Friday, January 26, 2007

A Joyful Noise



Last night at New Community we sang the song "Make A Joyful Noise." Usually with this song the thought is of a cowboy yell. But I thought back to a different sound, something so invasive it shakes the entire body. The low grumble of a diesel train. I have so many times driven along side trains as they parallel Chicago Drive from Jenison to Holland. I don't know why but I found the red Soo engines to be the most impressive. But it is a small picture of how powerful Our God is.

When I set out to give you a picture of these trains I found this one gleaned off the Internet many years ago. It is not along the line, but it is a location I know well. The Judd end of CSX Wyoming yard. I can hardly remember a day as a child that my dad did not go down here and park. This place was so important for a time in our family that my brothers bought a house a half mile away. Those times sitting with my dad waiting patiently and not so patiently for the next train to come. The back and forth action of switchers sorting trains. The local switcher that would go to the industries behind the camera. (That was a real treat to me.) The other railfans who used to come to see the sights, talk and gossip. Conversations in our family did not happen unless it involved trains. Trips did not happen in our family unless it involved trains. I had a girlfriend who could not grasp this.

Trains are cool, and they still play a part in my life. I have a lot of stuff for building model railroads. I read magazines, I see Christian metaphors in trains. But Christ is more important. If God asked me to let go of all my trains I would. Recently I did ask if I should, I cried when the answer was no you keep them. My job, my future plans, and so many other things were taken away to be told I can keep little toys is so amazing. The good news is that it is not the only way to talk to my father and brothers anymore. Though it is one way.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Tire

Currently we live near the shore of Lake Michigan. It is a short walk to the beach to sit and watch the waves against the sand and rocks.

This fall while in the middle of this decision of taking a great secular job or holding out for God's plan I had a great illustration given to me.

A tire on the waves, trying to land. Wave after wave pushing it towards the sand, where it could set roots, fill with sand and stay. But in the way of this tire was a small rock, the size of my fist. This rock was just holding the tire back, moving with each wave, I was so amazed that this large tire was not overcoming this rock.

Then awashed with shivers down my back I saw that I was the tire, trying to land. The waves pushing me here and there but the goal was to get to the sand and get stuck there. God was the rock. No, God is not that small but he talks just loud enough for us to hear. In 1 Kings 19 Elijah hears God in a whisper. But other places God talks in a normal voice such as Acts 9, or even writes his message, Dan 5 or Exodus 34. In each case it is much like that rock, just enough. Not overwhelming, as there were larger rocks on that beach.

I suppose given enough time the waves tire and rock would change, and the tire would land on the beach and fill with sand. But I left before it did that that day. When I went back the next week there were no tires on that beach.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Telephone


As a student there was a couple times that the teachers lined us all up. Then he would whisper a phrase in the first ones ear, they would in turn whisper it to the next. All the way down the line this was done. The last student would say what he thought he heard out loud. So many times it was not what the teacher said.

I am reminded of the tower of Babel shortly after the flood in Gen 11. I still think people speaking the same language have trouble understanding each other, an outfall of God's decision to confuse our communication. This lack of ability to communicate sure can lead to a lot of frustration. In both those giving and receiving the message.
Why else would Jesus speak in parables? If it was easy to explain why Christ had to die we would all get it. But no, we must have faith. We must have ears to hear and eyes to see. We must be listening, really listening.


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Doubt

Like most people in scary situations we have doubt. In this case it is about spending such a long time in a strange land and the cost. Much of the advice we get is do a short term mission first, ten days or something. Commit to a year without knowing what we are getting into?


Then you start thinking that maybe God is trying to tell us we are a little off the mark. Maybe we are only supposed to do a short trip a year from now. How are we going to raise $27 grand???


Then I pray, I ask God to take away all my worry, my plans. Clear my mind and help me to see the goal He has for us. Then into the evening and waking up in the morning I am again confident that we need to walk towards working with OI, this year, a full year, and trust God to help with the funding. My job: learn what you can about India, what you are doing, missions, churches, networking, and show love, patience, kindness, perseverance. I picked up the Bible to look over Cor 13 about love and saw 1 John 3:18 to 20. My worry is not loving myself being consistent in walking the path God wants us on is.


