Thursday, September 26, 2019

“Shushing up and slowing down”

“Shushing up and slowing down,” writes Kelly Balarie, “is paramount to God working in us—and strengthening us. . . . God is ready to hit us with unfathomable new perspectives—ones that redefine our past, present, and problems if we will only stop, receive, and consider. Will we? Will we walk unafraid into His presence? Into God’s rhythms? Not cowering from mysteries?” (Fear Fighting: Awakening Courage to Overcome Your Fears)

Sometimes God urges us to come closer. It’s almost as if we hear Him calling us by name, inviting us to quiet ourselves and deliberately listen to Him.

He summons us to a thin place where we mortals experience a sacred intimacy with Him.

That’s what happened to Samuel one night while he was lying down, perhaps trying to fall asleep. We picture a scene without noise or hustle or bustle. And out of the hush, God called his name, “Samuel!”

And in that thin place, alone with God, Samuel answered, “Speak, Lord, I’m listening.”

So, God spoke. He told Samuel to pay attention, because “I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle” (1 Samuel 3:11, NIV). Samuel was going to receive an important message from God, and, because of his readiness to listen, Samuel didn’t miss it.

How easy it would be for us, in our cluttered, clanging lifestyles, to miss hearing God’s voice. That’s what Kelly Balarie meant when she wrote of the importance of “shushing up and slowing down.”

Sometimes God catches our attention on busy days, within complicated chapters of our lives. Unlike Samuel, Moses was at work, doing his everyday duties—herding his flock on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 3:1-5)—when God called to him, “Moses, Moses!”

“I’m here,” he answered.

Then God said, “Take off your sandals—you’re standing on holy ground.”

And in that thin place, God revealed His identity to Moses (the mighty “I am who I am” in verse 14) and gave him life-changing information for not only himself but for all Israelites.

When God invites us to focus on Him, He longs for us to respond the way Moses did when He called him—but He gives us a choice. (Our loss if we turn Him down!)

God wants us to experience an intimacy with Him, a quiet space where we’re aware we are standing on holy ground. He invites us to worship, pray, reflect, enjoy Him, and pay attention to Him—because like with Samuel and Abraham, He has important information for us.

If God calls our names in the midst of our busy duties, like he did with Moses, what are we to do if we simply can’t drop everything and walk away?

One option is to schedule time to meet with Him every day, such as setting the alarm clock 45 minutes earlier than usual. Another option would be getting out of town for a weekend in-depth personal retreat.

But even if we can’t change our schedules, we can change our mindsets and deep inner thoughts. We can be conscious of God’s presence throughout the day, hear His words, and carry out conversations with Him.

In his daily devotional, Bread for the Journey, Henri Nouwen ponders Psalm 46:10, Be still and acknowledge that I am God.” 

He writes, “These are words to take with us 
in our busy lives
We may think about stillness 
in contrast to our noisy world. 
But perhaps we can go further 
and keep an inner stillness 
even while we carry on business, 
teach, work construction, make music, 
or organize meetings. . . . 
This still place is where God can dwell 
and speak to us. . . . 
Within that stillness 
God can be our gentle guide 
in everything we think, say, or do.

God wants us to be sensitive to His nudges and whisperings, to ponder His Word in light of our own situations. He welcomes our thoughts and questions, He hopes we’ll be open and transparent, and He wants to give us insight and encouragement and direction.

He can do that best when we set ourselves apart with Him and listen.

“God is ready to hit us with unfathomable new perspectives
—ones that redefine our past, present, and problems
if we will only stop, receive, and consider.
Will we?
Will we walk unafraid into His presence?
Into God’s rhythms?
Not cowering from mysteries?”

Thursday, September 19, 2019

When you have a desperate need to spend time alone with God

I have a hunch you’ve experienced life spinning out of control—maybe a time when the opinions and wishes of those closest to you pulled in one direction and then yanked you the opposite direction.

And in the midst of all that, you had your own opinions and wishes and plans and dreams. Life can get ragged, can’t it?

That’s where I found myself at the beginning of my memoir, Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go. Dave was certain we should move our young family to Lomalinda, a mission center in the wilds of Colombia, South America, but I strongly opposed that.

Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 1:

  The worst part of moving to Lomalinda, the part I couldn’t bear to put into words, was separating my kids from their grandparents, aunts, and uncles. The thought of that crushed my soul. Matt and Karen were part of those folks. And they were part of Matt and Karen, and of me, too. We defined ourselves within our family circle. Children thrive when surrounded by relatives who nurture, love, and shape them. With all my heart I believed yanking out our roots and moving to Lomalinda would hinder my children’s well-being, and that conviction made me the most obstinate.
  Dave subtly persisted. But so did I: Please, God, don’t make me go!

