Friday, February 26, 2010

Spiritual Olympics

We made last minute plans with our new Ethiopian friends to attend our church's annual missionary conference tonight. Sitting there with my eyes filled with tears, hinging on every word, and saying, "Amen" over and over in agreement, I was captivated by the vulnerability of three Olympic missionaries.

As a multicultural city girl married to a proud American country boy, my husband joins my enthusiasm for the Olympics. Despite summer or winter games, our family sets aside the night of the Opening Ceremonies to a make meal from the hosting country and watch the Parade of Nations. My heart beats really fast as the broadcaster gets closer to the end of the alphabet and I see the American flag waving and the "United States of America" is announced in French and English. I tear up every time. I swell with pride and think, What would it feel like to carry THAT banner?!

Just recently, I wanted to run and phone our friends, "I saw your country on TV!" during the recent Parade of Nations, as I saw Robel Teklemariam and his flag. For the first time ever, Teklemariam represented Ethiopia in a Winter Games as a skier. There are no white capped mountains, ski resorts, or snow for that matter on the west coast of Africa. With admiration I thought, how does he train?

Just as the Olympics celebrate victory and citizenship, an emphasis on missions is perfect timing. We do carry a banner, a royal one acknowledging the Cross. We ALL have victory, victory through Christ our Redeemer. And, we do have citizenship, as heirs to the King.

Through their honest stories of struggles with faith and obedience, I found the missionaries' messages universal: Their testimonies of success are on the heals of tested submission. I wish I would have taken notes, but I was so captivated by what the Lord was relaying to me I couldn't. The first spoke of being willing to change directions in life when God tells you to, even if you were serving Him somewhere else, much like Paul listening to the Holy Spirit in Acts 16 and going to Macedonia. The second spoke of trusting God's call despite fear as in 2 Timothy 2:2. The third spoke of going outside of conveniences, comforts, and constant negative voices that try to run contrary to Isaiah 6:8. They all three ran the race set before them and won Gold, in my opinion.

Did these speakers know the week I was having?! Probably not but, God did.

For me, tonight's trio of testimonies boiled down to this: The banner I carry must not be my own, but His. My allegiance is to the desires that He has for me, not just the desires of my own heart. Although sovereign and loving enough to give them to me, how much more is God capable of when I make the desires of my heart, His? The training and perfecting of my faith, does not just happen in ministry and missions, but on the fertile soil of my home "land" and heart. As I eagerly pray for a lost wallet, I grow in belief of His Power and Presence. As I offer myself and others grace, I grow in knowledge of His Character and Compassion. As I listen and obey His still small voice, I grow in His Peace and Provision. Those are medals I want for myself and for others to win!

As I catch my breath and inhale the new gift of Euphoria perfume, God imparts this Word, "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphant procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and whose who are perishing" 2 Corinthians 2:14-15.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Yesterday's Menu: Cold Feet on a Bed of Lies

A girl who claims to love to go "barefoot" may be susceptible to cold feet. That should be a disclaimer on my blog. Treatment plan is as follows:

Today, have just accepted my 3rd speaking invitation. Julia, my Californian mentor from afar, should know that I am the proud owner of a spreadsheet! Last summer, when asked how many times Julia had shared her testimony about being diagnosed with AIDS and coming to know Jesus, she replied specifically, "336 times." I will never forget how shocked I was by that precision. She went on to share that she keeps a list of all her speaking engagements on a spreadsheet and that is how she knows the exact number. Oh how encouraging to look back and know each one of those opportunities is a testament that God has used her for 17 years after her diagnoses. Praise God who redeems! But even with my new found spreadsheet, I am just now getting over what happened last Saturday.

Last Saturday, I misspoke and it has bothered me terribly. In casual conversation, I said something and knew I wanted to take back immediately. If you are a woman and you have ever carried on a conversation at all, you have to know what I am talking about. Please tell me I am not alone! In love, my quick and repetitive apology was accepted by a real friend - thank you. However, the Enemy chose not to hear that...he was too busy already talking! The entire weekend I heard lines like, "What are you thinking? You can't speak and teach, you can't even carry on a one-on-one conversation." And then, "You really need to reconsider accepting these invitations to speak, what if you offend? You know you are going to say something wrong! You have really messed up this friendship and there is no way you can share in a crowd."

My offering to be vulnerable and speak from my heart and God's Word went from BARE FEET to COLD FEET in a matter of minutes. The chill of Satan's hissing froze my thoughts. The fog had rolled in, penetrated to my core, and lingered. It took some time to discover what it really was...I know these thoughts are not true, right?! Kind of like when you freeze leftovers and forget to mark it. I was consuming it without really knowing what it was. How dangerous is THAT?!

I am in a new season, but the Enemy is the Iron Chef of Leftovers. He will take anything and try to win: battles that have already been won, pits that have been filled, races that have been finished, and yesterdays that have been conquered. Not by me, but by Christ. I am reminded of John 14:14 "You may ask anything in my name and I will do it." I want to stop feasting on lies, leftover ones and gourmet ones, in the name of Truth!

Prayer in His name (all 117 of them) has been like a pair of warm fuzzy yellow socks right out of the dryer. I think of my barefootness (how ya like that one Webster?!) as an offering to God; a declaration that I will be vulnerable before Him and others. Prayer is a willful act, as if sliding on socks each and every time you get a chill. There is comfort, protection, warmth, peace, and ultimate promise. Furthermore, if my cold feet get so cold that they go numb, how will I feel His path for me?! Prayer, following the forgiveness of a friend, and then myself, has warmed my bare feet. They are always bare, but do not have to be cold. My bare feet will get busy and may wiggle out and stray from the security of my socks, but time after time, I have to choose to warm up my favorite fuzzy socks between my hands, feel the power of "static cling," and slide back into Truth and my Jesus name.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

From Ashes To ???

Readers, let me explain my absence...

Twenty-three days ago, I was invited to write for publication for the first time ever! Although terribly excited, it required more honesty, patience, and persistence than I thought I had. Even though there are no guarantees in the publishing word, His grace was sufficient. So God's story rests in God's hands. As I placed that short devotional in God's hands by hitting the send button, God reminded me that He can not be out given. An invitation to speak arrived on the eve of the devotional's final submission. I have been officially invited to speak TWICE and share God's miraculous work in my life! Dates are being set to speak in a small group setting followed by a larger service. Can I finally add a "Speaking Dates" button to my blog page?! Hallelujah...TBA!

Not to be out done by just answering my prayers for ministry, God has found a voice in others around me. Encouragers who say, "Yes, you can." A husband who says, "I think I will unload the dishwasher for you." And a beautiful friend (inside and out) who made my heart swell over our Ash Wednesday coffee, as she quoted,
" bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,the oil of gladness instead of mourning,and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of HIS splendor" Isaiah 61:3.

Lord, I don't know who would want to plant ANYTHING in me this past season. But YOU have! Weeks of aches, pains, and frustrations are bearing fruits of opportunity, possibilities, and renewal that I can only explain through YOU. Have Thine own way even from the ashes!