Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bits and Pieces

I volunteered to fill in for someone who had surgery, so this week, I am working seven days in a row.  Keep in mind that I usually only work four days a month - only to keep up some experience.  This week - the week my husband had to fly to a meeting.  I'm wiped.

My second son will see the doctor in two days to see how the bone is doing.  He hates his cast and the horrible itching it is causing.  He also managed to slam the metal door on his right ankle and cut it pretty impressively right on the tendon on the back of the heel.  Then today, he pulled off a quarter sized piece of skin on his right hand.  I guess we still have a healthy left foot!!!  (Monty Python music playing in the background with the slow singing of "Always look on the bright side of life....")

My first son got his dressing and stitches removed.  The good news is that about 80% of the rip healed well.  The bad news is that there is a section about one inch square (well, not square!) that died.  The doctor decided to leave it open to air and let it finish dying and fall off.  Then the wound should heal from underneath.  It looks ugly, but will likely heal if we keep it clean.  I do cover it when we go out - for protection - his and other people's!

But here is what it looks like now:

Did I mention I was tired?  Besides working for seven days in a row, I am juggling doctor's appointments.

Lilly is such a help and it is a blessing to have her.  My kids, with their incurable curiosity, are helping us to share as we walk in the way.  The bombard me with questions on any day, and her presence hasn't stopped them.  Questions such as:  How did Satan get to be Satan?  Did he take one third or one fourth of the angels with him?  How can God be three and not three?  (Great question by the way - allowed me to firmly refute that we believe in three gods.)  Why are Catholics different than us?  (another great question!)

Lilly was very surprised to hear that we do not believe the same things as the Catholics.  She was even more surprised to hear that in history and still in some areas of the world that Catholics persecute and have killed Christians.  This was a great opportunity to build on the point that Christianity is really about the heart - a real relationship with God.  Not being told what to do.  We talked about how Catholics would force people to become Catholic, but that no one can force anyone to be a Christian.  Her mind began to churn at that one because she had always heard that Christians are the ones behind the Crusades, and to hear that those who believe in God and follow Him would not do that, could not do that, and suffered also at the hands of "the Church" was something she pondered over for two days.

Did I mention my husband was gone?  I miss him.

And I am sad.  A lingering sadness.  It is a long story involving a very special gift that went all too wrong too quickly.  A gift that should have conveyed love, but instead conveyed apathy.  It hurt, and there is a lingering sadness from that.  Tears often come now when I am alone, tears and an aching knowledge that I am very alone in some grief.  But I will write about this another time - after some sleep!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

As You Walk in the Way

Our guest for the summer, she needs a name... how about Lilly?

Well, Lilly came with me today to a wedding.  It was a Christian wedding, but not the one I would have chosen for her to come to.  It was a wedding of a couple who had been living together and had one child and are now marrying.  Part of me cringes, wanting to show Lilly perfect Christianity.  But this is the wedding we went to.  I have cringed a few times in church, too, thinking, "Oh no, why did they have to say THAT now?!"  But I've learned to trust... I am learning to trust.  I've come to the solid conclusion that God is sovereign.  He has brought Lilly here to us in this time, and He is in control of what people say and do in church, and yes, even in who gets married this summer.  Doesn't mean I haven't frantically prayed a few times in church, "please, Lord, stop him from saying....."  And God did.

So we went to this wedding.  Before we went, she asked some questions about how normal it is for people to have a child before marriage.  I was honest and said that in the culture where we live now, it is not uncommon unfortunately, but it is not right.  I said that Christians believe that is wrong, very wrong.

Her next question was a difficult one to answer.  She asked if it was seen as wrong as it was in her culture.  Hmm.. yes and no.  It is seen as wrong, very wrong, yes.  It is a shame.  This family was greatly disgraced and the father resigned from his position as an elder in the church because of what his son did.  It is wrong.  But.....  the difference is that God chose to make a way for us to return to a relationship with Him after we have done wrong.  That is why He sent Jesus to earth to carry our sin and shame and make a way for us to return to a close relationship with God.  So, while it is very wrong... we still have forgiveness.  Just as I have forgiveness and the taking away of my shame, so do these two.  And as Christians, we forgive because we know we are forgiven.

