Tales of a BMB #1
I admit it. I’ve been a BMB – a very Bad Missionary Blogger. Perhaps I should have written when we first arrived, almost two years ago now. Probably should have updated friends and family immediately; should have shared photos and commentary of this fascinating, brand new existence, but…<sigh>. To be honest, I was pretty overwhelmed for the first entire year. We departed America just two weeks after the Christmas holiday of 2010. Packing, donating, selling, and shipping a lifetime of acquired goods of a family of four was not an easy or a quick task, and during winter of all seasons. After the initial excitement of the big move – We. Were. Exhausted. Period. Physically, emotionally, but mostly – mentally. Our brains were tired. For the first three months, none of us could wake up before 10:00, sometimes 11:00. I’m not sure if I should be telling you this, but, now as I reflect on those earliest days, somehow I think it’s okay.
We arrived in Fukuoka on January 18, 2011 around 11:00 p.m. To our surprise, many of the church members drove 45 minutes south to the airport that night to greet us. We met most of these friends once or twice before during our previous visits to the country, but two in the group were unknown to us. Now, two years later, I’m happy to report that those who were strangers to us that evening are now some of our closest friends.
Our first few weeks were spent with Nils and Andrea Olson, our gracious senior missionaries. The Olsons, along with a good friend, found a house for us prior to arrival, but we had to wait to move in as final preparations were being made to the home. While we waited, we took care of various obligations: registering at City Hall, filling out paperwork, visiting the Realtor, and sleeping. Lots of sleeping.
Have you ever been completely floored by God’s demonstration of provision? We’ve been in several situations where He’s surprised us with finances and other blessings, but this one was over the top. He must have chuckled with delight when He delivered a financial gift to us in the form of several thousand dollars to initially outfit our new home. We had only brought clothing, books, and some small, personal mementos to Japan, and had no thought of how we’d purchase appliances, furniture – not even beds. But our Big Daddy had spoken to a church member who generously supplied for these necessities. Looking back, it was not only miraculous, but so much fun to buy all of this brand new stuff!
Our first purchase, along with an iron and microwave, was this cute fridge. We got a great deal on it because it happened to be the last one in stock, which was also the floor model. Appliances, along with everything else, are very expensive, so it was a huge blessing to receive almost half off!
Here are a few of the other items we bought. You can’t tell from the thumbnail photo but, this washing machine is completely in Japanese. All the appliances and their accompanying directions ONLY use Japanese. I initially had to memorize washing cycles by pressing buttons in a certain order. This was also the case for use of our high-tech fridge, toilet, and 3-way microwave/grill/oven. In fact, I was rather intimidated by all the kanji and thoughts of calculating temperature and time conversions on my oven, that I only used the microwave setting for months. I can now bake cakes, cookies, and even lasagna in our small but mighty range. (However, with regards to the washing machine, I pretty much stick to one basic setting for everything. The kanji’s still a mystery!)
Well, how about I end here for my first BMB entry? I’ve got lots more to share with you, but I want you to come back now, don’t I? Until next time…
Firestarter – A Follow Up to Tobacco Industry Tactics
Occupy Wall Street. Gay rights. Marijuana legalization. Israeli-Palestinian unrest. Social issues and discontent abound, perhaps not entirely unlike that of the sixties. As social issues raged at that time, there was a push for public awareness on many fronts. One of them was to educate Americans in the area of forest fires. Smokey the Bear was born in the mid-forties, but as a child of the 70’s, I can vividly recall that familiar furry face, pleading with me to do my part in keeping our forests safe. Every commercial ended with Smokey’s famous line, “Only YOU can prevent forest fires.”
According to statistics reported on About.com, wildfires consume over 4 million acres of American terrain a year. Over 100,000 fires break out annually, with 9 out of 10 of those fires beginning with only a touch of carelessness. Discarded cigarette ashes, fireworks shootings, ditched barbecue coals and similar actions comprise most of the ways in which vast, disastrous fires start. No wonder that James had likened the devastating effects of cruel words spoken into our lives to the potential destruction that can occur through spreading wildfire.
“Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” – James 3:5-6
I was five when this spark was lit, when I began to serve as a target for bullies on the school playground. We’re all kids once. Sticks and stones, right? Every kid’s been bullied at some point – helps them to toughen up, right? Doesn’t sound like a big deal. Right?
