Posted in Courage, Goals, Grace, Missions, New Year, Rest

Goals and Grace

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Setting goals. It’s what everyone does at the beginning of every year; we make lists of “resolutions” or “goals” for the year. I have a laundry list of things that I wash, rinse, and repeat every year: be a better wife and mom, get healthier, read more, give more, work harder in the mission, the list goes on. I have gotten very specific at times, to the point where, at the end of the year when I see that my list fell woefully short of completion or success – I got discouraged. Lately, my goals have gotten non-specific in order to keep myself from feeling totally defeated on December 31st.

In our day and age, we relish in the activity more than we do in those engaging in the activity and that, at least for me, has bled into how we perceive ourselves as successful or not. Don’t get me wrong, having well thought plans and goals are good. Without maintaining some kinds of goals, we risk stagnation in every area of life. However, if we place too much weight on the side of the scale of goals, it could interrupt the balance between goals and grace, we may find ourselves striving to achieve rather than running the race with endurance.

Hebrews 12:1b NKJV “…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

I believe we have exchanged what is meant to be the prize, being told, “Well done, enter in!” (Matt. 25:21) for what we can achieve in the here and now. The measures of success in God’s Kingdom have to do with His grace, not our works (Eph. 2:8). By His grace we are enabled to endure and finish the race, and if we learn to run in the cadence, as it were, of grace we will go far and see much accomplished for the Kingdom.

This year as I set my goals I’m making a change. I’ve decided that His grace is great enough to help me see Him do great things through me – not the other way around. In myself, the little that I can achieve isn’t even mediocre in comparison to what He can do with His great power if I just sit back and let Him take the driver’s seat.

Acts 4:33 NKJV And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.”

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Posted in Choices, Church planting, Fasting, Missions, Rest

Go To Sleep

“Don’t worry!”

Easier said than done, if truth be told, especially when the unexpected happens.

A few Sundays ago, Jamie (my husband) preached a message at church challenging us to rest, to trust God, in spite of what’s going on. The phrase he used to describe how we should rest that stuck out most in my mind was, “Go to sleep.” I couldn’t help but smile when, unexpectedly, I heard the tune of a familiar lullaby playing over the speaker as he was closing the message and praying for people, “Go to sleep, Go to sleep, la, la, la, la, la, la, la…” As a pastors wife, we actually don’t want out people falling asleep in church; however, the tune was a good fit for the moment and to keep the congregation awake, he had us all stand up.

Oh the things that happen in church!

It’s impossible to predict what might happen from one service to the next, especially in a brand-new church plant where no one is the “churched” type. In earlier church plants, I would often approach our services with a sense of dread over what might happen, what would inevitably happen, at some point. I now wish I had learned the lesson of going to sleep a little sooner!

I’d begin Sunday with the “What if” thoughts:

What if the sound system squeaks or squeaks?.

What if the rats climb on the balcony railing again?

What if drunk, stumbling and passing out drunk, people disrupt service?

What if people thought the worst of us?

Would that my heart had rested earlier! Peace isn’t a situation, peace is a posture of heart. The answers to a squealing system, rats climbing, or drunks stumbling would come and life would go on. Some people would like us, others wouldn’t, and there was nothing I could do to change anyone’s opinion – and I have learned to rest and be myself. The churches we have been blessed to plant have all started the same way, with little decorum, opening the doors (or tent flaps sometimes) to any and all who might enter. As you might have supposed, the congregation rarely begins with the wealthy, it’s the poor who come, looking for a place to be welcomed.

Welcome them we do and as the years go by, we begin to see changes take place: God blesses them with jobs, families, homes, and businesses. The miracles that happen take place over time and the messy beginning turns into a beautiful church full of people that are all at various stages of growth in the Lord that is seen on their faces, heard in their speech, and experienced in their day-to-day lives. I came to realize, the messy “What ifs” fade away as God chips away and works in the lives of His people.

John 14:27 NKJV “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

Don’t worry what things might look like or what might go wrong or what others will think. We worry more over the peace of others than we do for ourselves. Scriptures teach us to guard, or keep, our hearts (Prov. 4:23) because what comes out of our hearts determine the course of our lives. It’s time to put a “Do not Disturb” sign over our hearts and watch over what we allow in. The words, “Let no your heart be troubled,” ring as loud and clear today as they did when Jesus first uttered them; don’t worry, rest! Remember that appearances are only that: appearances. Rest is found not in worrying over impressions, it’s found in allowing God to work and sort all of the messiness in our lives in His way, in His time.

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 Patience, Rest

Dumpster Diving

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As newly-weds, my husband and I decided to apply for our first credit card. This was when having a credit card wasn’t as commonplace as it is today; my kids would call the process “old school.” Long applications had to be filled out by hand at the bank and it would take some time (compared to today’s process) to get approved and actually receive a credit card. We endured everything that was required of us and the day came when, finally, the card came in the mail.

Like most people I suppose, we had a place on the kitchen counter that grew cluttered with the mail and other miscellaneous “paperage.” That place on the counter slowly began to eat away at my inner peace, as at my core I am my mother’s daughter. She was careful to always keep a clean home and instilled in me that same compulsion: if it’s cluttered it must be cleared.

