Friday, September 23, 2016

Contentment


Contentment.. these days it seems to be an elusive slippery thing.  For many of us it comes and goes like the tides on the shore. 
When all is right in our worlds and we are pampered and pleased.. when the kids are well behaved and top of their class and your husband gets that coveted promotion.. when the smell of baking chocolate chip cookies wafts from the oven and you’re family and friends are coming over for an evening of hotdogs and laughter around the fire.. we think that’s it.  We sigh easily and Flesh throws his arm around our shoulders and says,
                “Haul that log over here and prop your weary feet up.  Ahh, much better. Isn’t this the life?! Look around, what more could you need or ask for?!”
You lean back and smile big at the stars overhead.. Flesh holds out an object in the darkness and you reach out and pull it in close.. wrapping your hands and heart and mind tight around this cup of contentment. Drinking it down deep your soul belly fills with the faux liquid. 

But what about next week or next month, when your teenage son rebels and insurance doesn’t cover the emergency root canal… what about when your husband brings home brussel sprouts instead of chocolate and you burn Sunday dinner. Where does that liquid that had just filled flow out too when your closest friend moves out of state and you don’t get a call back from that job interview?

Is contentment just like a high?  Does it come and go from day to day, hour to hour, depending on the air and environment that we are breathing in? Is it that heavier liquid that gets weighted down and settles at the bottom, as doubt, worry, fear, and the fight for control form layers above it?  Is the state of our hearts no more than an elementary science experiment? Where the liquids are all dumped in a jar.. and as long as our worlds and days are being rocked and shaken by excitement and activity contentment flows all through.. but when we are left sitting and alone, after all the dust settles and the last car pulls out of the drive-way, contentment disappears somewhere there on the bottom.. once again locked in by the layers above.
Is true contentment so easily lost?
Are the promises, and life made available through Christ hidden and mysterious?! ..slippery to hold on to.. Requiring a tight and unrelenting grip on our part? 
Is contentment an object to be attained or a Life to be received?

What if contentment could be as real and sure as a rock jutting out into the ocean.. unchanged by the unrelenting waves.  What if contentment for you and for me could be like that mountain stream.. always bubbling, flowing, and falling, but never extinguishing. 
Yeah, that brimming cup full that flesh handed you might feel really good in the moment.. but it doesn’t last.   That is a liquid surrounded by sides and a bottom.. there is no external source renewing and refilling.  Fleshly contentment requires doses, one cup every six hours, and best results are found if the doses are administered while the patient is surrounded by the people and things they love.

But Jesus.. He promises perfect peace, and joy and love unending, all the things that we endlessly search for in this world to give us that coveted contented soul.
The Bible says HE is The Vine. 
Unlike a cup full with the surface exposed, vines carry their life and their sustenance on the inside…
So when He {in}dwells and I abide.. those refreshing waters flow untouched, their surface unmarred by environmental circumstances..  For, they are incased in and flow through a Life that is undefeatable and impenetrable. 
The waters of contentment that are found in Jesus Christ require the patient to rest, abide, and trust in The One who upholdeth all things. 

So, if you want to keep taking those glass fulls.. then that is your choice. But as for me, I long to drop to my knees beside that stream that ever flows and drink down its endless depths.  I believe that I have access to a contentment that cannot be touched by this world.  And I am in pursuit. 
I have not yet perfectly attained.. and some days the rain streaks these dirty windows and I sit in a quiet house and the layers start to settle. 
Some days I don’t fling open wide the door of my heart to allow Christ's life to flow.. and I get restless and depressed and down. Some days I look at lives around and see them sparkling and shining with excitement and I lay my head on the eager and open shoulder of Flesh and let him tell me how lucky everyone else is and how bad I’ve got it. 

But I know, and firmly believe that it does not have to be that way.  I believe that rain can fall outside while praises are being sung inside.  I believe that I can find endless satisfaction and ultimate contentment in Jesus Christ no matter what the day holds. I believe that I can walk through loss and lack and disappointment with a smile that engulfs my soul.  I believe Jesus did more than provide an abundant and amazing life for me in the here-after... I believe He has made a way for me to experience that even here in this sin-stained world.


So find that untainted water my soul, drink deep and be filled.. Your life, or should I say QUALITY of life, depends on it!


