Could you be a missionary?

Beginning in the 1800’s and continuing through the early Twentieth Century, the Christian churches of the United States sent many missionaries around the world to serve and witness to pagan peoples.  While the US still sends more missionaries abroad than any other country, surprising numbers of missionaries are now being sent TO the US from former mission fields. One only needs to scan the media to know the America we live in is growing increasingly pagan with each passing year.

As a child in a small Methodist church, I was impressed with the visiting missionaries and their reports from Africa, Asia, and South America. These people of faith left family and comforts behind and stepped into pagan cultures to serve in answer to the Great Commission. I longed to share the adventure.  As I grew, I became aware of the obstacles of raising financing and learning new languages and customs that face hopeful missionaries.

I resigned myself to supporting missionaries with prayers, donations, and occasional notes of encouragement, because I didn’t have the money or education to go to the mission field.

Maybe you have had a similar experience. If so, I’ve got good news! The mission field has come to us. No need for expensive travel and you are already familiar with the language and customs. How cool is that? 

… behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white already unto harvest. – John 4:35 (ASV)

If you don’t feel qualified, this would be a good time to read some biographies of

missionarymissionaries from the Nineteenth Century, such as Adoniram Judson, to see how they approached their pagan cultures.

Bless God and Take Courage, there isn’t a moment to lose.
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The Seductive Side of Depression

People with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, are highly susceptible to bouts of depression. Researchers aren’t certain if this results from the emotional aspects of living with the limits and requirements of these conditions, or if a predisposition to depression is a function of the various diseases themselves. Although, for diabetics, there appears to be a clear relationship between episodes of high blood glucose and depression.

Whatever the reason, since becoming diabetic, I occasionally find myself sinking into the Slough of Despond. Fortunately, I do not suffer from the sort of clinical depression which requires treatment and medication, so I usually fight my way out with a combination of prayer, nutrition, and exercise. However, a few weeks ago, after months of slowly sinking deeper and deeper into the darkness, the tragedy-comedygloom lifted almost overnight giving me a new insight into the psychology at play in my life.

My miraculous cure was the result of a 20-hour fast undertaken as part of an attempt to get my diet back on track.  I was amazed by the return of energy and enthusiasm practically overnight.  I don’t know if this would ever work again, and I’m not advocating it for people with diabetes or anyone else. I only mention it as background to my rapid reversal of spirits.

When one emerges gradually from a period of depression, there is no line of demarcation between being depressed and slowly becoming well, but after fasting, there was a striking contrast and it lingered in my mind.

Depression feeds on itself. Even without an underlying medical cause or chemical imbalance, a case of the gloomy blues can turn insidiously into a lifestyle. Suddenly, I was able to see that this wasn’t simply the law of inertia at work.

I’ve long maintained that people who repeatedly try and fail to overcome addictions, bad life-style choices, or even bad habits, fail because on some level the bad pattern is working for them and keeping them from letting go.

Depression also has a subtle payoff; while life is certainly less happy, less enjoyable, and less productive when one is depressed, it is also less complicated and less challenging.  Opportunities for success are avoided, but so are possibilities of failure.

I once heard depression described as anger turned inward and I believe that can be true,  but it may be equally true that some depression is the result of fear held close.

The antidote to fear is trust. If we can trust God to be our safety net if we fall, we may have enough courage to step out and seize the joy.

 

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Seeing beyond the obvious

bibleI love the Bible. I love it for all the usual reasons Christians love the word of God, but I also love it because it always shows me something new. In the Harry Potter books and movies, the people in the paintings hanging on the walls move about, so the pictures are constantly changing.  The Bible never changes, and yet it always offers me something I never saw before.

The last time I read John 13:12-15, the foot washing passage, I paused over the words saying Jesus, “put his outer garment back on,” after washing His disciples’ feet. It was as if that phrase was highlighted, for the first time.

Jesus put His outer garment back on, because He took it off to do the foot washing, of course. Whenever I read this before, I’d assumed He took it off as a practical matter so He wouldn’t get it wet.

Reading this time, I saw something new. I saw a previously overlooked part of Christ’s lesson –  for His disciples and for me.

In order to serve, to really serve, we must remove our protective layer, our outer garment, and become vulnerable and genuine. (We’ve seen this kind of vulnerable service from those risking their lives to rescue strangers in the recent floods.)

This truth had been in the Gospel text all the time.

I once was blind, but now I see. Amazing, just amazing.

