Knights, Bailouts, and Rescues

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Stories of rescue, someone defying the odds, warm my heart. Accounts of Robin Hood and other stories of old when the King would come riding in to save the day are what fairy tales are made of. I especially enjoy a story when someone, the “underdog” is saved from doom or ruin, or love stories where things are made right – a perfect Sunday evening “good vibes” movie where the guy and the girl, against all odds, come through.

On the other side are the stories of those who “got what they had coming to them.” Cheers when the bad guy goes to jail or the swindler gets caught. No, I don’t like it when the bad guy gets away, or is otherwise “bailed out.”

When I hear the word, “bailout” I think of the recession that hit back around 2008/09. During that time, there were businesses that were bailed out by the government; many of these organizations receiving help were at the core of the recession. They didn’t deserve the help but, according to people much wiser than myself, it was needed to save not only the companies that received the bailout but also had a ripple effect in saving the economy from total ruin. What I am sure of is that it wasn’t a good time for many people and we wondered why companies that caused the trouble in the first place were given a bailout they didn’t deserve!

Then, just at the moment when I feel most self-righteous, I remember that there was a time, many times in fact, when I also needed a bailout. For the most part, I likely didn’t deserve the rescue, much like those companies who that didn’t deserve bailing out. I simply didn’t merit any help, or was in any way worthy of rescue; I deserved whatever consequence was coming my way.

Thankfully, my God is One Who doesn’t care about my worthiness, for I am, without Him, totally unworthy. The reason he chooses to bail me out of my predicament, to rescue me, is this: I know the right Person to call on, I have my Knight coming on His horse, swords waving, to rescue me, the apple of His eye. I know what strings there are to pull: faith, belief, trust, in Him! I’m undeserving of such grace, and truth be told, none of us are. He arrives on the scene with unlimited resource that, unlike government bailouts, doesn’t have to be paid back – we couldn’t pay Him back even if we tried.

The rescue doesn’t usually come wrapped in the shining armor of a knight; that means it won’t be an instantaneous rescue. God’s rescues, while undeserved on our part, never come as we suspect. They come in the most unexpected, almost surprising, of ways and are usually “in the works” for a very long time before we ever even know that we needed them.

Judges 13:1-5 NLT “Again the Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight, so the Lord handed them over to the Philistines, who oppressed them for forty years. In those days a man named Manoah from the tribe of Dan lived in the town of Zorah. His wife was unable to become pregnant, and they had no children.  The angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah’s wife and said, ‘Even though you have been unable to have children, you will soon become pregnant and give birth to a son.  So be careful; you must not drink wine or any other alcoholic drink nor eat any forbidden food.  You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and his hair must never be cut. For he will be dedicated to God as a Nazarite from birth. He will begin to rescue Israel from the Philistines.’ ”

In this story, Israel had sinned again and as a result ended up oppressed by their archenemy the Philistines. God did not send His people into captivity; their sin sent them into captivity. Time and again He warned His people of the consequences of sin – and they knowingly gave into sin and ended up oppressed.

How many times has that happened to me, to you? Times when we’ve been warned, clearly informed, that there would be consequences to our actions but we “knew better” and, in the end, needed a rescue because we were so stubborn? We didn’t know as much as we thought we did – but God has always been faithful, preparing our rescue before we knew we needed it.

Samson, when he was born, was unable to rescue Israel. He had to grow up first; there were some years in between the beginning of the rescue and the actual rescue. During that time Israel continued to be oppressed – but the rescue was on the way. All the time they waited, I’m sure they wondered, “Isn’t it time for the rescue yet?”

Samson was, if you read his whole life story, not a “normal” judge. He was impatient, impulsive, quick to anger, made poor choices, and still God used him to defeat the Philistines and release the Israelites from their oppression. Who would have thought God would choose someone like Samson to deliver Israel? Yet in chapter 16 of the book of Judges in his life’s final moments when it appeared all was lost and God’s rescue plan had failed, he killed thousands of Philistines and God’s rescue came. It seemed to come suddenly, but it was not sudden at all – God had planned this rescue for many years.

As I write this, you are most likely in the middle of one or more situations that require a “bailout” because you just don’t know what to do. Let me encourage you – before you asked for it, God began preparing the rescue for you. It may not be time yet for the rescue to come, but it will certainly come at just the right moment.

