Faithful Service

Speaking of clean up,

I miss East Asia.

I learned much in East Asia.

The good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful.

I used to enjoy house work, mostly, when I was young but after 13 years in East Asia I am find it is not nearly as enjoyable. The satisfaction of a tidy clean home is wonderful. It was a challenge in East Asia. We had a full-time maid, helper.  After all when the Gobi desert blows through your home, mold threatens to take over your home, all laundry is dried on a line in your apartment enclosed balcony/storage/ multi purpose space even on dreary winter days with no sunshine, meat bought by the hunks in plastic bags and all the veggies come with dirt from the farm and routinely scads of people come for dinner which we LOVED one needs help! In a big way.

And yes, we miss our friends terribly! We miss the scads of people coming through. We miss the seamless flow of ministry and daily living.

People here sometimes are envious of that, having a maid.  The pay is abysmally low but right in sync with the local economy. To have 2 working parents, kids, home school, minister, host regularly and offer hospitality, it just could not be done without these lovely women who make our work not easier but possible. I figure we had folks in our home for meetings, meals or sleeping about 2 weeks out of every month on average. That’s a lot of coffee and tea and food. And hours of wonderful challenging conversations full of strategic thinking and  iron sharpening iron and relationships.  Games and fun were part of living too.  And we loved it!!

I miss our helper. We had 2 over the years who ministered to our family with faithful service. Having someone in your home for hours is not always the easiest. One woman’s spirit was so negative, I literally felt relief and freedom as soon as she walked out the door after we let her go.  Whew!

I learned much about being a servant of Christ while being served by them.

To serve someone it to do it their way. To serve someone is to listen and follow the directions. To serve someone well is to love and respect them.  To serve well is to anticipate. To serve someone well is to be trustworthy and faithful. You know, dependable. To serve well is to be selfless. To serve well is to have a true heart.

And we love these amazing women. These women from different ethnic groups with little education were positive influences in the love gals’ lives too. One was a believer; the other not but did have a sweet spirit. We still have hope for her. Both cried with us when we left. One prayed with us as we sent all our goods to the warehouse for shipping.  I still miss them. I am still learning from them.

But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to obey his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul. Joshua 22:5

…Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be a slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:43b-45

 

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Forgotten Coram Deo

The jazz is playing in the background, almost too loud for this quiet afternoon.  I can hear the soft voice of  Sweet Pea chattering instead of sleeping. My husband asks a question.  I am studying, reading source material, cut and pasting what I think may be useful then an unexpected phrase stops me.

Not “walk with Me”, words He spoke to Abram in Genesis 17, the main topic of the selection. Not the litany of what had been done right or wrong by Abram or by man since then.  No.  The words…I have forgotten my Shepherd’s presence shouted at me of the page!

Exactly.  I have forgotten my Shepherd’s presence.

I  have  forgotten  Coram Deo. Living  in  His Presence.

Ouch.  No, that is too common, too easy a response implying just a band-aid is needed and all will be fine.

Instead, my response should be Mercy! It is Mercy!

The cry for mercy before a Holy God who has promised His presence is all I could think off.  I have taken His Presence for granted. Mercy!

Mercy! Like the old-fashioned language of “I have forgotten my Shepherd’s Presence”, women and men of old, at least in the south, would say “Mercy!”  Loud or soft and always when there has been a wrong done to or by. Mercy.  What a wonder of a word! Sometimes when someone did something just plain stupid.  With a shake of the head, Mercy!

You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you. Hear my prayer, O LORD; listen to my cry for mercy. Psalm 86:5-6


Ch.Spurgeon http://christianbookshelf.org/spurgeon/

spurgeons_sermons_volume_14_1868/consecration_to_godillustrated_by_abrahams.htm


Posted in Disciplines of the Mind and Heart, Old Testament, Refining, Sin, Uncategorized, Worship | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Loot or Gift

 

Did you hear the word “loot” spoken this season.  A harsh word that denotes war and the aftermath of collecting the plunder. “To the victor goes the spoils” the old saying goes.

