Saturday, March 28, 2015

You are our hope

Anthony attended one day of the annual meeting of the Baptist Union in Uganda a couple of days ago.   It was a good time to renew friendships formed in the ‘old days’ – aka 20 years ago!  They reminisced of bachelorhood, and early youth work around the country.  It is really something to be known and to know other believers.

At some point, the speaker mentioned that Anthony’s wife was sick, and asked him to come forward to update the group.   I got a text that afternoon from him that read: “you were just prophesied for, congratulations.”
Someone prayed for me, and apparently included ‘denying my disease,  I prophesy that the sickness has no power in the name of Jesus…’

One in attendance at that meeting is a pastor of a small church in my town.  He knew Anthony from years gone by, and graduated from the seminary a number of years ago.  His son is a current student at the seminary who has been in our home study group this year.  This pastor came by to pray for me this afternoon.
In his prayer, he reminded us all of half a dozen scriptures about how God leads us, that what He began He will complete, that all is for His own glory. That when Jesus prayed for Lazarus and a boy, He raised His eyes toward heaven and thanked God for hearing Him, that when we call with a pure heart God is sure to hear us.  He prayed for God’s ultimate will to be done, and asked that it be my healing for His glory.

If you know me, you know I know that God is able to do all things.  But I do not believe He has to answer my way because I or anyone else use the right series of words and don’t like the current situation.  Some who have not traveled to my home, do not understand the gravity of the ‘name it and claim it’ theology that has invaded so many churches here.  It is a mixture of their cultural calling to witch doctors (still very much practiced).  Something is done just right or often paid in return for whatever they want done by the witch doctor.

How can we forget: “THY will be done, THY kingdom come…”?

And I thought about something: the difference in these two prayers is not their sincerity, is not in whom they are praying to, is not one’s absence of love and concern.  But the later has a better understanding of WHO God IS.  The one who was trained has a foundation of knowing that God’s word lives and breathes in him.   This pastor who prayed for me was a testimony to me of how important what we are doing here really is.
We do not want to leave behind a body of believers who think God can be called on to do our will, because it is so deep in their culture to see religion that way.
We do not want only to lead people to know Christ. 

It is our heart’s passion to lead people to follow Christ.  And moreso to train national leaders to take this passion far to where they are – further than we can go.

I told this pastor that we have come to realize some things this week.

Different individuals told each of Anthony and I they didn’t know what would happen to the places we pour ourselves if we leave.  One said to Anthony, “You are our hope, what will we do if you leave?”
And that statement is a great testimony to an important reminder for me.

I did not want the attention of so many people knowing about my health struggle, I don’t like the attention.   But now, so many people are watching and waiting.  Many have thought through the realities of the real jobs we do being suddenly empty.

At our church

And I want everyone to see:
I know God’s got me.  I know He has a plan for me.  I know he leads me and will guide me to where our family needs to be.
God’s got these jobs too!   Man is not the hope to do these jobs.   How dare I continue to worry about how God will provide in our possible absence?!

I should not panic.     And those around should not panic either.  We are mere instruments and God is great.

He’s got this.

And if you’re still reading, I have a few more thoughts…

I read a passage in Isaiah the other day.  Where I picked up the story is when the Israelites were being recorded as a stubborn and rebellious people.  Don’t forget that they were God’s people!

Because they despised His Word
    Because they trusted in human means (oppression, perverseness)
      Because they relied on human means to come through for them
Therefore, they would fall, suddenly, when not prepared.  Smashed ruthlessly.

“…And YHWH GOD, the HOLY ONE of Israel spoke more!

In returning or in repentance, and in rest you shall be saved.
(BEING) in quietness and rest:    shall be your strength.

Want strength to do what is required and bear what is on you?
Keep a calm attitude, by continual dependence on God.
Yet will He wait / Therefore He waits
He waits for us!  He is waiting!
He waits to show grace, to BE gracious to you,
And yet He exalts Himself to show mercy on you.

For the LORD YHWH is a God of justice
He is wise and just and true to His Word.
Blessed are those who wait—for—HIM.
Don’t wait for a result, for a decision.
Make God alone your confidence.
He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry!

