Thursday, October 24, 2013

I Have Been Forgiven

And so, another Reformation Day Faire is over and as I reflect back I am simply filled with awe. I'm amazed at God's faithfulness, at His love, and His grace. God is the God who was and is to come. He never changes. He is infinite, unchangeable and sovereign regardless of our actions. The God I serve today is the same God who Patrick of Ireland served in the 5th century. The God who filled Patrick with love and compassion for his own captors is the God who can fill my heart with love for those who hurt and cause me pain. If you don't know the story of Patrick of Ireland you should really take some time to learn about this amazing man of God.

All weekend my mind kept racing back to just the sheer power of Patrick's decision to return to Ireland. If I had been kidnapped as a young teenager, sold into slavery in another country, escaped and returned to my home, I really think I would struggle with the idea of going back to that land even as a missionary. That kind of love and compassion isn't my sinful, natural reaction to hurt, but it is the natural reaction for someone who sees how much they have been forgiven. R. C. Sproul pointed out that Patrick lived out the phrase "I have been forgiven." In his actions and his desire to spread the gospel with the people of Ireland, he showed that the man who is forgiven much, loves much.

In my VOM classes this week, I started a new class on evangelizing. Why do I share the gospel? Why is it of any importance that I tell others the good news?  Why step out of my neat, secure comfort zone? What possesses other people to do so?
It's easy for me to slip back and forth between duty and love for God. But really, what is duty anyways?  Why bother doing something just because it's something that should be done?
Then I go back to Patrick. No duty there. Seriously, didn't the Celts deserve not to know the good news that Patrick knew? Did they deserve forgiveness?
Then again, did Patrick deserve to hear the gospel? Did he deserve forgiveness?

Did I deserve to be raised in a home where the gospel was daily preached?
Did I deserve God's forgiveness?


But Christ looked down on this wretched, sinful being and loved me. He chose to save me even when my heart was in rebellion against Him. He forgave me. No duty. Just love. And it's that kind of love that He puts in our hearts. See, when I think about sharing the Gospel in light of my natural, sinful feelings, it's just too uncomfortable to be worth the risk. But when I think about sharing the Gospel in light of God's saving grace, His mercy, His love, and His compassion for me, suddenly the fear begins to melt away and I want to tell others. I want those that have hurt me to know that there is freedom in Christ and that He forgives! I want them to feel the power of Christ's love! When I look at how much God has forgiven me, I see a glory beyond comprehension! I want others to see that. Christ has saved me! He has redeemed me! No hurt, no shame, no pain can compete with the love of God.

That's why Patrick returned to Ireland. That's the only reason I can feel love and compassion for those who have hurt and wounded me. Apart from the Gospel, there is no reason to love those that have caused us pain and suffering. The question is, do we know the Gospel? Is it real for us today? Because if it is, I think we will look at life differently.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Knowing God More

"For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day."
2 Timothy 1:12
The confidence that I hear is Paul's voice is amazing. "I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed..." Perhaps more of us need to know whom we have believed. Paul's confidence came from knowing God. Maybe if we knew God better our confidence in Him would be stronger.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I Said "Why?" And He Said "Who"

Tuesdays are my traveling days. I drive to my students homes on Tuesdays and since most of my students live rather far away, I get lots of alone-in-the-car time. The first few times I did my Tuesday routine I felt really bored driving so much, but then a brilliant friend of mine recommended talking to God while traveling about. Best idea ever!!! God and I have lots of very extensive conversations now. I told my sister that and she said, "Some conversation. Don't you need someone talking back to have a real conversation?" "No, He talks back."


I didn't really know how to answer that one. I mumbled something about peace and leaves.....I think she thought I was going hippie based on the look she gave me. God does answer though. He does talk back. You just have to be listening for His answer.

I get in my car and drive. Mile by mile my heart is poured out to God. Lesson one down and I hop back in my car. The conversation picks up right where it left off. Then I decide it's time to be quite for a moment and listen.

School lets out a few minutes before I pass the high school. Each week I pass this boy who walks like Christian, with a burdensome backpack on his back. He never smiles and he always walks alone. I wonder why? Is he bullied? Does he just like the fresh air? Does he need alone time after a day with hundreds of youth all around him?

A block away I see the other regular - regular as in, I pass them every week - except she's not walking alone with her headphones on and tears on her cheeks. Today she's walking with a friend and they are laughing. Is that what she needed all this time? A friend? Did she hate walking alone every day?

