Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Blessed Beyond Measure

As Christmas rapidly approaches and we seek to focus on "the real meaning" of Christmas we continue to be filled with awe and praise for the most incredible gift ever given in Jesus Christ! We find ourselves overwhelmed with the many areas of life that this baby who was born in the manger affects.  Isn't it something that it's not just salvation that comes through Jesus Christ which of course is "could we say the icing on the cake", but there is much more wrapped up in this tiny bundle.  It's eternal life and reign with Christ when He returns.  It's His subduing our lives and as we yield them more and more to His will, what overwhelming peace He gives in return!  And then how about that adoption through Jesus Christ. Of course there is the love of Christ as well. Our Pastor remarked last Sunday that "there is no one that loves us more, no one that cares for us more, no one that wants our good more than Christ, and no one that can do in our lives what Jesus Christ can do. Amazing!!!  And I could go on and on but I was also reminded that there is the example that Christ leaves for us in Philippians 2:5-11, Christ's voluntary, willing, emptying His divine nature to take on human flesh.  And the most convicting is that we are to have this same mind and attitude of Christ.  I loved the way that our Pastor said it, "What Jesus Christ did cost Him EVERYTHING and we are to mirror that"!  What amazing gifts in a tiny bundle!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Life Update

Sorry that it has been awhile since I posted anything but thought I would at least give you an update on what's going on it our lives.
First, we're packing.  We didn't get much out of storage when we came home but what little we did is almost packed up ready to go back into storage.  We already have our summer clothes (which is all that we take) in suitcases ready to go.  We have done a first run of what we "want" to take other than clothes (books are a high priority since it's hard to find good Christian books there) and a second run trying to get our luggage numbers and size down. And we have been trying to spend as much time as possible with family and friends.  Life is busy but we have an incredible God given peace!
This Friday is our Grandson Wyatt's third birthday and we are looking forward to being able to celebrate that with family.  God has been so gracious to allow us to be here for some pretty major family events and we are so thankful.  We were able to see our son graduate from RTS and then even to see him ordained.  And to be here for many of our daughters transitions as well. We never thought we would  be here for two Holiday seasons so we feel blessed beyond measure!
After our Christmas celebration, on December 29, 30, and 31st, we will pack the kitchen and move out of our apartment.  Most of the furniture is on loan, so we need to return it and put our bedroom suite and boxes in storage.
Then we will move into Lindsey's home for a few days and leave on January 9th returning to the Philippines.  We depart at 12:05 p.m. Friday afternoon and arrive in Manila at 5:40 a.m. on Sunday morning.  Will you please pray for safe travel as we are flying on Philippines Airlines this time and we have never flown with them before.
Also, will you please pray for a SMALL, FURNISHED house that feels like "home"?  That combination is challenging to find in the Philippines but we know that God can do it because He did it last time and He is faithful!  And will you please pray for the location of our home as well.  We aren't "tied" to the area where we lived last time and want to find a neighborhood where we can minister to the people, so would appreciate your prayers in that area also.
One last request, would you please pray for our family as we return?  Lindsey is doing well but it will be an adjustment, and of course she isn't too thrilled about it.  And then last week, little Wyatt walked into our apartment and said, "Granna, you have to go back to the Philippines again?"  Obviously Chad and Kelly have started that preparation process.  And for smooth transition back into the country on our part. Well, maybe that was more than one.
So, the blogs will soon begin giving you an insight into life in the Philippines.  We thank you abundantly for your prayers and support, for making it possible for us to be your hands and feet to take the gospel to the Filipinos.  Thank you for ministering along side of us in spirit and through prayer.  And our hearts are full of PRAISE to God for the opportunity and privilege to minister in the Philippine's on His behalf. 
And we want to wish you a Blessed, Merry Christmas as you celebrate the most incredible gift ever given.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Please Thank our Soldiers

A dear friend of mine sent this to me yesterday and I wanted to share it with you.

Something nice that Xerox is doing... If you go to this web site, www.LetsSayThanks.com you can pick out a thank you card and Xerox will print it and send it to a soldier that is currently serving in Iraq.  You can't pick out who gets it, but it will go to some member of the armed services.

They make it really quick and easy.  The thing that takes the longest is picking out the card and message that you want.  Please do check it out!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Oh If Only I Could Find Words Like These

So often I find myself wishing for words to express what's in my heart.  I'm just not gifted with words, mine struggle to be able to adequately express what's in my heart.
While our son Chad was in seminary he told me one day that he had found a book that he thought I would enjoy and he bought it for me.  I love it and of course it's extra special because he gave it for me.  I's The Valley of Vision, a book of prayers written by the Puritans.  This morning as I was reading and praising the Lord through one of the prayers, this Puritan's words so expressed my heart this holiday season so I thought I would share a portion with you.

"What didst thou see in me?
that I a poor, diseased, despised sinner
should be clothed in thy bright glory?
that a creeping worm
should be advanced to this high state?
that one lately groaning, weeping, dying,
should be as full of joy as my heart can hold?
that a being of dust and darkness 
should be taken like Mordecai from captivity,
and set next to the king?
and should be lifted like Daniel from a den
and be made ruler of princes and provinces?
Who can fathom immeasurable love?

