Can You Hear Him?

Today’s blog is brought to us by the amazing Mary Johnson. Enjoy!

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Recently my daughter and I watched a movie about a husband and wife who were stranded on a mountain during the snowy icy cold winter.  The husband and wife argued and blamed each other for their plight. Suddenly, there was an airplane flying overhead but they were so busy arguing they did not see or hear the airplane. By the time they paused from arguing they heard the sound of the airplane, but it was too late. The airplane crew was already in the motion and did not hear them yelling for help.

The same is true of us; we will not be able to hear our Father’s voice if we are arguing and in strife.  All we will hear is our own voice taking up our own cause.

John 10:3-4, (NLT) says,

“3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice.”

Jesus is right there trying to impart life to us-to reveal and show us there is a different and better way to handle problems. The Bible says that wisdom cries out.  Proverbs 1:20-23 conveys that Wisdom raises her voice in the markets. She cries out in the public square. We will not be able to hear wisdom if we are busy defending ourselves. God wants to lead us in the way of peace. His word says, “2Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27 (NKJV).These words have come to my rescue, when I wanted to defend myself.  But Love said let it go, I am here for you.  1 Corinthians 13:4 says, Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud.

Wisdom cries out to us, we must keep our ears tuned to hear our Father’s voice. “Your own ears will hear him.  Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go, whether to the right or to the left.”  Isaiah 30: 21 (NLT) God’s voice always leads us to victory, even if in the moment it may not seem so. His way brings peace to our soul.  Choose to listen for His voice and follow Him.

Mary Johnson

 

 

 

The Pen

One of the hardest things to do when you’re told what to do, is to do it.

My youngest daughter, Andreya, is 12 years old. She has been doing internet school with Northstar Christian Academy for three years now; she’s an excellent student and a quick learner. There are times when I watch her work that I wonder, what was I doing at her age? I think we had the four-color Bic© pens (red, blue, green and black) that were marks of being uber-cool back in the day. When those went out of style, I remember distinctly a folder called the Trapper Keeper© that only the coolest of the cool kids had in their lockers.

Needless to say I was not one of those cool kids.

Coming from an Finnish immigrant family background, we thrived on frugal living and rarely wasted precious resources on multi-color pens and fancy folders. At the time, being a first-generation Finn, I appreciated both sides of the coin. I knew Mom and Dad hated waste and thus, I managed to hide my brown-bag lunches of Finnish Rye bread with cucumbers and ham (a delicacy for me today) from the cool kids metal lunchboxes with their thermoses filled with Spaghetti-Os©. How I envied those those Spaghetti-Os©!

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Since lunch was the shortest period of the day, I usually managed to hide my lunch and remain generally unscathed from the mocking of any of my peers. It was my simple #2 pencil, blue pen and plain paper folder that got me into trouble. Why couldn’t I fit in and carry the newest and shiniest?

One evening, after a meal of thoroughly Finnish fare, I gathered the courage to ask for the coveted Bic© pen and Trapper Keeper© folder. Prepared for the worst, I steeled my nerves for the expected lecture of why we can’t buy such things. Instead, I was met with gentle explanations of why, in the middle of the school year, we just couldn’t afford to purchase new school suplies. Everything that was listed in the supply list had already been purchased, we couldn’t do anything this year…but…maybe next year.

While I was disappointed, I left the table without as much as a word knowing any pleading would then be met with sternness as my parents were “old school.” Once they said their mind, that was it and I knew it.

On the bus as I made my way to school the next day, with my plain supplies in tow, I envied all of the other kids with their brightly-colored backpacks, lunch boxes and multi-colored pens. I felt the heat rise to my cheeks when my friend Barbara once again asked why my things were so “old fashioned.” I changed the subject.

The weeks rocked on and by the second half of the year, due to the many problems these pens and folders were causing among the students, the school came out with a new set of guidelines requiring students to return to plain pens, pencils and folders. Suddenly, I was in the “in crowd” without even trying. The day this was announced in school, a collective, and painful, sigh was heard throughout the campus.

