Categories
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.

 

Categories
Choices Church planting Dreams God's call Vision Waiting

A Welcome In My Heart

Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

I would like to be known as someone who has given others the benefit of the doubt; to be someone who gives others the grace that I so deeply crave. Instead of being someone who doubts that incredible things can be done, I hope to be a cheerleader for others whose dreams are as crazy as mine.

The world is full of stories of those who have risen from incredibly difficult circumstances and gone on to do great things. The world is also full of those who would diminish the out-of-the-box plans of dreamers. How many dreamers have had their aspirations snuffed out by what’s reasonable, what’s expected, and what’s deemed feasible by those around them?

Matthew 12:20 NLT“He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle…”

When our hopes lie in the approval of those around us, we are certainly setting ourselves up for disappointment. Much has been said and written about the negative impact that society’s expectations places on us; I cannot hope to add more to what’s already been said by those whose qualifications far exceed my own.

Despite my own limitations, I am sure of one thing: while I cannot control the opinions or reactions of others, I can control my own.

As parents, my husband and I have tried to instill in our children a faith to believe for the unbelievable. Over the years, we have read books like Heaven’s Heroes by David Shibley and some of the series of Christian Heroes Then and Now by Janet and Geoff Benge to open our children’s hearts to believe that if God used ordinary people in the past, He can use them in their lifetimes to do amazing things. We believe that there are enough “naysayers” in life; we want to be their cheerleaders.

This doesn’t mean that their, or our, lives have been a cakewalk. On the contrary, I have often felt like that weakest reed and flickering candle in the scripture from Matthew above. The amazing thing about God is that He is cheering for us to reach beyond our wildest hopes and dreams.

In 2001 my husband came home from a conference in the USA (I remained behind in Africa with our children) and boldly announced to me that God had spoken to his heart that we were to plant 1,000 churches. I’d like to say that I latched onto that word and fell into complete step with him in that declaration. I did know enough to say, “Well, if that’s what God said, then, I’m OK with that.” In saying so, there was no enthusiasm to be found in my voice or demeanor. Instead, my mind was swimming with questions:

We only have one church we have planted, how can we plant 999 more?

Where will the money come from?

Where will the leaders come from?

And so on.

I found myself in the category of those naysayers not with open disagreement, but in thinking “How can we possibly?” when God clearly wanted me to remember that He makes the impossible possible.

Things went from bad to worse before we saw our next church planted. We were unable to plant a new church in the city we had set our sights on and left dejected. Two churches seemed impossible, let alone 1,000 – and it indeed was impossible. Until my eyes were opened in the next city we moved to where our church was approved in a matter of weeks and we quickly found ourselves surrounded by a new congregation.

Could it be that God had plans for us?

One day during family devotions, as we read from Heaven’s Heroes I listened as my husband read of David Livingstone’s trek across Africa. He faced lions, death, lack, and naysayers but he persisted because he saw something no one else did: God never fails and he was sure that God would not send him on a fruitless mission.

Hebrews 11:13 NLT “All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it from a distance and welcomed it.”

My heart had closed itself to hope, and as long as my hope was lost, there was no room for faith in my heart to receive it. The vision needed a welcome in my heart and this only came when I closed down my own doubt and decided it would be better to receive the promise in faith – even if that meant I were to die before its fulfillment.

We are still 900+ churches away from 1,000 naturally speaking, but my heart has already welcomed each of them. How it will get done is the adventure I’m waiting to live. As we work and wait, we keep climbing, keep reaching, and keep opening our hearts in welcome for the vision.

In 2020 we hope to reach for those 1,000 churches and climb an impossible mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. It is 19,300+ feet high and as I look at my own inability physically and financially to even think of it, I see the climb for 1,000 speaks to me more than anyone else. I’m welcoming the vision and will climb for it, 1,000 here we come!

Isaiah 60:22 NLT “The smallest family will become a thousand people, and the tiniest group will become a mighty nation. At the right time, I, the Lord, will make it happen.”

