Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Jesus Said No


As we prepare to enter the new year, many resolutions will be made. Some people will vow to lose weight, some will join a gym, and some will promise to read their Bible daily and on and on. In our hurried world today, I imagine many will promise to not be so busy. I'm challenging you to be busy in the new year––not a resolution but a way of life. Did I hear you gasp at my suggestion?

Let's take a look at how Jesus spent His time. Do you think He sipped lemonade on a hammock daily? Or do you think He was busy?

Mark 1:21-35 is an account of a day in the life of Jesus. He began by preaching in the synagogue and while He was preaching He drove out evil spirits of a man possessed by them. Afterward, he went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew where He healed Simon's mother-in-law of a fever. Didn't He have a full day? I'd think He was exhausted from the day's activities and ready for a nice dinner, a bath in the river, and a time of relaxation. I would be.

I've had Sundays that resembled Jesus' Sabbath in a few ways. While in the States last summer, we always tried to avoid a very filled Saturday and then Sunday double meetings, lunches and Sunday night services also. But, sometimes it was unavoidable. So then what? Look at Jesus' Sabbath.

After His long day of preaching, healing, traveling and driving out demons, did He rest?  Mark 1:32 says, "That evening after the sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases." It must have taken Him hours to do all those things. I'm sure He went to bed exhausted and weary that night. Oh, but look what He does the next morning.

Mark 1:35 "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." After an exhausting day, you'd think He would have slept in a bit and had a leisurely breakfast. But no, He got up while it was still dark. He must have had a short night's sleep. But he still got up early to pray. He went to talk to God the Father. He took time to be with God. There is the secret of a busy life––taking time to be with God. Look what happens next.

Mark 1:36-37 "Simon and his companions went to look for Him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: Everyone is looking for you!" They were anxious but how did Jesus reply?

Mark 1:38 "Let's go somewhere else--to the villages nearby––so I can preach there also. That is why I have come." Another lesson from Jesus about our schedules. He said, "No." Sometimes we have to say no. But, He only said no after He prayed. After praying, Jesus knew what to do next. He wasn't swayed by those around Him who told Him what to do next because He knew what God wanted Him to do––why He had come––His purpose!

So be busy about the Father's work. Jesus was! We are all or should be, workers for Him, fulfilling our purpose. We will be tired, even exhausted in the work––Jesus was! Let's be like Jesus. After His exhausting day He rested, prayed, and then went on to the next thing on His schedule––the thing God wanted Him to do. When doing God's work, we are blessed to be busy!




Monday, December 29, 2014

The Gift of Ministry


My friends say I have the gift of gab. They interrupt me to interject a word here and there. While sitting at a friend's house last summer, I cringed when I heard her say, "She hasn't stopped talking since she arrived." But, not even that remark sealed my lips.

If you know me, I am sure you will think I am the world's biggest liar when I tell you I am an introvert. Yes, I am. When my husband and I started our deputation to head to the mission field for the first time, he begged me to speak in the churches we visited. I wouldn't even get up to say hello. Nope! I just couldn't do it. Now when we speak together in churches or speaking events, he asks if I could please sit down and give him five minutes to speak.

Last summer while in the States, we were invited to join a Sunday School class outing at a local restaurant. What a special night I thought––just a part of the gang. How sweet to invite us to fellowship with them. We were all savoring our desserts when one gentleman in the group announced the speakers for the evening. Guess who? We had no Bibles with us, no notes, and certainly no warning that we were the speakers. My husband got up and spoke for ten minutes, I followed. An hour later, I ended––with a lot of laughs––and enjoyed every minute! What caused this metamorphosis?

I still love to be alone, read, ponder, and be quiet. Maybe because when I am with people I never shut up. The truth is, I love both extremes––being alone and being with people. A gift! I believe so!

And the special gift of ministry you received...keep that ablaze! God doesn't want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible. 2 Timothy 1:6-7 (MSG)

There it is! The change! God's gift. I can't hide it under bushel, no! With God's help, I am using the gifts He gave me. I've seen Him do amazing things, and I can't keep quiet. He enables me to do what I can't do without Him. My friends have watched this metamorphosis. I've become bold when I speak about God and sometimes that may scrape like a fork on a plate to some. Sometimes I do need to pull back. But, do I keep quiet when God wants me to speak? I hope not.

However, am I loving and sensible while being bold? I strive to that end. I never would have imagined that I would one day love being in front of an audience. Maybe God saved that gift for me until I was ready for it–-in His timing. To be shy about it would be disobedient at this point in my walk with Him.

