All posts tagged "Jesus"

A story.



I haven’t posted on this blog in a while, but yesterday, a pretty incredible thing happened and I wanted to share it. I hope it can inspire.

Over beautiful cups of coffee, my husband and I have developed a tradition of reading from scripture, discussing life and the topic of God, and praying in the mornings. It’s one of my favorite things in all the world. Lately, I have been really captivated by the parables of Jesus, particularly the “Go the extra mile, turn the other cheek, and give your cloak (in addition to just your coat)”. Pretty radical stuff if you think about it. It’s definitely not a natural thing for me to want to go the extra mile for my oppressor or take the path of love instead of revenge or give more generously than even asked of me. As Nick and I mulled over these words, we discussed a nudging I had to give a couple of my sweaters to a little old beggar woman and a younger leper woman whom I’ve been building a relationship with. When I explained the interaction with Nick yesterday morning, I became a little frustrated at the lack of verbal communication I was able to have with them as we do a lot of “charades”, but not much actual dialoging. (Because of the obvious language barrier)

Later in the day, I was excited to see the older woman wearing the sweater I gave, one of the many layers she was wearing as a tiny, frail woman in the cold. She began signaling to all the areas of her body that ached. She is a beggar, who sits for most hours of the day, on a brick in the dirt, and is obviously skin-and-bones. Completely out of my comfort zone, I felt I should sit beside her, in the dirt, and pray with her. I put my arm around her delicate little body and just started praying to Jesus. I didn’t know what to pray. I’m not sure my faith was strong enough to see healing for this woman, but I prayed anyways. I felt compassion run through my body in a new way. After I said my little prayer… the size, I promise, smaller than a mustard seed, I kept my arm wrapped around her and just began to hug her. We were cheek to cheek, in the dirt, just embracing. In complete silence. I just felt so much love for her all of a sudden. I didn’t feel her try to let go or pull away, so I continued to hug, as did she. The only thing that broke the silence was the sound of her tears. She started to cry. I just held her longer. Then, I looked straight into her eyes and told her that she is beautiful, and that I will continue to come visit her and pray for her.

I’m not sure what she understood of my words, but I am certain that both of us understood about love. A deeper love that is bigger than the both of us. Bigger than all of us.

And as I sit recalling this story, feeling blessed and humbled to have been witness to the power of love working in me, I pray that the scripture that says “we love because He first loved us” does not go trite in my life, or in yours. That the saying “blessed to a blessing” is a lifestyle and not a pretty saying to hang on our walls. Love still CAN speak louder than words, louder than cultural and language barriers and louder than caste systems or classes.

I’ll end this story with a few words from one of my favorite songs:

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, and my faith would be made stronger- in the presence of my Savior.” Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) by Hillsong UNITED

 

Be blessed.

 

 

Settling In | Northern India



Nick and I have made it safely to Northern India and are settling in nicely to new cultures, peoples, and adventures. The diversity here is outstanding. From the time we walk out our flat, down our little corridor to our street, to the main square, we have passed Tibetan refugees, Hindus, Bhutanese, Nepalese… etc.  (Not to mention the westerners who have come in search of spiritual enlightenment from all over the world.) We are so excited to be here for the next two months to interact with, love on, and share life with all the many peoples we now find ourselves amongst.

The view from our little flat.

The view from our little flat.

Himalayan Mountains Dharamshala India Photography

The Himalayan Mountains are the backdrop of our new home for the next two months.

The first day we came, we went to a little chai stand down the main road for one of the best chais you can imagine (and for only 6rupees = $0.12). There, I had the lovely opportunity to meet an English woman named “Ann” (named changed for privacy). We started talking over this beautiful cup of chai and she began to tell me that she was feeling “jaded” towards people and more skeptical than ever. I could easily see the hurt in her eyes and disappointment she felt as she shared this intimate detail with me. At that moment, I felt saddened, but at the same time, very hopeful. I recalled to her that at the darkest time of my life, feeling hopeless and confused, I had a real experience with Jesus. This experience changed my life forever and I will live the rest of my days loving people because I am receiving first, love from God. I am full of peace, love and joy because of my experience with God and I am able to serve others out of that. With tears in her eyes and a soft hand on my arm, she said, “That’s what I’ve been missing. I have been searching for 15 years for that kind of experience. I want that.”

