I’ve got a new attitude!

6236864_SS When my children were little, a discipline technique I used when they began to act up was to look them in the eye and ask, “Do you need an attitude adjustment?”   Because I had laid an earlier foundation of what an attitude adjustment was, this question seemed to have a magical recuperative power.  What had moments before been bad behavior suddenly was replaced with good behavior.

I thought of this as I was considering the truth contained in the following verses:

“The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.”  (Deuteronomy 30:6)

“and I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from following them, to do them good; and I will put my fear in their hearts, that they may not depart from me.”  (Jeremiah 32:40)

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezekiel 36:26)

It strikes me as marvelous good news that God has implanted within us a new attitude–a new disposition that inclines toward loving Him and not wanting to depart!  This is what the Apostle Paul was referring to when he stated, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God…” (2 Corinthians 5:17)  I forget this truth and often pray asking God to give me love for others, give me a heart that desires to affirm rather than to be affirmed, give me a forgiving heart.  The restful wonder of what it means to be “in Christ” is that He already has! 

“These new inclinations for doing God’s will were given to you before the light of Scripture ever brought any aspect of God’s will to your attention.  James calls it “the implanted word,” which he tells us to receive with meekness.”  James is saying in essence, “Take hold of what you already have, that which is innate to your new nature.”  Ponder with your mind what God has already made your heart desire!

The birthright of every believer is an inner self that’s supernaturally inscribed with the whole of Christ’s teachings and commands–even to the extent that “we have the mind of Christ” as Scripture says.

Every command we come across in the Bible is therefore a vigorous reminder to do what we already desire.  The Scriptures simply clarify in our minds what we already want to do in our regenerate heart.”  ((Dwight Edwards, Revolution Within, p.112))

What an awesome truth!  How encouraging that today my task is not to plead with God to give me something to help me through the circumstances of life but to appropriate what He has already given and praise Him for His great generosity!

Who is Testing Whom?

February 24, 2004

Girlfriend,

It sounds like DSC01991 (Small)God is up to much there — and yes I have tasted His faithfulness here today as well.  I needed to get Sponsor reports and Quarterly reports done on 6 of our children and so I spent the early morning at the computer putting those together. I actually enjoy writing them,  noting how the children progress over a 3 month time period.  I try to imagine a sponsor reading the report and work to craft it with words that communicate each child’s spirit and personality so that the sponsors feel a personal connection.

At 10:00, I took Teopista and Molly to SOS for Molly’s second immunization shot.  Immunization takes place in a thatched roof, concrete floored gazebo.  The serious and sullen nurses bring out a table and place it in the center of the floor.  They also bring coolers with syringes full of vaccine.  They hang this thing from the ceiling that looks like the canvas seat of a Johnny Jump-Up hooked to a vegetable scale.  Each Mom is supposed to put her child in that to read, remember and report the weight to the nurses when they are ready to begin the clinic.  The mothers and guardians are also responsible to put the vaccination records in a stack on the table as they arrive and then sit on a concrete wall waiting quietly until they are called by the nurses.  That stack order determines when you get called up.

Wisely, the head nurse begins the clinic by turning the stack over so that the first to be called was the first to arrive.  Each time I have been, I have noticed several mothers who come “late” (although I am learning that there is no such thing as “late” in Africa) and who slip their cards on the bottom of the stack.  You can’t believe how my heart battles in those moments!  My mind begins rehearsing, “That’s not fair, I was here first.  Followed by self cesoring thoughts like, “Hey you are missionary you are not supposed to be whining like a baby!” Anyway, I fight the temptation to rearrange the stack and put it in proper order.

In moments like these I do see more clearly what  a product of my culture I am!  We impatient Americans know the value and the fairness in lining up and waiting your turn!  Or at least we know the value in everyone else lining up and waiting their turn.  Well, that is not part of the value system in Uganda!  I am learning to appreciate the differences rather than yielding to the strong desire to do training seminars on cueing up. The saving thought I had was a little voice that seemed to say, “Lissa, I didn’t send you  to teach or transfer your cultural norms– I trusted you to go and spread the fragrance of Christ!”

SophieFull (Small)Today, something new did happen while we were at SOS. Sister Immaculate gave the young mothers a family planning talk — not in English but in Luganda.  I saw Teopista, who is a 45 year old widow, smiling and shaking her head.  I asked her what was going on and she said, “JjaJa, this talk is too late for me and for you too!”  She listened politely, but when Sister finished talking, Teopista took off with rapid fire, passionate Luganda, waving her finger and looking each mother in the eye.  I knew she was up to something because her voice was animated and her faced glowed with joy and she kept saying, “Yeh-soo.”  On the ride home she said, “JjaJa, it has been a great day! I told those young women that they had heard how they could make their own plans about families but I told them that what they really needed to know was the One who has planned all things in the universe!  I told them they needed to meet and trust the plan of Jesus.”

