"Once our eyes are opened, we can't pretend we don't know what to do.

God who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls knows that we know, and holds us responsible to act."

(Proverbs 24:12, Paraphrase)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What to Do after Paris

Years ago, on a layover in Switzerland, our family took a trolley up a mountain and walked around in France for awhile. It was a bit like unexpectedly landing in the opening scene of "The Sound of Music" where Maria is spreading her arms, dancing and belting out, "The hills are alive with the sound of music." I loved it! But other than that one short visit on a mountain and despite our many traveling adventures, the rest of France has remained illusive. 

Image public domain
Like most of the Western world, I have wished to one day visit Paris. But last week when militant Islamists slaughtered a group of cartoonists, I was very thankful I wasn't there. Yet even though I was far away from France, as the stories and images poured out through all manner of media sources, I was tempted to feel afraid and helpless. 

Thankfully God reminded me of Bible truths. 1 John 4:18 says that, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love." 

To be brutally honest, I am no more capable of perfect love than flying to the moon. And I readily admit that includes perfectly loving my family and friends. It is only God's love in me that can make such a command something that can be obeyed. And it is not then me, but His Holy Spirit that is doing the perfect loving. "Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." Romans 5:5.

As with everything else, God is very practical. He does not ask me to feel some warm fuzzy for a people group of whom I know no one. He asks me to love in a 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 style those whom He has placed in my life. 
"Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."
And this includes the people of whom I could be suspicious after Paris. After all, biblically I know there are no coincides in my life. The very fact that I have relationships with Muslims shows me that God wants to use me in their lives to demonstrate His great love and unlimited grace. I must continue showing love in my present relationships as well as loving those I newly meet and get to know on the street, at a check-out counter, or at a place of business. 

Three ways to love:

1. Love with my eyes. When I see a woman in the burka, I need to look her straight in the eyes and say hello. I need to smile a smile that shows no reserve. She is a person. Just a person. When I see a Muslim man,  I must treat him with appropriate friendliness.

2. Love with my hands. If there are Muslims in my life, it is God's will for me to love them with my hands. I need to do practical things that show I care. I have much in common with my Muslim friends. We all eat, sleep, care for children, go to stores, enjoy music and sports, etc. To act otherwise is to miss precious opportunities.

3. Love with my mouth. Nothing displays the love of Christ more than clear, open, loving conversation. God has given my family many opportunities to invite Muslims into our home and into our lives. As with all relationships, it takes time and effort to reach out. But it is time well spent. And even while we hope they come to know Christ and His love one day, our relationships are not dependent on them becoming Christians. 

A power greater than mine—God's power—is available to me for doing the work of loving others. It is time-consuming and labor-intensive, but in the end it is glorious. And it destroys fear at its source. Satan.

Our son with friends on our porch in Liberia

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Walking into the Lions' Den

A number of times in my life, especially during the years of work among the war refugees, there were moments that felt surreal. How did I, a girl from Whitewater, Wisconsin, get here? I would ask myself as something particularly bizarre was happening. But that was a long while ago and life, while still interesting, has not felt particularly strange lately.

Until last week, that is, when once again there was a very surreal feeling to my life as I found myself at a Liberian hospital at four in the morning, hanging rubber boots upside down on sticks poking up out of the ground, while rain poured on my head and then ran over my neck and down the back of my scrubs. Until last Thursday night I had never once worn scrubs, but yet there I was. In retrospect, I should not have been overly surprised.

Two and a half months ago the first Ebola case in West Africa was confirmed. The virus, which is thought to be found in fruit bats and infects people who touch a diseased animal, spread across the border through people traveling to visit Liberia's health facilities. A collective shudder shook West Africa and, although it took a while, eventually all the proper protocols were put in place and trained people traveled from around the world to help fight the epidemic that appeared imminent. I felt God wanted me to volunteer to help, should there be something I could do, so I was trained to be a helper at the ELWA hospital. Following the training there were a few scattered possible cases around Liberia—and then several weeks of nothing. The gathered health teams returned to their homes in Europe and America and the Liberians breathed a big sigh of relief. Crisis averted.