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

When God Uses Onions


Onions. They really aren’t anything special to look at… little round layers of white thick, wrapped in red and yellow thin. When supper requires several, they leave hands smelling and eyes stinging wet. When planted their green stems rise straight up from there home in the earth, strong and proud.  Fields of green, charming the eyes.  Lush life receiving rays.  As laundry is wrung and strung to receive those same rays, I often found my eyes glancing over to take in their green offering of beauty.  I anticipated the day they would be harvested.. to watch workers bend and unearth the gift.  But as weeks turned to months the tall green began to bend.  Vibrant stalks turning shades of brown as they drooped back to the dirt that had birthed them.  The fields of inspiration took on a hue altogether different, one of dilapidated-dying.  And then one morning I took my place at the rail to see backs bent in harvest. 
And God used ordinary onions to teach me an extraordinary truth.
You see, we humans, with our human eyes and human wisdom.. peer out into a world made with a God mouth and God eyes and God wisdom, and make judgments. 
We declare that which is blooming, that which is vibrant, and growing, and strong, to be beautiful and successful.  Days all sunshine and blue sky, circumstances tinted with rosy.. and we are soaring high in emotion.  The mountains appear all majestic and glorious.  Promotion, top scores, new houses, spouses who dote, abundance in income, perfect children…. It all tastes so sweet. Our steps seem to bounce with ease, heels springing up high.  Praises bubble up and out… we cry ‘GOD IS GOOD.”
And, Amen! He is!!
But what about when streaks of bright-hot lightning streak through our skies… and the wind brings in a storm.  When we glance up at that which had been light, and watch it dim as the clouds gather.  Frantic we run to close the windows… don’t allow that rain and pain to blow through.  Darkness has descended.. this cannot be good.  He lost his job, she failed, sickness, betrayal, kids who don’t listen, downsizing to afford. Journal pages lay with words scattered jagged, pain carving letters deep.  Our strength and endurance is waning.  We grope about lighting flesh candles… trying to bring light.  Words of doubt fly from lips, too which praise now seems foreign.  Our hopes and emotions lie like dirty rags on a worn-out floor. Every way our eyes turn.. everything seems to have a depressing brown hue. We only pray to ‘somehow’ make it through… blindly grasping at the grace which is said to be all-sufficient.  Pats on the back and knowing nods are our only encouragement on this tiresome trek through this seeming valley.
But what if we were on the mountain all along? 
When the clouds roll in where I live… it doesn’t change my location.  I still reside back that long lane at the top of the hill.  All that is hindered is the depth and distance that my flesh eyes can percieve.
And so, I am beginning to think that we have this all wrong.  And that maybe, like the onions… with flesh eyes all we see is the dilapidated dying leaves, when the real treasure.. the true gift.. that sought after prize lies hidden there within the dirt.
Ever feel like there is a lot of dying and dirt covering in your life? Ever look at a situation and see the leaves stooping heavy with rot? 
Maybe the treasure is just beneath, waiting for the proper time.  Soon you will push aside the brown that covers, to discover a round, ripe, reason for it all.
You see, we can’t see.. we are slow too understand and comprehend.  So often in the seemingly dark times in life… God is working, in covering, to craft and birth the miraculous and perfect. 
Lay the seed on top of the soil, where things are always bright, the sun always shining, and the skies always blue… and it will never grow. It takes planting and covering in dirt for real life to spring forth. 
We can’t see the forming and transforming in that hidden place. 
But, God sees.  And His wisdom designed and created it to be that way.
So maybe we.. like the ordinary onion.. need to be planted.. grown up in green, and allowed to wither in brown, for the extraordinary to be birthed inside of us.
Do we want a life of superficial and imagined growth… lying like a seed atop the soil, where everything is always sunny but nothing ever really changes?!
Or, do we want a deeper life?! ..To enter into the darkness and dying so we can witness the mighty workings of our Awesome God.
And when we say yes and embrace the withering required, only to discover what we always dreamed of lies just beneath.. just beyond….  Then, we will be able to say with all confidence that God is good, rain or shine.  We will then know, that though clouds swirl all around… just behind, lie the Glorious peaks, fashioned by our Gracious Creator.
Maybe the key to seeing isn’t changed eyes, or changed circumstances… but a changed mind.
Life look bleak? Situations and circumstances drooping… as the hue of dying spreads?
Wait! Hope! Something beautiful is coming!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Joy Water


