Alexa the Great
I love planners, ball point pens, highlighters,
to do lists and anything that gives the illusion
that I’m getting my life together.
We were given an Echo Dot for Christmas. I was thrilled. Finally, someone I could boss around who would actually do what I said.
“Alexa, put baking soda on the shopping list.”
“Alexa, what appointments do I have today?”
So much fun — an order goes out, it is filled! All is right in the universe.
Then I found out we may have gotten a remedial model. It can do basic math, “Alexa what is the square root of 4,543” “20,638,849.” However, if I ask, “Alexa, if a train leaves the station traveling 70 mph and a second one leaves the station traveling 108 mph, how soon will they overtake each other?” I get, “Sorry, I don’t know that.” Makes you wonder how you’re supposed to be your kid’s hero helping them with math homework.
I’m not complaining, it does everything I really want it to. However, I have to say, a smarter version would be handy when we play games, which we do a lot.
Recently, we were playing “Joe Name It”. If you’ve never heard of it or played it, let me explain: it’s a Q&A game that asks random questions such as “List six bands with only one number-one hit.” Yeah, like I, or anyone at the table, knows that. When it stumps the person whose turn it is to answer, everyone else scrambles for their phones to find the answer — our rules are pretty lax. If the person whose turn it is doesn’t know the answer, it’s every-man-for-himself to be the first one with the correct answer and get the point.
So when the Echo debuted at our house, I was excited thinking of the help with immediate answers without all the fuss. To check it out, I gave her a starter question, “Alexa, list the bands with only one number one hit.”
And got “Sorry, I don’t know that.”
So I simplified it, “Alexa, list a band with a number one hit in 2017.”
And got “Sorry, I don’t know that.”
Now, I’m back in familiar territory: “Sorry, Mom, I don’t know that”; “I didn’t see it”; “I don’t know where it is”… I can get that from my kids, who needs an Alexa?
Seriously, though, this gadget is a godsend for every busy woman. The best feature is it only requires speaking, something moms are exceptionally good at doing. You don’t need to find a paper; then look for a pen. Watches, phones or walking to the oven to set the timer is unnecessary. Just say what you need; “Alexis put milk on the shopping list,” “Alexa is it going to rain today?” Alexa, set the timer for 15 minutes”. I especially like the list feature. I have a Shopping List, a To-Do List, a Costco List. At Winco, I bring up the shopping list on my phone, deleting each item it as I place it in the cart. No more turning the car around at the corner because I left the list on the counter. Of course I may have to still turn it around to get my shopping bags, but that’s another problem that Alexa doesn’t have a cure for. Except, maybe if I said “Alexa ask me if I have my shopping bags in ten minutes,” I could avoid that error too.
I’m really not interested in giving advertising to any company. However, I have been “roped?” into trying a new eating plan. I was blind-sided by my kids, who apparently are concerned about their mother’s habit of eating like I’m a 14-year-old boy. Just to give you an idea of how well-founded their concern is: fast food is a favorite of mine.
My aversion to diets, eating plans, cleanses, etc, stem from watching my friends and family try all the newest eating fads but once the plan has run its course, they return to their previous unhealthy habits, until the next craze comes by. I see it as too much effort for something that doesn’t result in a life-long change.
So tomorrow I join their pack and say goodbye to all my unhealthy eating and begin to act my age at the dinner table. I know I must to go into this with the right attitude or I will simply be making the motions without changing my heart and mind for a healthy overhaul. And why would I deny myself what my mind and habits insist are delicious for 30 days only to return to old habits immediately after? I’m not looking to placate my family; I’m looking forward to hopefully saying goodbye to aching joints, insomnia, and a plethora of other ailments.
So Hebrews 12:11 will be my watchword: “All discipline is painful for the time but it later yields the peaceful fruits of righteousness.” And you will be my accountability partners, praying and encouraging me to keep on the path.
If you have been contemplating a change in some habit you have struggled with, now is a good time to join me and mark your progress for the next 30 days. If you want to drop me a line, I will add you to my prayer list each morning.
So tomorrow is a new day, a new beginning
I give thanks to my older daughter for her post for Blossom Ministry and allowing me to post it here:
Confession time. I can be a very judgmental person. I’m not proud of this. It’s something I’ve been aware of and working with God on for years and just when I think I’ve rooted out a major source I find another pocket full.
Take the story of the prodigal son for example. I suppose many people identify with this wayward young man and to be sure, when I need to repent, I’m grateful that my father is waiting at the end of the road for me with arms wide open. But when I read this story I often find myself judging the prodigal. What a selfish man, I think. How could he act like that? What a screw-up! Asking for his inheritance before his father was dead was literally wishing his father WAS dead. Demanding his portion before its time was irresponsible.
It’s only been recently that I’ve wondered…aren’t there really two prodigals? Wasn’t the older son just as unappreciative of what he had as his younger brother who took off? We focus on the obvious narrative of the “prodigal son” but there is much to be gleaned by reading between the lines of the story of his older brother.
Who was the older brother? I assume he was like myself, also an eldest child: confident, responsible, organized, dependable, and…self-righteous. The older brother followed the rules. Did what was expected of him. Colored inside the lines. And he picked up the slack left abandoned by his younger brother. It isn’t hard to imagine the judgemental thoughts he had. Toward his younger brother. Toward the situation left to him or manage. Toward his father. Fill in the blanks.
And imagine his head literally popping off when his younger brother comes slinking back and their father THROWS A PARTY FOR HIM? Are you kidding me? It looks like his indescretions were unwarranted of any punishment! How DARE he get the fattened calf? How dare he be…gulp…forgiven! When he SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER.
