"Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD...He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." Micah 4:2

Monday, September 14, 2015

Marred in His Hands

"Just because you're drawing fire doesn't mean you're out of God's will." 
"This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 'Go down to the potter's house and there I will give you my message. So I went down to the potter's house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. 
Then the word of the Lord came to me:...
'Can I not do with you as this potter does?' declares the Lord.

How often we hear only the good visible "blessings" of being in God's will! The riches, the peace, the rewards, and all the joy. Everything is happiness! We evaluate the physical, the appearances, the circumstances. We consider only the external. Everything working out perfectly in and for our personal lives. 

Yet, continually God's Word paints an internal transformation which often involves pain and suffering, tears and brokenness, and definite marring. The same question comes from our precious Father, 
"Can I not do with you as this Potter does?" 

Faithful servants celebrate
Faithful servants testify with a resounding "YES!" encouraging others to let Him "shape you into another pot, shaping you as seems best to Him! 

But our own expectations remain jarred with these words: "the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in His hands". 

How can that be? 
Why would a loving God allow such a thing?

Or we hear...
This can't be of God...
You must be out of God's will... or worse...
He isn't a very faithful God.

"marred in his hands..." 
Jean Barsness' story
Recently, an elderly missionary friend shared the rest of her story. 
Surrendered to the Lord while very young, she felt his call to "Go" to a foreign country to proclaim the gospel. She obeyed. She prepared and was sent. 

In the center of God's will, obedient to his call...all going as expected with language studies and cross-cultural changes. She was in His hands.

Then, she was marred.
Shocking news that her beloved husband had been murdered. Stabbed 11 times and left in a gutter along the canal. 
Cracked, broken, wounded, hurting, not understanding...she was marred.

Jean Barsness
At first, she may have questioned her marring, but with strong determination and by faith, believing God was her Potter, she blindly trusted Him. She had begun her journey with the prayer: "Anywhere, Any time, Any cost"; her life remained in his hands. 
Through the years that followed, she experienced His shaping her into another pot.

Now...40 years later, she stands before a crowd who admire such a beautiful pot, a strong pot, and a very used pot. 
A pot that has carried many other lumps of clay to the precious hands of her Potter.  
Her Potter was faithful. 
He continued to keep her 'in His hands", forming her into another pot, shaping her as seemed best to Him. 

And our 2015 Home Coming Celebration ended with her beautiful words...
"all for HIS GLORY". 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Reflecting His Friendship

I learning that Life's trek takes on a variety of challenges, storms, peaceful sights or rainbows, yet races forward like a steam engine. Each scene creates emotion, an effect on the soul, and leaves behind a variety of memories.
The Guide's companionship offers an awesome quietness of soul as I gaze beyond the horizon, and steadily leads me gently over rough and jagged terrain.
I've learned that the empty pages in a journal may speak even more loudly than many words on a screen. My personal hard copies are full of praise for His faithfulness and goodness, although often tear-stained pages show my struggles to follow without fear.
Yet, for more than a year I've enjoyed many hours of refreshing JOY in solitude oasis, PEACE and rest beneath His everlasting arms, and found a quiet GENTLENESS develop in following Him.

Encouraged by the Prayers of Blessing from a fellow hiker, I began to flip through my handwritten journal of Affirmation Prayers.
What pleasure I've found in the beams of sunlight which have brightened my summer trek with simple biblical words such as 'clothed', 'pleasing', 'once for all time', 'perfect', and, most of all, "FRIEND". My hand has become more comfortable clasped my Father's welcoming hand, and bathed in a deeper sense of confidence, my steps have found sure footing on the rugged path a culture continues to carve on this mountain path.

These Affirmation Prayers are statements of TRUTH directly from the Word of God which I have made my own by thanking God for each of them and applying them to my daily life. This is the walk of FAITH. Each prayer is a new step of believing God's declarations. All these passages are confirming my bold belief in His intent for me to know Him personally and intimately in unbroken and intimate relationship.

Admittedly, these months have been lonely. Gray shadows tugged my spirit forcing determined slashes through the tangled underbrush of a deceitful culture. Snags and scrapes made me recall an epic burdened pilgrim side-tracked by interlopers and destroyers of faith, yet my 'Faithful' comrade witnessed deeper gratitude in affirmation prayers.
Conversations with the Father became more confident as I repeated His Son's precious words of promise. I heard him whisper his bold declaration, "You are my Friends" (John 15:14) and turned many times to my Friend's recorded requests for me in the Garden prayer. (John 17)

Being a child of God means ACCESS into His throne room any time and for any reason!
He is my Father. He is my Friend.

"Jesus, Jesus, Jesus...There's just something about that name...
Master, Savior, the fragrance after the rain
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus...Let all heaven & earth proclaim
Kings and kingdom will all pass away, but there's something
about that NAME!" I praise His precious name!

