Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Love affair with Jesus

Watching my kids and their relationship with God has caused me to pause and consider some things.  I wonder how I am going to teach  my children to truly love God.  I mean, I love Him.  I love him more that I thought possible to love, yet I have no idea how to teach that to my children.

You know, a child has no idea how much his parents love him.  He loves them, he cares for them, but the depth of his love is on the shallow end of things.  It isn't tested love, it is love born of need and needs met.  It is love born of companionship and affection, but it isn't mature as the lover is immature.  It is completely self-centered, but it is all that the child is capable of, therefore it is fulfilling.

As the child grows into adolescence  the friendship love really begins to develop.  This affectionate love grows as his friendships grow. As he spends time with his friends he learns to appreciate differences, to love someone despite their faults, and to sacrifice.

Very soon afterward begins the romantic love. This is entirely different!  This kind of love fills every sense, aches the heart, and occupies the mind.  This kind of love is reckless and overwhelming!  All of the person's emotions are involved and reason is greatly diminished.

Finally, the child is an adult and (hopefully) has matured.  His love has matured.  Now he is married and experiences something different.  Those loves have converged onto his spouse.  The intensity of the romantic love has diminished, but it still ever present.  He trusts her, depends on her.  This love is tested by annoyances and frustrations and selfishness, but when done well, survives and thrives and is deepened.

Finally, they have children.  They hold their newborn babe and an entirely new kind of love is born.  One that is totally selfless and driving.  This love reaches down to the deepest part of the person.  They love that child and they do it with NOTHING in return.  They pour out their love, sink into it, and dwell there.  This is the love that keeps them from murdering their totally self-centered, sinful toddler! :)

When I look  at how I love my Father and Savior, I am so wrapped up in all of those stages of love!  There are times when it is totally self-centered.  I am like a babe in the arms of my Father: needy, greedy, seeking.  There are times when He is my friend above all.  An ear to listen to, someone to depend on.  There are times when I just enjoy His presence and want to just "hang out" with Him and His word.  I even experience a sort of romantic love with my Lord.  At least in the sense that I am totally overwhelmed with emotion.  When just the thought of Him brings me to tears my eyes and i can physically feel my love for Him.  I don't love Him like He's my child, but the depth of love that I have for him is very much like that.

One important thing.  Friendships break up, they die from neglect, marriages dissolve because of simple entropy.  My love for my Lord waxes a wanes a bit in direct relation to how much time I spend with Him.  There are mornings that I don't "feel" anything and others that I long for more time.  There are days when He is ever present in my mind and others that I hardly remember He is there.  It is a love affair!

I wonder how my children's love for the Lord will develop?  Will it mirror their love for us, their friends, their spouse?  Or, because "we love because He first loved us", will all of those other relationships mirror their love for Him?

I guess we'll see!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Jenny's Job

This is Jenny here and I still get quite a few questions as to what exactly do I do here.  I wanted to give an update because some things have changed as far as my ministry in Guatemala.

My first and most important ministry is to my family right now.  I have 4 young children (3 here and one in the Congo) and a husband that does ministry full time.  A lot of my time is spent homeschooling, taking kids to events, washing laundry, planning menus, grocery shopping, reading books, making crafts, checking e-mails, planning curriculum, etc.  I do a lot of discipling of our children.

Another aspect of my ministry here that I didn't realize I would be doing is serving other missionaries and other missionary wives.  Last fall we had a Gringa Bible study here, I make meals for people, help run errands for people, take people to the doctor, translate for people, plan birthday cakes and baby showers, etc.  Because I don't have a job outside of the home, I am free to serve the other missionary families.  This has been such a wonderful part of what I do here because I remember what it was like when we first moved here and we didn't know how to speak Spanish, we didn't know where anything was, and we felt VERY isolated.  I no longer feel that way, and God is using me to alleviate that someone for some of the other missionary women.

