Hymns.

I love hymns. You know, the really old ones that have been sung in churches for hundreds of years. Yeah, the ones that aren’t hardly ever sung anymore? Those ones. I love them. I probably should have listed that under my 6 Random Things in Who I Am. I think it’s a shame they’re not sung hardly ever anymore. I have to laugh every Sunday when the “token hymn” is thrown in obviously for the older folks at church. Nobody up front leading looks remotely like they want to sing it (except my dear mother at the piano), but they do it to “appease” the older generation. So sad. There’s so much depth to old hymns, I think. I wanted to share my top 10 with you and the reasons why. I’d LOVE to hear what your favorites are and why! Seriously – I’m not just saying that.

#1: “How Great Thou Art.” Why? When I was in like 2nd grade, the first Gulf War was going on. Our next door neighbor was out in Kuwait fighting in it and I took to writing him letters. He wrote me back and even brought me souvenirs when he finally got home from his tour. I remember him giving his testimony in church one night and saying that while laying out under the stars in the desert in the middle of the war, he would sing the second verse to “How Great Thou Art.” I still can’t sing this song without tearing up, thinking of him. “When through the woods and forest glades I wander and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees, when I look down from lofty mountain grandeur and hear the brook and feel the gently breeze – Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee! How great Thou art! How great Thou art!”

#2: “And Can It Be?” Why? I’m a daddy’s girl and this is my daddy’s favorite hymn, too. He used to have the congregation sing it so often in Vermont, I’m positive they got sick of it because after that for years, we hardly sang it at all! After studying grace and mercy and redemption at Bible School, this song came alive to me. I love Charles Wesley’s story, too. The entire song is just a beautiful, dramatic, emotional rendition of grace. “Amazing Grace! How can it be that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?” Can’t you just hear Charles Wesley belting this song out in a field somewhere in Europe, tears streaming down his face, hands uplifted to the sky, as the realization of what God did for him finally sunk in?

#3: “Come Thou Fount.” Why? We used to sing this song at Bible school. I think our praise director took a liking to it and passed it on to the rest of us. I love the part where it says, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love! Take my heart, Lord, take and seal it – seal it for Thy courts above.” That song rang through my head so often while at school because it was so applicable. Prone to wander, Lord – I can feel it coming! Seal my heart for You and You alone.

#4: “To God Be The Glory.” Why? Two words: Fanny Crosby. When I was a kid, I listened to “Adventures in Odyssey.” They did one episode where they “interviewed” famous hymn writers and Fanny was one of them. She was blind from birth and yet never complained. My favorite line from Fanny is (paraphrase, I’m sure), “I don’t mind being blind because the first face I’ll ever see is that of my Savior.” Wow. “O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood! To every believer the promise of God. The vilest offender who truly believes that moment from Jesus a pardon receives!”

#5: “Wonderful Grace of Jesus.” Why? My answer is “Why not?!” This hymn is so full of JOY. I love not even participating in this one and just listening to the echoes and the people singing as loud as they can and the one or two women who can actually hit the high note at the end. “Oh magnify the precious name of Jesus – PRAISE His name!” Yeehaw! 🙂

#6: “When We All Get to Heaven.” Why? It reminds me of my grandparents – Ray and Ruth Ribble who passed away just a year apart, 2001 and 2002. I played my own rendition on the piano of “Be Thou My Vision” mixed with “When We All Get to Heaven” for my grandfather’s funeral. It was a hymn they loved and I will always, always think of them when I sing this song. “When we all see Jesus we’ll sing and shout the victory!”

#7: “Be Thou My Vision.” Why? The lyrics are so powerful in this song. “Riches I heed not nor man’s empty praise. Thou mine inheritance, now and always! Thou and Thou only first in my heart. High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art. High King of heaven, my victory won, may I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s sun! Heart of my own heart, whatever befall still be my vision, O Ruler of all.” I want that played at my funeral, FYI.

