Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It's all over!!

2013, that is! It’s actually almost over; only hours stand between the old year and a fresh new one.  As I think about the old year, I have to admit, it has been a challenging one.  Probably, it has been so for all of us; time is change in itself, hours passing by that we cannot retrieve, so the question is – what do we have to show for 2013.
For me, the first half was about finishing well.  Every school day for a year, I lightened the shelves in my office and weighed the little table outside of it with books – resources from nearly thirty years of college ministry.  The books disappeared, and still I have tons that followed me home.

Not only was the first half about finishing well, it was about watching our grandson, who lived with us, get engaged, plan a wedding, graduate, get married and start a new life with a wife and a job.  And the nest was empty again, Jesse’s room becoming my home office.  My husband married Jesse and Kate at the family homestead, a wonderful day.
So, I prayed about how to fill my time and God answered. I taught a class at the public library and a monthly Seminary wives class.  Then the last two months of the year, I taught two online classes.  OH, if anyone thinks teaching online classes is a walk in the park, they haven’t done it.  But it was wonderful to meet my students in cyberspace from all over the country, and who ranged from 17-61 in age.

What have I learned?  God is faithful and blesses us daily, too often in ways that we don’t even see, because we aren’t looking. I learned again the beauty of unhurried times of prayer, not squeezed in between the busyness of school and work.  My appetite for God was stirred in new ways, and I attribute part of that to Andrew Murray’s book/devotional on prayer.  Every year I have tried to use a devotional on prayer, and I am looking forward to doing it again this year.  You can never learn enough about prayer by reading about it alone; you have to do it as well.
I have been so refreshed in prayer this year that I recognize again why the evil one does everything he can to convince us that little snatches here and there are enough.  I do believe that there are times in our lives, as new moms for instance, when little snatches are as good as it can get.  But I also believe that the more we cultivate an awareness of the presence of God, and prayer does that, the greater is our peace and joy and confidence in Him and His perfect will.

So, I wish you a Happy New Year, and a blessed New Year, a fresh start to write on the pages of the lives that God has given us.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What do you mean, you know him?

Andrew Murray referenced John 17: 3, “This is the way to have eternal life – to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.”  The word know kind of stuck out to me, to know God, and somehow I did not think that word know used there meant the same thing as how I know one of my neighbors, by sight, to say hello to, to share a few words with when the weather is nice and we are both outdoors.

 Vine’s Expository Dictionary defines this word translated know this way: "to be taking in knowledge, to come to know, recognize, understand," or "to understand completely.” Hmmm, to recognize and understand God; this is different from seeing a “picture” of God or hearing the word, and thinking “a superior being.” 

 I think about how one know is like the way I know my dry cleaner; I see the face and know where from, but I know nothing of what motivates this person or what they think or love or live for.  BUT, I know God loves me; I know that He sought me out and gave me an understanding of the gospel, that He loved me enough to give His only begotten Son to die in my place, paying my sin debt.  I know that God, through Jesus is preparing a place for me in heaven, and I will be with Him there, John 14: 1-6.  I know that He wants to hear my voice; He calls me to stop worrying and bring all my desires to Him, and trusting Him leave them with Him, and He will give me peace, Philippians 4: 6-7. I know God personally, intimately.

I fear there are a lot of people who think they know God because they know some things about Him; they know Him intellectually.  But they do not have a personal relationship with Him.  They don’t really care what He thinks about what they do, nor do they care about what He says to them, in His Word.  They don’t love Him.

And that is what it is all about, this Christmas season, taking time to obey the great commandments found in Matthew 23: 37-39: “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord they God with all they heart (not just know and acknowledge who He is)  and with all they soul and with all they mind. This is the first and great commandment.  The second is like unto it, Thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself.”

I think God wants us to look at life through His eyes, to think about what He would want for us, to do, to be, to love.  And I think He wants us to do the same for our neighbors, those people our lives touch.   Somehow, if we love them, these people in our lives, we will long for them to have what we have, an intimate personal relationship with the God Who made it all, the same God Who cares about us.  The question is then: What will that longing move us to do?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Thanksgiving for what? An apology!

When I lived in Africa, Thanksgiving smelled different, and it certainly sounded different.  No familiar laughter in the kitchen as my sisters and I and our kids shopped and cooked and baked and tried to find enough dishes and plates and serving spoons and forks for it all.  No fragrance of roasting turkey and fragrant dressing and oh, the aroma of rich gravy and cheesy broccoli and yesterday’s baking hanging in the air. No cousins and siblings and aunts and uncles squeezing into their places, places that used to be big enough, around the table.
Oh, in Chad we usually had chicken and rice and squash pie and if someone had saved a can of cranberry sauce from their barrels and maybe a jello salad of some kind, again from the barrels.  And instead of family, maybe other missionaries, or Chadians we had grown to love around our table, but it wasn’t quite the same.