She thought about that.

Then this evening, a food was served which she would not eat.  I watched very carefully so she would not be served it without her knowing.  Do I think it is a problem?  No.  But I will honor her by being careful for her.  Yet we sat at a table where others who used to be in the religion she was in sat.  They ate this food, and she was not offended because she sees other people do it, but she questioned.  "Can you eat that as a Christian?  Is it not dirty?"  She had asked me earlier, and I had replied with what Jesus had said that it was not what we ate that made us dirty, but what was in our hearts.  When she repeated the question to our team member at our table, he explained the same thing - that what we eat goes in us and comes out and can not defile us.  That what defiles us is the evil in our hearts.  It is that which makes problems, and God is more interested in the heart than the intestinal track.  She listened carefully, then nodded her head and said, "That is completely logical.  Of course."

She also asked today about the dress and behavior of some of those in the wedding.  Again I cringed, wishing we could only show her "beautiful Christians".  I told her the truth - that some of that family were not Christians.  That thought puzzled her and she asked how different people in a family could be Christians and others not.  I explained that Christianity is not a belief on the outside.  It is not a list of rules or things we should do.  It is much deeper. It is a choice from the heart to believe in and follow God.  No one can make someone else chose to follow God from their heart.  They could say, "you have to do this or that" but they can not make someone think any way.  So it is impossible to make someone a Christian and so it is possible that in one family some may chose to obey and follow God and others may not.  This was also a new concept to her and she thought it over carefully, but agreed that it does make a lot of sense.

So through the things I cringed about today, I saw God speaking one message to her.  It is the heart that He is concerned with, not the external, and while we all have hearts with sin and shame, there is forgiveness.

The reception was full of speeches, not glossed over happy wishes for a good life, but real people sharing how they struggled with the situation of their unmarried teens expecting a child, about the embarrassment and anger they felt, but how they had seen these two people decide to get right with God and grow to know Him.  They shared now that they are proud of their children for making the difficult right choices with the pregnancy.  They shared the hope and the love God has given them now.  Forgiveness and restored honor lived out in front of the whole wedding.  Maybe God knew what He was doing in choosing this particular wedding for her to go to.

Drip, drip, drip....  little pieces of truth.

God commanded that we teach as we sit, as we stand, and as we walk in the way.  We walk one more month with Lilly here.  Pray that we continue to teach as we walk.  Pray for her heart to ponder the things she has heard.  She is listening with intent.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Listening and Interested

My husband's cousin is staying with us for the summer.  We have had his relatives before and they are nice to have, but we have never had one stay with us who would come to church with us.  This girl just came and kept coming.  She was very interested by church and by all that was going on.  We also attend a church in her native language on another day of the week.  She came with us tonight.  The people were familiar as she had met them all at other times, so she felt very comfortable.

The man leading service tonight spoke about the hope we have and the joy - a hope and joy the did not have in their previous religion.  They all shared testimonies during the service and comments on the truth.  (I honestly think they planned this because she was coming for the first time!)  She listened to the two hour service with attention and read along in the Bible in her language.

A few nights ago, she kept my husband up all hours of the night asking him questions.  She said that she did not know what she believed.  I mean, she knew what she was because she was born that, but didn't even know what her religion taught or why she believed it.  My husband gave her a book about Basic Christianity, and over the last few days, she has been reading that late into the night.  She also asked for a copy of her holy book in her language so she could begin to read it to find out what it says.  She also has begun to read portions of the Bible.  The kids put on some Bible videos to watch in their videos they are watching while recuperating.  They also listen to Bible stories in the car.  She listens.  She has gone to several of our team member's houses (just knowing that they are friends), and they have taken her on walks and shared their life stories with her.

So pray for her.  She is impressed in what she sees in the lives of Christians and wants to find out why they are the way they are.  She also wants to read the stories in the Bible.  She also wants to study her holy book, but I have no fears of that book.  Let her read it, and let her read God's Word... I know which one has power.

