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Excuses Journey Minimalist Missionary Perspective Value

Just Wear The Necklace

I’m a minimalist. I don’t care for excess “fluff” in my house. Give me the basics; I need clean lines and easy-to-maintain surroundings. Looking around my home and through my very-much-in-need-of-an-update wardrobe, the theme “less is more” definitely stands out. What I didn’t know until recently was that minimalistic living is a “thing” these days and I am, as a minimalist, fashionable.

This news took me by surprise; never has it ever occurred to me that I would be on the fashion bandwagon. For a brief moment, very brief, I wondered what levels of fame my unintended minimalism could catapault me to. I quickly realized that I’m too minimalist to bother with the hussle and bustle required to expound on the benefits of living with just what is needed, thus my dream of minimalist fame ended.

How much do I need? Not very much at all.

Our work as missionaries in Africa has moved me to several countries, and even continents, over the years and this has forced me to live only with what I need. In our early years of missions work, I would pack as many supplies as I could to make sure we didn’t run out of things like socks, dental floss, deodorant, and Ziploc® bags. As the years have passed, I’ve needed less with each move that we have made. To date, all we need to settle into a new country is: two or three changes of clothes each, two pairs of shoes, toothbrushes, deodorant, and a set of plates and cutlery for four. Finances of course have played a major role in our need to live as simply as we have, but we’ve never lacked anything that we have needed.

This is why when, around 20 years ago, my husband purchased a beautiful gold necklace and matching bracelet for me, I struggled to wear it in public. We were in the States for the holidays (we have only made it back to be with family for the holidays a handful of times in over 30 years of missions work) and while we were out shopping, trying to buy Christmas presents for our family, he noticed me admiring a necklace and bracelet. The thought of him noticing still brings a smile to my face all these years later. Christmas morning I was stunned when first of all, he gave me a gift as we usually don’t exchange gifts. Then when I opened the beautiful box I saw the very necklace and bracelet I had admired; my heart just melted and he is still garnering points for that Christmas gift all these years later.

Yet I struggled with “what will people think” if I wore the necklace and bracelet? Any time someone complimented how beautiful they were when I wore them, I found a way to explain the blessing away. Thus the necklace and bracelet were tucked away, only to be used for special occasions such as weddings and graduation services.

In our travels, the necklace and bracelet still in the original box, remained in the States while we were in Africa. I reckoned at some point I would bring it with me as my home is here; but I still found it difficult to reckon with the idea of wearing such a beautiful piece of jewelry that I obviously didn’t need – but loved.

Two weeks ago, my son Stephen messaged me and his first words were, “Don’t worry Mom, I’m alright.” That sentence flagged me immediately; there was something unusual going on. Steve went on to explain that there had been a theft at the house and among the items lost were the necklace and bracelet. I was stunned and hot tears formed at the backs of my eyes. Thankful first of all that Steve was alright, I took pains to make sure that he wouldn’t feel guilty for the loss of the items. The last thing I wanted was for him to feel guilty for the theft, the only person who ought to feel guilty was the one who did the stealing!

The police were called, we pressed charges and after a few days we found out the person who stole from us (who has been apprehended) had also stolen from others and is likely to spend quite some time in prison. Through a series of events and help from the local detectives, my bracelet and necklace were found. Steve messaged and sent a picture of the items which I immediately identfied (I recognized the clasp that I had bent). Unfortunately, there’s a chance we will have to pay about $500.00 to retrieve them – but that they were found is a miracle in and of itself. I’m praying that another miracle will be found in God’s handbag that will save us from having to pay the $500.00.

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My necklace in the background and bracelet found by my son and the police.

Living as a minimalist has its definite pros that have helped me move from place to place with less stress, but I had allowed my thinking of living with less to translate into feeling ashamed. I was ashamed, felt as if I didn’t deserve or as if people wouldn’t understand why I, a missionary, could have something as beautiful as the necklace and bracelet.

When they were stolen, I mourned their loss and thought, “Why did I have them anyway?” And just like that, I let them go internally, knowing they would never be recovered. All the while as I was talking myself out of ever seeing them again, a small voice scolded me saying, “Why didn’t you enjoy them while you had them? Why can’t God bring them back to you?”

You see God isn’t a thief (John 10:10), He didn’t give me those two pieces of jewelry for them to sit in a drawer and then be stolen. He gave them to me to enjoy them, for them to serve as a reminder of how much my husband cares for and values me. How had I come to devalue myself as I had?

I will keep living with just what I need; I don’t need very much and don’t want to be bothered with so much stuff that I spend more time caring for what I have than for the people in my life. God is interested in people, they are what He values (John 3:16) but sometimes He will bless us with something we don’t need just to remind us that He’s Dad and loves to surprise us like that.

We will travel Stateside for a time of travel, itinerating, and reporting on the work here and while we are there we will work on retrieving that beautiful necklace and bracelet. There’s one thing that is for sure, when we finally do retrieve them –

I’ll wear the necklace.

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My necklace when it was recovered. I think I’ll wear it!

 

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
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?