Fruit and More Fruit

“So shall my Word be…it shall not return to me void, but shall accomplish that which I purpose.”–Isa. 55:11

I have the incredible privilege of seeing God’s Word going out into dark places. I know it will accomplish what God purposes. I know it will spread his name and his renown. Even during the translation and training workshops I get to witness God’s Word taking root. And perhaps even more exciting, occasionally I get updates from workshops of previous times, that testify to the power of God’s Word to change lives. Recently our dear friend and partner, Brother Sreeraj visited us from the Banjara tribe in India. He shared this story from one of his fellow team members on the translation project.

Venkanna was content to call himself a Christian. It was enough. He did not need to stir up strife with his atheistic father by becoming more involved with the Christian community. He did not need more than an assurance of heaven for himself—or so he thought. Through a growing friendship with a pastor who visited his village regularly, Venkanna heard about the translation project being planned for his language group. He was curious. What would it be like to have Scripture in his own mother-tongue? Could he be part of that? So when his friend invited him to join the team, he accepted, fully aware of the ripples of opposition this would create from his father.

Sure enough, Venkanna’s father, a communist supporter who constantly fought against the local church,  was so outraged, he practically disowned his son. But Venkanna had committed to attending the workshop and he was determined to follow through. Joining his friend, and several other Christians from his language group, he attended a MAST workshop in Hyderabad at a local retreat center. Over the course of that week, Venkanna began to see Scripture in a whole new light. By the time the workshop was done, he knew he would never be the same. Calling himself a Christian was no longer enough. Being a Christian meant living like Jesus. It meant caring for the lost around him, especially his family, and living a life of sacrifice for the kingdom.

Venkanna changed his  name to Venkanna Paul, naming himself after the apostle whose story he had helped to translate from Acts. He saw himself as “Paul” to his community. He was determined to be a witness to his lost family of the precious truth of Jesus. This, of course, created more strain. Venkanna Paul was not welcomed home. His father refused to talk to him, especially about Jesus. Venkanna Paul was undaunted. He felt certain that when his family could read Scripture in their own language, they would begin to understand the truth and fall in love with Jesus as he had. And so he continued translating.

When his father was in a devastating accident that broke both of his legs and nearly took his life, Venkanna seized this tragic situation to witness for Christ. He told his father, “It was God who kept you alive. He is the one you need to know. God wants you to know his Son, Jesus.” His father listened. Venkanna Paul read portions of the newly translated Scripture to his father. His father softened further. Venkanna Paul saw that God’s Word was reaching into his heart and mind, changing him from a hardened atheist to a broken, needy man. Jesus became beautiful. Venkanna Paul’s father, believed the gospel and began testifying to others.

It wasn’t long before all of Venkanna Paul’s family accepted the gospel message. His brother and sister, his mom, his wife and daughters, all became eager followers of Christ. Living in a village that is primarily pagan, this family has become the pillar of the local Christian church. VanKenna Paul is overwhelmed by the changes Christ has brought to their community. Young people read the Scripture portions that have been translated. A surge of youth have become involved in serving in the church. Women’s Bible studies and small groups are taught from the new translated Scriptures. VanKenna Paul’s family has been baptized, and they continue witnessing for Christ. Venkanna Paul continues his work on the translation having completed more than any of the other pastors on the team. Together they glorify the God who speaks their language, worshiping the Savior who set them free.


Just a Little Surprise

One challenge I face when traveling around the world is the relative nature of spice. What is spicy to one person is mild or bland to another. Typically what melts my lips, sets my mouth on fire, and burns a molten lava trail down my throat is mild to my Asian friends! Alas we have very different gauges for the heat factor in food. Since my stomach also rebels, I have to be careful how much I partake of the “burning ring of food.”

On a recent trip I was in two different countries both of which served food with the flames licking off the plate! I knew I was going to have to take it easy. My meals consisted of the mildest foods served—namely boiled rice with margarine and no salt. As the second week wore on, I reminded myself regularly to “Be thankful!” It is convicting to realize how entitled I often feel. God provided and I wasn’t ever hungry, thanks to some snacks shared by other members of the team. I had a lot to be thankful for. After all we were checking the quality of Scripture in several different languages—the real food of God’s Word was being tasted and savored by all. I couldn’t let a bland diet get in the way of the joy of our work.
I completed my portion of the checking of Scripture on Friday. As I walked back to our apartment when we were done, I felt like celebrating! We had completed the check of 1 Corinthians and dug into Romans. We had grown together and learned to respect each other. We had dug into the meaning of God’s Word in intense and precious ways, discussing such complex doctrines as the resurrection of Christ, our future resurrection, communion, spiritual gifts, and the women’s role in the church. It had been a long, fruitful week. I was exhausted and hungry. Spontaneously, I prayed, “God could you surprise me tonight with some kind of tasty food? Just a little surprise. Whatever you want to do.”

