Our childhood has left us wandering, seeking the magic prescription to plug the gaping, black void in our soul. We don’t have staying power.
In fact, we don’t know why we pursue unhealthy relationships, more money, or status. A touch, the temporary satisfaction of buying something we can’t afford, or a drink or drugs fail to halt that yearning. That yearning hungers for more and that hunger drives our life as if we have no choice so we flit from job to job; from relationship to relationship; from church to church. Others disappoint our expectations and we move on.
Oh dear one, the only person who can salve that ache is Jesus! It is time you put down roots and examine your life. You find out the why and you will be free!
Will you join us as we, once again, surprise the Salvation Army Bell Ringers with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate? Try to do it anonymously. Most restaurants are more than happy to deliver the cup to their bell ringer. It helps them feel a part of encouraging someone they don’t know.
I won’t lie. It has kicked my butt for going on 10 years now. There have been times where I thought there was no way I could go on another day. Depression, disillusionment, disappointment, dread…sometimes they seem like constant companions to me. And they are bad friends.
I was talking the other day to a good friend who wants to be a missionary. “Be careful what you wish for,” I told her. I wanted to be a missionary once. And look where that got me.
I stopped wanting to be a missionary like 6 months after becoming one. In complete culture shock, having been lied to by one too many people, struggling to find my way in the confusing unnamed streets of Tegucigalpa, lonely, with still an inept sense of the language, being whistled at by beady-eyed men on the streets, feeling like I was getting nothing done as I stood in yet another line, trying to begin a ministry that looked oh-so-different then it had in the States, and feeling like I was failing in every single aspect of it.
Add to that the complete silence of God. It was like He left. Took off. Took one look at me and realized I was not worth His investment and went to look for someone else. Someone more worthy of His time and affection. And on the way out the door, He left the door open to the Enemy. It was like He said, “have at her.” And the Enemy wasted no time.
So there I am…having thoughts I’d never thought before, temptations I’d never had before, fears I’ve never felt before, in a place I’d never lived before, among a language I’d never spoken before, among people I had never known before.
Fun times. Who wants to be a missionary now? Not me. And yet…
I’m still here.
Turns out, God didn’t take off when I thought He did. Turns out He’s pretty invested here. With me. Turns out He did let the Enemy in, but then came kickin down the door like a jealous husband when I cried out to Him. Turns out He wants me here and has defended me on every turn when I’ve been depressed, disillusioned, defeated and disheartened.
So, yeah, its hard being a missionary but it is also extremely…amazing. Since last time I wrote, I’ve had 2 camps for the disabled, 2 short term teams, 1 national youth camp, and 1 retreat for pastors and their families. The camp is being rented out almost every weekend where we don’t have an event scheduled. With this last team from Garden Spot Village in Pennsylvania we finished the cement floor of the multipurpose building, built a storage closet, and finished the painting of the new dorms. Kitchen cabinets were built and installed and so were shelves for the kitchen pantry. A team from Seoul Baptist Church in Houston came in June and planted some beautiful gardens, painted and helped put on the single-most dynamic camp for the disabled that we’ve ever had. This year’s national youth camp was incredible. And God did such amazing things. Sometimes I sit there as these events are going on, and I’m watching God work, and I just wonder to myself, “how did I get chosen to do this?” A kid calls me after youth camp is over, thanking me for inviting him and he tells me, “I really want to follow Christ. This time I’m serious.” I watch as two leaders are praying with a disabled girl who wants to trust Christ. I see a pastor holding hands with his wife as they go walking off together to talk about their marriage.
Seriously, I get to do this stuff! I get to see this stuff. I get to participate in this stuff! Amazing!
So, yeah, being a missionary is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. But it is also pretty darn amazing.
So, hey, will you pray for me? I’ve been walking yet another hard path in this missionary/life journey but I have to say, God has been so good to me. He has been speaking to me and pouring His love over me like I’ve never quite known before. And He’s tearing things off of me and pulling out roots from inside of me…and it’s kinda hurting. Like a lot. But He’s being so tender and kind at the same time so…it’s good. But it still hurts.
So will you pray that He will finish the work and that, when it’s over, I will have an undivided heart.
I would also appreciate prayer for the 3 remaining big events of this year: a pastors/leaders conference with Michael Wells, an international speaker who speaks on the Abiding Life in Christ (Oct. 6-8), a camp for the blind (Oct. 21-22) and a conference for women (Nov. 11-13).
Bio: Michelle Crotts is a missionary for International Teams in Honduras. She attends FBC Prescott when she is home where her parents attend. You can view more information about her here.
In celebration of our first short term missions trip next year, I have re-posted a guest post from the missionary we will be working alongside for a short time in conjunction with Faith Barista’s community post one-word, “Follow.”
“I understand even more so, on a physiological level, what it means to hold yourself back or find yourself wanting to say something, but then having nothing to say because you’d rather just not speak from your soul.” – Faith Barista, “Love”
Writing is not a career choice for those who wish to hide their vulnerability. If you blog, anyone can read between the lines and figure out what you fear by what you don’t write. A person who fears revealing herself will choose safe subjects that don’t run close to the pain beneath the surface. Writing novels and blogging reveal who we are whether we give our pen permission or not.
