Saturday, December 21, 2013

He makes His face to shine upon us

Nearly every week for the past 20+ years, I have heard the Aaronic blessing from Numbers 6:24-26:
"The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:
The LORD make his face shine upon thee,
and be gracious unto thee:
The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee,
and give thee peace."

What an amazing blessing!  The LORD makes His face shine upon us...The Holy One, Creator of everything, THIS LORD makes His face shine upon us (the ones loaded down with guilt and shame and fears and sorrows of various kinds). 

THIS LORD is gracious and gives peace.  

THIS LORD came and lived and died and rose for us...He will surely bless and keep all who belong to Him.  

As a parent, I have more than once taken the face of one of my downcast children and raised it up so they would have to look in my eyes ~ eyes that love them and want them to rest in that love.  My love is imperfect, but God's is not and He has taken everything that could ever keep us downcast (our sins & their punishment, our sorrows, our shame, our fears/anxieties, our sicknesses, etc) and nailed them with Jesus on the cross...He has clothed us in His robes of righteousness, honored us beyond comprehension by adopting us, healed us, washed us, and He takes our faces into His hands & lifts our heads up so we can see His eyes filled with love for us.  He makes His face to shine upon us!

Our family has been memorizing Philippians 4:8..."Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things." What a delight it is to do so...the downcast soon find themselves dancing before the LORD.


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Parturient


When adopting our kids, we would occasionally hear comments about how we were “getting our children the easy way.”  That is debatable.  I would dare suggest that every child joins its family with a labor all its own.  But having had the privilege of witnessing 5 births over the years, and experiencing the journey of adoption 3 times, I would also quickly concede that childbirth-labors and adoption-labors have their differences.  But both involve a labor…a painful waiting…a waiting where fretting or getting overly worked up increases the difficulty, whereas breathing steady and doing the next right thing proves helpful.

Today I came across the word parturient.  I was doing a proofreading project for my friend, Pam Forster (let me make a quick, unabashed plug for her resources over at Doorposts).  Well, parturient means “to be in labor” and every mom can relate to that in her own way.  When looking up the Hebrew word that is translated “and wait patiently” in Psalm 37:7, I was very surprised to see that Strong’s definition included “to writhe in pain (especially of parturition)”.   Gesenius’ Lexicon refers to this word in this way: “To twist oneself in pain, to writhe, to be in pain, especially used of parturient women”.  After I finished proofreading, I went back to investigate this passage a little bit more.  I had never thought of "waiting patiently" in those terms.  But note the powerful imagery of a laboring woman as you read Psalm 37:7-8 ~  “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret — it only causes harm.” 

I came away quite encouraged!  We can quiet ourselves in the LORD, breathe steady (deliberately, intentionally) and do the next right thing in the face of the wicked and their schemes…the Psalm tells us how trustworthy the Lord is, how the wicked will be cut off, and how the righteous will inherit the earth…we labor and it is hard work, it is not passive; it is painful at times, but God WILL bring forth His fruit in our lives in His time.  I love the richness of this imagery. And the fruit of our labor will all be worth it.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Some borrowed encouragement

Hello Blog-friends (especially the moms this round)!  Today I simply want to encourage you to hop over HERE and consider how your kids rank.  Thank you Rachel J. for your powerful encouragement!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

In His arms

Choosing to SEE, by Mary Beth Chapman...painful, humorous, encouraging, challenging...both times I have read it, I have ended with a more earnest desire to share the hope I have in Christ with others, to trust Him wholeheartedly with the challenges He brings our way, and to rejoice that though a mess, He loves me.  Here are a couple of excerpts that I could identify with:

"Most people I know are quite fond of the apostle Paul, not because he was a superachiever who spread the gospel throughout the known world, but because he realized that his pains and limitations were what kept him dependent on Christ...He said that we carry around the knowledge of Christ like a treasure in 'jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies' (2 Cor. 4:7-10 ESV)."

"I take a perverse pleasure in so many of the Psalms, and I am so absolutely grateful to God that He would include the wild writings of a guy like David, who clearly had his ups and downs.  I can relate with the pain and great sweeps of melancholy in the Psalms.  But I can also relate with the way David always returned to his hope in the Lord.  His pain was real, but so was his hope. And in spite of being slightly crazy, David know that the Lord God Himself knew him before he was born.  He is the One who will cause our stories to ultimately end secure and well, right in His arms."


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Accidental Pharisee?

On Sunday we visited a church called Mars Hill with our nephew Ryan and his girlfriend.  I have listened to their pastor, Mark Driscoll, via podcasts on and off for years.  But Mark wasn't preaching this week.  A man named Dr. Larry Osborne did, and after being greatly encouraged by his preaching, I decided to look him up to see what else he has available online.  One of the first things I came across was introducing a book he has written titled Accidental Pharisee.  Though I want to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, I was convicted that still, all too often, I fall into the very things he mentioned in his intro...here's a slice of it, pasted in blue (the rest can be found HERE). 