Christmas Priorties

This holiday season more and more I find my heart full of praise for "God first loving me".  As I struggle with hearing the suffering of friends (friends who have cancer, friends whose children are is difficult situations), I realize that God really is all I need.  And yet, why did He choose to love me a wretched sinner with a terribly dirty heart, and one that fights a constant battle of SELF rule.  I only know that I am not worthy of His love but am ever so thankful for it this holiday season.

As my best friend (she's more like my sister) and I were talking  we were both commenting on how this Christmas is much different for both of us.  Her husband is leaving right after Christmas going to Afghanistan for one year.  This will be his second tour of duty protecting our country, his first term of service was a year in Iraq.  
We were both discussing how Christmas decorations just aren't important and gifts are not a high priority either.  Our focus this Christmas is quality time with family and friends amidst the pressure of getting things in order.   And this Christmas we are especially looking forward to celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ who came willingly to this earth to suffer and die to pay the penalty of our sins.  It's this same Christ who gives us peace during transition and abundant grace for each day, no matter what comes our way!  What an amazing Savior who is indeed worthy of all of our lives, our honor, glory and praise!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

My Redeemer Lives

As we approach Thanksgiving I wanted to share this incredible video with you.  It's about 4 minutes long but such a beautiful picture of our Heavenly Father and us.  Also Steven and I wish you a blessed Thanksgiving.  We are praising God for the opportunity to spend this time of thanks with our family at Lindsey's house as we prepare to return to the Philippines.  Here's the video:

Friday, November 21, 2008

Something to Ponder

This quote is from John Stott's book on Basic Christianity.  It was brought to my attention by an article written by Dr. Derek Thomas.  It's quite thought provoking!

"The Christian landscape is strewn with the wreckage of derelict, half-built towers - the ruins of those who began to build and were unable to finish.  For thougsands of People still ignore Christ's warning and undertake to follow him without first pausing to reflect ont he cost of doing so.  The result is the great scandal of Christendom today, so-called 'nominal Christianity'.  In countries to which Christian civilization has spread, large numbers of people have covered themselves with a decent, but think, veneer of Christianity.  They have allowed themselves to become somewhat involved; enough to be respectable but not enough to be uncomfortable.  Their religion is a great, soft cushion.  It protects them from the hard unpleasantness of life, which changing its place and shape to suit the convenience.  No wonder the cynics speak of hyprocrites in the church and dismiss relitions as escapism." (p. 108).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Respect and Leadership

As I have mentioned before, I am a strong willed woman. While it is a characteristic that God blessed me with for survival as a child, God continues to show me that it no longer needed in my life. HE has shown me that being strong willed often inhibits my ability to respect my husband. Have you read the book "Love and Respect" by Emerson Eggerichs? Man I only wish I had been able to read this book before I was married not after I have been married for 34 years! I highly recommend it for men and women alike - it's a must read!

Anyway, today God clearly allowed me to see how Rebekah disrespected Isaac in Genesis 27 and the consequences that played out because of her actions.  Isaac was old, about to die and wanted to bless his eldest son Esau.  Rebekah heard Isaac speaking to Esau about this blessing and began to put "her" plan into place.  She wanted her younger son Jacob to receive Isaac's blessing not Esau and so she went to great lengths to make that happen (who is leading here). While the blessing is obviously passed on to Jacob according to God's divine pleasure, what struck me were the disastrous consequences of Rebekah's lack of respect of Isaac and her blatant lack of following Isaac's leadership, both areas which I often fight against in my sinful flesh.

Because Jacob deceptively received his Father's blessing Esau wanted to kill him. Therefore, Rebekah sent Jacob to her brother Laban's home to live. Jacob was there for 20 years avoiding Esau and Rebekah NEVER saw her son again.  She missed out on 20 years of fellowship with her son and never laid eyes on him again.  Esau lived out his disregard for the covenant blessings by marrying daughters of the land.  In Genesis 27 verse 46, Rebekah says to Isaac, "I loathe my life because of the Hittite women" (which Esau married).  And Rebekah died without any mention of her death in scripture.  Could it be because of her deception, lack of respect and her not allowing Issac to lead?

But what saddened my heart the most was when I read how all of this sin in Rebekah's life adversely affected Isaac's life as well. Probably the most significant was Isaac appeared to stop leading his family somewhere along the way, especially when compared to his Father Abraham. Isaac followed his senses (touch, taste and smell) rather than to depend on God's divine guidance when he was about to bless who he thought was Esau his eldest son. Isaac made no attempt to find suitable wives for his sons as Abraham did for Isaac. It was Rebekah at the end of chapter 27 that moved Isaac to talk to Jacob about this wife thing. And Isaac lived on through out scriptures without significance. It's apparent that the lack of Isaac's spiritual leadership was not only insignificant but contributed greatly to the family chaos. And I found myself wondering did Isaac's leadership diminish because of Rebekah's strong desire to lead? Did Isaac just get tired of fighting to lead as I am sure has been the case in my own marriage? It was obvious to me the ripple effect my sin can have on my own husband who I strongly desire to lead our family.  

