29 October 2011

Mullings and Musings...

"What is one supposed to do when seeds are planted in faith, watered in love, anticipated with joy...and then,

a graveyard.

What is hope supposed to do?

With all the hope that is in me, right now, I'm begging for mercy.

Because a couple of those little seeds did make it. Tenacious, they clung to life..."

"Some church planting is thrilling—with growth by new conversions. This usually happens intentionally, when we aim for the lost and non-churched (we usually get what we aim for).

Most church planting, however, is disappointing, with a seemingly intentional strategy of aiming for membership transplants by emphasizing internal programs over outreach, aquarium decor over fishing for men."

"A good way through our list, we saw her.

Bent over at the shoulder blades. Hair that shade of pinkish silver denial. Spotted hands on the crossbar of her shopping cart, pushing hard against it. Wrestling her way down the aisle in a losing battle against a wobbling stubborn wheel.

I passed by. But my mother? She stopped.

'Here,' she said,'take mine.'

She began lifting the woman’s groceries from her cart and placing them in ours. One after another. And, well, I couldn’t let me mom do all the work, could I? So there I was, nine years old, transferring a strangers toilet paper from one cart to another – and learning…

Compassion. Community. Service."

"Now, new research shows that too much praise for children as young as 1 to 3 can have negative repercussions down the road. (How did I spend my morning? Cheering on my 1-year old for the triangles she was putting into the triangle slots, and lauding my 3-year-old for clearing her plate.)
It was done by Carol Dweck, a Stanford researcher, who has been studying children’s coping and resilience mechanisms for 40 years. For the last 14 of them, she’s focused on what she suspects is the culprit behind less resilient children: Praise."

  • "The Path Not Taken" (I'm intrigued - I know nothing about the author, but I'd like to investigate a bit further into what he's written. Can you help me along with that... please leave a comment!)
"...bailing out the banks while punishing workers is not, in fact, a recipe for prosperity. But was there any alternative? Well, that’s why I’m in Iceland, attending a conference about the country that did something different.

If you’ve been [following]... you know that Iceland was supposed to be the ultimate economic disaster story: its runaway bankers saddled the country with huge debts and seemed to leave the nation in a hopeless position.

But a funny thing happened...:  Iceland’s very desperation made conventional behavior impossible, freeing the nation to break the rules. Where everyone else bailed out the bankers and made the public pay the price, Iceland let the banks go bust and actually expanded its social safety net.... So how’s it going?..."
(Edited post... 'cause I love these photos!  ~from the archives)

At 10 months, Elsie was not terribly interested in solid foods.
She'd eat applesauce, mashed bananas and mangoes, yogurt...
(Today? All of hose are all still some of her favorite foods... though she now prefers her bananas "like a monkey!" or mashed in banana bread.)
Occasionally she'd let me get a few bites of pasta or rice into her mouth...
(Today? She typically prefers the pasta or rice to whatever sauce goes with it, unless it is curry.)
But other than that, she totally prefered "mama milk."
... you handed her a french fry.

She LOVED french fries.
Is that a crazy "first food" for a baby?

She STILL gobbles french fries as fast as she can shove them in her mouth!


And our sweet kindergartener has a hollow leg when it comes to fries...
She is most often one of the first to notice if we order a plate to share at the pool...
She somehow senses... and comes right away... 
Then, she can grab and eat them, almost as fast as Rebekah and Nadia...
(Just in case you were wondering, that is faster than rapid.)
Guess you pick up that "survival" skill quickly when you are #7 out of 8!

Aren't these pics of her, eating "fry fries" from the summer of 07, just adorable? 

28 October 2011

5 Minute Friday ~ Relevant ~

Directly, accurately pertinate, authentically connected to a topic. Not out of date. Current.

I see the word relevant... those words come to mind.

I also see that relevant is borrowed from French, the gerund of the verb relever, meaning assisting, or lifting up yet once again...