When we use the gifts that God has given us, we find that God will give us the power we need. The gifts are not for us, they are to build up the body. They aren't for us to say, "Look at me," but rather, "Look at Him." What gifts has God given you? Are you using them?

Are you blazing? Let's be bold, loving, and sensible––using the special gift of ministry we've received so others can see the flame within us and want what we have––the Savior!







Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ordinary People ~ Extraordinary Friends


I am blessed with true friends. But, in an imperfect world--including the Christian world––we are hurt by friends. I've been hurt, and I guess maybe you have too.

There are many varieties of friends. Some stay forever, some just pass through your life for a season. All are a blessing or a lesson. Some tell you how to pack your bags while true friends ask how they can help pack your bags.

Which friend do you prefer––the teller or the asker? What if a friend insists on telling me how to pack my bags to return to Bolivia having never been there? Is that friend concerned about my needs or just opinionated––even in things they know nothing about? How do you react to such a friend? Maybe you have them! Maybe that person needs a true friend to learn how to become one. Can I be that friend? Can you?

"An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends and against all sound judgement starts quarrels. Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions." Proverbs 18:1-2 (NIV)

I don't want to be unfriendly, do you? But we all have our opinions. If we daily become more like Jesus, can't we become extraordinary friends by seeking God's mind before speaking instead of blurting out our opinions?

I have friends who are extraordinary, and I've seen them do extraordinary things for God and me. They bless me, and they teach me how to be a true friend.

"A friend loves at all times..." Proverbs 17:17 (NIV) I am a recipient of that love and friendship. I see Jesus in those friends whenever I am with them. They are always willing to sacrifice for others, and they radiate with the love of God. Oh, to learn from them and have others see Jesus in my life as I see Him in theirs.

When we arrived in the States last May, we had an apartment waiting for us. An old friend offered it to us free of charge. He said it needed to be cleaned because the previous renters had abused it. We expected to do the work it needed and eventually furnish it with the necessary things to make it livable for our five-month stay.

Two of our extraordinary friends picked us up at the airport at midnight and drove us home. An hour later, we climbed the 20 plus stairs to the apartment we'd call home for the next five months. We were prepared to live with the basic needs for such a short time period––a bed, a shower, and a microwave for the few meals we'd be eating on our own.

We opened the door. A cute little lamp shed a soft glow around the room. A cinnamon scent filled the air. We walked into a cozy room filled with furniture, curtains, and even decorated with adorable wall hangings and twinkle lights. We searched for words––I am never speechless––but none passed our upturned lips. We walked around the apartment taking in the incredible scene of hard work by extraordinary friends. The couple with us (extraordinary friends also) allowed us to drink in the moment. Kitchen fully equipped––cupboards filled with food, dishes, silverware, and basic needs in the frig. Bathroom––everything we needed, even toothbrushes and cleaning supplies and creams, shampoos, and candles and lacy curtains. Bedroom––a bed with a beautiful comforter and curtains to match and oh, did I mention, dressers, lamps, and even an ironing board and iron. Plus wall hangings, so cute and handmade with love.

We returned to the living room and noticed one more detail previously missed. If you haven't shed a tear yet you will now, get your tissue. Above the couch, a wall hanging made of an old window frame, just adorable. But wait, there are photos hanging by clothespins on twine in each windowpane. They are photos of our grandkids, our kids, our animals, and even a few of our ministry. I felt warm, moist drops of joy fall over my cheeks. We were home!

Who does this sort of thing? Extraordinary friends! They are ordinary people who are extraordinary friends. I am learning to be a friend. I may be an ordinary person, but I want to become an extraordinary friend. I have the best example to follow. His name is Jesus. I see Him in the acts of my extraordinary friends.

What kind of friend are you? Will you strive to be an extraordinary friend?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Perfectly Seasoned


I'm experiencing furlough withdrawal and culture shock––especially stressed with the task of daily cooking again. Gone are the days of whipping into McDonald's or feasting at a friend's home or overindulging at church covered dish dinners. I admit I enjoyed the pampering and attention––now it's real life again. 

So what is furlough? Many missions now replace the word "furlough" with the term "home assignment." That's understandable. Missionaries are home to do another job––visiting their supporters and churches. However, I still prefer the word furlough because it is defined as a temporary leave of absence from the job you are doing. Missionaries desperately need time apart. I'd classify our time in the States as both––furlough, leaving our work on the field, and also home assignment, coming home to inform our supporters of the work on the field. Contrary to most thinking, furlough is not a time of rest but another part of the job.

