Friday, March 25, 2011

On the Verge of a Breakthrough

As I think about going back to Bolivia, I am excited.  In fact, I feel like I am on the verge of a breakthrough.  A personal breakthrough.  A spiritual breakthrough.  I am more excited about my future than I have ever been.

People often ask us if Cochabamba is really our home or do we feel more at home here in the States.  I have a couple of different answers, but I'll share just one of them here.  Truly I feel as if I don't have a real home.  I'm not at home anymore here in the States, I just don't 'fit'.   I'm not Bolivian, so I'll always be a foreigner there.  I guess the short answer is that I feel like I don't belong anywhere.  I feel like a foreigner where ever I am, but I think that is a good thing.  I embrace it.  It reminds me that this world really is not my home.  I'm only gonna live here on earth for a short while.  There is so much more.  So much beyond this life.  So much I need to prepare for in this life.  I'm glad to not feel tied down to this life.  I want to free myself even more.  I want to be free to follow Jesus where ever He leads.  I want to lay aside every weight that slows me down on my journey.  We all know that possessions weigh us down.  They take our time, our energy and give us back nothing in return.  I Peter 1:17-18 tells us """And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time as “foreigners in the land.” For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors."    I no longer want to live that 'empty life' and more and more clearly everyday God is showing me what an empty life this one can be. 

People also sometimes tell us that what we're doing...selling all our possessions and moving to another part of the world to join God in His work something special or great or more than most.   I've found that Christians in particular like to categorize people.  It makes us feel like we are in control if we can put everyone into a certain box.  We can then judge them by their 'box' and we don't have to deal with the messy parts of seeing one another as the complicated beings that we are.  Anyway, I digress (yet again).   Personally I know we haven't done anything great or outstanding.  All we've done is taken one more step on our journey.  I'll admit it is an exciting one and one that makes me greatly anticipate the next, but it's just one step in our journey of following God.

I grew up in a Christian home where my parents knew and loved God and wanted me to do the same.  I knew early in my childhood that the Lord of the universe, the Creator or all life, was calling me, a five year old little girl, to become His follower.  Wow!  I responded to that call and I have NEVER been the same.  Over the next few years I learned that God speaks very clearly to His children no matter what age they are.  I knew by age 10 that He had something special for me and I committed to following Him no matter what that was or what it meant.  Over the next 40 years or so since then I've heard His Spirit continue to lead me and I have had to make that same commitment to follow Him no matter what that means over and over again.

One Sunday when I was a young girl still in elementary school the Holy Spirit nudged me to give away all my money to some missionaries that I learned about in church.  All of it!  Not small change, not just some, not even a large percent of my money, but everything I had.  All $40 of it.  Then beyond that He laid it on my heart to save all my money over the next year and do the same with it.  So I socked all my money away over that next year and the next Christmas I gave everything I had saved for the entire year to the foreign missionaries.  I'm sure I probably did without some stuff that I wanted during that year.  I'm sure at the time I felt like I was making some big sacrifice, but to be honest with you I don't remember what I had to do without, what I had to give up, in order to follow God's leading in my life.  But I'll tell you what I do remember.  I remember the joy I felt as I gave all my savings.  I remember feeling like God was pleased with me for my obedience.

