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Faith Familiarity Fasting God's Word Ignorance Kingdom New Year Fast Perspective Rejection

However

My daughter has an amazing imagination; she’s easily moved by things she sees and hears. I have to be watchful about what books, TV shows, and media she is exposed to as she will often have dreams (good and bad) about what she’s read or watched. More times than I can remember, she has come to my room in the middle of the night and cuddled next to me because of a bad dream she has had.

My mother-in-law rocked all of her grandchildren to sleep, and is now rocking all of her great-grandchildren so far, by singing the song, “Be Careful Little Eyes.” There’s more truth to that little song that we need to cling to than most of us understand. There are only 2 doors of entry into anyone’s thoughts and that is through what is seen and heard.

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Rocking chairs are the best places to fall asleep.

Unfortunately we tend to desensitize ourselves throughout our lifetimes by allowing ourselves to be exposed to things that do little to build us or help us grow. Indeed, we need to be informed of what is going on in the world – but how much do we need to listen to in order to be informed?

Ephesians 1:15b-20 NLT “…I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.”

It would seem that what we need to know is not the wisdom of this world but rather God’s wisdom that we find in knowing Him. We know God more when we spend more time with Him. I have a suspicion that many of us know more about politics, health trends, celebrities, and fashion than we know about our Savior.

The person that I know best in this world is the one I spend the most time with: my husband. I’ve worked side-by-side with him nearly all of our married lives. It’s not always been easy but the more we work together, the better we get to know one another, and the better our working relationship becomes. Sure we’ve had to learn to give and take; sometimes I give more, sometimes he gives more but in the end we get things done.

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Climbing Mount Heha in Burundi with our daughter Andreya.

The relationship we have with God is much the same – the more time we spend with Him, the better we get to know Him. You may think I’m only referring to time spent reading His Word and praying, and yes that is an extremely important part of getting to know Him, but I’m also referring to spending time with Him in other ways. We can be with God when we spend time with other believers, because when 2 or 3 of us gather, He is with us (see Matt. 18:20). We also can spend time with God in worship, alone or with others (see Ps. 22:3). We simply need to be a bit more aware of what we are doing in order for us to connect with Him wherever we are – because He is always with us (see Ps. 139:7).

I dare go further and say that we will filter what we hear God saying to us through a filter of what we know better: Him or this world.

Luke 8:18 AMP “So be careful how you listen; for whoever has a teachable heart, to him more undersanding will be given; and whoever does not have a longing for truth, even what he thinks he has will be taken away.”

Perhaps the most important quality we can possess is being teachable; having the ability to absorb truths that God is trying to communicate to us. We can’t take His truths in, however, if we are better acquainted with the world’s system than we are with God’s because we will naturally reject things He is saying because they “don’t make sense.”

God’s way of doing things run cross-grain to this world; He won’t be influenced in any way by popular opinion or reason.

Luke 8:40-56 gives the account of Jesus’ healing of not only a woman who had a long-standing hemorrhage, but also of Jairus’ daughter who died before Jesus could get to her side. In verses 51-53, Jesus enters Jairus’ house and found a crowd of mourners that had gathered “lamenting for her.” Jesus told them to stop crying as the girl was only asleep and He was summarily mocked – because everyone knew the girl was dead, what more could be done?

What follows the laughter of the crowd can easily be missed as it is only 1 short phrase in length: vs 54, “He, however.” Not minding the crowd, Jesus moved ahead and moved against common sense: the girl was dead. Indeed, she was dead, but that did not matter because “He, however” had other plans.

This year and beyond I want to live in “however” and I can only live in “however” when I know Him better than I know my natural circumstances. Getting closer to Him will help me walk by the crowds into “however.”

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O Be Careful Little Eyes

Oh, be careful little eyes, what you see.
Oh, be careful little eyes, what you see.
There’s a Father up above, looking down in love,
So be careful little eyes, what you see.

Be careful little ears what you hear
Oh, be careful little ears, what you hear.
There’s a Father up above, looking down in Love,
So be careful little ears, what you hear.

