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Rose Sniffers Anonymous – Making Margin to Stop and Smell the Roses

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Rose Sniffers Anonymous – Making Margin to Stop and Smell the Roses

Stop. Just stop for a moment and take a long, deep breath. Do you smell it? The dewy grass crushed beneath your feet, the damp earth under your fingers as you lean back on your hands, the tangy willow bark as it arches over the gently burbling creek. The velvety petals of the prairie rose tickle your nose as you pull the branch down to sniff the sweet almost cinnamony fragrance of the delicate bloom. Breathe in. Savor it.

Welcome, fellow rose sniffer.

I’ve just invited you onto one of my favorite places on earth, a little spot by the creek on the farm where I grew up. The place I went to dream, to process experiences, to prepare for adventures, to pray, to find hope and to write.

“Hi. My name is Mina,”
(All echo, “Hi Mina”)
“…and I’m a rose sniffer. Or at least I want to be.”

OK, I know that’s not how it’s supposed to go, but this blog is a place where I (and I hope you too, dear reader) can learn to stop and smell the roses. Even if it’s just a sniff, because sometimes that’s all we can manage. But at least it’s a start.

It’s those rose scented moments– the earthy, everyday ones, the ethereal, sacred ones and even the old rotting ones– that make up a lifetime.

How often do you pause, quit the hustle and bustle and breathe deeply?

“Be still, and know that I am God!”  ~Psalm  46:10a

Do you make a habit of reserving margin in your life to be still?

Do I?

I’ve learned over the last few months what an intentional choice this is– the rose sniffing, the being still– it has to be. For me this means scheduling a special time into my day, and then leaving some breathing space in the rest of the schedule. If I don’t intentionally choose to clear a margin in my life for pausing and being still, it won’t happen.  Just ask any elder and they’ll tell you, life goes by in a flash.  I don’t want to turn around and realize I’ve missed it.  Do you?

So just pause for a second. Breathe deeply. Smell that? It’s the scent of adventure, perspective, hope.

 

I want to learn from you! How do you make time in your life to be still before god?
The Greatest Adventure

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The Greatest Adventure

The sun had barely risen over the cacti and scrubby bushes of northern Mexico. I just hoped, as I stumbled down the dusty road in the yet dim light of the hesitantly rising sun, that I wouldn’t encounter any scorpions. Sleep clung to my eyes and brain like decaying cobwebs.

Why had I ever committed to this thing in the first place?

Oh yeah.  It was God’s idea.

That thought trudged around and around my mind as I sat perfectly still for my sister-in-law to paint my face. The baggy suit slipped on easily, and she tied a pair of headphones around my waist. I looked in the mirror.

Ridiculous. I looked like a clown. It was perfect.

How could I get out of doing this? But I’d committed. It was too late now. Trying to ignore the snickering of some of the others in the van, I stared out the window and wished it was over with. We arrived. The guards stared, ushered me into the cubicle and frisked me for contraband. I didn’t blame them, who knows what I could have been hiding in that preposterous getup. Then they let me in.

The first part of the service took about an eternity and a half and I sweated in the glare of the sun and the terror of anticipation until I was sure my face paint was ruined.

But the moment came at last. I walked out into the middle of that courtyard, surrounded on all sides by of hundreds of Mexican criminals, every brown eye fixed on me. It was so quiet that I was sure everyone could hear the thunderous beating of my heart.

I started out by juggling oranges. Before long they were rolling to the far reaches of the prison. I twirled batons. The clatter of the wood echoed deafeningly in the silence. I snatched up the unicycle. A moment of tottering success, and I fell. I tried again, and fell. Again, and I sprawled on the concrete in defeat.

That was it.

That was the plan. That was what God had told me to do. Go out there… and fail.

In front of hundreds of men, my ministry team, and my family…fail.

Why? I have no idea.

I was barely sixteen then and that day was a pivotal point in my life. My family has been involved in some kind of ministry or another at every stage of my life and my parents have gone to great lengths to involve me and my siblings in our ministry as a family.

I have loved Jesus since before I can remember. He has always been my Friend. He has always been my Savior. I have always known I was a sinner, I have always known I needed His blood to cover my sins and make me acceptable to God. I have always believed that He came into the world, born of a virgin; that He died on the cross for my sin and the sin of the whole world; and that He rose from the dead on the third day.

There has been a sweet confidence throughout my life that Jesus has saved me and that when I die I will go to be with Him.

I mean seriously, I was baptized when I was five.

But until that day in the Mexican prison, I hadn’t fully committed myself to Jesus as my Master and Lord. On that day, I made the choice to obey Him no matter what–even if I look like a complete fool; even if, for the life of me, I cannot understand why; even if it’s scary and even if it is dangerous.

