Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Reciprocal Blessing That Took My Breath Away

If you read the blog yesterday, you know that I start missionary orientation and training with Global Outreach on Monday (two days from now). 

I pondered that blog post for weeks. What was most important to say? How could I communicate the certainty of following God into such an uncertain position? I struggled. I emailed people at Global for suggestions. 

Rory Tyer suggested I tell about the "reciprocal blessings" I'd experienced so far. I couldn't fit it all in yesterday, so I'm sharing them today.

I love that phrase. Reciprocal blessings. That's how it's been, although it seems to me that the blessings have been all mine. 

When I volunteered in the prayer room at the Global Outreach missions conference, I met missionaries from around the world who are using incredibly creative ways to share the gospel in places that would otherwise be closed to Christ. Dance studios. Art galleries. The possibilities were endless, and they prompted me to consider ways I could become more creative in sharing Christ, too.

Months ago, Rory asked me to help with a project he'd been pondering. Global considers saying thank you a vital part of their partnership with donors, but they wanted to do more. They wanted someone to help call those who had partnered financially with their missionaries and "give back" by offering to pray for their needs. They wanted to make it clear that they weren't asking for anything. 

It was a "sacrifice of thanksgiving", but I didn't see that at the time. I said no. Well, that wasn't the word I used, but it was the word in my heart. There was no way I was going to call a stranger and try to talk to them. No matter how much prayer we were going to offer.

It took considerable work in my heart to trust enough to try it. When I did, the experience nearly blew my socks off. 

I spent a week's worth of mornings making calls and praying with good people who love Jesus and help with His mission. I was awkward and probably sounded like a telemarketer, but I learned as I went along. 

The needs were incredible. New jobs. Personal illness. Impending biopsies. Family problems. Prodigal children. More than once, my call came just at the right time. We had church on the phone as we wept and prayed together. 

Some days, it was all I could do to speak aloud through my tears. As I prayed with strangers, I came to see them as family I hadn't met yet. 

One morning, I announced, "I'm not going to cry today." I was wrong, but it was the sweetest morning ever. One older lady said, "Wow. This is a God-moment for me." It was a God-moment for me, too.

The experience showed me how hungry people are for someone to care about their deepest needs. It made me more open, more ready to reach out to those I don't know yet. 

The Home Office seemed like a big, intimidating place to me, full of professionals who know far more about sharing Christ than I ever will. I wasn't sure this silver-haired woman from a tiny Mississippi town would fit in. They had gone around the world to share Christ. All I had done was send out stories from the comfort of my home.

As I sat around the table with the staff at morning devotions, I found people who loved Jesus, just like me. People with needs and concerns no less than my own. People who loved me first and made it easy to love them back. They welcomed me with open arms. Included me. By the end of the week, I wanted to be just like them.

I'm not sure how much I've blessed Global, but the blessings I've received already have been more than I ever expected. It's one of the reasons I'm excited about what comes next. 

I know not every moment will be joy and gladness, but last week, there were moments that took my breath away. I want more of those, and I believe I'll have them.

I'm telling you all this to say that you don't have to be "special" to share the love of Jesus with people who need Him. You just have to be willing. 

Not everyone can dance or draw or paint. Not everyone can orchestrate complex travel schedules or manage the finances of a major ministry. Not everyone can travel to the most remote places on the globe, but we can all do something. And we should.

Today, think about the gifts God has placed in you. How can He use them to help a hurting world? Why not open your hands and place those gifts in the Hand of The One who gave them to you. Be the hands and feet of Jesus and let Him change the world through you.

The "reciprocal blessing" you receive might just take your breath away. 

"...remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" Acts 20:35 esv
Tomorrow, my good friend, Freda Bush will be our guest blogger. She's written about her involvement in a ministry that's been quietly making a difference for two decades. It's one worth knowing about. Be sure to watch for her article.

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: My Ever-changing Life is About To Change Again

Here's the link to the worldwide prayer guide: The Prayer List 

#moreblessedtogive #reciprocalblessing #globaloutreach 

Friday, August 5, 2016

My Ever-changing Life is About to Change Again

Last summer, Barbara Lawhon called me to ask if I would pray about speaking at a women's luncheon at her church. I had no idea how God would use that simple phone call to radically change my life. 

