Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Not that Far...

One of my favorite Christmas songs is "Not that Far from Bethlehem" by Point of Grace. (you can listen to the song here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLMzK-38uqc)

Every time I listen to that song, I get a little teary eyed. In part, it says this:

And though two thousand years have past,
We're not that far from Bethlehem,
where all our hope and joy began.
For when our hearts still cherish Him,
we're not that far from Bethlehem.

I am very thankful for my Christmas experience on this side of the world. Today, there will be no gifts exchanged. No christmas trees, no trimmings, no Christmas movies - nothing that has made my Christmas so normal for all of my American life.

But, there will be dozens of friends and children all pitching in to make a wonderful meal. There will be laughter and love. We will pray together and break bread together and take a moment out of our crazy busy lives to remember that He came.

He came - that scrawny newborn in to abject filth. The Holy Son of God came to a peasant girl, a guy who liked to make things with wood, and some stinky shepherds. He came to the very least because that was the only way we would ever know that He came for us.

Not one of you, who has ever had a child, would choose to bring your child into......that. That stinky place. Those filthy animals. So very far away from home, comfort, family and friends. But God the Father chose to send His son into that. More than that, He chose to send his son into this horribly broken, sinful, sad world. He was God. He'd scraped it all and began again before. Of course, He'd promised He would never do that again, but He could've. He was God. That would have been alright - even understandable. Yet, this time He came and that changed everything.

Today, I will miss my family and friends. I will miss the laughter and all the crazy moments. I will miss how hard my mama tries to make everything perfect - and laughing when at least one thing usually isn't perfect. Without fail, she usually forgets a gift or gives someone the wrong gift (I have had both those things happen - a few years ago I received my brother's boxers :0) But, that is where wonderful memories are made, and I will miss that.

But, I am so thankful for the beautiful simplicity of this Christmas. As many things go on as normal and the market still buzzes with activity, I will be acutely aware that so many still need to know He came. So many lives still need to be changed by His all-consuming grace.

Sometimes, it seems we are so far removed from that tiny, helpless baby in that stinky stable. Christmas has become so glamorized and Santa-ized. It's become an industry. Our world is so sad and so violent, and with every nativity that is taken down it seems that we are so far removed from a world that wants to remember the Baby.

No one is expecting him to come. No one really cares. No one's focus is the baby - instead it is themselves, their desires, their own hopes and dreams.

Yes, I would say our world is not all that different from the one He chose to come into.

And still He chooses. Indeed, we are not that far from Bethlehem.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Hands and Feet of Jesus

Well, in the continuing saga that is my life, I have severely jacked up my knee in a motorcycle accident! I wish I had some great story like “this car just came out of no where, slammed into me, and sped off!”


I ran over some gravel and the bike slipped. Yeah......

There are so many things to wonder like : Why did it have to happen now in the hot season? At the beginning of rainy season? Why did it have to happen at all?

BUT.....on the flip side, there are so many things to be grateful for and to be humbled by.

First of all, on Monday as I was getting dressed, I decided to put on tennis shoes and socks. Being that it’s Africa and hot, I almost never where closed shoes (I know, not the brightest thing ever on a motorbike, but true). However, yesterday I did have on tennis shoes and my feet are just fine. That wouldn’t have been true in a pair of flip-flops.

I wore jeans on the bike yesterday. That protected my legs from getting cuts, bruises, scrapes, etc. And, the scrapes on my arm are only superficial. Seeing as I was wearing short sleeves, that’s a miracle.

The bike landed exhaust up and I landed a couple of feet from the bike. The exhaust on a bike gets pretty hot and I have seen people burned all the way to the bone by the exhaust pipe. I am so grateful for that!

When I crashed my bike, dozens of strangers came running to get me and the bike out of the road. One stranger stopped in his car to take me to the hospital. Another pushed my bike to the police station where it would be safe until I could get it. A missionary friend (and my landlord) was passing by and also stopped. He ended up taking me to the hospital. I couldn’t get into his car with my bum knee, so two ladies lifted me up and put me in the car. When I couldn’t walk into the hospital and no wheelchair could be found, he put my arm around his neck and served as my own personal crutch.

At the hospital, they had to cut my jeans to put the cast on. So, one of my teammates went home and grabbed his wife’s kapalana ( a rectangular piece of cloth used as a skirt) so I didn’t have to flash my underwear to the entire world. On the way back to the hospital, he stopped and bought me some cold water.

The last two nights, a missionary whom I only met two days ago, has been staying with me so that she can help me do whatever needs to be done. Bring me water, help me to the bathroom, make me breakfast, bring me my phone charger.....you name it, she’s done it. They are actually in town to attend a conference this week, so she is taking care of me in addition to attending the conference and taking care of her own family. She brought all kinds of goodies for her family to snack on and each day she shares them with me. Every night their family goes to a local restaurant and when they come home they bring supper for me.

My teammate Lori has had to help me go to the bathroom, take a bath, wash my hair, change clothes......and everything else in between. Each time she comes for a visit she brings me muffins or mangos (which I love!)

My teammate Sandra brought me lunch yesterday on her break from the conference she is attending, helped me to the bathroom, and just gave me some company - which I desperately appreciated.

Yesterday, my teammate Victor spent hours going around town trying to find me shampoo and juice. I kept telling him that whatever kind he found was just fine, but he kept telling me that he was going to look until he found what I wanted. When he brought the stuff in and I said thanks, he just simply shrugged and said, “You need help. We are just down the street. Call anytime day or night. You don’t have to ask. We’ll do it.”

Dinis, my team leader, and his wife Balbina, spent more than three hours going from store to store looking for crutches for me (not something the hospital here has, go figure). When they couldn’t find any, they went to a village pretty far out where they knew they could get some canes. They then brought the canes to me and promised to go out the next day to find crutches.

The first night it was more comfortable to sleep on the couch, so Dinis and Balbina went home (which is a 20 min drive - on their motorbike) and got a mosquito net to hang over my couch. They came to visit yesterday, just to check up on me and promised to be here again tomorrow.

Last night, a missionary from Australia, who happens also to be a physical therapist and whom I had only met once, came to visit with a pair of crutches, some good pain medicine, and a hacksaw! She said that having my knee extended like that was not good and set to work getting the cast off my leg. She’s coming back later this week to check on me. She said she can also help with exercises once I am ready.

I am so humbled by all of this help. Every need I have has been met with cheerfulness. When I say ‘thank you’ my friends simply respond, “People who love you just want to help you.”

The feet of Jesus never looked so much like a few dozen Africans running to my rescue.

The hands of Jesus never looked so much like friends who willing to help me wash my hair, take a bath, fix my meals, fluff my pillows, carry my phone, computer and kindle from room to room, take a hacksaw to that unbearable cast, and so very much more.

The arms of Jesus never felt so much like the constant stream of people dropping in to hug me and just sit and chat for a few minutes.

The face of Jesus never looked so much like Benadi, my guard, who faithfully comes in my house at the beginning and end of his shift everyday just to see how I’m feeling. 

