Stay Open to the Graces

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Jerry Sullivan greeting Daisy

The Grim family lost a dear friend this week. The kind of friend you are lucky to ever have, even once in a lifetime.

This man, known as Brother Jerry, walked a path of Christlikeness few people ever find. He was that figure in my childhood that led me to understand Christ’s mercy, His friendship, and His sacrificial love: From the way he treated animals to the way he treated the mentally-ill alcohol-addicted wanderer to the way he was a father to Indian children starving for love and attention on the reservation where we lived.

He lived a humble life as a carpenter, fasting on Fridays, keeping dominion over the earth through his garden and attempts at growing grapes to make wine. His occasional stutter only enhanced his ability to tell a good joke–usually involving a Catholic Priest and an Irishman.

As a child this man appeared to me as nothing short of a complete wonder. Who else brings an industrial sized doughnut machine to a dilapidated tavern on a poverty-stricken Indian Reservation and turns the place into a family activity center? Or hides cute little puppies in boxes on Easter Sunday for children to find and bring home to their unsuspecting and unenthusiastic parents?

He always had time for me to visit after school, for a card game or weeding in the garden or letting me tag along in bringing communion to shuts-ins. In my childishness I remember being a little jealous when he met this beautiful woman named Ilene and got married, thinking he wouldn’t have time for me anymore. Little did I understand how one’s capacity for love only grows when you are in Christ. Along with Jerry’s life, I am thankful that he met this gentle woman, Ilene. She added a richness and depth and grace that brought him so much joy and completion and it is a testimony to me how they served the Lord together.

Jerry finished his life well. He kept the faith; he fought the good fight. He pursued righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. He took hold of that eternal life that God calls us to. I rejoice that he is with our Savior now yet my heart aches for his absence here with us, and especially for his wife.

Jerry brought the Kingdom to Earth. He rested in the grace of God and as he frequently reminded me, he stayed open to the graces. Many people strive to live great lives, attempting great things for God. Every other person is hailed as some kind of hero these days. But few men walk in true godliness, masculinity, humility, and quiet servanthood as did Brother Jerry. Living next door to this great man of God shaped much of who I am today. I am so thankful for his life.

All Your Waves and Breakers Wash Over Me

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All Your Waves and Breakers Wash Over Me
photo credit Susie Squirrell

I’m inspired by a friend tonight who courageously shared the trial she and her husband are walking through in Mexico. Each heart knows it’s own sorrow and I’m of the vantage point it is good for us to bare our souls in our struggles. In James it says to consider it pure joy when we go through trials, because the testing if our faith develops perseverance, and perseverance must finish it’s work so that we can be mature and complete not lacking anything. So clearly trials are an expected part of our walk with God. I can’t be the only one who feels pressure to share only the glorious, miraculous things God does. And he does do glorious things, in his rich and passionate love for us.

But he is not one to mess around. God’s ultimate goal is to conform us into the image of Christ, and I think his most effective way of doing this is through trials. A missionary spoke to me once about having a Doctrine of Suffering, and as I look around our broken world I see that suffering is a principle of our faith, something we shy away from but is an inescapable reality. It opens the way to glorious resurrection. We should not deny it’s power or the blessing of sharing in the sufferings of Christ.

My husband and I are visionaries. We are pioneers and see things black and white. We like to bring about change and influence the culture, wherever we are. We joke about having the Jeremiah anointing–to tear down and uproot, to rebuild and plant. We have been told we come on too strong. But apart from the ‘we’ I am non-confrontational by nature, I seek to bring harmony and peace, I am sensitive (sometimes too much so) and I want to encourage. Times of emotional stress and conflict are extremely hard on me. When one thing goes wrong, everything is wrong.

My gut feeling is that many of these qualities are not negative in themselves, but they need to be tempered by wisdom and humility. God is testing our character, our integrity, and our conviction of his word. We came to South Africa riding on the hope and expectation of starting a leadership school here. We are not the kind of people to have a Plan B. It’s all or nothing. In short, we considered our calling into missions to be specifically, at this time, to train others to go to unreached people groups.

In our minds, this took the shape of a program, a school with structure and commitment from students, where we could train and disciple and develop leaders to be fruitful and influence the course of nations. When our proposal for such a leadership school was turned down flat, we were quite stunned. What do we make of that? Isn’t the favor of God supposed to swing the doors wide open? Did we not hear correctly from God in coming to this place? Should we even stay in South Africa?

