30 April 2014

What’s in a Name?

"What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet." 
-Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

The Swahili word for ‘white person’ is mzungu. While I've never heard it used in a derogatory way, I long ago grew weary of its use to greet me or to get my attention. I’m obviously a white person… but I don’t like being defined by my skin color. Most particularly, I do not like having all the assumptions that go with my skin color arbitrarily applied to me as a unique individual.

In my early years in Kenya, I made a couple t-shirts and this bag. Although making a strong statement, they also drew a lot of smiles and lighthearted conversation.

Similarly, I haven’t cared for what people do in Kenya to my very simple name – Deb. My given name is Debra and I went by Debbie during my childhood and teens. But for many decades now, I have much preferred to simply be called Deb.

Many of my British friends call me Debs. That seems rather odd to me; after all, I’m only one person!

Kenyans struggle to pronounce ‘Deb’ correctly, with it usually sounding like ‘dob’. Some call me Debu (pronounced Deb-oo). And of course, people always want to call me Debbie or insist on calling me Debra or Deborah - none of which I particularly care for.

However, I gained a new appreciation for the name Deborah when I recently re-read the story of Deborah in Judges four and five.

Deborah was an amazing woman. She was a prophet, a judge, and a spiritual leader for Israel. She sat under a palm tree, making decisions and settling disputes for her people. She desired to draw the Israelites back to following God and she knew action lay in her hands. As a woman, she boldly took initiative in a patriarchal society.

When she summoned Barak (Israel’s military commander), he was afraid to go to battle against Sisera (the general of their enemies) without Deborah by his side.

Deborah had no fear of going into battle and agreed to do so. But she proclaimed that the glory of the victory would not go to Barak… but to a woman.

God used another woman, Jael, to kill Sisera when he fearfully entered her tent. After the battle was over and the general of the enemy army was dead, Deborah composed a song praising God. In this victory song, she likewise praised Jael, calling her ‘most blessed of women’. Deborah also rejoiced that her people once again worshiped God.

Deborah was faithful to God and obedient to her calling. She modeled willing cooperation with God, offering all of herself – her gifts and her passion – for him to use.

Deborah boldly and fearlessly proclaimed the battle cry of ‘charge’, confidently knowing that God himself marched ahead of them. She rose up with abandon, while many Israelite men stayed back and played it safe… afraid to leave their comfort zones and the safety of their campfires and caves. When Deborah followed God’s plan for her life, even the stars in the sky joined in to bring her success.

Both Deborah and Jael were agents used by God for his purposes of justice and righteousness in the world. They were both heroines! After this incredible victory, brought about by two women, Israel had peace for forty years.

Like Deborah, I desire to offer my gifts and passion to God. I want to guide and encourage people to also offer themselves wholly to God.

Like Deborah, I desire to rise up and take my position in the world, obediently following God’s call on my life. 

Like Deborah, I desire to be fearless in the battles of life.

And from now on, if someone wants to call me Deborah… it’s very okay with me!

28 April 2014

Who is Deb Smith? And what exactly does she do?

I recently had two of my blog pieces published in the Thrive online magazine:

In addition to those, they asked me to compose a piece about myself. Here's a teaser, but you can see the whole thing by clicking here.

Who knows? You just might learn something about me that you didn't know!

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My God-given assignment is simple, that of living out the second greatest commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself. God has me primarily focusing on single parents and their children, as an example of 2 Corinthians 1:4 - God comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.

I am a proud mother of four children and have the joy of loving several delightful grandchildren ranging in age from six months to the oldest who is in college. After going through an unwanted divorce many years ago and continuing to homeschool my children as a single parent, I stand as an example that God’s joy and purpose for our lives rises up out of the ashes....

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Click here to see the rest of the piece.

21 April 2014

Great quotes from missionaries

Friends, when we are living our lives intentionally we stumble into opportunities to be a blessing just by being ourselves and doing what we do.

What are you offering the world today? Perhaps we don’t know the big picture, or what exactly is going on behind the scenes, but our lives can be an offering if we’re intentional about doing the things we’re good at – a little at a time – to those already in our lives, and to those we “happen” to find crossing our paths.

Adriel Booker (missionary in Australia and Asia)

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I don’t want to grow old and one day look back on my life with regret that I didn't fulfill the call of Jesus on my life. I don’t want to be standing before Jesus one day, desperately trying to explain why I buried my life in the ground instead of multiplying it.

~ Kristin Jack (missionary to the urban poor in Cambodia)

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People seem to think that the moment you leave behind the securities of a job, insurance, or a home that you are being reckless. But there is a big difference between being reckless and trusting God.

People constantly ask if I'm being careful and safe. But in reality, those are two different things. You can be careful but not necessarily safe. In some ways, that is what it is to live life. You take precautions. But if you avoid anything that could turn into a dangerous situation, well that's not living, it's dying. You take a step of faith and pray that God's will be done.

You should not necessarily pray for safety. Gods will and safety do not always line up.

God calls us to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty. God calls us to step out of our comfort zone. God calls us to live dangerously. God calls us to do crazy things.

It doesn't matter how hard it is. It does not matter how many people advise me not to. It doesn't matter how messy and terrifying the job becomes. It doesn't matter how crazy it sounds.

I am surrendering to the insane.

~ Carissa (missionary to Guatemala and soon to Uganda)

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Being a cross-cultural worker overseas is hard. Crazy hard. Let me just confess - it's not all rainbows and beautiful adventures. We thought it was when we moved here, but we quickly realized otherwise. Is it life-changing and completely worth every drop of blood, sweat, and tears? If you are in the will of God, ABSOLUTELY!

Jillian Kittrell (missionary in Haiti)

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I’m what most people call a “missionary”. Yet, most days I am not so sure if I want that title. Being a “missionary” comes with expectations- expectations from supporters of how I should act, expectations from friends and family of being a super Christian or something, and expectations from locals of having unlimited money, resources, and an obligation to help all.

I don’t want to be called a missionary anymore. And my reason is this: I don’t want people to think I am better. I just live life loving the people God called me to love. And I imagine a lot of you are too. God has placed us all where He desires us to be on mission for His kingdom. He has placed all the people He wants us to love in our path. He has given all of us a part in His body. So let us all be missionaries. Not just me, but you too.

Jillian Kittrell (missionary in Haiti)

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You need to walk, not run. Your mission is not a marathon and you shouldn’t be in any rush to save the world tomorrow. If you want to last as a missionary or as someone who wants to help others for a long time, you need to go slow, take care of yourselves, and take care of your family.

Jillian Kittrell (missionary in Haiti)

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The Christian should never worry about tomorrow or give sparingly because of a possible future need. Only the present moment is ours to serve the Lord, and tomorrow may never come. Money is really worth no more than as it can be used to accomplish the Lord’s work. Life is worth as much as it is spent for the Lord’s service.

~ George Müller (19th century evangelist and defender of orphans)

Note: I don't know any of these people. I got the first six quotes from the blogs of the authors. 

And I recently happened upon George Müller's quote; it's one of many of his that I like. 

I'm posting the quotes here, because each one of them speaks to me. I hope you also like them!