Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Discovering Jesus with Rock Solid

Tuesday nights are always filled with fun and faith as we gather at Kamo Intermediate School for "Rock Solid", an interdenominational youth outreach.

 The majority of our youth come from homes where participating in church is not a common practice and where the name of Jesus is nothing more than a curse word.  Rock Solid provides a safe place for youth to come and spend energy, get a good feed, and learn godly principles.

This week we have launched a new "Discovering Jesus" course for those kids really keen to learn more about who Jesus is, what he claims to do, and how that affects life in the here and now.  It is an exploratory small group Bible Study of sorts, geared for 11-14 yr olds.  We now meet shortly after school, before the traditional Rock Solid club nights begin and tonight we praise God for five students who took the plunge and attended the course.  This will continue for six weeks, after which the youth will have the chance to evaluate what they have learned and decide for themselves if they really want to follow Christ.

I am incredibly blessed to be a part of this very special season in the lives of these young people before I leave New Zealand!

Please pray that the words of Christ, recorded in His Word, will penetrate the heart of every young person and bring about transformation.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

More Blessed Messy-ness!

A few months ago I posted a blog entitled, "Blessed Messy-ness", describing some of our interactions with the precious children at the Mango Tree Centre for the Disabled in Tonga.

Today's post takes us not to Tonga, but back here to New Zealand, for more blessed messy-ness.
At Kids Club on Sunday night we experimented with a new recipe for homemade "Softer-Than-Clouds Play Dough" : cornflour and hair conditioner!  Strange, but it works!   Only two ingredients needed for this heavenly stuff.  

Tables were covered in plastic and floors were lined with tarps, in hopes of averting a caked-on-the-carpet cornflour crisis.  That was short lived, as you can imagine, and by the end of the night we were all sporting a soft white film on our skin. .. and so was the carpet.

Despite the lengthy clean-up process and getting our money's worth out of the vacuum, all the kids remarked that it was one of their favourite activities of the night.  (An added bonus of creating the play dough is that it leaves your hands silky and smooth!)

Now don't worry. We did more than just make a royal mess of the church worship facility; we also participated in our usual "Prayer Box" prayer time, practiced our memory verse for the month, and discussed the characteristics of a godly mother.  We even made some quite nifty Mother's Day cards.

Sometimes (quite often, actually), life is messy.  There really is no way around it.  Plans fail, people disappoint you, you disappoint others, ends don't seem to meet, decisions are difficult, and it all feels a bit cluttered.  The residue of sinful and stupid choices or natural disasters or just plain tough stuff seems to leave an annoying film on everything else in your life.

 And yet, in the midst of the mess is where you find the Creator God.  I don't know if you've noticed, but He's ingenious really, surprisingly skilled at crafting, moulding and mixing seemingly bizarre ingredients to fashion something far more beautiful and helpful than you expected. They key is to meet the Creator in the mess and fight the urge to clean everything up yourself.  We humans are terrible custodians at times, entirely unable to give ourselves a good washing.

 We need a God who can forgive us our sins, cleanse us from unrighteousness, respond to our prayers and do life WITH us every single day of our lives.  Only when we allow God access to our mess, can He clean us up and turn things around for our good.

Let me clarify and tell you plainly.  Trials in life do not automatically make you stronger.  In fact, some can wreck you and cause serious damage if left unattended.  What you must do is surrender your difficulties and messes TO God so that he has permission to make a Romans 8:28 a reality, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

This then is "Blessed Messy-ness".

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Venn Diagram: Between what was and what will be . . .

Anyone recognize this?

Yes.  This is a Venn Diagram, that ever-so-helpful tool that we all learned how to use in 2nd grade for identifying and displaying similarities and differences between objects, ideas, people, etc.

With two months left here in New Zealand, I feel as though my life is a grand Venn diagram.  Future marriage and ministry in the United States lay on one side, while the past four years of life here in New Zealand lay on the other.  My current reality occupies the space in the middle.

Somewhere between what was and what will be is, well. . . what is.

It is in this middle space where you will find me between a "hello" and a "good-bye", between the "Land of the Long White Cloud" and the "Home on the Range".  My inner self churns like the perfect storm, full of delightful anticipation of the future, yet grief-stricken as I bid farewell to the past.

Transitioning out of Aotearoa and into America is like simultaneously dwelling in two parallel universes.  I'm a bit at a loss for words, really.  Fellow missionaries and expats will understand that to say things feel "bittersweet" would be the understatement of the century.  Being a "square peg in  around hole" isn't quite adequate.

I am making plans and taking steps toward the next chapter in my life,  while the current chapter is still being written. I am making decisions as if I were living in Kansas City, while still residing in New Zealand.  Likewise, I am making decisions here in New Zealand that will affect life after I leave, some of which I will never see the fruit or consequences.

Discombobulating?  Yes.   Frustrating?  Yes.  Difficult? Yes.

Worth it?  YES!

Amidst the emotional turmoil involved in making the change, there is abiding peace and overflowing joy.  God has called me and blessed me beyond words!  Marriage and eventual motherhood await.  Ministry will take on a new shape and reunions with old friends and family members will be sweet.

In all of this, I see a snapshot of the Kingdom of God.  Disciples of Jesus Christ find themselves in a similar situation, caught between two overlapping kingdoms:  the earthly kingdom and the heavenly kingdom.  We strive to operate according to God's principles which drive the heavenly kingdom, while still residing here on earth.   We don't quite fit in with the world, yet are called to live in it, love it, and sacrifice for it, just as Jesus did.

  There is a subtle restlessness that remains inside each one of us, something that whispers, "This is not my real home; I'm just passing through. .." The Bible tells us that the "Kingdom of God has come", because Jesus is present all over the world through his Holy Spirit. And yet, this kingdom is not yet complete, because the power of sin is still active in the world for a little while longer.  We dwell in the "now, but not yet."

Only God can help us to live within this creative tension effectively.  It is a fine art, one that only He can teach us to perfect.  I guess perfecting the art of living well and loving well wherever we are on life's Venn Diagram is what walking with Jesus is all about.

Somewhere between what was and what will be is what is.

Lord, let me trust you here.