Behind the Name: Intege

imageI am reminded constantly. Of our selfishness. Our broken and fallen nature. Our failure to meet God’s standard of holiness and absolute perfection. I hate these reminders, no matter how true. I want to be a person that loves my enemies with a perfect and unconditional love. I want to give homes for the homeless. A caregiver for the neglected orphan. A hug and a warm meal to the hungry.

I don’t like the reminder that we are broken people living in a broken world. I’m not able to eliminate poverty, radical injustice and worldwide atrocities. I’m not enough. I’m insufficient. And that hurts me deeply.

I am more reminded of my insufficiencies when I read about the Rwandan Genocide that happened 20 years ago. In 3 months over 800,000 Tutsi men, women and children were slaughtered by Hutus because of their lighter skin color. My heart aches for them. For the surviving family members that grieve the losses of their relatives. For the women who were raped by Hutu men and left to deal with an STD or pregnancies. For the people, both Hutu and Tutsi, who let their hearts be consumed in bitterness and hatred.

It saddens and angers me that the Rwandan Genocide is only one of the innumerable atrocities that happen world-wide. I hear stories that break me.

A Burmese man who had his mouth and eyes sewn shut and feet cut off to stop him from proclaiming the Gospel.

Due to insufficient dowry payments, the young Hindi husband vented his rage by slashing his new bride’s face repeatedly with a razor blade.

A Peruvian mother, beside herself gives her 4 children, all starving to death, some alcohol to drink just to keep them alive for another day.

Young, 9-year-old Angelina in Angola, Africa is sold by her parents to a 30 year old man as a sex slave. She is found three weeks later, beaten unconscious and and left in a ditch covered in blood and human waste.

The stories go on and many go untold.

The question screams inside of me.

“Why? Why God. Why so much suffering? I don’t understand.”

But with this horrific and inhumane ugliness, there is beauty that cannot be denied.

Our stories. Our lives. Our words. They’re all threads in a tapestry that the Grand Weaver, our Father is weaving until He brings the promised “Shalom” that was lost in Eden.

That’s what I’m living for. The Shalom. That is what keeps my fire from dying out.

But I’m not enough, right? What I do is a drop of water in a tumultuous ocean.  No, I don’t like being reminded that I am not enough. That I am broken. That I am a failure. That I am weak.

But the Father, He is enough. He is perfect. He is strong.

There is nothing that I can do without His perfect strength. My prayer for you teenagers, for my Compassion International child, Abayisenga Diane, for the people of Rwanda, is that you will not trust your strength. That you will pray for God to work through your weaknesses in any way He chooses.

That is a dangerous prayer. I know. With that prayer request, He can send you anywhere. A new school. A new country. A new family. He may call us to forgive people we find unforgivable. He may call us to bind up the wounds of the afflicted. He may call us to follow Him to the ends of the earth. And, He may even call us to lose our earthly lives in humility, praying for our oppressors, for they do not know what they do.

That’s what The Intege Project is all about. Intege in Abayisenga’s language, Kinyarwandan means “strength.”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,

“Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Isaiah 6:8

 

 

 

A Lesson Straight From the Ceramics Studio

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My fingers glide over the clay like gray silk. The silver wheel spins unendingly, glistening with the slightest bit of water. I dip the clay covered sponge in my bucket of muddy water and squeeze the remainder like a waterfall over the mountain of deformed clay.  I begin to compress the stubborn mound into a cylinder. From this I am free to create what I choose. A tall vase. A set of soup bowls. A graceful pitcher. A coffee mug.

Last semester, I began taking Ceramics as an elective.

Every time I sit down at the wheel I promise myself that I won’t get clay anywhere but my hands. Epic failure. I manage to get completely immersed in the art that I don’t even notice my arms or  shirt flecked in gray clay spots until my friends kindly say,

“Uhh Kate. You’ve got a little…” and proceed remove dried clay streaks in my dark hair or a smidge off my face (hey, who said wet clay couldn’t become the next concealer makeup?)

