Friday, July 6, 2018

Who Will Join the Fight?

"The big problem here is we don't have people who will do the ministry." We were riding in the car with Vladimir in his home country of Serbia on a trip to encourage people to study the Bible using the Emmaus International Bible Study Courses. We had crossed the Balkan mountains by bus from Albania through Montenegro and Bosnia Herzegovina to the northern plains of the former Yugoslavia. 

 But we could have been anywhere in the world. Everywhere we go we are told, "We. Need. Workers." Christians to take on ministries.



Vladimir told us that at one point his village of 6000 was 10% Christian. He was excited about that figure. And it was good, especially for a former communist country. But I thought about the 90% who are on their way to hell. Why can't we reach more?

Then this morning I read about David and Nabal. Granted, David wasn't exactly on a godly mission. But I was struck by how many went to the fight and how many "stayed by the baggage." Four hundred went out to defend their honor and only two hundred stayed behind. (1 Sam. 25:13) Later when David has to rescue the wives and children of his men from the Amalekites, the same ratio had to stay behind because they were exhausted, but the majority went to fight.


How many have joined the fight today? I know we can't all go to another country, but we can all work where we are in local ministries, with people we know, and in prayer. 

There are so many needy places in the world that we can be praying for. And look what God does in answer to our prayers! We as a people prayed for years for the gospel to be able to get into the communist countries freely and 29 years ago that became a reality. We pray for the people of North Korea and we can see things happening there! As we pray for God to open up the Muslim world and reach these people with the gospel, imagine what He can do!

There are places close to home as well, in our schools, offices, neighborhoods, and local churches. Ministries need people! We can be one. And we can pray for many. The Lord's prayer request is still relevant today.
The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His Harvest. Matthew 9:37-38 
The danger in praying that prayer is you might discover that you are the answer.




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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

What do You Want Your Kids to Be Like?

From oldest to youngest our four children have almost nine years between them, so when they were at home we were always looking for creative ways to make the Bible come alive for them. We wanted our family devotions to be interesting to all of them. What a challenge!


As I was doing my own devotions the other day I thought of those memes that were making the rounds a few years ago about "Bob" who did whatever the person making the meme thought was good. I wrote one based on Joshua 1.

And I realized that this would be a great family activity that everyone could do to get an application. In fact it follows the basics of Bible study--observation, interpretation, application!

Observation: The who, what, where, and when. Joshua knows God is with him and he obeys God and fights against evil.
Interpretation: The how. Joshua is courageous because of what he knows.
Application: Be courageous like Joshua.

Another day I read Third John and learned about Gaius. And I drew my own picture to go along with it.

This is Gaius.

Gaius knows the truth.
Gaius uses the truth to guide how he lives.
Gaius meets new people and shows them love in his home because of the truth.
Be wise and generous like Gaius.

Whether you read from a children's Bible story book or you read a chapter of narrative from the Bible, you could all take a piece of paper and write something like during your family devotions. Not only will you have fun looking at each others "art" work (go ahead, laugh at mine, my feelings won't be hurt!), but you are actually teaching your children how to study the Bible!

Not all the people you meet in the pages of the Bible are ones you want to emulate. In Third John there is another person about whom John doesn't have nice things to say.




This is Diotrephes.
Diotrephes always wants to be 
the most important.
Diotrephes accuses everyone else
of bad things.
Diotrephes makes people who disagree with him go away.
Diotraphes is proud and bad.
Don't be like Diotraphes.



So whatever the people you read about are like, your kids can learn a lesson directly from them and begin to learn how to study the Bible on their own. Give it a try!



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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

What Are Your Food Choices in the Land of Plenty?

To whom much is given
much will be required.

I like to quote this verse about people who are bursting with energy, are multi-talented, and have wealth far above normal. But I was recently reminded of the "much" variety of food I can obtain, compared to so many people in the world, makes me responsible too. 
  • What would happen to the brain of a 2 year old in the Central African Republic, who goes to bed hungry every night, if I could give him a bowl of blueberries with yogurt each day?
  • How would a mother with dry breasts and a tiny infant in Haiti feel with four ounces of red meat laden with fat and four quarts of clean water to drink every day?
  • Where would the Yemeni 15 year old, pregnant with her second child, having dropped out of school at 10, married at 12, be if I could have given her a salad laden with a wide variety of vegetables and slathered with seasoned olive oil for her daily lunch when she was still in school?
  • What would the weary 45 year old man--emphasis on old--in the Chad be doing if, instead of eating ugali to feel full, he had the option of chicken, beef, or pork and vegetables, on a regular basis? 


