Friday, May 6, 2016

The Christian and the Political Process

The subtitle of my blog is that life can get you down, but God can bring you up. There are times I lose sight of that. There are times when life gets me down. There are times when it is difficult to see a way through a situation. I say this to say that I am, by no means, and expert at being kept up in the hope that God provides. I am not as well versed at staying in the center of God's peace as I would like to be, indeed as I need to be.

But with that disclaimer, I think we all need to take opportunities to encourage one another to hope in God. To use prayer, giving of thanks, and letting our requests be made known unto God. This is the biblical path to God's peace guarding our hearts. The path to peace isn't a trouble free way. The path to peace isn't a rearranging of our situation or our circumstances. The path to peace lies in resting in God.

I have felt that this past week and a half as we have gone without sleep, welcomed a family member into out home, and learned that he will need open heart surgery before he is a year old. At times, I have felt like I must have disconnected myself from my life and been treating it like someone else's. You know, very objective. But I have let it sink in. I know that it is my son who will be facing this. I know Jen and I will be walking down the road that God stretches before us. It feels weird, and God's promise is that it would be. (You know, the passing all understanding part in Philippians 4)

But it seems like many Christians are losing their mind over the political process in our nation. Like the admonition in Philippians 4 only applies to some circumstances. But the political process is exempt from:

"Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." - Philippians 4:6-7
But it isn't exempt. God's peace and God's promises apply there as well. We need to remember that it applies every time. Every time the candidate I support gets beaten in a primary or election. Every time the 'wrong' party or 'wrong' candidate gains power. Every time a law I disagree with goes through. Every time a biblical principal gets bad press. Every time the world makes it harder to live for God. Every time I struggle to understand how God could allow something to happen. God's peace applies in all of these areas and at all of these times.
So please, when you want to complain about how things are going in politics (or other areas), you need to stop and ask a few questions.
1) Have I let God know about my request with thanksgiving?
2) Am I content to accept the answer God gives? (Even if it is not what I requested)
3) Am I free from worry in this area of my life?
4) Have I gotten to the place where I feel God's peace?
Because the truth is, if you haven't done these things, you haven't used the tools that are available to you. And if you have done these things, you won't be able to complain. And then, we will be able to glorify God in every circumstance, the way God intends us too.
Don't get stuck looking down. Keep looking up!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Lot to Process, But Only One Focus.

I'm a horrible blogger. In fact, if you would ask if I was a blogger, I would tell you no. Like many things in my life, I blog, but am not a blogger. I play guitar, but I am not a musician. I work on my own car, but am not a mechanic. You get the point.

I have had several purposes for my blog. I have used it to process messages I have preached to help reinforce what I learned from them. I have used it to process events our life. And I have used it to 'remember' things from our life. Things like our canning and freezing every summer, or events that stuck with us.

Today, I am using it to help process, and to help fulfill my desire that God would be glorified.

Yesterday was one of the best days of my life. I am blessed to be piling these up. Getting engaged to Jen, marrying my sweetheart, being called to be a pastor, Finding out 11 times that we were expecting, 9 births in our immediate family, 11 nieces and nephews added to our family, not to mention other weddings, children's births, and some truly awesome days.

Yesterday we also received some of the toughest news we have received as parents. Just saying that makes me feel spoiled by how easy we have had it. The two miscarriages certainly rank higher, but when the doctor says "I know this is a lot to process," I guess that makes it in the list of tough things.

The short version of what we were told is that Timothy has a couple of holes in his heart. They are not the type of holes that close up on their own. He will need surgery sometime in the next year or so to deal with it. Currently, he is on oxygen and his blood platelet count is low. These are probably related to the holes in the heart.

We are truly blessed to be able to welcome this little one. We are blessed to have the awesome support of friends and family. We are blessed to have great care given to Timothy to diagnose and move forward with any issues that arise. We are blessed beyond measure with so many aspects of what is going on.

