Romans 12:2

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Little Taste of Heaven

We are headed home.
I am so thankful for our time in Uganda. 
I’m excited to see my kids and family at home, but my heart already aches to go back to Uganda.

When I tell you I have family there I don’t mean that lightly.
We have kids and sisters and brothers.
 
The more I get to know different family members from different tribes and tongues and nations the more I long for heaven.



Revelation 7:9-10
English Standard Version (ESV)
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”


We spent a part of every day in a church setting of some sort, some were permanent structures with cement floors, others were tents with brick floors and others were pole barns with dirt floors, and others were a patch of grass, or a gathering on that rich red dirt.
  We went to weddings and young student graduations, and conferences and worship services, and we sang and prayed and celebrated and learned and taught in a different context every day that we were in Uganda.

No matter what we were doing our God is at the center of it all.
We have learned thru Scripture and experience and studies have shown that we can do so much to help people, we can give of knowledge and resources and support and help so many needs, but when we share the Gospel and pray to God all the needs of the people are met by Him, He is faithful and He shows up.
  When people take hold of God and trust Him with their lives and it begins to spread among a family, a village or slum or people group, then health care and education and poverty automatically begin to take a turn for the better.  It doesn’t happen overnight, but over time, there is a turn for the better.

Yes, it is still a pleasure and an honor to help when there is a need and God allows us to go and help and use the gifts and talents He has entrusted us to share, but if that is done and there is no sharing of the Gospel, it is a temporary dead end solution, we are just making ourselves and the person in need feel better for a moment or a season, we are just doing a kind exercise.   People need the Lord, and He will supply every single need you can ever have.  Sometimes we get to be the ones he uses to supply for the need, but even that is a direct gift from God that we get to pass on to whoever He tells us.

 The only thing we can do is be in awe of Him whether we are on the giving or receiving end, and everything He gives us to do or everything He gives us thru others will last for eternity.



That is Good News for all of us!!!
Sharing the Gospel and giving out something that can bring a smile is the

 BEST!!!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Harvest = Labor and Celebration

Matthew 9:35-3 (ESV)

The Harvest Is Plentiful, the Laborers Few

35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”


 So we did.  We prayed and he said GO!! 
 We said, "Really??  Us???"


He said YES!  You Go.  And we did and we have enjoyed harvest season.
In harvest season, there is so much to do and so much to celebrate.


 Laboring in love and celebrating with joy
with the Ugandan laborers during the harvest season.



Saturday, November 18, 2017

My Man Of Valor

This poster has made me giggle all week long, but today it made me cry.

I just couldn't get over the faithfulness of God!
That's my man of valor right there in the upper left hand corner.  
He has been my man for almost 28 years and he has been my African man since 2010, when he visited Uganda for the first time and realized he was an African man in white skins.


Charlie is coming out of the most challenging season (that has lasted a couple of years) of his life in Christ.
Charlie remained faithful to get his sword out and dig into God's Word,
every.single.day
and send out a verse to many people daily, 
but it was mostly out of pure habit.
*if you need a habit, and most of us do have them...this is the kind to have*
He was pretty somber and reserved during this season, and yet,
God has remained incredibly faithful, and near, but has also allowed Charlie to go thru some pretty tough stuff
that made him be still and very quiet.


When my man came home from Uganda the first time in 2010,  and he was fired up in a way I have never seen him.  He began to pray like I had never heard and hold prayer meetings at church and be bold in his faith.

Then he went thru a time when everything I saw fired up in him was challenged and took some hard hits, he kept his shield of faith in place, but it took some arrows that caused some dents, and eventually strengthened him, but left a mark for sure.

 His leadership, his family, and his relationships were all under attack at once;
 he never lost faith in the Lord, but he lost his fire. 

The last few months I have watched my man get all firey again.   He has been going to prayer meetings, he has preached a few times,  and he has cinched up his belt of truth,
 (literally cinched his belt, as he has lost some weight, and is back to fighting shape,) 
and now he is getting ready to preach and teach at the 
Men Of Valor Conference
 in Uganda, Africa.


Charlie has often said about himself, more times than I can count...
something about his strong back and weak mind...
Well, God has given Charlie a strong back and he can carry quite a load, but his mind is also strong, and his heart is the the size of 
Africa!
I think God is showing Charlie that he has way more to offer than just a strong back, and God can use every part of him.

Charlie has a couple boys in Uganda that have never known a father in their life until they met Charlie 7 1/2 years ago,  and when he met them they were quite young and he has shown them the love and the support of a father, and now they are young men, and this time he will get the honor of teaching them what it is to be a 
Man of Valor.


