Monday, July 29, 2013

Change is Hard

You have heard it said before, the only constant in life is change.

And it seems to be the case that change often comes in pairs.  Right now we seem to be surrounded by change.  Not necessarily in our own life, but in the lives of people we love.

In the last couple of months, 3 of our neighbors have moved away (I hope it's not us!).  One of them just left last night.  7 hours behind schedule, 1 extra pull behind trailer, and a few more things left behind, they drove off into the sunset headed to Colorado.  While family and friends stood there waving them on, trying not to cry.

Change is hard.

Next weekend my sons best friend also moves away.  This is a family we have known for over a decade.  A family that is one of our closest friends, even though we don't see them nearly enough.  We used to live 3 houses down from each other.  Our boys have known each other literally their whole lives, Nate (age 3 months) met Drew the day he came home from the hospital and they have been soul mates ever since.  They have known each other 9 years and I have never seen them fight.  Not once.  

Lisa (the mom) has been a constant source of wisdom and guidance in my life.  Marc (the dad) is a great friend of my husband.  This a family who lived with us for a time when they were transitioning to and from a 2 year overseas mission job.  They are family.  

Change is hard.

Yet change is inevitable.  As much as I wish each of these families would stay, I know they can't.  That isn't part of the plan.   They need to leave.  I understand that.  It's just hard.  One of these families we see almost everyday.  The other I rely in a way that is hard to put into words.  They are both a part of our life and them leaving will change things.  

And change is hard.

But change is also good.  We need change.  Kids need to grow.  Adults need to mature.  People move up in jobs.  And sometimes God calls us to new places.  We can't be so afraid of change that we miss what God has planned for us.  I will these friends dearly, but I know they are doing what they need to do.  Going where they need to go.  And I wish them nothing but the best in what lies ahead.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Peace and Quiet

The most bizarre thing is happening right now.

I am sitting in my house...all by myself!

I can count on one hand (one finger truthfully) the number of times this has happened in the last few months.  

It is a little surreal, very odd, and I find I am not quite sure what to do with myself!

Erik is away at work (not an uncommon occurrence).

Isabella is next door at her friends (also not an uncommon occurrence).

Nate is at his buddy's house for the day (again not uncommon).

And JT is with Grandma (one of his favorite places to be).

The only strange thing about any of this is that they are all there at the same time!  And I am myself.

Now being the extreme extrovert that I am, being alone is not my favorite thing.  But in small doses, when I have had weeks and months of being overwhelmed, even I can enjoy a few minutes of honest to goodness peace and quiet.

Even I can get overstimulated (shocking I know).  But by the end of VBS week I have generally had my fill, and am ready for peace and quiet.  But that is hard to find with 3 kids, a hundred plus pound, very old dog and an even older cat.

The good news is that I don't actually need an empty house to find peace and quiet.

My Peace and Quiet lies deep inside and is not dependent on the outside stimuli around me.  The Peace that I have doesn't come from quiet moments alone, those are too few and way too far in between.  My peace doesn't come from financial stability.  I know from experience that is all too fleeting.  My peace doesn't come from the knowledge that family is healthy and whole, that can change in the blink of an eye.  My peace comes from the only true source, Jesus Christ.

John 16:33 says, "I tell you these things so that in ME you may have peace." (emphasis mine).  It is through Christ and only through Christ that I have ever been able to find the kind of Peace that Quiets my soul.  The kind of peace that allows me to take what life gives me and know that there is someone who is still in control.  Someone who loves me and wants whats best for me.  Someone who will guide me and show me the way through whatever it is I am dealing with.  That is the Peace that I have and the Quiet in my soul.  And it can not be found in an empty house but only in the arms of Christ.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Harvest Time

My church's VBS starts this week!  200+ kids will enter the church tonight ready to learn how to STAND STRONG for God.  They will be eager and energetic, loud and rambunctious.  And it is my hope that they will soak up like a sponge all that we tell them.  

