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Where Has All The Joy Gone?

Where Has All The Joy Gone?

 

three Tier wedding veil

Sunflower Field, Moldova

Sunflower Field, Moldova

These two images represent joy to me. I should first let you know that I am one of those people who has to fight for joy much of the time. Not that serotonin equals joy but I think it helps and I think my levels are low. Nor does a glass half-full mentality equal joy but, again, at least this points us in the right direction. I naturally dwell on what’s not working, could use improvement, the half where the doubts and questions linger. So, generally, I’m fighting for joy; I’m praying for it; I’m seeding and watering it. Which is why I was surprised when I discovered it in the most unlikely places.

See the Discovery boat in the Amazon? See those sunflowers in Moldova? These pictures embody places that have brought me joy, but not simply because of their beauty or majesty. Though a generalization to be sure, the Amazon is where the forgotten live and Moldova is where the orphans live. And nothing has brought me greater joy than meeting these people and experiencing the power and love of the Gospel in the harshness of poverty and hopelessness and abandonment. I’ve also found this same joy here in my own community, too. This next picture represents that community: meals around the table, family suppers, home bible study, afternoon coffees, the place I have to love others.

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My Dining Room Table, Nashville, TN

Serving, reaching out, bringing in the lonely, encouraging the downcast, throwing the birthday party, taking a mission trip, teaching the Scriptures in your home, holding babies in the nursery, praying for the sick, however you’re doing it… this is where the joy is. I watched a fabulous sermon this morning by a friend of mine, Mike Meyers, who is on staff at my father’s church. The title is “Do Something” and if you have 40 minutes of quiet, I would spend it right here.

Mike spoke out of James 1:25, which says, “But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.” 

I’ve read that verse so many times and missed what Mike so brilliantly pointed out: “Knowledge without action robs us of our true joy.” The flip side is this: When we do what we know to do we’re blessed. It suddenly dawned on me why my greatest most sustaining most fulfilling joy has come from being a part of the change Jesus is bringing about in the lives to whom He’s called me. It’s why I’ve found joy in such unlikely places, in parts of the world and in my own neighborhood where it makes no sense to find joy. Because God blesses our obedient doing. And when He blesses, His blessings are full of joy.

As we fly into September, and the Fall promises a new school year, the holidays, a fresh routine, I’m asking myself how my joy is faring. What am I not doing that I know to do? Who needs the warm embrace of Jesus? Where is He asking me to go? What step has His Word told me to take?

Because there is blessing in the doing.

And there is joy in the blessing.

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Cultivate: A Women’s Gathering Around The Word

Cultivate: A Women’s Gathering Around The Word

 

Cultivate LogoFor the past few years I’ve dreamt about a women’s event that would reflect my love for the Scriptures, acoustic and thoughtful music, honest fellowship, all threaded by a passion for missions, both local and international. Eight months ago those years of dreaming turned into several months of praying, asking God if this was a gathering He wanted me (and a few special people around me) to put together. Several weeks later we came up with a name: Cultivate. And then a bit more description: A Women’s Gathering Around The Word. A few months after that we invited Michelle Margiotta, former worship leader at Times Square Church in NYC, to join a small trio of musicians to lead in worship. Without giving everything away, I have an invitation for you…

If you live in the Nashville area, or are willing to pile in a car with some friends, would you consider joining us this Friday evening and Saturday morning, August 15-16, for our first ever Cultivate(Details here). I would love to experience this dream become a reality with you as we are filled with God’s Word, inspired through worship, encouraged in fellowship and absolutely energized by mission. All with the expectation that Jesus will be there waiting for us.

***All proceeds will be benefit the great work of Justice and Mercy International.

Feel free to email or call Bethany Bordeaux at info@kellyminter.com or 615.410.2282 for further information. 

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Back From Moldova

Back From Moldova

To say that I went to Moldova kicking and screaming would be strong, but to say I went a bit tired and with my arms folded—and a little concerned about the unrest in that part of the world—is just about right. So, where in the world is Moldova, you ask? See llustration #1

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My sister’s co-worker left this on her door while she was in Moldova. In case someone needed her.

