Friday, May 18, 2018

If posting our works negates our reward, where am I?

Imagine setting aside a few weeks of your summer vacation to travel on dirt roads and bump around in loud jeeps, winding deep into the remote jungle villages in Central America. You risk fevers, diseases, and heatstroke, all in order to help build an orphanage for twenty destitute kids. At the end of the month, you step back, take a selfie with your handiwork in the background, and post it with pride on Facebook. Poof!--the reward is gone. Think about it. In one humble-brag selfie, the trade is made--eternal reward from God is sold for the porridge of maybe eighty likes and twelve comments of praise.

I came across the book Twelve Ways Your Phone is Changing You and decided to buy it to see if it taught something about GUTS (Godly Use of Technology Skills, one of TEN3's biggest teaching points) that I don't already know. I came across this passage in chapter 3, and as a missionary, I find it so ironic I must wonder if Reinke actually knows any missionaries. We do lots of sharing about our work when we'd rather skip it. Most missionaries don't really enjoy writing newsletters and the like. I enjoy it more than most, but there are still plenty of days when I'd much rather zone in on "the mission" than think about how to compose an appealing account of what I'm doing. Yet sharing the pictures and stories about our activities is considered essential to missions. Can't do missions without funding, can't have funding without donors, and can't recruit and keep donors without impressing them that God does awesome things through their donations to us. So do we have to destroy the spirit of pleasing God in order to accomplish the mission?

I sure hope not. I was given a pretty good answer to this dilemma in Heather Ricks' God and the Elephants, which urges missionaries to make God the central character of each of our letters and blog posts, so that the surest response our readers have is to worship God for how He has revealed Himself in our contexts. I struggle to truly implement that, however. The longer I serve God, the more I find the language of "God told me to ..." or "God is leading us to ..." or "God has promised me ..." to be presumptuous. Not that I judge people for saying them, but I have found so many times that the outcomes I thought God was bringing about aren't how it turns out, that I consider myself unable to do more than loosely speculate how God is working.

The most apt metaphor I've heard for how the Lord leads me is how I once heard Psalm 119:105 exegeted.

Your word is a lamp unto my feet,
And a light to my path.

Ancient oil lamps did not give a powerful beam like modern flashlights; they gave just enough light to see the step ahead. And the "light to my path" would have referred to the torches kept burning on city walls that could be seen from far off. So the idea, I was told, is that God gives us enough light to see the next step we are supposed to take, and to know where our destination is, but everything in between is dark. We may think we know how the path will go, but there will certainly be turns and obstacles we did not expect, enough that it may not seem that there's any way this road can really lead the right way.

Our destination is plain enough: God wants to draw all me to Himself, and to make us like Him. And He gives us enough understanding to know what the next step is and obey. But I usually don't know, probably can't know, how He's going to use that step. We have a very well-thought-out strategy, but we still run into so many obstacles and dead-ends that my colleague once said he dreaded communicating with his supporters because it seemed like every time he shared about an opportunity we were excited about, people would ask about it months later and it hadn't panned out. I'm always skeptical of our plans at this point. But I keep writing the requested materials, keep the editing process going, keep researching the next software platform or project resources we think we will need, because, well, that is the step ahead of me. It probably won't have the particular results we had in mind when we decided to do it, but God knows how it will get us where He wants us.

And where does that leave me when it's time to write these blog posts and put another picture on my newsletter? Am I flaunting my works to be seen by men? Or am I conforming to the pattern before us all, acting with the things that are seen, but with such frailty and faith that the Unseen One may be evident as the source, facilitator, and goal of it all?

I have so much more to learn.

Friday, April 27, 2018

What are we up to lately?