Then last Thursday my friend Nancy, a missionary with SIM, called with surprising news. An ambulance had brought two patients to the ELWA Hospital the night before. One was pronounced dead on arrival and the other, a deathly ill young woman, was admitted with what was assumed to be, and was later confirmed to be, Ebola. Nancy, who was trained for the same job for which I had volunteered (and had helped train me), had been awake and dealing with it for more than a day and a half. Could I come? 

And so I became one of three “bleach ladies.” My friend, a Liberian nurse and I took shifts, making sure the multiple steps necessary for the medical staff to be thoroughly protected were followed. Besides Tyvac suits, the doctors and nurses wore masks and two pairs of gloves (each duct taped on separately) when entering the unit. Then after their time with the patient, the process was reversed and they took off their suits in a very slow, deliberate fashion to keep safe after leaving the ward. The process, done one person at a time and taking five minutes or so, involved a lot of spraying of bleach water and multiple hand washes. Rubber items such as boots, aprons and goggles were placed in trash cans filled with bleach water and the Tyvac suits, gloves and masks were placed in lined trash cans, to be burned later. In addition to our “bleach lady” jobs, we acted as runners, making excursions to the hospital’s pharmacy when needed and generally acting on behalf of the staff who, once they entered the contaminated zone, could not do any running around for themselves.

Ad for Tyvac suits
Very sadly, after three days in the hospital, the young lady succumbed to Ebola  I had so hoped she would be in the 10% that survive this virulent strain. She wasn’t. 

But this whole ordeal has gotten me thinking about our Western view of danger. We assume we are to walk, if not actively run, away from it. The protection of our lives is considered of utmost importance. But the truth is that often God calls His people to walk into the lions' den, so to speak. Rather than run, they do radical things like the missionary doctors, with the help of many others, have done here in Liberia. By creating an Ebola unit they actively encouraged Ebola patients to come and, in doing so, brought upon themselves hardship and danger. In a very real way they have mimicked Christ, who with eyes straight forward left the ultimate physical security—heaven—and walked purposefully toward a cross. (See Luke 9:51.)

And so we wait. Yesterday I heard of another death and another confirmed case of Ebola  I don’t know where new cases will be treated or if I will have the opportunity to be a part of their treatment. But this I do know: if it is God who has asked me to do this or anything else, the strength is from Him.

Even if it feels like I am walking into the lions' den.  

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Celebrating Mother's Day Properly

“Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: "that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” Ephesians 6:2-3

In 1996, while we were on our break from our mission work in Liberia we were visiting my parents in Wisconsin. Dressed in my new-to-me orange t-shirt, my mom and I were visiting in the kitchen one morning when my twelve year-old daughter walked in. She listened as we planned our day. When I mentioned we would be going out, she said with obvious disapproval in her voice, "You aren't going out in that, are you?"

Without skipping a beat my mom looked at  me and said, "Huh! Now you know how it feels!"

Wow, did I have that one coming. Clothing choices were just one of the many areas where I, as a teen, had assumed I knew more than my mom. I was sometimes mouthy and often absolutely clueless. And what I was most clueless about was the work and downright tenacity it took to raise children such as myself from infancy to adulthood. In fact, it wasn't until I had children of my own that I began to understand what my mother had gone through when, before my older brother turned two, my twin sister and I were born. And then another baby came two and a half years later. 

Looking back now I see my mom was absolutely amazing and thankfully we grew quite close after I became an adult and was much more teachable. Through the years and before her death in 2000, I was able to tell her of the many ways in which she blessed and profoundly impacted my life. 

As I matured I also learned the honoring  of my parents had ramifications far beyond the obvious. There is a spiritual dimension with huge ramifications. When I honor my parents, that obedience to His written Word honors God Himself. Additionally, honoring parents is good practice for respecting authority figures such as political leaders, teachers and legal authorities. After all, if I can honor people whose faults I know, I have practice for honoring people whose faults I have yet to find out.  