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

Categories
Contempt Courage Despair Destiny Dreams Faithfulness Forgiveness

From The Pit To The Palace

Apologies for the inactive link in the last post! The link is now working!

Today I’m connecting with our podcast, Africa & Beyond, so you can enjoy this amazing message that Jamie has been sharing with our church in Blantyre, Malawi.

It may seem life has settled into a pit or a prison – but be encouraged, there’s a palace in the future!

You can hear the message by clicking the link below.

https://leakpeters.podbean.com/e/from-the-pit-to-the-palace-1517497315/

Categories
Endurance Inconvenience Journey Joy Missions Perspective Travel

I Didn’t Walk Through Business Class

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I just checked.

We are flying at 37,000 feet our way back home to Blantyre, Malawi. Our flight, that I’m watching on the conveniently located flight map on the seat in front of me, has so far been uneventful (save for a few bumps of minor to moderate turbulence). Our overall progress, however, seems to be advancing so very slowly! The outside speed is 561 mph (903 kmph) but the trail indicating distance traveled is moving at what appears to be a turtle’s pace. This may or may not be due to the distance we are flying, by my calculations, about 10,000 miles (approximately 14,000 kilometers), give or take some few hundred miles/kilometers.

Since I’m well aware of things not appearing as they seem, I am not worried. Traveling for the past 30+ years in the developing world accustoms one to the regular odd happening such as the travel map not reading the correct destination. I mean, I am supposed to land in Africa, not Dublin, Ireland as indicated on the map.

Or, should I be worried? Is the map showing anything correct at all?

Nah, I’m now hours into the flight and it’s too late to turn around. Things will work themselves out, they always do – but I wonder a little bit about the map and will do so until the end of the flight.

My daughter, who is sitting between us in our ever-shrinking economy class seats, is playing every game that the airplane system has to offer, my husband is alternating between nodding off to sleep and watching movies. While I sit here on a 13+ hour long flight failing to do little more than watch the odd movie and play a few games of Scrabble on my iPad.

Slowly the “food trolleys” pass by with plastic wrapped sandwiches that everyone, in this nearly full flight, devours with great gusto. This may sound strange as most of you probably haven’t had the delightful experience of landing at our next stop before finally landing in Blantyre: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Addis, as we who travel through there affectionately call it, is an interesting airport.

Let me explain.

Upon landing in Addis, the level of noise in the airport is amazing; there are people everywhere. I’ve learned that it’s becoming a major African air travel hub that is now struggling to keep up with the increasing volume of people passing through on their way to various destinations on the continent. The noise, combined with the movement of so many people to their various gates, creates a fascinating environment. It’s easy to decipher who is patient and who is not.

Not only is it noisy in Addis, but there’s no “easy seating.” What do I mean when saying there’s no “easy seating?” This is a term I have conjured up myself to describe the near panic that grips your heart when you realize there’s nowhere to sit for the next several hours while you wait for your connecting flight. Every available seat is jealously guarded by the fortunate one who managed to get it before anyone else.

Even the most frugal person would, at this point, try to pay to get into the airport lounge. Once the lounge is found, entrance is denied if you aren’t a member with the airline. Tears sting at the backs of your eyes as you are forced to return to the swirling masses of humanity in the concourse where you find yourself resorting to some kind of instinctual behavior as you scout out possible seating.

Still, we keep making these trips over and over!

The remaining part of our journey, once we leave the busy Addis airport, is where the plot thickens even further. We will fly to Lilongwe, Malawi (about 3+ hours from Addis), and be on the ground for about an hour dropping off and receiving passengers. Finally, after departing from Lilongwe, after a very short flight of less than an hour, we will land in Blantyre where the lines are long and slow and luggage carts are broken.

The chaos that ensues upon landing is a mixture of joy for the journey’s ending, jet lag, and struggling to get through customs and immigration. The heat this time of year is suffocating, but my eyes long to see the dusty roads of Africa.

