Monday, November 17, 2014

Bumper Sticker Theology

I'm going to keep this short so I don't rant...too much.

Today I was out running errands in the lovely snow and wind when I pulled up behind a car at a stoplight.  There I read a bumper sticker that made me start preaching to myself, since there was nobody else around to listen to me.  The bumper sticker read, "God, Guns and Guts made America great."

The Scripture that kept rolling around in my mind and heart was Micah 6:8  He has shown you, oh man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.  I would prefer my bumper sticker to read, "Walking humble with our God, acting justly and loving mercy will make America great."

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Listening on the Mountaintop

This past weekend seven of us gathered on a mountain top in southern Arizona.  We met there seeking to listen for the whisper of God, reflect on our life's jouney and share our stories.

The first day or two I was there I had to adjust to the beauty and stillness of the area.  We were at the Oasis Renewal Center near Sonoita, AR.  It is so different from the beauty of Holland, MI, and the rest of the midwest.  Scrub oaks and junipers don't compare to the oaks and maples that line our streets.  The rocks and sand and Cacti opened a different landscape before me.  But, by the second and third days I was soaking in the rugged beauty.  I knew that, like Jesus, I had been led to the wilderness; called to the mountains to listen, and to provide a process to help others listen for the Spirit as well.

We came together: a couple celebrating the long awaited first grandchild, and wrestling with what retirement was going to mean, a midlifing woman dealing with a midlife divorce and the big, "What's next?" question, a mom, facing a soon empty nest and a shift in her ministry focus, and a couple (Susan and David) who had heard God's call to open a retreat center in the mountains of Arizona.

We reflected on how God's grace had been active throughout our lives, shaping and forming us.  We shared our stories and encouraged one another.  We looked at those things that bring us great joy, and those that tear at our hearts.  We listened for the voice we are promised in Isaiah 30:21 Whether you turn to the left or to the right you will hear a voice behind you saying, "This is the way; walk in it."

We desired a greater awareness of how "We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, to do good works, which God has created in advance that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2:10  We walked in the wilderness, we ate good food, we napped and rested, we allowed our souls to emerge and be touched by the One who had brought us here.

And God spoke in and through each one gathered on this mountaintop.  There was no single teacher or facilitator.  That was the beauty.  God used each one to speak truth and courage and peace, hope and blessing and a future into the lives of the others.  We had positioned ourselves on the mountaintop... we had slowed our pace and entered into the quiet...we wanted to hear the voice of God and feel the presence of Jesus.

By the end of the weekend all of us had discovered or clarified our mission statement for the next season of life.
     Ed and Christine:  To accomplish what God has prepared in advance for us to do by facilitating, nurturing, and sustaining God's Kingdom Workers.
     Lori:  To love and encourage women in a way that will restore hope, dignity and a passion to pursue Jesus.
     Cindy:  To provide training to help recently divorced, widowed and single women be more self-sufficient
     Susan and David:  To provide a retreat center where people can connect with God and connect with one another.  (a place where we could come to the wilderness, pray in the mountains!)

We will keep you posted on the next opportunity(next spring?) to join us...we definitely long to do this again!  But you don't have to live on the mountains.  Gather some friends and let's come together to listen for God's voice.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Celebrating Young Love and Old

Last weekend we were graced with spending time at 2 weddings and hanging out with lots of young people!  WOOHOO!  You know who you are..the De-Icing Queen, commissioner of DC flag-football, and all the rest of these great young people pictured.  Just being with these people breathes new life into my being.  These young people get together everytime one of their own is getting married.  It is a joyous time.

Young Love...
Fall beauty reigned, lovely brides and handsome grooms, amazing friends at both weddings blessed the young couples as they began a journey of hope and faith and love.  Both couples were prayed over, food was eaten, toasts were made and songs were danced, sung and played.  Together we celebrated the promise of young week ago.

Old Love...
Today we spent time with our friends Ron and Shirley.  Ron and Shirley have only been married about 10 years.  They said goodbye to their first mates several years ago after loving them until death parted them.  Then...God gave them each other for a new season of life.  They have loved and worked well together in this second season.  It has been fun visiting their orchards when the cherries and apples were hanging from the trees.

Now Shirley is in the final stages of ALS.  She has been battling this horrible disease for 3 years. She will die soon.  Today she could tap her head against a pad that would beep to let Ron know she wanted to communicate something.  She communicates with eye contact. That and a little wag of her finger is the extent of her control over her body.  Oxygen machines help her to breath.  Ron wipes the tears that fill her eyes as we pray together.

Ron said their day is 24 hours long, because she needs care around the clock.  He reads books to her, and they watch movies and tv programs together.  Yesterday they took a little ride in their van to see the colors...and they love each other.  They love each other so well!

This is what it comes down to.  They have both been care-givers for their first spouses, and now they are living this journey together again.  And they love each other so well!  They are an inspiration to all lovers.

None of us knows what love will require of us.  In that bedroom today God's grace was thick upon them.  You don't love that well in your own strength.  You pray for the grace and strength needed for each day.

When you see that lived out you get schooled in what true love looks like.  Thank you Ron and Shirley.  Young love is a beautiful, wonderful thing.  It's the beginning steps on the journey, til death do us part.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Stories from the Bathroom Floor

I knew Jesus most of my life, but I didn't fall in love with him until that night as I was lay on the bathroom floor.

So went the story of one of the young women who is a part of a writer's group that I facilitate at Hope College.  She told two stories from the bathroom floor.  One was when she was making bad decisions in high school and was vomiting up the alcohol she had been drinking.  The other was of a night at college when she broke up with a boyfriend and was emotionally crushed, overwhelmed and vomiting her pain, disappointment, and confusion.

There are lots of places and times we perceive would be good places to run into the arms of Jesus, but heaving into a toilet on the bathroom floor is normally not one of them, and yet...She felt God's love in the arms and words of friends who reached out to her.  She felt God's assurance and presence and love as she "Sobbed her insides out."  And in that place she went from knowing about Jesus to falling in love with Jesus.

Here was a Jesus who loved her in the midst of her messiness.  Here was a Jesus who embraced her in her smellyness.  And she couldn't help but fall in love with such a love.

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!
                                                              S. Trevor Francis 1875

So when was a time in your life when you went from knowing about Jesus...from believing in Jesus... to falling in love with Jesus?  When did you realize that Jesus was in love with you?  And I pray that for all of us it happens over and over again.  Sometimes in the midst of our messiness, but sometimes when we are overwhelmed by creation, or flooded with the warmth of friendship, or caught up in the glory of pure worship.

I realized it once again when I sat in that room with a group of college young women who shared their stories of life, and growth, and fear, and faith, and God working in all manner of ways to call them into a life lived for God's glory.  I was blessed.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Homecoming with a Purpose

Two weeks ago I celebrated a “Homecoming” of sorts. We didn't have to worry about the weather,or if we would win or lose.  I didn't need a homecoming dress or do.

I had a date with 13 women, 11 of whom had been good friends and co-laborers with Christ when we were pastoring at Southridge Church in Portage, MI in the 1990's.


17 years have passed, but it was one of those magical moments when all that time just evaporates away.

We were a gaggle of midlifing women, all searching for God's plans and purposes for our “Second Adulthood,” those years 50 and beyond. We laughed, shed a few tears, shared a few stories and listened for the Spirit to speak through God's Word, through one another and through our own lives.

It was a unique group in that we were simply 14 friends, gathered in a home.   It wasn't an official church function, we were limited in size by the space in the living room. It was just right!

We didn't worry about who would be voted queen, however Shari did win the title of “Coffee Lady,” because of her job at BiggBy coffee near the campus of Western Michigan University. She works the 5am to 2pm shift, where she starts everyone's day off with a smile, a greeting and great cup of coffee. (Personally I'd pay for the coffee just so I could see Shari each day:) Everyone knows her, loves her and gets encouragement from her.

She told one story of a woman in line who was looking for something in her purse, and in frustration said, “Sweet Jesus!” to which Shari responded with a smile saying, “Yah, he really is, isn't he?” The woman looked up at her, laughed and said, “I need to go back to church!”

My goal in all the retreats I do is that we will be inspired, not only by each other's stories, but by our own story as we see how God's grace has been at work in the past, preparing us for all that God has in store for us in the future.

A couple of lessons from my homecoming:

  1. I want to be a “Coffee Lady” like Shari; bringing the light, love and joy of Jesus into the ordinary places of life.
  2. Some of the best Midlife Momentum events happen when you gather a few friends in your living room and invite Jesus to speak into your life. I would love to do that with you!