I don't mind sharing with you, that I struggle breaking these patterns of 34 years have been prevalent in my own marriage. But today as God showed me how obvious it was in Rebekah's life, He also convicted me that it's obvious in my own life/marriage as well. I Praise Him for allowing me to see the end result in Rebekah and Isaac's life and the motivation that His word provides to be more obedient in this area of my life. Oh I know that I can't "work it up", "grit my teeth" and seek to accomplish these changes in myself. However, I John 2 verse 1 says that I "have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" and it's here that I can fall on my knees and plead for His intercession on my behalf, to change me into a respectful wife who follows the leadership of my husband.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Friday, November 14, 2008

My Life is Not My Own

     You know the big question that God continues to ask me is where is my focus?  Am I focused on Jesus and what He would have me to do with my life or am I  being sucked into the leadings of our country? This world wants me to buy in to building my own empire, doing whatever my heart desires, free reign.  This world tells me to make myself extremely comfortable, to collect "stuff and more stuff".  Seriously, how many outfits can I wear in one week.  Yet, it's so easy to get sucked right into the ways of America.  I must confess that in my lifetime I have been guilty of being sucked into "collecting stuff" myself.  It's only by the grace of God calling us to serve in the Philippines, that this "stuff" began to loose it's importance.  We packed it into boxes and stored it. Then we were exposed to people who do not have the means to collect "stuff", they don't even have the means to buy food, or to buy a home.  And when we got home all of that "stuff" in those boxes didn't seem nearly so important.
     Well, Jesus calls me in Matthew 16 to "come after Him".  It's a passage that we are all familiar with but am I living it out? Oh dear here we are again at that focus war.  Am I focused daily on seeking Jesus?  Then Jesus tells me to "take up my cross and follow Him".  Hum, that would definitely look different for each of us.  For me it would indeed mean to open my hands and let go of my precious Children, Grandchildren and dear friends, to leave this country, the comforts of home, easy access to so many different kinds of food, hot showers, a bathtub etc. 
     But, it gets even better.  Jesus tells me that if I continue to focus and live the way this world wants me to live, focused on "collecting stuff", living in comfort, having everything I could possibly want, "I will indeed loose it all in the end". All of those things that I could spend my life working so hard to get and collect will not matter one whit in eternity!  Jesus says, "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?"  
     My heart was so sad today as I realized how easily Americans are deceived (myself included) into believing the things of this world are the most important.  It's so much easier here in the good old USA to focus on earthly things, to let the things of this earth enthrall our hearts and pull our hearts away from the One who deserves total surrender and adoration. It happens so quickly and before I know it I am focused on building our own little empire here in the States, doing what I want to do with my life and collecting "stuff".
     And yet, God reminded me that I should "deny myself".  And then my imagination took off and I began to dream and wonder what would happen if each one of us made a commitment to limit our spending on "stuff, including Christmas stuff".  My heart was drawn this morning to some dear Pastor friends of mine who are raising support to plant churches right here in our own country.  All are struggling to raise support right now in our economy.  All three are so committed to sharing the gospel with Americans that each one of them are willfully giving up "stuff" in order to be able to answer God's call to share the gospel.  One is planting a church in North Carolina, one in Texas and one in Utah.  Then I thought about the Reformed University Fellowship minister's that are making such a difference in the next generation; many of them right here in our own state that are working under funded.
     Jesus is calling us to fight the ways of our country, to ask ourselves what are we doing with our lives and our resources (which He has given to us), to refocus and to "lose our life for His sake".  

Trapped in Neverland

A Pastor Friend on mine suggested this article on Facebook and it is well worth reading.  When you have a few minutes check it out, you won't be sorry your did!  
http://www.reformation21.org/counterpoints/understanding-the-times/trapped-in-neverland.php

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Focus War

     Have you ever thought about Esau and how shortsighted he was when he sold his birthright to Jacob in Genesis 25?  He didn't appear to put much thought into what he was doing (of course he obviously didn't hold dear God's promises) but nonetheless he sold his birthright for some stew.  Esau sold the right to be the principal heir of the family's fortunes, and also the covenant family blessing of his father Abraham which included blessings of offspring and land all for some stew.
     Oh how my heart is so often like Esau's heart.  I too am often focused on the here and now, the things of this earth (what I am hungry for or want right now) and not eternal things.  There is a consistent focus war that goes on in my life day to day.  My heart is often drawn to my Children and Grandchildren and the desire to be closer to them than 10,000 miles, which is just as shortsighted as Esau's focus on his hunger. And then there is the call of God to go and give my heart to many who don't even know their parents or grandparents.  And not to just give them my heart but the privilege of sharing the Lord Jesus Christ with them.
     It's only by God's grace that moment by moment the focus war is won.  God ever so gently takes my chin and lifts it above the things of this earth, the comforts of home and my own longings.  He reminds me that He holds it all in His righteous right hand. He only asks me to surrender, to lay it all at His feet and to walk, day by day, moment by moment and He will supply all the grace that I need each step of the way as I get there and need His grace.  It's a daily surrender of my will and my life to him.  I am so thankful that only by His grace, love and sovereign hand, that I am not Esau left holding only a bowl of stew, only a life lived for the comforts of this earth and not eternity.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

This is My Offering Dear Lord

I just love good music!  Often the songs say what my heart longs to say to the Lord and they also keep me focused.  This morning as I was ironing I was listening to Third Days Album and there were many great songs on it but the one that captured my heart was Offerings II: All I have to Give.  The words are incredible and I just wanted to share them with you.

