Mom & Dad in Africa

Mom & Dad in Africa

I just returned from a trip to Africa.  This first part of the trip was an amazing safari experience seeing wildlife and landscape we’ll never forget.  We saw God’s creative mind in the variety of the animal kingdom and beautiful countryside.  We got up close and personal to the animals.  We were about 10 feet from lion cubs at one point.  (Inside a vehicle of course!)  It was glorious…an experience of a lifetime!

Our accommodations at this game reserve were amazing.   We were truly “in the bush” while in the lap of luxury at the same time.  The lodge and the staff were top notch.  It was so enjoyable and comfortable.

Then we left there to visit my son who lives in a small town in Uganda.  He works in a non-profit organization there.  It was a several hour drive on dirt roads to get there.  Uganda only has a few paved roads in the entire country.  Seeing the country, the people, and how they live was an exercise in contrasts.

Uganda is extremely poor.  Many people still live in one-room huts with no running water or electricity.  Many have no floor.  Most walk wherever they go and there are very few jobs.  There were schools everywhere, but we noticed most of the children were barefoot as they played on the playground or walked to and from school.   It appeared that we had left one world for a completely opposite one with needs beyond the scope of our imagination.

I’m proud of our son and those like him.  They’re doing a great work there.  They are helping people reach new levels and learn to support themselves in a very destitute, under-developed society.  It was so gratifying to see him as well as others doing such great work.

Our world has such contrasts.  Some so easily tug at our hearts because of the immense needs that are seen.  Others’ needs are sometimes veiled to us because of their surrounding wealth.  We tend to be blinded to spiritual needs when there are no physical needs.  It hit me as I was processing what I was seeing because I know the bottom line is that both “worlds” ultimately need the same thing…Jesus.   While we were in the lodge, I kept praying for and thinking about the need of the manager and workers to know Jesus.  What a difference He would make in their lives.   Then, as I saw the people in such poverty and saw their physical needs, but realizing in that same moment that their greatest need is the same….Jesus.  We may need to help feed and clothe some to earn the voice that shares Christ.  We may need to befriend the wealthy and minister in a different way there to earn that voice.  BUT, ultimately their need is the same… Jesus.

The truth is the most critical need in either wealth or poverty is the same.  Jesus Christ is the Savior, the way, the truth and the life.   We have done a great thing when we help feed someone.  Jesus says we should do that, but if they’re still bound for eternity in hell we have only temporarily helped.  Besides, He is the only One who can change the culture of a person, a family or society.  He is not only the only way to salvation, but the only way to bring about true change in the world.  We must feed.  We must train.  We must challenge.  But, in all these, we must preach the gospel for it is the only way to change the world.

I’m so thankful we have a God who is not a respecter of persons.  He loves all and it matters not about the “station” in society.  He loves period.  He is love.  Oh that we would not forget that his love is the answer no matter the question.

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By Hannah

“Must life be considered a failure for someone compelled to stand still, forced into inaction and required to watch the great, roaring tides of life from Shore? NO… victory is then to be won by standing still and quietly waiting. Yet this is a thousand times harder to do than in the past, when you rushed headlong into the busyness of life. It requires much more courage to stand and wait and still not lose heart or lose hope, to submit to the will of God, to give up opportunities for work and leave honors to others and to be quiet, confident, and rejoicing while the busy multitude goes happily along their way.” (Streams in the Desert)

My dear friend, Kelly Tillery, posted this on Instagram a few months ago and I let out a deep breath as I read it because here was my heart and it gave me the words I needed to communicate this season of life. I didn’t know how to say that was how I felt and that there I was standing still, inactive, watching the roaring tides of life from the shore and with each wave finding less joy.

