Tuesday, August 31, 2010
I'm a member of an online support group for parents of adolescents and teens with bipolar disorder. Tonight someone sent a blog that she found meaningful. It was about letting go of your mind and body through yoga. She talked about centering herself...letting go of the pain...releasing and relaxing the body and mind...trusting. She finds yoga helpful when her child's world (and therefore her own) is spinning out of control because of her child's illness.
I found the blog interesting -- especially the timing of it. When Kyle is unstable, we all feel the affects. To be honest, it's been a difficult week. It takes a lot of strength to not be sucked down into the swirling vortex of the emotions of mental illness. So what is there to hold onto? What can I do to regain some equilibrium; to bring my mind and body back to a place of peace when there's anger, anxiety, and agitation all around me? Is yoga the answer? I question that. Nowhere in her blog did the author write about who or what she is trusting, once she "lets go". She simply empties her mind. But what will fill it once it's emptied? What happens when her daughter wakes up tomorrow still angry with the world...still unstable...still ill? What good does an "empty mind" do then?
God led me to a beautiful prayer this week. Just in time, I might add! (He has such an incredible way of doing that :). I just finished reading Brennan Manning's book, The Ragamuffin Gospel. What an amazing book! I highly recommend it. Anyway, he suggests a "prayer of simple regard". Simply breathe in and out as you pray, "Abba...I belong to You." As you do this, you become filled with such a profound awareness of who you are and Who you belong to. It's such a comfort to be reminded with every breath you breathe that One much stronger than you is in control of each crazy situation you encounter.
Even though my world sometimes feels as if it's spinning out of control, God assures me it's not. When I empty myself of me -- when I let go and trust my Abba -- God fills my mind with incredible peace. And Abba Father's peace exceeds anything the world offers.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Last week Steph and the kids were here for the week. Konner spent his time going from Sully to Pella, visiting the grandmas and grandpas and relishing all the individual attention! Haley and Kaden are crawling around and getting into everything. I loved to just sit and watch them interact! At this point it's even cute watching them fight over toys. I can't believe how they already know how to stand their ground!
On Saturday evening we all went to Keith and Dar's (Kirk's parents) and helped the twins celebrate their first birthday.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
The first thought that popped into my head was, "Wow. What would it be like to have Jesus pray for me? To have Him sit next to me, take my hands in His, and gently offer His petitions for me?" I know there are people who pray regularly for me. It's a humbling thought...people interceding on my behalf before the throne of God. But how amazing to think of Christ Jesus Himself kneeling before the Father, talking to God specifically about me! So when I read those words this morning I just sat there awhile and let the Spirit speak His truth to my heart. "Bev, Jesus does pray for you. He is praying for you. Believe it!"
I know this truth in my head. I've read it many times in His Word (i.e. "He (Jesus) lives forever to intercede with God on their (believers) behalf." Heb. 7:25b) But what an awesome reminder, what beautiful freedom, what an amazing source of comfort and strength, to hear Jesus say, "But I have prayed for you, Bev, so that your faith may not fail." Thank You, Jesus. I so needed that reminder today!
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Two summers ago I went to a small group conference in Chicago and was moved by the testimony of one of the speakers. Joyce Rees spoke about her ministry to those living in poverty and how we are all called to love and take care of those in our society who are marginalized. My spirit connected with what she was saying and ever since then I've been struggling with the questions, "Who are the marginalized in my life?" and "Who around me is living in poverty?". One thing I've been learning is that poverty is a much broader term than I once thought. It not only encompasses physical poverty, but it includes spiritual poverty, as well.
I recently got to know a beautiful young couple who bought a house in inner-city Kansas City and literally moved into the neighborhood. They love the Lord and are serving Him daily by serving those who live in physical and spiritual poverty. My heart was moved when I thought of all they've given up (including physical safety) to answer God's call to the inner city. What an incredible example of being willing to give our all to serve!
So I struggle...and I listen. Am I hearing God...am I heeding His call? I know He wants His children to love and serve those living in poverty. But how -- who? For now, I don't hear God calling me and Steve to move to another community. But I do hear Him (quite clearly, actually) asking me to open my eyes to the marginalized He's placed in my life. So I keep my (spiritual) antenna up as I go through my day, listening for Him to say, "This is one that needs to be loved in My name". One thing I'm coming to realize is that those living in poverty might not look much different than I do. And they are right here in my safe little community.
I'm currently reading No Greater Love, by Mother Teresa. What an excellent book -- full of beautiful wisdom. At first glance our worlds look nothing alike. Mother Teresa was a nun called to live among and serve the poorest of the poor. I am a 50 year old middle-upper class American mom living in a small, wealthy community. Nothing in my life or my experiences can compare with hers. But listen to these words of truth that she penned.