Okay, so maybe not all of my days will be filled with beautiful encounters and stories like this, but I pray they are. I pray that God is truly encountered by those searching for Him, and that His love will fulfill their deepest longings.

“Let God love you and let others watch”

Tibetan refugees India photographer

Our Tibetan neighbor, doing his daily recitations.

 

Jesus and his Message



Jesus, the Jesus of history, the Jesus who was born in Bethlehem and grew up in Nazareth, the Jesus who was raised by his parents Joseph and Mary, the one who grew up as all good Jewish boys did memorizing the Torah, attending the synagogue and pilgrimaging to the temple; this Jesus began his public ministry with a simple announcement, “The Kingdom of God is near!”

For Jesus of Nazareth, from that point on forward, what began as his opening announcement remained his central message in all that he said and did.  He stayed on course with his Kingdom of God motif right through to the very end of his life.

If this was Jesus’ main message then we might ask: “What is the Kingdom of God?” and “how is it near (at hand)?” Many did ask Jesus these questions and other questions just like them.

Now, Jesus had a peculiar way of communicating his message when people would ask their questions. Many times he simply answered people’s questions with another question.. He had a way of seeing behind people’s questions to something deeper and quite revealing.

He also wasn’t nearly as literal and precise as we are today. Our modern sensibilities seem to prefer describing things in more of a straight forward and direct approach.  In contrast, Jesus chose to explain his message through simile and short stories called parables. Jesus went about saying such things like:

The Kingdom of  God is like a mustard seed..

The Kingdom of God is like yeast the a woman mixes into flour..

It is like a man who scatters seed on the ground..

It is like.. when a certain man was preparing  a great feast..

If Jesus were around today we could imagine Jesus being interviewed on the TV show Larry King Live. Larry might ask Jesus if he could explain more about his main message.  Jesus would begin explaining, “The kingdom is like this.. or the Kingdom is like that ..”  Larry King might ask Jesus in the closing 15 seconds of the show to simply break down his message into a headline or soundbite, something short, concise and clear. Jesus might say, “Well Larry, the Kingdom of God is like..”

You probably get the point already.

I have been on a journey of following this Jesus. The one who was born, lived, died and resurrected a couple millennia ago. When at first I started following Jesus, it was for a variety of different reasons and motivations (I could talk to you about those reasons some time in greater detail.) The point I want to make now is that I now find myself following Jesus for a different set of reasons. Some of the orignal reasons  remain, some have evolved, and many are brand new reasons altogether.

Paula and I are learning together what it means to follow Jesus. Recently we have been learning about and deeply exploring this central message of Jesus; the Kingdom of God. There are four accounts of the life of Jesus: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. When I first seriously started reading the story of Jesus I began in Matthew (because it was the first book in the New Testament). Matthew has Jesus going everywhere talking about the “Kingdom of Heaven“. At the time when I first started reading Matthew some people told me that Jesus came to teach people how to get to heaven when they die. Therefore, I used to read Jesus’ parables explaining “the Kingdom of Heaven” and think that he was describing what Heaven will be like for us one day after we die and escape this earthy physical dwelling. I assumed he was talking about a place somewhere else, not here.

Kingdom Of Heaven, Kingdom of God

Rosa Celeste: Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the highest Heaven, The Empyrean 19th century

In contrast, Luke’s and Mark’s Gospel’s tells us Jesus was talking about the “Kingdom of God”. Even though these Gospels had “Kingdom of God” instead of “Kingdom of Heaven” I hadn’t really asked myself why the language was different in their account of things. I just assumed that all of these stories and parables were Jesus’ attempt at describing what Heaven was like and what we needed to do in order to get there some day.

Originally my motivations for following Jesus was more about getting to heaven, escaping this life. My hope was for a distant spiritual place far away from this physical place.

Recently, my motivations have been changing. I am waking up to the reality that actually Jesus wasn’t going around teaching people how to escape this world, rather he was planting creative stories in the minds and hearts of people which were explaining how God’s Kingdom was breaking into this one, the here and now, with renewing and transforming power.

