Tag Archives: abundance

The Gospel

Yesterday, in one of my classes, we were asked to shortly describe ourselves.  My classmates’ self descriptions stated their country of origin and their current profession.  So that would make me: Samara, American, studying TESOL in Thailand.

How very weak that introduction is. How void of the most important parts of my identity.

Samara. Daughter of God. Created to create. Loved to love. Accepted to accept.

I would say that that more accurately describes who I am.

Jesus and I will be celebrating our ten year anniversary pretty soon.  Ten years.  A whole decade.  I cannot believe I’m old enough to be celebrating a decade of anything… but that is a whole other issue.

With this memorial date approaching I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting.

Reflecting on my life. Reflecting on who I was and who I’ve become…and who I was while I was becoming who I became : ) [got that?]

A statement that I’ve been making a lot lately is that “christianity didn’t change my life, my relationship with Jesus changed my life.”

Every time I hear myself say this something jumps inside of me.  That statement is the most true statement I can make.  Nothing has had a more profound impact on me, my life, and who I am, than my relationship with Jesus.

I grew up with christianity.  I grew up with the stories, the rules, the systems, the commands, the expectations… but I didn’t grow up with the reality of the Gospel.  It wasn’t until that Reality became my reality that I was able to experience the freedom that has forever marked my life.

***

I recently finished reading “The Jesus Storybook Bible” with my Thai teacher.

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If you haven’t invested in this children’s Bible yet, you’re missing out.  I have yet to find the Gospel more beautifully illustrated (figuratively and literally).  The authors of this Bible have so beautifully pointed out how God has been working from the beginning of time to get His children back into right relationship with Him.

Every story whispers Jesus’ name.

For God SO loved the world that He sent His Only Son.

It was always God’s plan to send Jesus. Because it was always God’s plan to get His children back.

And who does Jesus pinpoint?  Who does Jesus call out for greatness?  Who does Jesus choose to befriend?

The Extra-Super-Holy-People?

No.

He chose people like me.

People who were lost, depressed, lonely, dirty, poor, addicted, deserted, alone, condemned, guilty, hurting, oppressed, possessed, angry, blind, deaf, dumb, doubting, drunk… the list goes on.

He chose whomever would chose Him. He chose the hungry. He chose the needy.  He chose the difficult.  The unrighteous.  The annoying.

***

I’ve been a missionary for about three and a half years now.

Demonstrating the Gospel is my job. Literally. It’s what I get paid to do.

So often the job demands of newsletter writing and supporter relations tempt me to act like an Extra-Super-Holy-Person.  I mean… that’s what missionaries are supposed to be, right?

My life needs to be clean. structured. organized. predictable. newsletter appropriate. and those knees better be covered… do we even need discuss the shoulders?

Right?

My paycheck depends on it… right?

Wrong.

Jesus’ Gospel wasn’t clean.  Jesus’ life wasn’t structured… organized… predictable and His supporters probably wouldn’t have liked His newsletters.  (He hung out with women and was at parties where people got drunk… I mean… you can’t really write about that kind of stuff…)

For God SO loved the world that He sent His One and Only Son, that WHOMEVER may believe in Him will be saved and have life eternal.

So that’s my Gospel.  Believing in Jesus and receiving that life eternal.  Life eternal starting ten years ago.  Life eternal now.  On earth.  Life eternal full of messes and mistakes and unexpected turns and hiccups and high highs and low lows.

Life eternal, right now.

Life with Jesus.

And that’s what I am in Thailand to share.

Not a good English education. Not an introduction to critical thinking. Not an education full of the creative arts.

I’m here to introduce my friends to Life Eternal. Right now.

Life with Whom you may converse. Life with Whom you may walk. Life with Whom you may be messy and unpredictable.

Life—Who will never change, never leave, never reject.

Life.  Real.  Messy.  Unpredictable.

Life with Jesus. Free. Safe. Abundant.

 

***

I was recently reminded of this video:

Not much I can say after that.

So to end this blog post I want to challenge myself to another ten years. Another ten years of Life.  Another ten years of greater intimacy and greater depth of relationship.  Another ten years of walking with Jesus wherever He may bring me.  Another ten years of saying yes to impossible situations and messy people.  Another ten years of taking risks and looking foolish.  Another ten years of failing and hurting.  Another ten years of Jesus picking me back up. Another ten years of Abundance walking with me.  Protecting me.  Guiding me.  Providing for me.  Another ten years of adventure.

And I challenge you too.

What is the Gospel?

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Lessons of the Loofah

for Norma

***

In 2011, after returning from the World Race, I needed some…um, special attention?

That 11 month trip around the world altered things inside of me that I did not expect to have altered; parts of my personality were chiseled into a new version of myself and ways that I responded to situations was no longer the same.  A lot of good things came out of that whirlwind experience.  I learned the importance of using my voice, I learned some of the qualities of a good leader and I met some of my most dear friends.

I also came home from this experience incredibly depressed.

Depression, while not at all a friend, became a constant companion in my life. Beginning the last couple months of the World Race my new companion taught me how to withdrawal from relationships and shut off my emotions.

