Tag Archives: missions

The Gaping Mouth of More

Crazy as it sounds, once upon a time, a meal at one of our more “common” fast food restaurants was a pretty big deal; a luxury. If you came from a big family, eating out was an expense reserved for high, family- feast days and a trip to the local burger joint was sometimes as close as you’d get.

So I remember this moment clearly.  A brand-new “Golden Arches” was big news for our little mountain town and all anyone could talk about. If you got to eat there you were certainly going to brag about it.  Seriously, it was a ridiculously big deal when we loaded up to go that evening.The Gaping Mouth

Excitement mounted as the six of us kids sat waited as patiently as possible for the parents to serve up our burger, drink and fries. Unwrapping that crinkly paper, I stared down at what seemed like the most perfect little burger on the face of the planet…all glossy and slick and warm. I felt all kinds of happy looking at that meal. I wanted it to last forever. I’m pretty sure I inhaled.

With the green light to eat, my little brother suddenly slid from his seat to use the bathroom, leaving his sweet little burger and fries untouched— and unattended— right there in front of me. I can’t tell you why, so please don’t ask. In the moments it took for him to step away and slip out of sight, the deed was done: I took a B-I-T-E out of his burger. Yep. With my own still untouched, steamy and glossy in front of me, I stole a bite of his first.

Shame on me.

And shame there was. Caught red-handed with a cheek full of burger and hot tears stinging my eyes, I faced the embarrassment of the loud and exasperated “WHY?!?! What is WRONG with you?!?”   Heck if I knew…..     I just wanted….     more.

More.

As you can imagine, the craving for “More” got me into trouble that day and, in one form or another,  it’s gotten me into quite a bit of trouble since.  God + Maturity + Time has revealed to me how it’s not been so much an issue of unmet needs or expectations. Instead, it’s about learning what it means to be satisfied and how ultimately, it’s God alone who can satisfy. That’s not as easy or as cut-n-dried-Christian-cliche as one might expect.

I am a Christian. I’ve taken the studies and I’ve read the verses teaching the truths and how to apply them. I am a Christian, so of course I’m expected to espouse and emulate always how God is the ultimate source of my ultimate satisfaction. Make no mistake: I know in my gut He is.  But allow me to confess that while I’m much further along than I was back in my “Burger Biting” days, at times it’s difficult to remember and recognize I’ve been drawn off course until I’m a little ways out there.

Search me God

Through my personal Lenten journey this year, God has been gradually revealing another level of “tweaking” He wants to do in this area. I thought I’d been doing pretty good— or at least better. But God wants to do what God always wants to do: Go Deeper. Further. Higher.

It’s this “call to missions” I keep going on about.  I’m justifiably terrified of getting settled into a place of self-satisfaction and somehow missing it.  Factor in how 1000+ personnel from the agency we’d been speaking with were brought back home due to budget adjustments. Now we’re not sure what to do. Continuing to pray and seek the answer,  I fear losing momentum or, as I was telling my dear friend Jane the other day— afraid of unwittingly tripping over the line between contentment into complacency. As if God couldn’t shield, protect and guide my willing and obedient heart. 

Now, you’d think… “Oh, well missions is a “God thing” so it must be OK to be discontent and crave more.”  Yes and no. Maybe…it’s complicated.

Yes to pressing in and on towards that upward calling in Christ Jesus.
Yes to flexibility and teachability.
Yes to all the “yes’s and Amen’s” of now.

That’s  also where the “No” comes in:

No if I can’t wait well.
No, if I can’t learn and be humbled during the waiting.
No, if the “thing” from God starts to take the shape of a God-replacing idol.
No… if I can’t joyfully do whatever where I am as if the mission field is always “someplace else”.

And especially NO if I give in to discouragement, unable to appreciate the good and beautiful gifts he’s placed right in front of me because I’m constantly looking towards something “More-better”.

