Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Does Authenticity Have A Limit?

Sometimes I just can’t blog about it…

That thing, that person.

Those people, those things.

Sometimes authenticity has a limit…

And the only one who can hear my thoughts

Is the only One who knows my heart.

Deeply. Intimately.

Sometimes I just can’t blog about it…

That burden, that opinion.

Those opinions, those burdens.

Sometimes authenticity has a limit…

And the only one who can see my point

Is the only One who knows my mind.

Unconditionally. Perfectly.

Sometimes, it’s just between me and my Saviour…

And the only one I need to show and tell

Is the only One who can restore, replace, repair.

Now is one of those times.

Lord, You know my heart and my mind.

With You, authenticity has no limit.

God, investigate my life;

get all the facts firsthand.

I'm an open book to you…"

Psalm 139:1, the Message

Thursday, December 17, 2009

All The Way to Cambodia, Part 3

Life continues to be a whirlwind, but I wanted to continue the series on my time in Cambodia. As I went back to read some of the journaling I did, the memories came in like a flood. I'm going to type out what I scribbled in my journal and then add photos with commentary at the end.

IF you missed part one or part two, click here:

This would be our 2nd official ministry day, and it was as packed as the first. I actually didn't even finish writing about the first day, but I plan to incorporate some of those memories in a future post with a bit of a different theme. So, on with the next day according to my journal with a few little notes added in parenthesis...

"Friday, October 30th

My word for the day--overwhelmed. So tired. I feel numb and nauseous...drained. It's not as much physical tired as it is wiped out, though my legs have been throbbing in a funky way since the long airplane ride.

The day started out with "candy in a cup," Tony's word (our team leader). The hotel coffee tasted phenomenal, but how could extremely strong coffee mixed with sweetened condensed milk be anything but wonderful? It sent us all soaring, so getting on a bus for a long drive was probably not the best use of caffeinated energy, but that was the order of things, so...

Our destination was World Relief's CREDIT offices, and from there we would drive to another village to see what that organization is doing there. (I'll tell you more about CREDIT later in the post). The drive there and then to the villages, completely overwhelmed me, both good and bad. To see allll the people, the traffic again and a great deal of poverty nonstop for miles...then to drive into the lush rural areas, only to see skinny cows (I could see their bones!) and young kids bathing in dirty water--overload.

Right before we were to cross the Mekong River, hoards of people were selling whatever they had to sell to the long line of vehicles waiting for the ferry. One person after another surrounded our bus, pleading us to buy from them: watches, sunglasses, fish, fruit, fried crickets...all kinds of snacks and goods. Young children tapped on the window and begged for money. Older kids held up younger kids, pointing to them and then to their mouths showing how hungry they were. It absolutely broke my heart. Not in a describable way either. It ushered in a great big bag of mixed emotions and questions (some of which I'm still processing).

We finally crossed the river, and it was disgusting. So dirty. Made me sad when I saw all the shacks on the side with laundry hanging out to dry, I'm sure after having been washed in that water. "Why is the water so dirty? And why can't someone clean it up?" I thought.

Then it was the same scene on the other side of the river with more desperate sales and pleas. (We even gave into one, which I'll tell you about in a bit). It exhausted my senses. I wanted to just stop the day right then, go back to my room and try to make some sense of things. But we'd only just begun.

After we got to the CREDIT offices, we were desperate for a restroom. Well, the staff was so incredibly courteous, and we were under a time restraint, so they led us all to different bathrooms. Unbeknownst to me, not all "bathrooms" are "restrooms" in Cambodia. I stood there, mouth gaping open, looking at this porcelain hole in the ground, and I thought, Okay, no way. I thought maybe he guided me to the men's room, but I later learned after some chuckles from a few teammates that this would be the norm when we were out and about, and I was ever so blessed to have a "squatty potty" this nice to behold. Luckily, by that time, the type of toilets I was accustomed to became available, so I took full advantage. That would at least give me some time to adjust to the thought of the other, seeing as it was a new concept for me. (I promise I'm not a prima-donna, just not very adventurous. As many would see this is a cool, adventurous thing to experience...me, not so much.)

From the offices on, the roads were too bumpy to reach the province we were visiting, so the team split into two trucks to face the terrain. The men on the team got in the back, and the staff would only allow the ladies inside the cab. So cheek over hip, we cooperated. Thank goodness, we are a close knit team! The roads were so rugged, we could not feel our bumpies or our legs after about halfway there. I'm sure the guys on the back got a good workout as well.

We finally reached the Prey Veng province and as we walked into the village, we were greeted with applause and cheering. Not because we were rock stars, but probably because they had been waiting on us to get the meeting started. (Not only that, it seemed to me that Cambodians are very hospitable). While they were incredibly good hosts to us, most kept their distance. I didn't find out until we were on our way home that we were the first Westerners most of them had ever seen. Lots of staring, looking, searching to see who we were, seemingly to see if we were trustworthy or not. I don't know. It was so unbearingly hot and sticky, mainly sticky, and it sapped the energy right out of us. The kids in the village were so shy, maybe even scared, but they seemed to enjoy the young ones, especially Matt (young college guy), and Victor, (our one youth traveling with us).

