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It Smelled Like You…

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I just returned to South Africa recently after taking part in the Gathering, an event I have attended since 1998.  The Gathering is a group of friends who invest in the kingdom of Christ all over the world.  The richness of relationships, wisdom and knowledge that I have gained over the years from this weekend cannot be quantified.  I am blessed each and every year.

During a courtyard breakfast this year, one of my long time Gathering friends came up and enthusiastically asked me if I had been on “such and such” an elevator a few minutes previously.  Having no idea what he was talking about, I looked at him as if he had lost his mind, but he continued by saying, “I got on that elevator, and I knew that you had been there because it smelled like you!”

My mom was right (as she so often is) when she told me in high school that I should choose a fragrance and stick with it, as people remember you by your scent.

Perfume aside, that whole interaction with my friend got me me thinking about “the fragrance of Christ.”

What “scent” do I leave–on an elevator…when I’m traveling, bone tired and in one of those pressurized situations (I recently had to apologize to a Hertz woman in one such situation)…at my condo association–a challenge for the last 20 years…

When I walk away, what “scent” remains…do people know, in some way, that Jesus has been there because His “fragrance” still lingers?

I read an article just today where, in the most tragic and horrible situation from any human perspective, there was a group of people who left a STRONG fragrance of Christ.  Isis Crucifies 11 Christian Missionaries.  A sweet smelling fragrance that wafted to the throne in heaven…

May my fragrance be Him:  Let it be Jesus by Christy Nockels

Let it be Jesus…when all is said and done…For me to live is Christ,
,

Signature :: Laurie

Fred Smith’s Blog: In the Bosom of Fools

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I rarely make comments on political matters, as my brother Eric can heartily attest too (and he would also add it is “for good reason.”  🙂  However, Fred Smith, the president of the Gathering, wrote a blog that I believe is worth making note of in this season, both in the US and in South Africa.

This blog is not partisan but more a commentary on our engagement with political and other matters.

It is called The Bosom of Fools.

Fred’s blogs are thought-provoking, interesting and stretching–worth a read.  If you would like to sign up to receive them every Thursday, you can do so here, toward the bottom of the page.

For more of Fred Smith’s blogs:  read more

Two life-changing jogs…

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I love going for a run!  Over the years, I have received many things while jogging–brilliant ideas, problem-solving wisdom, intercession for people, soul-refreshment, and even great friendship time with others!  I have run in African villages followed by laughing kids, in Chinese streets with “acid rain”(as I affectionately called the polluted rain there), in vineyards in South Africa, in my neighborhood in Indiana and many other adventurous places in-between.

There are two jogs recently that have been life-changing–for very different reasons.

The first one is actually a “JOG”–a Journey of Generosity–a facilitated 24 hour small-group experience to encounter God’s generosity. The experience itself is often a generous gift provided by a those who are hosting it.  During our time together, we experience incredible stories of generosity (of all different types), small group interactions, excerpts of readings, Bible study, and meaningful conversations over meals.  It’s a transformational heart journey.

Over the last year and half, I have had the privilege of participating in catalyzing the first JOGs in South Africa.  A month ago, we had our second round of JOGs in Capetown and our first JOGs ever in the Johannesburg area.  It has been a joy to be with different groups of amazing people and to encounter God’s generosity in a way that has marked us all.

Here are some photos from our times together!

Here’s some more information for the curious and interested that want to see, as it’s an experience I would highly recommend for anyone:  http://generousgiving.org/small-gatherings

The 2nd life-changing jog was an actual run–in Delta park in the middle of Johannesburg.  To back up a little bit…as I left the USA in January, I had really felt led to bring Beth Moore’s Breaking Free Bible study materials, as the Lord seemed to have an agenda for that study during my stay here.   Fast forward 2 months…a good South African friend in the US wanted me to meet a childhood friend of hers from Johannesburg, which I was delighted to do.  We met for coffee and had a wonderful time together!  A few days later she invited me to go for a jog in the park with her and one of her friends who, as it turns out, leads a Bible study for women in this area.  In chatting on our run, this woman mentioned that their current study was finishing and that they were looking for something new.  Immediately I had a strong sense that this was the reason that I had brought Breaking Free with me to SA.

In March, we started a Breaking Free Bible study with 15+ women, and it’s been amazing to watch the Lord “proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” in different ways among this group of women.

Two JOGs/jogs…unique and life-changing.  Our King and His kingdom…there really is no greater joy than being about His business and watching Him work.

His Gifts

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Have you ever had one of those gifts that only you knew you really wanted or were looking for, but then all the sudden it showed up, as a gift straight from Jesus?  Well, that was my recent experience in South Africa.

