Saturday, December 27, 2014

Saturday's Scribbles

Good Saturday to you from Iowa where winter is back, although I am not so sure it has made up it's mind whether it is staying or not. Or maybe that is just wishful thinking.  We had virtually no snow for Christmas, and no sunshine either for that matter.  Yesterday we started out with sun, then it went to fog and freezing drizzle and ended with snow.  So, we have snow on the ground again, probably 3-4 inches,  with bitter cold temps on the way.  Single digits for New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. 

We did walk outside on Christmas Day as it was 39 degrees here.  We walked at dusk last night too, but only twice this past week due to the Crud that has challenged my body, and I am walking about half the distance I was.  For now.

Christmas Eve

Speaking of Christmas, we talked to three treasures Christmas Eve Day morning and our youngest daughter Sarah called.  We left the house by 4:45 pm Christmas Eve as Joel had services at 6pm.  It was so nice to be in church.  The poinsettias, candles, tree, and lights made it all look so beautiful, singing traditional hymns brought back memories of Christmases past, and Joel had a wonderful sermon.  We arrived back home by 8:30 and after getting into our PJ's we had pie, and then visited with our oldest son Matt.  A tradition we enjoy.  Christmas Day was just us again but we had a really nice meal and enjoyed more pie!  We did visit with grandson Noah, and the three "G's" Grace, Grant, and Greta along with our son Matt Christmas Day night.  IF I had been feeling 100% and IF Joel was not working we would NOT have been sitting home alone.  It gets old.  We had quite a deep discussion about it all yesterday, and plan to implement changes for the future.  We do look forward to Sunday when we will gather with Gr. Jo and siblings at my brother Todd and SIL Jeannie's home in SE MN. 

I made Joel a natural creamer for his coffee as one of his gifts.  It turned out quite well, but I had to laugh at the chaos that went with making it.  I was not feeling so great last Tuesday, but Joel headed to the store last minute and so I knew it was my window of opportunity to get it made.  Easy recipe, if your body and brain are working well.....I was making half a recipe and it was going great until I realized I had put the full amount of two ingredients in.  So then I had to go back and put the full amount in of everything.  I was trying to open more coconut milk, but our can opener makes it challenging to open anything first try.  After using the can opener, I tried to pry the lid off, and it slipped and the coconut milk went all over me, the floor, the get the picture.  After cleaning that up I put what was needed in the food processor, but it was so full it shot out the hole in the top when I started it, so once again another mess to clean up.  After getting it made I put it in jars and hide it in the fridge.  Then I cleaned up the mess that was everywhere and got the food processor parts washed up and dried before Joel came home, so it looked like I did not use it.  ALL this in about 30 minutes.  The good news is that Joel loved the creamer and we had a good laugh over it later.

This past week God blessed us with at least 6 male Cardinals coming into the back yard with their mates.  It was amazing.  We decided they were probably heading home for the holidays and needed a break! So thankful they chose our yard for their pit stop!

I read a few fiction books this past week as I bonded with the sofa.   (Ugh. Too much like the old days).  Joel gave me Jan Karon's latest book about Father Tim for Christmas, which I am saving for now since I am reading a fiction book by Monica Ferris and I started the other book he gave me, "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed.  The movie just came out starring Reese Witherspoon.  Along with the non-fiction books on my end table,  I think they total 7.  Reading seven books at a time?  Something is wrong with that I now taking control of the situation and reading two at a time.  One fiction, one non.

I have been feeling lately like everything I write is mundane or repetitive, so I am taking a "Blogation".   I need to get into Scriptures more to study and meditate on what God desires for me with the written word and life in general. 

Okay, maybe we are not on the beach
like my sister Jan and Lanny this Christmas
....and maybe I am not pondering life from a beach chair,
but blogation it is!

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas filled with the love of family, friends, and good health.
Hugs from our corner of the world....

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

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Love Came Down!

The fourth Week of Advent we light the candle of love.  Love came down at Christmas!  King of Kings born in a stable.  We can only imagine what Mary held in her heart as she watched her son, His Son,
become a toddler, a boy, a man.