Here’s a brief list of six of the most telling indicators that we may have inadvertently started down the path of an Accidental Pharisee, looking down on others and trusting in our own righteousness.
  • First and foremost is a deepening sense of frustration and disdain for those at the back of the line. Instead of a Jesus-like compassion for those who can’t keep up, we view them with cynicism and a cocky arrogance.
  • The second warning sign is a spirit of exclusivity. When thinning the herd becomes more important than expanding the kingdom; or raising the bar becomes more important than helping people climb over it, something has gone terribly wrong.
  • A third indicator is the addition of extra-biblical rules and expectations. Few of us would see ourselves as legalists. We think we’ve moved on from old school legalism because we no longer judge people by what’s in their refrigerator. But the spirit of legalism still runs strong. We now judge people by what’s in their driveway and how big their house is.
  • A fourth symptom is a pattern of idolizing the past. Whether it’s the New Testament church or the scholars of old, we tend to give them a free pass for their failures. But the present day Bride of Christ and the current crop of leaders that Jesus has put in place are assailed for their blind spots, failures, and feet of clay. Like the Pharisees of old, we rip on the living prophets and then build monuments to them once they die.
  • A fifth sign that something has gone wrong is a quest for clone-like uniformity. Jesus had room for Simon the Zealot and Matthew the Tax Collector. Yet sometimes, the more biblically grounded we become, the less room we have for anyone who hasn’t yet learned all that we’ve learned. The result is a circle of fellowship that’s tighter than Jesus’s circle of acceptance.
  • The sixth and final indicator that we’re becoming an Accidental Pharisee is something called “gift-projection.” It’s the toxic belief that my calling is everyone else’s calling. It disfigures the body of Christ by insisting that ears become eyes and hands become feet. It looks like passion for the mission. But in reality, it’s chocolate covered arrogance.
Does any of that strike a chord with you too?   Together, let us lay aside the filthy rags of our own self-righteous haughtiness and gladly put on the robes of His righteousness.  

He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly 
and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
~ Micah 6:8 (NIV)

26 minutes in...


About a year ago, I listened through a series of talks on marriage by a godly pastor named Steve Wilkins.  I have been thinking once again about the content from his talk about forgiveness...it was truly a wonderful talk, given at a family camp in California, and you too can listen to it by clicking this link.  Around the 26 minute mark, he notes that forgiveness costs us something. 

We know it cost God something, don't we?  Forgiveness cost God big time…for Him to be both just and the justifier, Jesus had to suffer and die on our behalf.  But oh the gains!  God could have stayed angry with us and we all could be facing His just wrath on account of our many wrongdoings.  He would have been perfectly just…He is the Judge and we have done wrong…there would be no wrongdoing on His part to make us suffer the due consequences of our sins. That is because He is God.

One of the often memorized verses of the Bible is John 3:16, which says: “For God so loved this world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  Now slow that down.  God SO LOVED.  He GAVE.  His only begotten SON.  Are you a parent?  Could you give your child to rescue rebels?  Would you even want to re-establish relationship with those who have betrayed you, lied to you, forsaken you, killed your messengers, and sinned against you in an overwhelming myriad of ways?  John was not kidding when he told us in 1 John 3:1 to “BEHOLD what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!  Forgiveness wasn’t free for God…it cost Him mightily.  And He didn’t stop at forgiveness in the sense of wiping out  our liability for punishment with His love…He more than restored relationship by adopting us and bringing us into His family.  

He took initiative and died for sinners (not people who had begged for His mercy and totally cleaned up their act...people like you and me, still in our sins and not even caring a hoot about Him)...and we know that.  For those of us who have been forgiven by God, we also know we are supposed to forgive others as Christ forgave us. But have you ever been asked by someone to be forgiven and found it really hard to do?  Getting back to the 26 minute mark, Pastor Steve shed some helpful light: 

"It sounds simple, but it is really hard BECAUSE in order to do this, you’ve got to:
  1. Give up the feeling of superiority that comes from being bitter against someone for a good reason.  It is a delicious feeling, and we have all been guilty of enjoying it. You have grounds for being really angry.  And your holy little soul has been damaged by Mr. or Mrs. Inconsiderate, and you take great inward pleasure in standing above them in your so called righteous judgments.  It is a delicious feeling to think yourself more holy than other people [and it destroys the church all the time because all of us like it!].  You know you are supposed to forgive when someone asks you to, but you delay it…”I just can’t talk about it right now” with puckered lip.  We put people off so we can feel superior for at least a little while longer.  It is a great wickedness.  We hang onto the offenses so that we can feel more righteous than they are.
  2. Holding onto the hurts makes us feel like we have something to hold up as a reason for people to feel sorry for us.  Nobody appreciates me, nobody is thoughtful like me, nobody knows what I suffer…I feel sorry for myself and I like it when someone else feels sorry for me too.  If I let go of the offenses, I lose this power.
Forgiveness costs you something…it costs you your self righteousness and your self pity.  BUT, if you give up your self righteousness and self pity, you are going to be free of anger, and bitterness, and frustration and the poisonous spirit of revenge that drains you from the ability to love, and of peace and joy.  Forgiveness does cost us something, but when we understand the gain we know there is no greater bargain.  There is no substitute for mercy."

We can only do that by remembering the greater price that was paid by God for us all.  It frees us to love.  Notice that the things it costs us to forgive are self-focussed.  Doesn't God call us to consider one another, to lay our lives down, to take initiative to point people to Jesus that they might live by His grace?

Later in his talk, he said: "Nothing but repentance and forgiveness solves the problem, and when you do that you have a place where you can begin to rebuild on the right foundation, the foundation of our Savior and have the life you stopped thinking is possible." 

Amen!


