Friday, June 27, 2014

Treasure in the Mail!

 Two of our boxes arrived!!! I never thought when I packed these 1 1/2 months ago that it would be this long before I saw them again, but it turns out shipping things overseas requires a lot of documentation. ;) Many thanks to Ryan's parents for figuring it out and sending them to us!

The other 18 boxes are still in processing, as customs needed more clarification. Hopefully we'll get them soon.

I found a dish towel I used as padding, and did a dance and sang the "Hallelujah Chorus." I never knew a towel would bring me such joy, but when the laundry you did three days ago still isn't dry because of the rain and all of yours are now dirty and wet... It's a cause to rejoice. :)

I had been noticing Hadassah's hair getting longer, so was excited to discover the teeny bow barrettes her cousin Sara picked out for her in the box. Somehow Hadassah just looks older with her hair pinned back. :)

Thanking God for His blessings!

Thursday, June 26, 2014


Life hasn't been all that abnormal or blog-worthy. In fact, sometimes life seems very similar to what it'd be in the U.S.: time seeking the Lord and studying His Word, Ryan working his job, me enjoying time at home with Hadassah and trying to keep on top of chores, us having meals together, enjoying Hadassah's laughs, and trying to get enough sleep. ;) Those precious moments when Ryan comes home, Hadassah lights up, and I get lots of kisses at the door. Or one of my favorites: hearing Ryan play the guitar while Hadassah squeals and rolls on the floor and I finish making supper. Of course, any time we set foot outside, or have to go buy more water that's safe to drink, we're reminded we're in a different country!

Then there are the almost nightly visits with our neighbors, which is wonderful. There's the lessons in Chinese for me, which are fun! Today I finished learning the sounds for all 21 "initials" (consonant sounds), and have learned 14 "finals" (vowel sounds), practicing them with all 4 tones and learning over 70 short words. It makes my brain spin every time, but my teacher is very good and very encouraging, and I've had quite a few "a ha!" moments when I learn words that I've heard before.

And then there's the rain... When they said June was the rainy season, they weren't kidding! Hadassah and I are sitting in the window seat watching it pour down as I type. Ryan has become a pro at putting his poncho on for his rides to work on his e-bike. And shopping... it definitely makes things interesting! Yesterday I waited until Ryan was home at 4:30 PM to go shopping together, thinking he could get a taxi. Well, for some reason they either didn't understand or didn't want to go to the store. So, we made the 25 minute walk both ways with Hadassah in the ERGO, umbrellas, and backpacks of groceries. Not exactly fun, but it's what you have to do when you don't have a car!

 This little one keeps us smiling... Here she is, fresh after a bath :)

 Being in China with my best friend and love is pretty amazing too. We try to keep up our Friday date nights, though if we go somewhere, it means Hadassah's along. But when you hear there's "normal" pizza a 30 minute walk from you, and you get to go through the University campus Ryan spent a semester at 9 years ago and see his dorm and the buildings he studied in... It's worth it.

Meals have also become easier, and when Ryan takes a picture of it, I know he really likes it. :)

And yes, you can do Mexican dishes in China - the only thing you have to get "special" is taco seasoning, but even that is available to order online! That and corn chips... they were a splurge, but we're making them last!

 There is a door made of mirrors in our hallway, and one of Hadassah's favorite activities is to talk to the baby in the mirror.

And she's become an expert at rolling! She had been at the pile of toys playing when I went into the kitchen, but was quite a bit away from there when I came back!

And no matter where I am, if I can smell fresh bread baking, I will feel at home. SO thankful for this oven!

There are definitely moments where, with everything in us, we want to be back home, in America. It's hard being far from family and friends. There are things that are different and annoying, and everything just takes longer here. But we know this is where God has us for now, and we see His blessings everywhere.