I ended up speaking at the luncheon in October. After I spoke, Mike Russell, who had filmed a promo clip and handled my slides and sound, mentioned an upcoming Global Outreach missions conference. I had been a Global Outreach summer missionary to Honduras several decades earlier, and the ministry had always held a soft spot in my heart.

"Who's manning your prayer room?" I asked. 

The conversation went from there. Those who know me well won't be surprised that I offered to help. 

Along the way, I met Steadman Harrison, the CEO of Global, and Rory Tyer, the VP of marketing. There was instant rapport, and I found them to be kindred spirits. Under their leadership, there's a fresh wind at Global, and God's doing exciting things. 

Before long, I began to attend Hope Church. It turned out that Steadman and his family attended there, too. One Sunday, Steadman welcomed me and told me about a new Sunday School class he'd be teaching on Mission Mindset. He invited me to attend. 

I smiled and made a noncommittal reply. I had a class I enjoyed already. There was no way I was leaving the class I'd just joined.

Before Mission Mindset began, however, I realized that the blog had thousands more views per week than I had realized. Who knew Google+ counted views separately from Blogger? Not me. 

I saw those thousands and thought, "Maybe God is doing something more than I realized." Instantly, the Mission Mindset class came to mind.

I waited weeks before I finally gave in and agreed to attend. (I'm on furlough from my "real" Sunday School.) That class rocked my comfortable world. 

I began to see that everyone in our class was on mission for the cause of Christ, but there was a big difference. They were associated with a mission-sending organization of some kind. I, instead, was the Lone Ranger. Well, the Lone Ranger before Tonto. 

I remember the moment so vividly. We'd introduced ourselves by telling about the organizations with which we volunteered. When it was my turn, I looked around the room and realized I was just with me. Well, me and God. I teared up and said, "I'm the only one in this room without a group."

Steadman Harrison leaned forward and said words that changed my life. "You are, but you don't have to be. I've already told you we'd like to partner with you."

And he had. But it had been just God and me for so long, that I was afraid Global Outreach would "get in the way" of God. 

I've struggled about my decision. Steadman and Rory have had the patience of God Himself with me.

One day, we chatted at the Global office about the potential partnership. It made the most sense in the world. "Yes," I said. I'd do it. I walked out to my car with an application in my hand and a long list of questions in my pocket.

Unanswered questions.

I sat in my car, looked at the thick application and the list of unanswered questions, and cried. I couldn't remember having to fill out an application before. God had always used my little lists of questions as confirmation. This time, everything looked different. 

I was missing the one thing that had made every other job transition easy. Confirmation. I needed a clear YES from God.

I struggled for days, couldn't get my yes, and finally, one Friday morning, I emailed Steadman and Rory. I didn't have a yes, so I couldn't go forward without it. They agreed to pray for me.

This still seems unbelievable, but the following Sunday (yes, 48 hours later), Pastor Scooter announced a new sermon series. Next Steps. To begin, he suggested we bow our heads and pray for God to reveal our next step. 

I bowed my head, along with everyone else in the room. "What's my next step, Lord?" The words weren't even completely prayed before I heard "Global" so clear in my heart that I nearly fell out of my chair. 

I wanted to jump straight up and shout, "Why didn't you tell me this on Friday before I sent that email???" But I didn't. Instead, I thanked Him, cried, and rejoiced that I'd finally heard a word from God.

I spent a long time with Pastor Scooter later that week, and that conversation confirmed what I'd heard on Sunday. Global Outreach is my next step.

I've had a jillion questions about how the partnership will look. What I'll do that's different from what I'm doing now. How I'll help Global. How Global will help me.

What I know for sure is that Global is my next step, and God is leading. This is truly a leap of faith. My Heavenly Father knows everything He has planned from here, but I don't. At least not yet. 

