Sunday, October 28, 2012

Where's the Easy Button??

Let's admit it. We the people of the United States want everything easy. Home cooked meal? Pull one already prepared for you out of the freezer, pop it in the microwave, and in less than 5 minutes there's your tastes-like-mom's meal. Want to see your friends in Costa Rica? Just skype them. Don't have a computer? Just use your phone. Need to hear the latest song? Pull it up for free on a variety of devices. Forgot your Bible? No problem. There's an app for that. Lacking in romance? Not to worry. Just fill out a little profile about who you are and what you want and sooner or later Mr. Right will find you in six months or less or your next three months of ardent searching is free. Can't remember the words to that new worship song? There's just the technology for that too.

Hear me out. Many of these technological advances are awesome. They do make life easier. They allow us to spend less time doing and more time being...well, that's why they were originally invented, how we chose to use them and fill up our time is another topic all together.

What bothers me is that our society is slipping into forgetting what is a want and what is a need. We think we NEED to have the latest, greatest technology or we won't survive. Yes, neurosurgeons should ABSOLUTELY have the latest and greatest precision electronics and gadgets. They're saving or taking lives. Whether or not I have the most up-to-date iPhone or iPurse or iPatch in the scheme of things is significantly lower on the list of priorities. We have forgotten how to memorize phone numbers except our grandma's, because she's lived in the same house for 50 years and still has a wall phone which hasn't changed since Alexander Graham Bell was still creating telephones (love you, Grandma!!!), so having them all stored IN the phone is so much more practical than in a little book NEXT to the phone. 

While media tells us to focus on us, that's why it's called ME-dia, what we have and what we obviously need to have, they have forgotten completely to remind us of what is still lacked in the majority of the world. Nearly one billion people – that’s 1 in every 6 of us – lack access to safe water. As we are flushing our toilets, brushing our teeth, and taking 15 minute showers, there are others still without the recommended 1.89 liters to drink to keep their bodies healthy. While we happily plunk down almost $5 for a tall, non-fat,  sugar bear, extra whip cream, double the foam, that same money could buy rice, beans, salt, peppers, onions, and oil to feed a family of four.

 Here's what's easy. Supporting others. I'm not here to tell you how to spend your money, but to ask you to think about what you're spending your money on. Isaiah 58 puts it this way:

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke? 
 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? 
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. 
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
    with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,

    and your night will become like the noonday.
 The Lord will guide you always;
    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never fail.
 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
    Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

We're coming up on Christmas. It is a great time to support missions. Consider filling a shoe box with gifts for an African child. Buy a child a goat or chickens through World Vision. Take it a step further and sponsor a child through any of a hundred different organizations. Or support a local missionary from your home church. I can name 7 right now who are very dear to me who could be so blessed by financial support to help them continue their missions in Costa Rica. Now that was easy.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Gluten Free Cornmeal Cookies


3/4 c. butter
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 c. rice flour
1 c. yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. chopped nuts (optional)
In a mixing bowl, beat butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer on medium to high speed until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla. Beat well. Stir together rice flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. Add to sugar mixture and beat until thoroughly combined. Stir in nuts. Shape into 3 (12 inch) rolls. Wrap and chill for several hours. Cut into 1/4 inch slices. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 8 minutes or until brown. Remove and cool on wire rack. Makes about 8 dozen cookies.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Jesus' Sense of Humor: Letters Home

Isn't it ironic some times how the Lord works? This morning I wrote a blog on the letters of Paul. How I felt like I understood him just a bit better. How he wrote letter of encouragement and admonishment and joy-filled hope for his new friends all around the ancient world. Letters were THE means of communication at a distance. I can only imagine what ancient Timothy would have put on his facebook wall when he received Paul's fatherly e-mail. Or what Paul would have sent if he had to condense the letter to the Thessalonians to a 140-character tweet. There is still something to be said for a hand-written letter. The way it feels in your hands. The time it took to carefully chose your words, knowing that unless you write in pencil, you cannot delete your words or rearrange whole sentences at whim.

