Posted in Grief, Hope, Kingdom, Loss, Missions, Motives, Serving, Sorrow, Success, The Call of God

All Over The World

This past week a cyclone hit the coast of Africa mostly affecting Mozambique and Zimbabwe. So far, according to reports, approximately 126 people (some reports say higher) have died as a direct result of the storm. In Nigeria, 120 people have died in recent attacks in local villages. There have been shootings in New Zealand leaving 50 dead and an Ethiopian Airlines plane went down last week killing all 157 on board. This short list of news is a only a small fraction of what goes unreported every day. Estimates vary, but there are about 151,600 people that die daily and most of those deaths go unreported in the news. 70,000 of these deaths occur in nations that are closed to the Gospel.

All over the world, people are crying.

Normally, my blogs are a bit quirky with a snippet of sarcasm and dry humor so I apologize if my departure from my usual self seems, at first, to be gloomy. It’s not my intention to leave anyone depressed today and I truly hope you don’t feel hopeless by the time I finish my little diatribe.

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As this world’s media picks and chooses what stories to cover and what stories to shelve, but the truth remains that thousands of families have spent the past several hours and days mourning for lost loved ones. Death is no respecter of persons and all of us will one day shuffle off this mortal coil in exchange for that which is eternal; what we do with our time here before we have that final meeting is what really is of value.

I won’t pretend to be educated enough to address the issues that others put under the microscope and take their limited time to rant on over social media. I find it sad that many of us choose to spend the limited time we have on this earth arguing with others on a platform where those you are sparring with are most likely going to remain unknown to you. It’s amazing how vicious some people have become with the advent of social media.

Romans 12:21 NKJ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Some justify their vitriol and even invoke God’s name when they do so, but as I know God, He still loves the world and all the people in it (John 3:16). In fact, the only time Jesus is seen weeping in scripture is when He looked over a city (Luke 19:41). He wasn’t crying over the buildings or land, He was crying for the people; some of those in that city He knew were the ones that would take part in His crucifixion. I don’t know how many of us would now have heart to do the same over our own cities where at times we face brutal criticism and attack for the cross that we bear and represent. Oh, that I might represent that cross well!

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This hopeless hour we find ourselves in could very possibly be the greatest opportunity the church worldwide has ever known. As a lifetime missionary, experience has taught me that when people are most vulnerable is when they are most open to the Gospel that brings love and hope.

Last week, we held an outreach into a local area here in Bujumbura, Burundi called Buterere. About 20 years ago this area was little more than a trash dump and rice fields. After the war here in the mid-late 1990s, people who had been displaced by the war moved to this area. It was a horrible situation; there was little to no sanitation, no running water, nothing to serve the people. 20 years later I found myself again in Buterere surrounded by a growing community that is slowly finding its way. The surroundings are still very basic and due to its low-lying situation, it is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. At the outreach, we held disease prevention classes teaching on topics like malaria prevention and basic hygiene. At the end of the teaching we distributed, to 200 families, mosquito nets, basins, soap, and a book by Joyce Meyers called, “Tell Them I Love Them.” We gave an opportunity for people to receive Christ and 45 people raised their hands. The reports coming back to us in the past few days have been full of words of appreciation and thanks for showing what God’s love is really all about.

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Will all of those 45 follow through with their decisions? We will do our best to follow up on them and encourage them but the large majority probably won’t – but who follows through and who doesn’t isn’t what motivates me to reach out to them. What motivates me is God’s love for them and we do what we can do in any given situation so that some may come to know Him (1 Cor. 9:22). While we work to encourage those making commitments, the results aren’t my responsibility and truth be told, if I was moved by results or popular opinion I would have resigned from my position many years ago.

So how do we, then, speak out? How do we behave honestly, yet lovingly, in this upside down world?

Ephesians 4:14-16 NKJ that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”

God loves the world and the motivating factor for what He does is love. I believe it’s only out of His love for the world that it hasn’t already fallen off its axis! We can say the right things but with the wrong motivation; the right thing said for the wrong reason is the wrong thing. God doesn’t need to have His reputation defended for His reputation is intact no matter what people think. Jesus understood this:

John 2:24,25 NKJ “But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.”

