Saturday, October 6, 2012

I interviewed Nate: "So what are you going to be doing in Beijing?"

Ladies & Gentlemen,
As I shared earlier, I will provide updates on our new season of life through this blog. In case you missed the former post, we're moving to Beijing! This post shares some of the detail about Nate's work in Beijing. I proposed the questions and the answers are all his!
1) What is the name of your company? Rapid River Picture Company 

2) What will you be doing? We are a full service production and post production company working with both Chinese producers and global branding agencies to produce top quality commercial and entertainment content. 

3) Will your current company Grateful Inconvenience, Inc. still exist? Absolutely! Gi Inc is going strong and thriving in the capable hands of a full team of producers and art directors. My plan is to bring many of the client and production relationships from gi inc. into play here in China. While RRP Company is a completely new venture on paper, I very much look at it as a continuation of the gi inc. vision that inspired us to start the original company. Our desire has always been to develop a global network of talented individuals and companies from all walks of life and be a part of positively influencing culture around the world
4) Will the new company be solely in the Asian industry? Or involve those back here in the states? Or other countries? We are basing this company in Beijing, China and the initial phase of development will focus on the China/Asia market. Ultimately my goal is to create a template that in some version can be replicated all over the globe. 

5) Are you building a team there or bringing individuals from the states? Or do you even know yet?  Our in-house team will be a mixture of both Chinese and Westerners. A huge part of what will determine our success here in China is our ability to understand the mindset and needs of our Chinese clients. The vast majority of companies in our field fail in China because of a consistent failure to adapt to the Chinese way of thinking. It is incredibly important to take the time to invest in cultivating relationships for the sake of relationships and for that to be a foundation for profitable work opportunities. Always the relationship comes first! 

6) Thus far, what has been one of the biggest challenges in building the business there in Beijing?  A huge part of the culture in China is what we call 'face'. Everything is determined by how it will make an individual appear to their peers, friends and family. This culture of face applies in every area of society from business to law making to paying your bill at a restaurant to opening a bank account. What is far more important to the Chinese mind than any contract or license or legal document is your willingness to engage in relationship with them and what benefit their being in relationship with you is going to provide them. Signing a contract here is only binding as long as the terms of the contract remain agreeable to the other party. It's all about relationship! 
          The Chinese mindset is always to tell you a version of what they think you want to hear while always leaving room for their answer to change without having to directly tell you yes or no lest they risk embarrassing you or themselves. Our lawyer put it best when she said "'Maybe' is a good word! Then you can always change your mind!"
          In the states we walk into a meeting with the understood agenda of getting definitive yes or no answers on a determined list of matters; we expect those answers to pretty much stay the same. In China, we enter a meeting with the same list of questions and after a good period of socializing we present our list of questions through a translator who sort of speaks English. We think they understand what we are asking, but just to make sure, we go over it eight more times. Once we've determined that there's at least 90% understanding, we are told that there are quite a few different answers to that question depending on what the law is that week and who picks up the phone at the government office or any answer they think will best fit what we are asking. It could change at any moment! Doing business in China is like pealing an onion. There are many many layers and the process of getting from one layer to the next is almost guaranteed to make you cry.

7) What has been the most exciting thus far? Being here! Seeing a dream and vision that was birthed years and years ago in a time and place completely disconnected from here. Now, it is actually unfolding. Meeting new and extraordinary people. The incredible challenge of creating something new that doesn't exist here right now.