All of that said, I received the most wonderful surprise this morning. A team from my church just got back from Costa Rica. Not only did they bring me a bottle of the priceless Lizano Salsa for making my beans and rice, they brought a sweet little bundle of scrawled epistles from some of the kids and fat envelopes stuffed with letters from my chicken group (the women of the group that met once a week in The Rica). How precious are the words of friends!!! What is even deeper in meaning for me is the fact that most of these women never finished high school and one is actually illiterate (the hand writing suspiciously looking like her loving sister-in-law's). Those letters mean more than a thousand e-mails or facebook posts.

So here's my challenge for you today. Write a letter. Hand write it. To your mom, your best friend, you son or daughter. Maybe to a missionary over seas. Or to an old neighbor. Write some one to share your hope. Your joy. Tell some one that you appreciate them. That they are special. That God loves them. It will definitely make their day!!

The Body of Christ

I have a new appreciation for Paul, his letters, and his travels. Like Paul, I have a new understanding for how he can tell the Philippians, "It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me" (1:7). I have felt this feeling the last few weeks for my friends and family as I have been traveling to see them, to see you.

I have a better understanding for his letters to the Ephesians. It is much the same as a letter I would write back to Anonos: Children, obey your parents. Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouth. Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the armor of God. Stand firm against temptation, the devil's schemes, and the addictions of this world. Husbands love your wives, but so as not ot get them confused with the purals, Husband of one wife, love your wife for life. I haven't stopped giving thanks for you and remember you in my prayers.

This past weekend I had the joy and privilege of visiting New Life Church near Columbus, Ohio. Much like the Corinthians, I always thank God for them, because of his grace given to them in Christ Jesus. For they have been enriched in every way--in all their speaking and in all their knowledge. We talked much about the spiritual gifts and of the healing in the natural and spiritual bodies. The message preached in their church rung of the sounds of the words of Paul to the same Corinthians, of spreading the gospel of Jesus and sowing generously into the Kingdom of God. They are preaching a model of "scattering abroad their gifts to the poor."

And here I am, back in Rome. With a whole chapter of personal greetings. Speaking to my home friends about no longer conforming to the patterns of this culture, about thinking of what Kingdom culture looks like. Knowing we are more than conquerors through Christ. Living life through the Spirit.

It is absolutely amazing how God has designed us to live in community. To connect with people on such personal levels. To encourage each other, learn from each other, and work together as one unified body. I feel as if my body is spread out over the world. Hearts and lungs in Costa Rica, eyes and ears in Maine, elbows and knees in Ohio, lips and teeth in Michigan, skin in Virginia, Butts and necks in New Hampshire (only the NH teams will understand that one!!); but together we are the hands and feet of Christ, spreading the good news to the nations. Each piece so important. Each piece so loved and cherished.

Friday, October 19, 2012


I found this recipe today and it looks extra yummy. I will definitely have to try it when I get back to my kitchen!!!

Spinach Rice Bake
  • 10 oz. fresh spinach
  • 1 tbl. water
  • 1/2 tbl. olive oil
  • 1/4 onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup cooked brown rice (measure after cooking)
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, or pepper jack)
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees and grease a 8 x 8 inch baking dish.
  2. Place the spinach and water in a large skillet over medium heat; cover and cook until the spinach wilts. Drain the spinach and set aside.
  3. Return the skillet to the stove and heat the olive oil. Saute the chopped onion for a few minutes until translucent.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the brown rice, cheese, milk, eggs and salt. Stir in the onion and wilted spinach. Pour into the prepared 8 x8 inch pan and bake for 35-40 minutes until set in the middle

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Like button. Dislike button.

I know my blog has been quiet for a while. I have been quiet for a while....well, that might be impossible, but whatever. This blog is dedicated to transition. What I love about it, what I hate about it, and how I'm coping. This blog is really more for me to process change.