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Home for me has never been wrapped in the comfort of my natural citizenship. I have longed, painfully at times, for family and friends but have learned to accept the longing of my soul for the people of Africa. To fight against it would be tantamount to fighting against my very breath.

So, I embrace this discomfort: economy class and all simply that I might see Him someday and pronounced faithful to His call (see Phil. 3:10).

I am thankful that at least this time I didn’t have to walk through business class to get to my seat.

 

 

 

Categories
Destiny Dreams Journey

Shipwrecks and Quitting


“I quit!”

Why is it so easy to even give thought to those words? I’ve threatened to quit many, many times over in my mind, but thankfully, I have rarely given voice to those thoughts. 

After some life experience, I’ve learned it’s better to be able to say, “I’ve finished the job,” or “I’ve done all that I can do,” rather than say “I quit.” The thought of giving up on an assignment before it’s completion has kept me going, perhaps even longer at times, than I should have. There are few things that stunt ones growth more than giving up or quitting before a season or assignment is done. Quitting a process before it’s completion has a way of affecting all areas of our lives. Once we give ourselves permission to give up before it’s time, it becomes easy to give ourselves permission to give up on other areas when we feel discouraged.

There’s a stark difference between quitting and finishing an assignment. What appears complete to you may not appear complete to others as they only see what’s on the surface. This is why it’s important not to judge others by what appears to be true for we don’t know the work that God is doing beneath the surface of someone’s life. 

There are some things that we pursue in life that aren’t worth our time or energy because they weren’t God’s idea in the first place. These types of activities will deplete us of our energy and ability to give attention to our God-given destinies. Those are the things we must quit if we want to “live the dream” that God has dreamt for us.

Paul, in the book of Acts, is seen pursuing God’s assignment on his life after his life changed on the road to Damascus. He quit his life’s ambition of being a Pharisee and took up his call to bring the Gospel to the nations. He had invested years of study to be a Pharisee and after meeting Jesus, he was never the same. He is never seen looking back to “what might have been” had he lived his own dream.

As a Pharisee, Paul would have had a higher profile among his own people the Jews. He would have had respect, honor, enough food and clothing, and a home. I’m quite certain he would have had a more physically comfortable life as a Pharisee considering that as a Christian he was stoned, beaten, shipwrecked, snake bitten, imprisoned, misunderstood, rejected, and certainly sleep deprived among other things. 

In his lifetime, Paul had one goal: to spread the Gospel among the nations. There were times it appears that he quit, such as leaving Lystra in Acts 14 after he was stoned and left for dead. There are other times when Paul is seen staying in the heat of persecution and others when he left. What is certain is that he never left fearfully or out of desperation, sometimes he left when he was released by God and other times the Spirit prevented from going to places he had planned to go to. 

Acts 16:6-10 NKJ “Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.”

Was it a good idea for Paul and his colleagues to try to go to Asia? Apparently they thought it was a good idea as they were obviously intending to go until the Holy Spirit forbade them from going. 

I have a vivid memory of a lesson on following the Holy Spirit that has never left me and I’m conscious of it until this day. I was driving in Dar Es Salaam one day looking for a lodge to house some guests who were coming to visit us. I was on a dual carriage road and heard in my heart, “Turn right, get off this road.” But I wanted to find this lodge and thought, “Just a bit farther, and then I’ll turn around.” When I finally couldn’t find the lodge, I pulled into the turning lane and waited to turn. Within seconds of my stopping in the turning lane, I heard a screeching of tires behind me and I looked in the rear view mirror in just enough time to see a large Toyota Land Cruiser headed right towards me on the drivers side. There was nothing I could do but say, “Jesus!” My little Daihatsu Rugger was not more than a tin can compared to the Land Cruiser, and the impact tossed me and my car into to the other side of the road. Thankfully I was unhurt (nor was my passenger) and the Land Cruiser was untouched – but my car suffered greatly. The door on the driver’s side was crushed but I could drive slowly home after the necessary accident forms were filled out. A long process, and an expensive one, ensued. Lesson learned? Listening and obeying will save lots of heartache!