This is the rub for me. As I put myself in the older brother’s shoes I realize how often I consider this a devout family. A religious family. A Christian family. And therefore the younger brother is someone who should have known better than to act the way he did. I look at people who are supposedly believers making decisions that cause the Father pain. All the while I feel justified in judging them, pointing fingers, shaking my head. I am the older son. Supposedly toeing the line and surrounded by other Christians who slack off. Wow. Just. Wow.
Am I the only one airing my dirty laundry here? Tell me you think of other Christians the same way. Don’t leave me hanging out here! Seriously…if the “younger brother” is an unbeliever it’s more understandable when he does something inappropriate. A “sinner” who sins. What a shocker. But when the “younger brother” is a fellow believer? My expectations shoot WAY up. The bar is set higher.
Thankfully the Father forgave the older son for judging the younger. For propping himself up as the obedient one all while harboring resentment in his heart. For lashing out in anger at the party. For pouting in the corner for all the unfairness. For being stubborn. The older son needed to “come home to the Father’s grace” too. This is me. Learning to focus on my own walk with God instead of meddling and judging where anyone else is…believer or not.
The story of the prodigal son is a misnomer. There are 2 sons. 2 Prodigals. Both in need of forgiveness. Both in need of kindness. Both in need of humility. And both accepted home and rejoiced over by their loving Father.
Another inspirational story to keep you going when you feel that God isn’t doing anything. It’s my older daughter’s story of her four year journey:
On January 11, 2015 I wrote to God in my journal asking Him to reveal a banner word for me for the year. A week later on a Sunday morning I felt God answering my request through the worship list which was filled with songs about redemption. So I wrote on the 18th that I believed God whispered to my spirit that my banner word for 2015 was the word Redeem.
- To recover ownership of by paying a specified sum
- to pay off, to turn in, to convert
- to fulfill
- to set free, to save, to restore, to exchange
- to atone for
- to serve as compensation for
- to reinstate, vindicate, absolve
- to reclaim, ransom, set free, emancipate
- to meet, keep, carry out, satisfy, make good
When I received this banner world it had been three years since I found out I was pregnant with our son Jaxson who we would eventually lose prematurely in May 2012. It had been a year since I miscarried my second baby. My heart was tired of grieving… tired of waiting… tired of being heartsick. I craved renewal. I longed for an end to my mourning. I remember asking God to just take away my desire for children if that longing was never to be fulfilled. I wanted to move on. I looked over the landscape of my last three years and craved for God to restore my joy. Whatever His plans, I was more than ready for something to break and set a new course.
The summer of 2015 was particularly trying. Completing my fifth and sixth rounds of fertility treatments had taken a toll on my emotions, compiled with the stress of a grueling work environment had me at my wits end. By the end of August we knew the treatments had not worked and it was the end of the road for pursuing this help in conceiving a baby. I decided to take a big break…from pretty much every area of my life and I went home to Boise for three weeks.
The past January and the prayers I had written in my journal about God’s banner word for me felt very far away. I hadn’t thought about that word for months and if you had asked me about it, I would have likely laughed bitterly at the thought that 2015 was supposed to be a year of redemption. Oh ye of little faith. My redemption was just around the corner.
- September 2015 I discovered I was pregnant.
- November 2015 brought answers for why I’d lost Jaxson so early and therefore plans were set to make sure it wouldn’t happen with this baby.
- December 2015 we were delighted to find out we were expecting a little girl.
We now have a nine-week-old baby girl named Olivia Hope. We call her Liv. She is the embodiment of “Living with Hope” through the darkest seasons of our lives. She is my redemption story of petitioning God for a family and the six rears it took to fulfill. As I hold her in my arms for late night feedings and pace the hallways of my home soothing her cries, I have time to meditate on my banner word which carried over from 2015 to 2016.
God is so good and also sovereign. Sarah did not understand why God waited until she was 90 before giving her Issac but he plays a pivotal role in foreshadowing God’s redemption plan through his almost-sacrifice by his father, Abraham. Hannah grieved her barrenness so openly that her priest thought she was drunk! But just as she promised, when God finally answered her prayer for a son, she gave him to the temple to be raised by the priests when he was just a young child. He would grow up to teach God’s redemption in the story of King David and Bathsheeba and their second son, King Solomon.
I will never understand why Mother’s Day weekend of 2012 was a weekend of loss for both myself and my friend Michelle as we both gave up babies from our arms that year…but this Mother’s Day I held Liv in my arms and Michelle walked hand in hand into her church with a nine-year-old miracle whose adoption story was also years in the making. Just as with Issac and Samuel, Liv, Macy, Gavin, and countless other children so long desired have a lifetime to showcase God’s ultimate redemption plans. Our Creator weaves his goodness and glory into our lives in mysterious and spectacular ways.
There is a Redeemer, Jesus, God’s own Son. Precious Lamb of God, Messiah, Holy One.
~Melody Green CCLI#11483
Therefore the Redeemed of Lord shall return and come with singing unto Zion and everlasting joy shall be upon their head.
~Isaiah 51:11, Ruth Lake CCLI#26313
All hail Redeemer, hail! For He has died for me. His praise and glory shall not fail throughout eternity.
~Chris Tomlin CCLI#6463818
My rock, my shelter. My very own. Blessed Redeemer who reigns upon the throne.
~Dennis Jernigan CCLI#208492
Take a Risk of Faith
This is the story of the woman with the issue of blood and in her pursuit of healing she knew that if she touched Jesus He would heal her.
And so she persevered, did not give up, until she was able to touched Him. And He healed her.
something — a substance of something hoped for, the evidence of something not
seen (Hebrews 11:1) means taking a risk. But it is worth
plunging forward towards the goal.
Whatever you’re believing God for today, take a risk and believe it will be.