Furlough or home assignment is fun! It is a state of frenzy. It is fabulous. We had five months of travel, meals in homes and nice restaurants (Wendy's and McDonald's too), covered dish dinners, and encouraging meetings and visits galore. It was all invigorating and encouraging. And, it was exhausting and demanding. But, it was a spectacular time! Then suddenly, it's over. How's that make you feel? Let down? Sad? Relieved? Rejuvenated? Exhausted? Blessed? All of the above?

Times in the States for missionaries may not be a time of rest, but it is a time of refreshment and reconnecting. It is needed. But, you don't have to be a missionary to experience all of these emotions. Furlough can be any time period in life when you are on the mountaintop. But then, you have to descend the mountain and enter real life again. What does that feel like? Consider it to be like jumping off that mountaintop and spiraling downward instead of heading step by step, down the trail you scaled up oh so swiftly and without difficulty. 

The mountaintops and the valleys are real life to all of us, but mostly, we live somewhere in between. On the mountaintop we soar, sparkle, and shine for God. In the valley we pause, pray more, and ponder. Somewhere in between the two, we call that daily life. We can't always soar or we'll eventually crash. Neither can we experience the valley times constantly or we will despair and give up. Both draw us closer to God. Our faith grows, and we glorify God and tell of His wondrous works in the mountaintop experiences and in the valleys. However, the everyday path of daily living is where we spend most of our time––just ordinary people serving an extraordinary God. Shouldn't we glorify God in the everyday tasks also?

Life is never boring with God. He planned it that way to meet our every need. "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens;" Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV) Aren't you thankful life is seasoned by God? Never too much, never too little, always just right––perfectly seasoned by a loving God.

* To be continued: "Ordinary People ~ Extraordinary Friends"

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Mountain Ministry 2014


Every Christmas, our Bolivian church group and the Rumi Rancho staff travel to remote mountain villages in the Andes Mountains of Bolivia, taking with them gifts, food, and medical supplies for needy children and people. Our church has a vision to reach these people and start churches where there is no gospel witness.
Last year, after three days of hard work, our group was exhausted and ready to go home. They waited patiently for the rickety old bus that would take them back down the mountain road where hot showers and a warm meal awaited. But the road was washed out by a torrential rainfall. They were stranded. The youth pastor and young men decided to walk for help. They left the women and teen girls safe in the village. After walking five hours in the pouring rain, they reached the main road where they called for help. Two men from our church headed out in a four-wheel drive vehicle to rescue the women.
Meanwhile, after waiting for many hours, the ladies began walking down the mountain hoping to meet a bus or car to take them to the main road. After a few hours of slipping and sliding in the mud, a small car stopped. Gratefully, they accepted a ride. But after a short distance, the road was washed out making it impossible to continue. They were left standing alone in the rain. Except for the birds tweeting and the rain pouring, silence loomed.
In the distance, a house stood alone in a field––the women ran for shelter under an overhang. The man of the house saw them and invited them inside. He offered hot drinks, food, and shelter. He built a roaring fire and began telling his story. After receiving Christ on a trip to the city, he believed God directed him to construct a large room onto his house for church meetings. But he had no one to teach the people who came. He prayed that God would send a preacher. It was not a coincidence that the road washed out at this location. It was God's stop sign.
Help finally arrived from the city. Hugs were exchanged, and plans were made for the beginning of a mountain ministry year round. God prepared a way to begin a church. The gospel is being preached where it never was preached before.
This December, we will be headed to a different mountain area. Children's eyes will light up as they receive their only Christmas gift this year and hear the Christmas story for the first time. Unreached people are waiting for us this year in another remote area where we can minister and bless many with gifts, food and medical help, and the most wonderful gift of all––Jesus.
Proverbs 29:18 says, "Where there is no vision, the people perish;"
This mountain man had a vision. Our Bolivian church has a vision. God brought us together so the people won't perish.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Turkey Tales



The turkey tales I have to tell don't resemble the beautiful turkey in this picture, but they do hold a special spot in my heart. The first, because it was the first turkey I ever tried to cook––two months after my wedding day. The second because it was my son's turkey––placed in my freezer without my knowledge. I have many precious memories to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day. "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever." Psalm 107:1 (NIV) As the years pass, I realize that it is a blessing to be able to remember. These two turkey tales weren't funny at the time, but I can't help but chuckle each time I remember them now.

After many years of eating turkey, I suddenly developed an allergy to the bird. I don't look forward to turkey on Thanksgiving now––unless I want to look like Frankenstein or meet the Lord face to face. After two reactions, it was certain I had an allergy to turkey. I don't want to have those encounters with turkeys again.

