Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Spirit of Generosity

It was a good Thanksgiving, with the house filled with grandchildren, kids and in-laws last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.  Our oldest son and his family did not come (Matt was working), but the rest were here and "our cup ran over" with good fellowship, food, football, cribbage and card games, and even a bit of shopping.  We are blessed.

We celebrated Christmas on Friday and one of the gifts we received was a new microwave!  Our microwave was not that old, but we had purchased it at a Habitat for Humanity store and it was not long before a problem revealed itself.  We could not have it on for more than 4 minutes or it shut down.  The core element would get so hot, the automatic shut down would occur to prevent a fire. It would take around 45 minutes before it would cool down enough to restore itself. We learned not to cook anything over 4 minutes, so if we needed to warm up food, it had to be under 4 minutes total.  It mean lukewarm or 75% cooked food at times.  No biggy.  We are adaptable!  It shut down when the kids were home, and Joel put two ice packs inside to help it cool off like he always does. We explained what was happening and ended up warming up food in the oven and on the stove top.  Where there is a will, there is a way. We were used to it's quirkiness and planned to replace in the future, but it freaked out our oldest daughter ~ she was worried about a fire starting.

So, surprise!   We have a new microwave!  We can steam our bags of veggies the full amount of time so they are not so crunchy.  Ha.... And we can do a full bag of popcorn, or warm two bowls of soup.  Oh, yeah, we are feeling pretty happy with our new appliance right about now!  And very thankful that our son-in-laws went out on black Friday and bought us a microwave and spent an afternoon installing it with Joel!  We are blessed by their generous spirits.

Generosity.  The Bible tells us it is rewarded.  We don't give so that we will receive, but God does bless those who give out of the goodness of their heart.  I think about what Rick Warren, "The Purpose Driven Life" author and pastor says about giving.  "You cannot out give God!"  Rick and his wife Kay given away 90 percent of their income.  ALL the money, millions, that came in from his well known book was given away.  Pastor Warren says, "No matter how much we give, God blesses us with more.  You cannot out give God."

We are blessed to have a family that understands this concept.  Over the years we have been on the receiving end of their generosity, and many others have also been blessed by their spirits of generosity.  I think they have learned the secret of giving.  Giving blesses the giver and the receiver.  Our money, our time, our stuff......all temporary and ALL from God.  We steward what God has given us.  We don't "own it", we manage it for God as His stewards.

Thanksgiving is a great time to contemplate and activate a spirit of generosity.  We give thanks for the abundance we are surrounded with, and we give to others out of the abundance we have been given.  In it all, we are blessed.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thanksgiving Thanks

It is Thanksgiving week and we have been preparing for a family gathering here at our home.  Every other year the kids, in-laws, and grandchildren come home for food, fellowship, football, and some fun games of cribbage and more.  Five families come from 1-3 days and we celebrate a mini Christmas at the same time.  This year they may take in a movie.....as the grands age, the activities change, as they should.  We are enjoying these gatherings as long as we can. Treasured memories.

We have so much to be thankful for.  Our health, our family, our friends, our home.  And when was the last time any of us went hungry?  Our bounty is a great blessing from our Lord!  We pray each of you have someone to hug and share a meal with this Thanksgiving.  We pray your day, your lives are filled with abundance.  An abundance of love, peace, joy, hope, forgiveness.  An abundance of health, home, family, friends, and food.

As I watch it rain today, the weather took me back to our first Thanksgiving in the Philippine Islands.  It was typhoon season and we experienced 7 typhoons in just 2 1/2 weeks.  Joel was a meteorologist for the US Air Force so weather was his specialty.  You know when a typhoon is coming, so everyone prepares as best they can.  Extra water from the base water stations, food you can eat without cooking, candles, etc.  Thanksgiving day we had a nasty typhoon arrive,  At the same time Joel forgot to have our propane tank filled, so we ended up eating potato chips, Lime Pear Salad, and fruit salad for dinner......and just the outer layer of the turkey, the rest did not cook since the tank ran dry. The electricity went out and did not come back for 3 days and nights.  Our home was made from cement blocks that had been filled with wet cement....that house was not going anywhere and we felt pretty safe inside, even though our neighbor's home lost their roof.   We did have to stand at the doors and push water back outside as it poured in under the doors like someone was holding a hose under it.  Joel had to head in to work later that afternoon, but we had a good time that Thanksgiving Day and enjoyed our chips, salads, and pie!  We most likely had a good cry too, since we were so far away from extended family.  There were no cell phones at that time and it was expensive to get on a base connected phone. That day we celebrated with our little family at the time ~Bethany, Matt, and our maid Amphy.

