Sunday, July 3, 2011


First an apology for technical difficulties both at home and on my blog.  I'm working to get all of my photos back online.  It has been a while since my last post.  I usually do not allow a month to go by and I have missed two! I'm back on track.

My mind has been in many places, but lately I'm stuck on a spiritual quandary.  With the Bible having so much to say about loving one another, why is it we, not only Christians, but humanity in general has such difficulty loving?  I think it is safe to say the one thing most people want in this world is to be loved.  Maybe, this is followed by a desire to be heard and valued.  But, loved must be number one.  Granted this is not a result of a straw poll or anything, just a half century of life experience informing me.

As Christians, at least we know, when we feel most unlovable ourselves, we have a Savior who loves us unconditionally and who will never forsake us.  Imagine the pain and isolation, the desperation, of those who do not know our Jesus in these trough times.

I have been observing behavior lately. the head turn at the pan handler (whom I was later told buys a steak dinner every night with the money I just gave him), the awkward pass by the blind man or down syndrome child - outcast in her culture, the snickers, the stares, the whispers at the expense of the transexual, beautiful, homeless, lost. The angry outbursts in retaliation for someone who mistreated another. But, Jesus was quite clear.  We were all made in God's image, yet we are all different, and no one escapes the love of our Lord Jesus. We are called to love, even those who may be challenging to love.

In Bosnia, among the first to be ostracized at wartime were those who married outside their ethnicity.  During a war of "ethnic cleansing," this made a division of loyalty impossible. Those who did so wound up in the Christian churches where all were accepted, friend and foe.  All were loved,  though the rest of the country persecuted them and still does, in some cases.  Jesus said,
"You're familiar with the old written law, 'Love your friend,' and its unwritten companion, 'Hate your enemy.' I'm challenging that. I'm telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. 
Matthew 43-47, The Message

I heard a statistic once.  Something like 90% of the world population believe in a higher power.  90%!  That includes those who claim to be atheist.  So, when it comes down to the terminal medical diagnosis or the mayday call on the airplane, even the resistance joins the ranks of those with "foxhole" religion.  "Okay, if there really is someone up there, I could use a miracle right now!" It's a start.  What I'm getting to is this.

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[c] There is no commandment greater than these.” 
Mark 12:28-31 
So, if 90% have the 1st commandment down, so to speak, where did everything fall apart on the second one?  Let's not even go into the wars!  We'll be here all day.  What about our families.  Bullying in school. Simple acceptance of those unlike ourselves.  Prisoners. People who've made colossal mistakes and want a second chance.  The God of  second chances would give them one.  Why won't we?  We all have a story.  We are more than the sum of our behaviors.  We were made in God's image, called to love those who are "seemingly" unlovable.  Its a trick, a trap.  There are no such people.  We can choose to forgive, love from afar.  We can love a complete stranger outcast by their culture. We can emanate the love of Christ in a myriad of ways, if we ask God to show us how.  It is the second commandment in a world gone crazy with hate. Of course there is an implied message in all of this. "Love your neighbor as yourself" meaning, it is assumed you love yourself.  Is that where you need to begin?  Is that where we must all begin?


  • John 13:34

    “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

  • Romans 12:10
    Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

  • 1 John 4:12
    No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

  • 1 John 3:11
    More on Love and Hatred ] For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.

  • 1 John 4:7
    God’s Love and Ours ] Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

  • 1 Peter 1:22
    Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.

  • 1 Thessalonians 4:9
    Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.

  • 2 John 1:5
    And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another.

  • Romans 13:8
    Love Fulfills the Law ] Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

  • John 13:35
    By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

  • Ephesians 4:2
    Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

  • 1 Peter 5:14
    Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

  • 1 John 4:11
    Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

  • Hebrews 10:24
    And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,

  • 2 Corinthians 13:11
    Final Greetings ] Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.

  • 1 Peter 3:8
    Suffering for Doing Good ] Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic,love one another, be compassionate and humble.

  • 1 John 3:23
    And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.

  • Galatians 5:13
    Life by the Spirit ] You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh ; rather, serve one another humbly in love.

