Thursday, November 1, 2012

Our blog is MOVING!

I am merging my 2 blogs into one little spot on the web.  The new blog is titled "Our Home for His Harvest," and it combines our orphan ministry with our every day life (ministry!) within our home and family.  We hope to see you over there!   :)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Harvest Party with a Purpose

Last year I was brainstorming about how to make a little family harvest party that had a deeper meaning to it than just candy and costumes.  And this idea came to me.  It is our 2nd year to do this, and it's definitely going to be a tradition that we continue.

In Matthew 9:38, Jesus tells us to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send more workers into the fields.  It is these fields that pull at my soul.  The lost.  The ones who have never ever heard the name of Jesus. So, we built our little harvest party around this theme.

It all centers around a treasure hunt of sorts.  I create riddles to hide to throughout the house.  I give our children the first riddle.  If they solve that riddle, it will lead them to the place where the next riddle is hidden.  This year, we hid riddles in the deli drawer of the refrigerator, on a guitar, on a puzzle of China, etc.

The final riddle is WITH the hidden treasure...

Their treasures are individual baggies filled with candy...

And each bag has a "treasure of the nations" inside of it.  This is the fun part.  Last year I went to the International Mission Board's site to choose some completely unreached people groups, and I gave each child a people group to pray for for one year.  (Go to THIS LINK to discover some amazing facts about people groups that have yet to have a single Gospel witness!).  This year, we had some bookmarks of other people groups, so I used those to give each child a "treasure of the nations" for them to pray for over the next year.  They are always excited to see which country they will receive, as they are the chosen prayer warrior for that one country or people group.  It's a special job!

I hid all the riddles and the candy, and then we invited the crew downstairs to begin our evening of activities.  They were dressed in some fun costumes of inspirational characters from Christian books or movies (our oldest daughter made most of the costumes).  This year we had 2 characters from Narnia and one police officer from Courageous...and one princess that insisted that she needed to be a butterfly (one of God's creations, so we rolled with it!).  :)

The different parts of the meal were named after each character, and we enjoyed some family time together with our grandmother who was in town for the special celebration.

And of course, there was case the candy wasn't enough sugar...  ;)

Then began the treasure hunt, with all the riddles to be solved.  This really was so much fun!

The night drew to a close with everyone digging into their bags of goodies and reading about their "treasure of the nations" to pray for over the next year.

Because there really IS a harvest, and it's more than pumpkins and apples and candy.  It's a harvest of souls.  Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send more workers into the fields.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Our Saturation--Their Thirst

Rain came in torrents.  24 hours of non-stop water poured on our property in Georgia.  Streams flowed down the steep driveway...

And into the grass...  More and more and more water, until the ground was gagging and gurgling with the excess.  Saturation past the point of comfort...

With nowhere to go, it simply puddled and grew murky, muddy.  The ground had had enough.

With camera in hand, fascinated at the immense amount of rain that just wouldn't stop, I squat low to grab some shots.  My mind drifts to our family who lives in the deserts of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.  I try to envision some way to tilt the globe toward them and let all this water bless their drought.

And in the quiet of the woods, in the quiet of my heart, a realization stings: This is the picture of most Christians.  We are flooded, absolutely saturated with Bible studies, Christian music, seminars, excellent sermons, moving testimonies, inspiring camps, amazing concerts, guest speakers with influence and title, a plenitude of Bibles lying around our homes, Christian bookstores, fish bumper stickers, Christian youth pizza nights.....

All these things are good, but WE. ARE. SATURATED.

We are to the point of excess.  The water is puddling and turning muddy, murky.

All the while, there are dry places on earth...dry multitudes on the other side of the planet.  They are thirsty, absolutely unreached with the living waters of salvation.

I've heard many people say we need to stay and reach our own nation.  And yet, how do we explain that of all the unreached peoples in the world, 97% of them live in the 10/40 Window?  97%.  Think about that.

Only a tiny fraction of unreached people live in North American, and yet we concentrate most of our focus and money towards reaching that tiny percent.  We choose to stay in our comfort zones, far from the area of need.  We absolutely FLOOD ourselves with the excess, and we leave the other side of the globe desolate...dry...hungry and thirsty.

"And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send and who will go for us?'  Then I said, 'Here am I. Send me'."  --Isaiah 6:8
We may not ALL go, but we all need to make ourselves available to go.  Isn't that what Jesus said, "GO"?  Why do we make every excuse not to obey Him in this?  It may be that we step forward to go, and He closes the door and gives us another way of furthering His Kingdom (as He has done for our family each time we have stepped forward to go).  But we must let HIM choose what doors we walk through.  We can all certainly shift our thinking and our focus towards the 10/40 Window.  Instead of focusing on collecting money and possessions for our own comfort and retirement, what would happen if we actually obeyed Him when He said, "Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need." --Matthew 6:33

Do we actually BELIEVE His words?