And unlike what I assumed as a teen, my honor was never meant to be tied to my parents' perfection. For reasons I don't have to understand, my honor lifts up God's name in a world where He is often defamed. And so on this Mother's Day 2014, although she is not here to personally receive it, I choose to honor my mother. It is one of the 365 days each year in which obedience to Ephesians 6:2 is a great idea.  

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Heart of Easter

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:1-9)
Almost without exception when visiting a church here in Liberia, if a time for testimonies is given someone will stand up and give a dramatic recounting of the struggle he or she went through to get out of bed and to church that day. The listening audience gives full attention, often shouting a loud "Amen!" when the the testimony is over. 

For years I could not figure out why such testimonies received so much attention. Then I had my "duh!" moment. In these churches, many of which were started by faithful missionaries who gave what they thought was a clear presentation of the gospel, people were trusting in church attendance to give them grace with God. It was a logical assumption. After all, since it seems clear from the Bible God is for church attendance, it must have saving value. Equally logical is the assumption being kind, giving to the poor, performing good deeds and generally living a moral life will secure favor with God. Surely, since no one can be perfect, God rewards a good stab at holy living with eternal life. 

Two thousand years ago another group of people also trusted in a variety of things for their eternal salvation. God had, through various prophets, given the Old Testament and its laws to those who comprised the little country of Israel. Additionally, God had revealed His nature and character through prophets. He clearly stated He was holy and so many of these Jews, in their effort to be holy as well, tried to live lives of perfect outward obedience to the Laws of Moses. What many did not understand was the whole legal system—complete with animal sacrifices and rituals—rather than saving them, proved they could never be holy in their own strength. It was put in place to prepare Israel for the day the gospel, planned by God before creation, would play out before their very eyes. 

And that is exactly what happened on Passover some two thousand years ago. On their Jewish Holy Day commemorating Israel's deliverance from Egyptian slavery and celebrated by the sacrifice of a perfect lamb, God's Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ, was sacrificed on a cross for the sins of the world. It was beyond horrific that the perfect should be sacrificed for the imperfect, the just for the unjust, the unblemished for the impossibly broken. 

Image Pixabay
But He didn't stay in the grave. Christ rose from the dead! And by conquering death He proved He was exactly who He'd claimed He was. God. ("I and My Father are one" John 10:30.) The baby of the Christmas story became the Christ of the cross and then the conquerer over death. And it is in Christ and what He did on the cross I must put my entire trust.  If I think I can add good works to make me "worthy," it shows how little I understand the holiness of God, the magnitude of what Jesus did on the cross, and the seriousness of my sin. By God's grace I must accept no syncretism, no legalism, and no mixture of law and grace. 

In Christ alone my hope is found. In Christ alone.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Falling Hard

But the angel of the LORD said to Elijah the Tishbite, “Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say to them, ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron?’ “Now therefore, thus says the LORD: ‘You shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.’” So Elijah departed. 2 Kings 1:3-4
I am the reigning queen of falling on dangerous surfaces. In fact, if someone in my house drops a cube of ice or anything else remotely dangerous my children don't says, "Wipe that up so no one falls." Instead they say, "Wipe that up so Mommy won't fall." It will be me. Always me. But I am not alone with my problem! Although I doubt if it was because of an ice cube, according to 2 Kings 1 somehow King Ahaziah of Israel managed to fall through the lattice roof of his summer palace in Samaria and seriously injure himself.

Not surprisingly since he was the son of wicked King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, Ahaziah was seriously into Baal worship. In fact, laid up after his accident and very concerned for his future, he sent his servants to ask the prophets of Baal whether or not he would survive. But the God of Israel, the true and living God, was in no way stymied by Ahaziah's refusal to acknowledge Him. In fact, as the servants of Ahaziah were headed to Baal country, God sent an angel to His prophet Elijah who told him what had happened to Ahaziah and what Elijah should tell Ahaziah's servants. 

