Monthly Archives: May 2013

Renewal

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Today I asked for a substitute teacher to take my class so I could participate in a prayer retreat with our mission.  I’m really excited.  Part of me is just looking forward to being with our fellow missionary family for a while.  Part of me is happy for a change in my routine.  But a huge part of me has been longing for some deep time with the Lord.  I have been running on fumes for a while, and I need to fill my tank.  I just want to BE in His presence.  It’s like a date with the one I love!

So in lieu of a decent blog, I have a great quote that a friend posted on Facebook this week.

“We are people who are always looking for ways to stay out of the wilderness, when in reality so much of the best stuff that God wants to do in and through us can only happen in the wilderness. We keep trying to stay away from the only place where transformation can happen. We keep trying to move out from the only place where we can truly meet with God. Wilderness is not always about judgment. In the OT prophets over and over again go into the wilderness so that they can get clarity and perspective, so that they can encounter God. We spend so much time trying to take detours around the ONLY place where we can encounter God in such a way and be completely transformed.” -P. Jonathan Martin
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I’m going out to the wilderness for a while, spiritually speaking.  Don’t call me even if you need me.

 

Photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/jonathankosread/6262245025/”>Jonathan Kos-Read</a> / <a href=”http://foter.com”>Foter.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>CC BY-ND</a>

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Indoor-Outdoor Living

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There is a show that I like to record and watch when I have sole domination of the remote control.  I indulge my travel itch by watching HGTV’s House Hunters’ International.  If you haven’t seen it, the half hour show follows around folks who are looking for homes overseas.  I like seeing the inside of houses in other countries.  I like seeing what is important and unimportant to other cultures.  I like seeing what catches a foreigner’s attention.  And sometimes I just like to laugh at the naive people who are looking for their “dream” home.

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For example, there are a few episodes that are filmed here in Costa Rica.  The realtors lie… frequently.  They will show a young couple a half million dollar property in a very exclusive part of town and describe it as “traditional Costa Rican” in it’s style.  Are they serious??  And the foreigners are so gullible.  In one episode that is filmed in the surfer town of Jaco, the American buyers ask the realtor, “Why are there bars on all the windows?”  Everyone who lives here knows that Jaco is a dangerous, druggie town inhabited by transients and moral-less bohemians living the surfer life-style.  It’s a rough town full of bars and night clubs.  So when the woman on the screen says, “The bars are there to keep the wild animals out,” we howl in laughter at her double meaning which is completely lost on the wide-eyed buyers.

Sometimes I wish I could give those inexperienced folks some advice.  I would tell them to keep these things in mind:

~  You think  you want to be in the center of town and not own a car, but have you thought about lugging your groceries home without a vehicle?  Have you carried a gallon of milk for over a mile?  I don’t care how ecological that lifestyle is, it’s rough on Americans to be without a car.

~  Window bars are there for a reason.

~  Construction will take about 5x as long as you think it will, and it will cost you double what it costs a local family.  So think twice before you decide to remodel something.

~  Bathtubs are over rated.  Get over them.  You will probably only miss having a tub about 3 times per year.  It’s not worth crossing a good property off the list just because it lacks a tub.  You can bathe the children in Action Packer boxes while they are little.

~  You don’t need granite counter tops or stainless steel appliances to be happy.

~  Walls, windows and doors that are open to a pool or patio area are nice in the day time, but you have no idea what kind of critters will fly into your house once the sun goes down.  You might think it’s beautiful, you might think you’ve always wanted indoor-outdoor living, but unless you are prepared to feel like you’re camping in your own house, walk away from that one.

~  A washer and drier should be high on the priority list, but you can do without a dishwasher.

~  Finally, you will not find space like you had in your home back in Texas.  There’s a reason why they say everything is bigger in Texas.  You do not really need that guest bedroom.  Your family won’t come to visit as frequently as the rent check will be due on your oversized house in a far away land.

Photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/stuckincustoms/305212697/”>Stuck in Customs</a> / <a href=”http://foter.com/Art/”>Foter.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>CC BY-NC-SA</a>

Glass Beach

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MaryMy friend Mary and I have a shared hobby.  We both love to collect sea glass.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with sea glass, it is pieces of broken bottles and glass that have been rubbed smooth by the surf and sand.  Blue sea glass is especially rare.  By walking up and down a stretch of beach and paying close attention to the bits of shells and flotsam, sometimes a beach comber is rewarded with a pretty piece of glass.

I did not grow up near a beach, so I never knew how much I loved the ocean until I moved within a 90 minute drive of a coastline.  However, Mary grew up in California.  Recently she discovered a beach that is famous for it’s sea glass.  For both of us, the beach is our happy place, our place to walk with Jesus.  The beach has the power to renew a weary soul, and it is special to find a souvenir of sea glass.