Journals have always been important to me–special.  I am not one who journals every day, but some things just need to be recorded–life journeys, journeys with God, stones of remembrance.  Those are the sorts of things that make their way into my journals.  Each journal marks a season of life somehow.  I can look at a journal and am reminded about so many things in that particular season.  Some of my journals are just a “purchase” but others are really a stone of remembrance.

Last August, I had just finished a journal recording some very dark and hard places, and I felt like the Lord had a special journal for me for the next leg of the journey.  He had put a particular store on my mind for a journal, but when I got there, the store was actually out of business and there was a second hand store there instead.  I thought it was strange that He put that store on my heart and then it didn’t exist, so I just decided to go into the second hand store and look anyway.  Would you believe that there was ONE journal.  I didn’t even know that these stores would sell a journal, but they did AND it was new and not written in.  I just knew it had been specially picked for me–for this season.  Here it is:

Doc - Sep 5, 2013, 3-01 PM - p2

Funny thing, but when I saw it, I wasn’t that excited.  It was monochrome.  It wasn’t very pretty, and “growing things in silence” didn’t sound very fun to me.  Truth be told, it hasn’t been fun–at all–but in coming to the end of this journal I wrote in ink in a circle around that tree, “…They will be called OAKS of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.” Isaiah 61:3.  That’s my prayer…that this season and the roots that grow in deep places in sorrow and suffering will produce strength and fruit from Jesus like none other and that I will display His splendor somehow.

As I closed out this journal during my trip to Africa, I felt like the Lord had a new journal for me specifically from South Africa for this next season for some reason.  When I was there in early March, I had asked one of the women at the conference if she knew where I could buy a South African journal in Johannesburg.  She gave me a couple of great ideas, and I was heading to the city that next Saturday and was going to look.

Right before I left Camp Eden, I had breakfast with John and Lorna Abrahmse, two dear friends that run a ministry called J-life where I was staying and participating in their annual summit.  As breakfast was being prepared I was talking with Lorna and saw a bar of chocolate on the table–a kind I had never seen before.  I asked about that flavor, and she said, “Oh, that’s actually for you, and this is too,” and she handed me a journal–a South African journal.

I was actually somewhat speechless, because, as many of you know, I always have tea and chocolate every morning with Jesus–even in Africa, though it’s a little melty there sometimes :-), and I had just run out that very morning.  And…the journal.  Lorna had no idea that I was planning to go to Johannesburg to buy a South African journal, but the Giver of all good gifts did.  He amazes me.  In addition to the gift of a South African journal, He even gave me one that is fun and colorful for this next season!  I’m so excited about that, let me just tell you!

photo 2

His gifts–He knows us and provides for us in intimate ways if we have eyes to see–sometimes before we even ask.  Thank you, Lorna, for your sweet generosity and for being the conduit of His good gifts to me!  I’m so grateful…

God’s got an army…

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Having just spent two weeks in Africa, I came back with significant things on my heart and mind–kingdom things.

It has to do with Light and Darkness and an army that God is raising up, and I would love to invite you to be a part of this army!

Before leaving for Africa, a couple friends shared about light.  One had been praying for my trip and shared that she saw a stream of light move across Africa.  An elder at our church and a friend, not even two hours later, shared that he was reading Genesis with Jesus constantly in mind.  God’s first command is “let there be light.”  The sun was commanded “to govern” the day and the moon “to govern” the night.  He noted that “light” brings governance and authority.  Having just completed a study of Revelation, he further noted that Jesus is the ONLY light in heaven, proclaiming that no other authority/light is needed.  Jesus is it!

“What does that have to do with Africa?” you might ask!  Great question!

(Pictured below are some of the warriors in hand to hand combat on the ground throughout Africa.  I met and spent time with many of them on this last trip and some of them I have known for years!)

In attending a “summit” of African ministry leaders in February, our South African leader shared a picture that had come from their intercessory team praying over Africa and our time together.  It was a picture of streams of light, sort of like lightning bolts, shooting throughout the continent of Africa.

Now call me crazy, but it seems like Jesus is sending some sort of message about LIGHT in Africa through all different sources, and light has to do with authority!  Much of Africa has a foundation of witchcraft, demonic, dead men’s bones, corruption, fear, and ancestor worship.  As many times as I have been in Africa and spent time with my loved African brothers and sisters, I had NO IDEA some of the things that are accepted as absolutely normal in a cultural setting, even a Christian African setting, until this trip as generational sin and bondage were addressed.