#8: “I’d Rather Have Jesus.” Why? Again, the lyrics. “I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold; I’d rather have Jesus than have riches untold. I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands. I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hands than to be the king of a vast domain or be held in sin’s dread sway. I’d rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today.” I try to make that my motto every day when I get up, but unfortunately, it doesn’t always happen. And you should see George Beverly Shea sing this song! So much expression. Love it.

#9: “The Love of God.” Why? The word pictures in this song make me want to write some cool story to go along with it, but I can’t think of anything comparable to it! Listen to this: “Could we with ink the ocean fill and were the skies of parchment made, were every stalk on earth a quill and every man a scribe by trade – to write the love of God above would drain the oceans dry nor would the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky.” Can’t you just see it? So cool.

#10: “Because He Lives.” Why? This song gives such hope! Last year at Candidate Orientation for BCM, we had two couples who were Latino – one was our Latin American Director and the other, the Director for Spain. Our Latin American director and his wife could SING! And this was their song of choice, “Porque el vive.” They would BELT this song at the top of their lungs in Spanish! Phenomenal. Gives me goosebumps just thinking of it.  “Life is worth the living just because He lives.” How true is that?

I love the history behind hymns, too. I’m sure there is history behind the newer praise choruses, but they haven’t been around long enough to circulate as much. The history behind hymns make them come alive all the more. Stories like Fanny Crosby and Horatio G. Spafford and Martin Luther make those songs become more than just hymns and old melodies. They come alive! And they’re so full of Scripture and truth, they speak for themselves. Ah hymns. If only other people enjoyed them as much as I do! 🙂 What are yours?

Here’s a video for “The Love of God” sung by MercyMe. Enjoy!

Departure Date.

A year ago, we had set our departure date for Peru for September 2008… the end of this month. But, as of April, our support level has ceased going up. So, our departure date has had to be moved. After a lot of prayer and discussion, we have finally changed our deparute date to the beginning of JANUARY 2009. The precise date has not been set, but that’s the general time frame. We hope to have the actual date set soon since we need to begin the visa process and purchase plane tickets.

In some ways, we’re excited about leaving in January. It allows us to be here for the holidays one more time and we’ll arrive in the summer months down there instead of winter. So, we’ll be getting there in time for me to get ready for the new school year instead of jumping in towards the end of a school year. We’re praying that the Lord provides all the funding for our house so that Brian and his team will be able to get our house built as soon as possible after arrival.

So… our final support raising efforts have officially begun and the countdown on my cellphone can now be updated. 🙂 January 2009!

Two Years Ago.

It’s funny how God works. He seems to put exactly what we need into our lives at exactly the right moment. Two years ago, life was completely different than it is today. But, I was going through the same Bible study I am now. And yet, it’s still applicable.

You may say – wait – you’re doing the Bible study through Women of the Harvest, right? Yes… but I also have other stuff on the side. Much like I read more than one book at once, I do more than one Bible study at once. Not with the objective of putting myself into every one… Now that just sounds bad. But, I have my “primary” study and then I have the study that I’m re-reading and participating in the small group aspect of, and then I have my personal Bible reading that I do on my own. I hope that doesn’t sound so bad. Moving swiftly along.

Let me start off by telling you some background. Brian and I were married three years ago. Our desire had always been to work with children, probably with an organization based out of Missouri. We thought we’d live in South Dakota for only a few months and then head out to do some more training. But, as those months went by, we felt less and less called to work with that particular organization for many reasons. At the same time, we were heavily involved in the church Brian grew up in and were considering that maybe Brian should do some seminary work in order to be ready to take over as senior pastor when the pastor retires. We’d been asked by pretty much the entire congregation (keep in mind, small church) if we were going to take over the pastorate when the pastor retired. So, we were pretty excited about this possibility. We were also offered the position of live-in managers at the motel I was currently working at. We would live in the motel and have no expenses whatsoever except food and insurance. Brian could do seminary online, we’d finally have similar working hours and see each other, and we could save up some finances. Perfect.

