Monday, November 21, 2011


I often wake to my husband chopping kindling in the basement--a welcome sound since I know a cozy fire is soon to come.  But last week my husband was on the far side of the Mississippi hunting a college with my oldest daughter.

And I had to make the fire.

A Pacific Northwest girl, I am no stranger to logging country.  I know trees and I know a thing or two about starting fires.  But one morning I ended up with a smoldering mess.  I was sure the authorities would soon be at my door complaining of air pollution.

Elm is dense, burns hot, but is hard to ignite.  "Stubborn wood,"  I call it. I had prepared a hot bed of coals, sufficient air flow, and even put a lighter to a discarded cereal box, but it simply refused to burn.  My husband warned me of elm and recommended I use aspen for starting the fire.  But the wood box was empty of aspen. I didn't want to venture out into the cold to haul more in. Surely the elm would suffice.

Smoke drifted to my eyes, as thoughts meandered to my heart.

How often has God sought to ignite His Holy Spirit in my life and I've resisted? Choosing only to smolder, stinging the lives of others . . . becoming irritating smoke in their eyes.  But blows of the hatchet peel away the surface, laying bare the heart.

"Seriously," thought Naaman of the Bible, "must I really dip in the mucky Jordan seven times to be healed?  What's wrong with the clear waters back home?  And I traveled all this way only to be greeted by Elisha's servant? Really?"  (See 2 Kings 5)

The hatchet splits the wood exposing raw insides . . . broken humility.  And each time Naaman dips in the river he sinks lower and lower into splinters of wood.  "He, [God], must become greater; I must become less." (John 3:30)

The kindling ignites, oh so readily, stripped pride responding to Holy Spirit coals bursting into flame. And words that flow from my mouth, now warm the heart of others, a contented glow.  My life no longer stings, but blesses.

Lord, prepare me to be a sacred dwelling place of Your Spirit, 
submitting to the chipping away of pride . . . where embers ignite into love.     

Friday, November 18, 2011

Why Remember

As I shared my story of "God on the Move" in days past, the thought may have crossed your mind, "Why remember?  What's the point of looking at the past?"  During this season of Thanksgiving, the answer is obvious--to give thanks to God for His great provisions, protection, and leading.  But also as a tool to train younger generations to follow in the way of righteousness and faith in this present day.  (If you've just joined me and missed the story, check out "God on the Move" Parts 1-3 written earlier in this blog)

We are nearing a season where we remember another time when God moved a people from there to here, from England to the new world.  These pilgrims burned bridges behind them on a large scale, but as they did so, also built bridges towards a godly nation.  What sacrifices they were willing to go through to honor God in their worship of Him!  What are we doing now, today, with those bridges to godliness which they started?

I've been reading "A Time To Remember" by Barbara Rainey to my children, a chapter at a time over the last  few weeks . . . slowly, so we might thoroughly digest it.  Then we each write a summary or report on that chapter.  It is interesting to observe how each person's report is different and catches various aspects of the story from what touches their heart.  I'm hoping to have them read their reports to the family as part of our Thanksgiving celebration this year along with pictures they've drawn to illustrate their writing.

One part of the book talks about feasting and where the idea came from.  It is not simply a holiday that our government leaders decided to establish because of incredible beginnings to our country.  Even before then, God set up various feasts for the children of Israel to commemorate great moments of His working in their lives.  I sometimes tell my children that God likes parties.  It is a good thing to celebrate what He has done for us, remembering the milestones.

And so this is why I tell you the story of "God on the Move".  I want a record of it, a summary, of God's workings in the life of our family so that we may remember and give God praise.

In this season of giving thanks we are ever so thankful for the church God has brought us to and for the way He provides for our every need.  We are grateful for His mercies upon us, that He would prepare us and chose us for a calling we are not worthy of.  We are in awe of God's faithfulness in that He continues the work He started.  He will bring it to completion in His time and His way.  But as long as I have breath, I would hope that I will always say, "Blessed be the name of the Lord".  And pray that my children will receive a heritage of faith that spurs them on to submit to God's working in their lives as well.