That’s why I love the Bible.

[Original version posted on ]

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The stones (even moon rocks) cry out

This week many in the U.S. observed a once-in-a-lifetime total solar eclipse, when the moon came between the Earth and the sun, plunging a wide swath of the county briefly into the darkness of the moon’s shadow.  This happens because the moon has no light of  its own, but only reflects the light of the sun. Therefore, when the moon gets between the Earth and the sun it eclipses the sun’s light.

eclipse def

Just as the moon is meant to reflect the sun, Christians are meant to reflect Christ, spreading the Good News of His life and love on everyone in our path.

Does your life reflect Jesus, or do you sometimes get between Him and others, blocking the light of salvation? Do your actions blot out His glory? Do you try to hide your faith, concealing it for fear of ridicule or offense? Do you try to upstage the Savior with your own self-righteousness?

All of creation speaks of God’s glory and reminds us of our responsibility to Our Lord, if we will listen.

“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” – Luke 19:40

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Be of good cheer

33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NKJV)

33 I have told you this, so that you might have peace in your hearts because of me. While you are in the world, you will have to suffer. But cheer up! I have defeated the world.  John 16:33 (CEV)

What the heck is going on? Our country seems determined to destroy itself from the inside, terrorists are attacking police and running down innocent by-standers world-wide, while nations threaten each other with nuclear attack.

How is it possible to be of good cheer or have peace in our hearts?

No matter which Bible version you prefer, those words from the Gospel of John (above) seem much easier said than done. In the midst of such suffering and evil as we see today, how are we to “cheer up” and have peace?

I’ve been praying over this verse and have come to the conclusion that the answer is in the last five words, “I have defeated/overcome the world.” Peace of heart and mind can only be found by placing complete trust in the speaker of those words, Jesus Christ.

spiritual-warChristian brothers and sisters, our mission in the spiritual warfare raging around us is to be of good cheer, placing our complete trust in our Savior, so that we may demonstrate to those around us the peace available to all in the midst of tribulation.

When confusion and panic abound, remember another familiar quote from Our Savior and “Fear not.”

 

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Buttons or Bugs, Wait and See!

I have worn corrective lenses for fairly severe near-sightedness since I was in grade school, but I consider myopia a gift;  every morning the world is softly out of focus, allowing me to put off facing sharp-edged reality until I’m fully awake.

MP900314057The other morning when I stepped into my bathroom before putting on my glasses, I spotted a big black bug on the floor. Now, I have a live and let live attitude to insects in their own environment, but I’m zero-tolerance all the way when they enter my territory, so I promptly whacked it with my slipper.

When I bent down to scoop up the remains with a tissue, the floor came into focus and I realized this ‘bug’ was actually a small black button, an uncommon oval-shaped one which had come off my new shirt.

Since our vision of the future is unclear, when we see something approaching from a distance our first reaction is often fear. It’s small and dark, it must be a nasty bug! Only when we are close enough to focus clearly do we realize that what we had feared actually fulfilled a need or blessed us in some other way.  Just as finding that button meant I did not have to discard a favorite shirt or replace all its buttons.

Frequently, a clear perspective is only achieved by looking behind us. Only then can we see how our efforts of avoidance actually delayed our good fortune. Like a toddler bobbing and weaving with lips clamped shut to evade a spoonful of healing medicine, we prolong our discomfort by fearing what we do not yet understand. How much wiser it is to wait calmly and see what comes into focus.

When we fear something indistinct looming on the horizon, we need to remember that our loving Lord has perfect vision and knows what is best for us.oval button

Sometimes it’s bugs and sometimes it’s buttons.

 

[Original post August 18, 2014]

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What’s Your Coefficient of Restitution?

One of my friends has been having an unusually long run of bad luck, but no matter what blows knock her down, she always bounces back to her usual, optimistic self.  I believe her strong faith plays a role in her rapid recovery. Thinking of how she “bounces back” brought to mind a term I learned in my high school Physics class. The phrase “coefficient of restitution” has stuck in my head all these years more for its lovely mouthful of syllables than for the physical property it expresses.


The coefficient of restitution  is a number which indicates how much kinetic energy (energy of motion) remains after a collision of two objects.

In simplest terms, if an object has a high coefficient of restitution (C of R) it will bounce back when thrown against a hard surface, retaining its original shape, while something with a very low C of R tends to go “splat!”

