Tag Archives: peace

“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.

Violated!

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Photo credit: just.Luc / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo credit: just.Luc / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

It is a horrible feeling to know that someone has been in your house, looking at your pictures, touching your things… robbing you.  I count that our house has been broken into 3 times, our car has been stolen twice, and less importantly, our garage has been broken into and our bikes and tools all stolen.  And only one of those home invasions happened overseas.

I am fully convinced that God knows our fears even better than we do.  I believe that He was preparing us for life overseas by forcing us to face our fears in our own beloved Minnesota.  We don’t live in Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.  But sometimes when we are overseas we tend to romanticize “home”.  We think, “This never would have happened to me if I had stayed in Minnesota!”

But that’s just not true.  Houses get robbed in Minnesota too.  Cars get stolen in middle class neighborhoods in First World Countries.  If someone wants to get into your house badly enough, no amount of locks and security systems will stop them.  They could drive a car through the wall of your living room if they wanted to.  Bad things happen in America too.

So I think the Lord knew that by facing my fears while we were still living in America, it would have the effect of releasing me from those fears.  It’s like facing your fear of heights by going rock climbing or facing your fear of public speaking by giving a toast at a wedding.  Once you see that your fear was survivable, well then it has lost its grip on your mind.

It took a long time after each violation for my peace to return to me, but eventually it did.  At the moment of our last break-in, in Mexico, my husband and I held each other and cried.  As I cried, I prayed out loud and thanked God that we were safe, that our children were at school today, that not much was stolen.  I repeated the scripture verse from Job, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.”  And I felt like we passed a test.  Deep in my heart I felt the approval of the Lord.  I sensed that we would not have to face this test again.

When we picked up our kids from school, we worried about their reactions when we told them that the house was broken into while we were away that morning.  They only asked if all their toys were still there.  They were not the least bit concerned otherwise.  I marveled at how the Lord had given them a resiliency that I didn’t even think to ask for.  I thanked the Lord for giving us peace once again.

Growing into her skin

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When we go through our school of missions in our sending agency, we have an amazing program for the kids as well.  The idea is to prepare the kids for some of the challenges that they might encounter on the mission field.  The leadership builds community and unity and identity in the kids by encouraging them to embrace “the MK way” by constantly referring to them as Missionary Kids (MKs).  Most kids bloom under this kind of encouragement and thrive in their identity as an MK.

But not everyone.  Sometimes kids get “dragged along” to the mission field- or so they perceive it that way.  Some kids come out of the MK training and feel displaced and angry.  Change is hard.  These kids are part of a family that is going to leave everything familiar to them, all creature comforts that they love, and travel to a new world to tell people about Jesus.  Some kids feel like, “If Jesus called my parents, then he forgot to talk to me about this decision!”  Some kids end up hating Jesus and his stupid Calling.  This is hard.

Six months ago I met an angry MK.  She was not comfortable in her own adolescent skin and not comfortable in her new school and not comfortable with being called an MK.  She had experienced the double whammy of being a teenager AND having too much change in her life all at once.  She was not happy.  She bristled when anyone tried to show her love.  We loved her anyways.

Six months later, our young friend has changed quite a bit.  I almost don’t recognize her!  Her hair is now her natural color and no longer hanging over her face.  She’s incorporating color into her wardrobe… under her black hoodie.  But most importantly for me- she smiles.  This girl has made close friends both at the missionary kid school and among the missionary families living in Costa Rica.  She is now at place where she is comfortable in her own MK skin.

Recently at a gathering of missionary families, our once angry and resentful kid-of-missionary-parents finally showed that she had embraced her identity as a Missionary Kid.  She showed a video that she had made of her and her friends laughing and doing silly teenage things.  She set it to bouncy, happy music and added cute titles.  And the very last screen was the sentence, “This is the MK way.”  I got tears in my eyes as we all wildly applauded her creative expression of who she finally decided to be.  She had finally grown into her skin and she is happy again.

Contentment swelling in my heart

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This morning I sat in my Costa Rican rocking chair on my front patio with my Bible open on my lap and a coffee cup in my hand.  I looked up into the cloudless, brilliant blue sky then down into my rainy-season green yard.  Deep contentment swelled in my heart even as a distant car alarm broke the background of Sunday morning silence.  I thanked God for all He has done for me and for giving me this life I love.  I thought of our friends here in Costa Rica.  I once again thanked God for putting them in our life and giving them a faithful love for us.  It is a rich blessing to feel God’s love shining on you through another person.

Then my eyes drifted to the rescued Ficus tree in the center of my yard.  Salvaged from an infancy of neglect, he’s looking like a healthy, happy child a growing strong in a circle of sunshine.  I am happy that such a sad little tree could be revived.  A scripture verse floated into my consciousness.  “…He is like a tree planted by streams of water…”  I know that verse by heart, Psalm 1, yet I reach for my Bible to hear what the Lord is whispering to me.