Let's put it on the calendar. God will show up!

So think about it...who are the people in your life you would love to spend a day or weekend with, exploring what abundant living will look like today and tomorrow. (facebook me)

Hebrews 10:23-25 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

An 8 mile an hour day

Last Friday Al and I had the opportunity of joining Gerald and Cheri on their yacht as they cruised down the Illinois River.  This was one little leg on their journey through the Great Loop, which is taking them from Florida, up the east coast, through the Great Lakes and then down rivers, back to the Gulf Coast.

We met them in Joliet early Friday morning so we would get through an open bridge before 7:30.  Next we headed for the first lock.  The lock dropped us 35 feet down to continue down the river. Then we cruised at about 7-8 miles an hour about 17 miles to the next lock.

It was a warm muggy day, but it felt great on the boat.  We watched the herons and egrets and pelicans along the banks.  We waved to the men working on the barges we passed, and to those working the locks and bridges...this is called river etiquette.  It was peaceful and relaxing.  Gerald and Cheri are new friends and wonderful hosts.

THEN we arrived at the second lock and learned much more about river life, and the pace you can move.  It took 3 hours before it was our turn to get into the lock and lowered to the next stage.  For 3 hours we circled and floated.  Nothing to do about it.  It just takes this long.  Once we got into the lock it took an hour for the gates to open and let us out.  There was a huge barge on the other side of the gate, and the tug was in the lock with us.  We had no idea why it was taking so long...but it did.

Finally 4 hours later we were back up to speed...8 mph.  It felt like we were really moving along.  It was delightful.  We shared a good lunch, took a nap, watched the river life, and shared conversation.

We were trying to make a 5:00 docking deadline.  It was going to be close, and then at about 4:40 a storm blew in.  Cheri, in her bright yellow raincoat, was outside trying to lasso the posts(I'm sure there is a better term for this), while Gerald was manuevering the boat to keep it from hitting the dock and a large branch that was sticking off of the dock.  We made at least 3 passes attempting to get close enough.  Cheri is outside...the wind is whipping, the rain is lashing, the lightening and thunder are was very exciting!

Finally we had success as Gerald got us close and Cheri pulled us in at about 4:55.

What an interesting day.  I am still processing what I learned and experienced.

We did learn that there is another world out there on the river.  Not just the jet skiers, fishermen, and recreational life. There are people who live at an 8 mile an hour pace, and just maybe there is a lot to learn about our own pace.  (It strikes me that "In the fulness of time" Jesus came, when there were no cars, or planes, mass communication, multi-media, etc.  He walked with his disciples day after day.)

We also learned once again that we are not in control.  You have to go with the flow, or be satisfied to do circles and float for a while...that's just the way things go.  And sometimes God knows that is exactly what we need.

We learned that life is better when everybody uses river etiquette, works together, and appreciates one another.

We learned that it takes lots of help from others to navigate the ups and downs of life...on the river.

We learned that there is a lot to learn!  And it is good to take some time to find out about what is out there, around us, behind the scenes, making life happen.  We are dependant on those who live the 8 mile an hour life for many things in life.  We are all connected.

We learned to take a chance, make a friend, enjoy the ride, watch the beauty, wave at people, thank God.

Monday, August 25, 2014

God Calling

Many of you know that I volunteer for CWIT, Center for Women in Transition here in Holland, MI. We work with those suffering from domestic violence and sexual assult.  We are a support system, counseling center, emergency housing provider, etc.  I have been working on the crisis line for about 18 months and also cover the reception desk occasionally. This past summer I took a couple of months off because of my schedule.

As I got "out of the groove"  I began to think that perhaps it was time to do something else, and not sign up again for the fall.  However, I had already signed up for a few nights in August.  I wasn't really in the mood and thought I was on the right track thinking these would be my last shifts.  Then the calls came in...Three calls from 3 young women who were hurting, afraid and wanted desperately to get the help they needed to be safe, and to be good moms.

As I spoke with them I realized I was making a difference in their lives.  God had called me to be on the other end of the phone connections.

I'm signing up for September!!

Col. 1:9-14  For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.  And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.  For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

We have been rescued from the dominion of God wants to use us as rescuers as well!  Where is God calling you to make a difference?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Too much or Not Enough

Sometimes something happens that makes you look at yourself, your values, your spending, your relationships...the whole kit and kabuddle(?).  A couple of weeks ago it happened for us.

We were busy working on getting our rental house ready for our new renters, about whom we are really excited!!  4 young women, all with hearts after God!  This is exactly what we were praying for as we bought and fixed up (with the help of friends Angel and Janelle) the house.  Lord, let it be a place of ministry and blessing for those who live in it, and for the community.

Anyway...I was making a quick run to Aldi's.  In the parking lot I noticed a man on his phone.  He caught my attention, in part because he was wearing a winter jacket in 70 degree weather.  I felt drawn to park next to him, went in and made my purchase, came out, and as I was walking to the car he asked, with a strong accent, if I could help him give the location to a taxi driver.  I took the phone from him and helped him out.  Afterwards I asked what country he was from and he responded Haiti.  I had been right about the accent!

I asked where he was taking the taxi and he named a town about 20 miles away.  That's a lot of taxi money!!  We talked a bit more...we have a heart for Haiti, so it was fun to share a little history.  He lives in Florida, but had come to Michigan to pick blueberries, only to discover that his back could not handle the work.  He was palnning on returning to Florida soon, but in the meantime needed to get back to the town where he was staying with a house full of other immigrant workers, wall to wall sleeping mats.

I told him if he hung out with us for the morning we could save him the taxi fare and take him back to the house.  So he helped us out a little as we worked on the house and then came over for lunch before Al took him back to Fennville.

So, how did it shift my everything?  Well, in lots of ways that I probably don't even realize yet, but here is one.  We live in a modest, relatively small house in Holland.  Most of the time I love my charming little house. (Okay, I'd like it a little better if we had a few more things fixed.)  But really it is very cute.  However, there are times when I feel a bit embarrassed. I wonder: does this look like a house that two professionals live in as they anticipate retirement?  (I know, pretty unspiritual, right?)

That wasn't a problem that Thursday.  I kept feeling embarrassed as our Haitian friend looked around.  As we ate lunch I kept thinking, "Only two people live in this whole house!"  This is such abundance! If we were going to be in the house the next few days we would have offered him a place for a few days, but we were heading out in the morning.

I keep praying that no matter how many people are living in this house it will be a house of ministry, where people feel welcome and safe, encouraged and blessed.  I pray that God will keep my perspective real!

I pray Philippians 4:11-13 For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all things through him who gives me strength.

So the learning will continue next week as I greet someone I know lives at a different financial level than I do.  I may need to fight the temptation to think our house is embarassing.  Paul did say he "LEARNED" which means it was a process.  So I look forward to sharing our home and offering the hospitality of warmth and friendship.  Isn't that what we are all looking for?

Friday, August 1, 2014

Pickin' Blueberries with God

Today I called a friend to see if she wanted to go blueberry picking with me.  There is a special patch, which used to be an actual blueberry farm, but the owners turned it over to the county and now it is a free for the picking patch.  (Ephraim claims it is one of Holland's best kept secrets.  Shhhh!) That also means it is very overgrown, and you have to fight the raspberry prickers and mosquitoes to get to the blueberries.  But it is so worth it!!  The berries are still abundant and delicious. friend didn't get back to me and I realized that after all that has been going on this summer, I really needed to go pick berries with just God.  I needed alone time with Him.

There were birds that came to visit me.  They sat on the tops of the bushes watching me pick their berries.  A robin, a thrush and a female oriole flew back and forth, in and out.  But there were lots of other birds that I could hear as they sang, and called, rustled in the bushes and long grass.  It was quite the symphony of bird carols.  In the midst of it all, the thing that kept running through my mind was the words to a favorite hymn, This is my Father's world.

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass;
He speaks to me everywhere.

It was good to be there...just me, the birds and God.  In the rustling grass and bushes He found me. I felt honored and humbled to think that my Father speaks to me everywhere...anytime...I just need to make the time and space in my life to relish God's presence!

In the rustling grass, may you here Him pass!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

But God!!!

I have to admit, sometimes I get a little frustrated with God.  God has put so many amazing people in my life and many of them doing kingdom work in beautiful ways.  I want to be able to support them financially as well as by word and deed.  In fact I realize that sometimes I withdraw from them because I feel bad that I can't support them more fully.  THAT is not a good thing, and that is not what God desires.