Go with God.
Your church is small because….
Your church is small because….
- It’s small. People who visit a small church usually quickly move on. In a small church they cannot hide in the pew and enjoy basking in God’s presence. It would become quickly apparent that they only go to church for what they can get out of it, not what they’re willing to give. So they move on.
- Your budget isn’t big enough. You probably struggle to support your pastor. And after lights, heat, and curriculum bills are paid, the coffers are empty. Therefore, those wonderful video-casts and singing groups and latest speakers are outside of your budget. You’re not trending.
- The crazies show up. I was at a pastors’ workshop with former Pastoral Ministry director, H.B. London, for Focus on the Family when he was asked what he felt was the biggest reason between large and small churches. And he said “the crazies show up in small churches.” In other words, churches attract fringe people — people who live outside the margins of normalcy. And they also attract ego-driven people looking for places to extend their influence. He felt the percentage was the same for any size church, however, one crazy among sixty shows up more easily than ten in six hundred.
- The music may be substandard. Now not always. We have usually pastored small churches and at times we had worship leaders who were way above the norm, other times we had me to play the piano. Nuff said.
- No youth group – or children’s program or single’s group. Of all the complaints, this one is actually the most understandable. Christian parents must decide what their family needs in a church. They may feel that extra programs are an important part of raising committed Christians. While I would hope they would catch the vision that they could be the one spearheading the program they are looking for, I am not a cock-eyed optimist. So you have to accept that a small church without all the bells and whistles will not meet everyone’s needs and you’ll have to bid them adieux.
So much angst is wasted on worry that our church isn’t growing numerically. This year, stop it. Don’t let the accuser nip at your heels, making you second-guess your work. So much useless energy is wasted on church-growth campaigns. Accept that God has you in a small vineyard for this time.
Maybe your town will have a growth-explosion in the future, and maybe the mega-church in the next town won’t feel led to start up a satellite church but allow you to reap the benefits of more people.
Maybe, just maybe, some of those visitors will be like the family I will forever love who attended our service one Sunday morning with their three children. They had just moved to our town from California, and I knew we were sunk, because everyone knows California churches are huge and we weren’t. But lo and behold, they came back and stayed. The family had discussed the church over lunch and their son had suggested, “Maybe we should choose this one, it looks like they could use more people and our help.” So they did and we were mightily blessed by their support and involvement.
God bless your hands as you labor in His vineyard in 2016.
“And when they saw the young child with Mary his mother, they fell down and worshipped him…” Matthew 2:11
Once again I am letting one of my very talented children write for me. I’m sure you’ll relate to her post, previously published in the Blossom newsletter, 2015. Here to bless your day is Jana Waddell:
I had an interesting conversation with my sister the other day. We were on a long road trip and somewhere between Portland and that long, boring stretch that happens before Idaho we ended up on the topic of worship. Both Jenn and I love to worship. We love to sing and play instruments and we both serve on our local worship teams.
At one point Jenn asked me how I KNEW for sure that worship is what I am called to do.
It’s interesting how much time and worry we Christians put into figuring out what we are called to do. We stress about making sure we aren’t wasting our time doing things we aren’t called to do and we fret over wondering if we have missed our calling completely.
What if the whole concept of “being called by God” is much, much simpler? What if we are just “called” to do what is right in front of us at the moment? What if we are called to do many different things throughout our lives? What if God is much less concerned about us seeing the big picture, like he does, than he is just waiting for us to stop being paralyzed by fear and be a steward of what we have to offer?
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not trying to be flippant. For example, worship is not something I take lightly. To enter the presence of God is a sacred thing. To lead others into that same presence bears an ever greater responsibility. A good worship leader knows that no matter how musically talented you may be, the wrong motives and attitudes will ruin the atmosphere of worship in a matter of seconds.
But worship is also very simply something I love to do. For me, that’s a major starting point. God gave me a love for something and a measure of talent to back it up. Forgive me for being blunt but I feel like that makes my calling quite obvious! I can’t imagine NOT worshipping. And more than that, I’m hungry for more and more places to use what I love to do. New doors are opening, new opportunities, new people to touch with my music. Even when I’m not specifically playing worship songs I’m worshipping by doing what I love.
In her latest Book For the Love, a favorite author/blogger of mine, Jen Hatmaker, says: “Do your thing. Play your note. We are all watching and learning, moved. You are making the world kinder, more beautiful, wiser, funnier, richer, better. Give your gifts the same attention you would if it paid…how many trot out that tired cliché – ‘I’m waiting for God to open a door’ – and he is all, ‘I love you, but get going, pumpkin, because usually chasing the dream in your heart looks surprisingly like work’…you are good at something for a reason. God designed you this way, on purpose. It isn’t fake or a fluke or small. These are the mind and heart and hands and voice you’ve been given, so use them.”
At our fall retreat we talked about being Chosen to Tell. Each of us is specifically chosen, designed, created and spiritually wired to TELL of the “wonderful works of God.”
You are chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, people who belong to God. You were chosen to tell about the excellent qualities of God, who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. ~1 Peter 2:9 ESV.
Not your average pastor’s wife… wife
I’ve been in ministry with Mike, my pastor/husband, for 37 years. I’ve come a long way from the naive young women I was in 1979. Along the way I decided to not only survive, but enjoy the life God brought to me. In learning to enjoy who I was and where I was, I had to leave behind misconceptions I had picked up along the way and embrace new ways of thinking. Here are some of the things I now know:
1. There is no such thing as a call to be a pastor’s wife.
The term “pastor’s wife” isn’t found anywhere in the Bible. The desire to join your husband in ministry is more probably your own call to pastoring or a gift of hospitality, mentoring, teaching or evangelism.
