Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mud Pies

I am the most discontent and selfish person that I know.

While this is devastating for me to be reminded of on a daily basis, it's so very necessary and I find myself grateful to the God of the Universe who calls me his child that He loves me enough to bring this to my mind.

I've found that the moment I forget how selfish and discontent I am is the moment I begin to think I am something. To think that somehow I've arrived at a better place and pride begins to slip right in, poised to destroy me. I may not admit it or see it that way at first, but that's exactly the problem.

C.S. Lewis said:

 I have never met the man I could despair of after discerning what lies in me apart from the grace of God.

When my pride gets the best of me, that's when I begin to judge. That's when I begin to condemn. That's when I become self-righteous.

When my discontentment gets the best of me, that's when I begin to say in my heart that God is not enough for me. That I need more that what He has given me.

When my selfishness overtakes me, that's when I begin to think I am entitled. That somehow I deserve certain things. That I am worthy.

Hebrews 13.5b says:

Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you.

When I am content in Christ, the fact that I have Him is more than enough to sustain me. And I can have no pride, no selfishness, and no discontentment because I realize that apart from Him, I am nothing.
C.S. Lewis again put it this way:

Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

Lord, help me desire more than mud pies. Help me to desire You.

Quote Journaling

So, you know how you take notes during a sermon, but then don't ever look at them again? Don't go super spiritual on me now... you know you've done it. Or, maybe you've been talking with someone or reading a blog and hear a really great quote and you write it on a little piece of paper, only to lose it.

A friend of ours recently bought us these great journals and I wanted to use it for something unique. That's when I had an "Aha!" moment.

Instead of taking notes in a journal or on a scrap of paper, I decided to use my newly acquired journal to jot down quotes that inspire me and challenge me. It's fairly small, so I carry it with me everywhere so I don't miss something. I think it will be a big help to me on the field one day when I'm discouraged and I can just glance through and read some inspiring words (I like to write down verses that help me, too).

Check it out!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

From the Archives: God's Love Language

It's been interesting as we've traveled around the Southeast,  meeting people from every walk of life. Having been raised in a very conservative church my whole life, it was like culture shock for me when we stepped into our first Southern Baptist Church a couple of years ago. I wasn't accustomed to seeing blue jeans on the Pastor and a whole band on the platform, drums and all. It took me off guard when the Pastor opened his ESV to begin teaching the Word and we didn't sing the traditional hymns that I had heard all my life.

And the truth is, I loved it!

For me, it was like a breath of fresh air. Everyone seemed so at ease and connected. There was a certain passion in the room and an excitement about the Word. I loved the music and for what seemed like the first time I actually felt connected in worship. I felt at home and I was at least 600 miles from mine.

So what did this mean for me?

I have found myself with a lot of conflicting emotions over the last couple of years as I've met so many people that have enhanced my relationship with Christ. I've read books and heard sermons that have changed my worldview, broadened my mind, and opened my eyes to the fact that we serve a big... make that HUGE... God who doesn't fit inside the box that we've tried to fit him in.

In all of our travels I feel like my soul has been awakened, as cheesy as that may sound.

But what were the implications of this? Was the church that I was raised in not doing things right? Did the fact that they were hard-core KJV only, singing hymns from 1930, and it was suit and tie and dresses to church every service mean that they had somehow missed the mark? Or did the fact that I didn't feel connected with that atmosphere somehow imply that my heart was wrong for liking the contemporary worship songs and preferring pants over a skirt?

Fast forward to a month ago as we sit in the middle of the Jungle at an Indigenous church. The Pastor is speaking in two languages as he preaches from the front of a grass-roof hut. The people are all sitting on benches and the floor, though concrete, is covered in dirt. Women are breastfeeding with no regard for who is nearby and chickens and children are running all over the place. The music service is in the tribal language and the song leader and several women in the crowd are dancing.

I won't say this was culture shock for me, because a part of me felt right at home. But it was all new to me. Where I come from, dancing is off-limits and children are seen and not heard. If a woman needs to nurse, there is a special room designated for that and chickens are only seen on our plates after we go out for Sunday lunch.