Friday, June 28, 2013

The Good Part

Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me."  And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.  But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her." ~ Luke 10:38-42 

Observe:
*  Martha welcomed Jesus into her house. She was distracted with much serving. She approached Jesus, questioning Him and telling Him what to do. 
*  Mary sat at Jesus' feet and listened to Him.

Two people interacting with Jesus.  One chose the "good part."  Is Jesus opposed to serving? It depends.  Are we serving Him or serving idols of some sort?  Not all service is alike.  Is our serving like His serving or is our serving distracting us from loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength; and from loving our neighbor?  Jesus came to serve and to give His life as a ransom (Mark 10:45).   He was always about His Father's business, submitting Himself even to the point of dying on a cross..."not My will, but Yours, be done" (Luke 22:42). This kind of service requires us to listen, to sit at His feet.

Interestingly, the very next thing Luke records for us after telling us about Martha and  Mary is Jesus teaching His disciples to pray:
"Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven..."
We too are called to be about our Father's business...Jesus teaches us to pray in a way that positions us at His feet...His name be hallowed, His kingdom come, His will be done!  Do we have our own agenda's, welcoming Jesus in only to advise Him to help us with our plans?  Are we distracted with our "serving"? Or are we choosing what Jesus calls the "good part"...sitting at His feet and listening to Him so that all our serving will be about His name, His kingdom, His will?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Accepted?

"He made us accepted in the Beloved." ~ Eph 1:6b

How much of our lives are spent trying to earn acceptance in some fashion?
*  Are we doing the "right" diet?  Should we even be on a diet? 
*  Are we wearing the "right" clothes?
*  Are we using the "right" make up in "right" proportions?
*  Are we sporting the "right" haircut?
*  Are we engaged in the "right" kinds of activities?

My children come to me and ask things like "Does this look ok?  Do my clothes match? What do you think of this hairstyle?  Do you think I am fat?"  And on and on.  Some of that is just part of the learning curve of figuring out cultural appropriateness, but largely there is the unstated admission behind it that I want to fit in, I want to be accepted.  They have the honesty to ask out loud what many only think inwardly, but unless you are the exception, we all have insecurities and fear of man issues that require us to hear and trust God's gracious word to us, or remain enslaved. 

God tells us that if we are His, He has already made us accepted in the Beloved.  The jury is not still out...the verdict has been rendered.  He has made us accepted in the Beloved!  Let those words sink in.  And share them with your children if God has blessed you with them.  They need to hear as much as we do that they ARE loved, they don't have to earn it.  They ARE beautiful, made by God as His image bearers, gifted to bear good fruits.  Is this the message they hear from you?

Let's live out of response to God's goodness to us...His love already bestowed.  Put off these enslaving worries and all the associated fears of man, and walk as children of Light.  That doesn't mean that anything goes with food and clothes and activities...but it does mean that these things are no longer governed by worries over being accepted or gaining approval or getting noticed. 
*  Eat with thankfulness for God's glory from those things He provides.
*  Adorn your beautiful God-designed body with clothes and make up and hair cuts and jewelry that aim to reflect the beauty of the Lord to others because He already loves you, and you are already accepted in the Beloved (note that a simple observation of God's creation indicates that God enjoys variety..we do not all have to look alike). 
*  And as far as activity goes, if we really begin to embrace the heights and depths of God's great love for us, we will grow in our desires to be about our Father's business because we will be wanting to be doing what He is doing right alongside of Him...our choices of how we use the gift of time He gives will begin to reflect more and more the mission of our God.  

What a privilege we have been given.  Let's not spend our days trying to win approval of others for ourselves....let's know we are already approved by the One that matters most and truly live.  "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!" ~ 1 John 3:1

Saturday, June 22, 2013

He crowns us with His lovingkindness


We have a saying at our house when the tensions begin to rise, and selfishness is the spirit in the air (those two things tend to go together in my experience).  We take our turns, being the not fully sanctified lovers of Jesus people that we are...turns at being selfish, and turns at being the one to speak our saying.  "Breathe in love, breathe out gratitude." 

When we are practicing selfishness, we tend to view what is lacking, what we think we deserve, how we think others ought to serve us and how dare they not?  When selfishness is our operating status, we tend to see our "self" as the center...we view other people as aids to getting us what we want or obstacles in our way, and we treat them accordingly.  Tensions rise when self isn't getting what self wants at the moment. Do as "I" want, and all is fine, but cross me and watch out!  Either way, really, that is a problem.  Our heart is not right if this is how we are living.  And the solution, in part, is to remember WHO the center of life really is...

Psalm 103 begins with "Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name!"  Bless who?  The LORD!  He is the center. This beautiful Psalm continues with: "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things..."

"Breathe in love, breathe out gratitude." 

Remember the Lord, and forget not His benefits...when you breathe in His love, really and truly, how can you not begin to overflow with gratitude?

I suspect that at least most people who are raising kids hear the phrase "that's not fair."  Now occasionally, a true injustice may be occurring, but generally this is just a great big clue that the declaring child is revealing his or her own selfish heart.  I have heard this a lot lately, and I have begun to respond gently with something along the lines of  "you're right...hell would be fair, and instead you're getting mercy...you get a nice soft bed and food to eat and parents who love you and correct you...breathe in love child, breathe out gratitude."  I also suspect that those of us raising up kids are guilty too...I know I am.  Father please forgive me, and cause me to breathe in Your love. 

