On Banana Bread, Elevation and Living for Jesus…

Banana Bread

I made banana bread yesterday.
It turned out pretty well.
But it could have been a disaster.

You see, I forgot where I was.
I forgot that I am way above sea level.
And at this altitude, adjustments must be made.
I’m used to baking at 128 feet above sea level – not 5,551 feet.

Fortunately, I added a little more liquid than the recipe called for because I decided to throw in a couple extra ingredients.
That’s a high-altitude adjustment – but I did it quite by accident.

Fortunately, I also used a little less sugar than the recipe called for but that was only because I didn’t want it too sweet.
So again, I adjusted by quite by accident.

What I completely forgot to do was to adjust the temperature of the oven.
It should have been about 25 degrees hotter – in Fahrenheit.
Of course, my gas oven only has Celsius marks – and those are in ranges of temperatures.
The bottom line is that it took FOREVER to bake.
I basically slow roasted it instead of baking it.

But eventually it came out of the oven.
And I think it is delicious.
But that is in no way thanks to me.

It so reminded me of my life here on earth.
How easy it is for me to forget my altitude.
And to live accordingly.

I forget that I am living at a higher elevation.
Not because of my righteousness or anything I have done.
Just like I didn’t climb these 5,000 plus feet to be here in Guatemala.
I was carried here by an airplane.
And I have been carried to a higher elevation spiritually by the incredible lift of being saved by grace alone.
Saved from sin.
Saved from separation from God.
Saved to be living “in the world but not of it.”
Saved to be existing on a different plane, a higher elevation than those who do not know Him.
An elevation that calls them to come up higher, to join me on this mountaintop.

I have been placed by grace at this living at a this-world-is-not-my-home elevation.
And because of that, everything should be different.
How I do life should be different.
Just like my baking here should be different than there.
I am supposed to be living with my heart and mind “set on things above and not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3)

I am supposed to be “laying up treasure in heaven where moths and rust can corrupt it and thieves can’t break in and steal.” (Matthew 6)

I am supposed to be “living up to what I have already attained” as a follower of Christ as I “press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me”, “forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead”, pressing “on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3)

Living in a different way than the world that doesn’t know Him.
Forgiving quickly.
Living like Christ really has “torn down the dividing wall of hostility”.
Loving my brothers and sisters as I have been loved.
And loving those who don’t know the Father yet in the same extravagant way.
Giving generously.
Sharing His love constantly.
Reflecting His image consistently.

I am supposed to be making adjustments at this altitude.
Adding humility, love, kindness.
And subtracting bitterness, strife, anger.
Adding time to every relational equation, being “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry.”
Along with so many other “high altitude adjustments” that are a part of being a disciple of Jesus.

This is the elevation we are called to live at day in and day out.
Not just me – but everyone who claims the name of Christ.

But how quickly I forget the altitude.
I forget to “live up to what I have already attained.”
How easily I slip back into baking at sea level in my Christian life.
I slide down old familiar pathways of worry.
I listen to breathy whispers of old lies from the enemy.
I let my emotions run the show instead of higher elevation realities.
I forget to “take every thought captive to Christ.”
I “lean on my own understanding” instead of trusting.
I forget who I am.
And worse, WHOSE I am.

Because life is so daily.

I have physically adjusted to living above 5,000 feet.
So it’s easy to forget where I am.
But I don’t ever want to adjust to this altitude with Jesus.

Instead, I want to climb higher.
Running hard toward the prize.
Pumping toward the finish line.
Always setting my gaze higher.
Always reaching for the next level.
Being transformed into His image from level to level.
From glory to glory.

Remember where you are, friends.
Look back at how far He has brought you, how high you have climbed.
Live up to what you have already attained with Him.

Remember who you are.
But most of all, remember whose you are.
And let’s keep climbing higher with Him, making those altitude adjustments each day.

Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how my banana bread turned out.
But I want my life to be a story of “progressively being transformed into His image from [one degree of] glory to [even more] glory, which comes from the Lord, [who is] the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3)

A Terrible Father…

worry

After talking with this little girl, it was obvious that she had a pretty terrible father.
She didn’t say that.
In fact, she was very complimentary towards him.
She said he was very good to her, very kind.

But as I listened, his neglect was obvious.
She was worried about so many things!
What she was going to eat.
What she was going to wear.
What she was going to say.
How she was going to manage her relationships.
How she was going to manage her future.
How she was going to manage her to-do list.

She kept talking about her fears
She wondered if her Dad would actually have enough money to take care of her needs.
And if he would be able to take care of his responsibilities.
She was concerned that he would forget about her since she was part of a large family.
And she obviously didn’t care for his advice about her life since she was fretting over her choices like she had no guidance.

She said her Dad was good.
But after listening to her, there is no way that could be true.

That little girl is me.
With my Heavenly Father.

That was my “Aha!” moment this week:
When I worry, I am representing My Good, Good Father to the world as a terrible, awful Dad.

