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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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The Reality of the Routine

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe (Philippians 2:14-15 NIV)

I was a missionary living outside my homeland for many years. I was there because I knew God called me to use the skills He provided to bring His word of salvation to the world. It was that simple. What wasn’t simple was filtering through the mental pictures and ideas people have about missionary life.

While missionary work began with the Apostles, who left their homes to share the Gospel in foreign lands, the modern Protestant missionary movement is relatively young. In the last hundred years, the publications of the lives of modern missionaries have fascinated, encourage, called and otherwise thrilled the church. From this many have built up the idea that “true” missionaries are pounding through sweaty jungles, Bibles in hand, pith helmet donning their furrowed brow, wagging their fingers at the heathen while pleading for them to accept the grace of God. I love these books and have read many. However, these only described the lives of a handful of faithful servants. What about the rest?

I’m one of the rest. I’ve had some interesting adventures for sure, but for the most part, my life was and is routine. I should clarify that by saying my ministry life is, for the most part, very routine. What makes it routine you ask? Let me describe most of what I’ve done and currently do.

Visiting transmitting site in FranceFor years, I’ve work in the technical side of things. I was a radio engineer when I joined this ministry and have worked with transmitters, antennas, studios, and a host of other electronic stuff throughout the years. At one point I was given a computer. I figured out how it worked. I learned how to program it. Now I administer computers systems, networks and all that modern high-tech stuff.  Most of my days are spent tweaking, upgrading, installing and keeping our network secure, up and running.

Don’t get me wrong, this is very important for the ministry. Without a stable and efficient computer network our ministry would grind to a halt. All our ministry programs go through the computer network to reach someone’s home with the Gospel message. What was once a nice tool for tracking spare parts inventory has become the corner stone of our ministry. If it is laid out and working correct God’s message reaches people. If it is askew, things go wrong. I try to keep things from going askew.

This is the routine. No pith helmet, although I once saw one with a solar fan on the front which looked great while living in the tropics. No slogging through mosquito infested jungles to find half-naked heathens in need of redemption. Most days I do my work from a desk using a keyboard, mouse and lots of thinking. Even work for offices in other countries is routinely done from my little office.

Am I reaching the world with the Gospel message? For sure! But the tools and methods have changed over the years. The underlying work to keep things going constantly changes. Even the missionary trudging through the jungle needed time spent on the basic needs of life. In the same way, I’m providing the tools and roadway (technological of course) for the same message to reach places closed to the missionary in a pith helmet.

Am I a missionary? Without doubt I’ve departed my homeland, been separated from family, friends, grandchildren and my mother tongue. I’ve lived solely on the grace and provision of God through His people. I have been “sent” by God to live elsewhere to accomplish His purposes.  But, the day to day work I do is . . . to put it bluntly . . . routine.

The father of our mission’s founder wrote a great pamphlet entitled, “The Glory of the Grey.” I love that thought. That’s right where I work and live. Unfortunately, many people, including churches, don’t understand this concept. Unless a “missionary” is establishing churches, or running evangelistic crusades, or hacking back the palm trees with their machete, they are not real missionaries. Sorry folks, perhaps a little change of perspective is necessary.

Is the church secretary not doing ministry because she isn’t preaching, just typing sermon notes and keeping the church updated? Is the janitor not doing ministry because he isn’t leading the youth group, just keeping the building fit for meetings and worship? Is the business man who attends your church faithfully not doing ministry because he doesn’t head the elder board, just supporting the church and demonstrating Christ in his business? Is the missionary not a missionary because he isn’t standing in a pulpit or preaching on a street corner, just keeping the message flowing and the ministry connected? These are all rhetorical questions in case you didn’t catch that. The answer to these should be no.

The reality of life is that most of life is routine, including the work done by missionaries. Once we accept this, and stop thinking everyone needs some new adventure, like the latest and greatest TV show or movie, then life becomes easier. Once Christians discover God wants us to minister by reflecting his Grace in our day to day activities, walking faithfully becomes easier. We can breathe a sigh of relief. If Christians would live their lives rejoicing in this truth it would be a great witness to the world.  Once we discover this for ourselves we can recognize it in others, the secretary, the businessman, the janitor or the missionary.

 

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Guam Goodies – 065

Who satisfies your desire with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalms 103:5 WEB)

During our years living on Guam we met many people just passing through. Some just visited friends for a day or two and others were stationed their with the military or their business for a couple of years. Their different reactions to the island were interesting.

Some folks, stationed on the military bases only left the familiar confines of their compound as a last resort. Church was often a last resort. Thus, some of these folks attended our church and we got to know them a little better.

Those who lived in a compound, on a military base, or secluded from the rest of the island, had few if any, good things to say about the island. They didn’t experienced the wonders of the island but remained safe and secure in their familiar surroundings. The folks who took the time and effort to venture out, explore the island, meet the people, and get involved, discovered a wealth of fun and many fascinating aspects about Guam and the people.

