Posted in Choices, Church planting, Dreams, Missions, Obedience, Offering, Thankful, Vision

Living the Dream

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Maybe this comes with age and experience, of which I am now a possessor of a bit of both. How much age and experience? I won’t divulge exactly how much but certainly enough to get me into trouble, of which I have had a fair share.

As I write this, a new season has dawned on us and I find myself for the first time in longer than I can remember feeling anticipation for the days that lie ahead. Anyone who has worked for any length of time in a specific field deals more with the discipline of reaching for a dream than the joy of attaining it. I believe that the discipline of reaching towards something is simply faith made real. Faith is not only something that dwells in our hearts, faith is something that we do, it is what we live by – it’s what gives us our very breath (see Rom. 1:17).

Moving from that discipline of faith to actually enjoying what we are working for by faith before we see it’s fulfillment is where we will find longevity in whatever it is God has called us to do. Those moments when we see with our physical eyes the fulfillment of what God has promised us have, at least in my own life, taken time to come to pass. If we wait to rejoice until we have seen with our eyes what has been promised to us, seasons of drought could very well push us to give up on the dream.

Have you ever come to the place where you’re thinking of giving up on your dream? I have and it isn’t at all pleasant. I have found myself in those places most often when I’ve been disappointed that things didn’t turn out the way I thought they would.

Had I known it would turn out this way…

I wasn’t expecting this much resistance…

 No one understands or cares about what I had to give up …

 Slowly but surely, the temptation to give up, fueled by my own self-pity, takes a seat in the forefront of my thoughts until a crossroad is reached and I must decide if the dream is worth it or not. Will I fan the flames of despair in my dry desert or will I fan the flames of God’s gift, His dream, to me? The former is, at the onset, much easier to do but in the end leads only to more regret.

What would have happened if I hadn’t given up?

What would have happened if I had chosen to stay?

What would have happened if I had given the dream one more chance?

After a bit of time and experience, again I won’t admit to how much of either, I’ve learned that it’s not enough to simply tolerate reaching for the dream. The dream has to be cherished, guarded, and enjoyed! Hidden in the discipline of obedience one finds the deepest joy that life has to offer: a satisfaction that goes beyond the simple emotion of happiness when a goal is reached.

The dreams we carry have been entrusted to us by God and we have not only the responsibility but the honor of reaching for their fulfillment. Their success or failure doesn’t depend on our abilities but on His ability in us.

2 Corinthians 4:7 NKJ  “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.”

The dream isn’t given for our own glory or acclaim; it’s for His glory and acclaim and He is well able to make it come true. Whether or not any of us are recognized on this earth for what we have done for the Kingdom is irrelevant – we’re reaching for the prize that has heaven as our home and what more could we ask for?

The dream is also a treasure that God has chosen to entrust us with; whatever your treasure is, cherish it! Fan the flames of your dream (2 Tim. 1:6) and see your passion for the treasure that it represents grow; don’t allow the work of the dream and the disappointments you face along the way to blur its figure into a mere shadow of what it once was.

I’ve been guilty of giving up, feeling sorry for myself, and wanting to give up on the dream – more times than I care to remember! Each time I’ve thrown in my towel and called it a day, the dream calls me back for I know there’s nothing else for me to do but live the dream.

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” George Eliot

 

 

Posted in Change, Choices, Church planting, Control, Courage, Excuses, Faith, God's Voice, Goodbye, Journey, Kingdom, Missions, Obedience

Controlling the Chaos

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Today is Saturday, the 28th of April 2018. We have a little more than 3 weeks until we move to Bujumbura, Burundi from where we are now, Blantyre, Malawi. Books are randomly scattered all over the floor here in the office, we don’t have many chairs left to sit on, and I’m wondering how can I control the chaos! I need boxes, packing tape, a few more suitcases, and energy! Oh, how I need energy!

I find myself in the usual unusual territory of trusting God for each and every step. It’s a path I am supposed to be accustomed to but each and every time we embark on this journey of faith I have to relearn the steps of faith, for each lesson brings with it its own set of lessons. Every journey in faith is new, every journey of faith is meant to make us grow.

