This is the blog that I don’t want to write and you don’t want to read. Can we just be honest about that right up front? Like bad medicine you need to take but only want to spit out. The sweetness can only be tasted when the healing comes… but, oh how sweet the healing is when it does come. So, take a deep breath with me, ladies, it’s time to swallow.
Introverted, anti-social, hermit, reserved, don’t like crowds, being shy, a wallflower, a loner. I have used each of these terms to describe myself many times in my life (heck, the past week). They are a handy excuse for my behavior and serve as a warning for people to stay back. Like saying, “Please carefully remove yourself from my precious personal bubble. Um, one more step back…aaand one more. There, now we are far enough apart that we can be pleasant friends but not have to get caught up in any messy personal issues.”
I enjoy using the above terms if I must be honest (and I must)…and I know I’m not the only one. If this blog caught your attention you are probably in a similar boat as me (not the same boat hence the issue). You may be offended already that I have called it a…SIN. I don’t like it either, but I’m not the boss and I don’t make the rules.
A verse that came up in a women’s Bible study recently, and that just keeps slapping me in the face, is Proverbs18:1 which reads, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgement.” Did you feel that smack like I did? Hear that clear element of selfishness in “seeks his own desire” and foolishness in “breaks out against all sound judgement”?
How can isolation be selfish? When we distance ourselves from others we are not able to connect and display Christ to them. We are not there to speak God’s words of encouragement to them. Paul in his ministries lived with the people and worked with the people in order to win them to salvation, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” 1 Corinthians 9:22. This is not possible if we are hidden away.
How is isolation foolish? Our purpose for breathing is to glorify God through sharing the gospel and proclaiming his name to the nations. Hard to be effective in this calling when our noses are in a novel or we are “just not in the mood to deal with people”. Taking ourselves out of interaction with others is like taking ourselves out of the race and still expecting to win, pure foolishness.
So, ladies, let’s be big girls and call sin “sin” when the Bible calls it out. No sense softening evil to make it comfy. We don’t want it comfy. We want sin as uncomfortable in our lives as putting on a wet swim suit covered in sand or like a mouth full of gravel (Proverbs 20:17).
Is taking time to be alone always sin? My goodness no. There are times of needed refueling and resting. Time to get yourself away from the world to spend time alone with God (epic oxymoron when you think about it). Jesus himself often moved away from the crowds that followed him, he also often got up early in the morning and found a solitary place to pray. Time alone can be good, acceptable and beneficial when done for the proper reasons.
The motive is the crucial difference, the essence of whether the removing of yourself from others is a sin or a time of godly refueling. Think carefully, what is causing you to want to shut the world out? Is it fear of rejection, judgement, being socially inept, not wanting others to see the “real you”? Is it laziness? As painful as these can be, they are inadequate excuses. We cannot hide behind our feelings. Spend time studying who you are in Christ for your strength, looking at him not yourself. “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7.
So consider this a reminder to check your heart - is how you are living fulfilling what God has called you to? If you are claimed by God, you contain a treasure beyond measure - step out and share it. Multiply your joy in fellowship. No more keeping others at arm’s length for fear of discomfort. Decide not to be okay with selfish and foolish isolation, be disgusted by it; shed the suit and spit out the gravel. Be bold and connect with others, dare to get messy and love people with the crazy love of Christ and… allow them to love you back.
Praise God and wage spiritual war with the incredible act of engaging with others.
“Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean.” Only a woman could read this often overlooked verse and find great joy in it. It is found in awesome chapter 14 of Proverbs and God brought it to my attention this week just when I needed it.
Who wants a clean manger? Well, honestly I do. Or I think I do. I sure spend a lot of time and energy trying to get one. I clean my house multiple times a week, often multiple times a day just trying to keep it “presentable” whatever that really means. I can easily get caught up in the futile frustrations of it all…
BUT...(you could feel that coming, right?)…is it really futile? If I didn’t have oxen, my manger would always be clean. If God hadn’t blessed (yes, I said blessed) me with a husband and children, I would be able to sit back and enjoy a clean home all day, every day. But let’s be real, I wouldn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I sometimes imagine I would. I would miss my cattle very quickly and desire a full and messy manger again with all of my heart.