We have so long prayed for my husband's family that some of them would also become believers.  So far there are none.  But early this year, I felt really led to specifically invite this one girl to come spend the summer with us - even though another teenager was close to last on my list of things I wanted for the summer!  So, pray with us.  Pray for one more from this family... one more... the beginnings of others.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

An Update on Injuries

A week ago my second son broke his arm.  We've been to the doctor again, and it is indeed the growth plate which is broken.  It was reset since the temporary splint was either not put on right or he moved.  This country we are in approaches pain medication very differently than the lovely hospitals in the US we visited.  In the US, my son was given a shot of Demerol within fifteen minutes of our arrival.  Here, well, here they gave him a local injection and then reset the arm.  He screamed and went white.  Then they had him lay still for twenty minutes because he was so white they were afraid he would pass out.  Then they gave him a prescription for pain.  Would have helped to give him the medicine BEFORE the setting!

For the first day, he had considerable pain, but now he is fine - just annoyed at the cast.

The first son has had regular dressing changes, but the repair job that they did is not holding.  Two pieces of skin that were patched in are dead.  Next week, they will need to be removed, and either a sin graft or a special bandage will be put on - depending on what they see under the skin. 

Please pray for good healing for these two.

I'll leave you with a photo - likely the only photo you will see of my kids... sorry if it is not beautiful.  What you can't see is that on the face attached to this arm is a huge grin of a thirteen year old boy proud of his battle scars!

Monday, July 19, 2010


My second son had to go in to have his arm re-set.  It was a very painful experience, but it is now over and he is proudly showing off his lime green cast.

While we were in the waiting room, he was looking at a magazine I had brought.  It proudly ran an ad for some wrinkle cream and stated, "Menopause - they'd never know from your wrinkle free skin!"  He studied the ad for a minute, and asked me what it meant, because...  "Menopause means grey hair, right?  So why would people be looking at your wrinkles to see if you had grey hair?"

I told him menopause didn't mean grey hair, it only meant aging.... oh, the white lies we tell when we really don't want to explain all THAT in a public place!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Problem with Falling in Love

There is a downside, you know.

By now my husband has gotten used to me falling in love with random old men - well, at least with ones in the nursing home where I work once a week.  (This summer, I am there much more than once a week!  Covering for people on holidays.)

The problem with falling in love is that it is so hard to watch them suffer and die.

My favorite, the Scottish gentleman who endearingly calls me "my little half and half" (because I am mixed nationalities, and to whom I always answer back laughingly that that sounds like a jug of cream!) is dying.  At least, at this point, I hope he is dying soon.  He is suffering - the agonizing, painful suffering of a diabetic dying.  Besides the diabetes causing severe pain in the limbs he has left, he also has tumors in very painful locations and a few ulcers.  He has reached the point where we minister to him while he dies, but there is nothing to be done to fix him.  It is painful to watch.

I left his bed with tears in my eyes tonight.  It is going to be hard to watch the next few weeks.

I moved him to wash him tonight and got only a string of curses and groans.  Every little thing brought pain.  At the end, when I had him settled, and the room cleaned up again, I came over to his bed, leaned down, put my hand on his arm and rested my cheek against his forehead and was still.  His breathing quieted, and he whispered, "I just want to die."  I told him that I know he does, and I am sorry he hurts so much.  He took a few more breaths and then his muffled voice came out of the dim room, "You are a lovely girl, little half and half."  I smiled, and quietly left him to drift to sleep.

The problem with falling in love is that it is so hard to watch them die when death comes slowly with pain.

There are people who say it is simply better not to love them, not to get attached to a patient... but I do not agree with them.  These people spend their last few years with us... some families visit, some do not, but we are the ones they see on a daily basis.  I would rather love them and let them spend their last years loved than not love them only to shield my heart.

But it is hard.

