Sunday, May 21, 2017

Fixing Our Focus, Part III

Fixing Our Focus, Part I
Fixing our Focus, Part II

Looking through the viewfinder or at the screen on the back of your camera makes taking pictures fairly easy.  You more or less get what you see through the viewfinder.

But have you ever seen a photographer trying to take a picture with the camera facing behind them?  It even sounds ridiculous, doesn't it?  You take pictures of what you can see, and you can't really see behind you. For a photo challenge where you take a picture a day for a month, the challenge was "hair".  I tried and tried to take a picture of the back of my head.  It was way harder than I thought it would be and this was the best I got.  Yeah, it turned out to not really be focused behind me.


I suppose it’s possible to hold your camera backwards and take whatever kind of picture you get, but if you can’t see in the viewfinder, it’s awfully hard to find the focus.  Paul reminds us to “forget what is behind”.  Yes, there is a sense of remembrance, especially as the remembering brings to mind God’s goodness to us in the past.  There is nothing wrong with memorial stones.  But if we keep ruminating on how we hurt somebody, on how they hurt us, on all of our awful sins that Jesus has already forgiven, on how we were victimized, on how we have been dealt a bad lot, we will run off course just like a runner who keeps looking back runs out of his lane.  We will trip and fall.  We just can’t run well while looking back any more than a photographer can take a good picture holding his camera backwards.

Finally, a photographer can take a landscape picture or a picture of an event happening in a room.  The photographer will use a broad focus, showing everything at once.  The foreground, the background, and the central areas all have the same focus.  

While that is easy enough to do in photography, seeing all of life in focus isn't something we can do right now.  For now only God can see the whole picture and understand how it’s all working together.  We need to trust him for our future.  As we do, we will be focusing on Jesus and the end of the race.  And someday the mystery will be fully revealed to us and we will no longer see as through a dark glass.  It will all come into focus for us.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  Hebrews 12:1-3

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mom, Be Easy on Yourself

Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there and to all those who are honoring their moms today.  

Here in Niger Mother's Day isn't a thing.  In fact, most moms soldier on day after day without a lot of praise or gifts of appreciation for their hard work.  But like moms everywhere, they take pride in their kids, work hard for them, and defend them from those who would harm them.  At the same time, they have few expectations of receiving gifts, praise, or breakfast in bed (they would probably think that's a hilarious concept!). 

Let's be encouraged by our Nigerien sisters and be easy on ourselves today, Moms.  Let's be easy on our kids and husbands, too.  Maybe all of your expectations for the day aren't met, but try to look at the good things in the day.  All of us have moms, and even if your relationship with your mom isn't good, she did give you life. We may not get gifts, visits from family, or even much recognition.  But we have our children and we have love.  And most of us have far more than our Nigerien sisters have as far as housing, clothes, schooling options, and food.  You may feel that you aren't a good mom, but if you are doing the best you can, praying to God for wisdom, and are not abusing your children, then you're a good mom.  So be easy on yourself.

John is gone to England and obviously my kids aren't here.  But I went out for lunch with a visitor who arrived in the country last night and who is headed east tomorrow.  Afterwards I took her souvenir shopping.  My neighbors also invited me for lunch, but I couldn't be two places at once. :) I got to WhatsApp with my kids (We made a family chat so we can all be on at the same time.  It's wonderful!) This evening I'll call my mom.  So, even though it's not the Mother's Day I would choose for myself, I do choose to make the best of it and remember that this is the day the Lord has made.  I will rejoice and be glad in it.  It's the day our loving Father has planned for me and I don't question why it's not my idea of the perfect Mother's Day.

I know there are many women who have painful, relationships with their mothers and who have been deeply hurt by the person who should love them most.  There are many who do not have children but would long to have their arms filled with a deep longing that only a child can satisfy. Today the pain is even more intense as they look around and see motherhood being celebrated. Please know that you are loved and that Jesus can fill your heart. I hope that today you can also find reasons to rejoice and that the day is not too difficult and painful for you.  Be easy on yourself.  God understands the pain in your heart.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Another Year Done and Dusted

Today is my birthday, and just like that, another year, done and dusted.  Life sure is hard sometimes, but I am so blessed with the life I've been given.  "LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.  The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance." (Psalm 16:5, 6)  I thought it would be good to look back over this past year of mine to see how the Lord has been my portion and my cup and how He has delighted in me and blessed me.