  • 2 Thessalonians 1:3
    Thanksgiving and Prayer ] We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing.
  • Tuesday, March 29, 2011

    Lessons Learned from Les Miserables

    I am miserable!  I'm miserable because I am being challenged. Often a challenge is a good thing.  It gets the blood flowing, the brain stimulated, but I suppose it depends on the struggle.  Currently, I feel like my capacity for grace is being challenged, and I don't like it.  If you have kept up with my posts, I'm kind of exhausted.  I think my grace needle is on empty.  I have prayed about this, but I am floundering with my hearing as well. I know God is there, I just cannot quite tune into His frequency lately.  So, I find myself drawing from literature.

    I never liked reading as a teen, until tenth grade English Lit class, after reading the classic fiction, Victor Hugo's, Les Miserables.  I didn't read this book because I decided I wanted to enjoy this now favorite pastime.  I read it, voraciously I might add, because many upper class-men told me the book was terrible.  Ah! A challenge of the other variety!   An opportunity to defy authority figures, in the ill-gotten gains of high school status wars.  Prove them wrong. After all, every authority figure in my life let me down so far, or so I perceived.  I was all about defiance, non-conformity and boldness.  In a week, however, I was a pile of mush curled up under my covers, with a flashlight, crying over the final separation of Jean Valjean, the former prisoner, and the policeman who hunted him over seventeen years.  In an act of unfathomable grace, Valjean saves him, when he could have left him for dead.

    So much like our Father who sent his son, Jesus, to save us not despite our sin, but because of it!  Imagine!  We cannot.

    Someone, a friend, tests me, beyond reason.  I am exhausted.  I do not believe I have the grace to give or give up any more than I have. Yet, I am drawn back to this book, to another scene.  In the beginning, Jean Valjean is first freed from prison.  He spends the night with a Bishop and takes advantage of his gracious hospitality, stealing the fine silver, then jetting out at dawn.  Caught, looking again at prison time, Valjean experiences his first encounter of grace, as the Bishop, aware of the betrayal, appears and offers the silver candlesticks as well.  All were a gift; there is no crime. Valjean receives his second chance.

    We worship a God of second chances, and we are called to give them as freely as He does, as the Bishop did, as Valjean learned to do, so those who take advantage of our kindnesses and mercy, our grace, may someday become dispensers of it.

    In Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, we are given clear instruction for what to do when others test us, in big ways and in little.  Be it our patience or our pocketbooks, we are called to be gracious.

    'If someone strikes you, stand there and take it.  If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, gift wrap your best coat and make a present of it.  And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life.  No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.' 
    "...When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does.  He gives his best -- the sun to warm and the rain to nourish -- to everyone, regardless: the good  and bad, the nice and nasty.  If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that.  If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that." 
    "...Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you."Matthew 5:39-48, the Msg

    As the Wisteria drapes the spring trees of Atlanta in royal garment, so shall I cling to my vine, our Heavenly Father, and learn the lessons of Les Miserables and Christ Jesus, lessons of grace -- the only way to relieve the misery of being taken for granted, having your patience tested, or as our Bosnian friends have known too well, experiencing persecution.

    Thank you for your continued prayers for the people of the ECC of Capljina, Bosnia who are powerful examples of dispensers of grace in a diversified culture. They reach the Jean Valjeans of their communities and introduce them to our God of second chances. Please pray for their strength and commitment to their cause and the ongoing health and support of their congregation.

    In the grip of His grace,

    Sunday, February 20, 2011


    It has been a long gap between entries.  There is a reason for it.  I find myself from the splendorous view of the mountaintop to the desolate experience of a desert walk, not my first, where, seemingly God is silent.  A two year high followed by silence, separation and solitude - an emptiness I created.  I prayed for brokenness, not knowing the extent of the fallout which would ensue by my own power, my own strength.  Last summer, my blog entry included a review of a book I was given to read, "A Tale of Three Kings." For me, my journey from mountaintop to desert began with this book. I identified a life long problem with authority like so many kings from our Biblical heritage.  Convinced I, more David than Saul at times, soon discovered the opposite to be true. This child, forced to be parent to her earthly father's inner child, seemed to have authority tousled and turned into a paradigm which only made sense in her, indeed, in my world.  The world I organized, mastered, perfected and seemed to manage with a leader's admirable capability.  But, perfection is over-rated and mastering is fine unless the price is an undue cost to others. Organization is a gift, a spiritual gift in fact, but imposed upon another can deplete the free spirit making its home there. And leadership, also a spiritual gift, is a quality to be valued and carefully honed, although graciously entrusted to those chosen by God in situations where He has chosen leaders for you.

