Categories
Beauty Choices Contempt Journey Motives Rejection

Behind the Times

I’m a bit behind the times I know. I could use the excuse of living overseas but with the advent of the internet, that excuse really can’t get me too far. At the touch of a key on my wireless keyboard, I have the world and endless search engines at my fingertips (literally). I can study just about any subject in any field, read news from the farthest corner of the earth (not to mention space news from NASA and beyond) and almost correctly diagnose any ailment (much to the chagrin of physicians worldwide). No, I have no excuse to remain disconnected from the rest of the world, except for the times that the power goes out and then I digress, I have an excuse, albeit a temporary one.

Yet, I somehow missed one of the past “things” that made the rounds online and in books called the “Enneagram.” The Enneagram is simply another method to discover different personalities. On the Enneagram, I came to discover that I am a 2w1 personality. This makes me someone who feels deeply and can read emotions and situations with surprising clarity. Twos (as we are known) are helpers and at their core, they want to be recognized for helping, they actively seek love and approval of others by what they do.

The spiritual journey a Two has to take is one of giving beyond investment expecting a return to giving simply without expectation of anything in return; that’s what we call true love.

This is perhaps why I relate with Leah of the Bible. Not only do we (almost) share a name, but we seem to share some of the same characteristics making me wonder if Leah of the book of Genesis was a Two on the Enneagram.

Leah was married, underhandedly by her father, to Jacob. Jacob expected his love, Rachel, to be the one under the wedding veil but was disappointed when his father-in-law gave him Leah instead. As the story goes, Jacob did manage to marry Rachel, but was bound first to Leah, who knew she was unloved.

As time went by and Leah began to bear children, she named them accordingly:

1. Gen. 29:32 – Reuben was born and Leah said, “Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.”

2. Gen. 29:33 – Simeon was born and Leah said, “Because the Lord heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also.”

3. Gen. 29:34 – Levi was born and Leah said, “Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.”

Each time, Leah’s disappointment in being “unloved” was further cemented into her conscience. Jacob must have made his utter contempt towards her clear in his treatment of her (this is another subject for another day) and Leah, due to the time and culture, was bound to continue serving. She hoped her actions would sway the love of her husband towards her, but it was to no avail.

The fourth time Leah, again I’m quite sure she was my fellow Two, learned a lesson vital to the spiritual growth of a Two, she learned to love and trust without expecting love from anyone – except the Lord.

Gen. 29:35 “‘This time I will praise the Lord.’ Therefore she called his name Judah.”

What helped Leah cope through the rest of her life feeling unloved and rejected by her husband? How did Leah manage to juggle the responsibilities of her household when everyone knew no matter what she did, Rachel would be her husband’s real love?

She learned there was only One Whose love was unfailing and whatever she did for Him wouldn’t go unrecognized. She simply learned to praise the Lord.

There are a few times in scripture we read of Leah stumbling again into her past patterns of seeking approval (much like we all do even though we know better). But those times were few; I imagine each time she stumbled the pain she felt reminded her to return to the One Whose love never fails, never has strings attached to it.

_________________________

For more on The Enneagram, I recommend:

https://www.amazon.com/Road-Back-You-Enneagram-Self-Discovery/dp/0830846190

Categories
Beginnings Death Dreams Faith New Year

Wasted Time

The beginning of a New Year is when most of us will, at some level, come up with a fresh emphasis for the year. I’ve purposely held back from writing anything full of “newness” as I’m still working on what was supposed to have been fresh from New Years gone by. I find myself hesitant to reach for more when I feel what I hoped for in times past has been lost to time.

I woke on New Year’s Day morning feeling a bit sullen and wallowed in that mediocre mood all morning long. As we headed for church, we normally have some kind of church celebration every New Year, I tried to shake off my feelings of failure. Walking into the church building, I shelved my mediocrity, for the people were already lining up ready for the morning. Even in my foul mood my heart turned towards the people; I was unaware of what was about to unfold.

This year we handed the microphone over and let the people recount their testimonies, thanking God for what He had done in their lives. Sitting in my seat next to Jamie (husband unit), we laughed and cried as we listened as our people opened their lives before us. God really had accomplished more than I had been aware of – you really do have to get out of the forest to see the trees.

Everyone had something good to say, something good to thank God for: food and clothing, shelter, school fees for their children and health. Among their thanks for God’s provision, almost everyone gave thanks for our church and what God is doing in our church once again. We were especially touched by the testimony of one young lady who stood up and began to cry when she said, “I’m so thankful for our church and for God bringing our pastor back to us.”

I had no idea.

In that moment the year(s) of lost time rolled back and I understood in a new way how God can reach into the past and restore it. I understood that time, while I am limited by it, does not limit God.

Joel 2:24 ESV “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.”

The things that we bury in the ground and assume cannot be restored are the very things that God will bring back to life – for God resurrects the dead.

When Jesus surrendered His life to the cross, died and was buried, it seemed that the enemy had won. It seemed that those who had planned His death had the upper hand for how can someone who has died come back to life?

