Monthly Archives: October 2012

Imported Holidays

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We don’t have Halloween here in Costa Rica.  It’s still considered a pagan holiday from America.  I’ve noticed that the Fanta (soda pop) company has put up billboards with silhouettes of bats and jack-o-lanterns, but nothing over the top spooky.  It’s just not accepted here.  Some of the grocery stores dabble in selling pumpkins, but there aren’t many sold, even fewer carved, and most people only buy them as a novelty… secretly wondering how to eat the thing.  We bought 3 mini pumpkins to decorate the coffee table at home, and that is the entirety of our Halloween festivities.

I have to say, it’s really nice not to have that pressure anymore.  I don’t have to create a costume for each kid, with the ever-increasing pressure to out-do my last years’ creations.  I don’t have to buy any candy for greedy monsters and sugar-high superheros.  I don’t have to man the front door and sweat it out, hoping that my stash of goodies lasts until the last group passes by.  And I don’t have to chase my kids around an over crowded harvest celebration, trying to keep their fairy wings and wigs in place while they bounce through the carnival games and “jumpy house”.  My kids only know what Halloween is from watching “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” and from the pictures that families post on Facebook of their kids at harvest parties and church pumpkin parties.  The whole holiday is kind of on the perimeter of our awareness, but no one really cares.  I’m happy about that.

The one new, imported “holiday” that I got a kick out of last year was “Black Friday”.  Even though Costa Ricans don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, somehow the concept of Black Friday sales appeared in malls all over the country just last year.  But I thought it was funny that often the prices were not actually SALE prices and the Black Friday Sales lasted until the following Monday or Wednesday, no biggie.  So the concept is slowly catching on, just not the actual DETAILS of the “holiday”.

And I have to say, I hope it never catches on like it has in America.  Black Friday has become very frightening to those of us not obsessed with shopping.  I just can’t fathom the emotional rush that a sale can ignite in people.  The obsession to possess has in actuality possessed the obsessed!  But for Costa Rica’s sake, I hope it never gets as out of hand as it has gotten in America.  I hope they never make “Black Friday” a real holiday here… nor Halloween for that matter.  We are better off without the stress and hype of both of those imported holidays.  But I won’t object if someone sends me their left over Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups or Butterfingers.

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The Shoe Repair Guy

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This is actually from the Philippines, I just thought it was funny.

Even though we’ve been living in Latin America since 2006, I am still learning life lessons all the time.  This week I learned, “you can not always assume that everyone sees the same problem that you see.”  This will save you much irritation and annoyance if you can let go of the assumption that all problems are “obvious”.  Let me give you an example.

Here in Latin America we don’t throw anything away unless it’s really trash.  In the United States, people throw stuff away just because they get tired of it or maybe it’s a little broken and they don’t know how to fix it.  But here, we have repair shops for everything!  This makes me happy, particularly where shoes are concerned.  Without the regular rotating of clothing in and out of the closets for the 4 seasons, we wear the same clothes all year long and they wear out way faster than in the States.  Sometimes shoes will wear out before the kid is grown into the next size, and for this reason, the Shoe Repair Guy is important.  Unfortunately, the success of a shoe repair is only about a 50-50 chance.

For example, I took my worn out running shoes… OK, it took me 10 years to wear them out... in for new soles.  The Shoe Repair Guy put on some slippery rubber soles with no tread.  I took them back and asked for tennis shoe treads and he glued on the chunkiest treads you’ve ever seen.  So now I look like a nerd jogging in orthopedic platform tennis shoes.  But it was cheaper than buying new shoes.

Over the summer I took my son’s tennis shoes in for a simple glue job on the side.  The outside looks fine, but he says the glue feels clumpy on the inside.  *sigh*  They should last a little longer now, sorry Kid.

During this last trip to the Shoe Repair Guy, I got a little creeped out when the guy asked for my phone number in a very unprofessional sort of way, if you know what I mean.  So I asked my husband to take over that errand for me.  Recently I sent him over with a pair of sandals that were starting to pull away around the toe.  I showed my husband where the glue should go, and then I mentioned that they could use a new sole too.  A week later he picked up my sandals with a pair of brand new heels glues to the bottoms…  Huh??

