Monday, May 26, 2014

Happy at last

One of our boys has a habit of saying, "My hand is empty! I have nothing!" right after he gives his toys away. This morning, I was so proud of him when he willingly shared his toy with his brother. But sure enough, exclamations of emptiness and nothingness immediately followed.

Right then, Hans picked him up, held him tight, and he said, "You don't have nothing. You have daddy."

The boy laid his head on daddy's shoulder, happy at last.

Giving daddy a piggyback ride.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

- Toplady, Rock of Ages, 1830. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Arise, my soul, arise

What is your calling in life?

What do people mean when they say they are called to be a pastor, or to do urban ministry, or to be a missionary? Is it possible to not be called to serve poor people or battered women or prisoners, or not be called to be a mother or a father, or not be called to be a counselor, or a worship leader, or an usher?

What is your calling? Are you called?

I may not know you very well. In fact, I may not know you at all. But I do know that you are called.

A little over eight years ago, a small Chinese church in the suburbs of Chicago called Hans to be their English minister. With our wedding approaching, he asked the church for a little more time. He wanted me to visit the church after the wedding and we would make the decision together. During our honeymoon and the few weeks after, we had this big decision to make. We knew we would be serving somewhere, but was this the right church?

Every fiber of my being screamed — No.

That is, until I met them. We visited the church the first Sunday we were in Chicago. Seven young people. Bright faced, cheerful, so lovely. Suddenly, it wasn't just any random church anymore. These were people, who needed help. Even then, I was not quite convinced that this was our "calling" and would much rather go back to planning my own life.

But my husband was certain that we should stay. So, we did. And I am so grateful for his decision. I cannot overstate how glad I am that the Lord called us to this church.

Being called has little to do with my feelings or desires. Being called has little to do with my talents or abilities. Being called has everything to do with the One who is doing the calling. Being called has everything to do with who is King over me, whom I am living for.

We cannot predict our future. We can, however, take on whatever task set before us by faith, with joy, making a habit of rising to the occasion — doing whatever the trial demands of us. Or, in the words that the Lord commanded Joshua, be strong and very courageous.

This is wartime. Eternal rest and peace is coming, I am certain of this. But today, we are at war.

We were once rebels. We were once slaves of another kingdom. But the King called us, by name, to be his own. The King's Son died in our place, and the Father adopted us, former rebels, into his family. We are now his sons and daughters.

In this household, the King's children do not sit around during wartime. The King's children do not chase after their own comfort, or their own success, or more money for their own glory. This would be absurd.

No, the King's children would rise, and fight.

In the King's house, it is all hands on deck, all the time, until his kingdom come and his will is done, on earth as it is in heaven. Some are at the frontline, some are in the trenches. Some are commanding officers, some are cooks. Some care for the sick and wounded, some sharpen arrows (my task at the moment). The question is not "what is my calling?" The question should be, whom am I serving? Am I building my own kingdom, or am I serving the King?

I may not know you, but I know that you are called.

The King calls you to be his child.

This one calling would lead to millions of smaller callings. This one decision would lead to millions of smaller decisions. The narrowness of this calling is the narrowness of a birth canal. There is an entire universe waiting on the other side.

I never felt particularly "called" to be a minister's wife. Yet, there we were. I never felt particularly "called" to be a mother. Yet, here I am. I never felt particularly "called" to host a mother duck on our balcony (of all the places she could have chosen!). Yet, here I am, taking pictures of her eggs like I would my own babies. Because my calling has little to do with me — my feelings, or abilities, or desire. My calling has everything to do with the One who is calling me — to his purpose and his grace.

But I must listen.

I must hear the King's voice and hide his Word in my heart.

I may not know your smaller callings. I may not know the hundreds of decisions you need to make in the coming days and years. But I do know that if we stay near to our Father, if we look to him from moment to moment, he will use our every decision, every moment for his grace-filled purposes.

I learned today about a man in Liberia named Johnny. He was born a cripple. His mother wept over him because in that society, his prospects were utterly hopeless. Just another roadside beggar. But Johnny had a friend. This friend carried Johnny on his back and brought him to church. There, the King called Johnny out of darkness into the kingdom of light.

Shortly after his conversion, Johnny was so compelled to serve his mother that he would drag himself around the village with his able arms, collecting dirty dishes and washing them. The Lord would later raise this broken body to bring the Gospel to the unreached places of Liberia. There, Johnny served the Gola tribe as their youth pastor. Children would flock around Johnny's wheelchair wherever he went, and he called them to believe in Jesus.

Johnny heard his King calling, and he rose.

Arise, Soul, arise.

(Johnny's story begin at 09:22, but the entire video is worth watching)