Friday, April 21, 2017

A Firm Grip

  We had been visiting Joel's folks at the farm.  I woke up and went downstairs to find his mom getting ready to cut our son Matt's hair.  I was not brave enough to say anything, but turned around and ran upstairs to get Joel.  He let his mom know she was not to cut our son's hair.  It was long, was the 70's and Matt was sporting a thick mop of hair.  Lots of bangs!  We were very grateful for that hair just a few months later.

Joel, Beth, Matt, and myself were visiting friends in the Canadian bush that summer of 1973.  We had rented a tent camper and were spending a week at their Christian camp in the bush country.  It was a sunny day when we set out to explore, using canoes to paddle our way.  We stopped to eat our picnic lunch on a large rock area.  After eating, our son Matt, age 2, went to play by the water.  Suddenly he fell in and I ran as fast as I could to the water.  He had already disappeared, so I reached down into the water searching, and found his long hair.  I grabbed hold, pulling hard to get him to the surface.  I don't think I stopped shaking for the rest of the day.
Matt age 3

It seems that this lovely picnic sight, with the beautiful water and level rock surface was the top of what continued to be a cliff underneath where currents ran strong.  He was being pulled underneath into an area where we could not reach him when I grabbed him by that thick mop of hair.  How thankful we were that my wariness around water got me to Matt in record grateful we were that Matt's thick blonde hair gave me something to grip when I wrestled with the current to bring him back to the surface and into my arms.  Only God.

A good analogy of how God cares for us, don't you think?  We believe we are in a good place and everything looks great, but there is danger hidden from us.....yet not from God.  He knows what is coming and He keeps His eye on us.  He has a "firm grip" on us as we read in the book of Isaiah.  Our Papa God, as a loving parent, watches over us, often rescuing us when necessary.

"Do not be afraid, neither be dismayed, 
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."
Joshua 1:9  

"I'll give you strength.  I'll help you.  
I'll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you."
Isaiah 41:10

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Adventures in Africa or Suburbia

My friend, Linny, has used YWAM's (Youth With A Mission) books about missionaries for many years, reading them to all their children.  Recently she talked about one book on her blog, A Place Called Simplicity and YWAM heard about it.  They offered her readers a special price on a set of 5 books, with 10% of the profit going to Linny and Dwight's ministry, International Voice of the Orphan.    There are some great stories about missionaries!

Today I listened to a man share his story on the Hillsong channel.  He and his wife had been missionaries in Saudi Arabia, starting many underground churches during the time that they lived with their family there. They were from India, but felt God call them to start underground churches in a Muslim country.

Years passed, their churches multiplied, and then the government found out what they were doing, and told them they would have to leave the country. The man and his wife sent their kids back to India right away, and they stayed behind to pack up.  Unfortunately, the man was arrested and taken to prison just 10 days before he was scheduled to leave.  He was in solitary isolation for 1 month, interrogated for hours at a time nearly daily, and spent 6 more months in prison before they released him.  He has no regrets because he did what he felt called to do.

It took me back to our days at The Lutheran Bible Institute.  Many of our teachers were once missionaries and one in particular had suffered greatly in a Japanese POW camp.  His fingers were all broken and not re-set so they now bent at angles....he had his finger nails removed too.  As a Christian he suffered greatly for his faith.  He was a faithful man of God who empowered all the students who sat in his classes.

I remembered Gracia and Martin Burnham, who were missionaries in The Philippines.  They were captured by terrorists and held captive for a year.  They survived many difficulties, but her husband died and she was shot when the Filipino military found the terrorists and assaulted the camp.  Gracia and her family loved living in the P.I. and felt called by God to do so.  Their son is in mission work, flying the same kind of plane his dad did.  Jim and Elisabeth Elliot went to South America in the late 50's where Jim and others were massacred by some of the tribe they had hoped to reach.  Later Elisabeth went back with her family to work with the very people who killed Jim.  There son has worked among them also.

Of course, Linny's daughter Emma and SIL are missionaries in Uganda where they take care of orphans with many special needs.  They are in the process of buying land to expand The Gem Foundation.

Joel's cousin, David Simonson, is buried on the land the Masai gave the family.  David and his wife Eunice spent over 50 years bringing Christ to the Masai tribe.  They started the first girls schools also. His wife and I believe 4 of their 5 kids still live and work in Tanzania.  Jim Klobuchar wrote a great book about their story, entitled The Cross And The Acacia Tree.  I am always so blessed by these stories. What courage to follow their calling.   Ordinary people who have changed the world by being obedient in God's plan for their lives.