But, I've also had other encounters with turkeys. I now have experience cooking turkeys, but as a new bride I didn't. I looked forward to cooking my first Thanksgiving dinner that year. Far away from our hometown, we celebrated alone but not as we planned. My husband was in the Air Force, and we lived in Las Vegas, Nevada. Now you may think that was glamorous, but it wasn't. We lived on an airman's salary and buying a turkey was a big expense for the special day. We got up early, and together we made the stuffing, packed it in the bird and shoved it in the oven. After a few hours, we checked the bird. We thought it strange that there was no wonderful aroma coming from the oven, and looking at it––well, it was still raw. Two hours more should do it––we reasoned. We closed the oven door and waited.

The table looked lovely with my wedding gifts of silver, crystal, and candlesticks placed on the perfectly pressed tablecloth. The potatoes were cooking, and the red cranberry sauce contrasted the green linen tablecloth––my decorating skills were developing. If only that turkey would cooperate. It didn't. After nine hours in the oven, it was tough and still not cooked. We were so disappointed that we took that bird for a long drive in the Nevada desert and threw it out of the convertible we were driving. Good riddens! Did we ever know what happened? Never! But, I can tell you that story has been told over and over and usually it sounds as though the cook messed up. I will never agree––it must have been the oven! My first turkey--tough and uncooked! That bird still haunts me today––every time its story is told. FYI, every turkey I’ve baked since has exited my oven thoroughly cooked and delicious!

The second turkey tale involves our son. We were new missionaries on the field and had just purchased a freezer, a big deal in those days--30 years ago. We had chickens in the freezer, and at this point in my life I had learned to cook. But, cooking in Bolivia is different. Because of the altitude, everything takes longer to cook. I took the bird out of the freezer, thawed it, and put it in a pot to boil. I checked that bird every hour, and every hour it seemed less cooked than more. Memories of that first turkey were still haunting me. I wondered what this bird had against me. After six hours in the pot––you guessed it––it met its fate in the mountains of Bolivia. But, this story has an ending that was resolved.

Our son had gone hunting and killed a wild turkey. Wild Bolivian turkeys are the same size as chickens. He never told me the turkey was in our freezer. And, I didn't know it was a wild turkey or the secrets of cooking this exotic Bolivian bird. But, I did find out why that so-called chicken never cooked––because it wasn't a chicken at all. Unlike the Nevada turkey, I do have an excuse for the Bolivian turkey.

I hope your turkey isn't a repeat of my turkey tales this Thanksgiving. It wasn't funny at the time, but they are good, funny memories now. We have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving Day. Good and funny memories are a blessing to be thankful for too.

Happy Thanksgiving! Hope you make some good turkey tales on this special day––especially funny ones.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Faithful Feathers


Have you ever seen God's wings or heard His feathers flap? I have!

As we traveled from meeting to meeting and church to church over the last five months, I shared this story whenever I had the opportunity. Maybe you've heard it, maybe not. If you have, I hope it made you realize how faithful our God is to meet our needs––even through condors. Maybe you haven't heard it yet. Allow me to share it again in print for those who missed it.

Two years ago my husband had Shingles. They healed in the usual amount time, about three weeks. Soon after, he collapsed in severe pain. Not knowing if he was having a heart attack or stroke, we rushed him to a clinic here in Cochabamba. That severe, excruciating pain lasted three to four hours. The doctors had given him all the drugs possible without compromising his health in other ways––I doubted they were doing all they could to relieve this unbearable pain. But, at least we knew it wasn't a heart attack or stroke.

Finally, after hours of suffering, the pain began to subside to some degree. Little did we know at the time that this pain would continue for six months because of a damaged nerve in Chuck's back caused by the Shingles.  I couldn't believe the first words to slip through his lips as he looked up into my eyes. "I am so hungry for a pizza." Not what I expected to hear from a man who just came through this painful ordeal. How could I refuse such a request? Here where we live, we don't have all the pizza shops one has access to in the USA so I went home to make a pizza and fulfill this suffering man's wish.

Fifteen years ago, while we were building our house, I insisted on having a big window in my kitchen. Looking out that window is a magnificent view of the mountain behind our house. Living in a foreign country without much access to fast food restaurants or even nearby restaurants, I spend many hours in the kitchen. I also teach teen girls baking and cooking classes, so much of my time is spent in my kitchen. I love my kitchen, and I love that window––even more so now than I could have ever imagined because of what I saw that day when I went home to make the love of my life a pizza.

