Thursday, July 31, 2014

"Gracing"

"Why do we keep holding each other to a standard of perfection
instead of letting us all be held by the arms of grace. 
Perfectionism is a slow death by self."
Ann Voskamp

Company is coming.  As sometimes happens when company is coming, I can be found looking around my home with a critical eye. Our home holds a mix of eclectic pieces out of necessity more than planning.  Most everything was purchased or given to us over ten years ago.  Furniture doesn't pall match, the fireplace is covered with plastic and tape (a result of it not functioning properly), oak, maple, and pine wood in different stains and styles are everywhere and our kitchen is original to the house.  Alas, in my company-is-coming eyes, it all falls short of acceptable. Or if I am honest is it "perfection" that I .am looking for.

Convicted by Ann's quote and God's whispers, I had to ask myself ~~Is it really my home I am concerned about?  Or is it approval from others in regards to how they see our house, our nest, us.... me.  How they see me.  Once again I began to recognize that I hold myself and my surroundings to a very high standard for reasons I need to let go of.  Echos of the past that tell me I am not enough. As I am....as I look....as I live.  Seriously, do we give too much value to the expectations of those who judge us by their standards?  Those who are unwilling to see others from a place of grace. 

And if I give value to those who judge, then what do my eyes see when I look at others and their homes.  And is this need for approval that still comes to the surface a part of that perfectionism that is a slow death by self?  Ugh.

It is good to ponder these things. It is good to reject the need for approval when it tries to resurface.  It is good to stare at our reflection and embrace with grace who we see looking back.  It is good to see others through the grace that lives in us.  Jesus holds us in arms of grace.

Today I have been looking around my home and "gracing it" with deep appreciation for the many blessings I have in our eclectic nest.  I like this "gracing".  Recently I heard a pastor share that as a child he was told to pray over a painful wart by "gracing it".  He did and it left.  Praying grace has power!  Can we do the same with the critical eye we hold or receive?  Replace it with grace?

We can if we take God at His Word.  He delights in us.  We are His masterpiece.  We are more than enough with Jesus.  We have all we need.  By grace......

Monday, July 28, 2014

Heaven Is For Real



Last night Joel and I watched "Heaven is for Real" on DVD.  We had both read the book a couple of years ago and we were looking forward to seeing the movie.  It is the true story of a young boy named Colton Burpo who visits heaven during an emergency surgery to save his life.  He has what is called a "near death" experience without being near death.  What he sees and who he encounters in Heaven makes the book and the movie very powerful and thought provoking.  After watching the movie I have taken the book back off the shelf to read again.

I have seen in the cyber world, skeptics  that question whether this story is authentic or not.  They question whether Colton Burop is telling the truth or whether his dad, Pastor Todd Burpo is making it all up for reasons they are eager to list.  Maybe, like members of pastor Todd's church believed at the beginning, Colton just had a vivid imagination at age 4.  Even his parents were unsure until he spoke to them about information only they knew, that was revealed to him while he was in Heaven.  Amazing.  This kind of story deepens our faith and widens our understanding of God, or.....it brings in:  Skepticism.  Questioning.  Unbelief.

We have all been there, I expect,  in one circumstance or another.  Experiencing something that shakes up our faith or brings God out of the comfortable box we have put Him into.  This may induce unbelief or skepticism based often from fear or lack of knowledge.  Hopefully it challenges us to grow in our faith. (Today I am only speaking of God's Spiritual realm.  Unfortunately the devil and his legions are also part of that mysterious world we cannot see.)

We hear about people who see angels, go through near death experiences, are overcome by the presence of God, or hear God's voice speaking to them.  All these and more encompass the Spiritual realm which takes trust more than understanding to embrace.  My first encounter with the spiritual realm goes back to 1972.  I was kneeling at the altar of the Tabernacle church in Duluth Mn, praying with my eyes closed and hands folded.  As I felt someone take my hands and unfold them lifting them up in praise, I smiled, opening my eyes to see who was there.  My eyes found no one.  There was not anyone nearby.  I could still feel the warmth of someone's hands on mine, but that someone was invisible to me in this world.  This encounter inspired me more times than I can count.   In the past several months I have once again been connecting with God from the Spiritual realm, with the Holy Spirit overpowering me.  I call it Holy Spirit hugs.  Again, this is not really understood, and certainly cannot be reasoned out, but we know what we know...and it has changed my life and deepened my relationship with Jesus.  For that I am grateful.

Joel has his own stories to share, like feeling the presence of angels so strong as a protection that it overwhelmed him and brought him to tears.  Each time God opens the door just a small crack to the Spiritual realm beyond, we are so, so blessed.

