Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The New Normal

One of my favorite moments is when you are sitting at the terminal, your packed bags are somewhere meandering down a series of conveyor belts in the unknown behind-the-scenes "Narnia" of the airport and you are forced to be present. People watching is at an all time high and your eyes are absorbing all the sights and sounds of the passengers passing by your side. You fill me with joy in your presence - Psalm 16:11 It is that delightful anticipation, where you wait in hope and prepare for a new adventure. You step away from normal.

I miss that moment.

Anytime we step out of comfort, there is this excitement - I am taking a risk and daring to do something that is not characteristic of the normal me. I am stepping away from easy, from comfortable, from the sidewalk and walking on a new road full of danger and possibility. But maybe that is me? Maybe for me, my new normal is jumping on a 7hr bus ride to Lira Northern Uganda, filled with loud ugandan travelers and even chickens walking down the rubber floored aisle. Where people jab sticks of hot cooked pork on a stick into your window wanting you to buy some from them, and you politely decline and laugh to yourself because you are a vegetarian who hasn't eaten meat in over 14 years, let alone had meat shoved into your face while traveling! This is the new normal, my new sidewalk.

Looking out at the Nile River from the window on a crowded bus in Uganda. 

What is comfort? Well now comfort for me is sitting with a child soldier who has been forced to kill her own parents, but chooses to rejoice because she has been forgiven. The child who chooses to dance with her heart in abandonment to her Redeemer who loves her without ceasing. The child who teaches ME how to dance. Together we are dancing to the beat of redemption, to the reality that God has rescued us both from pain, from suffering and from chains that enslave us.

Siyahamba ekukhanyen kwenkhos, Siyahamb ekukhanyen kwenkhos

We are marching for the light of the Lord. We are marching for the light of the Lord. 

Dancing with Judith, former child soldier and girl who I support in school. 

I am free to dance, free to move, free to express my heart in loud song, because I am surrounded by children 
who don't judge, who just accept, who just love you unconditionally as we are meant to be loved. The children
that went through all the hell and fire of war, have been purified, have been saved and now they march in a new light,
marching in a new normal. These children are teaching me what this new normal is - the normal that any pain, any
amount of suffering we bear on our necks, any sin, any crime, any fault can be forgiven.

Shouldn't our normal and our posture always be one of love? Even if it's hard, even if it feels like it's going against 
the grain, can't we always make the choice to love? These children, the very ones that were forced by LRA 
commanders to kill, are choosing to love even their enemies.

This is normal. I'll repeat it again... 




THIS IS NORMAL. I want normal to look like this in my life, that even when I'm hurt by a relationship or a person 
or anything, that I choose to love them, even if it's my worst enemy, I will choose my normal to be one of constant love. I will fail,
as we all will, but I know that I can be forgiven. I look at these 5 -18 year olds and watch as they turn the other cheek,
and accept the blow. They are models of Jesus and an ever present model of living His love on earth. Their new Normal is 
loving, forgiving and having patience with people. Children of War are now Children of Peace in Uganda because they have 
exchanged their painful past for a joyful present. There is nothing normal about being abducted at age 7 by a warlord and being
 forced to kill, mame, rape, pillage, burn, lie, steal, cheat - I will never be able to understand why or how that had to happen, but
 I want to see the good in all of it. The good that I can see, is children rising up like the sun to be peace ambassadors that come
from one of the most broken backgrounds and yet they build structures of hope, with reconciled pieces of wood. Sounds a lot like
Jesus doesn't it? Where two pieces of wood, the cross, became a symbol of victory. I can tell you, surviving the war in Uganda, 
became a symbol of victory for these children. And it should be a symbol of victory that world peace is possible.

Our history Ends with the cross; our new story begins with the awakening of Jesus and with our awakening to the reality of his love 

in our life! I so clearly see and understand the gospel when I see children of war, made new and made whole again. They still 
have nail scarred hands. They have machete wounds and some of them even have bullets still in their bodies, but that doesn't
cause bitterness, it instead compels them to love, to forgive, and live new normal lives treating others as they want to be treated. 

I am sure I have gone through trauma hearing these stories of pain. It's hard to block your heart from the reality of the stories these

children tell, but the real story that I hear when I listen to them, their stories I record, are stories that change people from the inside out. 
Stories that reveal the true nature of a loving and forgiving God. Stories that cause you to wonder - can I have this freedom in my life? 
Can I seek good all of my days? Can I find hope, even when I'm in a battlefield of despair? 

The answer is, you can. You have the opportunity and ability to forgive, to love, to accept and it is yours for the taking. 

You can walk in this light, and have your new normal be Loving others FIRST before yourself. I am still learning how to do that,
but the more time I spend with these kids, they as my teachers help me understand this new normal. The normal that God wants for 
our lives, the normal that God created us to be. 

A normal -  of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.

- Galations 5:22

I think life would be much more of an adventure and exciting if our normal was living like this every day. 

It would be just like being at an airport waiting for a new journey to begin. But the destination is unknown, 
your packed bags are behind you, and you are free and ready and willing to go actively love someone 
without hesitation. 

I am grateful for my short 5 weeks in Lira, Uganda that changed my normal. It's hard to sit in comfortable California

and miss these amazing children, but the truth is my true comfort is in the arms of orphans of war, in the arms
of the Lord knowing I am accepted and I am loved. It doesn't matter where I am, as long as I keep loving people
as I have been loved, with a love that never fails. 

As the Children of Peace Uganda speak let these words they chose resonate with you and remind you,
all things work for Good. Hope, Patience, Love, Freedom, End Child Soldiering, Forgive.