Monday, February 28, 2011

Memory

Memory

"The problem with growing up in a place so beautiful is they may not fully appreciate it."

We moved from the suburbs to the country when I was nine years old. The suburbs were nice, but nothing to compare with the beauty of the trees, streams, mountains and valleys of Vermont. And of course, the bright colors of the changing leaves. It was stunningly beautiful.


"Can you get over how beautiful this place is," were frequent expressions from mom and dad.

"No. It is amazing. I hope the kids will be able to appreciate it. The problem with growing up in a placle so beautiful is they may not fully appreciate it."

And we didn't. At least I didn't. At least not until years later when I would drive through the Wyoming countryside with my kids and ooh and aah at the mountains, valleys, and wildlife of that gorgeous state with my wife and three kids in the car.

One time I said to Cheryl about our kids, "The problem with growing up in a place so beautiful is tha they may not fully appreciate it." And then I remembered. And appreciated.

Memory is one of God's gifts to us, connecting us with past events and people. Sometimes the memories are painful. Sometimes they are full of joy. At times they are educational. Often, they connect us to the people and events that shaped us long ago. That happpened for me in a flash, 25 years after my parents' drive through the Vermont countryside. I felt connection and purpose.

I also realized that it isn't just the contours and colors of the countryside that matters the most, although the beauty of nature certainly has value in itself: God made it. But what matters most is how we experience it together. What we say. What the kids hear. Because years later, one of them will remember.

Warren Baldwin

Thanks to Karli Bonnie Photography for the beautiful picture of the leaves. It refreshed my memory and helped me remember.

Friday, February 25, 2011

What the Old Can Teach the Young

I had lunch this week with a 70-year-old missionary. It was a business meeting of sorts. He and his wife would like for me to edit their memoir, which tells of their forty years overseas.

As I poked at my salad, I asked questions like: How did you and your wife meet? How did you each come to the decision to spend your lives together in Asia?

And he told me this story:
My wife went to college to become a nurse. But 45 years ago, it was assumed, culturally, that a wife would follow her husband wherever he went. She never argued with me on this. She simply gave up her own dreams and followed me to Asia, where I felt called to serve.

Then one day she came home and told me that, while she was riding the bus with our small infant, a man from the local region walked up to her and spat in her face.

When she relayed this account to me, I thought for sure that she was going to tell me that she had had enough of this place, that she wanted a nice nursing job back home, and that she wanted to get on the first plane back to America.

Instead, she told me, “We have to stay here. These people need Jesus.”
This elderly missionary took off his glasses and wiped his eyes as he spoke of his wife’s compassion and sacrifice.

I’ve been thinking about their story all week. I’ve also been trying to picture my husband and myself as older folks. When I am 70 years old, I know that I will have plenty of stories to tell of my husband’s faithfulness to serve others even when they did not respond with kindness.

What stories will he tell of me?

I want to live my life in such a way that when I am wrinkled and gray, I will be filled with the same tenderness that I saw in this missionary, the same tenderness that comes from decades of service and sacrifice.

To God be all the glory.

D.J.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why Dig Deeper?

Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Ruth 1:16

The above verse is one about unconditional love. There is even a new Chris Tomlin song based on this lyrics called, I Will Follow You. It always makes me chuckle when I hear it in weddings, however. I wonder if the bride reciting this verse to her husband,realizes the context of the actual verse. You see, it was said by a daughter-in-law, to her mother-in-law.

Young Ruth had lost her husband. Her sister-in-law (Orpah) and her mother-in-law (Naomi) all lost their husbands too. Naomi told her young daughters-in-law to go back to their own families. It only made sense. The other daughter-in-law returned. But not Ruth. Ruth professed her love to her mother-in-law, and promised to follow her wherever she went.

Before you get the idea that perhaps Ruth had the perfect mother-in-law, listen to this. Naomi told everyone to no longer call her Naomi (meaning pleasant), but to call her Mara (meaning bitter) because her life was so bitter. Would you profess you love to your bitter mother-in-law?

Scripture sometimes has two meanings. The obvious meaning in the passage, and often a deeper spiritual meaning. The literal meaning in the story of Ruth is steadfast love. According to scholars, the deeper meaning Ruth foreshadows the gentiles becoming a part of spiritual Israel, the church; and is a story of redemption. Digging deeper into scripture is important.