Finishing a difficult task isn’t always easy, it’s equally difficult to detach from something we’re emotionally invested in. Emotions, like people, are fickle and not to be relied on – the only sure Guide is the One Whose thoughts are for our good. God’s ideas and plans for us are more than good, they are perfect. In the meanwhile, hang on, there’s more to the race than shipwrecks and quitting – were chasing the checkered flag. We’re in this to win!

Categories
Church planting Destiny Dreams Endurance Faith Missions

What Was That All About?

Together with my husband and daughter Andreya in Arusha, Tanzania.

In early 2000, we moved to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania from Bujumbura, Burundi where we had planted our first church. We had handed our church in Bujumbura over to a son in the faith and were excited to see a new church born. The process of planting a church from scratch is daunting enough but we had seen God’s favor in Burundi and were sure that we would see another wildly successful church born. We had seen it before! God was on our side! What could possibly go wrong?

Plenty.

In Burundi we struggled to get government permission to open the church and, after 9 months of waiting and struggle, we received news that our file had been approved. A few short months later, we held our first service. The church stood strong through times of serious civil unrest and war. Today, our first church has planted 4 additional churches since our departure. All of the difficulty we faced fades into nothing knowing the work has moved forward.

However, we had a totally different experience in Tanzania. From the moment we arrived, it seemed the odds were definitely not in our favor. We had applied for approval to start the work and despite having all indications we were approved, we spun in circles from day to day for a year and a half trying to get our certificate of registration. It became very expensive as we had to purchase visas for our 5 member family monthly at a cost of $400 per passport. In the end, after spending nearly all we had, we moved on to Lusaka, Zambia and registered the work there in a matter of weeks.

Yet, the “Tanzania effect” followed me for quite some time. 

Everyone has moments in life when hopes and dreams not only don’t come true, but it seems they are shattered into millions of pieces so small that there’s no way to put them back together. For me, Tanzania was my first experience with such a disappointment. 

I had supposed that I knew how things worked since I had seen it happen before; in Tanzania I faced the harsh reality that each step we take has its own set of rules attached to it. My mind battled with the questions of, “How could we have been so wrong?” and “How could we have made such a mistake?”

For years afterwards, I avoided the subject of Tanzania. The work continued and other difficult moments ensued, but none that hurt as deeply as Tanzania. With the years passing, my attitude changed from “How could we have been so wrong?” to “What was that all about?”

Periodically, as it goes here in Africa, we would get news of those we had ministered to during our short stay in Tanzania. One brother’s news in particular helped me see things differently. This man had told us years ago that he wanted to reach his tribe, the Maasai, who are notoriously difficult to reach. “Out of the blue” as it were we received news he had actually gone back to his people and was a pastor of a church.

A smile crosses my face, now nearly 17 years later, as I realize what never was meant to be for us, happened in the life of another. What we sowed into him has carried on and that is amazing. When we say, “One soul is all that matters.” God will test us on our word, not because He needs to find out for he knows our hearts, but to show us what is in the depths of our hearts.

It took years, but I was finally able to come to a place of peace and left the unknown and unanswered questions about that time to God. I have had more “Tanzania effect” moments in the years since we left, and they have hurt me as well, but none effected me as deeply as my season in Tanzania. 

Then, earlier this year, we received an email from some connections in Arusha, Tanzania, inviting my husband to speak at a conference. Two days ago I stepped onto a plane and made the long journey to Arusha from our home in Blantyre, Malawi, with my husband and daughter. I’ve not been back to Tanzania since 2001, and I wondered what “effect” this journey would have on me.

The conference begins this morning and as I look out my window and wonder what this week holds, I know one thing: God is faithful. He loves us so much that He puts us exactly where we need to be at any given moment. Had our journey in Tanzania taken more or less time, everything we have seen in its wake could have turned out differently. Would the churches have been born that we’ve seen born? Would our adopted daughter in Malawi have come into our lives? I can’t bear to think of that! I thank Tanzania for pushing me forward, so much has come to pass in the years since.

