Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Ten Totally Trivial Tidbits--Family Holiday Edition


  1. On Christmas Day, some dear friends arrived at our apartment in Lyon for three days of fun and festivities. This isn't the first Christmas we've celebrated together--and something tells me it won't be the last.
  2. I'm reading fiction for the first time in months--oh the JOY! Truly, I love seminary, but I miss reading "n'importe quoi."
  3. We visited the plateau above our neighborhood and took in a lovely view of the city.
  4. We are hoping to spend a day skiing in the Alps--an easy day trip from Lyon. The problem is a lack of snow. So we're praying for snow and begging Chandler to do his snow dance (which always yields positive results). Maybe next week.
  5. This is the first time we've all four been together as a family in 2015. I'm soaking in every minute. We're also making sure that the same thing does not happen in 2016. Which means summer plans are being set in motion.
  6. My mother-in-law sent me some mint m&ms for Christmas. Oh, the JOY! 
  7. We finally visited the beautiful (Free!) Lyon Zoo. The red panda put on quite a show, but these monkeys were my favorites:
  8. By the way, cotton candy is called La Barbe à Papa or "daddy's beard" in French.
  9. We watched all six of the Star Wars movies (one per day) before going to see the new one in the theater yesterday. Such fun! We all loved the new movie.
  10. We got a new game for Christmas--new to us, anyway. It's called Carcassonne. We've played it several times already, and I think we're getting the hang of it. 


Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas Eve

Our little church decided to reach out to those who might be isolated or alone for Christmas by hosting a progressive dinner party on Christmas Eve. We put out notices on FaceBook, and some church members even took to the streets on Christmas Eve Day, inviting anyone who did not have plans for the evening to join us.


The party began at 7 pm in our apartment, with appetizers and a game. We were 16 people all together--strangers sharing an evening of friendship and food.


We divided into four teams, and each team was given two rolls of toilet paper, a carrot, some buttons, and a few other random supplies. We had fifteen minutes to make a snowman.

 
 

Chandler was the Master of Ceremonies for the evening, and he had the daunting task of choosing the "winning" snowman. It was serious business, as team members came to the defense of their beloved creations and lively debates broke out! Chandler had us all in stitches as he deliberated,  pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of each entry.

    

At last a winner was chosen, prizes were given, and at 9 pm we all bundled up for the 15 minute walk to the apartment where dinner would be served. Leaving our home, Chandler stuck the name of a famous person on the back of each guest. During the walk people had to ask each other yes or no questions to try to and figure out the identity that they had been given.

 

Once we arrived at our dinner destination, we sat around two large tables and shared conversation about anything and everything. The atmosphere was light and cheerful and there was lots of laughter.


All were invited to join us in the future, and some took information about times and locations of our services. The Williamson family was deeply blessed by the experience. I hope it becomes a new tradition. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Scandal of the Gospel

“The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” --Tim Keller

The love of God is a scandal.

It is so scandalous, that we have to tame it. We rarely see God's love for the raw, unbridled, passion that it is--because it's so crazy huge, it makes us uncomfortable. Instead, we pick and choose the images of God's love that are palatable: Children on Jesus' lap, the Father embracing the prodigal son, the mother hen gathering her chicks under her wings.

But often God uses the imagery of a romantic lover to describe His love for us. Back to Ezekiel 16:
“Then I passed by you and saw you, and behold, you were at the time for love; so I spread My skirt over you and covered your nakedness. I also swore to you and entered into a covenant with you so that you became Mine,” declares the Lord God. “Then I bathed you with water, washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil."
 God claims us as His bride,...covers us with His love,.. and then he cleans us up. Resist the urge to gloss over the beauty (and akwardness) of these images. This is how God loves.

We would do it the other way around! We would want someone to get their act together, to clean themselves up before we showered our love on them. We might be willing to help with the process, but we certainly would want to see some sign of goodness, or righteousness, or beauty BEFORE we showered another with our love.

Not God.

He covers our nakedness.

He promises His faithfulness.

He makes us His own.

And then, with gentleness, he bathes us.

This isn't the angry scrub-brush type of bath that a mother gives to a wayward child. This is the soft caress of a wash-cloth in the hand of a tender lover.

