“Father, make of me a crisis man. Bring those I contact to decision. Let me not be a milepost on a single road;
make me a fork
, that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me.” - Jim Elliot

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Don't Let Fear Dictate Your Decisions... Chase The Lion!

On A Snowy Day...
photography by sister sheri


Mark Batterson is one of my favorite authors.  I always say that he writes like I think.  He recently re-posted The Lion Chaser's Manifesto.  If you are unfamiliar with the manifesto it is from his book In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day:  How To Survive And Thrive When Opportunity Roars

which is based on the verse II Samuel 23:20:

Benaiah chased a lion down into a pit. 
Then, despite the snow and slippery ground, 
he caught the lion and killed it.


If you have no other plans for 2013, I propose that you read the book and then... you chase the lion.


The Lion Chaser’s Manifesto 
by Mark Batterson

Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. 

Set God-sized goals. 

Pursue God-ordained passions. 

Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention. 

Keep asking questions. 

Keep making mistakes. 

Keep seeking God. 

Stop pointing out problems and become part of the solution. 

Stop repeating the past and start creating the future. 

Stop playing it safe and start taking risks. 

Expand your horizons. 

Accumulate experiences. 

Enjoy the journey. 

Find every excuse you can to celebrate everything you can. 

Live like today is the first day and last day of your life. 

Don’t let what’s wrong with you keep you from worshiping what’s right with God. 

Burn sinful bridges. 

Blaze new trails. 

Criticize by creating. 

Worry less about what people think and more about what God thinks. 

Don’t try to be who you’re not. 

Be yourself. 

Laugh at yourself. 

Don’t let fear dictate your decisions. 

Take a flying leap of faith. 

Chase the lion!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Trudgery

In January, I'll be studying Anonymous by Alicia Britt Chole with a small group.   The study is based off her book which is an annual must read for me.  If you are in the Portland area, join me from 6-7PM on Wednesday nights at Portland Christian Center starting January 9th.

All of this reminded me of this post from November of 2009...

The Trudgery


Rainbow in the Columbia Gorge
photography by Anthony Kaetzel

I almost missed it. We were hiking back (and up) to find the waterfall sweetly named "Fairy Falls." But I turned my head and looked through the trees and there it was. A rainbow. It touched water and sky... and my soul. I was entranced and stood there as I marveled at this play of light and water. I slowly pulled myself away so that I could continue moving on to the prize... of "Fairy Falls."

We were on an expedition. A photo expedition. We were hunting for the perfect shot. Well, at least Anthony was. Christopher and I were along for the ride.

We sent Anthony ahead to find what he was looking for... and we trudged the almost 2 mile trek to the "Fairy Falls." I almost turned back, but I encountered some friendly hikers and they told me it was just about 2 more minutes up the path. And since I had come that far... I decided my weary legs could withstand 2 more minutes... and so they did.

We turned the corner... and when I finally saw the prize... what I had traded in my peaceful quiet Sunday afternoon for... I had left my soul-touching rainbow for... I was disappointed. It was much smaller and darker then the photos had shown. And it didn't compare to everything I had already seen on the journey. It was quite underwhelming. Wishing and wanting it to be more... but I couldn't. It was already getting dark... and I was getting wet.

When we got home and Anthony downloaded his photos, he showed me the prize. It was the rainbow. I told him that it didn't even look natural. And had I not seen it with my own eyes I wouldn't have believed it.

I think of how many times I have sought out the prize. Something that I thought was going to bring me happiness or an end goal. My eyes fixed on the end goal. Not wanting to deal with the long and winding trail that is required. Wanting to be instantly transported from here... to there. Not wanting to deal with the weary.

I'm on that trek right now. Seeing an end goal. Not wanting to deal with the trudgery. But here is the truth of the matter... it was along the way that I saw the rainbow. The miracle. The true beauty. It was along the way to what I thought would be the prize that I saw God's promise.

And the next time Anthony invites me along for an expedition... I will say yes. And, again, I will encourage him to go on ahead, but this time I will anticipate the trudgery. Knowing that the end goal is the long and winding trail. Keeping my eyes open for God's promises all along the way.

What grows in that underestimated gap between God's calling and others' perceptions, between our true capabilities and our current realities? Most of us struggle if our dreams are delayed one year, let alone twenty! We find God's pauses perplexing. They seem to be a waste of our potential. When those pauses extend beyond what we can comprehend or explain (say, for instance, three days), we often spiral into self-doubt or second guessing.

But in anonymous seasons we must hold tightly to the truth that no doubt strengthened Jesus throughout his hidden years: Father God is neither
care-less nor cause-less with how he spends our lives. When he calls a soul simultaneously to greatness and obscurity, the fruit--if we wait for it--can change the world.
~ Alicia Britt Chole,
Anonymous: Jesus' hidden years... and yours

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Testing Of Your Faith Develops Perseverance


Monterey Coast, California
photography by Anthony Kaetzel 


Perseverance is often relegated to the phrases "suck it up" or "get over it" or "move on." 

Origin of the word "Persevere" from Merriam-Webster:  Middle English, from Anglo-French parseverer, from Latin perseverare, from per- through + severus severe.

Persevere = through severe.

Through it.  Not over it.  Not around it.  Or pretend it isn't happening.  Through it.
In the book of James, we come across the beatitude-like verse:

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, 
because when he has stood the test,
he will receive the crown of life 
that God has promised to those who love him.
James 1:12

Our pastor had been teaching on the beatitudes found in Matthew 5:1-12.  He taught us that
Blessed" comes from the Greek word “makarios.”
Makarios is more than happiness; it is joy. It finds its source from within itself.
Makarios is self-contained, self-generating, and independent of all the chances and circumstances of life.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, 
whenever you face trials of many kinds, 
because you know that the testing of your faith 
develops perseverance. 
James 1:2-3

Seriously?  Joy and perseverance?  Blessed and perseverance?  How is it possible to have joy and be blessed when we have to persevere?  Perseverance = through severe.  But how do we do that?


