Saturday, December 31, 2011

In Retrospect....

”The years teach much which the days never know.

I can’t help myself. I always have so much excitement about the beginning of a new year. I just love the feel of 365 days of possibility lying before you, just waiting to be experienced. It’s like and adventure – and I love adventure!

To be sure, some adventures are laden with more adversity and hardship than others. And, if I’m honest, 2011 was one of those “hardship” years. It’s not that it wasn’t a good year, because it was. But, if it has to fall in one category or the other – it was just a hard year….but it had some really sweet moments thrown in.

I guess I would classify it as a hard year because it was year of “goodbyes.” I began January 2011, knowing that it would be the year when I once again got to set eyes on my beloved Mozambique. But, I also knew that meant saying goodbye to so many other things that I loved as well.

I said goodbye to being the Children’s Ministry Director at FFC. That was a job I loved! I loved planning events and working with the volunteers. I loved the hugs and smiles of all the children that I came to think of as “mine.” It was bittersweet to walk away from all of that.

I said goodbye to Florida – my home for nearly 5 years. Florida was a place that I swore was “two years and no more.” But, I found out God had so much more planned for me and I found a church that challenged my faith and friends that are more like family. Saying goodbye to all of that was almost enough to make me reconsider Mozambique.

I welcomed my nephew, Isaac into this world. We had prayed for him for so long, that the day of his birth seemed almost surreal. But, I realized with great sadness, too, that I would miss many milestones in his life. Mostly, I am thankful that I got to be there at his birth, to hold him, and share so many wonderful memories with my sister.

I watched my relationship with my sister bloom into the kind of relationship I had always wanted with her. That was a really sweet spot in my year. There is nothing in this world quite like a sister, and I got the best of them.

I watched my mom get remarried. In many ways, this is a good thing. My mom has been by herself since my dad died 14 years ago. My siblings and I are grown with lives of our own. It is good that she has someone and I enjoyed watching her joy. However, it happened fast – the kind of whirlwind that makes you stop and ask, “Did that really happen?” And, as any of you who have watched your parents date or marry someone else will understand, it is not easy – no matter how good it is. It was so devastating when we lost my dad, and then it was like it solidified us as a group – we had lost this person we loved and that grief bonded us in a way nothing else could. And, now, my mom brought someone else into the picture. Greg is a good guy, and I like him – a lot. He makes her happy.  But her marriage to Greg was like the final nail in the coffin. It’s not like I thought my dad was coming back, but this new chapter closed the old one with my Dad with a finality that left me unprepared for the grief I felt. So, that too, was a bittersweet day.

And then, in a flurry of activity, I visited friends for the last time, packed a few belongings and got ready to say goodbye to everyone and everything familiar for a really long time. I didn’t expect it to be so hard to go to Mozambique. After all, it’s the one thing I had consistently talked about for nearly 6 years. But, as I stood in the kitchen with my 91 year old grandmother, thinking that this might just be the last time I saw her it nearly broke me. Those last few days at home, I could hardly eat or enjoy the things I was doing. Goodbye seemed too hard – and too costly.

I didn’t want to think about the fact that I would be just a distant memory to my friends kids when I returned. I didn’t want to think about missing out on the adoption of a really good friend. I didn’t want to think about all the moments I would miss. I couldn’t think about the fact that the next time I saw my nephew he would be a little boy – and he might even have a brother or sister. I hated to think that I would miss out on getting to know my mom’s new husband. This question loomed over my head, “What is it like to step out of your life for 3 years, and then step back into it?”

Now that I’m here, I’m ever so glad that I came. I know I am supposed to be here. I know that I will look back with such gratefulness that I got to be here and love these little guys – that I got to be the one to kiss the booboos, and praise their artwork, and play ball with them. I will be eternally grateful that I got to share Jesus with them. This is where I am supposed to be.

Even still, it is hard for me to think back to all those goodbyes without tearing up. They were hard days that will one day be rewarded. So, as I look to 2012, I am so hoping that it will be a year of “hellos.” I am hoping it will be a year of great rejoicing, and laughter, and fewer tears.

But, whatever it holds, I know that He will be there and I will be richer for having walked through it with him. See that’s the thing about walking with Jesus, it’s not always pleasant or what you would have chosen, but in the end you know you’ve gained this depth of soul that you would not trade one teardrop for.

So, bring on 2012, I can’t wait!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Thinking about a Book....

Today on my blog, I am going to tackle something political (which is not at all the forum for this blog) and I’m also going to create a spoiler alert for the new Jodi Picoult book (readers, beware!)

I have just finished reading Sing You Home, her latest novel about the issues of gay marriage and infertility. I must first tell you that I am a fan of Jodi Picoult books. I love courtroom dramas and Picoult has a way of tackling pretty tough issues and making you think about it from another view point. She has tackled many issues from suicide to terminally ill children. The language in her books can be a little rough at times, but its usually to help the character express himself in the light of very strenuous circumstances. I’m not saying I like the language, but neither am I tempted to start dropping the F bomb – so I don’t really see it as a huge deal.