As supper was served, I whispered, “OK, Lord is this my surprise?” But as I lifted the lids of each dish, I realized it was the same courses we had been served before. I would have to settle for plain rice again. I was undaunted, determined to wait and see if God answered in an unexpected way.

Then one of our team members came into the room and said, “Who wants pizza and ice cream tonight?” Now that was an odd question. We were in a city, but had been sequestered inside the Bible conference center because of political unrest in the city surrounding us.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“We went down the road to the bookstore at noon today and across the road from this center is a pizza place. Do you want to try it?”

I was stunned! A pizza place right outside the center? But could we safely leave? It seemed that since the lunch excursion had been without incident then surely we could go again. We spread the word, inviting our host and consultant in training to join us. And off we went out of the compound, down the road and across the street to a wood-fired pizza place, with excellent service, delicious pizza and rich ice cream! This is my surprise! I thought. And my heart swelled with the amazing, generous love of God. It was a small thing—having bland food—especially in the midst of what we were getting to be part of. And yet, God answered my small request abundantly, not just for me, but for our whole team. We celebrated together with pizza and games, ice cream and conversation, joining our hearts in gratitude to God for what he was giving us.


His Compassions Fail Not

This year I have joined my sister and mom in a verse memorization plan. We each take turns choosing a passage to memorize together and sometimes even across the distance we get to practice our verses together.  It’s amazing to me, how God has given us a theme without our intending it.

Psalm 138:4-8 was one of my choices. Verse eight says, “The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.”

One of Tammy’s choices was Lamentations 3:19-26. Verses 21-22 say, “This I recall to my mind therefore I have hope: Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed. Because his compassions fail not.”

And a choice of mom’s was 1 Peter 1:3-6. Verse 3 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

Enduring forever, His mercy is unfailing, abundant and life-giving. Because of His mercy we can have hope, a living hope, an eternal hope. His mercy is a theme throughout Scripture in both Old Testament and new. It’s evident from Moses’ writings of the Law, through the poetry of the Psalms, and the journey of the prophets. It spills out in the new testament in the person of Jesus, and the apostles, first hand recipients of His grace cannot overstate its benefits.

As I ponder our family’s journey over the past six years I am overcome by His personal, precious, and persevering mercy toward us.  I know he took care of our deepest need, and worst calamity through the sacrifice of his own Son. That is a mercy beyond all others. And yet, he doesn’t stop there. He continues to pour out his mercy into the cracks of brokenness we experience from living in a fallen world.

Six years ago last week, the boys got to see Joel for the first time out of prison. We had been on a long and grief stricken journey—three and a half years of imprisonment, followed by three heart-wrenching months of total separation. Six years later, three months doesn’t sound that long. But believe it, it was! Day in and day out, begging God for respite, and living with a fragile hope, sustained by his mercy. Those were days full of brokenness, days in which we held out our hands, and laid bare our hearts before a God whose compassions fail not.

And now, six years later, we can say with true joy and confidence, “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed.” We have watched his mercy rebuild our family, flowing over our raw and jagged edges, pooling in the deep crevices of our wound, and overflowing into lives all around us.

God’s mercy toward us has become a mercy to be shared. Our joy has been the joy of our extended family the joy of our church friends and even the joy of new friends  over these years.  How many times have we had the refreshing, healing, and filling experience of sharing God’s goodness, his faithfulness, his mercy with others? I cannot count them all. His mercies have been poured out and multiplied in us, bringing joy and building hope in places we could not have imagined.


He’s Never Doing Just One Thing

I don’t think He will ever stop surprising me…this powerful, loving, omniscient and intimate God of mine. Maybe that’s a good thing. I love surprises. Don’t you? Even when I think I am walking and do exactly what he is calling me to, I find surprising opportunities on the path, and what I’ve prepared for, while good, is not all He has in mind. A friend of mine puts it this way, “God is never doing just one thing.” I like that. I like to wonder what else He is working on. I like anticipating more, and then still being surprised by what the more is.

