"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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Thursday, September 30, 2010

This is the first grade self-portrait by the cutest, tiniest little first grader here. In class this week, I had to walk him back to his classroom after class, because someone had pushed him down. After we had all discussed what happened and the pusher had to write a note home, this little guy looked up at me, and said, "I would be lucky to have a wife like you."

Oh, the little things that make us smile and keep us going! Hope this makes you smile today:)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Just a God thing.

So, my Ghanaian family has continued to be a huge blessing!  They are from the Volta region, which is one of the most beautiful parts of Ghana that I was able to visit!  We have been getting together once a week for a cultural dinner!  They are cooking delicious African food for me, and I am TRYING to help them experience some real American food!

They said that they had never tried a cheese burger -- so I took them to Five Guys last week.  The kids loved the fries, but had to be bribed to even try the burger!!! So funny - something that is so ordinary to us - seemed so foreign and scary to them!  And, even while I was demonstrating proper burger-eating technique, they couldn't quite get it! One was eating the burger from the top (without the bun - because the sesame seeds looked scary), and the other only tried one bite with a fork, and only after the cheese was scraped off. Burgers were fun - but I think next week we will eat Alabama-style fried chicken and rice -- I think they will actually eat that!

Of course, the baby would eat anything! Isn't he precious!

And this week, they prepared one of my favorites - Red Red and plantian!!!! MMMmmm.

Thank you Jesus, for this little piece of Africa, right here in Auburn:)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Trying again!

"The saints are the sinners who keep on trying." Was part of a comment yesterday - LOVED it - so relevant.  It is a quote by  the author of Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson.  But I found some other interesting and similar quotes:

"The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future."  --  Oscar Wilde

“I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.” – Nelson Mandela

"God creates out of nothing.  Wonderful you say. Yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful: he makes saints out of sinners." - Soren Keirkegaard
"Many of the insights of the saints stem from their experience as sinners."– Eric Hoffer

I loved all these - GOOD reasons to keep trying.  We get knocked down (or we knock ourselves down!) And God's grace covers it all.  We are forgiven and given another chance - praise the Lord!

Thanks for commenting :) 

Monday, September 27, 2010

They will know that we are Christians by our love, by our love.

I want to love. I want to be selfless and I want to be “good,” and I want to do what is “right” – but I just keep messing up. I keep trying to do “good,” but sin just keeps “oozing” right out of me. Paul writes: “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.” (Romans 7:21) What is the point of doing “good” when it brings evil closer to you?

In Romans 7, Paul continues this thought and basically says that if he does any “good,” – it is not him doing the “good” thing, but Christ in him. And if he does a “bad” thing – it is not him doing the “bad” – but the sin in him. “For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep doing.” Romans 7:19

So, who are we, and what are we doing? Why do we even still try to do good?! CAN we get away from evil, from sin?

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” – James 4:7-8

It is hard for me to find the balance, between the fact that I am fully human – a fully sinful human – or as Paul expresses this, “Wretched man that I am!”- with the fact that God has created me perfectly according to His good purpose. Somehow in all this madness on Earth – God is glorified by the “good” and the “bad” in my life. He is glorified by the “good” that we do because it shows that He is living in us – because apart from Him we are incapable of “good.” And He is glorified in the “bad” that we do – because our God is a redeemer. All the sin in our lives shows His perfect love in how He redeems our lives and choices all for His good and perfect purposes.

So, even though our lives seem to “ooze” with sin, it is part of God’s plan for balance on Earth – which is literally “oozing” with His glory. We just can’t help ourselves. God has allowed all of the good and bad to be balanced in a way that constantly glorifies Him. “But truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD” – Numbers 14:21

God is good, all the time. We are truly “wretched” – and I praise God for redeeming my life today, and tomorrow…

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Happy Peace Day!

This is what the kids at school did to celebrate:
Pinwheels for Peace!