Some days my day is like a dream come true… no matter the tasks that lie before me.. it looks all bliss.  The day is spent smiling and thanking.. my soul skipping along the shoreline of joy.  Droplets splashing up and running down.. clothes and skin wet with a happiness deep.  A happiness undeterred by a small mountain of laundry and dirty floors.  My soul splashing that liquid delight until everything I do is dripping. God seems so close.. thanks seems so natural.
And then other times… my soul looks around and all seems drought.. the reservoir that was just brimming with joy has evaporated to a mere handful. 
No dancing.. for fear of losing those droplets which soul-hands cup tight to preserve.  The horizon is bleak… no sunlight splitting the sky as it prepares to rise over the day.  All is clouded.. those kinds of clouds that don’t even grace with rain. The day spreads before me endless, drab. The sunshine shines bright without… but inside, Soul decide to pull out that old grey woolen sweater to keep off draft.
Soul-eyes dart… body turning this way and that.. finger poised to point, searching for the one who is to blame.  Somewhere, somehow, someone has blocked the source to this pool. 
And eyes always fall first on the Mr. who made me Mrs. …memory begins to unpack the list it so carefully preserves.  Page after page litters the ground as I am reminded of every wrong, every hurt. 
Conclusion drawn, I open the tap and let water run into the pan as I prepare our morning coffee.  And I also open the tap inside, love and appreciation drain dry… breakfast served with eyes downcast and lips carefully placed in a pout. He glances up wondering at the change that has rolled in… the clouds showing from behind eyelids.  This morning… self service.
By the time he leaves for work, I have successfully invited misery to come and abide among us.  And he slithers in.. delighted at the welcome. 
As the gate locks behind him, I flop on the bed… laundry looking like Everest sitting on my floor.  And I hadn’t noticed before… but it is all looking so old and worn. 
I wash, mechanically pouring soap, scrubbing, rinsing, hanging… it seems the blame bearer didn’t bear away the clouds with him… they still hang heavy. 
Soul with hands still cupped, turns again…. Circumstance, Situation, Position.
Imagine how it would be if they all would just change.  Surely then the water could again flow unhindered.
The cycle gets monotonous. Week after week filled with gaping holes… days spent toiling in frustration.  The Mr. tells a joke and elbows my ribs… asking for the smile to show. 
But misery flicks forked tongue from his place on the floor…
Who is to blame?  Who controls the levels of this joy-water? Where is the source?

These days the culture begs us to be real.. raw.  Lets all admit it… life really is the doldrums. Its unavoidable.  And the more real and honest we can be about our failures and shortcomings and humdrums, the louder the applause.  Patting each other’s backs as we sit in the barnyard muck.
But is this the truest reality to be had? Is that all?
The best we can do is to all admit how hard life is? ..and look out across the desert.. hands held in solidarity??
Could there be more?

Soul-eyes glance towards the horizon… maybe the answer lies there.  Soul-hands stuff themselves deep within the grey wool sweater wrapped round, as the journey across the barren begins.  Fingers lock around something metal, cold.  A key, what is it doing here? This sweater is kept safe… always preserved for days like this.  Who could have slipped a key into this pocket deep? 
The journey seems long and tedious… it takes all Soul’s effort to put one foot in front of the other… sitting on the shore had seemed so much easier.  This is taking effort. 
But without effort the purpose of the key would have remained a mystery.  Soul could have never discovered the walls that held joy-water captive…
You see, there are doors on that dam. Ingratitude, comparison, pride, and jealousy shutting them tight.  The joy-water… the presence of God is stopped.. the flow cut off.
 A choice bringing drought, and a choice again allowing refreshment to flow.

This misery.. these clouds… this lack of joy and peace and God-nearness, cannot be blamed on another.   I alone hold that key. 
The saturation I experience in my days hinges on my choice.
Joy-water can be an ever present reality if I want.
I read of persecuted Paul… it seems he had springs unceasing.  He chose Christ… He chose thanks… He knew His end would be glory forever.  These temporal things were not allowed to deter his focus.
And aren’t we encouraged to run this life-race looking unto Jesus who for JOY, endured?!
Jesus who saw mocking. Jesus who saw scourging. Jesus who saw crushing, and cutting off, and death.
And, Jesus who saw beyond that all.

What am I going to see today? Sure there is laundry high, dishes dirty, babies sick, bills looming, and children needy. But is that all I will choose to see?  Will I stop there and let the clouds begin to form as water recedes?
Look UP… look higher… See Him all glorious.  Breathe deep His grace as you begin another day on this planet that is quickly passing.
[Don’t allow the temporal to steal a gaze eternal.]
We can have souls sitting sullen, or souls dancing in delight.
The choice is ours…. Am I going to allow the joy-water to flow today?


Friday, October 30, 2015

Whom shall we Serve?

