Tag Archives: life

Dying Out Loud

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This weekend I picked up a book called “Dying Out Loud: No Guilt in Life, No Fear in Death” about the death of missionary Stan Steward in the Muslim country of Turkey.  Normally I would have flown through an easy read like this, but I ran out of kleenexes and had to slow down.  This book is tearing my heart out!

I’ve written about this family before, and though they insist there is nothing remarkable about them- I am in awe of their strength of commitment to sharing the gospel with the lost.  They determined to live among the remote villages along the ancient Silk Road in the area between the border of Turkey and Iran.  They integrated their lives as completely as possible with the people and they were accepted as one of them.

Photo credit: jessleecuizon / Foter / CC BY

Photo credit: jessleecuizon / Foter / CC BY

This alone is admirable.  As a missionary I know what that kind of a decision costs.  I make those small decisions a million times a day- will I chose my own personal comfort or will I empty myself for others?  I’m ashamed to say that too many times I chose my own preferences because I am still working in my own strength and not God’s.  I say, I’m tired.  I don’t want to speak Spanish anymore today.  I just need to get into my house where things are familiar and comfortable and within my control so I can decompress with my family tonight.  I make those choices for myself all the time.  I am convicted.

Not only did they integrate into the culture, but prayed a risky prayer.  They asked God to use them to reach the Turkish people… whatever the cost.  Always a risky prayer.  We talk a lot in our denomination about why the Muslims haven’t responded to the gospel like other groups have.  Many believe that because we revolt from the idea of watering the hard soil with our martyr’s blood, the Muslims have not been won.  We have not counted the cost.  We have not cried for their souls because our fears and hatred mingle too freely with our determination and passion to make any kind of a combustable concoction.  We have watered down the message of the cross to make it more acceptable to the world and this weak message is powerless to save now.  I am challenged.

Photo credit: NYCandre / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: NYCandre / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

So their risky prayer lead them to heart break.  Stan was diagnosed with colon cancer that filled his body in a short amount of time.  Stan and his wife Ann felt the Lord asking them to “Live this dying out loud” in order to show their Muslim brothers and sisters how Christians die with peace and assurance of their salvation.  A Muslim has no such assurance in death.  He can only hope that he’s done enough good to counterbalance the bad in his life.  He only has a sad, dark form of hope to cling to.  God was asking Stan to show them how to live and die in the vibrant, confident hope in Jesus Christ.  It was an intensely difficult price to pay.  I am humbled by their Yes when so often I’ve said No.

It is this story of commitment and sacrifice that is tearing me apart.  I am being challenged and called all over again.  If I had other lives to live and give I would go and replace Stan in Turkey.  I am challenged to pray more.  I see how pathetic my own strength is in comparison with all that God can do when I am completely at his disposal. I am hungry for that kind of love for the lost that says “At Any Cost”.  Have I ever loved like that?  This book is challenging me to the roots of my commitment.  And I am Called all over again.

“I will not die an unlived life”

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Photo credit: aguscr / Foter / CC BY

Photo credit: aguscr / Foter / CC BY

A friend of mine used this quote last week and when I asked for the source, she sent me the link to this beautiful blog.  This is exactly how I feel about my life… plus I do it all with a latte in my hand and I don’t see any point in going for skim milk.

“I will not die an unlived life. I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire. I choose to inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me, to make me less afraid, more accessible, to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise. I choose to risk my significance; to live so that which comes to me as seed goes to the next as blossom and that which comes to me as blossom, goes on as fruit.” —Dawna Markova

My Mother-in-law is from a generation where people lived with plastic over their furniture and lamp shades.  She never takes the plastic off of things.  She says she’s saving things, but I don’t know who she is always saving things for.  There has never been a special guest in the house who has merited the removal of the plastic from the lamp shades and table tops.  Never.  So when she dies and the house is inherited by her children, they will find all the furnishings unused and brand spanking new… from the 1980s.

I can’t live like that.  I like to put pictures of my own loved ones in my picture frames instead of keeping the picts of the department store model families that come with the frames.  We actually asked her about this once.  She jokingly told us that these people were better looking than all of us, so that’s why she never changes the picture when she buys a new frame.  Really I think she is secretly planning to return the frame to the store someday.  But I can’t live like my house is a store.  I want my life to feel “lived in”.

