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.
(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.

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.
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

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


Monday, February 23, 2015

Fear and Love

Fear.  An ailment that seems to be very commonly found in the minds and hearts of us humans.  There is fear in our future and fear in our present.  There is fear for our children and spouses.  There is fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of opinions. There is fear of that fallen angel and the power he boasts of.  We fear the thief.. the valleys.. the hard.  And we fear that end called death.
It can be very real.  It has many captives. Holding them tight… just enough air to breathe but not enough to thrive. 
For her it is real. She lives in a place where one is raised always being told “be strong.” ..a place where you pick yourself up when you fall down. ..Where though there is weakness, it is well hidden.  So when that liquid welled and fell down.. tracing its path across her cheek I knew it was serious. And so I sat back down and waited for her to talk.  Dad had been in jail for 2 days.  He was a hustler… selling little things.. making money where he could.  Every evening they ate their one meal with the money he could get throughout the day.  And so since he hadn’t come.. food hadn’t been there.  Eight of them.. for 2 days.  And grandma was in the hospital in the country.. no family there with her to help her through.  And something was crippling the cousin.  And sickness was falling on different members of the family.  And it all looked so impossible.. and we tried to encourage.  Jesus see’s.. Jesus knows.  He is holding you.  But no matter the words I could see it wasn’t hitting the mark.  And I knew what she was thinking but didn’t really want to go there.  But finally I asked..
                “you think its witchcraft?”
And her head turned and her shining dripping eyes met mine and she nodded.  Finally words that spoke to the inner turmoil.  Yeah, in her mind that seemed like the only explanation.  And I sat there sending up silent prayers for words and wisdom that I didn’t have. 
This was something I had never grown knowing.  Sure you hear stories.. but never in my life did I ever see its practical affects.  Where I lived there weren’t signs on every other light post that read “Mganga” and listed the number for consultation below.  I didn’t see on television the footage recounting the affects.  
So I sat there at such a lack.  Not knowing much on that front.. but the one thing I DID know was my Jesus! And so that is what we talked about. 
Greater is He.  He is in me.  I am in Him.  The cross.  The Complete Victory and utter defeat of every other when He rose.  He is truth.. other voices may speak.. may whisper and masquerade a power.  But they are impotent words.  A charade for us who have been brought into The Fold. 
Then we prayed.  Because words don’t mean much.  This is something that needs to be known.. in head and heart.  It needs to be felt too.  She needs to see Him protecting.. she needs to hear Him singing His love song over her.  She needs that experience.
The other day I heard a man talk of this very thing.  He said something like this.. ‘Just a crack… just a narrow opening.. just a slight break down and we think that the enemy of our souls is going to come rushing in.  We hear those preaching’s… “just crack the door.. and he is gonna come crashing through.”  But you can open the door WIDE to Jesus and nothing is going to happen.’ 
We believe more in the power of him who has fallen than He who was RAISED and IS REIGNING.
We read that “perfect love casts out fear.” 
And that perfect love isn’t a feeling.. it’s a Person.  His name is Jesus. So according to the bible.. this is Jesus…
Jesus suffers long and is kind; Jesus does not envy; Jesus does not parade Himself, is not puffed up; Jesus does not behave rudely, does not seek His own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; Jesus does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in truth; Jesus bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  JESUS NEVER FAILS.
In song of Solomon we read of His utter delight in us, His bride.  How He wants to go away with us… to hear our voice… How we are sweet and lovely in His sight.  He sees no spot in us.. we ravish His heart with a SINLGE glance.  He seeks us out.. His desire is for us.  His desire is for you. 
so maybe the answer for her.. for us.. is to spend time with this Lover of our souls.  To surrender ourselves to Him and let Him reveal Himself to us.  To get away with Him and let Him speak to us.. and surround us with His love.  To rise early and read His Holy love letter.. to speak often with Him.   Maybe its time for us to start living like He is really there.  To wake up and greet Him.. to drive to work with Him in the passenger seat.. to eat our lunch with Him.. to rock that baby with Him.. to wash the dishes with Him.. to plow the field with Him.  Young ladies.. go on dates with your Jesus.  Young man.. go fishing.. go on a drive in your truck with this Greatest friend. Mom.. Dad.. sit on the porch with Him.. go on a walk with Him… Mow the yard with Him.  Acknowledge that He is there and then ACT like it.  Don’t just wait to meet Him on Sunday morning in that pew.. or at that altar.. He is HERE NOW!!! 
and as you know Love… watch fear slip quietly into the background. 
for we who have been redeemed carry within us that life that trumps ALL!
When we have walked with Real Love, and have come to know Truth Himself.. when we have that knowledge and experience.. when our ears are trained to hear Him and our eyes drawn to His beauty.. there simply won’t be time for any other voices to speak into our lives. 
Then maybe if we are forced to kneel in the sand by the sea and hear words of hate spoken and then have to surrender our necks to the blade we can do it with a smile because we see it as a Grand entrance into the presence of that One in whom we find Greatest delight!!! 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Living and Learning

