Saturday, January 23, 2010

I'm a Pepper, You're a Pepper. . .

I remember vividly telling the Lord about seven years ago that I would do anything he asked of me and go anywhere he wanted, as long as that didn't include being a missionary in a foreign country. Verbatim, that's what I told him. I had a great fear of being called to live the life of a missionary, which in my mind conjured up images of living in a tent in a jungle somewhere, wearing rags for clothing and going to sleep each night with an empty belly.

Before you get upset with me, I should tell you that I realize that this is completely and totally wrong. But when you're a "high maintenance" kind of girl, and when you have melodramatic tendencies, these are the conclusions you tend to jump to. And to be fair, at this time in my life seven years ago I had never really met a "real life missionary" before.

So you can imagine my complete shock and surprise when in a recent conversation with my sister I blurted out that "I AM a missionary!"

Say what??!?!?!

The MOMENT that statement fled my mouth my mind said, "WHOA -- WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?"

During this phone conversation I was doing my best to encourage and uplift my sister, and had been reminding her of a couple of different scriptures in the Bible that spoke directly to her life at that moment. It was at that point that she said, "Jamie, I really think after your kids are grown you and Paul should be missionaries!" And instead of arguing with her about why that would, could, should never happen my big mouth blurted out, "I AM a missionary!"

I must admit to you that I've always felt more than inadequate at witnessing and evangelizing to people. I've never led anyone to Christ, and although I've given my testimony time and again to friends and family, I've never really given it to a stranger. It's not that I don't want to, and it's not that I'm ignorant of The Great Commission, it's just that truly I've never felt adequate to do it. I've stood before crowds of people and said what's on my heart, I've taught different classes in church, I've been a part of different ministries in different capacities, but I've never, ever proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a specific "Great Commission" kind of way.

But something within me has changed in the last seven years. My heart, my thinking -- I don't know -- something. And now I realize just what it means to be a missionary. defines a missionary as: a person sent by a church into an area to carry on evangelism or other activities.

So I've come to discover that not only am I a missionary, but in fact we are ALL missionaries. Every one of us. And our mission field doesn't always have to be the far reaches of the Earth. I've been a missionary in Kansas City, Missouri. And I've been a missionary in Wichita, Kansas. And now I'm a missionary in Fort Worth, Texas. And you can be a missionary where you are. We are missionaries in our homes. We are missionaries in our families. We are missionaries to our friends. And we can ALL be missionaries to complete strangers.

It's true that every unbeliever needs to hear the full Gospel of Jesus Christ. They need to know who Jesus is and was and what he wants to do for them. But if there's one thing I've come to know in my own life it is this -- even believers need to hear the Good News from time to time.

So with new determination and an amazing lack of fear, I will gladly accept that I AM a missionary. And someday maybe that will mean that Paul and I will travel to new and far off places, but in this moment I will do my best to be a missionary right where the Lord has put me.

I AM a missionary -- and YOU ARE TOO!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

No Caller ID necessary. . .

Technology amazes me. Truly. I am baffled by how people can imagine things and then make them come to life. I've had a home computer for years now, but for all I know if you lift the cover of the hard drive you will find a hamster in a wheel. I don't get how it all works.

For the last nine years of my life I've worked with software that records people's voices. It started out with a cassette recorder, then technology advanced and it became CDs, and now those voices get recorded straight to a computer server. For those that aren't familiar with what I did, a brief summary: I contracted with a few of the Court systems, on state and federal levels. Essentially I listened to Court proceedings and turned those recordings into a hard transcript or manuscript.

Over the course of nine years I did literally several hundred proceedings. Over time I began to recognize certain judges' and attorneys' voices. They would begin to speak and I immediately knew who they were.

This technology is also seen in mainstream society. Our cell phones, computer programs, heck, even our cars, are now capable of "recognizing" our voice. How is this possible? I mean, I can't even understand the science behind it.

And another thing that technology has spoiled us with is Caller ID. What did we ever do before it? We know as soon as the phone rings who the caller is. We can screen our calls now and decide when we want to talk to a certain person and when we would rather wait. I must confess that we went years without this modern convenience in our home. Call me a cheapskate, but I didn't want to pay for things like call waiting, Caller ID, long distance, etc., so I opted not to have it on our plan.

The phone would ring at our house and when I said "Hello?" I really had no idea who was on the other end. But I learned this -- we can recognize voices more than we think.

Sometimes when someone calls I know that the voice sounds familiar, but it takes a few moments to figure out who it is. I have to listen carefully to the voice, the tone, the pitch, the way they're speaking, and sometimes the subject matter they're speaking about. We all have characteristics that define us. Our personalities play a part, our dialect, our speaking habits. And when I'm not quite sure who it is I can use these puzzle pieces to figure it out.

When my husband calls I can guarantee you that with or without Caller ID I KNOW that it's him. The same with my mom, my grandma, my sisters, my brother, my children, and my close friends. Why? Because I've spent enough time with them to instantly know who they are. The same way that after time I knew who certain attorneys and judges were. I listened to them for hours, and sometimes days, at a time.

So why, then, is it so difficult for us to hear the Lord's voice when he "calls"? I've struggled with this concept for most of my christian life. I would pray to him, "Lord, I need to know what to do in this situation, so speak to me!" Or "Lord, I can't tell if what I'm hearing or feeling is you or if it's the enemy!"

Why's it so hard to hear Him?

The Bible says in Isaiah 30:21: Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it."

