Friday, December 19, 2014

Providence: Not Just an Old Lady Word

There are many Biblical concepts that are not named or laid out in a logical fashion in the Bible.  Take the Trinity for example.  The word "trinity" is never found in the Bible, but the idea of "God in three persons" is evident all over Scripture (Matthew 3:16-17; 1 Corinthians 12:3-6; 1 Peter 1:2 to name a few).  Another one is providence.  Unlike trinity, which is a scholarly word, providence is a word used by little old ladies every where.  It isn't in most versions of the Bible, but I've come to believe that God really does move in all situations in our lives for our good and, more particularly, the good of those around us, just as he did throughout the Bible.

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Good Guest



Welcome mat 2
Christmas seems to be the most popular time of year to have guests.  In the last month alone, I have been in the homes of at least 7 different people.  There are parties and cookie exchanges, not to mention the on-going rounds of visiting the sick and Bible study.  I hope I've been a good guest.

Friday, December 12, 2014

All I Want for Christmas


At Teijas, heaps of presents (5300318715)
Perhaps of all the people in my life, my Mother-in-law knows my little quirks the best.  I say this based on this evidence: she did not bother asking what I want for Christmas.  Everyone else still held on to a smidgen of hope that I might be able to come up with some useful suggestion.  They are all doomed to disappointment.  I'm hopelessly unable to think of anything I want or need.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Spiritually Uplifting Gifts for Grown-ups

Last week we gave you a holiday gift-giving guide for the children in your life.  This week we'd like to share some ideas for your more seasoned friends and family, from youth on up.  Remember, these presents are the kinds that will encourage your loved ones to live out Philippians 4:8 and think on things that are true, honorable, just, and lovely. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Dress


Wedding Dress.jpgWhen you were a little girl, did you envision your wedding day? I know you thought of husbands, flowers, streamers and cakes. Yet nothing touches the dress for making a bride feel her most beautiful. Brides go all out for those dresses.  They try a hundred on looking for the perfect one.  They beg their dads to write checks for them.  They pick the perfect material, the perfect cut, in short the perfect dress.   Take a moment and remember (or if you're single imagine) your wedding dress.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Whatsoever Christmas for Kids

Last week, Helene encouraged us all to think about getting our loved ones the kinds of gifts that will help them to live in the spirit of Philippians 4:8 -- gifts that will inspire them to think on true, honorable, and pure things.  That sounds like an awfully tall order for children, doesn't it?  I don't know about your kids, but when mine go to sleep on Christmas Eve, it is not visions of Bibles dancing in their heads.  However, there are many gifts for kids that are both fun and spiritually uplifting, and we'd like to share some of those with you today.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Never Underestimate the Power of a Cookie


Cookies (4700634391)
I think cookies are awesome.  I love that you can get a quick sweet fix in a small package.  I love all kinds -- chewy, crispy, no-bake, chocolate, cinnamon, peanut butter, store bought, homemade -- you name it, I probably like it.  Of course, Make a Difference Mondays are not all about what I like, but about how we can serve others.  Thankfully, my favorite dessert is also a great way to serve.

Friday, November 28, 2014

A Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

The Holiday of Thanksgiving might be over, but as Christians we know that we should have an "attitude of gratitude" all year round.  In an attempt to foster gratefulness in my children, we already say something we are thankful for every morning on the way to school.  Lately, though, I've been thinking we can do more than that.  In the Old Testament, the Israelite people made peace offerings, including offerings of thanksgiving (Leviticus 7), and out of that the term "sacrifice of thanksgiving" came into being.  While it sometimes referred to the actual offering of an animal and leavened or unleavened bread, the phrase also came to signify the many ways we can express our thankfulness to God. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Whatsoever Christmas

Christmasgift
I've scrolled through online shops, Black Friday sale pages, Cyber Monday pages, and don't tell, but I'm getting kind of desperate. My husband is easy to buy for, but finding just the right gifts for my two girls is a real challenge.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Making a Difference with Child Care


FAMILIA 777
Sometimes I learn the most about how to make a difference when someone makes a difference in my life.  As a mother who lives hours away from family, this is especially true when it comes to child care.  Without the kindness of my church family, it would be so much harder to take a child to the doctor, go to the doctor myself, go on field trips, or even have a date with my hubby.  After seeing how helpful free and trustworthy child care has been in my life, I've been more open to keeping other people's kids, even though babysitting is not my favorite activity.  Here are some ways we can make a difference to moms and dads who need a little extra help.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Most Misunderstood Virture

One of our young mothers has had a rough autumn so far.  Her husband is in another state doing military training, and she has twin baby boys.  Preemies, the twins are prone to sickness, so because of the germs of fall, she isn't able to leave the house as often as she would like.  A few days ago, I saw on Facebook that a sister had taken this young mother a simple meal and some cookies.  It was a kind gesture, one that hadn't even occurred to me because I lack the virtue of humility.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

No Sunday School Curriculum? No Problem!

