Monday, July 30, 2012

As the World Turns

Nope, definitely not talking about the mid-day soap opera.  Don't even know if that particular drama-filled show is still playing these days.  Nor do I really care, as my life seems to have enough going on without taking an hour out of my day to watch fictional characters deal with petty issues.  Especially when my real-life friends are facing true trials and hardships...

like Brent and Dara, who are mourning the loss of Dara's sister who took her own life earlier this month.

or Payton, who is grieving the loss of his friend Loraina, who also took her own life, and yet trying to encourage her family at the same time.

or Nathan and Alicia who are in the hospital with their 11-month-old son Levi, waiting for the doctor's to perform surgery to remove a tumor from the center of Levi's brain.

We just had an amazing two weeks at Ponca Bible Camp.  We saw God work in awesome ways.  At camp we were hidden in the beautiful Ozarks, surrounded by hills and trees, far removed from all the tragedy that was happening.  We didn't have access to TV's, computers, cell phones, or any kind of technology really.  And yet, life didn't stop.  Time didn't stand still.  The world kept on turning, and as it did, hearts were broken, tears were cried, and questions were asked.

What are You doing, God?  
Where are You?  Are You even here?!  Do You see what's happening?  Do You even care?!
How could You let this happen?  How in the world is this for my good?
Why?  Why?  WHY?!

I certainly don't have the answers.  If anything, I am right there with Brent and Dara, Payton, Nathan and Alicia asking the same questions.

As I have prayed for my friends, God has directed me to the first chapter of Paul's letter to the Ephesians.  I am thankful for the reminder of His promises, that never change despite the chaos that seems to be taking place all around me.

Paul writes,

How we praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we belong to Christ.  Long ago, even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes.  His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave Him great pleasure.

So we praise God for the wonderful kindness He has poured out on us because we belong to His dearly loved Son.  He is so rich in kindness that he purchased our freedom through the blood of His Son, and our sins are forgiven.  He has showered His kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.

God's secret plan has now been revealed to us; it is a plan centered on Christ, designed long ago according to His good pleasure.  And this is His plan: At the right time He will bring everything together under the authority of Christ -- everything in heaven and on earth.  Furthermore, because of Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for He chose us from the beginning, and all things happen just as He decided long ago.  God's purpose was that we who were the first to trust in Christ should praise our glorious God.  And now you also have heard the truth, the Good News that god saves you.  And when you believed in Christ, He identified you as His own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom He promised long ago.  The Spirit is God's guarantee that He will give us everything He promised and that He has purchased us to be His own people.  This is just one more reason for us to praise our glorious God.

Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for Christians everywhere, I have never stopped thanking God for you.  I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.  I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the wonderful future He has promised to those He called.  I want you to realize what a rich and glorious inheritance He has given to His people.

I pray that you will begin to understand the incredible greatness of His power for us who believe Him.  This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated Him in the place of honor at God's right hand in the heavenly realms.  Now He is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else in this world or in teh world to come.  And God has put all things under the authority of Christ, and He gave Him this authority for the benefit of the church.  And the church is His body; it is filled by Christ, who fills everything everywhere with His presence.

I realize that was a lot of Scripture, BUT it seemed so fitting as I hurt for my friends and pray for them, much in the same way as Paul did for the Ephesians so many years ago.  We serve the same God today.  He is still good.  He still loves us.  He is still working out all things to the praise of His name.

And so, even in the midst of the pain, we are to do just that -- praise Him.  I cried as I watched Alicia sing with Levi, who was clapping and and praising Jesus right along with his Mommy.    Coincidentally (or more likely NOT), right after I learned about Levi's situation at camp (I had the rare opportunity to check e-mail and facebook), I headed back up the hill and joined everyone in singing, "Savior.  He can move the mountains.  My God is might to save.  He is mighty to save.  Forever.  Author of Salvation.  He rose and conquered the grave.  Jesus conquered the grave."  And I prayed that God would move this mountain, that He would act on behalf on Nathan and Alicia, that He would heal Levi.  The song goes on, "Shine Your Light and let the whole world see...We're singing for the glory of the Risen King...Jesus, shine Your Light and let the whole world see we're singing for the glory of the Risen King."  Yes, God, yes.  Work this miracle, for the praise of Your name.  May all who hear of Levi's story see Your power and honor Your name.

Overwhelmed with sadness and doubt, I thought of David when he penned Psalm 121, "I lift my eyes up to the mountains -- where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth."

I am also reminded of Peter, when he boldly got out of the boat to walk on the water to Jesus.  He was doing fine too, until he took his eyes off Jesus and started looking around him at the wind and the waves.  Not that I can blame him, as I would most likely have done the exact same thing.  However, God keeps calling out to me, encouraging me to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith.  For He is also the One who controls the wind and the waves.

This year has been a confusing one to me.  I am at a loss as to how God works.  I know He has a plan, is in complete control, has a purpose for everything, and will use it all for our ultimate good and His glory.  BUT, in my humanness I can't see the beginning from the end.  And so I don't understand what God is doing!

