Sunday, June 16, 2013

What language are you speaking?

As I was walking home yesterday, I was practicing counting to ten in Italian in my head. We leave this week for our Vision Trip to see if Italy is where the LORD is leading us to move long-term to share the Gospel.

I started thinking about potential future Italian language school...and how important it is. We must learn to communicate {and effectively} in order to share the Gospel with dear souls. This is the POINT of going. And we have to know our audience-- what do certain words mean to them? What is the cultural context? What is their background? How do they define words that I might define slightly differently? etc.

It then hit me: we need to be doing this all the time in life everywhere-- learning the "language" of others.

It is so easy to take our understanding and definitions of "God" and "justice" and "mercy", wrath, love, grace, atonement, sacrifice, etc. and share with others who might have a very different understanding of those words than us, the Bible, or maybe even no definition at all!

If I walked the streets of Italy sharing the Gospel in English, a few heads might turn recognizing the language. And while God can perform miracles, for the sake of argument: it would be an incredibly ineffective use of my time. However, I could still go home and say, "I shared the Gospel with over 1,000 people today!" and feel pretty good about that.

Yet...not ONE of those 1,000 people really heard the Gospel. I did not give grace to those who heard. I sat ignorant of my audience, speaking in words they couldn't understand, and yet "checking" off my list that I've evangelized or did ministry "the best I could."

I started wondering how often I've done that in my life. Spoken more than asked questions. Wanted to "answer" before really understanding what was being asked. Left a conversation feeling good that I'd done all I could, when perhaps I needed a bit more education in that area.

This affects the way we interact with Believers as well. We must be careful to listen-- quick to listen. Slow to speak. How many times are we encouraged with these very words in Scripture? This means listening to the WHOLE story; the bigger picture-- getting a better idea of where people's hearts are at. Our hearts are, in fact, where our sin first resides, and the reason why Christ came! He is clearly after our hearts.

So what about you? Have you ever had someone just totally miss you, as though they answered in another language? Are you a student of those you love and care for? Desiring to go to their "language school" to love and communicate with them more effectively?

As we face our mundane lives, conflict, marriage, seek to comfort those facing tragedy, singleness, discipling or being discipled, parenting...whatever context we are speaking in: would we learn the languages of humility, love, active-listening, and...the language of our audience. That we might love them in wisdom to the glory and praise of God.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Insensitive Passing Comments

I'm finding that regardless of the season of life we're in...

...words {even just a few} can be tremendously discouraging, belittling, or condemning without the slightest intention of being so.

We, collectively, do a poor job of giving grace to those who hear. Or meeting people where they're at: weeping with those who weep, or rejoicing with those who rejoice.

A tired and exhausted mom, with her arms full, her children screaming, desperate for a moment of met with, "Those young and little days are nothing compared to teenage years!"

A dating couple who is desperately in love, and is the last of their friends to get married, has been patiently waiting, and communicates their excitement about marriage hears, "Oh, just wait. It'll get so much harder when you get married. There are so many difficult conflicts, and so much hard work; you'll see. Dating is so easy and wonderful- just enjoy that."

A pregnant woman isn't sleeping at night and makes a comment about how she wishes she was awake with the baby at night, so excited for his/her arrival...and she hears, "Oh no, you'll never sleep again. You won't be saying that when you ARE awake at night with a baby!"

I don't know what it is. If its our culture, or if we think everyone's experience will be the same as ours...or if we want to "teach" and "warn" or change people...? But our words {or facebook comments} can be so discouraging and disheartening.

Sometimes, I overhear parenting conversations and my heart just squeezes. I want to shout, "Are you TRYING to steal her joy?!" or "Do you WANT to minimize the genuine, real-life difficulty she's facing?!"

So often these comments seem like they're supposed to be "Take it from me, The Expert on Life" talks. Like we should stop, drop what we're doing, and applaud the difficulty of whoever is giving this counsel or warning.

We unintentionally put pressure on people and communicate expectations of them:

-- a mom to somehow enjoy her exhaustion...

...there are countless joys of little ones, ABSOLUTELY! But there are days when a weary heart needs to be freshly, sweetly, humbly reminded and encouraged, that Jesus is near and does not grow tired or weak. And not made to feel that looming days of DOOM are ahead, or that she'll miss the difficulty of now. Even if there are difficult days ahead...will not the Saviour be there? Guiding, encouraging, helping, leading?

--a younger couple not "together as long as me and mine"

...while talking about our lives and what we've learned more than has it's place, there is such a difference between sharing and teaching or instructing. No one will marry my husband. So. I can't tell them "just how to be a wife" or "what marriage is like", because my experience and knowledge...comes from being JOSH'S wife. As marrieds, we cannot make blanket statements that "marriage is so wonderful/difficult/ encouraging/hard..." whatever adjective yours is in this season. We are not the author of our listener's marriage. Their marriage will be different from ours. There will be seasons to it: times to celebrate and rejoice with them, and other times to pray for, encourage, and uphold them. But we must STOP thinking all relationships are like ours!!

