Thursday, July 27, 2017

Making My Pen A Weapon

It is not my intention to dwell on Satan and his followers, but at the same time we need to be prepared for what he sends our way.  Certainly the scriptures don't brush aside his desire to kill steal and destroy us. (John 10:10).  God in all His wisdom has provided us weapons of warfare for the spirit realm such as found in Ephesians chapter six. We can also add to the helmet of salvation, breastplate of righteousness, sword of the spirit, shoes of peace, shield of faith and belt of truth those of praise and prayer.  A wonderful book explaining the weapons found in Ephesians is "Dressed To Kill" by Rick Renner.

Yesterday I read an article that opened my eyes to yet another weapon of warfare we can add to our arsenal. That weapon is a pen.  Or in today's world a keyboard!  It never dawned on me that by writing what Holy Spirit leads us to write, we are actually fighting against the enemy's strategy.  Like I mentioned before, his  purpose is to kill, steal, and destroy.  Period and exclamation point.  God's purpose is to bring his children Home.  As writers, our purpose is to let others experience God through our words, between the pages of a book or across the Internet world.  Words as weapons of warfare against the enemy's deceptions..

"Putting pen to paper lights more fires than ashes could ever do."

We already know that God's Word is living and "sharper than any two edged sword".  We know that His scriptures "brings life to those who find them and healing to their whole body".  That God "sent His word and healed others".  Words are powerful.  In any shape or form, to build up or tear down, words hold power.  If we have the gift of writing, whether it be books, blogs, songs, or poetry, when we use that gift for God's glory, that in itself fights against Satan's plans for evil.

Today I am addressing pens as weapons, but I believe any gift we have, when used for God's purpose, is a weapon.  Like to paint?  Enjoy singing?  Love to teach?  Each time we step out in faith to use our gifts, I believe Heaven rejoices and hell trembles!  Not all weapons of warfare put us in a battle stance, but they do bring Heaven to earth and joy to our Lord.  What is your weapon?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A Lifetime of Saturdays

I have been re-reading a book by Susie Davis entitled, "Unafraid:  Trusting God In An Unsafe World" It is her own story of moving out of a life controlled for decades by fear and into a life of trusting God in all circumstances.  In one section of the book she shares an amazing analogy surrounding Easter weekend as Christians speak of it, and how we do life today.

On Good Friday we remember how Jesus suffered and died on the cross while His disciples and His family watched in horror.  On Saturday we remember how they mourned His loss and feared for their own lives........Saturday was a day of "what ifs" and discouragements....fears.  Silence from the tomb.  And then Sunday came~ Jesus rose from the dead and left the tomb!  Victory reigns!  We know this well and base our faith on the Resurrection.

Susie then talked about how she sees Friday as representing the really bad things that come into in our lives.  Things that bring physical, emotional or spiritual trauma and pain.  On those "Fridays" we focus on surviving.  Then Saturday comes and we find ourselves asking "What the heck just happened?" Fear knots our stomach and we worry....we  look for ways to cope, ways to keep it from happening again.  But ALL the worries and fears hold us in the limbo of Saturday, not understanding that Saturday is not a place of wholeness or wellness.  We get stuck in it, and Sunday never comes. Somewhere deep inside we long for the joy of Sunday where God makes all things new, we long for Sunday where resurrection power brings us hope and healing.  Yeah....But how do we get there from a place of fear?   Maybe we just intentionally step into it one day at a time.  During Susie Davis's journey to freedom she realized that she had been living a lifetime of Saturdays.   Fear was controlling her day to day living.  John Hayford once asked, "How would you treat a friend who lies to you as often as your fears do?"  Yeah..........fears can keep us trapped in a lifetime of Saturdays.

Even though I had read this book before, I found myself caught up in the stillness of knowing you have just read something profound, something that is going to reshape your life.  You have this choice, you can look back or look around and be lead to stay in the Saturdays or you can take a leap of faith into Sunday!  And this Friday ~ Saturday~ Sunday cycle?  It will happen often.  It is just part of the broken world we live in, but Sunday is our goal, it is where we step out in trust.  After what Jesus did for us on Good Friday, how can we not help but trust Him!

I confess I have gotten stuck in Saturdays,  the trauma of a "Friday" event bringing to the surface the questions of Saturday...."What the heck just happened?" Joel and I have said it more than once in the past two years, and yet often our search for answers actually holds us captive.  It is when we look to Jesus and remember that Sunday holds victory, that peace reigns.  When we tried to reason, answer or figure out the whys of Friday events, "Sunday" living is far away.

