Monday, February 22, 2010

They Who Sow with Tears Will Reap with Joy

I am currently doing a Beth Moore Bible study called "Stepping Up" (available here), which is a study of the Psalms of Ascent (Psalm 120-134). She always has so much spiritual meat to chew on, but her study on Psalm 126 struck me in a new way. If you have a Bible handy, read through it real quick.

One of the exercises she had us do was to draw a time line. This was great to see the outline of the Psalm....and it also shows the pattern of Hebrew poetry. This is what my time line looks like:I learn best through pictures and visualizations so I thought this was helpful. At one point in time Israel had been prosperous and it was a land full of laughter and joy. But when the psalmist wrote this psalm they were in a time of tears and weeping and wondering what God was doing. But God promised them that once again their fortunes would be restored and that there would be joy and laughter.

Of course, my first application of the psalm was to our life in Tera. When the six men chose to follow Christ there was great joy. Then they turned back and now we are in a period of weeping. And even the entire time we were in Tera we went through a lot of difficult periods of tears and wondering what was going on. But someday (God has promised it!) there will be rejoicing and we (or whoever God has appointed to do it) will harvest an abundant crop.

But Beth Moore also points out another application to this psalm that I had never really thought of. I had always applied this psalm to missions and to soul winning. And I still believe that application is right, but now I think it is just one application.

But it also has a more personal application. She talked about how she made a visit to Africa and an African leader of a food-distribution project told her how people get so hungry that they eat their seed grain. Then when the rainy season starts they have nothing to plant. That made sense to me since the same thing happens in Niger! The hungriest time of year in Niger is the time between just before the planting of the grain and the harvest. In desperation, while waiting for the first big rain, families often eat their seed grain.

She made the application that we, too, often eat the grain, the seed, the Word of God without letting it come to harvest in our lives. The Spirit speaks to us about an issue....a bad habit, a sin, an addiction, a broken relationship, something He wants us to do...and we take in the Word and are blessed by it and challenged by it, but that's as far as it goes. Instead we need to take the seed and plant it with tears and water it with tears and let it grow and let God give us a harvest. No matter how desperate or hungry we are, we must not just eat the seed! In Niger the seed is generally planted in June and harvested in October, but when we are speaking of what God is doing in our lives, the harvest may be a few days or it may be years. We are to be like the seed in Mark 4:20 "Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop...." And Mark 4:26-29 is a short parable of a farmer who sowed his seed and then it sprouts and grows up and then comes to be harvested. But all he does is sows and weeds....he can't make it grow.

And that, my friends, is what we do. We plant the seed of God in the area of our life that needs to be dealt with. We water it, we weed around it, but we leave the growing of it to our Lord. And He will make it grow so that we can harvest it and come again rejoicing!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Panera Bread

My new favorite fast-food restaurant is Panera Bread. I've driven past numerous Panera's and just thought, "Huh! They probably just have dried up American-style supposedly French bread that is fake and disgusting." So we never stopped. Then when we were in Alabama we kind of had to go to one because everything else was too expensive in the area where we were. So, we tried it and fell in love!

Inside, the colors are all harvest sorts of colors with muted oranges, yellows, greens, and purples. The walls are all different colors. It sounds strange, but it works. The chairs are real wood and there are easy chairs and coffee tables where you can sit, too. It's a place that invites you to bring in your computer, do internet on their free wireless, sip a cup of your favorite beverage and stay awhile. If you're lucky enough you may get a seat by the gas fireplace. The food is served on glass plates and bowls with real silverware.

Best of all is the food. My favorite right now, I suppose because it is cold out, is the soup and 1/2 sandwich deal. With that you get a bowl of soup, a slice of baguette (I always ask for the whole-grain baguette, which even has millet in it), and a 1/2 a sandwich (which looks like a full sandwich to me!). The soup menu varies from day to day, but some soups are served every day. The best is the broccoli-cheese soup. I don't suppose it's very diet friendly, though! But if you are on a diet, there are soups and sandwiches marked as "low fat". The black bean soup is delicious, very filling, and good for you. If you are a vegetarian there is plenty to choose from. I'm not vegetarian, but my favorite sandwich happens to be a vegetarian one. It's the Mediterranean Veggie sandwich. I wonder if in the summer I will switch from trying their soups to trying their salads? And I still haven't tried any of their breakfast menu items or any of their bakery items.