Ps 103:10 "He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities."

He forgives us, heals us, crowns us with His tender mercies.  Oh may God open our eyes to Him, and replace our selfish hearts with hearts that are overflowing in praise to His Name.  May He make us more and more like Jesus, who did not come to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Just a kiss?


An excerpt from Douglas Bond’s book: 
Fathers & Sons Stand Fast  (pg 135)

“What’s the big deal?  It’s just a kiss.” So says the postmodern world you live in.  Wiser minds through the centuries, however, have not agreed. 
             
Renaissance scholar Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam (1469-1536), in his colloquy The Wooer and the Maiden, exposed the sexual impatience of a young man attempting to woo Maria, a chaste young woman who liked him but was wisely cautious.

His advances frustrated, the young man asked, “Shan’t I have anything from you to take with me?”

Maria replied, “This scent ball, which may gladden your heart.”

“Add a kiss at least,” moaned the wooer.

Maria said, “I want to deliver to you a virginity whole and unimpaired.”

The wooer scoffed. “Does a kiss rob you of your virginity?”

Maria cleverly replied, “Then do you want me to bestow my kisses on others too?”

The wooer was indignant.  “Of course not.  I want your kisses kept for me.”

“I’ll keep them for you,” Maria replied, and for that reason, “I wouldn’t dare give away kisses just now.”  She offered him a handshake instead and concluded, “Meanwhile, I’ll pray Christ to bless and prosper us both in what we do.”

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Lord over storms

Wind, waves and a legion of demons...what do they have in common?  We have been reading through the gospel of Luke lately.  This week we paused to chew on two of the stories in chapter 8.

The first has to do with Jesus and His disciples in a boat.  Jesus fell asleep and a windstorm kicked up enough steam to frighten His disciples.  They woke Him up in a panic (after all, the boat was taking on water and it didn't look or feel very safe).  Jesus woke up, rebuked the wind and the raging waters... all was calm. 

The second has to do with a demon possessed man...a naked man who lived among the tombs and was too tough to keep chained up, though attempts were made to keep him under guard.  This was a scary guy!  When Jesus stepped out of the boat, THIS man met him. "When he saw Jesus, he cried out, fell down before Him, and with a loud voice said, 'What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me!' For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man."  Jesus granted permission to Legion, the host of demons that had entered the man, to enter swine which promptly ran violently down into a lake a drowned.  Not long after, the townspeople gathered to find him sitting, clothed and in his right mind. Pretty cool.

But what do these two stories have in common?  The disciples' response to Jesus calming the storm was this: "And they were afraid, and marveled, saying to one another, 'Who can this be? For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!'"  In the story of casting out Legion, we see this response: "Then the whole multitude of the surrounding region of the Gadarenes asked Him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear."

Storms can be scary. And though I personally have never been around a naked demon-possessed dude when visiting a cemetery, I can easily imagine that such a thing would be enough to freak me out. BUT Jesus has authority over it all.  The demons begged Jesus not to torment them...Jesus gave them permission to enter the swine...He is Lord.  As scary as storms and demons are, we need to fear Jesus.  Do we believe that?  Do we believe Jesus is the Lord over storms?  Jesus asked His disciples in the boat: "Where is your faith?" Indeed, where is OUR faith?  Whatever circumstances we are in, the Lord is sovereign over it and He is working it all for the good of those who call upon His name.  Tis His promise to us in Romans 8. 

I'm reminded of Jacob in Gen 42:36 who said: "You have bereaved me: Joseph is no more, Simeon is no more, and you want to take Benjamin. All these things are against me." Just like the disciples who depended upon their sight and feelings, Jacob thought "all these things are against me."  But we know the rest of the story...those things were NOT against Jacob (it only felt and looked like it)...God was working it all together to rescue not just Jacob, but his whole line.  And we know Jesus, the Lord over the storms.  So as we're tempted to rely on our sight and feelings in our present circumstances, let us be reminded to have faith in the ONE who is sovereign over every detail.  He is our ever present Help in time of trouble.  He is the Lord.  Let us marvel, and walk by faith.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Life after Korea

We have always been big pop corn eaters...it is a Meyerdierk family trait...even our dog likes popcorn.  But since coming home from Korea, the kids insist on eating it with chopsticks.  I find this a little humorous :-).

MJ and I were at the store last week and needing to pick up a pizza we noticed one that was topped strangely.  I was going to pass it up and grab a tried-and-true variety when MJ said "let's try it...we're adventuresome now that we've gone to Korea."  We bought that one and everyone loved it.

It seems like all our names have changed at home...the girls, in particular, have been looking up the Korean terms for sister, mom, dad, etc and using them.  So if you come visit, be forewarned...you may come with one name and leave with another. 

Two weeks in Korea was a dream come true; a precious gift from God to us.  It has left its mark in our lives and continues to work its ripple effects into us in ways we are all still processing (on a little deeper, more profound level than how we eat our popcorn). 

