Thursday, May 26, 2016

Cruise Control

I have listened twice this week to a Sunday sermon on faith by Eric Johnson at Bethel Church. The Hebrews 11 faith we read about in the scriptures.  During his teaching he asked this question ~ are we living our lives on cruise control?

When Joel and I went to a conference in CT in 2013 we quickly realized that even after spending our lives believing and serving, there was so much we still needed to learn about God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, faith, healing, and more.  It is now 2016 and we are still in the process of learning more. It is a life long process.  Some of what we have learned has come through sitting under the teachings of others, whether online, in church or in a book.  Some of our learning has come through seeking God, and some has come as a result of circumstances and challenges that have caused us discouragement, confusion, and more.  In Eric's sermon he said that when challenges from the enemy come into our lives, we need to ask God to "increase our faith".  If we are feeling defeated, turn that around and use it as a motivator to move forward in our faith journey. And don't make continually living on "cruise control" an option.  Increase our faith, Lord. As we learn, as we seek, as we face challenges.......increase our faith.

Eric's teaching reminded me of the book "The Prayer of Jabez" by Bruce Wilkerson.  It has been around for many years but recently God brought it to light once again..  We were at my sister Jan and BIL Lanny's home in Mesa and Joel was looking for the magazine he kept in the bathroom.  I had confiscated it to read for myself, so he picked up a small book on the back of the toilet.  It was the book, "The Prayer of Jabez".  He began to read it once again with new eyes and was so drawn in that when we got home he took it our copy off the bookshelf to read.  We have been going through it here at home for devotions, while praying the prayer of Jabez on a daily basis.

"Oh that You would bless me indeed!  
and enlarge my territory, 
that you hand would be with me, 
and You would keep me from evil
that I may not cause pain."
I Chronicles 4:9,10

This is a simple prayer that seeks God and desires to live beyond any limits.  It is an insightful, deeply honest request from a Biblical character who is only mentioned once and who's name means "to cause pain". Jabez felt he was living a life on cruise control, and he wanted more.  He was seeking more of God.

I believe we all have an inner desire to seek God.  An inner desire to have a closer relationship with Him, on all levels.  But life gets in the way.  Fear gets in the way.  I feel the need to repeat that one......fear gets in the way.  False Evidence Appearing Real gets in the way. I think pastor Eric Johnson is right on when he says to use those challenges or difficulties as a motivator, asking God to increase our faith as we walk forward through life.  No more cruise control!  Increase!  And like Jabaz we can pray.......Oh that you would bless me indeed!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Coloring Outside The Lines

My daughter Beth and her family gave me a great Christian, for-big-kids, coloring book for my birthday and I have been spending time off and on adding color to a few pages with my pencils.  I love news there.  I love writing on paper (or now keyboarding on the white pages of documents online).  I used to get excited when it was time to purchase notebooks for the school year~ all that crisp clean paper!  I did learn this week that I don't like coloring out of the lines.  I'm 68 years old and I get annoyed when I accidentally color outside the lines. I want the pencils to be sharp and the picture to look perfect~okay, I said it!  Perfect.

Now, I am very aware, that in regards to what we believe about healing and Holy Spirit, we have colored outside the lines of our Lutheran heritage.  Of many denominational "lines".  And I am loving our life in that regard. But am I still struggling with staying inside the lines?  Hmmmm

This aha moment with the coloring book took me way back to when I was an Interpreter for the Deaf in a special needs preschool in MN.  I had two little guys I worked with who were both named Charlie and both were profoundly deaf and needed hearing aids and an interpreter.  I was blessed to spend one school year with them..........they taught me a lot!  Ha....

Recently I heard someone say that by age 8-10 most kids have lost a large percentage of their creativity while going to school.  No coloring outside the lines, please.  And can you blame teachers when they have such large classrooms or standards to follow. Unlike some of my family, I am not a teacher, but I remember well the day one of my Charlies wanted to color the bird in the picture he was given a bright yellow.  The teacher was very upset because I let him color a bluebird yellow.  It just was not okay. He needed to know it was blue because it was a bluebird.  I did not know her argument behind it, and she could have been justified in her persistence to get it into his head, but it seemed over the top for me, and certainly stifled his creativity.  I can still see his face. He knew it was a blue bird. He was not being defiant, he just wanted it to be the color of sunshine.

