10,000 Reasons

*This ongoing list is intended to chronicle the many different ways that I see God’s grace, faithfulness, and rich blessings. It began as a practice following the form of One Thousand Gifts, but I felt convicted to go beyond. The song “10,000 Reasons” reminded me clearly that even such a number is not enough ways or times to give thanks to God

838) “Mi corazon para ti es aqui”
837) 10:13
836) Having “some sense”
835) Walk with a view of Spring
834) Opportunities to work
833) Phone call from my daughter first day back
832) Interrupted plans
831) Flight voucher
830) Being able to communicate with Willie, David, Ana, Kellyn, Leo, Alexa, Nancy, Misael in their language
829) Not needing a translator to understand the prayer requests
828) Wiping the table
827) Cleaning the stove
826) Washing dishes
825) Holding a baby and remembering what to do
824) Coloring
823) The generosity to build a new home for the orphanage
822) Being able to use Spanish to make others laugh
821) Perry the Platypus
820) “Hasta pronto”
819) Hug lines
818) The prayer of youth
817) Dreams that show us who we will meet one day
816) Texting on the toilet
815) “My roommates are delinquents.”
814) “If someone from Iceland marries someone from Cuba, do they have ice cubes?”
813) “Brittany laughs like Santa.”
812) “Yo!”
811) Belly laughs
810) Morgan
809) Monique
808) Teresa
807) Dave
806) Misael
805) Vic
804) Cora
803) Kristy
802) Sandy
801) Michele
800) Brittany
799) Terri
798) David
797) Ana
796) Katherine
795) Orphan Outreach
794) The Potter’s House
793) The Oosterinks
792) David’s father
791) Willie
790) Gabby
789) Claudia
788) Janet
787) Kellyn
786) Leo
785) Kayla
784) Keila
783) Austin
782) Emily
781) David
780) Aben

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Honduras, Dia 7

To say that I have avoided writing this is to put it mildly. Day 7 is the final day. Was the final day. The end. Todo. El fin. No mas.
Essentially a travel day, but not before we had half of the day in Honduras. At the end of the day, I felt no farther ahead in my summary of my time: confirming and confusing. Allow me to explain.

Confirming
I remember sending an email to a friend that, months ago, declared I would travel to Honduras. Three minutes into the interview for the trip, I sensed a shift in the present spirit, and I knew I would go. And every step of the trip confirmed that I should be in Honduras. I was not uncomfortable. I put my limited Spanish into play and was told by Hondurans that I had the right “accent.” The ministry already there, the people, the children – everything made me feel at home. At one point I heard God say, “Mi corazon para ti es aqui.”
But the plane ticket had been purchased, and it was round-trip. And I awoke with questions. I did not like the feeling of being an “outsider.” I want to be an “insider.” Before my alarm went off, God woke me up. He sent me to the roof for devotions, devotions from Psalms. As the sun began to peek over the mountains, I read this: “Arise, O Lord!” from Psalm 3:7. Then, from Psalm 4:6, “Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord.”
Finally, as the sun continued to rise, I read this:
In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” Psalm 5:3
Of course. All of my questions, all of my requests, belonged in one place – God’s hands. So, as I have tried to do this week, I prayed in Spanish. I asked to return to Honduras – soon. All week I refrained to say, “Adios” as we wrapped up in the school and the orphanage. I always said, “Hasta pronto.” Lord willing, I will see them soon.
But now what?

