Categories
Peace Rescue Rest

The God Who Leads

We’re continuing with hearing from one of my favorite people, Mary Johnson. Enjoy today’s post on God’s leading.

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I can never Thank God enough.

How can I begin to thank God for His mercy, His grace, His love?

How great is our God. He alone is worthy of all praise, honor and glory.

13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”   Revelation 5:13 (NIV)

When I think back on all His goodness it brings tears to my eyes.  Where there seems to be no way, He knows how to make a way.

There may be times when you feel all alone but God has said we are never alone.

10 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10 (NLT)

So I say to Him thank You Father.  When you can’t seem to see your way, Jesus has said I am the way. He makes streams in the desert.

19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)

I find myself looking at all the wonderful things God has created. He made it all for us to enjoy and to remind us He is near. When you feel like life is pulling you in different directions just know He is near, leading us to Him. All this time has been about our drawing near to Him; not about the loneliness or inadequacies or not knowing which way to turn.

Jesus has been drawing me closer to Him. There my refuge would be. In Him would be my peace, my joy, my help- my victory!

So I can say, “There You were Jesus leading and guiding me every step of the way. You were there all the time. Thank You.”

Psalm 23 (NIV)

A psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.

Mary Johnson

 

 

 

 

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.

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For more on The Enneagram, I recommend:

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

Categories
Devotion Light Love

The Light of Love

I’m delighted once again to share a devotional with you from Mary Johnson, may it fill your day with light!

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Walk in the light of His love.  What is your tone, what does it sound like? Is it covered in the light of Jesus’ love? He provides that light for us.  You can say something to someone and your very tone can speak volumes. I believe Jesus spoke with authority, but it was laced with the light of His love.

John 8:12b “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

It gives you joy when you can speak truth to someone and they receive it, because they can feel where the love is coming from.  There are times when you can be misunderstood in what you are trying to convey. However, we in return have to be willing to examine ourselves to make sure we spend time with Jesus, so that the light of His love will shine through us to others. This will reflect in what we say and how we say it.

Proverbs 15:23 TPT “Everyone enjoys giving great advice. But how delightful it is to say the right thing at the right time!”

Mary Johnson

 

Categories
Excuses Journey Minimalist Missionary Perspective Value

Just Wear The Necklace

I’m a minimalist. I don’t care for excess “fluff” in my house. Give me the basics; I need clean lines and easy-to-maintain surroundings. Looking around my home and through my very-much-in-need-of-an-update wardrobe, the theme “less is more” definitely stands out. What I didn’t know until recently was that minimalistic living is a “thing” these days and I am, as a minimalist, fashionable.

This news took me by surprise; never has it ever occurred to me that I would be on the fashion bandwagon. For a brief moment, very brief, I wondered what levels of fame my unintended minimalism could catapault me to. I quickly realized that I’m too minimalist to bother with the hussle and bustle required to expound on the benefits of living with just what is needed, thus my dream of minimalist fame ended.

How much do I need? Not very much at all.

Our work as missionaries in Africa has moved me to several countries, and even continents, over the years and this has forced me to live only with what I need. In our early years of missions work, I would pack as many supplies as I could to make sure we didn’t run out of things like socks, dental floss, deodorant, and Ziploc® bags. As the years have passed, I’ve needed less with each move that we have made. To date, all we need to settle into a new country is: two or three changes of clothes each, two pairs of shoes, toothbrushes, deodorant, and a set of plates and cutlery for four. Finances of course have played a major role in our need to live as simply as we have, but we’ve never lacked anything that we have needed.

This is why when, around 20 years ago, my husband purchased a beautiful gold necklace and matching bracelet for me, I struggled to wear it in public. We were in the States for the holidays (we have only made it back to be with family for the holidays a handful of times in over 30 years of missions work) and while we were out shopping, trying to buy Christmas presents for our family, he noticed me admiring a necklace and bracelet. The thought of him noticing still brings a smile to my face all these years later. Christmas morning I was stunned when first of all, he gave me a gift as we usually don’t exchange gifts. Then when I opened the beautiful box I saw the very necklace and bracelet I had admired; my heart just melted and he is still garnering points for that Christmas gift all these years later.

