30 August 2011

"Wii Play!" @ the Johnsons

After the seriousness of yesterday's post,
I thought it would be fun to share this video,
put together by a friend of ours while the kids and a friend were
hanging out at his house one afternoon,
having a jolly 'ole time,
as you can surely tell.


Thanks, DJ!!!

29 August 2011

Multitude Monday - 1000 Gifts - Starting anew, a bit apprehensive... and not sure where God will lead us...

Though no-one can go back

and make a brand new start,

anyone can start from now...

and make a brand new end.

~ Author Unknown ~

This week has been a doozy for us - but instead of rehashing all the details, I'm going to copy and paste the text from a prayer letter we sent yesterday.

August 28, 2011

“And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, ‘The old is good enough.’ “Luke 5:39 (NASB)

One week ago, Sunday night at the English worship and fellowship service we attend, we heard Dave Totman (the youth pastor at Sahel Academy and someone we are thankful to call friend) preach on the parable of the wineskins. We aren’t sure we’ve ever heard someone actually address the last verse of that parable. Dave did that night, challenging us with the idea that in this parable, Jesus addresses the fact that He came to earth to do something new – something that was no longer compatible with the old – sadly and often we resist or dread the new that God is doing because the old is comfortable, or “good enough.”
Talking about the sermon later that night, Tim remarked about how he didn’t like that specific part of the challenge. Richelle had to agree. We don’t tend to gravitate towards or even consider change when things are going well. And that is where we are. We’ve seen God doing some encouraging and amazing things… we are seeing the fruit from long-term projects… and then just a few evenings ago, God clearly showed us that it was time for a change.
Late Wednesday night, we received confirmation that our mission agency, Evangelical Baptist Missions, would be closing. This is painful news. EBM has a rich history, their ministry beginning right here in Niamey, and we consider ourselves so privileged, so blessed, to have been a part of this organization over the past 16 years. We have collaborated with, we have been mentored and greatly encouraged by, so many faithful servants who are a also a part of EBM… Needless to say, we are grieving.
We had been aware for some weeks that this might become a possibility. However, the sudden abruptness of the decision as well as the resulting speed with which we have to make life changing choices has taken us by surprise. According to our understanding, the decision giving us such short notice was outside EBM Board control. Their heart has been to be as helpful as possible in this transition. Please note: As of September 2, EBM’s Indianapolis office will be finally and formally closing its doors, and will no longer offer services to missionaries, their churches or other donors. EBM’s legal representation will then be handling the liquidation of all remaining assets and the proportional distribution of funds to all creditors, including EBM missionaries with account balances.
We are overwhelmed, in both good ways and in… well, just plain overwhelming ways!
We never cease to be amazed by our God. The overflowing outpouring of love and the unbelievable offers of help and support from our local missionary and expatriate community can be nothing other than a foretaste of heaven. We are so thankful for how God wraps us in a huge hug, drawing us close through His prompting of others to care and show that love and care in very tangible ways. Rest assured, we are doing well, we are cared for and we are continuing the ministry God has placed us here to do. Additionally, several different mission organizations (and we would be honored to become a part of any one of them) have graciously extended the offer of immediate care for us as we walk through this crisis, making the transition to whatever “new thing” the Lord has for us.
We are grieving. We love our organization, both the leadership (administration, home office staff, board of directors) that has so faithfully served us for nearly 20 years and our colleagues serving with us here in W. Africa who have become family… it feels a bit like the bottom of a bucket fell out, everything has washed away and we are wondering, waiting to see where everyone will finally wash up… It hurts. It isn’t easy.
We are continuing our God-given ministries to the people of Niger:
  • radio program production;
  • audio-visual production work;
  • assisting local church planters;
  • literacy;
  • preaching in local churches;
  • teaching ladies’ Bible study;
  • facilitating EBM ministries- the French School, the Evening Bible Institute and Tri-M; and
  • meeting the special education needs of both expat and Nigerien children at Sahel Academy.
  • Still praying through, and not knowing yet for sure God’s plans for either the immediate or longer term future, we have made the exceedingly difficult decision of pulling five of our children from the French language school they’ve loved and attended to consolidate our family in one place, particularly cutting transportation and gas costs (at approaching $7/gallon, that is significant.) While excited, our children are grieving that loss, and are nervous about that change – Victoria in particular, who has flipped back and forth between English and French school systems now 4 years in a row.