The plot of this novel is this (spoiler alert): A married couple, Max & Zoe have tried IVF unsuccessfully to help them have a child. When their latest round of IVF ends in a still birth, the couple can’t cope with their loss and divorce. Zoe befriends a lesbian teacher and decides she is also lesbian and they get married. Max goes to live with his brother Reid and his wife, Liddy, who are members of an ultra conservative church. When Zoe asks Max for the use of the last 3 frozen embryos so that she and her partner can have a baby, he decides he wants to give them to Reid and Liddy who have also been unable to conceive. A court battle ensues. There are a lot of details I’m leaving out (so read the book) but,  Zoe decides to give Max the embryos instead of being slapped with a sexual harassment suit (which was fabricated). Max in turn gives them back to her knowing she will make a great mom. The last chapter is told from the view point of Samantha – Zoe’s little girl. Sammy knows she is the luckiest girl in the world because she has Mommy Zoe, Mama Nessa, and Daddy. She also has Auntie Liddy – who is getting ready to marry Daddy. Yes, by the end of the book Liddy has left her husband Reid for his brother, Max. The book closes by Sammy saying she really is the luckiest girl in the world.

I was bothered by many things in this book – and the top one on the list wasn’t the gay marriage issue! I was bothered by the fact that Max fell in love with his sister-in-law and it was perfectly natural to express that emotion by having sex (in his brother’s house). It was okay, in the end of the book, for them to be together. While the author in no way made this a central issue of the book, the message was loud and clear. Love is enough reason to leave a committed marriage relationship. A woman is a good enough reason to destroy your relationship with your brother. There are no boundaries. Being together feels good, so be together at any cost. Well, what happens, when Max or Liddy fall in or out of love again? It is so easy to tell ourselves the lie that “I deserve to be happy” or that “feeling good” is enough reason to move ahead with our selfish plans. But what no one else ever reads in books or sees in movies is when that thing no longer makes you happy. What then?

 I also hated the way that Christians are portrayed in this book. It was either the Westboro “gay-basher” Christian or the “Christ saved me and now my life is amazing, so we must pray others out of their sin” type of Christian. Neither of those come close to depicting my life with Christ!

I believe that living the homosexual life style is a sin. But I also believe lying, gossiping, being disobedient to your parents, hate, immorality, and a whole bunch of other things are sins, too. In fact the famous passage in the Scripture that speaks of homosexuality as a sin (Romans 1) also lists many other things that are sins.

I do believe that there is an agenda in America to take God completely out of society and force me to be tolerant of all other lifestyles – while no one is particularly tolerant of my choice to be a Christian.

I do believe that America is on slippery slope when the family and marriage is no longer considered sacred. How do you tell a polygamist that his marriage is not okay? Why is it not okay if all parties enter the relationship willingly? Is it really any different than telling two women or two men they can get married if both parties willingly choose to do so? My questions is: Where does tolerance end? How can we choose whose lifestyle we will or won’t be tolerant of?

And, I do believe there is a breakdown in the American family. But I’m also convinced that is has very little to do with the “gay agenda.” It has more to do with the fact that so many people are having children outside of marriage, that divorce is such an easy option, and fathers are largely absent. I am not passing judgment on anyone who has had to make the awful decision about divorce. I love too many people who have had to make that decision to believe that it’s an easy one – but I know that its an available one.

I wish so badly that Christians had been portrayed differently in this book. Then again, I wondered if the author had ever actually met a Christian that didn’t in someway fall into one of the categories. Maybe that’s the problem – the Christians that the world sees are the “God-hates-fags” “let me pray you out of your sin” types. They see us glamorize Christianity as if I’ve had no problems since I came to Christ and my life is a sunny-walk-through-roses kind of life. Maybe we as Christians have failed to spread the real message about Christ. Maybe we’ve gotten in His way. We’ve jumped on the band wagon that the “gay agenda” is ruining America and that the democrats are the reason for the moral decay in society.

I believe that it is important to take a stand against sin, but I also know it is more important to love people. I know that when I read encounters of Jesus and sinners in scripture he was hanging out with them – having meals with them. And, I don’t ready encounters where Jesus took them and their sin head on. It’s more like just being with Him changed them. Over time, as they got to know Him, they left their sin because their lives didn’t match up with His.  Even when Jesus confronted the woman at the well – he made more of a statement, “You are right in saying you have no husband. You’ve had five husbands. And the man you’re living with now is not your husband.” She was shocked that Jesus knew all about her life and he’d only just met her! It was enough to make her leave her current lifestyle and follow him. But for the most part, Jesus loved people, and that loved changed them. Jesus saw the person and he just loved – without an agenda. Maybe it’s time to set down our “Christian agenda” of being kind and loving SO that we can win people to Christ. Maybe it’s time to just pattern our lives after Christ and love people because we all need to be loved. Maybe, just maybe, the love of Christ still has the power to change lives. I’m not suggesting that we water down the truth, or stop sharing what Jesus had to say about sin. I’m just suggesting that maybe knowing how we feel about sin isn’t the most important thing when we are trying to reach the lost. We read in the Scriptures that it is the “love of Christ that compels us.” His love is enough to change the hardest heart, the most seasoned sinner. It’s time we start believing that we, too, are sinners saved by grace and to give the world a glimpse of who He is instead of what He’s against.