Later on that evening, at another fully-Finnish dinner complete with short, Scandinavian glasses filled with milk, I explained what had happened to my parents. I clearly didn’t think things through for upon hearing this news, they proceeded to carry on about the importance of keeping things simple for what felt like (to my 10 year old ears) an eternity. My ears only perked up when they praised me for not resisting their decision months earlier to not purchase the envied supplies.

Looking at my daughter now studying for her Science test on Ecosystems, I value the simplicity our life here in Africa gives us. She sometimes bucks the system and wishes for McDonald’s© fries and going to Claire’s© to buy tween jewelry, but she generally goes with the flow.

Thanks, Äiti and Isä (Mom and Dad) for keeping it simple. In today’s life of quarantines and closed airports, it has meant more to me than I could have ever known.

I didn’t need the pens or folders anyway.

P.S. – Andreya got a 100% on her Science test.

Processing The Why

My need to know sometimes gets me into trouble. I want to know why things (both good and bad) happen so I can either repeat them if they are good or avoid them if they are bad. If a situation is unexplainable, I find that to be untenable and, if I’m not careful, will spend far too much energy trying to figure out and stew over the “whys” of life.

There are some things that are beyond my knowledge. For me, that threshold is limited compared to others who have more experience, training, education and understanding. However, even those who understand more will still come to the limits of their abilities at one point or another in their lifetimes.

How can we successfully process the why?

We’ve recently returned from a trip stateside to take part in our son’s wedding. The wedding was beautiful, a perfect reflection of the happy couple. Tears were shed, we danced, ate cake, wore our best clothes and then got on a plane and said goodbye.

The trip back home from Florida, USA, to Bujumbura, Burundi was a long one. As with most missionaries, the major consideration we face when purchasing plane tickets home is price. Usually these lower priced tickets will bring you “over the river and through the woods.” There may/may not be layovers and of course we are always in economy. I do hope someday to graduate to flying at least in economy plus or more but for now we are settled into flying economy.

Flying economy for a trip a long as the one we just took requires serious patience to pass the 18 or so hours of flying time to get back home. Overnight layovers in airports and delays on our most recent trip began to take their toll and the “whys” flooded my mind once again as I stared at the small TV screen mounted on the seat in front of me. Hot tears flowed down my cheeks as I felt the sting of leaving our three older kids and their families on the other side of the world.

Why am I not allowed to see my family grow?

Why have I been required to miss so many important milestones in their lives?

Why am I not like other grandmothers who can help care for their grandchildren?

Why have I been called to spend a lifetime away?

Why, why why? Why am I slotted to be the strong one when I didn’t feel very strong?

Then, in those seemingly innumerable hours on the plane, my heart scolded me as I knew the answer to all the whys: I am impossibly tied to the will of God and for me, that has called me to live overseas in Africa. There’s nothing else that satisfies my heart and soul like living the dream God has given to us in Africa. Why it is this way is something that is “too wonderful” for me to understand.

Psalm 139:6 “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.”

The only time this call pains me is when I question it; it is in my surrender that I find peace and blessing. Blessing to attend weddings, blessing to talk via FaceTime (back 35 years ago there weren’t even phones where we first landed), blessing to have the love and support of our families. In those weak moments when I don’t know why I’ve been chosen for such a sacrifice, I simply surrender. I now understand that there are some things beyond my understanding – and that is OK.

There have been times over the years when we have had opportunity to be Stateside for extended periods and each time we were away from the land of our call, the pain we felt while away was greater than the pain of the “why.” God’s call, His will, His intent for our lives is what gives joy and fulfillment that satisfies the why if we allow it to – especially when we don’t understand why.

John 13:7 “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”

Why Trouble Her?

 

Mark 14:6 “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.”

I read this morning the above verse in the account of the woman anointing Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume. If you read the entire account, Mark 14:1-9, it seems that the atmosphere at the time of her offering was charged with negativity and judgment. You know the kind that takes place obviously, but supposed to be secret? Whispering, murmuring around the room under their breath, the disciples whispering, supposing no one else is taking notice but their discontent at the situation taking place before them provoked them to overt offense, it seems almost immediately.

“Why not sell it?” The disciples queried.

“Why not give the proceeds to the poor?” A noble gesture, they reasoned must be more acceptable to God instead of this waste of expensive perfume.