Be careful little mouth what you say
Oh, be careful little mouth, what you say.
There’s a Father up above, looking down in tender love,
So be careful little mouth, what you say.

Be careful little hands, what you touch
Oh, be careful little hands, what you touch.
There’s a Father up above, looking down in tender love,
So be careful little hands, what you touch.

Be careful little feet, where you go
Oh, be careful little feet, what you go.
There’s a Father up above, looking down in tender love,
So be careful little feet, what you go.

Author: Unknown

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Despair Destiny Endurance Faith Family God's call Missions Perspective Rewards Sacrifice Thanksgiving The Call of God

Always

I’m happy.

The fact that I can say that despite all of things that need attention around me makes my head spin. I have so many frying pans in the fire that I’m running out of firewood! Spreading myself thin has taken on a new meaning in the past few years. By no means is this a complaint – I wouldn’t live a life other than the one I am now living – but if I’m not careful I can quickly slip into feeling overwhelmed, sad, and helpless wondering about what I left behind in the wake of answering the call that lies before me.

I tried a few times in my lifetime to fit into the normal mold of what a Christian mother/wife/leader (whatever I am) is supposed to look like. The popular Bible studies and books meant to “better” my life all lined my bookshelves; they didn’t just line my bookshelves, I read them all and I learned, oh did I learn, that I am an enigma among my peers. This has caused me great frustration over the years; I would find myself wondering (and sometimes still do find myself wondering) what was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I be just like everyone else and be satisfied with what normal people are satisfied with?

I’ve long dreamt of a home of our own to settle down in. My husband and I have tried a couple of times to “settle down” and do what we thought was expected/needed from us. I lived in a house in the USA for just over 2 years that I loved. I thought this was to be the place where my grandchildren would visit me and I would finally be able to “nest.” I kept it well; I loved it so – but the tug for what waited for me on the other side of the horizon called my name every morning and evening.  I planted a garden and a hedge and it was beautiful but there came a time when a choice had to be made and we drove away from that home for the last time. We once again said goodbye and boarded a plane, looking for the place that kept calling our names from the other side of the world.

I’ve dreamt of being a normal mother and grandmother. Well, I know I’d never be normal in the classic sense of the word, but I have dreamt of being accessible, nearby, to see my grown children have children and watch their families grow. I pictured myself wearing bright red lipstick, driving with my grandchildren to buy toys and ice cream and feeling their little arms around my neck and telling them how much I love them. Seeing them through Snapchat, Instagram, and Facetime does little to soothe the ache that fills my chest whenever their names are uttered. Then, they resume living and I hear our names called from far and I have to answer.

On a far less serious note, I’ve dreamt of having a dishwasher, a SUPERMARKET with lunch meat, hairspray, shampoo, soap, and Ziplock bags, and a nice salon where I can get my hair done – ice cream would be amazing too.

In the distance, however, a people calls our names and where they are, I can’t find any of these things but what I do find in doing God’s will brings me deep joy that I can’t explain.

I suppose today’s blog is my Thanksgiving blog and I have so much for which to be thankful – and at the same time I find myself wishing that the traditional Thanksgiving turkey would be on our table tomorrow. I wish for the day to be surrounded by all those who are far, to hear a loud football game playing on TV for my husband, to pray a Thanksgiving prayer and tell each one how much I love them.

But a traditional Thanksgiving is not in the cards for us this year. We don’t have a turkey, no stuffing, no eggnog, no gravy, and no football game (although I’m quite sure my youngest son will find a way to send his dad a link to view the game). What is in the cards for our Thanksgiving is a day with those who are here with us. We will have, of all things, homemade enchiladas with salad and a cake for dessert. With those family members and friends we have here we will give thanks, thanks for all we have and for the opportunity to answer the call. Yes, I thank God for the opportunity to say yes, to obey Him, to grow enough in courage and faith to answer when He called.

The call took away so much of what we would consider “dear:” family, friends, culture, language, finance, and more. Things that you don’t think you would miss like toothpaste and your preferred brands of shampoo suddenly become a big deal when every day you are reminded of all that you have left to answer Heaven’s charge.

