Dear Southern Baptist,
Can I let you in on a little secret? I love you! Really, I do! You do so many things well. You seek to be biblical in all things. You know the power of partnerships. You defend the Truth. You love others. You make theological education possible so that men and women (myself included) can be better equipped for gospel ministry. You produce materials to help believers and churches grow in their faith and share that faith with others. You work together to see churches planted here in America and around the world. And (my favorite thing about you) you desire and strive to take the gospel to the ends of the earth for the glory of God. He has been using you in mighty ways to speak His truth to those who have never heard the good news that Christ died to bring them eternal life.
I’ve benefited from your generosity more than most. I grew up in your churches and profited more than I even know from consistently hearing Scripture being taught. You’ve prayed for me and encouraged me to be more like Christ throughout my life. As a repeat seminary student, I’ve received tremendous financial assistance from the Cooperative Program for my education. Working on campus, I get to see and experience first-hand how God uses you to bless others. During my Journeyman term with the IMB, you paid the way. Without your generosity, I would not be who I am or where I am today.
For all of these reasons, I thank you. But still my heart breaks and yearns for greater things for us. Right now our IMB leadership is being forced to make extremely difficult decisions due to lack of funding our lack of giving. Did you know that at this very moment HUNDREDS of our missionaries are preparing to receive letters asking them to consider early retirement to help alleviate some of the financial strain?
Let that sink in for a minute. HUNDREDS. These are our soldiers on the frontlines. These are men and women who have sacrificed more than we know to fight the good fight. THEY ARE ADVANCING THE KINGDOM. And they are being asked to leave.
Try as I may, I cannot wrap my mind around the situation. If they leave, what happens? What happens to the new believer in Africa who no longer has someone to disciple him and show him what it means to live for the Lord? What happens to the church plant in the Middle East that is still training up national leaders? What happens to the countless lost people in Asia who have still not heard the gospel? What happens to the new missionaries in Europe with no veterans to impart wisdom and encouragement to them? What happens to their families? What happens to us? Will we allow this to continue?
Don’t get me wrong, I still know God is in control. I still believe that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). But I also believe it’s time that we stop turning God’s promises into our excuses. We cannot shrug off what is happening around us with some vague, apathetic mention of God’s sovereignty.
I cannot summarize here what these workers endure because it is different for each one. I can tell you that most of them face greater difficulties than we could possibly imagine. They are on Satan’s radar and he wants to destroy them. Governments despise them. Nationals are suspicious of them. Many of their living situations would be unbearable for you or me.
Yet they embrace it. They count all things as loss for the sake of knowing Christ. They rejoice in one lost lamb returned to the Shepherd. They know that, no matter how difficult the path may be, the journey is worth it. They have denied themselves, taken up their crosses, and followed Him. And now we are politely asking them to turn around and go back.
Why? So I can eat out more often? So I can buy that new outfit? So I can get a bigger house or a nicer car? So I can go see that movie with my friends? So I can have a better retirement or a fancy toy or more money in the bank? Because I just don’t care? Sadly, yes. Most of these things are not necessarily wrong, but with our lack of generosity we tell them that what they are doing for Christ’s kingdom is less important than _______________. And sadly, yes, I am guilty of this as well.
So now I’m putting my money where my mouth is. Will you join me? Will you increase your giving to the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon? (A portion of CP gifts and all money donated to LM goes directly to workers on the field.) Will you commit to praying more for our workers? Our money is useless apart from the Lord’s power. Let’s work together and turn this thing around. The harvest is still plentiful and the workers are still few. We should be sending workers to the field, not sending the workers we have packing.
This will take more than a one-time gift (though every little bit helps and would be appreciated). This will take long-term commitment from us. If you are willing to take this journey with me – to give to the point that it makes you nervous, to pray consistently, and to watch the Lord do amazing things through His people – please comment with “I’m in.”
*To read more about what’s going on, follow this link.
Grandpa Slick. Not many people can say they have a Grandpa Slick. But I could. I don’t remember how old I was when I realized all my cousins called him Grandpa Walt. But I liked calling him Grandpa Slick. It just seemed right, and somehow more special. I remember hearing the story of how he got the nickname way back when… back when his tattoos were still legible and he still had a full head of hair. That was Grandpa Slick.
Grandpa was a unique character to say the least. He was what I like to call a “good ol’ boy.” He never knew a stranger. He worked hard and made sure others worked hard too. He spoke his mind. He loved the Lord and his family. He made mistakes. He made many beautiful things. He traveled the world. He lived on a farm. He lived in a castle. He loved John Wayne. He was determined. He was stubborn. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. That was Grandpa Slick.