"Oh give thanks unto the LORD, call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples,
Sing to Him, sing praises to Him;
Speak of all His wonders,
Remember His wonders which He has done..."

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What I Learned

The move from Boulder to Junction was a life changing and eventful process in our lives.  Through the experience we learned some principles about God which I wanted to share with you here.  But I do not want you to think that having gone through these things means we really have these lessons nailed.  God continues to lead us from faith to faith in our relationship with Him and often leads us back to the beginning.  But hopefully in the journey we have grown to know Him better.

First of all, when it comes to making a large decision within a marriage, God generally speaks to both husband and wife, but not always at the same time. Often one or the other will have to learn to wait patiently while God nudges the heart in His timing.  And it is God who must work in the heart of our spouse.  We cannot think our nagging or manipulation will accomplish His purposes. (1 Pet. 3:1,2)

Secondly, steps of faith must be taken without always knowing all the details or being exactly sure of God's direction.  Believing without seeing and acting on that belief because you are sure of God who promises is the stuff of faith. Easy to talk about, but hard to practice in the nitty gritty of life. (Heb. 11)

Next, there is a crisis of belief often brought on by obstacles . . . a point of no return when bridges are burned behind us in order for new bridges to be built before us.  The difficult circumstances of our lives do not always mean direction.  Sometimes we must fight against them in order to go in the direction God would ask. (Gen. 12:1-6)

When God moves, nothing is too hard for Him and nothing can stop Him. But when He is about to do a great work, there is often a test of our faith and attacks from Satan to stop the work.  Crucial choices are placed before us which can determine whether we will get on board with what God is doing, or if we will be left behind from His blessing.  However, God's purposes will be accomplished whether we join Him or not.  It is us who miss out by our lack of faith and obedience. (Gen. 37:18-36; 39:1-23)

God also showed us that He prepares us for the task He calls us to.  As I look back on our lives, the simple job of custodial work for the church along with helping out with the youth group prepared us for full time ministry within the church.  We were able to see behind the scenes in the workings of a church, understanding church politics, becoming acutely aware of struggles within. We were made to see the sin nature within every man, even those in leadership, and learn that we could never put ourselves on a pedestal, nor others.  We were not naive in our desire for full time ministry.  God was preparing us for a specific purpose. (Ex. 2 and 3; Heb.11:23-27)

Lastly, in sharing this story with you, I risk others seeking similar experiences in their journey with God.  But our experiences will not be yours, and rarely are they the same twice.  Therefore we cannot seek to copy another's life lessons.  God's principles remain the same, but the way He works through our experiences differs for each of us. (James 1:17)  God doesn't want us to love Him just for the blessings He gives or for the sensational experiences, but rather for who He is.  God directs us as a result of our relationship with Him.  This is our highest goal--to know Christ Jesus on the deepest level possible. (Phil. 3:10)

I hope you have been encouraged through this story of God on the Move from November of 1996.  I'm blessed to revisit that time as it spurs me on to draw ever nearer to God in these days.  God is not done with us yet.  He has more to work through our lives and more to teach us, because "...He who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus."  (Phil.1:6)  But most of all, He wants us to know Him even further through His Word and the Spirit as they entwine with the experiences we face today.  Thanks for hanging with me on the journey.  I trust you were also blessed.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

God on the Move Part 3

So far in this review of God on the Move, I've shared much about God's great victory in our lives and amazing things He did for us.  But could we still sing the same tune when God took away?  During this time period we faced what I would consider some tests from God and a temptation from the enemy that if yielded to, could have destroyed the work of God in our lives.

I already mentioned in Part 2 our loss of a sizable business bid.  Why would God allow that to happen right when we needed the money the most?  We can see now that it was in order for God to pour out His mercy on us, but in the midst of it we couldn't make sense of it.  We were certain God wanted us to move, but it seemed He was not providing our financial means to do so, and in fact taking them away.  But God revealed to us that He would do His work in His way and that our self-sufficiency and pride needed to be broken down.

