Saturday, May 29, 2010

Not if, but WHAT impact?

So I just got out of the shower, my "thinking place" due to the nature of having a few quiet minutes, and it dawned on me in there that the quote I just put at the end of my last post this morning could be taken farther than what I first thought.  Here it is again in case you missed it: 

"If you think you are too small to make a difference, you have never spent the night with a mosquito." - saying in Kenya

My original intended point was simply to communicate that an individual can have a big impact in the worldIn the context of what I was writing about, I hope that was clear.  In the shower, it pressed further on my mind the idea that individuals not only can make a difference, they necessarily do...the question is what impact am I as an individual having?  And what impact are you having?  The small mosquito, for example, has an impact, but not a welcome one if you are the human now covered with itchy welts.
Mark 3:1-6 came to mind...take a minute to consider it with me. 

And He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand. 2 So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. 3 And He said to the man who had the withered hand,  "Step forward."  4 Then He said to them, "Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" But they kept silent. 5 And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.   6 Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him. 

None of us are walking around as neutral influences.  When presented with the scenario of a man with a withered hand, Jesus asks those standing ready to accuse Him if it is lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?  He didn't ask is it lawful to choose to heal or refrain from healing, both being equally loving options.  The Pharisees who immediately plotted with the Herodians against Jesus were not being neutral...they were going to make a big impact, were they not?

Of course, speaking specifically of Judas, we're told in Mark 14:21 that "The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had never been born."  There was something bigger going on, orchestrated by God Himself for the very redemption of His people, when Judas and the Pharisees and the Herodians and others who refused to believe Jesus was who He said He was worked together to crucify Jesus.  Our God is amazingly able to use sin sinlessly to bring about His purposes...He indeed works ALL  things together for His glory and the good of His people.  But that is a different topic.  My point here is that we are all making a difference, all having an impact on our world around us...we are not neutral.  Every day is filled with opportunities to display the love of God or obscure it, and how we respond matters more than we may think when you consider the ripple effects through all eternity.  And there are real woes for those who oppose God and real blessings for those who delight in Him and seek to imitate Him in their lives.

You and I WILL make a difference today...will the impact we have be honoring to the One who holds the universe together?  When we have the opportunity and ability to do good, do we do it?  Will we intentionally live what we say we believe?

"The man who will not lead his flock up the mountainside leads it down without knowing it." - A.W. Tozer

The One Factor

My mother-in-law brought me a book this week from a fundraiser she went to (bless her heart) is called The One Factor by Doug Sauder.  I started it last night and read this in the opening:

"Every community has its problems.  Think about the biggest problem in your world.  Can it be solved?  Most of us balk at the notion because many problems intimidate us by their sheer enormity.  For the sake of this book, we will look at a huge problem that exists in every community -- orphaned children.  Stop for a minute and review the scale of the problem:

143 million orphans worldwide

514,000 "temporary orphans" in foster care in America

115,000 "legal orphans" waiting to be adopted in America

This is a mind-blowing, heartbreaking reality that many of you might not have been aware of.  Unfortunately, if you're like most of us, statistics like these rarely inspire action.  As sobering as they are, they are too overwhelming, too impersonal, too distant.  They may produce a twinge of guilt and maybe even provoke further research, but they rarely lead to action.  Usually it is the one factor that gets us involved."

I can't wait to read the rest of the book and see what he has to share about how individuals have made big differences by simply acting in love towards those God has put in their path.  I often wear a little starfish pendant around my neck as my personal reminder of the "one factor" my ole Starfish post to see what I mean. 

"If you think you are too small to make a difference, you have never spent the night with a mosquito." - saying in Kenya (another quote from The One Factor)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What does a Tulip Farm say?

A Day at the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm 
Thank You Lord for giving us eyes to see and ears to hear...
"Random, purposeless, mindless forces should produce a random, purposeless, mindless cosmos...But that is not what we have!"
- The Truth Project, tour 7

The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech nor language 
where their voice is not heard. 
Their line has gone out
through all the earth,
And their words to the end of the world.