Pray for this man.  He knows he is dying, and some days the thought of death terrifies him.  I have shared my hope with him.  I will continue to share with him.  Pray that the last gift I can give him is the hope that I have.  And pray that God is merciful to him as we walk through these next weeks.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Salt of the Earth?

My husband was trying to teach the kids about salt today at the table to explain the meaning of salt in his language.  He asked them if they remembered that the Bible said we are the salt of the earth.  They did.  So he asked them if they remembered what salt was for.  Several of them mentioned taste, but he asked if they knew what else it was for, like back in the Bible times....

This time, it was my oldest, (who should have known better!) who scrunched his face up thinking and then popped up with the answer,

"I know!  Fertilizer!!"

Umm... you are the fertilizer of the earth??

Somehow just doesn't bring up the same mental picture!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Always Make A Memorable Exit?

Well, we had finished our conference and a few brief visits and were scheduled to leave the country.  We had decided to take two days family time and go camping right before we left.  We arrived at the campground and barely set up the tent when my second son came over to me holding his arm.  He had fallen out of a tree.

I looked at it and it didn't look good, so I drove him to the nearest ER where he got put in a cast.  He seems to have broken it n the growth plate and will need to be seen later.  He was in a lot of pain for the whole camping time.

When we had finished camping and were ready to leave, we hit the grocery store for two items before we went to leave.  It was getting dark when we were ready to pull out, but I decided I would use the toilet and my oldest son wanted to return the cart.  He did, and as I was walking in, I saw a older lady with a back splint on pushing her cart over to her car.  I called my son and pointed to the lady.  I am training him to be a gentleman, so he stepped over and offered to help her unload her groceries.  I went in to use the bathroom.

When I came out, my son was walking towards me with a funny look on his face.  I thought that he was feeling strange because the lady gave him money.  Sometimes old ladies insist and he feels awkward about it.  So I walked towards him, but then saw he was holding his elbow.  He said, "Mom, something happened."

I reached out and pulled up his fairly long t-shirt sleeve and gasped!  I thought he had been stabbed or attacked in the dark parking lot.  A large piece of his arm seemed to be missing and fat and tissue hung down from a gaping wound.  He began to cry and say, "Mom, I'm sorry!  I'm sorry!"

Sorry?  What had happened?  I hollered at a checker to grab their first aid kit right now and get me an abd. pad.  Then I asked him who hurt him and if he was ok.

No.  It wasn't a random attack, but an injury.  Hard to believe such a thing could happen in the parking lot of a grocery store in just two minutes, but it did.  He loves gymnastics and had seen what looked like parallel bars above the cart return where he took the old lady's cart.  Like any boy, he had swung on them.  As he jumped off, his under arm caught on a little metal tab sticking out which used to hold a sign at one point.  That ripped a huge gash out of his arm.  It was about 4x3x3 inch triangle with pieces out on his shirt and hair.  It was so big that the firemen who responded went out to search the parking lot for any piece of his arm they could salvage.  Actually, it was all there, just hanging in tatters under his elbow.

The checkers brought me a first aid box which the biggest bandage in it was a 4x4 gauze.  Ha!  I hollered at them to go open a package of dishtowels or something, but get something fast!  They came back with paper towel, so I grabbed that and put pressure on it and held it above his head.  They called the ambulance, and we got our first ride in one.

It was a long night.  Eventually, we decided that my husband would go ahead and leave with the three, and I would stay with the injured one.  I quickly scratched on a paper the second's pain medication schedule, kissed him goodbye, and they left. 

It took the surgeon one and a half hours just to do the stitching.  I stayed with him as it was done under a local.  He had just eaten a huge Mexican meal, and no one wanted to risk putting him under.  It took them half an hour to freeze the wound.  We lost count of those shots - that was when he was trembling and crying at the pain of them sticking needles in his wound.  Besides that one time, he was calm enough and brave through the whole event with almost no crying at all.  We stayed the night in the hospital, and he was stable enough that we could leave the next day.

What an exit!  I tell you, I only wanted two quiet days camping by the lake!