For one example, this became our "theme song" while we were there (Mike and I were known to embarrass our children as we broke out into singing this on occassion, in public...we hope that secretly, behind their blushing cheeks, they were singing along):
 
Steven Curtis Chapman - The Great Adventure by StevenCurtisChapman-Official

We were on an adventure, but for us, it was more than a vacation/adventure...it was self-consciously an adventure in following our Father into the glorious unknown. He is our Father who has set us free from the prison of our sins, and who is taking us on a lifelong adventure of trusting His grace-laden direction of our lives. And though He is always the One in control, there we sensed it in such a heightened way as we were stripped of much of the illusion we ordinarily have of ourselves being in control.  Everything felt unknown, unfamiliar...and He was so evidently orchestrating every detail, loving us, leading us.  Now that we are back among the familiar, I want this theme of following Him into the glorious unknown to live on in me.  I don't want the familiar and the shackles of self-deception (that somehow I'm back in control) to muddy that intimacy that I tasted in a foreign land of trusting Him/depending upon Him/following Him wherever He leads.

Do you hear our Father?  Saddle up your horses...
 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Steps for Life 2013


 Eight children ages 5-12
AND 
approximately 260 sponsors
and an unknown # of prayer warriors

Team Goal: To raise $10,000 for the Pregnancy Resource Centers

What was raised by working together?  $8,846 (thanks be to God)

 As people gave what they could, 
be it little or much, it all added up. 

THANK YOU ALL!

As the crowd of walkers gathered, 
it started out on the moist side, 
but our Heavenly Father gave the command to the clouds 
to stop raining.
The walk and the awards ceremony were dry. 
Thank You, Father :-)

Georgine Rice was the emcee this year.
Here is the Under His Wings team
receiving the top-fundraising team award.


"Under His Wings" with PRC CEO Larry Gadbaugh

They couldn't have done it with out each and every sponsor:
Thank you!

May God bring the day 
when the work of the PRC is no longer needed, 
but until that day,
 let us keep working together
 to stand up for the lives He has made in His image. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

"Can Do" Part Two

One year later, I am thrilled to be able to write Part 2 to the Can Do post I wrote in April of last year...

Pulling out the sharpies, we all decorated our travel towels...because God opened doors and we, by His enabling grace and provision, walked through them and found ourselves in Korea for 2 weeks.  MJ chose to include some verses on her towel.  "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" is a great introduction today, for all of the doing on our part can only be done in the strength God provides.  From first to last, we are His workmanship.  And to Him belong all glory and praise!

With bags packed, we boarded our first flight at Portland International Airport.  With the daily threats from the North, many were concerned about us sticking with our plans.  We wrestled too, but as we prayed and sought counsel from a handful of trusted friends, we were strengthened in our resolve that God was calling us to go.  We want to be a family that serves the Living God, not our comforts or safety ultimately...when we were convinced and united that His call was to go, we got on the plane. 

In Los Angeles, we had the added delight of getting to see our prayer-warrior friend, Barbara, who kindly came to hang out with us during our 3 hour layover.  Oh how good it was to see her again!

After about 24 hours of travel, we arrived at the Nieman's...our dear friends who became even more precious to us in the course of this trip.  They were amazing hosts, and we are overflowing with gratitude for their hospitality.   Here is a picture of our kids and theirs...since the first Can Do post started off with pigs, I thought it would be fun to include a piggie in this one too.

We all got to experience public transportation in just about every form on this trip...we piled into taxis, hopped onto subways (sometimes with plenty of room, sometimes crowded body-to-body), enjoyed the smooth ride of a bullet train to Seoul and back to Busan, and rode on a variety of buses (our favorite bus was the open double decker that we took to tour Busan...one of the many highlights of our trip!).


God gave us the privilege of visiting many places..too many to list and each with stories of their own, but here are a few highlights.  Scouring the internet for Busan's "places to see," the aquarium caught Bekah's eye (she is a bit of a marine biologist at heart).  None of us objected to witnessing the beauty of God's creatures there, nor did any of us mind riding the glass bottom boat above sharks and other critters.

While in Seoul, Mira took us to visit Gyeongbok Palace...a royal palace first constructed in 1395.  Most of us (Mike being the exception) had never seen anything so old.  Buildings in America just do not date back that far.  There was much to take in there!

The main reason for our trip to Seoul was to be able to visit Ilsan Center.  Our children were all adopted via Holt, an adoption agency with a God-glorifying history.  As a family, we have enjoyed reading the stories of Harry and Bertha Holt.  They are a part of our history and it was a dream come true for us to visit Ilsan where they are now buried after years of faithfulness to God in caring for orphans.  Their daughter, Molly Holt, lives there and has given her life to caring for "the least of these" for the glory of God...it was an honor to meet her.  Knowing she is advanced in years and going through chemo treatments, we prayed that she would have strength to meet with us. We were told we wouldn't know until the day we arrived if she had sufficient energy, but the Lord gave strength and we were delighted to visit, albeit briefly. 

Also while in Seoul, we packed in a day of fun at Everland...it is Korea's version of Disneyland-like amusement park.  The place is gargantuan, but we experienced all we could of it in one day.  Bekah (and Jesse and Leah) braved the world's steepest roller coaster, conquering fears and living to tell about it.  The rest of us were happy to greet them on the other side :-).  A few of us rode a camel which is just one of those things that makes it onto bucket lists, but I didn't really think I'd ever get to cross it off of one.