I pass a gas station. An elderly man with long, shaggy white hair walks down the sidewalk. I chuckle. He looks just like the last picture of Einstein I saw, except for the baggy t-shirt and ripped jeans. He carries two bags of who-knows-what, back hunched over, hair blowing crazy in the wind.  What's his life like? What does he do? How many days does he have left here?

Fox Lake; I guess it's really not a small town, it's just easy to get through pretty quickly.....probably because no trains come through at the time I drive by. Sometimes I wonder how old the buildings are. Did anyone ever propose in that gazebo? How many people have boarded the train? How many ants have been killed on that sidewalk?

And suddenly it hits me like a load of bricks. He's answering me. I asked Him, "Why?" and He answers me by saying "Who?"
"Who made each of these people? Who made every tiny piece of everything you see? You wonder about their stories, there histories, there lives. Who already knows that? You know nothing and yet you daily question me. Look, see what I've done. See what I'm doing. Do you have the faith to believe that I am God and I am in control."

A couple weeks ago, in my Biblical Studies of Persecution class, my professor made note of this. He said that often when we ask God the why's in life and rather than handing us the answers we're looking for, He reveals Himself to us more. It's so true. Even when I fail to recognize His revealing, He is always there showing Himself stronger to me. There are stories swirling all around me like the fall leaves. Lives are being lived, lives are being ended. The world is a constant circuit of motion and activity and really, in all honesty, I know nothing. I don't know a thing about their lives other than that I pass them every Tuesday. I don't know what their lives are like, I don't know what they're thinking, what they're going through, and I probably never will know.
God knows all of that! He knows everything about everyone.
My brain cannot comprehend that.
He is infinite and I am finite.
He is worthy of my trust, my faith, my life.....He's worthy of my all.

And that's how He talks to me. Through people, through towns, through leaves, through sidewalks. He speaks, and if I am quiet enough to listen for a moment, I see Him revealing more and more of Himself to me.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Revolt Against "Busy"

Today was a beautiful autumn day!!! It was just so amazingly gorgeous that I couldn't help feeling completely happy. As I was walking to my car after working at the Pregnancy Center I simply felt like dancing around town just like the leaves that were falling from the trees. Of course, that urge to dance was probably aided much by the tuba player that was standing at the street corner playing a simply enchanting rendition of "Simple Gifts." The fresh autumn air was just so intoxicating that I knew I could not stay inside the rest of the day, so after dinner I went outside and played catch with Jared for the first time in years. Over the weekend I attempted to play football and was very quickly reminded of the fact that I have not played football in probably close to two years. Sad. I couldn't throw or catch. It was utterly pathetic and totally hilarious. (Yes, I can laugh at myself. I've learned that I have two options in life; laugh or be completely embarrassed.) Anyways, it was a lot of fun and I when I finally threw the perfect, deep spiral, let me tell you, I did a happy dance that could put most touch down dances to shame! ;)

What's my point you ask??
Glad you asked......or wait.....did I just ask that for you????

My point is, today was awesome mainly because amidst the busyness of the day I was able to be "not busy" for half and hour and got to spend some wonderful quality time with a brother that I really don't get to hang out with a lot.

Life is busy. Let's face it, we're all busy. I feel like hitting myself every time someone asks me how I'm doing and say the same dumb line I always say.

"I'm good, busy but I'm doing good."
(palm to forehead)

Seriously, of course I'm busy. Of course you're busy. We say the same thing to each other ever single week. What if we all started saying things like:
"God has blessed me with a full week and I am praising Him for His goodness."
"God's given me plenty to do, which may be tiring at times, but it's wonderful."
"I am doing great because Christ saved me and gave me a life to live for Him."

I know why I don't say things like that. I don't say those things because I'm not being grateful to God for all that He has placed in my life. I ask Him to fill my life and give me purpose, then I proceed to complain about being tired and constantly tell people that "I am busy." Busy is such a dumb word. It makes be think of chores and jobs and drudgery and monotonous blah.