Flip on the television to find painted faces passionately sharing and declaring….
     ISIS has done it again, heads rolling red on beaches in the Middle East…  Raping innocence and sewing it back together…. daughters and sisters and mothers for sale.
     Babies being torn from the warmth and protection of their mother, cut up, and shipped off for “research.”  Babies that can feel… babies developed and full of potential.. humans a unique destiny to fulfill in this world being dissected.
     Little boys, limp and lifeless riding the waves to find their rest on the beach.  Boats full of helpless and hopeless cries.  Souls searching for a refuge from pain and turmoil and chaos.
     Palestine and Israel trading flying fire that leaves blood running and empty seats at the supper table.
     Men and women and children made by the hand of the Master.  Skin tone appearing different to the eye, all beautiful and unique, Created with CARE and THOUGHT.  ….Feeling less. And Rioting. And fighting. And slaying with their tongue. And toppling the cars of their countries defenders.
     Little boys and little girls being raised with no concrete in the foundation of their lives and identities.  Filled with uncertainty.. not hearing from parents and teachers and peers that they are to walk in their GOD given femininity or masculinity.  Left wondering whether they want to be called Jim or Sally.
     Parents, tipping the bottle up to catch that last drop of slow death.. and desiring to create with the ones they created.. turning members that were meant to console into instruments of pain.. missing meals, plays, programs, and those important games because of the love of that elusive green. The two who created the little ones who fill their home, abandoning and forsaking.
Obama and Trump and Clinton and Carson and Jubilee and Cord.
Christians being killed. Jews being killed. Arabs being killed. 

 {  Famine. War. Starvation. Slavery. Injustice. }
 
But you know what I just read? 
I read of a people steeped in sin.  Completely given to themselves.  Legs flying fast, as they chase after satisfaction to stuff deep into the hole in their heart created for The Creator. 
And then I read of a vision of the throne and the elders and the four-living creatures… and there, in their midst, stands A LAMB, as if it had been slain. 
And beloved, is HAS been slain. 
It’s precious life flows red through all of time… beckoning us to come and be drenched in its depths and step out whiter than the snow that falls soft.
 
There is the sound of keys ringing through the corridors… and we rise from our position on the floor and drag our chains to the door… fingers, wet with filth, wrap themselves around the bars.. faces marked and marred by tears and pain and hopelessness, press tight to see who comes… ALL BRILLIANT He is.. and as he passes each cell, ears that have only heard whispered lies, hear the sound of doors long shut, flinging open.. and chains falling. 
Cries of triumph! Voices singing praise!!
And He is coming… and HAS come for you. 
An invitation and opportunity for a life in the LIGHT.

And will this just become another story?  Something that tickles our ears and causes us to nod our head as we turn back to the headlines?! 
Is WONDER and AWE and FEAR that used to be reserved for our Savior going to be given to another?
Will we allow ourselves to tremble at events that take place on this globe and forget and forsake the One who BREATHED galaxies.. and holds them in the hollow of His hands?

“The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved;
He uttered His voice, the earth melted.”  Psalm 46:6


The battle for affection and attention of heart, soul, and mind, is real.
flanking us on the left are soldiers clothed dark… eager to establish fleshly fear and anxiety… spreading doctrines of negativity and foreboding.  They have mouths full of words and minds full of ideas.. but execution and solution is nowhere to be found.
BUT FIX YOUR EYES AHEAD… see them coming, shining all glorious.  Their Leader with arms spread wide, revealing the love scars in His hands. Can you hear their unified invitation?? Promises of LIFE and liberty, wisdom and counsel.  Their ranks move in Holy fear…. And carry within their very beings, The solution.  Clothed, armed, strengthened, and filled, they follow their King… songs of victory already on their lips.

Satan is real, his demons actual, and their combined affect realized.
People are hurting and dying. 
They know his darkness in a very real way… we The Church will not be of any help by joining in his exaltation by discussing his work and focusing on his affects.
LIGHT expels darkness.. spiritually and physically.

God give me a heart that will beat faster for You.  A mind that will be consumed and distracted and obsessed with You.. and Your word.
May fear, and awe, and wonder be saved for Your worship.

And then..
with eyes fixed on You, a heart filled with love found in you, and a mind overtaken with Your truth..
 maybe THEN I can go to them.. ..and invite them to come, stand at the bars, and HEAR you coming down the corridor.. that they may experience that weight falling.. and step out into the Reality of Freedom in You.

let us Consider >>>> CHRIST JESUS.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