I SAY He is good.
I SING that He is a “good, good Father”.
But when I take the reins in my own hands,
when I am worried about money,
or people,
or circumstances,
my actions tattle on me.
They declare the truth of my heart:
that I don’t really believe He is good.
I don’t really believe He is in control.
I don’t really believe I can trust Him.
I don’t really believe He is capable.
And I don’t really believe He loves me.

And that is what the world hears.
And sees.
And knows.
That while I say good things about this God I serve, this God I worship, this God I claim to love, I must not actually believe it.
Therefore, He must not actually be Who I say He is.
Or worse, He must not be who HE says He is in His Word.

Practical atheism.
Saying one thing.
Doing another.

Saying, “God is big”.
And acting like He is not big enough.

Saying, “God will provide.”
And then spending time and energy trying to figure out how I will fix it.

Saying, “God’s got this.”
And then rushing to micro-manage the circumstances – at least in my head.

Saying, “God, I trust You.”
And then allowing my stomach to churn as I bite my nails and quake in my boots.

Jesus told the disciples “Do not LET your hearts be troubled.”
Paul said, “Do NOT be anxious about ANYTHING.”
Jesus said, “DO NOT WORRY.”

It is a choice.

I have a proven track record of His goodness.
First in His Word.
Then in the history of His people.
And finally, in my own history.

And yet I choose worry.
Choose to try to control it all.
Choose to spend time chasing how I will solve it.
How foolish!
And how badly I represent my Dad when I do.

How much better would it be – and how much better off would I be – if I simply told Him about it all.
Dumped it all, turning it over to His big hands. His capable arms. His enormous capacity.
Letting it go.
And then doing the same thing the next time that thought jumps into my brain.
Every time.
Until it finally lets go of me. And I finally let go of it.

That little girl would look a whole lot more like her Dad if I did that.
And I am sure the world would see the family resemblance and want to know more about it.
Because I would be representing my Dad accurately.
Who He is.
And all I have in Him.

Forgive me, Abba Father, for so badly representing You to the world when I worry. Help me to take every thought captive to You. You deserve my worship, not my worry. Amen.

On Guate, God and How He Brought Me To This Day…

 

Calling to Guatemala

I don’t know how many of you know the story of how I came to be on staff at my church, South Potomac Church, in Maryland.

The story starts when I was 12, when God called me to be a teacher.  By the end of high school, I had a life plan that went something like this: teach in the public school until I got fired for sharing my faith and then teach in a private Christian school or overseas with missionary kids.  (There was a whole other piece to the plan involving marriage and kids but that is a topic for another day…)

As God would have it, I taught for Charles County Public Schools in Maryland for 8 years, walking out that plan and my calling.  Three of those years I was an exchange teacher in Japan, teaching English to middle school students. But as I taught, I got sicker and sicker with horrible sinus infections as well as persistent bronchitis and chronic asthma.  After my 4th sinus surgery, which was within 6 months of my 3rd, the best-in-the-nation doctor at Georgetown told me it was the children, that they were re-infecting me and that I had to get out of the classroom or face a gruesome surgery called a “sinus obliteration”.

So I left the classroom and became a Gifted Resource Teacher for the county – and hated every moment of it because it felt like it was about politics and testing, not kids.  Because I was missing interacting with children, I started doing something I had never done – volunteering in the children’s ministry at my church.  Up until then I had served in almost every other capacity, other than the praise team.  But while I was teaching, I worked with kids all week long and I did not want to work with them on Sundays.   However, that year I was missing the kids, so I started serving in the preschool on Sundays.

Because of that, when the then-children’s pastor told the then-senior pastor in December of 2002 that he was changing jobs, the senior pastor asked, “Who is already here that is your logical replacement?”  And the children’s pastor said, “Kathy.”  The rest is history.  I took the job and officially joined SPC staff August 1, 2003.

Thankfully, my health did improve after I left the classroom.  But in 2005 I made a life-altering discovery – that I have Celiac Disease.  I began to suspect that it was not the children who caused my health issues but instead it was gluten.

I proved that theory this past fall.  God opened the door for me to take a one-year Sabbatical from my church and teach here in Guatemala at the Christian Academy of Guatemala.  My 3rd graders have been sick with all the crud kids carry, including the flu.  However, I have had one cold all year and I was able to easily kick it without meds and without missing any school.

My heart has always been about children: loving them, serving them, drawing them closer to the King and the Kingdom.  But my first love in how to accomplish that has always been the elementary school classroom.  Five days a week pouring into their lives, teaching them, modeling Jesus for them, loving them – that is my dream job.

At the same time, I had been sensing for the past couple years that my role at SPC was going to shift, that it was time for a change.  I had no idea what that looked like – I just knew I had a holy discontent building inside.  When God opened the door to take this Sabbatical, I had thought that perhaps this was the extent of it – an extended break from leadership.

However, God has made it clear that He is giving me back my greatest passion – being a classroom teacher – and mixing it with another great passion, world missions.  Although my time thus far in Guatemala has not been easy, it has been incredibly blessed and very fulfilling.  I have come to realize that I long to stay here as a classroom teacher for as long as God wills.

