Sunday, July 29, 2012

For Such A Time As This

Thank you for praying for Jim's journey...he made it home safely :)
 Now, if you want to hear a God story......he couldn't drive all through the night so he slept a few hours at a gas station/rest stop.  He was about 1/2 hour from home and stopped in a gas station-saw a gal with an Italian city written on her arm-realized she was a foreigner.  She was alone,  had her wallet stolen, and had to hitch-hike her way around  while busking ( you play an instrument and people put money in your case) to have money to eat.
She spent the last two nights sleeping outside in Venice and today 'just happened' to decide to leave Venice and head south.

Of course, being a father of three girls, and this gal happens to be the same age as our youngest...Jim couldn't leave her there.  He phones me and tells me the situation.  I asked if he was sure she wasn't a scammer and he felt such a peace about her and that she wasn't making the story up.  Well, a couple things-number one, we have a rule that no gals ever drive alone with Jim.   We learned this in the ministry a long time ago that it isn't something you should do.    Two, no matter how much peace you might have, there is still that one part that is a little nervous-especially for me.
I told him ok-bring her home.  Thankfully I had cleaned house yesterday.  Actually, I was mopping at 1:00am because I couldn't sleep lol!!  I had my shower and was dressed, knowing Jim would be coming home shortly so at least me and the house were prepared.

Twenty minutes go by and a little bit of panic starts to set in....that .05% of fear....wondering if he was being set up, someone might follow them to our home, etc.   My imagination was going a bit bizurk.  If you are a regular reader here, you know how easy it is for me to get my mind going :)
Anyway, they arrived here and I just looked at her and felt so sad for her.  Of course I can't help thinking like a Mom and just wanted to hug her-but I had to hold back so as not to scare her.
Now she's here-a hoarse voice, hungry and thankful for a place to stay and able to have a shower.

What's neat is that today is the day that the Calvary Chapels around here have a picnic and baptism.  It's always a great time together and I was sad that we weren't going to be able to go.  But God....He had another plan and there are so many little things that happened to orchestrate the circumstances of this gal being here.  Jim never stops where he stopped, she wasn't even planning on being at that gas station, we don't do the guy/gal driving thing and we even had a phone charger that worked for her dead phone.
I am in awe of how God works.  He takes ordinary days and makes them extraordinary.
Of course me being me, I did write a note to my friend to tell her what was happening and to pray and if she didn't hear from us she would know something was up-but I laughed at myself after reading it and decided not to send it....Miss Paranoia.  :)

I don't condone breaking rules, but in this case we knew it was okay.
Please pray for this gal and that we will shine the love of Jesus into her life-that she would see how much He cares for her and was watching over her.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Fear Of the Unknown

I had intended to write more on things I learned about the Unknown Soldier and other lessons from our trip to Arlington Center.  It will have to wait til later on as my heart has been so heavy these past few days with something else.
We have all experienced fear and know the grip that it can have on our lives.  Fear is a topic of many books, sermons and conversations with friends.  It is real and yet it is something that as Christians, we have been told we can overcome.  Fear expresses itself in many ways-sadness, tears, anger at times because we don't know how to express what we are feeling, and withdrawal.

The past month or so there has been so much sickness and death among people I know.  Some I know better than others.  Some were acquaintances, some friends, some parents of friends I am close with.  Sicknesses with children, newborns, friends diagnosed with cancer and so on.
The other day I awoke to yet one more note of someone who is my own age who suddenly died.  Someone who served the Lord faithfully on the mission field.  The beginning of the month we found out another pastor friend, only 36 yrs. old with a lovely wife and 4 beautiful children just died suddenly.  No warnings for these people or their families.  In one moment they left this earth to begin spending eternity with Jesus.  In one moment, their family and loved ones lives were changed forever.  The summer plans, the kisses, the hugs, the snuggles, the joys they cherished and the tears they would shed together were to be no more.  We know it, we hear about it, we at times think about it-death comes without warning so many times.