When I hear people complain that the Bible just isn't relevant for today, my heart aches.

Nothing could be more un-true.

It directly, accurately addresses so many topics, so many of which are pertinent to life, abundant earthly life, the gift of eternal life.

And when those precious texts and letters are accepted as the primary base of value, life, faith and truth - they assist the reader, helping him or her to understand God's perspective, God's mercy reaching down from heaven to lift me up and draw me closer to Him.

Striving to base my life on that book, to live a life that IS relevant...

So... What is 5 Minute Friday all about?

Well, I love to write; I want to continue to grow and be challenged in my writing.
I'm going to give this a try for a while and see if it is a tool to help me towards that end.

(taken directly from Gypsy Mama's blog page:)

[Writing - ] For only five short, bold, beautiful minutes. Unscripted and unedited. We just write without worrying if it’s just right or not.

Won’t you join us?
    1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
    2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
    3. Most importantly: leave a comment for the person who linked up before you – encouraging them in their writing!

The Power of Words... by Brendan Wright

When God created man, he equipped him with incredible tools. All were instilled to make him more like God and to bring glory to the Creator. Each tool, each gift, was bursting with potential for good. One gift with great clout was the ability of speech, enabling men to praise God and encourage others. Great leaders, the men who motivate and inspire others, are often great orators. Words have power. Unfortunately, after the fall, these God-given tools along with their masters became double-edged, able to do as much harm as good. The mouth began to blaspheme, discourage and hurt others. Hitler stirred and fired the hearts of the German people to fight for their “Fatherland” through amazing speeches. Words should not be used lightly. To rightly use this God-given gift, it is critical to know just what words can do: the tongue has the ability to link societies, cause change and affect others.

Not long after the Flood, men forgot who saved their ancestor Noah and disobeyed his commandment to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (Gen. 9:1). Rather, they congregated on a great plain in Shinar and built a city. This city quickly grew, fueled by the efforts of a people sharing language and culture, laboring to make a name for themselves. Pride wormed its way into their hearts, replacing the previous self-preservation instinct. They decided to build a tower to reach Heaven and God himself on their terms, not God’s. They just about succeeded when their sins caught up with them. God judged them: he confused their language; he destroyed their community; their work was thrown into disarray. Unable to communicate, they dispersed, grudgingly obeying the Lord’s commandment and leaving their tower unfinished (Gen.11:1-9). Good communication is essential for any government or infrastructure. When God confused the peoples’ speech, he rendered their work futile. After being able to work together seamlessly, a language barrier proved devastating.

Words achieve. They have effect, stirring hearts and lifting spirits. They convert angry rabbles into attentive audiences. Words tip the scales causing certain politicians’ reputations to rise while others’ fall. Rebellions, revolutions and coup-d’états are spear-headed by well-prepared speeches. After Solomon’s death, his son inherited the throne. Instead of aiding the hard pressed, he divided his kingdom through foolish speech (1 Kings 12:1-20). Friends are frequently found through what we say just as rash words often nurture new nemeses.

Relationships grow and change via conversation. For example, four words, will-you-marry-me, is a known relationship-starter-changer. We encourage others through positive comments and compliments; at the same time we can easily dismantle confidence through thoughtless remarks. How amazing and sobering that the fallible are given power to alter, for better or worse, others’ lives. Once said, words can never be erased. Those cruel commentaries often haunt people for years, whereas a simple “Well done!” bolsters spirit.

We should not trifle with the tongue. Words affect others, causing transformation and are essential for well-working societies. Words have power. Word wielders must be prudent in what language exits their mouths. The Bible clearly warns that the tongue is incredibly potent: the tongue sets even large forests ablaze with a tiny flame (James 3:5). Yet words are incredible gifts, God-given, to make men more like him, permit them to praise his name and exhort others. Christians are challenged to use their tongue justly and honorably, that they might not be ashamed of what they said when some day, they stand before Christ (Matthew 12:37).

