Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A continuation from my previous posts.....

I've been studying this week and past weekend for the biblical basis for the book I've started work on. I've begun with the intro, and a chapter on suffering, pain and worship.

As I was thinking about worship in the midst of suffering, an old song came to mind that states, "put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness..." and so I decided to search the Scriptures for the phrase, Garment of Praise.

Up popped Isaiah 61, and I read that glorious chapter in its context. biblereference.com gave me an interesting cross reference, Habakkuk 3, end of the chapter.

So I read that whole chapter and later the whole book, which is just three chapters. The gist of Hab. goes something like this.

Hab. is disturbed at the sinful nation of Israel and asks God to do something about it. God lets him know, I am doing something about it, I'm sending the Babylonians. At first Hab. gets rather disturbs and dialogues a little more with God about it.

Finally, the last chapter Hab. comes to some conclusions. He realizes what God has is the best for Israel and wraps up his great hymn by singing...

“I heard and my heart pounded,
my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
and my legs trembled,
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
To on the nation invading us.

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
Though the olive crop fails
And the fields produce no food,
Though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,

Yet, I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The sovereign Lord is my strength,
He makes my feet like the feet of the deer, he enables me to go on the heights.”


Wow. Some of the most powerful statements in the entire Old Testament. Even though the economy fails, we starve to death and have no hope for a physical future: I will rejoice that I have a Savior.

I wondered why Hab. said what he did, and so I did a little background digging. Frankly, there isn't much other than what you can discover from the Scriptures themselves.

However, interestingly enough, Jewish tradition states that Hab. is the son of the Shummamite woman. This is roughly based on the Hebrew word used by Elisha when he tells the woman, "by this time next year, you will have a son to embrace....." The word for embrace is linked to Habakkuk's strange name.

It's just tradition, we have no physical proof, no genealogies, no pedigree to prove that this is true. However, one thing does stand to link these two individuals together, their unwavering trust and faith in a God that is completely and utterly in control, even when the world as we know it self destructs.

During some moments that I'm having right now as my mother in law battles cancer, this is what I cling to. My God is in Control, even if it doesn't seem to be the case. And because He is my God, I will stand, and rejoice that He is my Savior and that He makes me to stand in the High places and worship Him without fear.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

It looks like my two previous blogs repeat each other. Even though they do, its what I've clung to the last week. Since we made the decison to stay longer, its been a roller coaster. Read on...
This week the world turned upside down, with the news that my mother in law has cancer, again.

I won’t go into details, but its grim.

And so the questions we all ask roll through our minds. Why? To what end?

The accusations and anger boils as we say to ourselves, hasn’t she given enough of her herself for the kingdom? Isn’t 25 years in the bush in Africa enough? Can’t she find some grace, some mercy in it all? WHERE IS THE JUSTICE? Where is the healing?

I have taken rest in an unusual passage. A friend pointed me to it this summer.

For those of you rusty in your Old Testament history, Elisha has some friends. This childless couple builds him an extra room and he camps out there, perhaps for a long period of time. He wants to bless them, he promises a son, unasked.

This woman has the son, and one day he dies. Calmly, she saddles her donkey and goes into town. As Elisha sees her, he send out his servant to discover what’s wrong.

And all the woman says to the servants penetrating questions is, “Everything is alright.” Or as in some versions, “It is well”. In good modern vernacular we would say, “Its all good.”

Her son has just died and “It is well.”

My friend told me about this, and it took me three times to read the story to find it. It’s such a small statement, its easy to miss. But I think it’s a major point of the story. My addition to this story is this.

We don’t know if she asked for the son or not. But, God gave her a son. I believe she knew It is Well, because God was the one who gave her the son, and whatever happened, everything was His to begin with.

I didn’t ask for my ministry in Spain. It was given to me. And the error of my thoughts is the in the first sentence in this paragraph, its not my ministry. My mother in law isn’t mine, she’s God’s.

Many of our gifts come unbidden, unasked for. But we develop this powerful attachment and when things change or go “wrong” we suddenly think they are ours to have always.