I just watched a video that Emmanuel and Allison made about their ministry in India.  Their organization is Influence International and they are making a difference in the lives of so many children as well as rasing up leaders for the kingdom.  Check out the video on my facebook page.

I need to call TiCarme today and see how her ministry in Haiti is coming.  TiCarme is a Haitian woman we met in Haiti several years ago and now she  is starting a mission to enable students, who have no way to pay for an education,  get schooling in Haiti.  She is also discipling them for Jesus Christ, giving them a hope and a future. (The money I make through coaching goes to support her ministry.  So get coached and know you are helping support this ministry!)

Caleb and Sonja continue to support Raising up Hope in Uganda through Beautiful Response.  Street children from the slums of Uganda are finding a place to be safe, and loved, and educated, and transformed by the love of kingdom people who love Jesus.  Check out beautiful or Raising up Hope on facebook.

These are just the top three on my list!  I could go on and on.  It is part of the blessing of being in the kingdom!

O Lord, you know the needs.  You know my heart.  Help me to be faithful.  Help me to share all that you give for me to pass on whether financial or emotional, or wisdom, or love, or.... And help me never to pull away from those you have called me to love and support.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Little Campfire that Couldn't

Cran-hill Ranch is a beautiful place to spend a week with your grandchildren!  From July 7-12 I was the chaplain for their family camping program, which meant I got to stay up there for the week with Diedrick and Annika.  On Thursday evening my husband Al and our daughter Acacia joined us for the last day.

I woke up about 6:30 Friday morning and realized Al had given up on getting sleep on our spring loaded mattress, and Acacia was jet-lagged enough she was also awake...sort of.  I looked out the camper window and saw them sitting, looking forlornly at a fireless fire pit.  There were logs in the pit, and perhaps a wisp of smoke before these silent zombies.   Two tired faces, no talking, just staring.

I went out and joined them, assuming they hadn't found where I kept some paper...oh yes, they had used paper, and "self-starting" charcoal to try to ignite carefully positioned logs.  Nada!  I told them how pathetic they looked and began to laugh until I started to cry.  (So much for sympathy.)  I was trying to laugh quietly at 6:30 in the morning, and then my snorting got them started.

It wasn't until 3 hours later after the camp store open and Al got some lighter fluid that we finally had a fire.

It all got me thinking about the fire that burns, or smolders, or is evidenced only by a wisp within us. Having worked within the church for a couple of decades I know how hard we often try to ignite a fire in our churches.  As a Jesus-followers I also know the ebb and flow of the fire that burns within me.

There are times we think we have all the ingredients for great fire-building in play, only to see that first burst of flame, and then we experience the frustration of realizing the flame is gone before the wood catches on.  And we know, don't we that the flame that burns within doesn't depend on us trying harder, or looking more like "Johnny Woodsman."  The flame within comes from the Spirit, and John the baptist promised that Jesus would baptize us with this Spirit and with fire.  (Matthew 3:11)

We need to do what we can to position ourselves to be in flames with this fire, and to be fanners of the fire:  We need to seek, to be open and willing, to let go of what we think it should look like, or feel like.  We need to listen for the voice of God, and obey when we hear it.  We need to encourage one another and believe that our God is a God of power.  We need to long for more than a wisp...we need to fall in love with Jesus, sometimes all over again.  We need to stir the passion in our heart.

Can you imagine sitting around the campfire with Jesus and inviting him to ignite our fire?  Asking for a fresh dose of the Spirit, our only hope for genuine fire?  That is a prayer Jesus is longing to answer!

One more person where the fire has caught will be the tinder used to set others ablaze.  We don't get set on fire just to keep ourselves warm...

Lord don't let me sit on the sidelines with just a wisp of smoke rising from me.  Ignite me!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Aromatic or Smelly?

What is your favorite smell?  Freshly ground coffee?  A home filled with the smell of chocolate chips cookies?  A walk through a pine forest?  A particular flower?

My life coach was telling me about a conversation he had when he met a fellow believer.  They had been talking a bit when the man commented, "You smell like Jesus."  In II Corinthians 2:14-16 we read "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ, and through us spreads everywhere the fragance of the knowledge of him.  For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To the one we are the smell of death, to the other we are the fragrance of life.  And who is equal to the task?"

It got me do we move through our day spreading everywhere the frangrance of Christ?  And how can we tell if we smell like Jesus?  And, what will be the impact of smelling like Jesus?

It dawns on me that:
1.  Smells permeate an environment.  Once let loose you can't contain it.
2.  Smells trigger a sensory can make us hungry, in fact smells will make our mouths water, or they can make us vomit.
3.  Smells can trigger a memory.  Have you had it happen where a smell transported you back to another time and place in your memory?  There is a smell to August that brings me to the farm lanes of my childhood.
4.  Smells can draw us to them, or repel us away.

I'm picturing a Charlie Brown comic strip and seeing Linus with his cloud of dust and dirt following him.  If someone were to draw our cloud, following us what would it smell like to God and others?  How close will people want to get?  And how can I make sure that I am spreading the fragrance Christ calls me to spread.  Sometimes I fear I am doing the "right things" but my attitude doesn't smell much like Jesus.

Remember too that for those who don't know Jesus...yet, we may not be so appealing, but perhaps our fragrance of Christ will permeate their world and linger long enough to begin to change their perceptions of Christ-followers and the Christ we serve.  Maybe the next person you meet will be a pre-believer and because the Spirit is at work our aroma will be one more tool the Spirit uses to touch them.

We better be sure we are authentic Christ-followers, because a phony can be smelly in a hurry.  We better be checking our attitude as we walk out the door, or greet those coming in, as we don't want our fragrance to be tainted by our self-will and sinfulness.

So, my friends, Go forth and smell like Jesus wherever you go. I pray the Holy Spirit will continually permeate your world with the sweet frangrance of grace in Christ Jesus.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Double Dipping in Baptism

I may be treading on some sacred and scary ground here, but as I pondered the thoughts about birdbath faith (Instigated by Richard Rohr) they led to me think about baptism and rebaptism.  In my path as a pastor and mom I have talked with those who were baptized as infants and longed to be rebaptised as adults.  They were sprinkled before they could remember, and desired to be immersed in the grace and love of baptismal waters.

Sometimes the parents were concerned or offended, as if the first baptism wasn't good enough, or wasn't real.  Most of the time it comes up when people have an intense encounter with God in a place and way they have never experienced before.  I tend to say, "Hallelujah!  Go for it.  If this is something you feel you need to experience I think God is fine with it."

It doesn't mean the infant baptism wasn't real.  It doesn't mean God's promises were any less that first time than what you will claim when you are re-baptized.  But I get it.  I understand how feeling that immersion, that take my breath away expereince, into the love and grace of God can be a powerful step in spiritual growth for some.

I acknowledge the need of some to say, "I want to decide to make this step."  For me it isn't a matter of right and wrong.  I don't think God is really upset with anyone on this issue.  I think the Father rejoices when his children declare I want to go deeper.  I want to dive into this faith walk/swim.  I doubt that God is offended because this(often) young person says, "For me the infant baptism wasn't enough.  I need to feel the living water of grace washing over me."

I have to admit I've been a little frustrated when during infant baptism we seem afraid to get the child wet.  I know the power of baptism has nothing to do with the amount of water, or the delivery system, but it does have a lot to do with symbolism.  

So however and whenever you were baptized I pray that you will have a fresh awareness of the living water that washes over us, cleansing us from sin and drenching us in the Spirit.  Take a spiritual swim!

John 7:37-39  "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me as the Scripture says, Streams of living water will flow from within him."  By this he meant the Spirit whom those who believed in him were later to receive.

ACts 2:38 Peter said,  "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Chrsit for the forgiveness of your sins.  And you will receive the Holy Spirit.  The promise is for you and your children and all who are far off."

Romans 6:4  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

It's a Wild Ride

It is VBS week here at Central Park Church here in Holland, MI.  ("It's a Wild Ride" comes from one of the songs.)  I am finding myself in a very strange role...I'm just hanging out.  Wow, after so many years of planning, recruiting, heading up and loving the kids this is a strange place to be.

However, I haven't been in Holland much on the weekends lately, and Diedrick and Annika are with us for the next month, so I didn't sign up to help, and have really enjoyed just hanging out, watching what God is up to.

The VBS is labeled as being for 4 year olds through 6th grade, but in reality it is a discipleship camp for all ages!  I love watching the interactions.

