Sunday, December 30, 2007

Remembering what God has done

Today is the final Sunday of the year and, as they did last year, Pastor Jeff and Pastor Joe did their tag team "end of the year" sermon. But before their sermon I stood in church singing Matt Redman's song "You Never Let Go," and remembering last year's "end of the year" sermon. First, let me back up and share with you the chorus of this great song.

Oh no, You never let go
Through the calm and through the storm
Oh no, You never let go
In every high and every low
Oh no, You never let go
Lord, You never let go of me

You see, what made me think of last year's sermon was that at this time last year, I was walking through a bit of a storm myself. Not a big storm, just a small thunderstorm of sorts - the kind that rocks your boat a bit. During that time I was holding onto Jesus for dear life and wondering why I wasn't walking through this storm a wee bit faster. During Pastor Joe and Pastor Jeff's sermon last year they talked about how God takes the storms in our life and uses them for His glory. And sure enough, God has been faithful in that regard.

This year, Pastors Joe and Jeff talked about how, in Joshua 4:4-7, God called together the twelve men representing each of the twelve tribes of Israel to go into the middle of the Jordan river before the Ark of the Lord and pick up a stone. They were to bring it to the edge of the river and use the stones to build a memorial to remind the Israelites how the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the Lord's Covenant went across. I like to call that "Old Testament scrapbooking."

Just as the Israelites are not to forget the miracles God did during the Old Testament times, I must not forget the miracles God works in my life today. It's important to remember. It builds my faith. I may not always scrapbook the storms of my life, and the way God walks me through them, but I can write them in a journal and look back every now and again to see how far He has brought me. He has been faithful to walk me through the highs and lows of life in 2007 and I know He'll be faithful in 2008. It's my job to remember and to share my hope with others.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Silent Night

Most of us have heard the story of how the beloved Christmas carol, Silent Night, was written. It was December 24, in Oberndorf, Austria and the church organ wasn't working. Father Joseph Mohr was obviously concerned as this problem would clearly effect the music for the Christmas Eve service. He quickly wrote the words to Silent Night and handed the text to his organist, Franz Gruber, who composed the simple tune that eventually became what is, at least, my favorite Christmas carol.

I have heard the story of Silent Night many times, but what I've missed came to my attention tonight as I was reading the story in the Women of Faith magazine. In Father Joseph's mind he had a huge problem. Sure, Christmas would have still happened, people would have still been able to worship, and the world would have gone on without the organ music that night. But God wanted to show up for, what some might consider, a seemingly unimportant issue. How cool is that?

Do we even take notice when God does that in our own lives? We have a problem that seems huge to us and God shows up and works it all out. We may think we solved the issue ourselves, or with the help of a friend, but did we really or did we just allow God to work through us?

I'm going to make it my goal to start looking more closely for God's working in my life this coming year. We all have problems that God can use as an opportunity to do great and marvelous things. I have a friend who, one year, made it a point to write down what God did in her life each day. She was amazed at the results as God worked each day. My prayer for 2008 is "Amaze me, God." Won't you join me in that prayer?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Sunrise, Sunset

Yesterday, our son, Adam, married the love of his life, Heidi Auchtung. I sat at the wedding thinking, “Did I teach him everything I needed to? Did I forget anything?” I suppose I should have thought of that before he turned 25 but somehow it seemed more important as he was starting a life with someone else. I guess the important thing to remember is that I did the best I could with what I knew at the time, and the rest is up to God. In the end, it’s really not about me, or John, but about how Adam chooses to respond to God’s leading in his life. So far, he’s doing great and for that I’m most grateful.

I got an email from a friend yesterday that I read shortly before we left for the wedding. She reminded me of the times that we’d spent together with the kids going to the Christmas exhibits at Dayton’s (now Macy’s), Sesame Street live, and playing in the sandbox. I had to quit reading in the middle of the email so as not to ruin my make up with tears. As the song says, “Sunrise, Sunset . . . . quickly through the years.” Wow, they have gone by quickly but these are the moments you cherish. When you know that your kids are happy and ready to start on a new phase in their lives. All of our tears are tears of joy, and we are thrilled to welcome Heidi into our family.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Lessons from a Fallen Angel

More than twenty years ago my grandmother gave me some beautiful and delicate little wooden angels. I believe they are imported from Germany and, at one point, someone told me they are quite valuable. I just think they are cute. The set includes about seven angels, all doing something different, like holding a star, or pulling a wagon full of gifts. Most of them are not more than 1.5 inches tall; micro angels, if you will.

