Wednesday, October 23, 2013


I am fascinated by the British royal family. I don’t know why; it’s just something that has always been in my make-up. Also my mother’s subscription to People magazine has helped over the years. I woke up early to watch Prince William and Kate Middleton tie the knot two years ago and I was glued to my phone for the better part of the month of July this year-that is, until Wills and Kate brought Prince George out to show him off to the world. I was as excited about their new arrival as any proud auntie. Today as little George is christened, I’ll be thinking about and praying for that sweet family (and watching for the family photos!)

Part of the fascination with the royal family, I think, is that they rarely talk to the press. Queen Elizabeth has never given an interview and she never will. Unlike so many of our American celebrities who leave nothing-and I do mean nothing-to the imagination, the royal family is composed, discreet, and modest in front of the camera. And behind closed doors? Your guess is as good as mine.

But why are the members of the royal family any different from you or me? It comes down to this: their blood. The offspring of Queen Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip are automatically royal because they are of a royal bloodline. Others, like Kate Middleton, are styled “Her Royal Highness” and “Duchess of Cambridge” because they marry into the family. But the only people who will ever hold the title “King” “Queen” “Prince” or “Princess” in their own right are those with blood ties to the throne.

The members of the royal family live a life of privilege. We see them riding in carriages, perfecting their royal wave as they greet the masses, accepting flowers from children and having their picture made. They wear the finest clothes, they eat the best food. Why? Because of a lucky combination of DNA. They didn’t work their way into the royal family. It’s exclusive. There is nothing anyone can do to earn their way into the Sovereign’s bloodline.

However, the members of the royal family also live a life of service. The Queen, Prince Philip, and many other members of the family carry out hundreds upon hundreds of engagements each year, sometimes three or four in a day. She’s been serving the people of the United Kingdom for 61 years. Pope Benedict retired a few months back at the age of 85. The Queen is 87 and shows no sign of slowing down. She takes very seriously her commitment to the throne and to the people of the UK.

While the members of the royal family will never struggle financially or want for anything in life, they bear a heavy weight of responsibility. As a part of the family, they carry out engagements on behalf of the Queen and are under constant scrutiny from the press. They have ownership and are responsible for carrying on the good name their Granny the Queen, and the Sovereigns before her, have built with the people. Queen Elizabeth is their Queen but she is also their grandmother, so they carry out their duties out of respect but also out of love.

It’s the same way with God and us. Through no effort of our own-but because of the blood of Jesus Christ-we are members of a Royal Family. It is a life of privilege, maybe not the earthly kind, but privilege nonetheless. We bear His name and likeness, and it is up to us to be his ambassadors to the world. We carry out His commands out of duty and respect because He is our King but also out of love because He is our Father.

Our royal bloodline ought to make us aware of how we conduct ourselves. You don’t ever see Queen Elizabeth acting in a manner contrary to what you expect of a Queen. So it should be with us. As God’s children and royal heirs of His kingdom, we are expected to interact with others in a way that reflects where we came from. We are conscious of how we treat the world because we love our Father and want our actions to reflect well upon Him, the same way the actions of the Queen’s family reflect back upon her.

When a member of the royal family makes a mistake, the Queen may be upset, and there might be consequences, but at the end of the day they are her family. She loves them. She’s not going to kick them out of the family because they screwed up. So it is with God. Because we are His children, He gives us grace even when we tarnish the family name. Why? It all comes down to blood. Not ours: the blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the reason we have a share in the Kingdom of God. Jesus is the reason we are all sons and daughters of the King. He is the reason we cannot be excommunicated from this royal family. Jesus is the heir, and He has made a way for us to share in His inheritance. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Stay the Course: Pure Joy Mongolia, part II

So what’s the point of doing a retreat for missionary women?
Our first team devotional was from Isaiah 52.7: “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’”  The missionary women to whom we ministered already know the good news of the gospel. However we were bringing the good news of encouragement, the good news that they’re being prayed for. We were going to remind them that God does indeed reign.

