Ann Lovell

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Monday, April 27, 2015

Pray for Nepal

The Kathmandu Valley in 2012
Kathmandu, Nepal, is one of my very favorite cities on earth. We first visited there as a family for Lauren’s high school graduation in 2012. A year later, I returned on a work assignment. I loved it as much the second time as I did the first. In spite of bumpy roads and staggered electricity, the culture is colorful, and the people are fun!

So, when news of the 7.9-magnitude earthquake first reached me early Saturday morning, I immediately thought of the people there. In my mind, I walked those busy streets again, picturing what they must look like in the rubble of the quake’s aftermath. 

And I prayed. 

I prayed for my friends, Christian workers with small children who love their city and its people. I prayed for their safety, and I prayed they will have opportunities to share God’s love in the midst of the devastation and fear.

I prayed for the tourists — the trekkers, the volunteers and the families on holiday. What a scary place to be when the world turns upside down.

Most of all, I prayed for the Nepali and Tibetan people — for those who know Christ and especially for those who don’t.

One of the starkest memories from my time in Nepal is my visit to the Pashupatinath Temple on the banks of the Bagmati River. Located on the eastern outskirts of Kathmandu, the temple is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva and attracts hundreds of elderly Hindus each year. Hindus believe if they die in this temple, they will be reborn as a human, regardless of the bad karma they may have accumulated during their lives.
A view of Pashupatinath Temple, 2012.

Hindus come to Pashupatinath to die.
We saw ambulances delivering people to the temple so they could breathe their last breath at this site. After they die, their bodies are cremated on the banks of the river, which Hindus consider sacred, and their ashes are tossed into the water, which flows to the Ganges.

The scene from the banks of the Bagmati is chaotic, as ambulances approach, families and tourists mill about and the smoke from burning bodies rises.

It is easy to be appalled.
I wondered, as scenes of toppled Hindu temples and news of damaged Buddhist stupas began to filter in from news and social media outlets, how the temple at Pashupatinath fared. While my heart breaks for the lives lost and the damage to Nepal’s historical and cultural sites, I admit that I rejoiced just a little bit at seeing statues of false gods, which so spiritually enslave the people, lying in ruins like a scene from the Book of Jeremiah.

Pashupatinath suffered little damage during the quake. In fact, the Times of India reports that hundreds of quake victims were cremated there Sunday. Relatives “jostled for space,” and many had to perform the last rites outside designated spots because of overcrowding.

How very sad. Of the 28.8 million people in Nepal, less than 300,000 are followers of Jesus. Extrapolating those figures, of the more than 3,000 people killed in Saturday’s quake, only 30 met Jesus face-to-face.

If news like this doesn’t spur us to action, what will?

And if you’re wondering what action you can take, so far away from the disaster’s epicenter, here are two suggestions:

PRAY.  IMB writer Susie Rain says Christians in Nepal are asking you to join them in prayer:
  • Pray for basic shelter, water and food. These necessities are a high priority right now, Rain writes, since no one is allowed back in their homes. The nights are cold, and monsoon season can start any day.
  • Pray for God’s people to deeply know His comfort and peace during this time. Pray for their children as they deal with the trauma of a world turned upside down.
  • Pray for people in Nepal and surrounding areas during the continuing aftershocks and aftermath of this disaster.
  • Thank God for the safety of a volunteer team from North Carolina and other Christian workers. Pray for their stamina as they minister to those around them.
GIVE. Southern Baptist assessment teams will begin surveying the damage Monday, April 27, to find the best ways to respond, Rain reports. To make donations for first response items such as basic survival needs of water, shelter, food and healthcare, go to BGR’s “Where Needed Most” Fund.

The people of Nepal need God’s love. You can help.

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Friday, April 24, 2015

Travel light: Let's eat Grandma!

“The total number of those chosen to be gatekeepers at the thresholds was 212. They were registered by genealogy in their villages. David and Samuel the seer had appointed them to their trusted positions.”
1 Chronicles 9:22

Your work matters to God.

I thought of this as packed up my computer this morning, preparing for a day at the office. The job I have now — and have had for the past 16 years — is the job I always wanted: writing (and now editing) about God’s work through His people around the world. 

But never could I have envisioned that this work would be as fulfilling as it is. God has given me the desires of my heart. What an amazing privilege.

I realize, of course, that not everybody sees writing and editing the same way I do. Not everyone appreciates the value of a word fitly spoken or a well-placed comma. But consider the comma’s importance in this sentence:

Let’s eat, Grandma!
Let’s eat Grandma! 