Well, pray for these two.  The broken arm will have to be X-rayed again to see how it is.  It may be the growth plate and I don't really know what that will mean.  The cut on the arm will be ok if the tattered skin will stay alive and "take".  They were concerned that it won't because of the state it is in, and then he will need a skin graft to cover the wound.  We're praying it heals easily.  We do have decent medical care where we are - not the easiest to navigate, but we are confident that they will be able to address any issue the boys have later.

It is good to be home - even if all we are doing is lying around resting right now.  I need to keep two very active boys still.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Irrational and Clingy

I'm thankful that I have such an expressive daughter who ponders things and tries to explain what she is feeling and thinking.  Sometimes she helps me understand what I am going through.

I started today fairly happy, at peace.  But as evening began, I became unrestful.  I walked away to find a quiet place to cry.  The evening only got worse from there, and I could not figure out what was going on.  I know that tomorrow we will be saying goodbye to people special to us, but it is something I have done before with less struggle than I am feeling today.  I feel an unrational clingyness.  Unable to face tomorrow well.

Then I remembered my daughter's behavior and her attempts to explain it to me - her sobbing long into the night, through her sobs telling me that she knows it is ok, but that she can't help it and "I just want you to stay with me.  I don't want you to leave."  I know how she feels today.  It is unrational.  It is not my normal.  But I am not coping well with tomorrow's goodbye.  Tears fill my eyes and I wish I was young enough just to sit down and sob.

I'm not.  But my husband found me and wrapped his arms around me and held me.  He laughed softly when I told him what was wrong and just held me.  It's ok that he knows that I don't want to say goodbye to friends.  That I am irrationally clingy.  He will be there tomorrow with me after we smile and say goodbye.  He will hold me when I cry.  He will take the kids and keep them busy or keep them quiet and give me the peace I need to process my feelings.  And tonight he will hold me and know that my heart hurts.

While I cry tonight so that I won't cry tomorrow, I am also thankful.  Thankful for my husband's arms, for his understanding, for his gentleness with me.  Thankful for his complete trust in me, that he knows my heart open in front of him, and trusts me - even when I am in tears about saying goodbye to people special to me.

Also compounding my night (I should have known better!), we watched a movie tonight that brought back flashbacks.  Tonight I'm struggling.  I feel silent in the middle of a crowd.  Needing to walk and talk.  Needing to sit by a stream and throw in sticks without speaking.  The feeling will pass.  I know it will.  I've been through these cycles a few times now and am learning to be gentle with myself, to stay calm and ride out the feelings, and to pull away and take things easy for a time - a few hours, a few days...  I've learned to talk when I need to, to not talk when I need to.

I'll be ok.  I know I will.  My daughter was fine after we left.  She just needed her night where she cried out her insecurity and her fear of saying goodbye again.  I'll be fine, too.  It is just these things sometimes still surprise me - my new normal.  It's not the same normal I used to have. 

The Amazing Power of Praise

I am not the most complimentary person.  I think I should work harder at this, and have begun to practice on random strangers, but it does not come naturally to me.

I did not grow up in a family that praised each other often.  We expressed compliments in a backhanded way sarcastically.  But over the last years, I have grown to see the power of well-spoken praise.  In fact, praise makes such an impact on me that I have a secret file (please don't tell) in my computer where I copy and paste special words of praise people have said to me.  Now there is one person in my life whose comments I do not put in that file since there are simply too many of them.  But I treasure these words.

In the difficult times we went through this spring and in the confusing attacks by our own afterward, there were a few who praised us or me.  I treasured those.  I kept them in my file.  Today, one other came in.... from someone I highly respect who had walked a similar path, only harder, that we walked.  It was a simple praise in a letter to my husband about me.  When I read it, my heart smiled.

A few hours later, I got cornered by a person who had an interest in or could have been affected by the actions this spring, and got sort of scolded for what had happened.  It hurt.  I hadn't expected it, not then, not from her.  But it happened, and I understand her point.  Yet it hurt.

But the word of praise was still there, and it wrapped itself around me like armor to protect from the criticism.  It shielded me.