Monday, April 28, 2014

READING a little deeper...

This weekend, in order to fight JET LAG from my recent Malaysian trip, I entertained my mind by creating BUTTONS for a list of book reviews found on the internet about Mesu Andrew's latest book, In the Shadow of Jezebel.

Fifty-seven reviews were posted about this biblical fiction book, in the Mesu Andrew's BFF group. I read many of their posts and hunted for a specific quote that revealed a little snippet about the story and also summarized their review. Then, I took that quote and matched it up to my understanding of lifestyle Christianity in our modern age of Grace. Some of the quotes were best used to characterize the author, Mesu. I think she revels in God's attributes and His Truth as she prepares and researches the treasures hidden in the true stories of Old Testament characters.
I enjoyed reading this novel and doing my own review about it on my blog, but these other reviews refreshed my mind on many of the scenes and characters that impacted my own thoughts during my reading. Many biblical passages came to my mind which re-enforced the truth God offers us through faith in Jesus Christ. 

These caused my meditations to reflect on the Grace of God which placed me securely in Christ for all eternity. 
My heart was full of gratitude as I re-read Romans 3:21-24 and heard again God's declaration 
              "Not Guilty"...

Nothing but thanksgiving and praise can I give to such a loving God. I am overwhelmed that on top of all His Grace and Mercy, he chooses to use His justified children as Ambassadors in this world. He makes His appeal through us as we implore others to be reconciled to our holy and loving God.  

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter on the Island

My week 6 of island living ends with the joy of Easter shown on the grandchildren's faces! Their exuberance for celebration always makes planning the event so much fun. 
I enjoyed conspiring the treats for this special event with my daughter for her little ones. 
She is so clever and always looking for ways to teach spiritual truths. 
This weekend was no exceptions.

Throughout most of my visit, we've been having devotionals with the little ones using object lessons to teach LENT through the life of Jesus Christ. 
Each evening has been so good as we stopped and contemplated some event that led up to Jesus dying on the cross. This week, we focused on Jesus' last week and his arrival in Jerusalem.

Finally, on Friday evening, we celebrated a Passover meal of remembrance. We tasted bitter herbs to remind us of how bitter slavery was for God's people. We tasted salty water to remind us of the tears shed during those bitter years and sugar water of God's goodness. We tasted several more items, culminating the progression with a delicious supper of lamb and culminating with the remembrance of the Last Supper.
It was a big deal to even have our shoes on - something seldom done in Asian homes - but even this was a reminder of God's people prepared for travel on that fateful day when the angel of death passed over and God gave the command to "GO".

To prepare for Easter, their mom gave each of the girls a dirty bucket and they collected 5 rocks each for their bucket. During devotions, she talked about SIN and how our hearts are like stone with no love for anyone but ourselves. On each stone, they wrote a sin they considered a struggle in their lives. The little girls were so honest and precise, surprising me with their understanding of what doesn't please God in their daily interactions.

Then we read how God promises to take our old stony hearts and give us new hearts that love Him. He promised to make us 'new creations'. We put the old dirty buckets in the center of the table with the white candle which represents the Lord Jesus as "the LIGHT of the world". 

Saturday night, his light was out because He had died for those sins and taken our stony hearts to the cross. We covered the old dirty baskets of stones with red fabric - and the little girls went to bed understanding that Jesus' blood covered all those sins listed on their rocks. 
As they walked away, my daughter explained that just like they hoped those dirty buckets would not still be there in the morning, so the disciples of Jesus had hoped for a miracle as they walked away from the cross and tomb.

That HOPE is the RESURRECTION of Jesus Christ...and new life promised in Christ to those who believe that God has raised Him from the dead.

Under the RED fabric this morning, each girl will find a beautiful decorated bucket with fun gifts inside. We removed the stones and placed them in a bucket labeled for Jesus and filled their new buckets with 'peeps', tootsie pops, toys and a sweet piece of jewelry. 

We will talk about how Christ's resurrection brings new life to our hearts. God has promised those who believe will receive a new heart and be securely placed "in Christ".  
Old things like stones should be "put away" because God took them. We should never reclaim them.

Later when tensions flared and the little one was getting angry, I asked her if she was taking one of her stones back from Jesus. With a precious expression, she exclaimed, "! He can carry it this time!" and ran off to play happily.

I was really challenged by this devotional and hope to carry it through the year with me. Just like the little one, I can decide to have my own way and take back a stone that I've already given to Jesus to remove as "far as the east is from the west". 
OR I can remember my Jesus promised a NEW HEART and took on himself my whole dirty bucket of stones. If in child-like faith I believe Him, I will run off JOYFULLY to live with so much gratitude for His burden-lifting GIFT. 

THANK YOU, Jesus...for Easter!
Romans 3:24 "Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty
He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins." NLT
THANK YOU for the message so simple that even a child can grasp all YOU accomplished in your death on the cross and the GIFT of a new heart through your RESURRECTION!

