Friday, December 28, 2012

Of Mayhem and Mayans

"How long, Strong God, Holy and True? How long before you step in and avenge our murders?" Revelation 6:10 The Message

On December 14, 2012 cries from the depths of the earth assuredly reached the ears of the Creator as a very troubled young man walked into an elementary school and took the life of 20 children and six adults.

The nation was broken-hearted and horrified as broadcast details filled TV screens with images of grade school children being lead out of the building. There was no explanation, other than a new level of evil had arrived on the doorsteps of a place most vulnerable. Christmas presents had been purchased and plans had been made for those twenty-six souls. Nothing in this world can soothe or console the friends and loved ones who experienced such an inexplicable loss. I can't imagine what it was like in those homes Christmas morning because...

it is unimaginable.

In such times, I find solace in the Word, "Fear not; I am the First and the Last; I am the Living One; I was dead and behold I am alive forever and ever and I hold the Keys of Death and Hades. (Revelation 1:18)" Jesus was, is and is to come. Nothing happens in this world without His knowledge. ALL of our days are known to Him before one of them comes into being. He knows, He knows, He knows.

The tragedy came one week short of the end of the Mayan calendar and the anticipated "end of the world as we know it" predictions. For the families impacted by the horrific life-altering event it most certainly was an end to the world they knew and looked forward to.

That same day, on the other side of the globe, another death occurred. The Pastor I was serving with when I was attacked in India, was killed in a car wreck. Even though I was 8,000 miles away and our contact was intermittent, it still came as a shock. It was Peter Jamkhandi's birthday. He was in the middle of a Pastor's Training Seminar with a team of Americans. They shared a prayer for the celebration of his life, and then he was off to Gokak (the very city we were attacked in) to perform a wedding ceremony and return later that day. He never made it...

...just like the 20 children and 6 adults of Sandy Hook.

People were waiting for them, people were expecting them, people were going on about the business of life - and then they were ushered unwillingly into the business of death, loss, grieving and funerals. These two events (one a world-wide news maker and the other barely a mention in the local Indian post) convicted me of the uncertainty of our times. The whole world doesn't have to end for an individual to experience an "end of their world." I'm committed afresh, to making every day one of purpose and Kingdom advancement; just like my friend Pastor Peter, who blew out celebratory candles of "this" life hours before being welcomed in to his "real" life.

"And now I have a word for you who brashly announce, "Today-at the latest, tomorrow-we're off to such and such city for the year. We're going to start a business and make a lot of money." You don't know the first thing about tomorrow. You're nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing. Instead, make it a habit to say, "if the Master will it and we're still alive, we'll do this or that." James 4:14 The Message

The New Year is just days away. The common cultural practice of making resolutions to do (blank) better, more, or less occupies our thoughts. The indulgence of holiday feasts makes many conscious of the next "diet" that will begin January FIRST! My resolution is to start each day with the advice in James, "if the Master will it and I'm still alive..." I've often said, "should the Lord tarry (to the irritation and aggravation of my friends), in 2013 I'm changing it up with the resolution I learned from Joni Earekson Tada: Give the Lord one day, He can use it in His economy like it was a thousand!

"With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day. God isn't late with His promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because He doesn't want anyone lost..... Interpret our Master's patient restraint for what it is: salvation." 2 Peter 3:9,14 The Message

There are still billions of people lost in this world. That is a number hard to fathom. But as we unite together to be about the Father's business, those lost sheep don't have to fall off "the cliff" (so recently in the news) they can lean on the everlasting arms, knowing the safety and security of the One who holds our times in His hands. I'm excited to see what He has in store, the places, the faces, and the people at the ends of the earth who will be dancing the chicken dance!

"From now on, you're the good-news people. Don't be afraid. Keep a firm grip on what I'm doing." Zechariah 8:13 The Message

Make this coming year historical! You still have three days to make your year-end financial donations for the work of Sunshine After Rain Ministries. We are advancing the Kingdom through our on-gong work with orphans, widows, wounded warriors and their families; people disenfranchised in the eyes of the world, but precious in the eyes of the Savior! We go behind enemy lines!

Keep us armed and dangerous with the ammunition of prayers and significant financial support. These last days are a battle with eternal consequence!

Get ready!

"But let us go out with the patient power of knowing that the God of Israel will go before us. It is true we have lost opportunities that will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past rest in the sweet embrace of Christ.

Leave the broken, irreversible past in His hands, and step out into the future with Him." Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest

Temporarily out of ammunition, but smiling knowing reinforcements are on the way!

Charlynn


To donate by credit card online please visit our website and click DONATIONS:

www.sunshineafterrain.org

Checks mailed must be postmarked by December 31 to count in the 2012 tax year:

Sunshine After Rain Ministries
10024 Regal Park Lane
Suite 217
Dallas TX 75230


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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Neither

Be in the world, but not of the world...

Of the countless places I've been, Panama is like no other. I haven't figured out if it was my expectations or experience that caught me off guard. I supposed Panama to be another Third World destination, with a more convenient language and location. But what I found is quite different.

When I arrived in the capital city late in the evening, all I could distinguish from my taxi cab window were massive illuminated skyscrapers. "Hmmm," I thought, "interesting metropolis." The following day with a few hours to kill before our local flight departed my host and I went to the mall. It was MASSIVE, (the biggest shopping mall in all of Central America in fact).

We were joined by one of her friends (from Argentina) and chatted about the disparity found in the culture. But as disconnected as the availability of "Hello Kitty" and "Apple" products found in the expanse made me feel, my mind and body refocused when we departed for the domestic airport.
While we were enjoying the food court a torrential rainstorm blew into town; bad weather and flying make even an experienced traveler nervous. Our flight was scheduled to take off at 4:00, but two hours later we were still waiting and watching the water pool on the runway in ever increasing depths!

The deluge let up long enough for us to finally board and be on our way to the northern part of the country. When we arrived at the archipelago of Bocas del Toro it was pitch black and still raining. We loaded our luggage into the back of a pickup truck taxi, and headed to the hotel. The rain would return again when we were making our departure a few days later.

Island life has its share of seductions; gorgeous scenery, mostly favorable weather, and the appearance of a simplified, stress- free environment. But as Shakespeare said in his famous soliloquy, "There's the rub."

One of my favorite books (Jacob the Baker by Noah ben Shea) says it another way, "the first person you meet on the road running away from your problems, is yourself."

In my few days here, I've encountered many "runners" in the growing ex-patriot community. They come from countries as distant and diverse as the reasons for their departure.

The "easier, simpler, stress-less" Island Life is not the one to which the community of faith are called. My friend and host commented her experience with ex-patriot groups has been, they stick together; while they fled the nation they still crave the nationals. It seems at the core of our humanness we are fundamentally tribal, longing to belong, to feel companionship in our "different-ness"

"You are neither hot nor cold. I wish you were one or the other. So because you are lukewarm, I will spit you out." Revelation 3:15-16

I've heard it said, the opposite of hate is not love - it is apathy. It would be easy to leave the world, the flesh, the devil and the political climate to "work itself out." Who among us hasn't dreamed of living in a tropical paradise away from "IT" all, whatever our particular "it" happens to be? I want to be mindful about my time these days, engaging and befriending the hateful or the apathetic; sharing and showing the love and grace I experience in the Kingdom to come.
I'm leaving Panama refreshed but reminded, this "world" is not my home. My "alien" nature serves me well on foreign soil. I also know the things I am passionate about have little to do with me or my comfort, and everything to do with the One that I love and who deeply loves me. He had difficulty with people whose lifestyle appeared to need no Savior. They were the religious comfortable, their lives were good, like many of the people I found in Panama. But...

they're lost.

