A Full Weekend

A glimpse into last weekend…

Maria and Katie

Most importantly, our youngest daughter, Katie, graduated from Northwestern College. We didn’t get to be there, but Maria flew in from Seattle to be with her sister and keep us updated with photos and video clips during the ceremony. Our sweet, beautiful daughters.

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Yes, we missed sharing the joy and the laughter with our wonderful graduate. What a peach!

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We stayed in Bahrain and stayed busy.  In Mother’s Day worship, on Friday and Sunday, Keith and I were in a skit with our “three teenage children” who forgot it was Mother’s Day and didn’t appreciate at the beginning of the skit all their “mom” did for them.

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Great worship services with a beautiful praise dance!

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Everyone was asked to wear pink to church.

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On Friday evening, we went to a 25th anniversary celebration and renewal of wedding vows. It was a beautiful occasion. I wore my first sari.

Be Not Afraid

On Saturday morning, I led devotions at AMH. Keith does it several times a week, but it was only my second time so I was a little nervous. Appropriately, my topic was FEAR, or more accurately, FEAR NOT.

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On Saturday night, the MOMs group came over and we baked cookies and cupcakes. It was lots of fun and much activity. Katie’s graduation was happening toward the end of our time together. We tried to watch it online, but I guess I was on the wrong Internet connection so the live feed didn’t work.

Later, Keith and I watched the graduation ceremony in quiet. It was lovely and we took it all in. The busyness of the weekend probably helped us keep our minds off the fact that we couldn’t be in Orange City for Katie’s graduation.

When I led devotions Saturday morning, I shared “Be Not Afraid,” by Jesuit priest Bob Dufford. I was reminded of this beautiful song that we had sung during school mass last spring. It was just at the time we were first hearing God’s call to move to Bahrain. It was a powerful song for me then, and it is now.

You shall cross the barren desert
But you shall not die of thirst
You shall wander far in safety
Though you do not know the way.

You shall speak your words in foreign lands
And all will understand
You shall see the face of God and live.

Be not afraid
I go before you always
Come follow Me
And I WILL give you rest.

If you pass through raging waters
In the sea, you shall not drown
If you walk amidst the burning flames
You shall not be harmed.

If you stand before the pow’r of hell
And death is at your side
Know that I am with you, through it all.

Be not afraid
I go before you always
Come follow Me
And I will give you rest.

Blessed are your poor
For the Kingdom shall be theirs
Blest are you that weep and mourn
for one day you shall laugh.

And if wicked men insult and hate you
All because of Me
Blessed, blessed are you!

Be not afraid
I go before you always
Come follow Me
and I WILL GIVE you rest…

You can listen to John Michael Talbot sing it here. Absolutely beautiful!

Thanks to Liz for the pictures of graduation and to Vinolia for the picture of our skit in church.

Inadequacy and Other Thoughts

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Recently I was reading Luke 9 and I noticed a distinct contrast between what the disciples said and did in the first half of the chapter and in the second. In the beginning of Luke 9:

  • The twelve disciples were sent out by Jesus, successfully “bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere.”
  • They witnessed the feeding of the five thousand.
  • Peter declared Jesus was the Messiah of God.
  • Several witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain.

But, interestingly, after all that, the Luke 9 account takes a turn. Here is Luke 9:37-50:

37 The next day, after they had come down the mountain, a large crowd met Jesus. 38 A man in the crowd called out to him, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, my only child. 39 An evil spirit keeps seizing him, making him scream. It throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It batters him and hardly ever leaves him alone. 40 I begged your disciples to cast out the spirit, but they couldn’t do it.” 41 Jesus said, “You faithless and corrupt people! How long must I be with you and put up with you?” Then he said to the man, “Bring your son here.” 42 As the boy came forward, the demon knocked him to the ground and threw him into a violent convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the evil[h] spirit and healed the boy. Then he gave him back to his father. 43 Awe gripped the people as they saw this majestic display of God’s power.

While everyone was marveling at everything he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples, 44 “Listen to me and remember what I say. The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies.”45 But they didn’t know what he meant. Its significance was hidden from them, so they couldn’t understand it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.

46 Then his disciples began arguing about which of them was the greatest. 47 But Jesus knew their thoughts, so he brought a little child to his side. 48 Then he said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me also welcomes my Father who sent me. Whoever is the least among you is the greatest.” 49 John said to Jesus, “Master, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he isn’t in our group.” 50 But Jesus said, “Don’t stop him! Anyone who is not against you is for you.”

Mr. Christopher spoke at the English Language Congregation (ELC) recently and said when God calls you, his will will take you into situations unexpected, inadequate, and incomprehensible.

Keith and I looked at each other often during the sermon.

Yes, God’s will has put us in such situations. Unexpected, definitely. We were not looking to move or change our situation. Then God asked us to move across the world to Bahrain. Unexpected? Yes.

When Mr. Christopher got to inadequate, it really resonated. In my life I tend to be a proud person who likes to be adequate and effective. God has shown me, like the disciples, that there are many things that I cannot do except through his power at work in me.

First, look at the disciples in just this one short passage. Were they inadequate for what God was requiring of them? Definitely! In just this passage alone:

  • they couldn’t do it
  • they didn’t know
  • they couldn’t understand
  • they were afraid to ask
  • they strived to be put on a pedestal as the “greatest”
  • they disallowed other disciples’ good work

The disciples were inadequate, rough hewn, unexpected choices. Jesus called them to follow him, though. He’s done the same to inadequate me.