This verse provided me with a quick shot of proper perspective from my Loving Father. Ladies don’t fret about a messy home. Yes, we need to care for it and keep it comfortable, but we know it will be just a matter of time (usually about 10 minutes in my house) before it is messy again.
If the manger in Bethlehem all those years ago would have been clean and empty, Jesus wouldn’t have had a safe place to lay his head while Mary recovered and could hold him in her arms (not to mention we would be without one of the most awesome Christmas songs EVER). It was all in God’s perfect plan.
God uses our messy homes for his purposes too. We may feel that it is wasted time and of no “real eternal value”, but get real! Remember, God uses EVERYTHING in our lives to shape our hearts as he desires them to be. Through caring for messy oxen, we learn patience, how to serve with a right heart, how to honor God in all we do, how to love others, perseverance, and tenacity. Also how to train our children, delegate, and manage a home. Recall that, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much” Luke 16:10.
We may call it housework, but God calls it all heartwork.
If you are single and feel as if your manger is just too clean… time to mess it up. Seriously. Invite others in to minister to and serve. Find ways to bless the hearts of others in the name of Jesus as God transforms your own.
The second half of this verse goes like this, “but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.” Where there are oxen, the harvest is plentiful, in our hearts and in theirs. You may at times feel like your family members really are farm animals, but these “animals” are assigned to you to accomplish in your heart exactly what your All-Knowing Father knows you need most. Trust God, the fruit will come and it is promised to be ABUNDANT if you follow him.
Welcome to the glorious process of sanctification, Ladies! I enCOURAGE you to thank God for your messy mangers and the oxen he has entrusted to your care for your good and his glory today.
I am continually amazed by God. I am amazed by what he has created, how gracious and merciful he is and how he has planned out each person’s life with a purpose. It is important to stay in constant amazement of our Savior and to teach our children and others to do the same. We need to look at the world around us and recognize the awesome handiwork of our Creator. These are gifts that we should enjoy and that point us toward belief in him (see Romans 1:20).
One gift I will always be amazed at is prayer. Take some time to think on this with me today. What kind of God would allow us full access to him at all times and in all circumstances? What kind of God calls us to hand over all our needs and concerns to him to take care of so we no longer have to be anxious about them? What kind of God would send his only son to die to make a way to allow this connection to happen?
What kind of God is this? Only a perfect and loving God who has complete authority and control over every instance of every life is able to offer a gift like this to us. My God is that God. I would not worship any lesser kind, would you?
Through the gift of prayer we have full access to God. We are allowed to present our requests before him as Jesus sits to his right interceding on our behalf (Romans 8:34). What a glorious and humbling picture that is. What an amazing gift that we should utilize and never take for granted. No wonder the Bible tell us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17); don’t ever stop appreciating and utilizing this precious gift!
Can it get better? Yes, for those who have Christ in their hearts, we are guaranteed that our prayers are heard and answered if we pray in accordance with the will of God. “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” – 1 John 5:14-15. Be sure that the word of God abides in you, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” - John 15:7.
I made a promise while in Guatemala; I told those I ministered to that I would be praying for them and would continue asking for God to intervene in their situations. I am keeping that promise and would like to invite others to join me.
Below is a list of real prayer needs that people asked me to pray for. If you have no intentions of praying, don’t read them, just close this page and move on. However, for those that feel called to pray, I ask that you read this list and realize there are very real people behind each of these requests, oftentimes a child. I ask you to use the powerful gift of prayer that God has given to those who truly believe and present these requests before him. “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” - James 5:16.