                         "He is risen, indeed."
And from this island and 13 hours time zone difference....Happy Easter, dear loved ones!!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Reading A Book of a Thousand Days

Coming to a tropical island while my mid-western home is surrounded by snow has so many benefits, especially when each morning I'm greeted by the happiest 4 children I've ever met in the early hours of dawn!
They begin their day before the sun peeks over the mountains and only drop when the mid-day schedule requires their little bodies to rest on their beds or it's night time again.

There is hardly time for leisure, personal reading, and never a quiet moment to just stare at the ocean, but I've enjoyed the laughter and play a wonderful beach and sunny days offer children.

I'm so busy with these 4 all day or else, I'm trying to be helpful to one very busy set of parents who are not only running a household, but schooling their kids, holding contacts as a priority and beginning a business that requires hours of reading and computer. I think I've fallen into bed each night very exhausted while their lights still burned over a desk or two, but I also feel exhilarated and happy to have so much time just to love my family.

Once bedtime arrives,  I've tried to set aside time to just read for pleasure. Although you may be surprised by this statement - I'm thrilled to find so many English printed books available for the family! The reason for my thrill is because a former home didn't have such wonderful benefits and resources.
I browsed the bookcases and found several books to add to my summer reading list, but this one was handed to me as a good read when returned by a co-worker. My daughter's shelves have become a "lending library" but this one looked too good to just put back on the shelf. I read it in 3 days!
Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale is written as a journal by a servant girl who took an oath to serve her genteel "lady"completely and wholeheartedly. She begins her journal scared and huddled in a totally bricked-in tower, imprisoned with her "lady", with not even a window to show her blue sky to her. She took in her surroundings and situation, evaluated the blessings she was given, took stock of supplies on hand to serve her "lady" and then, planned how to get through the banishment hoisted upon her by the choices of others.

Her journal keeping allowed me to see into the depths of her thoughts, struggles and personal victories, but most of all, see the real young servant's heart. I was so impressed at how natural her thoughts of servitude flowed, even when circumstances threatened to squeeze the very life from her. I was amazed at her unquestioning submission and obedience to those who were to be served, but I also chuckled when she realized how simplistic and normal gentry really were in their private lives. Her gentle and fore-bearing spirit forgave their flaws so quickly which to me made her the genteel lady of grace.
I liked how she thought through the commands, clarifying right or wrong, and made choices of right for her own personal life.

Photo snapped of page 289 
In all her trials, she never lost her own personal heart integrity. She struggled when 'gentry' forced her to lie for them, yet did so because she lived under their command. When commands made her cross her own boundaries of rightness, she endeavored to make her actions right in some little way, without hurting or displaying the faults of
the ones that had crossed the lines by their commands.

I'm glad she was loved but even more so, I was relieved to read that she realized how much she was loved and appreciated for her loyalty, sacrificial giving and her love of others.

It was a pleasure to peek into this precious young life's journal.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

An Old Favorite

There are times when a book sticks with me and characters or circumstances are recalled often as fleeting thoughts or helpers in choices I must make in daily life.
There are books we mark as our favorites and gently pull them off the shelf to dust, tenderly remembering the plot, then carefully return them to their proper place on the shelf, knowing they are keepers and considered treasures for the rest of your life.

Leota's Garden by Francine Rivers is one of those books for me. The yellowed cover's edges curl up from use, a few coffee stains dot the pages, and although it's an old edition, but this simple designed jacket is a beautiful sight. I first read it while caring for my elderly mother-in-law through eight years of confusion. I fell in love with Leota as I read her inner struggles, prayers, and daily concerns for the spiritual well-being of her children. I loved recalling her memories with her and even sided with her in many of her struggles, yet, hoping that I would be as gracious and forgiving if the same trials approached me.
During times when I struggled in giving patient care, I would remember Leota's loneliness and her tears. My heart reached out easier and I understood some of the loneliness my dear one faced daily. I became aware of her losses and began treasuring her memories, valuing the time to listen to her stories and write some of them as they were told to me. Even though I knew she was often confused, I realized her present anxiety was very real to her.
Leota's Garden taught me patience that I may not have had without its shared knowledge.

Then the years of care for my dear beloved Dad were thrust upon me. I chuckled when I recalled Leota and honestly thought that an elderly man wouldn't have the same inner struggles and concerns.

Boy! Was I wrong! My Dad was just like Leota in many ways. He was so concerned about his children and grand children and often questioned if he had done enough to tell them he loved them. He wondered aloud often on whether he had used every opportunity God had given him to live life to the fullest. Had he been a selfish man? Had he squandered anything? Had he shared the Gospel plainly?
He shared some of his fears and how much his helplessness bothered him as he gave up driving, then walking distances, and finally, succumbing to the small apartment we could offer him. The Presence of the Lord became so precious to him and in the early morning hours, I shared moments of prayer that sounded very close to the ones Leota had prayed.
There were times I found him staring off into the gardens of our backyard and wondered if he had some of the same fond memories as Leota's memories. Had he enjoyed the tilling of the earth to see beauty grow?

