Thursday, November 26, 2015

Blogging about Blogging

There was a time when I would blog three to four times a week. Blogging is like breathing for me--it is that place where I process and wrestle with deep thoughts, where I confess and expose my struggles with life and faith, where I laugh at myself and marvel at God and muse at the intermingling of the two. Honestly, friends, I don't do it for you. I do it for me. I have never thought of my blog as a ministry to others. I've always seen it as therapy for myself. I count it as a luxury of sorts--a hobby. Something I GET to do, not something I HAVE to do.

So when I started Seminary over a year a ago and suddenly found myself with (GASP) assigned reading and writing, the blog got put on the on back burner. After all, no one grades my blog and it certainly isn't earning me any scholarships, salary, or fame. I've gotten to the point where instead of blogging three to four times a week, I'm blogging three to four times a month. And  I guess I thought it didn't matter, because, you know, I do it for myself. Only a few weeks ago I realized something. Blogging is like breathing for me--and I'm suffocating.

Still, I continued to ignore it. Where was the time? Everything else took priority. I knew I needed to write because the knots in my head and my heart were getting bigger and tighter, and writing is my only means of unraveling them. But the pressures of daily living are unrelenting, and my plate is as full of most of yours will be today as you feast on turkey and dressing. The ministries on my plate are appealing and delightful and I want to have them all. But it turns out that eating--no matter how delicious the food--is not all that satisfying when one can't breathe.

All of the ministries that I love are starting to lose their flavor because I am not breathing between bites. Blogging is like breathing for me. Why would I ignore breathing? Because I had fully convinced myself that blogging--like breathing--is entirely self-serving. And I translated that to mean selfish, expendable, or superfluous. But I don't think of breathing like that. Somehow, breathing (though self-serving) is worthy of my time. In fact, I can't not do it.

And so it seems that the only healthy thing to do is to blog more regularly. To breathe. Which I intend to do.

But if I'm being totally honest (which, you know, I usually am) I'd have to admit that it was a note from a stranger that woke me up and reminded me to breathe. A young woman sent me a message through Facebook that I almost didn't see because she wasn't my friend, and messages from strangers on Facebook don't go into one's regular inbox. Having done a "marathon read" of my blog, she shared with me how my writing had ministered to her. And it was as if God wanted to remind me that even though I write for me (and that's okay! He wants me to breathe)--He can use it (wants to use it?) to speak to others as well.

Before I started blogging, I journaled. Fact: if the writing were really meant just for me, then journaling would be the right medium. Yet, somehow I sense that my words are meant to be shared. I like sharing them. I need to share them. I can't not do it.

So for the past year this poor little blog has been on life-support, limping along, winded and weak. But today there is a fresh wind blowing.

Yes, I'm breathing again. And I like it. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

About that...

There is this great story in the Gospel of Luke when the disciples are traveling with Jesus to Jerusalem. It is getting dark, and Jesus sends a few of them ahead to a Samaritan village where they plan to spend the night. But it turns out the Samaritans didn't want to play host to Jesus. The Bible tells us, "the people there did not welcome him."

The disciples are angry, indignant, and self-righteous at this turn of events. They even offer to "call down fire from heaven to destroy them." The disciples feel threatened by the Samaritan's rejection, but Jesus? Not so much. In fact, Jesus is more bothered by his disciples' response to the rejection. The disciples want to rebuke the Samaritans, but Jesus rebukes his disciples.

You see, Jesus never expected the world to love and accept him. Rejection doesn't surprise him. It doesn't even offend him. It's us who take offense. And in our offense, we often sin. We miss the mark. We miss the point.

Do you get where I'm going with this? Yes, I'm talking about the stupid cups. And all of the other things over which American Christians will agonize in the coming months. In trying to make Jesus the point of the season, how very often we miss the point ourselves. 

