31 March 2009

Spring 2009 Prayer Letter

If you'd like to read our most recent prayer letter, it is posted here, at our ministry blog page.

Basketball - in the Pool?

When it is as hot as it has been lately -

- it isn't a bad alternative. Kind of ends up being a mix between keep away and basketball.

No dribbling, of course!

Here's the Baaba watchin' his big girls...

We know this isn't a standard basketball - but sometimes, ya jus' gotta make do with whatcha got!

P.S. One of our friends glanced at that picture of Nadia and reminded me that in this photo we get a little glimpse of our much sooner-than-I'm-willing-to-admit teenager!

30 March 2009

Encountering Jesus - Jesus speaks with the "Jews in Charge..."

Ladies' Bible Study at our Harobanda church met again this past Saturday... I'd struggled all week with preparing for this study, which is not the norm. That preparation time is something I love... I enjoy the time with the Lord, the opportunity to really dig into His Word and the challenge of preparing to share with these ladies from such a different world a lesson that has already touched my heart. This past week, however, it was a struggle the whole way, and I think I finally figured out why on Friday afternoon.

Our last study was about the man who had been sick for 38 years who Jesus healed by the Pools of Bethesda and immediately afterwards, Jesus had a discussion with the "chief Jews." I wasn't sure how to teach that passage to illiterate women - a "story" is much easier to make concrete and memorable - so I planned to just summarize quickly that portion and move on to the feeding of the 5000 in John 6, which I assumed would be a much easier study to prepare. God had other plans, because it became very obvious each time I tried to work on this Bible study that I was working only in my own strength, relying on my own "intellecutalism" and striving. And it wasn't coming together the way it should.

Once I gave up, returned to the second half of John 5 and Jesus' words to the Jews, I immediately sensed the Lord's presence helping me, clarifying things and giving me some ideas. I also discovered that the Lord had two lessons for me in all of this: 1) Trying to prepare to God's work in any other strength than His is pointless; and 2) I have a lot more in common with those chief Jews than I care to admit.

As I began to prepare on Friday afternoon, I read the following words: "

"The purpose of the Bible is not just to convey a message but also to reflect an image. The images of the Bible are presented primarily through the lives of its characters. These images are not only to be hung on the wall like a portrait to show me what I should look like, but also like a mirror, to show me what I actually look like. If I do not see myself reflected in the bible, then its value to me is greatly diminished or lost entirely.... I need to take a closer [look] at the Pharisees [or the chief Jews in John 5] and at myself, but not to ridicule them and pat myself on the back. I think Jesus wanted there to be no mistake about His attitude toward external religiosity. Unfortunately, the Pharisees are often so scathinly caricatured that I cannot bring myself to see myself in them. If I see myself only in the noble or semi-noble characters of the Bible, perhaps I do not really see myself at all. the Spirit of God prevents me from being too harsh on the Pharisees for I am potentially more like them than anyone else in the entire Bible!" (Tom Hovestol, p. 12-13 of Extreme Righteousness, Seeing Ourselves in the Pharisees).

And just like that, the Lord gave me a way to approach this abstract and difficult passage of Scripture.

I printed out the following and took it to Bible study to show the ladies. It is a caricature of Tim and I, as well as a "portrait."

After several giggles (Go ahead... we do look pretty silly! *smile*), we discussed the difference between a caricature and a real picture, which is more like what we see in the mirror. If we only take bits and pieces of the people we study in the Bible, we end up with a caricature. If we only compare ourselves to those bits and pieces, we will always end up looking better than that caricature. Thus, we need to see a real picture or portrait of the people we are studying so that when we look in the mirror of our Bibles, we can accurately compare and see where we are doing well, where we are making progress, and where we need to change.

Since we are all familiar with descriptions of the Pharisees and chief Jews as self-righteous, legalists, judgemental, prideful, hypocrites (In fact, if you look up the translation of self-righteous in French, we found the word "Pharasaïsme."), fools, "whitewashed tombs," and "brood of vipers." According to Tom Hovestol (in the fore-mentioned book), if we take a closer look at these men, we also find that they were "trying to reclaim the identity of the Jews as the poeple of God's Word," (p. 26) they believed fervently in one God and one way, they advocated Biblical education, they fought against the Hellenic and sinful culture of their time, much of their doctrine was affirmed by Jesus, they wanted all aspects of their lives brought under the authority of God's Word, they strove to live, work and worship righteously and purely - holding tenaciously to traditional values in a world where lifestyles and social norms were rapidly changing, and many Pharisees were among the notable first Christians (Paul, for example). That second list? I want those things to be said of me. The lesson of the Pharisees is that in our desire for that second group to be true, we often find ourselves falling into the pitfalls of the more commonly known characteristics listed first.

So with this as our background, and knowing that we are to be imitators of Christ, we started looking carefully at the things that Jesus said to the chief Jews in John 5.16-47, and coming up with questions to ask ourselves so that we could hold up the Biblical mirror and see what the Lord wanted for us to see.