We had one student from South America who was not allowed, for religious reasons to wear any peace signs today.  So, I did a little research to figure out why!

Some people believe that the peace sign is an upside down cross - and it was designed by the Roman Emperor Nero after he crucified Peter upside down.  This is most likely why our student wasn't allowed to participate.  Some believe it originated as a Nazi symbol, and others that it was part of various ancient languages.  It seems more reliable - according to my brief research that the peace sign was designed in the 1950's by a British man for the logo of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).  This was then used in the 60's protests, and later make its way into mainstream American culture.

Some other interesting symbols for peace:

Picasso's Dove

The Italian "Pace" flag

And what all does the Bible say about peace?  "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Matthew 5:9)  But Jesus also says, "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword." (Matthew 10:34)  So, we are to live in peace - but only as God's truth allows:  "Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love." (2 John 1:3)

And - I love this reminder to pray for peace: "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! May they be secure who love you!" (Psalm 122:6)

I hope this is a good reminder to pray for some PEACE today!


Monday, September 20, 2010


“For there is no distinction: for ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:32)
Yes, the Bible says we are all in this together. It has been easy for me to slip away from this sense of community – looking back now, probably because my experiences this past year of my life have been so different from the people I encounter now. I am realizing the length and depth of the process of readjusting to life in America. I can hear one of my friends saying, “everything’s a marathon, Lauren.” And he’s right - it’s going to take a while and everyday it’s going to look a little different – I am a work in progress.

Last week, I compulsively bought a package of double-stuffed Oreo’s – and began to devour them as soon as I arrived home. I still can’t leave food on my plate – simply not wanting to be wasteful. I forget to recycle ALL the time (so embarrassing) since there has been absolutely no way to do this for the past year – I just forget now.

And maybe I learned this from the missionaries, or maybe it’s my personality, probably a little bit of both – but in Ghana, there are literally people on every street corner in need – there is so much “work” to do there. There are also a lot of people in this World (US included) that just need a hug – they don’t know Jesus, and they just need some love in their life. With so much to do – I can’t help but ask: how can I help, what can I do?

Even with so much to do, God says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28) And in Ecclesiastes, King Solomon writes, “Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart... (ch. 9 v.7) I am learning to accept the truth that, “it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” (Romans 9:16) Yes, God has this whole thing under control, He always has and He always will, I just need to allow Him to be Lord.

Right now, my balance is off! How did Oreo’s get to the very top of my priority pyramid? And why are cute shoes and football games on the bottom? God has blessed us with this World – and it is ok to be “in” it – just not “of” it: BALANCED.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My new theme:

Life is all about learning to be in relationship.

My new theme seems to relate to almost anything! I really do believe the point of this life is to learn to be in a personal relationship with God. Because our relationships on Earth are imperfect, they teach us a tremendous amount about being in relationship with God.

“…for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” – 1 John 4:20

Every difficult relationship reveals to me something else I need to change in my heart, something about the way that I view God, and typically brings me to my knees in prayer and into God’s word to search for the Truth.

Truths: God is LOVE. (1 John 4:8) God loves the unlovable. (Romans 5:8) God forgives. (Ephesians 4:32) God’s love is: “patient and kind; does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. (Gods’) love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7)

Because God loves me through all my mistakes, I am learning to accept God’s forgiveness, to forgive myself, and to whole-heartily forgive others.

All relationships in life are blessings because they teach us how to better be in relationship with God – whether it’s through us learning to show forgiveness and love, or us learning to receive forgiveness and love from others. And, I am learning a little bit more every day.

“All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins.” – 2 Corinthians 5:16- (The Message)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Back in Ghana...

...I wish!

So the Lord has blessed me. He has blessed me with a Ghanaian family right here in Auburn, AL.  I was so excited to meet my Ghanaian student - and was even more excited to learn their family made groundnut soup!!!!

There are some things that I really miss about Ghana - mostly people, parts of the culture - and also SOME of the food:)  I do not miss fufu (pounded yam) but I do miss groundnut soup and rice balls! 

