Lenten Lights

Easter is one of my favorite holidays but unlike Christmas with the big build up that you can see in the stores, listening to Christmas music and participating in holiday festivities, Easter can sometimes creep up quietly.  I do admit, there is some candy out in the stores this time of year even in Australia and, of course, Girl Scout cookies in the US seem to mark the beginning of this special season somehow in my mind.  But unless your church observes lent there really isn’t a huge build up towards Easter/Passion Week.  Since getting married Ryan and I have done our best to observe this season and mark it in our own way.  Lenten lights are my favorite tangible reminder.Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 3.49.29 PMAt the beginning of the season (Ash Wednesday) it begins with 7 lit candles.  We have a special candle holder but 7 tea lights on a plate would do the same thing.  Then each night during the meal or at another time during the day all the candles are lit and each day has it’s own reading.   This is the one we’re using for this year: Lent Devotional.  On each Sunday during lent one candle is blown out and the following week one less candle is lit during the daily reading.Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 3.50.35 PMThree weeks in and now we’re only lighting 4 candles each day.  And slowly we will work our way down to blowing out the last candle on Good Friday.  Seeing the darkness represented tangibly is a powerful reminder for me that helps my heart prepare for the joyous celebration that is Easter/Resurrection Sunday.  It may seem counterintuitive but understanding what Jesus did on the cross, makes the celebration of His resurrection more beautiful and more jubilant.  I look forward to continuing this transition and making it a part of how our home marks the Christian seasons.

American Politics in Australia

I’m an American, a citizen of the United States and unless something unexpected or drastic happens, that’s not changing anytime soon.  However, I’m living in a very multicultural city in Australia and meeting new people every day.  It doesn’t seem to matter what their background, pretty much everyone has some sort of interest in US politics.  I couldn’t escape the conversations if I tried, so I don’t try to avoid them, I listen.  Listening allows me to hear what others think and also gives me input to continually reexamine and check my own attitudes and assumptions as well as values and beliefs.  I am generally encouraged by these conversations and my personal convictions are strengthened, although I am often challenged to look deeper into certain issues and policies.  Screen Shot 2017-01-31 at 1.59.50 PM.pngConversations aside, I do realize that I am somewhat removed from US current events.  Although, the news here covers the main issues and my Facebook feed is an ever present reminder.  But I’m not in the US so, even if I wanted to, I can’t join the marches and protests.  I am not around to be a part of certain US organizations that are on the frontline when it comes to refugee resettlement.  I don’t have the time or the energy to devote to writing to US political leaders or to organize something more substantial.  Even if I was still in my safe, insulated US community, I would probably find it difficult to engage appropriately with the current policies that I agree or disagree with.  This is what, in my experience, often leads to apathy.  I can’t be the only one who recognizes something should be done but then doesn’t have the time, energy, resources and/or knowledge to do anything that might be deemed worthwhile.  So what are our options?

  1. Pray – Pray for wisdom (James 1:5).  Pray for your leaders (I Timothy 2:1,2).  Pray for your enemies (Matthew 5:44).  Pray for those who agree with you.  Pray for those who disagree with you.  Pray.
  2. Read the Bible- Justice (Isaiah 1:17), mercy (Micah 6:8), love (Leviticus 19:18), compassion (Matthew 25:25-37), all of this and more is addressed in the pages of scripture.  I didn’t struggle to find verses here, the struggle was to choose just a few.  The Bible is an amazingly rich and holy resource.
  3. Love your Neighbor-  I mean your neighbor in the broader sense of Luke 10 (the parable of the Good Samaritan).  Your neighbors are those people you come into contact with during your daily life.  This can be as simple as loving and serving your family in your home, the person across the street, the man or woman who is driving next to you on the road, the person bagging your groceries, serving your meal at a restaurant, etc.
  4. Do What You Can- There are a lot of important issues that we can advocate for and be passionate about but refugees are close to my heart.  World Relief, one organization that I have worked with and respect just posted this to their blog: 3 Things You Can Do Right Now to Show Support for Refugees.  There are probably simple things to do online or in your community for almost every social cause that needs attention.

