I am surprised in the thoughts that are flowing from my heart this morning as I prepare for my day. I thought I would write a quick email to my Mom. It feels like an appropriate blog update. Let me share a bit of it with you…
We have completed another full day of Journey Groups and I have a good internet connection for the moment, so I will send a quick update.
I stand in awe of the many things I have experienced this week that transcend culture:
Food and community….
Stories and Worship…
There have been moment of deep connection and a few times where the holding of hands and a smile is what has connected two people. We speak a different language and live in a very different culture, but when sitting in a circle to share what we have experienced in life, the themes seem the same. We share of sorrow and heartache but also of dreams birthed and realized. We share of children born and parents aging, of faithful friends and painful abandonment. We share a God who is our provider, protector and yet we still have questions of why life has unfolded the way it has.
We have traveled a long distance and yet the stories feels familiar. I am experiencing this week that regardless from where we come, when we look beyond what we see as differences, hearts unite quickly! I realize that if we had chosen to focus on what was different, we could have had much to compare as well. We would miss the experience of connecting our experiences, stories and hearts. We would have lost out on friendship.
I wonder where in our day-to-day, with people in our own communities, we opt to focus on differences and therefore miss an opportunity to experience the connection of our experiences, stories and hearts. I am puzzled how we can connect so easily with the people of China and yet we pass our neighbor on the street (or in our Church) without much of a thought…
I am thankful to sit with these very dear people….the journey is good!
(The connection is not allowing for my multiple pictures to be added, so those will come in time!)
(Written Monday and posted Tuesday am)
If this blog was about our trip journey it would read let the journey continue, but today I am writing specifically about our Journey groups. We are leaving our hotel shortly to head to a retreat center. We are told we had a soft landing in in China with our nice hotel and this will be more traditional Chinese accomadations. Not for sure what that will entail, but am grateful for varied experiences. I am not sure if there will be internet, so if you do not hear from me for a few days, I will post all my daily blogs upon my return…..
Today (Monday) we will meet our Journey Group participants. They are all locals and counselors/pastors and are eager to come and take some time to look at their own stories. I believe it will be a time of great connection and understanding for all of us. They are all women (and one man) of faith.
I am hopeful that the time will move slowly so at the end of the week we will be able to say that we have journeyed back, visited important moments in our childhood stories and have gained insight into the greater plan that God has for each of us today.
I am hopefula and I have a great dependence on God for this week….
I am passionate about people’s stories and I am thankful for those who have been passionate about mine…
Please pray that our group will be a safe place for the women who come to participate…
Please pray for good health, good rest, good nutrition and good exercise.
Please pray that we would stand untied for life and freedom!
Thank you my friends for hoping and praying with me!
This morning I worshipped in China. We attended Beijing International Christian Fellowship. The congregation totals about 3000 in attendance over three services and 70+ nations are represented. It was amazing and it was wonderful…
But there is something unsettling…
We (and every other worshiper) had to show our passports at the door since locals are not permitted to enter any Church. It was an odd feeling as I worshiped to wonder about those who do not enter.
I wonder how our Churches might function differently if there were restrictions and likely ramifications if we dared to worship.
I wonder if we would focus less on what isn’t right and more on the privilege of gathering as a body of believers.
I wonder if we would become passionate about celebrating our differences because the congregation was truly made up of men and women from many lands….
I wonder if we would delight our local Churches more if we gave thought about what it would be if we lived in China?
What if we either had to join with other believers and participate in a home church with great risks involved or show your passport at the door and be a select group that had freedoms the locals wouldn’t have.
Worship was meaningful today….I believe I am taking home an appreciation and passion for the freedom I rarely stop to appreciate!
I hope your worship was meaningful today as well….and if you are feeling negative about your local Church, consider life in China…and be thankful!
Feeling deeply grateful and richly blessed!
I am a bit awed by how I can wake up on Friday morning in Grand Rapids, travel 14 hours and go to sleep Saturday night in China. We were commenting on how odd it is to miss a day, but I am comforted by upon our return, I will have two Saturdays. We leave China at 650 am and arrive in Detroit at 730 am. I am also thankful that I am delighted with my friends who I am traveling with. We will truly live and adventure this week.
It really is nothing short of amazing that airplanes exist and are means of excellent and dependable and affordable transportation. I find myself a bit anxious if I think about it too much while flying. I was sure I could feel a sway and within moments in my mind, I was sure the wind would turn the plane belly up. I took a few deep breaths, closed my eyes and woke up a few hours later.
And just in case I lost sight of how amazing air travel is, I had the screen up that would remind me of the speed and the height and the outside temp and I would smile and marvel at how very soon we would be in China…
I hope I don’t lose sight of the opportunities I have that are nothing but amazing…
I hope, that even if flights are delayed or seats are crowded or my arrival home is not timely, that I don’t lose sight of how amazing air travel is…
I have been thinking a good bit about language as I anticipate facilitating a journey group with Chinese speaking women. But in my reflection, I began wondering about how language barriers affect us each in our day-to-day…
We may not be dealing with a different language spoken…but I wonder if what we are saying is being understood.
I realize as I prepare for my week in China that understanding lies with the speaker and the listener. I am choosing my words very carefully for my teachings. I want my words to have power and impact but to be spoken with kindness and invitation. I am paying a lot of attention to my words for my week in China…I will also likely be very tired at the end of the day from the energy that will go into listening. I want to grasp not only the words, but insure I have the meaning intended!
I believe this is my first take home (and I haven’t even left yet), that I will carry as much intention in my conversations with my friends and family as I do with the people I have yet to meet in China.
I invite you to consider your words and their meanings very intentionally this week while I am doing the same in my Journey adventure. My hunch is that we will all learn something about language barriers and how to ensure we are heard and are listening well.
