Monthly Archives: March 2013

Soul sickness

I grew up in the American church. I’m thankful for my heritage of great men and women of faith and prayer. My grandfather told me a couple of years before he went to be with Jesus that his father would have been so proud of me and my life with Christ. My great-grandfather was a traveling preacher and I’m thankful for his legacy.

Even so, I sometimes shake my head at the church. I read Stuff Christians Like, giggle, and think, “That’s totally right!” We are an interesting subculture of America, to be sure.

We also tend to swing pendulums from one extreme to the other. It seems that intentionality is the word for the moment. Make every second count. I’ve read countless blogposts, books and listened to many podcasts and sermons on this very topic. And so I’ve tried. I’ve worked tirelessly to make myself into a great leader. I’ve read books on intentionality in prayer to be sure that that area is covered. I’ve thought and planned for sharing and discipleship. I’ve scheduled my day so that every second is used for some purpose.

And I lost myself.

This morning as I contemplated King David, who wrote some of the most heart-wrenching prayers and some of the most uplifting praises, was king. He led thousands. Sometimes into battle. And yet, he was an impulsive praiser. He knew how to bask in the glory of The Lord.

I’m not saying I’m at all like King David, but I do understand his heart. Worship is how I commune with God. I sometimes sketch. Sometimes I write prose, sometimes poetry. Sometimes I compose music. Sometimes I stare at a flower and marvel at the creativity of God. Sometimes I sit and think about God being outside of time which means that the past, present and future are happening all at once which means I’m unborn, in this moment, and praising God in heaven all at the same time. (Yes, I am strange, but it’s how God made me.)

In the midst of trying to be intentional, I forgot that I do that. I forgot who God created me to be. I forgot who I am. And my soul became sick.

The Lord reminded me this morning that he is the best teacher. And that his Word is the best textbook. And that my whole purpose is to simply abide in Him. Some moments that will look different than others. But it always means being in His presence and then asking, “What do you want me to do now, Lord?” And for me, it means creating space to simply bask in his glory.

So I think I’ll be intentional with that and let God lead me as he sees fit.

Anyone wanna join me?

Categories: spiritual growth | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Letting Go and Hanging On

We own a business. At least on paper we do. We’ve spent the last 18 months finding a location, working on licenses, figuring out the registration process and fighting for electricity. We’re still fighting for connection to city water, but it’s on the back shelf since we can have it trucked in. (Yes, our place is in the middle of the capital city. Yes, our building is old. No, I have no idea why there were issues with electricity and water.)

Yesterday we recieved the call that all the renovations were finished. (Actually this call came two days ago, but the contractor wasn’t actually finished so we had to remind him of some things still incomplete like the front door not working.) But now it’s done. I should be excited. I should be ecstatic. I should be jumping up and down and celebrating. But I’m not.

Instead, I walk around that beautiful new space amd think of all I have to do now. I have to get the POS system installed. I have to actually hire people. I need to meet with the marketing company and develop a budget. I need to design the menu and have it printed and laminated. I need to get a sign made. I need to… And I wonder at how I got here. My degree is in education. I’m totally out of my comfort zone here.

And in the midst of my to do list and worry over what is going to happen, I forgot something vital. This business is not my own. Just as my life is not my own. No, the business belongs to the Lord. He miraculously provided the finances for the start up. He showed us the perfect place right in the center of town with a reasonable rent. He planted this idea in my head 15 years ago.

So I am boldly and unashamedly asking God for his guidance in our business. I’m asking him to guide every decision, great or small. I’m relinquishing my control since I didn’t have any to begin with. I’m praying fervently for God’s divine takeover of the company. And I’m praying for the strength to continually lay the business at the Lord’s feet while working tirelessly to get it running and keep it going. I haven’t fully learned how to balance that: letting go and working hard, but I’m trying. And my God is faithful. Even when I have no idea what I’m doing.

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:24 NIV)

Categories: life, spiritual growth | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Fear

My husband and I volunteer at an English center downtown.  This week we’re hosting students from a university in the US and doing an English-class version of speed dating.  Basically, each teacher spends about 15-20 minutes with 2-4 students discussing a particular topic.  

Last night, one of the topics was fear.  I asked the question, “Is there an animal you’re afraid of?”  Then I proceeded to talk about my time in Africa and my great fear of green mambas.  Right off the bat, the first guy looks at me wide-eyed and says, “DOGS!”  “All dogs?” I countered.  “YES!”  “Even this sweet little dog?” I asked as I showed him a picture of my dog from my phone.  (Notice the pictures of the dog below.  She couldn’t scare a flea.) “I’m sure she’s very nice to you, but look at her teeth!”