As divided as my Facebook feed is at the moment, I am generally encouraged by the real discussions that are happening, the hypocrisy that is being confronted across the board and those who are rising up to the challenge of practicing what they are preaching.  I can not fight every battle and shout from the mountain tops over every important issue.  But I can pray, I can read my Bible, I can love my neighbor and I can do what I can to live justly, love mercy and to walk humbly with my God.

Brookton Mission Week

You know you’re in a different place when the warning you get before driving home is, “Watch out for kangaroos.”  After spending the day in Brookton, this was said to us very seriously multiple times as we prepared to drive back to the city last night after the fun quiz evening.  Although we wish we could have spent all week out in Brookton, it was wonderful to be able to take the day and see what the Brookton mission team is accomplishing by pouring into the local kids and community.

Ryan and I feel privileged to have work like this going before us that will continue to pave the way for future opportunities.  Hopefully next year we will be able to fully take part in this week of God-centered fun.  But for now it was encouraging to just get to know people better, see friends from the community and finally get that little feeling that we’ve arrived where we should be.  I’m looking forward to driving out Sunday for the large church gathering.  It will be a great celebration!

All Nations

All Nations is a pretty great church name.  For me it automatically signals Revelation 7:9 “After this I looked and saw a multitude too large to count, from every nation and tribe and people and tongue, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”  It’s a beautiful picture of heaven, and although we know we can’t achieve it fully here on earth, it doesn’t mean we can’t work and strive towards it here.  Ryan and I have been attending All Nations in Perth for three weeks and we love the community as well as the ways we see this church striving to reach all nations in the city as well as representing all nations in the church body.img_20170115_142203This is the first church I have ever attended that is very friendly to non-native English speakers (and I would say new Christians or non-Christians as well) while at the same time not apologizing for their English worship, English preaching and English fellowship.  For example, the page numbers are always given before the scripture reading so someone following along in the church Bible can easily find the text.  And if the main pastor is preaching, he not only gives a sermon outline but he hands out the entire sermon.  He has a gift to be able to preach this way, sticking very close to what is written but still communicating clearly and articulately.  If it wasn’t for the sound of the pages turning, I would not be able to tell he wasn’t simply preaching from a typical outline.  I love that sound of people turning the pages to follow him, almost in unison, being a part of the preaching.  For non-native English speakers and also visual learners like my husband, it’s great to be able to see the sermon and therefore absorb more of the content.

All Nations also offers English classes during the week as well as a Bible study in easy English.  These classes are not just for church members but for the community.  Perth is a very multi-cultural city and English classes are a way for All Nations to welcome the nations into the church.  I hope that my university schedule allows me to participate in some of these classes and be a part of this interesting and effective ministry.

Ryan and I are thankful to have a place where we can continue to get to know people and surround ourselves with community as we are introduced to life here in Perth.  Please pray for All Nations.  Please pray that we would be effective in reaching all nations represented here in Perth so that one day, before the throne and before the Lamb, we can stand together and sing praises.

Linus Explains The True Meaning of Christmas

screen-shot-2016-12-19-at-8-34-25-pm“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”Screen Shot 2016-12-19 at 8.40.07 PM.pngMerry Christmas from our family to yours!

Does it Matter Which Word We Use?

On Christmas we see many depictions of the nativity scene and most of them are beautiful, clean and etherial.  I love these scenes that give me a visual of the Biblical stories of Mary and Jospeh traveling to Bethlehem and Mary giving birth to the Light of the World.  However, I realize that they are a cleaned up, sanitized version of what really happened.  The following story from Bob Creson, Wycliffe USA’s President and his communication assistant, Carol Schatz, gave Ryan and me a new perspective on this story that we know very well.  I hope you enjoy it and see the beautiful humility of Christ this Christmas season.screen-shot-2016-12-21-at-12-18-30-pmAs the Mbe translation team in Nigeria was translating the Gospel of Luke, they came to chapter 2, verse 7: “She [Mary] gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.”

