Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Floodgates

The water just keeps rising....record floods.....record rain falls.......causing record 911 calls......record rescues.... yes, the water just keeps rising.  It is heartbreaking to watch homes hidden under dark liquid that is relentless in it's pursuit to go where it wills.  I am caught up in the stories shared by those rescued, and the willingness of volunteers to risk their own lives to save those who are desperate for help.  We hear and read about such a "us against them" mentality in our country, it is comforting to see people put politics and prejudice aside to do what they can to help those in their city.

I expect there are some who question where God is in this disaster.  Some may believe He has caused it and that is certainly not close to being true.  Ann Voskamp spoke of God's tears mingled in with those of His children during this or any terrible catastrophe.  He is not surprised by this, but He did not orchestrate it.  Our world is broken, choices are made, nature gets out of control, weather is affected by climate change and more.  He weeps with His children.

It is still going on, this relentless storm that keeps circling Texas, going out over water and gaining power and then heading back to land.  It is hard to comprehend the 50 plus inches of rain and I cannot imagine the despair in places like Rockport TX where everything is gone.  The landscape has changed to the point that citizens are grieving a world that no longer exists.  God have mercy.

I read a post today about a Baptist college professor who is in his home with his wife and five young children.  Triplets under age 1, an 8 year old and 5 year old.  They are staying in their master bedroom, watching the water close in on their home.  Tornado warnings find them in the bedroom closet.  It is heartbreaking to hear him question, "If we flood, how can I get on my roof with 3 babies and two young kids?  Lisa Buffaloe has written about her own family in Texas and Beth Moore has written a beautiful article about "her Houston".  She mentions agencies where people can offer help of all kinds. Wonderful relief agencies are heading to Texas, and there are many reputable ones where you can give from your pocketbook if you cannot give of yourselves.

Our hearts ache for Texas, and parts of Louisiana.  The challenges ahead for everyone will be long lasting and so so difficult.  It may be hard for people to believe that God is with them.  It brings to mind the woman who was separated from her teenage girls.  She was rescued from the water by volunteers with a boat and reunited with her girls.  She kept saying, "God is good.  God is so good."

It may be difficult to grasp in the midst of tragedy, but God is bending His ear to hear the prayers,  and God is releasing His love and power for all those walking through this valley.  When I watched the endless stream of people walking through water to dry land, the boats rescuing people from their homes, and the helicopters rescuing desperate people from their rooftops, I could not help but see God working through the people who are reaching out their hands.  Thank you God for the goodness of people.

The floodgates have been opened with a 500 year flood.  As we join together in prayer I believe God will continue to open HIS floodgates, His blessings over His created ones.  Hurricane Harvey has  been persistent in his destruction.........but God.  God will be persistent in His blessings.  We live in the hope for a better day ahead.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Ordinary or Extraordinary?

As I read Ann Voskamp's blog post describing her journey with unexpected heart failure, two words resonated with me....."ordinary glory". Ordinary glory.....finding the glory of our Papa God in the ordinary ~ the laughter of children, the rising or setting of the sun, the beating of our own hearts.  As I shared with Joel her written words he responded with....."There really is no ordinary glory". This does ring true.  The glory of the Lord comes into our ordinary and makes it all extraordinary.

When we walk through the valley and find ourselves looking back on that season, it is important to use our spiritual eyes to see how God released His love and wove His goodness, His glory into each step along the way. He makes the ordinary extraordinary.

And what is the ordinary?  Well, I mentioned a few above.....the laughter of children, the beating of our own hearts.........the rising or setting sun.  I guess it is those things we take for granted in life, like our next breath.......or the food set before us.  Yeah.

When we traveled West through all the wide open spaces in the winter of 2015, I noticed all the different sunsets...and began to photograph them as I realized each one held it's own beauty.  In our neighborhood it is hard to find the sunset or sunrise with all the trees and houses that block the view. Not so on our favorite farm where I can wake early and view the sunrise from the window that brings it right to me on the upstairs landing.  It never fails to bring gratitude to my heart.  So, too, the sunset over our favorite Iowa lake.

