Three Years

Our little girl turned three this weekend. If you’ve not yet had a child of your own grow to the age of three, let me tell you that three years pass like the blink of an eye (and a thousand years are as a day). I can’t help but thinking that taking a similar journey four more times will bring her to the age of 15 – only four more times!

We had an informal gathering at the mission home with an ice cream bar, some punch, and a few veggies. We were able to connect with a number of our family via appear.in. Before bed, we opened a few gifts and had pink cake. Many thanks to all who sent greetings, cards, gifts and to those who made for a joyous day for this girl.

Happy birthday, Aelah! We love you! Jesus loves you!

Meeting & Celebration

This past weekend members of the WMPL fellowship gathered together in prayer during our annual meeting and celebration. After some light refreshments, we began in worship by singing Come, Thou Almighty King and Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me. A number of our missionaries were able to join us and give brief reports on the work God has been doing in them and through them. Jeff gave a brief report on the state of our finances throughout this past year. We expressed our gratitude for those who were completing a term of service with the Home Council and welcomed those who had been newly elected. The Rev. Dr. Gemechis Buba shared a message with us about being ‘dove’ missionaries – those who declare both the total justice of God and the total grace of God – those who do not return. We joined in prayer for the work of God in this world and closed with the song Build Your Kingdom Here as our prayer. Then, Sunday evening and Monday saw the Home Council meeting at our offices.

If you missed the event, here are a few images from the day. Thank you for your continued prayers and support!

Giving Up & Taking Up

Ash Wednesday and Lent are now upon us. I’ve always encountered some internal struggle when this season of the church year comes calling. It is common practice for Christians to give something up for Lent – to fast from that which might be detracting from a walk with the Lord. Though many things to distract in my life, I am always at a loss as to what I might give up for Lent. I may even begin to feel guilty that I can’t identify that one thing that should be given up. In the end, I give up nothing.

I fault no one for the ‘giving up’ of something during Lent. I appreciate the tradition and recognize its value. However, it seems I often take a different gait as we journey through Lent.

I think, at the core, we all aim to give up so that we may take up. In giving up and in surrender, we find that we may then daily take up the cross of Jesus.

Lord, as we enter this Lenten season, remind me of my humanity and mortality. We are here on this earth for a fleeting moment in time. May we turn to you and devote these days to the lifting of Your name in our midst and among all nations. Amen.

Lenten Prep at Bethel

I’ve been trying to write this week. As I’ve mentioened, our pastor is on sabbatical. In his absence, I was asked to facilitate our midweek Lenten services and to use the opportunity to introduce our congregation to World Mission Prayer League and to explore the way of the cross from the perspective of an international fellowship. I’ve taken most all this week to retreat from the office, seek some places with less distraction and few interruption, so that I can focus an prep for the coming weeks.

Four days in and I’ve done little more than hit a wall. I’ve come to realize that it has been at least three years since I have regularly engaged in this work of program planning, devotional writing, worship prep, etc. For three years, I have been honing computer skills, pushing code about, and troubleshooting tech issues around our office. It seems I am somewhat directionally challenged in these days and am finding it quite difficult to find my way back into the mindset of creative spirituality.

Please, pray for me today, tomorrow, and throughout Lent as I prepare these evenings of worship and prayer. Thank you.

Photo courtesy of Jim Nash

National Prayer Breakfast

This past weekend during our Bible class at Bethel, we had a conversation which I wish could have been had in every Christian gathering around our country.

Our pastor (currently on sabbatical) and a few other individuals connected to Bethel, the Prayer League, LINC – Twin Cities, and other ministries in the area were privileged to join the Minnesota delegation that attended the National Prayer Breakfast this year. They were blessed by this experience. And we were blessed by the report they brought home.

One of those in attendance gave us a glowing report about the three-day event. Additionally, he informed us of the history and intentions of the event. If I could capture here the totality of that hour’s discussion, I would. It was quite informative and encouraging.

Did you know that a number of Congressional members (regardless of political affiliation) gather weekly, setting aside political differences, to pray, in the name of Jesus, for those in their midst who are suffering, for the state of the nation and the world, and for the decisions that are made in Washington?

Did you know that once per year, they open this prayer meeting, inviting world leaders of all variety of faiths to join with the intent of encouraging unity and peace through the knowing of Jesus? (This is what we know as the National Prayer Breakfast)

Did you know that those in attendance are given a nametag listing only name and state/country of origin? Did you know that, with the exception of those needing special security detail, seating arrangement is randomly determined? Titles and affiliations are set aside in the interest of ‘leveling the field’. Humility is nurtured.

Did you know that during this year’s prayer breakfast, some people experienced the love of Jesus more than ever they have in life? Do you know that these same people may be at a loss in reconciling this experience with the church’s attack of the event? They may well resonate with Gandhi’s consideration of the Church on earth.

Mahatma Gandhi
I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.

Washington, politicians, world leaders, spiritual leaders, and others in attendance have never intended that this gathering be a political one. We, as a church, should not fall into the trap set by the media – spinning the National Prayer Breakfast as a political event. It is not a political event. And, as mentioned in our conversation on Sunday, it’s not even an event of our cultural Christianity. It is, more precisely, a Jesus event. In that we can rejoice!

I could address the specific statements made by Obama during his brief conribution to the event. I won’t – except to say that for those in attendance, hearing his words in the context of the non-political event, they found encouragement and some direction in the way Christ taught us to live.

As followers of Jesus, let us rejoice that so many influential world leaders can gather and hear the message of the Gospel. And, let us pray that as His word goes out, it will find a welcome home deep in the hearts of these men and women.

Grace and peace upon you and your work in the Lord Jesus.

[Edit: A few of our pastor’s reflections following the event – The Cohesive Power of Love – Even in DC and Defending Our President]

Staff Retreat to Mount Carmel

This past weekend, our staff took time to retreat to Mount Carmel in Alexandria, Minnesota. It was a restful time. We discussed the topic of transitions, joined in worship, played games, broke bread, and partook in a number of antics. Aelah enjoyed her first taste of Jell-O. I missed her first look at it and the poking that ensued, but I think you can still gather that she enjoyed it. Only managed a few photos and this one video.

Jesus Feared God

Isaiah 11:1-5
There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. His delight is in the fear of the LORD, and He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, nor decide by the hearing of the His ears; but with righteousness He shall judge the poor, and decide with the equity for the meek of the earth; He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, and faithfulness the belt of His waist.

Today’s Moravian Daily Text was taken from this verse. It struck me that Jesus feared God. I don’t know that I had considered this before. I’m baffled again by the work and relation of the Trinity and I’m led to consider my own position before the Glorious Almighty One who has drawn near in intimacy. It has been long since I’ve thought on the fear of the LORD.

God of glory, might, justice, and love. Wonder of wonders. O, that I might be awed … humbled … surrendered.