As far as "normal" missionary work, I am still somewhat involved in an orphanage here, as well as helping with the Sunday school ministry at our local church.  Last fall I began teaching a sewing class to a group of girls at the orphanage, and I am about to start that again soon.  We took a break over the Christmas holidays and I have been trying to get my schedule set up to figure out when I will have time to go this year.  I finally have found a couple of books in Spanish that will function for me sort of as a guide in teaching.  Before, I was sort of winging it, and the orphanage kept asking me to teach them certain things.  That made me feel a little disorganized, so I will be going through a more formal routine starting soon.  In the mean time I have been making curtains for the boys' room at the orphanage.

At church, I have scaled back my involvement drastically so that now I am just a Sunday school teacher and I don't have to teach but once a month or so.  That frees me up to listen to the sermons on Sunday morning, which I greatly enjoy, and to focus on the kids because Brandon is busy teaching two Sunday school classes.

So, that about sums it up.  I am not sure if it sounds like I am busy or not, but I sure feel like I am.  There are days when I feel like there is so much that I have to offer that I am not doing.  I have all these great ideas and want to do so much more, but the reality is that the call of God on my life has almost nothing to do with my gifted-ness, my talents, or really anything about me.  It has everything to do with the character of God...who He is.  My job isn't to go searching for ministry opportunities as much as it is to just do what the Lord has put in front of me.  So for now, I'll keep being a mom and wife, I'll keep sewing and serving and praying.  And be so pleased that God has allowed me to serve Him!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Fast

We are missionaries with an amazing mission organization.  Camino Global isn't only wonderful because of its rich history ministering to Spanish speaking peoples. Not only is it wonderful because of its worldwide vision, and because of all of the incredible, godly missionaries who serve, but also because of a leadership that loves our Lord, that desires to serve Him above all else, and that challenges us to do the same.  This week (I believe), Camino leadership will be meeting to seek the Lords direction for the upcoming year(s).  I am sure that many mission agencies are doing that.  What is so wonderful to me, is that Doug Livingston, our president, asked the mission body to fast and pray along with the leadership, as they felt led, for a week in preparation for this time of planning. What an honor to get to participate!

I had  never done a fast like this before.  I am sort of ashamed to admit that.  I have always liked the "idea" of fasting, but never really felt like I needed to participate.  And here was an opportunity to share in this process with Camino missionaries, board members, and staff.  So after some prayer and consideration, I decided to participate with a partial fast. I don't know how arbitrary it was, but after seeking the Lord's guidance, I decided that I would eat no meat, no bread (or flour/corn/rice products), and no sugar.  Basically limiting myself to vegetables, beans, and some cheese.

I am writing this because I wanted to share with you what God taught me through that week of fasting.  The idea was to fast and pray...combined.  I can say that when I began my first day, I was completely overwhelmed with the desire to pray for Camino Global.  Every time my tummy grumbled in hunger, every carrot that I sliced, every piece of bread that I passed up, was accompanied by a prayer offered to my Savior.  On several occasions that first day I was moved to tears as I felt the Holy Spirit interceding through my prayers.  What a joyful and humbling experience!

Honestly, after that day, it wasn't quite as emotional, although it may have been more spiritual.  I had been praying for some time that God would help me be more aware of His presence throughout my day, being convinced that I needed to pay more attention to Him to really experience the fullness of life that He has given me.  All throughout the days I was more and more aware of His ever abiding presence with me.  What a blessing and a source of joy.  It was as if the lines between the physical body and my spiritual nature were torn down, even for just a little while.

I also became increasingly aware of my lack of discipline and self denial.  Before, whenever I felt the slightest pang of hunger, I would march down to my fridge or my pantry and select something to satisfy my urges.  If I was baking or cooking or even just standing in the kitchen while Brandon did, I munched, taking little bites here and there, simply because I wanted them and I could.  It is amazing to me how occupied my energies are in satisfying the pleasures/needs/wants of my physical body, compared to how little effort I spend nourishing my spirit.  This fast brought all of that to the forefront of my mind.

A little denial goes a long way.  I don't believe that God created us to satisfy every desire, appease every appetite, or gratify every whim.  I think that God desires us to practice self denial, to be aware of our real needs and satisfy them with thanksgiving in our hearts for His provision.  And since when was hunger bad?  That feeling of hunger that I work really hard at eliminating, made me aware of the frailty of my physical body, made me thankful for the stomach that I have, and reminded me to pray...to seek Him.