1. "For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. But He answered them, 'My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.' " : The Jews were angry with Jesus for breaking their Sabbath traditions - what are different ways that I can keep a day holy and set apart to the Lord, a rest from my regular routine so that my neighbors see the difference? Do I keep the Sabbath rest for selfish reasons, or for God's glory?

2. "...the Son can do nothing of Himself..." : Are there things I try to do of my own initiative, instead of being led by God?

3. "Whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner." : Do I try and imitate God's manner when relating to others... truthfully, lovingly, mercifully, unservingly?

4. "...shows Him all things that He Himself is doing." : Am I transparent with my co-laborers and fellow ministers regarding my goals and plans?

5. "For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him." : When I "judge" others - their actions, motivations, etc., I steal honor from Christ; the Father himself limits himself and has given all judgment to the Son so that Jesus will be honored. Do I realize the gravity of what I an doing?

6. "I can do nothing on My own initiative." : Again, am I acting and ministering because it is something I've decided to do, and not because I've been directed by the Father?

7. "I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me." : Are my motives pure, seeking only God's will or is there a hidden agenda?

8. "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; nd you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life." : Do I search the Scriptures looking for revelations of Jesus... or am I searching looking for things I want to find, for reinforcement of my preconceived ideas?

9. "...you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?" : Am I looking for pats on the back and accolades from men, or for God's pleasure in me?

10. And... any honest listener who professed to love, follow and obey God would have to be asking him/herself: "Do I seek to have this same sort of relationship with God that this man Jesus has?"

Pointing the finger at the "Pharisees" and chief Jews is so easy - but maybe so much about this group was included in the Bible so that we could hold up a mirror and look at ourselves ~ and recognize our tendancies to substitue rules and religion for true relationship (after all, relationships get messy), and to warn us of the danger of placing any confidence in our capacity to be righteous and to earn God's favor, outside the power of God.

Painting: "The Pharisees," by Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, painted in 1912.
Photo from the 11th hour website.
Cartoon by Dave Walker, www.cartoonchurch.com/content/cc/

27 March 2009

Sometimes--- Some days---

Here are some pictures that at times I find funny, but other times they make me want to cry. I've been thinking about this since I did a recent post where I interviewed each of the children, asking them what they think about their mother, what she does, etc. (I intend to do the same interview with them about their daddy in the near future, too!) I found it interesting and somewhat amusing that the littles were more aware of what their mama does as far as ministry than the biggers, but then perhaps these pictures show why.

Whether I'm translating, writing or working on Sheep Tales with Sam (as I am in these particular pictures), preparing for/actually teaching one of the two Bible studies with which I'm involved, planning lessons for home school, responding to "situations" at the French School, keeping up correspondance with our prayer and financial supporters... it is always with at least one, if not more, children in tow.

Most times I love that.

But some days...

...it is hard not to get frustrated, jealous and, occasionally, even a little bit angry.

I'd really rather not be negotiating with the teachers or conducting/sitting in a meeting with a baby who is fussy because I ate spicy food that had been graciously offered while I was visiting with someone.

I'd love two or three hours to prepare for Bible study (and no, not frm 2-5 in the morning, when I should really be sleeping) when all is silent and there are no children to interrupt.

I wonder what it is like to work on the computer without my foot bouncing a baby in her chair.

I know - this is a season in my life and someday I will miss and treasure these days; but sometimes, some days, especially when I'm tired and I'm looking at all that well-meaning others insist "urgently" needs to be done, it is easy to feel overwhelmed, discouraged, and wish I was only two and could have my own meltdown...

Instead, I'm trying to choose to meditate on the following two passages of Scripture:

  • "So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father." Col 3:12-17 (NASU)
  • "Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus..." Phil 2:1-6 (NASU)

26 March 2009

No Fear...

Elsie Mae just cracks us up sometimes...

One night, not too long ago, we were sitting in our bedroom talking with Brendan and Rebekah. The rest of the munchkins were in bed, but we heard Elsie Mae get up and run to the bathroom.

After several minutes, when we did not hear or/see her returning to her bedroom... or have her come carrying her panties for help to get them back on... we sent Rebekah to investigate. She came running back into the room giggling and asking to borrow the camera.

Here are some of the pics she snapped...

Apparently, Elsie Mae decided she'd rather play than sleep, and the dark didn't bother her at all. She went out into the living room and set up her little people and began playing...

...in the dark...

...with no one else around...

...she forgot all about her underwear, so she's wearing nothing but her sweet smile...

...and the peanut butter all over her face indicates that she decided to go and scrounge up a snack... IN. THE. DARK. ALL! BY! HERSELF!

I'm all for independent kids, but this is ridiculous!
She's only 2!

24 March 2009

Elsie Mae's New Dress

Each year, the American Woman's Club here in Niamey sponsors a Silent Auction, with the proceeds going to charity. Tim and I usually make an effort to go... it is our one guaranteed "date" each year. This year, we found, decided to bid on and won this little dress, thinking it would look just gorgeous on our little Elsie Mae...

...Whatcha think?
We think she makes the dress look fantastic!