There are times like today that I still "wish" we had gone into the mission field, but we believe it was not God's will.  God has a plan for every single one of us, and that plan is to help change the world.  It may not be across the may not be as a pastor or a missionary.  It may be as a business man, musician or homemaker.  It may be you are the one in the kitchen serving others at the church....or in a shelter.  Whatever the plan, it is for His purpose.  What is required of us is obedience to that plan, that leading, that purpose.  We are all destined to fulfill His calling on our lives.  Whether on African soil, in the jungles of the Philippines, or in your own backyard in suburbia.  We need only lift our hearts and voices and say..........."Yes, Lord."  The adventures will follow!

Monday, April 17, 2017

He Is Risen!

"As air is in the atmosphere of the Earth, 
glory is in the atmosphere of Heaven.  
It lifts us above the earthly, 
into the very presence of God."
Ruth Heflin

Yesterday was a beautiful day here in our corner of the world.  The sun was shining, the skies were blue and it was warm enough to open doors and windows, as we welcomed in the fresh Spring air.  It was also Easter Sunday, for Christians who celebrate our risen Savior.  Oh Jesus......we love you!

Our youngest daughter and her son went with us to church where we worshiped with friends and raised our hands in praise and gratefulness for God's goodness.  Praising God.......Worshiping our Lord from a place of victory, embracing His presence ~His glory....rejoicing in His eternal gift to us.  Amazing grace.

Sarah and Jonas

Papa and Gr. Na

Yesterday's "He is Risen" service reminded me of a book I recently began reading.   A book by Ruth Heflin, titled "Glory:  Experiencing the Atmosphere of Heaven".  It came about because I have been seeking answers to define more clearly the glory of God.  How do we experience it?  Exactly what is it?  I was reading a book by one of my favorite authors and this woman's name came up.  I googled her, found out she had written several books on God's glory, and the rest is history.

Ruth Heflin was a woman evangelist who did a great deal of teaching on praise and worship.  She makes several great statements in her book.  She believes that the greatest instrument of praise we have is our voice.  That there is greater change that comes about through worship than through any other means.  When we praise God it becomes a time of worship and worship opens the doors to His powerful Presence.  His glory.

For each one of us it may be expressed a bit differently, but the Bible tells us consistently that we need to praise God.  Scriptures tell us that praise is a powerful tool of warfare, that praise opens the doors to God's Presence.  The Psalms are full of praise!  Praise puts our focus on God and off of ourselves.  It reminds us of His goodness.  Praise ~ Worship ~ His Glory....His Presence.

Not only on Easter, but every day of the year, let us give thanks and PRAISE our Lord Jesus!  Lets praise and worship Him, and as you do so, receive His Presence and glory in the the sanctuary.  His is Risen!!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Gelatos, Pigment Pens, and the Resurrection Story

Proverbs 31

About a year ago a younger woman at church shared with me the art work she was painting in her Bible.  I was amazed at the beauty of it, but never thought it was something I could do.  I did not even know that it had a name......"Bible Journaling", nor did I imagine I would find it one of the greatest ways to meditate on the Word. Recently a friend mentioned that she was taking a class in Bible journaling, which sent me researching Google, Pinterest, and more.  The result of that first google search has turned into something delightful for me. The next day I began to freehand drawings in one of my older Bibles.  Taking a verse or verses from the Bible, then creating art on the pages of the Bible, has opened a door for me to a new kind of meditation on God's Word.  It feels like a form of worship.  All of our daily living is a kind of worship, as we work, play, read, connect.  It is all a form of worship as we connect with our Creator.  Today I am grateful for Bible Journaling, not doing this from a place of performance, or perfection ( as you can see!), but from communion with God and reflecting on His Word.

You are a lamp unto my feet
and a light unto my path....

Lately I have received 9 "open door" references, and I have been looking for those doors to open in areas I had already preconceived in my brain.  I quickly realized Bible Journaling is an open door from God that has totally surprised me.  I love it!  It brings me closer to my Lord, helps me soak in the Word, and gives me an expression of worship.  Thank you God!

On a side note, after visiting a few blogs I have come to realize that there are a few people out there who would never write or draw in their Bibles.  Others write all over their Bibles ......and now they draw what they see when reading God's Word.  I am in that latter category and so thankful for this way of visualizing God's Words.

Anyone can do this!  I am not an "artist" but I can visualize what God shows me.  I do need "help" in getting it drawn out so I have used Pinterest and other places to give me something to look at when I draw....I pray and think about what the verse means to me, to others......and then I pick up a pencil to pdraw....then use gelatos (not ice cream) and watercolor and colored pencils, pigment pens, etc.  Oh what fun!

So back to the open doors.....I wonder how many times God has sent me a message and because of my preconceived idea of what that should look like, I miss what He is showing me.....
My chains are gone....
I've been set free......