As we were leaving, it felt awkward. A few kids came up to me and started to talk. I thought they were finally warming up to me, because I had been smiling at them the whole time (the kids were so cute, I could hardly take my eyes off of them). Our interpreter told me later that they were hoping I'd give them money, understandably so, because begging is a way of life for many of them. CREDIT staff members told us that this is one of the issues they cover as they go into villages...training them not to beg from others, but to work and budget instead.

We had lunch in town and were greeted with many stares from the townsfolk. The food had a REALLY peculiar smell, a smell unfamiliar and unpleasant to me. But I had determined I would try whatever I was served (other than insects) and was glad I did. Wow, it was fantastic, so good, and it left me feeling healthy. The smells were probably some type of seasoning that I'm not used to. If it was something bad or gross, I DON't EVER want to know about it.

The drive back to the hotel was more of the same emotion, only with extreme drain...same scenes, different observations. I wanted to crash, as I felt like it was time to go to bed. But we still had one last stop for the day: Toul Sleng prison. I'll have to write about it tomorrow, because I'm too tired now. In just about 6 hours, it will be time to get up again, and that's when the work we came here to do will get started. I feel like so much has happened already. What else, Lord?"

Our team on the bus as we approached the ferry to cross the Mekong River.
I'm in the back hidden somewhere. ;)

Vendors galore braving the heat...

Yes, these are the fried crickets I was telling you about...
They must be popular, cuz lots of vendors were selling them.

Our youngest member of the team asked to try one, so we bought a bag full.
The smell in the bus was never the same after that.

Here Victor goes, and with a smile on his face. Several of our team members followed suit. Gives whole new meaning to the Scripture,
"And a little child shall lead them..."
I do not regret even in the teeny tiniest least that I was not one of the team members to try a fried cricket. Besides, fried foods are fattening, and a woman my age has to watch her figure, right? :D

This young boy went to every window in the bus showing this dead lizard. Then he would point to his little brother's mouth. I don't know if he was trying to say that he was going to have to feed him that if we didn't give him money, or if he was offering it in exchange for money. His eyes looked straight into my heart, piercing it in a way I've never experienced before. Still makes my stomach ache to picture the scene, and not just because of fried crickets and dead lizards.

This "fruity" hat amazed me. I can't even balance a book on my head!

This was the view of the homes as we crossed the Mekong River.

After we divided into the two trucks that would transport our team, this is a taste of the road conditions the whole way to the village. My friend Jackie wrote that the "potholes were so big the pigs could bathe in them."

This is the villagers as they waited for us. They had chairs set aside under shade trees to help protect us from the heat. I'm sure they sacrificed and squished more than usual under that one tree to accomodate us.

Marganne & Jackie were not shy. They took off their shoes and sat right next to their sisters in Prey Veng.

The villagers stayed engaged as the CREDIT staff taught them about such things as credits and debits, luxury items vs. necessary items, etc, applauding them throughout the presentation. This is the description of CREDIT from World Relief's website:
"An essential mandate of World Relief is to relieve poverty. To achieve this goal, while ensuring sustainable economic development, WR Cambodia supports CREDIT, a licensed micro-finance institution established by World Relief. By providing small loans to clients across the country, as well as financial education and training, WR Cambodia is able to support cottage industries and alleviate poverty while ensuring dignity to those we serve."

As you can see, a good majority of the villagers listening to the presentation are women and children. This is partly because many of their husbands are working, but also because many of them are single mothers providing solely for their families. This particular day is a Cambodian holiday, so even some men are present, and of course, the kids are out of school.

As the presentation is going on, many of the children and men became interested in Matt, and we almost had to peel him away from the crowd at the end.

These young men teaching on the CREDIT staff were so well-trained at keeping the attention of the crowd, and they used good visuals to help illustrate the new concepts.

LUNCH! (fish soup, rice, fried fish, chicken, yum!)

On our way into the Tuol Sleng Prison,
where I would never have guessed what I was about to see & feel...

We wanted to visit this museum so that we could better understand the Cambodian culture, as well as be able to relate to the brokenness the World Relief staff bears on a daily basis. To learn that a body of buildings which used to educate high school kids was later used as a security prison to hold over 17,000 men, women & children in a 4-year period blew me away. The tour guide showed us how the prisoners were enclosed with electrical barbed wire fences, and the old classrooms were used as torture chambers. We saw the various torturing methods used, and I became so sick to my stomach, I thought I would vomit. The cabinet of broken skulls about did me in, as well as walls of pictures of those who were held captive (lots of children) and later killed.

As I said at the beginning of this post, overwhelmed and drained could not even begin to describe the way I felt this day. I could not even imagine taking in another sight, smell or sound, or even processing another thought. But, this was only day 2 of 7 more to come...God's work in and through me would continue in unexpected ways.

***Most photos taken by Jackie Mosley & Marganne Pearce. Thank YOU!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Devotion at the Cafe

I'd love for you to come by the Internet Cafe and chat with me about Christmas...

My next Cambodia post is coming later today or tomorrow, so please come back to visit!

