Pastor’s Conference at The Cove

Randy and I have had the absolute privilege of spending two nights at The Cove for a Pastor’s Training with Jim Henry. This entire conference for pastors has been underwritten by donors and so everything down to the meals, lodging and conference materials have been free for all of us here. I cannot even explain what a blessing this has been for us. The vision behind the Training Center here at the Cove is to equip believers with deeper training in the Word. All year long there are conferences, trainings and concerts. I’ve attended two women’s conferences here and have been dying for Randy to come and be a part of things here. So this has been an awesome treat for us to experience together.

imagesimages

The setting is breathtakingly beautiful in any season of the year here but we have been able to experience this beauty with snow coming down this week. Gorgeous!

IMG_1415IMG_1438

The sessions have been really good and hearing from a godly man who has been in ministry for over 30 years is really neat.

IMG_1435 IMG_1430

Another favorite part has been the Q&A time. They just hit the daily practical issues that every pastor deals with. Dealing with the pressures of ministry, scheduling and carving out time for family, staff issues and so much more. There’s something really awesome about being with a group of people who are walking similar journeys.

We did have to laugh a few times though because there’s a few things that happen when a bunch of pastors get together:

  • They say “brother” all the time but it’s pronounced “brotha”. Randy’s never had a brother before but he’s had about 200 since being here the last few days.
  • They tell churchy jokes. “Is that seat saved? Or is it just backslidden?” Enter a huge hardy laugh followed by a slap on the back that could make you cough up a lung.
  • The star fish story gets told at least once.
  • There are a million friendly jokes about the different denominations represented.

The hospitality here at the Cove has been nothing short of amazing all three times I’ve been here. They are true servants of the Lord at this place. You sense the humility in service as soon as you step on campus. It really is set apart in so many different ways.

I want all my PW friends to go online right now and check out the Cove and see the calendar of events. They offer the complimentary Pastor’s Institute two times a year. Al Mohler Jr will be speaking March 24th and it’s a free one day conference for pastors (Senior, Youth, Discipleship, Associate) with one night lodging and meals. Wives can attend as well. And if you love your pastor and pastor’s wife let them know about this offer. They will love you for it.

Will be posting later this week about some of the things we talked about this week in our pastor’s conference…..both through speakers and other attendees. It’s been a great three days of refreshment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When your outreach didn’t go like you expected

I shared a story a week ago about a visit to the nursing home. One in which changed my outlook significantly and kept a visual in my mind daily for several weeks. I was so excited to come back here and share the results of my follow-up visit with Ms. Linda.

I envisioned she would be so totally excited about the verse of scripture I had written out for her on the beautifully handmade card. I figured we might even have a good cry together while hugging. Who knows, maybe she’d even pin it on her bulletin board to remind her of God’s love for her.

With a skip in my step I found Ms. Linda and wheeled her into the activity room where I showed her the card and read it to her. When I was done reading I handed her the card with a twinkle in my eye and a huge smile on my face.

And with absolutely no expression whatsoever on her face she handed the card right back to me.

I thought maybe she didn’t understand it was for her so I said, “Ms. Linda, I made this just for you to keep if you’d like it.”

And she handed it back to me again.

I was trying hard to figure out if I should cry or laugh. I’ve never claimed to be a great card maker or artist but was it really that bad?! I knew God put it on my heart to go see her. And I felt like He had showed me those verses about Him singing over us so I could share that with her. But maybe I missed it completely. Possibly I heard wrong. Maybe it was meant to be for my sister, Linda. Just Kidding. I really didn’t go that far in my analysis of things.

I tried one more time to give the card to Ms. Linda but she just politely handed it back. So I changed the subject. We talked about her upcoming Dr’s appointment and I asked her if she went to the Valentine Party that day. And then I decided I would be funny (or stubborn?) and hide the card in her wheelchair for a nice surprise later. Surely I would see it in her room at some point. We said our goodbyes and I was still mystified by the whole giving back of the card.

Apparently Ms. Linda found the card later and ditched it because when the kids and I went to deliver Valentine cards a few days later the verse card was no where to be seen.

I introduced her to my kids and they spoke to her. Mitchell looked at me and whispered,  “Do I give her a Valentine Card?” I subtlety shook my head No. It wasn’t that I was mad at her. I just knew we had other people we could give cards to that would keep them. Ms. Linda didn’t talk much. She smiled at the kids and they told her God loved her very much. She stared out her window and kept looking quietly. We said our goodbyes and on the way out the door she shocked me with these words…..

“Thank you for that card the other day.”

What? Are you serious? I was so confused.

