Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Mosque Experience

Saturday night I attended an open house at a mosque here in Portland, Oregon.

Before Saturday night, I had only been in contact with Muslims in India. Most memorably in a medical clinic after the tsunami when a village imam (priest) allowed some very sick women and children to come to our jungle clinic.

I remember feeling so very sorry for these ladies, scared to death and dressed head to toe in their black jilbabs accented with wool mittens and socks. Nothing showed but their eyes. And it was 115 degrees in the blaring sun.

After some pantomiming, they let down their veils and we shared
pleasantries and took photos before proceeding with the examinations.

It was an uncomfortable encounter at first, but I soon realized that they
were moms just like me and they would do anything to heal their sick
children - including allowing Christians to help them. That experience
piqued my curiosity about this mysterious faith.

I had read articles about witnessing to and praying for the Muslim
world, but I didn't even know a Muslim! How could I reach them if I didn't
know any?

Last week I received an invitation to an inter-faith open house at a local
mosque. I have to admit, I was a little nervous to go. I wasn't sure what
I was exposing myself to but I went - prayed up and ready to learn.

The members of this congregation are Suni. We were allowed to sit on
chairs in the main service with the men taking their position on the floor. We quietly observed their sincere and ritualistic worship.

The women of their congregation remained in their curtained off area
behind us.

There was a reading from the Qu'ran and a male member of the
mosque gave a talk on a Muslim's obligation to serve his fellow man. He
told personal stories of the sacrifices his family has made in Pakistan in
order to serve Allah and reach hurting people.

As I looked around the room, I realized the severity of my own
stereotyping of what I thought a Muslim looked like. Although there were
many in the room that had the traditional dark skin and manicured facial
hair, there were also blonde-haired, blue-eyed, white as me Caucasians -
including the imam (priest)! I'm really exposing my ignorance here - but that was
eye-opening for me!

After the service we were invited to "open the fast" as they have been
observing Ramadan. We shared an excellent meal (reminded me a lot of
Indian food) and good conversation. At our table we had Christians, Jews
and Muslims who all engaged in an open dialogue about the commonalities
and differences in our faiths.

I learned a lot from the experience. Before last Saturday I could not say
that I personally knew even one Muslim. Now I am on my way to developing
relationship with several. It is, I believe, the start of an exciting

Nest week I am off to India again with an amazing group of ladies! We will be spending a day in Hyderabad where the Muslim population is close to 70%. This time, as I observe them in the mosques, at Charminar, shopping in the markets (which is how I captured the photo above), I go with greater understanding.

Charminar - one of the 7 Wonders of India is a 400 year-old mosque

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Taste of Recovery

Eating is a fundamental part of every day life. It's weird to have someone living in your house that doesn't eat. At least not in the traditional sense.

For the last 3 months Lance has been enjoying his meals through a drip bag and feeding tube. It makes meal times a little weird.

His taste buds have been fried from the radiation and his throat is still recovering from April's surgery. When everything tastes like paper and burns when you swallow - the feeding tube is a life-saver, literally.

Lance is obsessed with food. He surrounds himself with cook books and watches a lot of Food Network. He has been cooking for me, on a regular basis, all of the things that he longs to eat. Thus my hips found 10 of the 40 pounds he lost!

However, tonight for the first time, he took a bite of the mondo burrito he made for me and lo and behold - flavor! Not a lot - but he can taste salt, sour and a little essence of re-fried beans!

This is a milestone as we have been assured that his taste will return after some time and after feeling so rotten and tasting nothing for so long - this is a bright light at the end of the tunnel!

Last weekend our daughter renewed her vows to her hubby Kyle, with baby Lily in tow. It was a beautiful reminder of the sweet life that we have and the years of love and wonder that lie ahead - and we know Lance will be able to enjoy it all - and eat his way through every moment!

Saturday, June 25, 2011


I actually matched the room. The 'Tropical Paradise' theme for the event I attended last night had me scrambling for ideas on just what to wear.