God so loved the world.........Jesus so loved His Heavenly Father.....His mother.....the world.   His first cry shook the world, as did His last.  All in love.  For God so loved.....

Liz Curtis Higgs says in the first chapter of her book, "The Women of Christmas":

"Long before silver bells jingled, Christmas lights twinkled, and horse drawn sleighs went dashing through the snow, God reached down from heaven with the best gift of all.  LOVE wrapped in swaddling clothes."

Imagine Mary's thoughts...watching her son as He turned water into wine, opened the eyes of the blind, delivered the tormented.  As He suffered and died for us.  For God so loved.......

I love the song "Mary Did You Know". sung beautifully here by Pentatonix.  

As we remember that Love came down wrapped in swaddling clothes, as we worship through word and song, as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.......We wish you a very Merry Christmas!!

Merry Christmas
Joel and Renee

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Saturday's Scribbles

It has been a dreary, damp, cold week with only one day of sunshine gracing our corner of the world.  We certainly are not getting any Vitamin D this time of year.  Very little light when we get up at 7am and it is dark by 5 at night.  Like I said, dreary. It did not help that we both spent the week fighting the Influenza A virus that just won't let go. We both felt better for a few days and then bam!  Tuesday Joel had a fever and spent his 5th night sleeping in a recliner.  Wednesday he felt 60% better and went back to most of his activities..  I was down Wednesday and Thursday but able to walk a bit Friday and grocery shop before crashing with chills and headache again.  So many are sick with it.  Prayer, tea, soup, rest, prayer, soup, tea, rest.......that's our course of action.  Sickness has invaded our home but it is an unwelcome guest and won't be taking up residence.

This week I wrapped a couple gifts, sent out a few loose cards, made homemade soup, bread, etc.  I plan to bake pies and bars next week.  It is just the two of us so we won't need much.  Wednesday I was so darn weak I kept company with the sofa, so I picked up a fiction book by Joanne Fluke that a friend borrowed me, and I read the whole thing.  Have not done that is a long time!  Thursday's highlight was a long phone call with my sweet friend Katherine from New Hampshire.  I just love our visits!  Friday our daughter Sarah stopped by for a couple of hours waiting for her boyfriend to pick her up and head north to his family's home for Christmas.

Katherine and the
healing conference in CT
October 2013

Christmas cards are coming in from friends and family, catching us up on their news.  It is always fun to see the pictures everyone sends out.  Pentatonix and Lady Antebellum have been filling the air with Christmas music along with James Taylor, Kenny G, and Celtic Woman.  Our Christmas tree is also filling the house with much needed light and joy as the sunless days continue.  Our days may be sunless but they are not SONless!  He alone is the Light of the world!

TV specials, HGTV, NCIS, and a few Andrew Wommack teachings have kept us entertained, along with early bed most nights!  I am reading Derek Prince's book, "God's Word Heals" and Ann Voskamp's Advent book, "The Greatest Gift". 

Praying each of you have a weekend filled with God's peace as you prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus our Savior.  It is the reason for this season! 

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

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Oh, The Places We'll Go!

"For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord. 
Plans for good and not for evil. 
To give you a future and a hope."
Jeremiah 29:11"

God often speaks to me through repetition.  When I get the same verses or "theme" over and over in a short period of time, I pay attention.  Like in the fall of 2012 when I heard Matthew 11:28-30 an estimated 26 times in 5 weeks. That was over the top!

"Come to Me all you who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest. 
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls. 
For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

I believe Jesus was waiting for me to fully understand, so He kept repeating and repeating the come-rest-in-me thing...until I did.  It still is not an easy concept for me, but I understand the rest idea much better than before.  It is a matter of trust.

Recently I have been getting the a "theme" again from different sources,  so I once again started giving God my full attention.  Last night I listened to Kris Vallotton from Bethel Church in CA. He made several statements that connected to what I had been reading in Rick Warren's email devotionals, Derek Prince's book, "God's Word Heals", and Andrew Wommack's latest series, "Don't Limit God", plus more.  Time to pay attention, Renee!!!  Kris was speaking about destiny, and the vision you have for your life --The vision God has!  I have been reflecting on his words and those of others that God has been using to speak to us. 

