Mimosa: A Commentary

Some books leave me in awe, like Mimosa by Amy Carmichael. The poetic language is peaceful, worshipful, and her story inspires patience. None of us can really imagine living the life Mimosa lived with a husband who didn’t love her nearly as much as she deserved, hardships that we won’t ever experience, and a caste that was unbending and cold.

As I flew back from Denver and reflected on Mimosa, I thought of my lack of funding. Mimosa reminded me to turn my focus on obedience. The way she put out her blanket when she lacked food and money, expecting, anticipating the Lord to provide (which He did) made me want to be more like her. Mimosa persevered though she couldn’t read. Because she couldn’t read, the Bible came to her only through verbal messages, and she drank it in, borrowing strength for another day.

The powerful words at the end of the chapter say, “For God has other Mimosas.” The other Mimosas are people of all beliefs and languages that God is pursuing. He doesn’t require our help, but eagerly, He invites us to join Him.

Other quotes hit me powerfully throughout the book like,

“Are there those for whom we have long prayed for, who seem beyond our reach now? Love will find a way. Are we discouraged because we do not see our expected signs, and the solid rocks seem to be sinking under shifting sands? It is not so. Love is mighty and must prevail. Terrible in judgments, marvelous in loving kindness, love will find a way.”

“And now she is back in her bigoted Hindu world, and she writes that some wonder, some scoff, and some are listening a little. Her husband, whom she has set her heart on winning, feels her a disgrace, but the amazing thing is that he still owns as his wife one who has so shamed his caste (which is not one of the more tolerant which allow a woman to remain within the fold even after baptism). Her life cannot be easy. But then, she has not asked for ease; she has asked for the shield of patience so that she may overcome.”

“Then with a warm glow of joy she knew what He had been to her all through the bitter years. ‘You know Him by learning,’ she later said to Star, ‘but I know Him by suffering.'”

“And gradually it returned, and his eyes became less darkened. ‘We had no help. No medicine did I know of, nor had I money to buy it. It was only our God’s healing.’ And she sent a thank offering to the Christian church which knew nothing of her.”

The second quote down, “…and now she is back in her bigoted Hindu world,” reminded me how we aren’t to flee our difficult situations. Examples like Paul remind us to walk towards difficulty, not away. It’s easier to hold a job, Monday through Friday, go to church twice a week or twice a month and not do the emotional labor of reaching out, but I am reminded of another quote from another book,

“We need to remind ourselves that the primary purpose of the church is evangelization, or in the broad sense, missions. Every other activity in the church–worship, preaching, education, music, fellowship–should result in making us better witnesses, better missionaries…The Great Commission is for all Christians, not just a few.” (Living Stones of the Himalayas by Thomas Hale).

Each day I am reminded of why God has me doing what I do for WorldVenture. So, you settle in, pray it out, and wait for God’s next move. Like Mimosa, I am putting out my blanket each day and praying, “God, you asked me to go this way. Please tell me how to get there.”

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Where Are The Good Followers? #SocialMedia #Christian

Image result for letters to the church francis chan

According to “Cairnway,” 1,246 paperback books with leadership in the title were published in 2017. “Counting all formats, Amazon offers 57,136 books with the word leadership in the title.” In a Google search, I found only a few articles or books on being good followers. Most of the time, leadership takes precedent. It’s what you hear in church. Based on a 4-day devotional from the Youversion app on Francis Chan’s “Letters to The Church,” I bought the book, hungry for being in awe of my position as a member of the Body of Christ. And this chapter set me down on my knees.

In fact, I posted on my Facebook, “I love this book, but I am not reading it from a spirit of trying to find someone else to blame; I am learning to be in awe of being a member of the body of Christ and to help bring about a spirit of unity by supporting, leading, and doing away with my own sense of ego, pride, and competition.” Too often, we hit the share button because we want someone else to see it. The lesson is for them, not for us. I want to learn Jesus’ version of leadership. (John 13:1-17).

Francis Chan says,

“Imagine how difficult it would be to coach a team where each player refuses to follow because he or she has a better plan than the coach. Welcome to the American Church in the twenty-first century. Let’s exercise some humility.”

My biggest struggle is getting rid of my sense of competition, especially when you are raising support to only have to work one full-time job. I’ve encountered people who believe they are the only ones doing it right. That attitude is in the name of their ministries, their words, and even in their defensiveness. To maintain a sense of unity, I seek to work with what is established and help others succeed in their ministry goals. In some situations, I become a leader; in others, I become a follower. Once upon a time, I hated how teachers would force me into group work. Now, I see value in collaboration, but don’t hold too tightly to your ideas as a leader. God is such a creative God. He dreams bigger than we do.

