“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

Monday, December 30, 2013

No, I insist on paying you for it.

The Ethiopia/Uganda Chronicles
Chapter 2 - Sacrifice



Linda, me, Beth, Jackie and Charlotte
January 2010 - Siesta Scripture Memory Team Celebration


Obedience often means sacrifice.  And when you are willing to be obedient to an omniscient God, He may ask you to sacrifice something that you didn't realize the obedience would cost you.  And He won't always tell you why. 

My trip to Ethiopia/Uganda physically begins on February 5th of 2014.  And the physical part of it all costs quite a chunk of change.  Anthony and I had agreed that it would be our 25th Wedding Anniversary gift to one another, so there wasn't a need for me to be focused on the cost of the trip.  Still I kept having this impression from the Lord that I needed to raise part of my funds if not all of them.

God reminded me of 2 Samuel 24 where King David wants to build an altar to God on Araunah's threshing floor. And Araunah offered it freely to David, but David said, "No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” And that is how I felt. That I didn't want to offer a sacrifice that cost me nothing.

So there were a couple personal "conveniences" I decided to cancel and that would end up covering almost half the trip. And so I thought I was good.

But then God impressed on me that I should sacrifice something else.  Something of my heart.  What is it, Lord?  What would you want me to sacrifice of my heart to you?  The SSMTC.  The Siesta Scripture Memory Team Celebration in Houston, Texas with Beth Moore.  I have been planning on attending for at least two years.  I have been memorizing the book of James in preparation.  The SSMTC is held in late January.  I would have to buy an airline ticket, rent a hotel room and a rental car.  And although I share these costs with other precious Siestas/sisters... it still costs. 

And I would give up meeting with those precious sisters that I had met in 2010.  And then we roomed together in 2012.  And Charlotte and I were planning on reciting the book of James together in 2014.  The same version even.  The discontinued NIV 1984.

And so it was the SSMTC.  The financial cost of it.  Not just giving up a couple conveniences... but would I give up my heart's desire to go to Houston.  Why, yes, Lord. I would give up everything to You, of course. 

And so there it was.  A sacrifice.  Sacrifices.  A heart's desires placed on an altar.

And of course, an omniscient God would know that me taking a trip to Houston in late January right before a trip to Ethiopia/Uganda would be physically taxing.  And mentally taxing.  (I only have so much grace to give when I travel.)  And the planning.  God knew I would not have the concept of the amount of planning necessary for a trip to Ethiopia/Uganda.  No idea at all... even though Anthony has been multiple times.  I had no idea at all.

And so... lesson learned.  Obedience often means sacrifice.  And when you are willing to be obedient to an omniscient God, He may ask you to sacrifice something that you didn't realize the obedience would cost you.  And He doesn't have to tell you why.  But I trust that He knows why... and that He has an even greater plan to bring Him glory.

 


Praise the Lord!
Let all that I am praise the Lord.
Psalm 146:1 






For more of my thoughts on my trip to Ethiopia and Uganda visit here. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

God, of course, I would do anything for you!
But just don't send me to Africa.

 The Ethiopia/Uganda Chronicles
 Chapter 1 - Obedience

 Ethiopia 2011
photography by Anthony Kaetzel


"God, of course, I would do anything for you!  But just don't send me to Africa."

Obedience.

When Anthony introduced the idea of traveling to Ethiopia for missions work, I was asked multiple times by many people if I would be going with him.  I would respond the same way each time, "God hasn't called me to go to Ethiopia, but when He does I will go."

Anthony's first trip to Ethiopia with a missions team from our church was in January of 2009.  He has gone six times.  Each time he has encouraged me to go with him.  And each time he has gone without me.

I will go when He tells me to.
I will be obedient when God speaks to me.
And I was so grateful that He didn't speak to me about it until sometime in November of 2012.
But when He did speak, I knew I would be obedient.

The only thing is that I assumed with my obedience would come an expectancy.  A joy.  A willing heart.  But it did not.  And it has not.

I am going.  I am being obedient.  I am not grumbling in my obedience.  (Okay, well, sometimes...)  But I am going.

