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
Doubt Faith Missionary Perspective Thankful Travel Why

I Had To See Over The Trees

Earlier this year, in July to be more precise, I learned that some jewelry I had left in the USA with my son had been stolen (we live in Burundi, Africa). Together with the help of the local detective, my son located the items at a local pawn shop. After speaking with the owner and proving that the items were indeed mine and stolen, a hold was placed on them pending resolution of the case. In the meanwhile, I wrote a personal statement and sent it in to the investigating detective and waited to travel Stateside for our usual bi-yearly itineration. We were set to arrive in September and would work on collecting the jewelry at that time.

When we finally arrived in town and managed to talk to the detective face-to-face, we learned that retrieving our property would be a bit more complicated than we had originally imagined. The owner of the shop had offered to “give” us our property if we paid him $500.00. We felt such a sum was unfair and followed the detective’s advice to file papers at the courthouse to get the property returned to us. The shop owner was resolute and would not return the stolen property; we were given a date to appear before a judge just last week (October 24).

I found myself standing last Thursday morning at a podium next to the pawn shop owner before a judge. The whole process for me was nerve wracking. My husband (Jamie), who had pushed for us to get the items returned in the first place, has the emotional strength of an army. His mantra throughout the process was, “It’s not their jewelry! We are going to get it back!” I followed his lead, all the while feeling wobbly and anxious about what the actual outcome would be.

I am an Enneagram 2w1 personality for those who might be interested, it may shed light on my reaction!

Yes, the necklace and bracelet were mine, yes they were stolen and yes I wanted them back. However, I also knew that things don’t always turn out as we hope or plan and my negativity took over “helping” me to prepare for disappointment. I went so far as saying, “Let them keep it!” when the shop owner refused to return in voluntarily. Jamie would not hear of it and off we went to see the judge last Thursday.

Since the jewelry was mine, I was the one called to stand at the podium. I knew Jamie would most likely have done a better job than me in explaining the whole situation but I did my best when my account of events was called for. I kept things truthful, simple and to-the-point. There was no need for anything more or less, I reckoned, as a little part of me hoped that the right thing would happen.

When it was time for the shop owner to speak, his words were loud, coarse and shaded. The judge, while she had pity on him that he had paid $1,100.00 for the items and had lost money, had no pity on him when it came to her reminding him of the law. He had to return the jewelry to me without pay – they were mine and it was wrong, against the law, for him to keep them.

An order was written on the spot and handed to both parties ordering the shop to return the items to me free of any charge. About an hour later, I found myself wearing the necklace and bracelet, a bit embarrassed at my pessimism throughout the process.

Why did I doubt You, Lord?

Luke 19:3 NASB “Zacchaeus was trying to see who Jesus was…”

I was trying hard to see Jesus but I was just too short to see above the tree line. I thought my problem was not of any consequence; a necklace and bracelet have no value in light of the lives of the children we feed in Burundi and Malawi or the schools that we are opening. It seemed so trivial, but I hoped that somehow those unnecessary items would silently make their way home without any fuss. So, like Zacchaeus, I had to climb up just a bit higher to see Him and recognize what He was doing and just like He did for Zacchaeus, Jesus came home on Thursday to eat with me at our table – and He brought the necklace and bracelet home to me.

 

Categories
Adoption Choices Family Mercy Why

The Paintbrush…

I have four children, each one is precious to me. My firstborn was the first: the first child born to our family, the first one we taught to walk, the first one we walked to school, and the first one to leave home. He was the “trial run” that paved the way for his siblings. I’ll never forget what it felt like to find out for the first time we were going to have a baby, the first time that I held him, and the first time that he smiled at me. Our daughter came a little more than 4 years later. She was the easy-going baby who had to stop and look at every flower, laugh whenever her daddy played with her, and cuddled close to me at bedtime. By the time number 3 came around, we were “professional” parents. He was our funny child; always ready to laugh, always ready for a game, and since we thought he was the last baby, we made sure to enjoy him as much as we could. Fast-forward 15 years and surprise! We were blessed with a bonus baby: number 4 who captured all of us. She had been abandoned in a local government hospital in Malawi where we lived at the time (we still live in Malawi) and when we saw her, we knew she was meant for our family to raise.

After a long and arduous process to adopt her, she became our daughter legally. Our oldest son made the long trip over to Malawi from the States (he had moved Stateside to finish his education by this time) and was with us when the time came to appear before the judge. It was a special day, seeing the first one all handsome and grown, together with this little baby and I thought, “It’s not fair that little ones like her should suffer, that millions around the world should suffer.”

“It’s not fair!” It’s the cry of kids at home worldwide. Each one of my children has cried foul whenever another was introduced into the family. Fairness, as I have come to define it, is an unseen scale by which we measure treatment. All parents try their best to be fair, but as all parents know, what is right for one child may not be right for the other. My second born child never needed a bedtime when she was young because she would fall asleep very early on her own. My oldest, on the contrary, needed a bedtime because he could stay awake until late and then struggle to get up to go for school. What wise parents do is give all their children a level playing field where all are given equal amounts of understanding, mercy, and love.

God is the Ultimate Parent, He knew that all His children would need unlimited mercy, understanding, and love. In His wisdom He affords everyone the same opportunity and sets us on a level playing field.

