Monday, December 31, 2007

Stay Thy Soul Upon God




"Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God." 
Isa. 50:10

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

What God Does


I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 11:19


"When a man comes in contact with God, he can never be the same. God takes the weak and makes them strong, the vile and makes them clean, and the worthless and makes them worthwhile, the sinful and makes them sinless."

Posted on the wall of a homeless mission our family recently ministered at.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Missing Summer...

"He giveth snow like wool; He scattereth the hoar-frost like ashes."
Ps. 147:16

With Summer's cheering presence past
Comes Winter's chilling, frigid grasp.

The fireside, flannel-clad evening talks
Replace the sunset rambling walks.

The swings in somber stillness sit;
Remembering former smiles lit.
The sandbox too is left so bare,
Awaiting Summer's balmy air.

No fresh mowed lawn to breath in deeply
No flowers adorning the gardens so sweetly.
No Summer birds to serenade
Not even one could bear to stay.


Out come gloves, a scarf and a hat
A coat that proves that everyone's fat.
Boots that feign an inner heat
While only housing chilly feet.

A thermometer that won't go any lower
Makes my blood move even slower.
This is winter in all it's glory!
It paints for me a sad, sad story.


But while it stays I will rejoice
For happiness is my own choice.
My spirit is warm, my heart is free,
when I remember Calvary.

That blood-bought gift to me was given,
Someday I'll see my Lord in heaven.
And up there in eternal Spring,
no season change will winter bring.
-A.J.H.



*Written this afternoon right after a bone-chilling 'photo-walk,' after I was securely wrapped in a flannel blanket and had a mug of hot tea in my hands. :-)

A workman, who needeth not to be ashamed..

"Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." II Timothy 2:15

"If you cannot express yourself well on each of your beliefs, work and study until you can. If you don't, other people may miss out on the blessings that come from knowing the truth. Strive to re-express a truth of God to yourself clearly and understandably, and God will use that same explanation when you share it with someone else.

Always make it a practice to stir your own mind thoroughly to think through what you have easily believed. Your position is not really yours until you make it yours through suffering and study..."
-Oswald Chambers

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

More on Gifts....


Today I was reading back in some old journals, and came across some quotes I had recorded from an article I had read over two years ago. This prompted me to go back and search it out. I was blessed, refreshed, and encouraged anew. At first I thought I would only give the quotes here, but in reading the article again, I can't find anything to omit. It was such a timely encouragement again for me to set my eyes on the gifts of the Lord. Truly He knows what is best for us!

“Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” Psalm 55:22

I was very surprised recently to discover that the word ‘burden’ in the above Scripture is not exactly what I had thought it was -- worries, cares and heartaches. It is the Hebrew word 'yhab' which means, ‘gift, what is given by Providence, that which has been assigned to you, your lot in life’.

Your lot in life – your circumstances, your marriage, your lot in your home, and even your hardships – may not be what you had planned! But it is the lot that has been given to you. Instead of resisting your lot in life, why not give it back to the Lord and trust Him to do His work in you? He has put you in your circumstances to refine you as gold, to change you into the image of His dear Son, to make you the beautiful person that He has planned for you to be and to prepare you for His eternal kingdom.

If you were to choose your own way, I know you would choose the easy road. We are all inclined to do this, aren’t we? But the easy road will never lead you closer to the Lord, it will never deepen your understanding of the ways of God, and it will never allow you to be changed into the image of Christ.

This Scripture does not tell you to wallow in your miserable lot. It does not tell you to spoil your days with self-pity. No. It tells you to throw your lot upon the Lord. When you do, He will not only carry it for you, but He will carry you too. He has promised to sustain you in the lot He has given to you.

The word ‘cast’ in the Hebrew means ‘to throw away, to hurl, an adventure’. Wow! I like the sound of the ‘adventure’ bit, don’t you? The dictionary meaning of ‘adventure’ is ‘a hazardous or exciting experience, a bold and difficult undertaking, encountering risks, somewhat dangerous.’ This gets exciting, doesn’t it?

When you try to order your own life and make it work the way you want it to, you miss out on all that God has planned for you. When you cast your lot upon the Lord, it becomes an adventure! You will face challenges. You will have to overcome many obstacles. You may even face hardship and suffering. But this is the adventure of life. It prepares you for eternal life. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 says, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

Many try to run from their circumstances, or even their marriage. Imagine standing at the Judgment Seat of Christ and God says to you, “Why did you divorce your husband? I gave him to you to lead you closer to me, to work my character into you and change you into my image. You have missed out on my purposes in your life.”

One writer says, “What God lays upon you, lay it upon the Lord.”

Are you ready for an adventure?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Christian Liberty and the Law of Wisdom

I came across an article the other day that simply blessed my socks off. :-) The whole way through it, I was thinking, "Wow, wow, wow...AMEN!" Ever have times like that?! :-)This young mother hit the nail on the head in so many ways, and painted a beautiful picture of our liberty in Christ. In words, she described the journey God has been taking me on in the past two years. The journey of a lesson, that is.... Read it with an open, discerning heart, and let God use it as He would.

There are a lot of extremes under the banner of Christianity. That’s not too surprising, because people in general are extremists. We discover an idea and run with it until it becomes our guiding doctrine in life. It’s human nature.