I suppose it's high time for a plain ministry update. TEN3 is mainly focusing on getting people trained in our three active countries--Nigeria, Zambia, and Tanzania--through our Global Engagement. Our training is a ton of work as I've blogged about previously), covering topics from "What subject is the queen of knowledge?" to "The Mozart Effect and the Sorting Flaw," to "A break-even point for a computer lab." It also includes critiquing our CTO and becoming familiar with our Families and Media material.* We have put all this training on our own Global Engagement site (using the Moodle platform) so that they can work through it sequentially. The five Nigerian trainees, Luka, Fred, Wale, Joshua, and David, are meeting together twice a week with Christie to pray and discuss what they are learning, as well as plan the implementation. Please pray for our trainees as they work through this training, that they understand it well, give us good feedback for the future, and that they will truly take to heart the lessons on being transformed themselves if they hope to transform society.

The next thing we are working on is fundraising for equipment so that when these young men are ready, they will be able to start training centers in different places. They are also looking into working with existing schools to get them running a computer lab with TEN3 education. We're praying for someone much more gifted than any of our current team to head this project. But we are also excited that Christie will be visiting the US, where she will be speaking to churches. We pray that through her the Lord will open people's hearts to give toward this need.

I am also continuing to work on primary school readers. Anthony has already converted the McGuffey Eclectic Readers to a workable format. A volunteer in New York is cleaning out all the obvious bugs from the conversion for me. Then I check it for needed context revisions and send it to Charis and Zangi in Zambia, who check it for appropriateness and put the pictures back in which the conversion process deleted. Then Edna in Zambia works with her son Ben through the lessons and gives me feedback about using it, and from there I do a final edit and publish it. Our prayer is to start literacy programs in TEN3 centers and in churches across Africa. As we grow strong readers and writers, we hope to see them form a jury committee and submit stories to replace the 19th-century American stories with African ones, that continue the spirit of teaching godliness as well as language skill.

Please pray for all these endeavors as we continue to move forward by faith.

*If you'd like to know more about any of this, contact me and I'd love to explain!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

My baby, my teacher

I really have to hand it to people with depression who still manage to function. This afternoon I didn't want to do anything. That is incredibly strange for me, because I usually want to do a few hundred things. Maybe because Nathanael woke me up three times last night and would not be soothed unless I nursed him, and I thought we were over this. Maybe because I had to get up early this morning and deal with vehicle stress, that makes me also stress about the bank balance. (Pickup's bit the dust, Old Blue is blowing smoke, and the Murano had a flat, prompting the serviceman to urge me that I really need to replace all four tires.) Maybe because of a message I got from someone about hurt sustained from people we both trusted and respected. Maybe because I felt guilty about falling asleep this afternoon and thereby preventing my husband from going to bed when he needed to.

I decided to put Nathanael in his "exersaucer" and pray. I prayed for a while, not much more spiritual than, "God, I feel bad and don't want to." Then baby let me know he was done with the exersaucer, so I put him on the floor with me to play with toys. Watching my seven-month-old was like watching my own soul.

He would reach for a toy and play with it a while (mouthing it of course), and then unintentionally push it out of his reach. Then he'd push up on his hands and knees, and rock back and forth, and then get frustrated that he wasn't going anywhere. But then something would make noise, and so he'd turn to his new diversion. But after a while, he decided he wanted Mama, and so again got up on his hands and knees and tried to come toward me. This time he was on his way to a meltdown. "I know, son," I told him. "It took a long time for you to build up the strength to push up like this, and it's taking a while to coordinate those little limbs. But you'll get there soon." Of course he didn't understand, so his face just kept turning red and his volume kept going up until I took him and pulled him close to me to nurse. Then he relaxed, snuggled, and nursed to sleep.

I spend a lot of the day frustrated. How is it the laundry hamper is overflowing again, the sink is still not fixed, the bathroom needs cleaning again, I've got 30 emails to answer, and we've gone over budget again? Do I stink that bad at "adulting"? Then when I read something like The Practice of the Presence of God, then I really feel like a drooling baby being told I'm meant to walk on water when I can't seem to even reach the thing right in front of me or say one sentence.

Watching my baby reminded me again that our seemingly endless annoyances and setbacks are just part of the process. I don't know why we can't just learn the first time, but God doesn't judge by my "want to do it NOW" standards, but like a parent watching his child learn. And though I get so frustrated that I can't seem to reach Him, He will bring me up to Him to receive my daily Bread if only I'll relax and let Him.