Our favorite Iowa lake at sunset

The sunset we saw in Kansas was different than those we experienced in Arizona.  I hope I never tire of pausing to experience God's ending to another day created for our enjoyment.  We were not able to see the eclipse here with our overcast skies, but even watching it on our TV, we were completely in awe of this unusual occurrence.  Our Creator's intricate detail and power displayed!  Those events do amaze us and should!   But I throw out there the idea that the ordinary can amaze us too.

Bill Johnson in his book, The Supernatural Power of the Transformed Mind, said we need to live in the "everyday miraculous". and it should just be the norm.  Miracles seen as normal.....now there's an idea worth contemplating.

Ann Voskamp has encouraged millions of people to write down every single thing they are thankful for in each day......it changed her life, and when she shared her story with the rest of the world it has changed others too.  Being grateful for it all....because we are here to experience it.  Because we are here to receive it from our Papa God and share it with others.  Because when we do give thanks for the ordinary it does become something more.

So, maybe there is no ordinary when we let God into our lives.  Maybe it is all extraordinary.......and maybe when the Lord's Prayer reads.....thy Kingdom come on EARTH as it is in Heaven.....that here on earth does include the everyday miraculous.  And the extraordinary includes not only a rare eclipse, but the every day sunrise and sunset.   Thank you Papa for making the ordinary extraordinary!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Fine Tuning Our Focus

For the last several months we have driven down a busy street in our "micropolitan" city, passing by a confederate flag flying high on a flag pole in the front yard of a small house.  It seems out of place up here in the upper Midwest.  We don't know who lives in the house, and are not curious to find out.  Sometimes we pray for whoever lives there....other times we pass by in silence.  Just kitty-corner across the street is a church.  An apostolic church where many of the faces inside on Sunday morning are not white.  These are black Christians who would deeply feel the historic significance of this banner waving their way.  Sobering.  Especially after the past couple of weeks.  Sobering.

This week a good friend of our oldest and her family grieves the loss of two fellow police officers in his department in Florida.  I watched a TV video yesterday of this man washing and sweeping the blood off the street where the police officers were ambushed.  Washing the blood of his good friend off the street.  A symbol of deep compassion, solidarity and respect.  A family of blue coming together to grieve the loss of two of their own who were called to serve and protect.  Our son in blue has experienced this kind of loss just last year in the department he works for.  It is all so sad.   Sobering.

Just a couple of days ago I was reading author and speaker Ann Voskamp's blog where she shared that she is in the midst of recovering from what was a minor surgery and quickly evolved into the beginning of heart failure. A shocking "suddenly" that turned their world upside down.  Sobering.

Ann's story brought me to that of my sister's.  A little over three weeks ago she had a heart attack and ended up having 6 bypasses.  She is a walking miracle.  We just went up to spend a day and night with her as the siblings take turns keeping her company this week. The doctor said she will experience 1% improvement a day ......6 months will bring full recovery.   She is doing so well, but the scars are vivid reminders of all she has gone through.  It is all sobering.

When life throws such circumstances our way it is so very hard not to focus on the hate....or the horror.....the shock...or the trauma.  So darn hard to walk through the valley of the shadow, but we never walk alone.  Never.  It is important to keep our focus on the truth the Word holds for us.  We don't deny what is going on, but we don't empower it either.  We need to fine tune our focus.  We choose to empower what we know about our Lord, what He promises. The sobering events may leave us wounded and in pain, but God is still with us.  God is still faithful in our broken world.  He weeps with us, He walks with us, He listens, He reminds us Who He is.  The Lord who provides........protects.........sees.........heals.............fights for us. Yeah, that is who God is.

"He gives us beauty for ashes
the oil of joy for mourning
the garment of praise 
for the spirit of heaviness."
Isaiah 61:3

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Heavy Rain, Heavy Hearts

Yesterday the rain came down heavy.  No wind to speak of, no thunder or lightening, just a sudden downpour that continued for about an hour or so.  Once again it reminded me of our years in The Philippine Islands.  The monsoon season would bring the quiet heavy rain with humidity so thick it would make it harder to get a breath.  Then it would just stop, the sun would come out and the steam would rise off the ground.  I would like to tell you that we adjusted to that kind of weather, but we "northerners" did not.