First, we get the full meaning of the story, not just one line out of context.

Second, we get to read first hand the message, and not just take the word the person sharing the message. The Bible is the infallible Word of God. But I am very fallible. When I give my opinion on the meaning of a scripture, it is to your benefit to read it in context, and draw your own conclusion.

Finally, the Word of God is alive. What does that mean? That means through the Holy Spirit, you and I can read the same Bible verse and get different impressions for our life. God's truths do not change. However, He will impress different parts of a story on each of us depending on where we are and what we need out of the Scripture.

So next time you read a devotion, hear a sermon, or listen to a commentary, listen to what the person has to say. Then, dig deeper and come to your own conclusions of what God is trying to tell you.

And the next time a bride tells her groom "where you go I'll go" during a wedding, ask her later how she feels about her mother-in-law.

Kelly

Monday, February 21, 2011

Date Night


Ready to leave with Dad on their first "date"

We typically think of date night in terms of spousal enjoyment, a movie or dinner and conversation. However, my paradigm shifted dramatically a couple of weeks ago as I saw my own daughters head out for date night with their daddy.

As they arrived home chatty and filled with love and encouragement, it reminded me of the significance of the parent/child relationship. I recalled a specific experience of my own teen-dom with my dear dad. I had dated a really nice guy for a long time. He was active in his youth group and church, captain of the basketball team, a very good boy. For a time, we loved one another, but as courtships often do, this one ran out of steam and we parted ways during my junior year of high school. I thought for sure I might just die. My parents, strong and steady remained a firm foundation upon which they daily reminded me of my faith and of God's plan to do no harm. My date nights quickly turned into dates with my dad. We'd watch movies or he'd take my mom and I out to eat. One such night we watched a movie with a captivating theme song and even more intriguing love story. Imagine my surprise when that same song played at our school concert a few weeks later. Still stinging from heartbreak, my tender heart just could not listen and before i was set to take the stage, I ran into the hallway to ensure I would not cry in front of my friends. When I got outside the door, there he was, my dad.
He said softly, "I knew we'd never make it through that song!"

He knew me well enough to know my reaction. He knew his open arms would help heal my heart. He knew my pain and responded as a father would. He encouraged me, lifted me up and offered the unconditional love God would want for all of us.

The Lord is attentive. He knows us. James 4:8 assures us, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to thee." Relationships, any and all relationships, require our steadfast devotion. Our relationship with our Heavenly Father requires our attention. Our relationships with our children require our attention. Therefore, I was enthralled with the brilliance of a fast food establishment that has validated, valued and endorsed the parent/child relationship. They have instituted specific nights for "Daddy/Daughter Date Nights", "Mother/Son Date Nights and "Family" Date Nights. With questions printed on their placemats, my daughters and husband engaged in conversation; real conversation. They were attentive to one another... uninterrupted. There was no rush to get to the next place, there was no worry about keeping the conversation going, they had plenty to share. This experience made richer their connection with their daddy and his connection to them. My older daughter noted some of the encouragements my husband offered to her and how important this is. She said, "Date night helped my confidence!" It is truly a treasure to have her encouragement come from her Heavenly Father AND her earthly father.
"Therefore encourage one another and edify one another, just as you are doing."
1 Thessalonians 5:11


So imagine, what happens when we have Date Night with God. Hopefully, we all have our daily time we spend in His Word, but imagine if we drew nearer, had a date with HIM. Would our relationship with Him change? Would our lives be radically different if we allowed His encouragement to pierce our insecurities and lack of communication with Him?

"May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word." 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

Heather

Friday, February 18, 2011

You're A Winner!

Do you remember those nearly-worthless, yet oh-so-awesome prizes in your favorite sugar cereal as a kid? Well, that's what we're going to put in your honey bunny's cereal today! Or oatmeal, or whatever else they reach for every morning.

First, get out a piece of paper and some crayons or colored pens. You don't need the whole page so cut it down to a 5"x3" or a 4"x4" square. Next, take your crayons and create the perfect drawing for their prize.

"What kind of prize?" you ask.

