Devoted or Distracted?

“Be still, and know that I am God. 

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth!”

Psalms 46:10

Where have you found yourself lately in your walk with the Lord?  Do you find yourself more devoted to Him or are you more distracted from Him? I started this blog post so long ago that I don’t even have the date in my current 2020 journal.  So, as you can see…I’ve been rather distracted to even get these thoughts together long enough to write a coherent blog post! 🙂 

Do you find yourself distracted lately?  Distracted by social media; distracted by misguided purposes; distracted by the stock markets; distracted by Covid19 cases,; distracted by wrong callings; distracted by pandemic updates; distracted by lies from the enemy? Distracted by the media?  This seems to be where I have been lately…completely distracted.   

Acts 2:42 states, “and they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”   The Church in Acts was committed….hopelessly and relentlessly devoted to God’s Word, to each other……but…..in our world today….where are we on the spectrum of our own devotion to the Church?  Are we devoted to it or are we easily distracted from it? 

Being devoted means:  

  • showing up when you’d rather not; 
  • being in relationships; 
  • we belong;  
  • there’s no judgment; 
  • grace; 
  • being together; 
  • we put our guard down; 
  • our masks are off; 
  • you love me for me; 
  • that we are becoming who we were created to be;
  • and above all, it means that we are faithful and that we can find God trustworthy and true regardless of how we “feel.”  

Distracted on the other hand means:  

  • we are not doing life-giving activities; 
  • we are barely surviving and not thriving;  
  • we feel like we belong to something and not someone; 
  • We are on social media too much; 
  • we listen to the wrong voices;
  • we  isolate ourselves; 
  • we are confused; 
  • we listen to wrong callings; 

Even in the midst of prayer time during a pandemic, it is easy to become distracted by the news reports, posts, grams, live “breaking news,” and tweets.  

How do we become wholly, (holy?!) devoted in the midst of a world of distractions?   You sit still in the presence of the Lord. Be still and know that He is God. You turn off the media, slide off your phone, and just sit. And just be still.  

In a world that is constantly battling for our attention and pleading for us to follow them, we are called to sit and to be still.  My mother has a quote at the bottom of her emails that states, “Make time for quiet moments; for God whispers, and the world is loud.”  That is exactly what we need to do….make time for quiet moments; to be still and listen. 

In days of a pandemic, that the modern world has never experienced before, our minds and thoughts and feelings and actions all too quickly spiral out of control.  Want to stop your worry, doubt, fear, and stress? Be still. Want to experience solitude in the presence of the Lord and shift your thinking? Be still. Want to shift your attitude? Shift your wellness? Be still.   Simply thinking about things of the Lord– His Word, His Being, His Truth, can stop your spiraling, out of control thoughts.  

So, tomorrow, I’m turning off social media in its entirety for 24 hours.  I know that I cannot spend the next 30 days so distracted that I loose myself in the whirlwind of media madness and mayhem. I’m going to practice being still in the presence of the gentle, quiet Lord.   Prayerfully, it will be in that stillness where I am more devoted to the Lord and where my devotion is renewed.

G.B.W.M.

I saw a suspicious car pull through my driveway earlier. I was sad that it didn’t stop. But then I realized with this whole #SocialDistancingThing, no one was stopping. Such false hope.  And then lo and behold a little while later my dear, sweet, gracious and kind friend Elizabeth Henthorn sent me a text that said, “go check your mailbox!”  📫

So, in my daytime pajamas – because we all know that they are different than our nighttime pajamas nowadays — or at least you should be knowing that after the first full week of #socialdistancing during the #coronavirus pandemic — I padded out to the mailbox. I had mentioned to Liz in an text earlier this week that if she found diet 7Up and Fritos chips available at Walmart to let me know. I expected she was being sneaky about a small token of those “needed” Walmart items.

As I was walking out of the garage, down the driveway to the road, I was slightly worried about who would see me in these “daytime pajamas,” as there were three men working in the yard next door. However, I quickly convinced myself on the short walk to the mailbox that I wasn’t really in pajamas. I was proudly wearing exercise pants. And they even were cropped, workout style, looking pants. So, I convinced myself that they would maybe think I had been working out and it didn’t look like I was in my pajamas. So that made me feel proud of myself for the day. I felt like I was winning at that moment!

I opened the mailbox and there was this precious blue and white striped box. And the box is so amazing that when you open it, it pulls out like a drawer coming out of a night stand. The box and the contents just gently and beautifully slide open to reveal what was on the inside. I proudly walked back towards the house, sporting my “workout clothes,” and continued to read the card and open the box.