I'll be a "digital missionary". If you've read my blog or participated in the Hosea study, that won't be a surprise. I'll do what I'm already doing, and do more of it. I'll work to expand my reach to further the cause of Christ.

As a digital missionary, I won't have to move. I'll still live right here in Blue Springs. 

Will I travel some? Probably so. For a good while now, you've seen me write about Nigeria and refer to the people there as "my people". One day, I hope to go there and serve on a short-term mission project, but I have no plans to move there. 

Will I return to the practice of medicine? I doubt it, though my continuing medical education is up to date and I'm still renewing my license every year. Those years in medicine are not wasted. They've shaped me in ways I can hardly understand. I'll always be a physician. Medicine will always be a part of my identity. Nothing will change that.

The reality is that I can't do everything at once anymore. I never could, of course, but there was a time when I (foolishly) thought I might. If I return to practicing medicine, there's no way I can continue the digital outreach that now reaches literally around the world. 

It's been a hard choice, but I'm sure of my decision. It's right. 

Global provides "Member Care" for their missionaries, and they'll do that for me, too. It includes everything from assistance with finances (a way for partners to give tax-deductible support with 100% passthrough),to pastoral care, spiritual accountability, prayer support, and a large family/network of missionaries worldwide. 

The Bible studies will still be free, but you'll have the opportunity to partner with me by making a donation when you participate in a study. There'll be books for sale to raise money for the ministry, and I hope you'll partner with me by buying them. There'll be a donate button on the blog (sometime in the next few weeks) if you're so moved by God. 

I'm not a salesman and I'm not good at asking for anything. I've lived for the last two years (since I left medicine) on my savings, but that won't last forever. I haven't made a penny from the blog so far. I did make a little over four dollars last month from online book sales. It's not a bonanza, but it was almost enough to buy a loaf of gluten-free bread. Almost. 

What I've done for years is tell God my needs and trust Him to provide. He's never let me down. He never will. When I have a need in the coming years, I'll ask God. If He prompts you to help, I hope you'll follow His lead. I might press you to follow Jesus more closely, but I won't press you to give. 

What I will need the most is what I'm trusting you to provide. Prayer support. This has been a hard decision and I know my life will change. I'm just not sure how yet. I'm counting on you to pray me through.

One thing I am sure of is that God has the plan and it's a good one. Jeremiah 29:11 is my "life verse", and I'm depending on it's promise now, more than ever.

"I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11 nasb

Next Monday, I'll begin a week of Missionary Orientation and Training. I'm truly excited about this next step, and I hope you'll rejoice along with me.

When I was just a girl, I read Isaiah's words and prayed along with him. "Here am I, Lord. Send me." (Isaiah 6:8) It's taken a long time, but that's exactly what He's doing now. Sending me.
Tomorrow's blog is about some of the blessings I've already received from volunteering with Global, so be sure to check back.

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Only One Who Could 

Here's the link to the worldwide prayer guide: The Prayer List

#nextstep #globaloutreach #digitalmissionary

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Only One Who Could

Yesterday, I wrote about Jeremiah's search through the streets of Jerusalem for one righteous man, and the difference one life could have made. Jeremiah tells us there was no one to be found who could satisfy the simple requirement of God: someone who "does justice and seeks truth". If there had been a single, solitary life of obedience, God would have pardoned, but there was none. 

None was righteous, except God Himself. 

Something had to be done, so God did it. 

He pulled on a coat of flesh, and came down to do what no mere human could do. He bought His own pardon by the justice and truth of His Son, as He walked the streets of Jerusalem. All were pardoned because of the One.

The magnitude of His grace and mercy takes my breath away.

We serve a loving, forgiving God who went to the uttermost limit of love to save His people. To save me. To save you.

He bought my pardon, our pardon, with His own sacrifice. Put your name in that sentence and ponder the enormity of His gift today. He loves us so very much. He loves you so very much.

He purchased our forgiveness with His own blood, and, when we accept His Son, we are washed white as snow. We are purchased to live in such a way that we do justice and seek truth. In the mysterious grace of God, because of Christ's righteousness, He can use us to make a difference in the world in which we live. 