I try to live life by fully focusing on the beauty of the moment.  I don’t always succeed in this since I’m naturally future focused and like things well planned ahead of time.  However, this is my goal- live and love this moment.  Whether good or bad, stressful or relaxing, I reject guilt and fear which rob me of my joy and thankfulness.  I find God in the moment.  He’s in the past and future too, but I am only in this moment so I can only connect with Him right now.  This living in the moment is so hard for me sometimes, but it’s always good for me.  It’s worth doing something that is good and hard when you get the kind of joy that I find in this challenge.  I live fully in the now.  I will not die an unlived life.

Sick Day

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Well, I don’t have a blog written for today.  We have been battling Strep throat here in our household since Friday.  So I haven’t had the time or energy to write anything new.  My husband suggested that I repost one of my favorites from earlier in the year, and I think I will do just that.  So without further ado:  here’s “Pea Green Envy”.  (Originally posted Jan. 22, 2012)

So today I was having one of my “what the heck am I doing with my life?” moments.  I was capsized by jealousy and envy.  The “praise of men” was looking very tempting to me.  I have many friends who are very successful by the world’s standards, and so often I feel like I’m just lucky that everyone in my family is wearing clean underwear today!  I’m a mom.  I’m a wife.  Yeah, I’m a missionary too, but all those things just feel so insignificant compared to what my friends have already accomplished.  This jealousy was really eroding my self esteem- big time!  I was pea green with envy.

I decided to go for a walk with my ipod and try to talk with God about this.  This jealousy and envy made it hard to think clearly.  So I asked God to affirm me, to encourage me, to lift me up. But I felt God tell me to lift HIM up instead.  So I scrolled through my ipod menu to a favorite playlist and I started to worship God as I walked along.  Suddenly I started to see things from a new perspective.  The green haze of envy began to clear and I saw things as God wanted me to see them.

It doesn’t matter what others are doing with their lives- I am lifting Jesus up.  I’m being obedient to what God has called me to do right here and right now- I’m lifting Jesus up.  The focus really shouldn’t be on my accomplishments anyways, I’m just here to glorify God.  My obedience glorifies Him.  My worship lifts Him up.  That is my purpose in life- to lift Him up.  So I guess I AM fulfilling my purpose, I am doing what I was made to do. It’s not about building a name for myself, it’s about building up the name of Jesus.  That’s how God measures my success- by how much I lift Him up.

And that’s all she wrote…

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I found this on Facebook the other day and I just had to laugh.  What more could an imperfect missionary ask for?  Somedays I just can barely restrain myself from going postal on stupid drivers, people who cut in line, people with no sense of time… and I better stop now.

I’ve been a good girl all week now, I better not jinks myself.  Have a good weekend and play nice together in the sand box, Friends.

 

What happens when you smell like Death

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“For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To the one, we are an aroma that brings death; to the other an aroma that brings life.”  2 Corinthians 2:15-16

That crazy homeless guy was standing at the balcony of the floor above me spitting on me again.  I think he did that to everyone, so I didn’t take it personally.  From my customer service desk on the first floor I reached for the phone to call the mall security.  Once again they ushered him out of the mall.  The day proceeded as normal after that.

A while later, Sheri, an off duty cop who also worked security at the mall leaned on the side of my desk making small talk to pass the hours of our shift.  Sheri was a lesbian.  Having grown up in the Twin Cities, I have known many homosexual people and I find them generally delightful people.  The ones I’ve known are sensitive, intelligent, humorous, creative, and kind people.  I don’t agree with their lifestyle on a moral basis, but I’ve never had any problems being friends with someone that I don’t agree with.  As long as they are willing to accept me as a Christian and not censor my faith, I am very willing to be friends with homosexuals.

Sheri and I had spent a year and a half getting to know each other while leaning on my desk.  She told me about how her partner lost a bunch of weight and needed to buy some new clothes, she told me about the time she broke her hand right before her deployment to Iraq, she teared up when she told me about men teasing her and provoking her to fight.  She listened to my stories from missions trips to Mexico and Guatemala, she heard me tell about the night that I got engaged to Josh, she laughed with me as we sang the lyrics to old 80’s songs together.  I considered her my friend.

While Sheri and I leaned and talked, suddenly Crazy Homeless Guy was standing right beside me.  (Yikes!  Where did he come from!)  He leaned over my desk and got right in my face and hissed, “Christian!  Christian!  You hate homosexuals!”  In my spirit I was aware that this was a demon speaking.  Crazy Homeless Guy was demon possessed and was hissing at me like it was a sick and perverted thing to be a Christian.  His accusation that I hated homosexuals was clearly intended to hurt Sheri.  In unison, Sheri and I both shouted at him.  I shouted, “NO I DON’T!” and she shouted, “NO SHE DOESN’T!”  At the sound of our shouting, other mall cops rushed to our defense and ushered Crazy Homeless Guy out of the mall once again.

