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Our Mission to the Himalayas and Beyond

Is there room for Christ in your Christmas?

adoring HimI have to be honest, yesterday I was feeling anything but joyous as I battled for parking spaces, searched for the perfect gifts, and wandered aimlessly through stores. By the time I got back to the house, I felt more like the Grinch than Tiny Tim.

And I realized just how easy it is to lose sight of what Christmas is all about. How we can simply make it about our parties, families, kids etc. And how easy it is to miss HIM in the hustle and bustle of the holidays.

Over two thousand years ago, Joseph and Mary made their way to Bethlehem. As they arrived, tired and weary over their long day of travel, I’m sure all they wanted was a place to rest.

Yet, upon their arrival, they found there was simply no room in the inn. No room for the King of Kings to be born.

As I made my way home, I was reminded  that if I’m not careful, I’m just the same. Failing to make room for Christ in Christmas.

How about you? Have you made room for Christ in Christmas?  Or are you lacking the joy and peace only He can bring?

Christmas is all about Jesus, let our eyes, our thoughts, our focus be upon HIM.

He who took on flesh to dwell among us, who left Heaven and all of its glory to be born in a simple stable, with a manger as his bed.

It’s His birth we celebrate, “O Come Let Us Adore HIM!”

 

 

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Joseph’s Trust

joseph's beliefSo often when we think of Christmas, all of the focus is upon Jesus and rightly so. Next in line is Mary, but very few take much notice of Joseph.

As I was reading through Mathew 1, however, I realized what a difficult situation Joseph, too, was placed in. As I stated in Mary’s Response, I’m sure that life after the news was anything but easy. And I’m sure the gossip spread like wildfire.

Can you imagine what Joseph must have thought when he heard that Mary was with child? He must have been disappointed, afraid and maybe a bit angry. For the Bible tells us that he had in mind to put her away.

Now to better understand the culture, we must take a look at the significance of a betrothal. Most likely this was an arranged marriage. I’m almost positive Joseph was older than Mary, and they knew very little about one another other than what their parents may have told them. Once a couple was betrothed in the Bible times, this betrothal would usually last for about one year. During this time, the husband would work to build and establish a home. While the bride to be would work to prepare the things that would go into the home. At the end of the year, the groom would come for his bride. The bride had to be ready and waiting for her groom to appear.

Yet, for Mary and Joseph, none of this turned out as they planned. While Joseph was busy working to prepare the home, an angel comes to him to tell him that Mary is with child. Now,remember, Joseph probably knew very little bout Mary. So now he is supposed to believe that this child is from God. Yet, the Bible tells us that this is exactly what he did. He believed.

He didn’t put her away, he took her as his bride and remained separate from her until Jesus was born. Though I’m sure many speculated on their marriage and the baby. Though they probably were doubted and questioned by many including their family and friends. They believed God.

Suddenly, Ceaser issues a decree that everyone had to be counted. Now, Joseph must take his pregnant wife to Bethlehem. I’m sure this was not in his plans. But, they went. When they arrive, Joseph searched everywhere to find a room for him and his wife. He knew how tired she was and how uncomfortable. Yet, he could find nothing. Hanging his head, he brought his wife to a stable, because there was no room for them in the inn.

After Jesus was born, Joseph had another dream, warning him to go home a different way because King Herod wanted Jesus dead. So Joseph and Mary settled and lived in Nazareth.

As I read through the Christmas story with Joseph in mind, I was struck by his unfailing trust and belief in the Lord. Though he could have questioned, could have doubted. He did not. Instead He just believed. He walked so close with the Lord, that He knew what he must do.

The Scriptures tell us very little about Joseph after the birth of Christ. We know he was a Carpenter and we know that he and Mary went on to have many other children. Yet, Joseph is not mentioned any further. By the time of the crucifixion, we know that Joseph has passed away. For it was only Mary who stood and watched as Jesus died for our sins.