"People are hungry for God. People are hungry for love. Are we aware of that?... Do we have eyes to see?... We are all just passing through this world. We need to open our eyes and see.
"Since we cannot see Christ, we cannot express our love to Him. But we do see our neighbor, and we can do for him what we would do for Christ if He were visible. Let us be open to God, so that He can use us. Let us put love into action. Let us begin with our family, with our closest neighbors. It is difficult, but that is where our work begins. We are collaborators with Christ, fertile branches on the vine... Remember, it is the individual that is important to us. ... To me, every person in the world is unique." (p. 56, 57)
Who, in your life, is still living in poverty? Who is hungering and thirsting for the Good News? Who needs you to be the hands and feet of Jesus loving them in His name? If you're not sure, ask God. He would love to open your eyes to those who desperately need to experience His love.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
I never met Tony, but my heart was so moved at his funeral. It was evident that his family loved him so very much. It was a joy to hear about Tony's life from those knew him best. My heart broke when I heard of the struggles his parents endured during the early years of Tony's life. And I was happy to hear how this past year was one of peace and joy for Tony. He loved where he was currently living and was well-acclimated to his new home and community. It was fun to hear Marty and his sisters tell us about Tony's interests as well as his little quirks. It's obvious that even though Tony wasn't able to live at home for the past 31 years of his life, he was dearly loved by his family and their friends.
Tony's sister, Carmen, gave a touching and beautiful tribute of his life at the funeral yesterday. I loved that she ended it by saying Tony was welcomed into heaven with a resounding, "Well done, my good and faithful servant!".
I've been thinking about that ever since. I agree wholeheartedly that God welcomed Tony with those beautiful words. What makes it so precious is that Tony truly didn't "do" anything to earn those words! He never served as an elder or a deacon; never led a Bible study; never went to Promise Keepers; never gave his testimony (verbally, at least); never intentionally led someone to Christ; never planted a church; never served on a church committee; never went to Cadets or youth group; never read the Bible through in one year; never taught a Sunday School class...never, never, never...never did all those things that we tend to think will earn our way into heaven. We run ourselves ragged trying to earn our way into the good graces of God. How futile. How sad. And how totally blind to the ways of God's love.
So if Tony didn't do anything, then what compelled his Abba Father to throw open His arms to Tony and welcome him with excitement and joy into heaven?? The same thing that compels Him to embrace all of His children close to His heart. It's because of HIS love and HIS actions! God's love for us is astounding. His love and His grace paves the way for us to enter into His presence, on both sides of heaven! It's not what we do that makes Him love us so...He loves us so much because of what Jesus has done. His very essence is love!
Yesterday's funeral was such a good reminder that God doesn't expect us to earn our way into heaven (nor, in fact, can we). At the very foundation of our relationship with God is His acceptance of us based on who He is and what He has sacrificed for us. When we, in humility accept His love and allow God to pour His Spirit into us, we can serve Him in whatever capacity He calls us to. But we serve out of love and thankfulness, not to earn our spot in heaven. Some of us are given more abilities than others. Some are given more responsibilities. But God looks at the heart, not the actions. Tony served God with the abilities entrusted to Him. And it was pleasing and acceptable to His Father.
Tony is no longer trapped in body and mind. Now he's finally free to love and serve and worship and praise the One who loves and adores him! Someday we'll all be set free from these earthly bodies and minds to do the same thing! What a day that will be!!
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Then it occurred to me that this is just like life. There will always be distractions and noise coming at us, even in the midst of beauty (now a garbage truck is clanging by, beeping it's warning as it stops in a nearby street). We find rest and peace, and are momentarily stilled...but then we enter life and once again are assailed by the commotion coming at us. And so often the noise and distractions come from within. It's hard to escape the turmoil that brews inside of us when we're going through a difficult time. What should we do?
The past few days God has been clearly speaking to me about this. He's been reminding me over and over again that I am to keep my eyes on Him. The Words that come to mind are from Hebrews 12:1-2. "...run with perseverance the race marked out for you...keeping your eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of your faith...".
Do I trust God with the course He has set for me? Since He's the One who's marked it out, He knows all the twists and turns my race will take. The game plan He's given me is to keep running (persevere) and keep my eyes on Him. My tendency is to look around at everyone else's life (the whole "she has it so much easier/better" syndrome...). What good does that do? God has an individual course set out for each of His children. I need to keep my focus on Jesus. He was the author (the initiator...the originator) of my faith and He's taking me down a very specific path that will perfect my faith to His specifications.
One day at a time...one step in front of the other...and always, always LOOKING UP!
"Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith." Heb. 12: 1b-2a (NLT)
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
The word amen means, "Yes, this is true!" or "Let it be so!" (according to gospel.com). When we end our prayers with the word amen, we're asking God to take and seal our prayer...to make it be so. We're asking for God's will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. But we're not saying goodbye to God!
