"Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home." - C. S. Lewis

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Not Just in Shansi

"In Shansi I found Chinese Christians who were accustomed to spend time in fasting and prayer. They recognized that this fasting, which so many dislike, which requires faith in God, since it makes one feel weak and poorly, is really a Divinely appointed means of grace. Perhaps the greatest hindrance to our work is our own imagined strength; and in fasting we learn what poor, weak creatures we are - dependent on a meal of meat for the little strength which we are so apt to lean upon." - Hudson Taylor

"Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, 'Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?'  And Jesus said to them, 'Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.'" - Matthew 9:14-15

Just a Thought
Have you ever fasted?  If so, what was your experience?  If not, why not?
Image courtesy of chawalitpix / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thursday, July 25, 2013


It has been awhile since I read an entire book in a single day.  When I first cracked the cover of Corrie ten Boom's The Hiding Place late yesterday afternoon, I didn't think I would finish that night.  But I did, eight minutes before "last night" became "this morning."  I was familiar with the ten Boom story - I think I read a short biography of her once - but I had never read The Hiding Place.  Wow!  I was blown away by her account of faith, love, peace, and forgiveness during one of the darkest times of modern history.  In her book, she traced God's work in her life from her childhood all the way through to the end of the war, and it is a beautiful story. So many aspects of her story have been imprinted on my mind, but I was surprised at how much one insignificant little sentence stood out to me.

A few chapters into the book, Corrie describes their daily routine at the clockmaker's shop there in Holland, aptly summarizing it this way: "And so was established the pattern our lives were to follow for over twenty years."

Twenty years!  They kept that same pattern for twenty years?!  Day in.  Day out.  The family members all had their assigned tasks and responsibilities that they fulfilled each and every day.  They even took their daily walk at the same time each day - on the same route!

They were so content to live that way - no "next big thing" or exciting "change of pace."  They were faithful in the little things (daily walks) and the big: the ten Boom family took in eleven children over the years who needed a home.

Throughout The Hiding Place, through all the stories and anecdotes Corrie ten Boom shares of her childhood as well as her adult years, the ten Boom family was known as a loving, welcoming family.  No matter someone's social standing, problems, or needs, they were welcomed with open arms.  Always.  Even if they had nothing to offer in return.  Even if they were a "competitor," such as the watchmaker down the street.

For so long they had kept the same routine.  For so long they had done things "normally," even, perhaps, somewhat monotonously.  There was nothing significant or incredible about their daily lives, except that they spent each day in faithful service to God and love toward others.

As the black clouds of World War II spread over Holland and the life that they had known for decades began to change drastically, the ten Booms rose to the challenge.  No more daily walks on the same route.  No more simple clockmaker life.  "This was evil's hour," Corrie wrote, adding that "we could not run away from it."  And they didn't.  Even though their entire way of life was completely changed, they faced each new day just as they always had.

Before the War, they had lived in faithful service to God and love toward others.

During the War, they lived in faithful service to God and love toward others.

That's it.  In a way, everything changed.  In a way, nothing did.  The ten Booms still sought to please God in every area of life.  They still kept their hearts and home open to anyone in need.  They still sacrificed their own comfort, ease - now even their safety - for the sake of others.

I'm not saying it was easy, or that they never struggled with the new challenges they faced.  Somehow, some way, those twenty years must have prepared them for this.  Interesting, isn't it?  Even though their circumstances changed so drastically, their attitude before God seemed to be the same as it had been before.  Faithful service and love.

The ten Booms' daily, ordinary, almost-monotonous, seemingly-insignificant life was the setting where God chose to work.  What might He choose to do through ours?

"But this is what the past is for!
Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for a future
that only He can see."
Corrie Ten Boom

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Thrilling Life

If you could meet someone from history, who would it be?  I remember talking about this with a group of young adults recently, and I enjoyed hearing all their different answers!  A few chose people from the Bible (like Esther or David) and some chose historical Americans (George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were popular with this group).

I know exactly who I would choose: Amy Carmichael.  I have always been fascinated by her life.  Set in the exotic backdrop of India, she had an amazing story of rescuing hundreds of children and watching the redemption of their souls occur right before her eyes.  What a thrilling life!

But Amy didn't always see it that way.  She did not move to India to spend time with children.  No, Amy entered India with big plans.  Burdened by the moral darkness of the land, Amy wanted to evangelize the masses that had been in spiritual bondage for so long.  Organizing a small group to go with her, Amy traveled India, spreading the Gospel everywhere she went.