Hmm....  build each other up... does this include honest, heart-felt praise?  Rather than "spoiling" us, will praise more protect us from hurt, giving us value, confidence, and a sense of being seen and loved.  What would our team, our families look like if I concentrated on giving real praise whenever I had the chance?  Not empty flattery, but praise.

I still keep my file of good things people have said.  Interestingly, I don't feel proud when I read it, but instead a profound sense of awe.  Awe that God is using me (me?! really - the me I know?) to show or do the things He is showing or doing through me.  I stand in awe of God and what He does.  (yeah, ok, at times I tell Him that I think He is slightly crazy - He could have done better in choosing!)

But today, my heart was warmed by the words of one I greatly respect.  Whose heart have you warmed recently?  Who warms your heart?  I wonder if as Christians we are too quick to tear down and too slow to build up.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


When we get together with people in group settings like conferences or retreats, like paths crossing here or there, there is a bittersweetness.  The same blessing of being part of a family of missionaries is also a wound.  For each person we learn to know and love, we are very aware that we say goodbye to.  The constantness of the reunions and the goodbyes are a factor in our lives.

I visited with someone who got to see someone special to them recently.  She smiled because she said, "It is so nice this time, because usually I only have about four days before I say good-bye again, but this time I get a few weeks."  Hello.  Goodbye.  So often so close together that before the joy has settled from the hello, we look ahead and see the shadow of the goodbye looming.  It is bittersweet.

There is also the fact that the sheer joy of being here and being with these people means I am not there and not with those people.  Always, no matter where I am, there are those I dearly love elsewhere.  I miss them.  Yet, if I go to them, I miss others.  That bittersweetness of close relationships constantly being separated.  A very part of our lives.

It is that part which makes me long for heaven.  There will be no more goodbyes.  I think in heaven I won't stop smiling.  To finally have all those I love together in one place....  never to say goodbye again!

I've figured what I want etched on the bottom of my tombstone, after whoever puts whatever they want.  At the very bottom, I want engraved, "No More Goodbyes".  It is what I look forward to.

While being "home" (such a funny word), we've had so many hellos.  Soon, I am facing so many goodbyes, and my heart is already protesting the pain of what is coming.

Things That Make Me Cry

It's been awhile since I've cried over all that happened this spring.  In fact, I feel normal slowly settling in.  It is a new normal, different than the old normal, but nevertheless, it is a normal. 

But then there are things that can make me cry.

I was cleaning out my second son's room last week to prepare for our guest.  My second son, like all my sons, is  bit of a hoarder.  Now what he collects is very different than the others, but he collects things.  He loves anything with nature and any written word - must be the Chinese in him.... they had a reverence for written words.  (No, he is not really Chinese!  But we are connected distantly to China.... see the Laws of Connectedness!)  My other son collects any electronic item or piece of item.  The other - well, he is just messy!

While I was cleaning out his drawers and sorting through what written things could be discarded and what should be saved, I came across four carefully cut out hearts.  They were cut out and then very thin layers of hearts were mostly, but not completely cut out in strips so that it could spread out in a 3-D shape.  Very delicate and having taken a lot of effort to do.

I pulled them out and looked at them to see who had made such detailed things and why.  Then I saw my son's neatest writing on the top of each heart and my heart caught in my throat.  You see, I had encouraged my kids to occupy themselves when my husband was "over there" and we knew he was missing by writing or making something special for daddy.... in case he came home or in case we were able to send something.... or in case...  I hoped it would keep them busy and help them express their feelings.  These delicate hearts had been made then.

I read the first one and it said, "I love you Daddy."  The second one said, "Please come home soon."  The third said, "I hope you are safe."  But it was at the fourth one that the tears came.  It said simply, "We will all miss you, Daddy."

