Monthly Archives: February 2008

Authenticity and Love

I really like this blog post by Phil Cooke.

I especially liked these sentences — “It’s not about being pushy, arguing about the truth, or dominating the conversation. It’s about living the kind of life that immediately makes the Christian life something that seems reasonable and attractive.”

I think for too long Christians have alienated people, actually turned people off from the Gospel. We’ve been hateful and pushy and argumentative. We’ve been self-righteous know-it-alls. And look where we are.

Phil Cooke goes on to say, “Jesus wasn’t pushy, he was confident. He wasn’t about imposing his faith on others, he was about telling them the story, and living the kind of life people noticed and responded to. It’s about authenticity and love, not power.”

Good thoughts.

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Makes Me Want To Love Him Too

I love this old Leslie Phillips’ song. Just like the musical style of the song, the words are simple and beautiful. If we truly understand God’s kindness and goodness, we will be drawn to repentance.

Waiting for angry words to sear my soul
Knowing I don’t deserve another chance
Suddenly the kindest words I’ve ever heard
Come flooding from God’s heart

(Chorus)
It’s your kindness that leads us
To repentance Oh Lord
Knowing that You love us
No matter what we do
Makes us want to love You too
(Repeat)

No excuse no one to blame
No way to hide
The eyes of God have found my failures
Found my pain
He understands my weaknesses
And knows my shame
But His heart never leaves me.

(Repeat Chorus)
It’s your kindness that leads us
To repentance Oh Lord
Knowing that You love us
No matter what we do
Makes us want to love You too

(Bridge)
If You are for us
Who can be against us
You gave us everything
even Your only Son

(Repeat Chorus)
It’s your kindness that leads us
To repentance Oh Lord
Knowing that You love us
No matter what we do
Makes us want to love You too

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Part 6 — Our Story

If you haven’t read parts 1 – 5, you should read those first. Or maybe skim them if you don’t have that long at the computer. 🙂

So, Patrick made it home with just enough time to change clothes and hop in the car with the rest of us that Sunday evening. We sat together in church as the former Muslim, now dynamic Christian teacher, challenged us to use our freedom and resources and . . . well, our entire lives to reach the world for Christ.

The more he spoke, the more I knew God was asking me — asking us — to make this our life goal. God burdened me for missions. He impressed upon me that we needed to leave the life we had and make this our life’s ministry. By the time this missionary came to his closing prayer and challenge to listen for God’s call, I knew I was hearing God’s call. I knew God wanted us to be full-time missionaries.

Ok. That’s all well and good, but I’m not single. I wasn’t single back in 2005. I was pregnant with my sixth child, and my husband had a perfectly fine job. We had a home and were involved in our church. We gave money to missions. He was even going on a two-week trip to help some missionaries in the Philippines later that summer, you may remember. We had friends. I was involved in a MOPS group. Our children were in AWANA. We loved our life. And I had never, ever heard my husband even wonder aloud or ponder or mention for a minute the idea of leaving it all to become a missionary. I couldn’t exactly make this decision for us. So what was I supposed to do with this calling?

I have a tendency to be very persuasive. Patrick often says he finds it difficult to argue or debate with me because I make it seem like any alternative to my opinion is just idiotic. I don’t mean to do this, and I’ve been asking the Holy Spirit to change me and help me be careful about how I express myself. I tell you that to say that I didn’t want to tell Patrick about this calling because I didn’t want to convince him that we should be missionaries. I mean, what if I’d misunderstood? I certainly didn’t want to persuade Patrick and then be wrong! So, the most unbelievable part of this whole story is that I kept my mouth shut and didn’t say a word to Patrick about feeling called to missions. I just prayed, asking God to make it clear to Patrick — if I had understood Him correctly.