But one by one, little girls in need were brought to Amy's attention and added to the little group.  Traveling evangelism became more and more difficult with little ones afoot, and Amy eventually began arranging for them to be cared for while she went on evangelistic excursions.   Gradually, she realized that even this would not work.

Amy believed God called her to India.  She was passionate about the little girls, yes, but felt her purpose in India was to preach.  Eventually she began to understand the Tamil proverb: "Children tie the mother's feet."

And so the days of traveling and boldly preaching the Gospel ended for Amy.  In its place, she began to take up the daily, monotonous tasks that mothers worldwide find monopolizing their days.  Now there were meals that needed cooking, clothes that needed sewing and washing and mending, children who needed tending.  It wasn't glamorous work.  There must have been so many days it did not feel exciting or exotic.

As the family grew - exponentially - these tasks were divided up.  But there was no task Amy would ask others to do if she was not willing to do it herself; she had come to understand the greatness of even these little tasks.  As she later wrote, acknowledging that Tamil proverb, "So we let our feet be tied for the sake of Him whose feet were pierced" (Gold Cord, by Amy Carmichael).

Maybe Amy Carmichael lived in faraway India.  Maybe she had responsibility for hundreds more children than anyone I have ever met.  But Amy was faithful where God called her - even when her ambitious plans did not line up with God's call on her life.

I may never go to India.  I will likely never be responsible for hundreds of children.  But I can choose to be faithful where God has placed me, just like Amy Carmichael chose to submit to God's will for her life.

One day I will meet Amy Carmichael, but not by going back in time.  Amy now lives in the ultimate realization of her hope - with many others.  Children who were born in India with a dismal future, but were rescued.  Children who were literally enslaved, but later set free for the rest of their lives - and eternity.  All because one woman left her plans behind and followed God's leading.  Even when it wasn't very exciting.  Or thrilling.  Or exotic.

Because she chose to let her days be filled with cleaning and cooking and the needs of hundreds of children, Amy was able to see redemption take place in the lives of children (and adults) around her.  There are so many needs even right here where I live.  There are orphans in my city.  There are widows.  There are lonely, hurting, desperate people everywhere.  In our neighborhoods, churches, homeless shelters, crisis pregnancy centers - everywhere we go - we can see redemption in the lives around us.  What a thrilling life!

Image credit: Christianity Today

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Rest of the Story

Have you ever read an account in the Bible and wished you could read the rest? Sometimes it seems as though the story ends too soon.  We read of a person's crisis, God's intervention, and maybe the immediate results, but there was so much more to their story, right?

Take Zacchaeus. As a tax collector in that day, he knew how to cheat extra income into his own pocket.  One encounter with the Son of God and he emphatically declared his deceptive days over, vowing to give back four times the amount he had stolen and donate half of his true income to the poor.  But then it ends.  Luke moved on to the next event, leaving Zacchaeus behind.  What happened next?  Did he really do it - did he really return all of that money?  Did those he had cheated forgive him?  Did he continue to live honestly, and did he follow through with his generous plans?  What about the Romans - did Zacchaeus ever face any ridicule for his radical change in lifestyle?

Or what about Naaman?  As a Syrian, he was technically an enemy of the Israelites.  But after taking Elisha's advice to dip seven times in the Jordan, he was cleansed of his dreaded leprosy.  At that point, he said: "'from now on your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the Lord'" (2 Kings 5:17).  Did he keep his word?  Did he worship only the one true God for the rest of his days?  What did the other Syrians think of that?

Have you ever wanted to read their epilogue?

And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on” (Mark 12:41-44). 

I wonder if this had happened before?  Had she given her last cents away many times, or was this a first - an act of obedience, perhaps after a sleepless night spent in worry and "what-ifs"?  Maybe she had given "all she had to live on" away before and had experienced the unmistakable provision of God, so she knew He would provide for her again.

Did she know Who was watching her?  What happened next?  How did God provide for her needs?  Was it through a friend, a relative, a stranger - someone completely unaware of her plight?

I don't know the rest of her story.  When she placed those copper coins in the box, she did not know the rest of her story, either.  But she trusted that the One who had led her this far would never leave her stranded here.  So - clink, clink - she put the coins in the box.  And left the rest of her story to God.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Ten Things I Learned from Climbing My First Mountain

A couple of weeks ago, my family and I enjoyed a week in the Colorado mountains.  We had a great time!  I enjoyed the entire week, but one of the many highlights happened early on our last full day there.  My dad, brother, and I hiked a mountain near where we were staying.  I had never hiked a mountain before, so it was a challenge, but a memorable one.  I certainly learned a few things...

