The Little Things

by Jonni Sliver

It is exciting to see God’s hand in our lives! I have a friend here in Brazil who has undergone surgery to remove a cancerous kidney. There was an army of intercessors holding her up and expecting to see God move on her behalf. The peace we have, in facing huge challenges, is an amazing gift, something only a child of the Father can know. But somehow, there is a special sweetness in seeing God’s hand in the little details of our lives that reminds me that He isn’t just my champion in time of trial, but the Lover of my soul every day. The problem isn’t that God isn’t moving every day or every moment, but that I just don’t always pay attention!

About two months ago a project that the Miriam Home had presented to the city council was approved, to replace a very old computer tower and to buy a laptop. The laptop wasn’t an extreme necessity, but it was helpful for Pastor Silvio to be able to do the administrative work of the Miriam Home, Bible School and the retreat center. I was glad for the grant, especially because I knew how much Tibby (my Toshiba laptop) means to me, and that it would make ministry easier for Pastor Silvio.

Around that same time Tibby started showing signs of age. Little things like freezing when I would start her, so I would have to shut down and restart. A few times, when I left the desk for a while, without turning her off, I would come back to find her, not in sleep mode but with a blue screen, scolding me just a bit. Yes, there were signs, but I didn’t expect the end to come so quickly. Last Saturday I went to turn Tibby on and there was no response. Well, actually you could hear the motor running, but the screen didn’t even flicker. A crashed computer is always frustrating, but for me it was even more – maybe 75% of all I do is on my laptop, but I had hope! A young man from church is a truly gifted geek (I call him my techno-medic), and he took my computer Sunday morning – I was pretty confident that I would have it back on Monday! I was wrong. But with the help of my trusty (almost recent) backup and the borrowed desk top (with the new CPU) I was able to redo my class plans for the Bible School before my classes were to begin. In the meantime Mateus was trying everything he could to get Tibby up and running, but the system still didn’t work. By the end of the week it was clear that my computer was not coming back.

It just so happens that most of last week Pastor Silvio was in a series of meetings. For that reason I was able to use the new laptop we had just acquired. On Friday Pastor Silvio left for a week long ministry trip to a neighboring state giving me a few more days to work. And Mateus, my faithful techno-medic, has ordered my new computer, which will be here before Pastor Silvio returns and wants his laptop back.

I know something as small as a crashed computer doesn’t rate as a “trial”, but it has been sweet to see how the Father is concerned about my little things. Seeing His care over the details increases my faith for the big challenges that come up, and they always do!

A Perfect Picture

by Sarah Nelson

As I was hanging pictures on the walls of our new home, I thought of a simply decorated wall hanging that has been on my parents’ walls for many years at many different addresses.  It is not an expensive piece of art.  It’s not ornate, masterfully designed, or worth many dollars.  It is a Bible verse written in beautiful calligraphy and decorated with some simple purple and blue flowers.  I don’t treasure that picture because of it’s appearance, but because of  the message on it that reached my heart many, many times over the years.  The verse?

“For my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Paul was given a thorn in the flesh and pleaded with the Lord to remove it.  What was the Lord’s response?

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.  But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:8-10  (ESV)

Do you have a situation in your life that is a painful thorn?  Do you have troubled relationships, a difficult workplace experience, or a physical challenge that is making your life seem unbearable?   Have you asked God time and time again to remove it and His answer has been no, or not yet?  If that is the case, know that He does see, He does hear, He does care, and He does have a plan to use that thorn for His glory.  His grace IS sufficient for us.  This doesn’t mean we are spared pain, tears, and loss, but it does mean friends that He is WITH us.

May God remind you today that His power is made perfect in the weaknesses of our lives.  Less of us, more of Him.  May that be the picture of our lives.

Count It All Joy

by Sarah Nelson

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:22-24

Life has been a bit rough and bumpy lately.  I’ve been trying to navigate my way around potholes of health issues, loneliness, parenting challenges,  uncertain addresses, and other life situations.   There have been moments where I have felt like giving up and not pressing on to what I have been called and equipped to do on my life’s journey.   It’s been too tempting to stay in my pajamas while teaching math and science to my children, to heat up the umpteenth can of soup and call it a meal.

Yesterday morning was a tough one.  My natural inclination was to stay home from church, cocoon myself away from others, and try to grab some extra hours of sleep that have been in short supply the past few weeks.  I made it through the morning, albeit sans make-up, and almost got through a yummy potluck dinner at church before Micah experienced another of his massive nosebleeds.   After Dave got it somewhat under control, I took Micah home to get him cleaned up.  He was pale and not his usual zippy self, but he was determined to play in his basketball game.

While Micah was getting his team’s tee shirt on, and tying up his basketball shoes,  I gathered wipes and hand towels to bring a long in case another bloody nose came upon Micah.   We got to the gym full of enthusiastic first and second graders, parents, and grandparents.   Thankfully I had remembered to take some pain reliever for my already throbbing head.  An hour, I could make it through.

Finally Micah’s game began.  A game that is supposed to be basketball, but in actuality looks like a combination of football, wrestling and soccer, with some foundation of basketball underneath it all.  It’s entertaining.  It’s precious.   My son is not the fastest on the court, he has yet to make a basket, and he likes to guard his own teammates who are trying to make baskets.   He does it all with a smile and zeal. It doesn’t discourage him when others say, “What ARE you doing?”  He doesn’t give up when he is playing at half strength and looking pale as a glass of milk.   The loud buzz of the signal causes him anxiety, so he wears his bright orange earplugs and doesn’t care when other children stare at him.  He lives.  He goes on.  He presses forward.  He doesn’t let his different style and abilities hinder him.  He finds solutions, gets the assistance he needs, and continues on.   He is my little hero with a big heart and a giant love for life.  He is my teacher.  He is my son.

Let’s not lose hope, sisters, when trials come.  They are allowed by the Lord to make us more and more like Him.  It is so often during the times in life where we feel ill-equipped, inadequate, and out of our comfort zone, that Jesus shines most brightly through our lives.  This past week I’ve found myself singing, “Hide it under a bush, NO!  I’m going to let it shine!”   Let’s press on together, bringing the light of Jesus to a world who needs Him.

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

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