My heart stopped when I saw the precious, simple and oh so meaningful bracelet with a charm on it. I knew immediately what the four letters, GBWM, meant. It was what I repeated over and over and over again in my head and in my heart as I lived in Bolivia….God Be With Me. GBWM!

Liz had recently read my story on this blog post and wanted me to have a reminder to keep telling my story because my story matters to His story. And this couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ve pretty much wasted the week of spring break doing nothing. Now mind you, its spring break and we can only DO NOTHING this year. But, in these days of the pandemic crisis of the coronavirus, these are days that need to be spent well. I want to be able to look back on this time and be able to say, “HERE! THIS is what I did with my time!” I don’t want to waste it. I don’t want to just simply survive, tho it may come to that..physically and emotionally! But I want to THRIVE in these days to come…I want my family to have good memories of these days….so they can “remember when…” I want to know that with every passing minute all I need to say or to pray is, “GBWM.” God will lead us in these times. He will guide us in these days. And He will order our steps along the way….and we’re all doing just that ….6 feet apart!

So, thank you friend for a token of grace and reminder of a calling….to be faithful, to know that God is trustworthy, to gather, to listen and to write about my story, for His glory. I’m embracing this scripture from John 5:30-31 for this blog: “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true!”

Here’s to more posts…..pandemic or not. #MystoryforHisGlory

The inside of the greeting card states, “It’s nice having a friend who’s as normal and mature as I am.” I’m not sure who is who on the card….I’ll assume I’m the one on the left…. I have memories of me at age 7 posing like that!

The the blue card included with the engraved bracelet reads, “Engraved especially for you. I’m your key to unlocking memories, to celebrate life; your reminder to never forget what matters to you. I’m a way to tell your story. Happily yours…..”

The Face of God: Where Faith Meets Life

** I wrote this, after my very first mission trip, (there were 4 more that followed!) while I was in seminary working on my Master of Divinity degree in Kansas City, MO at Saint Paul School of Theology. This was published in a United Methodist Church magazine for the Kansas Conference in May 2000. Yes. 2000. I told you I’ve saved stories all these years for “someday.” It’s someday! 😉

I think I sang, or whistled, or hummed everyday while we were in Guatemala. Everyday except for one. I wasn’t one of the original team members to go on this mission trip. At the last minute, one of the team members had to cancel the day before the team left. That same snowy day, I was taking my youth group on a “2000 Ways to Sing God’s Praise” weekend retreat. But after talking with the youth sponsors about the 4 inches of snow, rain, and sleet on the roads we, and God, decided it was best that we not go on the retreat.

I called Pastor Cheryl to tell her we were canceling the retreat. Her response was, “Okay. Do you want to go to Guatemala?” I was standing in my kitchen with my jaw on the floor, my heart in my throat, and my brain racing like crazy. I was wondering what it was that I was about to do but knowing well within my heart the answer. Even though I am almost 30 years old, I called my parents to tell them that I was leaving for Guatemala in the morning at 4:00am! I ran around that Friday in the snow, going to Target, trying to take care of missing classes in seminary, and trying to reorganize my life from going on a simple weekend retreat with the youth to going on a 10 day mission trip to Guatemala in less than 18 hours!

I knew about this Volunteers in Mission (VIM) trip for the 6 months I’ve been working at this church and I never once planned on going to Guatemala. Which is interesting because I speak Spanish, used to live in Bolivia, and I love Latin America. But this trip never seemed like an option. I had planned a weekend retreat with the youth and I had planned on being in classes at seminary. Going on this trip just didn’t seem like it would work out according to my plans. But my best laid out plans don’t always go according to God’s plans. I’m quickly reminded of the verse in Jeremiah 29:11, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, they are not plans to harm you, but plans to give you a future with hope.”

I left with the team Saturday morning for Guatemala. On Sunday, while we were on our six hour bumpy bus ride down the dirt road to San Juan Cotzal, I had a conversation with God. Not about the road especially, which would have been time well spent, but I began to wonder why this trip had worked out for me and why I was there? I wondered why at this point in seminary? Why this trip? Why now? What does the mean for my ministry?

Monday night we had a “song fest” after our devotion and just sat and sang for a couple of hours. I went to bed that night singing in my head and in my heart. The next day was Tuesday, and when I woke up, I remember very distinctly that God told me not to sing, hum, or whistle that day. Which was a very hard thing for me to do. But God had really placed silence up on my heart that morning. God wanted me to be still and to listen.