And is obedience enough?  Or do I need to be more than willing?  More than able?  More than going?

I do know that God has great plans.  That He will use this willing vessel.  That I am going to be part of a bigger plan.

But perhaps it is who I am.  Neither excited or nervous (unless I really think about it).   Controlling my feelings as I have done as long as I have known how.

Writing this down as perhaps my way of saying, "God help me to be willing to be willing to experience my feelings about Ethiopia."

And, now, I say... "God, of course, I would do anything for you!  I will go if you send me to Africa."






For more of my thoughts on my trip to Ethiopia and Uganda visit here.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

and I babble...

Half Dome, Yosemite - photography by Christopher
November 2009

Words still escape me. A magical spontaneous trip to Yosemite in November of 2009. Never having been... I wasn't even sure what was in store for me. All I knew was that Anthony's anticipation made me long for the place I had never been.

It was a feast for the eyes. And being the blogger I am... I thought of all the wonderful posts I would be sharing with you... about this hidden jewel. The eye candy photographs tied with words of wonder... but alas... I have been speechless.

But I have noticed, when someone asks me about the trip to Yosemite... My eyes light up, my heart beats faster and I babble about standing around the park and just staring at sights I have never seen before. Sights that I could never have dreamed existed. And I am reminded of visits to the Grand Canyon... and Crater Lake. And how can you describe just how "grand" Grand Canyon is... or how blue Crater Lake is?

And the only thing I can compare it to... is my relationship with the Lord. How often words fail me when I try to explain what the Lord is doing in my life... How I want to describe His majesty, His beauty, His love... All I know is that when I am asked about Him... My eyes light up, my heart beats faster and I babble about how totally wonderfully awesome He is. And how grateful I am.

Especially this time of year... when my thorn starts to flare. And although I would rather run from depression, the Lord has asked me to draw near. He will take care of me. It is a trial. Sometimes a temptation. But I know that He will see me through.

And it makes sense. As I read through Anonymous... and Alicia Britt Chole speaks about Jesus' temptation in the wilderness... in the desert... I realize that is where I am. And it is where I learn the most. And it is where my experiences and weakness tend to show me how dependent I am on the Lord. And it makes me who I am.

And I stand on God's promises. Promises I have memorized this year.

That He will show up and take care of me.
He will bring me back home.
He knows what He is doing.
He has it all planned out.
He won't abandon me.
He will give me a future.
He will listen to me.
He can be found.
He'll turn things around for me.
I can count on it.

This is God's Word on the subject:
"As soon as Babylon's seventy years are up and not a day before,
I'll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home.
I know what I'm doing.
I have it all planned out—
plans to take care of you,
not abandon you,
plans to give you the future you hope for.

"When you call on me,
when you come and pray to me,
I'll listen.

"When you come looking for me, you'll find me.

"Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I'll make sure you won't be disappointed." God's Decree.

"I'll turn things around for you.
I'll bring you back from all the countries into which I drove you"—God's Decree—
"bring you home to the place from which I sent you off into exile.
You can count on it.

Jeremiah 29:10-14 MSG



originally written November 30, 2009

Saturday, December 7, 2013

What Are You Waiting For?


Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.  (John 11:17)
A woman in a crowd who had suffered for twelve years.  (Luke 8:43)
A woman appeared with a spirit that crippled her for 18 years.  (Luke 13:11)
A man who was blind from birth.  (John 9:1)

"For I know the plans I have for you,"
declares the LORD,
"plans to prosper you and
not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future."
Jeremiah 29:11

We often wonder... "How long do I have to wait?"
Until my child is healed of leukemia?
Until I get a job?
Until my marriage is healed?
Until my child learns self-control?
Until I no longer suffer with depression?
Until I get over my heart break?
Until my husband is healed of his addiction?
Indeed. How long? Let's look at the verse that precedes Jeremiah 29:11...

This is what the LORD says:
"When seventy years are completed for Babylon,
I will come to you and
fulfill my gracious promise
to bring you back to this place."
Jeremiah 29:10

When seventy years are completed? Huh? Do I have to wait 70 years?

