Thursday, July 22, 2021

Noticing the good stuff, finding the joy

I began to notice more good stuff going on in Lomalinda.  


God was offering me new opportunities. He was offering me a new perspectivea new way to do Life. A new attitude. New goals.

It took me a few weeks to figure that out, but God patiently waited for me to notice. 


As Rachel Marie Martin said:


“Sometimes you have to let go of the picture

of what you thought life would be like

and learn to find joy in the story you are actually living.”


Rachel nailed it.


Finding the joy: During our first few days, I had longed for familiar faces, familiar voices, and especially familiar smells. But instead, only a strange odor had wafted through our windows—a thick, pungent, sweet, moist stink. Was it decay?


That sticky, moldering smell radiated out of the earth and crawled in the air and forced its way into our house and our noses and clung to our clothes and bedding and furniture. For days it had made my stomach sick and left me light-headed.


The dense, damp reeking of the place threatened to overpower me.


But then, a few weeks later, my nose adjustedodors smelled less offensive. Hooray! (See my earlier post, I could only gasp, “Please, God, get me out of here!”)


Finding the joy: One of the blessings I noticed right away was that carrots and tomatoes tasted like real carrots and tomatoes, genuine flavors I recalled from childhood when people grew their own produce. What a welcome contrast they were compared to the carrots and tomatoes from grocery stores back in the States, which had little taste.


Finding the joy: Lomalinda was a place of brilliant flowers, shrubs, and trees. In our yard, we had a papaya tree, an avocado tree, a mango tree, and a lemon tree. Growing such trees back home in Seattle was unheard of. (Don’t miss my earlier post, Blooming where you’re planted.)


Finding the joy: Our first-grader, Matt, and our Kindergartener, Karen, loved school—their teachers and their classmates—and were excelling in their studies.


Finding the joy: Soon the teens (missionaries’ kids) got acquainted with Dave and his goofy humor. He taught them English, Psychology, History, and P.E.


But his most welcome contribution for the forty-two junior high and senior high students was new programs: drama, student newspaper, student council, and yearbook. Students and parents were delighted.


Right away Dave started work on three one-act plays and, after he gave out parts, the cast’s excitement was palpable.


By the middle of September, the school’s newspaper staff published their first issue. We weren’t sure what to expect but it turned out better than we imagined, and everyone’s pleasure showed.


Dave played soccer and softball with the teens on weekends, and they and their parents appreciated the energy and humor he brought to academics and athletics.


Still today, his former students reminisce about his teaching style and the way he related with them.


Yes, good stuff was happening in Lomalinda.

I was finding the joy.

What a welcome change that was for me.


Thursday, July 15, 2021

When God answers prayers with a “no”

 God sent me to work with ordinary people who trusted God—in practical, specific, real-life ways.


They demonstrated faith in action:


Wycliffe Bible Translators’ founder, Cam Townsend, had a habit of singing “faith . . . laughs at impossibilities and shouts ‘It shall be done!’ ‘It shall, it shall, it shall be done. . . ” (his version of Charles Wesley’s “Faith, Mighty Faith”). Before long it became the theme song for the entire worldwide Wycliffe organization.


Time and time again, Uncle Cam and early Lomalindians watched while God kept answering “Yes!”


It’s exciting, and it’s humbling, to see the way God answers prayer for giants of the faith like Uncle Cam and Lomalinda pioneers.


But sometimes God said “No” to their prayer requests.


For example, they needed land where they could establish a center of operations, including an aviation department. So they prayed, believing God was leading them to a place beside a lake where they could use floatplanes to transport Bible translators to and from their remote locations among indigenous people groups.


God answered by leading them to the perfect spot that became Lomalinda on the shores of a lake. And it was all so good.


But before long, those early settlers realized floatplanes would not meet their needs. They had misunderstood what God was leading them to do, and they heard His gentle “No.” As Proverbs 16:9 says, “People may make plans in their minds, but the Lord decides what they will do” (NCV). “We humans keep brainstorming options and plans, but God’s purpose prevails” (Proverbs 19:21, The Message).