Sheri and I both stood there shaking with a mixture of rage and adrenaline.  My spirit knew that was a demon.  I had that bad after-taste that I get in my spirit after I brush up against something truly evil.

A few months later Crazy Homeless Guy actually tried to sue me!  The company lawyers were on the case before I even knew it existed.  I gave a deputation about his past behavior towards me.  Sheri testified for me.  Crazy Homeless Guy earned himself a restraining order and all the cops I worked with kept an eye out for me any time they saw me on the street.

How did Crazy Homeless Guy know that I was a Christian?  I had never spoken to him before that day.  Why did he spit on me?  Why did he hiss at me?  I think the demon in him smelled the aroma of Christ in me.  To those who are looking for a way out of sin and death, Christians are the sweet aroma of new life.  But to those who hate God, those in rebellion against Him, Christians smell like the blood of Jesus… we smell like their eventual defeat and punishment.  And demons don’t care who they wound.  His false accusation that I hated homosexuals was not really aimed at me.  I think he was trying to hurt Sheri, to drive a wedge between us and to throw her off the scent of Christ in me.  I’m glad it didn’t work.

EARTH without ART is just EH

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I had lunch with a missionary friend of mine the other day.  She talked about her deep desire to just be a normal woman, a mom and wife with few responsibilities outside her home.  She said she envied her sister who is not a missionary and does not have to write newsletters to supporters.  She day dreamed about taking art classes and expanding her new veggie garden.  She longed for her childhood days on the family farm where they worked just to survive without a thought as to how their lives appeared to others.

She said, “I just want to care for my family and to fill the world with beauty.  Is that enough?”

I smiled.  I’m pretty sure that’s one of the main purposes why God made women to love beauty.  God is the Creator of all things beautiful.  He’s the Artist.  I too am an artist.  Speaking as an artist, I like it when people are inspired and moved by what I make.  I think God likes that too.  He likes it when we are inspired and moved by what he makes.  God made Woman and she was exceedingly beautiful.  Man was moved by her beauty.  Woman looked around her and saw the exceeding beauty of Nature.  Woman was inspired by Nature’s beauty to create more beauty through her Art.  It’s a layering effect of appreciating beauty which brings glory and pleasure to the Great Artist.  It’s a reflecting of the very nature of God within us.

As an artist, there is something in my soul that comes alive only when I am creating.  I feel like it’s an extravagant element in my personality.  Creating art doesn’t actually DO anything in the grand scheme of life.  It’s not particularly productive or practical (that’s the other side of my nature at war with my artistic side).  But Art reveals something about us spiritually and enhances our relation to God.  I relate to God on a deeper level when art is part of the equation, because my Creator made me this way.  I think he wanted there to be some people who can appreciate the beauty he creates.  These people are just extravagant touches to his Grand Masterpiece.  When I appreciate beauty, it brings glory to God and that pleases him.

So is it enough to just want to fill the world with beauty?  Maybe, because it brings Glory to God and mirrors his character in us as we long to create beauty as well.  Maybe for now, that is enough, my friend.

http://www.deshow.net/cartoon/fantasy-art-painting-566.html

here’s the website to this artist’s page. Josephine Wall. http://www.deshow.net/cartoon/fantasy-art-painting-566.html

In the Belly of the Whale and Hating it.

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You can be right in the center of God’s will and still be miserable.  Did you know that?  Just because you are obeying God doesn’t mean you’re always going to be happy and comfortable.  And just because you are UNhappy doesn’t mean you are necessarily OUT of God’s will either.  I’m writing this story in the hopes that it sets someone free from the guilt of being in God’s will and hating it.

We were missionaries in Mexico City for two years.  I did not love living in Mexico City.  There, I said it.  Up until this moment only some close friends and family had ever heard me say that.  Mexico City is a hard city to live in.  Aside from the language (which we were still learning), the traffic, and the pollution- living in a place where the bad guys had police badges and guns really messed with me in ways I’m not sure I can fully explain.  Corruption is a bad, bad thing.

On a spiritual level, the oppression over that city is palpable.  You can feel it even if you aren’t paying attention.  Let me describe it.  When I was flying with our kids into Mexico City from language school (Josh was already there with the car and trailer) I felt this spiritual oppression for the first time- but I had no words for it yet.  About 20 minutes from landing at the airport I was busy getting my kids packed up and resettled for landing.  Suddenly a fear gripped my heart.  I broke into a cold sweat and I felt the tears welling up in my eyes.  “I can’t do this,” I thought.  “What the heck am I doing bringing my kids to this city?!  I can’t do this.”  The voice of the Enemy spoke in my heart.  I felt sick to my stomach.