This is how God loves us.

And we can' take it! Ezekiel goes on to describe how the beautiful bride becomes a whore. She takes all the gifts that God has bestowed upon her, and she uses them to attract other lovers. Rather than being deeply satisfied, she rejects His love.

How could she? How dare she?

And yet, I, too, am guilty.

The problem, I think, is this: When I fail to receive the love of God for the passionate, jealous, intense love that it is, I will look for love in other places. When I diminish God's love to a grandfatherly pat on the head, it will never satisfy my deepest yearnings.

But when I learn to receive this hurricaine of God's love, it changes everything.

God loves so deeply, so purely, so perfectly, that His love not only fills my every longing, but it overflows from me onto a lost and hurting world. It is more than I can contain, and so I spread it around liberally...and in so doing, I enter into the scandal myself.

Yes, I'm learning to love scandalously.

When was the last time you poured out love on someone so undeserving that those around you questioned your judgement? When was the last time you gave so generously that your accountant accused you of being reckless? Have you ever had a house guest that made your neighbors worry about the safety of your children?

We are the objects of a scandalous love. And when we finally get that, we are transformed into scandalous lovers ourselves.

THIS is the Gospel.



Tuesday, December 15, 2015

He Saved Me

Ezekiel 16 is not exactly a G-rated chapter of the Bible. In fact, it's rather scandalous. But for some reason, I find myself drawn to it. I'm both inspired and repulsed by the images. I'm both challenged and comforted by the message. It reveals something of God that I think I've watered-down.

I'm starting to realize that we might not actually like God as He really is, so we clean Him up for church. We pick and choose the images of God we want to keep, and we ignore the rest.

Gentle Shepherd--Good! Keep it. Paint it. Hang it in the nursery!

Jealous Lover--Bad! Skip over those verses.

Faithful Father--Good! Use it. Sing it. Write books about it!

Angry Ruler--Questionable. Keep it in the Old Testament. Gloss over it.

Just Judge--Good! Preach it. Exegite it! Use it to evangelize!

Proponent of Social Justice--Sketchy! Too focused on the world. We care more about saving souls.

And while it's a struggle to understand what God says about Himself, it's almost impossible to accept what God says to be true about US. About ME. The tuth is too shocking, too harsh, too raw, so we sugar-coat it to make it more palatable. And again, we pick and choose the images.

Lost sheep--Good! Sweet and fluffy. Poor thing just wandered off. He couldn't really help it.

Cheap Whore--Yeah, that's not so pretty. Let's not talk about that one.

Salt of the Earth--Good! Yes, we are change agents, we add spice, we purify the earth. Yea, us!

Enemies of God--Well, that seems a bit harsh...

Children of God--Good! I like it. One, big, happy, family.

Wretches--I'm not sure that's fair. I'm not perfect, but I'm no wretch!

Ezekiel 16 begins with Jerusalem being represented as an abandoned baby:
As for your birth, on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water for cleansing; you were not rubbed with salt or even wrapped in cloths. No eye looked with pity on you to do any of these things for you, to have compassion on you. Rather you were thrown out into the open field, for you were abhorred on the day you were born.
Last year in my Old Testament class I learned that the ancient Hebrew custom was that a baby was not considered "alive" until the father chose to adopt it. If the father rejected a baby, the baby could be left in an open field to die. So the Lord is telling Jerusalem that it was not even considered worthy of life from its very birth. But then he goes on to say this:
“When I passed by you and saw you squirming in your blood, I said to you while you were in your blood, ‘Live!’ Yes, I said to you while you were in your blood, ‘Live!’" 
God, in this admonition to "live" has adopted Jerusalem. The baby does nothing to earn this right of life. The baby is a mess. "Abhorred." Squirming in its own blood. Until God gives it life.

God bends down. God has compassion. God shows mercy. God loves and cares for the unwanted child. God bestows every possible blessing. And still, God is rejected.

This is the human condition. This is the reality of our corruption. Our sinfulness is not something that we do every now and then, it's not a blemish on our skin. Our sinfulness is woven through our nature, apart from Christ it is the essence of who we are.