I have to be honest though, sometimes, I’m nervous about the surprise, and overwhelmed by the thought of anything else. I know He is working for my good. And I know He won’t drop the ball. I just also know that sometimes my good does not feel good. And I know that more often than not, His more puts me in over my head.

This last trip to Zambia was no exception—and this time the surprise was a good one, in a really big way. Two of my colleagues and I traveled to Zambia to work with three language groups from the region.These groups had completed their New Testament translations and were ready to learn how to use the checking tool my team has developed for affirming accuracy and meaningfulness of the text.  I was excited to work with them again as several of the translators had been at a workshop I led last year in Botswana. It is one of my passions to see our teams finish the projects they start. And this workshop was for exactly that purpose. I just didn’t know what else God had planned for.

As I walked into our hotel on Sunday afternoon, the clerk behind the desk, said to me, “You have a visitor waiting for you.” What? I thought. I don’t know anyone here? But I walked over, and there was a young man who introduced himself as a pastor from Botswana named George. He had heard about us through another pastor who had been to one of our workshops in Kenya. In George’s church, 9 languages without any Scripture are represented. His own language has no Scripture. So when he heard about our visit, he had to come and find out more. But this is a checking event. I thought. It wasn’t exactly the right fit for someone who was seeking more information on how to get started. With no real clear-cut plan I asked him to join us for a day or two and learn from the other translators. I invited him to watch the checking and ask questions. I had that strange notion of being in over my head–and still breathing.

On the first afternoon as we shared with George the overall method and process, he couldn’t stop smiling. He told us, “I give away English Bibles to people in my village, even ones who don’t read English very well. Because it’s all I have to offer them. They come and want a Bible. And I only have the English ones to give them.” His smile broadened. “I want them to have a Bible of their own—in their own language!”

“Let’s get started!” We suggested. “Why don’t you begin with your language?” He eagerly agreed. Over the next two days one of us devoted time to supporting George, as he drafted 25 verses in Luke 1! Then resent his draft it to his language community via WhatsApp to get their feedback and edits! George’s smile was constant. His joy contagious.

We all basked in the sweetness of God’s good surprises, and perfect plans–even when they do put us in over our heads.

 


The Weak Things And His Amazing Ways

The plane is over an hour late, which probably wouldn’t bother me if it weren’t on the end of a 30-hour around-the-world trip from Milwaukee, USA to Goroka, PNG. And I know, it isn’t over yet. As I walk across the tarmac to the porch where I’ll claim my carry-on, I try to imagine the three-hour journey ahead of me into the mountains by Land Rover, over rough, pot-holed, dangerous roads. But at least for that part of the journey I will have company. I smile and wave as I glimpse Brad’s face through the exit gate. I’ve never met him before, but he’s easy to spot, being the only white guy in the crowd. It doesn’t hurt that his six-foot-five-inch frame towers over everyone else. Brad and I have worked together remotely before, but this is our first time to meet face to face. I know we are kindred spirits. I’m bursting with anticipation as we climb into the Land Rover, together with Vincent our national partner and his cousin.

It doesn’t take long for Brad update me on the tense situation at the translation training workshop, or in the region surrounding the center where our team is working. I’ve seen the e-mails about tribal warfare–I know about the violence within the tribe, and that translators from both sides are sitting together at the workshop, translating God’s Word. As Brad fills me in, these facts are suddenly cast in a personal light. Translators whose hearts are stopped by simultaneous phone calls, reporting burned out houses and injured family members! But they aren’t stopping the work. Instead they are forging ahead furiously, attempting to complete the gospel of Mark.

Brad explains  their plan. “A few of us are going into the villages tomorrow, with the pastors. We’re taking the book of Mark with us. The pastors are each going to beg their villages to stop the violence. They are going to show their people the work done so far on the translation, and remind them, of what’s truly important.”

Something clicks inside me. “What time do we leave tomorrow morning?” I ask with a sly smile. “You know I need to go with, right?”

I don’t have any idea what I’m getting into. But I am certain that if God wants me to go, then he is going before, “making the crooked places straight.” I’m not afraid. And I don’t have any expectations. I am not even sure what my purpose in going would be.  What I do know is that it will take clear direction from God himself for me to be part of this expedition. I’m a white woman in a foreign land. I know the culture cards are stacked against me on every side. But I don’t have any inclination to fight against that. I know God can handle that if he wants me to go.

