Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Leper

Greetings everyone, still in the states. Harry will be joining me here in a few days. We will be traveling to Texas for our denominations assembly. Although it requires more traveling, we are so excited to be able to visit and spend time with our friends and denominational comrades for the week.
Great more traveling and through other time zones. You see, last week my friend and I decided to take a little trip out west. We began our trek early Monday morning from the Atlanta airport. And I mean early... I saw 5a.m. on my alarm clock. (which is not normal... 9a.m. maybe, but nothing before... I am not a morning person!) So yeah, 5 a.m. we begin our NRSA journey. For those of you not in the airline business... NRSA means non-revenue space available. Non-rev for short or stand by. Which really means you did not pay for your ticket, you did not purchase a seat on this airplane, if there is a seat left after every paying passenger has boarded, and even some from another flight, we might find you a seat somewhere... probably not an aisle....or window... definitely not the exit row....good chance it will be a middle seat...or by the lavatory...or better yet one of those seats near the exit row or bulkhead that are forbidden to recline.

Non-revs are placed in order of their seniority. The longer you have been slaving away for the company, the better chance you have to receive a seat. On our fateful day, we were ranked numbers 24 and 25 out 35 on the list with flight bookings already oversold for paying passengers the entire day. (not sure why we traveled that day?) We began the morning on A concourse... Through the boarding process we non-revs wait patiently watching the screen for our names to appear with a seat number beside them. Okay, everyone on? Maybe, nope here come a few stragglers. We await news of open seats....then the agents call the stand-by revenue (those who have paid tickets, just not this flight) passengers.... then we non-revs. One can spot a non-rev easily... you see, we tend to watch the overhead monitors or screen a lot. We sit off by ourselves. We watch from afar in hopes of receiving a boarding pass. We hover around the gate area, but crowd closer and closer towards the end of boarding. We want to remind the gate agent we are still here and awaiting a seat. By the end of boarding we are practically sitting in the gate agents lap, as if that will help us get a seat?

First flight results: no seats for non-revs! So off to the next flight.... D concourse.....same sequence of events....same outcome. Next flight... T-gates... same dog and pony show except the non-revs are no longer awaiting as patiently. 4 non-revs make the flight, but at the last minute the paying passengers walk up and the agent escorts the non-revs back off the plane. Moving right along, this time concourse B. We non-revs start off as seniority competing enemies, but by 3 or 4 flights we are all inconvenienced pals. Concourse B proved to no avail. The gate agents just love to see us coming. We were like a herd of non-revs, 30+ folks tiredly dragging bags though the airport. Back to T-gates....that is when it hit me. We non-revs ... it's like we are lepers. No one really wants to help you. The agents want you as far as possible from them. When you ask questions at the gate they shoo you away and tell you to watch the screen. Need help? .... wait until I have helped everyone else first...then if I have time I will help you or send you back to the overhead monitors. You feel like you have offended them by just being there. You feel not worthy. I know it sounds trivial, but after an entire day at the airport as a non-rev, the circumstances reminded me of the leper story in Mark.

A man with leprosy came to Him and begged Him on his knees, "If you are willing, you can make me clean." Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man."I am willing." he said. "Be clean!" Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.
Mark 1:40-42 (NIV)

Many times in my life I have felt unworthy of God's help. Unworthy of His compassion, His kindness, or His love. How could He love me after all I have done? Why would He want to? At times, I have felt and continue to feel unclean and stained from my sins. Separated from Him with my continuous short comings. There are times when my guilt has kept me from seeking the Comforter. When I seek Him why should He help me? What have I done to deserve His love? What do I have to offer Him in return, but brokenness? Compared to others in the line up of God's grace my "seniority" falls way short. Grace should go to someone more deserving than me. Someone cleaner, less stained and tarnished. Like the non-rev, I go from gate to gate yearning to be accepted... loved.. found worthy. Then once given the chance... settling into a seat that suits me. Trying to find a way to live with the fact that He loves me in spite of my shortcomings. That He will make a space available for me.

