Wednesday, April 30, 2014

JV Family Happiness

Being up at Malenovice with these people makes me HAPPY!!

Our JV family came together tonight for the opening of spring staff conference, and there was no way I was missing my chance to at least take a cell phone picture of all these dear faces who we've missed so much these past nine months!

After announcements and greetings, Dave and I got to share just a little about our time away, and say how glad we are to be back even for this short time. We leave again for the States on Tuesday, but will be back home to stay in July!

I really can't explain how good it feels to be back with this group of people who we love and who we are privileged to serve with in this part of the world. They are an amazing team!

Worship was especially sweet tonight, led by Noah Ellenwood, one of our JV Kids, who JUST TODAY got out of the hospital after a horrific car accident over the week-end. It is purely a miracle that he is alive. He led us powerfully tonight in praising God.

Our speaker this week is Bryan Chappell, pastor at Grace Presbyterian in Peoria, IL. We're all looking forward to being in the Word with him for the next few days.

Once again, it is good to be HOME!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Nothing like Home

After nearly ten months away from home, we slept in our own bed last night and woke up to a familiar view.

A few days ago I counted how many different beds we've slept in these past ten months: 54

Many of those have been in homes of friends and family, even with some of you who faithfully read my blog! But there is one common denominator for all of them: they are associated with really wonderful memories and emotions from time spent with people we love. Thank you to ALL who have hosted us!

Of course, there's just nothing like home and it does feel really good to be back here.

Our JV Spring staff conference starts tomorrow at Malenovice, our JV training center and hotel just five minutes away from our home. Oh how good it will be to see our JV family soon!

We're only here in Czech for a week, and then we return to the States next Tuesday to finish eight more weeks of our home assignment. We have a few more beds to sleep in before we come back home to stay in July!

For now, I'm so happy to be here, soaking in all the goodness of my own home.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Vivian's Help

It's been somewhat of an odd year for me, seeing more doctors in the past five months than I've seen in twenty years.

The Lord's been gracious though, leading me to just the right ones at the right time. And there has been great progress toward healing my migraines, for which I'm most grateful.

But it seems as if doctors and I are not done! While we've been here in Croatia, I fell and badly injured my knee, something I've never done before.

Once again, in the Lord's kindness, He brought yet another medical person into my life right here on the island of Hvar at just the right time.

See that tiny little village in the picture? That's where my new friend, Vivian, lives. She is a British woman we met last Sunday, on Easter, while we were having lunch at an outdoor cafe.

After years of practicing physiotherapy (with a fondness for knees and achilles tendons!) in London, she moved here to her family's country of origin ten years ago and made a life for herself on this island.

We had a nice chat with her last week, and as she left our table, gave us her contact information "just in case". Who knew that I would need her just a few days later?

This is the main road through her village! So delightful!

When I hurt myself on Wednesday, and was in a lot of pain on Thursday, I remembered Vivian.

On Friday we contacted her, not knowing if she still treats patients. But she said she'd be happy to stop by the apartment we were staying in to take a look at my knee, and was there just a few hours later. Not only that, but she came to see me on Saturday as well.

Today she had me visit her home and office to do one last session before we leave for Czech in the morning.

What a gift she's been these past few days! Having no idea what I'd done, I was in a quandary as to what I should do next. Ice it? Rest? Walk it out? Get medical attention? I had no idea.

But Vivian did. And I've made progress all week under her wisdom and treatment.

She said it will be 8-12 weeks before I'll be back to normal (hopefully!). In the meantime, I've got exercises and things to do to help the healing process. She gave me all her contact information and made herself available for consultation any time. What a huge gift that is to me.

And she doesn't charge anything. Wow. So gracious and kind.

After an hour with Vivian, Dave and I drove up behind her village to the church on top of the hill. What a magnificent view on this gorgeous spring day!

Another ledge made a good "photographer" since no one was up there. Just wanted to capture this very sweet time Dave and I have had here on the island, even with an unexpected ailment.

This has been a year of seeing the Lord's personal care for me in SO many ways. I feel deeply loved and cared for by him, and by so many of you that I've seen along the way.

I am just so very thankful!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Shining Forth

From inside the apartment, laying in bed to let my knee heal, I could see and hear rain all day long. It made for a cozy day of working on projects, reading, and even napping.

But by evening, I needed to get outside for some fresh air and something else to look at besides the four walls of the room.

Oh what beauty greeted me as I gingerly made my way down to the water's edge!

Turning in the other direction, it looked more like we were on a misty lake in the Alps than a harbor on the Adriatic.

With no one in sight to take a photo, a rock wall made an okay substitute photographer, though "he" didn't get us in focus, but that's okay! It almost looks like we were inserted against a beautiful backdrop.

