Thursday, May 31, 2012

Painting VBS sets

Whoa... I made an 8 x 12-foot painting in just two days!

Not much to look at, but it feels like a real accomplishment and I really enjoyed myself learning to paint. I didn't know what I was doing...but hey, you just slap paint on paper and out comes a picture, right? haha...

Our VBS program has skits that require different scenery each day, so it wasn't practical to made wooden sets for the backdrop like we did last year. We're painting on butcher paper that has been joined in strips with masking tape. (How else would you get an 8 x 12-foot piece of paper?)

The one scene that will be on the wooden sets is the waterfall scene. The upside-down window at the bottom left will eventually be cut out to form the entrance to a cave.

So for the past two days I have been working at the church to try to get this stuff done. Katherine was in charge of preparing the sets, but she was quite busy and had to work a lot, so I pitched in to help her out. She's the real artist, though...

This is Katherine's gorge scene (unfinished)--something that would be waaaaaaaayyyyyy beyond my difficulty level!

Our pastor's wife, Mrs. Joyce, has also been a tireless worker and splendid organizer for this project. She was the one who painted the waterfall scene. She is artistic, practical, and fast! She accomplishes so much in such a calm, organized way, and she approaches big tasks with confidence and know-how. I love working with her!!

P.S. Yay! I successfully posted to my blog every day in the month of May!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

In word, or in power?

"For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance." 1 Thessalonians 1:5 
"If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature." 2 Corinthians 5:17 
"I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead." Revelation 3:1 
To one who is a student merely, these verses might be interesting, but to a serious man intent upon gaining eternal life they might well prove more than a little disturbing. For they evidently teach that the message of the gospel may be received in either of two ways: in word only, without power, or in word with power. Yet it is the same message whether it comes in word or in power. And these verses teach also that when the message is received in power it effects a change so radical as to be called a new creation. But the message may be received without power, and apparently some have so received it, for they have a name to live and are dead. All this is present in these texts.--A.W. Tozer, God's Pursuit of Man

I tremble to think how often my witnessing has been in "word only." How often have I gone out in my own strength, with only a token prayer. "God, please be with me today and help me as I communicate your Word." This prayer neither touched my heart nor sprang from faith, but was the kind of thing that I did to tick off a mental checkbox: "I'm supposed to pray--done."

My witnessing was a weak, feeble thing done in my own strength. I look at it now and consider the strongholds and the layers of bondage around any given lost person, and I think it was like walking up unarmed to a walled and guarded castle and merely knocking on the door. "Let me in....I'm here to represent your mortal enemy...please let him take possession of this castle."

Saints of old spoke of wrestling in prayer. Who are you wrestling against? "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." (Ephesians 6:12)

In order to come up against that stronghold, that heavily guarded castle, that bound person, we NEED to come in the power of God. There is no other hope. There is no other way. And in order to see walls come crashing down, chains burst asunder, and opposition flee, we must gain the victory in prayer long before we actually encounter the person face to face with the message of the gospel. 

So I have started laboring in prayer for certain individuals, spending time, praying out loud, praying fervently, beseeching God to gain the victory, asking in faith, and not giving up until God has given me the assurance that the victory is won. 

I think that's going to go better than my old approach.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I'm going to Ellerslie!

This announcement fills me with great excitement and anticipation.

I will be spending a semester of Bible training at a program in Colorado called Ellerslie.

Oh, I am so excited about what I am going to learn, the things that God is going to do in my life, and the way I will be changed. I am going hungry and expectant for a new level of breakthrough in my Christian life. God has opened the door for this step and provided everything I need to get there. He has given me a strong desire to attend Ellerslie from the first day I heard about the program, and I am so privileged and thrilled to have this chance.

Just check out any one of the short films they have on their website for a taste of the quality of training I will be receiving. This one, for instance: 

This is a place where fervent, Biblical Christianity is alive and well. This is a place where the emphasis is on death to self and life in the resurrection power of Christ. This is a place where they know how to pray.

I have already been stirred and challenged by some of the preliminary reading I have been doing. I have been inspired by the preaching I have heard (this message and this message, for instance). And I look forward to what I will discover. I look forward to be challenged, changed, and equipped.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Opening of the Coconut

Brain dead for material for my blog, I turned to my old journals and unearthed this story from when I was 16. 

A very funny thing happened while we were here [in Virginia] that I thought was worth of writing down. Have you ever seen someone crack a coconut? We have.

This story takes place on Tuesday, the second day we were here. A family had just recently visited Hawaii, and they invited several families over to sample some Hawaiian food they brought back. We went and had some. It was very different. Some of it we liked but most of it we didn't. The last item on the menu was a coconut they had brought back. A whole coconut. A whole, solid, round, brown coconut.

They had learned from the Hawaiians that to crack a coconut, you take a sharp rock, give it several hard, sharp jabs with the rock, and simply pull apart the two halves. So everyone gathered around to witness the opening of the coconut.

A little boy from their family tried first. He looked like he was about 8 years old, and his bangs with the rock onto the coconut were not doing any good.

("This thing must be as hard as wood," I thought to myself, as his continued tries to crack it only resulted in a few of the pieces of fuzz falling off the outside.)

Finally he decided the rock wasn't going to make it. "Get me a hammer!" he commanded the next oldest brother (about 11 or 12). The hammer was fetched and the boy proceeded to hit the coconut with the hammer. This strategy yielded no results, either. Then--aha!--a bright idea! Let's get a nail!

The boy who got the hammer went to get a nail and took over the opening of the coconut. But he couldn't get the nail to penetrate the hard shell of the coconut.

Then their biggest brother, a full-grown teenager, decided to show all these young kids how to proceed with the opening of the coconut. He took the sharp rocks and hit them against the side of the coconut.

"That won't work," piped up his younger brother. "I think you'll need a saw for that thing." Younger brother was right. It didn't work.

