Ann Lovell

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Travel light: Isis, Ebola & Earthquakes, OH MY!

“Lord, You have been our refuge in every generation … from eternity to eternity, You are God.” Psalm 90:1-2

isis ebola earthquakes unemployment cancer uncertainty fear death

The struggles of our lives run through our minds like a ticker tape.

first child first step first home young family promotions teenagers graduations weddings grandchildren

Frail humans that we are, we walk a fine line between unspeakable joy and utter despair.

Trusting God. Fearing God. Failing God. Trusting God again.

We aren’t much different from the ancient Israelites, who trusted God to lead them out of slavery in Egypt and experienced His presence and power in incredible ways.  Then when times got hard, they complained about everything — the food, the water, the living conditions. Their faith turned to fear at the first challenge. 

Yes, God grew tired of their whining.  Yes, their cravings destroyed at least some of them. The stories in Numbers 11 are proof of that.

I am no different. I know God gets tired of my whining. I know my cravings threaten to destroy me. I know my faith often turns to fear at the first challenge. I am such a wuss. 

But God never gave up on the Israelites, and He doesn’t give up on me.

Why? Not because of our faithfulness, but because of His faithful love (see Numbers 14:11-19).

The Psalmist says God's faithful love satisfies us. His sacrifice saves us. His mercy supports us. His grace covers us. His Spirit stabilizes us — “in every generation."

“From eternity to eternity, You are God.”

In the schizophrenic chaos of our lives, in moments of unspeakable joy and through every adversity along the way, the promise of a Savior is all we need — One who died to save us, lives as testimony of God's awesome power over sin and death and sent His Spirit to finish the work He started in us for His glory.

All of this happened so that we, in all gratitude and all humility, from generation to generation, may give Him all the glory by making Him known among those who have never heard this good news.

Don't miss this: God saved us so that we can make Him known. We live to make Him known. This is "the work of our hands" (Psalm 90:17, HCSB), the most important work we do, the reason God gives us breath.

So this is my prayer: "Let Your work be seen by Your servants, and Your splendor by their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be on us; establish the work of our hands —establish the work of our hands!" (Psalm 90:16-17, HCSB). 

This week's reading: Numbers 7-22, Psalm 90
Post #9: Discovering how to live missionally through a chronological reading of God’s Word.


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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Choices: A new Bible study coming soon!

Choices matter. Decisions have consequences. Seemingly random encounters have life-long impacts. The Bible is full of examples of those who made both good and bad decisions that affected not only themselves but the generations who came after them. 

Choices, which has been in the making for a number of years, focuses on our everyday decisions and their impacts by looking at the lives of Eve, Joshua, Samson, Ruth, David and Jesus. We'll explore themes such as temptation, leadership, power, social justice, seduction and forgiveness. I hope you'll make Choices part of your daily devotional time or small group study. It will be available soon in print and as an ebook. 

I'll keep you posted on the release date! 

Until then, travel light!


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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Travel light: Nine responses to immigration

“You must regard the foreigner who lives with you as the native-born among you. You are to love him as yourself, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt; I am Yahweh your God.”
Leviticus 19:34

March 1999: Our family landed in Manila, Philippines, as international Christian workers. Within a few days, we met the Filipinos who would become — and still are — some of our closest friends: language teachers, tutors and members of our local church. They accepted, embraced and loved us, even as we struggled to learn the language and appreciate their culture.

A few years later, we moved to South Korea and a few years after that to Thailand. In every place, local people welcomed us, loved us and helped us figure things out. I determined then that if I ever returned to America I would treat the “foreigners” in our country with the same grace, love and acceptance that I had received. By their example, these friends taught me how to love “the foreigner among us.”

Think about your neighborhood. How has the mix of ethnicities changed in the last 10 years? In 2010 the number of immigrants in the U.S reached a record 40 million people, according to a 2012 report from the Center for Immigration Studies. One in four students in U.S. public schools speaks a language other than English in the home.

