Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I’m Alright – NOT!

With apologies to Kenny Loggins, I have to admit that I’m not alright. I used to think that I was. I used to agree with Kenny’s song. And I thought that I was a very good guy. But God has opened my eyes to this reality – when left to my own devices I can be quite … ugly. And that’s not alright.

The reality is that we are all broken. We were born into this world that way. And I am no exception. Sure, I’ve done a lot of good in my life. OK, I basically have a good heart. And yeah, my intentions are good. But … I am broken. I can be very selfish, self centered, and think quite highly of myself. And that’s not how we were meant to live. It’s the broken parts in us that cause us to live that way.

Only the great “Healer” can begin to fix those broken things inside of us. And only then can we start to truly live … as we see others as more important than ourselves. I think I had learned this lesson when I was younger. But somehow, as I have gotten older and wiser (Ha!), I have forgotten it. Well, this old dog isn’t too old to learn a new trick (or re-learn one). It’s time to stop focusing on me, and to truly love others.

Below are the lyrics of a song that have really been speaking to my heart lately. I hope they are meaningful to you too.

I’m Not Alright (Sanctus Real)

If weakness is a wound that no one wants to speak of,
then ”cool” is just how far we have to fall.
And I am not immune. I only want to be loved.
But I feel safe behind the firewall.
Can I lose my need to impress?
If you want the truth I need to confess.

I’m not alright. I’m broken inside, broken inside.
And all I go through, it leads me to you, it leads me to you.

Burn away the pride. Bring me to my weakness

‘til everything I hide behind is gone.
And when I’m open wide with nothing left to cling to
Only you are there to lead me on.
‘Cause honestly I’m not that strong.

I’m not alright. I’m broken inside, broken inside.
And all I go through, it leads me to you, it leads me to you.

And I will move, and I will move, and I will move closer to you
And I will move, and I will move, and I will move closer to you
And I will move, and I will move, and I will move closer to you
And I will move, and I will move, and I will move closer to you

I’m not alright. I’m broken inside, broken inside, broken inside, broken inside.
And all I go through, it leads me to you, it leads me to you.
I’m not alright. I’m not alright. I’m not alright. That’s why I need you.

God, please help me to see myself and others the way that you do.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Good ‘Ol Days

I’m living them right now. Sure, the routine can get mundane. Day in and day out. “I don’t know how you do it” or “I couldn’t do that” are phrases I often hear from people when I tell them I home school my three kids (ages 10, 7, and 5). I think what most people want to say is, “Are you nuts?” And there are days when I’m thinking the same thing! I mean, my kids are with me all the time. I went to the doctor a few months ago to get a mammogram and my then four year old boldly asks me in a waiting room full of people why my boob was squashed in that machine. No shame.

I would love to tell someone that I’m a chef, or a chauffeur, or a psychologist, or a domestic engineer. That all sounds so glamorous. But the truth of the matter is that I get up everyday, throw together some food, sit for hours teaching those three kids readin’, ‘ritin, and ‘rithmetic, taxi them around to their activities, and try to help resolve the same conflict today that happened yesterday and the day before yesterday. It’s a hard sale on glamour.

So what makes it so good? I have come to realize that when you are supposed to be doing something with your life, you know it. This is my sixth year home schooling my kids and I have been surprised by the joy it has brought to my life, especially this year.

This past semester alone has opened a myriad of moments when God has invited himself into my life situation and engaged with me and my kids.

One day after a field trip, I watched my two ballerina girls twirl around on a cliff with the sun setting into the ocean behind them. God stood next to me watching and whispering, “This is my gift to you.”

Reed’s questions about topics we are studying frequently lead us into lengthy conversations about life – our lives, other people’s lives, how we are to love. It’s times like those when I invite God along knowing far too well that my influence in his life is not enough.