"Business or Cocktail attire", the invitation said. "Geez!", I moaned to myself. "Every pound that Lance has dropped in the last 3 months, has found its way to my hips and thighs! What I am possibly going to wear?"

I scanned the closet and settled on a shimmery light teal Tahari suit and then remembered that I won a beautiful necklace at an auction last fall and had yet to wear it. The necklace and matching earrings included teal and white crystal beads and a large silver starfish.

The "size 8" tag mocked me as I pulled the skirt off the hanger. I quickly reached for a pair of hose. "Dang, why did I buy 'light control' when clearly I am in need of something more industrial?" I shimmied into the hose and, thank God, the suit fit...I had to suck it in all night, but it fit fine.

When I arrived, I met several people in the lobby of the Hilton who stopped me and said, "Wow, you match the room perfectly!" Sure enough, from the centerpieces to the menu cards my teal suit with pearly off-white shoes and starfish accessories were a perfect match. Who'd-a-thunk? I sucked in my stomach a little more, pulled my shoulders back and suddenly felt a little slimmer.

My friend Midge was the honoree last night as the incoming President of Meeting Professionals International (MPI), Oregon Chapter. A wonderful association I belonged to for several years starting in the late 90's, and gave me so much more than educational meetings and networking. I built some life-long friendships that I cherish to this day.

When Midge gave her acceptance speech last night I had no idea that she would talk about how our meeting through MPI changed her life. In 2005, after I had left the association to work in missions, I was invited to come to a monthly meeting to share about my experience doing tsunami relief. That speech spurred Midge on to take charge of her destiny and she has now been to India twice. Once on a team with me and most recently leading a team of her own.

I felt so honored to be mentioned as a catalyst for her change. I admire this woman so much and love the way that I have 'ruined' her life.

Ruining lives is a goal for me. I am talking ruined in a good way. My dad ruined me when he took me to India for the first time in 2003. This trip I am leading next week will be my 14th time back to a country that has occupied my thoughts, changed my career path and has challenged me to live more transparently and earnestly for Christ.

I am ruined over people who are lost, hurting, ignorant of a God who desperately wants a relationship with Him. Ruined over those of us in the states that have blinders on and cannot see the way that we as Christians have let our country slip away from us. Ruined that we live for self and selfish gain, most of us ignoring the fact that, as Christians, we are the most gifted, talented, amazing human beings on the planet. BECAUSE WE HAVE CHRIST LIVING ON THE INSIDE OF US!

I am not saying I am doing it all right, or have arrived at any kind of super-spiritual destination. But my spirit and soul are awake, concerned, motivated and moved to action to stay ruined over things that God is ruined over.

What are you ruined over? Your unsaved family members? A wayward teen living under your roof? The homeless living in downtown Portland? Women and children caught in the horrors of human trafficking? Your co-worker in an abusive relationship?

Only when we are using our gifts and talents to serve others will be truly be happy and know the heart of God.

Tell me what you are ruined over and I will commit to praying over you and your personal mission and that you, too, will begin to ruin lives...for good.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Island in the Storm

The first time I went to the island was an adventure unto itself. A 17 hour train ride, followed by a 3 hour van excursion, which ended at the shore of a gorgeous river where we were greeted by a canoe with a small motor. The canoe took 2 hours to get us to the shore of the island (mainly because the motor quit working half-way there).

But we weren't done yet. A newly fashioned bullock cart, pulled by two massive water buffaloes, met us in the water so we could step directly from boat to cart.

We rode for another 30 minutes across the dunes dotted with tall grass into the jungle.

A journey I will never forget and cannot wait to do again.

The people of the island are cautious, welcoming, curious and beautiful. I have always thought that Indians were some of the most beautiful people on the planet. The purity of living in this remote place shows on their faces. Especially the children. Unmarred by X-Box and IPods, they live and work, play and learn in the elements.

That day, after the long journey, we were treated to a welcoming ceremony. There are about 400 people who live here and almost all were there to greet us with a shower of marigold peddles, songs and hand shakes. Followed by an incredible meal of fresh fish curry and bananas for dessert.