P.E.R.S.E.V.E.R.E.
Pray
Educate
Read the Bible
Share
Envision
Vision
Endure
Remember
Encourage

Pray

…You do not have because you do not ask God. James 4:2

Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray… James 5:13

I think the first step to perseverance is to pray.  You may not like "the severe" you are going through… and you can feel free to tell Him that!  If you are in the middle of your "severe" you can ask for a miracle or relief or strength.  We don't have because we don't ask!


Educate

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, 
who gives generously to all without finding fault, 
and it will be given to him. James 1:5

When we are in the midst of the situation, it is easy to get overwhelmed by it.  By gaining knowledge about our "severe" we can take away some of its power over us.  The more I know about the scientific biological side of depression the more I am able to make adjustments in my own behaviors.  Including medications, light therapy, journaling and rest.

When I get overwhelmed with my lack of parenting skills, I take time to educate myself.  Same with being married. What if your spouse suffers with alcoholism?  Or you are in debt?  Or your child has a diagnosis that overwhelms you?  Ask God to give you wisdom.


Read The Bible

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. 
Do what it says. James 1:22

But the man who looks intently into the perfect law 
that gives freedom, and continues to do this, 
not forgetting what he has heard, 
but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does. James 1:25

I think being a marginal Christian is hell on earth.  If you are familiar with just parts of Bible verses, you may be under the impression that Christianity is like living a fairy tale.  When you read the Bible, you need to read the verses that are in context to your favorite one.  God is consistently taking His children through the "severe."  Through the Red Sea.  Through the fiery furnace.  Through the stormy sea. He takes us through it.  He is with us in the "through" it.  Our blessing comes from knowing He is with us.


Share

Therefore confess your sins to each other and 
pray for each other so that you may be healed. 
The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. 
James 5:16

We need each other.  We need to share our "severe."  Sometimes we need a different perspective.  This is what I love about mentoring.  Asking someone in your life to hold you accountable to the reality of your "severe."  To remind you that God is with you.  That God has a hope and future for you.  Someone who will show you compassion and not just commiserate.


Envision

But he gives us more grace…. James 4:6

Come near to God and he will come near to you… James 4:8

We need to know that God is for us and near us.  That we are not persevering on our own. We often envision a bleak future about our "severe" but we forget to envision that God will give us more grace to get through it.


Vision

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, 
because when he has stood the test,
he will receive the crown of life 
that God has promised to those who love him.
James 1:12

What will it look like on the other side of your "severe"?  Ask God to give you His vision instead of relying upon your own.  If I look back on my life... and think if I hadn't persevered...
I would be divorced.  (Due to my own immaturity.)
I would be childless.  Or worse yet I would be an abusive parent. (I thought being abusive was hereditary.)
I would not have my church family or many of my friendships.  (Due to my own insecurity.)
Thank you, God!  For bringing me through my "severes" with grace!  For giving me a hope and future that is more abundant than I ever could have imagined.


Endure

Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. 
See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop 
and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.
You too, be patient and stand firm, 
because the Lord’s coming is near. James 5:7-8

Sometimes, it is about the waiting.  And waiting can be tough.  And we can have real emotions that overwhelm us, but are unproductive.  When I begin to obsess about a "severe" I am going through, I use rubber band psychology.  Recently, I was in a situation where I felt totally misunderstood.  I wanted to fix it, but I needed to give the other person time.  However, the emotions kept gnawing at me.  I truly did want to get past those self-defeating emotions.  So, I put a slim rubber band on my wrist.  Whenever I had the urge to have negative self-talk, I pulled the rubber band and let it slap my wrist.  After a couple times... I got the hint and was able to not get caught up in the emotion... and get on with the getting through it! 


Remember

Every good and perfect gift is from above, 
coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, 
who does not change like shifting shadows. 
James 1:17

Sometimes, we need a perspective shift.  We need to remember that God is for us.  We need to look at where we've been and thank God for what He has already brought us through. One of the best ways to do this can be with a grateful journal.  At the end of each day, write down five things you are thankful for... and before you realize it, you will thanking God all day long for His many blessings.


Encourage

Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, 
take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 
As you know we consider blessed those who have persevered. 
You have heard of Job’s perseverance and 
have seen what the Lord finally brought about. 
The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. James 5:10-11

And this is what I am all about... encouraging others.  Comforting others with the comfort that I have received from the Lord.  Sharing the truth of His goodness and faithfulness.

Did you know that this same word phrase "we consider blessed" or "pronounce blessed" is only used one other time?  In Luke 1:48.

And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord
 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
   of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
   holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
   from generation to generation. 
Luke 1:46-50

When Mary rejoices what God has done for her.  We know that ultimately she is blessed, but she was mindful of it even then.  And what a blessing.  Jesus Christ, our Lord.


Repeat!!!

Perseverance must finish its work so that 
you may be mature and complete,
not lacking anything. James 1:4

Okay, so it isn't just P.E.R.S.E.V.E.R.E.  We need to add the "R" on the end because we truly are P.E.R.S.E.V.E.R.E.R.s!  Each time we go through a "severe" we learn something.  That we can trust God and He will see us through.  The next "severe" will continue to mature us... until we are complete, not lacking anything.

I think of my husband pursuing his goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.  With each attempt to qualify he learned more about his ability to complete a marathon in the required time.  Throughout the pursuit he continued to educate himself and added a coach and he met his goal!  

