Onward?

By Jonni Sliver

A lot of you already know that one of the blessings of teaching is how much you learn! Right now I am working on my classes for the second semester of Bible school, the stories of modern missionary movements. I am having a great time, since it is a topic I love. It can also be more than a little challenging as I sit in my nice comfortable office, working away on my Toshiba. It is hard to not notice a little difference between my reality and the challenges facing William Carey and Hudson Taylor.

What really made me sit back for a moment was a poem I read, written by Amy Carmichael. Soon after her arrival in India she contracted a tropical fever and went to live in a mission compound to recuperate. What she saw would have looked good in any report – a large church had been planted and there was a lot of activity. But what she didn’t see concerned her, she didn’t see changed lives and she didn’t see a concern for those outside of the compound. She saw the lady missionaries meeting for tea, meeting for talks, but not meeting for a greater purpose. And one day she wrote:

Onward Christian soldiers, sitting on the mats;
Nice and warm and cozy, like little pussycats.
Onward Christian soldiers, oh, how brave are we,
Don’t we do our fighting very comfortably?

Now what caught my attention here was not necessarily a call to a hard life. I don’t think that if I make myself truly uncomfortable I will surly please God more. Though I admire Amy, it´s  not that I find myself wanting to be just like her or any of the other great men and women I have been looking at these last few weeks. The more I read, the more I see them as pretty flawed people too. What I do feel is challenged to look and see just how contented I am at this moment. There is a difference between the peace of God that gives us the courage to step out and contentment, that feeling of satisfaction with everything just the way it is, that drains our desire to do any new thing.  

Amy’s little poem has challenged me to seek a good shaking up from the Father. I am so grateful for what He has brought in to my life, but is there more? And right now I am surrounded by amazing young people who are seeking God and diving into His Word. Am I giving them a living example of stepping out in faith, or just teaching them the principles?

Even as I wait on the Lord to hear what He has to say to me through His Word, I am once again amazed that the Father loves me enough to challenge me to go farther with Him!   

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Be Hospitable…Without Grumbling! (Cont.)

  By Esther Hylden

continued from last week…………………………………..

  Now…you may be saying to yourself…that is all fine and dandy…but how can I live this out in my life?  I can barely get the breakfast dishes cleaned up before lunch???  Even though we all say that our house doesn’t have to be perfect…we know that we don’t want our home to be a health hazard!    

So, here are a few things I have learned from 38 years of “being hospitable”

  1.  Clean your house once a week…just do it!  Then, don’t re-clean before company. ( OK…maybe you will have to spend a few minutes giving your bathroom a quick cleaning)  If you don’t have time to dust…just leave it alone.  Remember that dust is a protective coating for your furniture!
  2.  Spend 10 minutes picking up clutter every night.  One family I know puts on upbeat music, and everyone picks up the house together while the music is on.  It can be a lot of fun!
  3. Wash the dishes every day (or use paper plates).  Just don’t let the kitchen mess get too big, or it will become overwhelming!
  4.  Unless you are a gourmet cook and love to make complicated recipes…  have around 3-4 easy meals to prepare, that you feel confident making, that don’t take a lot of time, and that  can be at least partially prepared ahead of time. My Go-To main dishes are Bar-B-Q’s,  Esther’s Lazy Lasagna or Coleen’s Chicken!
  5. Being hospitable doesn’t mean you have to make a meal; it is a connecting of the heart!  You can invite people over for popcorn and a board game or movie, you can meet in a park for a picnic, or you can meet for lunch.
  6. When someone says, “Can I bring something…say…  yes!”  Or if they don’t offer, just ask them to bring something.  When the meal is over and someone asks, “Can I help you?”  Say YES!!!!!  Some of the best conversations occur while washing dishes together.
  7. Pray!  Sometimes I get stressed and worried…and tired, my knee starts to hurt, and my heart is not very kind…or loving.  At this time I often pray Psalm 51, starting with verse 10.  “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me…”  And guess what…God answers prayer!
  8.   Even with all this talk of being relaxed, keeping it simple, I often find myself doing a million last minute things…and I look at the clock and it is 15 minutes until people arrive…at this point, I am usually in a dirty sweatshirt, my hair is uncombed, and I’m in mis-matched slippers!  The Esther Rule at this point is to stop what I’m doing in the kitchen, go to my bedroom, change clothes, comb my hair, apply lip gloss, go to the bathroom and try to look presentable!  My Rational:  People like to feel needed, when they arrive they can help with any last minute details …and I will feel 100% better if I don’t look like a HooDoo!

