Monday, December 30, 2013

Reflections of Goodness... {observed}

In my last post, I hoped to set a mood for my reflections, reminding me/us that really my/our aim ought to be to give thanks for it all. Even as we hope to do and be better tomorrow, next week, next year. In reflection then, on the year 2013 as a whole, I list here only a few of Gods acts of Goodness shown to us this year...

Visits from family. Due to the nature of our life and work here, we can't travel to be with family and friends as often as we'd like. It's huge when people make the sacrifice to come and spend time with us and have an interest in our lives. Sometimes, we miss the life we would have had, had we not chosen to give these years to God and His work. God is SO good to us by sending us visitors.

Short-term workers & teams. Every single one has been a HUGE blessing from the Lord. Every person who has come to serve us or alongside of us, has been God's medium for immense encouragement both personally and spiritually.

The privilege to continue homeschooling. Hah! Can this be due to God's goodness? Yesiree! Sometimes it's hard and overwhelming. Often, it's lonely and a seemingly thankless task. However, apart from marriage, I can think of few other modi operandi that are more radically and altogether sanctifying. Seriously. I do want to become like Christ in the worst way. And someday, as we carry on, I will most likely even feel some extreme satisfaction (I notice occasional fleeting traces even now). My kids are such cool people. I am truly thankful that I am able and allowed to homeschool, and that God continues to give grace in my extreme imperfection at doing so.

My Beloved is a gift. Through him, I regularly experience God's goodness. Both in the way of foot rubs and the like, as well as the many opportunities our relationship affords for growth in grace. :) Same goes for all my children. God has been SO good to us.

Construction. Over this past year, we've made a lot of little progresses rendering daily life a little less bumpy and dusty. Such as plaster and paint on all the walls and ceilings of our living spaces and poured cement floors (as opposed to dirty, sandy floors). Mind you, this was accomplished at no small cost as we were completely displaced for more than a month. However, you can only imagine my extremely thankfulness when all the work and the workers were done and gone. :) Notwithstanding the discomfort in the meantime, I am thankful the Lord provided the necessary means and the resolve (not entirely mine own, mind you) to get these projects done. I am even more thankful for the fruits of this labor. I thank the Lord for all the little things; painted walls, fastened light fixtures, no more gaping holes in the ceilings wherein tarantulas dwell.

A moderate though fluctuating sense of steady in the daily living category. This has been gifted through a continual plodding onwards, one little project at a time, a shelf on the wall here, or in the closet there, bookshelves, an organization binge or two over there, etc. God has given HUGE doses of grace to keep me sane in the midst. Especially considering I had to start over from zero late this summer, on returning from my trip, a week before school was supposed to begin, three weeks before receiving a visitor, etc., etc. It was a powerful and gracious God who sustained me, there could have been no other help sufficient.

For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to Him.” I am so, so thankful for this growing reminder of goodness that kicks my insides. I just laugh now, as I begin to feel more and more like Sarah imagining having a child in her old age. I know that I'm not ancient. Don't scold. However, the rest of our children are getting on in years and there will now be a sizable gap between our fifth and sixth. No matter. I shall be young at heart. I shall feel more like Hannah than Sarah. In retrospect, I am even thankful for the sheer struggle I had with anxiety and entrusting this little one to Him in the early months. He led me to His feet once again, and there is no sweeter place.


I still hope to reflect more specifically on my homeschooling year. What I've learned as a person and teacher-guide, as well as what we've learned and implemented in our school... I'll be posting that over at Fisher Academy. Hopefully, that will happen sometime tomorrow. We wrapped up term exams on Saturday, and I'm almost done with Term Planning today. It may yet be possible!

{This post is in keeping with the Reflective Mood I have been promoting here & here. If you too are reflecting on 2013 click over to see if you'd qualify to enter my giveaway for a 2014 Art Calendar. Linky closes 12/31 @ midnight.}

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Reflections of Goodness... {the value}.

There's a subtle difference between reflecting ON Goodness and the reflecting OF goodness... 
Or, is there?

If we talk about reflecting Goodness, I think I'd have to admit that most times I'm a muddy mirror. God is SO infinitely good and He showers us with SO many good things (plenty of which slip by unacknowledged). I am rarely really good in human terms, and not even remotely so in comparison with God. What then, am I to do?

God says this:
“The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God.” 
Psalm 50:23

Now there's a thought. To reflect goodness, I ought to be thankful. What is more, to reflect glory, I ought to offer my sacrifice of thankfulness. Giving thanks is in style lately, have you noticed? There is a lot of talk in these days of noticing the small and good and listing off a thousand thankfulnesses. All of which is absolutely appropriate as long as it doesn't just end in positive thinking. It is not enough to simply acknowledge random scraps of goodness. In order to really benefit spiritually, one must offer thanksgiving as a sacrifice to God.