And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your teacher will not hide himself…!

And your ears will hear a word behind you,
Maybe you can not see Him, but He can still direct and prompt you
“This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or to the left.

Then you will loath…           
…your sin, whatever has separated you from Him,
Whatever you have allowed to crowd Him out
to take your time away from BEING.  From WAITING on Him.
Whatever has distracted your focus off of Jesus.

Do I loath my sin?  Do I crucify my fleshly desires?
Do I abandon my selfishness and abide in Christ?

And He will give rain for the seed with which you sow in the ground
Till your heart soil!
Plant Him.  Work at it.
Sacrifice and toil your heart soil.
God is waiting to grow mercy and grace in abundance!
And on every lofty mountain and every high hill
There will be brooks running with water
In the day…  
That your enemy, sin, falls.
When your selfishness is slaughtered.
When your plans and your hope in man is no longer relevant.

In the day when the LORD binds up the brokenness of His people…

You shall have a song as in the night when a holy feast is kept
Remember the times with other believers worshiping into the night?
And gladness of heart,
As when one sets out the sound of the flute to go to the mountain of the LORD,
To the Rock of Israel…”
 Our rock.  Our hope.

[paraphrase of parts of Isaiah 30]

Thursday, March 12, 2015

School beside the Nile

This is right in front of the porch of our little school, and shows one of our two classes.  Behind the kids is the Nile River.     And don't forget the rope swing fun.

These kids have a lot of transition, but are amazing kids with a great God.

And I will never tire of looking out the side yard of the school...watching little fishing boats, ripples of the current, birds swooping down for fish...

Friday, February 20, 2015

A different kind of side-line bench

I’m at a week long “Mentor Training” with my company.  We have focused a great deal of time on Millennials – as many new personnel are in that generation.   I saw them called YOLOs and only found out yesterday what that stands for.  Maybe most of you know, but I live in Africa!   You Only Live Once

This week, it was funny for me to realize I was sitting in the ‘mature’ group when the ‘young people’ came as a panel for discussion.    The young people want mentors, but don’t know how to ask or what that would look like.  The old people don’t really know how to ‘be a mentor’ either.    Some things it should not be, we all agree, is another task on our plate to juggle or box to check off.  That in a company, it is very difficult to have ‘mentor-vision’:  a mentor relationship combined with a supervision job expectation.     Mentoring is perhaps done on a more casual – albeit intentional – way.

And another familiar statement was made again this week: about how in the recent 10-20 years all the little league kids get trophies, even the ones on the side-lines who never get out and actually make a play.

It got me to thinking about a side-line kind of life metaphor.

My family’s job is to be off the bench, on the front lines playing. 
Many colleagues are in a rough field like American football, or the lonely track of a distance runner or swimmer, or in an understated game like chess that requires a great deal of planning and calculating of every move or conversation or risk literal knocking out of the game or worse.

Often the audience sits, watching, waiting, for the player to make a shot, make the time, make the great move.  Then replay and talk about how their favorite player did such a great or lousy job or how the odds were stacked against them.

I have recently felt like I’ve been ‘sent to the bench’.  Like a book that’s been useful and is now being put back up on the shelf.  I’ve heard lots of times that the 3 big things that take my colleague out of ‘the game’  are problems in marriage, in team, or medical.       We personally have dealt with marriage struggles, and both knew that ultimately we had a lot of control over what happens there.   We have struggled with team issues – when we only could work on our side with no control over the other.  And both were hard.  Whether it’s all up to you to do what’s hard sometimes, or when half of it is unknown and not up to you.  In so many life issues, it is our choice to learn how to die to self.  And sometimes we do better with that than others.  Millenials are termed selfish.   We older ‘mature’ people may not show it so unabashedly, but we are all selfish too.
And now, it seems my little family is dealing with the last of the big three in that list: medical.  And this one, we have so little control over.
The question that hangs is ‘will it take us out of this particular ‘game’?’  We have to wait how the plays go, how the moves are made, and a lot more is on the line than just a scoreboard or winning streak statistic.  What will the team do if it looses some players?    What will the players do if they loose their team?