There’s something about Ceramics that reminds me about the heart of our Father. It shocks and amazes me that He can take me, a mound of stubborn, misshapen clay and mold me into something more beautiful than I could ever imagine on my own.

Today, I see the Church slowly adopting worldly messages into songs, Bible stories and sermons. They give the impression that we are made stronger by our own strength. That we are free to be ourselves because we are awesome. They tack God onto the end of the acknowledgements section almost as an afterthought when really He is the breath in our story; He shapes us, molds us.

Sometimes I fail to trust God. I fail to trust Him that He will make an ugly mound of clay like me into a beautiful piece. I’m afraid that He is not a skilled artisan that can make me whole again.

He is my perfect potter. 

I can say with complete confidence that my time as a ceramicist is a little frustrating at times.

When my pieces come out of the kiln, I don’t know what they’ll look like or if they survived the heat of 2000 degrees while it was firing. Sometimes I’ll get pieces cracked. Exploded. Shattered to millions of bits. It’s not perfect and sadly, I have to throw it away now that it’s useless.

But isn’t it amazing that no matter how broken, cracked or exploded I am, He uses me in innumerable, beautiful ways?

Nothing is an accident. The Father knows exactly what He’s doing.

Our value is not manufactured by our successes or failures.

Do you know why the Redemption Story is so breath-takingly beautiful? It’s because it’s the story of our Maker who knew how deeply we were in sin, we were dead into it. But He was mocked, spit on, tortured and died an excruciatingly horrible death for us. Not because we were good or deserved someone to save us.

The Redemption Story isn’t about us. It’s about our perfect potter who knows the depth of our brokenness and says “I will make you beautiful.”

Rebelutionaries, we do not change ourselves, or make ourselves better or stronger. We are valuable because of the One who made us, not because of anything we’ve done for ourselves.

Allow yourself to be shaped by the Father. Is He asking you to get out of your comfort zone? Love other people? Submit that Chemistry Exam into His hands? Accept failure with grace? Talk to Him about it and pursue His heart. Trust in the Father who never makes mistakes. Fall in love with the God that Jesus knows.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”

~2nd Corinthians 4:7-10

Mary’s Song of Praise

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
    to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

Aiding Grieving Friends Even When You Don’t Have Words

I walk slowly into the room, willing myself not to cry again. I pull up the chair next to my Ama’s hospice bed. I expect her to turn her head like she had done a hundred times before. But she didn’t. Her almost lifeless stare was fixed in front of her. I then realized that she would never talk to me again. She couldn’t. She was too weak. She was ready to go home.

But I wasn’t ready. I was never ready for any of this. The kidney failure. The hospice. The funeral plans that my relatives discussed. The weak state that I saw her in every weekend I visited.

That week before she passed away, she just stopped fighting. If was the hardest thing to see. Her spirit had left her. Nothing was left but a heartbeat and an earthly shell.

Next Thursday at 4:30 in the afternoon, my dad emerges from his school conference, cell phone in hand and announces that my 92 year old Ama passed away only five minutes before.

I sat there stunned. The words rang in my ears, but they didn’t mean anything.

“Do you want to go to the house and see her one more time before they bring her to the funeral home?” my Dad asked quietly as we began to drive home.

Then it hit me. She was dead. I couldn’t avoid the truth about life. It is that there is death. But I couldn’t fight it anymore, I couldn’t be brave like I was those last 8 months. I shook my head and fought back tears as I looked in front of me.

When we arrived home, I was completely numb as I got out of the car. Somehow I made it to my room. I fell to the floor in a crumpled heap.

My heart was shattered. It ached beyond words and I couldn’t say or think anything. I drove my fist into the floor as my head burned with internal screams of anger towards God.

I lay there like a tangled knot on my bedroom floor as furious tears rolled down my cheeks.

“No.”

The words passed my lips before I broke down in uncontrollable, heaving sobs. I hated God. Provider? How can He be called “Jehovah Jirah” when he took away my best friend? It seemed that the world had come crashing down on me. And this time, I couldn’t be strong enough to face it on my own.

