October 26, 2006

Joy and Johnny Cash

I have been thinking about Joy. I remembered CS Lewis's book - "Surprised by Joy" and so that is on my list of books I want to read. I'm not searching to be surprised by joy - though I'm sure I will be as I seek out joy - but I just wonder where joy is... Joy isn't due to circumstances - but is something richer - and I know I've been lacking it. I think I have had joy in my life - even in recent days. When I feel love - I feel joy - when I feel peace - I feel joy, but I'm of the mind at the moment - that joy, like love can be, is a choice. Joy is deeper than feeling. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. I regret that when I share about my life - its as though there is something there to feel sad for me... I think that is due to a lack of joy. I want a realistic joy - not a senseless joy - but an act of the will which chooses to express positive and hopeful feelings of the present situations. I read a devotional by Amy Charmichael and she spoke about how when the burnt offerings were made - there was continual rejoicing through music - and that we too have our own offerings to bring through our lives consecrated to God - and its the nature of the giving of our offering that gives it worth in Gods eyes - and He loves a cheerful giver. Let me be a cheerful giver!! I am making no sacrafice that is too burdensome - but I have much to be thankful for - much to rejoice in - I have reason to live with joy!!

And yet there are things that hurt... While I was thinking of these things I looked out the window at the dog that was yapping and yapping. Its a lovely little black dog - full of excitement - its tied up at the corner of a house in a closed off yard - in the shade. It can't bask in the sun, and when its been raining lots like it has recently - its damp and cold. I'm sure he has a coat that keeps him warm and that he is used to the weather - but he yapped and yapped - cause he wanted some attention - some food, some company, some freedom. All the while it was wagging its excited tail. I watched it wishing I was nearer so I could throw it a treat to eat. Then I saw the lady of the house come out - but instead of giving it a scruffy pat on the head - she took out a big bottleful of water - and splash, splash, splash - three big glugs of water splashed all over the hopeful little dog. I was so sad to see that... She turned back swiftly indoors - and the dog - dejected and wet, drooped its tail and curled up silent, with a little less spirit left in it.

And then I thought about joy... and I thought about Johnny Cash and his song "Man in Black" He tells all the reasons why he wears black - and would continue to - and it was for all the hurting ones, all those who suffered injustice or deciet or all those who never knew Jesus. He said if he could he would wear a rainbow everyday - but till things changed - he'd be wearing black. And I got his sentiment - I understood, and thought - I might lack joy - but its for the things that crush the spirit. But still - this world needs joy - needs life that lifts and builds up - and I need joy too. I'm gonna choose joy and love together - and the rest of the fruit that will fill my life to the full and be joy to those around me. I believe in it - I believe in the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Later that evening I looked out the window with my thoughts and for the fresh air - and I saw a young man sitting on the steps - he had a joyful little black dog playing tenderly with him. He was there spending time with the dog - loving it, and the little dog was loving it too! There is hope - and its these elements of love, joy, peace and all the rest that make a change to the things in life which would want to take away joy. So here's to Joy.

October 22, 2006

nje histori e bukur

The sermon tonight at church was great. I always come away feeling that way from the small fellowship of Albanian believers that I am privileged to be amongst. So the text was -

“And Jesus said to his disciples (those he was teaching to have a sincere faith in him) For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat, nor for your body, as to what you will put on” Luke 12:22

Much was said that I could not explain in such as natural manner as did the preacher – but in the middle of it all he said he had to tell “nje histori e bukur.” A beautiful story. And this is the story...

There was a father who loved his daughter so much, and there was a handsome confident lad who wanted to marry the daughter. So the father said – well, since you have such love and want to marry my daughter – will you go through a test for her hand in marriage. “Of course I will” he replied with determination. So the father led him to an empty room, and said “For as long as I decide will you stay in here with no food – only water? Will you do this to prove your love for my daughter?” “Yes sir! I shall do that” the confident young man declared. So the young man was locked in the empty room, and a whole week passed and the father went to the empty room and unlocked it. He opened the door and directly said – “What do you want – a bowl of soup or my daughter?” Here is the scene one minute beforehand. The young man had endured the week – he was aching – his stomach rumbling, he was very, very hungry – he was watching, waiting for the door to open, and then the door opened and he heard the words “What do you want – a bowl of soup... daughter?” “Soup! Soup!” he cried! And the father brought him soup, but did not let him marry his daughter. :)

It is a beautiful story!

