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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.’”

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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.”

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Comfort Eternity Perspective Relevance Relevant

Best Before

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I’ve somehow gotten grouped into the “older” generation of typewriters, handwritten notes and telephone calls. It wasn’t that long ago that I was on the other side of the generational curve telling everyone else what was new, what was the newest trend. I don’t find this new reality that I’m facing, my own mortality, comfortable. Have I become out of style myself? Am I past my “best before” date?

In the grocery store, there are “best before” dates stamped on the products lining the aisles. Some have longer “best before” dates than others; there are even some products whose dates are 2-3 years from the day they are purchased. That’s the kind of product I want to be, my best before date falling many years into the future.

The reality is that many of the things we reject in the store because their “best before” date is either close or even past, but the items are still usable. I watched a news report on a store in Europe that uses these items that have been rejected because their “best before” dates have passed to help lower income families. The savings passed on to those in society who are more vulnerable has been remarkable.

While groceries can go out of date, truth doesn’t expire. It may come with different wrappings from generation to generation but at its core, it remains constant. What was attractive wrapping 50 years ago, that helped people understand what was being said, doesn’t necessarily speak the same to those receiving the message today. A different wrapping might be required.

What appears to be forgotten in the static that we produce in our attempts to have an acceptable presentation to society, may very well steer us away from sharing the truth openly. Neglecting to speak the truth can be as damaging as rejecting it for without exposure, truth won’t be understood by the hearers and when it is spoken, it sounds foreign.

1 John 2:7,8a TLB“Dear brothers I am not writing out a new rule for you to obey, for it is an old one you have always had, right from the start. You have heard it all before. Yet it is always new and works for you…”

The truth is trustworthy, unlike methods that are fallible, it remains constant. Trying to wrap truth in a way that is acceptable to the masses is impossible for the truth oftentimes hurts before it heals. Truth is like that “faithful friend” who won’t let us down:

Proverbs 27:6 NKJ“Faithful are the wounds of a friend. But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”

Rejecting the truth for cultural acceptance is nothing new – there’s “nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9). From the time of the church’s inception, there were those attempting to keep the truth hidden because it was past its “best before” date.

2 Peter 3:1-9 NKJ vs. 2-4a “…be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His Coming?…” 

People will always question the truth for their lack of understanding; they won’t like the way its packaged and will buck against it in order to appear to be in the right, in the face of truth (whose message seems to be irrelevant to the current crowd). The problem with questioning the truth according to the ebbs and flows of society is that truth then ebbs and flows with the changes making truth relative instead of absolute.

Truth is what gives us security and safety. My children know for a fact that I love them unconditionally. No matter what they might do, no matter what the consequences they face due to their actions; I will always love them. They can rest in that fact and never question whether or not they are loved.

Truth that changes with the seasons of society gives no standard or security to those hoping to live by it. Children whose parents base their love and acceptance on performance offer their children no solid foundation on which to base their lives. These children who failed to reach the standards provided end up themselves rejecting God’s truth for they have not experienced the unconditional truth of God’s love.

Today, instead of being solid, truth has become fluid – it can easily change shape much like freezing water to make ice. If indeed this is what truth has become to us as believers, where is our hope of His coming? Where is our assurance of His grace in the face of our sin? Society reacts to these questions by creating its own truth that has crept into the church – and the church has, by and large, succumbed to the whims of what is relevant, popular, and will “draw the crowds.”

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It may be that the frustration we feel, however, is after winning the crowds we fail to keep them or, if we do keep them, see them become active participants in what we know has given us purpose. While appealing to the culture of our surroundings is necessary to speak communicate the message of God’s love to those around us, appealing to culture will not keep a hungry soul.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 NLT“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”

Hidden in the heart of everyone, God has placed a sensitivity for things eternal. If what we offer to those we are called to appeals only to the surface, the longing of eternity will drive those people to find what their hearts long for: a connection with the Maker Himself. For the sake of keeping the harvest of souls God gives us, we have a responsibility to bring them beyond appealing to the culture but to address the longing for eternity.

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Choices Church planting Comfort Courage Destiny Familiarity Family Missions

Abnormally Normal

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“If you do not hope, you do not find out what is beyond your hopes.”                           Clement of Alexandria

I’ve hoped and dreamed and trusted for so many years for so many things – some have come to pass and some haven’t. Why have some come to pass and others haven’t? I don’t think I’m able to grasp the “why” of each circumstance, but I do know that I somehow still find in myself the grip of my going on with my dreaming, hoping, and trusting.

What if what I’ve dreamed of, hoped for, and trusted is on the way is just beyond this moment I’m in?

What is the alternative to dreaming, hoping and trusting?

I’ve heard it said that if you shoot for the moon, you might hit the stars. If you shoot for nothing, that is exactly what you will get. I think the chance of hitting a few stars is more appealing to me than achieving nothing at all!

As if our own internal struggles weren’t enough to tempt us to discouragement, there are those who have taken up the cause to help us “think things through logically.” Or to be “wise” in the way we approach things. Indeed, we are to live in wisdom, but not the wisdom that this world is accustomed to:

1 Corinthians 1:20,21, CEB “Where are the wise? Where are the legal experts? Where are today’s debaters? Hasn’t God made the wisdom of the world foolish? In God’s wisdom, He determined that the world wouldn’t come to know him through its wisdom. Instead, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of preaching.”