Growth is something I want, but the process that brings growth is what I don’t want. I want instant mashed potatoes growth; the kind that happens when I add some water and “poof,” I have grown! But that’s not the kind of growth that God brings – He brings the kind of growth that requires us to give Him control of everything; to have faith in His process and not our own.

We sing songs saying, “God take control” but the moment He tries to take over, we recoil. In our arsenal of excuses we have many Christian-esque sounding phrases that make our excuses sound spiritual:

“Oh, that’s not wisdom.” Yet we are told in Scripture that the way to wisdom is through foolishness:

1 Corinthians 3:18,19 NKJ  “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their own craftiness;’” 

“I prayed and don’t feel right.” If we were to be led by feelings, we would change course several times a day, it’s faith that we live by, not feelings:

Romans 1:17 NKJ For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’”

“Giving everything away to bring the Gospel elsewhere, well, God doesn’t want me to be poor.” When will we understand that we, believers, are the richest people in the world? Wealth in the Kingdom is not measured by the things we possess but by the One Who possesses us:

Romans 11:33 NKJOh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!”

How will God get the job done if we don’t start with the plans, funds, and popular support that our ambitions require? What I have learned is that God’s plans won’t unfold as I would have planned, nor will He fund them in the way that I would think, and they certainly won’t be popular even among some of those closest to me.

For some reason that escapes me, God wants me involved in the unfolding of His great plan. This alone causes me to wonder about His all-encompassing love, wisdom, and power. Why would He, the Creator, want anyone, let alone me, when He has the ability to get everything done without any help? But He’s chosen to involve Himself in our very small lives because He loves us without measure. Shouldn’t I, then, accept what is assigned to me in the face of this amazing love? Since I am unable to grasp His understanding of it all, I choose today to sit in the passenger seat and go when and where He decides. His driving record is spotless and His reservoir of supply has no limit – I can’t argue with that now, can I?

 

 

Posted in Choices, Church planting, Dreams, God's call, Vision, Waiting

A Welcome In My Heart

Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

I would like to be known as someone who has given others the benefit of the doubt; to be someone who gives others the grace that I so deeply crave. Instead of being someone who doubts that incredible things can be done, I hope to be a cheerleader for others whose dreams are as crazy as mine.

The world is full of stories of those who have risen from incredibly difficult circumstances and gone on to do great things. The world is also full of those who would diminish the out-of-the-box plans of dreamers. How many dreamers have had their aspirations snuffed out by what’s reasonable, what’s expected, and what’s deemed feasible by those around them?

Matthew 12:20 NLT“He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle…”

When our hopes lie in the approval of those around us, we are certainly setting ourselves up for disappointment. Much has been said and written about the negative impact that society’s expectations places on us; I cannot hope to add more to what’s already been said by those whose qualifications far exceed my own.

Despite my own limitations, I am sure of one thing: while I cannot control the opinions or reactions of others, I can control my own.

As parents, my husband and I have tried to instill in our children a faith to believe for the unbelievable. Over the years, we have read books like Heaven’s Heroes by David Shibley and some of the series of Christian Heroes Then and Now by Janet and Geoff Benge to open our children’s hearts to believe that if God used ordinary people in the past, He can use them in their lifetimes to do amazing things. We believe that there are enough “naysayers” in life; we want to be their cheerleaders.

This doesn’t mean that their, or our, lives have been a cakewalk. On the contrary, I have often felt like that weakest reed and flickering candle in the scripture from Matthew above. The amazing thing about God is that He is cheering for us to reach beyond our wildest hopes and dreams.

In 2001 my husband came home from a conference in the USA (I remained behind in Africa with our children) and boldly announced to me that God had spoken to his heart that we were to plant 1,000 churches. I’d like to say that I latched onto that word and fell into complete step with him in that declaration. I did know enough to say, “Well, if that’s what God said, then, I’m OK with that.” In saying so, there was no enthusiasm to be found in my voice or demeanor. Instead, my mind was swimming with questions:

We only have one church we have planted, how can we plant 999 more?