The other day Annika(2nd grade) was talking about Ellie, who is going into 7th grade.
Diedrick(4th grade):  "Is that the one who touched your nose?"
Annika:  "Yup, and then I touched her nose."  Annika loves Ellie!

There are middle-schoolers all over this place being the helpers.  It is a wonderful way to engage these youth in the mission of the church.  They continue to learn as they hear the stories, sing the songs, perform in the skits, lead the games, and watch the adults as well as the children.  They are the church!

So you could say the VBS is for 4 year olds through youth.  But then there was the conversation I had with one of the moms who said, "I've been a member of this church all my life and have probably been watching Jim and Marla serve for 40 years, and they are still dong VBS."  The 65+ year olds are modeling what belonging can look like for the 40 year olds.

Lynn, who retired in January talked about how much she enjoys being the point person for VBS, not just the week it happens, but working with people in preparation for weeks ahead of time.  Her gifts are being used in powerful ways...and she is loving it!

AND the KIDS!  They model for us the exhuberance and energy of young life.  They teach us as we see them building new relationships, opening themselves up as the week unfolds. They are discovering who God is and how much they are loved. There are a lot of kids who aren't from this congregation, so many start out timid, a little unsure of what is going on, but as the week goes on the place comes alive, and I'm sure God loves hanging out with us too.

As I watch I see this as a place of belonging; a place where all are welcome and needed; a place where love is shared between the generations, and where we celebrate God's grace and goodness as we grow in folloing Jesus.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Thy Will Be Done

Have you noticed that we live in a world driven by fear?  This is currently one of my greatest pet peeves!  Even as Christians we seem to believe that if we aren't afraid and worried we aren't paying attention to what is happening in the world.  We just don't care.


How often do you find yourself trying to be light in a conversation or situation where everyone is focusing on the latest bad news...which is constant in the media?  I don't believe 24/7 news channels have been a blessing in our lives!  If we are defeated by the fear of the world how will we bring HOPE?  And we need to be hope-bearers, light bringers, peace makers, love lavishers!

This weekend seemed particularly bad.  I heard comments like:  "I fear for my grandchildren.  I won't be around long, but I worry about my grandkids and great-grandchildren."  "The world is getting worse and worse."  "You don't dare go anywhere anymore."  And it isn't just the elderly saying these things.

I am not trying to tell you this world isn't a mess, because it is, always has been.  What I am trying to say is that I believe we have to filter all the news we hear through the trustworthy Word of God.  Even in Christian media we are often told that the world will just keep getting worse and worse and the good news is that then Jesus will come back, and the rest will be destroyed.

So I've been wrestling with what Jesus means when he tells us to pray, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."  Jesus tells us this is how we are to pray.  Is he kidding us? Conning us?  Giving us a useless prayer?  If there is no hope that God wants to work his will in this world, and bring His kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven why are we told to pray this way?  So I refuse to believe it..I refuse to believe God has disappeared from the scene...God has left us to our own ruin.  I believe God is still King of kings and Lord of lords!  I believe God loves this lost and broken world and has engaged us to follow Him into making it a place of the kingdom.

So I want to invite you to stoke the fire that burns within you...the fire of the Spirit of God.  I invite you to step it up on the radical christian continuum.  Regular won't cut it!  Let's be radical hope bearers, light-bringers, peace-makers, love-lavishers.  Let's believe, let's get to work!  Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in be it Lord!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Ocean Waves

(It will be helpful to read my previous post first.)

There are friends in my life that are hurting so much right now!  I love them dearly and want to be able to whisk away the pain.  But this I know...the pain is doing redemptive work.  And deeply redemptive work often means deeply redemptive pain.

Scripture is clear over and over again that our suffering is of great value...WHAT??  Yup, our suffering is of great value.  God has no intention of wasting our suffering.  Does that mean that suffering is brought on by God?  Not necessarily, but God knows our suffering and uses it to works God's will.

In my friends I see God revealing layers and layers of pain that he is healing.  God loves us so much that sometimes he allows us to stay in the pain until the healing is deep, and real, and life changing, and powerful.

These friends are not living at the level of birdbath faith (See the previous post).  They have been knocked over by the ocean waves.  They are being tossed and turned by scary waves of grace and love...redemptive waves knocking them off their feet...BUT daddy is there!  The Father God is there to scoop them up, calm the waves and carry them to shore.  They will not be washed out to sea.

There are so many passages of Scripture that come to mind:  Peter walking on the water, the storm where Jesus calms the wind and sea, Romans 5:3-5, which says, "We rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given to us." Also James 1:2-4, and I could go on and on.  I haven't even touched the Psalms or Job..

Remember our hope does not disappoint us, because, our hope is built on nothing less that Jesus' blood and righteousness!

I Peter 5:10  After you have suffered a little while, God himself will restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.  To him be the power forever and ever.  So be it, Lord!!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


My friend Gerri Buteyn is an amazing artist, specializing in the ordinary things in life, especially sparrows.  One of her paintings is or several sparrows splashing around in her birdbath...splish splash!

Most of us have watched children play in a kiddie-pool in the backyard.  We have a great picture of Caleb occupying most of the space in Lilah and Lika's little pool.  Delighted smiles as they play in 6 inches of water with Uncle Caleb...splish splash!

The last time we were in Australia and went to the beach Luka was 2 1/2.  His smile was huge as he darted in and out on the edge of the waves calling out, "I'm swimming in the ocean!  I'm swimming in the ocean!"  A big wave sneaked up and knocked him over.  Daddy scooped him up.  The next couple of dashes were a little more tentative, but soon he was back at it, full on!  Water can get you, but Daddy is here.

I'm thinking about my relationship to all things spiritual:  my intimacy with God, my relationships with fellow journiers, my impact on the community and world, my care of creation, my prayer life, my obedience to the Spirit, my love and care for me, this temple of the Holy Spirit, my love for all God calls me to love! (I guess that means all of life...hmmm)

I wonder if I am settling for birdbath faith.  Enough water when I'm hot and dry.  It's fun to splash around in community with friends on occasion.  A nice, safe foot in the water of faith.

Or, is a kiddie-pool faith enough to satisfy, not my desires, but the desires God has for me, and all God's people.  Does God want us to do more than sit in a pool that doesn't allow us to stretch our spiritual legs, dive into the lifegiving water...just enough water to cool us off when we are hot and dry, but...

What does life look like when we run into the waves of the ocean of God's callings and blessings, and challenges, and world.  I feel challenged to drink deeply of the life-giving dive deeply into the life God calls me to live.  Birdbathes are fine for the sparrows, but God has greater challenges before us!  We'll need the oceans of His love available for us.  Happy Summer!!  

Monday, May 26, 2014

Lorena is Annoyed!

Friday I was talking a walk with one of my favorite 4 year old friends, Lorena.  We were walking 10 blocks from our house to Kollen Park in Holland, MI.  Ten blocks is a long walk for 4 year old legs, but Lorena was keeping us occuppied by pretty much talking non-stop.

At one point she said, "At school some of the girls like to dress up like princesses, but they don't play Princesses.  They just talk, talk, talk, talk, talk.  It's so annoying!"

Lorena knows how to "be" a princess when you dress up like one!

It got me to thinking, as children so often do.  I wonder if a lot of us "dress up" like Christians and then, "talk, talk, talk, talk, talk,"  rather than living into the life of a Christ follower.  It is very easy to do.

Romans 12:1-2
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed by this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God...what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Instead of worrying about looking like, being dressed up as a christian we need that transforming work of the Spirit so we can know and DO God's perfect will! Less talk, more living the Kingdom life, all you prince and princesses of the King of Kings!!


Flotsam Part 2: Barrage

As I was writing about my "Flotsam" post I actually whispered to myself, "That was a barrage of flotsam.  And, yes, is was a bombardment of flotsam that just wiped me out, until I sat down with God and allowed God to help me deal with it.

As I looked up official definitions in preparation for that blog I decided I would also look up barrage, though I was confident I "knew" the right definition.  And sure enough it was the first definition:  a bombardment, as with military weapons.  Or, as in "The politician received a bombardment/barrage of calls."

It was the third definition that really made me think.  Barrage:  An artificial obstruction such as a dam or irrigation channel built in a watercourse to increase its depth or divert its flow.

Someone/something was trying to build a dam in the middle of my river of life to divert the flow!  All that flotsam, left untended would work to get me off course, out of the flow of the Spirit.  In part I was allowing my own ego to do the work.  On the other hand the Evil One is in direct opposition to the building of God's kingdom, and I believe that anytime he can use our own thoughts and insecurities he is very glad to do that.