God has promised to NEVER leave us or forsake us (see Heb. 13:5). He is with us always. Our sweet times of prayer really need never end. As we go through our day we can continue to talk with Him, even without words! God doesn't need our words. He loves to hear us speak what's on our hearts, of course. But there are times when words just aren't sufficient -- when there are simply no adequate words to say. There are times when our tears suffice as prayers...and times our thoughts are prayers, reaching up with longing to the Lord.
When God's Spirit resides within us, we are never alone. We can walk with Him and talk to Him all day long. We need never say goodbye!
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Saturday, May 1, 2010
Here are a couple of quotes from the book...
"The Most High has given us His light, He has given us His sword, He has given us His name. Use them! Position yourself toward the Son and allow Him to shine through you, striking the mark! Wield the laser sword of the Spirit. We often forget how powerful the Holy Spirit in us is - how destructive to darkness is His lightning sword. It has supernatural power to overcome the works of darkness - when we release it with confidence." (p. 191)
"As the Israelites carried the presence and glory of God into battle, so must we. All that was in the Ark of the Covenant is in us: the Bread of Life, the rod of priestly authority and the law of God. And the glory that was upon it now shines through us. Act like it! Strike with the sword - speak the Word! "Let God arise" through your intercession "and His enemies be scattered." (p. 192)
Let these truths soak into your heart and believe that your prayers DO make a difference. Never give up!
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
When I surrender to God, I stand before Him with open hands -- letting go of the tight-fisted grip I have on my desires and my will. It's choosing God's way over mine. It's waking up each day and saying "yes" to God -- even before I hear what He's asking of me. It's offering my life to Him...such as it is; and knowing He loves me...right where I am.
Surrender does not mean that we are automatons; robots blindly doing as commanded, without intelligence or discernment. God has given us a will; we are allowed to make choices. Surrender is asking God to "mold me and make me after His will" and really meaning it! It's knowing full well that there's often pain in the molding process, but trusting Him to be the Potter, anyway. Surrender is asking Him to show us the desires of His heart and following so closely after Him that His deepest desires become ours, as well. God has shaped each one of us with our own unique personalities. He wants us to use what He's given us to serve Him!
Just this morning I read this quote by C.S. Lewis. "The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become - because He made us. He invented all the different people that you and I were intended to be. It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own."
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
I've read that note often throughout the years -- sometimes with a sense of desperation, and at other times with a sense of calmness and surrender. When I first heard it, Stephanie and Katie were young teenagers and Kyle was probably around 7 or 8. Enough said!! I would often wake up exhausted from a night of too little sleep (those nights when Kyle would be awake for 2 or 3 hours during the night) and face a morning battle of some sort with one child or another (if you're a mom, you know the routine!). What a wonderful thing to be able to unload my problems and cares on God. He is perfectly capable and willing to deal with my problems. My responsibility is simply to hand them over to God, trusting and believing He is able to work all things out for my good.
Surrender doesn't always come easily. We too often think we know best how to handle our problems. But God is bigger than our problems. He sees the end from the beginning, and He knows the best way to get to the other side. God wants us to surrender 100% of ourselves to Him. And that includes any problem we're facing today -- ANY problem. Allow God to take it off your hands and see just what He's capable of!
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Haley Jo -- our little princess!
Saturday, April 17, 2010
That got me thinking about how the world will end. What can we expect in the end times? The Bible actually has quite a lot to say on this subject. We know that there will be wars and threats of war; there will be famines and earthquakes. False prophets will claim to be the Messiah. "Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold" (Matt. 24:12) We're also told that the world will be as it was in the days of Noah (people lived their lives...eating and drinking and working until the flood destroyed the world) and in the days of Lot (the people went about their daily business until fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all) (see Luke 17:26-29). There will be greater anguish in those days than in any other time in history. We're also warned that believers will be hated, betrayed, arrested, persecuted, and killed.
This is just a condensed version of what the Bible tells us to expect. Even though we don't know exactly how it will all play out, we do know that it will be a time of world-wide catastrophes, as well as a time of intense persecution for believers. In fact, we're told that "the time will be shortened for the sake of God's chosen ones." (see Matt. 24:22). So how are we, as believers, supposed to deal with all of this? It would be pretty easy to allow fear to creep in and take over.
