Monday, August 30, 2010

Ordinary days

This is a direct quote from another blog I read: Holy Experience by Ann Voskamp. After I read this I decided I couldn't find any better words today...

To know God is more than "aching for more than ordinary." On the plane of God and in the dimension of true reality, there is no ordinary. Ordinary ceases to exist. When we are reborn, we're drenched with wonder. The day, me, the world, it drips. To know God is to realize there's no such thing as ordinary and all our ache is only for more of His glory.

Here's to finding God envelope and transform ordinary days, routines and tasks with his presence.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Bus

Shopping in America:
7 minutes in the car
30 minutes in the store
7 minutes in the car

Shopping in India:
5 minutes walking to the bus stop
10 minutes waiting for the bus
25 minutes on the bus
10 minutes walking
20 minutes on another bus
10 minutes walking
1-2 hours in the stores
10 minutes walking
5 minutes waiting for the bus
20 minutes on the bus
10 minutes walking
25 minutes on another bus
5 minutes walking

Riding the bus in India is like traveling via sardine can. And sometimes you sweat so much you nearly smell like a fish when you get there. Bodies press against bodies until the bus is full and still more get on. And you pay the same whether you are standing on the stairs at the open door barely clinging to the inside of the bus or whether you are one of the fortunate few who manage to get a seat. I stand more often than sit. During the busiest times of day being on the bus feels like playing Twister with two bodies for every colored dot on the mat. There you are, a tangled mess of human flesh, trying to keep from falling over as the bus stops and starts. There is no more room. But when the ticket manager wants to come through the middle of the jungle of human limbs yelling, “tickets! tickets!” somehow we squeeze room out of thin air and let him pass.

You might think I’m complaining, but I’m not. Somehow it makes me feel alive, part of something bigger than myself, like one living cell in the midst of the teeming mass of humanity. And going shopping always feels like an adventure. When I come back to the states and travel to Walmart alone in my spacious SUV, I might just fall asleep from boredom.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A School

Thursday I went out to a school for the first time. It was a two-hour commute from auto to bus to school bus and then back again. As I sat on the bus, dipping and rising, thumping along, listening to the thrumming and protestations from the engine as we groaned our way through small villages, one-lane roads, and beautiful countryside, my mind was taking a journey back in time.

I could not help remembering. A group of youth in the Davy’s living room discussing The Treasure Principle, a small book by Randy Alcorn that changed our lives. Sud.z, in an auditorium under construction, eager faces determined to fill a thermometer on the wall to the top. Emptying our pockets week by week. Fanning across town to sell Coke products. Spray-painted worms made from dryer hose. A school. This school. And while I’m not in India to visit this school every day, I realized that if not for that book, that room, those people, I would not be here today. India would just be a spot on the map. When I look back at the threads God chooses to weave into my life, the thousand small decisions that could have taken me anywhere but here, I am awestruck. God is good. He is wise. Provident.

I could not stay in my reverie for long. India bumps and jolts you, jostles against you, demands your attention. The bus drove down a road I would never have thought a bus could maneuver. We passed vineyards, rice paddies, cornfields. At the last my heart fluttered with thoughts of home. Several times we stopped to wait for herds of goats and buffalo obstructing the road.

Because of the monsoons there was water everywhere, sometimes temporary lakes on either side of the road. In one such place we needed to pass another bus coming the opposite direction. There was not enough room, but the bus drivers made room. We backed up and inched forward, pressing further and further to the side of the road, making tracks in the grass. I prayed we would not slip and topple into the watery ditch. I could’ve reached out and touched the faces in the other bus.

The school is under construction. One classroom eagerly awaits the completion of the second story while they meet in the open hallway down below. The manager is excited I have come, but he wants more. “You are from Nebraska,” he says. “We are family. One day a week, not enough. You must come two days.” He leaves no room for any other alternative. I think through my week and offer Saturday, the only day I have free.

I don’t yet know why I am here. My role is not yet clear. The children here are very used to Westerners. I compare their faces to the ones of children in the slums and I am tempted to wonder, why am I here? I am tempted to think they don’t need me. But I sense the link I hold between this place and home, the hundreds of faces that are bonded by another thread because I stand holding the hearts of each within my own. I trust that the what will become more clear with time. I’m learning that anything new in India requires a window of observation and familiarization before it really comes to life. So I’ll wait, test the waters, watch for something to move.

And then I ponder… maybe someone else’s life will be changed by my presence here just as my life was changed by all those who came before me to this place. Perhaps…

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Daily Residue

These are the things I wash from my skin and my clothes every night:

Sweat. sweat. sweat.

Glitter from bangles…

Urine and slobber from holding infants in the slums...