A good follower of Christ and a good leader is aware that people are always watching. With social media, this is acutely true. The more notoriety you get (like Francis Chan), the more critical and the more encouraging the comments. Chan struggled with so much criticism and flattery. As a Digital Engagement and Disciple-Making Coordinator with WorldVenture, I can understand that pressure, but not to his level. On an individual level, a person must show their faith and life online and treat their social media as an extension of their face-to-face life. They should be one and the same. You can, with social media, be both a leader and a follower. The church needs good followers.

It became quickly clear to me in 2014 how social media will play a big role in missions, but only if we can mobilize the congregation to follow. Francis Chan pastored a megachurch before God took him out of the country. In this first chapter, he talked about wanting people to live holy lives. Too many people had no interest in applying the Bible to their lives at his megachurch. They would come to church every week and go home without appearing to show the fruit of belief in their lives. He wanted his church to become groups of people who challenged each other to action (and they did!).

In 2014, I saw more than half of the church on social media platforms like Facebook, and I asked God, “What if we trained those people to reach unbelievers, the unreached, and to learn another culture, even a language, to become digital workers? What if each church had a digital team that grew every year that supported the mission and vision of their church and likewise, supported missionary organizations? Missionary organizations that also help to provide training material to support a church’s mission goals and their own?” I also saw over-worked pastors and missionaries and communications staff that didn’t just do communications, but a hundred other jobs. Most churches and missionary organizations do not have the budget to support someone trained in communications. Sometimes, churches and missionary organizations only see their social media as a marketing tool, rather than a tool that can be used for digital discipleship. Francis Chan said, “Another issue we saw was how everything had grown to be very dependent on one person.”

Right now, I am training a non-profit on social media and digital discipleship. A ministry is only as good as the heart and drive of its people. If all leadership has to do is provide relevant content and lead, the digital teams become a powerful tool to saturate the world with the Gospel. This alleviates the pressure of having to do everything. Lastly, Francis Chan says this,

“After giving a very strong rebuke to the church of Laodicea for being lukewarm, Jesus simply asked them to open the door. Before you get overwhelmed by all tht is wrong with the Church, rememeber that He is not placing an insurmountable burden on your shoulders. He is asking you to fellowship with Him and join Him in what He is doing. We should be filled with faith and anticipation…”

You are the church.

You are also online.

New Book: Digital Diasporas

Reading: Digital Diasporas by Jennifer M. Brinkerhoff

“Conventional wisdom holds that IT (information technologies), especially as it is applied transnationally, poses a threat to nation-states, sovereignty and capacity to govern. IT has “exposed the porosity of geographic and political borders and limited extent of any national jurisdiction” (Montgomery 2002, 26), Wilson’s (1998) literature review found a significant degree of agreement that state sovereignty–and, arguably, capacity–eroded by IT, as a result of state’s increasing inability to control information both within their borders, as well as at the supranational level. (pg. 5-6)” 

Social media is like its own nation-state, populated by multiple diasporas and cultures. The internet is a threat, but only because it is a free state allowing for the exchange of cultures and ideas. Depending upon how a person uses this tool, it can bring either peace or conflict. I pulled this quote from The Atlantic when I wrote “How Facebook’s Big Announcement Can Help Missions“:

“… [O]n a pure population count [Facebook is] bigger than many countries, including the U.S. (323.1 million people as of 2016) Also like a country… [M]any web-watchers do detect country-like features in Facebook. “[It] is a device that allows people to get together and control their own destiny, much like a nation-state,” says David Post, a law professor at Temple University. If that sounds like a flattering description of Facebook’s “groups” (often rallying people with whimsical fads and aversions), then it is worth recalling a classic definition of the modern nation-state. As Benedict Anderson, a political scientist, put it, such polities are “imagined communities” in which each person feels a bond with millions of anonymous fellow-citizens. In centuries past, people looked up to kings or bishops; but in an age of mass literacy and printing in vernacular languages, so Mr Anderson argued, horizontal ties matter more.” From Here

Likewise, we will need people who understand language demographics, provide training to local churches on cross-cultural communication, people in the church willing to use their social media to reach across social media borders, and technology people to help those that struggle with it to grasp simple concepts. This means it will take all of us to work together to accomplish the Great Commission from the church level to the mission organization level.

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Book Review: A Song Unheard

Reviewing books is a great way to begin conversations and build relationships. While I’ve cut back on my book reviewing, I am still registered with a few sites to review books to refill my creative tank. 

A Song Unheard by Roxanne White is part of a series called Shadows Over England. It begins with an unlikely heroine, Willa Forsythe–a thief with an innate ability to hear music and play by memory.

