Sunday, February 17, 2008

the official trip blog....

To follow us on our journey, join us at: http://mnmgo2.blogspot.com/

preparing for the journey

We've packed, un-packed, re-packed. I can't tell you how many times we've run to the store "for the last time" to get things we think we'll need....toothpaste, another suitcase that rolls (instead of the duffle bag one we have that doesn't), chapstick. The truth is, we probably could do without any of this....we could throw things into Walmart bags tied at the top and be just as prepared to take this journey....or any trip...since none of us REALLY knows what will be taking place.

A little less than a year ago we got to cook for a group that sends college aged people into short term mission fields, and the very first night of "training" they had to write down all of their "expectations" of what the summer would hold for them. That night, they tossed them in the trash (or did they burn them?) as the truth was that NO ONE KNOWS what God has planned, and the easiest way not to be disappointed is not to have those expectations. It also opens your heart, mind, soul, to be totally surprised by God!! What a blessing to remember this exercise now!!

So, we'll pack, and re-pack, and weigh our suitcases and wonder what we'll left behind when we are sitting in the plane. We'll land and realize that something broke, or that something was left on the kitchen counter....and we'll make due. It's all good. God has a lot of room to work!!

I'll not be journaling on this site while we are gone, for safety purposes, but will go to a new site at: mnmgo2@gmail.com I've not started blogging there yet, so need to get the real address for the blog site and will post it here.

Although we will keep our communication from there "safe", please do not forget that God is in the middle of our time there. Not only will it be a time of prayer and restoration for our relationship with our children, but it will be a time of discovery and growth for us. Someone said it was a "once in a lifetime trip" but I hope it's not!! I hope we get to do this more often that that.

Blessings to you!! I appreciate the prayers that so many of you have been offering on our behalf. Thank you so much...they are the reason that we get to experience this at all...

grace and peace...
marina

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Wise Words from Rich Mullins...

Last night, while listening to the satellite radio fade in and out, we heard a Rich Mullins song remade by a newer artist...still good, but just not the same.
With all the talk/teaching/learning on love lately, it didn't surprise me to run across this old article that Rich had written for one of the Christian magazines...back in the day...
It's message still rings so true...and it's worthy of reading again....

The Pursuit of Happiness
by Rich Mullins
Release Magazine Spring 1992
Rich Mullins explains his secret formula for finding happiness

1. Forget about finding happiness. Happiness is not worthy of your search.

2. Bake a cake - a really rich cake, preferably from scratch (and especially if you are an inexperienced baker or a tested, tried and notoriously awful cook). The value is in the baking more than in the cake.

3. Call up some enemy of yours and invite that enemy to eat the cake with you. If the cake is good you may lose an enemy and gain a friend. If the cake is bad, at least vengeance is sweet.

4. If you can't think of a single enemy, then call up a friend. Invite your friend over to eat the cake with you. If the cake is good the favor may be returned. If the cake is awful your friend may go buy one from a bakery for you.
If you are without enemies or friends, take your cake to an old folks' home. Eat it with them! If the cake is good you will no longer be without friends. If the cake is terrible you will no longer be without enemies.
Finding a friend, making an enemy - now those are things worth pursuing. Happiness may come tagged on - but even if it doesn't, at least you will have done something and established some relationships.

5. Memorize Isaiah 40 or the first Psalm or Psalm 91.
Read the closing chapters of the Book of Job.
Meditate on the Beatitudes (Mathew 5).
Write out one of the Prison Epistles (Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians) and send them to some other unhappy person.
All of this may not make you happy but it will tell you how to be holy. Once you tie that knot you may find yourself in a position to be made happy.

6. Work hard. Clean something. Find new and more space-efficient ways of folding your clothes. Rake someone else's yard for them. If you are unhappy maybe you can help someone else be less so.

7. Go back to the 3rd chapter of Lamentations and then repeat after me:"It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young. Let him sit alone in silence for the Lord has laid it on him."

8. Reread the 23rd Psalm and remember that if the Lord is your shepherd, then you are in a lush pasture. You are by a still stream. If it seems otherwise to you, it may be because you would rather be happy than be God's. If this is so, then you have more reason to be happy than anyone. God has chosen you - ungrateful, decadent you - and being His is a joy and a happiness that goes beyond anything else you may seek, and in your folly settle for. God will (in His mercy) make you discontent with anything less than Him.
So we only have one step left...

