Posted in Choices, Courage, Destiny, Kingdom, Missions, Obedience, Rescue

It Was Good

When we landed in Africa back in 1987, the wonder of our surroundings took our breath away. The setting was picturesque: where we were to live was set on the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika with the mountains of Tanzania on the other side of the lake seen as a dim outline on the horizon. The afternoon we arrived, full of jet lag, I was sure that since I was in Africa my morning coffee was going to be an amazing event since Africa is known for its coffee.

My hopes were dashed when in the kitchen later in the day, all the coffee that there was to be found on the shelf was a small tin of instant coffee. I was horrified but decided to give the questionable powder, made in neighboring Tanzania, a chance. As a first generation American of Finnish decent, the importance of coffee in our culture’s daily routine is impossible to deny – and the words  “instant coffee” aren’t words we Finns dare to utter, even in jest, when speaking of coffee.

Weeks turned into months and I was still bound to drinking the sullied concoction of coffee-flavored powder and hot water. What I had learned, out of necessity in a very short period of time, was how to make mayonnaise, bake bread, and cook a meal from almost nothing. What escaped me was real brewed coffee. As my borders expanded personally, I braved going to town and the market by myself and learned to speak the local language which helped in all of my bold exploits. Everything I learned wasn’t a result of my curiosity; it came purely out of necessity and the process of learning often left me in a puddle of tears – but I learned over and over that those hard processes were good for me.

Yet, in spite of all my learning, a good cup of coffee in the land of coffee seemed out of my reach. Until one day when I was walking in the market and saw a pile of strange pale colored beans on the ground (for all things in the market were lined up on the ground). I asked the lady selling the strange beans what they were and to my delight she said, “kahawa” (coffee). Without hesitation I scooped up two kilos (a bit over four pounds) and headed home with high hopes of fresh coffee in my mind.

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I knew the coffee needed to be cleaned (obviously) and then roasted in our oven which was easy enough – but how was I to grind it? There was no store where I could buy a coffee grinder or anything like a coffee grinder; but I wasn’t ready to give up. I had seen the ladies in the villages grinding flour with large mortars and pestles, called a “kinu,” made of wood. Of course there were none that were ready-made to be found, I had to order one to be made. After what seemed to be months (which was really only a week or two) the elusive “kinu” was delivered to my doorstep.

It couldn’t be too hard to grind coffee, could it? Once I had my “kinu” I got to the serious business of grinding our coffee beans. The pounding was harder than I thought, it took a toll on my shoulders, but I eventually learned how to work with this contraption. The pestle (large stick that pounds into the mortar) was heavy and it worked best when allowed to fall through my hands and smash the beans. In time, I was able to grind a week’s worth of coffee in minutes without having sore shoulders afterwards.

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I really have used a “kinu” many times and each cup of coffee made it worth the effort! PS – pls ignore the 80s hair and bad perm not to mention the SHOES!

2 Corinthians 1:8-10 LB “I think you ought to know dear brothers, about the hard time we went through…We were really crushed and overwhelmed, and feared we would never live through it. We felt we were doomed to die and saw how powerless we were to help ourselves; but that was good, for then we put everything into the hands of God, who alone could save us…And He did help us and save us…”

It couldn’t be too hard, serving God, could it? Like grinding coffee, it seemed to me when I started out in my life of serving God that it would be simple enough to follow the Leader. Later on I came to understand that what appeared to be easy in the beginning turned out to be hard when the waves of opposition, misunderstanding, and lack met me, it seemed at every juncture. Those waves made it easy for me to want to quit.

Like you, I’ve wanted to quit on more than one occasion. Sometimes I’ve felt like quitting multiple times in a day and I imagine I’m not alone. But I’m still here, still moving forward, holding out hope against hope for a brighter tomorrow.  So what is it that keeps me going when giving up sorely tempts me to walk away? I can answer this question with a question: What is there to go back to? I’ve seen and experienced too much of God to give up on Him.

It is on the other side of my wanting to quit I find those miracles that I’ve prayed for, so the process of being in a place of wanting to quit but refusing to puts me in a place of Divine intervention, and that is an honor. God doesn’t have to step in and save me, He owes me nothing and I owe Him everything, but He always does what He does best: He comes to my rescue. This honor is offered to all but only few dare to walk far enough past the proverbial “line drawn in the sand” to receive it. So it was good when I found myself powerless to help because it placed me in a place of trusting God, hoping in and believing that His promises are true.

Psalm 16:6 ESV “The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.”

Those lines we draw of wanting to quit bring us to what otherwise would have eluded us – a beautiful inheritance. In reality, the lines are pleasant lines if we can just see past what has gotten us there.

So it was good that I was doomed.

So it was good that I was helpless.

So it was good that I was powerless.