Although it was scary to bring a negative message, Elijah obeyed God and went to find the king's servants. These servants were so surprised and bewildered by this unexpected encounter that they turned around and returned to the king. When the king heard the prophet Elijah had said he would never recover—a very unwelcome message and probably not what the king had expected to hear from the prophets of Baal—he wanted him killed.

While I have no temptation to worship Baal or to listen to the messages of his priests, I have been tempted by other "voices" giving messages more to my liking than the one in God's Word. For various reasons what God said was not what I wanted to believe. What God asked was very hard and I wanted things to be easy. What God asked required everything and I wanted to keep back part. But God is not into my human reasoning and God's truth is truth whether I believe it or not. No variant message from a "prophet of Baal" can change truth.

How thankful I am for a loving and patient God who has given me His Holy Spirit to guide me into truth. Without Him I, like King Ahaziah, would be ever-so-tempted to reject God's truth in favor of a more palatable lie. But in the end the lie would change nothing. Truth would not be changed simply because I rejected it. 

See A Bitter Pill to Swallow.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How to Pray for the Ebola Crisis in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone

In 1995 Dustin Hoffman and Morgan Freeman starred in the Hollywood movie Outbreak, a big box-office success. In it an Ebola-like virus spreads from Africa to the U.S. and virologists are forced to deal with the ramifications of the deadly hemorrhagic fever. Today we and millions of others in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia find ourselves living the drama of Ebola—without the back-of-our-minds knowledge it is just a movie and the ending will be, if not happy, at least satisfying. 

With 78 deaths already in the region, Monrovia, Liberia's capital city and our home, feels poised on the edge of her seat, awaiting who-knows-what. We read with horror the latest news—a woman with a confirmed case of Ebola traveled by taxi from the interior to Monrovia. Given the deadliness of contact with infected persons, we can't help but wonder how many more will now die.

Ebola, which begins with the eating of contaminated bush meat, is passed from person to person through contact with body fluids. There is no cure and about two-thirds of those infected die. We are, of course, taking necessary precautions, but because it does not spread through non-symtomatic people, we don't feel overly vulnerable. Others, however,  have already been exposed and are at great risk.

Bush meat: Image public domain
With that in mind, I submit to you the following prayer requests.

1. People would not panic, but instead be calm and cool-headed.
2. God would give health officials great wisdom as they strategize as to the best way to  contain the outbreak.
3. Medical communities would be as prepared as possible for the cases they are facing.
4. God would comfort the grief-stricken families who have lost loved ones.
5. Liberia's media would be on top of things with accurate reporting, good advice for avoidance, etc.
6. People would be obedient to authority about safety precautions.
7. In their fear people would seek God.

Thank you to each who will take the time to remember this problem in prayer. We know God, who hears and answers prayeris on His throne.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

"If You Can Read This, Thank a Teacher"

 "In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." I Thessalonians 5:18
Several days ago my family was in our car together driving down a main road here in Monrovia, Liberia, when 18 year-old Jared said with humor in his voice, "I suppose I should say thank you. The sign says, 'If you can read this, thank a teacher.'" I knew to what he was referring. We had just passed a wall on which those words were painted. I was amused and pleased by his remark, so we high fived. Jared's friend and Jonah also wanted in on the action, so the high fives were flying.  

Jared's words of appreciation reminded me of a subject to which I have given much thought. Because of living and working in Liberia, I know beyond any possible doubt that literacy should never be taken for granted. In fact, when I arrived in Liberia in 1986, to my deep dismay, I discovered very few of my counterparts could read at all, much less on a truly meaningful level. Through the years I have wept tears of gratitude to God for the gift of education I was given. I do not, in any way, take it for granted any more.

Nancy with Liberian women - 2014
By God's grace, through home schooling I was able to pass the gift of education on to my children. And now, with my oldest four grown and Jared a senior in high school, it is a good time to analyze my successes and failures—the good, the bad, and the ugly. There is no need to repeat mistakes with #6, Jonah, who is six years old.