After Joe and I were married we have dealt many times with following the leadership of the Holy Spirit:
  • We have committed our lives to Him vocationally, to serve Him as we serve His bride, His body.  
  • We have given away all our savings on one more than one occasion to more than one missionary.  (See, God in His goodness was preparing my little heart for this way back as a girl.  He wanted to show me that He was faithful and that I could trust Him.)  One time we were saving for a car, so we could replace ours in a few years or so we thought.  Just about the time we had enough saved up enough for a car, God asked us to give it all away so that a missionary in the Philippines could buy a van he needed for his ministry.  See we thought we were saving for us, but really we had been saving for a car to be used somewhere else in God's kingdom.  He is so much bigger than we are and has such bigger plans than we do.  
  • We have trusted Him with the size of our family, giving our plans over to His leadership and now as I look at each one of my children, I am so thankful for every one.  Every one has made my life richer.  I can not imagine not having any of my 11 beautiful children.
  • I have followed Him as He lead me to school our children at home so that I could spend time with them and disciple them.
  • We took another step on our faith journey when the Lord called us to plant a church in Colorado instead of taking an easier path we had been offered close to home and family.  Joe was in his last semester of seminary and we didn't know anything about church planting.  Yet God worked as only He can to show us that He was calling us to start a church and to share the Good News with people in an unchurched/unreached area of Colorado. 
  • We continued to follow God's leading as we adopted our two precious boys from South Korea.
  • Sometime in there we were contacted by Blue Ridge Bible Church to see if Joe was interested in being their pastor.  Of course he was not.  Not that they were not a great church, but we knew we were where God wanted us.  But then He began speaking once again and we began packing once again as we followed Him even further away from 'home', but more deeply into His work.
  • Then about 5 years ago He spoke once again and asked us to sell all our possessions and follow Him like Abraham a land He would show us.  We didn't even know where we'd be going this time.  But, He had prepared us and shown us His faithfulness through all our other steps of faith, so this one was just one more.  
At each step I've had to decide am I going to trust God and do what He is asking having faith that He is leading me to something even better for me.  Something that will continue to mold me into the person He wants me to be.  So really I guess to me this 'big decision' we've made to sell everything we have, move further away from 'home' to where we no longer have a 'home', to leave everyone, even our family, our older children and our parents to be a part of working in His kingdom in another place is another way is just one more step in our journey of faith.  I know that I can trust Him with this because He has proven Himself faithful to me over and over again since I was five years old.  I feel like I understand so much more about God, His kingdom and the way He operates than I ever would have if I had not taken each step on my journey.

Now once again as we begin to prepare what our next term in Cochabamba will look like, I feel like I am on the edge of a cliff and I'm getting ready to jump off.  I feel like God is preparing me to take the next step, but this time I think it just might be more than a step, perhaps a leap.  A leap to know Him better and I am excited about what that might mean.  I think He has incredible things in my future.  I am waiting with great anticipation to see what He is going to do now.  Now that we have our first term under our belts, now that we understand a bit of the culture and people I feel like we are, that I am, on the brink of something BIG and exciting.  Even though some of the steps we've taken up to this point might seem to be 'big ones' I feel like they've all just been preparing me for one that's coming in the near future.  I don't know exactly what God will call me to do next, but I do know by His grace I will do it.

I've been reading the story of the rich young ruler everyday for the past several days.  He was on the verge of a breakthrough too.  I am blown away by the opportunity that Jesus offered him and yet he turned it down.  He chose to not take the next step even though from his childhood he had followed what God had required.  Here he came to a place where he knew there was more.  Here he was standing in front of God himself and do you know what Jesus offered him?  He offered him an opportunity to walk with him, to learn from him, to be with him and experience His ministry, His life up close and personal.  Jesus said go and sell all your possessions (which is the part that we often focus on) and then come and follow me.  All three tellings of the story in the gospels say that Jesus said to him, "Then come and follow me."  WOW!  Jesus said if you loosen yourself from all this stuff you have I am giving you an opportunity to follow me and learn from me and be with me.  He could have been one of the disciples, but instead he went away sad because He had so much stuff.  He wasn't willing to take the next step.  He had followed God's teaching until now, but here he had reached a point where it became too much for him.  He made the decision to not follow any further.  I don't know how much he had, I know it was a lot, but I guarantee that today he knows that he chose poorly.  I guarantee if he could go back and give everything he had to have that opportunity to follow Jesus again he would take matter what it cost.  Mark, in his telling of the story, says that Jesus felt genuine love for this guy.  He wasn't telling him to sell everything he had and give it to the poor to punish him.  He said it because of His great love for him.  He said it so the man could be free from what tied him to this world so he focus on God's true kingdom.  He said it so that the man would be free to follow Jesus.  Not as we do by following what He taught while He was alive here on earth, but in real life, in the flesh following Jesus.  This man was given the chance to follow Jesus and the flesh.  What an opportunity.  What a missed opportunity.  What a sad choice he made.  God help me not to make the same choice whatever you ask of me, but prepare my heart to be willing to make the leap of faith and follow you into the world.  By faith and in your Spirit, where ever you lead, I'll go.  I'm ready to leap.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Discouragement and Encouragement

Today I've been thinking about how easy it is for me to get discouraged lately.  I don't think I am typically someone who feels discouraged easily.  This seems to be a recent phenomenon.  Usually it takes a lot to discourage me.  Maybe I've been feeling discouraged more recently just because I don't feel like I belong anywhere these days.  (I'm thinking of a whole post on this later.)  But for now it seems that any little thing makes me want to have my very own pity party for one and sing the old song "Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I'm going out to eat worms".  Yes, for those of you who don't know, it is a real song.  Well I haven't gotten to the worm eating part yet, but just because I'm wise enough to eat some chocolate instead. 

