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In Live more simply/ Purpose/ Worship more fully

Who is the hero of your story

Good stories capture our attention and speak to us.  Perhaps they make us laugh or cry or both. They make us discontent and inspire us to want better. Sometimes they inform us of deep issues in our world and give us a glimpse of different points of view.   No matter what, stories are a part of our life and the great stories stay with us from generation to generation.

Good stories have a hero, a guide, and a villain.  The hero is presented with a challenge that will be life altering.  A guide, in some form, is introduced to the hero and of course, there is always the villain who wants to prevent the hero from succeeding.   Our life can be like this.  Each one of us face life challenges in some form or another.  We search for guides (our parents, mentors, friends, self-help books) and we inevitably have the villain (the bully – we all have those, our circumstances, our boss, our spouse, politicians, the neighbor’s dog) who wants to prevent us from reaching our goals.  And so we struggle on in life, heroes with endless cycles of stories. When we succeed, we see ourselves as great heroes who deserve the benefits that come with this success because, after all, we’ve earned our good fortune.  Or we see ourselves as misfits in the story when good fortune does not favor us and we don’t achieve all, or some, of the success our world esteems worthy.  And so we daily strive for the former and try and avoid the latter and our life is valued on the scales of current culture.

Our hard work and perseverance pays off – sometimes.  Other times – nothing!  Most successful people who are honest will tell you that, yes, they worked hard and honed their skill, but mostly their great success is as a result of some fortunate moment that came their way.  A door that opened at just the right time that led them to this successful place.   If that door opened for someone else, they would not be where they are, regardless of their hard work. They acknowledge that there is a greater force that got them where they are.

As I have grown older and as I have leaned closer to the heart of God, I have come to learn that we are not the heroes of our story.  Jesus is the hero of the story and we have but supporting roles.  Our life tells his love story.

Regardless of what our current culture values as success or deems as failure, there is a constant that we can look to that will guide our life to tell of his love.  When we can, like Paul the Apostle, say that we have learned to be content in whatever circumstances – in need and in plenty – we are closer to letting the true hero tell his story.  Our life is entirely through Christ who gives us the strength.  The doors that open and bring us good fortune are opened by him.  Yes our skill and persistence and good decisions are sometimes required, but he is the one who gives us that ability in the first place, so that he can tell his story of love through us.  We are usurping his role when we take the credit through our words or through the way we treat others. O, how we need to recognize that we, and those around us, are but the channel of Christ’s blessing.  We are no more worthy or less worthy than the person next to us.

When we struggle and the doors do not open for us, and yet we exult the Lord of our salvation – that too is Christ telling his story of love through us.  The temptation is there to blame our struggles on our personal villains – those people who make our life difficult. Or we condemn ourselves, thinking we are not worthy. But, we are taught in scripture that our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with powers of darkness that always lead us to our own pitiful story and away from the greatest love story of all time.

When we overcome the temptation to make ourselves the hero of the story, and we revel in our supporting role, our life becomes all the more meaningful, not less so.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20

In Purpose

Choose Another Way for the Upcoming Holidays

What is it about this time of the year that strikes fear in the hearts of grown men and women everywhere?

Is it the mounds of catalogues that are stuffed into our mailboxes enticing us with glossy pictures of turkeys and good linen and elaborate table settings? Is it the tinsel and trees and fake snow in fake windows at the shopping mall that tightens our throat and shortens our breath? Or perhaps it’s the expensive, calorie-laden holiday drinks that the barista is peddling that makes us groan and search for a quiet corner?

Or … is the look I see in the eyes around me actually a plea, a hope, a dream for a soft touch, a quiet love and a gentle walk to the closing of the year.

The truth is that for the holidays, as for many other areas of our life, it is the path we willingly choose that determines our journey. It can be a frantic frenzy that ends with feelings of failure and inadequacy. It could even end with us basking in triumph and personal glory over how special we made everything.

Or we can choose another way. Continue Reading →

In Live more simply/ Purpose/ Worship more fully

Three words that can lead you to the will of God

There is a gentle rain falling and I listen to the sleep-breathing of my husband in the bed beside me. I think about my one child leaving and my one child arriving.   The girl-child has spent the past week showing her newlywed husband the land of her birth. They leave today for new adventures. As the sun sleeps it’s final hour over the African continent, my boy-child is somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean. He arrives today to lead a team of missionaries who travel to these Southern shores to perhaps change the destiny of a young one or a vulnerable one who lives in deep poverty not far from where I awake.   As the rain falls softly in the dark of the morning hour, I hear the brown owl call as he returns from his nightly hunt. I listen to the sounds of the day awakening on the Southern tip of Africa and three words fill my heart and my mind.

Three words that can change everything.

I am grateful.

I could think of the weariness that comes with the living out of suitcases as we travel with new and old friends. I could sigh over the burst pipes in an old house. There could be complaint about the endless sweeping of leaves in a tree-laden garden or sigh in anticipation of the work ahead when 28 missionaries fill this house. I could walk this road.

Instead, I choose the other path.

I am grateful.

My daughter got to introduce her husband to grandparents who were too frail to attend the wedding. Continue Reading →

In Live more simply/ Purpose

Commentary on “A Severe Gentleness”

Here is a commentary on my book “A Severe Gentleness” by one of my readers:Cover on book

This little book is best read slowly.  Something readers will find difficult to do as the story is a compelling mix of the birth of a ministry and observations about the challenges that followed.  Readers will recognize similar challenges in their own lives.