I’m still making that choice. Since that time I was a clown, it’s gotten harder.  The choices have gotten bigger, the faith I’ve needed stronger.

 

While there are still the “little” daily choices to humble myself and obey, there are bigger even more life changing ones like leaving the only home I’ve ever known and moving across the ocean with my family.

 

It’s a daily act of surrendering myself to God’s will.  And let me tell you, I have certainly not learned this lesson fully yet. 

But it’s incredible what our God can do with someone who is willing to shakily step out onto the frontier of what they know and are comfortable with and trust God completely.  It may not make sense, it may be terrifying, and it may even seem useless, but to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit is the most glorious adventure I know.

 

What have you been learning about faith in your own life?  I’d love to hear your story!  comment below!
The Beggar’s Smile – A Reflection on My Approach to Poverty

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The Beggar’s Smile – A Reflection on My Approach to Poverty

Light bulbs dangled precariously over the multitude of food stalls crowding the plaza.  Each illuminated glossy candies, perfectly iced cakes, heaps of noodles flecked with vegetables, shish kabobs dripping with spicy sauce, piles of fried chicken, pork and seafood, and tubs of curry.  My every sense was assaulted, nose filled with a thrilling array of scents, tongue ablaze with spice and flavor.  My feet throbbed from walking from stall to stall to stall and my stomach ached with fullness.

It’s funny how in the places of opulence I forget that there is want.  When my belly is filled with good things, I don’t think of those that are starving just down the street. When I’m comfortably tucked away in my bed, under my blankets, the family around the corner living under a tarp exposed to the elements is far from my mind.

In that food choked plaza, I walked quickly (maybe waddled would be a better word) to rejoin my family after a foray to the spicy veggie shish kabob stall with a friend.  As I passed through a narrow, darker area of the plaza, a man much shorter than me caught my eye and smiled at me.  It was one of the most beautiful smiles I’ve ever seen.  My steps slowed as I took in the radiance and sweetness of his expression and I instinctively returned the smile.  Belatedly, I realized that he was standing not on his feet but on the stubs of his legs missing from just below his hips, a scuffed cup in his hands, a hopeful sparkle in his brown eyes. My smile didn’t fade, but it felt cheap and fake as I walked briskly past.

I charged onward, pushing down the familiar conflicted feelings, wondering if I should have paused, given him something, said something.  It was then I noticed my friend was no longer walking behind me. I turned around and saw her bending to greet the man, speaking a few gentle words to him and dropping a few coins into his cup. Shame washed over me, and I turned and rushed onward, hiding my burning face from my compassionate friend.  This feeling was so familiar, the confusion, the doubt, and the shame.

I remembered the grubby face of a child peering in at me through the taxi window in Delhi while we waited at a stoplight.  I thought of the exhausted mother holding her eerily silent child outside a temple, bending to touch my feet and beseeching me with her eyes saying, “Food, food, food,” over and over again.  I recalled a flock of Indian children, crowding around us in the bazaar pawing at our clothes and begging for something.  An old man sitting by the Walmart exit, holding a cardboard sign asking for a little money or some work.  All faces of people I didn’t help.  All people that I turned away, and sometimes even physically pushed away from me.

I reviewed all my excuses, all my reasons for turning away: they probably wouldn’t use the money well, and even if they did it wouldn’t help them in the long run.  Maybe they’ve made terrible decisions in their lives, and they don’t deserve help (yes, I actually thought that).  But even if they did “deserve it,” I thought, they may not even get to keep the money I give them.  I shuddered as I remembered hearing about the begging syndicates (cue Slumdog Millionaire music), and how I’d been told by countless people not to give to beggars at all.  I thought of the books I’d read and the courses I’d taken that addressed poverty, outlining its causes and how to help… the books I’d read that had also advised not to give money to beggars.  But none of the excuses and none of the advice or wisdom helped me in that moment of suspended time as my eyes locked with those of the smiling man in Meechok Plaza.

There’s one thing I remembered in that moment, Jesus’ words that have been haunting me ever since.

I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
Matthew 25:42-45

So, wait…that’s Jesus I ignored.  Jesus, to whom I refused the few coins I could easily spare. That was Jesus I walked away from.  Jesus that I physically pushed away from me.

Which leads me to the burning question:  what can I do to help those in need?  I can’t help every child knocking at the taxi window, every widow begging outside the temple, every crippled person I pass while shopping.  But what can I do?  What does God expect of me?

Sometimes I help, sometimes I give.  But I’m ashamed at how little I do when I do decide to assist in some way. The rest of our meal to the boy pressing his nose against the restaurant window, a bed for the family sleeping on the dirt under a tarp, hiring an auto rickshaw to get a sick man to the hospital.  But it never seems like enough, it never seems like it will effect any lasting change in their lives.  How could my little act of charity make their very difficult lives any better in the long run?