Our kids at church participate in the local Bible Bowl.  For those of you unfamiliar with this concept, area church kids  meet at a central location once per month and have a competition over  predetermined Bible texts.  This year we are doing the life of Jesus, and we cover three chapters per month.  On Wednesday nights, we help our kids prepare, one chapter at a time.  For the past year and a half, I've been working with the first and second graders.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Self image - His image

"Mom, can a person really hate themselves?"

I looked up in great surprise.  "What?  Why?"  (See how articulate I was in this crucial teaching moment?!)

"Oh this guy in a book," (Whew!) My older daughter proceeded to tell me the plot of a novel she had been reading where the main character had been abused, believed that everyone he cared about died (therefore people shouldn't love him), and had come over time to truly hate himself.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Honor in Exile

I Voted Sticker
I voted. 

It was the first time in more than a decade.  I'm not lazy, honest.  For most of those years I was abroad, and for all of them I was deeply conflicted about the candidates, finding them all so distasteful that I couldn't bring myself to endorse any of them.

I'm trying again.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Devotional Method: Not a Soft Option

I was really excited to take a class about 12 methods of Bible study.  My nerdly heart was imagining stacks of references, scads of highlighters, and a whole new world of knowledge.  So when we started the class with the Devotional Method of Bible study, I felt a little deflated.  What, no Greek lexicon?  Not even a sniff of highlighter?  I blew it off as a soft option.  What I didn't understand is that this most introspective method is what you make it, and if done properly, can be life-changing.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Hungry, Please Help!

The Hand (3950973346)<
"For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat" (Matthew 25:35). That's what Jesus said.  Here's what he did not say:
For I was hungry, and you ignored me.
For I was hungry, and you decided I was not really hungry.
For I was hungry, and you tried to decide if I was worthy of something to eat.

Friday, November 7, 2014

A Terrible Guest


I've had wonderful guests.  People who come to my house, love everyone and everything there, have nothing but good to say and are as hilarious as they are kind (You know who you are!!!). I've had less enjoyable as well.  You know the kind I mean.  But I always thought Jesus would be a fun guy to have for dinner.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Finest People in the World

"But I love her, and I want to not just spend my life with her but my death too!" My freshman in high school wailed.

She went on, "It would be easier if they were bad.  But they're not, Mom.  They're good people.  How do you tell good people how wrong they are?"

Monday, November 3, 2014

Thanksgiving Reimagined


Take a moment and imagine what your Thanksgiving table might look like 3 weeks from now, if you took Jesus's words literally. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Drop that Rock and Run

Taking walks with my three year old could be considered interval training.  Sometimes she'll run delightedly from one mailbox to another, looking for spiderwebs, while I power walk or even jog to keep up.  Then she'll stop for several minutes to examine a leaf she's found.  Run, walk, stop, walk, stop, run; it may not be cardio, but it's certainly fun!
Galena 360

Monday, October 27, 2014

Teaching Preschool When You Can't Teach Preschool

Preschoolers are not my gift.  There's no false modesty here.  I suffer from too much pride and not too little.  I know I am a more than passable teacher to adult women and not too bad for teenage girls. But preschoolers need songs (I can't carry a tune in a bucket), crafts (never my strong suit) and constant reminders to sit down and listen (something I promise I never have to say to my Ladies Bible class!). 

Friday, October 24, 2014

America: A Broken Vessel?

Have you ever imagined God sitting in heaven laughing at you?  I have of course but it was always a gentle chuckle: like when my kids do something cute and ridiculous and I can't help but snicker.  I'd prefer He laugh when I'm boneheaded than cry!

But when the Psalmist says that God laughed, he didn't have a delighted guffaw in mind, but a snort of derision.  As the 2nd Psalm opens, the nations and their leaders are plotting open revolt. Tired of the ties that bind them to God their Emperor, they are ready for freedom. But they had no idea who they were messing with.  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How My Evangelism Has Been Incomplete

The Plan of Salvation. The steps to salvation.  The Roman Road. Personal testimony. Are these familiar to you?  As people who are already Christians, we memorize these in an attempt to learn to share the gospel with our friends.  All churches seem to have one version or another they stick to.  When I was a kid, I even had a bracelet with different colored beads to help me remember.  While none of these things are wrong, I recently read a book that challenged me to believe that many of these methods of evangelism don't go far enough in letting people know what being a Christian is all about. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

3 Easy Give-Away Casseroles

A few weeks ago, we shared our tips for taking in food to people who may need it - the sick, new moms, families who have lost loved ones.  This week, we'd like to share three easy casserole recipes that we've used in just these situations. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

And His Name Will Be Called

Sometimes when I think about Biblical prophecy about Jesus, I think in terms of a completed checklist.   Born of a Virgin? Check.  Born in Bethlehem? Check. Died a cruel death? Check.  I can see clearly that God shaped events so that Jesus fulfilled every prediction made about Him. Rarely, though, have I thought of the prophecies of Jesus to be directly applicable in my own life, other than as an evangelical tool.  However, Isaiah 9:6 is a good reminder that Jesus is still fulfilling prophecy today in a deeply personal way.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Developing Virtue: Rules or the Heart?

