Categories
Choices Comfort Correction Covid19 Feeding Missions Perspective What Did You Do

I Want In

I’m not an extrovert by any stretch of the imagination. By nature, I know those who know me may find this hard to believe, I prefer to sneak in and out unseen and unheard. It’s more comfortable, I’m happy to let others take the lead and simply follow. I’m happy to fade into the background…unless I see something that I have the power to help change. I hate to see people suffer, especially those who are helpless, and not do anything to help change their circumstances.

I have sometimes wished that this part of me would fade a bit into the background as it has, on occasion, brought me into the limelight, sometimes in very uncomfortable ways. Yet, no matter what I do, if I see someone hurting and I can do something to help, I want in. There have been times that this part of me has driven me to exhaustion. It has also driven me to great and seemingly impossible lengths to raise funds to bring meaningful change to this part of the world that we live in. It has driven me to sleepless nights as I work out in my mind what can be done when no one is doing anything. I want in, I want in.

I’ve also learned that while I am driven to help, it is Jesus who lives in me that is the One who brings help through His people. I’m unable to find solutions for everyone, but I am able to help someone. I should never use the excuse of a problem being too big for me to recline from what I should do for the one or the two that I can help.

The heaviness in my heart, and in the hearts of those working in this way, is simply a reflection of our Father’s heart for this world. It is through us, His servants, that He works and moves. It may be that the heaviness that those of us working for Him feel is also a reflection of how He feels when His people aren’t on the front lines bringing help to the helpless. It may be that part of the heaviness we feel is His own sorrow over our lack of involvement. He has given us everything, why have we at times closed our eyes or turned our backs thinking, “They should know better by now, they should do better by now, they should be better by now, I have my own needs to think of.”

Thank God someone reached out to me when I should have known better. Thank God someone reached out to me when I should have done better. Thank God someone reached out to me when I should have been better.

And still, through us, Jesus is saying, “I want in, I want in.”

As overwhelming as the needs are around us in this upside down world, we serve a God who desperately wants in so He can bring His power into the equation. So much depends on our “wanting in” to the will and plan of God. I’m all in, I want in.

Matthew 25:40 NKJ “And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’”

Categories
Choices Comfort Courage Destiny God's call Journey Missions Obedience Perspective Why

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.”

Categories
Beauty Choices Contempt Journey Motives Rejection

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.

_________________________

For more on The Enneagram, I recommend:

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

Categories
Choices Faith Love

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.

________________________________________

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

 

 

Categories
Choices Destiny God's call Missionary Missions Offense Rejection

Balancing Accounts

I wasn’t a very good bank teller.

Early in life as I tried to find my way, I decided to apply for a job as a bank teller. I’m not quite sure what possessed me to think that I would do well as a bank teller. You see, when I was in 5th grade, I had to take extra math classes over the summer break to pass into 6th grade. Nevertheless, I bravely took the plunge and passed the entrance exam and became an official bank teller.

I was assigned to a supervisor who taught me the ins and outs of bank telling. One of the skills I learned was how to balance all transactions at the end of every work day. While I felt initimidated by all of the math I faced daily, I managed to do well and slowly settled into the mundane work of counting and balancing.

One day, after a particularly long day of counting, I went to balance my transactions. The goal was for all transactions to come out evenly which I managed to do by this point on a regular basis. However, on this day I came up $10,000.00 short of the amount that I should have had in the drawer. My heart began to race and I called my supervisor who said, “Don’t worry, these things happen, you will find the error in a day or two as you continue to work.”

Trusting her advice, I went home with my heart in my throat, believing that the next day I would find the error. Unfortunately as the week unfolded, I was unable to pinpoint my mistake, much to the chagrin of my supervisor who called me to her office one afternoon and made it clear that I needed to find the $10,000.00 quickly.

