Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for September, 2014

Please Pray

My mother suffered a stroke yesterday. She’s paralyzed on her right side, cannot see or talk. Some of you know she has been the primary care-giver for my dad. Now both of them will be in need of care.

I am flying to Texas tomorrow, to help in whatever way I can as my brother, sister-in-law and I seek God’s wisdom for  the path ahead. Thank you for your prayers on our behalf.

God will see us through, as he always has and always will.  “The Lord be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant” (Psalm 35:27b). Mom and Dad have been faithful servants for many decades. God WILL provide!

I won’t be able to post until I return home; hopefully that will be Monday, October 13.

 

Read Full Post »

article-step-by-step_ds-photo_getty_article_178_67_200377237-001_XS

Back in the 1970s somebody came up with the idea of worry stones—small, smooth pebbles that people could rub between their fingers to release their worries. (What a great money-maker, huh?  Collect some free pebbles, clean ’em up and sell for 100% profit.  Genius.)

According to enthusiasts, the constant rubbing activates the nerves at the base of the thumb, releasing endorphins. As a result, a sense of calmness purportedly settles in the user’s mind.

Even if that’s true, what happens when the person stops rubbing? Since the worry has not been resolved; isn’t it likely to return? I can’t see myself rubbing a stone until I fall asleep at night, can you?

Here’s a better idea.  Instead of going to a small pebble for worry-relief, go to the Rock.

What Rock, you ask?

“There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God” (1 Samuel 2:2).

Next question:  Why go to the Rock?

1.  God our Rock is more stable and reliable than Gibraltar.

igibrat001p4

The Rock of Gibraltar has become a symbol for stability, having stood sentry on the southern coast of Spain for centuries. Some say it dates back to the Jurassic Period.

But our God is older still, isn’t he.

“Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord is the Rock eternal” (Isaiah 26:4).

And he is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  Now that’s reliable.

2.  God our Rock is more sheltering than a deep cave.

Verteba_Cave

(Verteba Cave, Ukraine)

During World War II, a small group of Ukrainian Jews found a way to escape the Nazis. They lived underground in caves for a year and a half.

At night they foraged for food. They even built showers and latrines deep inside.

But imagine living every day in pitch blackness and in fear of being discovered.

One day it happened. Nazi soldiers stumbled upon their hiding place. A courageous woman spoke for the group, as German guns pointed straight at her.

“What are you afraid of here?” she said. “Is the Furhrer going to lose the war because we live here?” Miraculously the soldiers left without doing anyone harm.

The band of Jewish villagers found relative safety in those caves,  and in April, 1944, the cave dwellers were liberated, able to return to the light.

But God our Rock offers guaranteed eternal safety for our souls. His Son, Jesus “became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9)

3.  God our Rock is more protective than Masada.

slide-static

Perhaps you’re familiar with the mountaintop fortress, towering 1500 ft. above the Dead Sea.   The refuge was built by Herod the Great, from 37 to 31 B.C., to showcase his power.

Infamous for his brutality, Herod had good cause to be paranoid. He spared no expense to make sure this desert fortress could withstand attack and provide long-term refuge. His plan included protective casement walls, an ingenious water-collection system and cisterns for storage, storehouses, barracks, palaces, an armory and more.

Impregnable? Almost.

When Herod died, Jewish rebels were able to overtake the Roman guard remaining at the fortress. A thousand Jewish zealots lived atop Masada for three years.

Yet nothing or no one on earth can compare to God our Rock.

“Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I,” cried David. “For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe” (Psalm 61:2-3).

And how do we avail ourselves of God’s refuge?  Through gratitude, praise, and prayer.  We can:

  • Thank him for his promises, for the times he has protected and provided in the past.  We must feed our confidence in God rather than our fear.
  • Praise him for his glorious attributes that he is bringing to bear upon our situations–attributes such as power, wisdom, trustworthiness, and love.
  • Affirm our faith. If we occupy our minds with expressions of trust, there won’t be room for thoughts of worry.

“My soul finds rest in God alone;

my salvation comes from him.  

He alone is my rock and my salvation;

he is my fortress, I will never be shaken…

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;

my hope comes from him”

(Psalm 62:1-2, 5).

(Photo credits:  www.ehow.com; http://www.kids.brittanica.com; http://www.noplaceonearthfilm.com; http://www.masada.org.il.)

Read Full Post »

Olive-grove

In one of his many psalms, David compared himself to an olive tree:

“I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever” (Psalm 52:8).