As much as I like sea glass, I think God must look down on my foolish collecting of trash and shake his head in Fatherly bewilderment that I would find bits of broken glass to be treasures.  When my sister was little she collected bits of moss and leaves in a dresser drawer.  My parents weren’t thrilled with this, but they didn’t stop her.  Her childish treasures were of great value to her though they just looked like dirt to the rest of us.

It’s probably the same with my sea glass.  From his Heavenly city made of precious stones and pearls where people walk along on streets of gold, God looks down on Mary and me walking up and down a strip of sand searching for broken beer bottles and he just shakes his head and smiles.  “Just wait until you see what I have for you up here in Heaven,” he’s probably thinking.  Our little treasures really are trash.

sea glassThis makes me think about our spiritual treasures.  The things that we value and treasure- the way we conduct our lives here on Earth- may end up being nothing but a pile of hay and stubble once we get to Heaven and see what things have true eternal value.  The endeavours and pursuits to which we have given our lives will all come under scrutiny.  Everything will be tested by fire.  What looked sparkly and pretty here on Earth might end up being worth nothing.  It might just serve to feed the fire.

Only things done for God will last.  Only pure motives will survive the scorching heat of the Refiner’s Fire.  The Apostle Paul essentially said, “When I think about all the great things I have accomplished, I consider them nothing but trash compared with the immeasurable honor of knowing and serving God.”  All our great accomplishments are nothing but a handful of sea glass compared to serving the Lord.

A prayer from a coward’s heart

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“Father, I want to know thee, but my coward heart fears to give up its toys.  I cannot part with them without inward bleeding, and I do not try to hide from thee the terror of the parting.  I come trembling, but I do come.  Please root from my heart all those things which I have cherished so long and which have become a very part of my living self, so that thou mayest enter and dwell there without a rival.”  ~The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer

Sometimes we say to our children, “You don’t need to know why I am forbidding something- you just need to obey.”  Sometimes God says the same thing to me, his child.  I just need to obey God.

I don’t always see things like he sees them.  I don’t always agree with his commands.  I don’t always LIKE what he’s told me to do.  I don’t enjoy putting to death my flesh.  It’s not a pleasure to carry my cross.

However-

I obey.  Perhaps begrudgingly, perhaps with a bad attitude sometimes, but I obey.

Some of those spiritual muscles are not used to being flexed and exercised.  Some of them have become weak and unaccustomed to being controlled.  I need to practice a movement, repeatedly, concentrating on correct form and execution, repeating it until it becomes reflexive and automatic.  I build up my muscles by repetitive actions until they become a part of who I am.  I do not enjoy the exercise, but I do it.

Hopefully this will get easier with time and practice.  Hopefully I will find joy in obedience.  But right now, I grimly set my hand to the plow and faintly trust that Jesus knows better than I do.

The flame of my faith is just a flickering candle, not a mighty blazing inferno… not yet, not here.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast and compliant spirit within me.

Indescribable God

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We are guilty of thinking too much of ourselves and too little of God.  Expand your perception of God and your perspective on all your problems will change.  Your problems are very, very small in the indescribably large hand of our very, very big God.  After God spent 4 chapters “asking” Job if he understood the world and the universe, Job knelt humbled and speechless before God.  Who is like our God?  No one!

Job 38:4-33

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels[a] shouted for joy?

“Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb,
when I made the clouds its garment
and wrapped it in thick darkness,
10 when I fixed limits for it
and set its doors and bars in place,
11 when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;
here is where your proud waves halt’?

12 “Have you ever given orders to the morning,
or shown the dawn its place,
13 that it might take the earth by the edges
and shake the wicked out of it?
14 The earth takes shape like clay under a seal;
its features stand out like those of a garment.
15 The wicked are denied their light,
and their upraised arm is broken.

16 “Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
or walked in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been shown to you?
Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?
18 Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
Tell me, if you know all this.

19 “What is the way to the abode of light?
And where does darkness reside?
20 Can you take them to their places?
Do you know the paths to their dwellings?
21 Surely you know, for you were already born!
You have lived so many years!

22 “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow
or seen the storehouses of the hail,
23 which I reserve for times of trouble,
for days of war and battle?
24 What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed,
or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth?
25 Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain,
and a path for the thunderstorm,
26 to water a land where no one lives,
an uninhabited desert,
27 to satisfy a desolate wasteland
and make it sprout with grass?
28 Does the rain have a father?
Who fathers the drops of dew?
29 From whose womb comes the ice?
Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens
30 when the waters become hard as stone,
when the surface of the deep is frozen?

31 “Can you bind the chains[b] of the Pleiades?
Can you loosen Orion’s belt?
32 Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons[c]
or lead out the Bear[d] with its cubs?
33 Do you know the laws of the heavens?
Can you set up God’s[e] dominion over the earth?

