Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Little Birdie

Yesterday, a life-long dream of mine was fulfilled. For anyone who has grown up watching Mary Poppins or Disney princess movies, you may identify with this desire. At one point in my day I decided to take a moment to pause and take in the beautiful scenery. Nearby I heard a little chirping and looked to see a cute, tiny bird sitting alone in the grass. I whistled a hello and saw him turn his head towards me in response. Keen to get a closer look, I continued to whistle as I crept—slowly, slowly—closer. To my astonishment, I was able to reach my hand right up to the little one and stroke its chest with my finger. Not wanting to frighten him (or her) I did not immediately try to hold it, but rather got it to stand on a stick that I was able to pick up a little. It was so precious and I really felt we were bonding, but I had heard that if you hold a baby bird it will pick up your scent and its mother will not take it back anymore, so I left him and went back to the office. After a while, I returned to the spot and found the creature still there alone. It hopped and flew a few inches at a time, but definitely seemed either somewhat injured or yet unable to fly. Unable to resist any longer, I resumed the wooing until I was able to pick it up and hold the tiny bird in my hand. He quickly became very comfortable with me and for the next few hours we bonded. I walked all around with him sitting on my fingers or my arm. I whistled different tunes and he chirped back every now and then. I could not believe that I was actually holding a wild bird. I thought—wow—I really am a princess.
The delightful company of my new little friend began to melt into concern over what I should do with the poor creature. I was not able to find any worms, though I admit I did not look hard enough. I tried feeding it some sesame seeds, but was unsuccessful. In the end, as dinner was starting, I put him back underneath the tree where I had found him. I heard the mother and baby chirping back and forth, and I prayed that God would bring them back together despite my interference. I knew, however, that it probably wasn’t a way for him to get back to his nest without being able to fly, so after dinner I went back to look for him. I figured if he was still there and all alone I would take him home and try to figure out a way to care for him. I was not able to find him and so thought maybe, by some chance, he had reunited with his mother. This morning I found out sadly that that was not the case. Going back to the tree in daylight, I found my little friend. At least I could tell that a cat had not taken him. I believe hunger and cold were the final enemies. So, before worship this morning I buried my little friend and said goodbye. (Now I love animals but am not super soppy about them. I would actually like to go hunting one day. But I had bonded with the helpless little creature and felt responsible for it.)

In worship this morning, I came before the Lord with my questions. I was faced with my selfishness and wondered if I had acted out of compassion or cruelty. I realized that there were two possibilities. Either the bird would have learned how to fly and been fine had my scent and interference not caused it to be rejected by its mother, or the bird had already been rejected before I found it and I was able to bring it comfort and acceptance in the last hours of its life. I really don’t know which scenario is true, but I believe I can learn from both possibilities. Jesus tells His followers:

Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:27-31).

Whatever intentions were in my heart and whatever comfort I did or did not bring, God knows and He is the one who was there in the night. If my heart could connect to this little bird out in the wild, and if I could build his trust and bring him comfort, then how much more does God want me to reach out to the helpless and lonely in this world. Had I not noticed the beauty of the little bird and been drawn to look closer, this out of the ordinary occurrence would not have happened. There are people everywhere who just need someone to love them and to show them the love of Jesus—that they are not forgotten; they are not alone.

I also take comfort in the knowledge that the death of my little friend was not in vain, but through it God has gripped me with His heart for the dying and lonely. I really feel that had I made the decision earlier to try to care for the bird, it could have perhaps survived. It needed more than love; it needed nourishment and warmth and protection. Look at those who are around you, the friend of your child, the grocer with the blank stare, the frightened and neglected person on the outer rim of your acquaintance. See them. Turn aside and reach out to them. Be moved with compassion to give them love. But do not stop there. They need the nourishment of the Word of God. They need the warmth of a committed friend. They need the protection of a mother and father in the Lord. Let us respond to the challenge Jesus presented to Peter—let us begin to feed His sheep.