I’m actually surprised and elated when Brad approaches me at nine the next morning, to say, “You’re in. The tribal pastors have agreed to have you come along!”

“What!” I exclaim, glancing down at my skirt and white blouse. I had just prepared for a day at the training center. “I’m going?” That’s when I start praying for real. Not because I’m scared. But because I realize I have no idea what I’m doing. Why would I be going? Why did God open this door? What does he have for me?

Another God-surprise. Another divine adventure! I’m in…all in. A rigorous two-hour drive, and we arrive in the village. Warriors patrol the entrance, carrying homemade guns, machetes, and bows and arrows. Children run in the open area playing and women sit as if expecting us on grassy spots around the village center.  Surreal. That’s how I would describe the day. I spent most of it praying for God to give me clarity of thought and wisdom in my actions. Total dependence. Total trust. That’s how I felt. And that’s what I experienced, as the Holy Spirit worked in our midst.

Peace. God’s children are called to peace. He loves us too much to let us fight it out in the dirt and grime of this physical world alone. He paid the ultimate price for peace. That was the message shared by several pastors and members of our team. And that was the message received by all. So that peace did reign–God’s peace ending the tribal fighting right before our very eyes.

Weeks later, back at home in my office, I’m still mystified by how God uses “the weak things of this world to confound the wise.” I’m overwhelmed and overjoyed to be one of those “weak things.” I have witnessed God’s grace and presence in ways beyond my comprehension. I have been part of comforting women, holding their babies, eating yams cooked over their fires, standing over burned out houses, praying with the widow of a pastor whose death started the violence, and receiving hand-made gifts from them. I am undone by God’s power among his children.

This experience, more than anything has affirmed for me the miracle of oneness that God intends for his children. We went into that volatile, dangerous situation, not to exert any influence of our own—based on the world’s standards of class, race, or status—but as a simple act of obedience to our Father, to stand together as family—his family. We weren’t there with anything else to offer.

I have had the privilege of helping to start dozens of translation projects in dark and forgotten places of the world. Those experiences are all precious to me, as God has revealed more of Himself with each door of opportunity that he has opened. Perhaps that, more than anything else, is why I treasure the two-week workshop in the Papua New Guinea Highlands this summer. God delights to surprise us, to stretch us, to amazing us. And that is what he did for all of us as we watched him work among His people of varying cultures, and environments. We were challenged. We were broken. We were poured out. We were filled up. We were undone. We were empowered. We were brought face to face with His glory.


“You Can’t Out-give God”

My grams taught me a lot—sometimes by what she said, more often by how she lived. A truism she shared with regularity was, “You can’t out-give God.” Any time we talked about giving of any sort, she would remind me of this, and then I would hear again part of her story of God’s generosity in her life and how she and gramps responded in kind.

A few short years from retirement they sold everything—the farm they had so painstakingly built, the new living room furniture, everything—and headed overseas to serve missionaries’ children at a boarding school. (Grams always reminded us at this point  in the story what a gift it was that God didn’t see them as too old or otherwise unqualified to be part of his kingdom-building team.) They thought they would use the money from the sale of their property to finance their mission’s training and travel, but instead they gave most of it away to others who were a step ahead of them en-route to overseas ministries. By the time they traveled to Venezuela their earthly wealth was spent, and they had the promised support of a few well-intentioned, albeit tiny churches in the Ohio Valley to live on.

Throughout their years of missionary service, Grams and Gramps generously gave of their time, and resources—yes, the meager financial support that came from those dedicate churches, seemed to multiply in their stewardship. Serving meals to strangers and friends, hosting travelers in their homes, giving financially to those in sudden need, and sharing extravagantly during the holidays with family and friends alike, Gram and Gramps lived a generous life.  So when Grams told me, “You can’t out-give God.” I was compelled to listen.

Grams loved pretty things. She had beautiful china with delicate blue trim and fancy cut crystal stemware right in the middle of the jungle. But she did not have these items so they could sit in a china cabinet. Grams loved to use them to host tea parties and special dinners. She shared what she had until she gave it away. That’s just the way Grams lived.

Grams and Gramps financially supported each family member who went into missionary service. And they always seemed to have money left over to help when a need arose in their church or among their friends. I honestly don’t know how they always found a way to help. After all they were missionaries living by faith. The only answer I come to is Grams’s own words, “You can’t out-give God.”