The thing I really believe is that if people can get just a glimpse of who HE really is that will be enough. 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Birthday, Lord!

I think somehow your birthday must have been more like this day in Mozambique. Most folks are still going about their usual business - stores are open and vendors are selling their goods. No one knew that the miraculous had occurred, the promise had been fulfilled, that God's long silence had been broken. Oh, some here know the truth. Others - they take what little they have and get caught up in the commercialism, too. Jesus, I don't want that for them. I don't want this day to become so much about the presents and the feasts that we forget how little fanfare there was when you came to earth.
There are broken, sick, poor, hungry people all around me. Help me to see them with your eyes. Help me to see their plight as the reason you sent your son.
I will so miss being with my family today. I wish that I wasn't so sick. I wish that I felt more like celebrating. But, Jesus, this is your day. You are worth celebrating no matter how I feel. You came. The fact that you humbled yourself and came into this mess of a world is more grand a thought than I can grasp. You could have just let us go on - we eventually would have killed ourselves off - or you could have destroyed us and started over again. But instead you came. You were a helpless little baby and the God that holds the span of the universe in His hand. How marvelous is that? Welcome to our world, Lord Jesus. Welcome to our brokenness that needs fixing and our hope that needs renewing. May you find in my heart your Bethlehem. Reign unchallenged there, Jesus. No one else has every given up glory to find me. No one else has died to know me. You are worth more than a life of service or well penned words could ever express. Welcome to the slum of my heart - build up and tear down as you choose, Holy Uncreated One. I love you beyond anything else, my Jesus. Around the world today may you take great pleasure in the way we celebrate you.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

At Any Cost

At any cost……are  words every devoted Christ follower  wants to say and at the same time fears saying with any sincerity to the Lord. The cost of following Him isn’t inexpensive. Many people throughout history have paid with their lives. Many continue to suffer in great ways for their faith.

Yet, every story that I’ve ever read about one who suffered for their faith, is the story of a gentle, humble person, whose love for Jesus shames me. One of those people is Marj Saint Van Der Puy. She is the wife of Nate Saint. You may remember that Saint, along with four other missionaries, was speared to death in the jungles of the Amazon more than 50 years ago.

That would be cost enough – knowing that your husband died in such a violent way and living in a country that was not your own with 3 small children. But for Marj that was only the beginning of the price that Christ would exact in her life. Before her death in 2004, she would live through the death of her 2nd husband and be diagnosed with cancer 4 times. Yet, with an unwavering faith, here is what she said about a year before her death.

“I told the Lord I wanted His will for my life at any cost. And little did I know that that cost would be, but it still hasn’t been too much. Even now, with cancer for the fourth time, I still want God’s will at any cost. This is a cost I hadn’t thought about paying, but I’m paying it. I’m paying it willingly. If I could go back and make that statement again, I’d do it again.”

I’ve just finished watching her autobiography and I am unable to find the words to describe this woman. Gentle. Kind. Unwavering. Fierce. You could just feel His presence when she spoke.

I want with everything in me to say that to Jesus. But I know that in my humanness I cling to my health with all that is within me. I cling to the people that I hold dear. I hold my finances with a tight fist thinking that my bank account is an indicator of how well I’m being taken care of.  I wrap these material things around me as if they are enough security to get me through this world – knowing full well that they are not.

The cost to follow Him……what price will it exact in my life? In yours? It makes be a little bit fearful to be honest. But as I write these words I am listening to the Muslim call to prayer going out across my city and I know that men and women are being led deeper into that deception on a daily basis. Whatever it costs me to know Him and to take His light into a broken place – it can’t cost more than the souls of His precious children in eternal darkness.

I hope that one day as an old woman I’ll be able to echo those words, “Little did I know what the cost would be, but it still hasn’t been too much.” More than anything else, I want to be found faithful – faithful to the ONE who has always been faithful to me. I am willing to pay the cost of discipleship – even unto death, if it pleases Him. I am not asking to die – I do not wish that for myself or for my family. I want to live until I am old and have the opportunity to live in the villages of Mozambique with the hugs and kisses of hundreds of children while I tell them about Jesus. I want to share my food with families who have rarely understood what it’s like to have a full belly of food. I want to laugh and weep with the ones that He gives me to care for in this place.

But, in the midst of all this, if I find out that His dreams for me are different – that’s okay, too. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Rains came down…..and I went Ker plunk!