Well, while I was sitting on the pew feeling burdened about missions and, quite honestly, feeling as if I might throw up from the knowing that the Holy Spirit was speaking to me and calling us to full-time missions, Patrick was right beside me. Like two inches from me. And he, very suddenly, knew God was pointing at him and saying, “You. I want you and your family in full-time missions.” Patrick says he actually wanted to turn around to see who was sitting behind us because he was certain God had gotten the wrong pew. Though Patrick is an excellent teacher of the Word, he does not consider himself a preacher. He certainly never thought of himself as a church-planter or anything like that. And he did have this growing family to consider. He didn’t exactly relish the idea of telling his pregnant wife that he wanted to take her and all these kids away from home and possibly to the middle of a jungle somewhere. He is the spiritual leader of our family, but it has never been his style to single-handedly make decisions and just tell me that’s how it is. So Patrick did what he did before, he told God that if He wanted us in missions, He’d have to tell me Himself.

And so for a few weeks, both of us kept quiet. We didn’t say a word to each other about what God was doing. Instead, we were both praying for God to give us the same heart.

Then one day we were talking about the money we would receive when the purchase of the company was finalized. (Remember — the company Patrick worked for was being purchased and all the employees were receiving a portion of the money from the sale.) We talked about how great it would be to get rid of all that debt. We talked about how this unexpected blessing was so much easier than Dave Ramsey’s plan, and we were thankful God had given us a fast-track way to get out of debt. Trying to sound casual and as if my comment were completely off-hand, I said, “Yeah, you know a good thing about being out of debt is that if God wants to use us in some way, we would be free to obey Him. You know, like if He did something crazy and called us to missions, we could do it.” I sort of held my breath waiting for Patrick’s response.

Patrick half-laughed and said, “Funny you should say that . . . ” And he began to tell me how God had spoken to him that evening of the mission conference. He told me he felt like he would die if he didn’t leave everything and go into full-time missions. What a brave man! I was around four months pregnant with our sixth child. My wonderful husband was taking quite a step of faith to tell all of this to a walking ball of hormones.

But he had nothing to fear. I laughed out loud, just the most joyful, YAY-God laugh, and I said, “Funny you should say that!” And I told him how God had spoken to me at the exact same moment, how God had softened my heart on Saturday evening and Sunday morning and then had clearly delivered His message to me that Sunday evening.

For a long time, we talked together about how God had prepared us for years and years for this moment. We rejoiced that He had spoken to us both so clearly at the same time, so neither of us felt as if we were convincing the other. Neither of us could blame or resent the other when times got difficult. Neither of us could question if this were really God’s idea or just the misguided beliefs of the other one of us. No, God left us no doubts. Often during our married life we have asked God for clear direction. Our favorite saying in praying for direction is, “Please, Lord, make it as obvious as a two-by-four upside the head.” Well, this was our two-by-four upside the head. No doubt.

And so we decided to not mention this to anyone else just yet. We didn’t know exactly how we would proceed this from point. Both of us were willing to go wherever God wanted us. Both of us knew we’d leave everything and pour our lives into reaching the world with the gospel. We just had no clue exactly what that meant yet. So we decided to pray together and ask God, “Ok, what next?”

Oh, I hope this story is filling your heart with love for our Father. Reliving it all sure is making me love Him more. He worked so patiently and steadily and calmly in our lives. He softened our hearts and orchestrated everything perfectly to accomplish His purpose. His timing in all of this was just exactly perfect. He is in charge of every detail of every life; He is completely sovereign. And yet, He cares so much about each of us. He is so personal. I hope you’ve noticed those aspects of His character in this story of our lives. There’s more to come. I’ll write Part 7 soon. He kindly confirmed to us in several ways that we hadn’t imagined all of this, that He really was doing this in our lives. Oh, He is just so good to us. So faithful and kind and steady.

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Part 5 — Our Story

So in January of 2005, the Holy Spirit impressed on both of us His desire for Patrick to go with a team of people from our church to the Philippines. They were going to help Chris and Lynne, a missionary couple from our church, get their jungle home ready to move into. We gave up our vacation and a good bit of money for this trip that would take place in July of 2005.