I am sure you have your own stories to share of how God has made Himself known in your lives.  Just like in the movie we watched, we don't always understand or even welcome it.  But God is God and He delights in us, wanting to have an intimate relationship with us.  He also wants to use us for His purpose and for His glory.  The movie certainly stirred up conversation with each other and with God.  There is so much we do not understand, but that is where trust comes in.  Nothing is impossible with God, and that includes a four year olds visit to Heaven where he sat on Jesus' lap,  talked with his great grandpa and met his sister who had died long before he was born. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Saturday's Scribbles

It is Saturday once again in my corner of the world and we are well into summer here.  Such beauty to behold.  We finally got some much needed rain yesterday, giving our grass and the fields in Iowa a good drink of nourishment.  We had a few days of heat an high humidity followed by cooler temps again.  Today the humidity is back and unwelcome by all.  We cannot complain here, though~~no drought, no fires, floods, or long periods of excessive heat. Our flowers are in full bloom and we are enjoying them from our porch. 

Black eyed Susan ivy

New Guinea Impatiens

We walked in the early mornings this week and even in the high humidity we managed to get in our 1.5 miles. We have a doe and two fawns living down by the river, but we have only seen them once.  Last night we walked later in the evening and came across three little fawns out eating in the brush.  Beautiful!  We walked at the park before RAGBTAI came to town,  and we walked at the State Park on our way home from church last Sunday.  Nice, but more enjoyable for us along the river near our home.
Can you make out three?  Two in front and one back
by the tree to the right.  So cute and not
worried about us at all.


Speaking of RAGBRAI, the biking event across Iowa, it was quite interesting as the 10,000 riders and their friends and family camped here overnight in our city doubling it's size to 60,000.  I wrote about it HERE.  It was fun to see all the tents, bikes, and activities that went on, although we stayed pretty close to home.

Last Sunday was Joel's first at Faith Lutheran.  It went well and on our way home we stopped at our favorite lake and state park.  Then we headed home for pancakes with fresh strawberries and blueberries!  Yum....Monday and Tuesday we stayed close to home with all the heat and humidity, but Wednesday we headed to the hospital to be with  my sister and her family, as she was having surgery.  All went well and she is home already.  Yay.  Most of my week was spent nesting at home and freezing blueberries~ 50lbs, minus a few, are now in the freezer.   

We have enjoyed eating our fill of blueberries and freezing near 50 lbs for the coming year.  We also were able to purchase yellow cherries to enjoy, along with fresh farm eggs.  I love farm eggs...they are all different sizes and colors(usually shades of brown with a few green thrown in) plus the yolks are so yellow and they taste sooooo good!  The chickens actually get out in the sunshine~ happy chickens equals good tasting eggs.

yellow cherries ready to eat!

fresh farm eggs

blueberries ready for the freezer
first we wash and freeze on trays
then transfer to bags for safe storage

 We watched the movie last night, "Unconditional"   on Netflix.  Good movie!  Joel and I are reading Heidi Baker's book, "Birthing The Miraculous" out loud together and watching a lot less TV.  The porch is calling our name.  What have you been doing?

Until next time............

Thursday, July 24, 2014

No One A Stranger, Everyone WIth A Story

Wednesday afternoon my cowboy preacher hubby got on his recumbent and rode downtown to observe RAGBRAI as it unfolded in our city here in north Iowa.  RAGBRAI takes place every July for a week as bicyclists from every state come ride together across Iowa, taking different routes each year with different host towns welcoming riders along with way.  It is a serious adventure with real risks as they ride up to 100 miles a day. This year already, two men have died from heart attacks.  There were around 10,000 riders this year, along with others who bring campers, trucks, etc. to follow them on the journey.  Our city was expecting 30,000 to come in...doubling our size.  Joel had made plans to ride the "hump" day, going a "mere" 40 miles, but life intervened and he needed to be elsewhere.  So later Wednesday afternoon  he headed out biking around town to visit with those who were setting up tents or eating at the different churches where they served hot meals for a small cost to those who were hungry. 

Bikes downtown
 
Bikes at the park
 
No one is a stranger with my cowboy preacher.   He struck up conversations with riders from New York, Colorado, and much to his delight a man from The Philippines who now lives in southern Iowa.  He bought meals for a couple of the guys and chatted with them about their passion for biking, even shipping their bikes and flying themselves to Iowa for RAGBRAI.  He heard about their jobs as graphic and industrial engineers and learned a bit about their daily lives.  Another man had an Air Force insignia on his shirt so Joel stopped to chat and found out he was with the Air Force Cycling Team!  Since Joel spent 8 years in the Air Force, a great conversation followed.  Danny, the man from the Philippines was eager to visit about his country.  He shared with Joel that Clark Air Base, where Joel had been stationed so long ago, is now going to be made into the Manila Airport since Manila has grown to over 30 million and cannot enlarge the airport there.  They talked about the Marshall Law under Marcos, our two years in his native country, and more. 