I'm not sure why it's so easy for us to be discouraged.  Maybe it's partially the fault of our American society that has raised a generation of critical people who tend to tear people and their ideas down instead of encouraging them and building them up.  It could be that our churches or other groups of Christians have caused us to feel like we just don't measure up to some standard.  It could even be a spiritual attack from our enemy.  Whatever the reason, we can be easily discouraged.  We can become discouraged when our children make wrong choices and we know they know better.  We can become discouraged when we hear of a party that we aren't invited to.  We can become discouraged when we don't seem to have any close friends.  We can even become discouraged because we see someone that we believe has it all together and we know that we don't. 

No matter how we get there and whether or not it is hard or easy for us to become discouraged, we have all been there. We've all been discouraged.  We all know the pain of discouragement and the desire to just give up the fight.  We are human.  We at times feel defeated, unwanted, unloved, unmotivated and these feelings make us want to just stop trying.  Stop forging ahead and just resign ourselves to just getting by.  But God has so much more than that for us.  He wants us to not to be overcome, but to be overcomers.  Not to just make do and get by, but to forge ahead for His kingdom and in His name. 

Understanding my fragile emotional state of late helps me realize the importance for us as Christians to keep on encouraging one another.  Several times in the Bible we are told to encourage one another...even daily.  I think we need to be encouraged daily because it is so easy for us to become discouraged.  How can I encourage someone else?  We can encourage others with our words and with our actions.  Have you ever met someone who was an encourager?  Someone who seems to build up everyone they are around?  It doesn't take a lot to encourage someone.  For example,  here's just a partial list of things off  the top of my head that have encouraged me in the past few days:
  • A card from a friend telling me that she is praying for me.
  • A phone call just to chat.
  • Dinner out with friends.
  • Lunch with my parents.
  • Watching my kids play together and tenderly care for one another.
  • Watching my kids make new friends.
  • A long overdue coffee date with another mom.
  • Chocolates in the mail.
  • Flowers from Jake.
  • A date with my honey.
  • Reading the books of Luke and Acts.
  • Hearing about God at work in other parts of the world.
  • A friend's news that he is going on his first short term mission trip.
  • Cupcakes baked and delivered by a friend.
  • Hearing the stories of kids in AWANA who want to be missionaries when they grow up.
  • The excitement of kids as they earn and save money to care for children in an orphanage.
  • Helping a friend complete one of her long overdue tasks.
  • Meeting a group of elderly ladies that pray for my family on a regular basis.
Each of these things encouraged me and helped drive away my discouragement and even made me feel like they were prompted by God just to encourage me and to keep on going.  I am so grateful for each one.
What can you do to encourage someone today?


Thursday, March 3, 2011

I Want to Be Where You Are

Mercy is a momma's girl....although she's turning into a mamita's girl too (mamita means little other words Faith's girl) .  She doesn't want mommy too far out of her sight.  She likes to be near me.  She sits on the island while I am cooking, she sits in my lap when we are watching movies, she asks to sit beside me (the highly coveted seat) at lunch and dinner.  She misses sitting in my lap when we go on car trips.  Those pesky US car seat and seat belt laws.  :>)  She knocks on the door when I am in the bathroom.  She comes in when I am in the bathtub just to chat.  When she is proud of her work she wants to show it to me and have my approval...even if it is her artistic rendering on the side of my desk or on the wall.  She takes a nap in the school room on the couch so she can be near me while she sleeps.  When she is hurt she wants me to comfort her and give her a band-aid because that fixes everything.  When she is sick she wants me to doctor her.  This week she had to get some immunizations and her leg hurt and she wanted me to carry her everywhere.  She wants to be right where I am because she knows I'm her momma and that I love her and she loves me right back.

As I thought about that I realized that I am like that with my Heavenly Father.  I want to be right where He is.  When I hurt I want, I need, His comfort.  When I am proud of something I have done, I desire His approval above all others.  When I need advice, I want to know what He has to say.  When I am weak, I need Him to carry me.  When I am tired, I need His strength.  When I am empty, I need His Spirit to fill me.  I just want to be near Him.  To enjoy Him.  His strength.  I gain security in His presence.  When I feel uncertain, I gain confidence in His love....knowing that He loves me despite all my failures...that nothing I do changes His love for me.  I pray I never outgrow wanting/needing to be with my Heavenly Father.  Right where He is.  Close by so He can give me just what I need whether it is correction or comfort.