Monday, November 30, 2009

All the Way to Cambodia, Part 2

If you missed part one, click here: Allllll the Way to Cambodia, Part 1

Proverbs 13:12 says,
"Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life."
Surreal Beginning

My first night's sleep was comfortable and deep in our clean hotel, but cut short. My head sprung up from the bed at what I thought was a man's voice singing at 5:15 am. Actually, I thought it was our worship leader in the room next door, and if so, team unity was about to come to a quick halt. ;) Imagine my surprise when I realized it was a man chanting across the street from our hotel (no offense to our worship leader, I was in a reeeally deep sleep). Apparently, a funeral was going on, and the ceremonies in Cambodia are conducted out in the open. Through a loud speaker. At 5:15 and continuing...

My roommate opened the blinds all the way, and it was the first time I had seen Phnom Penh in the daylight. As I looked out the window, I had mixed feelings. Cars, motos, trucks filled with men, people hanging laundry on their balconies, bustle all around. And the honking. So much honking...with chanting and lamenting in the background. The scene was chaotic and orderly at the same time. Surreal really.

After a jolted start to the morning, it was time for our mission to begin. Though our team was in Cambodia to put on a conference/retreat for the leadership of World Relief, we thought it best to see what the organization is doing there. So we hit the ground running. Riding in a shuttle bus, to be exact.

It was one thing to see the traffic out the hotel window, quite another to be in the mix of it. We were so close to the vehicles next to us that I could look the drivers in the eye and exchange a smile. Not kidding. I will never complain about my husband's driving again. ;0 After quite a drive out of the city, we made it to our first destination. Phew.

HOPE not deferred

It was here I saw "Hope" in the form of community. World Relief's HOPE ministry is anything but "hope deferred." As I watched this ministry in action I witnessed "longings fulfilled" (including some of my own). The Lord wasted no time grabbing my heart's strings and playing a new tune.

A group of teenage girls sat in a circle as their volunteer leader discussed choices with them. They learned of biblical sexuality and marriage fidelity, as well as the many myths, lies and superstitions spread throughout their culture about HIV/AIDS. The leader threw out questions that the girls were encouraged to answer. My impression is that this was a whole lot more than an education group. It's a source of accountability and Christ-centered community.

I was impressed with how intentional the planning was...even the games were integrated into the day's theme. And it only continued from there. A teenage boys' group was held down the road just a bit with the same discussion material, though in typical boys' form, a bit more animated.

As the teen discussion groups were coming to a close, the children's programming was beginning. And wow, Wow, WOW. Kids were rushing to catch the best view as the staff set up its puppet screen. Older kids came with younger brothers and sisters in tow by arm or on a hip. They were EXCiiiiiiTED. The teens came running as well, though most of them stood in the back. Moms were off to the side and in the background, but I sensed they were happy and curious to be there too.

I'm ashamed to admit this, but I didn't expect the program to be as excellent as it was. The leaders were extremely enthusiastic and animated. The crowd was completely enthralled as they sang songs about Dengue fever and cleanliness set to familiar kids' tunes. As the puppets came out, the kids learned lessons about washing hands and stopping the spread of germs and disease. Not only were the kids entertained, but they were also engaged...I'm guessing more than they are in any classroom.

At the end of the show, World Relief gave each of our team fingernail clippers, and the kids crowded around us to have their nails trimmed. Then they washed their hands in anti-bacterial soap. What a perfect conclusion to an fabulous show. I'll never forget how the kids' faces beamed with excitement as they showed off their germ-free hands. It was a special moment to be a part of...

During the puppet show, a few of the girls from the teenage group came to stand beside me. Before long, we were arm in arm. Their smiles completely captivated me, and I'm so glad one of my team members grabbed this picture of us.

HOPE through Hardship

We loaded back into the bus and drove down a few roads to a different kind of meeting. It was an HIV/AIDS support group that meets regularly, where those with the disease come to find hope and help. Each person in the picture below is infected, (other than the volunteers), including the young boy in the front.

During our brief time there, several members of the circle were eager to share their stories, how Jesus Christ had given them hope to deal with their hardships. Many had lost husbands, daughters, mothers, fathers and children to AIDS. Though most of these ladies had been cheated on and infected by their husbands and/or worse, they still gave testimony of the Lord's faithfulness and love toward them.

As if my heart had not been stirred enough, a woman who had been coming to the group a few times gave her life to Jesus during this group's meeting. I could NOT hold back the tears. It was one of the most moving salvation experiences I've ever witnessed. At the end of the meeting, we all gathered around one another, praying out loud in our own languages. When I look at this photo, I don't see a group of HIV-infected Cambodians, I see my brother and sisters in Christ infecting each other with the love of Jesus Christ.

It's hard to believe that this was only half of my first day in Cambodia, but it was a HOPE-filled one. These are once in a lifetime, special slices of life that I will savor forever, ones that continue to reach down and leave marks of change on my heart as I ponder them.

And I'm only getting started...

"For it is for this we labor and strive,
because we have fixed our hope on the living God..."

1 Timothy 4:10

***Most photos taken by Jackie Mosley & Marganne Pearce. Thank YOU!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Allll The Way to Cambodia, Part I

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of Heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. ‘For in Him we live and move and have our being.’
As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are His offspring.’”