May 2016 -- The highlight of last May was a trip to Oxford and two weeks with John while he was fulfilling his on-site study requirements.

June 2016 -- On the way back from England we spent an overnight in Istanbul, Turkey.  John spent the first four years of his life in Turkey, so we had both wanted to see more of the country than just the inside of the airport.

July 2016 -- OK, I'm cheating just a bit because there were two really significant events in July.  One was that we got to visit our TIMO team on location (only part of the team is pictured). 

And the second was that we got to attend the installation of a pastor in a small village church that we helped to get started.  We know there are still many challenges ahead for them, but this was a very rewarding day for us.

August 2016 - In August we celebrated our 30th anniversary.  We decided to celebrate at church with our family there.

September 2016 -- September must have been kind of boring because I sure don't have many pictures.  Sometimes living here we see all the dryness and dirt and brown and feel discouraged.  But if one really looks, there is color to be seen all around us.  The cloth and outfits worn make up for the lack of color in the landscape.  And look at this gorgeous sunset!

October 2016 -- Well, what September lacked in excitement, October more than made up for it as we added a new grandson to the family.  We were able to spend our vacation in the USA and spent time with the newest member of the family, Hezekiah James Hines, as well as with his big sister, Tera.  It was so much fun to get to know her now that she's old enough to interact with us.  We loved having all of us together for a little while.

November 2016 -- We got to visit my parents and John's mom during November and spend more time with our kids and grandkids.  When we arrived in the USA in October, we never dreamt that we'd get to spend Thanksgiving with John's three brothers and their families!  But they celebrated in Cleveland where our nephew plays football, so we were able to drive up for the day.  Not everybody is in this picture, but this is a good representation of the crew.

December 2016 - We returned to Niger to find our church going through some struggles.  There were a lot of extra teaching and prayer times in December.  It was a sad time and hard to get into the Christmas spirit, but we did celebrate and enjoyed the day in spite of everything.  I just want to say that we have seen a real spiritual awakening in several of our Bible study members and they trace the beginning of that back to these meetings we had in December.  So, glory to God, He works for His glory even through difficult situations!  December is ladies' month at our church and here we are all dressed in our "uniform".

January 2016 -- The next few months were tough months with some stressful things at work as well as John having to attend many, many meetings at church.  That stressed him, which stressed me.  But God gave us the strength to keep going, hopefully with joy (at least more days than not).  A big highlight every year is our Spiritual Life Conference in which all our missionaries come together.  Here is John doing what he loves to do.

February 2016 -  A large part of John's doctoral research was doing case studies at three different local churches.  We did follow-up visits to those churches in February and March.  Here's John hanging out with a church member.  It's been enjoyable to get to know some of the other churches in the area and we hope we can stay in touch even when the doctorate is completed.

March 2016 -  The harmattan helps to keep days cooler during November - February and even into March we will have very pleasant nights.  Harmattan is the dust that blows down from the desert.  It's a bit hard to breathe.  I had a terrible flu in January and John and I were both sick with respiratory problems in March.  Yeah, when you breathe this, it's a wonder we aren't sick more often!  I'm so thankful for overall good health.

April 2016 - The big news for April, of course, is that we have twin grandsons, born on April 21.  Welcome to the world Levi Daniel and Everett Michael DeValve!  We can't wait to meet you in person!

May 2016 - We really enjoy our Bible study group and God has worked in many of their lives this year.  Many of them have or will soon be graduating and we'll be going on home assignment.  As with any group photo, you never get anybody but here we are our "patriarch John".

And for the year ahead.....
We will finish up here and go on home assignment in July.  I have so much work to do between now and then!
I am really looking forward to spending time with our parents, with our kids, and with our grandkids.  This will probably be the main highlight of the year ahead.
We will be reporting to our supporting churches and we already have most of our fall schedule lined up.  We will start working on our spring schedule soon.
John will be doing the final defense of his dissertation and the doctoral process will be behind us.
We will be on the road a lot, but we hope to visit some fun places between destinations.

I pray that I will continue to have a passion for sharing the gospel, for helping the disinherited (to borrow a term from Howard Thurman), and to love God above everything.