Monday, November 11, 2013

With Thankfulness

We travel across the interstate at 63 miles per hour through the darkest of nights. Siblings slumber in the backseat, and parents talk quietly in the front as the miles slip by. The moon is shaded by swiftly moving clouds, but I can still see the smiles and hear laughter from a day blessed by what I believe was the very touch of heaven.
Thanksgiving wells up from 19 years full of blessings.

I. Life
Driving 50 miles per hour and only a few minutes from home, the impact of another vehicle slammed into their car just before the driver cried out, “Help us, Jesus!” 
A friend of mine was driving back from a similar day full of blessings and smiles when she found on a backboard en route to the emergency room after a head-on collision. She and the two family members with her could have easily lost their lives that night.
 And meanwhile I sit on my bed’s quilt at home, grappling with the fragility of life. How can one moment be all smiles, laughter, and lightheartedness – while the next is broken glass, shattered dreams, and cold death staring at you in the face?
 “....and suddenly I began to appreciate the moments of my life so much more then I had before,” my friend writes a few days later.
So often I take my heartbeat for granted. I assume that tomorrow will always come, that my loved ones will always be with me, and we will always be safe from the harm others face daily. I take for granted the safe haven of my home, the apparent security of quiet life in New England.
My friend in the accident had closed head injuries, a whiplash, multiple bruises, and a nasty cut from the impact of slamming against her own seat belt. “But the pain just reminds me that I am alive,” she says. “God chose me!”
 Her words of faith stopped me in my tracks. Could it be that the breath He has given to each of us today, is testament to the fact that He has chosen us to live on? Could sometimes the pain we struggle with in life, be there to remind us that we feel? When life brings disappointment or hurt and in brokenness we cry out to God, could the pain be there to remind us that we are still alive?

II. My friends
Thank you for reminding me that I do not walk alone - that there are others who want to love God before anything else, striving to put Him first in ever thought and action, and committed to lifetimes of service. Thank you for each time that you have cheered and challenged me to live life more fully, faithfully and courageously. This has left an imprint on my life never to be forgotten.

      III. Music
God gave us something beautiful - something that still rings throughout the courts of heaven today. And for those on earth, music is an inroad into the hearts of people who would never otherwise show up for a scheduled sermon. Song is a precious way to praise God, and I pray that God will keep singing in our hearts.

IV. The Little Things
The snowy wonderland I wake up to brightens up both the house and my heart. My 4-year-old brother Johnny tugs at my sleeve, looking up at me with wide eyes, “Tell me a story about Jesus and Satan.” He cuddles in my lap on the couch as I recount the story of the great controversy all over again. 
My sisters Amy and Bethany make melody ring throughout the house as their voices soar. 
Mamma reads 9-year-old Joseph a favorite story, as Daddy pulls into the driveway after a day at work. 
An inspiring blog post is just published by a friend. 
My three little adopted mice send a spin wheel turning in their tank home not far from my bed. 
And all of the little things remind me of how much God loves to give.

V. Fellow Families
New England is a beautiful place, but like-minded families with the same values are not plenteous. Whether living close by, or across the world – thank you. By you we are encouraged that there are other households striving for godliness of life and heart.
If I may mention a few names…
The Nebbletts inspire me every time. I will never forget a chilly night in Massachusetts when God’s presence drew very near during a heartfelt message, and it became my prayer to spend and be spent until I could give no more. Thank you for your example of faithfulness and unstirring uncompromise.
The Suekerts are a dear family. New England would be a lonely place if not for you. We are so incredibly blessed to call you our friends, and privileged to work together with you in ministry.
And the many others – living testaments to the fact that there are like-minded families striving to uphold the standards of God’s Word in daily life.

VI.  Mission New England
Because of you, I don’t think I’ll ever be the same again. Nothing is more invigorating than ministry, and I can no longer imagine a Sabbath without it. Being involved in Mission New England has given me many opportunities to see the Lord’s spirit working in the hearts of people. It is humbling, encouraging, inspiring.
 But even if our endeavors to set New England on fire with the gospel make no difference at all – God does not call us to be successful, but rather to be faithful. If it accomplishes nothing else, stepping forward to serve God continues to touch my heart and change my life.

VII.  My family
Again and again I ask myself, “Why me?” There are so many emerging from broken homes, with scarred pasts, and hurting hearts. Why was I placed in such a wonderful home? 
I have met many families, but have rarely seen parents so real, devoted, and loving as mine. Instead of pushing us into the world unprepared and unsteady of faith, they nurtured us and spent countless hours of time to instill values and discipline through home education. I feel no control from them – only love as I know that they sincerely care about my choices. The multitude of wisdom and life experience they offer as I make life decisions is a treasure. 
Their sacrifices, constant labor, and devotion to God will not go unrewarded nor be unfruitful.

VIII. Opportunity to Love
I haven’t always realized what a privilege it is to love. More than once I have gone to the Source, begging for more. Will You give me love enough to feel it in my heart for those who are even repulsive to me?
Friends, His love is deep and broad enough. I realize now that there is no such thing as an unlovable soul, because love is granted without fail every time I ask.
When I interact with the 300 lb homosexual, I still naturally shrink from her coarseness and insensitivity, but I feel a genuine love for her that I know comes from God Himself. 
That is a miracle. I marvel every time…

IX. Success is Faithfulness
I’m thankful that my life is not measured according to the world’s theory of success. Rather, success equals faithfulness for the true Christian. 
That goes for when I knock on doors and not a person answers, much less wants a Bible study. For when I speak and it seems as if my words bounce off of the people back to me. For when I feel discouraged that I'm not making enough of a difference.
God does not call us to be "successful" - He calls us to be faithful.

