Don’t take my word for it

cards in Guatelama

  • It’s one thing to learn the rules of a game;
    . . . it’s another thing to play it.
  • It’s one thing to read a book about another culture;
    . . . it’s another thing to befriend a person who lives in it.
  • It’s one thing to hear about God;
    . . . it’s another thing to see him.

I pull up a chair at a table with a red-checkered tablecloth in a cafeteria that could have been anywhere.

Ellen opens up a fresh pack of UNO cards. It’s been years since I’ve played. Luis chats up some partners to join us.

Ellen deals the cards. Luis explains the rules in Spanish. And I try to communicate with Oscar as we play.

He speaks no English. I speak little Spanish.

uno in guatemala

But somehow just being together is enough. We point. We laugh. We are friends.

Later, Roberto joins us. He speaks English, hallelujah! And he knows how to use it. He used to be a tour guide so he learned to speak five languages.

He asks me what I think about Jesus. He asks if I have a Bible. When I tell him it’s on my phone, he throws his hands up in despair and says, “Technology!”

He asks if I have a testimony. He advises me to learn it in Spanish.

He says I should practice my Spanish frequently with Spanish-speakers. He drills me in a few phrases (which I promptly forget, ugh).

He gives me advice I might could read anywhere, but instead, I’m getting it straight from this 80-year-old gentleman. So I strain to listen in this grandpas’ house on a rainy Saturday afternoon in September in Guatemala.

guatemala cafeteria

Being present makes the difference.

  • It’s one thing to see a picture of Roberto,
    . . . but it’s another thing entirely to meet him in person.

I want to be all here for the message God wants to give me.

A day earlier at Potter’s House, Brenda reads Jeremiah 18:1-6. She explains that God told Jeremiah to go to the potter’s house because it was there that God would let him hear his words.

Jeremiah 18:1  The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD:
:2  “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.”
:3  So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel.
:4  And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.
:5  Then the word of the LORD came to me:
:6  “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.”

Jeremiah showed up.
And so did the Lord.

Each month this year I’m practicing a different step of compassion. For October, it’s to disregard hearsay/preconceived notions about others, and instead get first-hand knowledge as much as possible.

Karen Armstrong suggests concentrating on one or two of our global neighbors or religious traditions to activate an interest in the “stranger” and to “make room for the other.” See what we can learn from them, what they can learn from us.

“Keep on asking ‘But why?’ Keep pushing your mind forward so that you can imagine yourself in similar circumstances feeling the same way. . . . Wish for them everything that you would wish for yourself . . . extend your compassion, friendship, and sympathetic joy to them.”

Sometimes I need to:

  • See it for myself
  • Listen to it for myself
  • Feel it for myself

When I saw and listened and touched Ricardo that afternoon, I also saw and listened and touched a new side of God. I heard new words that God had for me.

He could have given them to me another way, place, or time.

But he chose that country. That hour. That voice. 

I still don’t understand God’s whole message, but maybe I understand more now than I did before.

And because of that, I’ll keep showing up. Because I want to know more. First-hand.

* * *

But don’t take my word for it. . . . How can you learn something new this month through direct knowledge instead of hearsay? No traveling required! Just be present. Please share your thoughts.



26 thoughts on “Don’t take my word for it

  1. laura

    Oh, Lisa, this is just precious. What a beautiful moment shared. This is so true. Presence makes such a difference. Thanks for encouraging me to be more compassionate today.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      It seems like such a simple thing–be totally present–but it can be so hard to do, especially when we’re back in our “real worlds” and so easily distracted again. I pray for more presence. And I’m thankful for your presence! You words always bless me, Laura.

  2. Sharon

    I loved this, Lisa. Your story was precious, but the lesson was well-taught, too. Muy bien!

    I liked the Scripture from Jeremiah a lot. It’s interesting, isn’t it, how God shows up when we do! You asked a good question – how can I learn something new through direct knowledge? I’ve pondered that for a moment or two, and this is what I think. In two days, I am going down-the-hill for my monthly stay with my mom. I am beginning to realize that this is God’s *mission field* for me right now. A tangible, up-close, real place to learn the lessons of patience and compassion and grace.

