Friday, July 24, 2015

Welcome Home!

 
“Welcome home!”  The immigration officer said as he checked over my passport.  What wonderful words to hear after traveling half way around the globe.

My husband and I had just spent a fabulous eleven days in South Korea visiting our son.  For a few short moments we pretended to be Korean.  We became chopstick aficionados while sitting on the floor eating, enjoying pepper paste and kimchi. (I even braved a little octopus.)  We lived in a Korean home and took in all the sights, smells and sounds of this wonderful land.  It was fantastic!















As incredible as that time was, it didn’t change the fact that we were visitors in a foreign land.  We didn’t speak their language and we were awkward in our attempts to fit into the culture, in fact most of the time I wondered if I was offending them by my crazy American ways.
We were just travelers passing through, taking in all we could for a few short moments.  Then, we kissed our son goodbye and stepped back into the familiar. . .
Home.  A place where we belong, where we can be completely us, where we’re comfortable and things are familiar, like an old comfy sweater or a favorite pair of worn out tennis shoes. Where we speak the same language, know the customs and are a little less awkward.
As comfy and cozy as I am with my living situation here, this isn’t my true home!  This is just a stopping ground, a place to pitch my tent while I await my heavenly lodgings.  It’s why sometimes when I talk about God, I feel like I’m speaking a different language. It’s why “things” never satisfy and I just don’t seem to fit in.  I'm awkward.  And it’s why I always seem to have this vague longing deep in my soul for something more. 
This place isn’t my real home.  
The apostle Peter speaks about this residency issue in 1 Peter 2.11 (I love how the Message puts it), “Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it . . . “
One day we will take a different trip.  One day we’ll arrive at our true destination and the "immigration officer", our Savior will say with arms wide open, “Welcome HOME, beloved.  I've been waiting for you!” 
Oh what a day!  It takes my breath away and brings tears to my eyes.
Seriously, I can’t wait!!  Can you?

Heavenly Father, help me to never get too comfortable here that I forget where I truly belong, where my real home is.  Amen.
 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Moments


Recently, I spent another amazing week in the Dominican Republic.  I have fallen in love with the people and the country!  Here’s a little of what I experienced while there . .
 
My expectations were running high for this trip.  I had such a wonderful time the previous year and wanted all we had experienced then and more!  I felt myself already comparing the previous trip to the upcoming one and I hadn’t even left yet.  As the time drew closer God began to press upon me the importance of being “all there” on this new venture.  Present in every moment . . . not wishing for previous experiences, not comparing and coming up disappointed. 

I felt God calling me out.  Calling me to something deeper.  As wonderful as my previous trip was, He wanted me to experience new and unexpected moments.  He made His intentions very clear as I watched all of my expectations and desires stripped away, one by one. 

It was as if God was peeling off the layers of my heart, each more painful than the last.  Until all I was left with was an undivided, pure, tiny heart now finally ready to receive all that God had for me on this brand new adventure with Him. 
 

And He gave me so much . . .  

Moments of grace as I held a terrified baby having his tendon clipped so he would walk and run and play unhampered by his deformity. 

Moments of friendship forged in the dirt and poverty of this beautiful third world country. Experiences shared as we painted rooms, prayed over children in the hospital, held crying babies and hugged hurting mothers.  We could literally feel the bonds of friendship wrap around our group like an invisible thread of light in places filled with darkness.  It was beautiful.  Eye-catching.  Breathtaking.  God’s love manifested in the lives of ordinary women who accepted the call, stepped out of all that was comfortable and did what Jesus would do.

Moments of sheer terror as we traversed the crazy streets of Santo Domingo, driving into oncoming traffic and pulling into the right lane just in the nick of time.   


Moments of joy in witnessing God’s healing hand on a little girl named Daniella who now can walk!  
 

Moments of uproarious laughter playing Telephone Pictionary during down time with the group, sliding off bus seats as we rounded corners at break neck speeds and watching the children’s joy at a blind man being healed by Jesus.  



Moments of just plain silly fun!

 

Moments of tears at the poverty and hopelessness around us.  Tears of awe and amazement by a woman named Evelyn who was a street-kid herself now enveloping unwanted kids in the love of Jesus. Tears of sadness as I glimpsed a man bear crawl his way along the beach, unable to stand due to his deformities, with a smile as wide as the ocean. 