 Therefore, since we are surrounded 
by such a great cloud of witnesses, 
let us throw off everything that hinders and 
the sin that so easily entangles, 
and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, 
the author and perfecter of our faith, 
who for the joy set before him endured the cross, 
scorning its shame, and sat down 
at the right hand of the throne of God. 

Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, 
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. 
Hebrews 12:1-3 


Persevere.  Through severe.  Blessed and joyful.  May I encourage you to not grow weary and lose heart... knowing that you will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

God bless you!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Surviving Depression at Christmas

photography by Anthony Kaetzel


Dear friend,

I know this year has been hard for you. Everyone is wishing you a MERRY Christmas or a HAPPY Holidays... and you wish that was true. That it was merry or happy.  But it is not.  You are finding no joy in Christmas this year.  Actually, you find Christmastime to be stressful... anxiety-ridden... and depressing.

You are struggling to make it through Christmas.  You know friends and family mean well when they say, "it's okay... just be happy... it's Christmas." And you are trying.  Trying so hard, but you're thinking that you just want to lie back down and pull the covers over your head.

Surviving Christmas.  Sometimes... we just have to survive Christmas.  We know it is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  And we are thankful for His birth.  But all the rushing... all the purchases... all the interactions with friends and family... all the EXPECTATIONS... all the unmet expectations... well, it is just so overwhelming.

And so here is my gift to you...
Dear Lord,
I pray You would be with my friend today. That You would give them rest and peace. I pray that You would give sensitivity to those they encounter. I pray that You would plant a seed of hope within them.
You say in Romans 8:11 ...if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.  So I pray that You would give life to my friend. Life in their heart, soul, mind and strength.
And that You would be their strength in surviving Christmas.
In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.
I love you, friend.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Somewhere between.

"He drew me out of the deep waters..." 

I just finished watching Session 10 of Beth Moore's David:  Seeking a Heart Like His.  And was listening to her speak about King David penning these words
"He reached down from on high and took hold of me;  
he drew me out of deep waters."  2 Samuel 22:17 

And it reminded me of how He was with me when I was in the deep waters.  And how He just keeps reaching down and taking a hold of me.  Which reminded me of Isaiah 43:2-3.  Which reminded me of this post.

Originally posted on Monday, September 27, 2010

Somewhere between.

 


I am hiding today.  The weather is beautiful.  I am sitting in my garden.  And I am working on my Breaking Free Bible Study.  And I have been studying about experiencing God's peace... and enjoying God's presence.  And today I need that.  Because I am somewhere between the dailiness of life... and the sacredness of life.  Somewhere between folding the laundry... and reading the Bible.  Somewhere between hanging on Facebook... and praying for a friend.  Somewhere between soaking in the sun... and raising money to build churches in Ethiopia.

Somewhere between.

I easily get frustrated with the daily life.  The routine of it all. Fretting over what to wear or how late I will be or why certain commercials are shown during sports programs or why someone didn't speak to me or my plants didn't ripen or when will this road construction end or who do I call to clean the gutters or will the Republicans win the House.

And I wonder how to balance it with the fact that a dear friend just had a stroke... or is struggling to quit smoking... or is wondering when her wayward husband will return... or is wondering when her husband will no longer be addicted to alcohol... or is wondering if she will ever be the love of her husband's life... or will she ever find a husband... or will she get through this depression... or survive this breast cancer...

Perspective.  Peace.  Presence.  All given by a Holy God. 
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and 
when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.  
For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
Isaiah 43:2-3
I admit that I more readily turn to God to grant me perspective, peace and presence in the circumstances that I cannot control.  I cannot heal someone... or free them from an addiction... or mend a broken relationship.  But I know He can.

Somewhere between.

But for those circumstances that He has allowed me to have some control over... "those far less strenuous circumstances" where I am "not as desperate" I find myself struggling without perspective, without peace or without sensing His presence.  Because I have not sought Him on these things.  And I struggle somewhere between my need to control a situation and my need to relinquish control over a situation I deem not overwhelming enough to hand over to a Holy God.

So, today... while I am hiding in His presence... and asking for peace and perspective on the things I cannot control... I have decided to ask for His peace and His perspective on things that I think I need to control.

That He would grant peace and perspective
for this and
for that and
for everything between.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

the text


the text
"I'm not sure you know just how important you were to me in high school. 
You are a big reason that I am working with high school kids at our church."

It feels like a different lifetime ago.  So long ago that I have to even wonder when it happened.  Almost 20 years ago?  Yes, it must be... because she graduated from high school in 1995.

We were part of a small church at that time in Maryland.  Small?  Well, is that the word for it?  A church plant.  We met in an elementary school and had to set up each Sunday morning and tear down after each service.  Everybody had multiple ministries.  Each member filled in multiple parts of the church body.  And for me?  I was the Senior High School Sunday School Teacher. 

And although there were times that the class had an influx of a student, it was usually just a class of one.  A class of her.  A class for her.  The pastor's oldest daughter.  We adored our pastor and his wife and, of course, their two daughters.  We were loved by them and loved them.  And I loved her.

A class of one.  Me and a teenager.  I was in my mid-twenties at the time.  And I felt the call to be her teacher.  To offer her a Sunday School class.  Curriculum?  Yup, I tried that.  But then sometimes it was just a cup of coffee and some conversation.

And I didn't feel worthy.  Wasn't even sure we connected on some days.  And it was during one of the most difficult seasons of my life.  A season full of poor choices.  A season of poor health.  And I knew I was not the one who should be teaching her during that time because I was a poor example.  Although she didn't know I was, I knew it.  And I thought I was betraying her by being her Sunday School teacher.  But her dad insisted that I was still a good example to her.  Still to be her teacher.