Where will the money come from?

Where will the leaders come from?

And so on.

I found myself in the category of those naysayers not with open disagreement, but in thinking “How can we possibly?” when God clearly wanted me to remember that He makes the impossible possible.

Things went from bad to worse before we saw our next church planted. We were unable to plant a new church in the city we had set our sights on and left dejected. Two churches seemed impossible, let alone 1,000 – and it indeed was impossible. Until my eyes were opened in the next city we moved to where our church was approved in a matter of weeks and we quickly found ourselves surrounded by a new congregation.

Could it be that God had plans for us?

One day during family devotions, as we read from Heaven’s Heroes I listened as my husband read of David Livingstone’s trek across Africa. He faced lions, death, lack, and naysayers but he persisted because he saw something no one else did: God never fails and he was sure that God would not send him on a fruitless mission.

Hebrews 11:13 NLT “All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it from a distance and welcomed it.”

My heart had closed itself to hope, and as long as my hope was lost, there was no room for faith in my heart to receive it. The vision needed a welcome in my heart and this only came when I closed down my own doubt and decided it would be better to receive the promise in faith – even if that meant I were to die before its fulfillment.

We are still 900+ churches away from 1,000 naturally speaking, but my heart has already welcomed each of them. How it will get done is the adventure I’m waiting to live. As we work and wait, we keep climbing, keep reaching, and keep opening our hearts in welcome for the vision.

In 2020 we hope to reach for those 1,000 churches and climb an impossible mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. It is 19,300+ feet high and as I look at my own inability physically and financially to even think of it, I see the climb for 1,000 speaks to me more than anyone else. I’m welcoming the vision and will climb for it, 1,000 here we come!

Isaiah 60:22 NLT “The smallest family will become a thousand people, and the tiniest group will become a mighty nation. At the right time, I, the Lord, will make it happen.”

Posted in Choices, Courage, Destiny, Faith, Fear, God's call, Kingdom, Perspective, Popularity, Purpose, Resurrection

Things Aren’t What They Seem To Be

Play it safe.

Don’t push too far.

Be careful.

Should we chose to follow all safety precautions on every product we buy or activity we take part in, there are still bound to be unforeseen, unplanned, and unexpected complications that will meet us along the way. We simply can’t avoid trouble, it comes with the territory of life.

I’ve said it many times and still hold to this: the safest place to be is in God’s will. There, I find protection, provision, joy, and comfort. There’s nothing that can reach me there; I’m in His pocket ( 1 Sam. 25:29) as it were, close to His heartbeat. From that place, I hear what stirs His heart and I find the courage to reach for things I never dreamt of before, because things aren’t what they seem to be when you’re in the will of God.

John 14:27 ESV “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

It would appear that Jesus was coaching His disciples to really open their eyes to the possibility of things not being as they would appear when He said, “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” At the time being described above in John 14, Jesus had entered into Jerusalem and was preparing His followers to understand that in the days to come, events would unfold that would appear to say, “It’s over.”

The crucifixion was on the horizon, Jesus knew it – but He also knew that the Resurrection was soon to follow on the heels of what would appear to be His end. He knew things weren’t going to be at all as they seemed. Jesus also knew everyone would flee and that He would be left alone to face the cross, yet He did it anyway. Why would He suffer and die when all would leave Him? He also knew that after His Resurrection, no one would believe in Him right away. It took quite a bit of work after He rose to convince those who had fled, that He was really alive. If it had been me making the choice at that juncture, those who had fled would not have been in the running for those chosen to be the leaders of the early church. Yet, by grace, Jesus chose to look beyond what the rest of us would call “the obvious” because He knew that nothing in His Kingdom is as it seems. Jesus knew that those who had fled weren’t at all as they appeared. They were born for something more, they were meant to turn the world “upside down.”

Acts 17:6 ESV “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also.”