The era is World War I. A mysterious man only known as V pays her to give him information. Until near the end of the book, no one knows if V is with England or Germany. For Wila, it’s another dangerous job that pays well so she can survive on the streets, cashing in on her abilities as the best thief in England. She justifies lying and thievery because she doesn’t steal from children or those in need; only from those with enough money to spare. She’s not as bad as other thieves, or so she keeps telling herself.

When she meets her mark, a refugee Belgium violinist named Lukas, to steal his fathers cypher, she encounters other interested parties; namely, a German spy who threatens her life and a man whose loyalties can be bought. Things aren’t black and white anymore. Complicating things is how her heart begins to soften towards Lukas as he shares himself with her and brings out a better version of herself. Discovery of the cypher will challenge Willa’s morality and strip away everything she thought was right.

A Song Unheard is an excellent story.

*Book given by publisher to review. 

Business Versus Missions: Is There a Division? #Christian

WorldVenture hosted two Hackathons with Code For The Kingdom during the past couple of years. I participated in both and mingled with business people, missionaries, churches and regular working people. During those weekends, we worked together in creative endeavors to solve world challenges with technology.

In the last Hackathon, I assisted a businessman with his idea, helping to expand it. While I didn’t quite have the time I thought to fully review his manuscript for the ministry, his idea had merit. These are just two of many examples where not all the church is against business as missions or work having merit. So, when I began reading, “Called to Create: A Biblical Invitation to Create, Innovate, and Risk,” I felt the divide between business and missions.

“Over the course of my career, I have thought a lot about this issue and discussed this topic at length with friends inside and outside of the world of entrepreneurship. It seems clear to me that the church has bought into a false storyline about work that says work is inherently bad and meaningless unless it is “full-time ministry.” Before we discern the calling of entrepreneurs specifically, we must first combat this thinking with biblical truths that give us a much more hopeful and meaningful storyline for all work.”
― from “Called to Create: A Biblical Invitation to Create, Innovate, and Risk”

One of my leaders who recommended this book said she felt encouraged by it. The ministry God has me doing empowers creatives and entrepreneurs to partner with the church to serve in outreach to their global communities in line with or in addition to their daily jobs or business responsibilities. Most of what I do involves entrepreneurs and creatives. In fact, WorldVenture is such a fantastic organization that their vision includes creative people and ideas that are non-traditional in their paths.

In light of that leader’s response, I was inspired to think how I can encourage the church to embrace the creatives in their congregation. Because Social Media is a creative environment, it is ideal for photographers, artists, musicians, writers, etc to embrace this communication tool to share the Gospel through the relationships they build online and the stories they tell.

You might have noticed how marketers are embracing the idea of story telling to sell more products or services. Some religions other than Christianity are embracing story telling and marketing to attract the indecisive to their belief system. It seems a lot of Christians are hesitant about using this communication tool. Maybe some are wary of it or afraid? Maybe it just feels so big that it is like looking at a blank piece of paper and wondering where to start?

As a worker with WorldVenture, I want to mobilize the church to serve online as well as face-to-face, recognizing that social media is global and the world is different now. Whatever you feel about technology, the church needs to embrace it and train their congregations to use it in godly ways.

Don’t you train an army before you send them out into the battlefield?

When I read this chapter, I was less than thrilled, because the churches I have met or know do see that sharing the Gospel at work in honoring ways is part of being a Christian, and using your creativity in the arts can also bring about interesting conversation. If the church is going to share the Gospel in their communities, entrepreneurs, missionaries, church staff and regular workers (even ones less than thrilled about their employment) need to be unified in their causes. But then I focused on the last few words of that quote, “…meaningful storyline for all work.” All work, including the people who serve in churches and in mission organizations that depend upon the generosity of others to do their work.

Meanwhile, I will continue to read this book. Stay tuned for future blog posts. My leader’s response reminded me that I need to make sure my volunteers, group leaders, and those participating in ministry are encouraged in all their efforts and feel supported.

Ralph Winter: Outspoken, Focused, and Fearless

The Ralph D. Winter Story by Harold Fickett (Kindle Version)

While the book tended to enthusiastically go long on Winter’s theories towards the end, I closed the last page inspired to persevere in my own field. The Ralph D Winter Story was written by a friend of his who lovingly shared about Winter’s life. How did it inspire me?

