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I’m Content

But godliness with contentment is great gain. (1 Timothy 6:6 WEB)

No matter what people may think, I’m content with my life, my family, my work and my faith; so, stop telling me I need something more. I was thinking about this while lying awake in bed one morning. When I look at things in my life and consider what I’ve done, where I’ve been and what I’ve acquired (physical stuff, experiences, etc.), I’m content. Unfortunately, sometimes, when my frustration over things around me percolates to the top of my patience, I might present a temporary persona that doesn’t portray a contented soul. But that’s another subject.

One of the first things I thought about was my wonderful wife quietly asleep beside me. It’s the precise planning of God that brought us together at the right place and time to embark on an amazing busy, full and fantastic life. Two-thirds of our lives we’ve been together and I’m looking forward with anticipation to undertaking together the next 40 plus years of life and adventure God has planned. Like most married men I know; I often wonder how my love tolerated me all these years. But I’m content knowing God was gracious to me and gives her lots of patience.

We’ve lived through raising four children, watching them leave the nest and start a life of their own with their own families. I like my children’s spouses. I love them all and I believe they like me. Our children are doing well in a variety of jobs. We’ve got service managers, restaurant managers, teachers and soldiers carrying on the family line. I’m proud of them all. They’ve had their problems, we haven’t always seen eye to eye, but as family we work through things. Thanks to them I have a number of grandchildren that I love dearly. I think they love me as well. I know why God gives us grandchildren. It’s to insure we still have that delightful spark of innocence to encourage us in life. They have good and bad days, they’re little children and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. I’m content with my family.

I’ve spent the majority of my life serving and working with the same organization in various places around the globe. I’d like to say everything was rosy and delightful all these years but the truth is there were hard times along with good times. Still, I’m content with what God has been able to accomplish through my work around the globe. More than once I felt ill-equipped for the job. It was then I watched as God stepped in to show His grace and let me know that I can do all things through Him. I can’t say I never had doubts about what I was doing. They would raise their ugly heads now and then until I reset my vision on the one who gives me strength. I can say I never had doubts about God’s calling me to this life. I’m content in my work and ministry.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve turned to God and asked, “Why?” Sometimes I found the answer. Some questions remain unanswered. I’ve railed at God in my frustration and anger and praised and worshipped Him at all times. Yes, even when I was furious I still worshipped God. I didn’t understand what was happening at the time, some things I still don’t understand, but I trust in God in all things. I’m comforted understanding that I can come to God with praise, anger, questions and the small issues of daily life and He listens. He shows me grace, especially in my stupid times. He loves me always, even in my disobedient times. I’m content with my faith in God.

In all this I find myself wondering why I would consider not being content. I can stop and think and realize that this is a great life God has provided and like the verse above I have great gain. Sometimes people think I’m discontent because I’m frustrated with things or get angry over an encounter with massive stupidity. So I wonder if we’re not confusing contentment with emotionless living. Are they the same? I don’t think so. God gave us emotions to help us deal with life on this spinning rock. We can let them get out of hand but to dismiss them as ungodly just doesn’t ring true for me. There are some things, regardless of my godliness or contentment, which I suspect will always increase my blood pressure.

There are inconsistencies in the behavior and reliability of computers, an area I’ve worked with for over thirty years that make me want to test the aerodynamic characteristics of the device from any open window (which I have done). There are vehicle drivers who apparently didn’t attend driving school, forgot all they learned or had incompetent teachers. Some folks standing in line for ten minutes or more to pay for items wait until they reach the counter to fish through their fifty gallon purse looking for their credit card. Sometimes I just sigh and roll my eyes. Other times, for whatever reasons, I just get frustrated or angry.

