Thursday, September 27, 2012

Daylight Savings or Saving Daylight?

Given that it is now spring in New Zealand, this weekend marks the start of Daylight Savings time. I couldn't be happier!  If you know me at all, you know that I am a child of the light, eager to squeeze every last drop of sunshine out of each day like a child slurping the final morsels of chocolatey goodness off the brownie batter bowl.

The birds seem to know that daylight savings is on its way.  Before the first break of dawn and long before my alarm is set to ring,  their song summons me from among the trees outside my window.  "Wake up!", they seem to say. "The night is over; the day is nearly here.  From our canopy high above the trees, we can see its golden glow rising over the mountaintops.  Quick!  It's coming!  Get up, get up!  The King is shining his light upon us; I wonder what he has planned for this day!"

What a wonderful thought.  The King of creation has once again spun into existence a new day.  And he did it. .. for us!

You know, darkness is the absence of light.  Cold is the absence of heat.  God separated light from darkness, not because he created darkness, but because darkness is merely the lack of light.  Then in his creative genius, he turned on the light and the entire created order was changed!
 "God called the light, 'day' and the darkness 'night'. And evening passed and morning came, marking the first day." (Genesis 1:5).
Likewise, the law of God acts a spotlight on the hidden sin of our lives, exposing it clearly so that it no longer need be an obstacle of stumbling for us anymore. We can feel much more at ease living the way in which God intended for us.

This has triggered my thinking about why I am here in Whangarei, New Zealand.  Of all places in this marvelous planet of his, why did God call me here to this little Kiwi town that seems riddled with suicide, domestic violence, and parent-less children?  The answer is as clear as day: To turn on the light, I say!

Without Jesus Christ, there is no light, no hope. There is darkness here in Whangarei . . .but thank God it doesn't need to stay. What is needed here is for more people to "turn the lights on" and dispel the darkness.  Just imagine.  If God's people shine brightly in the corners of the city where they find themselves, then the city will be filled with light and it won't be such a scary place anymore, just as a room filled with light is no more frightening to a little child than a bowl of ice cream.  :-)

Within each new person who places their faith and full dependence upon Jesus Christ is placed a light. This person then carries the light of Christ into their relationships, actions, attitudes, thoughts. And where once there was the darkness, light is now found.  Where a heart once was cold and hard, tenderness and mercy is now embraced.

Are you a child of the day? 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

"In His Image" : NZ District Ladies' Retreat 2012

Who painted pictures, baked bread, sang songs, and climbed a mountain this weekend? I did.. .along with 69 other women from New Zealand and the Pacific Islands!
Our 2012 ladies' retreat was a big hit as we celebrated what it means to be made in the image of the one true God!  We hunkered down in picturesque Whangarei Heads at the base of Mt Manaia, overlooking the surrounding bays. As you can see from the photos, the scenery was to die for!  But beyond the fun times and fellowship was a very real sense of God's presence, which was invaluable. 

We enjoyed inspiring testimonies and speakers, times of prayer, delicious meals, and many activities that gave us an opportunity to exercise our creativity just like our Creator God.  :-)

This is now my second annual NZ district ladies' retreat and I count it a privilege to have been part of this once again, further solidifying relationships that began over a year ago when I first moved to New Zealand.

As one of the organizers, I have to admit that planning for such an event can take it's toll on your system.  Perhaps we all shared a little more than just love and sisterhood this weekend.. .maybe a flu bug as well.

Monday, September 17, 2012

In Aukland with new 365M students

 We are thrilled to welcome 4 new 365M students from Nazarene Theological Seminary to New Zealand!
 I am in Auckland at the moment, enjoying camaraderie with fellow Americans, meeting up with pastors on our district, and preparing to bring my two new besties, Jesse and Jenna Briles, home with me today to Whangarei!