This was such a wonderful experience for me, and I am so thankful that I was given the chance to fast and pray along with so many others for the future of Camino Global.  I would really like to begin regularly incorporating the fast into my walk with the Lord.  

Thursday, April 26, 2012

hora chapin

Brandon here. Or there. Anyway.

I have our blogs and website, etc, in my e-mail sig file. I forget that's there and that anyone who reads an e-mail can in one little click go to blogs that we have not updated in months. I say I'm too busy but the reality is that I have time I just wasn't sure anyone was reading. But that's sort of not the point. Sure, we want people to read, but what happened is that I began corresponding with some folks who were here serving at "my little refuge", an orphanage nearby, and they mentioned they went to our blogs to see more about missionary life. Shame. Because this one hadn't been updated since...I have no idea.

So, here's a little Spanish lesson and a few things about getting places on time.

I teach adult Sunday School from 9:30-10:30. In the US that means folks show up at 9:30 and we end at 10:30. Mostly. Here...not so much.

There are different ways to measure time. We can talk about the fact that an hour is 60 minutes no matter where you are and that Einstein thinks if you obtain sufficient velocity that changes, but that doesn't matter. Guatemalan Birthday party invitations always give the time 30 minutes before anyone is supposed to arrive. It says 3:30, get there at 4:00 or later. 5:00 would not be too strange. Show up at 3:30 and you'll be lonely. It's called 'hora chapin'. Hora means time. Chapin means Guatemalan. It's Guatemalan Time. 

So. Back to Sunday School.

I prepared 12 sessions of 60-90 minutes each and have 17 weeks to teach them. No problem, right? Except that 9:30 is hora chapin. So I show up every Sunday at 9:25. Set up. And wait. By 9:45 there are 2-3 people there. Well, at least normally. By 10:00 we've got 15 or so. I end at 10:30 because I said I would and we get about 30 minutes of good time together. 

I knew this going in and asked my Guatemalan friends for suggestions. I was told we needed to have an enrollment sheet called an inscripciĆ³n where folks put their name and check when they came and then sign their name, which is supposed to add to the commitment. I did that. I was also told that for those who attend 80% of the classes a diploma or a certificate will be given. Those are big here. You get a certificate for just about everything. So I did that and got 34 folks signed up.

Still, 9:45, I have 3.

So what constitutes attendance? How do I say someone has been there 80% of the time if they just come for the last 15 minutes? Does that count?

I have 4 weeks to figure this out because I won't teach this week due to a regional meeting of folks occuring during Sunday school. I was informed of this last week. And then after that I have four weeks because the anniversary of the church is the last week of May and they cancel Sunday school. 

Reality is that no one will attend 80% of the time - it's a mathematical impossibility. And I can't really give them a diploma for finishing the training because I will only get midway through 8 of 12 sessions. So what do I do?

I would love suggestions. Truly.

Reality again: the point is not to finish, but to teach those who are there, where they are at, and roll with it. It's frustrating from a gringo's perspective because I want to finish what I started just to finish it, who cares if I learn anything. Time is money, investment, right?

Maybe it's me who needs to adjust my idea of time?

And yet we are called to 'redeem the time because the days are evil'. Is it ok that they come to a 9:30 class at 10:00, or do I confront that and try to encourage them to get there on time because it's the best thing to do? 

I tried to laugh about no one getting there on time, make self-depreciating gringo jokes, I even asked the  adults why the college kids got to their class on time but they seemed unable. None of this worked, of course. I asked other church members and they told me that Sunday, people just want to relax so it's hard for them to get there on time. I asked if we should make it from 10-10:30 but they laughed and said people would still come late.

So I just throw the lesson plan out and roll with it. I got frustrated, don't get me wrong, but I'm not here to teach people to arrive in a timely manner - I'm here to teach people how to walk with Jesus - and sometimes that's done best hora chapin.  

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Discipleship Part 3: More on denying myself

previous post: Discipleship Part 2

We are talking about self-denial from Matthew 16 when we see what we must do to follow (or be a disciple) of Jesus. He said we must do what He did, deny himself.