8) How did you know God was leading you to Beijing to do this in this season? What events in the past were an impetus?  
          There have been two times in my life when I have directly put out a 'fleece' and asked the Lord to make it miraculously obvious what the answer was. Working in China is one of those. 
          Several years ago, before starting gi inc., I was living in Papua New Guinea. My mom sent me a book called The Heavenly Man written by a Chinese pastor who had experienced incredible suffering and opposition as a result of his faith. I've had a life long fascination with China, but for some reason that book struck a cord within my heart. I read this book along the same time that the Lord was stirring a vision in my heart for creating a global network that bridged ministries, businesses and entertainment companies around the world. This vision ultimately became the foundation upon which we started gi inc. After finishing The Heavenly Man, I literally got down on my knees and said "Lord, if China and I have anything to do with each other in the future than I want to meet and pray with Brother Yun ( the Heavenly Man)." This seemed like an absurd request, where if it somehow came to pass, than I would know beyond a shadow of a doubt that China and I were inexorably bound together.
          A few month after praying this prayer, I found myself in southern Australia for a couple of weeks before heading back to the States after two years of living in Papua New Guinea. Shortly before my last night in Australia, I was speaking at a youth group. An announcement was made that a Chinese pastor who had recently escaped from China was going to be telling his story at a local church and any one who wanted to come was invited to hear him speak. I almost fell on the floor when I found out that this pastor was Brother Yun from The Heavenly Man! I ended up getting to hear him speak. Afterwards, I was able to meet and pray with him! Needless to say, that kind of sealed it for me. 

9) What is your dream for this? 
           My dream is to experience God doing something extraordinary here in China and to be a part of that. We have an opportunity to develop a company unlike anything that exists here both in how we operate internally and in how we do business externally. I believe that it is a waste of time dreaming about doing things that we can accomplish in our own strength! Our prayer since founding gi inc almost 7 years ago was that God would give us 'insane favor' within the industry and that we would be positioned to be a 'voice to the voices' that are influencing culture around the globe. I fully expect God to do miracles here! 
          The first time I came to China, several years ago now, I had a conversation that profoundly impacted me. I was standing on a street corner with a young man who was my translator for the music tour that I was producing there. His father was a very high up member in the Communist party so the natural progression for him would be that he would eventually end up in a position of influence. I asked him, 'What's your opinion of God?" He was holding his smart phone and after thinking for a moment he held it up in front of my face and said, "Nate, for my generation of Chinese, this is god." That simple statement blew my mind. I've never forgotten it. Nearly a billion people in China are accessing content every day on computers, phones and television. If I have opportunity to in any way positively influence those responsible for creating and distributing that content, then that is a charge that I take very seriously.

          It's impossible for me to talk about China and the sense of calling that is attached to it for me without stating also that it is very hard. Knowing that you are called to something or that the Lord is clearly opening a door does not automatically make something easy. On the contrary, along with this being a very exciting time, it has also been an extremely difficult time. I think those times when the Lord chooses to make something very clear to us are sometimes meant more than anything to give us something to cling to in all the times of uncertainty, frustration and fear that will always be a part of life as we participate in what God is doing around the world. Shelly and I have been apart for much of the last four months and it's been a big strain on us as a couple. I have a very hard time balancing my attention to work with my responsibility as a husband. I'm still trying to figure that out. I could not be doing any of this without Shelly's participation and support.
Stay tuned for future posts on any of the following topics: What will I be doing in Beijing? Do we have space for visitors? (Yes!) Do you know Mandarin? And more significant and insignificant meanderings of my soul.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Griffins new adventure

That's right. Adventure. I don't know a more appropriate word to define the new season in which we we have entered. 

Webster's defines it as "an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks." Unknown. Risks. 

Ahuh. Both of those words tend to make me cringe.

When I married Nate on February 14, 2009, I knew from day one that my man is a dreamer, a visionary, a risk-taker, a maverick. I am a planner, finite in vision, afraid at times to dream too big, lover of excel and my calendar. Lord knows we've needed the others strengths in desperate ways and that area has been one of them. Nate's propensity to literally run after where God is leading, straight in the midst of risk, has been the iron against my soul in our 3.5 years of our marriage. And my propensity towards the sin of control has come face to face, again and again, with the beauty of the way my husband lives out faith. 

And now, that beauty has brought us to a place I never imagined. We are moving. To Beijing. A city with a population of approximately 24 million, a 12-14 hour plan trip away and 13 hours ahead of the central time zone. 

A city where Shenism-Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism are the primary, budding religions. A city where The Great Wall takes my breathe away. A city where the fashion and shopping are as extravagant as the pollution. A city where I can walk to get my groceries. A city that will become my new home. 