The Lord’s Prayer has been a guiding light to the author for over 20 years and the prayer lends both understanding and encouragement for each step of this amazing account.

Set in Africa

Set against a background of bringing hope into rural villages in HIV torn Africa, the book’s many anecdotes will enlighten readers from all walks of life.  Bits of hard earned wisdom dot the pages.  Gaining cooperation, forging successful partnerships, using money as a tool, and dealing with bureaucracy are just part of the story.  The tale is told by a seasoned writer in a manner that lets the reader feel the emotions of the people in the story.  Experience the feeling of bewilderment Michelle faced when entering a village with the intent of helping only to be spurned by a child.  What happened?  Continue Reading →

In Lead more gently/ Purpose

Old mindsets that may be holding you back

I was a passenger in the car with my son when we got to a crossroad and he was uncertain of which way to turn.  He handed me his iPhone, told me to open the Maps App and tell him which way to turn.  Big mistake.  Firstly, I am one of those people that will turn a paper map around and around to make sense of all the squiggly lines.  Secondly, I had never used the app before.  My car’s built-in GPS system speaks to me in a friendly voice and kindly tells me where to go.  Not so much my frustrated son.  He needed quick directions, I needed time to figure out the app and the rest of the story is not so pretty.

old and new

We live in an ever-changing world.  New technology seems outdated as soon as it hits the shelves. Cars no longer need keys, cell phones are no longer just phones, bookshelves are becoming obsolete and so the list goes on.  My children are native to this ever changing world whereas I sometimes feel like someone in a foreign country.  I have however leant that there is no point in complaining and lamenting.  If I don’t want to be left behind, it is best to work hard at keeping pace.  This is true for mindsets as well.

Here are some old mindsets that may be holding you back from succeeding in today’s world. Continue Reading →

In Live more simply/ Purpose

Have you failed? Great!

Are you afraid to fail?  If you’re anything like me, you were raised in a culture that frowns upon failure.  Success is what is important and what is celebrated.  Yet, the older I get the more I can see the value in failing.  Let me explain.

failing

Failure is life’s greatest teacher.  Failure can spur us on to better effort and greater breakthroughs.  Failure is not necessarily a measure of inferiority but rather displays a willingness to take risks, to not always play it safe, to be innovative and to improve.

I was watching an interview with Elon Musk on the TV show “60 Minutes”.  It was the interview that inspired this post.   Apart from the fact that Elon Musk is a fellow South African – which right off the bat makes him super interesting 😉 – he is a genuinely fascinating person.  Amongst his accomplishments are Paypal, Tesla Motors and SpaceX  which flies rockets to the international space station for NASA. Seriously?  What kind of person starts a company like that?  The kind that finds it okay to fail.

During the 60 Minutes interview he commented that going into the electric motorcar business, he assumed he would fail.  (He has in fact succeeded enormously, but only after many failures.)  The interviewer asked him why he did it if he thought he was going to fail.  His answer is nothing short of spectacular: Continue Reading →

In Purpose

What to think when your day overwhelms you

There are times when life comes at us, angry, ferocious and relentless.  But we are leaders and others depend on us so we smile and we speak and we give of ourselves.  What we actually feel like doing is pull weird faces behind somebody’s back, throw a tantrum or sulk.  Instead, we keep smiling and speaking and giving.  If you’ve been in any leadership position for more than a month, then you’ve been here.

Crazy phone person

I had too many torrents come my way these past few weeks.  In fact, it was monsoon season for me with icy wind chill factors thrown in for good measure.  Flu, heartache, stress, work, conflict resolution, little sleep, and then my husband, who was my only silver lining, had to leave for a week. So, I did what good leaders do – I tucked my head down, lifted up my collar, turned my back to the wind and, while feeling sorry for myself, ate a truckload of chocolate.  I had no choice.

The thing that pushed me over the edge was a phone call.  Continue Reading →

In Live more simply/ Purpose

How to cope with change

I’m in a transitional year.  At Orchard: Africa we are finishing up a five-year project and getting started on the next one.  Our objective and purpose is still the same but we’ll be using new methods and implementing new tools.  The thing I’ve noticed about times of transition is that they can be unsettling. The ground shifts and you find yourself feeling unbalanced.  What you do with this feeling makes all the difference.

Mountainous route full of stones

When our feet are on unsteady or uneven ground, our natural response is to grab hold of a stable object and hang on.  Initially, this is a good plan.

  • In transition, the dominant feeling is often fear.  Fear of losing the familiar and fear of the unknown.  Here’s a thought to hang on to – the thing about feelings is just that; they are feelings.  They exist only in your heart and mind.  You can choose to feed fear with a bunch of “what if’s” or you can starve fear with trust.
  • When your world is moving and wobbling, hang on to trust. Trust in God. Trust those that God has brought alongside you.  The scripture says to “believe the best of all people”.  Choose to trust – it is a stabilizing force to hang on to.
  • See yourself as God sees you. He sees you as immensely valuable.  This is not based on the success or failure of your current or future projects or plans.  You are immensely valuable to Him – period.  No conditions. Continue Reading →