Thank You, Lord.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Vacation Report

Except for my wedding and fixing up our house afterwards, I've never in these 8 1/2 years taken such a long vacation from TEN3. Yes, I'm one of those people who likes to work, and I am passionate about mine, but as I blogged about earlier, it was time for a break. So how did my vacation go? Well, here's what I set out to do, and the results:


Read and play with him. Did a good bit of that. He's gotten to where he'll sit through and seem to enjoy all of The Cat in the Hat and A Necklace of Virtues, he sits up very well now with minimal support, and is pushing up on his hands and knees and rocking, trying to figure out the forward motion bit. Over the last two weeks he's gone from just drooling out any baby food I try to give him to swallowing almost all of it, so yay!


  • Read Scripture each day: I used to do this diligently, but since getting married, it seems like I never have a regular time that doesn't get interrupted, so I lapse. Over my vacation I did okay with this one. Between Psalm reading, my husband's and my Isaiah reading together, and what I read on my own, I'm pretty sure I read Scripture at least once every day or almost.
  • Practice PianoBooster: Kenneth got me a midi keyboard for Valentine's day since I discovered a free game designed under the same concept as Guitar Hero, but that actually teaches piano playing. I've dabbled with piano playing a few times in my life, and always find it relaxing when I do it. I practiced it a few times over the vacation, and had fun.
  • Practice jing te jutsu: That's the martial arts class I'm in, and my instructor wants me to get ready for a promotion. Unfortunately, time when I'm not holding the baby gets eaten up pretty quickly, so I haven't practiced as much as I should. I've often told myself to get into a habit of taking a break from laptop work every 2 hours or so and just spend 15 minutes on it ... great idea, it would probably clear my head and give me more energy and all kinds of great stuff, but I seldom manage to do it. I'll try to be more conscious about it, and hopefully it will become easier now that Nathanael is starting food and won't be entirely dependent on nursing.


  • Hang Nathanael's blanket: The wife of one of Kenneth's friends made a beautiful cross-stitch blanket that I wanted to hang in the baby's room. I puzzled for a while how to do it without damaging the walls of our rental house or the blanket, and came up with the Command hooks. Those are pretty amazing little inventions! I just stitched three little pieces of ribbon to the back of the blanket, secured three hooks to the wall, and put them through the pieces of ribbon.
  • Frame for Jaclyn's picture: This is a project that I started before I even got married. My sister drew me a sweet picture of me and my cat who died five years ago now. She set it in a cardboard frame with a plastic cover, and so I began to make a wood frame to support the picture so I could hang it. I had cut the wood (I used baseboard moulding), glued it, and bought stain/finish for it, but then had left it for a long time. Unfortunately, I had made a mistake in how I cut it, so the glue didn't hold. I tried over the vacation to correct the cut, but concluded I can't do it with our freehand saw. I'll have to try again later when I can use a better saw setup again. In the meantime, I realized I can hang the picture in just the cardboard frame with those nifty Command strips, so that's what I did.
  • Fix table: The support for our drop-leaf dining room table broke about a year ago, and has been waiting to be fixed. I scraped the old glue off, which is the most tedious part, and drilled out the old broken dowels. I'll still need to buy and cut a new dowel, and consult with my dad on the best way to clamp it upon gluing, since it is curved.
  • Water irises and mum: Plants that were gifts, that don't normally need much water in winter, but with the severity of the drought, they might be dead. I've watered them, so we'll see if they come back.
  • Limeaway the semi-clogged faucet Done!
  • Fix couch comforter: Not done. I usually do sewing projects while in Skype meetings, so I'll have time in the future for this one.
  • Clean & babyproof:
    • Vacuum, especially the edges: I've got the living room done, anyway, and sure enough, found several unsafe little items along the edges of the room. I got the kitchen floor done too, except for the corner where some of Kenneth's projects have pieces waiting to be put together. Will have to get those taken care of soon.
    • Scrub bathrooms: Fail, though I did get the floors done, anyway. I'll have to do this within the coming week.
    • Tidy up the kitchen counters - Did a pretty good job of that, especially considering how many odds and ends were strewn about them. It's still not where I want it to be, but it's a lot better than it was.
    • Move books up: We don't want the baby tearing up our books, so we'll need to get them off the bottom shelves, at least in the living room. Not done.
    • Secure movable shelves: We'll probably just keep him out of our bedroom where our movable shelves are, at least without supervision, but still should put up something to keep him from being able to tip the shelves over. Still need to do that.
    • Secure rifle: We have my grandad's handmade bolt-action .22, which we wanted in case of coyotes (which have already been a nuisance), or badgers or the like. But, definitely don't want that loaded or accessible when little one gets to exploring. Got the ammo stored out of reach and the rifle put in a hidden and hard-to-get-to spot. I think my parents said they'd bought a trigger lock for it, so that will be the last step.
    • Check nursery for other things to move/set up: Done.
  • Fix sink faucet in spare bathroom: Uuugh. I bought two different basin wrenches, which afforded me a little slow progress. This sink does not seem to have been designed with maintenance in mind.
  • Fix dripping in shower - Didn't get to it.
  • Scrape bathroom wallpaper - Didn't get to this on either, though I hardly expected to. I am not one to run out of things to do!
I guess overall I'm happy with how my leave turned out. I got some precious family time, and a good chunk of household chaos conquered, so I thank God for that, and pray I may be able to continue to diligently use my time honoring Him as I begin work again. I am most of all thankful for the help God has given me to be more eager in my prayers, a little more cognizant of my need of Him, a little more affectionate ... a little closer to what Brother Lawrence has been reminding me to pursue.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Practicing our own discipleship: Empty and full?