Then there’s the modern church. As a faithful member of the congregation we’re never doing enough “for God.” We hear preaching about contentment and at the same time a message of “do more” which creates discontent because we’re not doing enough, in the eyes of the local church, to justify our claiming to be faithful believers. Rubbish! I’m concentrating on my walk in this world as a faithful follower of Christ. Just walking faithful with God through normal tivities of life is doing something “for God.” Where that intersects with a church ministry, such as being a full time missionary, I’m glad to go as God leads. I don’t doubt some future heavenly residents might need a little fire under their backside to get them moving but who lights the fire, God or man? Without getting into a pet peeve let me say I’m content with the ministries where God has place me and I’m not looking for more. If He gives more I’ll undertake it. Otherwise I’ll be content with the here and now.

That’s probably where contentment lies. It lies in knowing you are where God wants you to be. It’s understanding the abilities God has given for the particular task and being content that God knows what He’s doing. Does it remove all emotion so we can be like good southerners and just say, “Bless their heart” when they do something ridiculous. At times it might. At other times life boils to the top and we are reminded we are humans, designed with emotions, by a God with emotions, to live in an emotional world. I’m content to live here, with all my foibles, until He takes me to that perfect mansion. Are you content?

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United We Stand

The United States of America was formed by a group of citizens united in their response, united in their purpose and united in their defense of their beliefs. Woodrow Wilson once said, “We cannot be separated in interest or divided in purpose. We stand together until the end.” Even Benjamin Franklin realized cohesion was necessary when he declared, “We must hang together or assuredly we shall hand separately.” Americans are famous for sayings such as G. P. Morgan’s “United we stand, divided we fall.” Even naming our country embodies a reliance on one another for survival. What happened?

The church was united in beliefs, purpose and goals. As Jesus disappeared into the clouds from the Mount of Olives, the disciples remembered His reminder to be unified in their witness to Jerusalem, Judea and the ends of the earth. Together they returned to Jerusalem to share, as one, the greatest message the world would ever hear. What happened?

No sooner had the early church organized than dissension arose. Why do believers, seeking the same Savior, yearning for the same heaven, proclaiming the same Gospel continue to chip away at unity? Who cares? God cares. Lets look at this ubiquitous word and see how deep the implications dig into our theological stances.

First we need to understand the prefix “uni.” Webster defines this as simple “uni-prefix: one: single.” (Uni, Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, G&C Merriam Company, 1979.) Nothing complicated, nothing debatable, just a single unit. Logically we would assume all words built on this prefix contain a sense of one, not multiple. As believers we are called to unity in the church. John 17:23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (New International Version of the Bible, Zondervan Corporation, 1989. All scripture quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise noted.)

What does it mean to be in complete unity? Simple, we are to be working together toward the same goal. We are to be striving as one unit, complex in structure, to proclaim the Gospel and encourage one another. An old Aesop’s Fable stated, “In union there is strength.” As the church presses toward another century of service we need strength. God provides strength and also expects us to work with one another for strength.

The NIV Bible Dictionary describes unity: Used in the O.T. in the sense of togetherness of persons (Genesis 13:6), fellowship (Judges 19:6), and praise (Psalm 34:3). Isaiah 11:6-7 tells of a future time when there will be a togetherness among animals. The NT word speaks of the unit of faith that binds together the people of God (Ephesians 4:13). (Bible Source NIV Bible Dictionary, J.D. Douglas, M.C. Tenny eds, Zondervan Corporation, 1989.)

In Chronicles, during Hezekiah’s reform the people of Israel turned back to God. Hezekiah sought God and serve as a King seeking God. He reopened the temple and encouraged the people to return to God. God provided the unity of purpose to accomplish this reform. 1 Chronicles 30:12 Also in Judah the hand of God was on the people to give them unity of mind to carry out what the king and his officials had ordered, following the word of the LORD.

The psalmist reminds us of the good effects from unity. Psalm 133:1 How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! God is pleased when we get along. I’m reminded of a pleasant aroma which rises to God and how that might be seen in this statement.