The leper account is an amazing story of hope and encouragement for someone who feels unworthy. Leprosy was a terrible disease with open wounds and sores. The physical appearance of lepers repulsed others. Someone with leprosy was considered unclean. Being unclean meant being an outcast in society. Lepers were banned from the Temple.

Here is a man with leprosy on his knees begging to be made clean. He sought after Jesus. He longed for the Master. He did not ask Jesus to heal him, but make him clean. Mark says, Jesus was filled with compassion. Jesus cared for this man. Then He reached out and touched the leper. He actually touched a man considered by everyone as unclean. Jesus could have healed him without ever laying a finger on the man, but he didn't. He literally reached His hand out and touched him. Jesus, the very definition of clean and perfect, touched an unworthy outcast.

Last summer Harry and I, along with our amazing God loving friends (Jerry and Trish, you are a breath of fresh air...we would travel the world with you) were able to visit Israel. One of my favorite places we visited was not something one would find on a tourist map or in any book. It was a place in Jerusalem just outside the old city. Jerusalem being the large city it is with houses, businesses, some kind of building or structure everywhere you look. Everywhere except for one place... the lepers caves. Just outside the gates are caves in which the unclean stayed. Today, in Israel where land is sparse, remains an open area. An area where no one would dare to go for fear of contamination. No one but Jesus. Even today, there are no houses, businesses, or any buildings built in this region. It looks so barren and untouched. Yet, it has a purity and serenity about it. It looks as it did when Jesus walked about Israel, and to me... that is special.

Jesus will go there for you. He will touch the unclean and make them clean again. Just a touch from the Saviour and your entire world can change.

The caves are in the undeveloped section

Old city wall on left, caves on right

Various caves

Caves up close

O God, you are my God;

early will I seek you!

My soul thirsts for you;

my flesh longs for you...

Psalms 63:1 (KJV)

O God, you are my God; early will I seek you. Not because I am worthy, but because you love me anyway! You love me regardless. You can make the unclean clean! My soul desires for you. My flesh longs to be like you... clean and Holy.

In Norway, 1873, a man named G.H. Hansen identified the first bacteria that causes the leprosy disease. And today leprosy is referred to as Hansen's disease. At times, I feel it is my disease. When I wear my failures, hurts, and inadequacies not on the inside, but the outside. Like the open sores and wounds, so are my sins. All that is wrong with me shines brightly for all to see. Lord, I am so flawed. I have many faults, surely visible for all to witness. How can You see them and still love me? I am beyond reproach. I do not deserve to be near you. Why would you continue to reach out and touch me? Time and time again? But He does and will. Like the leper I want to crawl begging to be made clean. And time and time again, He has compassion, reaches out, and takes us by the hand. Divinity will touch and cleanse the most stained and unclean sinner. He loves us that much. It is beyond my comprehension, how he continues to love me after all that I am and have done. Thank you for your ceaseless touches. Your never-ending compassion. Early will I seek you, you are all I have, all I long for. My soul longs for you.

I am in no way saying non-revs are lepers, but that day I felt abandoned. I felt on the outside of the everyone else. Yes, we finally made a 9 p.m. flight. So by the end of the day (for someone who takes at least 3 baths a day and yes I know that is not normal) I felt unclean.

Blessings until next time,


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Round n Round We Go

Greetings from the States... Yes from the states! Whoo! Well, except for the flight. It's a 24+ hour marathon from doorstep to doorstep, 3 separate flight segments, 12 hour flight cross the water, and an 8 hour time change. Takes a little out of you by the time you arrive. But of course, it's worth the trek. My mother and cousin came to visit us for a month. But will not travel alone. I guess you could say my mother is labeled a "must accompany" passenger. So I flew with her each way.

It is so refreshing to be back in the states. Currently, I am visiting with my family in north FL. Yes... I am from the south and yes... north FL is in the "stix". But it's the south... warm and inviting and just so full of southern hospitality! Unfortunately, I do not possess the southern hospitality gene. My family does, but nope not me, must have just skipped right over me.