While all of this could sound bleak to one who’s never answered their call, those of us who have heard our names calling us from lands afar, “count it all joy.” (James 1:2-4)

Psalm 119:2 LB “Happy are all who search for God and always do His will.”

 

 

Categories
Choices Control Courage Faith Finishing Ministry Missionary Missions Sacrifice Sorrow The Call of God Vision

The Giving Up

Psalm 45:10 LB“I advise you…not to fret about your parents in your homeland far away.”

Living far from my homeland, where my children, grandchildren, and extended family live, has been a walk of faith. Sometimes I’ve wondered if I had what it takes to carry this kind of load, the “not to fret” kind of load.

I’ve been told when talking of living overseas all these years, “Oh, you’re used to it.” Indeed, I am used to this way of living on many levels. I can speak several foreign languages, live without A/C or power, shop for groceries like a pro in the markets, and even drive in foreign nations (it’s wise to take an antacid before trying to drive here).

However, I digress, there’s something that one never “gets used to” and that is the giving up to go. The giving up has less to do with giving up things and more to do with giving up being with loved ones. Each time I say goodbye I wonder how long it will be until the next hello. Will we meet again on earth or in heaven? Will my grandchildren know me? Will I matter to them?

In fact, with the passage of time, I have come to find that the giving up becomes increasingly poingnant as time goes by because the longer I live, the more I’ve missed in the lives of those I left behind.

My mother passed away when I was in Malawi in 2008. I had been speaking with her on the phone throughout her final illness and she kept saying, “I’ll get through this.” Sadly, she didn’t get through it here; instead she got through to her heavenly home. I remember flying home for her memorial service, having to surrender what I missed of her later years to my Heavenly Father. That lesson of losing a loved one while far away on a mission is not taught in any curriculum anywhere. There’s no homework, course study, or internship that could have possibly walked me through that time, it was all part of the giving up to go – the offering that is made not of money or possessions but of sacrifice.

Last year when we had our most recent trip to the USA, we spent time with our son and his family who had just had their second child, a beautiful girl (their first is an amazing boy). The few days we had together were a highlight – I now understand what all the hype is about concerning grandchildren. The day we were to leave, I felt a wave of emotion of the kind I’ve never experienced before when I held those two precious little ones before climbing into the car. There was no way to hold back the flood of tears that spilled over onto my cheeks. I imagine no one knew what to do with me as I’m not usually given to tears. Yet, there I stood, much to my chagrin, crying ugly tears as I gave up to go.

The morning we left, my thirdborn son, together with my daughter and son-in-law who are now here serving with us, was helping us put the final touches on our packing. He’s a man in his own right, but as I looked at him past his beard and 6-foot stature, I saw the face of a little boy mischeviously peeking around the corner of the living room to watch Jurassic Park when we had told him he was too small to watch such a scary movie. I cried again leaving him behind that morning, alone but not alone.

Some hours later, we stepped onto our return flight to Africa. There was a strange heaviness in my steps that hadn’t been there before; the ugly tears were still flowing as we waited for the plane to take off. In years past, as a young missionary, I had my children with me and the excitement of the mission overtook any overwhelming sadness. We were headed for adventure! Now, having lived a little while and having felt the painful lessons of loss, my sacrifice became increasingly real. The question that arose in my mind in tandem with the hum of the jet engines almost taunted me, “Is He worth giving all of them up to go?”

I found myself stepping off a plane onto the tarmac at the airport here in Bujumbura a few months ago; the mountains vaguely visible through the haze of the dry season. The warm breeze blew past my face and the tears, still flowing, fell to the ground. This land where we started our work planting churches had called us back and there I was, standing in the heat holding my youngest daughter’s hand tightly. Memories of years past played in my mind of the victories and defeats we had faced all for a dream to see a church planted when everyone else thought it impossible.

I wonder how many have had the chance to offer a sacrifice and how many have held on instead of letting go? How many people are waiting around the world for those among us to give up so they, too, can go with us to our Heavenly home when He calls? Perhaps I’ve not given the best offering or had talent to woo the thousands, but I’ve given what I have had to give and will keep giving even when it feels there’s nothing left so others might also go.