The frightening thing about Christianity is that there are very few rules. People like rules. It is easier to open a book and find a rule than it is to seek the face of God. I’ve heard many people say, myself included, “I just wish God would spell it out in the Bible, it would make things so much easier…” Easier, yes… but then where would wisdom come in? Seeking wisdom means seeking God, a continual dependence on Him. When you have a rule for everything, then there is no need for wisdom, or really any kind of relationship with the Rule-Giver. [emphasis added]

People burned by hyper-conservatism and legalism, tend to take their Christian liberty and run the other way. Like a prisoner suddenly set free they gorge themselves on ice cream and lollipops because they can. After awhile, they’ll wake up with a bellyache and wonder why God didn’t stop them or something… Well, friends, it’s called wisdom. And God gives it freely to those who ask. :-)

The ideas so many of us grew up with—homeschooling, courtship, stay-at-home mothers and daughters—these are not mandates found in the Bible. Oh? Then why should I practice any of these things? It isn’t a matter of should or shouldn’t, but of wisdom...(Seeking GOD for the truth) The same goes for any other gray area we find in the Bible. Wisdom is knowing what is right for ourselves and our families. [parenthesis added]
And may I add, a heartfelt seeking - not for loopholes or excuses to avoid something we don't want to obey, but an earnest desire to know what God's Word says, and how we need to apply it to our lives.
This makes many people uncomfortable because we want everyone to be like us. It makes us feel more comfortable in our own choices. So, we tend to take very good ideas and turn them into rules. That way we can say to our neighbor, “Hey, you should be doing this…” instead of “Hey, I’ll pray with you about this decision… may God grant you wisdom.”

There is so much freedom in realizing our lives don’t have to look like everyone else’s. In fact, I think once we realize that we don’t have to keep looking at others to make sure we’re ‘doing it right’ we’ll be spending a lot more time looking up… which is infinitely sweeter. [emphasis added]

Like one commenter posted...

"It's easy to read the books about "how to do it" and want to follow the rules to "be safe" and have the results guaranteed...Following rules feels "safe"... but in reality, the Presence of God is the only place with fullness of joy and true safety!"

The article by Elizabeth Jackson can be found in it's entirety here.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

CNA Snapshots - Demonstrating Our Father's Love

"...He whose heart is kind beyond all measure 
gives unto each day what HE deems best..."

The month of CNA training was an especially monumental one for me in learning more about the Father heart of God. I learned that trust springs out of that knowledge, and the more we are acquainted with His character, the easier it is to trust Him.

There are times my perspective of God is turned, and I act like He is a taskmaster, driving me to do what's right. How easy it is to forget that He is a loving and tender Heavenly Father, and that all His thoughts towards us are good. The wonderful thing about this is, that the more I experience the love of God in my own life, the easier it becomes to be a channel of that to others. 

Toward the beginning of the course all 16 of us were divided into two teams. This determined what floor we would be working on during clinicals, study hall times, practice room times, etc. The day we were divided up, we were also given names. There were the channels, and there were the vessels. I appreciated the devotional that went along with these.


It was explained to us that both of these things were no good in and of themselves. Their value lay in how they were used. A channel, such as a river bed, is not much good for anything unless it is used to direct water down the correct path. Likewise, a vessel is only good for looking at unless it is filled with something and given out to others. We were encouraged to be vessels and channels of love, willing to be filled, and poured out for the sake of others. 

We knew there were going to be times where this would not come naturally. Working with the elderly is not always pretty. There were joyful times when a resident gave us a hug of appreciation, and there were times when dentures were removed and thrown at us. We found out that the sights and smells of the nursing home tended to follow us back to the training center, and later haunt us in the midnight hours.


At the beginning, I was nervous about the clinical side of the CNA course. Working with the elderly has never seemed to be my special gifting, or something I really thought I would enjoy doing. I was concerned that while working, I would respond to it as an undesirable task, and struggle with truly demonstrating the love of Christ to these people.

God met me in a neat way my first day of clinicals. To quote from my journal that day...."Over and over in our training, we've heard the verse, "And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Matt. 25:40 I know it's true in every serving situation I'm in, but today it hit me in a new way. As I cared for this dear lady I had been assigned to today, I was overwhelmed with the thought that I have the privilege of serving Jesus Christ Himself. That is awesome! And to think that He takes my fumbling service, and in return, blesses me far beyond what I thought possible is incredible!"


The love that I thought would come so hard, flowed out of this new perspective God gave me. "As unto Him...." "Have to's" turned into "get-to's" as I realized the amazing opportunity the Lord had given me. And not just that one, but all of life has taken on a whole new excitement. The ugly turns into the beautiful when viewed through the eyes of love.

"He whose heart is kind beyond all measure" put me in a situation where I had to depend on Him to love, and through that, opened up a whole new perspective of life!

Friday, November 30, 2007

True Salvation....

"...The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you." Luke 17:20b-21

"...there are those who get their eyes off of Christ, and onto any facet of the Christian life outside of an intimate walk with God, and then have the audacity to call it the straight and narrow."

"Look! That man has a prayer life! That woman has a wonderful ministry at that mission. That new convert put away drugs and alcohol. That young lady just surrendered herself to God's standards of femininity and modesty. There is the kingdom of God!"

"Amen. Those things are in the Bible, but they are not what make up Christianity. The Kingdom of God starts in our hearts, and the moment it stops growing there and finds it's identity in dogma, doctrine, or lifestyle instead of in Jesus Christ, it is no longer the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God may and will cause outward manifestations, but those changes in and of themselves are not what makes and defines a real Christian. It's an inner heart condition and relationship that makes a child of God...."

Friday, November 23, 2007

CNA Snapshots - Every Good Gift


"...Trusting in my Father's wise bestowment
I've no cause for worry or for fear."

