Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Rare and Beautiful Treasures

My two precious treasures

One of my favorite possessions is a little green plaque that stands on my entertainment center. The words on it are priceless: "By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures." Proverbs 24: 3-4.

I love that thing. It's really special to me--and not just because my Mom gave it to me. I love it because it reminds me of a valuable principle.

Occasionally I'll look around my house and acknowledge that "Better Homes and Gardens" is never going to feature us. That doesn't often bother me, but every now and then I'll start to imagine what it would be like to have fine furnishings, a housekeeper and an interior decorator. Those feelings usually follow some event that makes me aware of what I'm "missing out on."

This time is was an exquisite bridal shower, held in a gorgeous home and perfectly presented down to the themed and matching hors d'oeuvres. I walked away almost breathless. It was like a fairy tale.

By the time I got home, I was immersed in a full-blown mental drama. Step 1.......Self-pity. "If I didn't have to be in ministry, then I could afford to have a cute house." Step 2......rationalization. "It wouldn't hurt to just spend a little more on decorations. I don't think God expects us to spend everything we have on Him, does He?"

Step 3.......anger. "It's just not fair! Everybody else has pretty things except me. I don't even want to be a missionary anymore!"

Step 4.....my life is in such despair! It's totally hopeless! I'm going to bed!

But as I lay there in absolute dejection, I notice the beautiful Thomas Kinkade picture hanging on my wall. It actually isn't a picture, but rather a jigsaw puzzle made into a picture. It was lovingly pieced and glued together by one of our college students, who wrote a note on the back and framed it. She is now serving in a far-off country, sharing Christ with an unreached people group. I wouldn't trade that picture for anything.

Next to it is a sketch of Jesus' face.....a drawing I made after a really sweet and intense time of fellowship alone with God. Just looking at it brings back those warm and tender feelings that come when God touches my heart in that most intimate and personal way.

Under that sits my nightstand--a hand-me-down from my grandparents. Inside it is my grandmother's Bible--right where it has lived for as long as I can remember.

I have so many wonderful memories of that Bible.....watching Mamaw read it on the couch early in the morning when I got up.... of her carrying it to church each Sunday..... and teaching the ladies in her Bible Study (which she did almost up to the day she died). But my favorite memory is how every morning she would set it on the table, right next to my grandfather's plate, and before we began to eat we would start the day in the Word of God.

That worn Bible, with it's ragged cover and tattered pages is one of my greatest treasures. Next to it I have some of my Dad's prayer journals.....written during trying years on the mission field. Inside are gut-wrenching, honest prayers filled with joy, pain, thanksgiving, and even questioning. Those journals are priceless.

There are so many heirlooms that I've gained from my godly heritage......riches far greater than any material inheritance I could ever receive.

I notice a scripture verse scribbled on a scrap of paper and taped above the light switch in my room. That's something handed down from my Mom, too. I remember finding memory verses stuck all around our house when I was little--on the mirror, the back of the door, above the kitchen sink.....wherever she was likely to be spending a lot of time. The amazing thing is that I still remember many of those verses!

As I study the items in my house, I realize what a vast storehouse of riches are all around me. International dolls cover the mantle, and prayer maps are taped to the dining room wall....symbols of a desire to see God's glory spread throughout the nations.

Pictures of my kids smile back at me from every room. What a sacred gift they are to me!

One wall of my kitchen is entirely covered with painting, drawings, and sculptings.....all made by my children. On my refrigerator are letters that Living has sent from Tanzania, along with photos of all the people who have touched our lives.

Even our old, dilapidated furniture is priceless in its own way. As a child, I loved to hear my parents tell of how God miraculously provided the items in our house--and usually just in the nick of time! Now we have our own stories to tell--of a couch given to us by a dear friend when we literally had nothing to sit on, and a table found by students and brought to us when we first arrived in Pennsylvania. I can't think of a single piece of furniture we've actually had to buy. That's how amazing God has been to us!!!

When people come to our house, they may see rooms filled with hodge-podge, mismatched decorations. But from where I sit, I see a home overflowing with rare and beautiful treasures. So.......I think I'll just keep things the way they are. Martha Stewart......eat your heart out!

Wow! It's been a while!

I can't believe it's been so long since I last posted. But so much has been happening here in Pittsburgh that I don't even know where to begin. Here's a picture of our first day as a church meeting in the new space.

Sometimes I feel like we're on a whitewater raft going down adventure river. The way is winding and pitched, making the journey thrilling and even a little scary. We never know what to expect, or what may be waiting for us around the next bend. But we wouldn't trade it for anything.

For example.....who would have thought three years ago that we'd not only have an established campus ministry, but also be planting a church in Oakland? Or that we'd be sending out our first two missionaries.......borrowing the PBC baptistry three different times.......moving into the Connections coffeehouse for large group worship......and starting multiple house churches.......in just eight months of being a church?

We look back and are still amazed. Only God could have done this. We have no idea how our support money keeps coming in, apart from the faithfulness of God. We had no clue how to start a campus ministry OR a church.....and yet God continues to grow and build them both. We didn't even know if we would like this city.....and yet we've fallen in love with Pittsburgh and our community.

Thanks for all your prayers. Thanks for fighting for us. There have been some tough moments. But as we look back and see what God has done, we can't help but be thankful.

"God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." (1 Corinthians 1:9)