I was a bit dismayed by this, because “anyone with two eyes could see the problem,” I thought.  (But maybe this guy only has one eye.)   Obviously the top of the shoe needed gluing at one point and the soles are worn bare… who said anything about a new heel?  I have now accepted the fact that what is obvious to me, is not always obvious to others.  And I should never assume that we all see problems the same way… or that we all have two eyes.

So back to the Shoe Repair Guy my husband will go.  Maybe I should have given the guy my phone number to assure better service.

 

…accustomed to being gods of our fantasies…

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I read this last week… because I’m a little behind in my devotional book that I’m reading… and I mulled it over for the whole week long.  I chewed on it until I had digested it.  It’s not too slobbery though… I’d like to share it with you.  Hope this blesses and encourages someone today.  Have a happy Monday.

Anxiety is a result of envisioning the future without Me.  So the best defense against worry is staying in communication with Me.  When you turn your thoughts toward Me, you can think much more positively.  Remember to listen, as well as to speak, making your thoughts a dialogue with Me.

“If you must consider upcoming events, follow these rules: 1) do not linger in the future, because anxieties sprout up like mushrooms when you wander there.  2) Remember the promise of My continual Presence; include Me in any imagery that comes to mind.  This mental discipline does not come easily, because you are accustomed to being god of your fantasies.  However, the reality of My Presence with you, now and forevermore, outshines any fantasy you could ever imagine.

“[Keep] your eyes on Me.  I will open up the way before you, as you take steps of trust along your path.  Sometimes the way before you appears to be blocked.  If you focus on the obstacle or search for a way around it, you will probably go off course.  Instead, focus on me, the Shepherd who is leading you along your life-journey.  Before you know it, the ‘obstacle’ will be behind you and you will hardly know how you passed through it.

“That is the secret of success in My kingdom.  Although you remain aware of the visible world around you, your primary awareness is of Me.  When the road before you looks rocky, you can trust Me to get you through that rough patch.  My presence enables you to face each day with confidence.”

Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, devotionals for October 17 and 18

Mentoring Killed the Pioneers

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In yesterday’s blog, I gave an example of mentoring done right.  A spiritually mature woman taking a young lady under her wing to teach her how to be a good wife and how to love the Lord is a very Biblical picture of mentorship.  But I have noticed a frustrating trend in mentorship.  Dependency.

My generation is known for its self centeredness, for sure, but the generation below me is infamous for its narcissism.  Between the two of us, we are a pretty self focused force in society.  We write blogs, because we think someone wants to hear what we have to say.  We endlessly transmit our thoughts and daily routines and emotions onto the billboard of social media.  And though we have accomplished nothing in life, we self publish books as a status symbol.  Everyone writes, no one reads.  And no one LEADS either.

That’s the big problem I see with mentoring now days.  No one is willing to strike out on their own, be a pioneer, blaze new trails.  Everyone wants someone to hold their hand through every step of adulthood.  The generation that was told they are something special just by being born, the generation that was the center of their parent’s social calendar, wants to be the center of someone else’s life too.  And it’s paralyzing.

Let me give you an example.  I know a young lady who is a volunteer in her church.  She is actually a brilliant girl with many natural talents.  She serves in an unpaid position in her church, yet says that the Lord has called her to be a pastor.  So one day her Senior Pastor asked her, “Don’t you realize that you could do this for PAY in a church?  You could finish your Bible School degree and get a job as a pastor.”

“Oh no, I don’t want to do that,” she claimed, “not until I find a pastor that I feel will mentor me in the way that I want to be mentored.”  Her Senior Pastor balked.  This girl was intelligent, talented, and already DOING ministry.  So what more did she need from a mentor?  Attention.

Not just attention, but this generation of mentor seekers is looking for someone who will give their ENTIRE attention to them- someone who will focus their lives around them.  They are not content with a once a month coffee meeting.  This group of mentorless wanderers want to be the center of someone else’s ministerial focus.  They want it so badly that they refuse to move forward in their lives if no mentor can be found.  They are paralyzed for the lack of someone to hold their hand and caress their ego.  Mentoring has become another nest to hid in.

It used to be that when a person had a vision and a passion, they would become the trailblazers in their field.  They would bravely launch into the unknown and find their way in the darkness.  No one just handed them advice or advantages- or a Nobel Peace Prize.  All this had to be earned in the school of hard knocks.  This Independent Spirit gave the world many of its greatest leaders, pioneers, inventors and visionaries.  I seriously wonder who the biographist will write about from this generation.  It seems like everyone is skipping the DOING of great things and going right to the WRITING about their own greatness themselves.  I wonder if mentoring has killed the pioneer spirit.