And those tears? He has counted each one and bottled them, waiting for the Day when all tears will be wiped away and sorrow will be gone. Until then, He is welcome to have all my tears, my offerings, my sacrifices – as unfit as they are for Him – because He gave His all for me so all of me has become His.

Psalm 58:6 NKJ“You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book?”

Categories
Bible reading Faith Fame God's call Perspective Popularity Purpose Success

Only Then

 

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Success. It’s what everyone dreams of and hopes to achieve in life.

To be honest of my own aspirations, I dream of one of my blog posts go viral one day. I think anyone who pours themselves into their writing (or any craft they devote themselves to for that matter) hopes that their efforts will be recognized.

Musicians strive to record the best songs, post them on YouTube and hope someone will recognize their talent.

Athletes will train for years dreaming of making it to the Olympics.

Preachers prepare and work on their messages hoping that their congregations will receive them well and even congratulate them on a job well done afterwards.

Just a side note here: Props to all preachers out there who spend hours preparing every week to preach a message to their congregations. Most of them are not the televangelist type. They are unknown, uncelebrated, not on TV, paid very poorly, if at all, but have a real desire to bring messages of substance to their congregations. They are the unsung heroes of the church world, ministering week in and week out to the people on the ground. My husband is one of those faithful preachers and I watch him prepare sermons weekly in a language that is foreign to him (this sometimes takes days) in an effort to reach the wonderful people God has given us. It’s mostly a thankless task but let me just say “well done” to him and all others out there who give their all for their congregations with hearts of integrity. Rant over and back to the subject at hand. 

When probed about our dreams, we’ll often take the “humble” route, saying we’re ok with whatever happens. However, truth be told, every time our efforts don’t produce the results we hope for, we feel the sting of disappointment.

I’ve read countless articles on writing and blogging; there are many topics I have read that have ranged from how to blog successfully, how to be a successful blogger in 90 days, 1-2-3 steps to a successful faith blog, monetizing your blog, and of course the blog articles with the most “bling” attached to them are the ones promising great income if you pay for their online course. Being the skinflint that I am (I’m not totally blind to the “click here to sign up for my paid course” gimmicks), I’ve signed up for free courses, free emails, and poured over articles about various ways of using hashtags, hyperlinks, and social media posts.

Just like you, when my efforts don’t reach my aspirations, I feel disappointed which then brings me to question why am I doing what I’m doing when it’s not been “successful?” This is the point when, if we dare to look beyond what is popularly defined as success, we can find true success. Instead of reading everyone else’s “how to” manual – we already have The Manual (the Bible, God’s Word) that has been tried and tested, but usually sits unread on our shelves and coffee tables:

Joshua 1:8 NLT “Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.”

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In the Kingdom of God, the way to success leads us in directions that often run crossgrain to what society popularizes. Success in the Kingdom is measured not by what appears on the outside but the changes that are produced internally when we change course and dare to become people of The Manual. God’s Word is meant to be a Manual for Living as the words in it, when we take them in and saturate ourselves with them, transform us.

Hebrews 4:12 NLT “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.”

This juncture of reaching success in the Kingdom is where many of us struggle – how can we be successful in this world we live in by living according to a different set of rules? The difference is found in what the 2 systems produce: this world’s definition of success relies solely on appearances, resulting in a great deal of stress and disappointment when unfulfilled, while the Kindom’s definition of success relies on the integrity of God Himself, resulting in a sure path to prosperity and success.

What is posperity and success in the Kingdom? It probably isn’t what most of us would consider prosperity: a fat bank account, stock options, a viral blog, or our own TV show. Success in God’s Kingdom is born from a heart trusting in His ways and following The Manual that leads to Him taking care of each and every step we take in this life. I’ve found this to be true in my own life as I live by The Manual, I am sure of God’s care for me. While I’ve not amassed much in this life compared to others, I’ve never gone to bed hungry nor have any of my children lacked food, clothes, a roof over their heads, a bed to sleep on, or an education to help them move ahead in life. If my Father has gotten me this far, I’m certain He will take care of me and my family to the end.

Is that not enough? Is that not success?