The day after my meeting with my supervisor, I stayed at my desk after my shift was done, determined to fix the problem. Thankfully, after pouring through piles of papers and receipts for what seemed like hours, I found where I had added some figures twice. I shouted, “I found it!” Cheers went up from those around me and then and there I decided bank telling wasn’t for me; I gave my two-week notice a few days later.

While my bank-telling career was short-lived, I wasn’t surprised by the outcome. Deep inside I knew that my life would pan out very differently than what most people would think was normal; I knew the trajectory of my life would shoot me far from my homeland to where I’m now serving, Africa.

I knew who I was.

I was an unlikely candidate for missions work; I didn’t have a ministry pedigree or any kind of background one would expect that would be needed to qualify to work overseas. Those close to me wondered aloud (in as nice a way that they could of course) what special talent did I have that I could use overseas? What did I have to offer that others couldn’t do better?

That call, however, couldn’t be shaken and all these years later, as average as I may be, I’m still answering the call to go (Isaiah 6:8). I’ve found that those answering the call often look less like the obvious choice; we often don’t appear to be the best suited for the job. Certainly there are smarter, stronger, richer, and more popular individuals who could do what I get to do here – but whoever they are never answered the call, so here I am.

Jesus had the opposite problem – He was overqualified for His call. He spent His life in obscurity, comparing to the glory He was accustomed to in heaven, rejected as unqualified by those He came to save. Yet He never took His eye off the prize: you and I.

When it came time for Jesus to balance His transactions for the day, He made no error, His figures were perfect, but those around Him couldn’t believe Him. They simply couldn’t accept someone like Him could be the one they were waiting for.

But He knew Who He was.

In Luke 4:1-21 we find Jesus, who had just begun His ministry in areas outside His home region where people knew Him, standing up and quoting Isaiah’s proclamation of what the work of the Messiah was to be:

Isaiah 61:1-3 MEV  The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor; He has sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to preserve those who mourn in Zion, to give to them beauty
for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness,
that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lordthat He might be glorified.”

After reading this passage, Jesus went on to say in Luke 4:21 MEV “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” The people listening became enraged, how could someone they knew, someone they had seen grow up, make such a bold delcaration? They weren’t ready for their preconceived ideas of how the Messiah would come to be challenged; surely He wouldn’t come as the son of a carpenter. The crowd quickly decided to take matters in their own hands:

Luke 4:28-30 MEV All those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath. They rose up and thrust Him out of the city and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down headlong. But passing through the midst of them, He went His way.”

The end of the day hadn’t yet come for Jesus, He wasn’t meant to die at that point and He kept on working, He kept on counting.

Finally, after three years of pouring Himself out, Jesus’ time to balance His accounts came. He poured over the receipts, you and I, He agonized over each and every transaction before Him: the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, the blind and those who mourn. His calling, His anointing, wasn’t meant to do anything but bring those He loved to Himself.

Qualifying for God’s call simply means accepting what we are anointed for: to gather others to the Father by whatever means necessary.

So, who will be next to go?

 

Categories
Choices Excuses Faith Missions Obedience Parenting

Turn Around Here

“Most religious principles don’t liberate us; they confine and enslave us. Most practices and disciplines do more to highlight our futility than they do to empower us for glory.” Chris Tiegreen

Don’t wear this.

Don’t do that.

Don’t say that.

And definitely don’t listen to that.

The list of dos and don’ts in our lives is endless. When our children grow from being an infant to becoming a toddler, we bombard them with “No, no, no!” Almost everything is off limits to them and in true toddler fashion, they will crash through every barrier we try to create. A wise parent, while having to put boundaries in place for safety and growth, will not only construct healthy boundaries for their children, they will also create an atmosphere of understanding why those boundaries exist.

Employers have certain rules in place in the workplace that employees are naturally expected to observe. Be that as it may, it is inevitable that rules will be broken and ultimately some employees will face termination due to their resistance to following the rules. In this scenario it’s not uncommon for complaints to be filed and damages to be sued for – all because rules weren’t followed or broken.