Will we be ones who trust the Lord with our needs – or will our needs be so desperate that we would forsake our true love to fulfil them? God knows our needs. Will we trust him to fulfill his promises to meet them?

“The steps of a man are established by the Lord and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand. I have been young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread.” Psalm 37:23-25

There is no doubt that this requires faith to believe, and faith is what God requires. Another psalm says God searches the earth looking for those to be strong for. Will we let God be strong for us? He knows if we are locked up in an empty room - hungry and in need. It challenged me....

Jars of Clay

Jars of Clay - "Good Monsters" is their new album. It's really, really good. Ties together a lot of questions about life and people and God. It doesn't hide from the difficult things.

"we are beautiful when we sleep
hearts of gold and eyes so deep
but love wont cure the chaos
and hope wont hide the loss
and peace is not the heroine that shouts above the cause
and love is wild for reasons
and hope though short in sight
might be the only thing that wakes you up by surprise."

difficult rainy sunday

It's a difficult day today. It's raining and theres lots of traffic outside. I have thoughts and questions and dissapointments and no way to express them to others - except writing now. And out of the window came a lovely cooking smell - just like at my Aunt Janets house on a sunday! I wish I wasn't on my own. I know I've felt like this before - and I know God reaches into my heart and tells me of his love and his purposes - and I know to look up and believe and carry on.

Lord Jesus hold our hearts and strengthen us where we are weak, that we might sing with joy and know the fullness of all you have given to us. You are Lord and you are wonderful and you have work for us to do, help us to do what you want us to do.

October 20, 2006

Hi Noah and Jacob!!

Beth's Timetable

If anyone prays for me - pray I have the discipline to stick to this and learn as much as I can. Study and set times etc is not at all my strong point! Full of good intentions - to see them realised is by far another matter! God bless you in all you are doing too!

October 19, 2006


I love my family. I love my friends and if I could I'd be with them forever! I'm glad I'm in tune with the desires of Jesus - cause He wants to be forever with his family and friends too! In Jesus we're gonna share that eternal love and eternal life. Praise the Lord!

What I really want to say though is that it broke my heart somewhat to leave or be far from those I love, and I've known that feeling many times, and I knew it coming to Albania three months ago. And when that happens I loose a certain faith that the love within me will be expressed or fulfilled, but Jesus knows what he is doing with my life - and he fulfills the creation of me. I'm with a small group of Christians here that inspire me incredibly. Though its just been a small ammount of time that I have been with them - I have the deepest of repect for them and am in wonder at how deep the Fathers love for me can be that he would choose to place me here. I just want to be with them, learn from them. I've come to see that what I love so much in people - is seeing God character in them, seeing God expressed. The spirits of these people are beautiful - and I know they are alive in the spirit of the living God. Love enfuses me - I am so grateful for it. I know this love within me is a God thing - cause I never see that I can have anymore than what I already feel - and then I find myself surprised - cause it flows deeply once again! Somehow there is always room to love more. I think its an eternal fountain, it wells up to eternal life - from the source of Living Water that is there for all to drink freely from. Can there be such an amazing thing? I am in wonder.
"I wait for the Lord, my soul waits and in his word do I hope."
Psalm 130.5

