Monday, May 26, 2014

Lorena is Annoyed!

Friday I was talking a walk with one of my favorite 4 year old friends, Lorena.  We were walking 10 blocks from our house to Kollen Park in Holland, MI.  Ten blocks is a long walk for 4 year old legs, but Lorena was keeping us occuppied by pretty much talking non-stop.

At one point she said, "At school some of the girls like to dress up like princesses, but they don't play Princesses.  They just talk, talk, talk, talk, talk.  It's so annoying!"

Lorena knows how to "be" a princess when you dress up like one!

It got me to thinking, as children so often do.  I wonder if a lot of us "dress up" like Christians and then, "talk, talk, talk, talk, talk,"  rather than living into the life of a Christ follower.  It is very easy to do.

Romans 12:1-2
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed by this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God...what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Instead of worrying about looking like, being dressed up as a christian we need that transforming work of the Spirit so we can know and DO God's perfect will! Less talk, more living the Kingdom life, all you prince and princesses of the King of Kings!!


Flotsam Part 2: Barrage

As I was writing about my "Flotsam" post I actually whispered to myself, "That was a barrage of flotsam.  And, yes, is was a bombardment of flotsam that just wiped me out, until I sat down with God and allowed God to help me deal with it.

As I looked up official definitions in preparation for that blog I decided I would also look up barrage, though I was confident I "knew" the right definition.  And sure enough it was the first definition:  a bombardment, as with military weapons.  Or, as in "The politician received a bombardment/barrage of calls."

It was the third definition that really made me think.  Barrage:  An artificial obstruction such as a dam or irrigation channel built in a watercourse to increase its depth or divert its flow.

Someone/something was trying to build a dam in the middle of my river of life to divert the flow!  All that flotsam, left untended would work to get me off course, out of the flow of the Spirit.  In part I was allowing my own ego to do the work.  On the other hand the Evil One is in direct opposition to the building of God's kingdom, and I believe that anytime he can use our own thoughts and insecurities he is very glad to do that.

My river of life is destined and created by God.  I do not want any principality or power to divert my stream from its intended destination or purpose.

When this begins to happen I return to II Corinthians 10:5.  We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought captive to obey Christ.  It may be taken out of context.  I haven't really done a thorough study of this passage, but when I read it I am reminded that Christ is also guardian of my mind.  That my thoughts as well as actions and words needed to be in submission to Him.

Don't let the flotsam of your life muddy the waters or divert your stream!!

Next time I promise, I'll return to a story, rather than preaching :)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Flotsam Feelings Part 1

Flotsam:  Part of the wreckage of a ship, or its cargo, material found floating on the water, useless or unimportant stuff.

Welcome to my flotsam week.  God has really been teaching me some things about what is floating around in my life.  It has been building up for a while.  It seems like that is how it works. Every so often I go through a season of doubting, stress and fear until God sits me down and straigthens me out.  Thursday was just such a day.  It came on the heals of an amazing week in Haiti, which surprised me, but I was also physically and emotionally weary and weak from all that had been happening.  That makes us extra vulnerable.

I had returned to familiar feelings of wondering what I was doing wrong that makes it so hard for me to get traction with my "work."  Why am I not able to generate income from the work I know God has called me to do?  Unexpected medical bills, buying a different car and a trip to Haiti put us into a cash flow problem that exacerbated my frustration.  I'm a failure...Nobody values what I bring to the table...What do I think I'm trying to do?  You know the voices that run around and around in your head sometimes...right?

At least I knew enough to take my Bible and devotional book, sit in a chair and try to get quiet on the inside. (Mini retreat time)  I got to Day 271 in Richard Rohr's book, Radical Grace: Daily Meditations, and God showed me the flotsam.

Rohr writes, "What we are doing in prayer is not creating success; we're waiting upon the Lord.  We're tuning into the stream of life and waiting to let that stream unburden itself of distractions and baggage." How can we hear the voice of God when our stream is filled with garbage? Rohr continues, "If you don't keep jumping on those (sinking) ships that cross our minds during prayer, if you don't overidentify with the flotsam (of your own opinions and feelings) bobbing down the stream, they stop returning."

Rohr admits that we have to stick to it.  The first time we stop jumping on the "flotsam" it will come back again and again, saying, "Maybe you didn't see me the first time.  Here I am."  The flotsam will try to rob you of your morning, your energy, your joy, as you fret about what you have jumped on again.  But, Rohr says, "This time you look at it and say, 'I don't need you.  Float on by.'"

He encourages us to see what is floating through, name it and feel it, but let it float by.  Refuse to let it lure you into the "flotsam!"

Remember, if this has been stuff that you have been dealing with for years it won't give up easily. It will keep showing up in your prayer times and worrying for a while.  We can't keep feeding it!

So here is another water image for you to work with...close you eyes and picture your river of life. Are you standing on the bank, or are you sitting in the middle of the stream in a canoe or row boat?  As you watch the river flow by what do you see floating on the water?  Is there "stuff" that needs to be rejected and ignored?  We are probably tempted to try and catch it, clean it up, but Rohr would tell us to let it go, float on by.  Don't give it power over you.  See it, name it, let it go.

In your prayer time, in your day dreaming, listen for the voice of the Spirit, ignore the flotsam!

Phil:4:4-7  Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanlsgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Part 2 coming soon.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

TiCarme: My Lydia friend in Haiti

Over the next few days I want to introduce you to some amazing friends through my blogs.  They are the people we are partnering with in Haiti.  I pray you will be blessed by their stories.

