God and Catherine’s Excellent Adventure

My husband went with all three kids to Spiritual Emphasis camp for four whole days. Where did that leave me? Alone! ALL alone! Ladies and gentlemen, I haven’t been alone for, well… over a decade. The last time I was alone, I was single and in college. How would I spend my time? What would I do with myself?? Turns out, I’m pretty messy. All this time I blamed the kids, but it turns out, it’s my mess.

I decided to try making candied oranges and made a mess of the kitchen. I decided to propogate plumaria trees and made a mess of the garden. I decided to paint plumerias and made a mess of, well, everything. Then my eyes caught our compact sound system that we use for ministry, speakers and a microphone. Cool! Now to choose my song. I found a track by CeCe Winans, “Mercy Said No.” Yes! I set up my lair complete with sound system and webcam, practiced the song multiple times, and made my own music video, starring me. I sounded like a bad American Idol audition. But boy, was it fun.

There’s a line in the song revealing the thoughts of God towards us; “…that what He’d have me be, is who I am.” What a loving God we have! My plumeria painting was childish and amatuer. My candied oranges were gooey. My rendition of the song was not quite CeCe Winans (by a long shot). (The verdict is still out on the plumeria trees/sticks.) But that’s O.K. God likes my mess. I am basically God’s toddler. Efrain came home and asked what I did with myself while they were gone. Then he silently observed some of the oddly placed chaos in the house. I distracted him with a soggy candied orange. Only me and God will know what I did during my un-familied vacation. Oh, and now you guys.

Demons at Big Lots??

ImageThis last Christmas, we traveled to spend a few weeks in California to be with family. One afternoon, realizing that Christmas was upon us, and we weren’t quite ready, we all piled in the car to go to Big Lots in Pasadena. In the joyful nonsense of allowing the children to choose presents for each other, and maintain the delicious secrecy between us all, I heard a man in the store say loudly, “NASTY!” 

Now, this is a somewhat urban store, in not the nicest part of town. I quickly dismissed it thinking someone had seen something gross on the floor. (And that, hooray, it wasn’t the fault of my children.) This pierced man, dressed in black, bearded, and covered in tatoos, repeated this several times through the fairly small store. Partially in my own little world of Christmas shopping with my children, I heard him, but I did not percieve that he was directing his comment at me. As I passed directly in front of him about the fourth or fifth time of hearing this, he said outloud again, “Nasty!” His comment had been directed at me the whole time!

I was appalled and disturbed when it continued. I told Efrain, and he told me to take the kids to the car. As I left, I passed his eyeline once more. “NASTY!,” he says to me. “Be quiet!,” I said.

Later, I shared the experience with my mother who told me, “He sees the blood of Jesus covering you. A red, bloody, fuzzy mess. He doesn’t know what it means. It’s just…nasty.” I mulled this over for a while. He couldn’t see ME…he saw the blood of Jesus. Then I had a revelation. (Sometimes I’m a little slow.) I started to get happy. REALLY happy. I began to think about past sins. Dark moments of regretful decisions, that the devil throws up before my face at moments of opportunity; robbing me of my authority in Christ. This guy, with his spiritual eyes, and demonic “rider” on his shoulder, identified NOT my sin, but the BLOOD OF JESUS! I was covered in it!! I’m covered!! Yippee! I’ve been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb! Even the demons perceive it! God has removed my sin from me as far as the east is from the west. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so! It was like the joy of my salvation washed over me all over again, and I begin to celebrate in this recent evidence of my status. I stopped being disturbed and began to pray for this man, who in a demonic attack, reminded me of who I am in Christ. I prayed for him. “If it’s not too late, if there’s any avenue of escape left for him, Jesus be merciful to him; free and save him.” I’m still praying for “Tatoo Man.” One day, I hope he understands the beauty of the cross. And I pray I’ll be more vigilant in carring that message with me…even into Big Lots.

1 Corinthians 1:18
The message about the cross is nonsense to those who are being destroyed, but it is God’s power to us who are being saved.

1 Peter 3:15
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.

Ephesians 6
Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

(bold mine)

How to be Miserable in 2012!