If we are willing.

The hard work of righteousness has already been done by Jesus. Our part is simple surrender to His leading. He will gladly do the rest, so today, grab hold of that enormous, amazing grace. Let God work through your hands and feet to love a world that is trapped in hurt and darkness. 

Because of Him, we, too, can help change a city, a nation, a world. That, dear ones, is what grace can do.

"But God demonstrates His love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8 niv
Be sure to check back tomorrow. I'm writing about a big change coming up.

In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: The Difference One Life Can Make
Here's a link to a prayer guide for Tupelo: Tupelo: Turning Tragedy into Triumph
Here's a link to the worldwide prayer guide: The Prayer List 
#onlyJesus #betheone 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Difference One Life Can Make

It's easy to think that one person can't make much of a difference, but I read a verse yesterday in Jeremiah that paints a very different picture. We can have a bigger impact than we ever imagined.

God told Jeremiah to search through the streets of Jerusalem, looking for a righteous man. 

"If there is one who does justice, who seeks truth, then I will pardon her." Jeremiah 5:1 nasb

At the time that was written, people in Jerusalem were worshipping idols, including burning babies alive as an offering to Molech. The immorality rivaled our own. Sin and false religion were rampant. They had more "fake church" than real worship. 

The presence of just one man who did justice (mishpat) and sought truth could have ushered in pardon for the entire city of Jerusalem, despite their sin. 

What great love God has for His people that He would be willing to forgive to the uttermost. To pardon the unpardonable. To accept the righteousness of one for all. Yet there was not one who did justice, who sought truth.

Just one could have made a difference, but there was none. 

The prophets had already spoken truth to the people of Jerusalem, but they ignored them. Everyone did whatever they wanted. If Jeremiah had said, "It will only take one to save you," would they have changed their hearts and ways? Maybe, but, by then, it would have been too late. 

The time to live a righteous life was before God sent Jeremiah to search for one.

I have to wonder what God thinks when He looks at us. Would He hold off judgment if He found one among us who sincerely did justice and sought truth with their whole heart? 

How much of an impact could we make, if we were willing to be the one? 

In a world where everyone else was doing wrong, would you be willing to be the one who did right? Would I? 

Would we be willing to live as God commands if we knew we could save a city by our right choices? 

We will never know just how big a difference we could make, if we never try. So let us step up and live as Christ commanded. Let us love our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. Let us love our neighbor as ourselves.

Let's live life God's way, and watch to see how God can use us. There may be a city standing on the cusp between judgment and pardon, waiting on our lives to decide their future. 

"He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" Micah 6:8 esv

In case you missed it, here's yesterday's post:Tupelo: Turning Tragedy Into Triumph
Here the link to the worldwide prayer guide: The Prayer List 
#betheone #justice #righteousness

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Tupelo: Turning Tragedy into Triumph

I wanted to find words that would give comfort, help us find our way through, help us heal in the aftermath of Mr. Shumpert's death. To help black and white alike.  Everything I considered seemed shallow in the midst of such tragedy, pain, fear, anger. 

Last night, I prayed again for words that would heal, and John 15:13 came to mind.

"Greater love hath no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13 esv

As I read those words over again, I was reminded that, in some circumstances, the only One who can make sense of it, make triumph from tragedy, is Jesus. He gave His life to transform ours.

Antwun Shumpert was 37 years old when he died. He was the baby of the family, a husband and father of five children, ranging in age from 3 to 14. He was unemployed but reports reveal that he had recently been offered a job at Wal-Mart, which he didn't live to start. 

I tried to find his obituary today, but there isn't one. What's available is a brief note of his death with the comment, "arrangements are incomplete and will be announced later." I know the facts about his life because I've scoured newspaper articles to find them.

Mr. Shumpert didn't give his life willingly, but his death has revealed things I had no idea still existed in 2016. Prejudice is alive and well, on both sides of the racial divide. There's anger, fear, and hate in both races. 

It seems crazy to me. All this emotion over the amount of pigment in our skin? Really? Our hearts are the same color. Once you peel off the skin layer, there is nothing different about our bodies. Underneath that protective, divisive covering, black bodies are just like white bodies.  