My mom knocked on the door asking me if I wanted dinner. When I didn’t reply, she left me alone. I curled up into bed and cried myself to sleep.

The next morning, I hoped to find comfort in my friends at school. I decided not to tell anyone about it. It would only set off another wave of emotions and create a scene.

I stared blankly at my math test.

“How is it only 11:30?” I asked myself as I picked up my pencil.I read and re-read the questions but none of them made sense.

“Kate?” asked my teacher, “Are you alright? You haven’t written anything since you’ve started.”

I broke down again unable to hold in my grief and hurt. She kindly told me that I could take the test on Monday because I was obviously not focused enough to do well right now.

By lunchtime, word had gotten out, but no one wanted to say anything. A few girls seated themselves at the lunch table I was sitting at, but I didn’t feel like talking to anyone of them or even listening if they wanted to heap Bible verses on me and preach too-good-to-be-true messages that sound all pretty and nice.

Thankfully none of them did. One girl just smiled at me and grasped my hand. And that was the most beautiful form of comfort someone could ever give me. They were just there.

Space and Time

When death takes away our loved ones, whether it be sudden or gradual, we hurt deeply. There is nothing that we can do to bring that person back. And that makes us feel completely hopeless and weak.

For the first couple days, I was glad that no one really talked about it to me. I just needed some time…and some space. Leave them alone for a while and when they need you they’ll come to you and then you can give them comfort.

Never Say…

Many people say things at funerals with good intentions, but it can come off as insensitive and hurtful to the person who has lost a loved one.

“I completely understand what you’re going through.”

This phrase was repeated multiple times by many people who came and talked to me. As they came up, hugged me and said this, I couldn’t help but think, “Sorry, you don’t actually understand what I’m going through.”

God has created us differently. Therefore, we grieve differently. No one can ever fully understand or even comprehend someone else’s depth of hurt and pain.

“He/She is in Heaven now. You don’t have to grieve.”

While this is true, it may not be the best time to say it. The death is fresh in our memory and we grieve whether people tell us to or not. Grieving is not a sin. It is ok and perfectly normal. God has given us a time to lament over a loved one’s passing and a time to rejoice. Do not rush someone out of the grieving process. Walk with them and wait for them as long as they need.

“It was his/her time to go. And anyway, God wanted him/her to be with Him.”

Please don’t say this. Please don’t. People said this to me and I almost started crying because it hurt me so deeply. So what if it was their time to go? I’m still here, left to hurt and grieve. I just want someone to be there for me. I don’t want answers. I want healing.

Beautiful Things That Bring Comfort 

“I am here for you. I am never too busy to talk to you. I am never too busy to listen. I am never too busy to cry with you.”

This is so comforting, more than you know:) This acknowledges their grieving process and doesn’t rush them.

Cry With Them…

Get on their level. Be sad with them. It will allow trust and vulnerability bonds to grow deeper and stronger. People will know you as friend, rather than counselor. They will know that you are there.

Don’t say anything.

This is the best one, honestly. A lot of times I hear from people at funerals, “Ah. I don’t know what to say.” And I’m like “It’s ok. You don’t have to say anything.” Just listen to them.

Know that we are not meant for this world. The pain. The suffering. The brokenness. When people are weak in doubt, be strong for them in prayer. We aren’t meant to fully understand and comprehend loved ones deaths. We can’t. It is simply beyond us. And that is ok. One day, we will be with Him. I have faith, fellow rebelutionaries, that I will one day see my Ama. She will not be as I remembered her, lying in a hospice bed with a sick, frail body. She will be dancing in the glory of her new body, praising forever the work of her Savior Jesus.

(1 Corinthians 15:52-57) For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”

The New Pro-Life Movement: Delivering God’s Truth About Life in Love

I looked up from my chai latte and into my friend’s eyes. They shone with passion and a tint of fiery hatred.

“Kate, how about it? Do you want to do this with me? Abortion is terrible and I’m going to do everything I can to stop it!! I need to prove to the Pro-choice people that they are doing something wrong!”