I was a person who always thought I knew who I was in Christ. I knew that Christ in us is our hope of glory and that accomplishment, honor, or status did not define me; but who Christ was in life, death, and resurrection was where I could find all of  my identity and hope. And then I became a stay at home mom…

As I became less of who I was and more of this new woman who spends her days coloring, answering (or not answering) questions about worms, and dying a little more inside each time I say “potty;” I started to lose my identity and sense of worth. This quote was a wake up call to embrace the chisel of this season and find delight in knowing Jesus more. So today, I am thankful for this season and thankful for Christ teaching me how to be QUIET, CONFIDENT, and REJOICING.

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Thoughts from Allyson.

Tonight I am struck with the sweet refreshment that our community in Christ brings. The Lord has blessed us with the Body of Christ and I am so thankful for the church. I have been extremely blessed by my community the past few months. I have also been struck by the HUGE community we have in the Church. Not only all those around the world, but the ones that have gone before us. If you have never read about church history you should know that we have a community that is deep. We have a cloud of witnesses, that are still witnessing to my heart even now.

Recently I read, 131 Christians Everyone Should Know. In this book I met an incredible sister named  Perpetua, who was one of the first martyrs in the church.  Since reading her story, she has consistently been on my mind and I want everyone to read her story. Everyone should know this woman, go read it.  If you are crazy busy or don’t like to read, don’t worry it’s only 2 pages long. She will grip your heart. I was so gripped I went and read more about her.

Perpetua was a martyr in the 3rd century early church. She was killed in the arena, yet even with wild animals attacking she was serving others. The account says that after she was run over by a wild boar she got up to go help her servant. In prison she was nursing her son and trying to comfort her father. At her trial, her father was pleading with her to denounce Christ for the sake of her infant son but she would not. She stood firm in Christ. She stood looking at her infant son knowing what this meant and was faithful. This sweet sister stood in the midst of incredible trial and gave her life for the Lord.

I have been nursing my son and thinking “Lord, if I were in that place would I have the grace to trust you, to trust that you will save my son, trust that those I love would hear the truth of Your grace, to trust in the midst of horrible fear?” The list could go on and on. Yet in the midst of questioning and doubting my heart in this, I can imagine looking into the face of this Kindred Spirit, my sister Perpetua, and seeing a smile. I can hear her saying, “He is trustworthy. He is worthy. Rest in Him, we stand with you.” Suddenly this “cloud of witnesses” became sweet family and brought new grace and blessing. Praise the Lord for historians and books that bring this community to us.  

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Or should I say, last Tuesday?

Last Tuesday I [Jenni] was sitting on some pretty old steps but they weren’t just any old steps. Let me explain.

This past weekend I returned from a dream. For about 10 days, I was in a faraway land filled with rich history and deep significance for this life we have come to live.  I journeyed through Israel with 41 others from my church family and like I said, it was a dream. The entire trip was priceless. I wish I could account each sight, story, and connection for you, or even share the thoughts, tears, songs, and precious moments. Thankfully I brought a new journal with me and we can thumb through the many lines that have already been filled together. I keep turning back the pages to remember and relive some of the moments I know I’ll cherish all my days.

So back to Tuesday…

IMG_9091Last Tuesday I found myself sitting on these old steps that were the setting of New Testament life, specifically the second chapter of Luke. 2,000 years ago all those sitting on these steps were amazed as they heard a young Boy from Nazareth speak. He had stayed behind in Jerusalem after Passover without His parents knowing, but when they returned to find Him they were astonished. They asked Him why He had stayed behind and worried them. His response, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Can you imagine the confusion, concern, and care of those parents? He returned with them to Nazareth as a submissive child and grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. And the story continues… Fast forward 2,000 years and we see and can sit on these same steps. As I sat there last Tuesday, I was in awe. I was amazed that we can hear that same Boy, now God-Man-King, through His Word. We didn’t have to be present 2,000 years ago and we don’t have to travel to Jerusalem to be in His presence. His Spirit is with us and He speaks to us through the Bible. We can be amazed just like His parents and treasure Him like His mother did. (Luke 2:51)