Simply put, the part of my heart that’s devoted to missions and ‘others, Lord’ was already full of the Amazon and a few long-standing activities I had going on at home—there’s only so much love and selflessness to go around, you know? But the ministry I partner with in the Amazon, Justice and Mercy International, has been working with the orphan population in Moldova for a decade now. It was time I saw the work firsthand. Still, my mantra was firm: I have no more of my heart to give away; I’m just coming to observe. To try the stuffed cabbage rolls.

And then I walked into a swarm of approximately 80 vulnerable and/or orphaned children in the western countryside of Moldova. And I realized that the space God gives a person for the poor and orphaned isn’t a fixed compartment you try to keep at a comfortable capacity. Rather, the borders keep expanding with each new face. Every fresh name. Another story of an individual life.

Enter Clara, Marta, Sofia, Nicoletta, Victor, Igor, Olga, Petro… (names changed to protect identity).

I’ll be sharing more about the work of JMI in the days, weeks and prayerfully years to come. But right now I want to ask you a question. It’s a question that was asked me a number of years ago: Do you know the name of a poor person? Not, do you know where poor people live or do you hand the homeless a dollar on occasion, but do you know the name of a poor person? I shared a few names above and they’re ones I’m putting before the throne of Jesus these days. Father, protect Sofia from the physical blows of her teenage brothers, keep Victor diligent in his school work, come to the rescue of Marta, Clara, Claudia, three sisters living in a shelter whose “mom road away on a horse one day and never came back.”—the exact quote of the five year-old.

I’ve decided that when I get to know names I have more time and more resources than I thought had—than I thought before boarding that plane to Moldova. Yes, the Amazon is still pressing on my heart and so are the people of my local church and so now are the people of Moldova and, guess what, all of them propel and inform the service of the others. God is masterful at replenishing our love and expanding our capacity when we reach out to the forgotten, those on the fringes of society.

Okay, but we have a reality happening: We’re compassion-fatigued. We’re overwhelmed by the need, flat numb from the pleas of non-profits, unsure of where to send our money or devote our time. So let me encourage you. Ask God to give you a name.

Ask Him to give you a heart for a nation.

Or a neighborhood.

Or a neighbor. 

Because when God gives you a face and a name (in America or in the Amazon or on your street or in your church), He gives you room in your heart. When you don’t think you can cut out another latte a month to sponsor that child, you’ll remember  his peculiar smile and you’ll figure it out. When you don’t have it in you to lead the youth group through another semester, that one teenager will lure you back. The morning you’re dying to sleep in, you’ll set your alarm 15 minutes earlier to pray for the orphan who stole your heart. The day you just can’t board another plane, you’ll cram yourself into the nosebleeds of coach one more time to hold a little girl, to kiss her forehead. (Even if you’re sure your hugs and kisses are all accounted for.) Because this is what happens when God gives you a name.

So, start by praying. Start by asking your local church where you can get involved. If you need another place to start, visit Justice and Mercy International.

***Lastly, I’m simply excited to share with you the bigger version of this story God has been working out in my life over the past several years. Wherever The River Runs is my most personal and honest book to date, and it may help bring focus to what God is asking of you. Mostly it’s about how loving the poor has enriched my life and my relationship with Jesus, and how it will enrich yours too.

Will you ask God for a name?

 

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A Saint in the Amazon

A few weeks ago I returned from Manaus, Brazil, what many call The Gateway to The Amazon.