I hope today in some small way in my little world in Bujumbura, Burundi I am advancing the Kingdom of God by speaking the truth, not to justify who I am, but out of love for those who need to hear the truth. I can make what I say and do sound and appear righteous, but if my motivation is not loving the people, then I am only looking to raise my own righteous profile and not God’s.

“Self-righteousness can feed upon doctrines—as well as upon works!” John Newton

Nothing I’ve written has ever gone viral or been popular, but on the off-chance someone reads this little piece and it gives them a bit of hope for this lost and dying world – it’s a win. If it makes someone upset, well, take a number and the staff (me) will attend to your complaint at its earliest convenience.

Rant over. Time for coffee.

Posted in 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?

Posted in Perspective, Rejection, Relevance, Success

Getting My Roots Done

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I was really irritated; it seemed I had just come from having my hair done and I woke to my hair rebelling and growing. It needed to be retouched and I simply can’t easily find time to keep myself sorted. I mean, looking this way doesn’t just happen by chance.

Yes, I’ve fallen as most of us have for the lie that we need to work hard to keep things at least in a satisfactory condition. I won’t stop doing my hair any time soon, although I wonder if there might come a day that I’ll opt for something simpler than having my roots done every 2 ½ months or so, but I do know that there’s a nearly invisible line that I need to keep myself from crossing in order to keep things in the right perspective.

There are many things we allow ourselves to think are important when, really, they fall under the “optional” category. Some of those things might even fall into the “unnecessary” category. Finally, there are things we may entertain with the hope of improving ourselves that fall into the “don’t do it” category.

Why have we allowed ourselves to believe we need to adjust who we are in appearance, personality, or ability to the point that we become almost unrecognizable? I wonder if we are simply trying to fill a void inside of us that only God Himself can fill for when He fills us – His satisfaction of Who He is fills us.

God isn’t in the middle of an identity crisis nor does He feel the need to change His appearance according to the eclectic whims of society’s norms.

Jeremiah  9:24b TLB “Let them boast in this alone: That they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord of justice and of righteousness whose love is steadfast; and that I love to be this way.”

When we come to know God, when He becomes our Father and Jesus becomes our Lord, His desire is for us to know Who He is and to understand that He is very secure in Who He is. He doesn’t try to make Himself out to be anyone other than Who He is – and He wants us to be just as secure in who He has made us to be.

As a parent of 4 amazing children (3 grown and one 9-year-old), there’s little that moves me to tears more than having my children believe that they aren’t “enough” as individuals. I know, and their father knows, that they’re amazing – and if someone doesn’t recognize this and tries to get them to change who they are, my heart is grieved!

I can’t imagine what our Heavenly Father feels every time we bow to the pressures of society saying,

“You’re not enough.”

“You’re too young to understand.”

“You’ve lived overseas, what do you know about America?”

“You’re now too old to make a difference.”

“You’re out of touch with what’s relevant today.”

“You take God too seriously.”

Such statements make us feel very uncomfortable and bring us to question our internal values – those values we used to hold dear. That we are the children of God, that we are redeemed, that we are loved, that we are cherished, and that He makes up for all of what we lack. He makes us to be enough for Him which astounds me.

Since when have we stopped loving who God made us to be?

God, our Heavenly Father, is the only One I can take seriously in a day and age when opinions change daily. Everything from earthly friendships to politics are subject to change moment by moment according to what is acceptable – according to what is relevant and politically correct at the moment.

So, in response to everyone who may think I’m not enough, or think that I take God too seriously I say:

Yes, indeed, I take God very seriously because He takes me very seriously and won’t discard me as I am tomorrow. When I wake up, He is with me and when I sleep, He will be there. I am His, and He is mine, and that I have found is enough.

Psalm 139:17,18 NLT “How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered. I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!”

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Posted in God's Word, Success

Fine Print and Disclaimers

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Gimmicks. They’re all over the place. From pyramid schemes to get you rich quick to 7 steps to “washboard abs” (how I wish that one worked!). Every day, my inbox is filled with gimmicks of every kind you can imagine. Since I write a blog, there are the inevitable emails advertising “free” online seminars or EBooks to monetize your blog. There must be a market out there for all of these quick fixes to life’s never-ending struggle to stay above the water, otherwise these popups, ads, and emails wouldn’t be plaguing us every time we open our devices.