No single post can capture all that I want to share, so I'll fill you guys in on the details in phases. (Let's be honest, I'm still processing).

For now, I'll close with the standard:
Who is moving? Nate, me and our 65-lb boxer mix Hudson (that was part of my 'agreement'...ahummmm)
Where: Beijing, in a district known as the Upper East Side, in the 4th ring of the city
When are we moving? January. Nate is back and forth until then. I'll wrap up work at the end of October and give myself some down time to pack, visit friends and family, and take care of the logistics. I'm wanting to get in as much girl time as I can squeeze in before I land on a new continent, so I'm working on a state-hopping route. Slumber party anyone? Grin.
Why are we moving? B/c I love my husband and my God and that's where He's sending us. Practically speaking, Nate is opening a production office there. I'll expand upon those details in a later post.

So who wants to come visit? :)

My God does things beyond my imagination. And I love Him for that. The great cloud of His presence for the Griffins is moving across an ocean this time, and I'm not going to miss it for the world. So onward I go. Because He is faithful. Because His mercy and goodness will follow us all the days of our lives. Because I can't not go where He is going to be.

Our 'child' that will be coming with us. We're pretty sure he won't have the same language barrier as we will. English bark and sniff translate very well to Mandarin bark and sniff. Grin.

Our new 'compound,' composed of about 20+ high rise towers. It's essentially an escape from the hustle and bustle of Beijing, gated with pretty green space inside. Respite for my soul.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Fashionista goes bashinista

I struggled to open the large glass doors that were twice my size. Managing to awkwardly wedge half my body between them, I squeezed myself in and let the weight of the doors shut behind me. I was on a mission to find the nail salon for which I had purchased a groupon. This girl was getting a 50% off mani/pedi and to say that I was in need of one was a massive understatement.

I have not permitted myself to wear open-toed shoes yet. Nor have I taken my socks off in pilates class at the gym. No way. They would have called me Wilma Flintstone with the atrocity that was the current state of my toes. And today was the day of bringing beauty to that which was lost - the polish on my toes.

I found my way to the salon and endured the foot scrubbing. I hate it because I'm extremely ticklish; the nail technician probably hates having to deal with my leg convulsions even more as my uncontrollable leg jerks away from her hand anytime she reaches for a heel scrub. While she trimmed the cuticles, I gripped my magazine so tightly that I creased it. I don't even enjoy the process of getting a mani/pedi. It hurts and I'm ticklish. But no pain, no beauty gain, right?

The mani/pedi was complete and I was quite pleased with my Frair Frair Pants on Fire OPI color choice. Happy that I had endured the scrubbing and pricking, I decided to venture out around the mall with the extra time I had on my hands and see if I could find a shirt for work. The dress for my office is business attire. Let's just say I weekly cross the line of what should be considered business attire as I mix and match clothing articles I wore in college.  I throw a thin belt around a shirt and some heels on and voilĂ !

There were two stores in which I was interested to see if they would have a cute button-down collared shirt for my budget of $1.50. Grin. In the first store, I tried on several pieces of clothing and put them back. The second store I wanted to check out was on the complete opposite side of the mall. By the time I'd made my way there, I was completely disinterested in trying anything on and couldn't even make myself walk through the store. I was done


Perhaps it's because I haven't stepped foot in a mall in many months. Perhaps it's because I'd spent that afternoon in solitude. I turned on no television. I called no one. I text no one. I wrote in my journal. I sat outside with our 65 lb. boxer mix Hudson and watched the birds. I spoke aloud to the Lord. I jealously guarded this rare Saturday in which I was by myself with the Lover of my soul and had little responsibilities.

There are likely a myriad of reasons involved in why yours truly, fashionista, went all the sudden bashinista on the mall. I walked slowly back through the mall to get to my car. Overstimulated with sounds and sights, I got the heebie jeebies there in the midst of the women's makeup section. It was just too much. (Mind you, this is coming from a woman who loves makeup). The larger-than-life posters on display that tried to tell me I wasn't pretty enough. The beautiful clothes every inch around me that tried to tell me I needed them in order to be in style. The individuals in the mall decked from head to toe whose mere hipness contrasted against my Saturday favorites: a white v-neck tshirt and a boyfriend style pair of jeans with holes in them (on the knees of course). The mannequins and employees alike whose proper appearance and form marketed that thinness was in and anything else was not. The absolute excess of all things that advertised one would need more to be happy.