So, tonight I met them for dinner - and it was glorious!  I felt like I was back in Ghana for a little while!   We shared dinner, using our hands, while discussing travels in Ghana - with our Ghanaian accents!  God is so good to give me a little piece of my African home right here in my Auburn home!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Where does all my time go?

Now that I have caught my breathe, things seem to be speeding back up this week!  Now, I need to decide how to spend my time - and not just try to “fill” my schedule.  In Africa I had TIME, time to think, time to just be, time to spend in prayer, time to spend with people, time to travel, lots of TIME. Now that I am back in the US – I am running from this to that, and when I do take a moment to sit and think,  I feel guilty. I am plagued with thoughts like, “I SHOULD be making more of my time,” and “I SHOULD be a better steward with the time and resources I have been blessed with.”

These Kandinsky stye drawings by my third graders remind me of the busy American life!

In an article written to prepare foreign exchange students entering American universities, I found these listed as “Some Major US American Values:”

Time: U.S. Americans take pride in making the best use of their time. In the business world, "time is money". Being "on time" for class, an appointment, or for dinner with your host family is important. U.S. Americans apologize if they are late. Some instructors give demerits to students who are late to class, and students at most universities have institutional permission to leave the classroom if their instructor is 10 or 15 minutes late.

Achievement & Hard Work/Play: The foreign visitor is often impressed at how achievement oriented Americans are and how hard they both work and play. A competitive spirit is often the motivating factor to work harder. Americans often compete with themselves as well as others. They feel good when they "beat their own record" in an athletic event or other types of competition. Americans seem to always be "on the go", because sitting quietly doing nothing seems like a waste of time.

Looking to the Future and to Change: Change is equated with progress and holding on to traditions seems to imply old and outdated ways.
For the whole article visit - http://www.internationalstudentguidetotheusa.com/articles/culture.php

This article puts so much emphasis on progress and achievement. It is so interesting to realize that all of this is cultural – and not the norm for most of the World. The African culture values relationships more than achievement. Therefore, it is ok to be late to an appointment, because it is respected that you took the time needed to meet with the person before – or perhaps you ran into another friend along the way. In America – it is rude and disrespectful to come to a meeting late. That is simply NOT ok – isn’t that what we have the calendars in our bags and on our computers and smart phones for? If we are late for an appointment, we are wasting other people’s TIME.

So, what does the Bible say about time?

God says to wait on Him, that all of our running around can not earn His grace – because He gives it freely to all who ask: "Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!" – Isaiah 30:18 and "Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him." – Isaiah 64:4

Solomon writes about taking pleasure in your work, which is actually opposite of most American’s view of working hard so that you can play hard: "So I saw that there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work, because that is his lot. For who can bring him to see what will happen after him? – Ecclesiastes 3:22

And what is TIME? Time is something we made up – and God is in ALL things at ALL times (Romans 8:28), and that “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven." (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Maybe I am just asking for your prayers today, for me to be able to make time to spend with God. It is our choice, regardless of what culture we are in, to choose to spend time with Him. But, it is so much harder here.  I am constantly distracted by people and stuff, which has always been a part of my American life – I just have a new perspective now. I will pray for you today too – let’s all give some TIME to our heavenly Father today, He is waiting to hear from us.

This sunset yesterday reminded me to take a minute to thank God for the little things in life - Isn't He amazing?!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The good soil.

This week, I have "woken up" - after the craziness of moving,  adjusting and learning a new job.  I finally had time to sit and think - too much time for my liking:)  And, I realized that I am starting all over again - and I don't know exactly where I am going from here - but I am going and I am growing.  I thought about the "good soil" in the parables, and how my experience in Africa had changed my "soil" so much. These experiences have shifted my view of events, things, people and places in America.  Everything looks a little different now, the "plant" I was before Africa is far different from the plant I am becoming now.  This feeling reminded me of a part of Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis:

"Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself."