How about a certificate for one of their favorite things like dessert at that amazing shop they're always talking about.
Tickets to a concert or other event.
The movie of their choice.
A candlelit massage.

You know what they like.

Fold up your masterpiece, sketch a cool cover, and seal it with some scotch tape or a staple. Then insert and wait.

Sonya

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

our Christian walk

 As Christians, I think there are times when we take for granted everything that being a child of God’s entails. We sometimes are good at being on the receiving end, but fall short on the giving end. We know that we are washed in His precious blood. We know that because of the death of His Son on the Cross, we don’t have to die. We are guaranteed ETERNAL LIFE. We will live forever with Christ in the glorious portals of heaven. Praise You Lord for that!

But as His children, we must be diligent to walk in His ways. To keep His commandments. To do things that honor and glorify Him. We have a responsibility to adhere to the Word and His teachings.

When we are His children, we know that He is always there for us. He is right beside us at all times. He loves us. But we also must love Him with all of hearts, souls and minds.

“I have set the LORD always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved” (Psalm 16:8)

He blesses us with His presence. He draws near to us. He hears us when we call. He answers us.Oh, friends, He answers us! All the time. It may not be the way we intended, but it is always the way that is best for us.

“I have called upon thee, for thou wilt hear me, O God; incline thine ear unto me, and hear my speech” (Psalm 17:6)

But in order for Him to hear us, He must know us. We must have a relationship with Him. An intimate and personal relationship with our Father.

God always has our best interest in mind. He wants good things for us. He delights in us and He desires for us to delight in Him and His goodness.

God doesn’t keep a record of our sin. He does NOT keep a record. Not one. He removes our transgressions from us as far as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12)

But we still have a responsibility to seek after righteousness in our lives. To seek sanctification of our hearts. And walk in His ways. He blesses us when we walk in His ways.

“Blessed is every one that feareth the LORD; that walketh in His ways.” (Psalm 128:1)


 
We serve a God who wants good things for His children, but we must be a people who desire to serve Him with all our hearts. We must be daily seeking His face and His heart and when we do that we will find Him in all His splendor and glory. And we will be more willing to give to Him and not be concerned with what we receive. Our lives will become all about Him. And we will be blessed beyond measure

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day

Legend has it that a 3rd c. Roman emperor forbid young soldiers from marrying lest they lose their zest to fight for the empire. A priest named Valentine, disagreeing with the emperor's edict, performed secret weddings for the young men. He was arrested, imprisoned and executed. But, before he died, he sent a letter to a young woman signed, "From, your Valentine."

Thus began a tradition that today sees nearly 1 billion Valentine's cards purchased to express love and devotion. Eighty-five percent of those cards are purchased by women.

Husbands: Valentine's is a day to say "Thanks, I love You, I'd Marry You Again, I Enjoy Our Life Together." It doesn't cost much money, take much time, require great effort. But, it can mean so much.

Let's not neglect an opportunity to participate in the spirit of ol' St. Valentine (even if it is just a legend) and write that much appreciated note and give that much deserved gift. She deserves it.

Warren Baldwin

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Tree of Life

Every once in a while, I look around my home and I try to picture what it looked like the first time I saw it. When our realtor walked us through, thirty-year-old wallpaper hung in tattered strips. The ceilings boasted the once-popular “cottage cheese” look, and the carpet was threadbare.

Today, all of those things have been replaced. And sometimes I wonder what the original owners would think if they could walk through the house now: Would they like the new paint and carpet? Would they like the extra counter space in the remodeled kitchen? Would they even recognize the interior? So much has changed. Everything, really.


Probably the only thing they would recognize about this place is outside. The trees. Whoever lived here before knew something about trees. Quite a variety surrounds us.

The maple tree by the driveway looks as if someone once shaped it to create a perfectly balanced deciduous. And the birch copse in front of my living room window has provided hours of enjoyment with a cup of hot tea in my hands. Then there’s the honey locust tree. Its leafy umbrella shades the backyard with fortuitous insight. But my favorite tree of all is the towering ash tree in the far back corner. It’s massive. Someday we’ll put a tree house and a zip line in that thing.

Wallpaper peels, paint fades, and pipes leak.
But the trees remain, except they’re bigger and greener.

