Wednesday, May 28, 2014

From the Archives of Auntie Em Writes - The Prodigal Child

Summertime is here, the garden needs tending, work is keeping me at my kitchen table and all I see when I look out is the too-long-green-lawn, and I'd REALLY rather be sitting on a chaise on the patio with one of the books I'm reading...  SO, I'm making the call to re-post one of my articles from my past and share it with you now... I hope it inspires you, encourages you, and that you'll come back for more! You can subscribe if you look to your right...  over there ...  >>> 



I have lived some of my life as a prodigal child. I know that there are always seasons where our life with God becomes stagnant, but there have been times I’ve turned my back on Him, and had to come to a point of repentance and restoration.

Recently, I was reflecting on how it changed my heart; having lived on “that side of the fence” and making poor choices that affected my relationship with my Heavenly Father. I was surprised by a few things while reading in Luke 15, that I had not applied before.

I have embraced the theology of “love the sinner, and despise the sin”, but I noticed that the example of loving the prodigal son was a “tough love” and did not enable him to continue to abuse the father’s resources or relationship. The father didn’t travel to see the son and pay for his bar tab; he didn’t track him down and offer him work when he heard others were going hungry. He simply allowed him to “lie in the bed he made for himself.”

I believe that the father never stopped loving his son, and thought of him every single day, but he held himself back and allowed him to live his life. Only then was the son able to realize how much better off the servants were in his father’s house; and it was THEN that he was able to be changed, capable of taking on the task of returning home with a servant’s heart. 

The son could have hid his misfortune, and arrogantly attempted to blow off any sense of failure. I’m sure that the smell of working with the hogs would have preceded him, but often we do try to pretend that we have had a great journey despite the real outcome.

Yet here we get to see repentance and restoration, the way it’s supposed to happen. So why is it that many of us who want to return “home to our Father” are held back?

Is it that many of us feel that we need to clean up our act before returning home? We want to give up this habit, or that addiction. We want to make that move to make us look a little cleaner on the outside, create some illusion that our life away from Dad wasn’t all that bad. If the prodigal son did any cleaning up, it wasn’t mentioned in the story. 

Often it’s the fear of facing that brother who remained in Father’s house and worked the whole time we were away. Boy, we CAN be judgmental when our dirty brother walks in off the streets! I love the way Jesus portrays the father’s response though, ‘“We had to celebrate this happy day! For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’” (Luke 15:32, NLT)

The road to Father’s house is short. I promise He is there, standing in the driveway, waiting to embrace you. Come dirty, smelling of hogs. Come penniless and hungry. Just come home, wherever that may be. Repent and be restored. We’ll celebrate with Father!!

This article appeared as the "Inspiration" for the Connection Magazine of Southwest Missouri in January of 2010. You can read the original post here (the original magazine format was not yet online). 

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Power of Encouragement - An Example - An (in)courager Link Up

This week I'm linking up with (in)courage to celebrate signing up for (in)courager groups! I've been involved in this aspect of (in)courage for a few years now, first encouraging empty-nest moms of prodigals, and now in co-leading (in)courage global care - a group for women who are missionaries (global workers), former missionaries, moms and sisters of missionaries and missionary (or member) care workers (those women, like me, that love to encourage them). 

I hope that you enjoy reading this little bit about the WHY of me... why missionary/global worker/member and family care... and if you're inspired, join us over at (in)couragers and apply to join our group (under ministry groups) for global care.  - marina



encourage
 

— vb
1.to inspire (someone) with the courage or confidence (to do something)
2.to stimulate (something or someone to do something) by approval or help; support
 

Flashback to 4 1/2 years ago... It's one of my first visits to the Women's Group in this new-to-me huge church. I'm lingering around a table, helping sell tickets for something... a Women's ministry event... I don't even remember now... maybe the Women's Conference. I have a name tag on (which doesn't seem normal now, for a "normal" Women's Group meeting, but God had a purpose!) and as I'm just hanging out and smiling when a younger mom appears before me, bright smile and hugs.

"YOU! You are Marina! I JUST got an email from E telling me to keep an eye out for you! I can't believe it was THIS EASY to find you!"

I'm astounded.
And relieved.
And a little bit... comforted.