I’ve been pretty mad, and sad, and resistant to being taken out of the game to sit on a bench for a while.
My girls ask me why I can’t just take good medicine and get better?  Why did God do this or let this happen-for what purpose?  Will I ever be able to do this or that again?  The simple questions that they whisper out loud, and which I have to admit that I have screamed in silence.
My medicine is poison.  I’ve finally gotten off all the 10 years of what we like to term ‘baby weight’:  a silver lining to weight loss due to my body not liking taking poison.  And now, I am forced to sitting around and eating bonbons.  That sounds like fun, but not to someone who wants to be on the playing field and thought that was their position on the team.

So how do you sit on the bench when you thought your place was out with the team?

Or maybe for you the question is how to do more than just cheer from afar?

Or how do you keep up with a team when you have a secret problem?

Or how do you get those around you to respect you in your position?

Or how do you start really caring at all, really?

How desperate are you?   Are we?   Will we move from wallowing in the questions?

We have had 3 mornings of powerful encouragement at this conference from different men on our global team. 
1     1.     We have to die to self. 
2     2.     Be desperate
3     3.     Pick up after hard times or failures or disappointments, allow grace in our lives, and get on with tending and feeding His sheep.

In His infinite grace, Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?”
He didn’t chastise for Peter only thinking of him-self and running to hide.
      “….tend my sheep”
And two more times Jesus asked, “Do you love me?”     ME:  Jesus.  Are you desperate for ME: Christ?

Yes?  Then allow His grace and pick up from where you are and find your way to loving Him with all that is in you.  And find your way to tend and feed.

God has shown me that I may be sent to the sidelines for a time, and that I won’t get a trophy for sitting around waiting and feeling sorry for myself.   Even on this bench, He is calling me to be desperate for Him and to find some unique ways to still be part of the team.  Part of the Body.

I don’t like it.  My team doesn’t like it.   But it’s not about me—really.  
I think it is all about me…what if I get a secondary infection and can’t fight it?…what if this little poison doesn’t get me to where I need to get and I  need more poison?  What if this rest doesn’t work for me?   Do you hear me God!?

The question above and around and foundationally is:  Do you love me: Christ?

He has grace enough.

We need grace enough.

We need to extend grace,
      encourage with grace,
            and receive grace.


I have not mentioned yet what this medical issue is.  
It is an auto-immune disease.  My body has an over-active and confused immune system, such that it thinks my cartilage is enemy.  So I attack my joints by destroying the cartilage which produces pain, swelling, and often disfiguring and irreversible damage.  The treatments are aimed at lowering the immune system so that it stops attacking joints – to prevent full disability.   The side effects other than a large number of aching joints are from the medicines themselves, and the risk of other infections that your body is not able to fight against.
Not being around sick people is important.  Having good medical care is important.  And getting a bothering amount of sleep is important for the body to recover every day.  Being an $800 plane ticket away from a specialist is not high on the wanted list when things are still out of wack.

My goal is to get enough rest that hopefully will work in conjunction with my current medication and modified eating plan, and that will in turn get my system to settle down.  In the past eight months, my swollen joint count has dropped from over 30 joints to under 20.   That is the right direction, but not far enough.

This is Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

I'm trading

Jan 10, 2015

I might call this coming out of hiding, or out of a long snow.  It's been a while since I've written here!

The sub-title I gave this blog 8 years ago:  Living in East Africa—though the eyes of parents and two growing girls.

I’ve mostly written about the girls growing up, adventures we take, ministry and things we do that we are passionate about.  Yes.
I have spent a few months reading many other amazing professional or trained writers/bloggers and been inspired by them.   Laughed.  Cried. Felt deeply touched.  Compassion.  Agreement.  Outrage.
And also found myself unable to feel I have much to offer when there are so many amazing writers out there with thousands of followers.

I handed, this week, a stack of teaching books to someone else.  I handed the particular stack in the subject I am most qualified professionally and have 18 years of doing, and learning, and experience in.  One of the things I love.  And while it felt like a weight was going along with the stack, I also felt like one thing I do well is literally walking out the door.

