Monday, May 18, 2009

Strength to Stand

Matt and I are very interested in the persecuted church. We receive the Voice of the Martyrs newsletter every month and our hearts are always moved by the trials of our brothers and sisters. A few months ago the cover of VOM had a 10 year old girl named Namrata on it. Her little face had been burned. Her great crime and reason for her charred flesh was because she was a believer. Her testimony was beautiful, full of forgiveness and hope. In spite of the pain and the shadow of death that continually looms over her little life, her faith is strong.

I just read the report of the horrific torture of Gao Zhisheng. I was brought to tears reading all our brother had endured and may still be enduring. I was overwhelmingly thankful for the freedoms I enjoy. If you stop and look at history you will see how time and again freedoms never disappear overnight. It is the slow erosion of a culture. A complacent acceptance of the sirens call to change. It frightens me to hear Christians say it is not our place as believers to stand up against the erosion of our culture. It only takes a glance back at the history of the world to show us the devastating ruins of good people doing nothing. Thank God for the Dietrich Bonhoeffers and Gao Zhishengs of the world. But I digress.

The thought that has weighed the most on my mind is how well would I withstand in the face of such torture? Am I preparing my children to have the kind of faith I saw in the face of little Namrata? A few Sundays ago we were visiting a church. We enjoyed the service, but something struck me during the song service. We sang a few token hymns presumably for the "old people". The song leader stopped us in the middle of "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" and said, "Can we pick this up a little? If we don't, this song just drags on." Musically I understand what he was saying. But it seemed to me the message of the song seemed to be being missed, we were just getting it "over with". Then we moved on to the praise songs and while I enjoyed them, the lyrics were a bit repetitive. And while they inspired good feelings(which aint all bad) the challenge and encouragement found in Luther's hymn was not as evident in the praise choruses. During this portion of the singing we were encouraged to "think of the words" and worship. Now before you get your boxing gloves on, this is NOT intended to be a argument of hymns vs praise music. Neither is this a criticism of the service or the music minister of the church we visited. I gave the background because it was a catalyst of thought for me. I asked myself what would sustain me or my children in the face of persecution? Have we fed them so much ease and feel good theology that they would immediately crumble into the "why me Lord?" mentality when faced with discomfort.

I don't have all the answers to my questions, I'm really just thinking out loud here. I pray we never face in America what Gao is facing in China or what Namrata faced in India or what little Mark in Iraq is facing everyday at school. But should that day come, I wonder if we would be sustained by an understanding that others have faced this and more and stood strong for Christ. Would a knowledge of Luther's world and how powerful his song was in light of what he was facing bring us encouragement? Would the powerful trust of being eternally protected by our Mighty Fortress call to our memories scriptures of promise from our Savior? And so Matt and I are trying to actively prepare our family for whatever may come. To prepare our hearts and minds to lean hard upon Jesus in times of trial. Be that in a jail cell or in a peer group.

1. A mighty fortress is our God,
a bulwark never failing;
our helper he amid the flood
of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe
doth seek to work us woe;
his craft and power are great,
and armed with cruel hate,
on earth is not his equal.

2. Did we in our own strength confide,
our striving would be losing,
were not the right man on our side,
the man of God's own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabaoth, his name,
from age to age the same,
and he must win the battle.

3. And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God hath willed
his truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure,
for lo, his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.

4. That word above all earthly powers,
no thanks to them, abideth;
the Spirit and the gifts are ours,
thru him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
this mortal life also;
the body they may kill;
God's truth abideth still;
his kingdom is forever.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

For Mom


The yellow climbing roses have finally bloomed! You can hardly see the electric meter under there. :)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mothers, Daughters, and Chocolate

Saturday night my amazing friend Becca hosted a Mother/Daughter dinner for our church ladies. It was wonderful! She had two menu choices that she prepared herself, complete with fine service from some of our young men. The theme of the dinner was chocolate and friendship. Sounds perfect for a girl's gathering huh? Becca asked me to give a short devotional. Below is my "little offering" and I thought I'd share it with my blog girlfriends too. (I handed out chocolates before my talk. None of the ladies knew what "filling" her chocolate held.)

As the infamous Forest Gump would say, "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get." I’ve never seen the movie myself, but there is some truth to what Forest had to say. Life rarely turns out the way any of us planned when we were dreaming it out as young girls. And yet we do have a choice with what we will do with the reality we have. We can hold on to those youthful dreams and demand that life give us what we want. OR we can surrender those dreams to God and let Him give us a life that far surpasses anything we could have dreamed. Don’t get me wrong, I don't think that necessarily means an easy life or even a happy life. But experience has taught me that following God has led to the most fulfilling, joyful, peaceful life imaginable.