As I’ve opened up the Word each morning this week, new images appear in my mind as I can actually picture Nehemiah rebuilding the wall in Jerusalem because I walked on the walls, or as I begin the gospels, I’m imagining the trek to Bethlehem that Joseph and Mary had to make. All of it is coming to life in a new way for me and it’s simply amazing. But the truth of the Story hasn’t changed. Here in my living room, on this normal Tuesday, I met Jesus face to face. I wasn’t sitting on steps that are thousands of years old, nor was I on a road traveling through Jerusalem. I was sitting with my Bible on my lap and blanket over my feet. We don’t have to be in the holy land to experience His sweet presence. Jesus’s sacrifice tore the veil and now we have direct access to our God. Our God, Immanuel, is with us. This is the greatest takeaway from my trip and this is the story of my life. Christ my Savior and my God.

I’m thankful that in His kindness and generous love, God gifted me the opportunity to experience the land and people of Israel but even more so, I am most thankful that He gifted the world with His Son. Because He lived and still lives, we can now live. For this I’m giving THANKS.

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By Janet Price

We are about to enter into a great time of family and friends getting together. Holidays provide a reason to stop and do those things that connect us and have some fun together. Hospitality is much- needed in our society. 

I wonder what it would be like if we purposed to do that kind of thing on a regular basis throughout the year. I’m not suggesting we celebrate some kind of holiday every month, but the time with family and friends is so important.  It doesn’t have to be a special occasion, but just getting together on a personal level. There is something to be said about visiting with someone in their own home. It brings a little connection and closeness to the relationship, but only if it’s a relaxed atmosphere. 

The Bible encourages us to find ways to connect like this. Hospitality is written about in the New Testament as something all believers should practice and as a requirement for leaders.  (I Tim 3:2, Romans 12:13, Titus 1:8, I Peter 4:9)  It’s a biblical command for believers for a reason.

God knows we need each other!  We need each other more than saying hello on Sundays.  We need REAL, HONEST relationships. We need to see each other live life and keep each other accountable.  Sometimes it can be something as simple as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a cup of coffee, but it can be used to encourage, to listen, or to teach something new.

Our society is always at a fast pace. Our lives run from work, to school, to sports, to music and back again. Church activities can even be too much at times. Learning balance for your family is a constant challenge. In that challenge, we also need to add the balance of relationships. As Christians, God wants us to be intentional in relationship.  This is how we truly have effect. It’s in the honest, open conversations over dinner or dessert that can open up hearts to hear. 

 One of the greatest hindrances to this idea (beyond our schedules) is that people tend to think they have to do something elaborate when preparing dinner or having guests. This is just that—a hindrance! It really has no truth to it whatsoever. People don’t mind imperfection. In fact, most rather enjoy seeing that others don’t keep perfect houses or fix perfect meals all the time.  When you are genuine in wanting to minister to someone or just get to know them, most enjoy being the recipient of that. They don’t mind paper plates or a simple meal. It’s nice to bring out your best once in a while, and use what you’ve been given. But, if time has not permitted or “life” happened to redirect—it’s okay. It’s also okay to plan for the casual.

 It’s a shame that we let ourselves as women get worked up over the details of the “stuff” instead of people. I have found myself there and had to stop and remind myself why I’m doing this. The main point is sharing your home and making others know they are welcome. Really, the only necessary ingredient is a sincere heart that is not out to impress, but to show love. I even had a person tell me once how special it was that I just laid out a paper towel with a sandwich.  She felt at home because I wasn’t stressing about certain dishes. It’s important to relax!

Practicing hospitality is in our homes, but it’s also a mindset that is displayed in our behavior in all situations. Asking someone to join you for lunch from work can be an act of hospitality. It’s really a worldview or mindset that looks out for the care and concern of others. John Piper says, “Grace is the hospitality of God to welcome sinners not because of their goodness but because of His glory.”  When you think about it, the ultimate act of hospitality was Jesus Christ dying for sinners in order to make them members of His household of faith. If you have found Christ, you have found a home! Isn’t it a privilege to share what He’s given you to encourage others to know that amazing truth.

 Take the plunge! Have someone over this week, you’ll love it!

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