Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Am I Alone in This??

This week I literally have nothing worth saying. I started out answering a common question we have all pondered, and in the process of answering it, became too emotionally involved and found that I need more time to search my heart for a proper response that is not silly or trite.

The question, just to get you thinking, is this:

"How do you respond when your closest friends and your own family seemingly do not support your ministry?"

Mind you, the question is not necessarily about finances, but also in prayerful support, visits, and emails. Each of these could take up a whole blog post. What I want to somehow acknowledge is that yes, it hurts when we have certain expectations that are not met. It would be easy to give some platitude about "trusting God and looking to Him alone" or to just be silly and quote a phrase I heard from a movie I never saw: "Maybe they're just not that into you." However neither of these approaches quite address the issue.

A friend just recently told me about the frustration of sending emails before a furlough asking people to let her know if they want to get together while she is home. Then no one responds. How can that not be received as a personal wound? We could explore lots of reasons why people don't call, don't write, don't offer hospitality, don't give a love offering or pledge monthly support. We could give all our friends the benefit of the doubt, saying each one has their own ministries stateside, or outside ministries they support, but does that erase the effect on our hearts?

What about when you desperately need a certain amount of money for a critical need, and you think you have plenty of friends that surely would each give a small amount until the need is met, and then no one does? How do you keep trusting God and not feel resentful that people do not respond? They don't send an email assuring you of prayers, they don't send a check, and in fact you wonder if they even read your emails. For many of us, this is reality.

We all have seen what loving supportive friends look like, and we all long for that. Some of us are blessed with a bunch of them. Others are not.

I'd like to hear from your own experience on this subject. Feel free to write your story anonymously in care of our editor, Cindy.

IRL*sometimes the closest to you can seem the most distant.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Blessed Are

In contrast to the “Poor Jamie Jo” thread I’ve been weaving here, I want to shift gears and change my focus. After all, if a stinky house and backed up plumbing are my only complaints, I am truly blessed.

Or am I?

The American view of blessing is health and safety and prosperity. But is that biblical?

How easy it is to claim I trust God when I know that I always have options, no matter how dire and unbearable my circumstances become. If a medical emergency arises or disaster strikes, my family could be evacuated from Mexico. Our insurance would provide financial assistance at any specialty hospital of our choosing.

How easy it is to declare that God will take care of me when I know that friends and family around the globe have money in the bank and open hearts and homes. Homelessness is not a huge risk in my life. Being a Christian is actually to my advantage. The body of Christ is a sweet consolation during trials.

The true heroes of the faith are the modern day Hebrews 11 believers, those who pay a high price for calling themselves Christians, those who are violently persecuted for their beliefs, who have few if any material possessions, and no rich friends or American passport to aid them.

This past week I was humbled to meet one such hero. Hermano Hugo is an indigenous pastor who has been beaten, thrown in jail, and later run out of town. His crops were stolen, his home destroyed, and the church burned to the ground. Hugo and the other believers have forgiven their enemies and chosen to return to rebuild their homes to bring the Light to a very dark corner of Oaxaca.

After ten years of marriage, Hugo lost the one earthly support that remained. His beloved 27-year-old wife and partner in ministry died last week. Her memorial service was a graphic illustration of Isaiah 61:3: as they put on a garment of praise, God began giving them “beauty for ashes” and “the oil of joy for mourning.” Through their tears they sang exuberantly about heaven.

In the midst of his own sorrow, Hugo rejoiced that his unsaved neighbors could hear a clear presentation of the Gospel that day. The death of his wife provided the perfect opportunity to hold an evangelistic meeting among the very ones who had persecuted the Christians.

In my thinking, Hugo is the one who is blessed. In the words of Jim Elliot, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

With Easter coming up, I’ve been meditating on Philippians 3:7-11, giving a lot of thought to the idea of knowing Christ in the power of His resurrection and also in His suffering.

IRL*Come what may, it will be worth it all when we see Jesus.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

El Stinko

Life literally stinks sometimes. Is that a revelation to you? This past week has been one of the granddaddy stinko weeks of all times for me.

