Posts in Missions
Jetlag, Y'all. Jetlag.....

Jetlag, y’all.  Jetlag.  I got back to Spain on Monday, and was informed by a friend today that I can only use jetlag as an excuse for for five days, which means I’m at the limit.  But let me tell you a story of an #epicfail for which I *totally* blame the jetlag.

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Lake lessons

Last week I went to an area of Spain that I really love: Lagunas de la Ruidera, a national park area out in the middle of farmland in central Spain. It’s a collection of tiny lakes that stretch out over several miles...and nothing else. I actually love this area for that reason—it’s empty.  Peaceful. Quiet.   On my last day there I remembered to get a few rocks for my collection: I have some stones from most of my travels around Spain. In the clear water, I searched for some nice rocks, but I was disappointed to discover that all the rocks were ugly.  They were sharp and misshapen, instead of rounded and polished by the water, as I expected. I was sure with so much water, there would have to be more attractive rocks SOMEWHERE. The shoreline and the shallows of the lake were nothing BUT rocks.   But then it hit me; I realized why all the rocks were ugly. 

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A Bag of Groceries

What a difference a bag of groceries can make!  For most of us, the food we have in our cabinets is so abundant we don’t even use it all.  Our pantries have cans and jars that have probably been there quite a while. It’s hard to even imagine a kitchen where the cabinets sit empty, and there aren’t even half-used bottles of oil or ketchup. 

This month, we received a call from a woman who called to say that she was out of food.  Completely.  Not a bottle of oil, nor a package of pasta or rice remained in her home, and she has two sons in her household, too.  Thanks to the generosity of our church, we had some imperishable items stocked up, but I also went to the grocery store to “complete” the  donation for her family.  

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Squeezing God's Hand

When I was a child, thanks to many health issues, I was terrified of the procedures and specialists I frequently faced. So my father came up with a brilliant idea: he put out his thumb, and said, “If the doctor does anything that hurts you, you squeeze my thumb with your hand. That way I’ll know that it’s hurting you.”  And I’m quite sure I immediately grabbed his thumb and started squeezing it just from the overwhelming desire to have my dad save me somehow from what was coming. To a child’s mind, squeezing his thumb was a magical way to transfer all the pain from me to him. And I could survive it because I knew that this connection would save me somehow from the effects of whatever procedure I had to endure.

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My Weapon is a Melody

Easter is my favorite day to sing at IC:Madrid.  Partly it’s because we do a longer and more showy music set that day, so the music part is awesome.  We rent a theater, and people come all excited, so the energy builds us into a greater musical experience, too.  Partly it’s because I know that so many people in that place don’t know Jesus at all, and once again I have the chance to use my voice and all my expression to make Him known, as loud and as beautifully as I can.  And I do.  Every year, I leave it all on the stage, even if I can barely talk afterward; I sing my heart out to make Jesus known.  But it wasn’t always this way. For years my insecurities almost ruined singing for me.

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What's in a Name?

Long before Shakespeare made his famous statement through Juliet’s musings about roses  smelling as sweetly, no matter the name, God gave us a much deeper perspective on names in His Word.  There are a few scant historical and literary references to the name Ariel, including the Bible, since Ariel is a masculine Hebrew name, however much the Disney version has given it a feminine grace.  Ariel is the androgynous spirit in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and it was also the name of one of the ships of the great American naval hero John Paul Jones.  The meaning of the name Ariel is “Lion of God” and *that’s* what’s prompted my lifelong reflection on the power of names.

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Who am I Now?

“Oh God, who am I now? Once I was secure in familiar territory in my sense of belonging, unquestioning of the norms of my culture, the assumptions built into my language, the values shared by my society. But now you have called me out and away from home, and I do not know where you are leading. I am empty, unsure, and uncomfortable. I have only a beckoning star to follow.”

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Be Still and Know

“Be still, and know that I am God,” Psalm 46:10 tells us.  I’ve been reflecting on that, because it’s so easy to *be still* here in a place like this, where I’ve purposefully chosen to get away from everything for a while and just be still.  I’m usually so busy that I literally have to schedule these breaks on my calendar and on everyone else’s calendars so that I could have time away to be still. The question is how can I be still in Madrid? How do I achieve stillness in His presence while maintaining office hours and ministry schedules?  I’m a driven person by nature, so I’ve had to learn how to balance the pouring-out-part of ministry and the being-still-part of abiding with God.

I’ve found four ways to keep still, no matter how hectic life gets.  

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All Day, Every Day

I often joke that my life here is one big experiment in how many coffees I can drink in one day.  From the first cup ‘o joe I enjoy in the morning, to all the “coffee meetings” I have throughout the day, including the little coffee breaks I enjoy with colleagues, my day runs on Dunkin’—well, maybe not Dunkin’ exactly   but it certainly runs on “café con leche.” European coffee isn’t just a drink to quench your thirst or give you a little energy; it’s a form of communication. It’s an invitation to a sacred, shared space of intimacy and friendship.   

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A Praying Saint

“Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his saints.”  Ps. 116:15

Last week I lost a supporter, a former Sunday School teacher, and a praying saint.  She is being laid to rest today, at the age of 98 years old.  I’m so thankful that on my last day in Maryland, I spent an hour visiting her.  I knew that time would be precious, but I didn’t expect to lose her so quickly after returning to life overseas.

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What I'm the Bible

I’m going to tell you something shocking right now: I don’t read the Bible through each year.  I feel like a bad minister somehow admitting that, but I learned years ago that trying to read through the Bible in one year, every year only set me up to read meaninglessly and for a silly checkmark on a photocopy of a reading plan stuffed in the back of my Bible.  While I started every year with good intentions, I always got overwhelmed, and then when life got busy suddenly I was trying to catch up with endless chapters. And constantly jumping from Luke to Leviticus wore me out.

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As a resident alien in Spain I have an identification card (NIE- photo) that goes everywhere with me. It has my photo, address, valid dates, and of course my NIE number. This is a number specific to me, which begins and ends with a letter, and has 7 digits in between. I memorized it before I even learned my Spanish phone number or address, because it’s connected to literally EVERYTHING I do in Spain. I’m required to show it everyone —from the Amazon guy who drops off my packages to any bank or business establishment. It’s part of my contracts for my apartment, my bills, and my internet service. It’s basically my SSN in Spain. In fact, in three weeks when I go to the airport, I’ll be required to show it at the check-in desk before I even leave America! It goes right with my American passport, to prove that I am both an American citizen and a Spanish resident. 

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