In late February or early March of 2005, Patrick’s employer announced that he was selling his small company to a much larger conglomerate. This would mean some changes, but the greatest immediate effect was a sizable check made out to Patrick. Every employee owned some percentage of the company, a system of bonuses and award points the president had worked out from day-one. Some of Patrick’s co-workers bought new cars or invested in a new business or made a large down-payment on a new home. After a lot of discussion and prayer, we decided we would use nearly all of this money to pay off our debt, other than our home.

It felt good to be rid of all the stupid-debt we had acquired. It felt good to cancel credit cards and greatly reduce our monthly budget. We thanked God for this great unexpected blessing that freed us in so many ways.

Then in early April our church was having its annual missions conference. We were scheduled to have a dinner on Saturday evening during which we would hear from a missionary, a former Muslim who trains and teaches Christians from the Middle East so they can return home and lead churches. Two other couples preparing for the mission field would be at the conference as well. On Sunday morning, all three missionaries would speak and share their ministries with our church. I was looking forward to it.

The men in Patrick’s family have guy-time (insert appropriate grunting noises now) each spring at a car show in North Carolina. Patrick planned to go bond with the men of his family at the car show the same weekend of our missions conference. I felt uneasy about this and really wanted Patrick to stay home for our missions conference. After some not-so-subtle comments about my opinion, I remembered that I am not Patrick’s own personal holy spirit and stopped trying to change his mind.

The week prior to the car show and missions conference, some of the children came down with a stomach virus. I spent much time cleaning up vomit and changing Pull-Ups or diapers. Everyone seemed to be feeling better on Thursday, so Patrick left for the car show. Thursday night, in the middle of the night, I woke up sick. I spent most of the night throwing up and by Friday morning, I felt like I’d been run over by a semi. I called Patrick, who was three hours away at the car show, and begged him to come home. He left immediately and rushed home to help me.

Though I’d wanted him to be home all along, I felt awful that he was missing one of his favorite traditions. So when I woke early Saturday feeling better, I told him he should return to the car show. Happily, he did.

With everyone healthy, the children and I headed to the missions dinner on Saturday evening. I was overjoyed to see the display tables of the two couples who were preparing for the mission field. Both couples were planning to go to Goroka, Papua New Guinea. Goroka. That’s the town we spent a night in back in 1991 when Patrick and I went to PNG with the group from our college. I had walked through the markets of Goroka. I had spent an entire afternoon playing with children in the yard of a Salvation Army complex there. We tossed balls, blew bubbles, played frisbee, and they taught me Pidgin, a trading language of PNG.

As I looked at the pictures on the display tables there in our church gymnasium, the photos came to life. I knew that place. Their bilums smelled like PNG. Remember how I described that smell I had fallen in love with? The smoke and body odor and beetle nut and all the other smells of PNG mixed together. The stuff on their display tables held that smell. I felt transported back to May of 1991 when I was eighteen and God was opening my eyes to missions. Oh how I wished Patrick were with me!

After we got home and I tucked the children in bed, I called Patrick and told him about my conversations with the two couples and about their pictures and their bilums. I told him I wished he had been there to share the memories with me.

The next morning, the three missionaries spoke in church. Our pastor refers to this former Muslim man as a modern-day Apostle Paul. He is so intense, so burdened to reach the world for Christ, so determined and excited and contagious. He is single-minded. I have half-joked that I expect the entire congregation to feel called to full-time missions after listening to this man preach. That morning, I knew the Holy Spirit was working in our church service. God had already used the pictures and displays and conversations about Papua New Guinea to soften my heart. Then he used this man’s preaching to challenge me and burden me that there are still so many to be reached. I was so excited to tell Patrick about the church service.

After church, I called Patrick and told him about the morning service. I tried to describe this dynamic speaker and his message. I knew Patrick should hear him and meet the missionaries going to PNG, but I stopped short of asking him to come back. As I hung up the phone, I prayed that either Patrick would come home for church Sunday evening or that I would be able to let go of my feelings that he should have been there.

