Saturday, August 29, 2015

How to Find Your Proper Place

Where is home? Is it where your family lives? Where your work's located? How do you find the comfort of home? Do you sometimes feel out of place? 

Living in two cultures brings with it a sense of not belonging anywhere. Not only do I live in a foreign country, but I also live in a Quechua village where three cultures and three languages collide to make the mix even more interesting. Feeling out of place is an understatement. Yet, somehow I am at home. When we arrive in the States, I feel at home. My language is spoken. My friends wear what I wear––well, once I get to a store and update my look. Then comes a new haircut. Yes, friends make sure I get where I need to go for this new look. I look the part, but am I at home? Yes! Why? How can I be at home in two places and still not fit into either place?

The answer is simple. I'm at home because I am where God wants me to be. I am in His will. "Home" is being in God's will.

Matthew 6:33 "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (NIV)

In God's will, we have a proper place of belonging––a home. One day we'll arrive in our forever home. Until then, we find a home in the center of God's will.

Are you in your proper place? Is there a warm spark of home in your heart?

Monday, August 3, 2015

Burdened Burro

Can you find the burro?

Did you know, if a burro is overloaded he will sit down and refuse to move? It's true, we see it happen on the road in front of our house. The burros in our village still carry a load of corn or alfalfa from the fields to their homes. They return home alone––they know the way.

This poor guy must have been on the brink of sitting down. Maybe the limit was just one more cornstalk. How do the owners know the limit of their burros? It must be that they live and work with these animals day in and day out for many years. Burros can live 30 years or more; they will work hard for many years. But, if they are abused their life-span will be shorter.

What can we learn from the burro? Do we know when to sit down if the burden is too much, the way the burro does? Like the burro, we have a Master who knows us, He walks with us day in and day out. If we are over-burdened, whose fault is it? 

Maybe we have put the burden on ourselves, and it is time to review our priorities. Maybe we can delegate––let go. We are about to start a young couples' workshop here in Rumi Rancho. God has worked it out perfectly, but we had to seek help––we couldn't do it all. Six of us will do the necessary things to make it come together. Chuck will lead the study, Juan and Amelia will help with the setting up, and Pablo and Nathaly will lead the singing. I will show up with the snack, and of course, add some laughs when things start to get dull. By delegating, we can do more ministry and be more effective. We can reach and teach more children and adults, because God has provided a way, so we won't be over-burdened.

If we think we can't do one more thing, maybe we can't. Time to sit down. God is not going to overburden us. But, we can overburden ourselves.

The burro's master knows his animal's limit––our Master knows our limit. 

Let's seek God's priorities and lighten our load.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Perfect Landing

How can we board a plane and peacefully glide or turbulently bump to our final destination? Once we arrive, how can we peacefully glide or bump through any other frightening circumstance in our lives? I found the answer descending from 30,000 feet.

Do you like to fly? I can't imagine counting the days until I board a plane because I am looking forward to it. I never look forward to squeezing myself into a small, uncomfortable seat to endure many hours of international flights. And, let's not forget turbulence. I'd rather have a root canal.

Of course, we've all heard that landing and take-offs are the dangerous parts of the flight. Does that give you comfort? Not me. On landings and take-offs, my knuckles turn white from clutching the armrests, and my heart reaches the rate of a marathon runner about to cross the finish line.

I once drove to the airport with a physics teacher. She explained all the aerodynamics of flying. "Flying is the safest means of transportation," she said. Did I feel safer boarding after that conversation? Not. A. Bit.

Last February, my husband and I boarded a plane to the States–– both scheduled for surgery. My cataracts progressed rapidly and in the span of just three months, I lost most of my vision. Weeks before our flight, we witnessed God's guidance to the right doctors at the right time for my husband and me. After three years of every kind of treatment for my husband's damaged nerve in his back, God miraculously put us in touch with a surgeon who had the answer we needed. We soared through the heavens (flying again) to arrive for our first appointments a few days later. Not my favorite thing, flying. It might be my most dreaded thing to do.

