Monday, March 31, 2014

Need help with this Audio Bible thing?

If you have an iPhone, this graphic should help you figure out how to make a recording and send it to me.  Come on people, only 1200 spots left to sign up for! :)  Original info is here:

Susie

Thursday, March 27, 2014

An epic (and maybe impossible) idea I need your help with:

Yes, you.

Ben is downstairs organizing our life into piles and boxes. We signed a contract with a realtor this morning. Our lists are long and getting longer. We are in the beginning of the process where we say goodbye to our life here.
One of the things we're attempting to do is make ways for our kids to transition well from one life to the next. Lists of places we want to eat one more time, friends we need to have sleepovers with, Ohio go-tos that we've never gone to. And, I had an idea for a gift I'd like to give them. An audio Bible. They like to listen to CDs when they go to sleep, but Talya gets nightmares from Imagination Station.
And, I was thinking, that a great audio Bible would be one not just for kids, but just for them. A great audio Bible just for them would be read by someone they know. No, someones they know. People who love them, pray for them, and have invested in their lives to help shape them into the fantastic kids they are.

But, you know what? The Bible is long. Really, really long. And if even one chapter is missing, it's just not the Bible. So, I need to enlist your help. I am asking you to help record at least one of the one thousand one hundred fifty-four chapters of the Bible. Use whatever version you'd like. Enlist the help of all the readers in your family. I'd love my kids to grow up hearing the Bible read to them by men and women and boys and girls of all ages, cultures, accents, and even languages. I want them to hear it as they're falling asleep. I want it to shape their dreams, stoke their imaginations, frame their questions, and give them something to argue about when they're old enough for facebook. :)

Would you help me with that? I have a general idea of how I can make this work, but the first thing I need is content. I've created a sign-up list that you can use to "sign up" to read chapters of the Bible. To use this list, you should not need to create an account or anything. Please find the chapter you'd like to read and click "sign up." You may sign up for as many chapters as you'd like, and really, please do.

Then, record your reading of the chapter. I do this using the voice memos app on my iphone. When I am finished, I hit the "done" button and then go to that file, click the button that looks like a box with an arrow coming out of it, and select "mail." You can mail it here. That's all. Email me if you have any questions.

Maybe you do family devotions and you could spend some time reading Scripture to our family? Or maybe you don't do family devotions (no judgment here!), and you could let your kids stay up 15 minutes late to help with this? This project will take hours - combined hours of your reading and our listening. And those hours spent by hundreds of people with words that give Life, I can't help but imagine that they could change the world.

Thanks - this is a huge project, but one that if we can pull it off, will mean so much to our family. Please consider having your family help with this goodbye present?

Sign up here:
Genesis - 2 Samuel
I Kings - Psalms
Oops- forgot II Chronicles!
Proverbs - Lamentations
Ezekiel - Daniel
Hosea - Malachi
New Testament


PS, there's a really good chance I've made some mistakes in setting this up. Please just let me know if you find them. I've put a lot of imagination into this, but that doesn't mean it's well planned :)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Moving to Africa Sale

 We've become a cliche - we're selling everything we own and moving to Africa. :)

Growing up, I had dozens of cousins who did this very thing and I swore I never would. I also would never be a missionary, never live in India, never hire a nanny, never consider wavering on certain theological beliefs. At one point, I would never even have children. I've learned the long way to say be careful with the word "never." I think the only thing left on my never list is homeschooling. Which, with Ben's new job, I may have bought myself a few years on that one.

Anyway, back to the cliche. We have a house full of stuff to get rid of. We love our home, and we love the stuff in it. Since we've been "moving to Brazil" for a year, we've already done a lot of purging of the stuff that we didn't like. What's left is what's hard to part with, so I personally would like to see it end up in the home of someone we know and love. Here's a link to a file on google drive that has pictures of what's going in this round with prices. I've been banned from all negotiations because I hate money, and would give everything away and then we'd have no money for setting up our new home in Rwanda. So, if you want something, you'll deal with Ben, but don't worry, he's the nicest guy I know.

Moving to Africa Sale!


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Happy Birthday Susie

Today is one of my favorite days of the year, Susie's birthday!

There is a lot I can say about her, but for a variety of reasons I will spare you a long post.  Here is how I would summarize it, Susie is quite easily the most tangible expression of God's love to me.  I've said this before her tumor, during her tumor and I'll say it every chance I get.

I know so many of you have been blessed by her, and in turn she has been blessed by you.  This year has been a year of joy and of restoration in so many ways.  I've selected just a few pictures of some of the experiences the Lord has allowed Susie to experience since her last birthday.

So wherever you are today, have a cupcake, cookie or brownie and celebrate with us, the wonderful, the beautiful, the amazing, Susie Thomas!

















Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Team Thomas is on the move!