But, all that dwindled away as well. The church we were attending all of a sudden switched some key doctrinal points (like, they stopped preaching from the Word. Hmm..) and we just could not stay. The motel owner just up and sold the motel to the current managers, thus eliminating the need for us to take their position. Now, we were stuck attending a church that, even though we loved it (the new one), we didn’t agree with all their doctrine, either, so we didn’t feel right about becoming members. Not being members meant we could not be involved hardly at all. We felt really stuck. So, we do what all young married couples do. We bought a house.

Two years ago, September 2006, I went to a ladies Bible study where we studied Beth Moore’s “The Patriarchs.” It completely applied to what we were going through then. I had no idea where God was taking us, what He wanted from us, I just knew we needed to keep going. By December 2006, when we finished this study, we had heard the call to Peru and were preparing to put the house up for sale. Now, it’s September 2008, we’re in Pennsylvania, raising support to get to Peru, and this church is doing the same Bible study: “The Patriarchs.”

Today’s lesson was on Sarah giving birth to Isaac. If you read my entry entitled “Ah to be content.” you’d know that I long to be a mother, but that’s just not going to happen soon. So, in that respect, I couldn’t relate at all to Sarah. Looking at it from another vantage point, though, I could relate to her. See, God had promised years ago that He would make Abraham into a great nation. He had to uproot him, move him to a new land, put him through trials and temptations, and then when the end was in sight, he still didn’t know exactly the date Isaac was to be born.

The Lord called me into missions when I was seven. He called Brian when he was 18. He called us as a couple three years ago. We saw it falling into place two years ago. We’ve been raising support to get there for a solid year. We now have no idea when we will actually arrive. We were to arrive the end of this month, but due to lack of support, we’ve had to set a new date. It’s looking more like the beginning of next year, which puts us three months behind… in our minds. The waiting is interminable. But, the end is in sight.

I wonder if Sarah felt that way. She probably didn’t know the day she got pregnant. She probably didn’t know her due date, though she probably had a good guess. She saw the end in sight, but wasn’t sure how it would play out. I mean, she was 90 giving birth for the first time! I’d be nervous, too! The promise is coming to completion, but there’s still some waiting to go. That’s where we’re at. Support Raising is like waiting to give birth. You know the end is in sight, but you don’t know the exact day you’ll go.

Okay, so I might be stretching it a little. I hope that’s all right. Feel free to laugh at me. I just thought it was cool to see God fulfill His promise to Sarah, even though it took 90 years. It’s only been three and I’m starting to get antsy! Guess I have a lot to learn. Nice to know that since He promised He’d provide us, I know He will… in His timing. Whenever that may be.

Lessons from Esther.

I started a Bible study this week on the book of Esther. It’s put out by an organization called “Women of the Harvest” (link to the left), which is like a community for women serving cross-culturally. I’m not overseas yet, but I’ve enjoyed their resources and look forward to that outlet when we get overseas.

We were to read the book of Esther with “fresh eyes” before beginning the study. I must admit, that was a hard task. I’ve just recently read through Esther and I know the book very well, so I honestly wasn’t sure I’d get anything new out of it. I really should stop thinking that when I read the Word!! Deep down, I know it’s never, ever true.

When I was done, I jotted down a couple things that stood out to me, then asked the Lord to show me something new. Boy, did He ever. I had underlined this verse, but wasn’t sure why until right then. Here it is (in the New Living): “She would live there for the rest of her life, never going to the king again unless he had especially enjoyed her and requested her by name.” (2:14c) 

Probably like every good little Christian girl growing up, I thought the world of Esther. Just imagine being beautiful, winning a beauty pageant where the prize was becoming queen, and then living in the palace the rest of your life. Wow – exotic, huh? Romantic, fairytale-esk. Every movie (including the “Veggie Tales” one) portrays Esther as having just an awesome life in the palace. Yeah, she missed Mordecai, her only living relative, but man, she was Queen! It can’t get better than that, right?

This verse proves it all wrong. Yeah, she was the Queen, but she didn’t really get to enjoy married life, leave the palace, have a life of her own… she gave up a lot to be in that position. It was thrust on her, yes, but she could have botched the whole interview session, gorged on royal food and gotten fat, sabotaged the entire thing, and not been chosen. Instead, she did what she was told, did it to the best of her ability, and won favor with the King. And in the process, lost life as she knew it.

