Wednesday, April 23, 2014

His Path

It started with a desire to take a walk today. The weather is cool and cloudy on Hvar, and the forecast says we're in for rain this afternoon. So I wanted to get in a walk before it started.

Some might say that I have an adventurous spirit. And they'd be right in one respect: I've lived in three countries other than my own passport country for the past thirty years. There's definitely some adventure in that!

But when it comes to doing risky things by myself, I'm much more cautious. Usually, but not always.

The road in the picture above has made me curious as I've walked by it each day. "Where does it lead," I've wondered. On the map it looks like it twists and turns, ending up at a hotel down by the water. With that in mind, I headed off down it.

Beauty met me around every turn. I don't know why, but I can never get enough of the trees, flowers, grasses and even rocks here on the island. There's a wildness about them that intrigues me, and fills my senses with delight.

Finally I came to this road, which looked like the road to the water. I figured once I made it down there, I'd find a path back to the hotel along the water's edge.

Fairly quickly though, I realized it wouldn't. It only turned into a tiny path.

Honestly, at this point I began wondering if I'd gone beyond my usual limit for "adventure". It was a little unnerving to be on a path I didn't know, all by myself, in the middle of nowhere. I thought about turning around.

When that tiny path turned into almost no path at all, I seriously asked, "Should I turn back?"

In hindsight, I really should've been asking the Lord what to do, not talking to myself. But that thought didn't occur to me at that point. I was still thinking I was just on a walk down to the water.

In the end I talked myself into going a little bit further, promising I'd turn back if it became dangerous in any way. Looking back it's funny to me that I thought I could assess danger by myself.

Gingerly I made my way through the wet grass, stumbling over slippery rocks. I fell to the ground at one point, twisting my knee a bit. Finally, this led me to cry out to the Lord. I needed Him, and He met me there.

I managed to get back up and continue forward, this time aware of His presence with me.

Pushing aside wet limbs, sloshing through a tangle of weeds at my feet and walking ever so slowly, I came through the brush and spilled out into this spot.

A tiny cove, completely tucked away as if civilization had never been there. Even on a cloudy day, it was breathtaking. For a few minutes, I just stood there soaking it in, overwhelmed by the beauty.

It was then I realized what had just happened. While I'd made my own way, the Lord had been present and "rescued" me, even rewarding me with a glimpse of yet another magnificent creation of His. Oh how I praised Him, thanking Him for his protection and leading! I felt so grateful.

Yet, in my humanness, having even just acknowledged His presence, I was still on "my plan", thinking I'd make my way along the edge until I reached the hotel I was headed for.

But then I heard it: the still small voice of the Lord telling me to turn back.

Right then and there, I looked at the situation through His eyes. I saw those rocks, sharp and uneven, and the sea splashing up onto them. I could sense danger, not from anybody, but only in the uncertainty of what was ahead. The Lord was telling me it would be unwise to go there.

So I turned around.

As I turned back, I finally felt I was on HIS path. Whew. Relief. I prayed then that He would show me the way to the road again, even though I'd strayed onto my own path. Scripture came to mind and I quoted it out loud to comfort myself as I set off to find the path.

"Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long."

Moving slowly, praying as I climbed back up through the brush, I was so sharply aware of my need for the Lord. I'd strayed, and yet He'd rescued me. It made me feel like crying. How many times has He done this for me?

Being led to this sight brought immense relief as I recognized where I was.

As did this when I came to it a half hour later. Pavement never looked so good!

I made my way down to the water's edge, this time on a road that was familiar, and that He was leading me on.

As I stepped onto the path along the shore leading towards home, I let out a sigh of relief.

So thankful to have been led home safely, even when I'd "made my own way" without consulting the Lord.

It had seemed so innocent to go out for "just a walk", to do a little exploring. But I'd done it alone.

As I walked toward the gate, nearing home, it became crystal clear to me that I don't want ONE DAY off his path. It's a scary place to be.

I want a life on the Lord's path. At all times. Oh may I be increasingly attentive to His desire to lead me, and ever so quick to follow Him wherever He wants me to go.

"Teach me your way O Lord and I will walk in your truth." Psalm 86:11

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A New Harvest

As Dave and I spend these days in Croatia, talking, thinking, dreaming and praying about our vision for Josiah Venture in the coming years, my thoughts turn to places here that give a visual picture to our dreams.

The island of Hvar is known for its lavender fields. Planted in the 1920's, they flourished for many years, and at one time accounted for 20% of the world's lavender production.

But then, large wildfires wiped them out.

Today, many of the fields lie dormant, a mere fraction of what once was a glorious sight.

Yet, there is life returning to some of those lavender fields. People are tending to them, and a light fragrance is in the air, even before it's blossomed.