 I don’t know what it is about Africa, but I seem to have issues with staying whole and unharmed when here. In 2006, in six months, I managed to get in an accident that cut my foot from which I got a deadly infection. I also managed to get Malaria twice and a Maticaneya (a little worm that borrows in your foot) once.

One would think that all that plus the roach, rats, and snakes (all of which I abhor) would be enough to keep me out of this country. But, alas, it did not and I find myself here once again. I really do love Mozambique – despite all of that. I love the people and the simple beauty of this place amid the backdrop of much toil and sorrow.

So… first African injury this time around – it only took 2 ½ weeks! Last Friday, I was standing next to the window of our little playroom chatting while the boys ran around in the rain. I must also mention that I was soaking wet because I had run around in the rain with the boys. It is so hot here in Beira – so hot that some days it is like the heat bubbles up from inside of you and just cooks you slowly. So, when the rains came, cold, huge drops of rain – I just couldn’t help myself – I had to rejoice in the rain.

I was drying off – standing by the window.  My arm brushed against the broken glass which had not been taken out of the window. Just so you understand – the window was cracked. There were no jagged edges or sharp pieces of glass protruding. The glass needed to be taken down, but it wasn’t dangerous! Unless you are me. Then everything has potential to be dangerous! I found the one place where the cracked glass poked out just slightly and put my arm down on it. It didn’t even hurt, but when I raised my arm up blood started to spurt out.  Victoria quickly sent one of the boys for the first aid kit and we began applying pressure to the cut to see if we could get it to stop.

In the middle of all this, the rains let up and I told Victoria I was going to the bathroom. She looked at me like I had lost my mind, “Now?”

Well, yes, now. The rains had almost stopped and I could walk across the yard to the bathroom with out getting soaked again and I had been waiting for that moment for a few hours. So, I made the trek to the bathroom and on the top step I slipped landing face first in a puddle of water – that was, I’m sure a mixture of wind-blown rain and water spills from all the buckets of water carried into the bathroom daily. There was, of course, a lot of dirt in that puddle, too.

“Caiu! Caiu!” Fall! Fall! The boys shouted. Yep, thankfully the boys were aware of my little mishap. So, I hobbled to the bathroom, and hobbled back to the waiting chair on the veranda. By now, my arm was really bleeding and stinging from the dirt I had gotten in it and there was a huge purplish knot on my knee.

Alfredo, or “Doctor” as we like to call him, another YWAM staff member, came over and tended to my wounds. Although, I am sure his doctoring did my arm and leg and world of good, and saved me a trip to the hospital, I was not impressed that day as he rubbed an ointment on my leg rather gruffly.

In the midst of this, there was a very close, very loud thunderclap which caused me to scream. I scared some of the little ones and I think the others wondered about my sanity!

So, nearly a week later, I am no worse for the ware. Still a little bruised, but just fine. As I write about the events of that day, it still makes me laugh! I have this feeling that Jesus got a good laugh at me while I lay there face down in that puddle. I wasn’t harmed – and it was funny. The only thing sticking out of the doorway of that bathroom was my two little feet while the rest of me laid in a puddle in the floor.

Without trying to over spiritualize anything, I believe the Lord sometimes gives us those humorous moments in life. They teach us to enjoy the moments were are given, to look for the good in every situation, and to not always take life so seriously. He is the laugh-giver and I am quite sure He has gotten His share of laughs out of me.

I am thankful that I am not too hurt. I am thankful that I can laugh about it. I am thankful that along this journey to His heart there is joy to be sprinkled in the midst of tears, lessons, and hard work. I am happy to have shared a sacred moment with Him in a puddle on the bathroom floor. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Me a Missionary?

Most days, when I think to myself, “I’m a missionary” I just laugh as if it’s some private joke between me and the Lord. I feel far to “normal” to be a missionary. I don’t mean that in the derogatory way that it sounds! As I see it, missionaries are these incredibly spiritual, brave people that I am nothing like. I just mean that when I think about a missionary my mind immediately thinks of these people:

Jim Elliot – who’s greatest passion was to reach an unreached people group and whose life ended at the end of an Aucan spear.

Gladys Alward – who marched over 100 Chinese orphans to safety over mountains to get them away from the coming onslaught of the attacking Japanese army.

Amy Carmichael – who left her homeland and cared for orphans in India until her death, having never set eyes on her beautiful Ireland again.

Chet Bitterman – who spent the last week of his life in captivity and was executed at the hands of Colombian guerrilla because he worked to translate scriptures for a local tribe.

These men and women, and hundreds like them, gave up everything – never returning home and losing almost all contact with people that they loved for the rest of their lives. I have a computer, the internet, and a phone. I am in constant contact with people that I love and miss. It may not be as easy as I would like – sometimes the connection is bad and sometimes I get kicked off the internet 4 or 5 times during a conversation, but the point is that I get to do it. I know that I have given up a lot, but the thousands who went before me - they paved the long, dirty road with their blood, sweat, and tears. I do not dare put myself in a category with them.

