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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

BANKRUPT WITHOUT LOVE

Last month, April 21st, marked our 7th anniversary.  Seven is a number for complete.  Seven is also statistically a number of years when many couples bail out of their marriages.  The seven year itch, they call it.

“Happy marriages begin when we marry the ones we love, and they blossom when we love the ones we marry.” Tom Mullen

We started out like two love birds going through our honeymoon phase with stars in our eyes that blinded us to our differences. Offenses rolled off, so easily ignored; we were so hopeful.  Nothing it seemed could change the way we felt about each other.  People just shook their heads and grinned, thinking that soon the day would dawn, when we would hit the wall.

“Marriage is not just spiritual communion, it is also remembering to take out the trash.” Joyce Brothers

So, the day came when I found a note on the bed and heard through his scrawled penmanship, the things he could not say to my face.  Things that rubbed him the wrong way.  Pop, went the bubble of my dream world.  Just a few days before our first anniversary, too.

Finally, after a while of talking things over, we saw each other in a new light.  No longer the crystalline glow, but a dull ache of somber tenderness and hurt.  I had asked not to be put on some pedestal.  I am only human like he.  He always looked up, but now he looked down.  We both felt like new cars after 5,000 miles with scratches and dings.

It took some time to get over our initial disillusionment, but the sooner the better.  Floating on clouds can only last so long, and then the real ride begins with honesty, forgiveness, and starting to seriously get on with the business of getting to know this other person that I pledged myself to.  One day the saint, the next the fallen, then nervous laughter together as we realized the false paintings we'd created of each other.  We stood back and began take long looks at each other; interwoven with lots of conversation, and we came to the realization that there was more to this marriage package than either of us had bargained for.

“A relationship is like a house. When a light bulb burns out you don’t go and buy a new house, you change the light bulb.” Unknown

After previous failed marriages, temptation crept up to whisper, "Bolt and run!"  It would be so much simpler to be off alone without the complications, the misunderstandings, or the grief of the death of our honeymoon.

 Lacing up our hiking boots we stomped and climbed then descended through the years. Up and down, around and over we climbed a dangerous trail.  Drop offs on both sides, forests of problems that seemed to increase, rather than to go away or get solved.  Until... we realized that neither of us needed to be fired from our union.  Instead, we desperately yearned to band together.  The area of weakness that we each saw in the other were enough reason to hold on and hold out. I saw what I needed in him and he saw in me the very thing that would set him free as well.

When we refused to throw in the towel over the useless squabbles that got nowhere,  we bent to pick up discarded pieces that when we took the time, found that they fit into stunning new designs that delighted us both.  Our original pledge to become one is a promise we still honor.     

“To keep the fire burning brightly there’s one easy rule: Keep the two logs together, near enough to keep each other warm and far enough apart – about a finger’s breadth – for breathing room. Good fire, good marriage, same rule.” Marnie Reed Crowell

Now, here we are, two uniquely gifted individuals.  We have reclaimed our team.  We understand the value of each others' strengths, but now we respect the need to take time to stretch or venture out at our own pace.  Sometimes we work at it alone, and sometimes we join up for joint endeavors.

I have a new regard for him and he for me.  The glow is here, warming our hearts.  A clearer insight allows us to anticipate promising adventures ahead. 

Hope fills the sails of our emotions.  Faith is the sturdy rudder that keeps us on course.  Love, well, love is the ocean we skim across, the breeze that stirs around us, and the joy that fills us as we finish our story.

I Corinthians 13:4-8A (MSG) Love never gives up.  Love cares more for others than for self.  Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.  Love doesn't strut, doesn't have a swelled head, doesn't force itself on others, isn't always "me first," doesn't fly off the handle, doesn't keep score of the sins of others, doesn't revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end.  Love never dies. 

