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Running Life’s Marathon with Our Soul Sisters

I trained for my first marathon in a month and was surprised to finish.

Each year, as soon as the spring breeze has a hint of warmth, I find myself looking through my closet and hoping my clothes will fasten over my once-hibernating body. This was how I returned to my running routine; I wanted to feel healthy and make sure my shorts fit.I joined a local running group. Each morning, a crew of women gather at the break of dawn, tie shoelaces, strap on water bottles, and light up safety gear to hit the trails. I joined them on the unfamiliar course in my old Target attire and tread-less shoes. As we sweated through each step, I quickly learned that every single woman was training for an upcoming race.

Running with “Sole Sisters”After a few weeks of running with and learning from this band of “sole sisters,” I increased my mileage. I began thinking about signing up for a race too. As I researched various races, on a whim, I also entered my name into a Facebook contest I came across for an upcoming marathon. I entered it because I thought I could win an entry for a friend who had told me she wanted to sign up but couldn’t do so for financial reasons. When I won, my friend told me she had already registered, so the opportunity was all mine.

The next morning, I woke up at 4 am, joined some friends who had been training all summer, and with trepidation, ran 18 miles to see if a marathon was even realistic. We were up so early that within the first five minutes, we startled a sleeping deer! For the next five hours, my friends to me about the essentials of marathon running: pacing, fueling, and gear.I returned home with a wobble and exhilarated I completed the run. I was also salty, sore, hungry, and fearful I would need to buy so many new things to manage the long race. I shared with my husband the list. Since our budget was tight, we prayed.Later that day, the running company who had said I won an entry in the marathon contacted me to tell me that they were mistaken; they did not have a free registration to giveaway. The race would actually cost $175. To be honest, I was a bit relieved, even as my aching muscles seemed to groan aloud. As the news settled in, I messaged my friends who spent the morning traipsing all around the county with me. They were dismayed. They had been so instrumental in getting me through each step of those 18 miles. Within a few hours, I was notified that they paid my entry fee. I was so touched by their kindness and enthusiasm!

Prayer and Partnerships: A Profile of MTW

Editor’s Note: From its inception, the women in the PCA have loved on and supported the denomination in practical ways. One way has been through the annual women’s ministry love gift. This year, the women’s ministry of the PCA is praying for and partnering with the different agencies and committees of the denomination regionally. Throughout the year, we will highlight the committees and agencies to learn more about what they do and how we can pray for them.I recently interviewed Lloyd Kim, coordinator of Mission to the World (MTW), about their work.

Christina: Can you tell us a bit of the history of MTW and its relationship with the PCA?

Lloyd: Sure—and I will give you the brief version. After the PCA formed in 1973, Mission to the World was immediately organized as the missions sending agency of the PCA, tasked with carrying out the Great Commission. We started out with 11 missionaries in four countries and then began to grow rapidly. In 1982, World Presbyterian Missions (from the Reformed Presbyterian Church—Evangelical Synod) joined with MTW, adding even more missionaries. God has continued to bless MTW and we now have 630 long-term missionaries, 88 two-year missionaries, and over 700 national partners serving in 95 countries. This growth has occurred under the direction of some very capable and godly leaders: John Kyle, Paul McKaughan, and Paul Kooistra. When we look back on our history, we are deeply grateful to God for the solid foundation and heritage He has given us.

Christina: What is your role for MTW?

Lloyd: As coordinator of MTW, one of my main tasks is to promote MTW’s mission, vision, and values within our denomination as well as in the larger missions community. What does that mean? It means that I serve as a key public face for MTW, representing our mission and its values to our constituents and potential partners. So—lots of travel, speaking, developing relationships; and there’s a commitment to fundraising for MTW as part of all that. Overseeing MTW’s financial stability and growth is part of my job—making sure that we’re good stewards of the resources God has entrusted to us and that we remain financially healthy.

