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Archive for May, 2011

Someone Understands

The chapel is empty now.  The service is over, and the students have all left.  I’m here at this southern German seminary in the Black Forest with two other Gospeltribe staff.  We’ve been sharing about our Missions Training School and Summer Outreach Trips.  But now it’s time to drive back down the winding mountain roads to the Gospeltribe base.

“Excuse me. Can I talk to you?”  Startled, I turn to see a girl about 18 years old, shifting her weight nervously from one foot to the other.  She looks as if her eyes could spill over with tears at any moment.

“My name’s Tanya,” she hurriedly explains.  “And when you said in the service that you grew up in a missionary family, I was so excited and just had to talk with you!  I’m an MK too – a missionary kid!  My parents are from Germany but I grew up in Nairobi, Kenya.  My family’s just moved back to Germany, and this is my first year at the seminary.  It’s great here, but…”

Looking away for a moment, Tanya regains her composure and continues.  “…No one understands me here.  I’m the only missionary kid at the school.  Nobody knows what it’s like!  Germany doesn’t feel like home to me.  Kenya is my home!”

“My heart instantly connects with Tanya.  I remember leaving my school and friends after a year in Guatemala and moving back to the U.S. when I was thirteen.  I know what it’s like to return “home” to a place that doesn’t feel like home anymore and feel like a foreigner in your own country.  Experts who have researched “third culture kids” explain it this way:  if your family’s home culture is blue, and the culture you grew up in is yellow, then you are green –  not fully one culture or the other, but a mix of both.  Sometimes it feels like you don’t fit in anywhere.

As I hug Tanya and pray with her, I’m reminded that Jesus knows what it feels like to be in a place that isn’t really home.  He had to leave Heaven to live among humans on the earth.  That must have been an extreme culture shock!  And even His closest friends didn’t get it when He talked about His Father and His Heavenly home.  Jesus knows what it’s like to be homesick, to be lonely, and to feel that no one understands.  We can come to Him with our loneliness and hurts.  He understands.

“Thank you so much!”  Tanya wipes away tears and smiles shyly after the prayer.  “I knew you’d understand me.”

Though there were many students in the service that evening, I’m convinced I was there for one girl – one lonely missionary kid who just needed to know that someone else had been through what she was going through, to encourage her that she would make it.

Who can you encourage today?

“Finally, all of you should be of one mind.  Sympathize with each other.  Love each other as brothers and sisters.  Be tenderhearted.”   1 Peter 3:8 (New Living Translation)

Going vertical!

MJ

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THE NEW “NORMAL”

There’s a boxing match going on in my stomach.  The salami and Swiss cheese from the sandwich I had for lunch are duking it out, and either way, I’m on the losing side.  It’s all too familiar.  And it could have been avoided.

For as long as I can remember, I regularly have intense stomach cramping and sharp jabs of intestinal pain after a meal.  For years, I excused it away, thinking it was the normal price to pay for enjoying spicy Indian curry or sizzling chicken fajitas.  I assumed everybody experienced the same thing.

But when friends asked why I was holding my stomach after going out for dinner, or when my family commented on how often I felt sick after we ate, I started to wonder if it really was normal.  So I decided to do an experiment – for three days I cut out meats, starches, and dairy and only ate garden salads and fresh fruit.  And it was amazing!  My stomach didn’t hurt at all for three whole days!

In those three days I had a revelation of what “normal” feels like.  I’m slowly starting to identify some of the foods that don’t agree with me, and trying to avoid those foods.  And now that I know what it’s like to be free of pain, I don’t ever want to go back to the way it was before.

This process reminded me of my struggle with depression a few years ago.  For several months after getting burnt-out in ministry in East Asia, I lived under a thick fog of hopelessness and discouragement.  At the lowest point, I remember thinking, “This is what my life is going to be from now on.  I’m never going to be happy again.”

But God brought people into my life who helped me to acknowledge the root problem – who was in my “gap” that I needed to forgive.  As I identified the effects of the leadership failure that brought on this depression, I was able to forgive my leaders and release the pain of that situation to God.  And slowly I experienced a new “normal.”  I realized it is possible to move past the pain and walk in peace.

Are you living with constant pain?  Are the cycles of grief, hurts, or loss so familiar to you that you’re resigned to it as part of “normal” life?  You CAN be free from the effects of painful circumstances or relational conflicts.  Identify who or what is in your “gap” and begin the process of healing today.  Embrace the new “normal” – a life of freedom through forgiveness!