As I was working on my WMF Bible Study, Following Christ, A Disciples Walk of Faith, I was struck by this verse from Ephesians:  “Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us…”    Jesus…did he have a house, did He have fancy company dishes?  No…but He offers us the best example of hospitality…He fed the 5000, fed the 4000, he washed feet, he took time to listen, he had compassion, he ate with the sinners, He made breakfast for the disciples on the beach…He was hospitable…and He didn’t grumble.  Therefore…let us…be imitators of Christ!

 

Be Hospitable…Without Grumbling!

By Esther Hylden

1 Peter 4:9

     Ladies…isn’t this the scariest verse in the Bible?  Did Peter really know what he was talking about when he slipped that verse in between the End Times, Prayer, and a discussion on Love?  Did he know how long it takes me to clean my house, including vacuuming , washing the floors, dusting, cleaning the bathrooms, picking up and organizing the clutter that threatens to overrun our  home, making food…all the while taking care of children, answering the phone…and to do it all without grumbling???  What was he thinking?  Or maybe the better question is, what was I thinking about when I read, “Be Hospitable…without grumbling.”  Am I the confused person?  Am I the person mixing up Entertaining with Hospitality?

Many years ago, I read Open Heart Open Home by Karen Mains, and you could say that is changed my heart, and my life.    Karen Mains is a Pastor’s Wife, she wrote this book during their time of ministry in the inner city of Chicago.  During this time, they rented church space on Sunday morning, thus the Mains home was open to Council Meetings, Bible Studies, Counseling sessions, their neighbors, people who needed a place to stay; it was the site of almost weekly suppers for people in their parish and  popcorn parties.  It was the house where neighbor kids came to play.  Karen knew what she was talking about!   As a young wife, I took what she said to heart.   I grew up in a hospitable home, my Dad was a pastor, and my parents hosted many meals, housed many missionaries, VBS teams, visiting speakers and neighbors.  I learned to “serve from the Left, clear plates from the right!”   It seemed that the best conversations always occurred around the dinner table.  So…I was comfortable with having people over… or so I thought!

When I read this book, I was in my early 20’s, married to Mark, and living in married student housing at NDSU.  The first Thanksgiving that we were married…I decided to host Thanksgiving for both sides of our family.  Our little married student housing measured around 12 ft by 50 ft!  We borrowed a card table and chairs, and squeezed 10 people in our little apartment!  It was a lot of fun, we had more than enough food, and somehow the turkey fit in our little oven. The Bible has a lot to say about hospitality…   in 1 Timothy 3:2 it reads; “Now the overseer (what is an overseer?  It can refer to a pastor or church leader) must be the husband of one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable…and hospitable!”

Hospitality…what exactly does it mean?  What is God telling us to do?   Especially in contrast to what our society calls “entertaining.”  Karen Mains puts it this way: Entertaining has little to do with real hospitality.  Entertaining’s source is human pride.  Entertaining says, “I want to impress you with my beautiful home, my clever decorating and my gourmet cooking.”  Hospitality, however, seeks to minister.  It says, “This home is not mine.  It is truly a gift from my Master.  I am His servant and I use it as He desires.  “Hospitality does not try to impress, but to Serve.”  Hospitality focuses on the guests, their needs; whether it is a place to stay, a hot meal or a listening ear.  Hospitality can occur in a messy house, sitting around a table eating a warmed up can of soup.

Entertaining always puts things before people. “as soon as I get the house finished, the living room decorated, my housecleaning done—then I will start inviting people over.”  “Hospitality however puts people before things.  Hospitality says, “We have no furniture; we’ll eat on the floor, the decorating may never get done, please come just the same.”    I understand this all very well…when our children were young, we spent a Sunday attending many High School graduation parties…when we were on our way home; Jarrod said to me, “Mom, did you know that some people have matching furniture?”    Obviously, he had been raised in a home filled with mismatched, hand-me-down furniture!