Friends, acquaintances, and perfect strangers have bent over backwards and sacrificed their own time and their own plans to help me with such gentleness and cheerfulness. 

I think sometimes we (okay, at least I) think that the being the hands and feet of Jesus is something huge or miraculous. I think we look for the blind-eyes-see kind of thing.

But, I am here to tell you, that Jesus has been in this home this week. His hands and feet have looked like people from many different tribes in Mozambique. His hands and feet have looked like people from 5 different countries. His voice has had several different accents and has spoken in different languages.

His joy has been evident in arms that hugged me, hands that served me, and feet that went where I could not to get things that I wanted/needed to make me more comfortable.

Don’t ever underestimate how much serving another person shows who Jesus really is. I am humbled and grateful for these beautiful people who have shown me my beautiful Jesus. For him, serving another person was never a big deal, it was what he came to do. When we do that for another person, we have demonstrated the love of Jesus in a more powerful way than anything else ever could.

I have had a lesson in humility this week. I have had a lesson in serving others. I so deeply love these people who have made me feel like it is there privilege to help me. I so deeply love the Jesus who shines so brightly through them.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Government Shutdown

I’ve decided to write about the government shutdown. *insert snide remarks, eye rolling breathing deeply, etc. here*

I’m not going to try to take on the politics of the shutdown. I’m not going to try to blame anyone. That’s just counter productive and not at all what this blog is about.

There are people on both sides of the fence who are so heated about their position that they cannot be civil to their neighbor who doesn’t agree. Articles are popping up on Facebook left and right about the left and right and who’s to blame and who’s got it all figured out. Ugh.

I don’t want to, in any way, suggest that who you vote for is not important. We live in a country where we have been given the freedom to have a voice in our government. That’s an amazing right. I believe God does care about the poor and underprivileged. But, I also believe that He cares about the lives of the unborn. I believe He cares about the sin, of all types, that has become rampant in our society. I believe that He cares that He is being continually pushed out of society while every other type of belief system is being ushered in and praised. I think it matters to Him that the U.S. government has been given the place of Savior in our lives. He’s not going to share His glory with another. Perhaps those of you who are continually disheartened at the state of our government are putting to much faith in that which cannot save you. 

It is important to vote for what you believe in. But, I really don’t think on that day when we see Him face to face the question will be, “Who did you vote for?”

I think it will be, “What did you do to ease the suffering of another?”

So, my friend, what is it? For me easing the suffering of another happens here, in Mozambique. For you maybe it’s adoption or serving in a soup kitchen. Maybe for you military folk, it’s holding the hand of a wife who’s just heard the news her husband won’t be coming home.  Maybe it’s teaching a child to read or cutting the grass of your neighbor who just lost his job. It looks like a thousand different things to a thousand different people. It’s not what you do, it’s that you do it.

This week, as I was watching the news, the government shutdown was just a small story in the world context. Their were other stories about war, famine, nuclear disasters and a lot of other things. I’m fully aware that there are people suffering in the United States and we are called to be God’s hands and feet to them.  But, people are suffering all over the world. One person’s suffering isn’t greater or less than another’s - no matter the form of suffering being experienced. God doesn’t really care about your nationality or theirs. What he cares about is if we are taking His command seriously to “love our neighbor as we love ourselves.”

Governments will rise and governments will fall. There will always be a new leader, president, senator, etc. to be impressed with. But, please, oh, please, my friend, give government’s it’s place. It can’t save you or anyone else. It can’t even make your life better. Your life is made better by the One who came to give you abundant life (John 10:10). 

By all means, vote. But, be the hands and feet of Jesus in practical, everyday-ways. There is coming a day when this government shutdown won’t matter at all. But, it will matter how you loved.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Chin Up

I am trying to be honest about this missionary journey. It's wonderful and I can't imagine doing anything else. Really. I'm the lucky one. On the no electricity, no running water, can-we-please-not-eat-rice-again-today days, I still feel like I am in the center of God's will. I still can't wrap my brain around going back to the US, getting a job, and being "normal." God didn't make me for that. He made me with an Africa shaped hole in my heart and it is filled perfectly here in this place.

However, there are those days when I just feel pulled in one hundred different directions. I just want time to sit, and think, and be. We are in the outreach phase of the DTS and I have moved to the center for the time being. From the time I open my eyes in the morning until I go to bed at night, I have little people clamoring for my attention, holding me touching me, braiding my hair, and playing in my house. I am trying to be mom to a very head strong 12 year old girl. I am working out the details and finances of buying a car in a foreign country. I am trying to work out the details of what exactly I will be doing next year. I am still trying to learn Portuguese fluently and I am beginning to learn to speak the local language. I am trying to be the responsible missionary who responds to each and every email, text message, FB message and all of that. But, there's just one of me and that one of me is feeling tired and overwhelmed at the moment.

I like alone time. I like to sit, think, pray, read and just be. In the last few months I have had hardly any of that. I feel like I'm running on empty and the end isn't in sight. I feel like throwing in the towel, or having a good cry, running away for a few days or something. But, every day, I wake up, take a deep breath and do it all over again. I am reminded about Jerry Falwell's sermon at the beginning of every semester. "Put your hand to the plow and don't look back (Luke 9:62). I don't want to crawl across the finish line, I want to finish well.

But, today, I feel miserable and like I need a serious battery recharge. The thing I am learning is that He is faithful. My Jesus is steady like a rock even when I feel like things are crazy and more than I can handle. He hasn't moved an inch. He's there - urging me - "Just look at me. Stop looking at the wind and the waves. You can trust me. Stop trying to carry it all on your shoulders. They weren't made for this, but mine were."

So, I am fixing my eyes on Jesus. He is the author and finisher of my faith. He is the glory and the one who LIFTS MY HEAD HIGH. So, my fellow sojourner, how can I not say "chin up" when it comes directly from scripture?

Yes, I am still tired and discouraged. Yes, I am still craving my alone time. Knowing He is there and for me is not a magic happy pill.  But, I CAN depend on the strength of my friend. I CAN'T depend on how I feel. Facts vs. Feelings. Hold on to that!

But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. Psalm 3:3

Monday, August 26, 2013

Little Girl Lost

Okay.....so I promised a blog about baptisms - and I promise it's coming. But, I've got to get the time to load up a few pics too. And, I'm running around like a crazy person at the moment. I've had a team of 7 Chileans staying at my house and this is the first morning I've had my quiet, uninterrupted morning. I LOVE IT!

Anyhow, I saw FB blown-up about the whole Miley Cyrus debacle, and I thought I'd throw my two cents in. Excited, aren't ya?

After my FB page was blown- up about Miley Cyrus posts, I decided to YouTube the video to see what in the world had everyone in such an uproar. My first thought was: That is totally bizarre. What's with the tongue? And the dancing teddy bears? And the foam finger? What is she on?

The questions that followed were something like this:

Who told her that's pretty? Or sexy?
How long will it take her to regret this, to want to take that moment back?
What are her parents feeling tonight?
When Miley is alone tonight, after all the hoopla has died, will she feel successful? Or ashamed? Embarrassed? 
What will Miley feel in ten years about tonight?

