Monday, April 28, 2008

Talking to myself...

I know...I've already written a LONG blog today....but while watering outside so many things were moving me to write again.
First was Linda's words during worship and communion preparation....oh, we have so much to be grateful for! Our God Is a provider!!
When we first moved up here, from southern AR, Mark's boss lived in a house that the company owned. There were quite a few days that I'd spend there with his wife and kids, while our husbands worked long hours. We had just sold our house in AR, and lost all our savings in it, and were starting off our lives from scratch...renting a really small apartment that was basically in a storage building next to the home of one of the local bankers. It was very humbling, after living in my "dream home" down south...but our marriage was struggling, and I knew that the move would either make us or break us.....and I was wanting to give it all I had. I used to think of this house that they lived in and think..."boy, are THEY lucky....I wish WE could live in a house like that". It was a totally selfish thing to think, and also the start of a really long journey to mature in Christ....one that I'm still on...
Several years later (after buying and selling another home) we had the opportunity to move into a home that was company owned. Again, it was comparing the LARGE, old, beautiful home that we sold, and looking at this really run down, DIRTY, farm house that had been lived in but not cared for. Mark felt certain that I would hate it. It was small (750 sq ft for the 5 of us), bug and critter infested, and sat right on the main highway. The room we would have to use as our bedroom was a former porch, and it had a whole in the roof the size of a tire with a trash bag stapled to the ceiling to catch the water. As we walked in, looked around and analyzed what it would take for us to live here, Jessica said "I think any missionary would be HAPPY to live in a house like this!" Boy! From the mouths of babes. How could we not live there, with her sharing that attitude? It put it all in perspective, and we moved in a short while later, did lots of repair and cleaning on the house, and made many good memories in the 3+ years we lived there.
When we moved from there, we moved into another company owned house, this time off of the main highway, but still on a main road. There was much work to do to it, with sagging floors and soot on the windows (and everything else) from the wood stove that sat in the middle of the living room. We spent several more years there, and then had the opportunity to move into the house we are in now (which is another company house!). His old boss and his wife were moving down to a job promotion in AR, and we were able to come into the house that they were moving out of...not the original house...but much nicer than any of them.
To consider my attitude through all of this, it's easy for me to see the growth. My first thoughts were that we DESERVED to live in a house like they did....I saw my husband working hard and I felt it was due to us as a part of his commitment to the company. The second time, when it was soooo humbling....it was the start of putting the proper perspective on it (thank you Jessica). It's just a house. As meek a surrounding as it was, it was SO much more than what most of the world population lived in....and we were blessed to have the opportunity to rent it for so little. Ditto for company house #2....it took a little work to make it a home....but realizing that it all belongs to God kept it in the right frame of mind.
When we got to move here, it couldn't have been any worse timing. The move involved us moving basically, from one side of a field to another, but with 1/4 mile of fields and trees between, so we had to use the roads. I was having disc replacement surgery on my neck, and I wanted to move a little at a time, putting things away as we made the move. Mark doesn't move like that....he does it in as few trips as possible. We are SO different this way (one of many). Since I was going to be rendered useless anyways, he made the move with our son and a few friends (I think....I really was absent in the process...in mind at least). We got moved in, I had my surgery, and if memory serves me right, we had our son's h.s. graduation, our daughter's graduation from college, and her wedding all within a month of that time. It was CRAZY around here....and I was still dealing with getting better, getting settled in, and trying to wear all the hats a mom wears when taking care of home life. It was not MY timing, but HIS; and He oversaw all the aspects of it all. He didn't want me to stress about a move, didn't want me to worry about the details. Perhaps the surgery was His way to REMOVE me from the details of the move all together!
I KNOW that we don't deserve to live here...in this house. We don't DESERVE to live in the smallest and dirtiest of the houses we've lived in....it's not about us, or what we deserve....it's about the One who owns all things...God...and His grace and mercy...the way he is the God our Provider.
This is just a house. Our home will go with us (Mark and I) no matter where we are. It's a huge blessing to be here, for this season. But at any time, God can (and no doubt will) move us in some grand way, to teach us some grand thing. For now, we're here, and we'll invite people to stay with us, and let people use the pool, and continue to take care of and fix things as if the house belongs to a king...because it does...
and He lets his servants live there with Him....

