Monday, March 9, 2009

Till Next Time…

Return with me to Sunday morning in Barbados…we were up rather early to get everything packed and out of the guest house by 8am. As I cleaned out the refrigerator, made our last pot of coffee, and then finally hit the showers to dress for the last time on this trip, my heart was heavy with emotion. “I don’t want to leave,” my heart spoke. This is rather unusual for me when preparing to return home – usually, I’m more than ready.

As we drove to where we would share our last time of worship with the BGF saints, again I kept feeling the sadness of saying good-bye to the precious people who had entered my heart, never to leave. I kept telling myself that the likelihood of a return to this beautiful place was good; still, my heart did not stop struggling.

I was so proud of David up there leading worhip with our Tracy and the lovely Nicole and Linda and the handsome Ron of BGF. Just think about it, 18 months ago he was barely speaking English, and now his heart is being shared through his glorious gift to lead us into an experience of letting our hearts express their overflow of praise to our Father. It made me smile from ear to ear and soon, the tears began welling up in my eyes. “God, you are amazing, there’s no doubt about it. The evidence is all around me.”

Here’s the problem, I was going to need to pull it together because I was the speaker for the morning. Crying through a sermon is NEVER a good thing. People have to be able to understand you and it doesn’t help much to be all choked up. I knew I was in trouble the minute I turned on the mic.

As I looked out into the crowd, the incredible gift of being in that moment was just too much. Two weeks ago these people had been total strangers; now, they are as special to me as any friend I have. That’s not normal – no – it’s miraculous. And that thought overwhelmed me. I had no choice but to just forget about decorum and tell them what I thought of them – they are glorious, radiant and the most generous people I’ve ever come across (by now, there was no stopping the tears). I can still feel the uniqueness of those moments as I write about it; I experienced Life and it was no small thing.

As I finished speaking, the sadness reminded me again of the fact that in now less than 90 minutes I would have to hug everyone and say good-bye. I loved talking to people and hearing how God had shown them such wonderful things through our being there – but, I didn’t like those last hugs that meant I wouldn’t be seeing them again for a long while. I just kept saying these words as we parted that comforted my heart a bit…“Till next time!”

On the plane home I tried to sleep. I was exhausted in every way. But, as I closed my eyes in hopes of a nap, pictures and conversations of the previous two weeks filled my mind. And all I could do was worship. Following are some of the thoughts I had about the people with whom I spent some of the most memorable time of my life:

My team: Herb, Tracy, Ralph, Cynthia, Ken, Pauline, David, Barry and Sandi…each one of you have made this experience and my life all the richer. I have so many fond memories of our time together that it would take too much to write it all down. But, I want you all to know that I love you, respect you, and thank God for bringing us together for this adventure. I appreciate each one of you for your unique expression of Jesus to me and for the ways your presence revealed His grace and goodness. Thanks for the sacrifice of your time and absence from your families – I’m sure you would agree that it was worth it.

To the Saints BGF: Wow –what a glorious demonstration of the magnificence of Christ you are. Each one of you has served me in ways of which you’ll never know the impact, but it has been grand. Your generosity and joy overflows and we couldn’t have been any more spoiled. I wish I could take each one of you home with me and let the saints of Woodstock, GA get a glimpse of you in person. They too would be overwhelmed with the reality of God’s goodness through you. I can’t wait to see what further connection Father has planned for us. I can’t imagine it getting any better – but, I think it might! I love you all and pray for you for even greater revelation of the depths of our Jesus’ Life in you, and love for you.

So, for now I’ll sign off as I hold on to the special moments that even now linger in my memory.

Till next time…

We Love BGF!!!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Concept of God

It is my last full day on the island of Barbados. I decided after breakfast to go down to the beach right in front of our guest house. I had yet to take in that particular spot. So here I go, by myself, in search for Elizabeth a treasure from the sea. I walked back and forth allowing the waves to spill only onto my feet and ankles as I looked. The many shades of the turquoise ocean have yet to bore me. And while the loud roar of the waves has made some of our conversations difficult to hear, I still take a deep breath at the mightiness of the constant sound.