For Dad


He was and is, simply the best.
Perfect? No. ..And willing to admit it. 
There were seasons in life where he was less appreciated than others… but looking back, I see all bliss. My memory reminds me of only his strengths.
It’s hard to even know where to start, or what to say. 
The impact that he had and continues to have on my life is monumental.  I wouldn’t be half the woman I am today is it wasn’t for the man that I call Dad being in my life. 
When we talk about top Dads… this guy is the tip of that top… He is the cream of the crop.  If dads were to be compared to deserts… he would be a molten chocolate cake with a scoop of ice-cream slowly melting on the side…  the warm, dark, chocolatey-goodness getting all mixed up with cool creamy vanilla… you know, the one that makes you take tiny bites so you can linger a little longer.
He is the kind of man that shapes his generations unknowingly, through years of words and actions and time-spent. 
A dad that always had a knee ready for the little girl that had fallen in play.  His work-roughened hand would dry the tears and he would tuck me in close, his beard was tickling my face, until the sobs subsided.  Someone who could come home from a hard day on the farm to wrestle with brothers on the dining room floor, or revive his tired bones to play a game of knock-out. 
I always anticipated the sound of his tires on the gravel! There was a certain security that always came with his presence.. A leap in my spirit at the thought of fun that was to be had. 
He had a routine… after taking his shoes off, his first agenda was to find his dearest wife (my mom) and give her a kiss.  I never remember a day when I did not see love between my parents, and it built a sure foundation in my life from a very young age.  Commitment and steadfast-staying love was exemplified, and I took a firm stand upon the belief that it would always be that way. 
There was never a doubt… and for a little girl.. That is HUGE!
Sure there were days when we saw tears run down her face.. And saw him busy himself in the garage.. But sooner or later I would look out the window to see them talking on the porch.  At night we would fall asleep to sound of laughter floating like music through the floorboards from downstairs. After God, my mom is first to him.  His best friend, his sounding board, his closest confidant.  There weren’t nights-out with the boys or weekend fishing trips.. Instead there were grocery trips with just the two of them.. And walks in the evening.. And discussions in the kitchen that kids weren’t invited to. 
He showed us that she mattered.. That she had priority.
Every night, everyone scrubbed from a day of play or work, we sat in the circle of chairs in the living room and listened to him read The Word.  Chapter by chapter, year after year, our minds created files about {who} beget {whom}, and blood flowing from bulls and goats.. And how that wasn’t sufficient so---Immanuel, God with us.   Then we would all kneel and listen as he talked to his God… sometimes the amen leaving mouths open with the sounds of sleep. 
There was always church on Sunday.  Lots of girls got to take paper and pens in their purses… but all I had was a hymn book and bible. I never thought it was fair.  But now I say thank-you for that discipline of soul.  Wisdom had taught him that little ears and eyes absorb far more than is accredited to them.  How blessed I was and am.. To not only hear of the Power of the Cross… but to see it lived out by the two in whose care I was entrusted.
He was always there, present, and participating in my young life. Supper was around a table.. Food and communication and love filling soul and stomach.  WE WERE TOGETHER.
And we laughed.. And we still laugh.  A lot! Life was not easy.. Finances were often tight.. And there was stress from work and life… but we learned to take it easy.  There were corny jokes… and handstands in the dining room.. And antics at Walmart.. And bananas in shoes. It kept life Alive.
He knew how to have a good time and how to discipline a soul that needed direction.  One thing I so appreciate about him is the commitment he had to helping us learn right from wrong.  There were consequences for actions.  We didn’t always get what we wanted, but we got what we needed!  And when there is a father that is disciplined enough to discipline… souls are saved from destruction.
My dad raised a family that loves Jesus, and serves Him with their lives… a daughter who knew what to wait for in a man, and sons who know how to love their wives.  He might not have bank accounts and houses and property to bequeath us when he leaves… he will leave an example.  Padded pockets have never changed generations.. But, purity of heart. 
He doesn’t take his place in the front of rooms and crowds… that has never been his thing. 
He doesn’t chase after recognition and prestige and worldly applause…
For he is far too busy chasing after his God.
He taught us that service is the greatest thing.
Instead of spending Saturdays at the stadium or office… he could be found in the yard… or garage.. or at Marsh, taking his two elderly aunties shopping.  In the winter we would all pile in the van and go shovel driveways and sidewalks, so that grandpas and grandmas could stay safe and warm. 

And that my friends…. Is what we need more of.
We need more fathers.  Dads committed to the discipline and discipleship of their children’s souls.  Dads who take time to pray and read The Word and discuss the things of God.
We need more fathers.  Men are committed to understanding what it is to learn and love and nurture and give from their God.

If we want strong churches.. We need strong families!

We need men who are committed to Christ-given masculinity.  Men of valor, courage, honor, and strength.
We need women who are seeking the fullness of their Christ-built femininity. Women who are gracious, and giving, and compassionate, and kind.
We need Husbands given to love; and wives committed to respect.
We need fathers who are willing to lay aside their suit of self and put time, and energy, and TIME into their families.
We need mothers who will sing praises to their God as they change dirty diapers and clean the floor and wash the dishes.
Households inspired and shaped and led by The Word and The Spirit.

Happy Early Birthday Dad!!  I couldn’t have asked for better.





