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

Controlling the Chaos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Settling

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

This was my welcome to Blantyre!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Church planting, Courage, Goodbye, Hello

Suck It Up, Buttercup

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Here I am, starting all over again. I’m a mom of 4 (my youngest is 9), a grandmother of 1 (soon to be 2) and I’m still keeping the pace of a much younger me when we began planting churches in our early 20s. There’s a lot that goes into moving from country to country, sometimes continent to continent, to plant churches. Yes, it is very exciting to see a something born from nothing; our church here in Blantyre, Malawi, is barely a year old and I see the shadows of a great church forming from the humblest of beginnings.

Our “facility” is not really a facility. When we first started meeting, we met at our home on the front porch. Later, we rented a place to pitch our tent at a local school. Once God miraculously provided us with a piece of land, it was truly miraculous; we moved the tent to our land and began to settle. While we have yet to see any real development on the property, you can see the outlines of the foundation for a security wall fence and underneath our tent there are regular church activities taking place. The church is growing not only numerically but also spiritually; I can sense some roots going down and people growing stronger in their faith. For me to be even a small part in this eternal miracle is a great honor; I don’t take it lightly that God would allow me to see this happen over and over again when many never see a new church born this way ever in their lifetimes.

That being said, I do get “relocation fatigue” from time to time. Honestly, it’s not easy picking up and starting from the beginning every few years when the church we’ve planted and raised becomes mature enough for us to go and start another one. As the excitement and honeymoon phase of the church plant gives way to the bare knuckles work of growing the church, I begin wondering how much longer I have to enjoy where I find myself working. If I’m not careful, I can pull myself away to keep from feeling too hurt when it is time to hand over the work to the national sons and daughters God gives us to take over. We are, after all, missionaries, and our job is to work ourselves out of a job, right?

That reality doesn’t make leaving when the work is done any easier. Indeed, that knowledge helps us as we set things in order but when you pour your life into a work and then have to leave it – it leaves a mark. Those marks, those scars, are the marks we bear as a result of growing spiritual children. It’s a process that mimics growing our natural children. My first three children are now grown and I bear the familiar marks of motherhood: dark circles under my eyes, graying hair, a few wrinkles, stretch marks, and lots of dental work! Now that they are grown and on their own, I am overwhelmingly proud – but they’ve left me, and that has also left a scar. That scar is not a physical one, but one that I bear in my heart. It’s an ache that doesn’t go away, but accompanying the ache is a great pride that they are productive adults on their own that love God and their families. Releasing our churches is like watching our grown children navigate the world – it gives us great reason for joy as well as great reason for tears.

We are still in the season of heavy plowing and pushing away great piles of dirt to lay deep foundations that will hold this church, hopefully, for many generations to come. Yet, somewhere in the deeper recedes of my soul I find myself wondering if, after a lifetime of farewells, I have the stamina to keep saying goodbye. Goodbye to family, friends, and churches – but what is the alternative when so many are waiting to hear hello?

“It’s time to shake it off, then, have a cup of coffee, and suck it up buttercup,” I say to myself. I’ve learned when it feels like I can’t take another step, I simply put my foot out and step again. That’s when life becomes truly powerful because there’s none of my power left.

2 Corinthians 4:7-10 NKJ “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed – always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”

So suck it up buttercup and take that step. You know you can’t do it alone, that’s why now by His grace you can. Someone is waiting for you to say hello.