"My story is important not because it is mine, God knows, but because if I tell it right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is also yours. Maybe nothing is more important than that we keep track, you and I,of these stories of who we are and where we have come from and the people we have met along the way because it is precisely through these stories, in all their particularity,as I have long believed and often said, that God makes himself known to each of us most powerfully and personally." -Frederick Buechner

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sometimes I'm Fickle

It's sad how fickle we can be, well I can be anyway.  The day before Thanksgiving started with such a grateful, peaceful attitude.  Somewhere in the middle it got detoured momentarily.  Some unexpected interruptions and late starts played with my attitude but thankfully I got back on course pretty quickly.  By Friday I was tired and ready for some relaxed time, regrouping, putting up the outdoor decorations and then off to see our daughter for the weekend.  Well, I didn't realize my husband had work to do before any of that could take place. And by the end of his work it was later then either of us wanted and he was aching all over due to some old injuries and the cold weather. RATS! Not the way I had envisioned the day. I was ready to just go back to bed and skip this day. BUT GOD is faithful.  Through some quiet steady lets just keep moving forward time. God reminded me again (and again) that my life is totally in His control. He is not surprised by any of it and He can handle all of it.  Thanks God.  I guess our II Corinthians chapter 4 theme for Treasure Chest Ministries is really a life theme.  We will not lose heart.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Trusting God with No Umbrellas

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." Jeremiah 17:7-8 (emphasis mine)

"I don't think I'm testing God to see if this or that direction is true and from Him, like Gideon. But I may be testing myself to see if I can hold water, holy water. I wonder if this whole thing is more about my ability, or my willingness to soak up the rain He causes to fall on me. Maybe it's about throwing away my umbrella, getting rid of the protections and distractions that keep me from seeing what God wants to dump into my life."  from "Surprise Me God" by Terry Esau.

Open the eyes of my heart Lord... 
That was my journal entry on August 30, 2010.  At that point I posted most of that.  I was going to try life without the umbrella. Try to live soaking up whatever God had for me, not afraid of getting wet or messy.  Today I am so, so thankful.  It's been a long time since I've had such a season of peace.  Life is not quiet and calm right now, in fact there have been some major changes in the circumstances of our life in the past few months. But God is in charge of it and HE has provided peace for me. I trust Him. My confidence is in Him.  I have seen Him walk me and our family through some tough situations. I have seen Him shower us with blessings and loads of laughter. I trust Him. Because I trust Him I don't have to have all the answers and that is a great relief. (Not that I ever did, but I seem to think I was supposed to have answers)  So this Thanksgiving I can honestly say I am thankful for my life, right now, right where I'm at with all of the good and all of the challenges.What about you?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thankful for a first!

So my friend J is thankful for a new experience in her life, a short term mission trip to Mexico. See what she has to say.

I went on a mission trip to Tijuana, Mexico in October , 2010 with a group from church. I had no idea what to expect . . . but was looking forward to what God was going to do there with us!!! We took children from a very small orphanage to a local zoo. The language barrier made things interesting as I know very little Spanish!! But love knows no  language barriers . .  we got to love on them, buy them treats and watch their faces light up!! They REALLY touched my heart!!! They just soaked up the hugs you gave them!!! I saw where they lived with so little . . .  yet they were so happy!!!  I realized how materialistic we are!! Their meals were NOTHING like the meals I served  the children in my daycare!!! The one day we were there, it was 10:30 and they hadn't had breakfast yet!! But every little face greeted us with a smile!!
    On a very rainy day, we went to visit and share at a tiny church. The path (not road or street!!) to the church was very muddy and rough. The church was no bigger than maybe 15 ft wide by 23 ft long, seating was old movie theatre seats bolted down, no doors on doorways, "window" boarded over and lighting consisted of 4 hanging light bulbs!!!!
The pastor was embarrassed at the small crowd ( 7 people other than our group of 11!) due to heavy rains that day . ..  most of his parishoners walked .  . they had no vehicles!! Our pastor preached that night - most of them came  forward for prayer. One gentlemen there, who spoke good English, told us he slept in the front of the church at night - his bed, a mattress behind the chairs!! He was so  happy to know that Christ was his savior!!! The praise band - a gentlemen playing an old, cracked guitar that was out of tune and missing strings!! He played that guitar like it was a fine instrument - especially when Pastor was praying over him . . . he all of a sudden started to play his guitar with an unequalled passion for God!!! The Holy Spirit was definitely in that building . .despite the fact that  it didn't look even remotely like a church from the outside!!!  I had the opportunity to pray with parishioners there  that night. God got me outside of my comfort zone!!! We didn't understand each other at all  .  . . . but one couldn't help but feel the zeal each one had for worshipping God!!!
     I came to truly love the Mexican people!!! You saw where they lived, how little they had and yet they welcomed  us Americans with open arms and wanted us to pray for them. It was good to be immersed in their culture .. to see who the Mexican people truly are .. . especially when you usually hear only negative stereotypical labels for them in America! We had a common bond - we had the same God!! We had the same desire to worship God and to know God better. This was just the first few days of an awesome, eye opening and life changing visit with the people of Tijuana.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Giving Thanks for Teachers

An old High School friend, Craig, sent the following story of an event in his life that he realizes now was truly a "changing moment".  Thank you Craig for sharing.

