Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Ten Totally Trivial Tidbits

  1. We've had ten people around our table for lunch every day this week. Some super amazing aspiring church planters are in Loches for a week of intensive training, and we've had the privilege of hosting the midday meal. Our dishwasher has been doing its fair share of the work!
  2. On Friday I will fly to North Carolina to attend a gathering of the Leighton Ford Mentoring Community. I'm excited for this experience, which will better equip me for my role as a facilitator for the Mentoring Community that was just started by the Federation of French Evangelicals (FFE). Mentoring is a novel concept in France, so the goal of the FFE Mentoring Community is to train and equip mentors for emerging French leaders.
  3. David is working on a 3000 piece puzzle. He promises me that he adds at least one piece a day, so by my calculations, I should expect to have a puzzle-in-process in my dining room until Chandler graduates from medical school--in like 9 years.
  4. Last week I was the "Global Woman Highlight" for Thrive, an on-line magazine for women who work cross-culturally. Really, all it means is that I got to write a blurb about myself so that others can pray for me. But if you care to read what eloquent words I wrote about my eloquent self, feel free to click the link. Oh, the reason I got asked to be the "Global Woman Highlight" is because Thrive has published several articles that I've written--you know, which weren't necessarily, exclusively ALL ABOUT ME, like this little ditty. 
  5. My allergies are so bad right now I could claw my eyes out, which would be one way to remove the aforementioned puzzle from my sight. 
  6. I have been sleeping really well the past week. You might think that is a good thing. I find it slightly irritating. Why? Because I am accustomed to waking up at 3 a.m. and having three lovely hours to think and pray before I get out of bed at 6 a.m. But when the alarm goes off at 6 and actually wakes me up, I seriously resent the fact that I have to get up without having had my think-time. My whole day seems off! Not sure what to do about this problem, but since it rarely lasts, I'm trying to just endure these crazy 8-hours-in-a-row-of-sleep that I am getting. Maybe a little jet lag will throw me back into my regular sleep-deprived (but thought rich) pattern. Here's hoping?
  7. I've been photographing food a lot lately because I want to make a cook book of favorite family recipes for Graham for graduation. The problem is I need to get past the "photographing food" phase to the "imputing recipes" phase--which is where the project loses all its allure for me. Perhaps I could recruit David to help, but then that could detract from the time he needs to devote to the puzzle, which might mean that the puzzle-in-progress in my dining room will be there long enough for grandchildren to one day help in its completion.
  8. I'm reading Dallas Willard's Renovation of the Heart. Challenging, but good.
  9. You know that verse that says that God can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine? At this moment in my life, I believe that I am seeing God do immeasurably more than all I've asked or imagined--both in my personal life and in my ministry. It's cool, and it's all HIS work; yet, it hasn't come about easily. For example, leading up to this time I suffered about 4 months of panic attacks. When God takes you to the High Places, you have to walk on some pretty rugged terrain. My panic attacks have stopped for now, and I'm grateful. But if that's what it takes for me to experience a work of God in my life, I'd endure them forever. 
  10. Jack is only growing in his belief that he is king of the world. Good thing he is loved, because he knows no modesty!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Whose kingdom are you building?

Whose kingdom are you building?

Photo Credit: Jordan Egli Photography
I recently heard Dietrich Schindler, a German church planter, speak on this subject. He talked about how often people, realizing their need for forgiveness and their longing for life after death, will come to Jesus and "invite Him into their lives." They basically say, "Thank you for dealing with my guilt and giving me the hope of eternity. Now won't you bless me and help me to build my kingdom here on earth?"

Jesus shakes his head.

He did not die on the cross and reconcile us to the Father so that we could build our own mini-kingdoms here on earth. He is not interested in being your servant or your genie or your fairy godfather. The King of the universe does not come into YOUR life. You can't contain him! Sure, he sends his spirit to empower and guide us. The Spirit lives IN us, but he does not to live FOR us. He is not given so that we can make our lives better. He is given so that we can participate in building God's kingdom on earth.

How often we talk about the things that God does for us. We'd be fools not to give him honor for his work in our lives. But as he redeems us, he frees us from our myopic, self-serving, mini-kingdom vision and calls us to join in his grace-proclaiming, other-serving, heavenly kingdom work.

Whose kingdom are you building?