We got to try many new-to-us foods...and yes, we took off shoes, sat on floors, and ate with chop sticks :-)

The details of the trip are still being processed by my feeble brain...the beauty of the multi-faceted architecture and color everywhere, the faces of all the people we came across, the variety of foods to try, places to experience, and so much more.  God orchestrated the whole thing, and the details came together in ways I NEVER could have planned if left to me, but He did and we are thankful.  He humbled us through the generosity and kindness of others.  He challenged us and encouraged us through His people...people He took us to the other side of the world to meet from Denmark and Canada and Nigeria, etc. This family from Washington had us into their home and shared their heart for reaching the lost for Christ (crazy, eh? Though they live in Korea now, they are from right across the river from us).  God wanted us to learn some things from them in terms of methodology, preparedness, and being very intentional.  In August, they plan to come this direction so Lord willing we will have the opportunity to have them into our home next round :-).

One of my favorite parts of the trip was getting to worship our gracious Redeemer with all who gathered at Antioch International Ministries; people from all over the world praising God with joy-filled unity.  We also got to participate in a few Bible studies (here is one that took place just before the service):
The second Sunday we were there, many from AIM headed down to the beach to converse with people about Jesus, and we were delighted to join them.  Here is Paul, trekking around with tracts in hand...we spent the day interacting with any God brought our way to share His love and truth. 

MJ is sitting in the window of the Tower of the Dragon, overlooking one segment of Busan.  Look at those tall buildings!  Buildings where soooooo many people work and live...people made in God's image...people He is calling to Himself just like He is here and all over the world because it is His pleasure that every knee bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord.  Mira sweetly bought us all tshirts, and we will wear them gladly as we remember our trip and the lessons God taught us there.  We do love Korea.  Our Father made this whole world and it was a blessing to see another segment of His backyard. It was a blessing to see the country in which two of our children were birthed.  It was a blessing to see old friends and to meet new ones. It was a blessing beyond our ability to fully express, but I'm sure stories will bubble out over time.

If you want to see more pictures, you can go Here and Here

Monday, March 18, 2013

What do you thirst for?

Our pastor (Thank you Pastor Tuuri!) preached a message titled "Spiritual Gifts and the Renewed Heart" yesterday.  I need this message every day!  I heartily encourage you to listen to it and to let it soak into your bones. 

Oh how we need Jesus!  His sermon made me think of a section from a book by John Piper (God is the Gospel)...on pages 15-16, it prompts us to question: "Would you be happy in heaven if Christ were not there? The critical question for our generation - and for every generation - is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there? And the question for Christian leaders [and I would add parents] is: Do we preach and teach and lead in such a way that people are prepared to hear that question and answer with a resounding NO?  How do we understand the gospel and the love of God?...Can we really say that our people are being prepared for heaven where Christ himself, not his gifts, will be the supreme pleasure?...May the church of Jesus Christ say with increasing intensity, 'The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup' (Psalm 16:5). 'As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God' (Psalm 42:1)."


1 Cor 13:1-3 says: "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing."

I don't want to be like sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.  Jesus, please be my all satisfying Treasure today and forever.  Unite my heart to fear Your name. Please grow me in the knowledge of the heights and depths of Your great love.  And please make Your love to flow through me to everyone You allow me to interact with. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

love when?

But God 
demonstrates 
His own love toward us
in that while we were still sinners
Christ died for us.
~ Rom 5:8

"But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.  To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back.  And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.  And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back.  But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.  Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful." ~ Luke 6:27-36

"Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord. Therefore 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." ~ Romans 12:17-21

"Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 'Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth'; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness — by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls." ~ 1 Peter 2:18-25

Friday, March 1, 2013

What do you let your children read? watch? listen to?

This is a question that has come up a number of times in my life in the last few years.  And just about every discussion has had valid things to consider.  We know that what they read, what they see, and what they listen to will influence them, and because we love them we want the influence to be favorable.  We also know that there are many worldviews competing for their attention and loyalty...there is One True God and many false ones that do not announce themselves as deceitful, though they are.  When our children are little, unable to read to themselves, this arena is not so hard...we simply choose what we read to them.  We pick the movies they watch.  We select the music being played in the house.  But as our children grow older, we cannot preview everything they read, see and listen to...we are finite and time does not allow for it. 

This picture found circulating on Facebook captures our aim pretty well:

What do you do to monitor what your children read?  Or watch?  Or listen to? What limits do you set, if any?  What kind of discussions do you have with your children about what they are interacting with, be it via movies, books, or music?  How do you help them know God and His story so well that they can discern truth from lie in our society?  I would love to hear from you in the comment area below.

 

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Being still when waters roar because He is God


Psalm 46
God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble. 
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; 
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling.
Selah

There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. 
God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God shall help her, just at the break of dawn. 
The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved;
He uttered His voice, the earth melted. 
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge.
Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
Who has made desolations in the earth. 
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariot in the fire. 
Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth! 
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge.
Selah

God IS our refuge and strengthHe IS with us, and He IS a mighty Deliverer, and He WILL BE exalted He IS a very present help in trouble.  It is all true!  

It is also true that this side of glory, there is trouble.  How else could He be an ever present help in the midst of it?  Jesus told us in John 16:33 that He made certain things known to us..."so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

Last night I crawled into bed with an aching heart...and my husband, God bless him, sat quietly and listened to me.  Then, we prayed together for Christ to be exalted as the Deliverer of all the troubles in the lives of those we hold dear.  We weep with a number of friends who are weeping in ongoing scenarios of trouble.  For some right now, it feels like "waters are roaring," threatening to swallow them whole.  Their world, as they know it, is being severely shaken.  Feelings of hopelessness taunt them as deliverance seems doubtful to the human eye.  But we are not called to live by feelings, or even by sight, but by faith.  Faith in the One who is a very present help in trouble.  Can we be still together, and know that He is God?  Can we trust Him together for that next breath, and for enough light on our path to take one more step at time? 