But, then Mordecai reminds her later, “…who can say but that you have been elevated to the palace for such a time as this?” (4:14c) Who can say that maybe she had to give up her life in order to save thousands of others?

You know, missionaries get put on a pedestal pretty frequently. I cannot count the number of times I’ve been told that we’re going on “quite the adventure” and “I wish we could do that – sell everything and move to a foreign country. How exciting!” and “wow – you must be so excited to get to live in South America! How cool is that?” Yeah, the life of a missionary has its perks. We’ll get to travel; we’ll get to see, eat, and experience brand new things; our children (and us) will be bilingual (I’ll be trilingual finally!); and we’ll see the Lord do things first hand other people will only get to hear about. But, there are parts of the missionary life that isn’t quite as glamorous. Kind of like Esther. Parts of her life were amazing – the clothes, the food, the housing, the husband, the job… And parts of it were probably pretty awful – moving, leaving everything behind, not being able to talk about her heritage, not being able to exercise marital rights, the fear for her life every time she wanted to talk to her husband… And yet, we pass along the story of Esther as if it was the most glamorous life and we forget to pass along the part where she gave up so much to be there. For such a time as this.

In order for us to reach people with the Gospel of Christ, we have to give up our life here. Trust me, our life was never glamorous in South Dakota, but I would daresay it was normal! It’s not normal anymore. But, like Esther, in order to save others, we have to give up ourselves, our wants, our desires, and even our “American” identity.

Maybe you’re not called to the field. Maybe you’ll never be a foreign missionary. But, you are called. You are called to reach others with the Gospel of Christ and in order to do so, you may have to leave your comfort zone, your safety, your haven of home – and walk across the street to your neighbors’, or talk to that odd person at work, or go on a short-term missions trip, or… you fill in the blank. In order to save others, you must give up yourself.

I definitely have already learned a lot from Esther. I look forward to the rest of the Bible study. Funny, though… I got more out of just listening to God this morning than reading something written by another lady. I hope you get those moments, too.

India.

I posted this on our ministry blog, but it’s urgent enough that I thought I’d post it here as well. There is major persecution occurring right now in Orissa, India, that is NOT getting coverage on the U.S. news. We need to be in constant prayer for our brothers and sisters in hiding at this very moment! The following is a letter written by the BCM President and his wife, Marty and Jeanette Windle, dated August 30th. Very little has changed, to our knowledge, since this was written. Please pray. This battle is much bigger than we can see with physical eyes.

Dear praying friends:
We are writing with heavy hearts asking for urgent prayer. While the USA is in election fever, wars are waging across our planet that our news seems to have no interest in covering. Little has been said of over 3000 Christians who have been burned out of churches and homes just in the last few days since Monday in Orissa, India. The catalyst was the killing of a Hindu extremist leader by Maoist rebels. Police and rebels acknowledged openly who was responsible for the hit, but radical Hindus promptly used the killing to call for mass reprisals on Christians, which in the last few days has far surpassed what did hit the US news on Christmas Day. A Catholic aid worker was burned alive when her orphanage was torched with her in it. Many of you prayed for our BCM pastor Dasarath Digal and his elders who were jailed Christmas Day for murder when a Hindu extremist fell to his death from the roof of their church while tearing down its cross. This morning we received word that Pastor Dasarath’s son has been murdered by the Hindu extremists. He has quite young children, so we aren’t even sure yet of the boy’s age.
ALL BCM churches in the region are now destroyed, every pastor scattered. We have currently not been able to locate more than one or two of them. After Pastor Jonathan was beaten and left for dead last week, we received word of four more BCM pastors attacked, all by the same radical Hindu group. The police know exactly who is involved, but refuse to arrest them. Pastor Nayak, our area supervisor, is in hiding with his family. He has been listed at the top of a local Hindu hit list. As soon as the curfew lifts we will attempt to smuggle him and his family out before the radicals locate and kill him. We are trying to gather resources to take our remaining pastors and families to Palasas (neighboring to Orissa) where the small BCM church is preparing to receive them. This is the same church that hosted the Orissa pastors conference when Marty met with them there the end of June. We will keep them hidden and safe there temporarily, regroup, and help them recover.

