Friday, December 22, 2017

Barn Worship

When Joel was serving a church in NE Montana he came up with an idea to try something different, and began holding "barn services" on Christmas Eve.  He would find a member of the church or community who was willing to let us have services in their barn.  All cows, sheep, cats and dogs welcome!  And of course, people, too! The owners would clean up the barn as best they could, often putting out straw bales to be used for benches.  This became a very popular service for families ~ the kids loved it.  They were able to interact with the animals, and the adults were given a sense of what it must have been like the night Jesus was born in a manger.

 Without heat, everyone would bundle up to attend.  I do remember one year when the service was held just an hour north of the Twin Cities where Joel was serving a church.  The media somehow became aware of it and asked if they could come film the service.  Joel let them come, but they could not interfere with worship.  The film of the service was picked up by the associated press and friends in Georgia read about the service in their local newspaper!  We had to chuckle over their write up because they said the pastor "dressed to play the part", wearing boots and a cowboy hat.  Okay then.  Joel has dressed in that attire for more years than I can count, but they had no idea he was not dressing the part for a barn service!

It was our family's favorite service, with good memories about the times when the cows did not excuse themselves to use the bathroom, or they would often try to interrupt Joel's sermon with their own.  One year a donkey brayed throughout the service, in competition with Joel.  Often as we sang the familiar Christmas hymns the cows sang along with the congregation.....making their voices heard!

 It was a unique service and a joy for our family to participate in.  For approximately 27 years Joel held Christmas Eve 4 pm services in barns in Montana, Minnesota, and Iowa.  It was one of the best experiences in his ministry.

We will not be worshiping in a barn this Christmas but in a beautifully decorated church.    They both are places people will gather to worship the reason for this season.  Jesus.  A time to celebrate the birth of a Savior for the world over 2000 years ago.   A time to gather together with friends and family.  A time for memories to fill our hearts with joy.  Wishing you peace!


Renee and Joel

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Is It A Lemon?

There is a tree standing in our living room and it took enormous effort on our part to accomplish this.  In our search for the right artificial tree, we went to too many stores to count, and many stores more than once.  We eventually decided on a tree that was 31% off and were pretty happy with the price.  We brought it home and Joel unpacked it and set it up.......and then we realized there was no stand in the box.  Say, what?

I mentioned to Joel that he should check to make sure the lights worked and he did.  Then he drove across town back to the store receipt in hand, and returned home with a stand.  Yay.  He got the tree put together and plugged in the lights only to discover the top section of the tree did not light up!  What?????  It was late in the day and we could not agree on whether the whole tree should go back or just the top, so we decided to "sleep on it".  The next day I agreed to just taking back the top of the tree, but Joel decided to exchange the whole tree.  So he headed back to the store and came home with a new top section because he told them he wanted a new tree and they came back with just a new top!   Whatever!  He left the store tree in hand after making sure that the lights all worked!

A couple days later, so far, so good.  It is lit, it is steady and straight in the stand, and our new tree is now holding it's place of honor.  I confess though, that I have put off decorating it.  I'm no longer holding my breath nor waiting for the next problem to pop up, but I am only cautiously optimistic.

So, our oldest son called and we told him about our journey with this tree......he suggested that maybe Jesus was trying to tell us something when so many things went wrong on our cross over into fake vs real.  His argument was that there were no artificial trees around the stable when Jesus was born.  Now, he knows full well there were no pine trees at the manger either, but you get the idea.  Real trees please!!!

It truly has not been an easy choice to make.  But here we are, staring at a Christmas tree in our living room with a long skinny trunk, that smells a little like fire retardant and looks just a little too perfect.  In a couple more days, if nothing else goes wrong and we don't officially declare this tree of a "lemon" variety???  Then we will decorate it.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Twins In Their Soul

Brothers and Sisters

I was watching Steve Hartman on CBS news last night when Joel and I both were overcome with laughter and tears.  Two 4 year old girls were absolutely more than best friends.....they consider themselves twins.  One girl is African American and the other is Caucasian.  They love to dress alike and are "closer than sisters".  Their moms are delighted with this connection.  Recently they were at a birthday party and one boy told them they couldn't be twins because they don't have the same color skin.  One of the girls started to cry, but then she replied, "We are twins!  We are twins because we have the same soul."  How sweet!  How profound.

This story took me back to when we had 4 kids and the two oldest were in school.  We went to some school event as a family and later one of the kids told our oldest daughter that our two middle kids could not be her sister and brother because they did not have the same color skin.  I don't even recall what our oldest said in reply, but I do remember she defended our family and tried to explain adoption.

Just this week one man was fired from his radio announcing job and a woman resigned from her teaching position in town an hour from here because of the comments they made towards a couple Hispanic young men playing basketball on the opposing team.  Among other statements on the air, they made the comment that "Just like our President said, they need to go back where they came from." I'm thinking there are times the Native Americans must think that about all the rest of us.  Hmm

One of the young Hispanic men at the game was interviewed a couple of days later, and when he was asked what he felt about what was said, he replied (in perfect English by the way) that he was surprised by what the announcer and teacher said, but was forgiving the two involved for their hurtful comments.  Profound.

Our country has so much to learn, and we can learn a great deal of it from the young.  Whether a teenager with forgiveness in his heart, or four year old girls who are twins because they have the same soul.  Yeah.  I'm thinking we could all use a bit more forgiveness, acceptance, and love for one another.

Monday, December 4, 2017

We Ain't Looking So Clean!

A couple of weeks ago Joel washed the outside windows while I helped tackle the inside.  When we were finished they looked pretty good.........or so we thought.  The next day when we looked closely I said to Joel....... "Honey, the windows?  They "ain't" looking so clean!"  What is up with that??

So today, we started over with the windows.  Again.  On December 4th.  Are we bundled up as we venture outside to soap and rinse and dry?  Nope.  It was 64 degrees by 11 am today.  Seriously.  In northern Iowa.  Huh.  We have been given another chance to make the windows sparkling clean.  This time we took vinegar and mixed in another ingredient, a little Seventh Generation dish detergent and it broke up the dirt and grime.  Rinsing the glass with vinegar water and wiping with a soft cloth had us smiling.  With a little extra work and the right ingredients, the windows are clean!

As I was washing the windows I actually started to see a connection here and started to sing  "What can wash away our sins.....nothing but the blood of Jesus."   It seems that we often try to eliminate our sins with self control, determination, and prayer.  Not a bad combination, but without that extra ingredient ~ Jesus~ to cut through the dirt and grime in our lives, we ain't looking so clean.  Jesus suffered and died for us.  For our sins.  For sickness and disease (Is. 54).  He alone can wash away our sins....make us clean.  Nothing but the blood of Jesus!

So we cleaned up the windows today in shirt sleeves, and we are all ready for the cold and snow that is arriving tonight.  Winter is on it's way.  Think I will bundle up under my wool comforter and listen to a little music.  Maybe the song I was humming today!  Nothing but the blood.  Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

                                                                        Song by Matt Redman 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Search For A Tree

Good Saturday morning from our corner of Iowa where the temperatures remain in the 50's!  We have a few more days of this left before the bottom drops out and December weather becomes a reality.

Speaking of December, Joel and I have been on a quest to find a artificial tree.  One that will last for 30 more years.  What can I say, we are being optimistic about our endurance and a tree's!  We have searched a gently used place connected to our daughter's work place.  We have gone to Hobby Lobby, Fleet Farm, Target, Menard's, Wal-mart, and Shopko.  I think we are going to have to face the fact that we are going to be paying way too much money for a tree that smells like plastic and was made in China.  