Honestly, I don't know how long you will have to wait for God to fulfill a promise that He has made to you. In the New Testament we see that Jesus performed miracles for people who waited four days... twelve years... eighteen years... or their whole life.

So, I ask you... can you wait? Can you wait for God's timing? And what will you do if you choose to wait? And if you don't want to wait... what other options are there?

Waiting...
It's painful.
It's exhausting.
It's not easy.

But there is...
Hope.
Confidence.
Peace.
...and a Future.



"While I'm Waiting" lyrics by John Waller

I'm waiting
I'm waiting on You, Lord
And I am hopeful
I'm waiting on You, Lord

Though it is painful
But patiently, I will wait

I will move ahead, bold and confident
Taking every step in obedience


While I'm waiting

I will serve You

While I'm waiting
I will worship
While I'm waiting
I will not faint
I'll be running the race
Even while I wait

I'm waiting

I'm waiting on You, Lord

And I am peaceful

I'm waiting on You, Lord

Though it's not easy

But faithfully, I will wait

Yes, I will wait

I will serve You while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting

I will serve You while I'm waiting

I will worship while I'm waiting

I will serve you while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting on You, Lord



John Waller - While I'm Waiting (Official Music Video) from Provident Label Group on Vimeo.


This post is part of a earlier series I wrote on Jeremiah 29:10-13.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Silver Rule

Silver Ice
photography by Anthony Kaetzel


The Silver Rule:
"What you do not wish yourself, do not unto others.”~ Confucius


I was at the home of a dear friend the other day.  She is in great pain due to a back injury.  I had called her and asked if I could offer a Starbucks delivery.  After some discussion (was I sure I wanted to come over because her house was a wreck... and she didn't have cash to pay me back...), she agreed.

Within minutes of my arrival (with a skinny venti Chai Tea Latte in hand) ... another of her friends had arrived with a freshly prepared meal for the evening.  As we sat and chatted, my dear friend admitted how difficult it is to accept such acts of generosity.  We started to discuss this in great detail. Why is it so difficult to accept acts of generosity?  Was it upbringing?  Was it pride?  Was it humility?  Or all of the above?

I've been thinking more about our conversation lately.  This dear friend of mine is a servant.  She prepares homemade meals ahead of time once a month (and freezes them) in preparation to take to someone -- she may barely know -- who is in need.  When she receives an abundant supply of anything, she passes on what she cannot use to those in need... wrapped with a bow on top!  She makes herself and her home available to anyone who would stop by... and invites young women from her church to her home to be mentored and discipled.  She is an encourager.  She is full of God-given joy.  She prays and God answers in ways she could never ask or even imagine to ask.  She embraces God and whatever morsel God speaks to her... she presses into those who need to hear... who are desperate to hear about hope and promise and future.

No, she is not a saint.  She will be protesting as she reads this because she knows she is not a saint and readily admits it... actually for the whole world to read.  But she has had a hard life and through that hard life... she has been softened and molded into a servant and follower of Christ.  She seeks to do His will.  To follow the first and greatest commandment...

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and 
with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 
This is the first and greatest commandment. Matthew 22:37-38 NIV

And the second greatest commandment...

And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 
All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Matthew 22:39-40 NIV

Which is also known as The Golden Rule...

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you,
for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
Matthew 7:12 NIV 

And all of this made me wonder... why would my friend expect anything less than what is given to her?  Those whom she has "done to"... are "doing" back to her.  And so I wonder... would she do less so that she would not receive back in abundance?  Would she love less so that she would not be so loved in return?  No.  Not her.  And so she must subject herself to the reciprocity of her actions.  The problem being... her motives.  She never did any of these things in expectation of her own benefit... and yet by receiving the generosity of others it may nullify her pure motives.  But it doesn't.

And so, we must learn to receive from others.  Graciously.  If the Lord encourages someone to love their neighbor as them self, who are we to deny them of their obedience to the Lord?  We, ourselves, must follow the Golden Rule... and do to others what we would have them do to us.  Lest we settle for second best... and follow the Silver Rule, "What you do not wish yourself, do not unto others.”