We have so other Thanksgiving memories too.  Mostly great, a few not so great, but that Filipino Thanksgiving was quite the adventure for us.

Which brings me back to what we are thankful for.  Joel and I are so grateful for each other.  God has blessed us with 48 years of Thanksgiving celebrations together, give or take a few when he had to be absent from home.  We praise God for an abundance of all that blesses our lives.  Family, friends, homes, health, and food.  Now thank we all our God!

Friday, November 18, 2016

And God Stepped In

Joel and I watched a beautiful segment on CBS today, created by Steve Hartman. We like that man and the stories he tells speak hope.   He, himself, was in tears as he shared this story of goodness, and so were the two of us.  A man in his 80's was grieving the death of his wife.  He struggled with depression and not feeling he had any purpose for his life now that his wife was gone.

And then God stepped in.

While in the grocery store one day a little girl noticed him and said...""Hi old person!"  She then insisted her mom take her over to him so she could give him a hug!  He told her mom it was the first time he felt happy in a long time.  Thus began a relationship that defies understanding.  She has grandparents close by....he has grandkids although all grown up and gone.  The two of them forged a bond that has continued since their first encounter.  She visits him at least once a week, and there are a lot of hugs and 4 year old chatter that goes on.  He feels like he has purpose again.."To watch her grow up." He told Steve Hartman that she is an angel in his life, and that God definitely had something to do with the two of them connecting is such amazing ways.

Yes, God stepped in!

When we lived in Salt Lake City Utah our children had "adopted" grandparents.  We lived far from family in Minnesota. and a couple we met at church became mentors to us and grandparents for our two oldest, who were not much more than babies.  They were retired Air Force, Joel was in the Air Force......we inherited their "old" furniture and boy did we need furniture!  They were active members of the church we attended......they encouraged and supported Joel as he filled in as their pastor on Sundays for 9 months.  And they loved on our babies as grandparents do!  I only hope and pray they received half as much from our relationship as we did.

Definitely, God stepped in.

God was present when He connected my friend Katherine and me through a conference call prayer group for people with Lyme.  About 40 of us prayed for over 500 with the disease.  This brief encounter during the conference call moved into emails, then brief phone calls and then one day after about a year Katherine suggested we watch a man we had never heard of speak about healing.  We did so, Joel was miraculously healed overnight, and I began healing soon after.  This relationship reached a deeper level when Katherine, Joel and I met at a healing conference in CT in 2013.  We even were able to meet her family.  A young mom in her 30's came from New Hampshire and a couple in their 60's drove from Iowa to unite in our passion for healing, and God's perfect planning made it all possible.  It still makes me smile and brings tears to my eyes.  He is so amazing.

And God stepped in.

I cannot help but share again about how Joel and I met.  We both came to The Lutheran Bible Institute in the fall of 1966.  My older sister and her friend arrived later in the fall for parents weekend and took a campus tour.  They then told me they met the man I was going to marry.....when they pointed him out to me my reply was less than nice, but they told me they would pray about it. Just 18 months later we said our vows before family, friends, and most importantly our Lord who brought us together.  God stepped in and one confused, insecure woman barely 20 married one lonely, self-assured young man of 22.  Our faith in Jesus united us and 48 1/2 years later we continue on in this adventure called life.  So grateful.

Yes, God stepped in.

