Illusions

My father was not a stingy person. Not by any means. My parents gave generously to many people and many causes, especially the church and Christian education. They were always ready to help someone in genuine need.

But even so, Father did not like spending. One particular scenario played out over and over again in our home. Mother goes out shopping. She finds things that are on sale, and decides that she needs lots and lots and lots of them. After all, they are on sale!

When she comes home, she (of course) has to brag about how much she saved. “You did not save money,” Father would shout. “Why do you think that when you buy all these things we don’t need you have saved money? You didn’t save money, you spent it!” I can still hear him ranting.

It’s no wonder that she really believed she had saved. When leaving a grocery store last week, the final words of the teller were, “Today you saved two dollars and thirty cents.” Really? My ‘savings’ were even printed at the bottom of the receipt. But the real bottom line, the line just above “You saved. . . ,” showed the TRUE picture. I had spent over twenty dollars.

My father’s conundrum about spending and saving reminds me that things are not always what they appear to be. We can be so easily deluded.

This is Holy Week. We are between Palm Sunday and Good Friday; between the day Jesus was escorted into Jerusalem with shouts of “Hosanna, Hosanna” and the day he was condemned to die by the same crowd shouting “Crucify him! Crucify him.” That same Jerusalem crowd. The crowd was apparently full of people who were “following the crowd.” We often live with an illusion that we would have responded differently. I am not so sure.

Then what about Peter? Judas? The other ten disciples? None of them planned to betray Jesus. But they were caught off guard. Judas was the first to repent of what he had done, but could not comprehend that forgiveness could be granted, so he buckled under the weight of his guilt. Second only to Judas, Peter tends to get most of the ‘bad press’ among the disciples. He had been warned that he would deny Jesus, and despite his objections, he did that very thing. Notice also Matthew’s report: “Then all the disciples deserted him and fled” (Mt 26:56).

What about me? Would I also be among those who deny Jesus? Probably, except for His grace.

Have a blessed Easter!

~ Diane

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Keep the Knives Sharp

My father was passionate about the importance of several things: studying the Bible, hard work, integrity in church leadership—and, sharp knives! Though generally even-tempered, if he was given a task that involved cutting and found that the knife was not sharp enough for his liking, he would exclaim, almost with anger, “You have to use a sharp knife!”

Father often worked in the kitchen, even as a child. Whenever a task involved cutting, it seemed that ninety percent of the time he was not satisfied with the sharpness of the blade. He would insist on sharpening the knife before starting the job. . . but not without a generous dose of complaining and reprimand.  I heard from him many times, in exasperation, “Diane, haven’t you learned that you have to keep your knives sharp?”

An important lesson for all of us.

It also makes me wonder why most of us do not approach life like that. Why do we tend to keep working without sharpening the knives?

  • One possible reason is that the dulling of a knife is a gradual process that takes place due to use and/or neglect. It is very easy to be unaware of how dull the knives are getting.
  • When a cutting edge is lost, causing our tasks to be laborious, our efforts less than effective, our impact compromised, we might choose to ignore the obvious(or what is obvious to others) and just keep struggling along.
  • Or maybe laziness. Sharpening a knife requires that we retrieve the knife sharpener from who-knows-where it was last kept (or go and buy one), then postpone the start of the job in order to engage in the sharpening process. Extra work. “Asch, I’ll do it next time,” we reason, and don’t bother to put in the effort or cost that it would take to restore the cutting edge.

Almost to the point of embarrassment, I often ask for a sharpener when using someone else’s knife. So hopefully my father taught me something! But in our kitchen, you will probably notice that knives are in the medium-to-mega dull range. Ouch.

Which knife do I need to sharpen today?

~ Diane

Posted in Family, Inspiration, Personal | 3 Comments

Eat your Lettuce

Through most of my growing-up years, my parents owned a restaurant. We ate most of our meals there, with a nice salad bar available just about any time of the day.

