by Sarah Langness
I’m not much of a singer. In fact, you could probably classify me as tone-deaf. One day, after a “try to see if you can match this note” session with my husband, I commented to him how one of the biggest disappointments for me in not having a good singing voice was that I wouldn’t be able to sing lullabies to our children someday. Interestingly, the little man hasn’t thrown his hands over his ears when I sing to him . . . so far, anyways. And those moments when we’re snuggling and singing before nap time happen to be some of my most precious times with him.
One of my favorites to sing to Ezekiel – whether I’m settling him down for a nap, giving him his nightly bath, or trying to make the 500 miles from Beulah to Minneapolis less traumatic – is “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”. I like to make up my own verses too, make the song more personal, more specific to our family and our current situation. So sometimes we sing “He’s got your grandpa’s and your grandma’s in His hands” or “He’s got your aunts and your uncles in His hands” or, when the weather is rough and our tires our bad, “He’s got the ice and the tires in His hands”.
You know what else I like about this song? It’s a good reminder for me too. Because many times, I tend to think that the future, our safety, our lives, is in my hands. But it’s not. It’s in His. And it’s not only my heartaches, my concerns, my worries, or my sorrows that are in His hands. I am in His hands.
“‘Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.'” – Isaiah 41:10
Remember, no matter how difficult the situation may seem, He’s got it. He’s got you. He is the LORD.
Picture #1, Inside: This is where we live for the first month of three. We appreciate and enjoy the accommodations very much. Yes, that’s a little local girl coming for a visit. We have an attached bathroom with running water, … Continue reading
by Jonni Sliver
The young people of the Free Lutheran Church recently came home from the Brazilian version of FLY – the annual youth assembly that takes place every year during the five days of Carnaval. It isn’t just the Free Lutherans that hold their biggest retreats at this time of year, most evangelical churches do. I have always thought of it as the way the Church sought to escape the very worldly street celebration. But just recently my understanding has changed. I am beginning to think that both Carnaval and our FLY have exactly the same goal – starting from different points and ending at different points.
Carnaval is the five-day preparation for the season of Lent done by people who have no understanding of the amazing gift of life and redemption Jesus provided on the Cross. Carnaval is an opportunity to do anything and everything to please the flesh (Carne in Portuguese), to be followed by forty days of “penance”, ending in a magnificent celebration of chocolate eggs and cod (think lutefisk that doesn’t smell bad).
FLY, on the other hand, is a five-day preparation of the heart for hundreds of young people; understanding the power of the Risen Lord and learning to walk in it – a wonderful introduction to Lent! These young people set aside this time every year to affirm what a lot of us older Children of God tend to forget. That the deeper our love of the Lord grows, the clearer we see how much farther we have to go, how much room there still is to grow.
In Lent we not only contemplate the wondrous things God has done for us, but become aware of how much more He wants to do in and through us. 2 Cor. 3:8 tells us we are all being transformed, degree by degree into His sweet likeness. It is a process, and none of are complete, all of us have many, many degrees yet to come. Are you content in your walk with the Lord? Do you feel like you’re in a good place, and now you can coast just a bit? Don’t! God has more for you! Or are you on the other end, feeling like you haven’t made it and wondering if you ever will? This is the perfect moment to consider that EVERY good thing comes from the Father. We are transformed, we become like Him as HE works in us, as we surrender and let Him move! And Eph. 3:20 says, more specifically, that He has “exceedingly abundantly more than we can ask or think”.
During these weeks of Lent I want to follow the example of my younger brothers and sisters and open my heart for all of the new that He has for me!
We send a big thank you to the WMF for your gifts of encouragement and support! We pray for your ministry, and the many groups of women meeting throughout the US, that the Lord’s grace and love bless many.
We are currently enjoying three former AFLBS students here with us (Sam Olek, Josiah Nelson, and Luke Quanbeck), youth ministry interns who complete their service here in Ukraine this month. They have a full schedule during their short time in Odessa, but our family was especially blessed to have them with us.
Andy has a busy teaching schedule this month, as he has taught Acts and now is finishing Romans, and has several weekend seminars. This past Saturday I hosted the ladies from our school and some staff who could come. It was such a great time (photo attached)!