I know that I can't do much to give these people the food they need to survive and thrive, but I realized that I do have much! I can have all of the foods I have mentioned above and more. I can buy them for myself, my family, and my guests without hardship to our lifestyle. And so, much is required of me, as a steward of what God had entrusted to me, to eat well and to eat right, to feed my family a healthy, well-balanced diet to give them the opportunity to do all they can and should do.

For me this has always meant lots of fruit and vegetables and cooking as low fat as possible. That doesn't mean we didn't eat pizza, hot dogs, and macaroni and cheese from time to time. Carbs were a staple in our home because they were cost effective and everyone liked them. Sugared cereals were on our breakfast table and on Saturdays we had pancakes and sausage. And yes, I will admit that sugary powdered drink mixes kept my kids hydrated. But my overall plan was to help my family eat food that would keep them healthy, and teach them what was good for them on a regular basis. 

As adults now, we all have to work to keep our weight down (admittedly one of my objectives for myself with the way I cooked for my family). And that is part of the responsibility given to me by having many options for food. It gives us a greater motivation, but even if we weight were not an issue, we have responsibilities because we have so many choices about our diet in our land of plenty.


Much is required. 
What choices are you making for you family?



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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

What I'm Loving

I left to join my husband in the Middle East in the middle of April just after a late season snow storm and the day before another. The grass was brown, the trees were bare, and the temperatures were below chilly so one of the things I'm loving on our return is

The beauty of spring--The blooming trees are covered with pink and white blossoms, the grass is "spring green", and the leaves are bursting out. I've broken out my summer clothes and put away my heavy sweaters. I love every season, but right now, the variety of greens is amazing! It makes me wonder how anyone cannot believe in a Creator.
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. Romans 1:20

Hugs from my grandkids--As a card-carrying Grandma, I have to say that the seven littles who call me "Grandma" are just about the most adorable things on earth! There is nothing like having a two-year old squeal when they see you and run toward you, arms open wide, and then be enveloped in their joyful hug! That goes for seven year olds, five year olds, three year olds, and one year olds! We are looking forward to a weekend this summer when we will celebrate my father's 90th birthday and have all of them together at once!

Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, Proverbs 17:6
    
Sheet pan meals--Like this one or this one oooo, or this one! What a great way to cook lots of delicious vegetables and only have one pan to clean up for your whole meal! Plus if you line the pan with parchment paper or foil, there's not even a lot of clean up!

Four generation meals--Most Sundays we are in town both sets of our parents, our two in-town kids, a daughter-in-law, and two of our granddaughters come for Sunday "dinner" right after church. I can't believe the blessing of all of us being in one town. I grew up always living at least a thousand miles from my grandparents and my children grew up on a different continent from theirs, so the Lord orchestrating that so many of us are together now is a privilege!
Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you. Exodus 20:12

Veggies--Several members of the family have started working on eating healthier and are (finally) appreciating the roasted and stir fried veggies I've been serving up for years. They really are good, and good for us!

A full guest room--We arrived home from our latest trip overseas and a couple of days later had five Indians (as in people from India) staying with us for a week, the family of students at Emmaus Bible College, here for their graduation. Some we can talk to and some have much less English, although more than we can speak of Malayalam! Next week we have some people from Scotland and France and the week after that New York and California! We sure learn a lot from visiting with these people and get a little taste of heaven.


Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,
for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.
Hebrews 13:2



Do you think any of these people are angels?

Scripture Typer--Last year I decided I needed to get back to memorizing scripture. I had heard about this app, so I looked it up and started using it. In the last year I've learned 75 verses! I love that it reminds me when to review verses based on how well I did the last time I reviewed and I review all the verses at least every three months. I also like the motivation of earning points and seeing how faithful I am to reviewing. (By the way, I get no compensation for this, I'm just telling you what I like.)


I have stored up Your Word in my heart
that I might not sin against You.
Psalm 119:11


What are you loving these days?


