Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Broom Trees

"... he went a day's journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed he might die. "I have had enough Lord..." 1 Kings 19:4

Elijah the prophet's story is familiar. He had great favor from the Lord and was well known throughout the land. Just days before he gave up under the shade of a broom tree, he called on the Name of the Lord at the altar of sacrifice, ridiculed the prophets of Baal, witnessed fire from heaven consume his offering then slaughtered those who worshiped false gods and idols. He predicted the end of a three year drought and saw the rains approaching in the distance.

Elijah was no stranger to miraculous moves of the God of Israel. He knew Him better than any man alive in his day. But...

he grew weary

he got tired of being in the battlefield with his life threatened after each victory

he felt alone in his pursuit of God's will and plan

he wanted to give up and just die.

But God showed up.

"Then the word of God came to him: "So Elijah, what are you doing here?... Then he was told, "Go stand on the mountain at attention before God. God WILL pass by." A hurricane wind ripped through the mountain and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn't to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn't in the earthquake: and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn't in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper." 1 Kings 19:9-13

During the last few days of the Joni and Friends Warrior Getaway no one experienced hurricanes, earthquakes or fires - but they did experience the gentleness of Immanuel - God with us.

After a particularly hard night, I sat at breakfast sharing with one soldier's wife. Through her tears, she said, "what if God doesn't show up this time?"

No one is immune to doubts in our journey toward home. Not Elijah, not me and not you. No matter what glorious victories we have experienced, the first hand witness of God's hand on our life, the knowledge of His sacrifice, or the assurance of salvation can spare us the shadow of the broom tree where we just want to throw up our hands, throw in the towel and lay down and ask for God to just take us, take us now!

It is during those times, the whisper is heard - asking us what we are feeling and assuring us we are not alone. He is present and He is listening.

We long for a hurricane of hope to blow trials off the map of our heart, the earthquakes of change to alter our circumstances, and fire to consume our fear and doubt - but too often it is the whisper of simplicity where the evidence of the Living God appears.

He whispered to a teenage son of a soldier by giving him a teacher who spoke to him and gave him a safe place to have his feelings about war wounds to be heard.

He whispered to a woman as she sat on the floor of a hotel room and played a card game with her wounded husband and two children, sharing it was the first time since his return from Iraq they felt like a family.

He whispered to a soldier it is okay to mourn the loss of your friends and share your story of pain.

He whispered to a young mother of five as her hands and feet were massaged by a woman with spina bifida sitting on the floor speaking words of encouragement and love to her.

He whispered to the children who told of the loneliness of not seeing their fathers for years at a time while they were fighting for freedom.

He showed up - because He never left.

Thank you for being part of the "remnant" God has preserved for Himself to bless, support and intercede on behalf of those who go into battle. You may not feel your role is as important as the Elijahs, called to the front line of duty whose lives are in danger - BUT you are the testimony and witness God uses to say "you are not alone".

Out of the shadow of the broom tree - smiling in Son-shine service


Thursday, May 14, 2009

If You're Content


... to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself." Luke 18:14

Sometimes being more than ourselves involves donning a funny wig and hat and laughing at the simpleness of being silly.

Today, 27 families who have served our nation arrived at the beautiful Tapatio Springs resort in the Texas hill country. They were met by a bevy of clowns (I enlisted a clown troupe from San Antonio) hundreds of hats, wigs in a rainbow array of colors, and a multi-palette of costumes swinging in the breeze. They smiled. Even the most serious of soldiers let down their guard as pink wigs and miniature cowboy hats were secured atop their head. Those without hair (either by nature or razor) found new stylish additions to swing from side to side and remember days of innocence and youth gone by.

Tomorrow will be a full day of programs, break out sessions and for the kids FUN!

The Kingdom is advancing and the enemy is starting to fire up his fury.

More than I ever thought I would be - and certainly stranger looking!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Keeping up Appearances

"Hello, Mrs. Bucket..." "Its Boo-Kay, like the French..." from the BBC Comedy show Keeping up Appearances


Because this will be my son's first experience in ministry, I caught myself praying for the reputation and character of God to be faithfully represented by the believers serving at the retreat. He brings baggage from childhood on who "Christians" say they are and who they act like. I want the REAL Christ-followers to influence him and dispel his notions of who "they" are and find out who God is. As I was praying for my son's life to be changed, recognizing the baggage he will arrive at the retreat with, I realized ALL of us carry a piece (or two) of luggage around that holds what we think of God, and who we think He is. The families may have a suitcase full of disappointment. God did not "keep up appearances" of being a God who protects. Bags soaked with the tears of an uncertain future - facing doubt that God has a plan and a purpose, and that He works all things together for the good.

