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
Correction Family Love Parenting Perspective

How Are You Sleeping?

There are some things we can’t avoid.

As parents there’s no way out of nightly feeding, potty training, skinned knees, and many many tears. Just like we can’t get out of the hard things, there are also positive moments with our children that fill our hearts: the first word, the first step, the first laugh, graduation, marriage, and perhaps the best of all being GRANDCHILDREN.

I find it curious the amount of energy we put into lessening the blows of the negatives we face when raising our families. Theories abound on how to get our babies to sleep all night; the inevitable question, “How are you sleeping?” is bound to arise at some point. Of course no one is sleeping those first weeks, sometimes months, and for some children even longer as they resist every technique that promises parents several hours of uninterrupted sleep. Two of my four children fell into the category of “resistant sleepers” and the dark circles under my eyes still pay tribute to many midnight hours of rocking, praying, pleading, and halfway dozing in my chair with my baby in my arms. I’m sure millions of dollars in revenue have been earned by those writing the popular “how to” books for sleep training our children. Some work and some don’t; it all depends on the child.

The truth of the matter is that a child’s personality cannot be contained – what works for one won’t always work for another. Parenting is the one job I’ve had in my lifetime that has taught me, brutally at times, how to read situations from different angles, how to empathize, sympathize, and most importantly how to love in the middle of misunderstanding. While learning this I have had to, at the same time, maintain a standard for our children of what is important to us as parents. Truly parenting, not just having children, has been the challenge and joy of my lifetime.

I imagine, as God’s child, I have been a challenge to raise. I have resisted many of His prompts, schedules, and standards. He has sympathized, empathized, and loved me in the middle of the midnight hours and my loudest of tantrums. Never once has He compromised His stance, but in His discipline I never found rejection. On the contrary, I found a Father Who was true to everything He stood for and faithful to love in the middle of my refusing to settle down and trust Him.

I’ve heard it said that children are looking for boundaries, for safety, and will test those boundaries (albeit unconsciously perhaps) to see how much they are loved. While human parents will fail, I have failed miserably from time to time as a parent, God cannot. Human parents may give up on their children for one reason or another – God returns to us time again refusing to give up on any of us.

Could there be a better example of parenting? I don’t think so.

I used to think that my parenting career would retire at some point; that my children would no longer be as connected as they grew up and moved on into their own lives. This is true to a certain extent, our children need to form their own families without our overbearing interference. However, I’ve also found that I’ll always be their mom, that my heart will always be full when they call or message me, that there won’t be a day that I don’t think of and pray for them, and that I’ll always be there when they need me.

While my own mother has gone to heaven and I often feel the sting of her absence, and someday my own children will face my departure, I won’t face the absence of God, my heavenly Father, ever. I remember growing up into young adulthood and often resisitng my mother’s advice for one reason or another because I knew I could “do it better” than she did. As the years passed, I began to realize she knew much more than I did about many things and I began to seek out her advice. When she died I realized what a treasure of advice and counsel I had lost. In the same way, the older I get, the more I realize how much I need and rely on my Father’s counsel.

I”m grateful, so grateful, to have learned to trust Him rather than resist Him.

Life is beautiful in His family.

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On a side note, another innocuous change in me as a parent as I’ve grown older is found in my lunch offerings for my fourth child, our bonus baby. Yesterday, she had samosas (a fried slightly spicy meat pie that is the food of heaven) and marshmallows for lunch. I was tempted to feel “parent shame” until my oldest son (who I had messaged her menu to) said, “It’s ok. Let her enjoy life.” 

The student has become the teacher!

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Categories
Change Correction Cross Family Forgiveness Kindness Kingdom Missions

Be Nice

I remember one of my favorite things to say to my 3 older kids when they were growing up was:

“Be nice.”

Sometimes it felt nearly impossible to get through a day without a major crisis unfolding between 2 or all 3 of them. The oldest would pop the youngest over the head, the 2nd born (a daughter) would take great delight in getting her 2 brothers in trouble, and the 3rd born relished in the fact that he had it a bit easier than his 2 older siblings. Now, with a 4th one that came a full 15 years after our 3rd, you know there is a lot of “you didn’t do that for us” going around.

