Posted in Holy Spirit, Missions, New Year, Perspective, Relevance, Relevant

I Got It All Wrong

A little over a year ago, just for fun really and because I thought we could contribute something interesting and useful in the area of working overseas in missions, I started a podcast. It really didn’t enter into my mind whether or not there was a special technique involved. “It’s so easy to start a podcast” was the message out there and I felt encouraged to soldier on into a new world of communication. I knew ours would be a simple endeavor considering my setting (we live in Burundi, Africa). I read up on the basics of podcasting: how to submit your podcast to iTunes, adding it on to social media accounts, among other things, and simply got started.

Of course I’ve been told I’ve “gotten it all wrong” because “everyone else does it this way” i.e., translated a way other than what I was doing. Had someone said this to me when I was much younger, it would’ve bothered me quite a bit. You see, one of the benefits of growing older is learning to let go of any negative effect that the opinions of others have on us. I’ve learned to listen, make corrections, and even ignore comments made that have no bearing at all on what I’m trying to achieve.

I’ve gotten so many things wrong according to what “they” say – but each and every time I’ve fallen for what “they” have said instead of allowing God to weigh in with His say, I’ve ended up miserable. Through that wonderful school of hard knocks called “life,” I’m finally at the place in my walk with the Lord where I know without a shadow of a doubt that what God wants from me is far more important than what anyone else would like to see me be or become.

So our podcast is so very simple; some may call it “dumbed down” to nothing. I don’t have any intro music, nor do I have facy fade-ins or fade-outs. I’m not against giving it a bit of polish but considering where we are and what we have technology-wise, having one as simple as ours is a victory!

As our world becomes increasingly desensitized to God’s voice in its pursuit of all the bells and whistles of remaining relevant, we risk being swept away in the current of sacrificing the message for the sake of being relevant. In this place of pressing to be accepted and current in society, things like prayer for those who need Jesus gets pushed farther and farther into more secluded areas in order to keep people comfortable. The Holy Spirit has become a ghostly phantom rather than a powerful presence. We slowly get lulled into a spiritual slumber thinking that if we draw bigger crowds then we are surely becoming more successful.

Jesus spends most of Luke 12 warning those following Him of the dangers of flowing with the crowd and allowing even a little bit of the world’s “yeast” to enter into our lives. That little bit of compromise, that little bit of trying to please everyone and not sound crazy might lead us somewhere we would have never dreamed of going.

**On a side note I’d say a lot of what we see in society today is itself pretty crazy so those saying we’re crazy don’t have much to talk about but that’s another entry for another day.

Luke 12: 51-53 MEV “Do you suppose that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For there will be from now on five divided in one house, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, and mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” 

Jesus’ desire isn’t for people to be in conflict, but in stating that His message would bring division seems to be in conflict with the “Peace on Earth” message (Luke 2:14) we’ve just come from celebrating during Christmas. Jesus Himself is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) so how can a Prince of Peace cause division? He knew that people would not readily lay down their own ideas in exchange for His. He knew that people would reject His message that results in ultimate peace. He knew His message would run cross-grain to all cultures all over the world throughout many millenia. This is largely a result of our desire to be in charge; after all, we know better than anyone else what works in our culture, right?

Matthew 11:28-30 MEV Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me. For I am meek and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”

What everyone all over the world have in common is that they labor, they are heavily burdened. What those labors and burdens look like from country to country vary; in Africa the majority of the population labor simply to have enough money to feed themselves and their children. In the developed world people labor to maintain what they have accumulated. No matter what the labor – it is labor and it burdens us and causes us to work, sometimes frantically, to ease the burden we bear.

True rest comes from letting go of our own opinions in exchange for His.

This year I want to rest and that will look like I’m getting it all wrong – and that’s fine by me.

Posted in Peace, Perspective, surrender

My Surrender

Once I heard of a church here in Africa that called itself the church of the, “intellectuals.” Obviously I didn’t qualify for membership. Yes, I do have papers, degrees, certificates, a longish cv (because I’ve lived a while now) but I only make use of them when necessary (i.e., proving qualifications and experience). Don’t get me wrong, I love studying. My husband often says if there’s a book lying around I will read it – and he’s right. However, I felt grieved when I heard of this gathering of people based on their perceived intellect. I say perceived because intelligence isn’t always measured by education; there are many who have earned numerous degrees but fail to produce results in the “smart” department.

When hearing of this church for “intellectuals,” I wondered what was the standard for qualification? Was it necessary for one to finish high school to be accepted? Or was a 2,4,8, or 12 year degree required? On this continent, even having finishing secondary school as a qualifier drastically reduced the number of qualified applicants making the church of “intellectuals” an elite society indeed.