Now, when you and I do something stupid, say something stupid - there are maybe a hand full of people around to witness it. Miley's stupid is on display for the entire world to see. It's been videoed and talked, Facebooked about and blogged about. No one will ever forget because it's out there in cyber land FOREVER.

For that, I am truly sorry, sweet girl.

Yes. Sweet Girl. Her performance was totally bizarre (teddy bears from hell, anyone?) and totally inappropriate. It was shocking - even sickening. But it left me wondering what our society did to Miley. We praised her and lifted her up. We made t-shirts, dolls, backpacks and everything else bearing her likeness. Now that she's all grown-up, society says you need to leave that Hannah Montana thing in the dust. And she did.

She's so lost. She's trying - grasping at anything to redefine herself as an adult to keep that fame. All I keep thinking about is one day she's gonna have a daughter and she probably won't feel the same way about that performance when she has to explain why mommy was grabbing herself and throwing herself allover a married man.

Then I got sort of frustrated. I hear, from a lot of people, about how badly women are viewed in Africa. They are someone's property. Women are treated like slaves. Husbands don't value their wives - etc, etc.

Here's the thing: are women in America all that different? What do we have to show for our "freedom?" Lady Gaga, Lindsey Lohan, Amanda Bynes.....Miley Cyrus. Society is continually telling us you have to be thinner, prettier, blonder to get a man. Wear less clothes and more makeup. Stores are fully of the raciest lingerie that our minds can think up. Magazine articles abound about "how to please your man." Every t.v. show and movie is about someone goddess like woman who lives with her boyfriend or sleeps with him before she is married. Those relationships are build on sexual attraction and "being good in bed" instead of what marriage is really all about. I'm not trying to suggest that sex isn't an important part of marriage. I'm trying to say that our society is teaching us that sex is the only part of a relationship - and that's not reality.

So, our enslavement to sexuality.....is it really all that more liberating? Women are still looked at as objects. We talk of open marriages and divorce like it's no big deal. There is no commitment to marriage. If it doesn't work - move on and try again.

So, really. In our attempt to be free we have enslaved ourselves in a very different, maybe more harmful way. Yes, I want men to view their women differently here in Mozambique. I spend a lot of time teaching about that. BUT, I want my culture to view women differently. I want my society to value who Christ made to be as a woman - not the size of my body, the color of my hair, or how sexual I am. I want a society that teaches a little girl that her sexuality is a beautiful thing, but it's only on display for her husband - that the men who want sex before they make a lifetime marriage commitment to her are not worth her time. That's what I want from my society.

Please, if anything, pray for Miley. Don't chew her up and spit her out because she's the product of everything society says she should be. She's still a little girl with a heart and soul and she still has to lay her head on her pillow at night and think......and think. And all that thinking is probably not making her feel very happy. She's grasping at this illusive idea of happiness and she's not gonna find it our there in the world. Weep for her. Weep for a little girl who have us Hannah Montana and then felt like she had to give us - that - to keep our attention.

Fame. I am sure it's costing her more that she wanted to pay.

So Little Girl Lost, I am sorry for what society has done to you. For the choices you have made. I am sorry. Just know there is a way home.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Art of Discipleship

There are just days when the "where we are" and the "where I want us to be" is a chasm so great that you don't know how to begin, where to begin to cross that divide. In her book "Kisses from Katie," Katie Davis said that she sometimes feels like she is trying to "empty the ocean with a medicine dropper."  I so get that.

Zaida is one of my oldest students. She is 11 years old and she has never been to school. She doesn't know her letters, she can't count, and she barely speaks Portuguese. In her village, they mostly speak their local language, Yao, so she is barely competent in Portuguese. She can't follow more than one instruction at a time. After two months of diligently reviewing her letters and numbers, I really don't see any progress at all. She still can't write her name.

Give the girl a crying baby and that baby will be asleep on her back in a kapalana in no time flat. Ask the girl to sing and she'll have a room full of adults dancing, singing, and praising Jesus with her. There are so many things that she is good at BUT she has no interest in being in school or learning. So, everyday she copies someone else's work.

Every day I sit with her and tell her not to copy someone else's school work. First of all, it is called cheating and cheating is a sin. Sin cost the Son of God his life. God's heart is broken when we sin. Second of all, when we cheat on our school work, we are not learning anything. Learning to read and write is important.

Yet everyday, when I'm not looking, she goes to sit beside someone whom she knows will have the right answers. Today we were working on beginning sounds. At the top of the page there was a letter. Under that letter were three pictures. She needed to color the picture of the object that started with that letter. For example, under the letter "B" was a rat, an egg, and a banana. She was supposed to color the banana.

When she handed in her paper, all her answers were right. However, I knew she didn't know the letters. So, I asked her to tell me each letter. She could not. So, I asked, "Zaida, if you don't know that this is letter 'B' how can you know that banana starts with letter 'B'?" She clammed up and wouldn't speak. Big crocodile tears started falling down her cheeks and then she begin to shout, "I didn't cheat! I didn't cheat!"

"Okay, Zaida. You say you didn't cheat. BUT you got all the answers right yet you don't know any of these letters. How is that possible?" She stopped talking.

Then today when it was time for the Bible Story, I called all the kids to come to class. Some refused to listen to me. So, I told the few that had gathered around me that I would give a sticker to everyone that listened quietly and sat still. Of course, when it was time to hand out stickers, everyone was suddenly ready to come to class. There was great wailing and gnashing of teeth, but I stood my ground and refused to give stickers to those who were not present for the story.

A few minutes later on of the parents tapped me on the shoulder. "Desadelia wants a sticker."

I nodded. "Well, she wasn't in class and only those who were in class and listened quietly received a sticker."

"But she's crying for one."

"I'm sorry. But, if I give her one, I have to give one to everyone. I am trying to teach the children that there are consequences for good and bad behavior."

"But she's crying for one." I just shook my head and tried to explain again why Desa didn't receive and wouldn't receive a sticker. She said something in a language which I do not speak (and it didn't sound like a blessing) and stomped off.

Finally today, Cecilia refused to come to class. She is five years old and this scene is repeated EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. When we are playing, she is happy as a lark. When it's time to go to class, she pitches a fit and refuses to go to class. Her mom comes and gets her and doesn't make her obey. I have tried explaining to this mom that Cecelia is old enough to learn and needs to be in class. I have tried to explain that Cecelia is being manipulative and just wants to get her way. I have explained how important it is for Cecilia to learn to obey and to learn that there are consequences for disobedience. Yet, every day this scene is repeated and every day Cecelia's mom comes to get her.

I know these seem like simple fixes. But for two months we have been working on these simple behaviors and still they are not improved. I don't mean to imply that there have been no improvements. The kids can stand in a line. They couldn't do that two months ago. They sit patiently and wait to be handed their school work, pencils, and crayons. They were like little vultures two months ago. They don't hit and push nearly as often. They ask for things instead of just taking them most of the time. These behaviors which seem so normal to us are things we had to fight and pray for. So, in some ways, I am so happy and so blessed to see how far my little people have come.