My river of life is destined and created by God.  I do not want any principality or power to divert my stream from its intended destination or purpose.

When this begins to happen I return to II Corinthians 10:5.  We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought captive to obey Christ.  It may be taken out of context.  I haven't really done a thorough study of this passage, but when I read it I am reminded that Christ is also guardian of my mind.  That my thoughts as well as actions and words needed to be in submission to Him.

Don't let the flotsam of your life muddy the waters or divert your stream!!

Next time I promise, I'll return to a story, rather than preaching :)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Flotsam Feelings Part 1

Flotsam:  Part of the wreckage of a ship, or its cargo, material found floating on the water, useless or unimportant stuff.

Welcome to my flotsam week.  God has really been teaching me some things about what is floating around in my life.  It has been building up for a while.  It seems like that is how it works. Every so often I go through a season of doubting, stress and fear until God sits me down and straigthens me out.  Thursday was just such a day.  It came on the heals of an amazing week in Haiti, which surprised me, but I was also physically and emotionally weary and weak from all that had been happening.  That makes us extra vulnerable.

I had returned to familiar feelings of wondering what I was doing wrong that makes it so hard for me to get traction with my "work."  Why am I not able to generate income from the work I know God has called me to do?  Unexpected medical bills, buying a different car and a trip to Haiti put us into a cash flow problem that exacerbated my frustration.  I'm a failure...Nobody values what I bring to the table...What do I think I'm trying to do?  You know the voices that run around and around in your head sometimes...right?

At least I knew enough to take my Bible and devotional book, sit in a chair and try to get quiet on the inside. (Mini retreat time)  I got to Day 271 in Richard Rohr's book, Radical Grace: Daily Meditations, and God showed me the flotsam.

Rohr writes, "What we are doing in prayer is not creating success; we're waiting upon the Lord.  We're tuning into the stream of life and waiting to let that stream unburden itself of distractions and baggage." How can we hear the voice of God when our stream is filled with garbage? Rohr continues, "If you don't keep jumping on those (sinking) ships that cross our minds during prayer, if you don't overidentify with the flotsam (of your own opinions and feelings) bobbing down the stream, they stop returning."

Rohr admits that we have to stick to it.  The first time we stop jumping on the "flotsam" it will come back again and again, saying, "Maybe you didn't see me the first time.  Here I am."  The flotsam will try to rob you of your morning, your energy, your joy, as you fret about what you have jumped on again.  But, Rohr says, "This time you look at it and say, 'I don't need you.  Float on by.'"

He encourages us to see what is floating through, name it and feel it, but let it float by.  Refuse to let it lure you into the "flotsam!"

Remember, if this has been stuff that you have been dealing with for years it won't give up easily. It will keep showing up in your prayer times and worrying for a while.  We can't keep feeding it!

So here is another water image for you to work with...close you eyes and picture your river of life. Are you standing on the bank, or are you sitting in the middle of the stream in a canoe or row boat?  As you watch the river flow by what do you see floating on the water?  Is there "stuff" that needs to be rejected and ignored?  We are probably tempted to try and catch it, clean it up, but Rohr would tell us to let it go, float on by.  Don't give it power over you.  See it, name it, let it go.

In your prayer time, in your day dreaming, listen for the voice of the Spirit, ignore the flotsam!

Phil:4:4-7  Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanlsgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Part 2 coming soon.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

TiCarme: My Lydia friend in Haiti

Over the next few days I want to introduce you to some amazing friends through my blogs.  They are the people we are partnering with in Haiti.  I pray you will be blessed by their stories.

One of the surprises when we got to Neply, the village in which we stayed, was to see how God had prepared the road for us by positioning amazing people to work with.  The Spirit had already prompted them by whispering a dream into their hearts, and they were passionate about making it happen.  Of course God was ahead of us in this endeavor, we just forgot to expect it!!

We knew and stayed in contact with TiCarme since we lived in Haiti in 2001.  We knew then that she was a very competent, spirit-filled woman, and God has been at work in and through her in many ways.  Today one of her nicknames in the village is "Mayor."  A woman of influence and respect!

Here is her story:
TiCarme became a student at New Missions school when she was 8 years old.  It was the rule that every student needed to attend church.  At 10 TiCarme's father left their home and had nothing more to do with her. She was always #1 in her class, year after year.  She didn't want to be second.

It wasn't until she was 14 that Ticarme decided to "take God."  Before that time she would attend church in the morning and then go to the Rara Bands (Voodoo) in the afternoon.  In 1988 she decided to serve turning back.

At 17 TiCarme got pregnant and thought, "My life is done.  I don't have money to go to school.  There will be nothing for me."  But Pastor George, from the mission, came to her and invited her to come back to school.  TiCarme was given a second chance.  That "Second Chance" continues to motivate her as she seeks to give other children a second chance at school and at life.

For many years TiCarme prayed that God would let her have an orphange.  She didn't realize that God was answering that prayer until years later a younger friend said, "TiCarme I remember how your house was like an orphanage."  By the time she was 25 she had 7 extra kids living in her one room home.  Today her 2 room home continues to have an open door.  Her compound is the detour for many children who stop by to get some food on the way home from school.  (All of this on an income of about $70 a week, in a place where food is more expensive than in the US.)

TiCarme has very good English and has been a translator for many mission groups.  Currently TiCarme is working for an organization called Acts of Mercy.  This group came in doing disaster relief after the 2010 earthquake and have stayed to do community development work.  They do seminars and discipleship, helping the people of Haiti to engage in their own community's development.  Initially they hired TiCarme as a translator, but soon realized she was fully capable of leading the seminars and mentoring the participants.

Today TiCarme's heart is broken when she sees young people who have lost sponsors, been kicked out of school, have lost a parent, or have lost hope.  She says, "My job is to help young people who want to finish, who want to be excellent."  TiCarme says, "People forced me to ask you to come back.  They say, 'TiCarme, you know Pastor Al, you know Madame Holly'  But I say, God knows.  God has to lay it on their hearts to come back."

And we say to Ticarme, "We will not start a mission, but we will help support your mission."  And that is exactly what Ticarme needs.  She has been prepared through her education, life experiences and the Spirit.  She has been positioned in her community and through her contacts around the world.  She has been prompted all of her adult life to love and serve her community, and now to start this mission. She has co-workers who share her vision. And she is definitely passionate!  She lives to bless others!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

My Friend Lydia

Tomorrow I get to preach on Lydia.  You can find her story in Acts 16.  Over the last couple of years she has become a friend who coaches me every time I read her story.  Go on, read her story, and as you read it think about what you would like to ask Lydia if she was having coffee with you.

I am so blessed by this lady.  She is bold and courageous, and open to what the Spirit of God is doing in her.

So what do we know about Lydia?  She is a gentile widow.  She is a seller of purple, a successful business woman with considerable means and contacts.

Scripture tells us she is a God-fearer, which means:
1.  She believes in the God of the Jews, but is not fully committed to the Jewish faith.
2.  She upholds the 10 commandments, but not all of the Levitical laws.
3.  She would not be circumcised if she were a male.
4.  God-fearers were often known for giving alms and supporting Jewish communities in Roman cities.  They were really good people.
They were known by Jews as being, "People at the Gates."  People close, but not quite...

So we find Lydia praying with the Jewish women when Paul comes to Philippi.  She LISTENS and God OPENS her heart.

God had PREPARED Lydia.  When she heard the Good News she was ready.  Her life had prepared her for what God knew was coming next.

God had also POSITIONED Lydia.  She had connections with the Jewish community, but she also had contact with the wealthy and powerful in the city, because only they could afford her products.  She had the resources for her home to become the gathering place for the Body.

God PROMPTS Lydia.
Immediately she challenges Paul and his team with an invitation to stay with her, if they believe she belongs to the Lord.  "She persuades them."  She steps into the role that God has prepared and positioned her for.

God has given Lydia a PASSION.  Now Lydia is fully committed to God.  She is ready to fully enter the possibilities God provides.  She is willing to risk her safety, her business, her comfort, her money, her time.  It all beongs to God now.  Wow!

She doesn't make excuses, "Surely Paul will want to stay with someone who is Jewish.  Surely someone else is more capable of providing for the team.  What if my clients cut me off?  What if I get thrown in prison?  What if???"

She is bold and courageous, prepared, positioned, prompted, and passionate.