-- pregnant women to be anxious about the future, and suppress the difficulties of their pregnancy.

...I have three very dear friends and a sister-in-law who are pregnant or who've recently had a baby. I have wanted to delete comments or posts FOR THEM on facebook. What happened to celebrating and rejoicing WITH others? When it comes to pregnancy, there is such little encouragement, it is so sad. And then there's little compassion, too...what do we want from them?! When a night's been sleepless or morning sickness wearisome, there is a flood of comments about how "this is preparing you for how awful and difficult your life is going to be." When cute new clothes are bought, there are comments about "how many times you'll have to wash that", or "wait til its got poop all over it." Dear Pregnant Reader, on behalf of everyone who's said hurtful or insensitive things to you, I am so sorry.

Can I also take this opportunity to say, that no two pregnancies have ever been alike. I've never been pregnant, and yet am flabbergasted at the ways conversations take place, and things that are said. We cannot talk about "pregnancy" as though its the same experience for everyone!

As a church in America especially, we are weak in this. Someone experiences tragedy and we slap a, "God is faithful!" on their facebook wall. Is God faithful? Oh, INDEED. More than we can know or comprehend. But what our friend needs in this moment perhaps, is something that more accurately reflects the heart of God for them. Humility. Care. Compassion. Love. Not instruction. Teaching. Correction.

I know this post is a bit bold. Perhaps my impatience at such communication is evident. My heart and desire is that we, as Christians, would look to support, encourage, and love others well where they're at. There are times for teaching. For correction. For reproof. But the majority of the time...passing comments are not those places...

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Discipline of Rest

What?! Rest isn't a discipline...

Getting up early, going running, eating healthy, spending consistent time in my Bible...those are disciplines.

Yes, they can be. But for some of us-- for those of us who are "do-ers"...who like to get things done, who want to stay one step ahead of life, who can be tempted to push ourselves to do just one more thing and either slide into, or DIVE into self-sufficiency...those of us who make SUCH ambitious to-do lists, that we never accomplish them in one day. And we find ourselves writing down things that we've already done, just to cross something off the list! We have a hard time sitting down and doing nothing and often describe things as  "a waste of time." We think making the best-use-of-the-time means having the most successful and productive day by accomplishing as many tasks as possible in a reasonable time frame. For us, rest is something to be disciplined in. It is probably one of the most un-disciplined areas of my life.

There is always something to pick up. Always a meal to prepare or dishes in the sink. Always guests coming over or kids to babysit. Fruit or veggies that are in their last days and can be redeemed if cut up and thrown in the freezer. Jr High girls to text, a vaccum to run, cards to write for friends; emails that have been in my inbox for far too long. There are groceries to be bought, things to return. The demands of life are many.

I like to get things done so that I CAN rest. Problem is: I will never be "done" until I see the face of my Saviour. This simple realization has been eye opening :)

Recently, my heart has been prompted and probed to consider this area of discipline again. It was something often on my mind and heart while I lived in Wales.

Our all-powerful, fully-sustained, never growing tired or weary God created the heavens, earth, and all that was in them in six days.

Genesis 2:2, "And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done."

Then, He rests. Not out of need...He wasn't tired. He didn't need sleep, or to "take a load off." He rests because He is setting an example...for us.

The difference is: we were actually created to need rest. Not just To remember we are not the LORD. To entrust our lives and other's- both the weighty and simple areas to Him. To the One who needs no rest. Who is sovereign. Who is working. Who has a plan.

Last weekend I took some time to read at Starbucks. It had been a very full and unexpected week. I had become very overwhelmed by the number of things that had "not gone according to plan" and Josh and I agreed I needed to be better at resting. I sat down at Starbucks with no agenda. No errand to run afterwards, no "to do" looming over my head. I set everything aside, and opened the Word. In a matter of seconds, my heart was softening and changing. My perspective being altered and adjusted; my heart soaring with joy, hope, peace, anticipation, worship. I was sweetly convicted.

This type of rest and "retreating" away from life is something Christ did often in His time on earth. It is something that if neglected, renders the rest of my life essentially in-effective. I give poor counsel because my eyes are man-centered- therefore, I don't love others well. I do things out of obligation, responsibility, or without thinking, instead of delighting in the LORD in the vast array of creative ways He is meeting me or working in or through me. I feel far more responsibility than is mine. The list is endless.

The next day, as this idea had been on my heart, mind, and conversations, the LORD met me again.

