Archive for April, 2012

Tearing Down High Places: Part 2

Recently, I shared how I came to realize that I had, in a very real sense, set myself and our marriage up as a “high place” for my husband. Although I never would have said it, nor probably even thought it, the Holy Spirit showed me that my hurt, angry and bitter response to my husband’s need for God – instead of turning to me – as he wandered through the home-going of his mother unequivocally confirmed that truth in my heart.

God Himself stated that it was not good for the man to be alone – and He made that statement in the perfection of the Garden where God served as Adam’s company and companion. In that perfect moment, a time before sin became a part of the equation, God not only gave Adam (and the rest of us) permission to desire and need human companionship… fellowship… community… with someone who was not God – He ordained it! Yet week after week, we sing beautiful, heart-stirring worship songs about intimacy and relationship with the Lord being our “all in all;” that He’s “more than enough.” How do we reconcile these two?

It must be that the yanking back and forth between two good, God-given, complementary desires came when sin became a part of the equation. One of the consequences of sin was that Eve’s desire would be for her husband. At first, that doesn’t seem to fit with all of the other consequences. I read that and think, “Of course! Her desire should be for her husband. That’s a good thing, right?”

That particular Hebrew word occurs three times in the Bible.  In Genesis 3, it refers to the longing a wife will have for her husband. In Song of Songs 7, it refers to the longing of a man for a woman. What is so sobering is that in Genesis 4, it refers to the craving of a beast to devour its prey.  When I look at that third connotation of the original word, when I see that it is used in the context of a curse -negative consequences resulting from sin… I have to ask myself if the Lord wasn’t telling Eve that part of her continual struggle would be fighting against a longing that, if not confessed and repented from, then submitted to the authority of the Lord and the help and power of the Holy Spirit, could devour both her and the one she has promised to love above all else?

That word devour illicit vivid images… remember Peter’s words about Satan “prowling about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour?” What about David’s vigilance as a shepherd, necessary to prevent lions and bears from mauling the flocks for which he cared? And then there is, for me, the unforgettable biblical account that I once taught to the ladies in our church’s Bible study. In 2 Kings 17, the King of Assyria sent people to repopulate the area once inhabited by the Israel – and lions were devouring the people. The solution? A Jewish priest was commissioned to teach the people how to fear and worship the Lord – which the nations did. But they also kept their own high places and worshipped their own gods at the same time. In verse 33, it is written, “They feared the Lord and served their own gods,” Later, in verse 41, “So while these nations feared the Lord, they also served their idols; their children likewise and their grandchildren, as their fathers did, so they do to this day.”

Sobering words.

On his web page Spiritual Leadership, Henry Blackaby writes:

“Appealing to peoples’ carnal nature, the high places were always popular…” and

“High places are seductive… Such hedonistic religion appealed to peoples’ base senses of greed and sensuality. No wonder God commanded Joshua to obliterate…”

Resulting from that first sin in the Garden, I must recognize this continual temptation of a longing for my husband that distorts the original desire and need God placed within mankind to find joy and fulfillment in the companionship of a spouse or of others like us that complements the worship and adoration of Him as God and Lord. If my husband (…or child, etc.) subtly becomes the focus of my adoration and worship – and I set him up as a “high place,”  I then begin to demand that same sort of attention from him in return – trying to lead him to a high place centered on me. I become jealous, playing the part of jilted lover or forsaken friend when that does not happen. If not arrested, that longing can devour me… and the one who is the object of my longing.

Vigilance is key to stopping high place construction before it starts. I find I must continually present this temptation to the Lord each time the Holy Spirit reveals that I’ve begun… or have already built and begun worshipping once more at that pagan altar. I need to go back to the solution offered in 2 Kings 17. I must relearn a holy fear and reverence of the Lord. Yet I think it is clear from that chapter that a fear of the Lord who allowed devouring lions that terrify is not sufficient. Read of all the kings and rulers who feared and worshipped the Lord, but allowed the high places to remain… with consequences for those around them and for those who followed after them. The rest of the solution requires persistent, nitty-gritty obedience. I usually think of the following words, from Deuteronomy 6, as directed towards parents and leaders – but what if I applied them to all relationships…

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words which I am commanding you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates… then watch yourself, and see that you do not forget… You shall fear only the Lord your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name. You shall not follow other gods… you shall not put the Lord your God to the test… You should diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and His testimonies and His statutes… You shall do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord… So the Lord commanded us to observe al these… to fear the Lord our God for our good always and for our survival as it is today. It will be righteousness for us if we are careful to observe all this, just as He commanded us.”

(Post by: Richelle)

Tuesday Topic: Advice for Missionaries Moving to a NewField

From Shilo in Paraguay (currently on furlough): What advice would you give someone switching fields (ministry locations)? What do you wish you could tell your packing-for-the-field-for-the-first-time self now that you’ve been in your location for awhile?