The giggle I got out of the above poster, happens to be because it's just so funny and fitting to see my man on a poster with his
 African brothers;
and the cry came because it reminded me of God's faithfulness to His children and how much He loves us, and how much potential He sees in each one of us, even when we can't see it in ourselves.

He made my man a leader, and a mighty man of God, a
MAN OF VALOR.

God is the one who tells us who we are because when we are His, He has all the say, and He has the last word.

I have seen my man in the battle of life and he might get quiet in times of flying arrows,
but he always battles with honor and with courage and strength.
I see him as he stands strong and he may not move for a long time, but he is steady and patient and when he moves, it's forward.

Ephesians 6:10-20

The Whole Armor of God

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

 I can't wait to see all that God has for him and I on this trip.
We will celebrate 28 years of marriage while we are there, and we get to attend a wedding on our anniversary!
God has good good plans for us.


Friday, November 17, 2017

Getting Some Skin In The Game

9 DAYS!!!

We will be headed to Uganda KNEES OVERSEAS in 9 days.


We are going to get knees on the ground and skin in the game.


I think of how upside down mission trips or any ministry that follows Jesus really is in this world. 

 It would make so much more sense to send money, I mean think about all the money it takes to get to the other side of the world. That money would be really wonderful and useful in a 3rd world country. 
 Even if it were our experience or education that is valuable to help others, we could just send emails, or books to say whatever it is we have to say.
  In this day and age we can even stream videos and interact thru a screen. 
 All the money and books and live video are good, and there is a place and a time for it all, but NOTHING is as good as getting some skin to skin contact.

The thing about getting our skin in the the game, is once you have touched people and feel the warmth of their skin, the heart connection takes on a whole new rhythm.

 I'm sure there are more efficient and economical ways to do ministry and ministry projects, but there is no value or efficiency standard you can put on what is in our hearts for our kids and friends, and brothers and sisters that we have had some skin to skin contact with.

Think about this....people can't physically multiply without some real personal contact, and God designed our model of "multiplying" His kingdom by some real personal contact as well.


God sent messengers and writings from His very hand, and provisions and supernatural signs to show HIS people who He is, and to get people to turn to Him and know Him and trust Him and love HIM and yet ALL of 
history
*HIS-STORY *
changed and hinges on the time God sent His Son, His flesh in the flesh, to dwell among us. 
 He got His skin on and came to show us who He is and how much he loves us, and as a result the world has never been the same. 
 All of time is tracked by the time in HIS-STORY that the WORD became FLESH.  

Jesus is our model to follow.  He said repeatedly when he was walking the earth to,
 "FOLLOW ME."
So I guess that means following His example of showing up in our skin to show people just how much we love them.
What a privilege and an honor He has given to us.

We can send HIS WORD out into the world and it is
powerful, but when we GO and make some skin to skin contact,it causes a whole new connection and level of
 LOVE and JOY.
As we go, I am praying for our KNEES OVERSEAS team, that we and the people that we are going to spend time with, all rub off on each other; may we have a new and fresh 
LOVE and JOY
in the LORD.
It is thru Christ Alone that we have hearts to LOVE HIM and HIS people and get the opportunity to encourage and touch lives for His glory.


  




I realize that not everybody can jump on a plane and go to Africa, but we can all get some skin in the game everywhere we go.
We can touch the lives around us wherever we are and wherever we get to
 GO.

Matthew 4:19 (ESV)

19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”



Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Who Are We Thanking?



Thanksgiving 2 years ago.



Who Are We Thanking?

I love Thanksgiving, it’s one of my all time FAVORITES.
I love seeing people posting and expressing their thanks all month.

It seems so fitting that Thanksgiving and Veteran’s Day fall in the same month.
I love when people post a picture of their dad, or husband or mother or sister, or child, in their uniform, and people jump in and say,
“Thank you for your service and sacrifice.” 
It is very powerful to see that person, and see people acknowledge their service and be thankful for them.

I believe gratitude loses it’s power if it is only felt and never expressed to someone that can receive it. Make no mistake about it, God can see our hearts and knows if we are thankful, but oh how He loves to hear it from our mouth in praise and thanksgiving.



The Psalms are full of thanks to God, but the beautiful part is not only the thanks that David felt, but that he expressed it so beautifully and often and detailed, so that God could not only see his heart, but hear it, and people for centuries all over the world, even to this very day, get to enjoy and join in the THANKSGIVING that David felt and EXPRESSED to God.
It's a powerful thing to let others join in our thanksgiving!

 We did an exercise in gratitude at PB&J (youth group) last night.  It was very interesting to me how easy it was to roll off the kids’ tongues what they are thankful for.  We went around the room saying what we are thankful for, but then when we went back around the room and had to give credit to someone in our life for the thing in which we just said we were thankful for, it got a little harder; and then when we went around the room one final time and had to give God thanks for at least one thing, with our words, in front of everyone, and then had to pick someone in the room to say “thank you” for something specific, it got really hard for some and quite awkward. 

