Thursday, June 28, 2012

Margins...

A beautiful narrow two-way road in Co. Wicklow Ireland
I just finished reading a post by Verne Ward.  His post (with his permission) is found below mine and attached to this post. He was speaking about margins.... it got me thinking.

Prior to our arrival in Ireland I pastored for 20 years.  Each week I would prepare at least one message.  My habit was to take a yellow pad and at some point in my study to jot down an outline with some notes.  As I continued to think I would fill in the outline, adding illustrations, thoughts, and ideas.  It always amazed me on looking back at my note pad how the best thoughts could often be found in the margins.  We all need to live with margins in our lives.

A number of years ago I was reading a book by Richard Swenson, M.D.  The books title is Margins.... He was speaking about the need to restore emotional, physical, time and financial reserves in our lives - margins!  As I was reading the post by Verne Ward... I could not help but think about this book... and how vital it is we have margins in our lives for our own health, but how we also need them in ministry... space where God can work in ways we'd never imagine.  It's true we all need to live with margins in our lives.

I've already mentioned how I was a pastor for 20 years prior to our move to Ireland.  Can I confess something to you? Much of my life lacked any real margins.  My life was so full I didn't have time for so many things.  I didn't have time for my neighbors.  I didn't have time for casual conversations in the store.  I was driven.... I was always going somewhere to do something.  On arriving in Ireland I found myself in a very different place.  I didn't have a congregation.  I didn't have a sermon to prepare.  I didn't have meetings to attend.  I struggled.  I was so used to going from meeting to meeting from responsibility to responsibility that I felt I was doing nothing.  I found myself missing those things.  I know I'm crazy!  We've now been here a year and some of those things are creeping back into my life... BUT I am resolving to maintain some good margins in my life.

We've been in Ireland just over a year now and I'm finally getting comfortable on those narrow roads.  You might say they have NO margins - there's certainly no room for error.  While I may be getting use to driving these narrow roads... I never want to embrace a life without margins again.  Why?  Because so often it's in the margins that GOD does His best work.  In those place you'd never imagine.  In those conversations you didn't engineer, but which just happened... that HE works.

How are the margins in YOUR life? 

Why not determine to create some space where God might do something you'd never imagine?  Wondering what I'm talking about?  Read Verne Ward's post below as he shares a story about life in the margins for he and his wife, Natalie...


Living with margins
When we lived in Singapore, a city of 5.2 million people on a very small island, we shared our personal space with strangers regularly. Even so, it’s not easy to strike up a conversation with someone during daily commutes by train or bus. We quickly learned the importance of building open margins into our day and our schedules, so we could take time to notice people and talk to them if God gave us the opportunity.

One day, Natalie was on a crowded train, standing close to a young woman who was wearing the dark, shapeless, full covering of her traditional religion. Natalie noticed a bright splash of red peeking out from the hem and said to the woman, “Your shoes are beautiful!”

The woman’s eyes brightened and she thanked Natalie for the compliment. Natalie asked what the woman was doing in Singapore, and learned that she and her husband were newlyweds who had just moved to Singapore for his work.

“Congratulations!” Natalie said.

“Thank you,” the woman said. “How long have you been married?

My wife answered, “Thirty-three years.”

The woman was impressed, saying, “That’s a long time.”

“Our marriage gets better all the time, and I love my husband more now than the day we got married,” Natalie remarked.

“It’s not like that for us,” the woman replied. “Sometimes I get very angry with my husband.”

Natalie smiled and replied, “I get very angry with my husband, too.”

“What do you do when you are angry?” the woman asked.

“Usually I just stop and pray, asking God to help me be the woman He wants me to be, and in my anger that I would not do anything He would be displeased with.”

In a rush of emotion, the woman took hold of Natalie and said, “I could learn so much from you.”

They exchanged contact information and soon they were meeting regularly to talk about marriage and living a life pleasing to God. Eventually, I met her husband and we became good friends, too.

Now we live in Kansas and our friends have moved to California, but our story has not ended. We remain in touch and visit when we can. The young man and I exchange encouraging text messages, and we have tried to help them understand U.S. culture, and to overcome their fears about moving here. Natalie and I pray for them often.

Margin in our lives is required to be able to respond to Him in obedience when He puts opportunities for Christ-honoring relationships in our path.

Verne Ward III

Global Mission Director
Church of the Nazarene
 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

GREATER EXPECTATIONS!!!