I see a pattern throughout Scripture where those who dared to live close to the Father’s heartbeat never played it safe. They understood that being led where God took them was the only truly safe place to be – even if that path lead them to a place where it would seem their end was imminent.

Daniel chose the lions.

Paul chose to go to Rome.

Joseph chose to take Mary.

Each one (and many others) could have chosen to follow an easier route, but they didn’t. They knew the worst that could happen would have meant losing their lives, which would only put them in the presence of God; where would the the loss in that have been? They chose His safe place, and as they did, they lived amazing lives of adventure, seeing impossible dreams come true that they didn’t even know they had.

This life and all of its trimmings would have us to believe that living a life of adventure for God is unsafe, unreasonable, and even foolish. For those who don’t know the Father, I can understand those feelings. Still, there’s a thirst in me to see more than a life colored safely in the lines of what seems to be safe places, for in reality nothing is safe apart from God.

My choice is to live far from what seems to be safe; I want to live close to Him and far from things as they seem to be.

“The worship of God is not a rule of safety; it’s an adventure of the spirit.” Alfred North Whitehead

Posted in Choices, Courage, Endurance, Faith, God's call, Missions

The Harshest of Teachers

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I’m all for preparation.

We need to prepare ingredients to bake a cake.

We need to prepare for the first day of school by purchasing school supplies.

We need to prepare for life by choosing a career path.

Preparation is simply part and parcel of life and a wise person does his/her best to prepare for life as it happens. However, there are some things we can’t prepare enough for.

No one is prepared to face the death of a loved one. Even if plans have been laid out for years and the person who has passed away is well advance in years and had a full life, the emotions that are stirred up when facing death are unexpectedly intense and surprising to even the strongest among us.

No one is ever adequately prepared for marriage. While I highly recommend marriage counseling and a thorough “vetting” of a relationship prior to marriage, the emotional and financial responsibilities that come with marriage can only be fully faced when married.

No one is ever adequately prepared to have children. It is wisdom to save money and do what you can to prepare for having children – but once the children come, it becomes painfully obvious that no amount of preparation really prepares one for parenthood.

When the call came for us to work overseas, I wasn’t prepared for what was waiting for me in lands unknown. The harshest of teachers, experience, was (and is) my mentor. First experiences are unforgiving, unkind, and unfeeling. What I felt when I first landed in Africa with my then 18 month old son on my lap, could not have been prepared for; I could only experience it in the moment and I had to decide in that moment how to react.

After landing and settling into our home, nothing prepared me for the loneliness I would feel as the only young mother among the few missionaries serving with us. I had to live it, I had to experience it, and I had to learn how to navigate the waters of solitude. In our Western culture, we place a high priority on having a circle of friends to lean on and support us in seasons of difficulty. That was taken away from me in a moment of time and I had no choice but to learn how to survive (and eventually thrive).

These experiences, and many more, have come at a high price. My entire thought and faith process had to change when I faced the unexpected. Initially, I was tempted to become bitter and point my finger heavenwards and say (with great indignation), “I obeyed the call! I did what You wanted and now this?” Honestly, I went through a period when I did exactly that; I expected God to roll out the red carpet for me. I expected that all would be prepared. Wasn’t God grateful for my obedience? What I didn’t understand then is that God wasn’t impressed by my answering the call. As much as I praised myself for daring to move far from family and friends, God wasn’t asking something of me that He had not asked of His own Son.

In this “line of work” there is little we can do to prepare for the unseen as what is unseen here is far beyond what we can imagine. Someone coined the phrase, “where truth is stranger than fiction” when trying to describe the challenges we face on the continent of Africa.

How can we prepare for a sudden devaluation of the currency? One day in 2011, we lost $500.00 due to a sudden and unannounced devaluation of local currency.

How can we prepare for an unexpected lack of cement in the stores when we’re in the middle of building?

How can we prepare for all forms of communication with the outside world being cut during a coup-d-état?

