Monday, February 11, 2019

One Brave Step Up The Mountain

"It is a new week and you just keep being brave
 because blessed is the one who perseveres, 
who does the hard thing and puts feet to the floor and just begins, 
who doesn't stop putting one brave step in front of another.  
Because tough times never last
 but those who hang on tight to God always do."
Ann Voskamp

Today I read a few powerful thoughts from Ann Voskamp, the author of One Thousand Gifts.  She spoke about doing the "hard things".  About putting our feet to the floor and just beginning.  She wrote about taking one brave step and starting up the mountain we face.  That God will take the mountain, all we need to do is take courage and take the next step.  She reminded us to lean in and take that next step.

I have been hearing a lot about leaning in lately.  It began last week when I faced the fact I needed surgery again for this large ugly kidney stone that is one big mountain of trouble in my right kidney.  Between the stone and the stents I am fighting infections and my body is already dealing with a lower white count from the breast cancer treatments.  I did not want to deal with it, but it is what it is.  And God is who He says He is!  Through devotionals He keeps reminding me to lean in to Him.  Trust Him in this season.

A week ago I had a visual encounter where I was standing arm in arm next to Jesus, leaning against Him.  I was shaking from head to toe but I was standing firm with Jesus keeping me upright.  I remember thinking, well if Jesus is on my right, who is on my left side then....and when I turned I realized Joel was linking arms with me too.  Of course, he has always been my support.  my earthly rock provided by God.  Beyond Joel, much to my surprise, I saw Dr. M, the urologist.  It shocked me.  My thought was, okay, he is part of this healing journey too.  Then I looked around and saw faded out faces of who I knew to be friends and family.  Those praying and sending their love.

The mountains can look so big.  They can be so big.  BUT GOD......... We need to have the courage to take the first step up the mountain.  Maybe for you it is a financial burden.........or chemo........or trusting someone when it is hard to trust. For me this time it is yet another surgery this Wednesday afternoon to rid the stone from my kidney.  (Going up through the urethra to laser the stone) Everyone's mountain is different, but the source of our strength is not.  Our strength comes from God.

"The great ones are simply the ones who believe God can.  
In Him, you. can. do. this.  
The hopeful stare up the steps.  
The faithful step up the stairs."

I am always amazed at the courage people display in difficult circumstances.  Ordinary people, living ordinary lives, who are hit by circumstances that are in no way ordinary.  Ordinary people who dig deep, finding courage and strength to face the worst of the worst and who do so with hope and faith in their God, in our Lord who tells us to lean in.  "Lean in, trust, and see Me move mountains".  

Today I am asking for your continued prayers for the surgery Wednesday afternoon.  Praying that the long tedious process of lasering the large stone into small ones will go well and swiftly.  That I will come home that evening and recover well.  I also ask for prayers for all those who fight their own battles with God by their sides. Those who persevere and faithfully keep taking that one brave step up the mountain they face.  

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The Voice To Listen To

"When I listen to the voice of a problem
 more than I listen to the voice of the Lord, 
faith will always be an uphill battle." 
Bill Johnson

Sometimes the voice of the problem is so loud.....for me a medical report....the doctor's diagnosis.....the treatment drugs...... a lament from within that pours out of a place of discouragement or fear.  Yeah.  Sometimes the voice of the problem and the difficulties of life are so darn loud!  But..........

God's voice?  Powerful.  Promising.  Purposeful.  Comforting.  Wise. Victorious no matter what.   He sometimes whispers, but I have found His voice to be firm, steady and quiet.  A kind of quiet that resonates, shifting the atmosphere around and within us.  A kind of quiet that is somehow loud.  Louder than the voices of the problems.

So hard to do, this focusing on God and off of the cancer, or heart disease, or broken relationships, or financial brokenness.  Yet God's Word often speaks to us about doing just that.  It is written that HE is our Lord and our God.  It is written that we will be in perfect peace when our minds are focused on Jesus because we trust in Him.  It is written in His promises like the one I have held on to for seven years...... I will give you back your health and heal your wounds.  So many promises.

A voice is a powerful weapon for good.  We speak life or death with our tongue, as the Bible says.  There is something about voicing out loud the scriptures. Something about making declarations that build hope the way we build a solid brick at a time.

