Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Tension

Last Sunday I led worship in the French service at our church. The "worship leader" in a French church service does pretty much everything except the sermon: welcome, announcements, scripture reading, etc.While many people said how much they enjoyed the worship, two dear women made a point of telling me that my mistakes and my accent were "cute." They laughed as if sharing an inside joke.

Outwardly I smiled, inwardly I cringed.

Sometimes I feel like I will never, ever be able to speak French well enough to do the ministry to which we have been called. I was discouraged, disappointed, and depressed.

If I am honest, I have to admit that the ROOT of my discouragement, disappointment, and depression is pride. I want to be great. I want to be perfect. I want to be impressive. I don't want to make mistakes, not even "cute" ones.

God let me wrestle with that all day Monday.

It seems that much of the Christian life is lived in a tension. There is the tension between being IN the world but not OF the world. There is the tension of being WISE as serpents but INNOCENT as lambs. There is the tension of SERVANT-LEADERSHIP. To all of these the answer is not "either-or" but "yes-and."

I am learning to live in that tension between continually striving for excellence and accepting that God can work in spite of my weakness. To sit back and say, "oh well, I'll never speak perfect French, I might as well not try" would be irresponsible, lazy, and worst of all, disrespectful to the French people that I am called to serve. If I want to serve them well, I need to press on. On the other hand, to say "I am not going to do ministry in this country until I have mastered the language" would be stubborn, haughty and worst of all disobedient to the God who brought me here. If I want to serve Him well, I need to let go.

To press on towards excellence AND to let go of the need to be excellent--this is my call. This is the tension in which I am called to live.

After letting me wrestle with the tension on Monday, the Lord met me in a special way on Tuesday.

To be continued....

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Une Ballade

It was sunny and warm yesterday, so Gemma and I took a walk up to the château. 

It takes me about 10 minutes to get from my house to the Château de Loches, which once housed the king of France. While you may never have heard of Charles VII nor his mistress Agnès Sorel, you probably have heard of Jeanne d'Arc--Joan of Arc. In 1429 Joan of Arc came to this very spot to urge the Dauphin (Charles VII) to go to Reims to be properly coronated  so that he would be accepted as the rightful king of France. It is a modest castle, and many of the counts and lords in the region had bigger digs than the king at that time. This was not the king's primary residence, but since it was where his mistress lived, he spent a lot of time here. Agnès bore the king 4 children before dying, pregnant, at the age of 25. She was hated by the people, but highly regarded by the king, who treated her as one of his senior advisers. There are hotels, restaurants, and a civic building in our village named after Agnès Sorel. Her portrait (showing one bared breast--so French!) is on the shopping bag that I use all the time, nestled among pictures of our village.

This is one of the charming streets that I walk up on the way to the château:

When I rounded a corner on the way to the château a giant black dog bounded at me. I was delighted; Gemma was terrified. The owner of the dog was apologizing profusely when I asked him if his dog was a Giant Schnauzer. He seemed surprised that I knew the breed of his dog as he answered in the affirmative. I told him that I had had a beloved giant schnauzer back in the United States. He was very friendly, as was his wife and two boys, who are visiting Loches for the weekend from Fontainebleau. His wife took this photo of us, to show the size difference between the two dogs. Gemma still has some growing to do, but she'll never come close to the size of a giant schnauzer. The encounter made me really miss Libby! At the same time, I am seeing the wisdom in my husband's insistence that we get a small dog. Gemma goes everywhere with us easily.

I continued my walk up to the donjon, which is a medieval keep that houses a dungeon. From the donjon, you can look out towards the town of Beaulieu de Loches, our neighboring village. From here you can also see the soccer field and the track where I run three mornings a week.

We are enjoying lovely spring weather--a stark contrast to the snowy days that Spokane has been enduring.   The flowers are blooming and the air smells sweet. 

I am thankful.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

St. Paddy's Day in Loches

How does an American family celebrate an Irish holiday in a French village? 