Here, the craving for “more” gets me in trouble and it’s where God is gently, but firmly convicting me sin in my life— how I keep looking past the good gifts right in front of me, afraid to enjoy them for fear of missing the MORE I, for some reason, sense is out theresomewhere, waiting for me.  I’ve been convicted of impatience and lack of trust…and even, in my spirit, of “despising” His pleasure in small beginnings.

Small Beginnings

Soul-wearied,  I’ve asked the girl in the mirror, “WHY?!? What’s WRONG with you?!?” Heck if I know… I simply crave more.  More God-glorifying unity and diversity. More God-centered teamwork and working hard for Him together.  More of seeing Him move mightily in the lives of others and using me up to do it. I wanna be there, wherever and when it happens….and I forget, painfully forget… it’s happening right here…right now…

  • In paper cups filled with seeds and dirt and harvest promise with plenty to share.
  • Working with a community of women to open God’s grace to 91 of our young ladies.
  • In relationship with neighbors who know about Jesus but nothing yet of His saving grace.

(Sigh)… see what I mean?

So, this is where I am today— humbled, repentant and somewhat embarrassed to make these confessions. But I’m willing to put it all out here because I believe, on some level I’m not alone here. Maybe you’re struggling too? Maybe you’re having a hard time in the waiting place or in knowing how to remain satisfied with what IS even in the light of what MAY (or may not) BE. Maybe it’s a reminder to live the “someday” NOW.

Less than Living

These words shake me. I don’t wanna be “That Girl”… preoccupied with the once was or might be only to find that spent my life doing “something less” instead of the more I’ve always craved.

For the record, although I can’t tell him myself, if my brother was alive today I’d want him to know…”Hey, I’m really sorry about that whole burger thing”.

Trust me, he’d laugh.Lorretta signature

Linking with Jennifer@ Tell His Story

Whatever. Just Do….WHATEVER.

Grabbing my phone on the way out the door for choir, I noticed the “missed call/voicemail” alerts.  I recognized the number of a friend, but it was uncommon for her to call. Hmmmm.    Retrieving the message, I heard a strange uneasiness in her voice as she wrestled to come up with the right words.

“Lorretta…” Pregnant pause.
“Um… I was wondering…. I mean, do you still…”
Her question dangled over the phone line for an uncomfortable moment.
Then suddenly, “Please call me back when you get a minute?” Click.

Curious? Yeah, me too.
I quickly dialed her number to discover whatever in the world was wrong. Finally answering, I could tell she was still so nervous!     I had no clue.

Whatever

Rambling through the background in her mind, she finally summoned  the courage to ask if I still did “THAT”. “THAT” being the reason she needed my help. And well, since I did still do “THAT”,  I replied I’d be happy to help but inside I was thoroughly bemused by her embarrassment— for herself (maybe?) needing my help with “THAT” or was it for me—the one willing to do“THAT”?     I still don’t know.

Fact is, I did “THAT” then and I still do now.
On occasion.
In fact, I’ll do “THAT” twice this week because I didn’t have time last week.

Yes, I’m here to confess that I engage in what is likely the world’s oldest “occupation”:
I clean houses.  Whew!    I’m so glad I got “THAT” off my chest!

Another confession:  It was not a proud moment when I decided to take my first housecleaning job. But the fact is, as business owners, media missionaries and “self-unemployed” artists,  we needed a little extra at our house to make ends meet. Plus I needed the added flexibility of naming my own hours so I could keep home schooling, volunteering and GreenPeas-business-ing. Let’s face it: there are very few situations nearly as accommodating as this (without having to constantly salespitch your entire friend base). Besides, I get to catch up on all my ministry podcasts while I vacuum and mop!

So, gradually I’ve gotten used to the idea of mentioning that I do “a little cleaning on the side” and I have no problem stating as fact that it’s the way God helps me provide for my family in this season of life. Still, this look-back at my friend’s discomfort and realizing my own, I recognize that there is a certain level of stigma against the idea that someone might choose to earn money this way. I felt it at first, until God gave me peace and helped me to swallow a HUGE chunk of my “I’m-Too-Educated/Good-For-THAT” attitude (also spelled P-R-I-D-E).