Shouldn't we try to find a way to tip the globe and send our excess toward the 97% who have never heard...the dry and thirsty?  

Or will we drown in our gurgling, muddy waters of excessive saturation?

*****A huge thanks to my brother-in-law, who allowed me to post some of his amazing photography from the desert lands of Arizona*****

Monday, October 1, 2012

Heart Set on Pilgrimage

Psalm 84:5-6
"Happy are the people whose strength is in You, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.  As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a source of spring water; even the autumn rain will cover it with blessings."

1. A journey to a sacred place
2. A long journey or search, especially one of exalted purpose or moral significance.

This is not our home.  We are on a pilgrimage...passing through this life, this earth only momentarily.  Sometimes we get to collecting things like houses, cars, books, computers, things...and our steps get harder to make with the weight on our backs of all the things we are toting with us.  Sometimes we sit down and forget the pilgrimage altogether.  We dig into the soil, lay a foundation and just stay put, soaking in the here-and-now.  But the truth is that our hearts are to be set on pilgrimage.  My Bible note says that the phrase "whose hearts are set on pilgrimage" is literally "the highways are on their  hearts."

Think about that one for a minute: is the highway on my heart?  Or is my heart wrapped snugly in the comfort of this house, this life, this plan?

We're at a crossroads, saying YES to whatever road God chooses to point us toward.  We don't know exactly what He is going to do, but we do know that the highway is stretching out before us...our hearts have been set on it for quite awhile, and soon our feet will begin walking it.

The shift has already begun.  The seams have begun to pop, one thread at a time.  Relationships have begun to shift, doors have begun to close here, and a gentle undercurrent has begun...ever pushing our feet forward.  And we have found ourselves ever-present in the Valley of Baca.  Baca means, "To weep."  Pilgrims have tears.  The missionary Isobel Kuhn wrote in her book In the Arena about a season in her life when "human props" were removed.  Everything was removed for a season...her closest friends, her children, her husband, her unborn baby, her plans.  She talked of how those are all human props that we simply cannot rely upon.  When all is removed, we find that all we have is God.  And God is all we really need.  Sometimes He has to move us to that point where it's just us and Him, because He's preparing us for the highway.

Human props have begun to be removed out from under us.  This person, that thing, this friendship, that security, this hope, this plan...all removed.  And we walk through the valley of weeping.  And yet there He is, turning our weeping into a source of spring water, blessings.  

Our eyes look to Him, and our feet are ever determined to go in whichever way He bends the road.  Happy are the people whose strength is in God, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Like Air and Water

Every morning, I carve out the first part of my day to spend alone with God.  I've actually had people tell me how good I am to do if I'm doing some good deed.  It would be like someone inheriting $1 billion and another person saying, "That is nice of you to accept that money."  And this alone time with my Father is worth far, far more than any amount of money.  It is a deliciously sweet time of conversation.  And here is what most people miss: it is a time when God reveals His secrets, His plans, His very specific Will for that day or season.  The only one who can find a diamond is the one who is searching in the mine. 

These pages have wisdom, comfort, instruction.  But, deeper still, they have very specific direction for ME.  If I'm facing a crisis or if I simply need to know something specific for my life, I can ask God and then open His Word in expectation.  It's by far one of the most mysterious and wonderful things I've ever experienced.  HE DOES STILL SPEAK if we have ears to listen.  I can ask Him if I'm supposed to have a chiropractor appointment today or tomorrow.  Do you think He cares about those details?  His Word says He cares about all the details of our lives, and it says if we come to Him for wisdom (and EXPECT Him to answer), He will give it to us.  So, why would I want His answer about a ridiculous appointment?  He may have someone at the chiropractor's office that He wants me to talk to today, so He will lead me in that direction specifically.  He may want me home to receive a certain phone call from someone who desperately needs encouragement, so He will lead me in that direction.

This book is powerful, and it absolutely baffles me why anyone would begin their day without digging into it.

So, you won't find a Scripture that says, "You shall go to the chiropractor on September 20."  So, how do I know His direction?  It comes from an ongoing conversation with God.  I speak to Him all the time, and I have learned to be quiet enough to hear Him.  When I need to know His direction for a decision or my day, I simply ask Him to give it to me...and then I wait in expectation.  Sometimes it will be in a Scripture passage I will read, and His Spirit opens my spiritual eyes to see His answer in the text, even if it's a chapter I've read 100 times before.  Do you really believe that the Bible is a LIVING BOOK?  It is.

