Hello, World!

Me (reading today’s “verses” to the coding team at our ministry team meeting this morning): “Count it all joy…when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your code produces endurance and let endurance have it’s perfect work in you that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

Intern (teasingly), “What is this? The coder’s version of the Bible? ‘In the Beginning was the Code and the Code was with God and the Code was God.'”

We all paused for a second… “That’s almost Biblical…” we mused thoughtfully, consider God’s creation of everything through Christ and how God spoke the laws/code of the world into being.

Intern 2: “And He said, Hello, World!”

<cue hysterical laughter from the entire team>

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Not Everyone Should Pray for Every Thing

“I don’t believe that everyone should pray for everything.”

Heretic! I shouted in my head.  But out of respect for the elder professor, I simply kept smiling and listening.

It was October of 2005 and I was on my yearly visit back to my Alma Mater to visit friends during Homecoming.  I also took the opportunity to share a missions challenge with current students at the college.  I had serving as a support-based missionary for three years and enjoyed sharing about the work that God was doing on the mission field and inviting people to be a part of it through prayerfully and financially supporting me or other missions projects.

As I packed up my missions display at the end of class period, an older professor came into the room to set up for the next class.  Dr. Bende had arrived at the college after I graduated, so I didn’t know him at all.  Curious, he picked up one of my prayer cards and started asking me questions about the mission work I was doing.

We talked for quite some time about the ministry, eventually discussing the topic of missionaries raising support and the topic of prayer.

“I don’t believe that everyone should pray for everything,” he said, startling me into rapidly searching my mental Bible database for handy “pray for all things” verses.

I hid my startled-ness (I think) and let him continue.

“If everyone tried to pray for every thing, no one would be able to pray effectively.  We should be praying for the things that God directs us to pray for.  I have a map of the world in my study,” he continued. “Each person that I’m praying for has a pin representing where they are serving on that map.  The map is divided into seven sections and each day I pray for one section of the map and for each person in that section.  I strategically, deliberately pray through the map every week.  I don’t tell someone I’ll pray for them unless I’ll put them on the map.”

Looking straight at me and addressing me by name, he said, “I will pray for you.”

I felt like someone had handed me a million dollar check.

Dr. Bende’s words continued to reverberate in my mind for months.  Then years.  I was already purposeful in my use of “I’ll pray for you.”  I didn’t use those words flippantly, but his words seemed to challenge me at a deeper level.

Should we pray about prayerfully supporting a missionary just as much as we would pray (hopefully!) about financially supporting a missionary?  Is it ever right to tell someone asking for prayer support that we don’t feel God leading us to be among their strategic prayer partners? That doesn’t mean we can’t pray for them, of course, but there is a difference between praying for someone when we occasionally think about them and committing to pray strategically and regularly for them.

This conversation has continued to impact how I raise support for missions.  No longer is the “or pray for me” tacked on to letters and conversations as a spiritual sounding closure, but rather, I ask people if the Lord would lead them to be one of my strategic prayer partners.  And I give them time to pray about that and respond. And I let them know that it’s okay if the answer is no.  After all, God puts different burdens on different people’s hearts.  And that everyone is not called to pray for every thing.

It was just last month I talked to Dr. Bende on the phone again.  He had been on my mind a lot the previous few weeks, so I gave him a call to touch base.  He filled me in quickly that he had just gotten home from spending two weeks in the hospital with unexpected health issues.  We marveled at God’s Spirit at work in our lives and as we wrapped up the conversation, he gave me another gift.

“I pray for you and your family every day, Mrs. A.” he said.

And I knew that he really did.

Loving and Disagreeing

In a group conversation about GBLTQ rights recently, a friend–I’ll call her Katie–shared a cartoon to illustrate her concern.  Two panels. The left side showed someone washing the feet of a prostitute and illustrated that you can serve and love a person even if you disagree with their life.  The right side showed an EMT refusing to give medical care to a dying transgender person because they disagreed with the person’s lifestyle.

Once you start discrimination, she said, it leads to the panel on the right.