You know life is interesting. 
This moment that you are alive you are at the highest capacity of knowledge since the day you emerged into this world.  It is only after you have lived another couple hours.. or days.. or years that you can look back with greater understanding on this moment.  On this decision you are making.. on this path you are walking.. on this judgment or choice you are making. 
And these days…. The looking back has caused me to walk a little humbler.. to admit a bit quicker that, you know what…. I DON’T have this thing figured out!
I am sure that any of you who have walked with the Lord long can relate… I think we all at one point or another have been at that point of “having things figured out.”  WE know what is best for our life…. and WE also know what is best for others lives.  We look around and pat ourselves on the back for having life figured out.  We nod in agreement with the voice that says, “you’ve got this.” Only later to realize that the speaker did not have our best interest in mind.. and in fact was rubbing his hands together as he dreamed of our destruction.. holding a faux gold crown that sparkled with plastic diamonds eager to place it on our brow as if “we got this.”
It was not long ago that I stood in that place.  I stood at the top of my mountain and looked around pleased with where I was at.. and eager to “help” those who still needed to arrive, and together join me in my perfect service and understanding of who God was and how He worked. Even though I may have not arrived at the destination I deemed myself worthy and capable of arriving at I was pleased to be well on my way.  Through bible reading, and biography reading I had a journey mapped out that I was sure would please the Lord.  I “knew” how things should be done.. I knew what He wanted. 
And so I stepped out onto the path I had “helped” God map.  Always quick to declare that this was what God was leading me to do.  But was He?  And started doing things the way I had heard and seen other “worthy” saints do them.. sure that God would want me to do it THIS way.. and that He was pleased.  But did He? And was He? 
With every day He allows me to see the sun rise from my grated window I realize the more that I don’t really have a clue… and back then I CERTAINLY didn’t have a clue.  I thought I knew what was best… and I thought He was leading me… but maybe it was just God letting me choose. ..And then carrying me through the mess I made and lovingly teaching me through it all.  Showing me who I am.. and showing me that HE IS. 
He has been absolutely faithful for every step.  He has always been there.. when I turned to Him I always found Him… but He let me go ahead and walk… and I walked, and planned, and did, at first.. with some measure of “success”.. until I moved to a place where my ability to control was more limited.. and the circumstances and events were different from what I had ever faced before.  And slowly(extremely so) I began to see that holly doesn’t actually have the answers. And holly doesn’t actually know what’s best.  And holly cant fix that one.  And holly doesn’t have the answer for that one.  And holly doesn’t have the ability to love that one.  And I began to see that it is JESUS.  That HE knows.  HE can.  HE does.  HE IS. 
This stuff can be hard to admit at first.. so you just keep it between The Trinity, your journal, and yourself.  Amazed by what you are learning.. and loving this new taste of freedom.  Freedom from striving, and doing, and producing from a failing source.  Then you admit it to that faithful friend who has put up with you for years… apologizing from the manifestation of flesh she has had to live with.  And then you receive emails and interact with people who praise you and talk about all the good you are doing.. and how you inspire them.. and what a sacrifice… and you cant keep it back anymore.  Because you know that many of them probably know Christ at a deeper level.. and probably they are following Him in closer obedience than you ever have. 
You realize that this Christian walk is a lot more personal than you had thought.  That just because it worked for them doesn’t mean it will work for you.  And just because you do it this way doesn’t mean she should.  You see that we are all different and called in different ways.  That He has different ways of working in each individual.  And that it is ALL for His glory.  You find yourself walking through things that two years earlier you had judged someone else for doing.  You remember that book you had read about the missionary who never took a sabbatical.. and how you had firmly agreed with her.. and looked down your nose at those who did.  God ever so gently reminds you of this as you sit under a tree in the park hiding from the noise and need and knocks on the door you would be having if you were currently at home.  You remember those times in the past year where you had to get away for a weekend or week because of exhaustion and the people who were always needing you.
 And you admit your lack, and foolishness, and weakness and feel yourself fill with His Grace, and His strength, and His power. 
And as we sat there and talked… we realized.  Maybe a lot of our work was for our own checklist.. or from the checklist we had formed from sermons and books.  And maybe it was as much or more for the approval of others as it was for the approval of God.  And that this thing we call ministry.. that the world and the church applauds and upholds is one of the more dangerous things a person can ever embark on.  If not careful and watchful and prayerful.. it can begin to fulfill.. and satisfy… you can begin reading your bible for the next lesson instead of for your personal growth and correction.   In our minds we can begin to reduce God to someone who helps us.. someone to work for.. instead of this Great Lover and Friend and Savior and King.  And before long you can find yourself clinging to ministry and your works for justification and access into that throne room.
BUT THANKS BE TO GOD WHO DOES NOT LEAVE US IN THAT PLACE. And thanks be to God that He redeems.. and works in us to sanctify and free and renew.  And thanks be to the One who takes us in our mess and still works good and brings change and shines into others lives.  Thanks be to Him who works ALL things for our good and His glory. 