Being welcomed home by all my friends and family wasn’t an easy task.  I knew that they had missed me and I had missed them too, but with my new companion I wasn’t exactly very engaging.  No one was expecting me to bring this companion home and I wanted to avoid their questions, so for the first couple months of living in America I pretended that I came home alone.

Oddly, while I was going through the motions of christian life in America, I was also walking through the process of becoming a church planter to Thailand. Through the early stages of this process, the church leadership thought it important for me to get some help sorting through what was going on inside of me.

That’s when I met Norma.  I can remember our first meeting so vividly.  I was scared, cold and walled off; she was bright, open, full of love, light and warmth.  I felt safe.  I didn’t know Norma–had only seen her at church and heard her name, but something about her set me at ease.  I knew that with her I did not need to pretend.

So I didn’t.

I was honest about my companion and remember distinctly telling her that I don’t believe in the ‘light at the end of the tunnel.’

Somehow, the things I said to her didn’t scare her away.  She wasn’t scared of my companion, of my pain, of my mess.  Instead she loved me, listened to me and taught me.

I left America, still holding onto the fingertips of my trusty companion, but have since been able to let go completely and through a lot of grace and relearning how to trust my Papa, have been freed completely from it’s influence.

***

***

During one of our first meetings at the Tea Smith, Norma asked me what was one of the hardest things for me during the World Race.

Simple enough question…I can still write a pretty substantial list without thinking too hard, but that day, for whatever reason, I told Norma that the hardest thing for me was the incredible difficulty in finding loofahs.

In case you don’t know:

loo·fah:
ˈlo͞ofə
noun
 
  1. a coarse, fibrous cylindrical object used like a bath sponge for washing. It consists of the dried fibrous matter of the fluid-transport system of a marrowlike fruit.
  2. the tropical Old World climbing plant of the gourd family that produces these fruits, which are also edible.
 
 
Norma tucked that answer of mine–sarcastic as it may have been–and kept it in her heart, never making mention of it again.
 
 On the day of my departure from America to Amsterdam and then to Thailand Norma gave me a tearful hug and a gift bag that said not to open until my birthday, which was about four days away.  I hugged her and thanked her and boarded my plane.
 
I celebrated my birthday in Amsterdam with two good friends and there opened my gift from Norma.
 
It was a loofah.
 
My friends thought this a strange gift, but I didn’t, Norma was making sure that I would have what it was that I had lacked before.  Upon my explanation one of my friends gave me four more loofahs to take to Thailand, just in case.
 
A couple days later, when I settling into my new bedroom, I noticed the welcome note Tracy left for me on my vanity, along with a loofah.
 
 
That did it.  I had received six loofahs over a week.  I thought it incredibly hilarious, but also felt like there had to be something behind it.  So I asked Papa if He was trying to tell me something.
 
As I sat and tuned myself to His voice, I felt like He said to me:
 
 
Daughter, the things that you have lacked in the past, I am giving you now in abundance. 
 
 
I let that resonate and chose to believe it.
 
As life moved on and settling into Thailand happened, I would often catch myself believing that I live in lack, when that kind of thinking settled in, I would call myself to remember the lesson of the loofah.
 ***
 ***
I’ve lived in Thailand for a year and a half now and have received seven more loofahs from Norma.  Each time one come in the mail or is delivered by a visitor I have a good laugh to myself and thank God for His abundance.
 
Over the past couple months my storehouse of loofahs has dwindled.  We’ve had various people come live in our house for differing amounts of time and I have opened my supply to them and then forgot one at the condo we were staying at when we went to the beach.
 
I noticed last week that I only had one loofah left.
 
In the smallness of my thinking I got kind of sad.  I knew this was only a symbol of God’s provision, but if He had really spoken to me about His abundance, shouldn’t I never lack the thing He was using to speak to me?  I knew that I could go to the store and buy a new loofah when the last one was spent, but at the same time I felt like that would ruin the whole story.  (So instead I just stopped using the loofah all together in order to preserve it’s lifespan… which in reality is my feeble attempts to control the story.)
 
I know this is funny, but I was really sad about the lack of loofahs in my life
***
***
I had been awaiting a package from my gramma for a couple weeks now.  I had ordered a t-shirt and was therefore very excited to get this package.  Gramma told me that she threw in a few other goodies, but I didn’t know what to expect.
 
When I opened my package I was greeted with three ‘natural sponges’ and a new loofah.
 
What a laugh, what a gift.  What a specific gift from Papa.  Gramma had no idea about any of this, no idea about the lessons of the loofah or about my current belief of lack.  To her, she was just sending me a loofah.
 
 It’s all so silly.
But so real and special to me all the same.
 
I have no lack.
No lack of patience.  No lack of peace. No lack of creativity.  No lack of ideas.  No lack of resources.  I have no lack of relationships.  No lack of opportunities.
 
Instead, I am a daughter.  Completely loved, completely provided for.  Completely seen.  Completely known.  Completely complex and completely understood.
Completely and abundantly.
 
 
All this heart revelation and from a loofah.loofah
 
 
 
 

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