The desire for a lovely home is a common desire, and sometimes this longing becomes a barrier to our Lord’s directive, “Be Hospitable”.  When I was a little girl, I used to draw house plans…I filled notebooks with plans for the house that I hoped to live in someday.  They were quite grand, filled with many rooms, and I even remember outfitting one with a bowling alley!  When I was a newlywed, many of our friends built homes, or moved into lovely homes.  However, we were a struggling farm family…and we built a basement, thinking that we would stay in it for 2 years, and that then we would finish our home.  2 years stretched to 5, 10, 15 and finally, about a year ago, after 25 years, we finished our home and moved out of the basement!  That was a joyful day!  So how do you think that I felt about being a basement dweller for 25 years?  Well…we had many moments of joy, and laughter often filled the walls…and we had some moments, especially in the winter when we had blizzard after blizzard, and we had to spend day after day in our little space, that I thought I would go crazy!  So, I guess that I would say that living in a basement home, without a garage in Northern North Dakota for 25 years was not easy…in fact it was very hard.  At first I would pray every day, please God let us finish out house soon…day after day, year after year.  Then, I got a little mad at God…and Mark…and had a slump…a time of bitterness.  One day, during my dark time, I read 1 Thessalonians 5: 16: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  It seemed like a light bulb went off in my head…”God is telling me to give thanks…now…in everything…”  And so, in obedience, I started to give thanks, I thanked Him for our two bedroom, basement home…I thanked Him for the dirty dishes that I had to wash, I thanked Him for the piles of laundry that threatened to overflow the laundry room…I thanked Him for my husband, I thanked Him for our sons, I thanked him for my job…   And so the years passed, we didn’t wait to be hospitable until we had a grand home.  We opened up our little basement home with the ugly entry way, to many youth group events, bonfires, decorating Christmas cookie parties, holiday meals, sledding parties, suppers with friends, 4th of July parties, Bible Study’s, coffee parties, pre-hunting meals, meals for the combining crew.   I didn’t apologize for my home; I welcomed people as they walked down the ugly outdoor entry to the door that lead to our house.  And I learned, that hospitality is not about having a perfect house, it’s not about making the perfect gourmet meal…it is about Loving God, and loving others,  it’s about sharing the Good News of the Gospel.  Because…  a Christian home is a miracle, it is a treasure, and God calls us to share it.

Now…you may be saying to yourself…that is all fine and dandy…but how can I live this out in my life?  I can barely get the breakfast dishes cleaned up before lunch???  Even though we all say that our house doesn’t have to be perfect…we know that we don’t want our home to be a health hazard!

Continued  next week………………………………

 

 

 

 

Abundant Life

By Lori Willard

Abundant – “ABUND’ANT, adjective Plentiful; in great quantity; fully sufficient; as an abundant supply. In scripture, abounding; having in great quantity; overflowing with.

The Lord God is abundant in goodness and truth. Exodus 34:6.”

Taken from Webster’s 1828 Dictionary

John 10:7-11

New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus the Good Shepherd

7 “Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”

Jesus not only provides us life; but also, He provides abundant life – to the full!  It all begins with the Holy Spirit bringing us to recognize our need for the Good Shepherd to save us from our sinful nature and to direct our lives.  We are nothing without Him!  We enter this abundant life through Jesus – The Door.  Included in this full life is pasture which provides shelter/protection from enemies, food to eat, a place to rest, and most importantly – A Good Shepherd Who watches over us and does His work through us.  Abundant life is ours if we do not resist the Holy Spirit leading us to “The Door” and we allow the Holy Spirit and God’s Word to be our guide, always.

Protection is found in our Jesus Who has promised to never leave us or forsake us.  Hebrews 13:5.  We have protection whether we are in the sheepfold – a place where sheep are collected, and protected – (Devotional Time with the Lord, Church Worship Services, etc.) or in the green pastures of abundance (new eternal life here on earth and in Heaven) He is ever present with us.  Oh the joy to have peace and freedom found only in His presence!  Have you ever seen young lambs bounding and jumping for joy?!  The Lord wants the same for us spiritually, emotionally, mentally and quite possibly – physically.  J

John 14:27 NKJV

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NKJV

Vs. 17” Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

Jesus mentions thief, thieves and robbers in connection with this abundant life.  They come to steal, kill and destroy.  We are deaf to them.  We have ears only for our Great Shepherd.  We listen to Him through His Word and His Holy Spirit.  We follow only Him.  John 10:1-5.  Jesus warns us of those evil deceivers but He is ever present to protect us and comfort us from them.  No one can snatch us from His love for us.

