Be Amazed! Be Amazed!

by Barb Moland

God’s grace – that is amazing! Our summer Bible camp pastor reminded us again and again – be amazed! Be amazed in God’s Word. I slipped a strip of paper in my Bible – “be amazed!”

Our back yard is partially under the canopy of our much loved large Rainier cherry tree. Viewed from a spacious kitchen window, it is glorious year round – I am amazed! It is beautiful from the beauty of every branch and twig in winter against the gray/blue sky (or a most glorious wet snow on every twig angle at the rare snowfall) to the bursting of white blossoms, center blushed in pink in early spring. The deep green canopy of leaves rustle in a gentle breeze over our yard through the summer, providing shade if desired. When autumn comes every leaf turns a vibrant yellow that glows in the sun and becomes yet more radiant at twilight. I am amazed! The cycle of life – creation and onward, speaks poignantly to God’s amazing grace. Be amazed!

God’s provision in Christ is yet far, far more amazing!

In spite of ourselves, God has sent a Redeemer for us – creating us, then patiently, lovingly buying us back to Himself. Galatians 4:4,5 (CEV) – When the time was right, God sent His Son, and a woman gave birth to Him. His Son obeyed the Law, so He could set us free from the Law, and we could become God’s children.

In spite of ourselves, God has provided a help for each hour of the day, along life’s way. II Corinthians 12:9 (NIV) – My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

Is spite of ourselves, He has given us His peace. John 14:27 NIV) – Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

In spite of ourselves, He has promised to keep us. Philippians 1:6 (NIV) – He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

For this and more, we praise and thank our loving God. As we completed “Pearls for a Princess”, our 2012 WMF Bible study, we gathered our hearts in the pearl of praise.

Be amazed! – every year, every season, every day, every moment. Looking to God’s Word we find the amazing grace of God offered so lovingly and freely to each of us, in spite of ourselves. The framework of redemption from creation through the accounts of biblical history and lineage of Christ, as well as Christ types, is indeed amazing. The New Testament gospels bring the incarnation of Christ right to us! We go on the early Christian church writings and messages regarding the return of Christ. This is amazing!

This grace was surely offered to the great, great missionary of all time, Paul. Quoting Beth Moore in Jesus’ watch from eternity on Saul’s (later Paul’s) presence in the stoning of Stephen in To Live Is Christ Day by Day:

One for Him; one against Him. One covered in blood: the other covered by prayer shawls. One who could not save himself from men: the other who could not save himself from sin. One dead in body but alive in spirit; the other alive in body but dead in spirit. One loved by God; and the other loved by God.

BE AMAZED!

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Thanks-living

I’m stuck between Thanksgiving and Advent.  I’m between gratefulness and anticipation. But, I started thinking about something my husband says. He says we should practice “Thanks-living”. We should be thankful every day for the things that God gives us…the sunshine, flowers, pets that love us, etc. I try to do that. But, I confess that I’m not always good at it. 

I’ve been fighting diabetes for 13 years.  Lately, I’ve developed psoriasis.  I struggle everyday to control them but sometimes it seems more like they are controlling me.   It gets very frustrating!  In James 1:2-4 (ESV) it says, “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have it perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing,” I think sometimes we think those trials, or some versions say sufferings, must be some big thing…like Mother Theresa living in poverty for Christ’s sake, or like those who have inflicted pain on themselves to suffer as Christ did, or a crisis like finding out you have terminal cancer. You know, big deals. But, I think it usually comes in the everyday trials we face, like illness, dealing with family, finances, our jobs, etc. In other words, we need to be thankful for everything that we face each day, and allow God to use it to mold, or perfect us into the person He would have us to be.

May God Bless You,
Velma Amundson

Apple Taffy Pizza

Ingredients:
1          package (18 ounces) refrigerated sugar cookie dough
1/2       teaspoon vanilla
1          package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/2       cup packed brown sugar
1/4       cup creamy peanut butter
3          medium Granny Smith apples
1/4       cup caramel ice cream topping
1/2       cup peanuts, chopped

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Shape cookie dough into a ball and place in center of large pizza stone; flatten slightly. Using lightly floured Roller, roll out dough to a 14-inch circle, about 1/4 inch thick. Bake 16-18 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove from oven; cool 10 minutes. Carefully loosen cookie from baking stone; cool completely on baking stone.