Following my freshman year in High School, my parents moved to Cumberland, IA which meant I'd have to change schools.  During the first few weeks of classes at C&M High School, one of the teachers asked me to come to her room during one of my study halls.  As it turns out she was the Contest Speech Coach and she wanted to talk with me about joining the team (apparently my gift of gab was quite evident :-)).  We talked for 15 minutes or so about Contest Speech and then she directed the conversation to my transition into this new school.  She was extraordinarily well connected and I'm pretty sure she had learned of my prior reputation for all manner of disrespectful and illegal behavior at my prior schools.  She proceeded to tell me exactly what I would need to do in order to be successful at this new school and even listed several kids by name whom I should avoid getting involved with.

Never before had an adult taken such personal interest in my well-being.  This act of personal care literally changed my life.  I joined the speech team, made new friends, had some success and raised my grades considerably.  And I even managed to stay out of trouble -- mostly :-).  Looking back at the course of life chosen by my prior friends and the path taken by the kids this teacher named -- I am extraordinarily grateful for her boldness to set my feet on an entirely different and better road!  In my senior English class, which this same teacher taught, we read Robert Frost's, "The Road Not Taken."  To this day I cannot read that poem without overwhelming gratitude for her willingness to choose a road less traveled that resulted in me choosing one too.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Some "Moments" are Bigger than Others

Well some of these "moments" in our lives are bigger than others.  Check out Mike's thoughts:

“We need to schedule an MRI as soon as possible just to make sure there isn’t a tumor growing in your inner ear.”

I wasn’t sure I heard the doctor correctly as he was talking to my wife.  But at that point, he was stumped over her symptoms.  She had a severe case of vertigo that made her nauseous.  She was pitiful as she sat there holding her blue mop bucket hoping, no pleading, that the room would stop spinning.   

For a whole week I played over in my mind what life would be like without her.  Certainly I would miss the laundry, the birthday parties, the elaborate meals at holidays, and the energy that she brings to our home.  But the thing I would miss the most would be her simple calmness at night.  That night I watched her as the prescriptions took over and offered simple rest.  I watched the rhythm of her breathing and between those breaths I thought of the first time we met, our first fight, our kids, our first house,  and the times she encouraged me when no one else could.  It was almost like God was reminding me of the tremendous gift He had given.  That night I wept as I thought about a future without her.  I repented for the times I took her for granted.  I just held her hoping that God would not take her away.  I woke up the next morning with a renewed sense of thankfulness to God for blessing me with such a great helpmate. 

Fortunately, the MRI showed nothing and it looks like her Benign Positional Vertigo is the result of a virus.  

Now that's a thankful moment! What's yours?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Meeting God Through the Moments

 So how many times have we asked for something we really wanted and then were surprised at the answer? Check out my friend Jan's story!

Earlier this fall, I left for a 10-day solo drive through the Pacific Northwest to fish four states.  (My life goal is to fish all 50 states.)  My plans included spending the first 3 days in a remote cabin in the north woods, seeking answers from God’s Word for some challenges I was facing.   I had hoped to spend time reading, hiking, and praying…just me and God. 

I desperately needed alone time with Him.  My stress level was very high and I needed some answers to decisions I needed to make.  This was the perfect spot…no tv, no radio, no phone, no neighbors.  Just me and God in the beautiful northern mountains.  A small creek ran behind my cabin and the owner of the property had told me it was a beautiful place to sit and pray.  He also told me that wildlife sightings were rare, which was a disappointment to me, because I have long wanted to see bear or moose in the wild.  Nevertheless, the beauty of this place was perfect for a retreat.

Upon waking the first morning, I grabbed a cup of coffee and a breakfast bar and sat down with my Bible and journal.  As was my practice, I jotted down five questions that related to the stress I was going through.   As I have often done in the past, I had planned to open my Bible and begin to read, writing down any verses that stood out to me and compare them with the questions that were listed.  God so often has spoken to me through this ritual and I was both excited and afraid to see the answers He would give me.

And then, feeling a little silly, I wrote down a sixth question:  Lord, would you allow me to see a moose or a bear?  I felt foolish, as this request was certainly frivolous compared to the heavy-weighted issues that were reflected in the first five questions.   As I began to settle in and read, I felt compelled to once again go outside to take a stroll in the mountain air before digging deep into God’s Word.

I opened the door, stepped outside, breathed in deeply and with a smile stepped off the porch to walk with my Savior in the beauty of His creation.  I sensed a movement and stopped quickly.  My jaw dropped-- there was a bear in the yard!  Not real close, but close enough that I could see the color of his snout.   I backed up quietly and slowly into the safety (can bears break down doors?) of my cabin.  Within seconds I was trying to plan an escape route if Mr. Bear should decide to come calling at my cabin window in search of the food I was sure he could smell. 