    We are actively seeking the counsel of our commissioning church and senior pastor as well as that of other supporting churches. We are trying to balance their guidance with the reality of our mission’s permission/charter to work in Niger and the immediate needs of the many ministries for which we are responsible. While we’d like to be able to find a solution that is everyone’s first choice, that will not be possible and we need to seek to follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance. That is hard, and as missionaries totally dependent upon support from others, quite daunting.
    1. Pray! We need wisdom, humility, and Holy Spirit discernment as we are pressed to make huge and important decisions in a very short amount of time.
    2. Pray for our children – those who are old enough to grasp the significance of what has happened are worried and wondering what will happen to our family… if and when they will need to say goodbye to people and this life they love… and for the younger ones who don’t really understand, but sense that Daddy and Mama have a lot on their minds and seem distracted and unavailable in these trying days. Pray specifically for those beginning a new school on Wednesday.
    3. Pray as we seek to explain this situation to our Nigerien friends, brothers and sisters in the Lord who will not necessarily easily understand this present turn of events.
    4. Pray for our EBM colleagues all over the world who are facing this same situation.
    5. Plead with the Lord that all legal ramifications will be resolved in a way that honors and glorifies His name.
    6. Pray that we will be able to preserve our ministry assets, including the EBM French School and the property housing the radio studio, our business office and two homes presently under construction, including the one where we hope to live within the next few weeks.
    7. Pray that as we seek to communicate and research our options, internet and phone lines as well as electricity will work consistently.
    8. Pray! At the present, we have very, very limited funds with which to care for our family and continue ministry. Education monies and future travel monies we’d been accumulating for future needs are now unavailable to us, frozen by legal counsel. Our niece Leandra’s support, based primarily on one-time gifts already receipted by EBM, is in the same situation. We have no idea how much of that she will eventually be able to access, or when. By God’s grace, she is still firmly committed to finishing her year of ministry here with us, Lord-willing. Pray for Leandra, as this has been an unexpected and intimidating introduction to missions work.
    9. Be confident in our unwavering commitment to the work you’ve sent us to do. Please continue to support us through this time.
    10. Communicate: We are seeking to communicate honestly and authentically with you, many of whom have legitimate questions. Please don’t speculate or wonder if you hear something that you find confusing or disturbing. Contact us. We want to hear from you and will answer your questions to the best of our ability. Any encouraging words you can direct our way are also deeply appreciated.
    11. STOP IMMEDIATELY sending donations intended for this ministry, our family or the radio studio (i.e. Thru the Bible programming) to EBM. Please hold those funds and we will be in touch within the next few days informing you where they can be sent.
    12. EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY, change our email address to either one (or both) listed at the end of this letter.
     Corrie Ten Boom once said:
    "When a train goes through a tunnel
    and it gets dark,
    you don't throw away the ticket and jump off.
    You sit still and trust the engineer."
    Right now, that is exactly what we are…
    exactly what we are striving to do: sit still and trust
    as God reveals exactly what new direction He wants us to move.
    Sitting and trusting… still… all because of Jesus,
    Tim, Richelle,
    Brendan, Rebekah Joy, Nadia, Anna, Victoria, Jonathan, Elsie Mae and Mary Michelle Wright

    this week's gratitude list:
    (#'s 1491 - 1522)

    seeing opportunity starting anew from today

    anticipation - and the confident expectation that God is doing something amazing


    surprise lunches

    friends who make the time to pray with us

    our team

    our supporting churches and supporters



    someone handing over a box of tissues to wipe those tears

    having some of the hard decisions already made

    malaria treatment working well

    spotlessly cleaned kitchen

    grace to trust, grace to sit and rest in the stillness

    counsel from those who love us, even when it seems to muddy the waters

    our wonderful home and sending church... and the godly man we are priviledged to look up to as our senior pastor

    notes of encouragement

    watching our team pull and pray together

    amazing offers

    this incredibly generous, loving and serving community

    the practicality of God's Word to situations I'd never dreamed of

    the quietness of late night and early morning hours to work on critical correspondence

