Friday, April 26, 2013

On Turning 50

In my playpen on the porch in PNG
where I broke my leg on my 1st birthday
As I stare down the road to the final days before I turn 50, I ponder this milestone. How did I get here? And how did I get here so fast? I am one of the youngest of my siblings. I always had others to look up to. But now the scales are tipping.
Teaching my first lesson
or preaching a sermon?

The first ten years were carefree and fun, running around in the village of Kaisenik and the mission town of Ukarumpa in Papua New Guinea. Playing in the creek. Sorting rocks. Sewing an elaborate wardrobe for my "Chrissy" doll. Eating fresh papaya, coconut and sugarcane. Letting substitute "children's home" parents become my extended family. Learning Bible stories and verses through songs that played on my tiny toy record player. During these years, I asked Jesus to forgive my sins and give me eternal life (Luke 17:3).
High School Buddies - also strong 
smart women who challenged me

My teens years were filled with more growth and discovery of who I am. I played saxophone in two bands and sang in every choir or musical I could. I made good grades and had opportunities to exercise leadership in school and youth group. I ran with a large group of really smart leaders who stretched me. I realized that I wanted to live my life in such a way that if I died, others would want to believe in my Lord. I committed to trying to become like Jesus. My theme verse at this time was "And not because we think we can do anything of lasting value by ourselves. Our only power and success comes from God" (II Corinthians 3:5).

October 1, 1988
Many fun and challenging adventures began that day!
My twenties weren't so easy. I was "torn" away from my birthplace and plucked down in the unknown world of Baylor University. Through tears and confusion, I figured out how to live on my own, made some dear friends and found Jesus to be more than enough for my loneliness and fear. I discovered I loved leading small group Bible studies, earned two degrees, met and married an amazing man, moved to Indonesia and just squeezed in two sons before turning 30. During this time, I learned that God is able to "do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine" (Ephesian 3:20) and that all I had to do was ask (James 4:2).

My Family then...
Most of my thirties were spent in Indonesia, raising and teaching my sons, grieving another child miscarried at 12 weeks, learning another language and culture. These years were filled with growth through pain -  marital struggles, cross-cultural tension, riots and evacuation, sickness, deaths of dear friends and separation from family. Lessons of rejoicing in suffering, changing myself and not those around me, finding my true self in Jesus and realizing He loved me lavishly characterized those years. And yet I also dabbled in things I discovered I liked to do - writing a Bible curriculum, teaching a women's study, discipling others. My treasure from God's word during these years was that He takes "delight in me" and "rejoices over me" as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride (Isaiah 62:4-5).

...and now
And then God called us "back from the ends of the earth to serve him" (Isaiah 41:9). And so the last decade of my semi-long life has been spent settling into America, buying a home, launching my sons, actually using my degrees, teaching, writing Bible studies, learning to be an ezer kenegdo (a strong helper) and being able to say...this is who I am, this is how God made me, this is what he created me to do and I'm comfortable, happy and fulfilled to serve him. Ephesians 4:11-12 has been my driving force these past ten years. I was sent to "prepare God's people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all attain to the fullness of Christ".

So as I face 50, why am I afraid? Can I continue to do the things I am good at and love to do? Can I and my husband find greater oneness? Will our health remain good? Will these aches and pains increase? Can we take the best of who we are and the experience we have gained and truly move mountains for God? Can we believe and see the glory of God (John 11:40)? I really do want to make this next decade the best ever. 

The words of a song currently playing in my car CD answer my questions. "Through the rain, through the clouds, through the tests and the trials, You hold me. In the highs and the lows, in the midst of the storm, Your hands won't let you. You won't let go. I will not be afraid for I know who holds my tomorrow and I will not be afraid for I know He'll make a way. My rock, my shield, my help, my strength, my hope, my God will make a way" (Josh Lopez).

Thank you Lord for a truly blessed and satisfying life so far. I choose to believe in faith that whatever you take me through in the next years will contain the same blessing, faithfulness and love, for I am following the same God and You never change.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

We Who Teach

Three incidents recently have made me painfully aware of what the Bible means in James 3:1 when it says that Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

The first incident was when I carelessly gave my opinion on a controversial subject. I was unaware that my random thoughts would cause a new believer to leave the class. I only made the connection weeks later when I inquired about her absence from a friend.

The second was while teaching a Bible college class of young adults. In my hurry to cover certain material and avoid rabbit trails, I interrupted a student who was trying to answer my question. I saw her body shut down. Literally, she wilted!

The third incident was just yesterday when I told a student that his answer was good, only it wasn’t the answer to the question I had asked. I said it lightly and was attempting to illustrate a method, but he laughed and made jokes about not ever speaking up again. And he was not the only one.

Will other students now be afraid to speak up for fear that I will tell them their answer is wrong? Will they just not come back because I might put them on the spot and make them feel dumb? Will they no longer listen to me because I said something offensive or insensitive?

In each occasion, I let method and agenda trump people and relationships. The teacher in me was only concerned with getting a point across. I did not consider the person until it was too late. The words were out and it was time to do damage control.

So what does a teacher do in this case? I apologized. In the first instance, the student is gone, so I apologized to the friend. In the other two cases, I wrote an email apology to the class as soon as possible and then gave a verbal apology the next time the class met. I want to keep short accounts. I want my class to know that I am aware of the effect my words have on them. I never want to discourage attendance or participation because of my words or methods.

I am sobered and humbled. I cannot do this task alone. I MUST rely on the Holy Spirit’s guidance. I must be so sure of my identity and my message that I can accept correction and graciously respond to challeges. So to those who teach, remember...

1.      People trump methods
2.      Listen to the Holy Spirit’s nudging to apologize or make amends
3.      Admit to the class that you failed and hurt someone
4.      Invite the class to question you, to challenge you (in a polite way) and form their own opinions

Teaching God's Word is an awesome responsibility but it is also an honor and a joy. I am grateful that his word is "living and active" (Heb 4:12) and does not totally depend on me, the messenger.

How Far Will They Go?

(John 6:5-9) "When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, "It would take more than half a year's wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!" Andrew spoke up, "Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far with they go among so many?" (John 6:5-9)

Modern Translation: Jesus is asking me, "How are you going to spiritually feed all these that I am sending your way?" Like Philip, I often answer, "It would take more resources, more time and more talent than I have, Lord". And like Andrew, "I offer my inadequate talent and small resource, but I don't see how that's going to help when the needs are so great."

And Jesus replies, "I will take them and multiply them, for I already have in mind what I am going to do!"

Oh Lord, increase my tiny faith!!!