In Matthew 27:50-66, Jesus lays His life down and sandwiched in the middle of the story are the Priests and Pharisees looking to “secure” the grave because they reckoned Jesus’ disciples would steal His body away. Pilate tells them, “make it as secure as you can.”

I imagine during the three days that Jesus’ body was in the grave, the disciples had some choice words among themselves:

He’s died, so we’re as good as dead.

What have we done with our lives? Three wasted years!

Let’s flee to another nation!

What about our families? All is lost!

In the same way, I’ve often been guilty of feeling my years have been lost, that my time has gone for naught. What has it all been for anyway?

What the Priests and Pharisees did not take into account when they “secured” Jesus’ grave was that when God has a resurrection in mind – there will be a resurrection. It was with great flourish when in Matthew 28:2-4 the earth shook, an angel rolled the stone away and the soldiers guarding the tomb fell “as dead men” when Jesus walked out. The “wasted” years of the disciples walked out with Him and the early church began.

It’s through our “wasted” seasons that God works most in our lives to resurrect and return our hours, days, weeks, months and years to us. Imagine how the disciples agonized for days about the death of Jesus, only to have Him appear before them and say (in effect), “Let’s do this people, let’s win the world!”

So let’s rewind the tape, replay the recording and start all over again.

It’s January 2020, what’s new?

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
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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Categories
Endurance Obedience

Sometimes You Go Alone

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We’ve all been told, “It’ll get better.” Or, “God will help you through.” Or, my personal favorite, “God never gives you more than you can handle.” My cynical side that I try so very desperately to harness will, when hearing this kind of counsel, internally retort, “Well, it sure feels like I can’t handle it!”

As cynical as I may feel, those answers are true; it does get better, we do make it through, and somehow we handle all that comes our way. The question that begs answering is, “What do we do in the meanwhile as we wait for things to get better?”

I’ve passed through times in my life when I have wondered, like most of us, “Why did this happen and why am I alone? Who will walk with me?” Experiencing those times would be more palatable if we had someone to help shoulder the burden.

Matthew 26:37b NLT “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Jesus had His moment, one that felt “crushing.” He wanted to have someone walk through that time with Him, and He asked His disciples to “keep watch,” but they failed Him miserably. On two separate occasions during His agony in Gethsemane, He found them asleep (Matthew 26:40,42) even though He had asked them to “stay here and watch with me.”

As the rest of the story goes, Jesus was left totally alone; abandoned by those He had handpicked to lead His church in the future. Those He had healed, raised from the dead, delivered from demonic oppression, were all gone and He walked that road alone. Despite their desertion, He finished His assignment faithfully until the end.

His finishing made me wonder, could it be that the answer to our “crushed spirit” is finishing the assignment He has given us?

Matthew 26:42 NLT “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.”

Around and around we go in life, facing painful challenges and we go out of our way to avoid the pain, we find shortcuts, to keep us safe. Nobody likes pain; we go to great lengths to avoid it and relieve it. When I gave birth to my children, I welcomed any pain relief offered to me with great joy and if it wasn’t offered to me I begged for it. The problem with relieving pain or taking detours is that sometimes the relief isn’t worth the price paid.

Shortcuts don’t ensure our arrival at our intended destination on time; shortcuts can lead us to nowhere resulting in starting all over again which simply prolongs our process. Instead of avoiding the path and its accompanying pain, it may be better to go through than keep going around in circles only to face the same path ahead of us time after time.

The loneliness in the middle of such a season seems, on the surface, to be meant to harm us and it is often that loneliness that presses us to find a shortcut back to a more comfortable place. Jesus felt and acknowledged that loneliness when He walked through Gethsemane. While it was obvious that the desertion of His disciples was painful for Jesus to experience, He did not use that loneliness as an excuse to abandon His assignment. He knew the only way out of His Spirit being crushed was to go through with his assignment to its completion, to face the desperate moment of death that was facing Him.

John 16:33 CEV I have told you this, so that you might have peace in your hearts because of me. While you are in the world, you will have to suffer. But cheer up! I have defeated the world.”

True peace isn’t the absence of a crushing moment; it is peace in our hearts despite the crush, despite the loneliness. The end of the story for us is not a crushing defeat, but a rousing victory – but to get there, we will sometimes have to go it alone.

 

 

 

 

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
Endurance Faith

I’m Still Running

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I run.

I have always run – for as long as I can remember I would run instead of walk. This was a source of contention at home; I have memories of being asked, “Why can’t you just walk?”

Why run? I don’t know why, but I run.

I don’t run well. My brother, who was an avid runner in his youth, would try to coach me, “You’re landing on the outside of your foot too heavily! You need to balance out your stride! You can go faster! You can go farther!” I never did improve much, but I kept on running.

All these years later, my stride is still imperfect (testified of by my running shoes that wear out unevenly), I am still slow, but I can go far. I’m still running! I run poorly, my shoes are worn badly, but I keep running.