No matter that the perfume was the giver’s possession to use as she felt – why did the disciples feel justified to tell her how to offer her gift? Was it not hers to give how she felt led to give it? Obviously she got something right as to this day, even today as I write about her, her offering stands tall in scripture.

She must have had something right in her heart when she offered to anoint His feet with this perfume.

I heard a preacher once say that, “God will offend your mind to reveal what is in your heart.” I’ve found that to be true in my own life on many occasions. In the case of offering, why does it bother me, who has given me the right to dictate how or what someone should give their gifts to the Lord? I might not give in the same manner as others do, however, they don’t give as I do. Ought not we celebrate the diversity we have in the family of God rather than tearing it down at every chance we get?

While the outward reasonings of the disciples might have appeared to be noble, if you go on to read the account that takes place directly after this anointing, you’ll find Judas speaking with religious leaders – getting his money in exchange for the life of the Son of God.

It seems to me Jesus had already caught Judas on other occasions taking money inappropriately from their money (Judas was their treasurer see John 12:16). It might have been this last act was too much for Judas to bear. Perhaps he felt “ripped off” when he realized Jesus wasn’t going to bestow great riches and honor on the disciples; it might be that he felt he needed an “out” in order to get what he could while “the getting was good.”

Whatever Judas’ reasoning was, it was false, and it led to his demise (Judas hung himself see Matt. 27:1-10).

Judas’ fear of missing out on what he thought was his “due,” cost him his life. Imagine what his life could have been had his desire for money not overtaken him? He could have been part of a church that “turned the world upside down” (see Acts 17:6). Instead, his drive for his “due,” to get what was owed him for his service, drove him away from an amazing possibility.

Money can always be replaced, but it’s impossible to replace our lives that are intended to be lived for the Kingdom.

So, why trouble her? The offering is hers to give.

Behind the Times

I’m a bit behind the times I know. I could use the excuse of living overseas but with the advent of the internet, that excuse really can’t get me too far. At the touch of a key on my wireless keyboard, I have the world and endless search engines at my fingertips (literally). I can study just about any subject in any field, read news from the farthest corner of the earth (not to mention space news from NASA and beyond) and almost correctly diagnose any ailment (much to the chagrin of physicians worldwide). No, I have no excuse to remain disconnected from the rest of the world, except for the times that the power goes out and then I digress, I have an excuse, albeit a temporary one.

Yet, I somehow missed one of the past “things” that made the rounds online and in books called the “Enneagram.” The Enneagram is simply another method to discover different personalities. On the Enneagram, I came to discover that I am a 2w1 personality. This makes me someone who feels deeply and can read emotions and situations with surprising clarity. Twos (as we are known) are helpers and at their core, they want to be recognized for helping, they actively seek love and approval of others by what they do.

The spiritual journey a Two has to take is one of giving beyond investment expecting a return to giving simply without expectation of anything in return; that’s what we call true love.

This is perhaps why I relate with Leah of the Bible. Not only do we (almost) share a name, but we seem to share some of the same characteristics making me wonder if Leah of the book of Genesis was a Two on the Enneagram.

Leah was married, underhandedly by her father, to Jacob. Jacob expected his love, Rachel, to be the one under the wedding veil but was disappointed when his father-in-law gave him Leah instead. As the story goes, Jacob did manage to marry Rachel, but was bound first to Leah, who knew she was unloved.

As time went by and Leah began to bear children, she named them accordingly:

1. Gen. 29:32 – Reuben was born and Leah said, “Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.”

2. Gen. 29:33 – Simeon was born and Leah said, “Because the Lord heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also.”

3. Gen. 29:34 – Levi was born and Leah said, “Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.”

Each time, Leah’s disappointment in being “unloved” was further cemented into her conscience. Jacob must have made his utter contempt towards her clear in his treatment of her (this is another subject for another day) and Leah, due to the time and culture, was bound to continue serving. She hoped her actions would sway the love of her husband towards her, but it was to no avail.

The fourth time Leah, again I’m quite sure she was my fellow Two, learned a lesson vital to the spiritual growth of a Two, she learned to love and trust without expecting love from anyone – except the Lord.

Gen. 29:35 “‘This time I will praise the Lord.’ Therefore she called his name Judah.”