Read more about our adventures as we prepare to head to the mission field in Central America.  Follow us for immediate updates.
http://www.missioncostarica.tumblr.com 
 

#love  #love story  #anniversary  #love chapter  #I Corinthians 13

Sunday, May 25, 2014

AN EXTRAVAGANT GIFT

I Corinthians 13:12-13 (MSG) We don't yet see things clearly.  We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist.  But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright!  We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!  But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation:  Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.  And the best of the three is love.

I remember a time when my daughter, Audrey, had a birthday in Rio Hondo, TX.   Friends and family came to join us for the special occasion at my big old two story home there.  Balloons were blown up, streamers, a beautiful store bought cake, and a home cooked meal was steaming and ready to serve.

The only problem was that the little seven year old guest of honor was running a fever and I knew she did not really feel like getting out of bed.  Being in elementary school still, I knew how hard it was for her to be upstairs in her room while everyone else was downstairs mingling and catching up.  Audrey loved a social get together.  She was more the type that would watch all the goings on as though she was soaking it up to reproduce it all in a painting or a news article.  She engaged in conversations when she saw an opportunity, but she really just enjoyed standing back and taking in every expression, every detail.

Tonight though, she huddled under her covers and ate a small plate of food (probably to be polite),  since she really did not have an appetite at all.  Laughter and conversations were muffled.  She could hear the thud of glasses placed back on the tables.  The clinking of silverware against the plates carried upstairs to her ears, but none of this enticed her to join us. 

Until, it was time for cake and the gifts.  Now that was a different story.  I called and asked if she felt up to opening her gifts and a weak little, "Yes..." answered back.  Jennie ran up the stairs to help her down.  She was greeted by all and several brave ones came up and gave her a birthday hug. 

Audrey's eyes opened wide and so did her mouth at all of the gifts awaiting her.  She could hardly wait to open them, but I knew in her heart, she was just as excited that so many came and wanted to share in her birthday.  The love is what she enjoyed in that moment.

This week and last, I have been studying the gifts of the Spirit again.  As I read in I Corinthians 12 where in verses 4-11 the gifts are described, and then turn to chapter 14 where we are encouraged to desire spiritual gifts to strengthen and encourage those we encounter, I looked back again at the chapter in between.

I often wondered why it was that the love chapter, I Corinthians 13, which is read in so many weddings, was plopped right in the middle of these two.  I think of this as one of my favorite and most reread chapters as I walk through life, but I thought it was an interruption when I studied these spiritual gifts.

Tonight, as I looked these three over again, and ask God, "Why?" I suddenly saw chapter 13 in a new light in context to these other two chapters.  I now see that chapters 12 and 14 are merely the bread and chapter 13 is the meat.  They are the intro and conclusion, but the love chapter is the main story in a book for us to live by.  I see that the author wants to say that without love, all that I attempt to do all day is a waste of time.

The greatest gift that my little daughter those years back received was a gift of love from so many who cared to take the time for a little girl's birthday.  Her favorite food, the presence of loved ones, the hugs, all told her just how special she was. 

The greatest gifts of love rarely have a big monetary price tag on them.  It might mean a back rub or walking downstairs to get a drink for someone at bedtime.  It might mean that I rearrange my schedule, or it might mean for me to take a risk by reaching out to someone I ordinarily would not come in contact with or speak to.  By acknowledging the down and out, or a neighbor going through a tragedy, a simple act can bring honor to them and emphasize to them the truth, that they matter, someone notices them: They have worth.

I desire to follow the ways of love each day.  I ask God to lead me and open my eyes to be more present in the moment.  Let me see those opportunities each day, and then boldly act on them.  I plan to smile more.  Look into people's eyes and say, "Hi".  When I see a mother with a baby, I will tell her how precious her new babe is.  I will simply encourage her.  You get my drift. 

Looking at people through the eyes of love not only enlarges their own hope, faith, and happiness, when I interact with them, but it will enlarge my own heart as well and increase my sense of well being. 