And Thanksgiving wasn’t the only day we gave thanks, we did that every day - why, every meal, for heaven’s sake. But traditions are important.  They form who we are, part of something bigger than ourselves, perhaps family, but maybe a circle of friends, people with whom we have laughed and cried with, hoped and mourned, hurt and healed with.  Across our Thanksgiving table, we see faces like our own, histories like our own, people who have taught us and picked us up when we didn’t get it and rejoiced with us  when we did.
This morning I read a post on facebook by a missionary friend about missing Thanksgiving, and I fear I was too brusque.  I asked if she was missing the dinner or the giving of thanks, because we give thanks every day.  I was cruel! And I am sorry! I didn’t even think of it at the time…maybe too early in the morning to post.

 Today, I am grateful for those who have answered the call to carry the gospel to people around the world, to people who are celebrating Thanksgiving in another language because God called them to translate the Bible or teach nationals to reach their own or who use medical ministries as a way to show the love of God and reach the lost.  And today I pray that they find joy in the ministry and sense the presence of God loving on them as they honor Him by their service.  I pray that laughter fills their hearts and when the hurt and loneliness threatens an overflow of tears, that they know that’s OK.  Sometimes loving hurts, and sometimes sacrifice hurts, but we have a blessed hope, that God knows our hearts and His love is a healing love, and He will wipe away every tear. And some day, there will be no tears.

the roof settled back in its place

 I’m not sure just how it happened, but my prayer time has really developed these last few months.  Maybe it might have something to do with working my way through “The Best of Andrew Murray on Prayer,” with the focus recently on intercessory prayer.  Maybe it has something to do with being home all day long and having more time to focus on prayer…though a lot of it happens at night or early morning.  Maybe it comes from listening to people differently.  However it happened, I have been deeply burdened by the weights so many people are carrying this time of year.
Yesterday as I was praying, I was feeling especially heavy as I prayed for a number of people I have committed to, and then as I prayed for other things God brought to my mind.  I think it is valuable to feel the weight; it shows you really care about people, but I knew I needed refreshment as I finished my time in prayer yesterday.

Then one of those divine coincidences, an angel’s touch, perhaps.  One of the sources I use for my time alone with God referenced Psalm 63, and I knew something important was happening.  So I read Psalm 63, then 62, then 64-67.  What a time of rejoicing and remembering God’s goodness.  Let me share a few phrases from these passages:

My soul finds rest in God alone…He is my rock and my salvation. He is my fortress and I will never be shaken. ..Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress.  I will not be shaken….He is my mighty rock, my refuge.  ..O God, you are strong and you O Lord are loving… .Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.  My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me…Come and see what God has done, how awesome are His works in man’s behalf!                                                                                        

Then last night, as I rehearsed those passages, especially the last one, it occurred to me that it might be helpful to think through some of God’s works in my behalf.  Maybe because I have been working on my memoir, I remembered standing in our kitchen with my kids and looking up to see the harmattan winds lifting our roof off.  We knelt and prayed and the roof settled back in its place.  I thought then about what could have happened if the roof had gone flying, the wind blowing all manner of debris into the house and sucking out all manner of things.

I remember when Beth was sitting on the porch reading her Bible, and she called out “Snake.”  There at her feet a viper writhed.  She could have been bitten, but she wasn’t.  I prayed that God would protect my children, and I know that I don’t know all the times He did that – like keeping little Jim from blood poisoning when a long thorn drove bits of tire into his foot from his flip flops.  And then there was the day Daniel, a Bible school student who helped us, came in early, and saw the stranger I was entertaining in the living room; he said he wanted to talk to my husband who was teaching.  Daniel called me aside and asked me why I was giving coffee to a “voleur” or thief.  God protected us, and with Daniel there, the voleur decided he would go….and God brought many other things to my mind.

 All of that to say, we need God.  He will be faithful! He has been faithful!  He will be faithful!  He just wants to hear from us.  And there are  lot of people who need us to pray for them; God will answer.  I know sometimes the answer is different from what we think is good, but He sees the end from the beginning and knows how to give good gifts to His children.  We just need to rehearse His faithfulness in the past, and trust Him for the future.
photo from   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moro_Rock