The Part about being a Fake Missionary… where I get to do things I love…

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Photo on 05-07-2013 at 11.19 #2

This week I bought a ukulele. I did a little research and I found some shops within a reasonable distance that sell ukes (as those of us who love them like to call them). I decided to buy an alto (or “concert”) ukulele. It’s just a couple inches longer than the soprano ukulele and has a fuller sound. And so I did it. I bought a ukulele at a music shop not far from here.

When I was a little girl I had a ukulele. I saved up $10 and I bought it from the Sears catalogue. I loved it. However, in time that ukulele ended up on a shelf in the closet, and one day it was gone (I hate to blame my mother for that, but since I have trouble throwing away anything, I have to believe that she got rid of it-without asking me!).

So I bought a ukulele – and since then I’ve learned something remarkable. There is a whole ukulele culture out there (and when I say “out there” I mean, right here!). There are websites and clubs and people who meet up every week to play the ukulele. There are ukulele orchestras – here in Ireland! Even more wonderful than all of this, at the end of August there will be a two-day “Ukulele Hooley” just a few miles up the coast.

So much of the work I do is finding new ways to meet people, and to get involved in the community around me. And now I find there is a whole community right here that I knew nothing about.

I bought a ukulele, and it makes me smile.

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Faithful

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Tomorrow is Father’s Day, and I’ve been thinking about my Dad.

My dad lived by this verse…

Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.  1 Corinthians 4:2

My Dad always endeavored to be faithful – as a child/servant of God, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a friend, a pastor.  He would say that he was not always so, but that was his desire.

People remember him that way.  People tell me how they admired him and loved him for being faithful.  I love that too.  I miss more than that.

I miss the smell of Pepsi and pretzels on his breath when he would come up to kiss me good night.

I miss the sound of his voice singing, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His Holy name…” as he walked through the office, the house, a parking lot, a hardware store, a campsite…

I miss the man who carried me back to bed after I’d had a bad dream- knees creaking, banging into the walls in his own sleep dazed state.

I miss the man who taught me to drive on Grandpa’s farm in the desert.

I miss the man who always made sure I had a dime for a phone call when I left the house; who punished me for fighting with my sister; who was at every high school waterski trip, and who taught most of my friends to ski.

I miss the man who sometimes lost his temper; who left me notes and told me he loved me; who gave me wise counsel that I didn’t always follow.

I miss him.  And while missing him is not as gut-wrenching as it used to be, I will always miss him – until we are together again in eternity.  So for now I smile and cry and laugh when I think of him.  I am profoundly grateful for my Dad.

When he died, his grandchildren said things like this – things that make me cry and smile now:

“You would give me a hug, a kiss on the top of my head, and ask me how I was almost every time I saw you.”

“… spending Christmas day together, reading the Christmas story, opening gifts and eating all day… I really liked it that he came to lots of my games… I always knew that he loved me and was always willing to help me if I needed it.”

“I will remember you always smelled like sunscreen and chapstick.”

“The way he always used to hum.”

“The way I was the only one special while talking to him.”

“… Called me Fred…liked to sleep in the hammock… liked to hug… He loved me.”

“He liked to call me his little red headed girl. He loved to give me big hugs…”

“He liked to hug me.  He liked to hold me…He loves me.”

The night before he died he brought his new boat over to the house where I was living (where my parents were planning to move soon).  After getting the boat parked and the canopy set up over it just right he told me, “Kathi, I love you more than I love my boat, so I’d hate to have to kill you if you back your car into it.”   I miss that man… the man who made me laugh.

All of my life, my Daddy prayed, “Dear Jesus, help Kathi to know how much you love her.”

I am thankful for my Dad, who faithfully mirrored for me the love of God.

Tomorrow is Father’s Day.  For me, it will always be about him.

An Unexpected Invitation

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About two months ago I was invited to a barbecue.   The shortened version of the invitation read like this:

BBQ

Saturday, May 25th

Kathi’s house

Kathi has plenty of space if anyone wants to sleep over…

As I read this I laughed out loud, my mind began to race and I had to ask myself the question, “Did I know about this?  Did I forget this?”  I was fairly confident that this was new information to me, as I had no recollection at all of a related conversation (other than “we should have another barbecue…”).  I checked my calendar and responded that I would be free and able to attend the barbecue at my house on the 25th.  (The one who issued the invitation then sent his first apology, followed by two more apologies… at which point I told him to stop.) 