But I just waved goodbye and said, “You’re welcome. He’s still singing over you Ms. Linda.”

What God showed me later in the middle of the night – seriously woke me up to impress this on my heart…. is this: I must be very careful to test my motives when I am reaching out to people in the so called name of Jesus. Because if I’m not doing it solely for Jesus alone and instead am looking for a desired or expected response that makes me feel good or makes me look good or anything other than “Because of Him” then it’s done in vain. It might serve a good purpose and it could still even meet a need but it doesn’t have any eternal value. I was humbled at several things that the Holy Spirit pointed out to me through that visit. He began to pull back layers for me to see my pride in serving Him. He wants nothing to do with that and neither do I. I am so thankful for His revelation and his forgiveness. It’s not fun seeing and confessing these things but it’s necessary for true growth.

So no, I’m not mad at Ms. Linda for handing that card back to me. How could I? God keeps using Ms. Linda to teach me more lessons about Him. About me and my need for his love and His singing over my own self. And I thought I was the one reaching out to Ms. Linda. She has taught me more than she’ll ever know and I’ve just met her this month.

Linking with Holley, Kristin and Jennifer.

What Infertility Taught Me About my God

So where in the world did the blog title “Life is a Bowl of Wedgies” come from? The theme behind my blog relates back to years of intense infertility treatments, unanswered prayers (according to our wishes) and what seemed like hosting a gazillion baby showers for everyone including old people in Europe. It was during that time that my seemingly perfect world became tainted.

When you endure pain…..not just pain of infertility but with ANY kind of intense pain it’s easy to find yourself asking these three questions repetitively:

1) What did I do wrong?

2) Why am I being punished?

3) How can I get out of this situation ASAP?”

And if you’re not asking those questions, most likely,  someone around you is. It’s interesting to me that many people in the Bible asked these same questions.

The “dark night of the soul”, as John of the Cross put it,  bring us to a place of raw vulnerability before God. And He’s okay with our questions.  As I came to God with my questions in a place of sheer desperation, I found several things in scripture that encouraged my heart greatly.

One was the life of Job. He was a wealthy, godly, well respected, REAL man. My mind wonders if he could be compared to Billy Graham or Mother Theresa (well, that one breaks down pretty quickly because of the gender thing) anyways, God gave satan permission to test Job. Actually, God initiated the dialogue with satan that led to the testing of Job.

Why am I so uncomfortable with that? But it’s the truth and I accept it as such.

So satan has permission and a recommendation from God to test Job.  And we all know satan plays dirty. Here’s what he did to Job: All in the matter of hours Job lost all his cattle (his livelihood), servants, and his children. And this was just the first test. There was more where that came from.

Job’s  response to the first test was utter despair yet we are told he fell to the ground in worship.  He just lost all ten children while eating together at the oldest son’s house. And after he tore his robe and shaved his head, He worshiped God.

Um, wow.

His second test involved painful sores from the bottom of his feet to the top of his head. He was taking broken pottery and scraping himself with it. And it was at this moment that Job’s wife says to him, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!”  I have to wonder if she thought she was going to be “next” on the test list. This would be a natural concern because Job’s day wasn’t going so well at this point. But that’s the skeptical side of me that I wish wasn’t there. Maybe the reality is that she was a wife in extreme pain watching her husband suffer.  Either way, it was bad advice.

Job’s response captivated me from the first time I read it. He said, “Oh foolish woman,  shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” And get this….he didn’t even get in trouble for calling his wife a fool. It says “In all this, Job did not sin.”  He was spot on in putting her in her place because who are we to curse or not accept what God has purposefully put in our path?

Sometimes our thinking assumes the hardship is coming as a result of sin and it’s a punishment directly from God.  And while God is just and he does allow consequences to draw us back to himself this is not always the case behind a painful situation. Sometimes God puts hardship in the life of a devoted Christ follower for the simple purpose of bringing glory to himself or for deepening our ability to relate to and comfort others with the same sorrow.  Sometimes it’s to prove to satan that he really does have devoted followers that will stand up under intense pain and pressure for the sake of Christ.

Reading these words from Job almost gave me a release and permission to stop emotionally/mentally fighting the hardship of infertility. It gave me the understanding that God allowed my infertility. He may have even invited it or suggested it.  And it wasn’t something I was being punished for. Don’t get me wrong: infertility sucks and it still did after my discovery of Job’s response to his hell on earth but it gave me a different perspective which helped the pain of the guilt that I battled at one time.

