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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Missionary Kids on my team

I want to share this video with you.  In 2009 I taught Lydia while in Soroti, Uganda, and I can't wait to join them in living and serving in Soroti once again.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Brother's Anger

Never wanting to show up at the Writer's Nest empty handed, I wrote a scene of a play this afternoon to meet the theme for the evening's gathering.  I want to share my scene with you.

A rich man’s courtyard – with marble statues, fountains, carved columns, and packed dirt

A middle aged man – who is the son of the rich man

The Script:

(Man is pacing the yard, with anger burning in his eyes, he kicks the dirt.)

Unbelievable! I can’t believe my father just said those words to me. “My son, you are always with me and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

He is no brother of mine. He is dead to me. Years ago he wished my father dead by asking for his inheritance and I cannot forgive him. How dare he come back to the old homestead! I’ve heard the rumours of his running around with woman, living as a drunkard and a party animal... and now, I can’t believe it, but the music in the air is proof enough... he’s still loving the parties.

I heard the instruments playing as I was coming in from a long day in the fields. Curiosity caught my attention until one of the servants ran out to tell me that “my brother” (using quotations) has come home. Home, this isn’t his home. And yet, my father still thinks that it is. Night after night, year after year, Dad stood on the balcony and watched the horizon, hoping that “my brother” would come home.

The word around the house tonight is that the old man ran out to meet the long lost rebel. Not only did he greet him with open arms, but yelled in delight for the servants to bring the best robe and put it on his son. They put sandals on his feet, which they shouldn’t have because he is worse than a slave in my opinion. And a ring on his finger! Are you kidding me? He has absolutely no authority in this neck of the woods. I’m the oldest. He owns nothing. Has nothing. Deserves nothing. (Mutters) Deserves NOTHING!

For years I have been watching my father raise one fatted calf after another, like he was always ready to celebrate something grand. I could never believe that he didn’t appear hurt or confused. I am! I’m bitter, angry, jealous, disappointed. In some ways, I feel forgotten. For many seasons now I have worked my fingers to the bone on this property. I’ve helped my father with every task in the fields and I’ve watched over the animals as their numbers increased. But no fattened calf was ever killed for me.

Can’t you smell it? That beast is tenderly being barbequed over the open spit, moments away from being devoured by the guests who have arrived to help my father celebrate the reunion. Why am I so undervalued? Why can’t my father recognize all that I have done for him?

I’m so much better than my brother. I had and still have NO plans of ever leaving my father. My younger sibling thought it would be fun to grab his inheritance and strike out on his own. It was like he never even needed us. It was insulting and I must admit, I’m greatly injured.

I just want to butt my head against these here pillars out of sheer frustration.

(Slows his pacing, and breathes deeply. Much calmer in demeanour as he begins again.)

I can’t shake the thoughts of seeing my father on the balcony. Why? Year after year he waited. Silently hoping for the family to be re-united. I didn’t think I’d ever see the day. I thought the rebel would surely die before he came home, and yet, he’s here. Alive. The servants seem to think he has a repentant look upon his face. They say he’s having a hard time looking my father in the eyes, and he’s wearing the robe, sandals, and ring with great discomfort.

I’ve always respected my father. How long can I stomp out here in anger? My father is still, well, my father. And technically this brother is still my sibling. I should care. I want to care. I want to love and forgive like my father. I have missed the little punk who used to copy my every word and movement.

(Pausing) Papa is right. Everything in that house is mine because it belongs to my father. All he has is mine. And that means my brother is mine as well. Mine to cherish. Mine to forgive.

(Sitting on a stone bench)

I’m just not ready. I need some time before I can walk into the house and put a true smile on my face. As long as my father continues to model unearned and undeserved grace, I shall soon recover, learn my lesson, and give that lost brother of mine... a hug.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Key Factor

For a few hours, I had been working inside the group home, when one of my co-workers came and asked me for the car keys.  I was slightly curious why she was asking me, because I didn't have them.  Weren't they in their normal place?  Nope.

The panic started to rise amongst the staff in the house.  We checked pockets and searched drawers.  The car was searched, the garage was inspected and trash bags reopened.  No one was able to find them and  staff began to worry.  Peacefully I remained calm.  After searching for an hour and a half I relaxed on the couch to pray.  The only thing I could hear was: "Go back to the garage."  Three times I went to the garage.  I searched the car again, and looked over the stock shelves.  Again, the voice kept saying: "Stay in the garage."