    napping babies, especially when they've been so grumpy of late

    long blonde hair to comb after cool showers on muggy mornings

    enough leftover peanut sauce to feed this gang lunch

    boys playing Risk

    girls watching "The Sound of Music"

    two days off school - perfect timing for us in our time of crisis

    container arrived - soon doors on the school building

    the privilege it is to be a part of something that only God could do... and to realize that by His grace, He may be entrusting us with the responsibility to finish it well

    precious memories

    saying goodbye to old dreams... anticipating the dreaming of new ones

    28 August 2011

    Thinking of... Clinging to... the words of this old, old song ~

    ~ It was one of my favorites, way back when, when I was in high school. Today it seems so totally appropriate for such a time as this, as well as for an "I'm-confident-its-coming" moment when I believe I will say with all my heart that I'm "So glad" for the current events in our lives.

    So Glad
    (Amy Grant)

    I had laid some mighty plans
    Thought I held them in my hands
    Then my world began to crumble all away
    I tried to build it back again
    I couldn't bear to see it end
    How it hurt to know, you wanted it that way

    And I'm so glad
    Glad to find the reason
    That I'm happy-sad
    That you've torn it all away
    And I'm so glad
    Though it hurts to know
    I'm leaving
    Everything I ever thought that I would be
    Once I held it in my hand
    It was a kingdom made of sand
    But now, you've blown it all away
    I can't believe that I can say that I'm glad

    Long before my plans were made
    I know a master plan was laid
    With a power that superseded my control
    And if that truth could pierce my heart

    I wouldn't wander from the start
    Trying desperately to make it on my own

    And I'm so glad
    Glad to find the reason
    That I'm happy-sad
    That you've torn it all away
    And I'm so glad
    Though it hurts to know
    I'm leaving
    Everything I ever thought that I would be
    Once I held it in my hand
    It was a kingdom made of sand
    But now, you've blown it all away
    I can't believe that I can say that I'm glad

    27 August 2011

    As a Teacher...

    ...particularly a special educator...
    ...and a parent,
    the words to this song break my heart.

    How about you?

    by Harry Chapin

    The little boy went first day of school.
    He got some crayons and started to draw.
    He put colors all over the paper
    For colors was what he saw.

    And the teacher said, "What you doin' young man?"
    "—I'm paintin' flowers," he said.
    "There are so many colors in the rainbow
    So many colors in the morning sun
    So many colors in the flower and I see every one."

    She said, "It's not the time for art young man
    And anyway flowers are green and red
    There's a time for everything young man
    And a way it should be done
    You've got to show concern for everyone else
    For you're not the only one"

    And she said,
    "Flowers are red young man
    Green leaves are green
    There's no need to see flowers any other way
    Than they way they always have been seen."

    But the little boy said,
    "There are so many colors in the rainbow
    So many colors in the morning sun
    So many colors in the flower and I see every one."

    Well the teacher said, "You're sassy
    There's ways that things should be
    And you'll paint flowers the way they are
    So repeat after me …"

    And she said,
    "Flowers are red young man
    Green leaves are green
    There's no need to see flowers any other way
    Than they way they always have been seen"

    But the little boy said,
    "There are so many colors in the rainbow
    So many colors in the morning sun
    So many colors in the flower and I see every one."

    The teacher put him in a corner
    She said, "It's for your own good..
    And you won't come out 'til you get it right
    And are responding like you should."
    Well finally he got lonely
    Frightened thoughts filled his head
    And he went up to the teacher
    And this is what he said ...

    "Flowers are red, green leaves are green
    There's no need to see flowers any other way
    Than the way they always have been seen."
    Time went by like it always does
    And they moved to another town
    And the little boy went to another school
    And this is what he found
    The teacher there was smilin'
    She said, "Painting should be fun
    And there are so many colors in a flower
    So let's use every one."

    But that little boy painted flowers
    In neat rows of green and red
    And when the teacher asked him why
    This is what he said,
    "Flowers are red, green leaves are green
    There's no need to see flowers any other way
    Than the way they always have been seen." 

    Original photo found here.