We were also expecting our third child.  It seemed God's smile of favor was on our lives.  But at 10 weeks we had our first miscarriage.  God  took away. Would we still praise Him?  This was to be the first of three miscarriages and secondary infertility, where God brought us through a journey to understand that just because children are a blessing of the Lord, does not mean that a small family is under His judgement, or that we were bad parents.  We had pridefully assumed we were going to have a big family but God had other plans and some things to teach us in the meantime. (A story for another time.)

As part of the candidating process we were asked to come for a week and meet with individual leaders of the church and their families for evaluation. This may not have been such a big deal except that we had a now 4 year old and 2 year old!  Fearful of their behavior in front of others who were evaluating us was a bit unnerving.  Again, we had to trust that God would take care of that little detail which concerned us greatly.  He did.  Our kids were on their best behavior, even though we knew their capabilities not to be.

Earlier when we failed to receive the youth pastor position at our church in Boulder, we were not the only ones disappointed.  The students in the youth group did not understand or accept it.  They had "fallen in love" with Jeff as their stability during a time when the church went through a season of turmoil.

A nucleus of students, (and parents!), wrote a letter of petition to the leaders of the church requesting that Jeff be their youth pastor, and threatened to leave the youth group if their request was not granted.  They had planned on circulating it throughout the youth group, gaining signatures and presenting it to the church.  Jeff saw the letter and stopped them before it got very far.  He instructed the students to submit to the leadership of the church.  They were treading on dangerous ground by fighting against their authority.  God was leading him elsewhere and Jeff explained to them that we dare not go against what God wills.

I'm so very thankful for God's protection and the wisdom God gave my husband.  How easily we could have fed our pride and built our own kingdom in our own way.  But those kingdoms are always built on sand and dissolve when the tide rolls in.  When Satan dangles his temptations before us, God consistently provides a way of escape.  How thankful I am that my husband took the way of escape and killed the mess it could have turned into.  (And I'm happy to report that God honored their submission to authority by bringing them a youth pastor that fit them perfectly.)

Later when some of those same students graduated and became young adults, they wanted to move out to Junction and be staff for the youth group. Again, Jeff told them no.  He would not allow them to follow him. They needed to follow Christ.  God had moved us away, perhaps for that very reason.

We are so very thankful for the working of God in our lives and for His faithfulness.  As I look back on those years I'm amazed at the things He brought us through.  We were young and thought we knew so much about life, but God had yet so much to teach us.  We are still learning, and God is still moving.  He has not stopped.  However, sometimes when God moves among us we don't even recognize it because we are not attuned to His Spirit.  An ongoing relationship with God is crucial.  I hope I have not missed any of His amazing wonders because I did not have eyes or heart to see.

This concludes Part 3 of the story of how God brought us from Boulder to Junction.  There is more which I did not share as it is too personal in nature. God asks me to "guard my heart" and so I seek to do that.  But hopefully I have shared enough that it can encourage your heart to follow after God's heart.  Through this experience we were drawn to understand some of the ways of God more clearly.  I plan to share some principles of  "What I Learned" from these experiences next time, hoping you will join me.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

God on the Move Part 2

God had gotten our attention.  He had worked out circumstances favorable towards a career change as well as a change in scenery, in churches, and in friends.  But the logistics for this to work out still seemed too impossible to actually become a reality.  There were yet some looming obstacles which threatened to stop all activity of God. But we soon learned that God cannot be hindered by our limitations.

The news of our possible move was not at first well received from my in-laws.  Our son, then 3 years, and daughter, 2, were their only grandchildren. We lived 5 minutes away and if this move came about, we would be a mountain range and 5 hours away.  Could we not find a pastorate somewhere on the front range they asked?  Why Grand Junction?  We did not know why, except that we were sure God was leading us in some very specific ways.  Over the next few months God changed their hearts, causing them to later send us off with their blessing.  (Those of you who are grandparents probably understand the magnitude of this obstacle more than others.)

