“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

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Me and The Fresh Prince

Me and The Fresh Prince
I guess they ran out of time for the ~topher.

I hate keeping secrets.  Especially from those I love.  But I can and I do.

Over a week ago I found out that Christopher had been chosen as the Homecoming Freshman Class Prince.  And he wouldn't find out until today.  It's been a long week of close calls.

They had asked the parents to announce their child's name to the Homecoming Court along with a story about them.  Okay, how was I going to do that without embarrassing him???  I secretly prayed that he would find out, so that I could ask him what I should say.  But, alas... that did not happen.  You weren't to announce their name until the very end, so people could guess, so last night I decided to write out a couple riddle clues that would reveal who he was without sharing too much.

Here are some fun riddles.clues.randomfacts.insidejokes about The Fresh(man) Prince:
For additional insight I've added some information in italics that I didn't use in the introduction.

  1. He would say his claim to fame is that he is the only native Oregonian on our family tree.  We are ALL from the East Coast!
  2. But you would think he lives in Baltimore when he cheers for baseball.  Orioles.
  3. Or Dallas (and Baltimore) when he cheers for football. Cowboys and Ravens.
  4. Or Anaheim for ice hockey. Ducks.  Today was support your favorite sports team for Spirit week so all these clues made sense to me. 
  5. But you know for sure Portland is his hometown when he cheers in the TA "Rose City Til I Die." If you received a Christmas Card... our favorite sports team is our Major League Soccer Team, the Portland Timbers.  We sit in the TA or Timbers Army.  Rose City is Portland's nickname.
  6. And as far as basketball is concerned… he is only happy when Mike & Mike call the game.  They are two local announcers for the Portland Trailblazers.  Win or lose they are on the hometeam!
  7. And the college team in Corvallis is his favorite.  Oregon State Beavers.
  8. Most students wouldn't be interested in getting an F.  But he is.  Well, as a bass (baritone) who wouldn't want to be able to hit an F sharp?  On the TV show The Sing Off there was a country group that sang Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash and one of the guys hit an F sharp so low you could barely hear it!
  9. If you saw the performances of A Mid Summer Night’s Dream, you would know “The Butler Did it!” Christopher played the butler in the play earlier in the year.
  10. He hates when his parents call his favorite game “Minesweeper.”  Mommm, it is called "Minecraft"!!!!!!
  11. Some would say he only wears graphic t-shirts, hoodies, shorts and nike elites. Of course, not today when I am announcing him... of all days!
  12. He just went to Comic Con and got to see the man who inspired his childhood superhero.  Yes, despite what others may protest… Spiderman is a superhero.  One of his teachers insists that Spiderman is not a superhero.  But he really is!!!!
  13. He’ll have a new stamp in his passport next week as he travels to Ethiopia and Uganda on a missions trip sharing the love of God to local missionaries and orphans.  Leaving in a week.  Wait, what???
  14. He has never been called shy.  Have you met my son?
  15. He is happy to be known as different.  Have you met my son?
  16. And his final claim to fame?  He is my favorite son.  To which he would say… “Mom, I’m your only son.” And I reply, “True, but you’re still my favorite.”
I was relieved to know that I did not embarrass him... but wait for it!  Because we get to go to Homecoming!!!  And you never know what his dad might do!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Do For One What You Wish You Could Do For Everyone

The Ethiopia/Uganda Chronicles
Chapter Five - The Need

Precious Ethiopian Boy.
photography by Anthony Kaetzel

"Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, 
or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you 
a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?   
And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?" 
 And the King will answer them, "Truly, I say to you, 
as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, 
you did it to me."  Matthew 25:37-40

Often I am asked how I am feeling about going to Ethiopia and Uganda.  Excited?!  Nervous?  And my answer most often has been "Yes.  Yes, I am."  I think I am nervous and excited.  But not so much.

