Saturday, September 10, 2011
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.
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
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.
Monday, August 22, 2011
The churches I work with are organized geographically into sectors. Xela and it's nearby towns are in Sector 7 of the Consejo Altiplano. I'm not sure how many people are actually in this area, but I'd guess somewhere around 500,000 people live within 20 miles of Xela. There are a total of 4 Central American Churches here with a tiny 5th congregation trying to get enough people to be called a church. At what point it was determined that a certain number of people are required for a group to be called a church remains a mystery to me.
I've been translating a discipleship program called "f.e." and teaching it to the leaders of the churches both here and in other areas. In this area, Sector 7, I was supposed to just be teaching the pastors and elders the material so that they could then in turn teach it to their churches. It morphed into me teaching all the church members - the very thing I hoped to avoid. I have erred in some way and haven't yet been able to determine if my goals were bad or if I just dropped the ball. Anyway, we were meeting monthly from 3:00-5:00 pm on Sunday. I doubt we could have chosen a worse time, but that's when they said we could meet. I could not meet last month because I had to travel on the one Sunday the churches were not having an activity and so we pushed it to August.
Yesterday was cool and drizzly. A wonderful day to nap or build legos with a five year old. But I needed (and wanted to, of course) teach the 9th session to these folks. And to be honest, working on Sunday is what I do and, Lord willing, will always do - it's life as we know it. In June we had a good group of 40 and so I was looking forward to it. I kissed the wife and kiddos goodbye and headed out.
The session was supposed to start at 3:00 so I arrived 5 minutes early so I could sit and wait 15 minutes before anyone showed up to unlock the church. If I get there 5 minutes late, one person always shows up early and asks me why I was late and makes a good humored joke about how they thought gringos were always on time. If I get there early, everyone is 10-30 minutes late. It's just how it goes.
One pastor shows up, then another, all by 3:05. So we stand outside in the drizzle while a homeless woman relieves herself 20 feet down the street and wait for the others. The pastor of the church calls me and asks if we are having the training today. Not a good sign. At 3:15 he arrives and he and I and the other two pastors determine that no one is coming. It starts raining a little harder and no one has keys to open the church so instead of getting wetter, we plan to meet at 3:00pm "en punto" (on the dot) in about two weeks to figure out what to do. The intermediate decision was that everyone in the Sector must be ordered to attend the session.
I stated, still in the rain, that I didn't want anyone obligated to come - I wanted those who wanted to come to come. Since that clearly wasn't working, they told me that in their culture you have to order people to come to church or they won't come.
So, today I prayed and asked the Lord to help. In two weeks we will meet from probably 3:00 to 7:00pm and hopefully during or before that time the Lord will help us to a solution.
I just need to make sure I get there on time.
Monday, July 4, 2011
The second week had me extremely discouraged. We passed out around 50 fliers, bought some beans to give them, and no one showed up! I was wondering where the women from the week before were! They all seemed like they enjoyed it.
The second week had me worried. I passed out another 50 fliers and had a worry in the pit of my stomach. I went to have a Bible study with a girlfriend of mine the morning of the meeting when I got a call from the physician who was supposed to teach. She wasn't going to be able to come. She didn't have time to give me the material that she had prepared, so I was going to have to teach it. No problem, I thought. I can do that, although I had serious doubts that the women would trust me because I am not a doctor. Oh well. Brandon was not free to help because he was going to be teaching an English discussion group at a local private school Brynne (the intern) was committed to work at a skate park (a ministry of a dear friend of ours) and was not going to be able to come, but Gladys (our house helper) had said she could come and she was going to have to watch our 3 kiddos. Well...when I got home from the Bible study, Gladys informed me that she wasn't going to be able to come. She had something that she needed to do with her family.