Friends, I have the formula for how to be miserable this year. I tried this one year and it worked wonders! Tip number one: Be sure and start the year with resolutions. Make sure they have nothing to do with the flow and direction you are already in. Make sure they are based on what OTHERS do, and most of all, make sure they are founded in habits you have not mastered. You will be sure to fail! Tip two: Make sure you compare yourself to other people. This one is crucial. I’m not talking about when people you admire inspire creativity. I’m talking about the soul-crushing condemnation that happens when you linger and wallow in jealousy! Make sure to ask yourself why they should deserve to do so well, when you have imitated excellence all this time!  Tip three: Be ungrateful. Don’t give thanks for anything, or you might forget to be miserable. Hoard your talents, energy, and love in fear that there will not be enough, and keep them away from those lazy undeservings! (a ‘la Ebeneezer Scrooge.) That is the very definition of misery. I hope these tips help those of you who have resolved to be miserable this year.  I’ve tried all these easy tips- and they work!  See my next blog on “How to lose Friends and become a Marginalized Citizen.” It’s pretty much the same, only more depressing!

The Art of Christian Suffering

Here’s the real secret, I don’t want any of my supporting churches to know. I’m sort of failing at the suffering missionary thing. To suffer, you really have to work at it, because life in the vine can really be fun! There’s a few things here that make that really difficult:

Tortillas: Nuff said. My neighbor grinds fresh corn daily, and deftly whacks them into the slightly smoky, pungent circles. I pick them up warm. I don’t even buy them from the factory tortillerias. I get the pure, fresh stuff. Daily bread? Fugettabout it!

Chocolate: I actually get the toasted cacoa beans scooped into the grinder and watch it come out as a paste. Mexicans make all sorts of delights with this, but I discovered what it does to a US brownie recipe! Yeeehaw!

Unlimited Power: When the power goes out, I don’t worry about the clock. Roosty will always be there. Thanks, Roosty.

Time travel: Yes, time travel does exist. Einstein knew that already. In Mexico, you can frequently jump ahead to the end of your day just in traffic alone.  I learned in Mexico that between political protests, flooded roads, or just plain bad traffic, I can slow down time- IN MY MIND! Just put on some Toby Mac in the car and be with Jesus a little while. By the time I get to wherever I’m going, I’ve already spent a year in the courts of the Lord. (I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me, and I in you, you will bear much fruit. Outside of me you can do nothing.) I wasn’t going to accomplish anything without Jesus anyway. So maybe, he just needed me to slow down with Him a little while.

Teleportation: Elijah was transported by the Holy Spirit from one town to another. I discovered this amazing gift here, never before revealed to me in California…walking. One day, driving to the store, I realized how silly it was. I parked my car, and walked across the street to the store in record time! God teleported me using my own tennis shoes! It took 30 seconds for me to walk out my front door to the neighborhood tienda. I bought a few essentials and was teleported back by the powers of my feet! My children also have this gift. They now can teleport themselves to the neighbors tienda to pick up milk for mom.

Don’t feel bad that you’re not a missionary. You too, can have the gifts of unlimited power, time travel, and teleportation. I can’t promise you the tortillas and chocolate. You have to sign up for those.

This entry was posted on June 1, 2011. 1 Comment

To God be the Glory

This last Sunday, our pastor preached on Ananias and Sapphira. They dropped dead for lying to God.
(Acts 4:32-35; 5:1-11)

As we say in California, “That’s harsh.” Why so violent a punishment? Where was the crime? They lied by pretending they were offering it all. The lying, I think, is intertwined with the hunger for glory. I think the real problem is they were trying to steal a piece of the glory. Reminds me of another biblical couple that were decieved when they were told they could “be like God.” Maybe Ananias and Sapphira wanted people to whisper their name in praise of their generosity, even though it’s direct opposition to the Holy Spirit’s purpose for unity in the Church. It’s no innocent mistake, it’s the devisive, snake-like, sinister lie that would doom the Church if left untreated. They suffered a swift and serious consequence that left an IMPRINT on the future church from it’s very beginnings. Makes you think twice about trying to sneak honor that belongs to God. It’s the original sin all over again. Here’s another illustration from Acts 12:

Herod came dressed in his royal robes. He sat down on his throne and made a speech. 22The people shouted, “You speak more like a god than a man!” 23At once an angel from the Lord struck him down because he took the honor that belonged to God. Later, Herod was eaten by worms and died.