God is the only one who can do the work needed to change the hearts and lives of the people these petitions represent. The good news of Jesus Christ is what is needed above all else. I thank you for joining me in this and enCOURAGE each of you to continually use the gift of prayer in your own life. Trust God with your burdens: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” - Philippians 4:6-7.
· A husband has left his wife and family and will soon be kicking them out of their home and they have no place to go. One of the children also struggles with hearing loss and illness. They also currently have no water source.
· A man has diabetes and is quickly losing his eyesight. His body has wasted and he is very ill. He is only 38 and has a family to take care of.
· A woman is struggling with a grown, handicapped son who is aggressive at times and they are unable to leave their house because of his behavior. Their family has isolated them. Her husband is unfaithful and cruel, yet he continues to live in the same house and she continues to take care of him too.
· Two sisters that have recently given their lives to Christ and will deal with persecution from family and the community.
· Translators and drivers who receive threats of bodily harm and extortion because they associate with “rich” Americans.
· A young woman whose husband is in jail. She works very hard and is raising two children on her own.
· A little girl with an unknown illness that causes a strange rash all over her body.
· Many children with alcoholic parents.
· Many children with abusive parents.
· Children with siblings in gangs.
· A little boy whose father was killed by mistake when the murderers were actually after his uncle.
· Children with a mom who is rarely home.
· Many children with no father in the home.
· Many children whose parents are addicted to drugs.
· Children who are fed drugs.
· A child whose mom does “bad things”.
· Families that live within the walls of the city garbage dump.
· An American missionary family spreading the gospel in Guatemala City.
· A local church displaying the light of Jesus Christ to a dark community.
· A school in need.
· Teachers and instructors facing difficult situations every day.
· Teachers and a principal of a school and childcare facility in the city dump. They need strength, health, and support. Pray that they are provided with plenty food to feed the hungry children each day.
I have just recently returned home from a mission trip to Guatemala. I have to admit, I feel as if part of my heart is still 2000 miles away with the kind and generous people of that culture. While there I witnessed many atrocities such as families living with no water source (let alone clean water), people dying of treatable diseases, and children who live on top of trash. These seem like desperate conditions and they are, however many of the people in the above situations professed their faith in Jesus Christ and were clinging to him to meet their daily needs and answer their prayers. Some were the same ones worshiping God with all their heart next to me at church on Sunday morning with arms raised in praise.
As I dwell on this now that I am back home in this land of (over)abundance, I wonder which of us is truly depraved? The Guatemalans who struggle so hard to survive each day and stay safe and healthy or we Americans who are drowning in wants and petty desires for more material goods and the appearance of worldly success?
The battles we fight are so very different in appearance and yet are enacted by the same Enemy. Is there one that is a greater battle over the other?
At one of the home visits I did, the woman kept apologizing for how little she had and how small her living space was. She felt bad for not having enough seats for us and not being able to offer us better. We assured her we were just thankful to be there with her and appreciated her kind hospitality. I now wonder how I would feel if that same woman came to encourage me in my home. Would she look around and think, “This is how American Christians live?”, “Why all the stuff?”, “Hasn’t she read Matthew 6:19-24 or James 2:14-17?” I’m afraid many would look at our homes filled with material goods and excess and think we are just fooling ourselves in this Christian walk. Are we?
Many of the needs of the Guatemalan people are so very obvious. In most of America, because of our affluence, the needs are hidden and yet just as deep. In Guatemala, our shared Enemy throws poverty, sickness and feelings of despair at them. In America, the same Enemy throws success, material goods, and feelings of security at us (I know there are exceptions).
Having this knowledge, we need to understand a few important facts. One, recognize that the Devil can use any type of weapon to fight against us and to pull our attentions away from God; need and excess are both weapons in his arsenal.