It was humbling to stand in the room with 44 missionary women who are on the front lines of advancing God’s kingdom. They have struggles and shortcomings and family drama just like the rest of us, but unlike the rest of us, they’re dealing with these issues in a foreign country without the familiar comforts of home. This is why the Pure Joy ministry is so crucial. One of the women put it best when she said, “Last week I was ready to cash it in. But now I see that I’m not alone.” Our team left Mongolia at the end of the week, but those 44 women will continue to be a network of support to one another.

These missionaries are working around the clock to push back the darkness in Mongolia. They came to the Pure Joy Retreat and for those few days we held darkness at bay for them, until they could receive the filling they needed to head back out to the front lines.

What was your most meaningful experience of the week?
This will sound dramatic, but nearly every moment of the week was meaningful to me. However I've got it narrowed down to two:
First: I was privileged to minister alongside two women who are dearer to my heart that I can express in a blog post. I mentioned Mrs. Pam already-she was my roommate for the week, and we had such a wonderful time laughing, crying, and processing this experience together. She has never failed to point me to Jesus when I come to her for support or advice, and she loves me well. Her life glorifies Jesus, and she is my role model in more ways than one. Also, Penny. She has known and loved me since I was an insecure eighth-grader in the youth group where she volunteered. Her unconditional love for me over the years has helped me better understand the love and grace of Jesus. Our hearts connect on a different frequency from everyone else.

They didn’t know each other before this trip, and it was so fun to see them grow to know and love one another while we were in Mongolia. My heart was overwhelmed with thankfulness more than once as I would catch glimpses of them while going about our assigned tasks.

Second: An extra special encounter I had during the week was with a missionary I’ll call Mary (not her actual name). At 79, Mary is a lifelong missionary who has been in Mongolia for more than 20 years doing prison ministry. I had the privilege of spending some time with her, and I can’t say I’ve ever been touched so deeply by anyone after only 2 days of knowing them. Mary and I visited for awhile late one evening. She told me about the ways she has seen God move and some of the adventures He has taken her on. As Mary shared with me about her remarkable life, she looked at me and said, “now Corley, don’t think I’m wonderful. God did it.”

I wept that night as I reflected on our conversation. I have tried to articulate why I was so moved by my time with Mary, and I never feel like I do a very good job explaining.

Mary’s life is upside-down from what the world says we should accomplish. But that has never stopped her from following Jesus to the end of the earth, and there has never been a time when God has not taken care of her. Mary brings light into one of the darkest places on the planet, to people who desperately need it. Yet she doesn’t want any credit or recognition.

Culture tells us to get married, have kids, buy a house, save for retirement. Be safe. Be comfortable. But Mary and the other missionaries have shunned what the world says is successful. God’s kingdom is her main concern, and by kingdom standards Mary’s life is a huge success. She’s someone with a lifetime of serving Jesus under her belt, and her message is “It's worth it.”

I want that.

When I’m 80 I want to still be fighting the good fight and saying, “don’t think I’m wonderful, Jesus did it.” My fervent prayer and hope is that Mary was a glimpse 50 years into my future. No matter what adventure God calls me to, I want to still “be singing when the evening comes.” And Mary sang, y’all. She sang with her hands high in the air, and I was overwhelmed by the significance of it all.

We went to Mongolia in order to encourage others, but I received as much as I gave. There is much I will hold close to my heart as a result of my time there, but what stands out most is the encouragement I received from Mary. She didn’t say this out loud, yet her life proclaims it: stay the course.

Stay the course.