Acknowledging God as the Giver of all good things, both great and small, the glaring and those clothed in camouflage, could even be said to be ordering our way rightly. Don't you think?

Have you ever noticed that being thankful is not always easy? I don't mean being positive. For me, sometimes just being or staying positive is hard, but thankful? Grateful in spite of difficulty? Thankful even when life hurts? Thankfulness is quite often a sacrifice.

Thankfulness is more than just saying thank you. It is more than just nice words. It is about being FULL. Not full of self but full of a feeling of appreciation and readiness to return kindness. Can you see why thankfulness might be a sacrifice sometimes? Most times?

Does the following sound foreign to you? Do you wish it didn't?:

"My heart exults in the Lord;
my strength is exalted in the Lord." 
Hannah, 1 Samuel 2:1

If your heart longs to exult and exalt, I encourage you to cultivate a heart of thankfulness, especially in reflection, but even more so in daily living. I cannot even begin to tell you how significantly practicing the habit of thankfulness will begin to change you. I promise. You could start by joining with others, many of whom are practicing thankfulness on a weekly basis by keeping a running list. I did that for a year. It is VERY helpful in developing the habit of reflection and thankfulness.

I have noticed that when I let down my guard or neglect the importance of a habit of thankfulness, my entire perspective on life blurs, twists, and dims. I've spent months in that downward spiral. It is not worth it. I'd rather be more like Him, reflecting His goodness.

Think of ways you can glorify God with your sacrifice of thankfulness. Reflect on His Goodness and reflect His Goodness. Other's will be blessed you did, you'll be glad, and He'll be glorified. :)

{This post is in keeping with the Reflective Mood I have been promoting here & here. If you too are reflecting on 2013 click over to see if you'd qualify to enter my giveaway for a 2014 Art Calendar. Linky closes 12/31 @ midnight.}

Saturday, November 23, 2013

growing plans.

we're really excited (though perhaps a little shocked at first) about this new & recently revealed little one and the changing family dynamic we never really planned to experience, having such a wide spread of ages. though 15+ years ago when we first started having babies we couldn't have anticipated what having a biggish family would be like, we love it SO much and feel like we couldn't be happier (well, until they all finally move out, get married and start having grandkids... and yes, we do realize we just prolonged the realization of that goal :)!

it brings special satisfaction to see all the kids excited and to hear them spontaneously pray for the baby. we were all slightly nervous up until recent weeks, after our last loss, even while FULLY trusting that the Lord knows EXACTLY what He's doing. for all of His tender workings we are extremely thankful!

our current plan is for this baby, due April 2014 (and whose gender will be revealed in the next photo shoot!), to be born here in Tarapoto, unless any foreseeable risks arise. we'll be trying really hard for either 4/04/2014 or 4/14/2014; because, well, wouldn't that just be cool?!

of course, as always, all our plans are subject to the Lord's will and working.
please remember us in your prayers!

the photos were a lot of fun.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Message to Houston... the Mission that hasn't ended

My heart has been full lately of missions, its significance and potential. Some of it spilled out and what got written first was this. While I meant every word, I pray it was understood in the spirit in which it was written. What follows is what I really wanted to write.
“When you did awesome things that we did not look for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. From of old no one has heardor perceived by the ear,no eye has seen a God besides you,who acts for those who wait for himYou meet him who joyfully works righteousness,those who remember you in your ways.”

It's already starting to blur; the memory, that is. So these words, vying for attention for weeks, pressing to be recorded, must finally be put into type ...because forgetting would be fatal.

You see, when God speaks, the mountains shake, and His words are life. And we should do our best to listen and recall them to mind. May we always remember Him and the kindness He shows to men.

How could I write everything... there was so much? I won't; not perfectly. But I offer here some words, because my mouth must praise the Lord. And I will recount His goodness.

God spoke in a multitudinous voice.
And we heard Him because we were waiting for Him.

Nothing will ever be the same. People change things. God changes things through people.
What happened last month, was the hope of years. The day when one of our churches would visit us.

They prayed. We prayed. They saved and gathered. We prepped and planned. They got culture chats. We skyped. They packed. We waited. They flew. We gathered them up in three cars from the airport.

But none of us could have known that day what God had in store for those who love him.

O how He loves us.

On June 24, if you'll allow me literary license, God came to Peru dressed as a multicultural group of 16 people with ages spanning 60 years. It was crazy how God spoke love through every single one of them to somebody specific. How could I possibly count the ways? How could I possibly be just trying to be nice. I am telling the truth in concrete.

There were doctors, nurses, pastors, leaders, teenagers, college students, a blessed man in his years of jubilee (who, among other things, fixed our bathroom door and the extremely wanting dog gate: daily love reminders).