Something about this invitation delighted me, and I’ve come to see it as a gift- a gift given that I receive with deep gratitude.  This is evidence of God’s unfailing kindness to a transplanted Californian who longs for connectedness and values deep friendship and misses family.

I am grateful.

I am grateful for friends who invite me to a barbecue at my own house, and know they will be welcome.  And Saturday night, as my house was full of people and laughter and friends who stayed, I accepted that moment as a gift to me – God’s unfailing kindness.

My life is full of such gifts:

– A friend in the North who speaks truth to me and gives me hot drinks in a cold house, a bed for the night, and her presence in my life.  A gift.

– A two-year-old boy, whose face lights up when he sees me, releases his mum’s hand and trots right over to give me a kiss.  A gift.

– Sitting in my back garden when the sun is shining, with a friend who has come by, laughing and talking and crying – alternatively.  A gift.

– Standing, digging, planting alone in a garden in the rain and feeling deep joy.  A gift.

And I am thankful.  I am thankful that when I don’t believe that I am worthy of these gifts, when I don’t believe in the sincerity of the regard I receive or that I am, in fact, delightful – I am thankful that the Holy Spirit teaches me the truth of Jeremiah 31:3 “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you [to myself] with unfailing kindness…” And when it says, “If you, then… know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)  He is talking about me, His child.

He is inviting me to a barbecue, in my own house – and coming to stay.  He is whispering truth to me, and giving me rest and hot drinks in a cold house, and greeting me with delight… and when it rains, He gives me joy.

And, I made pie. Pie should always be shared.  People to share pie with.  A gift.

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An Undivided Heart

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Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth;  give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.  I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; and I will glorify your name forever.  Psalm 86:11, 12

My heart is undivided.  I want to know God’s way and walk in His truth.  I’m not tempted to follow any other path.  I fear His name.  I want to praise Him with all my heart and glorify His name forever.  When I read these verses, as I did today, my heart leaps and responds and confirms these things within me.

Sometimes though, I forget how MUCH I want these things.  I forget that this really is the most important thing in my life.  I forget to feel the urgency about it.  And then I get distracted and I get caught up in other things that are not bad things – but don’t really take me any farther along the path of walking in His truth or fearing His name.  I don’t walk away from Him so much as I begin to dawdle.  I forget to keep up.

And I get tired.  Tonight I want to be profound.  It’s a lot of pressure.  However, I could very easily put my head down and fall asleep.

So I’ll just say it again, as a reminder…

Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.  I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; and I will glorify your name forever.  Psalm 86:11,12

Specifically unspecific…

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This week I read again a verse in Genesis that is always reassuring to me. In Gen. 12:1 the Lord says to Abram, “Leave your country, your people, and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” That’s all the information Abram had. “Go to the land I will show you.” And Abram did it – left his country, his people, and his father‘s household.

It reminds me of a similar command that Jesus gave to some fishermen. “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matt. 4:19) They didn’t hesitate. They didn’t stop to ask – Fishers of men? What? It says in vs. 20 that “At once they left their nets and followed Him.”

This is reassuring to me because sometimes God asks us to be a part of something – a short term missions trip, an encounter in a market, a visit to a hospital, a job change, a call to full time ministry- and He doesn‘t seem to give us enough information. We don’t always know why He wants us to go, or how we will fit into His plan once we get there. Sometimes we don’t understand what He is calling us to do. He just says “Go.” As we are willing to move forward, He opens up the way and makes the path straight.

When I was in college I went on a backpacking trip and we spent one day rock climbing and rappelling (abseiling). I remember the rappelling particularly because I was expected to stand on the edge of a cliff and lower my body out over the side until my feet and legs were perpendicular to the rock face. I can see the purpose of that – my legs kept my face from smashing against the cliff wall as I descended. Still, it was a very unsettling feeling to lean back and lower myself over the edge. I get that same feeling when God says, “Leave behind everything that you know, and go to the place I will show you.”