I heard it once. Other years, jokes made about our bounty, perhaps to ease  the uncomfortableness with so much, did kind of offend me. I could never really articulate why exactly. It is a one of my love languages. To call it loot is to be flippant and demeaning of the gift and maybe the giver too. After all it is a way to show love. Somehow this year when I heard it, it seemed petty and crass and wrong.

Loot is what soldiers plunder and take. Material goods or people, as we know from ancient and biblical history, taken after a battle from the losers by the victors.  Even the most casual of people surely do not want their gifts considered plunder, the spoil of war.

Christmas is a reminder for anyone of our human yearning for peace. For believers, it is a particular time to ponder that incredible wonder of His coming.

I was mindful to think of the gifts as exactly that. Gifts.

Our youngest daughter loves to give gifts.  Not anything will do! She ponders and thinks and plans. Her countenance brightens up when she decides or finds the perfect gift for a loved friend or family member.  She chose her gifts after much consideration from the school Holiday Shoppe list. On the last day it was open, she shopped. Everything on her list was still there. She ran in from the bus and raced upstairs to wrap her gifts.  The paper chosen was the nicest and had gold on one side with the beautiful words of Christmas joy and love on the other.

She epitomized a giver, wanting only joy and pleasure for the receiver. These gifts were not pricey but they actually were the best of all!

Did her love for us show in what she chose?

Gifts are given, freely.  It is the nature of the word. There is no hint of reciprocal.  This child had no thought of what she would get in return. She only wanted to show love.

In fact, we were inspired in a fresh way to keep this spirit of Christmas ourselves as we shopped for gifts and made our lists.  To call those gifts given in love loot??

No, each package contained a gift.

Loot speaks to the commercial aspect of the celebration of Christmas in a very secular way, not of Christ’s first advent.

Gift speaks to our hearts.  Gift is to be received, to be enjoyed.

Christmas though not a biblically ordained celebration or feast has its celebratory origins in winter solstice we are told.  Regardless, Christianity has made this holiday its own. Traditions of old and mostly from Europe during the Victorian era have been embraced and often spiritual meanings are attached to the star on the tree, the evergreen, the candy cane.  All part of celebrating a gift given freely. The gift of salvation, of eternal life, of Jesus.

And by the way, every gift she gave was perfectly perfect for the receiver!

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,   Ephesians 2:8

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” John 4:10

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Attracted to Glory



I am attracted to glory.  Who doesn’t want to stand next to the popular person to be identified with them and get some of the attention? Or is it glory we seek? I cheer and tear up when reading or viewing a story about a hero. A bride in her wedding dress walking toward her beloved. The child who rest in His peace as she faces long painful treatments for leukemia.  The child whose eyes are full of wonder with the first snowflakes.  The movies like “Glory” or “Gettysburg” to name a few stir feelings of awe and wonder at the sacrifices made.

What is it that stirs our feelings, our souls in the search for glory?

Many Christmas plays and concerts are being attended during the Advent season. Some are cute; some secular and some fill our hearts with wonder and with longing as we ponder the angels’ visits.  The stirring of a child in the womb.  The honor of a simple man in protecting his betrothed.  The glory of it all.

“The Miracle of Christmas” (http://www.sight-sound.com) was glory inspiring.  The flying angels, the songs, the lights reflected the unseen of those days and inspired the audience to ponder the wonder and miracles that took place and impact us today. Handle’s Messiah endures because it brings us a taste of glory.  Did you see the flash mob singing the Hallelujah chorus? (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXh7JR9oKVE) I wept. Yes, I am attracted to glory.

I thought about the appeal of these thing that have stirred my heart and it came to me in a small whisper…”It is because you are attracted to glory.”  Why yes, yes, I am!  The attraction to glory is a good thing because I know where true glory can be found.  It is a yearning.

The attraction to glory in us humans is strong, God placed. How many seek glory, recognize glory in others but miss the true source of glory? Frankly, if a play or human actions stir my heart and soul to be awe-struck what ever will He be like? Is it a danger to be like those John wrote of…”For they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” John 12:43?