If you’re like me you’re wondering: Why does David identify himself as this particular tree? Is there something special about olive trees?

As a matter of fact, yes.

It may be that, as David composed this psalm, he was contemplating several qualities characteristic of these distinctive trees:

Long Life

Olives are among the longest-living trees, continuing to grow for hundreds of years.   In fact, one specimen in Algarve, Portugal is 2000 years old, according to carbon dating.

Perhaps their longevity is due to adaptability. They can grow in various conditions—on terraced hillsides or in valleys, in rocky soil or rich, fertile loam. But even in hot climates with little rainfall the olive can grow quite contentedly.

Not only is it adaptable, the olive tree is tenacious. If it is cut down, shoots from the roots will develop, and the tree will miraculously regenerate itself.

Far-Reaching Root Systems

Because they grow for centuries, and spread their branches wide, the root system of an olive tree can be quite massive, expanding twenty feet in every direction around the trunk.

Fruitfulness

Even dwarf olive trees will produce 20-40 pounds of fruit each year.  The largest variety can produce a ton of olives annually!  The oil pressed from the fruit is also useful for cooking, for fuel in oil lamps, and even for skin care products.

No doubt you already see parallels to a life rooted and established in God:

  • The olive tree is almost eternal; David knew that one day he would “dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6).
  • The massive root system brings to mind the qualities of stability and perseverance, and the habit of abiding (John 15).  An anonymous psalmist expanded the word picture for us when he wrote: “And he shall be like a tree firmly planted [and tended] by the streams of water, ready to bring forth its fruit in its season; its leaf also shall not fade or wither; and everything he does shall prosper [and come to maturity]” (Psalm 1:3, AMP). In other words, a person seeking after God is so well-rooted in Him, nothing can destroy his spirit.
  • The fruitfulness of the olive tree reminds us of the fruitfulness of the Spirit-led life (Galatians 5:22-23).  As a person grows deep in her knowledge of God and in relationship with God, she becomes more loving, joyful, peaceful, and so on.  Not all at once, however.  It is a growing process, after all.

And so, an expansion of David’s metaphor in Psalm 52 might read:

I am like an olive tree,

Content to bloom where the Gardener plants me,

Flourishing and thriving even,

In the gracious presence of my God–

Immortal through faith,

Grounded in Him,

Growing toward maturity

As I trust

In His unfailing love,

His protection and provision,

His guidance, and grace–

Forever and ever.

We praise you, Heavenly Father, for what you have done (Psalm 52:9a)!

 

(Photo credit:  www.home-hunts.net.)

Read Full Post »

Tears of Joy

beauty girl cry

Event #1: It happened again in church last Sunday. We were singing a praise song; I don’t even remember which one. Perhaps we were in the midst of celebrating God’s love. And suddenly tears were stinging my eyes.

Event #2: Not long ago I read the novel, Evidence of Mercy by Terri Blackstock. One of the characters says: “With each trial we get stronger and purer. And [God] sees more of his reflection in us” (p. 245). I had recently come through a trial, and the thought that God might see more of his reflection in me as a result of that experience, filled me with overwhelming emotion. Tears welled up.

Event #3: One morning Steve felt compelled to pray over me, and you guessed it, the tears came again.

Why do events such as these cause me to cry? I wasn’t sad; no bad news had been shared. Neither was I ecstatic over emotionally charged good news–like a baby or wedding announcement from a loved one. And I certainly wasn’t looking to cry. It was just a spontaneous reaction.

What might those tears mean? Are they important or just a quirky phenomenon?

Curiosity sent me researching.

Crying for joy, it turns out, seems to be related to feelings of attachment for someone or something.

Think of a child lost in a museum. Her parents were nearby just a moment ago as she worked an interactive exhibit.  Now they’re gone. Quickly she weaves through the area, looking right and left.  Her heart pounds crazily in her chest; her mind is filled with fear.  After a few long moments she spots them, almost hidden behind a display. She dashes to their side; Dad turns, smiles, and welcomes her with open arms. The child bursts into tears out of relief and joy.

Could it be relief and joy that cause spontaneous tears when…

…I’m listening to or singing praise music and my heart fills with adoration for God?

…I read a scripture or even a passage in another book, and it’s as if God is speaking directly to me about a current need?

…I recognize his hand at work in my life, and my heart overflows with gratitude?

The flood of emotion that occurs during such circumstances is surely based in the loving attachment between my Heavenly Father and me. I am one of his beloved, adopted daughters—not because of anything I’ve done, but because he loved me before I was even born. He has guided, provided for, protected, and disciplined me over a lifetime.