For the lines have now fallen for me in pleasant places.

 

Posted in Choices, Church planting, Endurance, Faith, Journey, Ministry, Missions, Perspective, Questions, Rescue, Rest

Drop It

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My life has been spent carrying things. I have carried my babies, their bags, bits of furniture, luggage, cardboard boxes, not to mention the countless groceries I’ve carried from store to home. I’m that mom who would rather nearly break her arms carrying 25 grocery bags than having to return to the car more than once.

I didn’t even mention the times I’ve carried my children’s back packs, school books, PE supplies, and lunch boxes. My firstborn started going to school in 1991 in France and I’ve been carrying my kids’ school things ever since. I calculated that by the time my 4th child finishes school, I will have been carrying school supplies for 30 years. That’s a long time to be carrying things.

I want to get carrying things over with – but there seems to be no end to my burden bearing.

“Mom, can you carry my jacket?”

“Mom, can you bring my water bottle?”

“Mom, can you please carry my bag? I’m so tired!”

Here in Africa, my litany of complaints is really very petty in the face of what I see people here carrying each and every day. It doesn’t matter the whether they feel well or not for in Africa, carrying things is often the hinge that swings the doors of life to be open or closed.

Women have to haul water for their families daily as many, if not most of them, have no access to running water in their homes. Without water, life simply comes to a standstill. Someone has to fetch water for the children to drink, to wash dishes and clothes, to bathe, and to water thirsty crops. After hauling the water, there’s firewood, harvested crops, and food to haul. All the while, babies that are too small to be left alone are carried on their mothers’ backs.

When you see people here carrying their loads here, they’re bent low under the weight of their burdens. Every muscle in their bodies seem to tremble with each step with the effort they put out to move forward.

Indeed, my little burdens seem very insignificant.

Psalm 146:8b TLB “He lifts the burdens from those bent down beneath their loads.”

As those who labor strain under the weight of their loads, so many of us today are straining under the various loads we carry daily. We might not carry firewood or water, but the loads we carry are heavy nonetheless. The strain can be seen in our faces; it feels as if we can’t take another step but somehow, we manage to put another foot forward.

Some time ago, I helped a lady who was a pedestrian passing me by as I walked nearby our house. She had a baby on her back and was carrying a suitcase. She also had, if I remember correctly, a load on her head. She had dropped her umbrella and while many were passing her by, no one stopped to help her pick it up. When I saw she needed help, I picked the umbrella off the ground and gave it to her and also helped to better secure her baby’s blanket that was tightly wrapped around her. She quietly said, “Dzikomo” (translated “Thank You” in the local language of Chichewa) and I smiled at her. Then, she was gone on her way.

I have this picture in my mind; we’re like this lady trembling under the strain of the load she was carrying with no one to help. We’re all alone, no one is bothering to notice that we’re about to buckle under the heavy weight that we’re carrying.

People in this world will disappoint us and we often further disappoint ourselves when we expect others to understand us or want to help us when it feels as if we are going to collapse under the weight of life. We would do well not to project these expectations on others as we don’t know what weights they’re carrying – perhaps they’re hoping we would help them carry their burdens. It might be they’re not as thoughtless as we think. We never know what other people are facing from day to day and the very thing we’re hoping they would do for us, they might be hoping we would do the same for them.

Enter Jesus – He Who can live up to and surpass all expectations we might have. No, He doesn’t “live up to” what standards we might set. He actually exceeds them. It is in this exceeding (Ephesians 3:20,21) that we misunderstand His abilities. We wonder, “Why didn’t You come sooner? Why did I have to carry this so far?” The answer isn’t what we would suppose it to be for the answer is found in the form of a question or two: “Why did we wait so long to give Him the load? Why did we hold on for so long?”

In 2018, may we all learn to let go of the bags; to drop them. He’s ready to lift them.

 

 

Posted in Rescue

Knights, Bailouts, and Rescues

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Stories of rescue, someone defying the odds, warm my heart. Accounts of Robin Hood and other stories of old when the King would come riding in to save the day are what fairy tales are made of. I especially enjoy a story when someone, the “underdog” is saved from doom or ruin, or love stories where things are made right – a perfect Sunday evening “good vibes” movie where the guy and the girl, against all odds, come through.

On the other side are the stories of those who “got what they had coming to them.” Cheers when the bad guy goes to jail or the swindler gets caught. No, I don’t like it when the bad guy gets away, or is otherwise “bailed out.”

When I hear the word, “bailout” I think of the recession that hit back around 2008/09. During that time, there were businesses that were bailed out by the government; many of these organizations receiving help were at the core of the recession. They didn’t deserve the help but, according to people much wiser than myself, it was needed to save not only the companies that received the bailout but also had a ripple effect in saving the economy from total ruin. What I am sure of is that it wasn’t a good time for many people and we wondered why companies that caused the trouble in the first place were given a bailout they didn’t deserve!

