Censored

You get the censored version of my life. Oh there are things I force myself to share openly and other things I keep to myself. Some parts of missionary life are just to difficult to share with anyone who has not experienced them. They seem to me like a heavy weight. So I talk freely with friends who similarly struggle and I put on a smile for you. The problem is, I’ve never been good at wearing masks. My face betrays me every time!

This week I’m restless. I just returned from Mexico. I know the games that they play in the culture, and I’m uneasy. I keep telling myself to not worry and to present my requests to God. I know the drill. But sometimes scripture is easier said than done. And taking my thoughts captive, at times is like trying to restrain the wind…impossible.

Prayer:

Lord, help me as I wrestle with these thoughts and feelings, emotions that only you truly understand. Help me to overcome these concerns and give them to you to carry, for they are too heavy for my heart.

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Faithful Plans

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

—Jeremiah 29:11

It took a while for us to decide to follow through with the plans to come to the states. In many ways it was easier to simply stay where we were. But God, has a way of moving mountains instantaneously to accomplish His plans. So here we are 10 weeks into our stateside sabbatical.

I remember a few years ago standing on the patio of the outreach dorms at Hope House. I looked over the bare property and thought about what was left to build. In my mind’s eye I could see the vast building that was still only a dream. “Ten years”, I said to myself. “I estimate that it will take another 10 years before we have accomplished all the vision that God has given us for building Hope House.” Little did I know that God was working behind the scenes in the heart of a man from Kentucky. A man who God called to spearhead the vast project of the Transition House, a place for our older boys to continue growing into men.

That was 3 short summers ago and today I sit in Tennessee wondering what this next season of life will look like as another team from Kentucky arrives in Mexico to put the finishing touches on a handful of rooms at the Transition House. Their work will help us meet the goal of having 3 rooms and the Kitchen finished by next spring so Ricardo and Ulesis will have a place to live when they turn 18.

That day as I stood praying, envisioning and wondering how many more years it would take to complete all that God had placed in our hearts, I would have never imagined how quickly it would all come together.

And once again I stand amazed at God’s

faithfulness.

A Way Through

I’m tired of helping people!(Oops, Did I say that out loud?!?) It’s not that I think helping people is bad, it’s just that I personally am tired of giving and giving, probably more accurately, I have nothing left to give. Over the last 16 years we have been in the full-time business of helping people…meeting their needs. When you are in that type of work it doesn’t take long before you are surrounded by people that need something from you. After a while you get numb to their stories.

I’ve heard every sob story there is to hear and they no longer effect me like before. It’s called compassion fatigue. I’ve given and given until there is nothing left within me to give. Somehow I’m supposed to recover from this. This sabbatical is supposed to help. And I’m sure in time it will help.

To be honest I don’t know when I got like this. I know it didn’t happen over night, but I suspect my emotions have been dry for a long time. It’s an awful feeling. It’s not where I want to be, not who I want to be. But it is my current reality.

They say this is normal. Missionaries and aid workers alike struggle from Compassion fatigue. I’m following one blog and she talks about the compassion fatigue she suffered after just months on the mission field. So I guess being a little exhausted after 16 years of full-time missions is understandable. Yet I don’t know what to do with all of these feelings. I don’t know how to organize my thoughts and move forward. I guess it will take time. I didn’t get this way over night and I won’t heal overnight either. So the sabbatical is necessary. Necessary to rest, necessary to process, necessary to heal, necessary to become whole again, necessary to be able to give again.

Some days I’m disoriented and have a hard time concentrating. I pray and my thoughts drift off or circle around in my mind. It’s frustrating. Seems like we are in a holding pattern. Circling around and around waiting to land. I feel so strange. I’ve been so driven…Always pushing, accomplishing. But here, there is nothing that I can do to help this process move more quickly. I go through the daily motions, but they are the same: wake, eat devotional, exercise, cook, clean, wash clothes. I thought that I would write, but at times I can’t even collect my thoughts to do that. I know I’m glad to be here. I know I need this rest.

Pray for our family and our ministry. Change is not easy, and re-entering your passport country after years away is tough. For our girls the States is a foreign country. For the most part they have never lived here. So they too have a lot to process. Financial support for our family and the ministry is down. (People get antsy when they see change.) Instead of reaching out for clarification, some just withdraw financial support until they are satisfied that the ministry is going to continue normally. So pray for Hope House as the leadership there strives to meet the boys’ needs during this lean season. And If God brings our family to mind, please pray for us, that we will keep our eyes on the Lord and follow Him through this season and allow Him to lead us into the next.