Our normal M.O. for St. Patrick's Day is to stay home, wear green, eat a lot of potatoes, but pass on the corned beef. This year we did something entirely different. David was asked by an Irish friend of ours if he would play guitar for an Irish gig at a bar. The group, which included a pianist/guitarist/vocalist (our Irish friend), a flutist (also Irish), a violinist/bassist (who is French), and David (an American) on guitar, played everything from "Be Thou my Vision"-- an old Irish hymn, to Irish folk music, to cover songs by famous Irish rock bands, such as U2 and the Cranberries. Between numbers, the vocalist shared the story of St. Patrick and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Many friends from church were there, and since minors are allowed in bars in France, our boys came as well. The ambiance was amazing; God was most certainly at work. The place was packed out, and at the end of the evening, the bar owners indicated that they were very pleased with the event that they would welcome these musicians back. 

I realize that "bar-ministry" may pose a moral dilemma for some believers. But somehow, I think that Jesus would not have been opposed. He loved being out in the community and He didn't shy away from public places where sinners (like me!) gather. We spent St. Patrick's Day among the people of Loches, sharing joy, fun, love, and truth. As we talked to strangers/new friends(?), we saw barriers come down as they abandoned their view of Christians as hard, boring, and miserable. The bar owners even expressed an interest in coming to visit the church. 

We took the light of Jesus into the darkness, and all who were there were warmed by His presence and moved by His grace.

Here is a sampling of one of the Irish Folk Songs. Enjoy!

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Practical Imagination

"Few people have the imagination for reality" 

Real life requires a little imagination. 

The German philosopher, Goethe, was not talking about living in la-la land--out of touch with reality, though I will admit that I indulge in this abomination of the imagination from time to time. Such indulgences go something like this:
I  walk into church, great worship music is playing and I begin to join in the singing. Suddenly, instead of having a mind focused on the true object of my worship, I am imagining that I am one of the singers upfront. My voice is like that of an angel, and all who listen are enraptured by its beauty! Record producers are coming in off the streets, anxiously awaiting the end of the service, when they can beg me to sign with their label. I begin to choose the color of the Porsche that I will buy with my fortune. Silver. Definitely silver....
Suddenly the words issuing from my mouth, "You alone are worthy of glory, You alone are worthy of my praise..." jolt me back to my senses. I realize that I spent my time of worship worshiping myself and my own vain glory. What a waste of imaginative energy!

But not all exercises of the imagination are so futile. There is, indeed, a very practical sort of imagination. It allows me to give a stranger the benefit of the doubt. It enables me to choose grace instead of judgement. It feeds hopefulness and strangles despair. I can use my imagination for good, and when I do, it goes something like this:
A man cuts me off in traffic, and while he speeds by I imagine that he just received the exciting news that his wife is having a baby and he is frantic to get to her. I pray for his safety, no matter his destination.When I arrive home I discover dirty dishes left in the sink. I imagine that the one who left the dishes fully intended to wash them, but got sidetracked by something more important (like a surprise presidential visit) or urgent (like a bleeding brother). I stick the dishes in the dishwasher, a wistful smile on my face. Finally, I notice a letter on the counter from our bank. I open it to discover that we are three thousand dollars overdrawn. Since David keeps impeccable balance sheets, I imagine that there has been some sort of comical error. I calmly call the bank to sort it out.
Believers have a slight advantage when it comes to imagination--after all, we have seen the impossible. I have seen my own wretched heart transformed by His love. I have seen my weary soul revived by His vision. I have seen my limited mind enlarged by His wisdom. After those sorts of miracles, imagination seems like, well, like child's play!

God gave us the ability to imagine, so I suppose He means for us to use it for good. What's more, He will not be out-done by our imaginations. In fact, the Bible tells us that He is able to do immeasurably more than all we can imagine. Not just more, IMMEASURABLY more.

Few people have the imagination for reality, but those who do are better for it.

(This post is in response to a challenge on my niece's blog. Check it out if you have the time:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Body of Christ

I am so thankful for the body of Christ! 

As a result of the current situation with our home back in Spangle, we are getting to experience the global body of Christ in a profoundly personal way. (Recap: Our house was flooded again at the end of January, resulting in the need for our renters to move out, which of course means a loss of rental income for us, in addition to the need to deal with insurance, banks, and reconstruction from across the ocean in a different time zone!)

Our church body in France is walking with us through moments of disappointment, frustration, repentance, and grief. They have taken the time to listen, to care, and to share their wisdom.Yesterday morning, when I was particularly struggling, they surrounded me, laid hands on me, prayed for me, and hugged me. They have counseled us and encouraged us. They are ministering to our emotional and spiritual needs.They are Grace and Truth in the flesh! And through their amazing kindness I experience the love of my savior.