It is something I have been mulling over for myself.  Wondering why I do for others... is it in expectation of return?  Is it for the gratitude and recognition I receive?  Does it make me feel like I am more blessed and so I must bless others?  Does it just give me a good feeling each time?  And honestly, sometimes... there is truth to that.  But I feel that in following the Greatest Commandment, I have committed myself to the second greatest commandment... and I end up going for the gold.  And in so doing, encouraging others to do the same.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while 
you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 

These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, 
which perishes even though refined by fire—
may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor 
when Jesus Christ is revealed. 

1 Peter 1:6-7 NIV



originally posted January 12, 2011

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A High Tower For The Oppressed

Grand Canyon Desert View Watchtower


The Lord also will be a refuge and 
a high tower for the oppressed, 
a refuge and a stronghold in times of 
trouble(high cost, destitution, and desperation).
Psalm 9:9 Amplified Version

I was visiting with a friend yesterday.  And she was heart-sick.  Broken.  And wondering... Where was God in all of this?  Financial strain.  Broken relationships.  A daughter who was in an abusive relationship... and pregnant.  Illness.  Parents aging.  Family stress.

And she was wondering... Where was God in all of this?  And I felt like she was asking me for an answer.  What do you think, Sheri?  Where is God in all of this?  You know I believe Him and trust in Him and I know you do, too.  So, give me your perspective.  Where is God in all of this?

And I was desperately begging God to show me where He was in all of this.  Where are you God?  Because I have to give her an answer and she is hurting right now.  And I don't want to tell her that I don't know where you are.  Because it is hard for me to see that in all that she is dealing with right now.  And her problems are so big that I cannot do anything to help her.  I want to give her comfort, Lord.  I need some words that would lift her spirit.

And... nothing.  No catchy words.  Nothing spiritual.  And I waited.  For a nudge.  For something.  God, quick... I need to tell her something so she will feel better right now.  And so that I will feel better right now.  And I will feel like I helped her.  And she will feel like I helped her.  And she will be glad that she saw me today. 

Moments seemed like hours as I was catching my breath to try and speak some life-changing words.  So, I grabbed her hand and pulled it tight into mine... and prayed over her.  And as I was praying the thought came to me, What did that Philip Yancey book say about what to say to those who are hurting?  What wise words?  What were those words?  What magnificent meaningful words could I pray over her?

And I remembered.  Hope.  God is our hope.  He offers us hope.  Sometimes there are no words.  Just hope.  And as I prayed them... prayed words of hope over her... they seemed at first hollow.  Was I wishing for her?  Was there really something hopeful in her situation? Would God really work all these things out?  Would He show Himself to her?  I feared that I might be just trying to give her hope.  Give her hope. Give her hope.  


And that's when I realized that I truly did believe that God would follow through.  He always has.  He always will.  And that in the end... it's not about me... and what I say... or how I pray.  But it is truth.  That He gives us hope.  That He is a tower.  A refuge.  A stronghold. And sometimes when we are in a moment of desperation we need our friends to come around us and point out the Strong Tower.  Who is there.  Has always been there.  Will always be there.


Praying that if you need hope... you'll let someone encourage you and pray for you, today.


Originally posted 10/31/11

Friday, November 15, 2013

interrupted by God


And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  Hebrews 10:24-25

Her years are catching up to her.

She is frustrated with her own slow mobility but was able to make it to church that day.  But it wasn't a good day for her.

I met her as she was walking into the ladies' room.  I asked her how she was doing.  Not good.  She had twisted her hip somehow this morning in her Sunday School class.  Now her walker wasn't just a nicety.  It was a neccesity.  She couldn't walk without it.  And if that wasn't enough, she has this cough.  A cough that can barely be controlled by medication.

And that was why she was coming to the ladies' room.  To try to tame the cough.  The cough that had just gone out of control during church service.  But she couldn't do anything about it.  She couldn't remove herself from service.  An usher had to bring her walker.  She couldn't walk out because she had twisted her hip earlier.

