Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Lenten Devotional About China

I was asked to contribute to my church's Lenten devotional guide with a story of my journey to China. I want to share it with you below as I get ready to fly out Wednesday morning. I am very excited, apprehensive, nervous, delighted, scrambling, and anything else you can imagine I'd be feeling at this point.

It's going to be different than my September trip in several ways. First of all, I will be with a larger team which means the speaking opportunities are more spread out. I hope to have a lot of personal contact with the Chinese believers. Second, I will be reconnecting with a couple of women from my last trip. This means a chance to know them more and deepen our relationships. Third, I will attend a women's retreat which doesn't happen in China much.

Thanks for following my journey out of Portland to Beijing!

Lenten Devotional 2012

Last September I was invited to go to China. Before departing, I spent time in solitude, praying and asking God to give me a message for those I would meet. It didn’t take long to hear one phrase repeated in my mind. “I see you.”

Those words resonated deeply in my heart. As I prayed for a nation of over 1.3 billion people and read books with their stories, I imagined how easy it would be for one to be lost in that crowd of humanity, to pass along unseen. The phrase also echoed through my memory chambers, as I recalled my own struggles to be seen. Yet…

…God saw a little girl born on a small Japanese island of only 464 square miles to a deaf mother who would never hear her cries. So He created a soul with a special ear for spiritual things.

…God saw a teenager who heard the gospel story of Jesus dying on the cross for her sins. So He planted the seed of faith.

…God saw a Bible college student who wanted to follow Jesus as a missionary to Japan, but knew she wasn’t ready to love the world. So He taught her to love a husband first.

…God saw a young wife and mother who was on the verge of losing her sanity and her faith and sent a mentor to guide her back to health and hope. So He deepened her understanding of sacrifice in serving her family.

…God saw a middle-aged woman stepping into ministry and into the world, first with Mexico and then Uganda. So He expanded her vision of His kingdom in other nations.

…God saw a grandmother with a seminary degree called to preaching and teaching. So He opened the door to China and gave her a message.

“I see you.”

God had seen me and I knew God saw them too.  As I offered these words to my new Chinese friends, I sensed the transforming presence of the crucified Christ, gazing with pure love into each of their faces.

For God so loved the world...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Three weeks until departure

I spent the day today preparing another talk, my third. I needed to have one for Saturday, March 3 when we gather at a Christian bookstore to have an all day workshop. With a focus is on relationships, several of the women on the team will present a topic for one hour each.

I was having a hard time figuring out what to present. My first suggestion to Fangfang, our translator and organizer, didn't fly. She wanted one that I had put forward as a possibility a while back - Psalm 139. I had suggested it because I was teaching a class on the book of Psalms for my church and Psalm 139 was one of my favorites.

As I started reading and studying and thinking through the words and images, I got more excited. Of course! This psalm would be a perfect topic to start the day (Fangfang had already placed me in the first hour to teach). How can we even begin to have healthy relationships with others if we are not grounded and centered first in the love and care of our God? Community flows out of communion with God!

Two years ago, I was asked to write a devotional for the Lenten booklet being prepared at our church. The theme was Psalm 139. I was assigned verses 13-16:

For you created my inmost being; 
  you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
  your works are wonderful,
  I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
  when I was made in the secret place,
  when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
  all the days ordained for me were written in your book
  before one of them came to be.

This is what I wrote for the devotional:

God has been having his own advent conspiracy. Regardless of what biology and genetics has been able to explain, God never stopped his intimate involvement in bringing humans from the womb into the world. His conspiracy is to bring the Creator back into the story of life and to invite us to respond with wonder.

Your conception and advent into this world is a gift to God himself. You are his hand-made gift, not one chosen from a shelf or made in an assembly line. You are his treasured possession, never to be discarded. Like a potter molding clay and a weaver weaving cloth, his hand was intimately involved in creating you.

God saw your unfinished vessel as he wove your sinews and flesh upon a frame of bones. He created space for your unique soul to inhabit, a consciousness with dreams and desires, passions and personality. In fact, the Hebrew reads literally, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made distinct.” At birth, you slipped into a time and space carved out by God for you alone so that your vessel and your days would be filled with his great love.

Every day is advent conspiracy for God. No matter the circumstances of your birth and the challenges to your purpose in life, you are invited to join his conspiracy and embrace his hand-made gift of your unique and amazing vessel. So dance in the space you inhabit. Revel in the wonder of who God made you to be as an act of worship to the One who created you.

I can't wait to tell the Chinese people this story and this truth - that each of them is a gift, precious, cared for, seen, pursued, created with love and birthed for purpose.

Monday, February 6, 2012

A new blog for my travels

I am moving my journals of travels to China (and any other country) to this blog site. I want to use Story in the Middle as my personal journal. So this is going to be a challenge to keep the two sites up. At least this one will be active only during my actual mission trips. I hope you will join me as I head to Beijing again Feb. 29 returning Mar. 13!