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Following Christ. What does it require?

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Today is 2/5 (Tues)/13.  “I am feeling somewhat better.  Trying to drink enough water, and consume enough food continues to be a struggle.  But I am trying. “

This American gal found that my culture from back home, worked against me in the bush! Here people eat for sustenance.  You eat whatever is put before you because who knows when your next meal might come. But back home, we have such plenty that we can eat pretty much whatever we want, whenever we want.  We don’t eat for sustenance, we eat for pleasure.  Therefore, it was a struggle to eat when I didn’t feel like eating.  Back home, if I don’t feel like eating, I don’t.  The mindset behind such a choice is that I know that when I do feel like eating there will be all the food I could want.

As I struggled with such thinking, I got some of the most welcomed news.  The staff, that included me, would be leaving in a couple of days to return to the compound where my son and the other missionaries lived.  There we would recoup and reassess.  You know what I thought of when I found out I would be leaving for a few days?  Yep, a comfortable bed, a nearby bathroom, good food (because my daughter-in-law and the other missionary wife are fabulous cooks), and nice accommodations!

As a matter of fact, the routine was going to be: 4 or 5 days at the camp, then 2 or 3 days back at the missionary’s compound (for the staff).  When I was told this, I felt encouraged. I began to feel not nearly as overwhelmed and began to form a more positive attitude about my ability to endure and be successful.  God had not led me there to be overwhelmed by the negatives. Actually, He never does.

Because of what I was going through, my son and I got into a thought provoking conversation about suffering.  American Christianity, it seems, rejects the main tool of God’s to transform us to be more like Christ. Suffering!  When something unpleasant happens, what is the first thing we ask God to do?  Yep, you guessed it.  We ask God to remove it.

I know, that is certainly what I did.  But guess what?  He didn’t immediately change anything for me.  Instead, He forced me to find Him in the midst of my unpleasant circumstances.  During my sojourn through this difficult time, I discovered some pretty impressive things.  God was my constant companion.  I talked to Him almost nonstop. Time and time again I would hear Him speak to me through His word, through conversations with others in camp, through the experiences I would have as I interacted with the people and their environment.  Seems God was consistently pushing me to focus on everything but myself. (I so needed that!) 

Here’s a thought to ponder:

We tend to become self-focused in our suffering.  That’s the way of the ‘old man’, you see.  But the ‘new’ man becomes focused more on Christ in his suffering.

2 Corinthians 5:17 puts it this way: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

or  Colossians 3:9-10, Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, . . 

I learned a lot from my illness (and I continue to learn as I write this blog). And one of the most profound statements made to me by my son during this challenging time was:

My decision to follow Christ meant that because of Christ, I would know suffering. My life would not be easy; nor would my family’s.

We American Christians focus too much on having it easy.  And sitting here in all our abundance, we think  the question we have to ask ourselves is,”What would we have to give up to live our lives for Christ?”

Yes, we focus too much on what we have to give up to live for Christ. Therefore, we never get to consider what we have to gain.  When I was with my son and the other missionaries, I never once heard anyone talking about how hard their lives were.  No, instead I kept hearing about how exciting it was to live the life God had called them to. They felt privileged to get to live like that.  And believe me, I got a good picture of why they feel that way and why that is true.

I’ll close now but I want to leave this with you.

If you laid aside your fears of what living your life for Christ might require, would you hear God calling you to be a missionary?

Another day, another challenge!

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It was Jan. 31 and as I checked my calendar I saw that I had 41 more days left of my grand missionary adventure.  At that point, I had a lot of mixed emotions, and my negativism was ruling the day.  The fiery darts were overwhelming due in large part to a simple but powerful influence:  I just plain felt bad.  I had no reserves to fight back with because my sickness, along with the context of bush living, had sapped me of every ounce of fight I might have had within me.  The novelty of my great adventure had long since worn off and had left me with no motivation to think positive thoughts.

There were two factors, however, that kept me from despair:  my son & my grandson.

You know how as Christians we are always told that God equips you to do what He calls you to do?  Well, in this case it was how God had equipped my son to live the life He had called him to and how as he shared God’s thoughts with me that inspired me and kept me going.

Then the innocence of my grandson and the sheer delight that was mine to experience in just spending time with him  which directed my focus off of myself and on to him that gave me something to look forward to every day.  No matter how bad I felt, seeing and being with him always lifted my spirits.   Knowing that my time with him was limited, motivated me to take advantage of every moment I had to be with him.

My son and others encouraged me to eat, even if I didn’t feel like it.  This was a hard concept to grasp.  I live in a culture driven by eating for pleasure.  And God had temporarily (thank goodness)  transplanted me into a culture that ate for sustenance. You see, if they didn’t eat whatever had been placed before them, there was no guarantee that there would soon be another meal.  Therefore, when the opportunity came to eat, one MUST eat, for starvation was a constant threat.

Back home when I struggled with sickness, there were a variety of comforts that until my bush experience, I had taken for granted:  a comfortable bed, the nearness of bathroom facilities, comfortable chairs to curl up in, grocery stores and restaurants to get tasty foods and/or medicines, air conditioning and shelter that protected you from the harsh winds and afforded you a safe and comfortable view of the outside challenges.

I got a reprieve when my son took me with him one evening to drive back to their home to get some medicine for one of the children in camp.  Oh my, what a joy it was to walk into their home.  A home fitted with indoor plumbing and electricity.  I gathered some items I had left there (like lotion and wet ones).  You never realize how the skin can dry out when the wind blows hard on it every day and what a relief it is to have a damp cloth to wipe off the grit and dirt.  But the highlight of this excursion was stopping and getting a coke.  It wasn’t cold and I had no ice but it tasted delicious–the best coke I had ever had!

In my quiet time, I came across 2 Corinthians 2:15:

And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

Now that kinda puts things in perspective, don’t you think?  Someone who is so focused on their own aches and pains may find that they are shutting out the words the Holy Spirit has to give them to help them deal with their difficulties.   I was getting so-o-o-o tired of focusing on myself.  

All this self-focus was interfering with my ability to hear from God.  I yearned to rise above all this and be able to be a productive member of the camp, in spite of my physical limitations.  I knew that I had to learn to be more positive and open to God, whether I felt better or not. And that was proving to be my greatest challenge. 

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