Well, I confess, there’s truth to that statement, but we learn as we go don’t we? While we were waiting for our first child to be born, I remember thinking how I would do everything better than everyone else (why I thought this I am not sure). I knew how I wanted to raise my child in a certain way that was better than everyone else’s. I was sure that my household would be quiet, peaceful, the laundry would always be folded, dinner on the table, and everyone would be nice.

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Fast forward 10 years and I found myself up to my neck in raising children, living abroad, and somehow working as a full-time missionary Africa. I honestly do not know how I made it through those days with my mind still somewhat intact. The amount of work that just goes into running a household here is stupefying; there is no fast food (thankfully), no quick place to shop (you go to the market which is an all-day ordeal), and keeping the house clean is a whole other blog for another day. All of this doesn’t take into account the work of the mission and church. At the end of every day (much like you wherever you are), both then and now, I wonder how I made it and continue to make it and follow my own counsel to “be nice.” Honestly, I wasn’t always as nice as I had hoped to be – but I always worked on it and am still working on it!

Ephesians 4:31,32 LB “Stop being mean, bad-tempered, and angry. Quarreling, harsh words, and dislike of others should have no place in your lives. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God has forgiven you because you belong to Christ.”

In the current supercharged world of “speaking our minds,” many have forgotten the need for those of us identifying as Christians to just be nice, be kind to each other. Everywhere we look these days be it online, TV, print, or in person there’s a strong negative current to “speak up for what is right.” We are ambassadors of the Kingdom and our righteous King, but we won’t convince anyone of their need for Christ if our righteousness is covered in ugliness. No matter the situation, Scripture is clear on the matter, we must be nice.

Society has always been ugly, humanity has always been divided, and the church can’t fulfill her mission when she looks, acts, and speaks like the world. Whatever happened to following Jesus advice to “Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29 NLT)

Have you ever noticed how exhausting it is to force change with anger or frustration? I wonder how many ulcers and troubles with high blood pressure could be averted by simply being nice. 

I learned this truth the hard way years ago serving here on the continent when I saw much hunger, injustice, and unnecessary death. I worked myself to the bone trying to bring change; no matter how hard I worked, no matter how many hungry and vulnerable children I fed, there were still more than needed feeding and despite my valiant efforts, people still went hungry. I became tired and bitter about my situation and the unfairness of it all – until one day, after sickness forced me to rest, I understood that anything pulling me from Jesus’ yoke that gives me rest is not His will for me. Over time I began to understand that this fallen world is full of sin and sin can’t be dealt with on our terms. Anger, frustration, overworking, and self-righteousness pull us away from His way to address man’s fallen nature by just being nice. The response of humanity to the message of the cross is not my responsibility; I am only responsible to bring the Good News. As long as there is sin in the world, there will be division, injustice, and pain.

This doesn’t mean we don’t speak the truth for Scripture clearly instructs us to “Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.” (Ephesians 4:15 NLT) What is our motive for speaking out and what is our method? If love for those we see lost in sin is our motive, then our methods will line up with Scripture – otherwise we are only adding fuel to the fire of division instead of bringing Christ in to redeem the situation.

How has frustration over the sinfulness of this world worked for us thus far? How has being angry helped any situation? Jesus walked this fallen earth and seldom was seen showing outright anger and frustration to the world; He had come to save them, give Himself for them – He died for them. His frustration was seen in the temple, among the “righteous,” who were too bsuy enriching themselves to reach out to those who really needed help – those outside of the temple (for us this can be taken to mean the church).

My youngest daughter loves the movie, “Frozen” and the theme song, “Let it go.” I rarely spiritualize animated movies but today I will make an exception. Those things frustrating you, those unfair, unrighteous, unholy, difficult things that anger you – let them go. Take Jesus’ yoke on you, He is the only One qualified to measure out judgment. Now is the time to be the church in the world, speak in love, and simply put:

Be nice.

 

Categories
Bible reading Correction Devotion Fasting Prayer

Day 21 – We Made It!

We made it to day 21! Congratulations!

This has, for me, been an amazing 21 days; it has been a very good fast. You may ask, “How can a fast be good?” The benefits of fasting far outweigh the discomforts and inconveniences we face when on a fast. Fasting is a time that we set aside to turn our concentration away from the noise of daily life and set our hearts to hear from God. This is what we’ve been doing and God has surely been speaking to my husband and I and our churches in Africa.

