Monday, April 30, 2012

Boring or Booming?

Do you go to prayer meetings at your church? Do you imagine that prayer meetings are boring or booming?

When I lived in the States I think I would have chosen a dental appointment over a prayer meeting. Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who feels that way. At our home church of 4500 people, a monthly prayer meeting might attract 8 people. Eight. People.

What is our aversion to corporate prayer? Okay, maybe it isn't exactly an aversion; but it isn't an attraction either!

The reason I ask the question is because my experience in France has been exactly the opposite. People WANT to pray together. Our daily prayer groups ARE major attractions, and not just for those who are already saved!

We have between 3 and 5 NON-Christians who come regularly to prayer meetings at church. Most come for prayer long before they ever set foot in a Sunday service. And they don't come once a month--they come twice a day! Would you have ever thought a prayer meeting could be outreach event?

For whatever reason, people who are seeking, people who are curious, and people who are in need--whether they know Jesus or not--come to pray. During our prayer meetings we sing a few worships songs and read the Bible. We pray for the requests of those who are present, but we also pray for our friends, our village, and for global issues. Prayer meetings are "the place to be" in Loches!

It is amazing to see the transparency and hear the vulnerability that is expressed by all who come. Even more amazing is the way that we see God work in and through those prayer meetings. Addictions are broken, circumstances are changed, and lives are transformed--daily we see evidence of God's hand in our lives.

So lately I find myself wondering why I didn't go to prayer meetings in the States. If I knew then what I know now, wild horses would not have been able to keep me away.

Corporate prayer. Give it a try!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

15

How can my baby be 15? Oh, but he is! Chandler turned 15 on Sunday.

Chandler with his birthday presents--a new bass amp and a classic wii controller
Chandler is an amazing guy! Everything he does--school, gaming, music--he does with all his heart! He blesses us everyday with his sincerity, his flexibility, and an eagerness to please. Though he thinks and acts maturely, he still possesses a wonderful innocence that allows him to always see the best in others. He is a committed follower of Jesus, and I know that God has big plans for his life.

Chan--if I forget to tell you later, I had a great time being your mom!

Monday, April 23, 2012

In his spare time...

Our focus right now is to learn how to plant a church in France AND how to train other church planters in the future. To that end we attend classes one morning a week and we participate in the church plant here in Loches by leading worship and preaching as well as making other general contributions to the body of ChristBeyond those regular duties, David is often called upon to lead the morning and evening prayer times. In addition, he recently started his course work for his Masters of Divinity through a distance education program, so he spends several hours each day reading and writing and doing homework.

In his spare time (ha ha), David is teaching a hermeneutics class in FRENCH for some members of our church. This course is for those who really want to learn how to study the Bible, and it is intense. He has about a dozen committed students, and he does an amazing job. David is a gifted teacher!


After class last night, David received an encouraging note from our pastor, who said, "Way to go my friend :)  You glow when you teach ! Thanks for blessing the church."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Peace that Passes Understanding

We had peace.

On January 30th, our house flooded and we still had peace.

In February, We told our temporarily displaced renters that we would release them from the lease agreement if they felt like they needed to move on, and we had peace.

At the end of February our renters took us up on the offer to be released from the lease. We still had not received any insurance money. We did not know if we should try to sell the house or if we should try to rent it again. We had not yet settled on a contractor. We had no idea how to navigate this mess from across the ocean, but we had peace.

In March some dear friends offered to help us. We found a trustworthy contractor. The repairs began BEFORE we received the insurance money, even though we could not pay the contractor a cent. The insurance check (despite multiple attempts on our part to prevent this foreseen possibility) was sent to the wrong address, returned to Florida, and finally resent to the right address. All the while, we were at peace.

In April the work was going to be completed, and we began to discuss ways that we might advertise our house as a rental. We had no idea how to find potential renters and how to arrange showings. We scratched our heads, scoured the Internet, and prayed. We did nothing. We felt an overwhelming sense of peace.

Last week, a woman who works for the city of Spangle e-mailed us to ask about the completion date of our home. She told us that a friend of hers was looking for a home to rent in the area. We had peace. And hope.

On Saturday, the work on our house was completed. While the last of the dust was being wiped from my kitchen cupboards, this friend of our contact at the city of Spangle came to look at the house. She liked it, and submitted an application. We had peace. And hope. And complete and utter amazement at the hand of God.

On Monday we ran background checks, credit checks, and called references. On Monday night we notified this woman that we were pleased to accept her application. Her response was, "Oh goodness, we are so excited!  The kids and I will love living at this house!...What a blessing." Peace.

May 1st,  our newly restored home will be occupied. In our peon brains, we had hoped and prayed for the house to be rented by June 1st, but God exceeded our expectations. Again. 

And we are at peace.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:6-7

Monday, April 16, 2012

Who's Teaching Whom?