So, I take rest in that, “Everything is Ok”. And I take rest in knowing God owns all the cattle on a thousand hills, and is in ultimate control. I take rest knowing that an all powerful, all sovereign God knows what is best for me, my mother in law and so much more. It is well.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

We had to make one of the most difficult decisions we've had this year, do we stay or do we go?

Our tickets back to Spain were orginally scheduled for August 19th, this past Tuesday. Last week realized slowly that we were still 885 dollars undersupported, that we needed more support, and that we couldn't do it in just a weeks time.

I was exhausted beyound all recognition. I had been traveling every week for 7 weeks, living out of a suitcase. I have been on 8 plane flights this summer, driven over 39 hours on road trips and been in 8 states. I've slept in too many beds and woken up at least one night wondering where in the heck I was.

It was so hard as a result to process through all the facts and make a logical decision. Clouding my judgement was the fact that I just wanted to go home and sleep in my own bed before things got insanely busy back in Spain.

I love what I do. I love living in Spain, speaking Spanish, leading worship, teaching English, translating songs, writing a book, seeing the world through European eyes, weeping with, laughing with, caring for my friends, my husband, my co workers, and my students, both International and Spanish.

And so, making the decision to stay here, to continue to hit the pavement to tell others about our ministry, to talk about our ministry until we are exhausted and long to return to it, didn't sound like fun to me.

On top of it, I knew I was exhausted when I went to talk to different people, and a two hour long conversation drained everything from me.

Enough complaining. God was faithful to give me some good friends to encourage me. One friend reminded me of the Shummamite woman and Elijah. Her son dies, she doesn't freak out, she says, everything is ok.

I had to read the passage several times to find that statement. But she did. She said it was ok. I don't know where she took her peace from, but she knew that son was from God, and He was going to take care of the situation. She didn't even ask for him, but he was given to her, and God was going to take care of him.

I didn't ask for all this, this ministry. I didn't ask to be in worship, to write a book, to teach English. I didn't ask to go to Spain, to live in Granada. God gave it to me, He gave it to Andrew and me. Andrew didn't ask to be a youth leader, run sound, dream big dreams, develop a church, counsel a pastor, pray for impossible things, live in a loud university town. God gave it all to us.

And when He wants us to return, He'll give it back. Everything is Ok.

Monday, August 11, 2008

So, I'm back on the blogging board...back to some demand.

The reason the blog has remained fairly empty is that I am writing, just not on my blog. I've reverted back to my college days and gotten an old fashioned 50 cent journal from Walmart and I'm writing my book in it. Its a modest, red, cardboard covered journal that really did cost only 50 cents.

It somehow been very inspiring to pick up pen and use paper for the first time in a very long time. I've had a great time laying out the book and now slowly working out it. I'm also finding airplanes to be a great source of inspiration.

So, I'll try to put some excerpts up later this week. I"ve got a ton to do...so I'll my best.
Andrew wrote this today, and I thought I'd post it.


Dear Friends and Family,

Hi from Chicago! After a whirlwind trip through Atlanta, Mississippi, Kentucky and Houston, Texas, we are back in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago. We've spoken in churches, met with financial partners, been to a wedding, a family reunion and have seen God provide for us all the way.

In Chicago, a wonderful couple from Naperville EV Free Church has given us their basement apartment to use for as long as we need it. Another couple have loaned us their car while we're here too. A business man from Houston pledged to financially partner with us and then introduced us to a few of his friends and business partners! Some of them have also decided to partner with us! What a blessing!

When we first returned to the States in July, we had been under-supported by $1300 per month for the previous eight months. We even had to borrow from our mission's emergency fund to meet our needs. Since we've been back we have received $2430 in one-time gifts. This has been a huge blessing and it is helping us to pay back what we owe the mission.

Thus far $160 has been pledged as NEW monthly support. This leaves us under-supported by $1140 per month. A few people have committed to financial partnership with us but have not yet told us how much they will contribute monthly. If the amount is within the normal range of our monthly gifts ($26-$52 per month) we will still be significantly under-supported.

