Messy Faith

Sun warmed breezes over a calm, clear lake.

Young voices expressing the joy of warm water on their sun kissed limbs.

A small gray cloud bank on the northwest horizon as waterfront time closes.

storm clouds

Campfire inside as the cloud bank billows.

Weather alerts on adult cell phones.

The difficult, but prudent decision to move all the campers and staff to the retreat center right at bedtime.

Once there, the only hint of a storm was the light show out the distant window. In our shelter we could not hear the thunder, the howling winds, or the twisting and cracking of branches and entire trees.

When we returned to our cabins, it was pitch dark and raining, so it was morning before the damage was seen.

What a mess it was!

Branches, some large, most small, were strewn across the playing field like all the plastic tags from the day’s game time.after the stormtree down 1

tree on benches

One large, ancient tree finally gave in to this final storm—for the tree—of  hundreds of storms.

Rather than my normal morning walk, I began to pick up branches.  As I worked my way across the parking lot and sidewalks, I noticed that my new walking shoes were getting soiled.

dirty shoes

It reminded me that getting involved in the disarray of the world rubs off on me. While I don’t choose the dirt, it is unavoidable.

And when I come away from it, I need to rest.

To submit to having my feet washed.

The gospel of John relates Peter’s response to the Lord’s final act of service before his great sacrifice.

“so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.  After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”  (John 13:4-9)

 

Life is full of storms.

Storms make messes.

We need to help remove the debris, even if some of the dirt gets on us.

After helping getting rid of the rubble, we need to go to our Savior.

Allow him to minister to your need, refreshing you to go back out for more clean up of the wreckage all around us.

tree and chapel

Renew Your Mind

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1,2

The first time I read through the entire Bible systematically was during my year at Bible college as a class assignment.

Though there was a great sense of accomplishment for reading the entire Bible, it wasn’t enough. For multiple years I fell behind after the book of Exodus when the readings were mostly lists of families or rules for sacrifices. Even when I tried plans that mixed up Old and New Testament readings, I’d miss a few days, and give up.

My earliest teachings were that I should begin the day with a quiet time, starting my day with God.

Bible & tea cup

It was a set-up for failure when I had to get my family and myself out of the house by 7:30 a.m. Returning after long, taxing days, feeding the family, and often attending an evening activity seemed to absorb every minute. Some days I barely managed to offer a nutritious tidbit and keep the clothes clean, dry, and wearable.

My quiet times were sporadic at best, and most often neglected.

Nearly three years ago, a new friend invited me to read through the New Testament in a chronological Bible. It seemed more do-able.

  1. I discovered that the format of Bible readings for each day were grace-filled, allowing me to jump in on the date rather than feeling I had to catch up on a missed reading.
  2. I broke through my expectation of reading first thing in the morning.
  3. On-line discussion drew me to the reading whenever I had a chance.

After successfully-more or less, as I missed a day here and there-completing the New Testament, I accepted the challenge to read through the entire Bible in 2014. And I invited members of our church to join me.

The format of the printed Bible and accountability of a group have helped me continue to read God’s Word consistently.

Team 365 at retreat center

The second year, it was fun to make connections or comparisons of Scripture that I’d not seen or heard a teaching on before.

Nearly three years later, I’m discovering that my mind is being renewed. Last week, at training sessions in which I have a leadership position, my mind went to an example in the Bible to help illustrate the situation we faced.

The first year I read through the Bible, I was probably a bit legalistic about it. But it is becoming a necessary part of my day.

We don’t do the renewing, we simply subject ourselves to it. We submit our mind to God and let Him fill it with His truth. He is the guardian of our makeover.” From “Indeed: Exploring the Heart of God” from Walk Thru the Bible

In my garden, I can provide healthy plants, enriched soil, in a location with sunlight and water when the rains don’t come often enough, and keep the weeds out of the space. However, I cannot do anything to make the plants grow and produce fruit.

Bean teepeeBeans

Likewise, I expose myself to God’s Word, eliminate the negative inputs around me, but the Holy Spirit is the one remaking me to be more like Christ.

