Saturday, July 31, 2010


W proposed to me over 33 years ago with this romantic line, "Would you go to Red China with me?" I was a bit startled, but with the deadpan that has gotten me through many surprising situations, said, "Sure" and I slipped on his engagement ring.

This week, W reflected that he's right where he wants to be. We watched 113 Chinese being baptized at their local church: "This trip has confirmed that I am most effective teaching, and that ministry should be done by local people. The day for "Bwana Missionary" (top-down missions) may be mostly over."

I'm not so sure. Who would tell those who have never heard, in places where the gospel has never been preached, if a stranger did not enter a new community? In contrast to his feelings, this trip to China brought a sharp pang to my heart. When I said "yes" to marriage, I agreed to go into full-time missions. I was committing to partner with a man with the same call to evangelism, learning, and teaching overseas.

Instead, we ended up just across the border in the USA. While my husband developed his call and gifting as a professor, I cooked, cleaned, raised our family (homeschooled, even), taught music, and waited for him to finish his education so I could carry on with mine. (I finally gave up waiting and went back to school for my Masters degree, which seemed to spur him on to finish his doctorate as well.)

Regrets? Probably not. Life is uncertain and never what we plan or imagine. We have a good life together, wonderful children, family, and friends. Who knows if I would have seen these parts of the world alone? My husband's ministry has opened doors for both of us.

"Do you remember this restaurant? This bridge? We took this bus, remember?" W asks me as we walk through Singapore.

Nope. I live moment by moment, tagging along on travels. I forget much of where we've gone almost as soon as we leave. I'm most likely to remember the people who interact with me or are in my classes... and blogging helps. (Though I remember many more details from trips I've planned.)

On this journey of faith, we grasp hold of God's kindness in letting us make decisions. Based on choices we and others make, life unfolds. A believer submits with joy because God is building his church, regardless of where the road of life takes her or him.

Still, I was a little envious last week as I watched my Chinese Christian family in Beijing celebrate baptism, thinking of what might have been.

Read more:
*The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. Psalm 19:1-4 NIV

*May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you. Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us. God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear him. Psalm 67:5-7 NIV

*Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:9-13 NIV

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The fabric of the Church

The tapestry gleams, lights and darks, wide and narrow bands woven together. It is the Church of Christ in all its glory and despair, its shining beauty and deep wounds. Unlike anything else in the universe, the time is coming when it is cleansed and robes the Bridegroom.

This morning I was asking God to make me a strong thread in the fabric of the Church. We may think the wide and magnificent crimsons and purples running through the tapestry are the famous speakers and teachers of Christianity. But I wonder...

Does God stand back to admire:
  • the great honor and stability of the unnamed prayer warriors who hold true to scripture?
  • the great strength in the unrecognized youths who are passionate about changing the world for Christ?
  • the great potential in the students who study hard to show themselves approved in word and deed?
  • the great beauty of my African and Asian brothers and sisters, keeping the faith by offering their lives as militant Islamists, Hindus, and other world religions advance?
  • the balance between the flash and bedazzlement of the Christian media darlings and the trust and obedience of his faithful, unnoticed servants? 
How our Lord must value those who faithfully serve the Church without struggling or fighting his plans. It pleases him when we remain quiet and pliable under his hand as it moves the shuttle of his will.

How privileged we are to be the weft and warp of the world-wide cloth of the Faith, emerging under the Weaver's hand. There is no need for us who trust Christ to try to stick up above the fabric he is designing as "important" or "deserving." Each one in our place - ah, what a Church of radiant glory and wonder to the world and the watching heavens!

A lovely woman of God, staying in our same flat, looked out the LR window with me, across the mile of apartments and out to the ocean. As ships bob in the Singapore harbor on one side, a tropical forest borders the others side of our flat. The view is spectacular. We've had wonderful times of ministry and blessings (not to mention excellent food and hospitality) these past three weeks in SE Asia.

"We are unworthy of these blessings," we sisters-in-faith agreed. "Who are we to enjoy such abundance when so many have so little (food, shelter, opportunity, gospel...)?" Yet we are grateful for these privileges and our place in the creation of God.

Read more:
*I will sing of the LORD's great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you established your faithfulness in heaven itself. Psalm 89:1-2 NIV

*Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you. Hosea 10:12 NIV

*Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world- -the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions--is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:15-17 NEV 

Monday, July 5, 2010

Don't move!

The hardest part of progress in work or life is staying in place. When we’ve agreed to move forward, it is most difficult to wait for the next step. Sometimes we are part of a group that has been called to move, but here we have been parked. Sometimes we sense an open door ahead, but it is not yet in view. There seems nothing we can do to hasten an advance.

So we sit.

We fidget.

We wait.

We pray.

Eventually we stop contending and become resigned.

We rest.

And then it seems that the suffering of waiting is over. The project finds a catalyst that propels it forward. The group takes a direction that we did not anticipate. Maybe the door of opportunity creaks open, or a companion flings it wide for our entry. 

But the new vista may look nothing like what we had expected. It is more, or less than hoped for.

Seeing the road ahead, the preparation of waiting and suffering makes sense. We have been prepared for a new assignment or character quality by abandoning our own ideas and plans. Like Moses after 40 years of herding sheep in the desert, we are willing to go where previously we would have refused.

What are we suffering to prepare us for a wonderful future of unexpected opportunity?

Read more:
*May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God. Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen. Galatians 6:14-18 NIV