SOOOO,  What has God prepared me for?  What has God positioned me for?  What has God prompted me to do?  Will I listen?  Will I act?  What passion has God placed on my heart?  Will I act on it, or make excuses for staying in my Comfort Zone?

Another thought... am I fully committed, or am I still a "person at the gate?"  Or, who do I know that is a person at the gate and I could be a light, a voice, a love-bringer, to help them move more fully into the fellowship of Jesus-followers?

I love this woman!!  So what would you like to ask Lydia if you were having that cup of coffee with her?

Monday, April 28, 2014

Anna's Story

This semester I have found myself coaching a delightful young woman who is a sophomore at Hope College. We met at a writing retreat I led for Hope women in January.  She is an English Major and each time we meet she shares a story on a topic I have assigned her.  She is definitely a writer, and I have been blessed by her thoughtful reflections.

Her last assignment was to write a story about some aspect of her "WorkLife."  I asked if I could share her story with you.  It is a lesson in growing, getting braver, and expanding our comfort zone.

Here is Anna's Story...Enjoy!

Setting:  the Work Study job fair in the Dow Center gym.  Time:  One of Anna's first days on campus.  Cast:  Anna, the protagonist.  Nine hundred other freshmen, all in exactly  the same boat as Anna.  A large and varied group of staff members at Hope College.


     Twelve or so tables fill one half of the gym.  Behind them sit groups of two or three Hope College employees, all from different departments, all eager to hire.  The nine hundred freshmen flood into the gym in one mass, sweeping Anna along.  The freshmen disperse among the talbes, sitting down to fill out applications.  Anna is left alone in the hubbub.

     The action continues in a most predictable manner.  Anna walks among the tables, aimless, clueless, and not a little overwhelmed.  She asses by the CIT department, the biology lab, and the Dining Hall workers. None of the jobs being offered here are appealing.  She stops near a table with a slightly larger crowd huddled about it.  The name card bears the word LIBRARY.  This is right up Anna's alley.

     She pushes her way to the front of the crowd (or rather, she stands at the back of the crowd until it dissipates somewhat and leaves a clear path) and takes an application.  The woman at the table smiles condescendingly, and informs Anna that they are only hiring a few people this year, and they have already gotten so many applications, but go ahead and fill out the card anyway.  Anna does so, though her hopes are rather less than high.  What can she do?  She turns to leave the insanity of the gym and the job fair.

     On her way out she passes by one last table, shoved a bit off to the side and with a decided lack of eager, job-seeking students in front of it.  The placard reads PHONATHON.

     Ah.  That's why there's no one there.

     Anna turns to walk past.  What the general audience of this tale doesn't know is that Anna has had an only half-joking fear of telephones for many years:  ever since her family got caller ID and she realized the anwering machine did a better job of recording phone numbers than she could, and it never forgot to play back a message, and it never misplaced names, and it never messed things up.  The fact that this table was connected to such frightening things as telephones and calling and actually, like, talking to thank you,

     She turned to walk past...only then she didn't.............................

     I think I realized, in the split second I hesitated next to the phonathon table, that there was no way I would get a job in the library.  And I needed a job.  There were very few people applying for a position, so I had a chance here.  I remember thinking, "Oh, what the heck.  I'll fill out the application.  I can just turn down the job if I get it."

     So I applied.  I didn't realize until it was too late that they were conducting interviews on the spot.  TERROR.  The woman was quite kind, however, and the interview went well, though I may or may not have stretched the truth a little bit.  I told her about our family's farm and B&B inn, and how I helped with the guests and loved hearing the stories of people from all around the world who came to stay with us, and how I loved the interaction with other people.  What I didn't tell her was that I helped from the safety of the kitchen (because washing dishes is important too.)  I heard all the stories second-hand from my mom and sister who actually spoke with the guests, and I loved the interactions, yes, but just the ones that involved staying in our side of the house, peering through the crack in the door to see if the guests were awake and ready for breakfast yet.

     I got the job, miraculously.  I kept it, too, out of desperation for a pay check to help with school loans.  I hated every minute of it up until the last month of school my second semester, by which time I had accepted my fate enough to only strongly dislike it.  But, nonetheless, this job taught me more that any class I took that entire year.  When I came home for the summer several people remarked over how different I was.  I no longer had any problems with anwering the phone and taking messages.  I wasn't as shy of strangers.  I talked more in general (which may or may not have been a good thing, from my family's perspective.) I helped in the B&B more often, and started to really love talking with guests.  I began helping serve breakfast and giving them tours of our farm.  In short, I got braver and my comfort zone got bigger.

     I credit my job with the Phonathon for the majority of the personal growing I did my first year away at school.  Working late nights; sitting for hours in a cubicle with a headset on, talking to alumni and parents of students, or, more frequently, listening to the dial tone when they hung up on me; losing two nights' worth of homework time every week...It builds character, as my Daddy would say.  Even while I was sitting there with my headset and my stack of phone numbers to call, I knew it was good for me and don't think I would have quit even were it an option...At least, that's what I tell myself now, looking back.

Holly writing again...Her sophmore year Anna worked cleaning the college coffee shop(The Kletz) on the weekends, which she enjoyed, BUT next year she has a job in the Writing Center at the Libray, helping other students with their writing...PERFECT.

God always knows what we need, and His timing is perfect.

Thanks you, Anna!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Beautiful Enough

Beautiful Enough

When I am in Australia I enjoy going along with Lilah(6) and helping out in her classroom. One morning I was walking her to school, though I hadn't planned on staying to help. But as we walked Lilah asked if I would ask her teacher if I could stay and help that morning.

I responded that I hadn't really dressed for it. She looked at me, fully clothed, and asked, “Why can't you wear those clothes?” I said, “Well I didn't fix my hair, and I don't have any makeup on.” (Not that I ever wear much, but I rarely go out without putting on my eyebrows.)

Lilah wasn't buying it. She looked me up and down, thoughtfully. Then said, “I think you are beautiful like this.” Enough said, I stayed and helped.

I was humbled to have to learn this lesson again, but learning it again from a 6 year old is probably the best.. Beauty isn't about make-up, though I still prefer to have a little on. Being beautiful in my grandchild's eyes is more precious than just about anything!

This simple conversation made me realize that we often miss opportunities to be with, to serve, to connect with someone, to experience community for quite “silly” reasons. Often these superficial reasons/excuses are weapons of the Evil One to keep us ineffective.

We don't invite someone to our home because our house isn't clean enough, or big enough, or.... so we miss the opportunity to share the gift of hospitality. We don't share a meal because we don't have time to prepare something special, or we feel our cooking isn't “good enough.” We don't help out with a project because we are afraid we aren't “good enough” and we miss the opportunity to serve. We don't talk to someone because we're not sure we are as important as they are, or perhaps we are afraid we don't have the answers to fix their problems, and we simply miss the opportunity to bless. We don't get involved because we aren't ready...yet, and probably won't every be.

There are all kinds of “Not Good Enough” reasons to keep us from being light and love in this lost and broken world that is starving for people to just “do it!”

Romans 12 is a great passage to read when we think that we have to be a person of great significance to be the person God has called us to be. What would our world look like if all of us who call ourselves christian would acknowledge the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to enable us live Romans 12.

We are beautiful enough...strong enough...kind enough...gifted enough...loved enough...wise enough, if we don't try to do anything in our own power, but wholly trust in the One who lives inside us.

Romans 12

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world.......keep reading Romans 12......Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good: love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord, Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of saints, extend hospitality to strangers. Bless........

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Upper Rooms and Rooftops

Last Saturday evening found me in one of those, “God is amazing” places. I hope you are familiar with them. For me they are those moments when you realize God has brought you to a place you never imagined being, and surrounded you with brothers and sisters in faith from all over the world.

We were gathered with young couples and their children on the roof top of an apartment building overlooking Darling Harbor in Sydney Australia. The occasion for the party was to bless with financial gifts and prayers and love a young family heading to China soon to live and work, love and shine in that part of the world.

There was lots of good food from several Asian countries. Grandma Holly got recruited to tell Bill and Edgar stories (some day I'll fill you in on these :), because 15 kids on a rooftop make a lot of noise.

We stood looking over this city that Cory, Elisa and family have come to call home. The people are all connected to Wesley International Congregation. They are committed to one another. They get together as couples often enough to function as Aunties and Uncles for all the children. They know each other well enough to appreciate the roles they play in this community of yet they are outward focused. They are always on alert for others in the city who need a place to belong, and a family to care. I think that is what makes them unique...their closeness hasn't made them “Closed.”