The attraction is, obviously, an immediate solution to what may be a long-standing issue that is usually financial. Who doesn’t want to be successful? What is missing from these advertisements is the fact that for most people paying for the service, subscription, or product won’t bring those fantastic results that are advertised in the ad. If you read the fine print or disclaimers at the bottom of the ad, you’ll see there’s no guarantee of success.

I like to read reviews and the standing of a company with the BBB (Better Business Bureau) before even considering spending any of my very hard earned money into anything. The dollars I’m being asked to spend represent lots of work and deserve to be spent only on what is proven to work, not on a gimmick meant to enrich only those who are behind it.

How is it that we throw our lives into things that aren’t proven, things with only an online assurance of their future success? How many times have we fallen for the newest thing ranging from vitamin supplements to “how to” seminars? Yet, we continue to put our hope in the newest, flashiest, and most expensive gimmicks that come our way. “This will be different,” we reason. “Last time I didn’t know what I know now.” Yet, most of the time, the result is the same: money, time, and relationships lost or damaged.

We fail to read the fine print or disclaimer.

Living life as a believer, I sit back in wonder when I consider how much faith we put into these kinds of schemes but we fail to trust God Whose Word is proven.

Psalm 18:13 NJV As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.”

There are no “quid-pro-quos” in God’s fine print. It’s very straightforward: God’s Word is proven, it is perfect, and for those who dare to trust Him fully – it guarantees success. But success as God defines it doesn’t always line up with what we preconceive. God’s path to success leads us through paths that don’t look perfect to us – but bring us ever closer towards His perfect way.

Psalm 23:4 NKJ “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

In the times of deathly shadows, I would rather walk with God by my side. He has promised me that He will be with me and ultimately I will be successful.

Psalm 23:5,6 NKJ You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

We are “played” by this world and it’s thinking; we live in a culture where success is viewed as having the best of everything – the best money can buy is what we are after. However, when the rubber meets the road and we find ourselves in death’s valley, when a loved one is in hospice or divorce is on the horizon, no amount of money or financial security can walk us through.

Death’s valley is a cruel place that doesn’t have any preferences to whose door it will knock on. But for those who choose to trust God’s Word, even in the darkest places we walk through in life, we will eat – even in front of those who are our enemies. We will have enough to take care of loved ones and ourselves. We will see God’s goodness and mercy each and every day of our lives, if we can only trust Him.

If we can trust online ads that are not proven, how much more can we trust God and His Word that is proven?

I remember during one of my life’s darkest hours, when my younger brother was in hospice, I wasn’t sure how I would cope. Yet, for my father’s sake, I knew that there was no other choice. He was frozen in grief and was unable to attend to any of the issues that needed to be attended to at the time. I had to find a way to manage the feelings that assailed my heart. Never in my lifetime had I thought it possible to one day be sitting by my dying brother’s bedside, waiting for him to enter into God’s presence. How did this happen? Some of those questions are still waiting to be answered in eternity but I did know one thing: God was with me in death’s valley. As the time drew nearer for Matthew to enter into glory, God’s presence became so thick in his hospital room that the tears somehow didn’t feel so very painful. It was as if God’s own hands were open to Matthew and He let it be known to those of us around his bedside that all was well. When my brother finally did graduate to a truly better place, in my spirit it was as if I could hear him walking away with his Heavenly Father. We were left with the feelings of loss, but God was walking with us as well, and we managed.

I think back to that time three years ago and wonder how God gave me the grace to make it through – but I did. The tears still come but at the same time, I feel great joy for Mathew who now knows a full joy that those of us who are here on earth have yet to experience. I suppose the greatest comfort of all comes in knowing that when Matthew left us, it wasn’t “goodbye,” but rather, it was “I’ll see you there.”

God’s Word, there’s no hidden fine print. He’s true, He’s present, He’s walking with us and taking care of our needs. There are no hidden gimmicks or pop up ads – He walked me through my brother’s death and continues to walk with me daily, making sure His goodness and mercy follow me everywhere I go.

And that is all the success I need.

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