As much as I love clothes and style, I got out of that mall. A battle had taken place in my mind where beauty, form and excess took an unforeseen jab at my spiritual gut. And I briefly fell victim to its power. That's when I made a u-turn in the mall and headed to my car. With each step back, I declared my lack of agreement with what I saw. I looked at certain store signs and window displays and quietly told them how much I did not need them, how beautiful I was, how pursued I was. Under my breathe, I spoke to inanimate objects to be sure they knew I had been beautifully and wonderfully made. (Don't tell me a particular poster or image hasn't shouted back at you in the mall before about how not good enough you are.)

I understand this sounds so completely hyper-spiritual. You must know that I am too girly at heart not to love shopping, good clothes and fashion. I love it. But what I don't love is that our fashion and shopping culture too often dictate the impossible, either in image, worth or financial stewardship. And during my unsuspecting stroll on Saturday, the enjoyment of that which can be good turned into a battle of ugly.

I'm sure I'll be back at the mall before I know it. But one thing is for certain, when I'm older and grey, I don't think I'll join the ladies' walking group that makes laps in their local mall. Nope. I'll take my sweatsuit into the great outdoors amidst the beauty of a creation that still doesn't reflect the beauty of God like you and I, who were made in His image.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Emma and the unanticipated

I couldn't sleep. I was restless, tossing into excitement and turning into nervousness. Four hours away from me, a miracle was to embrace the world any moment. And it was such an unspeakably timely miracle.

My younger brother and his sweet Lindsey were expecting the birth of their baby girl. It would be the first baby on my side of the family and we were all about to burst at the seams with excitement. I remember the day I found out about their pregnancy. I thanked my brother for 'taking one for the team.' My Mom has been unashamedly asking for a grand baby since Nate and I said 'I do.' But since that's not quite our season, I gave a big grin to my brother and thanked him for taking the attention off of us.

The months prior to Emma's arrival, I climbed in and out of the invisible vortex that exists in baby clothing aisles. I had to create a budget that I wanted to break every day for a child that wasn't mine. Something about the firstborn child on our side of the family had melted my heart. I was becoming that crazy Aunt and in complete acceptance of it.

At 4 am, I received that long-awaited text letting me know that Lindsey had begun labor. Relieved with the idea that finality was approaching, I went to sleep. I arose a couple of hours later and went to work, mentally preoccupied with anticipation of Emma's birth. I tried to busy myself in excel charts and analysis, the world in which I typically am lost in from 8 to 5 p.m.

I got the message that she had been born late afternoon. And that's when the unexpected emotional reaction hit me. That's when the overwhelming weight of the sweetness, mercy and redemption of her birth flooded over me in such a way that I sat at my desk and sobbed. I cried out of pure joy. I cried out of relief. I cried out of the privilege of being able to partake in her life as an Aunt. And I cried over the piece of healing being offered to me that I didn't even know I needed.

The present season I was walking in at that time begged for His glory to show up. It was challenging, unfair and hard. The unlit stage was set for the light of His glory to come fill the place. Around me, and within me, I saw varying levels of emotional death. I believe some of it was the enemy coming to steal, kill and destroy and some of it was the death necessary to experience resurrection life. Either way, it was not pretty.

And there, in the midst of the unfair, stripping, demoralizing season that I was seeing all around me, Emma came. And she came as Emma Presley Bland. Bland 

My maiden name. The name I cling to on those quiet days when I secretly and internally ache so deeply for my Dad. It's a last name that still exists through my brother and sister, but something happened when there was new life attached to that name. And it was new life in the midst of emotional darkness. It was light bursting forth, unrivaled by any looming shadow. It was healthy, strong, unshakable, undeniable. And lastly, it was a small living piece of my Dad.