There is a huge variety of trees made....different colors, sizes, shapes, and you can have one with lights or without.  Some have 400 lights, others 700.  The price ranges from $59 to $800.  I am not kidding you, an $800 tree should be able to plug itself in, decorate and un-decorate it's branches and put itself away, don't you think?  We saw one tree at Target that was supposed to look just like a Charlie Brown tree.  It succeeded.  I think it must be trendy to pay an enormous price for a tree with 6 stick like branches.  Seriously.

One store had more boxed trees than trees on display.  We need to see it, please!  Another store had the trees up on a high shelf so you had to stand back and stare up to see.  No touching I guess.  One store had a number of trees with a pathway to walk through!  Fun, but not on sale and way way to expensive.  All the stores had trees and all but one had trees on how can it be so hard?  I am getting it us?

Finding a tree has always been a journey for us.  When we purchased the real deal, it would take time to find just the right one for the right price.  When we lived in MN we once went out to a refuge and with permission cut down a tree.  It was a hike out there, and you had to be really good at guessing what the top 10 feet of the tree of a 40 foot tree would look like!  Joel would saw down the tree, then cut the top 10 feet or less off to take home.  The rest was taken care of by the refuge.  One of our refuge trees had to be tied to the wall because the trunk was so crooked!   After two years of that practice, a member of the congregation told us to come to their Christmas tree farm and pick out one to cut down.  Nice!  Years later when I was too sick to have one in the house, Joel would bring home one and put it on the back deck.  I loved looking at it all lit up from my resting place on the sofa.

We noticed in recent years that unless you paid a week's worth of wages for a tree, it was often packed with old needles, and who knows how many bugs.  Trimming branches from the trunk and bringing it in, and especially carrying it out?  I guess we have stepped into that season of our lives where that just seems like a whole lot of work.

Still, this search for the "right" artificial tree is taking such a long time...... I wonder if that Charlie brown trendy tree is such a bad idea?  I wonder if the one "on sale" for $199 is the one to grace our home?  Okay, okay, our early morning and late night quests for a tree are taking waaaaay too long. Make a decision or go without! 

I wonder if the grandkids would notice if we did not have one.......

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Restoring The Balance

The Christmas decorations are all in place and our little angel tree holds the place of honor for now. We are in a dilemma....a real or fake tree?  I shudder using the word..."fake" in today's atmosphere, but we just can't decide........we are leaning towards an artificial tree in this season of our lives.  We do love bringing nature inside, in fact we have added some northern California mountain pine cones to the mix this year!

The house is lit up inside and out with a special glow. The photo cards and newsletter are waiting for my hand, and I have started picking up gifts for the family and Joel.  The TV has been gifting us with a few musical Holiday specials, and our first Christmas card arrived in the mail yesterday!  "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas............."

When the house was full,  so was our schedule for December.  Practices, programs, shopping, decorating, baking, and school events kept us going at full speed.  Having a pastor in the house certainly added to the mix!  During this season of our lives, it is only our shoes by the door, and our grands live miles away, so we pick an choose how busy we want to be.  There is still the anticipation and excitement, but on a much more subdued level.  We look back on precious memories, while still intentionally making new ones!

Advent starts this Sunday.  A time to prepare for the birth of our Savior. For most of our married life we gathered around the advent wreath every night in December, lighting candles, opening the advent calendar doors one day at a time.  The same old Advent devotional with it's beat up cover still lays nearby as candles stand tall in our wreath made in the Philippines over 40 years ago.  It holds some special memories that we hold dear.  No longer a nightly tradition but a place to remember the kids taking turns lighting the candle, or opening the calendar doors.  Reading from the blue devotional book and the Bible.  A tradition that brought a busy family a place to gather and remember the reason for the season.

Taking the time to focus on Jesus is so important.  It centers us.  The news, the politics, and the busyness of living distract and often unsettle, but those moments of quiet focus on our Savior quiet the soul and restore the balance in our lives. 

During this time of preparation, as we step into December and Advent, I pray you have warm memories to draw on, new memories to make, and plenty of time to remember the true reason for this season.   Come, Lord Jesus.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Catching Up

Yesterday we met with long time friends at a restaurant off of the Interstate.  They were on their way back home after a short trip to visit family, and to give us more time to catch up we met them about 20 minutes from our home.  It had been a few years and even though we knew our friend Allen was having many health challenges now, we were still surprised. He is just shy of turning 90, a retired Methodist pastor from the deep south who was sent first to Iowa and then to Minnesota to serve congregations.  In the Methodist church you are assigned congregations. 

Joel met Allen when we were living in Zimmerman Mn in the mid 80's and they soon became friends.  When he married Susan, Joel was his best man.  They have now been married 30 years, she being several years younger.  They adopted children to add to his older grown sons, and with our adopted children we had yet another connection.  Allen is a gentle man with compassion that runs deep.  When our lives were threatened by a man who wanted to end Joel's life, one who did not like our multi-racial family, Allen was there for us.  The man who threatened Joel had a restraining order so could not come within a certain number of yards of he started going to Allen's church.  We found irony in that, since he was such a prejudice man and Allen is African American.  I think God wanted to teach that broken, hateful man a few things!

Seeing Allen and Susan again has had me thinking about old friendships.   We have a few long time friends that we have stayed connected to for many many years, mostly from a distance.  Our hearts are warmed when thinking about John S and others from our time at the Lutheran Bible Institute, Marge and Dick from our time in Utah, Montana friends from the early 80's, Marilyn from Mn, Dan and Barb from seminary days, Jim and Linda from my high school days, George and Helen from the Philippines.  And many more.  It is one of the reasons I love Christmas~ cards and letters, pictures and packages fill the mailbox and we get to hear how they are doing. 

We are all aging.  Life has been kinder to some than others.  Some have spent their lives in one place while others have moved around the country, the world.  Everyone of us has a different story to share, but what unites us all is our faith.  We all are believers in Jesus as Savior. I like that. 

We are so grateful for our visit with Allen and Susan.  So grateful for long time friends.  So grateful for a faith that unites and a love that sustains.  As the Christmas season begins, our trips to the mailbox hold more anticipation.  Connections with family and long time friends.  A time for catching up!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Gratitude WIns The War

"Gratitude wins the war".
Ann Voskamp

Ann Voskamp is the author of the book, "One Thousand Gifts" and most recently "The Broken Way".  As a woman who at one time was fearful of leaving her home, God has used her to reach people across the world.  He had other plans, and it all began with her making the commitment to give thanks for every blessing, and soon she saw blessings in everything, every place, event, moment of her days.  As a mom of 7 who homeschools, and lives with her husband on a farm in Canada, as a well known author and speaker and advocate for those in great need, her days are beyond full, I expect.

Recently Ann wrote on her blog "A Holy Experience" about health issues in herself and three of her children.  They adopted a little girl from China who has a broken heart, in need of much repair.  They have a son who was diagnosed with diabetes at a younger age, and another child with health issues.  And Ann herself is recovering from heart failure after a problem was left undiscovered until her heart was struggling to function.  Her life is filled with challenges, but her gratitude still rises to the surface with mighty power.  She believes gratitude wins the war, and her life tells that story one thank you at a time.

So as I ponder giving thanks, being grateful, lifting my voice in praise to the One, I ask myself what I believe.  And can that belief be walked out in my daily life?  There is something powerful about giving thanks in all circumstances.  Not for all, but in all.  Gratitude shifts our attitude.  Gratitude makes it less about us and more about Him.  It can take an ordinary day or a challenging one and make it extraordinary.  That "extra" attitude of gratitude makes the ordinary extraordinary.