We have got to stop acting offended or surprised when earthly powers, businesses, and governments don't welcome Jesus. Heck, he was born in a barn to show us that he was going to be an outsider from the get-go! It's not our job to make the world love him. It's our job to love a world that hates him. It's not our job to call down fire from heaven every time we think that Jesus has been forced out of the picture. It's our job to offer grace and mercy to bring Jesus back into the picture.

Think before you post, people. Ask yourself, "Am I calling down fire from heaven?" And if you are, remember how Jesus responded to his disciples when they did the exact same thing. 

 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them.
Luke 9: 54-55

Friday, October 30, 2015

Ten Totally Trivial Tidbits

  1. We have this new app on our phones called Vivino. All I have to do is photograph the label on a wine bottle, and the app then gives me all of the information on that wine--such as where it's made, how it ranks, any distinguishing characteristics, price, and where I can buy it. It also creates a wine database for me for future reference. This is a very cool app to have when one lives in France.
  2. I was in the States for ten days for my classes at George Fox, which was super fun, as always. In my missional leadership class we were asked to look at our hand to see if our ring finger was longer than our index finger. My ring finger is significantly longer than my index finger. And apparently, that's significant. Curious? Here and here are some articles I found on the topic.
  3. Apparently, all buildings in Old Lyon are susceptible to rat and mice infestations. (Don't tell my mother, or she'll never come visit me!) Yesterday some building manitenence guys came by to place traps in our home. Fortunately, I think Jack and Gemma keep the critters away. So far, I haven't seen any unwelcome rodents. Which means I haven't seen any rodents, because no rodents would be welcome in my home.
  4. David flew a plane this week. Hoping to be able to say the same next week.
  5. I've been working on creating surveys for missionaries and mision agencies to get some information to help shape the organization that I want to create to help missionaries transition to the field. All I have to say is this: Google Docs Rocks!
  6. We still don't have a church building, but that's not keeping us from being the church in our neighborhood. Today some local YWAM students came to our neighborhood to help with our outreach efforts, engaging people with a faith-realted questionaire. We will use the information gathered to shape another outreach event that we are planning for December.
  7. I'm thinking of starting a photo collection called "French Men and Their Pants." Because I never cease to be amazed at the various colors of pants that French men wear. Yesterday at the Metro station I saw I guy wearing chartreuse-colored pants. The kicker was that his conservative looking grey blazer had elbow patches of the exact same color. I'm still smiling about it.
  8. It's chestnut season! I had a chestnut mousse yesterday afternoon that knocked my socks off !
  9. While in the States I was telling my dad about our regular ministry activities, and after telling him about our daily prayer meetings he asked, "Do you do prayer meetings in English or in French?" I thought, "What a weird question. We live in France. We work with French people. Of course we do them in French!" But apparently this is not something that Americans would assume. So just to be clear, we do 100% of our ministry in France in French. We pray in French, we worship in French, we preach in French, we plan in French, we evangelize in French, we teach in French, we train in French, we share meals in French, we encourage in French, we joke in French. We do speak English in our own home--but only when we are home alone as a family. When our French friends and neighbors come over we speak French. This is even more true in Lyon than it was in Loches because in Loches we lived and worked with several anglophones. Here we are the only ones on the team. And we like it that way.
  10. Our coffee maker got broken in the move to Lyon, so after doing some research, we finally bit the bullet and bought a Nespresso machine. Oh la la. I now start every day with 20 minutes of silence and a fresh cappuccino. Because spiritual formation and coffee just GO together. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Lord's Slave

While in Madrid, I found myself  in a conversation with a man I know fairly well (we work together in a different setting) and a man I had just met. The man I had just met asked how I was connected to the people who were leading the conference, and before I could answer, the man I know said, "She is the personal assistant of one of the men on the team."

My jaw dropped.

My eyebrows furrowed.

My heart sank.

I felt sick to my stomach.

I fought back tears.

And in utter confusion I said, "No I'm not. We are friends. Colleagues. Coworkers. I am not nor have I ever been his personal assistant."

A week later, I still feel angry as I think about the exchange. (I'm not bragging, I'm confessing.)