As Christians we have a pressing need to seek unity with one another. Our relationship to one another has a direct, perceptible impact on our witness to the world. John 17:23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Unity is a sign of God’s work in our lives. When we are splintered we present the wrong message to the world. This reminds me of Paul’s admonition. Ephesians 4:3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

How do we accomplish such unity? Our frailties make us prone to stand up for our point of view. We want to be right at all costs. Often we create division, not by design but as a result of our desire to be seen and accepted as correct. Romans 15:5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus. Paul recognizes we cannot achieve the peace and unity called for by God. It’s only when we rely on God and rest in His hands and allow Him to do the work that peace and unity will actually come to bear in our lives.

It’s difficult for us to be humble and humility is the starting point for unity. We don’t like to give in to another point of view. Saint Augustine wrote, “It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” A good passage to contemplate and memorize is Philippians 2:1-4. When we can live this passage with one another we will have unity.

Will we always see what we are convinced is correct come to be? No. There are many Biblical Imperatives which cannot be soiled with compromise. There are many more Personal Convictions which need to be weighed carefully before being applied to others. Liberty in Christ is one of the most difficult concepts for us to understand and live.

Are you unified with your brothers and sisters to proclaim the Gospel or are you at odds on how to proclaim the Gospel? Are you unified with fellow believers in discipling new believers or arguing over the proper methodology? Are you on a tangent or on target with the body of Christ?

Let us work together. Let us consider more than one point of view. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus as the goal of our life. Let us bring unity back to the church.

Colossians 2:2 My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ.

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The Pirates who do I.T.

I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14 KJV)

I once played a pirate in a couple children’s musicals. I was a friendly Christian pirate whose goal was to help people, not rob them. My patch would mysteriously move from eye to eye between scenes during the performance. Even a pirate needs a little fun.

Patch considers lifeRecently I was sitting at my desk, in my cubical, in my corner of the office working on a project. At some point I experienced binary bifurcation of purpose (aka the computer didn’t do what I thought it should) and so I let out an “argh.” I wasn’t wearing a patch but my colleague in the next cubical asked, “Is this talk like a pirate day?”

In truth, it was close! There is an official talk like a pirate day in September. I was a few days early. Then I started listening to others expressing their reactions to computer disobedience and discovered pirate talk from different corners of the I.T. department all day. I think every computer geek has uttered some form of pirate talk, intentionally or unintentionally, more than once in their career.

Even the casual computer user understands when there’s a wayward program, unexpected patch, or other signs of a computer’s resistant to the operator’s insistence that a particular function should be performed. I don’t want to list all the possible permutations of pirate speak here for fear of offending some sensitive analog lover who’s never ventured into the exciting waters of computer technology.

The idea came to me to make a sign for our department. Every department these days has a sign which proudly displays the name of the department and their statement of purpose to help rescue the world through their diligent and heart felt work. I think a sign like “Computer Department” or “I.T. Department” would be just too plain. It wouldn’t be expressive enough for the deep running emotions of electronic ministry. So, I figured it should read something like this:

I.T. Department
We are the pirates who do I.T.
Bring us your recalcitrant, wayward, computer and we’ll teach it what for.

We could all get eye patches and expand our pirate vocabulary to include some technical derivations beyond the demonstrative argh. Instead of “blast it all” we could say, “binary it all.” We couldn’t threaten users with “walking the plank” but with “disk disconnection.” It wouldn’t be “waterway congestion” but “Ethernet excess.” I’m sure there are plenty of particularly pointed platitudes which could be included in this theoretical thesaurus of pirate speak.

But, ours is not to develop an alternate alliterative language but to keep the forecastles and gunwales of the computer ships running properly so that the sweet message of the Gospel of Christ can smoothly sail the electronic oceans of the world. We have a goal on the horizon and no copious pirate platitudes will dissuade us from the destination. Unfurl the mizzenmast, pull up the anchors, shout out orders to one-eyed Jack, and shipshape Sam and turn her into the wind. We’ve got to get this ship in shape for the rough waters ahead. The enemy has many schemes and frustrating our intentions, even electronic ones, is one of the tools in his arsenal.