2. Just because a program in the church is in place, doesn’t mean it needs to remain.
Pastor’s-wife friend, Melisa, from Washington State says she and her husband spent the first four years of ministry in their little mountain town “turning off the lights.” They stopped programs people weren’t supporting, and ones not meeting the current needs in their congregation, in order to get down to the basics of what their congregation needed and could support. Just because your organization offers a program is not a mandate your church needs to be doing it. Seek God’s direction.
3. In God’s kingdom you don’t get kuddos for being married to the pastor of the largest church in town or condemnation for being married to the pastor of the smallest church either.
The size of your church isn’t indicative of your spirituality. The Bible says “some plant, some water, but God gives the increase.” Don’t waste valuable energy on numbers, concentrate on ministry.
4. You need a best friend, or two, in your church.
I’m on firm ground here since Jesus’ best friends were Peter, James and John. So feel free to seek like-minded women to encourage you and enjoy the blessing they will give you. There are those who say you shouldn’t because of the chance of hurt feelings but if you don’t flaunt your friendship, it won’t cause any more problems than the myriad of other things that people can complain about.
5. Your call is as important as your husband’s call.
This is a frightening statement even to write, but despite its truth, when wrapped in years of assumption that a call to ministry is the spiritual kingpin, you, like me, may find it hard to grasp. All gifts are bestowed by God and are equal in the Body. And using your gift is as important for you as it is for your husband to use his. For some it will be easy because your gift will mesh with pastoring, for others it will seem at times to be in opposition to his. Maybe you’re offered a promotion in another state, an opportunity somewhere else in which to use your gift. Don’t immediately subjugate your gift for his, because God who gave them to each of you and knows where He wants you to go will direct your dance if you will allow him.
6. You, by virtue, of being married to the pastor, are not equipped or obligated to perform tasks that the previous pastor’s wife filled or ones in which members assume you are equipped to do.
If you’re not trained, you do not, nor should, be offering counseling. That is not to say you can’t lend a sympathetic ear and pray with them, but don’t step beyond what you are equipped. The same goes for leading the choir, or heading up a multitude of programs. Your position in this particular body should be directed by God and carry the support of yourself and your husband.
7. Avoid the pedestal.
Everyone likes to be admired, however, the only allowable vertical relationship is between us and God. Don’t allow people to see you as perfect or above them, or better than they. It doesn’t help them and is deadly for you.
8. There will always be expectations for you from others.
This is true and you cannot stop others from having them, you can only stop yourself from trying to fulfill them. I don’t know what ones you’ll encounter because it varies from denomination and culture, but because someone assumes you will act or perform in a certain way should not be a sentence for you. Neither does this mean that you don’t owe your church respect, that you get to simply be me. Some expectations will not hurt us: certain appropriate dress for services, etc. Learn to discern which you should give into with good grace and which to graciously not follow.
9. If you are blessed with children, concentrate on them, not the church.
Your husband, by virtue of his job, will be at the beck-and-call of the church, so don’t make your children emotional orphans by doing the same. No, they do not need to be the sole focus, but don’t assume that serving the church is more godly than being a mom. It isn’t. A better compromise is to invite them into ministry with you and your husband, let them learn the joy of serving others. It will produce benefits for later life.
10. Enjoy yourself
never wanted to marry a pastor because I’d never met a happy pastor’s wife.
Sad? Yes indeed. But if this is the life God gave you, take the role in your
hands and mold it into a life that you can enjoy and in which you can flourish.
Like I said, if pastor’s wife isn’t in the Bible, then the possibilities
are wide open.
I have enough
We all know how important it is to be grateful for what we have. To find peace with where we are and what we possess. I found an interesting phrase a while ago that has put a new perspective on the I am thankful mindset that actually has more significance to me.
I am now saying I have enough.
The reason I find this better is that even when I am thankful for what I have, I am still looking forward to something newer, better, or bigger in the future. When I say I have enough, I stop that process. I don’t need a bigger house, my house is big enough. I don’t need more clothes, my existing wardrobe is enough.
A small difference that has helped me a lot.
Going along with an I have enough outlook, I decided to join two of my friends in shedding a portion of my worldly possessions. My aim was to lessen my inventory by thirty-percent. Sound like a lot? Not really. If you open a cupboard or closet and chose three or four of every ten objects to give away, toss or sell, it’s really not hard at all.
And the benefits have been very encouraging. Thirty-percent less, means one-third less possessions to dust, find room to store, and/or maybe insure. But the biggest plus so far has been the lessening in stress. Clutter makes me tired, nervous. When I used to have to struggle to fit that casserole dish in among the other six shoving for position on the shelf, it’s now a blessing to open the cupboard and have a spot reserved for it. Ahhhh. For those of you, who like me, love to entertain, become friends with disposable pans on those occasions when you would have had to use all six of your casseroles.
However, a word of caution: you need to inform your family that unless they give you consumable gifts, everything that comes through the front door will have a correlating object going back out. If not, you’ll again find yourself overloaded within a year.
P.S. And to help you take baby steps, read this post: http://www.mrsjanuary.com/simple-living/10-things-you-probably-have-too-many-of/
When God does new things, changes direction, offers us a road less traveled we often do not appreciate it. We question whether we heard Him correctly or rationalize that what appears to be His direction really can’t be.
For the past several years, through many circumstances, our church is now a Home Church.
“Really,” you say? “How can that be?” you question.
Believe me, you are asking nothing more than what I have over and over.
Everyone knows that Home churches aren’t really churches at all. At least not here in America. They’re too different.
What’s different about them from real churches?
Do you teach? Yes. Worship? Yes. Fellowship? Yes. Support ministries? Yes.