When we don't get that--when we don't grasp the depths of our depravity, we miss out on being able to appreciate the enormity of the grace that we have been given. We love when Paul talks about being transformed from "glory to glory." We forget that John wrote about receiving from Christ "grace upon grace."

Over and over we are told not to forget who we were before we met Jesus. What we are apart from grace. And this rememberence is not meant to shame us. It is meant to hold us. To hold us in that place of awe for the God who stooped down "while we were in our blood"..."while we were yet sinners." For the one who clothed us in His righteousness, because even our very best is like "filthy rags."

The fact is, we want to be worthy. I want to be worthy. I want to be a child of God because I'm lovable. Because I'm cute. Because I'm good. I don't want to think of myself as a discarded baby. I want to think of myself as somehow, in at least some small way, worth being saved. Can't I please play some part in my own salvation?

Does the bloody baby play a role?

When I was replete with sin, as I lay squirming in my own blood, I still bore the image of God. God has graced humanity with His image, and by giving us His own reflection, He placed in each human being an innate worthiness. A worthiness rooted in Himself.

So while I don't play a role in my own salvation, I know that He deems me worthy. So worthy that He sent His only son. In Jesus, the father says, "Live!"

And with that Word of Life, I am recreated. The old, bloody baby is gone, the new has come. But as I live into that reality of who I am in Christ, I stand in awe of the one who rescued me from certain death. Not by works of righteouness that I have done, but according to His mercy, He has saved me.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Festival of Lights

Last night was supposed to be the kick-off of the Fête des Lumières (Festival of Lights) in Lyon, an annual five-day celebration of the Virgin Mary, who--according to local legend, saved the people of Lyon from the plague in 1643. Mary is greatly esteemed--venerated--worshiped in Lyon. I have already gotten into deep conversations with people about Mary--she seems much more popular than Jesus in this city. But contrary to popular belief, Mary can't save them.


Following the Paris terrorist attacks, all of France has been on high alert. Therefore, for security reasons, the festival of lights was reduced to a one night event. High on the plateau above our apartment, the words #Merci Marie (Thank You, Mary with a hashtag!) were glowing in blue lights next to the Notre Dame Basilica.


The town also sought to honor the fallen victims of the Paris attack by inviting residents to place candles in their windows as a sign of solidarity. This gave a lovely glow to each building. In the photo they look like Christmas lights, but those are all actually candles.



David and Chandler and I went out to wander our neighborhood--which hosts the Festival of Lights. Food vendors and musicians were out in full force! We treated ourselves to hot spiced wine and (for the first time in our lives!) roasted chestnuts!



A band played outside of our window until midnight--it's a good thing we enjoy being in the heart of the action.

A coalition of local churches came together to hand out free Bibles in the neighborhood during the festivities. Each Bible contained a flyer for an outreach event that our church plant is hosting in January. Please pray that those who took Bibles would have their hearts and their minds opened to the Gospel. Pray that they would join us on January 29th to learn more about Jesus and his love for the world.


Saturday, December 5, 2015

I'm the Problem

Another shooting. Another tragedy. And from what I can observe, those who have national level platforms are not turning towards each other in desperation, aching to find a solution. Instead they've quickly set up their camps and and have started lobbing bombs of their own.

And we wonder why there is so much violence?

When will we finally turn towards? When will we stop pointing fingers and blaming? Where are the leaders that refuse to accuse everyone else of causing the problem? Where are the ones who will finally stand up and say, "I'm the problem! It's my fault!"

Where are the Daniels and Nehemiahs? Who will tear their clothes in repentance, confessing their sins and the sins of the nation?

No one?

Really?

As long as we see the problem as "out there" instead of "in here," we will not find peace.

Years ago the London Times ran an essay contest where they asked people to respond to the question, "What's Wrong With the World?" The great theologian G. K. Chesterton wrote this famous response:

Dear Sir,

I am.

Yours,
G. K. Chesterton

I see many Christians postulating that the problem is that our country has turned its back on God, that we as a nation have turned away from him. I think that still makes it someone else's problem. With this approach the Christian takes exception--everyone else, the worldly, humanistic Americans are at fault. This is far from the humble reply of Chesterton, who owned the sickness himself.