As I whipped up the dough, I glanced out at that beautiful view through the bay window. It's a rocky mountain, dry and brown most of the time, but nevertheless a view of God's beautiful creation in the Andes Mountains of Bolivia. But this day, I didn't notice the mountain view. I saw a view of God. One that I had never before seen.

There, half way up the mountain sitting on a large, flat rock, sat two huge birds. Now, we've lived in our house 15 years and only once before had we seen a condor on this mountain. Condors are the Bolivian national bird––a rare site. I rushed for the binoculars and quickly returned to catch a glimpse of what I thought were condors. If you know nothing about condors, let me describe the size of this beautiful bird for you. They are on average four feet tall and have a wingspan of 10 feet. Amazing creatures. Gigantic birds!

Fumbling, I rushed to place the binoculars over my eyes. Then, I saw them. Yes, they were condors without a doubt. I stood in awe of these beautiful birds created by an awesome God. But that's not all. As I stood gazing with pure delight at what I was witnessing, something even more awesome happened. Both birds, at precisely the same time, spread their wings and stood there looking like statues. I could hardly breathe. God's beautiful creation stood on a mountaintop showing all His glory. A few verses came to mind. Psalms 91:3-5 "He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and your rampart." 

I knew those birds were there for me. I was alone that day. I knew people were praying for us, but no one had any idea what we were going through at that moment. But, God knew. I wasn't alone in the scary situation that faced us. God was with us both. I felt God's love around me. His feathers squeezing me. His wings protecting me. I looked at those birds standing there, wings spread, and knew God had me under His wings as He did Chuck. But, not only was there one bird––a rare site in itself––but two birds–of course, one for Chuck and one for me. I saw those wings and I heard those feathers. I saw God through condors, and I knew God would take care of us. I rested, snuggled under His wings and surrounded by His faithful feathers.

The depth of God's love is unimaginable. He shows us His love daily, even through condors. He covers us with His wings always. He shows Himself to us in the condor moments. Expect the condor moments. Don't miss them. Look up, see God's wings and hear the flapping of His faithful feathers.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Refrigerator Famous



One of the perks of furlough is times of special fellowship with friends while eating in their lovely homes or being taken out to restaurants. Last week, we visited a new restaurant (to us) with a friend. After we had ordered, the owner walked over to greet our friend. Then he turned to my husband and me and said, "We've never met, but I know you." To which my husband replied, "From seeing us on refrigerators, right?" Yep, that was it!

So we are famous––refrigerator famous. Not sure that qualifies me to write a memoir. Well, perhaps I can write one, but whether it will find a publisher is questionable. You've probably heard the three requisites for getting a memoir published. You have to be either famous (refrigerator famous doesn't count) or in my case as a missionary, you have to be martyred or kidnapped. Needless to say, I don't qualify in any of those categories. Since the latter two are not on my bucket list, I think I'll try another genre for my next published work.

But being biblically famous is on my bucket list.

2 Corinthians 8:18 (ESV)

"With him we are sending the brother who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel."

Another translation:

2 Corinthians 8:10-20 (MSG)

So here's what I think: The best thing you can do right now is to finish what you started last year and not let those good intentions grow stale. Your heart's been in the right place all along. You've got what it takes to finish it up, so go to it. Once the commitment is clear, you do what you can, not what you can't. The heart regulates the hands. This isn't so others can take it easy while you sweat it out. No, you're shoulder to shoulder with them all the way, your surplus matching their deficit, their surplus matching your deficit. In the end, you come out even. As it is written,

Nothing left over to the one with the most,
Nothing lacking to the one with the least.

I thank God for giving Titus the same devoted concern for you that I have. He was most considerate of how we felt, but his eagerness to go and help out with this relief offering is his own idea. We're sending a companion along with him, someone very popular in the churches for his preaching of the Message. But there's far more to him than popularity. He's rock-solid trustworthy. The churches handpicked him to go with us as we travel about doing this work of sharing God's gifts to honor God as well as we can... 2 Corinthians 8:10-20 (MSG)

Two things on my biblical bucket list:

1. Being famous among all the churches for my preaching of the gospel.

2. Far more than popularity is being counted rock-solid trustworthy.

What's on your biblical bucket list?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Superpowers


Superpowers. Don't you wish you had them? Our busy schedule causes me to wish for more hours in the day or for time to slow down. I really don't want either. I just want to accomplish the most in the least amount of time. But, recently I discovered that I do have special powers.