But we have needs.
We need to glorify God. It is part of who we are. As a child of God, I need to glorify my Father or something is desperately wrong. I want God to be glorified.
We need strength to care for Timothy (and Austin, Larissa, Robert, Jeremiah, Benjamin, Abigail, Jonathan and Joseph). We so often want the strength to come from within us, but we need the strength, and grace, that God gives.
We need wisdom. I am glad I do not have a list of the choices we will need to make in the next year. Or the next month. Or even this next week. But we will need wisdom.
We need our friends and family. Thank you to each of you. We may not always say it, but we love and appreciate all of you. Those that send encouraging words, those that pray, those that have met other needs. We do our best to appreciate all you do, but we fail miserably at expressing it as we should.

And we have wants.
We want Timothy to get well. We want a good night's sleep. We want comfort and ease. We want freedom from hard circumstances. We want to be independent and handle things on our own.

I want to keep glorifying God as the most important thing. As you pray for us, please pray that we will not let our wants lie to us or get in our way of us getting our needs met. Strength, grace, wisdom? All gifts from God. Promised. In a certain sense, already met.

I always like to end these with a verse. This one comes from a sermon from a few weeks ago

And this he said to prove him: 
for he himself knew what he would do.
- John 6:6

This is why I know my needs are already met. God already knew what He would do before we got the news. Before the Dr. knew the news. Before we knew we were expecting. I may not know what this week holds, but God already does, and He already knows how He will handle whatever comes our way.

The same thought from one of my favorite books and movies.

"I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened!" (Frodo) 
"So do all who live to see such times but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world Frodo besides evil. Bilbo was meant to find the ring, in which case you also were meant to have it, and that is an encouraging thought!(Gandalf)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Canning and Freezing 2015


Just a record of our canning and freezing for 2015 and
notes on what produce we bought from the auction and when.
We will add to it as we add to our storage shelves and freezer.

Sweet Corn - 27 quarts (August 26)
Crab Apple Jelly - 7 quarts and 5 pints (August 27)
Spaghetti Sauce - 113 quarts (September 9-22)
Tomatoes for chili - 35 quarts (September 24-25)
Winter squash (frozen) - 13 quarts (October 1-2)
Applesauce - 121 quarts (October 3-13)



Bought:
10 - 1/2 bushel boxes of canner tomatoes @ $6 a box ($60 total)
160 Winter squash @ $0.25 a piece ($40 total)

Monday, March 9, 2015

A Christian response in suffering.

Yes, I know that a blog is for words. But this blog post is going to be less about written words.

In thinking through the grieving process and what the Bible has to say about it, I shared yesterday three ways that the truth of the Bible needs to impact our grieving / suffering.

1) Truth needs to define our suffering
2) Truth needs to limit our suffering (defining the limit)
3) Truth needs to relieve our suffering.

Those are just the key concepts. I cut off part of the introduction of the message when I recorded, but here is the bulk of it.

"Christ's Sacrifice: A Help in Our Suffering"

Just a reminder to keep looking up in all of life's circumstances.

Friday, March 6, 2015

The greatest gift in sorrow - permission to grieve

Our week has had its share of ups and downs. The downs center around the loss of our unborn baby. The ups have been much more varied:
       God's love and goodness have been repeated ups.
       The love and kindnesses expressed by friends and family in word and deed.
       Seeing God's hand at work.
       Knowing God's peace.
       The assurance of faith (The substance of things hoped for - Hebrews 11)
       Some 'down time' to spend together. 

But the best 'up' I have enjoyed is the permission to grieve. I have often heard people say "It's OK to grieve," "You can be sad, you know," or "You just need to cry it out." Those words, in and of themselves, do not give a person permission to grieve. It gives them a verbal declaration of their approval, but it communicates to the mind instead of the heart.