If another language helps, go for it!

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Emergency Baptism

. . . one Lord, one faith, one baptism, . . .  (Ephesians 4:5 NET)

One year I was able to experience a first in my ministry. I performed my first Bathtub baptism. Normally baptisms for our church in Vienna were held at the Old Danube river. We even had one scheduled that summer with a number of people on the list to publicly declare their faith in Christ. So you might wonder why baptize someone in a bathtub when we had one scheduled at the river.  (I’m tempted to start singing Shall We Gather at The River.)

Baptism in the Alte Donau

A new believer declaring their faith in Christ.

This what we call an “Emergency Baptism.” I know, that sounds weird. You might wonder if the person was about to die of some dread disease? No. But time was limited. This person came to us through the son of their best friend who happened to be in Austria. The young man put them in contact with our church through one of our ministry folks.

The candidate was in town for only few days and wanted to be baptized. They would be headed back to their home country in only three days. Theo, one of our other elders, and I talked and decided we could use the bathtub of one of the ministry folks. The bonus would be that they could also provide translation from the candidate’s native language into either German or English. It was into German :-).

We arranged to meet the candidate at this gentleman’s home and talk. If things went well, if we were assured of the candidate’s faith, we would proceed. Fortunately for me, the candidate spoke a modicum on English making things a little easier. We listened to the story of living in a country and a culture inundated and controlled by another religion. As a child the candidate heard about Christianity from some family and friends who were Christians. But, there was no gathering where they could learn more.

You see, such a gathering, when the candidate was young, and still today, was and is forbidden. There are believers in the country but unless their spouse, or close friend, is also a believer they live as an island in a dangerous land. This is learning to lean on God and God alone. After growing up and a failed marriage the candidate realized their cultural religion didn’t work. There were too many things which seemed contrary to living and there was no hope. The candidate remembered what they heard as a child and started seeking this Christian God.

To make a long story short the candidate came to salvation several years before. They met and married someone who is also a believer. The candidate’s visit to Austria was short and they wanted to be baptized before returning. Gathering as believers for church, worship, bible study was and is forbidden in her homeland. Baptism was and is also forbidden. The candidate wanted to make a declaration among witnesses of their faith in Christ and their desire to live faithfully for him. This was their one big chance.

We listened to the story, with many more details and knew the candidate was part of God’s family. The tub was filled with warm water (a definite improvement over the cold Danube). We gathered in the bathroom, those of us who could fit. Imagine six people with a bathtub in a room the size of a coat closet.

The candidate sat in the tub scrunched to one end. We asked a few questions and they made a declaration of their faith in front of the witnesses. Then back the candidate went, under the water. With praise in our hearts and on our lips, a new family member rose out of the water declaring to the world, to their homeland, to their past culture and religion, they are now and forever will be a child of God. They were saved by God’s grace through Christ’s blood. We’re talking big smiles and excitement.

This was a testimony to God’s work even in the face of cultural and national adversity. (I think this is the first baptism where I didn’t get soaked :-). I’m thrilled to provide them the opportunity to declare before witnesses their faith. I hope one day we’ll have the chance to baptize their spouse as well.

As I wrote this this new family member was back in their homeland, living in a land diametrically opposed to their faith but assured of God’s grace and strength. Pray for their walk with God, strength when opposition comes, and assurance of God’s constant presence.

God is amazing. We sometimes just need to be reminded through the testimony of others.

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Mission Mama and the Ten Little Cakes

What if you lived in a land with no cakes?

NO cakes you say???? IMPOSSIBLE!!!

This is the story of the Missionary Mama who lived in a land where there were no cakes.

There were no cakes like we have in America like she had when she was growing up.

There were no cakes like we have for our birthdays.

Most of the time the Missionary Mama and her missionary kiddies didn’t miss the birthday cakes because the land they lived in had lots of really, really good food. The only times they thought about birthday cakes were . . . well . . . at birthdays. Then the Missionary Mama and Papa did what they could to get happy birthday cakes from America for their missionary kiddies. Sometimes it wasn’t easy but they always found one.