Are you a follow your heart kind of girl or a follow the rules kind of girl? 

It seems to me that there is a huge dichotomy between the two; a dichotomy that people in the church especially struggle to work out.  One one side of the aisle people encourage a strict adherence to certain rules.  Sometimes we fight vociferously about which rules are necessary, but all the folks on that side vote "Rules!" every time.  On the other side of the aisle we have people who insist that we follow our hearts.  Christ came to set us free from the strictures of the law, they claim.  And neither side has difficulty backing up their points with scripture.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Texts of Encouragement

What comes to mind when you think of being a encourager in your congregation?  Are you thinking along the lines of committees, cards, programs, postage stamps, bookmarks, flowers, crafts and dinners? More power to you.  Not me.  I am woefully short on creativity, natural thoughtfulness, and social inclination.  So I lean in a different direction.  I'm thinking, "TEXT them!"  

Friday, October 10, 2014

Why Have You Forsaken Me?

When Matthew tells the story of how Jesus died, it's a multi-layered narrative.  He is working in two different languages (Greek and Aramaic); he's telling not only the immediate story of what had to be the worst day of his life, he's retelling an ancient tale first recorded in prophetic poetry by the Psalmist.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

More Than Reading: The Importance of Bible Study

I read my Bible every day.  I've read the Bible through at least five times in my life.  I have a general idea of the timeline of the Bible, and if you asked me to find a particular story, I could do it in less than five minutes.  Do I sound like I'm bragging?  Probably, but what I'm really doing is setting the table for my slice of humble pie.  You would think after so many times reading the Bible, that I would KNOW the Bible like I know my favorite novel, right?  Not even close. I can find particular stories, but if you asked me the theme of Nahum or to explain the Parable of the Unrighteous Steward, I would fumble to a stop. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Taking in food

Taking food in to a family in a tough situation is  one of those things some women are masters of.  Within half an hour of the posting of the newborn's pictures on Facebook, they are on somebody's door step with a covered dish, a pan of rolls, a homemade pineapple upside down cake and a smile.  I am not her.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Through Jesus's Eyes


Half rim glasses
I read an article on Huffington Post recently (not my normal reading fare, but it was recommended a few times) where the author talked about looking at her possessions with new eyes.  She talked of putting on her "perspectacles," and seeing her home as a blessing bordering on miraculous instead of a place that needs constant cleaning and updating.  Lately, I've been wanting to put on some perspectacles of my own, but instead of seeing my stuff differently, I'd like to see people differently.  I want to see the people around me as Jesus sees them.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Envy on Social Media

"Look at what we had for supper!  Don't you wish you were me? YUM," my husband sent with this photo of rutabaga, grilled fish and homemade hush puppies. If that doesn't seem enviable to you, it's cause you haven't eaten my rutabaga wink

"I expect some when we get there you big old chump face!" my father-in-law happily replied. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Beauty Tips

In an effort to bring some fresh energy to our blog we've decided that once a week we'll offer beauty and fashion tips. 

Stop laughing.

If you know Melissa or I personally you would know that neither of us are women obsessed with our looks.  I think I've worn mascara 3 times in my whole life (it might be 4), and Melissa is not a fashion plate either.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Comfort in a Scary World

I usually have an optimistic disposition; I've never been a "doom and gloom" kind of person.  I never thought that President Obama would destroy the country and try to make all Americans turn into Muslims.  I don't worry that my preacher will go to jail next year for refusing to marry a homosexual couple. But sometimes when I watch the news, I get so discouraged that I want to weep with sorrow.  Human trafficking, passenger planes shot out of the air, Christians sentenced to death because of their faith are all stories to make me long for heaven and an end to the suffering on earth.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Be What You Have Become

This summer, I had gotten out of the habit of listening to faith based talk radio, and had switched the dial to the more political stations.  It didn't take long for me to notice my outlook on life taking a downward spiral,  so I decided to go back to listening to more uplifting things.  Wouldn't you know it, the first day I did so I ended up hearing a repeat sermon! Thankfully, it was one that really made an impression on me, and the second time was just as encouraging as the first!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Heart of Stone