During the past 7 months, the path God has been leading us on has seemed to take us from one mountain to the next.  We seem to be in a never-ending storm.  Thus, I have been challenged to trust God, even when I don't like or understand what He is doing.  My faith has been tested more than ever before.

Will I take God at His Word?  
Will I believe His promises?  
Will I rest in Him?  
Will I let Him be in charge, even when I feel like everything is spinning out of control?  
Will I praise Him, no matter what? 

I am working on that, each and every day.  I keep reading Psalm 121 over and over and over again.  Praying these promises for myself, and my dear friends.

I lift my eyes up to the mountains --
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip --
He who watches over you will not slumber;
Indeed, He who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you --
The Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm --
He will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Picture Is Worth A 1,000 Words

I just posted about the amazing things God did during Week 5 of Ponca, but I want to go ahead and write about Week 6 too, while it's fresh in my memory.  This go-round, though, I want to tell the story through pictures rather than words.

In Psalm 90:17, David prays, "And may the Lord our God show us His approval and make our efforts successful.  Yes, make our efforts successful!"

Paul shares the same idea in his letter to the believers in Thessalonica.  He writes, "With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of His calling, and that by His power He may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.  We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you..."  (2 Thess 1:11-12)

I truly believe God answered our prayers both Week 5 and Week 6, as He blew our faces off.  All the way to Alaska, as I told the campers after the chapel service Week 5.

Here's a few pictures to show how God made our feeble efforts successful and fulfilled all our good intentions during Week 6:

 Pastor Buddy (PB) sharing a story about his hero, Herold.  
When Herold was a little boy he was given the polio vaccine.  
It paralyzed him!!!  For many years, he couldn't walk.
But, Herold was strong and brave.  
He not only learned how to walk again, but to run.
In fact, Herold has run in marathons and 100 mile races!
Now he shares his story with others 
so they can know of God's power in his life.
You see, Herold now goes by the nickname PB! 

 God and I Time is one of my favorite parts of the day.
The kids spread out around camp and read their Bibles.
They memorize Scripture verses.
They talk with their counselors 
about what they have read and learned.
They pray together.

Red China is a game we play on Monday night after chapel.
The campers are given a toothpick (a Bible) to deliver to a church.
They don't know which staff members are churches 
and have to find them without getting caught.
The staff members (all but the 2-3 churches) who are interrogators 
question the campers about what they are doing.
What is a Bible?  Who is God?  
Why did Jesus die?  What is sin?  
How do I get to heaven?
If campers don't know the answers, 
the interrogator breaks their toothpick.
If they do answer correctly, 
the camper is free to find a church and deliver their Bible.

Pastor Buddy explaining how we each must choose which pat to take:
the narrow road or the wide road.
Only one road leads to Jesus and eternal life!

Noah on the hike.
We didn't know he was coming to camp 
until Sunday morning.  
On Thursday night he shared how he had trusted Jesus as his Savior!

Madison at the Amphitheater at the end of the hike.
She talked with her counselor 
while some of the other campers went in the cave.
She wasn't ready then to make a decision to trust Jesus.
BUT, later that night after cabin devotions, she was!!!!

Katelyn enjoying her lunch before the hike.
That night she would realize Jesus is the Bread of Life,
as she trusted Him as her Savior!!!

Quinn climbing over the rocks in the creek bed along the hike.
He too made a decision to trust Jesus as his Savior during the week!

I couldn't find a picture of just Spencer. 
He is in the second row, on the far right (buzz cut and glasses).
He also asked Jesus into his life at camp!

Maggie, in the middle, didn't seem responsive to the gospel all week.
I was praying fervently for her every day.
On Thursday night, at the very last chapel, 
after PB acted out a Roman soldier making Jesus' cross,
Maggie prayed to accept God's free gift of salvation!!!

PB gave each camper a piece of paper.
They were to write down something they needed to give up to God.
Then, they had Hunter or Quintin nail their papers to the cross.

This picture pretty much sums it all up!

I am overwhelmed with the work God did while we were at Ponca Bible Camp (and the previous 4 weeks as well).  He never ceases to amaze me!  Psalm 106:2 is extremely fitting for how I am feeling right now as I reflect on all that God did in the hearts and minds of all of us who were at Ponca this summer.
Who can list the glorious miracles of the Lord?  
Who can ever praise Him enough?

The Battle Belongs to the Lord

A week has passed since our first week of camp (at least for us this summer), so my thoughts are kind of scrambled.  I wish I could have blogged immediately after that first week, but lack of time and my two little girls who apparently don't see sleep as a priority prevented me from getting my thoughts on virtual paper as soon as I would have liked.  Nonetheless, I want to share the awesome things God did that first week of camp.  Lawrence and I always pray for God to "blow our faces off," and He answered that prayer beyond anything we could have even dared to imagine!

I really believe a battle was raging throughout that week of camp.

"Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.  For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.  Therefore, put on every piece of God's armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil.  Then after the battle you will be standing firm."

Satan and his troops were most definitely on the attack, trying to thwart God's plans at every turn.  Satan should have known he would lose, but I guess he wanted to try anyway.   And try, try, try he did.