Worry and fear could have been a big part of my time in Indiana. I won't deny that I never experienced those feelings. Circumstances at times seemed nearly overwhelming, but through them, God, as always, taught me a valuable lesson.

One particular instance comes to mind. I believe it was my third or fourth day of clinicals. Learning the ropes at the nursing home was challenging, and I had just been switched to a new resident. I had just started to feel comfortable with the one I had, and now I had to learn a whole new set of procedures. It didn't help any that this lady did not speak English.

To top it all off, my white uniform looked like an oil canvas that a two year old had just finished playing with. On the way to clinicals that morning, I had left an uncapped pen sitting in my lap, resulting in an ink spot on my white skirt about the size of Texas. During lunch I spilled mustard down my front, and sometime during the day, my resident had sneezed chocolate shake all over me to complete the painting! Oh my....I was feeling pretty sorry for myself.

"Lord, why in the world do you have me here? This isn't what I'm interested in! Your leading seems to be towards midwifery, so why am I wasting all this time learning how to take care of old, completely dependent adults? This just doesn't make sense!"

Upon returning back to the ITC that afternoon, I found a devotional waiting in my e-mail inbox that clearly spoke to what I was facing. Oswald Chambers has been precious to me this year, and that day was no exception.

"If you are going to be used by God, He will take you through a number of experiences that are not meant for you personally at all. They are designed to make you useful in His hands, and to enable you to understand what takes place in the lives of others...It will mean not knowing why God is taking you that way, because knowing would make you spiritually proud."
-Oswald Chambers

This started my mind on a thought process that is still continuing. Around this time, God gave me a word picture. In my mind, I saw every circumstance walking before me like a parade. I saw the hard times; the things I didn't understand; the blessings; the times I knew God was there, and the times when I wondered. Then the parade changed form. Instead of seeing each thing as an individual circumstance, to be categorized in my mind as good or bad, they all became gifts. Some of them were beautifully wrapped, complete with bows and ribbons. Others were covered in paper that was torn, ripped, and tear-stained. Yet, they all had one thing in common. They were gifts.

Then my eyes were pointed toward the Giver. Each gift was given with one intent. Fruitbearing. Despite the outward appearance, that fact made every gift take on a beauty of it's own. Then I realized, gifts are meant to be received with gratefulness. With acceptance. With delight. With joy. The gift's merits are not to be measured with our senses, but with the knowledge of the heart behind the gift. That makes each one precious and to be desired.


"We have need of patience, and our faithful God brings us into experiences which, improved by His blessing, may cultivate us in this grace. Though we seem to be tried at times almost beyond endurance, we never find Him unable or unwilling to help and sustain us; and were our hearts entirely submissive to His will, desiring it and it only to be done, how much fewer and lighter our afflictions would seem."
-Hudson Taylor

And how much more beautiful our gifts become.....

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

CNA Snapshots - Day by Day




"Day by day, and with each passing moment;
strength I find to meet my trials here..."





...50 medical procedures to memorize in two weeks
...4am mornings
...a looming test
...homesickness
...uncertainty of the future

Any one of these things could be overwhelming. And they were if I allowed myself to dwell on them too much while going through training. Grace was there to meet the day I was in, but it was always absent when concerning a day that had not yet come.

Daily strength.....wow. The stories I could tell. The one that sticks out most in my mind is God's answer for physical strength. Two days before my training started, I badly strained my foot. Large airports and heavy luggage did nothing to help the situation. In the days ahead, the pain migrated to every part of my foot possible, and even with the week of mostly classroom, it was not showing any signs of rapid improvement. How was I to face 10 days of 8 hour clinical shifts with a foot I could barely walk on? This question loomed, and became a heavy weight whenever I chose to stop trusting for 'grace for today, and strength for tomorrow.'

One thing I learned. God is not too small to handle the large issues in life, and not too big to care about the little things. After a week and a half of significant pain, it left about as suddenly as it appeared. It was gone, right as my clinical shifts became physically demanding. Once again, I stand in awe at God's faithfulness.

"Strength I find to meet my trials here..."

Faith untried may be true faith, but it is sure to be little faith, and it is likely to remain dwarfish so long as it is without trials. Faith never prospers so well as when all things are against her: tempests are her trainers, and lightnings are her illuminators.

Faith increases in solidity, assurance, and intensity, the more it is exercised with tribulation.
Faith is precious, and its trial is precious too.
-Spurgeon

Monday, November 19, 2007

Back Home Again...


After a long, vigorous month of training, I am back home, with my feet happily planted once again on WI soil. My heart is full of things to share. I'm considering starting a file labeled 'To blog about.' It would be chock full.

Thoughts unravel slowly. Even more slowly when time is limited. Stay tuned for a gradual unweaving of quotes, lessons, photos, interesting tidbits, and verbal snapshots. I can hardly wait myself for the opportunity to finally be able to turn my many thoughts into writing! Hopefully it won't be long!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Changes


Summer's heat has been left behind, Fall has shown it's color, and the chilly grip of winter is just around the corner. With the season's change, a new chapter is opening itself in my life. This Sunday, I will once again be boarding a plane, this time for Indiana.

Third-World mission work has been my heart's cry and desire for many years, and God has been leading me to pursue some specific medical training as preparation. This has never been an area of natural interest to me, so this all has been a huge leap of faith. At this point, I have no clue what the exact direction the Lord is going to lead me in, how far I'm going to go, or how it's going to be used. I have many, many more questions than answers, but my Lord has said 'go', and I'm following. The specifics are yet to be discovered!