Magnificent, Holy Father
I stand in awe of all I see
Of all the things You have created, 
but still you choose to think of me
And who am I that You should suffer
Your very life to set me free
The only thing that I can give You, is the life You gave to me
This is my offering Dear Lord
This is my offering to You God
And I will give You my life cause it's all I have to give
Because You gave Your life for me
I stand before You at this altar
So many have given You more
I may not have much I can offer
Yet what I have is truly Yours
This is my offering Dear Lord
This is my offering to You God
And I will give You my life cause it's all I have to give
Because You gave Your life for me



Flower Bed and Fire Pit


Although it was a bit dark when I took a picture of the flower bed you can still get the drift.  And the fire pit is incredible.  So much fun to pull up chairs around and enjoy good company and the fire.  Pastor Ken you need one of these at your house!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Another Sugar Plum from God

(Raney on the left and Lindsey on the right)
     What a day, I will long remember!  God did it again, just dropped a huge "sugar plum" right in our laps.  For those of you who don't know me I love to work in the yard.  There is something about crumbing dirt in my hands that is good therapy.  Saturday Steven and I got up early with much excitement.  Lindsey had a free day and we headed to her house to plant some pansies, make a new flower bed and dig a fire pit.  It was a glorious day, sunny about 74 degrees.  We had the best time working in her yard!  We cleaned out her beds and planted pansies.  Then strong armed Steven helped us to dig a new bed in the back with "swoop de swoops".  Our daughter Lindsey is an artist (water color and photography) and so she designed a beautiful curved edge flower bed!  And then the fire pit.  Steven did an amazing job digging down into that hard earth to make her a fire pit!  I'll have to post you a picture when I can get one, it's sweet!  And last night we had a bonfire!  Oh it was a delightful time being with our family and friends.  We roasted hot dogs and deer sausage - yum.  We had a blessed time eating and visiting.  Wyatt and Raney loved the marshmallows, "Granna, I don't like mine cooked" Wyatt said.  It just could not have been a better time together.  And then came the surprise.  God allowed me to hold Raney sitting by the fire as she fell asleep and then Wyatt fell asleep in Steven's lap.  What a blessing to snuggle them up and love on them.  My heart continues to be filled with Praise for a God who cares about even the smallest of details in our lives!  We were blessed beyond measure with some priceless family time!

Sugar Plums from the Lord

     God always amazes me with His "sugar plums", gifts that He sends right from Him to my heart.  Recently not only have I been mindful of our impending departure to the Philippines but I can feel God's presence reminding me that He knows as well of our departure.
     Last week was one of those times.  Our Grandson Wyatt who will be 3 years old on December 19, came over to visit with me.  I love having him one on one (he has a baby sister who is 17 months old) because when I am able to do this he knows he has Granna's undivided attention.  As we walked and talked back from the slide, I suggested that we make some chocolate chip cookies.  He loves to help me in the kitchen with dishes or whatever.  If I go to the kitchen here he comes dragging a chair to help me.  Well, he loved that idea but asked me if chocolate chips were good.  He has a wonderful Mother who doesn't let him have many sweets and last time we made oatmeal cookies he decided that flour wasn't too yummy.  I told him they were really good just like those special cookies (M&M's) that he eats on occasion at Granna's house.  He got really excited and we came in to make cookies.  He was able to run the mixer all by himself this time and we measured and poured and had such a good time.  Right in the middle of our measuring and stirring (he loves to stir) he said, "Granna I love spending time with you" ugh my heart melted.  God, thank You for Your grace that will make it possible for me to leave this precious fellow who has captured my heart.  And then when I poured the chocolate chips into the mixture his little hand was quick to reach some to try them.  He proudly told me last night that Wyatt, Raney, Mommy and Daddy liked chocolate chip cookies better than oatmeal.  When asked what about LaLa (Lindsey) who likes oatmeal cookies, he replied "But Wyatt likes chocolate chip cookies better".  My heart just praise God for special times such as there which I know come right from His hand to my heart!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Why Don't I See my Sin?

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Romans 3:10-18.  The reason I love it is because it reminds me just how vile, miserable and depraved I am.  And even more importantly, I need to be reminded of this daily because it is so hard for me to see my sin and yet there is nothing any sweeter than bringing my sin to the Savior and feeling that blessed forgiveness through Christ's blood.  So, why don't I see my sin?  Well, for one, I think this darned "task oriented" brain of mine gets in the way.  It keeps me more focused on the here and now and the "doing doing doing",  instead of heavenly things.  The other is obvious as well, I think I am a pretty good person (pride, pride and more pride).  My mind and thoughts like to focus on the good things I do and the sweet side of me, whose doesn't? And yet God's word brings me back to truth, real truth, cause in Isaiah 64:6, God tells me that "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts (what we think are good things) are like filthy rags (in God's sight); we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away." I am so thankful for God's Word that brings me back to reality.  My sin does sweep me away and I am often blinded to the magnitude and frequency of it.  I love how Romans 3:11 and 12 says it so plainly: " None is righteous, not one; no one understand; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one."  "God use the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to the sin in our lives so that we will see our even greater need of YOU our Savior, our only hope."