We had the wooden Fischer Price puzzles that we brought with us, and they all split from the humidity.  Wood plaques and furniture warped.  Joel lost a lot of weight, I did not (surprise).  I did struggle with sinus headaches until we moved on base where we had air conditioning.  Yeah....fans did not quite keep the house dry and cool.  When the kids took their afternoon naps, I would lay them on one bed (our two oldest and the neighbor boy Kiko who lived with us more than his family) and blow the fan right on them so they could rest comfortably.  Our sheets always felt damp when you climbed into bed at night, and bugs had a good prolific life in that kind of weather.  I have had a deep appreciation and grateful heart for A/C ever since.

The memories of the Philippines and this weeks news had me thinking about the Burnhams.  When missionaries Gracia Burnham and her husband, Martin, were captured by terrorists they were in deep peril in the jungles of the P.I.   For over a year they lived among the Abu Sayyaf, fearing for their lives as they watched another captive beheaded, the single women used as sex slaves, and everyone sleeping on the ground with little to sustain them.  Eventually they were rescued by Filipino soldiers, but her husband was killed in the process.  She sustained a gunshot wound but was able to come home to her children.  She has spent her years since then writing and speaking about the ordeal and working for the Christian foundation she started in Martin's name.

Certainly we cannot compare the white supremacists and neo-Nazis to groups like the Abu Sayyaf.....or can we?  What has happened this past week in our country is hard to stomach.  We lived through the sixties and although it was pretty cushy up here in the north in our mostly "white world" we saw and heard about all the violence...and mourned the death of Kennedy, King Jr, and yet another Kennedy.  Civil rights were hard to come by.

Our family is a blend of Filipino, Korean, Spanish, Chinese, Northern Cheyenne, African American, Mexican,  Puerto Rican black, and whatever ancestry the "white" members bring to the table.  We experienced racism as a family, some of our children more so..........and still do. Here is the truth found in God's Word.  We cannot bring hate to the table and call ourselves Christians.  No way.  Hate for a country, for a religion for a skin color?  All of it goes against what our Savior brought into the world and preached and taught.  Don't kid yourself, Jesus does not condone hatred or prejudice of any kind.  His Heart is heavy today, as are ours.  We need to all look in the mirror and ask God to reveal to us what we need to cleanse from our own hearts.  Whether in the jungles of the Philippines or on the streets of our country, racism, hatred, and violence of any kind in word or deed has no place of acceptance.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Tuesday Scribble: GPS, Hawks, and House Slippers!

Today we headed west to a National wildlife reserve about 1 1/2 hours from here.  We are preparing for our trip to CA this fall, and wanted to get a "Lifetime Senior Pass" to all the national parks across the country.  They are only $10, but soon will cost $80.  So we packed a lunch and headed out about 10:30 am.  It took us 2 hours because we decided to use my phone's GPS which kept trying to send us right into the middle of the Union Slough.  Glub glubbbbb.................After listening to our lady tell us over and over to turn where there were no roads.....I googled the office to find the "address" of the Union Slough and we finally drove right to it.  Yep.  Well, at least that is our story and we are sticking to it.

Gold Eagle on Slough

When we arrived, Joel stepped out of the van and started to chuckle.  It seems he had forgotten to exchange his house "slippers" for his tennis shoes.  No one could really tell the difference, but us.  Maybe he just likes to wear slip-on's, ya know?  Along with his old cowboy hat for which I have no good feelings!  I would like to accidentally sit on it, but so far Joel has kept it far away from my reclining bum.

Between the GPS fiasco and the slippers incident, we decided we need to get our act together before the trip west or our kids will worry while we are gone.  It would not be the first time.........I remember when we were going to New York City and our oldest said, "My parents are going to get on a subway and never be heard from again!"  Of course we had not traveled for many years then due to Lyme, but I'm just sayin'.  On that same trip we "somehow" got off the interstate we were on and found ourselves heading straight into Chicago.  North instead of West.  I am the navigator Joel is the driver......we both were at fault.  Sigh...  We made an "urgent" call to our oldest and asked here the best route through the windy city since she and her family had lived there for 10 years.......so maybe she has reason to worry?