    26 August 2011

    Mullings & Musings...

    "Stott believed in the mind as a gift from God. In an evangelical world tempted to rely on proof texts and emotive stories, Stott drilled down deep into Scripture to display its power. Many people, hearing Stott preach for the first time, said they had never heard the Bible expounded with such clarity and depth. His passion was to learn what God said, and to let it shape life. Stott's preaching and writing renewed faith in the inspiration of Scripture—not only because he defended it, but because he displayed it."

    "Words are the lifeblood of your writing. They’re what you use to build credibility or diminish it.

    Words matter. They’re what make your arguments more compelling, your prose stronger, and your craft more captivating.

    Untrained writers can be careless with their words. It takes discipline to use these tools well."

    "Yet he provided despite my worry, not because of it. He provided to show me that I didn’t have to worry, that he was faithful, that he cared. Every time I worried, every time I lay awake at night, I declared that I still did not trust him to provide for us. I declared that my faith was weak..."

    "I get it. We’re all exhausted. We’re all concerned about the economy, the budget, issues in our own backyard, our personal finances, our churches, etc. Heck, we all did our part in Haiti and Japan. We all have other commitments and causes. We belong to “other tribes” that do work in “other” parts of the world.

    I get it. I really do. You’re tired. We’re all fatigued.

    But don’t mistake donor fatigue with compassion fatigue.

    Never stop caring. You can’t wrap your head around suffering without your heart. We still need to respond to this epic humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa that Oxfam is predicting may grow to impact 15 million people."

    • "The Stone" (I just LOVED this - a bit long, but consider it an investment!)
    “My grandfather wanted to teach my mother a valuable lesson about the difference between value and worth. So as they cut this stone together, he made her promise she would never find out what its worldly value was. He told her that it wasn’t the amount of money it could fetch, but rather the fact that it had worth. He had mined it on his own land and they had cut it together. That was what gave it worth-not the dollar amount.”

    25 August 2011

    Day of Rest

    "Rivers know this: there is no hurry.
    We shall get there... some day."
    ~ Winnie the Pooh ~

    Thursday is my favorite day of the week.

    It is the one consistent day each week that I have made the time to get up early to just sit with the Lord, to slow down and relax, think, leisurely study, lesson plan, menu plan, spend chunks of time in prayer, drink tea (raspberry flavored, of course!) on the terrace, spend time with a friend, be still and know...

    I love starting my morning early... watching the sunrise... as the river slips quietly by...

    I'm learning as I do nothing but sit, sip, stare, hear the wind and water, listen to the world softly begin to stir,

    observe fishermen start their work,

    glimpse boatmen ferrying their passengers.

    I'm understanding that sometimes the best stewardship of time the Lord has given is quiet stillness given back to Him.

    He uses that time to prepare me for the adventures of the coming week... helping me to meet them with anticipation and joy, delighting in watching God's mighty hand work His designs and His plan.
    Last-school-year-graduated boys... big boys my crew is missing... boys enjoying the sometimes gentle,
    sometimes turbulent but always flowing, going, and eventually getting there Niger River.

    23 August 2011

    Thinking About Tunnel Times - Terrifying or Trust-building?

    "When a train goes through a tunnel

    and it gets dark,

    you don't throw away the ticket and jump off.
    You sit still and trust the engineer."
    ~ Corrie Ten Boom ~ 

    22 August 2011

    Multitude Monday - 1000 Gifts

    All the blessings we enjoy are Divine deposits,
    committed to our trust on this condition:
    that they should be dispensed for the benefit of our neighbors.
    ~ John Calvin ~ 

    this week's gratitude list:
    (#'s 1461 - 1490)

    buckets where the bottom is falling out - and lessons being learned

    Andi's first trip to the bush... and a bush church

    homemade from scratch fajitas on a Saturday night

    the first week of school behind us

    new school year, new beginnings

    Rebekah says she LIKES Geometry... praying for a better year in math this year

    hot lunches, beginning next week

    willing and cheerful kitchen helpers

    watching my little guy be a good big bro to his little sisters... must've learned that from his good big bro

    new challenges

    old fears that drive me to prayer

    good report on an old problem

    tire swings

    found cord to recharge my kindle

    helping little girls to choose giggles and smiles instead of tears and fighting

    challenging new thoughts on what it means to live in community... to live humbly, recognizing we are dependent on God, on others...