Thanksgiving is behind us, but giving thanks today and tomorrow and in the tomorrows that lay ahead is a choice.  Some days it is not is more of a sacrifice of praise just like we are told in the book of Hebrews.  But that can make it sweeter, that praise that lifts us out of the darkness.  The gratitude that releases the light of Heaven like a million stars.  Speaking of that..........a verse from a song comes to mind.  "If the stars were made to worship, so will I."  Worship is a form of gratitude and praise.  It wins the war.

God in all His wisdom, created us to worship.  To praise.  He created us for gratitude.  He created us to give thanks in all circumstances knowing that in doing so, we find the peace and joy within that empowers us to win in life.  No matter the circumstances.  Jesus made sure we win the victory.  Our gratitude wins the war.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Words Matter

"Every day I must remind myself
of how much words matter."
Christie Purifoy

I don't recall when I first heard about Christie Purifoy's book, "Roots and Sky", but I fell in love with her writing style and her story, somewhere in the first chapter.  Something in the way she puts words to paper brings a sense of peace to my soul. 

She has the ability to use words to create visual scenes of great detail for the reader's mind. Along with the visual extravaganza playing out, heartfelt thoughts carefully placed touch the soul.  Her words matter.  Our words matter.

On the day Christie Purifoy's  book was released, her brother-in-law was killed in a military heliocoptor that went down in the ocean near Hawaii.  Such joy mixed with such sorrow.  I remember her writing about the shock and pain for her sister and children, and how important the words were that soothed souls and strengthened lives to keep moving forward.  Words matter.

Words matter to not only each of us, but to God.  The scriptures certainly attest to that.  They are not to be taken lightly or tossed around with abandon.  His Word matters.  They are living, breathing, power-full.

Our words to Him matter.  That would be we give praise and honor who He is.  To God be the glory is not merely platitude but instruction and a form of worship that resonates from deep within.  We are the only living creatures on earth that can use words to communicate, encourage, build up (or tear down).  We use words to worship and give thanks to the One who used His words to create.

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart 
be pleasing to you, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer."
Psalm 19:14

As we celebrate Thanksgiving let us use our words to give thanks.   I am so grateful for the man who walks by my side, shares my bed, laughs at my antics, weeps in my sadness, and boldly lives out his faith. I am so thankful for our families who love the Lord and serve Him, who turn to prayer in any crisis.  People who don't forget to praise God for His goodness.  I am so thankful for extended families who walk in faith.  For great grandparents who gave land and built churches and worked hard to provide.  For the legacy that we now try to breathe into future generations.  I am so thankful for Papa God's deep love, His desire for us to know more, seek more.  I am so thankful for Holy opening a new door for us.  For Jesus giving His all for us.  For God and His goodness and faithfulness.  I am so thankful.

Words matter.

Friday, November 17, 2017

One Teacher's Words Shaped A Life

This past week Joel and I listened to a sermon Paul Manwaring spoke at Bethel Church about our past, present, and our future.  It was especially encouraging for us as he talked about the prophetic words that are spoken over us and what that means for our future.  Doubt likes to come in and steal what God has planted in your heart, but there is no room for doubt when we realize Jesus has already seen our future and He is speaking into that future.   He has already been there!  He knows the ending of our movie!!

Prophetic words/words of knowledge from God are used to encourage and build up, confirming the present and speaking the future in us and in others.  Bethel Church in Redding CA has a school for Kindg. through 8th grade.  Part of their school policy is to keep a folder on each child that is filled with encouraging words that have been spoken over the boys and girls that attend school and Sunday School there.  By the time they are through high school they have in their hands all the beautiful words of knowledge from God that have been given to their teachers to write down.  Amazing.

Paul Manwaring reminded us to also be aware of how we speak over ourselves.  Words matter.  I am completely convinced that God created the "words matter" idea!  His word is living...healing...powerful...saving........and so. much. more.  We need to be aware of how we speak over others too.  Our words hold power.

One great example of that is with the teacher Joel had for the first 8 years of his life.  He went to a one room school house and had the same teacher the whole time.  Joel had a difficult time reading.  He had some form of undiagnosed dyslexia or learning disability.  His teacher would encourage him all the time, supporting him, working with him, and telling him he could grow up to be anything he wanted to be!  No limitations.  He believed her and grew from a young boy who could only read with great difficulty to a man with 12 years of college behind him and a calling that requires a whole lot of reading and writing!

We need to take the negative words we hear, weigh and discern them, asking ourselves, "What would Jesus be saying?"   What are we to speak into others lives.....what are we to speak over ourselves?  This is NOT just positive thinking.  This is taking the Word of God and speaking it into your lives and the lives of others.  This is believing the Word is living, the Word heals, the Word saves.  This is believing our words do matter, that they do shape others. They shape lives. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Hope Remains

We woke this morning to our "high" for the day...a balmy 39....and it has been a downhill slide ever since.  Winds are blowing the last of the leaf stragglers from the branches, sending them into yards that are not their own.  Gusts are producing single digit "feels like" wind chills.   Even the squirrels seem to be hidden away while gusts cause the branches to bend and sway.  All of nature is sending out a decree ~ Winter is on its way.

This is not a surprise, right?  We live in the Midwest, a place of four seasons.......where Winter arrives every year following the colorful beauty of Fall.  So we are prepared.  We brace for it, making sure that our snow blowers are in top operating condition.  We check to see that the snow shovels are in good shape and the furnace is running well.  We store the deck and porch furniture, and we hang Christmas lights way before Thanksgiving! surprise.

Then there are the "life is what happens while you are making other plans" seasons that often take us by surprise.  A car accident, a medical report, a sudden death.  How can we prepare for those events in our life, the "winter seasons" that bring a cold wind into our hearts?

We prepare by staying strong in the Word.  We build a foundation for ourselves in the scriptures, prayer, and worship on a daily basis so that when a winter season comes we are able to be sustained in the hope that comes knowing our God and His promises.

Winter comes and winter goes whether in seasons or in life.  But hope remains.  Hope for Spring....hope for new life.   Yes, Hope remains.

Monday, November 13, 2017


The dream was strange, to say the least.........but the message that came to me in the early morning hour was clear.  In the dream I was trying to find our grandson Noah.  I had been searching and searching to no avail.  Worry and fear set in,  and I decided to call a friend of his named Sosh.  I know, an usual name....The young man answered his phone with one word, "Sosh", and I told him I was Noah's grandmother and I was looking for him.  I lamented about what I had done while looking for him and how worried I was.

As I spoke, I noticed a cloud to my right and with every negative or fearful thing I said, a -$25 sign popped up.  Sosh was quiet but when spoke, all he said was "Wow" and again, "Wow".  With every "WOW" he said, a cloud appeared and a + $50 sign popped up.

Awakened by the dream, I lay in the dark and I thought about the meaning.  My dreams are unusual and sometimes disturbing, but this one held a message for me.  One I have been learning for a few years now.

It is the whole business of our thought life and what we say ~ We speak life or death with our tongue.......Proverbs 18:21.  Our words and our thoughts hold tremendous power over our lives and the lives of others.  Just ask any adult who suffered from childhood verbal abuse.  Words matter.  I believe the dream was telling me that when I speak fear or any other negative words, it takes away from the goodness God desires for His kids.  And when I speak  God's truth with awe and wonder...the "WOWs" of life and God, we are all more empowered.

The "WOW" word took me back to what had been spoken over us at Bethel......the words so powerful and personal that all Joel and I could say was...."wow"......"Oh, wow".......   Sometimes when we look at God's deep love and goodness for us, all we can do is be humbled and amazed....words just won't come except maybe just a "WOW". 