And just having a home is so good for all of us. After months of every few nights being somewhere new and trying to get her to nap in a car or a stroller or an ERGO, Hadassah gets to sleep in the same room for every nap and night time! That has helped us all, as her sleep has been better, and I can usually count on naps being at least 1 1/2 hours each time - which after months of often 45 minute naps is a luxury!

So, life is good. It's hard and messy sometimes, but God is always good. Each day His faithfulness is new.

Monday, June 23, 2014

My Grandma

With Grandma in February 2013
My Grandma Lofgren always wanted to go to China...

It would be her 90th birthday today. She went to be with Jesus in January of this year, but in a sense, she finally made it to China. It just took 2 generations.

My Grandma wanted to tell others about Jesus, and thought that China would be the place. But when she met - and then married - my Grandpa, he was headed to Africa. So, she put her dreams on hold and followed her husband, throwing her life into the work and raising 4 children in Tanzania. I grew up inspired by her love and sacrifice. If a combination of words would describe my Grandma well, it would be gentle strength.

Later, after their children were grown and married, my grandparents spent some years in Malaysia and Singapore, among the Chinese people living there. She got closer to the tug on her heart, but didn't make it to China soil.

Never did I think I'd be the one to go. But here we are.

I do smile when I think that I represented China in a dance for our presentation of "Let the Nations Be Glad" 3 years ago, never ever dreaming I'd be living there one day!

And in a sense, my Grandma is one who helped us get here. Of course, her example was a huge encouragement to follow, to know you can raise children in an overseas context. But her legacy, her inheritance, also allowed us to.

We were saddened by my Grandma's passing in January, though at the same time rejoicing that her suffering was over. A month later, the first of two large checks arrived in the mail, as my grandparent's estate was being divided among the children and grandchildren. They had saved and invested well. Our initial plan was to use it as a down payment on a house, and that's still our goal, one day. But when the job in China soon became a reality, and by implication we faced 3 months without a pay check, those checks from my grandparents gave us a cushion that allowed us to go. We will eventually get reimbursed for the start-up costs, so my inheritance will still be invested and saved towards a house (if/when we move back to the States). But in the meantime, it has helped. My grandparents helped.

And that's really cool. And humbling. The Providence of God is amazing.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Something better than wrath

We take another pause in our regularly scheduled Hadassah / China broadcasting to bring you another update from "Reflections on Romans".  This time from the 16th and 17th verses of chapter one.  These are the famed verses that are said to be the thesis of the whole letter.  They get at why Paul is writing and what he is writing about.  But before we can understand them, we really need to see the start of verse 18.

In verse 18, Paul explains how it is that "the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven".  All mankind is sentenced to death because of sin.  This isn't exactly good news.  1:18-32 has some pretty crazy epistemological claims: (1) It says that what can be known about God is plain to mankind.  In other words, "there are no atheists".  But even further, (2) it says that mankind, even without the gospel, understands that the just sentence for sin is death (see 1:32).  So, in a certain way, they don't even need the gospel to know this stuff.  Of course, the problem, as Romans 1:18 states, is that mankind has done an amazing cover-up job.  So often, when we tell the gospel (to ourselves or others), it is necessary to lay the "ground work": we have sinned and therefore deserve death, eternal death.  And God is just to sentence us thus.

Interlude: About 600 years before Paul was writing, some really bad news was also delivered to Israel: "y'all gonna get it".  The Chaldeans are gonna wipe everyone out.  You'll be eating your children it's gonna be so bad.  Whoever isn't taken into captivity will die by the sword or by starvation.  It was a bleak picture there too.  The wages of sin was death for Israel.   Yet, in the midst of receiving this bad news, God offered hope.  Some were wondering, "if this is the case... if everyone is going to die... is there any way - any way at all, to live?"  And God's answer came in the prophecy given to Habbakuk (2:4).  He said that life came about from the interplay of righteousness and faith.  But, of course, that's all we got.  In the OT is Christ concealed.  In the NT is Christ revealed.  Interlude over.