Leaving a fragrant aroma of The King to those who are living,
Smiling
Serving
Still


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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Run


"I want you to get out there and walk - better yet, run! - on the road God called you to travel.." Ephesians 4:1 The Message

I'm off and running (AGAIN), the road He has set before me. While this particular "race" is more like a sprint (within the same time zone and a mere 2,000 miles) it is still one the Father orchestrated and equipped me to run. 

Frankly, I'm happy to be away from the political race and rhetoric as much as possible. During the elections of 2008, I was with a team serving in the poverty-striken, hurricane ravaged island nation of Haiti. It was bad - but as "bad" as we saw the conditions, NOTHING would have prepared us for the utter devastation the earthquake in 2010 created. 

With that history in view, I want to spend each and every moment committed to what the Lord has for me to do this day, at this time. 

"As long as it is day, we must do the works of Him who sent me. Night is coming..." John 9:4

I don't know who will be elected President of the United States. I don't know if a natural disaster will befall Panama two years from now (as it did in Haiti), but this I do know with all certainty and conviction:

Jesus commissioned us to Go (Matthew 28:19)
Jesus is not slow in coming (2 Peter 3:9)
Jesus is coming back (John 14:3) 

I'm setting out, to a "far country" I have never been to, I'm not sure what my days in Panama will contain. I'm expressing the Truth found in Hebrews 11:

"But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called "Today," so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." (Verse 13)

Partner with Sunshine After Rain Ministries in prayer and financial support*. The politicians love to say, "it takes a village," but this missionary offers, "it takes The Body!" to change the world for the glory of our Master. 

In God I Trust
Telling His Truth in the NO SPIN ZONE
Smiling in His Service

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

R E I


"but now through a glass dimly..." 1 Corinthians 13 

I was hoping to get a glimpse of Mount Kilimanjaro while driving to the airport. Alas, it was cloudy and there wasn't much hope of a sighting. I kept my eyes peeled toward the sky, watching to see if the clouds would part and the breathtaking peak show itself. Pastor Lumwe was enjoying my treasure-hunt attitude and when we made the turn to the airport he said, "There it is Kilimanjaro!" "Where, where, where?" I scanned the horizon. "There," he chuckled and pointed in the direction of my gaze. 

It was only the sun reflecting off a high cloud. He laughed and laughed. I was thoroughly disappointed. 

It was early (like I like to be) and I waited in the lobby of the airport while little by little, other travelers came straggling in. With their backpacks in tow, clad in expedition gear, they looked like they had stepped from the pages of an REI catalog. 

Kilimanjaro climbers were easy to identify. They were tan, young, and fairly fit looking. They had a variety of hats, scarves, hiking boots and water bottles. I took a seat next to one and asked if she minded watching my bags while I "powdered my nose." We struck up a conversation when I returned and indeed, she had just climbed the mountain. I've heard its "climb-able" even for the novice. Then I heard the truth: 

It's hard! 

As I was checking in another "REI" couple were having problems at the counter. It seemed there was an Exit Tax not included in their ticket. The agent was unmoved by their plight. "Listen mate, we don't have any shillings, or dollars. Is there a cash machine?" She just shook her head, leaned back and was not concerned or helpful. Her only comment on the situation was "Cash only, no credit cards." She actually laughed at their cash machine inquiry. 

I know all to well what it's like to be in a foreign country trying to deal with an unexpected situation. I handed the agent the fee. They were very grateful and kept offering to purchase something for me inside. I assured them nothing was needed - I was glad to help. 

We met up again at the gate and they shared their Kili climbing experience. It was a delight to here the tale of their adventure told with animated Australian accents. "Shar-lee (I don't think she ever actually caught my name) it was SO HARD. I thought I was going to die! We trained for the altitude before we came but I was totally unprepared. Really, really hard" 

Here was a young, fit, outback Australian expounding on what it took to make it to the summit of the highest peak on the African continent. No need to put that on my Bucket List! 

Looking for Kilimanjaro always excites me. It never fails to make me think of the grandness of our Creator and His creation. Truly, it is so magnificent and HUGE; appearing on the horizon out of nowhere - it is just there. The few times I have been privileged to see it, it took my breath away. This trip wasn't looking to promising. 

When we boarded the aircraft, all I caught from the pilot's heavily-accented announcement was "Too cloudy today for Kilimanjaro." 

Waaaah! 

I buckled up and prepared myself for the long long long way home. This trip has been filled with long long long journeys. As we climbed high into the air, another announcement was made, "Cleared for Kilimanjaro." 

Whaaaaaat! 

"Ladies and gentlemen, we have been cleared to fly directly over Kilimanjaro, please prepare yourselves to take pictures." 

Wow! Breathtaking! 

With all the current events, downturns and upheavals, I keep looking up for the day of redemption is surely "drawing nigh." I know it's "there" just like Kilimanjaro hiding behind the clouds. I know I will see Him and behold His beauty. I AM prepared! 

I am outfitted: 

R EDEEMED 
E. TERNALLY 
I. NSURED 

This journey has been really hard. Perhaps not summit-climbing hard, but a difficult mission has concluded. 

I'm headed back mates 
Still coughing 
Still smiling 
In His service 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Through


"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you: and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you..." Isaiah 43:2 

Through is one of those fickle English words that have more than one meaning. Isaiah is telling us we are going to go from one thing to another thing but we can count on God's promise to be with us. 

Fourteen days after I left my home in Dallas, my time here in Tanzania is through. Tomorrow I will board a plane and go from one thing to another thing knowing God has been with me and He will continue to see me through though I'm through! 

Over the last two weeks with the very long long long drive from one end of Tanzania to the other, my world has felt very large. But today, I was reminded once again how small a world I live in and just how big is the God I serve. 

"The accumulated sorrows of your exile will dissipate. I, your God, will get rid of them for you. You've carried those burdens long enough...I'll heal the maimed; I'll bring home the homeless....you'll be famous and honored all over the world. You'll see it with your own eyes - ALL those painful partings turned to reunions!" God's promise. Zephaniah 3:18-20 The Message 

Two friends I met in China a few years back came to visit me. No, they were not Chinese, they are Tanzanians that were studying in China at the time of our meeting. They were a long way from home and their eventual return seemed very far away. They were excited to meet someone who had actually been to their country and they both said, "Hope to see you in Africa one day", probably never thinking this would happen. But happen it did! 

I love reunions like today. I know one day we will all meet again. You will meet the orphans of Russia I have watched grow into young men and women. You will greet the Chinese university students who heard the Gospel and claimed Christ as Savior. You will embrace those who were lepers in this world. You will talk of the wonders of our King with those who because of an earthly disability couldn't speak. 

And you will dance like King David with the thousands of Africans from Ghana in the West to the Kenyan and Tanzanians in the East. 

We will sing with the nations, the praises worthy of our King! We will not be in a foreign land (see Psalm 137:4) we will finally be HOME!! 