I, didn’t get this e-mail finished yesterday so I am just continuing on.  It has been a full day, while the clock says 8:15 my body says, “missionary midnight!”   DSC01358 (Small)Today, Carolyn and I went to Sanyu to pick up Sophie and William so that we could get their blood tests in Kampala before traveling 45 minutes to Kakiri SOS to get physicals.   Sophie is severely malnourished and somewhere close to 2 years old but looks the size of a 1 year old.  William is an 11 month old who is an active charmer. I’m calling him “Budda Boy” since his distended stomach almost makes his little legs disappear.   He was abandoned with a series of head lacerations which might have come from ritualistic ceremonies done by a witch doctor or just from evil parental abuse.  DSC01383 (Small)The scars are fading and are less noticeable than when I saw him in November.   With the medical tests complete, we had to take them back to Sanyu and wait on results–I hate it when we have to return these children–it feels like betrayal of trust.  Back in the car, we headed to Nguru the government run babies home and picked up 3 1/2 year old Martin to bring him here to live. Our Sharon came from this orphanage too and it is a place that I wished could be emptied immediately.

Martin is a sweet little boy who has a lazy eye due to muscle damage from malaria.  Dr. Musoke thinks it will improve without assistance or treatment.   DSC01412 (Small) Martin had never worn shoes, never ridden in a motor car and had spent all his days behind an iron fence in buildings that make you cry, playing on a concrete porch day after day.  He wailed when we put him in the motorcar but then quieted down and just watched everything all the way to Rafiki.  Upon arrival, we introduced him to Mama Flavia and watched as he played with the children and ate a good supper.  His eyes look at his surroundings as if he cannot believe what he is seeing.  I will never tire of bringing children here and seeing them embrace the gift of being personally cared for. DSC01405 (Small)

If the test on Sophie is clear–and it may very well not be–we  will bring her here Wednesday and place her with big hearted Jenipher making her cottage have 7 children. William will be the only child of our new mama Robinah.  What joy is mine in helping women find jobs that allow them to support themselves and helping children have a promising future of nurture and guaranteed education.

How is the writing going for Luke 19?  I wanted you to know that as I close my evening I am thinking and praying for the day that is still ahead of you.  Teach it dear friend–God will have women who need the words you speak tomorrow right there to hear them.  Thanks again for visiting with me last night.  Your words helped me several times as I spent the whole day in the car being beaten by the roads.

Love to  you dear one,

lissa

Who “owns” your suffering?

That might sound like an odd question. I admit that before today, I rarely have thought of my suffering as anyone else’s but mine.  I pull it around me like a wooly shawl and wallow, wallow, wallow–pretty sure that nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen!  Today, as I pondered afresh the implications of  2 Corinthians 1, I felt as though God had switched on a big “ah-ha” light bulb concerning the topic of who owns my suffering. In verses 3-11 Paul writes:

images Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.  If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.  Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers,  of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.  He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. (2 Corinthians 2:3-11)

It is comforting that Paul doesn’t want me to remain ignorant on this topic!  His words teach me that:

  • Suffering is not an aberration of nature to be avoided at all costs, it is part of God’s intentional plan. The plan’s purpose is twofold: first, so that I can be engaged with the personal touch of God, a treasured aspect of His character — His comfort.
  • Without suffering, I would miss this experience of God; after all, we don’t need comfort if we aren’t hurting.
  • The second part of the plan’s purpose is to wean me from self-reliance and grow me in God dependence.
  • The pattern for understanding my suffering comes from understanding the purposeful suffering of Christ that ended triumphantly in the resurrection.
  • The comfort that I receive from God is not intended to end in a cul-de-sac in my life but is meant to be shared–poured out in the lives of others who are suffering.

The new thought today came from the phrase, “as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings”. That verse suggests that suffering as a Christian is not a solitary experience.  Our unity with Christ is so total that our suffering is described as being shared and as belonging to Christ.

“Perhaps it is easier to recognize that our blessings belong to the Lord than it is to recognize that he owns our suffering.  If you watch someone suffer, you will see that we tend to treat suffering as something that belongs to us, something we can respond to as we please.  We tend to turn in on ourselves.  Our world shrinks to the size of our pain.  We want little more than release, and we tend to be irritable and demanding.