It's so easy to become short-sighted. It's tempting to let the pleasures of this world take priority over the kingdom call. It's counter-intuitive to set aside our earthly empires for eternal purposes. I've spent years of my life constructing the kingdom of Jenn, only to see moths and rust (and repeated floods!) eat it away before my very eyes. I've tried to make my name great in the work world and the ministry world, only to see my greatest accomplishments fade into memories that give no satisfaction. The fact is, I wasn't meant to build my own kingdom, I was meant to abandon it.

Jesus is not interested in helping me build my kingdom. He does invite me to help build his.

His kingdom is a holy kingdom, a heavenly kingdom, an eternal kingdom. Its also a costly kingdom. I cannot build my kingdom, and help out with his in my free time. Its an all or nothing proposition. To build his kingdom I have to redirect ALL of my efforts, ALL of my energy, ALL of my gifting, ALL of my resources to him. It will mean tearing down my own kingdom so that everything that I am and everything that I have goes to him.

Whose kingdom are you building?

The question haunts me. Every email I send, every sermon I preach, every dollar I spend, every book that I read, every bit of work I engage in, I hear the spirit ask, "Whose kingdom are you building?"

It's not just a question of what I do, its a question of how I do it, and with whom. When I honestly answer the question, my selfishness, my hidden idols, and my secret, subtle pride are revealed. I become aware of how often my most seemingly spiritual activities are more about making MY name great than making HIS name great. And scripture is clear that all of our works will one day be shown for what they really are.

Whose kingdom are you building?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Sometimes things just don't go the way we plan.

We planned on taking a furlough this summer, spending two or three months in the States in order to help Graham transition back to life in Spokane. We were anticipating some time with dear friends and family, looking forward for some time away from our work here, hoping to reconnect with churches and supporters wanting to share the great things that God is doing here in France. That was our plan.

But following the double-flood situation and the on-going un-rentablity of our house in States, considering the exorbitant price of airline tickets, and realizing that other obstacles loom in our way, it seems that our plans won't go as planned.

Still, Graham must return. And we refuse to send him alone into the world. So at this point, it looks like Graham and David will travel together to the States in July, while Chandler and I hold down the fort here in Loches. It's not our first choice, but it seems to be our only choice.

Of course, God could make it work out if he wants, and we are open to seeing his mighty hand work a miracle on our behalf. Yet, we are also content to accept the situation--trusting in the One who is sovereign over all our plans. His kindness knows no end.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Hope of France

I hesitate to write about my experience over the past few days because my meager words will never do justice to the powerful work that God has begun. I witnessed more holy moments than I could count. I interacted with national denominational leaders who were steeped in grace and humility. I think I may have actually witnessed the place from which a revival in France will be birthed--oh Lord, make it so!

As I shift into reporter-mode, hold in your heart a deep and divine anticipation. The description will be sadly lacking in spirit, and it could be easy to read what follows as if it is some sort of strategic plan or human effort. In truth, it is nothing short of a miracle. 

For the second time in a year, teams representing nine different French denominations gathered in the town of Lyon to work collaboratively on the goal of tripling the number of churches in France. The range of theological differences in this group is about as wide as you can imagine--but they are of one mind in essentials and united in their desire to see the country of France reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ. So they resist the urge to debate doctrine, and instead choose to pray together, to confess sin and weakness to one another, to encourage each other, and to work hand in hand for God's kingdom purposes.  

The unity that they have built transcends not only denominational differences, but generational differences as well. Older, weary men are daring to believe that, though they've not yet seen it in their lifetime, a revival in France may be possible. Young leaders are holding fast to their hope and enthusiasm despite the experience of their predecessors. There was a point during the conference when the older generation expressed their discouragement, lamenting the fact they their labor through the years has resulted in such little fruit. The younger generation came around them in prayer, honoring them for their faithfulness and perseverance. It was a holy moment of reconciliation, as grey haired heroes wiped tears from their eyes and eager young warriors took on the burden of their spiritual fathers with a renewed respect. 

And so with one mind and one purpose,  they wrestled with this question: "What would it take to see a disciple multiplication movement in France?"

One theme kept rising to the surface--an unwelcome, disturbing theme. Death.

Death to ourselves and our own mini-kingdoms. Death to our schedules and agendas. Death to our models and methods. Death to our way of thinking and our shallow faith and our pitiful plans. The verse that seemed to rule the conference was John 12:24, "I tell you the solemn truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it produces much grain."