During Susie Davis's journey to freedom from a life of fear, she realized that she had been living a lifetime of Saturdays, while deep inside she hungered for Sundays with Jesus.  There is a great video on YouTube that speaks of Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  The man's words tell the story of Jesus crucifixion, the suffering He endured.  At the end of each sentence spoken of the darkness of that day, the preacher says...."but Sunday's a coming!"  I love that reminder that on the day the covenant split in half, we know that Sunday is coming!  The Resurrection!  The Victory!  It is for us, too.

If you find yourself in the midst of a "Friday" event or situation, there is hope.  The journey from Friday to Sunday is a process we go through.  The opportune words here are "go through".  We  remember how often fear "lies" to us, and we speak God's truth over our situation, reaching for Sunday's victories.  One day at a time.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Saturday's Scribbles

Good Saturday morning to you from our corner of the world where the climate has us confused on where we live!  Is it The Philippines with heat, heavy humidity, storms with high winds and monsoons, or is it Iowa???  UGH!  Again, we are so grateful for air conditioning.

You may wonder why we say that so often, but you see we never lived in a house with air conditioning until we moved here in 1996.  There were many hot summer nights where we were challenged by the weather.  I remember one night in central Minnesota that Joel was sooooo hot he went out on the upper deck and slept on top of the picnic table to get a cool breeze.  Not kidding.  As kids we would sleep on the living room floor on sheets with windows and screen doors providing a breeze in our 1950's house. So, just saying?  We are grateful for A/C!!

Recently I heard someone talking about their "bucket list" and I pondered that title.  I decided we have a list titled "More Adventures With God".  I expect it is a bucket list, but I like our title better! Life is so unpredictable and at the same time so precious.  Those lists give us hope and move us forward!  Have you ever seen that movie, "The Bucket List"?  It is okay...........worth watching although not centered on God for sure.  Our list is not cuz we are dying, like in the movie, although I guess we all are going to.....but cuz we are still living!!!!

I am still reading more than usual.  The surgery for melanoma caused some muscle concerns in the middle back, which caused my lower back to go out around 10 days ago.  First time in 7-8 years.  I had to resort to using a cane to walk and spent a lot of time reading.  I think in the past month I have read 10 books, 9 being fiction.  Nothing worth mentioning, except for the nonfiction book, "The Seer's Path" by Ana Werner that speaks of the prophetic.  Joel and I read it aloud together and it was very insightful.  Amazing in fact.  It seems our passionate pursuit of more of God is our new normal.

Speaking of normal, there is really no definition for it except through our own experiences and perceptions.  Who gets to define what is normal?  The Bible tells us right and wrong and certainly the Word spoken gives us a definition for many circumstances, but normal is often in the eyes of the beholder.  Say you grew up in a chaotic home......that will seem normal to you until you experience how others live.  A commercial on TV defines it somewhat....a couple drive out into a national park to camp and in their tent that night they rant and rave about how quiet and peaceful it is.......but it is so extremely quiet to them, they can't sleep....and end up turning on an ap for "city noises" so they can get some rest!  Normal for them.  And getting back to the Bible ~  in the New Testament miracles and casting out demons are normal, but how many people see the miraculous as "normal" today?

Speaking of today, we grilled chicken and at the end of the grilling all of a sudden the crud on the bottom of our electric outdoor grill caught on fire.  It made a whosh sound and burned all the hair off of Joel's right arm before he could jump back.  What is up with that?!?  He had just cleaned it recently so it is a bit confusing.  We were going to grill peaches, but had to cancel that until later.  And, yes, food on the electric outdoor grill tastes as good as on a gas one!

Speaking of outdoors, our youngest daughter got caught in the bad storm that went through north Iowa on Wednesday afternoon.  She saw a tornado in front of her on the drive north and then it touched down briefly and debris was flying....then straight line winds hit.  She called us asking whether she should get into a ditch or stay in the car.  She saw a nearby farmhouse so Joel told her to drive in there and she slowly made her way in.  A truck with a man in it was following and drove in behind her.  No one was home so they rode it out in the yard.  A tree was across the road after the storm passed so the police came out. Our youngest was pretty scared and so were mom and dad, but we kept praying.  All ended well, and we certainly are giving thanks for that.