Remember, Israel waited for years for Samson to become a judge, and even when he did become a judge, it didn’t seem that he would be able to rescue them. Samson was a busy chasing woman, killing lions, and getting the Philistines even angrier at Israel. No, it didn’t’ appear that Samson would be able to save Israel at all. All the while, as Israel waited (sometimes impatiently, wondering if indeed Samson was the means of God’s rescue) God was working, weaving His plan into the course of time. You see, God lives outside of time. When He sent Samson, time and eternity met for God reached into time and sent His answer in a small baby; a baby who was not only an answer to the prayers of his parents who had not had children, but also in answer to the prayers of an entire nation.

In the same way, God has reached out from eternity and sent your answer. It’s now time to wait for the answer, your Samson, to grow. While you wait, it may feel as though you are languishing away under the oppression of enemies like the Philistines. It may even seem that you saw some hope dawn on your horizon only to have those hopes dashed when the rescue apparently was lost in an unforeseen disaster. It is at that very moment of “all is lost” that God’s rescue will suddenly, as it did with Samson and Israel, dawn on the horizon.

While you wait for God’s rescue to come, never give up on His promises. Never, even for a moment, believe that God has turned His back on you. As it was with Samson’s rescue, so it will be for you. Suddenly, as if by surprise, there will come a moment when His answer to that prayer you breathed at your most difficult moment, will come.

The plan to rescue you is on its way.

 

 

It’s All Downhill From Here

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I don’t think I’m much more than ordinary but there might be a few things about me you don’t know (everyone here has a story). Maybe you don’t know that I am first generation Finn. My parents, both Finnish, moved to the USA in the early 60s. Then I was born!  My first English word, I’m told, was “underdog.” What significance does that hold? I don’t know. It’s just fun.

So I spent much of my early childhood in New York and New Jersey where it’s slightly cooler than in Africa where I’ve spent most of my life.

I loved being outside during all seasons (still like being outside) but especially during winter. When we lived in New Jersey, we lived in an area where there were plenty of ski resorts and lakes. During the summer, there was an abundance of outdoor fun to be had; from building treehouses to fishing and swimming. It was a great place to grow up.

During the WINTER, to me, it was a wonderland! When it snowed in our part of the country, it snowed. I relished in making snow forts, having snowball fights, sledding, ice-skating, and cross-country skiing.

Yes, you heard right. Cross country skiing. Being of Finnish descent, I had no real interest in downhill skiing. In the “old country” (Finland) everyone knew how to cross country ski. My parents told me tales of how they skied to school, church, and family gatherings during the cold, long winters in Finland.

Cross-country skiing requires incredible physical stamina: no ski lifts, no pre-marked hills, it’s all strength and understanding – just you and nature. It is, undoubtedly, the superior one of the skiing sports.

So when we lived in New Jersey and I grew old enough to try, I asked to use my mother’s cross-country skis since she, due to a knee injury, no longer skied. My parents had no objection and so I began my illustrious career as a cross-country skier.

There were hills behind our house, just perfect for my mission to cross country ski. I had visions of myself stealthily whipping around trees and hills in the woods– but that first year of skiing was not at all spent as I envisioned. Instead, I spent a lot of time with my face planted in the snow. My father tried to instruct me on how to strap the ski boots into the skis, proper form, how to hold the ski poles, how to stand on the skis, how to care for the skis, even how to wax the bottom of the skis. In my enthusiasm, I didn’t give his advice much thought, and began tumbling down the hills face first. I had a lot of nosebleeds and bruised knees. I wasn’t interested at first in learning – I figured I could do it alone without the hassle of being instructed.

Dad stood at the tops and bottoms of the hills, yelling instructions, and gritting his teeth as I fell. I shut a lot of what he said out as I tumbled and stumbled my way around. Those first months of learning how to ski were pretty tough; I spent more time on my knees in the snow than I did standing on the skis. Instead of anticipating going down the hills, I was afraid, afraid of the spills but too embarrassed to admit I was wrong, at least for a while.

Around the middle of that first winter, I grew tired of the bruises and nosebleeds and found myself thinking, “What was it that dad said?” Then, I tentatively began recalling his words, implementing what he said, and spending less time on my face in the snow. I have a vivid memory of one of the first big hills I climbed up and successfully skied down without falling – I was so proud of myself! And dad was at the bottom of the hill that day, waiting for me, congratulating me. There’s nothing like getting to the top of the hill and coasting down after all that effort – I’d say to myself, “It’s all downhill from here!” No wonder I began begging for my own skis for the following Christmas.