Time for big brother to try the hammer and nail. Bam, BAM, BAM went the hammer. Bend, BEND, BEND went the nail. Okay, that didn't work. "I think we'll need the saw," big brother said.

("This thing must be as hard as stone!" I thought to myself when I saw the nail fail to work.)

Everyone went outside to view the sawing. "This has got to work," everyone was thinking. But surprise, surprise, the saw didn't work.

("This thing has got to be as hard as marble!" I thought to myself.)

It was not until a long, curved, wicked-looking old saw with long, sharp, cruel teeth was brought out and used with extreme vigor and enthusiasm that the stubborn coconut finally opened.

We all celebrated and cheered for the long-toothed saw--though by now the coconut meat was rather distasteful, being contaminated by flecks of coconut shell and rust from the saw.


It wasn't until years later that I met a Brazilian lady and saw her open a coconut to realize that it wasn't really that hard. (Look it up on YouTube. It really isn't that hard. You really do just give it a few hard whacks and pull the two halves apart.)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Currently Reading

The Scottish Chiefs by Jane Porter
This book was written in 1810 and tells the story of William Wallace of Scotland. Right now I'm only about 1/4 of the way through the book, but it is a stirring book that celebrates virtue, honesty, justice, and patriotism. At the same time, it is page-turningly interesting, and right from the very first chapter, the story line starts moving. Highly recommended reading! (At least the first quarter of the book, anyway!)

Why Revival Tarries by Leonard Ravenhill
A searing book from the zealous pen of a prophet of God. This book shook me to my core and moved me to prayer as I had never been moved before. Ravenhill's writing style is clever and full of puns and alliterations, which I usually don't have much use for, but the substance of the book outweighs the style. It is a burning, passionate plea to seek God, to pray, to care about the souls of men. Its words are life while at the same time they are death to the flesh. Read with caution and prepare to be changed.

God's Pursuit of Man by A.W. Tozer
(Also sometimes titled The Divine Conquest). I can't give a synopsis yet because I'm not far enough into the book. However, what I have read is loaded with insightful points and peppered with quotable phrases. For instance:
"For [these verses] evidently teach that the message of the gospel may be received in either of two ways: in word only, without power, or in word with power. Yet it is the same message whether it comes in word or in power. And these verses teach also that when the message is received in power it effects a change so radical as to be called a new creation. But the message may be received without power, and apparently some have so received it, for they have a name that they live and are dead. All this is present in these texts." (See 1 Thess. 1:5; 2 Cor. 5:17, and Rev. 3:1.)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Being an intern in Betel of Britain

I took the clips for this video and finally got it edited and posted so that you all can enjoy it! It's just 15 minutes long, but it describes the different jobs I did and gives a taste of what my day-to-day life looked like there.


(Just a note... it's cheesy...sorry...)

Friday, May 25, 2012

A Typical Saturday in Betel Madrid

Here is a video from my time in Betel. 

On Saturdays, we would pick up food donations for the week's groceries in the house, and then we had to bring them home and put them all away. So you can see the hustle and bustle and slightly crazy aspect of a typical Saturday afternoon. 


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Novel's first kayak trip

We have a cute black lab/golden retriever cross puppy named Novel that Katherine is raising to be a service dog. (Novel has his own blog where you can see pictures of him and his accomplishments. Warning: Cuteness alert!)

So the other day Katherine and I decided to take Novel out for his first kayak trip.

He took to the boat like a natural and had very good balance, though he didn't quite like to sit still.

Look at that cute widdle puppy face.

Don't we live in a BEAUTIFUL place?

And just to prove that I was there... a picture of me for once (since I'm usually the one behind the camera, I have to make an effort to do this!)

We paddled around the lake to the place where there's a rope swing. Some kind and wonderful soul hung this rope from a tree limb, and apparently it has been there for years. We discovered it and play on it, astonished that we're the only ones out here. Where is everyone else? You would think there would be a line all day long for something this fun that's free!

Getting ready to launch...

9 seconds of pure fun. 

Somebody was tired on the way home.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Dedication IV

This post on a blog I read inspired me yet again with the wonder of what some people are doing to pour themselves out on behalf of others.

She says, 
"We've had what has seemed like weeks of sickness and I'm not sure we are really through yet. Grace has been abounding. I can't believe we are finally seeing the break of day, light at the end of the tunnel, wellness coming to live here again. Doesn't it make you so grateful for well times when you've been sick? This past week I thought about those I know who live life in pain. I had pain that wouldn't go away, my head pounded daily - but life had to be lived, must be carried out - and with joy and enthusiasm. I can't get down times during this phase. Bad moods can't happen. They are too wide affecting. Too damaging to too many little ones."
And a little farther down, she says,
I remind myself what I had the energy to do and did with my first kids. I hope I have learned more since then. I hope I can continue to pour out for them. I commit to. I promise to. I strive to. 
Amazing how it feels inside to have your heart stretched to such lengths. I never thought my heart could hold so much. I wonder if it can at times. God is big. Large. His love is large. He can use me. He can have me, to love them all, all my days. God isn't just some idea that I fancy will help my head think I can do this mom thing with eight. He's not a good word. He's not something I attach to some list of rules or issued based life-style to earn His love and acceptance. He's not something my parents brainwashed me to believe, say a prayer to and think heaven would be my home when I die. 
He is real. He has changed my heart from wanting darkness, to longing to live loving others more than myself. Only He can do that. I tried on my own for the first 15 years of my life. Frustratingly impossible. Without God, selfishness reigns, though at times dressed up to look like "love" or even "godly."
I don't know what it is like to be a mom, but this woman has 8 children and serves them faithfully, teaches them with love and patience, and makes life really fun for them. Every one of her posts is filled with the most beautiful photography of her kids doing happy, interesting things, and her writing is always uplifting and wonderful. She is only a few years older than me, yet she has been stretched unimaginably farther than I have, and she does it with grace and faith and somehow gets it all done.