I had this thought. What if instead of being busy, I just started being blessed. Really, all of the things that make my life busy are blessings. They are all things I love and gifts from God. What if I started viewing them as such.
What if I looked at making breakfast - my least favorite meal - as a blessing?
What if I thought of washing dishes as a blessing?
How about grocery shopping, babysitting, piano teaching, Bible studies, sibling chauffeuring etc.?
Because really, they all are.
It's a blessing that I have a family to cook for and dishes to eat from. It's a blessing that I know how to go grocery shopping. It's a blessing that God has given me piano students to teach and the ability to teach them. It's a blessing that I can help watch children at church and for other families. It's a blessing that I can drive - and not just any old car, but big vehicles like the invincible 15-passenger. It's a blessing that I can do laundry, help my family, take Bible classes, and be part of an amazing church.
Really the only thing that's not much of a blessing is the bad attitude I carry with me as I do all those things.

So, here's the plan. I'm revolting against busyness. I'm sick of being busy. Frankly, I got everything done that I needed to today and then had extra time to have fun with my siblings simply because I decided to quit being busy. I still got up at 4, did Bible classes, made breakfast, cleaned the kitchen, got some stuff done on the computer, practiced piano, worked at a Pregnancy Helpline Center from 10am-4pm, ate dinner, played outside, cleaned the kitchen, and all the other things I did today, but I never once felt busy. I purposed in my heart to view each thing as a blessing and it was simply fabulous! I was blessed today.
I wasn't busy.
I was blessed.
And I loved it!
I got to savor every moment of the day and it was simply smashing.
(Please don't mistake that list of things as a brag Mom has me about tripled as far as the amount of things she accomplishes in a day. I'm just making a point that while I was busy, I wasn't really busy but blessed. Make sense???)

And now I need your help. If you ever happen to ask me how I am doing and I say the word busy, PLEASE stop me. Point out my slip up and just smile if I turn red. It's good for me. I want to quit talking about how busy I am all the time. I am blessed! Blessed beyond measure.
I want to revolt against this silly 4-letter word once and for all. :-)

It's time for me to start looking at this beautiful life He's given as a blessing rather than a burden.

Just one more side note: I know that sometimes we become discouraged and life gets tough. Honesty is important and I don't want you to think that I am encouraging us all to be fake and act like we're feeling great if we really are downtrodden and heavy laden. As the body of Christ, we are here to help one another and bear one another's burdens. Even though I know am blessed beyond measure, I still get tired and worn out. It's okay to ask for pray and seek encouragement. We should be praying for each other on a regular basis anyways.

This song has been stuck in my head all morning.
"Praise the Lord, our mighty Warrior!"
It's amazing the peace that washes over my heart when I focus on worshiping the Lord rather than focusing on myself and my silly emotions.  "Praise the Lord, the Glorious One. By His hand we stand in victory, by His name we overcome." It's just so beautiful. He is the Glorious One. It is His strength and his name that holds all the glory and victory. In my weakness His strength is revealed.

Oh, I just get chills thinking about it - and listening to this song. :-)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Little Gifts

 Life is full of the little gifts.
I was working in the kitchen this morning when I heard a boy's wail from the basement. Rushing down, I was met by little Andrew, face full of peanut butter, crying because a toy was taken from him. He turned to me and with a sniffley toddler voice said, "Kaiya, I want you."
With that he wrapped his arms around my neck and we shared a long bear hug. Deeming himself "all better" he left leaving smears of peanut butter across my sweatshirt. My first reaction was to reach up and brush it off, but I stopped before my hand reached the peanut butter.
 Why would I remove such medals of honor? I thought for a moment of the little arms wrapped around my neck and the snuggery hug. Those peanut butters stains were a gift. Small and dirty though they may be, they are tokens of the blessings I receive being a sister. 
Little boys grow up. Andrew won't always come to me with woes of toys stolen. Eventually he will become a tough guy that doesn't want Kaiya to see him cry. Someday, he will probably be the guy I go to for help. Those tokens of his affection will wash away in the next load of laundry and all I will be left with is the memory of his little form in my arms.