Yet I struggled with “what will people think” if I wore the necklace and bracelet? Any time someone complimented how beautiful they were when I wore them, I found a way to explain the blessing away. Thus the necklace and bracelet were tucked away, only to be used for special occasions such as weddings and graduation services.

In our travels, the necklace and bracelet still in the original box, remained in the States while we were in Africa. I reckoned at some point I would bring it with me as my home is here; but I still found it difficult to reckon with the idea of wearing such a beautiful piece of jewelry that I obviously didn’t need – but loved.

Two weeks ago, my son Stephen messaged me and his first words were, “Don’t worry Mom, I’m alright.” That sentence flagged me immediately; there was something unusual going on. Steve went on to explain that there had been a theft at the house and among the items lost were the necklace and bracelet. I was stunned and hot tears formed at the backs of my eyes. Thankful first of all that Steve was alright, I took pains to make sure that he wouldn’t feel guilty for the loss of the items. The last thing I wanted was for him to feel guilty for the theft, the only person who ought to feel guilty was the one who did the stealing!

The police were called, we pressed charges and after a few days we found out the person who stole from us (who has been apprehended) had also stolen from others and is likely to spend quite some time in prison. Through a series of events and help from the local detectives, my bracelet and necklace were found. Steve messaged and sent a picture of the items which I immediately identfied (I recognized the clasp that I had bent). Unfortunately, there’s a chance we will have to pay about $500.00 to retrieve them – but that they were found is a miracle in and of itself. I’m praying that another miracle will be found in God’s handbag that will save us from having to pay the $500.00.

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My necklace in the background and bracelet found by my son and the police.

Living as a minimalist has its definite pros that have helped me move from place to place with less stress, but I had allowed my thinking of living with less to translate into feeling ashamed. I was ashamed, felt as if I didn’t deserve or as if people wouldn’t understand why I, a missionary, could have something as beautiful as the necklace and bracelet.

When they were stolen, I mourned their loss and thought, “Why did I have them anyway?” And just like that, I let them go internally, knowing they would never be recovered. All the while as I was talking myself out of ever seeing them again, a small voice scolded me saying, “Why didn’t you enjoy them while you had them? Why can’t God bring them back to you?”

You see God isn’t a thief (John 10:10), He didn’t give me those two pieces of jewelry for them to sit in a drawer and then be stolen. He gave them to me to enjoy them, for them to serve as a reminder of how much my husband cares for and values me. How had I come to devalue myself as I had?

I will keep living with just what I need; I don’t need very much and don’t want to be bothered with so much stuff that I spend more time caring for what I have than for the people in my life. God is interested in people, they are what He values (John 3:16) but sometimes He will bless us with something we don’t need just to remind us that He’s Dad and loves to surprise us like that.

We will travel Stateside for a time of travel, itinerating, and reporting on the work here and while we are there we will work on retrieving that beautiful necklace and bracelet. There’s one thing that is for sure, when we finally do retrieve them –

I’ll wear the necklace.

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My necklace when it was recovered. I think I’ll wear it!

 

Categories
Anniversary Faith Forgiveness Love Marriage Missions

A Bit of Crazy

Every July I turn into a hopeless romantic and this year a bit more so as we are celebrating 35 years of marriage on the 21st of July. I would say that’s a bit of a milestone, it might even be a date-night worthy event. The problem is our choice of places to go for a date night here are limited so we will likely celebrate later on this year when we travel.

As missionaries, we are obliged to travel from time to time to report to supporting churches and individuals as well as hopefully meet new contacts. It’s during times like these that we fit in those much-needed moments to devote to one another and family that we don’t have opportunity to see unless we are traveling. I realize most of the popular books on marriage and family decry our life’s rhythm – but it is what we have learned to live with and work around and somehow God has given us grace and we have lasted 35 years.