I am sure all of you are remembering your own special times when God stepped in.  God sees us, people.  He sees us where we are......He sees us in our brokenness.....and He loves us so deeply He reaches in to make us whole and fulfill His purpose for our lives.  We are His beloved.

Lord, thank you for stepping in and connecting us as your children.  Thank you for "being the God who sees us" and who with your unfathomable love heals us through Your power and the people you bring into our lives.  Let us always be open to your perfect plans for us and for others.  Thank you that we are your beloved.  In His name..............

And God stepped in............

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Permission Granted

Permission granted to celebrate Christmas early this year. I just read a post from InCourage on this and I'm thinking it is a good idea.....Joel has our lights up already.  It is better to put up house lights when it is 60 degrees than when it is 35!  We are holding off on turning them on, but it just seems like Christmas needs to come early....a little music....some lights......a longer focus on Baby Jesus.....a little extra joy!

With those thoughts in mind, I am thinking I am going to step out of the box and celebrate Christmas before the Harvest fades.  Oh, we do love Thanksgiving~ it is a beautiful time to quiet our minds and bow our heads as we give thanks for all God has given us.  It reminds us that every good and perfect gift is from above.  It is an opportunity to hug on family and friends, fellowship at a table laden with bounty, and lift our voices in gratefulness.  Our family will gather this Thanksgiving here for fellowship, food, and football.   We look forward to it.

But mingled in this year for me will be a little "Joy To The World", a tree waiting to be decorated, and Christmas lights making the neighborhood bright on dark nights.  I'm okay with that this year.  Being one of those....who are Christmas Crazy.  It is not that I like shopping....I really don't.  It is not that I lose sight of the reason for the season......I never do.  It is because this year, after a long and challenging season of disease, treatments, surgeries, faded dreams, angry people with deadly consequences, and a very long and disheartening election process we just feel the need to seek out the joy.  We are intentionally seeking laughter and joy in a funny TV show, in each other, in funny Facebook postings, in the antics of a cat, in glowing candles, in helping feed the hungry, in opening our hearts to an early and longer Christmas celebration.

Yep.  I have given myself permission to celebrate Christmas early.....and in the background I am hearing Pentatonix ............join me in singing.....no pressure......but you have permission to celebrate Christmas early if you are so inclined.

Monday, November 14, 2016

God's Handiwork

God's brushstrokes


Good-bye sun

God was showing off last night when we went for our walk.  The wispy clouds looked like brush strokes and reminded me of a watercolor painting.  They turned from white to pink as the sun shifted. Each photo gave us a different look, and the sunset photo at the end is from the same sky, but a different direction and time.  Fascinating.

Last night we were able to see the "Supermoon" too.  It was definitely brighter, lighting up our whole house at 4 am.  With my phone the picture I took does not do it justice, but just had to share. Last time it was this close was the year I was born.

Seeing God's handiwork in nature is comforting. Yesterday the sky spoke God's message to us as we walked together arm in arm.  All is well.  I am God.  See what beauty I bring to your world?!  Seek it, breathe it in, be in the moment.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Saturday's Scribbles: This Moment Now

"Today the sun will set at 4:49.  
I can grieve the dying light, or I can admire the moon. 
Neither response is always right or always wrong. 
 Occasionally, we'll do both at once.  But sunset is yet to come.  
All I truly have is this moment now,
 and this moment now is gentle light and quiet shadow. 
 And it is beautiful."

Christie Purifoy

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Our Broken Country, And What Now?

I am going to be sixty-nine in a few months, one of the Baby Boomers of our country who has lived through several wars, the turbulent 60's, the assassination of a president and his brother, the murder of Martin Luther King Jr..  Hate crime.  I am not too old to feel the effects of Hitler and Nazi Germany, the Berlin wall, the Cold War, and countless other historic events that shook our world and changed us for better and for worse.

Joel and I have been through a lot of tough things together in our 48 1/2 years of marriage. The death of a son, of our moms, threats on Joel's life and on our family, hatred and racism thrown at us and our children because we are a family of many races.  We have battled Lyme Disease and I have battled cancer twice.  We have lived in 6 states and one third world country, had 18 major moves, 22 over all.  Like all of you, we have experienced life at it's best and at its worst.