Last Tuesday I met with "Marie" for the third time. This session was at her home, right up the street from mine. She invited me into a lovely living room with walls the color of robins' eggs and then asked me her usual question, "How can I help you today?"

"Well," I replied, "You have already corrected my outline, so what I really think I need to practice is my examples. Those are the parts of my message where I tell stories, and I'd like them to sound natural and unscripted."

"Tell me your stories" she said expectantly.

"After I make the point that the Bereans were open to the things of God, I want to share something from a book that I just read." I went on to tell her this story:
In the book Surprised by Oxford, Carolyn Weber describes her journey towards faith. She was an atheist who earned a scholarship to study for her Masters in English Literature at Oxford University. During her first semester, she fell in with a group of friends, half of which were Christians.... 
While I spoke, Marie corrected my mistakes and taught me a few new expressions that would help to make my story sound more natural to French ears.  I took notes on everything she said!
Carolyn found that her new Christian friends were nothing like the stereotypical Christians of book and film. They were fun-loving, deep-thinking, interesting people! The more she got to know them the more she noticed something else: They were joyful and they had a sort of indescribable peace. 
I noticed that Marie was paying close attention to my story, but by this point she was no longer correcting me; rather, she was engaging in the story. "I know what you are talking about!" she interjected, "I know people like that, too!" I continued:
While she grew curious about her friends' faith, she began to look for ways to justify her own unbelief. She frequently engaged her friends in arguments and she even mocked them at times. Still, they loved her. Curiosity got the better of her and she began to read the Bible and go to church. While she found the person of Jesus and the message of the Bible compelling, she simply could not bring herself to believe.
I paused, and asked Marie if she was familiar with the story in Mark 9: 17-27. I said that during the sermon I will have read that passage, and that I would be referring to it at this point in my story. I opened my Bible and let Marie read the passage for herself. It is the story of a man who brings his demon possessed son to Jesus for deliverance. The man says, "if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us!" Jesus replies (I imagine that He raised one eyebrow as he spoke), repeating the man's own words "'IF you can?'" Jesus added, "Anything is possible for those who believe." Desperately the man cries, "I do believe. Help me overcome my unbelief!" In other words, this poor man WANTS to believe, but he realizes that in reality he is lacking the faith that he so desperately needs.

Marie was captivated, tears brimming in her eyes. Cautiously, I proceeded with my story.
One night, alone in her room, Carolyn was reading her Bible and she came across this story in Mark 9:17-27. After she read it, she was dumbfounded. She writes, "I always thought that one had to have faith before praying. After reading this passage, it occurred to me that perhaps one must pray first--and then God gives faith." At that moment, Carolyn prayed, asking for faith, and God opened her eyes. She received faith as a gift and gave her life to Christ.
Marie sat back into the sofa, arms folded, pensive.  "I think" she said quietly but sincerely, "that God has sent me my own personal preacher. I think that He sent you to me because He knows just what I need to hear."

Now my eyes were the ones brimming with tears. The language learning was over, but something much deeper had just begun.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Misfits

"We live in foreign country!" David exclaimed on the way home from prayer this morning.

Every now and then we still feel amazed by this strange life that we live.

"Funny thing is," I replied, looking up towards the donjon, "it doesn't feel foreign anymore. It feels like home. I am afraid that when we go back to the States, I won't fit in. But I don't fit in here either."

David took my hand. He held it up to his mouth, kissed it, and said,"I guess we'll be misfits for the rest of our lives."

Misfits.

I was reminded of an illustration that was given to us during our pre-field training. Imagine that Americans are shaped liked squares and French are shaped like circles. After living in this culture for a while, our American corners get cut off, and we end up looking like an octagon--which is neither a square nor a circle, but a shape all its own. It will never be a square again, yet, it can never become a perfect circle either. Among both squares and circles, it is a misfit; yet; it has a deep understanding of both squares and circles.


In both places, I am far from home; yet, both are places that I call "home."

It is a blessed thing to be a octagon. Bitter-sweet. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Potato-Leek Soup

I have inherited my father's fetish for photographing food. After posting this picture on Facebook, some friends asked me for the recipe. Voil√†. 

I am not really much of a recipe writer, but since I combine bits and pieces from a number of different recipes to make this soup, I guess that the recipe that follows is actually one of my own creation.


Ingredients:
1 kg (2 lbs) potatoes, peeled and diced
4-5 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 leeks, sliced
250 g (1/2 lb) lardon (bacon works)
1 L milk (about 4 cups)
1 t salt
1/2 t dried dill weed
fresh ground pepper
Shredded cheddar cheese to garnish

Directions:
  1. Cook potatoes and carrots in boiling water. Drain.
  2. Cook lardons (if using bacon, cook and crumble bacon slices), remove from pan, reserving grease.
  3. Sauté leeks, onions, and celery in lardon/bacon grease.
  4. In a large pot combine all ingredients (except cheese)
  5. Heat until steaming.
  6. Serve hot, garnish with cheddar cheese.
One of the major day to day differences between our life in the States and our life in France is that the kids come home from school at noon and we sit down to lunch together as a family. This means that I cook 2 meals a day instead of just one, so I have been incorporating more recipes into our repertoire. This has become a family favorite.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Monday

While Good Friday is not a holiday in France, the Monday after Easter Sunday--called Easter Monday-- is. It is 9:11 a.m. on Monday morning and as of this moment Gemma and I are the only ones up. She is busy playing with her toys; I am enjoying a contemplative cup of tea.

