Friday, March 10, 2017

The Byzantine Mosaic and the God Who Will Not Be Denied

The castle at Ajloun is an impressive structure. It's a Muslim castle, built on Salahuddin's command in the early 12th century in an attempt to stop the expansion of Crusader territory. Two earthquakes have caused damage to it, but most of the structure is still standing.

It's built on the remains of a Byzantine monastery and an impressive tile mosaic is still visible in one of the naves. Five loaves and two fishes make up the design.

The longer I've pondered this, the more I'm moved by the irony of it. In the heart of a fortress designed to prevent the spread of Christianity is a floor mosaic that celebrates the miraculous power of the One they intended to stop.

It's a reminder to me that, no matter how we try, we can never outrun or escape the presence of God. We can deny Him all we want, but His truth remains. 

He's as real as the breath in our lungs, for He's the One who put that breath in us. 

He's as real as the stars, for He hung them in place and keeps them there.

"Where can I go from Thy Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Thy presence?
If I ascend to heaven, Thou art there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, Thou art there."
Psalm 139:7-8 nasb

Today, let's look for evidence of our Lord all around us. In nature. In our fellow man. In the circumstances of our day. Be sure to celebrate our God who is not just present, but inescapable.
I'm writing from Jordan, where I'm serving through intercession and encouragement with a Global Outreach team as we serve at a Worldwide Missions Conference. We'd appreciate your prayers. Team members will be arriving today and I'll be setting up a conference prayer room.
In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: Where the Moon Stopped
This ministry is so much more than a blog. Speaking. Teaching. Hands-on outreach. Connecting with and encouraging missionaries around the world. It's only possible because of the generosity of your support. 

Together, we're making progress, but help is still needed. (I don't get a salary until this ministry is funded) If God has called you to help, here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 or you can mail your check or money order to:
Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Where the Moon Stopped

I'm in the beautiful city of Ajloun, Jordan in the region of Gilead. I don't know what took me so long to think of this, but I finally looked in Scripture for a reference to Ajloun. To my surprise, I found that an amazing event happened here.

The sun stood still and the moon stopped.

Joshua had captured Ai and made peace with the inhabitants of Gibeon. When the king of Jerusalem heard the news, he joined up with four other kings to attack Gibeon. 

The men in the city sent word to Joshua that they were under attack and asked him for help.

He sought God on the matter, and He made a bold promise: "Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands; not one of them shall stand before you." (Joshua 10:8)

With a stunning victory assured, Joshua and his warriors marched all night to get there. 

They fought a ferocious battle, and God threw giant stones at the enemy soldiers. More died from the hailstones than from the hand of Joshua's army. 

If I understand this passage correctly, Joshua needed a little more time to finish annihilating the enemies, so he prayed a huge prayer.

"Let the sun stand still and stop the moon until we get this done." (That's the Leanna paraphrase of Joshua 10:12)

That's what happened. The sun stood still "for about a whole day" and the moon didn't rise.

That great miracle happened, according to Joshua 10:12, in the valley of Ajaloun. 

Every morning, as I look out at the valley below, I see the very place where the moon stopped and the sun stood still. The valley where God threw rocks at the enemies of His people.

I don't know if the stones were made of ice or rock, but they were enough to kill a man. As I look at the rocky soil and the huge rocks lying everywhere, I have to wonder... are these the stones that God threw?

We'd appreciate your prayers today. Our team is preparing for the missionary retreat that starts in a few days. 

I'm not asking for giant stones from the sky, but I am asking that the enemy would not be allowed to stand before us and that victory for the progress of the gospel will be assured. 

Thanks in advance for your prayers.

ps - it took so long to get wifi today that we had already had the first day of the retreat and so many good things happened. It's 11 pm here, so I'm sending this on and will update tomorrow.
also, i can't get wifi for long enough to sync phone photos with computer... so I'm using what I have :) 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Out of Sight, Out of Mind


God is working in this beautiful place. He's changing hearts and lives in ways I can't begin to describe. Those stories will be told, but I haven't compiled them into blog posts yet.

Yesterday was almost all prayer. We prayed with many hurting people and were witness to those beautiful moments when peace replaces fear, hope replaces doubt, and joy replaces despair. 

Last night, the oddest thing happened. 

I returned to my room at the conference center where I'm staying. The other rooms in my building had been occupied by another group, but they left yesterday. I was the only occupant remaining in the building.

It was quiet when I entered my room. I clicked on the remote for the heater, but nothing happened. "I'll take a hot shower and get warm before I go to bed," I thought. (It's crazy cold in Jordan.)

I turned on the tap to brush my teeth. Just a trickle of water came out of the faucet. I turned on the water in the shower. Only a trickle. Since a hot trickle seemed better than nothing, I let it run for a few minutes. Still cold water.

An early bedtime seemed my best option, so I changed into pj's and climbed into bed with my computer. I had internet for a while, and then I didn't.

My room is upstairs and at the end of the short hall. It's out of the way and has a beautiful view of the Jordan Valley from the tiny balcony. On a clear day, I can see all the way into Israel. I love this little room, so conveniences aren't necessary.