And the cost? Well, I guess I could eat at McDonald's more cheaply because I usually just have a cheeseburger, small fries, and a small drink. So if you buy a larger sandwich, larger fries, larger drink, it ends up not being any cheaper than Panera. And Panera has a better choice of healthy stuff. So I'll take Panera any day!

(All pictures on this post were taken from the internet.)

Monday, February 08, 2010

Update on Andrew and Yoko

About a year ago our SIM Niger family went through a difficult time as two of our family members struggled with serious health needs. We asked your prayer for them at that time and they and we were encouraged by prayers on their behalf from around the world. So, I thought maybe you'd like an update on how they are doing and have a chance to give God the glory for His goodness and faithfulness.

As you will remember, Andrew suffered a seizure, resulting in tests that showed a mass on his brain. He was medically evacuated to Australia where further tests showed that the mass was cancerous. He underwent surgery to remove the mass and then radiation treatment. It has been a long, difficult road for Andrew and his family. In October, Andrew and his family returned to Niger for a short visit, to sell their belongings, and to say proper good-byes. It was a very difficult decision for them to end their ministry in Niger but felt it was not wise to stay because of the lack of availability of MRIs and CAT scans which are necessary to follow up on Andrew's health. They are currently seeking where God wants them next....possibly in a ministry in Australia.

In December Andrew wrote: "December 21 we saw the Neurosurgeon as a follow-up to the MRI that I had on the 1st December. Again very good news. There was only a slight change to the surface around the brain where the tumour was located, which they believe is the result of the radiation treatment. My next MRI is in 6 months time..... Let us all rejoice and live lives of thankfulness for these great gifts, therefor serving him with all our hearts while we have life and breath."

As you will remember, Yoko is our sister who had a hematoma on the brain after a terrible car accident. She was operated on in Niger and was in the hospital for a long period of time and then a long convalescence in Niamey (she works in Galmi). When she was well enough to travel she returned to Japan for a period of rest and recuperation and further medical care. She was able to return to Galmi and to her work there!

Yoko is 65 years old and runs circles around many people half her age! She recently retired and has returned to Japan....not to sit in her rocking chair (or whatever elderly people in Japan sit in) but to work as a SIM representative in Japan. Some of her co-workers wrote tributes to Yoko after attending her retirement party. You can read (and I highly recommend that you do!) these posts at:
Dennis' blog
Deb's blog

As Andrew reminded us....let's rejoice and live lives of thankfulness, serving Him with all our hearts while we have life and breath. We felt that death came close last January and we are so thankful to God for what He has done for Andrew and Yoko.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Growing Up

Have you ever gone back to a place where you had lived as a child....a place that you hadn't been for years and years? When I first went back to Kent Academy, where I had attended as a child, everything seemed smaller to me. As a child I was small of course (I know, I know, I haven't gotten much taller!) and everything at boarding school seemed big and overwhelming to me. When I went back as an adult I discovered that everything was just a normal size!

Recently we were on Long Island and John wanted to go see the house where his grandparents had lived and where his dad had grown up. John had not been there since he was in high school. He did not even recognize the place. For one thing, they had added on to the house and done extensive renovations. But what really surprised him was the size of the trees. They had grown and grown while other things in the neighborhood had stayed the same.

Houses and other buildings may look smaller to us because we grow bigger. But trees really do change and grow and when we go back we find them to be much taller than we remembered.

The 2nd time we lived here at Missionary Retreat Fellowship (MRF) Daniel was in 1st grade and Suzanne was 4. We took this picture beside a tree in our yard. That was an extremely snowy winter and the snow had completely buried that tree at one point in time. This picture was taken in the spring, probably in May (it snowed on Mother's Day that year).

This is now our 5th time at MRF and our 4th time to live in the same house. And you would not believe how that tree has grown! Here are Daniel and Suzanne standing in front of that very same tree!!!!! They are taller, but so is the tree!

They pretty much act the same as they did back then, though! This is Daniel waiting behind the tree to pelt his sister with snowballs when she came out of the house. And is this a hug or a wrestling match? Probably a hug about to dissolve into a wrestling match. Trees grow, kids grow, but some things never change!