Peace Robber

Monday, March 31, 2008

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." - John 10:10

Evening times in our home have not been the most fun lately. What should be a time of togetherness for the few hours we have each day, quickly becomes a war zone. Shouting, fighting, and anger flare up like fireworks on the fourth of July. It's not a pretty sight to say the least.

I began to pray that God would bring calmness over our home during this time, but as the days continued in chaos I wondered if my prayers were only hitting the ceiling. In frustration I decided not to pray for calmness but for God to get to the root of the problem - if the devil was instigating these stressful evenings, help us not fall trap to them. But to simply blame the devil for all our problems isn't really all that fair. I mean he may have set the trap, but we chose to walk in it.

So I decided to look hard at the root of the problem for me. What was causing me to lose my peace every evening? After much soul-searching and reflection, I came up with 4 things that I knew robbed me of my peace.

1. Busy-ness. For a woman who has nothing to do in China, my days seem to fill up quickly. The worst days are those when I try to cram everything into the smallest amount of time. Instead of pacing myself carefully, I go from activity to activity with no time to stop and breathe. When the day is done I'm a train wreck and sure to bulldoze anyone who gets in my way. I have to be more aware of my time and my limits so that I don't overbook myself. Satan may tempt me with many opportunities to occupy my time, I just don't have to take him up on his offer. I need to slow down and schedule carefully so that busy-ness doesn't overtake me or my entire day. "Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil." - Ephesians 5:15-16

2. Fatigue. Obviously fatigue is the result of busy-ness. But sometimes my fatigue comes from poor sleep, poor eating, etc. Regardless of the source, when I am tired you just don't want to be around me. So I have to be aware of what is draining me and the times when I feel the most tired. Then I have to make active decisions that will help me overcome the fatigue. One thing I've noticed is that I don't drink enough water and feel sluggish in the late afternoons. I've decided to be more purposeful to eat and drink better at that time so I can make it though the rest of our evening with a better attitude and strength. I'm hoping that little changes like this will make a big difference with my family in the evenings.

3. Unrealistic expectations. I am the worst at expecting the utmost out of my family. I expect them to behave a certain way and do things the way I think they should be done. When they don't fulfill my expectations, I usually lose it and that adds to our friction. I think it's my perfectionist tendencies in overdrive. I have to be very careful to only expect highly of myself (and even that is not always healthy) and not require things of my husband or children they can't possibly meet. Realizing this has really helped me and will hopefully bring much more peace and love into our home.

4. Selfishness. I am selfish, I'll admit it. I like my quiet, my space, and my time to myself. When I am in the middle of a project and I get interrupted I am not all that nice. I call it tunnel vision. God calls it selfishness. I have to make a conscious effort to stop what I'm doing and focus on my family and their needs. That isn't always easy for me, a busy-body doer. To me, there is always something that needs to be done and it has to be done right away or else! Now that I'm taking this writing course, I have to purposefully close my office door at 3 o'clock and prepare for my family and our evenings together. Giving myself this time to forget about what I was working on helps me put my focus on our evening and keeps my selfishness under control. It's like turning a switch from me time to family time. It isn't always easy, but I'm hoping we'll see the difference in our time together because I've quit putting myself first.

I'm not sure what life is like at your house, but I know that ours isn't what it should be. I know that all four of us are responsible for the environment in our home, but knowing what sets me off has helped me to be more patient, loving and kind when everyone else may still have their moments. Sometimes it takes reflection and soul searching to get to the root of the problem you have. It may not be a pretty sight, but the reward will pay big dividends if you are willing to try. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes, you just have to dig deep to find it.

Through divine binoculars...continued

Friday, March 28, 2008

My lessons in the Serengeti weren't just focused on the predators, as captivating as they were. I learned a lot from both animal and human prey that added to my understanding of how I am to live among those who want to devour me.