What helped Leah cope through the rest of her life feeling unloved and rejected by her husband? How did Leah manage to juggle the responsibilities of her household when everyone knew no matter what she did, Rachel would be her husband’s real love?

She learned there was only One Whose love was unfailing and whatever she did for Him wouldn’t go unrecognized. She simply learned to praise the Lord.

There are a few times in scripture we read of Leah stumbling again into her past patterns of seeking approval (much like we all do even though we know better). But those times were few; I imagine each time she stumbled the pain she felt reminded her to return to the One Whose love never fails, never has strings attached to it.

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For more on The Enneagram, I recommend:

https://www.amazon.com/Road-Back-You-Enneagram-Self-Discovery/dp/0830846190

Pursuits

Our guest blogger, Mary Johnson, is back today with another powerful word for us. Enjoy!

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What have you been pursuing, or better yet what has been pursuing you? It is easy to get distracted in life. James 1:11 says, “For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits.”

How do you keep what is meaningful, what is lasting, at the forefront of your life?  Life is to be lived by the direction and leading of the Holy Spirit. Pursuits of all kinds will not be able to pull us here and there when led by the Holy Spirit.

Occasionally when studying for a test I would see so many other things that seemed to be more appealing and alluring. Sometimes when reading our Bible, various things come to mind, including tasks that need completion. We can get distracted into pursuing other things that may have consequences. For instance, not studying for your test could affect the grade you will receive.

Life will be filled with God’s peace or lack of peace, depending on if we pursue His Word, or the busyness of life.

Mary Johnson

 

 

 

The Light of Love

I’m delighted once again to share a devotional with you from Mary Johnson, may it fill your day with light!

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Walk in the light of His love.  What is your tone, what does it sound like? Is it covered in the light of Jesus’ love? He provides that light for us.  You can say something to someone and your very tone can speak volumes. I believe Jesus spoke with authority, but it was laced with the light of His love.

John 8:12b “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

It gives you joy when you can speak truth to someone and they receive it, because they can feel where the love is coming from.  There are times when you can be misunderstood in what you are trying to convey. However, we in return have to be willing to examine ourselves to make sure we spend time with Jesus, so that the light of His love will shine through us to others. This will reflect in what we say and how we say it.

Proverbs 15:23 TPT “Everyone enjoys giving great advice. But how delightful it is to say the right thing at the right time!”

Mary Johnson

 

Wasted Time

The beginning of a New Year is when most of us will, at some level, come up with a fresh emphasis for the year. I’ve purposely held back from writing anything full of “newness” as I’m still working on what was supposed to have been fresh from New Years gone by. I find myself hesitant to reach for more when I feel what I hoped for in times past has been lost to time.

I woke on New Year’s Day morning feeling a bit sullen and wallowed in that mediocre mood all morning long. As we headed for church, we normally have some kind of church celebration every New Year, I tried to shake off my feelings of failure. Walking into the church building, I shelved my mediocrity, for the people were already lining up ready for the morning. Even in my foul mood my heart turned towards the people; I was unaware of what was about to unfold.

This year we handed the microphone over and let the people recount their testimonies, thanking God for what He had done in their lives. Sitting in my seat next to Jamie (husband unit), we laughed and cried as we listened as our people opened their lives before us. God really had accomplished more than I had been aware of – you really do have to get out of the forest to see the trees.

Everyone had something good to say, something good to thank God for: food and clothing, shelter, school fees for their children and health. Among their thanks for God’s provision, almost everyone gave thanks for our church and what God is doing in our church once again. We were especially touched by the testimony of one young lady who stood up and began to cry when she said, “I’m so thankful for our church and for God bringing our pastor back to us.”

I had no idea.

In that moment the year(s) of lost time rolled back and I understood in a new way how God can reach into the past and restore it. I understood that time, while I am limited by it, does not limit God.

Joel 2:24 ESV “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.”

The things that we bury in the ground and assume cannot be restored are the very things that God will bring back to life – for God resurrects the dead.

When Jesus surrendered His life to the cross, died and was buried, it seemed that the enemy had won. It seemed that those who had planned His death had the upper hand for how can someone who has died come back to life?