A solemn truth, indeed. Death is no easy thing. Necessary, but not easy. 

There were no quick decisions. The French wisely count the cost. They analyze, they debate, they question, they challenge. But when they come to a resolution, they stand firm. 

The resounding resolution was that if a movement is to happen, it will start with those in the room doing the essential things that need to be done. In other words, if I, personally, am not making disciples that make disciples, I have no right to teach my study group or my congregation to do the same. If I am not willing to share the Gospel, I cannot presume to teach a course of evangelism. Ah, but if we do those things, and if they begin to bear fruit, then we can easily inspire and equip others to do the same. 

And so 45 denominational leaders left the conference with a commitment to do two things, the two things that Jesus commanded his disciples to do. Follow and fish. Over the next six months they will hold each other accountable to do those two things personally. 

Beyond that, they set hopeful, God-led goals for their denominations. They imagined new possibilities, envisioned new projects, and they made action plans, trusting that the Lord for on-going power and direction. 

There is a palpable hope for what God has planned, a renewed intentionality about making disciples who make disciples, and a deepened desire to see God's kingdom established here on earth--because the King is worthy.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Tribute to our Moms--a whole family post!

I don't hate all Facebook Mom videos.

In fact, yesterday I saw one that I loved. I loved it so much that I share it here. It is a video where song writers interview children about their mothers in order to write a special "Mother's Day Song."

But before I share the video, we decided to respond to the interviewers' questions regarding our own mothers.

Interviewer: Does your mom do anything that's funny?
David: She has a "thing" for a G.I. Joe-type doll named Chuck. After Chuck Norris.
Jenn: She pinches bottoms and cheats at cards.
Graham: No. My mom is not funny. She just thinks she is. 
Chandler: She messes up song lyrics.

Interviewer: What's you favorite thing that your mom makes? Is there anything that rhymes with that?
David: French Dip. And...leather whip?
Jenn: Pretty dresses. Rhymes with wetty messes.
Graham: She's been drawing lately. And no, I'm not going to come up with a rhyme for that.
Chandler: Tartiflette. Hmmm. Personette? Orangette? Flowerette? Oh, I don't know!

Interviewer: What's something that we could sing about how good your mom's food is?
David: Mmmmm
Jenn: Well it's my dad that did most of the cooking. But mom's a good eater. Could we sing about that?
Graham: Stop making salmon! I'm so sick of salmon! And quiche. Never make quiche again.
Chandler: Ditto to Dad. (Hey that's kind of catchy!)

Interviewer: Is there anywhere she likes to go on trips?
David: Hawaii
Jenn: Like the mall? She could spend a week at a good mall.
Graham: Everywhere! She just likes to go!
Chandler: Paris

If your mom had a super power, what would it be?
David: Scrabble and Gift Giving
Jenn: Ironing. Definitely ironing.
Graham: Black thumb for indoor plants. She can kill any indoor plant in record time. 
Chander: Writing skills...preaching skills...nun-chuck skills...

Interviewer: What would happen if all the moms in the world were gone?
David: Dads would have to make their own sandwiches.
Jenn: Well Macy's would go out of business, that's for sure.
Graham: How does that even make any sense?
Chandler: It'd be a really sad place. And we'd die out pretty quickly.

Do you have any words that we could start the song with?
David: Dear Mom, I am content. My first bite was of the squash....
Jenn: My mom is kind and a super-great dresser. She loves spicy food and she always makes her bed, yeah!

Graham and Chan in a rare moment of total agreement: Why bother with lyrics? She'll just mess them up later!

Friday, May 9, 2014


Jesus was in Bethany, dining at the home of Simon the Leper. His disciples were with him, as were his dear friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. As usual, Martha was busy in the kitchen, though this time she does not seem bothered that Mary wasn't helping her. Mary certainly didn't have cooking on her mind that night.

Without fanfare or explanation, Mary brings out her finest jar of perfume. It's extravagance is difficult to imagine, it would have cost 11 month's wages. In today's terms that's about $40,000. Stop and think about that for a moment. The perfume in the alabaster jar was valued at the equivalent of $40,000.

If you had $40,000 lying around the house what would you do with it? 

Mary poured this perfume--the whole bottle--onto Jesus. A fraction of the bottle would have been a generous offering. The whole bottle? It was prodigious. It was preposterous. It was so extreme that the others were not inspired by her gift, they were appalled. Disgusted. Scandalized. 

