Monthly Archives: March 2012

“There’s no U-Haul behind the hearse.”

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Do you ever look at the lives of the rich and famous and think, “they have Rich Peoples’ problems.”  When you look at all the miseries that they experience, it makes your life look really nice.  The Apostle Paul wrote this to his young apprentice Pastor Timothy:

“Godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.  People who want to get rich fall into temptations, traps and many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.  They deeply regret their decisions later.

“But you, man of God, flee from all this and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness… Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.  In this way they will lay up treasures for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life!”  (1 Timothy 6:6-11 and 6:17-19)

You probably heard the saying, “There’s no U-Haul behind the hearse.”  You brought nothing into this world, you can take nothing with you when you leave.

Money really is an uncertain foundation in this day and age.  Look at those who have piled it up in this life.  They die and leave it all behind too.  The guy buried in this golden mausoleum is no better off than the poor man who is buried in a simple wooden box.  And think of all the starving children that could have been feed with the money this guy spent on his funeral!  You can’t take anything with you when you die.  Might as well be generous in this life and find true happiness in giving.

I give my kids Tylenol. Can I call myself a doctor?

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I hope nobody takes this blog post wrongly.  I am not trying to brag about myself or to put anyone down.  I’m not trying to be negative, I’m just expressing a frustration that most of my co-workers in the foreign mission field also feel.  These are my true feelings and thoughts.  I’m being honest.

It’s a really popular thing in churches now days to throw around the word “missionary” and to apply it to many different contexts.  For example, some people say “my office is my mission field” or “I am a missionary in my school.”  This kind of rubs me the wrong way.  I don’t deny that these places are full of people who need to hear about Jesus.  And I don’t deny that Jesus gave the Great Commission to all Christians (Matthew 28:19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”).  And I don’t deny that it can be hard to be a light in the darkness.  But these uses of the word “missionary” kind of bother me because, you see, I AM a missionary.  A real missionary.  I have taken the “go” in that verse to literally mean “go to the nations.”  It’s more than my occupation, it’s my entire life.

As a real missionary I have made decisions for my own life that have ripped through my family.  I chose to go, so my kids have come with me.  And that decision tore the heart out of my parents who had to say good-bye to their grand kids.  That decision impacted the aunties and uncles and cousins and sisters and brothers that we left behind too.  You see, I’ve made the hard choices that a missionary makes when she loves God more than she loves her family.

As a real missionary, I have spent YEARS learning the language.  I have put in the hours of hard study.  I have laid down my own desires and submitted myself to another culture, another way of thinking, and another way of communicating.  I have been stripped bare of my own identity.  The “missionary” who just walks across the street to be a witness to his neighbor will never be required to make the same kind of investment.  I have done the hard work to become a missionary.

As a real missionary, I have sold all my possessions (except a few boxes of treasures and memories) and made an international move MORE THAN ONCE.  I sold the rocking chair that I rocked my babies in.  I watched my dishes walk out the door.  I put my electronics in the hands of a garage sale shopper on a Saturday morning.  I spread all my possessions across my lawn for my neighbors to pick through.  I looked at the pitiful wad of dollar bills and quarters that I accumulated in exchange for all my worldly possessions and I knew, despairingly, that this pittance would not cover the cost to repurchase these things overseas.  It was going to cost me something more to reestablish a home in a foreign country.

As a real missionary, I have swallowed my pride over and over again to ask churches for money.  We need support to do what we do.  To an American, this feels like begging.  I didn’t like it.  It can be humiliating, but this is the way our organization is run.  So week after week we would “shlep” our presentation table around the state like a traveling salesman.  We have done the leg work to earn our support as missionaries.

We have made the sacrifices to earn the title “missionary”, so to hear others appropriate the title for themselves when they haven’t made those same hard sacrifices kind of bothers me.  It’s like me giving my kids Tylenol and then calling myself a Doctor.  I didn’t work for that title.  I didn’t pay for that title.  I didn’t invest my life in becoming a doctor, so when I rob the Doctor of his title I also rob him of his earned respect.  I am not a Doctor.  I am a mother with an eye dropper full of over-the-counter pain-killer.

In the same way that I am not a Doctor, I’m also not a super hero.  I don’t expect great honor.  I don’t want to be put on a pedestal.  I don’t want to hear the praise of men.  I’m not fishing for compliments or pats on the back.  The only thing I am dying to hear from my heavenly Father is, “Well done, good and faithful servant.  Here’s your eternal home… and you never have to move again.”

Matthew 28:19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

What I am afraid God will say to me someday

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There is a very common complaint against God floating around now days.  There are several variations, but it goes something like this, “Why would a good God allow innocent children to starve to death?”  The idea is that if God were truly good, he would not allow children to suffer.  So because we see suffering children in the world, we take it as evidence that God must not be good.  We’re basically saying that Angelina Jolie is more compassionate than God Almighty.  We’re implying that either God is NOT a good God because he ALLOWED this to happen, or he is not a POWERFUL enough God to STOP this from happening.  Either argument accuses God of not being who or what he claims to be: All-good and all-powerful, all-knowing, just and righteous, merciful and kind.  Both arguments are the product of human logic.

