“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, 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.


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

Monday, June 24, 2013

Be The Branch.

 ...he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear...
Ethiopia 2010 - photography by Anthony Kaetzel

"I know God said He wouldn't give me more than I could bear... I just wish He didn't trust me so much."

And here's the thing... He doesn't.  He doesn't trust you so much.  He trusts Himself. 

No test or temptation that comes your way 
is beyond the course of what others have had to face. 
All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; 
he'll never let you be pushed past your limit; 
he'll always be there to help you come through it. 
1 Corinthians 10:13 The Message

Often we pray that we want to know God better.  Or that we want to be more Christ-like.  And then we are surprised when life suddenly becomes hard... or harder.

Through scripture, we see that God chooses to allow those who love Him and believe in Him to be tested and tempted.  He is not counting on you to bear it by yourself.  To do it on your own.  He is all about bringing you to a place where you think you cannot bear it on your own... so that you will see Him help you come through it.

I don't think God wanted us to concentrate on the phrase, "he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.I think He wanted us to focus on the words, "God will never let you down... he'll always be there."

 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me...

"God wants to chain me down... put a yoke on me."

Nope.  He is saying... as opposed to doing it on your own.  If you take on His yoke... He is going to carry the weight.  He is doing the hard work.  You get to walk along and work with Him and watch how He does it.

 "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? 
Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. 
I'll show you how to take a real rest. 
Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. 
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. 
I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. 
Keep company with me and 
you'll learn to live freely and lightly." 
Matthew 11:28-30 The Message

How do we do this?  How do we walk with Him?  Work with Him?  Watch how He does it?

Read the Bible.  Pray.  Do a Bible Study.  Go to church.  Find a godly mentor.  Spend time in God's beauty.  Journal your thoughts.  Read a book by a Christian author.  Listen to praise music... remain in Him.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. 
If a man remains in me and I in him, 
he will bear much fruit; 
apart from me you can do nothing."
John 15:5

YOU = the branch.  Not the vine.  That's His job.  If you are trying to be a branch without the vine... well, that is just not going to work out, is it?  The branch is nourished and strengthened and able to live ONLY dependent on the vine.  And that is how He knows that you will be able to bear it... because you are dependent upon the vine.  Dependent upon Him.

So today when you are facing a temptation or a trial that you think is beyond what you can bear... remember that you are not alone.  You do not need to carry the load on your own.  Stop trying to be the vine.

Be the branch.

Friday, June 21, 2013

What Does This Look Like?

"Pray as though everything depended on God.
Work as though everything depended on you."
~Saint Augustine

Often I am asked what this looks like.

What does it look like to pray for God to intervene and yet keep working like it depends on me? One of the ways that you can keep working like it depends on you is to study God's Word, The Bible.

That may look different for all of us. But for me, today, that means completing the Member Book "homework" for the Beth Moore study "When Godly People Do Ungodly Things." As I am doing the "work" I am reflecting on God's Word and applying it to my life and circumstances. I am pondering what it means for God to delight in my obedience (1 Samuel 15:22) and what exactly the difference is between willful sin (Psalm 19:12-13) and any other type of sin (pg. 62).

If you have been wondering how to move beyond the pit that you are stuck in, I encourage you to open your Bible today and pray for God to help you understand it and have a love for reading it. A great place to start is the book of John and the book of Psalms. Or join a Bible study so that you can discuss it and learn from others along the way.

In the meantime, I'll be praying for you. Knowing that God is dependable and is proven to be faithful. Much love to you today!
But Samuel replied:
“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
    and to heed is better than the fat of rams."
1 Samuel 15:22
But who can discern their own errors?
    Forgive my hidden faults.
Keep your servant also from willful sins;

    may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
    innocent of great transgression. 
Psalm 19:12-13 NIV