Feb 15, 2014

Change Talk

I haven't written on the blog a while, but that is not because I haven't been writing in my head. Do you ever do that...answer an email in your head, and then forget to actually answer it in real life.

Apparently, I do that with blogging as well.

I have been writing a lot in my head, and in my heart. There is a lot to write about when everything in your life will change. One of the most difficult parts about this kind of change is that is doesn't happen now, it happens later...but is still happens now, because you can't help but think about the later.

For those of you who don't know what all of this change talk is about, 2015 marks the end of the 5 year commitment I made to help Healing Hands Global and the Williams Family carry out the vision to bring health, hope and healing to people of the Third World. It's not like that number was ever really set in stone, you see when I was praying about staying on after my internship back in 2008 I felt God leading me to help the Williams with the creation of a transferable model - a system - that could be used as a guide for starting other rural medical facilities in developing nations. I knew it was going to take a long time, and I felt like 3-5 years would be enough. Then I thought, it's the mission field and everything takes longer, let's go with 5 years.

See the thing about that is...at some point the model would be finished - not in a fine tuned sense, because that always needs to happen. But in a general sense I would at some point work myself out of a job. The things that one person managed haphazardly would be managed by more people with excellence because the system would be in place to keep things true to the vision.

But the other thing about that is...that I never really thought it would happen. OK, hold on...don't run off on me yet. I always had faith that the model would come together, I just never thought that I would leave it. I didn't think that I would have to turn it over. Maybe it is like dropping your kid off at daycare for the first time - it's hard, but then you realize that they are learning things, and that (heaven forbid) they actually like being away from you for a while, and it gets better. But honestly...who likes daycare? Wouldn't you rather stay home? Wouldn't I rather stay on the mission field? In my comfort zone? In my routine? 

But as 2014 approached there was something different in my spirit. A sense of change approaching. I thought it would go away, but it didn't. And then I remembered this feeling, the restlessness, the itchiness for more...the same thing I felt before God led me to leave my job and start the Elevate Internship in 2007. The long ago feeling that began the first chapter of this missions adventure.

But wait. 
I am already on the mission field. 
I can't feel like that again.
Can I?

Prayer. Fasting. Prayer. Then I finally had the courage to talk to Mark about it, and it turns out he was feeling the same thing and was also praying about it.

More prayer - together. Then we pulled together enough courage to talk to Dr. Martin and Wendy about our feelings.

Lord help us, can you be calling us away? 

I said I would never be a missionary.
Then I said I would never go back.
I am noticing a pattern.

Then we were traveling in the states. Still seeking, asking our HPC leadership for prayer, every day asking God for clarity, and then not wanting to hear what he was saying.  Return.

Confirmation after confirmation finally led to submission. Humility. It is not about what we want, it is about what He wants. It has always been about what He wants.

But still my heart is breaking, the sadness is overwhelming at times. Fear threatens to over take - what will people think? Then I remember...these are all of the feelings that came after the call into ministry. These are the thoughts and feelings I battled when I stepped out of the boat in faith and walked on the waters of uncertainty.

The devil's strategy hasn't changed: divert attention from God's will, muddy the waters with emotion, decrease visibility with obstacles. Oh, how much I have learned from Peter.

I do not know what the future holds, but I do know who holds our future.

So as the waves of emotion roll over me I cling to the only Rock that is steady. I stand on the only Unchanging thing. I hold fast to our Strong Tower, and believe.

Oct 1, 2013

The Other Brother

I am not sure that I have ever written about the story Jesus tells in Luke chapter 15. I know that I have thought about it often, and probably journaled about it. We were at a mountain wide missionary prayer gathering yesterday (I know that sounds uber spiritual, but it's really not), and friend of mine mentioned that she had been reading the story of the lost son, and that it seemed every where she turned she was being reminded of it, and more of its meaning was being revealed to her. You know when God is really trying to get his message across it seems like there are big red arrows and flashing neon signs everywhere you turn. Well, the fact that she even mentioned that story was one of those signs for me.

I really love the parables...they are like story time with Jesus. I always loved story time as a child, we would all gather around whichever adult was willing to read to us...the older ones eager to get it over with (too cool for school), the younger ones asleep before the end (who can blame them), but I was somewhere in the middle - enthralled, captured, living the moment in my mind...maybe even in my dreams.

The parables are like the perfect cartoon movie experience. They are so simple to understand that a child can grasp the message...but they are layered with a rich literary goodness to keep the older audience engaged. Everyone leaves with something, everyone gets fed, and if you choose to look deeper you won't be disappointed. The story of the lost son, is no exception.

There are there main characters in the story: The Father, the brother that leaves, and the brother that stays. Now the usual re-telling of the story focuses on the son that basically tells his dad that he wishes he was dead (sounds like a teenager to me) and takes his inheritance and hits the road. He goes out into the world and does anything he wants to...mostly things he knows he shouldn't. He runs out of cash, ends up in the worst spot imaginable. Then he remembers what a good guy his dad is, and returns home hoping beyond all hope that his father will have mercy on him and let him be a servant in his house. As he gets closer to home, the bible even says that he was still a long way off, his father sees him in the distance and runs to meet him. He is gracious and throws his arms around the lost son, gives him some new clothes, a ring and then throws him a big party.

