Friday, October 20, 2017

Broken and Beautiful

I have been reading Katie Davis Majors book, "Daring To Hope:  Finding God's Goodness in the Broken and the Beautiful".  Katie is well known for her first book "Kisses For Katie" and for her non-profit in Uganda ~ Amazina Ministries~ that cares for the vulnerable in that country.  And she happens to be a mom to 14 before she turned the age of thirty.  Thirteen girls adopted in the first 10 years she lived in Uganda, and one son born to her and her husband. 

The words, "Broken and Beautiful" brought up visions of some of the people we saw while traveling.  While on our long trip to California and back, we saw some of the broken in the homeless that were on the road or in the cities.  Often it appeared that mental illness played a part of their journey, if not drug addiction or worse.  It was heartbreaking and to be truthful sometimes uncomfortable to be in their presence.

Two people stand out to man I expect was in his early 30's and traveling with a dog and a cat.  His clothes were absolutely filthy and torn, and he sat outside of a convenience store/gas station in Park City Utah sharing food and water with his four legged companions.   Park City is a very wealthy area of Utah, so the contrast was vivid.  The second was a woman who was standing over some kind of vent on a street in Redding.  We drove right past her, trying not to notice that she was urinating through her clothes, into the vent in broad daylight.  It was very disturbing.

Broken people.  So many broken people.  My thoughts went to our need to see others through God's eyes, and I cannot help but come up short in my reactions concerning these two.  Certainly our cities, our churches, our neighborhoods are filled with those who are broken.  We all are imperfect in some way, but I have not been able to forget the two whom I mentioned above. God's children, too.

Broken and beautiful.  I believe this is how God seems them.  How He sees us all.  And would He react the same way as His people do?  Maybe with repulsion, indifference, scorn, or disgust?  Would he yell, "Get a job" or look down or away from them?  And how would He expect us to respond?

Katie Davis Majors tells the story of a man who was an alcoholic and dug through garbage for his food, was abusive and mean spirited to others.  One day he fell into a fire while in a drunken stupor.  He was taken to the doctor but they did not have the time or resources to help him so they wanted to amputate his leg if no one could care for him.  Katie was called and ended up adding him to her already full days and nights ~ a drunk in need of having his dressings changed on a daily basis.  She slowly nursed him back to health, quietly witnessing to him about Jesus.  Eventually he stayed in the guest cottage on her property and without access to alcohol, he stopped drinking.  He began listening to what Katie was saying and not only did his leg heal but so did his soul.  He gave his heart to Jesus and eventually was able to get a job and his own apartment while helping  out Katie and her family with chores when he could.  He was so grateful.

Katie saw beyond the broken, smelly, mean spirited man and gave him the care and love that her Jesus would.  She saw that he was both broken and beautiful.  I have had to ask myself, "Could I do the same?"  It might sound more glamorous to be saving the leg of a man in Africa vs helping out someone in our own city with the same circumstances.........but what Jesus asks in Uganda is exactly what He asks of us where we see others through His eyes and treat them with love.

Hard questions.   Harder answers.  We know it is easy to love the lovable, but Jesus asks more of us.  To love the unlovable.  To be open to loving others He brings into our lives.....whether strangers or members of our family.  That love He requires is given in many different ways.  Certainly not all of us called to nurse a man back to health, but no one can deny that Jesus calls us to see the broken as beautiful.  The Gospels resonate with His thoughts and commands on love.

We are invited, as Katie says, to bring Jesus into the midst of our own messes and brokenness, too......and see ourselves and others as He does.....both broken and beautiful.  Are we up to the challenge?  Certainly not without Jesus.  But then, we are not without Jesus, are we?!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Use It For Something Good

This past week the Harvey Weinstein story has exploded onto the front page of every source of media.  As it should.  It has been a long time coming and it blows my mind that he got away with doing the same thing over and over again to young and often vulnerable women ~ for decades.  The number of women affected by his behavior seems to be endless.

The "Me Too" movement that came from this is the "rest of the story"!  The movement actually originated several years ago with a young woman named Tara Burke who was a survivor of abuse and wanted to call attention to the fact of how limited the resources were to heal in underprivileged communities.  Alyssa Milano re-ignited it when she used the "Me Too" hashtag to give women a way to speak out after the Weinstein story broke.  For those willing to share on public media that they too endured sexual harassment and/or assault, bless your courage.  For those who have silently proclaimed their own "me too", bless your courage, too.  Not everyone has to speak out.