    I know God’s going to be there. And I’m going to show up, too. I need those lessons He longs to teach me.


    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Excellent insight to realize that your mission field right now is your time with your mom. And such a special one because she’s the only mom you’ll ever have. I pray that your time with her will be special and energizing, a blessing not only to her, but to you too!

  3. TC Avey

    Inspiring and challenging post!
    You’re so right, getting the knowledge first hand makes all the difference.
    Getting our “hand’s dirty”, getting emotionally invested in other, giving more than receiving…all are incredible learning experiences and blessings.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      They’re not easy, but yes, those first-hand experiences are worth getting our hands dirty (even though I don’t always appreciate getting my hands dirty either)!

  4. Mari-Anna Stålnacke @flowingfaith

    You are on to something big and meaningful and probably life-changing here. Yes, I want to experience God first-hand. And I do need to be more present wherever I am. Wise words here in abundance today, Lisa. Thank you. Stay blessed! Stay tuned to God! You are a treasure!

  5. Kelly Chripczuk

    This past weekend I had a chance to babysit my friend’s twin girls for a brief time. They’re a year younger than our twins boys, so I joked it was a double-date. It reminded me that it’s one thing to know a friend has children, to hear and talk about that situation, but to actually hold that child and talk with them, comfort them over a pinched finger, you get to know the family in a whole new way. I wish more older adults did this with my children. I love those simple relationships like the one you presented so clearly, Lisa.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Perfect example, Kelly. And a convicting one too because I don’t do too much babysitting anymore. 😉 And of twins? I’d have to work up to that. ha. Thanks for sharing this.

  6. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Well, I did learn something new this month.

    To wit…I’m an idiot.

    Last week I put a fair-sized hole in my hand, and my ‘care’ was pouring a lot of rubbing alcohol into it and letting it bleed. It got infected, which I expected, and I just kept opening it to let it drain.

    When my wife saw it (I was pretty good at keeping it hidden for awhile), she was horrified (by then mu hand was the size of a grapefruit). She asked exactly what I planned to do if I lost the hand.

    I said I’d make myself a hook and keep going.

    Boy was that a dumb thing to say. She pointed out that if I didn’t deign to show compassion for myself, people would soon conclude that I wasn’t worth their compassion, either. That I’d find myself more alone than I ever dreamed possible.

    She’s right, and there’s more. It’s also a matter of trust. If I can’t be trusted to care about myself, how can I be trusted to truly care about someone else?

    It wasn’t a matter of not caring…but that was the image I put out, and the perception I created.

    We all relate to others in terms of our perceptions…it’s all we CAN do. And if we foster perceptions that are negative, we’ll be repaid in exactly that currency.

    Lesson learned.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Sometimes we do have to learn those kind of lessons the hard way. What we intend by our actions and what actually happens aren’t always the same thing. You have a very wise and insightful wife! I’d listen to her. 🙂 Praying that your hand is on the mend now.

  7. Natalie

    Oh, what a question! What can I learn this month directly rather than from hearsay? That’ll keep my wheels spinning for awhile, I dare say. Thanks for that challenge. Accepted. (The whole post was lovely, by the way, even before that question.)

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Just be careful what you choose though. ha. One of my adventures this weekend, while super interesting and informative to me, was a bit much for my sweet husband who went along with me. There’s some information he’d rather just I learn first-hand, then share with him on a need-to-know basis. 🙂

  8. Jean Wise

    What a great lesson in the value of showing up. being present. This is the second blog post I have read in an hour that touched my heart with this message. DUH, God is telling me something today! By the way, love the photo of you and Roberto. Very peaceful and loving.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Jennifer. When we experience something for ourselves, it usually sticks far longer than just hearing someone else’s experiences. First-hand is definitely good when we can get it. 🙂

  9. Positively Alene

    Oh girl – this gets me. Such beautiful moments with those men. Loved the connection made as you visited. My heart is longing to go back, to see friends, and make new ones there. I do believe a year is too long. 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Weren’t those men just precious? I can’t believe it’s already been 2 1/2 weeks that we were there. 🙁 A year does seem a long way away… Hope you had a marvelous time on your get-away with your hubby!

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