Was this church getting it wrong too? After all, the pastor wasn't wearing a tie and he preached for an hour and a half straight... didn't he know that lunchtime is at noon? And was that the KJV version of their tribal Bible translation.........

So who was getting this right? Who was really glorifying God? Whose heart was really in the right place??

I think the answer is all of them. God was being and is being glorified in ways that we don't understand and it's all around us all the time.

God's love language is diversity.

He created the Indians in the Jungle who dance while they sing to the Almighty God. He created the 20-year-old who has a talent playing the drums and uses it to glorify his Savior. He created the 80-year-old man who wears his suit and tie in reverence to the creator of the Universe. He created the Pastor who wears jeans and the new mom nursing her infant and the mom who doesn't even own a pair of pants and young woman who hates skirts and the teenager who wears straight-legged jeans and dyes her hair pink and the little Indian who runs around naked and the man who sits in the back row because he's uncomfortable in social situations and the shut-in who faithfully listens over the airways and the music director who raises his hands in praise and the Indian lady who dances her traditional tribal dances and chants her tribal songs and the ex-drug addict who sits in the front row to soak in the Word that changed his life and the young married couple who got tattoos to commemorate the day that their lives were transformed by Christ and the missionary couple who gave up every earthly possession to follow Him and the business man who uses his wealth to further the Gospel and the stay at home mom who raises godly children and the Indian who fishes for his food every day and wears monkey teeth around his wrist and the elderly lady who weeps as she sings the hymns that have carried her through so many trials and.............................................

And the list goes on. And who are we to say that we have found God's true love language? Who are we to say that this worship music is right and this kind is wrong? And who are we to say that you have to dress this way or that?

Who are we?

I'm thankful to serve a God who not only loves diversity, He created it.

May we not be so closed-minded to think otherwise.

"...For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

"...and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth." Revelation 5:9-10

Today, I Reflect

Today I reflect on who God is making me.

About two years ago, I began on a spiritual journey that hit both suddenly and powerfully. I can remember where I was standing when it hit me so profoundly that the God I have claimed to know and serve since I was a little girl is so very much bigger than my mind ever thought possible. It was like all of a sudden my eyes were opened, if only a crack, to see that He’s a big God. He’s a powerful God. But more than that, He’s a God who knows me better than I know myself. And loves me anyway.

It’s been an amazing journey of learning what grace is, what mercy is, and how the God of this Universe sees me.

It’s been a journey of climbing to the top of the mountain and being breathless from all that I see that God is and does. And it’s been a journey of walking in the desert, wondering where that God of the mountaintop is, only to realize He’s matching me step for step and teaching me more than the mountaintop ever could.

There have been tears and there have been “aha!” moments and there have been questions that I still don’t have the answers to and likely never will. But it’s in all of those things that I realize that I am so thankful that the God I serve can’t fully be understood. Because that means He’s a big God.

These last two years have helped me see through the tradition that clouded my eyes before. I’ve started to see past the “rules” and religious jargon that has hindered me in the past. And what I’ve discovered is that the God I’m learning to serve is a God of diversity. He’s a God who not only appreciates uniqueness, he created it. He’s a God who desires unity, not uniformity. He’s a God who looks straight past my outward and deep into my heart. He knows my imperfections and humbles me in my pride. He is patient when I think I can do it on my own and never makes me feel like a failure when I realize [once again] that I can’t after all.

He’s a God who has a beautiful purpose and plan for my life and it’s one that will bring glory to His name. He’s a God who doesn’t expect perfection, because He already found that in His Son who died for me. He’s a God who is holy and righteous and loving and patient and kind and all-powerful, and yet He thinks of me and calls me His daughter.

And when I think of the specific calling He has placed in my heart, I sometimes start to fear. I see my inadequacies. I see my incompetency. I see how I am afraid. But it’s at that moment that I realize that the beauty of it all is just that—God can take someone like me, a nobody from nowhere, and use me in spite of myself to accomplish His purposes. And that absolutely blows my mind.