The village of Velo Grablje, near the concentration of the fields, now holds an annual lavender festival to celebrate its return (June 27-28 this year), and there is hardly a gift shop, pharmacy, or hotel on the island that doesn't sell lavender from these fields. I've bought my share of it from time to time!

How I'd love to see these fields in bloom; it must be absolutely spectacular! It's definitely one of my dreams to be here near the end of June to see it with my own eyes someday.

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And this is what leads me to our dream for JV:

Like the return of the lavender on Hvar, we believe the fields of Central and Eastern Europe are "white unto harvest" for the spread of the Gospel, and we long to see that with our own eyes even more!

We believe that it's time to see a whole new harvest of young and old come to know Jesus as their Savior.

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For the past twenty years, the seed has been planted. The workers have toiled. The seed has matured. Crops are ripening.

It's time for a harvest!

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Right now "Exit Tour" is in high schools across the Czech Republic. Thousands of young people will hear the Gospel over the next few weeks.

This summer, our JV team will lead 106 camps in thirteen different countries. Over 5000 young people will hear the Gospel.

Pray with us for a great harvest throughout this land in the coming months.

Though the lavender fields of Hvar are spectacular, may the harvest of souls for God's Kingdom be wildly more spectacular!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Thankful for my Savior

On a day that started out with dark clouds, a stiff wind, and rain threatening in the distance, it turned into as beautiful of an Easter Sunday as could possibly be here in Croatia.

On Hvar with Dave to study, pray and work on some of our projects for a week, it was pure delight to soak in this kind of beauty on Easter...a beauty made possible by our Creator.

All day my heart was filled to overflowing, so thankful for the sacrifice of Christ. Through His suffering and death, life was made possible. I will never stop being thankful for that.

We missed celebrating this magnificent holiday with our family and friends. There really is something about corporately rejoicing in the provision of our Savior, and what he means to us. I already look forward to that next year when we're back at home with our church family in Frydlant!

But for now as we continue our sabbatical, I'm thankful for the quiet time to reflect on what Jesus means to me, and rest in His companionship and unfailing love.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Good to be Home

On Tuesday, Tyler and Caleb dropped Dave and I off at O'Hare in Chicago.

Twelve hours later we landed in Krakow, Poland!

We're not done with our sabbatical/home assignment, but we're back in Europe for a few weeks.

Honestly, after six and a half months in the States it was so exhilarating to set foot back in our adopted homeland. I had butterflies in my stomach as we drove through Czech, seeing familiar sights. I have missed home, and everything about it (including Tesco!).

We headed off the next morning for ten days of study and rest before we come back to Czech for our JV spring conference at Malenovice. We're so looking forward to seeing our team and being with them for those days before we head back to the States and finish up our time there.

Oh how good it is to be back in familiar territory...back at home, the place we love and belong.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sweetest Evening

Last night an event occurred that touched my heart so deeply.

It happened on an evening where a surprise snow shower covered the Chicago area. They said it'd been 73 degrees over the week-end, but that was hard to imagine as we made our way through snow covered streets.

Despite snowy conditions, dear friends gathered here for a beautiful bridal shower.

For our lovely bride-to-be, Haley!

It's been many years since I've been to a bridal shower here in the States. I'd forgotten the sweetness of an evening with the bride-to-be, celebrating and honoring her, and how meaningful it is to gather with women for such an event. Oh how tender of a time it was to share in that last night with women from our church here, who generously and kindly gathered around Haley to celebrate her upcoming marriage to Caleb.

Sarah, a long time friend who serves our JV family from the office here in Wheaton, gave Haley godly wisdom and beautiful thoughts on marriage during the devotional time, and read a letter and prayer from Amy, Haley's mom who lives in Slovakia (the Chase family serves with JV there). It really could not have been a sweeter time.

Another long time friend, Judi, asked questions of Haley that brought out much laughter and joy as she delightfully shared from her heart, the story of she and Caleb.

Claire, Lara and Allyson, Haley's sister, were able to come join in the evening as well. How I loved having them there to share in such sweetness.

And Caleb was invited too! So delightful to watch these two open gifts together, as a couple, just weeks away from their wedding day.

Precious. Just precious. I'm all out of words to express how much it means to me to see the Lord's goodness displayed in an evening such as this.

As the evening came to a close, my heart was full to the brim, running over with joy, love, and gratitude. How very good is the Lord, to let me taste this glimpse of Him on a snowy night in the suburbs of Chicago!

One last picture (they took a nice one but this one is so much cuter!), and then it was time to say goodbye so they could head back into the city.

I'm glad it won't be long before we'll be back together celebrating a wedding in Colorado!