So, each year during the Christmas season, I set them on a shelf in the bathroom. It may seem like an odd spot, but my shelf is the perfect size to show them off and keep them from getting lost. The problem that I seem to be encountering this year is that one of the angels keeps falling down. I’ll walk past the shelf and there she’ll be with her nose facing the shelf and the little star she is holding laying flat on the ground (of the shelf that is). So, I pick her up and set her back in place. It doesn't happen every day, but often enough. I suspect the hair dryer might be providing the gale force wind that is keeping this angel from staying upright.

After about the fifth time of picking up this poor fallen angel I got to thinking. I am, to this angel, what my friends are to me. You see, there are times when I’m down - not necessarily face down on the floor, although that happens, too – but down in the dumps. Some gale force winds in my life leave me depressed or out of sorts and I need a friend to come along and help me stand upright again. God has been most gracious and brought many friends into my life that I can depend on to help me up when I fall. They are one of His greatest gifts to me.

I have considered moving my little wooden angel out of the path of the hair dryer winds, but then I decided that each time I pick her up it would remind me to thank God, once again, for my amazing friends. I pray that you all have a blessed Christmas.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Seeking God

Today was a great day! During our worship service at River Valley, Pastor Rob preached on letting God interrupt our lives. Wow! While it seems like it should be easy to let God interrupt us and do whatever He'd like in our lives, it doesn't always work out that way. "Excuse me, God, but don't you see my five year plan here? That mission trip you're suggesting I take to Africa was on my planner for well, never, and you want me to take it now?" was about a year ago that God interrupted my life and told me to go to Africa on a short term mission trip. Was I afraid? More than even I realized (until I ended up in a puddle of tears at the end of the trip). But, I'm so glad I went! What a great interruption.

This afternoon we had the opportunity to have lunch with Ben and Susan Rodgers, their family, and some others from our Africa team. What a great time. Ben and Susan are one of the couples from Children's Cup that we worked with while we were in Africa last March. Actually, Susan was gone for a good portion of the time we were there, but we were able to meet her briefly at the end of our trip, and I've gotten to know her more through her blog. She is an extraordinary woman and I was so blessed to spend time with her today. Susan is incredibly real and shares her thoughts in a very refreshing way. I just love her!

But, Ben said something today that prompted the title of this blog, as I thought it was most profound. He said, "What I've found is that people spend a lot of time trying to seek God's will for their lives. What they should be seeking is God himself. As we get to know God more, His will becomes perfectly clear." I believe the more we find ourselves in His will, the more we'll desire to seek Him, and thus a fabulous circle of knowing God and doing His will begins.

Totally unrelated to Ben's profound thought, but still one of my favorite parts of today, was having Ben and Susan's four year old daughter lay her head down in my lap and fall asleep at the end of lunch. It has been years since that has happened to me and it was all I could do not to snatch her away from her parents and bring her home. So, so sweet!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Watching God do a miracle

I can't even remember how long ago it was when I first started answering phones at KTIS radio station in St. Paul for their yearly fundraiser. It has to be something like 15 years or more. It's no secret that I love to talk, and of course a lot of talking goes on when you are answering phones. But that isn't why I volunteer. I don't even volunteer because of an overwhelming need to be helpful. In fact, I feel somewhat selfish in my reason for volunteering. You see, when I go to answer phones at KTIS, I get to watch God do miracles. Today was no exception.

Last Fall when I answered phones, KTIS feel well short of their goal - the amount needed to complete the ministry they do each year. Other years, when I've volunteered, there were times that the goal wasn't met during the time alloted for the fundraiser, but online donations were made after the fact and the goal had been achieved. But, this September they were only a little over halfway to their goal and the situation seemed dismal. BUT GOD. But God, had another plan. In order to reach their goals for the year they added a "catch up" fundraiser, thus my reason for being there today.