The voice of the problem pales and weakens when we focus on Jesus as our Healer. When we bend our ear to hear the Father's Voice, peace fills our soul.  Maybe for a moment, for an hour, for a day...but it is always available to us if we let it speak louder than the problem.  God truly desires to be in a close relationship with His children.  Bending our ear to hear His Voice opens that door to our heart and strengthens our faith.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

It Is A Privilege

It is Sunday morning and once again I am worshiping from my living room.  I pray for and kiss my hubby good-bye early in the morning as he goes off to serve at two churches, while I sit at home wishing I was going with him. I miss it.  Worship with others.  Gathering together in His Presence!

 Sunday mornings we have the privilege to pick up our Bibles, head out the door and gather together in public to worship our Lord and Savior.  This is truly a privilege.  Look how many people around the world have to gather in secret, risking imprisonment or death.  We have the freedom in America to worship.  I think of our dear friends, Linny and Dw who drive nearly 40 miles across Phoenix to worship at a church that welcomes with open arms children with special needs.  There is a church for everyone of us ........if you find your church uninviting, or not meeting your needs, seek out a place that excites you! 

I spent years fighting Lyme Disease, often sofa bound, isolated in my home and unable to go out into the world.  I would have given anything to be able to get up on Sunday mornings and head to worship in a church, sitting in a pew, surrounded by others who love the Lord.  I don't think I could ever take that for granted again. Sadly, here I am unable to go to church......needing to avoid exposures to sickness, but also just not strong enough many days.  I look forward to getting back to Sunday morning worship!  It. is. a. privilege. 

It is a privilege.  Sunday morning worship! Gathering with others, united in Christ. Let us never take it for granted.   It is a privilege.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

This Too Shall Pass

We woke up today to -28 degree weather with a -58 windchill.  Yes, that is correct.  No is that cold here in northern Iowa.  So cold that not only are all schools and colleges closed, but mail delivery has been suspended in our state and surrounding states as well.  This is as bad as it gets.  Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois have declared states of emergency......This is record breaking cold.  Joel and I cannot remember -58 wind chills, ever.  And we have a few memories of cold weather over the years!

Like when we went to Malta Montana for Internship and woke up to -30 in late October.  We quickly discovered there were no heat vents in the small kids bedroom so we went to a local hardware store and purchased electric wall heaters!  Montana has some cold winters!  Or when our middle daughter was married on Epiphany in north central Minnesota and the actual temperature that evening was -37.  Yeah.  Cold.  But -58 is a new one.

Nature has a way of stopping our world from moving forward, and extreme cold is no exemption.  So grateful for our warm house, good furnace, and gas fireplace.  As we sit this morning reading in the quiet (our cable is experiencing an "outage") we are nice and warm, snuggled in under quilts and staring at a toasty fire.  We have soup to warm our stomachs and books to warm our souls.  We are blessed.

I think of the firefighters who brave the cold.........our police officers who still work to keep our cities safe.............emergency workers and more.  At risk for those who are at risk or risky.  Again, we are so blessed.

Sometimes life also throws things at us that seem to stop our world from moving forward.  I read today of the death of a friend's brother.  His long battle with cancer is over and he is with Jesus this day, but those left behind feel his loss greatly.  Another woman I know was recently diagnosed with an aggressive cancer, and her world is now at war with an enemy of the body.  Maybe the hopes you had for a child or a loved one seem lost.  Maybe the dreams for yourself seem far away.  The world, our world stops momentarily, a shift occurs and we prepare for what is ahead, just as we do for cold weather. 

But we are not alone.  God is with us, and nothing.......not one thing surprises Him.  Not one thing is too big for Him.  Not one thing prevents God from moving forward..........Today, if your world seems to have stopped, take a deep breath.  Pick up the Word and seek peace.  Stay warm wrapped in His love.  Remember that God is bigger than any problem we face.  This too shall pass.  Just like this brutally cold weather, this too shall pass. 

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Saturday's Scribbles

Good Saturday afternoon to you from cold and snowy Iowa! A place that's only going to get colder in the days ahead. In fact it is forecast for our temperature to be -30 by Tuesday with wind chills between 40 and 50 below!  This is not okay. I cannot remember the last time we experienced this kind of cold weather in Iowa OR Minnesota. Thankful for the furnace and the gas fireplace and my wool socks and all the blankets I can bundle up under!

