Sunday, April 6, 2014

What Has Transpired Since My Mission Trip to Russia Two Years Ago... Bunches

It’s been awhile since I’ve written on my blog.  Actually, that’s an understatement since it’s been almost two years since my last blog post…

Well, I didn’t become a missionary overseas as I hoped and almost expected I would.  Instead, I’ve realized that I am and have been a missionary wherever I go irrespective of the boundaries that define a given country, state, county or municipality.

Because of that epiphany, my faith has grown exponentially since my last blog post.  This growth has not occurred because of my mission trip to Russia; my faith has multiplied because of Christ and how He nurture’s a person’s faith, if the individual asks.  I know it may seem almost unbelievable that it works that way, but I can attest to the fact that it does.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the historical aspect of Jesus.  More specifically, I’ve been wondering about how so many people can believe historical texts written before the birth of Jesus, but not those of the bible.  This is particularly perplexing to me even in the context of the bible itself.  The Old Testament was written before the birth of Jesus, parts of it more than 500, 700 or even 1,000 years earlier, and yet people seem more apt to accept the Old Testament’s contents more readily than the New Testament’s even though Jesus fulfilled the former text’s prophecies.

Did you know that over 500 people saw Jesus after He rose from the grave?  When He appeared to those individuals after his resurrection, He didn’t reveal himself as a ghost or vision, but as a person.  Thomas, one of Jesus’ disciples, even placed his hand into the wounds of our Savior.  Jesus asked him to so because Thomas was a skeptic.

Did you know that there are over 5,500 original Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, 10,000 in Latin and 3,600 quotations of the bible?  Well, each one by itself can reconstruct the New Testament in its entirety.

I’ve been watching people in my life change right before my very eyes.  The year I went to Russia is the same one in which my son-in-law came to believe in Christ and his overall transformation has been miraculous to witness.  It’s just so encouraging to see someone’s life transform before your very eyes and seeing it encourages your own faith.

I’ve watched my daughter’s faith grow also.  As a parent, is comforting to know that one day I’ll see my family when I pass from this life into the eternal one.  It’s comforting to find security in the next everlasting life to come.  To know where you will be after you die is peace defined.  By comparison, to not know is unsettling.  I know because I was once doubtful of where I’d be after I passed.  During that time period, no discussions about death were held within earshot of me because I was just too fearful.  I mean, fear of the unknown can be pretty scary, right?

Fortunately, I found Christ…rather, He found me…and I am no longer afraid of death or not reuniting with my family in Heaven.  While I don’t look forward to my own demise, I am not afraid of my inevitable end and never will be.

With all of my heart and faith, I hope you develop the peace that I have…the peace that only Christ can grant you through your faith in Him.

Monday, August 27, 2012

God's Russia

I returned home from Russia nine days ago.  And nine days ago I didn’t think I had anything to write about concerning my mission trip.  I couldn’t find my purpose in having gone to Russia.  So I said to God, “Please show me what it is I need to write about.  Please show me why I even went over to Russia, because I don’t understand.  I can’t really see why I went over there.”  Hearing my entreaty, God was faithful to answer my prayer and, during the past five days, my thoughts have come together in a way I could never have anticipated.

If one thought could summarize my overall mission trip experience, it would be the one that has repeatedly crossed my mind – it’s not your mission.  That thought, once home, overwhelmed me.  It is something that flooded my mind and my spirit.  It was the central message I kept being bombarded with over and over and over again.