Yes, I am a missionary and I still find that word comical when applied to my name. I don’t feel like I have done or am doing something great. I am doing what He asked me to do in a place that I love. Despite the horrid heat, smells, and awful dirtiness of this place I feel at home here. I look across the sea of ebony faces each day and I fall more desperately in love with these beautiful people.

I miss people. I miss my church and worshiping with them on a weekly basis. I miss holding my nephew and late night conversations with my sister. I miss laughing with her. I miss Florida – and I was sure I was never going to say that when I moved there. Although I will always be at home in FL and I will always have precious friends there, I know that chapter has closed and will only appear sporadically in my life now that I live 10,000 miles away.  It is always sad to see a chapter in the book of your life close – even when a new, exciting one is about to begin.

And, I have to admit that I am afraid sometimes. A little bit of fear strikes my heart every time the big rat that lives in my pantry runs across my floor. I get paralyzed every time I see one of those big, nasty, African roaches in my kitchen, pantry, or bathroom. Sometimes I feel a little bit of fear as I walk through the city knowing that it wouldn’t take much effort for one of these men to harm me, and there’s not a lot I could do to defend myself. I feel fear at the thought of getting sick in a place where there isn’t good medical care.

Sometimes I’d like to sleep in a bed where the boards didn’t creak every time I moved and where going to the bathroom in the middle of the night didn’t mean unlocking 3 doors and going outside. I wish that the heat wasn’t so oppressive and I didn’t take off wet with sweat, smelly clothes at the end of each day. I’d like to drive my car up to a fast food window and order a burger and a large ice tea. I’d like to throw my clothes in a washing machine – for washing everything you own by hand is a long, hard process.

But more than my fears and wants, is my need to follow Him wherever He calls. I am more afraid of missing His adventure for my life than anything else. I can trust Him – if it means my health, my comfort, or even my life – I know that I can trust Him to be completely good to me. I can trust Him with my tears, my loneliness, and my honest-to-goodness need of a “2am friend.”

On Thursday, the boys were invited to have a special lunch, so we loaded them all up in a van and took them to town. As I climbed into the van, Little Nelson( because we also have a Big Nelson), patted the seat beside him and I knew it was an invitation to form a friendship. Until this point, Nelson and I had only shook hands and greeted each other simply. So I was excited to sit down with him. I reached my arm around him and hugged his little body. Nelson leaned into me, rested him arm on my leg and took my hand. I looked into his smiling face and smiled back and my heart was forever melted. It occurred to me then that someday Nelson would be a grown man and I could hear him saying, “One time there was this white lady who loved me and she taught me about Jesus.” As tears came to my eyes, I knew that if that’s the only thing I accomplished on this earth it would be more than enough. To love Nelson to give him the opportunity to know Jesus – it is worth all my insignificant fears, all the things I miss, and all the things I want.

It’s worth so much that Jesus came and he died. Jesus died for this dirty, smelly place. He died for all the hunger, disease, sadness, loneliness, brokenness, and sin in this world. His heart breaks daily because His children, whom were worthy of His life, go to bed starving, sick, and afraid. People created in His image head into a Christless eternity every moment of every day. I have the capacity to do something about it! No, no not to the 143 million orphans in this world, but to the 25 boys at Casa Re’Om – to the poor in my city – I have the capacity to love, to share, to meet their needs. I can’t turn my back on that need nor pretend it’s not there while enjoying my comfortable American existence. If each of us who claim to love Jesus would do just a wee bit more – less children would go hungry today. Fewer people would be turned away from life saving medical care. More people would drink clean water today. He died because our brokenness and sin was too much for His compassionate heart. So, I open my heart to the “least of these” because it’s what I’ve been asked to do – and because that’s exactly what was done for me. How could I not?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

My African Life

Well, between starting and restarting this blog a few times - in an attempt to figure out just what I want to say and the fickle internet which works when and for how long it chooses on any given day, this blog is way overdue! I'm not even sure exactly what this blog will end up saying - I'm just going to share some things that are on my heart and hope to goodness that it means something to someone. I also promise to be a little more intentional about future blogs!

I would have to say that the last two days have been a real turning point for me. These last couple of weeks have been hard from me. I could feel this wrestling in my soul. I wanted to be here - I thought. Being here was what I had waited and prayed for, planned for - for many months, even years. So, I didn't understand the struggle within myself. I would pray each day and tell the Lord that I didn't feel the passion that I once had. I didn't feel the overwhelming desire to be here. And, to be quite honest, it scared me. Because being here without His leading and without the passion I knew I needed seemed like a big, embarrassing, expensive mistake.