I have been trying to figure out how a man with whom I have served on a team for over two years has come to the conclusion that I am the personal assitant of another on the team. And I am starting to wonder if it is because I sincerely try to practice servant leadership. And when a woman takes the role of a servant it is easy to assume that that is who she is. Especailly when (as is often my case) she is the only woman on the team.

For example, this man will often email me with logistical questions about arrival times and reimbursements. I answer these questions because I am trying to be helpful, not because it is my job. But suddenly I'm realizing that he has been emailing me these questions because he thinks I am the assistant--that it is my JOB to take care of those things. So every time I've reserved a taxi for the team, or coordinated meeting times, or sent out reminders, this man thought I was simply doing my job as the assistant when in fact, I was doing things that needed to be done in an effort to serve.

How can a woman be a servant leader among men without being relegated to the role of an assitant? It seems like when a male leader demonstrates a willigness to serve it elevates him as a leader, but when a woman leader demonstrates a willingness to serve she is simply seen as a servant.

But then there is a deeper issue that surfaces, one that has me even more bothered: Why do I care?

Is my identity tied to being recognized as someone important? Do I need to be known as an equal? And if so, what does this say about me? 

It says that in some ways  I am still serving for the glory of me rather than for the glory of God. It says that I want my contributions to be recognized more than I want God's kingdom to be built. It says that I still care about my name, when really I exist to make His name great. Otherwise I would take joy, a secret delight, in being mistaken for someone's assistant.

So while on a global level, I want to advocate for the equality of women, on the personal level, I want to be like Jesus, who being the very nature of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing. 

Jesus, help me to have this same attitude! To make myself nothing. And next time someone thinks of me as an assistant rather than an equal participant, may my  heart leap with joy. For I am the Lord's slave, and so it is only right that I should be known as a servant. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015


The largest hotel in Europe
Every now and then in this missionary journey, I find myself in places that I have no business being. I sit at tables among giants, keenly aware of the reality that while the others have knowledge and experience that makes their presence at the table something to be desired, I am merely a guest. I did not earn my place at the table. But for some reason Jesus pulled out a chair and invited me to sit down. And so I sit, aware that I am on holy ground.

This was my experience in Madrid,

Eighty Christian leaders from 16 different European countries representing a broad spectrum of denominations came together to talk about leading national processes for church planting.

The conference was a Learning Community. What that means is that rather than operating like a traditional conference, where all of the information and expertise comes from speakers at the front of the room, participants are given an active role to play. Only about a third of the time is dedicated to the presentation of information. The rest of the time is spent in groups of 5-8 around tables, processing, understanding, and synthesizing the content of the presentations. And in the end, national teams are given time to make plans of action, considering how they might actually apply or implement the things that they have discovered through the process.

What's even more inspiring is the fact that as we come together as believers, the Spirit of God is also among us, leading us, helping us, correcting us, and challenging us. The organizers build time into the schedule to stop and listen to Lord, inviting Him into every conversation, giving Him authority over every decision, trusting Him at every turn. We worship together. We pray for each other. We study the Word. The facilitators do everything in their power to make sure that Jesus is on center stage, all the time, no matter what. And as these men and women lifted up their gates, the King of Glory came in.

Please don't interpret my wonder about what happened as ignorance concerning the complex issues facing the evangelical church in Europe today. The diversity between countries is much more pronounced than any similarities they might share, and what works in one nation may not work in another. There is no pat answer, no one-size-fits-all method that will result in healthy churches popping up on every corner. But this same complexity might also be a strength, allowing for multiple streams of success and promoting cross-pollination. It also keeps leaders from seeking a "magic bullet" and gives them permission to wrestle with the challenges, imagine creative solutions, and seek dynamic partnerships that have never before been considered.

I have been in the midst of the faithful, the fearless, and the forward-thinking. They can see a future where the Kingdom of God is expanding in the continent of Europe in tangible, redemptive, and transformative ways. And they want to go there together.