Within just a few minutes, the light changed and there was another equally breathtaking view of Stari Grad to steal our breathe away.

Wow! What else can you say??

The physiotherapist I've seen here about my knee said it would be good to walk a little bit sometime today, so we slowly headed down the path beside the harbor, as the light continually changed in front of us.

And then, the sun took one last last glorious bow for the day, giving us a feast for the eyes. Just what I needed after a day spent in bed!

The Mighty One, God, the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets.

From Zion (or Hvar, as is the case!) perfect in beauty, God shines forth.
Psalm 50: 1-2

Friday, April 25, 2014

Walking Slowly, Pressing On

With my knee hurting from the fall I took a few days ago, I'm not as mobile as I'd like to be right now.

I had visions of doing many other things while we're here in Croatia, but it seems the Lord had a different plan for me. Even if it was my mistake that caused the pain, He was not surprised by it.

"Grace" my friend tells me. Yes, there is grace, even when it's your fault.

So instead of gallivanting about as I would've liked, I sat on a bench nestled in the trees near where we're staying yesterday. With a warm breeze blowing, and the sea in front of me, it wasn't a bad way to spend my time.

Then, he appeared.

Walking, ever so slowly.

I watched him for a while. And observed him do something once, then again and again.

Five steps. Look at my watch. Another five, and glance at it again. Over and over, I must press on.

I don't think I have ever walked that slowly, even with a messed up knee!

Perhaps I took walks with toddlers where we dawdled, looking at bugs, flowers and other interesting things along the way. But we were not walking for the sake of walking, but for the sake of discovery.

This man, he was walking. For the sake of walking. With his walking sticks in hand, taking five steps at a time then checking his watch, he was on some sort of mission.

It's hard to imagine how he had the patience with himself to walk THAT slowly. If you were to count it in seconds it would be: "Take a step...wait ten seconds, take a step, wait ten seconds." I'm really serious when I say he was walking THAT slowly. I know, I counted.

But the thought crossed my mind: he's not letting whatever ailment he's suffering from stop him from the simple pleasure of walking. He's pressing on, even if it's slower than a snail's pace.

I tend to go through life more like the bike rider, whizzing along, hurrying to the next thing on my list.

But right now, I too am slowed down. No matter how much I want to move more quickly, it's just not possible.

Yet it can't stop me from pressing on, just like this man. Even if I can't go at the speed I normally do, there is much I CAN do! And this I must keep in sight:

"One thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

I can do that, even if I can't walk very fast right now!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Secret of the Palm

Sitting out on the balcony this morning, overlooking the garden where we're staying, I opened my Bible to today's reading in the "One Year Bible" app on my phone.

A verse in Psalm 92 leapt off the page as I gazed out into the garden: "The righteous will flourish like a palm tree...".

Of all the days I could've read this! On day 114 of this year's reading, I happen to have a palm tree in sight at the neighbor's house next door. "There has to be something in this," I thought to myself.

Of course the passage goes on from there and talks about the cedar tree as well, but since I had this palm tree in sight, I couldn't take my mind off the image of what it means to flourish like it.

I began asking myself all sorts of questions. "Why are the righteous likened to it? Are there secrets of righteous living to be learned from this tree? How would this make a difference for me?"

An intriguing hour later, having read at least a dozen commentaries on the passage, I think I have an understanding of why the Lord would use this image. And it's just so cool!! I'll never look at a palm tree the same way again.

I took pages of notes on the subject (who knew there was so much written about the palm tree?!), but my heart took hold of a few particular truths:

Tall and stately, rarely drooping in sun or beaten down by rain, this tree gracefully spreads its branches to provide shade to those who pass by. 

Yes, I want to be like that!

The palm grows steadily throughout its long lifetime, and continues to give fruit from generation to generation such as coconuts, dates, and oil from over 2000 varieties of the palm.

I want this too! I want to keep growing, and be fruitful to the end.

It endures, sways gently, is constantly green, and continually flourishes.

Yes, yes! My heart soars to think of this kind of living for the rest of my life.

When we see a noble palm standing erect, sending all its strength upward in one bold column, and growing amid dearth and drought of desert, we have a fine picture of the godly man who, in his uprightness, aims alone at the glory of God.

And there is the secret: Aiming for the glory of God. Isn't that beautiful?!

With fronds draping gracefully, its column standing erect, the palm tree is an exquisite symbol of the life of one who aims for His glory!

My soul cries out "YES!" This is my aim, my calling, my passion: To do all to the glory of God.

It's an old and known truth, to live in this way. But I love how God freshly delivered it to me again today.

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.

Google Images photo
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.

Google Images photo
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!

Google Images photo
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!