In other words, act just like a real church congregation. Just a congregation meeting in a home instead of a building set aside for that purpose once or twice a week.
As usual, my arguments have the substance of wet tissue paper.
Truthfully, the older I get, the more I realize what an albatross around my minister-husband’s neck I’ve been for years. He is the one who catches the vision, speaks it into reality, holds onto the path God has chosen without looking back.
I am Lot’s wife. I look back to predictability, routine, life-like-it’s-always been. I like my life where it is. I don’t like change.
Ann Voskamp says you cannot get clear new water without digging a well, and digging a well involves breaking through the hard barrier of the ground to find the richness beneath.
What God is doing today is not what He did yesterday. Yes, He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, but His methods are not. Who knows what the future of the Church will be in America? No one does, but it appears by the growing number of Home Churches that we may be the cutting edge of a surviving American Church.
no more whining about what I do not have, about what is comfortable, but
instead, eyes forward, I look ahead to what God is doing today, in my life, in
the lives of those of us who call Victory Church our home.
Hopes for a Happy Peace-filled Christmas
I imagine many of you relate to the line from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians where he said, “Your lives are a letter written in our hearts; known and read by everyone…” This is what I feel when I see my children standing strong in God, growing and ministering. I wish to say, “There! That is what I spent my time on, they are the evidence of my sincerity, prayer, and dependence on God to raise up godly children.”
They all grown now, wives, a husband, secure in themselves and where God has placed them and they make me smile. A lot.
Jana is a board member of Blossom Ministry in Washington State. She wrote in their winter newsletter the following article I’d like to share with you.:
At this point, if you’ve been reading our Blossom Newsletter in the last couple of years you know that my husband and I lost our son when I was 5.5 months pregnant. It’s been more than 2 years since we lost him, 3 years since we first learned we would probably deal with infertility, and with another miscarriage last spring it’s an understatement to say we’re tired of loss and waiting.
This is my HARD place. My “dark night of the soul” if you will. I feel like I am in an never-ending desert; wilderness; dare I say, exile?
What do you do when you have been sent to exile? Either by your own choices or simply because this broken life finds itself there…how do you cope when you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel? And what do you do while you wait?
Jeremiah chapter 29 opens with a letter that Jeremiah wrote to the exiles. He says that the Lord God of Israel commands that these exiles should, “…Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce…Increase in number there; do not decrease.
Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
Build. live. plant. eat. multiply. pray.
In other words: You’re going to be here for awhile. You may as well be productive while you wait. That list is full…years worth of stuff to keep you busy while you wait for freedom. The exiles were banished for 70 years before God brought them home. What a LONG time to sit and twiddle your thumbs. Maybe not as long of a time if you have something to show for yourself while you waited expectantly.
We find more lists from God throughout scripture.
In Psalm 37:7-9 we are told to trust, do good, dwell, cultivate, delight and rest. In Proverbs 3:5-6 God reminds us to trust and not lean on our own understanding.
Once Jeremiah gives God’s commands to the exiles he brings a word of hope: “This is what the Lord says:
“When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” ~ Jeremiah 29: 10-14
He promises light at the end of the tunnel! I don’t know when that will be for me or for you but someday we will be brought home from exile. Multiple times God promises to bring us home:
Ezekiel 21:41 “When I bring you home from exile, you will be like a pleasing sacrifice to me. And I will display my holiness through you as all the nations watch!”
Jeremiah 12:15 says “But afterward I will return and have compassion on all of them. I will bring them home to their own lands again, each nation to its own possession. “
Deuteronomy 30:1-10 (paraphrased) In the future when you are living among the nations to which the Lord your God has exiled you, take to heart all these instructions. Then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes. He will have mercy on you and gather you back from all the nations where he has scattered you. Even though you are banished to the ends of the earth, the Lord your God will gather you from there and bring you back again. The Lord your God will change your heart and the hearts of all your descendants, so that you will love him with all your heart and soul and so you may live! The Lord your God will then make you successful in everything you do. He will give you many children and numerous livestock, and he will cause your fields to produce abundant harvests, for the Lord will again delight in being good to you as he was to your ancestors. The Lord your God will delight in you if you obey his voice and keep the commands and decrees written in this Book of Instruction, and if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul.
[Reprinted by permission, Blossom Ministries, 2014] http://blossomministries.com/
I hope her story touches your heart as it does mine.
And Jana is not the only writer in the family, our younger daughter, Jenn, recently began a blog for young mothers. You can read it here: http://poofandtheniwasamom.wordpress.com/ and be blessed by her love of God.
May God fill this holiday season with Joy and Peace.
A wish for a hope-filled spring
Spring is a time of new beginnings and sometimes new beginnings inspire hope in us. I’ve been thinking a lot about hope and know that when I feel its peaceful presence I am fueled with renewed purpose to continue my work in this life.
Even something as mundane as a Monday brings me hope. Of course if you’re not a pastor’s wife you won’t understand why this is, but trust me, Mondays bloom with hopeful possibilities for the future.
The beauty of flowers just budding in my garden send me dreaming of scent-filled afternoons and charming bouquets on my counters — hopeful.
God understands the importance of hope in our lives and takes pleasure in gracing us with these moments.
It is true that hope doesn’t have an impact without the experience of walking through a dark time. The endless days of a child’s illness become touched by hope when his fever breaks, and we know our prayers have been answered.
If you’re like me, you have things you have seen decades pass without seeing a dream come to pass, but the knowledge that God planted our dream, watered it, and kept it alive, revives our hope that we will yet see it happen. And because of His hope, we persevere.
If you’re going through a hard time, lean on God’s word and rejoice in the Hope of the World for He is sharing your days and experiences with you, and does not leave you hopeless.