I get to help in the drama story each day.  And I have to admit, I kind of love it!  I have a recurring character that I have played every year for going on four years now.  I get to talk with a funny accent, be silly, and make kids laugh.  All while sharing the love of God with them.  This is one of my favorite weeks all summer long!

But you want to know something truly ironic?  Sharing my faith with others is one of the hardest aspects of being a Christian for me.  Really I mean that!  Not at VBS, when I am playing a character and the kids are here knowing they are going to hear the word of God.  Not now, when I am writing, and you pretty much know what you are going to get when you log onto a blog from someone going to seminary.  Not when I am speaking at a church  or to the youth, when I have been asked to give a biblical message.  But in my every day life, with everyday people, my neighbors and friends who I know don't go to church, who I know don't believe what I believe, I have the HARDEST time sharing my faith!!

I KNOW, I KNOW!! That is when it matters the most! THOSE are the people who need to hear the word, to know WHY I love the Lord the way I love him.  But it is hard!  Even for me, someone who has never been afraid to share her opinion.  I think my hang up is that I desperately want to share my faith with gentleness and respect and I am terrified that if I share what I believe with them they will feel judged, even when NO judgement is involved.  So I don't.  I don't share, and they don't feel judged and we go on, just like we always have, me believing and them not.  Me knowing that I will have eternal life and them thinking that maybe the will, but probably they won't.  

These are people I love.  People who need Christ.  Yet I don't want to rock the boat, so I don't share.  I keep quiet.

A few days ago I stumbled across some old sermon notes in my Bible.  Another one of Pastor Jim's amazing messages summarized on a torn piece of paper and stuffed in my Bible.  It was all about the harvest.

Now I spent 18 years of my life in a farming community.  I know something about harvest time.  And what he said, struck such a chord that I was convicted of it all over again when I read my notes.  

In Luke 10 Jesus is sending 72 disciples out to share the message and he says to them "The harvest is plentiful"  His point is this.  There are many, many people who need to hear this message, who need to know about his saving grace.  There will be no shortage of people to tell, no shortage of people to baptize.  

Pastor Jim had 4 things to say about harvest, 4 things my 18 years in rural Kansas has shown me are true.
1.  Only mature crop can be harvested.  Sometimes you have to wait longer than anticipated for harvest time.  This has nothing to do with age, some of the most mature christian I know are of a very young age.  But if someone you know if decidedly immature in their faith, in their actions, then they are not ready yet.  That doesn't get you off the hook (trust me I have tried that).  Just know who you are talking to and where they are in their maturity.
2.  Crop can only be harvested for a very short season.  If you wait too long, you will miss your chance.  I too often wait for just the right moment, for all the many variables to line up just right, for them to ask me, or any other plethora of excuses.  But the fact is harvest is short, and then it is over.
3.  Unharvested crop turn rotten.  There is nothing worse than a person who has lived without unconditional love, the kind of love that is given by Jesus, for so long that it has turned their heart rotten.  
4.  If you don't harvest the crop, someone else will...birds, thieves, nature.  The crop will either be taken by someone else or will turn rotten.

These facts hit a whole new chord for me when I read through them a few days ago.  I was newly convicted of all I had done wrong by waiting to share this good news I had.  

Tonight I will boldly proclaim the word of God to 200+ kids.  And tomorrow I will sit down with a friend and tell them with gentleness and respect of the unconditional love of Christ.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Who Do You Worship? (2 Kings 17:33)

"They worshiped the Lord, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought."
2 Kings 17:33

This verse was written about a group of people who lived around 700 BC.  

Yet it continues to be shockingly accurate in  AD 2013.

How is it that something written 2713 years ago can be so true today?

In a gallop poll given in 2012, 78% of the people polled identified themselves as Christians.  That is a good thing.  The problem is that many of these people who claim to be Christians also serve other gods, gods that are part of the customs of our nation.  These gods include things like wealth, popularity, self- obsession, big houses, new cars.  Our nation has determined that these things are good.  They are important, and they will lead to your happiness.   It is our custom to pursue these things passionately.