Confusing
I am certain that God oversees our technology. Time and time again, there have been times when I am unable to do as I wish – to post, send or check email, to edit photos – and I must choose something else to do. This week was no exception. Instead of being able to publish a piece, I have added more. Instead of scanning social media, I have turned to the Word. This happened today on Day 7.
When the wireless connection would not connect, I turned back to my reading for the day. And never before has the Introduction of a book spoken so powerfully to me. Consider my heart’s desire, my ache to stay, my love to write, and my question of where I belong. And I read this in the introduction to 1 Peter:
Nevertheless some claim that the idiomatic Greek of this letter is beyond Peter’s competence. But in his time Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek were used in the Holy Land, and he may well have been acquainted with more than one language. That he was not a professionally trained scribe..”
That last part caught me. For the past few month I have felt confirmed in pursuing a call to ministry. But the question has been, do I need to pursue formal training? This week and this line tell me no. No one formally trained Edith to care for fifteen orphans, she just did it. My heart desires to serve children, and I believe that is where God calls me. But where? And how?
Without an answer we flew into Atlanta. Instantly I felt heavier. Weight and responsibility began to settle on my shoulders. I did not like the feeling. Then something I had only imagined began to come into reality. I had said that if Michigan was in the championship game in Atlanta on Monday, I might have to go. Well, it just so happens that our connecting flight was oversold and they wanted people to stay back.
Really..
One of the trip members said, “Doug, I think it’s a sign. I think you should stay.” I volunteered and they needed me, so I stayed. But why stay for one night? Why not stay and try to go to the game? So I made plans to stay. And here I am – in my hotel room.
Why?
Well, the truth is that my desire to see the game has been trumped. Before the plane to Grand Rapids had even landed, there was an email from Honduras. One of the boys we met had a father who experienced a stroke and was given very little hope to survive. The mother planned to pull Jose from school since there was no clear plan for income. So as I look at the price for one ticket, for one night, for one game..I weigh it against the cost to support one boy and his family for a year.
This has been, in many ways, a difficult week for me. I weigh my privilege against their need. The pull of my heart goes to Honduras and back home. There are three handsome children who wait for me and need me. How do I mesh my two experiences? I want to know, “Now what?”
Jesus never really operated that way. He never told his disciples, “Well, tomorrow I will be raising a boy from the dead and withering a fig tree.” No, he met the need where he was at that time. The only time he began to point to the future was before his death, and even then his disciples did not believe him.
All day I have wondered why I am still here in Atlanta. If not for the game, then why? And I may never know. Just like in Honduras, you cannot measure a hug, a smile, a word, a gift. It is a love stone thrown into God’s ocean, and he directs the ripples. How can I know the impact on the person being able to return last night instead of me? How can I know the impact on the people who sought me out today and found me with the time to “be”?
We do not need to know the “what’s next?” but only the “what’s now?” We can only be where we are. My sons need me. Children around me need me. People in my community need me. As God would use me, I must be poured out where I am. I AM is where I am, which is why He told me, “Mi corazon para ti es aqui.” His heart for me IS here, wherever I am.
So I will trust. I will be. Wherever I am, and trust the Lord with the rest. Today I took a walk and the Lord told me to check my phone. There was no message. No reminder. Only the time.
10:13.
“What does that mean?” I asked.
As he so often does, the Lord responded, “You’ll see.”
Yes, we will.

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Honduras, Dia 6

Daddy, do you see me?
Do you know that I am here?
Will you step forth to hold my hand
And wipe away my tears?
To live within your love
Is my heart’s only desire,
To feel your love consume me
As a never-ending fire.
Your love, my heart; my heart, your love,
Naught else satisfies.
Your love my love; my heart your heart,
My heartbreak is your cry.
As son of God, I pray that you
Would rise up and take a stand.
As child of God, you know that you
Should come and take my hand.
Help me color, feed and clothe me –
Know I wait for you.
Show me love and show me God
And prove his Word is true.
You’ve seen my smile and now I know
You’ve heard your daughter’s voice.
And now my final question is,
“Daddy, what’s your choice?”

The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons and daughters of God to be revealed. Romans 8:19