    brand new 7th graders

    teaching math

    lesson planning... life planning... learning and daily re-remembering that I must hold those plans loosely because computers crash, printers don't work, unforeseen circumstances arrive, people change

    our favorite librarian is back and the library is open again... after a whole summer closed. Yippee!

    seeing her decide to make changes and find a good and helpful attitude after a tearful tantrum

    homework and bedtime routines again... after summer stay-cation where we let them slide

    rainy, misty all days - so rare in Niger - finishing with a sunset rainbow

    my developing photographer at work again

    praying with parents

    lauging with colleagues

    REAL chapati and spiced Indian food... it has been too long!

    sharing one of my favorite books with my niece - and she liked it

    new African outfits, perfectly fitted from the tailor - so these growing girls have something to wear to church on Sunday mornings

    watching smiles as they model those outfits for our friend

    21 August 2011

    Hunkering down, hanging out on the floor...

    "Don’t expect to be offered a chair
    when you are visiting a place where the chief sits on the floor."
    ~ W. African proverb ~

    I love African proverbs - not only do they often express incredible wisdom, sometimes they are just downright funny. I can easily imagine a version of the one above as a political cartoon... but I don't really like to talk about politics... too much...

    So, back to today's point... As I've mentioned before, I've been teaching a literacy class all summer... we've now met together at Mamata's concession somewhere between 50 and 60 times. Every day, she has pulled out a large, comfortable cushiony chair for me to sit in, with a tea table right in front of it. She then seats herself on the ground - and yes, she is 70ish years old. What usually ends up happening is that I'll sit in the chair for two or three minutes while I pull my things out and then I move down to the ground so that I'm on the same level as my students and don't use the chair the rest of the time... but it is still always out on the terrace, waiting for me, to show respect, honor, welcome and appreciation for what I am doing - helping her learn how to read.

    However, if I showed up and there was no chair on the terrace, I would certainly not be offended. I don't expect her to go to all that effort for those very few minutes that I actually sit in the chair before needing to move to her same level to facilitate instruction. I do get the idea, however, that she has encountered some who would expect royal treatment when visiting her concession.

    I was checking out my favorite blog recently, and read this. We expect that if we are obeying, serving God, life will go well - well as humanly defined. We expect the rebellious to suffer hard and painful consequences. We expect that if we work hard, we will succeed - or that those who benefit from our work will at least acknowlege our efforts and say thank you. We expect those who refuse work to not succeed and often, in fact, to lose what they do have. The Bible does teach that whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap... that a tree is known by its fruit... that God will reward and repay. It is just that somewhere deep inside we're convinced we're entitled to see the meting out of consequences and recompense. Like Thomas, I prefer to walk by sight and not by faith and in that, I've got it backwards

    This isn't the first time I've shared a bit about what God's showing me regarding my expectations and how easily I allow my expectations to lead me down a sinful path.... I can name several recently dashed expectations (ones in which I actually felt pretty secure and sure so didn't even realize I was "counting" on them until they went unfulfilled) in each of the following relationships:
    1. marriage (makes me ask myself how I've not met his expectations, too)
    2. family (children and extended family)
    3. friendship (nearby and far away)
    4. professional (my many "jobs" outside the home)
    5. self (oh... how I let myself down... but I don't think I want to lower my expectations? Do I?)
    That last question has me pondering. I still believe with all my heart that I need to hold my expectations loosely, with an open hand:
    • they may be unfounded...
    • they may be unrealistic...
    • they may be unfair...
    • they may have grown out of untruths...
    • they may be things to which I am unentitled...
    • they are often skewed by ungodly perspectives...
    • they may be unbiblical...
    What is the right balance? Hoping... having right expectations... that challenge those around us to become? Expectations that encourage us to continue allowing God to work through suffering, while remaining living sacrifices on the altar? Loosely held dreams for the future? Still striving for Christ-likeness in all areas while at the same time gently trusting God's sovereignty and goodness when hopes are not met, tragedies happen, and what we confidently expected is never seen? Biblically provoking others to good works but not placing crushing burdens of "what I want" on the backs of those for whom I care and work?