Grams and Gramps gave away all they had serving in faith for more than 30 years. Last year when Grams went to heaven, her last generous gift was to leave a small financial inheritance for each of their children. This week my family and I are vacationing in the mountains of Tennessee, thanks to my Grams’s generosity. But the honest truth is, we are vacationing because of the extravagant, generous provision of our God. Because Grams is right, “You can’t out-give God.”

Just Try!


The Fourth Watch

Have you ever thought, “I didn’t sign up for this!” in life, in ministry, in your family? Oh the ideals we chase, and the reality we crash into! So often, even my best intentions are short sighted. And I end up feeling like I’m stuck in a place not my choosing! I think Jesus’ disciples felt this way often.

In Matthew 14 after he has miraculously fed thousands of people on the mountainside, Jesus dismisses the crowds and insists that his disciples get into the boat and cross the lake without him. They’re all-in with Jesus by this time, so they go. But night closes in around them, and the wind picks up. The waves are crashing, rocking them violently. Verse 24 says, “The disciples were in trouble far away from land…” Imagine their shouts above the wind, “Where is Jesus! What was he thinking sending us out in this! I didn’t sign up for this!”  After all he was the one who insisted they cross over without him. He had disappeared into the hills to pray, alone. And he had sent them off into a storm! But the shouting doesn’t last. They don’t have any energy to spare as they frantically bail the sinking vessel.

By the middle of the night, these guys are soaking, cold and despairing of their own lives. Verse 25 says, “Now in the fourth watch of the night, Jesus went to them, walking on the water…” In the darkest hour of the night, they are not alone. Jesus is walking toward them on the water.

When I’m in my darkest hour, my tendency is to cry out in despair, to complain, and even rebel. “I didn’t sign up for this!” I exclaim. And I want a way out!

The disciples have spent a good part of the night in that very place. But they aren’t alone. And at just the right time, Jesus walks toward them on the water.  The minute he comes on the scene everything changes.

For an instant they are wracked with a worse fear than death by drowning! “It’s a ghost!” They cry out. But Jesus’ reassuring voice reaches them over the wind and waves. “Cheer up! It is I!”

The waves are huge, the boat is still sinking, but Peter has dropped his baling can and is about to jump right out of the boat! And Jesus is encouraging him! “Come on!” He says! So off Peter goes.  Only it’s momentary. The storm has lasted for hours, Peter’s jaunt on the stormy sea, only seconds. And then he is sinking and crying out to Jesus to save him—which, of course, Jesus does, even as he asks, “Why did you doubt?” Have you ever stopped to wonder where Peter would have ended up if he hadn’t doubted?   Now some might be hard on Peter for his lack of faith. I’m wondering what the other 11 in the boat were thinking. Peter got out of the boat in the middle of a storm! And he walked on water! Who among us can say, “I’ve walked on water in the middle of a stormy lake”? Peter could.

As Jesus and Peter climb into the boat, the disciples get what they have been waiting for…the storm ends suddenly. The wind ceases! Everything is quite. The terror of the fourth watch is over, a distant memory as the sky clears and the first pink ribbons of dawn can be seen on the horizon.

And then the moment Jesus has been waiting for, “They came and worshiped him, and said, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”

In the fourth watch, when we have despaired of the sun ever shining, let us not moan in terror. Let us not wail, “I didn’t sign up for this.” Let us wait and watch. For we are not alone. He is coming to us in the storm. And he is inviting us to walk on water.


Waiting is Good?

“It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” Lamentations 3:26

Jeremiah, the weeping prophet wrote these words. And they come after he expresses his own soul’s trembling  anguish. He reminds himself of the Lord’s mercies, and concludes with these powerful words.  What struck me is his assertion that it is GOOD. He wasn’t just confident that he was waiting for a good thing, but that the wait was a good thing.

Now I’ve had my share of experience with waiting and I have a hard time calling it good. Sometimes when I cry out to God int he midst of a painful season of waiting, I feel as if I would do anything to bring the season to an end. Waiting doesn’t feel good! It feels exhausting! It feels frustrating! It feels overwhelming!  And each time I come to the end of a particularly tough season of waiting, I tend to think, “Whew! That’s over. Maybe I’ve learned what I need to about waiting”—as if passing a “waiting test” might exempt me from a future course.