As we descended to our first destination and layover, I chatted with my husband about the events of the last few weeks before we left "home". We praised God together for answered prayers and the hope we both had for life without pain for him and good vision for me. God orchestrated our plans for good. My thoughts recalled God's guidance, love for us, and His faithfulness. My heart rejoiced as I recounted His answers to our prayers. My mind overflowed with thoughts of Him.

Suddenly, the wheels of the plane touched the ground. I hadn't noticed we were descending until I felt the bump of the landing. The circumstances around me (landing) had vanished as I praised God and fully had my mind on Him.

I know there will always be sad, bad, and frightening circumstances coming. But when they come, I'll remember that day of the perfect landing and once again fix my mind on Him instead of my circumstances.

How about you? Are your peacefully gliding or turbulently bumping today? If you're like me, bumpy comes often. Do you wonder how or where you'll land after the bumps? I found the answer to the perfect landing. Have you?

Isaiah 26:3 "Thou shall keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee,"

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Senior Teenagers

"Be assured the Lord your God goes ahead of you like a devouring fire." Deuteronomy 9:3

Teenagers experience grounding; seniors do too. Today we thank God for our grounding. Teens want to run away from home when their parents restrict their activities. They balk at delicious and nutritious food set before them.They rebel when their driving privileges suddenly and abruptly end for a few weeks. And, how about an early bedtime? No child wants that to happen.

Chuck and I give thanks to our Father for all of the above and so many more blessings. We are blessed to be senior teenagers for a few weeks enjoying all the blessings of a time-out.

While talking to a friend, I realized how very thankful we are for this time-out. I told her I feel like a teenager under restrictions who wants to jump in the parents' car and run away--I'd probably go to Wal-Mart or Good Will. But, we both are enjoying our season of grounding––not easy for two people who can't sit still. But, we never expected this "stop" moment in our lives. I expected to take care of Chuck for a few days after his surgery, and then I'd relish in his care for me after my first cataract surgery for as long as I could milk it. BTW, I am doing great. One more eye to go on March 24. Believe me, it was a breeze––especially after what Chuck endured.

Chuck's surgery evolved into a major surgery likened to heart surgery by his surgeon. We had no idea of the risky operation Chuck headed for that day until five minutes before the surgery. How could that happen you ask? God's plan. Had I known the risks before that frightful morning, I most probably would have tried to talk Chuck out of it. But, in the end, I know it would have been his decision because how could I keep him from taking the risk to be out of pain. I couldn't have done that ––no matter what fears I had of him potentially being paralyzed in both legs. Yes, that was told to us five minutes before Chuck entered the OR. The nurse later told us, "Sometimes that happens." Yes it does, apparently. Just days before I had read this verse and clung to it through the surgery and even now as we wait for results of the surgery. "Come to me and I will answer you. I'll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own." Jeremiah 33:3. God knew I could never have figured it out on my own. Chuck had peace that passeth understanding and told me over and over it would be okay. His faith glowed there in pre-op.

Yes, God's plans were different from ours and much better for us, even though our natural man would buck these circumstances. We can't leave the house without a driver. Jane, our hostess cooks, cleans, washes our clothes and drives us where we need to go. Jim does whatever else we need around the house and also drives us to and from Pittsburgh. He sat through the operation with me and answered calls for me that day because I just cried when I tried to explain what was happening in the OR. Many friends are also doing wonderful things to help. Blessed abundantly, we are! God's people are the best!

Chuck is walking without the help of a walker or crutches. He does use a cane for security outside. His right leg is weak, but the therapist assured us that it would strengthen in the weeks ahead without therapy. We won't know the results of the surgery until he is off all pain medications. The surgeon burned 42 lesions on his central nerve. The nerve was very damaged, very inflamed, and red. The doctor said it would never have healed. He would never have had relief of his pain without this surgery. All of this from Shingles three years ago. He does have an infection in the incision that is improving daily. Hopefully, the pain he is experiencing now is related to the infection and surgery––not the pain he has been in for the last three years, although it is very similar. We know God is doing a work in his body. We wait for His answers to the many prayers going up for him, and we feel that blanket of prayers flowing over us.