When I look back on our early history, I’m sure that we weren’t a likely couple. In fact, we were a pretty unlikely couple and our relationship must have initially surprised many. The thing that brought us, and has kept us, together was simply our desire to make it for the long haul and be in the will of God at the same time. We’ve held on when we didn’t feel like holding on, we’ve forgiven one another, we’ve raised a family together, we’ve seen more in our lifetime together than I ever thought possible. As the children are now almost all grown (one 11 year old remains at home), we find ourselves closer to one another than in our early years. Our combined and common history has created a bond that is difficult to explain and can only really be understood by others who have walked their own journies of commitment in marriage.

This weekend we are hosting a special marriage ceremony for couples in our church in Bujumubura who have not been able, for one reason or another, to be married. Most of the time, these reasons have more to do with finance than anything – having the ability to host a big party has pressured many couples to forego a marriage ceremony. While we agree weddings should be a reason for celebrating, weddings are only a one-day event and their cost shouldn’t prevent couples from living in God’s order. Marriage is supposed to last for a lifetime, not just a day. After counseling and working with these couples, we decided to host a simple but beautiful ceremony at the church for these dear people who only want to get their lives and families in order. As it turns out, the church has shown up and individuals have donated time, money, and decorations for the celebration set to take place tomorrow afternoon. The excitement is brewing and my heart is fluttering for them all – what a great day lies ahead of us!

While the decor is going to be simple, it reminds me of our day so many years ago and the high hopes we had when we stood at the altar. My mother insisted on a friend of hers playing the traditional wedding march and it was almost painful walking the aisle to the tune – it was so badly done. Looking back, I’m happy I let my mom have her way. Letting mom have her way that day was one of my first lessons in learning what was and wasn’t important. The walk up the aisle had nothing to do with the music – it had everything to do with the person waiting for me at the end who was about to commit to living with all of the craziness I was about to unload on him! That my mother had joy that day, in that moment when the keys didn’t sound totally right, was more important than having it done my way.

My way and his way have given way to what has become our way. We have developed our own way of living and serving and loving one another and it has taken a lifetime to get to this point. I suppose the lesson learned from the years behind us for those looking ahead, for those who have a lifetime yet to live, is to chase the dream of love in your marriage year after year. There comes a point in the gift of love that God gives us in our marriages that is worth the wait, that is worth the fight, that is worth every bit of crazy.

I’m so glad we hung on.

Happy anniversary month Jamie, I love you. Let’s chase the dream for another 35 years and beyond.

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I couldn’t believe that I found this song online! It was sung at our wedding on July 21, 1984. #feelingnostalgic #the80s 

Categories
Correction Family Love Parenting Perspective

How Are You Sleeping?

There are some things we can’t avoid.

As parents there’s no way out of nightly feeding, potty training, skinned knees, and many many tears. Just like we can’t get out of the hard things, there are also positive moments with our children that fill our hearts: the first word, the first step, the first laugh, graduation, marriage, and perhaps the best of all being GRANDCHILDREN.

I find it curious the amount of energy we put into lessening the blows of the negatives we face when raising our families. Theories abound on how to get our babies to sleep all night; the inevitable question, “How are you sleeping?” is bound to arise at some point. Of course no one is sleeping those first weeks, sometimes months, and for some children even longer as they resist every technique that promises parents several hours of uninterrupted sleep. Two of my four children fell into the category of “resistant sleepers” and the dark circles under my eyes still pay tribute to many midnight hours of rocking, praying, pleading, and halfway dozing in my chair with my baby in my arms. I’m sure millions of dollars in revenue have been earned by those writing the popular “how to” books for sleep training our children. Some work and some don’t; it all depends on the child.

The truth of the matter is that a child’s personality cannot be contained – what works for one won’t always work for another. Parenting is the one job I’ve had in my lifetime that has taught me, brutally at times, how to read situations from different angles, how to empathize, sympathize, and most importantly how to love in the middle of misunderstanding. While learning this I have had to, at the same time, maintain a standard for our children of what is important to us as parents. Truly parenting, not just having children, has been the challenge and joy of my lifetime.