Commas matter, especially to Grandma, as do the other seemingly mundane details of our day-to-day lives. This is true today, and it was true when David appointed the 212 gatekeepers in 1 Chronicles 9.

Gatekeepers, bread bakers and singers — as menial as they may seem — were trusted positions in the house of God. Perhaps David wrote Psalm 84 after appointing the 212 gatekeepers:

"Better a day in Your courts than a thousand anywhere else. 
I would rather be at the door of the house of my God 
than to live in the tents of wicked people." 
(Psalm 84:10, HCSB)

As we seek God, not only will He give us the “desires of our heart,” He will also take pleasure in our journey. David wrote in Psalm 37:4, “A man’s steps are established by the Lord, and He takes pleasure in his way” (HCSB).

What an amazing privilege to know that the God who created the Grand Canyon enjoyed watching me see it for the very first time.

What an amazing privilege to know that the God who led me around the world and back, takes pleasure in seeing me do my job well.

Whether you are a gatekeeper, a bread baker, a singer or a warrior, your work is significant to God, and He has uniquely equipped you to do it.

So do the work God has placed before you “as unto the Lord,” and know that He takes pleasure in you and your journey.

Travel light!

This week's reading: 1 Chronicles 1-10, Psalm 43-45, 49, 73, 77-78, 81, 84-85, 87-88, 92-93
Post #17: Discovering how to live missionally through a chronological reading of God's Word. 


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Friday, April 17, 2015

Travel light: What if it isn’t about finding God’s will?

“God, You are my God; I eagerly seek You. I thirst for You; my body faints for You in a land that is dry, desolate and without water.”
Psalm 63:1

You can’t fake desperation. I so remember the times on my face — sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively — praying for God to make His way clear:

committing my life to full-time Christian service, deciding what to study in college; if Joe was the right man for me; through eight years of infertility; through the premature births and deaths of our first three children; my pregnancy with Lauren; moving overseas as international Christian workers; Alli’s adoption.

through my kids’ preschool, elementary, middle, high school and now college years; seeking ministries where I could make God known in the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand; returning to the U.S.; accepting a job; buying a house …

and on and on and on.

“Lord, don’t leave me alone until we are where You want us to be,” I’ve prayed more times than I can count, seeking to know God’s will.

And I’ve been asked more times than I can count: How can I know God’s will for my life?

But what if it isn’t about “knowing God’s will,” a friend noted just yesterday in a conversation over coffee.

For the past two years, I’ve been trying to figure out what God wants me to do, I lamented. I’ve explored different ministries, trying to go beyond the church walls, but nothing seems to fit.

“What if it isn’t about knowing God’s will?” my friend said. “What if it’s just about knowing God?”

Well, duh.

How easily we forget that simple lesson in our quest for personal significance: God reveals Himself most clearly when we are desperately seeking Him — rather than what we can do for Him.

And sometimes, He isn’t calling us to “minister.” Sometimes, He is just calling us to “be” — a wife, a parent, a daughter, a neighbor, a friend. No fanfare. No stage. Just knowing Him in the day-to-day with none of the confusion and anxiety that comes from trying to “figure it out.”

“Abide in me, and I will abide in you,” Jesus said in John 15:4. Then we will bear fruit.

If we are going to be desperate, let’s be desperate to know Him. As we seek Him — waiting, watching and listening — opportunities to serve Him will come. Sometimes those opportunities involve proclaiming the gospel loudly, influencing large numbers of people. Sometimes those opportunities mean standing quietly alongside a friend who is struggling, praying with her through the hurt and the sin and the mess.

God simply asks us to be obedient — to know Him — right where we are.


This week’s reading: 1 Samuel 25-31, 2 Samuel 1-4, Psalm 6, 8-10, 14, 16-19, 21, 35, 54, 56, 63, 120-121, 123-125, 128-130, 140-142,
Post #16: Discovering how to live missionally through a chronological reading of God’s Word

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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Travel light: Dirty, rotten scoundrels

“And the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.’” 
1 Samuel 8:8, ESV

Imagine this missionary assignment: a small town in the middle of nowhere. Whiskey flows freely, and gambling and prostitution are rampant. The legal system is corrupt, violence is common and most people die before age 40, many from violent deaths. It is a town that has rejected God.

Sound familiar?

William Carpenter ministered in this kind of town. His unreached people group included miners, ranchers and prostitutes.  Little is known about this Baptist minister who died in 1881 from nephritis, an inflammation of the kidneys. In fact, all I managed to find about him traces to the same source — Boot Hill Cemetery in Tombstone, Arizona.