Imagine how God feels when He sees the bigger picture and tries to guide us into what He knows to be best for us, we resist and break His guidelines. As we resist, like toddlers or the erring employee, we talk ourselves into the “rightness” of our decisions despite all of the evidence saying we’ve taken a wrong turn. Because we can’t sue God for damages or lost wages, we instead look for ways to keep proving we are right and our relationship with Him suffers and His once-familiar voice fades into silence.

I was driving in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, a number of years ago looking for a guest house we had heard of and were hoping to look at and use as future accomodations for visitors. I was in a two-door Daihatsu Rugger (looked like some kind of jeep) and had a friend with me in the vehicle, helping me look for the guest house. As we drove down the dual-carriage road, I began to feel discouraged as we were failing to find the place. I heard the phrase, “Turn around here,” in my mind but at the same time I thought “Let me just go a bit farther.” I had already driven this far, I thought I should at least go a little further.

A short while later, I decided it was time to turn around and pulled into a turning lane that separated the dual-carriage road. The moment I had stopped and was waiting to turn around, I heard a screeching sound and looked in my rear-view mirror and caught a glimpse of a large Toyota Land Cruiser headed straight for my side of the vehicle – and I closed my eyes and braced for impact.

The larger vehicle hit me and, from a full stop, propelled my vehicle into the opposite lane. I opened my eyes and checked on my passenger who was thankfully fine, as was I. Shaken, I sat in my seat for a moment knowing that I was going to have to tell Jamie about the accident (this was pre-cell phone days) and then we were going to have to figure out how to pay to fix our vehicle. Yes, we had insurance but that really didn’t (and still doesn’t) mean much in our part of the world. Thankful that there wasn’t traffic or pedestrians that were involved in the accident, I pushed the heavily dented door open and checked on the status of both vehicles. Mine was majorly damaged; the driver’s door was damaged as was the body of the vehicle on the driver’s side. The Land Cruiser that hit me, however, didn’t look as if anything had happened.

In a short while, the police came, spent about a half an hour with the driver of the Land Cruiser in their vehicle, then took my driver’s license, and informed me that I was at fault. Tears stung the back of my eyes as I made arrangements to go to the police station. Some weeks of stress sorting and cleaning up after this whole escapade followed, and I cried many tears of regret for not listening to the voice that said, “Turn around here.”

Since then, I have tried to listen to the voice, to the direction that I heard last because I am not keen on having to clean up when I don’t have to. I came to understand that I don’t really know very much at all as I only see a very small part of what is going on in the world around me.

God’s Word, His ways, are often read like a rule book that we try to adhere to like employees at the work place. Following God this way, not listening and watching through ears and eyes of faith won’t liberate us. In fact, if we simply try to be good and follow the rules, we will eventually break out of those boundaries. What we are missing in our pursuit of God is a deep relationship with Him as when we fall into step with Him, those boundaries no longer bind us. We, instead, eagerly wait for the next step knowing we won’t possibly be able to take it without His guidance.

No, I don’t know better, not at all, and that is just fine with me.

What’s next?

Categories
Choices Love Misfit Missionary Rejection Serving

The Chips Will Fall

It’s hard to live out our convictions in an increasingly hostile world – and I’m not only talking about the hostility we see on the news or internet. In our personal, day-to-day lives it’s not uncommon to come face-to-face with intense rejection any time we choose to go against the grain of what is “the norm.” In this atmosphere, it’s difficult to know what “the norm” is at any given point in time; it feels as if we are walking on eggshells trying to keep everyone happy. The problem resulting from working as hard as we do not to rock the boat is the incessant gnawing in our souls of not living authentically before the world (see 1 John 2:10).

I’ve written about this subject many times approaching it from many different angles and why the tempation to please people holds us as it does instead of living truthfully, continues to evade me. One simply has to experience the pain of rejection once to learn the lesson: living for the approval of others will ultimately drain us of our of joy and energy. However, instead of learning this lesson, we work harder to fit in, to make sure everyone knows we are just like them – and this further complicates extricating ourselves from the complicated world of peer pressure.