So the kids would say something like, “I want to thank God for my family.”
And then they would look at someone in the room and say something like,
“Thank you Zoe for being a good friend.”

You would think this would be easy and pretty natural for these kids that are all friends and it actually got pretty awkward but also sweetly reverent. 

The kids took it seriously and we could all feel the change in mood in the room.
It went from silly and pretty loud to a little more serious and sincere.

We talked about WHY it’s hard to be boldly thankful, and to be thankful in front of people, and even harder TO THANK specific people, and it boiled down to our
PRIDE.


So think about this…..the most thankful people are the people that have received, but also acknowledge that they receive.

If I hand my kids money, I hope they never look at that money and tell it thank you.  I want them to look me in the eye and say thank you and loud enough so I can hear it….which seems to need to be louder all the time.  I truly believe that “thank you” is just as much for the person saying it as the person hearing it, not that the "hearer" needs it, but is encouraged by it.

When I get home from a drive to town, it would be idolatry to look at my car and thank it, but it is a wonderful thing to look to God and give thanks that he got me to town and back one more time, even though He used a car to do it.

When Esther (who is learning to drive) gets me from point A to point B without a wreck or a heart attack I say thank you to her and to God! 
That accomplishment deserves the double whammy thank you. 

So when we are giving thanks, and especially in this season let’s be so mindful and intentional of
WHO
 we are thanking. 
Let’s thank people and especially thank our living and loving 
Father God! 

2 Corinthians 9:9-11English Standard Version (ESV)
As it is written,
“He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor;
    his righteousness endures forever.”
10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.


All that we have given and  all that we have been given should drive us right to giving THANKS to God!

We would all much rather be the giver, in most cases, but it seems it is better for our hearts to receive.
Receiving puts us in the HUMBLE position.

The thing we often forget is even when we do get to be the GIVER; it is only because we have RECEIVED first.
We can’t give what we haven't received.

This messes with us and especially our pride, we want to think we have "earned" all that we have, and then we have the opportunity to be generous.
I would challenge that thinking.
We only have the opportunity to “earn” because we have been “given” much opportunity.
So once again, the biggest givers are actually the biggest receivers.
That's a shift in perspective....

When we go to Uganda we receive so much more than we give IN EVERY WAY, and the truth is, everything we have to give, we have been given by a generous and gracious God.
Even our time and our energy, we have been GIVEN by our God.

May this Thanksgiving be a time of truly understanding what we have received, and for that be THANKFUL to God first, and the people He put in our lives to deliver the blessing.

If we express thanksgiving and never direct it to a person or our God, we might even be bragging about how thankful we are, like....look at me, I'm the most thankful.......

As I watched the kids go thru the exercise and they were happy to give thanks…they were proud to be thankful, and then when they had to name names of who they were thankful to, even if that person wasn't here, they squirmed a little.  And trust me….we are all like this, the kids were just willing to participate in the exercise.

KNEES OVERSEAS!!!
I pray as we are less than 2 weeks away from going to Uganda that we receive all that God has for us.  I pray we empty ourselves of ourselves and we are ready to receive all that He has for us as we prepare and as we go.
I pray we are truly thankful and that we are loud and proud to give thanks to people God has put in our lives and to God for our very lives!
  May we be humble and realize if there is anything we give it is only because we have been
 GIVEN SO MUCH!

Luke 12:47-49English Standard Version (ESV)

47 And that servant who knew his master's will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.


Thanksgiving can be a lot of fun.  I have no idea what got us going, but this picture made me laugh just looking at it.  I thank God for laughter!!! 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Follow Up Post...Who Are We Full Of?

My last post stirred up some stuff for a lot of people.
I enjoyed reading the comments and hearing from people.
 


The thing that kept ringing in my head is how the post brought out reactions from a lot of different angles and perspectives and thoughts and feelings far beyond the incident or our family.


  Everyone has a story and an experience and there were many different reactions.
I was touched by the support for Mik and for our family.  Mik has had a lot to deal with in life that has been much bigger than name calling, and his character and the way he lives his life (even though it is far from perfect) reminds me of the enormous power of forgiveness. 


The whole incident led to some great discussion, between Charlie and I, once we had some time to process our own thoughts and reactions.  It stirred up a confession session where we brought up some stuff in our own lives, and our past that we weren’t too proud of our reaction or lack of reaction.

We talked about some times that we wish we would have handled situations much differently.
We could put ourselves in any one of the lives that had the unfortunate exchange.
 