His death Sunday morning caught me off-guard… but then again, he had a way of doing that in life as well. You never really knew what Grandpa Slick was going to say or do next. I believe his last words to me, as he patted me on the shoulder, were, “Keep praying; it will happen.” I love that these were at least among his last words to me, if not the very last. I especially love that he said these words completely out of the blue at my brother’s wedding, basically telling me to keep praying for a man to come along. It was one of those “Oh, Grandpa” moments that makes you inwardly roll your eyes while silently laughing and secretly hoping he’s right. That was Grandpa Slick.
Grandpa Slick softened a bit over the years. The “I love you”s and the “I’m proud of you”s came more and more frequently as the years progressed. Those words are always meaningful, but even more so when you know they are coming from someone who will always shoot straight with you and tell you how it is. He would talk about his ailments, but he would just state the facts. He didn’t throw himself many pity parties. I remember a letter I received from him while I was overseas. He filled me in on how they had been sick, he had gotten his hand caught in the table saw, and he had to have an ingrown toenail removed. He followed this summary with, “out side of that we are doing great.” No hint of sarcasm. That was Grandpa Slick.
We celebrated New Year’s at their house once and he let us kids throw confetti. I seriously think we were still finding that stuff five years later. I have a jewelry box sitting just a few feet from me that he made just for me. He had a wheezing laugh that I inherited from him. When I was raising money to go overseas, he took my need to his church who then blessed me with their generosity. He always wanted to help however he could. I loved hearing him talking about planning his Sunday school lessons or what he was studying in the Bible. He had some incredible stories from his amazing life that I wish I had written down. He wore overalls to weddings, but only his best pair. He watched the animals outside the window every morning. That was Grandpa Slick.
That letter he sent me also contained a little ditty that he adapted from “a reassertion Jimmie Dean the sausage man did once.” His version was a tribute to his church, a word of thanks for their support and generosity over the years. It really shows his heart. The recurring line said, “I’m drinking from my saucer because my cup has overflowed.” This is Grandpa Slick.
The other night I was driving home when I noticed a little girl walking along a rail at the Tacolate taco stand. That rail probably comes near my waist, so it was about the same height as this precious girl who looked to be about three years old. But what really caught my eye was how her daddy had his arms so gently around her to catch her when she slipped and to keep her from falling.
As I drove by I thanked the Lord that this little girl, unlike so many today, has an earthly father who loves her, cares for her, and encourages her to have fun and do big things. I prayed that she would remember this sweet time with her daddy. I thanked Him for my own earthly father who is beyond incredible. I prayed for those little girls who don’t know their earthly father and for those who wish they didn’t. My heart mourns for them. But my heart rejoiced in seeing this father/ daughter duo laughing and playing together.
Then the meaningfulness of the moment went deeper. I began to realize what a beautiful picture this was of how God interacts with His children. He lovingly and gently wraps His arms around us. He keeps us from falling. He protects us. By His strength, His wisdom, and His guidance, we can do things that are utterly impossible on our own. In trusting Him, we have freedom to be bold and embark on exciting adventures!
There is a word of caution though. We must be placing our trust in Him – the only one who can carry us, sustain us, protect us, and guide us. He alone knows what is best for us and desires to see that accomplished in our lives for His glory. Apart from Him, our “boldness” can place us in danger and cause unnecessary fear.
My family went out to eat one day when I was five years old. We were at a buffet and my mom was pregnant with my brother so she decided to find us a table while my dad waited in line to pay for our meal. I started to walk to the table with my mom and then changed my mind. I told her I was going to stay with Daddy and off I went. I ran up and grabbed his belt loop and waited for the line to move. Suddenly I saw Mom quickly coming my way with a concerned expression on her face. She grabbed my hand and began apologizing to Daddy… until I looked up and realized it wasn’t Daddy at all! I was clinging to a complete stranger, trusting him to lead me. I was suddenly terrified and also extremely grateful for my momma. She walked me over to my dad and all was right in my 5-year-old world again.
The reality is that sometimes, even in times when we are trying to follow the Lord, we make mistakes. We begin to put our trust in things and people other than the Lord. We need people in our lives who will reveal to us our mistakes and lead us back to the Father. In Daddy’s hands we are secure.
I recently decided to read through an old journal. In the midst of realizing how bad my memory is, I came across “the list.” You know the list. It’s the list every young girl writes. The list details every attribute “the one” will possess. It’s probably been amended on occasion and possibly contains some “bonus features” (aka – negotiables).
I honestly don’t remember what year the list was written. My best guess is probably about ten years ago. Back when I had it all figured out. Back when I thought Prince Charming was waiting just around the corner. Back before “Frozen” informed us that all men eat their boogers (this still grosses me out completely). Back when fairy tales were clearly portraits of real love. Back when I was the perfect catch. Back when I knew it all.