Friends come with food and take turns getting us to appointments. We're all cozy under God's wings. He meets our needs and shows us His hand at every turn. He goes ahead of us and clears the way for us to pass through every obstacle––while  His wings hold us tight.

Chuck and I entered a new season in our lives these past few weeks–one of relinquishing control and resting physically. Chuck's surgery went from an outpatient procedure to a major surgery in a few minutes time––not our plans but God's plans.  His plans are always the best.

Yes, we feel like senior teenagers but with thankful hearts that we are driven not driving, fed not cooking, and enjoying early bedtimes that aren't mandatory. All of this in a lovely home with lovely, caring saints meeting our every need and our wants too––like chocolate pie in the frig. God is so good! He answers our prayers.

Be assured. God goes ahead of us like a devouring fire. Yes, He is making short work of this path we walk with bright lights and warm hugs from His glowing fire as we rest under His everlasting wings.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Hollywood Star or Heavenly Star?

When I walk out our back door at night, I see a clear sky. We live on the outskirts of a large city where the stars shine brightly. There is no pollution, just clear nights with shining stars. The beauty of God's heaven shines clearly without the pollution of civilization. When you look at the sky in the city at night, you don't see the stars, but they are there––just not shining through.

There are days that I am polluted too. Jesus can't shine through. Do you know the feeling––maybe tired or complaining and grumpy too? Philippians 2:14-16 says "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life..."(NIV)

My friend Debi once asked me (20 years ago), "If you won the lottery, what would you do?" Kind of hard to win if you never buy a ticket. At the time, we were raising support to come back to Bolivia. We didn't know if God would bring us back to Bolivia or if He had another plan for us. We prayed for His plan but in our hearts we hoped to return to our ministry in Bolivia.

Before I could answer Debi's question she said, "You don't have to answer––you'd go to Bolivia, right?" Right! We wanted to hold out the Word of Life for the Bolivian people and shine like stars for Jesus––showing His light through us. God gave us the desires of our hearts.

We are stars for Jesus––those who know Him as Savior and Lord. Somedays we may not shine as brightly as other days. But it should be our hearts' desire to shine for Him so others may see Jesus shining through us as we hold out the Word of Life. Then, they too may become a shining star for Him.

Wouldn't you rather be a Heavenly Star with eternal rewards instead of a Hollywood star with only earthly rewards? I know not many of us have a chance to become Hollywood stars, but we all have the choice to become Heavenly Stars––shining for Jesus.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Stop and Go

In a distance, birds chirped their morning concert. Gazing at the clock, I debated––crawl out of my cozy, warm bed or watch the sunrise through the lacy curtains. The orange sun poked over the mountain, and the stars faded into the dawn. Too late to pull the covers over my head and drift back to sleep. My eyes begged to close, but my brain raced with the daily tasks at hand. Rising early would usher me into a quiet time with the Lord––I hoped.

I'm not a morning person. I prefer to be quiet in the morning except for talking to the Lord. You won't find me exercising, enjoying a morning conversation on the phone, or turning on the TV. Unless the calendar says get going out the door for an appointment, meeting, class, a hospital emergency or other work-related commitments, I'll relish the time at home. Now don't misunderstand, you won't find me on the couch. I'll be chomping at the bit to get in gear. Cleaning and laundry will most likely steal my attention from the computer that beckons me to catch up on correspondence and my writing schedule.

Watching from afar, you'd wonder how I do it all. A mystery to me also, but I do have help––supernatural help. The word "still" doesn't compute in my thought pattern. Not unless I choose to get my Bible and head to my cozy spot in a corner of my house where I enter my God Nook. Oh, how I love that place. So why don't I rush more often to that special place? Too Busy. But, is it necessary to get to my nook in order to meet with God? What does it mean to be still?

Do you go on a guilt trip when you see a photo such as the one above? When you saw it, did you suddenly grab your Bible and whisk away to a quiet place where you stared into space with still no peace? You're not alone. Where does the guilt come from? You know––the enemy. Until we find that peaceful place, we go in circles.