This past week I flew to Atlanta to visit some of our friends. Oh, and all my doctors, dentist, hair dresser, and home church. You see I do not like change. I want the same doctor, the same dentist, and same hair dresser even the same shampoo from my same hair dresser. I have been to these guys for at least the last 10 years. They would miss me if I did not schedule appointments with them!!

Home sweet Atlanta. It's the first time I have set foot outside the Atlanta airport, since we moved 7 months ago. I enjoy Greece, but still miss home. I know Greece is home now, but the Atlanta home has more seniority to date. I have to say it was an odd experience.... I went to my doctors appointments, visited with friends, and on Sunday to our home church.. even made it early, before Sunday school (Harry would have been so proud...I am NEVER early for anything)! After church I decided to swing by our house. We still have our house, but we have renters now. (Great renters I might add...they pay rent on time and have not, to date, destroyed our house!) *Insert both praise report and prayer request!

As I drove out of the church parking lot, I thought, how nice of a day it's raining. You see in Greece it only rains a few months out of the year. 4 months to be exact and only through the winter months. So we Cretans have not had rain in a long while. I love the smell of rain. I love the sound of rain and thunder. Not sure why but I do. On the 5 minute drive home I survey the surroundings, I am just taking it all in. The newly paved potholes in the road, the new house down the street, a new house for sale, a restaurant closed, higher fuel prices at the corner store. Down the street a little further and then there it is...our house, 4686 IvyGate Circle!
Our home and residence for almost 7 years. I started to choke up. Still raining, I pull up to the gate...roll down the window to punch in the code and WHAM! #2360 is denied. With the rain maybe my finger slipped. #2360. Again nothing. The huge inviting entry gates do not swing open like always. A little tear started to slip down my cheek. #2360 again, but harder this time. (like that's going to help?) Nothing. I find the alphabet button and begin scrolling down. A, B, okay great H is not too far away. great H, now to find Hansen. Hansen. Hansen, where are you? No Hansen. What? No Hansen, no Harry, no Kristie, no Harry & Kristie. Not even one single Hansen in this entire neighborhood? Not even a Hanson... with an O. (Everyone spells our name wrong.) Now I am full fledged crying. The tears would not stop, which was upsetting me worse because I could barley see and I had to find our name. #2360. Nothing, the big wrought iron gates just stood there tall, proud, closed, mocking me.
Then it hits me..... there are 2 gates for this neighborhood and the other one is always open during business hours. I never knew our place was so secure, but not a comfort to me today! I pull a U-ey and speed off towards the back gate. And Ha, big gates I'm in now.

But victory was sweet but short lived. It was like slow motion. Surreal. I pull through our complex. See our neighbor's cars. Hi neighbors! Hi neighbor's cars! Hi familiar surroundings, oh how I have missed you! I keep driving towards 4686 IvyGate Circle. Still passing neighbors, even see the ole dog lady. Mean ole dog lady, who used to let her dogs poo on our lawn. I used to wish I had the stomach to scoop for her and deliver her dogs goods back to her lawn. Yet, I even waved at her. Rounded the corner. Still crying. Slowly, approaching. Hold my breath. Little further. Almost there. Gasp. Then todah! There it is..... the back of IvyGate Circle. Yah! Except, there is a car parked in my garage. Slam on brakes! Car? IN my driveway? And it's not mine. It's not Harry's. I do not recognize it as a Hansen automobile. It does not belong there. Now, I am not only crying, but that slobbering boo-hooing that it takes actors years to perfect. I keep going around to the front.

Finally, I make it to the front of IvyGate Circle. Still in the car I try to see in through the front door. The window. Something. The inside shutters and blinds were closed. It's raining out...I would always have had the windows open. The shutters open when I wake and I go room to room closing them at night. It's the routine! What is going on here? I keep driving, around to the side... nothing. Then I see the back deck.
What is going on back here? No grill! Where is Harry's grill? He was always a little dangerous with that grill, but still it had its place over there in the corner! No little bistro table. We searched and searched months for that table. Oliver, the cat loved that table! Everyday Harry read the paper while Oliver sunbathed on that table. In its place were plants and flowers. What? Not at IvyGate Circle. I can keep nothing alive, except my bamboo plant! Then out of sight goes my house. It's a one way street.