LOVE EXTRAVAGANTLY: THIS IS THE GREATEST GIFT DESIRED BY ALL



#gifts  #love  #birthdays  #time  #birthdaygirl  #presents  #presence  #lovechapter  #spiritualgifts


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

STRETCHING

Isaiah 56:3a  Let no foreigner who has bound himself to the Lord say, "The Lord will surely exclude me from his people." Isaiah 56:6-7 And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to serve him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant-these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer.  Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.  (NIV)

One minute we are all gathered around tables to celebrate all the wonderful mothers in the family that live here in the San Antonio area, then the next I find us packing up items intended for a summer missions group in Honduras, a medical ministry in Guatemala, and my dear husband accompanying his friend, Lanny, as they drive through dangerous territory to their various destinations.

My husband bravely states, "Don't let anyone threaten me with Heaven!  I'll take them up on their promise!"

As we eat our last meal before our two week separation, I remember the first conversations we had when we first started dating.  Jerry was in Central America on a mission trip.  He was on cloud nine as he shared about the church property they were able to raise funds for in order to pay it off.

Since we married seven years ago, it has not been very safe to travel back and forth and so Jerry took up insurance sales to take care of us after our honeymoon.  He labored hard and excelled in sales.  He worked long hours and drove all over Texas and surrounding states to provide for our family.

Yet, it has not been until the past year, after we decided to survey and travel to Costa Rica, that I have seen that sparkle in his eyes and heard the passion and excitement in his voice like our earlier days.  

Traveling over two thousand three hundred miles through Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and then into Costa Rica is really stretching it.  He will be covering a lot of territory and taking ground for our vision for our ministry in Costa Rica.

Several years ago I heard God tell me that our home would be a house of prayer.  I have had small groups come and pray and study, but now I know that it will also mean that we will be interceding in prayer and others will be drawn to join us as they seek truth and walk in faith through Jesus Christ.

Yet, now God has challenged us to take our house of prayer to Costa Rica.  We have accepted the call and are willing to go no matter what.

Now, we are stretching our tent stakes and by Jerry taking our vehicle down we are solidifying our commitment to take up our suitcases and to follow God's leading for good works and to see people set free.

Isaiah 58:6-10  Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen; to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?  Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.  Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.  If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.

Stretching, yes, and much more.  We are running into a life of purpose; ready to experience God in new ways: new beginnings.   


#new beginnings, #Costa Rica, Central America, #challenges, #moving to Costa Rica

Thursday, May 8, 2014

50 DAYS

Acts 1:3-5  During the forty days after he suffered and died, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. and he talked to them about the Kingdom of God.  Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, "Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before.  John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." (NIV)