All the people of God were gathered in front of Joshua at Shechem.  He called all the elders and leaders of the people before God, and it was time to have a serious talk.  Joshua was ready to discuss the issue of covenant with them again.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Rewards

After two years, my favorite post on this blog is still one of the first.  When I thought about how different the fairy story of Cinderella is from the most romantic story in the Bible (Ruth), I learned so much about the kind of woman God wants me to be.  He wants workers.  When Ruth worked hard in the hot fields, gleaning grain so that she and her mother in law could eat, Boaz gave her this blessing:
May the LORD reward your work, and your wages be full from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge.(Ruth 2:12)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Shining Your Light on Social Media


The modern world comes with modern challenges.  We talked recently about the issue of bullying, a modern "sin" hiding some very real Biblical sins.  It's hard for us to translate sometimes the simple principles that Jesus gave us into the gigabytes we live with.  Take social media for an example.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Calling Bible Things by Bible Names

"Call Bible things by Bible names." Have you ever heard that maxim before?  I grew up hearing it, mostly in reference to naming things.  Nondenominational groups of all stripes have long been against calling a minister "pastor," a word that references elders in the New Testament.  Or calling a church by a person's name instead of using a biblical name like, "The Way."

Friday, September 12, 2014

Sincerely Wrong


Can I admit something?  There are parts of the Bible I don't like.  They make me uncomfortable; sometimes they scare me.  Lot offering his daughters to the people of Sodom instead of sending out his angelic visitors?  I hate that.  God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son to prove his faithfulness?  Even though I understand the story, I still don't like it.  Sapphira dropping dead because of a lie?  That scares me to the bone. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Child Training Bible

For me, the hardest part of training my children (Psalm 22:6) is addressing their hearts and not just their behaviors.  It is easy to fall into the habit of punishing bad actions and rewarding good actions, as if my children are puppies I'm trying to house train.  But children are not animals; they have souls that need training too.  If I only address their behaviors, I may have children that I'm proud to take to the grocery store but who have hearts full of sin and rebellion.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Blinded by Culture

Sometimes when we live in a new place, experience a new stage of life (like marriage or becoming a mother) or meet a new challenge, we gain insight into a Biblical truth.  My years of living abroad were rife with these.  Walking through the outdoor market, I could imagine Jesus's temple - smelly, bleating and filled with sly dealings.  Meeting in homes in secret, I could imagine the joy and terror of being a first century Christian.  More than these imaginings, I also learned a lot about eastern culture and its connection to the world of the Old Testament and the New. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

What We Want

Yellowonion-edit1.jpgWhen my aunt was a little girl, she was a stubborn thing.  (That particular trait tends to gallop in my family.)  She was convinced that the onion my grandmother was peeling for supper was an apple, and by golly she wanted a bite.  She kept asking for that "apple" over and over until her mamma got tired of hearing it and gave her that onion.  Unwilling to admit her mistake, my aunt took a large bite, handed the onion back calmly, and tears streaming down her face, chewed and swallowed it.  That was the last time she nagged my grandmother for food she was prepping.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Prayer - There's an App for That!

My prayer list is out of control. Entirely!

When we were still in Asia, we were somewhat insulated from the rest of the world. We prayed regularly for the few other Christians we knew, for our own work and for the work of our coworkers; that list was relatively manageable. God was working on me to teach me so much about prayer. I wasn't ready to be a prayer warrior, I was at best a novitiate.

But when we moved to Wyoming, things changed dramatically. Our congregation has this wonderful white board that lists all our children and teens, those we know who are sick, grieving, or far from the Lord. It takes one of our brothers between 10 and 15 minutes to briefly pray on Wednesday night for all the people on the list.  I'm working on praying for them too.  When folks find out that my husband is the minister at church they are often eager to have us pray for some situation in their life. I want to do that-pray without ceasing even for those I met a Wal-mart. And then there are the people we are studying with, hoping to study with, or who are married to someone in our church with whom we are trying to cultivate a relationship. We're also praying for the people we love in Asia, just leaving Asia, and in the congregations that sponsored and supported us.

That's the easy stuff on my list.

I have a 9th grader and a 1st grader in public school for the very first time. They need to be submerged in prayer.

I have this amazing husband who is pouring his heart into ministry, and it's all new!

And my Uncle has a brand new and quite upsetting cancer diagnosis and a little girl the same age as mine.

See? My prayer list is entirely out of control.

Tired and sad, I would find myself saying the same things again and again, forgetting people, or their names, or the details of their situation. Worse I was fatigued and confused and constantly feeling like I needed to pray more but I wasn't praying well.

Guess what?

They have an app for that.

Seriously.

I recently saw a short review online for Echo. It's a prayer app. I was a bit skeptical at first, but it was free so I thought why not?