Defending and Celebrating Life, a gift from God

Under His Wings team

This year for the Steps for Life, MJ and Bekah and Paul joined up with three of their friends to form a walking team.  Together they were able to raise $4,750 to help the Pregnancy Resource Centers be able to reach out with compassion and truth to those who come into their offices seeking help.  It is an amazing ministry, and we were glad to be able to play a part in helping.  Thank you to all of you who sponsored them and/or prayed for them.  YOU also played a part.  We are the body of Christ, working together.

Isn't the mercy of our Father amazing?  He paid the ransom for sinners like us, adopted us into His family, gave us His Spirit and allows us the joys of working together in events like this to help thousands of people.  Thousands?  Yes.  Think about it.  We do because each of our children are adopted and each of them had birth mothers that had to make a choice to carry them to full term.  If they had made a different choice, they would not be here affecting lives all around them, being the blessings that they are.  And because each of their birthmom's made the choice of life, they do not have to live the rest of their lives with the regret of having killed their child in the womb.  The choice a woman makes when facing an unplanned pregnancy affects her and the child, and many others for the rest of their lives.  Helping even one woman (compassion, practical help, truth), when you consider the ripple effects, can in turn bless hundreds of people.  This team, with your help, and the labors of the volunteers at the Pregnancy Resource Centers, have worked to help many women, and by God's grace, we will continue to do so, which in turn really does affect thousands.  

Here are a few pics from the day for you to enjoy...
Getting ready to walk

After the walk, top fund-raisers were named.  The other team members could not physically be at the walk due to a wedding planned the same day (though they did do a two mile walk a different day), so our kids represented the team when it was announced that they were the NUMBER ONE fundraisers for the 5-12 age category.  Yeah team!  Way to go! Here they are, posing with Larry Gadbaugh, CEO of PRC.

We could not think of a better way to end the day than to take a drive to Salem to visit our friends, the Murray's, who had just given birth the day before to their son Micah John.  My MJ was thrilled to now have a little friend with the same initials as herself...while we chatted, they bonded.  Life is precious, and Micah John is a much prayed for, desired, gift from God.  We were thrilled to get to go celebrate his life with our friends.

What is a day of celebration without ice cream?
I do not think my kids know the answer to that!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thanks for the flowers

I weeded the front flower bed today, and guess what I found?  Some sweet little flowers that I hadn't planted. 

The undesirables in the beds were weeded out, but the lovely were nurtured and watered with the hope that they will continue to share their beauty. 

Weeding time is almost always meditation time for me (precious time to chew on whatever God is teaching me). I love these quiet times with ample food for thought provided by the activity itself.  Today when I began to notice a number of flowers sown by the wind or some critter in my front beds, I paused and gave thanks to my Father for adding them by His own choice of means.  They made me think of the sweet influences of so many people who love my children and take the time to sow various seeds of godliness into the soil of their hearts.  My children are a large part of the garden of my life, and they are beautiful by God's grace, treasures and joys for sure.  Like the precious flowers found today, I know that I am not the only one planting here so thank you to all of you who help make their lives and mine more beautiful.  And thanks be to God for accepting our planting and watering, and giving the increase.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Deliberately. Intentionally.

Is there anything in particular you want to talk with so and so about?  What is it you want to accomplish?  What would you like to see happen while we are doing x, y, or z?  These are the sorts of questions that predictably come from my husband before we visit with people or go to do something.  I love that about him.  He is deliberate.  He considers discussions and activities ahead of time and chews on how he can make the most of the opportunity at hand. 

Have you seen a garden that has been left untended?  Plants grow, wild and unruly.

Have you seen a garden that has been nurtured and cultivated?  Again plants grow, but instead of displaying a wildness about them, there is beauty and order. 

Life, with its relationships and activities, can be compared to a garden which requires tending in order to produce beauty.  I posted part of this quote from the book What Did You Expect, by Paul David Tripp, the other day on my facebook, but here it is again to encourage us all to live our lives with a harvest live with seek to plant seeds with our communications that build up and encourage, and to live lives that reflect and imitate the Master Gardener in all we say and do.

"Every day you harvest relational plants that have come from the seeds of words and actions that you previously planted.  And every day you plant seeds of words and actions that you will one day harvest.  Most of the seeds you plant will be small, but one thousand small seeds that grow up into trees will result in an environment-changing forest." 

