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

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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

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A Life Well Lived

My father passed away two weeks ago; we have just returned to Kenya after being with family in the States for his memorial.

We had been together... (10 days before his passing to Glory)

We had been together… (12 days before his death).

There is so much we could say about Edward Diener. He was born in 1917 as the second in a family of eight boys. Growing up on a farm in central Kansas, there was always a lot of work to be done. The boys all helped on the farm, of course, but it is reported that Edward was the one who most often helped his mother in the kitchen and helped take care of his younger brothers.

He was ordained in the Mennonite church in 1942, and served in active pastoral ministry for 44 years. But even in his retirement, he continued to serve the church and people. He had an amazing capacity for recollection of facts, dates and details. He could rattle off every important event in Anabaptist history with persons, places and dates completely intact. He also memorized a lot of scriptures, that is, entire books and chapters. When my mother was hospitalized prior to her death, Father and I often “read” scriptures to her: me by reading the Bible but Father by drawing from the repertoire of verses he had committed to memory.

My father followed a vigorous “visiting” routine in every community where he lived, bringing cheer to those who were elderly, shut-in or hospitalized. We always said that he was “out visiting old people.” And he continued to visit “old” people even when he was in his 90’s himself!

When in his 80’s, Father came to Kenya seven times to teach pastors. Studying and teaching God’s Word had been his passion throughout life, and it was such a privilege to receive that ministry here.

Obviously Father was very aware of his decline in short-term memory in the last several years. He seemed to find refuge and pleasure in one specific joke.

“I might have told you this before,” he would start. Even if you responded that, yes, you had heard the joke approximately 20 times before–it didn’t matter. He would still tell it again:

An older couple was out on a drive. The gentleman got to driving a little fast, and before he knew it, he was being pulled over by a policeman.

“Do you know you are speeding?” the policeman asked. “Why are you going so fast?”

“Oooh,” the old man replied. “I am sorry. But we have to hurry up and get there before we forget where we are going.”

In moments like this when the landscape of life changes, when eternity cracks through our self-induced cocoons and seems just a little more tangible for all of us, when we take a pause from the relentless routines of life, I wonder: are we also in danger of just plain going too fast? Or maybe in danger of forgetting where we ARE–ultimately–going? Is there a policeman who should also pull us over, and bring us back to a sane pace and appropriate focus?

It is always difficult to lose a parent, but I thank God for my father’s full life. Being together with all of his 32 descendants during the memorial was a source of great strength even in the grief. His was a life very, very well-lived, and I thank God for the years we had together.

~ Diane

 

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Like a Child: Quick to Recover

Several weeks ago I took a nasty fall while walking along a sidewalk at a busy Nairobi office. I tore the sleeve of my blouse, caked dirt into my handbag, and had two bleeding sidewalk burns (knee and elbow). The embarrassment hurt more than all those put together. I tried to stand up quickly, told everyone that I was “just fine”, and kept walking. But the truth is that I nursed those wounds and needed back rubs for more than a week after.

Today, I saw a young girl — maybe 4 years old — take a fall that was just as bad while running down a hill at church. But she hardly missed a beat. After just a few seconds she was up and running again. “Quite impressive,” I thought.

A physical fall might not be that consequential. But what about when we “fall” in other ways? When we make a fool of ourselves, or just make a mess.  Are we able to get up quickly? Children don’t worry too much about making mistakes, actually. They are much better at “getting over it” than we are.

I asked Google for quotations about failure, and found several good ones:

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” Michael Jordan

“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill

Yeah, good quotes. But as good as they sound, I must admit that I don’t like to make mistakes or mess up. I don’t recover from the negative feelings very easily. And as much as failure is supposed to be good for us. . . I don’t like it! That is probably due to pride. Sigh.

God’s Word says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” That is definitely a forget-and-move-on approach. Hopefully, like a child, I can forgive myself as readily as Christ forgives, not take myself too seriously, and move on.

~ Diane

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Like a Child: Learning How to Think

Each one of us has a unique way of looking at the world. We call this our belief system, or worldview. People are known to have a secular or Christian worldview, an African or Western worldview, and perhaps a modern or old-fashioned worldview. One’s worldview is just that — the way in which he views the world.

My worldview influences my opinions, judgments, beliefs and decisions. It shapes how I define and understand family, time, work, religion, money, land, right and wrong. . . just about everything in life. A worldview includes concepts of morality and spirituality as well. What is right and what is wrong? Who is God and what is His character? What is the value of human life?

When a child is born, she starts life with an “empty head,” so to speak. The newborn does not yet have a worldview. She has not formed any personal opinions. Instead, those will be formed during the early years of life, mostly based on what she is taught, or maybe what is ‘caught,’ from parents and family.

What about when we are ‘born again?’ Do we carry our views and opinions–the ones that we learned from the systems of the world, influenced by the enemy of our souls–into our life of faith? Or do we, like a newborn child, start with a cleaned-out mind and learn everything about everything from zero? Does the Word of God inform our worldview, or do the cultures we come from direct us?

Jesus used almost identical words when he told Nicodemus that he must be born again and when told his disciples they would need to change and become like children. In both instances, the “you must” condition was related to entering the Kingdom of heaven. Unless you are born again, and unless you become like a child, “you will never enter it.”

Being born of the spirit = being a spiritual baby = starting with a clean mind that will be filled, formed and taught by our Father in heaven and His Word. I might need a re-birth in some areas!

~ Diane

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