I’ve been mesmerized by this word that keeps cropping up on me. In songs, in my readings, in my soul…FIERCE.
Fierce by definition (from several dictionaries) is as follows: 1) wild or menacing in appearance.2) violent in force and intensity. 3) aggressive in temperament. 4) menacingly wild, savage, or hostile;strong.
I have always been enraptured by this word. I have so wanted to be fierce, to be wild and strong and intense. I always wanted to be impenetrable, unhurtable because well… hurting is not something anyone willingly wants to go through. Yet, I’ve always managed to fall short of that. I’ve always managed to be the Lilly that is vulnerable, weak, and powerless in so many things.
But fierce is what God is. I have discovered in my twenty something years that have felt like fifty something that He is the one who can, who is impenetrable, unbreakable, strong, and He is willing and ready to help little me. Honestly, I have no idea why. I don’t see what a perfect God can possibly see and want in someone so broken and shattered that He’d go the extra mile to make sure I knew who it was that got me out of my pits, the conundrums of X,Y, and Z called my life.
All I know is that when there was no way, no possible way of getting myself out of whatever the bind was, and I got on my knees and said ‘that’s it, I’m done. I’ve lost. I’ve failed, everything is going to fall apart”, He was the one who made a way. And it was always such a way that I knew no other human force could create.
But I had to get to that point, the one that said “there is literally nothing I can do. There is really no more in my tank and the only thing that’s going to save me is NOT ME.” That is when God is at his best. That’s when his arm is long enough to reach. Well it’s always long enough, but if we’re not reaching out to grip it, He has nothing to take hold of to pull us out of the mire. When we are helpless, thats when we discover the power of God.
That is when we discover He is nothing like us. He is so extravagant in his love, his mercy, we are so undeserving in this thing called grace that it’s not human. He doesn’t think human. He doesn’t do human. He does extraordinary. He is the definition of love, which these days is a common currency word but I’ve come to find is really two fold when relating to God. His Love =affectionate devotion.
I tend to forget, He’s NOT actually human. He’s God and nothing I can conceive will ever come close to understanding his reality, what love means in his dictionary.
From what I have experienced, definition 1 is dead on. His love is ‘wild or menacing in appearance’. Not in actuality. It’s hard to put into words, this feeling of raging love: a feeling of joy, awe, fear of what this is going on, of mattering so significantly when I feel so insignificant to a God I can’t come close to understanding- all at once.
When I’ve failed, have no strength or power or will of my own to help me out of this predicament, all is hopeless. Yet, God brings in hope amid despair, courage amid the fear. It’s unrealistic and yet so real that it has happened. More than once. To me and to many others.
I think of this wild love as like a hurricane. As someone who grew up in south Florida home of the hurricane, pretty much yearly, well…summer storm takes on a whole new meaning. It’s one thing to look at TV footage of palm trees bending in the wind. It’s a whole other thing to be there in the thick of it, feeling the raging invisible winds push you back.
You feel the torrents going up and down, in circular motions, in fluctuating direction. You can’t see the wind, you can only see its effect. You see the trees bending, you feel the currents threatening to toss you aside. But when it comes to God, being rooted in him keeps you in place amid the wildness going on outside and all around you. You are firm in the hurricane because God’s love is Fierce and it roots us into the ground so we can be bent but not broken like the trees. His affectionate devotion carries us. We just have to say yes and not let fear keep us from it.
So when the storm rages REMEMBER…
It was that time of year again. The time to pledge, to pledge to the master laird, the landowner and the castle’s protector- Finn McIntosh. He, too, was one of the clan of McIntosh but his family was of McLure. Year after year had passed since his declared manhood at age 10, which was also the year of his first pledge. It was the year his father had perished. He’d come to castle McIntosh for protection and to learn. To learn the art of making a living, to also learn the art of making war. He’d pledged his fealty that year along with 3 others. His cousins. All McIntosh. All strong. All of one family, one people.
Out of loyalty he’d pledged. Out of devotion he’d taken the oath. Year after year he’d grown, herded the cattle, milked the cows, brushed the hoses, and fought. They’d trained in fighting everyday. Until each man, young and old felt their muscles tired enough to fall off the bone. He’d trained for battles yet to come… and then they pledged. He never understood why though. Why the need to pledge each year? He’d devoted himself body, mind, and heart to his clan, his kinfolk, his uncle the kind hearted master laird. He, Adair McLure, never considered going back on his pledge.
