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!