If you read my blog often, you know I am part of the millions who have gone through sexual misconduct.  I was abused as a young child by two different males at different times.  I also was sexually harassed verbally and physically by a peer for throughout middle school, and at 16 WAS molested in an elevator at a Lutheran youth convention, no less.  Unfortunately, my story runs parallel to so many others.

For me going through Sozo inner healing ministry to have Holy Spirit led counseling has released me from the trauma and the fears that were the result of the abuse.  Together Jesus and I walked through facing the fears, forgiving those involved, and receiving the healing needed. It was not always easy, but it was powerful.  That is the "rest of my story".  Jesus wants us whole and healthy ~ body, soul and spirit.

I expect that the many many women speaking out are making an impact on our world.  It is certainly my prayer.  As they speak out against the predators they are taking back their power, and giving courage to future generations to stand against such behaviors. 

Once a woman reader of my blog asked me "where was God" when I was being abused..........I told that I believed Jesus was with me, tears flowing down His loving face mixing with my own.  I have asked Him to use those experiences, just like the diseases I have battled, for something good.  Work all things out for good, Papa.  It is never His plan for His children to suffer, but we have been given a free will and at times that free will listens to the dark side and bad things happen to innocent people.  In this "Me Too" time of speaking out, use it for something good, Papa God. Be a part of "the rest of their story".  Use it for something good!

Monday, October 16, 2017

He's In The Waiting

Another giant surfaced and was slain for me today.  At my yearly exam last week the doctor suggested I be checked by a dermatologist for an autoimmune skin disorder.  I got in right away on a cancellation and went the next morning.  To my surprise she took two biopsies as I lay in that awkward position that only women understand.  One to see what kind of skin disorder I was dealing with and the other to see if one spot was skin cancer. The doctor's demeanor, concern and actions were hard to ignore.  The word cancer sounded so loud and ugly.

I just kept thinking, "not again....not again."  Throughout the week I made an effort to keep my eyes on Jesus, with worship songs and promises.  I listened to the recording of the prophetic words spoken to us at Bethel, over and over.  I reminded myself of God's faithfulness throughout the days.  There were moments when fear still wanted to rise up and take my breath away as it brought to mind worst case scenarios. 

So hearing from the doctor today, 4 days early,  that it was NOT cancer....that it was benign......brought both physical and emotional relief.  A giant of what if's was taken down. 

I have never doubted God's faithfulness.  I have countless memories of Him walking with me, with us through trials. We have faced plenty of giants in our 49 years together.  I just could not muster up the courage to face one more. And the waiting was so hard. 

A song from Bethel music kept coming to mind..........."He's in the waiting......He's in the waiting."

In the waiting, I gave thanks for all the good reports last week....mammogram clear, eyes good ~ pressure down lower and visual test improved.  Blood work good, melanoma check good!  Yeah, lots of doctor appointments.  In the waiting I remembered the victories in Him.  It helped keep the giant from looking so powerful.

Joyce Meyer spoke in her devotional today about how David killed the giant, Goliath.  In 1 Samuel David talked about the Lord delivering him from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear.  He knew he would deliver him from the hand of Goliath too.  He looked back at the faithfulness of God and remembered. 

Max Lucado wrote about David and Goliath in his book, "Facing Your Giants".  A study we are doing for our group also is talking about David.  He so often praised God for showing up in his life.  Lucado says:  "Focus on your giants and you stumble.  Focus on God~ your giants tumble."

While I lay in that awkward position that day I was truthfully numb with fear.  Too many biopsies and too many surgeries were on my mind.  What I needed to remember was the many victories through Jesus!  And, as strange as it sounds,  it came to me during this procedure, that it was time to write the book. 

Holy had been speaking to me over the past two years to write a book.  I asked Him what I would write about and why?  Why?  God spoke clearly to me about Joshua's story of building an altar after the Jordan river stopped flowing and they were able to walk into the promised land.  The altar was to be a reminder of God's faithfulness.  Holy told me that each story I write will be part of the altar built to God's faithfulness.  A legacy for our grandchildren and great grands to come.  I still put it off............until last Tuesday night when I made the choice to walk in obedience.