1. There is a reason I live in the Great Plains.  Plains.  Flat.  Grassy.  Flat.  Very flat.  I like it that way - I love the wide open sky and beautiful sunrises and sunsets we have here.  This was probably a very little mountain (as mountains go), but given where I come from, it was big enough for my taste.

2. I have a very helpful brother.  Not only did he carry the bag with our water all the way up the mountain, but he said "We're almost there" about a dozen times.  It really helped - the first couple of times.

3. He doesn't think I'm quite as helpful.  Okay, so maybe I didn't need to ask "Are we there yet?" quite as often as I did, but I didn't mean for him to take it personally.

4. "Level of difficulty" is relative.  Seriously, this hike was supposed to be "easy" or "moderate."  Maybe for a marathon contestant, but not for me.

5. Gloves should be part of my mountain climbing gear.  If I ever do it again, that is.  Apparently I have a unique descent style; my dad and brother said it looked like a crab slide.  I didn't see how it looked, but it worked, right?  I survived the trip down.  That was the goal.

6. Some people have strange hobbies.  Like building stone structures atop steep slopes.  That and, of course, climbing said slopes.  But I digress...

7. Pictures don't do it justice.  It was amazing - a gorgeous panoramic view as far as they eye could see.  I tried to capture it on camera, but it is impossible to catch that in a picture (as you can see in the picture at the top of this post).  Besides - the sun was in my eyes.

8. I am glad I went.  So maybe it is a little cliche, but it really was worth it.  It was a great experience!  I'm not entirely convinced I want to do it again, though.

9. Some things aren't worth it.  Like I said, it was worth it - the first time.  But if I had left my jacket or some other personal item up there, forget it.  I don't think I need anything that much.

10.  You never know what is waiting around the next corner - or up the next mountain!  Who knows what adventure could happen?  It might be challenging, it might be something I never want to do again, but it can still be an adventure.  What great memories do you have because you tried something new?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Of Treasure and Trinkets

I glanced in her direction and our eyes met.  I can’t remember for sure, but I think she smiled at me before I turned away.

I don’t go to the mall very often, and on this particular day I was ready to go home.  As I walked through the sliding glass doors, I noticed a man quickly entering the store - but he was not there to shop.

“Security, ma’am, please come with me,” he said to her, showing his I.D.  I turned to look, but our eyes didn’t meet this time; she had already turned back toward the store.

It happened so fast – it really did.  But did it for her?  I have wondered about her.  How long had she been in that store?  When did she decide to take something didn’t belong to her?  What aroused the security officers’ suspicions - were they watching her?  Did they see her pick it up, put it down, and pick it up again in a dispute with her conscience?

Hebrews 11 says that faith is “being certain of what we do not see,” and then tells us of heroes past who lived by that truth.  After recounting the great faith of these men and women, Hebrews 12:1 says that we are “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.”

To be honest, I don’t know exactly what that means.  Can those who have gone to heaven before us see us now?  Do these heavenly witnesses watch us as we finger the valuables of this world, knowing we are toying with making the things of this world our treasure?

Long ago, Moses walked this earth as we did, viewing the world through earthly eyes, just as we do now.  Hebrews 11:26 says that he “considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.”  He knew that his earthly perspective did not see everything.

Now that reward he was looking toward is his.  Now Moses, along with the heavenly witnesses, can truly see.  If only we could see as they do.

Maybe they are witnesses not of what we are doing now, but of what He has already finished.  Witnesses of His glory.  His grace.  His power.  His love.  We learn from their lives and their stories that we can have faith because He is faithful.  Yet we repeat the same sins that they once did, going after the trinkets of this world instead of the treasure of God over and over and over again.  And so they watch us, their voices now inaudible to our earthly ears, but the echoes of their stories still ringing all around.

I don’t know if they can watch me – or even if they would be interested.  But I do know that I was able to watch their lives, either in person or through stories passed down to me.  As I remember their legacy, I press on, waiting for the day when this chapter of my story joins theirs – when we have finally received our reward of true treasure, when what is mortal is swallowed up by life (2 Corinthians 5:4).  The treasure will be ours, and any trinket we once thought was worth our trouble will fade away forever.

“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.  They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:17-19, emphases added).

Image courtesy of Pong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net