All I Want for Christmas

 By Jonni Sliver

Almost exactly 1 year ago a precious little girl came in to our lives. Emily was two years old, a simply adorable little lady who was terrified of everyone and everything. For days the only time she wasn’t crying was when she was sleeping. Bit by bit we won her over. First it was Odette and Neyde, who spent the most time with her, feeding her, bathing her, comforting her wounded heart. Next came two other house moms, and before long all of the Miriam Home family entered her list of people she trusted.

It was pure joy to see Emily grow. We discovered that she is a very bright little girl, with a wonderful sense of humor and an enormous heart. During this last year we saw God restoring Emily’s ability to trust and causing her confidence to grow.

About a month ago I began to hear “the” question being asked of the children in the Miriam Home –“what do you want for Christmas?” It is the same question asked all over the world, and I am guessing most of the answers are pretty similar – a toy, a game, jeans, tennis, music or even (can you imagine) books. But some of the answers are different.  When one of our staff asked Emily what she wanted for Christmas she said “ a mommy and daddy and home of my own”.  She had just turned 3 years old and I thought that was a pretty deep thought for such a little girl! Even though we have known that Emily would eventually go up for adoption, she wasn’t available for adoption yet, and we didn’t know when she would be.

Just two weeks later the judge advised us that he had put Emily on the list available to families waiting for children. A week later we were told that a couple was coming to visit the Miriam Home, to get to know Emily. During the visit they didn’t tell the children why they were there, they just visited with all of the little ones. They came back a few days later, for another visit. This time they asked Emily if she would like to visit them over the week-end. Emily said yes! This precious little lady, who just a year earlier was terrified of everyone, went with this couple for a week-end all by herself!

Emily returned Monday morning telling us she had a wonderful time with her mommy and daddy. She was happy to be back with the people she loves in the Miriam Home but she reminded us daily that this week-end she would be going to her mommy and daddy’s house, and she did. She will be staying for a month with this lovely couple, and the judge will then officially ask if they want to adopt her. The couple has waited five years to adopt. They are in their early 30’s, love the Lord and want a child to complete their family.

Seeing God’s faithfulness in restoring this sweet little girl and answering her prayers may be the best gift I have received all year!

“A Light in Dark Places”

By Esther Hylden

    The sky was cold, the air chilly and the spirits of the fish workers in Naknek, Alaska were downcast that summer of 2013.  People from far corners of the world, (Libya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sweden, China and many more,) had come to work in the fishing industry to earn much needed income, and now the fishing was poor.  With time on their hands, the workers filled the little town of Naknek.  The bars were filled to overflowing; fights often broke out as tempers ran high.

    In the middle of Main Street however, there sat a haven, an oasis…so to speak, known as The Net.  Nothing fancy, grey, three rooms…a small kitchen, storage room and gathering room, The Net was a place to go when one was cold, lonely and hungry…inside was a fresh pot of coffee, cookies, a listening ear and words of encouragement given to those who entered.  Quilts were given to those who were cold, fresh warm cookies were given to the hungry, and God’s Word was shared with many lonely and discouraged people.  Bibles and tracts were given away, and when people left that humble building, their hearts, body and stomachs were warmed.

  James 2:14 states:  “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?  Can such a faith save him?  Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, Is dead.”   

Fall marks the beginning of the “dark” season in Alaska.  The days are short, and spirits often sag, as one grey, rainy, gloomy day follows another.  However, shining out amongst the gloom there is “Light!”  Daily the KAKN Radio Station shares God’s Word with all who tune in, with Pastor Bob Lee serving as the Station Manager.  Pastor Jeff Swanson and Pastor Jeremy Crowell bring God’s “Light” to the two Naknek congregations and to the remote areas of Alaska, as they minister in Word and deed, often handing out quilts to those who gather at the little churches and meeting places.  Smiles stretch from ear to ear, as bodies and spirits are warmed by a handmade quilt and words of hope from God’s Word.

How can you help?

  1. Pray, Pray, Pray!
  2. Send financial support
  3. Send Quilts ( they used up their supply last summer)
    Send quilts to:  Pastor Jeff Swanson
    PO Box 501
    Naknek, AK 99663
  4. Come and help!   ( If God is calling you to come and help, contact the Home Mission Board )

“I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.”  Acts 13:47

I pray that God will use us to bring “Light” to Naknek, to  the family next door, to work, to the checker at the grocery store…and to all those who remain in the dark.