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” Ephesians 6.13

God, may I be found standing.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Pure Joy Mongolia Q & A, part I

I’ve been asked a lot of questions about my trip to Mongolia since I got home. In trying to come up with a good way to share about my experience, I thought I’d post in the Q & A format to make it easier to read. That way, you can skip over whatever parts are boring! So here are the questions I’ve been most asked:

What is Pure Joy International?
Pure Joy International is a ministry that takes a team to different locations around the globe in order to encourage the hearts of missionary women (and by extension their families) by providing them a 4-day, 3-night retreat free of cost. During the retreat, the women are treated to great worship and speaking, meals and snacks, and a gift each time they enter the room. You can read about Pure Joy in more detail on their website,

      How did you get connected with this particular Pure Joy trip?
A good friend of mine, Penny, has been going on trips with Pure Joy for years. I’ve always wanted to go based on what she had to say, but never felt like the time was right. Then about a year ago, I sat in my favorite Mexican restaurant in Jonesboro (El Acapulco) across from one of my favorite people, Pam Rusher. I was in town for a weekend visit and we were catching up on life when she mentioned that Pure Joy International was taking a trip to Mongolia in 2013. Mrs. Pam and her husband, the late Dr. Buck Rusher, served for several years in Mongolia with the International Mission Board. I came to know and love the Rushers as an Arkansas State college student between their terms in Mongolia. When she mentioned the upcoming retreat in Ulaanbaatar (the capital city and their home while in Mongolia), I immediately said, “I want to go on that trip!” Eleven months later, I found myself sitting in the Dallas airport, waiting to board a 14-hour flight to the other side of the planet.

Penny on the left, Mrs. Pam on the right.

      Who are the women on the team?
The team was made up of 10 women. Some had been on trips with Pure Joy before; others, like myself, had not. We all had a role on the trip: photographer, hospitality, techno guru, etc.

      How long was that flight?
Long. We flew from Little Rock to Dallas, then Dallas to Seoul, South Korea, then Seoul to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. The longest flight was 14 hours.

      Did you eat anything weird?
I ate sheep meat on the first day. It wasn’t terrible. I also tried horse meat, which didn’t taste much different from beef. It was kind of bland. And on the last day I ate something called a fish ball. I thought it was a dumpling but once I put it in my mouth I knew I had made a terrible, terrible mistake. I can’t even describe it without wanting to gag. Lesson learned: don’t trust the dumplings.

The sheep meat pie.

       What was the coolest thing you saw?
We saw a gigantic Chinggis Khan memorial that was pretty impressive. That was also the day I befriended a Mongolian vulture. And, the performance we saw of traditional Mongolian singing, dancing and contortion…ism? Is that a word? We saw a contortionist.

Chinggis memorial: 250 tons of stainless steel

What was your favorite part?
Not including the retreat (which I’ll share about later), I loved seeing the Mongolian countryside. I learned that Mongolia’s nickname is Land of the Blue Sky, and we definitely saw why! It was beautiful and memorable.
Land of the Blue Sky

      Would you go back to Mongolia? Do you want to go back to Mongolia?
I would go back in a heartbeat! Though we didn’t spend much time with native Mongolians because we were focused on the missionary ladies, the Mongolians we interacted with were very friendly. They are known for their hospitality and we experienced that, too. Also, they need the gospel. Alcoholism is a big problem, especially among the men (due in large part to a heavy Russian influence for so many years). They are heavily Buddhist and also shamanism is growing in influence. When we asked him, the sweet Mongolian man who drove our bus on our sightseeing days said he’d never heard of Jesus.

      Are you recovered from your trip?
I think I’m physically recovered; jet lag wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be. My mental/emotional recovery is slower. (On my first day back at the BCM, I think I cried four times that day.) As recently as this morning I found myself choked up over one memory or another. A couple of people have remarked that I seem ‘off’ or not myself. My answer to that is, I hope I’m ‘off’ forever. This trip had some far-reaching effects on my life, and I hope I seem a little different from here on out. Even if it means I keep getting teary-eyed about it, that’s okay with me. I would rather this experience continue its profound influence on my life than to move on and become callous to it.

Part II is still to come (where I’ll talk about the retreat and my most meaningful experiences).