If you want your mind renewed and transformed, join me in the Bible reading adventure. It will help you learn to walk by faith!

walking Granny home

Bringing Courage and Hope

Ruth 1 through 4:12
The book of Ruth is one of my favorites. Even though it has a lot of grief and sorrow, it reveals the responsibilities of the kinsman redeemer. Most often I have focused on Ruth, her loyalty to her mother-in-law’s God and her submissive response to what Naomi tells her to do.

Yet today, Ruth 1:19 caught my attention. “….When they came to Bethlehem, the entire town was excited by their arrival. “Is it really Naomi?” the women asked.”

While we don’t know exactly how long Naomi lived in Moab, it was more than ten years.

Her little boys grew up into young men.

Her husband died,.

Her sons took wives from Moab.

Her sons died, bonding her with these young Moabite women in the sisterhood of widowhood.

In our modern era of instant communication, it is difficult to imagine that the women of Bethlehem hadn’t heard about the tragedies in Naomi’s life. It appears that they didn’t know of her devastating losses.

But they remembered Naomi. For all the many years that Naomi was in Moab, the women of Bethlehem still spoke of Naomi, who went with her husband and young sons when the famine was intense.

They remembered Naomi with joy. They celebrated her return, happy to have her in their neighborhood again.

But Naomi’s experience had changed her from a joyous, fun-loving young bride and mother, to a bitter, cynical widow.  She had given up on life and had come home to die. Or a place to stay bitter and withdrawn.

But bitterness cannot last long when it meets the impact of genuine love and compassion. Before long, Naomi is orchestrating a way to introduce Boaz to her daughter-in-law, Ruth.

Perhaps it would have gone like this anyway. But the women of Bethlehem, with their warm encompassing welcome, “greased the wheels”. Their love and attention gave Naomi the willingness to take a chance again.

 

After life’s difficult, painful journey, looking to the future with hope takes a transformation. God is love, but we are his hands and his feet, his ambassadors of love.

In what ways are you extending a warm, compassionate welcome to people that come into your life?

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God’s Dwelling

Grilled cheese sandwiches and fruit sauce. Drilling the week’s memory verse between bites and often in the car for the five miles to “Juniors”. Dad rushing in from the evening milking, flying upstairs to change into church clothes , then out the door with his sandwich in hand. Reciting the verse to one of the adult leaders before “Juniors” singing time was over. Sheila and Tim 1963 This was part of my childhood nearly every week for eight years of elementary grades. And what a treasure it is to have the kernel of Scripture deep in my memory bank. After cleaning out my mother-in-law’s home, I realized that I want to leave a legacy that has more meaning than pretty dishes, antique furniture, embroidered towels, or even family pictures and stories. The legacy I want to leave my children and grandchildren is a strong spiritual foundation, grounded in God’s word. I want them to know that I loved God’s word and no other book was more important to me. (And as a book lover/addict, that’s hoping for a lot perhaps.) altar flowers On New Year’s I issued a family challenge. I selected Psalm 46 because it is a positive psalm, and it has eleven verses, so we get one month off. Though I’m being intentional in spurts, it is more difficult to stick with an entire chapter than I thought it would be. Recently, my morning walks have been intentional Bible memory time. A copied, much folded, unfolded paper is in my jacket pocket. Between praying for my children, their spouses and my grandchildren, I try to say the Scriptures. This week I’m learning Psalm 46:4 & 5 A pure stream flows—never to be cut off— bringing joy to the city where God makes His home, the sacred site where the Most High chooses to live. The True God never sleeps and always resides in the city of joy; He makes it unstoppable, unshakable. (Psalm 46:4,5) The Psalmist was referring to the city of Jerusalem, and until this week, that is how I read it, interpreted it, and brushed it off as lovely words. altar However, as I have gone over it, trying to recite it without looking or hesitating, the Holy Spirit revealed that it is a personal promise. One of those verses I learned and recited on a Sunday night came back to me. “Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who comes from God and dwells inside of you?” 1 Corinthians 6:19 Paul tells us that God lives inside of us. And the Psalmist says that is a sacred site where the Most High chooses to live. So there is a pure stream of joy that can’t be cut off from my life, for God lives in me and has chosen to dwell there. Even when I need to sleep, He never does and because of His presence and His joy, I am unstoppable, unshakeable.  Wow! Isn’t that amazing? When I can truly believe that, I tingle all the way down to the tips of my toes. Suddenly, Psalm 46 is exciting. Though it refers to Jerusalem, it also means ME. A constant stream of joy. The place God makes His home. Unstoppable. Unshakeable. Humbling. What a might God!