Not everything on Guam was good in those years. Telephone dialing seldom reached the intended person. I had a theory. Somewhere in the main telephone exchange was a random number generator. As a call would pass through the exchange the dialed number would be used as a seed to generate a random number to some unknown home where you would be connected. The most common phrase heard when answering the phone was, “Whose this?”

Power outages were the norm. Outages were expected following typhoons. Unfortunately the power company was beset by a heavy dose of nepotism. Workers were often assigned tasks because of their relationship to Uncle Joe and not based on their ability to maintain the massive generators. One summer the power went off just before the Liberation Day parade, that’s in July. We figured; go to the parade, return home and the power would be back. NOT! Of the eight generators, yes we knew how many, where they were, and what they were named, they forgot to put oil in six of them causing them to come to a screaming halt. For months we enjoyed the power being turned on occasionally, not off. Power would be turned on at the house two or three times a day for an hour or two at a time.

Water shortages were expected once or twice a year during the dry season. We would wait for the heavy rains, the reservoir would refill and life would return to normal. During one long power problem the need for electricity overtook the need for water. Residents stole the generators from the water pumps to power their homes and left much of the island without water. We also operated a small generator at our home so the children could complete their homework using a light bulb instead of a candle.

All of these experiences, water outages, power outages, typhoons, random telephone calls, made life unique, interesting and sometimes down right annoying. However, there were many things which were down right fun.

One year my father sent the children a pup tent. As a young boy I went camping many times with my father. Pup tents were the way to go when you were trekking through the Appalachian Mountains or paddling a canoe in Canada. Now it was time to camp with my children on a tropical island.

Several times we ventured to the northern tip of Guam to camp with friends. All of these were great experiences for the entire family. We discovered the night flights of fruit bats, what sea creatures came out in the dusk and how often the security guard roamed the beach looking for trouble.

The beach was a common meeting ground. Often we’d go to the beach, fire up the grill and enjoy steaks or burgers in the open air. The children, not to mention Beth and I, would snorkel, hide in the shade in the middle of the day and pick fresh fruit from the local trees for snacks. Friends from the mission and church would meet us at the beach for an afternoon of fun in the sun.

One afternoon on the beach the children were swimming and building sand castles. Beth and I were relaxed in a pair of beach chairs under the shade of an ironwood tree. Actually, Beth was just beyond the shade in the sun enjoying the rays and I was hiding from the ultraviolet menace. I looked up and down the beach, watching our children enjoying themselves and looked at my gorgeous wife. With a relaxed sigh I said to Beth, “Some days dear, it is tough suffering on the mission field for the Lord.” We both laughed then went to the shore to enjoy the water.

Cookouts with short ribs, burgers and chicken, camping on the beach, snorkeling and swimming were a delightful gift from the Lord on our small island. When the power failed there was usually a breeze on the shore. When the water ceased to flow in our home there was plenty available in the ocean. When the typhoons blew over the trees, God grew another forest.

Taking time to explore the island, meet the people and gawk at God’s beautiful creation was well worth the effort. Getting involved with the local schools was also a delight for the entire family.

Throughout the years we had children in five different schools. One year we had four children in four different schools. This was a logistical nightmare when it came to parent teacher night!

In Elementary school our children experienced the Guam culture including riding the ubiquitous Carabao, eating coconut candy and the many local fruits. By the time Ellice was in High School they were part of the local Chamorro culture. Through their involvement opportunities arose to share the Gospel.

Ellice discovered the wonder of bands and instruments. The Oceanview High School band was no match for many of the slick and polished bands I remember in the USA, but, they had a big heart. Ellice’s talent with a flute and piccolo earned her a spot on the all island Honor Band and a chance to play at the Governor’s Mansion

The mission was also a source of activities beyond the daily work of the ministry. As a staff we were a close knit family working toward the same goal of proclaiming the Gospel using our technical abilities. Not everything was work, work, work, sometimes there were opportunities for fun and fellowship.

More than once we held costume parties to celebrate anything from holidays to missionaries coming and going from the field. One evening we were seriously in search of a murderer in our midst. Clues were planted throughout the office building implicating one of the members of the staff in a dastardly deed. It took more than an hour for each team to find the bits and pieces and pin the blame on someone.

There was a heritage night, complete with costumes. Another costume night referenced favorite fictional characters. Beth and I chose Running Deer and Falling Rock, the famous pair of Indians often seen, as indicated by the signs, along so many U.S. highways.

Christmas on the beach, staff socials, cookouts, camping, typhoons, all were part of the interesting goodies on Guam. The work of the ministry required long, hard and tiring hours. Striving to bring the salvation message to people we never saw was difficult at times. Living far from family and friends added stress and sometimes a desire to be back on the mainland.

God knew these struggles and knew our needs. God provided an alternate family for fun, learning, fellowship, and encouragement. Our children were cared for, educated and, experienced events in their lives many people can never imagine. God cares for his people in ways we could never imagine.

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