Friday, December 31, 2010

Treasures in the Dark

"I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name." Isaiah 45:3 NIV 

It's daylight in Dallas, Texas the last day of the Year of Our Lord 2010. The sun is shining as the decade comes to a close. Wherever you find yourself on this day, I am sure you would agree it has been a roller coaster ride the last ten years. We started the decade off fearfull of Y2K (remember all the food and flashlights). And perhaps we are closing the decade with a glimmer of hope that the economy is finally going to turn around. At least Americans spending during this season would indicate we think we will be able to make payments on that plasma screen (with no interest until 2012).

The second year of the decade changed the world "as we know it." The attack in New York showed us we're not invincible. It brought a "darkness" created by the falling ashes of an empire. God's promises are true. He does give us the treasures of darkness. The place where what matters MATTERS. Where the main thing (our relationship with Him) becomes the MAIN thing.

Our country went to war, and we are still fighting the battle today. Whatever side of the political fence you find yourself on, I know I'm thankful there are men and women willing to sacrifice their time in the familiar, time with their families, time with controlled temperature and good food, and even their lives so that WE can have (and choose) all of the above.

"God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life." Psalm 51:10 The Message

I pray the next 365 days will be like "in the beginning;" a Genesis week - creation from the chaos of the locations I find myself in. The creation of salvation stories from places of poverty and pain, illiteracy and illness.

"Then those whose lives honored God got together and talked it over. God saw what they were doing and listened in. A book was opened in God's presence and minutes were taken of the meeting, with the names of all the God-fearers written down, all the names of those who honored God's name. God-of-the-Angel-Armies said, "Their mine, all mine. They'll get special treatment when I go into action. I will treat them with the same consideration and kindness that parents give the child who honors them. Once more you'll see the difference it makes between being a person who does the right thing and the one who doesn't, between serving God and not serving Him." Malachi 3:16-19 The Message

Every time "we" meet together, whether in person or in emails our God is taking notes and names of the "God-fearers." He is listening in and preparing for His action in our lives to impact the days and weeks and years we have assigned to us.

The treasures we find during dark times, the secrets we discover in the hidden places does not make us modern-day "Pirates of the Caribbean," it assures us we are Ambassadors to the King.

"Our God makes His entrance, He's not shy in His coming. Starburts of fireworks precede Him." Psalm 50:3 The Message

Happy New Year!


Sunshine After Rain Ministries is a 501c3 organization. Contributions to the ministry are considered tax deductible by the IRS. Donations for the calendar year 2010 must be postmarked by midnight December 31 or made through Paypal via our website: www.sunshineafterrain.org



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Monday, December 27, 2010

Hunger

"It is only the poor and hungry, those most aware they need someone to come on their behalf, who can celebrate Christmas. " Archbishop Oscar Romero - martyred

If I have said it once, I've said it one hundred times, "Africa is my favorite place on earth!" I can't remember any word past the first line of the Leon Russell's rock classic, "I've been a lot of places in my life and times..." Well, perhaps I do remember more, but past the first few words the message loses it appropriateness, so I generally stop there.

Africa is my favorite place on earth.
As I was discussing this with my friends (who have made Ghana their home for the past 16 years) I was trying to pinpoint just what it is about the place and the people that I love so much.

I recalled images vivid in my mind from my summer trip to Tanzania. Women who had walked for 4 hours to hear what "these guests" would have to share with them from the Lord. I thought of the moment when they jumped (literally) out of their seats and screamed and wept when we told them we were giving them a Bible. I shared with my friend my embarrassment that I had never felt that way about the Word of God.

I love Africa, because being here, among it's people, in a land where our Savior found refuge - I appreciate "the possessions in our hands have little to do with the peace in our hearts.*"

I have been blessed to celebrate Christmas here in a land that knows great pain and poverty. I came to share the miracle of His entrance into our humanity as an infant.

My greatest gift this Christmas, was finally learning why I love being here so much; what "they" know that I don't. The Africans know what it is like to be hungry. I am not even referring to lack of food. The women in Tanzania responded the way they did because they hunger "for every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God." Why else would they walk so far and weep for a gift that gathers dust on most of our shelves?

Jesus knew hunger in the wilderness. He understood thirst. He came for us even though we didn't know we needed Him to.

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven."

It's hard be hungry when you live in the "Land of Plenty."