The other verses that have been a good reminder to me that there is purpose in the pain are:

“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word. You are good, and what you do is good…..it was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.” Ps. 119:67 &71 (NIV)

“…..and in faithfulness you have afflicted me.” Ps. 119:75 (NIV)

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” James 1: 2-4 (Message)

I guess my heart just goes out to the person who is walking a painful journey and possibly wondering, or worse,  has been told, “you don’t have enough faith” or “your sin is blocking the blessing”.  There’s a place for self examination. And if and when there is known sin hindering our lives, then by all means, lets ask God to help us with that. He would love to. He’s totally in the business of forgiveness. That is the very reason he gave up his life for us. And when we deal with that lets be encouraged that God is not punishing us. Out of all the people he could choose to walk the path, as hard as it may be, he chose YOU/ME for a purpose.

Job couldn’t see the other side when he was in the middle of his “stuff” but God would eventually give him back twice as much as he lost.  He would bless him with ten more children. He restored what had been broken down and made it even more beautiful.

So right when you think your life is nothing but a bowl of wedgies try to remember that God has ordained everything that happens and it’s for a specific reason. And it’s good because God is good. All the time!

50 Shades of Grey okay “as long as…”

I wasn’t going to go there because it seems like the entire world is but I finally gave it up and decided to say a few words about 50 Shades of Grey. I’ve read enough articles and comments from Christian men and women defending 50 Shades that I had to speak out on my own tiny platform.

I know many people are disgusted by 50 Shades and there are articles declaring why it’s so wrong and all that. I get that. But there is also a side being presented that says it’s okay “as long as …”

And it smacks all to well of the little situation in the Garden of Eden when a slippery little snake in the garden rationalized the very thing God warned against. God set up boundaries to protect Adam and Eve but Satan, in the form of a serpent, lied and said the opposite. He said that doing what God said not to do would actually help them. They listened and they ate from the tree God forbade. And that is where our struggle with sin began. And we will fight it until the day we die. Or we won’t fight it and we’ll believe the lies that rationalize our sin. Lies that if acted on will always have devastating  consequences.

I admit I’ve only relied on summaries and movie reviews to know what the book and movie 50 Shades of Grey contains. One survey showed that 92% of people agree that 50 Shades is pornographic. I think we’re safe to say that most people are not trying to say it’s a clean movie. Even actress Dakota Johnson playing Anastasia Steele (main character in the movie) admitted in an interview that she hoped her childhood friends wouldn’t see the movie. And then she laughed it off saying she was kidding. But you could hear the underlying shame masked in flippancy.

What some Christians are saying is that it’s okay to watch 50 Shades of Grey and other sexually explicit movies involving nudity “as long as…”

*You only envision your husband/your wife. Fantasy is okay as long as you replace yourselves in the scene.

*It’s okay to watch and read about steamy sexual scenes as long as you know it’s wrong outside the context of marriage and covenant in your heart to not have sex outside of marriage.

*It’s okay to watch 50 Shades and other pornographic material as long as it will enhance your own love life with your husband.

*It’s probably not the greatest idea to watch the movie but as long as it will help get the spark back in our love life then we’ll just go out of town and watch it and not tell anyone. We know it will help us and that’s all matters.

I’m concerned about the excusing of sexual sin among the Christian community. Lust is a sin and we cannot watch or read about nudity and sex without it taking us to a place we don’t belong in our hearts. God created us with a sexual desire and in it’s proper place it is an amazing and beautiful union between two people in a covenant relationship. God designed it and He blesses it. And even if your marriage is going through a season where your sex life needs to be spiced up – watching porn together is not the right way to get there. It violates God’s boundaries of protection for us. There will be many voices out in our world rationalizing this type of entertainment and “therapy” for us but we will do our marriages well to stay far from it.

Instead, how about a Christ-centered approach to spicing things up in our marriages. A few resources that might be helpful:

A Celebration of Sex by Douglas E. Rosenau.

Intended for Pleasure by Ed Wheat, MD and Gaye Wheat

Crazy Good Sex  by Dr. Les. Parrot

 

Framing our Prayers

IMG_1258

I have found a method of praying that has really helped me in the past few months. It reminds me of a picture frame because in the middle you have your request or concern listed but you’ve got it framed with the Attributes of God.

What if we took our requests to God and while doing so we framed our requests with what we know to be true of God. Who he says he is in scripture. And what if we funneled our heavy burdens through His names believing He is all that and more for our specific need.

This is not a magical formula. A make your card and write out names of God so you can rest assured your prayers will all be answered. Instead this is just a way that helps remind me that my heavy burdens can easily become my overwhelming focal point if I don’t frame them in the context of who God is for that very situation.

