Tag Archives: prayer

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’m such a Pretender

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Here on wordpress we have these little hover cards that connect a picture to our blogger avatar. So the other day I hovered over someone’s picture and read the bio that came with the avatar.  This person described himself very simply and ended with “and I pretend to go to the gym”.  That gave me a little chuckle.  I thought, “Well he’s a step ahead of me!  I don’t even PRETEND to go to the gym.”  But that got me thinking about the little things in life that we all pretend we do.

For example, have you ever pretended to know what you’re doing when you’re really just winging it?  “I meant to do that.”  Sometimes pretending that you know what you’re doing is the way to fly under the radar, like when you’re wandering through a part of the building where you’re not supposed to be.  “Just act natural.”  Sometimes it’s the way to go with the flow and learn as you go along.  “Pretend you know what you’re doing.”  And sometimes it’s a way to hide your inadequacies.  “Just smile and wave, boys, smile and wave.”

So here’s a short list of Things I Pretend to Do:

~ I pretend to exercise.  I lay down in bed at night and think, “My whole body aches, surely I did something strenuous and exercis-ish to induce this much pain.  I’m sure I was in constant motion for the last 18 hours.”

~ I pretend to follow the news when I really don’t care that much about what’s happening in America.  I don’t live there and it annoys me that Americans think that what happens in their country is so important to the rest of the world.  It isn’t.  (And I don’t care about celebrities either.  It seems like a lot of the news now days is about them.)  

~ I pretend to understand finances when numbers really just go in one ear and out the other… same reason that I can’t remember dates or telephone numbers.  That’s why they invented speed dial!  (I only remember Josh’s old cell phone number which now belongs to a friend.  If I ever have an emergency, I will probably call him instead!)

~ I pretend pray more than I do, sometimes I just make lists in my head or fall asleep mid prayer.  Mostly I just worry and call that prayer.  I’m not proud of that, but it’s true for a lot of us, I think.

~  Sometimes I pretend to understand what people are saying to me in Spanish when I’m really just a sentence or two behind.  For example, yesterday a teacher stopped me in the hallway and started speaking to me about something.  I nodded and murmured “uh-hu” a few times.  But because my brain was in full English mode at that moment, it took me about 3 sentences to capture the THEME of this conversation.  Once I realized WHAT she was talking about I was able to mentally back track and think, “now what did I just commit to do?”  I was going with the flow and pretending I understood each word when I was really racing to catch up with her.

That’s my life immersed in a second language.  I pretend I know what’s going on around here.  I pretend like I know where I’m going.  I pretend like I’m supposed to be here.  I pretend like nothing’s wrong.  And most of the time it all shakes out in the end.

Busting through the Brick Wall

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Part 4 of how we became missionaries.  If you missed the last 3 days, you might want to go back and read them too.  I hope this is an encouragement to someone.

We came home from our life changing trip to Mexico and took a few weeks to pray before we talked to anyone about becoming missionaries.  We knew that this could be just a “high” from being on the missions trip, so we wanted to let our emotions cool a bit.  When the idea just wouldn’t go away, we started the application process to become missionaries with our denomination.  We knew this process could take months, so we didn’t plan to tell anyone until we were well on our way.  But the story leaked out.  Our family was shocked and not at all happy.

We finished out another year of youth ministry before we were “officially” accepted as missionaries.  Then the fund-raising began.  We spent 21 months raising our funds for a 3 year term in Mexico.  At the 18 month mark we were stalled out.  Josh was working the phones for 12 hours a day, we were traveling every weekend to preach at different churches and ask for support, but nothing was working.  We were discouraged.  To top it all off, we had been trying to sell our house for the last 3 months.  It had been shown many times, but no offers yet.