Waiting for the Lord's feast
Charlynn in flight

* "I need Africa more than Africa needs me." www.mochaclub.org


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Friday, December 24, 2010

LOST

There is not much to watch on TV here in Ghana. Fortunately my friends have a collection of DVD's to select from to keep us entertained once the sun goes down.

A few days ago we were reading through the titles when they said, "We have the first season of the television series "Lost," have you seen that?" I replied, "Are you kidding me? I love that show! I haven't seen the beginning, well - since the beginning. That gets my vote."

And so we began the journey that is the 21st century version of Gilligan's Island.

I interjected from time to time what I had heard about the series. How the creators knew from the start of the show how many episodes it would have (a luxury from a writer's point of view) and other trivia. But as I watched the show from "the beginning," I saw traces of "the ending." There were subtle hints woven in even throughout the Pilot Episode!

I just kept thinking, "Wow, what great storytellers. They pulled that element in at the finale." I have been thoroughly entertained - again. It isn't even because I "know how it ends." I appreciate the story and the intricacies of the plot line. What looks like a "bad" part, really has resolution later on. I'm not stopped by the "trying to figure it out," phase as so many fans of the series were. I am marveling at the "story." The elements that seemed haphazard the first time around, now make more sense.

I don't feel so lost.

I've read through the Bible each year for the past 20 years. Each December I reach the Revelation of John. From time to time I also read Eugene Peterson's book* on Revelation as well.

Peterson's book is not the classic eschatological exposition on the Revelation. Instead it focuses on the fact this is God's last word in His word. Chapter's discuss the last word on the Church, the last word on prayer, the last word on worship etc..

When I reached Revelation Chapter 12, the commentary was fresh again. The Beginning of salvation is written at the End of the redemption narrative:

"The Woman gave birth to a Son Who will shepherd all nations with an iron rod." Revelation 12:5

I found myself feeling like I did while watching "Lost." I was marvelling at the intricacies of the author and perfecter of our faith. God let us in on the secret from the very start of His story.

"He was chosen before the creation of the world" 1 Peter 1:20

It is well know the holidays cause stress and tension. People get depressed and there are more incidents of suicide during this season than any other. I think it is because people feel a sense of hopelessness at a time of year when everyone is supposed to feel hopeful. They don't see the details; how God worked out from the start the end and how the end ties to the start of our salvation story.
They are lost.

Tonight's episode (Whatever the Case May Be) had a scene that had us all in unison say "Wow." One of the characters is almost catatonic at the loss of a girl he was trying to help. An older woman assures him it is not his fault. He looks up with despair. She says, "You have got to ask for help." Later on they are sitting in front of a fire, he turns to the woman sobbing and says, "Help me." She puts her arm around him and says, "I'm not the person you need to ask."

WHAT!? We waited with breathless expectancy to see who she would tell him he needed to talk with. Would it be the protagonist doctor? Or the antagonist with the gun?

Instead, she said (on prime time television) "Heavenly Father, we need your help. We're here lost and we don't know what to do."

One of the recurring scenes starting the show has been the close up of an eye opening. The next time I open my eyes, it will be Christmas morning here on the continent of Africa (I am 6 hours ahead of Central Standard Time). My prayer for my friends around the world, near and far, is to keep your hearts open to the wonderment of His story. Look around with fresh eyes at bright lights on the tree and imagine the bright light of His glory. While looking at your small nativities, use a large imagination for the smell, the sounds and enjoy the beauty of a King willing to reduce Himself to the vulnerable nakedness of an infant. I think I would try to have His little fingers grasp on to mine.

He promises to reveal all the plot lines, and sub-plot lines and intricacies of our story to us in the end. Remember The Revelation, in the End, we win!

"Our response to the Nativity cannot be reduced to shutting the door against a wintry world, drinking hot chocolate, and singing carols. Rather, we are ready to walk out the door with, as one psalmist put it, high praises of God in our throats and two-edged swords in our hands." (Psalm 149:6) *Reversed Thunder: the Revelation of John & the Praying Imagination; Eugene Peterson

Merry Christmas
Charlynn

Pray for those who are lost!


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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Crappy Wrapper

Attention shoppers, only 3 more shopping days left - and then the dreaded job of wrapping all those packages begins.

I admit without chagrin, I AM a crappy wrapper! I never have been good at, even when I used straight-edged rulers, a perfectly flat surface, good ribbon and bows (as opposed to reused or Dollar Store ones). My packages never look that pretty.

