Tuesday, September 1, 2015

...and the meditation of my heart

This morning, as I sat with the Lord, Psalm 19:14 came to mind:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart

    be acceptable in your sight,

    Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

It's a familiar Psalm, and one that I often pray. And I often pray it because, well, let's face it, the words of my mouth get me into a lot of trouble. At best, I'm painfully direct, and at worst I'm disrespectful and self-righteous. Sometimes the things that come out my my mouth offend my very own ears, so I'm sure that they are not acceptable in the sight of the Lord. Nevertheless, redemption is woking its way to my tongue, and little by little, I find myself speaking with greater care. 

This morning, I was drawn to the second phrase of this prayer: "and the meditation of my heart." As I am learning to submit to the Spirit-lead censorship of my speech, I am becoming more aware of the thought patterns from which my words proceed. Are my thoughts, my inner musings, my mental tapes pleasing to God? Are they acceptable in His sight?

Oh how I long for sanctification to seep beyond behavior modification and move deep into the inner-workings of my heart and my mind! Jesus once reprimanded the Pharisees because they had perfected their outward allegiance to the Law without having surrendered the motives of their hearts. He tells them that they are like cups that are clean on the outside but dirty on the inside. 

The Psalmist was insightful with this prayer. It's not simply what comes out of us that matters. God sees my thoughts. And that's an interesting use of words, isnt it? The Paslmist doesn't ask for his words and thoughts to be acceptable in God's hearing, but in God's sight. For God, words are visible. Just as the WORD took on flesh and dwelt among us. 

God isn't simply hearing my thoughts, He's seeing my thoughts. What does He see today?

Does He see a troubled, anxious child, fretting over things despite her Father's promise to meet her every need? Or does He see a content daughter, fearless, and hopeful for the future?

Does He see unkind thoughts towards another that He deeply loves? Or does He see compassion, generosity of spirit, and grace?

Does He see scheming and calculating over a problem that seems insurmountable? Or does He see a confident faith that rests secure in every circumstance?

Father, I want my thoughts to be acceptable to you. When my mind is spinning out of control, when I'm stewing over an issue, when I'm angry and hurt, will you turn my heart to you so that the things I think are pleasant for you to see. And when I'm filled with excitement, resting in Your peace, or overflowing with gratitude, take joy, my King, in what you see. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Loving Lyon

After traveling to Germany for our GEM Annual Conference...

and spending a couple of days in Paris so that our friend, Selah, could take in all the sights...

and hopping the pond to Lynchburg, VA to help Graham settle in at Liberty University...

I finally arrived home in Lyon.

David and Chandler had managed the move in my absence, so I have the joy of simply settling in without having had the hassle of any heavy lifting. It's good to be the queen.

Still, settling is a work in progress. We don't yet have Internet hooked up, and our kitchen looks like this:

In France (and I believe in other parts of Europe) it is common to find that apartments do not always have what is called an "equipped kitchen." Our apartment did not come with an equipped kitchen, meaning we needed to supply not only all of the appliances (which we own, so no problem), but the kitchen cabinets as well (which we don't own). I'm pretty sure this is why IKEA exists. So we've ordered our cabinets, and they are scheduled to be delivered Monday morning, at which time David and friends will begin the task of installing our kitchen. And then cooking will be fun once again. Don't worry...I'll post pictures as soon as I can.

In the meantime, we are adapting (quite happily) to life in the heart of Old Lyon. We live above a restaurant, which means that the night life is active. Here is the view looking down from our bedroom window at 11 p.m. any night:

 And we often have the joy of hearing musicians performing live in the square. The style and duration of performances is greatly varied, but always pleasant. You'll notice that Gemma likes to sing along.


Jack, being an indoor cat, is right at home in our new digs. Gemma is learning to be a city dog. She lets us know when she needs to go out and do her business and she seems happy to walk the streets and bridges of Lyon. If she misses having a yard, she's not complaining about it. And I kind of like having to take her out several times a day, as it gives me a good excuse to stretch my legs and get some fresh air.

