Monthly Archives: January 2013

Did Jesus say, “Change your neighbor as yourself”?

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A Friend of mine posted this on her Facebook page as her status update one day:

“I have quite a diverse group of friends on my Facebook….many of whom believe and behave very differently than me. I have friends who are adulterers, at least one murderer, a rapist, an assorted atheist or two, a whole slew of gossips and slanderers, several liars, a couple exotic dancers, porno models and porno readers, gun lovers and gun haters, gays and lesbians, and more whiners than I can count.

Someone recently chastised me a little about this.

As gently as I could I pointed out that Jesus didn’t say “Change your neighbor as yourself.” He said “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

My job is to love people….it’s God’s job to change people. He’s welcome to start with me because I have my place in that list, too. How am I going to love someone if I will not learn how to be their friend…even on something as simple as facebook?

Here’s something I’ve learned from reading the status updates from all my friends no matter where they are in life: we all have emotions, we all get sick, we have jobs that make us a little crazy, we long for relationships, we have families we are trying to figure out, and we want a better future. I’d say we have enough in common to be able to get along and love each other.

May God help me to love the people that He loves…and, yes, to be friends. And I pray that I can love people enough that they feel safe to ask me the hard questions of life and that maybe, together, we can search out those answers that might lead to the change process that only HE can do.”

Did I mention that she’s a pastor’s wife?

I admit that my list of Facebook friends is a little more sterile than hers.  But I admire her heart and spirit and spunk.  She says strong things in a loving way.  This is a lesson that I am constantly trying to learn for myself.  I think this is the core of Grace.

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It’s not “Just Words”

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Language has meaning.  Even if you don’t feel the impact of the message personally either because you don’t understand its context or you are not a native speaker, language is never “Just Words”.  In the Ten Commandments, God tells us not to use His name in vain, either in ordinary conversation or as a cuss word.  He tells us that using his name in ordinary conversation offends Him.  It’s his name, so He has the RIGHT to be offended if we take his holy name and make it common or trashy.  You can say, “its just words” but it’s not.  Let me give you some examples.

For example, you can’t just hop into a second language and flash about their swear words simply because they don’t have the same impact on you as they do on native speakers.  Their naughty words might sound funny or hollow to you, but they pack a powerful linguistic punch for their native audience.

In language school we had a teacher who said she thought the SH– word sounded chic and sophisticated.  She would just pop out this word any time she thought it was fun, and we would all cringe and ask her not to say that word.  She thought our reaction was funny.  We were offended.

A good writer will choose words that have a powerful impact.  For example, another blogger that I read used the phrase “50 shades of…” to catch the attention of her readers.  You can say that those are just words, but they have a cultural context now that the erotic novel 50 Shades of Grey has become famous.  She chose those words to get attention.  She chose them for their powerful cultural impact.  She chose them for a reason.  Words are not JUST words.

Recently I got into a Facebook argument over a picture title.  Newsweek printed a picture of President Obama on the cover with the title “Second Coming” which is a clear reference to the Christian belief that the Messiah Jesus will come a second time to rescue his people.  Clearly Newsweek is implying that Obama is a messiah come for a second term to rescue his people.  Those are not just words.  They were chosen for their powerful implications, their religious connotations.  They were intended to communicate more than just the message that Obama is beginning his second term.

My argument went something like this:

John (I’ll call him “John” because that’s his name, see, words have meaning.):  Newsweek is a political magazine not a religious magazine.  Second, I’m not sure anyone including himself has ever called the President the Messiah… (other people were commenting here) it’s called a play on words.  It actually happens a lot in titles… go back in history and see how many others you could say this about.

Me:  (I decided to join the discussion because this John guy was being an Ass- there, words have power.  Were you just offended that I said that word?)  It IS a play on words and it was chosen to communicate a specific message.  That’s WHY we Christians are offended.  Newsweek has hijacked language that is powerful and meaningful to US Christians and applied it to a human.  It would be equal to saying the President is Allah or the President is divine.  We fully capture the INTENTION of the play on words, we aren’t stupid.  We GET it.  and that’s WHY we are shocked and offended, John.

John:  So now you’re saying there is only Christian words and sayings?  That seems a little narcissistic to me.  Words are words folks.

Me:  No, I’m saying there are words that are powerful to other groups too, but these specific words “Second Coming” have meaning to us Christians because we use them to talk about Jesus.  If they had used words like “Rabbi”, that would have been offensive to Jews, “Allah” would have been offensive to Muslims, each group has words that are powerful to them.  It’s not narcissistic, it’s language.  It’s meant to be powerful.