Our tickets to return to Spain are on the 19th of August and are unchangeable. We are praying about purchasing new tickets to return to Spain sometime in September in order to give us more opportunities to speak in churches and meet prospective financial partners here in the Chicago area. We need to bring our monthly financial support up to, or close to the 100 percent mark.

The rub is that each ticket costs $900. We have two options:

1. We fly back to Spain on the 19th of August under-supported trusting the Lord to raise our support while we back in Spain.
2. We spend an extra $1800 on plane tickets to stay in the States for another month trusting the Lord will help us raise our support level through our contacts in the Chicago area.

Please pray:

-That we will hear, this week, from those that have pledged support, how much they will be contributing on a monthly basis.

-For the $1800 or donated air-miles to purchase new tickets back to Spain at the end of September if that is the Lord's will.

-For patience as we wait on the Lord's provision.

-For peace in this time of uncertainty.

Thank you so much for all your prayers, gifts and encouragement.

Love in Christ,

Andrew...for both of us.

Andrew and Jamie Leonhard

U.S. Phone: 630-217-5649

Action International Ministries (ACTION), PO Box 398,
Mountlake Terrace, WA 98043-0398

Phone: (425) 775-4800

Web: www.actionintl.org

Saturday, June 07, 2008

mercy, charity, clemency, grace, leniency mean a disposition to show kindness or compassion. mercy implies compassion that forbears punishing even when justice demands it mercy of the court>.

This is part of the formal definition from Webster's dictionary. I've been thinking about some terms that we throw around easily as human beings, and we hold to them certain connotations that aren't always included in Webster's dictionary. But being the linguist I am, I wanted to go back and look at a few terms.

These two definitions struck me as interesting, especially since words like mercy, justice and peace have dominated some conversations I've had lately.

Justice
1 a: the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments b: judge c: the administration of law; especially : the establishment or determination of rights according to the rules of law or equity2 a: the quality of being just, impartial, or fair b (1): the principle or ideal of just dealing or right action (2): conformity to this principle or ideal : righteousness c: the quality of conforming to law3: conformity to truth, fact, or reason : correctness


Just

1 a: having a basis in or conforming to fact or reason : reasonable just but not a generous decision> barchaic : faithful to an original c: conforming to a standard of correctness : proper <just proportions>2 a (1): acting or being in conformity with what is morally upright or good : righteous just war> (2): being what is merited : deserved just punishment> b: legally correct : lawful <just title to an estate>

Peace is a whole other topic I'll write about later.....today I want to discuss these two terms.

Justice is an interesting topic, one I've never been really concerned with on a daily basis. In my limited knowledge, justice is demanded when a wrong has been committed, i.e. a crime. In the West, we picture Justice as a woman blindfolded with scales in her hand.

In Spanish, the word justice is justicia. Strangely enough, the Spanish vocabulary has no room for the word righteousness. They translate this word as justice. But yet another topic for another day.

In Micah 6:8, the author says,

8 He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

(NIV).

What's all this you say? What is your point today in this blog? Hang in there with me, I've got a few thoughts.

Justice is an attribute of God, something He desires. His requirement for conformity to His law prohibits us from standing in His presence. His justice (correctness, conformity) must be met in order for us to have a relationship with him. In the OT, to walk justly, one needed to follow the letter of the law.

This was impossible, and still is. In order to satisfy His need for justice, God had to send Jesus to die a substitutionary death for us. His perfect Son became the perfect sacrfice, satisfied the demands God had made in the Law, and now we are righteous and stand before Him without any sin.

In Micah, we are commanded to walk justly. Ahah, what does this mean. I refer to the above definition of just.

"having a basis in or conforming to fact or reason"

So, we are to walk in reason. We aren't to walk in justice (demanding conformity to the Law), but reason. Micah also tells us to love mercy. I refer to the above definition of mercy

"a disposition to walk in kindness or compassion"

And finally, we are walk humbly. I don't think I have to look up humility to say that most of us, including me, struggles to walk in true humility.