Thoughts on Proverbs 27 and 28

Love, love, LOVE, Proverbs 27!! I think it is my favorite of all of them....is that wrong to have a favorite??
I couldn't decide on ONE verse to put in...so here's the whole thing! My favorite verses today are in purple....
Proverbs 27 (NLT)
1 Don’t brag about tomorrow, since you don’t know what the day will bring.
2 Let someone else praise you, not your own mouth— a stranger, not your own lips.
3 A stone is heavy and sand is weighty, but the resentment caused by a fool is even heavier.
4 Anger is cruel, and wrath is like a flood, but jealousy is even more dangerous.
5 An open rebuke is better than hidden love!
6 Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.
7 A person who is full refuses honey, but even bitter food tastes sweet to the hungry.
8 A person who strays from home is like a bird that strays from its nest.
9 The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.
10 Never abandon a friend— either yours or your father’s. When disaster strikes, you won’t have to ask your brother for assistance. It’s better to go to a neighbor than to a brother who lives far away.
11 Be wise, my child, and make my heart glad. Then I will be able to answer my critics.
12 A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.
13 Get security from someone who guarantees a stranger’s debt. Get a deposit if he does it for foreigners.
14 A loud and cheerful greeting early in the morning will be taken as a curse!
15 A quarrelsome wife is as annoying as constant dripping on a rainy day. 16 Stopping her complaints is like trying to stop the wind or trying to hold something with greased hands.
17 As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.
18 As workers who tend a fig tree are allowed to eat the fruit, so workers who protect their employer’s interests will be rewarded.
19 As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person.
20 Just as Death and Destruction are never satisfied, so human desire is never satisfied.
21 Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but a person is tested by being praised.
22 You cannot separate fools from their foolishness, even though you grind them like grain with mortar and pestle.
23 Know the state of your flocks, and put your heart into caring for your herds, 24 for riches don’t last forever, and the crown might not be passed to the next generation. 25 After the hay is harvested and the new crop appears and the mountain grasses are gathered in, 26 your sheep will provide wool for clothing, and your goats will provide the price of a field. 27 And you will have enough goats’ milk for yourself, your family, and your servant girls.

SUCH good stuff!! OK, this one has too many favorites too....

Proverbs 28
1 The wicked run away when no one is chasing them, but the godly are as bold as lions.
2 When there is moral rot within a nation, its government topples easily. But wise and knowledgeable leaders bring stability.
3 A poor person who oppresses the poor is like a pounding rain that destroys the crops.
4 To reject the law is to praise the wicked; to obey the law is to fight them.
5 Evil people don’t understand justice, but those who follow the Lord understand completely.
6 Better to be poor and honest than to be dishonest and rich.
7 Young people who obey the law are wise; those with wild friends bring shame to their parents
8 Income from charging high interest rates will end up in the pocket of someone who is kind to the poor.
9 God detests the prayers of a person who ignores the law.
10 Those who lead good people along an evil path will fall into their own trap, but the honest will inherit good things.
11 Rich people may think they are wise, but a poor person with discernment can see right through them.
12 When the godly succeed, everyone is glad. When the wicked take charge, people go into hiding.
13 People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.
14 Blessed are those who fear to do wrong, but the stubborn are headed for serious trouble.
15 A wicked ruler is as dangerous to the poor as a roaring lion or an attacking bear.
16 A ruler with no understanding will oppress his people, but one who hates corruption will have a long life.
17 A murderer’s tormented conscience will drive him into the grave. Don’t protect him!
18 The blameless will be rescued from harm, but the crooked will be suddenly destroyed.
19 A hard worker has plenty of food, but a person who chases fantasies ends up in poverty.
20 The trustworthy person will get a rich reward, but a person who wants quick riches will get into trouble.
21 Showing partiality is never good, yet some will do wrong for a mere piece of bread.
22 Greedy people try to get rich quick but don’t realize they’re headed for poverty.
23 In the end, people appreciate honest criticism far more than flattery.
24 Anyone who steals from his father and mother and says, “What’s wrong with that?” is no better than a murderer.
25 Greed causes fighting; trusting the Lord leads to prosperity.
26 Those who trust their own insight are foolish, but anyone who walks in wisdom is safe.
27 Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to poverty will be cursed.
28 When the wicked take charge, people go into hiding. When the wicked meet disaster, the godly flourish.