Are there times in your life when the "WOW" brings you to your knees in thankfulness?  Just this year I think of many, like my sister's recovery from a heart attack and 6 bypasses.  So many small but important things fell into place for her to live and not die.   Wow.  I think about our trip out often we were amazed by the beauty set before us.  Joel told me I said wow often when we drove through the majestic mountains.   While sitting under the people and Presence at Bethel Church, we gave thanks repeatedly. Wow.  Wow again.  The things God shows me in the spirit  Even our new-to-us SUV that Joel has often said "Wow" about.  So grateful to drive such a nice vehicle.  Yeah.....the list of "WOWs" is long and appreciated.

The dream brought to light a gentle reminder to keep my thoughts and my words in the life column. Building a firm foundation on the goodness of God in our lives one "WOW" at a time.  It adds up.  Maybe not in dollars like I saw in the dream, but in living a full life~ definitely!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Saturday's Scribbles

Good Saturday morning to you from our corner of Iowa where sunshine is hard to find, and wind chills were below zero already this week.  No snow here, but plenty of cold makes for gratitude for our gas fireplace.  So nice to snuggle in under a blanket/quilt with the fire going and a good book in my hands.

I have been doing a bit more snuggling and a lot less moving around the past few days due to a virus that came to visit.  Joel has had a much less potent dose of it.  An earache he had subsided with prayer and lavender essential oil on a cotton ball placed in the ear.  Pain left pretty quickly.  Our house is smelling like essential oils and homemade chicken soup which really soothes like no other.

On Monday afternoon Joel drove north an hour to pick up our grandson Jonas, and he stayed with us until Tues. evening.  Our daughter Sarah was in the hospital having tests,  We enjoyed spending time with him, although I am thinking he was missing his friends and home more than he let on.  It is pretty quiet here!  They are both home now and doing well.

I am reading Max Lucado's new book, "Anxious For Nothing" which is enlightening!  Proverbs 31 women has been doing a study on it.  I also am beginning a book suggested by the Sozo woman I met with at Bethel called "Who Switched Off My Brain" by Dr. Caroline Leaf. Fascinating!  I usually have about 4 books going at once, and most are inspirational.  Once in awhile I add in a fiction book, but prefer others unless I find a good series. What are you reading?

Joel and I just finished watching a series called "Shetland" that takes place in Scotland.  Netflix carries the BBC series....detectives and solving murders with relationships thrown in.  It is difficult to find much worthwhile TV but last night we watched a show called "Living On One Dollar", a short documentary about 4 young men who go to hillsides of Guatemala and try to survive on $1 each per day like the local people do.  It was interesting and reminded me of the Philippines where in the 70"s most made 7 pesos/$1 a day.  We had a live in maid, and paid her a very good wage at that time ~ $30 a month~!!   When I think about that now, I can't believe it.  We did other things for her and even bought her and her husband a house, but I now wonder how she lived on such a small amount of money.

It seems as if our country, our state, our community is dealing with a lot of tragedy.  Last week we heard about a baby in our area that was neglected and starved to death.  Horrific.  This week our city had a double homicide with two in their 60's killed by their grandson.  Add last Sunday's mass killings and the world does not seem very safe, does it.  During these times we shift our focus......Jesus only Jesus.

This past week we have been praying for friends and family.  One long time friend is battling a return of aggressive cancer.  Another from Bible college just had a cancerous brain tumor removed.  A friend struggles with finding help with a sudden onset of vertigo.  Others with memory loss, disease, and depression.  Then there are those walking through loss of pets, friends, and family.   Hold on, hold on.  We never walk alone through the valleys....Never.

That old hymn still holds some solid truth.....

"Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of the earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace."

I leave you this Saturday morning with a prayer for each of you, no matter your circumstances, to look on His face.....and see the light of His glory and grace.......give well.....put on some worship music, and maybe even watch a Hallmark movie or two~ you are guaranteed a happy ending!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Yet, Again........

The news yesterday brought disbelief, grief, anger, and fear.  Another mass murder of innocents, this time in a place of worship.  Yet again we mourn senseless killings.  Is there any understanding to be found for such evil?  Oh, Lord, have mercy.

Yesterday's tragedy also brought to mind our own experience with a church member back in the 80's when we were living in Zimmerman MN and Joel where he was solo pastor of a congregation of 800.  Back then he hugged those who wanted to be hugged as he greeted people after the services and one 70 yr old man took offense that Joel and his wife hugged, jumping to the conclusion that Joel was having an affair with his wife.  He stewed over this for a couple of weeks, and then decided he would kill Joel.  Yes, that was his mentally unstable conclusion.  He began to blame Joel for everything wrong in his life and made it his goal to "kill the pastor".

One evening we received a phone call at 10:30 pm from the police, telling us they were on their way to our home....that this man had just shot up his brother in law's house and was "going to go kill the pastor".  The police were in another town so they would arrive as soon as they could.

We made the decision to wake our kids and put all five in our bedroom on the floor.  Joel also made a decision to defend the family, and loaded his 22 rifle and went to the living room to watch for anyone coming.  We lived by the church on an acreage so we could see any cars coming.

The police arrived in force.  they came in our home with guns drawn, and escorted us to our car.  One officer took Beth around the house to collect clothes for the kids before we left.  The kids were told to lay flat in the car and as we drove out we noticed 5 police cars lined up across the street waiting for the man to arrive.  Three of the cars escorted us down to the twin cities, 45 minutes away where we stayed overnight with family.

This was the beginning of 6 years of living on alert, with threats on Joel's life, phone calls even from his jail cell, and seeing him out on the road watching our home. We had plain clothed police officers sitting in our congregation at times,  We knew no one could really do anything, besides a restraining order that was issued,  until he did hurt one of us.   We prayed about staying and Joel believed he was to stay.  He talked about me taking the kids and living somewhere else, but that was not an option in my mind and heart.  I was going to college nights and quit, and we never left our kids alone at night for the first year.  We also never let them walk alone to the church without watching them from the window.  We had the schools aware of this man and officials knew he was to not come near them.  We stayed and Joel and I served, but this traumatic event and the following years had a profound effect on all our lives.

And unlike in the Baptist church in Texas,  no one was one was killed.  Lord, have mercy.

I can't imagine what the people there are going through.   No matter how "common" these attacks are becoming, they can never be accepted as normal for our country.  Never.  And each event, big or small brings with it deep loss, fear, and grief.  Life changes in a moment.  The longer we live the more "life changing moments" surface in our world. Traumatic or otherwise, something shifts and we see through a different lens.

Maybe that is why God asks us to see through HIS eyes.    Maybe that is why He tells us to keep our eyes on Jesus.

When I think about what we went through as a family so many years ago, I can see how God walked with us.  He did not cause the trauma or "allow it" (free will) but God is with us through every valley.  I pray that those who grieve this terrible tragedy in a Baptist church in small town America can find solace in the very God they were worshiping Sunday morning.   Lord have mercy.

Let us all turn to Papa God in prayer.  Lord, have mercy.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Distractions = Opportunities

The other morning I heard Joel chuckling out in the kitchen, so I joined him and asked what he was laughing about.  It seems that three crows and three squirrels were doing some kind of "king of the hill" dance in the yard across the street while trying to keep their eyes on one of many corn cobs our neighbor throws out in his yard year round.  He has attracted plenty of deer, squirrels, crows, and raccoons with his easy access feast. 

As we both watched the antics going on, one squirrel held back and opted out of the fight ensuing before him.  In a quick move, he grabbed the nearest corn cob and took off across the street while the others continued their bickering!  Smart squirrel.  Distraction = Opportunity.