I want to encourage you, and myself - to continue allowing God to dig up our "soil" or to renovate our "house," to continue to make it into better and better.  My soil didn't look like this a year ago - and I hope it will look totally different from this in a year from now - and that is good - because God is good.  Allow Him to change you today.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Something I had forgotten:

The culture of Auburn Football.

85,000 Auburn fans piled in Jordan Hare Stadium, watching the eagle fly before the game (gave me chills!) 

Everyone all dressed up in orange and blue:

Grabbing shakers and heading out to tailgate from our favorite Auburn store - J&M!

And seeing friends and family at the game!

War Eagle.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Have patience, have patience, don't be in such a hurry...

Yes, I am singing and praying for some patience in my heart today.  

The dictionary says that patience is “an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay.”  And, Beth Moore says that patience is directly related to how we judge others.  I truly believe that if I understood better why another person is acting the way they are – instead of judging them because of their behavior – I would be less annoyed, or impatient, with them.  Especially at school, I never know what kind of home a child has woken up in this morning.  I have no idea about the struggles they have already faced by the time I see them.  But today, instead of being quick to judge, I am praying for patience.

Back to the plant parables – Christ says, “As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15) Think about how much patience it takes for a seed to bear fruit!  First, it has to be good seed that lands on good soil, and then the sun has to shine down on it:

Then, it has to be rained on...

Then, dried up by the wind...

Then, cooled in the night...

Then, one day - the sun finally comes out - and the seed is ready to grow some roots...

Then it rains again and the seed rests again, and when the sun comes back out - the seed starts to sprout...

Then it rains again and the seed rests again, and when the sun comes back out - the sprout grows some pedals...

Then it rains again and the seed rests again, and when the sun comes out - the good seed is finally a fully grown flower.

And then the flower "bears fruit" or makes seeds, and the process starts all over again!

So, it's going to take us a while, and a lot of rain and sunshine to get where God wants us.  When you get impatient with someone - remember that you don't know if they are on a sunny day or a rainy day, and we know it takes both for us to be fruitful.  But let's persevere through those rainy days, and have compassion on others who might be having a rainy day - so that when the sun does come out again - we can become fruitful plants producing and growing more good seed!

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. – James 5:7

Thursday, September 2, 2010

“How are you not perfect?!”

…someone asked me this week. Wow!  I think it’s confession time:

I am not perfect. 

I can’t imagine this coming as a surprise to anyone - it certainly was not a surprise to me!  “I make mistakes all the time – I’m not even close to perfect!” I said.  I just don’t know where in the World she got this crazy idea – but, of course – it got me thinking…

Wow, have we missed the point, if we believe that human beings are even capable of perfection.  I am not talking about believing that I am perfect – but believing that anyone besides Christ Jesus could be considered perfect!  It has been my personal experience – that when Christians, including myself, are not able to be honest about their struggles, or are unable to humble themselves – the minute we start to believe the lie that we can do it on our own – we fall.  The truth says, “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus..." – Romans 3:23-25

The truth is – none of us are capable of saving ourselves – God’s grace is a gift.  It is unearned. “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8

I think it’s important to remind ourselves that we are unworthy of salvation – that God is merciful, and only through His great love and mercy – through the gift of His son’s life – He has given us the gift of salvation.  The Bible tells us to “humble ourselves.”  I used to think that humility was something that God gave us – you know – only when we were out of line.  Like, He was pulling me back in from my prideful thoughts.  But, nope – the Bible charges us with humbling ourselves: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God...” 1 Peter 5:9

hum·ble / [huhm-buhl, uhm-]

–verb (used with object)
to make meek: to humble one's heart.

So, you are not perfect, I am not perfect, none of us are perfect – but we serve a perfectly loving God – who gives grace to all who ask.  So, “make meek” your own heart and ask God for some grace today.

“And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” – Luke 11:9