And about a year or so later Anthony and I move to Portland.  Leave.  We keep in touch with her parents for a while.  But distance brings distance.  And time brings time.

And a lifetime passes.   Yes, almost 20 years since I was her High School Sunday School teacher. 

We got to see each other in person yesterday.  A brief moment.  She and her parents went out of their way to see us.  We have been keeping in touch via Facebook and she has told me this before, but she sent me the text yesterday. 
 "I'm not sure you know just how important you were to me in high school. 
You are a big reason that I am working with high school kids at our church."
And this time when she told me... it brought up the memories.  The memories of my feelings of inadequacy.  The memories that I had served and tried even though at the time I didn't think I was making a difference.  I might have wanted to make a difference.  I just didn't know if I did. 

But for her to tell me, again.  For it to be important for her to tell me.  For it to mean something to her so much that she had to tell me, again.  For her to connect me with her current desire to minister to High Schoolers that she had to tell me.

She had to tell.  And I had to listen.  I had to listen and know that even during a time that I thought I was offering nothing, I was offering something.  Perhaps it was not as I thought it should be packaged.  Not what I thought it should look like.  But it was something.  And something meant everything to her.  It meant enough to her to remember and to tell me.  And to tell me, again.

And it encouraged me.
That even when we are weary
and uncertain
we can still plant a crop.





"So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. 
At the right time we will harvest a good crop 
if we don’t give up, or quit. 

Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, 
let us work for the benefit of all, 
starting with the people closest to us
 in the community of faith."

Galatians 6:9-10 MSG

Thursday, November 1, 2012

My Kryptonite

My Kryptonite

I hate it the most.

                          Being misunderstood.

Often I will not participate in the discussion,
But would rather listen.
And encourage.
Then to be misunderstood.

It happened yesterday.
And once misunderstood
There is no going back.
There is no fixing it.
And when the tears come
I am lost.
They take over and won't leave me alone.

And no matter how much I rethink the matter.
It doesn't matter.
I feel weak
    and helpless...
       and pathetic...
And the rebuilding begins.

The rebuilding begins.
And what does that look like?
Defenses.
Put the walls up.
Keep the mouth shut.
Prevent being misunderstood at all costs.
No matter what.

Being vulnerable.
There's a high price to pay.

It is much easier to sit here
Typing my thoughts.
Letting them float around the web.
Because comments are few
And that is a lot easier to manage
Than sitting face to face
And being misunderstood
And feeling utterly helpless.

I am vulnerable.
I am transparent.
And it is not easy.
It is not a gift.
And often it is painful.

And so here I am... boasting about my weakness.
Praying that the power of Christ can work through me
And accepting that His grace is all I need.


Each time he said,  
“My grace is all you need. 
My power works best in weakness.” 
So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, 
so that the power of Christ can work through me.  
2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT

Sunday, October 28, 2012

As Simple As A Bar Of Chocolate...

I was reminded today that I am sensitive.
It was a day when I couldn't stop the tears.
Just feelings overwhelming. 
So, I went into hiding so that I could hide the red puffy eyes.

Again, struggling with the fact that I am sensitive.
Perhaps over-sensitive.
Too sensitive.
Unwarranted sensitive.
And I feel guilty about it.
Almost a little shamed over it.

And I ask my heavenly Father,
could he have made me a little less sensitive?
Just a little less sensitive? 
And He says, no.
And He made me as I am for a reason.
He wants me sensitive for a reason.

And although my super-sized sensitivity causes the water works.
It also causes me to be sensitive to others.
To feel things.
For my benefit.
For their benefit.
Because that is how God made me.

And reminded me of this post I wrote a few years ago.

Originally posted on Wednesday, October 28, 2009



Not a surprise to most of you... I am a thinker. Analytical. It's quite frustrating actually. Can't just let things go, can I?

And yet... I am a relater, too. And have this horrible habit of wanting everyone to like me.

Mush these two things together... and I am told that I can be intimidating. Or as another friend told me... "Intense, but I don't mean that in a bad way."

Intense? Me? What did she mean? I wondered all evening. Of course, not taking it personally. (Who me?) Another friend who had been part of our conversation called me the next morning and told me perhaps it was more defined by "thorough" or "in-depth"...

And then I had an epiphany. I happened to look down at a bar of chocolate that I had purchased for Anthony to enjoy after his recent marathon... and I saw the words "INTENSE DARK"... and I thought... that's it!

I don't like dark chocolate!
Whew, what a relief!

Here's the thing... dark chocolate can be intense in flavor, but I don't prefer it. I am much more so drawn to milk chocolate. It doesn't make dark chocolate bad... or any less... in my opinion. Because some people... my husband included... like dark chocolate.

Anyway, it just really set in my mind that I need to give other people a break... especially when they can't handle my level of intensity. I guess I had thought something was wrong with me... and I shouldn't be so intense... that it was bad. But something as simple as a bar of chocolate made feel a little better about myself.

God made me intense. For a reason. I guess... take it or leave it.

But next time you buy me chocolate just remember it is one time that I don't like intense... and I wouldn't mind if it had nuts in it, too!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Remembering A Wow-A-Thon from 2010

Today, I am celebrating the 2012 Wow-A-Thon... what a blessing to see how faithful God is to complete the task that he set before me in 2010.  And how God looks for those who are obedient to the call He has placed before them. 


A Wow-A-Thon from 2010
first posted on 11/07/10

...holding fast the word of life, 
so that in the day of Christ 
I will have reason to glory 
because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. 
Philippians 2:16 NASB

Obedience. 