We all have giants we face, whether in body, soul, or spirit.  We never face them alone, but sometimes that giant seems so big, and never so much as when we are waiting.....for a breakthrough...for a test result....for financial help.....for healing.  It is during these times that we make the effort to remember His faithfulness.  Like the song says..........we are never alone ~ He's in the waiting!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Our Bethel Adventure

It was a month ago last Sunday that we went to Bethel for our afternoon prophetic session we had scheduled.  Just getting the appointment had been ordained by God, so we knew we were to be there. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians that we are to value prophesy.   The two prophetic ministers we met with were amazing and definitely valued their gifts well.  God spoke through them with such clarity, insight, and love.  We recorded it on our phones and refer back to it often.  God was in the midst.

I think that is how we would describe the ten days we spent there sitting under Bethel's ministries.  God was in the midst of everything we experienced. We opened our hearts to ALL He had for us, we said YES to everything, even that which took us out of our comfort zone and He opened up our world to the more.  On our way back home I added up the hours we spent in worship services, at the Healing Rooms, Sozo, adult Sunday classes, a seniors fellowship, the House of Prayer, and classes at their school~ it was 40 hours.  A significant number in the Bible and for us.

The Healing Rooms is open Saturday mornings at the church.  Many many trained volunteers with a heart for healing come and meet with all those who come for prayer for healing...of body, soul, and spirit.  The "encounter room" is filled with people and places to rest and wait for prayer.  There is a small area for communion, there is soft music playing and while we were there children and adults were expressing interpretive dance on a stage while about six others were painting what they felt God was speaking to them on canvases in the center of the vast room.  People were either quietly praying or being prayed for everywhere you looked.  We were there two hours when Joel told me he did not want to leave because of the peace he experienced in the room.

Bethel has around 9,000 members, and each week at least 1/3 of the people there are from other cities, states, and countries.  They are too small to accommodate them so have 4 services, a second campus, and two overflow rooms at the main church.  Worship services included great music an teachings.  Offerings?  If you are a visitor they request you give your tithes to your home churches, not them.  Often we were asked to lay hands on those around us who were in need of prayer for certain conditions, whether emotional or physical.  In fact, anywhere we walked in that church you would see people praying for others.  It was beautiful and powerful.

I went to a Sozo (Holy Spirit led) counseling session the last Saturday we were there. Bethel created this ministry, and they train people around the world.  Joel took the training in MN and says in all his years of counseling this was the most freeing for people he has ever used.   I received more insights and healing that I believe will bring more freedom into my daily life.

The House of Prayer is a separate circular building with all glass walls where people can go to quietly pray.  All chairs face out the windows, although many sit on pillows on the floor to study scriptures and pray.  There is a beautiful waterfall outside with more seating.  Another place to connect with God.

Carolyn and Austin from Toronto

The people we met were great....a couple from Ontario who sat with us for several services.  A couple from Vancouver who we had the privilege to pray over.  (40 years with Lyme).  Young and old who sat with or by us.  We even visited with and prayed for a young couple who sat by us in church and were on their way home from their honeymoon!  Another woman worked with refugees in Thailand and came to be "filled up" before flying back.  People are so friendly.  Kindness and openness abound!  Joel was also able to talk with one of the pastors, Chris Gore, several times.  We were also able to visit and get to know house guests and the host and hostess where we were staying.

Joel and housemate Chinbuzo (Nigeria) 
at Sundial bridge

Renee with housemate Nancy

Joel with host George 

Let me go back to the man with Lyme.  When we came out of our prophetic session the man walked up to me and asked me if our sessions was impacting.  Joel came up and his wife too and we visited a bit and then mentioned how we were healed from Lyme.  His wife immediately covered her mouth with her hand gasping as she did so.  Then she said, "My husband has had Lyme for 40 years".  Well, we knew that God had brought us together, so we encouraged them with our stories and then asked if we could pray. We went after that Lyme and we still stand on His word today believing that he is free from that horrible disease.

It is hard for me to describe my feelings while we were there.  I know I felt relaxed, and at home in the environment around me.  I felt so comfortable and at peace, like I could really be myself.  For me the atmosphere was almost palpable with the presence of God.   A.m.a.z.i.n.g.

We have been watching Bethel live-stream on the Internet for several years and were very impressed with their ministry.  We wondered how we would feel when we were up close and personal with the people and the leaders.  We believe they are the "real deal".

We are both amused and saddened that there are those who feel this church must be a cult, or the leaders are "false prophets" because of their beliefs.  There are even one or two who think we have strayed off course in our faith journey.  We are certainly not naive enough to believe Bethel is the perfect church or ministry.  We are all imperfect people walking out our faith in Jesus together.  We just love how they do ministry.  I will share that what we learned and what we experienced while there has reaffirmed where God has been leading us.  Who God wants us to be.