LIVING IN THE MUNDANE

by Sarah Langness

My days are fairly predictable. I can roughly tell you what time Zeke and I will be out for our morning walk and down for our afternoon nap. I usually do my grocery shopping on Mondays after lunch. I can tell you what days I typically do laundry. Day-to-day, my life tends to look extremely similar. Sure, there are days with a few surprises, like when my husband decides to be spontaneous and come home from work early. Or like last week when Zeke pooped out his diaper for the first time in months and I had to rinse his pants off in the toilet. Or when I’m able to grab coffee with a dear friend back for a short visit.

Yesterday, though, I broke the mold. I skipped my morning walk, left the men at home and headed to Bismarck to run a few errands. (I know, I know: real exciting. But hey, I live in western North Dakota; cut me some slack.) As I was driving across the familiar 79-mile stretch of farmland, I did something I rarely do: I listened to the radio. Family Life Today was on, and my apologies to the name of their guest whose name is lost on my mind somewhere on I-94. And actually, apologies to Family Life Today as I hardly even recall what the broadcast topic was about. Something about loving your spouse. I forget because of something that forgotten guest said that rang over and over and over in my mind:

“We only make three or four big decisions in life. But we live in the every day, in the mundane.”

It’s so easy to seek Christ in the big decisions, the big issues. Where we should go to college. Who (or if) we should get married. To take that job far from family or stay closer to home.

But what about the every day? The ordinary, mundane things? Jesus doesn’t want just a part of the “big” things in life – He wants the little ones too.

Not that I need to pray about switching my laundry day. Or that there is anything wrong with a fairly predictable routine. But in those every day, mundane, day-to-day tasks, who am I living for? Am I living selfishly, putting my desires over those of my families? Do I have eyes of compassion for the hurting around me, or am I to focused on me to notice them? Am I content with what I have, with who the Lord has made me to be, or am I envious of that other mom who seems to have it made?

“For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spiritlet us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.” – Galatians 5:13, 24-26, NASB (emphasis mine)

It is in the mundane moments that I choose to put Jordan’s needs over my own. It is the every day moments that become Kingdom teaching moments for little Ezekiel. It is in the ordinary moments that I live for the Extraordinary One.

“For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” – 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, NASB (emphasis mine)

No matter how ordinary, how everyday, how mundane our daily tasks may seem to be, may we ever be guilty of living for Jesus.

 

Stir Up One Another…

by Sarah Nelson

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  Hebrews 10:24-25  (ESV)

Yesterday I was wrestling with a decision that my husband I were having to make.  We both knew what we needed to do, and that God was showing us that our options were gone, and truly the choice was made for us.  Yet, my heart and mind were bouncing around with all the “what ifs” and “should haves.”   I reached out to a dear friend across the miles who had gone through a similar situation.   She lovingly responded to my questions, both asked and unasked.  She affirmed that when we follow God in obedience we need to trust Him to work through, above, and beyond what we can see and understand.

While this friend is thousands of miles away from me, she continues to “stir” me up to love and good works as she encourages me and prays for me.  Our “meeting together” is not in a shared physical space, but takes place over internet connection.  I am so thankful that our prayers for one another reach God’s heart from our homes that are far apart.

Are you struggling today?   First, present your burden to the Lord.  He is the faithful Friend who is always there.   Ask that if He would have someone to come alongside you in your struggle, that He would provide that.  Do you have a friend who is going through a challenge?   Come alongside her in prayer, encouraging her that God sees her needs and is faithful to meet those needs.

Together let’s stir one another to love and good works, enjoy meeting together, and be dedicated to encouraging one another, all while we eagerly await the return of our Lord and Savior.

Filled With Joy

by Sarah Langness

You know what I love? I love the sound of my baby boy’s giggle when he rides on his daddy’s shoulders. I love the pure joy that lights up his face after I round the kitchen island in a game of peek-a-boo chase. I love hearing him make truck sounds as he pushes anything with a wheel. As a mom, hearing those sounds – as well as the countless other babbles, screeches, and songs – fills my heart with joy. I never get tired of it. And I can’t help but think that maybe the Lord feels the same way.