In October, the kids and I took a road trip to Lake Almanor. As we drove through the mountains, the colors of autumn exploded all around us with Chris Tomlin’s song “Indescribable” blaring out. I literally had to catch my breath a few times. The earth is filled with His glory. My five year old Darcy got caught up in His glory several times when she repeatedly said, “Wow!” to the beauty around her. Later that week, the kids and I took a nature walk through the woods and thanked God for showing up and sharing His creation with us right down to the scent of cedar.

Hearing “I love you mom” from my ten year old son a few times a day, listening to Lacey sing, “I love my mama so much”, and having Darcy still crawl into my lap to read books is the passion of this mother’s heart.

No, home schooling is not everyone’s cup of tea and certainly parents can have amazing relationships with their kids regardless of their educational choices. But I’m just so thankful for the TIME I have with them now and though harried as I can be at times during the day to day schedule, God pulls me out of it in order for me to look into it and reminds me that I’m exactly where He wants me to be. And the best part is that He’s right there with me.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

One Child (Written by Lorie)

We were created to love and to be loved. We long for people to nurture, inspire, and comfort us. We long to have someone believe in us. Those are some of the truths God pointed out to me while I was in South Africa, not only in giving but also in receiving. It has been challenging to remember these things since I've arrived back to the states. It's easy to get caught up in the busyness of day to day life. I am distracted by "what's next" that I have caught myself forgetting to do simple things like make eye contact with and smile at the cashier.

To get my attention on this, I was encouraged by a piece of mail that I received this week. I recognized the sender's name immediately as a student I had thirteen years ago whom I had taught for two years when she was in fourth and fifth grade in Norwalk. I remember her very well. Her name is Perla. She was a limited English speaker and struggling to get through the second language curriculum. I remember her because there was a sweet teacher-student relationship between us. But like every year, a teacher sends her students off to the next teacher with hopes that they do well in life. One doesn't always get the honor of knowing how or if she really impacts them.

So I opened my mail to find a UC Irvine graduation announcement from Perla. Wow! I'm so proud of her! What an accomplishment! What obstacles and barriers she has overcome! Wow! She also sent me her graduation picture and on the back she writes a little note.

Dear Mrs. Taylor, Thank you for the wonderful years we spent together. I still think of you and your kind words. Thank you for being a great teacher and changing the life of one child. Love, Perla

With tears running down my cheeks, that was enough to remind me that this is how we are meant to live. We are meant to love others just as Christ has loved us. I may not always find out nor is it necessary to know how I have touched someone but I am called to be the heart of Jesus to others and to love them. God's spirit makes the impact.

I am renewed once again to the irreplaceable role I have in God's great adventure! We all have an irreplaceable role!!!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Big Take Aways!

Our three month adventure in South Africa is sadly coming to an end. (Here are some pictures of a going away dinner the NieuCommunities staff threw for us.) Thank you to many of you who have prayed and supported us during this life-changing experience. We look forward to seeing many of our friends and family as we enter back into the states. We also look forward to drinking jersey cow milk and eating Mexican food! Thanks for all your encouragement along the way! We are looking forward to seeing how God will use us to play these experiences out once we are back home. Here are some final thoughts on our time here.

Reed Taylor:
My favorite part about being in South Africa was going to Pilanesberg. I got to go two times. I got to see a lot of wild animals. My favorite animal is the lion because they are dangerous!! I also loved going to Hartbeespoort and seeing all the African crafts at the marketplace. At first I didn’t want to come to South Africa because I would miss my friends and family. But once I got here, I realized how much God wanted to use me here. I helped my dad fix computers so the kids can learn, and I also played with kids who are orphans. Doing those things makes me feel happy. I liked being in South Africa, and I wish I could come here again.

Lacey Taylor:
My favorite part about being in South Africa was riding on an African elephant in the bush on my birthday. The elephant went slow but it was very exciting! His name is Tembo. I was happy to come to South Africa to help the poor. I made R700 in the states at a lemonade stand and gave it to the kids at House of Joy in the township called Soshanguve. It made me feel super! I’m thankful to God for letting me travel to beautiful South Africa.