No one is a stranger and everyone has a story to tell.

Which takes me back two days to when my hubby answered to door to a young man selling "books".  Joel stood outside and chatted for awhile.  I was sitting in the living room when I heard them come in the house.  The young man from Estonia needed to use the bathroom so Joel brought him in to use the one right inside our front door.  Ok.  To be honest here, I was not happy.  He was a stranger for heaven's sake.  Was he really selling books?  Was he clean?  Using our bathroom? 

Remember what I said about no one being a stranger to my cowboy preacher? 

It got me thinking.  Past negative experiences had me set up boundaries around our home years ago, and welcoming the book seller with the Russian sounding accent into our home took me back nearly 40 years ago to when Joel brought home a man from a downtown mission for Easter dinner.  The man ended up harassing me with abusive phone calls that had us concerned for the safety of our family.  This was not the only time our family would be in some kind of danger, but we agreed to set firm boundaries back then.  We would help all the people God sends our way, but our home was off limits.  The family needed to be safe.

Joel is not clueless to the dangers in our world.  He just believes God will make him aware of who he can trust and who he can't.  Experience has educated us.   We both enjoy visiting with those we meet.  It is not difficult for either of us to strike up a conversation.  We like to talk.  Too much, in fact.  No stranger....works for Joel and for me....except if it comes home or the radar I have tells me someone is not safe.

But back to RAGBRAI and Joel's visit.  He took plenty of photos, a few of which I am sharing here, and he enjoyed greatly the atmosphere of it all.  As we drove through town together later in the evening we were amazed by all the people...everywhere.  Tent after tent...bike after bike.  Biker after biker.

Tents at a church near our home
 
Tents along the river in the park
Nice place to camp!

 It was fun to see.  We did not stay around for the Bret Michaels concert, but heard there were thousands and thousands in the streets and around city hall who were entertained until the wee hours.  I think Joel was itching to go back into the fray the next morning, but commitments took him elsewhere.  Still he enjoyed his few hours of fun yesterday.  So many people, each with a story to tell....none of them a stranger to my cowboy preacher. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Letting Go Of Our Yes For God's No

"There is no yield in our lives
until we yield our yes to the Lord"
Ann Voskamp

This past April we made plans to go to a healing conference out in Colorado that was scheduled for mid August.  We were so excited!  The ministry that was holding the conference is one I listen to on nearly a daily basis.  Along with speakers every night, we were going to spend 5 days going through their class on healing, then putting the teachings into practice.  It sounded great so we signed up, making hotel reservations near the college in a place with a great view of Pike's Peak.  When Joel interviewed for an Interim position he let them know we would be gone for two weeks in August. We made all the plans to go, and hoped to see our grandson Eli and some old friends while traveling.

And then we prayed.

We prayed, believing God would bless this latest adventure in healing.  How could He not?! He had sent us to another conference last October so we assumed He would want us to go to this one too!  We spent a couple of weeks praying and meditating and to our dismay, both of us strongly felt God say no.  No?  We struggled with that no, and prayed again.  And again.  Consistently we felt we heard a strong no. 

We decided that maybe we were to attend another conference that was going on at the same time in Florida....yes, maybe we were to go there.  Nada.  Another no.  When Joel's mentor and our friend Merv died we found out they were having a memorial service at Yellowstone mid August.  The celebration of life was at the Mammoth chapel at the same time as the two conferences, so we felt maybe this was the answer to why God was saying no.  With prayer and determination we tried to work it out, but to no avail.  We felt we had to say no.  Another disappointment.

So, when I read Ann's quote above, it spoke to my questioning soul.  Giving our "yes" to God is really a matter of trust.....and obedience.  Sometimes obedience is not fun.

When, out of obedience to God,  I drank from a natural Spring in Indiana last Fall, I was nervous about it.  What ifs kept coming up, but I drank, and the results of that have been 9 months free from the continual UTI's I was plagued with.  Was it the water?  No.  A dear friend heard from Holy Spirit I was to drink from a natural spring...it was so strange she did not want to tell me, but HS kept after her until she did.  We took it very serious and with God's guidance found an Amish spring to drink from.  The healing was the result of doing what God told me to do.   We get that.