Today we are mourning.  We are weary and grieving the division of America, our country.  We are grieving what we have seen and heard over the past 19 months of this debacle we have called a campaign for President.  We grieve over the hatred and discord.  The degrading of people because of their individual beliefs, "party" beliefs, color, ethnicity, and religion. The killing of innocent people, the ambushing of police. It has all sickened us.  This election process peeled back layers of skin to reveal the fear, anger, and hatred of "we the people".

This is not a political statement.  This is a statement of how divided and hate-filled our country has become again and how we have let fear of each other and of our differences come in the way of
"loving one another" as God has commanded us to do.  Not asked us, commanded us.

I have watched those on Facebook say horrible, hateful things "in the name of their God".  I have read awful things, like calling our current president a monkey, racial slurs, and more.  One man actually told his relative he was looking forward to the White House being white again.  This is to a woman who stood before him holding two of her bi-racial children on her hips.  I have observed online author Christie Purifoy speak from her heart about her Mexican American husband and seen people react in hateful ways.  I have read posts by people putting down anyone who does not think or vote like them.  Honestly, I have "unfollowed" many people on Facebook over the past few months because their words had such a negative affect on me.  "Lets love one another as long as they look, think, feel, live and vote like us.....and lets do it in the name of Jesus."

I think Joel and I are shocked at how angry and afraid people are on both sides of this red and blue divisonary war we have created in government and country.  We are shocked at the hateful things being said, and the hateful things being done.  Ugly has come out of us as a nation and it is scary.

We vote in all elections, but we do not voice our votes in public because we believe as a pastor and family it is not fair to use the pulpit to influence others.  We know  Republicans and Democrats alike who are believers, who love the Lord.  We believe we as citizens of the US have a right and duty to vote.  We, as Christians, love our Lord and our country.

We just don't know where to go with what this election process has uncovered not only in the candidates but in so many of the voters.  It may be something you expected..........I think we expected things had changed for the better in how we see each other, treat each other.  I guess we expected to see "the fruits of the Spirit" come out in people. This is a revelation we are stunned by and paying attention to.

What now?  Our country, our cities, our communities are in turmoil, so what now?  Joel and I feel so strongly that in this season of our lives we want to leave a legacy of not only faith in Jesus to our grands and great grands to come, but we want to leave a legacy of integrity, goodness, kindness, tolerance, acceptance, love and more love.  We want to speak life and not death into our small corner of the world.  We fail sometimes at this, but we get back up, repent, and try and try again to let Christ shine through us.

What now?  It begins with how we treat each other.  How we treat the person who shares our bed, our dining table, who lives across the street, who shops in our grocery store, who looks and believes different than us.  It begins when we get down on our knees, repent for our part in this mess we call living, and love on those easy to love and especially those hard to love.  It begins when we ask ourselves why we are afraid and angry and what would God want us to do about it?

We can change ourselves........others we can only love.  So we love the unlovable, we forgive the unforgivable, we reach out and do what God has commanded us to do............love our neighbors of which the whole world is...........we forgive, we repent, we pray.  Oh how we pray..........we ask God to heal us.  It begins with us.  We ask God to break our hearts for what breaks His.  We praise God for this country we live in, broken as it is.  We look around and see how unbelievably blessed we are to live in a democracy and not a dictatorship.  We give thanks..........we give thanks.......We open our gratitude journals and start remembering the thousands of gifts we have to be thankful for, starting with this country.  We pray for UNITY IN OUR DIVERSITY.  We pray.  We grieve with hope and we pray.

