Every so often throughout our decades of ministry, someone will slip a folded check into my hand. This happened recently, and I quickly thought, How lovely. Perhaps it is a gift for the women in the Global Bag Project.
Mary Ogalo had just graduated 11 seamstresses, awarded them certificates of achievement, and presented each with her own sewing machine (part of the value of which they will pay back to buy machines for other seamstresses who complete training).
Because I was talking with other people, I stuck the check in a pocket just to make certain I wouldn’t lose it in the joyful confusion of meeting and greeting.
An industrial-strength sewing machine with dual controls for electricity and for manual operation (when the power goes off in Kenya, which it is always doing) costs about $325. You can imagine my amazement when I opened the check and discovered it had been made out to me personally and that it was for $5,000. The short message on the distribution line indicated that it was to be used to spread the love of Jesus. I was left in kind of happy shock!
So as soon as I got home, I wrote a thank-you note and said, “I would love to know what God whispered to your heart?” Then I wrote out a $900 check for the Global Bag Project, a $300 check for a friend whose husband has had a freelance job but has not been paid since February, sent $1,000 to the Brendan and Kailey Bell fund to contribute toward paying down their catastrophic medical expenses. I put some money aside so I would be able to pay our friend from Mexico when he had a day here and there without work; the funds would help him and his expertise would help me. The rest I divided between my Hungry Souls ministry and a donation to Mainstay Ministries.
You get the idea—I had joy, overflowing joy at being able to share the generosity shared with me. Indeed, I spread the love of Jesus, absolutely happy with being able to do so.
When we teach about the God Hunt, one of the four categories we use to help people identify God’s intervention in their everyday lives is that of “help to do God’s work in the world.” This is a prime example. Go find some examples of your own.
In Open Heart, Open Home (over 500,000 copies in print) award-winning Karen Mains steps far beyond how-to-entertain you hints to explore the deeper concepts of Christian hospitality-the Biblical way to use your home and an open heart to care for others like God wants us to. Countless pastors have recommended this classic resource as the meaningful example of how the Holy Spirit ministers to and through us to make other people feel truly welcome and deeply wanted.
Perfect for any womens bible study group, especially when used in tandem with the Opening Our Hearts & Homes Bible Study.
This new edition contains 54 helpful ways to make hospitality work whether you live on a country farm, in a house in the suburbs, or in an apartment in the city. Everyone in your bible study will appreciate the life-changing principles of this timeless classic.
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Comforting One Another uses Michelangelo’s Pieta as a metaphor for learning how to comfort those hurting in life.
Author Karen Mains references her personal pain experiences, and unfolds a theology around the meaning of mercy, with pietas from art, literature, film, news photography, poetry and real life building pictures of how God’s love can demonstrate itself through us in tangible ways in today’s modern world.
This is a book for those who are suffering and for those who want to hold and comfort those who are suffering.
Karen defines a pieta as any person or group of people comforting and holding those who are broken or suffering, and in need of the healing touch of our Lord.
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Looking out my dining-room window on the barren March backyard, I saw the string hammock we purchased some 20 years ago, swinging forlornly between the two trees to which it is attached. Through the decades it has gone grey, but today I thought, Oh, I should really get a new hammock. That one looks pretty used.
Believe me, it has been used. Nine grandchildren, the oldest of whom is now 21 and the youngest of whom is now six months, have all swung to and fro in the hammock in the backyard.
I didn’t think about it any more. Come summer when the trees, bushes, grass and flowering plants are all green, when the four bright-blue pillows are bouncing on the string hammock, I’ll forget how forlorn and worn it looked in March. Because notes in my own grandmother’s hand, written to record some of the history of her family, indicated that her mother—my great-grandmother—had died after a fall from a hammock, I always check to make sure the hammock is solid. This grey hammock is sturdily attached to the two trees that guard it; not a string is frayed, not a knot untied.
It would probably serve us well for the next decade.
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Our five-year-old granddaughter, Eliana, came rushing out the door of her house when she saw our car drive up her driveway. “Come! Come!” she shouted, running in her stocking feet across the muddy lawn to the backyard of the next door neighbor. She paused when she sensed we weren’t following close on her heals. “Come! Come and see!” And then, just to make sure we felt the urgency she was feeling, she called, “It’s important!”
When we reached the neighbor’s back yard, we could see what all the fuss was about. Their yard was broadcasted with thousands of blue scilla flowers, little tiny stars sprinkled, as if by magic, throughout all the grass. These were the first flowers of an all too cold, too long-delayed Midwestern spring.
Eliana paused to see if we were appropriately in awe, standing in her muddy stockings and without a coat and jacket. She swept her hand, while grandly gesturing to include the whole wondrous display. “See,” she said. “It’s beautiful!”
Many of the ancients who wrote what is known to us moderns as wisdom literature made exactly the same point. Some think that the most important thing we can do to grow ourselves spiritually is to pause—stop our frantic pace—to open our eyes and to see.