(If you would like to pose a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to formissionarymoms@gmail.com . Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, and specify also if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)

Welcome to My Home!

I just did a post on my family’s blog to show our family and friends back “home” what our home looks like here in Russia. I thought that I’d invite you all over as well! I only wish it could be in person along with a cup of coffee and some good conversation!

Also, I’ve had dreams of figuring out that “Linky” application that I’ve seen a bunch and inviting you all to link your own home tour pictures from your blogs, but since I haven’t gotten to it, I thought I’d just invite you to leave the link to your post in the comments if you have one (or you could even make a post if you wanted!). I think it is so neat to see how people create homes in all sorts of places and circumstances all around the world!

Leave a link to pictures of your home in the comments if you’d like to give us a tour! (I will try to catch anything that gets marked as spam as soon as possible since that happens sometimes with links, so if your comment doesn’t show up right away, check back soon.)

(Post by: Ashley)

Friends, please pray…

Friends, I hope many of you will read this and stop to spend some time in prayer for the family and loved ones of one of our dear missionary mom friends, Julie Kurrles. I just heard the tragic news from Shilo that her family was in a car accident in Paraguay today and that Julie and her son were killed. Her husband, Norberto, and their daughter survived but are in the hospital.  Let’s all please gather together around the globe to lift up their family and the many others who are grieving right now…

Tuesday Topic: Missionary Moms with an Empty Nest

From Tammy in Tanzania: I would like to hear from moms who have an empty nest. You know, I thought once my children grew up and left home my job as a Mom would, in many respects, cease. However, I find that they need me, and my prayers, just as much as ever – if not more. With my first grandchild on the way this summer I am feeling a real pull towards America. How do moms deal with this season in life? In what ways have they found to be the mother their children need while so far away?

 

The Playground in Spring

(Some of my mom friends on the playground last spring)

Moving to this northern Russian city where the winter is so long and dark makes the coming of spring with it’s warmth quite thrilling. And it is not only the sun that brings this warmth, but the fact that the people who have lived all winter long closed in their cold communist cement block apartments begin emerging to stroll leisurely down the streets once more. Smiles and conversation begin blossoming in place of cold and brisk sidewalk passings.

Not only does the winter here starve us of sunlight, but it starves us of day-to-day community in many ways. As the ground and interactions warm, I am excited about the relational possibilities that spring will bring with it.

Once spring arrives, we resume our daily walks to the playground along with the many moms and little kids who live in our giant apartment complex. I see women and their children who have been living just yards up, down, or sideways from us, for the first time in months. New babies have been born, children have grown and moms have grown eager to relate to one another once again.

As I look forward to long mornings outside with my kids at the playground, I am also looking forward to the opportunity for relationship that is coming. Part of this eagerness is for my own desires for community and friendship, but another part is the great opportunity that this brings as I look to reach out to the women around me with the gospel and love of Christ. No matter where you go in the world, moms with little ones are eager to relate about the joys and challenges of motherhood. I have yet to meet a mom who feels like she has it all figured out. What a natural and great opportunity to share about the guidance, love, and wisdom that God provides to those who look to Him. Mothering little ones takes every single one of us to the end of ourselves. The question is when we reach that end, where do we look next? This stage of life, no matter where we are in the world, is such a unique time for ministry!

A good friend and leader here in our ministry recently was sharing with me how as her kids have gotten older it has become a bit harder to forge friendships and relationships with other moms in the community. People grow busier, kids start going out to play on their own while moms stay at home, and perhaps women even become a bit more set in their parenting ways and look less often for guidance. Hearing her share some such things made me all the more eager to take hold of this time with little ones and to pray that God will both allow me to make use of this time when it is natural to interact with so many moms on a daily basis, but also to pray that He will begin friendships and opportunities for influence that will last into those years when we no longer meet each morning around the sandbox.

Perhaps the contrast of literal seasons is a bit more profound where I am than where you are, but I am thrilled about this new time of friendship and ministry opportunity and wanted to encourage you moms of little ones as well to purposefully take hold of this unique season of life for the glory of God. Many times it can feel like this is such a difficult time to do any sort of “real” ministry, but I think in many ways we can structure our lives with our children in ways that will give us perhaps a greater influence than many other seasons. Young moms, let’s pray and be intentional with this season that we are blessed to find ourselves in!

Where do the moms in your community gather with their little ones? Are there any daily life routines in your host culture (or home culture if you’re in the US) that you might be able to take part in for the sake of growing relationships with the women in your community? Do you have any exciting or encouraging stories on this topic that you’d have a moment to share with us?

(Post by: Ashley)

Tuesday Topic: Thriving Long-term

From Kara in Russia: What do you think it takes to thrive long-term overseas?

(If you would like to pose a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to formissionarymoms@gmail.com . Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, and specify also if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)

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