Once we're fully settled, with a kitchen and all, I'll give you a video tour. Our new apartment is only 96 square meters, which is about 1000 square feet. While it's less than half the size of our house in Loches, it might be my very favorite place I've ever lived. It's quirky and old and charming and well-situated. We live in a pedestrian zone and can walk or take public transportation just about anywhere we need to go. 

Yes. Life in Lyon is good. Very good.

Meanwhile, we're still looking for a location to rent for the church. Please join us in praying about this. We are already starting our morning and evening prayer routine as a team, but we're doing it it our homes for the time being.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Another Au Revoir

Tears in my eyes.

I spent the past hour with my friend--the woman you know as Marie. You prayed for her. You shared her journey as she came to a living faith in Jesus. Over the past three years she has continued to grow in the Lord. She witnesses to her friends and family, she prays, she studies her Bible. She lives a life that has been transformed by the power of the risen Lord, free from fear and marked by joy and love. She and I have become very close, I consider her to be my French mother. She has helped me with language and culture and (like a mother) she always seems to notice (and comment!) if I put on any extra weight. I love her dearly, this sister in Christ.

And today I told her goodbye

Oh this missionary life we lead, a life that seems to be smearing my heart all across the globe. We invest deeply in friendships, find community, join together in God's work, and then we leave.

I know this is the life to which I have been called.

And I love it.

And I hate it.

Some days it is exciting, even glamourous. Some days it is blissfully ordinary. And some days it just plain stinks.

But I wouldn't have it any other way.

I showed up at Marie's house empty-handed. Over the past several weeks she has been showering me with gifts in anticipation of my upcoming departure. She has given me flowers from her garden, a wonderful bottle of sparking wine, and a gorgeous rug that she bought years ago in southeast Asia. And so I wanted to give her a momento--something tangible to tell her how much she means to me. But everytime I tried to think of an appropriate gift, I drew a blank.

As we wept and hugged, I told her that I had wanted to bring her a gift, but that I couldn't figure out what to give her.

With tears in her eyes, she looked into my soul and said, "What to give me? You have already given me the most important thing! Because of you I know Jesus. Because of you I have eternal life. There is no greater gift."

This is the reason we are in France.

And so as I leave yet another part of my heart here in this town and move on to the next, I lean on the One who bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. The One who is Love. The One who never fails. I remember that he left the comforts of his heavenly home to make salvation known to the world. I remember that the Son of Man had no place to lay his head. I remember that he goes before me. And I trust him to meet me there.

And I begin to pray for the "Maries" of Lyon....

Friday, July 31, 2015

Au Revoir

On Monday, if all things go as planned, David and I will make a five hour drive to Lyon to sign a lease on our new apartment. We won't move until the middle of August, but between now and then we will go to a conference in Germany, and so next week will be our last full week living in the Loire Valley.

As part of our farewell tour, we're going to some of our favorite spots. Yesterday we went to the ch√Ęteau and gardens at Villandry.

David and I enjoyed the shade of the grape leaves...

...while Selah (a friend from the States) and Chandler mimicked the silhouettes on Grecian urns. 
We ended the morning with a picnic in a nearby park. It was a lovely day!

We also went to the nearby town of Amboise this week for some of our favorite gelato. They always make the cones look like flowers, which makes this a treat that is tasteful in every way!

I'm so thankful we have Selah here because she is giving us a wonderful excuse to visit all our favorite spots one more time before our move.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Spiritual Formation Exercise from 2 Timothy 2

I am doing a slow and meditative read through 2 Timothy 2 this summer. Here Paul writes to his spiritual son, Timothy, to encourage him in his work as a minister of the Gospel. Paul's words are also an encouragement (and a challenge) to me. I find in this one chapter at least 25 different charges, each one critical to a fruitful and faithful ministry. Each day I am considering one or two of these exhortations and reflecting on how it applies to my life and ministry. Some give me a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, others are deeply convicting, and a few are simply raising my expectations or increasing my vision. Today I just want to share with you the list of Paul's insights and the questions that I am asking myself in response to what Paul wrote. In a later post I will share some of my personal realizations as I answered my own questions. I think I will make this an annual exercise as a means of evaluating my ministry. 