An object’s C of R is determined by the material from which it is made.  Steel has a high C of R and mashed potatoes don’t.  It is not a matter of positive thinking or a lack of concentration which makes the difference. So, why do some people, like my friend, seem to bounce back repeatedly from the hard impacts of  life, while others fall apart like a spoonful of soggy spuds at the first knock?

While all humans share the same basic physical make-up, we have more than physical properties. There are emotional and spiritual components, as well.

I believe it is the spiritual component which determines a person’s coefficient of restitution.

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, who have been called according to his purpose”

Faith in a God of love, as described in Romans 8:28 (above) gives one the resilience needed to bounce back from the assaults and insults of this world, again and again.

[Original Post 

 

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Growing Old Gracefully

I was reading a commentary about the journey through middle-age the other day and got stuck, as I tend to do, contemplating the concept of middle-age being the half-way point of life.

I like to think of myself as approaching middle-age, even though the odds of my having as many years ahead as I have behind me are, well… not good.

When I was under twenty years old,  I thought anyone over thirty was middle-aged. In my thirties, middle-age had shifted to anyone over forty. This phenomenon has continued until now, amazingly, middle-age begins with whatever decade I have not yet reached.?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Although my concept of the middle section appears to be adjustable, three distinct stages of life are generally accepted; youth, middle-age, and elderly.

Just as there are three developmental trimesters from conception to birth preparing a person for life outside the womb, there are three trimesters of life in this world preparing us for Heaven. During the three stages we grow physically stronger during the first, more capable and productive during the middle, and gradually more enfeebled in the last, as we release our hold on our physical bodies.

Looked at from a spiritual perspective, the Christian’s born again experience could be considered a spiritual conception when the soul begins its journey of preparation for eternal life in heaven. Our spiritual development, in every stage of life, should show a steady increase in spiritual understanding, wisdom, and increased reliance on God.

Although I’m reluctant to be classified as a woman past her prime, on the spiritual track I am eagerly anticipating maturity.

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Happiness is a Hula Hoop

MP900431788When was the last time you treated your hips to the gentle caress of a hula hoop?  If it’s been more than a few years, you may be under the misapprehension, as I was, that using this classic toy is like a riding a bicycle – you never forget how.

I’d read about a new exercise class using weighted hula hoops. It sounded like fun, so I decided to buy myself a hoop and get in on the action.

I’d had some success with the hula hoop game on my Wii Fit video exercise system and fully expected the skillful technique I had as a child to come back to me quickly. I’d never forgotten how to ride a bicycle, after all.

Well, my mind may have remembered, but my hips seemed to have developed amnesia.

I have a theory about past accomplishments: I can still do anything I have ever done…until I try and fail.  In my mind I was still the schoolyard hula hoop champ, until a week ago when I pulled that plastic circle over my head, gave it a spin, and caused my sons to collapse in hysterics at my wildly gyrating hips as I failed, time and again, to keep the toy spinning around my middle.

Eventually, through dogged persistence, I was able to keep the thing going long enough to get a workout, but the experience was eye-opening. For one thing, I hadn’t realized how much flexibility I’d  lost over the years. Hopefully, I will get some of that back by exercising. The second, and greater, lesson was to always be aware of how easy it can be to lose one’s gifts, if one fails to exercise them.

It’s been said that if you want to feel a certain way,  you should act as if you already do. The deed can come before the motivation and even create it. Could it be that exercising spiritual gifts could not only keep a person from losing them (like flexibility and skill with the hula hoop), but might actually help us to acquire them in the first place?

I sometimes have difficulty feeling a particular fruit of the Spirit, but perhaps the act needs to come first. I think I’ve got another exercise to add to my regimen. Wish me luck!

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Do you feel like a weak link?

There was once a TV game show called The Weakest Link. On the show, the first contestants to get a wrong answer were eliminated and labeled the weakest link, implying that a weak link is useless.

It is my contention that even a weak link is still vital to the chain, as long as it doesn’t break away from the others.

I was reminhuman chainded of this by recent news from Florida of the rescue of a family in danger of drowning in a rip tide. When a child got into trouble, individual family members attempted rescue, one by one, only to get caught in the same strong current, but when the onlookers joined hands to form a human chain, the family was rescued.

What an impressive illustration of the impact even the weakest of us can have when we pull together toward a common goal.

No matter how strong the pull of the evil forces in today’s world, if Christians join hands in unity, who knows how many souls may be rescued from destruction?

 

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