Often life is hard, but God is always good

Archive for the ‘Missions’ Category

God Did It!

Photo Credit:  Angus MacRae

Photo Credit:
Angus MacRae

Your ways, God, are holy.

    What god is as great as our God?

You are the God who performs miracles;

    you display your power among the peoples. 

Psalm 77:13-14 (NIV)

At our church women’s conference, I eagerly reached into the basket to choose the necklace that carried the profound word that would strengthen me in this hard year.  Each one was unique, our pastor’s wife had informed us. When I turned the ivory square over in my palm, “Servant” was spelled out in calligraphy. My heart sank. “Servant” to me meant more housework and more of the needs of others to consider above my own.

I was so disappointed.

Later that year, I accompanied the youth mission team to Mexico as a Spanish interpreter and as the “mom” for the group. As I prepared my heart for the trip, the Scriptures that kept popping up were all about Jesus the servant and humble friend.

Especially poignant was my personal devotional reading on the Sunday we were to be commissioned before leaving:

“But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place,’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14: 10 NIV

I decided to wear my servant necklace daily as a reminder.

After the trip was over, on the airplane ride home, I obeyed a prompting of the Holy Spirit to find a private moment speak to our flight attendant, Kaley, and give her a special Scripture God had brought to mind which I had written on an airline napkin.

We stood together in the back of the plane. I gave her the napkin and explained why I had thought of her. She began crying and poured out her story in a few precious, uninterrupted moments. Then I returned to my seat satisfied with the outcome of the encounter.

As we prepared for our touchdown in Atlanta, Kaley came down the aisle and stopped at our row. Leaning over close, she said,

“I am convinced you are an angel. I saw your necklace and knew something was different about you. When I was telling you my story, my migraine went away completely. I was planning to go to the hospital when we arrived. My headache was so bad and my meds weren’t working. But it’s completely gone!”

What I love most is that it required so little effort on my part.

I had never witnessed a physical healing, or knowingly participated in one before. I had no clue that she had a debilitating headache. I didn’t touch her or even pray for her. I simply obeyed that inner nudge from the Holy Spirit to write down a Scripture on a napkin and find a private moment in which to give it to her.

God did it. He healed Kaley.

The gift was clearly for this young woman,, but it encouraged my faith,too. She came back to tell me what had occurred when she could have just praised God that she was healed.

God is powerful, but he uses us.

It’s such simple teamwork.

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Beautiful Dreamers

Photo Credit: Nicole Pierce

Photo Credit: Nicole Pierce

 “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.” Isaiah 54:2 (NIV)

“Ensancha el espacio de tu carpa, y despliega las cortinas de tu morada. ¡No te limites! Alarga tus cuerdas y refuerza tus estacas” Isaías 54:2 (NVI)

We are all dreamers – if we allow God to make us so.

Isaiah prophesies, “do not hold back”, and I think he is urging us to pursue our God-given visions.

The Holy Spirit stirs this ability in us to envision God’s purposes.  Another Old Testament prophet, Joel, proclaimed: “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” Joel 2:28 (NIV)

Dreams and visions – Sometime they start insignificantly – just an idea that pops into the mind, or something one sees that stirs the heart.

Certainly, literal dreams come to us in the night, but for me, a dream was born when I saw a tiny ad in a Christian magazine for teens, way way back in 1978. “Get Dirty For the Lord!” it read – “Come Join Teen Missions International and Work Hard for God This Summer.” A flood of adrenaline coursed through my veins and so the adventure began – going to a foreign country with an organization I had never heard of before.

I spent the summer of my fifteenth year in Manaus, Brasil, a five-day river boat trip up the Amazon River. I learned to mix concrete, lay bricks, sleep in a cloth hammock, read my Bible daily, and get along with thirty strangers in primitive conditions. That marked the beginning of numerous missionary trips, life-long Spanish language study, appreciation of foreign cultures, and cross-cultural friendships.

I didn’t know all that lay ahead when I first saw that one-color, 1/8th of a page magazine ad.