I knew that God had called me to missions and I knew that I loved Mozambique. Even more, I knew that I loved those little boys so very much. So where was the disconnect? As I prayed, I just felt God calling me to seek His face more instead of a feeling. Emotions, I knew, are more fickle than African internet and they are not to be trusted to gauge the calling of God upon. I sought His face. I asked Him for the passion I needed. I asked Him to show up in tangible ways that would show me that He indeed had brought me to this hot, dirty, smelly place.

I opened my Bible yesterday and read my daily portions of Scripture. I am reading through the Bible this year and nothing in Joel or Revelation seemed to jump out at me as if God were speaking to me. I felt discouraged and begrudgingly opened up my "Streams in the Dessert" devotional. I prayed, "You know God, I need something. I need to see that my struggle, the pain of being so far away from people that I love, the daily grind of having to learn the language, do ministry, and just exist here is of some value to you." I opened "Streams in the Dessert" and read, "For our present troubles are small and won't last long, but they are achieving for us a glory that vastly outweighs them all and will last forever." That for me was music to my ears! I knew that He saw my struggle and that He truly cared - He cared so much that He was preparing for me something that would 'vastly' outweigh what I now endured.

And then, this morning, we said goodbye to a wonderful Australian team that has served here in Beira and in other parts of Sofala province the last 3 months. I knew they were excited to go home. I was excited for them - and a wee bit jealous too! Before they left, Oliveira, my base leader prayed for them and then they asked to pray for our team. As they did, I couldn't help the few little tears that slipped from my eyes. They prayed for the work here - that the team would have the health, strength, and resources we needed to carry out the work. I realized then that God has chosen me to stay behind. I have been given the opportunity to love little boys who otherwise don't have a family. I have been given the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus. For the first time, I felt something swell within my heart - like maybe, just maybe a small wind was beginning to fan the flame of my passion for missions.

Do I miss home? Yes. I miss my sister, my mom, my little nephew Isaac. I want to hold him so badly I can't stand it. I miss my church and my friends. But, I am happy to be here. I am glad that He chose me to be here at this moment loving these boys. I am thankful to have even the tiniest portion of His heartbeat for the world. It is painful sometimes to see the lonely, poor, broken, and helpless. I have been given so much compared to these, but I am glad to share in His sorrow and be a part of the joy He finds in loving His children.

I know there are difficult days ahead. Days where I will still question my calling, this place, being away from everything I hold dear. But, today I can rest in knowing that He is here with me and that in Him I can do all things. When tomorrow comes, we'll tackle that together, too.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Lord is Good?

The Lord is Good. The Bible tells us that. We, as Christians, believe that. We should believe that - it's true. However, I find that we abuse that phrase perhaps more than any other in the Christian circle. We toss that phrase around with every "good" thing that comes our way - a pregnancy, a wedding, a good report from the doctor, a new job. Those things - and many things like it - are good. They are things we long for and pray for and we rejoice with reason when we see God finally do the thing we are praying for.

However, it's the things that are unsaid that say more than anything sometimes. When we get what we've prayed for and say God is good.....I wonder: Did we believe in God's goodness before the answered prayer? His goodness is unchanged. He is good because there is no darkness - no malice in Him. He is love. Father God is the exact expression of perfect love. In that love, He can only do what is good for me.

So, that unanswered prayer - the end of that relationship, the return of illness, the loss of someone we love, the barren womb - those things are good too. The difference is how they feel to us. But, God, He loves us so much that He will not give us a gift until He knows we are ready for it and He'll not give a "gift" at all if He knows it is not for our ultimate benefit.

That's very hard to understand. In this life, the things that we long for seem to be for our benefit. We usually can't see a situation where a particular thing is not for our benefit. However, our Savior who sees the whole story from beginning to end knows what we need. He is the writer - we are but a character in the story. Our happy ending is not an answered prayer, but a life that is more and more like His beautiful character until the day we are perfected in Him.

I recently heard a song from Laura Story that said this, "You give and take away for my good. For who am I to say what I need? You alone see the hidden parts of me that need to be stripped away. And as you begin to refine, I'm learning to let go and rely on the One who walks with me. As hard as it may be, your teaching me all the while to say, 'Bless the Lord, oh my soul. All that's in me bless your name. Forget not your power untold, not your glory or your fame. For you came to heal the broken, to redeem and make me whole. Bless the Lord, oh my soul.'"

He came to redeem and make me whole! Imagine that - wholeness. That is why He came - for my healing, and redemption. Jesus knew that it was only by His blood that I could ever be hopeful for any sort of redemption. So, He gave up everything - even life itself - so that my sin, my sickness, my brokenness could be healed. This God who would do that can not give me anything that is not good.

As I rejoice with those who rejoice (because there are people in my life rejoicing) and as I weep (because there are people in my life weeping), and as I plead for the Lord to move on my behalf in a couple of areas that I've prayed about for a really long time, I choose to believe that this is good because He is good.

And, in the end, He is more than enough. He is worth far more than any prayer I've prayed or answer I will or won't receive. The Lord is good - because and only because that is His perfect, holy nature.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I Didn't Sign Up for Mountain Climbing.....