John:  Look, I get what you’re saying, but the “second coming” isn’t owned by Christians.  Words are words.  It would be totally different if they called him Jesus or Messiah or pastor or rabbi, but they didn’t (here he totally contradicts himself by saying it would be different if different words were used.).  Article titles are meant to shock and get you to read the article or catch your eye.  Don’t be offended by the little stuff.  Some native Americans believe we are reincarnated also a second coming.  Don’t take a title personal is all I’m saying.

Me:  And all I’m saying is that I have a RIGHT to be offended.  I AM a writer.  I know for a fact that writers chose their words carefully and intentionally in order to communicate a specific message as concisely and powerfully as possible.  I never said Christians own these words.  I said they have a powerful meaning to us.  Since the words “second coming” clearly have no significance to you, I think you should just say that this is an offense that you do not understand.

So that was the extent of our argument.  Words are not just words.  Words have meaning and power.  Because they are powerful, we should be careful how we use them.  We should be reverent of God’s name, we should be sensitive to religious language or imagery (from ANY religious group) because they have a RIGHT to be offended if we hijack their terminology and profane their holy words.  And finally GOD has a right to tell us how we can and cannot use his name.  Do not take the name of the Lord in vain, don’t use it commonly or crassly.

Word Mash-up

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Man, that ol’ Tower of Babel really messed us up.  When God confused the languages of mankind, He really did a doozie on us.  I know a woman who can speak 5 languages, but most of us struggle to master even one.  So it just amazes me when I observe how babies are wired for language learning.  I see the 9 month old daughter of our friends learning to speak her Mother Tongue, Spanish, and I am in awe.  Spanish equals work to me, and here this baby understands some of it better than I do!  It amazes me.

Last week I had a weird conversation that really was a mix and match of languages.  I met a French family.  They know very little English and a little Spanish.  I remember a very little French from high school, but I have English down pretty well and Spanish trucking along from behind.  So between those 3 languages, we managed to communicate!  It was a shallow conversation, to be sure, but it felt good (in a crazy way) to be able to communicate with this French family.

This last month our school hired a Chinese woman to teach Music class.  She doesn’t speak English and this is a school where we mainly use English.  She speaks Spanish… sort of… so when I talk with her, Spanish is our common language.  It was the same when we were in Mexico.  There was a large group of families from the Korean embassy who sent their kids to school with MY children.  The parents spoke no English and I spoke no Korean.  When we wanted to communicate with each other, Spanish was our common language.  Their kids amazed me.  Their kids were going to school in their THIRD language!  Their Mother Tongue was Korean, they were really good with Spanish, and they were studying in English. Talk about some brainy kids!!

In all of these situations I have found myself literally STUTTERING in whichever language I finally pronounce.  My brain becomes like a plate of spaghetti with all these linguistic wires crossing.  When I’m trying to figure our which language to use to start a conversation, I’m always afraid I’ll go to say, “hola” and “aloha” will come out.  I swear, one day this will happen.

Still I Rise- by Maya Angelou

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Today feels like a Maya Angelou poem.  This poem makes me feel spicy and sassy, just like a good Friday should be.  Enjoy!

Still I Rise– by Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Jesus calls a boy with a lunch

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My 11-year old daughter Emma wrote this story for school.  It’s based on the story of Jesus multiplying the loaves and the fishes.  I really liked her point of view and I asked her if I could post it on my blog.  If you like it, leave her a word of encouragement.  She wants to be a writer someday.

I was on my way home with my small lunch.  I only had two small fish and five loaves of bread.  It was enough for my mom and me.  On that day I saw a miracle.

I was walking when I saw a crowd.  I thought it was so big it must have been the whole village!  Then at the corner of my eye I saw some men.  I stared for a while to see what they were talking about .  I slowly walked over to them.  A man looked at me and smiled.  He came over to me.  “Do you have your lunch in there, little boy?”

I quickly responded.  “How did you know?” I asked.

He said in reply, “I know everything, and now may I please look at your two fish and five loaves of bread?”  I was amazed, and he did know everything.  I gave him my basket.  “Thank you Peter,” he said.  “Peter, will you have lunch with my disciples and me?”

I was honored.  Though when we sat down I thought, “This man may be amazing, but he can’t feed his disciples, himself, and me.”  He gave a loaf of bread to one man named Andrew.  Andrew broke the bread and handed some to Philip, but when Andrew looked at his bread it was a whole loaf!  Philip had the same!