When I acknowledge that I am incapable, that’s when God can use me. And that’s when I beg Him to please keep my humble. Please remind me every day that I am nothing apart from Him.

So, today I reflect on who God is making me.

And even though I can’t see the end result just yet, I pray it looks a lot like His Son.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Just Mindin' My Own Business

I was reading the story of Saul (1 Samuel 8-11). If you haven't heard the story, he didn't turn out to be the greatest guy ever. Nevertheless, God chose Him to be Israel's first King.

I guess I never noticed that when he was called to be king, he was searching for his [earthly] father's donkeys. Did you know that? Yeah. He was just out with a buddy trying to locate the wayward burros when someone told him to go find the "seer" (prophet) Samuel... maybe he could predict their location.

Little did he know, God had told Samuel the day before that Saul would be coming his way and to anoint him the first king of Israel.

Fast-forward a chapter or two and it's time for Saul to officially take the thrown and he's crouched down by the supplies, terrified of the calling he's been given.

I feel like that sometimes. I'm just walking through life, mindin' my own business, and little do I realize God is at work behind the scenes, preparing me to serve Him in a land far, far away. He didn't call me to be Queen of anything, but sometimes I still find myself wanting to hide in some inconspicuous location so that no one can find me and maybe I can slip through the cracks and take the easy road.

There have been a lot of lessons learned over the past three years, especially the last year. And the closer we get to our move, the more lessons He seems to be piling on. Lessons about forgiveness, humility, faith, and gratitude flood my life daily. While it can be overwhelming some days, as I look back I find myself filled with gratitude that He would allow me, a nobody, to do something for Him through the power of His Son.

That's what gives me the motivation to get up and accept the challenges that He gives me.

As David Livingston said:  “If a commission by an earthly king is considered a honor, how can a commission by a Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?”

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Hearing the Whisper Above the Roar

I had someone ask me a question the other day that I get often.

Person: "How long will you be on the field?"
Me: "Oh, indefinitely. We will be there until God tells us to go elsewhere."
Person: *Look of shock and utter confusion* "Really?? Wow. That's amazing!"
Me: "Well, not really. I mean, our hearts are there. That's like home for us, so it's not really amazing. We'll come back to the States occasionally to see family and stuff."
Person: "So, this is really American to say, but, what will you do with all your stuff??"
Me: *Laughs* "We are selling it all. I mean, we'll keep our clothes and some memorabilia, but the rest is sold or we will sell it once our house sells."
Person: *Wide-eyed* "Wooooow."

I guess because this has been our desire and goal for so long, it doesn't seem strange to me at all. But that doesn't mean that satan doesn't like to jump on that bandwagon whenever conversations like that go down. He sees it as prime territory to get my eyes off the goal.

That's when he starts shouting at me:
"This IS a little crazy you know. Don't you remember how hot it is down there? And the bugs... there are a LOT of bugs. Besides, you know it's going to be really challenging to raise your kid(s) in the middle of the jung|e. There are so many dangers: illness, wild animals, iinjury. You think you get tired now. Just wait until you are living down there trying to raise a family, learn a new language and culture, help the sick and dying. You know you aren't very good at those things. And you've worked hard for what you have now. I mean, comparitively speaking, you don't have a lot so it can't REALLY be bad to live here."

It seems that as we get closer to our move and more people pose the questions like that one [very sweet] person did, satan screams all the louder. And if I let myself listen even for even just a moment I can almost feel the fear and doubt creeping into my mind as I begin to think of all the possibilities of things that could happen and before I know it I get carried away in the "what-ifs" of life.

But if I listen closely, I notice that below that roar of the enemy is a whisper. And it's saying, "Trust me. Be still, and trust me. I have good plans for you. Just trust me." And when I hone in on that whisper, the most overwhelming peace floods my heart. And the more I listen, the louder it gets and the quieter the chants of the enemy. And I find myself looking straight into the face of the One who called me and I have no more doubt and no more fear because I know this: Greater is He that is in me than He that is in the world.

And that is more than enough for me.

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