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

Monday, September 7, 2015

It might just be... favorite kitchen ever.

It's quirky and bright and I absolutely love it !

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....