Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I am a Triangle

My mind has been sidetracked by circles, and squares, and triangles for several days. I've pondered my relation to all three and have decidedly determined I am a triangle. I'm ok with that. It just helps to know what I am. Let me explain.

A woman by the name of Naomi Hattaway has written an article on this entire subject that you can find here. If you don't read it, you'll still be able to follow. I once grew up, learned, lived, fell in love, and started a family in the good ole USA. There is so much I love about my country (especially the taste of beef, particularly hamburgers; oh, and Reese's peanut butter cups). Let's call the US a "circle country." We have our own culture, customs, traditions, holidays, styles, and ways of doing things (spoken & unspoken). One day I got on a plane and flew far away to Africa (Kenya). Kenya is a "square society" and has her own culture, customs, traditions, holidays, styles, and ways of doing things... I was immersed as a circle inside a square. However hard I tried, I would never be a square. NEVER! So, those of us in that situation, morphed into a new shape. We became triangles. Then, on another day (rather kicking & screaming at first), I hopped on another plane and came back to circle country. I was now a triangle in a circle land. I looked like a circle; spoke like a circle; dressed like a circle; but in my heart I knew I was a little bit different. Just a little bit. It was hard to figure out why, until I sat with this story for a while. I am a triangle. In my heart there are round bits and pieces of my culture, but there are also a few square bits, and, only those who are triangles really "get it."

My heart is filled with circle and square events, memories, people, and things I love. Those things have made me who I am. They aren't bad, just not always understood. It's why I love Thrive retreats. For a few days, I get to embrace being a triangle and laugh at our quirky ways, weep over the pain of life, reminisce over the way things were, connect with each other in discovery that you know who I know, and "let me tell you a funny memory I have about them"! We go DEEP fast, surface talk is non-existent, but Jesus' stories rule the bulk of conversation.

When all is said and done, though, the reality rises to the forefront that one day we will ALL be an entirely different shape altogether; but it it will be the same shape. It will be the shape of praise for the King of Kings who is enthroned above. The One who is creating for us a new land. A place where we will be at home, and truly be able to answer the question without hesitation, "Where are you from?"

I go to prepare a place for you...and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
Matthew 14:2-3

Monday, October 20, 2014

What is a Jesus-Traveler?

This week I traveled to Tanzania. Traveling is not my friend. The story of my traveling life is delayed flights...seriously. When they are on time I know I am abundantly blessed. Every leg of my journey was a sequence in delay, and, of course, with that came the concern that I'd make the next leg. There's not a thing you can do about delays; and, the reasons for them are valid. So, it doesn't do any good to fret, to fume, to gripe, or to complain. The best thing you can do is stay positive (it helps you, if nobody else), and prayerful. I squeaked onto each subsequent airplane, until the last one. By the time they took care of the routine maintenance that had to be done on my plane (the car's version of an oil change), my five co-travelers and I knew we would miss our flight out of Zurich to Dar Es Salaam. Unless......God chose to delay the Zurich flight for us. If anything, we would have missed it by about 20 minutes. I quickly sent out a prayer e-letter, asking for a miracle...

God had other plans; and, His ways are often higher than ours. I've learned to trust that fact. Just because we missed our flight (by the way, it was still sitting at the gate when we got to it, but there was NO ONE servicing the gate, so of course, there we stood watching our flight just sitting, and no way to get on it), also doesn't mean that He is any less GOOD, nor any less SOVEREIGN. I've learned to trust His character, as well. Now, we just needed to see what He had in store for the Thrive-Five (just for reference, Thrive - http://thriveministry.org - is the ministry I am serving with in TZ). The Father's heart was set on sending us to Istanbul, and giving us all an extra 8 hours to bond. I wasn't against that, but a 43 hour trip half-way across the globe wasn't exactly my idea of fun.