    Broken, indeed.  My husband of 22 years and I are divorcing. I find my issues with authority allowed me to miss the most basic principle we are asked, as women.

    "Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands."  Ephesians 5:22-23

    I didn't always do that. In fact, mostly, I took the lead.  I was a survivor at a young age, so that is all I knew how to do.  Don't misunderstand. Divorce was our decision, not God's.  But, we also know he will bring good from all things (Romans 8:28) and trust Him as we begin a new journey learning from our own mistakes and missteps.  God wastes nothing. He alone will use everything for His glory, even the unraveling of one of His most precious gifts -- the cleaving of man and woman as one.

    Who has not secretly thought at some point in their Christian walk, "be careful what you pray for!"  You know them well, don't you?  Those prayers you are unsure about.  For example, maybe, you want a child so badly, but you pray, "God if it is your will for me to be childless, help me to accept it." Deep inside you agonize whether you really have this much strength and trust as you surrender with everything that you are, tears streaming down your face and, in the next breath, you want to yank it all back! "God, no!  Please, I want this child. "

    I recall this feeling as I prayed for brokenness. Did I really, really want to learn how to respect authority better, if it meant breaking me, again?  I have found it unbearable for months to be in this position, yet I have faith in a mighty God that not only is He talking to me, I will be forgiven and redeemed.  I already have.  Someday, when I am squarely focused on Him again, I will hear His sweet voice speaking to my heart and know He has been carrying me through this difficult time, maybe even proud of me for my willingness to surrender complete authority to the only One deserving of it. 

    In the meantime, please pray for my broken family.  Sometimes, most times, our actions have ripple effects that cannot be mended by any other than our Mighty God whose sovereignty over all and whose healing power and unconditional love surpasses all understanding.

    And, as you add us to your prayer lists, please do not forget the people of the ECC in Capljina. Many of the young people are greeting the next year with Spring plans for weddings of their own.  May they learn from those who have walked this road before them, while setting their unions firmly, securely in God's plan for marriage. Pastor Bernard is finishing up his Bachelors degree with hopes of raising enough money to complete Masters study and continues to look for more partnerships for the church. 

    A prayer for our families, here and abroad.

    "For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

    Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!  Amen." 

    Ephesians 3:14-21
    Humbly and with great gratitude,

    Sunday, October 31, 2010

    RESERVOIR OR CANAL? (excerpt from "NO BURNING BUSHES: Discovering God in the Ordinary")

    “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”  2 Tim 1:6 

    It was the anniversary week that marked a date of questionable celebration.  The week my mentor and best friend had spent as many years out of ordained ministry as he had spent in it.  That is it.  That is all I received in my email.  A simple sentence, yet there is so much more lying beneath the surface of those typed words.

    This is a man who led me to Christ and has been my adviser for two decades.  He has touched as many lives out of the pulpit as he had in it.  The same week my dear friend had been pondering the synergy of a ministry, I had been grappling with a spiritual thought nugget that kept resurfacing in my studies – Is it better to be a reservoir or a canal?  There are many pithy quotes on the subject.  If you want to be wise, be a reservoir and wait until you are filled.  Nourish out of abundance.  Still another suggests a canal to be best.  In this way, we are simply aligning ourselves with God and becoming empty vessels.  No need to concern ourselves with supply issues.  God provides. 

    If we store up, before we minister to those in need, are we wasting time?  Will we only reap what we sow and not sow as much, or will we accomplish more?  In contrast, if we are canals, with nothing reserved from which to draw, will we continue to be replenished with an inexhaustible supply making the reservoir obsolete?  What a challenge!  I have been amazed at how many times this theme has come up in my reading.  Even more surprising is how many authors have biblical backup for their theories.  Frankly, I don’t know who is “right?”  I’m thinking this is pretty subjective.  God probably does what he does and we can’t place a formula to it. I’m quite sure if I chose to be a reservoir, he’d decide I would have made a better canal, or vice versa.  So, on this one, I’m going to just continue to place it on my list of questions to bring to Heaven! 