So to find out what self denial really means, lets look at how Christ exercised self-denial.
Philippians 2:3-8 says that we should
     "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, Um...do I do anything with the hope that someone will notice? Do I do anything desiring praise for a job well done? Do I get frustrated if someone else gets the total credit for something I worked and slaved to do/make? Do I crave recognition or get down if I don't get it?  YES! I do all of those thing!!  THAT IS SELFISH AMBITION AND VAIN CONCEIT!
but in humility consider others better than yourselves".  Ok...So when I think in my head things like "I don't deserve to get treated that way" or "who does he think he is" or when I consider my own needs as priority over Brandon's or my neighbors'.  Or when I think...Oh, they might need such and such, but I just have to take care of me first.  All of those things mean I'm not considering others better than me.
Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  This needs no explanation.  But who are those others? The "jerk" on the highway that is trying to cut me off? What about his interests? The friend or extended family member that loves to come over but wears everyone out when they arrive because they are an emotional black hole?  What about their needs? The dirty, crazy looking homeless guy, or the homosexual co-worker, or the creepy neighbor kid?  Anyway.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, Wow.  Wow.  So, His status, His "rights", His recognition, His position, His power...laid it all aside.  Became nothing.  Pointed only to the Father, never to Himself.  Forsook all that he had.  I take some sort of pride in my education.  My nationality, my gits, talents, my wonderful kids, my wonderful marriage.  I take pride in my critical thinking skills, in my "right standing" with God, as if I had something to do with that.  I don't habitually forget myself.  I don't habitually lay down everything that I feel makes me "me."  I don't EVER make myself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant...He humbled Himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross.  Who/what am I obedient to?  This is more than I can comprehend right now.

In reading My Utmost For His Highest the other day I was reminded of 2 things: The work of God in my life is less a product of my own efforts than the submission of my entire being to the Source: He who works in me.

And also that submission is a continuous act of the will in denying myself, (my desires, my ambitions, my sense of personal injustices, offences against me, my self-righteous attitudes, my personal freedoms, what I am "owed", my lofty (or poor) self-image, my cravings, to name a few)  but even that act requires the grace of God in my life.

Therefore, I want to fellowship with, and get to know better, the Creator and rely on the grace of His Son to submit my life to Him that He may produce change in me.

Discipleship Part 2: Denying myself

For the first half of this discussion, go here.

Christ said:  "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." Matthew 16:24 (also in Mark 8 and Luke 9)

This morning I wanted to write about the denying yourself part.  I have been wondering for a while what exactly that looks like.  I feel like the Lord has been calling me to self denial, and I, in total ignorance of what that really means, flippantly have said "sure, Lord! Sounds good."  I mean I really do WANT to be a serious, hardcore, sold out disciple of Him.  I don't see the point in sort of walking around with this faith and not really experiencing the abundant life promised me.  It has been my desire for a long time to be extreme for Jesus!  But what does that denying oneself have to do with my day to day?

I asked this question on facebook (Do you deny yourself) and I got some fantastic responses.  All about putting other's needs first, serving one another, things like that.  And although I wholeheartedly believe that that is a part of this denying concept, I think that keeping my self-denial to serving my family is missing one of the other vital and rewarding parts.

I also have delved into the notion that denying myself means that I deny myself some wants/desires as a life habit.  I realized that I was living my life satisfying almost all of my immediate desires.  Thank God none of those desires were for anything sinful in themselves (wasn't desiring to look at porn or anything) but I wasn't exercising self discipline.  I wanted that flavored coffee creamer, so I bought it.  I wanted to try that new kind of cracker so I bought it.  I didn't want to eat what was on the menu that night, so I changed it!  I thought such and such toy would be fun for the kids so I got it for them.  I was spoiling myself and my children and leading them to believe that if you want it, that is reason enough to have it.  (SIDE BAR: Not being able to afford something did keep me from buying or getting things to a certain extent.  I wasn't a spend-aholic or anything, just spoiled)  So, when I realized this about myself, I stopped!  I realized that practicing self-denial in this way is an excellent practice in self discipline.  That my wants of each moment are not priority and don't have to be satisfied in the immediate.  That to truly trust the Lord with what I have and need, I should not take it upon myself to instantly gratify each whim.  Or each whim of my children.  It was a great practice, but again, after all of that, I realized that this is only another aspect of this greater concept of self-denial.  Something grander is still missing.  (This goes into another life lesson of contentment, which I am going to blog about soon!)