As the years past the Missionary Mama learned how to make all kinds of wonderful things in the land where they were living and didn’t even always make birthday cakes for birthdays. But one day some people from America were going to visit the Missionary Mama and Papa and they said, “What can we bring from America in our Suitcase for you?” Well they thought and thought and said, “A birthday cake please?”

A BIRTHDAY CAKE THEY THOUGHT????? DON’T THEY HAVE BIRTHDAYS? OH NO! WE SHOULD BRING THEM A BIRTHDAY CAKE. SO, THEY PACKED THEIR CLOTHES . . . TWO BLUE SHIRTS AND TWO PINK SHIRTS AND TWO PURPLE SHIRTS AND TWO RED GREEN SHIRTS (ONE FOR THE MR AND ONE FOR THE MRS.) AND THEN THEY PACKED A BIRTHDAY CAKE. . . AND THOUGHT . . . THERE IS MORE ROOM SO WE CAN BRING TWO BIRTHDAY CAKES. AND THERE WAS STILL MORE ROOM AND THEY PUT IN TWO MORE AND THEN TWO MORE. THERE WERE TWO CHOCOLATE AND TWO YELLOW CAKES AND TWO PINK CAKES . . . YOU SEE THE MR. AND THE MRS. LIKED THINGS IN TWOS . . . AND THEY ENDED UP WITH 10 CAKES IN THEIR SUITCASES.

2008_06_teresaphotos_0003Can you imagine 10 little cakes all ready to go to a foreign land and take birthdays to the Missionary Mama. Well they filled up the suitcase so much the Mr. and Mrs. had to take out some clothes and the cakes were starting to get heavy so they got friends to bring their clothes and their friend’s daughter to help carry the cakes. Then they all got on a big airplane with their suitcases and their clothes and the 10 little cakes. Oh, I almost forgot, they also brought a rabbit to make the airport people look at him so they wouldn’t look at the 10 little cakes and say, “NO cakes in this land!!!!!”

When they came to the foreign land the Missionary Mama and Papa picked them up at the airport with a borrowed car and you know what? It wasn’t big enough for so many people and 10 little cakes and a rabbit!!!! There were people and suitcases and cakes and rabbits everywhere. Wowie. They had a great visit and went to all the nice places in the land and ate lots of really good food and the rabbit met lots of nice people and then Mr. and Mrs. and their friends and their friend’s daughter took their empty suitcases home and with the rabbit had plenty of room.

Then the Missionary Mama thought . . . 10 little cakes what will I do with 10 little cakes????? We don’t have 10 little cabinets and we don’t have 10 birthdays. I know, I’ll share the cakes with people who miss Happy Birthday cakes like we do. Or maybe, I’ll share them with people who have never had a Happy Birthday cake. This is going to be fun.

The first little cake was made and it was a yellow cake with chocolate frosting and the Missionary Mama and Papa and Annamarie ate it just to make sure they were OK to share with others. I mean they needed to know that it still tasted good, right?

The second cake was made for a family from Switzerland and Canada and they had five children so the confetti cake was the best.

The third little cake was chocolate with chocolate icing and it was for a Missionary Mama and Papa party with Americans so they could practice their English and tell funny stories in English. There were some American missionaries and Canadian missionaries who hadn’t had a birthday cake for a long time.

The fourth little cake was a yummy spice cake with cream cheese frosting and Missionary Mama made it for the team that meets to plan all the work. Those poor people are in long meetings all day and they need a treat sometimes. Some of them liked the cake, and some thought it was too sweet, and some thought it was too fat, and some thought it was just right. There was a big Russian man and a happy Swiss man and a quiet German lady, a really, really tall man (I think he ate two pieces) and a strong Serbian man who tells funny stories and likes cake too.