Our Sunday evening church service begins at 6:00. Patrick was three hours away. Just before 3:00, Patrick felt a strong sense that he had to come home for the Sunday evening service. He and his dad and brother were packing up the camper and all the things from their weekend. To their surprise, I’m sure, Patrick said, “Hey, I think I need to get back for church tonight. If I leave right now, I can make it. I’ve got to go.” And he just left them to finish packing up stuff and hopped in his car to drive home. He called me and asked me to lay out some clothes for him to wear and maybe iron a shirt for him. He would barely have enough time to change and make it to the service with us.

I was thrilled he was coming home. I had no idea what God was doing, but I sensed He was at work, and I couldn’t wait to see what happened.

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Part 4 — Our Story

In late 2004 I decided demanded suggested that we should take a week-long family vacation in the summer of 2005. We had never driven to a beach and spent a week there as a family, and I thought it was time for that. My husband agreed, and so I began searching the internet for the perfect vacation spot.

Lauren and Rachel had fallen in love with Misty, the horse from Chincoteague Island, Virginia. Lauren had read the book by Marguerite Henry, and we had all watched the old movie based on the story. I discovered that vacation rentals on Chincoteague are MUCH less expensive than vacation rentals at other beaches. So that settled it. We’d spend a week in a large red beach house on Chincoteague Island. We would play in the sand, collect shells, hike to the lighthouse, scope out wild ponies, and taste ice cream from all three ice cream shops on the island. It would be a dream vacation.

We received our paperwork so that we could reserve the house for a week in June. But we misplaced it. A few weeks went by. Finally, we found it under a stack of junk mail and bills and Sunday School coloring pages on our desk. But we still did not sign it. I didn’t feel a peace about it; Patrick didn’t feel a peace about it; we decided to pray about it. Maybe that wasn’t the house we were supposed to stay in.

I really wanted to go on this vacation.

In January of 2005 our friends Chris and Lynne, who are missionaries with New Tribes Mission, were home visiting for a few weeks before returning to the Philippines. They were scheduled to speak in church one very snowy morning. We bundled up our five small children and braved the slick roads to get to church.

Chris and Lynne wanted a team of people from our church to come to the Philippines that summer. They were preparing to move into the jungle to help an Australian couple who are translating the Bible into the tribal language. The house in the jungle needed a great deal of work before Chris and Lynne could live in it, so they wanted a team of people from our church to come work on their house. This particular Sunday in January, they were going to update us on their ministry and challenge our church to send this team of people. So we went to church to hear them and visit with them because we love them.

A couple months before, Patrick had mentioned that he’d love to go on the trip. I had laughed and said, “Yeah, I bet you would. Me too.” He didn’t say anything. I laughed again and said, “I’m sure there are other people who don’t have a wife and five small children who can go help them.”

As you know, we had both been on at least one short-term mission trip before. I knew how amazing and fun that experience could be. I knew how God could use a time like that to change a person. I knew that two weeks in a foreign country would be amazing. But I knew that I couldn’t up and leave my five children, all ages seven and under. So, it stood to reason, that Patrick couldn’t do that either. I did not plan to be left behind for two weeks while he traveled around the world having some amazing experience. He traveled enough for his job. Besides, we were taking a family vacation to Chincoteague. And that was the end of that conversation.

So there we sat on that cold January morning, listening to Chris and Lynne, looking at their pictures, hearing their stories. My heart was softened by their burden, by their retelling of their experiences, and especially by their pictures. Finally, Chris challenged our half-filled church about sending a team of people. It would cost tens of thousands of dollars for plane tickets and building supplies and meals and other travel expenses for a group to go for two weeks. Our church would have less than six months to give this, in addition to all of our regular tithes and mission giving. It was a big goal, and God would really have to pull it together.

Then Chris asked everyone to bow their heads and pray, asking God to put this team of people together. He asked God to call forward those He wanted on this trip.

