A SIMPLE T-SHIRT? OR SOMETHING MORE?…

The older I get, the more I need helpful reminders.  But the truth is that I needed them when I was young too!  The reasons were just different.  When I was young, I was crazy busy with children, often a job too.  It seemed like the demands on my time and energy were constant and never-ending.  I needed concrete items to remind me to do the important things.

This is a photo of a recent T-shirt I got at a great sale! I’ll have to start calling it my prayer shirt.  It was made in India. That is where a few of our new friends (from the Living in Grace conference) will be going in the next few years.  Some will be going as soon as August.  Others are a few years away from leaving.  When I wear this shirt, I think of Debbie, and the G’s and I’s and others who are in various stages of preparing to go.  They need prayer for the stages they are in.  Some will soon be in language school and adjusting to a brand new culture.  Others want to be there but are in the process of preparing and raising the prayer and financial support that is needed.  That takes a lot of patience.  Right now, churches don’t always want to talk to them.  Many don’t have extra money and they seem to be uncomfortable with the fact that they don’t have it.  They forget about the fact that their people DO need to be praying for missionaries…and other needs. It changes the PEOPLE!

It is also helpful for teaching your children to be more aware of others.  Help them get to know the missionary families that come through to visit your church.  Make an effort to get to know them through email or Facebook.  Do your kids ever struggle with feeling left out or having  a hard time making friends?  Imagine what it would be like if you don’t speak the language.  One family we met had early teen children and they were praying for friends for their children…even if they were long distance. Sometimes a long distance friend is less scary for some children but no less rewarding over years.

So get a shirt from India, or a dish from Mexico…or have a taco!  Whatever it takes to remember to pray for your missionaries.  The important thing is–pray for them.  While you’re at it, pray for your local church, the needs of your community…and oh yes, that the gospel will penetrate your own soul in a new and living way.

MORE CHANGES…AND COLOR TOO…

As a result of our day in the Big D (Dallas) today, and more specifically in the Apple store classes, there will be changes coming to this blog. Color!  I have learned how to manage my photographs and have started adding them retroactively (for practice) to liven up the blog.  Feel free to look back and see how the block was supposed to have been illustrated…if I had been more adept technologically.  NOW I am.  I know the logistics of the blog are not all that interesting, but if the blog has looked as drab to you as it has to me, here is what I have to say:  THANK YOU  for coming back!  I am improving my skills to bring you a better blog.

Just to give you a quick snapshot of the day: a glistening, shiny Apple store in a large modern mall full of people.  WE were special.  We had an appointment and had our own teacher.  We were cool.  Sitting in our little cocoon at the table with people scurrying all around.

A HUG FROM GOD…

Have you ever been a bit down?  I’m not talking black-of-gloom depressed, just a bit down?  Maybe you’ve had circumstances piling up and you can’t quite see over the top of them?  That would pretty well describe us recently.  We had gotten back from our (mostly) delightful trip with children and grandchildren.  It ended on a down note physically, but we were plowing forward, maybe too stoically, as we discovered when some friends from Illinois stopped to visit.

Their visit was like a cool glass of water.  They caught us up on news from Hanna City, lots of good news.  Recently there have been many weddings and happy events.  There was also good news of growth in the lives of people in the church.  Of course, there are always sad things happening as well but the visit was delightful.  The time flew while they were here.  We found ourselves smiling for the next few days when we thought back over many topics of our conversation.

Then last week, we opened up the mail one day and received an anonymous gift!  In fact, it was before we fully realized we were going to run short because of some workdays I missed.  The person just thanked us for our ministry.  They went out of their way to disguise their identity.  I guess they take the scripture in Mathew 6:1-4 seriously.  They want to get THEIR reward from God not man!

Have you ever wanted to melt?  I did. Which do you think was the hug from God?  For us, each was in its own way.  One was an encouragement from hard-working co-workers saying “Thank you for the influence you had on our church.  We appreciate it.”  The check in the mail was also encouraging because it meant God knew about the needs that our human frailty could not provide for.  We were doing all we could to provide for our needs, but circumstances outside of our control prevented it.  He partially provided for the need before we were fully aware of it.  That is a Heavenly Father watching over His children.  How incredibly comforting and encouraging.  God has rarely provided for us with checks in the mail.  Usually we have to work for our money like everyone else.  It felt like a hug…from our loving Heavenly Father!

