Monday, October 9, 2017

It's Like a Honeymoon but with 60,000 Brand New Love-of-my-Lifes

Love of my Lifes?  Is 'lifes' a word?  Or should it be lives?  That doesn't seem right.  I only have one life, but a whole village of new loves.

Loves of my Life.  That's it.

I have watched a bajillion videos of people in Togo.  Right now I think they are the most beautiful people in the world and I want to know all about them.  What they eat, where they live, what music they like, what makes them laugh, what they call their grandmas.  Everything.  What are they afraid of?  What breaks their hearts?  What are their hopes and dreams?  Yes, I have romanticized this trip a little bit and I am not ashamed.

This is the part where all you seasoned missionary types roll your eyes at me and say, "Awww, that's so cute.  But how will you feel when you find out these 60,000 new loves-of-your-life snore all night and squeeze the toothpaste in the middle?"

Loving people is hard.  I get it.

But I don't care.  Honeymoons are important.  They're where we build bonds and shared memories that see us through ugly arguments about money and in-laws.  While God may love us perfectly despite our wholly unloveable selves, we are not so good at loving each other that way.  Romance is a gift that helps us love each other better.

So I'm going to pray and study and prepare for this trip as best I can, but I'm also going to gaze at your picture and wonder what you're thinking.  I can't wait to come to your wild and beautiful country and meet you.

I hope that my crazy romanticized honeymoon love makes you see yourself the way Christ sees you... as His Bride.

Oh, and just so we're all upfront about everything, I squeeze from the middle.


For as a young man marries a young woman, 
so shall your sons marry you, 
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, 
so shall your God rejoice over you.  

Isaiah 62:5




If you have stumbled onto my blog and are wondering, "What the heck is this chick talking about?" start here and work your way forward.  There is logic in this madness, I promise.



Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Power and Love in the Face of Fear

Yesterday was a terrible day.

I've had just those 5 words on the page since 8 am this morning.  I have so much to say and yet I don't know what to say.  It feels like we said it all the last time.  Because sadly, there was a last time.  And a time before that.  And also before that.

It's so easy to ask, "What is this world coming to?"  Truth is the world is what it has always been.  Very, very broken.

This is what evil does, my friends.  The enemy is for real and he is the prince of this world.  He came to steal, kill and destroy, and he does exactly that every single day.

The urgency and the burden I feel for the Gospel right now is palpable.  People are walking through this broken world with no hope.  What a pity it would be if the people who know that hope are too consumed to share it.

My sister-in-law gave me this cross for my birthday last week.  I was really touched by this gift because no matter what I've said before, I may have a little fear about this upcoming trip.  And she said that's exactly why she picked it.



I've spoken these words many, many times- over other people and over myself.  I always stopped short though.  "The Lord did not give us a spirit of fear," and that's it.  Now I see the really good stuff comes after that.

God has not given us a spirit of fear - no!  He has given us a spirit, His Spirit, of power and love and self control!  Think of yourself walking in this Spirit, powerful and strong, full of holy and righteous love for your neighbor, all filtered though the wisdom and sound judgement of being perfectly aligned with will of your Heavenly Father.

Be discerning.  A spirit of fear is not from God and it's no surprise that fear is the root of much sin: apathy, selfishness, hard-heartedness.  Anger.  Disunity.  Grasping and striving to get what's 'ours'.  Who would desire to sow those seeds in the midst of yesterday's death and chaos?

I wonder....

There is another prince though, a good prince.  The Prince of Peace.  

Jesus.  

And He has already defeated the prince of this world.  Let the whole truth of that sink in.

Now take your Spirit of power and love and go spread hope in the face of fear.

act justly.  love mercy.  walk humbly.













Monday, October 2, 2017

The Weight of the Cross


It's hard for me, being the southern Bible Belt girl that I am, to imagine sharing the Gospel in places that have no reference point for it in syntax or in thought process.  Here in NC, even if a person doesn't believe, they know the lingo. They can fake the walk and the talk, putting the amens and the praying-for-you-bless-your-hearts in all the right places.  Kind of makes it easy to have 'the conversation' without ever really talking, though.  

And that's really not so much of an advantage, is it?

Preparation for this trip to Togo has challenged me to dig harder into my faith.  I know what I believe.  I know why I believe it.  Can I articulate it without being propped up by church lady talk and western values?

The country of Togo has a mix of religions - about 50% Animistic (being the birthplace of Voodoo and whatnot), 30% Christian and 20% Islamic.  The Akaselem people practice Islam, with some Animistic elements mixed in.  There are only two known Christians in the whole population of 60,000 Akaselem, and they have been ostracized from their communities.  That's daunting.  

Jesus says we are to pick up our crosses and follow Him.  I don't take the task of sharing this grace flippantly when I know that other people's crosses are not as light as mine.  My light cross has a purpose though.  It leaves strength meant for holding another's burden.