Josh had just woken up from a Sunday nap. He came out of our room and was still sleepy- laying on my shoulder with his eyes closed as we sat on the couch.

"What can I get you, babe? Want something to eat? Drink? Do you need a foot massage?" My heart was ready and eager to serve him. To show him I loved him. To bless him.

He was really tired-- nearly falling back asleep, and there were long pauses of silence. I asked a few times. He responded with a smile, "Stop asking- I just want to be with you."

Oh, the sweetness of God's love was revealed afresh in that moment. In the same way my husband doesn't need or want me to "go do" something...even for his, the LORD wants that same intimacy of "being" with me un-distracted. He doesn't "just want me to serve Him." He wants my HEART.

It is good to serve. To be involved in our local church and the lives of those around us. To be committed to things that reflect the heart of Christ to a watching world. To be very intentional. To minister to people. To love them. To encourage them. To witness to them. To enjoy the Lord AS we do these things, and as we pray.

But there is something...about doing NOTHING but sitting with the Lord. For an extended period of time. To be like Mary who chose "the better portion."

The last week has been spent with much consideration about how to make this "getting away" something that is incorporated into my regular life. Until it is something that comes must be practiced. I currently am so weak, I need to almost make it a task: to force myself to put time on the calendar to "get away" with Jesus. For me, I can't be in our apartment. It is in many ways, my place of work. I have tried and tried and wanted to convince myself I can do it. But my life reveals...I don't.

So as I continue brainstorming and dialoging with others about how to grow in this discipline...I figured I'd share. We are in a very task-oriented culture. And I suspect there may be some others who could join me in needing a "refreshers course" on rest.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Easter, an "awkward" holiday...

When I was single, I wanted to write blog posts like this one so bad...

but I feared coming across in an unhelpful way.

Now that I've got a ring on my finger and have said my vows...I feel liberty to speak freely with other "marrieds".

Just a friendly reminder {or maybe a heads up if you don't already know...} from my own personal experience.

Easter goes in the category of "awkward holidays" as a single who lives far away from family.

Mother's Day. Father's Day. Also in that category.

...Holidays that aren't "big" enough on the work calendar to get a day off for to maybe visit family...yet...everyone and their mother {literally} seems to be busy because family is in town or getting together.

There's something a little bit more lonely about knowing the majority of the church is with family. And mine were hundreds {sometimes thousands} of miles away. No one is free to go out to lunch. Or to text back. Facebook is bare. With the exception of pictures of families celebrating Easter.

Maybe its physically not possible to do anything but what your family has scheduled this year. Sometimes, that is entirely legitimate.

But. Maybe you're able to consider inviting a single with long-distance {or no} family to join you? Or maybe just snag coffee with them after relatives leave?

Just a thought. 

We are in fact, family in the Lord. And if your daughter or son lived far away...I imagine it would bless you if someone cared for them during the "awkward" holidays...

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The question of "Where?"

It's the most asked question about our desire to do cross-cultural mission's work.


This leads me to explain one of the things we love most about World Team.

World Team sees themselves as an aid. Helping local churches send missionaries across the Globe.

Many, many local churches around America {and around the world} don't have the knowledge, information, or cultural experience that it takes to effectively send missionaries cross-culturally.

But, World Team does.

So, sort of "holding the hand" of our local church, World Team will help us {Josh, me, and Warrington Fellowship Church} walk through this process...and that includes determining WHERE.

I am ridiculously and shamefully ignorant.

There are so many places, and peoples, cultures and even countries that I don't know about. It is daunting trying to "pick one" when I know very little {or nothing} about them.

...especially when we're planning on moving to this "unknown place" for decades...

This is where World Team comes in.

With their past and current knowledge of cultures and existing teams on various fields all over the world, they will help us as we walk through this process. Next Friday, March 16th, we will begin a week long Orientation. World Team will be watching us, interacting with us, assessing and counseling us in very deep, intentional ways. As they learn about our strengths and weaknesses, giftings and failings, at the end of the week- if they see fit to invite us to be apart of World Team-- they will suggest a number of places for us {and our local church} to prayerfully consider.

So at this point...we don't know yet. We don't know where in the world {literally} we will be going.

But, we are so blessed to have such enthusiastic support from both our local church and the members at World Team, and we are thrilled about deciding together, where "Josh and Janelle Morrison would 'fit' best as missionaries cross-culturally."

We invite you to join us as we pray for the Lord's leading!!

The honest truth.

It's only happened two or three times. Only two that I really remember.

My heart starts racing, my eyes get wide, my mind is whirling, and I start to get knots in my stomach or a lump in my throat-- just for like 15 seconds. And then it goes away. Sort of like a freaking out,  "AHHH!!"

We are going to be moving. To another country. Permanently. For the rest of our lives. Like, forever.