Then, just at the moment when I feel most self-righteous, I remember that there was a time, many times in fact, when I also needed a bailout. For the most part, I likely didn’t deserve the rescue, much like those companies who that didn’t deserve bailing out. I simply didn’t merit any help, or was in any way worthy of rescue; I deserved whatever consequence was coming my way.

Thankfully, my God is One Who doesn’t care about my worthiness, for I am, without Him, totally unworthy. The reason he chooses to bail me out of my predicament, to rescue me, is this: I know the right Person to call on, I have my Knight coming on His horse, swords waving, to rescue me, the apple of His eye. I know what strings there are to pull: faith, belief, trust, in Him! I’m undeserving of such grace, and truth be told, none of us are. He arrives on the scene with unlimited resource that, unlike government bailouts, doesn’t have to be paid back – we couldn’t pay Him back even if we tried.

The rescue doesn’t usually come wrapped in the shining armor of a knight; that means it won’t be an instantaneous rescue. God’s rescues, while undeserved on our part, never come as we suspect. They come in the most unexpected, almost surprising, of ways and are usually “in the works” for a very long time before we ever even know that we needed them.

Judges 13:1-5 NLT “Again the Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight, so the Lord handed them over to the Philistines, who oppressed them for forty years. In those days a man named Manoah from the tribe of Dan lived in the town of Zorah. His wife was unable to become pregnant, and they had no children.  The angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah’s wife and said, ‘Even though you have been unable to have children, you will soon become pregnant and give birth to a son.  So be careful; you must not drink wine or any other alcoholic drink nor eat any forbidden food.  You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and his hair must never be cut. For he will be dedicated to God as a Nazarite from birth. He will begin to rescue Israel from the Philistines.’ ”

In this story, Israel had sinned again and as a result ended up oppressed by their archenemy the Philistines. God did not send His people into captivity; their sin sent them into captivity. Time and again He warned His people of the consequences of sin – and they knowingly gave into sin and ended up oppressed.

How many times has that happened to me, to you? Times when we’ve been warned, clearly informed, that there would be consequences to our actions but we “knew better” and, in the end, needed a rescue because we were so stubborn? We didn’t know as much as we thought we did – but God has always been faithful, preparing our rescue before we knew we needed it.

Samson, when he was born, was unable to rescue Israel. He had to grow up first; there were some years in between the beginning of the rescue and the actual rescue. During that time Israel continued to be oppressed – but the rescue was on the way. All the time they waited, I’m sure they wondered, “Isn’t it time for the rescue yet?”

Samson was, if you read his whole life story, not a “normal” judge. He was impatient, impulsive, quick to anger, made poor choices, and still God used him to defeat the Philistines and release the Israelites from their oppression. Who would have thought God would choose someone like Samson to deliver Israel? Yet in chapter 16 of the book of Judges in his life’s final moments when it appeared all was lost and God’s rescue plan had failed, he killed thousands of Philistines and God’s rescue came. It seemed to come suddenly, but it was not sudden at all – God had planned this rescue for many years.

As I write this, you are most likely in the middle of one or more situations that require a “bailout” because you just don’t know what to do. Let me encourage you – before you asked for it, God began preparing the rescue for you. It may not be time yet for the rescue to come, but it will certainly come at just the right moment.

Remember, Israel waited for years for Samson to become a judge, and even when he did become a judge, it didn’t seem that he would be able to rescue them. Samson was a busy chasing woman, killing lions, and getting the Philistines even angrier at Israel. No, it didn’t’ appear that Samson would be able to save Israel at all. All the while, as Israel waited (sometimes impatiently, wondering if indeed Samson was the means of God’s rescue) God was working, weaving His plan into the course of time. You see, God lives outside of time. When He sent Samson, time and eternity met for God reached into time and sent His answer in a small baby; a baby who was not only an answer to the prayers of his parents who had not had children, but also in answer to the prayers of an entire nation.

In the same way, God has reached out from eternity and sent your answer. It’s now time to wait for the answer, your Samson, to grow. While you wait, it may feel as though you are languishing away under the oppression of enemies like the Philistines. It may even seem that you saw some hope dawn on your horizon only to have those hopes dashed when the rescue apparently was lost in an unforeseen disaster. It is at that very moment of “all is lost” that God’s rescue will suddenly, as it did with Samson and Israel, dawn on the horizon.

While you wait for God’s rescue to come, never give up on His promises. Never, even for a moment, believe that God has turned His back on you. As it was with Samson’s rescue, so it will be for you. Suddenly, as if by surprise, there will come a moment when His answer to that prayer you breathed at your most difficult moment, will come.

The plan to rescue you is on its way.