Here's how it works. There are two buttons on the front screen "Add a prayer" and  "Pray now." It was the "Pray now " button that made me leery. How was an app supposed to help me pray?

I started by adding one by one the things on my prayer list. First I named it and then added a description. I found this especially helpful because when my brain was nice and clear I could add the details I needed to remember, and when I wanted to pray a certain scripture over someone it was easy to write it there (not half mumble the half-memorized words). When God answered prayers, the app lets me mark them answered and moves them off the active list.

Once I had the list Echo will let you set up notifications  on your phone to remind you to pray! You just set how often and it will send you a reminder to pray for someone specific or for a random request.

When I hit the "Pray Now" button it will bring up a request from my list and (if I ask for it) the description. Then all I need to do is swipe to move from one thing I am praying about to the next.

I've been using the app for a week and I love it. For one thing, I haven't forgotten anyone, not their names or their details, and when I see them again I can confidently say I've been praying for them and ask about their situation. For another I don't have to wrack my brain in the middle of a prayer for what else I meant to be praying for, just swipe and keep going!

If you are thinking I could do all that with an old fashioned prayer journal, I'd say you were exactly right except for one thing. No one I know carries their prayer journal with them 24/7, but I always have my phone. So if I am visiting someone and stuck out in the hall at the hospital while the staff does their thing, I can pray. If you send me a text, I can immediately copy down all the information, so I can start praying right away.

I wouldn't want an app to tell me how to pray or when to pray-that would be invasive - but a personal assistant who reminds me when I wanted to pray and who I wanted to pray for is a great blessing.

Check the app store for "echo prayer" and then if you like it, leave me a comment! 

Helene

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.  

Monday, September 1, 2014

Church Clothes

Summer clothes
During last summer's vacation through SE Asia we made several stops that required "special" clothes.  Not only were no shoes allowed (something we were familiar with from our Malaysian trip), but everyone was required to wear long pants (and spandex did not count) and shirts with sleeves, and to leave their cameras in a locked box outside. In one place we were patted down to be certain we didn't try to sneak in a cell phone. Finally everyone needed to speak in a whisper.  Having read ahead we were prepared with long pants for my husband and dresses and skirts for the girls and I.  Less experienced tourists were offered wrap dresses or large linen pants to cover up with. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Church Growth

For a month we've been talking about missions.  We've been asking for your support for George and the Flowers family .  People like you at 10, 15 or 25 dollars at a time have the power to keep them in the field and become their coworkers in truth without even leaving home (3 John).

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

In His Own Words: A Missionary Vlog

The inspiration for this month started with some friends who had come over to visit us while we were still abroad.  They told me a tale of another young missionary, (we'll call him George for safety sake) in a nearby part of Asia.  The story went that although he was working hard, preaching the gospel steadily, although people were listening and responding, the money just wasn't there for him to come back for a second year.  At the time it was looking like he would have to go home. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Hell is for Real

Startling:
LD converter gas flame 4
People are going to Hell. Literally.  Look around.  That guy who sits down the table from you at lunch, the lady behind you in the line at Walmart, that cute family who visited at your church last week, your Aunt Susie, they could all be headed for Hell.

Do I have your attention? 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Living By Faith

Harvest Festival Flowers at Shrewsbury United Reformed Church - geograph.org.uk - 1478601
The word promises, "that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).  When life sends trials and tribulations our way, many of us forget this powerful promise and grow bitter toward God.  All the Flowers are holding tight to this promise and have seen the truth of it played out with power over the last year.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Joyful Slave

"If you want to be a slave of Christ,  you have to BE a slave of Christ."  One of our elders used this seemingly repetitive phrase in a recent lesson.  I knew what he meant.  It's one thing to say we are his slaves, another to live like it.  A slave owns nothing.  Not her time, not her possessions, not her family.  Even her actions are proscribed by her master. A slave does her master's will, period.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Contact, Contact, Contact

I was all set to write another post: "7 things your missionary wishes you would do."  And then I realized there were two problems.  First, when I started doing some research among the missionaries I knew, there weren't 7 things; there was 1 thing with variations.  The second was I'm not sure you actually have a missionary of your own.

Do you have a missionary? 

Friday, August 15, 2014

To Die is Gain

"Are you still going to Nigeria?" I asked incredulously.  It was a few weeks after the schoolgirls had been kidnapped by Boko Haram, and tensions between the United States and the African country, not to mention between Muslims and Christians, were mounting.  I was sure my father-in-law's yearly missionary trip to the Jos School of Biblical Studies in the central part of Nigeria would be canceled or at least postponed.  When he replied that the trip was still scheduled as planned I was surprised.  Didn't they how dangerous it would be?  He didn't seem worried, so I let it drop.  We continued to pray for him, but his easy manner gave me a sense of security.  In the middle of his trip, that security was shattered.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

In Her Own Words: A Missionary's Story

As you read through this you'll notice that we have some words replaced with asterisks.  That's because as we said before, this missionary family is in a country where they and our brothers and sisters in Christ could get in serious trouble if it was discovered they are leading worship, evangelizing, baptizing and joining in communion.  So please forgive us for eliminating these words.  Also we've used pseudonyms for the missionaries themselves in order that no one in their host country can find this plea via google.  If you're curious about their story and would like more information including their names, sponsoring churches and the country where they are working please feel free to send us an email and we will be happy to answer your questions.

