The Healing of the Ten

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Goedemorgen! Good morning! Buon giorno!

Speaking multiple languages is a blessing–most of the time. Sometimes it is confusing. I’ve Dutch, English, and Italian Bibles. Which one do I read today?

Italian, my third language, has become our daughter’s first. My husband and I speak Dutch most of the time. I write and read mostly in English.

As I shared in last week’s post, having to communicate in second or third languages can leave me insecure and frustrated. Often I feel like Moses. “Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” But he [Moses] said, “ Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” (Exodus 14:12-13).

It’s even harder for my husband, Jan. God has blessed him with a creative mind and with visionary, planning, and building capabilities. However, linguistic abilities are not among his greatest talents. Yet God uses him in Italy to preach, teach, and counsel. His Italian isn’t perfect, but people are edified and encouraged by his messages. God’s messages.

Every now and then though, eyebrows raise and mouths fall agape.

“Now Jesus healed ten lepri. How many did come back to Him?”

I heard someone chuckle as Jan met eyes with the people in the room. “Only one! Out of ten lepri, only one returned and believed.”

A giggle. Another one. Suddenly, it dawned on me. Joy filled the place as we all burst into laughter and explained to Jan that the Italian word for lepers is lebbrosi. Lepri are hares.

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Do I bear good fruit?

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Since I have given my life to Jesus, almost ten years ago, I’ve overcome many insecurities. Not because I’m so good, but because He is. I know–and feel–He loves me no matter what. I am where I am supposed to be, that is, in Umbria, Italy. I trust Him for providing for our small family next year, when we’ll have no income. Everything I have ever done and experienced–even the bad stuff–He can transform it and use it all for His purposes. I’m even willing to surrender my will to His without the taste of rebellion and pride in my mouth. I long to bear fruit that pleases Him and nourishes people.

Stop. Here’s where insecurity kicks in. Is the fruit that I bear good enough?

You might want to interrupt me right now and say, “You don’t get saved by your works,” or, “You can’t earn God’s love.”

I know.

But His Word says that I still need to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God (Col 1:9-10 ESV–italics are mine). If I don’t bear fruit, He’ll still love me, but it’s because of my love for Him that I long to bear fruit. Good fruit.

We–my husband, our daughter and I–are in Italy to share God’s love with the Italians and let His light shine where it’s dark. We witness when, where, and to whom we can. We host worship and prayer meetings, we do Bible studies and counselling sessions. As a family, we bear fruit.

But I know that in addition to the common fruit, God calls me to grow individual fruit. Something that only I can produce because He made me unique.

I am to write.

I’ve always loved to write, so I was delighted that about eight years ago, someone prophesied that God would touch hearts through my writings. Seven long years, I prayed for guidance, for inspiration. Only last year, I started to write seriously, that is, more than the occasional personal newsletter to friends and family “back home.”

With hindsight, it was the perfect timing. Before last year, I simply wouldn’t have had the time between restructuring a house, starting a ministry, adopting a daughter, and fighting my own spiritual battles.

So God made me write a book about my spiritual journey from atheism to Christianity and share it with “the world”. “The world’s” first language is English. So I wrote the book in English–my second language. In addition, I started a blog in English, and set up two English Facebook pages.

However, it takes me an awful lot of time to write in English. Every other sentence I check the Internet if what I wrote is really English, because I always fear that my  Dutch-English-Italian language center (did I already mention that my mother tongue is Dutch?) has brewed non-existent sayings, fussy phrasing, or multilingual idiom (which would certainly add an unintended touch of uniqueness to my writing…). Not to mention downright grammatical errors.

I must add that over the last half year–since I joined FaithWriters–I’ve grown in skill as well as confidence, but I still feel insecure about my English (did you notice the disclaimer in the right margin of this blog?). Is the quality of my unique fruit good enough for God to touch hearts, as He promised eight years ago? Or do readers get distracted–disgusted–by rotten spots and weird growths?

Then some weeks ago, God told me that it was time to start writing in Italian. You can’t be serious, was my first reaction. Although we live in Italy since 2004, have a local ministry, and interact daily with Italians, Italian is my third language. Third as in “third-best.”

I felt like Moses. Can you please choose someone else for the job? Like a native Italian?

But He was clear. You do the job. I’ll give you the message, you write.

So I started writing in Italian. It’s a long and painstaking process. But God said I should do it. I obey.

He trusts me.

Who am I to feel insecure?

——-

What is your unique calling? How do you feel about it?

I am…

WhoAmI“Who are you?”

“Well, my name is …, I am … years old, I live in …, and I work as ….”

“No, sorry, I asked who you are–not how you are called, how long and where you live, or what you do for a living. Who are you really? What is your identity?”

We all need a sense of identity. The urge to know who we are arises in adolescence. We search our hearts. We seek role models. We need to know what our place is, where we belong, and what we’re worth. Stroke by stroke, we paint an image of who we think we are—or more often, of who we’d like to be. The degree to which the resulting self-portrait reflects the truth affects our fitness for life.

Speaking for myself–I wanted to be beautiful, lovable, and loved. Recognized for my character and intellect. In control. Known and understood. Needed.

I searched in all the wrong directions, taking the lines and colors to create my self-image from introspection, people, situations, and circumstances. I was deceived, confused, and frustrated. Hurt pride, anger, and bitterness took root inside me. I felt useless. My portrait was a mess.

Until, at the age of forty-three, I found Him. He explained that I couldn’t search my own heart, because it is deceitful. But He also said that I’m wonderfully made. He said that it was better to take refuge in Him than to trust in men. He knew me like no one else, including the ugly growths and wounds inflicted by a life lived without Him.