Thursday, September 24, 2015

Confessions of a Missionary


I have been writing this in my head for months now… not quite finding the courage to put it to paper…. But I guess the time has come.  Supper is sitting cooked in my new kitchen while it waits for my very favorite person to walk through the door..
so I guess this is as good a time as any right?
Sometimes I choose a name for each new post after the last letter has been added and I have read it through.. but this one…. I guess you could say that the title has been the inspiration!
I hope you can read this with an open mind and a laugh about to bubble from your throat… cause that is the spirit of the typist.
I have found that laughter is paramount in this crazy life I lead!! {..It counteracts the onslaught of insanity!! }

This is my confession… and I hope that it will give a glimpse.. a greater understanding.. and Glory to my King!!
As I packed just over two years ago, preparing for this plunge of faith, I had lots of thoughts and ideas in my mind.  I had dreamed and imagined for years…. And had reached several conclusions of how life as a missionary would be.  I think this is a common problem we humans suffer from.  In short, its called- “Jumping to Conclusions.”  Or- “Assumption.” 
And… Oh God,  we need your deliverance!!
How many tears could be stopped short of forming and falling… how many wrinkles could be saved for another day… how many nights laying in bed with eyes held open by that annoying little man called fear could be replaced with sheets spread over sweet dreams.
I digress..
back to the story I was to be telling today.
So, I pretty much thought I had it figured out.  I was going to go, and live, walk, and breathe FAITH.. and watch as God did wonders.
And this is not to say that God doesn’t do wonders…. HE DOES!!! But often the wonders take on a different form than we had imagined.. and involve a whole lot MORE of Him working, and me resting.

Short-Term Delusion
I had been to Kenya three times before…. The longest I had stayed was three months.  And that extended time was great!! But let me just say… it couldn’t prepare me for LIFE here.  Short term missions are great!! And the impact and transformation that can happen to the individual and the served are huge… but those sweet memories you have.. that mountain top experience, isn’t a day to day reality.  The stimulus of 24/7 activity… new sights and sounds.. people eager to meet and talk and serve along with you, It isn’t a constant.
On short trips all our Kenyan friends would clear their schedule and serve right along with us.  We visited their churches… went on trips.. took walking tours.  They took us shopping.. made sure we were under their watchful eye everywhere we went.
I guess the stars in my eyes distorted my vision and understanding.. and I drew the conclusion that this is how it would always be. I thought that when I wanted to go, they would be there with me.. cheering me on, and dropping everything to come help. 
But they have lives too… they have families to take care of and jobs to hold down and bills to pay.
Every previous ministry experience had been one of camaraderie and laughter and companionship.  But what about when that all fades into the background?  Will ministry continue when it is just you and the One whose name you are claiming to do it in? 
And if your anything like me, soon after this discovery you begin to find little parasites called loneliness are starting to dig their teeth into your soul.  And you wonder how they are getting in… and its not until later that you look within and discover “Assumption” standing there at the door of your heart with a welcoming smile… inviting them to come and dine.
And I have discovered there is only One known Exterminator in the whole world.  And His work requires your participation and discipline. It is quite a process.. can take weeks and months for complete restoration I have heard.
Lets just say…. It would be easier to keep a clean house!!