Monday, August 11, 2014

7 Things NOT to Say to a Missionary




7 things you should not say to your missionaryOver the years I have had the pleasure of knowing lots and lots of people, young and old, single and married, male and female who are or have been missionaries.  When their hair was down and they were talking shop, they talked about you, the folks at home.  Sometimes they talked so gratefully about the cards you sent, the love you showed, the hospitality and kindness you showered them with while they were in America.  But other times they talked to me frankly about things that people say, things that were often meant in the kindest spirit but that nonetheless frustrated or hurt them.  So on their behalf, I'd like to share these statements with you so you have a chance to encourage them better.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Thinking About Social Media


Social Media might be the ultimate WW.  If this is your first Whatsoever Wednesday post, I'll let you know this is the place where Melissa and I talk about the stuff that goes INTO our heads: what we read, listen to, watch and think about.  It's our deliberate attempt to move from carelessly allowing the world to dictate our thoughts to carefully choosing to focus on true, noble, just, pure and lovely things.  And that brings us to one of the most common things pouring into our minds, social media.  The phone beeps and we're off into the world of tweets, status updates and otherwordly Instagram photos. 

Off and on for the next couple of months I'll be using my Wednesdays to explore the ways that we can apply Biblical principles to our own use of social media.  Don't expect a lot of social media bashing.  Like any other tool, it turns in our hand from hurtful to helpful in an instant.  Our connections, friends, and circles turn out to be powerful leverage to be used for the Lord if we are willing. All the things we are doing in our "real" life - bringing glory to God, bringing encouragement to our brothers and sisters, and bringing people to God - are things we can do through social media use. 

For example, we can use social media to illustrate the warm, supportive and real relationship we have in our church.  People long to be connected.  That's why in part they are surfing the net looking at half-stranger's statuses anyway.  We live in a lonely and disconnected society.  When our churches are obviously family - people who are meeting for fun, worship, mutual encouragement, we can say so.  Don't let friends from work (or the PTA) wonder what you're doing on the weekends.  Let them see your good times with your buddies from church!

Posting a status on Facebook or Twitter is very impersonal.  That's why people feel so free to post things that would otherwise be considered highly impolite (political opinions etc).  However, taking the good with the bad, we are also able to share  Christian pictures, sayings, Bible verses, and a regular invitation to worship or other church activities without necessarily alienating others.   

With Maidservants Of Christ Melissa and I are trying to use any skill we have in Bible study or writing and any influence on the internet that we can leverage to make it possible for more people to hear the word of God. Usually that is a ministry limited to the internet but this month we're trying to turn our connection with you and the people you know into an opportunity for George and the Flowers family.  We want to reach out and touch your hearts with their story so you can help touch the lives of people on the other side of the planet with the good news about Jesus. 

It's what we hope you'll do.  Of course we hope you'll give to help these missionaries.  But we also hope you'll help us get the word out about them through sharing posts that you like on your Facebook page, tweeting them, pinning them or mentioning them on Google+.  That's just one of the many ways you can take the chance to use your influence in the Savior's service.  Reach out and let people know  that your church is warm, your faith is real, and your God is awesome!

Helene

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Lord of the Harvest

Money and prayer- two things so "obvious" about missions as to be clich├ęd.  You've heard a lesson or two where a visiting missionary is seeking money for their own needs and sometimes for the needs of a school, orphanage, or poverty stricken area.  You've heard or prayed this sentence before too, right?  "Lord please help all those serving in foreign fields."  But do you know that Jesus' direct instruction to his disciples was not to pray FOR missionaries and evangelists (I know that those prayers are greatly appreciated) but to pray for MORE missionaries and evangelists?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

With a Little Help From My Friends

"With many counselors they succeed." Until I read Dave Ramsey's books and avidly listened to his podcast I had never heard this proverb, but it's right there in the Bible (Proverbs15:22).  So when we were preparing ourselves to make the major move of leaving our host country here in Asia (our home for the last 8.5 years) and moving back to America, we knew we needed to ask some friends for help. (For more details see Daniel post)