“Not my mission,” was the most evident truth that I not only thought, but also felt while in Russia.  It started with the loss of all control over my circumstances.  Once I arrived in Russia, my ability to control anything was literally taken away.  I couldn’t control when I ate, what I ate, who I ate with, where I slept, who I slept with, or what I was doing minute-to-minute.  This might seem trivial, but if you, as a North American, even just imagine yourself in those circumstances, you’ll realize it’s alarmingly meaningful to give up the control our culture tends to prize.  Compared to ours, Russian culture does not celebrate or value individual control as we do so having a lack of control is not nearly as bothersome for Russians in general.
Having been stripped of my ability to control my personal circumstances, I had only a few choices.  I could complain…which I did for a very short period of time before I realized complaining was not going to change anything.  That’s when I stopped and turned to God, realizing I had taken my eyes off of Him because I was so worried about my loss of control over my circumstances.  Things started to change once I returned my focus to Him and said, “Okay God, I don’t understand what’s going on here.  Please forgive me for forgetting that You’re really in control anyway, and know that my fake sense of self control has somewhat crumbled before my eyes and Yours.  This is all on You.  I accept that now.  Please forgive me.  I surrender to You.”

It started with me not really being affected when plans fell apart, leaving us missionaries to spend time alone with God.  “Such a privilege,” I thought.  When was the last time I could actually say I had time ALONE with God?  It had been years, years since I was not overwhelmed by the pressures of my life, the people in my life, and the schedules I keep for myself and my loved ones.  I began to see this “alone time” as a real, necessary privilege…a time where I could read the bible and actually pause to think about what I read in the simplest way possible without distraction.  I actually took the time to watch things without worrying about what I needed to do in the next 10 minutes or where I needed to be - none of those familiar pressures distracted me from observing God’s creations.  I even took the time to watch ants crawl along the ground as I did when I was a child!  It became obvious that God had given me an opportunity to connect with Him and He was saying, “Come and let’s chat!”

Before I left for Russia, I spent quite a bit of time trying to remember how to present the Gospel using the Evangeacube, a tool designed for sharing the Gospel.  I used the cube a total of 3 times while in Russia and what I said never came out of my mouth the same way any of those times.  What I did share over and over again was my own personal testimony, a testimony I’ve never shared at home…a testimony I’ve always been ashamed to share because I thought it was too raw, too much for someone to hear.  I had always heard that you don’t want to ever go into the details about what a mess you were before Christ.  Well, that rule didn’t apply in Russia and adhering to it clearly wasn’t what God had in mind.  It was in Russia that I shared the worst of who I was and the wonder of who I had become after asking Christ to be my life.  The story of my personal journey to Christ was powerful and I saw its impact in the faces of the Russians who listened.

I saw what the Gospel did when it was spoken to people.  One thing it always did no matter where we were, was silence people.  You could always hear a pin drop when the name, “Jesus,” was mentioned.  I saw a few other things, too.  One was that people either scattered after that moment of silence or, alternatively, someone or something would cause a disruption when we approached individuals about their having a choice to accept or reject Jesus.  I saw Satan’s interference clearer than I had ever seen it before.  It started to be something that could be predicted like clockwork and I was amazed.

Once we were out in a very small village where a small crowd had gathered to listen to us.  And just at that moment when the time came for the members of our audience to make their own decisions about Jesus, a man started arguing about their impending personal choices.  We thought, “Well, Satan has won here,” but sure enough, we were wrong!  Five children who had been listening to us intently accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior once they were separated from our audience’s argumentative adult members.

I learned not to be upset if someone didn’t get it, if someone didn’t make a decision for Christ.  I remembered that it wasn’t about any one person’s decision at the moment.  Instead, it was about the fact that they now had heard.  The bible says that scripture is sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the marrow.  It also says that God’s word never comes back void.  I learned to trust and know that my job was to tell about God’s word, not to work out other people’s decisions.  That part was in God’s hands.