Crying for joy can also occur when a person’s system shifts from status quo to recalibration and recovery.

That makes sense, too.  How often have I…

…come to church after a stressful week, in need of just that—recalibration and recovery? Often the praise music generates tears as those processes begin.

…read a scripture or other text that recalibrates my thinking and/or emotions, and out of relief, tears prickle my eyes?

…been concerned over a matter, and then God steps in, engineers circumstances to alleviate the matter, and again, I cry with relief and joy that he took control?

So it is the loving attachment I experience with my Heavenly Father, coupled with overwhelming joy, that cause a flood of emotion.  That flood then overflows as tears.  In addition, moments of recalibration and recovery in my spirit can cause me to cry.

And why would that be important to understand?

So that I can respond all the more gratefully in worship.

*    *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

What an incredible privilege you have given us, Father–to be attached to you as your children. Thank you for coming so near we can feel your touch, recalibrating our spirits with encouragement, truth, wisdom, and love.  And thank you for the gift of joyful tears that express our hearts where words fail. 

(Photo credit:  www.homeopathyplus.com.au.)

Read Full Post »

Washington_Constitutional_Convention_1787

 

 

On September 17, 1787, George Washington took up a quill and signed the Constitution of the United States of America. He was the first of thirty-three convention delegates to endorse the document that day.

 

Most Americans probably don’t realize that this Wednesday is the anniversary of that important event.  Chances are they do not realize how close we came, the summer of 1787, to dissolving into small factions and losing our identity as the United States of America.

I certainly wouldn’t have been aware, except I read Catherine Drinker Bowen’s book, Miracle of Philadelphia over the summer.  Our constitution does indeed qualify as a miracle of creativity, wisdom, compromise, and forward thinking–all wrapped up into one.

The young delegates (average age, 43) had begun their deliberations at the end of May. As the summer heated up (many days were oppressively hot), so did the discussions. Their task seemed impossible: create a strong national government that could support and stabilize the states, yet limit that government in order to honor states’ rights.

For almost four exhausting, uncomfortable months the men debated issue after issue, including: 1) slavery, 2) representation in the legislature, 3) whether the executive branch should be a committee or one man, and 4) whether a bill of rights should be included.

It was the dispute over representation that really caused tempers to flare. Some delegates were concerned that large states would lord it over small states in a legislature of equal representation.   Other delegates thought proportional representation based on population was the fairest method.

The two opposing sides hurled arguments back and forth with no compromise in sight. According to Georgia delegate, William Few, “It was an awful and critical moment. If the Convention had then adjourned, the dissolution of the union of the states seemed inevitable.”

What kept them from adjourning? Perhaps it was the strong appeal of an elder statesman in attendance, encouraging the delegates to press on–with God’s help.  Following is an excerpt. (Note the twelve phrases and references borrowed from Scripture):

In this situation of this assembly, groping, as it were, in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented, how has it happened that we have not once thought of humbly applying to the Father of Lights to illuminate our understandings?

In the beginning of the contest with Britain when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers for the Divine Protection. Our prayers were heard and were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favor…

…And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? Or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance? I have lived a long time; and the longer I live the more convincing proofs I see that God governs the affairs of men.

And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?

We have been assured in the Sacred Writings that except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel…and we ourselves shall become a reproach and a byword down to future ages (from The Papers of James Madison, 1840).

Those words came from a delegate known for his wisdom and political savvy, one of the most highly respected men in America: Benjamin Franklin.

Another delegate, Mr. Randolph of Virginia, proposed that “thenceforward prayers be used in ye convention every morning” (according to James Madison’s notes).

The Great Debate continued, arguments still broke out, Alexander Hamilton wrote that the crisis was alarming and he “almost despaired.” But the delegates did indeed press on. On July 16, the final compromise was voted upon and passed. The Senate would have two members from each state; the House of Representatives would be based on population, one member for every 40,000 residents.

Slowly but surely, over four months of grueling deliberation, these young visionaries hammered out a new form of government comprised of three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. They strove for careful balance of power between those three branches, as well as between the federal government and the states.

The Constitution of the United States of America is the oldest written constitution in the world. It has stood the test of time, as a result of the collective genius of the delegates. They persevered to create a flexible document that could adapt to change as the decades passed.

And undoubtedly Benjamin Franklin has been proven right:

Without [God’s] concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel…and we ourselves shall become a reproach and a byword down to future ages.