 "The greatest failure in life is to succeed without God. 
You climb to the top of the mountain and then realize you have climbed the wrong mountain!"
"God has given us a vision--
we just need to get to a place where we know
we cannot do it without Him. 
 (That is when He can use us the most!) 
"When you don't have a vision, you end up with the enemy's vision"
I am not so sure we always like the way God works here.  IF we feel we are not capable of doing what He has called us to do, then that is when we know we are on the right path?  Yikes!  Food for thought.  When I speak to God and step out in faith, surrendering my will to His, I can get butterflies in my stomach. When I say, I surrender God to all that you have for my life...wherever, whatever, whenever, I admit it causes me some anxiety and I want to take the words back.   At least for a moment.

In the fall of 2013 the story of Elijah and the ravens kept coming up as we prepared for our journey to the East coast to attend a healing conference and take our first vacation in decades.  A big step for me with many unknowns.  A matter of trust.

The Elijah story in 1 Kings 17 is back once again.  Today alone, two different devotionals spoke about Elijah and the ravens.  God told Elijah where to go and let him know He would provide for Him...and He, shelter, and healing power.   God is speaking again and we are waiting with expectation.....and okay, maybe a little apprehension.

Letting go of the reins, or being asked to do something out of my comfort zone or understanding is both exciting and scary, but I truly don't want to live any other way.  I don't want to miss anything God has ahead for me. 

Remember the Dr. Seuss book, "Oh the Places You'll Go" ?  That is what God wants to say to me.  "If you will just step out in faith, trusting Me...if you will follow me.....surrender to Me.....OH THE PLACES YOU'LL GO!

Why is that so hard?  Why does it give me butterflies?  Am I......are we afraid of what we will have to give up?  Are we afraid we will fail?  As Andrew Wommack says, "Don't limit God!  If you fail at something, just fail forward.  God has so much more planned for your life than you can even imagine."    When we put God in a box.....we end up being the only one in the box!  We cannot box God....but we can limit what He desires to do in our lives. 

Relying on past experience, I believe this  "theme" is going to continue for a while...This, "don't limit God--impossible without God--surrender in obedience to God's vision" will continue as He opens our hearts to His plan and as it is birthed in and through us.  We are excited.  We are scared.  We are ready for something more.  Another adventure with God!  Oh the places we'll go!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Joy, Joy, Joy!

We light the third candle of the Advent wreath this week, the candle of Joy.  Reflecting on joy has had me thinking about the song the kids used to sing in church.
"I've got the joy, joy, joy joy
Down in my heart.....
Where?  Down in the my heart?
Down in my heart........
I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart
Down in my heart to stay!"

It goes on to say, "I've got the love of of Jesus...down in my heart.  A few other verses round out the song.  Joy and Jesus seem to go together!

We have needed that reminder!  This past week we have been fighting a virus that crossed the "no weapon formed against us will prosper" barriers into our home and into our bodies.  ugh.  The battle continues, but we are winning! This past week we have also been grieving the 10th anniversary of our son Kevin's death.  We have been dealing with very foggy, damp, weather.  The sun has been absent and the air a bit polluted even in our small city.  It is so dark all day long that our outside lights stay on. We have never seen it like this here before.  We were unable to say yes to an invitation to go see three of our grandchildren in their Christmas program this past weekend.  It saddened us.  The house is so quiet since our family gathered for Thanksgiving this year.  Too quiet.  An accumulation of minor difficulties dampened our spirits.

Needless to say we have been digging deep to find our joy!  Happiness may have left the building, but joy is always available.  Circumstances may be challenging, but we still can make a choice in how we respond.

And most days we choose joy.  The joy of the Lord.  "The joy of the Lord is our strength".  The Christmas tree has brightened the dark days.  Pictures texted to us of the treasures all ready for their program brought smiles. Christmas and praise music have lifted our hearts.  We rejoice that our son is with God's son.  Our devotionals have urged us to focus on the One.  And that is where we find joy.  To summarize Ann Voskamp's devotional on the third week of Advent......Joy comes with Jesus and Jesus is always with us, so therefore, joy is always at our disposal.  Yes.  Thank you Jesus.  Thank you that even when, no, especially when circumstances come against us , a storm rages, or a battle wages, in the stillness we can open our hearts and rejoice because of the baby born in a manger.  We rejoice in, not for, but in all circumstances.  He is always with us.  Always here.  Jesus!  "We've got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in our hearts to stay!"