Romans 8:28 NLT “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

Take a breath, the pain will pass, and one day you’ll find yourself on the other side of that experience. The reasons you endured what you’ve endured may not be understood in this lifetime, but that really doesn’t matter. They will work to get you to where you need to go.

Categories
Courage Faith

Supposing Could Cost You

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“Watch out and be careful!”

It’s the mantra of mothers everywhere – be careful. I always thought that I wouldn’t be as cautious with my children as they grew and I gained more experience. However, I’ve found the opposite to be true; the more experience I have, the more I am aware of what can go wrong. It’s amazing my daughter, who is now 9, is as patient with me as she is as I catch myself (all too often) lecturing her on safety and what “could” happen if every precaution is not taken.

Cue the rolling of the eyes: Mom is taking her lecture position!

This holds true not only with my children but life in general. With the passing of each year, I struggle to hold on to the courage I had in years past. Like everyone else, experience has taught me that life can be harsh and it’s only logical to learn from past experience and “play it safe.”

Playing life safely is good when it comes to rules of safety in the kitchen and driving but when it comes to matters of faith – the only way to play it safe is to be willing to risk it all and that risk can cost us everything. The sad fact is that for the most part, there are few believers today with the courage to swim against the current of what is “safe.”

In the past weeks I’ve been reading about Moses’ life story – his was a life lived, from the beginning, by taking risks. His mother first took a risk by hiding him (Exodus 2:2) when Pharaoh of Egypt ordered that baby boys be killed (Exodus 1:15-22). As the baby grew, his mother took another risk by putting him in a kind of basket in a river where Pharaoh’s daughter found him and rescued him (Exodus 2:3-10). What gave that mother the courage to do what she did goes beyond natural courage – and that heritage followed Moses for the rest of his life, but not without challenge.

Moses was raised in the lap of luxury; yet it would appear that he knew he was not a real Egyptian for it says of him in Exodus 2:11 NKJ Now it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens…” At that moment, Moses took his first risk:

Exodus 2:11b-14a NKJ “And he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. So he looked this way and that way, and when he saw no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. And when he went out the second day, behold, two Hebrew men were fighting, and he said to the one who did the wrong, ‘Why are you striking your companion?’ Then he said, ‘Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?’”

Moses took a risk, and supposed his brethren would understand he was one of them but that, unfortunately, wasn’t the case.

Acts 7:23-25 NKJ “Now when he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren, the children of Israel. And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended and avenged him who was oppressed, and struck down the Egyptian. For he supposed that his brethren would have understood that God would deliver them by his hand, but they did not understand.”

After this incident, Moses fled and was gone from Egypt for 40 years. He lived his lifetime knowing that he was called to deliver Israel from Egypt, but after the incident with the Egyptian, he chose a safer path. His own brothers didn’t recognize the call on his life; supposing cost Moses a lot of his time.

I wonder if he thought he needed their approval to deliver them?

I wonder, what would history’s account have been had Moses stayed in Egypt, rather than fleeing, at that time? Would the Exodus of Israel from Egypt have happened sooner? Would there even have been 10 plagues in Egypt? Would there have been more? Less?

In spite of everything, God brought Moses full circle and used him, as he had supposed all those years earlier, to deliver Israel out of Pharaoh’s bondage.

More often than not, those closest to us will not recognize the call on our lives, especially if that call has a radical faith attached to it. If you read the entire account of Moses’ life, those he was called to deliver regularly rejected him; yet he persevered. Was his 40 years in Midian before his return to deliver Israel a period of time he regretted? Was he avoiding another 40 years of regret? Of possibly wondering what could have been?

Safety comes first in the kitchen, with driving, and sports – however playing it safe when we live for God is never the best option. We may, in the moment, have more friends, bigger homes, and even more money but destiny is still calling while we are playing it safe. History’s books are being written every day; what will its account be of us when our days are done?