After walking a bit and finding a few treasures just the right size to pack in my suitcase, I sit down on a big rock. The water splashes once in a while over my feet enough to cool me. “You’ve carried me through it all….everything I have come through, You have seen me through it. I have learned to trust You, to rely on You and to need nothing more than You. Sometimes that can cause others to misunderstand me and think they don’t matter to me. Nothing is further from the truth….yet the reality of living life from a freedom of knowing that my significance, worth and value can only be realized as I look dead center on the sufficiency of the finished work on the Cross. Fill me with a fresh love.”

While sitting on that rock, looking out over the horizon and back again to the coming and going of the tide, I thought of my “picture of God” I had drawn back in the summer of ’99. I had believed the lie that God was One who played cruel tricks on His children and was playing one on me by yanking one ministry opportunity after another out of my reach. All of a sudden this one shell caught my attention. It was being carried in and then back out again with each new wave. I remembered what I had learned about the ocean and shells. The continual movement refines these shells, turning them into smooth stones. After many motions of the rough sand over them, back and forth through the ocean, eventually they are smoothed….much like me. The dark, difficult times of my life have been refining, conforming me to the work of the Father.

In this moment, I saw a beautiful picture of God: He has always been at work, preparing me and preparing others for me. Instead of yanking opportunities like a cruel trickster, He has been orchestrating something beautiful that only He could see. He loves me and He loves those I will minister to and He knows what is best. He knows when it is best. I can trust Him still and join Him in what He is already doing in my life. I don’t need to seek some thing, He will guide me to it. I don’t need to envy someone else’s opportunity of ministry; I am content where He has me. Trust, reliance and dependence: good choices I can make because of who I am and Whose I am.

Cynthia (Now that I am back home, you can find my blogs at:

Saturday, March 7, 2009

You have GOT to be Kidding!

It has already been two weeks, and tomorrow we will be heading home. Although we can't fathom that 2 weeks have actually gone by, we do miss a lot of our world in Woodstock....

But.....get use to hearing the names Heather, Marie, Steve, Nicole, Linda, Sandy, Peter, Eckkart, Rocky, Jeff, Rolph, these people have become so much a part of the Grace Life Family, too! We are beginning to make plans to bring some people back to lead some BGF'ers through "The Ride" in order to let them experience it and to begin to be able to lead them on their own. We have had the pleasure and honor of just being able to be in conversation about our life in Christ and His in ours with these people. It is a place of agreement, of wonder, and of amazement! No distractions. Nothing to compete with them except the roar of the sea and there is a song that says the roar of the sea is the voice of that surely doesn't count as a distraction!

Tomorrow morning Laurie will be giving the message at church about "The Mystery". We are all looking forward to it and then we will head to the airport!

Talk to you later,


Friday, March 6, 2009


“Dang!” “Freakin’ heck!” “What the stink?!” “Stupid Laurie!” “Man alive!” “Can you believe it?” “Good thing I don’t have a gun, or…!”

No, I haven’t gone completely mad…well, I guess the jury’s still out on that…but, I have just let you into my thoughts for a glimpse of what has been going on inside them since yesterday (and unfortunately on a somewhat regular basis).

As we’ve been here now close to two weeks, we’ve had the incredible privilege of being invited in to many of these dear Bajans’ stories. I don’t take that lightly. It really is a privilege. And, in hearing stories, you always get a glimpse of GRACE (being Jesus) in its grandest demonstration. But, unfortunately, you also sometimes get to hear about some incredibly painful journeys, and in entering into their story, you often will feel their struggle. Still, it’s miraculous; but sometimes, it just plain ticks me off. Yesterday was one of those times when the glorious met the ridiculous, and my thoughts have been tulmultuous ever since. The details of the story are unnecessary, but suffice to say, humans were involved and it wasn’t pretty.

Then, this morning, having slept only about 4 ½ hours, I awoke feeling that same “ticked offedness” I’d gone to bed with…not the way I usually enter a new day. So, I got my coffee (the nectar of God Himself) and headed out to what’s become my favorite place in Barbados – our balcony. As I sat, watched, listened, and breathed in the fresh (and thankfully cool – we had some rain early) morning air, I felt a sense of calm come over me. And a little later, a beautiful rainbow appeared in the sky, and I knew Father was speaking directly to me.