What I didn’t know was that I was flying into the spiritual domain of Death.  Since the beginning of human history in this valley, Death has been worshipped.  Humans have been sacrificed.  Even up to this modern day and age, Satanism is alive and well in Mexico.  There is even a holiday celebrating Death here.  Because Death is still worshipped here it has the right to be here.  Death does not like the messengers of God coming here because we bring Life.  Death hates that.  So Death did not want me and my family coming to Mexico City.  Death tried to intimidate me.  Everyday.

We knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that we were in God’s will coming to Mexico City.  Doors had opened, miracles had happened, God’s blessing was on us and ministry was good!  So we felt certain that we were in God’s will.  But living there under the oppression of Death, day in and day out, was a grind.  It wore us to the bone.  But we are not quitters.  We had always said that we would never leave just because it was hard, or we were uncomfortable, or we didn’t absolutely love it here.  We only left when Lucy and I got sick.  We had amazing friends there, and ministry was flourishing, but I did not love Mexico City.

I felt guilty about that.  I prayed that God would help me love this place.  I was insanely jealous of other missionaries who claimed to LOVE were they lived and worked.  Somedays my only sanity was telling myself, “At least I’m not called to China.”  God knew I couldn’t take that!!  We didn’t love it, but we threw ourself heart and soul into Mexico City.  We gave 110% every day.  I still felt guilty about being so unhappy.

Then one day my Dad told me something that totally changed my thinking about this and gave me freedom from guilt.  He told me, “You can be completely in the center of the will of God and still be miserable.”  That got me thinking.  I’m sure Jonah hated being in the belly of the whale- but that’s right were God wanted him for those 3 days.  I’m sure Daniel was less than thrilled to spend the night in the lions’ den- but God sent him in there.  I know for a fact that Jesus dreaded going to the cross.  He sweat great drops of blood as he prayed in the garden the night of his betrayal.  He prayed, “Take this cup from me, Father” and all of humankind was a breath away from eternal damnation until he yielded, “But not my will, only yours, Father.”  He was right in the center of his Father’s will… and he dreaded it.  So I was not alone.

So the point is, our emotions are not a good indicator of reality.  Just because you are unhappy doesn’t mean you’ve missed God’s will or that you are being disobedient.  We can be totally happy and content and yet displeasing to God OR we can be miserable and be right were God wants us to be.  God’s will is completely independent of our emotions, both good and bad.  He does what he wants to do (he is Sovereign), and always does things for our ULTIMATE good.  But moment by moment he is less concerned about our happiness than he is about the end result of what he is doing for us and in us.  God is God.  He is not bound by contract to make me happy.  He is only bound to his own character which is GOODNESS.  Even when I hated being in Mexico City, I had the peace of knowing that I was right were God wanted me to be… even though I hated it.

Guest Blogger: My Mom!! On Being a Parent of a Missionary

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My Family, Christmas 2011

***Everyone, I’m very excited about having my mom write a blog for me today!  If  you haven’t met her personally, she’s the red head in the middle of our Christmas picture.  She’s the best mom ever and (next to Josh) she’s my best friend too.  So blogging for the first time, let me present my mom, Bonnie!

Grin and Bear It

Recently, April (my daughter the missionary) asked me to write a “Guest Blog” for her own blog.  While I’m not a blogger, I’ve written innumerable letters, documents, memos, papers, etc., etc.  So I wasn’t daunted by the request to write an article.  But the topic worried me a bit.  She wanted me to write on “Parents of Missionaries”.  Well, I do have plenty to say on that topic, but how much of it I really want to publicly share, I wasn’t sure.  I told April I’d agree to write as long as I didn’t have to be funny.  She assured me that humor wasn’t necessary — just honesty. Well, all right then.

I now believe the potential to become the parent of a missionary began for us in the summer of 1974, just a few weeks after April was born.  Jac and I stood on the platform of First Assembly of God in Des Moines, IA, and handed our newborn baby over the our new Senior Pastor, Rev. David Crabtree, to be dedicated to the Lord.  While I don’t remember at all that he said, I know from photographs that it did happen.  And having experienced a multitude of baby dedications at church over the years, I know the gist of what’s normally said.  We gave April back to the Lord.

That’s what it means to dedicate something or someone to the Lord.  In the Old Testament, things dedicated to the Lord were either destroyed, sacrificed, or given to Him for use in His holy tabernacle.