The translators took time to ponder how to translate some of the words, but not “manger.” They immediately used the word “ókpáng.”

The “What’s an ókpáng?” asked their consultant, John Watters. “Tell me what it looks like.” One of the translators drew a picture on the whiteboard. It was essentially a cradle hung by ropes so that the newborn would be laid in it and swung.

“Read the Translator’s Notes again,” John suggested. “What do the notes say about the manger?” (“Translators Notes” is a series of commentaries in non-technical English that are especially helpful for Bible translators for whom English is a second language.)

The Mbe translators read the notes and saw that “manger” referred to an animal feeding trough. Even as the Mbe team read the notes, they objected. “We have always used the word ókpáng. We have used it for years, and that’s what we should use.”

John pointed out to them that it wasn’t just a matter of tradition. God expects us to find the words that express the original meaning as accurately as possible. Furthermore, this word tells us something profound about God. “When he came to live among us and bring salvation to us, he came in the lowliest way possible. He did not come and sleep in a nice ókpáng like every Mbe mother wants for her newborn. Instead, he showed us his unbelievable humility,” John told them. “So we need to find your best word for an animal feeding trough.”

Suddenly the one who had argued most loudly for the traditional term offered, “We feed our animals out of an old worn-out basket that is not usable anymore except to fee the animals. We call it ‘ɛdzábrí.’”

“Then try that term,” said John. “Put it in your rough draft and test it with Mbe speakers.”

“As the Mbe people listened, they were visibly moved. Picturing the newborn baby lying in the animals’ feeding basket, they recognized in a new way that Jesus was willing to do whatever it took to reach them. As an adult, he would humble himself by washing the disciples’ feet and then by dying on the cross. And this humility started right from birth, when he was born to a young peasant woman under questionable social conditions and laid in an animal feeding trough.

“No word in Scripture is too unimportant to translate carefully and accurately. And no language community is too unimportant to merit the Scriptures in the language they best understand. John Watters says, “Translation in the heart language respects the people who speak it, and through the process it frees them to have a relationship with God in their own words and terms.”

The Return of the Prodigal Son

I love that I can read passages in the Bible that I know well and still learn something new or have something revealed in the text that has never occurred to me before.  I appreciate listening to a sermon and hearing a Biblical perspective that reorients how I look at a story that I would otherwise gloss over because I am “too” familiar with the words.  The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri J.M. Nouwen gave me a fresh, introspective view into the story found in Luke 15:11-32.  the-return-of-the-prodigal-sonThis heavy, thoughtful, beautifully written book contains Nouwen’s reflections on the three main people portrayed in Rembrant’s famous painting titled The Return of the Prodigal Son.  Nouwen takes a nuanced look at the Prodigal Son, the Elder Son and finally the Father.  He teases out the differences between the Biblical account and the painting and he goes under the surface into how he sees himself in each of the main subjects.  Needless to say, his conclusions run deeper than the typical Sunday school lesson.

I find it easy to see how I have been like the Prodigal Son and the Elder son at various stages of my life.  I don’t have to search hard to find my own arrogance, selfishness and brokenness.  But I have never thought of myself as being able to identify with the Father.   In light of us moving to Perth and my desire to daily live out Romans 12:12, I sincerely appreciate Nouwen’s thoughtful look into the Father.  He reminds us that in Luke 6:36 we are told to, “Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.”  And Nouwen gently works through some of the ways that he himself has learned to identify with the Father.  He writes, “Grief, forgiveness, and generosity are, then, the three ways by which the image of the Father can grow in me.”  As I read through how these characteristics can be shown in our lives, I saw what I wanted to have displayed in my life and my ministry.  And Lord willing, as I continue to grow in my faith, these aspects of the Father will show themselves more and more in my life.

This is a book that will find it’s place on my shelf to be read and reread as I continue to live out this internal wrestle between the Prodigal Son, the Elder Son and the Father who all reside in me.

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer.”  Romans 12:12