We are a broken, divided people, and only the love of Jesus can heal us. Only His love can unite us, and that's exactly what Jesus intended to do.

If you've read John 17, you know that, in the Garden of Gethsemane the last night of His pre-crucifixion life, Jesus prayed for the followers who would come later. He prayed specifically that we would be one, with such love and unity that the world would recognize Him in us. 

We haven't reached that level of unity yet. We're not even close.

Now that Antwun Shumpert's death has revealed our hearts, we have three choices:

1. We can stay the same, allow the anger, fear, and hate to continue. That doesn't seem like an idea that would please Jesus, does it?

2. We can allow the anger, fear, and hate to increase, allow our divide to deepen. That's definitely not an idea that would please Jesus.

3. We can allow Antwun Shumpert's death to make a difference. We can allow the unveiling of our attitudes and prejudices  to spur us to forgiveness, acceptance, and love. We can choose to let his death bring unity. I think it's the option Jesus most wants to see, because He is love and He prayed for unity.

I've wanted to do something for the Shumpert family that conveys how sorry I am about their loss, but I haven't known what to do or how it would be received. Fear has constrained me, too. 

If I had lost my son in the way his mama lost hers, I'd want answers, but even more, I'd want to know that his life counted for something that mattered, that his death made a difference.

Antwun Shumpert's death can make a difference, if we are willing to let it. And we can. I pray we will.

Today, we can ask God to reveal our hearts the way He sees them. To reveal our prejudice, our anger, our hate, no matter what color our skin. Today, we can ask the God who loves both races equally to forgive us and bring healing and revival to our community, our state, our nation. If we ask Him, I believe He will.

So, in the name of Jesus, let's choose to be done with all this racial divisiveness. Let's look each other in the eye and greet our fellow humans, no matter our skin color. Let's talk to each other. Let's apologize for our heart attitudes and ask for forgiveness. Let's learn to love. 

When we do, God will unite us in ways we never imagined. He will bring triumph from tragedy and it will be the greatest gift imaginable.

A family grieves for the one they love. How much better it would be if, one day, they could see God's love in all of us because Mr. Shumpert's death made a difference.

Let's not waste this tragedy. Let's let the love of Christ transform us and make us one.

There's a community-wide prayer rally at BancorpSouth center tomorrow night (August 3, 2016) at 7 pm. I hope you'll join us. It's a good place for healing to begin. 

"I  do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one..." John 17:20-21 esv
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Ice Cream Church

Here's the link to the world prayer guide: The Prayer List 

#tupelo #tragedytotriumph #antwunshumpert

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Ice Cream Church

"We're gonna make homemade ice cream this afternoon," my friends told me after Sunday School. "Would you and Sam like to come have some?" 

"Yes, we would," I told them. Sam loves ice cream. If I were as thin as he is, I'd eat ice cream every day. Just like he does. I wouldn't be as thin as he is for long, though.

Over the course of the afternoon, the ice cream plan evolved. We'd combine our lunch leftovers and have dinner together, too. 

Sam watched as I put the peas and pork into transportable containers. He looked confused.

"If we're eating ice cream at 6:00, how're we gonna make it to church on time?" 

"We don't usually have a service on Sunday night, Sam. This is what we'll do instead of a church service in the building."

"Ice cream is church?" Sam looked confused.

"In a way. In the first century, the churches met in homes. They loved each other and cared for each other in a way that stunned the world. It drew people to Jesus. 

Sometimes, we gather in homes and have a meal together just like they did. We'll share what God has done and is doing. We might not have a devotional talk, but it's still church, because we're the church."

"I think I'm gonna like ice-cream church." He grinned.

Ice-cream church. I laughed, but he was right. 

That evening, we ate our combined dinner, then sat around the table with bowls of ice cream. We shared our lives and our victories, our concerns and our triumphs. It was the church being the church, and it was a beautiful thing.

