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“Out of Africa”–Friends, Gifts and Joy

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On January 23, 2016, I showed up in Johannesburg, South Africa with a vision from the Lord (at least I sure hoped it was!), two suitcases, a place to stay for two months, and not a single friend in a city of 10 million.  Wow!!  Am I crazy or what??

I had no idea what kind of ride this would be, but looking back now, two years later, the Lord has surprised and amazed me…

He brought me here with a picture–a picture of light emanating from South Africa into the rest of Africa, changing the foundations.

As I have walked with Him in the midst of this picture, I have watched Him change hearts here in South Africa through the Journeys of Generosity (JOG)–an experiential encounter with God’s generosity toward us over a weekend of stories, small group discussion, Biblical readings and times alone with the Spirit of God.   People have encountered the Father’s love and generosity in a way that is transformational.  It’s amazing to watch.  JOGs are being done in other parts of Africa now, with South Africans leading the charge!  Light–His light emanating from South Africa into the rest of Africa.

Part of the “light” picture that I felt like He gave me was that there was going to be a strong movement of business people (and even specifically men) who are FULLY surrendered to the Lord and will take His kingdom through business into Africa in transformational ways.  I have seen some of this start to happen as well, and I continue to pray for this “band of brothers” that the Lord will raise them up in POWER to change foundations of culture through business.

In the midst of the joy of watching Jesus at work in the big picture of this country and continent, there have also been gifts–incredible gifts from my Father.  I have a community of friends that I love, pray with, laugh with, and even invite myself over to dinner at their home(s).  I have a beautiful place to live that faces a garden and feeds my soul every single day.  I found a wonderful hairdresser (Girls, you know what a miracle that is!! :-).  I have opportunities to go on safari and WORSHIP (Honestly, I don’t know that there is a greater worship experience for me than watching the majesty and intricacy of His creation as seen on a safari drive.  He’s magnificent, our Creator God).  I have experienced the body of Christ in different cultures and expressions every Sunday.  I had a visit from my family to share my world here with them.  Joy…gifts…friends…Jesus….

All in all, in my two year “review” this month, I am celebrating…GREAT is Your faithfulness, O God, my Father….

Spring and Michael Phelps

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Though in the US, we are headed into fall at the moment, in South Africa, we are in the midst of Spring which means Jacaranda trees here in South Africa (the beautiful purple that you see in this photo).

Spring is a yearly reminder that the way things are does not mean it is the way things will be.  Resurrection is possible.  No matter how long “death” has reigned, life can break through and change EVERYTHING–forever.

I love the picture of “spring” in the story of Michael Phelps that Louie Giglio recently painted during a message at Passion City Church.  This story and Louie’s message both inspired and touched me.

I’m including it here for any of you who might want to listen or watch too!

Listen 8/14/16: “Past Forward”
Watch 8/14/16: “Past Forward”

My Secret Garden

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The Secret Garden–a beautiful story.  I also love the song “I come to the Garden alone while the dew is still on the roses…He walks with me and He talks with me.  He tells me I am His own….”  It was one of my Grandpa Doden’s favorites.

Every morning as I sit in my chair with tea and chocolate with Jesus, I sit looking out into my “secret garden.”  Jesus gave me my own “secret garden” here in Joburg…right outside my door–literally.

Though it might seem insignificant to some, to me it is love.  My Father knows what ministers to and refreshes my soul, and He gave me a unexpected, lavish gift in this new world where He has put me, knowing that it would bring life to my soul.

“I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, you may be also.”  There’s something so amazing about the character of God in that phrase.  He’s intentional and personal in preparing a home for us, knowing us intimately…caring about the details of where He will bring us to live with Him forever.

Though Jesus was talking about heavenly homes with those words, I think He was also expressing the nature of our Father God.  Our Father prepares intimately and provides abundantly in the places where He puts us–South Africa included.

Pictures of His provision in my new world:

From a beautiful, gifted hairstylist…to my favorite and only perfume (which I have never seen in any other country)…to some wonderful new friends…to a car…to an incredible host family…to a secret garden–all gifts from my Father’s hand.  Sometimes the small gifts mean even more than the big ones because it shows that He really KNOWS me…intimately.

“My God will supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”  He provides according to His “riches” and not His “discount coupon book”–how I love that!!”  Each and every need of my heart is met lavishly–those spoken, those unspoken, and even those unknown to me…but known fully by Him.

My Secret Garden–“the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”

Love…

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Love…

I have been learning about love lately…His love…a love that never fails, never gives up and never runs out.  This lesson is long, hard…and rich.  Truth lessons worth holding on to often are…

A favorite refrain of our God seems to be, “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good.  His love endures forever.”  This phrase reverberates in the Psalms, was proclaimed morning and night in the temple, is a battle cry in II Chronicles, is prophetically proclaimed in Jeremiah, and will reverberate around His throne at the wedding feast of the Lamb.