I bowed my head to pray and immediately felt a strong knowing that Patrick should go on the trip. Inside my head, the conversation went something like this:

“But God, I don’t want him to go. Four-day business trips are hard enough. I don’t want to be left alone for two weeks with five children.”

nothing, just a strong feeling that Patrick had to go

“But God, we are supposed to go on that vacation to Chincoteague. If Patrick uses two weeks of vacation for this trip, we won’t be able to go.”

a flash of remembering how neither of us had peace about signing the paperwork for the rental house

“So that’s why we didn’t have a peace about it? But I really wanted to go. We deserve a family vacation, Lord.

a quiet whisper saying, “You don’t always get what you want, Jennifer. There is always next year for a vacation. This is only happening this year. My plans are better than your plans.

“But we were going to use our tax return to pay for this vacation. It was all going to work out so perfectly.”

Oh, about that tax return money. You should use that to pay for Patrick’s plane tickets to the Philippines. He has to go.

“Lord, I want to obey you, but it sure is hard. I really don’t want to give up the vacation and the money and my husband for two weeks. *sigh* But I will.

And this was the conversation inside Patrick’s head:

a strong knowing that he had to go on this trip
“But God, you know how Jenn feels about that. She’s already told me. If you want me to go, you have to convince her. I don’t want to force this on her. Please change her heart. I’m leaving this one up to you.”

Of course, all of this happened rather quickly because the prayer only lasted a short time. Finally, I leaned over and whispered to Patrick, “You have to go. It’s OK. We’ll give up Chincoteague for this year. It’s OK. You have to go.”

I don’t know that I have ever seen Patrick look so relieved. As he walked up the aisle to commit to the trip, I wept. I knew that when God asks us to give up our plans and greatest dreams, He has something even better planned. If He was asking me to sacrifice our vacation (my dream vacation), He was going to do something incredible.

Little did I know then just what He had in store for us!

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The End Of The World

The sun expanding into a huge fiery red giant. Earth gradually being pulled into the sun, and eventually being vaporized by the giant star’s heat. One billion years left until the sun boils away the oceans and kills all the people, leaving Planet Earth a charred people-less ball.

This stuff sounds like a B-movie or a science fiction book. But it gets better.

Scientists try to tame an asteroid and force it to circle by Earth every few thousand years so that our planet is gradually nudged toward outer space, far enough to outpace the sun’s growth.

Now, it sounds like some action movie scheduled to be released for a long July 4 weekend.

But, no, I read this today on Fox News. This story details the so-called scientists’ projections for the gradual growth of the sun and the slow destruction of Earth over the next 7 billion years. Of course, they also explain how Earth has already been around for more than 3.7 billion years, though “for those first three billion years, true, we were nothing but pond scum.”

It’s just a shame that the Bible is too unbelievable for some people. It takes too much faith, you know.

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Granola Bars

We’ve been sick with bad colds, and I haven’t had a lot of time for writing. I am not abandoning this blog. I promise. I don’t have the brainpower to write a thoughtful post right now, but I thought I’d share a recipe with you. This is an adaptation of a recipe from the Quaker Oats web-site. It gets good reviews from my 3 year old and 2 year old. And it sure is a whole lot cheaper than buying granola bars for the older children to take to school.

3 1/2 cups Quick Quaker Oats

2/3 cups butter or margarine, melted

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 egg, beaten

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup honey

1/2 cup flaked or shredded coconut

1 cup chopped nuts

1/2 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup miniature baking M&Ms (or if you don’t add these in, 1 whole cup chocolate chips)

** You could add in raisins or other dried fruit instead of chocolate chips, if you want the bars to be healthier. Or you can play around and add in peanut butter and more chopped peanuts and maybe a little less margarine.

After you mix all the ingredients well, press firmly into a well-greased 15 1/2 X 10 1/2 inch pan. Bake in 350º oven for 20 minutes. Cool thoroughly and then cut into bars. Store in tightly-covered container in a cool, dry place or in the fridge.

I wrapped each bar individually in plastic wrap because I knew my children would be taking them to school. Then I put all the wrapped bars in a large plastic Ziploc and put it in the fridge.

I used my Kitchenaid mixer to mix the ingredients, and it took less than 10 minutes to mix it all up and press it into the pan. So it really is easy.

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