Monday, November 7, 2016

What We Are Called To Do

Today Joel and I sat together on our loveseat and watched the funeral service live stream for Sgt. Anthony Beminio, which was held at Lutheran Church of Hope in West Des Moines IA.  It was a moving ceremony, not only as we watched over 1,500 officers file in and salute the casket when they walked by, but as the Chief of Police, Dana Wingert, spoke about Tony Beminio and the fine officer he was.  As the Chief held back tears and spoke of everyone being heartbroken.   The sermon by Senior Pastor Michael Householder was one of the most powerful sermons Joel and I have ever heard.  E.v.e.r.  It was a beautiful combination of what this mega church is founded on.  Sharing the story of Jesus and obeying His commandment to love one another.  Householder began this mission church in 1993 and it has grown in leaps and bounds to encompass satellite churches in 3 other areas, while serving 10,000 members in their own suburb.  Only God.

It is difficult to understand why any 39 year old man dies, but especially someone who served his community well as an officer, worked with kids, encouraged others, and loved on his own family. People look for answers and too often believe God took him.  It was God's will he died.  Today Pastor Householder spoke what Joel and I both stand strongly on in our beliefs.  This was not God.  God did not take Sgt. Householder.  Satan did.  The actions of another did.  Sin did.  A broken world did. Jesus did not come to kill, steal or destroy.  Satan did that.  Pastor Householder spoke of the shortest scripture in the Bible....."Jesus wept" and that Jesus wept along with us over the senseless death of Tony Beminio.  As the Son of God and the Son of man, He wept.  And He continues to do so as He watches the sin and suffering, the hate spoken, the continual atrocities taking place in word and action by His creation.

So today we weep as we mourn the loss of yet another officer, as we mourn the death of a child of God, whether white, black, brown, or wearing blue.  We are saddened by another life that ended too soon. We weep for those left behind, the children.  Oh, how difficult it is for the children.

Still, we grieve with hope.  It is what we are called to do.  With the understanding that when someone we love dies we will see them again, that this is not all there is.  We grieve with hope and we move forward in hope and pray that something like this will not happen again. That some how some way hate and brokenness will not end in death and destruction.  Until then we stand firm in knowing that death is not the end.  It is a new beginning for those who believe in eternal life.

And those who are left behind pick up the pace, carry the shield of Sgt. Beminio and others in their hearts and take on his desire to be an outstanding officer...........outstanding citizen...........parent, son, husband, family member, neighbor, friend. We all step in to make where we do life a better place.  It is what we are called to do.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Saturday's Scribbles

Hello Friends!

On this beautiful warm Saturday I am pondering relationships.  God has created us for relationships with Him, Jesus, Holy Spirit and others.  God really wants a close relationship with His kids.  He beckons us through His Word, through His whispers, through His endless love.  In any healthy relationship, we talk and we listen.  We love and we receive love.  We give and we receive.  This is what God wants.......for us with Him.

In our skin on skin relationships we practice all the above...and one more important one?  We forgive and we are forgiven.  We are responsible for doing life really well together within our families, our friends, our community, and the world at large.  How we treat the clerk at the store, the person driving the car next to us, those who look different than us, the one who shares our bed, the people in our home, our church, impacts all and it impacts our relationship with God.  Big time.

I started writing down thoughts about relationships yesterday morning and then last night we had friends over to break bread and fellowship together.  Always beautiful.  Always insightful.  This morning I realized that this couple really practices what I was writing above.  They desire and seek a close relationship with God and they intentionally "work" at relationships within the church and community.  They do life well, seeing the best in each other and other people, expecting miracles, and "pitching their tent in the land of hope".  They are 10 years younger than us but I "want to be like them when I grow up".

"I saw God before me
 all the time. 
 Nothing can shake me; 
He's right by my side.  
I'm glad from the inside out, ecstatic; 
I have pitched my tent in the land of hope."
Acts 2:26
Psalm 16
The Message

This week brought the death of two more police officers in the Des Moines IA area.  Our son wears the uniform there and it hit close to home as I wrote about HERE.  How the storms hit as the officers did their jobs while stunned by the death of a family member.  And what hurts our son hurts us and what hurts our officers hurts us all.  What hurts each person hurts the world.  We stop the hurt when we reach out and embrace another in respect and love.