Romans 8:35-39 NKJV

Vs. 35 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

Vs. 36 As it is written:  “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

Vs. 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 

Vs. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 

Vs. 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

In the pasture, we:

EAT, DRINK, LIVE, PLAY – How He desires for us to feed and grow in His word; and to apply His Word in our daily lives while in the world!

Psalm 1 NKJV The Way of the Righteous and the End of the Ungodly

Vs. 1 “Blessed is the man
          Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
          Nor stands in the path of sinners,
          Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;

Vs. 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
         And in His law he meditates day and night.

Vs. 3 He shall be like a tree
         Planted by the rivers of water,
        That brings forth its fruit in its season,
        Whose leaf also shall not wither;
        And whatever he does shall prosper.

Vs. 4 The ungodly are not so,
          But are like the chaff which the wind drives away.

Vs. 5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment,
          Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

Vs. 6 For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
         But the way of the ungodly shall perish.”

Meditating is another word for MUSE – Deep thought; close attention or contemplation, to ponder; to think closely; to study in silence.   When we want to illustrate the opposite of something, we usually put the letter “a” in front of it, for example, AMUSE – which means to not think deeply, not to pay attention to, not to contemplate,  not to ponder, not to think closely, not to study in silence, etc.  We need to be careful to muse on His Word.

REST

Psalm 94:12-15 NKJV

Vs. 12 “Blessed is the man whom You instruct, O Lord,
           And teach out of Your law,

Vs. 13 That You may give him rest from the days of                           adversity, Until the pit is dug for the wicked.

Vs. 14 For the Lord will not cast off His people,
           Nor will He forsake His inheritance.

Vs. 15 But judgment will return to righteousness,
           And all the upright in heart will follow it.” 

The Lord does several things for us as we feed on His word:

  1. Instructs or disciples us in truth.
  2. Guides us in His law.
  3. Gives us rest or relief from evil days until the very end when the pit is finally completed for the wicked and we are together in Heaven with Him.
  4. He also provides us encouragement.

He promises He will not:

  1. Cast off or abandon His people.
  2. Forsake His inheritance.  Forsake: To quit or leave entirely; to desert; to abandon; to depart from.

Friends and flatterers forsake us in adversity.

Jesus is The Door to eternal life and fullness in this life because the judgment that was intended for us was placed on Him.  We are transformed to righteousness through faith in Him.  We will follow that righteousness.

Through Him, we go out from the sheepfold, into the green pastures, and there, Jesus continues to go with us.  He provides us strength, endurance, ability, joy, peace, patience, etc. (Galatians 5:22, 23) to the FULL so we can fulfill His will for us – to just “be” with Him or to carry out His ministry through us.

Oh!  The fulfillment this brings!  He planned this indescribable abundance He has for each of us before we were even born.  Life to the full!

In the movie, “Second Hand Lions”, a nephew was being interviewed regarding his deceased uncles.  The interviewer said, “Well, they died with their boots on!  Did they really LIVE?!”  The nephew said, with a smile on his face, “YES!  They REALLY lived!!”  May we say the same about our lives with Jesus too!!

 

ALWAYS FAITHFUL

By Sarah Langness

In six or so short weeks, things are going to start looking a little bit different at our house. I’ve got a laundry basket of purple and pink sleepers, onesies and pants sitting on the couch waiting to be folding testifying to that change. Our little boy moved into a big boy bed two weeks ago, allowing us to move the crib across the hall into the room affectionately known as “Baby Sister’s room”. The quickly accumulating empty buckets of ice cream bear witness to one of my favorite (and most indulged in) pregnancy cravings.

In just six or so short weeks, our lives will once again be turned wonderfully upside down.

Upon reaching the 34th week of pregnancy, my local doctor sent me to another doctor in Bismarck where Baby Sister will – hopefully – be born. (I say “hopefully” because I never want to give birth on the side of the road. Or in my house – more power to those of you who do, though!) When I was pregnant with Ezekiel, the transition to a doctor in Bismarck proved . . . eventful, to say the least.

In short, at that initial appointment, I was measuring smaller than the doctor liked to see; as a result, weekly non-stress tests and ultrasounds were performed to make sure our baby boy was growing as he should. And praise God, he was and did and was born healthy! So when Jordan and I traveled to Bismarck on Monday, I was expecting similar events to take place.