Prayer card - 2003
Jonah being goofy
Perhaps failure would be too strong a word, but the sign Jared noticed pointed out a mistake I now realize I did make. I did not teach my children to "thank a teacher" regularly. If they had been in either a public or private school I would have insisted on it, but because it seemed self-serving it never occurred to me that, in the same way they were taught to say thank you for the food after a meal, my children needed to be taught to say thank you for being educated each day. 

Jonah is my sixth and last chance to get it right in this area. While I have no control over whether he will actually be thankful—that will be his choice—I am requiring him to express gratitude, to "thank a teacher," at the end of our school days. Time will tell the results. But even before the stats are in, I know it is a good thing. Biblical gratitude reinforces the obvious—everything in life, both the good and bad, is the "stuff" of which God makes our stories. To be thankful is a sign of trust in Him.

Jared and Nancy - 2014
So, my dear Jared, you are most welcome.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Looking at Things Through Strange Glasses

Several years ago, while we were in the States for our break from our missionary work in Liberia, we were traveling back to Minneapolis after visiting a supporting church in North Dakota. It was an extremely sunny afternoon and I was hot and thirsty.  I decided to solve this problem by getting an icy Dr. Pepper from a soda fountain. 

Mark pulled into a gas station and I hopped out. Hurrying in, I  filled a cup half full of ice and pressed it to the proper lever. Rather than the normal brown liquid I expected, the cup filled with a clear liquid, like Sprite. 

 Image stockx.change "geox"
I dumped the contents in the tray and tried the Coke lever. To my dismay, the same thing happened. Holding the full cup of clear liquid in my hand, I walked with confidence to the register. "Your soda fountain isn't working," I announced.

The friendly young man working the counter looked into my cup, paused slightly, and then looked back up at me. Immediately I had an overdue "aha moment." Pulling off my blue-blocker sunglasses, I again looked at the liquid. This time it was brown. Both of us burst out laughing.

How often I have done that with other things in life much more serious than a soft drink. With confidence I have declared someone else to have a problem only to find out, in the end, the problem was me. Because of the "glasses" I was wearing, it had been impossible for me to see the situation as it really was.

Image public domain
But thankfully I have a God who specializes in removing whatever it is that blinds me to His truths. As I have yielded more and more to His Word, I see truth with increasing clarity. And I am also thankful God, like the kind young man behind the counter, does not get angry or vindictive when, at long last, I "get it." In fact, sometimes I imagine I see Him smile at me as the glasses are coming off. 

See Honoring a Worthy God.

Monday, March 3, 2014

On Being the Elder Brother

Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’ But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’” Luke 15:25-32
Image public domain
Since I was a little girl I loved the parable of the prodigal son as given by Jesus in Luke 15:11-32. I thought it was just precious the father loved his soso much that even though he had been a disappointment—running away from home, squandering money on prostitutes, acting generally as a good-for-naught—he was accepted back with open arms. 

What a beautiful picture of the heart God has for the prodigal. But the prodigal was not a person like me, I thought. While I knew I sinned often and in a variety of ways, I also knew I did not sin in the same manner as the prodigal son. As a result, to be honest, because it was quieter I thought of my sin as less, well, sinful. 

And then, in my thirties God began a wonderful work in my life and it dawned on me that while I wasn't (in the traditional way of thinking) the prodigal son, I was  very much like someone else. Unlike the young man in the parable, who displayed his sin out in the open for all to see and judge, my sins were more private. My sins were what theologian A. W. Tozer called the "self sins"—self-righteousness, selfpity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration and self-love. My sins were the sinof the older brother.
A. W. Tozer says in The Knowledge of the Holy,  
“An inward principle of self lies at the source of human conduct, turning everything men do into evil. To save us completely Christ must reverse the bent of our nature; He must plant a new principle within us so that our subsequent conduct will spring out of a desire to promote the honor of God and the good of our fellow men. The old self-sins must die, and the only instrument by which they can be slain is the cross.”
I had experienced the living death the self-sins offered and I wanted no more of it. So to the cross I went—not once but over and over and overAnd I am still going to the cross when the self-sins would try to draw me away from Christ

ImageStockx.change by Billy Alexander 
How very thankful I am for a loving heavenly Father who runs with arms outstretched to take back both types of wandering children— the "out there" rebel with his big, bold sin and his self-deluded elder brother who finally understands that he too needs to run to the much-needed grace and open arms of his Father.