Her dedication inspires me to stretch farther toward what God has called me to do. The mountain of tasks that she juggles teaches me not to complain about my comparatively small pile of tasks.

Thank you, God, for examples of people who are farther ahead than me, who can help me to see that I can keep going, keep expanding, keep loving, and keep pouring myself out, all because of Christ's supply that He daily gives me.

Related Posts:
Dedication II
Dedication III

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

My perspective on dating/courtship

You know how when you are looking for something, you usually find something else that you lost? 

You know how sometimes when you focus on getting something, you can't always achieve it, but when you stop trying and just do something else, the thing you wanted just happens? 

That's kind of like my perspective on courtship/dating. 

When we see two people get married, what we see is "Girl meets guy." So when we come to the point where we want marriage for ourselves, we tend to naturally think in terms of "girl pursues guy." But then we are taught that a godly girl doesn't do it like that, so we revise our plan of action to "girl waits for guy to pursue her." She may wait and wait and nothing happens. She may eventually give up and go back to plan A (girl pursues guy), or she may try any number of other variations ("Girl seeks to attract guy," "Girl pursues the guy's family," "Girl pursues education or other accomplishments," "Girl pretends she doesn't care about guy and works really hard to look busy" etc. etc. etc.). 

I throw the whole system out. My perspective is nothing like that. 

In my system, it's "girl pursues Jesus." I forget about the guy. All the energy that others throw into waiting, hoping, planning, dreaming, I throw into pursuing Jesus. I pursue Jesus so hard that there is no room for even realizing that I could be waiting, hoping, planning, or dreaming about a guy. I love Jesus so passionately there is no void in my soul that I'm waiting for a guy to fill. I delight in Jesus so completely that the supposed charms of a guy look rather tarnished and shabby by comparison. I gaze so steadfastly at Jesus that my eyes have no wish to meander around toward all the guys nearby. And I find all the happiness and fulfillment and satisfaction that I need. 

I trust Jesus. I leave the matter of bringing a guy into my life completely to Him. I don't even worry about it. I honestly don't give it a thought. And by that, I don't mean that I'm constantly shutting out the thought, or blocking out the, it just isn't there. I trust Jesus completely to arrange all of it. I just sit back and enjoy Him. I pursue more of Him. I think only of Him. I want Him. 

When I pursue Jesus, I pursue Him for His own sake, not to manipulate Him into bringing the guy into my life sooner, not to show myself "worthy" enough to finally "deserve" for Him to reward me with a guy, not to prove anything, but just simply because Jesus Himself is infinitely desirable. There is no end to the delight of knowing Jesus. There is no end to what I can learn from Him. There is no end to becoming more Christlike.

I know He has a plan, I know He knows about every single man in the world, and I know that He is able to and coordinate our connection whenever He wants. If it isn't now, I rest in the knowledge that now is not His BEST. I rejoice to choose the best. When that time comes, though, He'll have to hit me upside the head with a 2-by-4, because in the meantime, I've forgotten about the guy. I'm not looking for that. I'm looking for Jesus. I'm seeking Him. I am being rewarded in that search, because Jesus always gives me more of Himself. 

This is the most restful, stress-free, and easy plan I've ever heard of. It's a plan that you can't cheat on (Jesus will know whether you're really pursuing Him or not). It's a plan that needs no striving, no struggling, no guessing, and no flirting. It comes with no broken heart and a lifelong guarantee. To live it is to walk by faith.

Monday, May 21, 2012

God's Daily Supply

The other day I read an article by John Newton (author of the hymn, Amazing Grace) called Without Me You Can Do Nothing. He says, and I agree wholeheartedly,
"Though my pen and my tongue sometimes move freely, yet the total incapacity and stagnation of thought I labor under at other times convinces me that, in myself, I have not sufficiency to think a good thought; and I believe the case would be the same, if that little measure of knowledge and abilities, which I am too prone to look upon as my own, were a thousand times greater than it is."
He also makes an interesting point about the supply of manna to the children of Israel in the wilderness:
"Moses, when speaking of the methods the Lord took to humble Israel, mentions his feeding them with manna as one method. I could not understand this for a time. I thought they were rather in danger of being proud, when they saw themselves provided for in such an extraordinary way. But the manna would not keep; they could not hoard it up, and were therefore in a state of absolute dependence from day to day: this appointment was well suited to humble them. 
"Thus it is with us in spirituals. We should be better pleased, perhaps, to be set up with a stock or sufficiency at once, such an inherent portion of wisdom and power as we might depend upon, at least for common occasions, without being constrained by a sense of indigence, to have continual recourse to the Lord for everything we want. But His way is best. His own glory is most displayed, and our safety most secured, by keeping us quite poor and empty in ourselves, and supplying us from one minute to another, according to our need."
The manna would not keep. God had to give them a daily supply. This daily supply was enough--no one lacked--but it kept them in humble dependence on God.

Sunday morning I was driving to church and contemplating these things, and I realized that I myself prefer to try to "store up" my spiritual strength and draw from my own stores as needed, rather than trusting God for His daily supply.

How curious that it is in human nature to want to do this. If we have money, we want to store it up for ourselves so that one day we won't have to work for more. If we have possessions, we tend to accumulate more and more of them (and hoarders show us the extremes to which this can be taken). There is something in us that is constantly crying out, "more, more!"

But as I was thinking and praying in the car on Sunday, I suddenly saw that the way to have more spiritual strength is not by accumulating more and storing it in my brain or in my heart or wherever it goes--it is by surrendering more and more to God and becoming more and more dependent on Him. His supply is infinite! He is able to give me more each day than He gave me the day before! As I yield to Him, He is able to increase my capacity. As He gives me spiritual strength, knowledge, and grace, I can freely and cheerfully give it all out. I don't have to worry about running out, or saving some back for the next day, because the next day, there will be more from Him.