  • “He had to grow into his own identity, see its usefulness, and then embrace it despite what others might think. This took a long period of acting on what he did without seeing the big picture.” As I raise support to serve in this new field, I am stepping into the unknown and wondering what this will all look like when I am at 100% support. Right now, God is moving the pieces in place, and while I wait, I am serving at a day job where God has placed me. It is my intent to serve them honorably so they succeed. I am learning a lot in my day job. While working the day job, I am talking to numerous people about what I do with WorldVenture. This often gets a variety of responses. The reason it takes so long to raise support is because of people who need help seeing the vision more clearly on what a social media ministry may look like and how it can help the church.
  • “That was who Ralph was. After a lifetime of zeroing in on this elusive identity, he used virtually every moment of his last years to live it out without compromise, and without regard for the consequences.” A ministry that compromises on total obedience doesn’t succeed. Keeping the vision ever in front of me, I intend to get to 100% support so I can put myself fully into this work. My husband says, I am catching up on wasted years. This is true. I want the rest of my life to reflect the growing faith in the Lord and to share the hope and joy we have in Jesus with others. This will be done on a variety of media and in the face-to-face world.
  • “Ralph’s sense of life as a spiritual battle deepened.” Winter pursued the theory of evil intelligent design following his wife’s death to open up conversation with those who believe in intelligent design. What he meant by this was to pray against the evil of disease. If an intelligent designer like God created the world, what if Satan uses “intelligent design” to create the viruses, diseases, and death in the world to fight God? In my own journey, I could share stories on what I felt was evil targeting us as we worked to serve with WorldVenture more strategically and whole-heartedly. This new direction in my life is different from any other program or act of service.
  • Conflict and disagreement will happen, even in the best of organizations. Winter had his conflicts. He was outspoken. His theories weren’t always welcome, and his mannerisms were said in the book to offend people. In Guatemala, a nurse didn’t welcome his ideas on cross-cultural communication. She followed closely with traditional approaches. What if the church explored the creative side of evangelism and missions and supported this financially, prayerfully, and actively through implementation? We can support solid truths by simply changing how we share those truths.

No matter what obstacles I face, I am praying Matthew 4:19 (CEB) for the Lord to continue to show me HOW to reach those with no hope, no joy, and no future with the Good News of the Gospel. A former pastor once said that a person coming to love the Lord is a “supernatural miracle.” We must first serve on our knees, before we serve with our hands.

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Thoughts on Ralph Winter and His Life

“Of the three faculty members and those who would join them, Winter was the person most involved in new initiatives during his time at SWM. His ideas rarely sparked interest in or involvement from the greater Fuller community. There were just too many of them (ideas)!” (The Ralph Winter Story; location 1322; by Harold Fickett)

I still recall when Andy Andrews said, “Read as many biographies as possible.” What he meant, or what I interpreted from that, was how much you learn from history. In reading, The Ralph Winter Story, I am encouraged as a ministry leader with WorldVenture.

Ralph Winter used his creativity to make massive changes to global missions. He didn’t find his calling until late in life (like me!). While I don’t compare myself with someone of his stature, I do find encouragement in reading his life story. He is quoted a lot in the Perspectives course.

In trying to carve new roads to missions, I felt I needed to understand Ralph Winter’s life story.

A quote from his friend, Trotman is now on my Facebook profile:

“Don’t do what others can do or will do if there are things to be done that other can’t do or won’t do.” 

Winter’s struggles to establish new thought processes in missionary work wasn’t always welcome. In one situation, his wife, Roberta clashed with a fellow nurse, Ruth, in Guatamala. Ruth insisted that medically trained missionaries, “…should decide what medical work should include.” Winter and Roberta studied the culture and noticed how the tribal people went to Shaman’s for medical and spiritual advice. To this people group it was strange to separate medical advice from spiritual advice, and Winter or Roberta had observed how often they came to the medical clinic to get marriage advice. However, the author states that Ruth was more traditional and fought them. The book asserts Winter found a way around that obstacle.

Winter had so many ideas and this meant that his creativity had him serving in many different kinds of projects at the same time. In fact, the book suggests his parents may have worried about his constant so-called “lack of focus.”

Tony, my husband, worried for a time about this. Since becoming a believer in 2002, I wrote skits for Solid Rock Christian Fellowship, directed dramas from the stage, ran a women’s tea and coffee for four years (randomly inviting people from the directory to my house which oftentimes meant women meeting other women they didn’t know attended SRCF), a prayer ministry, and helping in set up and take downs of SRCF’s third service. I also had author aspirations and wrote two novels during this time. One received a partial manuscript request from an agent and the other wasn’t fully ready before it was submitted by request to a small publisher. All of this was training for where I am now. Winter had a weakness, too.