How often do we stifle creativity in the church body?  During worship?  How often do we hear, "We have always done it THIS way."  How often do we look at someone a little different in their thinking, in their way of worshiping Jesus and we judge that.  How many of us don't want the judgement of others so we stop coloring outside the lines?  Yeah.....

When we were in Arizona we went to a large Methodist church in Gold Canyon.  We were worshiping in the contemporary service and I noticed the music leaders were raising their hands at were we.  But when I turned to the side and saw a few others raising their hands while singing to our Lord, I noticed I felt relief that I could be who I am and would not stand out.  Some stood to sing. Some sat.  Some raised their hands.  Some did not.  Some swayed with the music. Some did not. The sweet 80 plus woman sitting next to Joel often said, "Praise the Lord" and when we left she leaned over and gave me a big kiss on the cheek, saying, "I am sooooo glad you came. I hope we will see you again!"  And it was all A-okay.

In school we are taught to stay in the lines and learn all that is presented to us, but when we come before God to worship we don't all have to color in the lines of someone else's making. We don't all have to be alike, worship alike, dress alike, pray alike.  How boring would that be.

Don't we all see things differently?  Maybe we see things according to the gifts God has placed inside of us.  Sometimes those gifts are never revealed or used because we are kept within the lines of someone else's making. Gifts kept hidden because of judgement or our own insecurity.

Today I listened online to a young boy around 8 years old get up in front of a large congregation to share his story.  While singing God told him he needed to buy 20 Bibles and give them to the homeless. He decided that was too many to buy so he aimed for 15.  He did listen to God's voice, encouraged by his mom and dad, and he decided to have a race and people could donate money for the Bibles from the kids who were running.  He did so, and they raised over $1,000.  He was able to take not 15 Bibles, but 87 Bibles down to the homeless shelter and they were able to share the Gospel with several there.  A few came to know Jesus and a few were healed BECAUSE an 8 year old boy heard God speak to him and was allowed to color outside the lines and do what God asked of him.

Speaking for ourselves, Joel and I have been challenged to step outside of our comfort zones, not once but many times and it is not always easy.  God just keeps revealing more, asking more, showing up more in ways that sometimes color outside the lines.  For His purpose.  It is all for His purpose and His glory.   He loves all His creation so much He wants them all to know Jesus and He desires a close relationship with His children. Sometimes that includes coloring outside the lines.  Always it means using the gifts God has given you to worship Him, to serve Him, and to love others.  Lets not get in the way of others doing so by judging or limiting them from coloring outside the lines.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Saturday's Scribbles

Good Saturday morning to you from a town of 28,000 in north Iowa that we have called home now for 20 years.  Hard to believe, since we have never lived anywhere else more than 6 1/2 years in the nearly 48 years we have been married.  Did we think we would spend this much time here? Nope.  Did we think that in retirement we would be here?  Nope.  We thought we would be in Minnesota where we come from, or as we believed the past year, we would be in Arizona.  There is that quote............"life is what happens while you are making other plans..............'

Joel has been able to get out and bike some this week and we have walked several days.  The weather has been nice......not too hot nor too cold.  Sunshine or partly cloudy.   We have picked up one red hanging geranium to brighten up the front mini-garden, but the rest will wait for now. It is always nice to add color to our green environment.

Last Saturday we headed up to Edina MN (Mpls. area) to a birthday party for my older sister who helped raise me.  She turned 83 and had invited a lot of people from the area to gather at Davonni's, a pizza bistro.  Our son Mark went with us.  First we stopped at a Christian bookstore and I found a new easy to carry Bible while Joel picked up a book to help in his Bible 101 study he is writing.  Then we headed to Trader Joe's to stock up on a few essentials that we can buy for nearly half the price of here in our local stores.  Around 24 came to the party.  It was a nice time, with many stories being shared about where people were in their lives....especially the grands and great-grands.  Gr. Jo loves her family and is so proud of all of them and what they accomplish in their lives.