I also witnessed spiritual warfare at its highest.  I witnessed believers at each other’s throats and, in my own life, experienced more than one attack.  The first attack occurred on my first day in Russia when I found myself sad and crying uncontrollably for no reason.  I couldn’t make sense of it and, frankly, I just wanted to go home.  Months earlier, I had been told this happened to some people, but I never thought I’d be one of those people.  Well, it turns out I was one of them.  I think I was the only one of my group who experienced this sadness and I had to be reminded of what it was and that it would pass.  And with prayer, it did.
A week into the trip, I received a call from the states saying my husband, Larry, was in the ICU.  Larry was fine when I left.  But for some reason in the week since I’d been gone, his breathing had practically stopped, his kidneys had stopped working and he was hanging on death’s door.  It was extremely clear to me why this had happened - it was an attempt to get me to return to the states and to not finish out the second week of my trip. 

But what ended up happening was not a victory for Satan, but a victory for God instead.  I was renewed with a passion and strength I could not describe.  I knew where it was from and I was very grateful.  My tears were limited and He kept my mind on the mission at hand.  It was incredible.  This event inspired my family members back home, giving them all a strength they did not know they could receive.  As proof, my daughter wrote the following on her Facebook wall:
I was able to speak with my mom this morning after calling E3 Ministries emergency hotline last night. She called the hospital very early this morning and all my dad could get out was "stay in Russia". This is ALL the devils work, but we will continue to praise God for all that he has done and for sparing my father's life - my mom will continue God's work in Russia - she cried on the phone when 
I talked to her but I let her know that Nicole and I are taking care of everything and what she's doing is important and that she is needed more where she's at. On the same note I found a missing bolt on my car this morning. The spiritual battle is heavy right now, but our family’s morale is incredibly high! The devil may have afflicted my father’s health, but God did not allow him to take his life. I saw my dad this morning, he's still in ICU, and does not look good but according to his nurse he's much better than he was yesterday. His O2 levels were at 52 when he arrived (which could have easily killed him) and he aspirated vomit (TMI I know sorry), he's still vomiting blood this morning but he's MUCH better. Thank you everyone for your prayers and support - keep praying because God DOES hear us!”

Isn’t what she wrote both insightful and powerful?  Well, the work God did on behalf of my family didn’t stop there.  My soon-to-be son-in-law received Christ as his Lord that week also!  God was moving in ways I had not imagined.  Isn’t that just like God, though?  To work outside of our own understanding because of who He is?

My second week in Russia started off wonderfully.  We headed to a smaller city called “Shebekino.”  We stayed in Shebekino with a Pastor and his family; a family that truly lives for and praises Christ for everything and a pastor with a testimony as hard and difficult as mine…one that he shared with us. 

Our host had killed a man many years ago accidently and never spent time in jail even after turning himself into the authorities.  He attributes all of this to the Creator.  A life changed.  A testimony for all to see in his community.  A family that survives on $250 a month.  A family of four - they were happy beyond anything I had ever seen before.  It wasn’t faked or forced.  It was genuine and it was real.  I felt it and I saw it.  Our time there was well spent and I realized then why Satan had wanted me to not complete my second week…and I understood why God was determined that I did.

Something that I knew for sure throughout my trip, was that I was being prayed for.  I was reminded of that daily in my spirit and I was very aware that the prayers of others were being heard by God.  For instance, I knew I was starting to get a urinary tract infection, but then the symptoms would just go away.  When I came home, a friend told me she had been compelled to pray that I would stay healthy. 

I never experienced any sort of jet lag after I arrived or Russia or when I returned home.  I later found out that a group of people had been praying specifically for our team of North American’s to be spared jet lag. 

During my time overseas, I did not experience the normal arthritis pain I live with every day, but it started again once I got back home…just another example of how I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was being helped because of the prayers of people, of God’s children.

The Russian people that I met were lovely and wonderful.  They were a joy to be around.  My roommate of 18 days, Ann, was a wonderful person and if I pause to think about it, I would have to say she was a blessing to me…a new friendship created with someone who led a life very similar to mine.  I remember thinking at the end of the day it was nice that she was there.  It was almost as though we had been friends for years.  I actually miss her now.