Until we stop, we can't be still. Until our minds stop, we can't focus on the One who stopped His earthly life when He went to the cross for us. He chose us. We can stop and choose Him. Choose to stop and focus fully on Him. Then we are still. Then our soul finds rest. "My soul finds rest in God alone." Psalm 62:1

For many of us, slowing down is work. It's natural for us to run, move, go, but it's unnatural for us to slow down, stop, breathe. However, it's possible to find that cozy nook anywhere--anytime, and for any amount of time. Just focus on God and nothing else.

There's nothing wrong with being busy, being active, being on the go––except, we often never stop.

Where I grew up, we had Stop and Go stores. Maybe you did too. We stopped, got what we needed, filled up our tank and our stomachs, then continued on.

Stop. It seems simple, but yet it's the hardest thing to do.

Practice these steps: Stop. Look. Listen. Breathe. Go.

Take time to focus on God in your God Nook––wherever that might be. Stop for a few minutes or an hour, look into His face, listen to His voice, breathe in His majesty, and then go. But, make it a habit to stop often. Know He is God. Bask in His presence.

Let's stop, get filled up, and go shine His light in the world.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Convenience or Commitment?

Do you agree with the two friends in this cartoon?  In a way, I see their point, but I don't agree entirely with them about friendship. I agree it is a blessing to meet a friend after a long separation and feel as though we never parted. That "feeling" is commitment––true friendship. But, three words stand out in this cartoon. Happiness. Feelings. Changed. Nothing's changed––so say the friends, but time does change things.

True friends accept the changes in us because they are committed to us. Friendship doesn't depend on feelings but commitment. Shouldn't we be changing daily? Isn't our goal to become more like Jesus? We all change––for the good and for the not so good. It's our choice. So what's the secret to lasting friendships?

Relationships will change over time. Hopefully, our relationship with God is changing––drawing closer to Him every day and becoming more like Jesus moment by moment. Change is good according to the Word of God. So why impede it? Probably because it's hard to change but easy––convenient–– to stay the same.

Human love is convenient. We choose our friends because they fit well with us. It's easy to be with them so it doesn't take much effort to enjoy them. It's convenient. It's comfortable. But is our friendship committed? Are we there for them when their lives change––for good or bad.

God's love is committed. His love isn't based on feelings, although He has feelings toward us. He decides to love us regardless of our actions. Do we choose to stay committed to our friends even when they change or their circumstances change? How do we choose to cheer them on and not leave them for more convenient relationships? If they move away, stay in touch. If cancer strikes, don't abandon them. Pray them through the hard times, and actively participate in their lives. It's not convenient, but we decide to commit to them. And, we shouldn't be absent when they succeed but celebrate with them.

Is there a moment in time when you move on from a friendship? Of course. If that friendship is destructive, by all means confront the situation, get help, and move on if it can't be resolved. God never intends for us to be abused––mentally or physically or spiritually. Seek help, don't stay if the other party doesn't change. We shouldn't stoop to their level, instead forgive them and walk away.  Paul moved on from a relationship that couldn't be worked out. It hurts, but God will fill the void.

I confronted such a relationship in my life. After many years of trying to work out an unhealthy relationship, I walked away. The person wouldn't come to the table to work it out. I chose to not allow it to rob me of my joy. I knew I had tried everything possible to restore that friendship. But, if someone constantly criticizes you, hurts you, insults you, or even tries to destroy your friendships with others, it's time to walk away. Don't let the relationship destroy you.

"Friends can destroy one another, but a loving friend can stick closer than family." Proverbs 18:24

There's the secret––a loving friend! A loving friend is a committed friend. A lasting friendship is the result of love and commitment. Happy friends. Yes! True contentment. One day, we'll meet our Best Friend face to face. Let's strive to be a friend like Him until then. If so, we'll enjoy heavenly friendships on earth––I'm blessed and thankful to have many of them.

How are your friendships changing? Do you choose your friends for convenience? Is it time to let go of an unhealthy friendship? Cling to the positive relationships––embrace, engage, and empower change.

