Saturday, June 28, 2014

Found to Follow

For almost two years, now, I've been studying my way very slowly, very methodically, through the Gospel of John... I'm finally somewhere in chapter 9. As I literally crawl my way through this book of the Bible, the Holy Spirit is challenging me on what it means to be not just a wife, mom, missionary... but first and foremost a disciple of Jesus.

I'd like to share with you one of those "challenges."

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”
Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. (John 1.43-44)
Before looking too closely at these verses, I dove into a quick "crash course" entitled "Who was Philip, disciple of Jesus?" Where is he mentioned in the Biblical account, other than as the guy usually listed fifth in any recording of the disciples?  Some speculate (based on church tradition) Philip was the one who asked to "bury his father" before following Jesus. The text doesn't specifically identify which disciple, however. In John 6, Jesus tests Philip, specifically asking him how they could provide a meal for the 5000 plus crowd listening to Jesus teach. Shortly after the Lord raises Lazarus, Philip helps some Greeks visiting Jerusalem for the purpose of celebrating the Passover Feast "encounter" Jesus. Philip is Greek name so possibly he spoke Greek and could function as a bridge for those foreigners desiring to interact with the Lord. Finally, Philip doubted the unity of Jesus and the Father, struggling to believe that in seeing Jesus, he had already seen God. This gave the Lord a beautiful opportunity to teach His disciples about the amazing-beyond-human-comprehension unity He shares with His Father. 

I was surprised at how many times Philip actually came to the forefront of the Gospels. Apparently he was a more prominent disciple than I'd ever noted before.

Once I moved on to actually studying the verses above, I noticed immediately that the other three men (Andrew, an unnamed disciple - possibly John, and Peter) all sought Jesus. They had been looking and waiting for Him, finally finding Him and recognizing that He was the One for Whom they'd been searching, waiting, hoping... 

Not so with Philip

Jesus had made up His mind that it was time to return to Galilee, so He would be leaving Bethsaida and her environs - but before He did, He found Philip

I was curious because you can find something - as in stumble across it... or you can find something - as in search extensively and locate it... 

According to Strong's, in the Greek either meaning could be inferred by the use of this particular word. However, those really smart people who write concordances and know all about Greek think that this isn't a search, discover, find scenario. Rather, it is more like Jesus was on His way and in the process fell in with... started walking alongside, if you will, Philip. That bothered me at first. A lot, in fact.

I hoped... wanted actually, to dig deep and discover that from the text, I could infer that Jesus had actively, persistently, sought Him out. (Which is, by the way, a dangerous Bible study habit - because then I can tend to try and make the Bible say what I want to say, informing the Lord what I think He should be teaching... rather than letting Him teach and lead me.)

And I couldn't. And so I had to stop there and think and pray for a bit - actually for more than a bit. The "box" I had pre-constructed for the Lord, at least in this particular scenario, limited Jesus to actively, unceasingly seeking out those He wants to follow Him. That may be the case other times, but it doesn't appear to be so here. Instead, Jesus was going about doing what His Father had Him going about to do and "fell in with" Philip.

To fall in with someone means to become involved with that individual, to concur with or harmonize with. Jesus was on His way elsewhere, but He took the time to walk alongside and join with Philip for those moments. And after those moments, He offered Philip an alternative to his present path. He invited Philip to follow Him. 

I pondered the implications of that thought.

Jesus walked along with Philip - perhaps only He and Philip know for how long - experienced Philip's path and direction and then with no criticism, He offered Philip a different possibility. He asked Philip to take a new road and to begin following Him. And when He offers Philip the opportunity to follow, Jesus offers Philip the path of steadfastly clinging to Him, conforming to and seeking His example in both living and in dying. 

What a powerful model for evangelism! 

What an incredible missionary strategy because it isn't one. (How's that for an oxymoron?!) 

It is entering into community, falling in with, learning about, investigating new cultures, opening your heart and mind to new thoughts, investing in lives and conversation... becoming a part of - and then offering the opportunity to follow a different path.

Possibly, God will direct me to "fall in with" someone for a time, understand their life, their world... travel their road together for a bit BEFORE inviting him/her to join me walking the "Jesus road" as a fellow disciple of the Lamb of God. 

I call myself a missionary. This idea certainly bears further contemplation and discernment for application! 
What do you think?