23 March 2009

Parc W

I wrote last week about Brendan's 3 day trip to Parc W... One of his vacation projects is to write about his experience so you can read all about it... but we haven't gotten to that project yet. However, one of his friends and classmates has here... with a few gorgeous pictures, including one of all the students and teachers who made the trip.

Congé de Pâques

This week is "Easter Vacation" or "Spring Break" for most of the schools in the city... including Ecole Goudel (a ministry where I've been quite involved the past 2 months), including Brendan at Sahel Academy... not including Nadia, Anna and Victoria at Ecole Alliance...

So, in some ways it feels like a vacation. I don't have to worry about any potential crises at the Goudel School and Sam, the man who works with me on the Sheep Tales radio scripts has left for the States for a few months, so I'm not working with him on a daily basis. Brendan is home - with a list of house projects to work on throughout the next two weeks and a little brother and sister who are delighted to have someone else to play legos with them.

Otherwise, I'm still home schooling Rebekah, Jonathan and Brendan has a few academic tasks amid his projects. I'm doing prep work on the Sheep Tales scripts so that when Sam returns, we can try to finish them before we leave (JULY 15th) and preparing for Ladies' Bible study at church. We are working on our prayer letter and starting to put together our church presentation for our year of home assignment. And, of course, I'm still washing diapers every day and otherwise keeping up with the laundry and other miscellaneous household chores that require the Mama's attention, including beginning to prepare the house and our things for furlough... yes, it really takes about 3 months or so to do that... well, at least it takes me that long!

And on top of that - it is getting hot - I checked the thermometer today, after it had already started to cool off - and it was 108.

So... in some ways, it really doesn't feel like a vacation!

Well, Tim just walked through the door after receiving his hot season haircut, so he doesn't hardly look like this photo now, even though it was taken Saturday night, after the Tri-M graduation ceremony. I wish you'd all been here to hear the kids' gasps as he walked through the door! Amusing!

Basketball Flashback~

Here's a long delinquent post - Rebekah with her basketball team at her last game before we headed back to Niger. She's looking forward to playing again next year, while we are on home assignment in the States.

21 March 2009

Life in Niger

Friends of ours, also working in the city, wrote this. I thought you might find it interesting, as things like this are so common place...

20 March 2009

One of those funny things about living in Niger is that even though the temperature is up over 100', our kids still find the pool freezing.

Their strategy is to swim for a little while... then lay on the hot (and it is quite hot - when they stand up, their skin is beet red from where it touched the pool deck) cement.

Because it is so hot and the harmattan winds are still blowing on many days, the rate of evaporation makes it seem frigid, not to mention the fact that 89 or 90' water does feel cool when it is 107' out. Their daddy won't even hardly go into the pool until the water is around 95'.

So, afternoons at the pool are very cyclical, consisting of spurts of swimming followed by long periods of warming up again, stretched out on the hot concrete. It still remains one of our favorite places to be on a warm afternoon!

19 March 2009

A Most Interesting Conversation~

Jonathan and I were driving across town to pick up his big brother, and I'm still wondering about the conversation we had. As we were traveling down one of the main roads in the city, he began asking me questions about all of the armed "soldats" (French word for soldiers) that we regularly see along the roads and near diplomatic or government residences.

The conversation went something like this...

JONATHAN: "Mama, why all soldats always out?"
ME: "They are out doing their job."
JONATHAN: "Day need deir guns to do deir job?"
ME: "Well, since their job is to protect people, they have just in case they'd need to use them."
JONATHAN: "Day protect from rock humans?" (that one took me a little while and some further questioning to figure out.)
ME: "Are you asking do they protect us from people throwing rocks?"
JONATHAN: "Um hum!"
ME: "Yes, on some days that is part of their job."
JONATHAN: "Rock humans dem want to hurt us?"
ME: "The 'rock humans' are people who are protesting something they aren't happy about. It is one way people say that they'd like to see a change. I don't think they are just out there trying to hurt others, but to get attention."

JONATHAN: "Like me yell some times so you listen me?"
ME: "Yes, but there are better ways to get attention than to throw rocks or climb in someone's face and yell, right?"
JONATHAN: "Um hum."
(Long pause, while he takes a few minutes to think things over and formulate his next question.)
JONATHAN: "Do soldats shoot rock humans to make dem stop?"
ME: "I don't think so, not usually."
JONATHAN: "Why guns, den. Day no use dem?"
ME: "Not usually."

JONATHAN: "Dem ever shoot sumpden (something)?"
ME: "Sometimes they shoot something called tear gas."
JONATHAN: "What tear gas?"
ME: "It is something they shoot that makes the rock humans eyes cry a lot so they can't see really well and they stop throwing the rocks. That way no one gets badly hurt. The rock throwers don't hurt people and the soldats don't have to shoot anyone."
ME: (after a few minutes) "Was that all you wanted to ask me?"
JONATHAN: "Um hum. We most dere to get Bren-bren? Me miss him."

Big Sis ~ Little Sis... They BOTH LOVE the Pool!


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