I imagine, as God’s child, I have been a challenge to raise. I have resisted many of His prompts, schedules, and standards. He has sympathized, empathized, and loved me in the middle of the midnight hours and my loudest of tantrums. Never once has He compromised His stance, but in His discipline I never found rejection. On the contrary, I found a Father Who was true to everything He stood for and faithful to love in the middle of my refusing to settle down and trust Him.

I’ve heard it said that children are looking for boundaries, for safety, and will test those boundaries (albeit unconsciously perhaps) to see how much they are loved. While human parents will fail, I have failed miserably from time to time as a parent, God cannot. Human parents may give up on their children for one reason or another – God returns to us time again refusing to give up on any of us.

Could there be a better example of parenting? I don’t think so.

I used to think that my parenting career would retire at some point; that my children would no longer be as connected as they grew up and moved on into their own lives. This is true to a certain extent, our children need to form their own families without our overbearing interference. However, I’ve also found that I’ll always be their mom, that my heart will always be full when they call or message me, that there won’t be a day that I don’t think of and pray for them, and that I’ll always be there when they need me.

While my own mother has gone to heaven and I often feel the sting of her absence, and someday my own children will face my departure, I won’t face the absence of God, my heavenly Father, ever. I remember growing up into young adulthood and often resisitng my mother’s advice for one reason or another because I knew I could “do it better” than she did. As the years passed, I began to realize she knew much more than I did about many things and I began to seek out her advice. When she died I realized what a treasure of advice and counsel I had lost. In the same way, the older I get, the more I realize how much I need and rely on my Father’s counsel.

I”m grateful, so grateful, to have learned to trust Him rather than resist Him.

Life is beautiful in His family.

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On a side note, another innocuous change in me as a parent as I’ve grown older is found in my lunch offerings for my fourth child, our bonus baby. Yesterday, she had samosas (a fried slightly spicy meat pie that is the food of heaven) and marshmallows for lunch. I was tempted to feel “parent shame” until my oldest son (who I had messaged her menu to) said, “It’s ok. Let her enjoy life.” 

The student has become the teacher!

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Categories
Choices Harvest Healing Love Uncategorized

The Dance

Worship
No on knows what’s behind these lifted hands.

It’s been a few weeks since my last post; we’ve been in the middle of a move and if you’ve ever moved you know what I’m talking about. Thankfully, the house we moved to is a short distance from where we were, making the actual transporting of our things a bit easier. I still need to hang curtains for the few curtains I had are too short to fit the windows – I’m wondering how long I can bear leaving my few bedsheets on the windows.

I’m forever explaining myself away.

Why I’ve not posted a blog.

Why my husband and I choose to keep pursuing overseas missions.

Why, why, why do I feel indebted to explain everything away to everyone?

Romans 13:8 NASB “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.”

Inside I feel, as I suppose many of us do, the need to be understood and accepted. I easily concur with the above verse from Romans; the only debt I have to others is to love them. However, I want others to love and accept me and my natural tendency is to explain things away to gain approval.

What a waste of energy because the opinions people have of us can change as swiftly as the direction of the wind.

In our church here in Bujumbura, we have a lovely lady named Mama Christine Makamba who is one of our cell leaders. To get by, she farms; she works hard and shares her harvest with poorer single mothers who attend her home cell group. When they arrive at her home for meeting, she has a meal prepared for them and spends time listening to them, praying for their needs, and trying to help them find a way to feed their young children.

This past Sunday, as usual, Mama Makamba and I chatted about her group, about certain ones we want to help, and as she talked I marveled at her smile. Her joy is almost tangible when talking about her ladies and the change in the lives of her members. Her frustration also rises to the surface when she feels she’s not breaking through and making a difference.

What most people don’t know about Mama Makamba is that she is 67 years old (she won’t mind me saying so), has had 10 children and was a pastor’s wife in one of our churches. Her husband died about 10 years ago from complications of a stroke he had a few years prior. Two of her 10 children were poisoned and died and she has had to face the harsh realities of life as a widow in Africa. I can’t imagine what she has had to endure.