When I was a teenager, I thought peer pressure was something that would fade away as an adult – was I wrong! Peer pressure (I know that’s the old fashioned term) grows from a trickling stream in our childhood into a raging river in adulthood. Unfortunately for many, fearing rejection prevent us from daring to live out loud. The importance of living authentically is often put off until later in life when one finally tires of the unreliable opinions of their peers.

The pressures of living authentically differ radically from living to please others. When I chose to live truthfully before the world, it did (and does) create waves. It has taken time for me to allow the “chips to fall” where they may – but the truth of the matter is that I am not living to make anyone besides God happy. I’m not even living to please myself because like my peers, my emotions and opinions are unreliable and can change from one moment to the next. The only unchanging opinion belongs to God; He is consistent, reliable, loving, patient, kind, and always has my best interests at heart and this puts Him in a category all by Himself.

I will face pressure no matter which way I choose, but I’d rather live in the Truth I’ve found than in the shadows of fearing rejection.

As a misfit, see my entry Musings of a Misfit Missionary for a bit of background, I understand the pain of being misunderstood and rejected. I’ve been told that I’m selfish, short-sighted, irresponsible, and “the worst parent” in the world (the full account of “the worst parent” comment is told in our book, No Retreat – No Regrets which will be re-released this year). It’s very hard to face those kinds of words without giving in to the opinions of those hurling them at me, but I’m thankful to have had the overwhelming grace to stay the course and continue living the truth of what God has called me to be: a misfit missionary.

Living truthfully doesn’t give me license to live ugly and confrontational towards those who don’t understand. On the contrary, it gives me license to love more, give more, and serve more. It may be that living the truth in love might give those who don’t understand a greater understanding of the love of a Father Whose interests for them far outweigh the opinions and ultimate rejection of their peers.

Imagine this: there’s Someone Who really cares, really wants the best for you, and died for you to make it happen. That’s the kind of person Whose opinion has won me over.

Jeremiah 31:3 NASB I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.”

Categories
Choices Harvest Healing Love Uncategorized

The Dance

Worship
No on knows what’s behind these lifted hands.

It’s been a few weeks since my last post; we’ve been in the middle of a move and if you’ve ever moved you know what I’m talking about. Thankfully, the house we moved to is a short distance from where we were, making the actual transporting of our things a bit easier. I still need to hang curtains for the few curtains I had are too short to fit the windows – I’m wondering how long I can bear leaving my few bedsheets on the windows.

I’m forever explaining myself away.

Why I’ve not posted a blog.

Why my husband and I choose to keep pursuing overseas missions.

Why, why, why do I feel indebted to explain everything away to everyone?

Romans 13:8 NASB “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.”

Inside I feel, as I suppose many of us do, the need to be understood and accepted. I easily concur with the above verse from Romans; the only debt I have to others is to love them. However, I want others to love and accept me and my natural tendency is to explain things away to gain approval.

What a waste of energy because the opinions people have of us can change as swiftly as the direction of the wind.

In our church here in Bujumbura, we have a lovely lady named Mama Christine Makamba who is one of our cell leaders. To get by, she farms; she works hard and shares her harvest with poorer single mothers who attend her home cell group. When they arrive at her home for meeting, she has a meal prepared for them and spends time listening to them, praying for their needs, and trying to help them find a way to feed their young children.

This past Sunday, as usual, Mama Makamba and I chatted about her group, about certain ones we want to help, and as she talked I marveled at her smile. Her joy is almost tangible when talking about her ladies and the change in the lives of her members. Her frustration also rises to the surface when she feels she’s not breaking through and making a difference.