  • I had never been out of North America when I was called to leave everything and move to Bahrain.
  • I knew nothing about the Arab culture or living in the Middle East.
  • I, so far, have never learned a second language.
  • I am humbled at being asked to help lead church school at the ELC.
  • I am inexperienced and too old to teach kindergarten, yet God called me to that position.
  • My faith seems like toddler faith compared to so many of the saints I’ve met here.

I am inadequate for the tasks set before me, but so were the disciples.

And finally, God’s will puts us in situations that are incomprehensible. Especially in the questioning times, I’m reminded of Job when God asked him: “Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? Tell me, if you know all this.” (Job 38:18)

No, God, I haven’t. I can’t really tell you anything. I’ll be quiet now. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:7)

I found it interesting that Mr. Christopher said that God’s will WILL (not may or might) take you into situations that are unexpected, that you are inadequate for, and that you humanly can not comprehend.

What impossibility is God calling us to be and do today?

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Across the Water

Denise and I will be going “across the water” to Bahrain on Monday, December 23.  We will arrive two hours before the Christmas Eve Service on December 24 and will, if all our flight connections are on time, worship our Lord with our brothers and sisters in Bahrain!

This has been an amazing eight months since Chaplain Appu Varghese spoke at American Reformed Church asking if anyone might hear the call of God to come and serve in Bahrain.  “If God is calling, you cannot say no!” he said.  We said “yes” and our yes to God’s call is coming true!  It has been an amazing journey.

Katie and Maria will be coming with us to see this new place God has called us to.  We are deeply grateful and humbled by all your love and support we have received during this process.  Thank you.

Crossing the Water

Back in March after reading Acts 16:6-9, I asked God how Paul could know so clearly what he was supposed to do.  Especially when I noticed that the word “come over” in verse 9 in the Greek means “cross over a body of water.”  Can I, like Paul, know your will that clearly?

The answer has been “yes” and “wait continually.”  My new supervisor for the Middle East, Duncan Hansen, told me, “Enjoy each mile marker along the way.”

A big mile marker arrives Monday.  Denise and I are flying to Bahrain to be introduced to our new home.  I will give devotions to the staff at the American Mission Hospital on three mornings. Go on hospital calls with Appu.  Meet with the Chief Medical Officer of the hospital, Dr. George Cheriyan. Spend time with the senior pastor at the English language congregation, Jim Harrison. Meet with the leaders of the English Language Congregation.   Denise and I will also spend time with Josh and Alison Perkins and tour the Al Raja school.  I will deliver the message in worship at the Friday morning service and at the Sunday evening service.

Appu wrote me and said that the Indian families were asking if Denise and I liked Indian food.  I responded that we had gone to Indian restaurants three different times while we were in Seattle  back in June, and we were looking forward to eating Indian food with our new friends.  We have lunch and and supper with a different family each day.  It is going to be good!

Denise and I thank our Iowa church family and all our friends and family members for their love and support during this time of transition. Their outpouring of love has been so appreciated and needed as we approach the mile markers ahead of us.

We look forward to sharing with you our experiences from our new home.

In A Little While

“Pray for patience to be willing to wait on God. Wait a little while so that God may work something unexpected beyond imagining.” This was a challenge to us in a devotion we listened to by British Jesuits at pray-as-you-go.org.

Yes, we are willing to wait, and God is already working beyond our imagining.

Here is the sermon I preached on July 28 when I announced our call to my congregation.

No Turning Back

Because of the flood we had at the end of May, we have stored some items from the basement in the garage.

As our call became more evident, we began adding more and more household items to the growing mountain of this life we are leaving.  Stuff

What do we do with all our stuff? There are just too many of this and that, plus boatloads of memories to sort through. Stopping to read an old letter or look at a picture or imagine reading that book to a toddler have been tender diversions.

For the most part, this purging has been good. We are encountering shelves and closets long overdue for a major cleaning.  We are convicted about our over-consumption and buy-ological urges over the years.

The grip “stuff” has on our lives is loosening. It’s not always easy, but it’s good.

Today in church we sang “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.”

I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
No turning back, no turning back.

The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
No turning back, no turning back.

Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
No turning back, no turning back.

~Lyrics by Sadhu Sundar Singh

 We haven’t even looked back over the last three months. I know God has made our call so clear and certain that we won’t turn back. However, this morning, singing that song reminded me that we are having a garage sale next weekend. Then we’ve asked Zestos, a local nonprofit, to pick up the rest. Most of our worldly possessions will be gone after that.

Hmmm…no turning back is right.

But singing that song also reminded me that many people give up much more than my measly worldly possessions to follow Jesus.

Books We're Reading

Some new possessions we’ll be reading over the next few weeks.

 

 

We Will Follow Him

Our journey began on April 28 when the retiring chaplain challenged those qualified in the congregation to consider whether God was calling one of them to take his place.

I had always thought Keith would be a great chaplain, and I immediately thought he should consider it. Katie leaned over and told me, “You and Dad should do that.” Keith, sitting at the front of the church, had the same thought at the same time.

Dozens of circumstances and all we read and prayed that first month pointed us to the fact that we were being called to go to Bahrain. We have never looked back.

When we watched this video, used in a devotion we read on leadership, we both laughed and cried. It has become a theme for us:

“We will follow him, follow him
Wherever he may go…
There isn’t an ocean too deep,
A mountain so high, it can keep,
Keep us away, away from his love.”

From “I Will Follow Him” by Little Peggy March