"I know that for the right practice of it, the heart must be empty of all other things; because God will possess the heart alone. As He cannot possess it alone, without emptying it of all besides, so neither can He act there and do in it what He pleases unless it be left vacant to Him." (Fifth Letter)

That presents a paradox I struggle with. In my youth it was easy to think that I must regard nothing but God, consider Him the only thing that truly exists. It was easy to sing the prayers that I be emptied of all else. Yet in recent years I find myself pondering the opposite, that He is not a God of emptiness. Indeed, as Creator of all and in all, how can my heart be full of Him except to be full of those things through which He reveals Himself? ... Yet again, why do those things so often distract me from God rather than draw me to Him?

Such are the questions I'm pondering as I take a two-week vacation. Not traveling anywhere, but stepping back from my TEN3 responsibilities to enjoy my son as he learns to sit up, roll around, and eat from a spoon; to tackle several of the projects that have needed doing around the house (foremost, babyproofing it in anticipation of him very soon crawling); also, just to get some refreshment and perspective. I've been unusually discouraged lately, severely doubting that our efforts will really pan out at all. We've worked so hard for years and are still so far from seeing our vision come to pass. We still pray for 350 schools across Africa that offer better education than can be found anywhere and that foster true disciples of Jesus, and yet the few we've worked with have struggled terribly to stay viable.

Anthony had asked me to pray about taking some more responsibilities with TEN3, and my impression so far is that we need someone new, not me. I feel that, despite years of learning and adapting, something is still missing that the current team isn't seeing. If the Lord gives me some sudden insight, I'm willing to take it and run with it. So perhaps God will give that to me, or perhaps He will bring someone else along to help. Frankly, I'd prefer that; I am strong in my curriculum development position, but I think I'd be weaker at these other things. I don't know, but please join with me in pleading for His leading still, for His presence to fill all our hearts and our every decision, that He can indeed do all He pleases in TEN3. Likewise, let's pray together to learn how to be empty and full--empty of the pride and lusts that sneak in through every little thing we fix our minds on, and instead full of God's grace and glory in all the ways He makes it manifest.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