But, I'm left with so many questions about discipleship. How do you break the habit of cheating? How do you explain how important it is to a parent to let their child experience the painful consequences of poor choices? How do you stress the importance of a little girl going to school, when the parent didn't go to school herself? How do you change someone who doesn't want to be changed? How do you help someone understand that God doesn't except all the things that your culture excepts and that we have to obey God - not our culture?

You see, these parents, they are the first generation of Mozambicans to have the gospel. Before that, it was Communism and war. Their understanding is so small. We are trying to disciple them while we are teaching them to disciple their kids. It feels almost impossible.

You can't blame them. No one made them go to school. No one let them experience good or bad consequences. If you cried loud enough, you got what you wanted. Now that they are parents, these white people are coming in and telling them that all these things are important - yet they grew up without them and they don't see the value in them.

These people LOVE their kids. They would die for their kids. It isn't that at all. It's trying to teach them God's principles for life - which are new to them - and then trying to get them to implement them with their own kids before they've even seen the value in their own lives.

On days like today, I realize that I can enforce consequences in school, but in a few months they will go home and probably no one will do that for them. So, I diligently teach them things which seem so normal to me, and I pray that little seeds will be planted in their lives. I thank God for the progress we've had and I ask Him for even more.

It's not easy to teach people to value new concepts. I feel blessed to do what I do. Everyday when I arrive at school and 30 little people come running with their arms wide open shouting "Tia Jennifer is here!" My heart just melts right there inside my chest. These kids have learned to be held, and hugged, and kissed. That's a huge thing!

I ask the Lord to teach me to be more content. I know that when He looks at me, He must feel the same way. I look at how far I've come, but He must look at where I should be. Yet, there is nothing but grace and patience as I continue to try to get this thing of loving Jesus right.

So pray with me. Pray that I will see our progress. Pray that I will know how to better disciple these precious little people. Pray that I will have more patience and more grace. I need to remember that discipleship (in my life and the lives of others) is a marathon - not a 100 yard dash.

Sunday, August 4, 2013


Well, you know a book is gonna totally bust your world wide open when you are already inspired to write a blog before you finish the foreward. Sigh.....

In one of the packages I received, I got the book Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. I finally picked it up and decided to start reading it today. I own his book "The Cost of Discipleship" and I've heard excellent things about it and I've read bits and pieces of it, but I really wanted to understand the man and his story before I dived too deeply into that book.

I wanted to understand this man that went against the tide of an entire world. He didn't fall under the spell of Hitler and he didn't go with the flow. He didn't stay silent to save himself. Bonhoeffer saw something bigger than himself and he, to his own peril, became the voice crying out in the wilderness.

What. a. guy.

This forward is written by Timothy Keller who is the author of The Reason for God. 

This book is speaking to me where I live -well, where I want to live. I don't want the run-of-the-mill, mundane Christianity. If you ask me, that's not Christianity at all. We are too comfortable playing church. We are too comfortable in our little worlds - saying our mealtime prayers, maybe reading our Bibles, singing in the choir, teaching a Sunday School lesson Christianity.

If it makes me want to puke - what in the world does God think? Oh, yeah. That whole spew you out of my mouth thing. Right. If I'm honest, I think God is doing a lot of spewing.

Listen to this:

"How could the "church of Luther," that great teacher of the gospel come to such a place? The answer is that the true Gospel, summed up by Bonhoeffer as costly grace, had been lost. On the one hand, the church had become marked by formalism. That mean going to church and hearing that God loves you and forgives everyone, so it doesn't really matter how you live. Bonhoeffer called this cheap grace. On the other hand, there was legalism, or salvation by law and good works. Legalism meant that God loves you because you have pulled yourself together and are trying to live a good, discipline life. Both of these impulses made it possible for Hitler to come to power."

So that last line, made me gulp a little bit. I had to read it again to let it sink in. Cheap grace - that God loves everyone and legalism - that you have to do good to be good.....both paved the way for an evil man to capture the admiration of a nation. Doesn't that scare you just a little bit?

First of all, the American church is full of cheap grace. Yes, of course God loves everyone. But not everything is okay with God. Our sin doesn't change God's love. But, let's get real here, people. Our sin cost the Son of God his life. His life. To assert that God loves everyone and so however we want to live and do and be is okay by God, just cheapens the precious gift of Jesus.

The American church is also full of legalism. I grew up in it. I know. "Don't drink, don't smoke, don't run with those that do." And for heavens sake, don't read the NIV Bible or go to a movie. Always go to church when the doors are open, learn your memory verses, rock a baby in the nursery or sing in the choir, be a deacon.....something. And then you're all good.

These ideas paved the way for Hitler and all his crazy ideas. As we look back at WWII, we are appalled at what Hitler was able to accomplish. We wonder: How stupid were those people? How did they not stand up and shout "NO!" How were they so transfixed by a poorly educated man and his racist ideas?

The answer is really quite simple. The German church had bought into the lie of cheap grace. The church had become stagnant. These weren't brainwashed, stupid people. They were people who had bought into the lie that the free grace of God cost nothing. From there, everything sinful and evil is birthed in our lives.

Yes, the grace of God is free. God's grace costs me nothing. I did nothing to receive it and I can do nothing to earn it. Free. However, because of God's grace I am changed and I live differently. I am not satisfied with the mundane and commonplace. Going to church for an hour a week isn't enough. Because the grace which cost him everything exacts a price on my life. It is a price I pay willingly, because I have been given back my life. My true life.....the one God always wanted me to have before sin robbed me of it.

Now read this;

By the time of Hitler's ascension, much of the German church understood grace only as abstract acceptance - "God forgives; that's his job." But we know that true grace comes to us by costly sacrifice. And if God was willing to go to the cross and endure such pain and absorb such a cost in order to save us, then we must live sacrificially as we serve others. Anyone who truly understands how God's grace came to us will have a changed life. That's the gospel, not salvation by law, or by cheap grace, but by costly grace. Costly grace changes you from the inside out. Neither law or cheap grace can do that. 

Keller concludes by saying, "If we are not careful, we run the risk of falling into the belief in "cheap grace" - a non costly love from a non-holy God who just loves and accepts us as we are. That will never change anyone's life."

The grace of God cost his son Jesus everything. For us to even think that us will cost nothing is laughable. It's preposterous. I can do nothing to keep or earn this grace. But the reality of this precious grace holds me to a higher standard. The reality of this love is that it makes me different. This love changes me.

I am so tired of grace which does not move me and love which does not change me. We make the sacrifice of Jesus meaningless. Let those of us that love him be willing to stand for what is right, work tirelessly to share His light, and love like that's the only message that matters.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Learning to Read

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

~Frederick Buechner

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

~Mother Teresa

For those of you who know me well, I'm a quote girl. I LOVE quotes. And, yesterday, those are the quotes that were running through my head as I taught 6 Yao adults a simple reading lesson.