This year I didn't even make an attempt when I sent out presents to my friends and family before leaving for Africa. I just stuck them in a padded envelope and sent them into the ocean of millions of other packages crisscrossing the nation.

I am a crappy wrapper, but I am a good "giver."

"God loves it when the giver delights in the giving." 2 Corinthians 9:7

I just finished wrapping up the last of the packages to go underneath my friends' Christmas tree. I wrapped everything but the hot sauce. I thought it would be fun for them to actually unwrap the things I brought; some were requested, but there will surely be some surprises too.

As we walked past the 10' tall evergreen (ever ready artificial) my friend remarked, "I think this is the first time packages have ever been under the tree."

To hear that was a delight to this warped wrapper. My children encouraged me to quit wrapping long ago. "Mom, we just tear the paper up. Why do you want to spend the time?" I suppose I just wanted the meager (in expense) items I had for them to look like a lot. Except for the fact, I'm a crappy wrapper!

I brought my own supplies: tape, scissors and of course paper that I wound up fighting with, cutting crooked, creasing poorly, and tearing accidentally. It supports the U2 singer Bono's non-profit for Africa (RED). On it are words containing the word red in parenthesis. I think it has a message to remember even if I didn't do such a good job.

Admir(red): as we give to those we admire, may we remember the One who admires us

Ado(red): may we remember the gift of Christ we received because the Creator adores us

Treasu(red): may we remember the greatest treasure is the priceless blood shed for our redemption

Inspi(red): may we be inspired to "Go Tell it on the Mountains

Enamo(red): may we fall deeper in love in the coming year with the King we serve

Kind(red): may we understand the kindred Spirit of our brothers and sisters around the world, when they suffer - we suffer

Sha(red): may we mindful to share with others from our place of plenty. No matter how the economy has impacted your circumstances, many millions in our world go to bed hungry

Chee(red): may we be cheerleaders of the disenfranchised in the coming days. A victory was planned for us through Christ's birth - that is something to cheer about

Inc(red)ible: may we praise God for His indescribable gift to us

Who is, Who was and is to come, would have appeared to the world to be a crappy wrapper.

He wrapped His only begotten Son in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manager.

Following His example!
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Monday, December 20, 2010

Fall on Grace

"Hear the joyful sound of our offering, as your saints bow down."

The missionaries and the airline employee have fallen on the grace of the Father, and are relaxing in stretched out business class seats. Winging their way on what might be called a United Airline flight - but we know it was the effectual fervent prayers of the righteous that positioned them for His wings.

Our God saves!
Charlynn still in Ghana smiling
Thank you for your part!
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Standing By

"We will rise with You, lifted on Your wings, and the world will see that our God saves!"

I walked out into the heat of the African night on Saturday looking for faces that are hard to miss amidst the crowd of dark Ghanaians. I didn't see my friends, but plenty of people saw me.

"Taxi, madame?" "I will carry your bags for you," as hands quickly invaded way more than personal space to grab my overloaded luggage cart. The people are not unkind, or ill-meaning, they are opportunist to be certain, and someone with light skin on a dark continent usually spells m-o-n-e-y.

Ask anyone who has ever traveled with me, I can hold my own in such situations and NOBODY is touching me or my bags that is not authorized to do so!

Where were my friends?

One persistent fellow kept following me and saw I was scanning the crowds. He also was assured by me many times, I was not budging on the offer of help. Finally, he said, "I have a cell phone, do you want to call your friends?" Now that was an offer I couldn't refuse. I dialed the number and connected with them. "Where are you?" "Where are you?" They replied.

"I'm out here in a sea of darkness." We had inadvertently passed each other. As it turned out, they were dropping off a missionary couple leaving for furlough at the departure area above me, and in their haste to get downstairs to the arrivals, didn't scan the crowd that had made it outside.

I was in that crowd.

Standing by.

Watching and waiting.

Shortly after our hugs and thanks to the persistent gent, their cell phone rang again. It turned out the airline had placed an "embargo" on passengers flying "non-rev." From December 15 until January 15, people using "buddy passes" leaving certain "listed" countries could not fly without the airline employee who provided the pass. The missionary couple were no longer "on stand-by," they were out and out STUCK!

There was nothing else to do but to load them back in the car and drive the 1 hour back to my friends to try and sort the mess out.

Welcome to Ghana.

Sunday was spent making phone calls to family members who were meeting them, numerous calls to the airlines, emails to the employee in Columbus, Ohio on what to do, and waiting. An airline official suggested they return to the airport, only to be informed that there was no chance they would be leaving Ghana until the 15th of January - unless the employee flew to Ghana and took the flight back with them personally.