I was so quiet that everyone thought that I was sick or that there was something wrong because I wasn’t singing or laughing. But I knew I had to be quiet so God could tell me something. As I was standing in a window doing cement work, I stood on two pieces of plywood board, laid across two columns of cement blocks for support. I paused for a moment just to look out the window. As I looked out across the beautiful landscape of lush, green mountains, I saw the face of God in the people on the street below. The beauty was overwhelming to me and the simple way of life was very humbling. The way the women carry water buckets on their heads, the way the children play with sticks, and the way the men carry firewood on their own backs or on pack mules, were all ways they showed me the face of God.

It was in that moment that God spoke to me in my silence. In my heart I heard God say, “This is your calling.” In the full sun of the day, with a breeze on my face, I stood in the grace of God in that window of the United Methodist church. I felt completely renewed in my calling for ministry, which seems to have been forgotten in the activities of daily living, work, and seminary. It was if God sent me to Guatemala to get me away from my busy life just long enough for me to remember that God calls each one of us to be still and to listen; because surely, He has plans for us that are far better than any we can imagine!

I stood in the window of that church window while tears dripped off my face and landed onto the cement I was trying so diligently to make smooth. Through the faces of my Guatemalan brothers and sisters, God simply and quietly used my first mission to Guatemala to gently remind me that God is control and that He calls us to be still and to listen. I saw the face of God in Guatemala. God renewed my heart and reminded me of my calling and told me to “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

So, I ask, where have you seen the face of God?

For the Sake of the Call

There is a song by Christian artist, Steven Curtis Chapman, called, “For the sake of the call.”  The song talks about how Jesus had called his people to be his followers. After Jesus had called them, in the song they answered, “we will abandon it all, for the sake of the call. Not for the sake of a creed or a cause, not for a dream or a promise.  Simply because it is Jesus who calls; if we believe, we’ll obey. We will abandon it all, for the sake of the call.” 

And so it is that my call to ministry began in a cell phone store! Seriously!  It was later winter, not quite spring of 1996 & I was in a store one day asking about new cell phones. The salesperson told me that I would have to sign a one year contract.  I remember hearing a voice that said, “You won’t be here in a year.” (Now keep in mind that I had just spent a year traveling over 40,000 miles with Up with People and I had no plans of going anywhere!) I left the store telling the salesperson thank you for their time, but somehow knowing I was not going to be getting a new phone.

I got in my car and began to drive aimlessly; or so I thought.  I found myself driving to somewhere unknown. It was as if my car was driving itself, had a mind of its own, and was taking me to a place I needed to be.  I began laughing to myself and really wondered where it was I headed. I found myself taking my old route that I traveled to get to classes when I was in graduate school at Oklahoma City University.  I didn’t go to the education building though. At this time, I still hadn’t realized where I was going. But, next thing I knew, I was parked at the Oklahoma state conference offices of the United Methodist Church.  I sat there wondering what I was supposed to do next. I then felt like an angel was sitting on my shoulder (like she has many times before) and whispering, “Go see Larry.” Now mind you, at the time, I did NOT know who this  Larry was at all. I went inside and asked the receptionist where his office was. The longer I sat there, I realized after reading brochures and signs on doors, that Larry was the Director of the Volunteers in Mission (VIM) program.  While I waited, I read some information about different mission trips coming up that next spring and summer. Most were for ten days longs. I felt that wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do. “No,” I thought to myself, “that’s not enough.”

I sat in Larry’s office and talked with him for over two hours that day.  Through our conversation, we realized that he had been my church camp counselor ten years earlier.  After reminiscing, Larry asked me how he could help me. I said that I honestly didn’t know what I was doing there….but that I was just led by the Spirit to his office. Larry proceeded to tell me about several different mission projects that I might be interested in.  I remember the words “Sarajevo” and “Bolivia” coming out of his mouth. Honestly, neither sounded like options at the time. But as he told me more about the mission and school in South America I said, “I think I want to go to Bolivia to teach.” Larry immediately replied, “can you leave in a week?”  My head shook “yes” while my mouth said “No….absolutely not!” I laughed. He didn’t. Seeing the concern on my face, he mentioned Bosnia again. I immediately got back on the topic of Bolivia. It at least hadn’t been in inter-national news recently! I left his office that day in tears but yet full of excitement and hope.