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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Family Begins with Fathers and Mothers

Does it bother you, too, to hear people on TV and in movies deny their blood/marriage/adoption families and tell a group of friends, "You are my family." Usually this involves not including the people they are related to in an important life event and instead asking coworkers or friends to step in. Family? No, good friends. 

I'm not naive enough to think that every family member is willing, able, or even deserves to be included. But family is the people we are related to.



I guess my problem is the way our society wants to redefine family as any group of people who love each other. I'm thrilled that people can have friends who will be there when they are needed, but they are friends, not family. In our culture, we often live far away from people we are related to, so we do need to have others who are not family around us. And God provided for that by placing us in the family of God with people we are related to by adoption

For example, Jim and I just returned from a trip for Emmaus International to five countries and stayed in the homes of Indian, American, Jordanian, and Dutch believers. We also had meals with Lebanese and Egyptians. Each one generously and happily welcomed us into their homes for a meal or even for weeks. They put everything they had at our disposal and served us the best things they could. What love! Family? Yes, God's family.

Meanwhile back home, my dad came down with pneumonia and a neighboring believer came over to help my mom get him to the hospital. My children and another member of God's family made sure she did not have to stay overnight with him as they took it on themselves to do that. (Dad has severe memory loss, so needs extra care.) Mom had visitors every day from our local church and texts and phone calls from Christian friends and family all over the U.S. Now that they are home, people from church are helping me provide some meals for them. Family? Yes, both God's family and earthly family.

I can't begin to say how privileged we are by being a part of these families! God has provided so many Christians to enrich and help us along the way. God's plan for families and the provision of His family is one of our greatest blessings on earth. But when it comes to who should help my mother care for my dad--while I'm thankful that the family of God can be called upon when I'm not able to be there--they are my parents and I have the responsibility and privilege of being their daughter. We are family.

And mothers and fathers are where families begin. As I look at the earthly family God has given me I am amazed by the strength my mother has shown as my father needs more and more care. She gently and wisely has taken over the things my father used to do in ways that continue to give him dignity, love, and show her respect for him. Yesterday at the hospital he was not supposed to get out of his chair because of tubes attached to him. The third time we had to tell him and the third time he said, "I want to go upstairs," she lovingly asked him, "What do you want to do upstairs?" instead of just snapping (as I might have), "You can't! You are in a hospital." I recognize that I am blessed to have come from this kind of earthly family and to have a mother like her as an example. Not everyone does. 

And so, I want to honor God for creating families and giving us His family. 

And I want to honor my mother for allowing God to work in her life to make her the woman she is today.

Perhaps Mother's Day is a difficult time for you because your mother was not there for you either physically or emotionally or because you are not a mother and you want to be. But if you know the Lord, you have the best Father of all and have been adopted into a worldwide family--a family you are related to. 


Get connected with your family.


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Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Singing at the Table

One day I was talking to the second grade teacher at our children’s school in Bogota, Colombia, and she told me that in social studies they were studying social norms. In order to teach the children what norms were, she thought she would ask them about the mealtime rules in their home, assuming she would bring to light many norms that they all knew. So she was surprised to find out that among her dozen or so students the only rule they all had in common was: No Singing at the Table.


Im not even sure why that’s so often a rule, or at least something mothers say when children start singing at the table. I looked it up and couldn’t find an answer. My only guess is that it interrupts conversation or annoys parents.

But at our table we do sing. We dont sing at every meal (nor while we're eating!), but we always sing during devotions near Christmas and Easter and on other holidays like Thanksgiving and even the Fourth of July. 

In the summers we purposely chose hymns to memorize. My husband and I picked out about half a dozen hymns we wanted our children to know and I typed or photocopied them and glued the sheets into a notebook. Since the hymns often had words that weren't in our childrens everyday vocabularies, I put those words in bold type and I made a glossary for them to use to learn the meanings. 

When we sang each hymn--one everyday for a week while learning it and then once in a while after that to keep it fresh--we talked about what it meant and how it encouraged us.

The year when my husbands brother was dying of cancer, God led us to several songs that had verses speaking of the end of our journey, Gods faithfulness, and our hope for the future. We sang some of those songs when we had our own private memorial for Pete after he passed away.

During that difficult season, hymns were a special comfort to my husband, his parents, and Pete's widow.