I turned out the light and went to bed.

This morning, I awakened early and started my routine. The trickle of water at the sink was enough to brush my teeth. The trickle of cold water in the shower was enough to wash my hair and have a quick wipe-off. 

No internet. No hot water in the dispenser.

I couldn't imagine what had happened, but none of those luxuries was essential. One of our missionaries said she's only had three hot showers in the last few months, so I count myself greatly blessed. I dressed and headed outside to wait for the driver.

While I was waiting, I ran into Layla, who supervises things at the center. "Oh, my goodness. I'd forgotten about you," she exclaimed. "What have you been doing?"

We had a good visit and she asked about the room. I told her about the water dispenser. It was unplugged but I couldn't get the plug back in place. 

"Oh, Leanna, I am so sorry. When the Koreans left, the workers forgot about you! They've turned everything off." 

We had a good laugh and she promised to restore services to my room today.

This morning, I've pondered the adage, "Out of sight, out of mind." I was only forgotten for a few hours, but it's all too easy for us to forget the people God brings into our lives. When you're the one who's forgotten, it can be a lonely place. 

In that same way, when our sin puts a wedge of separation between us and our heavenly Father, we can feel forgotten by God. The people of Israel experienced just such a time. "God has forgotten all about us," they complained. "He's forsaken us."

"That's not possible," Isaiah told the people, and shared the promise God gave.

"Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me." Isaiah 49:15-16 NASB

Here's the good news. We are never out of God's sight. 

We are never out of His thoughts. 

We are never forgotten. 

No matter how alone you feel, the reality is that you are not forgotten. You are not alone. 

We are not alone. 

We are inscribed in the scars on Jesus' nail-pierced hands, and those scars are all the reminder He needs.
Internet comes and goes. I'll post more when I have the chance. 
Tomorrow (3/9) we have a meeting with a Jordanian ministry at 9 am (our time) and will be joining the teachers from Ajloun Baptist School for training in Amman beginning at 11 am until 8:00 pm. (That's 1 am and 3 am - 1 pm Tupelo time) We'd appreciate your prayers.

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Three Mothers

Today, my friend, T, and I are going to the Christian School to teach English to the younger children. The theme this month is mothers, so I'm teaching about three famous mothers.(This is a little bit of the lesson I'm teaching today.) 

The first mother is the widow of Zarephath. You may remember that Elijah, the famous prophet, was born in Jordan, near the city of Ajloun, in Tishbe. After he announced to Ahab that no rain would come again until he said so, he ran for his life. First, he stayed by the brook at Cherebith and the ravens fed him. 

When the brook dried up, he went to Zarephath. As he entered the gate, he saw Widow Mom, who was gathering sticks for a fire.

"Would you give me a drink of water, please?" he asked her.

She was very nice and, even though there was a terrible drought and water was in scare supply, she nodded yes and turned to get it. 

"By the way, will you make me a little cake of bread, too?"

Widow-Mom turned around and gave him the Mom-look that every child knows. It means, "You have to be kidding me." (among other things) She just shook her head. "I have a handful of flour and just enough oil to make a little cake of bread. It's all I have. After that, no way to get more. My son and I are going to starve to death."

"You won't starve," Elijah said. "Make some bread for me first, then make bread for yourself. God will not let you run out."

Widow-Mom was very discouraged, but she had heard of Elijah's God before. She shrugged and said, "Well, okay. I'll give it a try," and went to work in the kitchen.

She made Elijah's bread and there was enough flour to make bread for her and her son. She made their bread, put it all in the oven, and started to clean the kitchen. To her surprise, there was still enough oil and flour to make more bread! 

During the entire drought, Elijah stayed with her and her son. The flour bowl never ran out.

Eunice was also a widow-mom. She had a little boy and they lived with her mother in a big city. There were lots of ways for a boy to get in trouble in that big city, but Eunice taught her son, Timothy, to love God and do what He says. 

She taught him good lessons every day about loving God, because she loved God herself. Timothy was a wise boy and he listened to his mama. He never did get in bad trouble.

When Timothy grew up, he became a famous preacher and remembered all the lessons his mama taught him. He loved God even more than his mama did.

Mrs. Lovegren was also a famous mama. She lived here in Ajloun at the Christian Center and helped at the Baptist School and the Baptist Hospital. Mrs. Lovegren loved God so much that His love spilled out from her to everyone around her.

If someone was poor, she would give them money. If someone was hungry, she would take them food. She welcomed everyone into her home. Christian. Muslim. Rich. Poor. Anyone was welcome. 

She would go visit and help anyone. Christian. Muslim. Rich. Poor.  She loved everyone.

Do you know why she loved everyone? Because Jesus had already loved her so much that He died and rose again for her sins.

If someone loves me that much, she thought, I should love Him, too. And so, she did.

She had two little daughters and she taught her daughters all about Jesus. About His goodness. About His love. Those two girls grew up to teach people about Jesus, too, because they let His love flow out of them!

It's a very simple lesson, because I like simple, and so do children. In fact, Jesus likes simple, too. 