One year ago we arrived in Ireland.  12 months have passed, 52 weeks, 365 days, 8,760 hours, 525,600 minutes... and some incredible moments.

It's time to reflect back on the year that has been.

What an incredible year.  We've seen some incredible answers to prayer.  We've seen God provide in some wonderful ways.

If you've been praying with us you know the obstacles and challenges we have faced.  Yet at every turn we have discovered God to be "our very present help in trouble".  He is SO faithful.

You might say that God has surpassed our expectations, again!  We really shouldn't be surprised, but we always are... Why?  I think it has to do with our limited expectations.

Allow me to explain... We live in a world where spoken and often unspoken expectations overwhelm.  Someone proclaims LeBron James the second coming of Michael Jordan before he even stepped on a court.  Someone proclaimed Wayne Rooney the saviour of English Football before his career even really got started.

Yet for the myriad of ways we expect great things... we so often fall short when it comes to God, really!

We arrived in Wicklow knowing NO ONE, except our real estate agent.  Yet this past week I shock hands with the mayor of our town and he called me by name.  Amazing.  I've got to know countless individuals and look forward to meeting many more. God is working... we see it in the relationships that are being formed and the wonderful friends we're making in our community.

What I'm trying to say is we need to get away from OUR expectations... why?  Because as BIG as we might imagine them to be they're NOTHING compared to God's GREAT EXPECTATIONS  Just ask Moses.... Moses you'll lead my people out of Egypt... are you crazy?  Moses expectations didn't meet God's.(see Ex 3 & 4)

I don't know what our second year holds for us here in Ireland, but I do know this.  It is God who holds us. 

God is helping us... to let go of our expectations... and to embrace HIM.
HE is opening doors.
HE is helping us build relationships.
As we begin year two there is a sense of anticipation... because the future is bright with God.

Join us! Or should I say, join Him!

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen" Eph 3:20-21






Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Call for Shortsighted Ministry!


If you're wondering why this blog post is written in such large letters... you'll soon understand.

Have you ever missed something that was right in front of you?

I remember attending PLNU... if you haven't been there you've missed out.  Besides being a great school, it sits on some of the most incredible real estate in the world.  The views of the Pacific are amazing.  Anyway... I remember walking out of the library as a junior(3rd year student), I was talking with a brand new student.  They stopped, I kept on walking.  They were marveling at the colours of the sunset.  If they'd not been there I'd have missed it... even as it was right in front of me.  It's so easy to miss what or who is right in front of us, our family, our friends... GOD!


Lord, help us!

The other day I walked into town, again asking God what our ministry should look like in this place.  In less than an hour I was standing on the street with a bucket collecting monies for MS.  As I stood watching the people pass by, some eager to help... I began wondering how I'd ended up with a bucket in my hands.  I entered into a conversation with one of the officers who gives tickets to cars parked illegally.  I received monies from a lady who had just buried her sister... she'd died from MS.  But, why was I there?  The short answer: I'd been asked to help... and I thought why not... the better answer has to do with the opening question of my blog.  You see I don't want to miss the people who were right in front of me.

I believe ministry starts with who and what is right in front of us.  Ministry needs to be short sighted.  That's right!  Short sighted.

This has become real to me in recent months as I'm finding it harder to see things close up.  You might say, my eyes are struggling to see clearly what's right in front of me - my arms are just not long enough... if you know what I mean.  While this is troubling for me... it's not life and death.  There are bifocals.  You can get reading glasses.  I'm resisting for now. I just bought a large print bible, BUT it doesn't look like a large print bible... Oh vanity!

Anyway, while not seeing what's right in front of you is NOT the end of the world, it might be for ministry.  You see ministry shouldn't ignore those who are right in front of us, should it?

Maybe you're thinking this is a little counter intuitive for a missionary.  After all missions is about crossing barriers... which seems to signify distance.  While there may be some truth to that, the reality is missions is fundamentally incarnational; it's about entering the lives of people. And we can ONLY enter the lives of those who are right in front of us... Oh to be shortsighted!

Lord, help us!

I wonder... are you shortsighted? 

Oh... we arrived back in Ireland only to find out that we needed to find a new place to live. The owners of our current home want back in... and who can blame them.  Anyway... you'll never guess where we found a place... it was right in front of us... actually right across the street.  Maybe it is good to be shortsighted!  I'm just sayin...