I stopped by a travel store after leaving Larry’s office to find a video about Bolivia.  Much to my surprise, the couple that owned the store had just returned from a trip….to Bolivia!! I could not believe it.  Then they asked me if I had seen the newspaper that day. I had not & I don’t take the paper but when I got to my apartment, there was a newspaper….on my front door step! The front cover was a picture and article about a lady missionary…in Bolivia! I knew God was trying to get my attention and I was listening now.  Two nights later, I was lying in bed praying to make a decision about what I should do with my life. That Steven Curtis Chapman song kept going through my mind like a prayer, “I will abandon it all for the sake of the call.” I truly opened my mind and heart and was willing to listen to God. 

I remember the very words I prayed, “God…you are going to have to tell me what to do.” It was as if God’s voice had answered back to me in the depths of my soul, “You have to go.  You have to serve the church.”  It was my calling.  A big bell doesn’t ring.  It doesn’t come in a fax or an email.  It was simply God’s voice calling to me in the still, quiet of the night during a time of earnest prayer.  I quit my job. Sold my car. Put all of my belongings in storage in my daddy’s barn. I left for Bolivia ten days later.   

The day I left for Bolivia I was probably the only person in the Miami International Airport that was praying they did not see their luggage in the baggage claim area. Miami was the third airport I had been in that day & my luggage was supposed to be going on my next plane with me to Cochabamba, Bolivia in South America. Since I had a four-hour layover in Miami, I decided to check the baggage claim area to make sure my luggage was NOT taken off the plane and left in Miami.

In three big, blue plastic containers, one big duffle bag with wheels, and one well-traveled suitcase (see the blogpost about the year I traveled in Up with People), I had packed everything I could anticipate needing for the next ten months to teach English in a third world country. The Volunteers In Mission (VIM) program through the United Methodist Church put me in contact with a school run by the Methodist Church of Bolivia. I found myself answering my calling and living in Bolivia working as a missionary and teaching kindergarten.

The city of Cochabamba sits in a valley between the Andes mountains at an elevation of 8,400 ft. The school I worked and lived at, Instituto Americano, had 5,000 students. In the morning, there were approximately 2,000 students in grades pre-k through 12th grade. The school was private and those students pay tuition. In the afternoon the school was open to the public and there were approximately 3,000 students and the government provides their education. The grounds of the school are covered with flowers, green grass, huge, old palm trees, pine trees with red berries and beautiful poinsettia trees with deep dark red flowers. 

I taught three classes in the mornings and five classes in the afternoons. My students taught me more Spanish than I could ever remember learning in high school. They learned their colors, numbers 1 to 30,  the days of the week, the alphabet, approximately 40 vocabulary words, some animals, memorized a book, and a song or two all in English. At the beginning of every morning we had a mini conversation in English. This consisted of them telling me good morning and kissing me on the cheek, with me asking them how they were, as they responded in English and in complete sentences.

There were times I was amazed that I was living in a third world country.  I looked at the teeth of my students and they were rotted out and black. Women and children pounded laundry in a sewage choked river and lay the clothes on rocks and branches to dry.  People wore clothes that were three sizes too big because that’s all they had. Other people sat on street corners to beg for money. Nothing tugged at my heart and soul more than a motherless, seven-year-old, street kid who would hold out his small, frail hand begging for a penny or two. Old, dead, palm tree branches were used as brooms. Some people ate soup with their dirty, filthy, black calloused hands because they couldn’t afford spoons. I saw moms breastfeed their three year olds because they couldn’t afford food. Toilet paper was expensive and used by very few people.

Businessmen and politicians strutted around the plaza wearing their crisp, white, dress shirts that were scrubbed by hand the day before by their servants. The military men and police men carried clubs and sometimes tear gas and machine guns. Old ladies carried groceries and small children in colorful, hand-woven blankets wrapped around their necks. Some people made $25 a month working for the government; they were truly surviving. 

But then, on the other hand, I had email, could send my parents a fax, and saw the separation of the classes, while the rich were driving VW Bugs, Toyotas, Hondas, Explores and yes even BMWs. Bolivia was definitely a country of injustice where the government and rich people take advantage of the poor and treat them like slaves and servants. 

I learned to look at the world with third world eyes and gained a greater appreciation for my home, my life, my country, my language and my education. The year I traveled in Up with People, I saw what America didn’t have in comparison to Europe. However,  living in Bolivia, I saw how much America has and how fortunate America is in comparison to Bolivia and other third world countries.

I loved where I was and I loved what I did.  For some reason, I knew that God sent me there.  I always knew I had a calling to work and live in the mountains.  I just thought it would be Colorado and never dreamed it would be Bolivia! Living in another culture was a challenge and brought near expenses every day. Whether it was the craziness of the traffic and taxi drivers, the government wanting to own more than they should, the prices of things, my students and their lab, or the way they sell things on the street in at the market, there was something or someone that made me smile and I would shake my head in amazement. 

