Be an Ambassador

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My daughter Hannah and I had the privilege of staying two nights in the home of the Ambassador of the Republic of Haiti in 2006 when we were visiting Washington, DC.

We had a lovely visit and even went to a celebration of Nigeria’s Independence Day at the Nigerian Embassy with our host and hostess. I saw the most beautiful dresses there that I have ever seen!

How did we happen to have this amazing opportunity?

Well, the story starts in 1956 when I was 5 years old.

I grew up in an old farmhouse that evolved into a house in a neighborhood four blocks from Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois. My parents housed students from Wheaton College to help pay their mortgage.

One of those students was a brilliant young man, Raymond Joseph, from Haiti. He was studying at the college and would always greet us in the mornings and evenings in French as he passed by us to his room upstairs. He had the most beautiful smile and was always interested in what my brothers and I were doing.

Raymond Joseph went on to study at the University of Chicago and later worked as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and worked as a leader in the Haitian opposition movement of then dictator, Francois Duvalier.

You can imagine my surprise when I got a telephone call 55 years later from Raymond Joseph!

He was calling from Washington, DC where he was living and serving as Ambassador to the United States from Haiti. Raymond had been in touch with my mother and she had given him my phone number. We talked for a long time catching up and reminiscing.

He said that if we ever came to Washington, DC we were welcome to stay with him.

Don’t ever say that to the Woodys – we will come!!!

We had the most delightful visit. Ambassador Joseph had his limo pick us up and drop us off for a tour of the Haitian Embassy. We talked at length about the issues facing his homeland and his efforts to work for progress and real change for his people. His love for Haiti and his people was evident in his home, his office, and all he shared with us.

The definition of ambassador is – an accredited diplomat sent by a country as its official representative to a foreign county.

Raymond Joseph was an excellent ambassador. He represented Haiti well from 2005 to 2010.

The recent appointments of ambassadors for our new administration has prompted the above memories and also started me thinking of our role as ambassadors for Jesus Christ.

II Corinthians 5:20-21 says –

20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin,  so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

What a beautiful message of reconciliation!

We, God’s children, should be representing our Heavenly Father in such a way as to make others who aren’t Christians desire to become part of God’s kingdom.

Are we being good ambassadors?

Do our children, grandchildren, friends, co-workers, anyone we come in contact with – do they see a Jesus in us who loves them so much He died for them?

  • Do others see grace or condemnation?
  • Do they see joy or sadness?
  • Do they see faith or fear?

God is making His appeal through us!

May we be faithful ambassadors of the kingdom of God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Let the Fire Go Out

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I heard a truck in the driveway and the first thing I did was glance at the wood stove.

Was there wood in the stove or had I let the fire go out?

As is often the case, I had been caught up in my book-making and I had forgotten to tend the fire. So, before Phil came in I quickly added wood and was sheepishly grinning when he entered the den.

After 41 years, Phil is accustomed to those sheepish grins. 🙂

Yes, I am easily distracted, yet when I am working on art, time literally slips away. I am totally immersed in the creative process and I need reminders to fulfill my other responsibilities.

We do this spiritually as well. We can get so caught up in “doing” for God that we forget to “tend the fire.”

What does it mean to “tend the fire” spiritually?

It means that we are re-stocking our lives with fuel from the Source, in other words making sure that we are receiving fresh spiritual food from God’s Word. I have been a Christian for almost 60 years, yet I can’t survive on old teaching from my past – as good as it was.

Anyone who heats with wood will tell you – old wood burns up fast!

I need to allow Holy Spirit to speak to me with fresh insight for the current issues I face today. As I read the Bible, the Living Word, it feeds the flames of the spiritual fire within me. This past weekend I attended a women’s conference at our church. Katherine Wright shared from her heart some things that the Lord had been teaching her recently through very tragic circumstances.

“We have created for ourselves an illusion of safety,” Katherine said. “My recent study of Scripture has made me realize that this was NOT Paul’s or the early Christians view of suffering.”

In I Peter 1:6-9, Peter encourages Christians that their suffering has a purpose –

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

I must be faithful to feed the spiritual fire within me through reading God’s Word, hearing Biblical teaching, and listening to the Holy Spirit within me. Katherine’s words clarified for me the truth that suffering is part of life, yes, a NORMAL CHRISTIAN life.