The next winter, at Christmastime, it was gift opening time. I was so happy and there were gifts under the tree. But by the end of the evening (we opened our gifts on Christmas Eve), I had not gotten many presents while my sister and brother had plenty of spoil. All of the sudden, coming up the steps wearing a Santa Claus mask comes Dad with a big pair of orange cross-country skis – he was supplying me with my very own skis! I did nothing to get them – he saw I learned and gave me better skis than what I had been using. That’s a father for you.

Our heavenly Father is like that: He sets a landscape before us (life) and gives us skis (faith) to navigate with. He stands, instructing us how to use those skis and sometimes we see what’s before us and think we know the way to go and how to use those skis. Nevertheless, He continues coaching us and waits for us at the bottom of the hill.

There was a man many of us know from the Bible named Abraham who had a goal, or a landscape set before him by God the Father. That goal was for him to have a son and through his son have many descendants. It was quite a long journey on his faith skis to get there – the only way he could get to the destination was by faith for faith is the way of the Kingdom:

Habakkuk 2:4 NASB “Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith.”

Hebrews 11:6 NIV “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”

So we have to live by faith or we won’t make it, nor will we even please our Father without it. Here’s a heads up: we won’t understand it. Living by faith is like skiing for the first time: you have to listen or you will fall. The terrain is rough – sometimes isolated and cold – but you have your skis, remember the instructions on how to use them: trust Him and His faithfulness. That means you have to turn off your thinking from time to time. If we can just trust Him, we’ll get down the hill with fewer bruises.

Now Abraham is known to us as the “father of faith” (see Romans 4). A great reputation to hold and one we need to aspire to. We feel a bit overwhelmed when we hear about Abraham and think we can’t even think we could get to that level of faith.

Why do we do that? Think God has made others greater than He made us?

Abraham was just like you and I, full of imperfections. In fact, there are some things that I hope you DON’T emulate from the life of Abraham (keep reading, you’ll see).

Psalm 139:14 NKJ “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.”

So the Father made us all on equal footing – He loves us all and made us all “wonderfully.” Why then do we put ourselves down? The only one among us better than us all is Jesus Himself – and Philippians 2 tells us He became like us because we couldn’t possibly be like Him.

So, you can read from Genesis 15 all the way through to Genesis 22 about God’s promise to Abraham (who was “Abram” before being renamed “Abraham” by God). He and his wife didn’t have children of their own for years and despite God’s promise, Abraham had a few wobbly moments of trying to ski down the hills by himself and get to the goal his way.

Genesis 15:2 NCV “But Abram said, ‘Lord God, what can you give me? I have no son, so my slave Eliezer from Damascus will get everything I own after I die.’”

Abraham tried to give his inheritance to Eliezer his servant; God then promised him an heir, a son. Not many verses later after the God made his covenant with Abraham (a time of establishing God’s promise – it was a heavy moment with animals being offered and God committing Himself to Abraham and his descendants) where Abraham learned the fate of his descendants, again he wobbles on his skis:

Genesis 16:2 NKJ “So Sarai said to Abram, ‘See now, the Lord has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her.’ And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai.”

Sarah “helped” Abraham get to the goal since she wasn’t apparently able to have children on her own by telling him, “Please go in to my maid.” Abraham agreed and this is how Ishmael was born – and even though he was born out of Abraham’s moment of weakness in belief, God loved and provided for this son.

Those wobbly moments, those mistakes along the way, are not irretrievable! Some of the greatest growth you’ll experience along this journey won’t come by way of great Christian books but by your drawing nearer to the Father in the middle of the frozen wilderness, standing on your skis paralyzed not knowing what to do! Then you remember, you have your faith – you don’t know how to work it too well – so you trust, and that’s when faith works.

Things didn’t get any better for Abraham as he waited for the promise as he pawned Sarah his wife off to Abimilech, king of Gerar. All of the women of the household of Abimilech didn’t have children while Sarah was with them (seems it was a while even though the scripture doesn’t specify how long, it was long enough for them to realize no one was getting pregnant – interesting they were struck with barrenness and Sarah was barren).

There goes the father of our faith, wobbling along in his faith – afraid for his life even though God had promised him an heir and that heir hadn’t been born yet. Wobbling on the skis. Climbing up the hills without a ski lift to help him, barely making it.