Through all of these years and experiences (many of them painful) there is one lesson that I can’t put a price on. This lesson has cost me my entire life to learn but I would gladly pay it again as this lesson has kept me time and again through the harshest of seasons. I have learned that I have a Father Who keeps His eye on me and not only understands but also walks with me through the most difficult moments. He has taught me that I’m never alone, never without His care, and that He is always pleased with me. He has walked with me through the fire as well as on top of the mountain – and He has always made sure there was enough to care for me and my own.

So, in some way, I’m more prepared than many for what “might” happen and I’m not afraid. I’m still answering the call, still facing the unknown, and all I can say is, “What’s next Dad?”

Luke 22:35 ESV “And He said to them, ‘When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?’ They said, ‘Nothing.’…”

Posted in Choices, Cross, Distractions, Kingdom

Cling Wrap, Sore Knuckles, and The Kingdom

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Cling wrap.

Try as I might I cannot get a grip on how to properly use the stuff. It comes in a nice long rectangular box with an oh-so-fine serrated edge that, in theory, is supposed to help tear the cling wrap in nice, even pieces that I can use to cover food containers in the refrigerator. Try as I might, in all my years and work in the kitchen, rarely have I ever been able to tear off a perfect piece of cling wrap to cover a dish.

Following directions, this scenario repeats itself nearly every time I dare to brave to enter the world of cling wrap:

  • Set dish that needs to be covered on the counter.
  • Open box of cling wrap.
  • Find edge of cling wrap. This is a feat of major proportions as the edge of the plastic is nearly invisible; usually resulting in unevenly tearing of the cling wrap.
  • Frustration begins to bubble beneath the surface.
  • Pull desired amount of cling wrap, with bunched edges, over the dish.
  • As instructed on the box, gently pull on one side of the cling wrap to tear the end of the wrap off.
  • Wrap does not tear, apply more pressure.
  • Cling wrap begins to bunch up, stretch, and will not tear evenly. My knuckles are torn against the fine serrated edge – the serrated edge seems to tear my skin better than it does the plastic wrap.
  • Rinse and repeat until successful or knuckles are too sore to try again.
  • Get another dish with its own cover and give up.

Who ever invented this stuff? I’ve even tried the perforated cling wrap with nearly the same results – except my knuckles don’t bleed which is a big plus.

I keep telling myself I need to purchase more storage containers with lids. The problem with buying more storage containers with lids is that nearly every time I have purchased containers here (Malawi), the lids don’t stay on and I find myself returning to the violent world of cling wrap.

Like cling wrap that seems to cling to everything besides that it is intended for, I find in myself times that I cling to things other than what I’m created for.

In Matthew 16:13-20 Jesus had a conversation with His disciples. He asked them who people thought He was; after hearing their replies, He asked, “Who do you say I am?” Famously, Peter declares that Jesus is the Christ. In verse 17 Jesus calls Peter, “Blessed” for his revelation of Who He was.

Peter had an idea of who he thought Jesus was and what that looked like; he was correct in saying that Jesus was the Christ – but he had no idea of what that meant. Immediately after Peter’s statement, Jesus began telling His disciples (Matthew 16:21-28) that He was going to suffer and die and then rise from the dead. That same Peter who was called blessed just a few verses earlier, was told in verse 23, “Get behind me Satan!” Peter was clinging to his own ideas of how things were meant to be.

Jesus was passionate, He clung to His assignment. At the same time, He told His disciples (and we who follow Him today) that the assignment we are to cling to is to be likened to a cross.

Matthew 16:24 NLT“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.”

Our own ideas of what our faith is supposed to look like, much like Peter’s, won’t mirror what taking up our crosses is meant to be.

This morning I was reading in Luke 17 where Jesus describes the work of a servant:

Luke 17:10 ESV“So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”

Often we make the mistake of living our lives from day-to-day, giving a nod to God when we read our Bible and pray, giving Him another nod when we make it to church, and believe that we are living lives of profitable servants. If we only live to fulfill duty, we’ve not yet entered into the realm of being profitable for the Kingdom. Being profitable means going above and beyond the call of duty and entering a place of actually adding value (touching souls) to the Kingdom.