“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers.  But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.  Whatever he does prospers.”  Psalm 1:1-3

The Lord spoke encouragement to my heart and told me that I am like the tree planted by streams of water.  I delight myself in the Lord.  I keep my thoughts on Him day and night- casting my burdens of worry and care on His ample shoulders.  I am free to grow tall.  In the right season, I will produce fruit.  I won’t grow weary and dry.  Whatever I do, the Lord will prosper because I am rooted in Him.  I push my thirsty roots deeper into His Word, sucking up the life I find in Him.  And I exhale deep, cleansing contentment.  I am at peace in the circle of His Sonlight.

Photo credit: esther** / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo credit: esther** / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

I told you this would happen!

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Sometimes we just need a good, “I told you so!”  When the disciples asked about The End, Jesus told them this.  

Watch out that you are not deceived.  For many charlatans will come in my name, claiming, “I am he,” and “The time is near.”  Do not follow them.  When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened.  These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.  This is just part of normal history.  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.  At times you’ll think the very sky is falling!

But before all this, they will arrest you, hunt you down, drag you into court, and persecute you.  They will deliver you into the hands of your enemies and throw you in prison.  It will go from bad to worse.  Everyone will be at your throat because of me.

You will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name.  This will result in your being witnesses to them.  But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves.  For I will give you words and wisdom that will reduce your accusers to stammers and stutters.

You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death.  All men will hate you because of me.  But every detail of your life- even down to the  hairs of your head- are in my care and control.  By standing firm, hang in there, don’t lose faith and you will gain life.

It will seem like all hell has broken lose.  There will be sign in the sun, moon and stars.  Everyone will be in shear panic.  Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.  At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift us your heads because your redemption is drawing near.  Hold your head up high because help is on the way!

Be on your guard.  Don’t let the sharp edge of your expectation become dull with parties, shopping, and the anxieties of life.  Otherwise that day will take you completely by surprise.  It will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.  Pray constantly that you will have the strength and wits to make it through everything that is coming and end up on your feet before the Son of Man. (Luke 21:8-36 a combination of the Message Version and NIV)

*****It looks like a mess around here, and it is.  But hold on to your seats because the ride is going to get bumpier before it’s over.  Just hang in there.  Jesus already told us that it’s going to get ugly which means he’s got this under control- nothing surprises him.  It’s part of his plan.  Why?  Because if you don’t think you need a Savior yet, just wait- you’ll want one real soon!  So don’t be afraid, dear Christians.  The pilot of our airplane is Jesus and he’s just put on the “fasten seatbelt” light.  Turbulence is coming, but our pilot can handle it and bring you home safe and sound.

Mission Accomplished

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The scriptures say that when David had completed all that God planned for him, he died and joined his ancestors.  Sometimes we are surprised when death comes to someone young, or someone who appears to be doing everything right.  But the Bible makes it clear that there is a time for each of us to die.  It is not a random thing, nor is it preventable.  The Bible says we die when we complete the mission that God has made us to do, whatever that may be.

This should be an amazingly liberating idea for a Christian.  You can basically do that whole Matrix thing around bullets if it’s not your time to die!  This should essentially set you free of all kinds of fears that might have held you back before.  But sometimes there is actually a purpose to the WAY and TIME that we die.

Lately, a friend of mine has been posting updates about another missionary who is dying of cancer in a “closed country”.  Stewart and Bev* have worked for 20 something years in this hard place, and not one person has been saved.  They spent years traveling into the interior of this country, ministering among the lost, yet no one has responded to the message of Salvation.  They just plodded along faithfully, loving people and hoping that the message was coming through loud and clear.  Then Stewart was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

As they prayed together, the family felt that the Lord was telling them to “live out this death in the eyes of your neighbors.”  So they began to make preparations for Stewart to die in that country.  When they heard that Stewart was dying, the people in the interior where they had ministered all those years asked the family if they would move in with the tribe and allow Stewart to be buried where they live.  The family was deeply touched by this, but it would be impossible without government permission for a foreigner to be buried in the land.

That same day, a lawyer for the tribe came to the house to consult with the husband and wife.  “Let me take care of everything.  And is there anything else you need?”  He asked.  They needed to transfer the title of their vehicle into Bev’s name so that the government would not seize their property once Stewart died.  The lawyer agreed to handle that paperwork as well.

Within a few days, the family received permission to move to the interior, buy a burial plot, and for Bev to keep the car. All their concerns had been handled with minimal stress on their part.  Now they could focus on dying well, as God had commanded them.  Even as he grew weaker and weaker, Stewart continued to receive visitors.  They would sit at his bedside, sometimes talking, sometimes crying.  They marveled at Bev’s peace and strength in the face of her husband’s failing health.  They began to ask Bev about the source of her peace.  The door creaked open.

Women who had been cautious about the foreigners brought food and sat with them in their grief.  One woman confided to Bev that her husband had passed away that year, and she was so angry and scared.  She asked Bev how she could be so calm and strong.  Bev shared her source of strength and offered peace to the woman.  The door swung wider still.

The family contacted the grown children and asked them to come home to say good-bye.  The children left college to return to the mission field.  The village people surrounded them with love, like members of their own family.  The children are comforted as well as being a comfort to others.  Stewart is living out his death in front of the community.