Mentoring

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It’s probably a silly question to ask you if you’ve heard the word “mentoring” before.  But it’s a less ridiculous question to ask if you really know what it means.  It seems like there are a lot of definitions floating around now days.  But it wasn’t always this way.

Back in our first year of marriage and our first year of full time ministry I was feeling pretty lost.  My Mom and Dad had recently moved to another state to pastor a church (this was in the days before the internet.)  In addition, I had very few girl friends in my life.  All of my college friends were getting married and moving on with their lives.  I felt alone.  After being lonely and wondering exactly HOW I should do this pastor’s wife thing, I decided that I needed some women friends in my life.  I know it sounds weird, but I didn’t even know how to make new friends outside of school!  So I decided to go to a Women’s Prayer Retreat at a camp grounds 3 hours from my house.  I knew no one else who was going.  I just decided to go by myself.

At the Prayer Retreat, one of the speakers talked about this new idea called “mentoring”.  I had never heard of it before, but it resonated with me.  I spent the weekend asking other women what they thought of this idea, is it compatible with ministry, how do you find a mentor?  And I prayed.  I actually prayed for 3 months that the Lord would lead me to a mentor.  I kept my eyes opened when I was at church, and I found a mentor.  I admired her ministry in the church.  I respected her family values.  I thought I would enjoy her company.  But I still didn’t know what a mentor was supposed to do exactly.  One day I went out on a limb and asked her if she would be my mentor.

She was just as bewildered by this word as I was.  But after praying about it, she decided to try it.  She laid some ground rules with me, which I thought was very wise.  She said, “No gossip, No talking bad about our spouses, and everything that we discuss is confidential.”  So over the course of the next few months we talked regularly.  We talked about ministry.  We talked about the things I was struggling with.  We talked about home making- I was learning how to sew and she was a Home Economics Teacher, so that was fun.  We talked about marriage and children.  I watched her.  I imitated her.  I modeled my thinking after her thoughts.  I grew a lot.

I was thankful that the Lord gave me someone mature and respectable like her to walk with me through my early growing phases.  I learned that not only can mentors be someone that you know personally, but they can be a person that you “know” by reading a book about their life or someone that you watch from a distance.  You don’t have to meet for coffee once a week to GLEAN from someone’s experience.  I wanted to tell you this story about a mentoring success, because tomorrow I’m going to talk about what happens when mentoring goes to the extreme.  Just so you don’t think I’m jaded, I wanted to preface tomorrow’s blog with a good experience.  So hopefully you’ll come back tomorrow.

Shut up and listen

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When we moved to Mexico City right after language school, we met another missionary couple who were new to the city as well.  They had not gone to language school though, because the wife was deaf and no one at the school could teach her Spanish sign language!  That was a problem that had never once crossed my mind!  But my new friend was amazingly adept at reading lips.  She was also quite verbal.  Her language was not at all clear speech, mostly a combination of grunts, clicks and half words.  But if I focused my attention, listening intently to her, I could understand her.  We talked for hours!

Another friend of ours noticed this and asked me, “How can you understand her?”  I thought about it. The woman who asked the question had grown up in a completely bilingual home.  She had never had to struggle to understand anyone.  She had never trained herself to focus intently when someone was speaking.  She didn’t need to watch someone’s mouth while they spoke.  So naturally she was quickly frustrated and easily deterred by the amount of work it required to have a conversation with a deaf woman.

I, on the other hand, had just spent a year in language school, intently focusing on sounds, mouth positions, non-verbal gestures and contextual clues.  These were things I focused on daily in my communications with Mexicans as well.  So focusing on a conversation with my deaf friend didn’t seem that much different to me.  I was able to enjoy her company even though it required effort.  I feel blessed for having known her while we lived there.

Learning to listen to God’s voice is not that much different.  It requires us to shut up and listen intently.  It requires us to focus, sometimes with great effort.  And sometimes we learn God’s voice by looking back to our past and seeing how God dealt with us before.  We learn through hind sight.  Most of the time, when God speaks to me, I know it instantly.  But sometimes I’m not so focused.  I hear a lot of “voices” from my culture, my own worries, my surroundings.  Sometimes I am easily distracted.  I must shut off the other “voices”, the white noise around me, and use concerted effort to focus on hearing God’s voice.  In those times, it takes me a while to catch on.