It seems the life of Joseph was obscure. He is not exalted as being anyone special. Yet, I believe He was special in the eyes of the Lord. For just as Mary was chosen of God to be the mother of Jesus. Joseph was chosen to walk with and raise Jesus up.

Though the Bible tells us very little about Joseph, we know He was a man of great faith. For He trusted and believed God. He walked with the Lord and enjoyed fellowship with him.

Somedays, it is easy to think that our lives don’t count. That we aren’t anyone special. We get stuck in the mundane and feel insignificant.

Yet the truth is, we are special in the eyes of the Lord. He sees and knows everything we do. Nothing we do is insignificant. For when we live for and do all things as unto the Lord, He is pleased. When we trust and believe him, though others question us and though we don’t understand, He is honored as Lord.

Joseph like Mary was no one special. He was not some grand king or from a great family line. He was a simple carpenter. Who worked with his hands and sought to daily provide for his growing family. I’m sure there were many days he wondered at God’s plans and purposes for Him. Yet, in the eyes of the Lord, he was significant.

And in the same way, we too are significant.

This Christmas, let us not lose sight of the little things. Christ could have been born in a grand palace. He could have been born into a royal family. But he was not. He was born in a stable and placed in a manger. It was mere shepherds who were told of his birth and visited him at the stable. (Yes, sorry the wise men were not there, they came to his house probably a year or so later).

Yet, in the eyes of God, this was the night that changed the course of history. The night when God took on flesh and dwelt among us. Setting into action the plans for redemption that God had established from the foundation of the world.

Just a little night in Bethlehem… Just a simple young girl…. Just a Carpenter…. Just a few shepherds…

By no means, though simple and seemingly obscure, all of these things brought forth the Savior of the World.

I’m learning that Christmas is not about the fanfare. It isn’t about the lights, presents, food, family or songs. It is about Jesus and enjoying Him in the little things.

For He is there in the laughter of your child, the twinkle in your husband’s eyes. He’s there in the simple, daily task we must face each day.

Let us not miss Jesus this Christmas!!!

Mary’s Response

Mary's responseI love Christmas. The lights, the songs, the silly movies…

But I love reading the stories of Christmas as well.

And Mary’s song in response to the angels visitation is amazing.

She has just been confronted with some astounding news. Though she is young, is not married, and is a virgin. An angel of the Lord has just told her that she will have a baby. And not just any baby, the Son of God. Whose name she is to call, JESUS.

I can’t begin to imagine what  I would have thought. The questions, fears, concerns I would have felt. I’m sure I would have been full of unbelief. I would have worried what my betrothed would think. What my family would think. What the people in town would believe.

Yet, we see none of this in Mary. The Scriptures don’t tell us what life was like for Mary in the months leading up to the Saviors birth. But, I have a hard time believing it was smooth sailing. I’m sure there was much gossip concerning Mary’s “vision.” Many who probably said unkind things.

However, all Mary could say was, “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said!”

Wow!!! Here is a young girl, confronted with news that will forever change her life, and her only response is to proclaim that she is the Lord’s servant.

Many times when we are hit with difficult news, we fight and resist it.

Not stopping to think that, this situation, this news is from the Lord. That this circumstance is part of the Father’s plan.

Instead we doubt, we question, we worry and fret. While all along, the Lord is right there with us, seeking to grow us and change us into the image of His beloved Son.

Mary wasn’t done. For after the angel had left, Mary hurried into town to see her aunt Elizabeth. If the angel’s visit wasn’t enough, seeing her barren aunt pregnant  I’m sure confirmed all the angel had said.

And Mary broke into song, proclaiming

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my Spirit rejoices in 

God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of

his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed,

for the Mighty One has done great things for me- holy is his name….(Luke 1:46-49)

Though Mary could have been angry at the sudden interruption of her life. Though she could have been frustrated with the Lord and His plans. She was not.

Instead she rejoiced in what the Lord had done. Rejoiced that she, a simple peasant girl was chosen of God to bear the Savior of the World. She recognized that the Lord had done great things through her and blessed His name.