Combine cream cheese, brown sugar, peanut butter and vanilla in bowl; mix well. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly over cookie.  Peel, core and apples. Cut apple slices in half and arrange evenly over cream cheese mixture.  Microwave ice cream topping on HIGH 30-45 seconds or until warm; drizzle evenly over apples. Chop peanuts using a food Chopper; sprinkle over apples. Cut into wedges.

Yield: 16 servings

Nutrients per serving: Calories 300, Total Fat 17 g, Saturated Fat 5 g, Cholesterol 25 mg, Carbohydrate 36 g, Protein 5 g, Sodium 270 mg, Fiber 1 g

Recipe by Pampered Chef

Praise in Adversity

by Sarah Langness

I love my son. I love his high-pitched squeals and “songs”. I love his smile that takes up his entire face. I love his newly found sounds of “da-da-da” and “ba-ba-ba”, along with other vowel/consonant combinations I cannot spell. That little man fills me with such joy! But I’ll be honest, this last week when he and I were up at three in the morning for the sixth straight night, both tired of bulb syringes, I was not filled with joy. I was exhausted.

It’s easy for us to accept the good things in life, isn’t it? It’s easy for us to praise God in the easy situations, in the times filled with joy. But it’s a whole different story when trouble comes. Our joy turns to mourning. Our praise turns to questioning. Our thanks turns to doubt.

This morning as I drank a day-old cup of coffee and read over the first two chapters of Job, I was struck by something Job said to his wife. Everything but his life (and the life of his wife) was taken. His oxen. His sheep. His camels. His servants. His children. His health. And when his wife yells at him, telling Job to just to get it over with – to curse God and die – his response is startling: 

“Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” – Job 2:10

Shall we indeed!  We love it when God blesses us. But what about when He sends trials? Not so much, eh?

We forget sometimes that God isn’t surprised at the trials that come our way. We forget that He has a purpose in those trials. We forget that His goodness is not dependent upon our circumstances. We may even forget that He is with us during those difficult times.

“He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share in His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. . . He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,’ so that we confidently say, ‘The LORD is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me? Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” – Hebrews 12:10-11; 13:5-6, 8

I’m not saying that adversity is easy to take or that its weight isn’t crushing. But in those moments of deep pain and utter darkness, may we do as Job did turn to the LORD. To the One who knows and understands our pain. To the One who deserves our praise and thanks no matter how strong the storm around us.

“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. He said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away.Blessed be the name of the LORD.'” – Job 1:20-21

So Much to be Thankful For

Thanksgiving is over. By now you may be feeling a little lighter, and most of the leftovers have been reinvented as casseroles, sandwiches and soup. The house is back in order (and maybe it is already decorated for Christmas) and if you are among the courageous, the fruit of your pre-dawn Black Friday foraging are waiting to be wrapped.

Thanksgiving in Brazil is very different – basically Thursday, Nov. 22nd was just another day.  No turkey, no big family gatherings and no football. But there is so much to be thankful for, and even as I miss one of my favorite holidays, the heart of it is very present – remembering the incredible ways God pours our His grace and favor!

Sometimes His blessings come in big ways. Like Cleberson finding a family of his own. This sweet seven year old has been with us for almost a year now, and made his way into our hearts in just days. This precious little boy was so completely abandoned, and when a Free Lutheran Family in Curitiba met Cleberson, it was love at first sight. Seeing Cleberson bond with Juliano and Claudineia; seeing a real family being formed is amazing! And worthy of great thanks!

Sometimes the blessings come in little ways, like Lucy. I have always loved dogs, as a child I can’t remember a time when we didn’t have one. I really miss having a pup of my own. Here, in Campo Mourao, we have big property that houses the AFLC Bible School and the Miriam Infant Home. We have two dogs that belong to ministry, but they are guard dogs, on chains and definitely are not “pets”. We also have a steady stream of dogs that appear, hang around for awhile and then are gone again. Then Lucy arrived. Like the rest of the strays, we don’t know where she came from, but we know she had a family, because she already knew some tricks. It just took days for us all to fall in love with her, in two weeks she had a name, she had visited the vet and received shots and treatments for little friends inside and out. Within a month she had a new owner (the caretakers of the AFLC retreat center nearby will take her to live there the beginning of the year. And I have, for a little while, a pet again. I share her with the rest of the family (that is what you do with family), but every day, when I leave the office Lucy is waiting for me – she knows my schedule), and where ever she is on the property, I never have to call her name more than twice before she comes sprinting across the yard (yes, it is because she knows I have a treat – I’m a push over for those happy puppy kisses you get after a few scraps).