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Mission is Impossible

   We had the privilege of participating in a Mission Conference in Hendersonville, NC at Covenant Presbyterian Church where our friends Chip and Karen Vining are serving as Pastor.
   Pastor Ron Shaw gave the Sunday morning message and he asked a question which caught my attention.  "Do I want God to build His kingdom through me or do I want to build God's kingdom through my own gifts and talent?"
   Pastor Shaw was quick to point out that the Great Commission in Matt 28:18-20 was impossible and that the first thing that I have to learn is that I can't do it myself.  Well, I did perceive in my last term of service in the Philippines that there was not not enough strength within me to survive.  But where was my kingdom building focus?  In Matt 23:4, Jesus said the scribes and Pharisees "tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders."  I was convicted of how I am the one that tied up the heavy burden of building God's kingdom through my own gifts and talents which was not only hard to bear but impossible and I had laid it upon my own shoulders.  Dear me, I am so easily blinded. Remember, I am the one that felt so inadequate to go as a missionary because of the lack of my own gifts and talents.  God has shown me how this inadequacy almost paralyzed my ministering in the Philippines but even more so that my focus was based on myself and not Christ.  Matt 28:18-20 says, "All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus Christ.  Go therefore...and behold I (Jesus) is with me always."  I realized my lack of my own gifts and talents but I stopped there.  My heart is PRAISING the Lord for allowing me to see just how off focus I was and that I can go with much hope and confidence in Jesus Christ who has "all authority in Heaven and on earth" not myself.  Oh God, give me faith to believe and keep my focus on You.

Great Commission Praying

   I love to pray and have often wondered if I have the gift of prayer because I frequently feel burdened to pray. However, recently I was convicted that my prayers aren't Great Commission based. It was a quote that I heard from John Piper that got me to thinking.  Piper was asking the question, "Why doesn't prayer work for the North American church any longer?" His response and his thoughts were, "Because we are not using war time walkie talkies calling Jesus Christ but instead we are ringing our bell for Jesus to bring what we need."
   Ugh, my breathe was knocked right out of my chest as I was so convicted of how much I pray for my descendants, daily living situations, which are both good, but that my prayers for souls are in the minority.  I realized my need to ask Christ to reach down and bring many to Himself and even more boldly to ask if He would be gracious enough to do so through me.
   John 14: 12-14 says, "believe in Jesus Christ"  our risen living Savior and "ask in His name".

Monday, October 13, 2008

"This is Our God"

Lindsey has gotten me hooked on the music of Hillsong and Travis Cottrell.  If you haven't listened to any of their music, please check it out.  Yesterday as I was walking, I was listening to Hillsong's new album "This is Our God".  I haven't had time to listen to this new album much but immediately the song "Healer" captured my heart and became the cry of my soul.  May some of the words minister to your heart as it did to mine.

"You hold my every moment
You calm my raging sea
You walk with me through the fire
I trust in You
I believe You are all I need
I believe Your my portion
I believe Your more than enough for me
Jesus You are all I need
You hold my every moment
Nothing is impossible for You
You hold my world in Your hands!"

On another note, I love poetry but can't write it.  If you want to read an incredible poem go to www.lynnsmusings.blogspot.com. This poem, "Ode to a Friend" was written by Lynn, a dear friend and sister of mine.

Friday, October 10, 2008

All I Need Is Him

I am such a lover of peace. When the waters get unsteady, I doubt and fear and I do both quickly. So, the buzzwords in my head lately have been surrender, trust and "all I need is Jesus". My heart so easily takes on the concerns of the world like the economy and the election. Then there are concerns for our children, grandchildren and their future and desires for better family relationships in many areas. And then there is always our own future and the when in this area. I find myself praying often lately like the father of the boy who had seizures in Mark 9:24, "help my unbelief". While I would love for a consistently peaceful life I know that is a far off dream of mine. I know that we are called to suffer as Christ suffered for me and I know that it's in these uncertain times where I have no answers that God is growing me and teaching me a deeper trust and dependence in Him.I love the song "Somewhere in the Middle" from Casting Crown's Album, the Altar and the Door. "how close can I get Lord to my surrender without loosing all control", "will I trade my dreams for His or am I caught in the middle", "somewhere between my faith and my plans", "somewhere between peace and always wanting more", "somewhere in the middle you'll find me".  While my heart sags at the true realization that this most often describes me, more and more God is showing me that all I truly need is Christ. "God help my unbelief"!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Surrender

Have you contemplated much the word surrender?
Well, as our time to leave draws closer, this word keeps coming into my thoughts. My heart is so often drawn to the things of this world; Grandchildren, and my children, friends who are more like Sisters, fall temperatures and colors. And yet as I was reading in Matthew 8:18-22 this morning I was once again counting the cost of following Jesus. Right there in the first verse Jesus says "go". And then the scribe says "I will follow". And then a disciple says "Lord, let me first ..." Well, my heart is most always like the disciple's heart. Each morning, it's surrendering again my life to "go, follow" where ever God leads. And then of course the clincher is Jesus saying "Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their dead." Jesus is asking me to surrender to Him, to give Him my first allegiance over the things of this world, even Grandchildren, children, sisters and the comforts of home. I hear strongly His calling but I must confess my flesh (SELF) often gets in the way. My heart is often torn as I think of one of my dear sisters whose husband is going to Afghanistan for a year, and another precious sister who is just pregnant, oh how I would love to be here for the birth and to help her. And yet Jesus says "follow and go". So each morning it's a new surrender of my life. The things of this earth won't matter in eternity. The comforts that we enjoy here will be nothing compared to Heaven. Can I surrender? Can I trust Jesus? Can I believe in faith that He knows best for me? Well, it's only His grace that equips me to do His bidding. And I am so often reminded of how abundant His grace was during our last term and that He will supply it abundantly this term as well, but not in advance, only as I need it. So, what a sweet peace there is to surrender, to laying my life in His hands to do with as He sees fit. I know He'll take care of those Grandkids, Lindsey, my sisters, He doesn't need me in the least in any of their lives. He only wants me to surrender a greater allegiance to Him than to the things of this world. He wants command of my life and total surrender, and Jesus doesn't like to share that with the pulls of my heart. What a joy it is to give it all to Him in faith trusting Him and only Him and then I am more able and willing to :go", to "follow" and to drop the "let me first". Oh isn't He worth total surrender of my life? I so often focus on my own life and SELF, SELF, SELF and it only takes a quick glimpse at Jesus's willingness to come to earth and leave His Kingship for me, His willingness to suffer in so many ways for me and then of course His willingness to die that awful death on the cross for me, His willingness to be separated from His Father, total separation when He had known only being a part of the Trinity with God and the Holy Spirit, and then His willingness to bear God's wrath for my sins, which I deserve, upon Himself.
Will you ponder this word "surrender" in your own life with me? Maybe there is something that you are holding onto too tightly. Maybe there is something that is dividing your heart as mine is so often divided. Maybe the comforts and "stuff" of this world are pulling your heart. He only wants you and your total unconditional surrender and He will take care of the rest. The picture may not be exactly as we would have painted but it will be even better and more glorious if we allow Him to carry the masterpiece to completion as we daily surrender to Him!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ordination Pics