My father usually made sure that he had a salad along with his lunch or dinner. As long as he ate lettuce, even if it was thoroughly doused with Thousand Island dressing and the rest of the meal was fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, a few vegetables and chocolate pudding for dessert . . . that didn’t matter. He believed that as long as he faithfully included a salad, he would stay healthy and even lose weight.

“No, Father,” we would tell him, “it does not work like that. Just eating lettuce doesn’t make you lose weight if you eat all these other things along with it!” He was never convinced.

This Lesson From My Father is sort of a reverse truth, that is, a way of thinking that is not at all accurate. It makes me think of how some of us handle our spiritual diet. If we have a dose of Bible reading in the morning, or a few minutes of prayer, we think that we can take in whatever is streaming through the computer feed or TV screen the rest of the day. We can listen to junk, look at junk, read junk and even think junk. Because we have done our spiritual duties, the rest doesn’t really matter. We assume that surely God will protect us and keep us healthy in spirit as long as we include something good in the mixed-up heap of what we take in.

Again, “No, it does not work like that.” One insertion of the Word or one chorus of praise does not suffice. We are called, rather, to dwell in God’s presence and cut off anything that contaminates.

Sure, it is still good to eat your lettuce. A lot of it, actually! But what else are we eating along with it?

~ Diane

Posted in Family, Inspiration, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Lessons from my father

You might (or might not!) have noticed that our posts have been quite inconsistent. Without an inspiration, we tend to just “keep quiet.”  But it definitely works better when we follow a theme, so here goes with a new series: Lessons From My Father. This is about things I learned from my earthly father, D. Edward Diener.

My father passed away in October last year when he was approaching ninety-nine years of age. We thank God that we had just spent a week with him in late September at my brother Larry’s home in PA. What a privilege to have those precious memories tucked away in the soul.

with-father

Several years ago with brothers Dave and Larry and our father.

In the months after, I have often reflected on good things that my father taught and lived.

Having been the daughter of and/or wife of a preacher all my life, I know that preachers often have a standard standby message that they give over and over. One my father taught a lot was about eternity: quality of life in Christ.

“Eternal life starts now,” he would say. Eternity is not just about living forever, but it is about living well. “Do you want to spend eternity hanging upside-down from your toenails?” he would always ask. I don’t know why he used such a surreal example, but I certainly remember it.

The answer is obvious—of course not! And the point is, eternal life is a good life. It is a life of abundance, a life of being in the glorious presence of the Triune God. We are called to begin living that life now, while still on earth. We are not in some kind of a miserable state, waiting to escape this world in order to get relief in heaven. We are already seated in heavenly places, walking with God in His presence. Let’s enjoy it!

If you have not already, please begin your eternal life of blessings by making Jesus your Lord today.

More “Lfmf” to come. Have a wonderful day!

~ Diane

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FIRE!

before-fire We don’t usually share news updates on the blog, but this time we will because of a devastating report from one of the Springs of Africa-sponsored schools here in Nairobi (pictured several years ago).

When a fire ravaged through Kibera slums on Tuesday night, Desert Streams School suffered the brunt of it. The school building, desks, computers, textbooks and student books, student records, church equipment—all were razed to the ground. To the natural eye, the situation looks hopeless. But the directors, teachers and even the children are not without hope.fire-building

Tobias and Judy Oloo, Directors, were alerted at night. “When we got here, we could not do anything. The fire was spreading too fast,” Judy recounts. “Even what we tried to salvage was snatched by looters who were taking advantage of the confusion to grab whatever they could.”

The day before, nearly 250 students were busy learning in the school, ready for a good year ahead. Now, remains of revision papers, scraps of metal and  two staircases leading to nowhere speak of what was but is no more.fire-water-tank

Despite the calamity, children reported to school the following day. Teachers gathered them in groups in the empty adjacent church building and courageously continued teaching as best they could. Parents came to witness the damage.

The fire was apparently sparked by an illegal power connection nearby. “I heard a huge explosion followed by several more explosions. Within a short time, the whole neighborhood was burning,” a teary victim narrated. Unfortunately, a man who tried to intervene at the point of the explosion was killed instantly. Many homes were burned down before the fire reached and stopped at—thanks to the water tank at the school—Desert Streams.