Categories
Change Church planting Courage Endurance Faith Holy Spirit Missions Patience Perspective Serving Unexplained Unknown

So It Is

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There are so many lessons to learn when a big change takes place in life. Most of the time I can, with relative accuracy, predict what the 2 main lessons in such a change will be (since I’ve gone through this multiple times): faith and patience. Faith to trust God when the next step is ambiguous at best and patience to walk down a path that might make me take more time than I had hoped to reach my destination.

I mistakenly thought I would bounce back from a move like this one we have just taken (from Malawi to Burundi) quickly; perhaps I was a bit presumptuous in thinking so. It was easy for me to think, “I’ve seen it all.” when really I haven’t touched the tip of the iceberg in life experience. Yes, I’ve worked overseas since 1987, yes I have moved multiple times across countries and continents, and yes of course I have experienced quite a bit – but I’ve not experienced enough to say I know it all.

The past weeks have reminded me that not all changes we make in life are equal. There are many factors that can figure into our reactions during changes in our lives, I won’t even try to list them there are so many, it can be mind-boggling as we try to make adjustments along the way. Thankfully, there is one constant truth that I cling to every time we have had to make changes (big or small) and that is God, my Father, loves me and always does what’s best for me. If I can manage to keep that truth in focus, everything else eventually falls into place.

It seems, as I look back on the past few months, that God is always teaching me the same lesson in a different way: trust Him and His process. If I resist the process long enough, God will simply bring me around again to another set of circumstances to teach me the same lesson again. Better to learn it the first time!

I used to be under the impression that our lives are meant to be lived for God so we can do something for Him; kind of a merit-based faith! Don’t mistake me here, I believe we give all we have back to God: our time, energy, talents, and possessions. However, we don’t give it all to get His approval or His blessings, Jesus already did the work for us so we don’t have to strive any longer. We have been given God’s approval in Him – we are blessed! Anything I might do in my lifetime for God is simply an expression of love that I have for Him and that lets me off the hook of seeking after merit!

Since God is after the best for me, not what He can get from me as I have thought in times past, it would seem the best course of action would be to trust His processes over my own. Those processes don’t make sense to my mind most of the time, but my heart somehow understands what God’s Spirit is leading me to do.

John 3:8 NIV “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

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Living this way, by the Spirit, can be quite intimidating in the sense that most of the time those around us are likely to misunderstand what we are doing. In fact, it might even seem a bit “flighty” to those around us. It might appear to those observing us that we don’t know which direction we are taking, and in this life of the Spirit so it is. We don’t really know where we are going. All we know for certain is that God is good and He takes us to the places where we need to go in order for Him to work in us and through us. This life is a big puzzle that God majestically puts together from start to finish – we just don’t know where those pieces fit much of the time until we look back and can say, “Now I see.” 

We’re after a goal that only God knows how we can attain, so as He leads may we follow – even to the consternation of those around us. So it is, we often won’t be understood or embraced, but if we dare to let God’s Spirit blow through us, nothing can hold us back from seeing the pieces fall into place.

 

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Change Courage Destiny Faith Finishing God's call The Call of God

Making the Mile

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What was I thinking? Who was I to join the junior high track team? At the time I was 12 years old and had never run a mile; I had never even thought of running a half mile.  Yet there I was, in the hot Florida afternoon sun running around a sandy football field wiping the sweat from my face to keep it from stinging my eyes. Day after day I pursued the goal of finishing a mile and day after day I failed.

I was the one who started multiple projects that I never finished. There are tens, possibly hundreds, of half-finished crafts floating around in the USA of things I had started but never completed. Cross stitch, rug hooking, paint by numbers, and more were projects I started with good intentions but after realizing the effort required to finish, I laid them to the side. I wanted amazing results with little effort or patience.

What was different about making the mile? I am not sure what the impetus was to get me to make that mile but whatever it was I had determined that running the mile wasn’t going to evade me. Evade me it did for some time but the day finally did come that I crossed the mile marker. While I never managed to become an Olympic runner or even place in a race at a track meet (that’s another story for another day), running the mile, to me, was equivalent to wearing a gold medal.