When Jesus' disciples asked him about the end times, He gave them the grim accounts of what to expect. But He also had some very encouraging words to say. First of all, He told them not to panic (He knows us so well, doesn't He?!). He reminded His followers that those who endure to the end will be saved. He encouraged them to keep watch, be ready, and be faithful. He promised them that the Good News would be preached throughout the world. In fact, Jesus told His followers that the very persecution they would endure would turn into ideal opportunities to witness. "This will be your opportunity to tell them about me." (Mark 13:9b)
So, are we on the brink of Christ's return? Only the Father knows. But we can stand firm and be confident that the promises Jesus gave to his disciples also extend to us, His 21st century followers. Even though we're told that terror will oppress the earth and sea -- since Satan will be "filled with fury, because he knows his time is short" (see Rev. 12:12) -- we're also told that God will pour out His Spirit on all people, men and women alike. We will have many opportunities to share the hope that we have in Christ!
And then one glorious day, "...the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever!" (I Thess. 4:16-17)
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
I've always been taught that we are the church -- the "church" is not a building, it's people (you know the song..."I am the church; You are the church; We are the church togeth...er"!). But yet, we still talk about "belonging" to this or that church; or "going to" church; etc, etc. We still view church as an institution -- a building -- an organization....something we "go" to. And a place where we expect others to go.
But what if the "church" should be the ones who go? Yesterday I had a conversation with a man who told me his mom was pretty concerned about his brother (a 40-something adult) who "never goes to church". My first thought -- and I told him this -- is that WE are the church. Maybe it's time for the church to go to him...to show him the love and compassion of Jesus. We worry so much when people don't go to church, but maybe our focus is wrong. Maybe we should be more concerned that we, the church, aren't doing a very good job of revealing Christ to the world.
Scripture is very clear that we (followers of Christ) are the church. I Cor. 6:19 says, "Don't you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?" I Cor. 3:16 gives a more corporate focus, "Don't you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?"
We are the "light of the world -- a city on a hilltop" (see Matt. 5:14). Our purpose is to reveal Christ to a dark world. "We're it! We are the lampstands in this generation." (Beth Moore).
"When we discover the power of His love, we can't hold it to ourselves. Not only will it transform us, it will also seep out quite naturally with believers and unbelievers alike. We'll find ourselves reflecting God's life and character to others around us..." (Wayne Jacobsen)
We would do well to be more passionate about displaying Christ to those around us. We are given the opportunity daily to demonstrate God's life and love to those He puts in our lives. If you've been ignited with His Spirit, allow His light shine in and through you! That's the life and breath of the church!
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Enjoying time together at a restaurant. Kyle, of course, had to try out the pinball machine!
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
- I've developed a sincere longing for heaven! I don't long for it in a morbid way (such as "I just want to die and go to heaven"), but as something I honestly look forward to. I really didn't give heaven much thought until Laura and Duane died. Now I catch myself dreaming about heaven! Steve and I have been privileged to take some fabulous trips to tropical locations. I love to breath in the scented air, bask in the warm sun, and revel in the beauty all around me. But as beautiful and refreshing as these tropical paradises are, they are just a shadow of heaven. Heaven will be so much more!
- I'm excited to live in the fullness of what Christ has for me in heaven. For example, I love to play the piano, but my abilities here are so limited. In heaven, though, I'll be able to play as I was created to! There are times when I hear an impressive and difficult piano piece, and I just long to play like that. For now, though, the best I can do is promise the Lord that someday I will play like that for Him in heaven! My ability will finally match my desire. (I'm sure that Laura and I will have ample opportunity to once again play some fabulous piano/organ duets).
- It pretty much goes without saying that I can't wait to be reunited with Laura, Duane, Steve's dad, my grandparents, and others I've loved! But I also think it will be so cool to get to know other brothers and sisters I never even met before. Imagine how quickly we'll bond! We have a taste of that now when we meet another believer for the first time. Our spirits connect in a unique way, and soon it's obvious we share the same Father. We will experience that over and over in eternity.
- In heaven, our relationships will be complete. We will be able to enjoy each other and share life together as God intended. We won't have the brokenness, the awkwardness, the tensions (and so much more) that we so often now experience with our family members and friends. We will love each other - and be loved - as God originally designed.
- The most incredible thing about heaven, of course, is that it will be brimming with the very Presence of Jesus!
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Laura taught us how to live -- and die -- well. When Laura’s cancer returned, we knew that her chances of recovery were slim. However, it was still incredibly shocking to be told (when it was obvious the treatments weren’t successful) that she would likely die within a few months. I remember thinking, “she could actually be gone by spring.” The thought was incomprehensible to me, and I had a hard time wrapping my mind around it. I couldn’t even begin to understand God’s reasoning for this.
To be honest, there are still times I wonder why this had to happen. Why my precious sister was taken home when it seemed she still had so much life on this earth yet to live. Only God knows the fullness of His reasons for taking Laura at such a young age. But I’m thankful that He’s pulled back the curtain a little so that we could have a glimpse. I am certain that many who knew Laura have a closer relationship with the Lord today not only because of her life on earth, but also because of how she prepared for life in heaven. When Laura knew that she would most likely die soon, she spent her remaining energy sharing the love of God with her family, friends, and students. She knew without a doubt that this was just the first part of her life, and she was eager to share her faith with others.