How do you see this idea of "falling in with" prior to inviting others to "follow" Jesus playing out in your life?

repost from the archives of

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mangos and More Mangos

It's mango season again folks!  Well, we're at the tail end of it here in Costa Rica, but maybe you still have time to enjoy some of the mango goodness!   Remember this mango pie recipe?  Last year I tried making mango sauce (like apple sauce) and mango juice and neither went over well enough to justify all the work involved.  
And let's just take a moment here to discuss the spelling of the this word.  I have looked and looked for the correct spelling of mangos, err mangoes?  Apparently if you are using US English, it's mangos, and if you are using British English it's mangoes.  Now that we have our "History of the English Language" lesson out of the way, let's get on to the food!

This year, my mom was here because I decided surgery would be a fun thing, and she suggested mango butter, as in like apple butter.

We did a trial run in the crockpot and it went over so well, I bought 18 kilos of mangos on the way back from the beach and made some more, because the Northerner in me just won't believe that there is always fresh fruit here.  Must.Can.All.The.Fruit.

So here's the drill.
Enough ripe mangos, peeled and sliced to fill your crockpot
Cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla to taste

Peel and cut mangos.  Run through the blender so you get rid of the stringiness.  Pour puree into crockpot with lid on.  Set to high until the puree starts to bubble.  Add in spices and leave the lid off.  Continue to stir.  Reduce for about 8-10 hours or until the desired consistency.  Ladle into hot jars and process in a water bath for 15 minutes.  Try to keep your family out of it.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Sounds of Home

We just recently returned to Costa Rica after an unexpected 4-month furlough in the States.  We experienced winter for the first time in many years, and lived with my parents out in the country.  Throughout our time there, I was struck with how quiet it was.  With central heat and all the windows closed, I heard nothing coming from outside the house, which is so very different from our experience in our home in Costa Rica.  Here, our windows are always open, trying to stay cool in the hot tropical weather.  The result is that, after six years of living in Costa Rica, I have a whole set of sounds that have become the sounds of home.  Since returning after our furlough, I have realized how sweet these sounds have become to me.  Many of them were once unfamiliar (some of them even annoying!), but now they mean home to me.  Now that we're home again, I'm daily hearing...

rain on our metal roof
children's giggles echoing off our concrete walls
roosters crowing as the day dawns
cows mooing as they walk past our backyard
"upe!" at our gate as a friend stops by to visit
pitter pattering of little feet on our tile floors
whirring of our pump bringing water into our house from the reserve tanks
tropical birds' songs from the orange tree in our garden
a 6 year old's voice reciting the Spanish syllables he's learning to read in school
a 3 year's old's voice singing a Spanish worship song
scrapping of an iguana's claws making its way across our roof
thump-thumping of the iguana who's found its way into our attic
motorbikes without mufflers speeding past our house
tea kettle whistling in the kitchen
a gecko chirping from its perch on the wall above our bed
metal gates clanging as neighbors come and go
taxis honking in the street
a friend's machete hacking at dead branches in our yard
announcements from the loudspeakers driving by selling everything imaginable
the gentle, flowing sound of Spanish on our porch during Bible studies and classes

It's good to be home.

Now, I'd love to hear from you!  What sounds mean home to you now? 

Sunday, June 15, 2014


transition - movement, passage or change from one position, state,
stage, subject, concept, etc. 

My adult married life can be described in one word ... transition. We have moved so many times I have lost count and, to be honest, I don't really want to know. I know the lingo, the steps, how to pack like a pro and yet the thought of "another move" has me feeling that familiar feeling. dread. Not dreading the position, people or place ... dreading the work involved and the emotions attached with moving or transitioning. Whew ... we're not planning a move in the near future, but many are in the world of missionary families. 

I'm part of a large community missionaries here in Germany. You may be familiar with Black Forest Academy. Well, we are serving right in the same village and every June it's a mass exodus as families and students relocate back to North America or some other part of the globe. As families leave, new families arrive during the summer to replace those who have left. In many ways it's a revolving door and, as missionary community, we should be used to this by now, but tears still flow and emotions range from excitement to fear to incredible loss. Here's just the places where the 2014 BFA graduating class are going ... 

So while reading Facebook the other day I came across a post from a missionary friend that sounded all too familiar.

"How to deal with packing and transition stress when you get a little teary-eyed. Method 1: Kiss your 5 year old and ask him if he excited that he's going to get to see Brennan in a few days. Soak in the excitement he exudes. Method 2: Hold your 11 year old in your lap and let her cry out her tears of sadness, share in her grief and be distracted from yours. It's a bit of an emotional roller coaster over here lately." - M.L.

This same mom posted an incredible counseling tool for transitioning. I so wish I would have known this when my kids were little ... 