What most people don’t know about Mama Makamba is that she is 67 years old (she won’t mind me saying so), has had 10 children and was a pastor’s wife in one of our churches. Her husband died about 10 years ago from complications of a stroke he had a few years prior. Two of her 10 children were poisoned and died and she has had to face the harsh realities of life as a widow in Africa. I can’t imagine what she has had to endure.

And yet, she has the strength to smile and the strength to love. She believes in paying that debt of love.

On Sunday, Mama Makamba is the only older person in our worship team. Everyone else is much younger but they all sing with her without regard to her age, and I think this is because she loves them all and it shows. She leads them in joy and love – and when she dances something moves in the heavenlies.

No one, besides God, knows the price she has had to pay, the price any of us have paid to get to where we are and there’s no explaining away the work of God in each of us because His grace meets us all where we need to be met. No one else, besides ourselves, can “get” what He has done in and for us and that gives us reason for joy.

I’ve decided, instead of explaining, to follow Mama Makamba’s example and dance – God knows why I’m dancing and He is the best Partner.

Zephaniah 3:17 NKJ “The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”

 

 

Categories
Choices Church planting Destiny Dreams God's call Missions Obedience The Call of God

No Fine Print

The notion of living and working overseas can be thrilling – and it is thrilling. There’s nothing like living in a foreign land and seeing God start something from nothing. I’ve seen churches planted, leaders trained, schools established, children fed, many miracles too numerous to recount, and as the years have gone by, I’ve watched my own family grow and change.

When I first stepped off the plane in 1987, I imagined my life would turn out one way: that we would see miracles and our work would take off like the Space Shuttle from Cape Canaveral. While dreaming for an amazing takeoff was what we had hoped for, it wasn’t what we experienced.

No one told me that it would take years to learn languages and culture.

No one told me that it would take years to see 14 churches planted.

No one told me that this call would require me to surrender everything I had.

Little of what I experienced was part of the actual plan I had formulated in my head.

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It seems that this life that we have chosen, that many have chosen before us, never comes with any “fine print” to read. There is no full disclosure, no rigid job description, nor is there any guarantee of what this world would consider to be success. The only promise we have is that God will be with us.

I’ve been reading of the exodus of Israel from Egypt the past few days during my morning devotions and I’ve noticed there’s a common thread woven among those who accept “God assignments.” Moses was originally sent on a mission to deliver God’s people from Egypt, his original assignment was to deliver God’s people from Pharoah’s rule (Acts 7:35). There was nothing in the fine print of the original call that said he would, subsequent to delivering God’s people, have to not only lead them beyond the exodus but into a relationship with God as He gave instructions for the tabernacle and all associated sacrifices and procedures. Moses simply began with what he knew and then the doors of God’s will kept opening before him – and he walked through them one by one.

While he was far from perfect, the one thing that qualified Moses is the same thing that qualifies anyone who dares to say “yes” when God calls: fierce obedience. This kind of obedience moved Moses to leaving life as he knew it behind and into a walk of the unknown. He saw God work miracles, part waters, and speak with Him face-to-face as a friend (Exodus 33:11). He also experienced many trials: leading an unruly people, separation from his wife and children, jealousy, strife, and even attempted takeovers. The only expectation Moses had from God was that God’s presence accompany them – he knew that if God was with him and the people, they would make it to whatever destination God had in mind.

Exodus 33:14,15 NKJV My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest. Then he said to Him, ‘If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here.'”

All of us long to see the extreme blessings we read about or hear of, we want to see the dead raised and miraculous provision, but dare we live in the way required to see the seas part? Are we really that radical?

Categories
Beginnings Choices Christmas Destiny Joy Missionary Missions

A Little Fixer Upper

I do miss driving around and looking at Christmas light displays this time of year. There used to be a big tree in the area I lived in (Lantana, Florida) sponsored by The National Enquirer that drew many to our community each year to enjoy. I was in 7th grade the last time I saw the tree on display; unfortunately, there’s not been a tree on display there for many years since the property sold. Some of my favorite middle school memories come from the time when going home after school, I’d stop and walk through the property (no entry fees in those days) and because it was still daylight when I went, it would often be deserted and I got to enjoy the tree and all the accompanying decorations without interruption. Of course the lights were only visible when visiting at nighttime but my then 12-year-old-self figured it was better to be alone and take my time looking at the displays rather than fight crowds of people and fail to get close enough to see anything.