OH, so good for the soul. I pray I can hide this wisdom in my heart, and that it will overcome my human habits and change me. Oh...how I want to continually be changed~

Church was SO good AGAIN....Troy (and the team) did such a great job of capturing God's heart on "impacting the world around us", which is a part of our goals at Christian Community. He covered things like "Jesus wouldn't have asked us to do it if it wasn't possible" and "what does it take to impact the world?" His points were:
1. We have to develop a love for God and the way HE loves people (Matthew 27; 1 John 3:17; 2 Peter 3:9):
2. We need to start PRAYING (he shared about the life of George Muller, also Ephesians...pray in the Spirit, 1 Timothy 2, and Ephesians 6), :
3. We need to set an example for others (Love one another, model love, what was Jesus accused of...eating with sinners/tax collectors/hanging out with prostitutes...to be in the world but not of the world...letting Jesus be the solution to the messes in our messy lives...Neh. 9 "be diligent...an encouragement to the heathens among them" and the life of Paul and scriptures from 1 Timothy and Titus, using self-control and with all sincerity....also honoring God as so many before us have.)

It boiled down to "We WILL impact lives, for better or worse...one way or another" so we need to do things as Jesus did. He closed with the thought that "little eyes are watching"....and how new believers are like little children...they will copy what they see us doing....and the many times in scripture that we read that there are severe consequences for leading little ones astray, also 1 Cor. 10 and how we should not do things to make other people stumble. How even our neighbors and co-workers are watching us to see what we do, how we will respond.

This was the last in his series, and next week is Pot Luck Sunday (worship and then fellowship), and then a NEW SERIES!! YAY!! I'm looking forward to seeing what he shares next with us.

WOW...this got long! I guess if you read all this you are to be commended!! THANKS!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Proverbs 26

We've had company this week, so I haven't been on line as much as "usual". It was a great visit with our daughter, son in law and their baby...our grand-daughter....oh the innocence of children (and the ways mother's know how and when they are trying to get away with things...even as infants!).

In reading this morning, I kept thinking..."why all the stuff about fools?" and kept reading on. The verses that stuck out in my mind are:

24 People may cover their hatred with pleasant words, but they’re deceiving you. 25 They pretend to be kind, but don’t believe them. Their hearts are full of many evils. 26 While their hatred may be concealed by trickery, their wrongdoing will be exposed in public.

This is so true in my life, and I wish I had memorized it long ago. So many times I have desired to be "accepted" by others, to fit in, to be known. Especially the last several years, living in a small town....everyone knows everyone...for better or worse. There are a few people that are genuine, but more often they are superficial. It's so frustrating for me, who wears her heart on her sleeve, to fit in. Really I don't fit in at all. Just recently (again) I was shopping at the local market and someone walked right by me, looked me in the eye, and didn't even say hello or acknowledge me. I've learned to just let it slide off me and not take it personal. I said "hi ___" but she just walked on. Oh well. That time I didn't even get pleasant words....

More than often, it's family members that are being weird, or other people in the community that are fans of my son's sports achievements....they think he'll be a star some day and want to hitch to his tail....so they'll be nice to me because I'm the mom. That really bothers me.