His answers also come from my being aware of things all around me.  At times, He has given me an amazing truth when I watched a spider building a web or when a yellow jacket was intimidating me.  In those moments, it's as if He opens my spiritual eyes, and I see something deeper than what I'd see with my physical eyes.  It's a quiet, "Look at this" that I hear deep in my spirit that makes me stop to see something He wants me to see.  Once, when my soul was wrestling so fiercely about something (almost threatening to derail my entire day), I watched a large bird flying very high above.  His wings weren't flapping, but he was gliding on the wind.  We had studied this in zoology, but that day, He opened my eyes to see it through spiritual eyes instead of physical eyes.  As I looked at that bird, and the quiet stillness surrounded me, I heard in my spirit, "Be still and know that I am God.  Those that wait upon Me will soar with wings like eagles."  His Words from the Bible that I had hidden in my heart by constant reading and digging in His Word was brought to the surface in my spirit.  HE WAS SPEAKING.  All the restlessness settled, and peace bathed me.  I could walk into my day without letting my wrestling spirit ruin my day.

These are the things that you cannot touch with your fingers...the invisible things that come only to a heart fixed on their God.  The rush of this world, the schedules, the classes, the workplace, the ongoing churning of daily routine can make the still quiet voice muffled if we aren't stopping purposely (and often) to hear Him.

I cannot imagine starting any day without dipping into this never-ending river of wisdom...not just general wisdom but also very specific direction meant just for me that day.  Walking into any day and into any decision without this guide would be unthinkable.

You don't have to make me drink water when I'm thirsty, and you don't have to remind me to take a breath of air into my's simply necessary for life.  His Word is more necessary that air and water to me.  And to you too.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Investment of a Life

Two weeks ago, we found ourselves in a funeral home in Texas.  My father-in-law had battled pancreatic cancer for one year and had gone on to His Heavenly home.  And no matter how long you've been prepared, it is always breath-stopping to walk into the room and see the casket.

No matter how many times you've gone through it ahead-of-time in your mind, the funeral procession is a surreal please-not-so-soon drive.

And the men...the friends...the sons in whom he said he was well pleased...arms bearing the weight of the body, hearts coming to terms with the loss of someone they would never see this side of Heaven... 

The flowers and the neatly lined neighboring headstones...

The casket topped with the flowers solemnly pulled out of each pallbearers' suit pockets...the goodbye...  

It's all. so. very. final.  

No matter how expected death is, we all wish for just one more minute, one more Christmas morning all together, one more meal together of smoked brisket and sweet tea and grandchildren giving kisses laced with sugary dessert,  one more fishing trip.  And I wanted just one more sound of "hi sweetheart" echoing on the other end of the line late at night, the signal that our father-in-law relationship had been mended and blessed and showered with affection to become father-in-love.

For death is not where we focus. But on life.  Yes, the memories...but far far more than that... 

Jim's life, as attested to in his funeral service, was filled with messes and guilt.  He had rocky relationships with many people, and he had pride that he couldn't seem to lose.  He had professed Jesus as Savior early in his life, but the evidence was not visible...the fruit was not there.  But something came along that was the catalyst for change.  Pancreatic cancer.  It's one of the ugliest and most painful cancers, and yet in the hands of a loving Savior, it became a long-awaited come-back-home for a prodigal son.  We are all just one decision away from that relationship with our Father. 

Jim's life took on a new focus.  As his pastor said at his funeral, all the things he had focused so much on for his entire life...his passions of music, coffee, weather and longer consumed his mind.  His interest in them faded to nothing, and his focus became Jesus.  He wanted to share his hope in Jesus as the only means to eternal life, and he shared it with everyone he could.  Guilt had kept him away from his Savior, but he had discovered that his guilt was washed away in the forgiveness of Jesus.  And he wanted to share that hope with everyone he knew.  

He realized what we all should know every day of our lives: all that matters is what will last for eternity.  This is our life in God.

After the funeral, a nice Texas BBQ meal was served at the house (Texans are always Texans!). Quiet conversation was stitched together with giggles of grandchildren eating rainbow cake and discovering that they could pour water into open-ended fence posts in an experiment with evaporation.  Sadness laced with happiness...the beginning of the heart's healing process.

And that night, the sons in whom Jim was well pleased played their guitars in praise music, remembering that God really does never let go...sun and rain, joy and pain...He never lets go.

Our memories will always be filled with Jim, and especially the love and hope he shared during his last months on this earth.

And in the days after we returned home from Texas, as things were unpacked and life slowly began to fall into a rhythm again...we determined to fight that comfortable rhythm...the everyday familiarity that lulls one's soul to sleep.  We had been ever-so-close to the veil between this life and our Heavenly forever home.  Death has a way of pulling you to that doorway, a way of focusing the lens of the heart to pull into view the things that matter.  A casket has its own language that seems to echo over and over: "What are you doing that will last for eternity?  What will remain after you are in a casket?"