And, they did.

Once again, I was measuring smaller than the doctor liked to see. He ordered a growth ultrasound to check on Baby Sister. The next day we had not one but two ultrasounds to check baby’s growth and the blood flow to her via the umbilical cord. Today we received a call informing us that baby is simply small, but otherwise growing well. Again, praise God!

I’ll never forget the fear in my heart during that first doctor’s visit in Bismarck when I was pregnant with Ezekiel. Seeing – or sensing – the doctor’s concern as well as hearing phrases like, “If the blood flow from you to baby isn’t good, we’ll have to take this baby today”, made me fearful for what could be. I didn’t know what to expect. Simply waiting for the ultrasound results was agonizing, not knowing what news we were going to get about our baby. I can still remember the fear, the tears, and the prayers Jordan and I shared that day.

But we were not alone.

My brother sent me a text that day with some of the most comforting verses in all of Scripture to remind me of that truth:

“But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the watersI will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fireyou will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior . . . You are precious in My sight . . .You are honored and I love you,'” – Isaiah 43:1-4, NASB (emphasis mine)

I love those promises. And I am so glad they are not simply words on a page.

This week, there was none of that fear. Okay, maybe just a little bit for a short amount of time. Especially after receiving a call only ten minutes after our first ultrasound saying another one had to be completed. But in comparison, that fear lasted only minutes and wasn’t nearly as intense.

Because we had walked this road before.

I was confident that Baby Sister was doing fine. That I simply carry more inward. That different doctors measure differently. That, as her brother before her, our little girl would be found growing as she should.

And while all this is true – I do believe different doctors have slightly different techniques at measuring, hence the difference that spiked the concern of our Bismarck doctor’s – I realized last night that my trust was completely misplaced.

I was trusting in what knew. In what had experienced before. In what believed.

Instead, I should have been trusting wholly, completely, utterly dependently, upon the One who was faithful in this same situation two years ago. In the One who is knitting together our little girl. In the One who has never left us and has guided us through every step of each of these pregnancies.

“Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness. Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The LORD’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I have hope in Him.” – Lamentations 3:19-25, NASB (emphasis mine)

No matter if the path we are walking seems familiar or completely uncharted – we are not alone. The Faithful One is there, ready to prove Himself once more. Ready to sustain. Ready to strengthen. Ready to carry.

A Heart of Thankfulness and Praise

By Lori Willard

When frustrating trials come into your life, do you wonder, “Why me?” Instead of frustration, do you long for a life of peace?

Romans 13:33-36

33“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has become His counselor?”35 “Or who has first given to Him, And it shall be repaid to him?” 36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.” (NKJV)

Often, our initial thoughts and responses to adversity are not the best; but, as we welcome the Holy Spirit’s work in us, the Lord is so gracious to give us wisdom and knowledge to change our thoughts and responses to conform to His desire for us.  In turn, we glorify Him and are used by Him more effectively.  As a result, He brings us into a deeper relationship with Him.

Recently, a friend was challenged by many difficulties in her life.  With so much heaviness, she had gotten a heart of negativity.  What a blessing that the Lord performed “heart surgery” for me just a few days earlier!  I was able to share some of His blessings to me with her.

I asked her to hold out her hand – palm facing down.  I explained that down represented the negative thoughts.  Then I asked her to hold out her hand – palm facing up.  I further described that upward facing hand represented our positive thoughts.  Also, we are then in a position to receive from our Heavenly Father and to offer praise to Him.  The Lord illustrated to me, through my devotions, that He wanted me to turn my thoughts right side up and begin to thank Him and praise Him for all He had done.  I was led, also, to thank Him for future blessings that He sees in me, my family, my church, my community, and my world even if those blessings are not yet seen by me or others.

Negative thoughts feed in to Satan’s realm and we begin to have heavy hearts and sour souls.  We also lose hope.  When we have thankful hearts – full of praise – it gives God the glory.  Which is better?

Psalm 50 (read as you have time) explains that the Mighty One, God the Lord, wants us to gather together because He has a message for us.  He wants us to know that He is God, our God!  He sees the good work we are doing and will not rebuke us for our sacrifices.  However, even more, His heart’s desire is that we have an attitude of thanksgiving and praise.  Verse 14 and 15 says, “Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High.  Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you shall glorify Me.”   Verses 22 and 23 further state, “Now consider this, you who forget God, Lest I tear you in pieces, And there be none to deliver:  Whoever offers praise glorifies Me; And to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God.”  God is really asking His people to not forget Him and to glorify Him in all we do, to examine our lives, and He will show us His salvation.