The Lord’s Prayer- Amen

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For the last 7 weeks we have been looking at The Lord’s Prayer, the example He gave us on How to pray. Often we take this gem for granted, missing its depth.

Our Father- We have the wonderful privilege of calling Him father! No one in the Old Testament dared to refer to God as father. Christ bought us that glorious right.

Who art in Heaven- God is not of this world. He is all knowing, all powerful, almighty, eternal, everlasting, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is bigger, greater and more powerful than our enemies. Nothing stands a chance to thwart His plans. He is like nothing and no one that we know.

Hallowed Be Thy Name- His name is holy and He is worthy of all respect and honor. No one out ranks him!

Thy Kingdom Come- May His reign be established everywhere: in my life, in the world.

Thy Will Be Done- May everything happen according to His will.

On Earth As It Is In Heaven- May God reign and may His will prevail on Earth just like it does in Heaven.

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread- All that we need for life, we ask you to provide.

Forgive Us Our Sins As We Forgive Those Who Sin Against Us- Forgive us Lord and help us show the same grace to others.

Lead Us Not Into Temptation, But Deliver Us From Evil- Lead us far from evil and temptation. Rescue us from the Evil One.

For Thine Is The Kingdom, The Power And The Glory Forever- I proclaim that you are King of the Kingdom! You have all power! All Glory is due You, now and forever more!

Praying as Jesus taught is powerful and effective. His prayer encompasses all of our needs and He alone can meet those needs. Not only can He meet our needs but He desires to meet them according to His riches in glory. This model prayer is but a tool given us by Jesus and we should not forget to use it. In doing so we invite the God of the Universe to work on our behalf.

A Little Time Away

Home Assignment, it’s a term that is new to us. After 16 years living full time on the mission field, I need a little time away. I’ve had a difficult time putting into words what I’m thinking and feeling. As I researched I came across the term “home Assignment”. (A time when missionaries return to their home country to strengthen their relationship with family, friends, and supporters. A time to further education. A time to step outside of the culture they are working and serving in and refocus to gain perspective. ) Yes that is what I need!

We have been working so hard for so long that we never stopped to breath. We ran as if in a race against time, learning language & culture; living hand to mouth, watching God do amazing things, and living under constant spiritual attack. We have been betrayed, beguiled, and belittled. My resolve isn’t what it once was. I am tired. Tired of sprinting this marathon. It is time to catch my breath.

In speaking of mission work, Karl Dahlfred wrote”…there is a certain level of culture stress that never goes away. Living day in and day out in a culture with different values, beliefs, and language than your own can create … stress. You can never fully identify or understand the people around you, nor they you.” Wow, I can identify with his statement.

I’ve passed through many stages in the years we have lived in Mexico. First we had to learn the language. After we understood the words, we had to work on comprehension. We could know every word that a person was saying and still entirely miss the meaning. Then we began to understand the nuances of the language and culture and that was even worse than not knowing. In this stage we found ourselves asking questions like, “Did he really say what I think he said?” or “Certainly I didn’t understand her correctly!” This was a frustrating season. But after many years we felt right at home in Mexico. We could communicate with others and understood the basics of situations, but as we got older there was one profound notion that began to ring true with both of us. “We will always be the outsiders, the foreigners, the ones that don’t belong!” We will never fully understand all the idiosincrasias of living in a culture not our own and we will never truly be at home there. That is a heavy burden to bear.

So we’ve come to the fork in the road and after 16 years we decided to step away an take a little time. A break from 24/7 crisis management, a break from Mexico, a break from putting out fires and struggling to live in a foreign country.

It’s strange sitting in the crisp air of the Tennessee mountains. It’s so quiet here, I hear the crickets chirp and the fish splash in the pond and I’m reassured that this is exactly where I’m supposed to be.

Lead Us Not Into Temptation but Deliver Us from Evil

This is one of my favorite parts of The Lord’s Prayer. I think I like it because it is such a practical plea. Temptation is a part of life that everyone has experienced. In 1 Peter 5:8, we are warned, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (NLT) In teaching us to pray, Jesus knew that we needed a straightforward answer to temptation and to overcoming the Evil One. Because of our great need, He taught us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from Evil.”

