Thursday, July 25, 2019

When your life feels like an earthquake

Have you ever felt an earthquake?

I experienced Seattle’s 1965 earthquake. People felt it across Washington, British Columbia, Idaho, and Oregon. The 6.5 quake (some officials called it a 6.7) lasted 45 seconds, and that’s a long time for an earthquake of that magnitude.

But the earth’s eerie roar lasted even longer than that.

Sometimes life can feel like an earthquake. Without warning, a jolt rocks the world. What has seemed solid and predictable and dependable suddenly lurches and crumbles. And even when the shaking stops, the jarring trauma rolls on.

And the eerie roar lasts longer than that.

After the 1965 Seattle earthquake, countless structures had to be repaired and strengthened and because of that, I added a new word to my vocabulary: Retrofitting.

Just about everything needed to be retrofitted: bridges, roads, buildings, chimneys, and equipment. That is, they needed not only repairs but significant modifications to lessen the damage if other earthquakes should strike. Often retrofitting required the development of new gizmos and doodads and technology.

After that April 29, 1965 earthquake, I remember all of us—my family, classmates, friends, neighbors, Seattle’s newspapers and TV stations—all of us relived the trauma, trying to process what had happened, amazed and thankful our damage wasn’t worse, worried that aftershocks or even bigger earthquakes would soon follow. All our talk was like that eerie roar that kept up after the ground stopped lurching.

Years later, when my husband burst through our front door and announced we were moving to South America so he could teach missionaries’ kids, the earth beneath my feet felt like another major earthquake had struck and I literally fell to the floor.

And in coming days and weeks and months, the eerie roar roared on. My dreams and plans had taken a hit. My sense of where my life was headed had fallen apart.

What I didn’t know then was that the earthquake that my husband (and eventually, it turned out, that God, too) sprung on me was meant for good. In fact, I would later learn that some of my dreams and plans weren’t the best for me and my family. They needed to crumble down in ruins.

But I didn’t recognize that then. Instead, the stuff of earthquakes—like crumbled bricks and debris—covered me. It was dark down there. I felt bruised and broken. Alone.

I was only 27 years young. The old me now wishes I could have told the 27-year-old me that I could live a good life even after earthquakes and loss and the shock of it all.

As Christine Caine said, “Sometimes when you’re in a dark place you think you’ve been buried, but you’ve actually been planted.”

It would take me a couple of years to recognize that. The process included confusion, pain, waiting, and a lot of mystery.

Even though I struggled to recognize the specifics of God’s presence and guidance, deep down I knew He was working out my future.

That future would involve helping people who had nothing—nothing—of the Bible in their own languages. They had no way of knowing God and His goodness and involvement in their lives, especially when they, too, experienced life’s earthquakes and heaps of ruins.

But I—I did have God’s Word to stabilize me and give me hope. It tells me—and you, too—that He is present with us in our troubles and, “So we will not fear when earthquakes come and mountains crumble. . . . Let the mountains tremble . . . !”

And then He says, 
“Be still, and know that I am God!” 
(Psalm 46:1-11)

Wow! What a contrast: 
The earth trembles and splits and crumbles and roars, 
yet we are to be still. Still in God’s presence.

Be still and be assured: 
He knows all about our lives’ tremors 
and jolts and upheavals and lurches and joggles. 
And He knows about the resulting broken pieces 
and piles of rubble.

Be still and be assured: 
He repairs and rebuilds us, 
retrofitting us to stabilize and strengthen us, 
making modifications to lessen the damage 
if other “earthquakes” should strike—
all to make us beautiful, and useful to Him, in His time. 
(Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Thursday, July 18, 2019

A word from Wycliffe USA’s President/CEO

Linda K. Thomas has delivered another captivating memoir. . . . In Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go, Linda invites readers to a turbulent time in a volatile region. Threats from anti-American Marxist guerrillas were just one of the many very good reasons not to move to 1970s Colombia.
But Linda, her husband, and their two young children answered God’s call anyway, and her account is a reminder that a call to the mission field is a call to sacrifice. It can be uncomfortable, challenging, and at times tragic. 
But Linda’s story also reveals the amazing work God accomplishes through His people when we trust Him with what seems impossible. (Bob Creson, President/CEO, Wycliffe Bible Translators USA)

In my other memoir, Grandma’s Letters from Africa, I wrote about a mini-adventure I had with Bob. At the time, he was Director of the Cameroon Branch of SIL (a partner organization with Wycliffe Bible Translators) and I worked as a journalist with SIL, based out of Nairobi, Kenya.

Below is an excerpt from Grandma’s Letters from Africa about that day with Bob.

On November 11 each year, Wycliffe members set aside the day to pray for our work. Around the world, wherever they gather, they view the World Day of Prayer video so they can link faces and personalities with specific prayer requests. During May’s meetings at Brackenhurst [upcountry in Kenya], I interviewed several people for this fall’s video—individuals from Ghana, Nigeria, Central African Republic, and the Philippines.  
One of the people I interviewed, Grace Adjekum, serves as the Director of Ghana’s Bible institute. Grace found herself in the midst of brutal ethnic violence in February when [my husband] and I had planned to travel there. (. . . . We received word along the way to skip Ghana so we traveled on to the next country on our itinerary.) 
When Grace arrived at Brackenhurst, she told us that those clashes had focused on her and Ghanaian Bible translators. Warring factions killed a thousand people, including Grace’s adopted son, and destroyed a hundred and fifty villages. . . . 
During our stay at Brackenhurst, Grace’s sister underwent extensive surgery in Nairobi. She needed a blood transfusion, so Grace asked people with Type O negative blood to donate. Only Bob Creson (the Director of Cameroon’s work) and I had that type, and we checked out a car and headed down to Nairobi.  
Along the way, I confessed that I worried about giving blood because of potential exposure to AIDS and hepatitis, but we went ahead with it anyway. Bob watched closely during the procedure and assured me afterward that they had used new, sterile needles.