And yet, she has the strength to smile and the strength to love. She believes in paying that debt of love.

On Sunday, Mama Makamba is the only older person in our worship team. Everyone else is much younger but they all sing with her without regard to her age, and I think this is because she loves them all and it shows. She leads them in joy and love – and when she dances something moves in the heavenlies.

No one, besides God, knows the price she has had to pay, the price any of us have paid to get to where we are and there’s no explaining away the work of God in each of us because His grace meets us all where we need to be met. No one else, besides ourselves, can “get” what He has done in and for us and that gives us reason for joy.

I’ve decided, instead of explaining, to follow Mama Makamba’s example and dance – God knows why I’m dancing and He is the best Partner.

Zephaniah 3:17 NKJ “The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”

 

 

Categories
Family Love Marriage Missions

Lists, Beds and Dishes

Someone once said to me that they admired me because I was organized enough to get things done without writing a list. I stopped and thought for a moment and realized it was true. Lists weren’t something I adhered to mostly because if I wrote one I would forget that I wrote it and forget where I placed it! I tend to wake up in the morning and just go and do what needs to be done.

My husband, Jamie, is the polar opposite when it comes to listing. When asked what he has going for the day, his reply, “Let me look at my list.” He’s very old school when it comes to lists in that he writes everything down that he wants to get done every day. I’ve learned not to look down on his list system as he gets things done and rarely forgets something that has been listed. I even ask him to write things down to remind me – he gets a bit upset when I ask him and wants to know why I won’t write my own lists to which I reply:

You know I’ll forget that I wrote it down and I’ll forget where I put it. It’s not rocket science, I get up and go and hope the chips land in the right places by the end of the day.

I think it’s pretty amazing how we have learned to function over the years. We used to clash over things like listing and washing dishes but over time (35 years this July!) we have evolved in our understanding of one another. For example, he doesn’t understand why I like the bed made because:

We’re just going to sleep again tonight, why bother making it again?

To which I respond:

Then you have no opinion over what bedspreads or decorative things I use.

We are at peace! At first, he didn’t make the bed and I got somewhat used to his view on the matter. Now as the years have passed, I’ve found the bed made from time to time when I’ve not made it! I think he must like me.

Years ago when we first moved overseas, I was busy with three young children at home and naturally let him cover most of the mission office work. I thought I had enough on my plate (and I did) just trying to get from morning til evening with the family. I reckoned that he should take care of the office – until I watched him one day. Jamie worked hard to keep everything in order but was swimming in administration. I’m pretty good at telling people what to do, at least that is what my kids have said, so I quietly (almost imperceptibly) began taking much of the administrational load from him. Slowly I assumed the task of writing our newsletters, overseeing some accounting for him, and other mundane but necessary tasks. I think I really like him a lot.

We have learned to take up the slack for the other; neither expects the other to fit into some prefabricated mold. Our responsibilities overlap in such a way that works for us, our marriage isn’t what’s “my” job or “your” job. Our marriage and everything that it’s about is “our” job. Sometimes that calls me to give a bit more and other times he gives a bit more, and we try not to keep track of who is ahead in giving. We’re cool with one another like that.

I didn’t set out to write about our enigmatic way of working together but this blog, like our life together, doesn’t ever end up looking like what it started out to be! Life with Jamie has been an adventure, I can never say he’s not taken me anywhere. I can also say it’s been very good to grow together in love as we wait for the next part of our adventure to unfold.

At the same time, I still like the bed made and dishes washed and he still likes lists. Maybe I should write him a list about the dishes and bed? Nah, that might be pushing it.

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Categories
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.

Categories
Change Correction Cross Family Forgiveness Kindness Kingdom Missions

Be Nice

I remember one of my favorite things to say to my 3 older kids when they were growing up was:

“Be nice.”

Sometimes it felt nearly impossible to get through a day without a major crisis unfolding between 2 or all 3 of them. The oldest would pop the youngest over the head, the 2nd born (a daughter) would take great delight in getting her 2 brothers in trouble, and the 3rd born relished in the fact that he had it a bit easier than his 2 older siblings. Now, with a 4th one that came a full 15 years after our 3rd, you know there is a lot of “you didn’t do that for us” going around.