On the contrary, with God’s aid providing that collective genius, those resolute patriots created the foundation for the greatest nation on earth.

 

(For those interested in the scriptures Mr. Franklin alluded to in his speech, they include:  Job 12:25; James 1:17; James 1:5; Luke 12:6; Psalm 75:7; Daniel 4:17; Psalm 127:1; Genesis 11:1-9; Deuteronomy 28:37; 1 Kings 9:7; 2 Chronicles 7:20; Psalm 44:14).

 

Art credit:  wwwlwikipedia.com.   Sources:  The Founders’ Bible, Shiloh Road Publishers, 2012; Miracle at Philadelphia by Catherine Drinker Bowen, Little, Brown and Company, 1986; The Story of America, Reader’s Digest Association, 1975).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

freedoms

“Jesus hasn’t brought us into the family of God just to make our dreams come true.

Our dreams are always too small.

We are here to fulfill God’s dream:

That we will bring Him glory through a remarkably abundant life.

That’s how we find our greatest personal fulfillment, now and for eternity.”

–Bruce Wilkinson

(Secrets of the Vine, Multnomah, 2001)

 

No wonder some folks have been dissatisfied. They thought the abundant life Jesus spoke of in John 10:10 meant an abundance of enjoyment – free from problems and pain, and a life of plenty – free from want.

God just wasn’t big enough, not big-hearted enough, to make it happen – or so they thought.

Turns out their dreams of personal satisfaction or success are not too big for God to fulfill. They’re too small. He has grander plans for each one of us.

In fact, God has one over-arching vision statement that applies to all his children. Paul explained it like this:

“We who had already fixed our hope on the Messiah might live for his praise and glory” (Ephesians 1:12, ISV).

God wants us to live for the praise and glory of himself. That’s God’s bottom line.

Now someone is going to say, “That sounds rather self-serving to me!”

Truth is, when God created us, he put a craving for himself within us. To know him and be known by him, to experience him is a God-given pleasure that nothing else can satisfy. That’s the gateway to the abundant life–the God-enhanced life.

“OK,” someone else may say. “But spending all day praising God and giving him credit for everything isn’t my idea of abundant living. Where’s the satisfaction, the adventure, the fun in that?”

I’d ask, “Have you tried it?”

Gratitude would be a good place to begin. Gratitude for what God has already done satiates the soul. We start to realize how much we already have.

Gratitude becomes an adventure. How many things can I identify today for which I’m grateful?

Gratitude becomes fun because it fills the heart with joy, which naturally leads to praising him and giving him the credit for everything positive.

His blessings do provide an abundant life:

  • Eternity in heaven (John 14:2-3)
  • Access to God at any time, through prayer (Hebrews 14:6)
  • His loving care through life’s ups and downs (1 Peter 5:7)
  • Wisdom to determine right action from wrong (James 1:5)
  • Joy that is independent of circumstances and defies logic (Psalm 16:11)
  • Freedom from worry and fear (John 14:27)

Of course, that’s only the beginning of a long list.  Each one is a wondrous and precious gift. Our Heavenly Father most certainly deserves continual praise for all he has done.

In addition to gratitude, each of us–no matter who we are, where we live, or what we do–can display the excellencies of our God – his loving kindness, grace, mercy, wisdom and more – to those around us.  Each of us can be obedient to his Word, helpful and generous to others.

And all the while we are giving God the glory–the credit–for who we are becoming and for what we’re able to do. We’re expressing gratitude for all his benefits and praise for all his attributes, which he pours into our lives.

This is how we fulfill God’s dream and, as a natural, God-engineered consequence, we also find great personal fulfillment.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Heavenly Father, I do not want my attention side-tracked by small dreams. I want to fulfill your grand dream for me: that I might bring you glory through an abundant life of enthusiastic worship and service. You are majestic, holy, all-powerful, completely trustworthy, good and loving to your people. You are more than worthy of every word of praise and every kind deed accomplished in your name—period. But you grant us deep, satisfying, personal fulfillment as we bring you glory. We stand in awe of your magnificence and grace!

 

(Photo credit: http://www.fromhispresence.com.)

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

borfarb

 

“Katherine, I’m terribly sorry, but there’s nothing else to do. We have no money to hire a nursemaid for you children, and now that your mother is gone…”  His voice trailed off.

Is that what Hans von Bora told his five-year old daughter?  No record has been left.  We do know that, in 1504, after the death of her mother, Katherine was sent to a convent in Nimbschen, Germany. At age nine, she was transferred to Convent Marienthron, where she took her vows and became a nun. Katherine was just sixteen years old.