It does not take long to learn that suffering brings you power.  As you cry in pain, people run to help you.  They offer you physical comfort, say nice things, and release you from our duties…A whole host of self-absorbed temptations greet us when we treat suffering as something that belongs to us.  This passage reminds us that our suffering belongs to the Lord.  It is an instrument of his purpose in us and for others.  The way we suffer must put Christ on center stage.  The Redeemer owns our disappointment and fear. He owns our physical and spiritual pain.  He owns those crushing past experiences.  He owns our rejections and aloneness.  He owns our dashed expectations and broken dreams.  It all belongs to him for his purpose.  When we feel like dying, he calls us to a greater death.  He calls us to die to our suffering so that we may live for him.

This is not a call to some creepy form of Christian stoicism.  It is a call to bring the full range of our suffering to Him.  We are to weep loudly and mourn fully before him, knowing that true comfort can only be found at his feet.  We are to place our mourning in his hands to be used for his purposes in our lives and the lives of others. And it is a promise of comfort from the God who is the source of it all.”  ((Paul David Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, p. 153-4))

Today, I am grateful to be in a family where suffering is not wasted but is purposefully directed toward receiving and giving comfort!  What a relief to be freed from owning my suffering–what a privilege to know it is shared with the Lord Jesus.

Training the Palate

February 5, 2004

Greetings My Friend,

One of the goals we have here at the village is to train the children’s palate’s to enjoy a variety of foods.  In their culture, there are several staple foods, but beyond that many never have the opportunity to explore.   In the dining hall, the lunch meal consists of national food that the mamas and children really enjoy.  When posho (like very stiff grits) is served, the mamas smile and say it will make a good nap for the cottages.

DSC00362 (Small) Trying to plan menus that are filling, healthy and enjoyable has presented us with somewhat of a challenge. Carolyn was very excited recently because she had figured out a way to make macaroni and cheese to be served at our evening meal.  The cooks did a great job of preparing it and we expected everyone to really enjoy this new treat–after all, who doesn’t like macaroni and cheese?  DSC00361 (Small)

Well, we heard nothing about the new dish from the mamas or from the children.  A few days later I was hauling some of the aunties who work during the day helping the mamas back to their village.  On the ride, I asked, “How did you and the children enjoy the macaroni and cheese?”  There was not an immediate response so I turned to Auntie Janet and asked her again.  You need to know that Ugandans are always eager to be polite and to please, so Janet turned to me with a big smile and a lift in her voice,  “Oh JjaJa, I think we have enjoyed it very much, only one has vomited!”  I thought I would never stop laughing at that and I almost ran the Prado up the side of a bank before I regained control.   Now, when Yoweri finds out that we are having macaroni he whines, “JjaJa, not the maca-ronees!”DSC00614 (Small) (2)

Well, I dropped Janet off at her place and proceeded to take another helper to her home.  As we traveled she said, “JjaJa, I am wondering if you would give me the advice (pronounced add-vice)?”  DSC01113 (Small)That was her way of saying, I want to speak to you privately for counsel.  I told her that I was willing to help if I could.  She is a precious friend and I have come to love her dearly.  She shared with me that her husband who had abandoned the family about six months ago, had returned the night before.  She said he was very apologetic and asked for forgiveness for wanting to flee from the crushing that poverty had made to his sense of manhood.  He despaired when daily faced with his inability to raise school fees for his children or to feed them adequately.  He felt trapped and unable to break out of the hopeless circumstance.  The pressure to provide when it was impossible to find a job took its toll and he ran. During all the months he was gone, Pastor Fred and his wife Susan stepped in and provided for this family.

DSC02371 (Small)Now it seems, he is ready to return home and she is more than willing to receive him.  Her dilemma was that he wanted to resume physical intimacy with her.  She remembered talks that Pastor’s wife had given about the way HIV is spread, so she had refused him and explained to him that she was not going to allow that until he had had a blood test to determine his status. She asked me if it was true that the virus could be passed between husband and wife that way.  I told her that Susan had given her true advice and that she had done the right thing. Her husband proclaimed his fidelity and said there had been no women in the six months, but this dear woman bravely resisted.  Jane, she was thinking rightly but the truth is she has no resources to carry out this plan.  Like everyone here, she struggles financially–there is never enough money to cover just the bare bones basics of life.  Her sons and daughters have not been able to attend secondary school this semester because she has no money for school fees.  When I dropped her off earlier this week, there was no food in the home.  I stupidly asked why she didn’t get fresh vegetables since they are so plentiful and cheap.  She responded,  “JjaJa, what difference does it make what the price is if I have no money at all?”    She added, “JjaJa, a meal of eggplant and tomatoes does not fill a hungry stomach through the night and day.”  The custom here is to drink a cup of chai in the morning and wait until very late in the evening to eat one meal that will hold you through the night and next day.  DSC01128 (Small)

Since it has been my job to take people to Ebenezer Lab, I knew that a reliable blood test costs more than this little family could ever raise or justify.   How could she come up with 9,000 shillings (at least 3 days wages) for blood testing when she has children who are not getting enough to eat?  It is through difficult choices like this that AIDS has claimed Africa.  DSC02373 (Small)Anyway, I told her that I would transport she and her husband to the lab and pay for the testing and praised her for her wisdom and for standing up in a gentle but firm way.  It takes one day to get the results, so I trust God will protect her until this is settled.  Friend, you are on my mind and in my heart–may He help renew your heart today as you prepare for prayer tomorrow.