It has been a quiet week here with no doctor appointments.  I have enjoyed reading this week and watching too much TV, I'm sure.My energy is not where it was before surgery, but it is much better!  I am dealing with some stomach issues and pain that is pretty intense.  Sigh.  The pelvic pain ( also a side effect of the drugs) makes it hard for me to walk.....I have been trying to build up my strength, but that is on hold once again.  My body is working hard to tolerate the drugs and eliminate the cancer.  Just need to remember that each day is a gift, right? 

Speaking of gifts, last Tuesday we opened up a Christmas gift from our son and daughter-in-law and discovered a Roomba. Joel is delighted since he does the floors here at home and "hates it".  Now he can program "Nora" as we call her, and the cleaning is done for him.  I am happy because I sometimes had to wait weeks for Joel to muster up a positive attitude to do the floors!  It is a win-win situation.  Why do we call the Roomba Nora?  Well, when we lived in the Philippines everyone in the military had maids.......our maid we had the second year we were there was named Nora!  Nora not only kept the house clean but often cooked and watched the kids.  Yeah, we were pretty spoined.

Speaking of spoiled, I am so grateful for all Joel does for me.  The shopping, laundry, cooking, caretaking, etc.  And working.  I am able to help out some again, and hope to do so more and more.  He keeps telling me, you are "on chemo", you are fighting cancer and other issues, you are actively resting to give your body what it needs.  And God, in His goodness has given me what I need body, soul, and spirit......a truly amazing hubby.

I was thinking about my mom and how we used to talk every week on the phone.  It was weekly because of the cost then!  No cell phones.......just a house phone with a long cord and a long distance plan.   I would try to keep her updated on all that was going on, and send her letters and pictures of the grandkids.  I think she would have loved technology texting!  I love getting a text from my kids and photos and videos of the grands.  It helps us feel like we are more of a part of their lives, especially now.  And it comes instantly.  Amazing!

Joel and I have been long time readers of Guideposts magazine.  This year they added a devotional that comes every two months where the daily readings are connected to nature.  "All God's Creatures" is a daily devotional for animal lovers and we are enjoying it very much!  All God's creatures!

Hope you are having a great weekend.  Stay warm!  Stay safe!  Stay connected with those you love!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Unique And Quirky

I have been reading a Jan Karon book in her Father Tim series titled, "Shepherd'z Abiding". Jan Karon's Mitford series are such a delight to read.  Good, clean, faith based fiction books that give pause and bring joy.  You can even buy a book of "Father Tim quotes", there are so many treasures to hold on to.  Over 20 years ago Jan Karon spoke at Luther Seminary in St. Paul MN and Joel and I drove up to listen to her speak and to have the few books we had by her back then, autographed.  It was a great experience.

It has been quite awhile since I picked up one of her books, but I have been thoroughly enjoying it.  Father Tim and his wife Cynthia are now retired in the small town of Mitford North Carolina where he served as an Episcopalian priest to his unique and sometimes quirky congregation.

I cannot help but look back at the many churches Joel served over the years, each one unique with a few quirky members at times.  And are we not all unique and quirky in our own ways?  Each congregation with its own personality and purpose.  Oh what great memories we have for every place we called home, for every congregation that welcomed us.

And such adventures as we traveled in northern Montana where hawks, eagles, and antelope outnumbered the people.  And in Eastern Montana where Joel was able to baptize a 75 year old man and celebrate the eternal life that awaited him.  We still chuckle over one council meeting where it was put in the notes that the new pastor was wearing "inappropriate footwear" (square toed boots).  Joel was in need of new boots, so at the next council meeting he took off his new pointed toe boot put it on the table, asking the secretary to note that the new pastor now had appropriate footwear!  We ran into some very quirky people, and it was not always fun.......but the joy we experienced in the churches we served far outnumbered any negative experiences.

I love how Father Tim sees the good in all people.  How he quietly stands firm in what he believes without judging others.  For are we not all broken people, unique people, and even at times quirky?  God created each one of us as a masterpiece of His own making.  Our uniqueness is planned and used for God's purposes.  We can embrace who we are and trust God to guide us on our journey.

Do you have a congregation you sit among on Sunday mornings?  Do you observe the unique or quirky in the pews.........are you one of them?  Having served 7 churches and filled in or worked at 24 more over the years, we cannot help but smile at all the memories we have of those congregations that welcomed us.  Unique and sometimes even quirky as the members were......and us amongst them!

If you are looking for a good read.........a series that touches the soul, pick up a Jan Karon book.  You won't be disappointed, and it may give you a new perspective of your own home church!