“We are collecting nails hopefully to be reused when the time to rebuild comes. But we do not know where to begin,” Judy desperately explains. Then the unwavering hope: “But with God’s help, we shall surely start again.”

The interim emergency plan is to partition the church into makeshift classrooms. The most urgent need is for books and desks. If you wish to donate toward these costs you can do so on this blog page, designating your donation to RESTORE DESERT STREAMS. We will be sure your gift reaches the school. Thank you!

~Diane

Posted in development | 6 Comments

2017 Basics

Do you make New Year resolutions? I usually do not. The few I have written or resolved in the past were likely forgotten by February or March of the same year.happy-new-year

Looking into 2017, however, I sense some clear instructions from the Lord. So if I want to be obedient, it probably means that some resolutions are needed. Here we go.

  1. REST. God rested after six days of work. Is my work more important than His? (ha!) Resting and the related instructions regarding Sabbaths and Jubilees are all part of God’s law. But we (I) could (and do) argue: do we need to be bound to follow the law, now that we are in the New Covenant dispensation? (The typical cop-out, right?) Jesus, who came to fulfill the law, explained it so well: “The Sabbath was created for man, not man for the Sabbath.” In other words, the principle of Sabbath rest is for our own good. In order to correctly pace this race and reach the appointed finish, I need to be willing to rest!
  2. RELATE. We often hear about two main categories of people: relationship-oriented and task-oriented. I am definitely among the latter. Translated, it means that I am energized by doing tasks and drained by being with people. But—we need each other! And relationships, in order to be healthy, need our time. Second resolution.
  3. REPRODUCE. Things that have life, grow. Things that have sustainable life, reproduce. Russ Carson writes in the book What Makes a Leader Great that we exist in order to replace ourselves. Mentoring others and replacing ourselves is important for any person of any age. But when you are over forty (smile!), it becomes even more crucial. In every area of work and ministry, God wants me to replace myself in others this year.

The “Three R’s” of Reading, ‘Riting and ‘Rithmatic represent the basics of education. This year, God is calling me back to another basic three R’s. May His grace be sufficient!

We wish each and every one of you a wonderful year in 2017.

~ Diane

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Full Circle

Living for three months in Costa Rica during my college years was a significant experience, to say the least. It was there that I fell in love with another culture and was imprinted with a passion for the developing (or “Third”) world. It was there I knew for certain that I was destined for a cross-cultural lifestyle.

I will never forget the flight back home from San Jose in December 1980. My classmates were thrilled to be going home, but I was heart-broken. It seemed more like a nightmare. Re-entry was distressing-plus. I became convinced that I would never again be able to settle in the United States.

Back in college, I met Ibrahim in our student fellowship. When he spoke about missions, I went forward for prayers. “The rest is history” as they say. Two years later we got married, then moved to Kenya in 1984.

Yes, I  was a fluent Spanish speaker. “Don’t you belong in a Spanish-speaking country?” many people questioned. But my sense of call had not been to a particular nation, and Kenya soon become our new home. Swahili graduallgroup-l-ay replaced Spanish in the “second language compartment” of my brain, and I wondered if I would ever use Spanish again. “One day,” I often prayed. “One day, Lord, I want to go back to Latin America.”

God heard. And answered… 36 years later. This week we have been in Colombia with DOVE Latin America leaders and in the homes of Colombian pastors. !Que preciosa! How precious! It has been an amazingly blessed time.

So many things are similar to Kenya: a ‘warm climate’ culture, an abundance of fruit, crazy driving, perfect weather, coffee and banana fields—and the ministry challenges of poverty, try-thisauthoritarian leadership models in the culture, dependence > > on and on. Yes, it does “feel like” home.

Oh, how God so beautifully weaves the story of each of our lives! I have seen it again and am encouraged again to trust in His sovereignty and Master Plan. Gloria a Dios!

~ Diane

Posted in Cultures, development, Missions, Personal | Tagged , , , , | 13 Comments