Earlier this year, I felt a prompting from the Lord.  Well, actually, a couple promptings... first was to be the president of the parent-teacher association at Christopher's school (our current president was ending her term) and second was to change one of the school fund-raisers from a gift wrap sale (something tried and true) to a jog-a-thon (a complete unknown).  The promptings were strong... and I knew if I were to ignore them I would not be following the leading of the Spirit that I felt inside.  Actually I would be squelching the Spirit.  Not following = disobedience.  Following = obedience.  And I have known the consequences of both, so I decided to follow the leading.

Although I was perfectly aware that I had the capabilities to do both jobs, I also have the ability of running myself into the ground when I take on a task that is new and especially time sensitive and involves the potential to cause others to become disgruntled with me.  I saw these two promptings having the potential of thrusting me into a full blown break down... and that is a no-no for me considering my thorn of chronic depression.

So, although I love my Lord with all my heart, I begged Him to release me of these promptings.  Reminding Him of how fragile I really am.  How I might ruin my reputation.  And definitely, how I might crumble to pieces.  I reminded Him that this was not a fit for the different ministries He has been developing in my life... and that perhaps there was someone else who would be more than willing to do the job.  Er, make that jobs.  But He reminded me that He has called me to obedience... and that if He has called me to a God-sized task the onus would be upon Him to see that it would get done.

And so, I obeyed.

And every time that I began to feel overwhelmed or burdened or alone, I would remind myself that I was to be obedient... and it was His responsibility to make the thing come together... the God-sized task.  That I didn't have to force it.  I didn't have to own it.  I didn't have to make it happen.  He would.  And He did.  There were times when I had to drop everything for the jog-a-thon because my family comes first.  I had to keep my priorities straight.  And with each step I saw Him bringing each piece into place.  Better than I could have imagined.  With creativity and funding and volunteers.  It was amazing.

The jog-a-thon committee had set our goal as $11,000... not knowing what to expect and considering that the year before we had raised $11,000 in product sales which net $5,500 for the school.  I agreed to the goal... but secretly, I had a smaller goal to at least match the $5,500 from the previous year,  and a dream goal of $7,500.  I thought $11,000 was too high of a goal... and that $7,500 would do just fine for the year.  There were some who thought that a jog-a-thon would not motivate the older middle school students... there were some who thought we had not done enough advertising... there were some who thought we should have just sold gift wrap, again.

The first day money came in we had about $3,000.  I figured that would be the biggest day of receipts.  Then the total went to $3,800.  Then $5,500... so you know I could breathe a sigh of relief.  But then came the total of $7,500 with two days to go.  And I thought, "Lord, you outdid yourself!  Thank you!"  And then I had to leave with two days left to go for a trip to Maryland.  I had to relinquish all control.  I had to leave my "baby" that I had nurtured.  I just had to.  Go.

And so, I waited to hear the totals... from 3,000 miles away.  Would any more money come in?  And I got the e-mail that on the last collection day about $3,000 more dollars had been received.  And I sent back a note indicating that I was crying my eyes out.  Within moments, I got a second e-mail that said I better just get a larger tissue because the secretary decided to pop into the classrooms to see if any additional donations had been turned in... and there had been... and we were at $11,100.  On the last day to collect.  We had met our goal... and have since went on to over $12,000 in donations received (which is 100% net profit).

I had struggled with the Lord about a jog-a-thon being so temporal and not spiritual.  That I was focusing on money.  But then He gently asked me what I had been praying for the last three years every Friday morning in our lower school conference room with other praying moms... and I said school-wide (including parents, church, school board, teachers, students...) unity.  And He said He was answering that prayer.  Not just with the jog-a-thon, but He would use that... and so with over 85% of our kindergarten through 8th grade families participating in raising funds... and how the students are asking when can we do it, again... and with a nay-sayer or two with their jaws on the ground... Well, I guess I see what He was talking about.

And it is all very humbling as I have received congratulations on a job well-done... and I just want to say...
It wasn't me... 
I didn't want to do it.  
It's all Him.  
I was just being obedient.

But now I get to enjoy the blessing of the fruit which He produced.  And marvel at the fact that He took a jog-a-thon and made it a wow-a-thon...

Trust in the Lord and do good.
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.

Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you your heart’s desires.

Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust him, and he will help you.
Psalm 37:3-5 NLT

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I'll be honest... I could've used a little more cowbell.

 The Finishers
Portland Marathon and Half-Marathon 2012

I did it!  I finished the Portland Half-Marathon on Sunday.   It was a beautifully warm day.  Memorable.  Ahhhh.... the sense of accomplishment!  I finished in 3 hours and 15 minutes.  That's about 15 minute miles (or 4 miles per hour).   I actually finished in a shorter amount of time than my Marathon running husband who finished in 3 hours and 16 minutes.  Okay... okay... he did the full 26.2 miles and I did the half which is 13.1 miles, but he said it was okay if I said that.  And I have to say that he was just about more excited that I participated in the half-marathon than the fact that he had another PR shaving off 5 minutes of his time.  Yup, he was super proud of me.


 Portland Half-Marathon 2012


But... I'll be honest... I could've used a little more cowbell.

I didn't realize how lonely it would be.  I mean, I was surrounded by runners and walkers.  But very much alone.  TobyMac blaring in my ears.  But there were times I was just plain alone.

I had this image in my mind that the whole course would be filled with spectators cheering me on.  Whenever we would cheer Anthony on at his races there were always a ton of spectators.  I just hadn't realized that spectators all hang out in the same places.  And either it is feast or pretty much famine.

And so it gives you time to think, right?  About being in the race.  About finishing the race.  About how sometimes you just have to go through things alone.  That there are times when there will be people cheering you on.  Shouting... or holding a sign... or ringing a cowbell.  And there will be times that people will handing you a cup of water (or Ultima... or gummy bears).  And there will be times when people are even walking alongside you.  But there are times and a lot of times that you will just have to go through it alone.