The reason I consider such things is the fact that the original owners raised their entire family in this house. Then, once they were “empty nesters,” they cashed out and moved out of state to be nearer their grandchildren. Now we are raising our family here. It’s the only home our youngest two children have ever known. But someday, they too will grow up and move on. What will remain then?

In every marriage, there must be a core – a foundation. For years, or even decades, we can busy ourselves with job responsibilities and school activities and church ministries. All good things. With time, however, even these things change. And change can be good, like fresh paint or new carpet. But that is why it’s so important for a marriage to have a strong foundation – something steadfast – something that won’t change with trends and time.

Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” The Word also tells us that Jesus hung on a tree so that “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7).

While the d├ęcor in my home changes, the trees outside remind me of what is permanent. When Jesus is the center, a marriage can grow deep, binding roots. And no matter the changes a new season of life may bring, Jesus remains the same. From nests to empty nests, we will always need the Tree.

What do you and your spouse do to keep Jesus at the center of your marriage?

D.J.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Choose Joy

Habakkuk 3:17, 18 -- Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. (NIV)

Given our current economy, it is easy to be unhappy. In a recent Bible study I learned that anything that can rob your joy (the joy of the Lord) can be an idol. You see it isn't any great tragedy that I let steal my joy, but daily irritations.

Do my kids have the ability to rob my joy when they bicker, argue, beg, nag or misbehave. I'm sorry to say yes. I don't have the ability to let things roll off of my back and just smile and say "behave darlings." No, my head spins and my eyes glaze over.

If you choose to ask me that moment if I was joyful, I'd probably slug you in the arm. Thankfully, I do have the willpower to just send my children to their rooms, while I recover from my irritation, but why can't I remain joyful when they're not?

I'll bet most of us, at first glance would say we don't have false idols. I know I don't have any golden images around my house that I worship. At the same time, I know that anything I put before God can be an idol, so I try to be careful to make God the most important thing in my life. I don't "idolize" my kids. I try not to be the mom that thinks the sun rises and sets on my kids' heads.

Yet, they absolutely control my mood. I'd like to add here that I have the formula to stop it. However, if I did, I wouldn't write it here, I'd write it in a book, which would become a #1 best seller, and you all could say "I knew her when she was just a blogger." The fact is, there isn't a "fix" for my kids behavior. They're kids. They're pretty good actually. The problem is me.

Oh, how I hate to type that last statement! The problem is me. Ouch! I need to continue putting my focus on God. I must daily rededicate myself to God. Then perhaps I will have a better ability not to let my mood be controlled by my children. Or the rude check out clerk. Or the driver who cut me off in traffic. Or...you get the idea.

So today, I try again to focus on God and choose joy. I challenge you to do the same.

Kelly

Monday, February 7, 2011

Paying Attention

Our dog is a wonderful dog. Sweet. Kind. Lovey. However, her puppy-like tendencies unnerve the family.

She loves to shred; it is her weak spot, an area she falls short, and requires grace and teaching. One would find,being in our home, if you do not pay close enough attention, something is bound to be stolen or shredded or both. I am not proud of our Maggie's antics, but I am a realist, knowing this is normal, and that as we teach her, she is making improvement.

A few days ago, a small hat was the victim of puppy wreckage and squeals of horror pealed through the house as the little girls discovered the chewed remnants of a Victorian riding hat that once sat atop of American Girl, Felicity's head. The elder daughter, head down and quite unhappy stated she "hadn't been paying attention." How often do we begin with the pristeen hat, untouched... and in our lack of attention end up with a ruffled pile of felt and feathers? As we stare at the "mess", we wonder what if I HAD been paying attention?

The Lord speaks to us, booming bold and loudly or sometimes in just the smallest of whispers, laying on our heart something He deeply desires to teach us. Are we paying attention? In this day and age, it becomes harder and harder to remain focused on things of the spirit and easier and easier to become concerned with the things of the world. Cell phones beeping, computers reminding us of meetings, engagements and plans, children vying for our attention, jobs and professions that exhaust us mentally, physically and spiritually. Focus becomes an issue. We stop paying attention. Our quiet time with the Lord becomes a momentary blip in our endless stream of "what needs to get done" and "who needs to be where." But the truth is God has appealed to us and anticipated our lapses in focus. The author of Hebrews calls his readers to listen carefully to the truth they have heard as not to be lured by false teachings.