Numbers 13:20 NASB “How is the land? Is it fat or lean? Are there trees in it or not? Make an effort then to get some of the fruit…”

Moses had gone through quite a bit by the time Numbers 13 was written, to get Israel out of Egypt into the Promised Land. He had seen the people through plagues, the Red Sea, and had food and water miraculously provided for millions in a wilderness. It is as if he had been hand feeding them for years; I imagine he was ready for the people to begin bearing some of the burdens themselves.

When the people arrived to the border, spies were sent to check out the new land the nation was to possess and Moses said, “Make an effort…” In essence, he was telling those he was sending to try, work at it, and see what information they could bring back. He knew they would possibly face dangerous inhabitants or wild animals along the way and they would have to be courageous and sweat a little to complete the task. We know how the story pans out for all the spies, save two Joshua and Caleb, who went were against taking the land even though God had promised it to them reported that the land, while good, was overrun with giants – there would be no way to take it.

Were they used to having life handed to them on a silver platter? Had all the miracles spoiled them? Was their faith so shallow that they couldn’t see the God Who parted the Red Sea for them was the same God Who would wage and win the war for the land He had promised them?

They weren’t willing to put the effort in to what God had promised them and that is not how faith works. Faith to do the will of God requires effort on our part. Faith isn’t a 1-2-3 get-rich-quick scheme; faith is a way of life (Rom. 1:17) that gets us to where we need to go with what needs to go there with us.

Today many of us might be quick to criticize Israel’s doubt at this juncture, but if we were to look at ourselves honestly we would realize that we have often been guilty of the same. How many times has God delivered us? Helped us? Encouraged us? Provided for us? Why is this giant we are facing now so very different? If He delivered us before, surely, He will do it again.

We are required to put a little “sweat equity” into this walk of faith. Sometimes this journey is harrowing, fraught with impossibilities – but that’s where God comes in. He is ready to heal, provide, deliver, and open doors when we are ready to move forward with Him.

It’s time to make that mile, it’s time to sweat.

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?

 

 

Categories
Change Church planting Courage Destiny Dreams Endurance Faith Harvest Inconvenience Missions Vision

A Foreign Feeling

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This is likely to be a very different entry today. We are going through a change as we are headed towards Bujumbura, Burundi in the coming weeks. This move is different in that it will be the first time we are returning to live in a region where we have planted a church before. We’re going to take the lead pastor role in the first church we planted as our pastor presently on the ground is going to venture out and plant a new church in Kinshasa, DRC. At the same time, we are branching out into Mozambique; it’s all very exciting. The thought of branching into new regions, planting new churches, and even returning to pastor our first church – these all have me on my knees.

In 1991, after serving in the DRC (back then it was Zaire) for 4 years, we moved to plant a church in Bujumbura. We spent 9 crazy years there planting, plowing, praying, and digging a church out of the ground from scratch. They were rough years, but I consider them to be some of the most important and formative years of my life. Without them I wouldn’t be here today doing what I am doing. We were so desperate to fill the hunger in our hearts to plant a church that we went to amazing lengths to get the job done. There wasn’t much we didn’t face: financial challenges, health challenges, civil war, pressure to leave from outside sources, it was a total labor of faith and through it all – our God was faithful.

During those years, while we did experience an abundance of hardships, we also experienced great peace and comfort. It was a supernatural time when we knew God was in control and wasn’t giving us a job that was beyond His ability in us to handle.  We felt like we were living in the book of Acts when the church grew and had peace despite the persecution it had gone through (Acts 9).

Nevertheless, when God released us to launch out again and plant more churches, I never looked back and yearned to return. Together with my husband, we pressed ahead and moved on with the challenge to dream of new lands where we planted new churches and repeated the process over several times. I watched churches grow from nothing and national leaders take their place; I also watched my own family grow and one-by-one leave the nest. (Side note: Thankfully, I have one more at home who keeps me young and stirs the pot every once in a while to keep life interesting.)