By yourself.
You and God.
On the course.
Heading for the finish that you can't see and seems miles away.

Fortunately, I had trained.  I knew that it was going to take time to get to my goal.  That it might feel monotonous, but that I would finish.  That there truly was a finish.  That I would finish the race and be told, "Well done."  That people were waiting for me.  At the finish line.

I wonder what it would be like not to train.  Not to know that there truly is a finish.  Not to know where all the water stops would be... or that there even would be water stops.  Not to know if anyone would be at the finish.  Not to know if anyone would care that you finished or had even been in the race.

That's life sometimes, isn't it?
No end in sight.
Going through this trial.
Wondering if anyone cares.
Wanting someone to finish the race for you,
but realizing that you have to walk your own race.

I loved it, really.  The pirates, the drummers, the cheer squads, the signs... especially the FINISH sign.  But most of all?  The people.  Those people.  Those special people who were looking for me and cheered me on.  And they knew I needed cheering.  And cheering.  Yes, they pushed me across that finish line in their minds.  And it felt great.  Being on the other side of the fence.  Being the one cheered to the finish.

But it was lonely.  And the next half-marathon (yes, I already signed up for the next one at the expo two nights before the race), I want to walk with friends.  And chat a little... and encourage one another along the way... and finish together... and be distracted.

Because let's face it...
I'll be honest...
I could've used a little more cowbell.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

a $5 Bucket of Voodoo Doughnuts

Christopher and a $5 Bucket of Voodoo Doughnuts

It was Sunday and my training schedule said I needed to walk 10 miles.  I decided that I wanted to walk 10 miles of the Portland Half-Marathon.  I would just cut out 3.1 of the miles in the up and back.  My friend, Barb, offered to walk 5 of the miles with me.  Anthony needed to put in a run for his training and so we brought Christopher along on his bike, too.

After the first 5 miles, Barb and Christopher headed to the Portland Saturday (and Sunday) Market while I headed off for the rest of my walk.  With about 2 miles left, I got a text from Barb:

 

And so I ended up with an amazingly delicious vegan chocolate doughnut with chocolate puffs all over it.  (Voodoo Doughnuts is a novelty here in Portland.  Especially their Maple Bacon Bar.)   But then they showed me this bucket full of about 30 doughnuts.  Which they had purchased for $5!  They were day old.  The doughnut that Christopher had originally wanted would cost $4.75 fresh!  But they had a day old one in this bucket, so Barb spent the extra 25 cents and they ended up with 30 doughnuts.  Barb figured she could re-use the bucket and decided we could hand out the rest of the doughnuts to people hanging out on the waterfront.

The waterfront.  The same waterfront where I walked last week.  Where someone had died.  Just last week.  Some unknown, nameless person.  Someone I didn't know and would never know...

But this week would be different.  Christopher would run ahead of us with this bucket of doughnuts offering them to anyone who would partake.  Which would be mostly the homeless along the waterfront.  They were more than happy to enjoy a doughnut.  Sometimes picking the one on top.  Sometimes being a little picky.  Sometimes asking for two.  And sometimes they would run ahead and tell others that we had free doughnuts.  You would have thought we were Santa Claus.


Yes, this week would be different.  Instead of lingering wonderings of the unknown person in a body bag... there would be a known person.  A person who wanted me to know his name.  He wanted all of us to know his name.  And he wanted to hug each and every one of us.  He wanted to hug me.  Then he hugged Christopher and Barb and then Anthony.  And his name?  Ivan.

Let me tell you... YES, I WAS NERVOUS!  and suspicious!  As he slowly came in for a hug thoughts rushed through my mind
Where is my wallet?
Where will his hands be when he is hugging me?
What is his motive for hugging me?
Does he have a needle in his hand and will poke me with it?
Will he leave a lingering layer of illegal drug scent on me?
Motive?  Motive?  He gently and lightly hugged me.  Very appropriately distanced.  Then he smiled with his partially toothless grin.  How old was he?  30?  No, probably early 20s.  The drugs and time on the street had probably aged him 10 years, for sure.

We left Ivan there.  Smiling.  Enjoying a doughnut.  Having been hugged four times... once by each of us.  And Christopher ran off.  Continuing to offer doughnuts to everyone he met.  Wanting to come down and do this again every Sunday.  You know that marvelously wonderful feeling you get when you are giving but really receiving more than you are giving?  Yeah, that was him.  And us, too.


And on this Sunday, I will walk 13.1 miles.  Starting at SW Taylor Street and SW 4th Avenue.  I most likely will not see much except pavement and lots of screaming spectators along the route.

I will not be a spectator.
I will be a participant.
I will be in the game.  On the walk.
And I have been changed.
By an unknown soul.
By a $5 bucket of doughnuts.
And by a hug from Ivan.

And I thought I was doing all of this training to earn a silly medal.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, 
but only one gets the prize? 
Run in such a way as to get the prize.  

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. 

They do it to get a crown that will not last; 
but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.   

Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; 
I do not fight like a man beating the air.   

No, I beat my body and make it my slave 
so that after I have preached to others, 
I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 
1 Corinthians 9:24-27



Monday, September 24, 2012

A Boy. A Bridge. A Body Bag.


Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. 
Not as the world gives do I give to you. 
Let not your hearts be troubled, 
neither let them be afraid.  
John 14:27 ESV


A Boy.  A Bridge.  A Body Bag.

Not necessarily in that order.  Nor are they related.  Or are they?

My training for the Portland Half-Marathon had me walking 9 miles yesterday.  I decided to include the up and back.  Two and a half miles down an industrial train-lined route, which was, of course on a Sunday, like a ghost town.  And then the two and a half miles back.  And I had added two miles to get there and two miles to get back.   Boring.

