Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Hidden Treasure

Yesterday morning Daniel braved a chicken pox shot and was excited to get to choose a prize from the treasure chest at the doctor's office. When we came home, we read in The Jesus Storybook Bible about the Hidden Treasure parable in Matthew 13:

“One day Jesus was telling people about God's Kingdom. 'God's kingdom is wherever God is king,' Jesus told them. 'It's wherever God is in charge. It's where he fills up your heart with his Forever Happiness and you stop running away from him and you love him.'

Jesus said, 'Coming home to God is as wonderful as finding a treasure! You might have to dig before you find it. You might have to give up everything you have to get it. But being where God is—being in his kingdom—that's more important than anything else in all the world. It's worth anything you have to give it up!' Jesus told them. 'Because God is the real treasure.'”

I love the way The Jesus Storybook Bible weaves Jesus' thread through the Old and New Testaments...

“God had a treasure, too, of course. A treasure that was lost, long, long ago. What was God's treasure, his most important thing, the thing God loved best in all the world?

God's treasure was his children.

It was why Jesus had come into the world. To find God's treasure. And pay the price to win them back. And Jesus would do it—even if it cost him everything he had.”

Even if it cost Him everything He had. This is the heart of the gospel. The story of our redemption. Our hopeful anticipation in this season of Lent. Jesus willingly paid it all. Because of God's relentless pursuit of us.

The parable of the hidden treasure challenges us to consider where our treasure lies. Do we pursue the Kingdom of God with everything we have or are we sort of lukewarm in our relationship with Him, valuing the things of this world as much as or more than the things of God?

“Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth; where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

Where is your treasure and where is your heart?

Where is your search for hidden treasure taking you?

Daniel and David searching for treasure
on an Easter Egg Hunt yesterday

Friday, March 24, 2017

How Will Our Children Adapt?

Our questions breeze right in through the open windows of our minds: fearful reactions can grip us with chilled anxiety, while sun-kissed, hope-filled responses enable us to envision a bright future. When we decide to enter into another culture, we truly don’t know how that choice will affect each of our uniquely-designed children. How will they choose to follow our host culture? Will they learn how to fit in and adapt without losing their sense of identity?

After having grown comfortable living in a large city on the east coast of China for 15 years, our family relocated to central western China in 2011 for my husband to pursue his PhD. Through his field research, the door opened for us to live in a Muslim minority village for weeks at a time, which needless to say was a huge change for us.

Our 13 year old daughter Jordan felt at home right away, and she couldn’t wait to be done with home school so she could spend time with her new friends. One of her writing assignments when we were back in the city was about her life in the village...

Our 15 year old son stepped off the same bus into village life, but with much more hesitation and resistance. Over time, however, as he and his older brother learned how to participate in the Sufi festivals that honored the deaths of their shieks, his perspective began to change. Through joining in with the other young men of the village as they served food at the festivals, Joshua became part of the community. This is what he wrote in a college application essay about what village life taught him about adaptability and diversity...

To read what Jordan and Joshua wrote about their different experiences in the village, click here to go to the post on the theme of "Follow" for Velvet Ashes: 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Whispers of Accusation

You really think you can pray?”

Whispers of accusation chased their way through my mind while I sat at the prayer team table for Pulpit Rock's IF Gathering women's conference.

“What if these true prayer warriors at the table realize you're just a counterfeit who only prays surface prayers and is far from knowing how to actually wrestle with God in prayer, far from knowing what praying in the Spirit really means?”

“What if they see the real you, a kindergarten pray-er pretending to be someone who truly prays?”

The whispers from the accuser that weekend gave voice to my deep-rooted fear of being “found out” that I'm not qualified, not deserving, inadequate. What if the image of who others think I am crumbles down to reveal the real me—who doesn't belong at the table?

It's one of my dominant stories that Jonathan referred to in his sermon on Sunday “Taking Every Thought Captive: Story.” He said that we create these stories based on our interpretations of life events, and they become strongholds in our lives when they don't line up with Jesus story. In our pursuit of renewing our minds we need to ask:

Are we willing to exchange our dominant story for Jesus story?

This renewal is a lifelong process by which our way of thinking comes to resemble more and more the ways of God.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

My fear of not measuring up has popped its head up throughout my life:

When I played basketball in 7th grade and hoped and prayed no one would pass the ball to me, because ball coordination was clearly not my strength. What are you doing on this team?

When I took on a job as a physics tutor for student athletes in college and it became painfully clear that I didn't know as much physics as I thought I did. And some of my students complained about me. How did you get a job you weren't even qualified for?

When we attended the wedding of one of the Chinese teachers at Charly's language school in Tianjin and (even though my children protested) I picked seats up at the front for our family to sit. And we were politely asked to move somewhere else. (I think there is even a Bible verse about this.) Who do you think you are taking a seat of honor?

When (even now) I read Cinderella to David and Daniel and feel like they see me in the story as the wicked stepmother. Because a good mother to them would be a lot more loving and affirming than I am. What if people (who think you're so amazing for adopting) knew what kind of adoptive mother you really are?

What God helped me to realize as I wrestled with these thoughts, before dawn this morning, is that I can have a seat at the table even if I'm not the best. Perfection is not a prerequisite for God. I can set down the measuring stick of comparison--that others are better at whatever it is than me. God simply wants me to come to His table with my sinful, repentant heart. Confession and communion. He doesn't love and accept me because of what I can do or who I try to be. But because of Jesus.

This song that I learned at church has become one of my favorites and I find that the lyrics often repeat themselves in my head. Such good words of Truth for me to soak replace those of the accuser that tell me I don't belong, don't measure up, and might be “found out.”

Elevation Worship

O come to the altar
The Father's arms are open wide
Forgiveness is bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ.

The Truth is that my validation doesn't come from my performance or from how others see me. But from God Himself.

My audience of One.

And His arms are always open wide. Offering me (and you) a place at His table.

What dominant story do you need to exchange for the gospel story?


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