In Matthew 25:14-30 the parable of the three servants gives the account of what it means to be profitable. Each of the three was given a different amount of money (talents) to care for while the master was away. The first two earned interest on the money they were left and they were declared to be profitable. The third simply hid the money he was given and returned to the master exactly what had been given to him. Businesspeople understand this principle: if an employee is not profitable, he is fired. That’s what happened to this third servant.

If we only do what is right as a believer (read our Bibles, pray, attend church, love others, give, show mercy, etc.) that’s simply doing our duty. As servants of the Kingdom, we have a much greater destiny that just clinging to doing the bare minimum to get a pass into Heaven. Like Jesus, who came as One Man to this earth and now has innumerable followers, we are to sow ourselves as He did into the lives of others and watch God give us a great harvest.

Not only are we to sow ourselves into the Kingdom as Jesus did, but we are to do so willingly – to cling to that purpose understanding that there’s far more at stake than our own comfort or convenience.

This world with all its trappings seeks to engage us to the point of eliminating our profitability for the Kingdom. God’s Kingdom, unlike the world we live in today, is eternal and immovable. This world is, as we all know too well, temporary, corruptible, and unable to satisfy the deep craving all of us have in our souls for something better, something more.

I’ve decided to cling to the cross.

heaven is our home

Posted in Choices, Destiny, Fame, Fear, Popularity, Uncategorized

Keeping Things Under Wraps

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Popularity – pɒpjʊˈlarəti/

noun

  1. the state or condition of being liked, admired, or supported by many people.

How much of our lives is spent in the pursuit of what is popular or to become popular? For some reason, we are wired with an innate desire to be liked, to be first, and to be the best. Early in childhood we all wanted to be first on the best swing, first on the climbing frame (monkey bars for all my US readers),  and first to take a turn at hop scotch. From there, everyone slowly steps into line in the “pecking order” of the group; everyone knows his or her place. The first place always goes to the one who won, who got there first. Thus, the “popular kid” is born.

As you might have already guessed, I was never the first kid on the playground. I wasn’t blessed with the speed needed in those days to get the coveted first spot. Now, looking back, I realize that there were very few first kids because there could only be one first place among a group as large as our elementary class of 20+ children. The great majority of us were simply the ones who came in last – for first was all that mattered back at that time.

Try as we might, human nature (especially when it is unredeemed) continues to chase after the invisible goal of popularity. As much as we wish it didn’t, the idea of pleasing people, being propelled into the spotlight as “best in class” still can entice the humblest among us.

Enter Jesus.

John 2:25 ESV “and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.”

Throughout Jesus’ three-years of ministry on the earth, He did nothing to raise His own profile on purpose. His profile was raised naturally by the fact that His goal was to fulfill His Father’s will (Luke 22:42); not His private agenda. I imagine it would have been very easy for Jesus to convince the disciples to engage an advertising company, raise banners, start a Twitter account (not really but the ancient equivalent), and offer free fish sandwiches every Friday evening by the Sea of Galilee. Indeed, there were times it seems the disciples wish He had taken the popular route.

Acts 1:6-8 ESV  So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’”

Even after all they had witnessed (ministry of miracles, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus), the disciples still wondered if they were going to be “first” among the nations. Patiently, as per His character, Jesus simply said (my paraphrase), “It’s not for you to know…but I’m giving you power to go, so go and tell the world the Good News.” It seems that His response stunned them for in Acts 1:10,11, they simply stared into heaven and had to “snap out of it!” (Again, my paraphrase!) By all accounts, it seems they couldn’t believe that after all Jesus had been through, He wanted the world to be reached – through them. He wanted them to stop thinking about themselves and look to those around them who hadn’t experienced what they had.

Wherever Jesus went, except when entering Jerusalem for the last time, He didn’t seem to put much weight into the thought of being popular as He knew what was in the hearts of men. He knew, as He went down the road to Jerusalem for the last time with crowds praising Him, that not many days would pass before those who cheered Him on would crucify Him.