People rely on wealth rather than God to provide for them.  They put their trust in their bank account.  I am not saying that saving is bad!  Please don't misunderstand me, but if that is your source of comfort and security, it is coming from the wrong place.

Many people so desire to be liked and accepted by the people around them that they follow the crowd more than they follow God.  

The culture of our nation says bigger is better and it is not only okay, but right to spend more money than you have on big houses and new cars.  Unfortunately there is just not enough to go around for God to have his 10%.  

Our nation says what you want and what you need is more important than what your spouse, child, neighbor or church needs.  And you should be happy first, THEN you can work on making others happy.

Our nation says these customs are good, and even though we may believe in God, and call ourselves Christians we also agree with these customs and follow these gods.  Just like the people in Samaria did 2700 years ago.

We go to church on Sunday and we worship God and that is a good thing.  

But on Monday we are back to worshiping these gods too, and that is a problem.

We are told to have no other gods before Him.  But we also should have no other gods after him, beside him, instead of him, next to him, or in addition to him.

He, God, is our one and only TRUE God.  He is the only source of comfort and security.  He is the only place we will find true joy, true acceptance.  He is the only one who can fulfill our longing for more.  

The customs of our nation are wrong.  This isn't a political statement.  I am not going to get into any hot button topics of today.  I am just here to tell you that there is only 1 God.  And HE and HE alone is who you should worship.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Me, Myself and I


I want...I need...I wish...I don't have...I didn't get...

My life

You know what?  It's not about me.

I have been absolutely convicted of my own self obsession in the last few weeks.  I have seen the selfish person I am, and it is not pretty.  It's ugly, horrific, and at times all consuming.

As it turns out, this life that God gave me, is not all about me.  

It's about me, glorifying him. 

Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.  This is what the doctrine of my faith states.  This is the purpose of life, even my life.  

In John 3:30 John the Baptist is quoted as saying, "He must become greater, I must become less." John the Baptist was an amazing man.  His time here on Earth was spent in sacrifice.  He sacrificed basic comforts to live in the wilderness, he sacrificed fine clothing, wearing clothing made of camels hair and a simple leather belt.  He sacrificed fine foods, eating locust and wild honey.  He sacrificed popularity, and was clearly one of the outsiders.  He knew his life was not about him.  Yet here we are 2000 years later quoting him, reading about him, and studying about him.  Perhaps this man, living on the edge of society knew something we haven't yet figured out.

He must become greater, we must become less.

This goes against the very grain of American culture.  This is a society where "I" and "me" are 2 of the most common words spoken. This is a "me first", "I did it all by myself" society.  And we are not encouraged to make ANYTHING greater than us.  Moms are encouraged to put their needs above the needs of their children, employees put their needs above those of the job, spouses put their own needs above those of their partners.  I am not implying that moms don't have needs that should be addressed or that jobs should rule our lives.  What I AM saying is that we have been ingrained with the idea that what I need or want or desire is THE MOST important thing.  And I am here to tell you that it's not!!  This life that you are living, ironically, is not about you!

I know that is harsh.  I may have just greatly offended you.  And if I did, I am deeply sorry.  I am.  

But what I said is true.  Even if you don't like it.  

The life that you are living right now is not about you.  But it is also not about your children, your job or your spouse.  It is about your creator.  The one who loves you.  The one who made you.  The one who created you to do wonderfully amazing things, for HIS glory, not yours.  

My life is not about me, or my children, or my spouse, or even my dog.  It is about my creator, redeemer and sustainer.  It is about glorifying him in what ever it is I am doing at the time.  And even though my body is tired, my mind is overwhelmed, and my children outweigh my patience, it's not about me.

It's not about me, myself or I.  He must become greater.  I must become less.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


"If you can't say anything nice, then don't say anything at all!"

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!"

One of those statements is true, the other is a lie.  I am guessing that you, like me, grew up hearing both of these phrases.  And you know as well as I do which one of those statements is a bold faced lie. 