Chalk from tutoring students after school…

Glue from working crafts with the kids…

Smoke from burning trash and boiling milk…

Mud from outside the huts in the slum…

Flower petals the villagers put in my hair…

Dust from the roads…

Snippets of thread from tailoring lessons…

I wash them away every night, but with each passing day I sense them burrowing beneath my skin where no water or soap will be able to erase them from my memory. I pray they do.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


The first drops of rain make their way towards me across the roof, leaving their wet footprints along the cement. They give the impression of the approach of something invisible. Then the pattering gives way to one solid gentle cleansing. The palm trees sigh and whisper in its passing like those who find themselves in the midst of a long-awaited coming home.

The heat here is strong, but it’s also the monsoon season. This means that whenever the temperature gets to be too unbearable, often there is a reprieve. The rain comes and—for however many hours it lasts—it brings refreshment, washing the air of dust and mosquitoes, blocking the heat of the sun, and soothing my ears with it’s song.

Every morning I wake up in the heat and I have a choice. I can grumble and complain inside my heart, or I can welcome the day, welcome the one who made it to show me his heart for the next few hours. Just when I find the foreignness, the rough climate, the wear of daily tasks has rubbed raw against my soul, the spirit comes—like the rain—and whispers cleansing, refreshment, peace. They are daily moments, small, not enough to carry me to December or even through the end of the week. But they are enough for the next hour, the next afternoon. They are the rain of spiritual manna.

Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts…

My debts are large, my need for manna great. I would venture to say that the lessons the father is teaching me now are not unique to India. I could learn them at home, except for the fact that, here, he has my attention. I cannot leave. I cannot run to something more comfortable. I cannot surround myself with social engagements or other voices to drown him out. I need him to survive, and he knows it. I know this statement is just as true when I am home, yet somehow I have fooled myself into believing otherwise.

Friday, August 20, 2010

When the glamour fades...

Week one: everything is new, exciting, different.
Week two: routine beings. The glamour fades.

There are things about India that are wholly different from the States. There are things about India that feel so much like home that it takes me by surprise. Repetition is one.

When I was a student at Lee, there were so many days when I grew frustrated with living the same routine day by day. I stayed locked away in my room studying for long hours. Often I was tempted to question the purpose, to wonder if it all mattered in the grand scheme of things.

My heart is vain. It wants to do great things for reasons outside of myself, to be given opportunity to change lives and watch it happen. So I thought, I’ll go to India.

But India is not grand. The idea of India is grand, but on a practical level, what I face now is monotonous. Every day we go to the slums and do just about the same thing. Every day I am tempted to wonder, does it even make a difference that I am here?

I am finding—half a world away—that the problem is not with my surroundings or with my routine. The problem is with my heart.

So this week I am mucking through myself.

I face disappointment and father says, will you trust me? I fight feeling insignificant and he asks me to question whether my identity lies in my actions and my role or who he says I am. I do not see results and he counters, will you obey? I cry, this is not easy; he says, I never promised it would be.

In my weakness I find the pride and selfishness lurking in my heart. I want to love people on my own terms. I want to care for them if they respond a certain way. But someone else is telling me to love them because he loves them, not because they are loveable. Yes Father. I’m sorry. Teach me. This is my penitent cry—sometimes every five minutes.

I was reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer and he writes, “Who is pure in heart? Only those who have surrendered their hearts completely to [another] that he may reign in them alone. Only those whose hearts are undefiled by their own evil—and by their own virtues too. The pure in heart have a child-like simplicity like Adam before the fall, innocent alike of good and evil: their hearts are not ruled by conscience, but by the will of [another].”

I must be saved from my depravity, but I must also be saved from my good intentions, least they become idols and get in the way of my heart. I am so glad father is patient with this journey because sometimes I fear I tread so slowly.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Holiday

Yesterday was the Indian Independence Day. There was a worship concert here. It was India meets Hillsong, meets Sud.z drama team, meets Indian dancing, meets fog machines, meets Pentecostal manifestation of the Holy Spirit. They brought in extra speakers and cranked the volume. They like to rejoice hard, blood-pumping, ears ringing, heart bursting. It was beautiful.

I sat in the front row of the balcony where I had a perfect view of the stage and the people below. More than once I glanced below and thought, this is the look of those who have tasted of the sweetness of the presence of light in the midst of a great darkness.

So far, India has not been an experience of highs and lows. It’s been a fairly gentle journey, kissed with the quiet sweetness of the Lord. He is not shouting in my heart, but I sense him walking with me, whispering softly now and then. Sometimes he is almost silent, but present, like a hand pressed upon my shoulder or holding my hand. The pace of life here leaves lots of time to linger, to reflect, to be. This is something I think Indians do right. As Westerners, when we rush from one event to another without stopping, as if we are afraid of missing something, we miss out on so much more.