Maybe the same joy that I experience as I watch my son explore, giggle, learn and grow is the same joy that fills the Lord’s heart as we follow Him – as we truly follow Him. As we put feet to our faith. As we love on those who go unnoticed. As we clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.

I know we don’t do good deeds to earn God’s favor. We can’t earn our salvation based on the number of times we made Him smile. His love for us isn’t based upon such things. But I can’t help but think His heart is filled with joy as we carry the love of Jesus to the world. As we live as His hands and feet. As we obey even when it’s difficult.

So, how about we put a smile on our Father’s face today?

“Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and in truth. We will know by this that we are of the truth . . .” – 1 John 3:18-19

“I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.” – 3 John 1:4

Love Mercy: A Mother and Daughter’s Journey from the American Dream to the Kingdom of God

Book Review by Faith Nelson

Caution!  This book may be hazardous to your lifestyle

It’s the story of a journey:  a vision trip to Swaziland undertaken by Christian novelist Lisa Samson and her teenage daughter, Ty.  They want to “look beyond their borders,” “see the hard things of the world” and “be exposed …remember and record.”

Swaziland, South Africa has the highest rate of AIDS infection in the world.  Robbery is epidemic and basics, such as blankets, are precious.  The Samsons meet twelve year olds, elderly relatives and even neighbors raising children who have been orphaned by AIDS and other diseases.  Ty compares her experience to “having someone wake me up with a baseball bat” and Lisa says “less than a week into our trip, suffering was beginning to look so normal.”

As life changing as this journey is, the book documents a second journey that is just as transforming.  It begins and ends with a journey of sanctification as the Samson family struggles to replace “the American dream with dreams of the kingdom.”  They go from living the typical suburban life in a 5000 square foot house to a home in downtown Lexington, Kentucky where they live as part of an intentional religious community.  According to Lisa, “we buy most of our clothing used … a full-on trip to the (beauty) salon is out of reach.  …We keep our heat down to 60 degrees in the winter to lower our utility bills.”  The trip to Swaziland was “a single chapter in the longer story of God snatching us out of our complacent, consumerist Christianity.”

Lisa and Ty are open and honest in their struggles to live a more Christlike life.  Lisa says, “After the trip, I’d planned to eat only beans, rice and fresh vegetables for Lent … my Lenten fast lasted three days.  So much for eating the same thing every day and being thankful.”  She realizes we are all called to different places spiritually and cannot judge others for not being where we are.  But she does not hesitate to ask hard questions that none of us should ignore.   “… Where do you think God might be calling you?”  “What can I do?”  “Who is my church keeping out?” and finally “What if every Christian in the world reached out in love and deed to one sick AIDS patient, one lonely orphan, one poor widow, one hungry family? Why does that sound impossibly hard to us?  What if we did it anyway?”

You will find this book challenging and thought provoking.  Since it alternates between the viewpoints of Lisa and Ty, it would be a great choice to read with a youth group or with a young adult son or daughter.

Praying for Your Pastor’s Wife – Day 29

Pray that your pastor’s wife will be a woman of faith and passionate love for God, not
giving in to worries, fears, or an uptight and anxious spirit.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.  1 John 4:18

Trust in the LORD with all your heart 
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him, 
And He will make your paths straight.  Prov 3:5-6

Taken from Revive Our Hearts

Praying for Your Pastor – Day 29

Pray that your pastor will be a man of faith and passionate love for God, not giving in to
worries, fears, or an uptight and anxious spirit.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.  1 John 4:18

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him, 
And He will make your paths straight.  Prov 3:5-6

Taken from Revive Our Hearts

Praying for Your Pastor’s Wife-Day 1

Pray that your pastor’s wife will love God with all her heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Pray that God’s Spirit will work in her heart in power, and that she will value and follow
biblical priorities.

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might”.  Deut. 6:5

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”    Matt. 6:33

Taken from Revive Our Hearts

Praying for Your Pastor-Day 1

Pray that your pastor will love God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength. Pray thatGod’s Spirit will work in his heart in power and that he will value and follow biblical priorities.

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might”.  Deut. 6:5

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”    Matt. 6:33

 

Taken from Revive Our Hearts