Permission for Rest

I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again.  I’m not good at resting.  My mind prefers to work and ticking off the boxes on my to-do list can seem to be the ultimate satisfying goal.  But my to-do list easily becomes my idol and expectations (usually self imposed) become more important than walking daily with Jesus.  Screen Shot 2017-06-05 at 9.08.06 AM.pngI’m still trying to figure out what this means practically for me.  Finding that balance between productivity and trusting in the ultimate care of my gracious savior.  Struggling against the lie in my head that tells me I’m lazy or unworthy, when I know that I am a beloved child of God.  Coming to a place where rest is not guilt inducing but instead sweet and rejuvenating.

Please pray with me and know you’re not alone if you also struggle to find peace and rest.  Know that you’re not alone if a call to create margin in your life induces anxiety and worry.  Know that we were not created to bear the burden and weight of the world on our own shoulders.

Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

All Scripture is Useful

Sometimes I want to cherry pick the Bible, claim and use the parts that best suit my ideals and motivations while leaving out the unsavory, hard to swallow verses.  After all, sometimes I think it would be a lot easier to live out or even defend Christianity if I could distance myself from the more confusing or eyebrow raising bits of scripture.  But getting out a sharpie and crossing out verses is really not the answer.  After all 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  So to be thoroughly equipped, I can’t run and hide from any of God’s word.  Instead, I must dig into the Bible, seeking to learn, understand and apply scripture properly.Screen Shot 2017-02-26 at 3.34.57 PM.pngAlthough I don’t think pastors need to always preach through books of the Bible, I do think that this practice forces pastors, as well as congregations, to face scriptures that would otherwise not be preached on because of their seemingly difficult or perhaps obscure content.  I’m thankful to have sat and learned under many pastors who do not shy away from the deep, rich challenges of scripture.  Today was no exception because we heard a sermon on Deuteronomy 22:1-12.  Feel free to read these verses yourself but my point here is not to critique or even expound on the sermon.  Instead I wish to say that I walked away from church this morning, not only encouraged but emboldened in my faith.  Today I was challenged to be set apart and different because I am a Christian.  And I was also pointed towards Jesus in how I view people as well as God’s creation.  Learning about the cultural context is important, however, scripture is still alive so we can’t forget to see God’s word as relevant and applicable to our current lives.

This is a good reminder for me as I continue to read the Bible and sometimes am tempted to skip reading or dismiss certain scriptures.  All scripture is useful.  All scripture is God-breathed.  And these are the words that can fully equip me for whatever task is ahead.

Koalified in Christ

There is comfort, security and strength in being Totally Koalified in Christ (Colossians 1:9-14).  This meme was posted to my husband’s Facebook page this week.  It is a good reminder for us in the middle of so many things that seem out of our expertise and control.  It’s not that we aren’t qualified in any way but even the qualifications we have are gifts from God.  I’m thankful for this gentle reminder that I do not need to rely on my personal achievements, abilities or supposedly self-won qualifications.  Jesus walks with me and gives me what I need.  Indeed anything I could boast about is only because of the strength of the Lord.screen-shot-2017-02-20-at-9-51-42-am

1 Corinthians 1:18-31 states this in confident yet humbling words.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
    the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

 

God’s Glory in a Loaf of Hands

“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Romans 15:5-6Screen Shot 2017-02-09 at 7.15.54 PM.pngA few weeks ago our team sat around a large round table, all together for the first time ever.  6 couples, uniquely gifted and wonderfully diverse, gathered in Australia for the sake of the gospel.  We are thankful to have such an amazing group of people surrounding us and walking through this transition with us.  It is not by accident that we are here.  May God use these hands for His glory!

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!

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.”

Remembering to Rest

I struggle with taking breaks.  I struggle with relaxing.  I struggle with taking time off when there is so much that still needs to be done.  And if I do take a break and/or relax, I then struggle with feeling guilty.  I know I’m not the only one with this mindset.  But knowing that I am not alone is not enough to completely remove the anxiety.  So mornings like this one are good for me, despite my very real struggle yesterday with whether or not I could “give up” the time to attend a breakfast with friends.  I went, enjoyed the fellowship, enjoyed the food and left with a very thankful heart.screen-shot-2016-12-03-at-1-41-38-pmToday reminded me three truths that I already know but still need to remember often as I continue to navigate how I spend my time.

1. God created us for fellowship.  Being with people is important and it’s ministry.  Our fellowship and conversations can build us up, encourage us and give us strength.  We are stronger when we share each other’s joys and burdens.

2. Face to face relationships are important.  As much as I am thankful for social media when I am far away, I need to take advantage of the time I do have with people now.  This in person time is precious.

3.  Rest encourages productivity.  We can only do so much.  We only have so much time.  And we all know that burning the candle at both ends only lasts for so long.  I need to be recharged and for me, that means time with people.  These times of rest allow me to work better and push through when I need to.

It’s nice to slow down every once in awhile and remember simple truths.  This morning that was done at a table surrounded by new and old friends sharing a meal and stories of God’s faithfulness.  “God is Great.  God is Good.  & We Thank Him For This Food.  Amen”