Acts 17:24-28

Long Distance Call

One of the ministries God laid on my heart many years ago was to teach and disciple other believers to live God large, to challenge them to live a life of sacrificial worship and depend on the only One who can rescue, deliver, provide and truly love them. And each step of the way, The Lord has made it abundantly clear that He would first begin by changing me. My trip to Cambodia was and will continue to be one of the significant marks toward that end.

I didn’t even have a passport. Other than a cruise with a day stop in Cozymel, I hadn’t ever been out of the United States. While no one could accuse me of being a prima-donna, I do like to be physically comfortable. Camping in the woods or riding my bicycle outside on a 90 degree day is even sanctification for me. Get the picture?

So why a missions trip?

I’d always heard that if I went on an overseas missions trip, it would change my worldview. While I agree with that wholeheartedly, I’d have to say that, even moreso for me, it has changed my LIFEview.

Yes, it’s true that in the USA, we have a ton of excess, all kinds of freedoms that we take for granted and the like. We need sober reminders to be thankful and overflowing with generosity, because we tend to ignore the realities we don’t see. The underlying question for me as I was making the decision whether to go or not was, “Why, Lord, would you call me all the way to Cambodia?” (And I didn’t realize how far away it actually was until I endured those painfully long flights.) I knew of local missions teams ministering only thirty minutes from my house that testified of making a huge difference, learning the lessons of sacrifice and discomfort and gratitude in the process. So why not keep it closer to home?

Pastor JoAnn answered my question without even realizing it on the very first day as we sat next to each other on the long flight. (paraphrase) “Keep your eyes and ears open. Ask the Lord, ‘What is it that You had to take me alllll the way to Cambodia just to teach me?’” She encouraged another teammate and I to see past the obvious and ask God to do and reveal miracles around us. Wow—my tummy did flip-flops in that moment, my thoughts began runnin’ circles round each other, and we weren’t even in Cambodia yet.

Can you hear Me now? Good!

At least I was beginning to hear. To be honest, every single sense was on overload the whole trip. No one could’ve prepared me for all the sights, smells, sounds and sentiments I would experience in a short 10-day period. It will take me months, maybe even years, to process and express, so I will begin with the thread of realization that holds the whole experience together for me.

It is a deeper Truth, one that I’ve known and even lived out in part through a past full of trials and tears. But the Lord had to take me “alllllll the way to Cambodia” to grasp it more fully. It is this: The most important thing is not where we are placed to live in this world; rather, where the Lord’s place is in our lives. Is He front and center? Can we say that He is our one true hope? Do we surrender and allow the Holy Spirit to break our hearts for what breaks His? You see, these questions know no place, no time, no bounds. He’s either our everything or He’s not.

Why on earth Cambodia?

First of all, it was almost impossible to get in touch with my family. Our time zones were completely opposite, our schedules were both hectic, and it would’ve cost a pinky finger and a toe to call when it was convenient. I couldn’t text or even email more than a few times due to the lack of internet connections and time. May not seem like a big deal to some, but for a mom whose main ministry is home-based through part-time home-schooling, it was a streeeetch. I’m not sure if I was homesick or if I just longed for my family to share the experience with me. More the latter probably, but that was not what God had planned. I would have to do without them. And them, without me.

I felt uncomfortably vulnerable as our team visited the villages where World Relief ministers, probably because everything was coming at my senses faster than I could process it. Traffic through the city like I’d never seen before, trust me on this one. Bumpy roads, new time zone, dirty water, beautiful greenery, sticky sweat, stinging eyes, kids laughing, babies crying, eyes staring, foreign conversation, new foods. Tons of questions were swirling through my brain that I felt too embarrassed to ask, though no one would’ve belittled me. I wondered why I was here with a bunch of other experienced missions team members who seemed to know what to do and say, when to smile, when to look away. Adding to my insecurities was the fact that I couldn’t remember how to greet the villagers in their native tongue even though I had rehearsed it over and over.

Like I said, vulnerable. But it was that vulnerability, coupled with the withdrawal from my family, which left me broken enough to accept all that the Lord would unpack for me. My openness and willingness to see the Lord’s hand in everything, keeping Him front and center would be the key to experiencing life in Him to the full…allll the way in Cambodia.

To be continued…
~ More on what our team did
~ More on what World Relief does in Cambodia
~ More on what God did in me
~ More pictures on all of the above

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Lesson from My Son...And Cambodia thoughts coming soon

I'm at the Internet Cafe today. Will you come by and read what the Lord taught me through my teenage son? Click HERE.

Also, I've been under the weather since returning from my trip, but I hope to have some processing and writing time very soon about my Cambodia experience. God did powerful acts, which is no surprise. Praising Him for His faithfulness!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Off to Cambodia!

Hi my friends,

Can you believe the time is here? My team is Cambodia bound today, and well, tomorrow too. Our prayer calendar is in the previous post, so would love your prayers as the Lord leads you.

Connection~Confidence~Compassion--that's our theme to the verses of 1 John 3:1-3. Who knows what God will do, but I praise Him for it already!