Wisdom that comes from God will always run cross-grain to that what this world considers to be wise. Certainly my life doesn’t appear to have been lived wisely as far as this world’s wisdom is concerned. First of all, I didn’t get a degree that would promise me a lucrative career; imagine spending years studying Theology and Christian Social Ministry. It doesn’t bring in much money even though I earned my Master’s Degree – nevertheless I loved every bit of my studies. A part of me wishes I could go on further but time, location, and cost give me reason to pause!

Where I’m located (Burundi) also presents a problem as far as the wisdom of this world is concerned. I’m far from family, friends, and my home culture – I can’t tell you how painful it is to be far from our families but The Name is worth the living and giving of all of our lives (see Acts 5:41, that’s a blog for another day). To fit in, I’ve had to learn languages, cultural cues that make no sense to me, and face misunderstanding on every side. Why choose to be far away? Why choose such a road? How will you afford retirement (we have saved regularly but it’s far from what is projected that we would need later on in life, missions work is not lucrative)? How will you pay for all the things you say you’re going to do?

There are no easy answers to any of those questions as far as “normal” people are concerned and it’s painfully obvious that I’m not a normal person and I didn’t marry a normal person either. We are a terrific misfit couple and are comfortable in our “abnormal” normal (for us) life. This doesn’t mean we don’t struggle or feel anything, it simply means that the One Who pulls us to do what we do, hope for what we hope for, dream as we do, and trust when everything says “give up” is far more powerful than any opposition and hardship we face.

Who will step in and resuce me when things go upside down? Not anyone who has tried to convince me to do something more “reasonable” with my life – for they would find something unfortunate to say even if I lived “safely” according to what the world thinks is wise. The only One Who has the power to save, and has saved me each and every time I’ve needed it, stands by my side keeping watch over me and mine.

Psalm 11:1,4 LB “How dare you tell me, ‘Flee to the mountains for safety,’ when I am trusting in the Lord?…But the Lord is still in His holy temple; He still rules from heaven…”

He still rules and that is more than enough for me.

 

 

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Comfort Death Loss Love Ministry The Unexpected Why

Leave Your Shoes At The Door

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Two weeks ago, we received the very sad news that a young woman, a niece of one of our church members, had died suddenly. Until very recently, she had been a healthy young mother of 3 young children all under the age of 8. When this news came to us, immediately our hearts hurt for the family – especially for the young children who had lost their mother.

After Sunday service, a day or two after hearing the news, we went with other church members to the “kilio” (wake) where friends and family had gathered. According to custom, men sat outside in chairs that had been quickly set up under a makeshift tent. Women and children filed into a small front room from which all furniture had been removed. There were woven bamboo mats lining the floor where everyone sat. Most of the senior ladies sat closer to the bereaved, while those who weren’t so close as well as children sat along the opposite side of the room.

I followed the line of ladies into the room designated for them and brought my 10-year-old daughter along with me, we all left our shoes at the front door as it is customary to remove shoes when attending a wake. It may sound strange that my daughter accompanied me, however, the church member who we were visiting whose niece had died, is our children’s church director.It was only natural for children from church to come and show their love and support for their leader who is very much loved. This wake was the first time my little girl had experienced anything of this kind and I wondered how she would react. My worries were soothed when I watched her follow her friends and remove her shoes as they did, and sit on the floor with all the other children. I told her it would be alright if she wanted to sit with me but she declined, she wanted to be with the other children. Her bare feet mingled with those of her friends and her eyes took in the setting. Indeed, the Kingdom of God is seen in the children and I saw it that day when in the rawest of settings, my little girl embodied the love of the Kingdom when she sat to comfort those who mourned.

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We all took turns, one by one, hugging family members; the inevitable flow of tears and sobs ebbed and flowed throughout our visit. The children even took their turn to give their condolences and theirs was perhaps the most appreciated by their teacher as she talked with each one and took in their hugs and love ever so deeply. I understood even more on that day the priority that children take in the Kingdom of God.

Luke 18:16 NKJ“But Jesus called them to Him and said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; forof such is the kingdom of God.'”

Not many days after our visit, we drove to the graveyard and laid this young mother’s remains to rest. Present were her children, husband, and hundreds of friends and family. The weeping at the site is one sound I’ll never get used to and neither should I. The pain felt in those left behind is very real; if we ever become accustomed to the sound of death and the pain felt by those losing loved ones, how can we ever comfort them? We do know that life apart from the body is lived in God’s presence (2 Cor. 5:8), but there remains a real loss for those left behind. This is why we are told to “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). This “ministry of presence” brings strength to those whose strength is depleted when death comes knocking as it does for everyone, even multiple times, during our lifetimes as loved ones leave us when eternity comes to call.

Still, it remains in my mind some days later, the picture of the children’s shoes outside the front door of the house on a warm Sunday afternoon. I can feel the warm breeze blowing through the front door, hear the weeping of children, and feel the sting of death – and there was my little girl in the middle taking part in the “ministry of presence.” 

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