We had just purchased our first house two years before and worked hard to make ends meet.  My husband worked two jobs running our own upholstery shop and being the custodian for our church.  On top of this he was full time volunteer staff for the high school youth group.  We would often put our children to bed for the night and then work in the garage until the wee hours of the morning to finish a bid. One weekend we were asked to come visit the church in Grand Junction.  It happened to fall at a time when we were very short on finances. We did not agree with debt and therefore held no credit cards.  All we had was just enough money to travel out to Junction, but not enough to get back.

We thought about not coming, or asking to come a different weekend, but did not want to miss what God might be doing.  We finally agreed to come and figured if this really was of God He would somehow provide a way for us to get home again.  We stayed with people from the church who graciously fed and housed us all weekend.  When it was time to come home, the senior pastor treated us to frozen yogurt.  As we were getting ready to leave he offered to fill up our gas tank.  At first my husband refused, but I jabbed him in the ribs whispering, "Say yes!  This is God's answer!  This is the provision!"  And so our pastor filled our car full of gasoline, paying for all of  it.  We made it home that night, hearts full of wonder over the faithfulness of God.

Later, after receiving the youth pastor position, we had the problem of our house.  We could not get it sold before we left, and we did not yet have renters.  Meanwhile, we were trying to rent a house in Junction which involved a deposit as well.  With three major payments to make at one time, we didn't know how we could possibly move.  We didn't have the means to meet all the requirements.  We had also just lost a sizable upholstery bid that we thought was secured.  We prayed about it, but quite frankly, didn't really see a way around this one.  But the next day we received a check in the mail for $1,000. sent anonymously.  We still do not know who sent it, but it was the exact amount needed to make the move.  Again, we were blown away by God's provision.

"Give us this day, our daily bread", from Matt. 6:11 became a reality in our lives as we took some steps of faith into obedience towards the movement of God in our lives.  In the midst of the transition our faith was stretched to great lengths.  How easy now to look back on that time and see God's answers, but going through it we could not see.  We simply had to trust and believe without seeing.

God was on the move and nothing could stop Him.  The time was right.  But to get us from there to here were still a few more obstacles to overcome, only of a different sort . . . trials of the soul and spirit which sought to hurl us into defeat.  These set backs threatened to destroy our hope.  Hang in there for part 3, the final chapter of this story, soon to come.

Friday, November 11, 2011

God on the Move Part 1

It was Sunday, Nov. 11, 1996 when we got the call.  The elder chairman informed us that the vote was positive.  The church had decided to accept my husband Jeff, as their youth pastor.  Like the cloud by day and pillar of fire by night which led Israel across the wilderness, God was on the move in our lives, transitioning us across the Colorado mountains into a land of mesas, red rock, and cactus.

Earlier this week I was sorting some boxes and found my journals.  One of them randomly fell open to Nov. 1996.  As I read I was once again blown away by the movement of God in our lives. It never ceases to amaze me. I've been meaning to share this story with you for some time, but was not sure when God would have me do that.  Now seems to be the time.

We were part of a vibrant evangelical church in Boulder, CO.  It was the church we got married in.  We bonded with many of the believers as they walked beside us through some difficult days. But God began to cause my heart to get antsy.  I was sure it was time to make a major change in our lives, finding a niche, a calling in ministry.  But I was impatient with God because it seemed He was not giving Jeff the same message.  Needless to say, my nagging began to gnaw away at our marriage.

Jeff was convinced we were to stay in Boulder.  Shortly after we were married, the youth pastor in Boulder pulled us aside and asked us to help as staff for the high school.  We thrived in that department and later when the church was between youth pastors, Jeff filled in the gap.  Now the church was without a youth pastor again and my husband applied for the job-- it seemed obvious that it was the will of God.

But we were shocked and disappointed to receive a rejection of our application.  It didn't make sense. We kept trying for the position to no avail, fighting to stay in Boulder. But it was like kicking against an iron door that simply refused to budge. It was obvious we were not meant to be there.

Meanwhile, I had to learn to trust God to move in the heart of my husband. Could God really do that without my help?  Lead my husband without a word from his wife? Yes, God could handle him all by Himself.  I needed to be still and wait for His timing.