As I was thinking about all of this, I asked God to show me what He’s been teaching me in the past six years. The death of Laura (and my brother-in-law, Duane…who died just two months before Laura) was a pivot point in my life; especially in how I view life and death. Here are a few things that God highlighted in my mind (I’ll share more the next time...or this will get way too long!)…
- My perspective on death has changed. I’m no longer afraid of death! I know it’s our enemy, but -praise God- Christ has conquered it. These used to be just words to me until I had the privilege of walking with Laura through that valley. The night we journeyed with Laura on her approach to heaven is one I’ll never forget. There was such a calmness and peace in the room – a solemn holiness – even in the midst of such sadness and sorrow. God’s presence, though physically unseen, was felt with a warmth and weightiness that transcends words.
- My perspective on life has changed. Life on earth is short! Whether I live to be 50 years old or 100 years old, earthly life is but a pin-prick compared to the never-ending fullness of eternity. How am I spending my days? God has reminded me over and over that as long as I have life and breath I have a reason for being here. As I’ve been intentionally seeking Him, He’s been revealing to me what’s important in life.
- I’ve also found out that life does go on after a devastating loss. God’s Presence has never been more real to me than it has in recent years. His generous promises have come alive for me! Promises such as, “My Presence will go with you and I will give you rest” (Ex. 33:14); and “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). I’ve found these to be so true. While sadness and loss will always be part of this fallen world, God has promised to walk with us every step of the way. He’s also poured His Spirit inside of us, ready to provide comfort, guidance, and HOPE!
- HOPE! My perspective of eternity has changed. Someday soon either Christ will return or He will call us home. In the perspective of eternity, it will be just a short moment until I have all the time I could ever imagine to spend with Laura and untold others! But more on those thoughts later…
Friday, March 12, 2010
Konner eating his favorite food...chicken-broccoli-alfredo pizza from Pizza Ranch
Konner and Kaden horsing around
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
The babies still aren’t supposed to go out (high risk for RSV), so we spent most of our time at the house. Of course, Steve, Kyle, and I played a lot of store, animal doctor, and school with Konner (as well as the required games of Trouble)!
Steve took Kyle and Konner out for awhile on Saturday afternoon. They went to Wal-Mart, then on to the hotel. They spent time in the swimming pool and hot tub, and also snacked freely from the vending machine (oreos and skittles…can you say “sugar high”?)!
Since the kids were all taken care of (Kirk was home with the babies), Steph and I were able to go try out the new coffee shop in Sioux Center. It was great to be able to sit and talk without the usual distractions. I love this stage we’ve moved into…still mother-daughter, but one that’s blossomed into an adult level.
I love having an adult relationship with my girls. It does my heart good when I’m able to have some quality one-on-one time with my daughters. Unfortunately, since both of my girls live several hours away, those times are too far and few between. So we do a lot of talking on the phone – and of course, even some texting. Katie’s motivated me to improve my texting skills! I know I’ll never be even close to her skill level, but I do the best I can! I don’t want the distance in miles to translate into distance in our heart-relationships.
And always, I’m praying for them. I once heard someone say that if we aren’t praying for our children, who is? As moms, we have a unique knowledge of their hearts. We know them intimately. Of course, there will always be much that we don’t know or understand about our children; there are always areas we’re not invited to be part of. But I believe that if we ask the One who sees the hearts of all – and then listen for His answer -- we are given insight into the hearts of our children (no matter their age); a special view that shows us the way to best pray for them.
Ask – and listen – how you can pray for your children today. James 5:16 says, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person (woman, wife, mother) has great power and produces wonderful results.” (NLT)
Thursday, March 4, 2010
One phrase of a particular song keeps spooling around in my mind. “Life is a mystery to me / I look at You, You look at me…” I love that word picture! In my imagination I see myself looking up at my Father with longing and desire…and He’s gazing down at me with unmasked love and adoration in His eyes.
But is that how we always view our relationship with God? Do we see God lovingly gazing at us while we talk to Him? Or is the more accurate perception one of God impatiently tapping His foot, waiting for us to finally run down (“enough already! I have other people to tend to.”)?
God’s been teaching me much about intimacy with Him…what it means and what it looks like. It’s not something I’ve spent much time thinking about in the past. I mean, it seems so human, so carnal, almost. I have a much easier time thinking of God as my Father than my Lover (even typing it out makes me think, “is this right”?). But as I’ve been seeking deeper intimacy with Him, God’s been revealing His heart to me.