Wyatt munching on some cheese puffs at the ordination.











Raney being spoiled by everyone there! How many cookies did she really have?! :)














Chad's friend, Rev. Christopher Thomas, who came from Texas to be a part of Chad's ordination.












Another of Chad's friends, Rev. Elbert McGowan, RUF Minister @ Jackson State and Redeemer, PCA Hall of Famer.












A proud Granna with her two precious grandbabies!

To Glorify God

Recently I have been pondering (I am a ponderer) glorifying God. I long to glorify God with my life but what does that look like?
This morning I was reading a well know passage in Matthew 7: 21-23 - "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' and then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'
I confess that I am guilty often of skimming right through these well known passages but the Holy Spirit caught my attention this morning. "Lord, Lord", these double words denoting intimacy. But God quickly convicted me that He doesn't desire my empty words of the Christian walk, or my words of empty intimacy to Him or others. He doesn't desire to hear my saying what sounds good to Him or others or my saying I know Him. God also showed me that He doesn't desire my "doing works in His name" mighty works or simple works. He doesn't desire my doing, doing, doing. And I must say that with my task oriented brain my focus is most always doing, doing, doing.
But Praise God that He didn't just leave me there with the don'ts but He began to show me what He does desire. He desires me to "do His will". Whew, that's a tall order but what is He saying to me? I found myself realizing that in order "to do His will" I must know His will. This requires spending time in His Word to know what His will is for me. And then even when I read and know His will for me, do I want to do it? Doing requires obedience. And I am so much more prone to be obedient to SELF than I am to God and His Word. I often just allow SELF to react and I felt very convicted that I need to stop and think, what would God have me to do in any given situation instead of just reacting.
And then last and probably the most important, God wants me to "know Him". This of course ties in with knowing His will, His word but He wants me to KNOW HIM. He desires genuine intimacy with me (this raises up all kinds of feelings of gratitude, because I am not worthy at all of intimacy with the Lord of our universe). But pushing on, He showed me that knowing Him doesn't work too well with my task oriented doing, doing, doing. I was humbled to catch a glimpse of my life and how easily I focus on doing, accomplishing, marking off those tasks, and yet do I make it a priority to KNOW HIM which requires spending time with HIM. I was convicted of how I allow my day to dictate my life, what needs to be done and I don't focus on KNOWING HIM. Oh how I need to make more time for HIM first, scrap the list of do's and the loud nudges of this world. And then my heart jumped for joy, I see it God, these 2 ways are how I glorify YOU! Of course, no 10 easy steps to do this will work, it remains all about God and His grace and the power of Jesus's blood. But I am called to make progress and how can I make progress without knowing and attempting? I thank God for opening my eyes as I have been asking Him to show me what does that glorifying Him looks like. Oh His faithfulness to me if far and above my faithfulness and focus on Him.

Ordination...Rev. Chad Scott

As soon as we got an inclination, while in the Philippines, that we were coming home to make the switch to become Career Missionaries, I began to think about Chad (our son's) upcoming ordination. It was heavy on my heart so, I began to pray or plead might even be a better word with the Lord; even while we were still in the Philippines. I wanted to attend his graduation form Reformed Theological Seminary but deeply longed to be present for the ordination even more than the graduation. And I couldn't see how it could possibly work. Our plans were to return to the Philippines hopefully in March through May of 2008. Never in a million years did I dream that we would still be in the States in November 2008. Is this why our funding hasn't all come in, because of my prayers? I certainly will never know that answer until I get to Heaven, but I was overwhelmed with PRAISE as we attended the ordination of our son Chad Sunday night, September 14, 2008. I had to almost pinch myself because I was in the clouds and was reminded of God saying "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."
It was a beautiful ceremony! I made it about half way though and then the tears of gratitude began. Why God did you "first love me"? Why God did you allow me to hear your invitation to "come" when most of my family is unchurched? "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Matthew 11:28-29 And God, not only have You chosen me to be your child but you have chosen our daughter and our son and Kelly my precious daughter in law to be your children as well. And then the realization hit me that Chad was being ordained as a minister of God's word! All I could do was cry tears of gratitude to God for His love, mercy and grace when I am so undeserving of it all!
One of my favorite parts of a church service is the benediction. I love those blessings from the Lord and our Pastor, John Reeves, taught us to hold open our hands to receive those blessings from God. I could
only stand with my hands open and sob as Chad pronounced his very first benediction at the end of his ordination ceremony! My heart just broke loose as I sat down after receiving that benediction and I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed some more tears of gratitude to God for what He has done in our lives and for me being able to be there....to hear and receive that very first benediction from my very own son. It was truly a moment in my life that I will never ever forget. I deserve nothing but an eternity in hell, separated from God because of my sins and the depravity in my heart. I was so humbled that God would see fit to bless me and my family far above anything I could ever ask or imagine!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Roller Coaster Days