What we face as we return to “normal” life tomorrow is keeping the revelations of the fast before us instead of forgetting them when life hits us in the face. If we aren’t watchful over the ground we have gained spiritually during the fast, we will lose it very quickly. In spite of the fact that life is now going back to normal, we can’t live life as we did before and hope to preserve the treasures we have found during this time.

Proverbs 1:29-33 TLB “For you closed your eyes to the facts and did not choose to reverence and trust the Lord, and you turned your back on me, spurning my advice. That is why you must eat the bitter fruit of having your own way and experience the full terrors of the pathway you have chosen. For you turned away from me—to death; your own complacency will kill you. Fools! But all who listen to me shall live in peace and safety, unafraid.”

What we have experienced in the past has, at times, looked and tasted like “bitter fruit.” This happened because we didn’t choose to reverence the Lord, honor our relationship with Him. We became familiar with what is holy and we chose to turn away from Him and His advice. The journey of life lived this way is increasingly bitter and full of “terrors” because of our choices. It isn’t God Who brings destruction – our own complacency, lack of passion for God, that brings destruction.

Like you, I’ve heard it said many times we can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results. A fast like this one we have been on is meant to get our eyes off of our own opinions and to turn our focus onto God’s opinion. If we go back to living as we were before without making adjustments, life will certainly return to the way it was before the fast.

There are a few practical ways I’d like to share with you on what you can do to keep the “spiritual edge” you have gained during this special time. This is by no means an exhaustive list, just a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Create a vision board – where you post the things God spoke to you for this year. As a family, we have done this this year. Our vision board is in a prominent place in the house where we will see it often (Habakkuk 2:2,3). Ishah Whipple, one of our guest bloggers during this time, wrote a wonderful piece about vision boards. Click here to read more.
  2. Be diligent to spend consistent time in the Word of God and prayer. There are many Bible reading plans available online and in books, I encourage you to find what works best for you and stick with it. Prayer is not as difficult a discipline as we might think; prayer is simply communicating with God. God just wants to spend time with you. Write your chosen time in your daily planner – the time that works best for you – and stick to it.
  3. Create spiritual goals for the year that are attainable: reading books by solid Christian authors, taking a Bible class online or at your home church, and finding something that keeps you challenged spiritually.
  4. Be consistent with your attendance in your local church. If you’ve never taken notes during the sermon, maybe now is a great time to start.
  5. Involve your family in setting “God goals” for the year.
  6. When you fall short at some point, don’t give up. Pick up where you left off and keep going.
  7. Take short breaks for fasting during the year. For many years, I’ve fasted on Wednesdays to keep myself spiritually sharp. This past year I didn’t fast on Wednesdays as much as I would have liked – but that will change. I will be fasting more consistently on Wednesdays once again.

One of the main reasons people cite for not spending more time with God is that they “don’t have time.” Well, we make time for the things that matter to us. I encourage you to review your timetable and delete those activities that keep you from growing in your relationship with God.

I’m truly blessed that you have journeyed with me these three weeks, thank you. Now that the fast is over, I look forward to a wonderful vision-filled year! I’ll still be here, writing as The Cultural Misfit, talking about laundry, kids, church planting, coffee, and whatever else inspires me. I hope to find you here.

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Ah, now it’s time to go and get something to eat!!!

Categories
Correction Kindness Pride Sight Uncategorized

That Would Be Kind

A comment on my 5th grade report card still strikes me when I think of it today:

“Lea does not take correction well.”

Well that was embarrassing to admit!

Surprisingly, it was my English teacher who had written the comment. It caught me off guard, as I never suspected that I had made her feel this way. I had thought she was kind and might have even liked me – until that report card. Everything changed when I read her remark for I knew that there would be consequences to those remarks when my parents read them. Her correction stung. I felt criticized and angry. From that day forward I vowed to be perfect in class, to prove her wrong, but I wouldn’t forget how she wounded me.

As time went by, my participation (as I had vowed) was perfect. I worked hard, never interrupted and even began to draw praise from her. The following report was glowing on how I had improved. My parents’ praise lifted my spirits and I changed from wanting to prove her wrong to wanting to please her.