Many people here have never been to school. Girls are needed at home to cook, clean, and take care of children. Most boys attend school - at least more than girls - but when they are needed in the machamba (field, or farm), attending school becomes a distant second. Even if they attend primary school - which the government provides for free - the school conditions are so horrible, that little, if any learning is taking place. Imagine a classroom with 50 or 100 kids. They're aren't enough desks, so kids sit on wooden benches or on the concrete floor. They're aren't enough books, so one book is shared between 3 or 4 children. They're are no teaching aids, no games to play......nothing. Their is only a teacher standing up front reciting a sentence and little voices repeating what has been said. No learning modalities. No learning styles or levels of learning. No explanation. Just repeating....for three hours a day - and then you go home.

If you are lucky enough to finish the fifth grade - which even if you do you may not know your alphabet or how to spell your name - you are promoted to sixth grade. But, at sixth grade you must pay tuition and buy your books. Most families do not have the money for this. If they do, their is all so usually a bribe of some sort to pay the teacher so that you can be promoted. If you cannot afford the bribe then you probably will not be promoted.

This sounds crazy.....but it is a reality. It's not just a reality here. It's a reality for most of the world. We, in the first world, are more blessed than we can begin to imagine. Until you have been to a third world and seen the reality of someone else, you just can't imagine. Seriously, Wal-Mart would overwhelm most of my friends. Our buildings, our churches, our restaurants......everything about our lives is excessive and completely outside the imagination of the rest of the world. We are blessed. Never once, until I moved to Africa, did I think about education, a bed to sleep in, clean drinking water, bathing water, cooking with a stove, food to eat, transportation......nothing like that. In our world, those are accepted realities. In this world, they are luxuries. 

Oh, how very blessed we are. And we don't even know it. When you turn on your tap today, when you pop your food in the microwave, when you take your shower, go to sleep in your comfy bed, please thank God for what you have. Say a prayer for those who do not have what you have.

Yesterday, our letter was "S." We talked about the sound that the letter "S" made. We then combined that sound with the vowels to make new sounds. We then added other consonants to make words like "soda" "dora" "Sara" and "soro." (Okay, so I was teaching in Portuguese - the first three words just happened to be the same ;0) As we talked about the sounds, I asked Mariana to sound out the word "soda." Ever so slowly she did "Sss," "Ohh", "Dhh" "Ahh." She looked at me shyly and then said, "Soda." YES! 

"Muito bom, Mariana. E isso!" (Very good, Mariana. That's it!")

She had read a word - probably for the first time in her life. I have never seen such pride in anyone's eyes. And, I realized, that's the look that God sent his son Jesus for. That's the abundant life Jesus came to give us. That moment when we are who he created us to be. That moment when we realize we have talent and worth beyond what the world has told us we have. That moment when we realize we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.

It was a powerful, wonderful moment. For that look, I'd give up Wal-Mart and stoves and every other form of modern technology. That moment was why God created me! I don't have a lot of talent to offer this world or the King. But, what I have, I give Him with all my heart and soul!

Later on, I asked them to copy their newly learned words off the board. I then told them to write their name on their paper. None of them knew how to write their names. So, I wrote their names on their papers and then asked them to copy their names. For most of them, it was the first time they had ever written their names. Wow.......just wow. I have been writing my name since I was about 4 years old. Never before have I thought that I was blessed because I had learned to do that. But, as I watched these precious men and women write their own name for the first time in their lives, I was just lost in the wonder of the moment. They were so proud of themselves - and well they should be! 

I applaud them for their bravery, their eagerness to learn, and their desire to build better lives for themselves and their children. They are my heroes.

Today, I am armed with 3 cakes. I will take them out to the center and we will celebrate a birthday. As each person's birthday rolls around we celebrate with cake and singing. For some of them, we have made up a birthday because they don't know what month - or what year sometimes - they were born. For all of them, it is the first time that anyone has celebrated their birthday. Never before has someone taken the time to celebrate and thank God for their lives. 

These may not be earth shattering things - learning to read and celebrating birthdays. But, to these people, it is the proof that they are loved and valued. And, that after all, is why Jesus came.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Gas Ovens and Guardian Angels

I’d like to tell you the story of how I caused an explosion and nearly burned my face off. There is, always, always something with me. I think I’d be more worried if something wasn’t a little off kilter in my life!

Last night, I decided that I would make some chicken casserole. So, my friend and I cut the veggies, boiled the chicken, made the topping - all of that stuff. So far so good. Then it came time to put that sucker in the oven. Now, my oven has been on the fritz for a few weeks now and we have to hold the button to get it to stay lit. Last night I was holding the button down while she bathed one of her girls.

I realized that I was smelling gas, so I opened the oven to find the flame had gone out. This has happened numerous times in the last few days. We just reached in, relit the thing with a match and continued holding down the button. No biggie.

Last night, when I did that there was this huge bang (people came outside to see what had happened) and this big fireball came rolling out of the oven. Of course, my face was down close to the flame because I had been trying to relight the oven.

My friend came running in the kitchen and I kept asking her, “Am I burned? Am I burned?”

At first she said no - and I guess I’m not really burned that badly. But upon closer inspection, my hairline is singed, my left eyebrow looks like it was waxed too closely, and my right eyebrow is just gone! My eyelashes have been falling out, so I’m not sure how long they’ll stay or how many will stay. The skin on my forehead is peeling. My chin and neck are pretty tender, as well as my cheeks and nose. I look like I got a bad sunburn. I think I must have swallowed some hot gas or something, too, because I’m on a cold-things only diet. Anything hot is just too much for my throat!

All that said.......it’s really not too bad. It could have been so much worse. If my hair had been down and not in a pony tail, I think it would have been worse (take note mom! For once in my life aren’t you glad I like pony tails? ;0)

Anyhow I just can’t tell you how completely grateful I am to have my face. It may not be the best looking mug ever, but I’m kind of attached to it, and I’m so thankful I don’t look like Freddy Krueger.

There are so many things to be thankful for today. First of all, my friends older daughter wasn’t anywhere near the oven. Usually she is right there peeking in, so I’m so thankful that she wasn’t last night. That would have been horrible.

I’m so thankful that my burns are not worse. 

I’m so thankful my hair was in a pony tail.
I’m so thankful my eyes weren’t burned. I’m thankful for my sight.

Without trying to be too dramatic (some of you will find that hard to imagine), I really think that I was saved from something much worse last night.

There are times in our lives when we just know that our guardian angels - or Jesus himself - protected us in a real tangible way. Sometimes, we don’t always get the protection we want. I think sometimes, like Job, Jesus allows stuff that we don’t like very much to pass through his hands to us.

Then sometimes I think Satan comes calling and Jesus says, “No way. Not tonight. Not like this.” I think last night was one of those times.

In our humanity that can only see the good in good things, we need to learn to be grateful for both. I’m not sure I would be so grateful if I was blind or had a horribly scarred face. I’m sure I’d have a lot of questions and I’d feel somewhat betrayed.

But, I’m trying to learn to be grateful in all things. God is good. That’s a statement. God is not only good when He sends good things our way. God is good. That’s not a compound sentence. There is no “but” or “and” in that sentence.