What I love about being home:
A. Adore seeing my friends and family
B. Band of believers and Worshiping Jesus with an amazing band at church
C. Crisp fall leaves
D. Driving my car
E. Elegantly wearing high heels and not towering over the crowd (yaaaay, tall Dutch people!!)
F. Full sized bed to sleep in (twin-sized bunk bed + daddy long legs=toes dangle over the edge, hence why I never make my bed. I hate pushing out tucked-in-sheets.)
G. Gratefully being able to stay in my parent's house (I am eternally grateful, mom and dad!!!)
H. Having a supportive community in Grand Rapids. I love sharing meals, stories, and our lives!!
I. Ivory and ebony keys of my piano to play at will.

What has been hard about being at home:
1. Going from 24/7 people and noise and the egg man at 7am and children running around the streets and the doorbell going off and dogs barking constantly and city traffic to ..........silence. And deer. They don't make much noise. Even when you chase them around your yard. 
 2. The price of fresh produce versus processed crap and the eating styles of the North American. Blech.
3. American TV. Ugh. Was it always this bad and I was just immune to it? Right now it just reminds me that there is waaaaay too much money spent on clothes, houses, food, and stuff to distract us from what is really important in life.
4. Having to drive E'RY WHERE!!!!! It's at least 15 minutes to civilization and gas is outrageous and the Rapid (bus system) doesn't even come close to Rockford.
5. Feeling like I'm just waiting for the next event to happen. People work during the day. I am looking for a job. I don't know WHAT people without hobbies do all day when they're unemployed...
6. Seeing pictures of Costa Rica. I miss my tribe. Facebook: I like button to dislike button you.
7. Applying for jobs. Lots and lots of jobs. And hearing...silence. Nothing yet.

What I miss about The Rica:
1A. The noise and the people that made up that noise. There was an energy in it. Living with people. Seeing people first thing in the morning and welcoming each day like it is Christmas morning and my birthday all rolled into one. Visiting people by walking right out the door. Visiting people in their homes at whatever time of day. Just walking in, sitting down, and listening to others stories. Rodney, Cindy, David, Les, Di, the girls, mis gallinas, the dudes, the KIDS, Chuck, Moi, Davicito, Hannia, Eli, Ana Laura....the list goes on and on!!!!
2B. (or not 2B. haha, pun intended) Greeting people with a kiss. It's universal. You don't have to question when meeting someone if you will give them a formal handshake or a slightly more personal hug. Everyone just gives the perfunctory cheek-to-cheek-air-kiss. And the kids are stinking cute when they greet you and say goodbye with their How-He-Love-sloppy-wet-kisses.
3C. The FOOOOD!!!!! No, I never missed "American" food. I loved the fresh fruit, veggies, rice and beans of Central America. I even loved Cindy's mood-based cooking which frequently involved tofu, buckwheat noodles, and barley.
4D. The sense of being involved in something that had weight to it. Really impacting lives and making a difference. Discipling, Bible studies, morning family prayer, worship nights, healing prayer in the streets, seeing people encounter the Kingdom of God.
5E. Walking places. We just don't do that much in the states except in big cities. I do love going to downtown Grand Rapids, though. You can actually walk everywhere there. 
6F. The weather! I got totally used to being warm all the time!!
7G. Rodney's questions. I grew so much from those questions...about God, about theology, about what I was doing, about stuff. Good stuff.

What I don't miss about The Rica:
A1. (the best steak sauce ever) Being constantly asked for houses and money. I understand the need and it breaks my heart. I always felt horrible knowing most of the time there was a legit, desperate need and I didn't have the resources to be able to help. This is where I always prayed to marry a benevolent millionaire so we can spend our lives building houses for the poor.
B2.Infants and children given coffee with lots and lots of sugar. And soda. And HORRIBLE childhood diets and nutrition. That's part of living in poverty with a lack of education. And even with education, they still don't believe you.
C3PO. People being ridiculously late, not showing up when they say they will, or lying about stupid stuff.
R2D2.Chickens flying into church at any given moment and roosters crowing during messages. Okay. I actually do miss that. Crazy interruptions.
E5. The over-sexuality of young children and teens with the subsequent teen pregnancies. Sexual abuse was rampant. And ugly. I know it happens here, too, but it is blatant and in-your-face in the Rica. Pray for our children and the protection of their childhood world-wide!!!!!!!!!!!

