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Measuring my life in 50 pound bags

In the poem “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot, he describes life this way:

“I’ve IMG_3472measured out my life in coffee spoons”.

I’ve always liked that phrase.  It seems to encapsulate the mundane repetition that is a part of life.  Coffee to get me going, and then do it again, and again, and then life is over.

But, as I’m preparing to go to Rwanda, I think about measuring my life out in other ways.  I think about life in 50 pound bags.
If you have ever traveled overseas, you know the drill.  You pack the bags and then hope they meet the magic 50 pounds.  If not, things have to go.

But, in the past, it was always for a week or two.  In the back of my mind was always “If I forget anything, it is just for a while”.  Then I get back to whatever it is I thought I needed.

But this is for a longer time.  A thing forgotten is, maybe, a thing gone.

I realize there are things I will just have to do without.  But, trying to anticipate the things that are REALLY important is a challenge.

Any of you that have been to my house know that hospitality is important to me.  And, I have a big kitchen, full of things that help me be hospitable.

So, I’m prioritizing.  And, thankfully, a team going to Rwanda in a few weeks is taking two extra bags for me.  Heaven.

But then I realize it is 100 pounds and that seems like a lot, but the things are heavy.  My food processor.  My cast iron frying pan.  My Le Creuset Dutch Oven.  REALLY heavy.

So I pack my bags with what I pray will be 50 pounds.  Then I take them to my brother’s Vet clinic and weigh them on the dog scale.  Today’s bag was over by 4.6 pounds.  Seemed easy enough, until I had to choose the “cuts”.  My bag of Stevia.  No Stevia means bitter coffee and tea.  Or using sugar that I have worked hard to get off of.

IMG_3472But, as my business partner used to say, “these are first world problems”.

And I think.  My two bags contain things that are worth more than A Rwandan makes in a year. Conviction.

 

And I remember His Word:

“Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

My two bags, or four bags, or six bags will be enough.

Enough for my needs.  And enough for the overflow to be a blessing.

That is the Father’s promise.

Soli Deo Gloria

John

 

 

 

February 5th, 2016|Comments Off on Measuring my life in 50 pound bags

The Presence of God is in This Place

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When I moved into my house there was a house blessing. The priest from my Church came and I had a party for about 50 friends.  There was a service of blessing for my house. We went from room to room, and there was a specific liturgy of blessing, praying that each room would be filled with the presence of God.

The cross you see here was carried from room to room in my house during the blessing.  I bought it in Haiti, so it reminds me to pray for that country that is dear to my heart.  It now hangs in my kitchen as an Ebenezer stone, a remembrance that this is a sacred space.

Since that day, I have sought to use my blessed house as a blessing, filling the rooms with good food and wine, people, conversation and laughter.  I have hosted monthly dinner for my Church to enjoy good food and to “be the body of Christ”.  I have filled my table at Christmas and Easter with people who were family to each other.  The spirit of those efforts, I think, is summarized in this poem that came to me one day in Church:

Welcome to my humble home,

Consecrated to Him alone,

Here may you Beauty see,

And these walls a Sanctuary be.

In food and wine may you know a taste,

Of Heaven, the Eternal Place.

And sweet fellowship your loneliness erase,

The author, Jack London, called his house in Sonoma County “the house of happy walls”.  This house has been to me, and others, a house of happy walls.

So, it was an emotional thing for me to sell my house because it has been a place of joy and blessing.  I just wanted to sell it quickly and be done with it.  Move on.

But God has other plans, not to torture me but to bring Himself Glory.

After 27 showings and three offers, none fair, I was weary.  Very weary.  The thing I wanted to be swift and painless had been protracted and seemed painful.

Last Wednesday, I went to my life group from Church.  My friend Peyton and I talked and agreed to pray that someone would buy my house that would understand what a special house it was and who would sense the presence of God in it.  Then, my whole group joined and prayed for me to have peace about the sale.  And I think, in that moment, I was able to release the situation to God’s timing.

There were five showings over the weekend.  The last one was at 10am on Sunday.  I had gone to Greensboro to speak at a Church.  There service started at 10:00.  Just as the service started, I had this word that came to me.

While I believe in words of knowledge, the rarely have come to me.  But here is was, this Word so clear that I wrote it in my journal:

“The person looking at your house right now will sense the presence of God there”.

I was not sure what God was doing, but He was doing something.

While I was in Church, although my phone was on silent, I saw three calls came in from Centralized Showings, the agency that schedules home showings.  After Church, I called back.  They confirmed that it was a second showing, a follow up to the one that had happened while I was in Church.  Wow.

An offer came yesterday.  An agreed to contract today.

The Scripture says:  For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:8).  I believe it was from the Holy Spirit.  A sign and an assurance.  That my Father was in this.  That He was in control.  And that He did this to bring himself Glory.

Romans 9:16 says: So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

A picture of God’s acting in mercy.

When the word came in Church, another word came too.  “Give me the Glory”.

So I offer praise to give Him Glory.  To Him who does things not in a natural, but a supernatural way, that it will be clear that this was not of man, but of God.

So I say, Soli Deo Gloria.

 

January 21st, 2016|Comments Off on The Presence of God is in This Place

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

sic_transit_gloria_mundi_720x600When the Pope is coronated, there is a procession.  Three times during that procession, the master of ceremonies stops the procession.  In his hand, he holds a piece of smoldering flax.

Each time he says to the Holy Father “Sic Transit Gloria Mundi”.  It translated “thus passeth the glory of the world”.  It is a reminder of the uncertain nature of life and earthly honors.  A good reminder to the Pope, and to all men and women.