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Ten Years Gone

December 13th holds special significance in our lives.  It was 10 years ago 3:30 in the morning that we received a phone call from a hospital in CO telling us our 25 year old son, Kevin, had died of heart failure.  A virus attacked his heart and put him into congestive heart failure.

This past week we have been experiencing more sadness than usual.  As a pastor and pastor's wife we know that certain anniversaries intensify grief.  Still, it surprised us. We know that our son is in a much better place.  We adopted Kevin when he was 3, and he had gone through a horrific early childhood.  As his oldest sister, our Beth, said at the time of his death, he died of a broken heart, both physically and emotionally.  So we grieve, but we grieve with hope, knowing Kevin is with Jesus and is whole and healthy.  Whole and healthy!  And time does lessen the really does. 

Here is an article I wrote about Kevin years ago.  Fast Shoes And A Broken Heart.  He has been ten years gone, but also ten years whole and healthy.  And for that, we give thanks.  We will see him again some day!   We still grieve,  but we do so knowing where he is.  With Jesus. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Saturday's Scribbles

Good Saturday morning from our corner of the world where the sun has been absent for too many days.  We are experiencing fog, heavy, damp weather. Gray skies having us turning on lights to brighten the days.  We are expected to have temps in the high forties...and 53 tomorrow.  Crazy for December, although we remember bringing home our tree early in December in 1997 and the neighbor was out mowing his lawn!

We have been able to walk outside more, which is nice.  The river road has given us nature at it's best with hawks, a possum, lots of deer and yesterday at least 200 geese fly overhead.  Noisy feathered friends gracing our walk with God's blessings.

Speaking of walking, this is what we pass on the way.  We have chucked and chuckled as our new neighbor displayed his 10 foot tall wooden cactus all decked out first in a pilgrims' hat and drumstick and now Santa's hat and lights.  When I first noticed it I called Joel into the kitchen to ask him if I was seeing things correctly...a cactus???   Later he visited with our new neighbor and just had to tease him about what "the religious significance was" in having a cactus (giggle), since he is also a Lutheran pastor here in town!  The neighbor shared that he saw it one day driving to his previous home and told his wife about it.  She said..."you are not bringing that home"......but  he did.  We are enjoying it and I think his wife likes it now too.  It grows on you!  I think it is especially funny since we are heading to cactus country in just a few weeks!

Neighbor's cactus Christmas display
Night time glow
Monday night we headed over to a town around an hour from home to watch our grandson Jonas sing in his school concert.  It was fun!  We shopped a bit on Tuesday, groceries bought on Wednesday and Thursday I sorted through the toys we have had in the family room for the grands.  Most everything is going to a second hand shop along with some clothing we needed to get rid of.  It was a bit sad to think they are now too old for the toys their parents played with!

Jonas (on left) with his friend
ready to go sing!

The Christmas cards are done and with our gifts purchased and given out at Thanksgiving, we are able to just enjoy the next two weeks with little preparation.  It is very peaceful to just sit back at night and enjoy the glowing lights as shown in this picture of our living room.  We feel so blessed.

Taken from top of the stairs
"O Christmas Tree"

We watched the movie "God's Not Dead" last Sunday night.  It was really good, especially the arguments the student presented in the classroom......but one thing that disturbed me.  They showed how the pastor's friend from Africa stepped out in faith for the car starting...saying, "Just put the suitcases in the trunk" and step out in faith for the car to start(after lots of car trouble)  BUT they did not step out in faith for healing with the woman who had cancer, etc.  AND the woman who was a Christian but was living with her atheist boyfriend?  What is up with that?  So the movie was good but inconsistent for me.