It brings me to a dream I had last night.  I do not have the best of dreams, and this one can be added to that category.  Someone had come to the door wanting Joel to hire him to do some work.  Joel said no, so he came back carrying a big shotgun and again insisted he be hired for the job.  With him were several of who he introduced as his people who barged their way into the house, all of them walking around.  The kids were getting into things so I was trying to watch them.  Before long I realized that the adults were pocketing some of our house keys and money.  I was trying to keep my eyes on all of them and quickly realized we needed help.  While distracted by the large man and his shotgun, and the wild kids, the others had taken the opportunity to steal from us.  I picked the phone up and called 911.  I woke up pondering what it meant.

You know, the devil is in the distraction business.  He loves to get our focus off of Papa God and onto whatever he sends our way.  Maybe it is sickness, a financial worry, pride, or loneliness.  A distraction from the promises of God, His purpose, His guidance.  And that distraction gives the devil an opportunity to sow seeds of fear, worry, or maybe a lie about your current situation. 

The mission of the devil is to kill, steal, and destroy and he will uses anything in his means to do so.  Turn on the news and fear rises.......Scroll through Facebook and division is the name of the game whether in politics or religion.  Divide and conquer...divide and destroy more like it.  I read recently that with all the technology and all the ways to get connected in our world today, with how "busy" everyone is?   The number of people who feel isolated and lonely has only gone up. 

Isaiah 26:3 says,
 "I will be in perfect peace
 when my mind is focused on You Jesus, 
because I trust in you." 
(my paraphrase).

There it is, the key to all distractions in life........the key to staying in peace.  Trusting in our King Jesus. Following His commands to love, really love one another.  Following His Word that holds truth.   Seeking a close intimate relationship with our Papa.  Keeping our eyes off the distractions and unto the One who is Peace.  

It is He alone who provides.  He alone who heals.  He alone who strengthens.  He alone is our Peace.  He alone brings unity.  He alone.  Only God.  Only God.  

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Saints Saying Yes

Today is November 1st.  All Saints Day.  We look back during this time to remember all the Christian saints, martyrs, and loved ones who have died before us, and we rejoice in knowing they are with our Lord.  We remember those who lived a life of service, who said "Yes Lord" in obedience to His plan.  

Saying yes to God could mean staying in your childhood community, serving and loving on those around you.  It could mean leaving everything you know to serve God in an unknown land.  Someone like Joel's second cousin, David Simonson and his wife Eunice.  They spent over 50 years in Tanzania among the Masai people.  It was hard work, and he often butted heads not only with tribal chiefs, but with those in authority in the country, as he opened the way for even the girls to go to school. Many of those young woman graduate from school and come over to attend Concordia College in MN thanks to David and Eunice.   David was an interesting man, and the stories shared in a book by Jim Klobuchar titled, "The Cross Under The Acacia Tree"  paint a picture of a fierce and Godly man.  Eunice was a nurse and parented their 5 children with David out in the bush often.  His legacy lives on after his death.  He is buried on the land where his home stands and his wife still lives.  Land given to them by the Masai tribe in Tanzania. 

When David first went to Africa, visiting the villages, he learned that a rogue Lion was terrorizing and killing people in the villages at night.  David knew if he were to kill this lion it would put him in favor with the village.  He took his Landrover out into the night quietly waiting for the lion to return.  When he heard the lion coming back for yet another night of killing, he got his shotgun ready, stood firm, prayed hard and shot and killed the beast.  It put him in high standing and opened to way for him to bring Jesus to the villages.  What an adventure the Simonsons lived, two of many who changed the world in Africa all because they said "Yes Lord".

We may tend to focus on those who sacrificed or the martyrs who lost their lives when we define who are saints, but in our years of ministry we have seen many many people who lived their whole lives quietly serving behind the scenes.  I remember fondly Joel's Aunt Mathilda who spent her whole life in the community.  She taught Bible Studies and Sunday School in her country church for forty plus years.  A faithful woman of God who instilled the gospel into so many children who went out of their community into the world.  A woman who encouraged a young newly married girl (me) to teach, to sing, to serve in the church.  It makes me smile to think of the few precious times we were able to sit at her and Uncle Martin's table for a meal and fellowship.  Beautiful saints now walking with Jesus.

So many saints, and yes, I pray we will all be among them some day......serving where we are asked to serve, doing what we are called to do, saying "Yes Lord" in obedience.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Prisoners of Hope

God has been sending this verse my way the past week........first in Katie Davis Majors book, "Daring To Hope", then Chris Gore's book, "Walking in Supernatural Healing Power", and then through devotionals. I have a tendency to read more than one book at a time, and so picking up both these books in one day and finding myself "coincidentally" reading chapters with the same title ~ Prisoners of Hope~ ?  Hello God!

Prisoners of hope. It is where we need to position ourselves as stated in 2 Chronicles.  "Position yourself, stand firm, and let God fight for you".  Yeah. This verse in Zechariah is a promise I am holding tight to.

Last night we received a phone call from a long time friend, Vic.  We went to The Lutheran Bible Institute together.  His wife  Arlene and I were roommates our first year along with two others......four of us sharing a big dorm room, and she was my personal attendant at our wedding.  We have a history.  They called to tell us that another man we went to college with was having brain surgery today after fighting a spreading malignant melanoma for 2 years.  They had found 2 tumors in his brain.  The last time we saw this man and his wife was at Luther Seminary in 1974, where he was taking classes.  We went to visit them there and came away from the weekend with the desire to get an "early out" from the Air Force and head to the Sem.  God had other plans, though, and we went to the Philippines for 2 years.  A move by God and the Air Force that completely changed and blessed our lives.

After a brief visit with Vic on the phone, we hung up, looked at each other, and prayed.  There is so much sickness in our broken world.  At our age, you hear more and more about others who are in need of prayers, and we needed to position ourselves in prayer.

Another man, a retired pastor and good friend, sent us a group email a few days ago, letting us know that his wife did well with the radiation she has needed to battle an aggressive cancer that returned after one year.  She will have surgery early in November to remove the tumor in her belly, and may not need the scheduled chemo after.  He asked for continued prayers as they can see the results of those prayers.

Prisoners of hope.  That is where we position ourselves as followers of Jesus.  That is where we stand firm ~ in the promises of God's Word.  There are times we fight hard, there are times we rest, and there times we let God fight for us.   But in the midst of any difficulty, we remember all God has done for us.  We remember all He promises, and we declare we are prisoners of hope.  Held captive by Love manifest.  Held captive by Jesus and the assurance that He wants to restore us double portions. Double for our trouble.....and there is this troubled world we live in.

As I have stated often, we believe fully that God wants us well.  That Jesus died for our salvation....wholeness from sin and sickness that He paid the price for over 2,000 years ago.  It is finished.  With Holy Spirit in us we have the authority and power to pray, and it is from that position that we do pray.  Prayer is a powerful weapon of God.  It moves mountains. 

Our friends have mountains in their lives right now.  Because we live in a broken world, the enemy uses sickness and disease to kill, steal, and destroy.  God uses prayer, the medical and natural world, and His Son to heal, build up, and restore.  We say, "Come Lord Jesus."  Because God loves us and never comes to kill, steal, or destroy,  we remain prisoners of hope.  And in that hope, THE HOPE, we embrace His promises and we pray.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Luther's Journey Of Faith, Courage, and Obedience

This coming Sunday our small micropolitan city will hold a joint service at the college.  It is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and the 4 ELCA churches will worship as one.  Joel was in Gutenburg, Germany during the 450th year......and here it is, 50 years later and we are celebrating Martin Luther and the Reformation.