People who have become giants in the faith, great men like Hudson Taylor, Andrew Murray, George Mueller, C.T. Studd, David Brainerd, or John Hyde, could have ever-increasing spheres of service precisely because God increased their daily supply.

It comes from God's side, not from my side.

It comes daily, moment by moment, and cannot be stored up.

The question is, am I willing to remain in humble dependence on God? Am I willing to forego the luxury of having stores laid up? Am I willing to trust that, having no stores, God will never forget me for a day?

Spiritual strength is like manna. You can't just tuck it away in a little cubbyhole in your soul and expect it to be there when you go back to find it. It will be rotten. It will have melted away. Spiritual strength only comes from God. It is useful in the moment that He gives it to you, and He will give you another supply in the next moment.

I will begin to live like this is true. I will look to God each day for the supply that I need. I will trust Him to visit each moment with the continuing flow of His strength, wisdom, and grace.

When I receive it, I will pour it out freely, ungrudgingly, joyfully for the advance of His kingdom. I won't have to wonder where my strength is coming from or when I will get some more. He will be back in the next moment with more for the next task.

What a different way to live!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Resting in the Faithful One

Hudson Taylor is famous for going through an experience that transformed his life and ministry. He described it as discovering that the Christian life wasn't about "striving and struggling to have faith, but resting in the faithful one." His experience is recounted in great detail in Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret and in the two-volume biography of him. I have read and re-read his experience, trying to understand it, and most of all trying to enter in to what it was that he found, but I have always puzzled over it.

Today I feel like I caught a glimpse.

Katherine and I were driving up to the lake to go kayaking, and she was telling me about how she, Monica, two friends, and Abbi (the dog) had all made it over to the rope swing using just two kayaks. (They had a person riding on the back of each kayak, and Katherine took two trips, one to take Abbi over, and one to go back and get Monica.)

Then Katherine said that on the way back, they were going to let Abbi swim the whole way alongside the kayaks, but she didn't want to.

"She was smart enough to know better than to try that," I commented. (It's a pretty long way from the boat dock to the rope swing.)

"Well, we could have held her up by the harness," Katherine said. It was true. Abbi's harness has a handle positioned precisely at the most useful point where you can grab it and lift up her entire body without putting any undue pressure on any one part.

I got a mental image of Abbi just relaxing limply into her harness while the girls paddled the kayaks across the lake. Then I wondered if she would swim frantically anyway and waste her energy needlessly.

Then I thought about Hudson Taylor's quote. "Not striving and struggling to have faith, but resting in the faithful one." God's strong arm has me by the handle, and he's not going to let go. He's going to get me across, get me through--everything. I can rest in that knowledge. I can relax in the realization that God is in control. I can trust Him. I could frantically flail around busily if I wanted to, but it won't get me any farther, any faster, than trusting Him and resting in Him.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Dedication III

It seems I just keep seeing examples of this! Perhaps the Lord wants me to get the message?

My neighbor, Edith, is a delightful little old lady, and I stay with her sometimes because she has Alzheimer's and can't be left alone. We talk mostly about the past, and she tells me about her mama.

Mrs. Montgomery (Edith's mother) lived back in the horse and buggy days, before telephones, before washing machines, and before TV. (These things came to Appalachia a little later than they came to the rest of the country, so she had to do even longer without them than most people of her generation.)

She had ten children ("and they all lived!" Edith tells me triumphantly).

To wash clothes, she had to haul water from the stream and wash them on the board. After washing, she hung the clothes up to dry and ironed every single piece, down to the underwear. (This would not have been an electric iron with a nice little dial for temperature control, either.)

To get clothes in the first place, she had to sew every stitch. Imagine keeping up on your sewing to clothe 10 children! Edith says the clothes she made were prettier and more stylish and longer-lasting than anything you could get in the store. Her mom never bought a pattern, but just looked at the current styles and somehow knew how to make them. She also found time to knit, crochet, weave, and embroider.

In order to eat, she had to raise every vegetable the family would eat for the year in her garden. She kept her enormous garden completely weed-free, and at harvest time, she had to do canning every day to put it all up for the winter. She raised her meat and butchered hogs in the fall. She made sausage, smoked the meat, and canned it in order to preserve it for the winter.

Daily meals were not a fast-food, throw-it-in-the-microwave affair. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were cooked, sit-down meals. Breakfast, for instance, would be biscuits and gravy, eggs, bacon, toast, fried strawberries, and coffee. All this was cooked in a wood-burning cookstove, requiring precisely-cut kindling and the know-how to get the temperature exactly right with coals. After the meal, there was invariably a mountain of dishes to be washed by hand, in water that was drawn by hand, made hot by heating it in a kettle over the fire.

Does that sound like it's taking up enough of her day? In the midst of all that, she also accomplished the following:
•  House was mopped every day.
•  House was dusted every day.
•  House was kept immaculate, spotless, always.
•  The yard was always picked up from all sticks, leaves, and other material.
•  Extensive flower gardens were always weeded.

Where does one find time for leisure or personal devotions in a schedule like that? Yet Edith says, "Mama was always reading the Bible. She read the Bible all the time. And prayed and prayed." She would also sit down at her organ and play beautiful music and sing.

"How did she do that?" I asked. "How did she have time to get all that done?"

"Oh, she worked all the time," Edith said matter-of-factly. "She didn't have time to sit down. Goodness, she didn't know what it was to sit down. She worked from morning till night."

THAT is dedication. That is inspiring. That puts me to shame! I have a time-saving gadget for just about every single one of Mrs. Montgomery's jobs (water out of the faucet, washing machine, clothes from the store, food from the store, dishwasher, etc.), and yet I don't get my ironing or dusting done, my room goes weeks between vacuumings, and a mountain of "To-do" projects piles up--when I don't even have any children!

Let me apply a little diligence to my own situation and see if it, too, could not blossom into productivity!