October 18, 2006

challenged to be changed

I've been challenged by different people recently, people searching for the validity of Christ in thier lives and in the world - and just by the situation of the world which has always challenged me. I've by challenged too by teaching of godly people. I talk a little about these challenges in this post - but overall - I want to say there's only one who has the greatest worth of challenge - and that's Jesus. In comparison to his challenge, nothing else matters - at the end of the day. I know it's a debate in the Christian world - on how to be acceptable to people that we love, and how can we hold up Christ as Saviour sensitively to the needs of the hearers of the gospel. Jesus disciples testified to Jesus Christ - even to their deaths. I don't presume I have that kind of faith or committment - but I think we can talk around and around on some matters - and there just is no way round the truth of Jesus - no matter how unacceptable that might sound to so many people. It's strange even to make a statement like that, I'm sure it must sound almost childish at the level of debate, but with that truth I think we should be committed on a far richer level to bringing gospel or expressing Gods glory to people with so much love and creativity and truth from the Bible - that lives just get turned around because Jesus is lifted up. Different people are gifted in different ways to do that. But it will always rock the boat. Not all are going to like it. It may sound simplistic - but its truth - cause Jesus said it. John 17.

I heard some teaching recently that said that "faithfulness" is not a commitment to the old ways, a continuation of doing the same thing - but it is venturing to something new - and using all you've got to do so. God called his people to do things that had never been done before - Noah to build and ark, Moses to set the people free and walk them through the parted Red Sea. These were considered faithful.

Jesus connected himself to John the Baptist when he begun his ministry on earth. John was no way like other "godly people" people who thought they were alright when it came to God and right living, Jesus wanted to identify with the one proclaiming - things need to be different! We need to turn from our ways and look to God to be changed! I need to be changed!! Continually. And I want to step into the new things that God would have me do. If I'm totally His - then He can use me in this earth for what He knows I can be a part of. Anyway - I'm not sure how this all fits for me. I know that the Bible is crucial and that relationship with Jesus is crucial. I know I've not yet arrived, and I wont till heavan - but I hope I'm committed to walking in the way of Jesus.

I think people who are disillusioned with the church are disillusioned because they see so much need of change in what is happening in the world and in relationships. Its a hunger for liberty and love and justice and mercy and love. Yeah I want to be challenged - just like Jesus challenged everyone he met. I want to turn from the things that are just not right in my life when I am before Jesus who is truth, but I want to be changed so that it is no longer about me... I want to be like Jesus - who loved people and was entirely in step with the will of God, and made a difference in a way no one would have guessed, no one would have chosen. He went to the cross. Who would of imagined such a thing? Not even his closest friends the disciples. Only God in His highest of ways.

Help us Lord to know how to reflect you and not push people away from truth and redemption - but instead shine for Jesus, really shine - unselfishly, and full of life and truth and in freedom. And give us a vision that is off you and the perspective you have of the desperation of this world. Reveal a reality of life that we can live out where we are. Change us Jesus.

I have some friends who have been reading books like Rob Bell's "Velvet Elvis", Shane Claibornes "Irresistable Revolution", "Blue Like Jazz" I think I'm ready to dip into these books and attitudes. Maybe I'll read there things that I understand already - maybe I'll be challenged further - I hope so - but being challenged kind of rocks somethings that havn't been rocked before. I know I need challenging in ways that are probably unexpected and even that need an element of the rebel to whats been generally acceptable by Christians - and whats been generally acceptable to myself. Who knows but I hope to keep on finding that truth that sets free, cause what's the point otherwise!

I'm being challenged here in Albania by Christians who are living a faith in ways I've never seen before - they're sold out and they're not ashamed of the gospel of truth found in the word of God - at the same time they are committed to love and unity - because naturally - saoked in the word of God and in the example of Christ - there is no avoiding the "greater love that no man has - but that he would lay down his life for his friends." And we are his friends if we do what he commands. He's commanded us to love God with all our heart, mind and soul and love our neighbour as we love ourselves. We could praobably do with loving them even more than that. I think the key thing in it all though - is never miss out on the most important relationship of all - with Jesus - the one who shows us the way - the one who is the way.