Humming already 
Coughing up a smile! 

Friday, September 07, 2012

A Place Not of Your Choosing

"When you are old..another will lead you where you do not want to go." John 21:18

Lake Malawi was perfectly calm this morning. The waves were not even breaking on the shore line. The young Peace Corps volunteers who partied until the wee hours of the night had already, like Elvis, "left the building." It was refreshing and beautiful, but the German speaker and I both agreed, it was a long way to travel for a short bit of refreshment.

We spoke on the cultural differences and practices that may have landed us here. As the cool breeze blew across my very white skin, I remarked how Americans communicate changes in the schedule. When the days of the conference were discussed, Matema was added as a place of spiritual renewal when the teachers conference concluded. The German speaker, Pastor Lumwe and I would travel to the Lutheran Center while Sabina conducted a regional meeting for disability facility leaders. It translated well through email, however, something was definitely "lost in translation."

It was my understanding, this place was "not very far." After the TWO 12 hour days of driving, "not very far," was a hopeful foregone conclusion. Like all good Americans, I wanted, no, I needed, information before I put any suitcases in the car and committed to the "safari." My first clue "not very far," was an inaccurate assessment came on Wednesday afternoon. At tea time (4:00), we (the white ladies) said, "We'll be at the lake by this time tomorrow." Pastor Lumwe hesitated and said, "Well, maybe."

I've never been that great at math, but when you are told a journey will take three hours, and you leave at 8:00 am, I AM "As Smart as a 6th-grader" and know that adds up to 11:00 am. What was this uncertainty about our arrival BY 4:00 in the afternoon?!

Oh, foreigners can be such a problem. What is mission lesson one? BE FLEXIBLE

I thought when the original duration of the second meeting changed, WE (meaning the white ladies) should have been given additional information (like the REAL time it would take to arrive) and WE (white ladies) could discuss perhaps a different option. Enjoying the scenery really only goes so far.
I would have suggested we stay closer, enjoy the refreshment of not traveling, and then, when the second meeting concluded Saturday afternoon (a day early), we would be on our way driving the 24 hours back to Arusha. Instead of adding an additional EIGHT HOURS on some really bad roads!

I'm just saying.

But that would be me (and perhaps the other white lady).

"I don't think the way you think. The way you think isn't the way I work. God's Decree. "For as the sky soars high above the earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think." Isaiah 55:8-11 The Message

Slowly, the villages surrounding the Lutheran Center began to come to life. The children encountered earlier in the morning (chasing a mother hippo) began to approach the ladies under the shade of the thatch hut. The German spoke to them in fluent Kisswahili about the sighting. One asked for a cookie, another for a Bic (ink pen). She politely refused, they shared a laugh and went on their way back to their village.

A few moments later, a solitary boy, looking to be around ten, came near. He engaged us with the familiar "Where are you from?" Most likely assuming he would be answered in English. When my companion offered a Kisswahili answer the conversation took a whole new dimension.

Soon he was kneeling down, drawing maps in the sand. He drew Germany first, and with his fingertip made a deep well for each of the cities he knew and their location. Then he drew the surrounding countries, while spouting off foreign cities that at the time seemed so random. How could this young boy know all this? He looked up at me with questioning eyes and said, "American?" I nodded, and added, "Texas."

Moving over to complete his "world" map, he quickly etched out the United States, and pointed to Texas in the outline. "OO-stone?" "No, Dallas," I replied. Then as he drew, he said, "Dal-las, Oo-stone, Sin-Antoni" while correctly placing them in the state. Wow - that's not your standard classroom education anywhere.

My friend engaged him again while speaking of various places in the world and questioning his knowledge. She asked if he went to Sunday School and he said yes. Then she asked if he had seen the maps of Paul's journeys. He shook his head no, and continued sharing his sandy geography. She asked if he had a Bible, but this time when he said no, she got up and went to her room to retrieve her Kisswahili copy.

When she returned, she opened it up to the maps. She pointed out the northern portion of Africa on the map of Paul's "safari." That word in their conversation, I have come to know and understand in a whole new light.

Without hesitation, I can easily commit to travel to another continent to be about the Father's business, and yet I was agitated by a car ride? In the short time we had been outside discussing the merits (and mistake) of coming all the way to Matema, I felt the sweet subtle whisper of my Savior. "I BROUGHT YOU to Matema, look at this bright young boy who is walking back to his home with his first Bible."

Chance encounter? I think not.

Divine appointment?

"Let me tell you what God said next. He said, your my daughter, and today is your birthday. What do you want? Name it: Nations as a present? Continents as a prize? You can command them all to dance for you..." Psalm 2:7-9 The Message

And dance they did
And smiling I am

Happy Birthday to me

Charlynn

PRAY:
For the Word of God to be planted firmly in this young boy's heart
For safety on the road for the next THREE days
For the Sunday services across the region where new ideas learned during the seminar will be put into action!
On a personal note: for my daughter Gianna who is struggling with the decision to put her beloved cat of 8 years to sleep


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Monday, September 03, 2012

Special Offer - NOT

"Hey there! All who are thirsty, come to the water! Are you penniless? Come anyway - buy and eat!" Isaiah 55:1 The Message

By now, you probably realize I am the victim of the Internet crime known as HACKED. I am eight hours ahead of Central Standard time, so when I complete my day's entry I climb under four wool blankets, close my eyes and try to fall asleep faster than I can realize I'm freezing.

This morning when I unplugged my charging Blackberry, I saw I had 128 emails. "Wow, that "Lesson One" really got to people! Look at all these responses."

It was not responses from touched recipients, it was the dreaded MAILER-DAEMON. Demon is more like it. I opened a few thinking a lot of people have changed their email without letting me know. But then I read Netlix, Michael's and Bank of America were thanking me for contacting their customer service department but informing me I should not expect any response as I had contacted the wrong department.

Delete
Delete
Delete
x 125

SPAM, how computer malevolent worms have hurt your image! All these ridiculous offers; enticements, traps and tricks to make a person believe their friend wants them to "check this out."

Long before computers and emails entered the landscape of our daily living, I was actually eating Spam and listening to the wisdom of my grandmother who warned "if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is!"

Why do we fall for the "FORWARD this email to prove you're patriotic, or a Christian, or my friend" when we never fell for the old-fashioned "Chain Letter?"

What a way to start the day when "communication" was my topic.

There is Good News out there. It isn't that Microsoft is giving away computers, or a sick man in Nigeria died and needs me to dispense ten million dollars. God, loved me enough to sacrifice His Son so I could have a relationship with Him forever. I want the teachers to leave here with confidence in sharing that life-changing message with children.

I'm honored to be communicating a message that really IS "too good to be true."

"You'll summon nations you've never heard of, and nations who've never heard of you will come running to you because of Me..." Isaiah 55: 5 The Message

Hacked but smiling
In His service
Charlynn

Pray:
For the "worm" to be stopped in my email account
For the continued translation to be effective
For discernment on confronting misinterpreted Scripture
For patience (YES, it is safe to pray that for me)
For grace and peace!
For the last day of the conference to breakdown strongholds for the future of the nation is at stake!