God is good.

So, as I sit here tonight, I’m thankful to Jesus and a little bit sorry for the angels that got assigned to keep me from “dashing my foot against a stone.” I’m quite sure they’ve asked for reassignment a couple of times already! 

I am so thankful for my Protector. So glad there’s someone stronger, more compassionate, and more loving than the evil one who has come to kill, steal, and destroy.

I’m so, so thankful for the One who came to give abundant life

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Communion and Coke

The other day, I saw  a meme on Facebook that said, “ We are not African because we are born in Africa. We are African because Africa was born in us.” Next time I’m in the states, I’m gonna get someone to frame that to hang in my house. I feel that, I feel that to my very core.

Africa is the home of my heart.

As many of you know, I’ve had the opportunity to live and work many places. For the tender - young, young (!) age of 33, I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of experiences. I’ve lived a lot of places that I have just loved. But, I had this feeling that I couldn’t explain -  this feeling that this place and this experience were temporary. As much as I loved New York - and as much as I loved and needed Florida to be a part of my life - I knew it wasn’t forever. 

Now, I would be supposing a lot to tell you that I know I will be in Mozambique forever. I’ve learned in my walk with God that He does a lot of things that I can’t begin to think of or imagine. He has a way of surprising even this nomad.

However, this time, I don’t feel that unsettled feeling. I don’t feel so temporary. I feel like this is what I was made for. I’m sure that I still see the culture with “rose colored glasses” to some extent. But, I see it for what it is, too. There are many things about this culture that I have to adjust myself to There are plenty of things that in my American culture are just plain weird. I HATE that people come visiting all the time. There’s no warning - ever. People just drop  by and chat while you cook and clean - or whatever. They stay for a a long time, and it’s always polite to offer them a meal, or tea, or whatever you happen to have on hand. Any time of day or night - people just drop by.

That is one major thing that I am having to adjust myself too. There are plenty of other things, too. It’s not bad, it’s just so, SO, different from my culture. There are countless things like that. I just have to count to ten, smile, and remind myself that this is a part of the culture I have chosen to live in.

But, on the flip side, I love these people. I love their gentle smiles and quick laughter. I love how passionate they are. Their lives are so hard, yet their is this joy that wells up from deep within them. I love that.

Recently, I have been attending an Assemblies of God church that is really close to my house. I have really enjoyed meeting people from the community and being a part of a regular fellowship. It is so good to fellowship with other believers and it is so helpful to get myself rooted in this community. It makes Lichinga feel even more like home.

Today is the first Sunday of the month, so the three Assemblies of God churches in Lichinga got together for communion. It was a really sweet time, and I so enjoyed the experience of having communion with them. 
When communion was served, it was these little pieces of broken bread - not the little wafers that we are accustomed to being served in our churches. The pastor spoke for a few minutes about why we take communion and then we each received our little piece of torn bread.

As I took that bread, and I thought about taking this in memory of Jesus, I remembered what Paul said about being the “chief of sinners.” Now, it’s easy to point the finger and say that he was. I mean, he was a murderer, after all. But, as I took that, I realized that I was the chief of sinners. I know how fall short I fall on a daily basis. I know how many times I choose myself over God - over the good of His people. I know how deep my selfishness runs. Paul didn’t say that because he had persecuted sinners. Paul said that because he knew how incredibly short he fell from reaching God’s standard.

If my selfishness had been the only sin, it still would have cost the Son of God his life. That’s enough for me to fall on my knees and thank God for his mercifulness and grace towards me.

And then it was time to take the cup. The juice was in these little shot glasses - which I thought was pretty funny to begin with. Then, when the pastor told us to receive the cup, it was coke! That is the very first time I have ever had coke represent the blood of Jesus. :0)

It was a fun, moving experience. And as we say, when there are no other words, TIA (This is Africa)!

What a blessed, joyful, fun, meaningful day.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Break My Heart for What Breaks Yours

One of my favorite songs off the most recent "Casting Crowns" album is "Jesus, Friend of Sinners." The last line of that chorus says, "Jesus, friend of sinners, break my heart for what breaks yours." Today, I think I saw the smallest fraction of His heart in two precious little girls.

I was on my bike on the way back from the store, and I saw two little girls, who looked like they were maybe 5 or 6 digging through trash. They were picking up old plastic water bottles and whatever containers they could find. They will probably wash them and use them to sell something - all though what, I'm not sure.

Last year, when I was traveling by train, whenever we would stop, little children would race on to the train and grab whatever empty water, juice, or pop bottles on the floor. If you were holding a bottle that was even nearly empty, they would ask for it. These bottles would be taken home, washed and refilled with water or juice and sold to weary train travelers the next time the train came through their village.

It's hard for me not to compare these sweet children to American children. American children's lives are full of school, video games, soccer, outdoor play, and so many other simple, wonderful things. For children in Mozambique, at the youngest possible age, children are collecting empty bottles and rummaging through trash to help provide for their family in any way they can.

I wish I'd had my camera. I would have taken a picture of their precious little faces. I don't know them, their village, or their family, but my heart ached for them. My soul physically ached for these little lives that carried such a burden.

I wanted to pick them up, invite them into my home, and love all their hardship and hurt away. Even here, I have so much more than I need. Those little girls had probably never lived in a house with running water, a stove, or a refrigerator. I wanted to let them splash in the bath like little girls should do. I wanted to tell them that this is not what was meant to be. I wanted them to know that sin has ruined us. That all our brokenness and sorrow, all the hardship is because sin is a thief.

I want them to know that Jesus came to make a way to put the hurt behind us.

I pray so often that I will have his heart for the world. But, when I see that, I don't know if I can stand it. If it hurts me, how much more must it hurt the one who made them? How does Jesus look on our hurts, and hardships - our plain out stubborness and not just explode with sorrow or anger? Anger at sin. Sorrow that we choose to wallow in it when He gave his life so that we could have so much more.

Oh, Jesus. Life wasn't supposed to be like this. We were created for so much more. Lord, help us to break until we are willing to reach out to the ones You love so much. Remember us, Lord, and come to us again. Let us see Your miracles. Let us dream your dreams. Let us be changed and love our neighbor as ourselves.

Habakkuk 3:2 Lord, I have heard of your fame;
    I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
    in our time make them known;
    in wrath remember mercy.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Croucher

I’ve been reading through the book of Genesis recently. It’s really so different when you read it as an adult. When it’s not just the stories of creation, and Noah, and Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, there are all these wonderfully deep theological truths in there. I love this book! mean, I’ve read it before, but I always end up with all these questions - like,  who were the Sons of God? It says that they thought the daughters of mankind were beautiful and they bore children together. The Bible says their children were powerful and famous men, but it doesn’t say directly that they were godly men. Where are these “Sons of God” now? Were they angels? When did they stop having children with the daughters of mankind? 

Or like in Genesis 3 when the Bible says that the serpent was the most “cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God made.” That one gives me pause, too. Yeah, I get the whole thing about this particular serpent being Satan incarnate and all that, but don’t you find the description of “cunning” a little weird for something that God had made?