But of this Abraham we see it written:

Hebrews 6:15 NIV “So after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.”

What? Abraham waited patiently? According to my judgment he waited IMpatiently – but God’s way of seeing things is different than mine. If there’s an element of faith in us, God sees it and rejoices! He doesn’t beat us up for lack of faith, He finds a reason to cheer.

Every day we find ourselves bumbling and stumbling along trying to reach goals, make our way along the journey towards those promises God has for us. You see, just like Abraham, God chose you (1 Pet. 2:9 chosen generation).

Nehemiah 9:7,8 NASB “You are the Lord God, Who chose Abram…And gave him the name Abraham. You found his heart faithful before You, 
And made a covenant with him
…And You have fulfilled Your promise,
For You are righteous.”

NLT vs. 8 “when he proved himself faithful…”

Not only are you chosen but like with Abraham, He changed your name from lost to found, from bound to free, from sad to happy, and from unwanted to wanted. And like Abraham, we are going through the process of us finding our hearts to be faithful to Him – and guess what? They are! Even through the stumbling and momentary slips, as long as there is that element of faith there God sees it and rejoices.

One thing is certain, our Father is faithful to fulfill His promises. Sometimes, in fact most of the time, they are not filled as we want or when we want. And to be honest, this is why we get angry because we think we know better – but we don’t even see a quarter of the picture:

Job 26:14 Rotherham “Lo! These, are the fringes of His way, and what a whisper of a word hath been heard of Him! But, the thunder of His might, who could understand?”

MSG “And this is only the beginning, a mere whisper of his rule.
Whatever would we do if he really raised his voice!”

It’s as if we are on skis and those skis and ski poles represent our faith. We didn’t fabricate the poles, we didn’t make the skis, the Father supplied them like my father gave me my skis. Yes, the Father gave us our faith (Rm. 12 “everyone given a measure of faith”), we didn’t do anything but receive it. But more than supply our faith (or our skis), He yearns to teach us how to use our faith just like my father yearned to teach me how to use my skis.

Our Father sees things we don’t and we couldn’t understand or bear it if we did.

As a child, I didn’t understand what went into the skis and why it was important for them to be just right, straight, waxed on the bottom, ski boots buckled in properly, all of the details that went into a successful journey – but when I followed instructions without really knowing why, I made it to the end with fewer bruises than having tried on my own, following what looked good to me.

What we forget it that our Father knows we are imperfect, He knows we have feet of clay. All He is looking for is for us to have faith in Him, trust His counsel on how to use the skis. We can’t conjure up anything on our own – faith isn’t a magic spell or positive thinking – faith is all about the Father and His faithfulness!

Once the subject of our faith ceases to be “me and my” (I want this, I need that, I think it ought to be this way) and turns into “Him and His” (what does He want, what does He need, and how does He think it ought to be) then things change. None of this relies on what we do – it all relies and rests on His shoulders whether we understand why or not. He wins in the end; of this we can be sure.

Zephaniah 3:17 NASB “The Lord your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.”

Faith will go through its ups and downs in life – and in the middle of the trials it is still faith, whether it feels like it or not. He is rejoicing over you and He is the winner. His love and joy over you doesn’t change because of circumstances. So, why then, do we change in our feelings for Him when our circumstances change? He never fails us – He sees the bigger picture.

You’ve not lost it just because you are struggling to remember what the Father has said. He is faithful to remind you and will be waiting at the bottom of the hill, cheering you on. But let me give you a hint: don’t do this on your own. Once we can do this, we’re at the top of that big hill and guess what? It is all downhill from here!

 

 

 

Inconvenienced

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I remember the day when I found out we were having our first baby; what a change that day represented! When I told my husband that a baby was on the way, he cried, hugged me, laughed, and proceeded to tell everyone. We didn’t follow any proper protocol in announcing this good news – everyone had to know RIGHT AWAY!

As the weeks turned into months and my belly grew, I began to notice that having a baby would mean much more than the first thrill of the news. We began to prepare for our child. Someone asked if we had prepared the nursery, what’s a nursery? Another asked, would we be using cloth diapers or disposable, diapers?
Yet another asked if we wanted our baby to wear onesies or just tshirts, what’s a onesie?

Changes were on the horizon. At first, the news of our pregnancy was thrilling, and then we began to understand that there’s more to this than exciting news; our lives were about to be seriously inconvenienced.

