Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The dreams that you wish...

Lately there has been some interesting - and, dare I say it? philosophical - discussions in our house about the Disney classics - the princesses, the princes, and the values that are portrayed. A big value that is hammered into small children through these movies relates to dreams, that if you dream long and hard enough, and if you have faith and patience, your dreams will come true. And we all smile and feel warm and fuzzy and sentimental about that message, as we watch puppets become real boys, mermaids become humans, servants become princesses, beasts become dashing princes, and sleeping ladies wake to ride off to a castle in the clouds.

I just finished reading a book that admits that isn't how life works, even for good people, godly people. And it doesn't matter how hard we pray, wish, or dream, the pain remains, the questions go unanswered, our plans for ourselves and our loved ones do not turn out the way they should. Some dreams that we have either shatter or remain unfulfilled, and because of that, we wonder if God is really good, if he really cares. We cry out to him for intervention, or even to feel his presence, and he remains silent and seems to us to be inactive.

Thing is, God never promised that all our dreams would come true in this life - that was Disney. God never cooed to us that we deserve every happiness in this life - that was Disney. Notice that I said "in this life." We are made for another time and another place, and if we trust in Jesus and abandon ourselves to him, then one day in heaven all our dreams will come true - ten fold, in ways that  are exceedingly and abundantly more than we can ask or imagine. And it's forever! Imagine, your wildest dreams coming true forever and never ending, never getting old or worn out, never dying! But in this life, our dreams - even the really good and honorable ones - are at best temporal, and certainly nothing compared to the dreams God dreams for us.

His dreams are focused on eternity, and based on bringing praise and glory to Him. And the more we press into him, find our joy and delight in him, and fall passionately in love with him, the more beautiful and perfect and thrilling that dream will become to us. But to accomplish his dreams, we must surrender our dreams and allow them to be shattered. We've got to let go of our best in order to grab on to God's best.

And those moments when he seems silent, distant, unconcerned, unaware, inactive? He is not. He is always listening, always working. One (of many) of my favorite quotes from the book is this: "When God seems most absent from us, He is doing his most important work in us... He vanishes from our sight to do what he could not do if we could see him." We must stop assuming things based on our emotions and remember the truth that never fails: he will never leave us or forsake us.

To understand and live in these truths takes a lot more than reading a book or writing a blog. It takes a lot of pain and surrender and silence to develop the kind of faith and trust needed to embrace God's dreams. There is so much more to say about this, but I pray this will encourage you: Do not lose heart! Though outwardly our bodies and plans and dreams are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day in the image and attitude of our Lord Jesus.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Our 5:10 Wall

“Live as children of light… and find out what pleases the Lord.” Ephesians 5: 8, 10

What makes God smile? After reading the above verses, I thought this question would make a great conversation-starter. It’s also a great thing to ask myself daily, to look for the things that please him, and make those things a part of my day-to-day lifestyle… because pleasing my Savior and Lord should be a top priority, whether it is in what I say or do, or in my attitude and perspective.

Hannah and I have this wall in our study/guest room that is big and bare and just begged for attention. Consequently, we also have 50 feet of clothesline and a large package of clothespins we’ve never used (please don’t ask why). So naturally, we decided to do some creative decorating with a purpose.

Here, you see our new “5:10 Wall,” referencing this verse in Ephesians that we are meditating on day and night. We are asking people who come into our house, “What pleases the Lord?” and writing down their answers, collecting them all on the clothesline. So far, we’ve had some great responses: Justice, Faith, Kindness, Humility, Perseverence, Obedience, A Joyful Heart, God’s Creatures, Breaking Bread with Friends, and Singing Praises in Battle.

If you would like to add to our collection, you can leave me a comment here with your answer. We’re also trying to find Bible verses that support the answers, so if you have one in mind, give that to me, too!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Something to add to the resume:

Travel agent. Ha! Ok, maybe not. But I do feel pretty good about my most recent specialized service experience. A couple months ago, my Burmese friend, Ciin, asked me to help her book three seats on a plane to Seattle - she and her two brothers and little baby Sammy were going to visit her mother in Vancouver. This was a challenge for me, to say the least. For one thing, I've flown for free or cheap most of my life because my dad works for the airlines, and for another thing, I've never booked a flight because my parents have always done it for me. But I love Ciin and her family, so I prayed a lot while I navigated through this new adventure.

I helped her find the best deal, then I booked the seats on seperate credit cards, and used one brothers email address and my own phone number for the contact information. The brothers wanted round-trip tickets because they were only spending two weeks there, but Ciin didn't know yet how long she was going to stay, so hers was one-way. But they wanted to go out on the same plane and sit as close as possible together.

Ok, while it was quite a trick to make it happen, it was a success! They got out to Vancouver, Ciin called me to let me know, and her brothers returned home with no problems. But that was just the beginning...

Ciin called me again when she decided when she wanted to fly home. The date was August 5. She would be alone with an 11-month-old baby and a limited English vocabulary. I convinced her to take the non-stop to Chicago-O'Hare, which was the most time and cost efficient, and would be the least confusing for her. I booked the flight, put my contact information in, and Hannah and I assured her we would be there to pick her up.

Which brings us to today, when we arrived at the Chicago-O'Hare airport. Did I mention neither of us have ever actually been inside the Chicago-O'Hare airport? All I can say is, I wanted to volunteer my inexperienced self just to redo all the signs in that airport so that they make sense. Like when you come to an elevator that goes to three floors, and there is a sign with a list of locations next to the elevator, but it doesn't say what floor to go to for any of them. But we managed to find the terminal, concourse, baggage claim, and gate in time.

The concern happened when a number of people came through the gate, and a half hour after the arrival, there was still no sign of Ciin, or her baggage. I feared she had missed her flight and was still in Seattle, she had gotten on the wrong flight and was headed for Dallas, or she had been kidnapped and was headed to India. And I believed it was somehow my fault - I had failed my friend and ruined my chances of ever being a decent travel agent.

Ciin showed up about 45 minutes late because of an unreasonably long waiting line to the family bathroom, and we were thrilled to see she and our baby brother. But her luggage was still MIA. We found out that it had been put on a later flight, and it would arrive in about an hour. So, Ciin treated us to lunch that was strangely American for her - ham and cheese, chips, and orange juice. She told us about how she told her mother that we were coming to pick her up, and her mother said, "Oh, you have English friends! That is good!" And Ciin said, "They are my sisters - my English family!" Gotta love that.

This lunch treat began the deluge of generosity of Ciin... once we got luggage and found our car again, we drove the four hours back to Fort Wayne, with Ciin insisting on paying for the parking, all the tolls, and a tank of gas. We tried to refuse her money and begged her to let us do this for her and bless her this way, but she was stubborn and pushed coins and bills into our hands and crossed her arms. When we got her home, she rummaged through her bag and gave us a package, which she explained was a gift she bought for us in Vancouver. Then she prayed for us with so much love and earnestness that, even though we didn't understand her language, we started to cry.

I am thankful that I was able to help Ciin get "there and back again" safely and smoothly. But I started this adventure out, focused on what I was going to do for her, and she flipped it around on me as an opportunity to love and serve me. It's a little maddening, I'll be honest! But it's a consistent thing I have found in these international people that I've grown to love: I can't out-give them. They are financially poor, but they give and give and give so generously and selflessly and consistently without thought or hesitation that they are spiritually rich. Being around them, learning from them, benefitting from their giving, I am ashamed of the times I withhold what I perceive as "mine," and the times I think I've given enough. I am praying that I will let go of my selfish mentality and learn to give and bless abundantly as they do... as God does.