We watched the movie "Luther" this week from the comforts of our living room.  It is part of Joel's preparation for his sermon next Sunday.  Not for the joint service here in town, but for the smallest of congregations he fills in at an hour away.  A country church that worships 15-20 people on a good Sunday morning.  They are unable to sustain a pastor, but wanting to keep the doors of their church open for worship.  They are an active group, willing to sacrifice and serve to keep going for as long as they can.  I expect Martin Luther would smile at their determination.

What Luther did was courageous, bold, crazy, and out of obedience to God.  He did what he felt God was calling him to do, but it was costly, messy, and at times scary.  He studied the scriptures in depth and from his studies came a rebelling of what had become at that time a corrupt Catholic church.  He sought the Lord in his studies and found grace.  Grace for the people. That grace led him into the Reformation and Protestantism was born.

Joel's and my histories run deep in the Lutheran church.  His great grandparents gave the land and helped build a church in NW great grandparents gave the land and helped build a church in SE Minnesota.  Joel's parents were active in their country church, located just a quarter mile from the family farm.  My parents story is much different, but as a young child I was periodically taken to church by one sister, and eventually raised in the church by my oldest sister and family.  Joel and I met at The Lutheran Bible Institute in Mpls. MN.  Our children were raised in the Lutheran Church where dad preached.  Definitely a foundation rooted in Jesus and the Lutheran Church.

Our journey has taken us many places and we have sat in the pews and chairs of a variety of denominational and non-denominational churches.  While in Albuquerque NM (Air Force) we used to attend a Sat night Catholic Mass with a guitar playing was the 60's!  In Duluth two years later we would attend and Joel even preached at a Lutheran church Sunday mornings.  Sunday evenings we would head with friends downtown to The Tabernacle ~ a large Assembly type church.  It is where I first heard the gift of praying in tongues.  In the Philippines from 1974-76 we attended an interdenominational church on Clark Air Base, took part in a Baptist Serviceman's club off base, and I was part of a wonderful interdenominational group of women who gathered weekly in private homes.  The first time I was prayed for and received physical healing was with those woman. 

Once Joel went to seminary our places of worship were confined to only the Lutheran Church where Joel served.  For  32 years we graced their pews, walking with the ELCA through many changes.  Now, with Joel retired but still filling in, we still often sit in Lutheran houses of worship, but we also go to other non-denominational churches that embrace more of the prophetic, charismatic, and healing.

We never expected to be on such a journey, but like Martin Luther, and all of the "ordinary" people, we are trying to walk in obedience to God.  Forever grateful to our great grandparents for their sustaining faith and obedience to God, forever grateful for hear the Word as children and receiving Jesus into our lives, forever grateful for our children knowing and serving God, and forever grateful for God beckoning us to more.  We celebrate this weekend the foundation of the Protestantism and especially the Lutheran church through Martin Luther and the large roll it has played in our faith and the faith of so many others.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Just Stay A Little Longer

local park 

It is a beautiful fall day here in our corner of the world.  The trees are showing off their vibrant colors as the sun shines in a clear blue sky.  The winds are bringing a chill, warning us of what is to come.  Snow.  I am already hearing the "B" word.... A Blizzard is a probability north of us in our homeland ~ Minnesota.  We could see 1-2 inches of the white stuff here.

I am not ready for it.  We were gone the month of September so it feels like Autumn was brief this year.............and yet November is almost upon us.  Each of the 4 seasons has something to offer, but I will always ask Autumn to stay a little longer.  We find the furnace days of Winter draining.  But they come and they go......just like the seasons of life.

During our prophetic session at Bethel, one of the ministers made a statement in his prayer that made both Joel and I laugh.  He said, "Lord, when they look in the mirror and see their old bodies, let them say, Thank you Lord for another 30 years ahead!"  We laughed because my forever positive and energetic hubby has said that to me before.  "We've got another 30 years together!".  That would make me "only" closing in on 100 and Joel nearly 102.

Attitude can be everything!  We know one man who speaks of how old he and his wife are on a daily basis.  How the nursing home beckons them, how at their age they should expect to be sick.  "Gotta die of something".  Life can be fragile for sure, but I don't know if I ever will hear my husband talk like that, and I am grateful.  He does not live in denial, but he does attempt to live each day with joy, finding gratitude in the small the colors of Fall....the ducks flying overhead, the squirrels burying their food for winter.

Autumn beauty

I hope you are able to take a moment to feel the leaves crunch under your feet, see the vibrant colors as Autumn shows off her beauty, smell the crisp air, and listen to the ducks and geese flying through the sky.  Fall is soon leaving, and we will hold only memories as winter settles in.  So for today, I am embracing Autumn and even as snow looms, I plead with her as I would a loved one who comes to visit .....stay....just stay a little longer.

our living room view

neighborhood tree

Monday, October 23, 2017

Try Again

On our first Sunday in Redding CA we spent 11 hours at Bethel church with worship services in the morning and at night, a class called Firestarters, and an afternoon prophetic session with two amazing people, Joel and Lori.  Yes, another Joel!

The free prophetic session for the two of us lasted only 12 minutes but certainly gave our world a spin.  We had struggled to make the appointment, having to go online at a certain time of morning to sign up ~while we were traveling.  With God's whisper in my ear to "TRY AGAIN" after I was told the sessions were full, I went back online and we were able to sign up for later in the afternoon on the 10th.  Yay!  Some of what was said confirmed for us that these were words from God. God likes to let us know He is in the midst of our seeking.   It was life changing..........did I say that already?

The prophetic is not something that is always understood in our world.  Even though it is one of the gifts, and Paul tells the churches they are desire it before some others, it can be misunderstood.  Prophetic words are given for wisdom, encouragement and confirmation.We are not talking about prophets here, like Elijah or Jeremiah.  We are talking about those with the gift of prophesy. Prophetic words speak of the present and the future, releasing God's purposes.  It is described as God speaking to us through others with pictures and words. 

We have not shared with many people what we received, precious gems given to us for this season of our lives.  Yet even with the trusted few that have heard our session, reactions have been from excitement to amusement, indifference and a few" uncomfortables" in between.  I was pondering this when God reminded me that these specific words were not for others, they were and are for us.  They would not mean to others what they mean to us.  God was speaking to our hearts.

Pastor Bill Johnson from Bethel has a spiral notebook filled with the words spoken to and over him.  Years of promises from God that build and encourage him daily and provide hope. It is what compelled me to listen over and over again to our recorded prophetic session when another health issue surfaced.

Have you noticed how our world seems a bit off kilter?  It can be scary.  North Korea alone can make us shudder.  The suffering of others is heavy in the atmosphere around us....the air if filled not only with the ash of fires, but with the grief of others.  Hurricanes, floods, threats, destruction, and death.  It is during these times that we have a choice to focus on the "what ifs" or the "we know's". 

We are given the opportunity to quiet our souls and remember what God has spoken over and to us.  We know God promises to give us beauty for the ashes....We know that all things work together for good...  We know that God sent His Son...........We know that Jesus came so that we may have abundant life......... We know His Word says He will give us back our health and heal our wounds......We KNOW and can stand firm on whatever promises He has highlighted and whispered into our individual lives!   The promises that encourage and release hope. Keep your own list of promises from God.  The Bible is full of them.  Pay attention to what is spoken to you and over you. Just hearing "TRY AGAIN" opened a door to others sharing God's words for us.  Be bold, listen for God's voice, and let the words penetrate deep into your heart.  They bring beauty for ashes in a much needed world. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Broken and Beautiful

I have been reading Katie Davis Majors book, "Daring To Hope:  Finding God's Goodness in the Broken and the Beautiful".  Katie is well known for her first book "Kisses For Katie" and for her non-profit in Uganda ~ Amazina Ministries~ that cares for the vulnerable in that country.  And she happens to be a mom to 14 before she turned the age of thirty.  Thirteen girls adopted in the first 10 years she lived in Uganda, and one son born to her and her husband. 