So in verse 16 of Romans, Paul is addressing some cowardice.  Some wimps were ashamed of the gospel.  And Paul says "I'm not ashamed!"  [Imagine it said in a fiery Scott's voice after a good drink.]  Kind of looking the people in the eye who are ashamed.  And he gives his reasons:  In the midst of so much death and wrath being poured out, I've got a message that is the power of God unto salvation.  Paul had eternity in mind.  He had the "wages of sin" in his mind.  He had the "wrath of God" in his mind.  The plight of man.  And he wasn't going to let a little fear of man get in the way of his message of salvation.  "For", he goes on to explain, "in it, the righteousness of God is being revealed."  There's that phrase again: "is being revealed".  Remember that in verse 18, we learn that the state of the world that everyone knows is that "the wrath of God is being revealed"?  That's all anyone can know about apart from special revelation.  But in the gospel, we have a special revelation that reveals something better than wrath.  Something much better.  This is salvation.  This is "anti sin".  This is "anti condemnation".  And this is the reason Paul isn't ashamed of the gospel.

In the NT, Christ is revealed.  In the backdrop of so much death, red in tooth and claw - the just judgment for our sin - the heart cry of mankind is "how can we live"?  Paul resurfaces the same answer from the OT prophecy, but applies it to Christ: "He who by faith is righteous shall live." Life and salvation now come to the man who has become righteous by placing their trust in Christ.

These themes of salvation, life, and righteousness are at the heart of the matter.   Everyone knows that God is judging the world, and that if God is going to be just, sin will be punished - no matter what.  He hasn't quite gone into all the details of how He's going to work that salvation, but he promises us it's coming.  And he chooses to make that promise with a peculiar phrase.  (A phrase that will come up again in Romans in several key places.)  That phrase is "the righteousness of God".  This phrase, when it came up in the OT was so often connected with the saving hand of God.  The Psalmist (and Isaiah) time and time again pairs these two by thanking God for God's salvation and, in the next meter, thanking God for His righteousness.  God demonstrates His righteousness by saving His people.

And isn't that the thanksgiving of the Christian heart?  Thank You God for saving us!  Thank you for showing off Your own glory in the salvation of Your people!  Thank You for the brilliance with which Your righteousness shines.  Thank You for giving us something better than wrath.

For good reason, Paul was not ashamed.  May it be so of us.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

I want to be like Hadassah...

Hadassah and her neighbor friend are learning to play together more!
Each afternoon, I try to take Hadassah out to the courtyard near the slides in our apartment complex. She LOVES it. As soon as she sees other children running around, she wiggles to be put down and tries to run over to them. Whereas in the house she makes sure I'm holding her hands before trying to walk, when she sees other children, she thinks she can do it and shakes off my hands. I hold her under the arms and try to keep up, as she vocalizes happily and smiles.

The reactions are cute. Sometimes the child runs away, a little startled, until his grandma urges him to say "hǎo." Other times they come closer, curious about the little blue-eyed child. The Grandmas all love it, and ask me questions about Hadassah.

It's hard not being able to understand. I've learned to pick up on when they're asking her age, and can respond appropriately: "qī yuè." I recently learned how to tell them she's a girl: "hái." But then it turns into a game of gesturing as we try to communicate, until they eventually give up and talk among themselves while I smile. 

And while smiling is wonderful, and a great way to communicate that transcends language, it can only last so long. After 10 or 15 minutes, I feel the urge to go... It gets awkward!

But I want to be like Hadassah, always ready to go and meet new people. She doesn't seem to get tired of smiling! God knew what He was doing when he gave me - an introvert, who God has brought a long way, but would still often rather work alone than with people - a daughter who is so outgoing... one who loves people SO much! 

So, I go out, for another time of smiling. As I learn Chinese (I began on Tuesday and have a great tutor!) I know these times out will give me great opportunities to practice. And though it's outside of my comfort zone, I thank the Lord for the gift of my daughter, that gives me reason and an excuse to get out. Everyone is so welcoming when I have such a cutie in my arms! ;)

Lord, make me like Hadassah. Give me more and more of a love for people. Help me to share you with them.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


We're thrilled to find it at the fruit stand right outside our apartment complex! We may now have a watermelon addict on our hands, though. ;)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day, Ryan!

