Building a Wall in 52 Days

So, there was this guy, Nehemiah.   He lived during the Bible times – back in the Old Testament – back when Israel was in captivity.

And the city of Jerusalem was destroyed – leveled.    The entire great wall around the city was destroyed.  There was nothing there to protect the Jews and it was a symbol of how far Israel had fallen.

But did this guy Nehemiah say, “Wow, this is awful, this is such a big problem, I can’t fix it by myself.   I’m going to go tear my clothes, pour ashes on my head and sit in the corner and cry?”

Nope, that wasn’t our guy Nehemiah.   He said, “It’s a big job but we can do it.”    And Nehemiah and the Israelites proceeded to begin rebuilding the wall.   They did it one brick at a time, focusing on what they could do and on the job immediately in front of them.

When they came across an obstacle, they dealt with it.   Attacks from enemies, no problem – let’s put one guy building and the next standing behind him guarding him. 

Ephesians 4:6 – We kept at it, repairing and rebuilding the wall.   The whole wall was soon joined together and halfway to it’s intended height because the people had a heart for the work.”  (MSG)

Two important phrases in that verse –  “We kept at it.”   They had a big job to do but they kept at it.   How do you build a wall?   One brick at a time.   But you have to keep at it.

“The people had a heart for the work.”    They  cared about what they were doing.

So, let’s jump to the present.   No matter what you’re talking about, if you want to solve a problem, it’s probably a really big problem.    God is saying, through Nehemiah’s story, I believe that the way to accomplish big things is to do small things well.

Small things  like laying a brick.

And then laying another one.

And another one.

So, where are you going to lay your bricks today?

Oh yeah, the work team that Nehemiah put together?   They finished the entire wall in 52 days.

Fifty two days.

The power of a bunch of people doing small things with passion can make a huge difference.

So?

How about you?   What small things are you going to do to make a difference?

Do it well.

Waiting

A friend of mine is a pilot for Mission Aviation Fellowship down in Haiti.   He sent this out to his e-mail list yesterday.   I’m reposting it here because it is well said and deserves a lot of thought.    Thank you, Michael Broyles, for the work that you do and for the way that you see it.

As I wait…

“There’s no rest for the weary.”  Whoever said that nailed it!

I was looking forward to my day off.  Last week was busy, and today…I finally get to rest.  Or so I thought. 

Karen let me know that I would be watching Elijah for the day as our house helper was sick.  That sounded great.  I had some errands I needed to complete and he loves running around with me and helping.  We could even be back in time to pick up Kaydence from school.

As it turns out, our house help was pretty sick.  As in she needed to go to the hospital for some severe pain / makes you cry, hard to breathe kind of sick.  I quickly dressed Elijah and tried to cram some breakfast in him.  I blended my coffee and out the door we went.

I took Yvertha to what is considered to be the best hospital in Port au Prince.  As we drove up, the guards armed with 12 ga shotguns were hesitant to open the gate for us.  I persisted and they caved and let me in.  After jamming our car into something resembling a parking spot, we made our way through a sea of people – all there waiting.  Waiting (many with their children) to see a doctor or for news of a loved one.  Just waiting.  Hundreds of them.  And then we waited too.  Outside, in the heat, with passing cars churning up dust and exhaust, alongside about 300 other people, sitting on concrete benches (if you are lucky enough to find a seat)… in such proximity to your fellow humans that you feel more like cattle, merchants trying to sell food and drinks through the razor-wire topped fence (no food or drinks available otherwise). Did I mention that we waited?

So here’s the basic procedure…as best as I could figure it out:

1) Go to the security guard and tell him your problem.  He will then give you a sticker designating which doctor he believes you should see (no medical training involved).

2) Sit and wait with your sticker.  After about 30 min, go find the guard and ask him for further directions.  He will put you in line to be processed.

3) Wait in line and then present your ID card. (roughly 2 hrs)

4) Take your file and stand in line to be weighed and have your blood pressure, temp, and weight checked.

5) Take your file and move to the line to pay for the consult. (roughly 1 hr)

6) Wait to see the consulting person (2-3 hrs)

7) After the consult, you will be told if you need to see a doctor or not.  If so, go pay in advance for that.  If not, you will be given a list of meds you need to purchase. 

8) Back in line to Pay for the meds, then proceed to the pharmacy to pick them up (another line).

9) Wait for the doctor.  Oh, and they close at 4pm…so we were sent home and told to come back early tomorrow to see the doctor.

    Basically, she spent a total of about 6 hrs at the hospital, and never saw a physician.