I find that I pack and prepare better when I have been to where I am going….
There are so many questions when traveling into the unknown….
There is the obvious of weather and proper attire, culture and what we will need for comfort (toilet paper, drinking water, hand sanitizer etc.)…
There is questions I have of our agenda and daily routine, where we will be sleeping and how full will our days be. I wonder about the time change and how my body will adjust to a flip flop of the clock…
And there are questions on my heart about our Journey Groups.
We will be inviting and embracing stories,
We will be inviting honesty and vulnerability,
We will be sharing laughter and tears, fears and delight.
We will discuss shame, contempt, disappointment and sexuality…
We will explore brokenness and redemption…
We will enter as strangers to an unknown land and we will leave as friends who understand the language of our hearts…
I am not sure what to pack in my bag, but I know what to take in my heart.
I am going to an unknown land, that is for sure, but I am journeying down a road that I am passionate about…
the invitation to each journey back to our own hearts.
I am eager, I am anxious, I am excited, I am unsure and I am confident that He who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Journeying with others is part of that completion!
I welcome your prayers and will share as I am able about the journey and where it will lead, both in steps we take to explore (and shop) in China but also within my own heart!
I am humbled and I am filled with gratitude!
I am curious about Lent in a different way this year.
I am at a place on my journey that I am seeking to change the cycle of beliefs that fuel wrong thinking which fuel wrong behaviors or attitudes.
I have often wanted to change behaviors but didn’t take the time to unpack the beliefs that are rooted in those actions or attitudes!
And so I am carefully addressing my habits. I am giving up chocolate and diet coke, but not only for Lent, but more because of my desire to be healthy.
I have desired to have a Lenten season of fasting and feasting….
Fast from discontent ~ Feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger ~ Feast on patience.
Fast from worry ~ Feast on faith.
Fast from complaining ~ Feast on appreciation.
Fast from bitterness ~ Feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-centeredness ~ Feast on compassion for others.
Fast from lethargy ~ Feast on enthusiasm.
Fast from emphasis on differences ~ Feast on recognizing unity.
Fast from unsettling anxiety ~ Feast on inner peace.
Fast from half-heartedness ~ Feast on commitment.
It is my hope and prayer that my Lenten season will be filled with fasting and feasting and that come Easter, I can attest to being a changed person!
Lent is a season of being invited by God in a deeply personal way. “Come back to me, with all of your heart,” our Lord beckons. “We will,” we respond, but we aren’t quite ready yet, our hearts are not prepared. We want to squirm, evade, avoid. Our souls not yet perfect. We are not ready for God to love us.
Lent offers us all a very special opportunity to grow in our relationship with God and to deepen our commitment to a way of life, rooted in our baptism. In our busy world, Lent provides us with an opportunity to reflect upon our patterns, to pray more deeply, experience sorrow for what we’ve done and failed to do, and to be generous to those in need.
I like reading a purpose statement for Lent.
Lent is an invitation to GROW, REFLECT, PRAY, EXPERIENCE, SORROW, BE GENEROUS….what an invitation!
The First Four Days of Lent: These days serve as an introduction to our Lenten journey. Before we begin the first full week of Lent, we have a powerful set of readings about our Prayer, Repentance, Almsgiving and Fasting. We place ashes on our foreheads and learn about the meaning of death and life. Over two days we pray over the powerful challenge of Isaiah 58. And Jesus reminds us that he is inviting us to a “change of heart.“
I love this prayer….
“Lord, open my lips,and my mouth shall declare your praise.”
I am thankful for the honest reflection in Lent and allowing my heart to embrace the words in the prayers shared below…
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14
I know how much you love me.
It’s hard for me to feel it sometimes,
but I know your love is always with me.
Help me to use your love as a way
to persevere in my Lenten intentions.
I am weak, but I know with your help,
I can use these small sacrifices in my life to draw closer to you.
Let everything I do this day and in this season of Lent
come from you, be inspired by you.
I long to be closer to you.
Help me to remember that nothing is important in my life
unless it glorifies you in some way.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of my life and keep saying,
“Tomorrow, I will spend more time in prayer,”
but now my longing meets your love and I want to do it now.
Help me to rely on you for help.
The prayer asks you that I reach perfection.
Please, Lord, remind me that “perfection”
isn’t the crazy, “successful” way I try to live my life,
but a perfection of my most authentic, real self.
My “perfection” might be holding my many flaws in my open hands,
asking you to help me accept them.
Heal me, Lord, and help me to find you in the darkness of my life.
Let me reach out in this darkness and feel your hand and love there to guide me.
It is my hope that I will accept the invitation to grow, reflect, pray, experience, sorrow, and be generous during Lent….and that you will do the same!
If you are looking for a good site to follow during Lent, consider this site:http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/Lent/index.html
I enjoyed the last six days with my nieces and nephews. I am known to say part of the beauty of being an aunt is I can honestly say, I love to see them come and I love to see them go….after a string of days, it is also nice to have my space back and listen to my own choice of tune’s on the radio. I smile as each of my TV’s are on Disney channel, that my DVD player plays hairspray and there are popcorn kernels in the strangest places. (That may be because of the kids or Dutch)
And so, these last days held many memorable moments….but I will say that there are two words that feel very sweet to me tonight as I reflect on this latest stay….
I came home from driving kids back to Detroit and read this message….thank you again for driving us so much & just for making this weekend work for us. I had a great time, I love you ♥
Thank you are two big words…I commit to using them more often. I experienced their power today and I am filled with gratitude for the children in my life who understand the blessing these words bring! I hope you also get to experience the joy of someone thanking you and blessing someone with these simple two words…