    What do you think?

    20 August 2011

    "Multiplication is simply an abbreviation... the repeated addition shortcut."

    I'm teaching 7th grade math this year.

    I love teaching math - maybe because it was my absolutely abhorred subject...

    It wasn't that I wasn't good at math. I usually did okay - well, actually better than okay - but only because I was determined to do so. I naturally gravitate towards words... not numbers, diagrams, symbols and formulas. However, I didn't want to be the only one in my family who wasn't good a math wiz, and so I pushed myself. I worked hard at it - but not being a particularly logical person (or so my husband claims), it didn't often make sense. I could learn procedures, follow them rigorously and memorize formulas - but I didn't necessarily see the point and I always kinda felt frustrated - not quite sure that I actually "got it," even though my grades would indicate that I generally had. Obviously, then, I also struggled to see the practical uses of any math class, beyond basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division that I had already mastered, and more often than sometimes, I wondered why in the world I was investing that much effort to do something I didn't really even like.

    So math was the one class that I dreaded every day

    ...until I entered Mrs. Potter's Geometry class in 8th grade. It was that year that "math" finally clicked and began to make sense, probably mostly because I had a teacher who insisted I was capable of firmly grasping ahold of the concepts, who was willing to follow my round-about, most definitely less than direct procedures to arrive at solutions, so long as my path made sense.

    From that day on, I loved math... and I love teaching it... always hoping that I can perhaps encourage one or two students the same way Mrs. Potter helped me.

    Then, as I'm busily preparing to begin classes in a few days, and I have math on my mind, I stumble across this thought. It caught my eye because when I work with kids who struggle in math, I'm an adamant believer in breaking down what you don't know into pieces that you do know and with which you are comfortable working. So, if you draw a blank and can't recall the fact that 7 x 8 = 56, then you go back to what you do know: that 7 x 8 means seven 8's, or 8 + 8 + 8 + 8 + 8 + 8 + 8, and if adding 8 is hard for you... then you simply add 10 and then back up 2 before adding the next 10 to back up 2... well, I'm sure you've probably gotten the idea. Ideally, of course, you'd recall the memorized fact - but in those situations where the fact doesn't come readily to mind, do you know how so break it apart, remember what it means and then solve the problem without the shortcut?

    Here's the thought (which was a terribly long introduction to this thought): 

    "Our 'viral church' idea is about falling in love with multiplication and abandoning what seems to be an addiction to addition. Any church that focuses on disciplemaking is by definition going to be a more authentic church. … Many congregations and pastors measure their health by whether their church is growing. The better measurement is whether their people are learning to reproduce themselves. It represents a profound shift in ministry, one that few churches and even fewer church plants have made. "
    fromViral Churches: Helping Church Planters Become Movement Makers by Ed Stetzer and Warren Bird

    What do you think of this idea? Do you agree? Disagree? Why?

    Would you define "adding" to a local church a dangerous, possibly addictive behavior?

    How are you, or your church actively engaged in "multiplication" instead of losing yourself in this addition addiction...?

    19 August 2011

    Mullings & Musings...

    "...traditional remedies and practices—like drinking a calming herbal tea or cooking with a particular spice—might seem inconsequential, but researchers are discovering that these little things can make a world of difference."

    • "The Discomfort of Comfort" (What comforts, if any, have I sacrificed recently, for the sake of following my Lord? I really feel like a "wimp" when I look at what my brothers and sisters here live, day in and day out.)
    "It’s one thing to serve with all my heart, but when it involves an aching back, somehow I find myself recoiling.... Forsaking all to follow Jesus is more than words to an upbeat song."

    "I may not like CCC's philosophy, associations, and self-image as a Christian movement on an equal (or superior) par with the local church, but I'd be delusional to pretend they want to distance themselves from Jesus Christ. To proceed with that argument would be most unfortunate (note their new logo is a cross).

    Again, I could care less what an organization that I am not a part of does with its own name. But I do care when people are critical beyond the pale."