Many times we don’t understand the ways of God. We can’t grasp the plans of God or understand His ways. But, I’m convinced that if we could just see things the way Mary did, we’d rejoice.

For from the creation of time, the Lord was mindful of our sinful state.

From the beginning, He knew He would have Jesus come born of a virgin, only to die for our sins.

Every day the Lord is mindful of us, though we deserve nothing. He is there meeting our needs and working in our lives for His good purposes.

Just the fact that the God of the Universe is mindful of us, is amazing.

But just as the Lord did great things through His servant Mary, He too can do great things through us. As we yield our lives to Him.

May our response be like that of Mary. May we recognize that we are merely servants of the Lord. Acknowledging that the Lord, He is God.

That we might see “life” through His eyes. Grasping His great love for us, and recognizing the great things He does and is doing in and through us.

 

Zechariah’s Song

Zechariah's songIt has been months since he’d been able to speak, all because of his unbelief. Yet, the day finally arrived for his wife to have the baby. The one they had prayed for, so many years. At his birth, everyone assumes his name will be Zechariah, but Elizabeth says no, his name will be John. The people began to talk amongst themselves, and say none of your relatives are named John. Finally, Zechariah ask for a writing tablet, upon which he writes the words, “His name is John (Luke 1:63).” Immediately his voice returned, and he could speak. All who saw and heard of this, knew that this child was from God.

Zechariah then burst into song proclaiming that John would indeed be great, but that one greater than he was to come. He proclaimed that John would prepare the way for the One who would come “to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, to enable us to serve Him without fear in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days (Luke 1:74-75).”

Zechariah sang of the One who would, “give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of sins, because of the tender mercy of God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace (Luke 1: 77-79).”

What a beautiful song, what a beautiful Savior!

The birth of our Savior is indeed a time to celebrate, a time to sing, and like Zechariah to proclaim who Jesus is, and what is to come.

Because of Jesus we can worship and serve the Lord all of our days. Because of Jesus we can know salvation, and be forgiven of sins. Because of Jesus, we can be a light for those living in darkness.

Because of Jesus.

Christmas is a time to celebrate our Savior, a time to rejoice in all The Father accomplished through the sending of His son.

May we like Zechariah sing of our Savior, proclaiming His goodness, His grace, His mercy, and His salvation, for all to hear!

 

 

 

The Stories of Christmas: Elizabeth

ChristmasCould it really be? After so many years of praying, was it actually possible that the Lord had finally heard her prayers?

Earlier her husband Zacharias had come home unable to speak, making all kinds of funny signs with his hands. Exasperated,he probably found some paper and wrote, “I saw an angel and he said, God has heard our prayers, we are going to have a son. His name will be John, and he will be great in the sight of the Lord.”(Luke 1:13-14)

Still hours later she could hardly comprehend such great news. Was it possible that all the years she had been mocked and spoken ill of were to finally come to an end? Would her family finally see her as more than the barren one?

Years and years she and Zacharias had prayed, never giving up hope that the Lord God could answer their prayers. Despite what the doctors and time said, they knew God was greater and bigger.

“After these days Elizabeth his wife became pregnant,and she kept herself in seclusion for five months, saying, This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men.” (Luke 1:24-25)

I’m always amazed as I read the stories of Christmas. The story of Elizabeth and Zacharias is one that always brings me great hope. For years they had wanted desperately to have a baby, but as the years passed, it never came to be. I’m sure there were days of discouragement and dread of family gatherings. I know Elizabeth must have wrestled at times with the lie that God had forgotten her or that He didn’t care. Zacharia too must have felt helpless. Understanding the desire of his wife’s heart and seeing her pain. Longing as well for a son to carry on the family name. Yet, not being able to fix the problem.

The only thing they had was prayer and their faith that God was greater and bigger than their problem. Knowing that nothing was impossible for Him, they clung to hope and faithfully prayed, never giving up!