As innocent children, the words we receive into our spirits are high-powered ammunition, fully loaded. We don’t understand the weight of words. As they seep into our spirits, they filter down to the core. This is why James says that our words have the ability to “corrupt the whole person, setting the course of his life on fire.” What happens in a forest fire? A vast amount of land is devoured in a very short period of time. It devastates and destroys to a full degree. But as children of God, we have this hope and mandate:
“No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their righteousness is from Me,” Says the LORD.” – Isaiah 54:17
We often pray the first part of this verse out loud. But look at the statement, that ‘no weapon formed against you shall prosper’ within its context. The Lord tells us that words are weapons, and these weapons are wielded in the spirit realm. If you serve the Lord, if you really live for Him, your heritage is to cast down evil words spoken over you.
Look what it says just before verse 17. Isaiah prophesies the outcome of God’s children. Gems indeed.
“O you afflicted one,
Tossed with tempest, and not comforted,
Behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems,
And lay your foundations with sapphires.
I will make your pinnacles of rubies,
Your gates of crystal,
And all your walls of precious stones.
All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
And great shall be the peace of your children.
In righteousness you shall be established;
You shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear;
And from terror, for it shall not come near you.” – Isaiah 54:11-14
Guard you lips. Guard your heart. Be one to speak life, and put an end to those raging forest fires.
A Lesson from the Tobacco Industry
In the 90’s, I worked as a television and radio producer for ad agencies in the Midwest. One of my clients was an anti-tobacco non-profit organization, so I worked on public awareness ads that unveiled the tactics of big tobacco companies and their efforts to ‘hook’ potential smokers. While doing research for a new spot, I came across an excerpt taken from a documentary detailing the big tobacco companies’ marketing tactics. One of the strategies used is to intentionally market their presence to youth – knowing fully well that it’s illegal for youths to purchase cigarettes. The goal behind this strategy was to appeal to their potential market at an early age, luring them with hopes of lifelong brand loyalty. This is not an exclusive tactic of the cigarette industry. On the contrary, this marketing strategy is very popular, very effective, and extremely lucrative.
As shocking as it sounds, this is also one of Satan’s favorite tactics for creating “brand loyalty.” Have you ever been branded by other people? Have you ever been told, “You’ll never amount to anything.” “You’re so stupid.” “You’re fat.” “You’re such a loser.” You can insert a thousand other names, taunts, racial slurs, anything vile you can think of, and see that people are into labeling others, with aid and suggestions originating from Satan himself.
Let me prove it to you. Think back on your childhood. Can you recall a time when someone said something negative about you that has stuck with you all your life? Maybe it’s not a constant or active memory, but it has the ability to periodically rise to the surface of your thinking. That was the enemy’s ‘in’ – those words, his hook. Once the enemy finds a weak spot in our spirit, he continues to build his corrupt fortress upon that vulnerable ground; that false identity we come to accept through words spoken ignorantly by friends or family, or intentionally by antagonistic people. Jesus described Satan’s character to the Pharisees by saying this according to John 8:44,
“He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.”
Unbeknownst to us, we have bought into lies the enemy has sown into our being.
The Word of God breaks these powers of negative “brand loyalty.” When we can see ourselves through the mirror of God’s truth, the lies of the enemy become apparent. Contrast John 8:44 to what Jesus says here in John 10:10,
“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
We are called to experience abundant life, and that only comes through the words Jesus spoke. Believe the words of Jesus today, and begin to tear down those places of defeat that Satan has attempted to erect through words of death. Leave those tactics to the tobacco industry.
(photo credit: Valentin.Ottone)
Fathers and Flared Jeans
My mom and dad divorced before I was two. Perhaps it seems unlikely to recollect anything at such an age, but there are two very vivid memories I have of my father from that time. I remember wobbling over to hand him an orange Popsicle as he was putting on shoes in his bedroom. I also remember falling ashes from his cigarette as they burned a hole through the material on my little green, felt-covered stool. I was told later by my mom that he only smoked when he was nursing a hangover (which may have been often since he struggled with drinking, thus the whole reason for the divorce).
My mother made me keep in touch with my father over the years, though I’d never visited or saw him face-to-face growing up. Our contact only came by way of letters – and he was very faithful to write. I found it such a chore to compose letters to him. My mother would often read my letters and tell me that I could write better than that, and to do it again. This practice, I’m sure, is what served as the training ground for my future love of the written word! At the time I viewed it as drudgery and would write out of obligation, not because I felt any real connection or love for this man known to me as “Daddy John.”