Darcy Taylor:
My favorite part is being in South Africa to see the animals. All the animals are my favorite, but my very favorite is the cheetah because it is beautiful. I liked to be here for three months. That takes for a long time. I prayed for people here and for God to love people. It’s fun here.

Lorie Taylor:
During my three month time spent here in South Africa, the word that has kept coming back to me is the word “linger”. Of course, it’s been much easier to do that in a country where a slower pace of life is part of the cultural DNA! But it has taught me a lot about taking time – taking time for God and for others. This is more than just the old cliché, ‘Stop and smell the roses’. For me, it has been learning how to engage my heart and mind more. This means being present in the moment – to enjoy and live out my own desires and passions, to tune in to the stories of other people, to extend myself in service to others in need, and ultimately to walk with Jesus daily. I’ve thought of all kinds of ways I want to live that out, but I know that despite my eagerness and enthusiasm I will probably fail at times. Worry, exhaustion, and tension are all enemies of my soul. Nevertheless, I want to walk that path the best I can, and as I do, be renewed continually.

C.S. Lewis once said: “If I say that I want to be unselfish, am I assuming that part of that is to make myself feel better because I was securing good things for others rather than just loving people because I have the presence of Jesus in me? I am not called to let go of all my desires in order to care for others but to allow my desires to exist and love others at the same time.”

During one of our conversations with Nieucommunities, we were asked to write what we thought would be God’s invitation to the world with the implication of why humans truly exist. This was very meaningful to me. I would like to share the invitation that came to me:

Yes, of course you!! Pass through the threshold and enter into the dining room where you can sit among friends, eat delicious foods, laugh, share your life stories. There is enough time for me to linger with you as we also enjoy one another’s company. I long for that time with you. You say you want to hike, paint a picture, serve the poor? I invite you to join me in those activities for those are the things I love about life. Find life and love in Me and let Me give you the freedom to express that love in the ways in which you do best.

What is God’s invitation to you? Ask Him to show you the life you were meant to live and then soar!

Mike Taylor:
What’s my big takeaway? Well, there are a lot of them. This has been an incredible experience for me. But if I had to pick one thing, it would be learning to “live missionally.” I’ve learned that every relationship, every encounter with every person should have some intentionality about it. It’s an opportunity for me love people with the love that God has given me. It’s an opportunity to encourage, to build up, or maybe just to smile and say hello. I too often allow myself to get so caught up in what I’m doing that I don’t even see the people around me.

I shouldn’t say that I’ve learned this, but that I am learning it – and I’m trying to make it a part of my every day. I know it’s going to take awhile to do this more and more, and there is a process of unlearning that is already happening for me. So it’s my intention to keep growing in this area for a long time … because that’s how long it’s going to take.

Thank you for joining us on our journey in South Africa. We could not have done it without you! We leave for the US this Saturday night, and arrive in LA in the early afternoon on Sunday. We look forward to seeing you all face to face once again!

The Taylors

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Road Trip – Part 2
(Written by Mike)

Last week, Lorie talked about the 1st ½ of our two week Road Trip with our eight friends (Jon, Chrisy, Teri, Bobby, Sharon, Maya, Myles, and Lisa) from our church (Canyon Hills). It’s been GREAT having them here doing communion, community, and mission together!

This week we spent two days working around Pangani. It’s over 100 years old and needs some work. We did painting, ceiling repair, some plumbing, and even some much needed computer maintenance. (I don’t know why I keep getting roped into that! J) Then we went to Tutela again to play and do crafts with the kids. That was a lot of fun!

The next day we visited the Apartheid Museum. This museum is really more of an “experience” than a typical museum. It’s well done and a powerful taste of how Apartheid came about, how it worked, and how it finally (and painfully) came to an end. We also did something that few white people have ever done: we toured the largest and most well known township of Soweto. During Aparthied, these townships were where the blacks lived in order to be of service to the nearest city. Now they are virtual cities in their own right. Soweto has about four million people living there.