I thought that it had to do with me controlling my feelings about the trip (ummm, I have been known to do that), but lately I have the sense that God has put blinders on me.  He is only allowing me to see what He wants me to see.  He is not allowing me to look to the side and be spooked or distracted.  Just enough sight before me to move ahead to the next day and no further.  He knows me.  He knows if I have a little bit more in my view that my thinker-type personality would begin to take me over and I would drown in my thoughts.

Because it is overwhelming.  I have heard enough of the stories from Anthony (mind you - not all of them) to know I am going to get my socks shocked off my feet through my shoes.  That I am going to see poverty the likes that I have never seen.  I am going to hear stories of witchcraft and abuses.  I am going to smell smells and taste tastes that are so very foreign to me.

And I am going to meet people.  Lots of people.  Lots and lots of people.  So many people.  And I am going to want to help... e a c h  and  e v e r y  O N E  of them.  I am going to want to save them from the lurid situation that they live in.  I am going to want to fix it.  I am going to want to make a difference in e a c h  and  e v e r y  O N E  of them.  Can I even make a difference?  At all?

Oh, God.  The need is too great.  There are too many to help.  What difference can I make?

An old man had a habit of early morning walks on the beach.   One day, after a storm, he saw a human figure in the distance moving like a dancer.  As he came closer he saw that it was a young woman and she was not dancing but was reaching down to the sand, picking up a starfish and very gently throwing it back into the ocean.

"Young lady," he asked, "Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?"

"The sun is up, and the tide is going out, and if I do not throw them in they will die."

"But young lady, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it? You cannot possibly make a difference."

The young woman listened politely, paused and then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves, saying,
"It made a difference for that one."  ~~ The Starfish Story

And I guess that is where the blinders come in... I sense that God has prompted me to do for one what I wish I could do for everyone.  Over two years ago I came across a sermon by Andy Stanley that touched on this very thought.  "One, Not Everyone:  How can you make a difference in a big world with big needs when everything you have to offer seems, by comparison, small and inadequate?"

Because when I think of ALL the people who need help, I may just get overwhelmed and do nothing at all.  If I truly see the need I might start to make excuses.  I would realize there's just too many miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it... And who am I? 

"If we all did for one what we wish we could do for everyone,
it might change the world. 
But certainly, it would change one person's world. 
It may even change your world." 
~ Andy Stanley
And so I go.  Looking only at that which God has placed before me.  Reaching out to the widow who is in my presence.  To the orphan who God has placed before me.  Knowing that I may not be able to to help everyone I come in contact with, but that I can reach out to the one.

And I will know that
it made a difference for that one.

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

Friday, January 24, 2014

Did God Really Say...

The Ethiopia/Uganda Chronicles
Chapter Four - The Doubt

Ethiopian boy chasing the team van.  
photography by Anthony Kaetzel

It was November.  A Saturday.  We were scheduled to get our immunizations for Ethiopia and Uganda later that morning.

He came down the stairs and he was upset.  He told us that he just realized he would be missing a couple of competitions in February when we were in Africa.  He was beside himself.  These were competitions that he had been preparing for... one for almost a year.

He wondered to us if he was really supposed to go to Ethiopia and Uganda.  He didn't feel called.  Perhaps God had spoken to us about it, but God had not spoken to him.  He was frustrated.

His father calmly asked him to find out the dates of the competition to be certain that they were conflicting with our trip to Africa.  He went upstairs.  He went to his room.  He shut his door.

And as a mother I wondered... Did God really say Christopher was to go to Ethiopia?  I cried as I thought of the sacrifice we were asking him to make.  Perhaps he could stay home.  Perhaps I was being selfish and wanting him to go with us for the wrong reasons.  He was right.  God had spoken to us as parents, but not to him.  Perhaps I should intervene and we could always change our minds.  I could fix this.

I walked down the stairs full of emotion.  Wanting to take away the pain.