Feeding on the Word of God will keep my fire burning!

Get Plugged In

 

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“I always check first to see if the computer is plugged in, or if the power source is on.”

Our tech guy was explaining to me why he was checking the power source and connection of my classroom computer.

“You would be surprised how many times folks contact us for tech help and their computer isn’t plugged in or the power strip is turned off.”

I breathed a sigh of relief when my computer was in fact on.

I did spend about 20 minutes one day because my computer wouldn’t take my password. A co-worker came by and noticed that the computer was logged in to the substitute I had while attending a workshop. I logged myself in and AMAZING – it took my password! SO GLAD I hadn’t called the tech guy!

Do we do this as Christians? Do we run to someone for help, when we aren’t even connected to the Power Source?

Yes.

We do this more often than we realize. Sometimes we just wallow in our worry, despair, or confusion wondering why we feel so “disconnected” or so “drained.”

As a Christian, my source of power is the Holy Spirit. Paul tells us in Romans 15:13 –

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

No matter what we are facing in life, we can have hope, joy, and peace if we are connected to the source of power.

How do we get connected? Peter preaches his famous sermon in Acts chapter 2 on what we call the day of Pentecost. The crowd asked Peter after his message how they could respond. Acts 2:38 -39

38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

This promise is for each of us – and for our children!

Later in this chapter, we are told how to STAY connected. Acts 2:42.

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

These four disciplines will assure that we stay connected to the source of power.

  • Biblical teaching
  • Fellowship
  • Eating together
  • Prayer

Attending a women’s Bible study addresses each of these disciplines for me.

  • Biblical Teaching – We study God’s word together. I am always blessed by insight from God’s word that various women share, often truth that I see in a new light.
  • Fellowship  – The fellowship is encouraging and such a blessing! Women of various ages and different churches and backgrounds attend. I have met women I would never have met apart from this fellowship.
  • We share food once in a while, which is always nice, nourishing our bodies and souls.
  • Prayer – we pray for each other after sharing requests each session and also pray during the week.

If you are not connected to the Source of Power, consider attending a Bible study. There is often child care available for mothers of young children.

Let’s get plugged in and stay plugged in to Jesus, the source.

 

For Such a Worm As I

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The pew was shaking –  I knew because my parents were giving my little brother and I the “evil eye”.

The pew was shaking because we were trying our best to suppress the laughter that arose every time we sang that song. After once being overcome with giggles, a simple glance at each other set us off again.

Did that ever happen to you? Do you remember how hard it was to stop – even knowing the trouble we were in if we didn’t stop.

It happened every time we sang the hymn – “At the Cross”

“Alas and did my Savior bleed and did my Sovereign die?

Would He devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?”

That was the line that did it! That set off the giggles. It is a beautiful hymn with deep and heartfelt meaning. But for Gregg and I, the vision of ourselves as worms brought on laughter every time we sang it.

Sometimes it is hard being a child in a worship service.

Three weeks ago we attended the worship service in Maryland where our daughter and her family attend church. In the seats in front of us I saw two “tween” age girls who were writing in notebooks during the service. As we stood to sing the closing hymn, I glanced down and saw that they had been taking notes during the sermon. I asked one of them about it afterwards and she said,

“Our youth leader gave us these books to encourage us to pay attention to what the pastor was saying.”

What a blessing!

As a teacher and committed note taker myself, I was thrilled! These young girls were following along as the pastor preached and writing down statements they wanted to remember. The notebooks had a two page spread for each Sunday. There was space for such things as:

  • date –  topic
  • verses used
  • notes
  • questions I have about the sermon

I thought this was a great way to introduce adolescents to note taking. These two girls seemed very engaged with the process.

It is a challenge for children to participate in worship services, yet it is such a blessing for children to learn at a young age that they can sense God’s presence and learn to honor him through worship. God gives instructions to his people, the Jews, before they enter the promised land. They have spent 40 years in the wilderness and God wants to make sure that they REMEMBER the lessons he has taught them.