It's a really big deal.

This freaking out feeling is familiar. I felt it a lot more often while preparing to go to Wales. Thoughts like, "I'm giving up everything I love about my life."

I remember one night specifically before leaving Wales- at Starbucks with people who had just recently become dear, dear friends. I remember thinking, "I'll never do this with them again. This is the last time."

...I was right. By the time I got back to the States, various members of that Starbucks gathering had gotten married, or relationships had naturally shifted. I had to start all over with friends in a lot of ways when I returned.

In these 15 second freak outs, I dread nieces and nephews being born and growing up thousands and thousands of miles away. Or my own children- knowing their grandparents through skype or by pictures. I don't like the three months that separate family visits will I survive with three YEARS?!

I hate time differences and how impossible it is to keep in touch with people.

I don't want to eat new food-- I like the food I eat now. It's familiar. It tastes good. I know how to cook here. In the UK it was different- Celsius, strange measurements, and their shops lacked "normal" ingredients to recipes I knew how to make. I don't want to do that another language.

I don't want to learn a new language from scratch. I'm bad at studying and academics  I often end up in tears. And for the academic, it takes like 2-3 years to learn...sometimes 5 to be fluent. I literally won't be able to make friends cause I can't talk to anyone!!

As all of these whirl in my mind and I can tangibly feel the reality of moving...only a few things make them go away. But. They go away very, very quickly.

I must hate this life if I'm truly going to live for the next.

That doesn't mean I'm never going to love the people, the food, the terrain, the life we establish in whatever country we go to.

In fact, Wales turned from "the Scary Sacrificial Unknown" into "one of the dearest places on earth with very close friends" in a year and a half.

But it does mean "giving up" the sweet little life I had planned in my mind. A big house with a fireplace for tons of company and foster kids; family visits at our place for Holidays, having a little salon in our home to do hair while the kids are napping...and just enjoying life. Enjoying relationships. Loving on people. Ministering to them, witnessing to them...


There are people who do not have access to the Gospel.

Now that I am informed about "the unreached" will literally haunt me unless I go. I cannot with a clear conscience, stay here in the States knowing that there thousands and millions of people all over the world who have never HEARD the name of Jesus. Who CAN'T pick up a Bible because there ISN'T one in their language. And I'm not just talking about in some remote village. In countries you and I know about, have heard of, have seen on the news, and maybe even have vacationed to.

"How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?" Romans 10:14-15

The Lord will always be with me.

And this time, when I go. I will have my best friend with me. That makes a huge difference practically and culturally.

Josh and I are both excited about studying and learning more about Heaven; The New Earth. We want our hearts to be be further convinced-- that this just for the next.

Let's try to pack the place out.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Dear Christian Parent...

I do not yet have kids, but I'd like to share my observations-- and the temptations I imagine you might be facing...

When you hear about the extravagant birthday party a friend threw for their you feel discouraged? Is it difficult knowing you have "100 ways to save money in your grocery budget" pinned on pinterest, and you don't even have time to read the post, let alone implement anything? Does everyone else seem like they're just "doing life" a little bit better than you? Cuter, and cheaper, and more elaborate? They're kids are just better behaved? Happier?

I received a small note from my own dad on my Birthday last week. His readiness to boast {yet again} in the grace of God almost DESPITE he and my mom's parenting...was a fresh reminder to me:

"Biblical Parenting" isn't flawless. Honouring God doesn't mean everything is decorated nicely and everyone is happy and smiling with the most recent holiday-themed, decorated lunch. Parenting, like life, looks different for everyone. Yet, what we strive for, should be rooted in Biblical Principles. Your kids, if they are going to follow Christ, need to learn how to forgive, overlook, forbear, pursue humility, etc. And God gives them opportunities THROUGH your weaknesses in parenting, to allow their small, frail, perhaps beginning faith to grow and be strengthened. He will use every mistake for their good AND your good. How will they learn to forgive if they are not sinned against? How will they know they need Jesus unless they watch you lean and depend on Him- knowing you are weak and He is strong?

Think of "perfect parenting" in your mind. Now consider: Where is there room or need for Jesus? How could your children watch and experience grace? Or see a need for Christ at all? Parenting that is flawed, helps kids see our need for Jesus. It's on purpose that you are human. "Fun Pinterest Mom" everyday doesn't do what you ARE doing everyday; demonstrating how to live a life that is dependent on God. THAT is far more important than how often you do crafts, make home-made granola, or cut your kids PBJ in cute shapes.

May the grace of God keep your blinders on- so that you may rejoice with others in their gifts, and compare yourself only to Christ. You will fall woefully short. He will saturate you in grace, and encourage your weary heart: giving you wisdom as you seek Him and ask.

His grace to you this morning,