In both arguments, we humans are better than God.  In one, we are more compassionate and good, in the other we are more righteous and just making us able to judge God by a human sense of right and wrong.  Both of these accusations are called “blasphemy” which is claiming for yourself the rights and qualities of God.  We puny humans shake our fists at God and point an accusing finger at him shouting that we are more just that he is, we are more compassionate than he is.

But what if, some day, when you pointed your finger at God and said, “How can a good God allow innocent children to starve to death?”  God actually answered you.  What if God responded with this, “I saw those children starving to death and it broke my heart.  So I gave YOU all the resources to save them.  I gave YOU more than enough money to feed your family and their family too.  I gave YOU a bigger house than you would need, hoping that you would share it with one of those children.  I gave YOU a powerful government to use to speak for those without a voice.  I gave YOU access to 90% of the world’s resources, hoping that you would spread them around.   I saw those children starving to death, and I wondered why YOU didn’t do anything to help them.”

When Jesus saw the multitude of people following him, he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.  So he sat down and started teaching them.  As the day came to a close, the disciples noted the time and they encouraged Jesus to send the people home to eat dinner.  Jesus was concerned that some would have a long journey home and might faint along the way.  He told his disciples “YOU give them something to eat.”  Their initial shock was replaced by another kind of surprise when Jesus himself multiplied the loaves of bread and little fishes from a child’s sack lunch.  And everyone had enough to eat.

Jesus provided the miracle, but the disciples were given the command to pass it all out, “You give them something to eat.”  So before you point your finger in God’s face and accuse him of injustice and hard heartedness, take a long hard look at your own style of living and your own habits of consumption.  Are you really more righteous than God?  Because we didn’t save those children, God took them back to Heaven to take care of them himself.  How can a human ever love as much as God?

“If you give a cup of cold water to a child in my Name, it’s the same as if you gave it to me personally.” ~Jesus Christ.

Dear God, What did I get myself into?

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This is the tale of a wanna-be missionary and a sudden case of cold feet… or actually hot feet, in this story.  Back in 2004 we took our first family missions trip to Mexico.  It was awful.  We had just resigned our position as youth pastors to become missionaries, and we were preparing to travel to Springfield, Missouri for 5 weeks of School of Missions where we would be living in college dorms with our 2 children.

As if a 5 week stay in college dorms with a family of 4 wasn’t enough of a packing challenge, we decided to tack on a week in Mexico for a family missions trip, sort of as an introduction to missions for our children.  This was the dumbest idea we’ve ever had.  

First of all, it was about as hot as Hades that summer and we drove the whole way from Minnesota to Mexico.  Of course the air conditioning broke on the way down.  Then my 2-year old daughter cried day and night for a week solid because she was so hot.  I thanked God for not calling us to the Philippines.

Second of all, the dynamics of the trip were really off kilter for us. We were used to being in charge.  But this was a group trip organized by someone else in our church.  No one was very clear about our role on that trip- least of all us.

Thirdly, we didn’t know the independent missionary that we were working with.  When it was all said and done we were less than impressed with this wacko.  The whole orphanage/ministry compound had a Branch Davidian sort of feel.  The kids were strangely aggressive and conditioned to leech off of teams that came to work there every summer.  I felt used.

They used the teams to improve their property and boost their income, but they didn’t take very good care of their teams.  Part of the compound included housing for teams, two cinder block bunk houses.  These houses were incomplete. There were no doors, no screens nor glass in the windows, just cinderblock walls and a tin roof.  I felt really exposed- especially since I could see that there was no closing gate at the front of the compound.  Anyone could just walk right in off the street!  My husband and son were sleeping in the boys’ bunk house and my 2-year-old daughter and I were sleeping in the girls’ bunk house.  I thought, “what did we get ourselves into?”  I felt unprotected and nervous.  I learned to sleep with one eye opened.

But what really pushed me to my breaking point were the bugs.  I had never seen cockroaches that big before.  They were everywhere.  I… HATE… COCKROACHES.  There was no way I was going to be able to sleep without fearing that cockroaches would crawl on me in the night.  I pushed our two bunk beds away from the walls in case a cockroach came up the wall.  Every night I laid on top of my sleeping bag (it was about a million degrees inside the bunk house) and I would pray, “God, please put your angels around us while we sleep so no one comes in the front gate to kidnap anyone.  And while the angels are standing guard, please have them kill any cockroaches they see so they don’t get on me.”  And I kid you not, EVERY morning I would wake up to see a ring of dead cockroaches around my bed!!  I would sweep up a pile of them every morning.  Then I would pray again the next night.