We don't get why going to a conference where we would soak in His Word and learn more about His gift of healing is a firm "no".  But we are staying home from conferences, from our friend's service, from the 6 different things we had opportunities to do that week in August because we are yielding our yes to Him.  I don't pretend to like it or understand.  We just believe that He knows what is best for us.

The first time I left home after 10 years of being housebound, we prayed and prayed about the journey.  It was a step of faith.  Joel heard these words as he worried about the trip.  "She needs to go.  I will be her place of safety."  Out of obedience we went.  And then out of obedience last October we went on a two week trip to a healing conference in CT that change lives forever.  This August out of obedience we are staying home from another healing conference that we felt would change our lives.  Letting go of our yes because God said no.  We can trust Him.

 
I just read on one of my blog posts from two years ago these words.  "Radical obedience is doing what God says, obeying Him when it does not make sense."  Maybe this is not on the scale of radical, but it definitely does not make sense to us in the natural world.  I am sure that somewhere down the road we will look back and see how God worked this into His plan for our livcs.  For now we wait, letting go of our yes for God's no.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Saturday's Scribbles

Good Saturday to all of you from our corner of the world.  We've enjoyed beautiful weather the past week, in fact it felt more like September than mid July!  I even pulled out my wool comforter, cranked open the windows at night and slept well under my Woolie .  Tomorrow the heat comes back, but for now we are enjoying the cooler "Montana-style" nights.

We headed up to north central MN. last Wednesday with the sole purpose of visiting family and Joel also hoping to have some alone time.  We visited with Joel's Aunt Harriet, age 102, and his cousin, three nieces...two in person, one by phone....a family friend who is like a second mom, and ate out with a close cousin and his wife.  Great time!  We were able to spend time with our daughter and SIL and three treasures, and I spent an afternoon with our SIL's parents and his niece, too, while Joel was off biking 20 miles on his favorite trail and swimming in a childhood lake that holds many memories for him.

Speaking of biking, I managed to stay upright on our granddaughter's bike when I denied how crummy I was feeling and took off riding for oh, maybe 100 feet.  First time on a bike for decades!  Joel would like me to eventually bike with him, but I am thinking those seats are just too painful for this spring chicken......or old hen!

On Saturday we headed down to Chaska Mn, SE of Mpls. for the wedding of my nephew Nate, and his fiancĂ©, Livja.   It was an outdoor wedding with the reception in a "barn" on site in the country..  Rain fell heavy in the morning and early afternoon, but the rain stopped for the ceremony and the sun came out later.  Lots of things for the kids to do~~ a bean bag toss, a large swing and porch, photo booth, firepit, and wide open spaces to play. After a good meal, we were able to hear Nate and his good friend play a song before the DJ took over.  Nate had been in a small band for years and still is part of a duo that plays at clubs, etc. Sunday morning we gathered again with everyone for a breakfast and more visiting before saying our good-byes and heading out to our individual homes.

Joel and I ate lunch with our second oldest daughter, SIL and family before heading down to Gustavus Adolphus College to look around the campus where 4 of our children and our DIL attended.  My nephew Nate is now a football coach there!  Then we went down to my dad's and paternal grandparents graves a few miles from the college, before continuing our journey home.  It was nice to get home after being gone so long, but we came back to water in the laundry room which meant wet carpet and work for Joel....again.  Ugh. 

I have been sleeping 9 hours most nights since our return.  Guess I needed to catch up after so much visiting and road time.  We have been walking at the city park a few days this week due to the association spraying all common areas, but Friday and today we were back to the river road and our usual 1.5 miles. 

Thursday after supper we headed over to our favorite Iowa lake (only one in our area).  We did not realize they have something called "Thursdays on Main" with vendors, arts and crafts, and live music all up and down main street in the evening.  We searched for a parking place and ended up walking several blocks to get to the lake and then walked through the downtown enjoying the throngs of people and the music.  Fun!  Who knew?! 

Friday we picked up 40 lbs of blueberries grown without chemicals by Mennonites,  and by that afternoon we had 10lbs in the freezer.  Of course we have enjoyed a few fresh yummy blueberries while preparing them to freeze!  They are sooooo good fresh! Working on getting the other 30 lbs. done this weekend.

This was Joel's first week back to work.  Even though he works mostly from home, we are both adjusting to the change.  He is looking forward to the challenge and I am looking forward to Sunday worship with the congregation.

I have not been reading much, catching up mostly with magazines and teachings online, plus one or two TV shows.  After spending several days without TV, it just seems so loud and distracting to have it on much.

What have you been up to?

Until next time...............