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"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations . . ."(Matt 28:19)

28 May, 2013

On a journey . . . .

I have fond memories of many journeys I have taken through the years.   Both in the United States and on the continent of Africa I have had wonderful opportunities to take journeys to new places, to experience new people, new sites and new sounds.   Journeys are enjoyable, they often provide me with opportunities to learn about and then reflect on something new.  

My recent journey is one of understanding more of my God, Who desires to bring restoration.  

When I hear the word restoration referred to in today’s world, it is quite often associated with one of the following:
     -  Restoring a house to a condition it once was
     -  Restoring a prized possession, often a car, into the condition as it was originally built
     -  Restoring habitat of fish or wildlife, that they might once again have what they need       
               to survive

With the thought of restoration, comes the realization that something is “broken,” something “isn’t right,” something needs to be returned to its original condition due to one or more reasons.  Restoration is needed because of neglect, because of age or because of numerous other reasons.  Regardless of the reason, there is within us a desire to bring restoration in order to restore value or function in something that is “broken.”

In order for restoration to take place there must be recognition that something is “broken,” something  isn’t right.  Once we’ve identified there is a need, it takes resources, significant effort and time invested to bring restoration. One of the key first steps in many restoration projects is a bit of tearing down or removal of some part or parts of the project being restored.   

Bringing restoration to the things we love so dearly is important. However. even more important is recognizing the need for restoration in our relationships with others, even our relationship with God.   We live in a world of relationships in need of restoration. Relationships which are not right.  Relationships that have been broken due to circumstances, words said or words not said.  

Restoration is not just about the actions of doing what is right to restore the relationship.  In order to bring true, lasting restoration there must be a deeper change in us.   Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a Wild at Heart Boot camp put on by Ransomed Heart Ministries (ransomedheart.com).   During one of the sessions John Eldredge, shared,  If restoration does not reach our heart, we will not be successful.  Restoration comes as the result of a heart change, not an outward change in behaviors, actions.  Restoration in relationship with God and others can only come through a change in our heart. 

A heart change takes time, commitment, work, brokenness, recognition of the need for some “tearing down” and removal of hindrances to heart change which we have in our lives!  If there is not first a recognition of the need for a heart change, then no amount of time, commitment or actions can bring about restoration in our earthly relationships. The same is true, more importantly, in our relationship with God Himself.  A heart that that has truly been refocused, renewed and restored is a heart that has experienced the forgiveness of Christ.

As I continue to ponder these thoughts, I have been asking myself the following questions:
    -  What relationships in my life need restoration? 
    -  What am I willing to “invest” in order to bring about restoration in these relationships?
    -  What I willing to “invest” in order to allow God to bring restoration in my relationship            
           with Him?   

Restoration is a journey.  A journey I am travelling.    At times it is a difficult, yet necessary journey in order to bring all of my relationships back into a state of wholeness, the state in which God intended them to be.   

On the journey with Him,

Jeff

02 May, 2013

Two Seasons . . . .


We were told when we first moved to Africa there are basically two seasons in the year here, wet season and dry season. And true enough, there are months when it rains a lot and months where it rains less. They were right that flowers bloom through them all and a vegetable garden will produce all year. But even so, there are two distinct seasons.

My personal experience is also summed up in two seasons. Our lives seem to cycle between the two seasons of Lent and Advent. Sorrow and anticipation cycle through with great regularity, each one following the other. Sometimes I let them get all mixed up and then neither season can produce the fruit intended in my life.

Sorrow shows up like an unexpected thunderstorm in dry season, showering me with heaviness and pain. I know that entering into the sorrow is what brings joy on the other side, but when the billows of grief seem to never end and continue to build day after day it is hard to desire to lean into the storm and forge on ahead. I don’t expect Lent to show up when I am eagerly anticipating someone’s arrival, or some happy event or some long felt desire to be fulfilled. But Lent storms in nonetheless, unbidden but with the purpose of refining and cleansing and fulfilling God’s purpose.

Loss brings sorrow and catapults me into Lent. Co-workers departing for their Home Ministry Assignments, experiencing the effects of sin in our world, witnessing an unforgiving spirit, death of loved ones, broken relationships and so many other losses keep the season of Lent lashing its effects much longer than I want. Can’t I just hurry up and get to the next season?

I like Advent. I enter that season with deep gratitude and a sigh of relief. It is refreshing when it comes. I love anticipating good things coming! Currently I am looking forward to our son’s arrival here. He is coming in just two months! I get so excited when I let my mind carry me forward to seeing him walk out of customs at the airport, getting to give him a big hug, having time to talk without fearing the internet connection will drop off, etc. Ahh, so eager to get there.

But that isn’t the only thing I have to anticipate. I celebrate the Advent of Jesus into lives of people I know. I have such fun hearing testimonies from my Ugandan women friends who freely share how God is working in their hearts, how others are telling them they can see a difference in them. I look forward to the singing and dancing in worship on Sunday mornings in church (though I get tempted to let the LOUD volume send me tumbling into Lent). I prepare for the arrival of Jesus into hearts of those for whom I am praying. I pray with celebration, claiming Jesus’ victory over sin and death to bring victory over evil spirits in local communities here.

Advent gets me through Lent. Looking forward to Jesus’ return and being in heaven is my lifeboat in the deepest sorrow. Christ is coming again and He is redeeming all of creation to Himself and He will fully accomplish His purpose. These truths shine hope and joy into the darkest of griefs and help me enter the sorrow of Lent, knowing that true enough, life will bloom and I will grow and be all that Christ intends me to be. His best is both seasons, working together to bring the best fruit.

Two seasons aren’t so bad…the cycle brings life and hope and joy in the morning.