I love Easter and Christmas, but they are exhausting for those who are in ministry. For us, yesterday went like this:

In the morning, Graham and Chandler and I lead worship in the English service with the help of a friend who has a lovely soprano voice. Then David preached--his second sermon in his whole life! Our church was filled to the gills, and we estimate that at least a third of the people there where non-Christians. They heard a clear presentation of the Gospel and they received a warm and loving welcome.

After the English service we went home for our Easter lunch.

In the afternoon we headed back to church to prepare for the French service, where our family was responsible for the worship. David had prepared and led a worship service on Good Friday; the boys and I had rehearsed twice in order to lead the worship in the English service; however, in the midst of a very busy week, we had not yet had time to rehearse for the worship in the French service. So we went to church well in advance of the service time in order to practice. But due to other last minute needs and technical difficulties, that rehearsal never happened.

I found myself thanking God that He continually prepares us for moments like these. You know, those moments when you just have to trust the one in charge (David), follow to the best of your abilities, and leave the rest to God. David led capably, the boys and I followed like well-trained soldiers, and the Spirit of God worked His magic. Worship happened in spite of us.


After the French Easter service, we crashed in front of a movie and ate popcorn for dinner.

The movie ended at 10:00 p.m. and the boys and I headed up to bed--but not David. He had a critical paper to finish for his Hermaneutics class. That man never ceases to amaze me. When he crawled in bed just before midnight, I heard him snoring before his head hit the pillow.

I think Easter Monday is a brilliant idea.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Sibling Rivalry

One animal is quite pleased with this arrangement. 
The other, not so much.


Jack much prefers this sleeping arrangement:



Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Knowing Winks

There is a woman from our village that regularly comes to our women's prayer meetings even though she does not go to our church. She is an upper-class woman with a great sense of style; she has gracious manners and she speaks impeccable French. Of course, she IS French, but even among native French speakers there is a broad range of abilities. A few weeks ago, she offered to help me with my French. Our first meeting was last Tuesday.

Remember where I was last Tuesday? I was sitting in the depths of despair due to my deplorable French.

Enter "Marie." (yes, names on this blog are changed to protect the innocent)

Marie arrived at 10:30 a.m. on the dot. She greeted me with the more formal hand shake, so I suppose she reserves the greeting of a kiss on each cheek for her dearest friends. She declined my offer of coffee or tea and immediately asked me, "How, exactly, can I best help you?"

I hemmed and hawed a bit, saying something like, "Well? I have a few ideas...."

Directly, she asked me, "Didn't you say that you were going to be preaching in French soon? When exactly do you preach in French?"

Ugh! Don't remind me, I thought! "I have to preach on the 29th of April in French," I replied.

Marie raised her eyebrows and declared resolutely, "That is one month away. For now we will spend our time together working on your sermon!"

And I would bet that just then, high in His heaven, God winked at me! One pointed wink that spoke volumes.

He winked as if to say, "I got your back! I want you to preach WELL in French, so I delivered this perfect helper to your front door."

He winked as if to say, "You were hoping to share your faith with this friend, so here is the opportunity on a silver platter"

He winked as if to say, "And you were worried!"

"What have you done so far?" she asked, unwilling to lose a minute of our time together.

Sheepishly, I admitted that I had only begun to memorize the text on which I was preaching. I explained that we are required to memorize the text so we can tell it like a story in the service. I grabbed the note cards on which I had written out Acts 17: 10-14 and showed them to her.

"Say it for me," she said.

And so it began. Patiently, kindly, but with authority, she corrected my pronunciation, my phrasing, and my use (or lack thereof) of liaisons. For 45 minutes I read and reread the passage, making notes to remind myself of my mentors' directions.

Then it was time for Marie to leave. Before going she said to me, "You will always speak French with an accent. That is not something we can change. And anyways, don't worry about it, it's a pretty accent. What we CAN work on is the melody and rhythm of your sentences. You are very brave to do this, and I am pleased to help you."

"Thank you so much for your kind words," I choked out, holding back tears, "but I assure you, I am NOT brave. I just have confidence in the God who brought me to this place. I dare to preach in French NOT because I am able, but because I know that HE is able."

She nodded, pensive. Then smiled and said, "Yes, you are right. God will help you."

This time, I winked at God.
 
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