Alright. Now I was really worried. I was supposed to have a training class that provided child care, and I had no doctor, no one to watch the kiddos (including my 3 that I had to take with me), and I was totally unprepared to give the class myself if anyone even came! I was really stressing. I had to go get Brynne after lunch from the orphanage and so had about 40 minutes in the car alone. I started listening to a sermon on the radio. What he spoke ministered directly to my circumstance. He spoke about obedience in faith. He mentioned that with faith there is no room for fear. He quoted that without faith it is impossible to please God. He spoke about belief in what God has promised. (he said quite a few other things that were garbage like if you believe, it will happen, it will happen because our faith always works! Bologna.)
But the good stuff corrected some very bad thinking.
I was freaked out because I was going to have to do something that I didn't think I could do. How big is God, again? He does promise to equip us to do the work He has planned for us. Obviously He had this for me to do. I was going to have to teach about what to do with cuts, scrapes, puncture wounds and amputations. If God can give the disciples the words they need in front of all kinds of rulers and judges and kings, then God can certainly equip me to teach a little first aid.
I was worried that no one was going to come. Who was I trying to please? The women, supporters, who? God? If I was trying to please Him with my efforts to help these women, then I must have faith. Without faith it is IMPOSSIBLE to please Him! Did I have a promise from Him that people were going to come? No way. But that isn't really the point, is it? My faith was not in that people would come, but that God is faithful to do what He wants to do in the lives of these women. And my job is to be dependent in faith and be available, whether or not people come.
I was worried that people would come and there would be no one to take care of the kids.
If God was going to do this, and it was becoming very obvious that He was going to, then I can trust Him to take care of things. Fear was a lack of faith, and if I really want to please God with the work I am doing here, then I have to have faith. Real trust that if it is God's will that certain women receive this training, that He would accomplish it and would bring those He wanted.
So, I submitted my fear, my will, my desires, my worries. All to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, According to HIS power that is at work with in us. To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus, throughout all generations, forever and ever.
Wow...talk about a peace that passes all understanding. Do you want to hear how it turned out?
My neighbor said that she could come to watch the kids, Gladys ended up being able to come at the last minute to hear the talk, I did a quick bit of research and gave a plenty good talk on cuts, scrapes, punctures and amputations. And 8 women showed up. Wow. Big wow. Did my faith bring those women? No. That's silly. Did God, in whom I have faith bring them and accomplish something? Big yes. Was my faith rewarded? Yes! God is good and He does good. All for His glory! I have nothing to offer!! That is so awesome!
This last week 4 women came and we had a guest doctor speak. So far we have given out 15lbs of beans. I won't be able to attend the next 4 meetings or so, even though I am organizing them, so please pray for this ministry. Another friend of mine gave me some ideas for publicizing the class a little more, so I will be trying those things this week. Imagine what can be accomplished if we are united in prayer to feed, encourage, love on, and train the women of Xela?
Sunday, July 3, 2011
Anyway, I wanted to write about some things that have been racing through this over occupied brain of mine. 1st of all, I have found what it is that I hate about the prosperity movement within the evangelical church. Let me back up.
I spend between 1 1/4 hr and 2 1/2 hrs in the car everyday taking Brynne (our intern for the summer) to and from the orphanage where she is serving. Some days Brandon either takes her or brings her home, but the majority of the time it is me. Everyday on the way to go pick her up I listen to a preacher on the radio. He is the senior pastor at a very large charismatic church here in Xela.
I listen very critically. I have been challenged and encouraged by some of his teaching, but over all...I hate it. I absolutely hate it. It took me over a month of listening to really put my finger on it. On what I hate about it. Let me say one thing before I move on. I have listened to a very small percentage of that pastor's teaching. So what I am about to say is just commentary on what I've heard, not on the man or the rest of his teaching.
Although I disagree with much of what he says regarding the role of faith or God's promises in relation to us, he isn't teaching total error. The error isn't what I hate. What I hate is the focus. It is entirely ME driven.
God wants good things for ME, God has a plan for ME, God doesn't will that I would suffer, God wants to provide for ME. God gives ME peace, ME provision, ME goodness, ME, ME, ME!!! You know...many of that is true. But for goodness-sakes, when did the Bible become a book about ME? Since when did the existence and work of the Trinity become solely for MY benefit?