Everywhere I go around the world, it seems people group themselves according to social preferences. It’s rare, if not impossible, to find a city in the world where everyone finds common ground on which to stand. The poor, who spend each day working for their next meal, find it difficult to understand the rich, who are busy trying to maintain their excessive lifestyles. The educated who understand a bit about science, find it difficult to communicate with the uneducated who are bound by folklore and superstition of the region. Unconsciously the lines separating society are drawn and the all-too-familiar divisions surface to hamstring the progress of unity.

Ephesians 2:14-18 NLT For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.  He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death. He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.”

The things that divide us must bow their knees when confronted by the reality that in the sacrifice of Christ which supplies us with what we need: peace. The cross removes hostility, the cross removes the wall that separates, the cross removes what divides – and this peace is impossible to attain without the cross. Peace that unites has evaded and continues to evade every system created by mankind throughout history and will continue to evade us unless the cross is given entrance.

Yes, I know what many are thinking at this point, “Why are Christians so divided?” The answer is simple: there’s a lack of surrender to the work of the cross. Were all believers to surrender to the point that is seen in Ephesians 2 above, the divisions that plague us would disappear almost effortlessly. The enemy (who is Satan, yes, he is real) knows this and works to divide in order to keep the church void of power. This surrender to the cross doesn’t rely on what others may or may not be doing – I am only responsible for my surrender and Christ is the One who then draws those together who have surrendered to be connected together in His body to form His church (Colossians 2:19).

But first of all, it’s my surrender.

Posted in Choices, Peace

The Mom Voice and Shopping Carts

I had to laugh today when someone mentioned that the local grocery store had new shopping carts. I found myself smiling, thinking I need to go and experience using a clean, smooth-driving shopping cart. Using these shopping carts can be a hazardous to your health: they are sticky, smelly, and otherwise unhygienic. I feel as if I have to disinfect myself when using them and use my “mom voice” with my daughter when she tries to touch it, “Don’t touch that, you have no idea what is on it.”

mom voice

This may not seem important, and it really isn’t, but we in Blantyre have become accustomed to filthy shopping carts that turn left when you want to turn right and turn right when you want to turn left. There have been times when the cart I’m using simply stops moving in the middle of a shop and I, the unfortunate shopper, am stuck with a cart that I end up having to pull, instead of push, to the checkout.

From checkout, I then proceed with great difficulty with the sticky cart-that-needs-a-front-end-alignment turning this way and that, to the car. Finally, after loading groceries, the temptation is great to shout at the cart and leave it, just like everyone else does, in the parking area – but that is not meant to be. No, I have heard teachings on the importance of returning the cart and I can’t bear the guilt of leaving the cart. So, I once again fight with my nemesis and return it, often to the quizzical looks of others who also despise the carts at the store, to its proper place.

By the time I return to the car, that I have on occasion unintentionally scratched with the misaligned cart, I’ve broken into a full sweat and count shopping for that day as my cardio workout. The problem is that more often than not, I have to frequent several places to filling my grocery list for the week and this process repeats itself two or three times before I get home. Then, I have to unpack everything and take myself, and daughter, through a decontamination process after our encounter with the sticky cart.

It’s obvious I’m no fan of grocery shopping and perhaps you can understand why now that you know of my problem with grocery carts. The truth of the matter is, despite my utter disdain for the carts here, that shopping carts aren’t a big deal in life; they’re really little details. However, those little details can create a very big deal if left unattended. Just knowing that the store’s carts were as bad as they were, made me avoid shopping there – but now upon hearing that there are new carts I may (emphasis on may) not avoid that shop next week.

A rock in the shoe, a shopping cart that turns badly, or no power to print your document, all are inconvenient, but none are deadly. These little things are conveniences that are meaningful, but do we allow them to mean more than they should? I am guilty, on more than one occasion, allowing what’s really a small thing to have a greater impact on my life than it should and I find myself in a “kerfuffle” (I like that word) for nothing.

My mother was pretty amazing and I didn’t realize how amazing she was until I was grown. She graduated into God’s glory in 2008 and I miss her dearly; one of the things I miss most is her way of making what seems complicated, to be simple. One saying of hers that has stuck with me has helped me deal with the unimportant things of life: “If you’re going to be upset, be upset about something that really matters – and there are a lot of things that don’t matter.”

Today I choose peace, I choose to shake the rock from my shoe, avoid the bad shopping cart, and find a way to teach without my printout. The emotional energy invested in being upset has no payout besides elevated blood pressure and heartburn, so why bother?

John 14:27 NLT “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

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