Two weeks passed before I was able to go see Emma. And as God would have it, for reasons I can't actually recall, I ended up holding her for the first time while everyone else had stepped out of the room. She slept while I let my tears drop down on her teeny little frame. She had no idea what her life had done to my heart. And I had no idea that God would use the event of her birth to bring further healing to mine.

He's so good in that way - offering a sweet balm of healing when perhaps, in my tough-girl mode, I'd become unaware of a hurt that had lingered. But not Him. He wrapped His arms around me and whispered into my spirit how He loved me so.

And I breathed it in, allowing my soul to be stilled and quieted by His presence. And there, in my arms, I stilled and rocked Emma who I don't think will ever know how much I love her. I suspect our God thinks the same towards us.

To know this love that surpasses knowledge (Eph. 3:19)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sent here

So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Genesis 45:4-9

It's a little uncomfortable here. I feel alone on this path, cautiously placing one foot in front of another, listening intently to hear the Voice behind me saying 'This is the way, walk in it.' The steady pounding of my heart ricochets back to me, quieting down only when my heart is still before the One who directs my steps. 

A myriad of circumstances and people brought me to this present season of my journey. And I confess, I don't know that I would have foreseen or initially chosen this present place in which I am standing. 

Joseph was the preferred child amongst all of his brothers and was not shy about exalting himself as the favored one. Perhaps he even acted a bit bratty in that gorgeous robe that he wore proudly in front of them. Envious and angry with their youngest brother Joseph, his brothers' plans to kill him were circumvented only by a group of passing merchants who agreed to buy him as a slave. A grim journey, Joseph was then sold in Egypt. In a way that only God could engineer, Joseph becomes a trusted overseer in the house of Pharaoh and later, lord over the land of Egypt, preparing its people for the great famine that would strike. A beloved child. A hated sibling. A nobody. A slave. A man whom "the LORD was with." A servant. A favored lord. A wise steward. A vessel of life. A forgiven man who forgave others.

Perhaps I've been favored by another and that's what landed me here. It's not their fault nor mine. But I've been placed in a position of favor and grace, called to humbly wear  my own robe of sorts. It's what God has for me in this season. Or perhaps my own sin has led me to this place. He is a holy God who allows me to experience the consequences of my sin. Or perhaps, like Joseph, another individual's sin has led me to this place. I didn't want to be here, purchased as a slave and brought to a land in which I don't belong. But the soil I stand upon bears the footprints of one whose poor decisions left or directed me here. I don't know this land. It's not my own. Though not despondent, my heart aches.

So here I am. In a place I didn't have saved in my spiritual GPS. A place I didn't set out pursuing. A place I didn't choose for myself. 

And that's where Genesis 45:8 knocked the spiritual breathe out of me two mornings ago during my study time: "So it was not you who sent me here, but God." The LORD God who directs my steps (Proverbs 16:19) brought me to this place. No person, thing or circumstance ultimately got to dictate my present season without the Almighty Omnipotent One first giving it a nod of approval. No road do I take unless the One who works all things together for good first said 'Yes.' No consequences of another individual's sins are allowed to affect my life without the protective right hand of my God working out His love for me. No one can send me here without it having been orchestrated and approved by God, a platform for His glory and my good. 

And the same is true for you. No pit that another shoved you in was permitted without a miraculous plan for your escape and redemption. No slavery that you found yourself hurled into was given a 'Yes' without a greater purpose of life on the other side. 

Joseph was sent ahead of his brothers to preserve life. And I can't help but cling to the reality that the same must be true for myself and anyone else experiencing a present Joseph-like season. That the One who has come to give us life and life to the fullest will see that His purposes are accomplished. That when the path is not of your choosing, it doesn't mean it's not of His. That the One who spoke the world into being has spoken spiritual blessing and life over you.