Jeremiah’s claim, however, isn’t that any wait is good. The wait that is with hope and quietness—that is the wait that is good.

Have you ever been waiting for something, and slowly despaired of its every happening? I know I have!

Recently I was praying for Joel’s neck (Yes again!) and I felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to consider the breadth of this journey in physical suffering. Joel has suffered for four years—four long, painful, dragged out years. Yet when I think of the scope of our life, four years isn’t really that long. In relation to eternity it’s nothing. Still, it feels like something! As I thought about the time frame of this particular and painful wait, God whispered to me,Why have you quit praying for what you really want? Didn’t I tell you I would take care of this. This gentle rebuke showed me that I had wavered in my hope. The wait was soured by my dwindling hope. A good wait, is a wait full of hope for God’s good plan to take hold. And it doesn’t mean it will happen according to our schedule. Jeremiah did not even live to see the fulfillment of God’s restoration of his children to the land. Jeremiah’s wait was for something beyond his own life. And yet, he was willing to hope and wait quietly. Victor Frankl a survivor of Auschwitz said that not everyone who maintained hope survived, but absolutely everyone who lost hope died. Hopelessness kills! But to hope in the Lord is good!

Waiting in quietness is the next quality Jeremiah expresses as good. This quietness does not mean just shut your mouth and put up with whatever your troubles are. It doesn’t mean grin and bear it.”This quietness is a quietness of soul. It is a rest deep within, because God is in control even when we can’t tell what he is doing. Quietness tends to flee as soon as hope dissipates. Once we don’t have hope in God, we are no longer able to experience rest in our souls.

But when we wait quietly our testimony shouts to the world. When we can express rest in the midst of turmoil others take notice. This testimony of quietness provides opportunities for us to speak life and hope into other people.

This kind of quietness also frees us from our own broken efforts to avoid, assuage, or overcome the pain. I find myself quickly managing situations to mitigate fall-out. When I’m in pain, I just want something to make it feel better. Sometimes I cry out to God as if he’s a cosmic bottle of Advil ready to dose out pain relief at a moment’s notice. But waiting quietly means I cease my own striving, my own agenda, my own demands for pain relief.

Waiting may never feel good. But it is good when it is in hopeful quietness. It is good when God is recognized as merciful and compassionate. It is good when it testifies to others of God’s faithfulness. It is good when we can let God work in the wait instead of attempting to manage our own comfort.


God Surprises

I was at a Wycliffe Associates event out in Phoenix this past week end. Almost 200 people attended the event. On the first evening I was a table host for eight people. Only four seats were  taken as we prayed and began the meal. Then I saw a couple approaching. I looked up to greet them and froze in shock. They looked at me and started in recognition. These friends—Chris and Alexis–from Columbus, Ohio, I had not seen for more than a year and a half. And right behind them were two more friends—Brittney and Will!

“Tabitha!” They exclaimed! “We were just talking about you and wondering if you would be here!” I had no idea they were even on the invitation list. We celebrated our reunion and quickly caught up on news.

As the week end continued we found opportunities to connect, share God’s passion on our hearts, and inspire one another in our journey with God.

 I am awed by how God chooses to use us in each other’s lives. I love how he connects his body. The writer of Hebrews says this in chapter 10: 23-24: Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds…”  The blessing of re-connection this week end, has challenged my thinking again on this passage. How do we encourage one another regularly toward love and good deeds?

One obvious way we do this is by recounting the goodness of God to one another. As I share what God has done in my life with another believer, I am testifying to his goodness and his faithfulness. I am spreading the conviction. I am bolstering my friend’s faith.

Another way we do this is by listening as they share the goodness of God in their lives. As Chris and Alexis shared with me their wedding story (they weren’t even dating last time I saw them) I was awed by their purposeful missional focus during the ceremony.  I felt “spurred on” by their testimony.

We also encourage one another by sharing in fun times. During the week end we went out on a gondola ride together, sat around the pool, and star gazed from the rooftop at night. These simple times of rest and enjoying God’s creation, refreshed my soul.

And we encourage one another by praying with and for each other. As we said our good byes on Sunday, Chris said, “Let us pray for you before you go.” I gladly agreed. My heart and soul were touched by the power of God’s love as Chris prayed over me.