Katherine’s duties gave her opportunity to learn management and care of a large estate, since the convent owned much property. Proceeds covered the expenses for the forty-four nuns and forty servants.  They also made a profit.

About this time a tract was secretly passed among the young nuns titled, “The Monastic Life, and the Marriage of Priests, Nuns and Monks.” Monks, nuns, and clergy should be free to marry, it said. Marriage should be kept; it is monasteries that should be given up.

As this message spread it was not just monasteries that began to empty but convents also. Twelve nuns from Marienthron chose to escape on Easter evening, in April of 1523.  Among them was Katherine. Three of the young women were returned to their families, the other nine secretly delivered by wagon under cover of night to a nearby town. It happened to be the home of the monk who wrote the tract, and he took personal responsibility to see that the nine nuns were well taken care of.

Husbands were found for some of the women; others were given positions in households. Katherine was in the latter group. One suitor, a university student, did court Katherine that summer. A deep friendship grew between them, but when he returned to school, Katherine never heard from him again. Perhaps his parents did not approve of a marriage between their son and a former nun.

Was Katherine’s heart broken after this first experience of love?  Did she wonder why God would allow such a painful turn of events?  Again, no record exists.  We can only surmise that Katherine felt great disappointment as would any young woman in such circumstances.

Several other suitors came forward, but Katherine was content to stay and work in the home of the Lucas Cranach family.

Meanwhile, the monk who wrote the tract about marriage had left the monastery. He was considering taking a bride himself. Katherine let it be known that she was interested, as affection for the caring man had developed during the two years she had known him.

On June 15, 1525, the couple announced their engagement before five witnesses.   Immediately following was the wedding!

An abandoned Augustinian cloister was given to the couple for their home. Katherine became mistress of this virtual estate.  (The first floor alone contained forty rooms with cells above.)

Eventually every room was occupied, not just by their own six children, but by widows, students, and orphans that the couple took in. In fact, Katherine and her husband adopted four orphaned children from their relatives.

Can you imagine caring for so many people—without such appliances as stove, refrigerator, washer, or dryer?

But God had prepared Katherine to manage the estate.  Remember her duties at Marienthron Convent?  Katherine  was on the go from daybreak to night, overseeing the multitude of household responsibilities, the animals, a large garden, the brewery, and large parcels of land she purchased in order to grow grain for the animals.

That’s not all. Katherine ministered to the needs in her community, giving care to the sick and counsel to the hurting.

She made it possible for her husband to travel, preach, and teach, knowing that all would be well taken care of at home.

Day after day, for twenty years, Katherine served others in and around her home.   How ironic that one of the few quotes of Katherine von Bora which has survived the centuries should be:

“I’ve read enough [of the Bible]. I’ve heard enough. I know enough. Would to God I lived it.”

According to the historical record, Katherine most certainly lived by the truth of God’s Word. Who can deny her courage, perseverance, love of others, and servant’s heart?  She stands as a worthy example for us to follow.

Katherine’s husband grew to appreciate her greatly and love her deeply. He called her “Kittie, My Rib” and  “The Morning Star of Wittenberg.”

Does the name of their hometown sound familiar? Wittenberg was the home of Martin Luther.

The husband of Katherine von Bora was none other than Martin Luther himself.

 

(Sources:  www.the-highway.com, http://www.rpmministries.org, http://www.helios.augustana.edu, http://www.lutheranhistory.org, http://www.thegospelcoalition.org, http://www.haventoday.org.  Art credit:  www.lutherin.de.)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Our News from Italy

Notes to our Prayer Supporters

Laurie Klein, Scribe

immerse in God, emerge refreshed

Strength Renewed

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

Colleen Scheid

Writing, Acting, Living the Grace of God

Walking Well With God

Impressions Becoming Expressions

Shelly Miller

Impressions Becoming Expressions

Mitch Teemley

The Power of Story

Faith Barista

Because some days you need a double-shot of faith.

Rebeca Jones

Building Standing Stones

Wings of the Dawn

even there Your hand will lead me ~ poems and reflections by Heidi Viars

Jennifer Dukes Lee

Storyteller. Grace Dweller.

Holley Gerth

Live fully * Love Bravely

Unshakable Hope

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

Healthy Spirituality

Nurturing Hearts Closer to God

Just Wondering

Impressions Becoming Expressions

Jody Lee Collins

Impressions Becoming Expressions

(in)courage

Impressions Becoming Expressions