I Am Hidden In Christ

Looking Back: Remembering that I Am Hidden in Christ

The Lord is my rock and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength in who I trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation and my high tower.” – Ps. 18:2, NASB

What do butterflies, chickens, Africa, and an orange stocking cap have in common? Hide-and-seek, silly! Okay, maybe not really, but we’ll be talking about that quirky list this week.

I am hidden in Christ. He conceals me, yet sets me apart. He keeps me safe even as earthly storms rage. He comforts me, changes me, claims me, and never, ever lets me go. He is my rock, my deliverer, my strength, and my salvation.

Are you hidden in Christ?

I am able to be content

Puppies, Money, and Contentment

Your life should be free from the love of money.  Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you.  Hebrews 13:5 HCSB

“Mama, I want a black lab puppy.  Please, may I have one?”  The big, brown, pleading eyes in the face of my precious son tweaked my heart.  But I couldn’t give him the answer he wanted.  We already had a dog.  I didn’t want two. So I said, “Sweetheart, pure bread dogs are too expensive.  We just can’t justify putting that kind of money into a pet.” He kept up the pressure though, until I said, “Ok, if this is so important to you, pray about it and see what God does.”  Honestly, I said that to just get the kid off my back.

But my boy took me seriously, and he prayed.  Not long after, our pastor gave a sermon illustration about his black lab (who knew he owned one?) who was pregnant.  My son craned his neck around my husband to glare at me there in the pew.  And a few days later, the pastor offered a free puppy to my children.  Still, I hesitated.  Did I mention we already had a dog?  And that I didn’t want two?

Ah, but now my daughter joined the chorus.  “Mama, pleeeeeeeeease.  Please?  It’s free.  And if you’ll just let us get a black lab puppy, we will never want anything again in our entire lives.” 

Two sets of pleading brown eyes.  Two pure hearts, making promises they truly believed were true. If only they had this one thing – this puppy – they would be content.  They’d never desire another thing again.  I knew that thinking was false.  But they sincerely believed it. And I love them.  And I’d told him to pray about it.  How could I say “no?” So, the puppy came home with us.

He’s now a beautiful, full-grown, chew-everything-sight, sit-in-the-water-dish, run-off-with-anything-you-leave-in-the-backyard dog.  My kids love him, but he annoys them, too.  Are you surprised that he didn’t make their lives complete?  That they still want other things, despite the fact that they got the puppy?  That iPhones and Furbys and just plain old cash have taken the place of the puppy – that if only they had those things, they’d be content for the rest of their lives?

It’s easy to laugh at the foolishness of children, who truly thought a puppy would fulfill them forever.  But, we as adults often do the same thing.  “If only I had a better job, or a spouse, or a decent house, I would be content.  Life would work then.”

Or, we can even substitute “spiritual” things.  Before I left for Africa, it was: “If only I were already missionary, if only I was done with seminary and finally on the mission field, I’d be content.” After I got to Africa?  “Oh, things would be so much easier if only I lived a normal life in the States.”

My children and I have to learn this one truth:  Christ alone fulfills us.  He will never leave us or forsake us.  And focusing on Him, making Him our chief desire, enables us to be content with whatever material possessions or life situations we have.  Puppy or no puppy, spouse or no spouse, America or Africa, my current salary or a higher one – Christ is all I need. He is my source of fulfillment.  And being satisfied with Him is peace.

Uncategorized

Life, Abundantly

 I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance. John 10:10

Life. Pulsating, throbbing, vibrant life.  Jesus declared that was his whole reason for his visit to Earth – to give us life in abundance.

He didn’t mean life would be easy, or even that it would be pleasant.  Only that it would be full – full of Him, full of grace, full of peace, full of purpose and mission.

Some of the hardest experiences in my life have been the ones that have given it the most meaning.  I had to climb mountains that left my legs aching only to spend hours at the top under the African sun weeding rice.  I had to give birth to my first baby in a hospital where I didn’t speak the language of the doctors and nurses.  I had to flee a country I loved because of civil war, leaving behind my dearest friends and the work I had poured myself into.  None of those things were fun.  On the scale of difficulty, they ranged from annoying, to frightening, to absolute heart break.  But I wouldn’t trade any of them.  They are part of the fabric of my abundant life.  God gave me those challenges because he’d also given me a mission – to spread his message across Africa.  I was living a life of meaning, as well as one of sweat and frustration.

I’ve endured conflict and hurt at the hands of others.  I’ve had failed friendships just like you. And, I’ve found forgiveness and healing and restoration, because the God of grace has breathed his life over my hurts.

I’ve also had adventure and variety.  I’ve laughed so hard my sides ache. I’ve tasted Asian and African and South American cultures.  I’m married to a man who shares my passion for the missions and ministry.  We have two incredible kids. All these things are blessings from the abundant-life giver Himself.

Abundant life doesn’t mean abundant money.  It doesn’t mean abundant easy circumstances.  It means that through life’s storms, we have purpose.  We have passion.  And we have peace, only a faith-step away, if we will reach out and take it.

Jesus came to give us life, and to give it abundantly.