Scene 1
Saturday, as the kids from Week 4 were coming home, the bus wasn't able to "get up and go."  Lacking power, the bus couldn't get beyond 45 miles per hour.  The hills of Arkansas require a bit more "umph" and so we were left wondering how we would transport the 50+ boys and girls from Sedalia and the KC area who had registered for Week 5.  As Lawrence and I drove down to camp on Saturday afternoon, wanting to get there early and set things up for the next week, we were frantically calling people (even random churches with buses in their parking lots) and posting on facebook about the situation in hopes that we could somehow find a replacement bus.  Coralyn caught on to the fact that we needed a bus and was quite distraught.  Every time we saw a bus, she would shout out, "We can use that bus!"  We tried to explain that God was going to get us the bus we needed, but before we knew how God was going to answer our prayers, we reached the point of our trip where we lost cell-phone coverage.  We were in the dark, so to speak, and simply had to trust that God would take care of these "minor" details.

Already, before camp had even begun for this new set of kiddos, Satan was at work, doing his best to prevent them from even reaching Ponca!  Thanks to wonderful volunteers and multiple trips to and from camp using vans and a shuttle-type bus, though, all 87 campers arrived at Ponca at some point Sunday afternoon.  God could not be stopped.  He had work to do in the hearts and minds of those boys and girls and wasn't going to let anything stand in His way -- not even a "small" thing like transporting the kids to camp!

Scene 2
As is the case in many areas right now, Ponca is experiencing a very dry season.  The water levels were getting so low, in fact, that swimming in the Buffalo River was questionable for this week of camp.  Due to lack of rain, the water was not only low but also stagnant, causing bacteria levels to be higher.  Anyone who had a cut or open wound would not be able to swim.  Jumping off the bridge might be banned for all campers as well.  Again, it was as if Satan was trying to halt our regularly planned activities and take away some of the fun that goes along with camp.

Sunday (I think), God rained on Satan's parade, literally.  The skies opened and rain started to fall.  Granted, it wasn't a flood, but it was something!  As the rain fell, Coralyn shouted out, "Thank You, Jesus!"  Once more, God showed Satan who was in charge and that He could not be stopped.  God - 2, Satan - 0.

Scene 3 
More than a one-time battle, this part of the war was ongoing throughout the entire week.  In working with kids, you can be guaranteed that at least one child will be "difficult."  We had "one of those" campers.  He was fighting and resisting the work God wanted to do.  He was disobedient, defiant even.  Every day, often multiple times, Lawrence would have to bring this camper aside and deal with the latest problem.  Counselors had tried working with this particular camper, and couldn't seem to get through.  Lawrence tried as well -- he showed this boy verses about respecting authority, having the fruit of the Spirit, and being humble.  Nothing clicked.  Until Friday night, at the very last chapel.  The speaker gave the campers the time to talk with their counselors about anything and everything that was on their hearts.  (I will write more about this in much more detail in a bit.)  God's Spirit moved, in a big way.  Camper after camper after camper got up, touched their counselor on the shoulder, and then together went off to talk on the rocks and trails surrounding the chapel.  At some point, this "trouble camper" also responded to the Spirit's whisperings and visited with one of the staff members.  Later, he shared how he had asked Jesus into his life and could feel the change that was taking place within him as a result!

Satan may have thought he had finally won, but he couldn't have been more wrong!  God was moving and working all week, behind the scenes.  When He made His presence known, He did so in a huge, undeniable way!  Satan didn't just lose, his troops were decimated!

Scene 4
Our scheduled speaker was unable to come to camp this year due to heart problems.  Instead of bringing God's Word to the boys and girls, he was undergoing surgery!  Satan started rejoicing, thinking he had somehow been able to prevent God from doing His work.  His shouts of joy soon turned to tears and cries of defeat!

You see, that was just a tiny part of this particular battle.  For it had actually began long, long before camp ever began.  Rewind to a little over a year ago, far away from camp, all the way in Colorado: a 12-year old boy murdered his mother and father (shot them) and attempted to kill his little brother and little sister as well.  Only by God's miraculous grace and power did the two younger siblings survive their wounds (multiple stabs to the back for the boy and two different slits on the throat for the girl).  For some reason the court chose to try the 12-year old boy as a juvenile.  The pyschatrist even deemed the killings as a random act, despite evidence that would most certainly indicate forethought and planning on the part of this 12-year old boy (at least in my opinion).  The boy was found guilty and is serving his sentence now.  However, when he turns 18 (I think), he will be a free man.

How in the world could God use this terrible tragedy for His good and to bring glory to His name?!  Certainly, Satan could claim a victory, at least this once.

Oh no! Not so fast!  The little boy and little girl who survived that viscous attack were at camp with us!  Their uncle (who has adopted them) was our speaker.  Wally Long not only challenged the campers to live out their faith in Jesus, but modeled what that looked like in real life.  Satan could not take this soldier down! Despite losing his sister to suicide, his brother and sister-in-law to murder, and his mother to cancer (all in about a one-year period!), Wally has remained faithful to the Lord, joyfully serving Him in whatever capacity He desires.  Throughout the week, Wally spoke to the boys and girls about making decisions and how those choices affected their various relationships.  The boys and girls heard him, loud and clear!  Out of the 87 campers at Ponca, about 60 of them shared on the last night about some kind of decision they had made to trust Jesus as Savior, rededicate their lives to Him, and boldly live for Him once they returned home!