So as of August 1, 2020, after 17 years on staff, I will be switching roles at SPC from pastoral staff to missionary.  I am in the process of finding a sending agency to join and will begin raising support as soon as possible.  SPC will be my “sending church” and remains my church home.  I will be coming home to Maryland in late May, after school lets out here, to deal with my house, stuff, car and cats.  I will then return in July with the short-term team to go to our Care Point, Bethlehem, with Children’s Hope Chest.  But when the team gets back on the plane August 1, I will head back here to CAG to start a new school year.

I know this is a shock for some of you.  Others have suspected since the beginning that this would happen.  I really had no idea when I came here that God was going to call me here for the foreseeable future.  And yes, I will miss SPC and my family and friends in the U.S.  I already do!  And yet, I know that I will have all of eternity to hang out with you guys.  But being here and teaching at CAG facilitates at least a dozen ministries to happen for the people of Guatemala.  In other words, my impact is exponentially increased while I am doing something I love and was designed to do.  And MKs (missionary kids) have a unique position and set of needs.  They did not choose to be here and for many it is a struggle.  Being here to disciple them, love them, serve them, draw them closer to Jesus and yes, teach them academics – it is a joy.  And it is a joy that positively impacts hundreds of Guatemalans as their parents minister across the area in Jesus’ name.

Thanks in advance for praying for me.  I will keep you posted about the next steps and what God is up to in my life.

Benediciones para ti!

 

 

Hello, Ambassador!

Ambassadors

Ambassador.
That word keeps coming up.

Maybe it is because I am living in a foreign country.
Or maybe it is because I am prepping with a team to do a serving trip to this same country this summer.

But it keeps reoccurring:
I am an ambassador for Christ.

And so are you if you are a Christ-follower.

Think about it:
We are citizens of another country, sent to live in a foreign land, to represent our King and His authority.
Yes, even you who have never left the land of your birth.
Once you accepted Christ as Savior, you became an ambassador for the heavenly Kingdom.

A citizen of heaven.
Living temporarily on earth.
Sent here to represent the King of Kings.

That’s heady enough.
But then there is more.

An ambassador is a plenipotentiary of his or her home country.

Yup.
That’s you.
A plenipotentiary of heaven!

What does that mean?
I am so glad you asked!

Webster’s Dictionary defines it this way:
“a person and especially a diplomatic agent invested with full power to transact business”.

Invested.
With full power.
To conduct business.

The King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Creator of the Universe, the One Who is Above All, In All and Through All, the Great I AM, the One Who Was and Is and Is to Come – that Power, that Head of State – has invested in you.

He has invested time.
Calling you to Himself.
Preparing the way for you to come.
And once you came, pouring into your life.
Teaching you spiritual things.
Guiding you by His Spirit.
Transforming you by His Word.
Teaching you to praise Him.
Teaching you who you are in Him.
Providing all that you need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1).

He is invested in you!
Therefore, you are invested with His power.

And not just any power.
With FULL power.
• The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in you. (Ephesians 1)

• That power will take every part of your life – yes, even your mistakes – and use them for your good and God’s glory. (Romans 8)

• You have the power to fight Satan and all “rulers, authorities, the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6)

• You not only have the power to fight them, you are guaranteed to overcome because the One in you is greater than they are! (I John 4)

• You have been given the ability to praise God, which “silences the foe and the avenger” (Psalm 8)

• And you have been given the Word of God, which is a sharp sword, living, powerful and able to get even to the point of dividing bone from marrow and motive from attitude! (Hebrews 4)

• On top of all that, you have the Spirit of the Living God inside of you, giving you all that you need to “will and to act according to His good purpose”. (Philippians 2)

• And that power at work in you will continue until the day Christ returns! (Philippians 1)

ALL of that – and MORE – is yours as a plenipotentiary of the King!

But that is not all!

He has INVESTED you with FULL power –
so that you can accomplish HIS business!

Yes, you.
Not your pastor.
Not the missionary.
Not your godly grandma or even your neighbor who has it more together.
You.

He has called you.
Invested in you.
Given you full power.
And now expects you to take care of HIS business on this earth.
It’s why He left you here after you got saved.
It’s also what the world desperately needs you to do.

Invest in His business.
Give generously to the local church, His “main office” in your community.
Give of your time, talent and treasure.

Share the gospel extravagantly and often.
Everywhere. To everyone.
Use words as needed.

Consider how you are going to be a part of the “Go into ALL the world” command.
Are you a go-er? Or a sender?
The only thing you cannot be is a non-participant.

Be like Jesus and love the outcast.
The difficult.
The downtrodden.
The forsaken.

Be like Jesus and disciple those in your circle.
Be intentional in friendships.
Share what you have learned with someone further back on the path.

Do His business.
Or, as Jesus prayed in his model prayer, do His “will on earth as it is in heaven”.

After all, that is your real home.
You may have a very nice embassy here on earth.
And you may enjoy lots of benefits of this foreign land.
But it is a temporary assignment.

And one day you will stand before the King of all Kings.
And He will say, “OK, Ambassador. As my plenipotentiary, what did you do with that power I invested in you?”

I hope you have a great answer!
It is never too late to start living one…