Something felt off about this. My friend had texted me a week before saying that she wanted to talk to me for she had “fantastic news.” I was very excited and texted her back telling her that I couldn’t wait to hear it and would meet her at a local coffee shop to talk to her about it.

I was unprepared to give my friend an answer when she asked me if I would join her in protesting planned parenthood next week by standing by the entrance of the clinic and talking to people about it. It’s not that I disagree with advocating for unborn lives, rather it was the way my friend talked about pro-choice people, like they were idiotic robots who are senseless and evil.

After pondering this for an entire week, I came back to her telling her that I wouldn’t be able to make it. She said ok and went to the protest with her other friends that she had recruited. I couldn’t help but feel confusion and reluctance to tell her that the way she was approaching this controversial issue of planned parenthood wasn’t truly effective or even Christ-like.

So, here is a fresh look on the pro-life movement and how we can deliver God’s truth about life in a loving way!

Choosing Life is Much Harder than We Can Imagine

I hear the argument from Pro-Life people all the time that makes me extremely angry: “That unborn baby is a life. It’s that simple.”

I hate to break up the party over here, but honestly, it isn’t that simple. Most women do come to the realization that it is a life, however they abort the baby because they don’t want to have to make their child deal with living in bad circumstances.

Here is some context…Hospital studies show that to deliver a baby with proper medical equipment and adequate doctors will cost approximately $2,000 to $12,000. In addition to this, studies show that to raise a healthy child to the age of 18 costs $245,340.

Imagine this. You are a pregnant young woman. You didn’t plan for this baby to happen. Your family has turned their back on you. You don’t have any money and don’t know where to turn. You just want someone to help; someone to hold you and talk to you.

Now imagine showing up at a clinic ready to abort your baby, because you believe there are no other options. You see people holding signs, yelling and pleading with you, saying that you should not abort your baby. How much influence will this protest have on a hurt, confused young women who is searching for answers?

Most women don’t even want to abort their babies, but feel that they are forced to by societies’ harshness. While choosing life is the right choice, it’s never an easy one. So, no, it isn’t “that simple.”

Put Down the Sign and Take Up God’s Love

Protesting with signs and shouts of anger in front of clinics doesn’t get to the heart of the problem of abortion. How is that effective in showing God’s love? You can yell “Abortion is wrong” as loud as you want, but no one will hear you. It doesn’t say much about being Christ-like.

How do we fight abortion? Instead of feeling hatred towards women for aborting their babies, we should be filled with compassion for them. Instead of yelling at them and trying to convince them that they are wrong, we should provide them with pregnancy crisis centers, healing, and most importantly, God’s love. This gives them other options other than abortion.

This speaks volumes about our faith and the sanctity of life when we lay down our own lives as humble ambassadors for Christ. People can always ignore our words, no matter how loud we say them, but they cannot deny what they see through our actions.

Seeking Justice For All Lives, Not Just the Unborn

If all lives, both the unborn and born are of invaluable worth to the Father, then they should be of invaluable worth to us. In fact, when Jesus was questioned about who he was, he answered them with this:

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.”

Jesus was not just a preacher that stood at the pulpit and talked the talk. He went out and walked the walk. You see, it’s easier to hold a sign emblazoned with words of a bold Pro-life message, but it is much harder to live the message and live it boldly.

We must value all lives, rebelutionaries. Not just some. Yes, the unborn are voiceless. But so is the homeless person on the street. A child sex-slave in Cambodia. A girl refused an education in Pakistan. Four children with drunken and abusive parents in Chicago.

Be the voice for those who do not have one.

This is what The New Pro-Life Movement is all about. Valuing all lives. The voiceless. The born and unborn. The hurt.

It is what God has demanded us to do.

I’m ready to join, are you?

What God has Taught Me About Going on a “Short-Term” Mission Trip

Whether you are going to somewhere overseas, staying in your hometown or volunteering at your community cafeteria, God has called us to innumerable places where he shapes both our lives and the many lives around us. Mission trips are beautiful depictions of God’s love for those who are in physical, emotional or spiritual need.