 
Moments of sheer happiness in the reunion of my very special great grandma friend!  An unexpected and treasured gift.  I will forever hold in my heart the moment we laid eyes on each other.  Sweet cherished precious moments.

 

 
 

 
Moments of fun as we painted those beautiful little brown faces, made balloon animals, handed out toys, drew pictures on cement, painted fingernails, blew bubbles, watched children’s faces light up with pure happiness and mother’s dance for joy as they received a little mesh bag with a toothbrush and other necessities.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Moments of beauty when the language barrier became no barrier at all.  



Moments of love as we carried much needed groceries into a tiny orphanage teeming with children and visited with a family in their humble home so proud of their tiny backyard with one little chicken in a cage. 






Moments I will hold close to my heart for a lifetime! 

Taking the child in his arms, Jesus said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the One who sent me.”  (Mark 9.36-37)

  

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Ugly to Beautiful

I have friends, maybe you’re one of them, who can look at an old dilapidated table found at a flea market and envision what it would like in their house with a little tender loving care.  But when I look at the same old table, I see something that should’ve been hauled off to the dump a long time ago. 

I struggle to see beauty in junk.  And I find myself believing God feels the same way about me.

Then, I remember Peter.

Peter was one of Jesus’ closest followers. Just hours before Jesus was captured and crucified, Peter rashly promised Jesus that he would go to the death for Him . . .

 Simon Peter asked, “Lord, where are you going?”
And Jesus replied, “You can’t go with me now, but you will follow me later.”  
“But why can’t I come now, Lord?” he asked. “I’m ready to die for you.”  (John 13:36-37 NLV)

It was only a few hours later when Peter denied ever even knowing Jesus, not once but three times! 

At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter.  Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind:  “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three time that you even know me.”  And Peter left the courtyard weeping bitterly.  Luke 22.61-62 

Can you imagine how devastating this must have been for Peter?  Was there anything worse than disowning Jesus? Did Peter feel like a piece of garbage?  Trash to be thrown away? 

Far from throwing Peter out, Jesus finds him and asks not once but three times if Peter loves Him.  Something beautiful takes root in Peter's heart . . .

From that moment on, Peter is a different man. He becomes a powerful spokesperson for the gospel of Jesus Christ and God uses him to turn hearts to Him.  What Peter saw as junk in his life; his biggest failure was what God used to make him stronger, more determined and more driven to follow Jesus and boldly share the Good News.

God took this broken man; his messy bits, his glaring failures, and shaped him into something jaw-droppingly beautiful! 

When I look at my life, the messy bits, the poor choices, I see a huge mess.  A pile of junk!  I see no redeemable qualities whatsoever.

But God does the same thing with me as He did with Peter.  He sees my messy piles and envisions something beautiful and accepts the challenge of turning my chaos and clutter into something truly breath-taking.  Look what Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”

Isn’t that amazing!  He doesn’t just see our junk but remarkably He uses it to make something beautiful!  God sees the BIG PICTURE. We only see the here and now, the failures, the mistakes, the regrets but God uses all of it to accomplish His great plan for us.

Look at what God does in nature:  He changes an unsightly caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly and an "ugly duckling" into a magnificent swan.

If He can do that to a caterpillar or an "ugly duckling", think what He can do with us! 
 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