We wanted to share some news with you about our next season of life.  This has been in the works for the last few months and became official last week.  We are pleased to share it with all of you and ask for your continued prayers on our behalf.

From Ben

Susie and I want to thank you again for your prayers.  These last few weeks have been filled with seeking the Lord and hearing from Him.  

Last Tuesday, I received an offer from the Board at Kigali International Community School (KICS) to be their next Director.  We were thrilled.  

As we continued to seek the Lord in prayer, we sensed a very real and strong confirmation that this is where He is leading our family.  The next day, I spent most of my time speaking with various CRU leaders.  They each expressed their affirmation of us and the role at KICS as the next step for us.  We also discussed ways where we will do this role and still remain as full-time missionaries of CRU.  As a result of the prayers we have prayed over the last few months, our onsite visit, the letter from the Board, the conversations with various leadership, and from times of confirmation with the Lord, Susie and I formally accepted the role.  We do so with a spirit of humility, dependence and confidence in the Lord.    

I can't tell you how happy Susie and I are.  Since January 25, 2012 (the day she was diagnosed), we have been in a state of transition.  We have lived in a state of temporary-ness.  I knew the day would come when the Lord would reveal His next season for us.  We prayed it would be something that would allow us to incorporate my work and service with our family.  We prayed that it would allow us to lead globally without traveling.  We prayed that we would be able to live overseas as a family.  We prayed that I would be able to incorporate my Doctoral studies in Global Christianity, Mission, Development and Global Leadership.  We prayed we would be part of as great of a community as we've experienced here in Ohio and worldwide with AIA. We prayed most of all that we would be in a place where we could continue to experience God's deep love for us.  

We are happy to say in accepting our next assignment at KICS, we believe God has given us abundantly more than what we asked or imagined.  For this reason, I spent most of the first few hours crying and in worship of God's goodness, mercy and love for us.    


Thanks for praying with us.  Let me know if you have any questions.  

From Susie

I am thrilled. Apart from everything Ben has mentioned, I am excited about the following things.
  1. This job is perfect for Ben. He is a great leader, and is really great with kids and leading a team. I'm so excited to see him shine as God's image in this new role.
  2. KICS is a great school. It's exactly the kind of place where we want our kids to learn - diverse, gospel-centered, and invested in a local community.
  3. Some of our best friends live in Kigali. They are the type of friends we make a point to stay in touch with. Our kids are friends with their kids. We met in Kigali through the adoption of our sons, and we have often dreamed of living near each other.
  4. It's Kigali, Rwanda!  As Charlie's birthplace, the country is a part of the fabric of our family, and it has been dear to our hearts for years. Rwanda is also significant for its place in history - what a beautiful country it is, and how humbling to get the opportunity to live there. Rwanda has suffered utter devastation and horror, and God is at work there now as always to redeem, restore and renew. I am so excited to learn more of its history, culture, and be a small part of its future.
  5. When Ben and I were dating, and I knew he wanted to be a missionary, I spent a lot of energy trying to manipulate him into wanting to become a Christian School Administrator, because I couldn't imagine a better life than the one I had as a child. We trusted God with each other for 12 years, and now He's granting us a season where we can be missionaries and give our kids the life I loved - in a place that is perfect for them.
We are sad too. Sad to be traveling so far from our dear families and friends. Sad because we really had dreams for Brasil. But, so thankful. What a privilege it is to serve the Creator and King of the whole wide world.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Introducing...




This website is the brainchild and project of none other than my studious husband, Ben, and his friends and co-horts in Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary's current DMin program in Global Christianity and World Evangelization.

I'm both proud of his learning and hard work, and excited to learn new things about topics that I think I understand better than I do.

Check it out, like it on facebook, and join the discussion.

Also, this week is full of big announcements from Team Thomas - another one will hit the web tomorrow.


Saturday, February 1, 2014

A Biblical Love Story (also, a confession of sorts)

This one's been percolating for a while. One of the things that is public about me is my faith, and I certainly am proud of it - not of my demonstration of it, but of my God and his power to soften the hardest heart, give freedom, and create beauty out of ashes.

Since I got sick, many people have been encouraged by my faith in the struggle. I am glad for that, but also convicted, because of course only I know the private parts of my heart that are less faithful, more arrogant, and overall yuckier than what you see here on this bloggy-blog. And, thus, this confession:

Cru, our sending organization, just published a lovely write-up about my story on their website. It touches on one of the scariest, darkest, most confusing times in my life - the few years leading up to when I was daignosed with cancer - and when I was sure that the Church, Christians, I, and most people that I loved and respected, had gotten this whole Bible thing wrong.

I am a skeptic, and prone to disbelief. But, thanks to lovely and faithful parents, I have always known Jesus loved me. I have also almost always known the right answers to any sort of spiritual or theological question. Yet, there came a time when the answers no longer made sense. Whenever I would read the Bible, I would get frustrated at the things that didn't add up anymore. I felt lost in doubt. I was a full-time missionary, someone whose entire life centered around the truth of the Bible, and I no longer trusted it.

