Friday, October 26, 2012

Harvest Party with a Purpose

Last year I was brainstorming about how to make a little family harvest party that had a deeper meaning to it than just candy and costumes.  And this idea came to me.  It is our 2nd year to do this, and it's definitely going to be a tradition that we continue.

In Matthew 9:38, Jesus tells us to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send more workers into the fields.  It is these fields that pull at my soul.  The lost.  The ones who have never ever heard the name of Jesus. So, we built our little harvest party around this theme.

It all centers around a treasure hunt of sorts.  I create riddles to hide to throughout the house.  I give our children the first riddle.  If they solve that riddle, it will lead them to the place where the next riddle is hidden.  This year, we hid riddles in the deli drawer of the refrigerator, on a guitar, on a puzzle of China, etc.

The final riddle is WITH the hidden treasure...

Their treasures are individual baggies filled with candy...

And each bag has a "treasure of the nations" inside of it.  This is the fun part.  Last year I went to the International Mission Board's site to choose some completely unreached people groups, and I gave each child a people group to pray for for one year.  (Go to THIS LINK to discover some amazing facts about people groups that have yet to have a single Gospel witness!).  This year, we had some bookmarks of other people groups, so I used those to give each child a "treasure of the nations" for them to pray for over the next year.  They are always excited to see which country they will receive, as they are the chosen prayer warrior for that one country or people group.  It's a special job!

I hid all the riddles and the candy, and then we invited the crew downstairs to begin our evening of activities.  They were dressed in some fun costumes of inspirational characters from Christian books or movies (our oldest daughter made most of the costumes).  This year we had 2 characters from Narnia and one police officer from Courageous...and one princess that insisted that she needed to be a butterfly (one of God's creations, so we rolled with it!).  :)

The different parts of the meal were named after each character, and we enjoyed some family time together with our grandmother who was in town for the special celebration.

And of course, there was case the candy wasn't enough sugar...  ;)

Then began the treasure hunt, with all the riddles to be solved.  This really was so much fun!

The night drew to a close with everyone digging into their bags of goodies and reading about their "treasure of the nations" to pray for over the next year.

Because there really IS a harvest, and it's more than pumpkins and apples and candy.  It's a harvest of souls.  Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send more workers into the fields.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Our Saturation--Their Thirst

Rain came in torrents.  24 hours of non-stop water poured on our property in Georgia.  Streams flowed down the steep driveway...

And into the grass...  More and more and more water, until the ground was gagging and gurgling with the excess.  Saturation past the point of comfort...

With nowhere to go, it simply puddled and grew murky, muddy.  The ground had had enough.

With camera in hand, fascinated at the immense amount of rain that just wouldn't stop, I squat low to grab some shots.  My mind drifts to our family who lives in the deserts of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.  I try to envision some way to tilt the globe toward them and let all this water bless their drought.

And in the quiet of the woods, in the quiet of my heart, a realization stings: This is the picture of most Christians.  We are flooded, absolutely saturated with Bible studies, Christian music, seminars, excellent sermons, moving testimonies, inspiring camps, amazing concerts, guest speakers with influence and title, a plenitude of Bibles lying around our homes, Christian bookstores, fish bumper stickers, Christian youth pizza nights.....

All these things are good, but WE. ARE. SATURATED.

We are to the point of excess.  The water is puddling and turning muddy, murky.

All the while, there are dry places on earth...dry multitudes on the other side of the planet.  They are thirsty, absolutely unreached with the living waters of salvation.

I've heard many people say we need to stay and reach our own nation.  And yet, how do we explain that of all the unreached peoples in the world, 97% of them live in the 10/40 Window?  97%.  Think about that.

Only a tiny fraction of unreached people live in North American, and yet we concentrate most of our focus and money towards reaching that tiny percent.  We choose to stay in our comfort zones, far from the area of need.  We absolutely FLOOD ourselves with the excess, and we leave the other side of the globe desolate...dry...hungry and thirsty.

"And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send and who will go for us?'  Then I said, 'Here am I. Send me'."  --Isaiah 6:8
We may not ALL go, but we all need to make ourselves available to go.  Isn't that what Jesus said, "GO"?  Why do we make every excuse not to obey Him in this?  It may be that we step forward to go, and He closes the door and gives us another way of furthering His Kingdom (as He has done for our family each time we have stepped forward to go).  But we must let HIM choose what doors we walk through.  We can all certainly shift our thinking and our focus towards the 10/40 Window.  Instead of focusing on collecting money and possessions for our own comfort and retirement, what would happen if we actually obeyed Him when He said, "Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need." --Matthew 6:33

Do we actually BELIEVE His words?

Shouldn't we try to find a way to tip the globe and send our excess toward the 97% who have never heard...the dry and thirsty?  

Or will we drown in our gurgling, muddy waters of excessive saturation?

*****A huge thanks to my brother-in-law, who allowed me to post some of his amazing photography from the desert lands of Arizona*****

Monday, October 1, 2012

Heart Set on Pilgrimage

Psalm 84:5-6
"Happy are the people whose strength is in You, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.  As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a source of spring water; even the autumn rain will cover it with blessings."

1. A journey to a sacred place
2. A long journey or search, especially one of exalted purpose or moral significance.

This is not our home.  We are on a pilgrimage...passing through this life, this earth only momentarily.  Sometimes we get to collecting things like houses, cars, books, computers, things...and our steps get harder to make with the weight on our backs of all the things we are toting with us.  Sometimes we sit down and forget the pilgrimage altogether.  We dig into the soil, lay a foundation and just stay put, soaking in the here-and-now.  But the truth is that our hearts are to be set on pilgrimage.  My Bible note says that the phrase "whose hearts are set on pilgrimage" is literally "the highways are on their  hearts."

Think about that one for a minute: is the highway on my heart?  Or is my heart wrapped snugly in the comfort of this house, this life, this plan?

We're at a crossroads, saying YES to whatever road God chooses to point us toward.  We don't know exactly what He is going to do, but we do know that the highway is stretching out before us...our hearts have been set on it for quite awhile, and soon our feet will begin walking it.

The shift has already begun.  The seams have begun to pop, one thread at a time.  Relationships have begun to shift, doors have begun to close here, and a gentle undercurrent has begun...ever pushing our feet forward.  And we have found ourselves ever-present in the Valley of Baca.  Baca means, "To weep."  Pilgrims have tears.  The missionary Isobel Kuhn wrote in her book In the Arena about a season in her life when "human props" were removed.  Everything was removed for a season...her closest friends, her children, her husband, her unborn baby, her plans.  She talked of how those are all human props that we simply cannot rely upon.  When all is removed, we find that all we have is God.  And God is all we really need.  Sometimes He has to move us to that point where it's just us and Him, because He's preparing us for the highway.

Human props have begun to be removed out from under us.  This person, that thing, this friendship, that security, this hope, this plan...all removed.  And we walk through the valley of weeping.  And yet there He is, turning our weeping into a source of spring water, blessings.  

Our eyes look to Him, and our feet are ever determined to go in whichever way He bends the road.  Happy are the people whose strength is in God, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.