Then God...somehow, He always shows up, either gives us something to do, or something to learn. In this particular instance, it was something to learn. Just as we were getting ready to land in Zurich, I pulled out my Bible and journal, and began reading where I left off. God had a word for my Thrive-Five! It really was a word we'd need for the moment, and for many moments to come in my African-homeland. As I finished reading Peter's words to the dispersed church in his second book, he poses a question for the believers who are in the midst of some trials. Here's the question, and, it's worth pondering: "So what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness (vs 11 to the end of the chapter)?" He had my attention - how should I then live? Here was his word for us weary travelers (after all, aren't we ALL WEARY TRAVELERS in this land that's not our home)... He isn't shy about his response, and there are four BIGGIES.
We are to be WAITING PEOPLE. I don't know about you, but I DO NOT do waiting well. This IS NOT my home...so I must learn to WAIT, and wait always means with a heart of HOPE!

We are to be DILIGENT PEOPLE. Of course, we are to be found, hopefully without spot or blemish, but this was the best part: we are to be people diligent in peace. OK...that means we cultivate a restful heart in the midst of the weary traveling...

We are to be PATIENT PEOPLE. Naturally, He'd say "have patience" (and, actually, I could hear him singing the little Psalty the Song-Book Song I used to sing to my kids when they were little, just in a deeper voice).

We are to be GROWING PEOPLE.  Always seeking to grow in grace, leaning into Jesus, so we look a lot more LIKE Jesus.

It was a great reminder to me--- Here is what the heart of a Jesus-traveler really is like. They wait in hope with patience; they are diligent to cultivate peace in the midst of the pieces; and they seek to grow in the grace of The Lord Jesus Christ. It was a good word. A good lesson. And, Istanbul was a pretty fun airport! I'm glad I didn't miss it.

Monday, October 13, 2014


This past week, Bay and I took a pause in our week and drove up into the mountains to enjoy fall (I wholeheartedly agree with Anne of Green Gables, "I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers."). It's a shame to live where we do, and fail to take advantage of this season. So, in spite of the long to-do list sitting on my desk, and Bay's sitting on top of his Bible, we interrupted our work-routine, packed a lunch, and headed out. It was an interlude of sweet satisfaction and joy; and, probably the closest thing I'll experience to an African game drive in America. In fact, the feeling was the same. I've always said, I feel the most at peace when I'm in the wild! I'm fairly certain the grin on my face was frozen in place at the end of the day. Oh, my soul! While we weren't looking for animals (although we saw plenty of deer), we went to see the colors. What a display of grandeur! The Lord didn't disappoint. It was breath-taking, heart-stopping gorgeous! I took plenty of pictures, and while they don't do the sights justice, you will get an idea... 

God intentionally meant for pauses to fill our life.
In music, we have "rests."
In literature, we have "comma's."
In the Old Testament poetry, we have "Selah."
In the seasons, we have "fall." (The pause before winter, the time to enjoy the finished harvest)
In the midst of our week, we have "Sabbath." 

All week I have thought of our day away as a "Selah-moment." It was a structured pause in the middle of the rhythm of my life, that renewed my spirit, and brought joy to my soul. All throughout the day, I kept repeating to myself the following verse from Nehemiah, "For this day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength (8:10)." 

Since then, I have sat with Nehemiah's words, repeating them over and over to myself. It was a "holy day!" It certainly felt holy to me, but according to this verse, it was a holy day to the Lord, as well! As I've pondered the words and this thought, it struck me that my Lord loves it when we take Selah-moments, days of Sabbath rest, set-apart-days!  It's pleasing to Him. Why, then, do we tend to feel guilty when we indulge ourselves? Not only that, but the verse goes on to speak an oft quoted phrase, "the joy of the Lord is your strength." 

Ever thought about what that means exactly? It's rather an odd phrase, yet I have regularly explained it this way: Jesus is the JOY of God-the-Father, so then it's Jesus from whom our strength comes. After thinking about that verse, in lieu of our Selah-day away, I've another thought. Whenever I give my grand-children a home-run-gift that brings them joy, it brings me even greater joy. I LOVE it when I see something from my hands bring them pleasure. I think we've inherited that from our Creator. Don't you think that He gets great joy in what brings us the most pleasure? That joy-filled day of Sabbath was exactly what I needed right in the midst of the hustle and bustle of preparations to leave for Africa this week. Not only was it holy to the Lord, it was His joy!  I will bask in the glow of the memory and the filling up of my soul for days to come. That blessed day of enjoying loving gifts from God's creative hands certainly has strengthened me in the midst of craziness. The joy of the Lord (that which brought me joy) has, indeed, been my strength! 