I have been offered peace

Christ: Our Peace

For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.  Ephesians 2:14 NAS

“Annie” sat in my back yard in Africa and showed me her scars.  “This is where he hit me with a belt.  This is where he got me with a tree branch.” Sadly, the culture in the country where I served believed a man had every right to keep his wife in line by hitting her.  And his family was welcome to join right in.

“My mother-in-law was the worst,” Annie told me.  “She’d drag me out of the hut and call my husband to come beat me.  She’d get furious if I didn’t help her cook.  Sometimes, she even hit me herself.”

And so, Annie fled her little village to go live with her own mother in the capital city, where I met her. We became fast friends, and after a time, she gave her life to Christ.  Once a week, we’d have a Bible study on my porch.  Annie couldn’t read, so what we really had was a story-telling session.  I’d either tell a Bible story in her language or play one for her on tape, and then I’d ask her all sorts of questions to help her understand and apply those truths to her life.  Week by week, we walked through the life of Christ.

The day we covered the crucifixion, I asked her this question: “Jesus died on the cross saying ‘Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.’ Since we are supposed to be like Jesus, is there anyone you need to forgive?” 

Annie thought a moment.  “Yes,” she said.  “My mother-in-law.  Just a few days ago, she sent a messenger from our village to me to beg my forgiveness, because she is old and ill.  She can no longer cook or even bathe herself, and there is no one to take care of her.  She asked me to come back and do it.”

I sat there with my mouth open.  Really?  Forgive the monster who drug you to your snake husband to have you beaten?  Quite frankly, when I’d asked the question, Annie’s mother-in-law and her husband were the furthest people from my mind.  I despised them.

And yet, I knew the culture.  Old women were cared for by their daughters-in-law.  There were no nursing homes, no state institutions to step in.  Men didn’t fill the role of caregivers, and there are some things a son can’t do for his mother anyway. 

Annie and I sat there in the shade of my porch for several quiet moments.  “I need to go home and do it,” she said.

And she did.  She traveled back to her rural village and moved in with her mother-in-law.  She cooked for her.  She fed her.  She helped her to the outside latrine, and she bathed her – the woman who had made life hell.  Annie’s husband was around, but she didn’t get back together with him. When her task was done with her mother-in-law, she left again.  But for the time she was there, he left her alone. He could not strike this living picture of Christ’s forgiveness.

Annie made this verse come alive for me.  Jesus was truly her “peace,” the peace between herself and her husband’s extended family.  No power on earth except Christ himself could have worked that kind of forgiveness in Annie’s heart.  It was forgiveness of deed – she took action on it.  I still stand amazed.

When Paul wrote this verse, he was talking about Jews and Gentiles, two groups who had been brought together in Christ despite their differences.  He Himself is our peace, able to take down the dividing walls of Jews and Gentiles, husbands and wives, estranged siblings, two co-workers, factions of church members, parents and kids.  With Christ in our lives, we can truly forgive.  We can act on the forgiveness.  We can have peace.

Christ – our peace.

I am seeking His kingdom

God’s Kingdom: Worth the Price

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid: and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field.” Matthew 13:44 NASB

He was 18 years old and brilliant.  He went to college on a full-paid scholarship, hotly pursuing his chemistry degree on his way to medical school.  He was going to become a researcher, discover cures for diseases, and retire at the age of 40 as a multi-millionaire. He was on a path to wealth, fame and several very large houses. He had friends.  He had potential.  And he was miserable.

Why? The boy knew God wanted something different for him.  Just a few years before, in a little country church, the Holy Spirit had whispered to his heart that he was to be a missionary. And that made no sense at all.  So he ran as far and as fast as he could, grabbing for what the world told him was right.

But God pursued.  When he was 20, he drove home to his parent’s house, parked his car and walked to the dead end of the dirt road.  He laid down in the dust and stared up the stars flung across the Oklahoma heavens.  God had ordered those stars, created each of them, placed them perfectly in the vast universe. Surely, a God who displayed such precision in the galaxies could order one young man’s life. Surely that God could be trusted. The stars blurred and the tears ran into his ears.  The boy’s dog licked his face while he sobbed.

“Ok, God,” he said to the night.  “I will go be a missionary. But you have got to change my heart, because I don’t want to do it.”

He stood up, wiped the dirt off his jeans, and started down a far different road.  He changed his major, because he didn’t trust himself to get the chemistry degree and not use it. He went to seminary instead of medical school.  By the time he got there, God had indeed changed his heart.  The man had become passionate about missions.  And God met the new desires of his heart when He sent him to Africa.

His first house was a mud hut.  He drove a borrowed pick-up truck. He spent his days weeding rice fields, swinging machetes and learning a tonal language.  He lived without electricity or running water.  He lived in sweltering heat.  He lived where it just simply isn’t fun to live.

What had this man done?  He’d sold all that he had – his potential, his dreams, his major, his golden goals – to buy a field with a treasure hidden in it.  He had chosen to give it all up to fully seek God’s kingdom.

The choice was hard to make laying at the end of that road with his dog.  It was harder still to live. And, remaining true to that choice did not depend on the man’s continent of residence. So, when God led him back to the States, he continued to hotly pursue God’s kingdom first, which often brought him heartache and struggles.  Many times over the years, he’s wanted to turn back.

But he hasn’t.

Because my husband is a Kingdom seeker.  He knows that the treasure in that field is worth the price he paid for it.