I confess that Joel and I have had to work hard at keeping our tent pitched in the land of hope this past year.  At times the winds have blown hard, weapons have formed against us, and the good soil where we have pitched our tent has turned to sand..  Or so it seems.  So where do we turn when things get so darn complicated or our dreams disintegrate.  Where do we turn when confusion reigns and our tent is shaking, threatened to be swept away in the storms.

We turn our faces upward.  We turn our face and our focus on that One who gave us the land of hope through the Sacrifice.  Jesus.  We don't close our eyes to God's promises.  We shelter right in under His wings knowing God is right by our side.  Nothing can shake us.  Well, as humans we may feel shaken, true.....but we, like David seek God's calming presence.  We seek more of a relationship with God ~ seeing Him before us at all times.

We need God and He loves having a relationship with us.  We need family.  We need friends.  We need our neighbors, our community, our police, our state, our country, our world.  We need to reach out and touch the One and the ones who we know and don't know.  We help others keep their "tents" from landing in hopelessness.  We love on each other and open our hearts to be loved, to understand. To do life, well like our dear friends.  And most importantly we remember with God beside us we cannot be shaken.  We will not be shaken.  For we have pitched our tent in the land of Hope.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

"I've Got This Covered"

When our phone rang at 4:40 on Wednesday morning, I said a quick groggy prayer while fumbling to answer.  As a pastor and family, we have received more than our share of middle of the night phone calls. Those years are really behind us now, so first on my mind is the family.

This time when I picked up the phone, it was our son Matt.  His first words were, "I'm okay".  This is not the first call we have received in the wee hours nor the first time he has started the conversation saying, "I'm okay."  Matt is a police officer in a metropolitan area and he puts his life on the line more often than I want to know.  Matt did not want us waking up to the news that 2 officers had been ambushed and killed within 20 minutes and 2 miles of each other while in their squad cars.  All officers were called in and on high alert.

"We are on it, Matt." was my reply.  Because we are a praying family.   I responded with my usual words of declaration as a prayer, hung up the phone and we began to pray.  Holding hands in bed we prayed with urgency for Matt, his good friends Steve and Michele......and all other officers now in harm's way.  We prayed for the families who were waiting to hear who had died that early morning at the hands of a madman.  We prayed, we spoke to the "mountain", we declared truth of scriptures and we prayed in our prayer languages when we were not sure what else to pray.  We prayed and then we went back to sleep knowing that the visual umbrella over the city I saw while praying was God telling us, "I've got this covered!"

Yet.....still I had to choose to stay calm.  I had been having vivid, negative dreams and in one recently Matt was very sick and dying. This is not the first time I have drempt of him (or our other kids) dying. I am not one to have pleasant dreams! The very first time was when he was in 6th grade and it was so vivid and felt so real that I hid the shirt he had on in the dream.  I confess, I lied and told him I lost it because every time he wore it my stomach tightened up with fear.  Well, I cannot hide his uniform now.  He wears it proudly and serves his city.  He truly does put his life on the line.

Since Matt is all grown up with teens of his own, (how hard is it for his family?) I know I can no longer make the worry go away by hiding his clothes like I did when he was 12, I can make a better choice. I can pray, trusting that he is in God's hands.  I can rest in knowing our son is a good, smart cop.  I can remember he loves the Lord and he is His child.  He is fulfilling his calling and even though we have seen the years wear heavy on him, we keep surrendering him to our God, trusting His plan and purpose for Matt's life.

I expect we have prayed and surrendered all our children to God at different times for different reasons. One battling addiction, one to heart failure, one to violent choices, all of them when moving forward from our home into the world.  As parents we never stop wanting to keep our children safe.  Never.  We love them so much we want to protect them from the world....but we cannot.  We can only remember that God loves them even more than we do.

That is why when the phone rings at 4:40 in the morning, we take a deep breath, say a quick prayer and answer, declaring with our actions that God holds our loved ones in the palm of His hands at all times and in all circumstances and remembering that umbrella......and knowing God is saying..."I've got this covered."