This was my reply…
Can I share candidly, Katie? Thankfully, the world isn’t as black and white as the cartoon. My husband and I both endeavor to live intentionally and MANY of our friends do the same. We have a prostitute who lives next door to us. I’ve helped her scrape ice off her car at 10:30 at night so she could get to her “job.” We’ve invited her over for Christmas, provided meals for her and her roommates and their boy/girl friends. My boys have painted pictures for “Miss C” to hang on her wall. We have a single mom of four who moved to our street after running away from a domestic abuse situation. We took them our own DR table and chairs until they could get some. We canvassed the community for beds and clothes and provided the family with meals. When one of her teenage girls was pregnant, we found baby clothes and supplies. We’ve invited a family that was living in a tent to live in our furnished basement for 5 months so they could save up money for an apartment. When they found themselves unexpectedly pregnant again later, we provided them with cloth diaper supplies, found a baby carrier so the mom can clean houses, and hired her to clean our house to help (small amount though it is) with their income.

While we don’t have GBLTQ friends here where we live, it’s not an issue we’re untouched by as we have long-distance friends who identify as such. And we’ve talked about how we would live with friendship and love if the Lord put GBLTQ people in our lives here. You’ll find this crazy if you think about the college version of me, Katie, but I was mistaken for a lesbian once. And I’ll never forget the pain that knifed through me as a mom made a rash generalization, yanked her young daughter from where she was standing next to me in a line, and formed a human barrier between her daughter and myself.

“Ouch.” I thought, with the pain knocking the breath out of me. “She thinks I’m going to hurt her daughter. This is what a GBLTQ person deals with all the time.”

I’ve stood up to protesters who were shouting anti-gay slogans from their literal soapboxes as they pounded their family-size Bibles. I’ve faced and corrected angry Christians who thought the Woman’s March was just a march for “gimmie free stuff.” And I’ve been shouted down at by women who personally refused to stand with me in solidarity for women because I am pro-life. I find myself often stuck–feeling rejected sometimes–in the middle of society. And I know I’m not alone in this middle-stuck position. Many of my friends also feel the same way.

As I live my life in service to the Lord, I look each day to reaffirm the valued, loved, personhood of people who are being hurt by society.  I’ve told these stories to discipleship students and college dorms across the nation. I’ve challenged them to seek that life that Christ lived per John chapter 1–a life full of grace and truth. I’ve encouraged them to let our hurting (sometimes hateful-feeling) world drive them to prayer and to love, not to anger, hate, and rash characterizations.

But I am for the traditional, Biblical definition of marriage and sexuality. I believe that homosexuality is not how God designed us. So loving on all these various groups of people I mentioned? Easy, but lots of hard work and prayer. Telling you these last three paragraphs of what I believe? Hard. So hard. Fearful that perhaps by me posting this, some may feel I don’t belong in this group. Or fearful that some may withdraw the invitations they’ve given for me to visit their homes. Can they be friends with such a close-minded person who apparently doesn’t love like Jesus loved?

Perhaps they can pray for me. And maybe we’ll go on being friends, showing the world step by step that you can differ in opinion, fight for what’s right, and still manage to be friends and be the loving hands of God in a broken, hurting world.

On Composing

On Composing

[James, did you get the dishes unloaded yet?]

 

It takes just the right day to write.

[James, don’t climb on the counters.]

A bit of angst,

or a taste of reflection,

[Do not put your feet on the dishes!]

or yet a peaceful moment where all is right in my world.

[No! I said, “Put the dishes away” not “Tackle your brother.”]

 

A day slow enough to reflect

and with energy enough to write.

[Evan, what are you doing in there?!? Get off the bookcase!]

 

A time to let the voices in my head quiet themselves down

so I can sort through them

[STOP IT!]

and find patterns [I said don’t squish the baby!] and capture them

and wend them into words on the page as I weave pictures and ideas.

 

And I wonder

[Can I ever get a moment of peace in this house?!?]

why I never find time to write any more.

The Illusion of a Moment

A moment.

It’s a fleeting period of time.  No wonder we try to capture it.

In the days of a young mom–chasing boys all over the house, changing diapers, battling nap time, and trying to keep the house from looking like a complete battleground–there are many moments in life.  Most of them, it seems, are filled with chaos and runny noses and dirty dishes and trying not to yell.

So when we see one of those rare moments where our kids are playing peacefully together instead of attempting to assassinate one another?  That moment brings a ray of hope to our tired mom soul.

A ray of hope — wow.  Some days that hope is rarer than a bottle of formula in a roomful of crunchy moms.

No wonder we try to capture those moments.

And no wonder we share them.