This weekend we will also be hosting "In His Image" NZ District Ladies' Retreat 2012!  70 women are registered and we are truly anticipating a blessed time celebrating what it means to bear the image of Jesus Christ as women.
Life is very busy at the moment, but great days are ahead!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Timless earthlings vs Patience

 Waiting in line.  Waiting to grow up.  Waiting to get to the destination.  Waiting to get married.  Waiting to have kids. Waiting to have grand kids.  Waiting to retire.  Waiting to get that job promotion.  Waiting to heal.  Waiting to be restored.  Waiting to know God’s will. Waiting. 

Waiting has never been something us earthlings have been good at!

Yet, for some reason, waiting is associated with patience, and it is a character trait required of Christians.  How can I possibly be patient in life if that is not my normal M.O., my normal nature?  And why must I learn to function within the bonds of time and be subject to its limitations when I was created to be timeless? After all, God is the God of eternity and Ecclesiastes 3: 11 says “He has placed eternity in the human heart. .. .”

Patience is the fruit of the Spirit that has boggled me the most. It is both a frustration and a gift, and like the other fruits of God’s Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5, it is a highly counter-cultural way of living.  But why should it surprise me when God requires his people to be counter-cultural and different from the rest of the world?  After all, to be holy like God literally means to be set apart. 

At the heart of patience is a trust in God.  Oddly enough, as if in some backward math formula, we are patient enough to trust God with eternity, yet fear the next 5 minutes. Perhaps the best way to manifest the fruit of patience has more to do with the immediate future than eternity.  What we do and who we trust NOW will define the journey for the long haul.  So, in an oxy-moronic (is that a word?) way, patience actually begins now.

Ecclesiastes 7:8 (NLT)
8 Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.

Pictures: 1) Rock Solid this week; 2) Rock Solid this week; 3) Bible in Schools

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Joy down deep. .. way deep!

Homemade bread makes me happy. Flowers make me smile. Jokes cause me to giggle (especially when they come from the mouth of my cousin Jon!)

Hardships bring me joy. Testing brings me contentment. Struggles produce fulfillment.
WHAT? You might be thinking, "I think she lost a few brain cells on all those long flights back to New Zealand!"
learning about 'joy overflowing' at kids club!
The truth is, there is a profound difference between joy and mere situational happiness.

Joy is like a mysterious little treasure hidden deep within the recesses of our heart; one which the pirates of circumstance can’t steal away. In order to get to your joy, they'd have to penetrate down deep through the Holy Spirit who resides within you to get to it. Well, that ain't happening unless you decide to hand over the goods.

Joy in its truest form is entirely independent of what is going in your life, but rather finds it source in Jesus Christ. That’s why it is possible to say,“The Joy of the Lord is my strength” when everything outside has '"turned to custard" (as the Kiwis say).

This is why, like James, you can say, “Consider it pure joy brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance and perseverance must finish its work so that you can be complete and mature, not lacking anything.”(James 1:2)

 This does not mean that I like the 'trials of many kinds' have occurred or that I'm secretly enjoying suffering. It does mean that I can rejoice in the blessings, growth, and spiritual (and maybe even physical) muscles that will result from these trials when I conquer them with Jesus. Then, when the journey has ended, I will be complete and mature, not lacking anything. (I can't wait for the day when I don't lack anything; it's definitely not now! :-)

So, is anyone in need of some joy today? Are you desperate to shed the grave clothes of depression or self-absorption? Do you need a lift? No need to wait. Here's the recipe for joy:

John 15:4-11 (NLT(Jesus speaking)
4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.
5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.
6 Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.
7 But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!
8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.
9 “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.
10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.
11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!
Read that again.

What can be better than being eternally connected to your life source (remaining in Christ), finding fulfillment, purpose and satisfaction in your work (bearing much fruit), knowing your prayers will be answered on earth. .. and then eventually stepping right into eternity with Christ, where no more tears will be shed, and no more struggles and obstacles remain overcome.
This is joy!