Each day was a new day and I loved my life and truly had a sense of inner peace. Although we are from different hemispheres, different countries, different cultures, and speak a different language, we are all still have the same common, basic needs in order to survive life. We just have a different way of going about meeting those needs and need to learn to respect those differences. 

I’ve always wondered why God created so many different languages and cultures. After traveling in Up with People and having lived in Bolivia, I have begun to realize that if we were all the same we would fail to see the beauty in others & life wouldn’t be a challenge. The story in Genesis, “the Tower of Babel,”  has more relevance to me now than ever. For some, differences in race, religion, and culture causes arguments and hatred that have even lead to war. Those are the unenlightened who fail to see why God made us different & life hard. If life were easy and we had everything we thought we needed, we wouldn’t have any difficult times when we needed to turn to God and trust in Him.  

Everything time I had to face something new & hard in Bolivia, (which was way more often than not!) I would pray, “God be with me” and I would repeat it over and over and over and over. I said this so often that it just turned into a simple breath while I exhaled and I shortened it to “G.B.W.M.”  My faith and trust grew a lot during those long, hard, fearful and peace filled months, simply because God did not make us all the same. And for that I am thankful for my calling, “You have to go. You have to serve the Church.”

Bolivia

When I lived in Bolivia, there were many days I feared for my life.  I was a blond, American female doing missionary work, while teaching school in a 3rd world country.  I walked through the streets of town with my head down, trying not to look at the military police that carried machine guns and tear gas.  I know anxiety but I do not live it to that extreme in America! I was alive at the end of each day by the grace of God.  I saw children who bathed and did laundry in a sewage choked river.  I worked with children who lived in a jail because their father had simply been accused of committing a crime.  When one family member goes to jail, the whole family goes….one is guilty until (if ever) proven innocent.  I smelled the rat infested feces that covered 1 square foot they lived on in the jail. You’d better believe my family is blessed.  One of my students was killed because he stole two ears of corn from the field. There were no police in the village and stealing was punishable by death. He was 7.  How can I not wonder about that one child working in the cocoa fields? 

         When I got typhoid fever I had to pay off a doctor so he would release my test results so I could leave the country and come back home to the USA.  I even had to roll down the hall from my hospital room to the cashiers office with the IV still in my hand. It wasn’t coming out until I paid my bill. The amount I paid was more than most Bolivians make in a year. I’ve worked with street kids who are sold for prostitution and child labor. I’ve seen the power of the rich and lived with the social injustices of the poor.  I don’t need to do it to experience the pain and struggles of life. I’ve lived it.   I’m willing to bet no test will ever measure the depth of the pain and love in my heart and soul and how it has been shaped by the world I know.  So, please know that I, and my family, are greatly aware of how fortunate we are in this life. You’d better believe I know what the world is about.  I’m fortunate to have seen more of it that most people ever will. My expectations maybe high of myself but I’ve met those who have no hope for tomorrow.  I’ve tried to live each day to the fullest for God, for the faith that God gives me is the greatest hope I have for tomorrow. 

         So, yes, compared to the rest of the crazy, pain filled, political injustices of the world, my family is wonderful.  I am who I am because of the simple matter of being appreciative of who I am, where I come from, and how God has graced me.  It may seem that I “put on my best face” and portray myself as “perfect” but how can I not with all that I’ve been given? 

“Duped by the Devil”

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.”

2 Corinthians 10: 3-4

Have you ever been so caught off guard, tricked or blindsided by someone that you were so stressed out that you could hurt something?  I’m talking so mad you could even throat punch someone? I have. 

After stepping down from Women’s Ministry, I found myself in a season of sabbath rest. Or so I thought. I was almost prideful of this rest thinking, “God is so good to me…giving me this season off. Wow…God’s really blessed me in this quiet season.”  I even became “that mom” that dropped her kids off at church on Wednesday nights and went back home to enjoy more of my “sabbath rest.”  

My sabbath season was full of self-pride which softly faded away as a sudden jolt of sadness overcame me one night during worship and prayer.  I was reading 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 and it just spoke to me, lept off the page, convicted me in the Spirit, and started my war against the enemy.  

It was then that I realized that what I thought was a season of sabbath was not. I had been duped by the devil. I had withdrawn from all leadership, including my prayer and accountability group.  The devil had me where he wanted me; isolated and listening to his lies. He convinced me that rest was good and had wooed me with nothing-ness on church nights.  It was easy to hear his quiet whispers and I found myself settling for half truths.  The devil is a liar, because when I thought I was thriving in a season of sabbath, trusting God’s word showed me that I was really drowning in a season of sadness.    