At this time of confusion God providentially arranged for us to go away for a week on a retreat to a quiet town by the sea. I had early mornings with my Bible searching out answers, soaking in the character and nature of God, and somehow God put my heart at peace. We returned home and I was feeling strong and ready to tackle the last trimester of my pregnancy and focus on the kids’ schooling, and support my husband as he goes back to the drawing board with our ministry plan to put our ideas for training into a different “on-the-job” model.

When I find out we have to move again. In two months, maybe three. I have 2.5 months left in my pregnancy. Raise your hand and wave if your want to move your family on your due date!! Yeah, not so much. I felt very close to what I would describe as an actual panic attack. I haven’t had many of those. And not only that, my husband will lose his supplemental income that has enabled us to afford medical insurance and make it without being short every month.

After phone calls and hours scouring the internet for houses and advice that we need to live in the city instead of a suburb to be closer to our team, we are no where closer to finding a house to live in. One realtor told me for every house that opens up for renting he has 30 people standing in line waiting for it. He ended the phone call by saying ‘sorry, just can’t help you. Good luck.’ A house for sale is on the market a matter of days before it’s sold. It’s the most unreal housing market I’ve ever seen.

I recognize the dark place I was in and am still struggling through as the work of the Enemy, bringing discouragement and doubt and desire to pack my bags and leave. I want to be organizing, preparing, settling in to get ready for a new little one…not putting things in boxes…again…

Now, for the life-speaking, peace-sowing, faith-steadying, words from my Great God, as he spoke to me over the weekend and gave me courage to share this blog with you.

YET he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. Romans 4:20-21

Our dream is not dead–but God may manifest it in a different way. I am reading Romans 4 every day, as you will too if you listen to the podcast below from Bill Johnson.

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed. Romans 4:18

http://podcasts.ibethel.org/en/podcasts/hope-the-womb-of-legacy

From Psalm 42… Remember what God has done in the past.
Speak to your soul–put your hope in God!
Thirst, long, go and meet with God. We instinctively turn to Him.
Allow God to break you. All his waves and breakers have swept over me.

So this is where I am today. I see refugees in Iraq and Syria with only the clothes on their back and a donated meal and maybe a mattress and I feel some perspective. We don’t have it so bad. I know God will not forsake us. David says in Psalms he has never seen the children of the righteous begging for bread. I don’t believe God will put us on the street. I just somehow need to transfer this knowledge to my heart and live in the hope and promises of God.

Dining With the Greats of God’s Army

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Photo by Susie Squirrell

We are excited to announce the upcoming arrival of no. 6! I am happy and feeling good and we embrace this new life and addition to the family. Yet with each new child comes a crisis of faith. Is God really asking more of me? How can I handle another baby? Can he provide for this one when it already seems we are stretched to the max?

And then I need another dose of vision. Of the why. Of the high calling. Of the purpose. I’d like to share with you this poem, which does exactly that.

I am a Woman

My willingness to carry life is the revenge, the antidote, the great rebuttal of every murder, every abortion, and every genocide. I sustain humanity. Deep inside of me, life grows. I am death’s opposition.

I have pushed back the hand of darkness today. I have caused there to be a weakening tremor among the ranks of those set on earth’s destruction. Today a vibration that calls angels to attention echoed throughout time. Our laughter threatened hell today.

I dined with the greats of God’s army. I made their meals, and tied their shoes. Today, I walked with greatness, and when they were tired I carried them. I have poured myself out for the cause today.

It is finally quiet, but life stirs inside of me. Gaining strength, the pulse of life sends a constant reminder to both good and evil that I have yielded myself to Heaven and now carry its dream. No angel has ever had such a privilege, nor any man. I am humbled by the honor. I am great with destiny.

I birth the freedom fighters. In the great war, I am a leader of underground resistance. I smile at the disguise of my troops, surrounded by a host of warriors, destiny swirling, invisible yet tangible, and the anointing to alter history. Our footsteps marking land for conquest, we move undetected through the common places.

Today I was the barrier between evil and innocence. I was the gate keeper, watching over the hope of mankind, and no intruder trespassed. There is not an hour of day or night when I turn from my post. The fierceness of my love is unmatched on earth.

And because I smiled instead of frowned the world will know the power of grace. Hope has feet, and it will run to the corners of earth, because I stood up against destruction.

I am a woman. I am a mother. I am the keeper and sustainer of life here on earth. Heaven stands in honor of my mission. No one else can carry my call. I am the daughter of Eve. Eve has been redeemed. I am the opposition of death. I am a woman.

By Christianna Reed Maas

Why We Have 5 Children (and are open for a 6th)

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Sweet baby Viola, proud mama Kristen Brooke

An interesting question came up in our small group discussion Monday night.

How can we influence our culture?