Learning to listen requires us to stop talking and focus.  But the Bible says that the Sheep know the Shepherd’s voice and won’t follow any other voice.  If you want to learn to hear God’s voice, you can!  Follow close to the Shepherd and listen daily.  Train your ear to hear, train your heart to focus.  Learn the Shepherd’s voice so you won’t be lead astray by a stranger’s voice.

 

Patience Child. Let the seed grow!

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When my son was a toddler, he loved to spend evenings with me out in my garden.  We would check all the plants, water everything and pick a few weeds.  His favorite thing to do was to pick the ripe cherry tomatoes and pop them right into his mouth.  So one summer I bought a package of Giant Grey Stripe Sunflower seeds for us to plant together.

We prepared a sunny corner of the garden and poked our seeds into the dirt.  But that was not as much fun as my child thought it would be.  He wanted to dig in the dirt some more.  I told him, “We can’t disturb the seeds.  They need to rest in the quiet darkness under the dirt.  Then someday they will sprout.”

Every day we checked the corner garden for signs of baby leaves pushing through the soil.  Still the boy desperately wanted to dig up the seeds and check them.  Have patience Child.  Let the seed grow!  By the end of the summer, the sunflowers towered over me, their heads bending heavy with seeds.  The patience paid off when we harvested our sunflower seeds.

Just like seeds have a cycle from being sown to growing to harvesting, so the Kingdom of God works in cycles like this.  Some of us plant, some of us water, and some of us harvest.  When the farmer plants the seeds, he must wait patiently for God to make them grow.  God sends the rain.  God sends the sun.  God causes growth.  We wait.

I have encouraged our student leaders with this analogy.  When they get anxious and worried that their campus small group isn’t growing, I encourage them to wait.  Growth will come.  Be patient.  When they feel discouraged and want to quit, I remind them that the seeds grow in secret, in the dark, where no one can see.  Something is happening under the surface, and it’s too early to abandon the seed.  Have patience.  No one can start a new group and expect a harvest that same week.  Our groups are in the planting phase of the cycle.  We can’t expect a harvest just yet.

Patience Child, the seed will grow and the harvest will come someday.  Patience.

Stop trying to control your future

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Happy Monday morning everyone.  This was from my devotionals last week and I’ve been mulling it over in my mind for several days… trying to apply it to my own life.  If you’re a planner, if you’re a worrier, if you rehearse speeches in your head then this might speak to you as much as it did to me.  Be blessed.  Jesus loves you!

Trust me enough to let things happen without striving to predict or control them.  Relax, and refresh yourself in the Light of My everlasting Love.  My Love-Light never dims, yet you are often unaware of My radiant Presence.  When you project yourself into the future, rehearsing what you will do or say, you are seeking to be self-sufficient: to be adequate without My help.  This is a subtle sin- so common that it usually slips by unnoticed.

“The alternative is to live fully in the present, depending on Me each moment.  Rather than fearing your inadequacy, rejoice in My abundant supply.  Train your mind to seek My help continually, even when you feel competent to handle something by yourself.  Don’t divide your life into things you can do by yourself and things that require My help.  Instead, learn to rely on Me in every situation.  This discipline will enable you to enjoy life more and to face each day confidently.”

~Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.

The Process IS the Purpose

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Taken from Oswald Chamber’s “My Utmost for His Highest”.  Emphasis mine.