Romans 11:32 ESV“For God has consigned all to disobedience, that He may have mercy on all.”

All of us need mercy, just as our children need mercy when they blow it (and we all know that they do) and all of us have been given the same opportunity to be forgiven. On our individual journeys, it may seem what is happening to us isn’t fair. Perhaps the best way to view it isn’t through the limited lens of fairness but painted with the broad brush of mercy that exceeds what any of us deserves.

We naturally paint the world around us with our understanding of fairness, of what is right and just. Where we stumble as we interpret our world is judging on the surface by that unseen standard of what we think is fair. Were we to know the entire backstories to those issues we are witness to, it might be that our opinions would change. There is only One Who knows the backstories to all the unfairness in the world and He is the only One Who is equipped to understand it all. I don’t suppose, if we knew even a bit of what He knew, that we would be so quick to see things as “unfair.”

As I am writing this, I can hear baby number 4, who is now 10 years old, laughing while she’s playing with her friend. That we listened to God’s heart to take her in when we saw her is an image of God painting a life with His love and mercy. You see, it is only through the hands of His children can He extend mercy to others. Imagine if we all, instead of wondering about the fairness of it all, would paint the lives of those around us with mercy.

Categories
Bible reading Christmas Church planting Judgment New Year Offense The Call of God

He Was A Missionary

We are at the end of 2017. One could say it’s the end of an era; at least an era lasting a whole 12 months.  Every year I find myself saying the same thing, “I can’t believe another year has gone by” and while it feels like a tedious saying, it’s nevertheless true.

It is nearly 2018 and I don’t know where the days went, how 12 months could tick by so quickly. The year has been full of activity and I hope most of it was productive. The older I get the more I wonder how much of what I’ve devoted myself to was really what mattered.

Did it matter that the power went off? Oh, the power did go off a lot in the past year but we’re still here.

Did it matter that the water went off? It was very inconvenient and smelly, but we’re still here.

Did it matter that our Blantyre church still meets in a tent? The floor is dirt and money to build is still in realms of prayer, but we’re still meeting.

What have we done that mattered his year? What have we accomplished that held any eternal value in the face of an ever-complicated world situation?

I find myself asking these questions and understand a bit more every year that what matters most isn’t encompassed by what we would naturally consider valuable or important.

In my devotions, I have come across the story of Jonah. The book of Jonah is one of my favorite books in the Bible because Jonah resembles me in so many ways: he’s sent to a country not his own, he’s not a “qualified” prophet, and the circumstances he faces causes him to have a bit of an attitude. Now, I know no one else reading this ever has attitude problems, but I find myself battling them daily as I walk on this road of life.

Jonah, as many of us know him, was a runaway prophet. The city of Nineveh was a city that was a fierce enemy of Israel, Jonah’s nation. They were well known for pillaging Israel at every chance they got – but God had called Jonah to prophecy to them, to give them a chance to turn and repent.

whale

As the story goes, Jonah runs from his call, gets swallowed by a fish, begs for mercy in the fish, is himself delivered, and brings God’s message to Nineveh. The people collectively repented and God’s wrath was held back. This turn of events angered Jonah; when you read the story, you could initially be dumbfounded by Jonah’s reaction. Why would Jonah resist God’s command to the point of running away and facing all of the consequences that he did?

I wonder if the Ninevites, in their pillaging of Israel, didn’t touch Jonah’s life? Had he lost property or loved ones in the raids? Surely, he was effected somehow, if not even himself directly. It was no wonder he struggled to obey God’s call to the Ninevites, his enemy.

Even after his infamous stay in the fish, Jonah grudgingly preaches God’s message. He was so angry when God’s wrath was held back; he seemed to have wanted the people to suffer at God’s hand:

Jonah 4:1-3 NKJV“But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the Lord, and said, “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!”

Jonah, if we were to take him at his word, would’ve preferred to die than seeing God show mercy on his enemies, people who he felt didn’t deserve God’s mercy. What Jonah didn’t understand was that God had a greater understanding of the people; they weren’t even what today’s Christians would call “God’s people” but God loved them and said to Jonah:

Jonah 4:11 NKJV“And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left…”

God saw something that Jonah didn’t see; He saw the hearts of people. He knew the people’s hearts were ready for a change and He was willing to offer them the change He knew they were ready for. He also knew the condition of Jonah’s heart and knew the only remedy for Jonah’s bitterness was to be sent on this mission of mercy to those who had no right to it. What Jonah didn’t see was the condition of his own heart that, without the same mercy, would also have been deserving of God’s judgment.

As I consider the goings-on of the year, and the hiccups that came along with the year’s events, I hope my attitude hasn’t been like Jonah’s of times past. It would be easy, if I listened to the loud rhetoric being sent across the airwaves and internet to judge others less than worthy of God’s goodness – but thank God, He is not that way. He was not that way with me, I therefore, cannot be that way with others whether or not I understand God’s love for them.

What mattered this year is if I honestly represented my Lord and His Mission as I went about my days, if I reached out with mercy and grace, even when I’ve not been offered that same courtesy.

My prayer as I look forward to 2018 is that I might value what God values and be true to The Mission of extending mercy where it is undeserved – and that understanding starts with me.

missions