"We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Thessalonians 1:3

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Monday, August 30, 2010

Why don’t we see people carrying bundles of broccoli down the aisle?

Yes, the “plant parables” have gotten me thinking…

According to these parables, God’s "seed" and "weeds" look the same. These represent people – those who know the Lord, and those who have not cultivated a relationship with Him. But, when we look at actual plants – are there some that are good or bad – can we tell? - do we treat “good” and “bad” plants equally?

Since we can only see the parts of a plant that are above the ground, we are easily misled to the plants’ true nature. Plants more commonly carried in a wedding than broccoli, like Calla lilies,or Hydrangeas, are actually poisonous! When you think about it, the flowering part of a plant is rarely indicative of what is the true purpose of the plant. Just looking at a plant, we can not know whether it’s good or bad to touch, smell or eat, until we dig a little deeper. Some plants, like Broccoli, kiwi, and avacado have rough outsides, but have the very best things on the inside. Just the same, we can only see each other skin and out.

Though out the Bible – God tells us to look past appearance.  When God was selecting David from his brothers to be king – even though he did not have the appearance of a king, the Lord said, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7

And God is looking for hearts that seek Him.  So, we won't know while we are on Earth who is a weed or one of God’s seeds.  We do have the Bible - which is living and actively discerning truth in our lives.  So, we should all be seraching God's truth each day - and praying for Him to reveal His truth and love and grace to us - which is often beyond what we alone are able to see in the World.

I just might make an arrangement of broccoli and spinach to remember to look past appearances today!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Themes in conversation make me look deeper into why I believe what I saying.  So far this week, it has been “why do bad things happen?”  And - my answer for this is constantly evolving.

I will never forget one time I was asked this question – it was one night in Israel this past Christmas.  I brought up God in a conversation with a Russian-Jew I had just met.  She said that she could never believe in a God that would let bad things happen.  While I was collecting my thoughts, she began to tell me that Haifa, in Northern Israel, where we were, was a military base, and therefore a target during the past decades’ fight over the Holy Land.  

She said that, one morning on her way to school, a school bus filled with her friends and classmates from grammar school was hit by a bomb.  I could feel her disappointment and see her heart hardened from this tragedy.  Such horrific death and destruction, especially over something the World deems “religious” and therefore characteristic of God himself has potential to harden many hearts. 

Does God allow “bad” things to happen despite the hearts that will become hardened?  Does God actually plan for hardened hearts?  In the Old Testament, we see God harden King Saul’s heart, and Pharoh’s heart – and both of these ultimately brought His will and showed His compassion and sovereignty.  And, remember all of Jesus’ “plant parables?” (I love these!  The visuals help me make sense of what He is saying.)  

Jesus talks about the seed that lands on hard soil, and is unable to grow roots, and the weeds that grow up right next to the good plants – and look just like them.  We will not know until heaven who is a weed, or a good seed, or a seed that just couldn’t grow a foundation.  But we do know it’s true that “ALL things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)  So, I don’t understand why there are “bad” seeds, and I don’t understand why God allows some seed to fall on hardened soil, and  I don’t plan on understanding it – God has given me respect for the fact that He alone is God, and I am not – and therefore, I am incapable of understanding His ways. 

Thinking about it this week - I have had a change of heart or perspective - I am realizing how overwhelmingly grateful I am for all the mistakes the Lord has allowed me to make, and that I am in debt to those who have wronged me.  Those challenging people and situations challenge me in my faith, and challenge me to learn to love them.

Seriously though, who would I be without the trials I have been through – without the fire that the Lord has graciously used to refine my soul?   I thank everyone who has been unkind to me – it is a challenge to love you – and my pursuit of LOVE for you – has led me into God’s Word and into conversation with my Savior.  I praise God for all the mistakes I have made, the forgiveness He has shown me enables and challenges me to show that forgiveness to myself, and others.

And, while being refined isn't “fun” -  I am learning to rejoice in suffering and trials because it does, just as the Bible says, “produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:2-5)

So, I won’t pretend to know why “bad” things happen – but I will tell you that it has been my personal experience that God does not let anything go to waste – that He uses EVERYthing the good, bad, and the ugly to bring me back to Him.  And I praise Him for that.  

Friday, August 20, 2010

The sin that creeps in.

Have you noticed it creeping in?  You don’t feel it coming, and then all of a sudden, it shows its ugly face, and you realize that you have been deceived; that something you thought was ok, or maybe even thought was actually “good” – ended up in sin.

Really, I should already know this!  We’ve all heard the story of the frog in the pot; where the frog will jump right out of a pot of boiling water (known sin), but will settle in lukewarm water, and even when the water begins to boil and the frog gets cooked, he doesn’t notice because the heat rose so gradually -- just like we don’t see the sin that is slowly creeping into our lives. The point being, if it creeps in slow enough – there is potential for any of us being deceived.