Wow. God must mean business about this. He wants ALL the glory. It just gave me some food for thought for the week, and the desire to take personal inventory of my motives. Have I reached out my hand to squirrel away for a rainy day what belongs to God? or, Have I taken a moment of pleasure by recieving any praise that belongs to God? Am I relying on my own skills or talents to accomplish the work of the Holy Spirit? It was a good reflection for me this week.

Faith Giggles

I was attending North Central University and it was my senior year. Also, I was poor. I had bus money to get to my inner city school where I was student teaching and that was about it. I had worked until 1am preparing lessons, but had no money or transportation to go out and get materials. As it was, I left my apartment at 5am to get the bus. (Some of you have much better “poor” stories than this, so I’ll stop there.)

I walked out of my apartment into the quiet city of Minneapolis. It was still dark, and I was so tired. Thankfully the freezing cold woke me up a bit. Amazed at the utter silence and peace of the snow-covered city, I began to chat with God. I told God that I needed glass bottles for my science lesson at school that morning!!, and that I really couldn’t do my lesson or be evaluated without them!!, and that my future career was hanging in the balance, and God if you really wanted to, you could have those glass bottles waiting for me at the bus stop!! Then I heard a laugh. Not aloud, but I got this mental picture of God laughing. WHAT? Again I prayed, “God…if you REALLY want to…they could be there waiting for me.” Then I chuckled at the absurdity. Why would God honor such a random petition? Then we laughed together, and God said to me, “Say it out-loud, so that when it happens, you’ll know it was me.” So I spoke out into the quiet city, “GOD! If YOU really want to do it, you can have those glass bottles waiting for me at the bus stop!” There. I said it. Out loud. Now I was a crazy street person just like all the rest, talking out loud to the invisible.

I saw the bus aproaching the stop and began to make a run for it, sluggishly in the snow. The bus pulled up and stopped just as I ran up. I saw a brown bag beside the trash-can at the bus stop, and in a single fluid movement, I scooped up the bag and stepped onto the bus. I sat down breathlessly and looked at my mystery bag. How disgusting. I picked up a bag by a city trash can! But there was God smiling again. I opened my bag, and there were 5 empty glass bottles. No caps. No paper lables. Not your traditional miracle, but I like it. I read a devotional from Dan Betzer’s Facebook today about faith, and it reminded me of this incident. Faith is the SUBSTANCE of things hoped for. (Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.) Those bottles, were real, and God’s REAL answer to a very specific request. Those bottles didn’t last, but here’s what did: a lovely moment smiling with my God, creater of the universe and provider of my every need. Something changed in me after that, and I haven’t prayed the same way since.

From teaching in snowy Minneapolis to being a missionary in mild Oaxaca, God continues to stretch and challenge my faith. That’s why sometimes I still get the giggles when praying for healing, or for an open womb, or for whatever we cry out to God for. I can see God, as I told a friend recently, “tickled pink,” to grant you the desires of your heart! By the way, this is shockingly, socially inappropriate. Good thing Jesus doesn’t care about that. I love the song we sing here in Mexico, for the redemption of this giant nation, “Si tuvieras fe como un grano de mostaza…”  Matthew 17:20…for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.

My prayer career started out by praying for glass bottles; that was real and fun. In the last few years, I’ve started praying for couples to have babies; that got MORE real and WAY more fun! (What’s more tangible than a baby?) Now I’m praying (with many others), for revival for the nation of Mexico, for a Holy Spirit outpouring, and for the poor to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. It’s an impossible request. Look at the dark and disturbing reports. How dare I even speak it?! Yet, I still can’t help remembering those glass bottles, and the smiling God who gave them to me…

This entry was posted on May 12, 2011. 1 Comment

May 5, 2011

My first blog was in January and I had illusions of posting every week with deep thoughts. Lost among all these deep thoughts, I forgot my password. I tried various configurations of every password I could think of- to no avail. I was rejected as I appealed to regain access to my blog. (They probably couldn’t see my lower lip sticking out.) Today, as I prepared to surrender my blog name and create a new blog, I think I had one of those magical moments that Olympians experience after years of discipline and training- my fingers magically flowed and my mind shifted to automatic to type in the correct password. A very loose analogy, I know, but that’s as close as I get to Olympian comparisons. So as not to overwhelm myself, I’ll just post the verse that spoke to me out of my devotion today. Proverbs 14:30 “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” 

I really don’t want rotten bones. And I really DO want life in my body. It spoke to me. (I confess, sometimes I DO miss those US shopping opportunities!) Today, I’m laying it all down and chosing to be satisfied with Jesus, and have a heart at peace. Rotten bones sounds- well, rotten.