And so Al and I were drawn to, “The Upper Room” aspect of this gathering as we looked out over the darkening cityscape and beautiful harbor. Here they gathered for support and prayer...the prayers of children as well as adults. Here they all gathered for belonging and outreach; not to stay too comfortable, but to recognize that where we are, and what we do, and who we know and love, needs to remain in a growing, stretching, nurturing state.

“Upper Rooms”...the disciples the night that Jesus was betrayed...the evening of the resurrection...the 120 gathered, waiting for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit...the WIC disciples on the rooftop. Not a place to “stay,” but a place from which to “go” into all the world and make disciples, teaching them all Jesus has commanded us. And Jesus promises. “LO, I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS, TO THE END OF THE AGE, and the ends of the earth.”

Friday, April 4, 2014

Out of the Mouths of Babes

We are in Australia getting acquainted with our third grandchild, Kaiden, who was born in January, and of course enjoying the two older siblings.  Our son Cory is pastor of youth and university students at a church in downtown Sydney, called Wesley International Congregation.

We arrived in Sydney on the heels of an inter-generational camp for which Cory was the point person. Camps are Cory's strong point and his favorite part of ministry. (The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.) This was a first for WIC; a gathering for all ages together at one camp. Everyone wondered if it would work. The young wondered if the “old people” like their folks would get the worship. Parents of the high school and University students wondered if the children would “get” anything out of the worship. Cory stood firm that this camp was about all generations coming together to Encounter God; and in the end, one of those committed to making sure this kind of interaction continues was a “70 something” young woman.

While physically and mentally drained Cory was still riding the high of what God had done over the weekend. There were as many as 450 people who took part in at least one day of the weekend experience. About 350 participated in the bulk of it. And IT WORKED! God was encountered by so many in powerful ageless ways.

On Friday evening Cory was introducing the worship and reminded the group that the children were going to be a part of the worship services. Children will be children, so he warned them that it might be noisier than they were accustomed to...they might interrupt...but that would be okay. Much of the music was geared to engage the children, but when the adults saw the children worshiping they too were drawn in.

Cory was preaching that evening. As he preached suddenly his 2 year old, Luka, stood up and said, “Daddy, Daddy! Jesus is knocking on the door!” Cory acknowledge what he had said and tried to be sensitive to what he had said as he continued preaching. A little bit later Luka stood up again, “Daddy, Daddy! If we open the door the Fire will come in.” And Cory knew that for this sermon Luka had been anointed for the preaching of the Word. God Encounter number 1 of many that weekend.

Revelation 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come in and eat with them and they with me.

Remember...Jesus didn't say this to non-believers. These are Jesus' words to the church! We are the ones who need to listen for His voice and open the door anew. We need to let Jesus...the fire bringer into our lives! Jesus, who sends the Holy Spirit to ignite us with power and passion, is calling.

Enough said, Luka preached it.

I wonder how you will encounter God in new and fresh ways...
I wonder who God will speak through to get our attention.....
I wonder what doors need to be opened to allow the Fire to come in.....

I wonder if we are ready for Fire...

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Restoring My Soul

Today's post is a bit different.  I encourage you to begin by reading Psalm 23.

I have had an amazing morning with God.  He has been showing up in such intimate ways, so I am hoping to share that with you.  The following is a a guided imagery based on the Psalm 23 and the image of the Good Shepherd.  For those of you who have known me over the years you know that the Good Shepherd has been a powerful image of Jesus in my spiritual walk.

Normally I would invite you to close your eyes, listen and imagine with me.  Obviously you will have to read and imagine, so take times to stop reading, imagine and then re-engage with the guided imagery; or you may choose to read it all the way through, then find a "green pasture" in which to lie,  and allow the Shepherd to come to you.

Imagine that you are a sheep.......

You hear your Shepherd call your come to him...............(From where?  Where have you been?)

He leads you out and brings you to a beautiful place of green pasture......

The Shepherd sits on the ground beside you and begins to stroke relax and lie beside your Shepherd.....The Shepherd gets up and gently moves to other of his sheep and repeats the process, gently stroking, calming saying the names of each sheep...........

You notice that there are flies and gnats buzzing around your head, irritating you...........

Distracting you from the peace of the pasture.................

Soon the Shepherd is sitting beside you again.  This time he takes a flask that hangs at his waist.  From the flask he pours oil into his hands.  He rubs his hands together and then gently rubs the oil on your head and around your nose and ears........................gently, soothing you..........  

The flies are driven are free to rest in the pasture, with your Good Shepherd.......

Rest...................Rest, there with the Shepherd.........................What does he want to say to you?
What do you want to say to the Good Shepherd?..........................................................

Be Restored.....................So be it, Lord!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Met God at Meijer

For those of you who will be at Central Park Reformed Church this Sunday (March 2) this will be a sneak preview of the sermon. I'm preaching on John 10:10, “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. I have come that they might have life and have it in abundance.” The passage comes in the context of Jesus' parable about the Good Shepherd and the sheep who know his voice and follow his call.

This is my theme in life...I know Jesus wants to bring us to the place of living abundantly. In fact, I believe this verse summarizes Jesus mission statement. Everything he does is to bring life...abundantly! In order to live this abundant life I also believe we need to live into all that God has created and called us to be and do. It takes intention...determination...surrender, a willingness to become, and to follow where the Shepherd leads. This I believe!!

Yet I've been struggling with what that is supposed to look like at this time in my life. I feel like I'm working one of mom's jigsaw puzzles, and there are pieces missing. On to the story...

I had most of the ingredients of the sermon figured out, but was having trouble putting them together. Again, it felt like there were pieces I decided to make a trip to Meijer to pick up a few groceries. Getting outside on the frigid, but sunny day sounded like a good idea. I had finished my shopping and was heading out of the store when I said to God, how can I preach this when I don't feel like I am living the abundant life? And I knew I had found the missing pieces, at least the pieces for the sermon.

Abundant Life:

Doesn't mean easy life. Doesn't mean I always get what I think I need.  Doesn't mean there aren't wilderness times. It means when I'm walking through Meijer the Creator of the universe will talk with me. God will reveal his love for me; will help me realize God's presence is in me and around me. This is abundant life!! Knowing that I am loved beyond comprehension, by the Good Shepherd who knows my name. Knowing that I matter in the grand scheme of the kingdom of heaven, not because I am something so special on the world's scale, but because I am a daughter of the King of Kings! Created by grace, redeemed by grace, reconciled by grace, anointed by grace, to be God's ambassador of grace in this broken world...even on the days I don't feel like it.

These are the pieces that hold all of the puzzle together. We are not saved to go to heaven someday. We are saved from living a Godless life today; to enjoy God's presence and bring glory to him each and every day of our lives, now and forever.

I left Meijer with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat.  God is so amazing, showing up when we least expect it.  I hadn't even been thinking about the sermon while I was walking around.  I didn't know it was on my mind and heart.  I don't know what prompted me to realize I didn't feel worthy to preach the sermon.  I just ran into God and He knew what I needed.

Ephesians 2:10 For you are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, for good works, which
God prepared in advance, that you should live into them. (Abundance!)

Thank you God, for pursuing me down the isles of Meijer today. Lord, I determine again today to live the abundant life you came to give. Help me to pay attention, that I might bring glory to you.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Responding to Haitian Hearts

As I have mentioned to some of you recently, God is turning our hearts back to Haiti.

In 2001 Al, Caleb and I spent 8 months living in Haiti, realizing we would never be the same. I remember worshiping with a group of people in a backyard in Neply and thinking, “I can't believe I have the privilege of being here, in this place, with these people, worshiping God.

Since we left we have maintained contact with our friend TiCarme, but we haven't been back. (There was a lot of pain in the leaving.) But it is time...not to go back to live, but it is time to partner with our Haitian friends.

Ticarme has a passion (heart) to help the young men and women who are no longer able to continue their education. Many of them are in 10th, 11th or 12th grade but have lost their sponsors, or there has been a death or illness in the family, etc. Some have no family, but all of them want to finish high school. They know it is crucial for them to get an education for any hope of working and making a living.

Ticarme is starting a mission!! She wants to provide scholarships to enable the students to finish High School. “Help the Children Have an Education” is her rallying cry. She wants to help them be part of a group that cares for her community, tutoring younger students, reaching out to others. She wants them to be able to earn their scholarships and not just see it as another handout from Americans.