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Sunday, September 02, 2012

Lesson One

"I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people... I kept my bearings in Christ-but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view." 1 Corinthians 9:22 The Message

High on a mountain top in the distant land known as Tanzania, the Sunday School Leadership conference has officially begun, appropriately on Sunday. Two hundred men and women from various districts in the southern region have traveled to spend the next three days, listening, learning and sharing to hone their skills in teaching children.

The Bishop of the diocese thanked us for choosing his region for this year's seminar sponsored in part by Sunshine After Rain Ministries. It is a long way from just about everywhere else in the country, not to mention Texas. Although they are eager to host and to learn, they are aware of the distance and the difficulty it presents.

This is the fifth sponsored seminar for lay leadership and women's training in six years. We have covered a good deal of Tanzanian territory, but with this trip I can resoundly say we have covered a great deal more! In past years, there have been varied numbers traveling and teaching with me. This year, at the Lord's leading, I came alone. I thought it was because the organizer needed to see there are resources with the ELCT (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania) that she could draw upon for teachers and trainers. She really doesn't need our ministry to provide personnel. But today, (Lesson One), I also realized sometimes I need to learn the lessons I am responsible for teaching.

"I am slow of speech, and a slow tongue." Exodus 4:10

I have struggled with the differences I've encountered over the last few days (and that doesn't include the 24 hours of driving). Because I came alone, I stayed at the home of my host. I felt honored to be considered a friend and not just a foreigner; but even staying in another American friend's house has its challenges. We had more time to talk personally in a more intimate and unrestricted environment. Challenging questions and circumstances presented themselves.

A foreigner who lives here, was also asked to be a presenter. When we picked her up on the way the first day, I was intimidated by her Kisswahili language skills (she and her physician husband have been missionaries here off and on for over 20 years). Then, as she shared what she would be teaching on, it seemed almost the same thing I was teaching on. I felt "redundant." AND I would have to be translated, while she could freely and eloquently communicate all her thoughts and ideas.

"I've become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life." 1 Corinthians 9:23 The Message

I kept my cool (until the radiator blew) knowing without a doubt God had me here for His plan and purpose. Redundant or not, foreigner or not, irritated or not, I just needed to put my Big Girl panties on and get over it.

And so I did

And so I began Lesson One:

"The Author and Perfector"

I spoke to the group about knowing who you REALLY are, not who you think you are, or who the world says you are (YOU are probably catching on already). I talk about my name and never liking it when I was a child. Then I put on various name tags with descriptive words they could use to identify me: TALL - WHITE - STRANGE - AMERICAN - MOTHER - DIVORCED.

They laughed in the beginning, but when it came to the last one they were not laughing. This (the issue of divorce) was one of the challenging subjects that came up when I was staying at my host's house. For the first time in the eight years I have known and worked with her I learned this is something really unacceptable in their church culture. Pastors counsel horribly abused women to return to the home of their abuser - OVER being safe and DIVORCED! She said, "When we heard most of you women (teaching the seminars in past years) were divorced, we thought how could you teach us. But we learned differently. You did have something to say for us."

Well, that was news to me.

Today, I intentionally put myself out there for all two hundred potential judges. Then I turned the name tags over and showed the names God calls me: Beloved - treasured - adored - redeemed - and on the name tag that read "divorced" on the opposite side it read forgiven!

After the lesson, as I was walking to tea with my host, she said, "Charlynn, you are much smarter than I am. I would never have thought to use the name tags like this - with one word on the front and the other on the back. I have translated you talking about your name before, but this is new. You are so creative. I am not that clever."

I laughed and turned to her and said, "Sister, you are listening to what the enemy is saying about you. You are reading the name tag "Not that Clever," but on the other side what does it say?" She smiled, "Oh, I see now."

I shared the verse 1 John 4:17 "because as He IS, SO ARE WE." I asked, "is Jesus not that clever?" She laughed with me and said, "No, Jesus is the smart one. I AM the smart one."

Lesson One

And as I reflected this very cold dark African night on just what I wanted to communicate about the day - it was a "lesson one" - sometimes you learn what you teach while you teach!

"I did all this because of the Message. I didn't want to just talk about it, I wanted to be in on it!" 1 Corinthians 9:23

She learned - I AM the smart one
I learned - I AM NOT redundant!

And neither is Jesus!

Yes, I am smiling
Yes, I am in His service

Charlynn

PRAY:
For clarity in communication
For relevance
For hearts to be changed
For GRACE to flow like a river!

Saturday, September 01, 2012

126

"...we were like them that dream..."

It's WILD here! What can I say other than praise the Lord and pass the biscuits! I was excited thinking we had a mere two hours left on the long long long road. Did I tell you - it was a long way. I sent off an updated prayer request for the first day of the conference and just as I hit the "send" button on my dying Blackberry, the Reverend pulled the car over at the round-about of a bustling town. What?

"I heard a noise," he informed us and stepped out of the car. After gunning the engine (thinking it was a branch or something) the gasket of the radiator blew off, smoke billowed out and "THAT" as the saying goes, "was that!"

Oh

So

Close!

"...our mouths were filled with laughter."

Internally, I said to the enemy that seemed to be hot on our heels, now stuck in the radiator, "IS THAT ALL YOU'VE GOT? REALLY?" And then in the next few minutes, I sent out the URGENT UPDATE and once again the WORLD (or at least my praying portion) responded! I was reading them out to my companions, "China's on it! Russia just checked in. The United States is just waking up but don't worry, we are covered."

And although I know prayer works anywhere - only in Africa would your radiator blow up right next to a repair shop AND the mechanic drop what he was doing and come to assist you!

Go God!

Within an hour we were on our way, back through the forests, hills, valleys, and finally the mountains that would take us to Njombe. We arrived at the School for the Deaf (our seminars location) just after sunset and were greeted by the Diocese Bishop and the Director. We were late, things were a bit too formal for my patience, given what we had just been through, and this American girl was ready to get the show on the road! After a FIVE day journey I had "ants in my pants" that were now hidden by the skirt I unceremoniously put on in the car.

After twenty minutes of swapped Swahili, everyone finally stood. The Director of Women's ministry for the country said, "Now we are marching." I stepped out into the pitch black African night and tried not to fall. A group of seminar participants were waiting for us, and then they began...

"...our tongues with songs of joy..."

Their hands clapped rhythmically, as their bodies rocked and swayed to the tune they offered for our procession. There was only one word of the song I understood, "Amen."

"...Then it was said among the nations, the Lord has done great things for them..."

I was thankful for the darkness because I was overcome with tears. Amen indeed!

"...The Lord has done great things for us and we are filled with joy.*"

I'm sure you don't need a reminder to PRAY! Something big is bound to be in the works, and we know what that means.

Singing myself to sleep
With "a song of the Redeemed
Rising from the African plains"**
And yes, I do have a smile,
Charlynn

*verses from Psalm 126 - a Pilgrim Song of Ascent

**He Reigns by Phillips, Craig and Dean

Friday, August 31, 2012

A Bucket and a Bar

...of soap that is!

After a grueling 13 hours heading south on the Great Northern Road (from Cape Coast to Cairo), my body is no longer in motion. I definitely felt like a young child on my birthday determined by the number of times I inquired, "Are we there yet?"