That fleeting moment when our toddlers are holding hands and walking peacefully instead of squabbling–we want to capture that memory because it makes us smile. And because it makes us smile we share it on Facebook.  But then you see it on Facebook and think that all my life looks like that and that actually, I’m just treasuring the rare moment where it does.

So don’t envy me. And don’t be jealous or let my happy Facebook post discourage you.  You never know if I spent the rest of the day dealing with poop and pee and vomit and snot.  (I didn’t really want to capture those moments.)  Instead, rejoice with me that the moment was captured.  Or hey – that it even existed! And may it be a reminder to treasure simple, special moments in your own life – no matter how small or how rare.

A One-Vehicle Family – Thankfulness

In being a one-car family, we find ourselves juggling the family vehicle at times.  Although sometimes an inconvenience, it comes with its own list of thankfuls.

  1. Thankful for the saved-cost of a second vehicle.  The vehicle juggling is well worth the money we save on not owning a second vehicle.
  2. Thankful for the money I save by not hitting Target regularly or other random sales or stores.  Most of my shopping is kept to necessities and that’s nice on the budget and the clutter-level.
  3. Thankful that boys get the joy and excitement of riding “the big bus” as we use the city bus to help with transportation on occasion.
  4. Thankful for friends that help out at times and come to our house for play dates.
  5. And thankful for the stranger that paid for our ticket yesterday as I misunderstood how part of the bus system worked and didn’t have the cash for our return trip.  Your kindness, sir, kept this busy mom of three from being temporarily stranded 4 miles from home.  Thank you.

Processing Thoughts on a Broken World

I’ve been thinking through so many things recently and they swirl in my head and peg my processor, but yet, I can’t seem to spit out answers or solutions.

My heart aches for the broken lands and people who know not God.  Pastor read through Isaiah 1 at church two weeks ago and all I could do was weep while I listened.

The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.   …a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord…

Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate…

And my heart broke for Syria. And Sudan. And Afghanistan. And Nepal.  And a world that is crying out in pain and desolation–waiting to hear our Saviour’s name.

Who will reach them?  Who will bring them God’s peace on this earth — in their hearts, even if the peace does not exist in their country.  Who will invite them to the worship of God with us?

Will you?  Will I? Will we dare to live radically?  To see beyond our own lives to a world–next door and beyond–that needs Christ?  To let our hearts be broken by God?  To take action and pray and intercede and be willing to serve however God calls us?

My heart longs for redemption.  For restoration.  For the return of Christ and for that time when He will rule the earth with truth and grace!  Yet so many people have yet to hear the Gospel for the first time and I want them to have that chance to hear – now!

Pray with me?

Thankful: Slacks and Long-distance Encouragement

It’s been a rough week or two of heavy things to think through and pray about.  Trying, over and over again, to live out Philippians 4:6-7 and rest in the Lord. And failing most of the time.

But I’m being reminded of God’s faithfulness, even when I’m discouraged.  A friend dropped off a bag of maternity hand-me-downs this week and included were four quality sets of maternity dress slacks that are long enough for me and fit great!  She had been handed-down the bags and was about to post them on a local freebie site when she “just happened” to think of me.  A huge praise since I was swapping between one skirt and one pair of jeans these days.

And I chatted with good friend in New Zealand for an hour today while the boys were napping.  We’re both going through some hard things, so it was great to be able to share what God has been teaching us with each other and be encouraged.

Thanks, God.

Simplicity is Simply Fine with Me

Sometimes, our date nights are simple.  And that’s fine with me.  Just a chance to head out to eat with some specially hoarded splurge money after the kids are in bed for the night.

Thankful today:

1) For a gracious intern who stayed at our house with sleeping boys while we headed out on a date night.

2) That date nights don’t have to be fancy.  A quiet dine-in at Taco Bueno is fine with us. 🙂

3) For the beauty in storms and the triple rainbow we saw on the way to supper this evening.

4) For anticipation of seeing my little sister in two weeks.

5) For anticipation of a new little niece arriving in the next three weeks.  The excitement grows!

6) For walks with friends that I don’t get to see very often.

7) For encouragement from the Word from those friends.  Thankful that God never lets His word return void, but is always accomplishing things through it.

Quiet and busy

There have been a number of days recently that started crazy and ended relaxed. And days that started out looking “perfect” and ended up crazy.

I oft need to be reminded…
This is the day that the Lord has made
Not like tomorrow or yesterday
He made today in a special way
So let us sing and be glad!

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