In Matthew 27:50-66, Jesus lays His life down and sandwiched in the middle of the story are the Priests and Pharisees looking to “secure” the grave because they reckoned Jesus’ disciples would steal His body away. Pilate tells them, “make it as secure as you can.”

I imagine during the three days that Jesus’ body was in the grave, the disciples had some choice words among themselves:

He’s died, so we’re as good as dead.

What have we done with our lives? Three wasted years!

Let’s flee to another nation!

What about our families? All is lost!

In the same way, I’ve often been guilty of feeling my years have been lost, that my time has gone for naught. What has it all been for anyway?

What the Priests and Pharisees did not take into account when they “secured” Jesus’ grave was that when God has a resurrection in mind – there will be a resurrection. It was with great flourish when in Matthew 28:2-4 the earth shook, an angel rolled the stone away and the soldiers guarding the tomb fell “as dead men” when Jesus walked out. The “wasted” years of the disciples walked out with Him and the early church began.

It’s through our “wasted” seasons that God works most in our lives to resurrect and return our hours, days, weeks, months and years to us. Imagine how the disciples agonized for days about the death of Jesus, only to have Him appear before them and say (in effect), “Let’s do this people, let’s win the world!”

So let’s rewind the tape, replay the recording and start all over again.

It’s January 2020, what’s new?

The Knock at the Door

A dear friend of mine, Mary Johnson, brings us a word for the moment. Which moment? Every one that we live. Enjoy.

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I remember when I was a young girl, I never wanted to go outside to play.  My mom and I were reminiscing about it the other day.  She asked me, “Do you remember what you did when you went out doors to play?” I said, “I probably sat down.”  She said, “Yes, but do you remember where you went?”  I told her that I did not remember.  She said that I went outside and sat on the steps right at the front door.

When you think about the words “knock at the door,” Jesus said in Revelation 3:20 “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him and he with Me.” When we open the door to Jesus, fear has to leave, intimidation has to go. Why? Because love has entered in. 1 John 4:18 states,  “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear.”

We can boldly step out in faith and as we take a step, Jesus takes each step with us. I opened the door to Jesus and He stepped in. I found myself willing to move from the front steps and into the games the other children were playing one step, at a time. Fear had to move away and was no longer able to keep me on the step at the front door.

Take the step of faith with Jesus, He promised to never leave or forsake us.  All we have to do is open the door of our heart when he knocks. He is knocking. Will you let Him in?

Mary Johnson

 

 

Counting Sheep

When you hear people say that jet lag is a real thing, believe them! I think the past two weeks since our return from itinerating in the states have proved to me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that jet lag is not an imaginary phenomenon.

In times past when we have traveled, I was the one who usually suffered the most. My husband might have had one or two nights of tossing and turning, and of course my little girl would bounce back almost immediately. This always left me wondering if I was imagining the struggle to keep time!

All of my doubts have been erased since this most recent return. During the past two weeks, each of us has lived in a semi-conscious state of jet lag induced zombie-dom. My daughter, who is only 11, would fall asleep in the middle of the day and wandered the hallways in the middle of the night. Both my husband and I tossed and turned, waiting for the minutes to pass – morning coffee came very early at 3:00 am.

The worst for me came one night when I woke at 12:30 am and was wide awake until bedtime the following day. While that was doubtless the worst night, I slept the following night and then the next and the next until this morning when I announced to myself that jet lag has been defeated.

Try as jet lag might, eventually, my cicadian rhythm was bound to catch up to local time.

There are countless remedies that are touted to make the transition better – and I have tried many of them.

Melatonin.

Stay hydrated.

Exercise.

Follow a regular schedule.

Sleep when you want to.

Read books.

Drink coffee.

Don’t ingest caffeine.

I will likely keep on reading and trying the new and improved remedies as they become popular fodder for travelers. While my hopes are high that there might be something out there to alleviate my symptoms, my pessimistic side is preparing me to keep battling the jet lag demons that taunt me during these long-haul travels.

On the positive side of jet lag, I do get lots of laundry and house cleaning done during those strange hours. The house is sparkling and there’s not a bit of dirty clothing to be found.

As much as I love a clean house and clean laundry, I’ll gladly trade a bit of dirty laundry and some dirty dishes to watch the sheep jump the fence in my dreams.

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