    Nevertheless, as I celebrated my own anniversary, a birthday, I looked down at my birthday candles and found the answer which my special friend might have offered.   While I had been struggling back and forth with the answers . . . reservoir? No.  Canal?  No.  I heard my mentor's voice in my head (this happens a lot) . . . “It is neither a reservoir nor a canal.  It’s a flame.”  I laughed!  So like him, of course!  He would have some completely different spin on how to dispense our God given gifts and blessings, be it tangible or intangible.  Almost immediately I recalled a scripture he used in a blessing he led for our two families at the beach one summer.  "…. fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you. . ." (2 Tim 1:6) We don’t have to “become” anything.  We already have the flame in us!  As he described, there are certain things we have that can be taken from us.  Water is an example of such a thing.  If we have a glass of water – or a reservoir for that matter – and we gave some away, we would have less.  But, as followers of Christ Jesus, we have an inextinguishable fire inside of us.  Like a candle, we can give away some of our fire and still possess the same amount.  A reservoir can dry up.  A canal only disburses what it receives, but the fire of Christ Jesus burning in us – this gift, if fanned into flame will continue to burn and we can give it away all we want without depleting the source.  Of course, there are those standing watch ready to throw a veritable reservoir on your flame in an attempt to squelch it.  But, this flame, from the Divine, cannot be extinguished, only made brighter.  Maybe I won’t need to put this question on my list after all!

    Ministry is not confined to the pulpit anymore than church is confined to a building.  It is about God’s people fanning the flame of the gifts they have been given, and then going out and, with that flame, winning those souls for Jesus.  I am grateful for my sweet friend who continues to exemplify this with his life.

    Abba Father, You are so incredible.  Thank You for giving us the freedom to worship You and ask all of the heady questions, even if we never figure out the answers to them.  Thank You for listening to us and for allowing us to have a relationship with You and for giving us amazing people, mentors, that we can do life with, journeying through both mountaintops and valleys.  Thank You for the people of the ECC in Capljina, Bosnia who never stop fanning their flames, no matter the odds, as they continue to win souls for Your kingdom.  We praise you for all You do, all You are going to do and especially all You delight to do through us and the precious gifts You have given us.  In Your precious son Jesus’ name, Amen 

    P.S.  Two years ago, the Lord placed writing on my heart after a mission trip to Bosnia.  Little did I know, this writing would result in a book deal with proceeds going to the ECC in Bosnia.  I have never written before, never knew I had this "gift."  It is with grateful praise I attribute this success, from which the above excerpt is taken, to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  To find out more about your God-given gifts, please visit Gameplan! Look for my new website with more relevant information, photography, stories, from yours truly and readers about "Discovering God in the Ordinary," coming late November at No Burning Bushes.

    In awesome wonder to our Mighty God,

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010

    From Victim to Victor

    I recently reconnected with a childhood friend. On the one hand, he is a person whose physical footprints in the sands of my life’s journey were few. Yet, like a well crafted sandcastle, even three decades of hurricane force tides of suffering, pain and darkness, couldn’t remove the evidence that something noble was once there. Orphaned and abandoned as a teen, the storm surge hit and, in a flash of flood waters, our families were separated. Whisked away by the rising water over the next fifteen years of my life, sporadically finding refuge between the bands of increasing intensity, I learned what it meant to live the life of a victim. With each wave of debris crashing down around me, I brought with me the remnants of the wreckage left by the last. There was no time to regroup or heal wounds. Survival was my only agenda, while crawling deeper inside a safe place created within myself. Oh, such is the plight of the oppressed who know not of a safer place into the arms of a Savior.

    It would be fifteen years, before I would find my way to the door of my first pastor and closest friend, who would rescue this broken child of God and, ultimately lead me straight to His heart forever, through a moment of forgiveness. I often wondered, “Where was God?” in my struggle, but have come to understand, He was there in the suffering. It was He who led me to those places of refuge between the bands of the storm, and He who groomed in me a heart for the weak, the lost, the suffering and the broken. Through my own years on the path from victim to victor, I found my life’s calling – not in spite of it, but because of it.