But this year, his 21st year, was different. In the span of less than one year he’d grown to hate. He’d grown to despise the name McIntosh. He despised the blood in his own veins and it ran cold. Ice cold. He’d grown dark inside himself, too dark to even look his master in the eye. Now he knew. He knew that one year made all the difference. Hell, just one day could change everything. A singular had done that for him. It was the day his father returned from the dead.
It had been the first day of the Hunt on the first of october. For one month the McIntosh clan hunted on their vast lands. 47 men from all across the country. Young and old. They spent each day from sunup to sundown out in the forest. The man with the largest prize, the trickiest kill would win the gold. A lump sum from the laird, but more importantly was the bragging rights. A year’s worth of bragging rights. Adair had arrived home to the annex cottage he singly inhabited on the outskirts of the castle. He arrived near twilight, covered in dirt, in blood, in grass. He was still smiling over his cousin’s joke as a momentary shadow passed the reflection of his mirror. He looked back but saw nothing.
“Is anyone there?” He called out the open window that reflected the day’s last light. He was met by no answer, so he grabbed his small axe as he headed toward the window. “I saw you. I know someone is there.” He called out fully expecting to see his McIntosh cousins come out laughing at his expense. For a moment nothing moved and then he heard it, a deep, radiating, yet familiar voice called out to him.
“You’ve so grown up, Adair, my son.” A tall strapping figure with a tangled beard came into full view of the open window. It was warm and night was setting in, the crickets chirping softly, but all feeling had gone out from Adair’s body.
“What sorcery is this? Who are you demon spirit?” He spat out barely understanding what his eyes were seeing. “My father has been dead some two decades.”
“Or perhaps that’s what the laird, my brother-in-law, wanted you to think.”
Adair tried to convince himself this was a moment of hallucination, a mere reflection after an exhausting day of Hunts, but there was no way to deceive what was truly before his eyes.
His father continued, “After all, I was presumed dead that very same day you were celebrated a man, or have you forgotten me already?”
It was those last 5 words that did the trick. After every long excursion his father had made when he was young, he always returned home and asked ‘have you forgotten me already?’. To which the young Adair would shout ‘No, what have you brought me da?” It was as if something inside his head rattled itself into place and he moved forward. “D…Da !” Adair breathed out. He ran towards the window and grabbed his father around the neck, the wall and sill between them.
That had been some four months passed. Four months he had been brooding, keeping in the anger, the murderous rage that was birthed the day he saw his father’s face in the window before his cottage. Now he had but 1 month to go until he had to make his pledge again. The hustle and bustle of the event no longer held sway over him. He no longer looked forward to it when all the clansmen came and pledged.
Adair knew either he had to flee the castle or make his pledge. Which he would choose only God Almighty knew. Everything had shattered within him that day. He could not understand how a brother could be out for the blood of his own kin, the husband of his sister. He could not understand how such malice and evil could be within a man to take in a boy only out of greed, to try and steal his land. If the laird thought McLure lands would ever be held by McIntosh then he was mistaken. Adair would be dead before that, dead well before.
And so the month passed into oblivion and Adiar found himself before the laird’s seat in line to pledge. Yes. He would pledge. He would pledge with as much venom and malice as was given him when his father had been taken from him unnecessarily. In time, though he reveled in thoughts to level the laird’s head with his sword.
In the tender twilight of converging Winter, there lies one of the last warm Autumn nights of 2017.
The World basks in the last glory of the day. In the distance the atmosphere is painted a rustic orange color fading into the antique blue of night and then into pallid grey soon turned black.
Night is falling and with it a Winter Brew. A conglomeration of crisp icy air turned fresh, the smell of spices baking into perfection, leaves turning fiery and smelling of glorious damp death. #TexasForever #TxAutumn
He left the house at half past 6 in the morning. Today was the day. The day of his freedom. He knew it would come one day. 40 years he’d carried it on his back. Fear. He’d carried it like a hero his sidekick, never too far behind. All these 40 years he’d paid his price for that one day, that one choice that he made. 40 years of fear. 40 years of hiding. 40 years running. He’d paid his demons well. So had they, his family. They paid for his sins too. Out of the four children he had, only one knew, the eldest, and even she didn’t fully comprehend.