Fast forward a bunch of years and I still miss seeing the lights. We have a little fake tree here in Bujumbura that we were able to purchase at a local store. It may be a bit along the lines of a “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree but after we put our few decorations on the tree and hung the single strand of lights that we had, it looked pretty. We moved about 6 months ago from Malawi to Burundi and due to the move, most replaceable items were left behind. What’s funny about replaceable items is that while they are replaceable, it will take time to replace them! I figure some years will pass by before my little tree’s bare spots are filled with decorations. At the same time, the beauty of my simple tree doesn’t get past me: it’s all we need.

In reality, no one needs a Christmas tree, decorations, lights, presents, and eggnog. In fact, we would do well to scale down on our “need” for these things and remember why the 25th of December is even highlighted on the calendar: to celebrate the beginning of a shift in history, the birth of Christ. History shifted for me personally when the Christmas story became my story –and my life changed.

I often wonder where I would be today if I hadn’t made the choices I had made over the years. First, to follow Jesus and then quite a few years later I met and married my husband and together we chose Africa. We chose to raise our family here, we have chosen to continue living here, and we have chosen over and over again to move and work for the mission to reach people everywhere with that same message that their histories, too, can be changed.

I suppose had I chosen differently I might have had a more physically comfortable life. Money, or more correctly the lack thereof, possibly wouldn’t have been such a point of stress. Maybe I would have had my family all around me and seen my grandchildren grow, or maybe I wouldn’t as kids have a way of growing up and moving on in their time. It would’ve been easier to get shoes, clothes, groceries, schooling for my children, and have more reliable electricity and water. I would probably have had a dishwasher (for those who know me, you can hear me moaning when dishwashers are mentioned) and maybe I would even have had an electric garage door opener.

Instead I find myself starting over again here in Burundi where we moved and planted our first church many years ago. We’ve been away from this country for 18 years; when we flew into the airport last May the years we spent here all came flooding back into my thoughts. My heart was filled with thanksgiving – we have another opportunity to see God come through for us again here in the nation where we first began planting churches. Almost simultaneously as I felt the joy of returning, I felt the burden of the need. You see, there’s a lot of work for us to do and little money and man/woman power to do it, and sometimes I feel like my poor little Christmas tree that is in need of more decorations.

tree

While the tree may look like a “fixer upper,” there is more to it if you look at it closely. My tree speaks of hope when you see it for there are pictures of our youngest daughter in a few of the decorations. These speak of the future as she growing up and coming into her destiny. There are also memories of past joys as some of the ornaments on the tree that come from Zambia where we planted a church 17 years ago. The emptiness of my little tree also speaks hope to me for if the tree were full, maybe its representation to me would be a bit less meaningful this year. The bare spaces sit there waiting to be filled with memories of what God will do in days to come.

If I had chosen differently, my tree would have been so very different. Yes, it probably wouldn’t be so needy but neither would it be as beautiful, its branches decorated with future hope and past victories. It would have had better lights, trendier ornaments, and more presents underneath, but I wouldn’t have seen what I have seen and lived as I have lived and that would have been a loss for me.

While there is a bit life behind me, there is still work to do, there are still places to see, churches to plant, and adventures left to live. Whatever it takes from me, wherever it takes me, and whoever it takes me to, I choose again to let my history change as He holds my days in His hands.

Merry Christmas everyone, wherever you are!

Luke 2:8-10 MEV “And in the same area there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And then an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were very afraid. But the angel said to them, ‘Listen! Do not fear. For I bring you good news of great joy, which will be to all people.’”