Where do you find yourself this Christmas? Are you discouraged and defeated like Elizabeth must have felt for years as she prayed seemingly unanswered prayers? Are you feeling the situation God has you in is too difficult, that He ask too much? No matter how impossible the situation is that you face, no matter how difficult.

He is the God of the Impossible. So I encourage you to focus you gaze heavenward. Focus rather not on the situation you’re in, but on the God who walks with you through it all.

For when our gaze is fixed on that which is eternal, and we remember Whom we serve, the joy and peace of God is ready and waiting for us.

Nothing is impossible for the Lord, His arm is not to short, He is able to do above, and beyond all we could ever ask or imagine.

Like Zacharias and Elizabeth, we sometimes forget these things, but God. He is always working to bring about the plans and purposes He has for our lives.

We can trust Him, for His ways are higher and greater than any we could imagine on our own!

 

 

Loosing to Gain

loss for gainWe’ve been back in the States now for about 2 months, half of our visit is over. My kids quite honestly are dreading our return to life overseas. They have seen, tasted, and experienced the good, easy life here, and are not so sure they want to trade it in. There are  days when I struggle with this too. Days when I ask myself if it is really worth the sacrifice. Days I wish for that house with the nice white picket fence, and all it entails.

As our days drew near to come to the States, my kids were counting down the days, but I was dreading the day. This was much to my kids dismay, and confusion. And it was not because I didn’t want to come, it was because I knew that once I had been here awhile, how difficult it would be to leave once more.

This past weekend as we drove to Arkansas to share about Nepal. I read a verse that I have not been able to shake. In Luke 9:24 it says, “For whoever wants to save His life will lose it, but whoever loses His life for Me will save it.” In essence, losing to gain. And the Lord placed a balm upon my weary heart and said, “An earthly loss, for a heavenly gain.”

This does not make it any easier as the days pass all too quick. It doesn’t lessen the heart ache of the things my kids miss out on here, to live there. It doesn’t change the hurt of goodbye. And yet, it does bring it all into perspective. We loose in order to gain.

Luke 9:51 states, “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” Though He knew what was to come, He set His heart, mind, and eyes upon doing the Father’s will. It is my prayer that as our time draws near to return, the Lord will enable this of me as well. All the while, listening carefully as He whispers, “You lose to gain.”

This gain is both here and now, and this gain is heavenly. For though we lose out on a lot of things living there rather than here. We gain so much more there as well. We have the blessed opportunity to be His hands and His feet. To love and be loved by a beautiful people. Our kids get to experience things most of their friends will never have opportunity for. So it is certainly not all loss, now. There is much gain as well.

How about you? What is the Lord asking you to give up or loose for Him? Believe me, I know it feels seemingly more than you can bear, and yet I believe the reward far outweighs the loss, both now and in eternity.

Loosing to gain, an indeed contrast to what the world declares, even to what our friends or family may understand.

Yet, rest assured, the Lord sees and He knows. He recognizes the sacrifice you are making and He is pleased!

A Few of my Favorite Things…

my-favorite-things-2.pngSince being back in the US for our furlough, I’ve begun making a list of my favorite things.

  1. Worshiping in my native tongue, and understanding the entire message!
  2. Long, hot showers,with strong pressure. And no worries about how much water and or gas I’m using.
  3. Unlimited options and choices of things to eat or not to eat.
  4. Air conditioning and soon heat!!!!!
  5. Being able to drive where I need or just want to go.
  6. Green trees and green grass.
  7. Flavored coffee
  8. Blueberries, bagels, and cream cheese.
  9. Easily blending into the crowd.
  10. And of course my family and friends. And coming soon………..
  11.  Fall with colorful leaves and spiced cider
  12. Pumpkins and pumpkin spice coffee
  13. Celebrating Thanksgiving
  14. Christmas decorations, lights and music
  15. Celebrating THE BIRTH OF OUR SAVIOR
  16. And enjoying all of these special things with our family and friends.

 

Oh the Differences….