And maybe, at the end of the day, it's worth considering that though the present path on which you step is not one you initially choose for yourself, it is meant for the preservation of someone's life, even your own.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Top Ten Indicators that my man is out of town

My peeps,

Nate has been out of the country for the past 19 days and I have two more looooong days to endure apart from him. He takes three to four international trips a year and this constitutes nearly all of his travel time on an annual basis. I love what he gets to do on these trips and wouldn't trade his being able to go for anything. This recent journey has included Dubai, of the United Arab Emirates, Chiang Mai, Thailand, and lastly Hong Kong. But no worries, I'm living it up in Nashville, TN, so don't be sad for me. His trip itself deserves a blog post of its own, but I'm using this one as a platform for the light-hearted self-awareness I gained during these 3 weeks.

For you see, a girl has to keep moving forward when her better half is across the ocean and even out of telephone reach. And I began to observe that I do things a little differently when he's gone. So I started a list of what those variances are. I did so partly because it leaves room for me to laugh at myself. And partly because it helped me for some strange reason. There's a gray line between keeping a softened heart while he is overseas: too soft a heart out of my love for him means I'm a blubbering mess most of the time because I miss him. But too protected a heart out of the desire to avoid a daily pity party leans itself towards a propensity of unhealthy independence rather than interdependence/dependence with my man.

So recorded below are a few of the things I recognized as the Top Ten Indicators that Nate-the-great is gone:

1) I sleep on Nate's side of the bed when he's not here. I don't know why. I don't even like his side of the bed. But it helps me for some reason. Don't judge me.
2) I also let our 65 lb., 2 year old boxer-mix (Hudson) join me. And he can hog the bed and I don't care. He keeps me warm.
3) In the mornings, I turn my praise music on loud while I put on my mascara. When Nate is in town, he's able to sleep a little later than I am, so I don't bust the praise as loudly.
4) I become completely obsessive about making sure the doors are locked. It's actually ridiculous how bad of a scaredy-cat I can become.
5) My frequency of cooking is disorderly and atypical. First, I start off cooking all the things that I love maybe a little more than Nate does. I become a Julia Child wannabee. I purchase more groceries and make more meals the first week than I can even consume. And then, somewhere around week two, I ask myself, "Self, why on earth are you cooking up a storm when you could be relaxing tonight and rockin out a piece of toast with peanut butter and a banana?" And so thyself starts eating like a college student again.
6) I become an employee for Nate's company, Grateful Inconvenience, Inc. No matter how much he prepares, when your husband owns his company and he is out of the country for three weeks, you may find yourself becoming an unofficial employee. I take phone calls. I make sure his invoices go out. And as he told me, there may be three or four packages coming in from Australia that he would want me to bring inside. Yep. A few packages. Or try over 30 large boxes that I came home to one evening and had to haul inside by my lonesome. The CEO of Grateful Inconvenience will be receiving an invoice from me. Grin.

 7) And since Nate is Nate, there's got to be some drama for God to bring along the way. Like the text I got from him while he was in Dubai, at 2 a.m. my time, letting me know that he had lost his wallet or that it had been stolen. So he needed my immediate help in canceling all of his cards. Sure enough baby love. We both prayed that the individual who picked it up would need the cash that was in it more than he did. It took a few hours for the knots in my stomach to unwind. Nate reached hope a little more quickly than I did. I knew it for sure when I got the following picture and text from him: "Baby love, don't worry about the money we lost. I'm just going to belly dance over here in Dubai and get it back." (Yes...that's my man's version of belly dancing. My man who I can never get on the dance floor).

 8) I get flowers. And it's typically quite the scene because he is sending me flowers for my birthday as he's not here. And the sweet lady at the front desk calls me downstairs to come get them. And then they're so big and heavy that I can't lift them. And I love them. Every year. And I try to make them last for as long as he is gone. And I do. I have two cherry blossoms and a beautiful orchid left from this.

 9) Speaking of # 1 and #2, I'm not the only one who doesn't sleep well the first 5 nights he's gone. Our dog Hudson looks out our front window every night waiting for Nate to come home. He cries until I finally convince him to come to bed. He'll sleep for a few hours, wake up and realize Nate isn't here, and then go back to the front window waiting and looking for him. It breaks my heart and my sleep pattern in such a bad way that I'm puffy-eyed for days.
10) I jealously guard my weekend time to be still before the LORD. Yes, I get lonely. Yes, I miss my man like crazy. Yes, I have scheduled play dates with my close girlfriends and have an absolute blast. But when my husband is gone, I tell Jesus every time that I look forward with great anticipation to what He has just for me during this time. It's my time with Him. And His time with this child of His. And I long for it, guard it, and love it.