Years have passed since my care giving days, but while visiting my family on an extended stay, I found this treasured book on my daughter's book shelf. I tenderly pulled it off, held it for a moment, and chose to read it again.
This time, I found my focus on the children, grand daughter, and dear young friends sweet Leota left behind. She had touched each one in different ways through her lifetime, and each had made choices in their relationship with Leota. This time, I fell in love with Eleanor, the little daughter torn by bitterness and misunderstandings. I saw the wisdom of the old professor who encouraged a young man to serve another human before choosing his philosophy. I encouraged the young man to search deeper for life's meaning. I hugged the grand daughter's heart often as I read her prayers and dreams, and I even wanted to work beside her in restoring the Garden and home of her beloved Grandmother.

This book is still a favorite, but this time, I gained new friendships with the other characters who impacted the elderly Leota. It became a new story to me because of the different stage of life I face now. There's no end to books I want to read and I'll always have a cart full of new stories to call favorites, but it was good to read this old treasure. So, I encourage you, dear reader, to pull an oldie off the shelf and read it again.
Do you think it will impact you now as it did years ago? Will you see different opinions and struggles? Will it help you once again through a hard time or happy stage of life or will it remind you why it became one of your favorites?
Leota's Garden has a new cover and is even available on Kindle, and its contemporary topics makes it worth the read over and over again!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Reading to Little Ones is MORE than Words

With grandchildren living on the other side of the globe and another living more than a 24 hour drive, it would seem silly for me to write a professional post on reading to little ones. Yet, this week, I was reminded several times just how much both generations can learn when reading is part of the precious time spent together.
So, I decided to take a moment and tell you what great fun it's been to hang out with four of our little ones and read the same little books over and over to them.

My Don and I arrived on the tropical island of PENANG, Malaysia about two weeks ago and the youngest took to "Grandpa" immediately when read a familiar book. He was fascinated to watch a stranger read the same words others had read to him, yet I'm sure he was a little puzzled with the different tones, pauses, and with even some of the sound effects this Grandpa added! From that moment on, it was like he couldn't get enough of one book! We constantly endured the repetition of words while we watched for the huge smile that crossed his face on certain pages!

Over and over the book was read.
We noticed this repetition even taught the little one about noises he could make with his own hands. Grandpa would read the words while pounding on the arm of the chair..."Dum * ditty **, Dum *ditty **, Dum* Dum* Dum!" (the ** represents the pounding we all endured!). At first, baby boy just stared. Then, Grandpa used the little hands to pound out the beat to the repetition. Finally, they were both quite good at pounding the beat of the drum on the armchair. The little guy began to watch his own hands in other activities, and by the end of the week, his hands gleefully participated in rhythm as he joined the family in many clapping songs.

So now, my Don left for the States, leaving me behind to pick up where he left off WITH THE SAME BOOKS!
But, really...I don't pound chairs, or add his other sound as I simply read to the playful little guy, I honestly didn't think he was paying any attention until I decided to read the calmer Fireman Small. He became so excited as he anticipated the sound made when the "water "WHOOSHES" from the hose". I saw his mouth copy the shape of my mouth!
But what really took me even more by surprise was how shocked the little guy was when I couldn't see the page completely and added MY OWN WORD, replacing farm with town!

His little head snapped around and he looked at me with the most puzzled look! It was hilarious! He seriously took in the situation, and probably thought "This lady needs help!" 
Amid much laughter from the others nearby, I learned babies really listen to each word, notice the added expressions, watching your mouth form the sounds and even looking at the pages as if to put it all together. Reading plays a huge role in their quest toward verbal skills!
The next time I read Hand, Hand, Fingers,Thumb he actually started laughing aloud as he wiggled and squirmed on my lap. When comfortably in place where he could reach the arm of the chair, he anticipated with giggles the DUM*DUM*DITTY** and with the biggest grin on his face, he correctly pounded out the beat his Grandpa had taught him!
I know Grandpa added a new dimension in the little guy's love of books!

But I also realized he was not the only one who had listened and thought this Grandmom needed help in reading skills. A couple of hours later, our little 3 year old joined me at the table with the book Fireman Small. "Grandma, I will show you how to read this book, ok?"

If you cannot see this video here, go here on You Tube

How precious to watch it "read"! It's so obvious that this book had been opened many many times over through the years to all these little ones!
I know this earnest little face reading to me is a real memory keeper!
I especially loved her expression on "WHOOSHES" and "Hooray, Hooray, the fire is out!"