An interlude on the sea

Ah! Lord, I would go through fire and water to sit the last at Thy table in Thy kingdom; but dare I say now I KNOW Thee! —But Thou art the Gospel, for Thou art the Way, the Truth, and the Life; and I have found Thee the Gospel. For I found, as I read, that Thy very presence in my thoughts, not as the theologians show Thee, but as Thou showedst Thyself to them who report Thee to us, smoothed the troubled waters of my spirit, so that, even while the storm lasted, I was able to walk upon them to go to Thee. And when those waters became clear, I most rejoiced in their clearness because they mirrored Thy form —because Thou wert there to my vision —the one Ideal, the perfect man, the God perfected as king of men by working out His Godhood in the work of man; revealing that God and man are one; that to serve God, a man must be partaker of the Divine nature; that for a man’s work to be done thoroughly, God must come and do it first Himself; that to help men, He must be what He is —man in God, God in man —visibly before their eyes, or to the hearing of their ears. So much I saw. And therefore, when I was once more in a position to help my fellows, what could I want to give them but that which was the very bread and water of life to me —the Saviour himself? And how was I to do this? —By trying to represent the man in all the simplicity of His life, of His sayings and doings, of His refusals to say or do. —I took the story from the beginning, and told them about the Baby; trying to make the fathers and mothers, and all whose love for children supplied the lack of fatherhood and motherhood, feel that it was a real baby-boy. And I followed the life on and on, trying to show them how He felt, as far as one might dare to touch such sacred things, when He did so and so, or said so and so; and what His relation to His father and mother and brothers and sisters was, and to the different kinds of people who came about Him. And I tried to show them what His sayings meant, as far as I understood them myself, and where I could not understand them I just told them so, and said I hoped for more light by and by to enable me to understand them; telling them that that hope was a sharp goad to my resolution, driving me on to do my duty, because I knew that only as I did my duty would light go up in my heart, making me wise to understand the precious words of my Lord. And I told them that if they would try to do their duty, they would find more understanding from that than from any explanation I could give them.

Anthony shared this passage from George Macdonald today. I had been letting the "Practice" fall by the wayside because I was somewhat at a loss for how to proceed. The book had already told me repeatedly what I needed to do, but I wasn't getting how to do it. This passage gives me at least the next step to consider. When I was a teenager, it was easy to look to Jesus and have peace in the midst of my life's problems, because the really significant problems were out of my hands anyway. It's been a different story now that my problems are my responsibility. Then it feels like I have to worry about them, that I failed in whatever led up to the problem in the first place, that it's interrupting everything else I was supposed to do ... in other words, a major stress-out. My husband advised me just to let it roll off my back like water, but that's not really what I want to do, either. This quote helps me understand, that I must look to Jesus as present, unchanging, and greater than whatever chaos I'm in, trusting that then when He is where He needs to be in my heart, the problem may be rebuked and the waters become clear, my outer life and inner heart both mirroring His perfect form.

Lord, teach me the lesson You began to teach Peter there on the sea, that though You may not stop the storm right away, You walk unhindered through it, and so may I too, if I keep my gaze on You. Teach me how to maintain responsibility without being overwhelmed with the problems, remembering that the purpose is not the calmness itself, but being united with You.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Practicing our own discipleship: Under attack

I've noticed that ever since I began this undertaking, trying to do what Bother Lawrence said, the enemy has been far more present in my mind. Not the outright assaults I've endured in the past, barraging me with evil statements or dreams to disturb and upset me. This time, I find myself willingly dwelling on dark things, that are acceptable and perhaps even necessary to consider in small doses, but certainly harmful to keep thinking of. Stories of abused children (as the news has been full of lately), "what-if" scenarios of violence, things like that. Or just a frustration, sometimes even from months past, that I find myself "ranting" internally about for an hour.

Lord, if I let this go on, my last state will be worse than the first. Do not let the enemy prevail over me. Show me how to resist the temptations, to discipline my mind, to seek You. Lord, it's so much easier to think on bad things I do understand than on You whom I do not understand. Grow in me such a hunger to understand You that nothing else appeals to me.