Though the realization of a life-long dream ended in sadness, I still see hope and joy in it all. Perhaps I did the wrong thing, but at least I know that this one little bird had meaning. This one little bird touched my heart. And this one little bird has challenged me to open my eyes and reach out to the lonely and broken. And I believe next time I will see them rise up in healing and learn to soar.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Home Again

Possible spot where Peter preached and 3000 were saved
After a month travelling throughout Israel, we are home again in Cyprus. If you find it strange that I am calling Cyprus my home, please know that I will always feel at home in Texas. Somehow, I feel at home in many places. When I am in the Negev Desert I feel at home and the sense that I could live that life, that I could be a desert rose blossoming in the rugged beauty of the sandy hills and wide open sky. When I am in the villages of Ethiopia, Turkey, or China, I feel at home and long to give my life to mother the children and befriend the people. When I am in Jerusalem, I feel perhaps the greatest sense of home knowing that one day the King of all kings, Messiah Yeshua, will physically return to this place and will reign over all the earth. A sense of home for me is the feeling I get when, deep inside, my spirit connects with the truth that I am where I am supposed to be and living for that which He has called me to live. I am so challenged and encouraged by the apostle Paul’s words, “Not that I have already obtained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me” (Philippians 3:12). Yeshua has gripped my life with His love, and I am His. And I know that my life is for His Kingdom. How amazing to know that God has a vision in His heart for my life, and that by His grace and the leading of the Holy Spirit, I can live that vision out! I want my life to be a living sacrifice, and with that I know persecution and challenges will come; nevertheless, I want to count it all joy, knowing that I can fully trust in the Lord and “few delights can equal the presence of one whom we trust utterly” (George MacDonald).
Right before a hail storm interrupted our hike

For the details of the trip, I would like to refer you to our team blog because they did such a great job on it and I think that you would really enjoy it. Here is the link to our first year trip (the one I was on): If you are interested, you may also read about the 2nd year team’s trip at I will, however, say a few things. This was truly a special trip. It was my fourth time in Israel and my third time to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem. The students this year are a special group and the team dynamics were so great. There are two significant things to mention that this time meant to me. First, this past month has been a very hands on, practical leadership training experience, not just for me, but also for all of the staff and interns. I feel like I grew so much in leadership in both practical ways and in being a mentor and a spiritual covering for the students. I really love the talks I get to have with the girls—they each have such a hunger for the Lord and questions about their walk and discipleship. I really love them. The second is the revelation of Yeshua’s return. The Lord did something in my heart while in Jerusalem of a greater reality that He is really coming back and that the focus of my life is to live for His return, to give myself to the spread of the Gospel of the Kingdom so that He can come back to a prepared Bride. I also enjoyed making some new friendships of a few remarkable women of God.

Left: using my headlamp to cook after electricity went out (I got a lot of use of my headlamp in this way).
As we returned to Cyprus, we learned that we weren’t going “back” to a place but we were going forward to a place and the new things God wants to do in us. We look back to see how far we’ve come, but now we set our gaze forward as we prepare to run into all that God has. I know there is much in store. There is so much stirring inside of me, so many things I am asking the Lord to speak to me about. Leadership may seem glamorous, but it is not easy; yet, it is more rewarding than I could ever have known. The students are not the only ones being discipled and growing—oh no—most of the staff agree that we feel we are receiving more training and discipleship and character building than when we were students in the school. And I couldn’t be more grateful. So this is my life. I just wrote what I was feeling because that is what I want to share with you. I could give you a play by play of every event, but I would rather share the part of me that those events are shaping.

There are several things you can be praying for in this time. Perhaps you could pray over the whole list and then maybe just one or two points will stick out to you that you can really carry in prayer and intercession as the Lord puts on your heart. Thank you, sincerely from my heart.

• Pray for a successful shift in gear for the final stretch of the school before outreach (for the students, myself, and community)

• Pray for all of the preparations and fund raising for the outreach trips. The first year team (myself included) will be going to Holland, Belgium, and Switzerland. I am so stirred for all that God wants to do in these lands, and have a real sense of expectation. The second year team will be going to France, Italy, Switzerland, and Holland.

• Pray for supernatural protection and covering for our community and all the families.

• Pray for the work here in Cyprus. We have many gatherings and events throughout the year, and God is really moving on the island. In July, Gateways is doing its first summer camp for the youth on the island. We sense an urgency to reach this generation: we want to pull this generation out of hopelessness and depression and into the light and life of Jesus Christ.

I hope each of you is enjoying the coming of spring. If it is a beautiful day, don’t forget to take a moment to enjoy it. Give love to someone who really needs it today, and praise the Lord for something you have never thought to praise Him before. May you be filled with joy and peace.

Your friend and sister,

Hannah Briscoe