Friday, February 6, 2015

It's All in the Name

Recently, I was asked to look into the meaning of my name and here is what I discovered.  Patricia Anne Schell can really be described as Noble, Gracious and...LOUD!  Noble and gracious are pretty great characteristics to have but loud... Now, that's just troublesome. 
  This forced me to take the time to dig into its meaning and look for some redeeming factor that might be attached to this sometimes offensive word.  Loud means strongly audible; having exceptional volume or intensity; clamorous, vociferous (Who uses that anyway?), blatant, and noisy. 
 Of all those definitions, clamorous caught my eye. This word describes something-- or somebody, in this case-- marked by clamor; a vehement expression of desire. This is one attribute I want to embrace. This is where my heart lies when it comes to writing. 
 My passion when composing anything is for God's work in our world and our lives will be intensely evident to the reader. I want to witness God's goodness and glory in words that demand a response. So, as it turns out, loud is exactly what I choose to be. In fact, when I write, I plan to keep raising a ruckus in a most noble and gracious way, of course. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God's power for salvation to everyone who believes...” Romans 1:16

Monday, February 17, 2014

Mission: Love Thy Neighbor

Recently, I received an article from a friend.  It contain some pictures of place I had been when on a prayer walk in Syria some years ago.  The images were before and after shots showing the devastation that has taken place during the conflict there. My heart broke for the people who had lived their lives in these neighborhoods.

I am not sure that I have ever experienced this situation before.  Never have I been somewhere that has later been destroyed. My feet had walked the streets that now in ruins. I had once bartered with merchants whose shops are now bombed out and empty. I had eaten in these now tumbled down restaurants that were once full of people who were enjoying their evening meals. It had been a safe, peaceful and secure place when I visited.

The Old Souk in AleppoMy prayers go out to this community. It is natural to feel sad for what has happened in their land but it was more than that for me. I drank tea with these people and listened to their stories. I was invited into their homes and shared in their family life.  That is what sets traveling and mission trips apart. Traveling lets you experience the place with all its sights and sounds but a mission is all together different. It allows you to experience the people. And that is exactly what has happen each time I have set out on a mission. I found this to be true in Syria and in every other place God has landed my feet for his purposes. It  makes the world smaller as you discover how much alike you are and how much in common you share. When you realize how the hopes and dreams of those you come in contact with look a whole lot like your own, compassion begins to build and a connection starts to grow.  One woman I met in Tajikistan said it this way, "We may not know each other's language but our hearts will understand one another perfectly." This has been my experience every time I have said, "Yes" to joining God where He is working.

Many of you who are reading this have become part of a mission by either going or supporting someone who was with finances and prayers. If you have never participated in any of these things do try one of them soon. Also try seeking out and listening to the stories of people who have traveled on a mission trip. The wealth they will share with you cannot be gained any other way. Compassion is gained by hearing and knowing and experiencing others and how they live. Your life will be better for it when get to know about people and communities outside of your own. Knowledge brings understanding. Add that to compassion and you have very powerful tools in making us better at loving our neighbor. Don't put off this kind of love a moment longer. Join a mission.

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion...For the whole law is fulfilled in on word:
 "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Colossians 3:12; Galatians 5:14

Please take a look at the full article that shows the devastation in Syria.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Immersed in Language Learning

Ah...language learning. I have desired for a long time to know more than just English. I have bought the programs, gone to the classes and tried to be totally immersed but have never progressed much farther than “Hello” and “Good bye” and “Where is the bathroom?” Its tough! I have found that I can understand and read a foreign language far sooner than I can speak it. And when I do speak, it is pretty much sounds like 'baby talk'.

I am currently working on gaining some understanding in German for my up coming trip to that country. I have moved beyond Guten Tag and Auf Wierdersehen (although I have yet to learn, “Where is the bathroom?) and now am working on the familial terms- Mutter, Vater, Bruder, Schwester. Oh, and don't forget Baby. Yes, that is German for... baby. I'm liking this part. Not much different from our English pronunciation. I'm starting to get it! This ist gut!

One thing I've noticed in the German language is that all the nouns start with a capital. You can recognize them for what they are- people, places or things. In my English speaking mind this capitalization thing now elevates everything to special status. You remember the rule from grammar school- All Important Persons, Places or Things Always Start with a Capital. Now, the ordinary words of life seem to taken on a new significance. No longer just a plain, old cat but rather a Cat is found in its place. Much grander and full of importance by the little addition of the uppercase C, don't you think?

All kidding aside, whether or not Cat seems to take on more value simply because it starts with a big C, I have found when I start to prepare to venture out and follow Jesus insignificant things seem to take on special meaning. 'Chance' meetings, random bits of trivia and words of wisdom heard from a mentor or read from the Scriptures all come up Capitals. It is though God has pushed the cap's lock JUST SO I WOULD KNOW THESE THINGS ARE IMPORTANT.