And as if her embarrassment wasn't enough, there had been a new person that had been sitting by her.  And she was certain that her uncontrollable cough and her inability to excuse herself in a timely manner was somehow going to taint that new person.  They might not come back.  They might be so frustrated as to not even listen to the service.  You could tell that she found herself to be a nuisance and perhaps should not come to church in the future.

I decided to offer her a different perspective.  That perhaps that new person wasn't as bothered as much by the cough of an elderly saint as they were witness to a community that took care of its own.  And perhaps the new person might be thinking that they would want to be a part of a community that cares for its own as well as the community-at-large and even to the far reaches of Africa.  Perhaps that new person might have a small glimpse that it is okay to not be 100% but still be welcome.  Still be loved.  Still be part of the community.

We prayed.  I gave her a hug and she smiled as she began to process the new perspective.  She nodded her head.  And I went on my way.


“We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.
God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by
sending us people with claims and petitions.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community

Monday, September 30, 2013

Thoughts about Cowbells and Finishing the Race

It's almost here.  This Sunday.  I'll be walking my 2nd Portland Half-Marathon.  (My 3rd Half-Marathon ever since I did the Portland Rock and Roll earlier this year.) 

Thought I would reminisce from last year's race... when I could've used a little more cowbell.  And thinking maybe I'll carry my own cowbell this year...


I'll be honest... I could've used a little more cowbell.
October 10, 2012
 

 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.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Persevere = Through Severe

Persevere.  I've been thinking a lot about this word lately. Watching those around me persevere... and doing a little persevering myself.

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

From the beatitudes found in Matthew 5:1-12, our pastor 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!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

After Years Of Wrapping The Tentacles Around Myself...

I was reading Titus 2 this morning and it reminded me of a post I wrote about some green bean seeds...

those seeds should have known that they needed a pole...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

 



Been out in the garden. We're growing pole beans this year. Never done it before. Now that the plant starts are maturing... they are sending out their tentacles to hook on to something... whatever they can find... even themselves. What they really need are poles... to grasp on to, so that the beans are able to grow off the ground. That's where I come in... I'm their trainer.


Each morning as I walk about my garden, I stop by and visit the pole beans. If I find a new growth of tentacle, I gently lead it over to the pole... sometimes gently wrapping it around the pole. Next time I visit, it normally has gotten the idea... and it does the wrapping itself. And then I won't even need to help it... but for now I do... and I visit daily... and I train. Gently. Enjoying their growth... and soon I won't be as necessary... until they bear their fruit... and then I get to share in their harvest.




No one faults the beans for needing a little extra help. Actually, the seeds came in a package with directions that I would need to provide for their growth if I expected them to produce as shown in their picture on the front of the package. I don't mind helping them. I actually enjoy it.


So when the plant is starting to send out its shoots, I don't think to myself... those seeds should have known that they needed a pole... why didn't they plant themselves by a pole? They were made to be dependent. Now, I can't make the seed grow into the plant... it does it by itself... God has created it that way. But coming alongside... offering what I can... a pole, water... and then it is ready to do the rest.


And so, we are encouraged... or even more so... given the charge... of training the "younger" women. There is a world out there that thinks that loving a husband or children, being self-controlled, pure, busy at home, kind, and subject to a husband... well, it should just come naturally. Innate. Or perhaps we think... that was someone else's job... their mother's job. She was to train up the daughters. Well, sometimes... things just don't work out that way...


Is there a young tender flower near you? Perhaps you didn't plant her, but you could give a little guidance? A gentle nudging? Just until she grasps hold? Maybe you need to direct her to the Word of God? Fellowship with other women? Be a listening ear?


For me... this is a compulsion. I am compelled to do so... because, I know what it is like to not have a gentle gardener direct me towards the right direction. By the grace of God, I happened upon it... after years of wrapping the tentacles around myself... and often wonder what it would have been like if only someone would have taken the time to...

...train the younger women

to
love their husbands
and children,
to be
self-controlled
and
pure,
to be
busy at home,
to be
kind,
and to be
subject to their husbands,
so that no one will malign the word of God.

Titus 2:4-5 NIV84

 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Depression

It's funny how quickly the tide can change.   And how quiet the house suddenly is.  I've been in contact with a couple sisters who have been struggling.  Thought I'd share a post I wrote a couple years ago.  You're not alone.  And there is HOPE in Jesus Christ.