While at the Wildlife Refuge today we sat overlooking the slough watching the many kinds of ducks and birds.  Seeing an eagle and a hawk, heron, terns, geese, and more.  What I noticed was just how quiet it was.  The silence really speaks loudly at times, doesn't it.  As we sat eating our lunch and observing nature we talked about Joel's 4 years of summers working for the wildlife refuge in Minnesota.  His first two year degree was in wildlife management and he spent his days banding ducks, building fences or taking old fences out...........sometimes up to his neck in the water (hoping not to get "swimmer's itch".  So many years ago, yet so many memories surfacing.

Black-eyed Susans

While getting our passes Joel mentioned he once worked in a refuge in MN.  The clerk asked Joel how he ended up in Iowa and he told her he was in the military, then the seminary and his work as a pastor brought him to Iowa.  She replied, "What an interesting life!"  When we got outside I turned to Joel and replied, "She has no idea!"  It has definitely been an interesting life ~ good, bad, and a bit ugly.  Through it all God has been faithful.

With all that has gone in the family lately........my sister's heart attack and 6 bypasses, Gr. Jo's fall hitting the coffee table, my surgery for melanoma.......I think all our kids are looking ahead and pondering what the future holds and how the heck do "things" get handled from afar.  Yeah. No one plans to trip and fall........to suddenly need open heart surgery...........to have their world turn upside down.  It is not healthy to worry continually about those unexpected things, but it is good to think about and make some kind of plan for the what ifs or eventual needs.  Unless you are like our neighbor who continues to amaze us.  At 87 she is out raking, mowing, hauling rock in here wheelbarrow, trimming trees.....I love it!  She gives us all hope!

What a day..............We can only laugh and look forward to our next adventure with God making sure Holy comes along for the ride........and learning from our mistakes.  Like, don't forget your shoes!  And bring along an atlas cuz the GPS lady gets lost too!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Defining Normal

Joel and I are reading aloud the book, "The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind" by Pastor Bill Johnson.  It has given us a new perspective on the definition of "normal Christianity".  Always love the way God opens our eyes to more of Him.

I remember when we told a friend about our adventure in healing and speaking in tongues.  My friend's hubby replied...'Well, that is just a little to the right of crazy, isn't it."  It was just not normal in his mind.  We had a good chuckle over that and have used the term ourselves....cuz we have observed things that made us feel that same way.   What is normal to one is not necessarily normal to another!

Have you heard of the book, "Hillbilly Eulogy"  by J.D. Vance? I had to be put on a waiting list to get the book from our local library.  As I read into the book, I found it  not to my liking so I did not finish it.  I did think about Vance growing up in a hillbilly culture, though, and how our environment defines what is normal and familiar for us, at least until we observe something different.

Normal:  it used to describe a setting on our clothes dryers .........until computers and sensors made our washer and dryers into amazing machines.  Remember when it was normal to have a phone attached to the wall, when you had to get up to turn the TV channel?  Back in the day,  no one could comprehend soaring through the air.  I am sure that many thought the Wright brothers were just a little to the right of crazy!  And maybe they were.  Stepping out of the box moves us forward!

Lets look at our bodies.  When I was so very ill, walking across the room or up the stairs was exhausting for me.  My body adjusted and pretty much was comfortable with being so sick.  Then I was healed of Lyme and I started to walk....5 minutes...  10 minutes was a major milestone for me. The body had to be coaxed back to life.  Exercising then became normal to the point where if I don't walk daily I feel sluggish and out of sorts.   My body's perspective of normal has shifted.  It is still a work in progress, but walking is normal now.  Thank God.

