Life This Week

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This is a short work week for most people in the United States because of Thanksgiving. But it can be a tough week because for every perfect, turkey-laden table out there, there is a person sitting alone at home overcome with loneliness and sadness. For every smiling, happy family, there is a family in tatters, ready to fall apart because of old hurt, long-held grudges, and un-grace. There are three things I’m focusing on this week:

I’m trying to live out Ephesians 4:2. This is one of those verses that is easy to agree with and seemingly impossible to live. “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” I want this to be true of me – that I would be humble and gentle with the people I see this week, including my family and friends. I want to be patient and make allowance for the faults of those around me; and I want to be met with patience and gentleness, and allowance for my own faults.

I’m inviting someone. I have been alone on Thanksgiving and I have looked around at my friends and wondered why no one invited me when they knew I would be alone. Inviting someone to your family meal changes the dynamics, and it may make other people uncomfortable, but the potential for demonstrating Christ’s love through an invite like that is sky-high. To be welcomed and loved, even for a short time, can change a life. It’s not a matter of feeling sorry for someone, it’s a matter of feeling love for them. I’m doing some inviting.

I’m thanking God on my knees with a list. This has been quite a year. As I think back over my year, I can’t do anything but fall on my knees in thanks, awe, and humility. This week, I’m going to be intentional about kneeling and listing out in thanks all the incredible blessings God has poured out on my life this year.

What does your week look like?

Is there someone you can invite?

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Smiling Faces, Cozy Sweaters, Stolen Heart

This is a dangerous time of year for me. All the advertisements, commercials, and catalogs tempt me. They tempt me to buy things I don’t need, but more significantly, they tempt me to believe that the items they are selling will satisfy me. They are so subtle and pervasive. Subtle in the sense that most of them don’t come right out and say, “Buy this and you will find happiness and contentment,” but that is what I begin to believe the more I see people with smiling faces, cozy sweaters, and perfectly designed and decorated homes. I am at risk. My heart is easily stolen. When Jesus was tempted, he used God’s word as a sword. I’m giving this a try. I’m hanging two different verses in a few places where I see them frequently (my office, my car, my kitchen wall, and on my phone wallpaper) during this time:

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Psalm 119:37

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 Proverbs 4:23

Are you especially tempted by something this time of year?

Is there a verse you could hang onto that will help you stand firm?

Life This Week

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My friends Lawrence and Martha Temfwe, who live in Ndola, Zambia, strengthen my faith and encourage me to continue to grow and surrender my life to God. They don’t do it through words, but through their lives, their example. I don’t mean their courageous acts (visiting people suffering with HIV/AIDS, carrying for orphans, building the local church), although those are important too. I am encouraged most by their faith in the small moments – when they pray together in the car before going anywhere, their devotional time at breakfast, the conversation with their boys at dinner, and their deep care about my relationship with and growth in Christ. Any time I falter, I can think of them and get back on track. What a gift it is to look around and find someone who is standing firm in faith, growing in their relationship with God, and filled with the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Even Paul said to a church in Thessalonica, “[k]nowing that your faith is alive keeps us alive.” (1 Thess 3:8) This week,

I’m thanking God for Lawrence and Martha Temfwe. They have been such a gift to me and they model faith, courage, and love. Their faith is so alive that they keep me more alive.

I’m praying for those who are faltering. I know that there are those around me whose faith is faltering today. I’m praying that God will open my eyes to those people and that I could be their Lawrence and Martha – that I could encourage them and strengthen them through my faith.

Who encourages you in your faith?

Who can you encourage today?

Life This Week

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I returned from a two-week trip to Zambia, Africa last Thursday. Entry back to life here is always a struggle and this time has been no different. It’s extremely hard to respond to the question, “So, how was your trip?” There is simply no way to answer it in a word or two. Words that come to mind, but are still insufficient: full, hard, alive, heartbreaking, stunning, prayerful. The best words I have found are not mine, but easily could have been, I nearly gasped when I read them:

Westerners arriving in Africa for the first time are always struck by its beauty and size – even the sky seems higher. And they often find themselves suddenly cracked open. They lose inhibitions, feel more alive, more themselves, and they begin to understand why, until then, they have only half lived. In Africa the essentials of existence – light, earth, water, food, birth, family, love, sickness, death – are more immediate, more intense. Visitors suddenly realize what life is for. To risk a huge generalization: amid our wasteful wealth and time-pressed lives we have lost human values that still abound in Africa.

Richard Dowden, Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles, at 1-2.

I have written four or five red exclamation points next to this paragraph, multiple stars, and underlines. Nothing could be more true and it is not just the first time one visits, as Dowden says, it is every time. What I experienced in Zambia was the intensity of the essentials of existence – light, earth, water, food, birth, family, love, sickness, and death. Each is present in every single moment, which is why the moments are too full to take in all at once. It’s almost like you have to turn away, take a breath, and return to the moment. God is in every moment and you know it with certainty.

This week what I desire most is that I don’t slide back into the wasteful wealth and time-pressed life that I left, but that I remember and embrace the essentials of existence, so:

I’m asking God to remind me of the essentials. Light, earth, water, food, birth, family, love, sickness, and death. Life is not life without any one of these.

I’m bathing my life in Scripture. I haven’t reached a full understanding of this yet, but something about recognizing these essentials of existence is critical to living out God’s Word. Interaction with widows and orphans sparks this connection. James wrote, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27) These always seemed like separate thoughts: 1) take care of orphans and widows; and 2) keep oneself from being polluted by the world. But, I’m beginning to see they are one thought. Each enables the other. It is no wonder James also wrote: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22) I am dedicating more time to reflecting on and living Scripture.

What does your week look like?

How could you bathe your life in Scripture?