Oh!  What a joyful blessing to have the Holy Spirit work in and through us!  Please consider taking time to have the Lord examine your life.  Check in with Him often.  Agree with His ways instead of your ways.  In Isaiah 30:15 the Lord says, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” Turn your thinking right side up!  Do not resist those trials!  Thank God for them because trials stretch and grow us!  God has promised He will be with us through our trials.  In Hebrews 13:5 the Lord says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Offer Him a thankful heart – full of praise – through words, song, prayer, etc. which will glorify Him!  The Holy Spirit will bring to you a heart full of hope, peace and joy that only He can give – all combined – to prepare us to receive His will in and through our lives!

 

 

 

 

A Perfect Rest and Refuge

By Sarah Nelson

 “He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.  On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.  Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.”   Psalm 62:6-8

My husband and I were hoping and dreaming about taking what we deemed to be a much needed family vacation.  Along came reality, and told us that plan wouldn’t be happening any time soon.  We both were disappointed as we were feeling tired and in need of refreshment and relaxation.   As I poured out my feelings to the Lord, He brought the verses from Psalm 62 to my mind and heart.  God is my REST and He is my REFUGE.  This position of rest can’t be found in a sunny resort.  It can’t be purchased on a travel website.  In fact, this position of knowing God as our rest and refuge is available to all of us, no matter where our physical location is.

Although we don’t have the resources to book a week away from the everyday trials and activities that require much of our energy and time, we ARE able to find rest and refuge for our soul.  If you like us, are feeling weary today, and maybe even discouraged, spend some time with the Lord as you read through all of Psalm 62.   It is a wonderful certainty that we can “hide out” in the refuge of God’s love and protection no matter where we are.  He is our rock, our refuge, our fortress, every day of the year, and in every situation we find ourselves in this day.

His Eye

By Jonni Sliver

I had one of the happiest experiences in a long time yesterday.  It involves a precious young lady I have kind of adopted. Her name is Cris and she is here with her husband, John and daughter Leota for a short time (relatively speaking, they will be here almost six months when they leave). She is nearly eight months pregnant and they to have their second baby here in Brazil because John and Cris hope to return permanently when John retires.  For right now, Cris needs a little extra support because John had to return to work for six weeks (he works as an engineer on oil rigs, his current assignment is in Singapore). So Cris is here with a two year old princess, a big tummy and as much Portuguese as you can learn in two months.

I have been trying to be a good aunty to Cris – taking her shopping, helping her make new friends, getting her language lessons, and just plain visiting! One of the more important little jobs I have had has been taking her to doctor appointments, and I finally come to the blessing I received yesterday! Cris needed one more ultra-sound, and as she doesn’t speak medical Portuguese, I went with. I have seen ultra-sounds before, but it has been a while. I was so amazed to see Faith Karen’s (this precious new baby’s name) face on the screen, as clear as a photograph! Her cute little nose, her hand pressed against her cheek, she even wiggled her fingers at us (I am positive she knew she was posing for photos!). It was amazing to see this little one, still in the womb, almost ready to join us!

I have mentioned before that Psalm 139 is one of my favorite texts;  you can imagine how that passage came to mind! Seeing this precious little one is a gift from God, who gave talents and intelligence to men to create something like an ultra-sound, but none of this is a novelty for our Father. He has seen each one of us as we were being formed, as He knit us in our mothers’ wombs. Yesterday I saw just a glimpse, but the Father’s eye has been on this little girl since before her mother knew she was being carried!

Faith Karen hasn’t done a single thing to earn God’s favor, but His hand of blessing is on her and He has already dreamed great dreams for her. Do you ever feel like you haven’t done enough, or you aren’t important enough to warrant God’s grace and favor? You are correct – you haven’t warranted it, but you have it just the same! The Father loves you with an eternal love. When you lie down tonight He will be with you, when you wake in the morning He will still be there; your frame is ever before Him and he doesn’t even need an ultra-sound to see you!

INTENTIONAL

By Sarah Langness

I waste a lot of time.