I am a talker.  I speak before I think.  And I have gotten myself into a world of trouble over the years with the words I use.  You would think after 30+ years of talking (my mom swears I came out of the womb talking) I would have learned my lesson but alas, I have not.  I still tend to stick my foot (sometimes my whole leg) into my mouth way too often.  I hurt people unintentionally.  I share things I probably shouldn't (usually about myself- believe it or not I can keep a secret!).  And I voice opinions better left unsaid.  This is something it appears I will struggle with all my life.  

There is a Christian song out right now by Hawk Nelson called "Words",  in the chorus he sings...
Words can build you up
Words can break you down
Start a fire in your heart
or put it out.
Truer words were never spoken.  There are few things in this world that are as powerful as words.  Contrary to the old sticks and stones phrase, words can hurt.  They can cut deeply and leave life long scars.  

But words can also heal, they can mend, they can inspire, they can renew.  Words teach, they guide, they lift up. 

The summer is over half done and my kids  have spent a lot of time together, perhaps too much time.  The words in our house are getting a little snippy, a little sarcastic, and sometimes even mean.  So I have been ceaselessly repeating the following scripture to my kids.  It's one of my favorites, so I may have shared it with you before...

"Let no unwholesome words come out of your mouth but only what is helpful for lifting others up according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen." 
Ephesians 4:29

Words can hurt.  Unwholesome words spoken in jest, in anger or in frustration can cut and leave deep wounds.  Speak only what is helpful, lift others up, words can also encourage and motivate.  

There is so much the Bible has to say about the words we use, Proverbs is FILLED with instruction on the type of words wise men use verses what foolish men say.  Too often, I have been foolish, I have been careless with my words and I have spoken unwholesome things.  But I am getting better at this.  It is my deepest longing to use my words the way the wise men in Proverbs use them.  To build people up.

In the words of Hawk Nelson...
Let my words be life
Let my words be true
I don't want to say a word
unless it points the world back to you.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Relational People

We are relational people.

That is who we were created to be.

I know, there are some of you out there who are introverts, who enjoy times of solitude and being alone (I don't pretend to understand you people, but I hear you exist).  I am 100% extroverted, I LIVE for relationships!  Truly, to a fault.

After 6 weeks of an intense summer class while having the kids at home (or the pool, or the baseball field, or out of town, or the barn, or wherever else I had to take them).  I am once again basking in the joy of relationships!  We had friends from out of town stay with us this past weekend and we visited for hours upon hours.  We celebrated a family birthday with Erik's mom and sister (and her family) and got to catch up with them.  We went to the movies with some friends from church, and I got to say yes when Nate wanted a sleepover.  The whole family is enjoying relationships again.

But these are not really the relationships that we were created for.  The relationships you experience everyday with your spouse, your children, your friends, or your co-workers are not the relationships you were created for.  But too often these are the relationships that get are attention.

The relationship you were created for is the one you have with your heavenly father. 

It is not enough to just believe in God, to believe in the Son he sent to take away your sin.  Belief is not enough.  You need a relationship.  We were created to be relational people.  And the most important relationship in your life needs to be with the only one who can give you eternal life, Jesus Christ.  He is the most important relationship in your life.

What does a relationship with Jesus look like?  Far more than simply believing in him.  A relationship with Jesus means talking to him, listening to him, believing what he believes and living a life like he lives.  It is not easy and you will fail, but like only the best relationships in your life, he offers you forgiveness, and unconditional love when you mess up, and you will mess up.  But that is okay, just admit it, tell him your sorry, and do it better next time.  

We are relational people.  I am a relational person.  And the relationship that we were created for, each of us, is a relationship with our heavenly Father.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Horses and Chariots of Fire

Two of my three children are at church camp right now. 

They are only gone for 48 hours but I have to say it feels much longer than that.  

It is just strange here without them.  I keep looking for them, waiting for them to come check in with me, but they don't.  'Cause they're not here.