Breaking this down like this, I'm realizing (with reason) that my calling by God is to persue compassion, to love walking in mercy, to find reasonable ways to love mercy, and while doing so, walk in submission to God's plan by being humble.

Phew, that's head spinning.

Back to Justice. If God's need for Justice has been satisfied, His wrath against our sin subdued by His perfect Sacrfice, shouldn't my anger for Justice be satisfied as well?

Does this mean its wrong to feel angry at injust situations? No. But what we do with this Anger is crucial. Jesus had angry moments, and he drove the men out of the temple. However, as a friend said to me this week, did we ever stop to think if He healed their wounds afterwards?

The prophets cried Foul! again and again and again in the Old Testament. We have Jesus' words in the book of Matthew as he cries out the woes against the Pharisees. We see Paul's words against the sins in 1 Corinthians. We see God's punishment against the Israelites time and again for their sins.

However, from start to finish, the overwhelming theme of the Bible isn't justice in the Webster's definition sense, that is God demanding that we demand conformity to the law. But, what we see is that Justice is one of the players in the grand scheme of God's love and how He's shown it to us, and How has satisfied His own need for Justice through His own perfect Son.

And as a response, we are to walk reasonably, loving compassion, and do it humbly to point back to what He's done.







Saturday, May 24, 2008

I've been meaning to sit and write for a long time, but it hasn't worked out with this crazy time schedule I've been keeping.

So many things to blog about, but I'm going to take it one subject at a time.

Last Saturday, one of our American students was baptized in the Med. If you wanna see pictures, Andrew's got them posted to his Facebook profile. I love the picture he has of Ben coming up out of the ocean.

Several months ago, Ben came over to have lunch with Andrew and I and told us this was the first semester he'd had time to properly read his Bible. He'd realized as he read his Gospels that Jesus wanted us to obey Him by being baptized. We talked with him a bit, and he told us that as an infant he had been baptized. However, as he read the gospels, he saw baptism as a decision he needed to make, that He personally needed to proclaim to the world the work that Jesus had done in his life.

And so, we rejoiced last Sat. We sang, we heard testimonies of our students, we watched Ben as he was baptized, and hugged him as he glowed with joy.

I was just 5 years old when I was baptized. I still vividly remember that feeling, and because the concept is simple, I understood what I was doing. Throughout my life, as I've seen other baptisms, I've relived that moment again and again, and weep every time with joy as I watch someone else as they publicly declare that they have entered the kingdom of light.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Worship should happen not only when we are happy, or sad, or rejoicing, or crying, but it should also happen when we don't feel like it.

I have a friend preaching tomorrow, Pentecost Sunday. Tomorrow, I'm leading worship in our church. Both of us have had long weeks, with lots of problems. Frankly, I don't know if I'm up for leading worship, and I imagine he feels stressed and worried about preaching.

However, we weren't called to minister/worship/preach/witness when we feel good. In fact, Paul discusses this in 2 Corinthians 3 and 4, and this has been my mediation today.

Its too long to quote as a whole, but these are my words of comfort this afternoon.

"BUT we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body."

Today, I am perplexed, I definetly feel forsaken, but I'm not despairing, and I've not been destroyed. I know that I'm dying a slow death to myself as I walk in ministry, in music, in worship, in teaching, in counseling, in serving others, in hospitality. HOWEVER, I know that the power to continue, the Gospel power that I have is from God and not from me, and so I continue to serve, love, sing, teach, and most importantly worship.

As I opened my Bible to find the passage quoted above, it opened to Is 64, a comfort in time of need.

"...that the nations may tremble at your presence! When you did awesome things which we did not expect, You came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. For from of old, they h ave not heard nor perceived by hear, Neither has the eye seen a God besides you, Who acts on behalf of the one who waits for Him. You meet him who rejoices in doing righteousness, who remembers You in your Ways.......

For this reason, we are pushed beyound all recognition, but God, the Great I Am, will never forget us nor forsake us.

Come Lord Jesus Come.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

As you can tell, its been a busy spring. I've scarcely had a moment to write, even though I've had more than my fair share of moments to ponder different things and see God working in dry land.