And we wanted to shift our focus entirely, to somehow invest our lives into His Kingdom work on an every day basis.  

I recently read that Mother Teresa's mom taught her the principle that "any moment not somehow dedicated to Christ to be wasted" (From the Time magazine edition of Mother Teresa).  That has me thinking seriously.  What would my life look like with that level of dedication?

Because one day it will be me in that casket.  One day my life's work will be tested with fire, and only the things done for His Kingdom will last for eternity.  Why in the world would I waste my time focusing on the things the world says are important?  Money, cars, houses, retirement plans, collections of tea cups or trophies, titles and corporate ladders, styles and mainstream American ideals...none of it will go with me.  All I will have is the eternal investments (those I led to Christ, those I stopped to help, those I took into my home, those I fed and clothed and loved like Jesus).

How can I live today as an investment in eternity?  How can I make every moment somehow dedicated to Jesus?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Wrestling of This Soul

"This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." 1 John 5:4

I was lying on my bed this afternoon trying to grab some moments of rest, but my spirit was struggling too severely to find rest today.  I hate those days of wrestling, crying, battling the unseen.  Today I was feeing much like a boxer lying bloodied and bruised on the mat, with the referee's count at 6...7...8...  I reached a weak hand up to grab a devotion book that I keep in my room.  The referee's counting paused.

I read:
"To trust in spite of the look of being forsaken; to keep crying out into the vast, whence comes no returning voice, and where seems no hearing; to see the machinery of the world pauselessly grinding on as if self-moved, caring for no life, nor shifting a hairbreadth for all entreaty, and yet believe that God is awake and utterly loving; to desire nothing but what comes meant for us from His hand; to wait patiently, ready to die of hunger, fearing only lest faith should fail---such is the victory that overcometh the world, such is faith indeed."  --George MacDonald  (excerpt from Streams in the Desert)

The words hung in the air all around me: to desire nothing but what comes meant for us from His hand...

The truth is that today is one of the few times in my life that I am actually scared of the thing I believe He wants to give me.  From my limited human perspective, I see the weight of this thing in His Hands, and it *appears* that if He drops it into my life, everything precious to me will break and crumble into a million fragments.

Here's a word picture:
Let's say that I have a delicate crystal table that I has some broken pieces and has been mended here and is fragile and in need of some TLC.  And He seems to be asking me if I'm willing to trust Him to drop a 1,000-pound wrecking ball onto my crystal table.  The wrestling is agony because I love my crystal table dearly. The wrecking ball swinging above it is nerve-severing, as I want to pick up my table and run the opposite direction.  
Remember that I'm human and have very limited perspective.  What I feel is what is SEEMS from my point of view.  He is asking me to trust Him with something far bigger than I've ever had to trust Him for in my life.

And I'm scared.  I feel sick.  I'm running the opposite direction.  And there is no peace when you run away from Him.

Am I willing to truly, really desire nothing but what comes meant for me from his hand?

The tossing and turning in my spirit continued on this afternoon, wearing into the evening.  And I read on in my devotion book, skipping ahead to tomorrow's devotional thought.  It was about Abraham not withholding his son Isaac from God when God asked.

"Because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son...I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven...because thou has obeyed my voice."  Genesis 22:16-18

"And from that day to this, men have been learning that when, at God's voice, they surrender up to Him the one thing above all else that was dearest to their very hearts, that something is returned to them by Him a thousand times over."
"That is just the way God meets every real sacrifice of every child of His.  We surrender all and accept poverty; and He sends wealth.  We renounce a rich field of service; He sends us a richer one than we had dared to dream of.  We give up all our cherished hopes, and die unto self;  He sends us the life more abundant, and tingling joy."  --C. G. Trumbull
And another quote on the same page:

"We sometimes seem to forget that what God takes He takes in fire; and that the only way to the resurrection life and the ascension mount is the way of the garden, the cross, and the grave.  
"Think not, O soul of man, that Abraham's was a unique and solitary experience.  It is simply a specimen and pattern of God's dealings with all souls who are prepared to obey Him at whatever cost.  After thou has patiently endured, thou shalt receive the promise.  The moment of supreme sacrifice shall be the moment of supreme and rapturous blessing.  God's river, which is full of water, shall burst its banks, and out upon thee a tide of wealth and grace.  There is nothing, indeed, which God will not do for a man who dares to step out upon what seems to be the mist; though as he puts down his food he finds a rock beneath him." --F.B Meyer
Soul, please quit wrestling...please surrender...