So what does the word mean? Glory conveys the idea of some external, physical manifestation of dignity, preeminence or majesty. Two uses are the majesty, dignity, splendor or honor of a person and  most important of all, it describes the  way Yahweh reveals Himself or is the sign and manifestation of His presence.

And to think, I am to reflect His glory???  I shake my head at the thought.  My commonness and humanness are to reflect His Glory?

What is even more puzzling is I know people who do reflect His glory! I love just standing nearby.  The elder woman with a rich heritage as a missionary, as a woman of God. When she holds my hand, I feel the touch of Him and a glimmer of His glory as I look into her face.  A mother cooing to her child. Glorious.  A soldier standing ready for battle, ready for sacrifice.  The simplicity of a heartfelt hello. The face of one sitting in silence in prayer.  A woman and child, my child walking among beggars handing out food, offering a touch of love and words for the weary heart, “Jesus loves you.”

Yes, I am attracted to glory.  I am on the hunt for those things of glory that stir my heart toward Him looking forward to that day when we shall behold Him.

My soul, thy great Creator praise;
When cloth’d in his celestial rays
He in full Majesty appears,
And, like a robe, his glory wears.

Psalm 104:1

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Smoking Oven

The smoke billowed out and rose to the ceiling.  We coughed and sputtered and laughed as the foolishness of the turkey juice burning down to a black gooey mess.  The turkey was too juicy and the pan too shallow. Open doors letting in the cold and a box fan held up to drive the smoke away provided more ridiculousness.  Yes, we were laughing and the kids were assuring me it was fine and we were not going to go hungry.  Alas, they spoke before they tasted the worst pumpkin pie I have even made.  But that comedy of errors is another story.  This was a memorable Thanksgiving.  As a hostess with a reputation to preserve (tongue in cheek), I was glad it was only us and that we were laughing and loving being together.

At the dinner table the smoking oven was definitely part of the conversation.  My mind jumped to a treasured passage I have longed loved.  The sealing of the covenant.  (Genesis 15)  I have never had a satisfactory explanation of why He passed through as a smoking oven. It seemed to surreal even for such a momentous event as this.

I am leaping here not from any biblical or ancient cultural studies evidence nor out of commentaries but from observation of my very own smoking oven.

The smoke was pungent. Even as the girls hid under a blanket, the smell filtered through, driving them to the other side of the kitchen door.  The boys stayed through the coughs, holding up the box fan to drive the smoke down through the opened doors.  It lingered; it invaded our space. It demanded our attention.

This smoking oven was not a nice incense burner with smoke gently wafting through leaving a sweet trail of scent. No, this smoking oven was an eternal declaration of an eternal covenant that would not be broken or stifled! This smoking oven passed through the bloody path between the slaughtered animals as Abram, who was in a deep sleep like Adam when Eve was created, slept.

The smoke must have laid claim to its territory leaving an oder, a strong oder that left not doubt this really happened. Abram did not dream it! Evidence of His passing through.

How many times have I been left to wonder if God’s hand was really  there? Did I demand evidence? Sometimes.  And yet despite my doubts, always, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit has declared His hand, His Presence.  My own heart and mind knew it.

Abram did not have God’s written Word. He did have His personal promise. He did not know the end of his story, just the promise. And he most definitely made wrong choices in his doubts, thinking he would help God.

When he sat around the fire, did the smell of the pungent smoke remind him of the covenant, of the promises. Did it stir his heart to repentance, to faithfulness, to remembrance, to renewed belief?

Today, Meg and Jim have a fire going outside. The strong breeze draws the smoke away. The faint smell of autumn lingers.  And now with sweet memories of turkey in a stinky kitchen and father and daughter by the flaming fire pit, my heart is stirred to remember His covenant with me.

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Jeremiah 31:33

 

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Unexpected Worship

 

 

 

 

Summer time in “HOT-lanta” was fun and hot.  We sought coolness with Uncle Bill and daughter Ree at the Georgia Aquarium.  What is it about aquarium that captures our imagination?