Two years ago, I went on a mission trip to a poverty relief ministry called Shepherd Community Center. Only 30 minutes away from my own front door, it was devastating to see so much brokenness. I worked with first graders and it was so fulfilling and yet so terrible to know that poverty was in my hometown and you didn’t have to travel across the ocean to find it. I close my eyes again and see myself running on the playground, swinging on the monkey bars and playing freeze tag with those beautiful, giggly children. The love of Jesus shone in their eyes. His beauty and goodness radiated from their thankful hearts. And yet some of the stories I heard these first graders shattered my heart and made me ache with sadness for them.

From that single 5 day period, God taught me so many things.

“Have a Teachable Spirit.”

I remember walking into the room of first graders. I was ready to be the one who got them excited who high-fived them and exclaimed “You ready for some serious fun?!?” I was ready to be the courageous super hero that made them feel loved and accepted.

But when I walked in there I had never been more afraid in my life. I was shaking as I stood there; petrified and unable to speak. A little girl with two little braids in her hair walked up to me and said in a timid voice “Hi! Are you my new teacher? I’m Maia and I’m almost seven!” My heart melted as she took my hand and led me to the crayon-strewn table where she was working on a picture.

I thought I was going to be the one to give. I was supposed to be the one who taught them all about God, not the other way around! But that little Maia and so many other first graders taught me immeasurably more about God’s love than what I could ever teach them.

Let the Father teach you through the people you work with, whether it be children or adults. You aren’t there just to give. You are also there to receive.

“You are not the Savior of the World.”

I felt angry and somewhat befuddled at a shirt that I saw a girl wearing. It had a proud “SAVE AFRICA” emblazoned across it with bright colors. Sadly, mission trips these days can make us feel like courageous, unstoppable superhumans with a big red “S” plastered across our chest. It doesn’t take us long to realize that we are incapable of stopping the poverty. I know that I felt that way when I knew that I wasn’t enough to save the world. It broke me. “I’m not enough for those hurting children.” That single line played over in my head for the next several weeks.

But He showed me that I was right: I can’t be enough. I can’t be enough because I’m an imperfect human being that thinks I can do things on my own. But here’s the beautiful part. He is enough; for those children at Shepherd Community Center. For the homeless families in Indiana. And even, for the entire world. As Katie Davis, a missionary in Uganda says:

“I have learned that I will not change the world, Jesus will do that. I can however, change the world for one person. I can change the world for fourteen little girls and for four hundred schoolchildren and for a sick and dying grandmother and for a malnourished, neglected, abused five-year old. And if one persons sees the love of Christ in me, it is worth every minute. In fact, it is worth spending my life for.”

“Listen. Listen well.”

Hear their stories and love them the way Christ would. As a person. Not as a wounded animal. They may be hurting, but it doesn’t give anyone the right to act as if they are beneath you. I know that I was guilty of doing that and I didn’t even mean to act to them in such a demeaning way! Be careful. We can fall into that trap without even knowing it.

I remember hearing eight-year-old Valentin’s story. I sat with him during lunch one day where we began to talk about his family. “I live with my Aunt now,” he remarked “My mommy and daddy died last year, but they believed in Jesus. Will they go to heaven, Miss Katie?”

I remember the bite of my sandwich that stuck soggily in my throat as I heard this absurd question that no eight year old child has to ask. I should have been able to answer his question with the prepared, clichéd Sunday school answer. But I wasn’t prepared.

And that’s ok, sometimes what people really want is just a good hug and a whispered “I am here for you.” Let the Holy Spirit lead you and be willing to be vulnerable with people.

Leading from a Mission Trip to Life on a Mission.”

This was the hardest command that God gave me to swallow. It’s easy to come back from your mission trip and forget that He has called you for more.

Don’t take the word “mission” out of mission trip. Don’t make it a poverty tourist trip. Make it an opportunity that God has presented to you to love people the way He has loved us.