And before I close, if you're still hanging in here, you may need a little reminder that our God is a God of miracles. Forty-eight hours after Nate's wallet was missing, he received the following email:
 Nate, My name is Jeff. I am in the US Navy and I found your wallet in
a taxi in Dubai on Friday, January 27. I caught the taxi from the Dubai
mall and saw it on the floor in the back and thought it best to NOT to
hand it over to the cab driver. I saw that you are from Tennessee (US)
and figured it would be best to get it to you myself. I did go through
the contents to find out your info and left a voice message on  the
number off of your business card. I can assure you that all its contents
are accounted for... I will be in Dubai until about 2pm
today and then we leave. I was hoping to get it back to you before we
leave. My office number is XXX-XXX-XXXX . Hopefully you get this message soon so you at
least have that bit of peace of mind
Nate and Jeff are buddies now. When he received Jeff's email, Jeff was out at sea so they were unable to connect. Jeff mailed Nate's wallet out on the first shipment and I received it two weeks later, all contents contained therein. 
Only God. 
He loves Nate.
And He loves this married woman lavishly so in the absence of Nate's presence.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The opportunity of provocation

He (Elkanah) had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of other other, Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. And her rival (Peninnah) used to provoke her (Hannah) grievously to irritate her, because the LORD had closed her womb. So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the LORD, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat...She was deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly."
1 Samuel 1

Hannah knew provocation. She lived a life of maternal barrenness next to the woman with whom she shared a husband - Peninnah, who was nothing but fruitful. And Peninnah took full advantage of Hannah's barrenness. She provoked her about it. She sought much to irritate her. Every year, continuously, Hannah heard words that grieved her. So much so to the point that she was deeply distressed and wept bitterly. She was unable to eat. Her broken heart weighed her down. She was worn and anxious from the incitement.

And one day, in her deep distress and ongoing weeping, she prayed to the LORD. She vowed that if the LORD looked on her affliction and gave her a son, that she would give him to the LORD all the days of his life. And in His great purposes, He did just that. The LORD who had closed her womb, opened it. Hannah conceived and bore a son, whom she named Samuel.

Samuel, who is from the LORD, becomes the last of the judges and the prophet who initiates the beginning of the monarchy, anointing the first two kings of Israel: Saul and David. He stressed the importance of following the LORD's commands to both the people and their king in order for it to go well with them. He prayed constantly for them, instructing them in the way that was right, and walked before them all of his days.

Samuel existed because of the LORD, birthed from the context of a broken heart. Samuel came to be out of the prayer from a woman who endured words that said Samuel was not. Samuel's life was one of paramount purpose, bringing restoration to a woman's life that had been mocked to the point of deep distress.

And here in a late season, the reality that God's saving plan is fulfilled in the ongoing day-to-day lives of human beings has hit me afresh. For I've been provoked. It's been continuous, year after year, but the present moment has weighed down my heart . And I've had myself a good cry. And I've wept. The kind, for instance, where you have to leave church before the very end so as to avoid contact with anyone: my mascara was not waterproof and I could not get myself together. I'm worn from the provocation.

And though my form of my barrenness may differ, I too have dropped myself before the LORD and cried out for Him to remember me. And I know that He does, because He is with me at this very moment. And I too have asked Him to look on my affliction, and I know that He does because He is my El Roi. And I have vowed that I would allow Him to use this area of affliction for His glory, entrusting it to Him all the days of my life. For I believe His intent is to bring forth life from the circumstances that have set a tone of provocation. And I believe that He will birth in me something for His kingdom purposes, just as He birthed in Hannah a judge and prophet who marked the history of Israel in profound ways.