 

 

Is God Enough?

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About a month ago I heard a sermon about the woman at the well (John 4)  and I can’t stop thinking about her.  Jesus takes time to talk to a woman who was really messing up her life, and I identified with her… not in the exact same way, I mean, I haven’t had a string of husbands and adulterous relationships.  Jesus met her at the well during the heat of noon when thirst was a natural conversation starter.  He pointed out the fact that her life was like a dry, empty well.  She had a deep, emptiness in her that she was trying to fill with relationships.  That’s what caught my attention.

One night while sitting on my balcony watching the city lights, the Lord started to speak to me about that gaping emptiness inside of me too.  Sometimes I feel loneliness as a tangible force.  Like the woman at the well, I throw things into the yawning abyss to try to satisfy the ache.  I circle around Facebook searching for “human” connection.  I browse the internet reading blogs and news articles just killing time until I can sleep because it’s better than sitting here listening to the beating of my own heart.  Distractions.  For some people the distractions take the form of music, work, sports, TV, video games, going out night after night, or worse vices like addictions.  We all have an ache we can’t fill.  We all should be able to identify with the woman at the well.

As I pondered what the Lord was showing me, I felt him say, “Let me fill you.”  He said that to the woman too.  “Let me fill you with Living Water so that you will never again thirst spiritually.”  I hesitated.  He asked me, “What are you afraid of?”

“Lord, I’m afraid that you won’t be enough.”  I have not found anything yet that is enough.  So I felt like if I give up my stop-gap measures, the dam will break and nothingness will come rushing in like a vacuum- sucking me down like a black hole.  I looked up at the stars.  Somehow by pondering the bigness of the Universe and the smallness of me, everything was put in perspective.  I am small.  My emptiness, though it feels big to me, is nothing to God.  I am guilty of constructing a very small view of God.

Things in the Universe are so far away, so large yet so spread out through the vastness of space, that we use something called a Light Year to talk about distances.  A Light Year is how far light can travel in one Earth year.  The magic number is 5.88 trillion miles per year- that is a Light Year.  Scientists have calculated that the edge of the “known” Universe is 98 billion Light Years away from Earth.  So if you could travel at the speed of Light for 98 billion years, then you would come to the edge of the what we think we “know” of the Universe… and it most certainly expands farther than that.  Feeling small yet?

Think about this, the Bible says that God holds the whole Universe in his hand- that he measures the sky with the palm of his hand.  So if you could travel 5.88 trillion miles per year for 98 billion years… you might reach the edge of God’s hand.  “Do you still think I’m not enough?”  God asked me.  I lay down my arguments in humble awe of His Greatness.  Like Job, I am speechless in response to His Majesty.

If you want more awe inspiring thoughts about our Universe, watch this YouTube video of Christian speaker Louie Giglio.

100 years of Walking with Jesus

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Just a reminder that today’s story is a repost from my Facebook page from last Sunday.  If you don’t want to read it again, just come back on Thursday.  I’m cooking up a good one!
Sunday in church there was a woman who was 106 years old. I didn’t notice this tiny little white haired woman until the pastor drew our attention to her.  He asked her to tell about when she met Jesus. I couldn’t hear the first part very well since she didn’t have a microphone, but basically when she was a preschooler someone taught her the verse about Jesus saying, “I stand at the door and knock…” and told her that she needed to forgive her enemies. Those are deep concepts for a preschooler.  But she asked Jesus to come in to her heart and has been walking with Jesus for over 100 years!
I wanted to scoop her up and hug her.  My husband asked me, “Do you really think she is over 100?  She doesn’t look like it.”  I reminded him that his own grandma had turned 100 last summer and she still looks the same as ever.
I think this was a wonderful inspiration for all the children’s pastors and Sunday School teachers and nursery workers out there. Those little ears are listening!  You might not see the fruit of your labors, but your reward in Heaven will be great.

Teaching Prostitution to 5th graders

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I knew that title would catch your attention.  OK, I know that several of you readers are also my Facebook friends, so you might recognize today’s story and tomorrow’s.  I am building up to a really good post on Thursday, so if you are bored with rereading my stories, come back on Thursday for a new one.  Thanks Friends!

So I made a teacher mistake the other day.

When we talked about the Bible story of Joshua and the city of Jericho, I deliberately did not say the spies hid at the house of RAHAB THE PROSTITUTE because I didn’t want to explain prostitution to 5th graders. I just called her Rahab. But I forgot when we got to the story of Ruth and Boaz. I told them that Rahab the Prostitute was Boaz’s mother.

This was the following conversation:
“What’s a prostitute?”

“Um, someone who sells themselves” (as I try to move on as quickly as possible.)