    "What the world needs is more people who pursue God and love sharing the Good News. Jesus said that His food was doing the will of God (which, in context, was making disciples) (John 4:34). Paul said 'Woe is me if I preach not the Gospel' (1 Corinthians 9:16). When Peter and John were threatened and charged to stop talking about Jesus, they replied, 'We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard' (Acts 4:20)."

    • "But My Testimony isn't Dramatic" (I always like what Tim shares when he shares his testimony: "God didn't save me "out of" something; by saving me early, He saved me "from" all of that heartache. My hubby is thankful for his un-dramatic testimony. This post is an awesome read... good, challenging words!)

    "Whether our story is dramatic or not, we are all messy people. The best way I’ve found to share Jesus with others is to look for an intersection between a point of need they’ve expressed and one I’ve walked through. A mess from my life (big or small) to which they can relate.

    Kid issues. Marriage issues. Financial issues. Weight issues. Health issues. Job issues. Insecurity issues.

    Remember our mess, touched and turned around by the MESSiah, becomes our greatest MESSage."

    18 August 2011

    "Aching visionaries"

    “ 'Blessed are those who mourn.'
    What can it mean?

    One can understand
    why Jesus hails those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    why he hails the merciful,
    why he hails the pure in heart,
    why he hails the peacemakers,
    why he hails those who endure under persecution.

    These are qualities of character which belong to the life of the kingdom.
    But why does he hail the mourners of the world? Why cheer tears?

    It must be that mourning is also a quality of character that belongs to the life of his realm. Who then are the mourners? The mourners are those who have caught a glimpse of God’s new day, who ache with all their being for that day’s coming, and who break out into tears when confronted with its absence.

    …The mourners are aching visionaries."
    from Nicholas Wolterstorff’s Lament for a Son:

    15 August 2011

    Multitude Monday - 1000 Gifts ~ Translating Thankfulness

    “Not what we say about our blessings,
    but how we use them,
    is the true measure of our thanksgiving.”
    ~  W. T. Purkiser

    It is one thing for me to daily... deliberately...

    ...choose gratefulness to God.

    It is a soul stretching regimen to look outside what I find comfortable and what I would prefer...

    ...to release those preferences and my expectations
    for God's will and decisions and working in this life He has given.

    However, choosing thankfulness becomes nothing more than an academic exercise if I don't allow... if I don't insist... that thankfulness
    • for the infinte, immeasurable blessings both large and small that overflow each day;
    • for every circumstance no matter how charming and enchanting... or confusing and mystifying;
    • for each challenge regardless of size or difficulty;
    • even for piercing pain  and suffering - whether physical, emotional or spiritual.

    Gratefulness must fill my heart with His great-ness. This indwelling can then motivate me, can change my attitudes and ideas, must influence my words and actions... and it must provoke me to sacrifice my comfort and convenience as I tangibly translate thankfulness by sharing, pouring out God's love and blessing with others.

    Thankfulness must translate into the heart language of people around me... expressed in a way so that it meets needs and speaks to hurting, needy hearts. 

    My sister was here just a few weeks ago - I always love having someone come to Niger for the first time - to meet our friends and neighbors - to see our lives - to experience first- hand a world that before, they could only imagine. As Julie went with me to visit some of my lady friends, one sentiment echoed each time I'd ask her what she thought:

    "[Your friend] She laughs and smiles all of the time!"