Speaking of stepping out in faith, we are speaking against a funky virus that is trying to take hold in the two of us.  I expect it came home with us from the store, where the guy packing our groceries was sicker than a dog and touching all our items as he packed the bags.  Really?  Just stay home!  Prayers and our special tea are evident today in the house....and open windows too.  Our special tea?  It has cayenne pepper, garlic cloves, lemon juice, and gingerroot along with honey to sweeten.  Simmer it all, and drink under a warm blanket.  It tastes terrible, but it is potent and works.  More importantly, so does speaking against the viruses.....they have not place in our bodies!

Joel and I have been listening to our favorite group this year, Pentatonix.  Love their music!  Just listen below...."Mary Did You Know" is so beautiful!  The words speak His Word in a powerful way.

I have been reading Derek Prince's book, "God's Word Heals", listening to a few online teachings, and watching our usual TV shows.  Hope you are having a good weekend, friends......

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Consider This....

The last time Joel and I spoke about our healings and about the power of Holy Spirit, we asked the listeners to "consider this"  Consider that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is inside you...healing power.  Consider that God loves you so much He wants you well.  Just consider it.....

Our words came to mind today when I read the words of a devotional entitled, "What Are You Considering?" The verses that were used came from Romans 4 and since this was the second time today that I read them, I felt I was to mediate on them.  Roman 4 speaks about the faith of Abraham.  His faithfulness is such a good example for all of us.

"Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping. believing that He would become the father of many nations.  For God had said to him, that is how many descendants you will have. And Abraham's faith did not waiver, even though at around 100 years he figured his body was as good as dead-and so was Sarah's womb.  Abraham never waivered in believing God's promise. In fact his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God.  He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever He promises."
Romans 4: 18-21
It looked impossible in the natural--having a son when you were way past child bearing years. When life was winding down.  Becoming the father of all nations when he did not have a legal heir.  Only God. Only God could fulfill His promise.  Abraham ignored the doubts.  Can you imagine what others said to them or about them?  Abraham ignored what he saw in the natural, he focused on God and His promises.  He did no focus ont what looked impossible, but considered that with God all things are possible.

What are you waiting for today?  What am I?  What looks impossible? And what promises are we standing on?  Consider this.....don't limit God with your limited thinking.  Don't limit God, nor brush off the promises found in His Word.  Keep on hoping, keep on believing.  Consider, .meditate.  Open your heart to the "more than we could ever imagine or think" that the Bible speaks of. 

Open the Book to Romans 4 and...........consider this..............

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Our Path To Peace

The second week of Advent we light the candle of Peace.  Peace.  We all long for it.  That feeling of calm and serenity as the world around you vibrates like a hummingbird.  The sense of knowing that all is well when the enemy whispers in your ear a different message.
Peace.  Where do we find this elusive peace?  Isaiah 26:3 shares the secret with us. 
"I will be in perfect peace when my mind is focused on You, Jesus, because I trust in you."  (paraphrased) 
I have a dear friend who tells me that when anxiety rears it's ugly head, she stops and takes deep breaths, saying, "Jesus in.....anxiety out."  For her this practice shifts her focus.  It does not take long until the anxiety is just as she says.  Out... and gone. 

Some nights when I am unable to get back to sleep, I whisper over and over one word.  Jesus.  If my mind wants to continue on in motion, I visualize myself going into the garden of my heart where I rest my head on Jesus' lap, safe and secure.  Sleep comes when  my focus is on the One who is Peace. 

The One who is Peace listens to our petitions of the heart.  Prayer brings peace when we leave our concerns with Jesus.  Praise and worship keeps our hands lifted high.  To God be the glory. 

No matter where we being on our path to peace, we come full circle back to Isaiah 26:3:

"I will be in perfect peace when my mind is focused on You, Jesus, because I trust in You."

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Saturday's Scribbles

Another December day with temperatures in the mid thirties.  Next week?  Near 50 and rain.  Strange winter so far, but the warmer weather is not so bad after the bitter November we had.  We have walked several days outside along the river, and one day I walked around the church while Joel was teaching confirmation.  This morning while we were walking Joel spotted a mink out on the ice.   The little guy went in and out of the water, ran a long way on the ice, and then scurried into his den. They are usually nocturnal, so Joel was delighted with this rare sighting.