Related Posts:
Dedication II
Dedication IV

Friday, May 18, 2012

Dedication II

A friend of mine works cleaning houses. She gets up at 6:00 in the morning and works all day.

On top of this, she finds time to go out witnessing, teach Sunday School, and organize youth activities.

On top of this, her sister came to live with them and brought her children, which my friend now takes care of for most of the time she's at home from work.

On top of this, she is constantly thinking of ways to dig into the Word of God (we had an hour-long Skype conversation yesterday to pray and talk about what we had read in the Bible that day).

In the midst of this workload, she memorizes somewhere from 2 to 10 verses a day.

Given her passion, dedication, and determination to find a way to do what God wants her to do, let me not say "I have no time to work for God."

Related Posts:
Dedication III
Dedication IV

Thursday, May 17, 2012


I just attended my cousin's graduation from the school of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Tennessee. She spent years of her life going through a very intense program in order to become a vet.

For instance:
She spent an average of 96 hours per week on campus, and study time was on top of that.
Towards the end she was lucky to get 10 hours of sleep per week.
She barely had time to eat.
She had absolutely no free time.

I couldn't help but make parallels with my recent experience in Betel. We all thought we were working hard, getting little sleep, and making sacrifices of our free time (and we all knew we weren't skimping on food).

The dedication and hard work that my cousin and all her classmates exhibited in order to graduate was inspiring and amazing. I heartily congratulate each one.

And for those of us in Betel--or any Christian ministry program that involves long hours, sacrifice, or foregoing a "normal" lifestyle, here's a reality check:

Every day, people in the world are exhibiting mind-blowing levels of dedication and sacrifice to pursue their passions. In the case of becoming a vet, it's not even a career that's likely to make you rich. So lest we think we're alone in this, we're not. And if other people can do it because they have a passion for animals, or a desire to do a certain line of work, or merely a pecuniary motive, should we not be able to invest much more for the cause of Christ, who lived and died and rose again for us?

Related posts:
Dedication II
Dedication III
Dedication IV

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Follow up to Godly Sorrow

(From my journal, April 12, 2012)

Ironic follow-up to yesterday's entry about needing so much energy to walk in the Spirit with regard to overeating:

I was put on food donations today, which is the job that offers the most opportunity to indulge, given that you're picking up food from the supermarkets all day, and you see all these goodies that would be easy to have "just a little taste." I asked D to keep me accountable, so twice when I almost got a sweet treat, D said, "No cakes," which was enough to overcome my desire to indulge. God gave me the grace necessary to stay true to my commitment. I had almost succumbed--I would have succumbed--but D's quiet word tilted the balance back toward obedience, and I listened.

It was in the furniture shop in the afternoon run, where D wasn't nearby, that I saw a plastic packet of brownie bites. "Surely just ONE wouldn't hurt," I said to myself, and I picked up the package to open it. I had it in my grasp and was fumbling to separate the lid from the bottom part, when the Spirit's still voice spoke, "No." And I set the package down and walked away.

"Funny," I thought. "That didn't take any energy at all. In fact, it involved relaxing more than anything. It would have cost more energy to open the package and eat the brownie than to just drop it and let go. So even that, the flesh's protest that this would take so much energy, is a mere false pretense."


Related Posts:
1. Godly Sorrow vs. Worldly Sorrow
2. The Flesh's Reaction to Godly Sorrow

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Flesh's Reaction to Godly Sorrow

(From my journal, April 11, 2012)

Heh. It must be a spiritual way, because just writing that, I feel like slumping. In fact, I just yawned. And my flesh is saying, "Awwww, that's just going to take so much ENERGY." The flesh flops itself limply on the floor and demonstrates the listlessness it is prepared to exert should I get it into my head to put 2 Cor 7:11 into practice. "Awww, why get all worked up over carefulness and zeal and vehement desire and all that? I can't be bothered."

Nope. I can see that the flesh isn't going to lift a finger toward this operation. All the better, since in my flesh dwelleth no good thing and they that are in the flesh cannot please God. Before, I would have tried to work the flesh up into an excited frenzy, hoping that then I would find the inner resources necessary to do this thing. Now, I know better than to go that route. The flesh won't do it, can't be trusted to do it, indeed, can't do it.

(Fascinating--even now, the flesh is offering all kinds of energy and zeal to work off the weight by going hiking when I get home. Funny how it's so excited to do something "later," but when "now" comes, the motivation is mysteriously missing.)

No, I know better than that now. I turn to the Spirit. I will walk by faith, trusting God to maintain the supply of energy needed to do His will,. I will look to Jesus, who lived out perfect obedience. And by God's grace, I will obey with every bit of repentance, godly sorrow, carefulness, clearing of myself, indignation, fear, vehement desire, zeal, and revenge possible.

It's the kind of obedience only possible to the Spirit. It is death to the flesh by the very act of obedience. (Explains why the flesh is so eager to find an excuse not to obey.) I will walk in obedience. I will walk in the Spirit. I will walk by faith.

Thank you, God.

Related posts:
1. Godly Sorrow vs. Worldly Sorrow
2. Follow up to Godly Sorrow

Monday, May 14, 2012

Godly Sorrow vs. Worldly Sorrow

"For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of; 
but the sorrow of the world worketh death. 

"For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, 
what carefulness it wrought in you, 
yea, what clearing of yourselves
yea, what indignation
yea, what fear
yea, what vehement desire
yea, what zeal
yea, what revenge
In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter." 2 Cor. 7:10-11

In April, while I was in Betel, I weighed myself and discovered that I had gained 20 pounds over the almost six months I had been there. Up until that time, I had been moaning, "I'm fat," without doing the slightest thing about it. So it was worldly sorrow that worketh death. And it was.