The fifth cake was pink I mean really very pink and the Missionary Mama made it for the baptism in the Danube River. I don’t know why she made the pink one but the people from Africa and the people from the Philippines and the people from Iran and the people from Austria all ate pink cupcakes and said yummy, yummy, yummy. Let’s go to the river and get Baptized.

The sixth little cake was pink too and the Missionary Mama gave it to a little missionary girl who likes muffins with cream that are pink (that is what they call cupcakes there!!!!!) for her birthday.

The seventh little cake was chocolate and the Missionary Mama made it for a Happy Birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas. Her little missionary son ate it for dinner and lunch and breakfast. He also shared it with our friends from Hungary, and Canada, and Cameroon. (But I don’t think he wanted to.)

The eighth little cake was Carrot and the Missionary Mama made it for a missionary kid Christmas party and it had cream cheese frosting, yuummmmm. But one little boy said” Yuck,” and Naomi said “we forgot to pray,” and then she and the Missionary Papa prayed and she said “I like the cream!!!!!!!” There were children from all around Europe at the party and they liked to sing Happy Birthday to Jesus and then eat the cake.

The ninth little cake was for a ladies’ prayer group and it was lemon and very yellow and pretty. I hope it made the ladies strong so they could really pray for the families and the children.

The tenth little cake doesn’t have a place to go yet. What shall we do????? Maybe you can think of a place to take the yellow cake with chocolate frosting on it??????? It sounds Yummy but the Missionary Mama is all out of places to take it right now. So please help me to think, and think, and think of the best place for the little cake because it is sad to be all alone in the cabinet and needs a nice party to go to.

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News Aficionados

If anyone speaks, let it be as it were the very words of God. If anyone serves, let it be as of the strength which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:11 WEB)

I left the mainland for Asia and then Europe over thirty years ago. It’s been one adventure after another. I’ve seen things I never imagined. I’ve visited places I never thought I’d visit. Gallivanting here and there you develop a whole new outlook on the world.

My small town view of the world expanded as I met other cultures, learned other languages, and choked down strange unknown foods. Another strange transformation began to take place. I’m sure it’s part of my character but I discovered it watching my wife. She has developed into a news aficionado over the years.

2010_04_11_odd-003What is a news aficionado? It’s someone with an expanded world view. Growing up we were both content with local news sources. The local paper, local radio, local TV all brought us the top, earth shattering, important news events from our town and the world. At least we thought it was from the world.

I’m not a newsaholic like my wife. She could watch news almost all day, read the paper, go to news online and be very content. I’m overloaded after reading the headlines when my browser opens each morning. But, whether with a lot or little news we both have been impacted with news aficionado status.

We didn’t realize this until we were back in our homeland after years overseas. We turned on the TV, no cable, and tuned into the local stations. Four channels seemed enough for our meager needs. The hour came, the banners were displayed, the staff were introduced and the news began.

Floods in a local neighborhood, crime in the local neighborhood, corruption in the local neighborhood, weather and coming events all were centered on the local region. One or two stories gave lip service to news and events from other regions of the state. One or two mentions were made of something from another country. We tried news from all four stations. The same. The world didn’t exist, except in small drops, outside the local area.

We were starving to hear about other world shattering events. The local stations weren’t going to satisfy that need. We then turned to newspapers.

We walked to the nearby news stand. Five papers. There were four local and one “international” paper which mostly contained US news and events. I’m beginning to understand why we had such a small view of the world as we grow up.

I must admit I don’t trust news people any further than I can throw them. Everyone reporting news, no matter what culture, language, nationality, political party, or faith reports news with their own slant. But, at least, it gives us something to work with to see what is happening in the world. It gives us a glimpse into how God’s creation is getting along without Him.

I don’t mean God is gone. I mean most of the world ignores God and tries to do things on their own. In our Bible Belt society, at least where I grew up, we often have a poor perception of the great dichotomy  between the nations and God.

Folks around the world are not filling churches, singing praise songs, and wearing the latest fashions on Sunday morning. In most lands there aren’t churches on every other corner vying for the tallest steeple and most impressive facade.