“If you don’t pro-actively influence the culture, the culture will influence you.” (Jim Anderson, Unmasked)

This is known as The Influence Principle. We want to be part of a movement leading the way to true revival!

While there are many effective ways to influence the culture around us, the most significant for me right now is through our family.

Early on in our marriage, I had a terrible fear that was actually quite rational. I was afraid I would get pregnant! I felt so inadequate and certain I would be a terrible mother. I felt clumsy and awkward around babies and little kids and although I knew I should want to be a mom, I was terrified. I hoped someday I would be “ready” but that day wasn’t in sight.

Yet I was reading passages like “…Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies I the gate.” (Psalm 127)

Clearly we decided to step out in faith and say yes to the blessing of children. Each pregnancy required a new level of faith and obstacles to overcome. We had three miscarriages; especially difficult times of mourning the loss of life right after we embraced it. We didn’t set out to have five children! I’m the type of person who needs to take things one step at a time, and knowing we would have five would totally overwhelm me.

Most people now look at us, stop and count our kids, ask if they are all mine, comment on only one boy, etc. I usually don’t mind at all and look at it as an opportunity to speak words of life over the vocation of motherhood and the blessing of children.

It was when we packed up to leave the beach one day I knew we are influencing our culture through our children. Someone thoughtfully left a condom for me on my diaper bag, as if to say, ‘don’t you know you can do something about this?’ After I recovered from the shock of it, I recognized the flurry of lies so prevalent in our culture today.

The earth is not overpopulated. We are not running out of resources. The world will end when every nation, tribe, and tongue has heard the gospel, NOT before, no matter what the global warming alarmists preach. God has given us a mandate to raise up a righteous generation, to be fruitful and multiply, to pass on the knowledge of his glory and goodness to the next generation. Motherhood is a task worthy of laying down my life for. It is not a waste of my talents or a drain of financial resources. It is a High Calling and my job is to live a life worthy of this calling.

This is where my faith meets my reality. Can I trust God to provide for the children he’s given us? They are his, aren’t they? My faith-reality is that he can provide for them far better than the best of planning and even unlimited financial resources could do. He has a destiny, a calling, a purpose, and a plan for each life that is a powerful force to be reckoned with.

It is a colossal responsibility to be a parent, it takes a huge amount of faith and sacrifice. I’ve never heard anyone say they regretted having more children. But how many times have I seen the look of longing in a mother’s eyes saying, ‘I wish we’d had one more.’ Or from an older woman saying, ‘I just didn’t think we could handle another, but after they grew up a bit, I realized we could’ve had one or two more.’

I didn’t set out to be a voice of influence in our culture through our family, but here we are, like it or not. The question to ask is, “How can I influence the culture around me?” And maybe the harder question…”How have I been influenced by the culture?”

To High Places by Narrow Roads

It’s remained a desire if my husband’s heart to return to Nepal for quite a few years now. When an opportunity arose for him to join a trekking group going to an unreached people group with the gospel, we both felt the answer was a resounding yes! So much preparation and prayer went into getting him physically prepared, spiritually prepared, and outfitted for a challenging ministry trip.

By the providence of God, he re-directed their route from Upper Dolpa to Upper Mustang. The blizzard like conditions and snowed in passes to Dolpa quite literally could have been the end of them. One local trader lost seven of his ten mules trying to cross the pass and barely made it out alive. The ‘mistake’ in their trekking permits which allowed them access to the restricted district of Mustang instead of Dolpa confirmed the decision to re-route the trip.

We prayed Isaiah 35 over the team and over the dry, barren land of the high plateau. Now we pray over the seeds that were planted in hearts hungry for the Truth and thirsty for the Living Water.

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Long, dusty, rocky trail

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Tibetan Buddhist man in The Forbidden Kingdom of Mustang

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In Jomsom, some of the snow-capped mountains the team planned to cross

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Calvin, Jeff, Mike, Juan, Gert

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Himalayas

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Village in Mustang District

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Handing out tracts

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My love on one of our rare, short phone calls. These meant the world to me!

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Unstable trail patched up with logs and rocks

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Desolate and barren land

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Village with irrigated fields

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The trail

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Nearing Tibet

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Ancient caves built up on sheer rock face

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Showing Jesus film inside palace walls…a new generation being touched with the gospel

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Jomsom the morning the trek began

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Stupa, place of Buddhist worship

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Trail

My Favorite Potato Soup: Creamy Potato and Corn Chowder

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Celebrating 13 years!

I love reading food blogs. So many good ones out there. I am not going to try to be a food blogger- don’t worry- but I figured out a recipe I think is worthy of sharing.