Here people are more important than events or tasks. If you are not here we’ll wait for you to come. If you need us, we’ll stay with you longer, letting others wait for us. And then we stop and rest before moving on.

“Take rest,” the Indians tell me. “Take rest.” And I do.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

That Hideous Strenth

I just finished reading That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis and this quote is returning over and over to my mind:

“It is enough for the present,” said the Director. “This is the courtesy of Deep Heaven: that when you mean well, He always takes you to have meant better than you knew. It will not be enough for always. He is very jealous. He will have you for no one but Himself in the end. But for tonight, it is enough.”

How good the grace of God is that he sees our feeble attempts to follow him and credits them fuller than we can imagine. He looks at us and sees Christ’s righteousness rather than our own. He is a jealous God and will not be content to let us stay where we are forever, but for now it is enough. Amen.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Things I’ve done this week I’ve never done before:

• Traveled on the left side of the road
• Showered from a bucket
• Eaten with my hands
• Altered my clothes without a machine
• Washed laundry by hand
• Ridden with ten people in a jeep made to comfortably seat six
• Gone to two church services in the same day in two different languages
• Eaten around a table of six where each person was from a different country
• Not paid attention when the electricity goes out
• Been peed on
• Learned to sing part of a song in Hindi
• Successfully eaten Indian curry for breakfast (this is the most recent and important accomplishment)

Thursday, August 12, 2010


“Why does she come?” a woman in the pipe village asked our driver while nodding in my direction.

Translating, the driver explains, she does not understand why I would come here, to India, to a slum, in the heat, to sit with her on a matt in the dirt. People who are rich in India, they do not care. They would not come. Why would I?

“Someone spoke to her,” the driver said about me. “Told her to come to you because you are loved.”

She bobbled her head side to side in assent, but her eyes still revealed disbelief.

In that moment, I knew it was worth it. To travel forty-two hours to reach her country. To fight the heat, the traffic. To sit in the dirt, sweating, flies buzzing around us. To hold her baby, let it pee in my lap. It will be worth it to come every day and just sit with her if it helps her understand that there is no length my father will not go to help her understand his love.

I cannot speak her language, but I pray my smile and the light in my eyes would speak of the love of my father, and I make a mental note to learn to tell her myself of his love in her own words by the time I am gone.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


There is one bag of mega-block legos here at the base. Every morning it goes into the back of the jeep and travels with us to the slums. Yellow, blue, pink, green. The hands of different children reach to play with the faded, dirt-worn colors each day.

Somehow I envisioned children in the slums to be different than children in America. I expected them to have so little they would gratefully take whatever they were given. I expected them to play together nicely. My bad.

For the third day in a row I found myself acting as a referee of legos, splitting up fights and saying no just like I’ve done a thousand times in my all-but-expired, Western, babysitting career. These slum children are hardened. They have a sinful nature just like anyone else. They fight and hoard, whine for more, and steal when they think no one is looking. They are vicious over their legos, over anything they can claim and call their own.

I should’ve expected this. I should’ve anticipated that children who are given nothing by the world, who are forced to fight for anything they have—they would also fight over legos. I should’ve expected that these children would not always be easy to love.

Self-generated pity for others can only last so long. I can feel compassion for someone because they have so little, but unless this compassion stems from the heart of a big God—who’s love will not run out for his children no matter how cruel or selfish their hearts become—then I will quickly become frustrated and impatient. This I can tell after only three days. I think it is going to take all of the four months for me to learn what it means to let God love his children through me. More than that, I think it will take a lifetime.

I pray as I rise in the morning, as I travel in the jeep, as I walk the streets of the slums, as I sit barefoot in the dirt with aging women, that God will be patient and diligent with my heart. That he will show me his love until it is channeling through my eyes, my hands, my feet to whoever he chooses to reach.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Being in India means...

India crawls over you. It’s impossible to be an observer from the other side of a glass window. You carry her dust and her dirt in your hair, on your feet, with your hands, in your eyes. It sticks to your sweat in the heat. You step out of the shower and immediately it clings to you again.

The first few days here were relatively cool, lingering from the passing of a monsoon rain. Yesterday was hot. The kind of hot you can’t wash away. I sweated all day in the sun with the children in the slums. Then I went up to my room and lay on my bed perfectly still with the fan running full blast and even then there was sweat. Yesterday was the first day I noticeably realized—there is no air conditioning.

But you don’t complain.

You come back from the slums where families live in cast-off, cement drainage pipes, where a seventy-year-old woman’s feet have turned to leather from walking barefoot all her life, where the eggs we bring them may be their only protein all week, and you realize that your small stucco room with a fan and water for a cold shower is like a palace. And then you wonder, what do I call the home I left a week ago?