But there he sat.  Calm.  Composed.  Resolute.  Talking with his dad.  He explained to me that he had felt prompted to read the second chapter of the book of James in the Bible.  And when he read James 2:14-17,  he knew what he had to do.  He knew his faith needed action.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.  James 2:14-17

And that was it.  He was changed.  God had spoke.  He listened.  That was that.

And I was dumbfounded at the thought that I almost saved him from it.  Saved him from hearing from the Lord.  From the opportunity to press into what seemed important to him to what seemed important to God.  I almost protected him from something that would change his life forever.

But God intervened.  God took care of it.  And He will.  He will always take care of it. 
Thank you, God.

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

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Desert of Depression: Celebrating January 15th...
The Eighth Anniversary

photography by Anthony Kaetzel

...because you know that 
the testing of your faith 
develops perseverance.
James 1:3 NIV 

Today, January 15th, is a special day for me.  It is the 8th anniversary of my "dark night of the soul."  I celebrate this day because I have persevered... and continue to persevere.  My major depressive episode of 2006 brought me to my knees.  Depression was... and continues to be a test of my faith.  And as I look back I can see that my ability and willingness to persevere in the face of depression has grown stronger... has made me more complete... has made me more mature... and has shown me that I lack nothing when I turn towards the healer of my mind, soul, heart and body.

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, 
 Prepare ye the way of the LORD, 
 make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  
 Isaiah 40:3 KJV

This week I have been studying about John the Baptist.  About how he hung out in the desert and that he prepared the way of the Lord... and not only the way of the Lord, but also he prepared a way to the Lord. 

"And he will go on before the Lord, 
in the spirit and power of Elijah, 
to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and 
the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous
—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 
Luke 1:17 NIV

And it made me think of the ministry that God has placed before me.  That He has chosen for me.  He uses my intimate knowledge and experience with depression to prepare a way for others who are suffering with depression.  I am not the one who heals or the one who counsels or the one who diagnoses or creates a prognosis.  I am the one who shows the way towards the conquering of depression.  I am a living breathing resource.

I am a living breathing resource.  And sometimes I wonder if that is why He keeps her so near.  Because I have not conquered my depression, but I am conquering my depression.  And because it is something that tests my faith almost daily and has developed my perseverance, I am able to pass on to those who don't even know who they are fighting... a sword and a shield.  A fighting chance.  And better yet, I am able to tell them that I have persevered and am persevering... and they will get better... because God is greater than depression.

"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, 
when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. 
You know that under pressure, your faith-life is 
forced into the open and shows its true colors. 
So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. 
Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, 
not deficient in any way."  James 1:2-4 MSG

A reminder for me that I don't need to run away from the testing of my faith...
that it develops my ability to persevere
and reminds me of the One
who fights for me.

Let me pray for you, friend.

Friday, January 10, 2014

They Didn't Want Any Party

The Ethiopia/Uganda Chronicles
Chapter 3 - The Offerings

Ethiopian Mother and Child
photography by Anthony Kaetzel

Religion that God our Father accepts
as pure and faultless is this:
 to look after orphans and widows in their distress 
and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  
James 1:27

It was sometime in October, I think.  Anthony went to the mailbox and came back with a stack of mail.  He handed me a handwritten envelope as he opened another one that was addressed to himself.

He didn't recognize the name.  Perhaps it was the name of a neighbor from his childhood?  But he couldn't be sure.  And as he opened the letter out poured a check for $5 and a note that said,
Hello Anthony & Sheri - Just a little to help you on your mission, far away from home. 
 Huh?  Who would be sending us $5?  And what would have prompted them?

We shook our head and thought it best to call Anthony's mom to see if she knew anything about it.  But before we did I opened the handwritten envelope that was in my hand.
Sheri/Anthony - Congrats and Happy 25th Wedding Anniversary!!  An incredible accomplishment.  Have a great and safe trip in February --
It was from one of my cousins.  And out poured a check for $25.