Think about that.  Inescapably, we will produce some sort of forest, but what will it look like?  Planting good seed, watering, weeding the undesirables, dividing and transplanting, harvesting fruit, resourcefulness with the fruit -- these are things that do not "just happen."  Good intentions alone are not enough either.  We need to be people who plan our work and work our plan.  And our plan needs to be based in reality, not our imaginations...we need to be people of God's Word which tells us who He is, who we are, what His goals for His creation are, what is true and what is false, what is good and what is evil, etc.  When I first started gardening, I worked hard but I did things the way I instinctively thought they should be done...I can tell you my planning and working did not produce the desired results.  Now I read about plants, soil, what is needful, what is harmful, etc...and as I implement what I learn from those who know reality, I increasingly enjoy the view from my window.  Similarly, if and when our plans are lined up with the heart of God which He reveals to us in His Word, and we commit ourselves to working according to His ways, we can go about our life work, empowered by His Spirit, with hope of a plentiful harvest which will both honor the Lord and increase the joy of His people.

I'm still learning about gardening...literally and figuratively.  My husband has been a good example not only in being deliberate in his words and deeds, but in leading our family daily to the only One who can lead the way to a plentiful, joy-filled harvest.

Being allowed to garden alongside the Master is an honor I'm not worthy of.  I've taken His stuff and messed it up repeatedly by dismissing His Word and being wise in my own eyes.  I've insulted Him and dishonored Him and belittled Him over and over again as I've sought to do what I wanted to do, when I wanted to, and how I wanted to. Instead of nurturing what He has given, the foolishness of my own wisdom has often brought about injury and destruction.  What mercy He continually shows to let me have anything at all to do with His creation!  Instead of condemning me as the foolish traitor I truly have been, He sent Jesus to suffer His appropriate wrath in my place so He could justly forgive me and draw me close to Himself.  Amazing!  Humbling! True!

There is much more to joy in Jesus than living by certain principles...the principles of His word are good, but the joy overflows from recognizing ourselves as sinners and Him as the One who saves...the One who at great cost to Himself rescues us.  We're not like gardeners who realize from the lack of beauty in our gardens that a few practices need to change, and God just might be a good source to refer to.  No, it's more like we've been personally entrusted by the Master Gardener with a portion of His property to tend, and we think we know better than Him how to take care of things...we ignore Him and make a mess of His gifts, and it is personal...He comes to evaluate and we're guilty, it is plain for all to see.  We can never repay Him.  All we can do is cry out for mercy.  And it is very good news indeed to find He is rich in mercy. 

God is THE Master, which is reason enough to look to Him, but even better than that, He calls us to the work of tending alongside Him as His very own children.  He not only paid our debt, but He adopted us, gave us His name and a rich inheritance, and has promised to always be with us.  His mercy and patience and love overwhelm me...and move me to want to live wholeheartedly for Him.  Deliberately.  Intentionally.  According to His Word and empowered by His spirit, let us all labor with a harvest mentality for the praise and glory of God who is all-wise, merciful, powerful, loving, just, and perfect in every way.  He is worthy!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Father, be merciful to me, a sinner!

Our family is reading the book of Acts together in our evening devotions. After Jesus' death and resurrection, we find the disciples gathered together, in one accord. They were waiting for the promise of the Holy Spirit, and giving themselves to what?  Prayer and supplication! Now they "get it."  We just plain can not live as faithful friends and representatives of God on this earth without ongoing fellowship with God Himself. 

The disciples, when given to sleep, fled and each in their own way denied Jesus just as He had foretold...they were still loyal to saving their own skin. BUT throughout the book of Acts, when we see them giving themselves humbly to prayer and supplication, we see them promoting the Kingdom of the Living God in both word and deed, empowered by the Holy lives loyal to making much of Jesus, and truly willing to suffer and die for the glory of His name. 

What do we give ourselves to?  There is a reason God tells us to “pray without ceasing”...prayer, or the lack of it, is a pretty big indicator of where our loyalty lies.  But even the presence or absence of prayer doesn’t tell the whole story.