With so many ideas, he didn’t fully commit to learning the language the mission board asked him to learn. The downside to having so much creativity is spreading yourself too thin. Winter didn’t really have a job. He got his education through the GI Bill, lived at home, got married, served as a missionary, and had odd jobs. Again, I am not finished reading it yet so I have not learned his whole story. Steady employment may have come later. 

With a full time day job and working active online ministries, I am always careful not to do so much that the ministries I have worked hard to build fail due to lack of attention. This is why I read books about people from the past so I can learn from their mistakes and find encouragement in their struggles.

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How We are a Citizen of Heaven #Christian

 

I’m on a social media fast today in a hotel somewhere in Phoenix. This means I fast from all social media so I can rest, study, and even write without distraction while I focus on God, worship Him, and focus on who I am in Him. I am reading, “How to Read The Bible For All It’s Worth,” by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart.

Page 109 through 110 brought me up short. So far, I had been reading about Hebrew narrative and how the Old Testament narratives implied things, definition of what is cultural and what is truth, and what something meant then and what it means now. As I read, Redefinition, I knew that this is the kind of truth that I am trying to share in my life with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ in America:

“Redefinition. When the plain meaning of the text leaves people cold, producing no immediate spiritual delight, or says something other than what they wish it said, they are often tempted to redefine it to mean something else. An example is the use often made of God’s promise to Solomon as it is narrated in Chronicles (2 Chron. 7:14-15). The context of this narrative clearly relates the promise to “this place” (the temple in Jerusalem) and “their land” (Israel, the land of Solomon and the Israelites). Understandably, many modern Christians yearn for it to be true of their land wherever they live in the modern world–and so they tend to ignore the fact that God’s promise that he will “hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” was about the only earthly land God’s people could ever claim as “theirs,” the Old Testament land of Israel. In the new covenant, God’s people have no earthly country that is “their land” –despite the tendency of some American Christians to think otherwise about the world. The country all believers now most truly belong to is a heavenly one (Heb. 11:16). (emphasis mine)”

Pastors periodically talk about examining ones spending habits on their checking account to see if God is a priority. What do we spend most of our money on? Are we investing in God’s Kingdom or in pleasure? The same should be said of auditing our own social media profiles. What is posted most often on your social media expresses the depth of your faith, your heart, whether it bleeds from pain and anger or oozes political angst. Do we wish death on our enemies even in a joking way?

Sarcasm is anger gone underground and come back up in a clown suit,” says Patsy Clairmont, a Women of Faith writer and speaker. Our citizenship is in Heaven as believers. How can we reflect this in our postings and honor the country in which we live? 

Horror and the Bible: A Commentary

In our deeply divided country, Mike Duran is one of the few who can challenge our culture without being inflammatory or divisive. In reading his latest book, Christian Horror: On the Compatibility of a Biblical Worldview and the Horror Genre, the book goes beyond surface arguments and shows us how the church should embrace the horror genre.

The book delves into various horrific details of Bible stories, art history, and how some don’t believe a devil exists. The book also presents a compelling argument how Christians have white washed everything. “Thus, Christian art became an alternative to ‘worldly’ fare, often defined as much by what it didn’t have, as what it did,” the book says on page 53. My favorite story shared in the book was about Christopher Hitchen’s brother, Peter, who became a believer when he viewed Roger Van Der Weyden’s painting, Last Judgement.

The horrific images portrayed in the painting caused, “Peter to see himself, ‘among the damned.'” Peter Hitchens became a believer because a painter didn’t hold back about heaven or hell.  The book is a think-outside-the-box kind of thought process that inspires a Christian like myself to not put such narrow boundaries on how to reach the unreached, the unloved, and the unchurched. The book makes a strong case how horror should be an accepted genre among Christians.

 

Finding Love in a Book Shop

How to Find Love in a Book Shop by Veronica Henry is an interesting menagerie of stories written in third person from various points of view. The main story threaded throughout is from the point of view of Emelia, the daughter of a deceased bookstore owner, who loved his daughter, the books, and the town of Peasebrook.

Emilia’s mom died during her birth leaving Julius to raise her on his own. He wasn’t a savvy businessman as Emilia would discover following her father’s death. He gave away as much as he made in books that the debt left behind hung on Emilia’s heart like a millstone. The tension in the story comes from Ian Mendelip who sends his employee to seduce Emilia to sell the bookstore because the property would allow expansion. The charm of Emilia and the bookstore work its magic on Jackson. The books cause him to re-think his life.

How to Find Love in a Book Shop is You Got Mail meets Sleepless in Seattle. Love writes its own stories as the town of Peasebrook faces the past and the future, embraces change, and mends relationships. You can’t help, but smile in the end.

*Book given by publisher to review.