Call me a news aficionado. I called my wife a news aficionado. She didn’t like it at first but I think she’s warming up to the idea that it isn’t such a bad trait after all. I want to know the needs and conditions where I live. I also want to know what is happening in the world. Not to analyze the methods or motives of world leaders but to see the needs.

Once I know the needs I can pray effectively. Once I know the needs I can minister, where I live, effectively. Once I look beyond the horizon of my front porch, or the borders of my city limits, I understand more why Jesus said to the Galileans, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NET.)

Jesus lifted my burdens and placed his yoke on my shoulders. I understand, once more, why God called us to minister to the nations. I feel Jesus’ compassion to bring the message of salvation to the world. I pray that we, as Christians, take the time to expand our vision, learn more of the need in God’s world and do what we can.

Pray always. Go if we are called. Give as we are inspired. Teach our children. Learn from his word, the Holy Spirit and others. Do your work, whatever it may be, to the glory of God that his name is praised in the streets. Not just here, in our own backyard, but also with a vision for the world.

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Take A Look Around

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6 ESV)


I have a notebook computer with wireless. So do many of my colleagues. They are always asking how to connect to the Internet while they are waiting in different airports. When I tell them, “I don’t know,” they look at me perplexed. You see, I don’t use my computer much while I’m in actively traveling. 

Sure I use it when I reach my destination, that’s part of my ministry. But along the way, sitting in an airport, waiting at the train station, there are much better things to do. Since I seldom travel in the USA I’m not tempted by obscenely large, tasty, messy, and hot cinnamon rolls as I walk through airports. Train stations tend to be sparse. On many platforms you are fortunate to have a roof over your head while you wait. 

What do I do? I watch the people. I’m sure my behavior has provided a wealth of humor and entertainment to others, especially if things are running slow and I’m in a hurry. But that, is another story. 

People are why I got into the ministry. You might think, God is why I am in the ministry. Sure, God called me to the ministry but why? Because of people! We missionaries love to spread the Gospel. Give use a ten second break in the conversation and we’ll slip a bit of religion into any conversation. The trick is figuring out what to slip in, when, and how much. 

Sometimes the Lord drops a conversation in our lap. I was in the Zurich airport waiting in the check in counter queue (translation: that’s a line to most Americans) when this young lady of Asian heritage stepped up behind me. She asked me a question about how the quick check in computer’s work, and whether she could use it, I said I didn’t know. Never used one. (OK I’m a practical travel application impaired geek!) We chatted a few more minutes discussing why we were in Switzerland. She was a student learning German and I a computer geek helping out a colleague. After discussing who I work for she blurted out that she too was a Christian from California (yes, there are real Christians in California). I was called to the counter and never saw her again. Talking with strangers in an airport can be fun. You learn interesting things. 

But sometimes, not talking with people at the airport is just as much fun. My trip began with a flight from Vienna to Geneva. But, as it happens, the flight from Vienna was late for departure. Maybe not late for departure as much as late for arrival since we passengers were waiting for a plane to arrive. My name may be Chick but flapping my arms wildly still doesn’t do much except clear a few seats on either side of where I’m sitting. 

So, sitting in the mostly empty waiting room, it was a small plane, I watched the people. Then my imagination began to wonder about them. Where were they from? Where were they headed, beyond Geneva? Was it business or holiday (translation: vacation to most Americans) travel? Or, was there something else hidden about their presence? I wonder. . .  

I surveyed the room and started taking notes, discretely on a pad of paper in my lap in plain sight. To the right a row of stainless chairs lined the windows to the road outside. A rather large older man decided thirty minutes’ delay was just sufficient for a nap. He took off his jacket, stretched out on the chairs and quickly filled the room with his raucous snoring. He looked like a small mountain with his white shirted belly rising high above the green metal seats. At least he made me feel better thinking if I took a nap it would only look like a rolling hill and not the Matterhorn. He must be headed home from a busy trip, ready for rest and relaxation. 