On Sunday night we headed to a new Bible study by John Ortberg on "The Me I Want To Be". Tuesday night we went to the final Bible study on Romans.  A nice group gathered at both. Otherwise we have been catching up on things around home.  Joel heads out early tomorrow to preach in NE Iowa at two churches where his friend Dan serves.  One hour and 20 minutes to drive to one and then he will head to the other before then going another 1 and 1/2 hrs west to an ordination of the son of another colleague, Randy.  Tomorrow night we have Bible study.  A long day for my hubby.

Sadly, Morley Safer died this week.  I can remember him on the news since the beginning of time...........well my adult time at least.  Ha.   I think he was on 60 Minutes for 40 plus years. Wow.

Our friend Barb is finishing up 6 months of chemo this next week.  We are so happy that this phase of her treatment is going to be over.  She has shown great courage on her journey battling cancer. We are praying she will continue to be cancer free.  I remember the last day of radiation.  When I left, there was a bell to ring and several of the staff stood and clapped while tears ran down my face.  And chemo is so much tougher.  I hope they celebrate!  They plan to go camping in N. MN so restoration will begin in nature for her.  For them.  Peace, friends.  Peace and joy!

Speaking of nature, we have already talked to one couple about Lyme this Spring, trying to answer their questions. Another couple who both suffer with chronic Lyme want to meet with us again.  I say again, because we connected with the woman when we gave the seminar on Lyme and healing last April 2015.  Be aware, check for ticks diligently, while enjoying the warmer weather!

I have been listening to some of Bethel's conference this past week on creativity and the arts.  It was great and helpful.  I have also taken in a few teachings on renewing your mind, and am reading the book The Shack again, along with Under The Tuscan Son.  What are you reading?

Until next time...........

Thursday, May 19, 2016

And Then God.......Only God!

On the side of our house stands a dying tree.  When we first moved here this crab apple tree would be full of pink blooms each Spring.  It was so pretty.  And then sometime over the years as Joel and I took up residence in our chairs fighting Lyme trying to find some sense of normalcy in each day, the tree became sick and old.  It bloomed less and less and last year took a "last stand" as we spoke to the tree and prayed over it.  (It is living after all, and we do have dominion over nature.) Well, our praying did not change the outcome.  It is barely standing and will need to come down this Spring.

It grieves us.  As I stood and stared at the beached wood, sparse branches with no sign of green or pink anywhere, I felt sadness well up inside.  And gratitude.  So much gratitude.  Gratitude that we are not like this dying tree.  When I saw the Lyme specialist in 2007 she told me my body was functioning at around 20%.  I was slowly dying.  When Joel was diagnosed he was functioning at 45% and had to go on disability for 3 years.  He managed 15 hours a week of work at a church where people treated him with such grace.  Bless you St. Peter's Lutheran.  Bless you.

During that season of our lives, Joel slept 9 hours a night and napped 4 hours a day to function.  I spent a great deal of my days laying on the sofa or in bed.  Our sweet dog Levi was our only company most of the time.  Just fixing meals was an effort.  It. was. scary.

And then..........thanks to our friend Katherine's suggestion and a teaching by Andrew Wommack, our world changed overnight.  Joel was miraculously healed and I began the process of healing.  I am not where I want to be, but I am not where I was.  I am healed and have been set free, and I expect all symptoms to leave as God promises in His Word.

 Unlike our apple tree, life returned to us and we were able to flourish.  We never want to forget the precious restored gift of life that we were given.  We have plans to wear out, not rust out, serving God as He guides us, sharing who He is!

Our poor apple tree has succumbed to age and disease, but I will remember its beauty in Springtime, the way God created it.  And I will remember that we once looked like this dying tree, and then God............only God.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Just Make A Decision!