I have no idea if God has plans for me to return to Russia or not.  But what I can say is that I’m happy and grateful that He allowed me to take part in His mission.  I will not forget my time there.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Lingo and Faith

There is something that drives me batty and I just have to get it out here.  It may sound like a mean thing to say to some people, but it’s the truth - I get highly irritated with the use of Christian lingo.  Why?  Because to me, it’s as if Christian lingo is used as a type of code, especially in brick-and-mortar churches.  I won’t mention the certain phrases that make what I’m saying particularly obvious here, but I will say that I have no idea what purpose anyone talking in code serves.

I guess it’s acceptable to speak like this with other Christians, but why would anyone choose to do so?  Why can’t we just speak in plain and simple English?  Why can’t we just explain things and talk to each other in words that everyone understands.  Isn’t it much easier to become friends with someone when you speak using simple, plain words, after all? 

I realize that words are important.  I also understand the power they hold.  For these reasons and others, I see no point in people using a particular lingo unless it is for good…and the Christian lingo is not used for that reason.  I believe the Christian lingo is often used to signify to another person that “I know more about God than you do” and that notion is just baloney.  I’m not impressed with anyone who uses words that most people don’t even understand.  And I highly doubt that Christ would be impressed if He was standing here today.  In fact, it’s likely that He would call people who deliberately use words that are unfamiliar to most a “Pharisee” in reference to the priests who, back in Jesus’ day, thought they were all “that” because of their knowledge of scripture.

As a matter of fact, Jesus saw right through such people when He was on earth and called them out more than once.  What really matters is the content of your heart.  Usually, if you’re paying attention when you’re around someone you can figure out the person’s heart quickly.  Use of Christian lingo means nothing in the context of a person’s heart.  Knowledge of scripture means nothing, either, because even demons, enemies of God, know it.  Head knowledge is not what’s important.  If you believe in Christ, He has allowed you to believe and your life changes through Him and only Him.  We place too much value on people and their ideas and words.  Never be intimidated by the way a person speaks or prays.  That in and of itself means nothing.

What I do believe is helpful is talking to people like they are people.  I believe that the only thing we can do as believers is tell others about Christ - the rest is not up to us.  I mean it’s not people who convince other people to believe in Christ.  The Holy Spirit does this and I have no idea how or why the Holy Spirit decides to open the door to people. 

I do, however, believe it’s our responsibility to teach others about Christ and his ways once people are believers. Although it can be puzzling how God works through humans to educate other people about Himself, He does it.  I also know that some things aren’t taught by humans.  Some things are taught to us in ways that I call “magical.”  I say magical because I don’t understand how I know certain things, but I do and I call this the magic of God.

The next time someone speaks over your head about things related to Christ, don’t worry.  Just ask Christ to speak to you so you can understand and He will.  He’ll explain things in a way you can easily grasp.  He always does.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Why, Why and Why Again

I often wonder why I write so much.  I wonder why I do and others don’t.  Actually, I wonder about a lot of things I don’t have answers to.  Do you?  I mean, have you ever wondered why something is the way it is instead of being some other way?  I’m betting you have so I thought I’d write a post about some of the things I wonder about on a regular basis.  When I’m done, I plan on wondering why I decided to write this, of course.

I wonder why God created us.  I know it was for His glory, but I still wonder why.  I mean, how do we bring Him glory anyway?  I don’t know, but I still wonder about it.  I also wonder why we look like we do.  You know, our human form?  We are really an awesome creation when you start to think about it, but I still wonder why God chose this form for us. 

I wonder why women have babies.  Why not men?  I’ve always heard it’s because men could not stand the pain and I believe that : ), but I really wonder why God chose for life to be recreated this way.  Why aren’t we just dropped from the sky instead?  That seems like it would be much easier.  But then again, I don’t have the mind of God.  He must have good reason to allow some women to bear children to further populate the earth and good reason to prevent other women from having children also.  That brings up another “why.”  Why are there women who want children so badly yet cannot physically have them while there are other women who get mad because they’ve gotten pregnant in the first place and abort their unborn children?  Why is that allowed?