Mary De Muth in Thin Places revealed as much in her book when she said a writer’s first novel is autobiographical. Every character we write are composites of people we’ve met or pieces of our inner selves recreated in a character. Writing is not a hiding place. It sweeps back the curtains and lets the light shine on our secrets. If we are honest, re-reading our own writing can be therapeutic. In the Christian world, we call that self-examination. I’ve always said it’s healthy to re-read your old blogs or journals to learn from our past. But some writers continue to hide behind great ability. They write intelligent blogs and quiver fearfully behind safe subjects. Although, those safe subjects are great reads and full of humor; it’s a safe subject nonetheless.
The news is necessary. I trust only certain news stations to bring me most of the truth, understanding that bias exists even with the best of intentions. A person can’t write something or talk about something objectively. If you examine what it is you are reading closely, you will find a bias. Bias is more rampant nowadays and less reporters are trying to hide that bias, opting instead to write convincingly to sway the readers mind towards a hidden agenda. Video is even more damaging.
A recent video of a supposed heckling of an anti-gun father from the Newtown shootings is a relevant example. See an edited version reported by the Huffington Post here (originally posted via MSNBC) and the unedited version played here. See the difference?
MSNBC agreed to review their video after a tireless Twitchy chased the story one twitter account at a time to ask people to retract their knee-jerk reactions to the edited video and encouraged them to watch the unedited version. Video editing is why I trust little when it concerns the news. I have my favorite news source and my other lesser news sources where I gather information. In fact, it’s good to look a variety of news sources so the truth shines brighter. Like when someone on twitter tried to counter my argument, all I had to do was send him the Google search link where he could have a broader picture of the situation and see the untruth that was spread by liberal news sources. Trust is a thing earned.
With the chaos in the world, the unrest, and watching as people try to bring down our country from the inside, I ask myself—whom do I trust?
I remember that God is in control. No matter how scary the future, God has the world’s past and future written in His book. His word never changes. He is constant, blunt, and I am reminded of the story of Esther that our pastor explained during prayer time.
In Esther 4:12-14, Mordecai said, “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
Mordecai’s statement about relief and deliverance is a statement of total trust and faith in the promises of God. As our pastor said, Haman couldn’t completely annihilate the Jews; neither could the Holocaust, Holodomor, etc. During Esther’s time, Jesus Christ was to come from a line of Jews sometime in the future and so while some would die in Haman’s annihilation, some would be saved. I thought this was relevant for today.
We watch the news, watch how some churches add to the Bible or take away from the Bible, and we wonder if there will be any believers left when Jesus returns? When our pastor explained this verse in Esther during staff prayer time, it reassured me. Somehow, whether America survives or not, there will be believers taken up on the last day at Jesus’ return. For now, we must fight using the truth, question everything, and join grass-roots movements, and not, as my favorite line in Independence Day says, go quietly into the night.
When I wrote this, ice glittered under the onslaught of cold sunshine. A fog bank hid some of the mountains in the distance and I pushed my afghan close around my body as I read. It’s when I recalled my prayers for Pastor Ratnakumar in India and the warmth we take for granted.
He’s a pastor ministering to orphans and older people. A month or so ago he asked for prayer to get 200 Bibles. Last week, he said he needed blankets. Because God provided some extra money this week, we are using our ten percent to send money to him. A Google app helped me break down U.S. Dollars compared to INR.
Pastor Ratnakumar needs 30 blankets. In India, each blanket costs approximately 300 INR (roughly $5.50, I think in US Dollars). If you do send money or a blanket, I have his address. I would send money via Moneygram or Western Union. If you know how to knit or crochet or quilt, I might suggest sending a homemade blanket if the air mail isn’t too costly, but keep in mind there are also duty added to the cost of mailing something to India. If you would like to help him, please email me for the address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In America, we talk about the poor, but our poor cannot compare to the poor in other countries. In our country, we have charities and churches who provide for those who cannot or will not work and those struggling to find work. Even our government provides money to people. One homeless man I observed owned a smart phone. In India, they have unofficially a caste system where those that don’t fit in are left to starve. So as we wrap even our worst coats around us to ward off winter’s chill, remember Pastor Ratnakumar in your prayers. We’ve been corresponding for several months and I’ve been praying for him and his ministry.
When I think of the word for the year as chosen by Bonnie over at Faith Barista, I think of Pastor Ratnakumar who is beloved by God in what God has enabled him to do for his people.
What people influence you? And how do they influence? Why do you admire the people you admire? Is it because they are godly people or is it how they dress? Are the people you admire shallow and image driven or deep in the Word of God? Maybe it’s their magnetism that draws you to them. Whatever the case, the people who have that kind of power of influence that draw us should be people who inspire us to godly things. They should shine like an arrow pointing right at the scriptures and the God behind the scriptures. That’s what Bonnie does over at Faith Barista. Today is her first blog post in a long time.
She asked, “What is your word for 2013?”
Because without relationships, people can’t see Jesus working in our lives in tangible ways.