October 16, 2006

3 month transition

I've done it! I'm through! I made it through transit! That's what it feels like. If I was swimming I could say I've swum the English Channel or something...! I feel I'm in my place now. It's been three months since I have come to Albania (well in two days time at least). I've been given a real sense of focus and purpose - last night I stayed up late and set myself up for an intensive 6 months of language and reading program - books of Albania and its history and of children at risk and also 3 language programs. I'm excited to do it and feel a liberty to invest this time this way. I have an apartment where I feel at home and the beginnings of many friendships and aqquaintances.

Was fun - I just came home from meeting to pray with Judith and Margaret, did my shopping on the way home. Monday mornings are for shopping and laundry for the week - and I decided to get a special sandwich at the super market - they're incredible - a toasted pannini with ham, cheese, cucumber, tomatoe, olives, natural yogurt, mayo, ketchup and a few chips!! I decided to give up diet coke and little extras like chocolate :( just to be healthier - but thought a nice tradition for my monday weekly shop would be a supermarket sandwich and a diet coke! Nice simple things of life! Nice to be building up a routine. When I made it back to my pallati (apartment) after the normal greetings to the lady at the bottom of the pallati and to Lorenc and Vera in their little shop, I tied up my bike and was unloading the two crates of water I have to buy (don't want kindney stones with all the lime in the water) and the young girl from the ground floor and her friend were there - they so excitedly asked if I needed help - so I said yes and they trooped up the strairs with the water. I said they were very good girls and they ran down the stairs smiling widely!

I'll go now to my language lesson in a house down the road, then go to a Bible study at the church, and come home in the evening after a busy day! I've made it! I'm through the transition stage. For now - I'm home!

October 14, 2006

the best of all things

Here is the best of everything on this earth and in heavan. God - of all the universe, finds me delightful. Isn't that amazing? He thinks you are delightful too. That's His kind of love. Even when we are far from delightful - He loves us the same - and He sent His Son - Jesus to die on the cross and rise again to life - so He could take delight in us - those set free from all our sin - through the shed blood of Jesus on the cross. We are free to be loved! Free to be delighted in by God - and to find all delight in Him, for it is He who is truely delightful.

"The Lord your God is with you,
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing."
~Zephaniah 3:17

October 13, 2006


I'm so glad I can admire what a family can be, and that I have a desire for friendship and creativity and the pure things of life - like nature and art, music, adventure, good times. I hope I'm going keep on knowing all these things - and knowing them better, I'm sure I could lighten up and have a bit more fun! Yet sometimes - I can see a dream of these things -something I could long for - or pray for or hope for, and in reality - its like wishing my life was different. I think the courageous thing is to live the creative and loving life in the surroundings that you find yourself in. For me its here - and that's because I believe God called me here - which must seem strange to many people. God might one day say - "well Beth - its time - I'd like you to fall in love and have a beautiful family". Then that will be a good and perfect time. But for now God has said - "well Beth I want you to go to Albania - and do the things that I have asked you to do". I woke up this morning more able to walk in that - because I realised that God knows the reasons he has asked me to be here - and because he knows the future I can trust him with what he asks, and not only that but his desire, his will for my life - is by far the best - because he knows why he is asking me to do these thing - now, in this specific timeframe. It may not be forever - but its what is needed for the time being, and in someways if not in all ways - only God knows why. So I'm going to trust in him, and ask him what he wants and how to do it. Everything else is in his hands - I hope he doesn't take away the good desires I have which he has no doubt given me - and the longings and hopes and dreams - I hope he fulfills them - but instead of being caught up in them - I want to be fulfilled and joyful and complete doing what he has asked me to do. God will take care of the rest. As long as it is Jesus who has asked - I can find all I need - to do anything he sets before me. Jesus said the same thing - "my food is to do the will of my father." Gods doesn't ask of us without reason.