Depression

She caught up to me today.
I was in the bread aisle.
She asked if we could visit for a while.
I didn't pay attention at first.

She said she hadn't seen me lately.
She just wanted to catch up.
She noticed I had been a little tired lately.
A little weary.
I told her not to bother me.

She persisted.
She would take care of it.
Just a little visit.
Just a little visit.
See, it would be okay.

And I was lulled.
Yes, she was right.
Just a little visit.
A little despondency.
I mean... what would it hurt?

And then I recognized her.
Yes, I had seen her before.
I knew her well.

And there she was.
Revealed for who she really is.
Depression.

And I ran... as fast as I could.
Knowing that I didn't want to see her.
I wanted nothing to do with her.

Knowing that she'll come back, again.
But knowing that each time she does.
I'll run. Quicker. Harder. Faster.

Right into my Father's arms.
Safe into my Father's arms.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Totally Inadequate

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.
Always be prepared to give an answer
to everyone who asks you
to give the reason for the hope that you have.
But do this with gentleness and respect,

keeping a clear conscience,
so that those who speak maliciously
against your good behavior in Christ
may be ashamed of their slander.
1 Peter 3:14-16

I was having a java fix with a dear sister yesterday. She was distraught. She was berating herself because she didn't feel that she gave an adequate answer to a gal who had asked her, "Why should Christians pray if God knows everything ahead of time? What does it matter? If He knows someone is going to die... why pray?"

My dear sister is a solid and mature Christian woman. A well-put together lady who is successful in her business and life. Generous with her time and resources. Hangs out with God daily. A good and trusted friend to many.

But she felt that she missed the opportunity to witness to her acquaintance. She didn't have the answer that she felt was persuasive enough to win this gal to Christ. Surely, as a godly mature Christian woman... she should have a prepared Christian answer to give... She felt she had blown it...

I came across this verse as I was reading today's devotion in My Utmost for His Highest.
I immediately forwarded it to my dear sister.

You'll remember, friends,
that when I first came to you
to let you in on God's master stroke,
I didn't try to impress you with polished speeches
and the latest philosophy.
I deliberately kept it plain and simple:
first Jesus and who he is;
then Jesus and what he did—Jesus crucified.

I was unsure of how to go about this,
and felt totally inadequate
I was scared to death, if you want the truth of it—
and so nothing I said
could have impressed you or anyone else.
But the Message came through anyway.
God's Spirit and God's power did it,
which made it clear that
your life of faith is a response to God's power,
not to some fancy mental or emotional footwork
by me or anyone else.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5 The Message

This is the apostle Paul talking... unsure... totally inadequate... scared to death... yet he celebrated his weakness... because it gave God room to do the work. He didn't want to persuade anyone by his answers... He wanted it to be clear that God's power did it.

My dear sisters! How often I am guilty of this same offense! "Oh, if I only would have said this or that my friend would be saved. If only I would have spoken to that person in the grocery line. If only I would have spoken more clearly... If only I would have been prepared!"

Oh, how we need to remember... we just need to keep it plain and simple... Because when we start blaming ourselves for the loss of a soul, we're denying the power of the Holy Spirit to do the work.

Yet we should truly always be prepared... and how do we do that?  In your hearts set Christ apart as Lord. We need to know Christ. We need to know and believe and have faith in Christ. Not ourselves, but Christ... and Christ crucified.
 

Monday, July 15, 2013

When Godly People Do Ungodly Things


Quote From:  The Polar Express 

Hero Girl: It says "lead." Like "lead balloon." 

Conductor:
I believe it also is pronounced "lead." As in "leader," "leadership." "Lead the way." Follow you anywhere, ma'am.
 This is a monthly post on my One Word for 2013:  Lead


Sad.  Today I am sad.  Or is a better word perhaps... saddened.  A bittersweet moment for me.  Bittersweet when I come to the end of a season.  A season that has brought great clarity to some.  A season that has brought new sisters into friendship.  A season that has refined some.  And for others it is a season that they choose to defer.  The end of a season.  The end of a Bible Study.

