What to say…just “Thanks!”

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It was downright chilly! Ok, maybe not…but I did sleep with two blankets (and the fan blowing on me!) a few nights this week. I am so grateful that the flooding that was expected with Typhoon Utor didn’t materialize, but there are many people dealing with devastation up north. Keep them in your prayers!

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Warning: geeky teacher moment coming up!! I met with our literacy coach this week to discuss an integrated unit around Ancient Egypt, which is our first social studies unit. She had some great resources, including the idea for this chart. (Please forgive the not-so-straight lines; I used the level app on my phone for the first few and then just.wanted.to.be.done…hence crookedness. Perfectionism, be done, too!) It is basically a blown up KWL (with categories for confirmed knowledge and disproved ideas, too) with the areas of study on the vertical axis. I’m so excited to get this Egypt party started…I’m not so excited about mummifying chickens. More on that as I wrap my brain around it!

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Mail!! Melody sent a postcard and Dorothy sent an adorable sewing kit, complete with notes for each section. What a fun surprise!!

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Ok, Apple…you’ve won me over with FaceTime! It is so easy to chat for a few minutes (or a lot longer) with no need to sign in or pre-arrange anything. I got to join my Bugaboo and Little Man for Bible stories a few days ago, and I showed Bugs the wall decoration they got me: “Love you to the moon and back.”

That’s a peek into a few of my blessings at the moment. I am so undeservedly blessed and so humbly grateful.

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Gospel Culture

Last week at church, one of the topics of discussion was keeping friends. The conversation rolled around to gossip and the many warnings about the dangers of gossip. As the newbie, I had an opportunity to ask a nagging cultural question.

*Disclaimer: I’m speaking in generalizations and from personal experience. I realize that those are two things one should rarely do, but this is my blog and I’m warning you up front!*

First, you should know that Filipinos are ever gracious (except on the road, but that’s another story). They will bend over backward to make sure you are comfortable. This may be part of the reason that Filipinos work quite literally all over the world. Part of this graciousness looks like preventing the other person from looking bad- saving face. If I have an issue with you, I should talk with a mutual friend, who will go to you about it. This keeps me from having to confront you and potentially embarrass you.

Also, my favorite definition for culture is “the personality of a group.” (Thanks, Jerry from PFO!)

Given all that, my nagging question was about the intersection of wisdom and culture. Is it gossiping if I use a third party for your own good?

I find these questions fascinating. (I was told, by the way, that it would be best for a Christ-follower to go directly to the person, per Matthew 18.) While I believe that culture is a gift of God, it seems that most cultures have practices that don’t align with His wisdom. I so appreciated the ability of my Filipino friends to evaluate their own cultural practices in the light of His word, and I wondered how often I do the same. It’s easy to see my own cultural practices as normal and unavailable for evaluation. I have a lot to learn!

‘Twas the Night Before School Started

and all through the house
the teachers were typing…
and planning… and sleeping.

The first day clothes were set out with care
knowing five o’clock soon would be there.

The classrooms were ready (or at least close enough!)
for the students and teachers to fill them love.

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Yet again, I am so grateful for a job I love. Even still, the butterflies have started. It’s always hard to fall asleep on the night before school starts, even as a teacher!

Happy brain

Nothing excites me quite like new learning. It doesn’t need to be new to the world- it’s usually not! But when I wrap my brain around a new-to-me idea, especially when it relates to missions and theology, two of my favorite subjects, I feel like a kid in a doughnut shop with all the glass removed.

This week I got some training in cultural tendencies and preferences. One day, we focused on the worldviews* of culture. The predominant worldview in most western cultures is guilt-innocence. That is to say that it is good/respected to be innocent and the worst thing is to be guilty. (I see this at work in the way we discipline. When an incident occurs, an investigation is conducted to ascertain the guilt and innocence or the involved parties.)

Therefore, most western Christians have been taught and see the Gospel-the good news of Jesus- through this lens. Jesus came to take the punishment that we, the guilty, deserved. And the scriptures bear this out. (Romans Road, anyone?)

But there are other worldviews, too. And my new learning this week was that the Gospel is no less powerful when seen through another lens.

We had the resident missiologist sitting in on our cultural training sessions this week, and he kept reminding us that all nations, tribes, and tongues will be represented at the throne someday. Their cultural distinctions will be present, glorifying the Lamb in their uniqueness.

So it makes sense that the Gospel applies to every culture now!

More to come…

The Way I Take

“But He knows the way I take;
When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10 NASB)

Meandering through Sitting in LA traffic today, this verse came to mind. As we begin a family vacation, maps apps and gps devices guided us out of the city and on toward our final destination. This “get through” mentality is typical of my time in LA throughout the last 10 years- I’m on the way to somewhere else, and generally, trying to get around the city center in an effort to expedite the trip.