There are moments it’s hard (and more than just a few), when I want to sit down and complain, to act like an American. There are afternoons when I don’t want to get up from my nap and go tutor children in the school. I’m too tired. It’s too hot. I want to eat something because it tastes good, not because I need it to survive. But every time I stop myself. I have to remember why I came, that all my needs are met, that I have more than enough—even in the simplicity I’m adjusting to. So even though my strength is less than one hundred percent from eating small amounts of strange food and interrupted nights of sleep on a bed that feels more like a board, I get up an go, and I pray that God becomes my sufficiency. I pray that he teaches me what it means to serve, shows me what it is like to watch him move despite everything about myself.

Loving India is a choice I’ve been given to make. And I do.

Monday, August 9, 2010


I feel at home here, in this land half a world away from what I know. As I walk through the rough streets my feet are covered in dust, my scarf blows in the breeze behind my back, and I find new places awakening within my heart that have never stirred before. It’s a hard life here. People work for everything, needs follow like a constant shadow, but no one is in a rush. There is time to breath, time to pause, time to make room for a big God, time to ask this God to show up, and time to believe that He will.

Today I went out into the slums for the first time. Eight of us piled into a small jeep and bumped our way down a dirt road to a small village of makeshift huts and a few cement houses built on loan. The streets were muddy. Flies swarmed. A baby peed on the floor. But the children flocked at our arrival. Their smiles made me at home.

My first thought was to wonder what I was doing there. It wasn’t because of the filth. I looked at myself and thought, “what do I have to give?” I felt out of place, like an unwanted piece of furniture that everyone is bound to keep tripping over. But the women I was with were reassuring. They wanted me there. The children wanted me there. I played with them all morning while others trained girls in tailoring and met basic medical needs.

The truth is, there is not much I can offer to India. But there is a lot that my father can offer to the people that he loves. As we prayed this afternoon, the hearts of the women who do this day in and day out were another reminder to me of how much my father is the one to come and save and redeem and heal in our lives. There is nothing we can do to meet the needs of these people in the slums, but there is a lot we can do in making room for someone else who can.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Sounds of the Street

The sounds of the city streets are the last thing I hear at night, they rouse me in the morning with their cadenced rhythms and they filter through my dreams while I hover on the edge of sleep. The trucks rumble and grunt in their heaviness of passing. Breaks screech to avoid collision. The beeping horns of all the smaller cars and taxis layer a chorus in the background. There is one kind of horn that rises above the rest every so often. It’s sound hangs on in a dissonant rising and dipping of announcement. I do not yet know what kind of vehicle to link with this jingle. Together the river of traffic creates a thrum that never ceases, a constant throb of the city, like an echo of the people saying we are here, living, moving, we will not go away. There are birds not far outside my window cawing and twirpping their existence too, as if they are answering back to the living mass of traffic outside their door.

At first the clatter and verbalization is strange and invades my sleep like a stranger. However, though I have only been here for two nights, I can already sense my body slipping into its lilting tempo. I know that once these sounds are gone I will lie at night kept awake by the silence of their absence.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


I knew flexibility was going to be important in India; however, I needed it much sooner than expected.

My flight from Omaha to Chicago was supposed to leave at 10:39am. First the flight was delayed an hour. At 11:39 the entire plane was boarded and waiting for take-off when the pilot said they had found something wrong with two tires during inspection. They needed replaced and the parts had to be flown in. The repair would take hours, so the flight was canceled. We de-boarded and I spent over an hour in a line back at the ticket counter getting rerouted. Despite the frustration of so many people around me, I found my spirit curiously calm. As I worshipped and waited, I pray for God to make a way for me. An hour later I had changed airlines and flight plans.

The result was, despite the fact that I had already boarded a plane for the second time and had been “traveling” for 8 hours, I was still sitting at the Omaha airport waiting for take-off at 2 in the afternoon. But the flight did leave, and I had the last available seat. God had made a way.

Originally I was supposed to fly from Chicago to Frankfurt and then connect directly to Hyderabad. Now, I was taking a direct flight from Chicago to Delhi, but then had a ten=hour layover waiting for my domestic flight to Hyderabad. I was blessed by an American Indian family with the same two flights. We spent the layover together and it was nice to not feel so alone.

So now, 42 hours later, I find myself in Hyderabad. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the hour and half car ride from the airport.

Slums. Flats. Camels. Dogs. Babies cradled on the backs motorcycles. Muslim women shrouded in black veils. Cows in the road. Four lanes of cars squeezing into two. Brightly colored saris. A woman in veils driving a motorcycle with an ipod nano strapped to her hip. Temples. Our car stopping an inch from collision; the driver says, “that happens around here.” Advertisements. One reads, “Happiness for sale. Up to 51% off.”

India. I have so many questions for you, but for now I am content just to be here, knowing God has made a way. My goal this evening—to stay awake a few hours longer so that hopefully I will sleep through the night.