Moments after two staff left I found the keys in the bottom of a big trash bin.  I had a brief flashback of me throwing a drinking box in the garbage after exiting in the car, and there's a pretty good possibility I threw the keys in the garbage at the same time.

But I'm just glad that God answers prayer in such clear ways!  It was fun calling the other staff and informing them of my great find!  Peace reigns once again.

A Dry Season

To be honest, fundraising has been very tough this summer.  I don't know if it's the world economy, or vacation time, or the fact that church committees haven't been meeting for a few months, but the support raising for Uganda has sort of come to a stand still.  I've been meeting with people, writing letters, making phone calls, and then.... no increase.  God truly is teaching me trust and patience. 

Refreshingly I felt God's hand of guidance this morning.  I went to church, to be with God and His people, and was blessed during coffee time in the fellowship hall.  One older gentleman passed me a humble cheque of support and one young lady spent a long time chatting with me about following God's leading.  When I went to bring my coffee cup to the kitchen, a sweet lady said that her and her husband were going through their budget to see how much they could support me on a monthly basis and they would let me know soon.  From the kitchen, I walked over to the mailboxes and grabbed a few papers from my box when another lady walked over and said that she wants to support me on a regular basis.  I was able to hand over the information for International Teams so she could begin the Automatic Bank Withdrawal. This lady hasn't stopped thinking about the stories that my team leaders, the Sliedrechts, shared while they were at Bethel and she believes in the work we are doing in Uganda.  From the mailboxes, I started heading towards the door when another old lady mentioned that she was going to write a cheque and give it to me next week.  The tears started to collect in the corners of my eyes as I once again caught up the young lady I was chatting with earlier.  She shared in my joy with a hug and a few tears of her own before we went our separate ways for lunch.   I drove home praising God in an extra special way!

Tomato Wars

After a long ten hour shift I was so glad when my dear friend offered to make me dinner.  Within 20 minutes of leaving work I was sitting down to a delicious dinner of chili and great conversation.  Spontaneously deciding that Kawartha ice-cream would be the ultimate finish to dinner, we drove back in to Schomberg and found the tiny little ice-cream parlor tucked in between Subway and the local gas pumps.  Chocolate chip cookie dough overflowed from the waffle cone as I sat down at the picnic table to enjoy the fellowship and the outdoor music.  With full bellies, we needed a little exercise, so we drove over to my house and played badminton in the back yard. 
Back and forth the birdies flew for about a half an hour, while the sweat began to gather on our bodies.  Getting a bit carried away, four of the birdies joined the realms of my neighbour's yard.  When the fourth birdie flew the coop we had to stop the plays and wait for the neighbour to fly those birdies back over the fence.  My silly friend decided to shoot birdies back at the neighbour before he was finished sending all four back to us and before I knew it, an all out pelting war began.  First with birdies and then the cherry tomatoes.  The neighbour stood from his upper deck while we batted the tomatoes back with our badminton rackets.  Tomato juice squirted every where and laughed rang through the backyards. 
Just a simple fun night in the midst of my life that's been put on pause.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

An Ordinary Believer

The Alliston Potato Festival was the perfect reason for all the community churches to join together for a mass service at the local soccer area.  While Mom and Dad taught Sunday school, I stayed in the service and listened to an older man share his amazing testimony.  I want to share Rev. Brian Steed's story with you.

Brian walked on stage in a short sleeved white button up shirt.  It was obvious to the audience that he only had a stump in the place of his right arm.  He was adament that he is not a hero, but a simple man who took his faith with him.  There is a God who loves us, we just need to call on Him.

Brian was a missionary bush pilot in Northern Ontario during his twenties.  When he was 28 he went from flying the church owned plane to flying a fixed wing airplane called the Beaver.  In October of 1968 he had just dropped off a plane load of supplies at a northern mining camp before flying over to a remote lake to spot areas for possible future drop-offs.  Landing on the lake, he opened the door of the Beaver to view the shoreline.  Wind came up and blew off his pilot's hat into the water.  Brian quickly made a plan to taxi the plane in a circle, so that the pontoon would come close to the hat... he was just going to scoop it up.