The moaning about my weight was contagious, and other girls started moaning about theirs, too. The destruction started to spread. I was not the least bit concerned that I wasn't doing anything about it, and I had not the least intention of doing anything about it, but I wanted to moan about it. In other words, I was sorry I was fat, but I wasn't sorry to repentance. I still wanted to eat as much as I liked and indulge my every craving. I didn't want to have to make a sacrifice to lose weight or stop putting it on.

But one day, in early April, on reading this passage, I realized that this is worldly sorry, and it works death. I didn't want that!

I also got a clear picture from the passage of what godly sorrow would be: Repentance!

Carefulness about what I eat.

Clearing of myself, casting aside and denying the unnecessary cravings that have so dominated me.

Indignation that I should have let myself get to such a state.

Fear of more obesity and the consequent health problems I will reap by going on this way.

Vehement Desire - Vehement Desire - VEHEMENT DESIRE to get my body back down to a proper weight.

Zeal to approach the task which, if done with anything less than zeal, will take so long that I will end up discouraged.

Revenge against my former fleshly living--a ruthless cutting off of those parts which have caused me to sin: Sugar. Snacks. Yummy comfort foods. Large helpings. I have to give my flesh what is distasteful to it: Death. Salads. Small portions. No sugar. No snacks.

There is godly sorrow that will work salvation from fatness not to be repented of. The way is clear.

Related posts you may enjoy:
The Flesh's Reaction to Godly Sorrow
Follow Up to Godly Sorrow

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

The power of one life to influence others lives is great, but the power of a mother's life to influence the lives of her children must be infinitely greater.

My mother has poured out her life for her children for approximately the last 30 years.

For about 16 of those years, she had a child in diapers.

For about 27 of those years, she has devoted herself to homeschooling us, and she still has 2 or 3 years to go.

She has made over 32,000 meals in that time--and unless one of us takes it over (which is maybe 5% of the time), she never misses breakfast, lunch, or dinner. And she has made all the bread we eat for about the last 20 years. (How many loaves would that be? I don't even know. Sometimes we eat one a day...)

She has consistently guided us, counseled us, taught us in the ways of the Lord, and lived it out herself. Her deeds match up with her actions. Her life underscores her words.

And all this, cheerfully, wholeheartedly, with all her strength, even when she has suffered from frequent headaches, insomnia, and other health problems.

She is always there for us. She is always kind. She has the kind of wisdom that has everyone calling her on the phone for advice. She has the kind of friendly manner that makes her the most popular person in a room wherever she goes. She manages her time so well, I don't know how she gets so much done in a day. She is well read, intelligent, and knows how to do things. She serves, serves, and serves. She's a safe person to talk to, because she won't scold you or reject you for what you think, but she'll listen and care and give good advice.

And then! She's FUNNY. She's hilarious! She pokes fun at herself...she does cute little dances around the kitchen...she makes up words...she talks baby talk and makes funny faces on the randomest occasions...she jumps in alarm when the mouse moves unexpectedly or a screen pops up on the computer...and she just has a good-natured way about her, all the time.

My mom is someone who is safe to be around. I can talk with her, cry with her, pray with her, laugh with her, be silent with her, work with her, and be silly with her. I can go off on a rant about one of my pet peeves and she'll listen. I can go into her room when my heart is breaking and cry out all my sadness, and she'll comfort me. I can bring up a really serious issue that someone is struggling with, and she'll pray with me--mighty, fervent, faith-filled prayers that have world-changing power. I can say something really dumb, trying to be funny, where other people would just groan or roll their eyes, and she'll laugh. I can just sit next to her and not say a word and it's never uncomfortable. We can have a big job to do when someone is coming over or something, and we can work together as cheerfully as can be. I can put on a funky song and get her into a silly mood and watch her pull some very un-sedate, un-mom-esque moves (which would be mortifying if she pulled them in public), and we can get to that slap-happy point where we're laughing so hard we can't stop.

Mom, here's to you. I love you. I wouldn't be who I am today without you. I want the best for you, and I really, really appreciate you, every day, more than you know. You are my hero!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Kayak trip down the river

Last Sunday, Katherine and I took our dog, Abbi, and the kayaks out to the river that comes out of the Watauga dam. The water of this river is very cold, because it comes out the bottom of Watauga Lake, which is 280 feet deep at that point. Therefore, on hot days, it often has a delicate mist that hangs over the water, because there is such a vast difference between the air temperature and the water temperature. Today, however, the sun was strong and the water was glassy and the air was clear.

We launched the boats and first paddled upstream. The closer we got to the dam, the faster the current got, until we reached a point where we couldn't go any farther. The water pushed us backwards equally as hard as we could paddle forwards, and we were stuck motionless. After a concerted effort, we gave ourselves to the current and allowed ourselves to float back downstream.

Soon the water was flat and calm again. Abbi was standing with her front paws on the front of the boat, attracting a lot of attention and waves from children at a campground we passed, as well as from other boaters. She stood erect and motionless, balancing effortlessly, with such a regal pose and intent look in her eye that it was indeed quite striking.

We had floated down a little way past the point where we launched when I noticed something that looked like a cave on the right-hand bank.

"Let's go check it out!" Katherine said. So we paddled over to the little opening and peered inside. Tree roots hung down from the roof like giant dreadlocks and there were little passageways going out in all directions.

Our eyes, adjusted as they were to the bright sunshine, couldn't see quite to the end of the possibilities of this cave, so I said to Katherine, "I'm going in."

I got on my hands and knees and crawled in. The sandy bottom was flat and undisturbed. I first went right and explored to the ends of the tunnels that were in that direction...only about 20 feet...and then I turned around.

By this time, Katherine's curiosity had gotten the better of her and she had decided to join me. (At first, she didn't want Abbi to get all muddy, so she held her in the boat, but the charms of exploring a cave overcame all objections to muddy paws.)