As I drew what I saw about Galatians 5:1 above, I was drawn back to Holy Week.  A week of great importance in the life of a Christian.  The last days before Jesus was crucified.  As we walk through this week let us sing with praise....let us speak with love.....let us worship in all we do.........focusing on the Resurrection Story........My chains are gone!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The More

It all began innocently enough.  She sat on her sofa searching for worship music on her laptop. Scrolling down the many videos available her eyes stopped on one by Heidi Baker and Ruth Fazel.  As she touched the keyboard the most beautiful music filled her ears.  Worship music to Jesus,,, soft, mellow, and so so intimate in ways she did not yet understand.

As she stood alone in her living room and sang along, she reached her arms skyward and asked for "more" from Holy Spirit.  More of the Presence in the room, in her body, in her heart.  It began slowly.  A gentle heaviness descended upon her making her move involuntarily.  Soon it was hard to stand so she sat and then it was hard to sit upright so she laid down, letting the Presence of God cover her like an heavy blanket.  A warmth filled her....a peace and sense of contentment and deep love that she longed to hold tightly to.

When this living, breathing blanket came, the Presence moved in.  As days passed there were times her husband needed to help her get around the house, as she continued to be under the Presence of God.  The encounter was at times frightening while at the same time so powerful she did not want it to end.  It was at times confusing while at the same time filled with clarity.  She was experiencing what she did not yet have words for, but knowing it was from God, she surrendered to His will.  Through the encounter, He began the process of the healing she longed for.

Four years later it continues to be difficult for her to describe what occurred during those weeks, as she daily opened her eyes to the glory.  His presence.  Time seemed suspended, yet went by so quickly.  The season of encounter was so intimate, so revealing, so healing as The Presence ebbed and flowed in intensity. doing a graceful dance in her, upon her.  She did not want to live or breathe without it, but slowly the Heavy Blanket subsided and eventually routines returned.  But not to normal.  Nothing could ever go back to what was.  With each sunrise she felt God was with her, but in remembering she could only seek more, ask for more, receive with open arms the More.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Home Is Where Your Story Begins

I looked over a friend's recent photos on her blog and saw a picture of a wooden bird house with one word written below.  Home.  I had just finished writing about "home" and how my favorite columnist Sharon Randall, defines it.

Seeing that birdhouse made me think of the house Joel made that graces our lilac trees in the backyard. A place wrens nest every year.  And our resident duck couple who come to nest in our neighbor's yard each Spring.  They come back to the neighborhood when the snow leaves, and we look forward to greeting them.  Yesterday we heard our residential female cardinal as she sang her familiar song. The same crazy robin seems to be back after a year of reprieve, a day after we had just talked about robins that continually bang against a window ~ maybe talking about it was a bad idea.  And the deer......our neighbor continues to feed them (sigh) and yesterday I went out on our deck and shooed them away, chasing 6 of them out of our yard and away from another neighbor's, where they were raiding his bird feeder.  I like deer......I do NOT like ticks.  Definitely the animals and birds are holding the belief that Spring is here to stay.

Regarding birds, I wondered why certain ones call Iowa home?  Why do they settle here and not head further north?  What calls them to our corner of the world and are they mostly snow birds returning to their "homes" along with their human counterparts?  Dr. Google says that most have a remarkable ability to come back to a particular place.  They may come back to the same back yard, and even the same tree.  They have cues they use to get there.  They are born with genetically encoded routes, timing, etc. in their brains.  Amazing, isn't it!  Only God.

One of our families has been on a great adventure across the sea, and will be soon be back to their own beds at night.  They have no genetically codes to lead them, but I am thinking they will be expressing the "home sweet home" phrase after plane and time changes and so many days of new places and new things.

Home.  Songs are written about it.  Christmas sentiments make us think of that place we each name. We are not like the birds with inbuilt honing devices to draw us back to the place we came from, yet often we are drawn back...........whether your home was a place of the good, the bad, or the ugly, that world brings up images and emotions for each of us.

I expect we all do our best to make our domestic nests welcoming, restful, and a good place to be. We may not always appreciate our home until we are away from it, though.   Looking around our current place of residence today, I am grateful for the familiar.....the sun streaming in the window across the floor....the cozy sofa with my pile of books close by.  The sound of the furnace as it kicks in to take off the chill.......the large windows that bring the outside in and from where I can view nature.....the sounds of my soulmate doing life.   May the place you lay your head tonight, bring you the peace and contentment longed for.  Home.  So many great quotes about it.

"He is happiest whether king or peasant, who finds peace in his home."

" The magic thing about home is that it feels good to leave, and it feels even better to come back."

"Home is where the heart is."

"There is no place like home".

"Home is people, not a place."

"Home is where your story begins"