“It’s important!” said the five-year-old child, too impressed to put on a jacket or shove her stocking-feet into shoes. Indeed, it is.
“With my whole heart I seek you …” Psalm 119:10. It is important. Come! Come and see!
I spy God!
Due to my travel schedule and the fact that Carla Boelkens, the Director of the Global Bag Project, volunteers one day a week in the GBP office, neither one of us has had time to appropriately market the beautiful reusable shopping bags the Kenyan women make to earn a living for themselves and their children. Consequently, we have had few home parties in the last months, and home parties are our major venue for selling their products.
I’m clearing my schedule for the days ahead so that I can rectify this, but for the time being, the $225 rent for the storage room we use as a Global Bag Project office is overdue.
I had a meeting in Danville, Illinois this past Saturday. Danville is about three hours from West Chicago, where we live, so I looked forward to the drive downstate as a time I could spend concentrating on prayer, and I had several wonderful uninterrupted hours interceding for the people I love and thanking God for all the amazing gifts He pours into our lives. On the drive down, I decided that I would use the money from my book table sales to pay for the rent, which I thought was about $250.
The women’s meeting was a delight. I’m pretty sure that if I attended Second Church of Christ in Danville, Illinois, all the gals who planned this event would become close friends—believe me, that is a wonderful feeling to have about all the strangers one meets on the road if you are part of the speaker’s circuit.
When I opened the envelope that held my honorarium, I discovered that I had been paid almost $200 more than the fee I was offered—this was an unexpected and welcome generosity (since my personal checking account was down to $34.41). What a lovely God who cares for us in such immediate and practical ways!
Not only that, I discovered that I had sold $249 worth of books, only one dollar short of paying for the GBP rental fee. How does He do this? I wondered. With all His children all around the world, how does God give us what we need when we need it almost to the exact amount? Obviously, I could make up the dollar difference.
I had money enough to pay for the groceries I bought on the way home for the crowd that was coming for Sunday dinner (I’d taken $100 in small bills from my checking account to make change for the book table).
Coming in the front door, I called out to David, “I’m home!”
He replied, “Oh, I have a surprise for you.” It was a small—but nice—royalty check for a book I’d written. (All in all, an exceedingly profitable day.)
This morning, sitting at the desk, I realized (and had forgotten) that my Social Security check is electronically transmitted on Wednesday. Now I have money to pay for help with spring cleaning the yard (two teenagers of close friends are my yardmen), buy topsoil and compost for the garden boxes and the new cold frames, and plant the cool weather crops that hopefully some nearby nursery has started for me.
I’m a wealthy woman! And—the monthly GBP rent is $225, not $250—so I won’t even be out one dollar to make up the difference. Actually, I sometimes feel a little sad for people of great wealth. How can they possibly know the delight of living day to day and seeing God meet their needs, pay their bills in unexpected ways, or feel the rush of joy that comes from knowing that a Heavenly Father loves you so much? Do they even understand that He is able to provide for you down to the last penny?
“On this day the Lord has acted; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24
I spy God!
“The pilot will give up his seat and sit in the cockpit on the jump seat. There are now two seats and if you hurry, we can get you on this flight to Portland, Maine.”
The gate attendant had figured out a way that David and I could both make this flight. We had been standby passengers number 3 and 4 with four empty seats registering on the overhead screen that shows the list of standbys and how many seats are left empty.
I shuddered when the monitor showed that there were now only three seats left, then two, then one. “Both of you can’t fit on this flight. Do you want to fly separately, or do you want to step down?”
As David and I paused, then jointly decided we would wait for the next flight (some five hours later), which would land us at our destination around 11 o’clock at night, she suddenly had a bright idea. “Wait here. If I don’t come back, just know that the plane’s doors have been closed and the flight is scheduled to depart.”
To say the least, it was a tenuous moment, but we are learning to exercise absolutely trust in this flying without tickets world. Airlines move their flight personnel to and fro using the open seats on scheduled flights and sometimes our places in line are commandeered by their necessity to go where they go.
In just a moment or two, she was back, hurriedly hastening us down the runway. “Make sure you thank the pilot,” she called to us about five times. I figured that was pretty important to do.
“Glad you made it on board,” said a stewardess.
“Who do we thank?” I called out. She pointed to a pilot scurrying into the cockpit. “Blessings on you for doing this,” I called to him. “I will bless you this whole flight.” He ducked his head—a younger man, a little embarrassed by the attention—but he had given up a seat with legroom so that one of us could take it and so that both of us could be on the same flight. This meant we would arrive at our destination with plenty of time to find our way after a two-hour drive.
But really, as generous as this unknown man was (moving probably because he thought of his own friends and family members who had also been given standby passes; two extra passes are granted to each employee), it is really God to whom we are suspecting we owe a debt of gratitude. This is the fifth or sixth flight we’ve taken in the last months with standby passes where we’ve been given the last seat on an airplane. Somehow (knowing how really busy and preoccupied He must be), assigned Standby Angels seem to be negotiating seat arrangements, no-shows, and our ownwould-be flyer anxiety levels.