Ponderings, Praises & Pictures upon return. I love you all.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cambodia Missions Trip Prayer Calendar


Monday, October 19, 2009

Does It Truly Make a Difference?

I'm at the Internet Cafe today asking a bunch of questions. Come by and tell me how you feel: Click here for the Cafe.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pondering Confidence

The countdown to Cambodia continues, only two weeks away today:

In my last post, I mentioned that on Day 1 of the conference for kids, we will be discussing "Connection"--with God and with others.

On Day 2, it's "Confidence: God created me to live out His plan and purpose with confidence in Him."

Amazing how the themes for these precious children seem to flow straight out of my own life. It's taken me years to identify myself rightly in this area, leaving the victim mentality of my childhood in the dust, praise the Lord for that.

Philippians 1:6 says, "being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

In other words, it's not confidence in myself that will get me through even a nano-second of my day...it's God-confidence. He lives inside of me, and He's ABLE as I'm willing! Love that.

How about you? Where is your confidence coming from? It works both ways, you know. Some struggle with a low view of self, others think that it is faith in their own self that makes life possible.

It's not, "I think I can, I think I can..."
It's not even, "I know I can, I know I can..."
It's certainly not: "No way I can, No way I can..."

So what is it?

It's "With Him I can, With Him I can..."
And "In Him I can, In Him I can..."
And best of all "Through me He can, Through me He can..."

The "can" can change to "will" if we surrender our wills to His, you see?

As I trust in the One who has called me to Cambodia, I know He is faithful, and He will do the work. (1 Thess. 5:24) That's the prayer of my heart until I go.

What do you need to admit to the Lord today on the topic of "Confidence"? Take some time to pause, ponder & pray to the One who knows you fully anyway. He longs to complete in you the good work He's already started if you're willing.

Lord, fill my life with Your perfect confidence. It's not by my might or by my power, but by Your Spirit that I can do all You've led me to do, and that is a relief, to be honest. Thank You, Jesus. I praise You. Amen.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Pondering Connection

A friend of mine requested that I start doing some blogging about my Cambodia trip (If you don't know about the missions trip I'm taking to Cambodia, you can read about it here.) At first I told her that I prob'ly wouldn't, because this is a site set aside for devotions, not personal experiences. But as I've prayed about it, her idea has not let me go.

There's nothing more devotional
than living one's faith out loud, after all.

So my team leaves in three weeks. I'll list some prayer requests in my next post, but the main thing the Lord has laid on my heart today is "Connection."

On day 1 of the conference, my team will be talking to the kids about being connected to God. Our puppet Eli will show up with his heart full of love for things in this world...the stuff that's taken the place of love for God. We'll have to work all of that out throughout our morning, hopefully bringing the kids to a place of understanding in their own hearts through teaching, worship, crafts & games.

You see, I get the distinct privilege of being able to minister to kids in the faith (most of them anyway). These are kids whose parents have set aside their lives to minister to Cambodian families as World Relief Staff members, and this conference is their time to rest, rejuvenate & revive themselves personally in their faith walks. As you can imagine, their sons and daughters are hungry for the Word of God and for deeper teaching and worship. While the kids I've ministered to for years have had cool puppets and stages and dynamic music as the norm each Sunday, these children have seen very little of it. So we're asking the Lord to help us take a small piece of it to them.

Ain't it cool? I'm so pumped.

But before I can talk to anyone about being "connected," loving God first and others second, I must first examine myself--my own connectivity. I don't want to teach others a message that isn't being fleshed out in and through me.

~ Do I love Him more than anything? With my whole being--heart, soul, mind & strength?
~ Do I believe the fact that He loves me outrageously? And do I live in the light of that love?
~ Do I hoard His love or share it extravagantly with others? Even those who aren't easy to love?
~ Do I embrace Him as my Father, no other lovies in my arms, surrendered, abandoned?
~ Do I allow His Word to be my guide for daily living and my source for Truth?
~ Am I fully abiding, tightly clinging to the Vine, bearing only good fruit as a result?

Much to think on...much to pray for...by His grace and through the power of His Holy Spirit, He can prepare my heart in exactly the way it needs.

It's your turn...

Paused to ponder your connection with Him lately?

Please allow the verses He has given our team to minister to you in whatever way is needed.

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies Himself, just as He is pure."
1 John 3:1-3
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself."
Luke 10:27
"You are the children that God dearly loves. So be just like Him. Lead a life of love, just as Christ did. He loved us. He gave Himself up for us. He was a sweet-smelling offering and sacrifice to God."
Ephesians 5:1-2 (NIRV)
Lord, we long for our hearts to be full of You. By Your grace, through Your Holy Spirit living and moving in and through us, be our source for this life...our one and only connection to deep love and a full life. And Father, as our team longs to minister to the World Relief Staff families, we realize that it is all about You--You are the only One who can give their hearts the rest they might need. We trust, and we will obey. Lord Jesus, have Your way. In Your name, Amen.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

I'm Safe

"Whatever the particular call is, the particular sacrifice God asks you
to make, the particular cross He wishes you to embrace, whatever the
particular path He wants you to tread, will you rise up, and say in your
heart, 'Yes, Lord, I accept it; I submit, I yield, I pledge myself to
walk in that path, and to follow that Voice, and to trust Thee with the
consequences'? Oh! but you say, 'I don't know what He will want next.'
No, we none of us know that, but we know we shall be safe in His hands."