Take that Satan!  In case you've lost track that would be God-4, Satan-0.

Scene 5
I have mentioned parts of this "scene" before, but I want to describe it in full detail, as it deserves a whole blog post of its own really.

That one "special" camper wasn't the only kid who was fighting against God throughout the week.  He may have been the most difficult, but other boys and girls were resisting the Spirit as well.  Whether they were distracted by bugs during chapel or discouraged that their cabin didn't win the team game competition, these kiddos were not allowing the Spirit to have complete access to their hearts and minds.  God's Word never returns void, however, and on Friday night the floodgates broke open as His living water rushed through the camp and drenched everyone present.

I have never experienced anything like this, and I have been attending camp (as a camper or counselor) since I was in 5th grade.  Not to say that God hasn't done amazing things in the past 19 years.  He has, but for me this was the most special of them all (so far!).  And it was a miracle of sorts that I even got to witness this event and be a part of this last chapel.  For the first time all week, Kellah was asleep and Coralyn was content to play with Bekah (who came with us to help with the girls).  I walked into the chapel, praying that God would not let any of these campers leave unchanged, that He would move in their hearts, and help them take care of any "unfinished business."  I knew for certain that several girls from our area had yet to make the decision to trust Jesus as their Savior, and I prayed specifically for them.  I prayed as well for anyone else who had yet to respond to God, in whatever way He may be trying to reach them.  I had absolutely no idea what was about to happen!

The chapel service was almost over when I arrived.  The songs had been sung, Wally had given his last "sermon," and he was now giving the campers the time and opportunity to let God speak to them.  He invited them to talk with their counselors about anything God was showing them.  At first no one moved.  I kept praying.  Still, nothing.  Then, one camper stood up and walked over to his counselor.  The two of them went off to the side of the chapel, sat down on the rocks, and began to talk and pray.  Soon, another camper was motioning to her counselor.  Before long, every single counselor was in deep discussion with one of their campers.  In fact, one counselor whispered to me on her way out that another one of her campers might need to talk and asked if I would keep an eye on her.  Sure enough, seconds later the girl was looking around trying to find her counselor.  I had the privilege to talk with this girl and pray with her!  We went back to the chapel and watched as camper after camper after camper continued to get up and visit their counselors or other staff members.  Lawrence got to talk and pray with a few boys as well, discovering that some of them had already made decisions earlier in the week to accept God's free gift of forgiveness made possible by Jesus' death on the cross!

I'm not sure how long this went on, but it was quite some time.  When everyone was seated inside the chapel again, Lawrence announced that he was going to open up the floor and give the campers the chance to share what God had been doing in their hearts this week.  Usually, there is at least a minute of awkward silence before that first brave camper gets up and goes to the front to share.  But before Lawrence could even finish explaining the whole "Open Mic" process, at least 15 kids were up and forming a line!!!!  And they kept coming, and coming, and coming!  They reported that they had asked Jesus into their lives, that they had realized they weren't living like they believed in Jesus and wanted to change that when they got home, that they had forgiven someone, that they were committing to reading the Bible and live it out, and so on.  Over and over and over again we heard (and saw) how God had changed these boys and girls.  I had goosebumps and chills were going up and down my spine.

Finally, after the last camper had shared, Wally invited anyone who had made any sort of decision during the week to come up front to pray together.  The small stage couldn't hold us all!  Coralyn was worried about all the people who were crying and thought they were going to make themselves sick (as we tell her will happen when she is crying hysterically).  I tried to explain that these tears were happy ones, from joy because they were so happy and in love with Jesus.  Whether she understood what was happening or not, Coralyn saw firsthand what it looks like for God's Spirit to move and work in people's lives.  She too witnessed Satan not only losing the battle but being crushed to smitherines!

Apparently Kellah also wanted to get in on the action, as Bekah carried her over to me just as the chapel service ended.  The celebration wasn't over though; oh no, it was just beginning!  For the next hour or so, campers and counselors hugged and laughed and cried some more as they continued to rejoice with those who had become Christians and others who had promised to live like they had Jesus in their hearts.

I could share many more "battle scenes" from Week 5 of Ponca Bible Camp.  In each and every instance Satan did his best to stop God, but he failed each and every time.  As Proverbs 21:31 promises, "The victory belongs to the Lord!"    

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

For Times Like These...

...God has given us Ponca Camp, for times like these!

With living truth, to reach the youth
Rouse and rally for Ponca Camp
For times like these!

Three weeks of camp have come and gone.  Week 4 is now under way.  On Saturday, we will leave for Ponca ourselves to help with the last two weeks of camp.  Sunday afternoon, we will welcome around 90 campers (the week is maxed out!) and begin a fun-filled and Spirit-led week of hiking, swimming, playing "Olympic" games, studying God's Word, singing and worshipping our Jesus.  