Romans 5:2-5 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Small church growth
A really good blog article you might find interesting. Just click here to follow the link:
http://www.joemckeever.com/mt/archives/001351.htmlLet me make it clear I am not endorsing (nor not endorsing) the writer and his website. I simply agreed with and liked the points he made. Tell me what you think, I’d love to hear from you.
I don’t know if I’ve ever heard this phrase applied in this way, but I believe it fits when I say, I was raised in a spiritually-abusive church. It’s been many years since I have attended that church and sat and listened to the condemnation emanating from the pulpit. Thanks to my husband’s kind and wise counsel, I have even healed and grown beyond the legalism under which I was raised. Only in the past decade have I actively begun to identify spiritual lies when they are uttered, whether aloud or within my mind, and found relief by correctly applying God’s word.
The reason I bring this up is to make you aware of the damage done by well-meaning preachers who in their concern for their flocks’ souls, use scriptural manipulation in order to control their parishioners. In my church, because they did not want their teens straying they forbid any normal youthful activities. Dancing, movies, and bowling, just to name a few, were all taboo. They cited scriptures with such words as “lascivious” as proof that these activities would lead us to dance with the devil.
When Paul admonished us to “rightly divide the word of truth” he meant to preach it correctly, straying neither to a liberal nor a legalistic bent. Using scripture to bring people into line is not only wrong; it is too often a failure. Within my church I saw dozens of teens leave, some of them saying, “If I’m going to hell anyway, I’ll go have fun on the way.”
I often wonder how many of them would still be serving God had the Word been applied more truthfully. No doubt, some would still have strayed; however, I wonder how many would have returned like the Prodigal Son when they realized their rebellion was not as fulfilling as they had hoped. I believe if they had understood grace they may have returned.
Something to think about. Have any of you experienced what I’m saying? I sincerely hope not, but I’d like to hear from you.
Things I learned from watching The Bachelor
I am always happy to share writings from people I know. This one is from a very favorite person, my daughter. Jana is married to a police officer, they live in northern Washington, and she is the worship leader in her church. She is on the board of Blossom Ministries [http://www.blossomministries.com/] and this is what she wrote in their latest newsletter:
Things I Learned from Watching the Bachelor
Groan. I know, I know. Some of you may ask why I would want to watch that show? Well, call it a guilty pleasure or just spending time with a friend who was watching it but I actually walked away from the final episode with a lot more on my mind than just who ended up getting a ring and a proposal.
The first thing I learned from watching The Bachelor is that everyone desires to be loved. Why else would an presumably sane person actually chose to subject themselves to the scrutiny and competition of finding love played out on national television? What some people might call an act of desperation, I call an honest desire to find someone, anyone, to truly love them. People do crazy things for love! That being said, how often do I go on autopilot in my world, ignoring the silent cries of people around me to feel loved? The simplest gesture can be enough to change someone’s day for the sake of feeling loved. I need to open my eyes and see all my “neighbors” as people in search of love remembering that I know how to introduce them to the ultimate lover of their soul.
Second, I noticed that sometimes people don’t recognize love when it is being shown right to them! The 2nd runner up this season lost her chance with the Bachelor because she was too self conscious to accept the love he was trying to offer her. She came to mind when I was in a Bible study going through the book of Romans recently. The entire book of Romans points out that Jesus is CONSTANTLY showing his love for me and I constantly miss it! Sometimes the overwhelming awareness of my sin keeps me from accepting the unconditional love offered by my savior. Ultimately, his love is a free gift that is always available to me but I must accept it. I must take it. That might feel that I must risk rejection to get that love. I think the young woman had been hurt so many times in previous relationships that she had a hard time believing the Bachelor when he said he wanted to be with her. She was unwilling to risk her heart again for fear that she might be wounded yet again. But Jesus NEVER wounds. He ONLY heals. What feels like possible rejection is always the enemy lying to me and helping convince me that Jesus might not be trustworthy after all. I cannot make this eternal mistake! I HAVE to risk my heart in order to receive the love of Christ but in the end it is really never a risk. It’s a guarantee if I will just believe that Jesus wants ME!
Finally, watching the Bachelor teaches me a lot about how selfless love must be to last. Between the Bachelor and the Bachelorette there have been something like 17 seasons of match-making and as of today I think only two matchups have actually lasted. Gosh I wonder why! You throw a bunch of people together to compete for the attention of one person and what you get is a reality-show competition not unlike the Amazing Race or The Apprentice. Potential suitors (contestants) are eliminated based on looks, whether or not there is a “spark” of feeling or for no reason at all. Love has nothing to do with a situation like that!
At a marriage conference Ken and I attended last year I heard several times that over the course of a life together you are inevitably going to have moments when you don’t really “like” your spouse but the marriages that last are the ones that simply chose to stick it out no matter what. Hmm, so feelings don’t always tell us the truth? Imagine that. After only two months of the most unusual dating the world has ever known there is no way that those two people who propose to one another on the finale can really selflessly give themselves to one another for a lifetime! Instead they have merely whittled down a list of 20 potentials to one” winner”.
Romans 5:8 says But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Christ loved us so selflessly that he actually DIED to get our attention! He says in John 15:13: Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
And finally 1 Corinthians 13 teaches us most about love in verses 4-8: Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. This does not sound like a reality TV show to me. This sounds like the spiritual, sacred thing we call love that could only come from a superior being like an Almighty God.
Love is a choice and it is a verb. It’s not a feeling. And universally, everyone is looking for it. It is my goal in writing this little tongue-in-cheek article to get us all to remember to view those around us as individuals looking for the acceptance that only a relationship with God can bring. And the best part is that he offers it to us freely with no strings attached and THAT is something we can always rely on! [reprinted by permission from Jana Waddell]
How many of you are experiencing changes in your life right now? Did you discover that with new experiences your eyesight shifts and all of a sudden everyone you meet is facing the same thing?