Doesn’t that sound just like a parent?

Deuteronomy 4:9-10

9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. 10 Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when he said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.”

Teaching our children the importance of authentic worship is best accomplished when they see their parents and grandparents worshipping authentically.

Some ideas we found helpful when our children were small were:

  • expect excellent behavior, clearly communicate expectations before the service
  • do not threaten. If a child misbehaves, take them out and correct behavior right then
  • threats prolong misbehavior and the child will keep misbehaving to see just how long they can get away with something before the parent intervenes.
  • give grace as a child is learning to worship respectfully, encourage them as soon as their behavior improves
  • talk about the service afterwards, at dinner, or on a walk, ask questions
  • do NOT criticize the worship service in front of your children, such as complaining about the choice of songs, the sermon, or the special music. This will breed disrespect for the participants in the worship service.
  • pray together as a family that your worship will honor God

Looking back on my over 64 years of participating in worship, I am so thankful my parents included me as a young child….

even a worm such as I.

 

An Act of True Worship

Adah and leaves

Our daughter shared a post yesterday from John Piper about worshipping with our children. It is excellent and if you want to read it, I have included the link below.

It reminded me of my personal story regarding worship and children. It is from the 2nd blog I ever posted – April 25, 2011. Here it is –

As mothers of young children your body is a living sacrifice. You are no longer your own. You get up in the morning, change diapers, breastfeed, have meals, tend to chores (when able) and meet others’ needs all day long according to their schedule, not your own.

Romans 12:1 says “Therefore I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.”

A loving mother sacrifices her own wants and needs for her family. I can remember thinking when our four children were small that I would never feel rested again.

I couldn’t imagine getting enough rest!

Yet, God convicted me with the truth of the above scripture one day at our home group. The home group leader, Phil, asked us to think about what in our lives were hindrances to authentic worship. The immediate response that came to my mind was “my children”!

Then I felt shame.

These were gifts from God! Why did I see them as a hindrance?

Because I did not see my service to them as significant in God’s eyes. I thought a “ministry” was more important. Yet, the Lord showed me those children were my ministry at that time. NOTHING was more important. Offering my body as a living sacrifice WAS an act of worship – one very pleasing to our Lord.”

Worshipping in church services with our children is one way to sacrifice – for a relatively short period of time – our own desire to focus on worship without distractions. As our children watch us worship, they will learn what worship is and learn to sense the Holy Spirit’s presence through the various parts of the service.

I believe once children are 5 years old, (some even before), most are able to learn what it means to sit quietly, participating as they are able. John Piper says – “Authentic, heartfelt worship is the most valuable thing in human experience.”   Yes! Amen!

If I believe that, why would I deprive my children of this experience? Add to that the joy of experiencing authentic worship together.

There will be challenging times, especially at first, but it is well worth the effort. This is true for grandparents as well. Grandparents need to support and encourage our grandchildren to worship, first by being examples of those who truly worship ourselves.

What a joy to experience the act of true worship together as families!

 

desiringgod.org  “Should Children Sit Through “Big Church”?

From the Inside Out

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“Two coats of paint and that pink mess is still showing through!”

I was talking to myself in a VERY disgusted tone of voice. I was working on a “refinishing” project that I had GREAT plans for.

Does that ever happen to you?

We usually stoop to this behavior when we are frustrated that:

  • our work is not progressing as we planned
  • we are forced to repeat a task we already thought was finished
  • we have to repeat instructions ONE MORE TIME! (moms? teachers?)
  • things are not turning out as we planned

Pretty much everyday occurrences, yet we allow frustration to take over.

It started like this….

I bought an old buffet at a yard sale. It was in rough condition  – which made it affordable for me. It had a veneer surface, which I knew would be a challenge to repair, but the claw feet were so impressive. So, I got out the trusty stripper.

ok… VARNISH STRIPPER, old rags, and set to work. I realized very soon that this piece, because of its age, had old varnish that was not responding to my efforts.

I was undeterred. I kept at it. I had to justify this purchase as a hidden treasure – NO MATTER WHAT!

I finally removed all the old varnish that I could and it looked…well….terrible. Parts of the veneer were gone or loose, so I pulled them off. Now I REALLY had a mess.