My choice today is to follow Gods plan.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

My Passions

I have been thinking again about what I am doing. Pondering over what I see is most important to me. Yes Christ, God, etc... the foundation we all believe, but there is also the extra stuff, the trivial. The things I think that are important that you could care less about. These things are what make me one part of the body and you another.

  • I want things to work right. A perfect product is invisible, you pick up the phone dial talk and hang up, never once thinking about the phone, sound quality, button size, etc.. just the conversation.
  • Another thing that lights me up is support, I loved helping others to do things better. I loved helping the artists at the car company I worked for develop the perfect look. I loved doing it at the lowest cost for the manufacture. While I do enjoy being an artist, I also like being part of the team to make an artist even better.
  • To the spiritual level I feel a passion for the 99, you know the sheep left in the pen while the shepherd left. All so often it is about the one, no focus on making better wool, meat, or helping people sleep.
  • Then fourth, I have this ethereal idea that I should be standing up in front of people. And that I should be writing a book. This is something so out there I can figure no way to put a goal but to say "Lord your will be done."
I always thought that I would have to change greatly to be USED by God as more than a tithing unit. (Why else would I have this great education / income potential?) But no, God wants to use me as I am. Now this does not mean that I will not have better wool as part of the process.

The plan

In August of 2006 I could not sleep one night. Days away from finishing my Masters of Engineering, days away from moving out of my house and into my in laws. Months after losing my job and still no sign of a new job. I prayed. I asked questions to God. And I got answers to many of those questions. Why? "To get me to do something I would not do on my own." What? "Spend a year as a missionary." Where? "Chennai" Oh China I like China western China is so pretty, the culture is so amazing. Oh boy oh boy oh boy... When? "Christmas" Wait how do I know this is true, can I have a sign this is true? "Yes Mongolia"

First I thought we were going to Mongolia so I contacted Interserve and said send me to Mongolia! Mongolia came back and said no job for you. Ok umm oh wait Mongolia is the sign China was the place lets go China lets GO! Lots of research, China needs short term American middle managers to help the quickly growing companies this will work I can do that. Then in prayer I heard that I know all about China in two weeks.. ten days... five.. one... lets go to a Chinese restaurant today to celebrate! Eat across the way from a very uncivil man from China.. that is Ok it is part of their culture. One day past... depression... Lord if I am to get to China by Christmas don't the parts have to be in place? It IS mid October. OK Lord I will let go of China and cling to you. Depression and focus on God through reading the Bible, and rebuilding again.

Beginning of December an email comes, someone in India has a position that may be for you. Yes send details! Two days before Christmas a description of a position in Chennai India. I try to read the job description, the two year old goes nuts. I try to read the description my eyes cross. I try to read the description the wife talks... the phone rings... my eyes blur... the door handle on the car breaks... I worry... I think I can't do what they are asking... I just pray. Lord what should I do? "Yes" "This is something that you need to walk towards, not run, or sit and wait for, nor walk away from, nor run from."

Wow. wow. WOW!

God is so amazing. I am so nothing, yet... wow. Lord I can not do this without you.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Winter Wonder


Shortly before I graduated from college I thought to myself that this is a start of a journey. One that I need to have a blessing on. I asked God in prayer to have someone come lay hands on me. I did not ask just once but many times. This was something that I did not tell anyone about, it was me and God. I do not know why I felt that need so strongly, but I did. That prayer was answered. One day a guy from Intervarsity whom I had talked to, but not often, knocked on my door. (How he knew where my room was I have no idea. I never even thought of that until now.) Well he knocked on my door and said. "I don't know why but I feel like I need to lay my hands on you and pray for you and your future." (allow me to paraphrase since that was 10 years ago.) My response is one of rejoicing! (Well as best as an introvert can.) That was so great God sent someone to do what I was asking for. That is still proof to me today that God moves us at the heart level. God showed me how important I am and that he is with me on this journey with him.
These three pictures are an interesting story. I looked out my window one winter day to see small tracks circling through the snow. In the middle was a vole making tighter and tighter circles until he was just spinning in one spot.
He just ran and ran, lost out in that snow, unable to find a hole to safety. Gone crazy. When I got out there to take the picture I scared him greatly, he shot off towards a flower pot and then again under a bit of liner from my pond.
Like that mouse I was stuck until I had that nudge to get moving in a more productive way.
And you know what, that has happened again in my life. After I lost my job I did all the right steps and felt like I was going in a circle. Then I got a nudge to change my path, to go somewhere that I would have never gotten on my own.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Value