When I went to Moody, personal evangelism was a favorite class, but not a favorite pastime. I had this really incredibly passionate proff, Dr. McDuffee, and he spoke a lot about sharing the gospel. I don't remember much he said, but I do remember his passion, and I like him for it, even though I could barely understand why he had such passion.

He would even go out on the streets of Chicago and preach. I admired him for his guts, but still thought he was pretty nuts.

13 years later and I'm here in Southern Spain, and I think I've gone as nuts as he was and probably still is. How did I get from point A to point B?

Frankly, it all started in Africa, when Andrew and I trucked over the Uganda to do a project for ACTION. We ended up in the north, in the worst part of the world I've ever been in. I met AIDS victims, war victims, former sex slaves, former ex militia, and they all told me one thing, God changed me.

I would hear the people singing in church, "there is power in the church today" and for the first time in my life I really began to believe it. I'd been quite a doubting Thomas and I really did need to see evidence, and than I began to really believe.

Before that moment, I had seen God work in my life on a personal level, healing me from various hurts in the past others had inflicted on my psyche. But while in Africa, when I talked to three ladies that had AIDS, and how when God saved them, he also healed them to the point they could walk and talk, feed their families and care for each other, I really began to believe.

So we came back, fired up about God's power. I continued on my personal journey...and there's more to that, but essentially, I've gotten to a really unique point this spring. I am unashamed and fired up about the power of the Gospel.

You see, I realized first that I was ashamed of the Gospel. Its awkward, its bumpy, it offends people, its bloody, its painful, it requires change. Many of the TV shows out today talk about how people can't change. True, without the Gospel, is there really change? Anyway, I digress.

Living here in this culture, where shame controls live and what you do...has opened my eyes to what shame really is. Whether or not we believe in shame, we actually do have it, and do operate our lives around it. We as Westerners may not take vacation, because we are afraid of what people will think about is. If we really boil this feeling down, its shame of what other people will think.

All this to say, I was ashamed. But after seeing the power of the Gospel, in Africa, in Spain, I have lost my shame. And now I fully understand the statement Paul makes in Romans 1:16, I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.

I guess I had never really thought about that verse before, even thought it was long ago committed to memory. But since I've lost my shame, my desire to share the Gospel is tenfold.

And, this month, I taught the youth about some of these concepts, and together as a youth group we prayed one night for four different people. We prayed only that we could have opportunities to share the gospel, and boy did I have them this month.

Almost every week I had one. Most recently, my 15 yr olds in my English class asked me about spiritism and what I thought. My boss at the Academy asked me why our "religious group" was different. I ran into some guy that runs a tea shop here in the Arab quarter, made some comment about how I believe in a God that holds my future, and proceeded to have a long conversation about what I believed. I found out he is a Spanish Moslem, having converted from being an Evangelical.

I can't stop talking about what I believe. Do you believe in the power of the Gospel? If you do, you will lose your shame, and witnessing becomes as natural as breathing, even if it isn't your "gift". As a believer, its your calling.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

I'm a linguist. Most of my work on a daily basis centers around words, now in two languages. I teach English, I translate songs, I sing...its all based on words.

I'm the greatest critic of songs....secular and sacred. I demand perfection and highest regard for both types. I'm a critic of the cliche, the over used, the sadly sung, whether about love or God.

So, when I heard the simple song...You never fail me...I was the critic, and didn't really like it. It was too simplistic, too...well, not good enough for this linguist.

However, today, I've changed my mind. Worrying like I tend to about money, earthly things, a friend told me, "God won't fail you"....and suddenly, I understood the song.

It says,
You never fail me,
You never fail me Lord
You never fail me Lord
You are good, always.

God's not going to fail me. I know that...but sometimes I need to sing this song to remind myself of that...and to show the Lord that I trust him. He's not going to pull the rug out from underneath me. He got us here to Spain, He's going to keep us here....money is only money...and he's never failed me in this area, why should I think He's going to change?

So, yes, the forever critic has changed her mind. Sometimes, a simple song, is a constant reminder of how the Great I Am is always good, and never failing.