Why do mean people seem to get away with mean things without ever getting caught?  You know, those people who do all sorts of really horrible things and seem to be able to get away with them all the time?  Why aren’t they held accountable for their reprehensible actions?  I guess I can say that as I’ve gotten older I have seen justice served here on earth in many instances.  But there are still those lingering cases that will always make you wonder why, right?

Why do people continue to hurt those that help them the most?  This one hits home for me right now.  I’m to the point where I almost never wonder about this anymore because it happens so very often.  Just when I think I can’t be hurt again…boom!  It happens again and by the same person no less.  Why do I continue to be hurt by someone I am desperately trying to help?  Why can’t this hurtful behavior just stop?  Why can’t I simply flip the switch on my feelings and emotions and turn them off in this context?

Why does it seem as though time is speeding up?  I’ve been told it’s due to my age, but I disagree.  It’s something else.  But why can’t I explain what I think is really behind the hastening of time better?  Is it a sense in my spirit?  Does anyone else sense this or am I the only one who thinks something is up?

And here is one that is so basic, but so profound.  Why does the sun come up every day, and why do we take that for granted?  Why aren’t we thankful for just this one thing every day?

Last, but definitely not least…why is it so hard for people to believe in God?  I know the simple answer is because God has not allowed them to believe or they have rejected Him already.  But why would you not believe in God just by looking outside?  Is there really a doubt in your mind that all of this happened because of God?  Do you really think we happened by chance?  We can’t even figure out our own bodies and yet we are saying that we just randomly appeared here on earth.  Why would someone think that?  Why would anyone not think we were created by a Being much more intelligent than ourselves.
I’ll end by saying that I’ve always been a very curious person…more so than most, I think. But again, I wonder why that is. 

What do you wonder about?  And why do you wonder about it?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

That Feeling in the Pit of Your Stomach

Have you ever woken up feeling sick to your stomach with sadness?  This has been happening to me a lot lately and I can’t for the life of me figure out why.  Most days the feeling goes away by noon.  You know, I remember this happening during very dark times in my life, but right now I really don’t know of anything in particular that is hurting me emotionally, spiritually, or physically.  Well, there is one thing, but I’ve just decided to live with that until the day I depart from this earth.  That certain something has been going on for many, many years and well, I just won’t go there…at least not now.

So anyway, I pulled out my iPad and went to one of the bible applications hoping that the word of God could help my heart to be free of this feeling of sadness.  To be truthful, reading God’s word usually does help me when I’m feeling like this.  I call it magic because to me it is magic.  This certain application pulls up a verse of the day and low and behold, this is what popped up, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour”.1 Peter 5:8. I’m glad I read this because it caused me to be on alert all day.  Had I not read this one verse, I might have been stuck in the “poor me” mode all day.  But instead, I shook off the sad feelings knowing that they weren’t from God.  I believe that overall sad feeling was a symptom of spiritual warfare.

As a matter of fact, quite a lot has been going on in my life that I believe is an attempt to derail my trip to Russia.  If you’re not a believer, this won’t make any sense, but if you are a believer it will…at least I think it will.

Recently, temptations have become more obvious in my life than they’ve been in a very long time.  One of my daughter’s entire life is falling apart before my eyes and there is nothing I can do about it.  What I mean is, I cannot help her with what’s happening and, to be honest, sometimes it feels better to be able to control things.  I know that the situation is in God’s hands and I’m okay with that, but what I’m not okay with is my role in all that is going on…because I don’t have one.  I’m of no use in this situation. 

I leave in six weeks on my 18-day trip to Russia and one of the things I’m thinking is, what else can happen between now and then to prevent me from going?  I’m not supposed to really think like this, but I am.