And this grace is worth it.  I know that down in my bones.  


He has saved us and called us
with a holy calling, 
not according to our works,
but according to His own purpose and grace,
which was given to us in Christ Jesus
before time began.
2 Timothy 1:9






Sunday, October 1, 2017

Folks, I'm going to Africa!

40 days. 

In 40 days, I'm going to Africa, to the tiny country of Togo with two other people as some of the first Christian missionaries to serve the unreached, unengaged Akaselem people of Tchamba.

This is my first mission trip.

There is only one word for this situation. 

Yikes!

Just kidding.

I'm really not nervous.  Really!  This is so far out of my realm of capability that I am in the wonderfully free state of being forced to trust my Daddy on this one.  And y'all, HE IS SO AWESOME!!

So I will be blogging here everyday to give you the down and dirty details of this wilderness journey.

Walk with me, will you?  I get bored without company.  And God is about to blow my mind, I just know it.  I want to share it with you.  He changes hearts in the very best way.

Also, admit it.  You like to read about other people's lives.

Tomorrow, my friend.  We'll have coffee and I'll tell you some more.

Until then, Nkojobo.

(That's 'goodnight' in Akaselem- see how much you've already learned!)

Friday, April 3, 2015

Give a Penny, Take a Penny.

Have you ever made a sacrifice for someone who really hurt you?

That's the question I'm asking myself this Good Friday morning.  And I'm having a hard time thinking of one.  It's a shame.

That's a level of forgiveness that I'm afraid I do not know.

There are people from my past that I've forgiven, and I have genuine compassion for them in my heart.  Given the chance, I'd like to act on that compassion, to let those people know that they are loved and forgiven and released, that it's all good because Jesus made it so.  I earnestly pray for glorious things for them and for God to gift us with reconciliation.  

But there are a couple of people that I cannot seem to forgive.  If I saw them today, I don't know that I could even sacrifice a courteous word out of my mouth in their direction.  

Sometimes, I'll find a little shred of compassion for them lying around.  I'll pick it up and hold it in my pocket for a while, but my pockets are shallow.  My compassion for them eventually slips its way out like a forgotten penny, and lays lost and sticky on a dirty sidewalk.

Give a penny, take a penny, right?  Give forgiveness and take it back.

That's not what God meant for us at all.

Jesus had so many opportunities to take our forgiveness back.  33 years worth of opportunities, really, but He never did.  Never once.  He kept trudging toward that hill, every faithful step forward, stooping to pick up our discarded pennies along the way and redeeming every single one of them.

Along the way, they met a man from Cyrene, Simon (the father of Rufus 
and Alexander), who was coming in from the fields; and they ordered him 
to carry the heavy crossbar of the cross.  And so they came at last to the execution site, a hill called Golgotha, which means the "Place of a Skull."  
-Mark 15:21-22

But at the very end, He needed help.  Not eternal Jesus, the only son of God- no, He is never weak, but the fully human package that He offered Himself in? Broken and faltering.  It was Simon of Cyrene who carried the cross this last part of the journey.

It feels blasphemous to type those words, but they are true.

Matthew 16:24 tells me to take up my cross and follow Jesus.  How do I carry that heavy crossbeam on my shoulders every day when I can't even carry a penny's worth of forgiveness in my pocket?  My human self is very, very weak.

I need a cross-bearer to carry what I cannot.  

I need a savior who knows my human frailty first hand and still stands up for me.  

And I need to admit that I am wrong.  I need to quit taking back my forgiveness and entrust it to Jesus instead.

The selfish part of me would just rather lay pinned on the ground under my cross than let Jesus carry it for me.  As long as I have my hands on it, then I believe I can exact justice the way I see fit.

However, if I leave my justice to Jesus, my enemies could have the same fate as me- redemption.  Sometimes that's a hard pill to swallow.

So my original question misses the mark.  Have I ever made a sacrifice for someone who really hurt me?  Of course not.  Because, truthfully, I am not capable.  None of us are really.  Only Jesus redeems.

God, though, knows how stubborn we are.  In His mercy and grace, He draws the way to Himself over and over. Through creation.  Through His word.  Through His Holy Spirit.  Through the person of His son.  And through the story of His people.

So, this is the God-picture that Simon of Cyrene paints for me, that God will lead me to a time when I can't make it on my own anymore.  Then I'll have to make a choice. 

I can lay crushed under my own unforgiveness.

I can leave it to litter the way for everyone else around me.

Or I can give it to someone stronger to carry.  Jesus show me how.

For Jesus is not some high priest who has no sympathy for our 
weaknesses and flaws. He has already been tested in every way that 
we are tested; but He emerged victorious, without failing God.   
-Hebrews 4:15







Thursday, February 26, 2015

Melting Grace

It snowed today.  Not much, but it did snow.  It's been 17 years since I've seen any winter weather more than a dusting.  I was happy but, let me tell you, the boy was ecstatic.  His little Alabama heart thought we had moved UP NORTH.