Who would do that? It's Christmas! Flights out of the US were being cancelled right and left due to weather. The employee, even with senior status would have to fly standby. Fly for 20 hours and then turn around and fly 20 hours back!

The odds and the weather were definitely in no one's favor. But by this morning an email came through letting them know the employee (a close friend of my friends) made the flight out of Washington D.C. and was on the way to the rescue.
All this activity made me think more of what a treasure we have been given. We all had dismal thoughts. "Oh, we can't ask this lady to do THAT! Not for us, she doesn't even know us that well. She just let us use these passes as a favor (to my friends)." This morning, my friend was looking at Facebook only to be reminded it was their friend's (the airline employee) birthday today.

Grace, undeserved favor was at work. So was a good dose of Christmas spirit.

"While we were yet sinners Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

Happy Birthday!

We have 4 shopping days left to show our friends and loved ones what they mean to us by giving them a gift. A gift they probably won't remember receiving next year. We are meant to celebrate what was given to us that we did not deserve, we could not afford to buy, would not dare ask, and we could not even imagine we needed.

The employee is here to accompany the missionaries back home, but they are still on "stand by."

Thank the Father for His sacrifice of His Son. It was a priceless and precious present. How WE give and receive at Christmas should reflect and acknowledge what was given to us. "Freely we have received, freely give." Pray for favor and space to get this couple (and the most grace-exhibiting employee) home for the holiday!

"But those who wait upon the God get fresh strength, they spread their wings and soar like eagles." Isaiah 40:31 The Message

I'm smiling still, and watching always!
Charlynn
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Thursday, December 16, 2010

GHANA - Calendar of Events

DECEMBER 17
Depart DFW

DECEMBER 18
Arrive Accra, Ghana West Africa

DECEMBER 19
Church Worship


DECEMBER 20 - 24
International Disability Center
Orphanage /AIDS Outreach

DECEMBER 24
Christmas Eve Program

DECEMBER 25
Merry Christmas!

DECEMBER 26
Church Worship

DECEMBER 27
Depart Ghana

DECEMBER 28
Arrive DFW

Ready for all the Father has in store for the coming year.

Lights, Cameras, Action!

LIGHTS!


Christmas lights are up all across the city of Dallas . We had a small “cold front,” but it left as quickly as it came. Today, it is almost 70 degrees and it does not feel like Christmas at all. It seems like a balmy day where anything could happen. What is happening in the weather of my apartment is quite usual. There are no “stockings hung by the chimney with care,” foremost because I don’t have a fireplace, but there is not one trace of a Christmas bobble because I won’t be home for Christmas. I can guarantee, I won’t be dreaming about being here either. I will find myself once again in the Harvest Fields of West Africa. The people are dark of skin, but the harvest is white! I suppose I can safely say, I will be having a “White Christmas” indeed. It will not be one that will change with the seasons or temperatures. It will be an eternal one based on the “real” reason for this season we have so commercialized.

CAMERAS!


In this fast-paced culture we live in, everything is being filmed and posted on-line. Celebrities who are caught having just a little too much cheer are uploaded and scandalized before the limo pulls into their driveway. I get the usual amount of forwarded emails meant to lift my spirits and supposedly, I will confirm my “Christian” status if I forward the information to at least 10 people. I just exhale and take a look at whatever inspiration was sent my way, and try not to be too cynical or Scrooge-like. I watched this “caught-on-film” moment and wept. Okay, so I always cry at Handel’s Hallelujah chorus, but this made me picture what could be a “Rapture” moment. Suddenly, in an uncommon place, the Name will be proclaimed, and then I suppose if it is anything like the Left Behind series, just our clothes will be left for others to wonder about. This incident took place in a shopping mall food court and… what can I say… but

Hallelujah! A King is Born. King of Kings, Lord of Lords, forever and ever, Hallelujah.

(view video at: http://www.youtube.com/user/AlphabetPhotography)

ACTION!


I’m taking action this Christmas. The One who broke into our history, asks that we tell His – Story. There is no better time of year than now to share the Good News. The One who created all things, and by whom all things are held together is asking us to come and see. Pick out your favorite Christmas Carol and sing like there is no tomorrow.

Because there just might not be.

But for today~

“The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord. And of His Christ; And He shall reign for ever and ever! “

And although I am smiling in His service, it still makes me cry at times.