~Catherine Booth

A quote received in my inbox this morning. A sorely needed word.

I'm reminded of all "the particular calls" God has given me in my life, and almost every one of them has left me scratching my head at the time. I seem to pull a Gideon more often than not: "What? Me? I think you have the wrong person, God. She's more talented. Such-n-So is more qualified. I'm a mess, a big bag of emotional crazy. You know me...c'mon, now!"

The Holy Spirit then speaks into my heart, mind and soul, reminding me who I am in Christ, and that none of it's about me anyway. I've become quicker to answer His calls as I've grown in my faith walk, but it is still a challenge, depending on how out of my comfort zone the request seems to be.

Then there's the whole "cross to embrace" and "path to tread" thing. Most Christ-followers would agree this is a bit more difficult to live out authentically, because it involves pain & sacrifice & surrender & longing for relief.

The path can be so lonely. During the rocky part of the trail, we listen to others around us talking about being on top of the mountain and rejoicing, about serving the Lord--how He'll make our paths straight--and even though we've spoken those same words before, in those moments, it seems as though they're speaking a foreign language or even "Wah-wahing" like the grown-ups in Charlie Brown.

That doesn't mean their words aren't true...it simply means that we aren't experiencing them at that moment. Sometimes it seems like it's been a whole other life since we've done so. In our deepest heart of hearts, we long to "count it all joy" and "rejoice in suffering," but we acknowledge that we're not there yet and God still has more work to do in and through us.

I mean no disrespect, but does anyone know what I'm talking about here?

So what's the answer?

In times of doubt, discouragement, depression, wondering, wandering, wrestling, restlessness, suffering, persecution and temptation--big, medium or small--I believe the answer is the same:


The Bible says we can fully trust Him; thus, we can fully depend on Him. When we choose to depend on God's sovereignty, we are willingly surrendering our own spirit to be consumed with His.

That's what Jesus did in the midst of His worst moments. "Into Your hands, I commit my Spirit," he groaned. My elaboration..."Into YOUR hands...even if that means more pain. Even if it means humiliation. Even death, Father, I'm committed to Your way."

Jesus was safe in His hands, and so are we. Say this out loud with me:

"I'm safe in His hands."

Then, fully surrendered, completely dependent, let's say this to God:

'Yes, Lord, I accept it; I submit, I yield, I pledge myself to
walk in that path, and to follow that Voice, and to trust Thee with the

Yes, Lord, I'm depending on You.
"He alone is my rock and my salvation;
He is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
He is my mighty rock, my refuge.

Trust in Him at all times, O people;
pour out your hearts to Him,
for God is our refuge.

Psalm 63:6-8, NIV

***By the way, I receive quotes like this one, something to challenge me every day from "I Lift My Eyes Web Ministries." If you'd like to sign up to have a daily quote too, click HERE.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Trivial Pursuit

T he game of life is a trivial pursuit without Jesus at the center of it.
H e will lead you through each twister and turn, His
E xample as your guide. Yes, the

G ame of life is a scrabbled maze without Jesus as your solitairy gaze. It is
A s you focus on Him that your path becomes straight and your
M ind finally unboggles from the aggravation and struggles.
E veryone should know that the game

O f life is a risky operation without Jesus Christ as his
F irm foundation. Otherwise, he’s no clue what trouble he’s gotten himself into.

L isten…the game of life is a sorry one
I ndeed without Jesus in the lead.
F orget your own strategy, it will leave you feeling
E mpty. That would be a tragedy.

So let's give up the trivial pursuit.

”You're blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God.
You're blessed when you follow His directions, doing your best to find Him.
That's right—you don't go off on your own;
you walk straight along the road He set.

How can a young person live a clean life?
By carefully reading the map of Your Word.
I'm single-minded in pursuit of You;
don't let me miss the road signs You've posted.
I've banked Your promises in the vault of my heart
so I won't sin myself bankrupt.
Be blessed, God;
train me in Your ways of wise living.”
Psalm 119, 1-3 & 9-12, The MSG

Monday, September 21, 2009

My First Official Speaking Engagement...

I can't remember a time in my life that was dull. God has ALWAYS called me out of my comfort zone in some way, shape or form, and this call to speak for the Mom2mom ladies of Stonebriar Community Church was no exception.

It's crazy how God works. He introduced a Mom named Dana Bailey to me through Facebook & the blogging world who has been extremely faithful with the calling God gave her. Not only does she have ten children and a Godly marriage, but she also leads this dynamic, growing ministry at Stonebriar. She HAD to be listening to the Lord's voice to take a chance on this newbie to speak, and I'm so glad she did. And on a side note, if you're a mom who wants to be involved with raising your kids for God's glory (or anything marriage & family-related), put her blog on your list to read regularly. It's called A Little This, A Little That.You will be blessed. And just so you know, God gives bonuses too, because I have a new friend. We've had a few 3 hour lunches, and we text & pray for one another regularly now. Isn't God amazing?