“FOREVER” is a very long time for love to endure, with LOTS of patience in it (#1 in I Corinthians 13–God’s love list).  My own love endures…until I get tired…until I am rejected…until I am not treated well….

In my journey lately, I am realizing again how much I need Him to infuse me with His love.  HIS love ENDURES forever…it never fails, never gives up and never runs out…not ever….  HIS [perfect] love also casts out FEAR… fear of rejection, fear of tedious and indefinite repetition, fear of death to self….

This life of love is impossible without Him, I must say.  Pride wants to come to all my “love” parties accompanied by the rigid bodyguard of Self-Protection!  Part of my sharing in the sufferings of Christ is to love like He loves me–sacrificially and completely.  No pride.  No self-protection….Freely I have received and freely I can give.

Hosea experienced that.  Paul experienced that.  Jesus IS that.  We share in the sufferings of Jesus so that we can also share in the glory of His resurrection.

His “forever,” enduring love brings resurrection (I Cor. 5:17) …makes things new…makes me new…makes others new.

So today, in the same Spirit of David’s appointees Heman and Jeduthun at the gates of the temple (I Chron 16:39-42), I give thanks to the Lord, proclaiming with my life that:

“He is good and His love endures FOREVER!”   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lPdtqgouCc

Signature :: Laurie

A Reminder…

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Sometimes I just need a reminder…a reminder that He is present…a reminder that He never leaves me or forsakes me…a reminder that He is good and that His love endures forever.

Last week was one of those weeks, and He sent me several reminders–some with more “drama” than others.

After getting texts from friends one morning with pictures of a rainbow, this scene greeted me as I walked out of our ladies’ Bible study that night.  I actually gasped when I saw it.  The picture doesn’t begin to capture the full beauty of that sky.  I called back to the Bible study girls to “come out here fast” as He was showing off and I didn’t want them to miss it!

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We all stood there in awe for 5 or 10 minutes as we watched Him paint…paint His love, His faithfulness and His goodness across the sky!

That may sound cheesy or romantic to some, but I take these gifts personally because I think He gives them to me personally…if/when I have eyes to see.

He loves me, and He tells me to “proclaim His love in the morning, and His faithfulness at night.”

The bookends of that day–a rainbow in the morning and the glorious sunset at night–reminded me of His love for me in the “dark”…and of my own need to proclaim what I know to be true in my head though sometimes need a reminder of for my heart.

“You are good and your love endures forever!”

Experience Africa 2015–a family reunion…

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A family reunion…that was the phrase used to describe the essence of our time together in South Africa on Experience Africa 2015.

If you had been eavesdropping, you would have heard laughter and tears around the meal tables, sharing of life experiences across generations, speaking of truth into each others lives/situations, the telling of some great romance stories, and the sharing of wisdom in business and ministry.

Twelve people of all different ages and countries…they had never met before, but they share a rich bond of faith in Jesus and similar places of life in business and ministry.  Together we experienced physical and spiritual adventures for 11 days in an unbelievably beautiful country.

It was delightful and refreshing in every way.

We spent time on the breathtaking coastline of Capetown and the surrounding areas in the beautiful southern region of South Africa.  We hiked in a rain forest, walked on top of Table mountain overlooking the tip of Africa, hiked sand dunes in the early morning, experienced a South African wine tasting, strolled the coastline, experienced a true South Africa brai, feasted like kings and queens, and received a ministry overview of Africa.

Josh Patty led us in studying and experiencing how to hear and discern God’s voice in the noise of life during our retreat time together.  Through the teaching and discussions we were challenged, encouraged and equipped for our different places of business and ministry.

After Capetown, we moved north for our safari in the African bush.  What an incredible worship experience seeing God’s creatures great and small!  There was really not an animal that we wanted to see that we didn’t get to see.  Even our guides were amazed.  What a gift!  The hours we spent together in the open air vehicles with our guide, driver and each other was full of joy, laughter and amazement.  During our safari time, we also were given a fascinating economic overview of Africa, sparking some  good discussion.

The staff in both locations where we stayed blessed us and were blessed by us in very significant ways.  Several times members of the staff approached me and asked, “Who are these people?  We have never had a group like this before.”  I think they saw Jesus in us.  We got to pray for some of them toward the end of our time in ways that I pray will impact them forever.

After the trip finished, one of our trip participants told me, “I actually cried when we left each other at the airport.  I knew we would have a good time, but I didn’t expect to make life-long friends.”  A portion of this South African “family” informed me that they are having a reunion this summer, and though I am going to miss it due to travel,  I love watching these relationships continue.

It was a sweet and blessed family reunion in South Africa where we all walked away richer…in relationships, in refreshment, in kingdom work, and in our walk with Jesus.  I’m so very grateful.

A mountain view…

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The beginning of a new year….there’s something so fresh about that…a new start, a new perspective, a new opportunity…a chance to “climb to the top of the mountain” and get an arial view before realities of daily life come galloping in.

