Thursday, August 22, 2013

Postcard from Ireland

Boyle Abbey--13c Monastary

Boyle Abbey Courtyard

The view from the dining room at Ballaghboy Farm
David studying in our cute cabin

The bachelor pad (i.e. the boys' cabin)

A Celtic Temple on Lough Key

Our breakfast table--with an anniversary card from our lovely hosts, Karen and Eddie and their daughter Sophie

The town of Sligo
Clowning around with the boys at the beach town of Strandhill

Hugging the love of my life--celebrating 21 years of wedded bliss
Fish N Chips for lunch at Shell CafĂ© 

I hit the jackpot with this guy! 21 years and counting....

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


On Monday we drove our car onto an Irish Ferry named Oscar Wilde and settled in for an 18 hour crossing from Cherbourg, France to Rosslare, Ireland. On board we had a lovely dinner of Fish N Chips, watched the movie Despicable Me 2, and slept in a cozy cabin. Tuesday morning, we arrived in Ireland at 11:30 a.m.

After lunch in Wexford, we drove to County Sligo, where we will stay for one week. This is the view from the front of our cabin.

 Too much to write about, but for today we are off the experience this adventure, called the Boda Borg!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Learning to Pray

I recently struggled through a book on prayer, unsure of whether my resistance was caused by erroneous theology in the book or a lack of faith on the part of the reader (me:)). I know that we serve a BIG God who is capable of answering BIG prayers. But I bristle at any prayer-strategy that seems to equate God to a vending machine. "Pray this prayer enough times and your desire will be twirled into reality."

God is not a genie who exists to grant my every wish, so I wanted to dismiss the bulk of the book. At the same time, I was convicted that my prayers are too small, too tepid, too safe, too pedestrian. For a few weeks, I wrestled (somewhat incredulously) with these thoughts. 

In the midst of this confusion, I went to our GEM conference in Germany, and was blessed by a teaching on prayer by Crawford Loritts. Finally, both my conviction and my calling became clear.

The conviction--a call to confession and repentance--was rooted in the idea that I had become an editor of my own prayers. Somewhere along the line, I started censoring my prayers based on my own (limited, faulty, fallen) understanding of what is best. I've been praying prayers that could not result in disappointment. In an attempt to become some sort of Press Agent for God (after all, I wouldn't want him to look bad if a prayer seems to go unanswered!), I kept my requests in the realm of the reasonable. Sure things. Anemic suggestions. Somewhat apologetic pleas.

God does not need me as a  Publicist. He can manage his image all by himself. The sad part is, I wasn't trying to manage his image for the world, I was managing it for myself. I didn't want to have to deal with disappointment with God. Talk about a faith problem!

As with most aspects of the Christian faith, effective prayer holds two things in constant tension: Bold expectancy and humble dependence. In ignorance, rather than accept that tension, I had tried to reconcile it, which resulted in humble expectancy--puny prayers. Not a good compromise.

Rather than swing between the two seeming extremes, I need to let them co-exist, like the anchor ends of a tight-rope. When pulled taut, the rope provides a foundation for my prayers. I may wobble as I move across that wire, but I'd rather teeter on truth than lounge on lies where prayer is concerned.

Suddenly (or maybe finally!) my prayers are getting gutsy. At the same time, my hope is not based on the outcome of those prayers but on the faithfulness of God. The riskier the prayer, the more sure I am of my need for God. The more desperate I am for his presence and power. The more delighted I am by his grace and love. The more devoted I am to his word and his will.

This isn't license to ask for whatever I want. It is a charge to ask for whatever God wants. I had unwittingly reduced his will to human-sized accomplishments, eliminating the need for super-natural intervention. In that case, why pray at all?

I have begun asking God to teach me how to pray, and you know what? He's crazy! It turns out God wants to do BIG stuff, and he invites me to participate in his kingdom work through persistent prayer. An all-powerful God can do whatever he wants whenever he wants, but in his love for us and his desire for genuine relationship, God has chosen to use the prayers of menial men to enact his perfect will. He gives us real role to play, with real impact. But I haven't been playing my part. Consequently, I haven't seen the fullness of his glory, which he longs to reveal both TO me and THROUGH me.

First God must change me and my approach to prayer! For that reason, I pray that God will give me a faith that reflects his power so that I will pray however he leads. I pray that I won't censor his Spirit. I pray that I will become persistent in prayer when opposition arises, not shrinking back because of obstacles.

Second, I am praying for ongoing personal transformation. I want to be like Jesus, and if that's not an audacious prayer, I don't know what is!

Next, I pray for those closest to me, beginning with prayers for David, Graham, and Chandler. I pray that God will fill them fully and use them mightily. I add a bunch of specifics, but you get the general idea. I am not just asking God to "guide and protect" I am petitioning him to "challenge and use" our family. There's a big difference between those two. Can you see the movement towards bold expectancy and humble dependence? 