Back to the main theme. My ministry prayer team prayed for almost a month for me about this event, and many other friends were praying as well, that I would have courage, humility and wisdom to teach on an intro lesson to the Fruit of the Spirit. Margie, one of my prayer team members (and a dear friend), even showed up to pray with me before & during the time I would teach. Another bonus from the Lord.

I cannot speak for the ladies gathering there, but as for me, God did powerful things. He truly was faithful (isn't He always?), and He did in and through me exactly what He said He would. Some years ago, I would've made this experience all about my performance, but because of the transformation He has been busy doing in me, He led me to pray that I wouldn't. And I didn't.

That, my friends, is a miracle.

Also, He gave me proof that if I will ask for Him to get "me" out of the way, He will. And He did.

I love Him.

If God was as busy in the hearts and minds of all the other women in the room as He was in mine on Friday, then a whole lotta lotta transformation was in process. But of course! He's God. That's what He does.

Praise be to my Lord & Savior Jesus Christ, who always keeps His Word. Thank You, Jesus, for reminding me that each and every time You call me to ANY task, You are faithful, and You will do it. All honor and glory to You, and You alone.


Has God called YOU to something that you need to depend on Him to do for you?
What has the Lord been faithful to do for you in the past that you couldn't have possibly done on your own?
What holds you back from trusting Him completely with the tasks He's given you?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Patch from My Past

Last week, I shared part of my mother's miraculous story with you. The Lord has been prompting me for almost a year to write my part of the story, or at least a brief version of it.

I've chosen to post it first at the Internet Cafe. I hope you'll join me there today, and see what lies behind these glasses:

Friday, September 11, 2009

Remember Glory...Again

Her name was Gloria, and she was like no other. As a youth, she was a red-haired, freckled firecracker, those who knew her would say—gorgeous, a total knockout and full of life. Not long after marriage and having her first baby, her whole life was turned tragically upside down because of a missed stoplight. As she drove to pick up some milk from the store, a semi-truck flattened her car, and it is said, that since she wasn’t wearing her seatbelt, she flew into the backseat as a result of the impact. She sustained terrible head and upper body injuries, and her legs were pinned under the driver’s seat. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Unbelievably so, she was revived and rushed to a nearby emergency room in the St. Louis area. After seeing the damage to her brain and internal organs, many predictions were made of her situation---she would not make it through the trauma, and if she did, she would be in a vegetative state, or at the very least severely handicapped with very little use of her legs or arms. So much for predictions.

After being in a coma for three months and in the ICU for months after that--with excruciating determination, intense physical therapy and tremendous prayer and support from family and friends—she re-learned how to crawl and talk, cope and walk. After a few years, she even had a second child—“A Miracle Baby,” the newspaper would call her.

If the story ended there for Gloria, one could read it with a cheerful and inspirational feeling in the heart, but it did not---not by far. Every day was a struggle for her. She fought to the very core of her being to do the things that most of us take for granted. Her voice box had extensive damage, which gave her a low, loud raspy voice that sometimes scared little children and made strangers stare her way. One of her arms was permanently bent, as well as her spine. This crippled her as she walked, and the damage to her legs would make her unsteady on her feet for the rest of her life. She had brain damage, which affected her mental state and her emotional maturity.

Her husband struggled to know and love her in this new way, and alcohol became the crutch that he used for his own handicaps. Drinking exaggerated the demons that already existed inside of him, and he began to abuse Gloria physically and emotionally, as if she wasn’t damaged enough already. After years of living in this oppression, along with some new realizations of the same abuses toward her daughters, she filed for divorce. Now the financial support was gone, too, and she would have to learn to function as a single mother.

As Gloria tried to raise two young children on disability and public aid, her mom, her sisters and her local church helped her to do what was physically needed to get her daughters through school and life in as normal fashion as possible. Even with the extra support, she was plagued with severe headaches, physical pain and emotional insecurity each and every day. She coped as best she could, though, and the same tenaciousness and ornery spirit from her youth remained alive in her to keep her going in spite of it all.

Hating to ask for help or charity motivated her to be as independent and “normal” as possible. She would drive her kids to school and extra curricular activities most days (yes, she passed her driving test) and made pot roasts and sheet cakes for her kids and others when they came for a visit. Many times, she would exercise on a stationery bike just to keep in shape and to keep her muscles as strong as possible.

In the small town that she lived, many people enjoyed her sense of humor and her dramatic perspective on life. What made her so interesting was that she lived in the middle of being an adult and being a kid. She could communicate like a grown-up (learned behavior), but she thought and looked at situations more like a nine- or ten-year old would. While this made her fascinating to some, it made her life that much more of a challenge personally. After her car wreck, she lost the ability to cry. She could sob emotionally, but she could not produce actual tears. Imagine being a ten-year-old female, or any aged female for that matter, and not being able to cry. Her mental stability didn’t have a chance!