Permission to grieve comes in so many forms, it is hard to identify. It comes from sadness expressed by friends and acquaintances. Something so simple as an "Aw, I'm sorry" said with genuine concern, to people who say "I don't even have any words to say" have communicated that permission. Permission comes in the validation of feelings. Not telling me how I should be feeling, how long I should feel it, how I should move on, or even what I should expect. Just the simple communication that it is OK to feel what I feel. No one has told us we are doing it wrong. No one has told us we should be in better shape, or in worse shape. No, we have been loved. That love has given us permission to grieve and we are thankful. Our friends and family have lived out Job's advice in Job 6:14 - "To him that is afflicted pity should be shewed from his friend"

Though we still feel we are walking in uncharted territory and don't know how we are supposed to proceed, we are glad for the leeway to proceed as we feel is right for us.


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Miscarriage: On the loss of a child. . .

I have been tempted to write a post since yesterday, but keep procrastinating as I am out of the blogging rhythm. The theme of my blog has echoed in the circumstances of our lives this week, and it was only a matter of time before the post was written.

Jen was about 4 months into her 10th pregnancy this past week when some signs of trouble surfaced. We have 8 beautiful children, and have lost another to an early miscarriage. After the signs of trouble surfaced we made some calls to get things checked out. Before the tests could be run, things got worse, and our Dr. told Jen she wanted to see her in Labor and Delivery at our local hospital. By 2 am Tuesday morning, we were in the hospital and waiting for an ultrasound. The hospital staff was wonderful. We were concerned, but kept our hopes up.

The ultrasound technician was wonderful, but we could see between the lines and read that something was wrong. We didn't ask, knowing that her job was hard enough that morning and she probably wasn't allowed to say anything anyway. We got back to the room and soon found out that the baby was not as old (by size) as the pregnancy. The baby had died several weeks ago, and Jen's body was starting the process of delivering the baby.

Since not many people talk about it, we were not very well equipped to make decisions. Did we want the body? Would we have a funeral? Did we want to bury our child? Were we supposed to be sad? Were we allowed to be sad? Should we side with the easy feelings or grapple with the other feelings that were surfacing? Should we shrug it off or were we allowed to grieve.

We know what we believe - a baby is a person the moment of conception. That biological process starts off a chain reaction of cell division, reproduction, differentiation of cells and tissue and organ development that just 9 months later ends in the birth of a fully developed baby. Most of the time. Not this time.

The baby was delivered in the amniotic sac intact. The doctor told us she thought the baby was a baby boy. At the moment of decision we were both low on sleep, confused and decided that we were not prepared to see the baby. We did not want to bring the body home. I didn't realize that I would never be prepared to see the baby but would soon want to see the baby. I didn't realize that holding the baby would be something I would not only want to do, but would be a good step in grieving, in processing what had happened. I cannot undo my choices and I am not stopped from grieving. I am just missing a precious opportunity I had.

It is now a little over 2 days after the delivery of our baby that died several weeks ago. I still don't know much more than I did then, but I have learned a few things.

The things I have known all along:
        1) God is good. He always is good.
        2) God has blessed us in so many ways, more than this blog can hold.
        3) All life is precious.

The things I have learned:
        1) Grief is good. Not just in the "Consider it all joy" sense, but in many ways.
                  Grief has allowed me to feel God's goodness expressed through friends and family.
                  Grief has allowed me to place a value on our unborn child.
                  Grief has allowed me to set aside my pride and accept the love and service of others.
                  Grief has allowed me to sense God's comfort.
                  Grief has allowed me to focus on my hope as a believer.
        2) God's love is enough. As much as I appreciate the love of my family, my
             wife, my children and my friends, God's love is on a whole different level.
        3) Hope is a choice. I've known this, but I have learned it in a deeper sense
              this week. We are saddened with our loss, but are not devastated. We
              have questions in our minds, but are not disillusioned with God. I still
              know God is good.
       
I know, what this post is missing is a verse. A whole verse. But I want to post 2 chapters. Wednesday evenings we have been studying the Psalms. Last week we studied Psalm 127, this week was Psalm 128. If I was disillusioned, I might feel that God was playing some sort of harsh trick on us. But even in the timing of viewing these Psalms, I see God's perfect timing and God's goodness.