One of the surprises when we got to Neply, the village in which we stayed, was to see how God had prepared the road for us by positioning amazing people to work with.  The Spirit had already prompted them by whispering a dream into their hearts, and they were passionate about making it happen.  Of course God was ahead of us in this endeavor, we just forgot to expect it!!

We knew and stayed in contact with TiCarme since we lived in Haiti in 2001.  We knew then that she was a very competent, spirit-filled woman, and God has been at work in and through her in many ways.  Today one of her nicknames in the village is "Mayor."  A woman of influence and respect!

Here is her story:
TiCarme became a student at New Missions school when she was 8 years old.  It was the rule that every student needed to attend church.  At 10 TiCarme's father left their home and had nothing more to do with her. She was always #1 in her class, year after year.  She didn't want to be second.

It wasn't until she was 14 that Ticarme decided to "take God."  Before that time she would attend church in the morning and then go to the Rara Bands (Voodoo) in the afternoon.  In 1988 she decided to serve turning back.

At 17 TiCarme got pregnant and thought, "My life is done.  I don't have money to go to school.  There will be nothing for me."  But Pastor George, from the mission, came to her and invited her to come back to school.  TiCarme was given a second chance.  That "Second Chance" continues to motivate her as she seeks to give other children a second chance at school and at life.

For many years TiCarme prayed that God would let her have an orphange.  She didn't realize that God was answering that prayer until years later a younger friend said, "TiCarme I remember how your house was like an orphanage."  By the time she was 25 she had 7 extra kids living in her one room home.  Today her 2 room home continues to have an open door.  Her compound is the detour for many children who stop by to get some food on the way home from school.  (All of this on an income of about $70 a week, in a place where food is more expensive than in the US.)

TiCarme has very good English and has been a translator for many mission groups.  Currently TiCarme is working for an organization called Acts of Mercy.  This group came in doing disaster relief after the 2010 earthquake and have stayed to do community development work.  They do seminars and discipleship, helping the people of Haiti to engage in their own community's development.  Initially they hired TiCarme as a translator, but soon realized she was fully capable of leading the seminars and mentoring the participants.

Today TiCarme's heart is broken when she sees young people who have lost sponsors, been kicked out of school, have lost a parent, or have lost hope.  She says, "My job is to help young people who want to finish, who want to be excellent."  TiCarme says, "People forced me to ask you to come back.  They say, 'TiCarme, you know Pastor Al, you know Madame Holly'  But I say, God knows.  God has to lay it on their hearts to come back."

And we say to Ticarme, "We will not start a mission, but we will help support your mission."  And that is exactly what Ticarme needs.  She has been prepared through her education, life experiences and the Spirit.  She has been positioned in her community and through her contacts around the world.  She has been prompted all of her adult life to love and serve her community, and now to start this mission. She has co-workers who share her vision. And she is definitely passionate!  She lives to bless others!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

My Friend Lydia

Tomorrow I get to preach on Lydia.  You can find her story in Acts 16.  Over the last couple of years she has become a friend who coaches me every time I read her story.  Go on, read her story, and as you read it think about what you would like to ask Lydia if she was having coffee with you.

I am so blessed by this lady.  She is bold and courageous, and open to what the Spirit of God is doing in her.

So what do we know about Lydia?  She is a gentile widow.  She is a seller of purple, a successful business woman with considerable means and contacts.

Scripture tells us she is a God-fearer, which means:
1.  She believes in the God of the Jews, but is not fully committed to the Jewish faith.
2.  She upholds the 10 commandments, but not all of the Levitical laws.
3.  She would not be circumcised if she were a male.
4.  God-fearers were often known for giving alms and supporting Jewish communities in Roman cities.  They were really good people.
They were known by Jews as being, "People at the Gates."  People close, but not quite...

So we find Lydia praying with the Jewish women when Paul comes to Philippi.  She LISTENS and God OPENS her heart.

God had PREPARED Lydia.  When she heard the Good News she was ready.  Her life had prepared her for what God knew was coming next.

God had also POSITIONED Lydia.  She had connections with the Jewish community, but she also had contact with the wealthy and powerful in the city, because only they could afford her products.  She had the resources for her home to become the gathering place for the Body.

God PROMPTS Lydia.
Immediately she challenges Paul and his team with an invitation to stay with her, if they believe she belongs to the Lord.  "She persuades them."  She steps into the role that God has prepared and positioned her for.

God has given Lydia a PASSION.  Now Lydia is fully committed to God.  She is ready to fully enter the possibilities God provides.  She is willing to risk her safety, her business, her comfort, her money, her time.  It all beongs to God now.  Wow!

She doesn't make excuses, "Surely Paul will want to stay with someone who is Jewish.  Surely someone else is more capable of providing for the team.  What if my clients cut me off?  What if I get thrown in prison?  What if???"

She is bold and courageous, prepared, positioned, prompted, and passionate.

SOOOO,  What has God prepared me for?  What has God positioned me for?  What has God prompted me to do?  Will I listen?  Will I act?  What passion has God placed on my heart?  Will I act on it, or make excuses for staying in my Comfort Zone?

Another thought... am I fully committed, or am I still a "person at the gate?"  Or, who do I know that is a person at the gate and I could be a light, a voice, a love-bringer, to help them move more fully into the fellowship of Jesus-followers?

I love this woman!!  So what would you like to ask Lydia if you were having that cup of coffee with her?