Another aspect of life we can learn from a box of chocolates is how our expectations can greatly affect our lives. For those of you expecting a caramel and you ended up with a fruit center didn’t you somehow feel a bit cheated? Your expectations led you to believe something that wasn’t true. Even if you enjoyed the fruit filling and even though the candy was given free of charge our emotions can end up sending us spiraling downward. I have to constantly remind myself when I feel disappointed or dissatisfied with life that I haven’t been cheated or let down by anyone. I have created a reality in my own mind that doesn’t exist. I’m trying to make the world around me live up to my expectations. This, my dear friends, is a recipe for misery. I heard a radio preacher once say, "Expect more from yourself and less from those around you." I think if we practiced that principle we would find ourselves living a much more contented life.

There are many lessons we could take from a chocolate box, but the one I’d like to focus on today is how a box of chocolates, can be like the Body of Christ. While I love the caramels in the box, a whole box of caramels would be unbalanced. Do you wonder if the chocolate almonds ever look over at the cherry cordials and say, "Wow, I wish I could drip when people bit into me like she does! It’s so much more valuable to be a cherry than an almond." I can hear the chocolate creams wishing they were as well shaped as the thin mint patties. The box of chocolate would never fulfill the needs of a whole family if they were all the same. And it is an insane waste of time for the orange creams to wish they were bon bons. It is the beautiful variety in the box of chocolates that helps make the package complete.

Paul admonishes the Corinthians in 2 Cor 10:12 …"but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise". While we share so many of the same values, likes, and dislikes not one of us is in the exact same place in life. Some of us have older children, some young, some none. Some of us are married, some single. Some of us come from large families and some of us are only children. We work at home, in offices, factories, hospitals the list could go on and on. The point is, we accomplish nothing by trying to compare our situation in life with somebody else’s. I find myself wishing to be as organized or as disciplined, or as creative, or as productive, or as intelligent as all of you. And where does that lead me? I end up trying so hard to be like somebody else that I’m not being all that God wants me to be.

Don’t get me wrong I believe there is power in being challenged to be more than what comes naturally for me. I know the slippery slope of being in a situation where you feel you are the "top dog". Here's a hypothetical: I go to the Dr's office and there are 3 other mother’s there with their children. Their children are wretched. Screaming, climbing and biting. There sits my "perfect little angels". Because of some strange aligning of the planets they are good today, sitting quietly reading books. The other mother’s look at me as if my super hero cape is flapping in the breeze. It’s tempting to think, "Wow, I’m doing OK here." That kind of thinking is just craziness people. The reality is my "little angels" have really devilish days too. Any "success" I may have in any area of my life is a result of the influence of someone else. I have been blessed to be surrounded by godly people who have helped me learn and grow. I NEED to be challenged. I need sisters in Christ who are overcoming in areas in which I am weak. I learn from your lives more than I’ve learned in many years of sermons. The search light of the Holy Spirit using your lives to reveal my own grim is much different than my own measuring stick of comparisons.

If we had time to ask each lady in this room "how together" she has her life, I’d be willing to bet every one of us is working hand in hand with God to refine some character trait in our lives. And every one of us has had a laundry basket unfolded, a junk drawer in chaos, or a frozen pizza dinner with no vegetable in sight to feed our families. By God’s grace we are growing together. Where one is weak another is strong. As a Body, or as a box of chocolates, we can delight in each sister’s strength, and use our own strength to bless others. We can use Christ’s measuring stick in our lives and be thankful for the encouragement we can gain from each other to do more, be more, and live more for Jesus.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I Miss My Blog

I miss blogging. I miss reading your blogs. Facebook is fun and quick. It helps me to keep in some sort of contact, albeit a very shallow form of contact. It's nice, but I miss blogging. Time is in short supply and the necessities of life rise to the top of the priority list and so my blog time is neglected. I console myself with "summer dreams". I tell myself that when we finish school I will make myself set aside an hour a week to read/write blogs. Perhaps the accountability of writing that down will make it happen.

Since I last blogged we've celebrated two birthdays, attended a homeschool convention, mowed grass, built hundreds of rocking chairs, visited with family and the list could go on and on. And so instead of going on and on right now, I'm going to go read your blogs and see what you've been up to.

Looking forward to being a better blogger in the future.