Last Sunday we stayed after church to help decorate.  They have been doing it for years and are like a well oiled machine. ! Interesting to observe. Their tree is pretty.  Monday and Tuesday we caught up on sleep and getting re-organized after the family left.  I think Joel ate leftovers for several days....the leftover Lime Pear Salad, cranberry relish, pie, etc.   Good thing we both like having leftovers! 

Wednesday evening I lead the womens Bible study...about David, Uriah, and Bathsheba.  A complicated story for some....the wrath of God....the big time sinning of a King...a baby's death.   I did text with our daughter Bethany picking her brain some since she has her Masters in Old Testament Theology from Luther Seminary.  I had Joel's input too!  I love learning, and I like teaching too.

Thursday I finished writing our Christmas newsletter and started Christmas cards.  We send out around 120 I think.  It gets costly with the price of stamps and cards, but we still enjoy receiving cards, photos and letters from others, so the tradition continues~!

Friday we went tree shopping,  We did not feel good about spending a great deal of money on a tree, so I put aside my desires for a Fir, and we bought a nice Scotch Pine instead.  Of all places, we found one we liked at Ace Hardware for less than half the price of the Fir.  Yay!  We got the lights on last night and will decorate this evening.  Isn't it nice?

Our tree --lights only until tonight!

Speaking of trees, when we lived in the Philippines the military flew Christmas trees over for us.  It was really nice to have a tree, but they were soooo dry by the time we got them we were always instructed not to decorate with lights!  I can remember standing in line out in the 85 degree sunshine and high humidity, waiting to buy our tree.....for $2.00.  You just took the one handed to you and kept going!  There were always long lines for everything....groceries, clothing, doctors, and even Christmas trees! 

Today we went to St. Ansgar Iowa to look around a couple of unique shops they have.   It was a nice day to travel and we enjoyed looking around, but came home empty-handed, which is okay!  How much stuff do we is just stuff!

Joel and I have been reading Ann Voskamp's book, "The Greatest Gift" for part of our Advent devotionals, and are enjoying it!  I am actually reading a fiction book by Joanne Fluke, and still reading Frances Chan's book on the Forgotten God (Holy Spirit).  It is excellent!  A few Christmas specials, Hallmark Christmas movies, and online teachings have rounded out the week. 

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

Monday, December 1, 2014

Waiting With Expectation

December is upon us....a cold one here in our part of the world.  We have been using the fireplace off and on throughout the daylight hours and into evening, making our home cozy and warm inside.  As I have been preparing for a Bible study I will lead on Wednesday evening, I have been thinking about Advent.  A time of waiting....of hope.  A time of expectation.

Advent.  We wait for the coming of Christ.....reflecting on that time over 2,000 years ago when Jesus came to earth as a babe.  There was great expectation for this King...the Messiah.  The world held its breath, nature alert and silent, the people unknowingly yearning for a Savior.  And He showed up, in a manger, in a baby's cry.  Now, we anticipate His return some here on earth.  We pray as the Lord's Prayer says, "Thy will be done here ON EARTH as it is in Heaven.  We wait.

There are many times in our lives when we wait.  We wait for the birth of a baby....we wait for the weather to change....for suffering to end, for a job to be available.  Today we waited with expectation for a family member's tests performed on a pancreatic cyst to come back.  We pray, we hope, and we expect God to show up.  In the suffering and in the joy.  And He does.  A "no cancer" text sent up praises to God today!  The waiting is over and we are filled with joy this day. There are so many times on so many different levels that we wait.

Waiting.......expecting......hoping..........they are all verbs.  Actions we take even when it feels like we are sitting still. Even when it feels like the world has forgotten to take a breath.  We wait with wonder. We expect.  We hope.  Movements within while being still without, but we never wait alone.

As we begin Advent, we rejoice in the waiting, giving thanks in the moment, reflecting on the sweet mom of the King, who young and innocent, waited in obedience for her child .....HIS son to be born.  Of course we know the end of the story.  We know that Jesus comes and salvation is ours, but during this season, during this time we call Advent, we remember and we look forward with wonder, expecting with hope the coming of the King.  Our King!  May we never lose our wonder!

Wonder by Amanda Cook
Bethel Church