The ironic thing is that Eloise (the dog) is scared of everything: leaves, wind, snow, etc.  And feels that all people are her personal best friends.  She is also no longer my dog, but lives with a beautiful family in America since I am in the Mid East.  My debt of gratitude to them for taking such good care of this sweet little dog will never be redeemed.

 

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Crossing the Jordan

A while back I went to the *real* baptism site that’s about an hour south of where I live. (This site is not to be confused with the fake one across the river.) This is reportedly where Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan River. It’s even been blessed by a pope, so it has to be right.

At any rate, it’s extremely underwhelming. Because it’s so close to our neighboring country, one can’t just wander through the area unaccompanied. Then there’s the river itself. It’s mostly a trickle of water. It’s not beautiful. There’s nothing spectacular about it. I remember thinking, “O, ok. Well, I guess we can go now.”  I don’t even have any pictures of it.

View from Mt Nebo over the Jordan ValleyThis morning, though, I was contemplating that river. One of my favorite places is on the top of Mount Nebo. It is there that Moses saw the promised land he would never have the privilege of entering. From this high point, I can see where the river used to be. And each time I go I think of the Israelites crossing the river. I think about the priests being told to step into the river. It’s something to obey a strange command like that. I hate having wet feet and would have scoffed at such an order. Miracle or no, walking around in soaked sandals does not appeal to me. And yet they did. They didn’t know what God would do, they merely trusted their leader to hear from The Lord and obeyed.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9 Paul says that the Lord told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV)

I think I’ve figured out what my biggest weakness is: doubt. We’re in the midst of opening a business. It’s proven so far out of my comfort zone, at times I want to run away screaming. But now, we’re on the banks of the Jordan looking at God’s promise. All I have to do is step into the river and see the miracles God will perform.

But this is uncomfortable. I’ll have wet shoes. I don’t know what to do once I cross. This isn’t what I studied. I’m so much better at other things – I know what to do there. So many excuses. And yet, God patiently waits for me to simply let go of my inhibitions and with reckless abandon and fierce determination step into the river. It may part. It may wash over me. That is not for me to determine. My only obligation is to obey the voice of The Lord and remember that his power is made perfect in my weakness. In this way I have no choice but to say, “Look what my God has done. It was onto thing of my own doing, but all from his mighty hand.”

So Lord, I believe. Help me with my unbelief.

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Sometimes I Wish Curiosity Had Killed That Cat

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I come from an I-culture.  This means that I make my own decisions for my own life.  I like my space bubble.  I share unimportant information with most people.  In my culture, we don’t ask personal questions unless you REALLY know the person.  And even then, I figure it’s none of my business.  See there it is: MY business.

I live in a we-culture.  This means all decisions are made within community.  There is no space.  And there is only sharing.  Of everything.  All the time.  There are no secrets.

Take the other day for example.  We have some friends visiting.  We decided to take them to one of the touristy places in the city that boasts the ruins of the ancient city as well as spectacular views of the skyline (and some not-so-spectacular views of the smog and dust that I’m breathing in).  I have been to this place many times, so when some local young ladies needed some help determining where to go (those ruins can be quite confusing), I offered my help.  After the initial shock that a foreigner knows their local history better than they do, we proceeded to wander through antiquity while chatting about our lives.  About five minutes into the conversation, my space bubble was popped: “Do you and your husband have children?”  “Not yet.”  “Why not?  Is something wrong?”  And here is where I picture that curious cat falling off the cliff onto the street below us.  In moments like these I wish I had one of those cartoon hooks that could pull them out of my frame so I could continue on in peace.

I will be honest.  I hate these questions.  I hated it when I was single and the first thing people asked was why I wasn’t married.  I bothers me when people make comments about how much weight I’ve gained/lost.  I’ve had to sidestep the “How much rent do you pay” question more times than I can count.  But it’s inevitable.  I cannot change a culture almost as old as the world.

So I have a choice.  I can stomp my feet and pitch a royal fit.  Or I can smile and do my best to answer the question with grace and humility.  (Although at times there is a third option: feigning ignorance of Arabic and just ignoring the question – but this usually isn’t truthful as I do understand what’s being said.) So rather than yanking the cat by its nosy little throat and chucking it into the abyss, I choose to take one for the team and chalk it up to cultural education.

Besides, where else can you go and discover untold riches among the narrow alleyways of the market in a single afternoon?  Things like Arab cowboy hats, “Marry Me” travel mugs and enough sparkly garland to cover Rockefeller’s Christmas Tree?  Yeah, it’s totally worth a few intrusive questions every day.

Categories: weird things about living overseas | Leave a comment

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