But we also want MTW to be spiritually healthy, so another aspect of my job involves tending to the spiritual vitality of the organization. We want to build a grace-based culture that encourages integrity, transparency, and mutual support. We also want a workforce that better reflects the diversity of the kingdom. These values have resulted in projects like our diversity initiative and efforts to expand opportunities for women in our organization.

Finally, I provide leadership for our senior staff as we work together to focus our ministry efforts on our vision: fulfilling the Great Commission by establishing, growing, and maturing churches around the world. One of the challenges we face is that missions looks a lot different than it did even 10 years ago. The landscape is changing and we’re constantly looking for new channels and new methods for recruiting and sending missionaries. We’ve also just come through some pretty major infrastructure changes to support the growth that we’re praying about and planning for in our future missions force.

The Rug Rigmarole and the Treasures of Our Heart

With the combined weight of two generations and a collective deep breath, we shimmied the 10 X 14 rug into my minivan. It wedged snugly against the front dash, providing an awkwardly high armrest. Its position left me, the driver, with the ability to use only the tip of my pinkey at a precise angle to adjust the air flow and radio. I was ready to drive home from my visit to see friends and relatives with our family’s prized heirloom in tow: an oriental rug from my grandparent’s den. For several years, the rug was stored in my aunt’s garage before she and my grandmother graciously offered it to me…all I had to do was take it to the cleaners and Whoa! Old, new to me, ancestral foot trodden rug.

When I arrived at the rug shop, I relayed to the owner how much I loved this rug—mainly because it belonged to my grandmother who I love dearly and with whom I share a very special relationship. The memories of time spent in my grandparents’ house made my heart swell with fondness. I also reiterated that the rug had been in a non-climate-controlled garage for a few years, and that I was hoping they could restore it to its past glory.

As we rolled it out in the parking lot, let’s just say I saw something that gave the verse “where moth and rust destroy” a whole new meaning. Before our very eyes, live moths scooched their way around the edge of the rug, eating away at the colorful wool, their cocoons decorating the outer rim of the perimeter. I made a sound somewhere between a laugh and a shriek. “I’ve seen a lot of things, but I have to say, I’ve never seen this!” exclaimed the shop owner. I gasped in horror as I thought of being “that customer” whose story could comfort future customers in embarrassing rug situations: “Oh don’t worry sweetie, it’s not near as bad as the live moth lady!”  (Gulp).

Bon Appetit! On Salt and the Christian Life

One of my bucket list items, for when we became empty nesters, was to learn Chinese cooking. The exotic smells and flavors have always had a special appeal, and I am easily mesmerized in a Chinese market by the assortment of spices and sauces, most with labels I cannot even read. It turned out that to enroll in a culinary school with Chinese cooking classes would require pre-requisite cooking classes. So began my journey back to college after over 40 years!

I did eventually get that Chinese cooking class and then expanded to other Asian cuisines, Mexican and finally classical and bistro French cooking.  I have been taught by wonderful chefs who corrected my knife skills, taught me to taste as I go, showed me how to layer flavors to optimize dishes, and when to stop the cooking so the food will be at its peak flavors. The classes usually require a properly plated presentation to the chef, where a critique is provided to me regarding the balance of flavors. For the first two years, the most common comments from my chefs were “needs more salt.” Even when I decided I had better add extra salt during the cooking process, the same comment sometimes appeared on my evaluation.

Salt is a funny ingredient. Of course, it provides saltiness, but it is also an enhancer. It brings out the best of the other spices in the food, heightening the contribution of each without overpowering with its own saltiness. Salt is an essential ingredient regardless of the type of cuisine. It can also be added in a variety of ways -absorbed through boiling water, creating a crust on meats, drying out vegetables, or simply added to a pot of sauce.