One possible response to brokenness and injustice is to feel pity. How terrible, that’s awful..the I’m-sorry-I-saw-that response. But pity does not move us beyond ourself.
There is compassion as another response. Compassion drives us to activity, to do something. Compassion is good, but then what? Did your activity change the life of the receiver, or did it make your own broken heart feel better? Compassion is not bad – don’t get me wrong – but this is an honest question I must ask to myself.
Compassion seems like enough until it is held up to a higher standard. That standard is love. Today we had the opportunity to visit San Jose orphanage in La Paz. The orphanage exists because God found a willing vessel. A vessel empty of all but love. Edith was once a nun, teaching in a school. But as she taught in a privileged area, she felt God telling her there was more. There was.
She left the ministry and, therefore, all of her means of support. While staying with her parents, she continued to pray. One day a mother dropped off two children, asking Edith to care for them, and left. Edith did. What may have begun as compassion grew into more. Word spread of Edith and more children were left with her. Her only means of support was daily dependence upon God. When the mayor’s office forced her from her apartment, she was offered the use of an abandoned high school. Fitting, perhaps, that abandoned children would be given an abandoned building.
Edith thanked the Lord and her compassion spilled over into love. Tonight as I rest comfortably, Edith is sharing a bed with at least two, if not three, small children. Daily she cares for at least fifteen children, and sometimes even more. With the help of one woman that prepares lunches, she labors on.
But look at what the Lord does – he provides. There is always food. The kids are safe. The kids are loved. We often forget that there is a difference between our wants and our needs. My list of blessings has grown longer this week while I am farther removed from my comforts. We experience the complete fullness of God when we are empty.
The verse in Romans cries out for sons and daughters of God to be revealed. And how will the world know we are God’s children? By our love. I shared with others today that I do not like the feeling of being an outsider. All three girls in this picture are special for me in my experience of Honduras. Two of them became my playground partners as I took off the safety net and waded up into their world. I put my limited Spanish into practice, and they were thrilled that I understood. Because I understood, they asked me to do more and more. One in particular talked to me all afternoon at the park, even though she knew I could not understand everything. The third girl is one that I met at the orphanage and I helped her color a picture. With fierce intensity she colored and then asked for the next color to add. And that is what I had to stop experiencing when it was time to leave.
Which all points back to my honest assessment: when have I been completely empty? How do I reconcile my experience with theirs? I know that such questions are common at he conclusion of a mission trip, but still I ask, “Now what?”
I intentionally chose not to say good-bye to the children this week. Instead I thanked them for the hugs and said, “Hasta pronto,” our equivalent to “See you soon.” I know God confirmed my steps in this journey. I also know there is more. But to experience more, I must move forward in the process of emptying myself. Only then will I see where God is leading.
Bendiciones, Honduras.

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Honduras, Dia 5

Grasping hands
Moments into life
Little ones
Learn to hold on

Set free to fly
From the hands of the father
Little ones
Learn to let go

Letting go and holding on is a lifelong dance we have before us. We start by clutching what is near, and holding on to the one who brought us forth. But soon many of us are set free to fly, tossed in the air by our father, fear and delight in our first thrill ride.
Whether our hands are open or closed determines what we receive, and who we can include, in our life. Yesterday I had the blessing of taking my morning devotion time on the terrace, just as the sun began to rise. Falling more in love with my understanding and ability in the Spanish language, I read from a copy of El Nuevo Testamento. As I read the story of the unmerciful servant, I noticed that the sun had begun to rise. On the backs and edges of the clouds over the mountains, hints of pink and orange appeared. Yet, because of the clouds, the sun was still hidden. Moments later I caught a glimpse of the now-risen sun, and just as quickly it was hidden. Finishing my reading, I went to the edge of the terrace, waiting for the brilliance of the sun.
Watching patiently (at least for me), I stood and watched the clouds press on. Then it arrived in all of its brilliance. Far too bright for my eyes, I had to shut them and simply allow the sun to soak my face. I thought back to the Scriptures that tell us of God’s full glory, and how we cannot even look upon it. Even if we catch a glimpse of his back, that is too much for us.
As I stood there, with eyes closed, tears began to fall from my eyes. At first I wondered why, but only for a moment. I was receiving, and that is difficult for me. I had stopped long enough to not only notice God’s beauty, but also to enjoy it. As I continued my conversation with God, I heard him say, “Mi corazon para ti es aqui.” (My heart for you is here.)
If you have read my previous posts, you have read my thoughts on God’s heartbeat. There is a place where God’s heartbeat matches our own, and finding that place allows us to sing in unison with him. After hearing that, I was challenged to receive yet again. His message is not one to question, nor attempt to exegete how this will take place. His words for us, uniquely fitting our lives, are meant to be received with open arms.
Our fifth day was our final day at Jubilee. Before lunch the students presented us with songs, powerful words from the heart, and hug after hug after hug. What do you do with that? The only thing that you can – receive the love. We spent the afternoon with the teachers of the school, spending time with them in a park, shopping, and eating a meal together. They are a difficult group to give to because they kept giving us even more in return. They received us so graciously.
While shopping I had offered to buy something for our translator, but she declined. She said, “I’m more of a giver. I have already received so much from God, I have all I need.” (Hard to argue that.) At the end of that time, I noticed that she was going to buy a coffee. Opportunity! So I offered to pay for it. She declined. I appealed to the woman at the counter (in Spanish, even!) that I would pay. Again, the translator declined and made a persuasive argument to the woman working. She asked if I wanted anything, and I ordered, hoping that NOW I could surely pay.
No.
I was “forced” to receive. Unfortunately, God very often has to take the same approach with me. I want to give to him to “even things out” a little. I want to be worthy of what God keeps pouring into me. But if I keep trying to settle a score, I will end up just like the unmerciful servant. God has given to me a gift of mercy far beyond my capacity to pay. He knows I could never afford that cost. All he asks in return is that I follow his example in much smaller replicas. Do justice. Love mercy. And walk humbly with God.
I can do justice.
I like mercy, I am learning to love.
I really need to work on walking humbly. I really need to work on receiving.
When we learn to let go as children, we are set free. There are more people to know, more people to love. But we cannot hold hands with them forever, or we will never love more people. So, in moments of trust, we let go. And more people come into our circle. We hold on. We let go. And God’s love reaches father.
Without my knowing it, my son Caleb’s memorization of Bible verses last school year helped to raise money for the students we met. Without my knowing it, the family that connected this school in Honduras to the organization that brought me here was the same family that hosted each of my sons classes for a party as they completed first grade. We simply do not know what God will do when we let go. He knows. He gives. And we must receive.