25 October 2011

Baneira Baptism 2011 ~ You Are Next in Line at the Watering-Hole ~ What Will You Do?

A few weeks ago, Tim was privileged to participate in another huge baptismal/communion service at the bush chuches he's been helping to encourage over the past several years.

Last year, he said the watering hole smelled like laundry detergent - this year they had to chase the goats and cows out of the water before the service started, so...

Over 40 adults took this public step, professing their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ!

...and only in places like Niger do you get to baptize brothers and sisters in the faith...
wearing your shades!

Believers from 4 or 5 different churches participated

and the baptism was followed by a communion service at an impromptu-ly arranged other church. (The original plans changed because there were too many people - they couldn't all fit into the building - so the church elders asked another church from a different denomination if they could borrow the building and fellowship together for this one special day.)

Tim was asked to preach - also on the spur of the moment. Good thing he took some sermon notes with him, just in case. You'd think that something like that had happened before, wouldn't you?

Sharing a meal afterwards - a common plate, 6 spoons, and everyone dug in from their side. Tim decided that psychoanalysis could be performed on each person, based on their style of "attacking" the "maca and sauce." :-)

As they were eating, the more experienced missionary couple who had helped with this baptism/communion service shared the story of an earlier service they remembered, at this same watering hole.  (And if our missionary friends would happen to read this and notice that the details aren't exactly correct, I promise I've related them just as they were related to me... I didn't get to attend this baptism because of Brendan and Rebekah's commitment to helping with Sunday School at our chuch. I stayed in town and took our gang to our regular church service.) After the baptismal part of the service had finished, the group moved under a nearby large tree to conduct the communion half. A group of nomadic women, seeing that the watering hole was free, decided to do their laundry... and bathe at the same time. After they had finished washing themselves and their clothes, they stretched them out on nearby bushes in full sun to dry. Then, the wind picked up and several dust devils blew through, picking up the clothing and scattering it everywhere... the partly clothed women and their children scurryied around trying to recuperate their laundry as quickly as possible. But the most amazing part of all - none of this fazed the folks in the church ~ it was only the missionaries who found it distracting....

...but don't you just wonder how God has used that public sign and profession of faith and commitment followed by worship through communion made by fellow Nigeriens in the lives of those women who were next in line at the watering hole?

I'm thinking about what public profession the Lord might be asking me to make... How about you?

What public statement is the Lord asking of you today, one that if you obey, might speak volumes to a watching world?

24 October 2011

Multitude Monday - 1000 Gifts: Thinking about Humble Pie for Thanksgiving

Missed church this weekend because of some sickies - and ended up reading this (WARNING - do not click unless you'd like to have your toes stomped on at least a few times).
"Humility is one of those qualities that every leader says they admire, but few want to experience.
Think about it. Ask any group of leaders if humility is important, and almost every one of them will nod their heads and tell you that the world needs more humble leaders in every field, from business to politics to, well, everywhere. Ask that same group if they would like an opportunity to be humbled, and virtually every one of them will decline."
It is a painfully truthful, thought provoking, and if I will allow the truth it contains to penetrate and change, humbling perspective. As I've meditated some on what the Lord might be trying to say to me, He keeps drawing my thoughts back to Philippians 2...

"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 of in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Hmself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient..."
The first thought that crossed my mind as I've chewed on the above quote (and article) was that Christ humbled Himself... I most often must be humbled by an outside source - be it  my children, my students, my spouse, my God. I don't choose humility unless it is forced upon me. The Lord has taught much in the past few years about accepting His humbling will for my life with gentleness - but I certainly don't ask for it - well, unless it accidentally comes out as mindless verbiage when trying to pray aloud in the presence of other people, and trying to sound good. Ironic, right?

My other key thought was that as I read through the above scriptural quote (NASB), it seems awkward. "...being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man..." As I've read and reread it - it hasn't grown any less so. I guess I'd never noticed the repetition before. Repetition obviously emphasizes the importance of the humanity of Christ as Savior and Messiah.