We spent the day admiring their crops and sitting with the elders to discuss their needs. India Partners, the organization I work for, sent me to learn more about extending our partnership with this community. We had already built a 2-story community center, helped with agricultural projects and they had been great partners.

These people are hard workers. They were seeking help and improvements to ease their daily living. They had been devastated by recurring floods that wipe out their crops and livestock and destroyed their simple mud and stick homes. I asked why they did not leave the island and find a new home. Their answer was quick and simple.

This is their home. They own the land. Their ancestors have lived there for centuries and being from the untouchable caste, they had no other options for property ownership. They had no choice but to make it work, or live under a tarp on the side of the road in a town 60 miles away. No, they were not interested in moving.

After a wonderful afternoon of conversation and brainstorming about a passenger boat, a new school and water pumps for their crops, and some not so practical ideas, it was time to leave. I had 10 pages of their thoughts and dreams tucked away in my tote bag, and a great sense of responsibility in my heart.

One of my fondest memories of the visit was the children. We had such fun taking photos, singing action songs and making pantomime communication. The girl in the red sari and the laughing boys are etched in my mind.

As we pulled away on the bullock cart, the sun beating down on our backs, I felt a sudden urge to burst out "Just hear those sleigh bells jingle and ring-ting-tinglaling too!" I got to laughing so hard at myself singing 'Sleigh Ride' in the middle of the jungle on an island...I'm such a dork that way...it was hilarious watching the islanders laugh with me and probably at me while I sang a 'good-bye' song.

One week after we left, the monsoons hit. I cried when I got the news via email. Their gorgeous crops were destroyed, mud and stick huts washed away and 9 children perished. I wondered about the girl in the red sari and the laughing boys. Were they still there?

In 3 weeks I will find out.

Friday, May 27, 2011

No Go for Go-Around

Sometimes we get a free pass. Our prayers are immediately answered in the way we thought was best and the lesson wasn't too painful or too costly. We get to experience grace and mercy in its ultimate form. It feels good to get a 'go-around'.

In other seasons of our lives we endure a 'go-through'. The mountain is not moving, the fire gets hotter and the only way to get where you need to be is put on your big boots and go on a serious mountaineering mission.

I know, without a doubt, we have the A-Team praying over Lance's cancer. Seriously! All around the world from India to Africa, from Europe to the U.S., we have God's faithful all over our case. And we are not seeing a miracle. We do not even have a best case scenario. We are still on the mountain climb and the switchbacks are getting steeper.

I know, without a doubt, we have the faith for a miracle!

In my collective faith experience I have personally witnessed MANY instant healings. I'm not talking about a headache being cured, or a stomach ache going away (although I've seen that, too!).

I am talking about the lame walking and the blind seeing! I can tell you an hours worth of stories about the blind getting their sight returned!

It is not for lack of faith in Lance's case. My spirit is settled with that.

From the beginning of our journey I have had a sense in my spirit that we were a 'No go for a go-around'. This experience is one of deep emotional and spiritual refining.

As we prayerfully consider each step, like a rock climber examines each and every hand and foothold, we, too, examine each and every thought, attitude, emotion and treatment option.

As I get ready to return to India at the end of June (more on that soon!) I continue to wrestle with leaving Lance right in the midst of his radiation and chemo treatments. And as much as I wrestle with being gone, I also rejoice in the fact that my absence gives others the chance to step up on the mountain to help while I am continuing the work God has called me to do.

We often equate the "mountain top experience" as the ultimate joy - the best and most gratifying times in our life and the "valley experience" as our ultimate low.

I have to confess that I am beginning to discover how to stay on the plain. Where the valleys rise and the mountains lower and your foot hold is strong and sure no matter the terrain in front of you.

The 'go-through' is not so bad when your eyes are on the 'perfecting and finishing of your faith'. Stepping on the mountain, using your faith muscles to flatten it, is extremely empowering. By the Spirit of God living in me, I am more than a conqueror and so are you!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Worth the Trouble

I thought I would be a better blogger. Really, I did. But it's a little tough to keep up the pace when I have so many other plates spinning.