This is just INSANE! AND YES, I'M YELLING! God existed for eternity before He created man. He didn't create man to fulfill some basic need in Himself. He wasn't lonely or lacking in anyway before He created all of us. We are certainly not the center of His universe!
Let me make something very clear...and if you don't agree, please speak up...God's existence and work is for His glory, not our benefit. This is, I believe, one of the greatest and gravest missteps of my generation (and even before). No wonder the church is so obsessed with "growth" in terms of larger buildings, larger programs, larger staffs. Why we as members of the body are more concerned with (and spends more money on) baggy thighs and wrinkles than with the lost and suffering. Why "self-esteem" is preached more than self denial. Why we do everything in our power to eliminate our own suffering and remove any uncomfortable circumstances from our daily lives as well as our spiritual lives (as if those were really separate) and are taken totally by surprise and blame God when bad things happen to us good, Christian folk.
The chief end of man is to glorify myself and enjoy my stuff forever.
The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
Is that my chief end? Is it yours?
Ok...that is the end of that rant. Please share your thoughts.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Saturday, June 11, 2011
This last week we started something that has been years in the making. It has been on my heart for quite a while to do some community development type things. I had so many ideas of things I wanted to do, but no idea how to implement those ideas. And I have been so busy homeschooling my children, taking care of a baby, taking care of a home, working with the Sunday school ministry, plus my own endeavors such as trying to learn the guitar, getting some sewing done, and basic hospitality (parties, baby showers, dinners, etc) that I honestly didn’t take the time to really investigate answers to my logistical questions.
So…God was working, even when I was busy. A missionary friend named Tracy passed along to me a book titled “Cuidando la salud de nuestros hijos en casa” (taking care of the health of our kids at home…more or less). This book was a textbook or guide of sorts to a class that was given at a hospital in Atlanta in 2000. In it is all kinds of subjects ranging from cough to burns to bites to fevers and describes in detailed laymen’s terms what they are, how they are prevented, and how you treat them at home. It is a FANTASTIC resource. This little book got the ball rolling.
We used that book as a foundation and we started a class at our church for women in our community (especially those indigenous women that work in the market close by) given by doctors in our community covering a series of topics including those described above. Brynne, the CAM intern that is living with us this summer, made up a flier giving out the information. My friend Stephanie and I spend about 30 minutes one morning passing out around 30 fliers to the women in the market.
For every family represented, we give a portion of food as a thank you for their attendance and to motivate them to come. This week it was a pound of beans and a bag of salt and each week we will give something along those lines: beans, rice, oil, sugar, corn, etc.
We held our first meeting on Thursday at 3:30pm and a member of our church who is a doctor gave the talk and discussed first aid, allergic reactions, and bites. We had 3 women come and they all seemed very interested in the information, taking notes (those that could write) and asking questions. They assured us that they will be inviting more women to come next week. I was just thrilled. There is so much that I desire to do and it seems that the Lord worked this as a first step. I left very encouraged. This could be a fantastic outreach for our church as well as a tremendous help for the women that receive the information. Many of the poor here rely on home remedies (some are fantastic, others…not so much) or they take their children to the public hospital for a cold or an eye infection. Let me just say that that hospital will most assuredly cause more harm than good unless you are in a life or death situation. It was a prescription from that hospital that caused Gladys’s (my house helper) infant grandchild to die. (see here for the story)
Anyway, we are excited. Please pray for this ministry as we are hoping for a greater attendance in the future, as well as an opportunity to show the love of Christ to these women in word and deed.
I’m a dork and didn’t take any pictures this last week, but am going to try SUPER hard to remember my camera for the next one. The only bummer (sort of) is that Brynne won’t be attending because she is going to be teaching an English discussion group to a group of high schoolers at a local private school. She can talk about anything she wants to, so pray for that as well!