As a result, I do not know LA. I can use technology and find my way in and out, but that’s about it. So it is with life. I do not know the way; I rely on One much greater Who does know this way. He shows me that there is purpose in the turns and twists, reasons for slow downs and pit stops. He has the end in mind, and it involves more endurance than I know but also more beauty than I see.

He knows the way I take.

Overwhelmed

I need discipline, especially in my Bible reading. Some people may be able to read here, there, and everywhere willy nilly and stay focused. I cannot.

So I came to Titus 3 last week and got stuck, in the best way possible. That sense of “this seems brand new even though I know I’ve read it many times before” hit me clearly, and I keep going back to re-read it and meditate on it, finding it richer every time I return.

“Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.”
(Titus 3:1-2).

I stopped, overwhelmed by the last phrase. It’s a great idea- every consideration for everyone- and a seemingly impossible one. I have a tendency, wrong though it is, to read things like this and think, “time to take a vow of poverty” (which may be God’s plan for some but which He has not revealed for me yet), and “kill myself trying to serve other people” (also not revealed to me).

But…neither my story nor the chapter was over. So I kept reading.

“For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.”
(Titus 3:3).

Seven words in, I was done. As if I was a child, sitting on the neighbor’s grass at Five-Day Club hearing the gospel again in its simplicity, the truth of my sinful start was clear. The sword of the Spirit cut cleanly, and my own inability to be anything less than lost was deeply apparent. The compassion in “we also” put me in my place- the place of needing consideration!

And now I was propelled into the next verse, already knowing the truth of grace but needing to read it alive again.

“But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
(Titus 3:4-7).

Ahh! But when…kindness and love through the Father and Son and Spirit…I could breathe again, filling my heart and lungs with the breath of life. The weight of self-imposed expectations and overwhelming pressure had to flee, because the Spirit has been poured out richly in Christ, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. This story’s not about me, and it never has been. What sweet relief!

Jesus mercifully regenerated me when I prayed for salvation as a seven-year-old, but He continues to renew me, even on a random summer morning on a disciplined Bible reading plan. The truth of the good news should never be stale, but sometimes, I take the miracle for granted.

Thank you, Jesus, for reminding me again of how I desperately need You and how present you are.

Blessed to Bless

“Father Abraham had many sons.  Many sons had Father Abraham, and I am one of them.  And so are you.  So let’s just praise the Lord…”  (Repeat no fewer than 6 times, adding motion each time and collapsing at the end.)

Bless his heart, Father Abraham is now indelibly connected to the #1 song taught to kids to make them move.  Never mind the theology behind the song; never mind the reasons we should praise the Lord as children of Abraham.  Just spin around and praise the Lord for the aerobic exercise in church, right? 🙂

Father Abraham (the guy, not the song) is awesome because he believed God and his faith was counted as righteousness.  God is awesome because, among other things, He does what He says He’ll do.  Every time.  One of the things He promised to do is bless Abraham and his family; He also promised to bless those who bless Abraham and company AND make Abraham and co. a blessing to the world. That’s a lot of blessing going on.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll take a lot of blessing, thank you very much!

As I read part of Joseph’s story this morning, the blessings jumped out again and again.  God saved much of civilization from death by famine through Joseph’s dream interpretation and wise administration.  Pharaoh blessed Joseph by giving him honor, position, and loads of stuff.  Even Joseph’s initially slimy brothers blessed Pharaoh by caring for his livestock.

Usually I think of the story of Joseph as a mostly sad story, but it seems that Joseph didn’t see it that way, despite the betrayal and tears.  (Count how many times they “weep on each other’s necks.”)  Joseph got it– he saw his life as a blessing, not as bitterness.

Joseph was son of Abraham by family lineage; I’m a daughter of Abraham by faith.  I’d rather skip the betrayal, false accusation, and prison experiences of Joseph, but I want to be a blessing.  Maybe the blessing of God in my life includes an occasional round of “Father Abraham”, so I’ll work on not being bitter about it!

Presently Considering:

“The condition of the church may be very accurately gauged by its prayer meetings. So is the prayer meeting a grace-ometer, and from it we may judge the amount of divine working among a people. If God be near a church, it must pray. And if he be not there, one of the first tokens of his absence will be slothfulness in prayer.” -Charles Spurgeon

Small talk: it is either a way for me to say, “I don’t want to know you and I don’t want you to know you and so I am going to keep it light and make it as quick as possible and see you later.” Or small talk is a way to say, “I care about you. I would like to get to know you.” We can talk about a football team or the weather and it is actually an expression of two human beings making that connection, but it is because we love each other or want to know each other.  –David Powlison via CJ Mahaney’s blog

Fellowship with believers outside of your local church family can have one of two results, depending on your attitude: You can be blessed, grateful for the body of Christ and encouraged by God’s faithfulness to His people.  You can also be depressed, wishing for a better/cooler/(any number of adjectives) local church body, and jealous of God’s faithfulness to His people.

Jesus didn’t direct us to pray that there would be a harvest; He directed us to pray for workers for the existing harvest, ready to be brought into the kingdom.