I have never been so mad.  When I read 2 Corinthians 10: 3-4,  my eyes were opened to the lies of my flesh, because now I was on to the devil. I’ve asked myself over and over, “How did I end up here?” and “how do I not do this again?” I knew God was showing me that I had put my trust in my own flesh; that’s what happens when I chose to live in isolation apart from a community of believers for any amount of time.  

2  Corinthians 10:3-4 states that we have divine power for war and we can destroy those strongholds. This is not a simple skirmish; this is a full on war.  I have thrown myself back into asking friends to hold me accountable again. When we go to war against the enemy, we have to trust God’s weapons of warfare for divine power: His Word, prayer & community.  That throat punch is going straight to the devil because This. Is. War. I am done being duped by the devil!

You’d Better Believe It!

**In 1994-1995, I traveled with around the world for a year with the international, performing group called, Up with People.  I lived on a bus with 122 cast mates, 90+ host families, and performed a broadway style show while doing community service in every town we visited.  I came across this reflection piece recently that I wrote in 1998, after a psychologist prepping me for M.Div degree at seminary  told me I was too shallow, too idealistic, and too perfect in my worldview.  I was appalled!  Furious to be exact.  So I wrote this letter to him.  I never gave it to him and long forgot about it, until I pulled out an old file of stories that I’ve been saving for “someday.”  I’ll be 50 this summer….25 years since I traveled that life-altering year…so I guess now it’s finally, “someday!”            

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            The year I traveled with Up with People I saw, felt, lived and experienced more grief, hurt, and excitement than most people do in a lifetime. 

          While traveling and performing with this international group, I lived with gang members in Reno, Nevada, San Diego, California and Florence, South Carolina. I heard their stories of drug abuse, sex, and murder.  My dear friend and cast member was a former member of the Crypts and had to move and start her life over to get away from the gangs. I was there and I felt her pain as she relived it with the current gang members.  Don’t tell me I don’t know struggle and strife.

             I lived in a homeless shelter for a week and met people with stories that could not even be made up on soap operas. I lived amongst them and spent endless hours in their humble midst realizing that I could be one paycheck away from being with them.  I’ve sat and cried with Bosnian refugees in a Red Cross refugee camp in Denmark. I’ve watched their home videos and heard their stories of fear and horror about Saravejo being bombed. Don’t tell me I’m shallow.

                I’ve performed for the King and Queen of Norway one day and worked with street kids the next.  The kids wanted to know if I could get the king to help them find a home; “No, I’m sorry. I can’t.” Don’t think I don’t know pain and hurt from that 11 year olds eyes. I’ve met families who have slept on the floor in their own home so I could have a bed to sleep in. They told me I was the only way their children could ever experience the outside world.  Don’t think I don’t know pressure.

               I have friends in 22 different countries who are from the richest and poorest countries in the world. I know their struggles with racism, terrorism, fear, poverty, and social injustices. I’ve heard countless stories of how my Irish friend views the world from his Catholic, homosexual perspective. I know what it is like in the Czech Republic since the Iron Curtain has been lifted.  Magda and I are years apart in age but she touched my life forever. I’ve seen the pain of a mother’s face who just had twins that were born prematurely. Anja lives in Russia and she wasn’t sure her babies would live because the health system is far less than adequate. I’ve watched the sunset over the North Sea while on my way to perform the United Nations Social Summit of world leaders. I knew that the next day I would be working with AIDS patients in Copenhagen.  What kind of social justice is there?! I can meet world leaders but I can’t help an AIDS patient.

         That year I traveled I saw, felt, and experienced more than most people do in a lifetime.  Seeing the world like I have has changed me forever. I am from a great family because I have met the rest of the world.  I know the pain, hurt, and struggles that people have. I may not know it dramatically in my own personal  family, but I’ve lived it through the 93 host families I lived with and through the 120 people in my cast that I lived with for a year.

           So, yes, compared to the rest of the crazy, pain filled, political injustices of the world, my family is wonderful.  I am who I am because of the simple matter of being appreciative of who I am, where I come from, and how God has blessed me.  If it may seem that I “put on my best face” and portray myself as “perfect” you’d better believe it that I do for how can I not with all that I’ve seen and all that I’ve been given? You’d better believe I know all these things because I know who I am!