When I was five, my mother married a man who I reluctantly call a wicked person. We both endured his various forms of abuse for almost eight years. It was after this divorce, and after several letters and telephone conversations with my dad, that he and my mother agreed to visit each other. You see, my mother always loved my father very much, and he in return adored her. But alcohol proved to be a real taskmaster and tore them apart. In the 11 years that had passed, he hadn’t remarried, and it was only months after he and my mom began to communicate again when they decided to exchange vows once more.
The marriage dissolved only a few years later as his drinking began to resurface. But during this season I gained a few more experiences interacting with my dad. When I was 16 he had once commented to me – innocently and purely fatherly in tone – that I would be a knockout in hip-cut flared jeans. This was the 80’s, and that fashion trend of the late 60’s was long gone and hadn’t yet reappeared. I had thought, “Oh yeah, right, whatever! Those are sooo not in and totally lame!” The flared jean trend has now once again come and gone. And just to note, my dad happened to be right.
One night, a few years ago as I was ironing a pair of jeans, that memory flashed through my mind. My next thought was,
‘My dad is the only male figure I can recall who had told me I was beautiful as I was growing up.’
He loved me. He was my father. Even when I didn’t return that love, He loved me still. He saw in me what no one else saw. For as imperfect as he was, he loved me unconditionally. I didn’t know it then, or even cared. Unfortunately, he died only two years later, while I was still too self-centered and selfish to return the love he had to give. I reflect on those few memories I have of my dad and realize that my Heavenly Father is completely perfect, and loves me far more than my earthly father ever could.
Somehow at some time, people will fail us, and we fail them in return. I didn’t know it as a teen, but I craved my father’s unconditional love, even when I threw it back in his face. Our Heavenly Father will never fail us, even when we are distant, unfaithful, and unwilling to receive His love. If your perspective of a good and loving God is altered because of man’s imperfect example, let your true Father speak words of comfort and life to you today.
Healing in the House!
Warts are not pretty. They belong on toads and storybook witches with large noses and green skin. In fact, they’re probably one of the most unsightly offenders on an otherwise healthy human hand or foot. My oldest daughter who shall remain nameless (at least for this article), had a colony of them comfortably thriving on about a quarter of prime left-foot real estate. Those squatters wouldn’t budge for two whole years! Yes, since 2009, my nameless, oldest child bore this problem. Medicines didn’t work. We lagged on going to the doctor. It got to the point recently where we told her we’d probably have to get them burned off, and prompted her to be prepared. But one evening, six weeks ago, God had another plan. After bedtime prayers, Unnamed Child whimpered, “These are so gross and they hurt.” Frankly, I was fed up with these ugly squatters and their assault on my daughter. I was reminded of what Jesus did to the fig tree when he didn’t find any fruit in Mark 11:14. He cursed it. Somehow I was aware that same faith had just risen up for this occasion. I pointed to those nasty buggers and proclaimed, “Just as Jesus cursed the fig tree to no longer bear fruit, I curse these warts, that you would die right now.” Within a week, they began to appear smaller. I was hopeful, as was…Unnamed Child, but we could still see them, their physical attributes still apparent. Week two went by, and we could certainly attest these things were on the move. Last night marks approximately six weeks since that curse went forth, and I’m here to tell you, the left foot of this sweet girl is beautiful, perfect, without a shred of evidence of its vile two-year inhabitants.
We have been the recipients of miraculous healings many times. In fact, when Sophie was just 5 years old, she laid her hand on 2-year-old Serena who had a 105 degree fever. Sophie cursed the fever, and within the hour, Serena was down to normal, with no signs of sickness and remained well. Recently, I began having heat flashes in MY left foot – periodic moments of burning discomfort. I’d read online that it could be signs of neuropathy, and there basically wasn’t any real cure for it. I tolerated them for about a week, where it got to the point that I’d had more than a dozen flare ups within a day. Jim and I agreed in prayer that they would leave — and I haven’t had an incident since that moment.
All this boasting, (and I do mean boasting!) is in Jesus Christ alone. Jesus is THE Healer, and will always be the Healer. No human can perform what Jesus did through us and for us, except that His Spirit lives within us. My dear online friends and family, I write this today to encourage you to stir up your measure of faith in the only one who truly, forever heals. If He can heal broken lives and hearts, how much more can He take care of a cold, a backache, depression, anxiety…warts?!? He can, He does, and He lives so that we can partake of His goodness in tangible ways. Believe on Him today, let Him work through your life to touch another and give God the glory for His goodness!