    It has been fifteen years as well since the Bosnian War. The prejudices and unforgiveness still riddle the various ethnicities that comprise this country. The “victim mentality” is being passed down to a generation of children who do not recall the war, only inherited the pain of it. Forced to choose survival, there are masses of people still crawling deep inside themselves, carrying the burdens and wreckage of war, not only from their own experiences but from those they love as well. Imagine it! The victim of the victim. The layers of agony. The weight of such deep anguish. The not knowing of a lighter yoke to carry. "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:30)

    Our July team experienced one of those rare paradigm shifts through some work they did in partnership with Novi Most, the youth center run by Mick and Ali Holstead. The summer program was a virtual trip around the world. It was the “trip” to Haiti, which brought the most glory. The youth creatively raised funds for the earthquake survivors and restoration efforts of perhaps our world’s poorest country. Through interactive game play and festivities not common to Bosnia, all nationalities amassed in public squares for prior generations to see their hearts for others. We are beginning to witness this young generation refusing their inheritance. Refusing to be unforgiving, and choosing to come together instead and make a difference for the betterment of our world – to know the glory, joy and peace which comes from having an “others first” mentality, and remove the label of victim, replacing it with victor!

    I am grateful to my rediscovered friend, who has catapulted me back to one of the darkest yet biggest turning points in my life – the end of innocence and beginning of an arduous journey to the foot of the cross. It has served as a powerful reminder of the healing balm of Jesus and the glory of the cross … where forgiveness begins, where hatred ends, where victims become victors again.

    "Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked."

    Psalm 82:3-4
    In the grip of His grace,

    Tuesday, August 24, 2010


    Years ago, I read the book “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis. In it is an intriguing chapter about time, from God’s perspective. So complex, is Lewis’ take on time, from a divine vantage point, he actually offers his reader to skip it altogether. Not one to pass up a challenge, I forged ahead, and it has always stuck with me. Throughout the years, his wisdom has rung truer. What was once as clear as mud has, for me, crystallized into something I can catch a glimpse of from time to time.

    Most recently, this issue of God’s timing reached a pinnacle of clarity as my son began his 8th grade school year. A right-brained child in a left brained world, my child has not had an easy go of it in school. For several years now, we have tried to relocate him to a new environment more appropriate for the visual learner cut from non-traditional cloth, yet in the interim years he had to suffer much ridicule from his peers. This adolescent age still shows no mercy as we read headlines of the Phoebe Price’s of the world taking their own lives for the suffering endured from peer groups, misguided and cruel.

    Had God not heard our prayers? This is a cry familiar to all of us at some point in our lives, and I believe it comes down to this issue of time. Our perspective is that God views our lives on the same linear continuum as we do. He does not. His view is from above. We live from point to point. God sees the whole line! He knew us before we were born. He knows all of our days. He sees our life from above, the beginning to the end. (Psalm 139:13-16)

    In times of suffering, we feel he has abandoned us, he hasn’t heard our prayers, yet God hears and answers all prayers. (Mark 11:24, John 14:13, John 16:23) He doesn’t always answer them in our timeframe, however. As C.S. Lewis describes Him, the author writing the book of our lives, He does not live in the novel of our lives, He created it. With the stroke of His quill, He writes and as He lay the book aside it is at the same time the year 2000, when we prayed, and 2010 when we received our answer; or, to us, when it seems He picked the book up once more . . . a vapor in time to God, a decade to us. He has not abandoned us. In fact, He has shown up in the nick of time.

    Louie Giglio gave a sermon once about a girl, an atheist, who died suddenly after coming to Christ. Her brother had a difficult time understanding how God could allow her to leave this earth just as she came to know the Lord as her Savior. How could He not save her? In the end, her brother realized, God did show up. She died just as she came to the Lord – in the nick of time.