These last few months have been a roller coaster ride for us. One day it's a great day of vision and planning concerning ministry when we return to our field of ministry. We get so excited that we can hardly contain ourselves.
And the next day it's bad news about the financial institutions in America and then it's getting word that we can't make a plane reservation until we have 100 % pledged.
While we are so close sometimes it seems so far away. We only need $766.28 pledged per month to return.
This morning we were reading in Matthew 6 - "Do NOT be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink." But "seek FIRST the kingdom of God and His righteousness" and then "do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself."
Would you please pray for us that we would trust in God's knowledge and care. Please pray that we will not be distracted, not allow our emotions to race up the hill and down in the valley but that we will rest in the goodness and sovereignty of God.
Thank you so much for lifting us up in prayer!

God's Grace Even in Loss

Each day this week the number of hummingbirds at the feeders are less and less. I often think about how far they fly and how are they able to do it and am quickly enamored by God's sustaining grace!
And yet the other day as I went outside to get a box, there laying on my little back porch was a precious little hummingbird. His beak was down in between the wooden slats and his breathing was labored. Steven picked him up and set his whole body on one of the boards but it wasn't long until he died.
How could I be sad when God had supplied such an amazing spectacle of hummingbirds birds for me the past few weeks? And yet, I was sad because this tiny little bird didn't make it. I picked him up and stroked his small body and unfortunately his neck was pretty wiggly (as if broken) and yet we didn't hear him run into the glass. He was incredibly beautiful and so small and my heart welled up with praise to our Creator God.
I was reminded how short life really is and yet, how many opportunities that we have to encourage others just as this tiny bird and his friends have so encouraged me.

Please Pray

As we continue to focus on returning to the Philippines, would you please pray for us?

Pray for God's grace to help us to believe and rely on the Holy Spirit's help, comfort and encouragement.

Pray for God's grace to allow us to self-consciously make glorifying HIM our anchor and motivation for what we are doing and to realize it's the ONLY anchor and motivation worth having!!!!!

Update

Dearest Prayer Partners:
Have you ever felt that God is showing you how much He loves you? Well, God has been doing just that in my (Deborah's) life over the past 2 weeks. As you may recall, I love to watch birds and there just aren't many birds in the Philippines, other than the wren types. So, all summer we have been able to watch 3 hummingbirds at our feeder. They must be preparing to fly south because the last 2 weeks they have been in a feeding frenzy. We have counted up to 13 at one time! My heart has been overwhelmed with praise that the God of our universe would take time, through such a small thing, to woo my heart and capture my love as only He can do! Just as we are about to leave the country and hummingbirds, God has brought more hummingbirds to feed than I have ever seen, our 2 feeders are literally covered. I find it quiet amazing that God provides such sweet expressions of His love in ways that I had not even asked or imagined. My heart praises the Lord that He is the same faithful lover of our souls, yesterday, today and forever as He Himself proclaimed to Moses on Mt Sinai in Deut. 34:6-7 "The Lord, The Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands." We are so excited!!! Praise the Lord, we are at 91 percent and will be returning to the Philippines right after Thanksgiving! We have received from MTW our departure list of "things to do before we leave" and have feverishly begun working on it. So, would you continue to pray for that 8 percent which we need to be pledged before the middle of November to come in quickly? Also, would you begin to pray for a house in the Philippines that feels like home? We desire to rent a small, furnished house so that we don't collect more stuff and they can be a challenge to find in the Philippines. Please pray as well for the power of the Holy Spirit to go before us as we can't wait to begin ministering again among the Filipinos. We are also reminded of God's faithfulness to give us the desires of our hearts as we will witness the ordination of our son Chad Sunday night! We have been praying for God to allow us to be "in country" to be able to attend this once in a lifetime event for 2 years. Once again our hearts are "filled up" (as our Grandson Wyatt says) with praise for God's blessings to us!
Thank you again and again for your faithful prayers for us and God's ministry in the Philippines.
Steven and Deborah