I am excited to see yet again what God is going to do in and through all those involved with Ponca Bible Camp this summer.  He ALWAYS blows our faces off and exceeds any expectations we had.  I don't think it will be any different this year!  

Just to give you an idea of what God has been up to at Ponca these past 3 weeks, I have "stolen" some pictures off some campers' facebook pages.  Please pray for these "kids" as they are now home from camp and on fire for Jesus.  May that fire continue to burn, and even grow stronger and hotter.  May they pass the spark to their family, neighbors, friends, and basically anyone and everyone they come into contact with!

Bluffs at Steel Creek

Since Holli is in this picture, I am assuming they are acting like squirrels :)

Must have been having a belly flop competition at the river.
These guys/gals must have been the bystanders and "judges."

Two of my former students, one of Lawrence's former students
Really awesome to see how God has brought these "kids" together through camp

Everyone from Week 2 (9th and 10th graders)

Again, please pray for those who have been at camp already, those who are there now, and those who will be going the last two weeks of July!  

Next year, YOU can be in the pictures yourself!  Think about coming to Ponca and serving as a cook, counselor, first aide attendant, maintenance person, or whatever else God may lay on your heart.  It's an absolute blast, plus you get to experience God at work first hand!

God has given us Ponca camp, for times like these!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The First of Octember

Coralyn brought yet another book to me to read for her.  The author, of course, was Dr. Suess.  This particular story: Please Try to Remember the First of Octember.  As usual, many thoughts went through my head as I read to her.

A little boy asks you what you would like, anything at all.  A kangaroo?  A playhouse or pool?  Take a trip, in a ship?  Rockets to shoot?  Bombs to burst?  He promises, "You'll get all that you want.  You just write out your list."  

He explains that you won't get these things in March -- too dusty.  Or April -- too gusty.  May, September, October, and December don't work well for his schedule either.  Nope, only the first of Octember.  But "if you'll wait till the month is just right," then you are guaranteed that all your wishes will come true.

Oh yes, the little boy assures you once more as the book ends, "EVERYTHING'S YOURS on the First of Octember!"

Dr. Suess closes, "On the First of Octember?  Thank you!  I'll remember."

Think I will too!

My list won't be all that long, but I'll go ahead and get a start on it now, while I wait for the first of Octember to roll around.

A new roof
Someone who wants to buy our house at full price
A new house at a price we can afford 

Yep, that will be it for now.  I think that will do.  Like I said, short and sweet.

Now, if only there really was a First of Octember, we would be all set!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

God Makes a Way

Several nights ago, we were reading Coralyn a Bible story before bed.  I had been flipping through her Jesus Storybook Bible, and she saw a picture of Pharaoh's chariots racing after the Israelites.  "I want to read the horse one!" Coralyn declared with excitement, and so I stopped looking for where we were "supposed" to be and began reading the story of how God parted the Red Sea.

The entire time I was reading to Coralyn, I felt like God was whispering in my ear, "Sarah, this story is for you.  Listen carefully.  Don't panic.  Trust me.  If I did it then, I can do it again.  I will make a way.  Just watch and see!"

Here's the "kid version" of this oh-so-familiar Bible story:

Moses and God's people escaped out of Egypt and into the wilderness.  They didn't know the way -- but God knew the way and He would show them.

"I will bring you to a new home, a special land," God promised them.  "I will look after you.  I am with you."

God sent a big cloud for them to follow -- a pillar of smoke stretching up to the sky.  I moved in front of them as they walked and shaded them from the blazing heat of the day.  And when it was time to rest, it stopped.  All through the cold desert nights it kept them warm, glowing like fire.  
Anybody else wish God still used clouds of smoke and pillars of fire today?!
It sure would make following Him a heck of a lot easier!
There would be no doubt as to where He wanted to us to go!!!

God led His people through the desert to the edge of a great sea.  They were just wondering how to cross it when, suddenly, they heard a terrible thundering and pounding.  It sounded almost like horses' hooves.  They shaded their eyes to look back -- and screamed!  It was!  Pharaoh and his army were coming to get them!

Pharaoh had changed his mind again.  "Get my slaves BACK!" he screeched and charged out into the desert after them -- with 600 of his fastest horsemen -- and every single chariot in Egypt.

What were God's people going to do?  In front of them was a big sea.  It was so big there was no way around it.  But there was no way through it -- it was too deep.  They didn't have any boats so they couldn't sail across.  And they couldn't swim across because it was too far and they would drown.  And they couldn't turn back because Pharaoh was chasing them.  They could see the flashing swords now, glinting in the baking sun, and the dust clouds, and chariot after scary chariot surging towards them.   So they did the only thing there was left to do -- PANIC!

First of all the children's song, "Going on a bear hunt" came to mind.  Throughout the bear hunt, you encounter various obstacles like a wheat field -- which you have to go through, a tall tree -- which you have to climb, and a river -- which you have to swim across.  Whatever the obstacle, there is always a solution to getting through, over, under, or across.  There is no stopping you from reaching the bear cave.  And once you do reach the cave, and see the big bear eyes gleaming, you PANIC and run back the way you just came from and through, over, under, and across all those same obstacles yet again.

