, in the quiet, of all the places I have been,  I softly ache for my home in those mountains.  I know it is because that is where I met God and He met me.  He breathed His life into my soul through those people, through His creation, and through the years in His word.  I would love to travel in time to my seat at the campfire.  I would love to pull my boys up to that fire and let them see the dancing flames and the glow of the faces that poured so much of their love into me.  I have taken them to that place, but oh how it has changed.  From a rustic mountain camp to a modern retreat center, it hardly resembles my memories.  But God is still there reaching hearts just like He reached mine.  And He has faithfully answered my childhood prayers and put me on a journey that I could have never imagined.

Whether I am in a mud hut in Africa, a cabin in the mountains,  or in a dutch colonial in Ohio, He is ever drawing me into relationship with Him.  He is working to show me His glory and goodness, and He is allowing me to be a part of His plan.  I will never understand it fully on this side of eternity, but I will gladly walk with Him all of my days.

And when I get homesick....I close my eyes and travel back.  I see the faces of my sweetest friends...and the lyrics to a favorite song take me back...

....And i wish all the people I love the most
Could gather in one place, and know each other 
and love each other well.
And I wish we could all go camping, 
and lay beneath the stars,
and have nothing to do and stories to tell.

We'd sit around the campfire
 And we'd make each other laugh,
Remembering when...
And you're the first one I'm inviting.
Always know that you're invited, my friend.

And at the risk of wearing out my welcome.
At the risk of self-discovery
I'll take every moment
And every minute that you give me.
Every moment and every minute that you give me.

Every minute...






Saturday, September 3, 2016

Bending Low


"I saw what I saw and I can't forget it.  I heard what I heard and I can't go back.  I know what I know and I can't deny it.  Something on the road, cut me to the soul..."
Sara Groves          

I have been trying to teach my oldest son the art of slowing down his mind.  It is something that every soul needs to learn and relearn.  When our minds slow, they focus.  When they focus, they detect the unnoticed.  When they detect the unnoticed, they run right into the very face of God.  And when this happens, a decision must be made.  Will I accept this God reality, or will I close my eyes to Him and pass on by?  

And when you accept, what an unraveling of the mystery of the Holy takes place right in that moment!  He wraps a heart in Truth and Grace, and opens eyes even wider that go even deeper to see Him more clearly than before.  And then...the world changes.  Suddenly, life looks different.  People look different.  Love looks different. It grows immeasurably and hope springs forth with a knowledge that Jesus provided you with the means to find this holy redemption.  Jesus, friend of sinners, breathes the God breath of true life into your soul.  The soul grows in unmeasurable ways linking arms with the Savior.  And in every valley of difficulty, the soul grows in love and in connection with Christ.

But, if you pass on by, the world becomes colder.  People become harder around the edges.  Love escapes you, and life becomes a selfish pursuit.  The hard moments get grittier, and the dark gets heavier.  Living becomes about managing the days; going for gain and surviving the races.  It may be sprinkled with cheer from time to time, but inwardly a soul feels its own shrivel.  And the soul will shrivel and wrinkle and parch dry for lack of love.

Do you know that Love is bending low from our Creator God to touch the souls of the paused person? Can you pause?  Can you slow your racing spirit and allow yourself a moment to be embraced by your Creator?



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