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Categories
Beginnings Destiny Fasting Uncategorized

Day 17 – Beginnings

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We started with plans for 2 or 3 – those plans turned into 4. Photo taken 2009, they’ve grown since then! Clockwise from the top: Mandy, Steve, Andreya, and Tom
I remember when my husband and I were young newlyweds (seems it wasn’t THAT long ago) and we were in “discussions” over how many children we hoped to have. Initially, I wanted three children and he wanted two. In the end, neither of us had our way; we have ended up with four wonderful kids. We couldn’t imagine life without any of them. Now, 3 of the 4 have grown up and moved on, 2 are married, and we have 1 grandson – this is far from what I imagined what our family would look like when we “entered into discussions.”

Beginnings are like that: we think we can plan everything out and see the end from the beginning. It’s overwhelming, thinking of how off-track that kind of thinking can be. How many of us were ever planned up enough to face marriage, raise children, to live life in the face of an ever-changing culture? If someone has found the secret to being prepared for life, please let me know!

I married into a pastor’s family and my husband was an associate pastor at our home church at the time. I wasn’t prepared to be a pastor’s wife, not by a long shot, let alone prepared to be a church planting pastor’s wife in a foreign culture when we moved to Africa as missionaries three years later. I didn’t come from a family of preachers or ministers; we were just regular folks, so when I managed to hook the preacher’s son I was in way over my head. There are no handbooks on how to be a minister’s wife or how to follow the call of God. Neither is there an “exit strategy” built in to this call. The ministry, I have learned, is not a vocation. The ministry is a call that goes far beyond vocation. It is part of your soul. It doesn’t matter if we are paid or unpaid for what we do because we can’t shake the call.

Somehow I find myself wondering how, almost 33 years later, I am still partnering in the call with my husband and dreaming for the future, dreaming about church planting, feeding children, and raising up national leaders to help fulfill the vision of planting 1,000 churches in Africa. How many times did we need rescuing throughout those years, I cannot count. Those rescues range from facing sickness, trusting God to keep us safe in war, to the normal financial stresses of raising a family. However, God’s rescue came faithfully each and every time.

Every deliverance, every rescue, has to start somewhere. Those beginnings often go unnoticed by us. They can come in the form of a relationship forming, educational opportunities, chance meetings, all appearing to us as being “normal” occurrences in life. However, the Father, unbeknownst to us, uses those instances as “beginnings” of our rescue.

Judges 13:5 NLT “…he will begin to rescue Israel…”

There will be times in all of our lives when we are aching for rescue. Maybe, like Israel, you are already at the point in your life of needing a rescue. At the writing of the above scripture in Judges, God began to deliver Israel. He was working their rescue out before they even knew that He had heard their call. His answer came subtly, humbly, in the form of a child named Samson born as an only child to his parents who had not been able to have children. Samson’s rescuing of Israel wasn’t manifested until many years later – but the moment he was born, the rescue began.

The beginning of a rescue comes to us in much the same way as the deliverance of Israel by Samson – in small beginnings, God connections, chance occurrences. The work of God in our lives doesn’t come by accident; He is always preparing a rescue for us because He knows exactly when we will need it.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 NLT “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.”

You can be sure that somewhere in life your rescue began and, as sure as there is a beginning, there is an end! The Rescuer is faithful; you will see the tide change in due course.

 

Categories
Choices Courage Fasting

Day 8 – The Wells Are Deep

I remember the first photo taken at the church property in Lilongwe, Malawi. It was just my husband and I taking the picture. There were bugs, hardly any way to get there – but we stood in the tall grass and said “Someday.” And now? Someday has come! Recently when we were visiting the church, I saw new faces, I saw old faces, and I saw that same piece of property with a wall fence around it and a couple of buildings. Oh yes, there’s still a long way to go, but Someday has come.

