consecrated together


There is something in the world of Corporate Law called a No Compete Agreement.  My understanding is it’s when someone sells or leaves a company and signs a promise not to start another similar company in direct competition.  Once working together, then finding themselves in competition.  It’s understandable something like that would be needed in business, I suppose. But not here.  Not here.

photo-8It was my fourth year at the Cardinal Newman High School Service Fair, and I’m just now realizing how right they’re getting it in the area of service.   Looking around at all of the various local organizations, ours being global, I was thinking how amazing it was to have one another, and how sad it would be if we were the only organization present.  If we were the only optional area for these kids to serve.  Because believe it or not, not everybody is passionate about India.  No, really.  It’s true.  But deep down everybody is passionate about something, but not everybody is passionate about India.

But that doesn’t mean what they’re passionate about is wrong. 

Yes, I’m passionate about India.  I’m particularly concerned with hurting people no matter where they are, but right now, seem to be centered on the rural poor in India.  God placed this in me for a purpose.  His purpose.  He placed a passion in you for His purpose too, and each one of these kids I was looking at on Monday.  I was thinking how blessed we are in Sonoma County to have such a wide variety of local organizations, because if we didn’t, and LoveManifest were the only one sitting here as the single choice for these kids, what we would have is a very large group of seemingly passionless teens, and I wouldn’t know what to do with them.  I suppose I could make something up, but it would actually be more of a hinderance… this large group of mismatched kids with nothing to do.  And it might derail us as well as we struggled to create an area for them to get excited about that was outside of our God given mission.  Take NAMI for instance.  NAMI is amazing at what they do with those challenged in the area of mental health!  They have a singleness of purpose, and they excel at it.  Chances are, if you, or someone close to you has been affected by the insidiousness of mental illness, then NAMI is for you.

I watched with anticipation and hope for the kids interested in Free to Be.  An organization targeting a very specific area previously overlooked in Sonoma County.  Those interested would be investing in each other.  Very cool.  I, for one, am grateful for Free to Be, although I wouldn’t even have a clue how to do what they do so well.

Or Crossing the Jordan Foundation, who provided an ample supply of service hours in the area of babysitting, and even housing renovation, for the ultimate goal of restored lives of women and children.  Perfect!

So I looked around and I saw opportunities for kids to grow and discover who they are, and why they’re here.  I saw possibilities for a changing world as teens met mentors who are going in a direction they’re excited about.  An area they both find purpose.

One young man came to our table and casually looked us over, then told us he had chosen Bicycles for Humanity.  I was SO excited!!  They’re an incredible organization collecting and distributing bikes to people in Africa.  I’ve seen a lot of kids get excited about this organization.  The founders are very low profile and kind, and quietly accomplish what they were called to do.   This is the ultimate in “attraction rather than promotion”.  Often the only thing you see from them is a rapidly filling crate in a high school parking lot.

IMG_0298I look over to see the Sonoma County Animal Control amongst this large group of people geared organizations, and I remember when I was a kid that’s exactly where my heart centered.  Animals.  Then slowly focusing on foster children, and later on, lepers, widows, and whole villages were added… but I cannot go through the streets of India (or anywhere) and not feel distressed by the starving cattle, and limping dogs.  Mistreat one of these creatures in my presence, and you will see a side of me you haven’t seen before.  See, people did not replace animals on my list of passions…they increased it.    The spark ignited not with an organization, but with our first stray dog and rescued turtle.  So I see the significance in including the Animal Shelter as an option along with all the rest of us.  Each one so important, but none better than the other.  I also see why they brought a cat along as their representative.  🙂

I had to “put up or shut up” recently and ask my own 12 year old twins if they would like to pursue a passion outside the scope of LoveManifest.  I wasn’t offering to add whatever it might be to LoveManifest, but would encourage them to find someone to lead them in their area of passion.  I didn’t have to do that yet, but there may come a time.

I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if my friend at Wells for Life hadn’t invested in me, tirelessly answering my questions, and said “YES, PLEASE DO!” when I asked if he would mind if we provided water in India too.  I’ll never forget that phone call, his enthusiastic go ahead, and the example he set for me.  I was always trying to inject my great ideas and opinions onto his path, yet he stayed true to his singleness of purpose.  Clean water.   In bore well fashion.  In India.  Until God tells him differently.

We can’t be all things to all people, and that’s why we have each other.  God impassioned us with different things for a reason.  Not one of them wrong or better than the next.  And yes, we are consecrated and set apart for His use.  For His Kingdom, not ours.

It would be easy to pursue our passion over His Kingdom, wouldn’t it?  To make it an idol?

But if we all encouraged one another to put feet to purpose, even if it’s not what we perceive to be as important as ours; or stood back and cheered as another fulfilled theirs; even if it means they joined with someone else, then maybe, just maybe, we would see an increase in real change.  Because the truth is… His Kingdom?  That’s our purpose.

Love, Val

Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind.  

– 1 Thessalonians 5:11 MSG



let the children come


Every trip to India has a different feel.   Something new for me to learn.  I couldn’t quite place my finger on this one, and just kept calling it “joy”, but having been quietly home six days now, have finally figured it out.  It’s a word that has been with me all year, and I am excited (in the way “excited” makes me want to cry) to say, it’s “purity”.

DSC_5304From the time we got to the airport (just after being put on high terror alert), or maybe before, I don’t know, there was a purity about this trip.  An innocence.  A hope, and a joy.  Even amidst the heaviest moments was this absolute unquestionable certainty God was in control.  It was pure faith.  Childlike, and sweet.