It reminded me of a women’s event that a friend and I spoke at a few years back; we talked about
“What are you full of?”
When we get bumped, what comes spilling out?
This can range from a bump in the hall, to a devastating blow in life.
A bump in life can range from a nasty name, travel delay, change in job or finances. or location, a diagnosis, a loss of life or friendship; it is anything that bumps us.
The thing about bumps us in life; will spill out whatever is in there….even stuff we didn’t know was in there. 
Guaranteed our lives will encounter some bumps and blows and
 WHOEVER
 We are full of will come spilling out.
The little bumps can bring out whatever is on top…but those hard blows in life….bring out whatever is at the bottom.

I do not post our experiences from a stand point of teaching anyone a lesson…. I share some of our story to share what God is teaching us and maybe it can help someone else.
When I prayed for wisdom I felt like He was asking me to share what He is teaching me on this one.
It’s what God gave us……our lives our not our own.


I promise you I have so much grace for this kid that spewed the hateful words and so much respect for Mik in this particular incident.  I pray everything that bumps me or our family  drives us to repentance, which is to turn away from ourselves 
 (selfishness, self protection selfish thinking) 
and humbly turn to JESUS and fill up on
LOVE AND TRUTH AND LIFE AND GRACE.

We are getting ready to go to Uganda, and we will be bumped around in planes and cars and sights and smells and everything we can and can’t imagine will be different than what we are used to and I pray our team is filling up NOW on Jesus, so whether it is a bumpy ride or a big blow out that 
JESUS


 is in us from top to bottom and that’s what comes out here and there and everywhere.




1 Timothy 1:5-6 and 15-17 (NLT)
The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. But some people have missed this whole point. They have turned away from these things and spend their time in meaningless discussions.
15 This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. 16 But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 All honor and glory to God forever and ever! He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen.



 


Thursday, November 2, 2017

Where's The Line?

Where’s the line???

My son was called a
 F…f#$@%^&*    N....$%^&*(#
 yesterday.

I’m so proud of how he handled it.  He didn’t let it go, but he didn’t punch the kid in the face.  He just turned around and gave the kid the opportunity to rephrase his greeting. 

When is it bad enough to cause a scene or call attention?
 I’m just wondering…where is the line?

I was asking the Lord for wisdom this morning because I don’t know how to navigate these situations.  It gives me a sick feeling in my gut and I don’t know what to do, and frankly I want to hide and hide my family.

I want to ignore it and diminish it, so I don’t have to feel it or deal with it.

I want to hide and protect and pretend.

People tell me this isn’t that bad and we have come a long way……ok great…where is the line?
Where do we just say enough, this has crossed the line, and now I have to speak up, or make a stand?
Everyone has a different line I guess….what is ok and what is not ok.


At what point do we say, this is not ok on my watch, even though it isn’t “US” what if it is someone else?  Who will we stick up for?  How bad does it have to get? 

Our kids are watching, our kids all heard the story and are looking to us for our response.

Here’s the line in our family….you get called a name and you do everything in your power to exhibit self- control….you hear your brother called a name and you better unleash every tackle and take down move you have ever learned in your gazillion hours of practice.

I pray there is such a close brotherly love between those that we love, that nobody gets away with being ugly to our loved ones. 
  I pray it offends us 10 times worse to see a brother or a sister treated unfairly as when it happens to us. 

Many think name calling is just name calling…..but I’m asking,
“Where’s the line?”

Hebrews 13:1-3 (NLT)
13 Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.


I want to button down the hatches even further and try to limit, even MORE, the exposure and the situations where there is opportunity for crap like this, but what does this do?

I have read the stories of people  in history singing in church, and when the trains with Jewish prisoners stacked in the cars and headed to concentration camps would go by, the people would just sing louder, so they didn’t have to hear what was going on outside.

I want to go into protection mode and just sing a little louder, not because my kids can’t handle name calling, but because it goes so much deeper and wider than name calling, and what does it look like the next time someone wants to express their hateful heart?
 When do we stop singing and pay attention to what is going on that we don’t want to know about, or know what to do about?
So, I’m here to tell you….even in our little protected and wonderful community, this is real and there is a problem, and even though people don’t like how others are trying to draw attention to the problem, it is worth asking ourselves……

WHERE’S THE LINE FOR ME?
  WHEN AND WHERE AND WHO IS WORTH MAKING A STAND OR TAKING A KNEE TO SAY I BELIEVE THERE IS A PROBLEM AND I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO, BUT I WANT YOU TO KNOW IT’S NOT OK WITH ME.

When our son told us the story of what happened and we said how sorry we were that people are such jerks, he said it was ok.
 It’s not ok.
 God forgive us for everything we have done, or not done, to make you think it is ok.

 It's not ok.