My due date was set at November 28th but my little one decided that he couldn’t wait that long. On November 4, 1985, (the Cowboys were playing, a serious inconvenience for my husband), I felt a sudden and painful contraction that was mostly centered in my lower back. There would be no good night’s sleep, there would be no easy way out, there was no schedule this child wanted to follow – at midnight, I found myself in the car on the way to the hospital.

All night long and into the morning of the 5th of November, I was given an education. The thrill of first knowing a baby was on the way was a distant memory as I agonized (yes, agonized) to deliver my firstborn. I was being seriously inconvenienced.

When our son was born and we heard his first cry, I didn’t care about the pain, the lack of sleep, or off-color hospital gown. This beautiful boy had just made his home with us. A lifetime of inconvenience followed, but the pure joy and richness of having this addition to our family made the inconveniences seem very unimportant. I learned to live an inconvenient life.

John 5:6 “Do you want to get well?”

If you read John 5, you’ll see that Jesus was questioning a man who was an invalid and had been in that state for 38 years. I think it would have been obvious that the man wanted to get well but Jesus asked, “Do you want to get well?” Why do you think He asked him such a question?

Jesus always speaks beyond the obvious. He knows we are conflicted in our minds and as much as we might think we want things to change in our circumstances, we grow comfortable with the way things are going in life. Change can be, even in difficult times, more uncomfortable than the discomfort we struggle with from day to day.

If you read on in John 5, you’ll see that the man who Jesus was speaking to had an unexpected answer, “I have no one to help me.” How could it be that he had, after sitting there for 38 years, found no one to help him? Chris Tiegreen says, “Mixed motives make for slow responses.”

Perhaps this man feared what a dramatic change like a healing would bring to his life. Perhaps Jesus was confronting him at this encounter as if to say, “Can you handle what life would be like after a radical encounter with Me?”

Are we like this man? Do we fear change to the point of resisting change? We get deliverance from sin and bondages but often look for ways to be tempted to return to them. We struggle with our “divided souls.”

Do you want to get well? Are you ready for things to be inconvenient? For life will surely change – for the better – when we allow ourselves to be inconvenienced by Him.

Remember Me

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I am a first generation American, born to Finnish parents who came to the USA in the 1960s. In 2002 I visited Finland and thought that I was well prepared for the emotions that I would encounter on my visit. I’m a career missionary and am accustomed to moving between different cultures, and I was raised by Finnish parents, how hard could it be? I learned that I was sorely mistaken.


 

I remembered you

The first time we met

You became familiar to me

When we said,

“Hello, how have you been?”

I didn’t remember you

Until today

My family,

My friend.


I remember your faces

And names

I take you with me

Familiar places unknown

Carried inside me

I will remember

You

My family,

My friend.


Remember me

Although we may not meet again

Remember my name

Remember Africa

Where serving the Lord I have been

Please remember me

Your family

Your friend.

Huts, Houses, Garages, and Tents

Matthew 18:19,20 “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

I used to think, like most people I suppose, that a church gathering was an activity that Christians took part in on a Sunday. It meant going to a prescribed building on a prescribed day to take part in a prescribed activity. Once I became a Christian, those prescribed activities became like a prescribed antibiotic for me – if I missed even one dose, I risked missing out on the healing effects of the medicine. What I didn’t realize at the time was that going to church didn’t necessarily mean going to church on days we are accustomed to nor did it hinge on whether or not there was a proper church building to meet in.

In 1987 I moved with my husband and young son to Africa to serve as a missionary. Little did I know that my prescribed routine of church attendance was in for a big change. Oh yes, I had been an associate pastor’s wife for nearly three years prior to our move but somehow I was not really prepared for what was about to take place in my life.

When I landed in Zaire in 1987, I was enamored with the notion of missionary life; the difference of lifestyle between the USA and Africa was what I thought would be my biggest hurdle to overcome. I would gladly face the rigors of grinding coffee beans in a large mortar and pestle until they were fine enough to make coffee, learn how to bake bread and even figure out the magic of making mayonnaise. Oddly enough, I adjusted to these changes rather quickly (and my family survived this process – a miracle in itself) and even began to make strides in speaking foreign languages!