The answer is simple. We can't hear His voice because we don't recognize it. We learn His voice. It comes with time. Time spent with Him. Time spent LISTENING to Him. The more time we spend developing our relationship with Him the more likely we are to KNOW his voice when we hear it. When we come to a point where we know it's the Lord's voice we also gain something else -- the ability to know when it's not. We will no longer be confused by exactly who it is we're hearing. We will know. No Caller ID needed.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

How do YOU spell beautiful?

When I left the house this morning I wasn't expecting to receive such a blessing. I think that kind of blessing is best -- the completely unexpected one.

This morning was Parkway Elementary's All-School Spelling Bee. Kate had come home a few weeks ago with a letter from her teacher stating that she had "earned the privilege of participating" in the annual event. Attached was a list of 225 words that they would use in the competition. We worked with Kate on the words, but also told her that the majority of the studying would be left to her. (After all, in the end it was only she who could stand up there, right?) We impressed upon her the importance of studying AND the importance of keeping track of the list of words.

Anybody who knows this kid knows that she's uh, well, how to say this? uh, less than careful about keeping track of her things. Okay, the kid is horrible at it. It's almost a weekly occurrence that she loses something of importance and/or value, i.e. her retainer, her ipod, her Nintendo DS, her homework, articles of clothing -- I could go on.

When we left over Christmas break I took the list with, in my handbag, so that she could study on the 18+ hour round-trip. I handed it to her IN THE CAR, on the WAY HOME and guess what? Yep, she lost it. Somewhere in the fifty feet from the car to the house it disappeared into oblivion. So there for a few days she couldn't study. Not that it would have happened anyway, because she's also a procrastinator.

Crunch time came and she kicked it into high gear. She spent hours pouring over that list and having herself quizzed by one of us.

Two days before the competition she came to me crying and confessed that she didn't even WANT to compete. She was afraid of getting up in front of the entire school. She's kind of a shy kid that way. I comforted her and told her that she was under no obligation to compete, and that if she really didn't want to she didn't have to. It was completely up to her. "Think about it," I told her, "and get back to me when you've made a decision."

The next morning she told me she wanted to do it, and so we resumed the studying.

So this morning I drove up to the school, parked the car & found a seat in the cafeteria. I found her on the stage and gave her a smile and a wave. And then it hit me. I was consumed with anxiety for my little girl -- sweaty palms, upset stomach, the works. I wondered if she could do it -- could she really stand on that stage, look out upon the entire audience and keep herself composed and think clearly enough to spell a word correctly?

The Bee commenced and one by one the children stood and spelled their assigned word. I was surprised by the number of children who spelled theirs incorrectly and had to walk off the stage. Kate was number 27 of 29 spellers. When her turn came she marched to the front of the stage with a big smile on her face and spelled trick. T - R - I - C - K. Trick.

Round 2. More children heard the dreaded *Ding* indicating a misspelling. I thought to myself how absolutely heartbreaking it was at that moment when their little faces change from hope to despair. A lot of them would stare blankly as they walked away, I'm sure in disbelief that it was over. Some of them would kind of stomp off in an angry way.

Kate's turn again. Commentator: "The word is Beautiful". Kate, still smiling: "Beautiful. B - E -A - U - T - A - F - U - L. Beautiful. *Ding*

Her eyes locked on mine the entire way down the stairs and across the cafeteria. The smile on her face never faltered. In that moment when I really expected her to tear up or start crying I was almost startled to realize that her facial expression never changed. Wow.

And then suddenly there were two children left on the stage. One of them is Kate's dear friend Jaquelyn. Jaquelyn and Kate are pretty much inseparable during the school day. Academically they're pretty well matched, two of the brightest in their class. They were science fair partners. They also attend tutoring every Wednesday afternoon, as a way to challenge them above and beyond what their classmates are learning.

The next fifteen minutes were a dual between Jacquelyn and a 3rd grade boy. Back and forth they went, but in the end it was Jacquelyn who came out victorious.

As I stood and turned to find Kate I saw once more that the smile hadn't faded from her freckled face. She ran past me to congratulate Jacquelyn with a hug. Returning to find me she said, "Mom, I'm so happy for Jacquelyn!"

Wow. Again. I mean, don't get me wrong, I love my friends, but I have to admit that there's also this competitive side to me that gets a little green when they are the winner and I am the -- well, I'm the one who doesn't win.

I've stated in this blog before that I pray for my girls every day. I mostly pray the same repetitive prayer, which goes "Lord, I pray for wisdom for my girls. Wisdom like that of Solomon -- a wisdom that encompasses EVERY part of their life, that will serve them well and lead them through any circumstance. And Lord I pray for a heart like that of David's, a heart that cries out for an intimate relationship with You. A heart that beats to praise you. A heart that is content with NOTHING less. And Father I pray for FRIENDSHIPS like that of David and Jonathan or Ruth and Naomi. Friendships that are good and strong. I pray that they are the kind of friend that will stand beside their friends no matter what. And I pray for friends who would do the same."

So the blessing came as I drove away, Kate's "Certificate of Participation" lying in the seat next to me. I was in awe of a Lord who hears that repetitive prayer of mine -- that prayer that is formed in less than eloquent words by a less than superior mind. But he hears it. And he listens to it. And he acts upon it. The blessing is found in realizing a prayer that is answered.

She may not have won the Parkway Elementary All-School Spelling Bee, but she is far from being a loser. In my eyes, and in the Lord's eyes, she is beautiful. B -E - A - U - T - I - F - U - L.