Instead of using floatplanes, they built a grassy, up-and-down landing strip and used regular airplanes. They knew God had given them His better answer to their prayers when He directed them to a different kind of aviation program than they had imagined.


God answered their prayers with a “No,” on other occasions, too:

In ways we might never fully understand, when God says “No,” He has His good and holy reasons.


God’s ways and thoughts are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). His ways are better than our ways, they are superior. He is omniscient. He is Sovereign God, who says “My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please” (Isaiah 46:10, NIV).


You see, Our lives don’t really belong to us (Jeremiah 10:23). Our dreams, our hopes, our ministries, our families—they don’t really belong to us, either. God is the Big Boss. He wisely, lovingly works out what’s best. Our role is to trust God has good plans for those who love Him (Romans 8:28).


And so we come back to the question I’ve been asking lately


When Jesus said,

You can ask me for anything in my name,

and I will do it,”

did he mean we are the boss of him?

(See John 14:13-14.)   


No, he didn’t. Uncle Cam and Lomalinda’s pioneers knew they were not the boss of God.


Even though what they asked God for seemed perfectly reasonable, and perhaps even brilliant, they also knew they were mere humans with imperfect insights into God’s plans and ways, so they knew He would sometimes answer with a “No.” And they were okay with that—


“Thy will be done. . . .”


Cavin Harper writes: “In a day when a lot of people are telling us that we can have anything we ask for—if we envision it in our minds, it is ours—what happens when God says, ‘No’? 


Many Christians find the idea of God saying ‘no’ to be a devastating conflict with their theology of ‘ask and you shall receive,’ or ‘name it and claim it.’


“I know the shattering consequences of a ‘no’ from God,” Cavin continues, “when I really wanted to hear ‘yes.’


“It was in such a moment that I realized what a lite, thin-skinned Christianity I had embraced.


“I had confined God to an unbiblical theological box and did not account for the deep and profound work that God wanted to do in me through His ‘no.’


“That work involved developing in me an undivided heart where He could meet me, change me, and give me His peace in the acceptance of His answer, even when it was “no.”


“While His answer never changed, I did,” Cavin says, “and guess what I discovered?  There really is life (with a capital “L”) after ‘no.’”


How many times has God answered “No”

to one of your prayers

and later you realized

His “No” was for the best?

Aren’t you glad He answered the way He did?


Friday, July 9, 2021

Why do so many of us have small faith and small dreams? Part 3


We don’t have to settle for small dreams and small faith, but so many of us do. While I’m not an expert on the topic, here are some thoughts. (If you missed previous posts, click on Laughing at impossibilities—or not: Why do so many of us settle for small faith and small dreams? and Why do so many of us have small faith and small dreams? Part 2.)


Small dreams and big dreams, small faith and big faith—these have to do with the desires of our hearts. More on that later.


Those who have faith like Uncle Cam, and like those Ogilvie described, set aside worldly distractions and pursuits each day to spend quality quiet time with God, studying Scriptures, praying, and listening to Him. He says, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).


Those who hope to ever come close to being spiritual giantspeople of big dreams and big faith—recognize they are made by Him, for Him, and for His glory (Colossians 1:16, Isaiah 43:7, Psalm 86:9, 1 Corinthians10:31B,  Romans 11:36).


As Elisabeth Elliot said, “. . . As believers, it is not about us. It is not about my happiness, my joy, my wellbeing. It is about the glory of  God. . . . The only means to real joy and contentment is to make His glory the supreme objective in my life.”


Those who hope to ever come close to being choice saintspeople of big dreams and big faith—recognize and want above all else to seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness and His purposes (Matthew 6:33). Rather than pursuing the pleasures of the world, their hearts desire to pursue Him and His ways of doing life.