This post doest not come to you from Victory Mountain........if only it did. It comes to you in the struggle up the mountain. The main reason I put it into these terms is because a few weeks ago, my dear friend, Alice, brought a devotional on this very same subject. And somehow, right now, I felt  like it was more victorious to write and say that I am still climbing up my mountain. We've all heard the stories of people who have fought and struggled and finally found their victory. And, there have been times that I have felt guilty at not truly rejoicing for their victory. Because, the truth is, it just left me wondering, "God, when will you do that for me?" So, right now, for me to write this blog, to look you squarely in the eye and say, "This journey is hard and some days I hate it - quite frankly - some days I crawl up the mountain, but I trust Him and I've found Him to be faithful," is the most victorious thing that I can do.
I started praying for something back in 2006 - something that I still do not have the answer for. One day when I was praying about this very thing (all the way back in '06), I heard the Lord say, "Let it go. If I want to restore it, I will."
Honestly, I thought this was my "Abraham Altar Moment." I thought the Lord just wanted me to raise the knife to this thing and let Him know that nothing was more important to me that Him. It didn't quite work that way. The Lord allowed me to plunge the knife in, shattering my heart in the process. Over the years things would happen that would make me think that He was going to fix it - and then, it was gone again. No one, except Jesus himself, knows the tears I have cried, the angry words I have screamed, the darkness which I have tasted.
Even more, if the Lord had told me that this is the journey my obedience would take me on I would have said, "No way. Not in a million years." What I was asking Him to do - the thing that I was holding was a good thing. It just needed to be a good thing in His way and His timing.
He cannot allow us to see where our obedience will take us. The journey to His heart isn't paved with smooth stones and pretty flowers. No, the journey to His heart isn't paved at all. It's only on the otherside that we get the reward for seeking His heart. Yes, of course, moments of rest and peace come on this earth. He gives us people and places that become our home until we get home, but we were never meant to "be home" here. So, we raise our chin, set our face against the wind, and walk by faith because really, He's all we've got.
Maybe someday soon, I'll be writing to tell you the answer to this particular prayer. Maybe it's one of those prayers I'll pray all my life. I don't know. I do know that when I reach the top of this mountain they'll be another one to climb. Here's the greatest thing about the mountain climbing lifestyle. Jesus, our Savior, is with us. We often thing of Him reaching down into our brokenness - that's what I used to think anyway. But now I know that He's come down here with me in my brokenness. He's here. When I run, He runs. When I walk, He walks. When I crawl, He crawls. When I throw my hands up in defeat and have a good cry, He cries with me. He promised to be with me, and today that gives this weary mountain climber something to smile about.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Soap Boxes and Stuff

Any of you who know me well rolled your eyes at the title, I know. I tend to get all soap boxy over many things. But, here's my new one............End Times. No, I'm not talking about the Pre-Trib/Post Trip debate either. I can honestly tell you I don't really know which of those I believe in (alright, some of you will start commenting on my post right now giving me reasons why one or the other is true). I've heard arguments for both, and they both seem sound. The thing is - I'm not totally convinced it matters. Yes, it matters that He is coming back, but does it really matter who is on the right side of the debate when He splits the eastern sky? See, if I am living my life the way I am supposed to live my life, it doesn't really matter if He comes back now, when I've already passed through this life, or if I pass through the tribulation. I am not living for the End Times. I am living for the life which is to come.

In the past few days there's been a post making it's way around FaceBook that goes something like this, "Sept. 11th (NY) Jan. 11th (Haiti) and March 11th (Japan)..... Luke 21:10-11 Then Jesus said to his disciples.. "Nations will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven. Jesus says for behold I come quickly... So ask ur self r u ready?" Or there is the inevitable "Will you repost?" 

I'm not saying that the fact that these tragedies all occurring on the 11th is not interesting. But, look how many events occurred on April 19th (Waco, OKC Bombing, Columbine). My point is simply that while these dates seem eerie to me, they don't prove much else. Jesus says in Matthew 24 that the signs of times......among them are earthquakes. So, yes, I think we are in the end times. Does that mean tomorrow? Does it mean next year? In my life time? I don't know.....not sure how long the beginning of the end lasts.

But, here's the thing.....we ask people "R U ready?" like they need to get their 'Get out of Hell Free Card.' My question, mostly to myself, is "Am I ready?" 

Am I living like this life is what it's all about or am I living like the life to come is what it's all about? Does my everyday life make an eternal difference to someone? It's so easy to get caught up in so many things that in the end won't matter at all. I want to live my life in a radical way - refusing to care about my reputation or earthly position. I want to be undignified in my own eyes. God can do big, miraculous things and I want Him to use me to do it. Eternity is not some day yet to come. Eternity is now and the way I live is making an eternal difference to someone - but which eternity is that?