In the month that I am gone, I'm guessing I will have little or no time for any posting here. I'm hoping, but not at all counting on it. All that said, I do hope to send out a weekly e-mail, sharing my experiences, what God is teaching me, and maybe a few photos. In there I will be sharing more personally the specific avenues the Lord is leading me at this point in life. If any of you blog readers want to be included on my mailing list, please comment with your e-mail address. Comment moderation will be enabled, so I will be the only one that will be allowed access to your information.

I thought I would also take the opportunity to initiate my first ever de-lurking day! :-) I've enjoyed tracking visiting statistics, and the states and countries represented never cease to intrigue me. Who are they? How did they end up here? You regular, non-commenting visitors especially have me baffled! My curious mind has long desired satisfaction to these questions, especially as page hits are rising, and comments few. Now would be the safest time ever to introduce yourself and say hi! I don't bite - promise! :-) :-)

Till next time!

Quotes Recorded In My Journal

Whenever God gives a vision to a Christian, it is as if He puts him in "the shadow of His hand." The saints duty is to be still and listen. When God gives you a vision and darkness follows, wait. God will bring the vision He has given you to reality in your life if you will wait on His timing. Never try to help God fulfill His word. Abram went through thirteen years of silence, but in those years all of his self-sufficiency was destroyed. He grew past the point of relying on his own common sense. Those years of silence were a time of discipline, not a period of God's displeasure. There is never any need to pretend that your life is filled with joy and confidence; just wait upon God and be grounded in Him.

Do we not see God at work in our circumstances? Dark times are allowed and come to us through the sovereignty of God. Are we prepared to be separated from the outward, evident blessings of God? Until Jesus Christ is truly our Lord, we each have goals of our own which we serve. If we are willing to wait, we will see God pointing out that we have been interested only in His blessings, instead of in God Himself.

In the Bible, clouds are always associated with God. Clouds are the sorrows, sufferings, or providential circumstances, within or without our personal lives, which actually seem to contradict the sovereignty of God. Yet it is through those very clouds that the Spirit of God is teaching us how to walk by faith. If there were never any clouds in our lives, we would have no faith. The clouds are the sign that God is there.

-Oswald Chambers

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

More Life Lessons in the Fields

After spending over five months of my Spring and Summer working in 15 acres of wildflowers and native grasses, I've had ample opportunity to observe many of the different facets of nature. From planting to harvest, I've taken part in just about every aspect of the farming operation, and have found myself in awe over and over again at the intricate order of God's creation. For those of you who have never experienced the blessings of spending the majority of several months outside, I do hope that experience will be yours someday! It is truly eye-opening and life-changing!

One of the aspects I've unfortunately had to witness, is the effect of drought upon the crops. For the third summer in a row, this part of WI had experienced unnerving shortages of rain for extended periods of time. There have been times where we've known if we didn't receive rain in the next day or so, many of the crops would be complete failures. Though God graciously never allowed this in the entirety it could have, many of the flower species only gave half their normal production. Some of the yields are barely worth mentioning.

The lack of rain through much of the Spring and Summer threw many of the plants into survival mode. Their concern was no longer in optimum performance, it was simply the grim struggle of living. Leaves curled up to conserve moisture, and their deep green hues paled into a sick looking reminder of the lush foliage it was created to be.

In many of the species, flowering came early, and in small amounts, as the plants put forth every effort they had to at least produce a few seeds for further propagation. Because of the drought, many of the species were ready to harvest over a month early. Others put forth showy looking seed pods, only to disappoint us by their sparsely filled, or empty cavities.

Drought. It's been something I've been thinking alot about lately. I've realized it has many faces when pertaining to our lives. It can be the death of a loved one. The rejection of fellow-Christians. The debilitating effects of an illness. Lack of like-minded fellowship. Financial difficulty. A spiritual wilderness. The list could go on and apply to nearly any struggle faced in life.

Natural inclination wants to push us into survival mode as well. Retreat into an introspective shell has been an option many have chosen when losing a loved one. Bitterness has claimed those who refuse to forgive when hurt. Loss of joy has taken captive many who are faced with the prospect of never being healthy again. The hardships of the Christian life have caused many to wonder what is the point in even trying. The list could go on....

In a desert, this choice turns a healthy soul into one solely concentrated on it's own well-being. It's life ceases to bless others as it's openness and fragrance is lost. It becomes self-absorbed as it's focus is turned to the circumstances God has brought their way. Thorns replace succulent stems, and this life becomes a painful one for anyone else to observe or draw near to. It leans on it's own, faulty human understanding of the circumstances it's being brought through, and fulfills the words of Jeremiah 17:5-6

"...Cursed by the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness..."

What attitude and results are the difficult circumstances supposed to bring, and how are those things obtained?

I believe that first of all we need to have an unwavering trust in the sovereignty of God, and His complete control over everything that happens in our life. Secondly, we need to realize that He has a purpose in these desert times. I like what Nancy Leigh DeMoss says in regards to this.

"God uses circumstances to expose our need and bring us to the end of ourselves. In the face of pressure, we can choose to respond in pride, by resisting and resenting the circumstance, or by giving in to despair. (drought response) Or we can choose to respond in humility, to submit to the hand of God and allow Him to mold and shape us through the pressure."