    It didn't matter... that comment was true of:
    • my friend Mamata, a dear godly grandmother who's passionately working to learn to read God's Word, who's heart aches for so many in her family who won't even consider Jesus, who's cheerful welcome to all who pass by her door or through her concession is light and salt in her neighborhood;
    • Mamata's daughter, physically handicapped by polio, does not know the Lord, but joyfully greets me every time I arrive, stops her work to visit as long as I will visit, sending her grandchildren to help Mamata, their "nya nya," pull out the nicest chair, spread a mat, clean the table - all to be prepared to welcome me and make me comfortable while I'm in their courtyard.
    • Aichatou and Madinatou, little girls who have nothing more than the clothes on their back and for whom a bite of chocolate is a delight to satisfy and subsequently talk about for weeks at a time, who never fail to meet me at the door to carry my bag and hold my hand as they giggle and have finally become brave enough to actually converse a little bit with me.
    • Safana, my first real friend in Niamey ~ even as, still recovering from a serious bout of malaria, she keeps the fast, walks through difficult times with her family and helps her widowed neighbor care for her three children.
    • Zeinabou's mama as she serves her severely handicapped little girl and works selling food along the streets to try and provide for her family and all those medications Zeinabou needs to reduce chronic pain and prevent seizures; who chooses joy after each little forward step Zeinabou makes... or even the hope that she will someday meet yet another milestone... who chooses contentment in daily circumstances that would discourage and terrify me.
    • Little Zeinabou, who always shares such lovely smiles and laughs... who delights in her mother's presence and people who will simply talk and smile with her, who is content with the simple comfort of another's presence.
    • Rabi, a godly young woman, Christian school teacher, who so longs for a baby of her own but as God's answer to this point has been not yet, she "adopts" caring for her orphaned siblings as though they are her own with delight and joy... caring for the children of friends - she ALWAYS has someone's child on her lap at church!
    I am continually amazed how people who have so little, who work so hard, who know life could be so different and so much more... and many of whom don't even yet know the Lord... emmanate spirits of joy chosen and finding contenment every place they can with and in the life they've been handed when I, who have so much, so often find that choice  a difficult one and sinfully, I confess there are many times I fail to make it.

    As we live and work in W. Africa, our primary source of "news" in our home country is via the internet... and frankly, I'm saddened that most of what I see in news headlines reflects an ungrateful, egotistical and arrogant attitude: grasping to keep what the US defines as "ours" and "our entitlement because we've worked for it" and selective blindness towards the rest of the world and the immense suffering all around us.

    Sadly, most Americans... most westerners... are spoiled and we do not even know it. We fuss over what we don't have but think we should possess. We make decisions that allow our own continued hoarding as we fear for the future while others go without today, while others die with nothing, without Jesus, and we could have chosen to give... to share...

    We complain about budget deficits and political manuvering, seeking to protect our own interests and forget that what God defines as pure and undefiled religion has absolutely nothing to do with balanced budgets, secure stocks and a nice-sized nest egg for retirement someday.

    And I am convinced... by God's grace, in His wisdom and with His discernment, the thankfulness I profess each Monday needs to be more fully, more accurately, more vibrantly, more sacrificially translated.

    True thankfulness will forfeit earthly comfort and security for radical obedience, sacrificial caring that costs while carving our hearts into Christ-likeness...

    this week's gratitude list:
    (#'s 1431 - 1460)

    breakfast with a talkative little girl

    Target-type store come to Niamey

    conviction of sin, forgiveness from God

    prayers of forgiveness

    nights of sleep without waking

    watching my niece catch the ball with her uncle's glove... and he was the batter!

    friends returning

    a new computer battery

    lesson planning

    just enough food in the fridge to feed the family tomorrow

    little boys who don't want to show their belly buttons

    protection from several possible or near accidents while out and about

    meeting new colleagues

    washing dishes... with HOT WATER!!!

    listening to my school newbies singing Frère Jacques... perfect in every way

    seeing Tori standing there in her swimsuit, hot pink capris and red cowgirl boots... after spending the night with friends, two nights in a row

    little girl heartfelt prayers

    french fries for breakfast

    teens sacrificially serving by thoroughly scrubbing floors, unasked and unprompted

    looking forward to another literacy lesson

    meeting (and trying) a new tailor - she's the wife of a local pastor, too

    sharp nails to scratch itchy backs

    hugging my teen

    tall boys becoming tall men

    opposing views, differing viewpoints, non-traditional-for-me points of view challenging me to consider hard issues from a biblical perspective, even if that stand feels uncomfortable

    working refrigerator

    paint on the walls, tiling to begin soon

    looking forward to moving day

    laughter during a softball game

    learning about the ladybird spider, another one of God's amazing creations... and how some scientists have exercised godly stewardship of this fascinating creature. It was formerly known as Eresus niger (hence part of the reason I stumbled across it - though I have no idea why it was originally given that name)... now it's scientific name is: Eresus cinnaberinus.

    (Photos shared by recent short-term missos, Ben and Lindsey Britton. Thanks, guys!)


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