It is said that when you return from a mission's trip you will see the world through different eyes. I believe the moment you turn to follow Jesus on a new mission your focus begins to sharpen. You see each event as significant. Each word important. Each moment valuable. Joy begins to seep in as you see the Lord's hand even in what seem to be minuscule scribbles of life. It is a rather wonderful place to be, alongside Jesus watching him communicate his words of LOVE to the world. Now, that's one language I want to speak fluently. I'm going for the total immersion method.

You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence
and the pleasures of living with you forever.
Psalm 16:11

Here's is your random bit of information--

The term”uppercase” and “lowercase” actually came from the movable type printing press. You know, one like what Johannes Gutenberg perfected in Germany. At the time, the letter blocks themselves were stored in specially designed boxes called cases. By convention, the cases containing the capital letters was stored above the case containing the smaller versions of the letters. If one single case had compartments for all the letters, the capitals were stored in the back so that when the case was set upright, angled, they were higher, hence “uppercase” and “lowercase”.

  • If you would like to learn a bit of language for yourself check out the Duolingo app for your phone or tablet.  It's free and a whole lot of fun.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Knit Together: Encouraged in Heart and United in Love

A marvelous time was had by all who attended
this weekend's Girls Day Out with a Purpose. At the end of the day, we had a huge pile of gorgeous knitted and crocheted scarves ready to take to Germany. But  even though the purpose of our gathering was to create some beautiful gifts for the women in Radeburg, this would not be God's main emphasis for the day. Isn't it interesting how God works in his agenda whenever we make our plans?  My daughter, Elena, mentioned how the day seemed just like things should always be, women of all generations gathering together and sharing their stories and expertise as well as love and laughter. Who knew [except God that is]  that when Cynthia said yes to Germany and our team said yes to visit her and a group of women in the high desert said yes to making some scarves that one young mother would find encouragement in her life? We sometimes get so wrapped up in the logistics of the mission that we miss the details that God has worked out so perfectly.  Much of what will happen surrounding this trip will not happen in Germany. It will happen in the hearts and lives of the people all along the way. Keep your eyes open. God is at work. 

When asked how many scarves we might need for gifts when we come to Germany, Cynthia was unsure of what amount we should bring.  I told her that the women here in California were so excited about making them and being part of what would happen there I did not want to discourage them. I said that I was certain God knew the right amount. Her response--"If you made a hundred I am sure we would find people for them.  Let's see what God thinks." I am excited to see just that.  What do you think, God? Keep knitting, Girls.

For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
 which God prepared in advance for us to do. 
Ephesians 2:10

The LORD is My Banner Yahweh Nissi

God has taken me on quite an excursion as I continued to consider the ideas of salvation and defense that come from the word yesha from Psalm 27:6. You can take a look at Sure Footed to see what God has been teaching me through his Word while urging me to apply them to my experiences in life. Today, I am looking at addition definition of  the Hebrew word yesha -- victory. I came across the idea of The LORD is My Banner introduced to us by Moses in Exodus 17. The following is an exert from Ann Spangler's book Praying the Names of God.

“Moses built an alter and called it The Lord is my Banner.
He said for hands were lifted up to the throne of the LORD.
Exodus 17:15-16

Understanding the Name from Praying the Names of God by Ann Spangler

Unlike fabric flags, ancient banners were usually made out of wood or metal and shaped into various figures or emblems that could be fasten to a bare staff or lodge pole. Depicting birds, animals, or gods, they often glistened brightly in the sun so that they could be seen from a far off. A banner carried at the head of an army or planted high on a hill served as a rallying point for troops before battle or as an announcement of a victory already won. Because they embodied the ideals and aspirations of whoever carried them, banners aroused devotion to a nation, a cause or a leader.”
When considering this particular name of God-- The LORD is my Banner--I especially like Ann's statement “A banner carried at the head of an army or planted high on a hill served as a rallying point for troops before battle or as an announcement of a victory already won.” A victory already won. Now that is a beautiful thing! It should spur us on to believe that today's 'battles' will also have the same outcome and give us the confidence to march on with the LORD as our inspiration.

     May the LORD answer you when you are in distress;
may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
May he send you help from the sanctuary
and grant you support from Zion.
May he remember all your sacrifices
and accept your burnt offerings.
May he give you the desire of your heart
and make all your plans succeed.
May we shout for joy over your victory
and lift up our banners in the name of our God.
May the LORD grant all your requests.

Now this I know: The LORD gives victory to his anointed.
He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
 but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
They are brought to their knees and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm.
LORD, give victory to the king!
Answer us when we call!
Psalm 20

Monday, May 6, 2013

Constant Companions

"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger”* kept ringing in my ears as I climbed up the trail on the side of the mountain. My lungs were screaming for air and I was wishing there was some sort of rescue plan for the desperately out-of-shape, middle-aged woman who had “thought of herself more highly than she ought.” When I started out that morning, I believed a nice little walk in nature with a few hills and valleys would be the perfect exercise but now I wished some helicopter would come over the horizon to pull me up to level ground where my feet belonged. I was beginning to believe this would not end in 'strengthening.'