Meanwhile, our church body back in the States is supporting us in very practical ways. We have friends who are helping to select flooring, who are taking care of some of  our personal affects, and who have enlisted the help of their small group to get the house ready to re-rent or to sell. They have offered to do the nitty gritty manual labor that just needs to be done in order to spare us the expense of making a trip home to do it all ourselves. They are ministering to our physical needs. They are the very hands and feet of Christ. And through their amazing kindness I experience the love of my savior.

I have thanked God for this flood--if Betsy ten Boom can thank God for the fleas in a concentration camp, then I figure I can thank God for a flood. But more often, I have thanked God for the evidence of His care for us in the midst of this difficult situation. A French woman who wrote a book about her experience with cancer said this: "Jesus did not come to set us free from suffering. He came, instead, to fill our suffering with His presence." I have indeed seen the Lord fill this challenging time with His presence.

Oh my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, be encouraged! The words that you say and things that you do in the name of Jesus are evidence of the Kingdom of God on earth. They are so much more than "random acts of kindness." You, yes YOU,  are a living, breathing answer to the prayer, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on EARTH as it is in Heaven."

BE the body of Christ today--it is not just your privilege (though it is a great privilege), it is your highest calling.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Ten Totally Trivial Tidbits

1. Last week I got my hair cut! It is super short, incredibly easy, and kind of fun!

2. Tomorrow David and I have to speak at a church in a village that is about an hour away. We will be there representing the Church¨Planting Training Center, and our goal is to raise awareness of the need for more churches in France and to recruit church planters. We are really nervous because all of this has to be done in French

3. I still have Christmas Cards hanging up in our hall way. I can't bring myself to take them down because your smiling faces and warm wishes make me really happy!

4. Graham and Chandler have started doing a rigorous exercise program called P90X. They are doing it with a friend, and after the first week, they are feeling a little sore. Buff, but sore.

5. We had to buy two new tires for our car yesterday.

6. Just read a great book called, Why Not Women by Loren Cunningham and David Joel Hamilton. I found it very insightful and refreshing.

7. I have begun the application process to Liberty University to get my Masters of Arts in Christian Ministry. I can complete the program entirely on-line.

8. The Hunger Games, a book that David, Chandler and I have read, has been made into a movie and it opens on March 21 in France --which is two days BEFORE it opens in the States. We hope to go and see it!

9. Gemma got her  final round of puppy vaccinations yesterday, and we really like the woman who is our new vet. Gemma was declared "sage" which is the word the French use for well-behaved children and animals. She really was a good girl, and if she were a human, I'm sure she would have gotten a lollipop!

10. My new favorite cheese is called, "Fiouve" and it is the non-pasteurized version of "Morbier."

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Nurse it or Nuke it?

The flesh dies slowly.

I want to live by the Spirit. Really, I do. But the flesh cries out, and I cave.

Its the little, everyday things that trip me up--like when someone cleans the entire kitchen but forgets to wipe down the stove, and I feel irritated by what was left undone rather than feeling grateful for what was done.

When that first wave of irritation washes over me, I have a choice to make: Nurse it or Nuke it.

Nursing it goes like this:
"Look at that mess! Why am I the only one who EVER wipes down the stove? Poor me. Does he think that fairies come along and finish the job? Humph!"

Nuking it goes like this:
"I am so thankful that someone else cleaned the kitchen." (wipe down stove). "I have such a hard-working husband." (acknowledge to myself that the task at hand took less than 30 seconds of my time) "I want to find a way to bless that wonderful husband of mine." (resolve NEVER to mention that the stove had been overlooked in his cleaning efforts) "Thank you, Jesus, for overlooking so many of my shortcomings. Forgive my petty thoughts about the cleaning of the stove and help me to be truly grateful." (immediately go and tell David how much I appreciate that he cleaned the kitchen)

When I "nurse it," I'm miserable for hours. When I "nuke it," I'm almost immediately filled with genuine joy!

Yet, I often choose to "nurse it."


The flesh dies slowly.

Saturday, March 3, 2012


We regret to inform you

that the beloved toy 

 we called, "Funny Bunny"

has officially been loved to death.

He was dismembered, unstuffed, and desqueekified with great care and affection. He is survived by his only friend, Gemma.
Rest in Peace, Funny Bunny.