There it is. In a nut shell. I have been reading a lot about re-entry for missionaries. There are some great resources and books out there (Thanks, Cindy Schmidt!!!) I think one day I will write a book as well. Transition is hard for anyone, at any stage in life. Whether a person is moving to another house, state, or country. Whether they were fired from a job or were transferred. For the missionary, there is the added layer of shifting gears from one culture to another, from a strange language back to their own. From a world where they had to struggle to fit in, to back to a home where they realize they have grown too much while being gone to fit back in how they used to. Yup. Book in the making.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A month of Sabbaths

My life on paper looks like the resume for the perfectly productive North American life. High school filled with extracurricular activities and an after school job while still graduating Valedictorian.  Double majoring with a minor in college yet able to build lifelong friendships with various people. Moving on to complete a Master's degree and ultimately landing a job in my chosen field before graduation. Relocating to my city of choice as a position became available. Then being able to fulfill a life-long dream of becoming a missionary in a Spanish speaking country...feed the hungry, bind up their wounds (sometime literally), and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

So when I came home from the mission field, the Lord asked me to do only one thing, and only one thing for a whole month. I thought to myself, "I got this." I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Bring it on, Lord. Until I hit week 3 and realized I was potentially failing at something for the first time in my life. What was this difficult thing the Lord had called me to? Rest.

Yup. Rest. As you can see from my laundry list above, rest was never in my vocabulary and it certainly wasn't on my list of priorities. The month pretty much looked like this:

Week one: Extreme culture shock. Life alone with the deer in Rockford, Michigan. Fill time with as many craft projects as possible. End week with a party for me and fill my house with people. AKA Deer in Headlights Phase

Week two: Fill my week with as many coffee dates, lunches, and dinners as possible. Surround myself with as many people as possible. AKA Cat in a Bath Tub Phase (Don't make me be alone!!! I don't wanna!!!)

Week three: Fill schedule in with people as much as possible. Think about as many business opportunities and clever ways to return to productive work as possible. Talk to people about talking about and planning those opportunities in October after "rest" is over. AKA Dog in a Thunder Storm Phase (When is this going to be OVER?!?!?)

End of week three: Get called out by the Lord for all of previous activity being not resting and having to repent and put the breaks on. AKA Caught Red Handed Phase

Week four: Actually taking time to rest and wait on the Lord. Finally feeling peace and calm. Stress and anxiety about the rest of life mostly subsided. Actually receiving what the Lord had wanted to give me for an even longer period of time. AKA Sabbath Rest Phase

When the Lord called me out for not resting, this is what He told me: He asks us for 1/10 of our money (that's tithing), 1/7 of our time each week (that's the Sabbath rest that is as old as Genesis), and 100% of ourselves (that's the dying to self part that is at the root of Christianity). This is because God always wants more of our time than our money, BUT He wants ALL of US WAAAAAAY more than our time. And I had been holding this back from the Lord for a long time.

Rest is counter cultural.We are taught that resting=laziness. Resting=being not productive. Resting=for old people. "I can sleep when I die". While it is counter culture for the world, it is foundational for Kingdom culture. We have been made in the image of an all-powerful, all-knowing, all mighty God. He made us and formed us. And then HE RESTED. I know you've heard this before. God doesn't need to rest. In fact, the Bible says He never sleeps. But He rested for our sake. We are NOT all-powerful, all-knowing, or all mighty. We are not even part-mighty. He rested for our sakes, because He knows how easily we burn out, stress out, and wear out.

Are you stressed out? Are you burnt out? Are you wearing out? How are your Sabbaths going? Are you taking time to rest and wait on the Lord?

Isaiah 40:28-31
28 Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.
29 He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.
30 Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
31 Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.