And so drawing arrows from the very names of God to my specific request let’s me say “God, you are Faithful to be with me in my current struggle of ____________ . God, you are Merciful and even though I don’t understand why this is happening will you meet my friend right in the middle of her pain with your mercy.”

Framing our prayers allows us to keep our perspective on who God is in the middle of hard, life changing circumstances.

Maybe you want to try this out. All you need is a 4×5 index card. Write your request in the middle and surround that request (burden, thanksgiving, praise, name of a person) with the Names of God.

Here’s a quick reference for some of the Attributes of God with verses so you can see for yourself in scripture where God declares himself to be that particular attribute or characteristic.

Knowing who God is will be foundational in our lives at every stage of our lives. And then filtering life through what we know to be true of God makes all the difference in living with hope.

We have an incredibly powerful and amazing God. Let’s remember that when we pray to Him.

Linking with Jennifer, Holley ,Mary and Kristin today because I love the heart and passion of these ladies.

The other side of the window

Her name had been given to me as somebody who could use encouragement. Someone who hadn’t seen family in long time. No visitors in a while. I walked in the nursing home room and asked for “Ms. Linda”. And there she was. Without turning around she peered out her window and quietly said, “That’s me.” She was sitting in a wheelchair with one foot propped up on the heating unit. Our eyes met and when I asked how she was doing today she explained what she was doing. Her days, made up of ten years, consist of peering out the window and dreaming. Dreaming of what she wants her days to be. Reliving old memories of childhood and teenage life when a boyfriend held her close and sang songs over her. You could tell she was in the moment as she told the story. I asked her to sing the song for me and she did. It was beautiful and you could tell it released something new inside of her. Something she hadn’t done in a long time. Singing. Funny how I had just read a blog post that morning about how singing allows us to forget who we are and brings unity among people. I really believe reading that article prompted me to ask her to sing that song. God is in everything.

Ms. Linda shared more stories with me. She talked about how both her made up dreams and reminiscing of real memories got her through her long lonely days. Longing to be outside but not able to she just imagined that she was outside. I told her it would soon be Spring and she could go outside but she didn’t seem to think “they” would take her out.

And for seven days straight I’ve had the visual of Ms. Linda parked at her window dreaming of a different life. Life on the outside so to speak. Life on the other side of the window.

I’ve been asking myself the question – How am I making the most of my life on the outside? Because my days are numbered. My ability to “go and do” will not always be the same. There will be physical and mental limitations one day. That’s not gloom and doom speaking. We love to say “Oh, don’t speak that out loud” but friends we must live in light of it. We must sense the urgency in living life for His glory right now and in the days to come. We are living many people’s dream right now and to live it without sharing God’s love and His good news is to waste this life on the other side of the window.

This is why I’m going back to share something amazing I found in scripture this week after my visit initial visit with Ms. Linda. It’s Zephaniah 3:17 and how it tells us how God is in our midst. How he will rejoice over us and quiet us with his love. That he…..wait for it…..wait for it…..He exults over us with loud singing!  I cannot wait to tell Ms. Linda that she doesn’t have to rely solely on old memories of a boyfriend singing over her as if it will never happen again. Something even better is true and happening right now…..her God is singing over her loudly. He’s in her midst and bringing comfort to her with the greatest love anyone could ever give her.

IMG_1300

The part of this story I haven’t shared  yet is the resistance I put up before ever walking into that nursing home. It’s true that I knew the Holy Spirit was prompting me to go and visit someone. But I didn’t want to go. This is the reality of my flesh speaking but I didn’t want to take the time or smell the smell of the nursing home. I wanted out of there so badly that as soon as I stepped foot in the nursing home I  took a call from my hubs and asked if he wanted to meet for lunch so I could escape that place. But he had other plans for lunch. And God had other plans for me.

And now I can’t.wait to get back to the nursing home this week and share what I read about God singing over us. What a sweet picture for all of us – no matter what side of the window we are living.

Praising God today for his patience with us. His love. His presence in our midst. The fact that his love for us causes him to exude over us with singing.

Praying today that we will spend our lives well living on the outside. Making the most of our time and communicating God’s love everywhere we go.

Linking with Jen and Laura today because I love their heart for God and their blogs exhibit that.

 

A cup of sunshine

45ff7d553f2f3c841e550ef1d9806c68

Nothing better than a cup of sunshine on a cold winter day.

Thankful for the people, places and things that have brought sunshine my way this week…..

*Encouraging words from my Mother-in-law.

*Praying with my Mom’s In Prayer group and seeing God bind us together.