And not just any Bible Study.  This study was on the redemptive grace of God to those who have been Had through seduction.  Seduction of sexual promiscuity.  Seduction of marital infidelity.  Seduction of illegal drugs.  Seduction of greed.  Seduction of power.  And most definitely the seduction of pride.  We have an enemy and he will find our weakest area and seduce us until we fill that legitimate need illegitimately. 

And those of us who have been Had by seduction have to struggle with the TRUTH that God longs to restore us.  Longs for our sincere repentance.  Longs for us to move past our self-deprecation and into His true forgiveness.  Forgiveness that was given freely.  And must be received freely.  Forgiveness that can only be experienced when we stick our ego and pride where they should be AND humble ourselves and accept God's mercy and grace.

Lead.  This was a hard study to lead.  Especially when the ladies didn't realize exactly what the study would be about.  Asking ladies to strip down their egos and pride and put on the garment of humility.  That is a lot to ask.  One of the precious gals decided that because she had already worked through a restoration from her own seduction that she would not participate in the study.  I begged her then to come and walk alongside others to the same restoration she has experienced, but she refused.  No, for her, there was nothing she could gain from this study.  But I think she missed out.  No, I know she did.

There perhaps is no greater joy to me than to see a woman humble herself before her God and accept His love and grace and mercy.  To see the weight of carrying her sin and burden lifted from her shoulders.  The freedom she experiences when she knows that she is forgiven and loved by a Holy God.  It is beautiful.  Beautiful.  A sight that I don't feel worthy to see but it is as if a reward the Father gives me for walking alongside these ladies.

When Godly People Do Ungodly Things.  It happens.  We do things that we never ever EVER think we will do.  And only God can AND will restore us.  And He can choose to use us, again.  He can choose to use us exactly where we have fallen.  He uses us in His restoration of others.  To a fullness of Christ.  To a place of deep and abiding love. 

He can take what we think is a lead balloon and use it.  He can use us to lead others.  Lead others to let go of their lead balloons.  Because they see something in us that is compassionate... that is real... that is humbled... that is HEALED and no longer HAD.

Are you holding on to your lead balloon?  Do you not feel worthy to receive forgiveness?  He is waiting for you.  No, actually... He is running towards you!


"But while he was still a long way off, 
his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; 
he ran to his son, 
threw his arms around him and kissed him."  
Luke 15:21 NIV84

The Parable of the Prodigal Son
Luke 15:11-31

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Silver Rule

Silver Ice
photography by Anthony Kaetzel


The Silver Rule:
"What you do not wish yourself, do not unto others.”~ Confucius


I was at the home of a dear friend the other day.  She is in great pain due to a back injury.  I had called her and asked if I could offer a Starbucks delivery.  After some discussion (was I sure I wanted to come over because her house was a wreck... and she didn't have cash to pay me back...), she agreed.

Within minutes of my arrival (with a skinny venti Chai Tea Latte in hand) ... another of her friends had arrived with a freshly prepared meal for the evening.  As we sat and chatted, my dear friend admitted how difficult it is to accept such acts of generosity.  We started to discuss this in great detail. Why is it so difficult to accept acts of generosity?  Was it upbringing?  Was it pride?  Was it humility?  Or all of the above?

I've been thinking more about our conversation lately.  This dear friend of mine is a servant.  She prepares homemade meals ahead of time once a month (and freezes them) in preparation to take to someone -- she may barely know -- who is in need.  When she receives an abundant supply of anything, she passes on what she cannot use to those in need... wrapped with a bow on top!  She makes herself and her home available to anyone who would stop by... and invites young women from her church to her home to be mentored and discipled.  She is an encourager.  She is full of God-given joy.  She prays and God answers in ways she could never ask or even imagine to ask.  She embraces God and whatever morsel God speaks to her... she presses into those who need to hear... who are desperate to hear about hope and promise and future.

No, she is not a saint.  She will be protesting as she reads this because she knows she is not a saint and readily admits it... actually for the whole world to read.  But she has had a hard life and through that hard life... she has been softened and molded into a servant and follower of Christ.  She seeks to do His will.  To follow the first and greatest commandment...