We have stopped for the night at the Lutheran campus. We (the Lumwes and I) have been joined by a German missionary who will also teach at the conference. It's a good thing she is fluent in Kisswahili, for we were dropped off quickly as the Lumwes had a funeral to attend.

We scoped out no less than six different rooms (seems there was something miscommunicated on our arrival and needs). I was one screen door away from shouting an un-Christlike "just give me a bucket and a bar of soap and -I'll be good for the six hours we're staying here!"

Saved by the smell of frangipanni or tuberose but none the less saved.

So I offer an exhausted "shout out" of thanks for the well-wishes on my birthday. I can't say it's the "best day ever" but I can definitely exclaim I am in my favorite place on earth. You can't beat that with a stick OR a candle.

The mosquitoes are buzzing around my ears, there's an animal outside making sounds between laughter and a whoopie cushion, and dog-tired doesn't begin to describe my state of exhaustion.

We may or may not eat something, we may or may not have hot water to rinse off, but hey...

I'm a birthday girl, Queen for more than just today.

And that's enough to make me smile
In His service
On the road again tomorrow (FOR
JUST AS LONG),

The Queen of Quite a Lot

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Safari

It is still quite dark here in Arusha, and thanks to modern technology, I am writing to you from the road. It is so dark, I don't have to worry about missing some glorious view of nature that our Creator has designed. Although I am siting in the front seat on the left side of the car, don't worry, I am NOT "texting" and driving. Here, in the former British colony of Tanganika they drive on the wrong side of the road!

I arrived without problems, enough sleep and all my bags. My hosts (Reverends Charles and Sabina Lumwe) were waiting at the airport. Only six people got off the plane in Kilimanjaro. At 3:00 in the morning, I experienced none of the usual encounters (long lines through customs, waiting for luggage, throngs of people, eager drivers fighting for a fare). It was quiet and uneventful for me. I can't say the same for the rest of the passengers who disembarked. The other five people apparently did not clarify the "date" of their arrival and no one was there to meet them. One couple who had made the flight from Seattle, Washington did not get their luggage. I had my friends wait until they had finished the paperwork. Even though it kept us at the airport for another hour, having been in such circumstances, I knew they would be well past frustrated when they realized they were stuck without transportation (in addition to the loss of their luggage).

My friends communicated to a local driver (the ONLY one at the airport) and convinced him to wait as there were people inside who would need his services. We left them with telephone numbers, and assurance if they ran into more trouble help was only a phone call away.

We arrived at the Lumwe house just in time for nature's alarm clock to greet us. I knew the morning cacophony of 300 chickens, 5 roosters and 2 dogs would not make for a much needed rest, so...

I did what frequent travelers do - I put in ear plugs and tossed back something to help me sleep! It worked. No roosters crowing, no dogs barking no nothing - only blissful sleep. ELEVEN HOURS later, my host shook me awake with news of the time - "Charlynn, it is 4:00 in the afternoon, are you okay?"

I was, I am and although the crowing of the rooster woke me at 3:15 AM this morning, my alarm was set for 4:00 AM so I did not miss much in the sleep department. My hosts were apologetic about our early departure this morning (we were on the road at 5:00) but I assured them my body and my mind are sufficiently confused not to care!

Before we departed the household gathered for prayer. The daughter was instructed to pray for our "safari." I thought this a strange (but welcome) prayer request, and once we were in the car I asked the translation of the word.

Safari, in Kisswahili means "journey."

I like that.

We have seven hours to drive today. The sun has not cracked the horizon yet, the roads are dark and dangerous, so I am keeping my head down focused on a two inch square screen to calm my anxiousness.

I am on safari!

You are on safari with me!

Today, marks the 53rd year I have been favored with life. After the prayer, I requested a song. That's right folks - I made the Africans sing Happy Birthday to me. I might just make every stranger I greet today offer up a song. My usual traveling companions are probably reading this and thanking God they have been spared this embarrassment.

I am on the King of Kings SAFARI! I am celebrating, I am singing, I will probably be dancing, but for certain I am smiling

In His service



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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Looking for Jesus

"You will seek me and find Me, when you seek Me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:13

I live in Texas. During an election year, it is a hot bed of political activity for candidates seeking the Hispanic vote. Thirty-four percent of the population is Hispanic, and that folks, makes for a lot of Jesus'!

Before you get confused, Jesus is a very popular name among the Hispanic culture. However, it is pronounced "Hey-soos." People don't get confused down here when someone calls out "Hey-soos." But to see the name printed (like in the title) anyone could be taken aback and assume what comes next is religious in nature.

I'm just repeating the title of an article that appeared in an 1997 South African magazine. They were looking for "Hey-soos," not "our" Jesus (as in Son-of-the-Living-God-our-Lord-and-Savior Jesus). In fact, the person the author was looking for was not named Jesus at all, but Sixto Rodriguez, a Detroit born singer/songwriter of the early 70's. The songwriter (and the ensuing search to find him) is the subject of a new (must see)documentary titled "Searching for Sugarman."

Why would I be musing about such a saga on a rainy Sunday afternoon?

In a word:

JESUS (not "Hey-soos")

It's been a few days since I saw the documentary and I can finally comment without tearing up (so far so good). There is a surreal quality to much of the film; part mystery (the search), part myth (what happened to the musician), and part history (the profound effect the music played in the anti-apartheid movement among white Afrikaaners).

SPOILER ALERT: if you intend on seeing the limited release movie you might want to stop here.

My oldest son (the Ironman) often laughs at my ability to spiritualize the smallest "secular" thing or event. Watching the unfolding of the movie was a PROFOUNDLY spiritual experience for me. Yes, I capitalized profound! Decades have passed since the music of a virtual unknown ignited the passions of young whites protesting the horrors (toward the black population) of Apartheid in South Africa. Although the end of Apartheid was less than twenty years ago (1994), like most Americans, I don't recall much about the events of it ending, much less what was happening in the 1970's.

I can ramble on a rainy day, and turn a music documentary into a significant spiritual event because I "look for Him (Jesus) with my whole heart." I find Him everywhere and in everything because, there is no place where He is not. (see Psalm 139:7-10) I'm not "looking for Jesus," I have found Him.

"We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless..." Hebrews 11:38 The Message

As Believers, we are called to a life of faith (Habakkuk 2:3-4 and Hebrews 10:38). We are instructed to live NOT seeing (for the most part) the impact our lives make in our communities and our world. The story of an obscure musician thought to be dead, illustrated that fact beautifully. Sixto Rodriquez, at the time the journalist found him (quite alive in 1998) was a common laborer. He was hardly a superstar in retirement living off royalties or past fame. Both men could not believe their good fortune; a journalist who discovered a legend, and a brick-layer learning he was a icon in a country 8,000 miles away!
"...the world didn't deserve them! -making their way as best as they could on the cruel edges of the world..."

During their conversation, the journalist says, "Did you know that in South Africa, you are bigger than the Beatles, bigger than Elvis?" The humbled musician only replies, "I don't know how to respond to that." Fame, by American standards had not just eluded Rodriguez - it had never even noticed his genius. The cruel edge of obscurity for a brilliant talent.

We live most of our faith on the cruel edge of a similar obscurity. We seldom see the impact our obedience brings about. We rarely know how our prayers are effecting change in the heavenly realms, and as for our short-term missions into Third World mayhem, most time we (personally)experience more change than the people we encounter.

