Archive for ‘encouragement’

March 15, 2016

His Strength is Perfect

by mendibpng

kol wara
I took this on Saturday on the road to Lae, normally a 3 hour drive away. Impossible to cross? No, thanks to our friend’s all wheel drive car. Difficult? Scary? Yes.

His Strength Is Perfect
I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength
But sometimes I wonder what He can do through me?
No great success to show, no glory on my own
Yet in my weakness He is there to let me know

His strength is perfect when our strength is gone
Hell carry us when we can’t carry on
Raised in His power, the weak become strong
His strength is perfect, His strength is perfect

We can only know the power that He holds
When we truly see how deep our weakness goes
His strength in us begins, where ours comes to an end
He hears our humble cry and proves again

His strength is perfect when our strength is gone
Hell carry us when we can’t carry on
Raised in His power, the weak become strong
His strength is perfect

–Steven Curtis Chapman

Since I revealed my struggle with anxiety and depression a few weeks ago, I have heard verbally and electronically from many other expats that they struggle with similar issues. This morning, I read through an update from a colleague that I had met as a teenager. His life has been full of physical hardship, sickness, loss and grief. He also suffered alongside the people he served as they faced persecution and even the threat of losing their lives for following Jesus. Throughout the email, he emphasized the power of prayer and praised God for the believers who exist now because of the translated Word of God’s transforming power.

How does this relate to me, as I plan for our next village stay? Those who have gone before us in extremely difficult circumstances and yet remained faithful are the encouragement I needed to persevere today. My colleague’s experience challenges me to look to our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace and Everlasting Father. This isn’t something I am able to do on my own. I might as well pack it up and go back to the U.S., where my kids could see their grandparents regularly, I wouldn’t have to hang out my laundry, cook everything from scratch and to deal with the cross cultural and relational stress our family regularly experiences along with this life . No, I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength, as the song I quoted above says. [I want to emphasize, too, that God has used the songs and verses I learned as a child innumerable times during my career as a missionary.]

My prayer today is,

Lord, in my weakness show your strength. Use me for your glory and help me to be your instrument in everything I do today.


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November 19, 2014

This God

by mendibpng

salad
Since coming home from PNG, I’ve had a chance to eat things that we haven’t had in four years. One of them is this salad: mixed greens, toasted almonds and Craisins. It makes me think about the Banqueting Table referred to in Psalm 23. Eating at a banqueting table is a great picture of how I feel when God speaks.

I have been hesitant to write about this subject because it is so personal and touches on the painful parts of my history. Growing up in boarding school, I became frustrated by any kind of legalistic thinking and even as a six year old cried out to God (usually at night) when I missed my family who lived on the other side of our island, although I quickly learned to hide my emotions. As I grew older, I began listening for God’s voice and heard it from time to time. It wasn’t until I became an adult when I learned of Brother Lawrence, who talked of ‘Practicing the Presence of God,’ even during mundane tasks, like washing the kitchen floor. I began stopping to Practice the Hours and continued to seek God in the small and big things of my life, and noticed how He would show up. It was obvious when I didn’t include Him because that’s when my selfish/foolish thoughts or self pity would come to the surface. As a result, He gave me wisdom (obviously from Him) in difficult situations and I saw Him in a whole new light. He even healed some of my most painful memories, which had been buried deep but leaked into my relationships and daily living. I used to be afraid to think about Heaven, because it meant leaving the known for the unknown. But now, I’ve had a glimpse of it and of Jesus Himself, and I can’t wait to get there.

So today, I’m thankful for a God who speaks. Not just in the HUGE difficult things of life, but the smaller things. Yesterday I started my day weary and with a headache…thinking about all the things I had left on my plate, including an endless pile of laundry in my basement. Here is what He said to me

I know what you are thinking and I can handle it. Remember to keep Me in the forefront. I want you to trust Me with all the little and big things in your life today. You can do what you need to do, but you have to take time to rest. Your body is beaten down right now.

So today I’m thankful for my God, who encourages me to take care of myself (even when I normally would keep pushing on with my daily tasks.) He challenges me to tell the truth and to keep Him in the forefront (two themes that seem to be repeated again and again.) What if I looked to him every day for direction about what I needed to do that day? What if I stopped planning everything myself? What would my life look like then? What would organized church and missions look like if everybody sought God’s voice for their goals and purpose?

A side note here: I have seen people use “God told me….” to elevate themselves and to abuse other people. All I can say is, this is not what I’m talking about. (If I were on the receiving end of a comment like that, I would go straight to God and ask Him.) The book “Surprised by the Voice of God,” by Jack Deere addresses this very well.

Two other books I highly recommend are:
Praying in Color,” by Sybil MacBeth
A Praying Life,” by Paul Miller

October 28, 2014

Failing massively and Finding God Faithful

by mendibpng

As Soon As I Fell
There are people in my life who have offered me hope in times of deep dark valleys of uncertainty and pain during my missionary career. Kay Bruner is one of them. She began writing me in 2005 in response to some questions I put out on an email group for misisonary wives and has provided a safe friendship ever since that first email. On top of that, Kay gave me assertiveness training and encouraged me to be truthful about the realities I faced.