I'd like to invite any of you to go through the exercise as well. It’s best to just do one or two a day, but reflect deeply and sincerely on the verse and the questions that the verse stimulate. Feel free to add your own questions to the mix as you follow the leading of the Lord. If you do this exercise, will you please give me feedback on how it went? Tell me what was useful and what didn't work as well. I'd like to refine and use it in some future ministry endeavors, so your input would be greatly appreciated. 

Photo Credit: Jordan Egli Photography 

(Scripture is in bold, italicized purple and quoted from the ESV. My questions are in blue.)

2 Timothy 2 Reflection Exercise:
2:1 be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus
Paul wrote this to Timothy in light of other who had fallen away from the faith. How are you being strengthened by grace?

2:2 what you have heard...entrust to faithful men

What is the message that has been entrusted to you? With whom are you sharing that message?

2:3 Share in suffering

Suffering is a given. But it is also to be a shared experience. What hardships are you currently suffering? Who is sharing your burden? And whose burden of suffering are you helping to bear?

2:4 No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits 

What entanglements do you need to avoid?

2:5 An athlete...competes according to the rules

What rules do you need to follow? What rules are you tempted to break?

2:6 the hard-working farmer...ought to have the first share of the crops

Are you doing ministry in such a way that you are growing as much as those whom you are serving? Do you benefit from your work in healthy ways, or is your work simply a drain on your resources?

2:8 Remember Jesus Christ

How is your relationship with your First Love? How do you keep Jesus at the center of your life and ministry?

2:10 endure everything for the sake of the elect

What are you currently enduring for the sake of those who have not yet heard the Gospel? What are you unwilling to endure? Have you put a limit on how far you would go for the sake of those to whom Christ has called you?

2:14 charge them...not to quarrel about words

What words are you tempted to quarrel about? When and with whom are you most likely to become quarrelsome about words? How would God have you to respond?

2:15  Do your best to present yourself to God as one approveda worker who has no need to be ashamed

Are you doing your best? Does God approve of you and your work? Do you have any reason to be ashamed?

2:15 rightly handling the word of truth

Do you know the Word of God? Can you apply it rightly to life? Or are you careless, using verses to support your own agenda, irrespective of genuine meaning and intent?

2:16 avoid irreverent babble

What types of words come out of your mouth? Is your speech polluted by foul language or disrespectful attitudes? 

2:21 if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use

Are you clean? Do you keep short accounts when you wrong someone? Have you been taking regular spiritual "baths"? Is there any unconfessed sin in your life?

2:21 set apart as holy

Do you blend into the world, or are you different? Where are you tempted to "take part" rather than be "set apart"?

2:21 useful to the master

Whose kingdom are you building? Are you devoted to the service of the Master? Do you remember who's the boss? Are you learning, living, and leading in ways that God can use?

2:21 ready for every good work

Are you willing and able to do anything and everything the Lord asks? Is there any job that you consider to be beneath you?

2:22 flee youthful passions

What are your immature wants/desires? What steals your gaze from Jesus? How can you flee from those things?

2:22 pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace...

What are you doing to seek hard after righteousness? Do you live a life that is above reproach? How do you build and strengthen your faith? Do you leave too much to chance? What are you doing to act in love towards those around you? Are you intentional about this? Are you person who seeks peace? Where are you called to be a peacemaker?

2:22 ...along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart

The Christian life is a team sport. How are you building and living in community with others?

2:23  Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies

What foolish controversies tempt you? What would it look like to ignore them? Why do you feel drawn to participate in such controversies?

2:24 the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome

The Christian church today is marked by quarrels. We are known by our disputes. How are you contributing to this reputation? What arguments do you actually take delight in?  What fights do you pick? When must you be right?

2:24 be...kind to everyone

Are you kind? To whom do you find it difficult to be kind?

2:24 able to teach

What are your competencies? Are you equipped to pass them on to others?

2:24 patiently enduring evil

How do you respond when you have been wronged? 