Two years ago, I was getting to know Ryan and saw him playing with a friend's child. My heart beat a little faster. I somehow knew he'd make a great dad...

...and he does!!!

When Hadassah was born, he bonded with her right away, and was the first to hold and cuddle with her.

Hadassah is growing up secure, safe in her strong Daddy's arms.

 It's been priceless to see Ryan involve her in everything, from passing on his love of music to praying with her and telling her about God.
This site has been a common one since Hadassah was a week old. He started playing with colored rings above her head, and seven months later, she STILL loves it, as her eyes pop out and her legs kick happily :)

Hadassah's eyes always light up something special when she sees her Daddy. Yes, there are times when only Mommy will do (when she's hungry, sleeping, or bonked her head again), but even then Ryan can often get her to calm down as he twirls her around and teaches her to dance.

And ever wondered why Hadassah smiles so much for pictures?

She has a Daddy who isn't afraid to be silly! :)

But the best part of all, much as Hadassah is Daddy's girl, he's already teaching her that Mommy comes first. :) He treasures our marriage, greets me first at the door, and makes sure we have time just the two of us. Countless times he plays with Hadassah so I can get something done or just have a break, even if he's exhausted from a long day. I am so blessed.

Thank you, Ryan, for going above and beyond in your role as a father! I love you!

Your Anna :)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Biker Family

 So if you had ever told me, at any part of my life, that I'd be riding on what is to many respects a motorcycle (albeit not able to go as fast), I wouldn't have believed you. A little "wild"? That's not really me...

But when it's your fastest way to get to the grocery store or subway, and time is always of the essence with a baby... Besides, who wouldn't want to ride behind such a handsome man?

And would you be shocked to hear that I think it's a blast? :)

Now we look like a true Chinese family.

And before you question whether it's safe or not:
1) There's a bike lane on almost every road, separated from the busy road with cars by a hedge of trees
2) I feel very secure, not at all like I'm going to fall off
3) Hadassah is secure in the ERGO carrier, and I put one arm around Ryan and one arm behind her head so that if we go over any big bumps (though the bike itself is very smooth), she won't be jolted
4) This e-bike can only go 15 mph tops, so we're not traveling all that fast

And Hadassah likes it too! 

A plug for ERGO carriers too: they're great! Carrying her doesn't hurt my back, and I feel her weight less with this than I do when I wear a backpack. Pretty cool. And really, almost essential for life in China. Allows me to go to the fruit stand and buy water and carry it back with both hands while she rides securely and can see the world. :) Plus, better than carrying the stroller up and down stairs and trying to navigate all the bumps in the sidewalk and roads. *end plug*

Hard to believe we're finishing our first "normal" week of work and such in China! Still hasn't fully sunk in that we'll be here for years instead of just weeks, but it's exciting to learn and grow in many new ways.

And, I just arranged with a tutor a friend recommended to start language lessons on Tuesday & Thursday afternoons starting this Tuesday! :)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Neighbors :)

We are so blessed with great neighbors! Above is a picture with the woman and her 17-month-old son. They live just across from us on our floor, with her husband and her mother. In China it is most common for the grandma to live with the family to care for the child, since both parents work.

They have been so kind to us from day one. When we were waiting to look at the apartment in our search, and had to wait for a while because there was a key mix-up, they invited us in to sit down and have Hadassah play with their toys. They've also given her toys and we've traded toys to borrow so that the little ones can have some new things to play with, which they both love. :) They brought over a sweater for Hadassah that the Grandma knitted soon after we moved in. Last night they also gave us some unopened baby cereal from America (evidently they trust it more than what you can get here) saying their son no longer ate it, so would I want it for Hadassah. We were almost out of what we'd brought, so it was perfect timing. And, yet another instance of God providing at just the right time.  Also, we had mentioned how far we have to travel for church (over an hour!) and they connected us with someone who attends a church even closer.