She spent the rest of her adult years being in and out of the hospital with various illnesses, surviving a series of car accidents, weaving in and out of delusional and paranoid behavior and coping with an empty house when her daughters went off to college. Numerous medications were part of her daily swallowing regimen, each one fixing a different symptom or problem diagnosed by one of her several doctors. Her choice was to live alone and “take care of herself,” and the consequences were incredible loneliness and fear wrapped up with the satisfaction of making it on her own.

Her sister Carolyn, her Pastor Steve, and her other sisters and church friends helped make her strong preferences a reality by sacrificially taking care of her needs, while allowing her to maintain her dignity as much as possible. Though her daughters tried to persuade her to live with either of them, she felt comfortable with her life the way it was—no one ever totally understood this about her, but most suspected it was that same strong will and determination that got her through her hardships combined with the security from living life in the routine she had always known.

On September 11th, 2006, Gloria finally lost her fight to keep living after a month of struggling to recover from a colostomy in the ICU. The list of lessons one could learn from her life is long. It is for me.
~She was my mother, and I was her miracle baby.~
I know the story between the lines of circumstances, and that is what I hold on to in the pockets of my memory. As a child, I saw her as abnormal and somewhat embarrassing. As a young adult, I saw her as an obligation and a nuisance sometimes. Now as her daughter looking back on her life after it is gone----well, I have a whole other perspective.

Somehow the memories of her crinkled up forehead while whining about her pain and discomfort are replaced with the memory of seeing her on her knees praying by her bed at night. The distasteful impression in my senses of her smoking cigarette after cigarette is butted out by the incredible admiration I have for her deciding to quit one day and never smoking again. The recollection of all the embarrassing comments she made along with the neediness that would drain me dry at times are secondary to the example of her sitting at the table reading the wrinkled, coffee-stained pages of her Bible. When I’m tempted to focus on the picture of her fits of paranoia, the Lord is faithful to remind me of the verses of Scripture she quoted during the last days of her life in the ICU. These are just some of the contrasts that have helped me to alter my thoughts and behaviors when my own life story is not so picturesque, and I am changed for the better because of it.

I’ve often wished I could ask God face to face why He allowed my mom to suffer so long, so hard and so deeply, but I know that my futile mind wouldn’t understand even if He told me. I’m thankful for this nugget from 1st Corinthians 1: 27-29 to remind me of what made her life valuable to all who knew her:

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.
He chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
God chose the things of this world that are common and looked down on.
He chose what is not considered to be important to do away with
what is considered to be important. So no one can brag to God.”

Here are some of the important lessons I learned from reflecting from 36 years of life with her:
  • I learned that each day is a gift, and I should not take it for granted.
  • I learned that a childlike sense of humor is useful as a grown-up.
  • I learned that laughter truly is good medicine.
  • I learned that I shouldn’t EVER judge a book by its cover.
  • I learned that opening & reading my Bible is as necessary as breathing in and out.
  • I learned that true strength comes from God, and it is magnified when I’m weak.
  • I learned that having a close friendship with my sister is a priceless treasure.
  • I learned that I am blessed to have a Godly husband who leads and provides for his family.
  • I learned that the church and the people in it are the hands and feet of Jesus.
  • I learned that the “wrecks” in life are inevitable, & I should not give up when they come.
  • I learned that my aches and pains are never as bad as they could be.
  • I learned that good discussions can happen over a good cup of coffee.
  • I learned that the best way to tell others about Jesus is just to do it.
  • I learned that I can overcome my strongholds if I fight them with Christ’s strength.
Some people say that everything they ever needed to know in life they learned in Kindergarten; however, I know a good number of people who would say that everything important they ever needed to know in life, they learned from the life of Gloria,
My mom—God-strong

now dancing before the Lord in Glory with her new legs on…Amen.

Mom (far right) had lots of support from her family after her wreck. Her mom (not pictured) and five sisters (two pictured here, Carolyn & Kathy) who spent a great deal of their time helping Mom in various ways. My big sister and I are the two toeheads front row left.

Despite how rough things could be, mom, sis and I would have fun now and then and put on a good show for the rest of the family. Mom had a VERY hilarious side to her and could make even the most stiff person laugh.

My mother never looked more beautiful than she did on my wedding day, and my sister and I chose to bury her in this dress in remembrance.

Mom was so happy when I came home to IL for my 5-year class reunion. Her greatest deterioration in health began after my sister and I left home.

I can't remember what year this was taken, but she had begun to fall a lot more consistently, and the fall here had led her to a wheelchair for a time. And boy, did she HATE it! We had her in Texas and took her to a rodeo and state fair with us, and it was a VERY bumpy ride for her. (She liked the fresh-squeezed lemonade and the funnel cakes, I remember well, however.)

This picture was taken in May of 2002. It is obvious how much she enjoyed my kids...at least when she felt well.

I'll never forget my mom's first visit to see me AFTER she had quit smoking cold turkey. I used to only have visions of her on my patio smoking. After that, she liked to sit out on the patio and watch the kids play in the backyard. I'm so glad I have a picture to remind me of her victory in quitting smoking.

And once again, I'm so very thankful for this picture my sister and I took with mom. It was our last trip together to see her in Illinois before our next visit there to her in the hospital. I can attest to the fact that sis and I are so glad we have that memory with her, and in our childhood home as well.