With love,
lissa

Maturity

whisper “A mature relationship with Christ is reflected in the capacity to hear whispers of assurance when discouragement is oppressive.  And even when we’re mishandling frustration by retreating into an angry pout, mature depth won’t let us escape the convicting awareness that we’re designed to love, even in this situation…As we learn to live in confidence that the deepest concerns of our soul are in good hands, both the shame we feel because of our unworthiness and the terror we have of one day facing exposure and rejection will lose their power to control us. Change from the inside out involves a gradual shift away from self-protective relating to strongly loving involvement.  And in order to make that change, we must feel our disappointment as a longing person and face the sin in our heart that results in a commitment to self protection… When we fully understand our disappointed thirst and self-protective patterns, repentance can involve a deeper shift in our understanding of how life is to be lived and how we miss the mark.”

Larry Crabb, Inside Out, p. 218-221

A New Day, A New Opportunity

January 6, 2004

Dear Friend,

kampala02This morning I am tasting the mercy of God helping me wait for word that James has arrived in the States safely. We left the village early so that we could enjoy a final farewell dinner with him.  Since our arrival in Kampala, he had wanted to try this Indian restaurant that was on the top floor of the “mall” in Kampala. 291576110_2503a25d66  We decided that would be the place to celebrate our time together in Africa and his beginning again at Grove City.   The view was spectacular, and the setting of the restaurant was very festive.  We had the whole restaurant to ourselves since we were eating so early no one else was in the place.  James seemed a little nervous but was intent on being upbeat.  It turned out to be a lovely, lingering time.  The food was excellent but scorching hot– we compensated by ordering the large bottled water to help douse the flames on our tongues!   That was a great idea until we faced the reality of what it would feel like to travel for 40 minutes to Entebbe Airport, over potholed roads, after consuming 2 liters of water!  Casey was seriously uncomfortable on the trip and I think her pain allowed me to forget the unavoidable pain that was ahead for my heart.  We had to make one of those quick good-byes because of the airport security in Entebbe.  uganda3 I longed to be able to sit with him until time to board but it was not to be.  I thought I caught a glimpse of fear in his eyes and I almost grabbed him and said, “Don’t go.”

It killed me to look on that but he pressed on and said he would call as soon as he could.  We didn’t have an international card to give him so I think his plan was to call you and ask you to give us a quick call to let us know he has arrived at Dulles.  We have learned that Mike’s Honda was not starting and so Cindy and her husband are trying to get that repaired before James has to head back to PA.

Jane, James has a very tender fondness and respect for you.  I think he would truly appreciate knowing that someone was thinking about him and willing to give him a call to let him know that. The truth is, I would appreciate knowing that someone closer than me is watching out for him.  This is hard.

As we have shared before, I can be as miserable as I want to be and there are times when I give in and get pretty miserable. More often I am thinking,

“Lissa is God still God?”

“Can He care for James in your absence or not?”

“Can He care for Him better than you can?”

“Is the joy of the Lord my strength or did my joy go with James?”

“Lissa, are you so faithless that you consider yourself mistreated in this separation?”

“Lissa, do you believe that I will never leave you or forsake you?  Do you believe that for James as well?”

I find the rehearsal of truth moves me on and brings to my aching heart strong comfort that I need.  You and I have often talked about how there is no help in sitting around describing the pain–it only gets deeper and worse–I know this is a grace from God and I am thankful.

Today I will go to SOS to get 2 children immunized.  There I will encounter Sister Immaculate.  She is a heavy set Ugandan woman who dresses in the old style white nurse’s uniform.  When I think of my past encounters with her, the words “gruff” and “severe” come to mind. Her way is to sort of bark orders at you but she will smile every now and again if she feels so inclined. I find myself trying to coax a smile from her!   I hope the day at the desk will bear much fruit in lesson preparation my friend.

I love you bunches–lissa

Quarrels and Conflicts

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?   You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.  James 4:1-3

I have been so blessed by C.J. Mahaney’s article “Cravings and Conflicts“.  The exposition of James 4 resonates as such great help for my soul!  I have a sense that this is one of those resources I will want to revisit over and over again.