However, the glow of Selah-days will fade, so I will need other days to pause and fill my cup. 
I/We all need Selah like a winter needs a fall!


"Even if something is left undone, 
everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn." 
Elizabeth Lawrence

Monday, October 6, 2014

What Else in What Next?

Let's just jump in, since this is a continuation from last week...the what else in the what next!  Here's my second default: Not only do I tend to coast, I'm also prone to wallowing. That word sounds better than to admit I can easily fall into self-pity; and, it certainly is a better word than calling self-pity what it really is: a victim mentality. However, I've been known to go there. It's a terrible place to be; and it is just so...so...so...self-defeating! There's a lot of "self" in self-pity. When self is at the controls, life can start to quickly spin right back out of control...

This week I was directed to a couple of good blogs on self-pity. I'll give you the links here, because there's really no sense in me repeating the lessons I learned from this particular writer, when you can read them for yourself. They are both fairly short, and I invite you to peruse them:
Why Self-Pity is Ruining Your Life
What Self-Pity is Costing You

Both these blogs focus on the why we shouldn't wallow. I want to focus on the practical get-out-of-the-muck-so-I-am-no-longer-stuck thoughts. However, first, maybe we should define self-pity. It looks like what Adam & Eve did in the garden. Self-pity hides and points fingers. Self-pity needs someone else to blame for why my life didn't go as I expected, hoped, or wanted. That, unfortunately, is life. There are two better biblical examples to look at if I REALLY WANT to be unstuck (keep in mind that some of us rather enjoy the pity-party we throw for ourselves, and we REALLY like inviting others to join us and give us the attention we so rightly-believe-we-deserve). So, my first question is: Do I really want out of this place of stuck?

Now then...if I want to move forward and quit recycling the hard in my brain, I ought to look at the lives of Joseph and Apostle Paul. If anybody had the right to feel sorry for themselves, these men did. Listen to their laundry list. Joseph: My brother's hated me; I had to endure their constant mocking; they never believed me; they always picked on me; they never included me; they rejected me; they plotted ways to get rid of me; ultimately, they threw me in a pit, sold me into slavery, and sent me into a foreign country (where I knew nobody, and even had to learn a new language). Then there was my master's wife - she constantly tempted me; she despised me when I wouldn't give in; she set me up, had me sent to prison. Prison - I was treated worse than an animal; talk about horrible food; no privacy; no warm showers; it was all I could do to make it to the next day...  That was Joseph's life. However, we never read these words in his story. He never wallows. He just gives the facts. Then Paul: beaten with rods, stoned, shipwrecked, in danger, danger, and more danger everywhere I went; I've been imprisoned, beaten more times than I can count, frequently faced death, and five times (FIVE TIMES) I was given the thirty-nine lashes and survived. This, not counting, the daily pressure upon me of concern for all the churches... Again, never a hint of a victim mentality, he simply tells the facts of his story.

What was the key these men held? Here's what I've learned personally. THEY SAW THE BIGGER PICTURE!
They knew God had designed them, chosen them, called them, and set them apart for a mission greater than their problems.  Joseph's words, "God sent me here with purpose (Genesis 45:5 & 7)." Paul's words, "Now, I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel... (Philippians 1:12)."

They trusted God in spite of their hardship, knowing "in the fulness of time," God's plans would prevail (Proverbs 19:21).

For both, in their own way, the Lord allowed them to see "Manasseh and Ephraim" (Joseph's sons, aptly named). God graciously let them forget the hard (of course, they didn't forget forget; God helped them not to dwell on the difficulty) - Manasseh.  Secondly, God allowed them to see fruitfulness even in the land of their affliction - Ephraim. In the middle of the tough stuff, they found a ministry to others as they lived lives of integrity, responsibility, and hope.

So, new perspectacles for "after the hard" in the what next. When tempted to wallow, act like a victim, I choose to remember 1) God's plan is always greater than my suffering, 2) I am on a mission with God, 3) His mission can't be accomplished when I'm stuck, 4) I make a mental note to not dwell on the difficult, and 5) I take advantage of every little minute God gives me to be His hands & feet.

Here's the one BEST take away from the two blogs I linked above (thank you, Don Miller). It summarizes well, the lessons I learn from the lives of Joseph and Paul: