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Archive for June, 2012

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Sitting on my towel on the sand, watching the waves come in and recede, I feel strangely restless and uncomfortable. My cousin Nathalie and I had planned an afternoon getaway to the beach, but we apparently had come with different visions of what that would look like. I’ve lived no more than thirty minutes from the ocean most of my life, and I love any excuse to go to the beach. But growing up in a family with three brothers, my experience of beach trips has always been full of physical activity – swimming, boogey-boarding, frisbee, volleyball, building sand-sculptures, etc.

So when Nathalie stretches out on her towel with a magazine she’s brought, I’m at a loss for what to do. It never occurred to me to bring reading material to the beach. I shift on my towel and scan the shoreline. Aren’t we going to DO something? Sensing my discomfort, my cousin turns to look at me, shaking her head.

“You need to learn to relax,” she chides gently.

“I AM relaxing!” I protest.

“No, you’re not,” she says. “You’re all tense, ready to jump up at any minute. We came to the beach to relax!”

She’s right. I am tense. It’s hard for me to completely relax. Even when I’m at the beach, I’m always busy. I guess if I’m active, even if it’s swimming or boogie-boarding, I feel like I’m being productive, like I’m accomplishing something. But when I sit still for just a few minutes, I start to feel guilty. There’s so much to do – emails to respond to, projects to work on, errands to run, phone calls to make… How can I just sit here and do NOTHING?

But why do I feel guilty if I slow down and take time to rest? Am I placing my value in what I accomplish? Is my worth determined by what I produce? My security doesn’t lie in what I do, but in Who I belong to. I’m an adopted daughter of the Heavenly Father, and He accepts me and loves me. Ephesians 1 says, “In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:5-6, NAS).

Lying back on the towel, I exhale slowly, trying to take my cousin’s advice. Relax, relax, I tell myself. I watch the seagulls wheeling overhead in the bright blue sky. I close my eyes and feel the sun warming my face. I listen to the surf crashing on the sand, and children giggling and squealing as they play in the water.

Emails can wait. Projects will still be there when I get home. Worrying about it or feeling guilty about it doesn’t help anything! My relationship as a daughter of the King isn’t dependent on what I accomplish today. I don’t need to prove myself or try to earn my acceptance. I can rest in my relationship with Him, and enjoy these “times of refreshing” (Acts 3:19, NIV).

What about YOU? In all your rushing around and busy-ness, are you willing to push the “PAUSE” button on life? Take time today to exhale and rest and be refreshed in the security of your Heavenly Father’s love for you!

Going Vertical!

MJ

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

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GOD DOESN’T WASTE PAIN

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We were examining watermelons in the produce aisle when we got the news. “Steve Saint’s been in an accident,” my dad said, scrolling through a message on his phone. “He’s partially paralyzed.”

Steve Saint is most known for being the son of famous missionary pilot Nate Saint, who was killed by the Auca Indians of the Ecuadorian jungle in the 1950’s, as told in the film “End of the Spear.” But Steve is also a personal family friend. He went to the same high school as my mom and her siblings. My dad has traveled with him into the Ecuadorian jungle to report on Steve’s continuing work with the very tribe who killed his father. And my brother interned with Steve’s company, i-Tec, two summers ago.

Now we were shocked to hear of this accident. While testing an experimental new vehicle, the message said, Steve was struck in the head by the aluminum wing. He was hospitalized in his Florida hometown, awake and in good spirits, but unable to move his hands and feet.

This inventor, pilot, and missionary is no stranger to suffering. He was only five years old when his father, his hero, was brutally murdered by the Aucas. It left the little boy with a huge hole in his heart and a lot of questions. Years later, when his beloved daughter Stephenie died suddenly of a brain aneurism at the age of twenty, Steve again was overwhelmed with grief. Yet in the face of such acute heart-wrenching loss and pain, Steve Saint did the unthinkable. He chose to forgive the men who had killed his father. He chose to release his daughter to a Heavenly Father who loved her more than he did. He chose to trust God to write his life story.

Even now, awaiting a delicate surgery to relieve the pressure on his spine, knowing that he may not recover full use of his hands and feet, considering what this will mean for his family and ministry, Steve Saint continues to place his life and future in God’s control. Soon after arriving at the hospital by helicopter, Steve said to his family, “let’s let God write this chapter, too.”*

God doesn’t waste pain. The pain of losing his father. The pain of losing his daughter. Now the pain of possible partial paralysis from this accident. By submitting his life to the Lord’s sovereign plan, Steve Saint is allowing himself to be used to bring hope and healing and restoration and reconciliation to many.

Your pain doesn’t have to be wasted either. But you have to make the choice. Will you allow the Lord to bring healing to your heart and use your pain for good? Will you let God write this chapter of your life?

Going Vertical!
MJ

“Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.”
Philippians 1:12-14, NIV

* Jeremy Weber, Christianity Today, June 13, 2012. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/juneweb-only/steve-saint-partly-paralyzed-testing-new-missionary-tech.html

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“La Basurera.” That was my nickname in Costa Rica when I was nineteen – “The Trash Can.” 
 
 
The nickname was solidified during our two-month outreach to Colombia and Venezuela. As the only “gringa” (American girl) in the group, I was the farthest from home, yet surprisingly it was my Costa Rican teammates who seemed to experience the most culture shock. They groaned about how much they missed their staples of “gallo pinto” (black beans and rice) and corn tortillas. And they struggled to finish the fish soup and baked plantains in the homes we visited.
 
 
That’s where “La Basurera” came in. In order not to offend, my teammates would politely nibble at their food until the hosts left the room. Then the undesired morsels would be discreetly piled onto MY plate, and I would dutifully polish off as much as I could before our hosts returned. Though my stomach protested at the mistreatment, I forced myself to eat far more than I should, considering it my duty to cover for my teammates.
 
 
However, over time, I started to become resentful towards my teammates and frustrated at myself. I fell into the “martyr syndrome” – sacrificing my own needs for others, so that people would applaud my noble efforts. The desire for others’ approval became more important to me than my own physical well-being.
 
 
Yet I don’t need to remain stuck in that unhealthy cycle of guilt, condemnation, and regret. Jesus says, “I no longer call you servants… instead I have called you friends” (John 15:15, NIV). Servants act out of duty and obligation. Friends act out of love and a free will.
 
 
So the next time I started feeling guilty about not eating every crumb of my meal, or realized that I was forcing myself to finish others’ leftovers, I began to evaluate my motivation. Am I doing this because I want to do it? Because I need to do it? Or am I trying to be the martyr? I don’t have to be “La Basurera” anymore. Even if I don’t completely clean my plate, Jesus will not condemn me. He is more interested in the state of my heart than the state of the food on my plate.
 
 
“Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.” (I John 3:20, NLT)
 
Going Vertical!
MJ

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“This is for you, Miss J.” Gabby smiled shyly as she handed me a two-inch square piece of blue construction paper with lopsided scalloped edges. Two smiling stick figures with long purple hair and triangle dresses were side by side, with the names “Miss J” and “Gabby” printed neatly above their heads.
 
 
It was my first time as a substitute teacher in this kindergarten class, but Gabby had quickly attached herself to me, asking to hold my hand as we walked in line to recess, wanting to sit close to me as I read a book on the carpet for story-time.
 

Now as I admired the picture, Gabby stuck her thumb in her mouth and grinned, brown eyes gleaming proudly. I carefully placed the precious paper on the teacher’s desk as we went on with the day’s activities. But at the end of the day, between helping Chase tie his shoes, locating Arianna’s missing lunchbox, and trying to get 16 kindergarten students out the door to go home, Gabby’s drawing was accidentally left behind.

 
“You forgot the picture I made for you, Miss J!” Gabby reminded me several days later when I was subbing for third grade. Gabby’s class was at recess and she had come to find me. “I still have it for you.” Apologizing, I promised I would come pick it up at the end of the day. But once again it was left behind, only remembered after I got home.
 
 
Two weeks later, I was back in Gabby’s kindergarten class as a substitue for the morning. Gabby’s eyes lit up as soon as she saw me. “Miss J! Now can I give you your picture?”
 
 
I watched as she walked over to the bookshelves on the far side of the room, pulled out a large Bible from the second shelf, and flipped through the pages to find the small blue square.
 
 
“I kept it for you,” she explained as she handed me her special drawing.
 
 
“Thank you so much! It’s beautiful.” I gave her a hug. “This time I won’t forget it!” As Gabby skipped happily to her seat, I put the picture in my purse so it wouldn’t get lost again.
 
 
Though it doesn’t seem like much, that little blue square of construction paper with the two smiling stick figures represents a little girl’s love. Though I had forgotten several times about the picture, Gabby hadn’t forgotten. Because it was so important to her, it became important to me.
 
 
Sometimes I worry that I’m bothering God when I come to Him with my problems or concerns. With all the billions of people in the world, my heart issues seem insignificant and unimportant. He must have better things to do than to listen to me, I think.
 
 
But we are important to our Heavenly Father. We are His children, and He wants to hear from us. Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” Isaiah 43:4 says we are “precious and honored” in His sight. He cares about our thoughts and feelings.
 
 
I keep Gabby’s picture in my planner now. Every time I see it, I’m reminded of our Father’s love. You can always go to Jesus with whatever is bothering you. He’s never too busy to listen. He cares about your heart. You are precious to Him!
 
 
Going Vertical!
MJ

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