A Proud Man

I remember when it happened too. Working  in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya a couple of summers ago, we were filming a ministry series for a water and AIDS hospice project. Our days were packed with one location after another interviewing and filming various people associated with these projects. It was wonderful. Sometimes, we were graciously invited into homes for a bit of hospitality. On those occasions, there was always time to share and pray (whether there was time in the schedule– or not!) and we were always left blessed.

At one home, our guides introduced us to a kind-faced woman and two younger girls. She was the local “church mother” who also trained up Christian house girls. As young Christian women they struggled with the stigma because it was not considered a very honorable profession. Not what they wanted to be when they grew up. However, it was the best they could hope for without a skill set or education. Then, remembering our conversation from the night before, our guide asked if I’d share about my experience with “THAT” line of work.

Speechless.
What I could say? 

True, we had shared our testimonies and desires to use our business/ministry to work full time on the mission field—how we did whatever we could to keep things afloat and in passing, I mentioned I did THAT.  Obviously, the Holy Spirit had orchestrated this divine encouragement opportunity and I was ON.

I wasn’t prepared to say all wish I’d said that day. I remember explaining I was glad to have work allowing me time to do church ministry and to work with my husband. I told them how it freed me up with time to teach my children and provide for my family. Truthfully, how it had been a way to serve God through some difficult times in my life and through it I tried my best to bring Him glory.

As I spoke, I knew in my heart our situations were radically different. I was working for extra money and they were likely working for all they’d have and not much more.  Lack of education and opportunity was not my issue as it was for them.

Still more humbling was the look of confusion and really— surprise on their faces because in their wildest imaginations, no white woman from America would ever have to do THAT. Surely not.
We are rich.
All of us.
Well, that’s always a kick in the pants, isn’t it?

I’m pretty sure I mumbled some other well-meaning encouragements hoping they’d understand it was possible to serve God proudly in their places of employment. Of course God was reminding me at the same time how clever it is that He doesn’t waste ANYTHING from the willing.

Revelation

I needed to remember this NOW. I’ve been feeling discouraged– not despairing but wondering about the whole missions thing and how God wants us to answer the call we said yes to 15 years ago. Just being honest. It’s a big, fat question mark.

These remembrances alongside something I heard this past weekend are helping to resharpen my focus (again).  A young woman was sharing a recent experience and she said:

“Sometimes we are praying so hard for God to move us out of a situation that we almost miss what he wants to do with us where we are.”

No great mystery— just a whole lotta truth. Sheesh. More truth was piled on from 1 Corinthians 10:31 where Paul is teaching about idolatry but the word “WHATEVER” is what got me. It’s found again in Colossians 3— twice but particularly in verse 17:

Colossians 3-17

Whatever.
Just do whatever.
Right here, right now.
All of it for Him.

I don’t know about you, but it gives me a lot to think about as I work and wait— doing THAT or whatever it is He asks of me— for His glory.

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The Most Beautiful Church I’ve Ever Been In

It’s been at least eight years since I was there for a two day conference. I doubt I could easily find my way back and if I’m completely honest with you, right now I can’t even remember the name.   Sorry.

I could spend some time researching— maybe Google it and come close but it’s not going to make this memory any more solid. Unless you want to visit …or have a church like this one, then I guess you’d need to know. Maybe it will just be enough for me to tell you about my experience of the most beautiful church I’ve ever been in. Because honestly, this church could be anywhere.  It could be.

The most beautiful church

So…actually…we got lost looking for this place. The GPS took us into a neighborhood where the streets got narrow, skinny and tight until….. BAM!  We found ourselves at a dead end where the road probably once continued on, but now there was a high fence and a guard rail keeping us from driving into the 10-lanes of interstate highway just beyond.

Backtracking, eventually we found it— our little host church in the big city tucked waaay inside an older neighborhood on the other side of that highway, just behind a rather sketchy looking shopping plaza.