Sometimes God doesn’t tell us what lies ahead. Sometimes He tells us where we are going, but not what will happen when we get there. Sometimes He tells us what He will do, but we don’t understand (fishers of men?). Sometimes we have to lower ourselves off the side of the cliff and trust that the ropes will hold, and that our Partner won’t let us slip, and that this really is the right place and position to be in. When we’ve done that, then we can say with Moses, “Now show me Your glory.” (Ex. 33:18)

By way of Explanation…

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Many more years ago than I would like to think, I spent two years in Guatemala teaching at a school for missionary kids. (See?  Here I am in Guatemala with cute little Kirsten – who, after this photo was taken, went ahead and grew up… but still cute.)

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While I was there I wrote the following little essay – from which we get the name of this blog.  I have reproduced it faithfully, even though there are a few lines that now embarrass me.

Confessions of a Fake Missionary

When I first signed on, I have to admit, I thought I was really going to be a missionary.  I know it sounds kind of crazy, but I really had that desire.  I thought that I was sincere.  I didn’t know just how wrong I was.
What does it mean to be a missionary?  Everybody knows the missionary requirements.  I knew them myself.

  1. Go overseas.
  2. Leave your family.
  3. Leave your friends. (In other words, suffer on alone.)
  4. Leave your home. (Literally:  Live in a hut.)
  5. No telephone.
  6. Mail comes every couple of months when the plane drops supplies.
  7. Ride a  mule.
  8. Prepare to be devoured by swarms of bugs.
  9. You will have to wear long sleeves and high necks, or typical clothing in unbearably hot weather.
  10. Expect no diversions.
  11. Communication will be a barrier.
  12. Take lots of slide film.

*Note:  Single, female missionaries earn more jewels than any other kind.  Especially if they are ugly.

It seems simple enough.  A truly dedicated missionary should have no problem dealing with these few simple, guidelines.  To obey may be better than sacrifice, but to obey AND sacrifice is to be truly holy.

With this inspiring image before me, I set forth with a firm desire to suffer in the ends of the earth.  Can I be blamed that God is gracious and merciful?  How was I to foresee that my plans for martyrdom were inconsequential in His greater plan for my life?

So begins my tale of woe.  A tale of one woman’s descent from potential missionary heroine, to a missionary fraud.

The first condition, of course, is to go oversees.  And there, ironically enough, I encountered my first failure. It all seems so ridiculous now.  I don’t know why I didn’t see it at the time.  I believed that a Latin American country would count.  They speak a different language, the people struggle with poverty and unjust governments – it seemed the right thing.  I overlooked the key word:  American.  It wasn’t overseas at all!  On the contrary, it is nothing more than a little jump south of my home in California.  I might as well have gone to San Diego.

The next three requirements I thought I had under control.  I left my mother crying at the airport in Los Angeles.  And, forsaking all others, I flew all night to arrive in Guatemala City at 5:30 AM.  I was alone.  My living situation was unknown.  Yet, not only was I met by friends at the airport, I soon made new friends.  To top it all off, two months later my sister and her family returned to Guatemala to live within miles of me, and I have since been visited by every other member of my family.  The house I moved into was not only furnished, but had a phone (requirement #5) and hot water.

The mail comes three times a week, and I have a car.  Though at first there were savage gnats whose bites left sores that remained for two weeks, they have disappeared with the season.  At times it seems we are overrun by cockroaches, but my niece takes pleasure in stomping on them.  The weather is strangely akin to that of Southern California, and no one expects me to wear long sleeves (Though when I go into the country I am expected to where a skirt, and little make-up or jewelry.).

Often times I catch myself having fun.

One consolation:  The language does remain something of a barrier, though even there I am making strides.  Yet, bitterly enough, my teaching is done in English (which continues to be my first language).  And while I remain single, I am certain that I am not quite ugly enough to make up for all these other shortcomings.

I have taken no slides.

How much more obvious can it be that I am not really a missionary at all?  We can only continue to hope that God will be able to use me in spite of myself.  Is anything impossible with God?