Listen to what John and Stasi Eldredge wrote in "Captivating". You are the one that overwhelms his heart with just “one glance of your eyes” (Song 4:9b). You are the one he sings over with delight and longs to dance with across the mountaintops and ballroom floors (Zeph. 3:17). You are the one who takes his breath away by your beautiful heart that, against all odds, hopes in him…He is not interested in the woman you think you are supposed to be. He wants intimacy with the real you.” (p.120,121)
Nothing can separate us from His love! God is deeply, intimately in love with me...with you. Why is that so easy to believe when we read it in Romans (see 8:38,39), but then we wonder if the Song of Songs was really written for us?!
Sunday, February 28, 2010
So, back to yesterday. Twice I sat at my computer -- wanting to form my thoughts and emotions into words. But I wasn't sure where God was leading me, and my thoughts simply would not gel. On top of that, I didn't feel like God was giving me a green light to post what I was writing. So I deleted it, logged off the computer, and pulled out my journal. I think I needed to vent to God before I could make sense of things. I've often found that getting my thoughts and emotions out of my brain and onto paper helps me get some perspective. So I spewed it all out (even put a hole in my paper -- ouch). God just patiently listened to my vent. He never once told me to "put on a happy face". At the time, He didn't try to explain things. He simply let me unload on Him. No platitudes offered...just His big, broad shoulders.
After I was calm, He reminded me of something I had read and journaled just the night before. /pause/ This happens to me often. God frequently tells me something before I even know I need it. He prepares me with a Bible passage or a profound thought in a book I'm reading. He will highlight it in my mind and I'm not always even aware of it. But then, when the time is just right, He reminds me of what I read and it fits my need perfectly...so cool!
This is what I read and journaled on Friday evening...
"God sometimes calls people to a cause not born of their own abilities or most superficial desires. But His call is always absolutely congruent with our destiny, our truest self, our identity and the shape of our being." (David Benner; "The Gift of Being Yourself"; p. 102-103)
God gently reminded me that He called me to this "cause" that so often serves to frustrate me to pieces. On my own I don't have the ability -- or even the desire -- to accept what He's called me to. But yet, deep inside, I know -- I truly believe -- that this calling on my life is from God. More than that, I believe that out of this deep source of pain and confusion will emerge my truest self.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
"...A disciple in the Kingdom of Heaven is like a homeowner who brings from his storeroom new gems of truth as well as old." (Matt. 13:52b NLT)
It's so easy to slip into the thinking that I've already heard and know all I need to about Jesus (lots of Christian education...church attendance...Bible studies, etc., under my belt). But as I'm more intentionally searching and seeking to know and experience Jesus, I'm discovering precious new gems of truth! These gems were always there, hidden in God's Word -- I just hadn't discovered them yet. I love it when I have a genuine "AH-HA" moment with God! I see His smile and His nod of affirmation. "You've got it!", I hear Him say with joy.
I hold the gem close to my heart and relish the treasure. When the time is right, this gem of truth is shared with someone close to me. And God blesses someone else with its riches.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Then she came face to face with Truth. It dawned on her that she was comparing herself to the wrong person. When she compared herself to Jesus Christ she realized, for the first time, that she, too, was a sinner in need of a Savior.
It was such a good reminder for me to view my life in the light of His perfection. Ephesians 5:1-2a says, "Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are His dearly loved children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ."
...Follow the example of Christ...What a challenge that is for me! But that's who I want to look like and act like. And in order to look and act like Christ, I'm going to have to compare myself to Him (as painful as that can be). His Spirit will continue the transformation process as I honestly recognize my sin and yield my heart to Him for cleansing.
So, who do you compare yourself to?
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Yesterday when I was at the nail salon I noticed a stick of incense burning, presumably to the small Buddha sitting next to it. I couldn’t help but wonder about this. Was that little idol - created in some factory - pleased with the fragrance? What sort of worship does one offer to a molded piece of metal or plastic? Isaiah 44:6-20 speaks to us of idol worship, and the foolishness of bowing down to them. Verse 18 reminds us, “They know nothing, they understand nothing: their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds are closed so they cannot understand.” Was the woman who lit this incense acting out of obedience? Fear? Tradition? Sacrifice?
It made me think of what kind of “incense” I offer to the Lord. In my recent Bible study, I’ve been reminded that our worship, praise, and prayers are incense to God. Can you just envision God smiling with delight when your prayers waft up to Him? Did you know that He so values our prayers that He collects them? (see Rev. 5:8) In fact, God never forgets a single prayer we’ve prayed. What an amazing thought. What an amazing God!
God's Word also tells us that we are the aroma of Christ here on earth. In fact, God has chosen us to diffuse His sweet scent to everyone we meet. “Now He uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God.” (2 Cor. 2:14b-15a NLT) Wow. Sit on that one for a minute!