You may be far from a "Hannah" season. There may be no person, circumstance or thing inciting such frustration, heaviness and weeping in you that you're presently on the floor before the LORD. But if you are, I pray that He strengthens your inner being with courage to believe that He brings forth life from death. So hold on sister, for blessed are all those who wait for Him. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sin of omission

For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

I've got a soft spot for my boy Gideon. He's a scaredy-cat, plagued by fear and unbelief, yet not necessarily paralyzed by it. At the very beginning of the introduction of his character, two examples of Gideon's lifestyle of fear appear. First, in Judges 6:11, we see Gideon threshing out wheat in a winepress, hiding himself and his sustenance from the enemy. Later, in Judges 6:25-27, the LORD asks Gideon to destroy the altar of Baal that his father has and to instead build an altar to the LORD on top of it.

In both instances, Gideon is afraid. He is afraid of his enemy  the Midianites, others' perception of his actions and perhaps even the reaction of the idol he has established in his life. What would Baal do to he and his family? What would his father do to him? What could the Midianites do to him? Even further, what could this LORD do to him?

In spite of his fears, he goes forth and does the thing. He walks in that which God called him to walk in. He threshes the wheat, even though he is hiding from his enemy. And he tears down the altar of Baal, establishing an altar of God in its place, despite the fact that he does it at night, too afraid of his family and the men of the town to do it by day (Judges 6:27).

I see so much of myself in his story. Yet in a recent season, mine has an added dose of sin. Unlike Gideon, I did not go forth and do the thing. Gideon hid himself in the cleft of a mountainside or under the covering of a dark night sky, yet he still responded to God's call. On the other hand, I allowed myself to be paralyzed by fear and flat out failed to respond. I froze and my standing still equated itself to the sin of omission. Delayed obedience meant disobedience this time.

Gideon learned to function in his lifestyle of fear. He's got the act of threshing wheat in an awkward environment down pat. He's got the Baal worship thing down, surely established as a pattern of worship early in his life. It may or may not be working for him, but he's still doing it. Yours truly however, can't even claim that I was functioning well in this particular area. I wanted to be a functioning fearaholic at best, but God in His mercy, wasn't going to allow that either.

God speaks to Gideon early on: "I am the LORD your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell" (Judges 6:10). And He has firmly, lovingly, spoken a word to me a few weeks ago: "I am the LORD your God Shelly, you shall not fear ..." That my friend, is a command, not an option, based on who my God is.

I am His, created and equipped to do the good works He has called me to do. And the same is true for you sister. You were created in His image, called to bear much fruit in areas that He has prepared in advance for you. Things He has called just you to do. Giftings He has given you. Resurrection power working in you, in this season, at this moment, for His glory.

He doesn't need me to make His name great. He doesn't need you either. But we are given the unspeakable gift of participating in His Kingdom purposes. Lord, in your mercy, I sure don't want to miss it.

So I'm going to go forth and do the thing, even if I do it afraid for a little while. For soon, I will walk more boldly in the spirit of power, love and discipline He has given me, realizing that He has not given me a spirit of timidity (2 Timothy 1:7).

I'll do it afraid then, backed by the power of a God who is more than able.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

You are beautiful to me

They are appalled
Your laws believed to be confining
Your truth believed to be irrelevant
Your life believed to be merely that of a great spiritual man

They are appalled
Your words believed to be heresy (John 6:52-54)
Your ascension believed to be unreal
Your existence believed to be finite rather than a living, continuously involved, intimate God

They are appalled
Your appearance so disfigured, beyond that of any man
Your form marred beyond human likeness (Isaiah 52:14)
Your kingship questioned and mocked

But I am in love
Your laws my freedom
Your truth my delight (Psalm 119:14)
Your life perfect, the atonement for my sin

And I am in love
Your words, divine revelation of the wonders of your Person
Your ascension, now at the right hand of God, ruling over all (1 Peter 3:22)
Your existence, with the first thru the last of all generations (Rev. 1:8)

And I am in love
Your appearance, robed in majesty and armed with strength
Your form, a slain Lamb at the center of the Throne, a Spirit, omnipresent
Your kingship, the Holy One of Israel, besides you, there is no God (Isaiah 43:15)

My zeal consumes me
Show us your beauty Lord