My role was small (miniscule, really!), but I felt privileged to play it. I was invited to lead the daily meditations, or times of spiritual reflection, on the subject of unity. I love it when the Lord speaks clearly, and in my time of preparation, I did have a sense of the Spirit's leading. But oh, the overwhelming sense of inadequacy as I stood before some of the best leaders and theologians on the continent and dared to open my mouth.

"Who am I," I kept asking myself, "that I should address such a room full of wisdom?"

"The least among them," came the response.  And I could almost see the hint of a smile play around the mouth of God as the words entered my head. "The very least among them."

Yes, isn't that just like God? The one who welcomes children, who dines with sinners, who seeks and saves the lost. Of course He would be able to speak through the most unlikely person in the room. Of course He would. For in this way, He would be seen. Not through my titles or diplomas or authority--for I have none! But through my weakness and my brokenness.

Yes, I am convinced that the Lord had his way in Madrid. And He could have done it with or without me, or any other person in the room, for that matter. Only He invited us, each one to the table. And in faith, with fear and trepidation, we sat down.

I can't wait to see what happens next.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

What's Up?

Dear, dear friends! When things get quiet on the blog it's because life is hopping in real life! I hope that when you're not hearing from us, you're praying extra hard because that means we are running extra hard. I've entered into a travel season, and will be bouncing around the globe for a few weeks. But in the midst, I wanted to just give you a few highlights and prayer requests:

Church Plant in Old Lyon

  • The People: We are loving our new home and already finding opportunities to engage our neighbors. I had an unexpected time praying with my new language helper, and I think God is already at work in her life. We have invited  all of our neighbors to an Open House this Saturday, and they all seem eager to come. Pray for the seeds of friendship to be planted and for open doors to the Gospel.
  • The Need for a Building: Two of us from the team went to a meeting with the deputy mayor last week to make inquiries about abandonded buildings in the neighborhood. There are many vancant, vandalized buildings that do not have any contact information on them and we wanted to find out how to get in touch with the owners. We did get some leads, and today another team member is going to attempt to track down some phone numbers of owners through the avenues suggested by the mayor's office. Please pray for success! And that the Lord would lead us to just the right location. We'd like to be able to use the location for not only church services, but daily prayer meetings and also as a means to bless the community, perhaps through art exhibits or offering shared office space to starting entrepreneurs. 
  • The Team: As we get together twice daily to pray for the city, the project, and each other, the Lord is knitting us together as a team. I am so excited about the gifts and experiences that each person brings to the table. David and I have started training two members on how to preach, and for the past three Sundays we have worshipped together as a team and then our teammates have practiced preaching to us. This gives them an opportunity to try out their new skills without too much pressure, And we are also able to give them feedback to help them contiue to grow and develop.
Other Ministry Endeavors
  • Regional Church Planting Training Center: Today David is at a meeting in Paris for those who would like to open regional church planting training centers. This is a big part of our vision for Lyon, as we don't want to just plant one church but help to facilitate a church planting movement in the city. Please pray for wisdom and resources as David seeks to put all of the pieces in place that are needed in order to be certified to establish a regional training center here in Lyon. We already have one guy who is asking about enrolling in the program--which we hope to launch in the Fall of 2016.
  • Trampoline: I don't have the time to go into too many details at this time, but this is the name of a ministry that I am hoping to launch in France in 2016. I am in the throes of doing research and making contacts and laying groundwork, and the response from all sides has been highly positive. The purpose of the ministry will be to help new missionaries who are arriving in France to reach deeper levels of integration, higher levels of effectiveness, and  greater levels of longevity on the field. I'm sure I'll be sharing more about this in the future, but for the time being I could use your prayers as I seek to develop a program that honors the vision and calling of missionaries as well as the faithful work and wisdom of our French brothers and sisters.  
  • Church Planting: On Sunday I will go to Madrid for a conference that will bring together leaders from 16 different European countries to talk about leading national processes for church planting. Over 80 leaders will attend, and the conference will be led by a consortium of european leaders who have had successful experiences in this endeavor--some of which are my French colleagues. I have been invited to lead the times of meditation/reflection for this conference. My prayer is this: Word of God, speak through me. 
Family Adventures
  • Flying: After a year of dashed hopes and false starts, it looks like David may actually be starting to do some flying here in Lyon. He has built a business relationshp with a plane owner and a travel coordintor, and he is starting to receive requests for his piloting services. Our hope is that he would be able to fly one day a week, which would help to offset my seminary tuition costs and would give us some credibility/relatability in the eyes of our French friends and neighbors.
  • University Students: Chan has jumped into medical school with both feet, and seems to have settled into a routine. Graham is regularly texting us about the diversity of speakers that he gets to hear at convocation at Liberty--you know, like David Platt one week, and Bernie Sanders the next. This week they had someone from Lord of the Rings.
Well, friends, that's a snapshot of our life at the moment. I've left a lot out, but at least I've hit the highlights. We are so thankful for your prayers. So thankful. In all of these things, we want to see Jesus lifted high.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Fill Their Treasuries