It’s easy to sit in judgment of those who burn incense to idols. But I would be wise to search my own heart. Is my life a pleasing aroma to God? Do I love others with the same love Christ shows me? Do I continually praise God and tell others of Him? God has lavished His love on me. Am I lavishly worshiping Him in return?
Friday, February 12, 2010
It's been great hearing about their trip to Russia. They spent the majority of their time in orphanages, and in facilities for the elderly and handicapped. Christian pastors in the city of Volgagrad have not been welcomed into these places, and have been praying for years that doors would open for them. So they were thrilled that GAIN (Global Aid Network) chose to come and work in their city for a couple of weeks. GAIN was allowed into these facilities because they provide humanitarian aid. Now many of these pastors are hopeful that they can continue with the work that's begun. Please pray that these doors will remain open for the Christian church in Russia.
Steve said that it was amazing to watch the "before and after" transformation in these places. He said the directors, staff, and even the children (and elderly) were all a little suspect when they first arrived. Christians are not held in high esteem in Russia and are generally not welcomed there. Anyway, they would start out with a silly magic show and a funny skit, and soon everyone would loosen up and have a great time! Then they would divide into small groups and share the love of Christ with the children (and the listening staff!). They gave everyone a gospel bead bracelet and explained what it meant. Of course, each group had an interpreter, so language was not a barrier. They also handed out care packages to each of the children -- always a big hit! GAIN provided financial help and other aid to many of these places, as well.
Steve said that by the time they left, the children would be waving and laughing...happy and joyful!! In fact, it was the transformation from sober to joyful that really stood out. Most of these children experience very little joy or love in their life. But now they've heard about Jesus and experienced His love - through the gentle hands and kind words of those who ministered to them. Please pray that these children will never forget the message that was shared with them, and that their lives will forever be transformed!
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control..." (Gal. 5:22-23)
Sounds like the Holy Spirit is actively working in Russia!
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Kyle is 17 years old today! Where did those years go? I remember so well the day we got the totally unexpected news of a new baby boy. Steve and I were thrilled to have a son, and Stephanie and Katie were so excited to have a baby brother! Meeting Kyle for the first time and bringing him home is a precious memory I’ll never forget.
God has such a neat way of putting families together. When I close my eyes and ponder how our family was formed, it brings tears to my eyes. I just imagine how God blessed Katie and Kyle’s birthmothers with the grace to be able to release their babies. And it honestly humbles me to think that He chose these particular children to belong to our family. Both Katie and Kyle’s birthmothers “chose” our family, but I believe with all my heart that God did the choosing! They were His willing vessels…and we the blessed recipients.
I’ve had the incredible privilege of meeting both of my adopted children’s birthmothers. We met Kyle’s birthmother at the adoption placement, and we’ve been able to get to know Katie’s birthmother (and several family members) in the past few years. I’m so thankful for that!
As in every family, we’ve certainly had our share of issues. But God has never let me lose sight of the fact that He places us right where we belong. One of my favorite adoption passages is found in Acts 17:24-28. I’m not going to type the whole passage here…you’ll need to look it up for yourself! But here’s the heart of it. “From one man God made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live…”
I love that! God is so intimately involved in our lives. He sees women who are facing incredibly difficult circumstances surrounding their pregnancies, and others who are grieving their inability to have children. By His infinite grace and with incomparable wisdom, He joins them together. A new family created…a match made in heaven!
~Kyle and Marshmallow (the dog with 9 lives!)
Saturday, February 6, 2010
Several years ago she had a run-in with a vacuum that she just doesn’t want to repeat. I was industriously vacuuming under Kyle’s bed one day, and I didn’t realize that Marsh was innocently taking a nap under it. To make a long story short, I sucked up her tail and she yelped like I’ve never heard since! We were able to pull most of her tail out of the power nozzle, but ever since then she really HATES vacuum cleaners!! In fact, she usually runs to another room as soon as I start it up. I was actually a little surprised that she was staying in the same room this morning until I realized that Kyle was hollering for her to come upstairs. (“Hmmmm…take my chances with the vacuum by mom, or endure whatever Kyle has for me…”)lol
It made me think of how pain can often be a good motivator to keep us away from evil (I’m NOT calling vacuum cleaners evil!), and of how aware we need to be to the temptations we struggle with. So often it begins innocently enough - a small enticement sweetly whispering in our ear -- but then it just sucks us in.
God is pretty clear about how we are to be aware of Satan’s presence lurking around us. I Peter 5:8-9 reminds us, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith…”
One of the beautiful things about God is that He doesn’t just holler out a warning to us without offering a solution -- a way out -- as well. Listen to His words of encouragement and hope. “And the God of all grace…will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To Him be the power for ever and ever, Amen.” (I Peter 5:10-11) Wow! Let those words soak in! God, Himself, will make us strong and steadfast. We are able, with His strength, to say “no” to any temptation we face. God’s strength will also give us the energy we need to run from Satan and his lies.