Well, I confess, there’s truth to that statement, but we learn as we go don’t we? While we were waiting for our first child to be born, I remember thinking how I would do everything better than everyone else (why I thought this I am not sure). I knew how I wanted to raise my child in a certain way that was better than everyone else’s. I was sure that my household would be quiet, peaceful, the laundry would always be folded, dinner on the table, and everyone would be nice.

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Fast forward 10 years and I found myself up to my neck in raising children, living abroad, and somehow working as a full-time missionary Africa. I honestly do not know how I made it through those days with my mind still somewhat intact. The amount of work that just goes into running a household here is stupefying; there is no fast food (thankfully), no quick place to shop (you go to the market which is an all-day ordeal), and keeping the house clean is a whole other blog for another day. All of this doesn’t take into account the work of the mission and church. At the end of every day (much like you wherever you are), both then and now, I wonder how I made it and continue to make it and follow my own counsel to “be nice.” Honestly, I wasn’t always as nice as I had hoped to be – but I always worked on it and am still working on it!

Ephesians 4:31,32 LB “Stop being mean, bad-tempered, and angry. Quarreling, harsh words, and dislike of others should have no place in your lives. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God has forgiven you because you belong to Christ.”

In the current supercharged world of “speaking our minds,” many have forgotten the need for those of us identifying as Christians to just be nice, be kind to each other. Everywhere we look these days be it online, TV, print, or in person there’s a strong negative current to “speak up for what is right.” We are ambassadors of the Kingdom and our righteous King, but we won’t convince anyone of their need for Christ if our righteousness is covered in ugliness. No matter the situation, Scripture is clear on the matter, we must be nice.

Society has always been ugly, humanity has always been divided, and the church can’t fulfill her mission when she looks, acts, and speaks like the world. Whatever happened to following Jesus advice to “Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29 NLT)

Have you ever noticed how exhausting it is to force change with anger or frustration? I wonder how many ulcers and troubles with high blood pressure could be averted by simply being nice. 

I learned this truth the hard way years ago serving here on the continent when I saw much hunger, injustice, and unnecessary death. I worked myself to the bone trying to bring change; no matter how hard I worked, no matter how many hungry and vulnerable children I fed, there were still more than needed feeding and despite my valiant efforts, people still went hungry. I became tired and bitter about my situation and the unfairness of it all – until one day, after sickness forced me to rest, I understood that anything pulling me from Jesus’ yoke that gives me rest is not His will for me. Over time I began to understand that this fallen world is full of sin and sin can’t be dealt with on our terms. Anger, frustration, overworking, and self-righteousness pull us away from His way to address man’s fallen nature by just being nice. The response of humanity to the message of the cross is not my responsibility; I am only responsible to bring the Good News. As long as there is sin in the world, there will be division, injustice, and pain.

This doesn’t mean we don’t speak the truth for Scripture clearly instructs us to “Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.” (Ephesians 4:15 NLT) What is our motive for speaking out and what is our method? If love for those we see lost in sin is our motive, then our methods will line up with Scripture – otherwise we are only adding fuel to the fire of division instead of bringing Christ in to redeem the situation.

How has frustration over the sinfulness of this world worked for us thus far? How has being angry helped any situation? Jesus walked this fallen earth and seldom was seen showing outright anger and frustration to the world; He had come to save them, give Himself for them – He died for them. His frustration was seen in the temple, among the “righteous,” who were too bsuy enriching themselves to reach out to those who really needed help – those outside of the temple (for us this can be taken to mean the church).

My youngest daughter loves the movie, “Frozen” and the theme song, “Let it go.” I rarely spiritualize animated movies but today I will make an exception. Those things frustrating you, those unfair, unrighteous, unholy, difficult things that anger you – let them go. Take Jesus’ yoke on you, He is the only One qualified to measure out judgment. Now is the time to be the church in the world, speak in love, and simply put:

Be nice.