And that doesn’t require a plane ticket to another 3rd world country. It could be right where you are. Find people in your hometown who are hurting. How can we advocate for justice and protest against poverty in another country when we ignore a homeless person on the street, a hurting classmate in your grade or even a family member that we need to reconcile with? He has called us to innumerable places both within and out of our comfort zones.

The phrase “short term mission trip” does not exist. Don’t get passionate for God on a mission trip and then return to live a lukewarm, comfortable life. A mission trip is a small snapshot. A glimpse of the “Shalom” that God has promised.

So what do we do with that? We take it and let it lead our lives. Be living proof of our loving God. To your family. To your community. To the world.

When God is calling into the night: “Whom shall I send?”

Answer. Answer Him with this.

“Here I am. Send me.”

Taking a Look at My Unbalanced Prayer Life

I run my soft fingers through my stringy hair as it drips water on my bedroom floor. As I quickly dry my hair with a towel, I look outside my window seeing the golden sun rays dance along the lawn of dew-kissed grass. The tea kettle whistles a cheerful tune that calls me downstairs for breakfast. A cup of lemon tea with precisely 1 and a half sugar cubes. My worn, leather bound Bible. A lime green ink gel pen. My blue journal overflowing with countless church note pamphlets and superfluous paper scraps. This is all I need to have a good Saturday morning with the Lord.

I proceed to walk to the patio and sit on the green couch, wrapping myself in a seemingly unending net of crocheted, turquoise yarn. I open my Bible to Philippians and smooth the satin pages back. As I read, the late morning sun and my Ama’s handmade afghan warms me like a comforting hug.

The gilded long hand on the clock hits the 12, and I finish my Bible reading. I begin to pray.

“Father, I pray that You will help Becca with her tests this week…Give mom peace as she keeps working full time…Give Micah rest from his busy school schedule…Help me to get a better grade on my math tests…Help me to focus…Help those who have come under the control of ISIS…Help the persecuted church all around the world find peace in Your love. Amen.”

As I shut my Bible, I stared into the bottom of the empty glass mug wondering if there was anything else I need to do.

What had I just prayed? I thought inwardly. It struck me as odd that I prayed to God like He was some kind of vending machine. I put in a prayer and hopefully out would come something good. But we cannot and should not treat God like He is machine. He is then confined to our human standards. God is more than that. He is infinite. He is loving and He wants to be in relationship you; a relationship full of grace and goodness and pure conviction through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Think about it like this, if I took a piece of white computer paper and drew a single ink dot in the middle of it. What would you notice first? The ink dot? Or the white space surrounding it? Well, being the OCD freak that I am, I would probably notice the ink dot.

Many times our prayer life is much like this. We are quick to notice the problems in our lives and cry out to God in an attitude of constant need. I wake up in the morning on a school day and grumble and complain. I ask God to help me have a good day.

Gently, He tells me “Ah, my daughter. I have already given you so much to be filled with inexpressible joy for. Arise, and be thankful.”

Grrrr. Really? I asked for something!! Give it to me God! But then I realize He’s right. I had too much of an attitude of need and wanting, rather than a attitude of praise and gratitude. Isn’t His infinite sacrifice for me on the cross enough for me to sing endless praise?! Why do I look for the ink dot, search for the flaw, tell God He is being unfair to me when the white space is clearly in front of me?

I encourage all of you to take a close look at your own prayer life. Watch how you pray. Do you have an attitude of wanting and neediness, or an attitude of gratitude and inexpressible joy? Make a journal full of praises. Be attentive to the blessings around you. Whenever you find something to praise Him for write it down and dwell on it.

Yes, prayer is important. Yes, it is good to pray for protection, healing and peace. Yes, this world is broken, sinful and messed up. But don’t let Satan take a grip on your prayer life. Don’t let him blind you to the good and beauty of our Father. Don’t let him make your main focus on the “dot.”

Focus on the goodness of our Father. He has made us for more than this. Live in anticipation of His second coming.

“I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.” Psalm 34:1