Giving thanks.  So important and so I end today giving thanks for family, for friends, for a cool house and comfy beds.  For the One who was, who is, and is to come.  For sunshine after the rain, for books and the libraries that house them.  For life and all the adventures it holds.  For Saturdays.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Roots Defined Differently

The topic of roots is always swirling around in my mind, as we have so often wrestled with it. Not wrestled like two sweaty bodies crawling around on a mat until one pins another,  but more like the pull and tug needed to make taffy.   Recently again, God brought it to the forefront ~ the roots and our desire to find those roots in a home. Home like house, land, community, city.  But I have learned that roots and home are not necessarily defined to include staying in one place.

Christie Purifoy has written a beautiful book titled, "Roots and Sky" that chronicles their first year in a new home, as they made the intentional effort to put down roots.  Today she posted a story written by Bekah DiFelice, who as the military spouse of a Marine, is "on the move" often.  Bekah has journaled her days and written a book about growing roots while being transient. ("Almost There:  Searching For Home While On The Move") She writes, "I have often wondered what it takes for them (roots) to wind through the ground beneath me and make me feel settled, at home."  She describes their family as "movable gardens and transplanted roots, asking what and where home is now and what else it could be."  Bekah writes that she has taken comfort in Christie Purifoy's statement that defines homecoming as a process rather than a moment.

I grew up on the move, living in 7 towns and 5 states before finishing first grade. When I was 7 my father died.  There were a couple more moves before settling in the town where I graduated from high school.  Joel grew up on the family farm, seldom leaving the community until he headed off to Bible College at age 20.   Soon after we were married Joel joined the Air Force and we spent 8 years moving around with the military before getting out so he could attend the seminary.  As a pastor and family we moved several times too.  Moving is familiar to us.  After 21 years in our current micro-tropolis, staying in one place has become more familiar.  Not necessarily always comfortable, but familiar.

So the roots thing.  It just keeps coming up, and as it does I am finding the process fascinating.  It is a revelation to discover that how we define roots is as simple or as complicated as the lives of each individual.

I have a blogger friend who, like me, battled Lyme and still lives with the damage it did in her body. She and her hubby just finished moving to another state....this their 36th move!  She, too, has longed for a home with roots, and in a recent post Lisa shared her understanding that Jesus is the door home, no matter where she lives.  She does love her new house and yard, but she knows Jesus is the door to her permanent Home.  A comforting thought.

There is that saying.............."Home is where the heart is".  And maybe that is all there is to it.  Still, those roots seem to beckon.  So, can you have roots and travel?  Just like the old, really old TV show said, "Have guns, will travel"......can you "have roots, will travel?"

We have observed dear friends as they begin their journey to a life of travel, bringing their home with them.  Not a home with a foundation going deep into the ground, nor the city they have lived in for nearly 3 decades, but yet a solid foundation with roots.  Roots on wheels.

When we were in the military we felt we had roots.  We have pondered this and decided it was because the military was our "home" no matter where we were stationed.  As a Pastor and family, when we moved on we  felt uprooted.  We left behind a piece of our heart and took with us our memories as we said yes to a new calling.

So I'm thinking that maybe, just maybe we have roots that go all the way to the Philippines, where we experienced a season of our lives that we hold close.  Maybe we have roots all the way into Montana, and certainly in Minnesota.  Our roots may not go vertically deep into one place, but more horizontally.  Roots defined differently.

We know so many pastors who moved so much in their ministry.  As retired or older seniors they have moved to new places to be close to some of their family.  Roots coming from the heart.  We know other people who have never left the town they grew up in or in later years returned to the place they spent their childhood.  Another kind of roots as the past calls.  All Roots defined differently but roots never-the-less.

This post probably means more to me than to anyone else, but as I hear what God has placed before me this week on the topic of home and roots, my understanding has deepened, broadened.  A peace has settled over me as more pieces of this puzzle have fallen into place.  I love how God opens our eyes and deepens our understanding out of His love for us.  He is good that way.

Where are your roots?  How do you define home?  How do you define roots?  Wishing you roots and sky, and not only a home to call your own, but a Home where Jesus welcomes you!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

What Are We Magnifying?