Did you ever wonder if the animals could talk? I mean, we know the serpent did. But, when Adam was naming all the animals was there this running dialogue with them like, “Nah, man. I don’t want to be called a Platypus. But yeah, a lion, that’s cool, Bro.”

Okay.....maybe not exactly like that, but you get the picture.

Why did God make Adam go through naming all the animals before he gave Eve to him? God knew no suitable helpmate would be found among the animals he had made.

You see, questions. Welcome to my “dizzying intellect” or lack thereof. 

Maybe when we get to heaven and we’re perfect we’ll understand perfectly. But, if we don’t get supernatural understanding of scripture in it’s entirety, I’ve got a long list of questions and you’d just better get in line. I call dibs on the front of the line.

However, today I want focus on sin and something I never really understood in its depth until the last few days. To begin with, let’s examine the first sin. That leads me to all kinds of questions and leads me to think maybe the animals did talk. I mean, Eve certainly didn’t seem to be too shocked to carry on a conversation with the serpent. 

It’s so strange to me that she was even tempted by that tree. The Bible tells us that God himself came and walked in the garden with them each evening. When you are physically walking with God everyday, how does sin have such a pull on you? How much greater then does it have a pull on me? How was Eve not immediately put off by the suggestion that she should do something that God had forbidden?

That lead’s me to my first conclusion about sin: It’s powerful. Way more powerful than me. In Jeremiah 17:9 the Bible calls the human heart “deceitful and desperately wicked.” Knowing myself the way I do and reading the story of the first sin, I’m inclined to believe that.

Just a few short verses down in chapter 3, the Bible says the “woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that is was desirable for obtaining wisdom.” That verse just kind of slapped me in the face. Isn’t that so like sin? It seems so necessary.......like it will enrich our lives or fill a need (food), it seems fun or like it will fill a void (delightful), and it seems like it will make us more well-rounded, or experienced (wisdom). The Holy Spirit within us sends out little warning bells, but we look anyway. We try to justify, to make whatever it is we want align with the Word of God. It’s like the Casting Crowns song, “Slow Fade” which says, “It’s the second glance that ties your hands as darkness pulls the strings.” You see, once we try to justify, sin has become the master, and we are  but puppets. We think we are in control. We think we can stop or change anytime we want to. What we don’t see is the strings that bind us, that Satan uses to pull us deeper in to sin.

That’s my second conclusion about sin: Sin is attractive. We tend to think of sin in like the haggard, old wicked step mother offering us the apple. On the contrary, sin is like Prince Charming riding in on his white horse to save the day. That’s why we must be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Sin is not the package with thistles and thorns. It’s the package tied up with a beautiful bow. It’s isn’t till we’re in far too deep that we realize we’re sinking. 

I also wonder about Adam and I think of his sin before he ever ate that fruit. Adam was with Eve when she was having this conversation with the serpent. He was entirely entranced, too. Not once did he, as Eve’s spiritual covering, try to pull her away or tell the serpent to leave. He saw what was happening and he was completely silent.

How many times have you seen a friend, a loved one, or just somebody you knew headed down the wrong path and you just remained silent because “it wasn’t your business?” Not only does silence allow someone’s decent into sin, it desensitizes our own hearts to the sin that “so easily entangles us.” We weren’t meant to be silent about sin. Jesus was forever compassionate to the sinner but always outspoken about sin as well. We must be compassionate, but unafraid to speak the truth in love. 

I’ve also been examining the first murder. I guess the first problem there was rebellion. Cain knew what God required, but his desire for what he enjoyed overruled his desire for God. Working the ground and loving to work the ground wasn’t wrong. The problem was that God required a certain type of offering and Cain was unwilling to do the work to present God with what he required. When the Lord did not accept Cain’s offering, instead of realizing his own problem, Cain became angry at his brother who had presented the right offering to God.

Before Cain ever attacked his brother, God said to him, “Sin is crouching at the door. It’s desire is for you, but you must rule over it (Genesis 4:7)” However, Cain did not heed God’s warning, again choosing rebellion. He took his brother out to the field and he killed Able. Instead of recognizing the war within himself (pride), Cain killed his brother and destroyed his relationship with his parents. For all of the rest of his days, he was cursed.

Sin is like that, you know. Before there is ever an action, there is rebellion and pride in our hearts. We think we know better, understand more or we just plain decide not to care. Martin Luther once said that we cannot break any of the ten commandments until we have first broken the one that says not to worship idols. You see, once we choose sin - whatever it is - we are making that thing, our rebellion, our pride, our desire the most important thing. And whatever ‘thing’ is the most important thing takes the place of Jesus, and that is idol worship.

That’s my third conclusion about sin: It frighteningly subtle. It’s so subtle that we often don’t even notice it.

Maybe it’s food. Or, maybe it’s the desire to always have more material things. For some it’s the desire to be successful. It a thousand different things to a thousand different people.

Sin is not always so visible. It’s not always drugs, alcohol, and sex. It’s not always about stealing or lying. No, I think the more dangerous sins are the once crouching at the door, the ones, like jealousy and gossip that are so easy to miss and ignore.

I want to see those attitudes and those desires as what they really are. I want to get in my mind is that sin is out to destroy me!

It’s not a salvation thing. I am sure of my salvation. It’s a missed opportunity thing. When I choose to hold on to little attitudes or unforgiveness, when I choose my way instead of the God’s way, when I choose what I feel over what I know - what am I missing?  What was God offering when I selfishly chose my way? There is so much more freedom so much more joy when we choose His way. But His way won’t always bring immediate gratification to my flesh like my way will. His way is more tedious, to be sure. His way requires less of me. It requires that I think of myself less and I pick up my cross more.

His way is the hard way. But, I don’t want to look back with regrets any more than I already do. I don’t want that “What if...” question hanging over me at the end of my life. So, I beg of you. I beg myself. Please see sin for what it is. There are no ‘little’ sins. All sin starts with pride and all sin is out to destroy you.

As a child, when my parents would give us a new Bible, my mom would write this in the front cover, “Sin will take you further than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.”

How heartbreakingly true.

That’s all. Satan has come for your soul - to kill, steal, and destroy. It is Jesus who came to give us abundant life (Jn. 10:10) Let’s say ‘no’ to ourselves more often and I think we’ll find that He will fill the ‘no’ void with so much more that we could have ever imagined.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Immeasurably More

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your heartsthrough faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people,to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:14-21

I am leaving the country in a little over 72 hours. Yay! Ugh.....

I really can't explain all of the emotions. On one hand, I am so, so excited. I love missions and I love Mozambique. I am excited about the new team I will be joining in Lichinga.

However, I would be lying if I didn't say I was apprehensive, too. I am sad for all the things that I will miss. I know that I will miss weddings, birthdays, holidays, births, and deaths. This time, I know what it's like to miss those things. It makes me sad. But, it also makes me happy that I have two worlds that I love that I wouldn't want to live without. There aren't many people who can say that. I am blessed beyond measure.