One evening, not terribly long ago, I was pondering the various stretching times God's brought me through this summer. It's truly been a summer like no other. If at the beginning I would have seen all it was going to hold, I think I would've given up in discouragement. An almost unrelenting, driving schedule left me oftentimes feeling stressed, exhausted, and discouraged. As I pondered this, I started to realize I had slipped into survival mode rather than the flourishing Christian life I longed for. As I was seeking the Lord for the lessons He wanted me to learn through the difficult times I was facing, my Bible literally fell open to Jeremiah 17:7-8. These verses are in contrast to the ones I just shared above.

"Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her root by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit."

I remember that evening so clearly. I literally sat in stunned silence for several minutes. "God wants me to flourish through this? You mean I can flourish through this?"

There is nothing more absurd sounding than a beautiful, lush green tree standing in the midst of barren, dry wilderness. Yet this is what our life is to be. The dryness forces us to realize there is absolutely nothing for us outside of the Water of Life God provides. The hard times cause us to sink our roots deep, burying them in the ever-flowing stream of God's promised grace and provision. And that is why God sends them. Drought is a blessing in disguise - one the biggest blessings God can give to us.

Field work is over for me this year, but I pray the many lessons God has taught me through this 'summer like no other' will continue with me for a lifetime.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Vision to Reality


Oswald Chambers puts a refreshing perspective on the oftentimes painful seasons of vision we are brought through. While often tempted to discouragement and despair because of what I am not, it should be a time for rejoicing at what God is going to make me become.

"Thank God for being able to see all that you have not yet been. You have had the vision, but you are not yet to the reality of it by any means.

We thank Thee, Lord, for pilgrim days
When desert springs were dry,
And first we knew what depth of need
Thy love could satisfy

Days when beneath the desert sun,
Along the toilsome road,
O'er roughest ways we walked with One,
That One the Son of God.
-Author Unknown

How is this vision turned into reality???

We are not quite prepared for the bumps and bruises that must come if we are going to be turned into the shape of the vision. We have seen what we are not, and what God wants us to be, but are we willing to be battered into the shape of the vision to be used by God?" The beatings will always come in the most common, everyday ways and through common, everyday people.
-Oswald Chambers

It is my response to these common, yet oftentimes challenging circumstances that determine the extent of their usefulness in my life.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

God is good, ALL the time!

Story Number One

The day dawned beautifully - with list in hand, accompanied by my two favorite ladies, (mom and sister) we headed off for a day of shopping in a large city not often frequented by us. Necessity was demanding it, and deadlines were rapidly approaching as we tentatively drove into the hustle and bustle of this town we normally try to avoid. Full of shopping centers, but very unfamiliar to us, it took courage for us country bumpkins to venture so far.

My list was not terribly long, but the items on it were expensive. Season changes and an upcoming trip made it seem like everything was crashing down on me at once, and I was not at all looking forward to the huge dent this trip would put in my checkbook. My thrifty, "make-do" nature caused me to balk a bit, yet as I prayerfully pondered everything on my list, the Lord granted perfect peace. I didn't know what the day would hold, but I felt confident the Lord would go before us at every stop.

The day far exceeded my highest expectations. I could go into great lengths describing our various stops. From the fabric store having a huge box out front with the exact fabric we needed, complete with garbage bags you could stuff full for $5, to finding several high quality, normally expensive items, almost brand-new at the thrift store, to a $150 item marked down to $50, to %50 off sales - every single thing I needed was provided in such a way. My expenditure was only a quarter of what I anticipated, and many of the items greater quality than I had planned on purchasing. (When will I ever learn to expect great things of God and cease to be surprised at His awesomeness?!!)

Needless to say, my heart was overflowing by the end of that shopping trip. My excitement at God's blessings was only heightened with a highly-anticipated package waiting for me at home. I felt overwhelmed with this knowledge and proof of God's goodness!

Story Number Two

Anticipation was high as our family busily prepared for our guests. We were hosting our first ever Fall Festival, and everything seemed to be falling together perfectly. 10 gallons of chili were made for our expected 100+ attendants, arrangements were made nearby for hay rides and a trip through a large corn maze, bushels of cider apples and a press were set up, a volleyball court arranged, decorations perfected, 1500 songs printed for our hymn sing, a fire pit prepared, and s'more material ready in abundance. Everything seemed to be coming together flawlessly.

As I sit here at my computer the day after, the rain is coming down at a steady rate. This is what we started experiencing the morning of our final preparations. We prayed, we hoped......forecasts were questionable, and the drizzle that turned into a downpour right before our guests started arriving seemed almost too much for our hopeful hearts to comprehend. We really had no backup plan - we had never fit 100 people in our house before, and really didn't anticipate creating a new record that day.

Nevertheless, our guests started arriving, and it was still raining. Our house soon became full, in spite of our efforts to consolidate furniture and figure out eating arrangements.

I'll admit my faith faltered. I couldn't understand why God had allowed such a drastic turn in events in something that was so clearly led by Him. Why did our hopes have to be let down? Why hadn't God answered our prayers for clear weather? Why wasn't He blessing this gathering with the weather that we needed? What were we going to do? How was a crowded house of people supposed to find anything enjoyable about the event?

The awkwardness of the situation nearly overwhelmed me. I allowed myself to become blinded with the unfairness of what God was doing to us, (so it seemed to me) all while my dear family tried their very best to encourage me with the bright side of everything that I was having such a hard time seeing. "God has a plan in even this," they kept saying, yet I couldn't see it.