(Oh, the lessons we learn from our pets! Who knew?!)
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Anyway, here are portions of Steve's emails...
"We've been having a great time! We've been visiting mostly orphanage type facilities. Today was busy. We visited both an elderly facility in the morning and an orphanage in the afternoon. I can't begin to explain the things going on here! Time has been flying for me - we're so busy.
"It's very surreal being so far from home and in a foreign country. It feels somewhat like a step back in time. But our hotel is very nice. The rooms are very small, but the beds are comfortable. I don't sleep the best, but enough to get by.
"The churches that we are trying to help have an uphill battle against society and even the orthodox church. There are some amazing people fighting to spread God's word in Volgograd. The love of country is very evident in almost every place and still in the people's hearts. This too is a barrier for the church. Please pray for the church in Russia.
"Say hi to everyone and let them know things are going great!"
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
"The river of God has plenty of water;
it provides a bountiful harvest of grain,
for You have ordered it so."
Now I know the psalmist was most likely praising God for the abundant moisture He refreshes the earth with, but when I read, "The river of God has plenty of water", my thoughts were drawn to the Living Water -- where we drink deeply from the River of Delight! This river, too, has plenty of water!
Listen to another Psalm that speaks so beautifully about God's abundant, refreshing Living Water. (I'm going to personalize it for us -- that's how God intends for His Word to be read)...
"You feed us from the abundance of Your own house,
letting us drink from Your river of delights.
For You are the fountain of life,
the light by which we see.
You pour out Your unfailing love on those who love You..." (Psalm 36:8-10a; NLT)
I'm praying today that showers of blessings would pour on you. As you go into this day, I pray that you will find shelter in the shadow of His wings. And that you would take the time to drink deeply from the River of Delight, allowing the Spirit of God to refresh and strengthen you.
Sunday, January 31, 2010
For the most part, things have been going okay with Kyle since Steve left. However, this afternoon I started to see a whole lot of anxiety move in. He’s really ramped up about school tomorrow. (Not so unusual. He typically has tons of school anxiety). I’m getting lots of “I’m just going to quit school” type of comments (and a few more that I wouldn‘t care to share). Sigh.
When he starts acting up, my human nature wants to fight back. It’s often hard to stay calm, patient, and loving when Kyle’s trying his hardest to suck me into arguments. I struggle with loving him well when inwardly I’m screaming.
Do you ever have a Bible verse or passage that just keep popping up? Where you start seeing a theme that God just might be drawing your attention to? I’ve had a couple of these rise to the surface today, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence.
This morning in my quiet time, I spent some time reading in the gospel of Mark. I came across Jesus’ answer to the religious authorities who asked Him which commandment was the most important. Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this…‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12: 29-31)
Hmmm, love God…love people. Am I growing in love for God and people? Jesus said that this is the mark of a believer, the heart of spiritual life. And Jesus doesn’t give us a pass. He doesn’t say that I don’t have to show love to those who are acting really unlovable (like Kyle was this afternoon). Jesus just keeps patiently bringing me back to the classroom…love God, love people. Not always so easy, but that’s no excuse.
I’ve learned that there’s no way I can love well (God OR people) in my own strength. Not coincidentally, the other verse that’s been running through my head this weekend is from Colossians 1:27 “...Christ in you the hope of glory”. I can’t do this on my own and God doesn’t even expect me too! Christ lives in me, and I live - and love - in His strength. I have the power of Christ’s Spirit working in me. Christ in me, the hope of glory. Thank you Lord!
Friday, January 29, 2010
What does Jesus want to teach you today, in your season of life?
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Today is my first day home - alone - in I don't know how long. Kyle has missed 4 days of school in the past two weeks...all because of anxiety. Not good. Couple that with the snow days, and well, let's just say the anxiety (and frustration) level around here has been somewhat high.
Is it a coincidence that Steve is leaving on Friday to spend 10 days in Russia? He plans to share the love of Christ with children and adults who have maybe never even heard of Jesus. Steve and I have talked about how Satan just seems to want to suck the joy out of his trip by trying his hardest to make our lives messy right now. I'm so thankful that God's power is greater than Satan's. I know that God is up to something big...and I sense that Satan knows this as well.
A couple of passages that have been running through my mind these past few days (as I consider Steve's trip to Russia) are these:
Isaiah 55:10-11 " As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."
I John 4:4 "You are of God...and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world."
I know that God's Word will accomplish what He desires and I know that God is greater than the prince of this world (Satan).
Please be in prayer for Steve and the others as they minister and serve in Russia. Thanks!