I need something from you.  I’ve asked before in different ways and I’ve gotten no overt response as of yet.  I need people to say they will pray for me during this time.  I really need prayer starting today.  Can you pray for me?  Will you pray for me from now until August 18th?  If that is something you can do, will you drop me a note at  I really hope to hear from you…all of you.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

God and Animals

I spent the last year of my life working on animal welfare issues.  Recently, though, I decided to pull out to concentrate more on God.  I think that is what He wants me to do.  But yet, I’m not sure.  The thing is, I can’t stop thinking about animals.  I mean what if God put me here to help animals?  What if that is what He wants me to do and I only think that I should concentrate on God?  Now that doesn’t make much sense when I write it out at all because in reality God would never discourage anyone from concentrating on Him, correct?

So here I sit, still wondering if I made the right decision.  Why can’t I do both?  Why can’t I love animals and God?  Because I’m pretty sure I do anyways, otherwise I wouldn’t have my dogs on my lap or near to me as I write this.  I wouldn’t spend 4 out of 7 days going to Petco to spend time with cats from our local Humane Society and cleaning their cages.  And I wouldn’t STILL be reading about animals on the web.  I don’t know.  I just don’t know.

Maybe just being involved in my own local Humane Society is enough.  Maybe that’s the answer?  Maybe it’s not?  I guess I’ll just have to find out with time since it was only two days ago that I quit Lost Dogs of Wisconsin, retired my title, and said I was no longer going to be involved with animal welfare issues. 

Maybe I need a break.  Maybe that is the answer.  Maybe that is what I need.  I think that’s what I need - just a break.  Yes indeed, that is what I need, a break from all of that. 

I’m off to my Weight Watchers meeting.  I am going to write about that in the very near future.  Thank you, blog, for helping me make a decision as I was writing.  You’re nice like that and I thank you for being my friend.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I'll Never Know Enough

I treasure the time I spend in my car, not because I love my car, but because my vehicle is one of the few places where I am usually alone with my thoughts.  And after I dropped my son off at his Milwaukee apartment earlier today, I was able to be alone with my thoughts for the whole ride back to my residence.

During the ride, I focused on a comment I overheard someone make a while back.  What I heard really struck a chord with me at the time.  In fact, the comment made me wonder whether or not I had made the right decision to go on my upcoming mission trip.  You see, the exact comment was, “I could never go on a mission trip.  I don’t know enough,” and I can only guess that the speaker was referencing his or her amount of bible knowledge when making the comment.

Well, if my assumption about the comment’s context is correct, then I guess I might be in deep trouble because I don’t think I know enough, either.  I mean, the bible is a pretty big book, after all.  And more than that, it’s the written word inspired by God.  The bible is a popular book, too, and is so regularly on the bestselling lists that publishers tend to avoid mentioning its position on their lists anymore.  It’s simply a given that it’s on these lists and everybody knows it.

As I drove home, I confirmed my belief that for all of the reasons mentioned above and many others, no one will ever know enough about the bible.  I know that even if I studied the bible for one million years, I would still be unable to claim that I knew enough about the text because, in my mind, that is the same as saying that I know “enough” about God, which I don’t and never will.  At least not in this lifetime.

In retrospect, I wish I’d said something to the people engaged in the conversation I overheard.  I wish I had admitted to them that I, like them, don’t know enough either.  I wish I had told them that despite my failure to know “enough,” I was still going on a mission trip this summer.  I wish I had told them that the only requirement for a believer to go on a mission trip is that the person have a willing heart.

In the Great Commission, God calls on all of us to go, to be missionaries for Him.  He does not include a job description in the Great Commission that mandates that we accumulate vast amounts of knowledge before we serve Him.  He does not pick His missionaries from a special group of well-educated individuals who are expertly versed in the bible.  God calls on all of us regardless of our familiarity with the bible.

If I ever hear someone make a comment similar to the one that recently piqued my interest, I’ll have something to discuss with the speaker.  Now I’m curious about what else I may hear about missionaries and/or mission trips before I depart to do God’s work in Russia…