A NEW DAY DAWNED…39 YEARS AGO…

I can’t believe thirty-nine years have flown by!  Yes, that is how long it has been since we had our first (living) child.  Now she is married and has her first child.  Happy Birthday Dawn!

I guess everyone gets this way when they get older…I know my grandmother did.  The time just seems to go so fast.  We tried to enjoy our family while we were in the middle of raising them…and we did for the most part.  It is just that life gets so busy when you are working and they are in school. We were busy with their activities, our work and church activities.  It often got pretty wild.  Then all of a sudden, everyone was gone and grown up and it was very quiet.

You started a great trend in our family.  You were the first child, the first of three daughters.  You set the tone.  The Brady girls were each unique.  They were also strong and secure (in a good way).  They did well in school and were polite enough.  Most importantly, they each had a faith that was genuine.  They made their parents “look good” without trying to.

You took a path that was not always the choice you would have wanted as you watched your younger sisters marry and have children.  But you lived your life with grace and joy and in the last two years, God gave you a husband and a son as well.  Now you are getting ready to pack up your home and move AGAIN…as you prepare to return for a three-year gig in Ukraine (your second home).  If all goes according to plan, that will be the end of the year.

Isn’t it interesting how when we give something to God, He gives back more than we gave?  When we finally had a child, I felt a bit like Hannah when she had Samuel.  I wondered what would happen to each of my children as we gave them to God when they were born and later baptized.  Each one has grown to glorify God in interesting and unique ways.  It has been fun to watch God develop each of you into the women He made you to be.  The focus today is on you, of course.  I know these next months of upheaval will not always be easy.  You and Steve have not chosen an easy path.  (Nor have our other children for that matter.)  But God has graciously provided many blessings along the way…not the least of which is His abundant grace to meet all your needs.  Another blessing has been many dear friends that you have found sprinkled all over the world.  You are truly blessed in many ways.

SOLI DEI GLORIA!

ANOTHER CHANGE…

I’m adjusting to a new thing.  It is the hardest of the good things for me to adjust to…a new computer.   I know so little about what makes computers “tick”.  I hate things like that.  I like to be able to figure out things.   How they operate.  Then I can figure out shortcuts. With computers, I’ve had to memorize what I needed to learn at the time.  Now I have a new brand of computer to adjust to which makes it fun too…sort of.  Supposedly, I won’t have to deal with viruses with this brand.  Is my scepticism showing?  It seems tantamount to believing in the tooth fairy.

So far, this change seems to be less stressful than I anticipated.  I can get the keyboard taken over by my son-in-law if I get in trouble.  (So far that has meant forgetting too many passwords.  They are now all organized and written down accessibly.)  This next week I will be going to Dallas to get personal tutoring on my computer.  There is nothing like learning new things…unless it is having a peaceful, quiet life.  Well, I guess it is best to be learning new things.  It keeps the brain alert.  Ta-ta for today.

GOD’S GRACIOUS GIFTS…

I wrote this last week…before Seizure Sunday…10 days before I was to have my “independence”.  It was 10 days before I was supposed to have had the “gift” of driving again.”

I was thinking last night about God’s gifts to us.  No, I wasn’t thinking about THE GIFT: the gift of redemption…of salvation…of justification!  I assume that gift too often…I live my life with that as a given.  I don’t always mention that one because I’ve been the recipient of it for so long (almost 60 years!) that I often take it for granted.  It is a gift, not unlike the gift of life that one really can’t take for granted.  It is basic to all the other gifts.