And as if that conflict wasn’t bad enough, my mother fiercely disagreed with my husband and, uncharacteristically, in sheer panic, with the profound protection mothers always feel for their kids, she pressured me to side with her.

It would’ve been easy for me to take her side because, after all, I agreed with her. But my heart told me my loyalty had to remain with my husband—and that was wrenching because everything within me rebelled at Dave’s plan.

The strain between Dave and me continued for weeks, even months. Life went on pretty well, but we avoided talking about moving to Colombia, and I knew Dave had not budged a fraction of an inch.

In truth, my heart was broken. Shattered.

I wrote this in Chapter 2: 
Those were numb days. I looked west at my Puget Sound and Olympic Mountains, and east at Lake Washington and the Cascades, and tried to imagine living in a place without their timeless beauty.
  But even more painful, those days I looked at my parents and Dave’s through different eyes—stinging eyes. And I looked at our brothers and their families, and I tried to picture living on a faraway continent where all those precious faces would be only shadowy memories—for me, yes, but especially for my kids. How could I agree to leave?

Eventually, a holy discontent with the situation overcame me. Something had to give. I longed for relief from the stresses and pressures.

   I needed clear direction and, at a time like that, religious platitudes wouldn’t cut it. Pat answers and black-and-whites—useless. I longed to enter a still place and hear what God had to say—not Dave, not my mother, only Him. And I sensed Him saying, “No hurry. Take as long as you need.”
   Despite my duties with busy kids and husband and home and ministries, I found a thin place where my heart stayed alert, listening for God night and day. (Chapter 2)

I yearned to hear God’s still small voice, to dwell in a quiet place where I could hear His ongoing whisper. I needed His wisdom, His direction. I wanted take comfort in His presence.

And Amy Carmichael writes this reassurance about praying to God our Father, “. . . there is no need to press Him as if He were unwilling.” (Isn’t that a lovely, comforting reminder?) And indeed, I did feel welcome and safe in His presence.

I prayed something like David did in Psalm 27: “Hear me as I pray, O Lord. Be merciful and answer me! My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with me.’ And my heart responds, ‘Lord, I am coming” (verses 7 and 8, NLT).

Like David wrote in another psalm, I said, “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.” He continues, “Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. . . . Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge”(Psalm 62:5-8, NIV).

Lloyd Ogilvie reminds us of our “primary commitment to put God first in our lives.” He says, “A constant surrender of our minds to think God’s thoughts and our will to do His will will give us the moment-by-moment discernment about what we should do.” That’s what I wanted.

And so, I prayed and set my heart to listen for Him—to listen to Him. I lived out one of my favorite passages in the Bible, Habakkuk 2:1, “I will stand like a guard to watch. . . . I will wait to see what the Lord will say to me” (ICB).

Perhaps today your life is in turmoil, stretched and pulled
almost to the breaking point.
Maybe you are at a fork in the road, like I was—
at a pivotal point, a defining moment.

Hear the words, “Come away, my beloved
(Song of Solomon 8:14).

Step back—even if only in your heart and mind—
from the noisy crowded busy life all around you
and be still in God’s presence
and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).
Pour out your heart.

Be intentional about watching and waiting,
for as long as it takes,
to hear what the Lord will say to you.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Two extreme (perhaps life-changing) opportunities for you!

I’m so excited to tell you about this fantastic opportunity!

To many readers of my memoir and blog, Bible translation is a mysterious job and, frankly, it might seem pretty weird. Certainly, the task can be daunting—the lifestyle, the long years of work.

But here’s an easy (and relatively painless) way to learn more about the big picture of translation—as well as the smaller nitty-gritty details, too.

And you can do it right here on U.S. soil.

This five-day event is called Explore Bible Translation Extreme and it takes place near Charlotte, North Carolina, October 28 through November 2.

Participants will spend five days in a simulated village setting with up to 25 others. They’ll sleep in hammocks and live in typical huts (champas) five feet above the ground.

They’ll have a fire to cook meals and gather around at night to hear veteran translators explain their work.

Morning and evening sessions around the campfire will offer interactive learning opportunities.

And I guarantee they’ll also hear stories of some amazing, even mindboggling adventures. Unforgettable stuff.

Participants will learn about:
  • Wycliffe’s history and vision for the future,
  • why people need Scriptures in their own languages (rather than languages foreign to them),
  • how that changes lives,
  • and of the many roles individuals play in carrying out the Bible translation task.

“It all adds up to a memorable week of learning, 
exploration and fellowship!”