See Clutchin' Coffee
See Sizzling Romance

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Entitlement 101

In the world of international adoption our adoption of Jonah is a bit unique. Jonah was born in Liberia and we are missionaries who live and minister in Liberia, so our adopted child remains in his home country a majority of the time. Because Jonah looks Liberian and we don't, our treatment of Jonah and his response to that treatment are often scrutinized. This scrutiny has make me painfully aware of the sad, but oh-so-human, tendency to feel entitled. 

"Entitlement" is defined by Merriam-Webster as "the condition of having a right to have, do, or get something: the feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something (such as special privileges)" While Jonah is most often a delight, he can at times, like all of us, begin to display an entitlement mentality. And it has occurred to me if Jonah acts like an entitled child—one who believes by virtue of his existence he deserves good food, nice clothes, a good education, etc., etc., etc.—the Liberians around us will be horrified. Because of this simple reality I have made a great effort to teach Jonah to say please and thank you whenever appropriate. And he is doing a great job.

But even as I teach Jonah to say please and thank you, I am deeply aware from personal experience that entitlement is a heart issue more than a manners issue. If I think I deserve good food, beautiful clothes, a nice house or kind friends, if and when I get any or all of those things I will not be grateful. Furthermore, if I don't get them, I will feel cheated. However, if I understand each of those things is a gift with which God may or may not see fit to bless me, my reaction will be quite different. 

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, "In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." If I would be like Christ I must give up my entitlement mentality in exchange for a thankful spirit. If I would be like Christ I must let go of the secular mirage of a pain-free, happy-go-lucky, fully-entitled life. If I would be like Christ I must yield to the One who gives life in abundance—via a cross. 

Image Pixabay "geralt"
See Affair-Proofing My Marriage
See A Childlike Faith

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Bleeding Grace

Thus Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father, and said to him, “Let not the king sin against his servant, against David, because he has not sinned against you, and because his works have been very good toward you. 1 Samuel 19:4
Ten years ago the war had recently finished in Liberia and the streets of Monrovia were liberally sprinkled with former warriors. These ex-combatants were often drug-crazed and more than a little used to getting their way through violence. Sometimes they were mean. Really mean. 

Shell casings littering the streets of Monrovia (Image public domain)
My life was intertwined with their lives not only when I personally was out and about, but also through the various interactions my Liberian and expatriot friends had with them. Sometimes I was tempted to give in to cynicism. After all, what hope is there for people who have demonstrated such long-term willingness to be evil? 

I am not the first person to be tempted in this fashionWhile the Bible doesn't give every detail of the struggle, we know David also had his difficulties with people bent on evil. Of special concern was Saul, the king of Israel. His king. 

For years after his private anointing by the prophet Samuel, David knew he was going to be king one day. He had no idea when that would happen nor how God would open the door to make it a reality. Through a series of events only God could have orchestrated, David was given opportunities to be lifted up in the eyes of the people. Namely, God gave David military victory over Israel's enemies. But rather than being grateful and relieved, King Saul want crazy with jealousy.  In fact, rather than thanking him, Saul chased David relentlessly for many years. David was forced to flee the country and live among his enemies, often in caves. It must have been terribly difficult. 

In the Psalms we see David question the whys of it, but the Bible never shows David responding in sinful anger to Saul. Instead he responds with continual grace. Year after year, temptation after temptation, more grace. Unbelievably, when being hurt by the most powerful man in his world, David doesn't bleed sarcasm, cynicism, pride or a scornful attitude. He bleeds grace. 

