Archives For October 2009

Love Notes

Jeff Olson —  October 30, 2009 — Leave a comment

Love notesElena Desserich was nearly six years old when she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. As the cancer took its toll, it stole away her ability to speak.

But little Elena would not be denied.

Wise beyond her years, she continued to communicate and express her love for her family through writing notes.

Sadly, cancer took little Elena less than a year after she was diagnosed. Before she died, however, she apparently began to hide literally hundreds of little love notes and drawings throughout the house for her family to find after she was gone. Her parents would go on to intermittently find them in places like briefcases, among Christmas decorations, and tucked between the pages of old coloring books.

This amazing little girl’s thoughtful little notes remind me of the Bible. God has left us with sixty-six letters—love notes from our Heavenly Father that ultimately tell us the story of His wild and unwavering love for those who bear His image.

Check em out. Spend some time reading them through.

Understanding and receiving God’s love into your life will change you forever.

The warmth of a fire

Tim Jackson —  October 27, 2009 — 1 Comment

Fire. It’s amazing and mesmerizing. There is nothing quite like sitting next to a campfire deep in the woods and surrounded by the darkness of night. The crackling, the sparks, the smokey scent, the warmth, and the flickering flames always tug at something from deep within. We cook on it, heat with it, play with it, and soak up its warmth. And while we may use it much more efficiently in our homes, when you’re out in the woods, it seems even more essential and inviting. Why?

Laurence Gonzales, the author of Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why, spoke to114843382_51c8392982_m Byron Kerns  about our love affair with fire in National Geographic Adventure (Nov, 2009, p.26). Kerns, a former Air Force survival instructor, explained  to Gonzales that often fire is not needed for survival in the wild. With the right kind of shelter and clothing, usually you  won’t freeze to death. So why start a fire? Kerns believes that there’s something about fire that’s deeply embedded in our human nature. “It’s amazing to see what fire can do. You’re out in the woods, you’re cold, you’re lost, you’re lonely. But the minute you light that fire, you’re home, the lights are on, and the supper’s cooking.”

And Kerns is right. There’s is something so inviting and comforting about an open fire that says, “You’re welcome” and “you’re at home.” That’s what  fireplaces are all about. Efficiency? No way. But ambiance? You bet. We are drawn to the light, the warmth, and the cozy feeling it brings to a room and to those who share it’s glow.

This draws me back to the words of invitation from Jesus to a people struggling to survive in a hostile environment that surrounded them with soul-numbing darkness. In John 8:12, He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Do you feel it? The warmth on your face? That’s God’s invitation to “come home.”

It’s an invitation to step into the glow of His light, to no longer settle for living alone and striving to make it on your own in the darkness. Instead, Jesus invites each of us to come home to where there is warmth, light, nourishment, hope . . . and life.

So the next time you light that campfire or that fireplace, remember God’s invitation for you to come home. So how about it? The lights are on and supper’s cooking.

Antiques

Allison Stevens —  October 26, 2009 — 1 Comment

rolltopdeskI have a friend who loves antiques. Her home is filled with dishes, furniture, and trinkets from great grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, and uncles. She buys items from long ago that represent a feeling, an historical period, or a family member, and then beautifully displays them throughout her home.

As we were shopping one day, I’m sure she found her antique soul-mate. We were admiring an old roll-top desk and the store owner came over and pointed out the crayon marks and nicks on the side of the desk. I was sure my friend was going to say no thank-you to the desk because of these things, but instead, she and the store owner’s eyes lit up and they were smiling about how these imperfections were exciting because they told a story.

Apparently, there was a woman in earlier that day that wanted the desk, but didn’t like the marks and nicks. She wanted it changed, painted over, covered up, refurbished. She wanted it perfect.

But the store owner explained that it was those imperfections that made the desk special and unique. The desk had a story to tell:  Who wrote on that desk? When did they do it and why? Did they get into trouble?

She admitted that even if the woman had offered her the money she would not have wanted to sell it to her because she just didn’t “get it”, nor would she appreciate the distinctiveness of the piece.  