Most Afrikaners (white South Africans) that I’ve talked with are very fearful of going near these places. But our experience was very different. As we ate lunch, drove around, and walked through parts of the township we were pleasantly surprised at how friendly everyone was. People waved and welcomed us. It was obvious that we were a rare site in that area, and most people there seemed excited to have us visiting. A group called SKY (Soweto Kliptown Youth) gave us a walking tour, entertained us with some fun dancing, and then took us to one of their weekly Bible studies. It was a great day!

On Thursday we drove through the Pilanesburg game park. Our family had been there before, but it was a lot of fun to go there with our friends to see all of the animals. (This wild elephant stood at the fence long enough for us to get this picture!) Friday was a day starting with some time of solitude and reflection. This was perfect timing since our schedule has been so hectic.

Saturday part of our crew went to a local soccer game, while the others went shopping and checked out the Voortrekker Monument. This was a great field trip for our kids considering that we have been studying American pioneers. History has it that South Africa had their own pioneer movement at the same time and so much of it is parallel to the American pioneers, right down to the covered wagons!

Throughout the week we had more meaningful discussions about how the Kingdom of God is with us right now, and how will we take what we’ve learned here and take it home with us. During one of our conversations we were given an assignment to pick an object that we thought could represent “Christian mission” and then explain it. At first I thought of a brick – representing building houses and doing other work for the poor that may happen once or twice a year. But then I realized that is no longer my definition of “mission”. So instead I chose a coffee cup – to represent the relationships that I can have everyday over a cup like this. Just as Jesus lived in and among people and earned the right to speak into their lives, that’s how I need to live everyday with my neighbors and other people. For me, “mission” is no longer something I do every so often, but it needs to be a lifestyle that I live out everyday.

What are your thoughts on this? Does any of this resonate with you? Leave a comment (or drop me an E-mail) and let me know what you think.

Much love and thanks to all of you!!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Road Trip!
(Written by Lorie)

Last week, Mike shared that eight friends (Jon, Chrisy, Teri, Bobby, Sharon, Maya, Myles, and Lisa) from our church (Canyon Hills) have come to South Africa for a two week mini-NieuCommunities experience. It’s been GREAT having them here doing communion, community, and mission together! It has been a moment by moment adventure that we have shared through conversations, worship, service, and being changed in many different ways.

Two postures we’ve focused on this last week have been “Listening” and “Submerging”. “Listening” has to do with being quiet enough to hear God’s voice and allowing yourself to hear other people – their stories and their place in the world. Some ways we did that was by walking through the city, praying at the Union Building, and visiting the Sterkfontein Caves. It was in those places, coupled with conversations and interactions with one another that began the process of listening. The other posture was “Submerging.” We did something that is rarely done by white people – we took the take the train to the townships of Mabopane and Soshanguve. It was in that setting that we were able to truly submerge ourselves into the culture of the community and boy, did it touch all of our senses – including the offer of roasted caterpillars and corn for lunch!! We were all touched by the opportunities of visiting a primary school (which I loved because of my background in education and even got my picture with the principal!), visiting a home of disabled children, and arriving at the House of Joy for two days of living with and serving children whose parents had died from AIDS. We took on the huge project of cleaning up a destroyed backyard (from fire and storm) and began to fill the pool so a new play structure could be built for the kids. Words cannot describe how these experiences affected each one of us – a range of emotion on every level. I believe that it is intentional situations like these that keep us alive to being grateful for our health, our material blessings, our joy, and our ability to love those around us.

This is a prayer I’ve been praying for months, though I find it challenging to do on my own, that I am finding that God is helping me to make space in my life to live and think differently.

Saturday was a day of fun for two reasons – a day of shopping at an African marketplace and a big going away celebration for the Frasers who are moving back to the states after spending three years serving with NCSA. We have been so happy to do life with them both in the states and in South Africa and have loved watching how they have impacted people here. The evening was full of food, stories, a slideshow, and then yes, it’s true – a ketchup and mustard fight!! So indicative of the crazy lives of the Frasers!

Our lives are full of good things and people.
Much love and thanks to all of you!!