After one of my earlier posts about how average I am, just one of the crowd in so many ways, I must admit one exceptional feature I possess that is not always a blessing. My sense of smell is amazingly acute. This can prove helpful when there is a gas leak or something burning. The family teases that I can predict the milk is going sour two days in advance.

This “gift” is not so welcome when diapers (obviously) need changing and baby’s mother is oblivious or smelling-impaired. My sense of smell is likewise not appreciated when rain dampens the neighbor’s barnyard within spitting distance of our carport, and the breeze sends the odor wafting in my kitchen window.

Being pregnant proved a gagful experience for me living in a foreign land with unfamiliar scents assaulting my nose daily. The worst was walking by certain walls formerly used as a public urinal. Maybe some of you can relate?

Body odors remain a challenge. Now that our hottest month has arrived I struggle to ignore the smelly people I encounter in close quarters like on buses. Sadly I have a reputation among my children’s friends who have been known to purposely shower before coming to my house for a movie night or to practice in the chime choir I direct. I’ve got to work on ignoring my nose.

This week was a nightmare with nasty plumbing disasters galore. You can see photos on my personal blog lest you think I am exaggerating. The worst was when our ecological waterless composting toilet malfunctioned, and the liquid matter had to be drained bucket by bucket. While the hatch was opened, the entire house stank to high heaven (as we say in Texas). We opened windows, turned on fans, lit candles, and sprayed air freshener, but still it was disgustingly rank.

To make matters worse, when we attempted to wash the towels and rugs that had gotten soiled in the process of handling that crisis, the washing machine didn’t drain properly, and instead of going out, somehow got rerouted and nasty water started gurgling up through the bathroom sink and tub. Gray water reeks almost as bad as black water.

Oh, I’m killing myself retelling it. What is my purpose? Partly I am shamelessly begging for sympathy. Say it all together now: “Poor Jamie Jo!” Then again, I have pledged to share the good, the bad, and the ugly here. This week it just happens to be stinky AND ugly.

IRL*Meanwhile my prayer is that my life would be a sweet aroma and not a stench in the nostrils of God.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Piecing Together Contentment

On my good days I wake up with a grateful heart, pondering my rich legacy. Mom gave me a love for books and music, Dad a love for work and quality furniture, Grandmother a love of fine art, Nana a love of flowers and hospitality. From all sides I learned to love God, love family, and to love life.

With these gifts and so many more, I am content. On my good days.

Other days, not so much. On those days discontentment sneaks in with her wicked companions of jealousy and selfishness. That's when I throw (or used to throw) a royal pity party, grumbling over my lack of family heirlooms and other sacrifices related to living this cross-cultural life.

After twenty years of struggle, (at least I think) I have finally overcome this very nasty habit of wishing I lived in the U.S. so my house could be filled with antiques and loving reminders of my grandmothers. I am truly happy for my siblings who all have lovely things to stir happy memories.

Sometimes I look at the small pieces I received from my grandmothers' estates, and pray that nothing happens to them. However one day I returned home to find that an overly zealous maid had thrown a priceless pre-Civil War era family quilt into the washing machine, shredding it beyond repair. That was a liberating moment for me.

What I discovered was that losing my precious quilt did not remove a single happy memory of my grandmother. The bottom line is that I much prefer memories to things. When I want to see tangible objects that trigger memories, I can visit my mom and siblings in Texas.

However, my own children will have little of monetary value to fight over when I am gone. Hopefully I will have succeeded in passing down to my children the heritage I cannot deny having received in full: a love of God, a love of family, and a love of life itself. This past week my youngest son gave his heart and life to Jesus. The one gift I couldn't give was finally received. With that I am abundantly content. Until...

Until I consider my future grandchildren, and how they will likely be scattered all over the globe, sharing very few memories together with me. That does make me sad. My prayer is that at least they will inherit the greatest gift of adoption and salvation from their true Father. Then I would be happy….

IRL*Contentment is such an illusive possession.


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