Looking at the context, however, another thought has also managed to fight its way to the surface, a thought that will require lots more ponderings for this particular person. The first occurrence is contained in a sentence talking clearly about His humility to God the Father. The second sentence certainly includes this in His obedience to the sovereignty of the Father's plan and will for His earthly life, but I think it also manifests His humility, submission and obedience to the will of men - evil, selfish, power-hungry, pride-filled men. Understood - His submission to men was the result of His obedience to God. It also included His choice to allow those weaker and so far below and less than Him to have their way. I don't know how He did it. It is easier to accept, to be "humbled" by one I respect, by one I consider more: more powerful, stronger, more intelligent, more educated, more experienced... or at least an equal.

It is not so easy to swallow being humbled by one I consider less... (like my child). Jesus allowed His creation to humiliate Him ~
  • degrade, defame, reduce in rank or status, demote
  • to lower in dignity, dishonor or disgrace
  • to deprive of self-esteem or self-worth
Humbleness defined as the gentle acceptance of losing face, choosing downward mobility and transparently allowing those I look at as "less" to be the tools of my demotion.

That is the standard I'm reading in the article to which I've linked. That is what I'm hearing confirmed in my heart. I can't say I like it, for it is a chalky and bitter pill to swallow. Do I have the courage to seek, praying for (and really meaning it), these types of opportunities to learn and practice humility, to be like my Savior?

this week's gratitdue list
(#'s 1579 - 1603)

little by little progress

learning to appreciate the practice of downward mobility

funny, snuggly little one

clean floors

a new marking period at school

better grades than expected

seeing what classes where we still need lots of work

distance, both physical and emotional, even when it hurts

homemade bookshelves - no nails included

new beginnings next week

learning persistence in prayer

loneliness, even amidst busyness

not understanding but trying anyway

questions without answers

forks in the road

imagining what might be

anticipating pumpkin roll, pumpkin cake and freshly roasted pumpkin seeds

coming to the bottom of the barrel

the coolness of my waterbed when the power goes out

watching the ants work with m&m this morning

freshly washed comforter

the puzzle of what happened to my bedroom curtains when we moved

little blondie on my lap chattering away as I type out all for which I give thanks

smelling the stolen perfume in her hair as she sits here

21 October 2011

I Can Read! (in Zarma)

My dear friends are making progress every week.

Pray that God opens their minds and enables them to grasp reading.

They long to open God's Word for themselves...

It is such a privilege and honor to work with these ladies - Mamata and Aissa (Alarba wasn't there the day this photo was taken). Monday mornings literacy classes are a highlight every week!

(Photo courtesy of my new friend, Sally. She's volunteered to come help drill with flashcards and begin working with the ladies, too! I'm so thankful for her willingness to jump right in and help and I'm looking forward to getting to know her better, too. Can you tell I'm a little bit excited?)

18 October 2011

Answers to Recent and Frequently Asked Questions...

With the dissolution of our sending organization in August, we've had lots of people writing and asking questions, especially now that some time has passed and the dust has settled... a bit. So... in case you were wondering, here are the answers to the questions we receive repeatedly, on a regular basis.

Are you in your new house?

Yep, and as soon as I get it clean and have the camera battery charged all at the same time, I plan to post pictures.

Are you going to be able to stay in your new house?

Don't know and don't know when we will. We hope to.

Did you find a new sending organization?

Yes, we are now with Faith Baptist Mission based out of Winterhaven, FL - and there are still tons of details to be worked out.

Do you plan to stay in Niger?

We plan to follow the Lord as He leads step by step for the future. We have no idea, yet, if we are planning to be here for the long or short term.