Steering the rudders with his hands while standing on the pontoon, he got closer to the hat.  Suddenly, Brian slipped forward and tangled with the invisible fan at the front of the plane.  Next thing he knew, he was in the lake, underwater, and missing an arm.  A large gash on his forehead was also noticed.  Brian quickly prayed an earnest reflex prayer of "Lord, help me!"

Brian immediately knew he had to get back to the plane.  Approximately 20 feet from him, the plane was still slowly trolling by.  He had to catch it before it went to the centre of the lake.  He started to swim towards the plane and was slightly confused when his right arm wouldn't due the front crawl.  With heavy clothes and work boots on, he swam hard enough to catch the edge of the pontoon before it went by.  Brian was being towed by the pontoon and it took a lot of effort just to hold on.  He pulled 4x to get himself up onto the pontoon, unsuccessful.  Then he paused and said another sincere prayer, for God has always said "Call to me and I will answer you."  So Brian prayed, "Lord, if you want me to go on living, I need your extra help."  On the fifth try he was able to successfully beach his belly on to the deck of the pontoon.

Brian slowly got up, shimmied across the pontoon and up the ladder of the back door.  Inside the airplane he looked at his arm and really realized it was gone.  He saw lots of ropes in the bowels of the plane, so he grabbed one and started to wind the rope around his wet, bloody, slippery stump.  Twice he tried to wind the rope, before he took the time to pray again.  "Lord, what do I do now?"... and then he listened, knowing that God has an unlimited number of ways of speaking to us.

Winding the rope around his stump and neck, Brian created a tight tourniquet that stopped the bleeding.  God had answered his prayers so far.  Being 20 miles from people, with no phone working, Brian had two options.  One - sit and wait... he knew that he would be found the next morning by the helicopter over at the next lake, or two - restart the engine and fly out.  Brian wasn't in pain yet at this point, but he knew that it would come and he didn't want to pass out midair and crash, leaving behind a wife and two kids... so he prayed again for direction.

Brian felt the peace of a green light to taxi off of the lake and fly back to base camp.  He was able to fly the Beaver with one arm, and quickly headed over to the other lake.  The staff on the awaiting dock looked up to see a bloody mess approaching the pier.  A decision was quickly made that Brian's mechanic would fly him in to the hospital in Thunder Bay.  His side-kick was only 19 and didn't have his pilot's license, but Brian knew he could fly the Beaver, so off they went.

Landing in Thunder Bay, an ambulance soon arrived with some very "helpful" attendants.  They asked Brian "which hospital would you like to go to?" and he quickly responded with the "closest!"  Thankfully the best surgeon was on staff when he arrived, but before any procedures could take place, the hospital policy stated that the next of kin needed to be notified first.  Being rolled on a stretcher, he was given a phone to call his wife.  Brian's wife was excited to hear from him because he had been north for quite a while, out of phone range in those days. 
"Where are you?"... "Oh, in Thunder Bay"
"Are you on your way home?"... "Yes, I am!  We are here though because there was a bit of a problem and we had to make an unexpected trip here to the hospital.  You see, it's me... I got my arm nicked by the propeller."
"Any chance you might lose the arm?"... "Well, actually it's completely severed, but God is with me!"
"I'll be praying for you and I'll be there soon with your parents."

Moments later Brian was on his way to surgery, and also received 22 stitches in his forehead.  Thankfully it wasn't his good arm, since Brian is left-handed.  :)  To God be the glory!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Message from the Message

A friend sent me a portion of this text from 2 Corinthians yesterday.  I wanted to view the words in the whole context of Chapter 8 and was very encouraged by God's Word.

The Offering

1-4Now, friends, I want to report on the surprising and generous ways in which God is working in the churches in Macedonia province. Fierce troubles came down on the people of those churches, pushing them to the very limit. The trial exposed their true colors: They were incredibly happy, though desperately poor. The pressure triggered something totally unexpected: an outpouring of pure and generous gifts. I was there and saw it for myself. They gave offerings of whatever they could—far more than they could afford!—pleading for the privilege of helping out in the relief of poor Christians.