40,000 Christian schools and colleges across India closed their doors Friday to protest the violence. Representation has been made to both the Indian government to intervene and the US government to speak out for religious freedom. Right now there seems little interest on either end. A curfew has been imposed. and police have been given shoot-to-kill authority, but since the state government itself is radical Hindu, they have simply encouraged the mobs.
At the moment it seems as though all BCM Orissa ministry has been swept away by the violence. But though Satan may think he has won, God IS in control. Churches can be destroyed, but not the Body of Christ. Time and time again our BCM missionaries and pastors have picked up after attacks and insisted on going back to continue speaking God’s Word and bearing a Christian witness in their community, as have other Christians as well. In Revelation 3:8-9, Jesus Himself gave witness to another body of believers suffering great persecution, the church of Philadelphia, “I know you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan . . . come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that have loved you.”
In the stronghold of evil forces committed to blotting out any message of God’s love in India, please pray together with us for these brave, dear brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. Scripture tells us that when one part of the Body in Christ suffers, every part suffers. Right now part of our body is in deep pain, and our own hearts ache deeply with these wonderful people we have come to know and love. Pray that they will truly experience God’s love holding them close in the midst of man’s hate. Pray for wisdom to know what to do next, and for resources to cover basic safety and life necessities. And above all, pray for Pastor Dasarath’s family who after enduring the six months he spent in jail are now grieving the murder of their son.
Serving together with the Body of Christ,
Marty and Jeanette Windle
BCM International

Ah, to be content.

I love the book of Philippians, but man is it challenging to read through these days. Let me show you something:

This was our house in South Dakota (well, most of it. Close enough to get the idea). I loved my house. It was something we’d saved for, planned for, and anticipated during our first year of marriage. We scrimped and saved and then thoroughly enjoyed shopping for it and signing those millions of papers to make it our own. The only DIY thing I ever did was the welcome sign you can just barely see hanging next to the door. It’s a plank of wood that Brian measured, cut, and stained. We bought stencils and wrote on it “Bienvenue” (French for “welcome”) and attached our house numbers: 720. The deck was built by Brian shortly after we moved in. We had plans for the backyard and lots of plans for inside.

None of those came true. Almost a year to the day, we sold our house. Oh, my beautiful home.

We had bought the house with the plan of settling down for awhile, listening to the Lord’s direction for our lives, and in the meantime, starting a family. Now, since I was a little girl, I’ve dreamed of being a mommy. The first birthday present I remember is a Cabbage Patch doll that I dragged around everywhere with me. I had my dolls and my dress-up clothes, and my imaginary husband: John Gardner, the banker. Yes, he had a name. Yes, he had a profession. We were very happy together. I wanted to be a stay-at-home mommy.

When we sold the house, we sold that dream, for the time being, as well. With all the transitions, the schooling, the culture stress, and everything that’s involved with moving around the world and starting a ministry, beginning a family just did not seem wise. It still doesn’t! But, oh… to be a mommy.

I think it’s hardest when I see friends who have been married less than half the amount of time we have been, and they already have children. Or to know people who have been married the same amount of time and are working on child #2 or #3! Man, that’s rough.

But… then I think… wait a minute. What am I so upset about? We have the privilege of being able to move around and not have to worry about children in tow. We can actually sleep through the whole night; we can get things accomplished; if we get sick, we just have to worry about ourselves. Just yesterday, I spent an entire afternoon catching up on scrapbooking… sans interruptions. Hmmm, maybe it’s not so bad after all.

Every day it’s a struggle to give it back to God – that desire to be a mommy and the jealousy of everyone else who already is one. I will admit, it’s a conscious effort. But, I want to say with Paul: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” I can’t say it constantly, but I can say it. That alone is a big step forward from just a few months ago!