I think the store owner must be kind of like God. I think God looks at us with eyes lit up with love, and admires all the nicks and marks. He says, “Yes, I know you’re a little banged up over there, and look at those scratches over here. But that’s where you learned about my forgiveness right there.  Oh, and over on this side, you experienced humility in a way that you won’t forget. There’s the mark of faith over there. Yes, all these imperfections are perfect.”

Our imperfections make us who we are. If we let God do His thing in us (making us more like Jesus), which is a painful process, God will make us beautiful, special, significant. Then, we’ll have a story to tell.

Submission

Allison Stevens —  October 19, 2009 — 4 Comments

Since I’ve written on headship and husbands, I guess it’s only fair that I write a little bit about submission and wives.  And I mean a very little bit. 

I’ve always thought that submission, like headship, is something for which we wives have been naturally equipped.  That submission can be an instinctual response when a wife is loved.  I think that a wife is attracted to her husband when he leads her family in a positive direction. If she’s married to a man who has her and her children’s best interests at heart, and they (husband and wife) are of one mind, it can be a natural response to submit.

I’m also living in reality and know that there are times when submission, just like headship, is hard to do. When you wonder if your husband (who has good intentions towards you) is really thinking things through and you’ve expressed your concerns, but he still wants to go ahead with something. I’m not talking about moral issues here; more like what kind of kitchen cabinets to choose, or even what school to send the children.  There are times when submission feels like the last thing in the world you want to do.

On some level, we’re all to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21.) And we all know, male and female, how challenging that can be.

Honestly, I think I know more about what submission is not than what it is. It is not subservience. It’s not mindless obedience. It is not avoiding conflict at all costs or passing up opportunities to share your opinion and/or concerns.

And a lack of submission is never the reason for spousal abuse, nor is it an effective response. If a wife, for example, continues to submit to an abusive husband, it can encourage his brutality and disregard for her. If you’re in an abusive marriage, get help so that you and your children can be safe (see your pastor, a trusted friend, a therapist, or call the National Domestic Abuse hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.)  You need to be safe.

Submission is a tricky subject because it’s been so mishandled and inappropriately applied to women who are beaten up (physically or emotionally) everyday by men they’ve promised their lives to. In these cases, submission is the wrong answer because in this scenario, a woman is responding out of fear, not love. Love is freedom; fear is a prison and if you know anyone who is abused, they feel like they’re in a prison, run by terror. That’s no way to live. If a woman confides in us that she is abused, we should do all we can within the law to make sure she is safe and treated with dignity and respect.

at times the only thing that kept me going was simply holding on to my belief that there is a God.

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repair bill-flickrYesterday I received word that one of our cars broke down—again. It’s the third time in less than a month that we’ve been hit with a major car repair. This time around it was the timing belt and water pump.

Cha-ching, cha ching.

This one hit me pretty hard. Not only was it forcing me to spend money I don’t have, the unseen forces of darkness used it to lie to my heart and pit me against God. Questions like  ”How could You let this happen again?” or  ”Are You truly for me?” or “Do You really care?” began to surface in me.

I’m normally “the glass is half full” kind of person, but it got sort of dark and negative there for awhile.  At one level, I was aware that I was sinking inside, but a part of me (not the redeemed part) just didn’t care.

Hours after hearing the bad news, God began to remind me in little ways that He was and is still there. No, He didn’t suddenly fix my car (although I would’ve have been up for that). But He sent a person across my path that made me aware of a less expensive option. Another friend prayed for me and against the lies that were assaulting my heart. Later on I learned how God graciously provided for my wife when the car broke down on the side of a busy road. And what may seem to be unrelated, a person who is typically cold and unfriendly, unexpectedly cracked a smile and joked with me.

It’s not always easy to spot, but God’s kindness was all over these things. Slowly, the truth of Who He really is (a compassionate God who promises to never fail or abandon us—Hebrews 13:5) began to confront and replace the lies that had seeped into my soul.

Looking back, it was the truth of His kindness in the little things that snapped me out my funk and brought me back to Him.