Some may wonder how there can be so much laughter, and dancing in the midst of such devastating circumstances as rural India.  In the middle of profound poverty,  lightening storms, terror alerts, and political disturbances.  But that’s what makes me marvel at the this particular team.  They were not clueless.  They were not oblivious.  They were very much informed, and knew what was going on around us, but in the very thick of it chose to believe God is who He says He is, and danced through it all.

This morning I was listening to the old hymn most of us have heard and can recite by heart:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full in His wonderful face

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace

Perfect lyrics, right? But have you ever heard the ending?

His Word shall not fail you, He promised

Believe Him and all will be well

Then go to a world that is dying

His perfect salvation to tell

So much is packed into these two verses, but I’m sure that one line jumped out at you too?  “Believe Him and all will be well”.

Every team I’ve ever been on has been faithful beyond description, without exception.   The miracles we’ve experienced have been ones that I have yet been able to put to words.  This time was just unique.  Not better or worse… but sweetly different.

DSC04599There are so many times that I could write about… praying through the night on the bathroom floor with Darby… Kathy’s precious breakfast prayers… and I will later.  But one moment I’ll share now is when at a village school, mobs of excited children were being shoo’d away from us by their teachers.  Melissa, just beside herself, and with tears in her eyes turned and said ‘no, no, Jesus said ‘let the little children come!'”

And come they did!

Right then, our beautiful friend and partner, Father Dhana, walks past the stick shaking teacher with cookies and hands them out to the children.

Jesus.   Jesus.  Everywhere.

I want to thank Darby, Melissa, Kathy, and Father Dhana too, for demonstrating what it’s like to believe Him, with the faith of a child.  To act in direct contrast to your surroundings.  To be an example of Jesus in every circumstance.  You stretched me.

When there is nothing else, He is there.

Love, Val

The Little Children and Jesus

The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: “Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.” Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them.

— Mark 10:13-16 The Message

untouchable touchable


I have another song in my head.  Well, my own made up version of one line of a real song, anyway.

IMG_1822 “Jesus makes the untouchable touchable.”  It may sound familiar to you, although the original says “Impossible Possible”, but after today, I wonder if I’ll ever sing it that way again without struggling not to say “untouchable touchable”.

Today we are in Tuni, about an hour and a half outside of Vishakapatanam (since few people outside of Tuni know where Tuni is).   As we waited in the room where medical care and prayer took place, I thought about how every hand and head we held had been labeled “untouchable” by a cruel and outdated caste system which is supposed to be dead, and actually is illegal, but very much alive in rural India.

Do you know what that is?  What “untouchable” means?  I know we’ve talked about this before, but it still makes my head spin, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop talking about it.  It’s a term used for those born into a life of “less than”.  Less than you, me, the dog.  A term for one who is born contaminated.  Who is one caste step below “extremely backwards”.  From birth, those who are not in this class know they are better than this group, and to steer clear of these unfortunate people.  It’s a real life game of Cooties but with drastic measures, routine cruelty and unbelievable oppression.  It’s Jesus Opposite, is what it is.

In 2009 my daughter heard this term for the first time.  She was 8 years old, and we were in India to see some wells, and the people they’d helped.  We had gone into a very remote tribal area, which took about 2 1/2 hours to reach by car, truck and motorbike.  There was a large group of around 20 of us, and as we waited for our team members to arrive atop the hill one by one, the receiving line of villagers waited in the hot sun.  No complaints.   I looked down the hill anxious to see my husband and son make it safely to the top where my daughter and I already stood.  She had other plans.

12631_193387215158_3824314_nBella could never grasp the term “untouchable” and was obviously determined to fix it, and while we looked expectantly for our team to arrive, I turned to see as she started down the receiving line of children on her own.  One after the other she placed her small hands on them.  One, by one, by one, without a word, she touched them.  Arms crossing over as she walked.

You, you, you, I’ll touch you, and you, now you.  You.  Nobody is untouchable.  Not you, not you, not you.

I watched in silence knowing exactly what she was doing.  A fellow team member, Bob… he got it too.

“That one, right there” he said.  “That’s our ambassador.”

She still is.

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. – 2 Corinthians 5:20

two pounds of cherries


I went to the store yesterday.  It’s a kind of hip, organic vegan place about two miles from my house.  I’m not hip, or vegan, but am doing my best to feed my family locally grown, pesticide free produce.  Comes with living in Sonoma County, I suppose.  We do have some of the best food in the world.

cherries-350x312Without much thought, I grabbed a 2 pound pre-weighed bag of cherries and proceeded to the register.  Based on my experience, these are goooood cherries.  Big, fat, and satisfying.   I like em.

“That will be $15.77”

Stunned, I silently hand over my ATM card.

Three children.

That’s my first thought.  Three children.

I know the numbers.  $15 provides clean water for three children for 10 years (or more), and I just opted for a bag of cherries instead.  Even more than just knowing the numbers, I actually have an avenue to take $15 and turn it into water.  But the guy behind the counter asked for it, and with my actions, I said it was okay with me to pay $15 for two pounds of cherries.  I didn’t risk embarrassment and put them back to  go down the street where they are $3.99.  I didn’t say, “never mind”, I didn’t do anything other than support it.

My actions said “this is perfectly okay”, and my heart said, “three children”.

Smiling children from a health clinic

In one week from today I will be face to face with those children.  I think that’s why it’s hitting me hardest right now, and I am once again calculating every single purchase in terms of water.  It’s easy to say “okay” when you never see their faces, or even don’t know what to do.  But to look into the eyes of a child who has never tasted clean water, to have a solution, and know I chose cherries instead?

It is a delicate balance to keep from going to extremes.  Only God can keep me from going straight off the deep end, being of no use to anyone.   So we talked it out this morning.  I’m not going to beat myself up anymore over the two pounds of cherries, but I’m not going to be so thoughtless either.

Love, Valerie


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