Jesus told us of two men who went to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The content of the Pharisee’s prayer showed he was stuffed with self-righteousness, whereas the tax collector’s humble prayer displayed he understood the disparity between his sinful self and the holy God he was talking to.  They both prayed, but only one went away justified.

There are two camps of Bible readers too.  We might picture two men who are Bible scholars, able to quote texts verbatim for hours.  One is argumentative, judgmental, and righteous in his own eyes.  The other is in such awe of Jesus, Who He is and what He has done, that his life begins to look like a little boy who is found walking down the hallway in his daddy’s humility and amazement, he imitates Him. 

We may attempt to live by the shall and shall nots of His Word, and we may even give verbal assent to following Him, and show up to church on Sunday, but that alone doesn’t make it clear that our loyalties have shifted from self to Christ.  Jesus tells us there are those who’ve cried out “Lord, Lord” who He will say “I never knew you” to...people who had done things “in His name.” 

I know which camp I want to be in.  And I know from even a quick inventory of my life how I often walk in the wrong camp and am a religious white washed tomb, at heart loving God's gifts of comfort, safety, food, sleep, the esteem of mankind, earthly pleasures, and every other good thing more than the Giver Himself.

"Father, be merciful to me a sinner! Empower me with Your Spirit to want what You want, to do all You put into my hand to do for YOUR glory; slay my plans and make me desire You and Your plans.  I pray for Your Kingdom to come and for Your will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Do whatever it takes in my life Lord to make me die to self and faithful to You."

Will you join me in making much of Jesus?  A child who walks in his Daddy's shoes knows his Daddy, identifies with him, delights in him, and wants to be like him...and what father isn't honored by such a child?  The child is a happy child and the father is honored.  I KNOW which camp I want to be in...the camp of happy children who honor their Father as they know, identify with, delight in, and imitate Him. 

"God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him" - John Piper

Saturday, May 1, 2010

What did you expect?

I've been reading a lot this month, the Gospels, Acts, Dig Down Deep by Josh Harris, Same Kind of Different as Me and What Difference Do it Make, two books by Ron Hall and Denver Moore...and now, this week I started one titled "What Did You Expect? - Redeeming the Realities of Marriage" by Paul David Tripp.   I'm in the 4th chapter of 17 and already it is worth the price of the book.  Perhaps I'll write a review when I'm done,  but for today I just want to highlight his chapter he called "Whose Kingdom?" 

I bought this book totally on a whim off an internet add (Though mostly a planner, I do have a bit of a spontaneous side).  I had read two other books by this author and very much liked them both (War of Words and Age of Opportunity), so I simply wanted to see what he would write about marriage.  Though happy in my marriage, and quite thankful to God for Mike, I do not doubt we have room to grow for our increased joy and for God's glory.  I thought this book might be good for a bit of a tune up, and already Mr. Tripp has given me much to ponder and set to right.

In asking the question "Whose Kingdom?", Mr. Tripp addresses the reality that much marital strife is rooted in the more foundational battle with God over whose kingdom we are committed to serving (our own or His).  We have our dreams and welcome God as the One who can make them happen, and we marry the one we think will help us fulfill our plan.  All looks and feels fine as long as our dream is being realized, but when we are committed to our own dream instead of chasing after God Himself and His plans for our lives, He is gracious in bringing conflict...sometimes severe conflict...not because He doesn't want us to be happy, but because He knows better than we do that happiness that is lasting and satisfying is found in trusting and obeying and enjoying Him and walking in the plans He has for us (His plans are ALWAYS better than the ones we conjur up...He, after all, is infinite in knowledge, power, wisdom, goodness, love, etc...we are finite and ask yourself who really is more trustworthy to come up with the best plans for the life He has given you?).  Is it possible to see conflict as a gift from God designed to move us to abandon our plans and to return us to Himself?  Can we stop ourselves the next time coldness begins to enter our relationship with our spouse and ask "whose Kingdom am I serving right now?"

Like a rat in a maze, I've learned this truth over and over again...but it was good to see it in print with such clarity, reminding me once again to commit each day to getting to know my Father better and to be about His business with heart, soul, mind and strength.