I was raised by a man who was well-traveled. My father's work took him around the globe, and he never ceased to be amazed by his adventures. But the continent of Europe always held a special place in his heart. For years he corresponded with a German pastor who had come to a living faith long after he became a pastor in the State-sponsored church. My Dad often dreamed about the possibility of moving to Europe to start small group Bible Studies or even house churches. While he had a vision for what could be--he never received a Call. And so he remained faithful to the Call God had given him--serving in the local church, teaching Junior High Sunday School, leading Agape Groups, chairing Elder Boards, fathering his daughters (and countless numbers of their friends), and loving his wife.

When I tell people about our call to mission service in France, I often explain that I have the sense that my Father's heart is beating in me as I live out this call. And I never get the feeling that Dad was disappointed wth his own call--he served (and continues to serve) with joy and grace and passion. Yet, he can hardly talk about what I am doing in France without tears in his eyes. Part of that is simply a Father's pride. But most of it is a sense of fulfillment. The vision he had is being fulfilled, and as God's vision for Europe moves towards a time of great fruitfulness, Dad delights to watch it happen. My participation just gives him a front row seat to the action.  

Still, I couldn't help but wonder for the past five years if Dad was experiencing regret. Did he wish it had been his call? Today I have a new insight.

One of my sons is writing a book. This morning I received a draft of the preface, and as I read it my eyes welled up with tears. It's brilliant, real, and profound. I have dreamed my whole life of writing a book, but as I read the words written by my son, I knew deep in my soul that he would be the first one in the family to publish a book. And in the same moment, I realized that the thought of my son publishing a book brought me much MORE joy and satisfaction than the thought of publishing one myself. 

Similarly, there was a time when David dreamed of being a surgeon. Clearly, that was not God's call on his life. But this morning we sent one of our boys off to his first day of medical school. The thought of his son becoming a doctor brings David much MORE joy and satisfaction than the thought of becoming one himself ever had. 

Which makes me think of King David, and his vision to build a Temple for the God he dearly loved. There is no doubt that the vision was God inspired--but the call would belong to another. It was David's son Solomon who saw the vision come to fruition. But David played his part. He recognized that God had not called him to build  the temple, but God did give him the joy and the privilege of gathering supplies. For years King David procured materials and built up storehouses so that when the time was right, Solomon had everything that he needed to build the temple. The vision was so sure in David's heart, that he planned for it to become a reality even though he himself would never see it.

My Dad gave me storehouses of resources that are fueling the work that I get to do. It is out of those storehouses that I find my own sense of joy, grace, and passion for my call. And I can only hope that my sons are as richly supplied. For this is the best inheritance we can give.

Parents of little ones--think even now about the storehouses you are filling--for it may be your babies that will live out your God-inspired vision. Are you equipping them for task?

I walk in the path of righteousness,

in the pathway of justice,
that I may cause those who love me to inherit wealth,
and that I may fill their treasuries.
Proverbs 8: 20-21