Years ago, Mike and I bought a white minivan. All of a sudden, every third car on the road was a white minivan. Who would have thought there were so many white vans?
And when you’re pregnant – who do you see? Pregnant women!
Because of this similarity I feel secure assuming that if I’m dealing with big changes in my life right now, a good many of you are also. The interesting thing about change is it brings stress. Even good change. A change like a marriage or a new baby is a wonderful change, yet produces stress none the less.
Hard changes bring even more stress than good changes. It’s difficult enough when a tough situation develops, but when said hard times stretch out like a dog on a rug in front of the fire – settled down to stay – one of several responses will occur:
- what at first is acceptance, may turn to anger
- what at first is trust and peace, can morph into rebellion
- waiting for it to pass may impel us to seek a solution on our own
Does it help or hinder that since this trial began I have, at different points, chosen all three responses? Does it help or hinder that my stress hasn’t abated, the answer hasn’t materialized, and I’m still going through it?
Have I learned anything? Yes. I have learned that God is faithful. I am learning to rest and trust. I am still battling bewilderment, frustration, and the Why?s
Tell me what you’ve learned. Everyone who comments will be entered into a drawing to receive a free Sunday’s Promise. Name will be drawn on March 15th. (Read more on Romance Series – A New Day link at top of page.)
God bless your day,
Have you ever stopped to assess your pastoral sisters and pondered why some of us thrive in the ministry while others flounder? When someone we’ve known and respected makes choices that are unexpected and devastating, we seek answers. If for no other reason than to prevent ourselves from taking the same tragic course. Appearances are deceiving, and as we gain experience and wisdom we learn not to unconditionally accept what appears to be. Because what appears to be is not the whole story, God looks directly into our heart for the accurate picture.
An illustration on this truth was brought home last summer when a huge wind storm hit Boise. Boise’s nickname is City of Trees. We have a long love affair with trees and every yard, corner lot, park and sidewalk flaunts wonderful speciments that add beauty to our town. In a span of four hours last August, a devastating number of our trees were destroyed. Morning light revealed them lying on the ground, leaning against houses, crushing roofs or cars, and blocking roads.
While the winds had exceeded gusts of eighty miles an hour, we had withstood winds like that and stronger in previous years, so we asked Why had this wind brought down so many trees?
It was discovered that modern irrigation was the culprit. A practice of watering our lawns regularly had trained the trees to spread out their roots and drink the surface water instead of drilling down to drink from the water table. The deep nourishment that would have provided roots for stability was not accessed. And in adversity they toppled.
Keep this lesson in mind this New Year. We can sit in the pew all polished and pressed, attend conferences smiling brightly, but if we do not have any spiritual depth, we will fall when the storm comes. Nourish your spiritual roots this year and remain strong.
And if you’ve already been aware of the necessity for this in your life. Tell us, what do you do to nourish your spiritual roots?
The Thanksgiving holiday this month reminds me that a grateful heart is a healthy woman’s best emotional vitamin. It makes the continual adjustments we inevitably face in the ministry easier to handle. Gratefulness is a comfortable compassion. It enriches our lives manyfold, allowing us to enjoy any size blessing, not just the biggies.
Gratefulness accepts each situation at face value, allowing us to see how it enriches our lives. For instance, it reminds me each Monday how blessed I am to be able to do my laundry in the comfort and convenience of my home instead of lugging piles of dirty clothes to the laundromat. Interestingly, if I was at the laundromat, gratefulness would remind me how blessed I am not to be pounding my dirty garments on the rocks of the river bank. Gratefulness isn’t visionary, it accepts what is instead of longing for what could be. Gratefulness cannot dwell in a heart filled with bitterness.
Like internal smog, bitterness obscures our spiritual sight. It keeps us from enjoying what God has given us. As long as we allow bitterness to dwell within we can never be grateful for the laundromat experience because we feel we deserve the washer/dryer in our home. We’ll assure ourselves we’ve been cheated and list all the ways life has shortchanged us.
But if we daily pray, “Create in me a clean heart, Oh God, and renew a right spirit within me,” we will rid ourselves of this disease of discontent. By repenting we allow the Holy Spirit to wash the windows of our heart. And then we can clearly see all that God has done to bless us.
15 things you should know about me before we become friends
1. I always thought I’d be a writer when I grew up. Then I hit the half-century birthday and discovered I’d overshot my goal without hitting the mark.
2. I swore I’d never marry a preacher.
3. I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to have kids, so I had three just to try it out.
4. I am not, never have been, do not intend to ever become a perfectionist.
5. The pursuit of money is a tiresome taskmaster and not worth losing family, health, or sleep in order to gain.
6. I look forward to growing old with my hubby.
7. Teenagers are a whole lot more fun than toddlers.
8. My greatest ambition is to become organized. (Coincidentally, this is also my husband’s greatest ambition for me.)
9. Purses are my passion.
10. A great find at a garage sale makes my day.
11. I drink my caffeine cold – a cola to start my day!
12. I love being a pastor’s wife.
13. Until I met Neree I had never known a happy PW, so initially becoming one was not a pleasant prospect.
14. I love church and the Church.
15. I just joined Romance Writers of America — whodathunkit?
If you had to list the hardest thing you do as a Christian, what would it be? Loving the unlovely? Serving others? Praying? For many Christians a consistent devotional life is their greatest test. If there is anything I’ve learned about the Enemy, it is that he is a fighter. Because he dwells in the spirit realm, he knows all too well the power we have available to us in prayer. Therefore, strategist that he is, preventing us from praying is of paramount importance to him.