     Walking out of my attorney's office, I clutched a manila file folder which held a copy of our divorce decree scribbled with my notes.  There was not much time to allow my swirling thoughts to settle down before I would reach the counseling office where my children met for another session of play therapy.
     Everything appeared normal in this area of Brownsville.  How could this be when my insides felt like a Van Gogh painting gone wild: streaking lines, unbalanced shapes, with blotches of color going this way and that?
     This is not the life I dreamed of throughout my teens.  I wanted harmony, purposeful living, affection and a soul mate who would listen to my dreams and share his heart as well.  I married a man going into the ministry who I had believed loved and honored God as I did. 
     At only thirty-one years of age, I enjoyed raising our four children.  I admired and looked up to my husband as he sang at the piano or shared his Sunday morning message.  I listened to his ideas.  I read his chapters as he wrote and gave him my feedback.  I enjoyed his presence and being close to him.
     All of my hopes and dreams for our family appeared to be swirling down the drain based on the whim of my husband's recent decision.  Warmth and love escaped my wistful embrace.  
     I figured that every couple struggled through ups and downs of sorts.  We married young, he was twenty and I was nineteen.  We were together for thirteen years and shared so much together.
     I breathed a prayer asking for the strength and for help to care for the family.  A warmth surged through me now as and I welcomed hope, my new companion.  
     The car key slid easily into the ignition, and soon my white Oldsmobile backed up to leave the parking space.  
     As much as I longed to have instant answers, I knew that I would find them as I walked this out.
     Stepping into the counselor's office, I was greeted with smiles and hugs by my four chatty children.  They were comfortable with the staff by now.  And after a brief consultation, the smiling counselor reassured me that all four of them appeared well balanced considering, and so I took some more notes on any behaviors that might cause a reason to be concerned. 
     I'm sure my four brave children never comprehended how they saved me from feeling like a total wash out.  God used them to encourage me and keep my mind on current activities and busy schedules rather than drowning in depressing thoughts.  His love touched me so much through their loving ways and innocence.
     The gravel crunched as I pulled into the driveway of our parsonage.  Questions still flooded in concerning where we would live, how would I afford to finish three more years of college.
     While I tucked in the boys that night, my eight year old, Nathan, took me off guard with his question.  
     "Mom, are we going to be street people now?" he looked earnestly into my eyes to read the expression as I answered.
     "Why do you ask that?"  He had to be wondering how we were going to live without his dad providing for us, since they knew he went off to work and I stayed at home most of their lives. 
     "We have to leave this house and you don't have a job.  So how will we get another house?"
     "You know that God knows about everything we need.  He will take care of us."  I continued as I rubbed his back to soothe him.
     "No matter how bad things look right now, someday we will look back and see all of the ways God was with us and took care of  our needs.  Why don't we pray and ask God to help us find the right house for our family, okay?"
     That became my answer to many challenges that came up.  I would simply stop and pray and leave it to God to deliver a solution. I kept hearing the words, "You have not because you do not ask."  So I decided to ask, do the best I could do, and trust Him with the rest.
     Those years had their challenges, but greater than that, they also had their miracles and blessings.  
     I was feeling a bit inadequate and too busy with college courses that forced me out of bed at three and four in the morning to complete a project, or read an assignment.  Yet, my kids since have told me that those years were some of the happiest of their childhood.
     Our Comforter, the Holy Spirit, filled empty places and allowed us to see all the good there was to enjoy everyday.  He warmed my heart with a full house of happy children.  He brought answers to prayer to provide for our needs.  I grew so much in faith during this time, and in compassion for hurting individuals.
     In those first few days after the crucifixion, the world was also turned upside down for those early believers and especially the disciples.  Their dear friend who had spent three years with them would on a daily basis perform miracles, heal, and teach.  
     I can imagine the questions and the doubts that plagued them when he declared that he was leaving to go back to his Father. Jesus encouraged them and told them it was far better that he go from the earth so that the Holy Spirit could come and dwell inside every believer.  They had witnessed his miracles, his words of wisdom, and his compassionate nature.  They did not want him to leave them.
     Jesus finally commanded the disciples to wait for promise of the Holy Spirit.  These early believers saw Jesus for forty days and then he ascended into Heaven to remain with God.  
     Ten days later... 50 days after the resurrection, while they waited in the upper room, the Spirit came down from Heaven and filled them all.  
      Come Holy Spirit!  This has been the cry of intercessors over the years.  It has been the hope of the violated and the wrongly imprisoned through the the past decades.  This has been on my heart on and off throughout my life, but presently, it seems to be ringing in my mind daily.  COME HOLY SPIRIT COME!
      The Holy Spirit is here in us as believers, but my heart cry is that we release God to work on the Earth.  Let's relinquish our lives to allow God to work through us as never before.  The whole earth is groaning to be freed and rid of evil. 
     Fifty days and the promised Spirit came to empower them.  Then, as Peter preached to the multitudes, he invited them also to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  
     I ask you, Holy Spirit, to disturb me.  Stir me up to spend time in the Bible.  Let me rest in your presence.  I want to hear your voice, and I desire to respond obediently to anything that you impress me to do.  Let there be a mighty outpouring of your love and your blessing on all the earth. 
     Jesus said that all who believe could do anything he did and even greater exploits.  He set the bar high, now God, help me to live up to your expectations.