Christian church bombed in Nigeria. Muslim convert disowned by family.
We read the headlines, and try to imagine, but it’s very difficult to understand what it’s like to be in their shoes. We love to complain about the demise of Christianity’s cultural acceptance here in the U.S., but we really have no idea what it’s like to lose our home, our family, or our life for our faith.
One way to overcome this barrier is to read Christian biographies. The dialogue may be fictionalized, but the stories are true. As we immerse ourselves in the book, we begin to identify with the main character. What happens to them? How do they react? How would we react in the same circumstances?
Do you know how that song goes—“Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug….”?
This week, we were definitely the bugs. With all the fixing and packing and staging and everything else we have to do to get our current house on the market, I guess it was inevitable that something would go wrong. But really, God, did it have to be something so… major?
What do you think about when you consider Valentine’s Day? Frilly Valentine cards? Flowers? Dark chocolates in a heart-shaped box? Finding your soulmate and living happily ever after?
Especially if you’re single, you may feel discouraged on this most romantic of holidays. Valentine’s Day is truly a day for two. Two place settings for a romantic dinner. Two people sharing moonlight and roses. Two lovers sailing off into the sunset. Often, those in a relationship, married or not, seem to have found something you’re missing. Looking at two starry-eyed lovers, we can easily imagine that they’ve found their soulmates.
Tuesday night my life came apart.
No, we haven’t suffered any personal disasters. Rather, the painters called around 4:30 pm and said they were coming early the next morning. I had thought they were coming next week.
So I spent from 4:30 until about 9 running around like a maniac, un-hanging curtains, removing artwork from the walls, shoving dressers and sofas into the middle of their respective rooms. The worst part was emptying the pantry.
We all love mountain top experiences. Perhaps you’ve been on your church’s retreat, or maybe you just took a break from the daily routine for some personal time with God. Either way, you’ve been listening and He’s been speaking. There’s nothing like hearing from God!
Sometimes, He’s full of new plans for us, or He comes and comforts us in our hour of need. Sometimes, we’re reading along in our Bible and the words leap off the page and into our hearts and minds.
And sometimes life consists of a series of days so alike, you can barely tell them apart. After all the excitement of plans and possibilities, new insights and clear direction, we’re left in the tedium of routine.
(Or is it the other way around?)
There’s a lot to be said for a Bible reading plan of some sort. After years of struggling to spend time in Scripture every day, I’ve finally realized that I’m more likely to be successful if I don’t have to pick a place to start reading every day. In years past, I’ve simply started in Genesis and read through to the end of Revelation. That takes me quite a while. Some days I read several chapters, other days one or two verses are plenty. I read until God speaks, then underline, make margin notes, and pray about what He’s shown me.
Thus it is that I find myself at the beginning of Nehemiah. With the blessing of King Artaxerxes, Nehemiah leads a relatively small number of Jews back to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall, which had been demolished when the Jews were taken into captivity. At first things go swimmingly, but then the workers begin to run out of steam. Even worse, opposition builds. It seems that some of the pagan officials don’t like the Jews very much. They try to intimidate the builders, threatening their lives.
Our church just announced our short term mission opportunities for 2015. With an attendance of over 10,000 people, the booklet is quite thick. Is God calling you to Wales or India, Honduras or Macedonia? South Africa, Uganda, Haiti… the list goes on and on.
As I leafed through the pages, I asked God—are any of these trips for me? What do You want me to do this year? “Just moving will be enough for you for this year,” came the quiet reply. I admit I breathed a sigh of relief. Moving has been all-consuming for the past month, and there’s much more to do still. It’s amazing how much work it takes to simplify one’s life!
Still, I vividly remember reading a similar booklet two years ago, asking God the same question, and getting a much different answer. Much to my astonishment, the type on the page for Swaziland leapt off the page at me. It was so pronounced that at first I thought the page had been printed in bold.
I didn’t know why God wanted me to go to Swaziland. I’m not much of a “kid person” and this trip was all about kids. I signed up in pure obedience; it wasn’t until later that we realized we needed a person on the team dedicated to taking photos.