Napoleon once said “an army marches on its stomach.” In the same way, our effectiveness in our spiritual march is directly proportional to our spiritual nourishment of prayer and Bible study.
Much of the mail I receive from PW’s deal with their feelings of inadequacy — ill equipped for the ministry. Whatever our picture of who we should be looks like, we know we have not, and are not attaining it. However, praying does not depend on talent, money, or the classes we’ve taken. Any of us can accomplish great things on the behalf of our people by our prayers. To pray effectively, what does it take?
• Discipline: Prov. 8:17: “I love those who love me; and those who diligently seek me will find me.
• Humility: 1 Peter 5:6,7: “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, cast all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you.
• Perseverance: Matt. 7:7: “Ask and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you.”
• Faith: James 1:6: “Ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.”
The Silent Killer
This blog entry is contributed by our oldest child — a PK who has been hurt by the ministry. Many of you will relate.
When I was 15 the church that my parents moved to Boise to pastor made a decision to merge congregations with another local body. It seemed to be mutually beneficial to fuse our congregations together under one roof and my parents were certain that the Lord had placed the idea on their hearts in order to unify our parishioners. Unfortunately, the merge did not last and so began an extremely painful journey through the land of church politics. Many people left both congregations and deserted the pastors and families they said they loved and supported. Lies were spread, gossip abounded, friendships were betrayed, even a law suit was filed! My parent’s reputation was tarnished and my father, many years later, gracefully stepped away from his original credentials even as leadership in the credentialing body continued to be dishonest about how events unfolded.
Do not hate your brother in your heart…
I was devastated by the spiritual carnage left in the wake of those who abandoned our church. I had never witnessed people who claimed to be Christians treat others the way my family was treated. Slowly, over the following years, more people’s feelings were hurt and more left for one reason or another and it all colored my view of the local church. If there is such a thing as tar-colored glasses as opposed to rose-colored glasses, then I wore them consistently as I transitioned to adulthood. The culmination of wounds left me a very broken and angry person but because every wound took place over years and for various reasons, I never really tied my anger back to a single starting point. Instead, I was angry at everyone all the time. Any time something was misunderstood, a complaint was spread around, or a church member started a fight over something as silly as a pew or a glass vase, I seethed with resentment; bracing myself for the inevitable fallout.
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires…
It wasn’t until I returned home for the holidays last year that I began to piece together the common thread that ran through seemingly random hurts: I was an unforgiving person. The culprit was not a person or entity or ideal that I had been hurt by. No, the scars I proudly displayed were formed out of my own bitterness and hate. Then I found out in early July that I would be returning home to Boise for my grandfather’s funeral and the funeral was going to be held in the church building that the merge and split occurred in. Many people directly involved with the split were going to be attending the funeral and I was going to have to face my demons. Suddenly I had a choice to make. I could return home with all my walls up taking every look and every word as a reason to feed my anger or I could finally release my resentment and let it be buried too.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you…
I won’t tell you that it was easy. I am a very nostalgic person and it hurt to walk the hallways of that church building again. I saw a lot of faces that at one time I never cared to see again. I had to make a conscious decision to accept people’s words for what they were and not conjure up what they might have meant underneath. I had to purposefully let things roll off me lest I make a big deal out of something that could be kept simple. By the time I left town after several days later I felt like a piece of me had been left behind…a piece that I didn’t care to pack around with me anymore despite how familiar it had become.
A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense…
Now several weeks later I find that I have quietly forgiven many hurts left in the wake of people simply being people. I have also come to see that while I laid to rest much of my anger in Boise, I am not destined to live out the rest of my life in a void of emotion. I will always have an opportunity to choose not to take up an offense or choose to love in spite of hurtful words and actions. People make mistakes, they misunderstand and jump to conclusions. Sometimes out of their own wounds they maliciously attack if only to make themselves feel better. Either way, the silent killer of joy is not worth keeping around simply to justify how you’ve been hurt. At the end of the day, you are the only one who can make yourself feel victimized. Do not choose this path. Instead, choose to live out God’s love victoriously.
Ephesians 4:26 (New Living)
And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry…
This summer has been a wonderful season for growing things. A long spring with lots of rain gave way to hot summer days where everything flourished. Sporadically I spent time clearing one side of my lawn for a cutting garden. As always happens, other duties would intrude and several days would lapse between the weeding and planting. To my dismay, each time I returned, the newly cleared ground was rampant with thistles and weeds. It was a losing battle until I discovered the remedy was to not leave the patch bare. Immediately planting the empty space with flower cuttings and ground cover, left less area for weeds to gain hold.
In the same way, if we neglect ourselves spiritually, our hearts become just like my cleared garden plot. A root of bitterness can spring up in the rocky soil of hurt feelings; the weed of discontent will take hold when we don’t spend time in prayer and praise; and the snare of covetousness will rapidly take root in soil not cleansed by repentance. Like the weeds in my flower garden, that seemingly appeared overnight, little sins find fertile ground when our spiritual life has not been cultivated by the Word and prayer.
the book, “The Power of Prayer,” by R.A. Torrey, some hindrances that keep us from
setting aside time each day to pray are:
1. Idols in the heart (Isaiah 14:1-3)
2. An unforgiving spirit (Mark 11:25, Matthew 6:14,15)
3. Doubt (James 1:6,7)
4. Mistreating our spouse (1 Peter 3:1)
5. Unconfessed sin (Isaiah 59:1,2)
6. We don’t ask according to God’s will (James 4:3)
7. Stinginess in giving (Proverbs 21:13)
you see any of these noxious plants appearing in your spiritual garden, you can
find the perfect weed killer in Psalms 51:2 – “Wash me thoroughly from my
iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” Happy planting!