Standing guard with others
Driving through the endless plains I couldn't understand why the wildebeests and zebras were always together. I thought only wildebeests made the annual migration, but soon learned that zebras accompanied them on this journey as well. Naturally curious I had to ask, why were these particular animals put together? In my opinion they seemed to be a most unlikely couple. The answer, however, was survival common sense: wildebeests, who can smell but can't see, pair up with zebras, who have keen eyesight but lack strong smelling abilities. This tag team operation helps them survive the continual attacks from their predators. Only God could ordain such an amazing combination! Fortunately for us, His beloved children, He does the same.

When I am faced with a spiritual attack I know that I am not alone. God has promised that He will always be with me, that He will never forsake me. He has also placed in my life relationships that balance me in areas that I lack abilities, skills, or resources. God knows everything I need and richly supplies! Yet the greatest gift He has poured out on me is a group of women who go to battle for me in prayer. Like zebras, who huddle up at night for protection, these six women blanket me in prayer, whether I ask for it or not. This has been such a blessing in my life, especially when I have a hard time asking for prayer. But I have realized that the predator who wants to take me down is powerful and I have to be just as strong. On my own I can't fight him, but with the help of those who love and support me, there is little he can do.

Unlikely teachers
The African population is made up largely by tribal families. Everyone belongs to a tribe. In the Serengeti the Maasai tribe dominates as the largest and most powerful group. Their presence is apparent, their traditions sacred, and their wisdom insightful. Taking the time to observe them was like mining for treasure and what I discovered was as rich as gold.

Before the plane even landed I noticed the Maasai homes. There was something interesting about the way they were set-up. Surrounding each area of homes was a distinct border. From the plane I could not see what the hedges were made of, but there was no doubt they were there for a reason.

As we drove along and observed the huts, my guide, Albert, informed us that the borders that wrapped around the Maasai homes were for protection from the predators. Made of thorny bushes, or thick plants, this hedge made it difficult for animals to penetrate, thus providing them with the safety they needed. It was a wonderful reminder to me that I need to make sure I live securely in the refuge God has around me. Living with borders that are broken down or neglected, gives the enemy easy access to me and opportunity to set up his traps. Staying grounded and rooted in God's Word, living within the boundaries and limits He has set for my life and for my good, and relying on Him as my strong tower in each and every situation, will help keep me out of the enemy's reach. Who knew a simple hedge could teach so much?

Although we saw their houses from afar, I had yet to actually observe a Maasai tribe member. Albert said we could identify the Maasai easily. They always wore red tunics and carried a knife or spear with them. Sure enough, amongst all the people, clothes, and colors, I knew a Maasai when I saw one. There were just as he said they would be. But it wasn't their appearance that captivated me. When I asked Albert why they wore red, he told me that the red color scared the predators away. Instantly my mind began applying this to spiritual truth.

The red reminded me of Christ and His blood, and all that is ours through His death. When I choose to clothe myself in Him and His power (Eph 1:18-20), then Satan has no ground against me, just as the predators have no ground against the Maasai. It is more than I can think of...the power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power living in me and available to me to fight the enemy. Why then do I live as a victim rather than a victor? When I allow that truth to penetrate my heart and mind, then there is nothing that can come against me.

The knife/spear that the Maasai carry brought to mind the Sword of the Spirit, that is, the Word of God, our only offensive weapon against the devil's schemes (Eph. 6:17). But like the Maasai, I must carry it with me at all times so that I can be prepared when I am bombarded with lies, doubts, and fears. I have to stop making excuses (like I'm too old to remember or memorize Scripture!) and hide the Word in my heart. If I put my mind to it, I'm sure it will be a worthwhile endeavor.

My trip to Africa was more than a search and find for animals in the wild. It was a journey into the spiritual battles that rage around us, a discovery of the enemy's skill, and insight into the wisdom of the prey on how to live among those who want to devour them. Above all, it was a time of learning that will stay with me for a very long time.

Through divine binoculars

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Whenever I travel, I always pray that God will use the journey to teach me spiritual lessons. There have been many times that He's answered that prayer. My most recent trip to Africa was one of those times.

One of my greatest desires during our safari was to see a predator attack and devour its prey. I'm not normally a violent person, but I thought that it would be thrilling to watch. Plus, I hoped it would be a vivid reminder for me as a Christian when I was faced with a spiritual attack of my own. As much as I searched for it, I never witnessed a deadly attack. Needless to say, I was disappointed, but I realized that God's lesson for me was not in the attack itself. The lesson was in the understanding of how the predator operates and the wisdom of the prey to defend itself.