So I did the next best thing. If refinishing fails, paint the wood.

I painted the wood, except for the top piece, because that wood was a solid piece of beautiful oak.

But the parts I painted antique white looked pink!

I painted on another coat – it still looked pink!

I let it dry…still pink.

Phil noticed my frustration and asked, “Why did you paint it?”

NOT what I needed to hear at this point….

But he did offer some good advice. He said I should get some KILZ paint which is made to cover mistakes. This project was turning out to be a BIG mistake, so I did as he suggested.

It worked.

After painting, I sanded some of the edges to give the piece an aged, distressed look. (It was aged after all and had caused me distress!)

Then I added some tiles I had purchased at a yard sale 3 years earlier, just because I liked the way they looked. They fit perfectly where I had pulled off some of the veneer.

tile backsplash

I spray painted the handles to look like hammered pewter and I was done.

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I actually liked the finished results. The white paint ended up fitting in with the white cupboards in our kitchen so much better than a totally wood piece would have done.

We are studying the book of Colossians and the following verses made me recall my “refinishing” project.

Colossians 3:8-10 (NLT)

8 But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. 9 Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.

Just as I had to strip off the old varnish, God wants me to strip away my old sinful nature.

But that is not all – “put on the NEW nature.” I had to put on three coats of white paint to avoid having the old varnish show through as a pink tint.

As a Christian, I must get rid of the old nature and allow God’s Holy Spirit to renew me from the inside out. Then my new nature will be what shines through so others see Jesus as I am renewed to become more like Him.

May Jesus renew each of us from the inside out!

 

 

Contrast

Phil and Gayle 1975

“How did you and Phil ever get together?”

We just celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary, and the answer is still the same –

God

We could be the poster couple for “opposites attract.” Just ask any of our friends, or our children for that matter. Phil and I are very different. That has created definite excitement in our marriage. May I use excitement to describe these extremes?

  • I think money is to use – he thinks money is to save
  • I think decorating means arranging items by color and visual harmony – he thinks it means putting items wherever they fit
  • I think it is relaxing to have friends over for food and fellowship – he thinks relaxing is being quiet by yourself
  • I think it is fun to be in big crowds and be a part of what is going on – he dislikes big crowds (unless it is a major league baseball game)
  • I like to sit near the front at church gatherings, concerts or performances – he likes to sit in the back

These are just a few examples of the contrast between Phil and myself.

Contrast as a principle of design is defined as “the juxtaposition of different elements of design in order to highlight their differences and create visual interest.” Differences create visual interest because things don’t all look just the same. Contrast creates excitement in art work. Light and dark elements of a painting create drama, just as neutral values that are all the same seem dull or uninteresting.

Contrast can also easily become conflict.

Jay Fesperman, a very wise and Godly man shared at a marriage retreat – “If both people in a marriage always agree, one is unnecessary”.

We do NOT have that problem! We often don’t agree. Yet how do we prevent the contrast of our relationship from plummeting into the depths of hurtful conflict?

What has allowed us to stay together and resolve our contrasting viewpoints low these 40 years?

Godly advice.

Ephesians 5:31 Amplified Version

31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall be joined [and be faithfully devoted] to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery [of two becoming one] is great; but I am speaking with reference to [the relationship of] Christ and the church. 33 However, each man among you [without exception] is to love his wife as his very own self [with behavior worthy of respect and esteem, always seeking the best for her with an attitude of loving kindness], and the wife [must see to it] that she respects and delights in her husband [that she notices him and prefers him and treats him with loving concern, treasuring him, honoring him, and holding him dear].

This says it all.

Phil and I do not live up to this standard – yet this is what we come back to when the contrast in our relationship threatens to tear us apart.

We do share several things in common –

  • God is first in each of our lives
  • We are both deeply committed to our family
  • We walk in forgiveness toward each other – yes – this is a choice
  • We respect each other, we don’t always agree, but sometimes we agree to disagree

I am humbly thankful for our marriage, because as imperfect as it is, we are committed to walking out the next 40 years together – with God’s help.

God had a plan when He brought us together.

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2015