Monday, May 26, 2014

Answering God

Einzelne KerzeNebuchadnezzar needed a miracle.  The dream was beyond disturbing; it was also beyond the ability of his army of sycophants to interpret.  He needed someone who could see into the darkness, into his nightmares and reveal the truth.   His wise men thought he was crazy; only a man possessed by the gods could help him.  He thought they were a bunch of cheats and declared either one of their number would tell him his dream or he'd kill them all. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Prayer Changes Things

Prayer changes things.  I'm not a huge fan of internet memes, but I've seen that phrase bandied about with varying pictures, and I like it.  We have abundant evidence in the Bible that it's true, from the prayers of Abraham all the way to the prayers of the apostles.  In Acts, we see Peter pray two times, and both times big changes happen.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Muscle and a Shovel: An Evangelism Review

There is a book that many Christians I know are talking about.   Muscle and a Shovel is one man's true story of conversion to Christ through the efforts of his coworker.  It's written almost as a diary in the past tense, kind of a cross between a biography and a novel.  Michael Shank, the author, was blessed enough to work with a man he calls Randall at a time when he needed to understand that studying the Bible is not the work of a few minutes reading or listening to a preacher, but a job that requires muscle and a shovel to dig out the truth.  Not only are a lot of evangelistic Scriptures presented in one place, but the story is engaging.   I've read of many people giving this book to their friends as a form of evangelism, and I can't say that's wrong.  In fact, the Facebook page for the book states that there have been 7000 baptisms related to the story.  But I wonder if the better tool would be to take a close look a the character of Randall and use what we can learn from him to tell others about the gospel in a more personal way.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Thinking in the We

We don't often think in the "we."  In our churches we acknowledge the good we do as a group.  But I rarely hear anyone consider that our sin might be a group project.  What might that look like, you ask? Consider this...

Friday, May 16, 2014

Praise Him, Praise Him

My prayer grounded to a halt.  I sound so silly, I thought. God, you are great; you are awesome; you are loving. I say the same things every day, and it isn't enough.  I can't wait to go to heaven, where I can praise God better.  Maybe I should just sing my praises because simple words seem so inadequate.  Does God get tired of hearing the same things over and over?  It isn't as if He needs to hear what he has done or what his character traits are day after day.
 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Where Does My Help Come From?

The whole idea of Whatsoever Wednesday was to focus our minds on better things.  During a recent vacation in SouthEast Asia, I saw so many scenes that reminded me of the words of the Psalms.  I hope you enjoy the pictures and poem inspired by God's amazing creation and his wonderful word. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Moved to Prayer

In the days of the exile there was a man.  He was a trusted official, the cupbearer, in the court of King Artaxerxes.  Not a prophet nor a priest, not a worker of miracles or the recipient of them, an important but rather ordinary man.  

Friday, May 9, 2014

Heartache and Confidence: Hezekiah's Prayers

I remember the first time I prayed desperately, on my face.  My son was two weeks old, and I got a call from the doctor.  "We need you to come in; it's about your baby's newborn screenings."  Not content to wait until the doctor had an opening, I made them tell me what was wrong.  He had failed the screening for Cystic Fibrosis.  I would have to take him to the nearest Children's Hospital for further testing, but they couldn't fit us in until the next week.  For that week, I was a wreck.  I thought my faith was strong, but I was unable to stop worrying as I prayed with bitter tears.  As a loving Father, God was with me and answered my prayers.  But I could have saved myself much grief if I had prayed more like Hezekiah's second prayer and less like his first.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Pillow Fights and Making the Bible Real

Whumph!  Whumph whumph whumph!  "Daddy's down!  Get him!"  WHUMPH WHUMPH WHUMPH!  Giggle giggle giggle!

Those are the sounds of our nightly pillow fight.  It's way better than the sounds of nightly TV shows, believe me!  After the "work out" winds down, a fly on the wall at our house is likely to hear me reading from  The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe or The Wizard of Oz while Daddy reads something more like Goodnight Moon to the small one.  Then we start the Faith5TM.

Monday, May 5, 2014

How Prayer is Like Pinterest

Anna Blunden - 'For Only One Short Hour' - Google Art ProjectThis year if I've learned one spiritual thing, it would be how to pray.  I thought I knew how.  I'm not a baby Christian.  I've prayed through seasons of change before, through medical troubles, through fear and grief and hope against hope.  Yet this year I've learned all over again how to wait and pray. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Blessings

When we are blessed, we feel special; but when we give a blessing, we become spatial.  Blessing turns a dining room or bedroom into a sacred space. It turns a table or bed into a transport station for the God of the universe to enter our world again and again...Blessing brings joy, warmth, and love. It firms, confirms and reaffirms.*
I snorted in disbelief when I read the words.  I have a strong aversion to cheesiness and sentimentality, and these words in a book I was given (coming soon to a Whatsoever Wednesday near you!) were dripping with both.  Besides, isn't giving a blessing a little weird?