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tacy #3

After class this afternoon, we headed over to Manhattan to see if wecould find Tacy. And sure enough there she was sitting in the park. Her face and eyes lit up when she saw us. Tacy has lived in the same apartment for 47 years! Her air conditioner is not working well and the landlord wants her to replace it but it came with the apartment. She said they had been trying to get rid of her for quite some time. Please pray that they would put in a new air conditioner for her. We found out that Tacy only has 2 relatives living; cousins both inTennessee which she does not see. So, indeed she is all alone in NewYork City but she has 2 cats, Pumpkin and Precious, her 2 P's. She is such a lively elderly lady, and I found myself hoping that I could be that full of joy when I reach her age. She was sitting in the park because it was cooler than her apartment. She is a night owl and so she sits there until about 12:30 at night and is not afraid. I did ask her if she knew where she would go when she died and she quickly smiled and said of course I do. Tacy taught 4th grade Sunday School for many years at Central Presbyterian Church in NYC. She still reads her Bible but needs a cataract operation on both eyes. She said it is getting a bit fuzzy. I asked her if she needed anything and she told me that she had everything she needed and thanked us for loving her. She also knew and stated that we only had 10 days left. So, I asked her if she could eat sweets and she said yes, and told me she loves Whitman chocolates. So Steven and I will try to find Tacy some chocolate. And she loves the tram that comes over to Roosevelt Island where we live. I asked her if it had an elevator and she said it did. I then asked her if she would like to ride it and she said "YES, but it has to be dark cause I want to see the lights". So, we promised to take her for a ride on the Tram. Tacy warms my heart at each visit. She is so full of life and yet her body keeps her from living life as she once did. She laughs and jokes and is just a delight to visit with. When we climbed the steps to the Tram, I went to the edge to wave and blow her a kiss and she was right there watching for me with a huge smile. I left thinking of how much I will miss my Tacy visits but was reminded that I will see her in Heaven and we will be able to visit for longer periods of time! We have been the ones to be blessed by our Tacy encounters!

Marilyn

One of our assignments is to interview 1 person each week from a different culture. I thought this interview might give you some insight into the Filipino culture.
Marilyn has been in the USA for 4 years. She is from Mindanao and while she was meeting her niece for dinner she was very welcoming and open to share with me about the culture in the Philippines. She told me that the biggest difference she notices is that the Filipino culture is much more religious and conservative. Marilyn also stated that the USA is much more materialistic than the Philippines. The Filipinos are more focused on planting and eating than things. Marilyn is a Catholic. Her sisters and brothers are still in the Philippines and she is here in the USA in order to help send her nieces and nephews to college. She goes home once a year. I asked Marilyn about her favorite tradition which she misses most and she told me Christmas with tears in her eyes. She indicated that Christmas in the Philippines is family oriented. It's all about getting together and that the gifts aren't important. The most important thing is to just be there and to be together. If you can bring a small gift it's fine but if not just come. The traditional food is roasted pig and everyone brings whatever food they can, they share their blessings, and if you don't have anything to bring, still come and eat. I was able to clarify some traditions, which I didn't understand in the Philippines. All Saints day is to celebrate and remember the good that those members in their church have done. The candle outside the window was placed there to give light to souls, and shine a path for them to Heaven. I had always heard that it was a light to show them back home. All Souls Day is the day where all the family meets at the cemetery and brings food and celebrates memories of their loved ones. It's like a picnic at the cemetery and some even build houses there in which to celebrate. Of course this is only those that have money. Filipino's believe that Good Friday is the day that Jesus Christ passed and so they stay home that day and pray. They don't go out except to go to church and to participate in the Stations of the Cross. Saturday they also stay in and go to the church to participate in the Stations of the Cross. Easter Sunday is a time of celebration of family. They prepare a feast and go to the beach to wash themselves. (I wish I would have asked more questions about this.) She indicated that Christmas, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and New Years are all days in which the Filipinos celebrate family. Marilyn has an 8-year-old girl. She helped to raise her sister's children and so her sisters are giving back to her and raising her daughter. Marilyn doesn't want her daughter to come to America because she wants her to learn Filipino values. She indicated that their values are more than money but also to respect elders and love family. It's all about family ties. Marilyn confirmed that Filipinos do spank their children but they also feed them to hush them as well. And the placing an Elder's hand on my forehead is a show of respect for the Elderly person. And as is always the Filipino culture, she asked me to join them for dinner; and insisted that I taste a dish, which I had never had before. My interview with Marilyn was delightful and I look forward to many more in the Philippines!

NYC Day 2 Day

What are we doing in New York City?
It has dawned on us that some of you might be wondering what our days look like in New York City. We have been assigned to Living in Faith Christian Church (LFCC) to worship and serve. The churches make up is of young Korean and Chinese Christians. LFCC is in Flushing, NY, so we take the 'F' subway from our island to Jackson Heights where we get on the 7 subway. The 7 subway is a beautiful ride above the ground and it goes right by Shea Stadium, the old stadium and the new one. Then we catch a bus ride to Beth Sholom Temple where LFCC meets on Sundays. This is a Redeemer church plant and they don't yet have their own building. Pastor Stephen Ro indicated it would take $300,000 to purchase a building in their area. The trip takes us about 1.5 hours and we love the worship at this church. During the week we are helping in the morning to teach English as a Second Language to 3 elderly Chinese women. As Steven and I have never taught ESL, this has been a great experience, another addition to our tool box and one that I think I would like to use with the Street Children in the Philippines. But it has been amazing to see how God prepared us to teach this class. He just amazes us the way He goes before us. Our last 3 days of language learning with Mr. Gradin was great training because we can just reverse what he taught us. In the afternoon we have class from 2:00 until 5:30 and then it's home to work on"homework". We deeply appreciate your willingness to journey with us; thank you for your prayers as we have felt God's presence all along the way. Our heart's continue to be full of praise at how He continues to be our Rock and our Guide.