When we have singing planned as part of the after dinner activities we provide the words to the hymns we'll be singing. In that way our guests from other countries or who didn't grow up with a hymn singing background can join in. Besides, our singing always sounds much better when others add their voices to ours--especially if those voices are the melodious ones of my parents-in-law and sister-in-law! 

My father's memory is failing, but he too learned many of these hymns as a child and when we sing, he may not remember what holiday it is, but he knows the songs and he knows the One to and of Whom we are singing. Recently I've noticed that as we sing, tears stream down his face. Clearly singing these hymns touches him in a place that we don't often see any more.


That's my prayer for my children, too, that these songs will play on their mental playlists all their lives and will touch their hearts. I pray the Lord brings them to mind when they need them, when they want them, and maybe, most especially when they don’t want them.

Connect with your family through singing. Choose songs that are easy to sing without music, or if you are blessed enough to have a musical family, bring the instruments along! 

Just don't sing with your mouth full.


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This week's hack comes from Maureen:  Set dinner times and meal planning. If we don't have a meal planned and just do "whatever", we tend to eat "whenever". So, a plan and a reminder of how valuable it is to have that time together.







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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Where in the World

"Where is Kyrgyzstan?" we asked our friend.

She stood up and took a step to the framed NatGeo map we had hanging on the wall above our table and studied Asia for a moment. Then she pointed to a country just south of Russian, also bordering on China, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. We all focused on that part of the world for a moment to get our bearings.


As she sat down, we peppered her with more questions. What was it like? Were there lots of people? Was it mountainous? Was it desert? What language did they speak? What was their religion? When she didn't know the answers, together we discovered them by referring again to the map and some of the other information it offered, then later to the Internet for more answers.

When my husband began his world wide ministry with the ECS Bible Courses (thanks to praying 'The Prayer of Jabez' one too many times!), I finally found the perfect birthday gift for him. This  wall map. With it we could find out where the people he was writing to lived and follow his travels from our dinner table.

What I didn't realize was that we would refer to the map nearly every meal. Living in South America at the time, our children already had a larger than normal world view because many of their classmates came from countries other than Colombia (where we were) and the U.S. (where we were from). 

We learned how far apart Austria and Australia are when two teachers each hailed from one of those countries. My younger daughter's best friend moved to the United Arab Emirates. My other daughter's best friend moved to Venezuela. One son had a friend go back to Texas and another classmate was from Sweden. 


Some conversations arose from opportunities to travel with our family as well. I remember when my 5 year old daughter, taking an interest in maps, placed her hand on an island and said, "'B' What country is that?" 

I answered, "That's the Bahamas." 

"Oh, I've been there," she said as she carefully wrote a "B" on her paper. And she had been there. Our family was flown there by a supporting church for a missionary conference. We would never forget the effects of hurricane Floyd or being served all the lobster we wanted!

The news sent us looking at our map as well--where had that earthquake taken place? What city just had another car bomb go off? Which country was having disputed elections? How were the borders in Europe changing again?

I love to read and I really have a hard time understanding people who say they "hate geography." It's all about people and places and how they intertwine.  So I read books like "Peter the Great: His Life and World" and learned so much about Russia, it's history, geography, and climate that I wrote my husband a nine-page single spaced summary of the book before his trip to St. Petersburg! Of course I told my family about it over many dinner times and we stared at the map open mouthed as we realized how far north he would be.

When we moved back to the states, the people who bought our house, asked us to leave the map for them, so one of our first purchases when we got a house was another map for our eating area wall. We've been privileged to have many visitors from all over the world around our table and they are always delighted to point out where they live. 

I could tell you many more stories of our enhanced family dinner times and exotic and stimulating conversations encouraged simply by putting a map on the wall. Am I saying you should have a map above your table? Not necessarily. I'm just saying that having a flat map on our wall has definitely helped us connect more as a family at mealtimes than a flat screen TV ever could!


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This week's hack comes from Maureen: It can be hard to gather together because of jobs and extra curricular activities. It used to stress me out until I let go of the need for it to be between 5-6:30...we gather for supper at 7:30-8:00 simply because that’s when we all land for the night! We dine like the Europeans and it works. Everything is done and we get to just enjoy family time. 







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