2:25 correcting his opponents with gentleness

Can you confront others gently? Or are you harsh? Will you sacrifice the Truth to avoid a needed confrontation?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Out of Balance

Yesterday I learned something a little disturbing about myself: I'm lopsided.

An x-ray revealed that the cause of my hip pain is a 1.3 cm difference between the height of my hips, which may in fact be related to a car accident that I was in over a year ago. While trying to avoid hitting the car that suddenly stopped in front of me, while my right foot was firmly tensed up pressing the brake pedal, I was rear-ended. My hip took the shock, and got a little boost in height.

I need to go back to my doctor to discuss treatment options, but the radiologist suggested that it could be as simple as putting inserts in my left shoe to even me out. This would then relieve the extra pressure that my hip is bearing trying to compensate for the imbalance, and theoretically, the soreness should go away.

Isn't it interesting how a small problem can create intense discomfort? How a hidden injury can go unnoticed for months, and then seemingly suddenly become a major pain? Our bodies aren't the only things in our lives that must be balanced to be healthy. So as I sit here (probably at a slant!) I find myself wondering if I might be out of balance in other ways.

When work overtakes me and rest escapes me, I get out of balance.

When playing golf on the PlayStation replaces my daily walk, I get out of balance.

When FaceBook connections get more attention than family relations, I get out of balance.

When worries about moving occupy more of my thinking than the joys in the moment, I get out of balance.

When expenditures surpass income, I get out of balance.

When administrative tasks absorb the time that should be given to creative endeavors, I get out of balance.

Summer is a great time to take an X-Ray of my life to see where I may need to make some minor adjustments. Most committments are on "pause" and so I have the opportunity to evaluate where I need to put more weight, and where I need to lighten the load. It also gives me a chance to consider where I have had a sudden jolt that may have produced a hidden injury and caused me to compensate in unhealthy ways.

David and I usually take time around our anniversary (August 22) to do that very thing. It is a time of reflection and recalibration so that we can make needed course corrections for the coming year. David makes a chart (of course he does!) that helps us to identify our major role/activities and take stock of where we are and where we would like to be. We look at both individual pursuits and things that we do together. We actually give ourselves and each other "grades" in each arena so that we can easily see where things are going well and where we need to do some work.

Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Hebrews 12: 12-13

What do you do to "x-ray" your life and make needed adjustments so that you don't get out of balance?

Friday, July 17, 2015

Good News/ Bad News

Good News: I finished my summer term of seminary, and I now have a break until September! I am eager to read FICTION, get back into a regular rhythm of blogging, and begin working on plans for a new ministry endeavor that I have brewing in my head.

Bad News: Our third application for an apartment in Lyon was denied.

Good News: Some very dear friends have offered to be co-signers for us, so our next application has a fighting chance!

Bad News: I (who almost NEVER play video games) have become addicted to a Play Station game called Hot Shots Golf. No, I don't golf in real life. But I'm beginning to understand the attraction. I'm having to self-impose limits on my gaming time, and while I can stick to my limits, I'm amazed at how confining they feel. And for the record, I totally blame Chandler, who had actually started praying that we would find a video game that I like to play.

Good News: I'm getting good at Hot Shots Golf. Yesterday I even beat David. I shot a -11 on 18 holes in Okinawa.

Bad News: My hip, which started hurting back in October, has worsened. I'm going in for an x-ray next week.

Good News: A hip x-ray in France costs 27,50€. That's a little over $30 with today's exchange rate. For reals.

Bad News: If the x-ray shows any sign of arthritis (which my doctor says is unlikely given my age, but still a possibilty) I will have to stop running.

Good News: If the x-ray shows any sign of arthritis I get to stop running!

Bad News: We won't be taking a vacation this summer--moving is our big splurge.

Good News: We still have some time off in August, which we will (hopefully) be able to use to get settled in Lyon. And exploring our new city will feel sort of like a vacation! Except the packing. I hate packing.

Bad News: I need to pack.

Good News: When all things are offered up to the Lord, bad news is made good. That's the gospel, Friends. Beauty from ashes. From video games to x-rays to packing--I rejoice, for my redemption draws near.