Miraculously, later in the afternoon, the weather cleared enough for the hayride. It was beautiful. The bright colors, the restful scenery and quiet, the white-tail deer looking curiously at us, and the wild turkeys all helped to calm my heart and help me face reality. Quietly, God brought the question to my heart. "Am I only good, and are My blessings only evident to your heart when things go the way you want them to? Am I any less of a good, benevolent God now than during that shopping trip you had a week ago? Are My blessings contingent only upon your plans and agendas in life?"Ouch. I needed that hayride. I needed that quiet. And God so graciously used this unwanted turn of events to teach me a valuable lesson. Granted, there are much more important things in life than good deals and festive gatherings, yet I'm grateful for a Father that uses these "little" things in life to teach me big life lessons that will carry me through the harder things the future will likely hold.

Later that evening in the town hall the Lord provided for our hymn sing, the ringing notes of 'Great is Thy Faithfulness,' reminded me again of the incredibly faithful, loving God we serve. He is faithful amidst the happy, blessed times that we understand and easily embrace. He is faithful when the skies turn gray, and circumstances come our way that we didn't ask for. His blessings are still there amidst those hard times. His goodness is still evident to the soul that is looking through the eyes of faith. Truly, God is good ALL the time!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Brokenness...

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." John 12:24

The only way to win our life is to lose it. We think we are giving up so much by dying. But in reality, it is those who refuse to die who are giving up everything.

When we chose the pathway of brokenness and humility we are choosing to receive new life - His supernatural abundant life - flowing in us and through us.
-Nancy Leigh DeMoss
Brokenness the Heart God Revives

I do hope to post something more significant soon - life has been very busy though! I've got a couple things in the works, and am just waiting for time to finish them!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Character




"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved."
~ Helen Keller

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Beauty of Being Nothing


God creates out of nothing.
Therefore until a man is nothing,
God can make nothing out of Him.
-Martin Luther


The more I see of myself and the more I learn of Him, the more I am astonished that He can ever have given me a place among His children. It is only at the foot of the cross we see ourselves, the world, and God in the true light.... There alone can we form true impressions....
-Hudson Taylor

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Laura Ingalls Wilder Days


Once every year, Pepin, WI, one of the homes of the Laura of 'Little House on the Prairie' hold two "Laura Days." Full of traditional crafts, old-fashioned games, a spelling bee, Laura contest, and the famed fiddle contest, it is an anticipated yearly event for our family.




The re-enactments ranged from blacksmithing, pottery, traditional instruments, hand carved toys, rug and basket weaving, candle dipping, and open-fire cooking. Having dear friends as some of the demonstrators was a special treat!



Tasty lunch cooking!

Tasty lunch enjoyed!

This year also held some bittersweet times for several there. Last year, at this same occasion, we shared some of our last memories with Jamie Hilsgen. Killed in a tragic accident last November, his always cheerful and upbeat presence has been sorely missed by many. The family has bravely continued on, trusting the Lord amidst this huge loss, yet the pain will never entirely leave....

Last year, Naomi sat enraptured hearing the fiddles play. We soon started hearing her talk about playing violin. Not really taking her seriously, we put her off. Her persistence continued however, and a year ago at this time, God answered our whole families desire in an amazing way. The incredible story of answered prayer can be read here!


I have observed that there is not a stronger influence in musicianship than an intense interest and desire. Seeing my siblings dreams become reality through prayer and honest work has been exciting for me to watch. Seeing them grow from the required piano lessons into an instrument of their choice has been a delight! Their diligence and enthusiasm is an encouragement to me, and well represents the verse, "Whatever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might." This diligence has been re-payed by an ability to 'play skillfully unto the Lord with a loud noise.' Many are the loud sounds in our home these days, and it is such a joy!

Every since last year, Naomi has wanted to play in the fiddle contest at Laura days. Her dream was realized yesterday.... With bow in hand, accompanied by two of her sisters, she excitedly took her place on stage. She had a blast in you can't tell by the picture! Minutes before her turn came, she was actually ansty to get up there, hardly being able to contain her excitement. The meat for breakfast must have worked!!

It must have really worked, for among the 18 contestants in her division, she took second place!! We were so excited! Her motivation has increased tenfold, and she is already looking forward to, and preparing for next year!

I know I've said it before, but it's worth saying again! I'm so grateful for the gift of music! Whether a listener, or a participant, everyone is affected by this wonderful creation of the Lord's. Through the ups and downs of our family's musical pursuits, I pray this truth would never leave our hearts. Like every other gift given to us, it is to be offered back to Him, and used for His glory. Now that is exciting!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Overheard....:-)

Being part of a large family holds it's laughs as so many different tastes and personalities are represented.

This particular morning, 9-year-old Naomi was attentively listening to her violin teacher's tips for the fiddle contest she would soon be playing in.

"Now, be sure to eat a good breakfast. Having an empty stomach will not help your nervousness at all! Eating some protein for breakfast, especially meat would be a good choice."

I could see Naomi's mind racing a hundred miles an hour. Being the type that takes everything ultra seriously, and knowing her fondness for (in our home) rarely seen breakfast meat, I knew I would hear more about this.

Sure enough, that evening she earnestly talks to dad about her required duty. :-)

"Dad, and my teacher said I have to eat lots of meat for breakfast. She said that if I don't eat meat, I'll get really nervous and won't be able to play as well. I would be so embarrassed for everyone to hear my stomach growl up there because I didn't eat meat!"