But I had my boy with me.  We called him "my bodyguard."  He was on his bike for the 9 miles.  Following me.  Watching me.  Sometimes interacting.  Sometimes not.  Not really a boy anymore.  But someone who could help protect me if needed.  Of course, I would give up my life for his.  But that wasn't necessary yesterday.

Nine miles by myself really.  Quiet.  Time to think.  Time to listen to Mark Batterson's "Wild Goose Chase."  And a little TobyMac.  But mostly to think.

I have been wondering about what I have learned through this process of training my body to walk 13.1 miles.  I mean... let's be serious... I could walk 13.1 miles without training, so what's the point of training?  And a couple things have come to mind:
1. When I receive my medal, it won't be for walking the 13.1 miles that day.  It will be for the weeks spent training.  It will be a medal for completing my training.
2. My recuperation from the half-marathon will be much quicker because I have trained my body to recover throughout the weeks of training.

Of course, this leads me to spiritualization of my training.  How important it is to train ourselves.  To be in shape spiritually.  Fortunately, I know when the date of the half-marathon is, but this isn't true for the major "marathons" in our spiritual lives.

But then I started to think about the spectators that will be cheering me on in less than 2 weeks.  And the water tables.  And the musicians along the route.  And I wondered why we applaud this type of behavior.  I mean what I do in my mentoring of women is much more important and life changing than me walking 13.1 miles with thousands of other people.  And there are no medals for that.  And definitely no water tables.  Although it is immensely more valuable.

Then we had about 1 mile left to go.  We were on the waterfront at that point headed towards the Hawthorne Bridge.  There were people cleaning up the Saturday Market (which is also held on Sunday).  There was a ton of Canadian Geese that looked like they were in huge cages because the city had put up fences around all the new grass seed they had put down along the walkway.  And then we noticed the crime scene tape.

The tape blocked our path.  We had to go around.  Which as you can imagine was not something I wanted to do.  I did not want to add any more distance to my walk.  But with the six police vehicles parked in the grass and the forensics truck, we knew we needed to go around.

Of course, we are gawkers.  Just like the others standing there.  Wondering.  Why would there be six police vehicles and a forensics truck in the Tom McCall Waterfront Park today?  On this most beautifully amazing day along the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon?

And then we saw it.
A body bag.
And Christopher asked if body bags were white.
I wasn't sure because just the other night we were watching "Yukon Men"
and the body bag they had was yellow.
But then there was a darker bag pulled around the white one.
And you knew by the customary zipper across the top that it was a body bag.
And that there was like a gurney underneath.
That someone had lost their life today.
Someone whom I had most likely passed by earlier that day.
Perhaps I thought they were taking a nap on a bench?
I can't find anything on the Internet about it.
And why wasn't there an ambulance?

So here is me and my bodyguard.  And a body bag.  And this is life.  Me training to walk a half-marathon.  And on a gorgeous day in Portland along a scenic route in a very public place... someone has died.

What to do?  What to say?  We don't even know.
And we keep going.
Under bridges.
Until we are under the Hawthorne Bridge where I remember that there is an 8x10 poster of Jesus.  And I want to take a photo of it.  Because it would make an interesting photo for Instagram.  Or a blog post.  And so I take the photo.



And I wonder how it all fits together.
A Boy who is my bodyguard.  A Bridge with a picture of Jesus.  And a Body Bag.

And all I can think is that without Jesus I wouldn't know what to think.  I figure Jesus knows what is going on.  And so I pray.  Asking him to help me put it all together.  If it needs to go together.  Or at least to give me peace and words to say to my bodyguard that might bring him comfort.

I think my brain gets more of a workout on these long walks then my legs do.



“I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. 
The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. 
He will remind you of all the things I have told you. 
I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you.
 Peace. 
I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—
feeling abandoned, bereft. 
So don’t be upset. 
Don’t be distraught." 
John 14:25-27 MSG

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Does God speak through Taylor Swift??



I think we need to be aware that God can speak to us in ways that are unique to only us.  As long as the revelation is in line with the Word of God, we can find comfort even in the lyrics of a Taylor Swift song.  I received this e-mail earlier today and asked my friend if I could share it with you.
 
Hello my Dear -
 
You're going to think I'm a little nutty - but I think you'll get me here.  It reminded me of your hose....so I thought I'd share.  So the back story facts. 
I run with an iPod - my workout mix has 89 songs on it.  It has one Taylor Swift song on it.  That one song plays on every single run I take.  When we were on vacation I was running longer, and I started to complain to my sister-in-law and husband about it.  Sometimes she would pop up twice - I was even talking about writing Apple about their need to update how they define shuffle! 

Anyway - Saturday - I ran 5.2 miles, took me 57 minutes.  Taylor Swift played twice.  I skipped her the second time, annoyed.  Monday I ran 3 miles, she came on, I skipped her, annoyed.
 
This morning I prayed to the Lord hard.  I prayed about my heart, why it wasn't changed in the year since I did this study on David (Beth Moore's David: A Heart Like His and Seeking A Heart Like His) the first time.  I had a long time of confession, I begged for His presence to be felt today - I begged him to open my eyes so I could hear Him speaking - see Him today.
 
9:00am this morning - I set out for a 4.2 mile run.  0.1 mile in, not even to corner!  Taylor Swift comes on.  I say to myself, FINE, I'll listen to it, get it over with.  But I didn't really 'listen'.  I was daydreaming.  I was having a great run, but I was thinking some prideful thoughts.  Mile 3, Taylor Swift came on.  And I said, out loud, 'Seriously...GOD (not spoken in praise) are you kidding me!',  and he said 'No....I'm not!'  The song was almost over before I got over myself and got it...just where I think He wanted me to listen...
 