Rushing out to a speaking engagement last week, I cringed when I opened the door and felt splashes of heaven's sprinkles on my face. My hair,  oh no. It would be frizzy by the time I arrived at the church. I dashed to the car with barely a drop falling on my recently shampooed and blown dry hair. Not to fret. My attitude check revealed a calm, smiley face demeanor. My hubby and I were off to a good start as we zoomed off in our newly acquired used shiny silver car. Then it happened.

My efficient husband had letters to mail. He whipped the car into a parking spot, handed me the letters and watched me exit the car to dump the letters into the mailbox. However, he never expected what spilled from my lips as I slammed the door and glared into his sparkling blue eyes.

For the next few minutes, he heard about his insensitivity–– asking me to step out into the mist that would certainly cause my hair to crinkle and turn into mounds of ratty looking curls. How could I speak to a group of meticulously groomed women while they stared at a blonde Raggedy Ann?

He apologized for thinking of the mail first instead of my needs. So I settled into my seat avoiding eye contact. A few minutes later, I reach over and patted his two hairs on his forehead and wished I could take back my harsh words. His eyes glanced my way and with a sweet smile he said, "I knew you couldn't stay mad at me for more than five minutes."

To which I replied, "It's just one of my superpowers."

"Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power within us." Ephesians 3:20

So, I do have superpowers and so does my husband. We can forgive each other because Christ forgave us. We have His power to overcome sin and live a victorious life.

Imagine all He can and will accomplish in and through us.

Let's use our superpowers––His power at work in us.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Facetime Faith

Four Faces We Love

If you have grandchildren, I know you love to see their faces. Whether in person or in a photo, I always love seeing our grandchildren's faces. And, FaceTime (a blessing through Internet) is a grand spot for me on any day of the week if their faces shine through the screen. Surely God grins from ear to ear when we, His children, turn our face toward Him. The words to the hymn Turn You Eyes Upon Jesus still linger in my thoughts after our recent trip to the States. The following words became reality to me somewhere between 30,000 feet and landing in Miami.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in his wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of his glory and grace, ~Helen H. Lemmel

Those who know me best pray extra hard when they know I am flying. Thanks to prayer, I can now sit with my back against the seat for the flights. In earlier years of our ministry, I couldn't relax while flying––truth is, it is still an issue. But, something incredible transpired upon landing in Miami two weeks ago.

After months of doubt as to whether we could leave our ministry this summer, God directed us to step out on faith, order tickets for our trip, and trust Him for the ministry. We did. And from that moment on, we began to see His wonderful workings daily. Things fell into place, and He not only provided for us travel to the States, He provided faithful servants once more to step up and take over for us. And, our to do list miraculously diminished daily with little effort on our part.

It was truly a supernatural carpet we were riding on as God helped us to do all the necessary tasks before leaving. Never had we seen things become so easy to complete, nor did we feel pressured or exhausted in the midst of accomplishing so much so quickly. We glided through on His wings.

As we descended on our last flight from the heavens and prepared for landing––always a hard time for me––I was deep in thought and prayer. Thanking God for all that had been accomplished by Him to bring us to the doorstep of our home country, I conversed with God as though He sat next to me holding my hand. I became so caught up looking full in His wonderful face that I never realized we had landed.

Ephesians 6:16 says, "In all circumstances take up the shield of faith." While looking fully in His face, the things of earth grew so dim I never noticed the things I feared.

When we walk by faith with our eyes on Jesus, we don't focus on our circumstances, we only see Him. Have some face time with Him today. It's a wonderful place to be, "in the light of His glory and grace."

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

God's Masterpiece


To some degree, I resemble the lady on the unicorn. I can understand why I might be viewed in that way. As a children's writer, I live in a fantasy world much of the time. And, I'm quite content to be there. I might not be thought of as a work of art but rather a "piece of work." Smile here. But, I am a work of art, God's work of art. And, so are you! But, what my neighbor once accused me of being totally shattered my world at the time.

A knock at my door. I opened it to find my neighbor from across the hall glaring at me with malice in her eyes. She came to say, "You are such a phony. No one could smile as much as you do and be real."

True story. We were in our last semester of our missionary training when my neighbor, a new student and young mother, felt led of God to minister to me on a biblical principle she had just discovered. Matthew 18:15 says, "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained a brother." (ESV)

At the time, I wished she'd kept that verse to herself, but God knew the exact words I needed to grow in Him.

The conversation went something like this. My neighbor blurted, "How can you smile so much? I watch you every day and there it is--that smile. Get real! This missionary training is the pits. How can you be happy here?"