It therefore was a foreign feeling to me when it became clear that our next assignment was going to bring us back to Burundi. I had become so used to being the one who would go scratch something out of the ground that even considering a return made my head spin. As the dust in my mind and spirit settled and I prayed into the idea, my heart began to expand in a new way. The same burden and fire that first sent us there in 1991 began to burn fresh in my heart and I now find myself aching to return, aching to reach for what this new era in our lives is to bring.

This past week we’ve had a house sale, letting go once again of household items and paring things down to a minimum. I initially dreaded this part of the process as it can be an exhausting time; I had found things here in Malawi that I hoped not to replace for a long period of time, if ever. Yet, now as I watch the shelves, chairs, and fans leave my home I’m surprisingly unaffected emotionally. I do wish I could have held onto my coffee pot for an extra week or two but the coffee press (French press to my American readers) is getting the job done for my morning brew.

I am now impatient to see the dream of 1,000 churches planted on the continent and somehow this huge move that involves not only our family but several others is a key to the dream coming true. Whereas before it was only a dream, a hope for the future, I can now actually envision 1,000 churches. It may be that this move is more about changing my perception of the vision and not God’s, for His remains the same. He already sees things that don’t exist and declares that they do – I now need to do the same.

Romans 4:17 NKJ “God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did;”

There are pieces in the puzzle that God is putting into place that I, at my ground level, cannot see – but He can. The challenge now is for me to lift my eyes and look forward and above instead of down at the ground as I’ve been used to for so long. Church planting requires a lot of “dirty work” meaning everything that needs doing the church planter does. Most of the time we have planted churches, we have had little to no help. We arrive at the border or airport with no one to meet us, no one to help us get started. Our focus for the first few years is always, understandably, on the ground God put under our feet to plow it, plant it, and bring in harvest.

I’m looking forward and above to focus on the bigger picture now – it’s a new day, a new moment to seize, and a whole continent to win.

I can see it now.

Categories
Courage Destiny Faith Fishing Missions Rejection The Call of God

Empty Boats

 

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Luke 5:2-6 NLT He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.’ ‘Master,’ Simon replied, ‘we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.’ And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear!”

I have felt unnoticed before; I’m sure there have been times you have felt that way, too. I imagine these fishermen in the above account felt a bit defeated, unnoticed, for all their effort as they worked all night long and catching nothing. Their work had no measurable outcome – but they had worked hard.

I’ve worked hard over seasons and seen nothing measurable resulting from it – all that testifies of my toil is the weariness enveloping me body and soul. This weariness has a cumulative effect as the more I work, the less it seems I have to show for it. For some reason, I keep trying because I believe that God’s Word is true. It just takes time for it to come into its season.

That doesn’t make the work any easier.

That doesn’t make me feel any more noticed.

What I have learned, and this is where the beauty of experience shines through, is that I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Someone is noticing my efforts. Some of those efforts are spot-on, and others are more self-centered. The times weariness overwhelms me is when my focus shifts to my shortcomings; I then easily forget that there’s Someone watching my efforts. During those times I am found taking extra time washing my nets, instead of casting my nets another time, for the disappointment becomes too heavy to bear.

Washing nets, focusing on myself and my disappointments, is easier to do than focusing on the hurting world around me. Those repeated disappointments, when I am not careful to focus on His goal and not my own, can make me feel rejected, unnoticed as it were. Dejected and exhausted, I find myself scrubbing and mending nets (licking my wounds) on the shore.

Until, that is, Jesus makes me aware fresh and new that He has noticed my empty boat. He has also noticed my efforts and He has gotten into my boat with me – and having Him with me changes everything.

“Now go out” is the call that comes to me in this new season of my life – and perhaps for you as well. It’s time to go out a little deeper; farther from the safety of shore where the only hope we have when storms arise is in Christ Himself.

When a fisherman spends more of his life on shore than in the water, his very value comes into question because fishermen are meant to fish. The kind of fish I’m after are out in the deep waters where waves and wind rise, but, I am born to fish (Matthew 4:19).

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The fish are not going to be found on the shore, they are there out deep in the water. There are some fish near the relative safety of shore, but the bigger schools of fish, the net-breaking, record-shattering ones are found where it’s deep.

Now go out.

 

 

Categories
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