I have been discovering that Jesus’ Kingdom of God Message is about the present, not simply the future. It is about what God is doing through us, not only what he does in and for us. Following Jesus and living for his Kingdom is not the least bit about escaping this world, rather, it is about shaping our world.

Our Lord teaches us to pray for the reality  of God’s-realm (heaven) to become meshed with our-space (earth).

“May your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

This has become our prayer. May the reality/life of heaven become reality in your life today. The Kingdom of God is at hand.

Harrowing of Hell/ 15 c. Hermitage

Harrowing of Hell 15 centurey. Hermitage

 

Poverty



“Poverty is the result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable. Poverty is the absence of shalom in all its meaning.” When Helping Hurts

Zambian documentary photographer

I have told many people about this book that I’m reading, When Helping Hurts. It’s a book serving to identify what true poverty looks like, from all aspects, in order to be able to discern the best way to help alleviate it. Poverty is not just lack of material possessions. It’s not just about lacking food or shelter or shoes to walk to school. There’s definitely a lot of that kind of poverty here in Zambia and it’s an easy thing to recognize, that’s for sure. But what this book is distinguishing between is the material poverty and the kind of poverty that goes deeper. It goes into the very fiber of who we are and who we were created to be. It’s poverty that keeps us from being able to have compassion on others, or that keeps us broken inside, or that keeps us distant from our Maker.

Living in Africa, it’s very tempting to want to help in visibly large ways! I want to be able to say, “I fed 1,000 people today!” I want those 1,000 people to have food. It’s not a bad thing to want, I believe. But what happens when tomorrow, those same 1,000 people don’t have food again? Do they come together as a community to figure out creative ways to get food, or do they come to us, the “makuah” for the handout? (makuah is white person). My heart would be the former, and not the latter. They are wonderfully intelligent, hard working, and compassionate people. But if we only see the immediate need of giving the handouts as the answer, we are stunting their ability to be whole people, to have the dignity of working and to be creative beings to solve problems and see it through. I am challenged and encouraged by the concepts in this book, and it’s helping me form relationships with the people in the village that is not on a “giver and receiver” basis. Instead, it gives us the ability to have relationships with mutual encouragement, helping each other reach our full potential as loved human beings, created for great things, restored for His glory!

Monde.



It’s so easy to think on the life changes we have seen by coming here to Zambia. I often times recall all the things we left behind or the people we miss. That’s not a bad thing. I would like to think it’s actually quite normal and healthy. I’ll be the first one to tell you that I miss my mommy. I’m a momma’s girl for sure. We used to talk on the phone everyday. About everything. I miss that.

Our life has changed dramatically. Too true. We went from a comfortable life in the Pacific Northwest, where we had friends and family, great jobs, and community with our church; we went on dates to our local pub, we ran on the river trail by our house, we volunteered at the local community center, we knew our postman.

These days, we still have community. We have a group of people that all love serving the poor, who serve Jesus first and foremost, and who are passionate about seeing people’s lives improved, both by seeing life in Jesus, but also by tangible things like clean water, orphan care and empowerment. We are a multi-cultural group, which I love. We are friends. We have partnered with some of the most salt-of-the-earth kind of people, who we share life with. We watch movies here, we talk about life and dream together.

Life is much simpler here– simpler than the fast-paced-United-States, sense of the word. We walk a lot. We hang our laundry on a line, we make most of our meals… yes, even I cook. And yet, we are faced with more challenging scenarios and situations than I have ever been faced with before. A woman’s son beats her, a woman’s husband beats her, a woman has just been diagnosed with AIDS,  a father must pass down his demon spirits to his son because it’s tradition… the list goes on. Alcoholism, rape, abuse, AIDS, oppression, fear, poverty… How do we handle it? How does one Jesus-loving group tackle these things?

Here’s my hope… Monde. A little girl, once vulnerable, once abandoned, once left without food or care. Now, living in a safe, loving environment. Once unable to walk because of neglect, now walking. Once only knowing tears and crying, now laughs.

