Tuesday, September 23, 2014

after the storm

Art speaks powerfully. The artistry of Israel's tabernacle captured a sense of God's majesty with its gold overlays, fine fabrics, rich colors, and sparkling gemstones. Images of cherubim, lush fruits, and verdant trees evoked memories of the Garden. Aaron's fabulous clothes illustrated his role as intercessor for the nation. The design of the tabernacle and its furnishings was important enough to God that he gave Moses detailed plans to follow and set apart two men uniquely gifted in the arts to carry out the work (Exodus 30:1–11).

In a recent web article, Christian leadership guru Michael Hyatt claimed,
"Art has the power to point us to the divine, to the ultimate Artist. It doesn’t answer all the questions, but it can shine a light on questions we didn’t even know we had."

My friend, Jasmine May, author of Deep Waters, has graciously agreed to let me share some of her beautiful artwork with you. Like the artistry of the tabernacle, Jasmine's art speaks. While our journeys have been vastly different, we've both experienced pain and brokenness as well as healing.

"After the Storm" by Jasmine May
Her painting so stunningly portrays the state of my soul. The worst of the storm is over and the sun has begun streaming down from the clouds. The tree is surprised to look down and discover that she has not been destroyed. In fact, the power of the storm has stirred up deeper beauty. Her joy unfolds like a flower. Jasmine explains, "As the wind blows the leaves, it carries the seeds of the tree's beauty to the world at large, spreading life."

Thanks, Jasmine, for sharing this gift with the world and lifting our eyes to look to God!

Friday, September 19, 2014

free language resources for spanish, german, french, and aramaic

I've recently been introduced to several free resources for those attempting to learn Aramaic, German, or French (among other languages). For your convenience, I've added links for the Aramaic websites on my Academic Resources page on the right-hand side of the screen.

I studied both French and German for reading several years ago in order to be able to read academic books and essays related to biblical studies. However, since then I've been consistently embarrassed that I can neither speak nor understand either language when it is spoken, because I never learned to pronounce them. I've been tempted to spend big bucks to get Rosetta Stone language-learning software to teach me pronunciation and improve my fluency. But I'm so glad I didn't. This week our family discovered Duolingo, a FREE online language-learning program that may even be more effective than Rosetta Stone (with NO ads!). Duolingo offers practice in reading, listening, speaking (if you have a microphone) and translating to and from your target language. It tracks your progress and offers incentives to keep you learning. In just 3 days my ability to hear, speak, translate, and spell in German has improved significantly!

In case you're not yet convinced, here's another testimonial: Our daughter, Eliana, went through all 5 years of Rosetta Stone Spanish and still felt like she didn't "get" it. After a week of Duolingo Spanish, she's finally understanding how the language works and speaking to me in Spanish. Try it yourself and see!

Monday, September 15, 2014

new author spotlight

Several of our missionary colleagues have recently published their first books. It's my joy to share their work with you here. While I have not yet read all their books, these authors have lived authentically the stories they share here. Each of them have been an inspiration to me, and I'm excited to see their stories published. If you decide to read any of them, I'd be interested in hearing what you think!

Miracle Beans and the Golden Book: From a Snowstorm in Ohio to the Blazing Sun of Africa, One Family's True Stories Following the Call of the Gospel 

We've enjoyed this book as a fun read-aloud with our kids. Each of the short chapters is a snapshot of life in Africa. For us, the best part is knowing the authors and their kids and grandkids (our kids' good buddies from Charlotte), but we think you'll like it, too, if you want to instill in your kids a willingness to follow God's call anywhere. Don and Barb were mentors to us when we began our journey into missions with SIM. All the proceeds from the sale of this book actually go to support the ministry of SIM we joined almost 9 years ago: Sports Friends.

Growing Down: God's Grace in Spite of Myself

Sarah Wetzel and her husband, Jake, served with Sports Friends in Ethiopia at Camp Langano. They brought to Langano decades of experience in camping ministry in Bolivia with SIM, helping to build the infrastructure so that the camp could accommodate dozens of young people and their coaches each week. Sarah is a wonderful writer. Here she shares her own journey of spiritual growth. I think you'll find it encouraging!

God and Elephants: A Worshipper's Guide to Raising Support

Heather Ricks and her husband, Jason, joined our Sports Friends team just a handful of years ago after first serving in Ghana, and before that, planting a church in the U.S. Heather has not only watched God provide for their own financial needs as missionaries, but she has helped to orient others to the support-raising process. She's passionate about writing, about missions, and about seeing God glorified in all things. We've just ordered our copy of her book and we can't wait to see what she has to say!

Deep Waters: a journey of healing from sexual abuse

This book promises to be a fruitful resource for counselors as well as victims of sexual abuse. Our friend, Jasmine, shares openly about her own experiences in hopes that others who have suffered similar horror will find hope in Christ as well as practical help. She says, "This is my story of how God met me in the place of deepest pain and shame." If someone you know could benefit from this book, consider buying them a copy.

While I'm writing, do you know about Amazon Smile? If you begin shopping at smile.amazon.com, you can select a charity to receive a portion of the proceeds from your purchase. It doesn't cost you anything extra. I picked Compassion International. What will you choose?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

all things now living

It all happened so fast.
A hand on my arm. Mom's soft voice rousing me from my slumber. "It's Oma." She was somber. Whatever I was dreaming vanished in a heartbeat. It was 5:00am. Too early for casual news.
"Is she gone?" I asked haltingly.
"Not yet, but soon."