So I decide to round the corner and go back. Hello again ole dog lady, except I did not wave at her this time. For some crazy reason I was mad at her. "Why would you let someone move in my house?" (like she has anything to do with it) back in sight. Slow down again....wipe the tears...put the wipers on high so I can actually see this time. But nothing! No insight into the house. Windows lady, open the windows. How am I supposed to see in? So I decided to go around again! And yes offically I am a house stalker! I was not stalking the renters, not trying to see if they were taking care of my house. Just trying to see MY house. My comfort zone. I am a house stalker! But it's my house I am stalking. So maybe that is legal?
Round we go again, emotional I am not getting any calmer. Worse actually! I think it was on the 4th round about (maybe more, but whose counting) I start praying, "God this cannot be healthy" ..."I miss this place, miss my kitchen, miss my bedroom, closet (we have no closets in Greece), and oh, my bathroom! I MISS MY BATHTUB!" (I am a bath taker...when I mean bath taker, I mean like 3 times a day)..."Lord, I was happy here! I am happy there, but it gets lonely, we feel isolated being so far away. Lord, you have to help here. I keep going round and round. I want to burst through the doors, my doors and run upstairs. Run to my bathroom, lock myself in and jump in the tub. Lord, I want it all back! Lord, I am approaching the front again. You have to help me here. I want to put the car in park. Help! Jesus help... something has to give! Don't just leave me out here in the rain going round and round while a fall to pieces. I have trusted you. I do trust you. Guide my steps."

Then I see it. Under the front door step. The front doormat. The movers must have forgotten to pack it. I bought it years ago. Dirty and faded. Yet it's still there. Right there on my doorstep. Something of mine..marking my territory. Something that said YES I did live here. A little piece of the old us right in front of me. But that's not's the design of the mat that caught my attention... it's has a Greek keystone border.

A mat I bought years ago, long before Harry was active military, was sitting on my old doorstep. A mat in the design so familiar to me in Greece. A Greek key border. A dirty old mat, but oh how I loved the sight of it. This mat...this dingy mat that has sat on my doorstep for years has a Greek border. Still crying, but more calmly now. A peace is starting to pass over as I feel God whispering..."I am here, do you see it now?, your steps where guided long before you knew, long before you had any clue what or where you would be. I am with you always." A doormat, a place where my feet had stepped for many years gave me peace. A doormat, a place where Harry's feet have trod gave me a greater understanding for God's love for me. A doormat made me feel loved. A dirty ole doormat showed me God has not forgotten me. I may be stuck out on an isolated island away from friends and family, but He has not forgotten me. He has not stopped loving me. He has not stopped walking this path with me. And He continues to walk with me no matter what. With us all! He has a method and plan. His love is not happenstance. And I love Him for that!

"For I know the plans I have for you,
" declares the Lord, "
plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future."
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Needless to say, I eventually left 4686 IvyGate Circle. Thank God it was a circle so I could just go round and round. I would have looked "suspicous" if I had to drive back and forth. I called Harry later to tell him I went home. I did not tell him everything because he cut me short to tell me those are "good renters and we are getting double the mortgage". So I figured I should leave out the "house stalker" bit. I'll have to tell him if someone in the neighborhood makes a formal complaint. It was my friends car though!

Blessing until next time,


Friday, July 18, 2008

Guided Steps...

Hello from half way around the world. Well maybe not that far, but it often feels as such. I thank you for joining us as we blog our way unto this new path during this season of our life and ministry. We appreciate all your prayers and upliftings even when I have fallen short in the communications arena. For that I truly and humbly apologize. I have started this blog in hopes of keeping better contact with our loved ones from home.