 

The Bag

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You might think this just looks like an amazing bag. You might even look a little closer at the tag and see that it’s an expensive, amazing bag. You might look a little closer and see that it’s a NOONDAY bag. That would explain the “amazing” part. And if you’ll look even closer, on the inside, you’d see that it’s from Guatemala!! If you know me and my missionary travels, you’ll know what this new bag really represents to me.

The friend that gave it to me said she was literally just sitting at a party and that I had been on her heart lately. We are in a Bible study together with other teachers at our school and she was just thinking how grateful she was that we get to work at a place where there are Christian teachers and she just thought God told her that I would be blessed by that bag….. so she got for me! She will admit at first she was like “but I don’t know her all that well to be getting THAT bag.” But she trusted the nudging of The Spirit and she was obedient to the Spirit’s moving. She was blessed by her obedience and in her giving.

 It was amazing to watch her face, with tears in both of our eyes, as I told her that this bag is made in Guatemala and even moreso to be able to tell her that I used to live there! That it’s the only other country where my heart really & truly lives! I told her this not just a bag, but but to me, it is my heart wrapped up in a present!! A present that I’ve literally eyed for over a year and have never wanted to splurge that much on for a bag, just for me! I even looked at buying it again just last month but ended up just wishing……

And so I’ve learned this about presents this Christmas season…..

When the giver, the gift & receiver all collide into one present, it must surely be the truest form of gift giving at its best. It’s must surely be how God meant for His son to be for us….. the perfect gift for all of humanity wrapped up into one blessing…. the giver, the gift & the receiver all in one.  And in the end…. God gets all the Glory when even just one of us listens to the Spirit’s nudging and actually follows through!  May we all give more of ourselves this Christmas season simply just by listening.

Merry Christmas!!

L.I.S.T.E.N.

YIKES!! This acronym thing  it out of control.  However this one isn’t mine!!  I’m just blogging, processing and trying to remember this from Kelly King’s book, “Ministry to Women: The Essential Guide for Leading Women in the Local Church.”  (Wow…now that’s a title!) 

She states that we can best share our faith stories by listening better to those around us and reminds us of the Scripture in James 1:19, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.”  She used this L.I.S.T.E.N. acronym from David and Norman Geisler in their book, “Conversational Evangelism.”  (See….it isn’t just me with the acronyms). 

Learn their story

Invest time in them

Search for gaps in their beliefs

Throw light on their beliefs

Expose cracks in their beliefs

Navigate the conversation carefully

How can we effectively do this?  We have to be better listeners and avoid what I call the “Yah! Me too” syndrome.  You know…when someone is talking and you’re trying to make a connection with them, or perhaps not, you’re just simply talking over them and hogging the conversation, and you start telling your version of the story they are really trying to tell you.  

I believe we can all be better listeners by:

1) affirming the speakers own words;

2) not comparing their story to our own story; and

3) don’t be a “yah me too” conversation hog. 

Wrecked for His Glory

Been sitting on this in my “back pocket” since one Saturday in October of 2016.  It’s time to “put it out there” and just share it on my blog. I finished reading Kelley King’s book about ministry to women. In it, she asks for women know know/voice/understand/name their “why” for ministry.  I LOVE that God gave this to me 2 years ago and I love that I DID write it down.  I want to be able to look back, point and say, “THERE! THAT’S what God said & HERE! This is what God did with that. 

Hmmmm….a book you say?!  Maybe someday…maybe not.  Probably just a blog for a small handful of readers.   I don’t know but when I stand on “this” side of something that God told me He was going to do and I can point “there” and say I was warned……it’s all God and it’s all good. Just like the book Annie F. Downs wrote, “Remember God,” I have GOT to write it down….for that reason alone…to do just that…..remember God.   

————————————————————————————————————————

October 2016

I’m either crazy or God is fixing to wreck my world for women’s ministry.

Its a quote from the Spirit to the depths of my soul: “I’m going to wreck your world over the next year for women’s ministry.”

But God you’re going to have to bring my husband and family alongside me. I’m all in. Not sure about them.

No. YOU are going to bring them alongside. It’s a call to have & to answer.

I know this feeling.  I’ve been here with you before, God! It’s a calling. It’s my calling. Maybe it’s time I get it right. Maybe it’s time I give up the complete feeling of guilt for not living out my calling to serve the church that God called me to so long ago. I can’t even imagine what it feels like to live without this guilt. Somewhere. Down deep inside me. Way deep. Stuffed down and away for years is my true and holy calling.