So, can we protect ourselves from deception?  And what exactly is it that is deceiving us?  The Bible warns us of several things that can deceive us.  Satan is one, but that’s not all we are up against!  Our own hearts are deceitful: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” - Jeremiah 17:9

This world and wealth is deceitful: “The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.” - Matthew 13:22  And our own human nature is deceitful: You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” – Ephesians 4:22

So, how can we allow truth to be victorious over the deception in our lives?  Pray for help and trust that we can do all things, but only through Christ.  “Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me through your law.” - Psalm 119:29

And, we can help each other: “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.” - Hebrews 3:13

So, help a sister or brother out today, you know what they are up against - we are all fighting the same battle!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Recycled Glass Beads from Africa!

Inspired by the Creator recycled glass bead jewelry is now for sell in Moxii, downtown Auburn!  Please support ministry and families in Ghana by purchasing these beautiful accessories!  Each one comes with the story of the family that you are helping.

1.888.mymoxii or 1.888.696.6944

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Do you believe that God intervenes in your daily life?

For me, this is a no-brainer, but I went on a search to see what the World says about it.  I found several articles, surprisingly about Americans that do believe that God does intervene in their lives.  From USA Today:

Many think God's intervention can revive the dying”More than half of randomly surveyed adults — 57% — said God's intervention could save a family member even if physicians declared treatment would be futile. And nearly three-quarters said patients have a right to demand such treatment.

An interesting article from a science magazine I found stated, “Overall, people who have more education and higher income are less likely to report beliefs in divine intervention.”  To me, this has so much to do with our American way of life - so much more emphasis on science and logic than spirit and faith.  This very American outlook, whether conscience or sub-conscience, leads us to believe that we do not need God.  In Africa, most people’s lives are so out of “control," and they see their need for God in every step of their day.  Here in America, however, it is much harder for us to see our deep need for salvation.

I also found in my search today that if you don’t believe in an intervening God, you are a Deist.  Deism is a religious belief that a supreme being created the universe, and that this can be determined using reason and observation alone, without the need for either faith or organized religion.   They believe that God is the "great clockmaker" that designed everything, set it into motion, and let it do its business without interventionDeists reject that God intervenes in human life.

Just to be blunt here, I believe that it is terribly arrogant for a human to believe that they can fully understand God.  Deists religion is totally void of faith and intrapersonal experience.  I don't have time, and probably don't even realize all the times that God has intervened in my life.  And, if you accept the Bible as truth, God intervenes countless times, for His beloved Israel.  We see God intervene in people's lives in the Bible more times than I have the space to write about here.  So, yes, I believe that God intervenes in our lives.

That being said, I face another tough question: if God intervenes in my life and for the sake of Israel, why don't I have a perfect life, and why did Israel have to face trial and persecution?  God only intervenes sometimes?  I think the only truth here, is that God is a good God, but also a sovereign God.  He has a master plan for all our lives, and He does intervene for us, but only as is according to His plan.
 O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thought from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Psalm 139:1-5

Yes, God knows each one of us intimately, Yes, God intervenes - because His word says so. Since the fall of man, via Adam and Eve, we have lived in a fallen World, and only God's holy spirit can give us peace here.  Israel, all of us were allowed to live fully human lives, and therefore experience things on Earth, that weren't in God's will.

I am reminded of the back of a quilt, where all the thread seems random. Or the seemingly wild garden the Holy Spirit plants in “The Shack.” The point of both being, that God is creating something wonderful, but something that we can’t understand "on this side" - in our finite human minds.   And, to us it looks chaotic, unfair, and often wrong.  The next verse of Psalm 139 sums this all up for me, He loves us, but we can not even fathom what He is working on right now!
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high; I cannot attain it.
Psalm 139:6

Friday, August 13, 2010

Am I "pessimistic" for hoping for heaven?  Is it sad that I try to live my life for eternal good, above what would improve my immediate circumstances? 

I will prequel this post by saying that I believe the Bible.  I believe that every word of it is truth and God inspired. If you don't believe the Bible, this post probably won't mean much to you.

The Bible makes us fully aware that our life on Earth is just a piece of the big picture: "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit"— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." (James 4:13-15)

When Jesus was sought after to perform miracles, He said, "Truly truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.  Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you." (John 6:26-27)    

Paul writes, "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:18), and to the Philippians (1:21) - "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." 

So, now I ask: is Paul "pessimistic" because he knows that Heaven is good?  I don't believe so.  I think that Paul knew that he was living in a fallen and temporary world, and longed to be with his maker.  

Even with an eternal perspective, I forget and sin all the time.  I praise God for His mercy and grace, which are the only reason I will ever be able to enter into His kingdom.   

And, no, I don't think I am pessimistic.  I don't want to die, I just believe the Bible.  I actually consider myself a fairly joyful person, which is the outcome of Christ living in me.  

"do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." Luke 10:20

On a different subject, here are some pictures from the first week of school!

(My introduction presentation - I wrote all over the map, letting the kids guess where africa, and then Ghana are, and then telling them about places we will study this year - the smart board is awesome!)