 Ex. 22:29  “Do not hold back offerings from your granaries or your vats. You must give me the firstborn of your sons [daughters].”

 Lev. 27:28  “But nothing that a man owns and devotes to the LORD—whether man or animal or family land—may be sold or redeemed; everything so devoted is most holy to the LORD.”

In the New Testament, Jesus is the Redeemer of our destroyed lives and we therefore sacrifice (dedicate) our lives to him willingly, to express our thanks to Him.

But in either case, it’s supposed to mean that the dedicated item is no longer to be used in this world, by humans, parents or otherwise.  So from that moment on, God had the option to call our daughter to the mission field of His choice.  Now theoretically, that’s what we believed and that was fine with us.  However, practically, it’s a lot harder to accept.

I think there must be three kinds of “Parents of Missionaries”.  First, there are those who’s child has been interested in and was called to missions from their earliest years.  Their little one always wanted to meet the missionaries at church.  They always talked about becoming a missionary.  They made pictures in Sunday School about little children being taught by missionaries.  They were fascinated by National Geographic, studying all about foreign places like Borneo, Mozambique, or Peru.  These parents must have had a great deal of warning what the expected outcome would be for their child.  This child WILL be a missionary.  So they have 20+ years to prepare for the whole idea of separation by vast stretches of ocean.

The second kind of parents are those who are missionaries themselves.  They’ve raised their little MKs to be enthused about and dedicated to missions.  Their kids are more at home abroad than in the good ol’ USA.  So it’s not surprising at all that these children will follow in their parents footsteps and also answer the call to missions.

Then there’s the third category.  Let’s call those parents “The Clueless Ones”.  These parents may or may not have been Christians.  But let’s say they were.  They went to church regularly along with their kids.  They read and believed the Bible.  Their kids loved the Lord and his church.  As kids, they were very involved in church activities, from Missionettes to youth group.  They even gave to missions and as a family supported children in foreign countries through good organizations like Latin American Child Care.  They prayed for missionaries who visited church.  But that was about the extent of it.  They had NO clue that the Lord was really planning to call THEIR own beloved child to leave the safety and security of home and family, and move to another country to become a missionary.  Maybe other people’s children will go and God bless them!  But not ours.

Unfortunately, we fell into the third category.  Jac and I were absolutely blind-sided by our daughter and her husband when they came to see us one day a few years ago.  We knew they’d become tired/bored/burned out from being youth pastors for eight years (who wouldn’t?) and probably would be looking for another position in a church somewhere, hopefully in Minnesota where we live.  But missions had NEVER been mentioned as an interest or a call.  While they did take multiple short-term missions trips with their youth group, that’s just what youth groups and their youth pastors do.  It’s part of the job.  So we had no time to prepare ourselves at all for this most unexpected and remarkable turn of events.

What was our reply?  I distinctly remember saying, “Well, you and Josh can go to Mexico, but you CANNOT take Taylor and Emma.  They’ll just have to stay with us!”

The catch-22 in all of this is that Jac is a pastor and I’m a pastor’s wife.  The church is our complete and total life.  We left Iowa and all of our extended family 30 years ago to go to Bible college, and then into ministry.   I’m even Chair of our Missions Committee now. So I really have no choice but to accept the call of God on our daughter’s life, as graciously as I can, even if would rather do otherwise.

Don’t get me wrong.  I know there are any number of much, much worse kinds of trauma that parents have to endure.  They lose their children to all kinds of evils in this rotten world.  Even to death.  So that’s why I can’t complain too loudly.  At least ours are serving the Lord and we’re very proud of them.

I just wish I’d have been forewarned so I could have been more prepared for the separation from our daughter and grandkids.  While Skype, Facebook, and emails help tremendously to keep us in touch with daily life, it just doesn’t take the place of snuggling a little one in your arms or seeing how much they’ve grown since the last time they were over.  Or taking them occasionally to buy a new toy.  Or having a sleep-over.

But enough grousing.  I’ve become quite good over the years at dealing with tough stuff.  I do know how to “Grin and Bear It” well.  And so I will.

Words that Changed the World

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Wanna’ read the most Revolutionary words ever spoken in all of History? This speech turned the world upside down and it still turns its hearers inside out.

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are- no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s like food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full’, you find yourselves cared for.

You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s Kingdom. No only that- count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you that discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens- give a cheer, even!- for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.

Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God- colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you there on a hilltop, on a light stand- shine!

Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in Heaven.”

~Jesus Christ.
(Matthew 5:3-16 The Message)

"I love you." says Jesus.