Two, spiritual depravity can be found in any person regardless of their appearance or life circumstances. We have to recognize that the ultimate need of every individual is the gospel of Jesus Christ regardless of apparent status. Finally, understand that God has placed you in the country and circumstances you are in on purpose and he knows that is the best place for you to be in order for your life to bring him the most glory possible. Use it for just that purpose alone.
Don’t think I am writing this to make anyone feel guilty (however you may feel convicted like I do), but do understand I am writing this to bring attention to the possibility of depravity in your life. Don’t allow your possessions or pursuits of worldly success lead you to believe you are “better off” than anyone in a “less fortunate” country. Examine your life closely to see if the Devil has found his way into your home and is smothering the potential work of the Holy Spirit there. Who or what are you dependent on really? Who or what is your life centered around? Don’t take these questions lightly, they have eternal consequences.
Recall the encounter of the Rich Young Man in Matthew 19:16-26. He followed the Ten Commandments and was eager to learn what more he could do to obtain eternal life (he was wise enough to know there was more to it than the law). Jesus responds to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow me.” Jesus knew that what this man needed was to get rid of his earthly goods in order to be fully surrendered to God. However, the young man “went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” Jesus turns to his disciples and says, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven.” This man preferred to hold on to his possessions rather than spend time in the presence of the one and only, all powerful, Messiah and Son of God.
God may not be asking you to give all you have to the poor (though he could be), but he does demand all you have to be his. The true depravity of humanity cannot be judged by appearances, possessions or geographical locations, it is a state of the heart. We all desperately need Jesus Christ to claim our hearts as his own possession. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalms 51:10
I write this slightly in jest because I am currently sitting at my computer in my home office in Cascade, Iowa on Friday afternoon. However by the time you read this on Thursday (or after) I will be in Guatemala City, Guatemala serving alongside brothers and sisters in Christ. I have my packing nearly done and am ready to fly out tomorrow morning. The more I think about it the more excited I get.
Guatemala, which is in Central America, was at one time the heart of the ancient Mayan civilization. It is often called “the land of eternal spring”. This translates into us most likely having a very wet experience while there according to the weather report. Guatemala is known for its mountains, active volcanos, and many earthquakes (an average of 3000 per year). It is a geographically rich and captivating place.
I look forward to learning more about the country and experiencing some of its beauty while there, but none of the above is why I go to Guatemala. I also don’t go to have fun, to play with poor children, to hand out toothbrushes or to see poverty first hand. Will I experience some of this while there? Most certainly, but if these activities were my focus and my reason for going I would be sorely misled in my walk with Christ and disappointed in whatever results I was hoping to achieve while there.
The only reason to go on a mission trip is out of obedience to a call God has placed on your heart and in order to proclaim his name through the testimony of the gospel. All we do must be centered on Christ (Colossians 1:16) and for his glory and not our own (1 Corinthians 10:31).
We want to be like those from the church at Macedonia. They were sending gifts to be given to those in need. Paul was commending them to the Corinthians. In 2 Corinthians 8:5 he says, “and this not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.” The order is very important here. We must first give ourselves to the Lord, being fully his and at his disposal for usefulness. Then in obedience to him, we give of ourselves to others.
If our focus was to just “do good” the best we could hope for would be to place a Band-Aid on broken hearts headed for destruction. We then would walk away back to our lives of comfort feeling smug about our “goodness”. Our “help” would be fleeting, forgotten and utterly pointless.
However, if we go to share the undiluted, unadulterated, and straight from the Word of God gospel of Truth to those same hurting hearts we can make an eternal difference in their lives. Let me rephrase that, God can use us as conduits of his powerful Word as he changes those hearts into hearts that beat for him for eternity. Then all glory goes to him alone. We return home humbled by what God has allowed us to be a part of, deepening our love for him.
Guatemala is a country with many confused people in it. Many claim to be Christian yet have no idea who Jesus is and what he did for them on the cross. Most have blended Mayan traditions with Catholic practices making for a very unique worship style that is not God-honoring. The Devil has had his way, twisting the word of God and making Guatemalans think they need to earn God’s favor instead of it being a free gift.