The parking lot was rough and pocked with holes. Though the grounds were spotless, the landscaping was nothing to shout about– some scrappy looking bushes here and there, not much more. The building itself was rather plain; just a standard white, wood frame church with a bit of a steeple poking out the top.  I think there were some benches out front.

This church was hosting us for an event with about 60 or more students studying the fine art of Christian speech and debate. The people were gracious and accommodating, pleasant and very glad to have this group of future Christian leaders and speakers in their midst.  They were so encouraging.

The interior of the church was mostly forgettable. No really– I forget. I recall only that it was plainly furnished and happily worn from use. Nothing notable about the carpet and pews, the fellowship hall and speaking rooms were all rather standard and functional. Comfortable without being too over the top.  It was nice.

Based on these observations, as you can imagine, there was nothing about this place that said “success” according to the world’s standards. Nothing flashy and yet, I can recall most of these details so many years later because where these things were so plain and understated, there was one great thing that impressed me so profoundly,  that I really stopped to take in and notice the true richness of my surroundings in the course of those two days.

Painted on one wall just outside the sanctuary, there was a mural-sized world map and while I can’t remember the exact words below, I do recall it had something to do with the mission of the church. As in, THE mission of THE church as well as that one there. All by itself, that was something to behold and it surely could start you to thinking down the mental path of missions as you entered and exited the sanctuary each week.

That’s a nice thing to think about. However this congregation was obviously good at more than simply thinking about missions.

Here’s where it got truly extraordinary for me. Down every hall, on every side from the entryway and on around every corner, each wall was LINED EDGE TO EDGE  with a picture of a missionary individual or family this church personally supported. I mean the walls were full. Beneath the framed picture was a smaller frame with information telling about the place and people they served, when they began serving and how long and their prayer requests.  Every one of them was being actively supported by this church.

Maybe I’m just a bit sheltered but  I’d never seen anything like this before.

During the breaks I walked down the halls, looking at the pictures and reading the information, truly stunned as it dawned on me what I was a witnessing.

This rinky-dink, nondescript little church tucked back in the middle of downtown nowhere was reaching into nearly every country and continent on the planet one prayer at a time. One offering at a time.

My heart was just bursting with— gee, I don’t know… happiness?
Jealousy?
Longing….maybe?

It was a gift to be there— a challenge to behold and truly, this was the most beautiful church I have ever been in.  No doubt about it.

CS Lews on the Effective Church

Right now, it’s a bit of a personal issue for me remembering this scenario because recently a major missionary organization struggling to balance it’s worldwide budget is offering early retirement to their older missionaries. You know really OLD…..like 50.  For reasons I can’t fully explain my heart is so troubled by this news.

It makes me sad.
This is just the first step to downsizing their force.

One of the folks within this agency wrote, wondering aloudwhat if they just said no? Or better yet, what if every church in the convention gave $420 per month– the amount that’s been calculated for what’s needed to bring the budget out of it’s tailspin.

$420 per church, per month. It doesn’t seem like a whole lot.

You know,  a flood of refugees from Syria is currently pouring into regions that already have a viable Gospel witness established within. Refugees whom God has sent there to taste, see, hear and FEEL the love and Good News of salvation.

The majority of these refugees come from regions within the “10/40 window” where Gospel work is not only difficult…it’s downright dangerous. So God has opened the floodgates leading them to other countries where the work of loving and reaching them can be more fruitful in the long term– after the initial crisis is over and where the daily work will continue long after the news headlines disappear.  This passage from the Book of Isaiah 14:24-27 is rather exciting when you consider these circumstances in this light.

  As long as there are still folks there to do it…. and Satan would love to shut that down or delay it if he can.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m an idealistic dreamer to imagine that we in our churches who know true freedom and prosperity in God could afford to dig a little deeper… live a little more sacrificially, spending less on ourselves and our surroundings and instead have a hand in this work being done all over the world…to somehow be a part of keeping that “$420 Door” propped open by committing  to the support of the missions taking place here and abroad.

What would it be like… to have the privilege of being members of a church like that?

Personally….I think it would be beautiful.

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Linking with Jennifer and Tell His Story