And yet, I survived to live another day. I was relieved to make it to the top. I am not sure I would have made it without the encouraging presence of my husband. He took it slow when I needed to go slow and stopped and waited when I needed to rest. He stuck with me the entire time even though he could have gone much faster. He never murmured a single negative comment or let on how weak I was. When we got to the top, I was grateful not only for his company but also that he had been there for me when the trail was tough. His companionship had helped me to persevere in an exercise that was very difficult and through that perseverance I had learned I could walk up the side of a mountain.

Hebrews 12 came to my mind this morning partly because I recalled the part of “Enduring hardship as discipline” but what I found was a list of encouraging companions that help us along the way when we encounter that hardship.

Verse 1 gives us a “great cloud of witnesses” that surround us. The idea here is a stadium filled to capacity with cheering spectators. The race is about to begin and the crowd is not only there to witness it but to also shout out encouragements. These witnesses know what we face because they have been in our shoes and they too have felt the pre-race jitters and the moments of doubt about whether would finish or not. But they know it can be done and so they raise their voices with enthusiasm to spur us on.

Secondly, we see Jesus in verse 2. He is called the author and perfecter of our faith. He has written the how-to book on faith, what it looks like and how to do it. He is what they call a pioneer who has gone before us to show the way and now we are instructed to follow in his footsteps. Verse 3 says, “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Jesus lived as a man and was confronted with the hardships common to man. We are spurred on when we consider his example of perseverance.

And thirdly, God, the Father (vs7) walks us through hard times and trains along the way. His motivation is to give us what we need to have the life he has planned for us: One full of righteousness and peace (vs11); One that allows us to share in his holiness (vs10). I love his encouragement in verse 12, “Therefore,” -- because you want to live a life of peace and righteousness and share in God's holiness-- “strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.” How? “Run the race marked out for us”, “Consider him [Jesus] who endured such opposition” and “Endure hardship as discipline”. Easy. Hardly. This a one of those 'good news, bad news' situations. The bad news is "No disciple seems pleasant at the time, but painful."  But the good news --"Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." (vs11)

Last week, I repeated the hike that almost did me in. This time with the blessing cooler weather and stronger muscles, the thought of not finishing never entered my mind. I did have to take it slow and even stop to catch my breath a few times but the trip itself was much easier. My husband cheered for me as I reached the top and pointed out we had completed the climb in half the time. WooHoo! What an accomplishment.

It is true that “What doesn't kill us does make us stronger” but isn't it a good thing we don't have to go it alone when life produces hardship. We are surrounded, shown the way, and instructed by some pretty encouraging companions. Boy, do they ever make life and its seemly constant uphill climb a whole lot easier.

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple stranded cord is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 New Living Translation

*”That which does not kill us makes us strong.” Friedrich Nietzsche

Monday, April 29, 2013

Sure Footed

"Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.  But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foot hold." Psalm 73:1-2

I lost it yesterday. What's the use anyway? All the encouragement and all the 'good words' about who God is I had lent to others in their times of trouble seemed to fall flat when applied to my own anguish. "Where was God and why was HE letting this situation continue?" and  "Why wasn't he doing what he said he could do?!" were questions rumbling around in my head. And "WHO KNOWS!" seemed to be the only answer. My once firm footing based on God's promises seemed to be crumbling beneath my feet and I could feel myself stumbling.

One verse seemed to scream out in my soul as I prayed was from Psalm 27. "I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living."[13] It was more like-- I DEMAND TO SEE THE GOODNESS IN THE LAND OF THE LIVING!!! NOW!!! But this 'goodness' had not made itself visible in this situation. Turmoil and heartache were in its place taking all my attention. It wasn't until this morning when I took time to actually look at the verse in context with rest of the Psalm that my wobbly legs began to find their balance again.

"The LORD is my light and my salvation--whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life--of whom shall I be afraid?" are the opening words to this passage. The word 'stronghold' means defense or strength.  Defense itself means to take action against attack or challenge while strength has the idea of endurance and impenetrable structure.  Together we get the picture of a God who as the "stronghold of [our] lives" has what it takes to keep the enemy at bay. My part in all this? Nothing at all.

You see, it says in verse 1, "The LORD is my light and my salvation..."  Not can be.  Not will be if I just ___________. Its says he IS. "When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall.  Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident." [3-4] Why such confidence?  Because he IS my light and my salvation. I can trust it.

The rest of the Psalm repeats the idea of the Lord's protection by keeping us safe in his dwelling, hiding us in his sacred tent and setting us high upon a rock out of harm's way until we have dominion over the enemies that surround us.

The Psalm does point out that since the Lord IS our salvation and that we can be confident in that fact when trouble comes our heart can say as the writer's, "Seek your [God's] face."[8] We don't have look at the situation. We can look to God and ask to be taught and to be led as we move through it.

I don't know how the current situation in my life will play out but I do know that however the Lord has decided to work it out "I [will] remain confident of this: I will see the goodness in the land of the living."

"Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord" because "He will not let your foot slip...For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations" 
Psalm 27:14; Psalm 121:3; Psalm 100:5