Thank you all for your prayers. May the Lord bless you!
by Sarah Nelson
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:1-11
Years ago while I was a student at AFLBS (Association Free Lutheran Bible School), Pastor Tom Olson was our Choral Club (now called Proclaim Choir) director. He had no easy task getting a group of 18-20 year olds to reign in their energy, focus their attention on sheet music, and respond to his direction. He quickly won our trust and cooperation as he made being in that choir about more than just singing words and hitting (hopefully) correct notes. It was an opportunity to sing praises to Our Lord and King with brothers and sisters in Christ. Pastor Olson cared about us performing to the best of our abilities to honor God, but he cared about something else more. He cared about us knowing Jesus, living in harmony with one another (so important on those long bus tours), and pointing others to the Savior!
Before our Spring Tour in 1986, Pastor Olson gave us an assignment. It wasn’t to learn Amazing Grace in Norwegian, nor was it to write postcards to our parents from every tour stop. It was to memorize Philippians 2:1-11. My first thought was not one of enthusiasm. As the pianist (struggling) I already had work that I needed to get done before we left on tour. Yet, I worked on committing that portion of Scripture to memory. After all these years, I don’t remember many of the song titles we performed. I don’t remember the names of all the churches and towns we visited. I do remember those precious words from Philippians. I remember the words of a young pastor in training who cared enough to help a group of college age students realize the great sacrifice Jesus gave for each one of us. I remember the encouragement he gave us to look to Jesus as our example of humility, and of putting others first so that we may glorify God. Lessons well taught, and long remembered.
by Sarah Langness
I caught myself wishing the other day. As Ezekiel crawled over to me at the kitchen sink and used my pant leg to pull himself up to a standing position, so desperately wanting to see what I was doing and so desperately wanting that bowl of oatmeal – I caught myself wishing: “I can’t wait until Zeke can stand up on his own.” It’d be nice. Then I could move my leg without worrying about knocking my son onto his rump or bumping his head into the counter. But almost as soon as I had that wish, I took it back. Because you know what? The past nine months have gone incredibly fast. Too fast. And I know that time, that Ezekiel’s – and therefore our – life, isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
It’s all too easy to wish our lives away, isn’t it? When we’re in middle school, we can’t wait to be in the high school. When we’re in high school, we can’t wait for the independence and freedom of college. When we’re in college, we can’t wait to graduate. We dream of getting married, of having kids. It seems like we always want to be where we aren’t; that we are always ready for the next phase, the next adventure – rather than living in the time the Father has given to us. We forget that life is full of seasons. And just like we can’t rush spring into summer on our own timeline, we can’t rush from one season of our lives into another.
“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven – a time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. A time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance. A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace and a time to shun embracing. A time to search and a time to give up as lost; a time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; a time to be silent and a time to speak. a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
Some of the seasons hurt and seem to last much longer than we think they should. Other seasons are full of indescribable joy and they go way faster than we’d like. But they’re all seasons. They’re all “a time”. And the great part about those times – no matter how difficult, sorrowful, blessed, joyful, pained? We know the one who holds them in His hands. And each one of those are equally in His hands.
“But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD, I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hand.” – Psalm 31:15
by Velma Amundson
Have you ever felt completely helpless? I think at one time or another most of us have. We’ve been in a situation we were unable to change or do anything about. Eleven years ago, my husband, son and I were in a car accident. My husband broke his ribs; my son hurt his knee and shoulder. I broke my left wrist and right ankle, as well as severely spraining my left ankle and right thumb. When I got home from the hospital, I was pretty helpless. I couldn’t dress or clean myself; I couldn’t cook, clean house, or even walk. My husband and son couldn’t help much because of their injuries. Fortunately, my mother came to take care of us.
It’s like that with sin. We’re helpless. There is nothing we can do to get rid of it no matter how hard we try. We will never be strong enough, good enough, righteous enough that God will say, “There you go, no sin”. We could give away everything that we have, devote ourselves to the poor and helpless and live in the church. We could go to church every Sunday, study our Bible every hour, and pray continually, and it still would not be good enough. Fortunately, we don’t have to be good enough. Jesus came to take care of us.
We are beginning the season of Lent. Often we are asked to give up something as a sacrifice. I think this year; I want to hold onto something, that when Christ died on that cross, he took my sins with him. I may be helpless, but thankfully, Christ is not.