Two rows away, on my left, I was sitting against a wall, was another middle aged business man making a phone call. I always wondered what is middle age? People talk about fifty being middle age but I don’t know a lot of people who live to be one hundred. He flips out his phone, sits on the edge of his seat and waits for an answer. When it comes we all know. He talks so loud he could eliminate the telephone and still be heard at his destination. Some gobbledygook about a sports meeting and how thankful he is for the person, on the other end of the phone, and their help. I’m not eavesdropping, he’s shouting his conversation to the entire holding pen. Then he asks the real question. Isn’t it amazing how compliments at the beginning of a phone call are a secret code letting you know something more important is coming? He wants to know the money is applied to the right place. Ah, money, the blood which courses through the veins of every business. 

I’m distracted from the rest of the conversation when an older Spanish couple steps between me and my view of the telephone shouter. The lady plops down and stands the rolling pack upright. The man shuffles in dragging his left foot. Apparently either age, injury or disease has taken its toll on the man’s physical abilities. She shouts at him to sit here, put his bag there and stop taking so long. It seems his vision is also poor. We all discover this. When he needed the toilet (translation: bathroom to most Americans) she pointed across the hall and sent him off with his shuffle. He turns left, right and can’t find the WC. She sits in her seat and shouts, “not that way! Over there! The big yellow sign! No the other way! Can’t you see the sign! You’re going the wrong way! Can’t you see anything!” and then finally gets up and points him in the right direction with a final comment, “You open your eyes when you want to, why not now?” I wonder how these two keep traveling together. Then, I’m amazed. They are back, sitting, looking at a magazine, and laughing together. Love is blind as they say. He might not find the WC, which he did to all our relief, but he has found his love. 

Across the room is a Duty Free Shop. All these years of travel and I’ve never purchased anything from a Duty Free Shop. Of course I never purchase anything of a big value to warrant duty when I land. A young lady sits at the counter, all in red, bored look on her face. She sits, and sits, and sits, and no one even browses the trinkets and travel ware she has to sell. Two hours later she had only one shopper briefly glance at a package of something. At one point she rearranges a display. A little while later she rearranges it again, back the way it was. How does she deal with a such a lack of contact all day? That would drive me crazy. 

An Asian couple sit in the corner stone faced and quiet. Finally, he moves and looks through the stamps in his passport. The excitement never ends. As boarding time approaches people get restless and start pacing about the room. That helps . . . I’m sure. 

Me, I read my book for a while. It’s a book all about the wonders of living and staying in a small town. I miss the small town where I grew up. It was a place where everybody knew everyone. We went to school together, church together (there were divisions between Baptists, Lutherans, Methodist, Catholics and others, but only on Sunday morning), held parades around the town square, and all frequented the same grocery store, pharmacy, and ice cream shop. 

I’ve enjoyed my world travels. The Lord has sent me places I never imagined. Like today, Geneva, Switzerland. The ministry impact is great. I wouldn’t trade it. But, I wonder if the deepest impact is when people minister close to home, person to person, where everyone knows everyone. 

Many turn to Christ hearing a message on the radio. But, somehow I feel, those that stick, grow and reproduce believers, are those who learned by watching and living in proximity (a techie word) to faithful believers, when there are faithful believers nearby. For others, it’s more difficult. 

Now I’m not saying I’m the best example of faithfulness. I’ve had my bad days, hours, and decades. But I learned. Maybe someone can see what I learned and save themselves the anguish. But then again, we have a tendency to want to make our own mistakes in some Utopian belief we can do it better. NOT! 

Let’s become real people, with real problems, and real discussions Let’s NOT hide our need, our faults, in Christianized language, for fear of what other believers might think. 

Consider the people I just described. Are they saints or ain’ts? God died for each. Some may know God and some not. But we struggle, saints and ain’ts, through the same life, at the same airports, watched by the same people. 

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