I know they are having a wonderful time.  So many of their church friends are with them right now.  They are right where they want to be, right where they need to be.  It is important for them to have this time of independence, away from momma.  

But I miss them.

I am reminded of a verse in 2 Kings (6:17 to be exact), Elijah has gone up to heaven and Elisha has taken his place.  The King of Aram is at war with Israel, but God continues to protect Israel but continually revealing Aram's plans to Elisha, Elisha then warns the King of Israel, and Aram's plans fail.  The King of Aram decides to capture  Elisha, and surrounds the city that Elisha is in.  Elisha wakes up to a city surrounded by the enemy and his servant cries out, "Oh my Lord, what shall we do?"  Elisha replies, "Don't be afraid those who are with us are more than those who are with them."  And then in verse 17 Elisha prays, "O Lord, open his eyes so he may see."  The servants eyes are opened and he sees all the army of God, heavenly hosts with horses and chariots of fire, God's angels protecting them.

That must have been an amazing sight!  Can you imagine it?  I love this image of each one us being surrounded by God's angels, his heavenly hosts.

This is what I am thinking of now.  God's army surrounding my kids, protecting them, with their horses (which Isabella would love) and their chariots of fire (which Nate would think is SO COOL).  God loves my kids even more than I do.  Sometimes I have to remind myself of that, especially when they are away from me.  They were His, long before they were mine.  He only wants what is best for them, and he will protect them with this heavenly hosts with horses and chariots of fire.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Amazing Light (1 Peter 3:15)

"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect."
1 Peter 3:15

I have been overwhelmed the past 6 weeks.  This summer intensive is a bit more intense than I anticipated.  Perhaps I should have paid more attention to the word "intensive" in the class description!  

The problem with being overwhelmed is that it is, well, overwhelming.  I haven't had time to reach out to friends, I haven't had as much time for my kids as I would prefer.  I haven't had time to write (at least not outside of the writing required for class).  But the worst part is, that when I am overwhelmed, I don't make a very good witness.

I LOVE this verse in 1 Peter.  It is one of my very favorites.  It seems to sum up what I believe to be true in such simple words.  

"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord" - Christ is to be set apart as Lord, he is not to share this title with anyone or anything else in your life.  Christ and Christ alone is our Lord. He is the way, the truth, and the life.  He is our salvation, our stronghold in times of trouble. He and He alone should be set apart in our hearts and in our lives.  

And when he is, something amazing happens.  I received a cute little gift bag for my birthday that had this phrase on it "She loved the Lord with all her heart, and it cast an amazing light on all she did."  This is what happens when you set apart Christ as Lord in your heart, when you love the Lord with all your heart.  It casts an amazing light on all you do.  A light that others see, they take notice, and they wonder where it comes from.  They see something in you that they don't see in others.

"Always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have" - when people see this amazing light you cast on everything you do.  When they sense a hope in you that is missing in others around them, they will ask you where it comes from.  Be prepared for this.  Always be prepared to give an answer when someone asks you about your light, your hope, your faith.  When you are a Christian, your life should look different, different enough that people wonder about it and ask you about it.  

"But do this with gentleness and respect" - here is the crux of it all.  When you live your life different, and you cast this amazing light, and people ask you about it, answer them, with gentleness and respect.  Not with judgement and condemnation.  Not with pride and haughtiness.  But with gentleness and respect.  With humility and thankfulness.  

The past six weeks I haven't been casting much of an amazing light.  I would like to think that Christ has still been set apart in my heart, but honestly, it's been kind of hard to tell.  I don't know that my life has really looked much different than anyone else's.  There has been no extra light, no hope that have made people stop and ask me where it comes from.  

Today when I read this verse, my heart broke.  There are days when I am far from the person I  some day hope to me.  There are days when I am overwhelmed, and my light is not so amazing.  Hopefully these days will be less and less as I grow and mature and hopefully, one day soon, I will be back to casting an amazing light on everything I do.