Monday, March 7, 2011

God of the Impossible

"Miracles are the retelling in small letters the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters to large for some of us to see." ~C.S. Lewis

I am so thankful that I serve a God who still speaks, still moves mountains, and still heals. We have this ideas sometimes that God worked in two distinct phases: Bible and post-Bible. I'm here to tell you that is not true! The God that raised the dead, healed the sick, and made the lame walk still does the same today. The questions is: Do you see it?

When I was living in Mozambique in 2006, I was in an accident left me banged up and bruised up enough that no one paid any attention to the small scratch on my foot - until I got a staff infection in that foot. By the time we realized what was happening, my foot was the size of a small football, the poisonous read streaks were running up my leg, my leg was hot to the touch, and I had absolutely no feeling in my right leg below my knee. Now that would be scary if you lived in America where doctors and hospitals abound. When you're living in the African bush and the nearest hospital is 13 hours away, you really start to understand the "jam" you are in. There was a health clinic nearby, but I was allergic to the only medicine they could offer me. When my mom found out, she freaked just a bit! Our family doctor told her that I needed to get out of the country because I could lose my leg and my life. Talk about frightening! So, while my mom worked on getting an            emergency visa to Moz to come to me, the missionary promised her that we would be on our way to Malawi - a neighboring country with a hospital - as soon as the sun came up.

But, that night - a Wednesday - as I was getting ready to go to bed and my church back in the states was headed into prayer meeting, an all out war was waged on my behalf. My missionary friends laid hands on my foot, my leg, my head and I listened in wonder as prayers were lifted up on my behalf in English, Portuguese, and Yao. In America, my family and friends were just as engaged in this war for my healing.  As I laid my head on my pillow that night, with my leg in a sling above  my head, I knew that whatever came of the situation that it was going to be okay. The power of prayer had done it's most mighty work in that it had already changed me. I knew that I could fully trust God - even with a life-threatening infection in the middle of the African Bush. He was totally God and I was totally at peace with that.

As the sun streamed through the clapboard window in my room the next morning, I looked at my foot and then I rubbed my eyes and looked at my foot again. It was it's normal size! The vicious angry red streaks were gone.....the incredible heat from the infection was gone, my fever had broken. I stood up and walked on my foot for the first time in days! 
Oh, wow! It was just a surreal moment. For just a few seconds - before anyone else knew my healing had taken place - it was just me and God rejoicing in this miracle together. He had saved my foot - my life! I was struck by the awesomeness of it all. I still get chills when I think about it. God could have absolutely used a doctor to heal me, and I would have been grateful for that, but in this moment He decided to show of a little of His glory in the story of my life. I am so thankful that He did! 

I don't know what miracle you need.......the healing of your body, your mind, your marriage - I don't know. But I know that God does. I've learned that He doesn't step in and do His thing until we are done doing ours. We have to depend on Him completely and fully. He doesn't compete for our affection or our faith, but He will wait patiently for us to come to Him. He is the same miracle working God of the Bible - who loves us passionately and desperately longs to give us the miracles we seek. The story that God longs for us to know intimately is the story of love - where He sent his only Son so that I might be healed from my diseases, saved from my sin, and come into a holy, passionate relationship with Him. 

Monday, January 3, 2011

Undignified Dance

In 2011, I have made a goal to be a better blogger......a goal - not a resolution, mind you. I'm up for my annual review at work and the review sheet I had to fill out asks me to set both ministry and personal goals for the year. So, I tried to earnestly think about tangible things that I wanted to do this year. I am going to attempt to read through the Bible in 3 months. I am going to try to read two books a month this year. I read about half that this year. Another thing I really want to do is write more. I love writing - it's a cathartic for me - yet I rarely do it. So, I set that goal.
So, now comes the process of actually setting up them blog. I wanted to start a brand new blog with a brand new name. Ah......and there's the problem. I struggle with coming up with names. The title was always the last part of my paper to come together in college. That's seems backwards, doesn't it? It seems that the title should come first because it will give direction to everything else. Alas, I've never been able to do that. However, blogging doesn't afford me that luxury. So......a name. I thought about it, even prayed about it - and the one thing that came to my mind was the story of King David and Michal. In his fervor to praise the Lord, David danced about in nothing but a loin cloth. Michal was embarrassed and told her husband-king how undignified and unking-like his praise was.
Yet David told Michal he would become "more undignified than this." You see, King David was not concerned with how he looked to Michal - or to anyone else for that matter. He wasn't concerned with preserving his kingly honor or embarrassing himself. The most important thing in David's world was offering up a sacrifice of praise.
And with my Savior's help, that's what I want to do. I want to dance with my Savior when the steps are wild and crazy and everyone thinks I need to change the music. I will dance with him when the steps are joyful and alive. I need to dance with Him when the steps are slow and sorrowful. When I can't hear the music, I still want to dance. This dance will not be of my choosing - not the steps or the song. But, I can trust the Song-Giver and Step-Maker, so I will dance. I will dance my heart out.