"Not one of these people, EVEN THOUGH their lives of faith were exemplary..."

Would the artist known as Rodriguez lived any differently had he known of his legendary almost mythical status in South Africa? Would you live any differently if you knew how God had used YOU to change a country 8,000 miles away? Would you pray any harder, give any more?

"not one...got their hands on what was promised..."

In case you're wondering how the music of an American man got to South Africa in 1970, the myth has it a young girl carried his album with her on a family vacation. Who could imagine the consequence of that choice?

There are thousands of things I have absolutely NO understanding about whatsoever. It's actually more like a billion, but if I don't know about them, I can't count them now can I. I don't know if I would respond with the shy and detached mannerisms the musician showed in the film. Even after enjoying the popular Christian music hit of the 1990's (Thank You for Giving to the Lord), I still think if someone told me in the nation of Bigger-than-your-Backyard-Land I was a hero, I'd be shouting, "What? Shut-the-front-door!"

"God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together..." Hebrews 11:39 The Message

Let me take this moment to encourage all the writers, musicians, artists and ALL Children of the King, to be inspired and motivated. If the story of Rodriguez resonates with you - HOW MUCH MORE IS OUR GOD REALLY REALLY REALLY doing for those who call upon His name; for those who are working, singing, painting, writing, living a life of FAITH (belief in what is hoped for as YET UNSEEN), as well as for those who are "looking for Jesus?"

I won't SEE a great cloud of witnesses in Tanzania. I won't experience fanfare like the Beatles or the Rolling Stones when I step off the plane in Kilimanjaro. You won't be getting reports that include tales of fans fainting at my appearance. BUT, one day you will know the full report of how God used YOU to change history, and to make His-Story one that reveals His Son and brings glory to His Name. I am one obscure girl boarding a plane to a distant land carrying a life-altering, world-changing revolutionary thing. The consequence of the choice is considerable!

"You never saw Him, yet you love Him. You still don't see Him, yet you trust Him - with laughter and singing. Because you kept on believing, you'll get what you're looking forward to..." 1 Peter 1:8 The Message

Smiling, knowing somewhere I'm probably famous in His Service,


Participate financially in the 2012 World Tour - next stop Tanzania! visit our website:

www.sunshineafterrain.org

Movie Trailer:
www.sonyclassics.com/searchingforsugarman/

Original Article:
"Looking for Jesus"
Directions Magazine - October 1997
www.sugarman.org/sixto1.html

Facebook:
www.facebook.com/SugarmanRodriguez



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Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Princess and the Pea


"If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing." 1 Corinthians 12:26 The Message

Summertime in Texas is twenty degrees past "hot." Running errands becomes an adventure into "sauna land" as temperatures inside motor vehicles reach 130 degrees Fahrenheit. In preparation for my upcoming return to Tanzania I had to venture outside into the HEAT. What I thought would take less than an hour, ended up taking four hours of back and forth driving to the bank, to the Western Union office, back to the bank and then back again!

I was hot, I was irritated, I was disagreeable, AND I was hot! Sweat was dripping from my brow as I fought the blowing vents in an effort to redirect them. Then I remembered who I am and where I am going. While my reality was a heated afternoon of discomfort, I was driving a car. The miscommunication did add to the length of the time I was outside of my central air-conditioned sanctuary, but it was still a minor glitch rectified by the close of the business day. 

I remembered the women and lay leadership of Tanzania I would be visiting in two weeks. I remembered they (over 300) would be traveling by bus, through the night over dangerous roadways, to attend a four day conference on Child Evangelism and training. I remembered the hardships I knew many had endured in years past: WALKING for four hours (each way) to attend the seminar, even waking up at 4:00 AM to prepare meals for the family before setting out on their journey. Last year I was with the Believers in Zanzibar and heard of the persecution and threats, loss of job and job opportunities because they are Christians. And I am irritated by the speed it takes my 1997 CAR to cool down?

In his letter to the Church in Corinth, the apostle Paul explains the meaning of being a "part" of the "Body" of Christ. The teaching gives greater awareness of community and our place and responsibility to ALL who call upon the Name above all Names. 

I remembered my brothers and sisters in Africa; the issues and struggles of their daily life make my temporary discomforts pale by comparison. When they are suffering - I am suffering as well. Where they have a lack, I experience a deficit spiritually. My part in the body, is to do MY part in assisting to meet the needs; whether it means supplying them with Bibles or sharing skills to advance the Kingdom. When they are elevated - we (here in the western Church) are elevated.  

I wasn't clear on the plot of the classic children's fairy tale "The Princess and the Pea." I just recalled the complaining, and in the Texas heat as I was doing my share of complaining, it brought the tale to mind. But after "Googling Up" on the story, I discovered a greater revelation than the irritation I remembered. 

The Prince desired to marry a "real" princess. Many in the surrounding kingdoms claimed the title of princess, but how was he to be sure of their genuine nature? On a stormy night one claiming to be a princess sought shelter in the castle. The Queen devised a plan. She would plant a pea under a stack of mattresses, for only a REAL princess would be sensitive enough to detect its presence. 

The next morning when asked how she had rested, the "real" princess confessed, in spite of the comforts of twenty soft mattresses she still was unable to sleep, something was discomforting. She passed the test revealing her true nature because of her heightened sensitivity!

Isn't that what Paul was telling the Corinthians? Be sensitive to those who suffer? Our level of sensitivity and compassion reveals our "royal" nature to those we encounter. As a child of the King of Kings, when I'm uncomfortable with MY circumstances, it should drive me to a place of gratefulness for the provision I am afforded and compassion for the multitudes who have far less resources to effect their conditions. 

The upcoming return of Sunshine After Rain Ministries to Africa presents you with an opportunity to exhibit your "royal" nature and share the responsibility as the Body of Christ. 

Your financial support of the ministry will equip over three hundred pastors, Sunday school teachers and lay leaders to effectively share the gospel and the Good News with thousands of children in the towns and villages they represent. 

Your prayers are covering the fulfillment of the Great Commission of our King to "Go and make disciples of all nations... to the ends of the earth! 

"And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased." Hebrews 13:16

Smiling as a true Princess
In the King's Service,

To donate online, please visit our website:
www.sunshineafterrainministries.org


To send a check, please contact our office for the ministry address:
info@sunshineafterrain.org



Sunshine After Rain Ministries is a 501c3 organization. Donations are considered tax deductible by the Internal Revenue Service. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Bakbukiah

"Bakbukiah and Unni, their associates, stood opposite them in the services." Nehemiah 12:9

"Bak-buh-WHO?!," I thought to myself this morning as I was reading through a long list of names I couldn't pronounce. Every time I get to one of those tallies of titles, I recall hearing the authoritative and assured voices of Southern Baptist pastors speaking from the pulpit. Face it, NEB-AH-Kood-ne-ZZZER sounds impressive to a child.

Last summer in Tanzania, as I was sharing with the African leader, she asked how I managed to read straight through the Bible year after year (this is around year 22). "What about Kings, Chronicles, Leviticus... all those names!" I laughed thinking about the familiar and impressive names all good Sunday School children learn: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (precisely pronounced Shaaad-RACK, Meeeeee-SHACK, and Ahhh-BED-nay-GO). I said, "If you think of God's Word like food you can always make it through. There are juicy parts like a steak dinner, there are delightfully delicious parts like an enjoyable dessert, and then there are the brussels sprouts; weird and bitter but you know they're good for you."