My mind had already been wandering the other week about our life.   Two people in their 50's serving the Lord on the mission field.  Every now and then, I think because we are getting older, I  think about the future and what might happen.  We all know that can be the worst thing in the world to do!  Oh how imaginative our minds can be.  Often, I would find myself in tears just because I would be sitting down and letting my thoughts go and next thing you know I am picking out songs for my funeral, wondering who would be in attendance and would they say nice things about me......please tell me I am not the only nutty one that does this!!!!
When Jim and I were called to serve on the mission field I was 40 yrs old and he was 44.  We had a business and he worked very, very hard.  He is not a lazy person and though obviously not perfect, he is an extremely hard worker and ran a successful construction business for quite a few years.  Towards the end, things got difficult, but he continued to press on and looking back, we see how the Lord was allowing all of this to be taken away so that it was easier to say yes to His call to go.  Our business was a union company-I say that only to emphasis what we once had.  Insurance-medical, dental, vision....any doctor of our choosing.  We had a pension -didn't necessarily  mean anything to me back then because the future is always so far away.  But, now.....oh how that word means so much more.

We were called to the mission field 6 months prior to Jim being 'vested' in the union.  That means that if he worked for 6 more months our pension would be full and upon retirement we would receive the full amount. Six months!!!  Half a year....I didn't know all this at the time.  You see how God keeps me in the dark so I don't flip out :)  Honestly it would have been so much more difficult to leave when we did had I known this.  I probably would have nagged Jim so badly to just stay with it six more months and then we could go.  It wouldn't have been a good situation.

You grow up being told to work hard, don't cheat, don't lie, don't steal.  Do well and prepare for your future.  If you work hard all your life you will be able to enjoy retirement-that's the thinking you grow up with.  We all know it doesn't always work that way does it?  So many unexpected things happen-especially nowadays in the economy we have.  The future has become all the more unpredictable.  Sometimes it's easy to feel like you are a failure-that you have nothing to show for your life.  You don't have the bank accounts, you don't have the means to provide for your children or grandchildren the way you wished you could and you have nothing to leave them for the future.  Okay-I am just being brutally honest right now so don't worry-you don't have to feel sorry for us- :)  I don't think these feelings are just for people on the mission field either-many go through this.

While in Hungary, we had a couple visit us for an evening.  A Pastor and his wife from New Jersey were visiting different Calvary Chapels and they came to meet us too.   He began to share how he was a police officer for many years and a year before he would be fully vested or whatever it is called in that field, God called him to be a full time Pastor-to leave his job and follow Him.  I cannot tell you how much that has comforted me through these times of the unknown.  I see their lives and see how they hold onto Jesus and trust and follow Him and it sets my heart and mind at ease.  I see what the Lord can do.
I have found myself thinking a lot lately about all of the 'what ifs'.  What will happen to us as we get older?    Everything is so focused on the young and being hip these days you wonder if you will fit in much longer if you don't have those qualities about you.

When we got married, Jim asked me not to work outside of the home.  It was really hard for me because I had worked for many years and was a very independent person.  We didn't marry until I was 27 yrs. old so I had plenty of years of work and made pretty good money for a single gal.  But, I agreed and am very thankful that I could stay home and raise our daughter for all those years.  There were times I wanted to at least go and work part-time, but it seemed I was pretty busy with plenty of other things.
Needless to say, my resume isn't one that would be pleasing to the eye for any company if I had to go and apply for a job nowadays.

I get worried at times-wondering what if something happened to Jim and he was gone-what would I do?  How would I survive?  I have no skills to work anywhere.  I honestly can get into a tizzy thinking about stuff like this.  It becomes so necessary to trust completely in the Lord.  To know His faithfulness, His love and His promise that He will never leave nor forsake us.
There are times Jim and I chat about the future and I tell him that if I were to die first he could continue on-he could still be a Pastor and do what he does.  But if it was the other way around, what in the world would I do....where would I would I survive?  Of course my husband just looks at me, smiles and says...'oh don't worry honey, you can find another husband'...really????  Not the answer I was looking for dear!

I don't know why I really wrote all this-hopefully it doesn't sound so morbid.  I suppose that it's just another aspect of life and part of what we really go through at times.  I don't want to live in fear of the unknown, of the future.  I want to keep my eyes on my Savior.  Knowing that He has called us, He will be faithful.  He will take care of us no matter what.  In Him is perfect peace.  In Him is all the fullness of joy for each and ever circumstance.  In Him, there is no fear because perfect love has cast out all fear and He is perfect love!
Thanks for bearing with me today :)  I guess it doesn't help that Jim is away for a couple of days so it gives me extra time to think about such things.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Lessons Learned -Unknown Soldier