The next thing I knew, that one man had feed the whole crowd!  When we finished and the disciples were collecting the extras, I asked the man, “Who are you?”

He smiled and replied, “I am Jesus Christ.  I know what you do at 6:00 a.m., and I know your name.  I know that you are curious, and I love you.”

~The End

As a mom, I thought that was pretty good!  If you feel like it, please leave Emma some encouraging feedback and I’ll let her log on to my blog tonight to read your comments.

Happiness within the Call

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From the time my sister was in college until just a few years ago she has worked at various positions with Senior Citizens.  She loves old people.  (We always joke that I get the kids and she gets the old people.)  She can hug someone over 100-years old (very gently) any time she wants!

But there was a time when the company she was working for was under lousy management and working there become stressful.  Fortunately another position opened within the Christian university that we both attended.  It paid more and offered a fresh environment with a challenge.  She worked there for about 5 years, and though she enjoyed her job, she missed her old people.  Always missed them.

We talked about it.  After all these years, I think she finally realized that working with Seniors is what she was MADE  to do.  It was her Calling.  She would only feel fulfilled in her work if she was working with old people.  So when all the doors suddenly opened up for her to return to her old company as PART OF the management- to really do some good and affect some changes- she jumped at the opportunity.  We all encouraged her to follow her calling.

This last week my sister wrote this on her Facebook page:

Two moving moments today at work:
1) Having a grey-haired, 60-something adult child tear-up while I was counseling him about getting though his parents’ move.

2) Having an 80-something resident make ME tear-up. He lived at Augustana back when I worked there before and was one of my favs. He said to me, “Back in 2003, you did one of the kindest things that anyone has ever done for me. When we took a trip to Lakewood Cemetery, you offered to visit my wife’s grave with me. I’ve never forgotten that and it will be the last thing I think of before I close my eyes for the last time.” UGH! Tears!

I have thought many, many times about my purpose in life.  Personally, I feel most fulfilled being a missionary.  I feel that this was what I was MADE to be.  My sister feels that working with Seniors is what she was MADE to do.  Isn’t it a wonderful thing when you find the purpose and meaning for your life?  I think there are a lot of people out there still working in jobs they don’t love and wondering if they missed their occupational calling in life.  That’s sad.

Even though no one calls her a “Minister”, what my sister does IS ministry.  She ministers to old people and to their families who are struggling with the transition that their loved ones are going through.  She treats her job as sacred and sees it as a chance to share the love of God with people.  And THAT is how you handle a Calling.  When you KNOW that this is what God wants you to do with your life, you treat it as sacred.

It’s just not “Me”

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When we were at the World Missions Summit earlier this month, one of the speakers, Scott Martin, talked about Predisposition vs. Predestination.  One of his illustrations stuck in my mind and this is my version of his story.  Just giving credit where due.

My daughter went to Kindergarten this year.  As a parent, you’re always checking out the other kids at the Open House to see which ones are going to be problems.  Inevitably there is a girl who is already interested in boys.  She’s the girl that was cute and flirty as a baby.  Now she’s the girl who sneaks her mother’s lipgloss before leaving the house in the morning.  She may only be 5, but she’s got boys all around her.  By the time she’s in late elementary school, she’s already had a string of boy friends and a waiting list far into junior high.  That girl was PREDISPOSED to be flirt.  She’s going to be trouble once she get’s into high school and you can see that on the first day of Kindergarten.

Then there’s the boy in the ninja costume at the Kindergarten Open House.  In the nursery as a baby, he was “the biter”.  As a toddler, he would constantly grab toys from other babies and whack them over the head with it.  He is the one who will spend recess time practicing his karate kicks on the weaker children.  If you build a block tower, he will be the one to knock it over.  By elementary school, he is familiar with the Principal’s office, and by junior high, he’s a thug.  That’s the kid that you’re sure is headed for “Juvie” sometime in his 3 year high school career.  You can tell on the first day of Kindergarten that this boy is PREDISPOSED to be a bully.

Each one of us has character traits predisposed, deposited in our DNA.  If you are the parent of the flirty girl or the bully boy, you might try to counter-weigh those in-born traits with some environmental conditioning.  You might succeed to a degree.  But far too often parents are in denial and young people just default to their natural tendencies without trying to do anything different or to fight against their genetics.  It’s far easier, that’s for sure.