But this morning's census brought me a reason to smile and perhaps change my mind on them from being brussel sprouts to at least broccoli.

A few days after I returned from the Ironman competition in Idaho, I headed down to San Antonio to visit a soldier and their family. I was still processing the whole experience, and it served me well in "cheerleading" and encouraging my friend. During the Ironman event, the other family members present commented, my youngest son and I could be hired out as professional spectators. For 17 hours we were unrelenting about shouting (for everyone) from the sidelines. I thought about it, and realized that IS already a big part of my assignment; to be an encouragement to others.

"So let's not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don't give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, EVERY TIME we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith." Galatians 6:9-10 The Message

I finished working on the video recap (of the Ironman race) for my son over the weekend. We held the premier last night after our weekly dinner. As I was looking at the footage, the photos and the faces in the crowd, I praised the faithfulness of the Father. My son had shared the importance of the spectators (the half-naked guy with the sign mentioned in the last post) and how he knew without a doubt he could not have carried on if not for the consistent encouragement he heard coming from the crowd. The signs held up along the way made him smile and take one more step, and jog just a little faster. But one person in particular made a significant contribution in him finishing, Fireman Rob.


The night before the race a mandatory meeting for all the athletes was held. The race officials go over the rules, what could disqualify you, as well as discussions on "how" to finish (good sportsman like conduct). There were pros as well as non-professional competitors sharing stories of inspiration. Robert Verhelst, a fireman in Madison, Wisconsin, took the stage in the firefighter turnout gear he would be wearing during the Marathon portion of the race. He talked to the gathered group of extraordinarily driven individuals about to take on the Ironman. As he finished he added, " If you see me out there, be nice to me I'll be walking it (meaning the final grueling 26.2 miles coming AFTER the 2.4 mile swim AND 112 miles on the bike.)" How's THAT for inspiration!

My son encountered him, just before the halfway mark in the Marathon (mile 12). He was already going slow as he came up to the "walking" firefighter. Rob asked how he was doing. "I'm worried," my son replied. "I can't eat, my core is cramping (due to dehydration). I don't know if I can make it."

The power of the internet put a name to the firefighter. He wasn't just a guy out there on the road to becoming an Ironman. I know what he did for my son, I am sure he did the same for hundreds of other sons, daughters, fathers, and mothers. He did not grow weary of doing good.

"You'll make it," he assured my son. "Just walk with me, don't worry, I'll get you to the finish line. We WILL make it."
I'm thanking God Rob Verhelst and Sean Harwin were added to the "list" of encouragers and they have a NAME. Like Bakbukiah, you might speed read past that part of the "story." The list of names reminds me God works with individuals, personally. He knows our names, and our jobs. The races we are winning and the ones we are struggling to walk through. He is the Author and perfecter of our faith and our cheerleading!

After walking alongside the passion and purpose of a civil servant, my son said, "I think I'm going to start running again." 

"Mattaniah, Bakbukiah, Obadiah, Meshullam. Talmon and Akkub were gatekeepers who guarded the storerooms at the gates. They served in the days of Joiakim son of Joshua, the son of Jozadak, and in the days of Nehemiah the governor and of Ezra the priest, the teacher of the Law." Nehemiah 12:25-26


It might serve us all well, to recount the names of those who have made a difference. It will serve us better to be sure we make someone else's list!

The last words my son and the firefighter exchanged were, "I'll see you at the finish line." Due to geography, time and money, many of you I might not see again this side of heaven. But I WILL see you at the final Finish Line! Thank you for faithfully cheering, praying and supporting all along the way.


IronMom smiling,
In His service




To participate financially in our summer campaign and donate online please visit the website:



(See the 2012 IRONMAN video tribute on YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TA5vDE0cGe8&feature=youtu.be )

Thursday, June 28, 2012

"Don't Make Me Drop this Sign"

"I wept and wept and wept that no one was found able..." Revelation 5:4 The Message

The race is over.

Another "first-timer" finished the Ironman competition in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. My son (and I) had many "moments" of discouragement and doubt during the 140.6 miles of endurance (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26.2 miles to run). He finished the race set before him in 15 hours and 18 minutes. It was no record (the winner finished in 8 1/2 hours) but it certainly was a fete few can match or ever hope to achieve.

After the race as he was settling down, he expressed story after story of what kept him going during the long grueling hours of the day. He shared the poignant as well as the humorous (more updates to come) and how each had played a part in his ability to finish.

When we arrived in Coeur d'Alene we DROVE the bike course and the marathon course. He saw the hills and the challenges beforehand. He knew what he was in for. But in the end, he said, "nothing can prepare you for what it takes mentally to keep going."

When I commented on my surprise at how many women were competing (and finishing) and that they certainly were not all tiny, skinny, young athletic looking girls, he said, "Women can endure more pain, they can "dig deeper" in their minds better than men can."

Hmmmmm

He asked if I remembered a house at the bottom of the long, hard hill on the course. The front yard faced the lake and the Colonial architecture impressed us both.

*"I see from my house by the side of the road
By the side of the highway of life,
The men who press with the ardor of hope,
The men who are faint with strife,
But I turn not away from their smiles and tears,
Both parts of an infinite plan..."

He laughed as much as the pain in his ribs would let him as he spoke of the owner. "This guy was outside in probably just his underwear holding a sign (front and back) that read "Don't make me drop this sign." When he would see the runners struggling, he would approach them and just start saying, "you aren't going to make me drop this are you? People will scream. I'll probably get arrested. You can do this - just walk with me to the end of the block, and I'll keep the sign up."

If you're in Texas, naked with a poster board sounds pretty good in 106 degree heat, but race day in Coeur d'Alene never got above 68. That's a commitment to seeing people through; people you don't know, people who are not your friends, not your family, people you will in all likelihood never meet again.
I cried when I saw my son struggling knowing it was his race, knowing I couldn't be out there with him. I felt helpless not knowing where he was on the course. But by the end of the race, I was assured of my contribution to the day and to the lives of my children.

For the past 25 years of single parenthood, I have struggled with the lies of an enemy who condemns me for divorce. The accuser is always quick to point out my earthly "poverty" and inability to give my children the material things their father often won their affection with.

But on race day, when I could physically do NOTHING to ensure his success, or to take away the pain in his body hour after hour after hour, I knew, probably for the first time in my life what I could give.

I had a world of pray-ERS! I had access to the ear and heart of the Father, and many of His beloved who would make the need known. After I sent out a hasty "Thumbs Down" urgent prayer request, you started responding. You, in Africa, you in Israel, you in China, you in Mexico, you in India, you in Russia, and you in the good old US of A!

I know the competition was important to my son and the 2,421 athletes who participated. I know they were in it to finish and receive the coveted "IRONMAN" title and medal at the end of the course. I didn't take away a medal of any kind, but I walked away with an enlarged heart, a comforted spirit and a reassured soul.

When I am not "there," wherever "there" is, the Father's faithfulness to those who call upon His name goes into action. And when you're coming around the corner of a bad circumstance, when you don't have it in you to take another step - sometimes His love might just show up looking like a crazy undressed guy holding a sign saying,

"Don't make me drop this..."