The morning was calm, but laden with significance. Measured. Decisive. My parents had already been up for hours, checking for flights, speaking with nurses long-distance, and considering options. They caught us up and we helped them with the decisions. How does one pack or plan for a journey of unknown duration? Just in case, should one bring funeral clothes? Dad looked through his files trying to find the instructions for his mother's funeral, just in case. They weren't there.

It was Father's Day, and this was not the plan. We were supposed to have a family breakfast with the whole crew. Then Danny and I and the kids would continue our journey westward to meet our moving truck at our new home in Oregon, leaving my parents, my brother and his family behind. A new plan emerged: we would drive my parents to the airport on our way out of town. They would fly to Bellingham, rent a car, and hope to make it to the hospital in time. Meanwhile we would drive as fast as we could to Oregon, unload our truck, and head north, either to see Oma, or . . ..

We ate breakfast together as planned, and prayed and cried (in that order). It was a precious time. Then we loaded up and left, with our hearts in our throats. I called the hospital on the way and asked the nurse to bring Oma the phone. She struggled to breathe and to talk, but sounded grateful to hear my voice, as I was to hear hers. I tried to calm her agitation by telling her that she could just rest; there was nothing left for her to do. Nothing for either of us to do, really, but rest and receive what was given. It was Wyoming, hours later, when the tears started flowing and wouldn't stop.

My dear Oma. My strong, independent, and witty grandmother. She was one of the bravest people I knew, and yet how I wanted to stand beside her and squeeze her hand and help her be brave one last time.

My parents enter the memorial service for Dad's Mom
It didn't take long. The next morning I awoke in our trailer somewhere in western Wyoming to the sound of my cell phone buzzing. Oma had slipped away in the night. The next days were a whirlwind. We finished our drive "home" in one day. While we waited for our truck to arrive the next morning, I prepared a slide show for Oma's funeral and gathered my thoughts. Dad asked for ideas of hymns Oma liked, because he couldn't find her list of favorites. Neither could I.

Oma's brother, nieces, and nephew sing
 "Great is Thy Faithfulness"
With the help of friends, we unloaded the truck in just a few hours, and in a few more hours I had located all of our funeral clothes. Early the next morning we drove the 6 hours to Bellingham and reconvened with my parents and my brother, who had flown in with his family. A few hours later the service was underway, ready or not. The next morning we loaded all of Oma's things on another moving truck and drove it back to our new home, exhausted. Oma had died late scarcely 3 1/2 days earlier, and now my own home was filled with memories of her.

It was a few days or even weeks later that I opened one of Oma's boxes and found her hymnal. Inside the back cover, as I might have guessed, was a list of hymns she wanted to have sung at her funeral (you think about things like this when you're 93). We looked them up, but none were songs we actually sang at the service. Then came the inspiration -- wouldn't Oma be honored if we taught those hymns to her great-grandchildren? And so we began.

Each evening after dinner we read a Psalm and then sing our hymn together. I don't know how these things work, but if Oma can see us now, I'm sure her heart swells at the sight of Easton (age 6) singing with gusto. These hymns may have been picked out for Oma's funeral, but they were written for the living, not the dead. In this new home, gathered around my grandparents' table, our faith is being formed verse by verse.

Let all things now living, a song of thanksgiving 
to God the creator triumphantly raise,
who fashioned and made us, protected and stayed us,
who guides us and leads to the end of our days.
His banners are o'er us; his light goes before us,
a pillar of fire shining forth in the night.
'Til shadows have vanished and darkness is banished 
as forward we travel from light into light.

His law he enforces, the stars in their courses,
the sun in its orbit obediently shine.
The hills and the mountains, the rivers and fountains, 
the deeps of the ocean proclaim him divine.
We still should be voicing our love and rejoicing
with glad adoration our song let us raise
'Til all things now living unite in thanksgiving, 
to God in the Highest, Hosanna and praise!

-by Katherine K. Davis, 1939

Today would have been Oma's 94th birthday, but I would not wish her back. Her creator guided her gently until the end of her days. No shadows darken her path now. As we hold her memory in our hearts, we turn to face life head on, joining the growing chorus of those singing God's praise.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

back to school panic

InterVarsity published a short piece I wrote for their blog for Women in the Academy and Professions. It went live this morning. Here's a preview . . .


Photo: C. Imes
It’s that time of year. I can feel it in my bones. In just a handful of days we’ll all be climbing back on the hamster wheel, our arms loaded with books, our schedule packed to the gills. Open days on the calendar are slipping through my fingers; my ambitious summer to-do list barely dented. Panic sets in. I like “back to school” season. But I need more time! What do I have to show for these long summer hours with no classes, no assignments, no grading, no committee meetings?

I meant to be productive. I really did. This was my chance to get ahead. To knock out a chapter, an essay, a conference paper, a book review. This was the ideal time to breeze through all those books on my desk, waiting to be read. And what do I have to show for it? Nothing. At least nothing that “counts” on my C.V.


To read the rest of this piece, visit The Well . . .