Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Unlikely Lily...


My unlikely lily should be dead.  By all rights.  3 lilies were planted.  3 lilies were chewed up and spat out by puppies.  One lily stub remained.  It should be dead.

I know nothing about gardening and kill everything with either too much love or not enough.  Plants in my presence are determined on the course of death rather than be cared for by the likes of me. Lesotho was a new start, new plants, new soil, new beginnings.  I was going to make this whole garden thing HAPPEN, goshdernit.  I bought new plants, soil, compost, and had a friend come over to help.  Yet, my roses withered in the Mosotho sun, my puppies harshly dominated all things green, and my efforts seemed in vain.  "What a waste of water", I thought as I stared down the lily stub that refused to show signs of health.

Yet you see above what awaited me in my garden yesterday morning.  

My father-in-law is God's gift to plant life.  He came in December and talked those plants into choosing life over death.  Rosebuds and hibiscus opened their sleepy eyes in the sunlight and grew in luster but I still thought the lily was a goner.  

Somehow, that ol' lily clung to life.  It wasn't beyond the struggle.  It just had to learn the secret of the good fight.  

In all vagueness of terms, I am learning the same secret of the good fight (1 Timothy 6:12).  The harsh realities of missionary life can easily dominate my view and I am now that withered stub.  I may need to catch my breath here as the stub and LEARN to LIVE Nehemiah 8:10, "The joy of the Lord is my strength".  I may need to sit here and let my roots gather up the Living Waters deep underearth that will pump eventual life to my utterances so I KNOW the meaning of "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit".  I may need the Gentle Gardener to whisper to my soul, "My dear brother, we must not mind a little suffering for Christ's sake" (Charles Simeon). 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Gotta Recommend...

The recent reads in the Danforth household are worth promoting. 

"The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good" by Peter Greer (President and CEO of Hope International) is the most invasive book I have ever read.  Invasive on my pride, that is.  If I had to recommend one book, other than the Word of God, for anyone involved in Christian service, this would be it.  It exposes the truth that none of us want to face.  As Christian workers, especially overseas, we often use God as our V.I.P card for self-promotion to the public.  This book invades and challenges our private motives about whether we do what we do because of what it does for us or whether it is in a genuinely joyful response to God's love.  

Have a look:  "Here I was, on the front lines, personally handing out blankets and helping families that had lost almost everything.  Noble cause.  Noble mission.  Noble actions of a 25 year-old relief worker.  A photographer snapped pictures, and I smiled wide for the camera as I did "God's work."  And the thought running through my head was not about the people receiving the blankets.  I thought, I can't wait until the people back home see these photos of me.  When I saw the photos a few weeks later, I trashed them.  With a flaky smile plastered on my face, I could only see the photos as incriminating evidence of an unhealthy heart condition.  Captured on film, I recognized myself as playacting for people far away.....I had just discovered that there are spiritual dangers to doing good." (p. 22-23). 

"The Spiritual Survival Handbook for Cross-Cultural Workers" by Dr. Robert S. Miller (Pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship and President of the Identity School for Christian Ministry) is incredibly concise.  Dr. Miller organizes 7 imposing obstacles in missions and offers preparation for challenges in ministry.  It too exposes dangerous mindsets on the mission field.  

Here's a taste: "The mindset of advancement is exciting, but there is a cost.  In order to advance, you must be willing to leave the old and let go of the familiar....But there is also a significant cost that comes with a mindset of non-advancement.  While you are working hard to protect and maintain the status-quo of your life and ministry, your heart is dying a slow death - the death of non-adventure that comes from breathing stale spiritual air...Be willing to advance to wherever he calls, avoiding the status-quo life and ministry at all cost.  Stop spending your time protecting what you have.  Instead, give yourself away." (p.79-80).  

"The Roots of Endurance" by John Piper (Pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church) articulates the invincible perseverance in the lives of John Newton, Charles Simeon, and William Wilberforce.  A common theme among these men seems to be a keen awareness of and gratefulness to God for His hand in their radical transformations.  

Take a peek: "Newton gives beautiful, concrete expression to this conviction as he watches the dawn outside his window.  The day is now breaking: how beautiful its appearance!  how welcome the expectation of the approaching sun!...The Life of grace is the dawn of immortality; beautiful beyond expression, if compared with the night and thick darkness which formerly covered us; yet faint, indistinct, and unsatisfying, in comparison of the glory which shall be revealed." (p.71).  

"Wakeful endurance was a life-and-death matter for Simeon.  He dared not have a casual, sleepy-eyed approach to ministry." (p. 98).

"Galatians" by the radically transformed Apostle Paul is a book for grace in the face of legalism.  Paul's reflection of his own justification by faith in Christ may have prompted him to challenge the binding religious legal requirements put forth by overly zealous believers in the early years of Christianity.   My own father's life verse is found here.  

Check it out: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (ch.2 v.20)

"The Daily Bible in Chronological Order" as put together by F. LaGard Smith, lands me in a combination of 2 Samuel and Psalms.  Due to its chronological nature, I am gaining new insight and understanding on the depth of what prompted King David's psalms.

See the added power when following the chronological train of thought:  (Story of David's adulterous affair with Bathsheba and his hand in the murder of her husband, Uriah in 2 Samuel 11)  David's response is found in Psalm 51: "Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.  Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin...Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit  within me...Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me."

"Abraham Lincoln" in the Fact Tracker series of Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Osborne, was this week's fun "on the side" reader at Little School in the Mountains with Elaina and Sawyer.  They learned about President Lincoln's growing up years, his presidency and home life, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Gettysburg Address, and the fight for freedom and a unified country.  

A little American history on Lesotho's soil: "The Gettysburg Address said our ancestors believed in a nation where all people were created equal.  It also said that the deaths at Gettysburg were part of an unfinished struggle to give America 'a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth'" (p.94-95).

Happy Reading!