Take Heart – I’ve Overcome

I’ve been doing a lot of reading this Fall – reading about who our God is and about the unassuming people he uses in ministry. Reading about how to help people move towards God and not away from him. Reading about the promises Jesus made to people who follow him.

 

I’ve been doing a lot of talking, too. Talking with friends who I respect about what it means to follow Christ, about what avenues we can use to show Christ in 2012. I love those people more than I can express.

 

Our world has been dealt incomprehensible sorrow. Every era, country, village, household, and soul faces tragedy. Terrible things happen – and not just in the abstract. Sometimes tragedy is in our back yard, our own body, our own people.

 

If death were the end, it would be a bleak reality, indeed. But praise God it is not the end. We live for more than this life. There is joy in that message that is in no other!

Hope and joy are at the essence of who we are and who Jesus is. There is a reason Paul was able to praise God in the face of death because of Him. There is a reason the Rogers family say cancer did not defeat their son. There is a reason my friends in Africa smile without knowing where the next meal will come from.

 

Because people who have died with Christ don’t have to fear another death. The weight and joy and hope in that message resonate with me now more than ever before.  

 

At the end of the day, it is not enough to just read and discuss. It’s not enough to write off the pain and distress people experience only because that pain seems to be everywhere.

 

We are the hands and feet. I am the hands and feet.

 

If not us, who will be Jesus to the least of these? To the hurting?

 

We have a responsible, a privilege to rip open the healing and joy in our message and pour it out like water rushing over the falls. Our world needs it – and Jesus promised.

 

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” –Jesus, John 16:33

 

Mountain People

I lift up my eyes unto the hills, and where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth.

My family are mountain people. What I mean is, every time we had a school holiday growing up, we packed up the gray Toyota Corolla and headed for the hills, to middle or east Tennessee, where we could hike and camp and raft to our hearts’ content.

About an hour out of Bulawayo, there is a place called Matopos. It’s nothing like the moss-covered mountains or sloping streams or magnificent waterfalls I grew up going to. Instead of bears, Matopos has leopards.  Instead of grass, Matopos has shear rock, smashed together in the most extraordinary of fashions. Still, I feel so at home climbing to the place locals call World’s View.

From there, you can see miles in every direction, nothing but bush-land and millions of rock formations. From there, my own concerns and issues seem so miniscule in comparison to what my God has done, can do, and is doing at the very moment.

It’s not a new concept. It’s not even a deep notion. It is but a gentle reminder of who we serve and exactly how big, powerful, and loving He is.

ImageWhen I lift my eyes to the hills, no matter what set of hills it is or where it might be located, I lift my eyes to see a world fashioned by a loving Creator, a God who is so big, so strong, and so mighty that there is nothing He cannot do.

Expanding the Family

You know them. Those glowing, gushing couples who just found out they are having their first bundle of joy.  They are the ones who always seem to gravitate toward the baby section of Walmart and Target, the ones who all of a sudden are baby proofing every electrical outlet in sight. 

Most of my friends in both Africa and America are in this very specific, very identifiable phase of life: expanding the family.

 

It seems to me, as an innocent observer of the process, that “expanding the family” phase is the point of no return, the point where everything changes. Baby talk becomes a second language, and all of a sudden the hobbies you once adored are stuffed in the back of a forgotten closet in the garage.

 

Even years and years later, you still recount endless tales of things that happened while your family was growing. It seems to be the most exciting, terrifying, exhilarating, and rewarding phase of life. You love more than you thought possible, and for the remainder of your life, you care more for someone else than you do for yourself.

 

Earlier today, our Partners 4 Africa team worshipped with the Nketa 8 Church just outside of Bulawayo. We worshipped in the yard of a faithful couple, and nine people responded to the message of God’s love. So we headed out to Nkulumane to baptize them and welcome them into our family.

 

When we reached Nkulumane, we were not alone. Twenty-five souls were embraced into our family today, from churches and communities all over southern Matabeleland.  

 

As Christ’s family, we only have one phase. And we live in it for our entire human lives.

 

We are all about expanding the family. When we are accepted into Christ’s grace and forgiveness, everything changes. And perhaps when we are all in heaven together, we will recount the endless tales of the grace God extended to each of us, and rejoice together for the rest of time.  

Where He Leads

Last week, I celebrated my 24th birthday in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. About three years ago at a home Bible study in Searcy, Arkansas, we were asked to write a letter to ourselves in five years’ time. The devotional leader asked us to write down things that we didn’t want ourselves to forget, things we thought we might be doing, principles and characteristics we wished to keep hidden in our hearts and minds forever.

I don’t completely remember what I wrote down, but I’m sure I did not write, “Oh, and by the way, good luck with the whole Africa thing.”

In fact, I think my words were more like, “Hey, self. I don’t know where you’ll be or who you will be with when you get this letter, but I’m sure God will let you know what He wants you to do.”