On Tuesday Joel and I declared to each other something God and our children have known for quite a times we have a difficult time making major decisions.  Making the "right choice".  When we were in the military the Air Force told us where we would go, when we go, and how long we would stay in one location.  When Joel was serving churches as a pastor, he believed if he interviewed somewhere and they sent him a call, he was to go.  He never refused a call because he felt if it came it was ordained by God.  At this season of our lives it is not so black and white.

So here we are, once again in the throws of making a decision on whether we are to move or to stay.  Cancer, radiation, two cataract surgeries and a long recovery threw our move to Arizona into reverse, and we have been re-visiting that lately.

We are blessed to have our children tell us they do not want us to move so far away. We don't live near any of them, but we do see them more since our healing.  We are blessed to be part of a community where neighbors and friends have expressed they don't want us to move.  We are blessed to be part of a church where we have grown and been nourished in body, soul, and Spirit the past nine months.  It would be hard to walk away from where we feel we belong.

Recently we have had two separate people at different times speak over us words they believe came from God.  Both spoke about a new ministry for us and new gifts that we have been seeing come into fruition.  We also were told by one person that we would be here only a short time before God called us elsewhere.  Two prophetic friends have told us similar things in the past year.

We have been praying and meditating and praying some more as we discuss staying here or moving to Arizona.  Both ideas raised the stress levels in us.

Yesterday while Joel was riding his bike and talking with God, God said to him...."If you are going to go, GO!"  And while Joel was off biking I read a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt that spoke to me.  "The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for the new and richer experience."  Later I watched a brief video of Andrew Wommack on Facebook and the title was "Just make a decision!"

So what holds us back?  That is the million dollar question, isn't it.  What is holding us back? Speaking for myself, is it fear of making the wrong decision?  Is it fear of being disobedient to God and His plan?  Is it fear of leaving all that is familiar behind or fear of staying in the comfortable and missing out on the more God has for us?  Do you notice that all the questions I wrote have the word fear in them? Yeah.  There is that ugly little four letter word again.  Fear.  Just being honest here.

Yesterday God brought attention to a video about someone's healing from the symptoms I still battle.  It resonated within me.  I had Joel watch the video.  Then I said to him, "I think we are to stay here until God speaks to us so that we know that we know that we know, where His purpose will unfold.   Joel's reply, "I was just thinking the same thing."  We talked it over and soon realized God was giving us the answer we were asking for.  He has more for us to learn here, He has more for us to do here.  He has more healing for us here.  All we wanted was to be obedient, and truthfully we felt that both decisions would be blessed by God.  Yet this one brought us the most peace.  Not total peace, but the most peace for now.  And peace replaces fear.

Do any of you ever struggle with making major decisions?  Does fear get in the way?  Do the feelings of others get in the way? Does peace come with a decision?

God pretty much said to Joel, "Just make a decision"!  God pretty much said to me through Andrew Wommack, "just make a decision".  After much discussion and pray over the couple of months, hearing God's voice yesterday brought us to a decision.  If it is not from God, we will know soon enough, but for now, in this season, at this time, we are asking God to open the doors to the new ministry that has been spoken over us while living here in our town in northern Iowa.

Will we call the desert home some day?  It is a good possibility with all that has been spoken over us and how we feel when there.  We cannot discount the words of knowledge spoke to us. For now we do believe there are reasons we are still here and we are going to embrace them. Open the doors Lord. Come, Holy, come!

Monday, May 16, 2016

A Thank You To Those Who Protect And Serve

Matt with Dad and Mom 2014

It is National Police Week.  It is during this time of year that we set aside a few minutes to show appreciation to all the great officers in our nation that serve and protect.  It is especially a time for us to honor our son Matt who has been a police officer for going on 20 years now.  We are proud of all of our children and their callings, but today we share how proud we are of Matt and his determination to fulfill his calling to protect and serve as best he can in a world filled with brokenness.  

Thank you Matt for wearing your badge with honor and integrity.  Thank you to his partner Michelle and friend Steve who do the same.  Thank you to all officers who serve well, making difficult decisions every day while hoping to go home to their family at the end of their shifts. Thank you.