Psalm 141:5 NKJV Let the righteous strike me; it shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; it shall be as excellent oil; let me not refuse it…”

 NCV “If a good person punished me, that would be kind. If he corrected me, that would be like perfumed oil on my head. I shouldn’t refuse it…”

Correction. What a word. We use it primarily when referring to children, school, education, but rarely when referring to adults. Mentally I suppose this is because correction is meant for the immature, not those who have grown into adulthood. For some reason, there comes a time in life when we seem to “outgrow” the need for correction (or rebuke) and are expected to make it through life on our own with no help at all; no correction of how our sails are set if the winds are contrary.

Kindness. Another great word; it is not a word we would put into the same sentence or phrase with correction. Normally, I would think a kindness would be expressed in a way that makes me feel good, not in a way that challenged me to change. My feelings are to be soothed and reinforced – they need to be told how wonderful I always am or how unfortunate it was for someone to be unkind to me. If words or actions aren’t brought in this way, they are not kind.

Refuse. This is a word used very often when correction is involved. Children who are corrected often refuse to receive correction internally and only follow through with prescribed consequences because they, as children, have no choice. We’ve all heard the story of the child who is told to sit down but replies, “I may be sitting down on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside.” When we grow into adults, the inner refusal we suppressed all those years as children is free to be released and expressed. We are capable adults after all, aren’t we? We are going to stand up for everyone to see.

Most of us can see ourselves in the descriptions of children above yet we fail to recognize that while we are grown adults physically, we remain children of God eternally. The physical realm easily translates for us into the only reality to embrace, as it is the most “real” reality we can feel.

During the years of war in the Central Africa region (early 1990s-early 2000s) we went through and heard of many atrocities too horrible to describe. While war, the slaughter of innocent civilians, and economic hardship all took their toll on us, I think it was the callous disregard to what was really important that would strike me the hardest. A situation comes to mind when a friend, whose Bible school compound had been looted of tens of thousands of dollars of books, furnishings, and equipment, went to visit one of her acquaintances in a nearby village. As she entered the home, she recognized some of things in the home as items from the Bible school and she said those belong to the school. The reply to her statement was amazing, “Sister, that is church, but this is life.”

Correction, had this lady received it instead of hardening her heart, could have been a catalyst in the village for everyone who had stolen items in their homes to return them to the school. How very sad to think that she placed more value on the temporary rather than the eternal. Life, as we experienced in the time of war, is but a breath, here one moment and gone the next. While this may seem like an extreme example, its truth is universal and timeless.

How often have we been guilty of the same kind of thinking when it comes to correction that God brings to us through friends, family, His Word, sermons, worship or other avenues? Is it so wrong to be wrong? Isn’t it better to be corrected? Why do we prefer the consequences of a hard heart?

Pride is a terrible and unforgiving master and when pride rules our lives, it brings us eternal and far-reaching consequences. How long will we stand up when God has said to sit down? How long will we refuse correction before we understand that correction is actually kindness and not criticism?

There is a big difference between criticism and kindness. We primarily associate criticism negatively (although it can be used in a positive sense, it is rarely meant to be positive) as disapproval by someone. They perceive something we have said/done negatively and express their disapproval. This can make us wonder, how can a correction possibly be kind? The answer is simple for a correction is not a criticism, as we understand criticism. Correction’s motive is different from that of a criticism. A criticism is meant to wound while a correction is meant to bring positive change. What is to be gained in the correction by the one giving the correction? If the benefit of the correction will come directly to us, then it is a kindness.

If pride is our master, we find it difficult to bend our knees and sit down (for we have been standing up this whole time) and allow the correction to change us. This is a true kindness as it changes us and enhances who we are and what we do. But pride will refuse to change because pride can’t be wrong. The goal of pride is self-preservation and self-exaltation. How has that helped us so far? Where has that gotten us except far from where God wants to bring us?

I have read many books and articles in recent years on the need for mentors, teachers, leaders, and spiritual fathers in the church today. People, on one hand, cry out for fathers but do not allow fathers to speak into their lives. It is a conundrum of sorts. I don’t believe that there is a shortage of fathers as much as there is a shortage of children who are looking for them.

It’s a kindness when God corrects us and gets our sails set straight. He is the Captain and He sees the map, He knows the destination; may we allow Him to correct our sails. If we open our hearts to His kindness (His correction), He will give us those people we need in our lives to help us to get to our destinations.