They brought clothes and gadgets and candy.
They washed dishes and even cleaned my bathroom.
They brought energy and laughter and a spirit of readiness to be used.

They brought vitamins and advil and a clown with balloons.
They sang songs and built stuff and hugged sick people.
They spoke Jesus. They loved us.

How could we have expected anything less from our God who is always overflowing with goodness?

I have heard of a God who acts for those who wait for Him.
I know Him and can feel the intense radiating effect of His never-ending, world-saving love.
God visits. He makes Himself known to us and we and the mountains shake together.

He does awesome things that we don't look for.

Let us praise His name forever.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Outreach and the Artist, by Con Campbell

Outreach and the Artist: Sharing the Gospel with the Arts

The Church vs. the Arts seems to have become an epic discussion, often taking the form of conflict. The book, Outreach and the Artist, attempts to point out potential harmony between these two contenders, seemingly at perpetual odds, in an accessible, practical and Christ-honoring way.

Con Campbell is a jazz-lover and artist. He writes the book from a jazz background paired with years of experience working in conjunction with churches to bring glory to God through his art. He states, “As a Christian I am thankful to God for many things, not just the arts. Even more significant than the life-enriching arts is the life-resurrecting work of Jesus Christ.”

The purpose of the book is to teach artists and churches how they can work together to share Christ with the world. It's divided into three sections, evangelism with the arts, through the arts and to the arts. It is very sensitively written from an artist's perspective. Artist interviews are included and feature such questions as, “Describe the ministry you've been able to have through the arts,” and “Concerning other artists you know, what is the single biggest barrier stopping them from coming to Christ?”

I was struck again as he reminds us that the art subculture is one of the most unchurched, virtually unreached people group, “Artistic networks form tightly knit subcultures in our society that are sometimes impenetrable to outsiders... and tend to be shut off from conventional methods of outreach.” As a mission-minded person, I think this is one of the most important points he brings up. I have been thinking about this for some time, and I look forward to thinking and praying about what the next practical steps might look like.

This book is a breath of fresh air. Maybe that's because he's from down under? More likely it's because Con Campbell seems to understand the artist mentality. I hope many artists and churches can get their hands on a copy and use the experiential wisdom and practical advice to formulate relationships on the basis of art that can do much to further the Kingdom of God.

This book would make a nice reading compliment to Edith Schaeffer's book Hidden Art (see recent blog posts on the first seven chapters) and Art and the Bible by her husband, Francis Schaeffer.

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Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Book of Man, by William Bennett

Who doesn't need a hero? Is there such a person? Over the years, I have been inspired by many souls who have gone before and I attribute much of my own outlook, resolve and hope to their influence. This book is full of hero building material.

In the Book of Man, Bennett has compiled a wild compass of stories, poetry and speeches meant to remind us of what it is to be human, historically as well as ideally. The entries are generally only a page or two in length which lend themselves perfectly to family read aloud selections. Speaking of which, this would be an excellent way to use this book. It is specific to the virtues and purpose of manhood as opposed to womanhood, but real manhood touches womanhood at every bend, and what woman wouldn't want an ideal man as companion and protector? (okay, I can actually think of a few categories of women that mightn't, but sticking with the theme of the book in question, we're speaking of traditional ideals here :) It is in a woman's best interest then to encourage the reading of this book aloud by her husband to her sons.

The book is divided into sections, the man in war, the man at work, the man in play, sports and leisure, the man in the polis, the man with woman and children, the man in prayer and reflection, and man at the end. Each division is chock full of lucid examples from the best writers, thinkers, speakers and real-life examples to inspire us to not simply to be content with adequacy, but to seek the most lofty aspirations for manhood.

Some of the many origins of excerpts include: Whitman, Emerson, Longfellow, Twain, Pope, Churchill, St.Augustine, St.Francis, Robert E. Lee, F.D.R, Dickens, Pericles (yay, Plutarch!), Homer, Tolstoy, Seneca, Yeats, J.F.K, G.K. Chesterton, Burke, Ben Franklin to name a few.

In an age where manliness is in crises, Bennett has written, “ explore and explain what it means to be a man. In these pages you will find a variety of sources that offer a coherent, defensible, and appealing notion of manhood. ...In a variety of life's contexts, these readings define what a man should be, how he should life, and the things to which he should aspire.”

And I think that's exactly what this book can accomplish and provide especially for young people, if given or taken in regularly apportioned doses over the course of an extended amount of time.

William Bennet is the author of more recommended reading in my library, including:

The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood

The Book of Virtues

America: The Last Best Hope (Volume I): From the Age of Discovery to a World at War
(this is my most recent acquisition, if it's anything like the title that follows, we are going to REALLY enjoy it)

A Century Turns: New Hopes, New Fears (read my review here)

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