They all began to scold her, proud in their practicality. I suppose they expected Jesus to reprimand her as well. What a waste!

But Jesus welcomes the gift. He receives every excessive ounce. The God-man was worthy. In fact, he is worthy of all the bottles of all the perfume in the entire world. Mary couldn't give him all that he deserved, but she did what she could. How deep and sure was Mary's love for Jesus!

Do I love him like that? Do I love him so much that I pour out my best for him? Or do I excuse the modesty of my giving, believing that extravagance is only for the rich; thinking that generosity is the duty of the financially secure? The fact is, one need not have much to be openhanded. There is no minimum income requirement on generosity--the freedom to give is one of the world's great equalizers. 

If you are reading this blog on a computer, or a smart phone, you are (compared to much of the world) wealthy. Though many of us live month to month, few of us ever miss a meal. The sad truth is, we have tied up all of our means to maintain a certain standard of living. We pour our best out on our own comfort and pleasure, while trusting that Jesus can make do with small, cheap bottles of eau de toilette. 

But is isn't a question of Jesus making do. He doesn't need my money. It is a question of love and devotion. Jesus never minced words about it. He clearly said, "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."

Notice that the heart follows the money, not the other way around. That is to say, if I wait until I'm "feeling" it, I will keep pouring out my perfume on my own coddled self. But if I choose to pour out my perfume on Jesus, my heart will go to him, too. It starts with a choice, true love always starts with a choice.

All the disciples shamed Mary, treated her as if she had lost her senses. It turns out that she was probably the wisest, most deliberate person in the room. Her love lead her to make a bold decision. After the giving she probably loved Jesus even more. Her treasure had been lavished upon her savior, sealing her heart to his.

When I say I love Jesus, but that love doesn't cost me anything, perhaps I do not mean what I say. Love, by definition, gives. For God so loved the world that he GAVE. He gave his best for me, a gift so extravagant that I will not ever have enough perfume to pour out at his feet. Yet, I'm often spritzing and dabbing what little I posses. 

I need to break open the bottle and pour.

Monday, May 5, 2014

My Parenting Book

"You should write a parenting book!" Graham said. 

First, let me just say that I cannot imagine higher words of praise from a fully grown son--the same son who reminds me daily that I have failed tremendously in training my dog. He won't be suggesting that I author a canine obedience book. 

Second, let me tell you why I doubt that I will ever write a parenting book. I won't do it because I am convinced there is no one formula, no one method, no one system that works. I read every parenting book that I could get my hands on, and while many wise authors informed my approach to parenting, none of them turned out to have THE ANSWER. Each family, child, and situation is unique, with innumerable variables. Parenting books offered some helpful insights, but many seemed to suggest that if I did X then my child would do Y. So I would do X, but my child would do Z. Z wasn't in the book. The variable that emerged in my house always seemed to be uncharted territory. Which made me feel like a failure. 

And I was.

Yes, I was. And I am. 

I remember once when I was frustrated as young mom, feeling like I was trying every possible godly discipline tactic in the many parenting books that I had read, and not seeing any results in my children, I cried out in anguish to God! I wanted to be a perfect parent, and I knew I was failing because my kids were a mess. 

Gently, God whispered a question to my heart, "Who is the only perfect parent?" 

"You, Lord!" I quickly replied. Indeed, he is the only Father who has never failed.

"Well," he replied, "Look at my kids!"

Aha! SO even the perfect parent--God Himself-- has messed up kids. Which means that my kids, who have flawed parents--are doomed to be disasters. You know why? Because my kids, like me, are sinners. Even when they were babies. Especially when they were toddlers. And when Graham was between the ages of 5 and 8, I was pretty sure I was going to kill him. 

I used to look at my misbehaving boys, shake my head, and think, "You little sinners!" 

Poor little sinners with parents who fail. What hope did they possibly have?

It turns out that little sinners don't need perfect parents, they need parents who know what to do with imperfection. Sin is a genetic disease. I passed it on to my kids, and I don't have the cure. Thankfully, the One Perfect Parent is also the Great Physician. 

And so it seems that parenting is about a couple of hungry beggars teaching their kids where to go for bread. The temptation is to think we have some bread to give them--that we can meet their needs. But we can't. We can only point them to the one who can. 

Therefore, if I wrote a parenting book it would consist of 18 words:

Cling to Jesus like he's your only hope, because he is. Teach your children to do the same.