Today, I’m honored to be able to interview her here about the book she has written about her life as a missionary in the Solomon Islands. Although her circumstances are different to mine, there are threads in her story that I can totally relate to in my own service overseas. The things she talks about are quietly spoken about amongst missionaries (if there is a safe place to talk…some do not have this luxury!!) but it is rare to see them in public. In fact, I’ve never seen a book like this before. If I could recommend a book to anyone heading overseas, living overseas or for someone who loves and cares for missionaries, this would be it!

Please feel free to follow the link at the end of this post to enter a giveaway for ‘As Soon As I Fell.’

MendiB: How long did it take you to write this book, and why?

Kay Bruner: Parts of the book were written back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.  Our son Michael just turned 20, and his birth story is in there, pretty much as I wrote it to family and friends back in the day.  There’s a section of journal entries that’s 12 years old.  Probably 8 years ago, I tried to put it together and I just couldn’t make the structure work.  Finally, last fall, I figured out how to put it all together and I spent about 4 or 5 months being very disciplined in writing the first two drafts.

After the second draft, I thought it was done, but one of my beta readers said, “You have to open a vein here, Kay.”  And Katrina, my editor, kept asking question after question, so I wrote a third draft.  Then we worked on clean-up for a while.  The actual hard-work-writing process ended up taking most of a year, and I worked on it 3 days a week during that time.

MendiB: Why did you write it?

Kay Bruner: I wrote this book because I needed this book and couldn’t find it.  I was such a believer in knowing the rules and following them so my life would come out great, and that didn’t work AT ALL.  I did everything as right as I knew how to do it and I got a mess.  There wasn’t much written in the category of “Fail massively, and find God faithful.”  I knew we weren’t the only ones who had ever failed.  Statistics tell us that the average mission agency will lose 50% of its membership over a 10-year period, but all the books are missionary success stories.

It just seemed to me it was time to tell this other story, that God loves us right where we are, in all of our mess, and he’s not stymied when we fail.  I think the whole Bible is full of stories like that.  Many of the great heroes of the faith were also adulterers, liars, murderers, you name it.  That didn’t slow God down one bit back then, and God still works that way today.

MendiB: If you could choose an specific audience, who would it be, and why?

Kay  Bruner: This is really a love letter to women–and men–who are trying so hard to be so good, who are so exhausted by people-pleasing and expectations and rules and and and and and.  I want to say to you what Jesus said to me: “It is finished.  I have done it.  It’s not up to you.”  Sure, it’s for missionaries.  But I think us good girls and good boys are pretty much the same, regardless of our geographical location.

MendiB: How did writing the book change you?

Kay Bruner: Well, I learned some really interesting things about my own story, mostly because Katrina, my editor, as I said, is one persistent woman.  She just would not accept easy answers.  I would write something and she’d say, “But I still don’t understand…”  Some of the things that had happened were so painful that I hadn’t been able to think them through at the time.  I had just said to myself, “Well, God knows, and I have to forgive.  I don’t understand this, but He does.”

But in the process of Katrina pushing me so hard, I was able to see how some of the very worst things were like surgical tools in the hand of God.  He had used those specific things for healing and wholeness.  Also, hitting the “publish” button was a real act of bravery for me, because I felt like I’d written some hard things that push against the status quo that I was raised with.  It was another opportunity for me to believe that God loves me, even when I go ahead and tell the entire world the truth about some really difficult things in my life.

MendiB: What main message do want people to take away from reading the book?

Kay Bruner: I want people to know that God loves them with an everlasting Love, and that nothing, nothing, nothing, NOTHING ever separates us from that Love.  There is healing.  There is hope.  There is life beyond anything we could ever dare to ask, think, or dream.

MendiB: What kind of response have you had from your readers?

Kay Bruner: Well, I’ve had two main responses.  One response is silence, because I think this is a book that challenges a lot of the ways we think the Christian life works.  It’s the story of me starting out very sure of myself and my system and my calling and capacity to change the world, only to find myself broken into a million pieces.  I understand that not everybody shares my experience, much less my response to my experiences, and so they don’t say anything, and that’s fine.

The second response is that readers are grateful that someone is giving voice to a different kind of missionary experience, a different kind of faith walk, one that’s not about how to make your life perfect but instead, that no matter what, we can fall into Love, and find Love faithful.

BOOK GIVEAWAY!
I’d love to give away a copy of my book, As Soon As I Fell, to a reader.  In order to be entered, click over to my blog, www.kaybruner.com, and subscribe before October 30.  We’ll randomly choose a winner and notify the winner by email.

MendiB: THANK YOU Kay, for sharing your story with us!

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