I guess I could call this ‘confessions of a teen/young twenties missionary.’  Confessions of someone who thought she knew but now is sure that she doesn’t.  And thought she was strong but now can only boast in her weakness.  Confessions of someone who isn’t.. and has not.. but serves and is indwelled by The One who has and who IS!!
Hallelujah!! What an AWESOME God we serve!!!!

So dear person reading this…. Read your bible.. and pray… and walk through each day with your Lord.  Revel in His presence.  Sit on the couch and talk to Jesus sitting in that chair next to you.  While you do laundry.. talk to Him. When you are alone in the car.. switch of the radio and TALK TO GOD.  Live each day with Him.. Make Him your dearest friend.  Your closest confidant. 
Abide in Christ… and then when He is dwelling in you and you are satisfied and fulfilled and overflowing with Him… you will find that all the things of this earth and all those people talking and those checklists will grow strangely dim.. in the light of His glory and grace.  And people will be changed.. and ministry will happen in third world countries and offices and grocery stores and on street corners as Jesus does what ONLY He can do through vessels surrendered and given and madly in LOVE with HIM.

Monday, January 5, 2015

A New Year

It is 2015. Can you believe it? Have you sat and thought and wrote that list?  That list that will inspire and motivate for about another.. oh, lets say, 15 days.  ..Until the dust settles or something is thrown on top.  It seems crazy to me how we do it again and again.  As if somehow THIS year we will be able to muster up the strength and discipline.   As if WE have anything to muster up within ourselves…
I like how Mike Wells said it… when people ask him, he says his goal in the coming year is to become a weaker Christian.  And this year… that is my prayer!
To become more dependent upon Christ.  To see at a greater depth that “I can’t,” only HE CAN.  To have my eyes open and sight sensitive to that fact that I am not… HE IS.  To echo the words of the God Man as He walked this earth.. that I can do nothing of myself.(john 5:19)  And I don’t seek my own will but the will of Him who sent me.(john 5:30)  And I do nothing of myself, but as My Father teaches me.. Those things I speak.(john 8:28)  To decrease so that He might increase.  To boast all the more gladly in my infirmities, that the POWER of God might rest upon me.  To embrace and confess my lack.. My weakness so that His power might be perfected in me.(2cor 12:9)  
I am not saying goals and aspirations are not good… I just think it all depends on how we plan on reaching and attaining them.  Is it going to be me or Christ?!
Where does my faith and trust lie this year? In MY strength? In MY wisdom? In MY ability to do good? In the ministry I do? In the job I hold? In family or friends? In MY plan? In My bank account? 
I think all of us to a certain extent still cling to some of these things.  Whether we would like to admit it or not.  Of course when someone asks we will always shake our heads and boldly confess that we have nothing of our own.. that this world is not our home.  But when push comes to shove.. and God asks us to relinquish and let go… I have found there to be a lot of wrestling.. a lot of questioning.. a lot of reasoning from my feeble logic.  As if what I am currently holding so tightly too is better than what He would give.  As if my wisdom and vision for life is superior to the One who speaks galaxies into existence.  And when I tear away the layers and look at myself for who I am I find the idea of trusting in anything save Christ to be but folly.  His ways are higher, bigger, and better! I want to follow Him.. I want to trust in Him.. More.  I want to fling away this notion that I have anything to bring to the table and then have empty vessel and empty arms that can be filled with Himself.. with His life. 