I have meant to write about this for awhile now but something always comes up-heat, pain, or won't say which one has the louder voice :)
Back in May, we were so blessed to go to VA to visit with Doug and Rose and with that, we were able to tour much of Washington, DC.  It was an amazing trip.  Living abroad for so many years and seeing all the different sites in different countries can cause you to forget a bit how much richness in culture and beauty there is in our very own country.  It was good to go back and have the opportunity to see our country's capitol and all the history that goes with it.  I fell in love with it there.  It's probably safe to say that I drove my daughter and husband crazy with how many times I told them how much I enjoyed being on the East Coast!
One of the days we were there we set out to the National Cemetery and to see the Tomb Of the Unknown Soldier.  I remember when I was just a young child and we lived in Philadelphia our parents took us to DC and I remember standing there watching the changing of the guard.  Truthfully, at the time, it was probably not so exciting standing there watching these guys in uniform move about so slowly just to change positions-but we all know that once we grow up, we learn to appreciate things so much more.
That was the case with this visit.
I was first struck by the inscription on the tomb itself:
(Here rests in honored glory an American Soldier known but to God)
My heart was overwhelmed as I read this and my eyes welled up in tears.  How true those words ring out.  My mind immediately thought about the truth of that statement.  Unknown to others-but known to God.  How many soldiers fought and still fight in wars today who are unknown to most of us.  We can read about those that died in battle and have no idea who they are or what their lives were like.  But, again, God knows.
They were fighting the fight regardless of who knew or didn't know them.  They had a purpose, a calling, a duty and they were faithful to that.  
I started thinking about us as Christians.  The Bible speaks about us in some verses as soldiers, as being members of the Lord's Army.   Each of us followers of Christ are engaged in a battle.  Each of us has a duty, a position, a calling upon our lives.  
There are many, many people who serve the Lord so faithfully who are not known to men.  They aren't on the list of  "who's who" in Christian circles.  They don't get asked to speak or preach, write books about serving the Lord, or any other such public thing-they just serve the Lord faithfully as they are called to do.

I thought about the soldier who was/is alone on the battlefield.  Perhaps he was the one watching his buddies opening letters from home, receiving care packages from loved ones and he just sat there, trying to smile, holding back the tears wishing so badly that there would be such a letter or package arriving with his name on it.  But none ever came.  Again, my thoughts went to the Missionary or Missionary family who is serving and no one knows about them, no one sends them encouraging notes or makes sure their children have some new clothes to wear.  
I wondered if the soldier grew weary.  Did he tire of serving and find himself asking if it was worth it-or did he have that purpose in mind, that goal, that passion inside his heart to know that no matter what, he knew what he was fighting for and the loneliness was worth it.  Did he ever lie awake at night wondering why he got overlooked for the promotion or the 'easier work' or was he just thankful to have been able to give his all to serve his country.  Was it difficult to hold back the tears when he sat around with his buddies and heard them talk about his family and how much they miss him or did he rejoice when they rejoiced? 

Like the soldier, we can face similar circumstances.  We can find ourselves always hearing about how great everyone else's ministries are doing while yours is struggling.  We can battle loneliness and long to be with those we love and miss so much.  We can be around other Christians, other missionaries and hear about how God is blessing them, how He is providing this and that for them and hold back the tears wishing it was us.  But like the soldier, we have a choice-we have a choice to keep our focus on the goal, to count it a privilege to be serving the Lord, to rejoice with our friends as they share what the Lord is doing in their ministries or how He has provided materially for them. 
Let's not worry about who knows of us or who doesn't.  Let's not get caught up in wanting to make a name for ourselves within certain circles of people.  Like the solider, we need to keep our focus on the duty that is set before us regardless of who knows our name.  

So, dear friend, do you feel alone today, do you feel like you are serving in the Lord's army and no one knows who you are, no one knows of the work you are doing?  Don't let discouragement overtake you.  Unbeknownst to man, but you are known by God!

In the end, it doesn't really matter if we were known to man in this life.  In the end, all that will matter is that we were known but to God.  
And in the end, it won't matter how many books were written, how many sermons were preached, what the financial status was, how many people greeted you by name as you walked into a conference.  What will matter was our call and if we were faithful to it.  What will matter is seeing Jesus face to face and having His arms reaching out to us and looking us in the eyes and saying  "Well done, my good and faithful servant"

I have a bit more to share from this experience but will save that for later in the week :)