We can’t see around corners, and I believe that particular aspect of “dreaming dreams and seeing visions” is meant to keep us humble and dependent on the Lord’s omniscience and the Holy Spirit’s filling.

So, my friends, whether you are young or old, keep on dreaming!

¡No te limites! (“don’t limit yourself!”)

All Experience Required

Photo Credit: Kelvin Trautman

Photo Credit: Kelvin Trautman

“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1: 4-6 (NIV)

I find myself looking back in my life a lot more since hitting fifty. I am over that hill they talk about and the view from the other side ain’t so bad. An urgency to get things done, to pursue dreams, and to not waste time has set in and I am more brave than ever.

But the experiences of my life (and yours) are profoundly important, not because I succeeded in every endeavor or test, but more because God uses them to mold me and help others.

My adventure this summer (besides welcoming my first grandchild) was to accompany the youth group to Mexico as an adult helper – an interpreter and “mom” figure. The youth pastor told us all that we were to say “yes” to whatever ministry work we were asked to do, and so, when I was approached to preach a thirty-minute sermon in Spanish the next day (no preparation time allotted), I answered, “Sure!”

I rode back to the hotel in the van full of chatting and laughing students, scared silent and staring out of the window with a mind full of “Oh Lord, Help!” thoughts. We were driving through narrow streets with brightly painted adobe walls on either side that were used as the Mexican version of billboards. One advertisement I passed said (translated from Spanish) “More than 35 years of experience!”

My conversion to Christianity, accepting Jesus as Lord in my heart and life, happened 35 and a half years ago! Needless to say, I was greatly encouraged to hear from the Lord that my experience of knowing Him was the requirement, not experience in preaching. I rocked that sermon, by the way!

Some of my past I would like to excise from my history, but long ago the Lord reminded me that He could (and would) transform each part and work it into the whole of my life experience. Healing from wounds has come in the form of time, counseling, encounters with the Holy Spirit, and the love of friends. I didn’t transform all my life events into something good by my own efforts, though I was a willing partner in the process.

All of our experience is required, not just for our personal growth into God’s design for our life, but for the sake of others. Amazingly, as a middle-aged (or “over the hill”) youth helper in Mexico, I was very relatable. One girl said, “It’s like you’re a teenager!” and I replied, “My 18-year-old is still inside me!”

So is the stuttering elementary school girl, the nervous college freshmen, the new bride, and the first time mom. All the pain, the failure, the victory, and the surrender to God mix together into a life that God uses. When we are in the midst of the pain of a life experience let’s hold onto this hope.

 

Do I Enjoy My Gifts?

Photo Credit: Hannah M. Covert

“How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! 
People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house;
 you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; 
in your light we see light.” Psalm 36:7-9 NIV

So I speak a second language, with some gaps and imperfections, but enough to truly make friends. That is why I learned Spanish. The youth group at my church needed another adult to go to Mexico on the mission trip – a mother, a person who spoke some Spanish. So I went this month and now I am back and I am happy beyond measuring, overflowing with the goodness of God to open up another opportunity to go and make friends in a Spanish-speaking country.

Dylan, another leader on the trip who knows German from his missionary years in Austria, gave me the compliment of saying I expressed “Genießen” (Ge•nee•sen) a German word that means that I really really enjoyed every piece and every moment of the trip, which I did – every sweaty, tiring, stretching minute, and each fascinating person, interesting place, and real touch of the Holy Spirit.

What delights we are given every day. So small sometimes. So precious nonetheless.

My friend Carol recently wrote about her enjoyment of her surroundings: “Watching the rain roll in before supper time while sitting out in the screened-in sun room, the sound of the wind in the leaves, and soft little thunder that quickly passed over reminded me to just witness how everything shifts and changes moment by moment. Noticing these small parts of life instead of rushing around brings more ease and I feel like just being alive and awake is a treasure; nothing fancy -just paying attention with soft eyes of loving my life, as it is, in all its wonderful imperfections.”

God is called the Father of Lights in the epistle to James: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17 NIV

Savor the gifts.

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