And I read again the newly familiar tune that, among many other recommendations, I should be sleeping 8-12 hours per day.

“I’m trading my sickness.  I’m trading my pain.  I’m trading them all, for…”
        what is it?
         “…the joy of the Lord.”

My meandering thoughts began with a page of a book I haven’t been able to get past.  For two months.     And it’s a borrowed book I need to get finished with and return!  It’s a book with a cover that does not make me interested to read, but was recommended before a trip I took so thought I’d see for myself.

And here is what I have read over and over and not been able to turn to the next page: 

“Your yes won’t look like anyone else’s yes; it will be completely one-of-a-kind, just like you.  Beth Moore explains it perfectly: ‘Who are you supposed to look like in your calling here on earth and in the way you follow Christ?  You’re supposed to look like the version of you that loves Jesus with everything in you.’
That’s the real you.
And that’s the road on which you will find what He put you on the planet to do.  You don’t have to figure out what to surrender to.  Just surrender your heart to Jesus.  Every single ounce of it.  Ask Him to give you a love for Him that surpasses anything in your human experience, a supernatural capacity.  Ask Him for it every day until He does it, and then ask Him to do it some more.”

My word for the year that has filled my soul:  Desperate.
Can I dare to be desperate enough?  Can I follow through with not thinking about the what, but replacing it with Christ?  Replacing it with the joy of the Lord.  His joy.  Not mine, ‘cause I don’t always feel it just because I should.

And, can I be desperate enough to make some major changes in my life for my health?  I have the affliction of making sure to take care of things here and there, and people here and there, and often ‘run out of time’ to do anything out of the way to take care of my health. 

Now I can’t open a new jar, can’t pour from a glass pitcher, can’t write by hand more than a page, can’t take a pot out of the oven without wincing…or even cookies. If I scrub the layer of dirt off my potatoes, then I can’t cut them up.   I can’t choose to take the stairs, or walk barefoot in my home.  I have to ask someone else to open my water bottle, to occasionally cut food on my plate.   No more gum, ice, or biting into an apple.

And also,
I can’t write about a road like the blogger of “Mundane Faithfulness” either.  (recent post is titled “By Degrees:  Living and Dying” about her husband having to call hospice for her that day.  That growing is a process, living is a process, and even dying happens sometimes in small degrees.)

What do we do when we feel stuck in the middle of kindof crummy personal circumstances that aren’t anywhere near the struggle of so many others?

Well, maybe it’s let go of my stack of books & responsibilities,
  let go of our preconceived notions of how we thought it was suppose to be, 
     let go of comparing ourselves to others either above or below our own circumstance,
       let go of wishing things were different either out of you or in your own soul,
          let go of the sorrow brought on by others,
and trade them all for the Lord’s joy that can flow into us.  And ultimately through us.

“ ‘Who are you supposed to look like in your calling here on earth and in the way you follow Christ?  You’re supposed to look like the version of you that loves Jesus with everything in you.’
That’s the real you.

And that’s the road on which you will find what He put you on the planet to do. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

What we are here for

Yesterday, we stopped by an Indian run grocery shop.  We assumed they would be open on Easter Sunday for a last minute lunch item.  We shop there often, and Anthony has been intentional about being friends with the man who runs the shop.  Last Christmas we were here, he gave us a gift:  a bottle of cheap champagne.  =)   The thought was nice.

So, as I am paying out, Anthony asked this man if he knew that this was called Easter.  He said yes, but didn't know much about the holiday other than it was about the Jesus.   For the next several minutes, standing in the entrance area to the shop, Anthony naturally told this man about the history of Easter.  It was like friends talking and learning.  There was also a hindu conference that day with special speakers from all over Uganda and Kenya in our town, and we learned a little about what that was about.

As we girls were waiting for the conversation, one of the girls leaned over and said, "Let's wait.  This is why we are here in Uganda."

It is awesome to be able to think that this man knows a little more about Christ--a short gospel presentation, and why the day is so important for us to remember.
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