Well-meaning servants may offer up these scriptural platitudes - just as Mrs. Bucket repronounces her name for callers and guests. We want others to know our God IS good, in spite of circumstantial appearances: loss of limbs, traumatic brain injuries, post traumatic stress, suicidal thoughts, blasts and burns. But it takes more to communicate the character of the Living God than a few memorized verses when the tragedy of others confronts us.

How we LIVE, communicates more than what we say.

On the last night of His life, Jesus gave His disciples an example for living in the days ahead. They were to become servants of others, humbly bowing to the lowliest task needing to be done.

Followers of Christ strive hard to "keep up appearances" for God's sake. We forget He doesn't ask us to become a successful marketing team, winning the lost by the way WE look and sound or the brand of "suitcase" we carry. His thoughts are so much higher than our thoughts, His ways are so much higher than we can begin to imagine.

The next few days, my prayer is to travel light; to give my burdens (and fears) over the appearances of others to the King I serve, and to free my hands, feet, back (and heart) of my personal baggage. This will enable me to be free to carry the load of others; to pick up what THEY are carrying and make the journey towards home easier - if only for a few days.

"Carry each other's burden and thus fulfill the law of Christ" Gal 6:2

Gladly acting and smiling as Mrs. Bucket Baggage Handler in His service!

Monday, May 11, 2009

ELEEMOSYNARY


I will save you the time and trouble of looking up the word which no doubt makes appearances in Spelling Bee competitions on a regular basis. My daughter included it in the list of words describing me on her homemade Mother's Day card. "Eeee – lee – moe – sin – ary. What?" I consulted Google immediately to make sure this was not a hidden joke (doubtful but you never can be too sure with those big words). The meaning is defined as "relating to charity; from the Medieval Latin "alms dispenser". The $4.95 Thesaurus proved better than Hallmark. I was duly honored and impressed. I glad she considers this a word to describe me, but it is a definition of ministry as well. We are commanded to consider others higher than ourselves, and to "dispense" the love of God to those the Father places in our path.

This clown is ready for some "eleemosynous" action; I've been counting down the days until I return to the field! Finally, after the longest hiatus home in years, I am ready to hit the road and travel to San Antonio for the third Warrior Retreat, sponsored by the local branch office of Joni and Friends ( http://www.joniandfriends.org ). I will be joined at the retreat by my 25 year old son Alec. It will be his first experience to see me in "action" as well as his first experience to serve the needs of the young men and women who have fought to keep us free. I was astounded by the statistic - 90% of the 3.3 million serving in the military are between 17-21 years old! And another surprising number: there are 45 million military dependants; which is more than 10% of the entire population of the United States of America. But all 304,000,000 of us are dependant on the military. We are able to enjoy the freedom we have because of those willing to put their life on the line and serve.

We need ammunition. Your prayers prepare and equip us to be faithful servants and to fight the good fight of faith.


BULLETS FOR THE BATTLE

Safe transportation of the troops and their families

Hotel accommodations to be comfortable and suitable to their needs

The speakers to relate well to the soldiers the message of hope and truth

The volunteers to love and serve with joy and fun with all the participants

Safe driving for the volunteers and leadership

The Pastors and Army Chaplains to have discernment and boldness in sharing truth and faith

The Counselors to minister Christ's love and to have His wisdom and discernment to address the issues these families face

All staff working with the children. For patience, safety, love and FUN!


Prayerfully consider your financial participation for this opportunity as well as our upcoming orphan outreach trip to Kenya with East West Ministries International July 17-27. In spite of the financial condition of the country or any personal upheaval or uncertainty, one thing that is certain:

§ Without the truth of salvation

§ And knowledge of the hope in Christ being shared with those who have lost hope or have never heard the Good News

§ Their life will be forever separated from God

There is no brighter future than the one awaiting those who place their trust in the Living God.

It is printed on our money.

Our actions need to reflect our belief.

Ready for duty again

Sunday, May 10, 2009

TEXAS - Calendar of Events


MAY 13
Depart for Warrior Retreat

MAY 14
Training and Orientation
Soldiers and Families arrive between 3-5 pm
Evening Program

MAY 15
Full Day Children's Program
Family Dance-a-Thon!
Evening Program

MAY 16
Full Day Children's Program
Fishing Tournament
Kayaking
Evening Program
Sharing the Good News

MAY 17
Half-day Children's Program
Return to DFW area