Let's be a loving friend––a committed friend. And, let's learn from the Best Friend ever. He's committed! He never changes. He is our Best Friend Forever––literally!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Crying Horse ~ Laughing Cow

Our pony, Rocky is a mirror image of this poor guy stuck in the fence. Behind him stands a cow--we don't own one, but they're all around our property. Our neighbors are dairy farmers. We've seen cows, not horses, stuck in fences. We've helped deliver baby cows stuck in the birth canal. Being stuck is uncomfortable to say it mildly. Have you ever been stuck and everyone around you seemed to be laughing at you instead of rushing to help you? What an awkward position to find yourself. What happened to get you into that situation? I'm sure this horse has a tale to tell.

What's the horse thinking now? I should have known better.  How many times do we find ourselves stuck in a fence wondering how we got there? Probably like the horse, we ventured into territory we shouldn't have. Maybe we crossed the line between right and wrong or were tempted by the larger, greener field on the other side of the fence. Where are our friends when we need help? Are they laughing behind our backs or do they have our back?

Where am I when my friends are stuck? Am I standing behind laughing, or am I giving a push to help move them to freedom from their present problem, trauma, or life difficulty. If you are anything like me, I'm still learning how to be a good friend––sometimes I fail. When someone needs a push or shove, I want to be there cheering them on, not enjoying their predicament, condemning, or standing afar hoping someone else will step up to help or encourage them. I want to step up to the fence. It's a cruel world out there––you may have noticed. Are we adding to our friends' misery or giving them a push to the other side of the fence where they can once again begin anew, free from the fences that keep them stuck?

Do we jump up and down and yell "Yay" for our friends when they succeed? If not, we should be. Everyone needs cheering and shoving from friends who have their back––whatever their circumstances. 

Are you an empath? I am. I am able to tune into the emotional experience of a person. It brings me great joy to have this ability, but it also brings me great sorrow because I feel so deeply for my friends and even people I don't know well. Do you have friends who laugh when you laugh and cry when you cry? If so, you, my friend, are blessed. Are you that kind of friend? Let's ask God to help us be obedient to His Word that says, "Laugh with your happy friends, share tears when they're down. " Romans 12:15 (MSG) 

Let's stick together so we don't get stuck in a fence. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Yawn for Your Brain

Go ahead, yawn. I won't think my blog is boring you because I know why you are yawning. Do you?

A yawn isn't a sign that I am putting you to sleep. Rather, it's a sign that your body is revving up your brain so that you can more efficiently process what I'm saying. It's actually the body's way of rejuvenating the brain so that it can function more effectively.

Research has found that yawning helps cool down an overactive brain as it attempts to regulate its temperature and metabolism. It helps us reset ourself. God has put a reset button at our disposal for our brain. He also has a reset button for our soul. We know what it is for our brain––yawning. But, what about our soul? How do we reset our soul?

It's a new year. A new beginning. Time to let go of the past and press on to new goals––maybe continued goals or even secret goals. I have a few of those myself but if I told you mine, then they wouldn't be a secret any longer.

The first few days of a new year it's easy to be revved up about our new dreams and goals or even continuing our old goals we put on hold. But, how do we pursue this journey throughout the year––maybe even years? How do we start, and how do we continue our journey to fulfill our goals––without giving up, and without burning out.

In my last blog, I challenged you (and me) to be busy––but with guidelines from God's Word. Now let's see how to be renewed so we are fruitful in our labors. Yes, a yawn to rejuvenate our brain helps reset us, but how are we renewed? How can we reset our soul? What's the reset button for our soul?

Press here...

Psalm 139:113 says, "You are my place of quiet retreat; I wait for your Word to renew me." Seems pretty simple––retreat to a quiet place, wait on God"s Word to renew us.

Reset: Yawn so our brains can rejuvenate and our bodies can reset––in other words, breathe deep, relax.

Retreat: Find a quiet place to be apart––revamp.

Renew: Be in God's Word and wait to hear His voice speaking to us––restart.

Result: "...And then take on an entirely new way of life––a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you." Ephesians 4:24 (MSG)

Go ahead, push God's reset button and be renewed to reflect Jesus––His character in us.