Our little meeting turned into a lunch at Chic-fil-a with her homeschooling kids in tow, as we spilled encouragement and tears over tasty chicken and sweet tea. I was newly relocated and thrilled to be here, and she was "back home," but grieving over leaving the mission field she was so in love with. Both of us were being obedient to our husband's calling. Both of us unsure what the future held.

So started this beautiful, authentic, REAL friendship with a woman who was 10 years younger than me. It wasn't intended to be a mentoring thing, as we encouraged and inspired each other - despite the age difference. It was friendship, wrapped in a dose of peer-mentoring and encouragement!

So when they were sent off, they came to Antioch; and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the letter. When they had read it, they rejoiced over its encouragement. Now Judas and Silas, themselves being prophets also, exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words.  - Acts 15:30-32 

God brought us together at a perfect time. My passion was/is encouraging those on the mission field, and I'd just walked through a season where my missionary daugher and SIL had to return unexpectedly from their place of service. I was fresh with a tender heart, remembering how upsetting it was for them... but that gave me a fresh sense of what was "normal" in this circumstance. I saw that it was just as important to encourage the missionary back in their original country, as it was while they were on "the field."

I admired my new friend for being so brave; for not letting her vision or prayers die for this people group, for not letting her desire for the field ruin her passion for her marriage. I loved how she was continuing to believe that God had a purpose for the timing in them going, and returning. How she prayed for her husband to have new eyes, and a renewed passion for the field; and that God would change her heart to be content "back home." Prayers that if that was what God wanted, that He would re-direct her compass of where "home" was. That God would do something to allow a return to the field, accepting His will and His timing above all.


Several months later, we traveled to that place together with a small team, to encourage workers in that field. It was inspiring, encouraging, and amazing. She was shocked at how quickly the language came back to her, evident by our 2 hour taxi ride leaving the airport, and her talking to the taxi-driver the entire time... the only word she didn't know was "seatbelt!"

The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.

God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.  - 1 Peter 4:7-11

It was a trip full of first's for me, and I caught her vision to see these people fall in love with their Creator. We prayed on beautiful beaches for the lost to be found, and prayer walked neighborhoods for God to open doors for the Gospel. We were an encouragement to those we came to see, their children, their ministry. We saw God work in each of us on the team, and through each of us. We saw history in the making, without feeling we were ever in danger. God's power was around us, His Word an encouragement to us, and as we spoke it - to each other. It was sustaining. Motivating. Healing.

Although we went to encourage others, often they encouraged us. (I love it when that happens!)

If you'd asked me before leaving, what I thought would happen, I would have told you that I expected to fall in love with this place she loved, everything about it, including the food and people there. But I didn't. I tolerated the food... most of it didn't even taste tasty to me. I love the people, more as a recognition that HE loves them, not as a "I HAVE to be the one to go tell them about Jesus!" kind of way (though I would in a heartbeat, should He open the door and tell my husband that we are supposed to be there!).

He hasn't told my husband that, and we are both OK with me/us not being there. For now my hubby is a "missionary in a chicken plant" and I'm by his side, encouraging missionaries, former missionaries, or family of missionaries wherever they are... on their field whether it's "here, near, or far away."  God's opened my eyes, and a door, for me to help encourage and equip women to be encouragers for the workers they know that are working globally to reach the lost for Jesus. This movement of *encouraging global care* will one day become *wHim* - Women Helping in Missions; because we can be an encouragement to missionaries all over the world - and in our backyard. While we are changing our babies, we can change the world. When the kids are learning letters, we can be writing letters to our friends, family members, and ministers as they reach out to those that have not heard.When our nests are empty and the house quiet, we can offer hospitality to those coming off the field, and pray for them when they return.  While they are being His hands and feet in the fields ripe for harvest, we can be His hands and feet as we lift them in prayer, and purpose, and do spiritual warfare on their behalf. We can each do our part to equip, inspire, encourage them, so we can complete the task of the Great Commission... every tongue, tribe and nation...

And the encouragement keeps spreading... along with the Gospel.