So here we are to the now.  What is left? How can I deny myself, that first step in being a true follower (disciple) of Jesus?

When Christ was giving instructions to His disciples and said what he said about what you must do to follow him, he was stating something obvious that I had missed until now.  When He said  "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."   What did Christ Himself do?  He denied Himself.  What???  He is the Creator of the Universe with skin on! Then, He took up His cross.  We all know what that is referring to.  He was stating (and I feel foolish for not seeing it in exactly these terms before) that in order to be a disciple of Christ, we must do what He did.

To continue the discussion, go to Discipleship Part 3

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Family and Ministry Balance

This is something that I struggle with a lot.  I am a missionary living in a foreign country.  I moved here to be a missionary, and not just to be married to a missionary.  I came to give the gospel, to help train, to meet physical needs, to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  So what am I doing?  (after reading over this before I posted, I realized that I do all of those things with my children.  That is actually pretty cool)

Home schooling.  Teaching Sunday school.  Raising 3 children.  Doing laundry. Cooking.  Grocery shopping. Organizing and managing my home.

Isn't that exactly what I would be doing if I lived in the states?
Here is the question:
How do I balance family ministry with external (leave the kids at home) ministry?  I can't take all the kiddos with me when I take food out to poor families.  It is a logistical nightmare. I can't take them with me when I do a women's health class because there is no one to watch them and they get into things.  I can't take them to VBS because I just don't have the stamina to carry around a wriggly 20mo. old who is dying to get down and put every hazardous material in his mouth.  And there is no one to keep my 3yr old daughter from walking out the front door.

So.  If I take the time to do those things, and we will stick with the above list just to make it simpler, I must leave the kiddos with another caretaker.  That can be Brandon, but he has a job.  He can't just hang out and watch the kids for hours on end.  So it can be Gladys.  She is our housekeeper and she is awesome, but she is not their parent.  She doesn't discipline or teach them.

This is why many missionary families in the past and even now, send their children to boarding schools.  Or start the children in full time school when they are 4 or 5.  You know, I don't see an issue sending kids to school so that the mom can do "other" things.  I may do that someday.

Brandon and I feel that it is our job to disciple and educate our children, not that of the church or government.  I fully realize that that is not an option (or a desire) for all families and I respect that.  I am in no way critical of families and individuals that make a different choice than we have made.  But for our part, that means that I am at home taking care of them.  Teaching them.  I eventually would like the kids to be a part of the ministry that goes on here, as BoyD already has, but for at least the next 3-4 years, I will have a very small one around to watch.

So, although I do some ministry where I leave the kids at home and either Brandon or Gladys watches them, I wonder if I am doing enough.  Or if I am doing too much.

My  first ministry is to my husband and children.  There is no doubt.
Does that mean that it can be my only real ministry while my children are young?
I know that if I am truly forsaking that ministry to have a ministry outside of the home, then I am doing too much. (like if I sent them to boarding school so that I could be "free").
So what about the in between.  I mean, I desire to teach a women's Bible study in Spanish.  And for me, I would love to have one in English (with other missionary friends and such).  I also would like to do some more Bible Study Methods training with women teaching them to teach the material.  And I also want to continue a once a month feeding ministry.  Man, wouldn't it be fantastic if we could get a ministry started that took hot meals to the people working and begging in the street?  And build a relationship with them and share the gospel with them?  There is also a feeding ministry to street kids that Brandon and I would LOVE to be a part of!  

But alas, in order to do any of those things, that would require more time away from my family and my children. I don't want that.

Maybe I just need to be more creative.  Maybe I need to change my expectations.  Maybe I am in this season in my life and there will come a time when I will have all the time in the world.

(I must say that it is irritating to me to see people with so much free time do so little.)

So this is my dilemma.  I am not freaking out about it, but I am not entirely comfortable with it all either.