Going to a church service in Africa for the first time made me realize that either my idea of church was going to change, or I was going to change everyone else’s idea of church! No one was very keen to follow what my idea was for church so I was the one challenged to change. First of all, I didn’t understand why in the world did everyone think that we had to go to church for so long? Couldn’t we get everything done in an hour and a half or two hours max? Wasn’t God big enough to get the job done in a shorter period of time? There was no reason to hang around in church for three, four up to six hours! How could a person be expected to sit in one spot for so long on a cement block, rock, broken chair or bench? Let’s not discuss how hot it got in those buildings or the fact that it wasn’t uncommon to hear several languages going on at once – I was just trying to say hello in Swahili, I had no idea that languages such as Lingala, Chiluba and Chibemba existed.

While this was all going on, I was trying to take care of a busy two year old and keep a smile on my face. Keeping a smile was no small task and sometimes, if not often, my husband must have wanted to put me in a box and ship me back to where I came from! Not only did I find out how to get through church and much more (let’s not mention the bat that kept trying to nail me during church one Sunday) but I had to somehow find GOD in the middle of these services.

By the time I finally had made peace with myself and found God’s presence – God called us to plant churches. As we planted our first church, I realized once again that God had to change me before He could use me to help anyone else. Church became a lifestyle for us, it was no longer a prescribed activity – it became our life. When we’d enter into people’s homes and give them the Good News, God’s presence was there. In early Morning Prayer meetings, when only two or three showed up – God’s presence was there. Our very first church service was held in the middle of a slum, you could smell banana beer and open sewage when you opened the windows – but somehow, God’s presence was always there. In the middle of the estates where we had cell meetings on any and all days of the week – God was there too. Our church buildings have never been posh by Western standards, even our best building would be called a “fixer-upper” in the US, but when you get past the aesthetics of it all – you’ll find God is there.

Our trek in Africa has brought me through several nations. Every time we plant a new church, I find God’s presence quicker than the time before. For example, when planting our church in Lusaka, Zambia, we started by meeting as a small group in a hut in the front yard of our home. As the crowd grew too large to sit in the small hut, we moved our little group inside the house.   God was faithful and soon, 30+ people were squeezing themselves into our small living room. Another place of meeting had to be found quickly! In the back of the house we had an open garage; we had the idea of moving everyone outside to celebrate the Lord in the garage. 30 soon became 50; 50 grew to 80 and we again had to solve the problem of where to seat everyone. Instead of moving, we hung a large piece of tarpaulin out to extend our capacity. Not long afterwards, we were bursting out of the seams with over 100 people garage-a-brating the Lord. Ultimately, we moved the growing congregation to a school ground we rented where we pitched a 300-seat tent.  God has been faithful since those days of garage-a-bration services; the same problem of where to seat all of the people has continued to follow us as we have planted more churches – and we like these problems.

Huts, houses, garages and tents may seem like unconventional places of meeting to you; but God isn’t limited by what we are accustomed to. If we look for God, even in the most unconventional and unlikely places – we will find Him there waiting to meet with us.

Ecclesiastes 11:4 LB “If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done.”

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The Price Tag

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Coming into adulthood, like everyone else, I thought about my future, what I would do, where I would go, and what life would be like as the years went by. I had the usual dreams: to get married, have a couple of kids, have a job that I at least tolerated, and by the time my children grew up, I would be settled into the home where I would eventually retire.

Boy was I way off base! Life, as it has turned out, has been far from normal.

Competing for my attention together with my “normal” desires of what a regular family looks like were my desires to see God take me on an amazing adventure. In my high school years I became one of “those” Christians who dreamed big dreams about what God could do through me. I was very well aware of the fact that alone I didn’t amount to much but my relationship with the Lord was “front and center” of everything and my inabilities faded in the wonder of His great ability. I knew He could do and would do anything I dared to dream for Him.

As a senior in high school (in my time at least) the class would take what’s known as a “senior trip.” My sister’s class, for example, had taken a senior trip to Mexico two years prior to my senior year. The year my class went on a trip, we were to travel to Europe. Instead of anticipating going to Europe like a normal senior, I wasn’t interested – not in the least. I couldn’t explain it to anyone; I knew my parents would have found a way to pay for my way had I wanted to go. Perhaps they were silently relieved I wasn’t interested?