"Here's a glimpse into the life of transition for a kid. Elise had to make "worry cards" for her counselor this week. She wrote down things she worries about regarding the move back to the US and then put lengths of string on the cards corresponding to how much she worries about it. She can cut the string as the worries become less." M.L.

Through all the moves I've made there is one thing for sure. Well, maybe a couple of things ... 

God knows the end from the beginning. 

His ways are higher than mine. 

I am thankful that He has taken care of us in each move and 

He has walked with us through the grieving of transition and the joy of new adventures. 

What do you think about this? Have you used anything like this with your children? 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Value of Church Family

We've been busy with family visiting us for the last 2 months. After the birth of our second baby at the beginning of April, my mom and mother-in-law have now come for lovely visits with us. They are now back in the US, and we're missing having them around to help around the house and enjoy life together. It's nice to have them around to celebrate things like the birth of a baby, but living so far away makes it a challenge to have them around to help when we need it. Living abroad and serving the Lord outside our home country has its sacrifices.

My husband and I are discovering that's where our church family comes in. We've connected with our church family a lot in the last year. My husband and I lead a small group at our church. It's part of our job to grow the community in our little group, but it also benefits us since we don't have family near by. With the Lord's help, we're working to build the community in our small group by doing things like opening our home and reaching out to those who have a need.

A few weeks ago, my husband had a shed that needed staining. So we invited our life group to help us. And while we were at it we had a barbecue! It was great to spend time with those in our small group outside of our usual Sunday and Wednesday meetings. One great thing about our weekend barbecue was it enabled a family with small children to come who normally can't attend during the week!

Here are 3 things I've found to help build community where we live.

Serve each other. Help with redecorating, provide a meal, help them move house. When we had our baby in April, our friends provided us with meals so I didn't have to cook!

Worship together. This might go without saying in a small group, but it's important to come before the the throne of our God—together. The best place for this is in our Wednesday night meetings at our home.

Pray for one another. Again, it probably seems obvious, but it's so important. We pass around text messages among those in our small group and church when there's a need. It is great to see God move when the Body of Christ is united in prayer!

There are other ways to build community, but these are just a few that have helped us in the past year.

How do you build community where you live?

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Dive into Summer Reading (For Spiritual Encouragement)

Busy moms who serve cross-culturally are hard-pressed to make time for reading, don’t you think? Too many demands vie for our time: caring for our families, ministry, and maybe homeschool. If you’re like me, the internet sucks you in when you have a free moment.

But reading is a great way to invest in yourself spiritually. The physical act of sitting down for some “me-time” with a book is healthy. Books can also nourish our souls while we’re struggling to worship and listen to sermons in a new language. I don’t know what the spiritual environment is where you serve, but where I am in the Middle East, discouragement abounds, and opportunities for spiritual encouragement can be few and far between. Christian books open a door to spiritual refreshment and growth for me.

The slower pace of summer makes finding time to read easier, so I thought it would be fun if we shared book recommendations. Here are three books I read in the last year and three books I want to read. I hope you’ll complete this post by leaving a comment to recommend a book that might encourage the rest of us!
Three Spiritually Encouraging Books I Read Last Year:
If you’re working on a goal or trying to make a change in your life, this 52 page e-book will inspire you. Each of the 21 brief chapters starts with a motivational scripture and encourages you to take one baby step towards your goal.

I can’t say enough about this book. Lysa shares honest, personal stories about daily life challenges that threaten to send her off the deep end. It made me feel like I’m not alone. The book offers healthy alternatives for processing emotions. (Are you a stuffer or an exploder?) It’s full of practical wisdom on handling conflict.

Believing God by Beth Moore
Written in a relaxed, conversational style, this book makes you feel like you’re listening to Beth Moore speak. She shares personal anecdotes as well as examples from scripture. Beth challenges us to combat negative self-talk by asking God to renew our faith and by proclaiming His truth to ourselves.
What I’d like to Read Next:

What about you?  Can you recommend a book you’ve read lately? What else do you do for spiritual encouragement on the field?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Tuesday Topic: Poverty elimination

I'm sorry it's been a while since I've posted a discussion topic. No one has sent any in, and I haven't had the brain space or time to come up with my own.

What can you share about "poverty elimination" efforts? Have you been able to help in that area, or do you have any failures you're willing to share that we can learn from? Any good resources to recommend? I just read When Helping Hurts, and, while it was very helpful, I still have so much I want to talk through with people who have more knowledge and experience than I do!

(If you have a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to me at Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, or specify if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)