 X. My Lord
There is none so beautiful, so sweet, so precious. 
Thank you for the breath You give, and the death You died that I might live. I marvel at Your mercy, consistency, and attention to the details of my life. 
May this new year of life be marked with more faithfulness, devotion, and love to Thee – much, much more. Place the beauty of heaven in my heart, that when You take me there, it will already be home. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

And He said, "Follow Me..."

Someday, when I look back on years past and highlight the growth each year brought to my journey with God, I’m sure that I will stop at the summer of 2013 and mark it as one bringing the most change in all of my teenage years.

Strangely enough, as an adult, I was more clueless about life plans than at age five. From a young age, I had my life mapped out, and was sure of God’s specific calling for this life. I pursued high school and then college with determination to complete the “necessaries” paving my way into the wide world beyond that of my home. Life swirled with business – recording music, organizing benefit concerts for my sister’s Youth for Jesus journey, finishing my last college classes, juggling an intense externship at a local family practice, and then switching to the routine of work as a medical assistant at a clinic in town. But as I adjusted to a new schedule and became more independent, I faced young dreams with a new uncertainty.

August sunshine glistened warmly off of the little white church nestled in the Connecticut valley. I sat near the front and close to the piano, as usual, and listened as a youth spoke golden words of truth that sent home the realization…

“Friends, we cannot go if God does not send us…”

That’s what I was afraid of.

I am asked to surrender my own ambition, in order to make way for the willingness that must be present in my heart to go wherever He calls. I am asked to be willing to fulfill the humblest position of a servant in this world, that His dreams be fulfilled through me.  Who am I to say that that they are insignificant?


Months later.

Growing up, I had great dreams to travel across the world and share the gospel with those who were thirsting for Christ. I pictured myself treading through the darkness with a light that could never be hidden nor suppressed. I longed to see chains broken, hear cries of victory, and watch the world be transformed by God’s glory.

At my current time of my life now, I imagined that I would already be in some far-off place, caring for the hurting and hopeless, serving through evangelism, and touching hearts.
 But here I am, working at a small medical clinic in my home town, tempted to feel dissatisfied with my duties at home and in the clinic because it doesn’t feel like I’m doing a missionary work of any significance. This wasn’t my idea of being a missionary. 

Maybe that’s why a patient’s thoughtful question almost caught me off guard.

“Do you read something inspirational every morning?”
 I looked up after tossing a stethoscope around my neck, surprised.
“Why, yes,” I replied.
“I can tell,” he said thoughtfully, then continued. “What was your thought for this morning?”
 Placing away a blood pressure cuff in its proper place, my mind raced with thoughts. It was taking a chance to tell him. One patient’s complaint could severely damage my prospects as the clinic’s new medical assistant. Who had ever been so forthright about their religion in this establishment? But I saw that he was in earnest, waiting expectantly.
 “Through being faithful in the little things and serving others, I have the opportunity to point them to true happiness and hope.” My voice slowed, savoring the thought that I actually dared to continue on… “The happiness that can only be found in God.”

Following that experience as days and weeks passed, I found more opportunities to share my faith. I saw people clasped in heavy chains openly struggling for freedom and truth, while others were hiding behind a mask of smiles but carried heavy burdens on their empty hearts.

And slowly I realized that while I had been waiting for young dreams to come true, He had already placed me in a mission field. He called me to let go of future dreams that I might concentrate on the here and now. Live in singleness for His glory. And trust that I could go anywhere, absolutely anywhere, He sent me.

“Go into all the world…”

What if He does not send you across the world? What if “go” means go to your neighbors, your friends, your co-workers, and the stranger on the street in your hometown, until the whole world is flooded with light?

He may still have that place for me in India, or China, or South America someday, but the realization hits me that my mission-field is my corner – whoever that includes, wherever I am.

Sometimes it is as if I’m walking through the darkness with my little candle, hoping that others see it’s shining. I pray for the chains to be broken from the pain and hurting I see on many faces, and find songs of victory on my lips as I realize this: I don’t have to stand here, waiting for the dreams of tomorrow, when He has given me riches of blessing today.

I stand in an exam room, realizing that God sent me to my home town.

The man sitting in front of me pauses, thoughtful deep brown eyes looking up.
“Tell me of Saul on the road to Damascus. I haven’t heard that story before…”
 And so I tell him. I describe how the persecutor in all of his self-righteousness thinks that he is working for God, when in fact he is fighting against Him. Prepared to destroy, he is stopped on a pathway to fall helpless in a blinding light.
‘“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”’ I recount Christ’s words, marveling at a new meaning to the ageless story, suddenly touched by the tender pathos of Jesus’ cry. I continue, ‘“You’re kicking against the pricks.” Then, Saul saw the nail marks in Jesus’ hands, and knew that it was the Lord. God is speaking to us, but all too often we shut up our hearts from listening. Just as Saul kicked against the pricks on the road to Damascus, trying to drown out the voice of conviction.”
 The man is all ears, eyes riveted on mine. “A lesson for us today.”

There’s no reason why I cannot dream for Him in my hometown. Nothing makes this place less of a mission field than China, or India, or South America.

It is in the here and now that we are the missionaries.

Let us dream for God, but at the same time be willing to adopt His dreams if they conflict with our own. His are the sweetest.

He said “follow me,” so I surrender.