Oh, Good

Allison Stevens —  October 8, 2009 — 1 Comment

I was at the movies the other night with my family, waiting to see the 3D version of Toy Story 1 and 2 when I noticed a woman picking up a movie ticket from the floor. I could tell that it wasn’t hers because she was talking with the man with her and looking around like, “Who lost this?” She asked a woman near her and then they were all laughing and she was thanking the couple as she took the ticket. They had saved her a lot of frustration!  Then, my son noticed a man dropped a dollar out of his wallet and he pointed it out to him. The middle aged man looked at my teenage son and thanked him.  Then, almost without missing a beat, the man in line at the concessions stand asked my husband and me if we’d like to have a free bottle of water. He received it with his purchase and wasn’t going to drink it. We gladly accepted and thanked him.

Talk about feeling good.  There were so many people doing good things around us. It felt good. It was good.

There is a lot of good in the world. God created the world, and good comes from God, so it makes sense that there is good around us (3 John 1:11.)

Take a look around you today and notice the good deeds people do. Or, if you don’t see it yet, be the one who starts the “good” ball rolling (Matthew 10:42.)

First comes love…

Jeff Olson —  October 7, 2009 — 4 Comments

Growing up, one of the ways we used to poke fun at a boy and a girl who “liked” each other was to chant the following nursery rhyme:

couple sitting in a tree-flickr“Dean and Lucy, sittin’ in a tree. K -I -S -S -I -N -G. First comes love; then comes marriage. Then comes Suzie in the baby carriage.”

Cringe…I can still feel my young heart blushing at sound of those words.

I didn’t realize it as a kid, but there’s a brilliant line in this little ditty:

“First comes love; then comes marriage.”

That is to say—a marriage (at least a healthy one marked by the peace and joy of God) is not possible unless love leads the way.

One foundation of a good healthy marriage is mutual consideration—where both partner’s needs, thoughts, and interests carry the same weight. When that gets and stays out of balance, what follows isn’t pretty. 

Few things turn a marriage more ugly that when one spouse makes it all about what’s important to him or her.

Puppy love . . .

Tim Jackson —  October 5, 2009 — 3 Comments

I received an email recently that set me back and pushed me to tears. It simply read:

We want to share some sad news with you. Golden-older-reflection in glass doorThis past weekend, Brittany, our Golden Retriever, died at a little over 15-years-old. She was the puppy we bought from you back in 1994. I don’t know if you remember us or not.

Remember? Are you kidding? How could I forget those precious little balls of fluff nipping at our heals? She was one of 4 puppies that our Kassy gave birth to . . . the first one right beside our bed in the middle of the night. Talk about drama. We wanted our three children to have the experience to of seeing puppies being born. It was a major event.

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The email went on to describe the impact that this canine had on their family:

Brittany was a great dog. We were able to share much love with her. She struggled with arthritis the last few years, but she did great fighting through it. We will miss her greatly. We thought we would share this news with you, since you shared in the start of her life.

What an amazing gift. That the Creator God, our Heavenly Father who delights in giving good gifts to His children, would create such creatures that wag, wiggly, lick, and cuddle their way into our hearts that when they die, we deeply grieve. I have wept deeply for each of the 3 dogs that I have lost to various illnesses. I can’t write this without tears even now (I hope no one walks into my office right now). How can this be?

For those of you who think I’m strange, all I can say is you just don’t get it. Or, maybe you struggle to love anything or anyone deeply. That’s not an accusation, but it is a question to ponder. For those of you who are reaching for the box of tissues right now, you know exactly what I mean. The bottom line is this: If you love deeply, you will hurt deeply when you lose what you love. Even if every piece of clothing you own has a dog hair somewhere on it. The depth of our grief mirrors the depth of our love.

Jesus knew that all too well. In John 11:35-36, John describes Him weeping at the tomb of his dear friend, Lazarus. The evidence was clear to all who witnessed it: “See how he loved him!” And that’s it. Love not only opens your heart to delight in the richness of life, but also exposes you to the depths of grief.

Love shared . . . even with a four-legged, whet-nosed ball of fluff that chews your favorite shoes . . . is multiplied exponentially more than we could ever imagine. So, my advice to you is this: Go ahead. Take the plunge. Jump into the deep end and love someone or something with all your heart and see what God does to enlarge your capacity to love beyond your wildest expectations. Sure it’s a risk. But it’s a risk worth taking!