We will also be working through Pastor Antoine, a pastor in Neply, who responded with excitement when he heard TiCarme's vision because he knows the young men and women in his congregation who are “stuck,” so close to completing their education.

Our part will be:
  • To communicate to the students that we believe in them, and God at work through them.
  • To communicate how God is at work in Haiti and in the students.
  • To raise the funds for the scholarships.
  • To encourage TiCarme and her board.

Stay tuned...and
May the Spirit guide!!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Children, Prayer and Dancing again!

God seems to have this dancing thing going on in my life.

Sunday Al and I shared the sermon time in German Valley.  But we realized that there were really 3 sermons. The first was preached by 4 year old Connor.

The children's choir sang...and Connor danced.  As soon as the director hit the CD button and the beat began Connor's feet were moving, his whole body was feeling it. It was beautiful!  All of the children did great.  There were smiles and singing.  It was a moment of joy.

During the children's message Al talked with them about the Micah 6:8 passage where God calls us to "act justly" or for the kids (and us) "do good."  It is different that just behaving.  Connor thought it might mean "doing good things so the rest of the family doesn't get crabby."

That made me think of our "other daughter" Allison, whose little 3 1/2 year old, Karis, said to her the other day, "Mommy, I'm going to disobey you, so just let me pray for you."

At first Allison thought it was a clever manipulative move for a 3 1/2 year old.  But then Karis' prayer went like this:  "Jesus, give Mommy wisdom.  Help her to be a good Mommy.  Help her to be patient."

Karis didn't have a particular disobedient act in mind.  She just knew there would be more times when she was going to disobey, and Mom would need God's help to be a good Mommy... And not get crabby :)

Beautiful honesty...real prayer...amazing insight into how life and faith work.  I love it!  We can learn so much if we listen to the children!

Train Trip

Last Wednesday I took the train from Holland To Chicago.  I was plannning to go to German Valley,IL the weekend before, but the snow and wind would not let up.  I was leading a retreat this past weekend, so decided to be sure and get there by taking the train around the southern tip of Lake Michigan.  What a great idea!!

Plan on a little extra time.  I got in late both going and coming back, but hey, I was warm, comfortable, reading my book, enjoying the scenery.  So I decided to journal a few comments and share my trip with you.

The trip:
There is morning sun on a snow-draped world.  On the east side of the train it looks like we are in a sunbathed white-out.  The train is kicking up the snow as we blow through, but the snow is a golden glow as it whips past the windows.  On the west side of the train the world is calm and beautiful, surreal aand glistening as we pass through woods and fields and towns.

I feel overcome with emotions and am not sure why...but God is here; all around in the beauty, the peace, in the tatooed man sitting in the seat next to mine.  (later I found out the paint gun tatooed up and down his arm symbolized his business of building and painting cars.)

Paths, so many different kinds of paths through the woods and the fields...leading where? Made by whom, or what?

I see an eagle soaring over a field.  I have a book to read, but now I don't want to stop scanning the terrain for wildlife.

We are passing very close to Lake Michigan, which one would hardly know except there are no other landscapes in this part of the world so flat and open...hill-less. tree-less, just a white frozen snowy expanse.  It looks a bit like the Dakotas, but below the snow and ice lies water.

The gentle rocking and warm temps put me to sleep for a while.  Where are we?

Now I see a snowy owl perched high in a tree.  Fortunately the guy in the next seat is asleep or he would probably wonder what in the world I was doing leaning across him to get the best and longest view.

The skyline of Chicago is ahead.  I'm arriving rested and relaxed, feeling full of praise to God...all this is so much better than arriving white-knuckled, stressed and weary.

This will be my mode of transportation this winter on those weekends I make the commute to IL to be with Al.  Train to Chicago and then bus to Rockford.  It's my train from my Holland "room" to my German Valley "room" and back again.  What a good transition!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Dancing with God

Okay, call me a little odd...I can handle it (most of the time).  Or as Charlie Shedd, author of about 40 christian books titled his last one, "I'm Odd, Thank You God."  I think I would have like Charlie.

How do I know I'm odd you ask.  Well, I was raised a good conservative, reformed, Dutch girl.  All 4 grandparents as Dutch as they come.  I was raised to believe you shouldn't be showy, you must not get a big head, and don't make a scene!  We were taught not to smoke, drink or dance...  We took ourselves a bit too seriously!

I never really "Rebelled," but I did learn in early adulthood to relax, discover the JOY of my relationship with Jesus, as well as a freedom from self in my identity in Christ.  This was a very good thing, and yet something that needs to be relearned every so often.

It was a little odd when, in midlife, I began to imagine the people in our congregation dancing on the tops of the pews during times of praise and worship...not on the seats, but on the tops, dancing from pew to pew. It was quite a sight!  (Getting people to dance in the isles would have been miracle enough.)  It was a beautiful sight, and I longed to dance for God.

It was a few years later that I began working with young women in our congregation as we put liturgical signing to music.  Sometimes it was very close to dancing, which touched many lives and perturbed others.

In the last couple of weeks God has brought the theme of dancing to my attention again.  The first time was through a quote from the book, Apprenticeship with Jesus, by Gary Moon.  Gary says, "(Jesus) sends the Holy Spirit with music and a dance chart so that we can learn to waltz with the Trinity, even now, as we wait for the real party to begin.:  The Spirit draws us in to an intimate, joyful relationship with Father, Son and Spirit as we move/dance through our lives.  What is life meant to be like if we can enter this partnership with God?  As we read the Gospel of John, Jesus reveals the Father's desire for this's why Jesus came...reconciling our relationship with God!  Read John 15-17 to hear Jesus heart for this intimacy.

The second quote comes from a pastor named Steve Brown of Key Life Ministries.  Steve says, "You can't dance with God while looking at your feet."  Why would we want to look at our feet?  Maybe because we're embarrassed; "I'm not used to dancing!"  Maybe it's because we are so afraid of doing it wrong.  Maybe we need to trust that we have the Master Teacher, so we can let go, let him lead us, let him pick us up when we stumble.

I really don't think God cares if we are clumsy as we learn to dance with him.  I think he longs to bring us into the JOY of an intimate relationship.  Maybe it helps if we join hands and discover the dance together.  I wonder what most helps you get on the dance floor.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

All God's People

I got a phone call yesterday that went like this: “Holly, this is Angel (Spanish pronunciation that sounds like “Onhel.), Angel, the Mexican. I found a toilet on sale.” I love this guy :) Angel and his wife Janelle and children are some of my favorite people right now. Janelle is an RCA pastor, Angel is in seminary, Miss Miriam is 6 and Miss Lorraina is 4.

This family is living in a house we are rehabbing with the goal of renting to college or seminary students. Angel is working off rent, thus the excitement over a toilet on sale. In his life before seminary Angel worked in construction; painting, laying flooring, drywalling, etc. It is such a blessing to have someone willing and able to help us finish the work.

They are blessed to be able to have a way to rent without having to use up all of their savings. It is a win/win. We met them a few years back in British Columbia, and God has just kept us connected every since, despite both of us making cross country the same place, though we had no idea this was going to happen back then.

Angel has the greatest sense of humor, alongside a heart's desire for community development that honors and respects all people; that recognizes we are all created in the image of God.

I feel so blessed that Angel and Janelle's and the girls are a part of our diverse “family.” Often I am overwhelmed by the people God has placed in my life. People who can teach me so much about God's world...people who stretch me...people who teach me to eat flavorful new foods..people who make me stop to think about the things I assume are Christian, when really they are just cultural...people whose hearts beat with passions I know little about because of my sheltered beginnings...people whose faith impacts mine....people who are different, and yet in our core beings we are all the same...created in the image of God. This is our primary identity...our uniqueness in all creation.

I read the phrase recently, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” I wish I could remember who said it, so I could give credit. Imagine the difference it would make if we all believed that each person we encounter has (sometimes hidden) within them the image of God! One thing I am confident of; we best live out our image of God in community! We need each other to be the best we are created to be.

Imagine the difference it will make if we all...each and every one of us realized that we are bearers of the image of God as we walk around our worlds loving the other image bearers...the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the not so beautiful, the likeable and those not so likeable. 

The challenge...Believe it! Embrace it! Live it! Be in a fellowship, a community, that helps you wrestle with what this means.

Psalm 8:4  who is mankind that you take thought of him/her, and the son of man that you care for them?
Genesis 1:26  The God said, "Let us make man(kind) in our own image, in our likeness..."
Genesis 2:7  God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.