I do not care about money, bills or coins. I do not like to spend it, I do not drivel too much about what I get paid as long as it is fair. But all the same I am stingy, I will not just give my money to someone else. What I really care about is stuff. I see a need for stuff to be used wisely. So many times I see around me where people go and spend lots of money on things and then shortly there after just throw things. People today have little sense of the value of things. Even our government thinks things have a great value. Tax time is coming, I recommend Tax Cut and Deduction Pro software. In Deduction Pro it is amazing what values the IRS has placed on donated items. It is even more than I would say they are worth. (Many times I do undervalue the items I gave away because otherwise I feel like I am cheating Uncle Sam.)

This past summer we sold our house and moved to a small apartment. It took two of the largest Uhaul trucks to carry our stuff away. And I still needed to have my parents come and take some of it in their minivan. And there was still stuff we left at the house! I look around the storage place and all those boxes of stuff. I don't know why we have it. It has been in storage for six months and there is a lot of stuff that I have never even thought of going through. (ah but there has been a lot of stuff I have needed.)

I had a dream a little while back. I was chasing my brother through the backyards of a rich neighborhood, the kind with iron fences and swimming pools. Well he was way ahead of me and I was getting farther and farther behind before I gave up and just laid in the middle of someones back yard waiting to be found. The issue, I was taking my bike with me the whole time. He did not have a bike. Why did I have to drag that thing that was worthless for going through tight spots and over fences with me?

I prayed that I was not that foolish to be bringing extra stuff with me on my journey of following Christ. I realized that while all my stuff in storage it has value it is worthless also. I am a caretaker, holding onto it until the owner asks for it to be used. It is worthless to me, but of use to God. I have to be able to let go of everything I have, cherish none of it.

I have included some links to ministries that relate to money and Christ, Crown help prepare me for not having a job by encouraging me to not have debt. Opportunity International give a picture of what the very poor would do with a little money. Manytime a loan to them of $50 doubles the standard of living they have.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Christmas Memories

I am trying to remember how many times I have gotten a tree for Christmas. There was the time in college a friend and I split for a blue spruce and set it up in my dorm room. That is part of the story how I got married, when it came time to go home this lovely girl gave me a set of flannel sheets to wrap the tree in to keep my car clean. Her sheets went on my bed and my old sheets went around the tree. I don't remember any trees while single. And after we were married I tried hard each year to get a small cheap tree.


This year was different. Remembering that each small tree year I looked at the little tree and felt dissapointed I wanted a true floor to ceiling tree. We hunted down a fraiser fur at a local tree farm and took it home. I actually had to cut the top off to get the star on. I filled the tree with six strings of lights and 50 feet of ribon. We then made cookie orniments, flour water and salt, to cover the tree.

Then there is the presents under the tree. I did not buy a single one of those. And only a couple are for me and my daughter. We love our family and friends, and this is one way we try to show it. Though I can NEVER outdo my mother in law. They filled both the trunk and back seat of their car to the brim for seven grandkids and eight parents. Even this is pale compaired to the fulfilling that we were given about our future a couple days before Christmas.

Romans 3:23

I grew up in a Christian home, went to a Christian School, and even had a part time job at the Church. All in a very Christian community where the question is not “do you go to Church” but “What Church do you go to?” I understood a lot about Daniel, David, Moses, and Jesus. I did not understand much about the Holy Spirit.

In college I had more freedom. I lived a good life, I do not remember a single event that might have gotten me arrested, except maybe trespassing while looking for railroad grades in the woods. But some events opened my eyes. With some friends we took this innocence test, the higher the score the more of “life” you have experienced. I was surprised, I had the highest score by far, and I was the only regular Church attendee of the bunch.

During the rest of that school year I began to rethink some things I had done, I might have called them love, God referred to them as sin. I though long and hard about what it meant to be a Christian, and I knew it involved faith, not just knowledge. So one night I lay broken on the floor of my dorm room asking for Jesus to enter my heart. He did and I changed because he is there.