Enter the other brother...the one who stayed behind. He comes back from a long day in the fields caring for his father's flock...no doubt sweaty, dirty, smelly, and exhausted...and walks right into a celebration for his lost brother. But there is no happiness in his heart, no excitement...only resentment, contempt and judgment for this man who disgraced his father, ran off and left him to bear the burden and responsibility of the household that should have been shared by them both.

Pause for the music that conveys the tension between these brothers, and cut to the brokenhearted father in the corner wondering where he went wrong in raising sons that can't get along.

Drama in it's finest folks. Just add in a woman and you have an episode of Jerry Springer.

So the surface message here is that The Father has grace for his sons, and forgives them each in the way they needed it most. The lost son needed redemption...he was already convicted to come home and confess to his father. The other brother needed correction...he was doing all the "right things" with the wrong heart.

The deeper message here, I believe, is that we are both brothers rolled up into one exceedingly complex mess of sin, regret, denial, self-righteous judgement of others, rebellion, resentment, unforgiveness, disrespect, poor stewardship, contempt, and fear. We have let the world use and destroy the inheritance of skills, talents, fortune, and gifts that God has given us...then we turn right around and blame others for our condition. We shower others with judgment when they need the very same grace that we so desperately long for. We resent the work we have been given to do because of something someone else did to us, that they are probably not even aware hurt us like it did. And all of this blinds us to the fact that we already had full access to the Father...Luke 15:31, "Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours."

We have access. The door is open. His grace is sufficient. His love is bigger. There is nothing to fear.
Yesterday my friend said, our goal should be to look to the Father, to be more like Him, and she is right. Thank God that he sees what a mess we are, but extends grace to us anyway - that he sees our need for grace and conviction, for forgiveness and correction. He loves us so much that he will accept us no matter what dumpster we have been diving in AND so much that he will show us the areas that we need to clean up - for our sakes!

I could keep going with this, but this blog is already like a million words long and I have a lot of work to do today. But, I couldn't do anything else until I got this out. Thanks for listening to my ramblings, my thoughts and my confessions...and as always I would love to hear yours.

Jun 29, 2013

The Parable of the Sower

I have always loved the Parable of the Sower (click on the link if you haven't ready the parable in a while). I'm not exactly sure why I like it so much, maybe it's all of the analogies or maybe it's because Jesus says so much in such a few words.  Since I have had such a hard time getting my seeds to sprout and keeping the plants alive in the drought, my mind continually wanders back to this passage. 
 This is my thought pattern while tending my own garden:

"What an irresponsible farmer, just throwing seed around like that! Doesn't he know what a precious thing he has?!?" Then I hear Him say...he is scattering it because it is precious. BURN! The farmer wants everyone he comes in contact with to hear of God's great love, so he scatters it everywhere he goes. Then I have to ask myself, am I keeping my seed under lock and key? Or am I sharing it with all who will listen - "Who ever has ears to hear, let them hear."

Then I think about the seeds that fall on the rocky soil and into the weeds - both of which are problems in my gardening world. I think, "Man, that farmer has some good seed if it is going to sprout up everywhere it falls!" (we all know the problems I have had with seeds!) and then, "What kind of gardener would just let those seedlings die?" Since I had to coax my little seeds into life, those little plants are precious to me - they represent lots of invested time and work, so I am not about to let them die just because they are planted in the wrong place!

I had this tiny cayenne pepper plant that was the only survivor out of his batch. I planted him in a shady spot in the garden to protect him from the harsh tropical sun. As he started to grow, I realized that there were only leaves on the sunny side of the plant - his backside, if you will, was completely bare! I was afraid that the peppers would start growing on one side and the plant would break because of the one sided weight. What to do? Transplant! I moved the little guy to a sunny spot and now he has leaves all around and is blooming like there's no tomorrow. That has been a theme with a few of my struggling plants, I have had to transplant a few times to find the best spot for them.

This thought brought me to the passage in 1st Corinthians, where Paul is addressing the church and says that (paraphrasing) some people get to plant the seed, and some get to water it, but only God makes it grow - and that each person plays their part in the process, each person has their own purpose.

You see we all have jobs in this garden of a world, and it is very important that we find out what those jobs are - what our purpose is in the Kingdom. I personally think that there are many more jobs in the garden other than planting and watering - you have to pull the weeds, and treat the soil, you have to pick off the bugs, and make sure the plants are growing well. I guess the important part is finding out what your purpose in the garden happens to be - and maybe the more challenging aspect is that you could have different roles in different people's lives at different times in their life.

Sometimes, people need help being transplanted from their old life of sin into a healthy christian environment. That job has to be done at the perfect time, and with gentle loving-kindness not to damage their growing leaves and roots. They have to be watered immediately and tended closely so that they can survive the move. But once they set in, they will have what they need to grow deep roots and produce fruit of their own.

I think all too many times the seed sprouts and there is no one around to care for the tender little plant. It may start to grow up in the rocky soil or get choked out by the weeds of life, but it doesn't mean that the plant is any less precious to the Gardener!

I, for one, will start paying more attention to the which role I have in the lives of the people God has put in my garden. Should I water them? Should I feed them? Should I pull weeds (ouch!)? Should I transplant them? Always remembering that it is God that makes them grow, and that the actions I take should be guided by the Holy Spirit - not my own desire to rush their growth. It seems like such a difficult task, but so was starting a garden in my grass covered, rocky soiled, ant infested backyard! I am so glad we have the Holy Spirit to guide us through all of the challenges we face in life, let's just take them one day at a time!