“You mean like sells their hair or donates blood?”

“Not quite. Someone who takes money to sleep with someone for one night… like a husband and wife sleep together.”
Blank looks on their faces.

“Why would someone PAY MONEY for THAT?”

“Well, people pay money for all kinds of crazy things.”

Then one boy bursts out in revelation, “OHHHH Now I understand Jack the Ripper!”

Now the Bible lesson was down the toilet. I gave up.  I pulled out my computer and we started watching NASA youtube videos.  I was totally up for a distraction at that point.  Hey kids, look what happens to a wet washcloth in space!  I can’t believe I haven’t gotten any phone calls from horrified parents yet.  If they do call, I’m going to refer them to the family that taught their kid about Jack the Ripper!!  Yeesh!

Celebrate The End

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This week we finished our almost-3-year process to get our permanent residency visas here in CR… which must be renewed in a year and a half.  Yes, that’s right.  You thought you knew the meaning of the word “permanent” but you didn’t.  It really means permanently standing in lines to pay more money.  However, we did it!  I can’t believe that it’s finally over.  I think that has been a prayer request on nearly every newsletter that we have sent out in the last few years.  Now we can celebrate.

steakWe did a combination Mothers’ Day (in America) and Visa celebration last Sunday.  After church we went to the next city over and enjoyed a very rare treat:  Outback Steakhouse.  We have a few American restaurants here, but they are so freaking expensive that they are for “Birthdays only” in our household.  It had been over a year since we had gone to Outback, so we were giddy with anticipation.

I particularly like the Blooming Onion (don’t tell me that it has a million calories.  I already know and I don’t care.).  When we lived in Mexico we went to visit friends in the center of the country.  They had an Outback there too.  I was looking forward to the Blooming Onion for weeks before our visit.  My mouth watered as I ordered it.  Twenty minutes later the server came back out and said, “Sorry, we don’t have any onions right now.”  I just about beat him up.

My point is, it is good and right to stop and celebrate when you accomplish something huge like this.  Celebrating is practically ordered by God in the Old Testament.  Have you read how many feasts and holidays the Jews had in the Law?  I don’t know how they got any work done.  God wants us to celebrate our victories and to remember them with anniversaries and festivals year after year.  Celebration is good for the soul.  It reminds us that God is good and life is not always bad.  It keeps us from feeling like a victim all the time.  And it helps pull us away from our future goals and plans long enough to focus on the past successes and present joys.  God orders us to celebrate!

We have so much to celebrate in our lives.  This weekend, take some time and make a list of all the things that you can celebrate.  Think of successes.  Think of victories.  Think of hard things that you survived.  Think of benchmarks and landmarks and goal posts and mile stones that you have achieved.  Take time to celebrate your Wins with Thankfulness to God.  It’s good for your soul.

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Hold You?

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Every morning when my alarm goes off at 5 a.m. I breathe these words before my feet roll out of bed, “Lord give me strength for today.”  I wake up in pain and there’s nothing I can do about it.  So it’s best to forget about it and get on with my day.  But I ask for help from my Father God.  He slowly infuses me with the energy and strength I need to make it through today.  He has taught me to be thankful for my weaknesses because they force me to rely on Him more.  

He has promised to help me when I call on Him.  And He’s glad to do it!   He is drawn to weakness because it is the white canvas on which He paints His beautiful pictures of mercy, grace and bounty.  With Jesus, I have enough.  With Jesus, I can do today.  Tomorrow I will ask for more, but today He will give me enough of what I need right now.

A friend of a friend posted this on FB the other day.  I liked it because it is how I view my walk with the Lord.  I grow weary as my little legs pump twice as hard as His long strides.  I ask him to hold me.

Hold You?
The other day I was watching a friend’s little 2 year old daughter. We went for a walk down to a nearby swing set so we could play. As we walked down the street, this little gal’s chubby fingers clasped my hand as she took two steps for every one step I took. She trotted along like this for sometime, chattering on about “swing” and “mommy” and “mammie and papa” and “birdies”.

Then she inquisitively said these two sweet words, “Hold you?”cute

She was tired. She was weary. The sun was shining, she had exerted all the energy her little legs could muster.

Her question was simple.

“Hold you?”

“Do you want me to pick you up?” I asked her.

“Yes.”

I picked her up and began to carry her on to our destination.

Today Jesus will do that for me. I am tired, I am weary. The sun is shining, I have exerted all the energy my little heart can muster.

My need is simple.

“Hold You?”

And He picks me up and carries me to our destination.

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“. . . in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place.” Deut 1:31

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Photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/asam/432194779/”>ArloMagicMan</a&gt; / <a href=”http://foter.com/Kids/”>Foter.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>CC BY-NC</a>