The beluga whales were full of grace and beauty.  Effortlessly, they and other creatures of the sea swam in the deep blue tank waters. Is anything so cute as penguins? I think not! Why is it when penguins waddles it is cute and when I feel like I am waddling, I feel most definitely not cute! Trainers with the small seals doing tricks bring laughter to all who watch. As these cute animals peeked around the corners looking for toys and treats, we peeked with them waiting for fun.

Only a God who loves fun too could possible have created these fanciful creatures.

The symphony of the moon jellies played to an enchanted audience. Our breath was stilled. It was a book coming to life, Night of the Moon Jellies.

But some of the creatures are ugly and scary. The lion fish is amazing to view but no touching! The poison is deadly.  A reminder to beware of the lust of the eyes.  Not all things that are beautiful are good.

The last sight and the last of the batteries and memory cards were filled at the “take my breath away” exhibit. The tropical fish tank! The hallway was darkened and there was no warning as I turned the corner. There it was. A  huge tank full of colors beyond the imagination. I gasped. Yes, I gasped. I can still see wonder and have my breath taken away! I am not to old or jaded to not be moved by His Creation.

My eyes could barely take it in. I wanted to kneel right there in worship. Not of the creation but of the Creator. He is worthy.

I did not know I had come to worship Elohim.

My summer was made.  Sure, we had more fun and wonder ahead of us. After all, the easy living of summer gives us enough time for pause. But I had beheld wonder and beauty and I was awed. A glimmer of Him. Could I ask for anything more?

Great are the works of the LORD,
studied by all who delight in them.
Full of splendor and majesty is his work,
and his righteousness endures forever. Psalm 111:2

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Privilege of Prayer

The privilege of prayer with brothers and sisters in Christ….in parking lots as good byes are said.  In large ballrooms at conferences and retreats.  Pool side with friends.  Bedside with children.  Around a table at Bible study. Over the phone or Skype.

It is part of my life style.  It is intertwined part of who I am.  When I was a younger woman I yearned for the comfort and support of prayer.  I prayed but I didn’t seem have the connection I observed in others.

There was that day when I left home in the big old brown pick up, left my baby with a trusted friend and did not know when I would return. I had to get away to find my way.  I had a commentary book on Romans.  I had my Bible and as always a stack of books with me.  After pulling into a state park in southern Georgia or did I cross the line into Alabama,  I crawled into the truck bed and settled in.  I opened the commentary and the Word.  And He spoke to me through those ancient timeless words.

I went home after getting as far as chapter 12.  I was renewed.  It was the beginning of maturity for me.  No more milk.

Fast forward to the Naval Postgraduate School.  I was on the phone passing along a prayer request. There were a lot of those, mostly related to troubled pregnancies.  We women were that age; our husbands were that rank that allowed them to be attending the school.  It was a happy place except when a miscarriage occurred. And a glorious place when miracles happened.

She was a woman whose words spilled out like honey, honey of His words.  She suggested we pray right then…on the phone! I declare. I never. And I do mean I never. I never prayed on the phone. It never occurred to me.  But I was trapped.  You see, I was the coordinator of women’s Bible studies and that included the prayer chain. Ah, the responsibility of leadership.

Being a woman sensitive to the Spirit and to my hesitation, she offerd to go first.  It was a life changing call for me.

Fast forward again about 20 years. Meeting every weekday morning for prayer was the prelude to a season of sorrow and sharpening.  We were in a foreign land and about to enter a battle like no other. I was thankful for the years of tutelage in prayer.

Recalling these markers and others He has given me along my journey is part of transition as I enter into a new season in a new place. Change is inevidable, undeniable. The anticiaption of the days ahead brings me a sense of approaching satifaction and security.  It is not only the knowing He is there and that He hears me; it is the comfort and support of a well established reliable relationship that has come to truly depend on Him…to listen, to hear and to respond.  The yearning has not changed only deepened. The connecting has happened.  Does that meaning I am growing and maturing?  Yes, it does. He stuck with me through the years even as I mumbled and bumbled my way through. He has tutored me in the ways of the body. He has loved me well.