I hate that I do, but it’s true.

The local garage sale websites on Facebook always reel me in; thinking “just in case” I find something we “need”. I aimlessly scroll through the Yahoo news feed, learning nothing of real importance. I look through recipes I have no intention of ever making, but the whole process of “looking” makes me feel like I’m accomplishing while my brain can zone out.

At the end of the day, I usually realize how much time I wasted. Time I could have – should have – spent doing other things.

I usually realize this in the sweet moments of bedtime with my son. As he cuddles on my lap with his sock in hand, thumb in mouth, arm wrapped around his giraffe (or other chosen cuddle animal of the night), and his little blue blankie on his lap. Whether it’s just he and I reading from his Rhyme Bible or if Daddy is able to read a chapter from the Bible to us, those twenty minutes are oh-so precious to me. As we read through a Bible story or a book about Johnny Tractor or Good Night Gorilla, I realize how short twenty minutes is. I wish I could extend this story time, cuddle time, hold-him-close time. I wish I could freeze time and that such moments will never end.

And then I think, What did I do today that I could have cut out to make more time for Ezekiel?

Yeah, there are certain things that need to get done.

The laundry needs to be folded.
Supper needs to get made.
Groceries need to be bought.
Dishes need to be washed.
Baby’s room needs to get de-cluttered.

And wonderfully, these things usually happen with my little man right at my side! He loves to “help” fold clothes, play in the spice cabinet, go to the grocery store.

But so often, these are my agenda items. Why is it that when I sit down to play with him, or to simply watch him play and learn, I feel like I have to do something else?

If I’ve learned anything in the past 20 1/2 months as a mom, it’s that the time goes too fast. That I need to make the most of every moment, enjoy every day and every stage, to cherish every laugh and giggle.

But it’s not just time that should have been spent playing with and enjoying my son that I waste.

It’s time learning how I can better serve and love my husband.
It’s time investing in real relationships.
It’s time reading my Bible (instead of a Facebook news feed).
It’s time making a meal for a hurting family.
It’s time praying for the lost.
It’s time challenging my creativity and patience by learning to embroider towels.
It’s time reading something of worth (sorry, Yahoo News).

More to-do lists isn’t going to change me. Setting time limits on screen time might be beneficial. But what’s really got to change is my heart, my mindset, my desire to be intentional.

“Be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” – Ephesians 5:15-17, NASB (emphasis mine)

 

 

 

My Days

By Vicki Johnson

Ps 90:12 So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.

My days. Those empty little boxes on every calendar I see. A plan yet to be executed. An anniversary yet to be celebrated. A debt yet to be paid. A time yet to be prepared. I look to the calendar to remind me which numbered day I’m on and I function according to the agenda of that 24 hour period of time. Sleep. Wake. Dress. Eat. Read. Work. Play. And on it goes.

So what? A day in the life. My life? Is it my life? Or does my life belong to Him, the one who rescued me from darkness and transferred me to the kingdom of His beloved Son? My life is not my own.  I have been bought with a price. I forget that so often. I play in the kingdom of Light and reside in His grace and mercy. Day after day. His days of grace.

So, how will I number my days this year? They are mine. God has given me my days. They ebb and flow with other’s days, but still uniquely belong to me. He has placed them in my control; entrusted their usefulness and purpose to me, and me alone. Strong’s Enhanced Lexicon defines “number” as: to count, reckon, number, assign, tell, appoint, or prepare.

This year:

May I be faithful to count my days as a treasure, summed up in God’s mercy and grace.

May I reckon the time spent on tasks and projects as an offering to give Him praise and glory.

May I number the seconds, minutes, hours, and days as a singular gift. To be present in the present.

May I deliberately assign a purpose to my time so that it will bear fruit that is pleasing to God.

May I tell the worldly pilferers of time to clear out and my frantic heart to rest in His Presence.

May I appoint each day to work for the King of Kings, to be about His business.

May I prepare each day to formulate ways in which I learn and apply God’s wisdom in my life to glorify my Father in Heaven.

Psalm 90:14-17 O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness, That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.  Make us glad according to the days You have afflicted us, {And} the years we have seen evil.  Let Your work appear to Your servants And Your majesty to their children.  Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; And confirm for us the work of our hands; Yes, confirm the work of our hands.

God has given us purpose for our days, purpose with our praise and purpose in our ways.