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!