It had been a long, hard week. I'd volunteered at Global Outreach every morning last week. I'd finished Hosea in the afternoon. The emotion of the weekend's protests had combined with the already overwhelming week, and I was drained. Happy with what God had done, but drained. 

I left ice-cream church in a better frame of mind. I was still tired, but I'd shared my load with friends who understood it, and they'd done the same. All our loads had been lightened a bit.

As the body of Christ, we're not just parts of the body, we're family. When we function as a family, we're at our best. Last night, I was reminded of that all over again.

As we begin this new week, let's do the things the early church did. Let's stop in the midst of our busy lives long enough to share a meal and pray together with at least a few members of our family of faith. Let's do it with glad and sincere hearts, just like those first followers did. 

A meal together. It's such a simple thing, but God used it in a powerful way to draw people to Him more than 2,000 years ago. I think He might use it again. Let's give it a try. 

"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles... They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." Acts 2:42-43, 46-47 NIV

In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: Tupelo Thankful

Here's the link to the world-wide prayer guide: The Prayer List 

photo courtesy of

#church #icecreamchurch #cellgroup 

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Tupelo Thankful

I grew up in the turbulent 1960's and early 1970's. The race riots of the 1960's are still fresh in my mind. Although I didn't see those death-filled riots personally, Walter Cronkite told us about them every evening. The death counts. The property destruction. "And that's the way it is," he'd tell us, and I believed him.

It was worse after Martin Luther King was assassinated. Our nation was filled with anger and violence that continued for years. 

My son was born in the year of the LA riots, following the death of Rodney King. Even after more than two decades, when I think of Los Angeles, I think of violence, anger, and destruction.

The deaths of Timothy Thomas, Freddie Gray, and Michael Brown triggered more recent rioting. Cincinnati, Baltimore, and Ferguson are still recovering. To a lesser extent, even Los Angeles is still recovering.

Terrible things can happen, and they do. 

When I was in high school, a mini-riot occurred at a basketball game. That night is still vivid in mind. Tensions had been high. The fighting began after one smart aleck comment too many. It was that fast. One guy spoke. The second one replied (and smirked) and the first guy came up swinging. It seemed as if every able-bodied guy in the packed gym poured onto the gym floor to join the fight.

Riots erupt just that quickly. When two opposing parties collide, emotions can overwhelm common sense and terrible things can happen. 

That was my fear with the protests scheduled for yesterday. With either party demonstrating alone, there would not have been nearly as much concern (at least on my part). All factors together, though, made for a potential powder keg.

But Tupelo. 

Tupelo did not erupt in violence. Other than some shouting of slogans and a fist fight that involved an outsider, every second of the day was peaceful. The local protestors conducted themselves with dignity and quiet spirits. 

Some would say Tupelo's just different. We're better. We're calmer.

Tupelo may well be different from other towns, but the humans in Tupelo and the surrounding areas are still human, with human emotions and human responses. 

We're not peaceful and happy today because we're good. We could just as easily be grieving and picking up the pieces. 

We have peace today because The Prince of Peace gave it to us. 

More than fifteen thousand people viewed the prayer guide and prayed. Many thousands more prayed on their own. People were literally on their knees and on their faces praying Friday night and all day yesterday. People humbled themselves, repented, and begged God for peace, and He gave it.

We saw 2 Chronicles 7:14 played out before our eyes yesterday in living color, and I hope we never forget it, never stop saying thank you.

Today is not a day for celebrating the "goodness" of Tupelo (although it's a great city). Today is a day for thanking God and celebrating His grace and goodness.

In the early years of Israel, the great victories of God were celebrated with feasting and dancing and songs. Today, we, too, have a great victory to celebrate, so have a wonderful day as you feast, and sing, and even dance with rejoicing for the goodness of God and His precious gift of peace.

Say thank you, children of God, for HE DID IT.

"It is time to celebrate, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." Nehemiah 8:10 

"If My people who are called by My name, humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14 esv
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Last Minute Prayers of Desperation for Tupelo 
Friday's post link is here: Before Magellan Here's a link to the worldwide prayer guide: The Prayer List 
#prayfortupelo #gratefulheart #thanksgiving