Popularity, it’s a poison that, when it takes effect, seduces and then destroys those who are unfortunate enough to fall victim to it.

I’ve been reading in the book of Mark and have begun noting scriptures where Jesus wanted to keep miracles “under wraps” as it were. In 3 chapters alone (chapters 7-9) I found 4 separate instances where Jesus didn’t want anyone to know what had happened (Mark 7:24; 7:36; 8:30; 9:30), this begging an answer as to why?

Some say if word got out of the miracles then His ministry would be hindered by the vast crowds. I can understand that viewpoint but there are many instances in the Gospels where Jesus ministered to large multitudes.

I wonder if Jesus didn’t try to keep things quiet at times in order to keep the monster of popularity away. Once word got out, for example, that someone has raised from the dead or been healed of leprosy, I’m sure every newspaper and important figure in town would have wanted to see the person themselves – all at the risk of becoming popular.

The Son of God chose to come to this world in the most obscure way, had an opportunity to become popular (and in fact was popular for a time but was not wooed by it) but ended up dying between 2 thieves.

I wonder if we took the energy we expend on garnering popularity and shifted even a small bit of that energy  into “going” (as the disciples were told in Acts 1:8) to all the world, we would find ourselves in a much better place. The world wouldn’t hold us and the grave would no longer frighten us.

John 15:18 NLT “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.”

 

Posted in Choices, Distractions, Family, Mercy, Missions, Perspective, Time

Temper Tantrums and Leftovers

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“You just don’t want me to have fun!”

If you’re a parent, you’ve probably heard those words. If you haven’t, it’s most likely because your children are still very young. Sometime around the 2nd or 3rd grade mark, children begin to think that their parents’ goal in life is to keep them from having fun.

Mom: “Clean up your toys.”

Son/daughter: “I’m not done playing with them.”

Mom: “They’ve been out for 3 days, it’s time to put them away.”

Son/daughter: “You just don’t want me to have fun!” This is often accompanied by a strong folding of the arms or stomping of feet for emphasis.

Now that my 4th child is 10 years old and I have a bit of experience under my belt, I know how to reason a bit with her when she begins to go down that spiral of, “You just don’t want me to have fun!” The other day I sat with her and asked her, “Why would I want you not to have fun? What good would I get from you not having fun? I want you to have fun – why else would I have gotten you all these toys? To have fun of course.” Cue the blank stare…I usually have 2 or 3 minutes to get a meaningful bit of communication in before the curtain of attention falls.

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My life is full. There’s no real reason for me to have a temper tantrum with my Father over things that I have/don’t have or things I have asked for but have yet to see. Yet, I somehow find opportunities to fold my arms, as it were, and look at my Father and say, “You just don’t want me to have fun!”

On the occasion that I have obeyed in some area, much like my children have been at home, I will think that my obedience gives me “credit” or “points earned” towards favorable outcomes in life – especially in those “spiritual” arenas of life. Since we are missionaries and all of what we do is basically for the Kingdom, it’s easy for me to think that God should understand and will hand everything to me on a silver platter. If things don’t work out as I think they should, “You just don’t want me to have fun!” Complete with folded arms and stomping feet.

“I’m doing this for You! Where is the money to get this vision You gave us to get this done?”

Yet, the things He had given me before are still strewn all over the floor. The new believers who need following up, leaders that need to be trained, and the community outreaches that need to be developed are still unorganized and waiting to be tended to.

If I’m honest with myself, there’s much that I am able to do without money. In fact, helping  someone develop in their life with the Lord takes more time than it does money – and time is something no one is willing to part with easily. In our era of “time management” and scheduling, we find it difficult to invest what’s needed in people to see them grow into their potentials. We have families, jobs, hobbies, sports, and recreational activities we have to fit into our schedules. Doesn’t God want us to be happy? Sounds a bit familiar.