9. Rejoice

Monday, February 11, 2008

I WANT a lot of Things....

This weekend Mark purchased a new Bible to take on our trip....a smaller Bible in a version that I read...but he lacked a copy in that translation (NLT). It's funny. The one he chose was small, and a sort of pinkish-lavender color. The thought of Mark, all 6'4" of him, carrying this small, feminine looking book, brought a smile to my face. He kept asking if I wanted a new one instead, and he would take my small black one, but I told him to choose the edition that HE wanted. He chose this one.

This evening, I felt led (it REALLY WAS a spiritual leading) to read his Bible. My intention was to delve into the word, but I started at the beginning. After the initial important facts, was the attached essay....and it blew me away!

I hope that it moves you as much as it moves me. If it doesn't, perhaps it is because we've had a few weeks of GREAT sermons on love at church...and this seemed to fit right in. I'm so grateful when God puts in these little reminders all around me to stress what He is trying to teach me. He's so good at doing that.

Grace and peace...
marina


"I WANT a lot of things.

I spend my days thinking about what I want and my hours trying to get what I want. That may sound completely self-involved, but think about your own days and hours. We want food and we go get it. We want coffee and there’s a Starbucks every 1.2 miles. We want sleep, we take a nap. We want to talk, we flip open our cell phones or hop on the computer. We want to express ourselves, so we laugh and cry and get angry and become sad.

What about NEED?
What exactly is the line between our need and our want?

Fortunately, there isn’t always a line. We need food, we need sleep, we need to talk and hang out, we need to express ourselves. We may not need those $60 jeans, but we do need clothes in some form. Still we are mostly a desire-driven generation, and many of our desires spring out of a desperateness to connect with something, anything – for the connection that will stop the ache.

This can lead us down some dangerous paths. Yet the question rears its head, how are we to view our desire-driven, thirsty selves?

Is it all just selfishness and greed locked in a perpetual and fruitless chase, or is it possible that we were made like this by a Creator who is also driven by desire? I’m inclined to believe the latter. I cannot fathom that all my needs and wants have everything to do with little ole me.
Surely my desire to connect with something greater is rooted and founded in God.

Despite all of the stuff I try to obtain to fill myself up, I really just want one thing: to Connect.

I need connection with people, and this is such an integral part of living, but underneath all other connections lies that for which we were made: to know God and be known by Him. That’s the longing that nothing else seems to satisfy.
I want to connect with something outside of myself; something that is bigger and better than any other human being.

We all do. I spend a great deal of energy making my life revolve around me, but I really don’t want the world to exist for me. Chasing myself around never satisfies and it is exhausting. In tracing the path of my pursuit through brambles and thorns, I find the roots of my desire:

GOD

At the beginning, in the middle, and at the end, there He is. I want connection; therefore, what I really want is God. All of my desires are shadows and types of my desire for Him. All the hunger pangs I experience that stubbornly refuse to be filled with the world serve to show me that God alone is all-satisfying. He wants to use all of my desire and thirsting to push me toward Him, to lead me to the One Who alone satisfies.

Here’s where the story gets a little crazy—God wants connection too.

Since the beginning of time and before, God has desired connection. He desired a creation and He created one. He desired a relationship with His creatures and so He forged one. He desired to be with us forever and so He sent Christ. The Psalms tell us He does as He pleases in the heavens and earth and in all deeps and it pleases Him to be connected with us. Because we are made in His image, we too are creatures of desire who long to connect. Connections of all sorts and shapes exist. We were ultimately made to connect with God Himself, the Holy One—the profane and the sacred become one in His economy.

I often wonder why a sovereign God wants a connection to such ones as you and me. The answer is so simple but so stupefying that it sends my mind spinning. HE LOVES US.

This reality is difficult for us to accept. Even as I type it out, I am shaking my head and thinking, You must be joking! That’s just preposterous. I am a flawed, finite being trying to embrace a perfect, infinite love. Thankfully, even though I struggle to believe it, that doesn’t change the truth: He loves me just as I am. It is the outrageous, unmatchable love of God that loves creatures such as me. I can’t even begin to comprehend the love He has toward us—but I’ve experienced it, and I’m changed forever. It’s perplexing. He loves because He loves. It pleases Him to love me. This is the foundation of connection—He loves us; therefore He stops at nothing, not the cross not death not even our own humanity, to connect with us forever.