His wife knew. Of course, she knew. There was no way he could hide the fact from her. She knew he was a fugitive when she married him. But as they say, you can’t help who you fall in love with. Fate had chosen the two of them to bear his cross together. She knew, rest her soul, that the life they built could be over at any time. They could come like smoke in the night and take his life. He could be here today and gone tomorrow and she, alone in the world, would have to carry on without him.
On more than one occasion they’d fled into the dark recesses of gathering twilight with just the cloths on their backs. To new homes, new friends, new lives they went. But she was gone now. Nora. His Nora. His rock, his anchor, his partner in crime. Heart attack. It was probably one he’d given her. One that came from carrying this fear 40 years. That was when it had started. The yearning. The yearning for freedom, the yearning for rest, the respite of not having to wake up in the night over every sound he heard. No longer looking over your shoulder, even on the best and most precious of days. His relief. He started yearning its taste.
Yet, he’d waited, fully expecting to see himself have a change of heart, but that yearning had not left. Now. Now was the time he’d decided. All of the chicks had grown and flown his coop. They’d grown wings and took off. Six months ago his youngest son had married. He, himself, had just turned 60 two months before. That was when it happened. That’s when he realized he’d had enough. Like Israel wondering the desert for 40 years, his 40 years of desert wandering had been enough.
A week ago he’d filed his latest will and testament. Left a note for his children and mailed one to his eldest. He locked the house that crisp morning, the morning of October 31st and headed to the airport. He booked a plane to Canada, Toronto. In three hours time he’d be at the door of the Caraway family. They were a highly connected and dangerous mob family. Walking onto their doorstep would mean his life would be forfeited, yet he welcomed it. It would be sweet relief he was craving, a relief to know he was going to face his music, join the waltz of violence the Caraways always kept, and satisfy the debt against him.
It was a debt he’d gathered at 20 years old after having accidently informed an undercover police officer of the Caraways involvement in certain crimes. Though, it was a stupid and innocent mistake that only a carefree 20 years old would make. At the very least this whole situation had made him honest. He never again sought out the back alley transactions he was involved with before. Still, his was not a mistake the Caraways forgave. In fact, they were known not to forgive anyone at all. Ever.
In three hours and a half, he landed on Canadian soil. By now, no doubt they’d gotten news he was on this flight, but no fear came. He was beyond fear. He headed for customs. Soon enough he pushed through the crowd and made it outside. He breathed in the cold familiar scents of this city.
He hailed a cab from across the way but a black Lincoln with black windows pulled up in front of him at the curb. The elder Mr. Caraway rolled down the window.
“Jimmy boy, its been a while.” He said wrapped in a shrivel of mystery.
“It has but I’ve come to make it right. Better late than never.” He replied.
He nodded. “Lets talk Jimmy.” Caraway motioned for Jimmy to sit down with him and Jimmy obliged. The car pulled away from the curb and soon lost its significance among the Toronto traffic. However, one never knows how life will pan out, least of all those willing to die.
Me and my team of 11 flew into Port Au Prince Haiti. We had to stay in town with the Coreluv missionaries there until morning because driving through unpaved roads and 4 rivers in the dark when other cars and motorcycles may or may not have lights is not safe or even a good idea.
Right off the bat, we landed into a conglomeration of colors, dirt, and a sea of people. Most of which were black. A very interesting turn, being a vast minority. However, Haitians are a friendly people and smiled offering to sell us cold bottled water, handmade bracelets, and a variety of other local or handmade merch. We pushed through the crowd until we found our hosts, Michael, Maica, Mino, Reubens, and Ashlynn. We were herded toward a sturdy looking dirty white steel truck painted with the Coreluv emblem t and headed deeper into Port-Au-Prince.
To say there was poverty is an understatement. There was trash in the streets, rubble in the midst of housing, garbage trenches on the side of the road a block long that were burning. Burning away people’s wastes. People headed in every direction. In the road and off the road. Some dressed professionally, some in caj wear. There was no rhyme or reason to their direction. Even traffic had no real signage (at least that none that was ceremoniously followed, no ‘stay to the right’ rule. Cars, people, bikes, motorcycles -they all just headed to wherever they needed to go. Its an intimidating feat, to be foreign and drive in place where everyone yields while they honk at you, then fly around you before you can get your bearings of what to do and how to proceed. Luckily, our driver Mino was local and really good at pushing a giant car loaded with a dozen people through the chaos of city life.