He had us all snow-creamed, eskimo-cloaked and scaling this frozen tundra well before 8 am this morning- good thing too because this slushy snow is melting fast.

I love the perfectness of snow.  The pure, clean stillness of it.  The glittering silence. That close-your-eyes-and-take-a-deep-breath smell.  It clears the air and shushes the chaos in my yard and in my mind.


The snow in my backyard covers all the worn things new again; dry grass dug raw by my dog is powdered and soothed.  Our broken fence and its fallen birdhouse are made quaint.  That shameful pile of bricks I knocked over in the driveway last fall...redeemed into a gleaming miniature Mt. Everest.


Can I just stay in this moment?

Do you know why winter air smells so clean?  Because frigid temperatures slow down the molecules that make up all the smells we smell.  Dirt and grass and slug trails, all those smells that we don't even register, are blanketed down by the cold so we can fill our senses with fresh nothingness.

I like to think of God's grace as being like the snow, covering all my rough and broken places, capping shame with glory.  It restores order to the chaos and sets things right.


When God created the heavens and the earth, he saw that each part was good.  Not because he sat for endless hours polishing and buffing and covering them with clean, white snow, but because, by his very nature, God defines good.  And when Jesus sits at God's right hand and whispers our names in his ear, God sees us as good too, flaws and all.

I walked outside this afternoon for one last breath of that winter air, and the sound of water overwhelmed me.  Water dripped from trees and trickled from the eaves.  It poured from the downspouts and pooled on the rocks below.  It sloshed under my feet, wetting my shoes, and I realized then that my desire for picture perfect grace has sold this grace very, very short.


Unlike the snow, this grace doesn't disappear in a day.  Or paint a study in perfection for us to stand back and watch.  And it would never, ever fill us up with nothing.  Instead, this grace is melting into living water all around us.  It seeps into broken places and soaks through rough patches.  It funnels deep within and nourishes new growth in dark hollows.  It moves and flows, swirling in and under and all around.  It changes us, washes us all clean, and because of this grace, HIS grace, God sees us through the lens of his son Jesus, and calls us good.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us,
 not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.  Titus 3:4-7


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Good Soil

I’ve wrecked my car 3 times in the past 6 months.  In my own driveway.  Twice I hit one car with the other and once I knocked over a brick retaining wall.  All because I can’t get my mind on what I’m doing.

I can’t remember things anymore either.  I miss appointments all the time, even when I write them down because I forget to look at my calendar.  

I forget birthdays.  I forget prescriptions.  I forget the laundry in the washer.  Forget to cook dinner.  Or even grocery shop for that matter.

I forget to record that odd check I wrote too… that’s always fun.

A few weeks ago, I forgot my dog in the car for a good part of the day.  Thank God it was cool outside and he was ok.

If ever there were a woman in need of rest, it is me.  The past two years have been filled with stressful events and it has taken a mighty toll on my soul.  The woman who used to juggle all-the-things with productivity to spare now measures any day that includes a shower as a good day.

I’m not sure where my old self went.  We even uprooted our family and moved 4 states away and I still can’t quite find her.  I think she’s gone and someone new is taking her place.

Someone humbled.  Someone less invested in this world. Someone slowly relenting.

Our new home in our new town has the most beautiful trees.  I’ve never seen fall like this before, brilliant oaks and maples encircle our yard like a warm city wall.  Orange and gold carpet the lawn as far as I can see.  And each time the wind blows, more leaves drift down like autumn butterflies and rest quietly on the ground.

It’s like they’ve relented too. 

Seasons change.  Spring grows.  Summer abounds.  Fall, however, is expected to yield her harvest to the Sower and make way for winter’s good rest.

The leaves are much more at peace with this process than I am.  It’s hard to watch beautiful things fade.  It’s hard to give up the red maple wonder of a season to the million little deaths that mark it’s end.  I know that winter rest brings spring growth, and we all need that time.  But I don’t rest.  I mourn the leaves when the leaves don’t mourn themselves.

Instead, the leaves trust that this season is their natural state.  This place is where they belong.  They know that only when they fall and crumble to the earth can the Sower make them into something new.  

The glorious, the brilliant, the withered - even the moth-eaten - He washes them all, one by one, with cool living water.  And dries them with the breath of life.

So these things are not lost, my friend.  In the palm of His hand, they become the very things that make the good soil.

But some seeds fell into good soil - soft, moist, 
free from thorns.  These seeds not only grew, 
but they also produced more seeds, a hundred 
times what the farmer originally planted.  
If you have ears, hear My meaning.     -Luke 8:8


A special thank you to The Boy who helped me write this.  He has quite a way with words...