The longing for connection is divinely natural.

It is the cry of the eternity in our hearts that Solomon speaks about in Ecclesiastes. So what’s my problem? Why do I run to everything and everyone and not to Him? Well the fact is, I am human and I am driven by (controlled by and obsessed with is more accurate) my five senses. I ignore the “Divine Whisper” because it’s just too mysterious, too unknown. So I try to be fulfilled with things I can see and hear and taste here and now.

Daily, my flesh proves to be my worst enemy! Despite my willing acknowledgement that my desires can and will only be met and fulfilled through intimacy and connectedness with Christ, sin has left a stain upon me that is hard to fight. The tale of running after other things to satiate us is as old as Adam and Eve. My desires take me on many paths—some seemingly harmless, some not-so-seemingly harmless. Some are benign and even good in and of themselves, but I often use them to fill up what only He can fill up and that leads me further and further from the divine connection I need.

If you dig deeper, past any undesirable behavior, you can see the longing—you can even hear it. Looking past my own efforts and strivings, I recognize the root. These behaviors aren’t really the problem; they are only a result and a ramification of the problem. The problem is the fount from which they spring: a famished heart. My desires are crying out for satisfaction and I convince myself that these other things will fill. We all do it. Shouldn’t we know better by now? You’d think so, but I never cease to become a completely forgetful imbecile at least a few times a day. While wrestling with a certain temptation or a besetting sin, taking a step back for some perspective reveals the same thing every time.

Why do I want to run to this thing, this idol? Because I’m hungry for connection. I’m desperate and starving. So what do I do? There is a feast fit for a princess spread on the table above me, and here I am licking up the dirt on the floor!

I’m hugging the toilet because I can’t imagine He wants to set me upon a throne of jewels! Call the dirt and the toilet what you will. I can glamorize it and make it pretty by adding a little pink bow, but it is still the same thing as it always was: a cheap substitute for immeasurable riches.
Each moment is a wrestling match between my flesh and spirit: to connect with stuff in the world or to connect with God.

Some times are easier than others, as we can all attest. But in the dark moments, I will let the howling of my heart show me the pieces of eternity that He has placed within me.

I will let it teach me that I was made for another world and for a connection that surpasses any earthly experience.

He has been pursuing me though my desires since before I was born. He has loved me forever and He is drawing me, with every bit of my humanity, with His unfailing love, to connection—to an intimate relationship with Him.

As I listen to the groaning of creation for its Creator, heard in every alley and every bar and every church and every home and every heart, I will hope. For every human cry, there is an answer. Hunger was not created for the sake of being hungry, but for the sake of the experience of being filled with what is good. I don’t know much, but I do know this: those who hunger and thirst will be satisfied. "

Ashley Herring
as written in the iConnect Bible, NLT, Tyndale House Publishers, 2005

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Hot Potatoes Tonight!! : D

Our oven went caputz last night...it was one of those "slowly going out and was becoming a safety hazard" situations....and it was one of THOSE afternoons...haha....I had taken steaks out in the morning for dinner...sort of the anniversary dinner that we didn't do because Mark had the flu...in the early afternoon I had gone to town, gotten my other Hep shot, went by Walmart, then over to the Lattas to say hi and Sue and I walked the greenway for around 40 minutes (I'm walking 30 minutes EVERY day now) and over to Charlotte's for a quick hello (heehee).

I came home, checked email and messages, and went to get dinner going when Mark hit the door (normal, since I never know what time he's getting home, I can usually get dinner made while he's doing the animals and showering up). Well, first off, the steaks were still frozen SOLID. Grrr. Mark asked if he could take me out, but I was zonked (he was too, we figured it was from the shots) So plan B was to just make the baked potatoes and have them stuffed for dinner (maybe with chili or whatever...to make a meal out of them). So, I turned on the oven, to preheat it while I was washing the potatoes....and it doesn't preheat. It's cold. So I turned it off again, and listen....it's trying to turn on, but everytime it clicks on, I hear it click off again....hmmm....so I try again, turning the whole thing off, turn the temp to lower to see if it would preheat at that temp, but nothing. NOTHING. The potatoes are now sitting on the rack in the oven, and they are as cold as anything. sigh. Mark gets out of the shower and checks it out, pulls the back off and starts testing parts of it....we'd had a problem a few times before, but it always kicked in. Well, now he says that it's a safety hazard. We need a new oven. So, we head out to Monett to check out Lowe's (oh, we checked on line first at a few different things too), and came home with a new range! We stopped in drive through and got crab rangoons and beef fried rice for dinner too, which was yummy :)