The Bible talks about this too.  One of my favorite Scriptures is 2 Corinthians 4:18:

“while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

There are two worlds.  The first is the physical.  Things we can see, feel and touch.  Our houses, our clothes, our food.  And friends whose physical form we can embrace.

But there is another world that is the real reality.  It is the Eternal World of God’s Kingdom. Its invisibility makes it no less vivid. When all the things that are seen are returned again to dust, the eternal and unseen things remain.  Forever.

While this may all sound very theoretical, understanding it is of extreme importance.  It is important to guard us from placing our hope in things destined for dust.  It is important for how we spend.

How we spend our money.  How we spend our time.  What we dedicate ourselves to.  What we treasure.  What we are passionate about.

I have thought much about this as I have decided to go to Rwanda.  Practically, there are many physical things to leave behind:  my house, my family, my Church. In doing that, I am acknowledging two things:

That the glory of the world is passing. That the Glory of God’s Kingdom is not.

Understanding that is critical to right motivation.

Some think I am brave for doing what I am doing.  Some, although it is unspoken, think I am crazy.  I prefer to think I am informed (by God’s Word) and obedient.

I remember the words to the old poem by C. T. Studd:

When this bright world would tempt me sore,

When Satan would a victory score;

When self would seek to have its way,

Then help me Lord with joy to say;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Indeed.

Soli Deo Gloria

John

 

 

December 19th, 2015|Comments Off on Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

The Grace to Receive

 

 

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I started working when I was about 16.  My job was working in the bakery at Winn Dixie.  If you are not 1) a Southerner and 2) older, that might be meaningless to you.  It was a grocery store is the shopping center near my house.

I did various things: decorating cakes, baking bread, and making sure the of baked goods looked appealing.

Ever since then I have been financially independent.  While my parents paid my expenses for college, I worked 25 hours a week in the computer center for my spending money.  I have always “paid my own way”.

Although I have made my share of bad financial decisions, I have tried, for the most part, to be a giver. I have tried to not live so leveraged that I could not provide help when presented with a need.

Going to the mission field is new for me in many ways.  New work.  A new location to adapt to.  New friends.  New church.  But I’m realizing that the biggest change is the move from independence to dependence.  From being a giver to a receiver.

At some level it is hard for me to ask for money.  I had never realized how hard it is.  I frequently have to tell myself what I told team members of short term mission teams that I led:  If you believe God is in what you are doing, be bold to ask for financial support.  So I am bold because I feel a great sense of calling.

So I am learning to be an asker and a dependent receiver.  Why?  There seem to be two reasons.  First, we are called to provide for the needs of those in the household of faith.

Hebrews 13:16 says:

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Asking believers to give is not something missionaries invented.  It is in God’s design and it pleases Him.

Second, He promises to meet my needs.  Phillipians 4:19 says:

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

God promises He will provide what I need.  I tend to be task oriented and think it is all “up to me”.  It is not.  It is God’s promise to provide.

I’m also learning that asking for financial support is relational.  People want to talk about it.  They want to understand your vision.  They want to give in the context of relationship. Makes sense.

One of the great joys of raising funds has been the renewal of relationships that time and distance had dimmed.  Connecting with old work colleagues.  My college roommate.  A business school friend.

So the giver is learning to be a receiver.  To not be embarrassed by the generosity of others.  To have the grace to receive.  And, I’m learning to be dependent.  To rest in the generosity of God’s people.

Through the years, I have sometimes found it difficult to give.  I have had to make that a priority in my life.  But I believe it is even harder to know how to receive.

Humbly. Gratefully.  Filled with Grace.  Understanding God’s economy is different.

Lord God, give me the grace to receive.  With gratitude and joy.

Soli Deo Gloria

John

December 8th, 2015|Comments Off on The Grace to Receive

The House of Blessing & the Walls That Echo Joy

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I had a dinner at my house tonight.  It was for the staff at my Church to let them know how much I appreciated them and all they do that blesses our Church.

As I stood at the sink washing the dishes, I began to weep.  Not just a few tears.  Weeping.

I considerer why.  And here is what I thought through.

When I was considering buying my house, I consulted a pastor friend.  It was considerably more expensive than the house I lived in.  I asked him “is it OK to want a nicer house to bless people?”  He said “Absolutely”.

So I bought it.  And shortly after that my house was blessed by my priest Father Ben, and witnessed by dozens of friends.  A cross has hung in my kitchen since then as a reminder that this was no ordinary place.  It was a place consecrated for blessing.

I have sought to be true to my intent and promise.  I have sought to use my house as a blessing to people.  To offer in it a taste of Heaven.

To offer beauty.  To provide Sanctuary.  To draw in the lonely.  To offer community.

I believe, as much as I have known how, it has been a house of blessing.  The rooms have resounded with laughter.  The walls have echoed joy.

And the offering has brought me blessing.  I believe it has transformed my loneliness to an offering of community to others.

So my tears are for the ending. But the blessing planted will not end.  Why?  Because the joy of community is set in peoples hearts.  And I am confident that, in some way, it will continue to bless my Church.

And I am also sure of this:  the vision of hospitality and sanctuary set in my heart will continue.  In Rwanda.  I have no idea how.  But I have full confidence that it will.

I have two offer on my house.  So, soon it will belong to someone else.

Part of me just wants to get the best price for it so I can move on.

But a bigger part of me has a deeper desire.  That it will continue to be a house of blessing.  That its wall will echo joy.

The author Jack London called his house the “House of Happy Walls”.  My prayer is that this will be a house of happy walls.

Soli Deo Gloria.

December 5th, 2015|Comments Off on The House of Blessing & the Walls That Echo Joy