Even though we are daily thankful to be together as a family again, there are these little reminders of what we went through - what we all went through.  I realize again and again that my children were touched by this, that they still deal with it, that I need to remain sensitive to their needs.  We left my daughter with people for the first time this week and went away.  She was excessively clingy to the point we almost rethought our plan.  She was never that way before, but now the thought of her mommy and daddy leaving reduced her to worried sobs.  I assured her that we would be only a few hours away and could talk to her, that she was safe and so were we.  She only sobbed on my shoulder and said, "I KNOW all that, but I am afraid anyway."  In the end, we did leave her, but only after she decided she would stay.  I phoned her, and she was all giggles and having fun.  But I haven't asked how she is doing at night.  I pray she is coping.  I pray God will comfort her heart and take away her unnamed fear.  I'm thankful she will express it to me, even expressing that she understands there is no reason for it, but is aware it is there.

Each of my kids has responded differently presenting me with different challenges as a mother.  I can not treat them all the same, but have to be sensitive to their own individual needs in recovery.  But, all in all, they are doing well, and I am proud of them.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Meeting Friends

One of my biggest delights (ok, ok, not really a biggest... but one I am delightedly happy in anyway) is that we have a conference that we need to go to every now and then that is in the US in July.  It means that when we come, we can plan it just so to be in the US for the 4th of July.  This year we were.

What delight to be here, to celebrate Independence Day in our country, not in a place where we get regular insults about being American.  (off topic, but it is a thing that I shake my head over and question.  Ok, I know that the people we minister TO may not like my country, and that is fine, but it is the ones we minister WITH who cause me to shake my head in wonder.  If I was to insult their country like they feel free to insult mine, they would be deeply offended.  Yet somehow they think it is fine to insult my country.  It hurts.  I think it hurts every American out there, just as it would hurt anyone if I attacked their country.  I love my country not because I think it is perfect, but because it is mine.  I was born there.  I love the place.  Do I agree with everything America does?  No.  But it is my homeland.  Sorry - just a public service announcement to all missionaries from other countries - we do not like it when you insult our country.  I don't think it is part of following Christ to purposely hurt others and make fun of them - yes, even if they are American!  Ok, I'll be quiet about that now if you promise one thing - think before you speak.  Ask yourself, "Would I like to hear someone say this in this tone about my country?"  That is all.)

But  delight to be here - to see fireworks, to hear my national anthem.  To be eaten alive by mosquitoes.  This year, Independence Day was extra special to us and we celebrated.

Another delight for me was meeting a blogger friend.  What fun!  I got to meet Junglewife.  I also met Angela from Unveiling Radiance.  I can report on both that they are both nice people worth meeting.  They can report that I am a live human being with a face, a name, and a real story.  :) 

But I've developed a theory about missionaries.  It won't take us longer than ten minutes and five connections to run across people that we both know or at least know of!  I had likely seen junglewife's husband years and years before - before I was married at a church I was in once.  Angela and I had some other connections.  Junglewife's relatives had been working with the same group some of my relatives worked with.

It is the Law of Connections.  It is what ties us missionaries all together into a big family.  Like it or not, you sign up for this family when you first head overseas.  But what a blessing, too.  Even greater than my loyalty to my country which I love is my loyalty to my missionary family.  Wide, vast, spread all over the world, we are family.  I'm blessed to be a part of that.  I think, as flawed as we all are, we are a living picture of Christ's body.  We are family, we relate to each other and connect with each other - very differently than the general church body.  There is a knowledge that I can rely on, relax around, and care for anyone in the missionary family more than I do a "general Christian".  It is a blessing.  (ok, for those of you who have been hurt by ones in the missionary family, I am not pollyanna about it.  I know hurt exists.  I know evil people are in that group, too.  I know.  I have some in my family that I am also careful around.  I am talking in general - that connection and joy we have in each other that is special and different - not in blind trust of anyone.).

Oh, oh, and I am going to meet one more and talk to another on the phone while I am here! I am so excited!

Questioning My Theology

Again we were sitting in church with a good Baptist preacher preaching.  Now I grew up primarily Baptist, although not totally.  I think I went to at least four different denominations, but one of those was Baptist, and the others were similar.  But as I grow, I am questioning my theology.

I've questioned what I was taught and not taught about the Holy Spirit.

