Thursday, June 10, 2010

Letting God be God

For the first time in my life, I am spending almost two weeks immersed in another culture. The experience has been priceless, unforgettable and not without its moments of stretching. Involving a steady schedule of speaking and travel, the trip has taught me so many new things and reaffirmed a lot of things the Lord has been faithfully and gently putting before me for a very long time.

To me, this truth of this trip has been that He goes with us in all circumstances and He is God.

As Scott (my husband) and I have traveled to three different states in Brazil and have yet to travel to one more, we have enjoyed the time together and have been blessed by the relationships God has given us with others on this trip. We have been reminded again how big the kingdom of God is in the fellowship with other believers and how much work there is to do in reaching a very hurting world.

Of little surprise to those who know me, I have come to realize what a verbal person I am. While I have picked up a few necessary words and phrases in Portuguese, I am usually at a loss when trying to communicate with someone beyond “hello,” “thank you,” or “God bless you.” I am way beyond my comfort zone. I have been incredibly blessed with a gifted group of translators and we are rarely without someone who can help us to negotiate the ins and outs of a Portuguese/English conversation. But I think the hardest part for me is being dependent on someone else to communicate what I am trying to say. As a teacher, a writer and a talkative person in general, I’ve felt fairly adequate in my abilities to express myself (my husband and my family will all smile at this statement, I’m sure!).


Far more than my needing someone else to communicate for me, I am reminded again that God must be the One who goes before me—that I cannot rest in my own abilities to help someone understand my heart. My role is to be faithful to what He has told me to say and entrust the rest to Him. Not an easy thing for me.


Take last night as a case in point. Scott and I had the opportunity to be at the 8th Presbyterian (yes, the 8th) Church in Belo Horizonte. I shared a message the Lord had given me to share the prior Sunday morning at a church in Brasilia but I felt led to emphasize a different portion of the scripture and a different part of the message. After I opened in prayer, the translator read the portion of scripture I was working off of for the message. Prior to that point in the service, I had felt a sense of readiness in sharing what I felt I was supposed to share. As I was sharing, however, I felt as if I was struggling to communicate what it was I wanted to say. My thoughts felt all over the place—and in truth, they were. The message wasn’t as well-organized or communicated as it could have been.


I’d love to be able to say that I took it in stride, let go of the frustration and felt at peace. But I can’t.

I analyzed and reanalyzed. Then I went to sleep. When I woke up, I remembered every unfinished thought, every weak point, every unclear example. I could leave the United States behind to travel to Brazil, but I had brought my self-centeredness with me. As I have spent time talking to the Lord this morning, He reminded me that He holds me, that He is God and that is enough. He can finish whatever my words left unfinished. He can clarify whatever I may have left muddy.

I trust Him to be my Translator.


God has already done above and beyond what I could have asked for this trip. I came with great expectations for Him to move, and He has done so. Last night was a reminder that my expectations must remain on Him and not on myself.

Last night as I was wrestling with my emotions—missing our children, feeling tired, over-dramatizing my inadequacies and just wanting to give-up—Scott told me he was proud of me. Not because I’ve done it all right, and not because my husband thinks this trip is about my abilities. But because we both understand this trip is about God and as someone told me recently, “Being a child of God isn’t about perfection; it’s about hunger.” And I’m hungry for God to accomplish what He wants to do in and through me—so, giving up is not an option. There’s still much to do.

We are thankful to know that He who begins a good work in us is the same One who is faithful to complete that work—this is my prayer not only for the women God has blessed me to know on this trip, but for those God has put in my life back home and in my own life as well.


Que Deus seja glorificado sempre. (May God be glorified always.)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Forgiveness

Forgivness is a gift we love to receive and yet many times one that requires great strength in order to give.  I recently had the opportunity to see The Heart of Texas, a movie with a powerful message about our choice to live out forgiveness rather than just know about it.  Without question, the movie reached me in some deep places.


Because of a "first-rights" agreement I have with Our Daily Journey, I am unable to publish my blog on the movie at this posting site, but check out this link to see my response:

http://www.ourdailyjourney.org/2010/04/07/even-if-youve-never-been-to-texas/. 

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sanctity of Life and My Coffee Cup


For the past several years, Sanctity of Life Sunday has typically meant a sermon about the value of human life, a few mailers from our local pro-life organization and a Monday morning news article depicting local pro-life advocates gathering at a rally. I have prayed for God to renew the heart of our country, and I have grieved with women who have borne the heartache of the aftermath of an abortion. For me, my every response to government stems from my understanding of life according to the Word and God’s creation of it.


As one born in 1973, the year of the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision, I have always felt a burden to make my life count for the kingdom of God, especially in regards to the destructive lies the enemy feeds women about freedom. Growing up, my parents—specifically, my mom—taught me that conviction and action are inseparable. For a long time, I’ve been asking God what more I could do to make my life resound with my belief that life is a gift from God and as such, every life matters from the moment of conception.


My time being fully committed elsewhere in ministry, I did not feel that the answer was to put another thing on my schedule. Likewise, my husband and I had already put our giving in the areas we felt directed by the Lord. So, I began to ask the Lord to show me what more I could do.

I didn’t expect the answer to come in my coffee cup.


Somewhere in my senior year in college, coffee became a dietary staple. Whether it was the idea of seeming more adult, a tribute to my father (an avid coffee drinker) or the need for caffeine, coffee has since made its way into my daily routine. Even though I have even given up the caffeinated part, the coffee still remains. While my choice of creamers and flavors have fluctuated over the years, my favorite remains an extra hot decaf mocha made with skim milk (and on certain occasions, a peppermint mocha).


So you can only imagine how much I rejoiced when not one but multiple Starbucks came to town. Anyone who enjoys a good cup of coffee knows not all coffee shops are the same.


At various points since discovering the warmth and atmosphere of a neighborhood Starbucks, I felt the Lord leading me to step away from my mochas in a place of remembering that He is my comfort and my reward. Although I would sometimes question if four bucks was too much for a cup of coffee, one sip would have me reminding myself that this one indulgence was doable since I am not a big spender in other areas. A few weeks ago, however, the Lord took me in a direction I little expected to go. As I was driving to work with my very hot, very good peppermint mocha in hand, I heard Him speak something into my spirit that answered my question of how much Starbucks is too much.


Over the years, I had heard the debate about the quotes on the cups, and I had heard the questions about benefits for domestic partnerships. But I had never contemplated Starbucks position on life. When I arrived at my desk that morning I ran a quick search and what I encountered left me with a decision about conviction and action (http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=45694).


It was as if the Lord was saying, “Remember when you asked me what more you could do?”


So, for me, I won’t be toting a Starbucks cup anymore—at least not until they no longer partner with death. The apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 8 and 10 that our righteousness is not found in what we eat or don’t eat, nor do we find favor with God by creating a list of rules. Neither should I be watching other people’s coffee cups to determine if they are holy or not. For me, it’s not about legalism but a call to obedience from the Lord as to where I spend my money. I asked Him, “What more can I do?” and He answered. I can’t argue with that.


All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor . . . Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.                    
                                --1 Corinthians 10:23-24, 31 (NASB).