For the Weary Mom

Though it is cool this morning, the frost did not settle on the tender buds of trees, tiny sprouts of corn and soybeans that lay in neat rows down the soggy soil, or deaden the blossoms on my prairie orchids -iris. After nearly ten days of misty, dreary skies, and much needed rainfall, the glorious gleam of sunshine brightens rooms, colors, and attitudes.

purple

But this morning a friend’s post reminded me that there is something more important than our fields and flowers. There is the matter of our sons’ and daughters’ eternal destiny.

Jesus said that He is the way, the truth, and the life. And I believe that His word is true.

That said, there is no sweeter gift for a mother than to hear her child confess their faith in God, and make choices that align with the wisdom and teachings of Jesus.

Conversely, no burden weighs down a heart heavier than a life spent running from those truths.

And as much as we realize that our child has free will, and we say that we let go, there is a niggling within us that questions. Did I cause them to stumble? Did my imperfections prevent the Holy Spirit from wooing their heart? Did I fail to pray enough? Why did we…..? Or why didn’t we….?

I don’t have answers.

And I write from a place of blessing as my daughters and their families love and walk in harmony with God.

But I remind you of God’s words of comfort and hope.

God is big enough to overcome our failures. With Saul of Tarsus, out on a mission to destroy those who believed in Jesus, God blinded him to get his attention.

God continues to call throughout our lives. Though Moses was saved in a basket of bulrushes as a baby, he ran for his life after murdering a slave driver. Moses was nearly eighty years old before he paused to notice the bush that was not consumed. He stopped, listened, and obeyed God’s call after all those years.

God wants us to ask, to seek, and promises that we will find. Mary and Joseph must have felt overwhelmed for much of their lives as the mother and father of the promised Messiah. But they listened to His voice and obeyed His call, even when it was uncomfortable and out of the way down to Egypt.

And our prayers are always heard. The prayer Jesus spoke over his disciples before his arrest continues to flow out into the cosmos for all disciples. And not Jesus’ prayer alone.

Peter and Paul both recorded prayers in their letters that continue to be effective in the world.

And worried mother, anxious father, look up. Take courage. Continue praying.

Prayer is a bridge from the visible to the unseen, from time to the realm in which there is no time, from the physical to the spiritual.

with sunset

Once your prayer is released, it continues on and on. Like a pebble thrown into a still lake, the ripples expand and affect leaves on the edge of the pond long after the stone is lost to sight.

So, dear friend, have faith. Keep praying. Keep trusting that God is not yet finished with your child.

Climb up in your father’s lap and rest.

Feel His heartbeat.

Know that He loves you.

Look for little signs of His protection.

Breathe in His fragrance.

Laugh in His presence.

Trust.

Pray.

Amen.

Faith Heroine That Walked Her Talk

Every Sunday evening, before the church service, Mabel led a program for elementary students. Before we could enter to sing, we recited the Bible memory verse of the week to an adult stationed outside the door.

By the time I was old enough to start “Juniors”, her children had children of their own or were off at college. Though several of her sons and daughters attended college, she had never completed high school.
When she was a young woman, teen-aged girls hired out to a family with a new baby, a failing family member, or sometimes because it was less expensive to hire “household help” rather than pay a farm laborer.

Watching her gentle, gracious life made it look easy to be a Proverbs 31 woman.