Financial Dependence
Now this one… its kind of like that ugly bruise you have on your leg.  It is a little painful… and you try to keep it covered so that no one asks how you got it.  Because, heaven forbid you have to tell them how your right foot had tripped over your left foot and introduced your face to the floor. (Now, this has never happened to me!!! But it is alleged that I have been seen in the dirt by the side of the road…not standing…. With a red face.  But that’s just hearsay.)
Money.. such a funny little green piece of paper.  So unmoving to look at… but once taken in the hands, it boasts such great power and sway in our lives.  A skill that I was blessed(?) to discover that it holds, is that of architecture. 
It is a builder. 
Once obtained and possessed, it builds invisible walls and fences and soon we are safely contained in the security it “provides.”  One is seemingly made to forget the (actual) position of their feet upon that IMMOVABLE and UNSHAKABLE Rock, Jesus Christ. 
With a job, and bedroom at my parents place in the cushy suburb called America, I couldn’t see the invisible fortress in which I was entrenched.  But let me tell you… the surest way to assess your position is in the removal of the ability to earn and keep that mighty dollar.  Suddenly the light is flipped on and you scramble and grab at anything close to cling to, and cover yourself with.  Nothing is surer to bring fretful nights and nail-biting days than the lack of control in finances.
And how many times had I stood with hands raised high, singing “I Surrender All” on Sunday morning......   
Rubber, meet Road… how does it feel?
At first… awful.
But when eyes are able to dry up and LOOK up, they discover That ONE.. and you realize you have been held the whole time!  And you learn to laugh at fear because you KNOW.
Money comes and money goes.  There will be weeks of ugali and spinach and as you scrape and save.. and nights enjoyed over coffee in a little cafĂ© as you lean back with ease.  There will be days of wondering and serious prayer.. and mornings of triumphant rejoicing as you read your email and discover there is money waiting at the bank. 
It has been a bit of a ride for this young twenty-something.  It has brought my faith and trust under the microscope and I have cringed as I discovered what it was made of… and yet I rejoice as it has brought about the opportunity to go back to the Designer and ask for the original material.
…..p.s. its awkward to ask for money.. I get that!! And also…when your home everyone will back you up %100 percent.. and even give money… but once overseas.. it can kind of become “out-of-sight out-of-mind.
Just prepare yourself for that.
And maybe budget for trips home to jog their memory ;)
The Missionary Mindset
One night I sat at the table with my good friend who is now is my husband.. and he opened my eyes to this reality.  
You see we missionaries are a particularly zealous and determined breed.  When we set our minds to something we do it wholeheartedly!  We feel called, or decide to move…. And throw our whole being into performing this task of sharing and living Christ.
And hallelujah!! Isn’t that what we are called to do?!
But, suddenly a life filled with family and friends and job, will become ministry. Ministry alone. 
We stop going out.. we save every penny.  We stop watching movies on Friday night… we feel it isn’t redeeming the time.  We stop making friends… we view everyone as someone who needs Christ.  We stop soaking in The Word for our benefit.. and instead read for our next message. We stop looking nice and dressing up… and begin blending in with our environment.
We don’t necessarily intend to… it just seems to happen.
And why???
Because this new “vocation” requires more man-made holiness????
I don’t know… maybe we just feel like we aren’t the real deal if there isn’t some kind of “suffering” in our lives.
But it doesn’t work..   Soon, sabbaticals and weekends and weeks away will become more and more frequently needed.  And we begin getting worn down and worn out.
To all you young single missionaries out there….
KEEP MAKING FRIENDS.  Genuine ones.  Find them in church.. at the organization… and go out. And laugh. And share. Talk about real life and how you’re REALLY doing.  It will breathe a vital life into your soul.
DRESS NICE. Maintain your appearance. You are not more humble with your hair up in a ponytail with jeans and a T-shirt and no make-up.  You are just blending in and doing what everyone else does when they come to a third world country.  Are the people you are ministering to not worth the time and effort you would put into a nice dinner invitation at The Smiths?  Why is it we dress normally at home… but when it comes to third world ministry.. its a trip to goodwill and rubber boots and face masks.
Notice… taking the time to look nice, will make you feel better.
J
(this is an exception if missions for you is in the middle of a jungle.)
GET AWAY.  People know when they donate money that every coin is not going for ministry.  YOU have to live too.  And living doesn’t just mean breathing… You need to REALLY be living to be able to give Life.  Go to that hotel for a weekend. Dress up and go out to that Restaurant.  Lock the door… lay on the couch with a book and act like you don’t hear the knocks. 
This is not NECESSARY per-say… but if opportunity allows… TAKE IT!
The native missionaries might seem to have more energy and ability… but bear in mind… this life-style is all they have ever known.
If you drop everything of your previous life and try and adopt a whole new way of living right away… you are going to get tired.

The Race for Results
I thought we would surely have an orphanage within the first year.  I mean, there were so many needy kids and orphans.
Let me tell you…. The first, oh…. Three months were spent in the house.  Reading the bible and books and looking at each other with despair in our eyes. 
We thought we had come to change….
But it became evident that God had brought us here to BE changed.
People will ask what you are doing.. what programs you have.  But remember dear soul, Who it is that you are serving.. and remember that it is HIS opinion that counts.  He works in ways that we don’t understand.. and He is the only one that we need to be pleasing. 
So… don’t come up with little things to busy yourself… wait on Him.  He is in no hurry… and it will all fall into place.

Life
I love to read! And in my late teen years my eyes devoured biographies of missionaries. And from these I formed a vision of what my life in the foreign field would entail.  I expected hardship, yes! But I didn’t make provision in my mind for the ordinary.
For the ins and outs of life with a roommate.. and the refining that would bring.
For those days when the combines are running and leaves are turning back in Indiana.. and you just want to be there. Or how much you would give anything just to sit on the couch with your family and watch a Colts game.
I hadn’t considered how it would feel to sit in a church service and not understand a word… and even when you start to understand… get confused and end up STANDING UP(for the whole church to see) when they want to recognize the mothers on Mother’s Day.(You can imagine)
There is dirty laundry.. and dirty floors.. and tasteless food.. and difficult people.. and LOUD matatus.. and those days when you just might get horribly lost.
J
Dad isn’t there to fix the toilet that wont flush… and curb the belligerent muscly landlord man.
Remember… LAUGH! Let it always to be there beneath the surface ready to escape…
Because laughter…. It isn’t as messy as tears.
and these things are not bad.  But they exist! Its not day after day of holding sweet babies and feeding hungry mouths. 