Update to follow! Her very first fiddle contest is this afternoon and we are excited!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Worship in Everyday Life

So will I build my altar in the fields
And the blue sky my fretted dome shall be
And the sweet fragrance that the wildflower yield
Shall be the incense I will yield to Thee.
-Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Monday, September 03, 2007

Oswald Chambers

When once you are rightly related to God by salvation and sanctification, remember that wherever you are, you are put there by God; and by the reaction of your life on the circumstances around you, you will fulfill God's purpose, as long as you keep in the light as God is in the light.
-Oswald Chambers

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Word Spoke in Due Season....


...how good is it!

Never underestimate the power of encouraging words!


Two timely phone calls.

A sweet, "How can I pray for you?"

An uplifting e-mail sent by a dear friend.

An afternoon of help from a friend who just wanted to give a hand.

The care and love of unwavering friendships.

To the giver, they probably seemed like very little. But to my heart, brought low that morning by busyness and a feeling of complete inadequacy for the tasks God had called me to, they brought hope, a smile, and refocusing on the promised grace of God.

Who will you encourage today? It might very well change their whole day.

A word spoke in due season, how good is it!! Proverbs 15:23b

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Strength made perfect in weakness

Until we are carried quite out of our depth, beyond all our own wisdom and resources, we are not more than beginners in the school of faith. Only as everything fails us and we fail ourselves, finding out how poor and weak we really are, how ignorant and helpless, do we begin to draw upon abiding strength.

The devil often makes men strong, strong in themselves to do evil - great conquerors, great acquires of wealth and power.

The Lord on the contrary makes His servant weak, puts him in circumstances that will shew him his own nothingness, that he may lean upon the strength that is unfailing.

It is a long lesson for most of us; but it cannot be passed over until deeply learned. And God Himself thinks no trouble too great, no care too costly to teach us this.
-H. Taylor
'Hudson Taylor: The Growth of a Soul'

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hudson Taylor


"He that goeth forth weeping, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him." Ps. 126:6

Perhaps if there were more of that intense distress for souls that leads to tears, we should more frequently see the results we desire. Sometimes it may be that while we are complaining of the hardness of the hearts of those we are seeking to benefit, the hardness of our own hearts and our own feeble apprehension of the solemn reality of eternal things may be the true cause of our want of success.
-Hudson Taylor


Quotes like this one, recently read in 'Hudson Taylor: The Growth of a Soul,' bring my heart back to the stark reality of the spiritual warfare we are in. How easy it is to pass off the reasons for unfruitfulness in our lives on those we are ministering too. I often wonder how much I actually know of God's heart. Biographies like this one I'm reading are good for me. They jolt my heart back to the truth of what really matters in life, and grind to dust any frail aspirations I may have of the Christian life.

I had forgotten why I once claimed this two-volume set as my favorite books outside of the Bible. Now I am remembering. Wading through these two hefty treasures is somewhat like trying to take a drink from a waterfall. There is so much there, I usually can only handle a chapter or less a day. Sometimes I chew on that much for several days in a row.

This is not just a simple biography of a famous missionary. This is a deeply intimate story of a man completely sold out to God from the tender age of 15. It is his step by step walk from an intensely earnest, yet stumbling Christian life, into a man who shook China for Christ. It is the diary of God's work upon a soul. It is a glimpse into the ways and workings of our Lord, as He takes a newborn spiritual babe, and transforms him into one who provides bread for countless numbers of others.

One of the reasons these books have impacted me so much, is that I can relate with them. Every page is filled with the honest wrestlings of a man who longs for God to have His way in his life. It's not an easy road. It's filled with many questions. Hard times. Times of growth. Times of spiritual dryness and apathy. Times of regeneration. Times of joy. Times of tears.

This books strips away any romanticism of the Christian life, and leaves one face to face with the claims of Christ upon a soul. It stirs to flame smoldering embers that used to blaze brightly for Christ. It creates a thirst in the soul for a taste of what this man experienced. It causes one to desire God.

Don't let the bulk and price of these books deter you from discovering these things yourself. To a hungry heart, these hardcover, beautifully bound volumes are life-changing. 15 years in the writing, 'Hudson Taylor: The Growth of a Soul' chronicles the schools God brings this man through. 'Hudson Taylor: The Growth of a Work of God' provides an in-depth gaze into how God used this man, now grown into spiritual maturity.

If this review doesn't motivate you, maybe the quotes I will share in the future will! Expect much of Hudson Taylor in the coming days! :-)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Many Christians...

Many Christians want to get all the religion and happiness they can with as little sacrifice as possible. They do not understand that a man who wants to win first place in a race or climb to the top of his career, must go at it with his whole heart and give his time and strength to it. Religion requires a man to give up everything in order to know God in Christ.
-Andrew Murray

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The True Glamor of Life

Every pioneer must learn that blood and sweat of our own are not in themselves payment enough to redeem souls. No souls are won without them, but they are not in themselves the payment.

Redemption is God's gift.

The glittering peaks of Everest look beautiful in a magazine, with it's dazzling snow crest and the blue, blue sky above. But the climber has to tuck that vision in his heart and climb on when there is no beauty visible, only the bitingly cold blast whipping against him, the slippery ice imperiling his foothold, and only canned food in his stomach.

From dreamy aspiration to laborious doing.

The pioneer has to come to the place where he is willing to go on without thrills. And the drumbeat of the Lord that calls to that monotonous plodding is also challenging prayer partners at home. Can you be faithful to go on interceding for these lost tribes without the thrill of glamorous reports?

I can best explain it by telling you a story from my first days in China. Fraser was taking me somewhere through narrow Chinese alleys at night. Little hovels lay in kindly muffled shadow on either side of the street, and through their poor cracks twinkled little lights. Mr. Fraser said to me,

"Miss Miller, never lose the glamor of your calling! I have been in China some twenty years but I still thrill all over when I tell myself, on nights like this, I am in China for Christ."