When Scripture Doesn't Work


http://www.freeimages.com/photo/1440669
When I was eight years old, my family moved from the beautiful state of Alaska to sunny California.  I traded an isolated existence (we lived fifty miles from the nearest town) for an atmosphere teeming with human beings, automobiles and television sets.  Simply stated, I was overwhelmed and afraid.  We went from never locking our doors, to keeping them locked all day, every day.  Cars raced up and down our road all hours of the day and night and I was inundated with news stories of people being robbed and murdered. Fear became my constant companion. 
The ugly monster of fear was especially scary in the small hours of the night.  I would lay awake terrified someone was going to murder us all in our beds.  Every little noise sent panic coursing through my body, my heart would pound and I would hold my breath hardly daring to breathe. Night after night this monster relentlessly pursued me.
I recently came across a verse I was encouraged to say when I was in this dark place, and the memories of this fear-ridden time in my life came rushing back . . .
I would lay in my bed, frozen with fear, reciting this verse, over and over, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee.  What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee.  What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee.”  Psalm 56.3 (I learned it in the King James Version.  I often wonder now what God must have thought as he listened to an eight year old little girl saying “Thee”.  I hope it made Him smile.) 
Reciting this verse, no matter how many times I said it, never really seemed to do any good.  I was still absolutely and completely terrified.
As an adult now, looking back on this time in my childhood, I understand now why the recitation didn’t work.  God didn’t design His Word to be quoted over and over again, like magic words that will open a hidden door.  It was given so that we might let its truth sink deep into our souls and change us from the inside out.  His Word is not a rabbit’s foot or a magic wand.  It is has power only when we let it change us.  
God’s Word was given for transformation not mindless recitation.

Letting Scripture change our heart and mind, takes determination and grit.  It takes intentionality and fortitude as we allow it to point out our flaws, shine light on the hidden places of our soul, and reveal the fragility of our faith. 
Endlessly repeating words, even God’s Words, will never accomplish what putting into practice, living out and embracing His Truth will do. 
 

Monday, May 25, 2015

It's got a Hole in it!


http://www.freeimages.com/photo/1169954
I grew up wanting to be perfect.  I've no one else to blame for this but myself.  I hungered for people’s approval of me.  I longed for affirmation for who I was and what I did.  I had huge expectations for myself and for everyone else around me.  If people didn’t say just the right thing about what I had done or if they overlooked it, I would live in a puddle of despair.  If they did value it then I would live on a mountain top high for a couple of days, only to be right back in the puddle once again looking for affirmation and approval.  It became my insatiable quest.

My life looked a lot like a cup with a hole in the bottom of it.  The more I had poured into it, the more poured out of it.   When more was poured in the fuller I felt but it would be a false sense of fullness as it would eventually seep out the bottom and I would be left empty once again. 

 It was a thirst I couldn’t quench and a hunger I could never satisfy.
 

Jesus said to the woman at the well in John 4, . . .  Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again.  But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again.  It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”  (John 4.13-14)

 

The woman at the well had the same problem I had, she sought her identity, worth and value from the people in her life.  She was on an insatiable quest to be filled and she looked for it in all the wrong places.  She believed, like I believed, people were the answer to this voracious thirst so she ran around holding out her cup wanting man after man to fill it, only to be left empty in the end.   

It wasn’t until she met THE MAN, the perfect man, the one who could truly satisfy the thirst in her heart where she was finally fulfilled and the ravenous thirst was gone!  Jesus met her needs in a way no one else could.  She found her worth and value in Him and she no longer needed to look anywhere else.  

Do you see what Jesus said to her?  “If you drink from the water I give, you will never thirst again!”   

Jesus plugs up the hole in our heart and produces in us a fresh bubbling spring that never runs dry.  The insatiable quest is over!  The search for satisfaction is done. 

So how do we drink from the water Jesus gives?  How do we let Him fill us, a God we can’t see, instead of looking to people, we can see, to satisfy us?  

We must start with what we think.  Because what we think on, turns into a belief, which then in turn governs the way we live.  In Romans 12.2 it says, “ . . . let God transform you by changing the way you think.”  If we are to begin to find our value and worth in Jesus it first starts in our mind. 

In the move the Help, Abileen says to Mae Mobley throughout the movie.  “You is smart.  You is kind.  You is important.”  Why does she do this?  I think she wants Mae Mobley to know deep down inside who she is no matter where she goes, no matter what happens to her, no matter what anyone one says to her. 

I believe God has a  similar message for us.  He wants us to know deep down inside who we are, no matter where we go, no matter what happens to us, no matter what anyone says to us. 
 
He wants you to know . . .

You is special. (Psalm 139.13,14)  You is MINE.  (Galatians 4:7) You is Important!  (1 John 4.9)

When we think on this.  When we dwell on these truths, we will begin to believe we are special, we are His and we are important and we will no longer need to quest for our identity and worth in other people or in what we do.  We won’t need to because we are full up with Him. 
 
He has plugged up the hole in our heart and we are finally satisfied!