Finally, we spur one another on to good works by reminding one another of our common mission and future glory. Will has begun plans for a Scripture translation with Somalian refugees who live in his city.   Brittney is planning to work with Chris on a training event with their churches. We know the glory that awaits us. We expect His return. And we work together to invite as many as we can to join us in that expectancy.

I am not only encouraged and refreshed, I’m also reminded that God does His beautiful work in and through his children, not only to the world, but within his family! And I’m thankful to be a part of that kind of loving connection.

 

 


Celebrating 44 Years

Well I turned a year older last week. I often joke with my kids when they wake up on the morning of their birthdays, “Wow! Do you feel a year older? You look a whole year older!” to which they merely roll their eyes and smile. I’d prefer not to look a whole year older over night, now that I’m actually engaged in the “aging” process. But this year, as I felt the raw tug of angst over getting older, another thought caught me, I don’ have time to feel bad about getting old. I still have time to celebrate life. And I’m certainly young enough to embrace that!

That thought turned in my head until I began to ponder all the amazing blessings I’ve experienced in my forty-four years of life. And that prompted me to write it out. So here’s my list of 44 blessings from the past 44 years—not in any chronological order or order of importance, because I tend to be a random thinker.

1. Jesus—and yes, this is the best and most significant blessing of my life. Getting to know Jesus as a child and walking with him all these years has made life the celebration that it is for me.
2. Mom and Dad—my  favorite part of my parents’ lives is their dynamic love for Jesus. They pursue him with pure desire and joy, and compel me to do the same.
3. Waterfalls—because I love the thunder of their fall, and the spray on my face, and the breathtaking beauty of their wild descent.
4. Rivers—especially the Orinoco and it’s tributaries.
5. Rain—its splash on my face, its warm reassurance of life, its puddles and rivulets, and pounding.
6. Ocean waves—Their cadence, their foamy spray, their dependability.
7. My sisters—Lynn and Gail, I have a great imagination, but I can’t imagine life without you two!
8. My brother—George, I did somersaults when you were born, I was so happy to finally have  a brother.
9. Joel—you I have loved since childhood.
10. Mom and Dad Price—How you love and accept me, is something I hope to “pay forward” one day.
11. Scripture—so much depth, so much truth, washing my soul and cleansing my heart.
12. English—Over a million words, and 30+ phonemes! This language is amazing!
13. Books—I could make a list of 44 faves just from this one category.
14. Southwest Airlines—I love your service, your planes, your rewards points, and sending my kids to FL for free every summer!
15. Wycliffe Associates—never a dull moment pursing Jesus at breakneck speed, getting the Bible to the darkest places.

16. Travel!—21 countries and 41 states. I have a lot more to see.
17. Venezuela—mi hogar.
18. The jungle–I miss you.
19. Chocolate—especially dark chocolate with nuts, with fruit, with coconut, with salt, with coffee.
20. Coffee—yeah! You deserve your own spot on the list.
21. Childhood friends—so blessed by each of you who are still in my life
22. Grams—God took her home last year; I still thank him for all the ways she touched my life and formed me to love Him more.
23.Gramps—He’s been gone for awhile now, but I cherish all the ways he impacted my life—including coffee.
24. Flowers—especially the plethora of spring flowers bursting forth right now.
25. America—No matter where I go, I’m always thankful to come home to you.
26. Marshall—my firstborn. You love God in a way that makes me love him more.
27. Jaden—middle child who acts like a firstborn. Always independent. Always confident. Still picking to spend time with me.
28. Roman—My surprise who surprises me ever day.
29. The sky—on a clear day, full of clouds, or in the dead of night. I love you any which way.
30. Poetry—especially good poetry like “Stopping by the Woods…”
31. Languages—over 7000, and I only know 2!
32. Writing—you’re my muse.
33. Music—I can’t imagine life without it.
34. Nepal—the people and the mountains
35. Bible translation—and getting to be a part of seeing God’s Word break through in new languages.
36. International friends—too many to name, and part of my joy here is looking forward to eternity together
37. Mountains—with snow on top!
38. Sunshine—especially when it is also raining
39. Eternity—how I look forward to that.
40. Godly mentors—where would I be without your faithful love and presence?
41. Hope—in dark times, in sweet times, all the time
42. Family—both spiritual and blood
43. Imagination—I love envisioning what God has next!

44. God’s Faithfulness–None of this would amount to anything without Him.

This list is incomplete, but hey, I’m only 44, so that’s how many spots I get.  Just goes to show, God has blessed me beyond my years!