I am also blessed in real tangible ways that I can see and touch. Just last week I was offered a house to rent. The house has running hot water (what?) and electricity. The rent also includes a day time and night time guard. Now, before you get too worried, I believe every missionary I know has a guard. It's someone to watch your house when you're away and someone to watch out for you at night. I realize that may sound a little scary, but honestly to me it sounds wonderful. One of the things I really struggled with last year was living at the base. I had no where to "get away." I only had a bedroom. The living area and kitchen was shared by the entire base. So, even on weekends when I wasn't "on duty," I lived where I worked, and I just didn't have a place to have some privacy, to spend time alone with the Lord, a place to call my own. It was just hard.

So, the idea that I will have a place that will make my work and ministry separate sound like.....sanity :0) And, today, as if that wasn't gift enough from Jesus, First Baptist Church of Eden gave me almost $9,000.00 towards the purchase of a car. WOW, WOW, WOW!!!!! 

They took on a project called "Jenni's Wheels" and in two months they raised almost $9,000. 
I am totally speechless. I never imagined that. Not ever. And that is why I added those verses to the top of this blog. This Christ whose love is long, and deep, and wide - this Christ does immeasurably more than I can ask or imagine - and he has. I am so grateful to my Savior and to the people of FBC whose hearts and pockets were opened to His work in the world. They gave me a HUGE key and told me to remember that God's pockets are bigger than mine. That key won't fit in my pocket, but it will fit in the pocket of the ONE writing this story, and He's a better driver anyway!

Please continue to pray with me about the car. Once I get to Moz and get settled, I will have to do car shopping. Yikes! I have friends in Lichinga who will help me. Thank goodness. Car shopping is stressful. Car shopping in another language, in another countr, is a daunting proposition even for this girl!

I am hoping to be able to purchase a car for around $10,000. It could be as much as $12,000. Please pray with me about the following things: 1) I will be able to find a safe, reliable car for $10,000. 2) Please pray that hearts will be moved that will help me finish raising the $1,000 to $3,000 dollars still needed. 3) Please pray for me as I get settled in the house and begin work.

Today, after FBC presented me with my key, my mom sang a song. Yes, if you are wondering, that was a real tear jerker! I couldn't look at her because I was crying and I didn't want to get her started. Anyhow, she sang a song that I sang as a child in a church play. Here are the words:

Is there anything I can do for You?
Is there anything I can do?
For all the things you've done for me
Is there anything I can do?

I'm willing to be used, dear Lord,
Whatever the price may be.
So if there's anything I can do for you,
Just make it known to me.

Is there anywhere I can go for you?
Is there anywhere I can go?
For the places you have been for me,
Is there anywhere I can go?

That second verse gets me every time. For the places you have been for me. When I think about where He has been for me, I am just humbled. This gentle, humble Jesus became a man for me. He left the glory of heaven because I needed a Savior. He took on all the constraints of humanity for me. He decided to experience illness, and loss, and rejection and became like me in every way. He knew that was the only way to reach my human heart. Jesus was beaten beyond recognition for me. He died on a cruel cross to save my soul. He became sin even though He knew no sin because I needed a way to heaven.

So....no electricity? No running water? A little malaria? Bring it. My Savior is worth SO. MUCH. MORE.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

I Want....

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world."   ~C.S. Lewis

This morning, as I write this, two people that I love are battling the disease called cancer. And, physically, cancer is winning. My Uncle Willie is a little bit better after a horrendous weekend of sickness and medical procedures.

My cousin Lisa has been given days to live. Days.

It's just not fair. She has two children. A son who is getting married soon. A daughter who is finishing college and probably planning her own wedding soon. She has beautiful, young, granddaughters. For five years they have watched Lisa fight for life and health and she's losing. Her daughter has spent most of her teenage years watching her mother slip away and fighting with her. It's not supposed to be that way. Lisa's little granddaughters are so young, they'll barely remember her and if they do, I'm not sure they'll remember a whole lot other than her being sick.


I'm mad at cancer. I'm mad that God hasn't stepped in and healed them. I'm mad at the injustice of it all. No one should suffer like that. No one.

I want a world where people that I love don't die and disappointments don't happen and life doesn't hurt. I want a world where there are no orphans, no hungry people, and no sickness. I want a world where people get their happy endings because things like divorce, disease, and hopelessness don't exist. 

That seems simple enough, doesn't it? I mean, if I were God, it would be a no brainer. But, I'm not God and these awful horrible things are a part of my world.

I want a world where I'm not judged by whether or not I'm pretty enough or thin enough. I don't want to live in a world where having stuff and being "somebody" matters. I want a world where the "outcasts" matter just as much as the "important" people. I want a world where my worth is not based on what you can see. 

Here's the thing. I want the things God created me to want. He created me for a perfect world where there is no sickness, no shame, and no heartache. He made my heart to only be satisfied by His perfect love and His perfect world. 

But, sin entered this world and by one simple, selfish act, our world was irrevocably broken. Through Satan's lie and Eve's rebellion, we became broken. Our world became something God didn't plan and Satan wanted to destroy. Satan came to steal, kill and destroy. When Eve ate that fruit, she understood what evil was. Her innocence and pure walk with God was forever tainted as was that of every human that would come after her.

Before you're too hard on Eve, we're just as guilty. Maybe not something as overt as eating the fruit off a tree that had been forbidden, but guilty nonetheless. Little attitudes that we convince ourselves don't matter, but they certainly don't obey our mandate to be loving. Little judgements - judgements like, 'if I was in that situation I wouldn't handle it like that.'  It's the 'little' things that trip most of us up.

We a sorry group, I tell you. We want what God created us to want - beauty, equality, perfection, love, kindness. Jesus. We were created for something else and Someone else. Yet, every day I make decisions that say that this world, and it's trappings are okay by me. I live like this life is the concert, not the opening act.

What is real and true is yet to come. I pray for myself, and for you, that we will have the courage to make decisions that reflect who we are and what we are living for. I'm not made for this. 

It's okay to enjoy this life. There are certainly beautiful parts about it. It's okay to be sad when people we love leave this world. It's hard to walk, even for a moment, without people who have made our lives so wonderful. It's okay to love this life - I do. 

But, that hole, that thing inside of you that you wish you could fill up - it won't be filled by something this world can satisfy. It wasn't meant to be satisfied by people, no matter how much you love them and they love you. It wasn't meant to be satisfied by success, or experience, or the stuff we can buy. 

It was created for a Savior and it was created for a place we have yet to see. In Philippians 3:20, Paul  said he was not a citizen of this world and that he "eagerly" awaited the Savior from that world. I'm not telling you not to love this life or enjoy it. Our Jesus came to give us abundant life. He wants you to enjoy the blessings he has given you. I guess, what I am saying is, live this life like it's just the opening act. Real life is yet to come. Don't be fooled by the trappings of this world and what this world says important. And when you hurt, when life seems unfair, when it all falls apart and you get tired of praying and waiting on God to answer, remember, my friend, that we were not created to be filled or satisfied here. 

We were are created for something so much more.