We unloaded at our detour location for the night. No air conditioning reigned supreme. Of course, I knew this would be the case. After all, despite Haiti being only a two and a half hour flight from Miami, it was not America. Electricity was an on again off again thing. Clearly the reason no one in Haiti utterly depended on it. It was not consistent. Our three hosts took us to the best pizza in Port-Au-Prince. Muncheez.
We changed and reloaded into the car and went up hill, slowly in the discombobulation to the restaurant. The scenery was full of distant hills at sunset, small beautifully bright colored buildings on each side. Some where houses, some businesses. Amid which there were houses made of tin sheets, some rusted gruesomely, some destroyed in the earthquake of several years ago, but none were abandoned. People lived, worked, and sat in their personal rubble watching as the day retreated into breathtaking twilight all the while chatting amicably with neighbors or bartering with street vendors.
We made it to the restaurant and had some very good pizza. The lot of us talked and got to know one another over our last Amrican meal for the week.
We then headed back to our rendezvous point for the night and had some collective Bible time. The implicit question that would permeate the rest of trip made its debut. “Where did you see Jesus today?”
The answer to which I had to say: EVERYWHERE!
“The world behind me, the cross before me;
the world behind me, the cross before me;
the world behind me, the cross behind me,
No turning back, no turning back.”
So the question at hand may be why did I go to Haiti on for 6 days? The answer to which is: to defend the orphan. Some may reason that nothing of value can truly happen in 6 days. My arrival won’t make any lasting change happen. Maybe not. Except it did. I’m changed forever beyond those 6 mere days that don’t really hold a candle on the grand scheme of my life.
I stated in my last post that a song arose on this trip to undo me. I cried over it for days. (See my previous post to read about it.) Haiti is the poorest 3rd world nation in the Western hemisphere. In fact it was only a 2 and a half hour plane ride to get there from Miami International Airport. Its heartbreaking to know and see a place so close by, so beautiful, that is so far removed from the kind of life we know in the USA.
Yet, despite Haiti’s poverty and shanty town appearance, it’s a bright and cheerful place. The buildings are painted bright colors. The people smile and wave. Neighbors help each other. Community spirit is large and wide despite 98 percent of people not having running water or electricity or any real modern conveniences, like toilet paper.
So how did this whole orphan business come about? Two years ago, as the story goes, a simple pastor named Emil(above), put together a kids club at his church for the children in town, Maissade. He discovered that quite a few of them were orphaned from some natural disasters that had ravaged Haiti. Many of the kids had no home, no consistent meals. They were dirty and injured and alone in the wide world.
Pastor Emil’s church had a small house on property that was used to house pastors and missionaries that passed through and so he put the 40 orphans in the little house. Pastor Emil didn’t have much, but what he had, he gave. He knew of an orphanage in the town of Gonaieves, some 6 hours away by car and he reached out for help, seeing how he’d gathered 40 kids he needed help to feed and house them. Coreluv, an amazing organization that is about defending the Orphan, came on board to help feed them. Though, pastor Emil didn’t know how much Coreluv would be able to help, he was determined to provide for the kids in his town. Coreluv, unable to take the kids at the time, began providing financially to help care for the 40’s needs.
Being an excellent negotiator Pastor Emil was able to get food at a reduced cost and from the extra money he saved, he was able to buy some land and wanted to build an orphanage. My church Westover Hills Assembly of God had just joined Coreluv in their mission and when they heard pastor Emil’s heart and determination they partnered with him to build a home for the 40 at Maissade.
What is amazing is that Pastor Emil had once also decided to follow Jesus and God led him down this path. The path to 40 kid’s hearts. I don’t know his story. I don’t know what made him choose Jesus over Voodoo or atheism or any thing else. But it occurred to me that since that day he decided for Jesus, he could not turn back and that led him down the path of being used by God to provide for 40 orphaned children. And even if the world was against him, he fixed his gaze on the cross before him and went forward toward the goal. He would walk the line, even if he had no money to care for the 40, even if he had little space, even if some may have thought he was crazy. And because of his obedience to God, he was able to save 40 kids. To give them a future and a hope. Hope of Jesus, hope for eternal life.