Salt is referenced in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, when He instructs His disciples to be salt in the world. Matthew 5:13 says “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”

Psalm 78 and Why We Must Tell Our Stories of Redemption

The time I got hit by a car while jogging.The time I was not awarded the scholarship to college that everyone thought was a shoe-in.The time I transferred colleges and met my husband in a biology lab I should not have had to take.These are the one-line titles of just a few of my redemption stories. If you read my blog or hang out around me long enough, you might just hear the whole story. How about you? When is the last time you told a story of how God rescued and redeemed you in a particular moment or season of your life?Asaph, the author of Psalm 78, convincingly argues that God’s people must know and share their stories of redemption. In the seventy-two verses of the Psalm, he demonstrates how far astray God’s people can go when they forget his mighty miracles and wonderful deeds. Right in the middle of the Psalm, Asaph reminds us of the surest hope of a forgetful people—our God never forgets to be merciful. Let’s look at how it breaks down:Part 1. A Call to Remember and Tell (Psalm 78:1-8)Asaph implores the Israelites to remember and tell of God’s redemptive work. When they recite his “glorious deeds” and “the wonders that he has done” (Psalm 78:4b, ESV), the next generation will “set their hope in God…[and] keep his commandments” (Psalm 78:7, ESV). When the Israelites remember their stories of redemption, they won’t follow in the fleeing footsteps of their “stubborn, rebellious,” ancestors (Psalm 78:8, ESV).

Who’s in Your Cloud of Witnesses? Lessons learned from Helen Roseveare

Have you seen the Capital One Financial ads, asking the customer, “What’s in your wallet?” It’s meant to convince potential customers that we need to have a Capital One credit card in our personal wallet.I think a question we can ask each other is, “Who’s in your cloud of witnesses?” (Hebrews 11), or who are the faith heroes we look to as role models to follow for life and ministry?Helen Roseveare is one of my heroes. Her wisdom has soaked over my life as I’ve read her books and listened to talks she gave during her life. I’ve kept her words in the pocket of my heart, so to speak, and the dividends have enriched my relationship with Christ and ministry.Helen was a British missionary, doctor, and author. She worked in the Congo from 1953 to 1973, including part of the period of political instability in the early 1960’s. She practiced medicine and trained others in medical work. She remained single until she met her eternal Bridegroom face to face in 2016 at the age of ninety-one.Here are three (of many!) ways Helen has discipled me to follow Christ more faithfully:Humor can be a godly tool in our ministry tool belt. Helen was funny! She was able to poke fun at herself and life itself in a way that softened the hearts of her audience. I appreciate that she used humor not to shame others, self-exalt, or self-deprecate but rather to reveal her humanity in a way that lifted the gaze of her audience to Christ and the cross…

FWD: RE: Your Devotional Life

It was your typical Tuesday, except for the atypical text message from a church acquaintance—the husband of a woman I deeply admire:“You will like this morning’s Spurgeon excerpt. Many references to gardening are in there. Blessings upon you and David this day.”Wow. So cool. I immediately felt considered, remembered, and spurred toward the Lord.Unfortunately, this type of interaction is not too typical in our PCA circles, is it? We aren’t sure how to do exactly what my acquaintance-friend did: communicate care, thoughtfulness, and honor in a respectful and appropriate way across gender or even generation. But he did it—he did exactly that. And my heart was moved toward the Lord because of the small but thoughtful act of my brother.How did he/we get to this place? To a place of safety in authentically extending the hand of friendship across genders in an appropriate, God-honoring way, encouraging the edification of all involved? Especially in this current socio-political climate of each gender elbowing the other out of the way to assert their self-importance? In our case, I’m chalking it up to church wide devotional.A couple years back, our church body began this practice, and it’s now become a significant thread in the life of our congregation—so much so, in fact, that we now refer to it as a means of grace. The brain trust of one of our associate pastors, Greg Poole, church wide devotional was born out of pastoral realization that significant numbers of Oak Mountain PCA’s flock were not spending daily time with the Lord on a consistent basis. (And sssssh, come closer: some of those numbers even represented church staff.)We needed a plan, and we needed one fast. A devotional was selected, full participation was encouraged, and before long the numbers told the story—the members of our congregation reporting time spent in daily devotion to God increased so significantly that Greg and staff were already on the hunt for which devotional to use the following year…