Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Something to Make you Think

I ran across this video the other day, and it's message gripped me, reminding me of the call that has been on my life since I was born. I have seen much suffering firsthand here in Macedonia, and have also tasted of the real cost of choosing to be the hands and feet of Christ. Now God is calling me to once again count the cost and make the choice to spend the rest of my life giving everything to be the representation of His heart here on earth. Watch and consider what part God has called you to play.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pondering the Power of Femininity

I ran across this quote a while ago someone had mentioned from Stu Weber's book, "Four Pillars of a Man's Heart".

"The influence of applied femininity is, by any measure, incredibly determinative. In every culture, in every age, the power is awesome. And dangerous. As with any significant reservoir of power it may be used for good or ill. It's impact may be constructive or destructive. Like a mighty river, it is a force that may turn the turbines and generate power that will light up a community, a home and a whole man's life. But, undisciplined and unchecked, it may devastate, demoralize and utterly destroy.

Some women have no clue how much actual power they hold, and these are the women who destroy their husbands by default. Other women, keenly aware of their power make a conscious decision to become high controllers. But still other women, keenly aware of the power God has vested in their femininity, make a deliberate choice to use that power only for good. "

It makes me think of the verse from Proverbs, "The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down."

I stop and think of the power God has chosen to give me and I realize with it came a responsibility. It is as if I had been given a sword, which I am responsible to a learn to use effectively. If I treat the sword carelessly, and don't apply myself to learning how to master the skill of wielding this weapon, then one of two things could happen. I could end up hurting someone with it because I don't know it's proper use. Or, when the moment comes that the sword becomes necessary in battle and I discover I missed my earlier chance to learn it's use, then I could end up losing the opportunity to gain victory.

I personally believe that God gave me a destiny to win every battle that is placed in front of me, to be the wise woman who builds up my house, not the foolish one who tears it down. I believe he purposed< for me to know how to use the power he has given me so that it will bring life everywhere that I go. And so, I am applying myself to learn how to wield the weapon he has given me.

It's not just me he has purposed this for, but for every woman out there who will take him up on the offer. What kind of woman will you be?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A Look at the Bigger Picture

This past Thursday found me in Veles once again. I was sitting in the taxi with three of the women from the church here, my dear friends, my sisters.
We were winding our way up the narrow, brick covered streets on the side of the mountain, so typical of Balkan towns. In a sudden flash I was taken out of that moment and in my mind saw a picture of a larger expanse of time, reaching back into the past, stretching into the future.

Looking back in time I saw the years of war, the devastation, the suffering, all the places satan has wrought havoc. Walking these streets, sitting in these homes, talking to my friends, I can see the affects of it in their daily lives. The broken relationships, the economic disaster, the suffering that war brings.

Then I saw the hand of our loving Father, how through it all He never left. He has been pursuing all this time, planning for how He will bring healing, planning to draw His children to Himself. I saw how He invaded the lives of the people who are now my brothers and sisters here. He chased them with His love, overtook them, and now they are His.

And then I saw how I got placed right in the middle of this whole story, something I consider to be a great honor and privilege. I get to share what Jesus has done in my life, and watch Him do the same for them. I help show the way to plug into Jesus as their source of life. I pour into them out of what God has poured into me, I tell them about who they are. We push each other to build a stronger relationship with our Heavenly Father so we can walk more fully in the inheritance that has been given to us.

Looking at the bigger picture I see how little by little the transformation has been coming. From a place of slavery, they have begun to find their position as daughter's of the king, princesses. This has led to a realization of the authority they possess, which has caused them to begin changing the circumstances they are in as they start to exercise that authority. Fear has collided with perfect love and thus turned to faith. Provision and healing came as fruit. The pain of past hurts has been met with redemption. God is gently putting his finger on areas of bondage, bringing freedom. Sorrow and discouragement has been replaced with hope and joy. The expressions on their faces are different now than they were a year ago. They are beginning to stand up and take the position that they were given, to be leaders who affect the lives of the people around them in a way that brings life. Together we have faced cancer, financial difficulties, relational problems, lyme disease, and many other major life issues. And all of these things have had to bow to the name of Jesus. Darkness has met the light, and the darkness has had no choice but to flee. And I am confident this is just the beginning. I begin to realize there is no limit to what can be accomplished when I believe God to do the impossible.

I looked forward and I saw where this will all lead. These women will be, and already are, wives of the leaders of the growing church in this country. What they learn and start living now, they will go and spread to everyone who they meet. And thus I saw it spreading throughout the whole country of Macedonia, throughout the rest of the Balkan region and into the whole world. In the end, I saw the kingdom of God advancing like an unquenchable fire, restoring the brokenness of generations of devastation, bringing new life and hope. I saw Jesus riding forth like a warrior dressed for battle, not content to see his bride continue living in bondage, and there is no stopping Him. And so I prepare my heart to receive more of His love, and to continue being a part of what He is doing. Nothing compares to the beauty of it.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Baba Lile and Monika

Even though riding on the train in the Balkans can be a very frustrating experience, I am also discovering it can be a source of unexpected encouragement and divine encounters.