    I read a blog post this week, Be "the Hands and Feet".  It was about a young girl, Nabakoza, found dying in a dilapidated hut in Uganda. She seemed to have been lying there for 10 years in her own excrement, with no food or water, for who knows how long. A missionary, Renee Bach, found her, carried her off, but was turned away at every hospital. “Too far gone,” she was told. Today, 48 hours later, Nabakoza is alive, eating, and sitting up. God showed up, through a missionary, in the nick of time.

    Last week, two youth died in a car accident in Capljina, Bosnia. Racing their car at high speeds, they crashed into a mountain and were killed instantly. Where was God? These families grieve. They are in shock over such senseless deaths. Where is God in this story? We don’t know. We do know there will be a ripple effect. He has a purpose for our lives. He had a purpose for theirs. We don’t know it. We do not see what he sees. He is there in the good times and the bad, and he will bring good from all things. (Romans 8:28) Just when we have lost all hope, He will show up, in he nick of time.

    In just a few weeks, Veronika Stasjuk will be married to Mufid Besic at the ECC in Capljina, by Pastor Bernard. So many have waited for this joyous occasion, not the least of which are Veronika and Mufid! There will be absences from the pews as all of the Atlanta teams wish we could be there supporting, celebrating and loving them through this amazing chapter in their lives. But, this absence pales in comparison to the empty seat left for Rajka Koprivnjak, Veronika’s grandmother who received her angel’s wings on May 29th. Rajka suffered terribly from cancer and was in great pain particularly toward the end. She was a small woman of big faith, great passion and a strong grip for such a slight woman. I’m quite sure her plan was to dance at Veronika’s wedding. Perhaps this is God’s plan as well. No longer able to get around on her earthly legs, her Heavenly ones will do just fine. God’s timing is perfect. Dance Baka, dance. Maybe we’ll hear the thunder from your footsteps!

    In the nick of time, our prayers were answered for our son. Just when we began to fear we ran out of options, the ideal school for my son responded to our call and accepted him, off year, by the grace of God. There are too many questions that do not have answers of how this could have happened, but I find it remarkable our anxieties were quieted in this new school year themed the year of “fearlessness!"  How could they have known? They could not. But, God did. He showed up in our circumstances in His perfect timing. Not when we thought we had the right solution, but when He did. Not when worry gripped us with a stranglehold promising to choke out what was left of our faith. But, when our faith still held fast to a single strand of hope in a solution, a divine one. For worry solves nothing, solutions do – divine solutions begotten by worry surrendered. Surrendered to a God, not bound by time, as you and I know it, but to the author of time who knows no bounds.

    Still in One Peace,

    Friday, July 30, 2010


    I’m currently working on getting a book published. With abundant blessing, it will be out by December. I cannot take an ounce of credit for it. Seriously! I recall every step of this journey. From the moment I decided to write it to the first writer’s convention I attended, the first publisher’s meeting, and so forth. I remember hearing God speak to me in my quiet time. No, it was not an audible voice. It is hard to explain. It was just an answer – to a question – during a weekend-long silent retreat. I was completely and utterly centered and devoted to God. As usual, my agenda for the weekend was soon abandoned for His. At first, it was just a feeling, then a certainty. I was drawn away to commune with my Father for reasons I was not originally prepared. I came weighed down by micro decisions, while God had something of a more macro nature in mind, more eternal -- my purpose. I realize how arrogant this sounds, as if I know what God wants or what He is thinking. I don't. Like I said, it is hard to explain. All I am certain of is this -- by the end of my pilgrimage, this former math/science geek (me), who barely passed English, only later to be told by a college professor she was a terrible writer, left a monastery as an aspiring one. What!? A WRITER!? Really? What about the decisions I came here to make regarding my son’s education, our church home, finances, our housing purchase? I was looking for some Divine Guidance. Did I hear correctly? A Career change?! Fast forward . . .

    At my first writer’s conference about eight months afterward, I was told never to pitch “the voice of God” as the reason for penning a manuscript (or in this case, a fraction of one). I had fifteen minutes to come up with a new angle, since this was the only explanation I had to offer. Fifteen minutes in the ladies room praying for God’s voice to once again “Help me to speak and teach me what to say” (Exodus 4:12) led to a positive experience with a publisher, and here I sit waiting for my first contract, for my first book, from my first meeting.