This is His kind of simple: Don't be afraid. I've got this. Love everyone. Act like Me every chance you get. 

That's what He wants us to do, too. Whether we're sweet little children or big, grouchy grown ups, Jesus wants us to stop being afraid, stop hating, stop hoarding, and start loving, obeying, and giving.

Is that how we live? If not, what do we need to do about it?
ps - the picture above of my son and me. I'm not famous, but I'm a mother, too.

In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: When Love Prevails

This ministry is so much more than a blog. Speaking. Teaching. Hands-on outreach, literally around the world. Connecting with and encouraging missionaries around the world. It's only possible because of the generosity of your support. 

Together, we're making progress, but help is still needed. (I don't get a salary until this ministry is funded) If God has called you to help, here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 or you can mail your check or money order to:
Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

When Love Prevails

This is my fourth day in this beautiful, welcoming country. I'm here for a Global Outreach mission conference. Missionaries from around the world will be joining us in a few days. 

So much has happened, and I hope to share it with you, but, today, I'm still processing my first conversation from less than an hour after arrival. It might take a while to share all that I've learned.

The driver who picked me up from the airport and drove me to the Conference Center greeted me and welcomed me to his country, as all have.

As we drove, he shared information that stunned me. "We welcome everyone here. Me, I'm Muslim, but no matter. In Jordan, Christians and Muslims get along." 

I doubted it, until I saw it in action. 

Finally, yesterday, I asked someone. How could this be? The answer shocked me. "Our King has instructed everyone to be kind to the Christians."

Ponder that for a moment.

The King, a Muslim, has led the way in showing favor to the Christians.

The longer I've considered this, the deeper my realization that our King has also instructed us to be kind to those who are different from us. 

Be kind. Love all. 

It's the royal law of our King. (James 2:8) "Love others as you love yourself." 

Today, I learned something stunning. The Christians who started the Baptist Hospital here, as well as the ones who served here for the next few decades, honored the royal law of our King and lived it out in ways that could not be overlooked.

One of the woman I've met described Mrs. Lovegren, one of those early Christians. "She welcomed everyone. She loved Christians and Muslims and everyone. She served us, welcomed us into her home, visited us in our homes. She treated everyone the same." 

Here's the stunning truth. This faithful woman, Mrs. Lovegren, left Jordan more than thirty years ago. 

Ponder that a moment. Her legacy of unconditional love lives on three decades later. 

Will my legacy of love continue to make a difference three decades from now? I'm afraid not, but that's what our King intended. 

This evening, I visited a persecuted church. As it turns out, there isn't harmony and love in every situation. Like in the body of Christ, not everyone obeys the direction of their king. 

The pastor at that church, who has had numerous break-ins at his home and everything he owned stolen on more than one occasion, preached an amazing sermon tonight on the importance of loving your enemies and doing good to them. The people of his little church are trying to be the light in the darkness. 

Turn the other cheek. Love the unlovely. Do good to those who harm you. I'm not sure I could do it, but I've seen a small band of believers who not only believe they should love and forgive as Christ did, they're determined to do it. 

Loving our enemies isn't easy. I know that. 

It's also not optional.

The beautiful people here have given me a living, breathing picture of the royal law of our King in action, and I understand that I, too, must love as Christ loved, for it is in that divine kind of loving that true discipleship begins.

"Love never fails... These three remain: faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:8,13 

The Welcome

I’ve heard three beautiful words over and over again. “Welcome to our country.”  

I didn’t think much about those words when we arrived in this beautiful country and the airline stewardess welcomed us.  Those words were probably memorized rote, or so I assumed.

Over the last few days, an unexpected truth has become clear. They mean it.

When I meet people for the first time, those three sweet words are almost always spoken. Welcome to our country. 

What’s shocked me about their greeting is that it’s clearly more than words. I’ve been welcomed into their homes as a treasured guest. 

“Come, come. Let’s have tea.” 

Some days, I’m overwhelmed by the breadth of hospitality. No one is in too big a hurry to stop for a few moments, brew a pot of tea, and savor the warm, sweet liquid with whomever is available. 

Supervisors with employees. Family with strangers. No one is left out.

That’s how heaven will be, of course. We’ll all be family, whether we’ve known each other on earth or not. We’ll all take the time to share a few moments together, savor sweet stories of our Savior, and enjoy the Presence.

I want to take this amazing bit of hospitality home with me. I want to stop rushing and doing long enough to slow down and be. To welcome those around me, particularly those who are strangers. 

I want to be the one who says, Welcome to my bit of the world. I’m glad you’re here.” 

Most of all, I want to be the one who really means it.

Even more important, though, I want to be the one who welcomes people to the place of my Father. I want to be the one who says, "Come, come. Let's take a moment to visit and let me introduce you to the One I love the most."

It will never happen from a heart of busyness, but only from a Mary-heart of peace and stillness. 

At home, I thought I had a heart of stillness. In this place, I'm finding I don't even know what that means. Today, I invite you to join me in seeking our Lord and the place of stillness, in which the heart of prayer resides.

"Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10