He shall give his angels charge over you is much more than a comforting and familiar phrase from Scripture. These days, it is a practical reality. I think of it every time I am given the last empty seat on an airplane, no matter what my number may be in the standby line.
I spy God!
I returned from Maine with a cold coming on. Oh, drat! I thought. It seems that the last few months since Christmas have been spent treating and recovering from one minor physical distress after another. But a cold is a cold, so I doctored myself with Airborne®, the “Effervescent Health Formula” (according to the label) “Created By A Second Grade Teacher” who was tired of catching her students’ communicable diseases. And, I sent David to Walgreens to pick up bottles of Dayquil® and Nyquil®.
On Saturday and Sunday nights, I slept a good six hours deeply without waking once. On Monday, I dragged myself into the office, but came home early. On Tuesday, I decided to bow to the inevitable and stayed home, napping in the morning, then reading on the couch in the living room where David made a fire for me in the fireplace.
I finished reading 1969: The Year Everything Changed by Rob Kirkpatrick. I labored through our book club book (deadline: this coming Sunday) titled, My Name Is Red by Orhan Pomuk, a modern Turkish author writing a murder mystery set in the 16th Century Ottoman Empire and dealing with the narrow world of the court miniaturist artists. (It was a good book to read on a sick day because it required one’s full attention.) I finished off the small pile of magazines that I hadn’t had time to read, waded through Richard D. Wolff’s Occupy the Economy: Challenging Capitalism and finished the final chapters of Christopher Hitchen’s Love, Poverty, and War: Journeys and Essays, which I have been reading off and on throughout the year since he died.
I did make my dentist’s appointment Tuesday afternoon. Feeling badly that my cold was four days fresh, I apologized to the hygienist, “I thought about cancelling my appointment.” “Oh, no,” she said. “We have all these little kids through here.” Indeed, I could see several wiping their noses even as we spoke.
“In fact,” said the dentist, coming in and shaking my hand, which I instructed him to wash, thinking of all the tissues I had been using (one was even now tucked under my thigh as I was stretched prone on the examining chair). “I think we protect ourselves from bacteria and viruses too much. The first year I was in practice, I caught everything. After that year, I have just been healthy. Getting sick is often the way the body strengthens the immune system.”
So he examined and cleaned my teeth. We commented on the new technology. He scanned my mouth and tongue and gums with a blue light ray to determine that I had no cancer. He came up with a treatment plan for the dental work I needed in the days ahead and somehow the two of us started exchanging humorous comments and started laughing so much that the gals at the desk gathered in the hall to see what was going on in the examining room.
So this is what is good about colds:
You have an excuse to come home early from work.
You can take a morning nap.
You sleep well at night due to the decongestant and antihistamine syrup you swigged at 9 o’clock in the evening.
You can read through all those piles of books that you have neglected.
You can cancel on evening meetings.
You can go to see the dentist anyway and he won’t catch your germs because he’s developed dental antibodies.
You discover that your new dentist has a sense of humor.
Your husband will bring you a bowl of popcorn in the afternoon when you have gone to bed.
You can enjoy one of the last fires of the season in the fireplace.
You have time to thank God for the good life you have lived and the many graces that are experienced in each day, day after day, day after day, even when you have a cold.
I spy God!
Did any of you see the recent movie Argo, directed by and starring Ben Affleck? It’s about a secret operation to extract six U.S. diplomatic personnel who escaped from the U.S. Embassy at the beginning of the Iran Hostage Crisis. That historical event happened in 1980.
“When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, you will know that its destruction is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written.”
(Luke 21:20-24, the Olivet Discourse)
In the late summer of 66 A.D., 32 years after Jesus spoke those words, a Roman force of 40,000 soldiers came from Galilee to quell a riot in Jerusalem. Would you believe that huge army was not only resisted, but routed?
Christians, remembering the words of Jesus spoken three decades earlier, began leaving in large numbers, settling in Pella, on the west side of the Jordan River and north of Jerusalem.
Read the complete article about Advent Watching by visiting my blog.
Last week, partly because of so much travel, and partly because of the arthritis that I suspect is beginning to make its home in my body, I just didn’t have the energy to tackle the work that is complaining to me about not getting done.
Moreover, I had volunteered to be in charge of the church potluck. We are just forming missional communities, and each one is delegated to take care of various potluck dates, but because we are all new to this system, I was a little dubious about what kind of help I would have.
Because our church meets in a school gymnasium, most everything we need has to be hauled from our storage trailer or from our homes, then we need to clean up and haul everything back. My list included: pack up coffee pot, creamers, sugar, white mugs and basket for discards; pull three bins down from the attic, which store 100 rattan serving plates, paper plates, plastic silver already rolled in napkins, tablecloths; clean off outside lanterns and stand; refill salt and pepper shakers, spoon brown sugar in a crock and chopped nuts in a bowl; load up roasting pans with 50 aluminum-foil covered sweet potatoes. Needless to say, our car was full.
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