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and 
with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 
This is the first and greatest commandment. Matthew 22:37-38 NIV

And the second greatest commandment...

And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 
All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Matthew 22:39-40 NIV

Which is also known as The Golden Rule...

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you,
for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
Matthew 7:12 NIV 

And all of this made me wonder... why would my friend expect anything less than what is given to her?  Those whom she has "done to"... are "doing" back to her.  And so I wonder... would she do less so that she would not receive back in abundance?  Would she love less so that she would not be so loved in return?  No.  Not her.  And so she must subject herself to the reciprocity of her actions.  The problem being... her motives.  She never did any of these things in expectation of her own benefit... and yet by receiving the generosity of others it may nullify her pure motives.  But it doesn't.

And so, we must learn to receive from others.  Graciously.  If the Lord encourages someone to love their neighbor as them self, who are we to deny them of their obedience to the Lord?  We, ourselves, must follow the Golden Rule... and do to others what we would have them do to us.  Lest we settle for second best... and follow the Silver Rule, "What you do not wish yourself, do not unto others.”

It is something I have been mulling over for myself.  Wondering why I do for others... is it in expectation of return?  Is it for the gratitude and recognition I receive?  Does it make me feel like I am more blessed and so I must bless others?  Does it just give me a good feeling each time?  And honestly, sometimes... there is truth to that.  But I feel that in following the Greatest Commandment, I have committed myself to the second greatest commandment... and I end up going for the gold.  And in so doing, encouraging others to do the same.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while 
you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 

These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, 
which perishes even though refined by fire—
may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor 
when Jesus Christ is revealed. 

1 Peter 1:6-7 NIV



originally written January 12, 2011

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Because I Was In The Garden

"Consider carefully what you hear,"
he continued.
"
With the measure you use,
it will be measured to you—
and even more.
Whoever has will be given more;
whoever does not have,
even what he has
will be taken from him.
"
Mark 4:24-25 NIV


 

Because I was in the garden...

I plant a lot of flowers.  Because I love a lot of color and blossoms.  The more I plant... the more I am able to enjoy.

There were years that I rarely entered my garden.  Years before I truly understood how satisfying it could be to watch my garden transform into a sanctuary.   I planted nothing... I reaped nothing... and decided to spend very little time there... because it brought me no pleasure.

And there it is... with the measure I used... it was measured back to me.  Plant flowers... reap flowers.   Don't plant flowers... don't reap flowers.

But the amazing thing was that when I started gardening, I did discover other plants in my backyard... that were trying to grow, but they were hidden by weeds and vines.   Specifically, two roses.  Hidden... unbeknownst to me.   Having survived years of neglect... and admiration.  But because I was out there... "measuring"... planting... I received even more.

And so, I have found this to be true in my relationship with the Lord.  The more time I spend with Him... in His Word... in prayer... through Bible Studies... sermons... worship... the more I receive in return.  Knowledge, wisdom, discernment, peace, joy, contentment...

What is the measure you are using?   A pinch?  A dash?  A teaspoon?  Tablespoon?  Or how about a cup?  Whatever measure you use, it will be measured to you--and even more.

When you come to visit my garden, you will enjoy the beauty of all the glory of the flowers... but I will most certainly draw you to the two roses that were revealed to me because I was in the garden at all.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

the text

A Leaking Window 
from the Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland, Oregon
photography by Anthony Kaetzel


She keeps reminding me unintentionally via Facebook.  Reminding me of the things that we did when she was in high school.  Like that I took her to her first Major League Baseball game.  It just happened to be the last game that Nolan Ryan would pitch against the Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards back in 1993.  And it made me remember this post from when I saw her last year after Anthony ran the JFK 50.

Years later... when you don't know if your prayers have been answered and you don't know if you made a difference... God just might give you a glimpse of what he has been doing over the last 20 years.

____________________________________
11/18/2012

the text she sent me...
"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.  Or maybe not even a plant, but a smaller than that.  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.  My 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.  We 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 after seeing me.
 "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