These statistics may either frighten you or inspire you. I hope you’ll see these trends for what they are: an unprecedented opportunity to share God’s love with those who may not have heard of Jesus.

Terry Sharp, director and lead strategist for IMB’s urban mobilization strategies, offers nine ways to welcome international students, refugees and immigrants to your community:

  1. Become a host family. Contact your local university or other organizations for information on hosting an international student, refugee or immigrant.
  2. Pick up new immigrants from the airport and help them get settled in their dorms or apartments.
  3. Provide household goods and furniture.
  4. Take them shopping. Show them how to pay bills. Introduce them to garage sales, coupons and discount stores.
  5. Help them find grocery stores that specialize in ethnic food. Ask them to help you prepare food from their country.
  6. Spend time talking with them. Ask about their country and allow them to talk about their ideas, needs and fears over coffee or tea.
  7. Help them complete job applications and give them tips on how to conduct themselves in an interview. Remind them that Americans expect truthful people to make direct eye contact.
  8. Make them part of your family by including them in family holidays and outings. Invite them to church, birthday parties, weddings and ballgames.
  9. Share your faith openly and honestly. Respectfully ask them about theirs. Look for natural opportunities to explain the differences.
Simply put, treat the “foreigners” among you the way you would want those in another country to treat your son or daughter if they were living there.

Make the effort, and you’ll make friends for life.

For more resources on reaching the nations living among you, visit

This week’s reading: Leviticus 19 - Numbers 6
Post #8: Discovering how to live missionally through a chronological reading of God’s Word.


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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Journal of a missional mom, Entry #4: Feeling insecure!

Oh, God, what have we done? (And I mean that as a prayer!) 
Met with the IMB consultant. Shared our call. 
He shared the process. Lots to think about: 
  • Getting out of debt. 
  • Staying healthy. 
  • Thinking about the kids.
We need to be sure. "No pressure," he says. 
I'm sure, I think. 
I'm also petrified.

What if I don't have what it takes???

Follow this fictional mom as she experiences God's call to the nations and figures out what to do about it. Based on a compilation of experiences of real-life moms called to the nations, we'll post periodic journal entries over the next several months so you can follow along as if the story is happening in real time.

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

My dad and Fifty Shades of Grey

Those who know me know my parents aren't just great parents; they are exceptional. Those who know me also know that I love to read. I love words. I love stories. I love books. I've always been a reader, and I will read anything from any genre any time. My parents nurtured this. There were no such things as "banned books" at my house; in fact one of my summer pastimes in high school was to read at least one book from the banned books list. That's how Catcher in the Rye came to be a favorite. Still, there is a big difference between good writing that makes you think and trash writing that warps your mind. I credit my dad with helping me discern the difference.

It happened one summer in middle school. I bought a book with my own money that in the most genteel terms can only be described as "inappropriate." It was really much worse. I thought I'd done a good job hiding it as I devoured every trashy image, word and sentence. 

Sometime that week my dad came into my room and sat down. He didn't ask what I was reading. He didn't mention the book. He didn't freak out and confront me. He said simply, "You know, what you read affects you. A lot of things you read are not 'real life.'" I came to understand later that the "real life" statement meant, "You don't want to live that way. It's not the life I want for you." 

The next morning, I threw the book away. With just a wee bit of calm, gentle guidance, my dad changed the direction of my thoughts. He taught me I was better than that. He taught me to discern bad from OK and good from best. He taught me not to settle.

Later, I also came to realize the Apostle Paul taught the same thing, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable -- if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise -- dwell on these things" (Philippians 4:8, HCSB).

That's why I'm not freaking out about Fifty Shades of Grey. I haven't read the books and I won't see the movie. It's trash, pure and simple. I don't need to speak into the conversation.

But I think maybe my dad should speak into the conversation. On behalf of good fathers everywhere, I think he should say to young women everywhere,

"Remember, what you see affects you. You're better than this."