I know that I cannot change the world; I figured that out sometime ago. However, I sometimes still believe that if people would only listen to me, I could make it a better place for us all. So in my mind I pen letters to those who I think should be told that they are wrong, off the track, or just plain stupid. In my fantasies they receive the letter with open hearts, teachable spirits, and an immediate desire to heed my counsel. It’s glorious! And then I wake up to reality…and I realize that I’ve just become part of the problem.

That’s gotten me thinking…pondering…and even processing a bit about three words: Arrogance (offensive display of superiority or self-importance), ignorance (being uneducated, unaware, or uninformed), and providence (the foreseeing care and guidance of God). Each of these words holds within them an incredible description of the human journey.

We experience personally in our own actions, and those of others, the results of man’s attempt to live life separate of God. Sometimes, that’s just pure arrogance – we really believe we know how to manage our lives and in doing so, often neglect to care for others. Pretty darn arrogant! Sometimes, we really don’t know any better (we’re ignorant), but still, it affects others, and sometimes painfully so. We don’t mean to hurt people, but, we do. Ah, the paradoxes of life.

I’m much more gracious towards those who hurt me, or the people I love, out of ignorance. I can relate to “not having a clue” and how that can sometimes mean I say or do rather stupid things. But, it wasn’t intentional, so I more quickly move on. However, when I judge that someone (or myself) has acted out of an arrogant notion that we know better and you are “less than,” it’s a lot harder to let it go. And soon, I’m seated on God’s throne, pronouncing an eternal sentence of condemnation. I know, it’s really quite yucky, isn’t it?!!!

In the midst of all this mess, I sense inside me a movement of the Spirit towards another word to think about. Providence…not a commonly used word, really. I mean in some circles it comes out now and then, but it’s not really an “everyday’er” – if you know what I mean. But, over the years, I’ve really come to love this word (even though I often forget I’ve even heard before). It gives me rest to know that it’s a reality – the foreseeing care and guidance of God. But, what about when…?

There’s the quandry, the “buts” of life. How can God be being “providential” when people and circumstances are so ridiculously painful? That’s not caring! That’s not having foresight and offering guidance! Really? I wonder if we’ve missed it. I know I have. I want to do define providence as “God makes my life nice and pain free!” Now that’s a good definition. But what if God’s definition is entirely different and requires a heart of trust to see it for what it truly is? I’m not so sure I like where this is going…

The old children’s song, Jesus Loves Me, just came to mind.

“Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible (and the spirit within me) tells me so
Little ones (and big ones) to Him belong
They are weak (uh, oh!), BUT He is strong.

I’m thinking that providence might take me out of the picture in terms of my ability to affect anything (or really, anyone) that Jesus loves. Yes, my arrogance and ignorance can cause great pain in my relationships, but God has not turned away from me, or the person I’ve hurt, and said: “Well, that’s life, my dear, get over it, or fix it!” No, He’s right there in the middle of my pain, strong in my weakness (whether as the hurter or the hurtee) and He tells me He loves me, even as He walked me into (His divine guidance) this painful place. Ouch!

So, for me, that’s where my thoughts have left me…I think I like providence a lot more than the other two. I think I’ll bank my trust in Father’s ability to care for me, and those I love deeply, with much greater concern and understanding that even my best idea can conjure up. Hmmmmm…

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Redirecting Grace

Okay, so I abandoned the team—it’s true. But I suffered for it.

After speaking at church on Sunday, I went from a humid 81 degrees and near chaos at the airport in Bridgetown (“How can I get a flight out?”), to 24 degrees and 5” of snow in Charlotte, N.C. The East Coast was in disarray as a large storm moved in, so we were diverted from a shut-down Atlanta to Charlotte, where I spent an all-too-brief night. After my flight landed, the airport closed.

Have you ever tried repeatedly to call an air carrier in the middle of the night when the weather is causing havoc? Make a note: they don’t answer, and you miss out on sleep.

So, from 9am until 7:30pm, I spent a lovely day at the airport on Monday. Do you know how long the same pastries sit in the viewing case at Starbucks? I do. Do you know how many times a soothing yet powerful voice interrupts your dozing to say, “Do not accept luggage from someone you don’t know”? I do.