My reply, "Thank you for sharing that with me. I'll work on it." Although, seconds later a not so nice thought crept in––Wow lady, you're some piece of work. Then, quickly confessing that thought because in my heart I knew she was God's work of art, and He was trying to teach me something through her.

And, work on it I did. My heart was bruised and my ego too. For the next few weeks, I walked around campus with a straight face. Have you ever tried not to smile? When a fellow student greeted me, I puckered my face, mumbled a reply, and tried to not be that phony person my neighbor detested. I became a complete phony while trying not to show my glistening teeth to anyone. After a few horrible weeks, I realized what a phony I had become by not smiling.

God had no intention for me to stop smiling. It wasn't a sin to smile, but He did teach me to not be a people pleaser but rather to please Him. By being ourselves, we allow God to chisel out our areas that need to be tweaked by Him. Then and only then, are we free to be all He wants us to be and shine for Him in our own unique way.

Psalm 139:14 "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well."

God didn't want me to quit smiling, but He did want me to be sensitive to the needs of others––especially my neighbor. She became a good friend when I noticed she wasn't smiling and needed a friend to help her through the difficult time she was going through with young children and the pressures of classes and homework. I listened to her, and she gained a friend (brother). I didn't need to quit smiling, but she did need a friend. And, I needed to learn how to be a friend.  God used me just as I was––fearfully and wonderfully made––and smiling.

How about you? What attributes has God given you to bless others? We are all fearfully and wonderfully made. He has a purpose for each of us so that the world will see His wonderful works through us and turn to Him. Even if people see you as delusional––riding a unicorn––or phony because you smile too much, He has a purpose for you and will use you because you are fearfully and wonderfully made. So be yourself! Allow God to use you––just the way He made you. Ephesians 2:10 says, "We are God's workmanship," the Greek word for workmanship means work of art. We are His work of art! Thank Him for planning each detail of His creation––His masterpiece––YOU!

"Don't change so people will like you. 
Be yourself and the right people will love the real you." ~ author unknown

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Our Bumps are In His Grip


"Don't panic. I'm with you. There's no need to fear for I am your God. I'll give you strength. I'll help you. I'll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you." Isa. 41:10 (MSG)

My year started out with a bump. A small bump on my head developed into a small tumor––thankfully benign. It caused me to ponder what the next steps would have been if the results had been different. When I look at the tiny bald spot now growing into a crew-cut spot, I am reminded that we aren't promised tomorrow. That bump has motivated me to once again cherish every day as I feel His grip––a firm grip.

Then, just last week, came another bump–-this time on my eyelid. "I'm with you," echoed in my heart. To remove it, I had to be admitted to the clinic again. Benign, again! Whew, thank you, Lord! What next?

This week, our Golden, Jake developed a bump on his neck. Another bump! Three years ago, Jake had an aggressive cancerous tumor removed from his tail. He's been doing fine until this week. I was already concerned about our animals since we will be leaving Bolivia this month for a five month furlough. The bump turned out to be a calcium deposit, not another cancerous tumor. What was God trying to tell me through the bumps? Maybe, "Don't panic, I've got this!"

Leaving Bolivia is never easy for me. But, the joy that waits on the other end motivates me to pack and step foot on that plane. Oh, did I mention I don't like to fly either? Missionaries don't have extraordinary powers or sail through life as if on a magic carpet. However, they have an extraordinary God who gives them strength and power to do His will. His Word says, "I'll help you."

These bumps seem like baby bumps after the fact, but going through them I felt like they were big bumps. But, our God is bigger than any bump life can bring, and He holds us steady through them.

One other bump has occurred here at our mission base, Rumi Rancho. This bump makes it hard for us to leave Bolivia at this time, but furlough is set in motion and it's been four years since our last furlough. Time to go.

This one is a joyous nine month Baby Bump. Our Quechua couple who lives here on the property with us will welcome a gift from heaven on June 10th. Juan and Amelia will need lots of prayer as they welcome a new baby and at the same time have the responsibility of the ministry while we are gone. But we know God will help them, and  He'll hold them steady as we head to our homeland on May 28th.

We are blessed by God's promise that through the bumps, He has a firm grip on us––He holds us steady!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Spinning Out of Control


Spinning is a popular form of exercise almost everywhere now. Although, in my neighborhood spinning has a totally different connotation. When I hear the word spinning, I immediately visualize a gym with a spinning class. Don't you? But, in my neighborhood bicycles are not used for exercise per se. Yes, they are a means of exercise for my neighbors, but their main purpose is to provide transportation by spinning to and from their alfalfa fields before sunrise.