Where the prey is, so is the predator
We were blessed to be able to see many predators, including lions, cheetahs, and hyenas. One of the first things I noticed about these crafty creatures is how well they study their prey. They spend large amounts of time just observing the prey's activities. They know their victims habits and patterns of movement, following them wherever they go. One afternoon as we drove through the Serengeti I noticed it was quite barren. I asked our guide where all the predators were. He told me that since the annual wildebeest and zebra migration was still south of the area, that's where the predators were. I couldn't help but think of those verses in Job and Peter that talked about Satan, our enemy, prowling back and forth through the earth looking for someone to devour. At that moment those verses became real to me. Knowing that the enemy is actively pursuing me, and studying my patterns of behavior in order to take me down made me more aware of the spiritual battle that surrounds me.

Patience is a predator's virtue
One reason I never witnessed a take-down of any kind was because it takes a long time for it to come to pass. Our first cheetah encounter was that of a mother and her 4 cubs, who had spotted some gazelles grazing a short distance away. We knew they wanted to make them the main course of their evening dinner so we waited. And waited. After 25 minutes they had only moved a few inches closer to them. I knew this would take some time but with 2 antsy children in the jeep, time was not on my side. I left that potential attack with great disappointment, but a little wiser as well. A predator will stalk its prey with diligent patience so as to guarantee a successful capture. They are in no hurry when the prey is in sight. The same is true for us. Like the cheetah who watched from the sidelines, the devil will wait for one of God's children to fall, trip, or tumble into a trap he has set. He wants to make sure the net falls just right so there is no chance of escape and he'll wait for as long as it takes.

Favoring the young and the weak
We are an animal loving family so it was hard to pass by the carcasses lying around everywhere. It was even harder to watch the vultures rip them apart and fight over them. But the one thing that struck me was how small the remains were. When I mentioned my observation to our guide, he explained the obvious -- the predators go after the young babies and the weaker animals because they are easier to take down. Their lack of experience in an attack or their simple naivete make them a favorite of the predators. This really struck a chord with me. I knew then and there that if I was going to win the spiritual battles that were raging around me I needed to GROW UP spiritually. I needed to become armed and dangerous to fight the predator who pursued me daily. That meant knowing the Word better, clothing myself in God's armor, and growing a dependence on God like never before. I did not want to be an easy kill for Satan; I was going to be a strong adversary who would not go easily.

Most of the lessons God showed me on my safari I already knew, but I think looking at them through divine binoculars made them more real and personal. Thankfully, God didn't just leave me with only half the learning. The rest of the lessons came from observations of the prey. I'll share those with you next time.....

Promised Story

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Well, here is the rest of the story I promised you. I hope it will encourage you and spur you to encourage someone else! Blessings....

Large drops of rain began to fall as Chloe pulled into the last parking space. She stepped into the storm, hoping it was not a sign of things to come. She had tried this before and it hadn't worked out well. Why did she think this time would be any different? As much as Chloe wanted it to work, she had already decided that this was the last shot. Rejected again and she was done.

Chloe opened the glass doors and saw that the foyer was empty. Unsure of where to go, she followed the music coming from the other end of the building. Reaching the auditorium, Chloe took a deep breath and stepped inside.

The auditorium was filled with noise usually found at a rock concert. A large band covered the stage. A screen projected the words of the current song and lights flashed in every direction across the room. The crowd responded to the music with magnified voices, clapped hands, and raised arms. Quietly slipping into the back row, Chloe shed her jacket and joined the worship.

As the music faded, the worship leader invited the congregration to introduce themselves to one another. Chloe froze in her chair. She quickly lowered her head hoping no one would look in her direction. But she was not hard to miss. Her spiky dark hair, pierced lip, and black clothing screamed for attention - just not the attention Chloe wanted.