When I arrived today, KTIS was still a few hundred thousand short of reaching their goal. The woman sitting next to me asked me if I thought the goal would be reached. My immediate thought was "there is no way" but what I said was, "I believe God is a God of miracles so yes, I think we'll make it."

It was an amazingly busy afternoon. I talked to loads of wonderful people. A sweet 80 year old woman was in tears when she called because she had been so touched by a story she'd heard one of the announcers tell. I told her that her donation would make her part of the miracle that God was doing today. She cried some more. So sweet! I also talked to an adorable little 10 year old girl who wanted to donate; and to a mom who was calling for her daughter who wanted to donate a $10 gift she'd gotten from her Bible teacher. I even talked to a woman who I realized, through the course of our conversation, works with our son, Adam. She just loves Adam, she told me. I told her that I did, too.

The fundraiser was to end at 7:00 p.m. At 6:30 p.m. KTIS was still over $100,000 short of their goal. I have to admit to being a tad bit discouraged, but I, and I'm sure many others, was praying for that miracle I'd been counting on happening. At 6:50 p.m. we heard that a $50,000 matching gift had been offered. All of the volunteers were asked if they could stay and answer phones a while longer. We all agreed, and it was totally worth it. Not only was the goal reached, but it was exceeded. And, I got to be there when the miracle occurred. INCREDIBLE! I was flying high when I left. What an amazing privilege to watch God work this way.

I'm praying for another miracle at our church this weekend. I can't wait to see what God will do. But, you know what? I believe God does miracles everyday and sometimes our eyes are just closed to them. So, keep your eyes open and let me know when you see God do a miracle. I can't wait to hear what it is.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Grocery Stores

In general, I hate going to the grocery store. I live in a small town and our little grocery store has gone from bad to worse. I could drive 20 miles and go to Cub, but I can't think of a bigger waste of my time than to DRIVE to get somewhere to do something I hate doing.

On Tuesday morning, I was bemoaning the fact that I absolutely had to get groceries. Our cupboards were bare and there was a snow storm on the way. In fact, it had already started and, to hear the newspeople tell about it, we could be snowed in for days. To add to the drama, Tuesday is senior citizen discount day at the local grocery store and the aisles are quite full of seniors anxious to get their 5% discount. I love seniors, don't get me wrong, but let's just say that Tuesday morning is not the day to run in and quickly pick up a few groceries. So, I moaned some more as I made my list and as I moaned a vison came into my head. It was not a vision of sugarplums but instead a memory of the women I saw last year in Africa. They would carry all sorts of things on their heads transporting them to their homes.

At one of the villages we visited, Children's Cup (the organization we were working with) had put in a well. Up until that time, the women were walking for two to three miles to get their water, and then carrying it back on their heads! And, I'm whining about driving three blocks, and walking 50 feet in the snow, into a warm grocery store, to get whatever I want to eat? Don't get me wrong, I still didn't enjoy the trip to the grocery store, but it did put the whole thing into perspective for me.

Perspective is a wonderful thing. On senior citizen discount day at the grocery store, it reminded me to be grateful for all that I've got. What are you grateful for today?

Monday, December 3, 2007

I remembered

I have absolutely no idea how it happened. I was sitting in the Nordstorm shoe department this afternoon and I suddenly remembered the name of the book I read this year. Not the only book, of course, but if you read my previous post, this will make more sense. Seriously though, why is it when we are searching our brain trying to think of something, we are totally clueless and, at other times, when we are just sitting there trying to figure out how to explain to our husband why we need another pair of shoes, it comes to us?

So, I'm sure you are dying to know the name of the book. It's called Normal is Just a Setting on Your Dryer by Pasty Clairmont. It's an easy read book with a few nuggets of wisdom and plenty of funny stories, told only the way Pasty can tell them. Patsy is one of the regular speakers at Women of Faith - a yearly women's conference held all over the country. She has a fabulous testimony of how God healed her of agoraphobia. She tells her whole story in her book I Grew Up Little.

So much for books. Back to the Nordstrom shoe department. If you need boots, they have some fabulous ones on sale right now. And, in general, if you need some great shoes, in most any size, check out Nordstrom. Go see my friend, Marcy, in women's shoes and she'll set you up with everything you need. And, while you're there, who knows what YOU might remember.