(Today we had a "fun friday" where the kids rotated "Excavation Stations" to "dig" into reading...so in the art room, we made dinosaurs.  They were all very cute - this was really funny, if you can't read it, it says "red-neck-asaurus!)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The one (or two) things I can count on.

In the middle of all the transitions in life right now, from Africa to America.  From "the room's too hot, Miss LJ, Can we turn the generator on!!!!" to "I'm freezing in here!" which I was shocked to heard from my students today on their first day of school.   I am transitioning from thinking "What's the point in showering, it's so hot?" or "I sure wish I could shower today, I wonder when the water is coming back on?" to "How should I fix my hair this morning?"

But I have found one thing that is the same....


Yes, I was comforted by the same cardio-weight routine I had done 12 months ago.  Glorious!

This, of course, reminded me of the real constant in my life, my Savior, Jesus Christ.  He is always with me His word is written on my heart - and comes with me wherever I go.  He traveled with me all the way to Africa, and here He is again, sitting with me on my couch, speaking to me...

"I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart."  Psalm 40:8

Sunday, August 8, 2010


"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven."  Ecclesiastes 3:1

The sermon at church today was about guilt.  About giving up our "baggage" of guilt.  The Bible is clear that guilt is not from God - the 130th Psalm says, "If you,  O Lord kept a record of sins, who could stand?" Such a sobering, humbling reality.  Yes, we are all human and yes, we all sin.  Even the heroes of the Bible do - and the Bible, filled with truth - clearly discusses all sides of these heroes.  The preacher mentioned the seasons of life in which each of these heroes, and ourselves are led, tempted, or run full speed ahead into - detouring from the "straight and narrow."  

This got me thinking about all the "seasons" of life that have brought me to where I am.  I have shameful seasons, of which I am fully able to accept God's forgiveness, but less willing to accept my own.  Today, the preacher said, "Jesus is very good at forgiving." So simple, but wow.  I am forgiven, and If I want to be like Jesus - I need to "get good" at forgiving.

I have seasons of life that were great for a time, but I have no desire to return or repeat. There are however; some seasons of life that I still miss, that I wasn't ready to move on, and would gladly go back any day, like my Senior year of college.

Right now I am transitioning away from a season of adventure, intense mental and spiritual stretching, and total dependence on God for basic needs.  I feel God calling me now, maybe for a season, or maybe for a lifetime, to live everyday with intentional quietness.  "Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife." - Proverbs 17:1 Maybe this season of my life will be to recoup for another adventure, or maybe I will stay in America and be content with listening and reading and praying.  Only God knows, until it is time for Him to tell me, I am waiting quietly.

It's cool to think that God wants us to be "seasoned" - He wants us to experience different things - each to refine us in a unique way.  God created seasons for our physical World, and so it makes sense that He is also orchestrating seasons in our spiritual lives.  He allows us, broken and weary from one season, to be fruitful, in another.  God is in control of all the seasons, weaving them in and out of our lives, all according to His plan.  I love how Daniel praises God, right after God has blessed him in prison, with the interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzar's dream.  

"Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might.  He changes times and seasons..." - Daniel 2:20

God put Daniel in prison for a reason, but only for a season.  What season of life is God leading you out of, or into now?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

I am the vine; you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 

If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers;and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.  As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

John 15:5-9

Friday, August 6, 2010

In Matthew chapter 8, Jesus has been traveling around the Sea of Galilee scattering miracles, healings, and teaching communities about His father.  News of Christ's miracles spreads.

(Art from Art Bible)

A Roman official, a centurion’s messenger appeals to Jesus, asking for Him to heal his servant at home.  Jesus says, “I will come and heal him.” – but the messenger replies, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word and my servant will be healed.”  I can just feel Jesus’ excitement, and awe of His Father’s work – as He hears of a Roman official’s unexpected faith.  I can hear Him pause, to praise His Father, and then say:

“Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.  I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. “ (Matthew 8:10-12)

Yes, God can work in the heart of a Roman official, yes God can move mountains, yes God can do all things.  Are we asking Him, thanking Him and Praising Him for ALL His work? 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Oh, what just a little bit of time has changed...

From this school room window in Ghana,

to this one in America.

From a few wooden bulletin boards,

To tons of cork boards, laminators, walls that will keep things on it, and

technology and electricity!!!!

Oh, the things technology and electricity can do...elmos, smart boards, projectors, computers, scanners, printers in my classroom, cameras.  Oh, the things I will be able to do this year!

All of these great things...all good things...and lots of great people that I have met this week -- but I am still walking around with my Africa shaped hole in my heart.  I love you America, but I really miss you, Africa.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


"God bless you, for what you do!"

my precious Deedee said to the volunteer who led her away from me this morning, to take her to get her ready for surgery.  My Deedee speaks love to everyone - as if she knows exactly who they are and what they need to hear.  My deedee shines light and pours out love enough to make any hospital room feel like a party.  It was a joy and a privilege to pray with her and sit with her, and hopefully have a just little bit of her energy rub off on me today.  I praise God for this precious time with her.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of god." Matthew 5:9