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Travel light: Three ways to avoid burnout

“Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu each took his own firepan, put fire in it, placed incense on it, and presented unauthorized fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them to do. Then fire came from the Lord and burned them to death before the Lord.”
Leviticus 10:1-2, HCSB

Leviticus 10:1-4 illustrates the danger of taking on more responsibility than God requires. By presenting “unauthorized fire” before the Lord, Aaron’s sons took on responsibility that was not meant for them. As a result, God’s fire literally burned them up. 

Christian workers are often tempted to take on more responsibility than God requires. When we do — either through usurping the authority of others or taking on responsibilities meant for someone else — we risk not burning up but burning out! When burnout occurs, the work will go on. No one will mourn for us. 

So what can you do to avoid burnout? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Be still. “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10, NASB). God invites you to be part of His work for your joy and His glory, not so you can fret and worry and fear. His plans are unfolding just as He intended. He will be exalted among the nations! 
  2. Seek God. “You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13, HCSB). God created you for relationship with Him. When seeking Him takes priority over every other pursuit, you will find yourself serving Him with joy, knowing that He is directing your every step. 
  3. Give up control. “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9, HCSB). Control is an illusion. True rest and abundant life come when we hold the life God has given us loosely, recognizing that He has called us to a life of sojourn, a life that seeks to make Him known wherever He has placed us, for our joy and His glory. 
Travel light!

This week’s reading: Exodus 39-Leviticus 18
Post #7: Discovering how to live missionally through a chronological reading of God’s Word.


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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Travel light: Take a rest!

“Understand that the Lord has given you the Sabbath …” 
Exodus 16:29

The mention of a Sabbath for God’s people in Exodus 16:29 is the first mention of a day of rest in the Old Testament since God created the earth. Later, Moses included a Sabbath — a day to rest from work — as part of the law for the young Israelite nation. 

Rest is important. Studies suggest that we get our most original ideas when we allow ourselves to get bored, says Manoush Zomorodi, host of WNYC’s podcast, New Tech City. Zomorodi believes that less interaction with electronic devices — and consequently more open space in our minds — fosters more creative expression. As a result, the New Tech City team has launched a new project asking people to measure their smartphone use with a goal of intentionally limiting it.

Certainly Moses could not have foreseen the way in which today’s generation would be bombarded with information via smartphones and social media. He couldn’t have anticipated the electronic gadgetry that allows us to receive breaking news, hear about family crises or watch our nephew’s baseball game — all in real time from half-a-world away.

Fortunately, God did. And from the very beginning, He established rhythm to our days: Evening came and then morning: the first day (Genesis 1:5). Then, He established rhythm to our weeks: He rested on the seventh day from all His work … (Genesis 2:2).

A day of rest is not just a good idea. It is designed by God to give you a break to recharge, re-energize and refocus. Although solitude can be an important spiritual discipline, this doesn't necessarily mean sitting quietly in meditation for hours at at time. Instead, for those extroverts who consider solitude a punishment — a spiritual "time-out" if you will — a "missional" Sabbath might mean taking a walk with your Hindu neighbor, inviting the Muslim family for lunch or playing tennis with your agnostic friend. “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath,” Jesus said in Mark 2:27. The idea is not to disengage from relationships on the Sabbath but rather to rest from our work while intentionally nurturing our relationships with God, our family and our friends.

So in the midst of all you are doing to make Christ known here and around the world, remember to intentionally unplug from your gadgets and rest from your work. Take a break and have some fun. The world — and your family — will thank you.

This week’s reading: Exodus 16-38
Post #6: Discovering how to live missionally through a chronological reading of God’s Word.


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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Journal of a missional mom, Entry #3: Really??

Stuff is happening. Called IMB. They sent paperwork. We filled it out and sent it in. Whew! Now they want to meet with us. 

Is this REALLY happening?

Follow this fictional mom as she experiences God's call to the nations and figures out what to do about it. Based on a compilation of experiences of real-life moms called to the nations, we'll post periodic journal entries over the next several months so you can follow along as if the story is happening in real time.

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