I think God understood that if I had a bad cockroach experience this early on in the game that I might throw in the towel and move back home to Minnesota where the bugs are smaller and stay mostly outside.  I also took the dead roaches as a sign that God was listening to ALL of my prayers.  I couldn’t physically see how he kept us safe from bad guys at the gate, but I could see the evidence of his protection around me while I slept.  So I knew that God was listening to my prayers.  My level of trust in God’s care for me was hugely boosted on that miserable missions trip.

I don’t diet because I don’t want to kill people.

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I don’t like diets.  I used to be one of those people who could eat anything and never gain weight.  I remember in college being hungry all the time.  I must have had a good metabolism or something.  Then kids came along and ruined my waist line.  And I lost my thyroid to cancer so my metabolism is shot now.

Without a thyroid, weight loss is waaaaaay more difficult than before.  I tried Weight Watchers.  I hated it- my blood sugar was out of control.  We’re lucky that I didn’t kill anyone.  I tried crazy amounts of exercise- 90 minutes a day should do something, right?  Not without a thyroid!  It was so discouraging that after about 9 months (with only about 6 pounds lost) I gave up.  So maybe when I say I don’t like diets there is a tinge of bitterness in my sentiments towards all those people who have success with that.

But beyond the jealousy of not seeing the same results for a herculean effort, I have to say that one thing that really bugs me about other people on a diet or an exercise craze is that they are consumed with their own bodies and the food they do or do not eat.  THEY don’t see it as being consumed.  They feel like they are being “conscientious”.  They feel like they are being inspiring and motivating when they share their successes.  They don’t realize that I want “go postal” every time they talk about their diet or their weight loss or their life-style or their goals.  I want to point out to these people just HOW much they talk about THEMSELVES.  It’s really annoying.

Not only do they talk about themselves all the time.  They are consumed with food.  Food controls them.  They think about food, plan what they will eat, tell everyone what they are avoiding, can’t do certain things because there will be bad food there, require their friends to accommodate their food restrictions (ever invite a vegetarian over for dinner?).  They are controlled by food.  And that really annoys me too.

If you have success on a diet or exercise plan, I can be happy for you… if you spare me the details.  I can applaud the successes of others, if they don’t rub it in my face.  Just keep it to yourself and let me compliment you on your trim figure if I feel like it.  And whatever you do… don’t try to pull me up on your bandwagon.  You’ll throw your back out.

So after that rant against diets.  I will refrain from telling you what I am going to prepare for breakfast.  I won’t tell you how many minutes I did NOT log on the stair master.  I won’t post on Facebook how many miles I ran at the crack of dawn.  And I won’t announce how many calories I burned doing housework.  Frankly, no one cares.  My life is far more interesting than what I put in my mouth.

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I hate to say “I told you so” but it’s been confirmed by another parent- these kids ARE bottomless pits where desserts and snacks are concerned!

I've become my parents

Dessert stomachWelcome to another installment of WTF Wednesday, where if you can find the same advice advertised elsewhere for less, we’ll congratulate you and totally mean it.

This week, we’ve decided to tackle three questions about food. One about kids who can’t stop eating it, one about kids who don’t eat enough of it, and one about kids who only eat one thing.

Our first question comes from James Hudyma (A.K.A. @SasdaDad). He runs a blog called EduDad and asks,

Dear IBMP,

My son is always hungry. He stomps around the house shouting, “More! More!” What can I feed this kid to keep him full?

OK, first of all, you know you’re supposed to feed your kid daily, right?  If you forget once in a while it’s probably OK, but you should really make an effort to feed him every day. If you go away for the weekend, consider asking…

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Quit feeding these kids! (They’re getting too big.)

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I’ve probably said it a thousand times, “These kids have got to stop growing!”  You don’t realize how much your own kids have changed because you see them every day.  But you notice when other people’s kids are growing.  We went back to Minnesota for Christmas this year.  We haven’t been home in a year and a half.  Aside from the shock of the temperature difference between Costa Rica and Minnesota, I was totally shocked at how big all my nieces and nephews had grown in 18 months.  Everyone came to the airport to greet us.  When we walked through the security doors all these tall, gangly teenagers came running down the hall at us!

It reminded me of when I take my dog to the groomers.  I always tell them to cut Nacho’s hair very short because shih-tzus are long haired dogs.  It buys me time between visits to the “Peluqueria”.  Every time they bring out my freshly shorn pup I don’t recognize him.  But he seems really happy to see me, so this must be my dog.  I take him home and in a few days I again recognize my own dog.  The change is just so shocking at first!

Well it was the same with my nieces and nephews.  I didn’t recognize these kids.  But they seemed really happy to see me, so they must be my family.  In a few days it wasn’t so weird that most of them are taller than me now.  And I was once again recognizing my own family members.  The change was just so shocking at first.  I told them all to quit growing so I don’t have to go through this again when we come back next time.  I doubt they’ll listen to me.