While living in The Philippines, one night I was sitting in the living room watching TV.  The doors and windows were open to let in the breeze since we did not have air conditioning in our off base house.  All of a sudden I heard scratching on the locked screen door.  I listened quietly and heard it again.  It sounded like someone was trying to break in (my imagination working overtime) so I quickly called to Joel.  He came and went over to the door.  He discovered there was something, not someone trying to get in.  A rice beetle!  Rice beetles are sometimes a food source in the P.I. and other Asian countries.  They like to eat rice, and people catch them and boil them, breaking open their insides to suck out the rice.  Those who work in the rice fields have scars from their nasty bites.  Somehow this beetle made its way up on our patio, drawn to the light inside I expect.  The noise seemed loud, probably magnified by my fear, so that I was sure it was a person trying to get inside.  It turned out to be a bug.  They are nasty looking, but if you avoid their pinchers you will not be harmed!

Today I heard Joel Osteen say, "Magnify the promises of God, not your problems!"  This brought me back to that night in the Philippines when I thought for sure someone was breaking in and it turned out to be a bug.  My fear magnified the situation.  I actually felt that recently with a Melanoma diagnosis.  I have quit telling people about it unless they ask because when many hear the word, Melanoma, they react.  Just today a pastor asked me what I had surgery for and when I told him he replied, "Ohhhhhh" with a big eyed look.  I felt like he was magnifying the "problem" so to speak.  I don't need anyone to do that for me, I am pretty darn good at doing it for myself!

So maybe this magnifying the promises is not such a bad idea.  Magnifying the problem is definitely not helpful, so I'm thinking that if we take God's promises and put them under a big ol' magnifying glass things will look and feel pretty darn good!  At the least, hopeful.

There are so many promises of God to magnify, we would never run out of making our God bigger than our problem!  One of my favorite is the verse sent my way over 5 years ago now...."I will give you back your health and heal your wounds, says the Lord."  Jeremiah 30:17)  Another good one is....."Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him and He will make your paths straight.  Indeed, do not rely on your own wisdom, and stay away from evil, then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones." (Prov. 3)

I expect there are promises we can magnify for just about every situation we encounter! God is good that way.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Not So Much...........

Limb on our Roof

We woke up around midnight Sunday night to thunder, lightening, and some very strong winds.  The wind was "loud", making sounds like I have never heard before.  When I got out of bed and looked out the window I could see the trees bending to the ground and turning from side to side.  Just then something hit the roof hard, waking Joel and causing me to jump and duck.  In agreement we headed downstairs to a safer level.  The storm passed quickly, and Joel went out in the dark to assess the damage, commenting that the branch was not as big as he thought it would be considering the noise it made.  We decided it could all wait until morning and headed back to bed.

Split tree on walking path

In the daylight we woke to a mess of small branches and twigs covering the yard, driveway, and street.  Several neighbors had branches down in their yards and one had a large part of the tree that split down the side.  On our walking path I saw a thick limb that had split least 25-30 feet long.  Just east of us a mile or so another association was hit hard.  Trees across the road, electrical lines down and lots of green debris, everywhere.  The newscaster said there were 75 mph straight line winds.  They did not look or act like straight line winds here in our back yard, but they sure were strong........and loud!  It took Joel 8 hours to pick up all the branches, leaves, and debris.

neighbor's tree

In the dead of night, it all sounded so scary, but the next morning when we opened doors and stepped out into the neighborhood along with others, we realized things could have been so much worse.  The branch hitting our roof sounded like a cannon going off.  We thought maybe a tree came down, but not so.  In the daylight hours we could see it was not as bad as it sounded and our house and roof were intact.

Today Joel was over to the neighbor's helping her cut up a big limb that split off her tree.  She had already removed all the branches off so Joel just took a chain saw to it.  She thanked him over and over, but his sincere response was "Hey, I was able to use my tools!"  Did I mention that she is 87 and still mows, mulches, landscapes, and tends her garden?  She can add cutting and carrying limbs to her resume now too.  Yeah.....J. is a powerhouse who loves to be outside and working!  At 87.  Wowza.

This storm reminded me of the storms that come suddenly in life.  We've had a few ~ you too?  One minute all is good and then suddenly it is not.  And sometimes the challenges we face sound sooooo darn loud!  They scream at us,  and look so powerful.  They shake us in the valley of darkness, but when God's light shines on them, we are able to see them differently. Do we tell God how big our problems are or do we tell our problems how big God is!  What looks insurmountable, is diminished when Jesus walks with us. What looks and sounds ginormous .....not so much in the Presence of Jesus.  Not so much.