I can not tell you how many times I have heard someone excuse the bad behavior of another person by saying, ”Oh, that’s just how they are.  You just have to understand them.”  DNA is powerful, but there has to be an override switch thrown every once and a while.  I have also heard people say, “I could never be a missionary.  I’m just not wired like that.  It’s just not ME.”

What I want to say is, “GOOD!  Cause it’s not supposed to be about YOU!  It’s supposed to be about JESUS.”  Both my husband and I have, in our own ways, kicked against the restraints of our personal make up to become missionaries.  My husband lived in the same house all his life, so moving to a foreign country was not something he was automatically attracted to.  He is a home body.  Plus, he hates public speaking, yet God called him to preach.  It’s taken lots of practice and he’s good at it now, but he doesn’t enjoy it.  He is not PREDISPOSED to being a preacher or missionary.

And I have a quiet, thoughtful personality.  I am stressed out by talking to people.  I need big chunks of alone-time.  So anything related to ministering to people drains me.  Put me behind the scenes and I’m happiest.  I am not PREDISPOSED to being conversational or “putting myself out there” so to speak.  It looks like we were both unlikely candidates to do this job.  So why do we do it?  Because we feel that God asked us to go and do something.

And he’s asking you too.  He’s asking you to do something that is uncomfortable.  He’s asking you to push against your natural tendencies.  He’s asking you to lay aside your disposition, your excuses that “it’s just not ME”.  He’s asking you to make it about HIM.  When you get your eyes off yourself and onto HIM, then your ears will also tune to his voice.  Then you will hear him calling you.  Do you hear him yet?

“The call of God is not a reflection of my nature; my personal desires and temperament are of no consideration. As long as I dwell on my own qualities and traits and think about what I am suited for, I will never hear the call of God.”

~Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

 

The Call

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I don’t feel like I was ever specifically CALLED by God to be a missionary.  It’s more like I volunteered… over and over again.  OK, I begged, “Pick Me!  O-o-o Pick Me!”

In his famous devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers said, ” The call of God is not just for a select few but for everyone. Whether I hear God’s call or not depends on the condition of my ears, and exactly what I hear depends upon my spiritual attitude.”  When Isaiah was in the Presence of the Lord, he overheard God ask, “Who will go for us?”  And Isaiah volunteered.  Isaiah’s heart was listening to God.  He didn’t need a personal invitation, he heard God’s heart and delighted to satisfy God’s desires.

A famous quote by William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, says,

“‘Not called!’ did you say?  ‘Not heard the call,’ I think you should say.  Put your ear down to the Bible, and hear him bid you go and pull sinners out of the fire of sin.  Put your ear down to the burdened, agonized heard of humanity,and listen to its pitiful wail for help.  Go stand by the gates of hell, and hear the damned entreat you to go to their father’s house and bid their brothers and sister, and servants and masters not to come there.  And then look Christ in the face, whose mercy you have professed to obey, and tell him whether you will join heart and sound and body and circumstances in the march to publish his mercy to the world.”

So what are you doing TODAY to answer the call?  I will close with one more quote from William Booth.  He said, “Go for souls.  Go straight for souls, and go for the worst.”

Things I DON’T miss

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We talk a lot about things that we miss from home when we are overseas.  But today I’m going to talk about the things I DON’T miss from my life in America.  This is a video of my son snow-blowing my parent’s drive way.  Obviously this is fun because he never does this in Costa Rica, but if he had to do this all the time, it would lose its charm, I’m sure.

We got to go home for a few weeks at Christmas time to attend a Missions Convention and spend time with family.  One of the first things my big, 16-year old son did when we arrived at Grandma’s house was to stretch out on the carpet and roll around like a dog.  We have no carpeting in our Costa Rican house.  If we did, it would mold.  So it’s fun to walk around barefoot on the carpeting when we get home.  What I didn’t miss was the static electricity that it produced on our clothing and hair.  My skin immediately dried to scales and cracked along my finger tips.  We all developed crusty noses and dry coughs from the sudden lack of humidity we experienced from December in Minnesota.  I don’t miss dry skin!

We no longer have the appropriate clothing for winter in Minnesota.  The kids keep growing, so every time we come home, we have to ask the other family members to save hand-me-down jackets and boots to get us through a couple of weeks.  We used to have a Rubber Maid bucket stored at my in-law’s house full of all our winter coats, snow pants, mittens, scarves, boots, etc, but it disappeared mysteriously.  No one knows where it went.  This past Christmas, one sister-in-law had been saving a box of clothes for us until she discovered that the cat had been using the box as his litter box.  Thankfully she just threw the whole lot away.  So we don’t have winter gear.  I really don’t miss all the bundling up that is required to survive winter.  Nope, don’t miss that at all.