Psalm 127-128

127 Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.
Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.
Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.
128 Blessed is every one that feareth the Lord; that walketh in his ways.
For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee.
Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table.
Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the Lord.
The Lord shall bless thee out of Zion: and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life.
Yea, thou shalt see thy children's children, and peace upon Israel.

The Psalms speak of God's goodness. Goodness I can see and feel even in the midst of our trial. That's about it from this end. Keep looking up!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Rebellious Children

I suppose you might expect me to start in on what one of my children was doing in vague terms, or maybe, alternatively, to wax eloquent about how to raise children that don't rebel. If you are looking for either of those sort of posts, you will probably be in for a surprise. It's not that my children are perfect, or that there aren't some truths in the Bible that can help us deal proactively with rebellion in the hearts of our children. It solely has to do with the book of Ezekiel.

Ezekiel speaks a lot about the rebellion of the people of Israel. How, despite many warnings and interventions by God, they continued to choose a path of rejecting His authority in their lives and continued to choose less than adequate substitutions for God in their lives. It is easy to sit back and shake our heads at the foolish Israelites, it is easy to agree with the judgment God was preparing to mete out in His anger - He had every right to be angry with them! Right?

But what about us? Good, Christian us. We thank the Lord for our food. We know how to look up a verse in the Bible, maybe even can recite the books of the Bible in order. We pray for other people, we give money to the church, we put in our time being Christians. Certainly we wouldn't be labeled as rebellious! Ezekiel wrote to people facing God's judgment who thought everything was OK much as Jesus spoke to people under judgment (Herod was their King) who thought everything was OK. And we are a people who live in a 'Christian' nation and think things are OK. Well, we wouldn't be as blind as the people in Ezekiel's day, right? The Jews being carried away as captives to Babylon - we'd notice judgment that severe! We'd notice the oppressive government over the people of Israel in Jesus' day as judgment and recognize our needs!

But have you ever noticed how many wrong people there are out there and it doesn't very often seem to be me? or you? When you drive, do you notice your reckless driving and the laws you break (maybe passing on the right, speeding, rolling stops, unsafe lane changes, 'beating' the red light . . .) or do you notice how many other morons are on the road? Right, me too.

It makes me wonder if the same blindness impacts us when it comes to God. I don't have to wonder long. David recognized his blindness and asked God to search him, try him, and see if there was any wickedness in him. He knew he couldn't always see it.In Ezekiel 20, God repeats 3 times that the actions He took were "for my name's sake."

"But I wrought for my name's sake that it should not be polluted
 before the heathen" (Vss. 9, 14, 20)

But Israel could only see the unfair treatment they were receiving from God. Again and again Israel was polluting God's sabbaths and going after other Gods. Easy for us to see, in their situation.

So should we see judgment in every hardship? Absolutely not! (After all, we'd far more likely apply the "everything bad is judgment of God" attitude to others long before we did it to ourselves.) We'd be just as wrong in doing that as in not being willing to see our own rebellion. Ezekiel 20 also focuses on the mercy and grace of God. It repeats again and again all that God did for the people of Israel and all that He will do for them to fix the problem of their rebellion.

As rebellious children (since maybe we ought to assume we are, rather than assume we aren't), we need to focus on God's mercy. Our need for God's mercy, God's goodness in showing us mercy, the depth of God's mercy that each of us requires. And along with that, we need to place a priority on God's name. As a Christian, we carry it. If God is jealous for His name sake, and we are polluting His name by the lives we live, the thoughts we entertain, the things we feed our minds, well, we should realize that everything isn't as OK as we think.

"But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 
even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with 
Christ Jesus (by grace ye are saved)" Ephesians 2:4-5

If God did that for us when we were dead, just think of the greatness of His mercy he has for his children, and the great desire he has to see us walk in truth!