This angers me and saddens me. There is only one, true gospel. Jesus proclaimed it himself, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6. Only through Christ can we be redeemed and it is “not a result of works, so that no one may boast” Ephesians 2:9. We go to Guatemala to boast in Christ alone, to point others to his perfect gift of grace. To speak the true gospel of Jesus as Paul did, tolerating no other teaching. “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:8
We are blessed to be able to share Christ in homes, schools, and garbage dumps while in Guatemala. The team and I appreciate your prayers so much. In doing this you share in what God is doing while we are there.
Ladies, wherever you are, I enCOURAGE you to give yourself fully to the Lord first and then allow him to use you to share the one true gospel with others.
There is currently a group of local men serving God in India in the name of Jesus Christ. I praise God for their obedience to this call and their desire to spread the Good News to the lost. I have been thinking a lot about the wives that have been “left behind” here at home, mostly because a few of them are close friends of mine.
I tire of hearing myself and others tell them that they are a part of the mission team because they are supporting their husbands and allowing them to “Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:20). I do not want to minimize this fact, it is very true. And, yes they will receive blessings as being senders of those who spread the gospel, but there is much more to it than that.
The same God that is 100% present with the men in India is also 100% present with these ladies at home. As their men packed up and jumped on planes to carry them thousands of miles away, I imagine God was saying, “Alright, Daughter, let’s do this thing! I have so much I want to teach you and so many ways I want to grow your faith in Me during this time!”
These two weeks may give them a break (or not)from making big meals, doing extra laundry and cleaning up extra messes (sorry guys, but you know it’s true) but it is not a break from growing in depth of relationship with their Heavenly Father. Any change in our mundane daily life routine is a great opportunity for testing and learning more about what is truly in our hearts. Yes, it can be a time of refining but also an exciting time of putting into practice what God has been training us for.
During this time on your own God may make you face some pretty tough questions: Am I living as if God is truly sufficient for me? Do I believe it when I read, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9)? When things go crazy and I feel alone, do I turn to “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort who comforts us in all our affliction” like it tells me in 2 Corinthians 1:3 and 4? Am I prepared with God’s Word to fight the Enemy when I feel the attacks of anxiety coming (Ephesians 6)? Am I humble enough to ask for help if I need it (Galatians 6:2)?
Ladies, this time can provide moments of amazing intimacy with your Savior. A time of building yourself up in love and trust of Him using His Word as your rock.
This is also a great time to test your “Powers of Oneness” (yes, I made that term up, but it fits : ). It can be easy to feel like “one flesh” when you are in close proximity to your spouse, but how does that work when they are on the other side of the world? Does the distance negate or lesson the connection? Not a chance!
Does God say without reason, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”? Jesus confirmed and repeated this statement in Mark 10:7-9 and added, “So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Your “oneness” remains. So how do you plan to keep this connection strong and continue to be a suitable helper to your husband even while he is away? Prayer is the best answer. Praying for your spouse is powerful and one of the best ways to love your husband. Have your children pray for their father and family leader as he leads from another location. Continue to honor him as the authority of your household by the way you make (or delay) decisions and in the way you talk about him to your children and others.
Actually it is quite awesome to think of your “one flesh” being on opposite sides of the world and yet acting with one shared desire to glorify God.
Be sensitive to nudgings of the Holy Spirit. When life sends you “interruptions” see them for what they truly are: God’s sovereign hand intervening for a reason. Whether it is being up in the night with a needy child or a case of insomnia at 3:00 am. God has a plan for your heart and attention no matter what time of day (or night) it is. Worship him wherever you are and whatever you are doing, even with arms full of children, laundry or crochet needles (yes, you know who I am talking about).
I’m praying for you ladies. Time spent walking in full surrender and obedience to God is always POWERFUL whether in small town India or small town America.