And along those same lines, let me just say that those people who say they could never live without the 4 seasons don’t know what they’re talking about.  I used to say that too, but now I officially HATE winter.  It’s wicked.  Give me a tropical Christmas any day.  I don’t miss the snow and the cold.  Last year I had people send me pictures of snow via Facebook.  That was enough for me.

Finally, my last thing that I DON’T miss is paying full price to go to the movies.  I know it’s kind of random, but let me tell you that we pay about $5 to go to the movies here in Costa Rica.  Now, let’s qualify that.  Some movies come out late and some don’t come at all, but we get the block busters.  All children’s movies are in Spanish with no subtitles.  I feel stupid when all the children around me are laughing and I’m thinking, “What did I miss?  What’s so funny?”  Sometimes we DO go to movies in Spanish, but they just aren’t the same.  For example, Horton Hears a Who just didn’t work in Spanish.  Dr. Seuss doesn’t translate well.  And we saw some Angelina Jolie movie where the dialogue was in a Pakistani language with English subtitles.  Then they put Spanish subtitles below the English ones!  I left that movie with a headache.  Once I watched Madame Butterfly with Spanish subtitles- English actors, playing Japanese characters, singing in Italian, with Spanish subtitles.  I felt so cultured after that.

But our movie-going experience here in Costa Rica is still far better than in the States because we have something that not many of you have up there… the V.I.P. theater.  If we pay a little more, we can watch a block buster movie in the comfort of our own leather recliner!  A waiter comes to take your order while the previews are playing.  You can order anything from sushi to fancy coffee drinks to hot dogs and popcorn.  Your food is delivered to your recliner in style!  And it’s still cheeper than going to the movies back home!  I can’t figure out why this idea hasn’t caught on in the States.  So I have to say, I don’t miss over priced, over crowded theaters.

I guess some of us are just luckier than others.  🙂

Surprise me

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My daughters surprise me sometimes.  I remember one time when we were missionaries in Mexico, we were doing a Vacation Bible School in a very, very poor part of town.  My middle daughter was 5-years old then.  She had the knack of making friends everywhere we went, and today was no exception.  She had been chattering with another little girl from the neighborhood.  The next thing I knew my daughter was pushing her fist up into my face to show me a MOUSE that the girl had given her!  I told both girls that we couldn’t keep the mouse, but since she was already contaminated with whatever germs the creature was carrying, I said she could hold it for a while and then give it back to the sweet little owner.  Seriously!

In Costa Rica we live with nature all around us, even in the city.  Any time we are home, our doors and windows are open… with no screens on them (birds often fly right into our house!).  One night our dog Nacho was laying on a pillow in front of the open patio door when a mouse scurried around the corner.  I shouted, “MOUSE!”  The dog looked up.  Face to face with our shih-tzu, the mouse turned right back around and ran into the yard.  My kids grabbed flash lights and ran into the garden trying to catch the mouse.  He was long gone by then.  They were not one bit afraid!

Then there are the geckos.  We have geckos everywhere!  (One time I stepped on one with my bare foot early in the morning.  Ever since then, I wear socks at night.  I also stepped on a huge beetle in my socks one night, and I was thankful I wasn’t barefoot.)  When we lived in an apartment building with other American missionaries, the kids would all catch geckos and try to race them in the hallway.  I was shocked that my girly-girl would pick them up!  It never fails, whenever they see a gecko in the house, my girls want to keep it for a pet.  I only tolerate them in the house because they eat bugs.  I suppose I have no choice really.  I can’t keep the critters out.

Last Sunday morning my youngest child and I were greeted first thing in the morning by a baby gecko on the wall in the bathroom.  “OOOOOOOH!  He’s so cute!”  Lucy squealed.  He looked squishy and wiggly to me.  (It doesn’t matter how gross a creature is, if I say it’s a “baby” my girls adore it.)  She poked at him and chased him around until I told her to leave it alone.  I told her that he will lose his tail if he gets scared, but even that did not deter her.  She wanted him.  I washed her hands well after he escaped behind the toilet.  These girls constantly surprise me.

My daughter actually caught a wild bunny.  It only lived for a week.

My daughter actually caught a wild bunny. It only lived for a week.