The Curse Reversed

This last December we decided we needed a family dog. We anxiously anticipated our new member of the family and began to prepare. We got the dog house, puppy chow, dog dish, collar, leash, and even a book by the famous Dog Whisper. We turned our thoughts toward potty training and I surveyed our backyard, which is more the size of a field. Long past rainy season, it has dried out into a thorny patch of briers. I hated to think of puppy running around out there catching thorns in his paws and fur. I strapped on my gardening gloves. My shadow (Olivia), and I began to sing Christmas carols as we pulled the offending weeds. Whether consciously or not, I began to sing “Joy to the World,” and came to the verse
No more let sin and sorrow reign
Nor thorns infest the ground
Yes! I came into agreement with the song and prayer. Lord!, Get rid of these thorns and give me some grass for our puppy! By faith, I spoke God’s Word over my little territory. While I didn’t expect to wake up the next morning with our backyard looking like the garden of Eden, I did pray a sincere prayer. I enjoy watching the Kingdom of Heaven show up, (on earth as it is in heaven)! When the Kingdom of Heaven shows up, (Jesus), the curse becomes null and void. Jesus wore a crown of thorns on the cross, a symbol of the curse incurred in the garden of Eden. Yet the Good News is, for those who believe on Jesus, we can live under the blessing.  (Galations 3:13,14.) I like how Isaiah 55 puts it, talking about the redemptive affect of the Word of God on the earth.
Isaiah 55:13 (New International Version, ©2010)
13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
   and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the LORD’s renown,
   for an everlasting sign,
   that will endure forever.”

Olivia and I realized the futility of our weed pulling not soon after, compared to the size of the yard. I threw down a blue tarp in one corner in an effort to kill off at least a corner of the weeds. It lay there over two weeks and I forgot about it, before the vet called and told us we could come pick up our puppy. On December 23rd, we drove as a family to get our beautiful little dog, Buddy the German Shepherd. He is a joyful addition to our family life here. I went out to the yard with him and lifted up the blue tarp. I was overjoyed to find a huge lush square of actual grass, an oasis in my barren yard! Perhaps the tarp had kept the dew from evaporating. Whatever the reason, God had answered my prayer of blessing over the land. I hope you will speak out a word of blessing over whatever territory God has given you. We can bring the promise and the blessings, to those who are harried and harassed by the curse. Blessings to you this New Year 2011.

This entry was posted on January 10, 2011. 2 Comments

Blessed Birthdays

Efrain and I are in the busy season. Here’s a rundown:
Nov: 3 My Birthday
Nov. 8 Efrain’s Birthday
Nov. 13 Olivia’s Birthday
Nov. 16: David’s Birthday
Nov: 25 Thanksgiving
Dec. 4 Jonathan’s Birthday
Dec. 11 Our 11 year Anniversary

Some people asked if we planned our birthdays this way. 😉 I couldn’t have even if I had tried. It’s a wonderful season of reminders of all that we’re thankful for. There is great joy in watching your children complete another year of life and reflect on all the changes you see in them. Some changes happen because that’s the way kids are. Other changes have come about through discipline and training. I imagine God looks at us the same way. This last month Efrain and I have been team-teaching the book of Hebrews at the Bible Institute Extension in Nochixtlan, Oaxaca. In preparing for the class, I myself had to delve deeper into the Scriptures. I found some wonderful news there for me! I’ll share it with you, too. The good news is that when it comes to change, God helps us! Sounds overly simple, yet I was thrilled to find it there. We are given an impossible commandment, “Be holy!” In an increasingly slimy world, how to you walk through it without getting slimed yourself? The good news is that at every point of opportunity, we can obey, increasing our faith, and God promises to help us live a holy life. Psalm 23 says it this way, “…He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” Such a comfort to know that God is carving out a path for those who strive to follow Him. This birthday year, with God’s help I know I’ll continue to change. I look forward to it!

This entry was posted on November 12, 2010. 4 Comments