We tend to think that if Jesus Christ compels us to do something and we are obedient to Him, He will lead us to great success.  We should never have the thought that our dreams of success are God’s purpose for us.  In fact, His purpose may be exactly the opposite.  We have the idea that God is leading us toward a particular end or a desired goal, but He is not.  The question of whether or not we arrive at a particular goal is of little importance, and reaching it becomes merely an episode along the way.  What we see as only the process of reaching a particular end, God sees as the goal itself…  What people call preparation, God calls the goal.
Process is not something that anyone really enjoys, most of the time.  We are very often so focused on the destination, that we forget to stop and smell the roses along the way… or roll in the poison ivy along the way of some routes.  God has a purpose for us along the way.  It involves the death of our own ideas about how things should be done or what the end result will look like.  For me, language school was the first intense dying to myself process that I had ever really experienced.  Before, I could control most of what happened in my life.  But once I was put into a new culture with a new language, I had no handles to steer with.  I had to take my hands off the wheel and let God do the steering.
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Stripping of pride, laying down of conveniences, forgetting my own identity, and adjusting my values were just a small part of the process that happened as I learned to conjugate Spanish verbs.  When I nearly had a panic attack at the thought of ordering pizza over the phone, I hit an all-time low.  What is God doing with THIS kind of process?  Crushing, refining, purifying, kneading and reforming are all words that come to mind.
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Probably many of you have heard this illustration before… but it’s worth sharing again.  
As a butterfly struggles to push out of its cocoon, it squeezes itself through a tiny opening at the bottom of the confining sack.  It pushes and struggles and takes a long time.  Its body bloated with transforming fluids, it presses through the little hole and this forces the fluids into the wings.  The fluids help the wet, crumpled new wings to spread and dry straight and strong.  
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If some compassionate person were to come along and see this great struggle, they might be tempted to free the butterfly from its confinement and thus bypass the work and struggle of emerging from the cocoon.  But if that happens, the wings will never fill and spread.  The fat, bloated body will never fly with purposeful grace.  That act of compassion would be seen as cruelty.  The butterfly MUST go through a process in order to live and thrive.  It can not take short cuts.  Struggle and pain are part of the plan, part of the process.  
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It is this way with us.  God has a plan for us and sometimes it involves suffering for a “moment”.  Think of the Children of Israel wandering in the wilderness for 40 years.  They learned through that process that they could trust God to take care of them, to fight for them, to lead them, to heal them, to provide for them, and to speak to them.  What if they had taken the short cut and gone straight to the Promised Land.  They would have never had their terrifying and glorious Red Sea experience.  They would have remained butterflies with crippled, crumpled spiritual wings.  They would have never thrived in Trusting the Lord.
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What process are you pushing through right now?  Embrace the slow and painful growth.  Focus less on the end result and more on the path you are on.  Process is the purpose.

The Death of a Dream

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Americans idolize their dreams.  We are a nation of big dreamers.  We applaud those who do great things.  We reward those who succeed.  We equate the death of a dream with failure.

But what if the death of a dream is part of the process that God wants to take you through.  What if it is ultimately for your good.  What if God must empty your hands before He can fill them with what He wants to give you.  That sounds painful.  That sounds suspiciously like an excuse for failure.  So is there a precedent for this in the Bible?  Is this something that God actually DOES?

Let’s ask Abraham.  No doubt, Abraham and his wife Sarah longed deeply for children.  They dreamed of the pitter patter of little feet on the tent floor.  Maybe Sarah spent the long evenings knitting little hats and booties for her dream child.  When it looked like it was too late for babies, the biological clock has ticked its last, God appeared and breathed life into the dead dream with a promise.  “You WILL have a son and I will bless the whole world through your ancestors.”

They had waited a long time for a baby, and now they waited again.  After many years of sighing and fretting, Abraham and Sarah took matters into their own hands.  Abraham took Sarah’s servant Haagar as a second wife in order to have a child.  They DID have a child, but this was not God’s promised son.  They must continue to wait for another 13 years.  The dream died again.  Then at the age of 99, the dream was once again revived when Sarah became pregnant finally!  The miracle child was finally coming!  The promise was finally realized.

But the dream was to die again.  Did Abraham begin to idolize his son?  This promised child, this long awaited joy meant so very much to his parents.  God came to Abraham again, and asked him to lay the dream down once more, to sacrifice his son as an act of devotion to God.  “But God, you GAVE me this dream!  How can you ask me to let it die?”  He might have asked.  But no, Abraham figured that if God wanted to, he could revive the dream again.  All this dying of dreams had taught him that God can be trusted when it looks like it’s all over.  God could bring his son back to life after he had been sacrificed to the Lord.  After all, child sacrifice was part of the religion of the pagans who lived all around Abraham.  “So who is to say that this God who makes wild promises and then lets the dream die won’t ask a crazy thing of me as well,” he might have reasoned.

But at the final moment, before the physical death of his son and the final death of the dream, God intervened once again.  The test was passed.  The idolization was dead and true devotion to God was all that remained.  The purification of the dream had occurred.  Abraham’s faith was proven and God was satisfied.

What dream are you holding tightly to?  Has it become an idol to you?  God just might ask you to lay that dream down or out right kill that dream in order to empty your hands.  You can not receive from the Lord if your hands are already full.  What dream of yours needs to die?