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I remember when things first began to develop on the land. We decided to manually dig a well to help us with construction as there was no city water on site. It was the “common sense” thing to do since we needed water and there was no other water source nearby. It was quite a project just digging the well. There were stories of ropes breaking, water drying up because the water was very deep underground. It was a crazy time, but eventually, after much digging, water filled the well and construction began.

That little well was rarely without issue: the water would fill in very slowly, we had to dig deeper many times and then the sides of the well would give way and we would be back at square one. While we were thankful for the problematic well, we ached for the water problem to be solved.

Then one day…someone had a proper well dug for us. All of the proper equipment arrived on site and, after some more digging and delays, a well with a pump was on site.

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The old well became obsolete, useless. I think the remains of it is out there in the field somewhere – but there’s no water in it. We are used to pumping water from the pump, why would we want to use the old well?

So many of us have tried to dig wells like this in life – and our success rate is not very good. When will we let Someone else get water for us?

Jesus once met a woman at a well (John 4). The Jews didn’t have dealings with the Samaritans as they were descendants of Jews who intermarried with pagan cultures when they were taken captive into Babylon. The Jews didn’t see them as “pure” and scorned their very presence; but Jesus didn’t see a hopeless woman that day at the well. No, He saw someone who needed water from a well that was far better than the old well she was accustomed to drawing from daily.

In this account, Jesus was in Judea and His ministry was growing. In fact, it grew so much that those getting baptized under His ministry grew more than those baptised by John the Baptist. I imagine that the Pharisees weren’t too happy with John the Baptist but when Jesus’ baptisms outnumbered John’s, I believe that Jesus was even more unpopular with the Pharisees than John.

Think about John the Baptist. He wasn’t, from what it seems, an easy person to be around. He preached repentance to a people who thought they didn’t need to repent. They were Abraham’s descendants and they thought that was enough, but this John the Baptist disagreed. He said, “Repent!” The religious leaders of the day didn’t take kindly to his warnings, he caused a kerfuffle for sure -John fulfilled his call to “prepare the way”for Jesus as the controversy Jesus would cause would change the history of the Jewish nation.

So Jesus, knowing it wasn’t His time yet, left Judea because of rising tensions among the religious leaders. The people He had come from, the Jews, were refusing His message but verse 4 tells us:

John 4:4 NKJ  But He needed to go through Samaria.”

This Jesus whose biological people refused to have anything to do with Samaritans “needed” to go through Samaria, where mostly Samaritans lived. He was purposely exposing Himself to the unwanted, unpopular, unclean, Samaritans – much to the chagrin of the religious and even those who followed Him. How could He be with those people?

In John 4:5-8 Jesus waited by Jacob’s well while the disciples left Him to buy food. Isn’t that like us today? Jesus is always waiting for us as we go away on our business. He’s at the well, He is the water, and we go far looking for water to quench our thirst.

“Wait here Jesus, I have to go get water, I have to find a way to draw the water.”

A woman of Samaria, a despised woman, found Jesus at the well. A normal Jewish man would’ve left her presence but she was the very reason Jesus “needed” to go through Samaria, He needed to go through Samaria to see her.

John 4:7-11 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give Me a drink.’ For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, ‘How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?’ For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.’ Jesus answered and said to her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, “Give Me a drink,” you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.’ The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water?'”

It was strange enough to this woman, a Samaritan, that a Jew was speaking to her, but He asked her for water. Custom dictated He have his own cup for water, He had “nothing” to draw the water with and the well, it was deep, but He was willing to drink from whatever vessel she would offer to Him.

In the same way, we struggle to believe that Jesus will make good on His promises. Our misgivings, our doubts come from the fact that we are looking from within ourselves how He will fulfill His promises. How will You do what You say? Our doubts, you see, come from our own insecurities.

Yes, the wells are deep. The wells are much deeper than this lady knew. We all have deep wells within us. We have limited the ministry of Jesus so much that He can’t work freely in us. We think He has nothing to draw with.