I told Mark not to worry about the oven for the night...it would wait...but he was like a kid in a candy store and HAD to get it up and going. I made hot water for tea to celebrate!! :)

Monday, February 4, 2008

Real Life....




Today is our 24th Wedding Anniversary!! It's fun to look back at the old photos and see how much things have changed; from the old VW van we had, to our young, svelt bodies, to head's full of hair (even me!) ; ) Time takes a toll on our lives, and we change. I think of it more like the mellowing of a fine wine and not the catastrophic change that occurs when a hurricane hits a coastline, although, in our marriage (as in anyone's marriage) there's been a bit of both!

We got to do some fun things this weekend, sort of a "pre-celebration" knowing that not much is going to go on after a long day at work, on a Monday. We went to the Razorback basketball game on Saturday, and did some shopping and a nice dinner afterwards. Sunday we went to church, stayed for the potluck afterwards, and then spent some time with our son as he kicked footballs at his college field in prep for his spring try outs. Then that afternoon we sat together at home and watched the Super Bowl game....just relaxing...content to eat our left over's from dinner out the night before.

Today, Mark got up early (without my knowledge) and spent the better part of the morning fighting the flu-feeling coming over his body. I slept peacefully....till 8 am....and awoke to his email that he'd come home as soon as he could get through his 10:00 am meeting. It was after 2 before he hit the door....wiped out...warm to the touch....ready for bed. I poured him some sprite, got a few crackers and a tylenol for him, and put him to bed.

No El Mariachi tonight (our local "hole in the wall" favorite Mexican hang out) to celebrate. It can wait. Tonight is saltine crackers and noodle soup. Sprite and ice chips. Mark falling asleep in the recliner and me typing away (probably bothering him....you know how sounds magnify when you feel crummy...).

I can not think of a nicer way to celebrate!!

THIS is the stuff that marriages are made of...all last week when Mark took care of me while I had a nasty cold....running to the store to get sherbet cups and spicy Chinese for my sore throat...And now, me sitting by his side here...listening for his deep breathing to let me know he's really asleep. Peeking in the door and watching to see the blankets rise and fall with each breath.....knowing that he'll be ok...

....each one of us praying for the other one when we are at our worst.....

The last week or so has been an emotional roller coaster...we are planning a BIG trip to China to see our daughter and son in law (they go to school there, and are on break right now). We've had our tickets for over a month, knowing that they are looking forward to seeing us as much as we want to see them, and bringing little things from home...favorite candies, birthday gifts, bbq sauce.

If you've watched the international weather you've seen that China's been hit with an unusually hard weather pattern. It's the first time in 50 years that it's snowing in most spots. It's the worst storm in the last 150 years! The kids had not had electricity for a week, and had water and gas off and on for the week before they gave in to the school's recommendation that they leave the area (if they had a place to go). A door was opened, and they were able to relocate to an area that provided warmer weather (rain instead of snow), utilities, and food (which was running short in their area). News reports are sketchy, and we're never sure if we're really seeing what they are reporting here....but they don't have access to a lot of news at all!! Where they are they don't even have internet connections available!

Our trip is still on, yet we're not sure where we are going! We'll land on the mainland and see where they are, and try to meet up with them....sort of an adventure....

A trip of a lifetime!! I'm sure we'll make lots of memories. A few weeks ago I was worried about using a "squatty potty" in the airport for a 6 hour lay-over....now I'm laughing that I don't even know where we'll go!! I know when we are scheduled to land, but don't know if the airport will have power, or if the runway will be cleared, or where the kids will be at! God's stretching me in MANY new ways!! :)

I appreciate everyone that's been praying for the kids, for us, for this trip...and will continue to keep things up to date here on what the plans unfold to be....

blessings,
marina