Other than the skyrocketing gloat factor enjoyed by the team I left (We TOLD you to change your ticket and stay another week!), the good part of my leaving was talking with several people about the New Covenant. On the plane to Charlotte, and during long hours at the airport, we got deeply into it. They had wonderful and vital questions, and all of us were invigorated and encouraged when we parted: one person to Tennessee, one to Colorado, and several more to Missouri. We wouldn’t have met but for the redirecting grace of a storm.

My days in Barbados were filled with, well, warmth. The warm West Indies breeze gave us the perfect impetus to let go of the sometimes fleshly need of a planned or structured presentation, in favor of the Spirit’s leading. Our plan became: “Let’s get with the Bajan believers and see what happens.” And we did, over and over again.

From group meetings in our guesthouse to lunch in the center of town, from a trip around the island to a youth meeting in a local home, our desire to know God together opened and brought out our hearts for God. The visible transformation was amazing! In the safety of our union in Christ, we opened up and found delight with God and with each other. What might ordinarily have caused stress (What should we do at the meeting? How shall we arrange things? What do we want to accomplish?), in fact revived us. It was as if the water provided by the Spirit flowed between us, and we were delighted. Like kids.

As Jesus said it would be whenever His sons and daughters were together, we knew God, and that means we received Life. What a plan. On a rocky knob in the Caribbean, strangers quickly became friends, men became brothers and women became sisters. What we are already through Christ—a noble family—we could feel.

The one regret I have is that I didn’t tell my teammates what I thought of them. Oh, I told them some things—that I loved and respected and liked them—but I didn’t tell them more, and I could have.

Herb, you are delightful, to me and to everyone. You are a rare and refined man, content only to assist people to what’s most true—an appetite for God. What matters more?
Laurie, you are an invigorating joy—ask anyone, and they’ll tell you. You help people “get God” in ways no one else does, maybe because no one else can. He has seen to it that your life means life for us. You’ve got it, girl.
Cynthia, you are indispensible, always showing up and adding stability and strength when it suddenly feels like we’ve got only three wheels. How do you do that?
Tracy, I like you. You’re one who adds zest to life and seasoning to every meeting. You have a way of saying something that brilliantly cuts through the fog of arrogance or fleshly ignorance. We find our way because of you.
Ken, why didn’t we grow up together? What was God thinking? You are wonderfully perceptive, and I like watching as you offer yourself to people. You listen intently and wait. What a good man you are.
Pauline, I love the depth you add to people around you. You are fresh and vibrant, and what God has made of you is opening like a flower; you’re on display, and we notice.

I am richer by far.

As the team moves together through their final days in Barbados, I know they will encounter God because of each other and because of the Bajan believers. God has planned it this way, and so it is.

I hope to return.

Bajan Beauty

Here are some pictures in wonderfully chaotic and nonsensical order. To see them in more detail, click on the picture.

Here's Herb surfing the Soup Bowl on the eastern side of the Island. What moves!

In the next instant, Pauline was baptized Bajan style!

One of the few remaining windmills on the island. Something missing? Yeah, it's under repair.

Cynthia takes it in.

Gilligans Island?

Next to Cynthia is Natasha and Julie (daughter and mother), who gave us a great tour around the island. Wonderful and witty, they made sure we had a blast.

Think Cynthia is enjoying herself?

Ken and Pauline renewed their marriage vows on a beautiful Friday morning.

A little stress relief before the ceremony.

Having made an ESPN Top 10 catch, guess who is getting married soon?
Yeah, that's me.
Nicole and Linda, the worship leaders at Barbados Grace Fellowship. Their smiles tell the story.

I took maybe one hundred pictures of this view while there. Be thankful I don't post them all!

So many different looks and lighting. It is gorgeous.

Ken and Pauline comb the beach for shells.

Cynthia took a particular liking to this gecko. She's thinking of getting one for a pet when she returns home.

See the boat? A Bajan favorite is fried flying fish, and this boat traveled the waters outside our guesthouse every day looking for the catch.

From left to right, Herb, Tracy, Marie, Sandi and Laurie at one of our many gatherings.

From the left, Heather, Jane and Greg, Nicole and Jeff, and Peter, wonderful Bajan friends from Barbados Grace Fellowship.

From the left, Cynthia talks with Sandy (youth leader) while Ken and Pauline listen in.

From left to right, the view that makes people jealous, Cynthia, Nicole, Laurie and Tracy.

Just outside our guesthouse, a surfer spies a turtle, one of many working the surf.