She had a large garden, a flock of chickens kept for eggs as well as butchering, cookies for the men’s lunches in the afternoon and coffee cake for the morning break. Often during harvest time, she would also do the feeding and calf chores to help shorten her farmer- husband’s day.

I know this because my mom stopped nearly every week to buy fresh eggs from her. And while those visits included the sharing of recipes, cleaning tips, and news of the community, they always ended with a short prayer for personal needs.

Her life was one of integrity. What I saw when we’d drop in was the same person that lead our children’s program.

On my tenth birthday slumber party, the evening activity was to go to an evangelistic crusade. The music was cool, with guitars, string bass and drums as the accompaniment, a new trend in the 1960’s.

But the message was convicting, and though I had asked Jesus to forgive my sins at age six, I needed to be positive. Even with my party guests there, the pressure to go forward had me going down the aisle.

Waiting at the front were men and women of the community who volunteered to council and pray with those that responded. Mabel greeted me, showed me verses that affirmed my salvation, and prayed with me. Then she went further and helped me see that Christ wanted to be part of my everyday life. And every so often, she’d find a way to encourage my walk with God.

I wanted what she had in Christ.

She was confident in her faith.

She prayed like she conversed with God every day.

Even when bad things happened to her children or grandchildren, or they made choices that were less than Christ like, she still loved them and offered support to them. And no matter what, her faith was unshakable.

Once, when I had children of my own attending “Juniors”, she called me to apologize for saying something hurtful that I didn’t even remember. But I was humbled, and strangely honored that she lived by the standard of the Bible of going to the one wronged and ask forgiveness.

Each time I had a new baby, she sent food and a card with a handwritten note about God’s view of the blessing of children.

In the later years of her life, her oldest son and her husband allowed some church decisions to distance their relationship. Though it must have pained her, she continued to maintain a relationship with her son without upsetting her husband.

When my sister-in-law had a miscarriage, I learned that Mabel had also experienced that heart-wrenching loss as a young woman. Reaching out to young women in that painful time, when she had learned to grieve alone, was another part of her ministry.

A few months later, I discovered that I was unexpectedly pregnant. Since I’d been a full-time mom for twelve years, I was looking forward to some private time when our youngest began school. It was Mabel who shared the difficult time in accepting her last pregnancy when her older children were already in high school. Her transparency helped me find joy in those weeks of prenatal growth and development.

Observing her life for nearly forty years, from the perspective of a child through teen years, and then as a young mother myself, her life continued to glow with a love life with God.

While her name will be forgotten, yet for me her transparent and faithful life continues as a model of how a Godly woman lives.

Her faith investment in her family, forty years of children’s ministry, and her personal investment in my life may not be applauded by men, but by God’s measurement of worth, she loved Him and all those who He brought into her life.

This blog post is part of Michelle DeRusha’s #MyFaithHeroine contest, in connection with the release of the book 50 Women Every Christian Should Know. Find out how to participate here.

50 Women Every Christian Should Know—Book Review

What a delightful book!  Every chapter is like reader candy.

Book cover

Even though I grew up in a Christian family, I was surprised how many of these women I did not know.  The wide range of interests and the expanse of centuries guarantee that everyone will find a faith heroine somewhere in these pages.

Dorothy Day

As soon as it came, I could hardly wait to put my feet up and read about my favorite woman in the book: Edith Schaeffer, the wife of Francis Schaeffer and co-founder of L’Abri.  She has been one of my faith heroines for over thirty years.

But I found myself reading “Just one more” chapter, and “just one more” until well past the bed-time of an organized, disciplined woman!

Best of all, is the conversational style and personal interest slant that Michelle DeRusha brings her carefully researched information to the page.

Michelle

If you don’t usually read history, this is the book to introduce the non-fiction genre into your reading repertoire. And the table of contents makes it easy to pick and choose your way through the book—or to refer back to a favorite.

Now, let me get back to read one more chapter-and I’ll set the timer to remind me of bedtime!   rainy day reading