Now it’s your turn. What’s your word for 2013 and why?
This is an open letter to a friend. I helped her get a job, find an apartment, and because I didn’t agree with her choices, one day years ago lost my temper. I never got a chance after ending the friendship to truly say I am sorry. So this is an open letter in the hopes that she’ll read this; or maybe you’ll read this having undergone a similar situation.
You were dating someone whose mother thought you weren’t good enough to marry her son until you learned to be a proper housewife—one that knows how to cook adequately. Her son still lived at home and when he declared his intention to marry you, you also moved under the same roof and his mother taught you how to be a good wife. I was aghast that anyone would treat you that way. I was determined to “save” you. But my life was a rocky reef where ships wrecked.
I was barely twenty-one. You were in love with some rock star celebrity who had an Australian accent and you loved the Beatles. Your boyfriend loved those things, too.
I was determined to fix your life. You went along with me. I helped you get a job where I worked and you nearly got me in trouble with my supervisors. Then, I helped you get an apartment and you were excited to have your own place. That was until others convinced you otherwise and after putting down the deposit, you waited too long to change your mind. You couldn’t get that money back because the deadline had passed. After all that work, that made me angry.
I stopped hanging out with you. One day you called and we got together to play billiards. You asked me what was wrong in the parking lot. I lost my temper. You went home in tears. I went home angry, then felt bad because I shouldn’t have lost my temper with you.
Life at twenty-one was turmoil. Rarely do I lose my temper, but I lost it that day with you. Instead of letting go of my control tendencies, I chose to allow it the upper hand and it crushed our friendship. I hurt you that day and I have never forgotten the lesson in it.
I have learned to keep that temper under control. Even now, when I want to lose my temper, I think of so many things, including that day. It’s not the kind of person I want to become as I grow older. There’s been too much anger in my past and observed of others in my life that I purposely remember those examples so I can be a better person. Time will tell if I succeed, but for now, I hope you will accept my apology.
I was wrong to yell at you.
Thank you for your friendship all those years ago. I may have said I knew Jesus to you, even got mad at you for using His name in vain, but I wasn’t saved. I wouldn’t truly understand who Jesus was until the year 2002. I misrepresented Him to you. It is my hope that you have come to know the real Jesus—the one in the Bible. If you did, then I am happy. I hope this letter finds you happily married to a good man who will take care of you; or at least, content in your life. We should both be close to the same age right now.
It’s difficult to share things—to have the courage to share. Things that become emotional clog in my throat, my breathing becomes labored, and I smile and nod. I sit so still and I don’t want to look at anyone. Part of me wonders as I struggle for breath if I am about to have a panic attack.
Then, God answers my soundless cry. It’s reassuring and my breathing becomes normal. Emotions though have always been difficult to handle. I still want to be that woman who can handle anything, forgetting His lesson that I do not have to be strong. God has given me a great support system. I should just let Him be strong. His protective hand remains and I feel it with me, steadying me. I am determined to live as though each person is trustable, trusting God to piece together my heart should someone shatter it.
And that will happen—someone will betray me or disappoint me, but I don’t have to let it affect me in such a way that I live isolated in a crowd. I choose to love. I choose friendships. I choose risk. Because a life in hiding is no life at all, but a self-made prison binding me to bitter judgment and cynicism.
As Beth Moore says, “Life is challenging, but it is never empty.” My life is full and I like it that way. I like what God is doing to my life and how He is changing me. I found my voice and I am learning to live fearlessly. I am learning the joy of life even as it challenges me. I no longer feel that empty longing and I am learning there are others who have suffered, too. Their compassion, love, and authenticity reminds me of God’s presence. He is everywhere and I am loved and I feel His love every day.
So thank you, Lord, for not letting go and for making a way through my walls.
In “Oh, God Book 2″ the little girl receives a message from you in a Chinese cookie. After watching that movie, I often wished when I cracked open a Chinese cookie your message would be on that sliver of paper–a clear direction in a confusing world.
But then, I am reminded what Mondays With My Old Pastor, by Jose Luis Navajo said, “Don’t despair if you don’t understand the meaning of something today. Keep eating the fruit. This is also the message of the cross.” He pointed to the dozen crucifixes that decorated the simple room. “We do not understand what happened there until we visit the tomb and find it empty. Too often we despair and give up in the middle of the storm, when the only thing we should do is trust and wait. The storm will pass, and then we will discover that the waves that terrified us were actually the same waves that served to alter the course of our sailing causing us to dock in the right harbor.”
My Father, I know you don’t speak through a Chinese cookie. I only have to fall back on your Word. You gave us that and the Holy Spirit. You gave us your Son. You gave us you.
Hear my prayer, O Lord,
and give ear to my cry;
hold not your peace at my tears!
For I am a sojourner with you,
a guest, like all my fathers,
Look away from me, that I may smile again,
before I depart and am no more!
- Psalm 39:12-13
So when I eat at a Chinese restaurant, I won’t look for a sign from you in a Chinese cookie. I’ll look on my knees. I’ll look in the pages of your book. You are praiseworthy, my Father.