A local gang.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Toppled by a Wave I know you all will enjoy the fact that I was toppled by a wave....twice....while playing on the beach today. Earrings and all got soaking wet....while Barry and Laurie got a big laugh at my expense! What a way to close the day as the sun starting slowly dropping to the horizon. Before that, we took a fun trip all around the island with Sandy and Heather. At one point the guys were so concerned for their "windblown hair look" that they could hardly pose for their picture. (Just imagine Barry laughing the same way a few hours later as he witnessed the ocean taking control over me.)

Life is like that alot of the time: something seems to take control over your feelings so strongly that you believe those feelings are the truth. The feelings often for me are those of hurt, misunderstood, intimidated, misrepresented. Spiraling off them come the lies attached: "They don't think well of me"; "What will she/he think of me now?"; "I am always misunderstood".
As long as I continue in that line of thinking my natural response is usually to run away, go silent, withdraw....and/or to defend myself, justify, over-explain and attack back. My feelings have toppled me out of control much like the waves washing over me and causing me to fall on all fours. When I choose to stay instead of run; pray for clarity instead of attack; continue to engage in community rather than escape into silence and quietly be willing to be misunderstood, a miracle has occurred. I have walked in the Spirit instead of reacting in the flesh. The waves may come....circumstances beyond my control....but I have the power of the gospel available to me to rely on. I did pretty good this time. Father, help me tomorrow.

Monday, March 2, 2009


Church. It is very interesting how many negative thoughts come to mind when we think about church. It is where we are “made to go”, abused and hurt, judged and condemned, worn out and discarded. For some a form of church is positive. We like to gather with good looking families. Our kids get to be with good looking kids. It is an opportunity for them to develop a good peer group or form a foundation to becoming a good citizen. It becomes one of the ingredients of living a good life.

But at our deepest place there is a rumor of something more. Not of a place to attend but of a movement. It is His body moving through this world declaring the relationship from which all relationship is found. It is His body seeking to know others beyond the manufactured appearance we have been educated to present.

This week, I really miss those that form the body of Christ, Grace Life Church. I miss being with Kevin, Lauren, Abby, and Seth, even when they are hurting. I miss the time to talk with Patty and Jose. To know each of them in the midst of their own individual journeys, free of comparisons or goals. I miss the expressions of revelation on the men’s faces on the Tuesday night Ride. I miss the sharing, discovery and connection found through seeing Scripture through Jesus in the midst of the Breakfast Club on Sunday morning. I miss seeing the joy on your faces as you see each other come through the door on Sunday morning, even when you are 20 minutes late. I miss looking into the faces of the Worship team as they lead through their own personal worship that is the fruit of their week which is filled with struggles. Believe it or not, I missed the camaraderie of set up at 7am.

But I have discovered that His movement is not restricted to Woodstock and Grace Life church. I have seen it here at Barbados Grace Fellowship. Their desire to connect the amazing message of grace, truth and Life to their own practical lives has opened a door for two churches to come together helping each other in the making of disciples. Each church will speak, by invitation, into each other’s journey. Each church is a unique expression of His Body in two unique cultures. Different - but gloriously complete in Christ…autonomous but yet one in Spirit. His body in which we gather as one…one in Woodstock…one in Barbados…now one together in His movement.

Who Makes Me Good Enough?

Have you ever felt and even believed the lie, “I’m not good enough”? With that one comes another right on the heels of it, “More is required of me” and another, “I’ll never measure up”? Where do you go then? Is it, “So why try? Forget this! Forget You, God!” Or does your survival method look more like, “Well, I’ll just try harder”, “Surely after I do this and then that, you’ll like me… you’ll approve of me, etc”.

These “voices in our head” are strangely familiar. I can identify….and I found two new friends that share this struggle with me; David and Marie. David is a Korean man who lives in Atlanta and Marie, who lives here in Barbados. Three very uniquely different people from 3 different places across the globe, yet we have something in common that goes deep and traces back to each of our different childhoods. Through our varied backgrounds, we all three have come to know the inner turmoil of believing the lies of Satan, our enemy. While those lies have been dealt with at the cross, they still rear their ugly heads to speak into our minds and we have to choose to believe the truth that counteracts each of them. Some days we do pretty good; other days are a different story.