So I have to ask...Does God speak through Taylor Swift?  I think He does.  I'll never listen to it the same way...and I'm pretty confident I'll always listen to it.
 
(partial) Lyrics to You Belong With Me :
Dreaming bout the day when you wake up and find
That what you're looking for has been here the whole time

If you could see that I'm the one who understands you
Been here all along so why can't you see?
You belong with me

Standin by, waiting at your back door
All this time how could you not know that?
You belong with me
You belong with me

Oh I remember you driving to my house in the middle of the night
I'm the one who makes you laugh when you know you're about to cry
I know your favorite songs and you tell me about your dreams
I think I know where you belong. I think I know it's with me.

Can't you see that I'm the one who understands you?
Been here all along so why can't you see?
You belong with me

Standing by or waiting at your back door
All this time how could you not know that
You belong with me
You belong with me

Have you ever thought just maybe
You belong with me
You belong with me

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Is a Growth Spurt Contagious?

 first day of 8th grade - 2012

I thought I would share Christopher's photo from the first day of school for 8th grade.  
And then I remembered this blog from September 12th, 2009 
and I thought I would re-post it.


Is a Growth Spurt Contagious
September 12, 2009

first day preschool 4's ~ 2003

Christopher couldn't sleep last night (September of 2009). Which meant I didn't sleep last night. At 1am I began to ramble off thoughts of what was keeping him from the land of nod. Hunger? Sugar? Growth Spurt? He asked me to clarify what exactly a growth spurt was... and then we tried to drift off to sleep.

This morning when I came down for breakfast, Christopher snuggled close to me on the couch and asked, "Mommy, is a growth spurt contagious? Because I want to know if I can play with Collin today."

I hugged him tight and assured him that it was not contagious, but I'm sure Collin... like any boy... wouldn't mind catching it!

first day 5th grade ~ 2009

And all of this growth spurt talk reminded me of another type of growth spurt...

Recently, I asked my FB friends, "Who taught you how to pray?"
Dixie: I would have to say my Mother.
Mark: Jesus

Phil: the parental unit known as Bill & Joy. Saw my dad praying every morning when I got up for 15 years.
Amy: The Lord's Prayer

Shannon: My Missionette leader

Leila: I learned how to pray by going through life situations that made me get real and talk to Him from my heart.
But the response that touched me the most was sent to me privately.
Sheri, no one taught me how to pray and I believe that I do not do it right. Is there a certain way to pray?
And first my heart ached for the one who thought they "do not do it right" but then my heart leapt... because I realized that this question was coming out of a growth spurt! And so I responded:
Great question! But first and foremost... please, don't ever think that you do not do it right. I think perhaps we get to a point in our prayer life where we want to go deeper with the Lord, to know Him in a more intimate way, to trust Him more. Just like when your baby learns to walk... she'll start with a crawl... then an unbalanced wobble... then a walk holding on to things for support... and then... and then... she'll run! And you'd have to admit that she did everything right... in its time.

I think one of the best ways to learn how to pray is by finding prayers in the Bible. Even starting with the Lord's prayer. Seeing how Jesus prays is helpful in teaching us how to pray.

I also highly recommend the acronyms A.C.T.S. You can check out my post on that one and let me know if you have any questions.

The book I am currently reading Too Busy Not to Pray is PHEnomenal! Are you a book reader? It's not too long of a read. I'm taking a chapter at a time so that it will really sink in... He does an incredible job of describing how to use A.C.T.S. If you like, I'll send you a copy?

Another book series is by Stormie Omartian... The Power of a Praying Wife, Woman, Parent. Each chapter talks about something to pray for... gives Bible verses... and then a sample prayer. I've learned a lot by listening to other people pray. But then finding my own comfort zone.

I've also found that our life experiences end up teaching us how to pray. When I was going through a deep depression in 2006... I begged the Lord to heal me immediately. When He didn't, I continued to pray in desperation... I began journaling daily. Sometimes thoughts... sometimes prayers. I continued to seek Him... and to listen to what I was praying. I relied upon Him so much and found true comfort when I would pray that it has become very much part of who I am.

I hope this gives you a place to start. You know to think of it... I've been praying for you for almost six years.

How about you, friend? Have you had a growth spurt lately? Because when it comes to spiritual growth spurts... I actually do believe they are contagious!

So then neither the one who plants
nor the one who waters is anything,
but God who causes the growth.
1 Corinthians 3:7 NASB

Monday, August 27, 2012

And they twain shall be one flesh...

Happy 24th Anniversary
photography by Christopher Kaetzel


A Love Story.

They met on a church youth choir tour in 1985.
She was 17.
He was 19.
But she had a boyfriend.  
And he had a girlfriend.
So, they decided to be friends.
Good friends.
Really good friends.

They would write notes to each other.
Talk at length after church services.
And sit next to each other in church service.
Their dear friends Ray S. and Bill S. and Pastor Terry
provided plenty of encouragement.
A lot of encouragement.

Months passed.
Relationships changed.
New Year's Eve at Jim Always on the Dual Highway
with the church youth group.
And a first kiss.

Two years later at the top of South Mountain
there was dinner
and a ring
and a "yes!"

Soon to be followed 
by a bride walking down an aisle.
And a man waiting anxiously for her.
Making a vow
to God
before their family and friends.


But from the beginning of the creation God made them 
male and female.  
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, 
and cleave to his wife; 
And they twain shall be one flesh: 
so then they are no more twain,
but one flesh. 
What therefore God hath joined together, 
let not man put asunder.
Mark 10:6-9