Second, the song, "Pharaoh, Pharaoh" ran through me head.  
"Pharaoh's army was a comin' too.
So what do you think that I should do?"

Well, it's a good thing Moses was there, with his handy dandy staff.
While everyone else was in a panic, running around like beheaded chickens, Moses was calmly holding out his staff over the waters of the Red Sea.
As the song continues,
"I raised my rod and stuck it in the sand,
And all God's people walked across dry land."

The Jesus Storybook Bible describes the scene this way (and can't you just see Charles Hesston with his white beard playing the part of Moses):

"We're going to die!" they shrieked.
"Don't be afraid!" Moses said.
"But there's nothing we can do!" they screamed.
"God knows you can't do anything!" Moses said.  "God will do it for you.  Trust Him.  And watch!"
"But there's no way out!" they cried.
"God will make a way!" Moses said.

Another minute and they would have been over.  But then the strangest thing happened.

The writer goes on to recount how God parted the Red Sea and made a way for His people to flee from the approaching Egyptian army.  Not only did they cross where the water had once been just seconds before, but they walked across on DRY ground!

When the Egyptians tried to follow, the walls of water crashed back down on them and swallowed them up.
Cue music:
Back to the all-time favorite Ponca song...
"I raised my rod and cleared my throat,
And all Pharaoh's army did the dead man's float."

God's people were safe.  They danced and laughed and sang and thanked God -- when there had been no way out, God had made a way.

God is good at that, making a way when there isn't one.  As the Storybook Bible goes on to say:

Many years later, once again, God was going to make a way where there was no way.

From the beginning, God's children had been running from Him and hiding.  God knew His children couldn't get back to Him by themselves -- they were lost, they didn't know the way back.

But God knew the way.
And one day He would show them.

Of course, the author is referring to Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, who would come to lead us back to God the Father.

And if God, who did not spare His only Son (while we were still His enemies nonetheless!), can make a way for us who deserve death to be completely forgiven and instead have eternal life, will He not provide all that we now need to live for Him?!

Yep, I'm pretty sure if God has my salvation covered, He's certainly got this whole house situation under wraps.  Piece of cake compared to washing away my sins.  

And so, I'm not going to panic (or at least try my hardest not to!).  Instead, I am going to remember all that God has done, how He has never yet failed to make a way, even when there was no way.  I am going to do just as Moses instructed the Israelites, "Trust Him.  And watch!"

When God does make a way, I will do just as the Israelites did after reaching the other side of the Red Sea: praise Him with all my might, jumping up and down for joy until I fall down, exhausted from worshipping my God with all my strength.

Hiding in the Shadows

I started this post a couple of weeks ago, but due to non-coordinating nap schedules, dirty diapers, dirty clothes, dirty dishes, and life in general as a wife and mom of two young children, I was unable to get back to the computer and finish writing about all that God has been showing me.  Well, I guess He had more to teach me anyway because there seems to be a recurring theme in the verses I have been reading in the book of Psalms lately.  So, here's what God has been reminding me of again and again and again:

Rewind to mid-June:

The past week has been an emotional rollercoaster for me.

Last Sunday, both Lawrence and I were profoundly impacted by our pastor's sermon.  We felt as if God was giving us the green light to pursue our vision to move to the Kellybrook area and serve as "missionaries" there -- intentionally reaching out to the children in the community, and as a result also ministering to their families. 

Monday, we set up an appointment with our friend who is a realtor.  We had that excited, nervous feeling where you're ansy with anticipation and scared to death at the same time.

Tuesday, our friend came over and discussed what our house is worth given the current market.  The news wasn't good.  I knew that our house had decreased in value due to the economy, but I wasn't prepared for the numbers to be quite so low.  Jay suggested some things we could do to make our house more appealing and get the most bang for our buck.  Of course those projects cost money.  Money we don't necessarily have right at this moment.  It was as if all the wind was knocked out of my sails.  Or like I got punched in the gut, by Mike Tyson.  I remember back when I was playing soccer as a kid and my coach was trying to show me that I didn't need to pass the ball so hard to my teammate when she was just 5 feet away.  Mr. Ochs kicked the ball to me, with a little more force than he intended, and I was caught off guard as the ball smacked me right in the stomach so hard that I couldn't breathe.  I felt like that, all over again.

Wednesday morning, I woke up with the weight of the world on my shoulders, or so it felt.  I went on a walk and just poured my heart out to God, laying my worries and concerns, my fears and doubts and anxious thoughts at His feet.  I asked Him to provide for us, not just in regards to the whole house situation, but more presently the bills and such that would have to be paid by the end of the month and in the months to come.  To keep myself occupied and from overthinking everything, I got to work on some projects that wouldn't cost any money -- for starters, I painted the stairwell with paint we already had.  Good-bye, frilly flowerly wallpaper!