Whew! I was so glad Bob was there to reassure me during this nervous time—exposure to AIDS, and to any number of other diseases, was a real consideration while we lived there.

Our drive to and from Nairobi was 90 minutes each way, giving us lots of time to visit. I still remember significant wisdom Bob shared with me—words I needed to hear at the time. Bless his heart.

Bob went on to become the President and CEO of Wycliffe Bible Translators USA and has served very successfully in that role for many years.

Below is a quote from Bob about the work of Wycliffe Bible Translators:

Be sure to “like” my Facebook Page because I post additional tidbits and interesting stuff. Do a search for Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go: A Foot-Dragger’s Memoir by Linda K. Thomas.

Are you looking for a unique gift for someone special? If so, you can order Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go: A Foot-Dragger’s Memoir through the following:

Your local independent bookstore

Thursday, July 11, 2019

“If you don’t like disruptions, stay away from God”

Sometimes God throws unwelcome surprises at us.

We can be happily minding our own business, doing the best we know to do, diligently fulfilling our roles—good roles like parenting and spousing (is that a word?), ministry, chores around the house and yard, maintaining friendships—when BAM! Out of nowhere, God blindsides us.

He interrupts our living.
He disrupts our dreams.
He intrudes on our plans.

Chuck Swindoll writes that an intrusion “is someone or something that thrusts itself into our world without permission, without an invitation, and refuses to be ignored.” (Day by Day with Charles R. Swindoll)
I don’t like such intrusions. I don’t like to have my goals interrupted and my life knocked off the rails. How about you?

But if we’re people who believe God is important, if we’ve committed our lives to Him, we must listen when He disrupts.

Recently I heard Rev. James Broughton III say something like this: “God interrupts your life and then he disrupts your life. If you don’t like disruptions, stay away from God.”

And so it was that at the beginning of my memoir, God (with help from my husband Dave) interrupted my comfortable life. Disrupted my serenity.

They both were disregarding my plans and dreams—and waiting for me to do the same.

If I went along with God, if I did things His way, the life I’d planned would get tossed upside down and inside out.

Life became confusing. The pain in the core of my being zapped the breath out of me. I struggled to make sense of what my life meant to me, of what my husband and two preschoolers meant to me—and what God meant to me. And what the four of us meant to God.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, 
neither are your ways my ways, 
declares the Lord. 
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, 
so are my ways higher than your ways 
and my thoughts than your thoughts.” 
(Isaiah 55:8-9)

“The world bombards us . . . telling us that unless we have the newest, the biggest and the best we will never be happy. But God says, ‘Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness’” (Matthew 6:33). (From The Bible Study)

Gulp. I had been thinking and planning like a self-centered, materialistic suburbanite determined to chase after the American dream.

This was a wake-up call telling me to bend my thinking more toward God’s perspective.

He seemed to be saying, “My purposes for you are different than what you always expected. And my purposes for you are good.”

“God is … quietly, invisibly, secretly planning our steps; feeding us our lines; moving us into position; unifying everything we do,” writes Lawrence Kushner.

“We are chastened to realize that what we thought was an accident was, in truth, the hand of God. Most of the time we are simply unaware. Awareness takes too much effort, and besides, it’s more fun to pretend we are running the show. 

"But every now and then we understand, just for a moment, that God has all along been involved in everything. As Rabbi Zaddok HaKohen taught, ‘The first premise of faith is to believe with perfect faith that there is no such thing as happenstance.… Every detail, small or great, they are all from the Holy One.’ Everything is organically, seamlessly joined to everything else and run by God.…” (Lawrence Kushner, Eyes Remade for Wonder)

BAM! Out of nowhere, God had blindsided me. 
He was giving me a wake-up call.

I had a lot of thinking to do.  
A lot of reconsidering to do. 
A lot of praying to do.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Woot! Woot! Finally, the e-book is for sale!

Looking for a good summer read? Well . . .

Woot! Woot! Finally, the e-book is for sale! It has taken a whole month (since the publication of the print book).

I don’t know why Amazon won’t sell the e-book (Amazon sells only the print book), but so be it.

You can get a sneak peek inside the memoir at Barnes and Noble, but Amazon still hasn’t installed the Read Inside feature. (Do you see a trend here?)

I’m getting nice feedback from those who are reading Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go: A Foot-Dragger’s Memoir. For example:

“Chapter 23 is outstanding!”

“I’m full of smiles as my wife and I read your book 
together every evening. . .. What fun. 
I will hate to see the book end.”

“Lots of laughs reading your book.”

So, if you’re looking for a good summer read, buy yourself a copy of Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go: A Foot-Dragger’s Memoir.

Also, you might want to follow the memoir’s Facebook Page. Click on that link.

The following sell Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go: A Foot-Dragger’s Memoir:

Noticing the good stuff, finding the joy

I began to notice more good stuff going on in Lomalinda .     God was offeri ng me new opportunities. He was offering me a new perspectiv...