But for now, I’m going to throw up. It’s so overwhelming –your love and your grace and your power. It’s humbles me to the very depth of my soul. My inner most being — wrecked for your glory.

Ohhh….. Ding!  Can you hear it?  Can you see the lightbulb above my head? This is how I got wrecked…all of these events through a series of soul-searching conversations with God are how I noticed that God was “wrecking me” for women’s ministry and wooing me back to my true calling. 

*I cried from my gut about finding my preaching stoles boxed up and put away in storage. My calling has NEVER gone away. I just keep “stuffing” it away. God still calls me to serve the church. I’ve known in my head but maybe now I’m getting it in my heart again.

*In a time of prayer and worship you’ve whispered to me– in the worship center singing and praying to God– I remember the exact day, Feb 16, 2016.  Matt said we need someone to lead women’s ministry. He texted me that a couple of weeks ago. I’ve saved it. Like a “marker”. A turning point. THAT text haunts me. Like– it’s me. It’s my calling. I kept hearing Jesus say in my spirit–I’m going to wreck your life over the next year for women’s ministry. Ok. Great. I’ve got a year.

*Panicked at a Wednesday night prayer meeting, called Regenerate, that I might absolutely gut cry when speaking about CHASE. It’s in that that I’ve come back to my calling. It’s through IF that I’ve felt God calling me to BELIEVE (my rock) and to LEAD (my domino). Feeling so humbled and so close with God these days that it’s just that RAW. …. Glorious and beautiful. Scary and frightening.

* Through  the Chase Bible study I’m stepping out of fear and stepping into my true & holy calling.

* During Choir one night, I was about ready to spiritually throw up because God calling ME to convince my husband about my calling. WOMENS ministry. I am to bring him along side. Not just God. Me. I barley even made it through choir without my heart racing. I knew then that God had answered a prayer. No God. Not this! Not ME telling my husband I want to do women’s ministry more. Not me. You God. You do it.

No. It’s you.

I’d rather you do it Lord!

I think I almost begged God for me to not be the one to tell him I still have a calling. He knows it….I was a Methodist minister when he met me!   He’s always been supportive. He’s not complained about IF and Bible studies. But still, I shut down. And here– here is where I think is another instance of when I have resorted to food. I know this feeling. When God bubbles up, its sometimes so overwhelming and so much to process that sometimes it’s too much to process. And so– instead of dealing  with God and recognizing a great work that He really IS doing within me– I stuff Him and my feelings and my calling back down. Under the surface. Under the food. I stuff it. I stuff myself because it’s so much bigger than me.

I’ve asked myself why I gain weight. Here’s what God’s been showing me– I’m accomplished and fully capable of a lot of things.   Many God given talents– teaching. Leading. Singing. Church. I seek God for guidance and strength in all of these but I am not 200% dependent upon him for accomplishing these things.

So huh… I’m trying to be in control of my own life. I can’t do it without Him, but to do this weight loss— I have no strength of my own. It will only be accomplished and do-able because of him. This way….HE. GETS. THE. GLORY. NOTHING BUT HIS GLORY! But this weight thing– I’ve never controlled it. And now I hear a faint whisper from God that I’m trying to grasp. He tells me it’s the one thing that I will never be able to do without Him. It will be because of Him. For His glory.

Really?? God cares how much I weigh??!  No. It’s about letting God move and be and do through me in this way. (Ha! “In this weigh.” You’re so funny God!) So that to be sure — that when it’s said and done- I will have depended only on Him. And I will succeed only because of Him. I must fully and completely surrender. My life. My will. My control. All to God. All for His Glory.

So here we go. Mark the date. God said He’s wrecking my life over the next year:

To quit depending on myself.

To quit stuffing my calling down with food.

And to let God have complete control. Complete surrender.

This is about to being wrecked for the good. Wrecked For a calling. Wrecked for making a disciple.Wrecked for not making myself known but wrecked for giving God all the glory.

And when I even remotely think of leading women’s ministry — I’m so unworthy. Sooooo not enough. So not qualified. Soooo not able to measure up. But again– that’s when God will carry me & will do my tasks and order my steps. He will be my guide; will be my “enough” and will make me worthy. And it will be solely in order to give Him the glory. Not about me. Not about a degree. Simply about a calling; and a God who gets all the glory.

So just when I start to doubt — and think I’m crazy in my head– I go back to what God taught me all during the 2016 year through IF studies– to BELIEVE. Luke1:45, “blessed is she who believes that the Lord will fulfill his promises to her!”

Ok. So maybe I’m not crazy after all. But if I am– I’ll give God the glory! ☺️

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