She and Abbi came in and Abbi started going down the main front passageway, sniffing interestedly. Soon, however, she backed out and wouldn't go any farther. When she came out I started going down the same tunnel. Then it hit me. "Abbi didn't want to go down here. I wonder if she can smell something I can't?" I couldn't see any farther ahead of me because there just wasn't enough light, but I took a flash picture with my camera and it revealed an animal nest with fresh green grass piled on the ground. "Oooh. Something lives there," I thought. So I, too backed away.

(Later, when we went out, we saw two Canada geese honking at us and hanging around that spot, so we realized it was probably their nest. Nothing scary after all! Just some eggs...or better yet, fluffy baby geese!)

We emerged from the tunnel and got back into the boats. A little farther downstream, we came to a beaver lodge and paddled around it. There were not only openings into the lodge, there were deep ruts in the bed of the river itself where the beavers had carved out passages to swim in. It was very interesting.

Then we came to a place where there was the sound of a waterfall coming from the shore, so we stopped the boats again to investigate. It was a happy little stream tossing itself over some steep rocks in a thin veil. Definitely worth the stop.

A little farther down, there was another, more spectacular waterfall that we knew about, because we had seen it from the opposite shore. Katherine got out to see if she could climb the rock face. I stayed in the boat and threw a stick for Abbi, but then I saw a snake in the water. We didn't know if it was poisonous, and we didn't want Abbi to run into it as she splashed around through the water, so Katherine came back and we continued on our way in the boats.

We kept going and we got to a place where the water widens out just before Wilbur dam. Dusk was falling and we were hoping to get a bit of mist, but we didn't. All over the place, there were little bubblers...something hidden in the bed of the stream that would exhale, sending a multitude of tiny bubbles to the surface for a few seconds. There was also a spider that was skimming along the water at the same speed as our kayaks, creating quite a wake in his path. HOW, we wondered, does such a tiny creature have a motor to go that fast, and completely silently to boot?

We were lazily floating closer and closer to the dam, moving forward almost imperceptibly and enjoying the interesting reflections, when it thundered. "Oh, great," we thought. Abbi hates thunder. She started getting very nervous and trying to pace around the kayak. This would not do. It thundered a second time. "We'd better turn back," we said, and began paddling upstream. We weren't far, really, from the truck. It thundered a third time. Abbi's anxiety became unbearable. She just would not be a fun passenger to have through the whole entire trip back upstream. So we decided to pull the boats out right there on the shore and walk back up the road to the truck. As we were disembarking, a kind fisherman came to help us. He gave me a ride back up to the truck, I drove it back down, and we loaded up the boats and went home, very very satisfied with how our afternoon had gone.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Get a bride for the King

A parable on witnessing methods

Once upon a time, there was a great king. He was rich and lived in a beautiful castle. One day, he said to his servants, "I would like to get married. Go throughout the countryside and find me a wife."

The first servant went out and met a beautiful girl. "Would you like to get married?" he asked. "No," the girl replied. "I'm too young." The servant found another girl. "Would you like to get married?" "No," the girl replied. "I'm in love with someone else." The servant went to one girl after another, but no one was interested. They all had an excuse why they couldn't be bothered. Either they were in love with someone else, or were too busy, or didn't want all the duties that came with living in the castle, or some other excuse. "I give up," the servant said. "It's useless to try to obey the master's command."

The second servant went out and met the first girl. "Would you like to be rich?" he asked. "Oh yes," the girl replied. "Okay," the servant said. "Here, say these wedding vows, and you'll be married to a rich king who loves you." The girl repeated the vows, and the servant smiled, congratulated her, and left. He went on to the next girl, and the next, and repeated the same process. He met hundreds of girls and did this with each of them. Then, he went back to the king and said, "I have found hundreds of brides for you."

"Okay," the king said. "Where are they?"

"In the towns and countryside, going about their normal lives," the servant said.

"But do they love me? Do they want to be with me? Do they even know me?" the king asked.

"Yes, well, they know your name," the servant said. "And they'll be coming around later for the house and money you promised them."

The king turned around very sad at the thought that his servant mistook this for marriage.

The third servant went before the king and said, "I can't do this without you. Will you please come with me?" So the king and the servant went together into the town.

Soon the servant found a beautiful girl and struck up a conversation with her. "There's someone I'd like you to meet," he said, and introduced her to the king. The king, the servant, and the girl did many things together, and the king lavished his love and affection on the girl. Little by little, he won her heart, and she started to love him back. The day came where they went to church together and got married, pledging their mutual love and commitment to each other. They became one. And for the rest of their lives, they lived together in joyful harmony, rich and full of blessings.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A prayer about prayer

Dear God,

If there is an area that is obvious to me as a deficit, it would be prayer. I am not as faithful as I could be, not as disciplined as I could be, not as fervent as I could be, not as delighted as I could be about prayer. So I would throw myself into that fray. I will pursue more and better prayer, more intimacy with You, and I will seek YOU, Your face, with everything that I am.

Give me the faith to approach you in prayer, reaching forward to attain the highest heights with You. Let me TRUST that even when it feels empty (or even when I predict that it will feel empty, whether that would have been reality or not) that I will pour my whole self into it anyway. Let me believe You about prayer, and DO it, whether or not I understand or like it.

Faith says prayer has a purpose, whether I see it or not, because God says so.

Obedience says "I will pray," whether I feel like it or not, because God commands me to.

Hope says, "Keep pressing in; it will get better," even when my prayers are dry.

Perseverance says, "I will not fail to pray; I will get up and do it like I would get up and go to work."

Self-Control says, "I will discipline my mind and keep it from wandering during prayer."

Zeal says, "Give it your whole heart, for the King of your heart is worthy."

Wisdom says, "I will think through my day and manage my time so as to ensure that prayer is not missed, neglected, or overlooked."

Love says, "I love the Lord, for He has won my heart, and there's nothing I will hold back from Him. If He asks prayer of me, I will gladly and lovingly render up the sweetest incense my heart can produce, because it is for the One who gave His best for me."