Are you still
  • putting radio programs on the air,
  • working with audiovisual tools to share the Gospel message to the people of Niger,
  • helping with local churches,
  • doing literacy work,
  • running a French language elementary school,
  • teaching at Sahel Academy,
  • raising 8 kids,
  • having your niece live and work with you this year?

Are you receiving support?

We received our support this week - only missed one month's worth of living support. Funds saved for future ministry and living expenses are now tied up in legal proceedings and we don't know if, when or how much of those funds we will ever be able to access.

How are you doing, financially?

God is taking care of us through the amazing generosity of His people who've been moved to give sacrificially to help us through this time of crisis. People have graciously allowed us to postpone payment until we are able - but we don't want to abuse that situation and biblically, we feel we are called to resolve our debts as soon as is possible. School tuition, plane tickets in the future... things like that, we don't know yet, but we are trusting Him to provide.

How are you doing, in every other way?

Emotionally and physically, we are tired. There have been many late and/or sleepless nights and many temptations to worry. Since the middle of August, our internet filter and virus protection program has scanned over 18 000 emails coming and going. That is a lot of work, in and of itself. Spiritually, we are learning to rest in contentment and gentle accept God's sovereignty over each day, giving it to Him and then leaving it in His hands. We re thankful that He is teaching us patience and grace in the face of unfairness and while facing some sometimes scary unknowns...

And my favorite question of all: Is it really possible that Brendan is in 11th grade?

Yes... we have a hard time believing it, too!

17 October 2011

Multitude Monday - 1000 Gifts ~ We're Back!

Well, actually, we've not "gone" anywhere...

But, after we moved into our new home, our internet service was too slow to access our blog unless it was the middle of the night. I love blogging - but I was also just too tired to try and keep up that sort of a routine, so I took a blog-cation. Now, if I could just remember how I fit daily blogging into this very busy life... At least there's been tons happening, so I'll have no shortage of material to write about!

What I've missed most about blogging, however, are the "Multitude Monday" posts. It is a good discipline, deliberately thinking through my week, looking for opportunities to give thanks instead of time to feel sorry for myself or to complain and critique or... This past month, I've felt totally overwhelmed and almost always on the verge of tears; now I'm wondering if part of that was because when I lost internet access, I shelved blogging, and I shelved this practice right along with it. Possible? Probably probable? Well, that seems to be what the Holy Spirit is whispering deep into my soul.

It isn't that I've not spent time with the Lord. I'm presently working my way through 1 Kings and have been astounded how the Lord has spoken so directly to me about my present as I've looked at Solomon, Jeroboam, Elijah, Ahab... I have had rich times of Bible study...

It isn't that I've skipped times of prayer and accountability. There are a few with whom I pray regularly, a few who - when I ask - will tell me where they see sin, inconsistency or negative habits in my life...

It isn't that my burdens and the weight of what God has called me to carry is more overwhelming than any other. He gives us no more that we can bear, and He offers to carry not only our burdens, but us,if we will only come to Him...

God has spoken to me as I watch and parent our little M&M. She is a dramatic, emotional little girl - more so than the others in this family. There is another way she is very different ~ 

With all of our other kids
  • whenever it is necessary for Mama to say "No" instead of "Yes" to a request,
  • whenever correction or a change of direction is required,
  • whenever discipline is enacted,
  • in general, whenever I, as the parent, do something with which the child does not agree...
...the most typical response is withdrawal - a refusal to talk, to look, to sit on my lap or to want to be touched or cuddled by me. In other words, I get the silent treatment... until I'm needed or wanted again, or I've done something that, in their book, makes up for the previous injury. Now, I don't think it is all thought out or premeditated, but based on my experience as a child (and knowing what I thought and how I acted) and based on my experience now as a parent (and knowing what I observe in the words and actions of my children), that has been my hypothesis.

Until Mary Michelle...