I was thinking about the many gifts God has given me over my life that I take for granted and frequently feel entitled to.  Then, when God removes one of them, I am often like a child having a tantrum.  One gift I haven’t handled well when it was removed for short times, was the gift of good health.  I remember especially when I went through a period of nearly four years when I couldn’t think well nor could I drive.  The combination of difficulty thinking and independence removed was very difficult.  I had not realized how entitled I felt to having an alert mind, being independent and having good health.  All are gifts from God and in His good providence, can be removed at any time. As an American Christian, I so often assume those gifts should be mine.  I take them for granted when I have them and am most upset when I don’t.

At another time in my life, I felt entitled to a child of my own.  Seemed so simple…  such a small thing really.  It is a good desire to want a child to raise for God’s glory.  But nothing seemed to work out right.  First we had a miscarriage, then our nearly full term pregnancy ended up in a stillbirth.  Once I stopped crying, I was angrier than I ever remember being!  God owed us. (I would never have verbalized it that way, but looking back, that was my attitude.) We were getting ready to go overseas as missionaries! We were already in full-time ministry in a local church where more than one teen couple had HAD to get married. (Those were the days before legalized abortion….when the appearance of legitimacy was a more important value in our society.)  Why did He take our child?  She would have been born into a Christian home?  Forty years later I don’t have all the answers on that one.  But God in His good purposes did!  I do know He needed to make some changes in my heart.  I also know that He doesn’t have any magic formulae.  However, a year later, our first living daughter was born.  For some, a child never comes.  Life on earth is not easy.  We live in a fallen world.  The one true thing is that God is by nature good…and true…and loves us.  That doesn’t look the same as our love…for certain!

Over my lifetime, God has had to teach me, often through difficult circumstances, that I am not entitled to anything.  All I have is His; All I am is His.  He knows what is best for me…always.  I don’t say that lightly.  I say that with some temerity.  Every gift He has ever given me could be gone tomorrow.  There is no question that if that happened it would be painful, very painful!  But the most important thing is still Christ!

GRACE…FOR A LIFETIME…Part II

As we talked about our areas of spiritual gifts, I learned that discernment and encouragement are hers, among others.  My gifts lie for sure, in those two areas as well.  We attended a small Christian school in Ft. Lauderdale, FL back when Christian schools were not popular.  (My dad was principal.)  We memorized lots of scripture and I know it contributed to developing discernment…possibly some wisdom over the years.

As I reflected more on our conversation, I realized that over time, God had overruled our personal idols, to protect us from many dangers!  Since that statement sounds so bizarre, I’ll probably need to give an illustration.  Each of us could have had one, but I’ll use one from my life.  (I didn’t get to discuss my use of hers with HER.)  My idol to please others whether family members or others in authority, often caused me to make the “right” decision but for wrong reasons.  It was not because I wanted to please God or out of love for Him and appreciation for His work of grace in my life but because I wanted to please people. I knew what decision would make them happy so that was what I did!

Of course, at some point I developed huge amounts of resentment against those people and sometimes became depressed from all the anger, resentment and feelings of powerlessness I was carrying around.  But they didn’t make me make those decisions.  I made the decisions.  At some point, I had to learn to take personal responsibility for the decisions I made.  God used my idol to protect me from terrible consequences, but later in life, He dealt with the idol itself.  It was a lot like the difference between pulling out a weed at ground level and pulling out the weed with the root!

We have traveled a long way from two little girls spending nights with each other and talking trivia to two grown women in their 60’s who are now grandmothers, looking back over our lives.  What is the point?  That God has been graciously guiding us all through our lives.  At the time, we thought our Christian life, or the living of it, was all up to us.  We grew up in a legalistic church setting that looked way more at the outside wrapping than at the gift itself.  At this point in our lives, we can look back and see how a gracious and loving God has guided us through a variety of life circumstances.  We have raised only daughters; have buried our parents; dealt with many aspects of resentment from childhood and are now grandparenting.  We discussed a number of people we went to school with…all of whom have died from cancer it turns out!  (That was weird and a little spooky…we’re way too young for that…I say with a wry smile.)  All the time, God has graciously been orchestrating our sanctification and changing us.  Now He is changing our children through circumstances that are at times difficult for us to watch.  But He is changing them and making them into His image as well.

20Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.  (Hebrews 13:19-21)

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