Thursday, I continued working around the house on "small" projects that were "free."  I finished painting the stairwell and then got to work on painting the cabinets in our bathroom white, again using paint we already had from previous projects.  I felt really good about what I was able to accomplish, PLUS I had several people email me about childbirth classes and teacher set up daycare for her little boy this fall.  God had provided, just as I asked.  The weight began to lift.  Fittingly, the daily verse on the app on my smart phone was Matthew 11:28-30, "Come to Me all you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you.  Let Me teach you, because I am gentle and humble at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light."

Friday was "a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day," as I blogged about already, so I won't bore you with the details again.  BUT, the day ended extremely well -- Lawrence and the girls went to a Father Daugther Dance and had tons of fun.  When I brought Kellah home, I checked my email and found out that I was one of the finalists in the Mary Kay Make-Over Contest. 

Saturday, we drove to Sedalia to spend Father's Day with Lawrence's family.  On the way, Lawrence and I were able to talk more about the vision God has given us, the obstacles that seem to be on the path, and the hope that we have as we trust God to work everything out, in His timing.  That day, we enjoyed time with Lawrence's parents and had our family pictures taken.  

Sunday, we celebrated Father's Day and then came back to Liberty for Lawrence's softball game.  During the game, Coralyn fell off the picnic table, doing a belly flop of sorts on the pavement.  She got a bloody nose that took about 5 paper towels and just as many wet wipes to clean up.  BUT, Lawrence's team won their game!  And, Coralyn actually did cry that much -- she certainly didn't seem to be scared by all the blood.  She was back to playing in the dirt in no time. 

Yesterday, I decided not to work furiously on any projects, but instead to just enjoy time with the girls.  We had a calm, relaxing day around the house.  I received two more emails from people interested in childbirth classes.  I got to blog about Kellah being 6 months old.  I ordered and picked up our family pictures from Walgreens, getting 25 pictures for free thanks to a coupon!  I put all the pictures into frames and they are now proudly displayed in our living room.  As I was admiring them, I couldn't help but feel so blessed.  God's goodness and faithfulness were overwhelming.  Again, the Scripture I read that morning was quite fitting.  Psalm 36:5-9, "Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.  Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, Your justice like the ocean depths.  You care for people and animals alike, O Lord.  How precious is Your unfailing love, O God!  All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of Your wings.  You feed them from the abundance of Your own house, letting them drink from Your river of delights.  For You are the fountain of life, the light by which we see."

Fast forward to this morning (July 4).  Actually, the past morning every day this week.

I'm just going to share the verses that God has been giving me to me and see if you can figure out the theme all by yourself!

Psalm 55:22, "Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you.  He will not permit the godly to slip and fall."

Psalm 56:11, 13, "I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?  So now I can walk in Your presence, O God, in Your life-giving light."

Psalm 57:1-3, "Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy!  I look to You for protection.  I will hide beneath the shadow of Your wings until this violent storm is past.  I cry out to God Most High, to God who will fulfill His purpose for me.  He will send help from heaven to save me, rescuing me from those who are out to get me.  My God will send forth His unfailing love and faithfulness."

Psalm 57:7, 10-11, "My heart is confident in You, O God; no wonder I can sing Your praises!  For Your unfailing love is as high as the heavens.  Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.  Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens.  May Your glory shine over all the earth."

Psalm 59:9, "You are my strength; I wait for You to rescue me, for You, O God, are my place of safety."

Psalm 59:16-17, "But as for me, I will sing about Your power.  I will shout with joy each morning because of Your unfailing love.  For You have been my refuge, a place of safety in my distress.  O my Strength, to You I sing praises, for You, O God, are my refuge, the God who shows me unfailing love."

Psalm 60:12, "With God's help we will do mighty things..."

Psalm 61:1-4, "O God, listen to my cry!  Hear my prayer!  From the ends of the earth, I will cry to You for help, for my heart is overwhelmed.  Lead me to the towering rock of safety, for You are my refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me.  Let me live forever in Your sanctuary, safe beneath the shelter of Your wings!"

Psalm 62:1-2, "I wait quietly before God, for my salvation comes from Him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken."

Psalm 62:5-8, "I wait quietly before God, for my hope is in Him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken.  My salvation and my honor come from God alone.  He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.  O my people, trust in Him at all times.  Pour out your heart to Him, for God is our refuge."

Psalm 63:1-8, "O God, You are my God; I earnestly search for You.  My soul thirsts for You; my whole body longs for You in this parched and weary land where there is no water.  I have seen You in Your sanctuary and gazed upon Your power and glory.  Your unfailing love is better to me than life itself; how I praise You!  I will honor You as long as I live, lifting up my  hands to You in prayer.  You satisfy me more than the richest of foods.  I will praise You with songs of joy.  I lie awake thinking of You, meditating on You through the night.  I think how much You have helped me; I sing for joy in the shadow of Your protecting wings.  I follow close behind You; Your strong right hand holds me securely."

Psalm 64:9-10, "Then everyone will stand in awe, proclaiming the might acts of God, realizing all the amazing things He does.  The godly will rejoice in the Lord and find shelter in Him.  Al those who do what is right will praise Him."

Psalm 65:4, "What joy for those You choose to bring near, those who live in Your holy courts."

Psalm 66:5, "Come and wee what our God has done, what awesome miracles He does for His people!"