And finally…
the realization that You are still human.
A magical transformation doesn’t occur on the plane ride over and turn you into a super human.  A always loving, always giving, always caring angel in human form.
Some days… I knew there was this little man that needed some lovin and some nourishment… and when my alarm went off at six in the morning I switched it off and rolled over.
And that old man that walks around with his pants falling down… when you walk out your gate and see him sitting in the garbage pile at the end of your lane…. You might just turn your head and quickly walk past.
You are still going to have inner battles with all those fleshly tendencies. 
At Saturday feeding programs.. I don’t always smile sweetly as I hand them a plate full of steaming food…. Sometimes I’m more of what we could term “a hot mess.”

But don’t despair… Christ is always working.. and drawing… He is holding you.. and He is going to KEEP holding you. 
You won’t have all the answers.. and sometimes life and ministry will look so humongous that you will wonder if it is possible or even worth it. 
Take heart dear one… you are not required to fix it and find all the solutions… there is someone Bigger filling that docket.(And he actually does a far better job than we ever could!)

He who called you is FAITHFUL!!!

so this is a little of my story…
and I can honestly say
ALL IS GRACE

 
 
 
 
 
 
God Bless us as we stumble after Him!!!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Considering The Price


I stood completely inadequate, covered in sin.. completely filled with everything evil… before a PURE, HOLY, SPOTLESS, RIGHTEOUS GOD. And His wrath was going to consume me… His justice required it. 
I had nothing to give… nothing to show for my justification.  There was no hope for relationship… there was no redemption to be had…
and then… in strolls my Intercessor.  And I see Him standing there as a Lamb slain from the foundations of the world.  That Perfect God-Man.  He who stepped down into earth… clothed Himself in the weakness of human flesh.. and lived and walked and breathed PERFECTION.  In every way tempted.. yet without a single glance of His eye.  Not even the minutest speck of defilement marred the bright white otherness of this One. 
And then… this One.. this Jesus..  all Just, became the Justifier.
From Adam to the last person who shall ever see the light of day on this planet… all of our filth.. our condemnation… our guilt.. the FULL weight of our all-encompassing sin was imputed to that Perfect One.
And we stood there with arms crossed and lips mocking, gazing up at hands pierced and flesh gaping and blood running.. we stood there in our stubborn un-giving humanity as the full weight of God’s Holy wrath drove the very breathe.. the very life from Jesus.  The blade cut.. the soft whiteness of that Lamb gave way… and everything that sustained ran out. 
As He hung upon the beams… the perfect love and fellowship He had always known.... that constant Oneness was severed. 
Because how can Light have fellowship with darkness?
Justice demanded a payment.
It wasn’t the whip falling… tearing and ripping.  It wasn’t the crown of thorns.. that circle of pain pushed down.. forcing its way through and spilling red. It wasn’t the spit dripping.. the sting of the slaps.. the nails driven further with every swing.
That could never have satisfied the debt.
It was Holy Wrath from a Holy God… it was separation and cutting off and breathe expiring… It was sin imputed and God turning His head and withdrawing Himself and the Lamb dying alone.. it was the CRUSHING of Christ that brought my atonement.
Jesus was crushed.
Oh if only we could realize the completeness of our incapability… our absolute depravity.  Our utter deservedness of that separation and breathe and life-taking justice..
If ONLY we could see the perfection and otherness of that Son given….
but words are few and feeble.
God give us revelation!!
How often we speak and sing of our Father’s love and acceptance.  We eagerly proclaim His grace… but do we really understand….do we stop to consider…. the price?   
We deserve banishment forever in hell… to have as our constant reality the burning.. the gnashing of teeth.. to taste and feel and swim in fire.. to have our senses completely filled with His wrath… FOREVER.  
I deserve it… All of us do…. The billions who have walked this earth.. and the billions who yet will…
But today… I sit here.. with a promise of forever in His presence.. I sit here clothed in a Righteousness not my own.  I daily wake up to whispers and demonstrations of love.. and provision.. and sustenance. I have access to endless treasuries of grace. And mercy. And strength. And joy. And peace. And love.  His Divine Perfection and Presence fills and flows.  There is communication and the promise of an ear eager to hear.. and the promise of a response.  I am seated in Heavenly Places…. I have the power to overcome… Through Him I HAVE OVERCAME.
All because of that Lamb.
All because He came.. and lived.. and died.. and was raised… and ascended.. and IS SITTING.     

He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.  And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has born our grief’s and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; and the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. ALL WE LIKE SHEEP HAVE GONE ASTRAY; WE HAVE TURNED, EVERY ONE, TO HIS OWN WAY; AND THE LORD HAS LAID ON HIM THE INIQUITY OF US ALL.  Isaiah 53:3-6


MAY THE LAMB THAT WAS SLAIN RECEIVE THE REWARD OF HIS SUFFERING.