As I watch my neighbors spinning by my house in the early mornings, I sometimes long to take a spin with them. Not to help them cut alfalfa, but to stop my fruitless spinning and set my priorities on these people I came to serve instead of focusing on the 100 things on my to-do list for the day. When I step down from the merry-go-round of life, I find refreshment from being with God's people and enjoy His beauty around me. I focus on the reason God has me here in this place of service––to spread the Good News. It's not easy stepping off that merry-go-round. Some days I keep on spinning and some days I wobble as I come to a halt––however, it is always possible.

"Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans." (Proverbs 16:3, NIV)

Each day is a new opportunity for service. It's easy to allow each day's tasks (our plans) to keep us from God's checklist for the day. But, when we ask God to establish our plans (to-do list) and take control of our spinning, He will establish our to-do lists and prioritize our days. Everything will change when we commit our plans to Him. The spinning out of control will cease, and our days will be fruitful and calm. Try and see. The verse says He will––not He might. He keeps His promises.



Sunday, March 2, 2014

Cracked Light-Bearers


 ..."Light only gets in through the cracks." ~ Philip Yancey

When we are on furlough in the States, we get invited to speak often. And, by often I mean virtually every day. We try to keep a full schedule because our time is limited usually to only four months. Sometimes we speak in churches or places we've never been before. One Sunday we were speaking in a new church to us. We didn't know many people, in fact,  just one family, so I told Chuck I'd keep a tight rein on my funny side.

He said, "Just be yourself."

Good advice. Honestly, I don't know how to be anything else. My funny side just slips out when I least expect it––as it did that day.

After the service as we were shaking hands, a sweet lady turned to Chuck and said, "Is she always like this?"

He replied, "No, sometimes she's not so reserved." That brought laughs. He's a funny guy when I give him time to speak. :)

Don't we all have little cracks in our personalities? Okay, some of us more so than others. We know who we are. :) God made us the way we are. Our cracks can be used of Him to let His light shine through! So let's shine!

Jesus said, "Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand––shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven." Matt 5:14-16 (MSG)

Monday, February 3, 2014

Why Write?


~ Rabbit Smiles ~

While sitting at the dentist last week, I met these two little sweeties. I asked their names, and I was shocked when they began speaking in English. Their mother explained they were attending an English-speaking school in the city. By their appearance and their school, I knew they had advantages that the majority in Bolivia only dream of having. Even visiting a dentist is a privilege for most children in a developing country such as Bolivia.

When I began writing, I wrote for my grandchildren who live thousands of miles away from me. God enlarged my vision to write not only for my grandchildren but children everywhere. I know I am called to write for children. And, I am blessed to write for the privileged and underprivileged, and to those outside the borders of the United States and Bolivia. I thought my books could only be used of God in the Spanish language for Bolivian children. My vision was small, God's vision, however, is global and includes all languages.

Although children such as these––who speak English in a Spanish speaking country––are in the minority, they need to hear the gospel also. Every day God opens doors to minister to those waiting to hear of His love––whatever their age, whatever their circumstances, and wherever they live. We can speak and write words that will change lives––God's words.

Why write? For moments like these!

"People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." Luke 18:15-17 (NIV)


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Names––Want a good one?


The Tablet of Your Heart

Do you have a word for this year? I chose love for my word––mostly because I always pray that God would let me show His love through me. On the mission field, I encounter cultural things that annoy me. For instance, mañana (tomorrow) is a frustrating word for me. How many times do I hear this? "Tenga paciencia!" Have patience! That phrase has caused me to grow in patience and love over the past 30 some years. As a new missionary, I couldn't accept being told to have patience. After all, it wasn't my fault if things were not done on time. Why couldn't people be on time? And, why couldn't they have something ready when they promised it would be ready? That's what I thought about the whole mañana thing.

Then God began to show me that I had to change in order to show His love. Besides, was I always on time? Did I always deliver on time? I began to react as He would react in those frustrating situations. Oh, I'm not saying it was easy, or is even now, but I am saying that God can change hearts to be more like His. I began to see that my reaction to those situations was a way to show Christ through me. When I didn't, it was a pretty ugly scene, and I didn't want that impression of me––or Christ–-to be the image I projected. And, I wanted a good name. So the change began. The culture here hasn't changed much, but I've changed. Or should I say I'm changing, but still, it's an everyday challenge and process.

Proverbs 3:3-4 says, "Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man." (NIV)

How do we win a good name? When we let love and faithfulness never leave us. When we write them on the tablet of our heart.

My writing goal this year–-and all years––writing love and faithfulness on the tablet of my heart.