Keep in mind that my husband Dave and I did not carry out translation itself and did not live in remote settings such as participants of Explore Bible Translation Extreme will experience.

Instead, as support personnel, we lived at a missions center with lots of other Wycliffe workers and filled behind-the-scenes roles which enabled translators to do their jobs. For example, Dave taught those missionaries’ kids, and I worked in the administration office helping oversee the translators’ projects and progress.

Other support positions include pilots, doctors, nurses, accountants, mechanics, radio operators, maintenance staff, secretaries, technicians, administrators—the list goes on and on.

So if YOU are thinking of working with Wycliffe, keep in mind the two types of workers: (1) translators, and (2) support personnel. Both fill crucial roles in Bible translation. The Explore Bible Translation Extreme will introduce the first type, translators, but would also be significant for those interested in working in a support role.

Does Explore Bible Translation Extreme seem too adventurous for you?

If so, here’s an alternate (and really easy) opportunity for you. And you can stay in the comfort of your own home.

Wycliffe has compiled a list of documentaries introducing you to different cultures and people groups. 

They’ll open your eyes and touch your heart and, 
if you’re like I used to be, 
they'll help you inch closer to saying, 

“Yes, I think I could do that.”

To learn more about the reason Dave and I worked with Wycliffe, and to explore whether God might like you to work with them, look into these two resources:

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Not “ding-a-lings by nature, but by choice”

My most passionate goal in life was raising top-notch kids, creating for them a stable home filled with love for God, their family, and others.

And while that was a noble goal (and one I’d still choose if I had it to do over again), otherwise I just let life happen around me. I paid attention to things like fashion styles, home decorating styles, and newer model cars—and craved better fashions, home, and cars than I already had. Dave and I were just getting started in adult life and I just knew someday I’d wear better clothes, fix up the house, and drive a newer car.

What I didn’t fully grasp or appreciate then was that my husband, Dave, took deep looks into life and spiritual matters. He was an analyzer, a questioner, a free spirit. Dave thought big and dreamed big dreams, but I thought small and dreamed lesser dreams.

I lived a shallow life.
I wasn’t thinking about life’s real meaning.
Or life’s real purpose.

It never occurred to me that God
was offering me a life
better than what I’d planned.

He wanted to plop me into what would become
the three most vibrant, rich, 
adventuresome years of my life.

But I was blind to that. Instead, I was clinging to the conduct, patterns, practices, and expectations of this world as described in Romans 12:2. “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking” (The Message).

Chuck Swindoll writes about people like me, those who “look but don’t really ‘see’ . . . they observe the surface but omit the underneath . . . they focus on images but not issues . . . vision is present but perception is absent.” (from Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life by Charles R. Swindoll)

He went on to say, “Those without insight dwell mainly in the realm of the obvious . . . the expected . . . the essentials. The dimensions that interest them are length and width, not depth.”

Chuck calls such people “blunt-brained.” Ouch.

He says people like that are not “ding-a-lings by nature, but by choice.” Ouch.

He wrote of people in Hebrews 5 who’d had lots of training in spiritual matters. They’d had opportunities to put those teachings into practice but, instead, they became “‘dull of hearing’—thick, lazy, sluggish, lacking insight.”

Chuck also described it as “unnecessary blindness.”

He was describing the twenty-something me—even though throughout my life, our family’s activities had centered around our church. I had enjoyed a very active youth group, Sunday School, and summer camps. I’d participated in Bible studies, women’s groups, and had multiple fellowship and ministry opportunities.

But I was lazy—I wasn’t thinking deeply about what I was hearing. I was not applying it to my everyday living, goal-making, or the dreams I had for myself and my family.

I’d have been content to live on the distracting, trifling surface, decade after decade, chasing the American Dream.

I wish I’d had access to Chuck’s wise words back in 1975 when Dave got the idea to move to South America. Perhaps then I wouldn’t have begged God not to make me go—or, at least, not beg Him as urgently as I did.

“Open your eyes!” Chuck Swindoll hollers.

“Think! Apply! Dig! Listen!”

Romans 12:2 goes on to say, “. . . let God transform you
into a new person by changing the way you think” (NLT).

That’s what I needed to do—let God change me
into a new, thinking person.

Have you recently evaluated how you are living?
Is there something you need to ponder?
Explore more deeply?

Do you sense God urging you to push beyond the trivial, superficial stuff?

If so, let Him transform you and the way you think.

Ask God to give you a holy discontent
with things that are not right in your life,

and a holy discontent with the ways of the world.

Ask Him to create in you a spiritual hunger and thirst
that nothing else can satisfy.

Grab hold of the abundant life He offers you.
I’m quite sure it will be
wonderful beyond what you can imagine right now.

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...