5-7This was totally spontaneous, entirely their own idea, and caught us completely off guard. What explains it was that they had first given themselves unreservedly to God and to us. The other giving simply flowed out of the purposes of God working in their lives. That's what prompted us to ask Titus to bring the relief offering to your attention, so that what was so well begun could be finished up. You do so well in so many things—you trust God, you're articulate, you're insightful, you're passionate, you love us—now, do your best in this, too.

8-9I'm not trying to order you around against your will. But by bringing in the Macedonians' enthusiasm as a stimulus to your love, I am hoping to bring the best out of you. You are familiar with the generosity of our Master, Jesus Christ. Rich as he was, he gave it all away for us—in one stroke he became poor and we became rich.

10-20So here's what I think: The best thing you can do right now is to finish what you started last year and not let those good intentions grow stale. Your heart's been in the right place all along. You've got what it takes to finish it up, so go to it. Once the commitment is clear, you do what you can, not what you can't. The heart regulates the hands. This isn't so others can take it easy while you sweat it out. No, you're shoulder to shoulder with them all the way, your surplus matching their deficit, their surplus matching your deficit. In the end you come out even. As it is written,

Nothing left over to the one with the most,
Nothing lacking to the one with the least.

I thank God for giving Titus the same devoted concern for you that I have. He was most considerate of how we felt, but his eagerness to go to you and help out with this relief offering is his own idea. We're sending a companion along with him, someone very popular in the churches for his preaching of the Message. But there's far more to him than popularity. He's rock-solid trustworthy. The churches handpicked him to go with us as we travel about doing this work of sharing God's gifts to honor God as well as we can, taking every precaution against scandal.

20-22We don't want anyone suspecting us of taking one penny of this money for ourselves. We're being as careful in our reputation with the public as in our reputation with God. That's why we're sending another trusted friend along. He's proved his dependability many times over, and carries on as energetically as the day he started. He's heard much about you, and liked what he's heard—so much so that he can't wait to get there.

23-24I don't need to say anything further about Titus. We've been close associates in this work of serving you for a long time. The brothers who travel with him are delegates from churches, a real credit to Christ. Show them what you're made of, the love I've been talking up in the churches. Let them see it for themselves!

2 Corinthians 8

May these words also be a blessing to you.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My Home

"You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it's all right."
Maya Angelou

"They are the happiest, be they king or peasant, who find peace in their homes."
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"Where thou art, that is home."
Emily Dickinson

"Be grateful for the home you have, knowing that at this moment, all you have is all you need."
Sarah Ban Breathnach

"Home is where the heart is."
Pliny The Elder

"Home is not around the hearth, it is within the heart.  Any worthwhile pilgrimage brings us home,
and so does any distant voyage for the sake of love."
Donald Masterson

"Home -- that blessed word, which opens to the human heart the most perfect glimpse of Heaven, and helps to carry it thither, as on an angel's wings."
Lydia M. Child

Joy or sadness, peace or pain, laughter or silence can all take place in the home.  Walls can be crumbling down, cockroaches invading, or rooms filled with items that seems to be for museum viewing only and we call these places home.  I no longer know how to define my earthly home.  Home seems to be where I rest my head at night, or where my heart is.  Home is with my parents, but home is also with the nations that I love.  I have a home in the Netherlands, and in the Philippines, and in Uganda.  There are houses of friends that make me feel at home as soon as I walk in, and I'm so very grateful. 

On Sunday morning, I loaded up the van with a bunch of friends that I was camping with and drove over to the Drumhill pavilion for an outdoor church service.  The campground I was staying at graciously allowed a local church to come in and lead a wonderful service.  The pastor spoke of home through the perspective of my favourite Psalm.

     15 The life of mortals is like grass,
           they flourish like a flower of the field;
     16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
          and its place remembers it no more.
     17 But from everlasting to everlasting
          the LORD’s love is with those who fear him,
          and his righteousness with their children’s children—
     18 with those who keep his covenant
          and remember to obey his precepts.
                             Psalm 103

The birds swooped around the pastor's head, collecting in the rafters above, as the microphone tried to carry the preacher's words to the large crowd.  God has given us a home in glory land, the things of this earth will fade away.  I kept thinking back to that garage sale that I just had.  My childhood home will never be the same.  My parents are praying about moving to a new place... so all I can do is grasp on to the home that I have in Jesus - for His love is everlasting and my place of peace is riding in His palm.