Precious is the death of the Saints in the eyes of the Lord.  This is a homecoming with a purpose.  No one knows the kind of impact that Stewart’s death will have in this closed, barren mission field.  But there is a purpose, and there will be a harvest of souls.  A peaceful and strong Christian is powerful in death.

*Names have been changed because the country is a Muslim country, closed to missionaries.

“I lost my stuffed animals when my house caught on fire.”

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IMG_0634“I lost my stuffed animals when my house caught on fire.”  Naomi told missionary Mary.  Even though her house had burned to the ground the day before, little Naomi and her family were at peace.  They were thankful that no one had been hurt.  They had very little to begin with, and now they had nothing.  But they still had the peace of Jesus in their hearts.

The Bible calls God’s peace “The Peace that passes understanding” which is just a fancy way of saying, “Unbelievable peace!”  There’s no way to explain that to someone who has never experienced it.  It’s crazy.  Standing in the middle of their pile of ashes and debris, the family said, “Maybe God has something better for us.”

We just happened to be there on the scene, some of us missionaries.  We just happened to be hosting a team this week.  And the team just happened to be working at the school just around the corner from the 3 houses that burned to the ground.  And the families just happened to be Christians.  And the children of those families just happened to go to the school where we were working.  Was it all a coincidence?  I don’t think so.

The next day we walked down to the charred ruins to see what the family needed.  Turns out they needed everything.  They walked us through a sad tour of the destruction.  I saw a broken plate, some red fabric from something, the skeletal remains of furniture, stairs that lead to the open sky where the second story used to be.  Then I saw the wall with the hand prints painted on it.  The entire family had painted their hand prints on one wall… and that wall was not destroyed!  They still had their family.

New backpack and stuffed animals for Naomi.

New backpack and stuffed animals for Naomi.

The team and I went to Walmart that morning.  We bought clothes and shoes for the children.  We bought a new backpack and school supplies.  We bought bedding.  But the thing that meant the most to little Naomi was that we bought her stuffed animals.  The ones that she lost were the ones that her sponsor family had sent her over the years.  The value of those lost treasures can never be replaced, but maybe, just maybe a new stuffed dog or bear will bring her comfort as the families begin to rebuild their lives on the ashes.

I read this quote on Facebook today.  “The right thought, plus the right people, in right environment, at the right time, for the right reason, always produces the right result” by Dr. John Maxwell.  I can only thank God for putting us in the right place at the right time to help these poor families who have lost everything.  God is Good.

I CHOOSE to like you

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It isn’t very often in life that we get to choose the people who will be participating in our lives.  Usually, like family, we get the lot that life tosses to us and we just try to make the most of it.  In marriage, we DO get to choose someone, but then they come with a bunch of other people attached to them, the in-laws.  In work we might get to choose who we work FOR, but rarely do we choose who we work WITH in the office, the others hired by the boss.  And so it is in life.

Sometimes we find ourselves stuck with certain people that we either choose to tolerate or to ignore, but we can’t escape the connection.  I like to think of these people as “sandpaper people”.  These are the people who always rub you the wrong way.  But if you let God shape your life, He will often use these sandpaper people to smooth out the rough edges in YOUR life.  Much as we would like them to just GO AWAY, we find that if we put on a brave face and endure the rubbing, after time we are better people for the effort.

It’s not always easy, but sometimes when I’m particularly frustrated with a sand paper person in my life I say to myself, “I CHOOSE to like you.”  Meaning, this person isn’t someone who I would necessarily WANT in my life, their participation in my life is not something that I have invited, but rather something I endure.  It is more merciful than Woody Allen’s approach to annoying people, which involved a large sock filled with horse manure (use your imagination).

If we go through life burning bridges with everyone who annoys us, soon we will find ourselves quite isolated and lonely.  It is worth the effort to try to follow Paul’s advice to “live at peace with everyone, as much as it is in your power to do so.”  After time, you will find yourself more patient, more tolerant, more at peace, and more generally loved by your acquaintances for being a person who BRINGS peace to stressful settings.  It is effort well spent.

Having a Rough Day?

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Having a rough day?  Be encouraged…  THE LORD IS WITH YOU!

“Learn to appreciate difficult days.  Be stimulated by the challenges you encounter along your way.  As you journey through rough terrain with Me, gain confidence from your knowledge that together we can handle anything.  This knowledge is comprised of three parts:  your relationship with Me, promises in the Bible, and past experiences of coping successfully during hard times.

“Look back on your life, and see how I have helped you through difficult days.  If you are tempted to think, ‘ Yes, but that was then, and this is now,’ remember who I am!  Although you and your circumstances may change dramatically, I remain the same throughout time and eternity.  This is the basis of your confidence.  In My Presence you live and move and have your being.”

~Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, November 8.

“Do not be afraid, for I am with you.  Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you.  I will help you.  I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.  I am holding you by your right hand- I, the Lord your God.  And I say to you, ‘Do not be afraid.  I am here to help you.’”  Isaiah 41:10, 13

…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