The youth group at our home church planned short-term missions a trip to Haiti at nearly the same time as the senior trip was to take place and I knew what I wanted to do instead of going to Europe. Instead of going on a normal senior trip that year, I took my first trip to a foreign country on a missions trip where I slept on a concrete floor with no mattress. I had a few blankets to make the floor as comfortable as possible, but they didn’t really help; yet I didn’t mind – my adventure had begun.

We toured the city of Port-au-Prince and a few outlying villages. It was hot. There were bugs. The food was different – and I found myself at home during those few days we spent in Haiti. As I stepped onto the plane returning home, I suspected that flight not going to be my last overseas.

That suspicion turned into reality and I soon found myself boarding plane after plane as a career missionary. This life has been far from the normal dreams that competed for my attention all those years ago as a young girl. Slowing down is not an option any time in my near future as the dream God has given my husband and I for the continent has just begun.

There are parts of this lifetime adventure that have cost a great deal, and I’m not talking about plane tickets (which are costly!). The cost of the adventure and being witness to what God has done in the past 30 years has been more of an emotional cost than a financial one. Paying this kind of price is an unpopular message in our day and age of building a “better” life than what our parents had. We always assume “doing better” means to have more: more money, a bigger house, better cars, and have more friends. I believe, however, that “doing better” means to do the will of God. What could be better than following the call of God no matter where it may lead – around the world or across the street? I pray my kids do better than I have done; I pray they follow God better than I have, that they see more of His power than I have for I know He is the Key to their success. He is the only One Who can keep them secure in this complicated world we find ourselves in.

Matthew 19:29 NKJAnd everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.”

The price tag to living this adventure has been great but not nearly enough to compare to what He is worth: from separating from my own parents and way of life to learning multiple languages, living through war and rejection, to finally seeing my grown children leave the nest, have all brought me to my knees. The only way I have been able to navigate these demands has been to remain on my knees, never to stand up and fight for my “rights.” This service God has called me to deserves my best, my all, it is the very least I can do, whatever He asks.

Luke 17:10 NKJSo likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’”

 

 

The Pork Roast Disaster

I’ve been in situations in my life when some backup would have been nice. You know, someone to supply a safety net when I’m in a situation that I need saving from.

Some years ago in Burundi we were having visitors over for dinner. I fussed and fussed – I felt a bit insecure in my cooking abilities;  I had challenged myself by putting a new item on the menu: a pork roast.  As I look back on that roast experience, I ask myself what in the world was I thinking when I planned that meal? I can’t remember that beef wasn’t available at the butcher’s and we have never been much on eating pork. Why a pork roast?

Anyway, the roast did smell good as it cooked in my little gas oven. Our visitors arrived, the house smelled of roast, and I managed to get the table set and have everything just about ready…until it was time to remove the roast from the oven and make the gravy.

Back then, our kitchen sat off the living room. In fact, you could see into the kitchen from the living room and the little dining area was set off to the side of the living area. You have to know this little detail to understand how what happened as I took the roast out of the oven.

I reached ever so gingerly into the oven to remove the roast from the oven to make the gravy and as I did, I slightly jostled the roasting pan. The unthinkable happened and the little round roast (was nice and round like a soccer ball) rolled out of the pan and before I could do anything about it – bounced on the kitchen floor and rolled out into the living room right in front of everyone.

Major disaster! And there was no backup plan, no one there to rescue me!

Tears stung the back of my eyes (I was still in my perfectionist stage of life when I found it difficult to laugh at moments like these) and I ran after the roast and scooped it up with as much grace as a water buffalo can muster (i.e., no grace whatsoever) and rushed back into the kitchen.

I rinsed off the little pork roast/soccer ball and let it cook for a few more minutes before resuming gravy-making status. We ate dinner, everyone seemed to sense my horror and spared me from any comments!

The moral of this story? Close the kitchen door before attempting to remove a pork roast from the oven.

Isaiah 50:7 NLT “Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore I have set my face like a stone, determined to do His will. And I know that I will not be put to shame.”

Each day comes with its own set of possible “unknowns” attached to it: flat tires, unexpected colds, surprise phone calls, and pork roast disasters. Our Father is there for us, even at the most unexpected moment.

Such potential disasters are specifically designed to get us off course – but we do well to remember at any given moment He is there and has our back and won’t allow us to be shamed.

If, this week, you find yourself facing the unexpected, trust in Him who you follow and whose will you are committed to. He has your back, He will hold you up and help you pick up your pork roast.


Note – I haven’t cooked a pork roast once since this disaster!