Finally, I pray for the world around me. France is desperate for God! Yesterday David and I visited a beautiful village of over 10,000 inhabitants that does not have a single protestant church, and the catholic church is struggling. The whole town that is covered in darkness, and it is just ONE of HUNDREDS of French towns that lack a witnessing fellowship. The need is enormous, the task is daunting, and the urgency is overwhelming. Whole lives are being lived out without ever hearing the Good News of Jesus. But God is moving. He is calling us to BIG prayers because he has BIG plans.

And so I pray for the village of Argenton sur Cruese (pictured throughout this post).

I pray for rebirth, redemption, and revival. I pray for workers for harvest. I pray for an evangelism explosion and a discipleship movement all across France in villages just like this!

God is faithful. He will do it.

How about you? How is God calling YOU to pray?

Monday, August 12, 2013

The First of the Lasts

So this morning I shed some tears. As I savor this summer with my boys, I have a keen awareness that we are living the first of many lasts. For example, we probably just attended the last GEM conference we will attend as a family. Graham will begin his senior year next month, and Chandler will be a junior. They are running hard toward life, and soon (too soon for me) two amazing boys will fly the coop. Let the grieving begin.

As Graham played his guitar this morning, I wept with the realization that the music that constantly fills my home will not always echo in these walls. Oh how I will miss those sounds!

I am a mom who LOVES being a mom. I don't think I'm over-invested, but I have delighted in every moment. And having struggled with a few years of infertility, I do not take the privilege of motherhood for granted.

The tears are not necessarily sad tears, and the grief isn't depressing. I rejoice in who Graham and Chandler are and in who they are becoming. I want them to mature. I want them to follow wherever God leads. I hope their lives are full of adventure. And I will cheer them on!

Still, things must change in the coming years. While I am deeply, deeply grateful for the honor of being their mom, it soon will be time to let go. And let go, I will, weeping all the way. Until then, I am going to appreciate every dinner conversation, each evening when we pray together as a family, games, travels, and even trials. I will linger over laundry, laugh over inside jokes, and marinate in holy moments.

And I'm thinking of secretly recording some of the guitar-playing--just in case I miss him too much. 

Saturday, August 10, 2013


We just  got home from a week in Germany. The first 5 days were spent in a town called Willingen, where we attended the GEM Annual Conference. It was a time of great spiritual encouragement and refreshment. One of our speakers was Crawford Loritts, and his insights were like water to my soul. I am SO thankful.

Then, on Thursday we drove to the town of Leer to visit some dear friends named Klaus and Sabine. Sabine was an exchange student with my family when I was three years old. We have kept in touch over the years, but this was the first time I went to her home. We had such a lovely time!

We arrived in time for a wonderful homemade German lunch of pork and mushrooms. Then we toured the nearby town of Bergsteinfurt. 

On Saturday we rode bicycles 50 kilometers (that's 32 miles folks!) from their home in Leer to Munster. It was the most fun I EVER had on a bicycle! The terrain was flat (hallelujah) and the landscape was beautiful. Gratefully, we loaded ourselves and our bicycles onto the train for the return trip.

Below is the church where Anabaptists (the predecessors of Mennonite and Amish) were suspended in cages after being killed by the local bishop. If you look carefully below the steeple you can see the cages. The sad history of Christian religious wars cans still be seen all over Europe. 

"And they'll know we are Christians by our love..." This is my prayer for Europe in this new millennium.

Sabine is like a big sister to me, and I am SO thankful for our time together!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

15,550 Words

I've definitely been in learning mode as I work on my first book proposal. Here are some interesting tidbits you may not know...
  • To begin a search for an agent or publisher for a non-fiction book, you do NOT have to write the entire book. Most would like to see 2-3 completed chapters.
  • The book proposal contains several different sections, including an overview of the book, chapter descriptions, demographics of your target audience, an analysis of the competitive landscape (who else has written books on your topic), and a brief biography of the author.
I just finished my first proposal, but it was a bit of an abbreviated proposal because it was for a writing contest through Tyndale, and not for a normal submission process. By abbreviated, I mean I only had to submit a completed Introduction plus one full chapter, and I did not have to include demographic information. It was still a BIG feat for me. In the end, my proposal contained 15,550 words, which equals about 38 pages.

Today is the deadline...and I've already e-mailed my entry.

I entered mostly because it gave me a target date to work towards, which helped me to stay focused. I don't expect to win, but I am thankful for the experience--I now have a proposal in the works and with a little more writing I can begin to look for an agent. I write that as if I know what I'm talking about--which I don't. I'm a total stranger to all of this!

I've been round and round about whether or not I should mess with writing a book. I don't feel qualified and I fear it could amount to nothing but a monumental waste of time. Yet...

Yet, that still small voice whispers, "Write.

Many ask what the book is about. Well, honestly, it s deeply rooted right here, at Four for France. Blog posts from the past 5 years will be woven through each chapter, putting flesh on the narrative. It's a book about becoming a missional Christian, about my sincere but often flawed attempt at living all out for Jesus. Somehow, the telling of the story seems to be part of the process. So tell it, I will.