And then I remember the story of the Good Samaritan.  A man who took care of the problem in front of him.  He didn’t go looking for it, but along his way, he encountered someone who was hurting and considered it his duty to help. He was prepared, and he made time. He didn’t think it was someone else’s job, but he also didn’t think he had to help fix everything that was wrong in that person’s life.  He helped with that immediate need.  He sacrificed his time, energy, money and comfort.  He did what he could.

That’s what I need to remember that when the crushing magnitude of poverty presses down on my spirit and squeezes out my hope, when my heart grows calloused to all the pain I constantly see, and when I feel so helpless to affect any change in the world around me.

Maybe I can make a difference for one.

Maybe I can bring a little light, a little hope, a little love into someone’s life.  If only for a moment.  Maybe that’s all I’m supposed to do, especially when it’s all I can do.

Maybe God will use one act of kindness, one gesture of love, one effort to help to change a life, or at least to plant or water some seeds of hope.

Maybe it won’t be convenient, comfortable or even safe.  Maybe it will take sacrifice, not just of my money but of my time, energy, relationships, and love.

I don’t know the answer.  I can only hope and pray that as I grow closer to God’s heart he will give me his eyes to see every person I come across the way that He does.  All I can pray is for a deep sensitivity to his Holy Spirit, and for wisdom and discernment to deal with those I encounter on the road from Jerusalem to Jerico.

And I can pray as the Brandon Heath song goes:

Give me Your eyes for just one second
Give me Your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me Your love for humanity
Give me Your arms for the broken-hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach
Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten
Give me Your eyes so I can see

 

What is your heart toward the poor in your community?  How is God leading you to love them as Jesus does?

Six Yards of Cloth

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Six Yards of Cloth

“It’s time to get up, it’s time to get up,” scratches out the robotic voice of my alarm.

Ugh.  I open my eyes to the blinding gold of the morning sunlight streaming in through metal bars and wire mesh on my window.  The crickets are already at it even this early.  It’s almost deafening, but I tune it out until it’s just white noise in the background.  Horns blare from the snake-like roads down the side of the mountain. A rollicking Punjabi beat pulses from somewhere in the distance. Yep, I’m in India.  I had forgotten for a second.

I flop out of my bed like some kind of dying fish, and my bleary eyes alight on the sari I laid out so carefully last night.  Oh, yeah, it’s Sunday.

Ugh.  I groan.  I don’t wanna wear a sari today.  I’m exhausted.  I’ve got a headache.  I feel gross.  I’m fat.  It’s such a pain to put on.  And do I really want to hike to church in that?

Another voice intrudes in the midst of my whining: Everybody really appreciates it when you wear their traditional clothing.  It really blesses them.  Embrace their culture.  Love them.  Besides, you do look really nice in it.  C’mon, you can tie it in only twenty minutes, get a move on.

Grumbling, I tie on the petticoat and button up the blouse.  Why do they have to make it so ridiculously tight?!  I shake out the six yards of vibrant cloth and try to find the right end to start.

Once ‘round, tucking whole way; around again, one tuck; then grab the farthest end and start pleating.  After about six tries I’m ready to scream and tear the stupid, ugly thing apart.  It just won’t come out right!  But because I’m stubborn and maybe just to spite the rotten piece of fabric, I keep trying.

It takes what seems like hours to finally get it right and by that time I’m tottering on the edge of a mental breakdown.  So you can imagine what I feel when I try to pin it in place and the perfectly pleated pallu slithers from my fingers and falls completely apart.  Yet by some miracle I get it redone and pinned over my shoulder.  Then I wrap it around me like I’m a colorful Indian burrito, and start pleating the slack in the front. This also takes multiple tries to get the pleats even and neat, then pin and tuck and pin and fix and tug.  But at last it is finished.

Then comes the crisis of modesty and conscience about whether to let that swath of stark-white

midriff show or not.  In this culture, it is perfectly acceptable.  But my Montanan, conservative home school mind can’t quite accept the idea of showing MINE.  Even so, I decide to wear my sari the Indian way.  It’s getting easier to do that… a fact for which I’m grateful, yet it is also somewhat unsettling.

Yes, the hike to church is difficult (especially in the sandals that I, like an idiot, chose to wear), the folds are tough to manage, and my headache hasn’t gone anywhere.  But on finally getting there, I can see on the faces of my Indian brothers and sisters that they are pleased.

There is a dignity and a special femininity and grace in the sari.  There’s a connection with the women of this land who know what a challenge it is, and appreciate my effort.  There’s an openness and warmth in their eyes that touches my heart and makes it all worth it.