Double HUH?  Anthony's former neighbor and my cousin?  Both sending checks for our trip?  Um... couldn't be a coincidence could it?  After Anthony hung up from speaking to his mom, I heard all the details.

Both of our moms had wanted to celebrate our 25th Wedding Anniversary in August.  We nixed it.  We're not party people.  The anniversary is just significant to us, so why would we have others celebrate us?  Some of our family gave us cards and gifts, but that was the end of that... or so we thought.

Sometime in September Anthony's mom drafted a letter and met with my mom to discuss it.  They would send out a note to a few family and friends that said,

Sheri & Anthony just celebrated their 25th Wedding Anniversary.  They didn't want any party.  So we didn't plan anything during their visit in August.

Anthony did mention that they plan to celebrate their anniversary in February with a missions trip to Ethiopia.  While there they will be ministering to a group of Widows and Orphan Children.

Ministering in Ethiopia is what Anthony & Sheri feel called to do.  This is what they are all about.

If you would like to give a gift/donation for this ministry, Widows & Orphan Children, send it to...

This announcement is from Donna (my mom) and Ruth (Anthony's mom).

We were so touched.  To be so loved by our parents.  To have their support for the trip to Ethiopia.  To be understood and validated.  This is what they are all about.  That's what touched us the most.  That our mothers would be so bold as to send a request like this to others is out of their comfort zone.  To be an adult child and to hear your parents say, "Well done."  It was all too much.  We were honored.

At the time our pastor, Ray Noah, had been preaching on generosity.  About how you can't out give God.  That if we give generously towards those things which touch God's heart He will prosper us so that we will give even more generously. 

God's circular law of generosity: 
When we share more, 
We will have more, 
So we can give more 
Which will enable us to do more. 
~Ray Noah

And what it meant was that those family and friends sending us checks would be blessed by God.  It wasn't just a blessing to us.  We were blessed to receive it, but it was going straight to Kingdom work.  And those blessings belonged to those who had given this offering that we were just being the conduits of.  We were excited for them.  For those who were giving this offering not knowing how and when it would be used.

It was a few days later that the card came.  It was addressed to us but Anthony wanted me to open it.  He could tell by the return label that he thought I should open it.

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.  ~ Jim Elliot

"'For whoever desires to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.'" 
Matthew 16:25 NKJV

Dear Anthony & Sheri,
Happy belated 25th wedding anniversary.  May God bless you with many more.

We were so blessed to learn that ministering to Ethiopian widows & orphan children, is your hearts desire.

Enclosed is a check for $1,000.  Thank you for giving us the opportunity to give this gift.  We will be praying for you.

May God's richest blessings be showered upon you in ways you could never hope or think.  Love in Him... Please keep in touch.

Tears filled our eyes and we both choked back deep sighs of wonder.  Partly over the generous amount.  Partly because it came from someone who only had faded memories of me of years gone by.  Partly because God must have been doing something in their hearts.  Partly because Ethiopian widows and orphan children were going to be blessed.  And wholly because God orchestrated all of it.  And we got to see Him do it.  For just a moment He gave us His eyes to see a picture that is so huge and beyond what we could ask or imagine...

Even now it is almost too much to share.  The generosity that has continued to pour in over the last few months.  That we get to take these offerings with us.  That we get to present them for you.  To say I am humbled... Well, that is the understatement.

What is it that God will do?  What has He already done?  How much more could He bless?  Who can say?  But we are excited to take you on this journey with us.  

Anthony, Christopher and I will be leaving Portland in February for Ethiopia.  We will also spend time in Uganda.  I'm not sure how much I will be able to correspond during that time, so I am sharing as much with you now as I can.

Wait... I think I hear the door bell.  Yup, it's the nurse.  The final three of eight immunizations and I guess I am ready to go.  A couple more Snoopy band-aids and I'm all done.

And who knows... maybe we are party people after all.  
At least Ethiopian style.

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