Psalm 66:8-9, "Let the whole world bless our God and sing aloud His praises.  Our lives are in His hands, and He keeps our feet from stumbling."

Psalm 66:12, "We went through fire and flood.  But You brought us to a place of abundance."

Psalm 66:19-20, "But God did listen!  He paid attention to my prayer.  Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer and did not withdraw His unfailing love from me."

In case you missed it, here is what God seems to be telling me time and time again:
Trust Me.
I will take care of You.
I am right here with You.
I am guiding You, leading You every single step of the way.
No matter where you are or how you feel, you are safe with Me.

I am no closer to knowing when we will sell our house, or where exactly our new house is, or how we are going to pay for it.  But I am sure of this: GOD Himself is my HOME.  And for now, that is MORE than enough!

Monday, July 2, 2012


Usually, when you think of leftovers, things like cold pizza, stale crusty sandwiches, and a single spoonful of forgotten potato salad hidden deep in the far back corner of the fridge behind the box of baking soda come to mind.

This morning, though, God reminded me that leftovers, especially when they come from Him, are a blessing.  Not to mention a sign of His faithful provision and abundant generosity!

I was reading in 2 Corinthians 9 and laughing to myself as Paul urges the believers in Corinth to have the gift ready that they promised.  He informs them that he is sending some brothers ahead just to be sure the money is all collected.  He wouldn't want to be humiliated if the Macedonian Christians arrived only to discover that the offering didn't even exist, or was a mere handful of coins.  After all these reminders, Paul writes, "I want it to be a willing gift, not one given under pressure."  Later he continues, "You must each make up your own mind as to how much you should give.  Don't give reluctantly or in response to pressure."  Sure, Paul, no pressure, no pressure at all....just the fact that you already told these people that we would have quite a generous amount prepared for them when they come.  Or the idea that if we don't meet your expectations, we'll feel absolutely terrible for letting you down and embarrassing you, and ourselves as well, in front of these fellow believers.

Paul's idea of "no pressure" is a little different than mine, I guess.  BUT, I am pretty sure the Corinthian believers came through and had that gift ready when the brothers and sisters from Macedonia arrived.  I think it would even be safe to bet that the offering was quite substantial, a real blessing to those from Macedonia, as well as Paul, and even the believers in Corinth (as it's more blessed to give than to receive)!

After I finished laughing at Paul's "no pressure but I know you'll have your act together and get that generous offering collected and ready" speech, God showed me this verse to remind me of His faithful provision and abundant generosity:
 "And God will generously provide all you need.  
Then you will always have everything you need 
and plenty left over to share with others." 
(2 Corinthians 9:8)  

And you can be certain that God isn't under any pressure or feel any obligation to bless us.  He just does.  Because He loves us, more than we could ever even begin to imagine!

I am so thankful that God does meet each and every one of our needs.  Better yet, He knows exactly what we need, before we ever ask Him, or even think to ask in the first place!  As I look back on the past year, I am blown away with how faithfully God has taken care of us, providing for us above and beyond what we could have ever dreamed.  At times, He answered our specific prayers.  In other situations, He came through for us quite differently than we expected or anticipated.  No matter what the circumstance or the method of providing, God was there, present with us at all times and making sure we had absolutely everything we needed to complete the work He had given us to do.

It would seem that we aren't done with this rollercoster ride quite yet.  Instead, we are just rounding the corner and headed up another steep climb.  I don't know how tall this part of the rollercoaster is or how high we will go or how long it's going to take to get to the top, but I am confident that God will get us there.  How?  I have no clue.  When?  No idea.

So, what do I know?  Well, Paul must have read my heart and mind because he took the words right out of my mouth when he wrote,
"Yes, you will be enriched so that you can give even more generously.  
And when we take your gifts to those who need them,
 they will break out in thanksgiving to God.  
So two good things will happen -- the needs of the Christians in Jerusalem will be met, 
and they will joyfully express their thanksgiving to God.  
You will be glorifying God through your generous gifts.  
For your generosity to them will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ  
And they will pray for you with deep affection 
because of the wonderful grace of God shown through you." 
(2 Corinthians 9:11-14)

It's easy for me to get discouraged as I think about the potentially huge (ginormous!) loss we might take if we sell our house.  And then even more overwhelming to figure out how we are going to afford to buy a new house, especially one that has the space we would need for the ministry opportunities God has laid on our hearts.  Yes, it's certainly easy for me to question what God is doing, what He is asking us to do.  It's definitely easy to doubt, to question, to worry, to fear, to fret, to take my eyes off Jesus.  Like Peter, I am so busy looking at the wind and waves that I forget Jesus is right in front of me, reaching His arms out to hold my hand and pull me into His warm, safe embrace.  As the writer of Hebrews urged, I need to "run with endurance the race God has set before me, by keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom my faith depends from start to finish."

And so, God who knows me better than I know myself, helped me refocus this morning.  He whispered in my ear, reminding me that He will not only take care of us, but bless us that we can in turn "have plenty left over to share with others."  And I can guarantee that those "left overs" will be much better than cold pizza!

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