And He did. I’m still uncertain where I will be or what God will call me to, but bring it on—because He is faithful. He is just. He is the lover of my soul, and every year spent with Him can have no greater purpose.

It doesn’t matter where you spend your big days or your small ones. God is there—because He saved it all.  He spoke it all into motion, and I can’t wait to keep following and revealing the purpose He has laid out for this thing called my life.

 

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” –Jesus Christ, Son of God. Matthew 28:20

 

Making Me New

This blog post is a melting pot of ideas and principles that have been thrust upon me recently by a loving God through loving people. I can’t help but share.

December is a time of reflection. If you aren’t making resolutions, you are at least reassessing, compartmentalizing 2011 into a catalog to recall in short spurts of excitement.

“Yeah, this year is great!” “I’ve been so happy this year!” “It’s been awesome!” “We’ve had so much fun!”

But what if, for you, it hasn’t? What if the only thing you’re happy about is that 2011 will soon expire?

Or the more pointed question….

What if 2011 left you broken?

As we discussed this in a circle of friends, we quickly began to see through our very own examples that everyone is. Everyone IS broken. Everyone hurts. Everyone feels pain and regret and remorse.

But what if it wasn’t even 2011? What if 2008 left you broken? What if it was 1995? What if you’ve been carrying around shredded pieces of your broken life hoping that eventually it will fall back in the recesses of your mind and you’ll FORGET how broken you are!

I’ve heard that time heals all wounds, but I don’t believe it. It doesn’t. Because time just doesn’t have that kind of power. God does.

It’s not time that really heals, it’s God.

Maybe the best thing we can possibly do to end 2011…is not forget, but forgive.

Forgiveness may be the most powerful gift Christians possess.When God sought to make mankind in His own image, He gave us the power of forgiveness, to forgive just as He does. Forgive others and, even harder, forgive ourselves. Because like it or not, we aren’t strong enough to carry around those broken shreds of life. We weren’t meant to live that way. We can’t.

Thanks be to God that we don’t have to. Because He sent Jesus to take all those broken, shattered lives onto Himself and straight to the cross. He was destroyed, and the brokenness with Him. Then, three days later, He was made completely new. And when we become His followers, we are made new, too.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

Forgive. Forgive because we are Christ’s family. Forgive because we’ve been forgiven. Forgive because we aren’t meant to live broken.

Forgive because we are being made new.

How do you find Zimbabwe?

Yesterday, the church at Nkulumane hosted a Sunday event for all the churches in Bulawayo. Over 500 brethren attended, although it was not without effort or difficulty. Our brothers and sisters piled thirty deep in the back of flatbed trucks or walked for miles to attend the services. But distance did not stop them.

Every time we were greeted by a smiling Zimbabwean face, they inquired, “And how do you find Zimbabwe?” Rolling blackouts, bottled water, sponge baths, and dry winds. How do I find Zimbabwe? I find it thoroughly refreshing. We find it lovely.

I’ve never been met with such warmth as these Christian brothers and sisters extend.

I had the opportunity to teach a young ladies’ class before worship on Sunday. About thirty women participated, and it was a blessing to me.  We were in the same big room as the adult class, where Dorian was teaching also. Have you ever had to talk over Dorian Flynn? I wouldn’t recommend it.

Saturday we were able to help with the weekly Bible study and feeding at Nkulumane. Thirty children attend every week, and because of the hearts of people in Africa and in America, they are able to receive spiritual and physical nourishment.

I am off to spent time with Hailey and Noma Mlengani for two days while the rest of our group travels to Victoria Falls. I cannot wait to see how the rest of this week unfolds. Thank you for all the prayers. I see them fulfilled daily. Until next time…

Stepping out on the Water

You know when Peter, the disciple who irrevocably kept his foot in his mouth, walked on water? I’ve recently found him to be a very, very brave man. Yes, he was hot-headed. Yes, he was quick-tongued. But in this instance, he was dauntless. He was determined. And he was looking right into the eyes of Jesus.

Sometimes God calls us to step out onto the street. Sometimes He asks us to step into someone’s life or into someone’s shoes. And sometimes He asks us to step in a place that seems totally nonsensical.

Peter must have felt that. He must have known in the back of his mind that this was crazy. But he just looked to Jesus and found His foundation not in the watery depths of the ocean, but in the tender, firm gaze of his Savior.

When we look into the eyes and heart of Jesus, we find love. We find purpose. We find resolve. And when we seek after Him, we find ourselves stepping into places that once seemed impossible, improbable, and impenetrable.

Yet we go. Peter did. It was imperative to his life as Christ’s friend and servant. And recently, I’ve been assured that it is imperative to my life, too.

So, here we go…

“If you say go, we will go. If you say wait, we will wait. If you say step out on the water, and they say it can’t be done, We’ll fix our eyes on you, and we will come.”