A pet, even a temporary one, is not a big deal, in the big scheme of things. That God knows how this dog blesses my heart IS a big deal. One of the things I am most thankful for is that the Father knows my heart and cares for me day by day!

Thank You from the Schierkolks

Aside

Dear WMF friends,
Thanksgiving greetings to you from the Mission House at the ARC.  We have been very blessed to have this place to stay these last months and are so grateful to the WMF for their help in making this house a home for all of us missionary travelers:)  This past year has been a time of instability, uncertainty and loss but it has also been a year filled with blessings we didn’t expect and joys we weren’t counting on!  Isn’t that just the way God loves His children?!  We were originally “planning” on getting back to Jerez in September but we are delaying that just a couple of months.  We had a couple of very good meetings with the members of the World Missions committee in September and together with our family we agreed that we could go back to Jerez .  We don’t have the tickets in hand yet but we are planning on flying back to Mexico the middle of January.  We’re grateful for the adjusted time table because we’ll be able to spend a couple weeks during the Christmas season with Barb’s mom; the first holiday season after her husband, Barb’s dad, passed away this summer.  We are deeply indebted to all of you who have held us up in prayer this year.  We’re grateful for the many expressions of concern and for your continued prayers.

God’s rich blessings,
Todd, Barb, Rachel, Megan and Kirstie Schierkolk

 

Thank You from a Seminarian

Aside

One of the WMF projects is to support seminarians at our Association of Free Lutheran Congregations Seminary in Plymouth, MN. (AFLTS).  We recently received a wonderful thank you from one of the students.  What a wonderful testimony to the integrity of our seminary:

Thanks for supporting the seminarians in their studies through the book fund. We received the checks today. The AFLC seminary is one of a minority of seminaries in the U.S. that still holds unashamedly to the inerrancy of Scripture in everything it reveals, and for this I am thankful. Blessings to you and the WMF members.

Peace in Christ,
Jerrell Hein

Fig-Less, Fruit-Less, and Crop-Less

by Sarah Langness

I’ll be honest: this last weekend was probably one of the most difficult ones I remember having. On Thursday night, after sleeping for a mere 2-1/2 hours, my baby boy woke up with more snot in his nose than I ever imagined possible. Throughout the course of the night, Zeke was up every hour or so needing his nose suctioned. The following night, though not as full of fluid snot, Zeke was unable to sleep in his crib because he was so congested. Saturday night it appeared everything had drained from his little nostrils into his throat – and whether it was pain awaking him or something else, he was once again up every hour or so. To top it all off, I was single-parenting it for the weekend as Jordan (who was battling the same cold as his son) was committed to speak at a youth retreat in northern Minnesota . By Sunday, as you can probably imagine, this momma was pretty exhausted. 

Although those nights were difficult (and we’re still not out of the woods), there was an inner strength holding me up. Friday morning, as I sipped my coffee, I read through tired eyes these verses of Scripture. They became the words that I clung to and repeated when I wanted to cry out of exhaustion:

“Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls,yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord GOD is my strength.” – Habakkuk 3:17-19a

Do you know what it means to “exult” in something? It means to “show or feel a lively or triumphant joy; to rejoice exceedingly”. That’s pretty intense. Habakkuk describes a situation far worse than my own this past weekend – he is describing famine. No fruit on the trees or vines. No crops in the field. No cattle for meat. A desperate situation. And yet, amidst all those horrible, life-threatening situations, Habakkuk decides to rejoice. To rejoice exceedingly. To find joy in the God who had saved him. To find strength in the only One who had strength. 

Let’s face it. There are times life is just plain HARD. Things are not going to go our way. We are going to feel tired. We may feel hopeless. We might feel desperate. But we are not alone. There is One strong enough to hold us up during those difficult times. In Him we can rejoice because He gives us the strength we need – not all at once, but day by day. 

“When everything falls apart, Your arms hold me together. When everything falls apart, You’re the only hope for this heart. When everything falls apart and my strength is gone, I find You mighty and strong. You keep holding on.”