The minutes dragged on. Hugs, handshakes, and laughter permeated the room, yet silence filled the space surrounding Chloe. A few people glanced in her direction, only to turn their heads and whisper to one another. Rejection crept into Chloe's heart again. This time she couldn't hold back the tears.

As the band began to play the next song, Chloe gathered her things and left. Caught up in her own misery she never heard the footsteps following her.

"Hey," a voice shouted as Chloe reached for the glass door. "Why are you leaving so soon? We were just getting started."

Chloe turned to see a young girl about her age standing in front of her.

"No thanks," Chloe replied bitterly. "I've had enough church."

"Look, I saw what happened during the meet and greet and I'm sorry," the young girl said. "My name is Alana. I'd like to invite you to come back and sit with me."

"Why?" Chloe quipped. "So more people can stare and laugh at me? No thanks." She wiped her nose on her sleeve. "You have no idea how it feels to be an outsider."

Sadness filled Alana's eyes as she moved closer to Chloe.

"You're wrong. I do know what it feels like. For three years I lived in foreign country where I was the outsider. I didn't fit in with the locals, the non-Christians, or the Christians I knew. I never knew why I had to experience that until tonight."

Chloe looked intently at Alana. She realized what this girl was saying was true and heartfelt. Maybe someone could relate to her after all.

Alana continued, "Why don't you come back to ther service with me and afterwards we can grab a Coke. I'll tell you the rest of my story and you can tell me yours."

Chloe hesitated. She had already made up her mind that she was done, but something wouldn't let her walk out the building and into the rain.

"That sounds cool," Chloe replied and together they made their way back to the auditorium.

The band was playing a new song when they re-entered the room. Chloe felt as if a new song was already playing in her heart.

Hello again

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

After 3 1/2 months I've decided to re-enter the blogging world. Not that I was unhappy blogging, it's just that life seemed to get in the way. In short: a sinus infection, lice that wouldn't go away, a holiday vacation, the celebration of Christmas and a new year, a snow storm that shut down life in China, another holiday vacation (yes, I know, I travel alot!), another cold. Add to that a family life and an intense writing course, and I hope you can understand why blogging got put on the back shelf.

But this time around I want to do things differently. Rather than just write random thoughts or things I feel compelled to share, I want to be more open. To do that means I have to remove the masks and quit hiding behind the fears that hold me in. This is a very difficult thing for me to do, but one I know that God is leading me to. One way I can start is by sharing with you something dear to my heart - my writing.

Most of you know that I enrolled in a two-year Christian writing course. Every other week I submit work to a mentor that allows me to improve my skills and write in different styles and genres. This has not been easy for me and has stretched me in so many ways. But at the same time it has been satisfying and exciting. My mind is always working to craft a story or an article that will captivate readers and encourage them in some way. I am enjoying it (well, most days when I'm not behind!) and look forward to seeing where God will take this adventure and use it for His glory.

I have not shared much of what I have written because of fear. One of my greatest fears is rejection - what if they don't like it? what if confuses them or doesn't make sense? what if they thought it was boring? - I think you get the picture. But I know that I can't allow my fear of rejection keep me from sharing what I feel God has lead me to write. And when I focus on what others think about my writing, I lose sight of who I'm really writing for and why. The only way I know how to begin overcoming my fear and keeping the focus on God is by sharing it with all of you. I hope that you will enjoy what you read, but it is also my prayer that you will honestly let me know what you think. I'm not writing this for me, but I look forward to any comments you might have!

With this new direction, I hope you will continue visiting my blog and encouraging others to visit as well. You can rest assured there will be something to read, as it seems I am always writing something! But don't worry, I won't always post my writing. I do have a life outside of that (although there are some days when I question that!) I will try to post as often as I can. Tomorrow I will post my most recent story, but I thought I would share a small part of it to "tease" you a little. Thanks and enjoy!


Large drops of rain began to fall as Chloe pulled into the last parking space. She stepped out into the storm, hoping it was not a sign of things to come. She had tried this before and it hadn't worked out well. Why did she think this time would be any different? As much as Chloe wanted it to work, she had already decided that this would be the last shot. Rejected again and she was done.

(To be continued...)