The great leader Nehemiah, when he hears that Jerusalem lies in ruin, doesn't point fingers and say, "Why can't those Israelites get it together?" No. He counts himself among the guilty, praying, "I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father's family, have committed against you."

Including myself. Nehemiah wasn't even living in Jerusalem at the time, and yet, he counted himself among the guilty.

Church, this is not the time to stand up and point fingers. Praying for our country IS a valuable thing. But God has been clear since the beginning of time that faith without works is dead. Nehemiah prayed, and then he went to Jerusalem to build a wall. What else will we do?

Psalm 34:14 says to "seek peace and pursue it."

Hint: Neither insisting on the importance of gun rights nor proclaiming the need for greater gun control are means of seeking peace and pursuing it. They are exactly the opposite. When we cannot humble ourselves enough to come together to find a solution we are not seeking peace, we are prolonging violence.

The old hymn says, "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me."

Who will be bold enough to question their own stance? Who will dare to imagine that their current point of view might be flawed? Who might be creative enough to imagine that the solution is beyond the current set of proposed possibilities? Who is courageous enough to turn towards those who have an opposing view and listen, not with the intent to refute, but with the desire to learn?  If we all continue to believe that our current way of thinking is holy, right, and good, then we will, each one, miss the conviction of the Holy Spirit that might reveal where we are wrong. And we are wrong. Every one of us.

What is wrong with the world?

I am.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Beautiful

I had just spent a lovely afternoon with my friend and after praying together, I walked her to the metro to catch her train back home. As we stood outside the station saying our goodbyes, an older, obviously inebriated man stumbled over to us.

Parenthetically: I DO live in the middle of a pretty big city. I have regular encounters with addicts, homeless people, and beggars. Earlier that same afternoon my friend and I had given a few bucks to a young, injured musician. He was from eastern Europe, didn't speak any French, only a little English, and he told us that because of his broken arm he was unable to play his guitar, which is why he was begging on the street. He simply said, "I have two choices, steal or beg, and I'm not a thief." I wished I could've taken the poor guy home with me, but I knew that wasn't the answer. So we each gave him a little spare change, hoping it would at least add up to a warm meal. I'm just telling you this so that you know that while I clearly can't meet every need I see on the street, I try to stay open to the possibility that God might be leading me to help some from time to time.

But when the older drunk guy headed for us, I inwardly rolled my eyes. I was trying to savor my last few minutes with a friend, I didn't want to be interrupted, and I had no more loose change on me. I avoided making eye contact and hoped he would stagger in a different direction.

He didn't.

He came right up into our personal space, such that both my friend and I instinctively took a subtle half-step backwards as we inhaled the scent of stale beer. "What does he want?" I thought, annoyed. He simply looked at us and said, "Vous êtes belles." You're beautiful. I was suspicious of his motives, but my friend smiled sweetly and said, "Merci !" Thank you. And he walked away.

My friend parted, and I quickly forgot the whole encounter. Two hours later David and I headed to evening prayer. Our pastor was there with his wife and two young children. We shared about our days and thanked God for the ways and places that we had seen His hand at work among us. I mentioned my time with my friend. I didn't mention the drunk guy.

After praying, David and I got up to leave. But I was stopped by Alicia, our pastor's 4-old daughter who ran up to me and hugged my knees. I stroked her hair and looked into her eyes. Then she reached up towards me and I instinctively bowed down. She gently stroked my face twice and said, "Tu es belle." You're beautiful.

It was the second time in the span of a few hours that I had heard those words, and the coincidence did not escape my notice.

Only my response to the two encounters was completely different. I felt invaded by one, but envelopped by the other. I stepped away from one, but moved toward the other. I was deeply suspicious of one, but fully trusting of the other. I was annoyed by one interruption, but charmed by the other. And yet, in the end, neither needed or wanted anything from me. Both the old man and the young child offered blessing. One came in a package I rejected, the other in a package I received.

It makes me think of how often Jesus welcomed the love of the unlovely. Both outcasts and small children were invited into his personal space. He never took a half-step back. Jesus moves towards.

I want to be like him.

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

Madrid

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,
21 
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...

...my 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.

video


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 château 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?


 
SITE DESIGN BY DESIGNER BLOGS