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March 2009
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May 2009

Gracie's Haircut

Our miniature schnauzer got her first shave a few weeks ago.  The little street-dog look disappeared and a new dog appeared.  Her transformation was amazing.  At least 2 or 3 people asked us if we got a different dog even! 

DSC_0003 She needed the haircut, especially since the tangles were getting severe and she could barely see past her eyebrows.  Another month and she would have had the perfect teenage boy eyebrows, bordering on Cousin It from the Adams Family.

Now she looks dignified and distinguished....kind of.  The breeder did not bob her tail when she was born, so she kind of has a goofy-looking tail back there.  But the trim was a much needed improvement (I think).

 I wish my own personal transformation could be so easy.  I so often wish I could trim of parts of my life, parts of my past, areas of weakness.  I wish I could just say, "Cut off that section of pride, and while you are at it, lop off some anger and insensitivity too."  I would love to remove some past actions and inactions, creating a new me!

DSC_0004I many ways, Christ has done that.  As a follower of Christ, I AM a new creation, but the project is still incomplete.  There are still patches of untransformed character within me.  Is it my fault?  Yes, probably. But it might also be God's decision. I do think He understands that every point of transformation is painful, and He can only do so much at a time.  We would never be capable of surviving the whole thing at one time.

I do hope and pray that God will continue to do a deep work in my life.  I want to meet a friend some year and here them say, "You are  different person that when we first met 10 years ago."  I want them to see my character, life, and maturity change, not just my body, hair, and wrinkles!  I want God to change me.


Stopping and Smelling the Roses

Yesterday I did something that I am not good at doing.  Relaxing.

I'm not trying to say that with a false sense of pride, secretly wanting people to think that I'm such a great worker, prideful about workaholism.  I'm met many people like that, always dropping hints of how busy they are, proud that they never rest.

I just confess that rest is not easy for me.  I have a hard time learning how to stop and smell the roses.

DSC_0088 Yesterday was our 19th wedding anniversary.  A meeting was scheduled for the day after our anniversary, so Nancy and I decided to go a day early and have a free day together.  We had a wonderful day wandering the streets of Brussels, doing nothing important, shopping for nothing in particular.  We ate waffles from a street vendor, drank cappuccinos, and walked for miles. 

In other words, I stopped and smelled the roses.

I am passionate about the work in Moldova; building the church, ministering at the Home of Hope, and laboring to see our country deeply transformed.  It is my desire to see Moldova deeply transformed by the gospel.  Yet I am also the dad to 3 great girls.  I do NOT want their memories of growing up to be of their dad being absent, doing God's work and forgetting them at home. 

DSC_0218 I have friends that do such a great job, getting away and relaxing as a family.  Perhaps the nature of the work makes it more difficult for me.  I am ministering for a cause, a high purpose in life.  It isn't just a simple job, putting it a few hours and then heading out for the weekend.  It is eternal work, trying to bring people into an eternal relationship with their Savior.

But I want to be like my friends, taking time regularly to simply stop and have fun, smelling the roses.  i want to lay at the beach with my girls, camp in the mountains, or eat waffles from a street vendor.  I want to wander with no particular destination, just laughing and enjoying the day.

Sounds kind of like a crazy prayer, but I want to learn how to stop and enjoy today.


Easter Morning

I got up earlier than usual today, 5:00 am.  I popped awake and could not get my mind to settle down once again.  All I could think about what Easter, that we were celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ today.  In Moldova, we celebrate the Orthodox Easter, this year being only a week apart.  (click here for explanation of why dates are different).

It is amazing to realize the transformation that happening on this day around 2000 years ago.  When Mary walked to the tomb on an early morning like today, cool, gray, and mournful.  As she walked, her heart was heavy, already burdened by the loss of the One who redeemed from her past.  He was the One who forgave her of her terrible sinful past, saw value in one that society had rejected.

Yet the tomb was empty.  Not only had they killed him, but now they had stolen his body!  How could they have done such a horrible indignity to the One who only loved?

Even when Jesus first spoke to her, she did not recognize him, instead assuming it was a gardener.  Her mind and her heart swirled in despair.

Then Jesus said her name---Mary. 
And she recognized him.
And a spiritual sonic boom crashed down upon her, its echoes still reverberating today.

He is risen. 


The End of Time?

I just sent out an e-letter on the urgency I have been feeling as of late.  It is one of those thoughts that has been bouncing around my mind as of late, growing over the last two weeks.

As a child, I remember hearing countless messages on the return of Christ.  I remember preachers saying "Christ could return to earth tonight!  Are you ready?"  The sense of the uncertainty of time was consistently repeated, driving the point. 

April 15, 2006 Cojusna 319I still remember a youth drama we did, with the main graphic being a digital clock face reading 11:59 pm!  We were only a minute away from the end of all time.  One woman woke up one night, not realizing that the power had gone out at her house, seeing the image 12:00 blinking red on her clock, screamed, thinking she had missed the rapture!

 I am not sure if all of those focused sermons were always necessary, but the benefit was the sense of urgency.  I wonder if we have lost that sense of time, truly believing that Christ could return today.  Have we forgotten the rush of time and the souls that are lost for eternity if they have not found Christ's mercy? 

I DO believe that there will be an end of time.  I know that some preachers major on prophecies and end-time scriptures.  Some people love that line of thought.  I may not be one of them, but I don't begrudge them. 

My end-time theology is too simplistic to even fill out a whole sermon.  I simply believe:  Christ IS returning....I don't know when....and it could be tomorrow.

That's it.  All three points fit Scripture.  All three points keep me focused on both the short-term and the long-term.  All three points don't box me into a corner, but allow me to do what God has called me to do.  I want to tell people about the mercy of Christ, His incredible love for them, and that He has already done everything needed to give them peace beyond anything they'll ever experience.

But I want to remember that it could happen today.  And live accordingly.


Disturbances

Over the last week, we have entered the stage of missions called "Living Among Civil Unrest."  I guess it is a common experience in the life of most missionaries, but we were definitely not expecting it to happen in Moldova so soon.

DSC_0031 The election in Moldova was held last Sunday.  We had been out of the country, driving back home the day after.  On Tuesday, protests were held in the downtown, turning violent in the evening.  There wasn't gun shot, but the parliament and president's building were damaged by stones and by fire.  Of course, in the midst of this, there are countless rumors of WHO actually was doing the damage--those against the Communist or was it instigated by the Communists in order to give reason for crackdown.  I certainly don't know!

The issue was over the Communists success and alleged voter fraud, intimidation, and ballot stuffing.  (Almost sounds like Chicago!).  Either way, the situation is a mess, and we are unsure whether it is over or will continue.  There are stories of students and journalists being beaten and disappearing, arrested by secret service.  There are stories of the borders being closed for Moldovan students returning, and roads being blocked to prevent protesters.  I know that leaders did threaten to shoot if protest continued (with violence).  I really have no idea of truth or rumor, but we do need to pray.

We feel totally safe here at this time, yet have taken a few precautions of preparation in case things escalate.  I realize that Moldova's disturbances will not make many headlines, and not even the backpage in most news sources.  But I do pray for a future for my country.  I pray that evil and corruption will be exposed and rejected and that Moldova will have an opportunity to create a better future.  If people just have an opportunity.....

I pray also that the Church will have freedom to share the Gospel still, and that the Church will take the lead in bringing hope to this country.  May we see God begin to transform our nation, one village at a time.