On January 1st this year as I was exercising on my elliptical machine, I listened to a song that framed my “mountain perspective” to usher in the year 2015.

As is so often true for me, I need to be reminded frequently of my Father–His character, His work, HIs truth that NOTHING is impossible with Him.  Hope almost always follows on the heels of His powerful reminders breathed over me in song or word, and this was His word to me on January 1st, 2015…

This is who He is…

You hear the cry of every broken heart
You give the hopeless soul a brand new start
You lead the captive in Your freedom song
This is who you are…

And in the night when all our hope is lost
You are the one who won’t give up on us
You hold the orphan in your loving arms
This is who you are…

I know this is who You are
I believe this is who You are

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2p3_H9DoJOY

A daughter of my Father, The King of Kings.  This is who He is…

Signature :: Laurie

She can laugh…

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Proverbs 31 uses “she can laugh at the days to come…” to describe this “famous” (or infamous some tired women might say!) wife of noble character.” My aunt also wrote a book by that title when I was in college, so it has been a significant phrase to me!

As I was standing in my kitchen a couple mornings ago, getting ready to have tea and chocolate with Jesus, I looked up and saw this:

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I had bought the sunflowers as a gift for some women in a summer discipleship group as a visual reminder that our beauty comes as we turn our faces and strain toward the Son, just as sunflowers do.  “Those who look to Him are radiant and their faces are never covered with shame.”

The plaque behind that was a gift from a friend and is one of my favorite names of God…The God of Angel Armies.  “I know who goes before me.  I know who stands behind.  The God of Angel Armies is always by my side. The One who reigns forever, He is a friend of mine.  The God of Angel Armies is always by my side….”

It struck me that morning that, if the first picture is happening in my life–I am turning my face toward the Son and gaining His beauty–and then by faith I’m believing that He is The God of Angel Armies who is always by my side…

I  really CAN laugh at the days to come!!!

My desire is to live as a Proverbs 31 woman–a radiant face, a BIG God and lots of laughter at the days to come.

Planted for the Summer…

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It’s been a refreshing summer of being “planted” in one place–getting time with family and friends and staying put in the Midwest–at least most of the time.

I’ve gotten to be part of weddings, discipleship groups, a birth, a new dog, sickness, parties, grieving, birthdays, children’s ministry, and just…well, life in one place with its kaleidoscope of color, variety, pain and beauty. Here’s a pictorial “taste” of summer:

Though I have not been flying around the world, the world has flown to me, which I also love!  I’ve had the privilege of hosting ministry families from Germany, India, Romania and various other parts of the world and the US.

There have also been times of healing prayer with people this summer–for freedom, for growth, for breaking of generational and personal strongholds!  I have experienced firsthand Paul’s words that “Our weapons are not worldly but mighty through Christ, to the pulling down of strongholds.” Amazing!

I’m so thankful for our King and His kingdom and for the various ways that He calls me to serve.  He planned good works for me to do before the foundation of the world, and though I can’t really get my mind around that, I love being a part of His work.

Miracles of grief…

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One year ago in April, I experienced a death.

While not a physical death, which has a permanency that is both devastating and irreversible, yet still a death, as a person I respect and love suddenly disappeared from my life with little explanation, ushering me into a year of pain, grief, darkness, questioning, and deep–and sometimes even unwanted–lessons of faith.

It’s been that kind of year….

In encountering the unexpected length, depth and nature of grief, how grateful I am for family/friends who have walked this journey with me and for Jesus–Jesus as Hebrews describes Him–One who is familiar with my weaknesses and who experienced and sympathizes with my pain.  He lost those He loved and mourned for them as well.  Those stories are well-worn in the pages of my Bible this year as I have sought His presence, comfort and love–the death of Lazarus, the beheading of John the Baptist, the weeping over Jerusalem.

In walking through a recent event/season marked by the presence and special memories of my lost loved one,  I happened to be reading the story of Jesus’ grief and the death of John the Baptist yet again.  A profound realization struck me….

Miracles often followed or attended Jesus’ grief.

The death of Lazarus, marked with weeping and questions, ended in the revelation of Jesus as THE Resurrection and THE Life, bringing joy and amazement to the hearts of Mary and Martha and great glory to God, as Jesus proclaimed in advance that it would.

Jesus’ time alone with His Father after hearing the news of His cousin John’s death was interrupted by the miracle of the five loaves and two fishes–the Bread of Life for well over 5000 people.

His broken heart over His children in Jerusalem led Jesus straight to the cross where His miraculous victory over death, sin, and hell has become our victory as well.  He is RISEN.  He is risen INDEED.

Miracles.  HIS miracles that came in/through grief.  I’m asking for those too.  Resurrection and Life. Kingdom food for lots of people.  Victory.

My Father says that “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.”

I’m counting on His promises…and…I’m asking for His miracles.

By faith,

Signature :: Laurie