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Honduras, Dia 3 y 4

We often talk of love as something like the wind: you can know that it is there by what you feel, or by seeing the effects. I often thought that, but that makes love a mystery. Jesus did not come to write a mystery. He wrote a love story, a torrid affair between God and his children. How we know that? Because of touch.
Jesus did not want us to feel love in the wind, which are like our thoughts and wishes. No, he let all feel it in his hands and words as he:
Washed their feet
Touched their eyes
Broke their bread
Held their hand on the water
Picked them up into his arms
Spoke their language
Told them stories
Stretched out his hands

I am tremendously blessed to have experienced love – tangible love – through the touch and the words of those around us here in Honduras. Now, certainly it is not necessary to travel to another country to experience this. But we do have to travel out of our comfort zone. Our comfort zone is like the bed where we sleep, and where we can think about love. But when we walk into the lives of others and experience what they are experiencing, then we can experience love – both giving and receiving.
Receiving abrazos y besos (hugs and kisses) are powerful gifts of love. Being asked to slide down a slide, swing on a swing, all while in another’s world, is powerful. I am a guest. I am visiting. But the reception has been gracious and loving.
And who would want to leave that?
God has graciously given me more time here to love and be loved, but it will be hard to leave.
Unless…
I remember that God’s love is everywhere. It is not bound to a country, a city, a school, a person. God’s love is bound in us…
Unless we set it free.
Then, God’s love is boundless.

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10,000 Reasons

*This ongoing list is intended to chronicle the many different ways that I see God’s grace, faithfulness, and rich blessings. It began as a practice following the form of One Thousand Gifts, but I felt convicted to go beyond. The song “10,000 Reasons” reminded me clearly that even such a number is not enough ways or times to give thanks to God

779) The view from the terrace
778) Laundry facilities
777) Memorized Scripture
776) A sandwich made for me
775) Removing the “net” and speaking only in Spanish
774) Incredible parent support for the field trip
773) Being called “Profe Douglas”
772) Morning devotions
771) A Honduran thunderstorm
770) Shared pineapple and crackers
769) Expressive storytelling
768) Spectacular mountain views
767) Futbol with Anthony, Anthony, Daniel, Jose, and Adam
766) Slides and swings with Alexa and Nancy
765) A field trip that did not include me having to “count” kids
764) Taking fewer pictures and making more memories