And with that perspective.. and that vision a new year is exciting! I look forward to the journey… to the greater depths of Christ I will come to know.  I look forward to the people He will bring into my life.  I anticipate the adventure the ministry.  I look ahead with peace in my heart at the changes and trials KNOWING that He is working all things for my good and His glory!!
Praise be unto His name!!
We took a three week break for Christmas and New Years to relax and enjoy.   And enjoy we did!!! The hands on the wall were a little higher than normal when we would get out of bed! We visited friends.. played games… cleaned the house…. drank coffee… ate some good food.. read books… and soaked up every moment that God granted.  It was truly refreshing!  Christmas was spent with each other and our favorite men!
J  Thanks to a sweet brother we got to spend three nights and four days at one of the nicest hotels in Nairobi.  The first day there I was reminded what a gift laughter is! ..because banks were closed that day.. so we were carefully guarding our precious last shillings… and then there is a cab fee to pay.. and an insurance fee for the room… and then we stand at the reception desk with smiles as we are told breakfast is KSH3000 per person and we realize we will be fasting while we spend 4 days in luxury.   We walked up the stairs laughing… and then I stepped in the shower and the hunger suddenly became SO worth it! But banks DID open the next day.. so we decided since we didn’t feel particularly ‘called’ that it would be okay to enjoy the culinary services!!  We came back thoroughly cleaned and refreshed!
After three weeks of break it was so fun to see those sweet little faces again last Saturday! Apparently my muscles had forgotten how much effort those days take.  We slipped under the covers and into bed like a walrus slipping into the refreshing depths of rolling blue after a long day!  But we enjoyed.. and they enjoyed.. and we look forward to growing together in the coming year!! 
Saturday we also resumed BTS.  I didn’t know teens grew so much in three weeks.  Not sure where they are getting the miracle grow.. but its working! We played games and talked and had a great time catching up.  All of the teachers will be meeting tomorrow night to discuss the coming year, put a lesson plan on paper.  What a joy and privilege to be able to watch the Lord do His work in young lives.  We will miss those that are headed to boarding school.. but look forward to new faces that will be joining!  This year we pray that God would give grace for teaching and learning and loving without bounds and with an energy unlimited given from above!
As Im typing this there is a little man stomping around the house, hands outstretched, growling… just begging for someone to come and play.  Chris is back!! He is walking and talking and getting into everything.  He loves tractors and big trucks… he nearly loses his mind when one passes on the street.  He is learning his animal sounds and will drag books about his size from the bookshelf to your lap with eyes asking for a story.  He is full of life and is sure to bring lots of laughter!!
These next couple months are full with kids and family visiting and two becoming one.. we are excited for what they hold and covet your prayers as we each walk the path that has been set before us! It will be new and different.. but it will be sweet! We look forward to what God has in store.  We will try and keep you all updated on what is doing! Thank you so much for caring and sharing! We are thankful!