Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ukraine, Laos, Lynnwood?

Now, I am no geography whiz, but I do know that these 3 locations on a map have very little in common and even less proximity. I do know that God is working uniquely in each place and last night, I got a beautiful picture of His great plan.

My aunt and uncle have been in Ukraine as missionaries for the past 14 months with a short stay in Laos to teach English and preach the Gospel whenever they were given an opportunity. After sharing dinner together, they showed us pictures of their adventures and talked to us about what life had been like for them in these 2 very different countries.

My uncle described the sweetness of genuine fellowship and faith that the Ukrainian believers had - unencumbered, it seems, with the many comforts and distractions that I encounter on a daily basis. The aftermath of years of Communist rule has left many of these people stripped of the ability or freedom to think for themselves - many still need to hear of the Freedom available in Christ and of the depth of His riches.

The people in Laos are inundated with statues of Buddha everywhere they turn - confusion and blindness abound in this country of monks and Hmong people. Jesus is virtually unknown in this land - our God that cannot be contained or represented in a man-made form longs for the hearts of these people.

So, what does any of this have to do with Lynnwood, you ask? Well, that is where I come in. Lynnwood is the center of my universe and I can get so darn short-sighted and tunnel-visioned as I hole up here in the northern region of the Puget Sound. The fact is, I am a missionary to this unglamorous, strip-mall overrun section of the world just as my aunt and uncle are missionaries to foreign lands. There is a giant shrine just over the freeway from me to the god of materialism - fueling the hearts and passions of many a follower that tithe regularly to it. There are idols in my own home - buried deep inside my heart that God wants destroyed as much as He desires to see Laotians destroy the bronze statues of Buddha.

The big picture that I glimpsed last night is that the world really isn't all that big and we are not really all that different as people. Each of us, created in the image of God, wascreated to worship the Creator. Each of us erects idols of our own making that we worship in the place of the all-satisfying God. Each of us is called to share the transforming power of the Gospel in the place where we are placed - starting with living out the Gospel daily in our own homes and lives. Each of us should have our eyes and eyes open to RECOGNIZE that Jesus is working all around us and that we are invited to join the adventure - He is redeeming lives in Ukraine, Laos - and even Lynnwood.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

My own Psalm 77 questions

I have been in a desert for the past few days - of my own doing primarily - and I really need to get out. I cracked open my Bible this morning which I admit, sheepishly, that I had not done in several days. God led me to Psalm 77 by way of the random question - what shall I read this morning? In God's sovereignty and intimate knowledge of my heart, that really is never a random question because the Scriptures are alive and active and able, at any moment, to speak words of comfort and conviction - addressing the specific needs of my heart. Today was no exception.

The psalmist of 77 .... "made a diligent search:
7 “Will the Lord spurn forever and never again be favorable?
8 Has his steadfast love forever ceased?
Are his promises at an end for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he in anger shut up his compassion?”

In his diligent search of both the character of God through history and his troubled heart, the psalmist lays out 5 questions to God. I so appreciate this view into the doubt and darkness of the psalmist's heart. I have been existing in this doubt and darkness because of my sin of independence from God and His Word these past few days. My questions have been along these lines:

1. Why God am I feeling this way?
2. Do you really know the desires of my heart?
3. Are your promises and your ways really for my best?
4. Why do I look to people instead of you for comfort and definition?
5. Will you forgive me AGAIN for trading your presence for some temporal, small satisfaction?

The psalmist then leads me to a place of remembrance:

10Then I said, "I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High." 11I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.12I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.13Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God?14You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples.15You with your arm redeemed your people,

I have forgotten the wonders of His love for me, the depth of His provision and that He is the Keeper of my soul. His ways are HOLY and He has redeemed me but I have stopped fighting to see the Truth. In the darkness, Lord, I appeal to the Light - you alone can illuminate my heart and bring me back to the place of comfort and confidence in you alone. I know that is you in the darkness - I RECOGNIZE the strength of your arm as You break my fall.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Thank you Dad!

I just received word that my dad is headed to the ER with serious pain and unknown diagnosis. I am praying hard that Jesus spare and heal him because I want my dad around for many years to come. There is much more life to be lived for my dad as a husband, father, grandfather, uncle, brother and friend. God has been very gracious to my dad - it was just 2 years ago that He delivered Him from a lifelong battle with alcohol and brought him to a place of brokenness. Out of those ashes, God has worked a story of redemption in my dad that has impacted his marriage, his fathering and his legacy. I wanted to record some of my thoughts of gratitude to my Heavenly Father for my earthly father while they are fresh on my heart:

1. Thank you, Dad, for the many years of passionate support you have given to me as your daughter. You have always encouraged me in any endeavor I have undertaken. True, some of those undertakings were ones I needed to be protected from, but in your absence, I was protected by my Lord. You both demonstrated and allowed for a needed understanding that Jesus alone is my Fortress and my Rock.

2. Thank you, Dad, for allowing me to share with you the deep, dark, painful secrets of my heart and for holding me in my pain. Your tears were a healing wash of love over my heart. True, your willingness to listen and heartbreak over my story came later in my life than I would have desired - but they HAPPENED. I dreamed of that day for years and I am grateful to God that He broke through your sin and mine so that it was a longing fulfilled.

3. Thank you, Dad, for many memories of fun-filled, laughter-soaked moments with you leading the way. You will always be the consummate teaser and joke-teller; able to lighten the mood on the darkest of days. True, your teasing is ill-fitting and excessive at times, but your consistent willingness to state your love for me speaks volumes. You have never withheld words of love and affirmation - I choose to believe, even in the midst of your cajoling, that the depth of your love for your children is vast. Truer still, I have come to know the love of Jesus in deeper ways - His love for His children is infathomable.

4. Thank you, Dad, for loving my mom better each day. It gives me great joy and confidence, even as a grown woman, to know that my mommy is loved and protected and will not be abandoned by you. True, I have many a memory of you and Mom fighting over the years - worrying that the next fight may be the last. Thank you for persevering through the years filled with joy and trial so that God is now glorified through your marriage.

5. Thank you, Dad, for failing me at times so that out of sheer desperation, a deep desire for the arms of a father - I was driven into the arms of my Savior. I have no bitterness, not a shred of anger or unforgiveness in my heart for you. ONLY deep love and gratitude for the Daddy you have been to me over the years. Imperfect yet devoted, absent at times yet very present now - you are a picture of redemption and a tangible reminder of grace in my life. I RECOGNIZE Jesus in you now more than at any point in my life.

Please Father - heal my father so we can continue this beautiful story together.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

What do I want from Jesus?

This sermon is a great challenge to me as both a Christian and a mother. As I desire great things for my children, do I desire for them the blessings the world has to offer or the eternal blessings of the Kingdom that come at great cost? They are breathing in (being influenced by) the true desires of my heart that I breathe out every day - do I RECOGNIZE Jesus in those desires? What do I truly want from Jesus - do I demand it for myself? For my children?