Last Thursday my friends from America were visiting and I was having a very difficult morning, feeling very discouraged. John, Jenn, Ben and I were in the train going from Skopje to Veles, and I was sitting there feeling rather overwhelmed. There was an older woman, probably seventy years old, sitting in the compartment with us, and we struck up a conversation. She asked us what we were all doing here living in the Balkans, and I told her that we are working with different churches in Skopje, Belgrade and Thessaloniki. I expected the normal response from an older orthodox Macedonian, the suspicion that we are part of a cult. Imagine my astonishment when she began telling me about her relationship with God, and for the next thirty minutes or so proceeded to speak words of encouragement, life and wisdom over us. She told us, "You are all blessed, peaceful children of God. Everywhere that you go you will carry peace and freedom. You will fly with God. The presence of God that is in you will change your surroundings everywhere that you go. You have no reason to be afraid of anything, or to be discouraged." She went on in this fashion for a long while and as I translated for my friends I was laughing and looking over at them in astonishment, wondering where this woman came from. She is probably one in a thousand 70 year old Macedonian woman who has a personal relationship with God. The woman's name was Lile, and she said to me, "Please be praying for Baba (grandma) Lile." I assured her we would be praying for her.

The following week, I was once again in the train going from Skopje to Veles, this time with Sonja. It was Thursday, three days before at the prayer meeting I had asked God to give us divine appointments with people in Macedonia who need to hear about Him We were sitting in a compartment in the train with another young woman. When she asked us to tell her the time, Sonja took the opportunity to start a conversation with her. Having noticed that she had been crying Sonja asked her if something was wrong. She informed us that her mother had died unexpectedly three weeks before at a young age. She proceeded to tell us some of what had happened, and how she was feeling. I could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit as I realized he had strategically placed us there at that moment in time, and had answered my prayer very directly. Sonja shared with Monika some about how God is not the one who took her mother, and then I was able to share my testimony of having experienced much death and seeing how God brings comfort. I told her that God's desire is to give her beauty for ashes and the oil of joy for mourning, that he will bring the comfort that she needs. She cried as we spoke, and was very open to the things that we shared. We told her we would be praying for her, for which she was very grateful, and we parted ways, with the hope, at least on my part, of seeing one another again.

As I ponder these things a certain revelation sinks more deeply into my heart. My God is not a God who I have to fight with to give me blessing, or who reluctantly releases it if I pray hard enough. On the contrary, He looks for every possible opportunity to bless me. My God is for me, not against me, He longs to be gracious to me, He waits on high to have compassion on me. He brought me Baba Lile to remind me of this, and then Monika to remind me that through me He can extend this blessing to every single person whose path I cross, even sitting in the train.

Thanksgiving in Thessaloniki

This year for Thanksgiving my friend Sonja and I travelled down to Thessaloniki, Greece to spend a few days with our friends Amy and Jenn from America who live in Thessaloniki. We took the train, which almost without fail provides some kind of interesting experience. This time we had interesting conversations with two different women who sat in the same compartment as us. Then at the border when it came time to check passports I was reminded of how conspicuous I am as an American. The police come and collect all the passports, but then you must go to the station to retrieve them. They call out names, and people step forward to get the passport back. They were calling out Greek names and Macedonian names, then they got to mine and just yelled, "The American passport!". I had to laugh at how much I stick out.

We had a wonderful time in Thessaloniki hanging out with Jenn and Amy, relaxing and preparing for Thanksgiving meal. Their balcony overlooks the Aegean Sea, and you can see Mount Olympus (that's the mountain in the picture) when the air is clear. I enjoyed the peaceful surroundings

and company very much. The shepherd and his flock of sheep in the neighboring field, the forest in front of the kitchen window, the horse that lives nearby and loves it when you give him an apple.

Thanksgiving day we gathered at

Tommie's place, which is just around the corner from Jenn and Amy. It was certainly the most unique Thanksgiving celebration I have ever been a part of. There we were Americans, Greeks, Swedes and Macedonians all gathered in Greece in a Swedish home celebrating an American holiday. After the meal Tommie's neighbor who is a musician provided us with live entertainment, which was a wonderful way to end the evening.