*Reading old notes from a little girl learning to write and who loves her Mama.

*Seeing the word of God take root in our family as we read through Proverbs.

 

IMG_1278

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Hyacinths, tulips and daffodils are sunshine on a stem.

IMG_1271

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Sweet Forgiveness – had to ask for it this week (failed to remember the gentle answer part of Proverbs)  and was asked to grant forgiveness as well.

Well, it’s cold out there but I hope you’re seeing rays of sunshine in your life. They’re there. Sometimes we have to squint to see them but they’re there every single day.

Happy weekend friends!

When we act bigger than we really are

Oh bless’er. She was born wanting to be a toddler and now that she’s in second grade she wants to be a preteen.

IMG_1189 IMG_1219

Oh she still plays with her dolls, dresses up her big bear and plays “pretend” but sometimes she steps into responsibility that doesn’t belong to her. Like at the Super Bowl party we just had at our house. She and several other little girls were all playing upstairs and apparently the toddler among them had a “stinky” diaper. So while the adults were downstairs cheering the SeaHawks on Sophie took it upon herself to change her first poopy diaper ever. When my friend went upstairs to check on her toddler she came down laughing and gave us the lowdown…

Sophie was in the bathroom dry heaving in the sink while the older sister of the toddler was puking in the toilet. My friend asked Sophie what was the matter and she said, “Nothing.” When she asked her a second time she confessed proudly she had just changed the toddler’s diaper but then started gagging after it was all done.

Insert deep belly laughter from all the Moms. We decided it would be a story the girls would one day laugh about hysterically. Sophie one-upping her friend saying, “I kept mine in but yours came out! Na-na-na-boo-boo.”

My friend had to “finish the job” if you know what I mean. But she stepped in and finished the job and all was well.

I laugh, but I do it too.

I try to do things that don’t belong in my realm of responsibility. Sometimes I try to help God out by taking the bold initiative to do things He didn’t ask of me. I move forward in utter independence when I need to wait on Him to do the things I can’t really do. My forgetfulness and sometimes it’s my unwillingness to ask for His help leaves me gagging over the mess I get myself in. So yeah, second grade or 40 something years old – it’s still a battle to fight.

But the amazing thing about my God is this: He’s always there to rescue me and love me just the same. This thought makes me more apt to pause before delving into self-initiated territory. It makes me want to seek Him and His plans for me – not my own.

And for the record…..I love the fact that my girl is independent and will try to figure things out for herself. This quality is a good one and even better when framed with the truth that she can do all things through Christ who gives her strength.

Linking with Holley, Jennifer and Kristin today.

 

 

That “cup song” about to send me over the edge but a new artist is bringing back the sanity.

It’s so fun and catchy the first few times. Watch it if you haven’t seen it. It really is fun. But by the 1045th time around you’re ready to do some Solo Cup Smashing of your own – harmonizing not included. (As if I was ever able to harmonize in my life.)

And I’ve just been introduced to this amazing artist who I’m loving. A friend gave me a CD and I’ve loved listening to it the last few days. Also have been checking out her youtube clips. She’ll be in concert at a women’s conference I’m attending in a few weeks. I’m so excited to get to see her in person!

When prayer is enough

While I sip my coffee and hear the pattern of heavy rain on my window this morning my heart is so heavy for two dear friends who are facing serious life changing diagnoses.

Parkinson’s and Alzheimers.

I don’t understand it. Both amazingly strong Christian women. Who love the Lord and have served him with all their heart. One in ministry. The other who has supported ministries both financially and through prayer for decades. One a young Mother with kids at home. The other welcoming a Grandchild into the world.

And all I know to do is to pray over them by name. To take them to Jesus, the Name above all Names. Their Creator and Sustainer. Their Rescuer in a time of need. Thank God, their Savior. Because where else is the hope in a life changing diagnosis?

I am tempted at times to think and say aloud, “All I can do is pray” but quickly I am reminded that is truly the greatest thing I can do on behalf of my sweet sisters in Christ. Prayer is powerful and effective. It changes things. It’s a gift and a tool that believers have access to and what a privilege to give it to the world around us and especially to those in the Body of Christ.

So today, I stand firm and hopeful, in the God I am praying to on behalf of my friends. I pray for healing for them and at the same time I proclaim God’s goodness should He say “No” to the complete healing. And I ask for Him to show me any part He has for me outside of prayer in these dear ladies’ lives.

We never know when our diagnosis may come and should it come I pray God will give us prayer warriors to come along side and intercede specifically and boldly.

Who are you praying for today? Consider letting them know.