A lot has changed in the last ten years. I now have no idea what God wants to do with my life, other than use it up for His glory. I’ve turned several corners, but have yet to find Prince Charming waiting there for me. I now understand more fully that we are all flawed people and no man will ever be perfect. I’ve realized that fairy tales are fun, and can sometimes have elements we can learn from, but they are not portraits of real life or true love. I’ve learned so much more about how weak and sinful and selfish and in desperate, constant need of a Savior I am. I’ve learned that I still have much to learn.
I opted not to read the list that night. I didn’t see the point. It is probably just a list of the characteristics of whatever guy I had a crush on at the time. I don’t want a list. My roommate and I were talking about this tonight and she made the comment, “God knows what I need better than I do.” She’s absolutely right. We, as sinful humans, will inevitably fail one another. I don’t want to be someone’s list. What happens when I have a bad day? When I’m being a jerk? If our relationship is based on me fulfilling “the list” the whole relationship suddenly comes into question. If I don’t want someone holding me to an unachievable standard, how can I do the same to them?
Does this mean I throw all my standards out the window? Absolutely not. But when it comes down to it, there is really only one non-negotiable. Does he love Christ first and foremost? There is no other solid foundation upon which to build a relationship. With Christ as his first love, a man can better love his wife, lead his family, serve his community, etc. etc. etc. (Not to mention the fact that devotion to Christ is really stinking attractive.)
Now back to reality. All of this talk is great, but right now I’m single so what does it really matter? Trust me, it matters. The Lord is not only concerned with my potential future husband’s sanctification. He’s concerned with making ME more like Christ. So the real question is, “Do I love Christ first and foremost?”
“For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is His name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth He is called.” ~ Isaiah 54:5
“For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” ~ 2 Corinthians 11:2-3
“But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” ~ Revelation 2:4
If the Lord chooses to never give me an earthly husband, will I be content with that? Can I rest in the knowledge that He is sovereign and knows exactly how my life can bring Him the most glory? Often we (or maybe it’s just me?) try to manipulate God. We’re told that we have to be content in our singleness before God will bring that special someone into our lives. So we try to be content, but if we’re striving for “contentment” so we can get a man sooner, we’re really just striving for a man. God is not mocked. He wants my heart – the whole thing. And He pursues me with a patience, devotion, and fervor that far exceeds human understanding. How sweet it is to be loved by love Himself! The very author and definition of love reaching out to capture my heart and make me pure… wow!
Tonight I choose to sink into my sweet Savior’s loving arms and trust Him to lead me, protect me, provide for me, encourage me, fight for me, and make me more like Him. Tonight I hope in Him instead of in a fairy tale. Tonight I tore the list from my old journal, crumpled it up, and threw it away.
Lately I’ve become more and more aware of the polarization within American politics. The Grand Canyon itself pales in comparison to the division between Republicans and Democrats at large. From what I’ve seen and heard, to be Republican means believing that all Democrats are horrible people ruining the world. To be Democrat means believing all Republicans are ignorant, religious fanatics. This picking of sides extends across our borders as well. The Israelis are either saints or devils, and the same goes for the Palestinians. We must choose whom we will love and support. We are told we must hate the others and heaven forbid anyone disagree with us. Gone are the days, if they ever really existed, that those representing both sides of the pendulum’s swing could work together to reach a compromise. No longer do the strengths of each come together to beautifully offset the weaknesses.
Unfortunately, this battle mentality infects every area of our lives. Scroll through your newsfeed on facebook, the photos on your Instagram, your Twitterfeed… what do you see? If you’re anything like me you see so many contradictions your head starts to spin. I’m not even married yet and I’m already being bombarded with why I need to homeschool my children, AND why I need to get them in public schools, with the occasional blurp about why private schools are the way to go. Don’t even get me started on breastfeeding, C-section vs. vaginal births, or epidurals. <<<Please excuse the following soap box. Can we just acknowledge that some women have no choice in these matters, and nearly all of them do what they truly believe to be the best for the child? Can we get rid of the “vs.” when discussing these issues and encourage the moms in our lives instead? I mean, let’s face it, being a mom is probably the toughest and messiest job on the planet. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a mom say that it’s easy, but I’ve heard plenty say it’s worth it. Do you hear that? It’s worth it. It’s worth the struggles. It’s worth wanting to rip your hair out. It’s worth the pain. But that also means the struggles and pain are real. Moms have enough going on already; they don’t need the blogosphere telling them they’re doing it wrong. I’ll step down from my soap box and return you to your original programming.>>>
The barrage of “opinions” doesn’t end with politics or parenting. I don’t have a boyfriend, but I’m told it’s wrong to postpone marriage. The next post on my feed tells me all of the reasons why I should wait to enter that sacred covenant. “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” and “I Gave Dating a Chance” are both real books. We are told to have a positive body image and then immediately told we need this or that diet and/or exercise program. I often feel like I need to grow my own produce, make my own soap, and never use medicine if I want to be a good woman.
