Lent for Protestants 101

“What are you giving up for Lent?” may be asked of you tomorrow, Ash Wednesday. If you’re not a practicing Roman Catholic, you may think the question irrelevant; or you mightn’t have a clue what the questioner is asking. Lent? Ash Wednesday?

If the terms are familiar to you, but your answer might be, “I’m not a Catholic,” read on; this post is for you.

Encouragement: The Antidote to Quitting

“Encourage one another daily,” the writer of Hebrews 3:13 exhorts us. How few words are needed to affect change in the life of another.

Last week our pastor shared two stories of his experiences running marathons. In the first, his weary body screamed for him to quit as he started up that last killer hill. “Why not,” he said to us, “Obviously I wouldn’t be crossing that finish line first.”

As he struggled with the possibilities, he heard unfamiliar voices from the sidelines calling to him, “Keep going, Jean-Luc; you can do it!”

Who are these people? he’d thought, before remembering both his name and number could be seen by others

“If those people who don’t even know me can think me capable of finishing this race,” he said to the folks at our meeting, “I should believe in myself, too.” The words from the sidelines had provided that last minute burst of energy; he crossed the finish line.

The following year, Jean-Luc finished one marathon, focused on the next scheduled in just a few days. Tragically, a close friend died the day before the race. Jean-Luc elected to run the race in spite of his fatigue and seriously grieving state.

The Search

The heat of another African morning engulfed me. As I prayed, the following picture formed inside my head:

In my mind’s eye, I saw the image of a young woman lying on her left side. The relaxed position of her body indicated sleep rather than an accidental fall. I zoomed-in to increase clarity.

She’d dressed in a white tee shirt and blue-jeans; worn hikers’ boots rested atop one another, as did her muscular legs. In sleep she’d flexed her knees, aligning the heels of her feet with her spine.

The woman’s right arm could be seen only from the shoulder to her lower forearm, because her hand disappeared behind the rugged daypack she’d pulled close to her. I assumed she had gripped the back straps to keep it from disappearing while she slept.

Ebola: An Insider’s Reflections

Having served the people of Guinea for the past twenty-four years, I find two of the many reports recently released by the World Health Organization (WHO) especially troubling. There’s just so much more to the Ebola story than the media broadcasts.

Late last week, we heard a spokesman declare the Encouraging news that the cases of Ebola had dramatically decreased over previous weeks. They did report that Guinea stood as an exception, having ten more new cases last week than the previous week.

While we can be optimistic for the regions where such findings prove true, we aren’t even cautiously optimistic for our host country, Guinea. Here’s what the WHO failed to tell you:

Finances 101

One thing I’ve learned about finances over the past thirty years of foreign missionary service is that God will always pay for what He’s ordered; but seldom will pay for what He hasn’t. I’ve even experienced the

challenge of holding on to God’s money until He lets us know why He’s dumped it into our laps. If God doesn’t say it’s a gift to be spent at our own discretion, He’s got a particular purpose in mind. Here’s one example:

Stack of 100 dollar bills

Courtesy of 123RF/Alexandr Blinov

In October of 2006, I received the Student of the Year Award from the Hadley School for the Blind. I had no idea that in attending that elegant ceremony, the Lord had positioned me in just the right place, at just the right time, to receive the miraculous provision Father God had made for a program He’d yet to ask our mission to provide.