*"Let me live in a house by the side of the road
Where the race of men go by-
They are good they are bad, they are weak, they are strong
Wise, foolish - so am I.
Then why should I sit in the scorner's seat,
Or hurl the cynic's ban?
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man."

Holding up a sign
(Fully clothed and smiling)
For all those who need just a little encouragement to make it home,


*House By the Side of the Road - by Sam Walter Foss

Sunday, June 24, 2012

It Takes a Village

"Energize the limp hands, strengthen the rubbery knees. Tell fearful souls, "Courage! Take heart!" Isaiah 35:3-4 The Message

It's very quiet here in our Coeur d'Alene rental house. The anticipation is palpable, and even though its a cool 66 outside and the indoor air conditioner is blowing, I'm sweating.

I'm also praying.

I'm praying my 28-year old son who is across the hall behind a closed door is asleep. In too few hours, he will be awake, and in for a very very long long day. At some point before midnight Pacific Standard Time (2:00 am Central Standard Time) his name will be announced as he crosses the finish line, "Alec Johns, you are an IRONMAN."

It has been a tremendous blessing to be part of his "team." I've utilized a good portion of the qualities I don't get a paycheck for (my creativity, culinary, and organizational skills). I have felt great pride in seeing the determination and dedication to compete and complete the goal my son has his mind set on. I have been humbled by the Facebook posts from around the world sent to encourage him.

We drove the race course and I started praying harder and posting more! An Ironman event consists of the following (note these are Pacific Standard Times):

7:00 am - SWIM 2.4 miles
Approximately 1.5 hours (by his estimate)

9:00 am BIKE 112 miles
Approximately 6 hours

3:45 pm RUN 26.2 miles
Approximately he wouldn't say but he hopes for 5.5 hours

The entire town of Coeur d'Alene takes part in some way or another. The local news this morning was encouraging people to get out and cheer the athletes. One of my son's friends told him if he finishes before the midnight cutoff (athletes are then listed as DNF - Did Not Finish), to return to cheer the last people struggling to cross the line.

The verse quoted from Isaiah was sent to me this morning from a precious missionary friend of mine. She is in the US undergoing cancer treatment. She reports she is winning her battle. Unfortunately, her mother is not. She wrote, she read the passage to her mom and she was encouraged. It encouraged me as well.

For I know this one thing with all certainty, her mother has fought the good fight of faith, finishing the race - she will not be a DNF. Whenever she crosses "that" finish line it will be into the loving arms of her Savior. Her great cloud of witnesses will be holding up far more than posters with "congratulations."

But that realization also made me sad. I wondered out of all the 2800 extraordinarily dedicated athletes how many will make it to THE REAL finish line into the welcoming arms of a loving God. The One who, "for the glory set before Him, endured..."
And as astounding of a human feat it is to compete and complete an Ironman Triathalon race, it was more than amazing that the KING CREATOR would put HIS BODY through that physical torture (and death) for us; so we would NOT be disqualified, we would never have to worry about penalties and injuries that would keep us from finishing.

I remarked earlier about how complete strangers appreciate the encouragement. I know complete strangers will approach YOU one day on the other side of YOUR "finish line" and thank you for sharing the Word, your testimony, sending a missionary, feeding the poor, helping in the thousand ways you don't think anybody knows or cares about. It matters.

"This service you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord's people but it is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God... And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you." 2 Corinthians 9:12-14

One of the strangest rules about the Ironman competition is they do not allow what they deem "outside" help. No music, no hand-offs (food or water) from friends; no touching or running alongside an athlete. My son explained, "They want to break you. It all has to be ALL you."

Tomorrow it might look to the officials like my son is out there all alone, with no motivating music, no special food from his mama, and no running laps with his little brother. But we know "faith is the belief in things HOPED FOR, AS YET UNSEEN." And that, my village people, makes us all IRONMEN!

"They'll sing as they make their way home to Zion, unfading joy encircling their heads, welcomed home with gifts of joy and gladness as all sorrow and sighs scurry into the night." Isaiah 35:10 The Message

Knowing the mountains he will ride are moving!
Smiling in His service
Charlynn


Visit the Facebook Page and LIKE to see updates throughout the race

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ancient History

"This is the only race worth running. I've run hard right to the finish, believed all the way." 2 Timothy 4:7 The Message

I'm making encouragement posters today. My goal is to hold them up around mile 22 (the breaking point in a marathon) of my oldest son's Ironman competition this weekend. It's my creative nature kicking in to come up with ways not only to say, "Hang in there" but also ways to say "I believe in you and above all I love you."

I started doing a bit of investigating of this whole competition he has signed up for (Ironman: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho June 24, 2012). It consists of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and a marathon run (26.2 miles), raced in that order AND without a break.

The Apostle Paul, in writing to the Corinthians says, "You've all been to the stadium and seen athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard." 2 Corinthians 9:24 The Message

I checked out the notes on this passage. It seems Paul was referring to the Isthmian games run in Corinth. Wait a minute, Isma-what? I stopped, checked Wikipedia, and discovered they were part of the Greek Olympiad of games. And then I thought about THAT. People were watching athletic performances over 700 YEARS BEFORE Jesus was born! To see the trained ability of others has been, and continues to be entertaining.

When I left Israel two weeks ago, I parted with a feeling of history. History that changes and history that remains unchanging. In the comfort of my 21st century home, I have several different translations of the Bible, I can access the internet or listen to sermons from around the world to enhance my studies. But within that environment, as I read of the ancient Kings of Israel, of Jesus interacting with His followers, in my mind I am picturing a pasture not a metropolis. I still have that "Good Shepherd" painting in my head, of Jesus by the still waters and nothing else around. But after being surrounded by the ancient walls of the city He will reign over for a thousand years - I had to change that picture. Jerusalem, during the first century is estimated to have had roughly 600,000 people! Hardly a quiet and serene place.

Jesus knew about competition. Jesus came to earth to win the greatest battle! Jesus was and is the ultimate extreme athlete! He chose to enter the race.

"Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how He did it. Because He never lost sight of where He was headed - that exhilarating finish with God." Hebrews 12:2 The Message

The passage in Hebrews tells us we are SURROUNDED by a great cloud of witnesses. I think it is better translated today as cheerleaders. I know every day, they are busy making "signs" of encouragement to help us "finish the race" set before us. The Holy Spirit dwelling in the heart of every believer is prompting emails, phone calls, letters, Facebook posts, texts and Tweets, as well as a host of other ways we can be an encouragement to each other. Not to mention the hosts in the heavenly realms that watch over our days.

And while you may think YOUR small effort doesn't make THAT much difference, I can say after standing along the route of many races cheering on COMPLETE STRANGERS, they turn a sweating brow and say, "Thank you, I needed that."

We all need it.

"When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility He plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! Hebrews 12:3 The Message

Send an email
Write a letter
Make a phone call
Facebook that friend
Text
Tweet
Make a poster

"...all that's left now is the shouting - God's applause! 2 Timothy 4:8 The Message

Pacing myself
Smiling
In His service as a witness

PLEASE visit the Facebook Page and leave an encouraging message. Click LIKE (Race updates and photos will be posted throughout as well as a live feed during the competition)

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