Monde, Vulnerable Children, Children's Home, Zambia, Africa, Love's Door, All-Nations

 

For all the things we don’t know, or for all the things we don’t feel equipped to handle, we have been commanded as Christians to care for the poor and the widow, to show justice and mercy, and to be love, as Jesus loved us. So we press on. We ask for wisdom and grace. We ask for support from you, family and friends. And we ask for prayer to continue to seek what’s right and advocate on behalf of those who can’t.

World Change is How We Roll



World Change is How I Roll….

I received this slogan on a sticker from a company called Sevenly after purchasing a t-shirt that donates funds to people in need of clean water.

I loved the sticker almost as much as the shirt.

How cool would this world be if everyone lived by that little catchy phrase? World Change.

What does it even mean? How can we even do this?

For some people, maybe they can’t go to far off distant lands and work with the poor and broken. Maybe some don’t even want to. Maybe others don’t have any extra money to give or resources to spare.

We know a man here in Zambia in one of the villages we serve in who is constantly telling us about all the needs we should help with. This woman’s thatch roof is falling down, or this family has no food.

He desperately wants to help, but doesn’t feel like he has anything to give.

So he tells the “white man”, who of course, has all the keys to save the world and all the money in the world to do it. Or maybe that’s what they’ve been told or maybe that’s what they’ve learned. (a different subject entirely)

But instead, I want to challenge our friend in the village to give what he does have.

Compassion, time, a worker’s strong hand, prayer, love.

If we think on these things, we all have SO much to give. Some things are intangible, but equally, if not more, moving to another human.

I offer my hand to help, but also, I offer my heart.

Jesus taught me this. He showed us first what it’s like to lay down our lives for others. I have been moved by this and in turn, want to show this love to others. It’s a start. It’s a goal.

And thus, I offer my two cents and challenge you to go ahead… change the world.

The Beginning



Welcome to All Things New, the personal website of Nick and Paula Watts. We will be blogging here regularly of our experiences and stories from Africa. But until we have real Zambia-sourced posts, here is our story thus far..

A Short Story

Beginning from Bend in January of 2008 Paula and I (Nick) started out on a 3 month trip around the world. Our planned points of destination were: Thailand, Cambodia, India, South Africa, and parts of South and Central America. We planned on this being a mix of adventure, research, and world-education all in one. It was that and much more. While in Thailand, Cambodia, and India we saw great opportunities for us to get involved in church work and justice initiatives. On our fourth major stop we had arrived in Cape Town, South Africa. Our initial experience within South Africa was such that we decided to simply scrap the rest of our planned trip which would have taken us to South and Central America. In its stead for the remainder of our time we stayed in S.A. As we began to fall in love with the work we found ourselves in, what began as a 3 month trip turned into 6 months in total. We spent those months in South Africa assisting in disaster relief in a community called Red Hill, the southernmost informal settlement “township” on Cape Peninsula. The residents of Red Hill had just suffered from a wildfire which had burned down hundreds of their homes. We moved in and took part in the rebuilding process. We shared our labor, friendship and our Love for Jesus with many of the people there. It was in one word, Amazing.

A Bigger Story -All Things New

While our own story is one of a growing passion for community development initiatives and justice issues around the world, we have found that our personal stories are getting caught up within a much bigger story than our own. We have been captivated by a Voice telling a bigger story.

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does Yahweh require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

This bigger story is the narrative that God has been telling. The story begins with life and beauty. The middle chapters have involved separation, pain and death. But the end of the story speaks of all things being made new.

“He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’Rev 21:5. This Voice we have been listening to is telling a story where all things are being made new, and a story where we are invited to participate. This Big Story is resounding in our minds and hearts and imagination.

Making New Things

After our trip, we came home to Bend and have been enjoying living, working, and playing with great family and friends -old and new. As much as we have loved our days here, at night our dreams have been of Africa.

Yet the time has come and we are now able to relocate to Livingstone, Zambia where we will be joining up with a Christian Non-Profit called All Nations, working in a rural village called Singanga. We will be the hands and feet of Jesus:

  • Teaching the Way of Jesus in discipling communities
  • Resourcing the many orphaned children due to the AIDS epidemic.
  • Planting sustainable gardens
  • Starting micro-finance business loans
  • Raising awareness through the art of Photography