I spent a week on the river with Justice and Mercy Amazon visiting some incredible villages along the river in some obscure areas, and then spent four days meeting with dear friends and jungle pastors in Manaus. (I had a phenomenal week, which is probably a story for another post.) While in the city I requested to see one of the most remarkable followers of Jesus I’ve ever met, a sixty-eight year-old Brazilian woman named Ana (name has been changed). I first met her at our First Annual Jungle Pastor’s Conference a few years ago, and I’ve made a point to see her every visit. Ana’s hard to get your hands on, though. Half the time she’s booked up teaching one of her three-hour classes on hermeneutics, working with her pastor at her church or temporarily living in another country in South America serving the poor. Last year she voluntarily dwelt in a hut, I believe in Peru, where she had to draw her own water, describing conditions I don’t even understand – she was there teaching the bible. And I think she had health issues at the time.

salon and hair stylist cooperation

But it’s her smile, her peace, her profound inner joy that in many ways defy the difficult life she’s had: a broken engagement years ago (Ana has remained single), two bouts with cancer, an accident that caused excruciating back pain and literal persecution for her faith. A person can’t fake the attributes her countenance and spirit beam forth. These don’t come from having more stuff or pleasure or entertainment. We hear these words a lot, but they are the fruit that comes from the Spirit. Ana’s peace, joy and radiance is what I want, I just don’t always want the road that unleashes them. But I’m also at the point where I’m not willing to miss Him for anything.

I had an hour with Ana sitting in a friend’s living room. Her grey hair flipped up at her shoulders brushing her cream top, printed with lavender roses. She was also wearing a jean skirt – I’m so sure: adorable. With all of you in mind and, selfishly, with me in mind I asked Ana a few questions about life, faith, her relationship with Jesus. Here are a few of the things she told me…

“If every woman believed what God has in store for her, every woman would devote her life to the service of God.”

She was not wagging her finger when she said this. She was perched on the edge of her seat leaning toward me with an inviting smile the way a mother bends toward her child and says, you don’t want to miss this for anything in the world! Her zeal reminded me of Mary of Bethany: When you’ve tasted the person of Jesus – when you know Him – you will spill your all over Him with delight, even urgency. Instead of wondering how I could drum up greater sacrifice or employ more disciplines, Ana by her very presence reminded me that when you know Him, you will delight in loving Him.

“When God saves you, there’s a specific place for you in His service”, she continued. “There’s only one way to find this out: intimacy with Christ.” I wonder if you believe that about yourself. Or maybe the better question is do you believe that about God – that He really does have a place for you? Sometimes I wonder this, and the remedy comes through spending time at His feet…. listening (Mary of Bethany), or as Ana put it “intimacy with Christ.” The question becomes, am I spending the time?

Ana went onto explain how she talks to God just like she was speaking to me – She tells Him everything, discusses even the mildest of details with Him. She described how we can know His voice like a woman can distinguish her husband’s out of a thousand. She explained how she listens to the Lord by reading His Word – she just finished her 145th reading through the Bible. (But no guilt here – just take it with a spoonful of encouragement, because that’s how she dispensed it. That’s how I took it.) She talked about three qualities that help her discern His voice in any given situation: Peace, joy and assurance in accordance with His Word.

If your background is anything like mine, none of this is necessarily new. Spending time pouring over God’s Word, listening and petitioning in prayer, serving God through obedience are all things we know. But it’s not the “new” that’s going to change us, rather a recommitment to the timeless.

So much distracts us today, perhaps more than at any other time in history. The iPhone alone could be my undoing. I can’t imagine there ever being a time where I had access to more opinions, arguments, “comments” about everything, and yet Ana reminded me once again of The Voice, the One that matters above all others. The Voice of the Shepherd whom His sheep know (John 10:27). She inspired me to take back the time to hear Him. Not that I wasn’t reading the bible or listening, but to re-up my commitment. To really guard it. To silence the alerts and alarms. To protect the space.

Beyond what Ana said it was the serenity of her presence that spoke the clearest. She knows who she is; She knows what she’s supposed to do; She knows the One who goes with her. And out of that understanding flows a peace and a beauty as deep and attractive as the Amazon. This lovely woman didn’t offer me a “how-to” because relationships aren’t that clinical. But she reminded me that purpose, peace and knowing are all attainable qualities through intimacy with Christ. She reminded me the abundant life in Jesus is possible.

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My Mom In The Jungle And Other Ramblings

“And you will be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth.” Never do these words of Jesus mean more to me than when I’m in the jungles of Brazil. I’m not sure what constitutes the ends of the earth, but if ever a region deserved this title, the jungle would have as good a shot as any for ends-of-the-earthness. I just returned from my fifth trip there in connection with a ministry called Ray of Hope. They’re a local, on the ground mission in Manaus that exists to serve the people who live along the vast and glorious river we call the Amazon.