The trip home on the train provided further intrigue. A young policeman who was working at the border noted where we were sitting on the train, and when he got on to ride for about half an hour he chose to sit with us. Come to find out he is single and looking for a wife. He proceeded to question us about our occupations, ages and other pertinent information. I think Sonja may have scared him off for us when she mentioned Jesus and he completely shied away from the topic. So we said goodbye to him at Miravci, and made the rest of the journey by ourselves.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Watch out Balkans! Here comes WIMM +2!

Who but God is capable of bringing a group of people from Virginia, Michigan, Florida and Tennessee, from a wide range of backgrounds together in the Balkan region of Europe with a united vision to see Him bring transformation to this region of the world? I have been marveling over this the past few days and my awe at God's works knows no bounds. It is so true that the steps of a man are established by the Lord, and the places that He takes us are amazing.

We are all from the same church in Christiansburg, Virginia, having graduated from the same internship program, each separately led by the Lord to the country that we are now living in. Amy, Jenn, Ben and Kim are in Thessaloniki, Greece, Danielle and John in Belgrade, Serbia, and myself in Skopje Macedonia. Our current name WIMM + 2 stands for Womens International Missions Movement since at the start we were just women. Now that two men have joined the ranks we temporarily added plus 2 on the end until we come up with a new name. So, we decided to meet together, to share vision of what God is doing in this region of the world, to encourage one another and enjoy the presence of Jesus. So for the past few days we were all here together in Skopje.

The first night as we were praying together, my heart just overflowed with gratefulness to God. For years I have dreamed of the day that I would be living and ministering overseas. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would be sharing this calling with such a team of people as this to back me up. God is such a good father, and gives such good gifts. And He does not call a person without giving them everything that is necessary to walk out that calling.

These past few days we have spent hanging out and laughing, playing cards, cooking, eating, worshiping, praying, and just being together. God showed up in the way that He loves to do, speaking words of encouragement to each of us, through one another, blessing us with the sweetness of His presence. At the beginning I was feeling so empty and discouraged from the demands of ministry but by the end I was refilled with Jesus, encouraged to continue, with a sense that I am part of a team, that I am not alone, that we are in this together. I cannot express the comfort of knowing I have brothers like Ben and John nearby who remind me of how much God values me and of His protective presence over me, and of having sisters like Amy, Jenn, Kim and Danielle to listen to my struggles, to share the joys with and to encourage me and walk alongside me. I feel incredibly privileged to be a part of a family such as this.

With the presence of God in us, the resurrection power of Jesus at our disposal we are a group of people who I am confident are called to bring radical change and healing to the Balkan region. Watch out, here we come! Jesus is on the move!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Father and Family

The smell of supper wafting up the stairs. The sound of my brother stomping up the steps two at a time. Long talks with my sister when she really should have been studying and I should really have been sewing, but we each decided we just needed to share some sister time. Exploring the wonder of the outdoors together. Riding double and bareback with my brother on one of the horses to go visit the neighbors. Waking up to the sound of the woodstove door creaking, knowing that my dad is starting a fire and that by the time I get downstairs the stove will be radiating cozy heat. Dad reading "The Chronicles of Narnia" to us aloud as children in the evenings. My brother going with me to milk the cow when we got home late at night and I didn't feel like braving the dark field by myself. All six of us gathered around the supper table together, sharing about our day. Summer evenings sitting on the porch enjoying the peace and serenity. Walking and praying with my mom. The smell of mulled cider heating on the wood stove when we came in from sledding in the snow. A place of safety and comfort, where I know I am always accepted whether I have failed or succeeded. This is my home, this is my family.

I think back on all these experiences, how they shaped who I am, and revealed God's love to me. And one of the most beautiful things about my family is the times we get to share the closeness with others. We have someone over for dinner, and they feel the beauty of family and love, and so many times they speak of the comfort it brings to them. The warmth of the love reaches out and envelops other people, drawing them in. And now living across the ocean from my family I understand the truth of that. And as I ponder it all, revelation explodes in my heart about my God, my Father. He wants a family, He wants His children to know and experience what it means to be in a family. The family I grew up in is just a shadow of what He is wanting to create in His church. And I am watching Him do this here, gathering His children to Himself. He is creating a family here in the Balkans. He is drawing His children to His heart, calling them home, to a place of acceptance, safety and comfort. And as we begin to be drawn together as brothers and sisters, sharing our lives together, something is created in our midst that draws those around us who have not yet recognized the voice of their father. And they are feeling it, people disillusioned with life, at the end of their ropes, who looked for peace elsewhere and did not find it. The warmth draws them, they are amazed by the peace they feel in the midst of this family of people. And my heart rejoices as I watch it, the protective arms of my Father, sending forth the spirit of adoption, drawing His children to Himself, to the family they were created to be a part of, the family that Jesus died to give them a place in. It is incomparably beautiful to watch.
"But that He might gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. " John 11:52
"For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, 'Abba! Father'" Romans 8:15
Let it be Father!