There is SO MUCH PRESSURE today to be the person society wants us to be, but no one really knows what that means because society also glorifies individuality. This results in everyone setting out to defend themselves. What truly saddens me is the way these messages are presented. I am all for people having convictions and sticking to them, but I adamantly oppose attacking those with differing views. Most of the disputes listed above are subjective. One can choose either side of the debate without being in sin.
So why do we make it a debate at all? I sense that pride is the key issue here. Someone does something differently than we do so we’re scared we’re doing it wrong. We have to publicize all of the reasons why we’re “right” to be sure no one thinks less of us. Think of how different our society would look if, rather than being constantly defensive about everything, we began encouraging one another in our differences as we all do our best at this thing called life.
Let’s be honest though, there are some things that are not subjective. Some things are sin and sin should never be encouraged or even tolerated. It must be confronted. Far too often we end the sentence there. “Sin must be confronted.” We tend to leave off the “with grace and love” part. We judge, condemn, and criticize rather than pray. We delight in our “righteous indignation” with no concern for the soul of the sinner. And, yes, I am just as guilty as the next person in this regard.
Those who know me are probably aware that I’m not Obama’s number one fan. I don’t even have his t-shirt, but can you imagine what our nation would be like if all of the Christians (who, sadly, are so quick to declare their disdain for our President) all rallied together to pray for him? What if we all collectively decided we would never post/share/tweet another negative thing about him? What if Obama had a Josiah moment of understanding the truth of Scripture? Or an experience with Christ like Paul had on the road to Damascus? I fear most American believers would be so jaded against him that, rather than helping him tear down the idols and welcoming him into the family of God, we would be suspicious and hesitant to fellowship with him.
We must break through these lies that tell us the world only exists in extremes. We must fight for unity to furthest extent that we possibly can without compromising Scripture. We must stand firm in the truths set forth in the Bible, but act lovingly and mercifully with those who do not. We must realize that edifying one another is far more important than proving our point on trivial matters. We must remember that Christlikeness, and His glory are the ultimate goal. This must be our only extreme. If we pursue Christ and forsake sin to the extreme, we will see the frivolousness of the things of this world. We will see change. We will see revival.
Work today was ridiculous in just about every sense of the word. By 3:30 I wanted to pull out my hair and hide under my desk. I decided to throw a pity party instead… because, clearly, I was the ONLY person affected by the system being down campus-wide. Please note the sarcasm in that last bit.
Have you ever seen the show NCIS? The main character, Leroy Jethro Gibbs, is known for giving his team members “subtle” wake-up calls when they lose focus or are not living up to the standard of excellence expected of them.
As Gibbs himself once said, “A slap to the face would be humiliating; the back of the head’s a wake-up call.” Thankfully, God knows I’m a total doofus prone to foolishness. He gives me a good Gibbs’-style smack to the back of the head when I need it. Today I needed it and He delivered.
While out running errands I passed an overturned vehicle up against a concrete wall. I’ve never seen anything quite like that in real life. I called 911, prayed, and began thinking about the brevity of life. *SMACK*
As I was pulling into the Wal-Mart parking lot, I saw a truck with it’s back bumper laying on the ground. Then I noticed it had a seminary parking decal. I looked to see if the culprit left a note. No such luck. My heart broke for the poor guy who owns that truck. Seeing that reminded me of how blessed I really am. *SMACK*
While inside Wal-Mart I became completely overwhelmed (happens pretty much every time I go these days). I wished I was back in Prilep where life, and shopping, were simpler. Then I remembered how, while in Prilep, I wished I had access to a Wal-Mart because “it makes things so much easier.” I’m ashamed at how discontent I allow myself to be sometimes. *SMACK*
As I headed back to the dorms I noticed that about 90% of my purchases this evening were for other people. Then I realized this should be the norm, not the exception. I really am extremely selfish. *SMACK*
I got to my room and dropped all my bags. I just wanted to not do anything for a while. I put in a movie, one I had never seen, about two girls who are serving their mandatory terms in the Israeli army. I was taken back to my time there last year and my heart broke remembering the suffering I saw. It broke even more when I thought about how easily I push the pain of others from my mind, how soon I forget to pray for them, how quickly I complain when I really have no reason to do so. *SMACK*
Tonight I am grateful for God’s “Gibbs’-smacks” bringing me back to the truth. In the show, the recipient always becomes a more productive member of the team following the infamous slap. Praying I will be a more productive member of His team.