I don't mean "trust Jesus" in some trite way.  I mean, let Him be the foundation upon which you stand.  Let His Word be a lamp unto your feet.  I know the temptations to veg, the flip on movies and tune out, to go numb.  I know the temptation to obsess with work as a diversion as well.  Or there is always that Costco size bag of peanut m&m's to snack on...surely that will comfort you, until guilt comes knocking.  I also know about painting on smiles and trying to pretend it away.  But none of these things will hold us up.  We need to flee to our Refuge, our Strength, our Help.

This is the God who creates storms with good purpose, and calms storms in His time.  The One who says in Job 38:11, "This far you may come, but no farther, and here your proud waves must stop!" The One who makes blind eyes see, and replaces hearts of stone with hearts of flesh.  This is the One who sets captives free.  He makes wars cease.  He will be exalted among the nations, exalted in the earth. So come: "come, behold the works of the Lord."  Don't let your expectations of your future be configured by present circumstances, but by the One who delivers and resurrects.  He has an eternal perspective and knows exactly what has to happen and where He needs to take us in the process of conforming us into Christ's image.  He is transforming us and this world.  Be still and know that He is God.  "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." ~ Proverbs 3:5-6


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Hello Father, goodbye fear



For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 
For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, 
but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, 
"Abba, Father."
~ Rom 8:14-15

These verses have been mulling around in my brain for weeks.  What does God tell us we did NOT receive?  What DID we receive?  I think it is amazingly kind that God does not contrast fear, or "the spirit of bondage again to fear" with something like peace or courage.  As nice as those attributes are, He gives us something far better. He tells us we have received sonship!  He's adopted us...we get HIM.  Goodbye Fear, I am in my Father's arms.

All of creation is His handiwork. I love this quote by Abraham Kuyper: "There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: 'Mine!'" Yep, every square inch belongs to Him.  No matter where we go in earth, sky or sea...we are in His backyard.  Why fear?...He always has His Fatherly eye on us.  Nothing is able to separate us from His love (Rom. 8:37-39). Not even the really hard stuff we sometimes face.

While sitting in my chair one morning, sipping tea and enjoying the quiet before the kiddos awoke, I began watching the shadows dance on the floor as the sunlight made its way through the window.  God was giving me the gift of a few minutes to rest and reflect on His Word.  Oh how I need those quiet minutes with my Father!  I was chewing on those verses out of Romans 8 when I noticed the shadows.  Have you ever seen a shadow without light? It dawned on me that I haven't. Psalm 23 came to mind.  The first half of verse 4 says: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil..."  More shadows for me to ponder...this time the shadow of death.  That is not a very friendly sounding shadow.  How can someone walking through the valley of the shadow of death NOT fear?

The verse goes on: "For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me."  It is that same idea...goodbye fear, I have my Father.  He's my good shepherd and He will take care of me.  The shadows on my floor are not scary at all, but being a rather symbolic person, I couldn't help but think of shadows figuratively.  The shadows we live in can be dark and frightening and full of unknowns.  Do they make us fearful? And do we find ourselves clinging to strange things like the picture above portrays so well because of fear? Or do we remember that shadows are a proof of the Light...do we remember that our Father is with us and is taking care of us, lovingly leading us even when we need to go through a valley of shadows, even the valley of the shadow of death?  

"...I have set before you life and death, 
blessing and cursing; 
therefore choose life, 
that both you and your descendants may live; 
that you may love the Lord your God,
 that you may obey His voice, 
and that you may cling to Him
for He is your life..." 
~ Deut 30:19-20

Monday, February 11, 2013

You are not alone in the dark

And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. 
He will be with you, 
He will not leave you nor forsake you; 
do not fear nor be dismayed.
 ~ Deut 31:8


Three posts back I wrote about learning to walk...Chloe, my sweet toddling inspiration was at my house yesterday.  Last week she was barely making a few steps, and now she is puttering around fairly well.  I was hoping to encourage you (and me) to keep that imagery in mind when considering God's people learning to walk in His ways. It does us good to cheer each other on, and to be there to help each other back up when we go down.  Sounds good, right?  Then I wrote about forgiveness...it doesn't come easy (like anger, bitterness and revenge), but Jesus gives us what we need (an ocean of mercy purchased with His blood) in order to forgive those who sin against us.

But what if we want to help someone up, and being filled with gratitude for the ocean of mercy we've received from God we stand ready to forgive every offense, even the incredibly painful ones, but the offender refuses the help?  What if they have fallen down and they don't want to get up? What if they argue that they haven't fallen at all and they are walkin' just fine, thank you very much? What if they are choosing an idol over God and nothing you do or say seems to register?  What if it is your spouse, or your child, or a parent, or a close friend?  People experience raw pain in this life...these sorts of scenarios play out in our lives and in the lives of those we love.  I know (in part).  Excruciating does not come close to describing it. I bet every one who reads this knows what I am talking about.  Maybe your spouse is threatening divorce.  Or maybe there is ongoing unresolved conflict that has created a very odd living arrangement for the rest of you in the house.  Or maybe you have a child who thinks you're old fashioned and that God is perfectly fine with them shacking up with someone.  The list of possibilities is very long.  You'd be the rare exception if at some point in your life, either you or someone close to you has not had your heart ripped open and trampled on in this ongoing, no easy fix sort of way. 