I scour the Internet, magazines, newspapers, and TV programs for tips on how to keep running as I continue to grow older. There’s all kinds of advice to be found: wear the right shoes, don’t run too far, run farther, stay hydrated, don’t run in the early morning, don’t run too late in the evening, stretch before and after, run on an empty stomach, run after you’ve eaten. Some of the advice is contradictory, some works, some doesn’t. I’ve tried almost everything I’ve read and have learned that to keep on being able to run, you have to keep it simple and you have to keep running.

Some years ago, I entered a 5K run with my daughter and husband. I laughed at the thought of what it would look like when I crossed the finish line. I was sure I would be last – but I was going to make sure I’d at least cross the line. For a few weeks before the date of the run, I began to push myself harder. I ran farther than usual, I tried to run faster, but was unimpressed with my performance.

Fast-forward to the day of the race, there were a few hundred runners present and I felt nervous; I was sure I would come in last. There were the runners of all fitness levels: beginners, intermediate, and then the well-trained athletes. They were most intimidating of all; you knew they were the ones who would come in first place just by their build and stride. They were lean and ran with a certain bounce that comes naturally to the well-trained runner. Their clothes and shoes were amazing; they had special running glasses and water canisters. Then, there was me, unimpressively dressed me. I walked among the crowd in my definitely drab running gear and unevenly worn shoes that should’ve been replaced months ago. (Thankfully I am no longer in my 20s so my appearance didn’t faze me one bit – this is one good thing about growing older, you just don’t care whether people approve of you or not). I was just there to run as I had for the past 30 years.

Then, as we all took our places, it was time to start. I started off at my usual pace, thinking it was a good day for a run. Indeed, it was a good day. Many quickly passed me by, but I just kept going at my pace. After a few laps around the pre-marked track I began to pass people, to my great surprise, who had dashed ahead of me at the start of the run. I kept on going and found the energy at the second half of the race to pick up my pace. I was alone by this time and wondered what my finishing time would be – I had rarely taken note of my running time, as by nature I am a slow runner. Crossing the finish line, I realized out of all the women in my age group, I came in 11th place. I smiled and thought, “Not bad for a drab missionary runner.”

Hebrews 12:1 NLT Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”

As it is with running, to keep up with this race of faith we run daily, we need to keep it simple and we need to keep running. Simplicity is the essence of the Gospel: God loved us so much and knew we couldn’t do life on our own so His Son came for us. We couldn’t make it, so He did. That race was too difficult for us to run – so the Trained Athlete came and ran it for us. As I run my race daily that simplicity shines through, as I trust in Him – He already ran. I just follow His steps.

Jesus, the Supreme Runner, won and instead of wearing the medal Himself, He gave it to us. I couldn’t imagine the winner of a 26-mile marathon surrendering his or her medal to someone who didn’t run and give up all the accolades that went with such a victory! It would be as if all of the training that went into that win was for nothing.

Yet Jesus doesn’t need or even want to prove Himself to anyone. He reckons that the medals, the accolades, are nothing in the face of winning the ultimate prize of the redemption He ran to win: you and me.

I never considered myself much of a prize, but He did and today I wear His medal as if it were my own. The challenge for me is to keep it simple so that others might see how they don’t have to win anything – it’s already been done.

So today, and every day, I’m keeping it simple.

I’m still running.

Categories
Choices Courage Endurance Faithfulness

Anyone Can Quit

Hebrews 12:1b NKJ “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

Did you ever feel like you just wanted to quit? Throw in the towel? Give up? Let the chips fall where they may and walk away?

We’ve all been there, wanting to quit. Wanting to quit an exercise program because it’s too hard, wanting to quit a job because the pay is too low, wanting to quit school because it’s just not working. Perhaps the things you want to quit are bigger than exercise or jobs; you may be considering quitting in marriage or your relationship with God.

It’s become very easy to quit in our day and age and current culture. The problem if we quit before God gives us the green light is we can easily fall into a “quit mode” and never really finish anything because we lower our expectations.

 

Endurance (refusing to quit) is not a popular word; by default we think of difficult things when someone says, “endurance.” Where can we find the power to endure when it’s acceptable to quit when the going gets tough? We love our freedom, we love to have choices. Our culture of freedom to come and go as we please has unconsciously allowed us the option to quit serving God or obeying Him when He would have us patiently endure and expect that He will intervene on our behalf.

William Temple said, “We block Christ’s advance in our lives by failure of expectation.”

How can we not quit? How can we see ourselves as “more than conquerors” when we feel less than able?

“You are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus, in His strength. But the only way that will become a reality in your life is if you remove the quit option. When you do that – the real battle is already won.” Jentezen Franklin

The enemy of our faith would like nothing more than for us to quit and he works to fatigue us to the point of quitting. If we simply remove that “option” to quit, how could we possibly fail? Anyone can quit; I don’t want to be just anyone, do you?

I encourage you today to let go of the quit option and embrace the “more than conquerors” option.

Romans 8:37-39 NKJ  Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”