Even after she's been told no, even when I've had to bring her inside instead of letting her hang out with the kitten, even when she's been disciplined for climbing the ladder to the loft without permission, for slugging her brother with  a wooden Thomas the Tank Train track piece or bitten her sister for putting her toys away at bedtime (yes... that sweet little face is entirely capable of all of that!), and she is furiously frustrated, angry or just sad because of something I've said her done, her response is to throw her arms around my neck, usually sobbing and saying something like: "I'm so mad at you, Mama. I need to pinch your face..." or "Why you're so mean? Pick me up. I want you to hold me so I can pinch you!" And that isn't actually a mean thing... she "needs to pinch" my face when she's trying to comfort herself. She is actually asking to rub her hand along or gently pinch one or both of my cheeks until she calms down or falls asleep. 

As I said, God's been speaking to me through her example. I need to be more like my little M&M. There are so many times I don't like what God has offered or planned for my life. I usually don't appreciate the consequences for my sin and I tend to get angry and withdraw from the Lord. Instead, I need to run to Him, throw my arms around Him, snuggle into His lap and bring my face as close to His face as I possibly can. It is those times when my natural nature... my sin nature... wants to withdraw as far away as possible that I most need to saturate myself with His Light and His Presence. And I need to continue the habit of counting my many blessings - because when I do so, I often see more clearly how the very things I've protested and disliked are God's tools to teach... to train... to liberate from impurities...

today's gratitude list:
(#'s 1553 - 1578)

life lessons learned from little ones

a week of vacation

a new friend who wants to help with literacy classes

one of my literacy class ladies is actually getting it... she'll be reading her Bible all by herself very soon


nachos & cheese, spicey salsa, sour creme, guacamole for dinner on Sunday night - our "Life in America" tradition that doesn't happen very often this side of the water


blogging once again

re-developing a habit of gratefulness

pictures where I can see the fall leaves back home

new challenges

learning to wait, learning to let go of expectations

the new experience of young adults

horseback riding lessons - the joy after she gallops and jumps on a horse

sleeping in

burdens that I know right away are too heavy to even try and carry

accepting from others, even when it humbles

empty places that can only be filled by Him

vacation morning snuggles

slumber party-ing girls

fun ideas for birthday and Christmas presents

softball smiles

boy who acts like a gentleman, even on first base

the laughter of Sunday night Monopoly games

my sweet 6 year old wonder boy who always knows just what to say and who's smile melts my heart every time... still...

looking forward to a night out, together...

11 October 2011

favorite foto from a fun, "nutty" weekend full of softball

Favorite fact? Six weeks after we started trying and exactly one month after we moved into our new house, we FINALLY have DSL internet. I'm so thankful ~

08 October 2011

Orphanage Outreach

Each year, Sahel offers students opportunities to serve the communities around them, and so on Wednesday afternoons, they take a group of volunteers (staff and students) to two different orphanages here in town to play with the children who live there. Rebekah and Leandra go to the same orphanage every week, and a friend of ours snapped these photos. We wanted to share ~

(Thanks so much, Shannon!)

04 October 2011

~ a wee hours of the morning update ~

It has been awhile….
A way too long while….
I’ve discovered that I not only like blogging, but that it is therapeutic, at least for this particular misso…
I have every intention to return to blogging as soon as I can…
Just so you know… we aren’t AWOL… our digital absence is not voluntary… it is forced…

And the craziest thing about it? Right now is the best internet we’ve had at our new house (we’ve been using a service provided through cell phones, but it is pretty  much limited to email and sporadic facebook) since we moved in nearly a month ago – and I’m sitting in the dark at 4:31 a.m. wondering if/when the power will come back on, enjoying some sort of internet connection and making granola by candlelight since I couldn’t sleep.

Please pray with us that the phone company decides to take care of whatever problems persist that are making it impossible for us to receive the internet service… for which we’ve already paid.

And, in case you were wondering?
I can hear the river right along with the clacking of computer keys… and there’s a lovely breeze coming through our front door.
Internet service means pictures… so pray with us!!!

Hope to post again... consistently... soon!


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