The enemy has held authority in some of these areas for generations–FAR TOO LONG.  I believe that our King Jesus wants to expose some of these dark things, bringing His light and authority to the foundations of the African continent.  If that’s true, then we have a WAR on our hands, though the Victor is assured and absolute!

I believe the Lord is calling the church to battle more actively for freedom from the tyranny of the enemy’s authority in Africa.  Even though I don’t understand it fully, prayer holds POWER in the heavenly realms and brings His kingdom on EARTH as it is in heaven.  (Read Revelation 8:1-5 if you have any doubts about that. Wow!).

Would you be willing to be one of the warriors of light that will pray His light and authority into the foundations of the African continent in this season?  Will you commit one time a day, one time a week, one time a month–some sort of true commitment marked on your calendar–to pray for Africa by yourself, with your family, with your small group?

If so, it would be wonderful to hear from you, just for encouragement.  I am serious about being part of God’s army recruitment in this season as “Aslan is on the move” in Africa and I want to join Him.  Will you?

Partners–In Life and Ministry

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Little did I know when I started to work at our family foundation called Master Works Foundation in 1998 what the Lord was going to do in my life over the next 15 years with the people that I would meet during my time there.

I have had the privilege of serving, loving, being discipled by and partnering in ministry with the most amazing people that you would ever meet, and I met many of them through supernatural encounters that only God could have arranged while I was serving at Master Works. One of the hardest parts about leaving our family foundation 2 1/2 years ago was that I didn’t know what God was going to do with me in life and ministry, nor did I know if I would be able to continue serving with our partners that had now become both friends and family to me.

As the Lord started giving direction to my life and leading me toward En Gedi and my heart for affluent families and ministry leaders, one of the great joys for me is that many of the relationships that He blessed me with in the past have been carried into the future of what He has given me to do!

This late summer and fall were especially rich with visits and times with people that the Lord has given me to partner with in life and ministry. Theses dear friends come from all over the United States and all over the world.  I know that no matter where the Lord takes me in the future, what country I live in, or what He gives me to do, these are people that I will be connected with for life in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, whether I see them consistently here on earth or at a reunion in heaven.  I cannot tell you how grateful I am for their lives, their hearts for Jesus and their friendship.  I am incredibly blessed!

I want to give you a glimpse of just a few of the faces I spent time with this fall as well as giving you a small window into the worlds and God-given places of these incredible friends and partners in the kingdom.

Chris De Wet and his family, a South African living in Alabama, president of Afmin, an organization that trains pastors throughout Africa

Steve and Sheri Sweatman (and their daughter) from Colorado, President of Mission Training International, training and equipping missionaries to serve worldwide

Cassie and Jenny Carstens of Capetown, South Africa, leading a discipleship movement and training people all over the world in sports ministry and community development

Kobus and Teresa Grobler and Family from Johannesburg, South Africa, leading Afmin in training pastors throughout all of Africa

John and Lorna Abrahmse from Johannesburg, South Africa, leading J-life ministries, a discipleship movement training up youth leaders throughout Africa

Jay and Vicki Dangers (along with 2 of their 6 children), living in Uganda and leading New Hope Uganda, bringing the Fatherhood of God to the Fatherless

The Mitchell family living in Uganda, serving with New Hope Uganda, and organization that brings the Fatherhood of God to the Fatherless

Next Generation Gathering, dear friends from all over the US who are investing financially in kingdom work around the world.

More dear Young Generation Gathering Friends from the US who invest in kingdom work throughout the world.

The Jonas Family from Utah, dear friends and partners in the Gospel in different parts of the world

Leaders and board members of Leadership Development International from Singapore, Australia, the US and Switzerland. LDI is an organization that trains and equips leaders in China, the Middle East and beyond

Josh and Kristi Patty and their family living in Slovenia, leading Josiah Venture in Slovenia, JV is a movement that serves the local church by equipping youth leaders in Eastern Europe

Dave and Connie Patty living in the Czech Republic, President of Josiah Venture, an organization that assists the local church in training youth leaders throughout Eastern Europe

Amy Ellenwood (Mel was gone that day!!) living in the Czech, Republic, leading Josiah Venture, and organization that assists the local church to train leaders throughout Eastern Europe.

Our Father, chocolate chip cookies, and a song

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Sometimes I just get blown away by the intimate care and details with which my Father cares for His children.  I shared one of my own stories about the roll of tape earlier this year, but when I see His care for other people, it has a way of stirring my soul in love for my Father as I see Him through the eyes of others.  He is intimately acquainted with our ways, and when no one else “gets” us, He does.

