The Curse of Thorns

…Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground…”

God speaks these words to man after he disobeys the one-and-only command God asked of him in the garden. (Genesis 3, ESV)

Until then, life was perfect. Man lived in unity with all of Creation and with God. They would walk together and talk. But, the day he decided that he desired to be like God, he realized how little authority and power he had. He is the image of the Creator but could and would never be God Almighty. In his desires, man sold his birthright of the earth to Satan and death took hold.

Thorns and thistles did not exist until this point.

A scientist I know explained thorns as: a leaf, branch, or flower whose potential is cut short. Something beautiful and life giving, when its potential is cut short or not fully realized, becomes painful and intrusive. A thorn is not good for anything. It only causes pain and hardship.

victoria-2016-90When the curse fell on mankind and his relationship with was God severed, potential of the earth and those in it was cut short.

So, it is no minor detail to flip to a story written almost 1500 years later of Jesus. Matthew 27:27-31, Roman soldiers, completely unaware of the curse, twist together a crown of thorns and beat it into the skull of Jesus to mock him, saying “Hail, King of the Jews!”

Onto Jesus the curse of the fallen potential of man and the earth was placed.

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

The Prophet Isaiah foretold the coming Messiah who would take away the sins of the world, bearing the curse of death upon himself.

Even knowing this, how many still live like we are under the curse? The day Jesus died Death lost its power on mankind. Jesus took back our birthright for us. We no longer have to live with the potential of who we are cut short or not fully realized.

The curse is broken. Are you producing flowers or thorns?

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56 Cents…. A Fortune in Love

Humbled by the love of these precious kids.

Humbled by the love of these precious kids.

Joshua grinned and jumped across the dining room. He and Abigail both talked as fast as they could, excitedly telling me a million different things. Abigail, four-years-old, dragged the elephant purse I had sent her from Cambodia around. Joshua, six-years-old, wore the shirt from Siem Reap I gave him. They are my biggest fans. They are two of the many reasons I adore children.

A small chalkboard graced the back corner of the room. In shaking handwriting it said, “I love You, Auntie Erin.” I choked back my emotions.

Joshua followed my eyes. “I wrote that!” He smiled, shyly looking at his feet.

I could just hug the guts out of those two precious kids. What came next made me almost completely come undone. Joshua ran to his room, grabbed a small white cardboard box, and handed it to me.

“It’s the money we’ve been saving for you.”

His mother (my friend Margy) explained they saved any money they found to give to me. The small box held 56 cents in loose change. I had to blink back the tears. It was one of the sweetest gifts I had ever received. To small children with no allowance and unspoiled this was their fortune. With it, I received a pile of colored pages from Abby. They had been drawing me pictures for months before my return from overseas. They had been praying for me every single night while I was gone.

The previous night I lay wide awake. Finances have been a huge struggle for me. For the last few years I have barely paid my bills and a few times gone hungry for a week because I literally did not have money.

It has been a battle to have left the corporate world of plenty and strike out into the full-time volunteer world of…. not so plenty (or at least this was my backward, worldly pessimism getting to me).

I would like to say I trust God with my finances but find myself usually doubting His powers in this area. I have seen incredible provision at times. I have been blessed by awesome supporters. Yet, I struggle.

I checked my bank account last night and crunched how much I had verses the bills that would come due soon. Definitely headed into the red.

Okay, God, You know my needs. I have x amount of money and will need to pay y amount. They do not add up. If You do not want me using my credit card…. Which I am pretty sure You do not want me to use, then I will need You to either give me incredible wisdom or provide finances for me very soon. This was my desperate prayer last night. Eloquent? No. Honest? Yes. I lay there wondering about raising more finances and how I will possibly spend the rest of my life living like this.

As Joshua handed me his box of coins today, I was overwhelmed with God’s faithfulness. No wonder the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to the childlike. It was an incredible outpouring of love and faith from these children. They never worried about provision; they knew their mother and father would take care of them. How much more will my Heavenly father take care of me?

They gave out of love, not out of obligation. And, they gave everything.

Sure, 56 cents has not fixed my financial situation, but it readjusted my heart. I serve a God of the Universe who can. I will rest in that knowledge and continue to give everything of myself out of love, not obligation.

A Tale of Two Grandmothers

"Grandma" Dr. Lin

“Grandma” Dr. Lin

The machete and long, hooked knife lean up against the wall in her bathroom. (The same bathroom I found a rat in last week.) The initials “DR” for doctor scratched into the handle are almost worn away with time. If anyone could guess the owner, they would probably not associate them with a tiny 88-year-old New Zealand woman.

“Grandma,” as everyone loving calls Dr. Lin Calvert, is absolutely nothing like the grandma I grew up with. The contrasts are almost astounding. While both Dr. Lin and my grandma were petite, striking women with white hair and sun-kissed skin, the similarities end there.

I had the joy of living with my 89-year-old grandmother when I was in my early twenties. Her spotless home still had its original 1970’s brown or olive green flowered wallpaper. Her decorations were collected from all over the world, as she and my grandfather had taken exotic trips to places like Fiji and Panama. They had always stayed in their comfortable cruise-liner cabins, mingling only in specific local markets, taking in the touristy sights.

I loved that house full of good-cooking smells. Even though a bit outdated, it was a super stylish and immaculately clean home, much like my grandmother.

After two hip surgeries, she still insisted on wearing her high heels everywhere. Since my early childhood I remember her red painted toenails and she got her hair done every Friday. Her white/blonde hair went well with her blue eyes and red lipstick. My grandmother was beautiful and loved beautiful things.

While I look nothing like her, I did inherit a love of beauty and making things beautiful and homey…. No matter where I am in the world.

The other thing I inherited is her love of reading. I cannot count the amount of nights I would find her sound asleep in her chair, a book open across her chest, and the reading light still on. My mom did the exact same thing. I do the exact same thing. So many times I’ve awoken in the middle of the night, picked myself up off the couch, removed the open book from my chest, and went to bed. We get into books and cannot put them down.

In stark contrast, I was walking past the markets in Kapuna, Papua New Guinea (PNG) the other day and had to do a double take. There was Grandma Lin in gumboots, standing in a drainage ditch with her thin arms swinging a machete. Her wheelbarrow was piled high with weeds as she cleared the ditch on a hot, sunny afternoon.

Born in New Zealand, Grandma was a young doctor, wife, and mother when she and her husband moved to Papau New Guinea over fifty years ago. They came to work at the newly established hospital that still serves tens of thousands in the remote Gulf Province.

Her clapboard home serves also as the main office building, as well as, a gathering place in the mornings for devotionals and hymn singing.

This little, old doctor is strong and resilient. With her husband buried in the area, she continues to work amongst the people she loves.

But, more than anything, she is a woman of deep faith. Sometimes as I walk past her office I stand still for a while, gazing at her diminutive frame bent over her Bible. Her thick white hair is clipped back the way she wore it in the 1960’s. She is stunning. To the right of her Bible is a notepad scribbled full of notes and memories of things God has taught her throughout her life.

She is a woman so deeply in love with God, she not only endured life in the harsh jungle, but thrived in it, carving out a place of beauty and healing. Like my grandma, she loves beautiful things. Unlike my grandma, Dr. Lin finds it in her tropical garden and her love for her patients in the weather worn bush hospital.

It makes me think deeply about the legacy I will one day leave. I pray my grandchildren (and anyone willing to call me Grandma) can look in admiration and say, “Now there is a woman who loves God.”

Thanks for the life lessons, Grandma and Grandma!