The words, "Broken and Beautiful" brought up visions of some of the people we saw while traveling.  While on our long trip to California and back, we saw some of the broken in the homeless that were on the road or in the cities.  Often it appeared that mental illness played a part of their journey, if not drug addiction or worse.  It was heartbreaking and to be truthful sometimes uncomfortable to be in their presence.

Two people stand out to man I expect was in his early 30's and traveling with a dog and a cat.  His clothes were absolutely filthy and torn, and he sat outside of a convenience store/gas station in Park City Utah sharing food and water with his four legged companions.   Park City is a very wealthy area of Utah, so the contrast was vivid.  The second was a woman who was standing over some kind of vent on a street in Redding.  We drove right past her, trying not to notice that she was urinating through her clothes, into the vent in broad daylight.  It was very disturbing.

Broken people.  So many broken people.  My thoughts went to our need to see others through God's eyes, and I cannot help but come up short in my reactions concerning these two.  Certainly our cities, our churches, our neighborhoods are filled with those who are broken.  We all are imperfect in some way, but I have not been able to forget the two whom I mentioned above. God's children, too.

Broken and beautiful.  I believe this is how God seems them.  How He sees us all.  And would He react the same way as His people do?  Maybe with repulsion, indifference, scorn, or disgust?  Would he yell, "Get a job" or look down or away from them?  And how would He expect us to respond?

Katie Davis Majors tells the story of a man who was an alcoholic and dug through garbage for his food, was abusive and mean spirited to others.  One day he fell into a fire while in a drunken stupor.  He was taken to the doctor but they did not have the time or resources to help him so they wanted to amputate his leg if no one could care for him.  Katie was called and ended up adding him to her already full days and nights ~ a drunk in need of having his dressings changed on a daily basis.  She slowly nursed him back to health, quietly witnessing to him about Jesus.  Eventually he stayed in the guest cottage on her property and without access to alcohol, he stopped drinking.  He began listening to what Katie was saying and not only did his leg heal but so did his soul.  He gave his heart to Jesus and eventually was able to get a job and his own apartment while helping  out Katie and her family with chores when he could.  He was so grateful.

Katie saw beyond the broken, smelly, mean spirited man and gave him the care and love that her Jesus would.  She saw that he was both broken and beautiful.  I have had to ask myself, "Could I do the same?"  It might sound more glamorous to be saving the leg of a man in Africa vs helping out someone in our own city with the same circumstances.........but what Jesus asks in Uganda is exactly what He asks of us where we see others through His eyes and treat them with love.

Hard questions.   Harder answers.  We know it is easy to love the lovable, but Jesus asks more of us.  To love the unlovable.  To be open to loving others He brings into our lives.....whether strangers or members of our family.  That love He requires is given in many different ways.  Certainly not all of us called to nurse a man back to health, but no one can deny that Jesus calls us to see the broken as beautiful.  The Gospels resonate with His thoughts and commands on love.

We are invited, as Katie says, to bring Jesus into the midst of our own messes and brokenness, too......and see ourselves and others as He does.....both broken and beautiful.  Are we up to the challenge?  Certainly not without Jesus.  But then, we are not without Jesus, are we?!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Use It For Something Good

This past week the Harvey Weinstein story has exploded onto the front page of every source of media.  As it should.  It has been a long time coming and it blows my mind that he got away with doing the same thing over and over again to young and often vulnerable women ~ for decades.  The number of women affected by his behavior seems to be endless.

The "Me Too" movement that came from this is the "rest of the story"!  The movement actually originated several years ago with a young woman named Tara Burke who was a survivor of abuse and wanted to call attention to the fact of how limited the resources were to heal in underprivileged communities.  Alyssa Milano re-ignited it when she used the "Me Too" hashtag to give women a way to speak out after the Weinstein story broke.  For those willing to share on public media that they too endured sexual harassment and/or assault, bless your courage.  For those who have silently proclaimed their own "me too", bless your courage, too.  Not everyone has to speak out.

If you read my blog often, you know I am part of the millions who have gone through sexual misconduct.  I was abused as a young child by two different males at different times.  I also was sexually harassed verbally and physically by a peer for throughout middle school, and at 16 WAS molested in an elevator at a Lutheran youth convention, no less.  Unfortunately, my story runs parallel to so many others.

For me going through Sozo inner healing ministry to have Holy Spirit led counseling has released me from the trauma and the fears that were the result of the abuse.  Together Jesus and I walked through facing the fears, forgiving those involved, and receiving the healing needed. It was not always easy, but it was powerful.  That is the "rest of my story".  Jesus wants us whole and healthy ~ body, soul and spirit.

I expect that the many many women speaking out are making an impact on our world.  It is certainly my prayer.  As they speak out against the predators they are taking back their power, and giving courage to future generations to stand against such behaviors. 

Once a woman reader of my blog asked me "where was God" when I was being abused..........I told that I believed Jesus was with me, tears flowing down His loving face mixing with my own.  I have asked Him to use those experiences, just like the diseases I have battled, for something good.  Work all things out for good, Papa.  It is never His plan for His children to suffer, but we have been given a free will and at times that free will listens to the dark side and bad things happen to innocent people.  In this "Me Too" time of speaking out, use it for something good, Papa God. Be a part of "the rest of their story".  Use it for something good!

Monday, October 16, 2017

He's In The Waiting

Another giant surfaced and was slain for me today.  At my yearly exam last week the doctor suggested I be checked by a dermatologist for an autoimmune skin disorder.  I got in right away on a cancellation and went the next morning.  To my surprise she took two biopsies as I lay in that awkward position that only women understand.  One to see what kind of skin disorder I was dealing with and the other to see if one spot was skin cancer. The doctor's demeanor, concern and actions were hard to ignore.  The word cancer sounded so loud and ugly.

I just kept thinking, "not again....not again."  Throughout the week I made an effort to keep my eyes on Jesus, with worship songs and promises.  I listened to the recording of the prophetic words spoken to us at Bethel, over and over.  I reminded myself of God's faithfulness throughout the days.  There were moments when fear still wanted to rise up and take my breath away as it brought to mind worst case scenarios. 

So hearing from the doctor today, 4 days early,  that it was NOT cancer....that it was benign......brought both physical and emotional relief.  A giant of what if's was taken down. 

I have never doubted God's faithfulness.  I have countless memories of Him walking with me, with us through trials. We have faced plenty of giants in our 49 years together.  I just could not muster up the courage to face one more. And the waiting was so hard. 

A song from Bethel music kept coming to mind..........."He's in the waiting......He's in the waiting."

In the waiting, I gave thanks for all the good reports last week....mammogram clear, eyes good ~ pressure down lower and visual test improved.  Blood work good, melanoma check good!  Yeah, lots of doctor appointments.  In the waiting I remembered the victories in Him.  It helped keep the giant from looking so powerful.

Joyce Meyer spoke in her devotional today about how David killed the giant, Goliath.  In 1 Samuel David talked about the Lord delivering him from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear.  He knew he would deliver him from the hand of Goliath too.  He looked back at the faithfulness of God and remembered. 