1st world vs 3rd worldWe have been back 5 days now, and can I just say it is so weird to be back. Not too much has changed here, things are much the same. However, I have changed, therefore, it is like seeing it through another’s eyes.

And yet, I can’t get past how different it is here, than there. I had forgotten I suppose the vast spasm when one compares here to there.

Over the past few years, as mission teams have come, I’ve often caught glimpses of it this through their eyes, but often shaken my head at these observations. Because what seemed so abnormal to them, seemed perfectly normal to me.

But now, seeing things here after having been gone so long, I understand. From the day-to-day life, the daily comforts, the multitude of choices, and the expectations.

When we first arrived, we went out to eat. As I sat down, I became overwhelmed at the choices on the menu. Having a hard time deciding what to order.

We have many resturants back in Central Asia, but the choices are limited. With almost every place offering the same options. But, the menu here was vast, choices it seemed limitless, which left me feeling undone.

Now, as we are at my parents home, surrounded by the pound, and horse field, I can’t get over how quiet it is, how peaceful. A world away from the noisy, hustle and bustle of Central Asia. Where the bells begin to ring at 5am, followed by the incessant horns and dogs barking throughout the day.

And it is so clean, I can walk outside, and my feet barely get dirty, whereas, back “home”, my feet it seemed were always dirty.

I keep trying to imagine what our friends from there would think of our life here. How overwhelmed they’d be, how amazed.

It seems our flight took us more than to the USA, it took us into the future. So, I know when it is time to return, it will also seem to take us back in time.

But we rejoice in this time, rejoice knowing that the Lord has brought us here for such a time as this, to be refreshed, restored, encouraged, and poured into. So that, when we return we are ready to serve once more, and to build up others who are there.

 

 

 

Furlough

furloughIn four days we leave for a four-month furlough, and my heart is a mixture of emotions. There is so much I need to do, and yet I keep acting as if I have all the time in the world. My oldest has been packed since Monday, and I have just begun.

It isn’t that I’m not excited to see our family. It’s not that I’m not looking forward to reuniting with our church and supporters.

The truth is I can’t wait to see everyone, I’m looking forward to experiencing Fall for the first time in three years, enjoying Thanksgiving, and celebrating Christmas. It’s going to be wonderful.

And yet, my heart feels torn.

Our life is not “there” anymore, it is “here.” And yet, we don’t really belong in either place.

And to be honest, I’m having a hard time knowing how to push the pause button on life here, so we can go and experience life there.

I guess I’m feeling a bit bi-polar, not knowing who I am, or where I belong.

And to be honest I’m a bit afraid of fitting back in. I mean I have no clue what the latest styles are, but I have a feeling my three-year old clothes I’m still wearing now, are not it.

And though I’ve tried to keep up on the news in the States, my focus has been the latest news here. So, I’m not sure, I will understand what everyone is concerned with or even talking about.

I know many will approach and say things like, “Aren’t you glad to be home?” And I’ll smile, and most likely say yes, but inside, I will be thinking about our home here.

I’m also a bit nervous over how the kids will adjust. Sure, they are excited, and are listing all the places they want to go, the foods they want to eat. They can’t wait to see the friends they left behind. But, I wonder, will they fit in? Or will they feel like an outsider in their own country?

And then to answer the questions about our life and ministry here? I wonder will our response be sufficient? Will the people really want to know, will they want to hear our stories, or will they only ask to be polite?

I’m sure it will be great…but I’m not delusional, so I know it will also be hard.

And yet, the hardest part will be, when once again it is four days until we catch our flight, and we head back “here.” Except this time, all the emotions I’m feeling about going there, will be directed towards coming back here.

It’s an odd life the Lord has called us to. It can be a roller coaster of emotions. And some days I question the absurdity of it all. I wonder is it really worth it? Are we really making a difference? And I long for a more stable, normal life.

But then I remember the call. I remember why we came, why we go, and I remind myself in the end it will certainly be worth it all.

 

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