They have also been so hospitable to us. They invited us over on Friday evening, and then had us eat lunch with them on Saturday, and we've been over there or they've come over almost every day since! The parents both speak very good English, so they've been a help to us in many ways and provided friendship.

Last night, they asked us, "Why did you all move to China?"  And while there are many answers that we could give (and do/did give), the ironic answer to have given would have been to have said, "We moved here so that we could be having this very conversation!"  Paul, in Romans 1:11-12, says he was longing to see the Romans and wants to come to them.  And the only reasons he gives for it are spiritual reasons: to impart a spiritual gift (v 11), to be mutually encouraged by them (v 12) and to reap a harvest among them (v 13).  Paul made his geographic location completely dependent on spiritual realities.

We'd prayed before coming that we'd be able to connect with neighbors, and are amazed and blessed to see God answering our prayer so quickly!  Please pray for our relationship with them.  They are such a blessing to us and we are praying that we can be a blessing to them.  And of course, even more so, that they can know personally the Source of all blessings.

Recent Cuteness

 Being home with Hadassah and not having all the things we used to have for her to play in (swing, johnny-jump-up, bouncy seat, bumbo) has made me creative about where to put her down. She's discovered the joy of a huge bowl I use as a laundry basket...

...and the delight of a plain old box! It doubles as a ship to scoot her around in and a great drum (note the blurry arm).

Now that she finally JUST fits in her size 2 sandals (this girl has small feet!) we take a morning walk around the apartment complex, investigating bushes, discovering delight in crunching on leaves, and smiling at the people walking to school or work. 

It's also nice having shoes that fit, since I've learned if I take her out barefoot, even if she's just being carried, concerned grannies try to tell me to put something on her feet. Seems to be a cultural thing.

She's pretty good at getting them off, though, so we had a five minute hunt retracing my steps to where she'd wiggled out of it this morning. ;)

Sandals like mommy! She's pretty proud that she can walk in them - holding mommy's hands, of course. Though she does try to just take off every now and then - the confidence is there, just not the balance. ;)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

If at first you don't succeed...

Lunch was much better today! :)

And many blessings have come our way...

Though ordering groceries online is more expensive in places, on a friend's recommendation I checked out some websites with safe meat and produce, and placed orders with two sites this morning. Delivery is fast - one order will be here this afternoon and the other tomorrow morning! Splurged on a few comfort foods too. :) So meat and salad is in our future...

To top things all off, a generous friend told us they'd ordered an oven for us to be delivered here on Friday!! Wow!!

God is so good. And if we didn't go through a few valleys (though yesterday's was minor compared to many others), the mountain tops wouldn't be so beautiful.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Operation: Make Lunch

So, just to keep it real...

Yesterday was a great day. I had the house sparkling clean thanks to Hadassah's 2 hour nap, lunch was ready even a little early, and it was delicious. Despite only having one working burner, and only one kitchen utensil (a trusty spatula!) other than sharp knives and plastic spoons and forks, the green beans were boiled to perfection, and the concoction of boiled potatoes sliced and sauteed with garlic, onion, olive oil and salt was incredible. "Necessity is the mother of invention" I thought to myself with a smile, as I peeled and sliced carrots and a pear to top things off.

But Ryan never showed up... We'd known it was a possibility, that on his first day they might have scheduled him to have lunch with a co-worker. Problem was, he couldn't let me know, as he'd had to take the only phone we have so far with him to call someone when he arrived at the office, and he didn't have working email there yet. So I waited for 45 minutes, then ate. It was still yummy cold, and made great leftovers for his supper.