I needed to run errands close by and figured that if I was going to wait on the doctor, I may as well make it a productive wait.  So off I went… to wait on a lady to finish a meeting so she could move her car and I could leave the hospital.  Then to the electrical store… to wait.  Their computers were down.  I tried to make the best of it.  I found a shaded spot to park, moved my car, and paced my time between talking with the workers, checking the IT guy’s progress, and trying to nap in the 95º car.  I concluded I needed breakfast (around 2pm now), so I found some cookies and a new energy drink with 56g of sugar and 160 mg of caffeine.  Close enough to calm my hunger and dull my headache.  Finally after another 3 1/2 hrs the computers were up.  I picked out my supplies and took my invoice to the next building over to pay.  And you guessed it… I waited.  The bank here has recently decided it does not like my US credit cards… and I’ve made a habit of not carrying cash.  So after swiping, calling, swiping a different card, calling, and waiting some more… I could not complete the transaction and had wasted more than 4 hrs trying!  Yvertha was ready to be picked up, so I went back to the hospital, loaded her up, and headed home.  She never got to see the doctor.  It’s more of the same tomorrow, only I do not have the day off and will try and juggle this with my flight schedule and other obligations.  More waiting.

I expressed my frustration to Karen, “my entire day was wasted.”  But was it?  It’s way too easy to complain about life here, to blame things on Haiti being, well, Haiti.  As we say in Kreyol, things here are “Tét Anba” – upside down sometimes.  Today was rough.  I had plans to install a lightning rod and associated wiring to the tower on my roof and hang out with my kids and maybe even relax a bit.  Those plans were blown apart.  I needed to take a friend to the hospital and wait.  And in that waiting, in that frustration, I needed to slow down and look around me to see people. 

Others, just like me were waiting too.  Waiting for computers to be fixed, nurses to process their chart, doctors to say it’s too late to see them today and send them home in pain.  And in the waiting, I had the opportunity to express love to a dear friend, an opportunity to make new friends.  I took the opportunity to laugh and joke with others, to learn more about life and culture here.  Together we waited.  Together, we experienced life. Maybe my day wasn’t wasted after all.  Maybe this wait was ordained. 

Change – The Hard Way

There are easy and hard ways to change.

There are easy and hard things to change

To change things.

To change attitudes.

You can paint a new surface on them.   Just like that, the white fence that was peeling and fading is now brown.

You can change clothes – suddenly the boy in shorts and a dirty t-shirt is wearing a suit and tie and looking a lot more handsome.

But that’s the easy change.

The hard change is the change that happens on the inside.

It’s the change in lifestyle habits.

It’s the change in prayer life and devotional consistency.

It’s the change in the way you look at opportunities and challenges.

It’s the change in the way that you look at social injustice and whether it’s “someone else’s problem.”

It’s the change in the way you view worship.

It’s the change in the way you view the role of the church.

It’s the change in the way you view the role of “helping people.”

It’s the change in the way the church views their role in society.

It’s the change in the way you value friendships – and the depth of the friendships that you focus on.

These are the hard changes.

These are the changes that can’t be done without the support and leading of God.

But these are the changes that really matter.

Matter to God.

Matter to His people.

Will you be the change that matters?    Will you change the hard things to make life better for someone else?

Even if it makes it harder for you?

Tom

Don’t Be a Body Builder

Is there anything wrong with getting in shape?   No, I should do a lot more of that myself.

But it’s the purpose that makes the difference.   Are you going to get in shape so that you can do like Beth McHoul and run the Boston Marathon as a fundraiser for Heartline Ministries? 

Or are you going to be a body builder just to make yourself look “good?”    If you look at what body builders do, essentially they spend a lot of time exercising but the purpose is to win competitions and to look good.

Now look, if you want to do that, go right ahead.    But don’t be a spiritual body builder.    Don’t gain spiritual knowledge, go to church, read the Bible, be part of a Bible study class just to look good and win competitions in the “holier are thou” category.

Use your spiritual body building for some good.   Go out and be the hands and feet of Jesus to the hurting, the least of these, the needy.    Go be a friend to the friendless, go invite a neighbor to church.   

God has given us spiritual gifts for a reason.    Use them well, don’t be a body builder.

Tom

Be the Rope?

This must be the day that Josh Garrels is speaking to me (not physically but through my Josh Garrels station on Pandora)…….

One of my all time favorite lines in his music is this,  “We’re all castaways in need of rope.”

There are a couple of things that really resonate with this line……

  • No matter your stage in life, the situations you might find yourself, your perspective on other people who might have it better or worse than you, immediately, Josh puts us all on the same level.   We’re all castaways.   All.of.us.   Not just the poor, not just the unemployed, not just the sick, not just those who don’t speak English, not just those who are parenting difficult children, not just……..   We are all castaways.
  • In need of rope – Why would a castaway need rope?   It’s very simple – to be rescued.    If a castaway doesn’t grab onto the rope, they will continue to drift in the ocean and the outcome won’t be good.  We are all castaways and we all need rescuing.

So here’s the question that I’m pondering today and I hope you’ll ask yourself the same question.    I hope you’ll wrestle with it often.

If we are all castaways in need of rope, how can you be the rope for someone else?    How can you help someone else be rescued.   Rescued from their own particular struggle, rescued from their struggles with their faith, rescued from…… well, frankly if we all are castaways, we all have struggles and needs and we all need rescuing.

How can you be the rope for someone else?

How can you share with someone else the way you need a rope?

Tom