My experiences there have forced me to rethink the various elements of my life, thus my Christianity as a whole. So here I am, attempting to blog about this latest trip while it’s fresh on my mind, while I can still smell the scents of the Amazon and my spirit’s still buzzing with the excitement of meeting people who are living the Christian life in ways I’ve scarcely encountered. More than anything, I want to write about the unrivaled joy of serving with my family, my mom in particular this time.

Yes, my mom came with us for her first time, the trip’s first miracle. How shall I put this? My mom doesn’t do bugs. She doesn’t do camping, roughing it, excessive heat. She really doesn’t do roaches the size of rodents, leaping tarantulas, or scorpions that lurk in people’s shoes (people meaning us). And when smartypants people say, “Well, most tarantulas aren’t dangerous”, I want to respond with, “Does this matter when the spider is the size of your face?” The whole Amazon caboodle is not really my mom’s cup of tea. Actually, tea is her cup of tea, as in Earl Grey in an English cup that’s perched on a coffee table inside someone’s home that has central heating and air. Going to the Amazon was a tremendous act of obedience on her part, one I don’t take lightly.

As the boat pulled up to our very first village, I turned to my mom, “Mom, I need someone to share a testimony for the families today, can you do it?” Mom gave me a mom-look that said something along the lines of I am bodily present in the jungle, can that be enough for now? But my mom is a quiet spiritual giant, and I knew how effective it would be if she shared how God had taken hold of her life as a young high school girl desperate for a relationship with a Savior she knew nothing of at the time, even if she was just settling into her surroundings. My mom is subtle and unapologetically what-you-see-is-what-you-get; when she shares how the Lord transformed her heart, you listen.

Please imagine the swell in my soul when I watched her share her testimony with the jungle village of Sao Tome while wearing her hot pink Living Proof Live t-shirt. Some of my favorite worlds collided in that one moment. Now imagine my joy when, after she shared, a man and a woman stepped forward to give their lives to Jesus. The young man had been someone Ray of Hope had known for years, but never had he expressed interest in becoming a Christian. Today was the day.

Having my mom in the jungle meant much to me on layered levels because I knew she wouldn’t have chosen this trip. She went in obedience to God and she went out of love for Him and her family. As Nehemiah mentioned being “very much afraid” in chapter 2 while approaching the king to request permission to help rebuild Jerusalem, so my mom had her fears but she didn’t let them paralyze her from seeing what God wanted her to see and doing what He wanted her to do. Had she stayed in her familiar and comfortable surrounding she would have missed an encounter with a young husband and wife with HIV. Through tears, the mother thanked my mom and dad for starting a church that would, on that day, help them build a home in a village that once shunned her family because of her and her husband’s disease. It was a moment of eternal joy. A memory no one can steal from my mom or me ever.

As my mom and I walked away from that village – I have no idea where my dad was, he tends to go off exploring unannounced – I thought about my parents’ legacy. How 38 years ago my mom agreed to move to a tiny, no-name town in VA to begin Reston Bible Church with my dad. 38 years, thousands of people, hundreds of collective mission trips, countless people who’ve come to Christ later, that decision blossomed in a village called Acajatuba where hard working saints from that same church showed up to build a house for a suffering, believing couple who otherwise would never have had a home. It was a memorable walk to the boat.

I don’t know if you have a family of your own. I am not married and without children so my blood family consists of my parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, and I count my two star in-laws in there as well. My chosen family is a few dear friends who I shudder to think of life without. These are the family members I am blessed to serve with, a joy more furious than the Amazon River itself.

I have no idea what God has put in your heart to do. I would never suggest it be a particular continent, city, or street, only that you seek Him hard for the people to whom He’s called you. I know He has inexplicably commanded us to love people, serve them, teach them, give to them in a way that points them (and us) back to His saving grace. He has not asked us to do this alone but in the context of community. Go get it.

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