Carpenter is buried alongside many of Tombstone’s famous residents, including Billy Clanton and Tom and Frank McLaury, who were killed by the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday in the infamous Shootout at the O.K. Corral. Carpenter died the year of the shootout.

1881 was a volatile year in Tombstone, and gravestones in Boot Hill tell a story of the hardships. Murders, stabbings, illnesses and mining accidents took the lives of residents at much too young an age.

As I walked through the O.K. Corral and read the histories of the town, I realized not much has changed. Sure, technology, transportation and communication have evolved. We can now jet around the globe in a matter of hours and chat face-to-face over a wireless network from the most remote locations.

But at our core, human beings are no different than we’ve ever been. Put a whiskey bottle, a deck of cards and a scantily clad woman in front of a bunch of men and you’ll be sure to draw a crowd — and soon someone will get hurt.

The walk through Tombstone reminded me of this: We are all dirty, rotten scoundrels in need of a Savior.

That’s why, in Old Testament times, God sent prophets like Samuel to call His people to live differently. That’s why He sent a little known minister like William Carpenter to Tombstone. That’s why He sends men and women today to hard places where whiskey flows freely, gambling and prostitution are rampant and the legal systems are corrupt — because we are dirty, rotten scoundrels in need of a Savior.

Most importantly, that’s why He sent Jesus — because God is worthy of our worship and we are too messed up in our depravity to notice. We are broken, messed up sinners, but God loved us enough to die for us, to heal the rift between us and to reconcile us to Him.

Yes, we are all dirty, rotten scoundrels. The Good News is we have a Savior, and His name is Jesus.

This week’s reading: 1 Samuel 4-24, Psalm 7, 11, 27, 31, 34, 52, 59 
Post #15: Discovering how to live missionally through a chronological reading of God’s Word.

#travel light

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Friday, April 3, 2015

Travel light: Blaming God

“Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara,” she answered, “for the Almighty has made me very bitter.” Ruth 1:20, HCSB

Sometimes life is hard. Naomi knew this. She had been forced to leave her homeland or face starvation. Her husband died soon after moving to their new home; her sons, whose names mean “sickly,” also died after several years of poor health. Now she had two widowed “foreign women,” in addition to herself, for whom she was responsible.

It’s no surprise she felt bitter and angry at God as she returned to Judah. Her difficulties may have been etched in her hair, her face and her stature. “Can this be Naomi?” the women of Judah exclaimed. Trouble had aged her.

“Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara,” Naomi answered, “for the Almighty has made me very bitter.” Rather than put on a happy face and spew spiritual platitudes, Naomi was honest about her struggles. She blamed God.

Yet still, her daughter-in-law Ruth proclaimed, “Your God will be my God.”


Ruth’s god, the god of the Moabites, was called “Chemosh” whose name means, “to subdue.” He was a god who crushed. By choosing to follow Yahweh, though, Ruth was not necessarily looking for a “quick fix” to her problems. Naomi had been suffering for more than 10 years, but based on Naomi's example, Ruth was willing to abandon the god she had known all her life to follow Yahweh. Through Naomi’s struggle, Ruth saw a personal, authentic faith — a faith that questioned but also one that surrendered. 

Can we be transparent with our struggles and still set an example of faith for others? 

The biblical record seems to offer a resounding YES! In addition to Naomi, consider the stories of Job and John the Baptist. Job spent 39 chapters of a 42-chapter book hurling questions at God in anger and frustration and listening to the pat answers and theologically accepted explanations of his friends. But, when all was said and done, God said to Eliphaz, “I am angry with you and your two friends, for you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has” (Job 42:7, HCSB).

In prison, John the Baptist expressed doubts about Jesus. He sent a message asking, “Are You the One who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus told John’s disciples to report to him all that they had seen. Then, to the crowd Jesus said of John, “Among those born of women no one greater than John the Baptist has appeared.” (See Matthew 11:1-11).

God is not offended by our questions. He welcomes the opportunity to grow our faith when we honestly question Him from a position of surrender. 

“Why?” we may ask in one breath, while whispering in the next, “Your will be done.”  

Of course, God may not answer our “whys” in this lifetime. We may have to wait until heaven to understand the reasons behind some of our challenges. In the meantime, though, be assured of this: God responds with compassion to an honest, questioning heart that is reaching out to Him.

This week’s reading: Judges 8-21, Ruth 1-4, 1 Samuel 1-3
Post #14: Discovering how to live missionally through a chronological reading of God’s Word.


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