Now all of this does have a great plus side! The place God has brought us to....Christian Community. There are many friends that we've made there. They are genuine people, living not perfectly rosy lives. They really care about me. In a larger city, with more people, they will go out of their way to say hello, to initiate conversation, to connect. We have so much more in common spiritually with them....and I am so blessed!!

So, I'll cling to scripture and hold close to God's wisdom and promises. He IS so good...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Notes on today's Proverb....

I've been really bad about journaling lately...my sleep schedule has been horrid...I'm doing my Bible time at weird hours (or not at all)....I'm really all out of sinc. sigh.

I have been praying for myself (and a few others) for a renewed passion for God's Word. I KNOW that I need to spend time with God daily, and a part of that time NEEDS to be in the Word. I have no problem finding time (or passion) to pray, or to meditate on Jesus and the good qualities I desire (my "mantra"...using that word loosely....is "more of Jesus...less of me..."), and I love to read, so you don't think that there would be a problem. But sometimes there is. I wish I could make it stop when I see it coming on, but I can't, so I catch myself after a few days and start praying for that passion again....and it returns. God is so good.

Today's Proverb is so fitting for my life TODAY. I LOVE it when He does that....gives you a word of encouragement or instruction or just a "friendly reminder" that He's there for you in so many ways. Today encouraged me (v 1, 3, 5, 8, 10, 11, 17, 29), reminded me of Troy's teaching on Sunday (v 2, 9, 16, 22, 23), and instructed me (v 6, 17-21). I need to remember all of these things! I need to not only etch them on my mind, but practice them daily. I want to see the fruits of practicing these things in my life....and without all the hoopla and emotion that can happen with it.

My prayer for today is this: That God would continue to capture my heart and keep it focused on Him. I know that my love language is "time", and it takes me taking time WITH Him to love Him the best I can. Let my life be a reflection of His qualities, and help me to make decisions that are going to enable me to spend that time with Him...whether it's creating peaceful places in my garden to rest in Him, or choosing to step away from the computer to actually DO that time with Him. Lord, make the gardens of my life FLOURISH...the physical garden...with fruits and vegetables and flowers...AND the garden that is represented by my life...through friendships and relationships and the Fruits of the Spirit growing abundantly!! Let the light of Jesus shine in me; in this dry and dreary desert...let me be a "city on a hill"......

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Christian Community Challenge #2: Operation Kiva

I’m really excited to have found out more about our Christian Community Challenge #2! Troy Powell (pastor, leader, and friend) challenged us in the message yesterday morning by reminding us how much God cares for the poor. There were so many great scriptures that he shared to make this point clearly, and it’s an undisputed fact as often as He mentions it in both the Old and New Testaments.

I’ve loved how CC has always made a difference in the local community, and Enoch works with a team monthly in serving at The Kitchen, which I think is huge. I can’t wait to start getting involved there…but the schedule just hasn’t worked out. Still, I’m glad that others are committed to filling that gap now.

Troy explained our Challenge #2 and the basis for it: The fact we have Economic Stimulus checks coming in the mail, how it’s a blessing to be living at a time that even our poor are richer than most people in the world, and different options we have in spending our check, including the option to tithe on that money. Then he had Lora come up front and explain the rest of the deal: for us at CC that choose to accept that challenge of tithing, to commit that money to sending it somewhere else! Some time ago, she gave a small loan of $25 of her personal money to an organization called Kiva (http://www.kiva.org/about ), which then facilitated the loan of that money to an individual that she selected from the web site that is starting up a business. Over history, their loans are paid back short time (less than a year), and there is less than a 1% default rate (we could learn from that here in the U.S.). When the loan we provide is paid back, we have the option of taking it back, or rolling it over for someone else to borrow to start up their business. The thought that our small church can impact the world is a real thing, and for several years to come! To think that our fund, given one time and allowed to roll over (and over, and over) for years to come is an amazing thought. Not only will it stimulate the economy by however we want to personally spend our 90% with God’s blessing, we will bless others by creating a REAL economic stimulus impact world wide. YAY!