But really, I just hope that even through all my silliness and vanity and my obsession with ME, they can see Jesus and His Love.  Because, no matter how often I forget, that’s all that really matters.

So Lord-willin’, I’m wearing it again tomorrow.

“…clothe yourselves in…. patience.”

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”  Colossians 3:12,14

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Alfalfa, Nostalgia and Memories

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Alfalfa, Nostalgia and Memories

Memories.  So much more than images, far beyond mere visual recollection.  Memories are emotion, sensation, sound, scent, flavor.

Driving down the dusty dirt road under the cloudless September blue sky.  A full load of hay strapped down on the back of the gray-yellow farm truck, weighing us down, forcing us to go at a leisurely pace.  The musty leather of our work gloves mingles with alfalfa and fragrant clover filling the cab of the truck and our nostrils with the pleasing country scent.

The wind has been blowing, my lips are chapped and dry.  As I slather on some Burt’s Bee’s lip balm the peppermint tastes sweet and feels deliciously cool on my sore lips. Alfalfa has worked it’s way into our clothes, itching and irritating in awkward places.  We wriggle uncomfortably but there’s not much room with all six of us crammed into the cab of the truck.  I giggle noticing that the pockets of my plaid work shirt are full of hay.  I feel like there’s a whole bale of it in my nose and can’t stop sneezing.  There’s an ever widening hole in my pants where I use my knee to help me shove the bale onto the truck and my skin is raw where it’s been scraped against the rough bales.

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The windows are open and the autumn breeze flows over us, sweet and wild, cool and refreshing.  Muscles ache with weariness.  Heaving seventy-pound, scratchy, bristly hay bales to the bed of the truck three feet from the ground is not easy especially when some of us aren’t much bigger than the bales themselves.  It feels like I’ve walked twenty miles, following the truck between row after row of bales scatted throughout the field, jogging to the the next one as the truck gets close, heaving it up and then trying to beat the truck to the next bale to do it again.  Exhilaration tinges exhaustion though, we did good today.  Eight loads isn’t bad and it only leaves a couple more for tomorrow.

The day is breathtaking, the mountain crystal clear, the air fresh and just a little sharp.  Our conversation as we drive slowly back to the farm ranges from bathroom humor to deep Biblical discussions to what’s for dinner to solemn admonitions and (mostly) good-natured teasing.

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This is hay season. This is autumn in Montana.

But this is past.

I guess that’s part of growing up, isn’t it?  The leaving I mean.  Things just don’t stay the same, no matter how good they are.  Things change.

It hurts.  Closing a chapter, ending an era, whatever you call it.  It’s like a death.  That time has passed away.  You can’t get it back.

That’s what I felt as we drove away from the farm on November 9, 2013 headed for India for what I thought was only six months.

But now looking back, that moment was even more profound than what I had thought.  At the time I knew somehow that things would never return to the way they were.  Good thing God didn’t let me in on the whole story or I would have run away screaming.  (And hey, I still don’t know the whole story yet… leaves me wondering what God’s got up his sleeve…)

Eight months in India and it was more, oh, so much more than I ever could have imagined.

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And yet that season is now over as well.

I find myself pining.  Pining for Montana, for the freedom to just leave, step outside the back door and walk for as long as I want, to be utterly alone and safe that way; for the mountains, lakes, creeks, trees, snow and beauty of my beloved home state.

I find myself pining for India, the breathless beauty and dizzying height of the Himalayan hill stations, the sight of the white caps, or the mystery of the mist shrouding everything, my Indian clothes, my Indian home, the raw intensity, and even the chaotic noise of India.

And then I wake up and slap myself.  The wisest guy who ever lived had something to say to me, “Say not thou, what is the cause that former days were better than these? for thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this.”  I’m pretty sure he said it that way, KJV style, but more pointedly, “Don’t long for the ‘good old days.’  This is not wise.”  (Ecclesiastes 7:10 NLT)

Yeah.  Mina, quit your whinin’ and pinin’.

Savor the memories, but don’t live in them.  Miss home but not to the point of never settling here.

Here in Thailand where I have the privilege to live for a season.

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Yes, those are fried insects. And yes, I ate them.

Seasons shift, chapters close, eras end.  This is life.  This is growing up.  It’s painful, it’s heart-wrenching.

But I have memories.  I have the chance to occasionally indulge in nostalgia and remember the smell of alfalfa and the itch of the hay in my clothes.

But most importantly I have my family to make new memories, to live life with.

Thank God for memories.

Thank God for the frustrating, grueling, thrilling, shaping right now of living.

And thank God for mystery, for shrouding the future, leaving me wondering, hoping, anticipating.