When I finally learned to keep my mouth shut, then my husband began to consider that God might be leading us elsewhere.  (Funny how that works.) We started looking for openings at other churches in various parts of the country.  We compiled a list that we were planning to send our application to. Meanwhile, we made a trip out to the western slope to visit my sister.

As we entered Grand Junction, the thought came to us.  Wasn't one of the churches on our list in this area? We decided to stop by and check it out. After finding the church, Jeff went into the office stating that he was there for the youth pastor position. The senior pastor then drilled Jeff in an unplanned interview for over an hour.

Little did we know however, that when Jeff walked through the door of the office, the senior pastor had just laid out four youth pastor applications on his desk and was poring over them in prayer, seeking God's direction as to which one He would lead to them.  The senior pastor was already scheduled to be on the front range the following week to interview these four pastors and view them on site.  He didn't have time to fit in another, but would try to stop by if it worked out.

One of the other applicants "happened to" cancel and so the senior pastor was able to get to our church in Boulder just in time to join the youth group on their service project.  There he watched Jeff carefully in his interaction with the students. God's timing is always perfect, and these "coincidences" we believe did not happen by chance. It was none less than the hand of God going before us. This was just the beginning.

God was preparing to move us and also move our obstacles . . . big looming obstacles.  But not without faith and obedience on our part, at times burning bridges behind us. I will tell you about that next time.  This concludes part one of a three part story.  I hope you'll stick around to hear the rest of it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Authentic Joy

Tucked between the glory of fall and the wonder of winter is a tiny season of drab. The leaves, spent of their splendor, cling to the trees by mere threads in hope of leftover life, but droop pathetic in the inevitable.  The branches, stripped bare of their clutter, appear ghastly against an overcast sky.

But today I have joy.  Sheer joy.  The reason?
I've been refreshed in the Lord.

When all is stripped away I am left with the joy of the Lord as my strength.  It is sufficient.  It is enough.  Not that I want all to be stripped away.  Far from it! But sometimes in the glory of a season I forget where my true joy lies.  Not in friendships, retreats, things, or events, but in the Lord.  However, when I look to these wonderful gifts He has given to sustain my joy they become, in fact,

                                         . . . . .dare I say it?


Spiritual downfall does not happen in one instance, but rather in the accumulation of small choices made within the day . . . the week . . . the month, producing a way of life.

It's a slow fade, when you give yourself away
It's a slow fade, when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid,
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
It's a slow fade . . .
by Casting Crowns

God has placed before me an offer of contented rest, His awesome presence each day.  He is eager to pour out His grace in my life and fill me with His joy.  May it never be said of me, "you missed it!" because of small choices I made to turn away from Living Life.

Idolatry defines my culture, but I cannot excuse loss of devotion on the world. No, it is my own desire carried away like a leaf on the wind which descends into puddles of apathy . . . idolatry, for "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."  (Matt. 6:21)

Where is my heart?  Lost on 7th street?  Deadlines?  Successes of my children?  Image?  Status?  The formidable screen?  I must find my heart, for there I will also find my loves. . . treasure.

Idolatry, the thief which seeks to steal priceless joy from my life . . . sneaks around as pirates in stealth modes of neglect, default, and small choices. But I can hear the creak in the floor behind me, and I'd best attend to its warning or be crumpled.  "Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord."  
(Acts 3:19)

Falling away . . .
            provoking the Lord to anger . . .
                            distancing myself from the Lord . . .
                                                           May it never be so!

Yet, we want His stuff, His blessings, His guidance, His smile.
This is craziness.  God will not be mocked.
". . . for who is he who will devote himself to be close to Me?  
declares the Lord."  
(Jer. 30:21) 
Can it be said of us that we are devoted to being close to the Lord?  In this drizzly season of rain and overcast skies, before the snowflake's gentle caresses, we can still find a place of delight . . . joy settles deep within the heart as we return to the God of all mercy and grace.  Because for those "who revere [His] name, the sun of righteousness will arise with healing in its wings . . . "  

And after the healing, ". . . you will go out 
and leap like calves released from the stall."  (Mal.4:2)

I have witnessed first hand "calves released from the stall",
and it is, indeed, joy . . . sheer joy!