And then I look back a few verses and get these reminders: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! … And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Did you catch that? “Will guard your hearts AND your minds.” I believe it’s a guard against those thoughts that he warns about in those verses, too. It’s a guard to keep what’s good and pure and lovely and of good report IN and what’s not, OUT. And He will guard your heart. 2 Corinthians 4:8 says, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” He never said He’d guard it from pain, hurt, or disappointment. But, He won’t let it get taken away; He won’t let it get crushed, despaired, abandoned, or destroyed. “The sorrow may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning…”

Ah, to be content. I don’t crave joyfulness, happiness, or even amusement every day. I crave contentedness. “I am learning to be content whatever the circumstances.”

By the way, these were my babies in SD. Clockwise from Top: Minnie, Molly, and Gunther. Gunther is still with us; Minnie and Molly have since found new homes.

Life.

This past weekend, my sister and her hubby were with us and we all played the old game of “Life.” Brian and I have a newer, slightly more advanced version than my parents do and it turned out to be a lot of fun! As my dad kept saying, “This isn’t a kid’s game anymore!” 🙂 But, we also kept saying, “Man, this sure IS fantasy!” Andy became an athlete, I won a prize for a book I authored, Brian became a millionare, and my mother was an artist. Yup. Fantasy.

In real life, I tend to feel more like Gideon these days. I seriously rock between the emotion of ecstatic – exhilarated, can’t wait to go! – to the emotion of, and I quote myself, “I’m not going.” I was talking with some good friends from CIT this week, who are both already overseas, and we all agreed that most days, we do not have that adventerous missionary spirit that you read about it in those awesome missionary biographies. I remember reading about Gladys Alyward and Mary Slessor and thinking – wow – I wish I was like that. I wonder if they ever struggled with the inner turmoil that we do now? I bet they do. I just bet they covered it up a lot better!!

I was reading Judges this week and that’s why I keep referring to Gideon. In Judges 6, we find Gideon literally at the bottom of a winepress threshing wheat so he wouldn’t be found by the Midianites. You know the story…the Lord calls him, “Mighty hero”, and Gideon basically says, “Say what? I’m the least of the least of the least of the bottom of the barrel. You can’t possibly use me!!” And then, I love this line…the angel of the Lord says, “Go with the strength you have and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!”

I had to read it like three times… “Go with the strength you have…I am sending you!” Wow. That’s so where I’m at these days. I feel so useless, so unprepared, so NOT adventerous.

“My strength is made for perfect in your weakness,” says the Lord.

“Have I not COMMANDED you? Be strong and VERY courageous! Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged.”

“Go in the strength that you have…I will be with you.”

I’m so glad the Lord put stories of people like Gideon in the Bible. Even Moses wasn’t exactly adventerous and tough. Moses didn’t even WANT the job and made up every excuse in the book to get out of it. And yet, Deuteronomy closes out by saying, “There has never been another prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.”

At least I’m normal in these fears. And at least I’m not putting out a fleece every night asking the Lord for a sign. Doesn’t mean I don’t want to…but at least I haven’t acted on it, right? 🙂

In the game we played this weekend, a lot of twists and turns were pulled. I mean, Andy switched careers like three times and Dad’s doctor career didn’t exactly pay off like he’d expected! But, we had to admit, those twists and turns made it so much more fun and way more interesting than we thought it would be.

I may never win that prize for writing an amazing novel. I may never be that great, adventerous, tough missionary that will be talked about for generations to come. But, I’m going with the strength that I have because in the end, God will do my fighting and that’s all that matters. I truly enjoy being an empty vessel. I don’t have any of “me” that would get in the way, slosh over the top, dillute what God wants to do, and make a huge mess in the process. If I’m an empty vessel, then I can “play” this game of Life exactly how the Lord wants me to and He will get done exactly what He wants to get done through me.

I’m so thankful for Gideon and Moses. They give me hope that in my weaknessess, I can do great things for God.

September 2008
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