While many of my wounds have been self-inflicted, life has contained more than a few hurts I, in no way, brought on myself. What I do with either of these types of wounds defines who I am. By God's grace alone can I become a person who sincerely apologizes and repents of sins I commit against others. By God's grace alone can I become a person who bleeds humility rather than pride and grace rather than bitterness when others sin against me. By God's grace alone can I become a David rather than a Saul.

See A Bitter Pill to Swallow.
See Embracing Humility.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Exceedingly Abundantly Above All I Could Ask or Think

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:10
Today was one of those "once in a lifetime" days. A day when things come together in a way that defies all odds. My heart is overwhelmed with joy.

When my oldest son John-Mark was born in 1982, the woman at the hospital who brought us the birth certificate application expressed delight in our choice of names. We had told her we were naming our baby John-Mark because we were going to be missionaries in Liberia and he was going to be, like his Bible namesake, our missionary companion.

When we said John-Mark would be our missionary companion we were, of course, thinking of his childhood. At the tender age of 22, which was how old I was when John-Mark was born, the thought of tiny little John-Mark growing up and actually becoming a man one day was all but incomprehensible. But time passed and it happened. John-Mark grew up. And God did a tremendous work in our now-grown missionary companion's heart.  As a result, he and his precious wife presently live and minister in Voinjama, an interior town of Liberia. 

Yesterday the President of Liberia, Madame Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf or "Ma Ellen," was visiting their town and spent some time working the crowd, of whom John-Mark and Sara were a part. They don't know exactly why, but perhaps because they were holding my two little grandbabies who just happen to be absolutely darling, the President took notice of them. In fact, she not only took notice of them, after speaking with them briefly she invited them to dinner at her local house! 

Crowd waiting to greet the President
President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf holding my grandson Noah
They went and enjoyed themselves tremendously. And then after dinner the President invited them to breakfast. How could they refuse? Again, they had a lovely time—and this time they were even able to have a photo taken with her. It was all very exciting.

The President with my granddaughter Audrey, Sara and John-Mark
Audrey in the president's "queen chair"
At the same time all of this was happening for John-Mark and Sara, something else was happening for me. Several weeks ago I submitted the e-book edition of Confessions of a Transformed Heart to Bookbub, an e-book promotional website that each day advertises one to three price-reduced or free bookin several select categories(Confessions falls under the religious and inspirational category.) To my great joy, the book was accepted. The date for Bookbub's e-flyer was set for February 19th. 

Yesterday, within an hour of the beginning of the promotion, several thousand people had downloaded the book. Thrilling indeed! And then this morning I woke up to Confessions of a Transformed Heart as the #1 free non-fiction Kindle book on Amazon. 

This has to be a "God thing" because there is no human probability that John-Mark and Sara would ever meet and then eat two meals in a row with the President of Liberia and there is no human probability my book would be the #1 non-fiction free offering in the Amazon Kindle store. But yet both of those things were true—and at the same time!

I am overwhelmed with the goodness of God. As those who know us already know and others may seriously suspect, Mark and I are completely ordinary people. Yet an extraordinary God has chosen us for this job. And today I wish so very much that all of those who have loved us and supported us through the years could join hands with Mark and me and sing one of my favorite hymns, "To God Be the Glory"!

"To God Be the Glory"
To God be the glory, great things he hath done!
So loved he the world that he gave us his Son,
who yielded his life an atonement for sin,
and opened the lifegate that all may go in.
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
let the earth hear his voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father thru Jesus the Son,
and give him the glory, great things he hath done! 
O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood,
to every believer the promise of God;
the vilest offender who truly believes,
that moment from Jesus a pardon receives.
Great things he hath taught us, great things he hath done,
and great our rejoicing thru Jesus the Son;
but purer, and higher, and greater will be
our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see.
See Embracing Humility.
See The Worst Mother Ever!