I was both scared of the bear and in awe of the bear.   This beautiful black creature was bear-ing the message that God would answer even my frivolous request…that He cared about the simple things in my life and that He cared enough to manifest His love and concern through His creation!   If He was gracious enough to do that, He would certainly provide the direction for me in the deeper issues that were recorded on that page.

Needless to say, I had plenty of time to study.  I had no courage (and too little faith) to go outside for a walk or sit by the stream.  The bear remained all day, keeping me captive in that one-room cabin.  It was what I needed to focus on the verses surrounding part of Moses’ life through which I received the answers to my previous five questions.  Not only did I receive the answers, but question by question, I could embrace His answers, stand on His answers, and take confidence in His answers… all because of a bear.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sharing the Moments

As you have already noticed I've missed a few days again. It wasn't intentional this time. I've started a 1/2 time job to help us continue in ministry and we're still working the "kinks" out of the schedule.  I just want to say that my current "moment" of recognizing God is how peace-filled I am in amongst the change. It is a great encouragement to me to think I've learned a little something in my lifetime and that I know God is with me.

Anyway, I'd like to start sharing the great thoughts of my friends. We are attempting to give God glory by thanking Him for the "moments" in our lives. Also, we are trying to challenge you to recognize the moments realizing God is with us in every one of them.  Like this one:

"For me it was the many times that I listened to my dad share the Lord Jesus with people, as a small child I was on his lap as he was giving the gospel to someone. As a teen I would be like "Oh dad come on lets go, it is time to leave!" LOL ...:) But when I became an adult I realized that I was learning from him all this time how to share with people the saving knowledge of Jesus!! Those lessons were priceless, but at the time I didn't even realize it!! God is good, He always supplies for us in life what we need, even when we are not aware of it!!"
I grew up with this gal and witnessed these conversations. God uses all those around us to teach us, whether we realize it or not. Let's realize it! Thank you God!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Saying Thanks for the Moments

 So it's November, a definite change of season month for our household. The leaves are falling and it's our job to clean them up, good dirty work. It's the month "the holidays" start. Thanksgiving leads off the winter holidays and for the past couple of years in particular it has offered me a time to thank God and others for their part in my life no matter how huge or how tiny. This year I'd like to concentrate on those seemingly insignificant moments in our lives that later, looking back you realize were really "big deals" to you. You know the type - it seemed like just an ordinary day, or it was just a phone call or note but later you realized it made all the difference. I've challenged some of my friends and family to join in on this exercise. How about you?

I'm starting us out with a devotional thought from the "Proverbs 31 Woman" site. Check it out!


28 Oct 2010

Samantha Reed, P31 Executive Assistant

"I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth." 1 Corinthians 3:6 (NASB)
Every story has a beginning, middle and end. The same is true for the story of our life. Our education starts in kindergarten, goes through elementary and middle schools and ends in high school or college. A romantic relationship begins with friendship, passes into dating and culminates in marriage. Meals start with appetizers, lead to a main entrée and finish with dessert.

How about our salvation story? The middle of every believer's salvation story is a relationship with God, and the end is eternity with Him. What about the beginning? That's different for everyone. Maybe a salvation-seed is planted while attending church with a neighbor. Perhaps a grandma's prayers are rays of sunshine on a cold heart. Hard, bitter soil may soften through the kindness of a women making room on the pew. Or roots sprout when a stranger in the front of the line buys lunch for those behind her.

Yes, every salvation story has a beginning. Have you considered the possibility that you could be part of someone's beginning? Unbeknownst to me, I was part of my friend Javier's!

Javier and I were neighbors in college a decade ago. Our roommates dated, so we hung out often. We cooked dinner. Spent lazy afternoons watching movies. Cheered next to each other at football games. When I took guitar lessons, Javier taught me chords. Despite all this time together, I'm sorry to say I rarely brought the Lord up in conversation. Over the years we've kept in touch sporadically. So when Javier sent me this email, I was humbled and amazed.

Just wanted to thank you for being in my life in college. I came to Christ about four years or so ago and when looking back in my life, I think of people that were examples I wanted to follow. Even though we hardly talked about God, I knew you wer e a Christian and really admired that about you. Talk about planting a seed that didn't bear fruit right away. 10 years in the making. I am glad I am able to tell people who helped me find Christ how important they were.

The day I received Javier's email was one of the best days of my life! To know I had planted a seed in his salvation-story is an honor. Our key verse teaches we each can play an important role in bringing salvation to others. We may not always be fortunate enough to know the outcome of the seeds we plant, or water, but we can have confidence the Lord will cause growth.

Javier's story inspires me to plant more seeds by being intentional with my words, deeds and actions. I want to be the neighbor, grandma, woman or stranger... the friend or family member ... church member or coworker ... who plays a role in the salvation stories of others. How about you?

So who influenced you in a positive way? How did they do it? What was that little incident? Won't you share it with us? You don't have to include your name if you'd rather not. Say thanks, in a public way this month. Encourage others!