Not only that, but God used the obedience of one man to bring to knowledge the beauty, the lives, the destinies of 40 kids. He brought them into my life. He brought them into the lives of all the other 3 or 4 teams that have gone through Maissade in the last 2 years. These beautiful children with hearts filled to the brim with joy and love, who despite having nothing, least of all parents run around open space giggling, holding out pudgy hands for hugs, and smiling like they own a goldmine. God made them known to us, to me. Someone whose life is so far removed from that little country town in the Caribbean, who would have never know the beauties of that land called Haiti and its people, who never would have laughed driving down unpaved roads as naked kids from villages would run up waving and shouting “Blah…” meaning white or foreigner, jumping up and down as if the Royals had invaded town. God brought me there to intersect with those lives, that land.
That’s what God offers all of us. He offers us each a chance to be His hands and feet in a world whose hearts are starved of love, of hope. He has plans for us. Not just a plan. But plans. That means despite all the opportunities we’ve missed, we’ve been blind to, we’ve been to afraid to step into, God still has a back-up plan to use. He has a back-up for the back-up and so on. He will never give up on calling us to Himself. Never giving up in allowing us o be a part of His work, His mind boggling plan that we only see one small puzzle piece of, but when it comes together is a masterpiece of vast proportions.
Let us decide. Let us be used. Let us follow with Jesus before us and everything else behind us…
Smells of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, pine, drying berries, cool mornings and evenings, daylight shifting- they all beckon to the call of that familiar homey time of year called Autumn. It signals the beginning of the holiday season, the ending of a year and new beginnings to come. It’s my favorite time of year despite having been grown up in South Florida where seasons don’t abide.
It was on such a day like this 16 years ago that everything changed. America was forever altered after we watched two commercial airplanes crash into the twin towers of the World Trade Center. One day changed everything. It shattered our cloud of false security, but it also bred fear across the nation. It fueled hate. I remember that day. I was in 7th grade. Siting in the library watching live coverage of the event for a short while before being sent off to class, head spinning.
People were crying. People were shocked. People didn’t know how to react. I was the latter. It almost seemed like it was some made up tale- planes flying into buildings. A bad end-of-the-world movie scenario. Yet, it’s a truth that remains. An ugly truth engrained in the land of our hearts, carved into the province of New York City. Today lets remember. Lets remember what hates does. What it destroys. How much it costs. Lets remember September 11, 2001.
If you know me, you’ll know that music speaks to me. Though, I don’t write songs, God always speaks to me through music. Songs have been God’s microphone in my life since I was a little girl and this lyric could not be more true in my life…
“you unravel me with a melody,
you surround me with a song,”
This short trip to Haiti was no different. God had a song ready to unravel me. I didn’t think I’d find a song to be unraveled by in the 6 measly days I was in Haiti. I was wrong. It was an old song turned new for me, sung by the innocent voices of 40 orphans on the back of a truck. One little girl, dubbed ‘The Singer’ of the clan, started out with these words:“I have decided to follow Jesus.” The other kids picked up the old tune and soon the truck we were crammed on trudging toward the new orphanage location for a day of games was filled with a simple song I also had learned as a child at Sunday school.
“I have decided to follow Jesus,
I have decided to follow Jesus.
I have decided to follow Jesus,
No turning back, no turning back.”
It’s a simple hymn with a simple melody and very repetitive words. Its not what we’d consider a hit worship song in the modern world. Yet, the depths of the words in this song and the singers who were belting it out, hit me full force in the depths of my soul and the song rang in my head for the next 4 days of my Haiti trip.
40 orphans, the oldest of which is about 15 and the youngest being under 2 years old, were declaring that despite everything, they have chosen, would follow Jesus and from which point there was no turning back. I once made the same choice they did. I decided to follow Jesus when I was about 12 and indeed, despite moments of heartache and fear and seasons of doubt, there is no turning back for me.
So, one verse into a song, my heart was sewn into the fabric of a patchwork quilt of 40 different shades. 40 lives of beautiful children through which God showed me that deciding to follow Him is just the beginning of the adventure. It is the mere nadir from which a person begins their journey. Like Pastor Emil, who found the 40 and took them in and through which God is doing a grand work to touch the lives of so many other orphans and people in the village, we also will be used. We have a grand destiny to be a small part of the song God is writing on the pages of our lives. All we have to do is decide.
And just like that crammed in on a bumpy truck, the song wove its way into every nook and cranny of my trip, calling out to me as it went the verses of that old hymn as soon you will discover in my next posts.