Earlier this year, I invited a couple of friends of mine to come to Fort Wayne and participate in a time of prayer to seek God for freedom in some areas.  As I was shopping for food and getting ready for their visit, I was inspired to make some AMAZING chocolate chip cookies that I had just had at my sister-in-law’s house the weekend before.  (Here is the recipe if you are interested)

I cannot tell you the last time that I made chocolate chip cookies, but I had a sudden urge and inspiration.  As I was at the grocery store, I also decided to get 8 o’clock bean coffee, as I heard my Uncle Steve’s voice in my head, telling me that this brand of coffee is “the best and only” for him!  (I almost always buy Starbucks coffee for my house!)

It was only later that I found out that my friend loved chocolate chip cookies, as they were a favorite for him growing up.  His mom died when he was in his 20’s, and chocolate chip cookies are a piece of “home” for him that he doesn’t have very often.  I also found out that he only drinks 8 o’clock bean coffee every morning at home, as it is also his favorite.  The prayer time he was about to enter into was a place of great vulnerability, requiring much courage, and the Father was caring for him in very intimate and special ways that only He knew, providing a sense of care, safety and home through coffee and cookies of all things.  What a joy to be a vessel of His care and love in such a simple way.   It led me to praise, as I know that the same Father that cared for Him cares for me with the same intimate knowledge.

I was just in the Czech Republic for the Josiah Venture spring conference where Dave Patty spoke on the Fatherhood of God and being “Found by your Father.”  During the conference there were chances for people to pray together, seeking the Father for healing and for a revelation of His presence.  I was asked to participate in a time of prayer with two men that I know well.  In looking diligently for a place to pray that was quiet and relatively undistracted, we ended up in a little sound booth at the back of the meeting room.  As we were praying, the words from a song came to mind in regards to one of the situations we were praying about.  The words were, “He rescues the souls of men, oh, he rescues the souls of men.”  Right after I shared with the two men those words, the printer in the sound booth started printing something, and it was pretty distracting, so we were trying our hardest to concentrate.  We figured someone probably needed the song sheets to get ready to lead worship that night, so Josh, one of two I was praying with, pulled the song sheets off the printer.

Would you believe it was THE SONG that I had just given them the words for.  We all sat there in awe with tears streaming down our faces as we experienced the Father’s care for his son who needed to hear those words wash over a very traumatic time in his life that had held him captive for years.  “Almighty Infinite Father, faithfully loving His own….”

I just arrived back in Texas late last night, and I have a couple days at my sister and brother-in-law’s house in Dallas before attending a conference this week.  This morning I woke up after a long flight from Czech and a short night’s sleep, and there, in my sister’s kitchen, was a teapot, English tea, and half and half waiting for me.  I almost cried when I saw it.  Jesus “prepared a place for me” to meet with him through the hands of my sister, as He knows that I love to have tea and chocolate with him every morning, spending time with Him in His word.  As I came to my room with the tea, I took out the chocolate that my friend Connie gave me as I was leaving the Czech Republic–the second part of His Father provision for me in the little things that no one else may notice.  I praise Him for my sister and Connie who serve as an expression of my Father to me.

Our Father knows.  He longs to connect with us in intimate and personal ways.  Paul prays in Ephesians that the “eyes of our heart will be enlightened to know Him more” so that we can know “the height, the depth, the width and the breadth of His love.”  Oh that we will have eyes to see our Father’s pursuit of us–His desire for  intimate connection and communion with His children that He loves.

 

Castles and Girl Scout Camps

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One of the things that I love about Jesus is that He could be talking with Pilate or the woman at the well, and He proclaimed the kingdom.  His message never changed no matter where He was or whose company He was in.  He came “to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoner.”  Captives and prisoners are not confined to social stratus, religious affiliation or anything else.  It doesn’t matter if I am having dinner in a castle or dinner at a girl scout camp–the purpose is always the same.  The kingdom!

That’s the season I am in right now.  I have the privilege of serving ministry leaders and affluent leaders and their families.  That means that I end up in all kinds of different environments and places, and I just love it!! This last year included African huts with some beautiful brothers and sisters in Africa and a girl Scout Camp in Hong Kong:

It also included a dinner with Lord Wei who is a member of England’s house of Lords and a brother in Christ and dinner in a beautiful old “castle” building in France with some wonderful men who are sharing Jesus on the equivalent of Wall Street in Paris.