Then one day we got a phone call that felt like a kick in the stomach.  It was July 1, a Thursday.  Our Head Quarters called us and said if we don’t make a significant improvement this month, we’re done.  I raged.  I cried.  I panicked.  I punched pillows.  How could they fire us?  We’d worked so hard for so long, it wasn’t our fault that churches weren’t picking us up.  What more did they want us to do?  But the day needed to continue, so Josh and I agreed to go about our day like normal and pray about it while we worked.

That day while I prayed I thought about Gideon who asked God for a sign.  He spread a fleece on the ground and asked that the ground be wet in the morning but the fleece be dry as a sign that God was really asking him to do a risky, crazy thing like tear down the household idol.  God made it happen.  So Gideon reversed the test the next day, just to be sure.  And the next morning the fleece was wet with dew but the ground was dry.  So there he had a clear answer- God wanted him to do the crazy, risky job.

When we came back together that evening, I shared my thoughts with Josh.  I said, “I think we need a sign that we are still on the right path.  I feel like there is a brick wall in our path and I don’t know if it means this is the end of the road.  I feel like the road continues beyond the wall, but I don’t know how to bust through the brick.”  So we decided to ask God for a miracle to show us that we are still supposed to go into missions.  We asked that our house would sell… that weekend… on 4th of July weekend.  Even though no one had looked at the house all week and it was a holiday weekend.  It was crazy, no one buys a house on 4th of July weekend!  We prayed.

The next morning we got a call from a real estate agent.  Someone wanted to see our house!  This was it!  I just knew it!  This was going to be the sign.  By the end of the night we had accepted their offer.  We sold our house.  We were still supposed to go into missions.  Somehow God was planning on punching through that brick wall.  Now we knew we were still supposed to walk this road.

All excited about the miracle, emboldened, we asked for another miracle.  Our missions agency wanted us to raise $500 in pledges by the end of the month.  We asked God for $500 in the next week.  But the goofy thing was that we were going to be spending a week up at a District Family Camp and we wouldn’t be making any phone calls all week.  Without making a single phone call, by the end of the week, we had $500 in new pledges!  God did it!

Again we asked for another $500 for the next week!  That week we were scheduled to be touring churches in Iowa and we would not be making phone calls that week either.  We prayed, and BAM!  God did it again!  Another $500 in monthly support came in.

The last two weeks were ear marked for packing and garage sales since we had to be out of our house by the end of the month.  No phone calling for those weeks either.  Yet we prayed again and each of those weeks we ended with $500 more in pledges.  Our deficit was filled.  Then one day I was standing in the garage selling junk and opening the mail at the same time.  There was a card from a little old lady that I had met at a church over a year ago.  My mouth dropped open.  Inside the card was a check for $10,000.  Our cash budget was blessed also.  God thought of everything!

We spent the last 6 months jam-packed into my parents’ basement again- homeless- as we awaited our December departure date.  We were on our way to Mexico to be missionaries.  Not only had God punched through that financial brick wall for us, but He had boosted our faith beyond measure.

Many times since then, we have gone back to that point in our history and remembered how God came to the rescue and was faithful to finish what He started in us.  Since then we have never doubted that God was leading us.  It was just too clear that His mighty arm was leading and sustaining us.  He doesn’t work the same way twice, but we’ve never been in such desperate financial need either.  Lesson learned:  Trust God, He can handle it.

Great is Thy Faithfulness!  Great is Thy Faithfulness!

Morning by morning new mercies I see;

All I have needed thy hand hath provided-

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

The Lord’s Prayer for Today

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“And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production… Here’s what I want you to do:  Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God.  Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage.  The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.

The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant.  They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God.  Don’t fall for that nonsense.  This is your Father you’re dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need.  With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply.  Like this:

Our Father in heaven reveal who you are.  Set the world right; do what’s best-as above, so below.  Keep us alive with three square meals.  Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.  Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.  You’re in change!  You can do anything you want!  You’re ablaze in beauty!  Yes.  Yes.  Yes!

In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do.  For instance, you can’t get forgiveness from God without also forgiving others.  If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part.”

~Matthew 5:5-15 The Message Version.