I'll clarify. I believed God loved me, and had sent Jesus to pay the price for my sins so that I could have an eternal personal relationship with Him. I believed in the resurrection of Jesus, the impossible miracles of both the Old and New Testament, and that my identity was in Christ alone. Water into wine? No problem. Creation in 6 literal days? Why not? A worldwide flood? Gotcha. But the idea that God's entire words to man had been captured in a book, passed down in multiple languages, and ultimately canonized by a group of European men? Church men? Um, there I had a problem.

A really big problem. Cru's article goes into how God solved that problem for me, how God deigned to hear my cries for understanding and answer by relieving my doubt, but I want to explain a little more how this time affected me, and where I am now.

First, I took this problem very seriously. As a professing Christian, I was very wary of the hypocrisy in my life. Personally, I was also grieving. Losing the Bible as the source of truth felt like losing a trusted friend. I ached to have my friend back. I was lonely. I didn't know whom to talk to. Everyone I knew already knew exactly where they stood on this issue, and I already knew exactly what their "answers" were. (I have a very expensive degree in Biblical Studies). I also had learned that Church people have the ability to make the Bible mean whatever they want.

So, I talked to God. I still knew He was there. I suspected He shared my disappointment with the church's use of the Bible to corral people into uniformity. (I too often make the mistake of believing that God is on my side of an argument.) I trusted God and I knew Him as the source of Truth and I begged Him to show me. For a long time, I felt like I was met with silence.

But, then of course, God did answer my prayer. He did relieve me of my burdens. He did restore to me the joy of my salvation.

But then what? Well, I quickly realized that after three years of not really reading the Bible, my life was devoid of it. I was spiritually ready to accept its truth, and it had fled my mind.  At this point in time, there were a lot of hot names on the Christian best-seller list - Jesus Calling, anything Tim Keller or John Piper or Francis Chan....And I couldn't take it. I still am recovering from a season of marked distrust in the Church.

I felt like I was recovering from a disease and needed to put myself into some sort of intense therapy. I share this as my personal story, but not as anything prescriptive for doubters. First, I detoxed off all spiritual voices that weren't explicitly scripture. No Bible studies, devotionals, commentaries or blogs. I wandered aimlessly through my Bible, unaided by any sort of third-party tool or app or plan. As you might expect, this was a good first step for me, but ultimately pretty fruitless.

Then, in the beginning of 2013 (in the midst of my chemo treatments), I stumbled across Ann Voskamp's scirpture memory challenge. Now, I know Ann is a hit, but I was on my hiatus of Christian thought, and so not a follower of hers regularly. But as I read her thoughts on memorization, I knew that was my next step. I knew that I needed to gain back what had been stolen from me by unbelief - I needed the Bible living inside me.

So, I started with the Sermon on the Mount - Matthew 5-7. Three chapters. A lot of familiar words. I started to learn them. Precisely. And do you know what happened next? Doubt. Because it made no sense. I mean, seriously, have you read it? "Let your light shine before others so they may see your good works and give glory to your Father" followed by, "Beware of practicing your righteousness before others in order to be seen by them..." I eventually concluded that the Sermon on the Mount was some sort of Supreme Theological Irony, but that it was still God's Word, and because of that, I didn't need to understand it, but I did need to know it. And the better I knew it, the more it blazed relevant in every situation of my life.

I entered my season of gluttony on God's word. Shoving it in my mind, hoarding words, working them over in my brain again and again without analysis - only consumption. Annie and I, before every nap time, reading and hearing words into life because you're never too young and never too cyncial.

After Matthew, it was the book of Philippians. Then, a few chapters in John. Now, she and I are on Isaiah 43, and I want to stay there forever. For me, it's whole chunks of Scripture, not scattered verses. That's why, as much as I'm grateful to Ann's memorization challenge, I'm not participating in 2014's snapshot journey through John (although I might just print out those beautiful memory cards for my fridge). My goals will be a minimum of a chapter, but hopefully strain for the whole book. (Except Isaiah. With four kids and a baseball-sized chunk of my brain missing, I cannot manage the book of Isaiah.)

I haven't just gotten over my doubts; I've fallen in love with these words. I don't understand Isaiah 43 at all, but it is beautiful and it is alive and it's living in my heart and I can't speak it without worship. Frankly, I don't care what it means - I just know it's God's.

And God gave it to me. And I'm never letting it go again.

Now it's out there. So, feel free to ask me about it. I've learned enough to know that I don't have the answers to make a doubter believe. For me, it wasn't ever about information - it was about desperation and a perfectly-timed graceful answer. Doubt is scary and lonely, but
when you pass through the waters, God will be with you;
and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you.
When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.