Two weeks after returning, I am once again on a medical journey that could steal our joy, but our focus is on our Papa God.  We are forever grateful, and looking forward to the "new thing" coming for us.  Which leads us back to the prophetic words spoken to us.  We know what was said was definitely from God.  He wrapped His loving arms around us, whispered words of comfort, knowledge and insight into our ears, and filled us with confirmation and hope for the new thing He has planned. 

Our Bethel Adventure was definitely an adventure with God!  We are so grateful for it!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

South Dakota Beauty

After seeing Spearfish Canyon we headed south into Rapid City and then up to Mount Rushmore outside of Keystone.  We have stood looking at this monument to four of our Presidents several times over the years.  It never gets old.  We then drove to see what work has been done on the monument to Crazy Horse.  We had not been there in 30 years and were quite disappointed.  There is a great entrance and museum there now, which we and others enjoyed, but the monument itself looks no different than it did the first time we saw it.  That night we stayed in Rapid City, heading out the next day to see Wall Drug and then the Badlands.  We drove the scenic drive on a cloudy cold day, but our amazement was the same as if the sun had been shining.  So much to see!

After leaving the Badlands we drove across the state stopping to see the new Sacagawea statue outside Chamberlin SD.  It really was impressive.  Fifty feet high and stunning!  


Soon we were on our way north to my sister Jan and brother-in-law Lanny's home.  We spent 2 days and three nights with them visting before heading to Minnesota to see three treasures participate in their sports activities, spending a couple days visiting with mom and dad too.  On our way home we took the back roads and stopped at the graves of my grandmother (who lived in Spearfish Canyon), grandfather and my dad.  We arrived home late in the afternoon, ending our 27 day journey with 5,022 miles added to our speedometer.

Lanny, Jan, Renee, Joel

Our thoughts return often to this trip together. With gratitude we recall so many beautiful sights in so many states.  We look at our time at Bethel Church and see God working in and through us.  We are grateful.  So grateful.

Friday, October 6, 2017

History, Hills, and A Canyon

The Black Hills of South Dakota are a beautiful sight to see, and for me they hold a long family  history.  I was hoping to find the general area where my Grandmother had lived in a cabin in Spearfish Canyon 60 plus years ago, with little knowledge about where that would be.  We stopped at a S.D. visitor's center to use the bathroom before heading into Spearfish and then the Hills.  What a nice surprise when one of the volunteers behind the desk asked me if I had any questions she could answer.  I paused and replied...'Yes"!  Have you ever heard of the town of Elmore.  I heard it is a ghost town now, but I could not find exactly where it was located."  She took a map, and showed me where to find it.  She let me know it was just summer homes now, but the sign for the town was still up.  So off we went.

Highway through Spearfish canyon

View point at Bridal Falls

The Black Hills are so amazing, Spearfish Canyon being created by the creek that runs swiftly through it.  The highway follows the creek,  and we enjoyed stopping to take in the sights along the way.  Joel decided it was his favorite place in all our travels.  Eventually we came near the end, and I was thinking we had somehow missed the Elmore sign when up it popped.  Elmore!

We stopped to take it all in the history, the beauty, the grandmother did not live in town, she lived alone up against a hill in a cabin with no running water, just a well out front.  There are stories told of when my mom and oldest sister stayed there and coyotes were scratching at the door to get in.  And the time a bear was trying to enter and my grandmother shined a light in his face and yelled at the top of her lungs, scaring him away.  It took a lot of courage to live alone in such rugged country.  The beauty was almost overwhelming.  We absolutely loved it!

My grandmother Laura Lou standing by her well 
at the cabin she lived in 
up against a hill.  
This was before I was born.  
She was born in 1880 and died 
in 1950 when I was two years old.

A couple of side notes......Much of my childhood is locked away in a vault somewhere in my head, so It often rely on my older sisters to fill me in.  Finding the area where my grandmother lived gave me pause and I felt some deep connection that led us to Minnesota to her grave before going home after our trip.  I had asked my sisters for any info they had on this part of our history and was given two names.  One was "Whispering Pines" of which I found nothing, and the other was "Elmore", a town that no longer existed.  Unbeknownst to me, my sister Jan, who lives part time in South Dakota, had been to Spearfish Canyon and the Elmore area just a few weeks before we were there!  She knew where it was, but do to a lack of communication ("What we have here is a failure to communicate!") somewhere, we did not discuss this in our texts.  I am grateful God sent me to the right person who was able to direct me to the right part of the canyon!