The glamor of comradeship with Him outweighs the toil and tears, the disappointments and frustrations, the sickening of hopes deferred, and steadies our life.


-Excerpt from 'Ascent to the Tribes' by Isobel Kuhn

Monday, August 13, 2007

Lake Itasca Family Music Festival

For a wonderful synopsis of our last weekend, complete with video clips, be sure to visit Abigail's blog. She did a tremendous job summing up the enjoyable weekend there. I would do a post myself, but simply don't have the time. She also graciously posted a video clip of our family playing. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Don't Worry, Daddy's Driving

Recently a friend of mine shared this story with me.

One of the younger members of her family had developed a strange feeling of responsibility whenever their family took any sort of a trip together. In his little five-year-old mind, he had come to the conclusion that if he didn't know where they were, or what road to take to get home, they were horribly lost.

In one particular trip to town, the daddy of this family took a different route than usual. This little guy became more and more anxious, and finally broke out into a tearful frenzy. The unfamiliar surroundings and the unknown stretching all around him brought such a terror to his heart that he completely lost his composure.

When first hearing this, I laughed as you probably are now. How silly for such a little person to carry this weight of responsibility that was never meant for him to carry! And yet, how often do I act the same way? Life takes an unexpected turn, and I worry and fret and wonder how it's all going to turn out. The road ahead of me is covered in fog, and I think that I have to figure it out.

It would do me much good to hear the admonition that came from the front seat to that little boy sobbing in the back.

Don't worry. Daddy's driving. He knows the way home......

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Weeds

Field works holds it's own unique seasons. Greenhouse planting, transplanting, planting into the field, hoeing, weeding, and harvesting are all an important part this particular area of agriculture. July and August have held much of this aforementioned weeding. Being my personal least favorite part of the "season," it's not been all fun, but it has provided time for thought and observation on the effect weeds have on the crop.

Hand weeding a field for seven hours in 95 degree heat forces the mind to stay active. Something has to be concentrated on, or the elements simply drain any resolve to continue on. Familiar looking green things start to take names. Fleabane, Campion, Cinquifoil, Dock, Wild Mustard, and Purslane are no longer just strange words. They start to represent the dreaded foe faced hour after hour - a seemingly endless war against this living force that seeks to take over the acres of wildflower crops.

Patterns start to emerge as the hours tick by. In one field of Tennesee Coneflower I especially noticed it. The weeds were scattered. Heavy in some areas, and quite sparse in others. The plants were also scattered. Brightly blooming pink mounds dotted the landscape where the weeds had not found a foothold yet. Others places were sadly devoid of color, the intense green clearly signifying the presence of hundreds of unconquered weeds. In those areas, several minutes had to spent, just locating the crop so it too wouldn't be pulled up in the excavation of the unwanted species.

While pulling weed after weed, all the while, hands getting sorer and sorer, and blisters breaking out every now and then, it's easy to wonder what the point is. Many of the weeds look harmless!! In fact, some are quite pretty! The blooming cinquifoil always pulls at my heart when I have to pull it up! But it's a weed. It's a weed because it wasn't intended to be grown there. It has no purpose to the farmer, though it's creamy yellow and white blossoms may seek to persuade one otherwise.

Surprisingly, one of the most dreaded weeds is clover. This is a crop to many farmers, but in wildflower fields it is deadly. It's roots and stems entwine itself around the crop, starving it for light and nutrition, and chocking out it's very life. If found when small, it's possible to remove, but once it has got a foothold, it's twiny stems are nearly impossible to untangle from the crop.

Whatever the particular weed, they have all got one thing in common. They stunt the growth of the crop. In the Coneflower field, those plants that were surrounded by weeds never bloomed this year. They remained just a couple inches off the ground, fruitless and stunted, while their undisturbed neighbors rose 2-3 feet, clothed in bright pink flowers. The weeds starved the plant of nutrition and sunlight, leaving them absolutely useless to the farmer who planted them.

Weeds also starve the Christian of growth and light. They may look harmless, they may even be pretty, but they all have the same effect on our walk with the Lord. Caught when small, they are fairly easy to remove, but left go unattended to, they become a vicious monster to deal with.

Busyness is one weed I've had to beware of this summer. Being busy with good things is not a bad thing. In fact, it can produce very beautiful fruit. And yet, if allowed to take the place of the better things, namely my walk with the Lord, it becomes a weed that chokes out my effectiveness in the field God has placed me in.

This busyness is not letting up, in fact, every day seems to be busier than the previous. I'm struggling with priorities and knowing where my time should go. So many opportunities are facing me, and yet if I had 48 hours in a day, I would not be able to pursue all of them. And so, I am being forced to weed things out.

I've considered dropping this blog for some time. In fact, I've come very, very close to doing so several times. Something has held me back though, and at this point, I don't believe it's God's will. At this season in life, my time spent on here is at least going to have to take a backseat. I can't promise or even give you an idea of how much I will be posting anymore. It's all going to depend on the time God allows, and the inspiration He provides. From the beginning, I've wanted this site to be an expression of Him, and if He wants it to continue, He's going to have to organize the details and the contents to post.

Seasons of life definitely hold their peculiarities, but like God's been drilling home to me lately, these circumstances are merely another opportunity to manifest His character. My desire is to always take the circumstances He brings my way, and use them as a springboard to draw closer to Him! God's blessings to each of you as you seek to do the same!