1. I am a big fan of simple, delicious, economical recipes that feed a crowd (namely my family; but sometimes an additional dozen or so people!)

2. I have learned through trial and error that it’s usually best to trust your instincts…which is also how I happen to remember directions (drives my husband nuts). I’ve had a few trials (and errors) with overly complex Potato Soup recipes…hauling out immersion blenders, extra pots/bowls/fancy ingredients that are basically just unnecessary.

So the story is, on Saturday as my hubby and I were getting ready to celebrate our 13th anniversary with a night out in the Strand, I stopped being pretentious with my soup. I was running behind schedule, still wearing sweats and madly peeling potatoes just brought home from the grocery store. I threw this soup together, just following my instincts. I nearly burned it–our stove top has two settings: barely on and burning hot–but we caught it just in time. The seven babysitters (so grateful for our short-term missions team! You all are the best) and five children gave it a thumbs up.

I’m calling it Creamy Potato and Corn Chowder. It was soooo good. Comforting, flavorful, and much better than the other overly-complicated recipes I’ve tried. If you live in Alaska and have access to fresh, wild-caught salmon or halibut, I think it would be amazing in this! The kids and babysitters were happy and my husband appreciated the low-budget meal since we were going to splurge a bit that night.

This recipe, with a couple loaves of fresh homemade bread is a crowd pleaser!

Creamy Potato and Corn Chowder

10-12 medium potatoes, peeled
2 small onions, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
3T butter
Water to cover potatoes
4-6 sliced bacon, cooked and diced
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Generous amount of salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 can creamed corn
3 cups whole milk
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:
Cook onions in butter until translucent. Add garlic, cook 3 minutes more. Add diced potatoes, cover with water. Bring to boil, cook until potatoes are tender. Mash potatoes with potato masher, leaving some bigger chunks. Add cooked and diced bacon. Add milk, parsley, creamed corn, and season with salt and pepper. Simmer gently for 15-20 minutes, or until potatoes are done. Add shredded cheese, stirring until melted, taking care not to burn on bottom. Garnish with additional parsley and bacon if desired.

*to save a step and a dish fry onion and garlic with bacon in bacon grease, omitting butter, using your soup dish. Yummmm…more bacon-ey goodness.

The Flash Mob and a Public Mocking

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The hot sun betrayed the fall season on Thursday in downtown Cape Town. My kids, since they live in Africa now, think they don’t need to wear shoes anymore. So three little bare feet children followed me from the apartment block through the overgrown, grassy field. When we came upon a huge shattered pane of glass, I knelt down to carry my son piggy-back across the field. We passed more broken glass, discarded wine bottles, a cardboard shack, and used hypodermic needles strewn along the trail. The smell of human waste completed the ugly picture of urban poverty.

Crossing the street to the University, I didn’t know what to expect. We were to be part of a Flash Mob, a term I knew only had something to do with the Passion scene we were about to re-enact. Soon Jesus appeared, a teammate dressed in rags and covered in bruises, hardly recognizable.

We followed him-representing HIM- up the stairs around to the amphitheater of the University, gathering onlookers to join us. Some did, a few stood up to trail after us and see what we were up to.

I struggled to find my voice as teammates shouted “Crucify Him!”

As we passed students, their reaction stunned me. Most pulled out their cell phones to video the disruptive scene. Many ducked their heads and nervously giggled to each other as we made our procession through campus. As we continued the laughter increased. Soon many in the crowd around us were doubled over, laughing and pointing.

Laughing. Mocking. Jeering. It was like they were part of the mob. Or were they?

I stood there, feeling on fire, hot with the sun and hot with emotion at seeing the likeness of a crucifixion even in the small degree we re-enacted. My kids held back, gaping, as the crown of thorns rested on his head. Suddenly all our sin seemed equal. Great or small, we have all sinned against this perfect Savior.

I was part of the mob.

Then preaching. Moving for us who love Jesus, provocative for some, offensive to others. The kids and I took the basket of freshly baked German bread, each shaped into the form of a cross, and dispersed into the crowd to share about the love of Christ. We talked to many people, and each person unique in their perspective on what they just witnessed and their thoughts on sin, the afterlife, and a Savior.

Driving home that day I recalled my prayers for an outreach our family could participate in together. Our hearts are tenderized from this experience. We celebrated the Passover today (on Good Friday, a little out of order but no matter), and besides being exceedingly grateful to not be subject to boils among the other Plagues (don’t go google pictures to show your kids what a boil looks like…trust me!) I believe each of us has a deeper understanding of the perfect lamb, slain for us, saved by his blood and soon to rejoice in his resurrection.

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