Nevertheless, I couldn't get "The Lord Bless you and Keep you" out of my head.  Puzzled, I turned to Numbers 6 and read the words anew. 

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, 'Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them: 'The LORD bless you, and keep you; The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.' "So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them."
Cue the sheepishness.  Far from being weird, blessings were a part of Hebrew culture from the beginning, not only here under the Mosaic covenant, but for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob too.  Not only that, but Jesus blessed his apostles, and they passed it on.  The epistles are bursting with blessings! God blessed his children, and He expected them to bless each other as well.

Chocolate chip cookie closeupThe churches I attend are not in the habit of invoking blessings.  Oh, we pray for them all the time, but we don't often speak them over our congregations, our children, or our friends.  Maybe that's why I was so uncomfortable with the idea.  When I read the Bible with blessings in mind, I found that they are sprinkled throughout scripture like chocolate chips in a cookie!  (See, I've embraced cheesiness!)  I thought I would share some of these sweet morsels with you today.

The LORD will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in From this time forth and forever. (Psalm 121:7-8)

Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!  (2 Thessalonians 3:16)

Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever.  Amen.  (Hebrews 13:20,21)

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen. (II Corinthians 13:14)

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7)

Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints" (1 Thessalonians 3:11-13)
 
May the Lord our God be with us as he was with our ancestors; may he never leave us nor forsake us. May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in obedience to him and keep the commands, decrees and laws he gave our ancestors. And may these words of mine, which I have prayed before the Lord, be near to the Lord our God day and night, that he may uphold the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel according to each day's need, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God and that there is no other. And may your hearts be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time (1 Kings 8:56-61).
This is only a small sampling of the blessings, or benedictions as they are sometimes called, found in the Bible.  Far from being cheesy or sentimental, they are a powerful call to God to give peace, grace, and protection to the blessed.

For the last few nights, I've been saying a blessing over my children at night before they go to sleep.  My son closes his eyes and basks in it.  My toddler smiles like the cat that ate the canary.  My oldest daughter rolls her eyes.  I can't blame her; I did the same.  But when I acted like I would skip her blessing, she quickly changed her tune.  My plan is to memorize some of these great blessings of the Bible so that I can call God's power down on my children in a Biblical way every night.

How about you?  Have you ever been blessed or blessed others?  I'd love to hear about it!

Melissa
 
*Dr. Rich Melheim in Holding your Family Together, Regal books, 2013

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Cold Case Christianity: A Book Review

Dr. Pollard had a most intense look on his generally wry face, "The things we're going to talk about...I don't want them to shake your faith."  That was the shocking introduction one day's Greek Texts class.  The day's topic? Textual evidence.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Splash

Splash 1Splash.  Drowsy, I turned over. What was that strange sound?  Beeps, the swish of lab coats, the whispers of nurses, that all made sense.  

Splash.  I opened one eyelid and saw the man walk by with a red plastic bucket. He placed it beside his wife's bed. He picked up the thermos that the nurses filled every morning with boiled water. Carefully he mixed the hot and cold to bring the water in the bucket to a bearable temperature.  Peeling back the covers, he slipped off her pajama bottoms.  Murmuring to her, he dipped the rag in the warm water and started to wash.

Friday, April 25, 2014

A Heart for the Lost

God is LoveFor much of my Christian life, evangelism has been on the back burner.  I didn't feel up to the task, even knowing how important it was.  There were many excuses. He wouldn't listen to me. I don't know enough to answer the hard questions. She doesn't see the Bible the same way I do. Mainly, though, I just didn't think about it.  In recent months, the Holy Spirit has shown me through His Word that I needed to stop making excuses and start sharing the gospel. Every time I opened the Bible or listened to a sermon or talked to a friend, there it was staring me in the face.  Sharing Jesus is my job. I coudn't ignore it anymore, and I knew that my main problem was that I just didn't have a heart for the lost.  So I asked God to give me one. I didn't realize how painful it would be.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Pride of Life

I read a disturbing and convicting article aimed at leaders recently.  It suggested that sometimes christian workers, especially missionaries suffer from the "pride of life."  In other words they may take more than a little pride in what they've suffered, what they've given up, what they've done and who they've become.  

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Crossroads of Pride

Flickr - Laenulfean - crossroadsI've been sitting at the crossroads of Nebuchadnezzar, the Pharaoh and the Pharisee.

Pharaoh came to me from "Exodus," one of the books we're reviewing (coming up soon) from Pryor Convictions Media.  My 5 year old daughter and I are using it for homeschool Bible curriculum this term.  Nebuchadnezzar has been around for about a month as our little church is reading through Daniel together.  And we read the story of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in morning devos where we've been focused on prayer.