God will do and use whatever He wants to tell us how much He loves us. He’ll prove Himself over and over by continuing to speak truth to our hearts. He will open doors…miraculous doors that no one else could have ever opened apart from Him. His Spirit which indwells us, will resonate His truth within us. He will cause us to hear His words of truth amid the loud clamor in our heads. When He does these things, He is pointing to the truth of what He has done and won for us when He took our place at the Cross. Then He sealed the miracle when He was raised from the dead. In that moment, Jesus became our “enough”. He is enough. We need no one else, nothing more and in Him we are complete and completely okay. Nothing more is required. We no longer have to measure up to anything or anyone. To try harder is to reject His finished work. We have the stamp of approval from the One who matters most. His favor is a gift that He has won for us and then granted to us. We did nothing to earn it and we still can do nothing to earn it. Wow! When I believe this truth and rest in it, it quiets the “voices in my head”. I am free now to respond out of love and gratitude.

David, Marie and I can embrace the reality of our identity in Christ and we can actually live life as if it is true. Because it is! We are free to serve others or not serve; we are free to be who God has called us to be and we are free to leave our own country and go in the “not knowing” all that God will involve us in. “No one is made okay with God by obedience or lack of obedience to what God’s law commands…rather we are made okay with God by faith in what Jesus has done on our behalf.” (Galatians 2:16; my paraphrase)

So, the bottom line questions become: “Do I believe I need what Jesus has done for me and in me? Is He enough? Or is there something else I must do to be sure? Can I…will I take hold of His truth by faith and rest in His perfect work?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Seven Seconds of Silence

Well, it’s been a few days since I’ve had a chance to BLOG. It’s just been a bit crazy here - so wonderfully crazy, but really full. I have to say I’m a little worn out. For some reason my body has decided I don’t need to sleep much here – so, even at the moment I’m awake just after 5am. Guess God wanted me to see the sunrise – again! We’ve been saying all along that Father didn’t bring us here only for these dear people of BGF, but that He had great purpose in mind for us as well…I can tell you that has certainly been the case for me.

Two mornings ago I was sitting outside on the balcony as I’m doing right now. It’s amazing how loud the surf can be. I am not talking the kind of loud you think of when someone’s music is blasting or people are screaming, it’s more of a “massive” loud. It’s like all the energy on the planet has combined together to explode with ecstasy every time the waves crash the shore. You literally cannot hear a conversation when the tide is high. And so, I was sitting there, with the “massive” in all its glory, doing its thing. I was engrossed in an email or something, kind of lost in all the noise, when all of a sudden, it went totally quiet. I don’t know if you can picture it, but, in a way it was like someone shut off the power and everything stopped and became still – for about seven seconds. It got my attention in a big way.

In those seven seconds (maybe it was only two, but it seemed to linger a little longer than that) I was struck with awe. Every fiber of my being, every sensory perception, even the beating of my heart, became more alive. And at the same time, I became totally still. I’ve never had an experience like it.

When it was over, life went back to normal and I kind of just sat there…not sure what to do, if anything, but full of thoughts. And then, I went back to whatever it was I had been doing before the silence “interrupted” me. But my day was anything but normal.

I keep thinking about how it happened…what made the silence? How can something so huge and continual just STOP? Pretty weird and wonderful all at the same time. Throughout the day I would have moments where I would return to the silence, if even for a moment, and IT would wash over me with comfort and a sense of awe. What’s the IT? I believe it was God Himself.

I’ve always kind of wondered what it means to “Be still and know that I am God.” Most people who know me, even for just a short time, know stillness is not a strong suit. I’ve had those “I think I’ll try to be still” ideals, and for the most part, it just wasn’t happening. But, in the seven seconds of silence, I didn’t have to try, stillness came to me. And I KNEW He is GOD! And it was glorious.

Our time here in Barbados has been nothing short of miraculous (are you getting tired of hearing that? I hope not!). However, it’s also been rather full and not very often without activity. And at times, we all tire of the “noise”. Even I, the poster child for Extroverts Anonymous, need to find moments of silence and calm. Isn’t it incredible that God knew that, and then decided to bring it to me? I think He likes me. J! And, I think I’m beginning to like it that my “be still moments” can be found in as little as seven seconds. Pretty darn amazing!