This compulsion, you might call it haste or impatience, has been the source of irritation to my family. Some, I agree, is justified, and some is not. However, the account of what happened during one of my cleaning moments did result in a great amount of stress and dumpster diving.

Let me explain…

The cards came in the mail and we were aware they had arrived and were in the envelope they came in on the counter. Days passed and I put that information in the back of my mind as I was compelled, as if by the Spirit, to embark on “the great clean” of the century. That day nothing escaped my fury as even the oven received a state-of-the-art scrubbing! Proud of myself, I unloaded the last bag of trash into the dumpster outside (one shared by the community we lived in), and sat down for a cup of coffee. My mother would have even declared the place clean and with that thought, I smiled with a bit of smug self-satisfaction.

Later on the next day, my husband looked to the countertop and noticed the customary pile of post had disappeared.

“Where’s the credit card?” he said with an unmistakable tone of worry.

“It was here on the counter in the envelope.” his voice beginning to quiver.

“I don’t know, didn’t you put them away?” came my honest reply.

Thus began the search of the century that ended with my husband standing up in the dumpster for several minutes going through the trash until he found said credit card, still in its original (albeit stained with coffee) envelope. While this happened over 30 years ago, I have yet to cease being reminded of it.

While I was thankful to have the card in hand, in the fury of our search, we ruined my hours-long cleaning effort and I had to clean up all over again.

I was hasty and I blew it.

Psalm 31:22 TLB “I spoke too hastily when I said, ‘The Lord has deserted me,’ for you listened to my plea and answered me.”

We often become impatient with the circumstances of life, we want answers now! Our impatience clouds our ability to see that God’s given us the credit cards already, and He’s paid the bill. They’re on the counter of life, ready to be used to pay off our debts but we seem to have misplaced them, thrown them away in the dumpster. In our haste, we wonder why God hasn’t come through, why doesn’t He see, doesn’t He care? Right when we are sure He has turned His back on us, in spite of our hastily spoken words, He comes through with an answer – and gently hands us the cards we threw away in our compulsion to get things in order.

Yes, we all blow it and say things we shouldn’t and even begin to wonder about God’s love and care for us. While we may fail, we can be encouraged with the knowledge that God’s love and care never fails, in spite of our baseless doubts. He is always watchful over us in spite of what life may throw our way.

Don’t throw away the credit cards just for a moment of apparent clarity – the clarity we create in our haste only lasts for a moment only to be replaced once again by more clutter as life continues to unfold. However, if you do blow it (as we all do) our Father is more than ready to go dumpster diving and answer you.

Yes, He is just that good.

Posted in Rest

Finish Strong

I have, possibly, thousands of unfinished crafts that have ended up filling landfills. Whenever a new crafting trend came around when I was young, I tried to learn it and prove to myself that I would someday find that crafty side of me! What are some of the things I tried? Rug hooking, needlepoint, cross-stitch, quilting, painting, drawing, all used up my parents’ hard-earned money! I never found my inner Picasso or Martha Stewart; instead, I learned that I should allow others to make beautiful things. What I attempted was never good enough and in my frustration, I ended up throwing all of my crafts away.

One particular project sticks out in my mind: a rug that I was trying to finish. Why a rug? I don’t know. It wasn’t large, perhaps a foot and a half wide around. The main background color was light blue and I have distinct memories of the light blue yarn driving me to distraction. Perhaps this is why it took me many years to once again appreciate light blue!

I didn’t finish the rug.

My tendency of not finishing, growing weary of working on projects, grew into full-blown procrastination by the time I was a teenager. There were many late nights in high school when I stayed up working on science projects that were due the next day. It didn’t matter that I had had weeks, if not months, notice to work on the project. It always seemed that I would wait until the last minute to try to finish something. The end result often came out as something “half baked” with a “C” marked on the top.

As I grew into adulthood and had a family of my own, I began to learn the value of preparation and finishing projects that I started. Half-baked bread simply wouldn’t cut the mustard in my life – and I began to see myself finishing projects.

Fast forward to my present-day reality and you’ll find there’s nothing I despise more than putting things off to the last minute or leaving a project halfway done. I like to see things finished and finished well. If the gas in my car is beginning to hover near 1/4, I’m off to fill it! If the laundry basket is getting much past halfway full – the washer gets fired up (disclaimer…as long as there’s power and water)!

I want to finish strong.

Hebrews 4:7 NLT “So God set another time for entering His rest and that time is today…”

It seems illogical – how can we finish strong but be rested? In our fast-paced society, it seems everyone is overworked, overtired, and striving to find rest.

Jesus finished strong, and His finish works strong in us.

Because of the great work of our Lord on the cross, we can rest. That doesn’t mean we cease from lifetime responsibilities like taking care of our families and homes. It simply means that the labor we experience underneath our daily labours, the thing that makes us truly weary, this need we have to prove ourselves because of who we are and what we do are never good enough, that this work is finished. Jesus lived the life we should’ve lived and died the death we should have died. It is in His perfect work, we rest.

Take time to rely on the work of Jesus, His finished work, and rest in the fact that God is satisfied with you. There’s nothing you can do that could make God love you more or less. Be satisfied  – He really finished everything that is of eternal importance.

It is in this way we can finish strong.


http://www.1000churchesinafrica.com/single-post/2016/12/12/Im-Afraid