Monday, July 2, 2012

July Update

Greetings from scorching hot Padova! From what we've been reading, this is the norm in many places all over the world right now. I arrived back to Italy last week and as soon as we stepped outside of Venice airport, we were greeted with a blast of humidity. Quite a difference from the beautiful weather in San Diego!!! Despite the weather, it is good to be back in Italy.
 It was pure joy to see everyone while we were away. Meeting our two grandsons was awesome and seeing our little princess was wonderful. Marla graduated college and is now working 3 jobs part time-she's a trooper-we are very proud of her!! Rosalyn and Christina are doing well and it's fun to watch them be Mommys now. We're thankful for all of them! It was good seeing and hanging out with our family after such a long time-everyone is growing up, graduating, having babies-it's fun to see! It was a special treat to be able to there for Mother's Day and Father's Day too.
 We were truly blessed on our trip-being able to go to VA to spend time with Doug and Rose and tour DC. We had the opportunity to meet the church body there and meet some really neat people. We thank them for a fantastic trip! Also, we spent some time in Modesto which was a very special time for both of us. It is always a joy to see friends and see the faces of those who faithfully pray for us and of course to meet new people too. We were able to spend some time visiting at CC Santa Barbara too. Not enough time, but we cherish the time we did have there. Of course being at CC Vista is always a treat...home sweet home and a place of refuge and refreshment.
It was nice to come back to some good news here-the couple many of you have been praying for, Greg and Alice, have found a flat to move into in Padova. They are to sign the contract next Sunday. This is a HUGE answer to prayer!! We have been praying alongside of them for them to be in Padova. It is going to be wonderful having them here to minister with, pray with and fellowship with. I have really had a difficult three years not having any women around that I can hang out with here on a regular basis. It was really a drought in my life that was getting unbearable. Praising God that He has answered this prayer! They both have the hearts of evangelists and desire to reach out to the university students.
While we were in the states Jim was able to meet with an attorney and get all the paperwork completed for his Italian Citizenship. Everything went well at the Consulate Office and we are waiting for his Italian Birth Certificate which will allow him to get his Italian Passport. I will have to do my paperwork from here but at least it can be done!
We are praying to rent a building closer to town soon. Where we are located is not very convenient to the city center. The bus schedule isn't very good on Sundays and it isn't near the train station. We spend a lot of time Sunday mornings before and after church shuttling people to and from the station to church. It would be much better to have a place close to the city where people can get to the church easier. Right now we use the Community Building and don't have to pay for it. They are probably going to start charging soon so it would be better to move somewhere else since we would have to pay anyway. Please pray that God would provide the funds for this. We aren't looking for something huge, but something with visibility and convenience. Some places we looked at are about 1200.00 per month.
 Jim's been asked to play a couple of concerts this summer. Lino, the guy who manages the park here in Padova, has asked him several times to play-he will even give him a band to play with. Jim's been meeting with him weekly since coming back and it's neat to see a friendship develop between them. He is also going to Hungary and Serbia in August to play a couple of concerts.

As some of you know, I had to extend my stay in the states a couple of weeks. My back pain was getting to the point where I was having a lot of trouble standing up after a period of time. Thanks to a friend, I was able to go see a great Orthopedic Doctor. After viewing my X-rays, he gave me the news about my back. In 2007, I was diagnosed with Osteoporosis, being told my bones were like an 82 yr old-so I knew already that my back was bad. The X-rays showed that my bottom disc is gone so bone is rubbing on bone causing major pain. The nerve roots are also being squished which will eventually cause the pain to shoot down my legs. The upper part of my back is also showing signs of degenerative discs and bone starting to show through. I also have severe arthritis in upper and lower back. you know how to pray for me. I have to take it easy, surgery is pretty likely unless God chooses to heal everything or just make the pain bearable. Obviously I am not going to just sit around-things need to be done, so I am going to look into different exercises that might help and also seeing about the possibility of joining one of the places around town that has a heated pool so I can swim.
Well, that about sums up the last couple of months. Please keep us and Padova in your prayers. We always appreciate it and love hearing from you when you have time to write.
 Much love,
Jim and Margie
 Things to be praying for:
Greg and Alice's move
Alice and Bethany's pregnancies....Bethany is due in August, Alice in September
Greg's work to give him a contract -he needs this for insurance purposes, etc
Funding for a new church building
Air conditioning in our car broke-I know it's materialistic, but we still ask :)
Vision and direction for reaching the people in Padova
My meeting with the ladies in Vicenza-being able to reach out to the US Military wives at the base there
Continued filling of the Holy Spirit God's wisdom, guidance and strength with our church body Saved lives in Padova