The encouragement between my friend and I is still powerful today, though she's back on field and our communication is more via social media than face to face meals. We've seen the blessing that friendship, and encouragement, is. We know that God has equipped each of us to encourage one another... and to share that gift with others that need to be lifted up ... to share with them, the power of encouragement.


Monday, May 19, 2014

(in)couragers online community groups... (in)courage global care



For the past few years there's been an amazing community online that has continued to bloom and grow. You might be familiar with (in)courage, but do you know about our online community groups? 

A few times a year we throw open the doors and allow new women the opportunity to get involved in the different communities online. This time, (TODAY!) there are more than 70 groups, and over 160 volunteer online leaders, with groups of women in just about every age and stage of life! You can find out about them here.

I'm continuing to lead a group called (in)courage global care, for women missionaries, women who assist in missionary care, women who are moms, sisters and friends of missionaries on the field. We share information, encourage the women where they are (on the field, missing a best friend or family member during the holidays, or praying about how to engage more fully in missions), and PRAY a lot for the women in our group.

Do you know a missionary? Are you actively supporting one financially or prayerfully? Do you want to get more involved in missions, but aren't sure what you can do? Then you're in the right place! Please join us!

Registration takes place THIS WEEK for our upcoming session. You need to sign up over at the (in)courager Groups page, and the group leaders will contact you with an invitation to join in the group of your choice. (Hint Hint... (in)courage global care is under the "ministry" heading...)

I hope that you'll be (in)couraged and join in with us, if not my group, then with one of the others that best meets YOUR needs! You'll find a group of women who accept you, love you and will pray with you through this phase of life!!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Here am I Lord... Send Me... (just NOT to North Dakota!!)



It was fun for me to recently share about a time I thought God might send us somewhere I didn't...really... (no REALLY)... DID NOT want to go.

It was a few years ago, and Mark was working on submitting his resume within his company for a transfer. He had put in for a few jobs within the plant he worked in (because, that's what he IS, a Missionary in a chicken plant), but the doors were closed firmly, and he realized that he was going to have to look outside our area. Not ideal, but doable. God moves us, and we're cool with that.

But the night he told me he "may have accidentally applied for a job in North Dakota" - my heart sunk. It hit bottom HARD. I was ashamed of my reluctance to go so far... COLD. (yes, you read that right... so far COLD. COLD = North.... and that was as far COLD as we could get within the company!)

As quickly as my shame caught me off guard, I heard the Lord speak CLEARLY to my heart.

"You would GO to China for me, but you wouldn't GO to North Dakota?"

Oops.

He saw my willingness to GO had some provisions. Not a good thing to have when it comes to obedience. You don't get to say where you're willing to have Him move you to...? Oh. duh.

At this point, I'm fairly certain I was hiding my face in shame... it was so hard for me to admit to my selfishness and immaturity and disobedient heart. Again.

Deep sigh. Humility at the reality of my hard, sinful, heart.

"Yes. Lord. Here am I... send me ... even to North Dakota... if that's YOUR will."

I'm sure I meant it, but for good measure He reminded me of other times I was not willing to GO where He wanted me to GO.

Times I wasn't willing to serve where He asked me to serve.

Jobs He wanted me to take, that I didn't apply for.

Opportunities He opened doors for me to share, where I didn't lift my eyes to meet theirs, or open my mouth to speak Truth, or be Light.

People He wanted me to visit, clothe, feed... that I ignored.

I'm hoping my heart stays in check, and that I'm sensitive to His leading WHEREVER He wants to send me. I pray that I'll have enthusiasm, and joy, and peace, as He continues to lead me.

..........

Has God ever led you to a place you didn't want to be? 
Did you ever tell God "no" when He tried to send you? 

..........

Lord, as You lead us, I ask that You'll turn our eyes heavenward, our ears to Your voice, 
our hearts to Your Word. Let us be keenly aware to the presence of Your Holy Spirit in our lives, 
and help us to discern Your will in our steps daily, wherever it is You guide us. 
I pray that You'll help us to walk in obedience, no matter where it is that You send us... to our back yards, our next door neighbors, the streets of our cities, or to the ends of the earth, till the end of time. 
Amen.

..........

For another account of having a willing heart to work well where God sends you (or has you... or keeps you...), please visit this post by Dan King at BibleDude.net