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We can find scripture and verse to assuage the guilt that tries to assault our hearts when we consider what we should be doing when it comes to our participation in God’s work. We want more “fun time” while God our Father is asking us to collect what is strewn on the floor around us.

John 6:12 NKJV“So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.’”

What is significant about the leftovers is that God takes what others would consider useless and scrape into the trash. After a large holiday meal, what’s leftover is often tossed into the trash bin as everyone has already had enough to eat. Without giving it another thought, the designated kitchen cleanup crew won’t bother with the odd bits and pieces of leftovers. Why save them? Everyone is full! Throw them away! Unless there’s an old-time auntie or grandma in the group who insists on taking the leftovers home. “It will keep me full for days!” she says while collecting the last few dinner rolls and scrapings of casserole.

The lives of people that are scattered as fragments in our societies won’t collect themselves. Much like our families’ cleanup crews, the disciples would have most likely preferred to have left the crumbs on the ground. They had already worked and served thousands, but after all of their work, Jesus told them, “Gather the fragments.” They might have wondered, “Why gather fragments? They’re just trash.” Until all the fragments came to 12 baskets full – I am sure that 12 baskets of leftovers fed many, perhaps for days.

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The things we allow ourselves to make time for are what become precious to us. Family and friends are precious for they take up our time. However, family and friends, with time, change. Children grow up and leave, friends move, life inevitably changes, and unless we have simultaneously invested in those things that are timeless, such as God’s work, we will find ourselves hungry and life will appear meaningless.

Once upon a time, like you, I was a fragment, someone whose life didn’t appear to be meaningful enough to gather. I’m so glad that someone took the time for me – someone saw value in the broken fragment of me so I wasn’t thrown away. Surely I have time to do the same.

Posted in Anniversary, Choices, Church planting, Distractions, Goodbye, Journey

Settling

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Two years ago this month, I found myself standing in the Blantyre, Malawi airport, with my husband and daughter waiting for our luggage. It was hot and sweat poured from my husband’s forehead as he lifted our bags, all 13 of them, one by one onto luggage carts. Once we passed through customs, we walked towards the exit through the downward sloping surface that lead to the exit. I knew we were headed for complications as the cart picked up pace and we struggled to slow it down. It didn’t take much, just a small bump on the surface of the walkway, for the suitcases to be sent cascading down in front of us.

This was my welcome to Blantyre!

We are church planters, you see, and the “job description” (for a lack of better words) requires us to move once we have established a church and prepared the pastor sufficiently to take the riegns from us.

By nature, I’m not one who has a need to collect things. I imagine God prepared me long before I knew I would be a church planter. Moving to Blantyre required me to, as many moves before had, to pare down my belongings to an odd mixture of suitcases and foot lockers and duffle bag or two. Mixed among the necessary items such as my extra contact lenses, 4 plastic plates, a small set of cutlery, and shoes, was a jumble of a few non-necessary as well as necessary items: pictures of our family, a few keepsakes from other nations where we had served, and important documents (marriage license, diplomas and degrees, our youngest daughter’s adoption decree, etc.). As I unpacked all of the necessary and unnecessary things, I felt tears roll down my cheeks as I felt the familiar sting of having to leave one place and start all over again.

Hebrews 13:14 ESV“For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.”

As we live life, it’s easy to get distracted by our surroundings and need to conform to the “norms” of society around us that we work so hard to attain. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with settling into a place, as long as the place you have settled into doesn’t cause you to settle for less – less than what God has planned for you.

What are we looking for? Where are we going? With all of the effort we put into settling into life and making ourselves as comfortable as we can, is it possible that we have forgotten that this life isn’t the end of it all?

I live in Blantyre, Malawi today. I’m sure the day will come that God will send me to another city and I will once again have to go through the uncomfortable process of lifting up the stakes of my “tent” and move on. As uncomfortable as the process has been and surely will be, there is not a city on this earth where I will finally rest as I will when I enter that Heavenly City and really put my roots down.

Micah 2:10 ESV“Arise and depart, for, this, is not the place of rest.”