So, as we receive our checks over the next few months, we can prayerfully choose to tithe it to the Kiva fund at church. I’m not sure who from church will administrate the decision of who we loan it too, but I trust whoever it is.

I’m really proud that Troy, Lora, and the other leaders at Christian Community came up with such a great idea! It would have been so easy for them to look at the needs of the church and say “let’s spend that HERE”, and by them looking beyond our churches physical needs they are setting an example for all of us in our personal spending as well. YAY!!

What a blessing they are to us, and we feel so fortunate to be able to get to be a part of this body of believers. Our lives are so rich because of them!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Thoughts (and Pictures) on Proverbs 10




Sometimes a scripture will remind us of something...for me, it's usually a worship song that was sung sometime in my early years...but today, things reminded me of pictures I have! It was odd! So I am going to share some of the scriptures I read today and the photos that they remind me of....

7 We have happy memories of the godly, but the name of a wicked person rots away. (Pic.#1 Tante Cor and my dad in the mid 90's)
Although I was not raised IN a Christian home, my Aunt Cor, or Tante Cor, was one of the first REAL Christians I knew. I guess I didn't KNOW she was a Christian so much as I knew she was different from me, and they had different traditions (and RULES) in her home that were completely foreign to me. Sometimes it amazed me to know that it was my dad's sister...the language they would speak to each other (Dutch) and their white hair were where the similarities ended.
In the early '80's, when I started my WALK as a Christian, it all came together and made sense. I knew then, that there had been 2 women in my life that had prayed for me faithfully to turn from my evil ways and to accept the forgiveness Jesus offered. One of them was my Aunt Cor. I'm so glad that as Mark and I started our marriage (and family) that I had a few chances to thank her for the godly example that she had set for me. Although she had never preached to me, she was always there...gently, quietly, offering her life as a model. I'll always remember the seasonal walks through her gardens....arm in arm...talking about each plant, each flower, each tree as if it were created just for my enjoyment. I miss her melodic, heavily accented voice, the way she would get my (then very young) kids laughing by "playing her nose," and her sweet renditions of "Count Your Blessings".

9 People with integrity walk safely, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall. (Pic. #2 and #3 taken in "Monkey Park" in E. Asia)
A few weeks ago we were talking in our small group about taking steps, and THAT reminded me of the book "Just Enough Light for the Step I'm On" about how God doesn't always reveal the entire plan for our life in one picture...but rather like walking by flashlight in the dark, exposing one step at a time. We need to keep at it to get to the final place He wants us.
This is different, and yet the same. If we are walking, following His guidance and direction, I think we can be safe...but although the path will be straight, we don't always know where that next step IS. Is it high (or low)? Is it wide (or right in front)? Can I overstep?? The whole thing here is, to me, WALKING SAFELY.
I am TERRIFIED of heights! (which is funny, since I'm not afraid of dying...I'm afraid of falling and living injured!!) I am more confident walking UP stairs then I am going DOWN stairs. After spending an afternoon walking up and down stairs and paths in the caves a few days before, you'd think that I was ready to do this. Not so. I was petrified, and tried my best to keep Mark in front of me as we walked down the steps, keeping a hand either on his shoulder, or holding on to the handrails, when they were provided. It was emotionally, and physically, stretching for me. I hurt....ALL OVER...my body had been tense the whole time going down the stairs. Going up was more physically challenging, but going down was the emotionally scary part for me.
I think that my walk with God is similar. IF I am walking on His path, it may (no WILL) involve uphill, and downhill times. The uphill times are physically challenging...sometimes I get to thinking, "this is cool....I can do it myself" and want to move ahead. Usually going downhill I want my Father to go before me....to assist me and break my fall should I stumble. I need to be confident that He is walking with me, well trained (spiritually) that I can keep up with Him, and willing to stay with Him and not move ahead on my own, or in a direction that He did not intend for me to go (but I chose to anyways).
Someone great once said "Being a Christian is about being on a journey, not arriving at a destination." and I believe that's true....
Grace and peace...
marina