I want you to be able to have a small snapshot of my many different experiences and trips over the year 2011, where I had opportunities to engage in different ways with the “shepherds and kings”  God has given me a passion for.  I have given you each trip/event in 2011 with a brief descriptor and pictures that are worth 100 words!!  Fasten your seatbelt, as it was a BUSY year!!  🙂

Feb 2011–Uganda and Kenya.  I visited with Caleb and Alair, friends and ministers of Jesus with New Hope in Uganda.  Caleb was very, very sick, and they were not sure what was wrong with him so it was a blessing for all of us to be together!  In Kenya, I got to accompany the Kumveka team as they came alongside a ministry to third culture kids called Blue Sky in a process of rebranding their ministry.

March 2011–Honduras.  I went to see Michelle, a ministry leader in Honduras.  Michelle started out alone in Honduras with International Teams, but now she is responsible for a team of both Americans and Hondurans.  God is using this camp pictured below to serve the Honduran church at large as well as to serve the blind and disabled.  It has been a blessing to be on this journey with Michelle, and we usually have a time of spiritual retreat together.

May 2011–Atlanta.  I attended board meeting for an organization called LDI operating in China/UAE.  I have served on this board for 10 years now, and with all of the challenges and opportunities, it has been a great place of stretching and seeing God grow us all in faith!  It’s also been a place of forming significant relationships with board members and leadership at LDI.

May 2011–Nashville.  I participated in a branding session with the Kumveka team with an African ministry, seeing firsthand what God has given Kumveka to do as well as meeting again Larry, who was part of the group in Africa when En Gedi’s name was born, and hearing his vision for what God has given him to do in Africa:

August 2011–New Mexico.  I visited some long time friends from the Gathering, a conference that happens one time a year to help connect a community of givers.  I’ve been going to the Gathering since my start at MWF in 1998, and I met Jeff my very first year.  Jacqlyn came into Jeff’s life shortly thereafter, a great gift to all of us!  🙂

September 2011–Florida.  I attended the Gathering with other dear friends who have a passion for giving to the kingdom.  It’s always a highlight of the year as we get to learn what is happening around the world, be encouraged with great Bible teaching, and continue building relationships with others with similar passions!

September 2011–Denver.  I attended the Youth For Christ International General Assembly where I got to know ministry leaders from all around the world with YFC as well as interact with some of the partners who have given to YFCI.  I met some dear new friends, and it was a rich time all the way around seeing firsthand God’s creativity and heart for the world!

October 2011–Slovenia.  I visited long time dear friends and partners in the Gospel who are leading ministry to youth leaders with Josiah Venture in Slovenia.  I got sick the day I got there and stayed that way for 4 days!!  They graciously allowed me to languish in their basement, and we still had a sweet time together–eventually!  We also had a minor emergency with Luke’s head in the process!  Excitement all around! 🙂

October 2011–England, France, and Czech.  I went on a ministry tour through England, France and Czech Republic with a small group from the Gathering (that’s where the castles come in!).  We saw 4 to 5 ministries a day for almost 9 days straight and got an overview of what God is doing in these parts of Europe!  It was so amazing to hear of the “life” that is in some of these countries in Europe that many consider to be post-Christian.  Aslan, is indeed, on the move, and it was an absolute privilege to meet his warriors with my Gathering friends.

October 2011–Czech Republic and Slovakia.  After leaving the wonderful Gathering crew, I continued on my own to the Czech Republic where I visited with Dave and Connie and Mel and Amy, leaders of Josiah Venture, a ministry to train youth leaders in Eastern Europe.  They are dear friends and long time partners in the Gospel and time with them is always rich and full of personal challenge as well as the joy of sharing ministry together!  I also got to see some other wonderful friends in ministry along the way.

November 2011–China/Hong Kong.  The final overseas stop in 2011 was to China and Hong Kong for the fall board meeting for LDI, the organization that serves in China and the UAE that I mentioned earlier.  There were a lot of significant things on our agenda, and the Lord answered our prayers for wisdom.  We got to see some of our operational aspects in China as well as have necessary board meetings in Hong Kong.

November 2011–Chattanooga.  I went to Tennessee to serve on a board for an organization called Giving of Life.  They were awarding 3 significant financial gifts to ministries, and I was part of the panel to decide among the 20 ministries who was going to receive the 3 gifts.

December 2011–Seattle, WA.  I went out to Seattle to visit some new dear friends that I met at the General Assembly at YFC International as well as to be part of a presentation of one of my Gathering friends as he was sharing about a ministry that he is very vested in in the Philippines!

That is my 2011 in a BIG nutshell!!  God has been faithfully at work and has allowed me to be a part of some incredible things this year, much of which cannot be shared by detail in a blog.  I’m so thankful to be a daughter of the King and to be any part of what He is doing!!  Thank you for praying for me and giving toward what God has given me to do!  I am blessed and I pray that you will be too!!

Welcome to 2012!!