While I find this verse comforting, some get bogged down in the wording, wondering why God would lead us into temptation. According to James 1:13 God can not be tempted nor does He tempt anyone, so clearly this verse is not intended to imply that God leads us into temptation. Proverbs 20:24 does say that our steps are ordered from the Lord. “So God does not do the tempting—he does not put evil desires in our hearts (for he can have no evil desires in his heart)—but he does bring us into the presence of many tests and temptations.” (John Piper)

The Lord’s Prayer teaches us to not be overtaken with temptation, and teaches us to ask for deliverance from the Evil one. “The inclusion of a request for God not to lead us into temptation teaches us that avoiding temptation should be one of the primary concerns of the Christian life.” (GotQuestions Ministries) Likewise, “The petition in the Lord’s Prayer not to be led into temptation reflects the believer’s desire to avoid the dangers of sin altogether.” Simply put, we are asking God to lead us away from temptation and to save us from the Devil’s schemes.

When Andrew Murray spoke of the Lord’s Prayer he said, “Our daily bread, the pardon of our sins, and then our being kept from all sin and the power of the evil one, in these three petitions all our personal need is comprehended.” In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus has given us the key which unlocks the secret to all life’s need, but it is up to us to use it.

Photo Credit: Pixaby

Resources:

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/does-god-lead-us-into-temptation

https://www.gotquestions.org/amp/lead-us-not-into-temptation.html

The Andrew Murray Collection: 21 Classic Works

Andrew Murray

https://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewBook?id=642937609

Forgive Us Our Sins as we Forgive Those Who Sin Against Us.

Forgive our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. “This is a hard teaching. The prayer for forgiveness is the only petition in the Lord’s Prayer that comes with a condition attached. If we do not forgive, we will not be forgiven.” Philip Ryken

It is difficult to swallow that my personal forgiveness is contingent upon my willingness to forgive others, yet several times throughout the New Testament there are scriptures which state the same. In both the book of Matthew and Mark we are encouraged to forgive. “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15 ESV) “…whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25 ESV)

When praying The Lord’s Prayer, I find myself wanting to adjust the words to my own liking. Something like, “Forgive my sins as I would like for them to be forgiven.” or “Forgive my sins in spite of my unwillingness to forgive others.” are more like what I want to plea. On a good day, I might even pray, “Forgive my sins and help me to forgive others the way you do.” But rarely do I rush past that contingency phrase without wondering if I really am in agreement.

Quite honestly forgiving is a difficult task. It requires self discipline and willpower, with a side helping of perspective. Although logically we can understand that we should forgive others because God forgave us, that is easier said than done. But the mere fact that Jesus taught us to pray in this manner encourages us that forgiveness is possible. Andrew Murray reminds us that forgiveness is a necessity. “As bread is the first need of the body, so forgiveness for the soul, And the provision for the one is as sure as for the other.” Forgiveness is a necessary decision, and is a muscle that must be exercised. Forgiveness is not contingent upon our feelings, nor if the person deserves forgiveness. Forgiveness hinges on the fact that “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, NIV) Forgiveness is a gratitude response for all that Christ has done for us.

I like what Philip Ryken has to say in a blog presented on Ligioner’s website, “There are still some things we owe to God, however — not out of debt, but out of gratitude — and one of those things is forgiveness.” He goes on to say, “From this petition we learn that we are not the only ones in debt. We have debtors of our own, people who owe us something for what they have done to us. And we are called to forgive them.”

It is important to note that Salvation is a gift of God through His grace alone. Salvation is not dependent on works. “But now, having been forgiven, by the grace of God we are also able to forgive. Indeed, our ability to forgive is one of the surest signs of our having been forgiven. Those who are truly forgiven, truly forgive.” (Philip Ryken)

Phillip Ryken goes on to point out that, “Giving such forgiveness can be very costly, and the more someone has hurt us, the harder it is to forgive. Yet forgiveness also brings great joy, not only to the forgiven, but especially to the forgiver.”

The bottom line is this, Forgiveness is not only a command, but also a great gift. We forgive, because He first forgave us, in doing so we don’t just bless others, but we too are blessed.

References:

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/forgive-us-our-debts-as-we-forgive-our-debtors

https://www.rca.org/resources/lords-prayer

The Andrew Murray Collection: 21 Classic Works

Andrew Murray

https://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewBook?id=642937609