Then today came. It seemed like it would work again. I'd gotten a neat looking rice and bean mix to give us some good fiber and protein. I was excited to find it had English and Chinese instructions too, until I saw that all they told me was "Add a certain amount of water, cooked with high fire, then simmer it to porridge." Okay... ignoring the nagging thought that beans had to be soaked before use - thinking, "It would have said to. Besides, these are mixed with rice, so maybe they've been pre-prepared" - and adding to it my own inexperience (confession: I relied on canned beans in the US!) I set about 1 1/2 hours before lunch to create another great concoction.

Or so I thought.

First I added equal parts rice and water. Pretty soon I knew that wasn't going to be enough, so I added more. And more. Oh - and a little more. I also added minced garlic and salt for flavor. It's all I have, as my spices haven't arrived in our boxes yet. Hadassah woke up and I nursed and fed her solids while checking the pot periodically. When it was 30 minutes 'til Ryan was supposed to be there and the beans were still very very hard, I started sweating, and turned the heat up.

Which was a mistake, as it seems the gas stove either cooks really high or not much at all. Pretty soon I smelled something burning and sure enough, the bottom was caked with burnt beans and rice. I transferred the good stuff to a new pot and kept trying.

Did I mention we only have one working burner?

Ryan got home - right on time! - and the beans were still hard. "Oh well - guess we'll just eat the rice around the beans" I said as I sprinkled in more salt and put some frozen mixed veggies on to cook, trying to get them done quickly.

Finally, we were ready and I'd added some fresh fruit to make up for the interesting lunch. But then... a few bites of the rice told me I'd added too much salt. A bite of the mixed veggies reminded me when I'd tested them for done-ness I'd only tasted the corn and carrots - the peas were still hard. The fruit was good, but my husband needed protein....

Grilled cheese and a fried egg (trying to forget he'd already had eggs for breakfast!) came to the rescue. He was so reassuring while I berated myself. "I should have known dried beans needed to soak!" We'll laugh about this one day, I know, but right then I was fighting back tears.

But you know, it's a lesson in humility. I felt like a new wife trying to cook for her husband and failing. Except I didn't have to go through that when I got married, because I'd already had years of practice. So, maybe this is my turn to learn. Where ingredients are hard to find and there's never enough time to shop with a baby who needs her naps, so necessary things will be gathered slowly.

And thankfully, there are restaurants just a few minutes walk from our house. Looks like it'll be Chinese noodles tonight. :)

Welcome Home Daddy!

The onesie says it all...

 Someone was just a little fussier yesterday, looking around for her Daddy. You can see by her face when he came through the door after work how excited she was!

 Couldn't stop looking at him :)

She initiated the snuggling. So sweet!!


As I hung up another load of laundry to dry, I was thankful. After 2 weeks washing things by hand in a hotel sink and waiting 4 days for them to dry draped in the bathroom, having a washing machine and lots of space with access to open windows for things to dry in a day seems like a luxury.

It also made me thankful for that time in the hotel. No, it wasn't fun. Yes, I wished time and again for a regular washing machine and dryer. But it gave me perspective, and helped me be thankful. If we'd come straight to the apartment, I'd probably be more inclined to be grumpy that this washing machine is half the size of ones in the US and there's no dryer to be found anywhere. We as humans are pretty good at complaining, aren't we?

Though moving to China is full of changes and things we're doing without - big on the list right now is an oven - it's also made me realize how much we have to be grateful for, that so much of the world doesn't have. We have A/C, though they're simple units in each room. We have hot water and a shower that feels so good at the end of a sticky day of walking through the streets - we don't have to bathe with a bucket! We have a refrigerator, and we have a stove, gas powered though it is. We have beds and couches and tables and chairs and a few dishes and sharp knives already in our apartment for our use.

I know I won't always feel thankful. I'll be tempted to complain about such things as the "hardship" of finding cheese and butter at a decent price. So when I do, I hope I'll remember this. We have so much to be thankful for. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Off to Work!

Ryan heading off to work this morning... Is it crazy that I miss him already?