I've questioned what I was taught and not taught about transparency among believers and the effort to appear perfect.

This week I questioned what I had been taught about sinners.  I even spoke to the pastor about it afterward.  You see, I had been taught this basic line: "God does not listen to sinners.  The only prayer He will hear from a sinner is 'Lord, be merciful to me a sinner" (or some version of 'forgive me, I'm wrong').)

Theologically, it makes sense.  God listens to the righteous.  His eyes are towards those who do good and away from the wicked.

The problem was the more and more I listened to people who came to believe out of the religion we work among, the more I found this to be untrue.  I think in our defense of this line of thought we forget one fact.

God is unexplainably merciful.  Above and beyond what we think, He has mercy.

He also greatly desires that we have a relationship with Him.  He desired that so, so much that He was willing to send Jesus to suffer by living among us and dying for our sins.

So why would He sit in heaven and turn a deaf ear to all petitions unless they were humble petitions for forgiveness?

I have come to believe and have seen and have experienced that God will often answer sinner's prayers.  Why?  I believe it is one of the means He has of drawing people to Himself.  You see, in the people we work with, women have very little value.  Some people even question if women have a soul or if they can even understand anything about God.  Yet women suffer greatly.  They have heartbreaking needs.  And like anyone in desperation, they long to cry out to God to meet their needs.  Some may have even heard the name of Jesus, and in absolute desperation cry out to Him.  Others simply cry out to God.

And then He answers their prayer.  Even though they are sinners.

The result, that I have seen, is that they are shocked.  Who is this God that listens to even a woman's prayer?  And they begin to seek Him.  What does God say about those who seek?  That He will let them find Him.

So I no longer believe what was drilled into my head as a child.  In fact, as I grow, I become less and less inclined to try to define the box I expect God to live in.  Yes, there are still very important doctrines that I will NOT compromise on, but there are things like this that I stop and say, "hey.  wait.  Do I really believe that God limits Himself this way?"  I don't.  God works in many ways to bring people to Himself.  One of those is answering sinner's prayers.

What have you learned to question as you've grown?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Only During Service - At it Again.

We recently sat in a service with a preacher from the midwest.  He was an exuberant Baptist preacher preaching his heart out.  Needless to say, my daughter is not used to that preaching or those sayings.

He had handed out a paper with the verses he was using and some main points.  She was reading along and stopped puzzled to ask me why the verse went from 7 to 13 in one place.  I explained that he skipped some.  This disturbed her and she tried to figure out why, so she kept even a closer eye on him for the rest of the service.

He read some more verses and then stopped for some explanation.  Then he began reading the next verse saying, "Folks, it is by grace you are saved, not....."

I felt the little elbow in my side again and leaned down to hear what she wanted this time:

"Mommy, where does it say 'folks'?"

Thankfully, after that, we got to the end of the verses, and like any good Baptist preacher, he ended his sermonette with a brief explanation of salvation.  Because it was a kid's sermon, he used the power point with the two sides and a chasm inbetween.  Man and God separated by sin.  Then Jesus died for us, and the powerpoint showed the cross bridging the gap.  This particular power point showed the cross veritcal with the cross-beams bridging the gap unlike others where I have seen them lay the cross horizontal with the top and bottom bridging the gap.

I realized my daughter had never seen this illustration before when I saw her studying it carefully and listening.  when he finished his explanation, her elbow jabbed me again.

"Mom, it wouldn't do any good anyway for the cross to fill in the hole there because no one could cross over with that up and down part on the top.  No one could climb over it."
Yeah, well, um....

I actually appreciate that she talks like this and asks questions.  We are so used to this from growing up in Sunday School with it that we never stop to think how it will seem to a child.  He was speaking to a group of children who do not usually hear the gospel, and if she couldn't make sense of it when she knows her Bible pretty well for a seven year old kid, how much were they really able to take in?

With thanks to the Navigators whose illustration I copied, even though it was not the one he used.  His cross top piece was much larger.  And just to say, I really appreciate the work of the Navigators.