So all this to contemplate that what Jesus commands in the Bible..........GO preach the gospel, heal the sick, cast out demons, raise the dead, speak in new tongues................I am thinking that these commands from Jesus are to be followed and defined as normal Christianity.  The supernatural power of God for us is normal.  It is food for thought.  Bringing the kingdom to earth....."They kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven".  Yeah.  On earth.  Wouldn't it be amazing if we saw the works of Jesus come through us..........remember He lives IN us..........remember He said we would do greater things than He did with Holy Spirit in us.....Normal Christianity.  Wow.  Just sayin'

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

"That's Who I Am"

“If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. 

If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it.

 He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning...

 Face it, friend. He is crazy about you! ”

Max Lucado

God really is crazy about us. That whole, love you beyond understanding thing going on.  A love that casts out fear.  One that sacrifices.  I recently heard a pastor say he has always prayed for his children to grow up to marry someone who loves God more than they love them.......and vice versa. Interesting, don't you think?  And powerful.  It is so important to have a loving relationship with our Papa God and He is so ready for us.  Waiting for us to love Him back!

We have seen a lot of God's love being expressed this past week through those who gathered in her presence or in prayer as she spent her days in the hospital recovering from open heart surgery. Like I said before, we are a praying family and we are giving thanks to God for her waking each morning to greet another day.

I just read about a woman who struggled greatly with ongoing negative thoughts that were relentless.  She was going to be speaking at a conference and felt like the enemy was coming against her, using her mind.  While worshiping on the first night of the conference she found herself totally focused on the song..."You are a good good Father"  As she worshiped the thoughts that had been bombarding her mind lifted off.  The one stanza that stood out for her (and for me) was about Papa's love.....

"You're a good good Father
That's who you are, who you are....
And I know You love me
That's who I am.....who I am"

His love for us defines who we are.  His child.  His beloved son or daughter.  We can rest in that truth.  

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Rejoicing Over The Ashes Miracle

Sunday afternoon we went to the lake to sit by the water, stroll the walkway,  and just relax.  At five we headed over to the Central Gardens to watch an outdoor concert.  Such a fun afternoon.  We went to bed that night relaxed and thinking "all is well" with no clue there was a "suddenly" coming.

At 7 am my phone rang, waking me to the news that my sister Janelle had had a heart attack, was at the hospital and having tests.  Soon we were told she would need emergency open heart surgery. After many hours of surgery she was in ICU after having 6 bypasses.  At age 62.  Yesterday we drove up to see her for a short visit.  She is surrounded by her four girls, and good health care. It is still hard to digest, the suddenly of open heart surgery when the day before she had been out walking and running around her favorite lake.

Suddenly.  Too often we have to deal with the suddenlys of life.  All is good until it is not.  Then what.  Well, for my family today's suddenly put everyone "on their knees" in prayer.  We are a praying family and for that I am so thankful.  We reach out to pray for each other and pick up our phones to text prayer groups like The Knee Team to ask for prayers when needed. There is both power and peace found in prayer.  Jesus our Healer!

All day long Monday I kept hearing a hymn in my head, and found myself humming and singing...."Great is they faithfulness....." "great is thy faithfulness.......morning by morning new mercies I see...."  It reminded me of the verses that God has been highlighting for me out of Isaiah 61, joy for mourning, beauty for ashes and a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness.  The beauty for ashes came first from Joel, then again as I was meditating......later it was on a TV teaching and then a song.  Beauty for ashes.  New mercy!

While I was meditating Sunday morning God showed me sweeping with a broom a bunch of dirt and grim off the floor.  I questioned what it was, and heard...."symptoms".  I picked them up in a dustpan and was going to put them in the garbage and I heard, "put them on the fire".  I looked to my right and saw a fire smoldering, so I dumped them there and then heard....."beauty for ashes".  Beauty for ashes.

As promised we do receive from God, beauty for ashes and I am declaring that for my sister as she goes through months of recovery and changes after this "suddenly" in her life.  Long story, short, it is a miracle that she is still here and we are on our knees with humble thanksgiving. Janelle is a strong woman and will walk through this journey carried by love, prayer, and her own determination.  But I am also praying and giving thanks for all the beauty that will come from this.  Overwhelmed with gratitude that God is giving her beauty for ashes.