I have had this recurring vision of my life. It consists of about 10 white plates spinning on long poles on a pitch-black stage. There are bright beams of light directed over each plate. They spin and spin and eventually, one or more at a time will begin to wobble.

The other part of the vision is me running from plate to plate. As each one wobbles, I run. And it can't be that the plates next to each other wobble. Oh, no. They have to be plate number 1 and plate number 10 that are needing my attention.

"I am so tired." I lamented to Lance as I stood in the bathroom curling my un-curlable hair as he sat on the lid of the toilet listening. (Earlier he walked in while I was getting ready with my breakfast in hand and a feeding tube running out of his nose. He made toast and eggs. I didn't ask him to make breakfast, he just wanted to bless me. And he did.)

But as soon as the words fell out of my mouth, guilt fell over my mind. How could I complain when the person I hold most precious on earth is fighting cancer? How selfish. It's only the 11th plate - that's all - one more plate that I can keep spinning and it's worth the effort.

I had a revelation the other day. Hit me like a ton of bricks. Lance and me, we're worth the trouble. If Satan can spend so much time and energy on reeking havoc in our lives, when there are sooo many others he can bother, we must be worth it.

I could sit here and type for another 3 hours straight and tell you story after story of how our family has been tormented by tough stuff. And the more we are tormented, the deeper we dig in our heels. The closer Lance and I get as a couple. The more we love God. The more we want to serve and be a good witness for the Christian faith.

And this cancer? Well, this cancer has done nothing short of bringing about a closeness in our family that nothing else could accomplish.

I am never one to taunt the enemy but if we are so worth the trouble, bring it on. Because it means that we are taking ground - ground that is rightfully ours and has been stolen from us. And if the only way to get it back is to fight - we'll fight - we'll keep the plates spinning - we'll honor God and spread His fame in the land we've been given. It's worth the trouble!

In Job 2:10, Job answers his complaining wife with a good question:

"Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Lance and me, we are good in adversity. We've learned to handle it well and obviously, there must be good reason. Because Satan thinks we're worth the trouble and that's a compliment.

I am beginning to understand what James meant when he said, "Count it all joy when you encounter trials of many kinds." (James 1:2) It means not only the perfecting of our faith, but the understanding of our value. Just as we are valued in God's eyes, we are valued in the eyes of our enemy as a great spoil of war.

I intend to stand strong and be on the receiving end of the spoils! It's worth the trouble.

Have to show you the latest picture of our sweet grand baby, Lily. She's coming for a sleep over this weekend. Can't wait, she's the absolute best 'spoil' we've ever received! :o)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Leg 3

Ever been on an international flight that has multiple legs? You start out feeling pretty excited and don't mind getting up at 3:30 am to catch your 6:00 am flight to Chicago that connects you to Frankfurt that takes you to Mumbai. Once you step on the plane going to Mumbai, you're just about out of that smile-inducing adrenaline that got you started.

Lance and I, we're on leg 3 with an untold number of flights ahead of us.

We started out the week full of fight-the-good-fight energy. Ready to tackle our cancer and everyone else's at OHSU! Today we both feel tired and irritable. He's been working hard to get better and I've just been working hard.

I wish I could say I've kept my smile on and felt complete peace and comfort. I waffle between "We can do this!" and "What are we going to do?"

Outside the hospital walls my world continues like nothing happened. Life goes on whether we are fighting cancer or not.

I can't help but say, "we have cancer". It may be Lance's body but it has absolutely rocked my world, too.

We are anxiously awaiting the results of the pathology test. The report will determine our next flight plan.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 has been running through my mind all day.

8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

As irritated and tired as we are, as nervous about the flight plan as we may be, we can NEVER be crushed, NEVER in despair, we are NOT abandoned. We may be struck with cancer but it CANNOT destroy us.

He is in charge of the flight plan and we just need to sit back and trust our pilot. Just like we do on any flight. I am never handed the stick, no one expects me to read the charts, we sit back and enjoy the flight with our seat belts securely fastened until the Pilot says we are free to move about the cabin.

Destination: Health and Wholeness