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come!”
II Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

Going vertical!

MJ

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FAVORED DAUGHTER

“Would you like a coffeecake?  Or a loaf of bread?”  The man in uniform stopped my friend Corine and I as we were walking out the door of the bakery.  We had met for prayer and accountability, chatting about what God was doing in each of our lives and praying for each other.  But now it was closing time and we were going home.

“It’s free,” the employee continued, noting our hesitation.  “We have to throw out today’s bread at the end of the day.  We can’t sell it tomorrow.  So would you like some?”  Corine and I looked at each other in amazement.  “Yes, thank you!” I answered.  “My family will definitely eat it.  And we can share with our neighbors and our church… But are you sure you don’t have someone else to give it to?”

“Nope.  It’s for you!  Help yourselves.”  He gestured in the direction of his van, which was full of bags of bread, bagels, scones, and cakes.  “Take it all!  Just close the doors of the van when you’re done.”  And with that, the man turned and walked inside the shop.

“Should we really take it?” I asked Corine, staring at the loaves of bread.  “I feel kind of greedy taking all of this, but he said we could…”
Corine laughed.  “This is God’s gift to us!  We were just praying for God to provide for our needs – and He’s answered our prayers!”

Loading up the trunk of my car with bag after bag of free baked goods, I was overwhelmed with God’s abundant love and care for me.  In the past month, I’ve had several unexpected financial blows, just as I’m preparing to leave for two months of volunteer teaching at a Bible school in Germany.  It was discouraging, but I knew that the Lord had called me to do this, and I trusted that He would take care of it.  And once again, He not only gave me my “daily bread,” but far above what I would have dared to ask for!

“I need to hang around you more often!” I told Corine.  “This is the second time I’ve gotten free bread at this bakery – when I’m with YOU!”  Corine laughed. “I was just thinking that YOU have God’s favor and that’s why we keep getting blessed!”  We finally agreed that we are BOTH God’s favored daughters.

Do you see yourself as a favored son?  Do you think of yourself as a beloved daughter?  Do you expect God to pour out abundant blessings in your life?  You don’t have to live as an orphan, begging for scraps from the table.  You are a precious child of the King. Receive His overflowing love today!

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”  Ephesians 3:20-21

Going vertical!

MJ

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HE IS RIGHT THERE WITH YOU

“I changed my mind, mommy!  I don’t want to do this!”  The look of panic in Leslie’s eyes pierced Becci’s heart.  Leslie had begged her mom to ride her very first roller coaster, but now the nine-year-old was having second thoughts.

Harnesses locked in place over their heads, the roller coaster was just starting to climb the first ascent.  “I want to get off, mommy!” Leslie pleaded again.  At that moment Becci longed to whisk her daughter out of her seat and on to safe, solid ground.  Squeezing Leslie’s hand, Becci tried to comfort the distressed little girl. “I’m sorry, baby, but it’s too late now.  We can’t get off.  But I’m right here with you.”

The next few minutes were sheer torture for Leslie and gut-wrenching for her mother.  Each loop and drop in the ride brought screams of terror and streams of tears.  By the time they finally got out, shaking, they were exhausted from the emotional experience.  Hugging her daughter tightly, Becci was thankful it was over.  Leslie recovered enough to enjoy the rest of the day in the amusement park, but she didn’t ask to go on any more roller coasters.

As Becci recounted the story to me later, I was struck by the image of God’s Father heart for us.  It must break God’s heart when we make choices that bring pain and suffering.  Though God is omnipotent and could supernaturally “stop the roller coaster” and get us off, He doesn’t undo our decisions.  He allows us to choose our own path and experience the consequences.

 Are you suffering the painful consequences of choices you have made?  Just as Becci held Leslie’s hand through the terrifying experience, our Heavenly Father never leaves us as we go through the sometimes frightening loops and drops of our lives.  Becci was able to reassure her daughter because she’d been on a roller coaster before and knew they would be OK.  In the same way, our Father has gone ahead of us and knows that we will be safe if we cling to His hand.  Will you choose to trust Him today with the effects of the choices you’ve made?  He is right there with you.  He will never leave you.  You can trust Him.

“The Lord is the one who is going ahead of you. He will be with you. He won’t abandon you or leave you. So don’t be afraid or terrified.” Deuteronomy 31:8 (GOD’S WORD Translation)

Going Vertical!

MJ

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