Honduras, Day 2

Perhaps it is true that we can hear God most clearly when he doesn’t speak our language. If God does not speak our language, we cannot argue. We cannot analyze. We can only listen. For even when God does not speak our tongue’s language, he can, and will, speak our heart language.
At breakfast this morning, one of our trip leaders shared with me this quote, a favorite of hers: “Every man has a pull to the earth, but it is not always for where they are.” I thanked her for sharing that because it fit perfectly for me today.
In music, you can sing the same song as someone but choose different notes. That is called harmony, and that is one aspect of our life here on Earth – to live in harmony. So, even though my heart may beat to a different note than yours, we can sing the same life song and live in harmony. We can do the same with God. Where you are right now may be a place of harmony – you and God singing the same song, but with different notes.
But there is another way to sing, and that is in unison. Unison is when you sing the same song as someone and sing the same notes. Brothers and sisters, we have been called to live in unison with God. So how do we do that? We must follow our heart language and find the place where God’s heartbeat matches our unique heartbeat. Our heart breaks uniquely and our heart beats uniquely, and we live in search of that place where our beat matches our Heavenly Father’s.
I am certain that that has happened for Austin, the Virginia native who once sold all of his belongings so that he could come and live with the children of an orphanage in Honduras. He heard God’s heartbeat here and he recognized it, for it was the same as his own. So he gave up all that he had, came back for the love of the children, and stayed for the love of Honduras (and a Honduran). Tomorrow, Lord willing, he will wake up early on his birthday to help lead us through our day, and will end the day by having our group to his house – so that he can serve us. Would that happen for him had he stayed in Virginia? Likely not, but here his heart beats in unison with God’s and he loves that.
I am certain this has happened for Emily, a graduate from the school where my sons attend, and her husband David (pronounced here as Dah-VEED). Last week their car broke down, but it could not be fixed because of the celebration of Holy Week. Then they could not find the keys to their car. So they made plans for today to use the car of David’s father, but last night the battery of the car was stolen. Yet somehow they found a way to meet us with smiles at the school they began four years ago. When you hear their words, you hear their heart, and you know it is beating in unison with God’s.
David shared that, a while back, he heard the incredible and heart-wrenching story of a man named Javier who had been abandoned to the streets as a young boy. After hearing the horrific details of this man’s life, David asked him why he shared that. “Because I don’t want that to happen to my two sons,” Javier replied. Javier’s two sons are attending Jubilee, the school David and Emily started, and we met those two boys today. David and Emily Romero live in unison with God.
Tonight we had the privilege of joining the Romeros for a small group that meets in the home of a family in the school’s community. We sang songs together, both in English and Spanish. Then we sang them at the same time. If you ever wish to start hearing God’s heartbeat more clearly, sing “Holy, Holy, Holy,” at the same time someone else sings “Santo, Santo, Santo.” That is unison.
Emily and David have dreams. They have been able to purchase land to use for their own buildings. They desire to start a church and have begun to raise up leaders in the community who can step in when the time is right. How can they do all of this in the community, and raise their own children? Because they know the next beat. Whether or not they can see it, they know the heart of God and what is coming next. They walk in faith because they walk in unison.
God is always working, but we are often so busy talking that we do not hear him. Gideon asked that question that we often ask: “But sir,” Gideon replied, “if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?” Judges 6:13a. Gideon did not see it yet, but God was preparing to move him. He was too busy looking at what was around him to see what was coming.
What I find interesting is to discover Gideon’s activity when an angel of the Lord appeared. He was threshing wheat in secret so that he could keep it from the enemy. In other words, Gideon was protecting what belonged to God’s people. His heart was beating in harmony with God’s, but God wanted unison. Gideon was called not only to protect what belonged to God’s people, but to protect God’s people. However, Gideon did not see that vision until he sacrificed something. Gideon prepared a meal for the angel, still not fully recognizing this visitor. When the meal was completely consumed by fire, Gideon was immediately aware of his company. We must sacrifice in order to see.
You have likely heard God’s heartbeat. It’s pretty hard to miss. Maybe you even began to sing in harmony. But to move to unison, you have to sacrifice your own notes. Gideon gave a meal. Austin sold all he had. Emily gave up apparent comforts and any hint of her own agenda. David gave and gives his all. So what about you? Are you willing to sacrifice so that you can move from harmony to unity?
When the angel touched Gideon’s meal with the tip of his staff, it was completely consumed. Why? Because that which we are prompted to give to God is meant to be used by no one else. God uses it all for his purpose.
Whether or not you can see it, God is working. It might not be meant for you to see yet because you are too far away. You might be listening with your ears instead of your heart. You might have missed that God is speaking another language, the language of the heart. Listen so that your heart can sing in unison with God’s.
How?
I’m glad you asked.
1) Change your routine and your location. When we stay in the same place, we hear what we are expecting to hear. When we are somewhere new, we must listen for what is really there.
2) Sacrifice. To determine our readiness, God needs to know what we are willing to give up. Gideon gave a meal to an angel and was called to lead God’s battle for his people. God wants to see that you are ready.
3) Look up. Today as we were about to enter the Jubilee school, I noticed the cloud in the picture. At first it looked like a heart. I had a difficult time seeing to take the picture because of the sun. After the second attempt, I looked at it again. It looked not like a heart, but very much like an angel. Again I was reminded: God is working when we do not see. The other pictures are as follows:
Top) David and Emily pointing out the community surrounding their school.
Middle) Proverbs 22:6 on the back of a student’s shirt
Bottom) Austin sharing his heart with us while standing beneath the large statue of Jesus.
Changing where we look allows us to see glimpses of what God is doing. So as you look, listen, and sacrifice, you can expect to find your song moving from harmony to one of unity.

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