My son asked me to read from 1 Samuel 8 this morning.  The kids and I sat around the kitchen table doing just that.  It told us about how Samuel's sons did not walk in his ways.  The elders came to Samuel and said they wanted him to appoint a king for them like the nations round about them.  This was nothing short of a rejection of God as their king.  Samuel knew this and he was not happy about it.  God confirmed it in verse 7: "And the Lord said to Samuel, 'Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.'"  Of course the people didn't see it that way.  God told Samuel to warn them, but also to heed their voice, which is what Samuel did.  He had to entrust them all to God as he watched them all fall down, refusing to get up.

People fall down, and it is good for us to reach out to them with grace-filled hands.  Forgiveness does not come easy, but God gives us all we need.  But if someone rejects our help and refuses to repent, reaching out and forgiving doesn't bring the peace we long for.  Like Samuel, we can pray and entrust them to God.  We can pursue peace, but we have limits (Romans 12:18 tells us "as much as depends on you, live peaceably")...other people make choices.   Psalm 120 expresses the anguish of one whose peace pursuing life is not reciprocated: "In my distress I cried to the Lord, and He heard me. Deliver my soul, O Lord...Woe is me...My soul has dwelt too long with one who hates peace. I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war."

When we don't know how to take the next breath, God hears our cries.  As far as it depends on us, let us pursue peace.  Let us reach out with grace-filled hands.  Let us forgive as Christ forgave us. And let us entrust those we love to the only One who can change hearts.  We may not know the next step to take, but we have the promise of God that He will never forsake us.  He will lead us, one step at a time.  He is the Light in the darkness.  Let us follow Him, even when it hurts, even when our life feels overwhelmingly disoriented and we fear the sun will never shine again.  Take the next breath He gives...He is holding your hand and will not let you go in the dark.

If you know someone is going through a hard time like this, walk with them.  Be present.  Listen with a gentle and merciful spirit when they are speaking out of raw pain.  Tell them you love them and mean it. Hope for them when they are feeling hopeless.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The foundation of our Savior in marriage

"All the self help methodologies in the world cannot help you, unless you repent.  It is like thinking that the solution to a house full of garbage is to go in and polish the silver…that is not the solution and it will not work. Nothing but repentance and forgiveness solves the problem, and when you do that you have a place where you can begin to rebuild on the right foundation, the foundation of our Savior and have the life you stopped thinking is possible." ~ Steve Wilkins

My husband and I are in our 20th year of marriage.  Besides Jesus, he is my best friend and my favorite co-conspirator in life's grand adventure.  Loving God and loving people together is our family mission motto. But we mess up in a myriad of ways ~ when love gets twisted, pain, frustration, distrust and anger quickly enter as unwanted guests, often bringing other undesirables with them.  Steve Wilkins is right...self-help methodologies are not the answer.  Yet how often do we turn to them?  How often do we make one small compromise after another in our marriages, learning to stuff the pain and begin a life of coexistence, a businesslike relationship at best, letting the friendship and joyful love God intends for us slip away?

When there is trouble in marriages, the tendency seems to be to stop listening to each other.  We tend to nurse our own hurts. The story we tell ourselves about the other can get quickly skewed as we dig through our filing cabinets of past sins (forgiven though they supposedly were) and build our cases.  So God in His kindness often sends friends our way.  There is a reason Psalm 141:5 is in the Bible:  "Let the righteous strike me; It shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; It shall be as excellent oil; Let my head not refuse it."  I memorized that verse early on in our marriage because it never quite "feels" like a kindness to be stricken...in order to count it a kindness, I have to trust God (in contrast to my own reasoning, self-justifications, and feelings).  I have to be willing to hear those who love me as His messengers when they challenge something I am doing or saying.  My experience is that they have usually been right, and I have needed to repent.  God has shown us great mercy throughout our marriage, moving us to repentance quickly.  We have friends who have spoken the truth in love to us, and we have grown in thankfulness for their kind strikes over the years. 

Maybe there are areas where you could use some encouragement. There are a gazillion resources available, and I have read many of them.  Some are much more helpful than others.  There are 3 (a book, a sermon, and a sermon series) that I highly recommend.  Sometimes books and sermons can be like friends, kindly striking us.

The book ~ What did you Expect?, by Paul David Tripp.

The sermon ~ Forgiveness in our Marriages, by Steve Wilkins (This is a segment from a series he gave on marriage at a church camp this last year in California...by all means, feel encouraged to listen to the whole series, but this one in particular I found to be incredibly good stuff, and applications can easily be made to relationships in general too).

The sermon series ~ an eleven part series titled "Real Marriage," by Mark Driscoll, available free for download here. Father, give us ears to hear! I intend to listen through these again. Excellent!

We want the next 20 years to be even better...more grace-filled, more fruitful, more joyous as we serve our Father together.  A number of friends have recommended Timothy Keller's book The Meaning of Marriage.  A fresh copy just made its way to my "soon to read" pile...I'll keep you posted.  Of course, the best resource of all is God's Word which is the basis of the instruction the above mentioned teachers offer.  May God give everyone who is married the desire to honor Him in their marriages, and may we avail ourselves to the helpful teaching He's graciously made available to us.