So, for any newcomers....greetings, I'm Kristie. Welcome! I am a military wife! My husband, Harry, is a U.S. Navy Chaplain and we are currently serving God and country in Europe. I say we, it's really just Harry, but the government for some odd reason has decided to allow me to tag along on this adventure. We have been married almost 7 years now. WOW how time passes! Lived our entire married lives in Atlanta, GA until Uncle Sam had a say in the equation. Christmas of last year we loaded up the family (like the Clampetts from Beverly Hillbillies) and headed to Greece. Oh, the family consisted of a cat and my teenage tag along brother! We now have a Greek dog (that's a story for another day).

So that was officially the beginning of our guided steps.... You see my husband and I have always had something going on with some form of ministry, here or there, near or far. We have always felt God drawing us to Him. I slight tug now and then. Or a giant yank! All the way to Greece. The truth, we have been content in serving Him from our comfort zone. We would walk with Him, but only as long as it did not stray from the path most comfortable for us. It's funny.... I think I am doing great things for the Lord, happy with the results....then Wham! Upside down goes your life. God must think or call this complacency. I say complacency because he will just turn things on their heads sometimes. Completely shake your circumstances into something unrecognizable. It's during these times you find your strength will fail you. It causes you to dig a little deeper, find footing on something firmer than your own understanding. I think its called Faith?

From Wikapedia....

Faith is a belief in the trustworthiness of an idea that has not been proven. Formal usage of the word "faith" is usually reserved for concepts of religion, as in theology, where it almost universally refers to a trusting belief in a transcendent reality (therefore spirituality and spiritual immortality), or else in a Supreme Being and their role as a guide for people moving into an experience of such reality.

But stepping out requires your faith to meet your courage and then take action. For me... my faith in God at this season of our life, was God sending Harry into military ministry. This remarkable man was a successful airline pilot for 10 years. In an industry where to advance means you fly bigger and better airplanes. You DO NOT quit and join the military as a Chaplain. We have several friends who still think we are insane. Many of our friends came to me to go to Harry to convince him to change his mind. Let me see... the conversation possibly?... okay Harry and God (but more to God right), "I know we have been involved in local ministries such as homeless shelters and youth ministries...and we have our share of foreign ministries as well... and yes these have been from the comfort of home here in Atlanta....BUT do you really want to shake us from this comfort zone? You really want us to pack up everything we own in this earthly world and move to some unknown location. Give up our church, our local ministries, our families? We are happy here. We do good things for You here. What else could You possibly want to show us? We're good, things are good, it's good here. Don't You want to go help so other poor lost soul somewhere??", says Kristie.

And that's when it hit me....what God was saying to me..."Don't you want to go help some poor lost soul somewhere?" You see I believe we have a path in life. I believe with all my faults (and there are many) God has a way for me. I realized I have been walking by faith, but also by guided steps. I hear the terms "walk by faith or walking in faith". I have realized it's not just walking by faith, but guided steps. I can walk by faith, but God has already guided or provided a way for my steps. God has a plan for me, like he does for everyone.... my entire life has been a precursor for what he wants me to accomplish for Him. All the stuff, all the baggage has been preparation for what is to come. Do I have any idea what that is: NO! But do I have faith that my God is greater than anything else. Greater than the loss felt when leaving a comfort zone? Greater than the loneliness of leaving everyone and everything familiar. Absolutely! My steps are guided. Like your steps are guided! He is there with you. Holding you, keeping you company when you fall, providing a way for you on this path we call life.

So I took my faith and added what little courage I had and acted. I started packing up our house. (Again another story for another day) God has a reason for Harry being in Greece. God has a reason I am here with him. Again, not sure what that is just yet! But I can look back and see how God has guided us in the past. Provided a way for us when there was no way God was in our midst, or so we thought. It's so easy to see hindsight, right? Faith in God makes sense hindsight. You can look back in see there was actually a coherent plan all along. You have to trust God that the steps in front of you are guided by Him.

God is my strength and power,

And He makes my way perfect.

He makes my feet like the feet

of deer,

And sets me on my high places.

2 Samuel 22:33-34

Blessings until next time,



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