The privilege of prayer with brothers and sisters in Christ is sweeter than ever.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

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Perseverance

There are lots of  first day of school pictures on blogs these days.  This year, she was not there for the first day. We are still here, moving and finishing before we can have new beginnings there.

This morning we snuggled. It was the first time in awhile.  It was a quiet moment to remember.  Her teacher, Mrs. Spangler sent all her classmates a letter and first assignment.

“What does perseverance mean? How will you apply that to this school year?”

This child knows about perseverance.

We remembered her second grade and what happened some weeks before the last day. It had been building from her first day since she started mid-year.

This is the child who stood with her arms crying asking “The Bible says love your enemies. I don’t know how to love her. How do I love her?”

She cried over this girl, a classmate nearly every night for two weeks.  She cried because she had not known meanness and was hurting. She cried because she did not know how to love her. I laid with her until the sobs stopped and she slept. With lots of prayer. we all decided she would continue. There were only a few weeks left.  Her dad went into talk with the teacher and principal.

There was a wooden sign on my desk.

Let’s finish well.

“Can I take this with me Mom, to put in my desk to remind me?”  Oh yeah baby.

The Holy Spirit was teaching her, teaching us all.  She finished well.  She persevered.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

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Daughters of the King

They were meant to be grafted into our family before they ever arrived home. Adopted as joint heirs. Approved by their older siblings to be joined with us. Planned by Him.

I cradled her every night. I sang “Blessed Assurance”.

One night my arms were tired.  My son told me, “You are the “Mom’ “!  He invoked the most important title I have ever held. I heard. I was the “Mom”. I listened.

She was less than 5 pounds. She was only days old, 75 days.  She had a cleft palate. She had to eat every 2 hours but was too tired to finish for weeks.  I prayed she would survive.

She would gaze in my eyes, even as a tiny underfed premie, saying

“You are your mommy and I am home.”

And she was.  No one would hold her but me and her dad.  Fear of breaking her held them back. That ended quickly. She was so fragile. But with a will to live, a will to love, endlessly.

Their older brothers and sister loved them well, loved them protectively, loved them gently. Still do.  To see how they love these gals, their sisters is breathtaking!

How much we have learned about His breath taking love for us is unmeasurable!

“I have loved you with an everlasting love;

I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3


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Cross Shaped Life

prone to wander copyright

Her eyes looked away, distant and sad. Slowly she looked at me again. “They were my friends; I taught their children. The family only did good. They were my friends.”

She knew one of the men killed in Afghanistan on a medical trip. She knew them; not of them. And she is grieving. This man and the other 9 lived cross shaped lives.  My friend lives a cross shaped life. She has know suffering through a child’s death and hardship over the years serving Him. Now she knows more suffering through grief and is sharing in it with her friends who husband and father were killed. Those killed were living a cross shaped life. My friend is living the cross shaped life.

My husband and I sat stunned, speechless at the email.  Our friend, our daughters’ playmate had been diagnosed with leukemia ALM.  She felt ill with a fever and achy legs.  After tests and consults, the sad devastating news was delivered. She is now receiving chemotherapy treatment one of 5 or 6.

This child of 6 years response, “Mom and Dad, do I have cancer?” Her parents wept and told her “Yes, Baby, you do.” She told them, “Please don’t be worried.” After her bone marrow biopsy, she woke up and wanted to give the doctor a hug. They know suffering and sorrow.  And hope.

Her mom says she wants the reality not to be defined by the fact that her daughter has cancer but she wants her reality to be defined by God who is faithful and good. They are holding on to the Lord and are being carried by all the prayers. They are living the cross shaped life. We are praying; many are praying.

Somehow tonight all the sermons and words I have heard about sufferings of believers and His promises of glory don’t seem so distant. The sufferings are too real. His glory is too magnificent.  And as to sharing His sufferings and in His Glory, well, I am counting on it, this hope of things to come.

These people are going to Jerusalem. He knows how their hearts are.

He has been there already.

Jesus took the twelve aside and told them, “We are going to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.” Luke 18:31


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