    A message I hear constantly is “God is not in our circumstances” or “God does not care about the minutia of our lives.” “Our faith is in a person, the person of Jesus Christ, not in our experiences or circumstances.” So here is my question ... If our faith is only in the person of Jesus and not in our experiences with Him, doesn't this limit His complete sovereignty over each of our lives? If we are called to be in relationship with Him, shouldn't that mean all of it? The good, the bad and the ugly. If he is not in the circumstances, even the minutia, of our lives, I think this allows us to justify our feeling abandoned by God during times of suffering. So, we praise God for the victories, the answered prayers, but banish the sufferings to “part of life”…”the fall of man?” I believe I can trace both my sufferings and my victories to God’s hand. While I don’t believe God causes my suffering, I believe He allows it and brings good from it. (Romans 8:28) I believe He is in all of my circumstances. I believe He is sovereign and, if it is His will that a tongue tied, non-linguist become an author, He is the only one that can make it happen, as long as it will glorify Him, edify His people and bring His kingdom here on earth as it is in Heaven. Conversely, I believe He will allow the persecution of a nation of people until he has finished His work, giving to those who believe and persevere and do not doubt His sovereignty, knowing in His time the victory will be sweeter for the patience and pain with which it was purchased. What about the flipside? Can non-believers become authors? Can persecutors escape punishment? Sure! Could Jesus have anything to do with that? Absolutely! It took me looking back at half of my life as a non-Christian to trace the hand of God pursuing me the entire time. Not enough evidence? What better example of both author and persecutor than Paul the apostle. Jesus had something to do with that. He was very much in the circumstances of Paul's life.

    I have seen this manifest in knee-dropping experiences through the work of the people at the ECC in Bosnia. Their faith in Jesus has never wavered. Their desire to know and be known by Him against incredible odds has stood resolute. Their trust in the Word of God, revealed through tradition, lived out openly in an oppressed and closed society has placed them in dangerous circumstances, caused suffering, yet produced the perseverance offered in the book of James, never once believing they were abandoned by Jesus. With full knowledge that God is a living God, ever-present and sovereign, a God of circumstance, my Bosnian friends never cowered, but prayed, plead and waited for Him to show up in their dire situations, on His time, not ours. And, He did.

    It is the end of another mission season. More connections have been made. There are park benches adorning the streets of Capljina, Bosnia with New Testament scripture upon them. “Love your neighbor as yourself,” says one, a concept as foreign and as precious as this region we visit. Still, a message ten years overdue, by our standards. Yet, God has been in this struggle every step. Watch how the scripture will still be there next year rather than vandalized or torn away. God’s timing is perfect. Youth classes were attended. Photography lessons were given, and contacts were made with the local newspaper, a favorable article written. More mayoral approval occurred. A surprise guest at a barbecue, a sign of relationships mending, healing. We can chalk this up to time spent to leverage relationships, invest in people and a city, or we can ask ourselves, “Is Jesus . . . is God in our circumstances?” “Does He care about the minutia of our lives?” “Is He really concerned whether I write a book, or if someone places His Word on a bench in a predominantly Muslim country struggling to break the shackles of hatred and intolerance?” If not, then why do we teach our children to pray at all. Minutia? Our youth are praying for puppies and toys. Why not tell them Jesus doesn’t care about these things?

    Because He does care! What matters to us, matters to Him.

    Jesus is not just an entity to be believed, but also a person to be known. Because we are called to be in a relationship with Him, you in Him and He in you, He is, by design, in our circumstances, whether we choose to accept Him as Savior and acknowledge His presence is another story.

    The next time you are faced with the question “How?” or “Why?” and there seems to be no rational answer, no foreseeable reason, perhaps it is God, the all-seeing, all-knowing, omnipotent, sovereign Father who sees something you just do not see, working in your circumstances.

    In the grip of His grace,

    P.S. A huge "Thank You" to all the 2010 team members and leaders who traveled across the seas to allow themselves to be used by God in such a mighty way, in the experience of missions! God Bless You and all of my readers who prayed for You! Hvala!

    "God had one son on earth without sin, but never one without suffering." St. Augustine