"Therefore, we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip." Hebrews 2:1

Listening to Christ means not merely hearing the message, but also maintaining obedience to His will. We must be ready to carry out His instructions. If we are not paying attention, we run the risk of not only missing His message, but also falling away from His will for a given situation. We are reminded in Proverbs 4:20 "My son, attend to my words; incline thy ear unto my sayings." Though intended to impart wisdom for young men at that time, we recognize this verse as a body of believers; remembering that remaining focused to God's word and message is paramount to the health of our hearts.

Our attendance to His word and commandments does not assure us that no trials will come upon us. Our paying attention gives us the confidence and comfort that regardless of circumstances, we will be adequately armed for the process and outcome. We may even miss some of those chewed up hats and shredded napkins that cross our paths.

Is God calling you to pay attention? Is there a specific area, He desires to speak to you about? Praying we are all more aware of the messages He is sending and the need for our obedience.


Heather

Friday, February 4, 2011

Camping in February?

It's February and half of the country is buried under a blizzard - brrrrrrrrrrr!

Where's John's car? Pictures, Images and PhotosWhat's a couple to do for a date idea when you may or may not have slick roads?  I've got an idea for you!

Set up a tent inside your living room.  Now, hear me out!  If you don't have a small two man tent handy, then ask your kids to help you prop up blankets and/or sheets to create a tent.

Next, have dinner in the tent, just the two of you (you can promise the kids can play in the tent the next day to appease them).  Be sure to have a sturdy candle lit for the ambiance.  For dessert, roast marshmallows over your candle.

Don't forget the sleeping bags.  If you're really feeling adventuresome, come to the tent in your warmest PJ's and have a sleepover in there.  The possibilities for fun with this one are endless.  Enjoy!
Sonya

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

can we lose Jesus?

"Why were you searching for me?" he asked.
"Didn't you know I had to be
 in my Father's house?" (Luke 2:49)
~~~~~~~~~~

I have always been intrigued by the story in Luke 2:41-52. I never could understand how a mother could lose her son, but then again, her Son wasn't just any son. He was Jesus. But still, how could she lose Jesus? Pretty much the same way we lose Him.

If we have a personal relationship with Him, we can't lose Him in relationship, but we can certainly lose Him in fellowship. Broken fellowship with our Savior can be the beginning of a long slide down a slippery slope. When that happens the result is that we become miserable in our lives. We lose our joy. We lose our direction. All because we temporarily lost Jesus.

Who can lose Him? Anybody can. Sometimes it's the least one you would expect. The preacher, the worship leader, a deacon. Just like Noah, David, Samson and Peter. None of us are beyond the capability to lose Him.

Another interesting fact about the story is that they lost Him at church! It seems absurd, but in reality, that's where most of us lose Him. We get mad at the preacher. We don't like the songs we sang during worship. We don't like the way business meeting was conducted.. And the list goes on and on. The one place we shouldn't lose our Savior is in church. We won't always agree with everyone. We won't always like the choice of music or the message that was preached. But we don't have to lose Jesus in the process.

There are several ways that we can be assured we don't lose Him. We don't ever need to travel without Him.  We guard against this by not neglecting our prayer life. Not neglecting our bible reading.  And never neglecting to be in His presence.

Of course, my favorite part of the story is when they find Him. And He was right where they left Him. When we lose Jesus, the way we find Him is just that simple. We go back to where we left Him. Back to where we first found Him. Back to the point of our salvation experience. 

"Restore unto me the joy
of thy salvation; and uphold
me with thy free spirit"
(Psalm 51:12) KJV

When we get on our faces and ask the Lord to bring us back to that joyful moment when we first accepted Him, He is there to reach out to us. God will lovingly restore us back to the joy of our salvation. We find Him and we hold onto Him tighter than before. More determined than ever keep Him close. Not wanting to risk losing Him again.

Oh, sweet Lord, thank you for being a restoring God. Thank you for being found by us when we seek you. You are mighty and powerful and worthy of all honor and praise.

Beth