October 12, 2006

walk the line

Walk the Line - the story of Johnny Cash is one of my favorite films. It holds me some how - holds my attention - because there's such a reality to it. Or a reality that I can feel. It's hard to explain - I feel it in my stomach. He knows hurt and pain, he longs for love and to be of worth - but they are not articulated longings. It's like a true and unavoidable thing. I don't know why that speaks to my heart - but it does - I suppose his story has life - because he knows love. He feels it deeply - believes in it - lives by it and is lost and damaged without it. Though he chases love, in the end it finds him - even though he abandons his own life. I really like the love he and June Carter find. It's funny me thinking about Johnny Cash and watching "walk the line" out here in Albania. I'm not sure how it relates to me - and in some ways makes me lonesome. In other ways - makes me glad to be me, and I hope I'm loved, really truely loved.

photos and shades of pink :)

Hi! Just to say I have uploaded more photos on "Beth's Photos" - ones of the missionary retreat I went to in September, views around Shkodra - and my own home sweet home! This is one I never included, but I quite like it. My friend Maggie from church sent me the chinese paper lampshade - as all the light shades here are thick porcelain! When I went to fit it I realised the light fittings were ancient - so bought new ones and had to cut off the old rusty ones - praying I wouldn't be electrocuted! I fixed new ones on. I was quite proud of that! Never knew how to do it before and figured it out along the way! And - its funny - that the sitting room is now pink - painted by my own hands! I've never seen myself as very "girly", but I really like it - I'm finding it nice to look at!

October 08, 2006

Calvary Road

I wish I could express what is in my life, my spirit, my being. I'm slowly stepping onto battle grounds. Can one go slowly onto a battle ground? I can slowly climb the mountains or terrain that lead to battle - but on the edge, a step or two from the fighting there is awaiting - a clash of swords to be outplayed and the stepping upon the battle field has a different step. It is determined and without fear - or if there is fear, its a healthy and enabeling fear transformed into the names of courage, trust and faith. And the vision is not of the weakness or feebleness of self and the terror of giants - but the vision is of possibility, promises and God - the One who has given the assurance and full resources of victory in Himself. It is as though I am stepping toward the battlefield - and it looks likes its just a foot away from me, it blows in the wind of the air. And I still wonder about my feet - if they are steady - but I am understanding that I need not look downward but upward - with a smile and with a hope.

In reality terms I think life may get busier, more complicated, spiritual times in the Lord will be sweetened by deep joy and love and forgiveness and strength, no doubt there are more times of feeling alone, there may be wounds from friend or foe, times of not knowing or seeing the way forward, times of having clear vision, there will be times of winning, laughing and great friendship and togetherness with others. Gods people are not always soldiers - sometimes they are children, they sit at banqueting tables, they are sheep in pastures green, by the rivers of life - they are always following or in the sight and care of their good, good shepherd. If I am in the truth, if I am with God, - I do have some battlegrounds around and ahead of me, not only within my heart and with my sin - but also in this world, in relationship with and in the midst of the people of it.

I feel like God has been challenging me recently - do you have courage in your heart? Do you trust me? Do you trust my comandments? Will you choose to sit aside or will you fight with me? Will you really obey me and believe what I have told you? I love you my child, and you are my chosen vessel - you are my Susan or Lucy of Narnia - but you could make some big or small mistakes - so please listen to me and put into practice all I have taught you so far. Personally I feel taken from a known world to another. I feel placed in an adventure that is unusual, has battlegrounds and journeys, friends and foes. There is a way to be taken, a reason for being and a destination that is out of sight, unclear but none the less there to be found. I wish I could express what is in my life, my spirit, my being... but what I think it is - is the christian walk of the way of Calvary Road. And I am sure of one thing that none of it is worth a thing - without honesty and real love. This road or my life upon it is in the hands of the faithful source of life, and truth and love - God, who is so near - who listens and speaks - but who leaves the steps I or we can take - to be our own - we can walk where we want. Here I stand a step away from a battleground - and I could turn aside in one way or another and that is what I sometimes do - but if I listen close and hear my Masters voice - I'll know how to go that one next step forward. I need the lead and the indwelling life of the One who has already walked the Calvary Road.