Spiritual giants probably don’t see themselves as spiritual giants. They’re humble people. When Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” He was talking about those who are humble. Lloyd John Ogilvie writes, “The Hebrew word ani . . . was used for the humble and faithful. J.B. Phillips translated this first Beatitude, ‘How happy are the humbleminded.’ . . . Throughout His ministry, Jesus affirmed humility and warned against pride. He knew that religious pride blocked growth in greatness. . . . True greatness begins with and never outgrows humility.” (Silent Strength for My Life)


It’s all about our hearts. Those who hope to ever come close to living by faith like Uncle Cam and my Lomalinda friends will crave this: to love the Lord with all of their hearts, souls, minds, and strength (Mark 12:30), the first and most important commandment.


Lord, make us people after Your own heart!


Next week: 

More stories on the inspirational big faith and bold prayers 

of Uncle Cam and Lomalinda pioneers.


Thursday, July 1, 2021

Why do so many of us have small faith and small dreams? Part 2


Last week I asked, “Why do so many of us settle for small faith and small dreams?”


But then I also think of those with large faith and large dreams:


All these years later, I still marvel

at the gutsy, plucky faith of Uncle Cam

(Cameron Townsend)

and my new Lomalinda colleagues—

people who, because of that faith,

dreamed bold, daring, dreams.

People who prayed, honorable,

principled, confident prayers.


I also shared with you Lloyd John Ogilvie’s words that so aptly describe Uncle Cam and those who settled in that remote mission compound, Lomalinda. Ogilvie said of such people that Christ “uses [their] imagination to show us what we would not have thought of or worked out for ourselves. . . .


“This requires persistence. . . . It means asking, seeking, knocking [Luke 11:9-10] . . . three steps in using imagination in cooperation with Christ. . . .”


Ogilvie continues:


Some Christians think of solutions we would not have considered.

They have persisted patiently in prayer.

Some are amazingly creative in what they think and say.

Long prayer vigils and complete trust are the reason.

They are like an inventor who waits for, searches,

tests until the great ‘Ah-ha!’ comes.


“[They] do not give up.” 

(Silent Strength for My Life)

Recently I keep coming back to this question: What's the difference between

  • people of bold faith and big dreams, and
  • those who settle for small faith and small dreams? 

Here are some thoughts:


Sometimes we get derailed, maybe by tragedy, or by heartache, or illness—or even boredom. Many years ago, A.B. Simpson wrote of those of us whose “faith grows tired, languid, and relaxed,” whose “prayers lose their force and effectiveness.”


He wrote of those of us who “become discouraged and so timid that a little obstacle depresses and frightens us, and we are tempted to walk around it, and not face it: to take the easier way.”


Even though God and His promises stand ready to help, we wimp out: we complain about the hard work involved in praying—and then waiting for God to answer! And trusting Him!


Instead, maybe we take things into our own hands and try to force events or answers to happen the way we want.


Or we look to other humans and human remedies. As Simpson said, we “walk around some other way.”


“There are many ways of walking around . . . instead of going straight through. . . . How often we come up against something . . . and want to evade the issue with the excuse: ‘I’m not quite ready for that now.’ Some sacrifice is to be made, some obedience demanded, some Jericho to be taken . . . and we are walking around it” (A.B. Simpson, quoted in Streams in the Desert).


In other words, we bury our heads in the sand. We allow—we even welcomedistractions that lure us away from doing the hard work of waiting on God.


Simpson challenges us to put into practice Hebrews 12:12-13: “You have become weak, so make yourselves strong again. Keep on the right path" (NCV).


Or, as the Living Bible words it: “Take a new grip with your tired hands, stand firm on your shaky legs, and mark out a straight, smooth path for your feet. . . .” (See also Isaiah 35:3).


That means we’re to refuse to be weaklings, cowards, those who give up too easily— (that’s often a hard one for me). Instead, we are to be disciplined, persevering, tenacious people—both spiritually and in practical, everyday life.


We are inspired to be that kind of people when we

hang out with those like Uncle Cam

and my Lomalinda neighbors and colleagues.


We are mentored into becoming that kind of people

when we watch them live their faith in action on a daily basis

and over the decades.


What a privilege God gave us when He sent us to work alongside such spiritual giants!  


Come back next week

for more thoughts on

why so many of us

settle for small faith and small dreams.


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...