These last 2 1/2 months have been amazing. We count ourselves so blessed that we were given so much time together - something most couples never experience until retirement. Yes, it will be nice having an income again. ;) And yes, a daily job will give us both a more structured routine, which we've been missing. But months of having Ryan by my side hour by hour, whether we were reading the Bible, working on details, playing with Hadassah, singing, stressing a little about all the crazy things going on, trying to catch up on sleep, or visiting with family and friends was amazing. Not to mention being able to kiss him whenever I wanted! He truly is my best friend. Never in all those weeks did we ever get annoyed with each other or want some space - we were truly made for each other. :)

So, he looks snazzy on his new electronic bike, and is excited to get to apply his mind to a new job. But while grateful for all of the new opportunities ahead, both of us will miss the sweet season that has just passed. Thank You, Lord.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Home :)

We moved in to our apartment on Wednesday and it feels SO good to have a home. :) It's still bare-bones - just what we brought in suitcases plus the furniture there and some linens our landlady graciously let us borrow for now - but it's home. :)

Ryan starts work on Monday, so we're busy getting things ready for that. He bought a cool electronic bike today that will make it quick for him to get to and from work, meaning he'll still be able to make it home for lunch!

We don't have internet at home, so we're taking advantage of restaurants with wi-fi. Lots to set up, but already God has blessed us again and again, and connected us with some great people. We are very thankful.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Reflections of Romans 1:1-15

Just want to reflect a little on what Anna and I have been reading in Romans recently.  We just finished Romans 1:1-15, which is probably a good place to stop and reflect.

And I want to choose a theme to dwell on in it.  There so many themes you could pick out.  Verses 3 and 4 are all about Christology.  The theme of "calling" comes up again and again (verses 1, 6, and 7).  But what I want to meditate on is Paul's sincerity in ministry.

In verse 9 Paul says he does his service "in his spirit", which many commentators (e.g. Moo and Martyn Lloyd Jones) take to be a statement of his sincerity.  He serves Christ with his Spirit.  And then in verse 10 he talks about how often he is praying for the church at Rome "always making mention of them in his prayers."  You have to wonder how the mind of Paul worked.  When he was waiting at Pizza Hut for his pizza to cook and with nothing to do, was he just serially going through all the churches he could think of and praying for them one by one?  That is the way he talks.

He saw himself as "called to be an apostle" (verse 1) and "set apart for the gospel of God", also verse 1.  His life orientation was towards ministry.  What he says he was set apart for was not just "Jesus" or "God".  He was "set apart for the gospel of God".  Ministry.  It was what Paul lived for.  Even the noun he uses for himself points to this: He was a bondservant.  When you think of slavery, you think of all the crazy work slaves have to do.  That is what defines them.  The thought is not so much chains or the status of being bought as a slave, as it is service and sweat and energy all being expended for Christ.

Paul's entire relationship with the church at Rome is gospel and ministry oriented.  It's not like that is something on the side, or even something at the core that is surrounded by other kind of stuff.  Paul, no where in the letter, does small talk kind of stuff.  In verse 11 he says he wants to impart or demonstrate to them a spiritual gift.  In verse 12 he says he wants there to be mutual encouragement and edification from their meeting.  In verse 15 he says he wants to preach the gospel to them.  And he states this at the outset.  He was a man of purpose and I want to be like that.

You know, when was the last time you said, "Hey, I want to come over to your house so that we can have an experience of the Holy Spirit together"?  That kind of thing is only born out of a dedication to a calling.  It isn't natural.

You see this again in verse 14.  Paul, when he is referring to his ministry to people, says he is a debtor to them.  He doesn't say that it would be a good thing, like a cherry on top, if he preaches the gospel to the Greek and the barbarian.  He says he's in debt to them and won't be out of the debt unless he tells them the gospel.  It's a very unique thought and gives you a glimpse into how Paul's mind worked.  He felt under obligation.  Compulsion.  Like it would be awkward and just wrong if he didn't.  God, please give me that mindset.