There may be deep wells of hurt and trouble in your heart, and Jesus comes and says to you, “Let not your heart be troubled.” (Jn. 14:1) How would you respond? Would you shrug your shoulders and say, “But Lord, the well is too deep, and even You can’t draw quietness and comfort up from it.”

What would you think if I told you that is correct? Jesus doesn’t bring anything up from human nature – He brings what we need from His well. We limit Him by remembering only what we have allowed Him to do for us in the past, and also by saying, “Of course I cannot expect God to do this particular thing.”

We weaken, we impoverish, the ministry of Jesus the moment we forget Who He is: He is Almighty. The poverty is in us, not Him. We find it easy to come to Him as our comforter or sympathizer, but we refrain from approaching Him as Almighty God.

This is why we fail to be great, powerful examples of Christianity – we don’t see Him as Almighty. We have some attributes of Christianity, we kind of look like it, we dress like it, we sound like it, but the impoverishment is there, the lack of power. Why? Because we’ve not believed in Him, we’ve not surrendered and taken our hands off.

When trials come, we limit His ministry with the attitude of, “Of course, He can’t do anything about this.” We struggle to get to the bottom of the well, to reach some water to quench our thirst. You see we’ve been out in the hot sun all day long and we need water. The rope breaks, the well runs dry, we send someone to dig further and all that comes up is salty water. Then we sit back and say, “It can’t be done.”

Yes, the well of our incompleteness without Him runs so very deep.

But “common sense” tells us it cannot be done.

When will we tire of “common sense?” I’m tired of common sense, I’m tired of relying on what the world says is “common sense” or “logical.” The logical and common sense way of doing things doesn’t bring much help. It was common sense that Jesus couldn’t get water; He had nothing to bring the water up with. It was common sense that He shouldn’t have spoken to the Samaritan woman. But if you read on in John 4, she met Jesus, in a very uncommon sense way and her life was changed.

There’s a man in Luke 18:35-43 who was sitting by the road. Think about this man. He was sightless, by the road, alone. By all accounts in these verses, he wasn’t being cared for by family. Maybe he was begging? The common sense thing to do in those days for poor, blind people to do was to beg for money, food. But this man, on the side of the road heard Jesus was coming – and he did nothing according to common sense. He cried out, he made a disturbance. Vs. 39 says, “Then those who went before warned him that he should be quiet; but he cried out all the more…”

Giving up, listening to common sense, to those who say, “be quiet” will get you nowhere. When will you be tired enough to make a disturbance? To call for the water you need? Like the blind man, make some noise until you are face-to-face with your Lord. Where did common sense get you up til now? You make a god of common sense when you allow it to override your need for the Savior, for His well, full of water, is enough to fill your wells!

Finally in Luke 18:41 – Jesus asked this man, “ ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ He said, ‘Lord, I want to see.’”

When Jesus asks what you want for Him to do in the face of the incredible problem, remember, He doesn’t work in commonsense ways – He is supernatural.

We limit Him by remembering the boundaries we set in the past, “I’ve never overcome in this area; I won’t be able to overcome now.” If what we are asking is impossible, we’re on track. If it weren’t impossible, we wouldn’t ask Him, we would do it ourselves.

While it seems the man being healed from blindness is the greatest miracle, it isn’t. The most impossible thing is to be so closely identified with Jesus that there is nothing left of your old life. God will do this if you open your heart and ask. No more old me, no more old attitudes, no more unthankfulness, no more grumbling, no more “small sins,” no more deceptions, no more holding on to pain and unforgiveness, no more withholding myself in any way from God.

All of this agony we have lived through is of our own doing – it is a result of the deliberate shallowness of our hearts. We won’t believe; we won’t let go of the line that holds us to the shore of “common sense.”  We prefer to worry because when we worry, we remain in charge.

What if we began trusting Him again today? The well is deep, yes, but He has all the water we need and the means to draw it out.


We’ve made it to the second week of our fast; it would be easy to quit but don’t quit yet. During this second week you’ll find that you have to push harder to get through but be encouraged, you can do this!