He is the Most High God, the Creator of all, and the King of kings. Yet He longs for communion with me–so much that He died for me. He restored my soul, uprooting the parasites of darkness. He cleansed me and completed me with His gifts. He needs me to shine His royal light in a dark world. He knows my destination and the way. He is my Guide. I follow Him, step by step.

I was a sinner. He made me a saint.

I was worthless. He made me worthy.

I was skeptical. He made me trust Him.

I was proud. He made me humble.

I was broken. He made me whole.

I was a vulnerable approval seeker. He made me rest in His arms.

I was introspective. He made me focus on Him.

I was a psychologist turned programmer turned technical information developer turned campsite owner turned housewife. He made me a pastor and a writer.

I was lonely. He made me the wife of a loving, godly man.

I am barren. He made me the mother of the most beautiful girl in the world.

I am Nordic. He made me a resident of Italy and bear the hot summers.

I am an introvert. He makes me come out of my comfort zone and witness for His grace and His love.

I am a confrontation-avoiding coward. He makes me brave.

I am His beloved child in whom He is well pleased.

Who are you?

Hope Against All Odds

More MH17-plane-crashthan two weeks ago, on July 17, 298 people died. They were victims in a war that didn’t concern them, because someone decided to down the airplane in which they sat on their way to their home, holiday, or work.

I know—every day innocent people die in senseless wars. But this particular incident rocked me to the core. Maybe because it involved almost two hundred fellow citizens (Dutch). Or because it’s so easy to imagine being in their shoes.

The following article, “Now Is The Time,” which I wrote for yet another FaithWriters’ Weekly Writing Challenge, reflects my thoughts and emotions. It asks the difficult questions that many people will have, but it ends with a message of hope–and a call to all Christians.

 


 

Now Is The Time

Yes!

Wendy leaps between the closing doors into the train, then slumps down onto the nearest vacant seat.

The young man across from her smiles.

“You made it.”

“Yep.” Not in the mood for chitchat, Wendy picks up her smartphone to check Facebook.

Incredible—how can they keep posting all these irrelevant messages after yesterday’s plane crash?

She’d hardly slept. The sickening image of a plane with 298 people being hit by a missile at 33,000 feet kept haunting her. Had they known what happened? Were they still alive while falling? Will the guilty ever be caught? Wide awake, she’d tried to give words to her distress. Her best friend, a marble cover notebook, patiently received phrases filled with grief and frustration. Only at about 5 a.m., merciful sleep arrived.

She hadn’t heard the alarm. When she woke up at last, she ran to catch the 8.15 train. Being responsible for the social sciences section of a national newspaper, she couldn’t afford to miss the early morning briefing.

The phone rings in her hands. It’s her editor, Stanley.

“Don’t come to the newsroom, Wendy. The boss called; she wants you to cover a Christian meeting. Says she needs some hope amidst the tragedy.”

She sits up straight. “What? You know religion isn’t my thing, Stanley.” The last thing I need is being around a bunch of cocooning Christians.

“Sorry, girl. Write something nice about the effect of faith on mourning. Here’s the address.”

“Wait a sec.” Wendy rummages through her bag in search of her notebook.

Oh no.

In the rush, she left it on her nightstand.  All of the sudden, she feels incomplete. Of course, she writes her articles on her laptop, but the first ideas, the raw emotions—she just has to jot them down by hand, ink on paper.

“Hold on, Stan.” She continues digging until she finds a scrap of paper and absentmindedly accepts the pen the young man offers her.

She’s still writing when the trains stops. The man greets her with another smile and leaves. She holds the pen out, but he shakes his head and mouths, “Keep it.”

“Thanks–no nothing, Stan. Okay, I’ll do my best. Ciao.”

Looking at the address, she realizes that she needs to get off as well. Grabbing her bag, she jolts for the exit.

No!

Too late; the doors snap shut in her face.

 ***

An hour later, she approaches a building adorned with a huge banner that says, “Now Is The Time!”

Time for what exactly? For God to show up, at last?

She wonders how any person in his right mind can believe in a good God—unless they close their eyes for reality.

When she enters the lobby, a person walks up to her. To her surprise, she recognizes the young man from the train.

“Hello, my name is Michael. Welcome.” He seems genuinely pleased and hands her a conference kit in which she identifies an information flyer, folders of Christian organizations, a notepad, and a pen. She takes out the flyer and hands the kit back to him.

“I’m here as a reporter. I’m not religious.”

“That’s good. Neither am I.” His eyes sparkle. “But don’t you need the notepad?”

Wendy stiffens. “No thanks. This flyer and my memory will do.”

Then her reporter instinct kicks in. “What are you doing here if you’re not religious?”

He smiles. “I am a Christian though. You know, Jesus never preached religion.”

A band starts playing in the auditorium.

“Did you know that God doesn’t rule the world?”

Wendy frowns. “Well, actually I already guessed so.”

“Tell me… Who’s behind yesterday’s plane crash? God or Satan?”

What?

Behind the doors, many people start singing as one, in perfect harmony.

Wendy raises her voice. “Then where’s the hope?”

“Jesus is our hope.” Michael lowers his head to speak directly in her ear. “God provided a way out of the darkness—Jesus. He’s come to usher in the Kingdom of light and invites all people into that Kingdom.”

“But how–?

“It’s time that Christians get out of their cozy buildings. It’s time they rise and shine His light into the darkness. The more light, the less darkness.”

Wendy takes the pen out of her bag. “Now, where’s that notepad?”

Michael hands her the kit. Their eyes meet; he smiles, his face all aglow.

Marveling, she puts the pen to the paper as words bubble up.

Hope against all odds. Will light defeat darkness?