Life speeds by at the speed of light and I look and wonder how much I missed already because I failed to cherish the moment.  Everyday I am given  gifts by my siblings that I usually miss. And then, one of the little ones will have a birthday or grow an inch and I panic! They're growing up.
 Sweet Nathan, who turned six yesterday, is the most affectionate child I have ever seen. He loves snuggling and hugs. Every day he comes and says, "Kaila, you look beautiful." Even on days when my makeup is smeared across my face and I look and feel like I just survived a zombie apocalypse, he still comes and tells me I look beautiful. And of course, that statement is always followed by the sweetest of hugs.
 There are other gifts that I get, like having a tech guy that can aid my every technological woe. Hundreds of dollars have been saved because of Michael, the fix it guy, the computer guy, the geeky goof-ball that drives me crazy and makes me laugh uncontrollably. Just the other day he was able to get Microsoft Word off of my dead Toshiba and put it on my new computer saving me close to a hundred dollars. It was fun for him! He didn't complain one bit. It was a gift.
I have an endless supply of all-natural soap thanks to Rachel. After buying several bars from her, she told me that I no longer had to pay if I was willing to use the deformed bars. It is the best soap ever, and she never asks me to pay.
 Even if I do try to pay her, she always says no and smiles with her beautiful smile.
Jared is the breakfast man. While everyone else is still asleep, he faithfully comes to the kitchen to ask if he can help with breakfast. Sometimes, in my early morning grouchiness I find his presence annoying, but I realize his presence is a gift. He wants to help me. He is giving me a gift and I'm so stupid I tell him to leave. And then, the next morning he's up asking if he can help again. I should mention that the peanut butter and Andrew's face was thanks to Jared's willingness to make the little ones peanut butter toast for breakfast.
Then there's Kendra, the nut, the silly little girl that was my first real baby doll. (I was too young when Rachel was born to consider her a real life baby doll.) She has no shame in dancing through the kitchen like a total goof with me. Whenever we try to learn a new type of dance she always takes the guy part, "cause you're the one that needs to learn how to dance with a guy."

These are just a few of the numerous gifts my siblings give to me each and every day. Somewhere I have a stack of paper I.O.U.'s given out by a little guy one day. There's hot pink nail polish, beautifully swirled across my sewing machine from another little guy. I have pictures and cards, hair clips and bags of coffee, dishes done and surprise lunches packed. There are literally hundreds of beautiful gifts that I have that came from my siblings.

I love my siblings. They are blessings from God. It is a real privilege that I daily get to invest into their lives. I won't have this forever. They will grow up and though I'm sure we'll still be close, it won't be the same. Being a sister is a wonderful thing! I wouldn't trade being a sister for the world!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Best Blog Post Ever!

I want to write the best blog post ever; the one filled with whit to keep people reading, humor to make them laugh, and conviction to tug at their hearts. I want to write the post with such grammatical and structural perfection that not one mistake is noticed by the keenest of eyes. I want to write that post that changes the world because of it's profound content. Most of all, I want to have that one-liner. The one that everyone remembers, quotes, and writes in their journals and on walls.

But the reality is: I can't write that post.
I find myself lacking in whit and humor in the early hours of the morning. Usually the only conviction I have is that which tugs at my own heart, weighing me down. I struggle to find the words to express what I mean, and more often than not, end up with a jumble of words easily misinterpreted. Changing the world with a post is rather tricky with a following of 18 - although I love that 18. Besides, what is one blog in a cyber world of millions?

However, I do have a one-liner to share.
It's deep.
It's profound.
It's encouraging.
It's strengthening.

It's just not mine.

I heard it in church a few Sunday's ago. Sometimes, it's the only think that keeps me going. The power of it isn't the words. The truth behind the words is what gives me strength and purpose for whatever I may be going through.

"For this...I have Christ."
That's it.
For this - whatever it is that I am doing or going through - I have Christ.
Truly, that one line, would be the best blog post ever because that's what I need to hear each and every day. 
For this...I have Christ.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Ouch Moment

In Mark 14:51 we read about a man that was at the garden the night Jesus was arrested wearing a linen cloth. When they arrested Jesus he fled, loosing the cloth and ran away naked.
Something very interesting and convicting that I learned this morning is that in the Greek that cloth refers to a burial cloth. One of the disciples came to the garden in a burial cloth, prepared to follow Christ to death just as they had all promised at dinner. But when death truly faced this disciple, he fled naked, shamed before all.
And then I wonder, am I so very different or would I have done the same?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

“Those who are still afraid of men have no fear of God and those who have fear of God have ceased to be afraid of men.”
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer ― “The Cost of Discipleship”

Can't lie, I was exhausted this morning while taking my class, but I did manage to get this quote out of the lecture. :-) Great reminder for the day!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Biblical View Of Mothers

This is so powerful! I cried....which says a lot for me!
I think perhaps, most of us have a very messed up view of motherhood. I know it's 15 minutes long, but it's worth every minute - guy or gal.
Watch it!!!
It's powerful