Saturday, March 24, 2012

A bit of pruning. ..

Isn’t it interesting how pruning, cutting off ,and removing actually leads to growth and addition?  It’s like the math is backwards.  You have to subtract in order to add.   Death precedes life.  Something has to die for life to emerge. God desires to prune us and shape us into the likeness of him, because he knows that it is ultimately better for us as individuals . . .and for His whole kingdom.

A few weeks ago I was mowing the lawn and kept getting tangled up in the trees and low-hanging, overgrown branches.  I was so annoyed with these silly trees that I decided the first thing I would do after mowing was to give a few of them a good hair cut!  They were not only in my way, but were so overgrown that they were actually inhibiting the growth of the other plants around them. . .and looking a bit ugly and gnarly.  I knew that the trimming of these trees would be a good thing- promote growth in the individual trees, as well as make the whole garden healthier and more appealing. 

So it is with Christ. He has this beautiful masterpiece in mind; like an intricate multi-dimensional puzzle that, once put together, reveals the image of him and his kingdom.  Not only will the picture  please Christ, but it will be what the world needs to see as well.  If we allow His pruning, even welcome it; not only will we benefit, but the people around us will profit.

I have noticed that for the last 6.5 months here in New Zealand the Master Gardener himself, Jesus Christ, has been doing just that. .. pruning, trimming , stripping away.  I can’t tell you whether or not he’s getting the desired result just yet (the image of his Son), for I have a feeling it’s gonna take a while.  But perhaps he smiles when he sees a slight indication, a small glimpse that the final picture is beginning to peek through.  Could it be that he has even allowed me a turn at the clippers, partnering with him in the pruning process?  God’s pruning is sometimes painful, but we need not always be combatant towards it.  I dare say that at times, God might hand us the shears and say, “You want to have a go at it? That's OK.  Give it a try. See if you can make a small cut here, or just shave off a bit over there.”

You know, often pruning happens when there is too much of a good thing.  Consider a tree. You want  one that is full and blooming, with branches that extend outward and provide shelter  for the creatures that make a home there. But when the tree is allowed to grow uncontrolled without any grooming, what once was beautiful and strong now becomes a nuisance with heavy branches that scrape the ground , clog up the gutters, and are just plain in the way. Too much of what once was a good thing has now become something that needs attention, needs removal and tidying.

Since moving to New Zealand, God has gently begun pruning away all those things in which I found my security: my family whom I adore, my friends with whom I could laugh and play, a familiar culture with which I identified myself,  a church with whom I learned and served and felt approval, and a job where I felt successful.  Back in Olathe I was known.  I was understood.  I was home. Life was a glorious mish mash of joy and heart-ache, all within the security of a family who knew me from the inside out and friends and co-workers who seemed to ‘get me’. 

But now I find myself 10,000 miles away, unable to rely upon any of that.  And though I have mourned the loss of my old life and cried like a baby at times, I rejoice when I hear the whisper of the Lord, “Step up here with me.  Let’s take the higher road.  You’ve got too much baggage, excess weight.  Release the old affections.  Lose the attachments.  There’s no room for them on this narrow way. The view up here is exquisite, but there’s no way you’re gonna fit up here with all that stuff. ”

So, I hereby declare myself being pruned. Not sure how long it will last, probably my whole lifetime. But I’d rather look like Jesus when its all said and done, so it’s worth it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Kids Club Resumes!

Last week saw the re-start of our weekly "Energise" Kids Club for the new school term.  We never would have expected this, but we had 25 kids the first night!  What a pleasant surprise and a reminder that this is a ministry the Lord is truly blessing!  Many of the kids were returners from the Holiday Programme 2 months before, eagerly awaiting the day we would open our doors once again.  :-) 
For the next 8 weeks we will be exploring what it really means to put on the full Armour of God, as described in Ephesians 6. Your prayers for these precious munchkins and their families, as well as our volunteers and church family, would be greatly appreciated.

In addition to resuming our regular Kids Club, Bible in Schools is now in full swing at Whangarei Primary School! I now have charge of a class of 28 6th graders every Thursday morning and a wide open door to be a missionary in the largest mission field ever, the public/state schools!

Friday, March 9, 2012


It is now officially autumn here in New Zealand, which means that winter is just around the corner.  Thankfully, winters here in the northland don't compete with the bitter cold of Kansas; they are just extremely wet and cool.   

It has now been raining non-stop for 4 days!  My washing has been hanging on the line for 2 days, begging for just a few hours of dry weather. In the midst of the rain, I look back on the beautiful summer days we had here in Kiwiland, just a few short weeks ago.  Enjoy this photo of butterflies dancing about the flowers, set against a bright blue summer sky!
(Yes, this is a pic I took in my garden.  I can't take any credit for the gardens though; I just enjoy them!)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Bible in PUBLIC schools!

"You mean America doesn't allow the Bible in schools, even with all its history of Christianity and thousands of churches across the country?", asked one of my curious Kiwi friends.  He was a bit shocked when I told him that the answer to that question was "Yes".
Fortunately, the same is not true of schools here in New Zealand! CRE (Christian Religious Education), also known as "Bible in Schools" is a viable ministry that is still allowed in some New Zealand state/public schools.  Thank the Lord that we still have an open door for planting the seeds of God's love in one of the largest mission fields ever, the public school!

New Zealand schools are all self-managed and basically under the jurisdiction of their individual board of trustees and principal.  If the board of trustees recognizes the value in exposing children to the Bible as teaching a valid and beneficial way of living, it's gives a green light to volunteer teachers trained with CRE to have access to classrooms for 30 minutes a week.  Conversely, if the board and principal oppose Bible, they do not have to allow it and the whole school community misses out.  At any given time, parents always have the choice whether or not to permit their child to participate in the weekly lesson, and can pull or add their child at anytime.

Yesterday, I completed my first two modules towards national accreditation as a teacher for Bible in Schools here in New Zealand.  When the training is complete in 5 weeks, I will be allowed in the schools as a CRE teacher anywhere in the country, should the opportunity present itself.  This Thursday (Wednesday for you in the northern hemisphere), I will step foot into Whangarei Primary School and begin this incredible ministry to a class of 24 year 5s and 6s (4th grade in US Education system) and am so excited!

It has come to my attention that Whangarei Primary is in jeopardy of losing the Bible in Schools program, because there are vocal board members who oppose Christianity and are trying to get the program kicked out.  Please pray that the Lord would grant us favor with the schools and that we would do such a great job with the kids that the school leadership would realize how much they would be missing out if we were no longer allowed to expose the kids to the Bible.  Thank you for your faithful prayer.