My heart feels full this morning. As I straighten the house, I fluffed the sofa cushions and remembered crying when we first moved to Fort Worth to an apartment with a recliner and a rocking chair (no sofa as we left it behind in Arkansas). Work and church opportunities brought us to a new city and our “nest” was empty back in the Land of Opportunity.
The sofa we acquired now has ink on a cushion and shows some wear.
Ten years have now passed since we came to Texas. We have returned to Arkansas, but are putting our roots down in Texas.
We have even visited Rockport and enjoyed the coast for a weekend.
A friend shared a story on Facebook this morning about writing “curses” in sand and blessings in stone. Seems a “friend” slapped someone, but later saved the person’s life as he faltered in crossing a waterway. The former event was written in sand, but the latter in stone for a tribute. (Waves of forgiveness washed away the harshness of the act that was recorded for a time.)
I thought on this.
Some lines of verse came to me as I continue to “putter” about the house.
Tides ebb and flow; friends come and go, but God is the same–yesterday, today and forever.
I am feeling grateful for this fact of God’s eternal goodness this morning.
“I’m moving to Canada.”
Personally, Canada would be way too cold for me, but I get the sentiment. However, instead of fleeing for the hills, maybe it’s time for American Christians to start living like missionaries in their own country.
Before you get offended, let me assure you that I am in no way belittling the millions of American Christians who are already living out gospel-centered lives in their communities. As you learned in Sunday School when you were five, we all are missionaries.
But I’m not talking about living as a proclaimer of the gospel, I’m talking about living as if America is not your country. As outsiders. Exiles. As if you are living in a country that is not your own.
This is my life.
I live in a country that is not mine. But I am living in Tanzania as a long-term resident, so I care about what happens here. I prayed during the election. I follow the news. I rejoice with their successes and hurt for their losses. But this is not my country. I don’t expect that my political opinion matters much. I am not surprised if I experience animosity. I don’t expect to have many rights. I do expect to feel like an outsider.
It means that if I see things happening in Tanzania that I don’t like, I’m not going to be angry that my rights have been violated. This country has never existed for my sake. I might be sad, or frustrated, or I might be angry at the injustice others are experiencing. But this country doesn’t owe me anything.
This means that I am here as a learner. It doesn’t mean that I am going to agree with everything I see in this culture, but it does mean that I am going to do everything I can do understand it. I want to understand the worldview. I’m going to filter what I see in this culture through the lens of Scripture. I’m not going to assume that my way of doing things, or my way of thinking about something, is the best. If something bothers me, I will wait to make a judgment until I have considered what the Bible says about it.
I’m not going to hole up in a little community that believes everything the same way I do. I don’t sequester my children from people with different values or religions. My children might end up exposed to things that distress me, but I must trust God’s sovereignty with that. The alternative is to lose our ability to be light in our community.
I’m not looking for what I can get out of this country; I am looking for what I can give. I don’t expect businesses and government agencies to value the same things I do. I might be limited in the kind of work I can do here because my values are different. But that’s okay, because my goal isn’t to get rich, or to be safe, or to build my career. My goal is to further the gospel.
I expect that I am not going to be comfortable all the time. I will have to make sacrifices of comfort and convenience for the sake of God’s work. I realize that I will never be able to own a house here, and I know that there’s always a possibility that I will have to leave with the shirt on my back. I try hard to loosen my grip on my possessions, knowing that my stay here is temporary.
Above all else, I am going to do my best to love the people around me. That doesn’t mean that I unconditionally accept, or approve of, everything they are doing. Love and acceptance are not always synonymous. However, love is patient, kind, humble, generous, and long-suffering. I can love people in the way I spend my time, in the way I spend my money, in the way I engage discussion, and in the attitude I take towards culture. Even if people disagree with what I think, I want my reputation to always be as someone who loves.
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth…..Instead, they were longing for a better country–a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11)
Words have meaning…
It is tiresome to listen to rhetoric slung about these days, whether from Hollywood movies or politicians. For example, one of the worst is name calling. Children are lured by movies–one that comes to mind is “Despicable Me.”
Some politicians are labeled as crooked who in turn label groups as deplorable.
It is time to move on and remember the Judeo–Christian roots of this nation.
If one is victimized by a bully, there are multiple remedies.
Words in times of Suffering
What we say to each other matters. A recent event reminded me of a time several years ago, when a friend shared some personal struggles with someone who was verbally abusive to her.
I listened and then asked her a question. If I called her a name, perhaps saying she was a monkey, did that make her one? She answered, “No.”.
I was trying to inject another way of looking at things into her situation. A different outlook did not undo harsh, unloving comments, but sometimes being able to share concerns will help.
This reminds me of advice from my favorite cousin for times of depression. She said that there are three things to do when one is depressed. One may “get in touch with nature” — perhaps by taking a walk. One may “do something nice for oneself” — possibly with a bubble bath. The last counsel was to “talk to a friend.”
In addition to these ideas, one may turn to the Bible and the Holy Spirit for comfort.
A favorite passage these days comes from I Peter 3:8-17:
Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tender-hearted, be courteous;
Not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.
For “He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit;
Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil.”
And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good?
But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.”
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;
Having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.
For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. (New King James Version)
Did you think to pray?
In the name of Christ, our Savior,
Did you sue for loving favor
As a shield today?
Mary A. Kidder 1876 (now in the Public Domain)
We had an excellent family vacation to Alaska about 1997 as our sons were 18 & 15, so the future would not likely hold more vacations that we could all take together. My father-in-law lived there at the time (we were living in Arkansas). He provided an RV to stay in and car to drive during our visit.
I saw Northern Lights the first night, after everyone else had turned in for the night.
During another day trip, we caught a view of Mt. McKinley and had good Samaritans help jump our loaner car on the way back to Anchorage.
We visited an old gold mine and mined for gold in a creek.
We took a ferry ride around awesome glaciers.
We joked in Wasilla (something vaguely funny at the time with gum that “tasted like burning–O the Wa-silliness. This was an inside family joke.
We saw a summer camp for sled dogs.
While traveling away from Anchorage, driving through smaller towns, our family even attended a camp meeting of a different church group than ours. Here I attended one session featuring a speaker on hope who had survived a brutal attack and did not lose her faith, but who lives to give glory to God.
We had a great time. The state’s natural beauty is unsurpassed.
The museum in Anchorage was interesting with an earthquake simulation and historical photos from the Good Friday 9.2 earthquake on March 27, 1964. On the way down the Alaska Penisula, there are still towns showing the tremendous damage with whole city blocks sunken in and left as they were in some locations.
On the drive to Seward, we saw salmon in their spawning season as well as smoked salmon for sale in roadside stands. We tried reindeer pizza. A fishing tournament was ongoing in Seward, so we did not find lodging, but returned to our home base, arriving at 5 a.m. on a Monday morning. We had begun traveling the day before, but lighting there is quite different in the summer, so this became “the longest day” if one counts daylight hours.
Visiting Alaska for the first time gave our family lasting memories. It was wonderful to revisit an area my husband had lived in as a child when Alaska became the 49th state in 1959.