Max Lucado wrote about David and Goliath in his book, "Facing Your Giants".  A study we are doing for our group also is talking about David.  He so often praised God for showing up in his life.  Lucado says:  "Focus on your giants and you stumble.  Focus on God~ your giants tumble."

While I lay in that awkward position that day I was truthfully numb with fear.  Too many biopsies and too many surgeries were on my mind.  What I needed to remember was the many victories through Jesus!  And, as strange as it sounds,  it came to me during this procedure, that it was time to write the book. 

Holy had been speaking to me over the past two years to write a book.  I asked Him what I would write about and why?  Why?  God spoke clearly to me about Joshua's story of building an altar after the Jordan river stopped flowing and they were able to walk into the promised land.  The altar was to be a reminder of God's faithfulness.  Holy told me that each story I write will be part of the altar built to God's faithfulness.  A legacy for our grandchildren and great grands to come.  I still put it off............until last Tuesday night when I made the choice to walk in obedience.

We all have giants we face, whether in body, soul, or spirit.  We never face them alone, but sometimes that giant seems so big, and never so much as when we are waiting.....for a breakthrough...for a test result....for financial help.....for healing.  It is during these times that we make the effort to remember His faithfulness.  Like the song says..........we are never alone ~ He's in the waiting!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Our Bethel Adventure

It was a month ago last Sunday that we went to Bethel for our afternoon prophetic session we had scheduled.  Just getting the appointment had been ordained by God, so we knew we were to be there. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians that we are to value prophesy.   The two prophetic ministers we met with were amazing and definitely valued their gifts well.  God spoke through them with such clarity, insight, and love.  We recorded it on our phones and refer back to it often.  God was in the midst.

I think that is how we would describe the ten days we spent there sitting under Bethel's ministries.  God was in the midst of everything we experienced. We opened our hearts to ALL He had for us, we said YES to everything, even that which took us out of our comfort zone and He opened up our world to the more.  On our way back home I added up the hours we spent in worship services, at the Healing Rooms, Sozo, adult Sunday classes, a seniors fellowship, the House of Prayer, and classes at their school~ it was 40 hours.  A significant number in the Bible and for us.

The Healing Rooms is open Saturday mornings at the church.  Many many trained volunteers with a heart for healing come and meet with all those who come for prayer for healing...of body, soul, and spirit.  The "encounter room" is filled with people and places to rest and wait for prayer.  There is a small area for communion, there is soft music playing and while we were there children and adults were expressing interpretive dance on a stage while about six others were painting what they felt God was speaking to them on canvases in the center of the vast room.  People were either quietly praying or being prayed for everywhere you looked.  We were there two hours when Joel told me he did not want to leave because of the peace he experienced in the room.

Bethel has around 9,000 members, and each week at least 1/3 of the people there are from other cities, states, and countries.  They are too small to accommodate them so have 4 services, a second campus, and two overflow rooms at the main church.  Worship services included great music an teachings.  Offerings?  If you are a visitor they request you give your tithes to your home churches, not them.  Often we were asked to lay hands on those around us who were in need of prayer for certain conditions, whether emotional or physical.  In fact, anywhere we walked in that church you would see people praying for others.  It was beautiful and powerful.

I went to a Sozo (Holy Spirit led) counseling session the last Saturday we were there. Bethel created this ministry, and they train people around the world.  Joel took the training in MN and says in all his years of counseling this was the most freeing for people he has ever used.   I received more insights and healing that I believe will bring more freedom into my daily life.

The House of Prayer is a separate circular building with all glass walls where people can go to quietly pray.  All chairs face out the windows, although many sit on pillows on the floor to study scriptures and pray.  There is a beautiful waterfall outside with more seating.  Another place to connect with God.

Carolyn and Austin from Toronto

The people we met were great....a couple from Ontario who sat with us for several services.  A couple from Vancouver who we had the privilege to pray over.  (40 years with Lyme).  Young and old who sat with or by us.  We even visited with and prayed for a young couple who sat by us in church and were on their way home from their honeymoon!  Another woman worked with refugees in Thailand and came to be "filled up" before flying back.  People are so friendly.  Kindness and openness abound!  Joel was also able to talk with one of the pastors, Chris Gore, several times.  We were also able to visit and get to know house guests and the host and hostess where we were staying.

Joel and housemate Chinbuzo (Nigeria) 
at Sundial bridge

Renee with housemate Nancy

Joel with host George 

Let me go back to the man with Lyme.  When we came out of our prophetic session the man walked up to me and asked me if our sessions was impacting.  Joel came up and his wife too and we visited a bit and then mentioned how we were healed from Lyme.  His wife immediately covered her mouth with her hand gasping as she did so.  Then she said, "My husband has had Lyme for 40 years".  Well, we knew that God had brought us together, so we encouraged them with our stories and then asked if we could pray. We went after that Lyme and we still stand on His word today believing that he is free from that horrible disease.

It is hard for me to describe my feelings while we were there.  I know I felt relaxed, and at home in the environment around me.  I felt so comfortable and at peace, like I could really be myself.  For me the atmosphere was almost palpable with the presence of God.   A.m.a.z.i.n.g.

We have been watching Bethel live-stream on the Internet for several years and were very impressed with their ministry.  We wondered how we would feel when we were up close and personal with the people and the leaders.  We believe they are the "real deal".

We are both amused and saddened that there are those who feel this church must be a cult, or the leaders are "false prophets" because of their beliefs.  There are even one or two who think we have strayed off course in our faith journey.  We are certainly not naive enough to believe Bethel is the perfect church or ministry.  We are all imperfect people walking out our faith in Jesus together.  We just love how they do ministry.  I will share that what we learned and what we experienced while there has reaffirmed where God has been leading us.  Who God wants us to be.

Two weeks after returning, I am once again on a medical journey that could steal our joy, but our focus is on our Papa God.  We are forever grateful, and looking forward to the "new thing" coming for us.  Which leads us back to the prophetic words spoken to us.  We know what was said was definitely from God.  He wrapped His loving arms around us, whispered words of comfort, knowledge and insight into our ears, and filled us with confirmation and hope for the new thing He has planned. 

Our Bethel Adventure was definitely an adventure with God!  We are so grateful for it!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

South Dakota Beauty

After seeing Spearfish Canyon we headed south into Rapid City and then up to Mount Rushmore outside of Keystone.  We have stood looking at this monument to four of our Presidents several times over the years.  It never gets old.  We then drove to see what work has been done on the monument to Crazy Horse.  We had not been there in 30 years and were quite disappointed.  There is a great entrance and museum there now, which we and others enjoyed, but the monument itself looks no different than it did the first time we saw it.  That night we stayed in Rapid City, heading out the next day to see Wall Drug and then the Badlands.  We drove the scenic drive on a cloudy cold day, but our amazement was the same as if the sun had been shining.  So much to see!

After leaving the Badlands we drove across the state stopping to see the new Sacagawea statue outside Chamberlin SD.  It really was impressive.  Fifty feet high and stunning!  


Soon we were on our way north to my sister Jan and brother-in-law Lanny's home.  We spent 2 days and three nights with them visting before heading to Minnesota to see three treasures participate in their sports activities, spending a couple days visiting with mom and dad too.  On our way home we took the back roads and stopped at the graves of my grandmother (who lived in Spearfish Canyon), grandfather and my dad.  We arrived home late in the afternoon, ending our 27 day journey with 5,022 miles added to our speedometer.

Lanny, Jan, Renee, Joel

Our thoughts return often to this trip together. With gratitude we recall so many beautiful sights in so many states.  We look at our time at Bethel Church and see God working in and through us.  We are grateful.  So grateful.