In Jesus's Name, Amen.

Thank you, God!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Trip to Malaga, Day 8

Sunday, January 29, 2012

We got up and I showered in cold water. I waited a while for it to get hot, but when I saw that it didn't, I thought there must not be any, so I carried on.

Then Irina got in the shower and called for her mom to plug in the hot water heater. She asked me if I had showered in cold water, and I admitted that I had. The whole family was horrified at this and tried to make me go again to warm up in a hot shower, but I wouldn't. "You'll catch cold," they said. "That water is freezing." "No, no pasa nada (it's fine)," I said. It became quite a joke that I don't think I'll live down for a long time.

Irina and I were kind of slow getting ready and got to church pretty late (11:20, when it started at 11). Church was good and it was good to see all the people I hadn't seen yet (and the ones I had). I took so many pictures with so many of the wonderful people there, and we stood outside the church, talking and laughing.

After church, Elisa, Alejandra, and I went over to Irina's for lunch. We were all telling jokes when Irina's mom made a comment that stuck with me. "Everyone has time to tell jokes," she said. "but it's funny--no one has time to talk about the Lord." Ephesians 5:4 came to my mind and I thought, "How true."

We had the yummiest Ukrainian food that Irina's mother had made, and it was very filling and delicious.

I also made the acquaintance of a couple of Irina's nieces, and they were the most delightful girls. I was entertaining them by bouncing them on my knees like a "horsey ride" and they loved it! Is this not the cutest little girl EVER?

After we ate, Irina and I went to Ana Maria's for coffee and then we went to the evening service at church. After church, there was coffee and hamburgers. Then Irina's brother was kind enough to give me a lift in his car to the house of some missionaries I was going to visit. Irina went with us, and she and I almost cried when we said goodbye, but we strengthened our resolve and managed not to.

My time with the family I was visiting was lovely! They had invited me to spend the night and leave straight from there to go back to Madrid in the morning, which worked out wonderfully for me. They showed me to a room that made me feel like a princess! Then we had a lovely dinner of fish, rice, vegetables, and salad, and we talked and had a good conversation. Then we played a good game of Settlers of Catan. :-) The wife mentioned a book she had written, and some formatting problems with it, and I offered to fix it for her. She started emailing the files over to me, and I stayed up till like 1 or 2 in the morning, checking and reading email and doing stuff online.

The next morning, I got on the train back to Malaga, boarded the bus to Madrid, arrived back there safely, took the metro back to church, and joined the girls.

This is the last post in the series.
First post: Trip to Malaga, Day 1

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Trip to Malaga, Day 7

Saturday, January 28, 2012

I ate breakfast and took a shower, and then Irina's friend Dayneris came over to meet me. I went with her to the bus station to get my bus ticket for the way home, and then we went looking for the cafeteria Cafe de Babel, which I LOVED from my previous time in Spain. We found it, but it was closed. Then we went to the Boutique del Té and I bought 3 different types of yummy tea. Mmmmm...

We went back to Irina's apartment, but no one was there, so we went to a corner café and ordered a cup of coffee (me) and a cup of tea (Dayne) and talked. it was really great to get to know her a little bit better.

After about 45 minutes, we figured Irina might be back, so we went up to her apartment, but still no on was there. We were just going back out when we ran in to Irina, so we went up with her.

She made a kind of Ukrainian food for lunch, with shredded potato, zucchini, 1 egg, salt, and a little flour. You drop spoonfuls into hot oil and fry them. Then you dip them in yogurt mixed with whipping cream to eat them.

We practiced some music and a skit together and then went to the church for choir practice and youth group.

Irina led the choir and I played the piano. Oh, but you should have seen the gaggle of Spanish women that crowded around me, hugging and kissing and crying. It was priceless. Pepi and Maricarmen and Maruja and Maria Jesus and several others were all clustered around me, waiting their turn to kiss and hug me, chattering and laughing, when Irina's voice broke through the din.

"Rebekah! There's someone who wants to see you!" I broke free and there was Anita. "Mi madre," I said, as I greeted her and she received me tenderly. She just gave me a look that spoke more than words. There is a link forged between us that hasn't disappeared despite the passage of four years since I last saw her.

Anita was the one who came up to me after I had spent 8 months in Malaga, learning Spanish and attending the church. She had always showed me much love and kindness, but the day I left, she said to me, "Rebekah, I always wanted to have a daughter. I had a couple of sons, but I always wanted to know a daughter's love, to share feminine things with her, to have that female companionship. The Lord did give me a daughter, a baby, but when she was 8 months old, she died. I never knew what it would be like to have an adult daughter. Now, God given you to me--for 8 months." It moved me to tears and we hugged each other and wrote off and on, but all our communication had gradually died off. Now, here she was again, and it was a special treat to see her.

The choir practice went well and then we had youth group, which started about 45 minutes late because people took forever to show up. Our skit went well and the message was good, brought by Manolo. Then they had a sort of business meeting where they voted for the leadership. This disintegrated into a big mess where everyone was arguing and people were all voicing opposing points of view. For me it was a lesson in the difficulty of doing any kind of church leadership. There is always opposition and threats from within and without, and the need is great for wise, tactful authorities who can put things straight.

We went back to Irina's apartment pretty late and ate magdalenas (lemon muffins) with sweetened condensed milk on top of them.

We talked for a while. I asked Irina if I could borrow a skirt, and she took me to her closet and told me to pick anything I wanted. I pulled out a skirt and tried it on, but it was too small, and then Irina pulled out a dress. "Try this on," she said. It was gorgeous, and it fit me perfectly. She pulled out a coat to wear with it, and added a necklace and earrings. I thought I was borrowing all this stuff, but then the next day she insisted that I keep it, along with some black tights and black shoes that her mom gave me. Ah! She is just way too generous.

Next Post: Trip to Malaga, Day 8
First Post: Trip to Malaga, Day 1