Sunday, January 14, 2018

The minuses of unforgiveness

Forgive others as God forgave you. Forgive those who trespass against you so the Lord will also forgive you.

Starting a sermon on Philemon, the pastor talked about forgiveness. The book is about a slave that ran away from his master — most likely stealing money from Philemon to make his way. But Paul saw a change in the slave Onesimus when he became a Christian. So Paul asked Philemon to forgive his slave, to welcome Onesimus home as a brother.

Forgiveness is a difficult concept. Perhaps the way to look at it is not how good forgiveness is, but how bad unforgiveness is. Not forgiving makes us stressed, bitter, depressed. It keeps us up at night. Vengeance from unforgiveness leads to hatred and death.

Watching “Sons of Anarchy,” the lives of the bikers deteriorate because of hatred, unforgiveness and vengeance. This quote might be the perfect ending to a discussion of the need of forgiveness.

“I realized that in my downward spiral of hopelessness I was actually falling into a huge hole created by my absence of basic human graces. The most obvious is forgiveness. If I was wronged by anyone, in or out of the club, I had to be compensated by money or blood. There was no turning the other cheek. When relationships become a ledger of profit and loss, you have no friends, no loved ones, just pluses and minuses. You are absolutely alone.” - John Teller, “Sons of Anarchy”

Monday, January 8, 2018

Thanks and giving

We were driving across the state on our way to visit my sister-in-law's family and I was reaching my hand into my new Pioneer Woman jar for some more homemade apple chips when "Thud."

I froze with my hand hovering above the jar and looked at my husband with huge eyes, and his expression mimicked my own.

The car had shook with the explosive noise, and I put the jar lid on as a grinding noise started somewhere underneath the vehicle.

"Did we blow a tire?" I asked, my eyes still huge and the dog on the backseat looking at us like "What the heck?"

Nate pulled onto the new off ramp and slowed the vehicle down on the shoulder. We both put on the coats we had taken off during the drive and opened our doors to the -15 degree temperatures and frigid winds of the day.

We walked around the car.

Nothing. No exploded tires. Nothing hanging underneath the vehicle. No smoke coming from under the hood.

It didn't look like anything was wrong.

We were almost exactly halfway between where we were coming from and where we were going, out in the middle of nowhere on the Saturday before New Year's Eve. The temperatures for the next few days were not supposed to get much above -10 degrees, and this is the time that we have car trouble?

Nate looked under the hood, around the tires and tried to figure out where the grinding sound was coming from but to no avail.

We called my dad, the usual guru in times of car trouble and tried to explain what happened. It wasn't a chunk of ice in the wheel well; there was no snow buildup. There was absolutely nothing visibly wrong.

"Where are you? We can head out to meet you and your dad can help Nate work on the car," Mom offered.

"No, we're too far away. It's too cold. There's nothing we could do at this point anyway," we answered via speakerphone inside the Dodge Journey.

We were blessed that not only my parents but Nate's sister also offered to drive hours to come pick us up. What a great family we have.

After much back and forth, we decided to head to the closest people we knew --- Nate's grandparents who lived about 45 minutes away. Maybe then Nate could figure out how to fix what appeared to be a wheel bearing issue.

We called my dad and told him, and immediately he said, "Do you want me to come help you fix it? I'll toss some tools in the car and drive over."

"That's a 2.5-hour drive for you; you certainly don't have to do that," I said. "I mean, if you want to, that'd be amazing, but you certainly don't have to."

But he did.

He drove 2.5 hours to us. He spent 5 hours in a cold garage underneath a cold car on a frigid night, changing first one wheel bearing then another and finally deciding it wasn't the wheel bearings after all but the rear differential.

He spent the night in a stranger's house (Nate's grandparents, but still, my dad didn't know them) and got up early the next morning to make it home to my mom.

We didn't even really know how to respond, because I think the percent of men that would drop everything at a moment's notice and drive halfway across the state to help his grown daughter and son-in-law work on their vehicle in absolutely freezing cold temperatures has to be slim to none.

That, folks, is generosity at its finest, selflessness at its core, love in action. It makes tears come to my eyes thinking just how much God has blessed my family with a man that is so often silent and yet so often speaking loudly through his actions.

It's impossible to thank someone for that, to show how much we appreciated that. We gave him an MRE. That's the best we could do.

But we're so thankful. We're thankful for my dad. We're thankful we made it home safely. We're thankful it wasn't worse than it was. We're thankful for a giving family that will house us at last minute's notice. We're thankful for family that will do anything to help. We're thankful for offers of assistance from kind strangers.

In what could have been a situation that led us to memories of a horrible New Year's trip, I now have memories of what a great family we have, and what an amazing father I have.

Thank you Dad. It's not enough, but thank you. I love you.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Jesus changes everyday life

It’s not just a new year resolution, it’s something I’ve wanted for years — a closer relationship with God. But it’s easy to put something that you don’t “see” on the back burner for what is in front of me: A dirty house, piles of laundry, baking to do.

But reading a new devotional so far this year has been good. It’s helped me already to remember just how big God is, just how much I underestimate him and just how much he deserves much more of my praise.

The last part of Colossians we’re looking at in church has a similar theme — “How does Jesus change everyday life?” He should change every part of our everyday life.

1. Jesus makes us people of prayer. We should pray all the time.

I’ve never been good at prayer. My mind wanders like a kid in school with ADD. After I read my devotion for the day I’m trying to at least say a prayer of praise about how good and how big God is. I am great at asking, but I know that God deserves so much more glory and praise than what I offer.

If you can’t think of what to pray about, be thankful. Pray for open doors to share the gospel message.  Pray for those in the Middle East who are being persecuted, for those hiding away in North Korea or China, for those who don’t know God in Africa or the South American jungles.

2. Jesus changes ordinary choices.

We are to use wisdom to make wise choices, not just right choices. Colossians 4:5 says, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.” While something may not be wrong, we need to be extra wise to see how something may be perceived. It might not be wrong, but how will someone else view it and will that open or close the door for the gospel?

We’re also to make the best use of our limited time. This is always convicting to me. I tend to be a little lazy. We don’t have kids, so my time is my own. At home, I do fritter it away relaxing in front of the TV and snuggling with my puppy. I should be doing the stuff on my list, or should be praying or calling a friend or writing a letter. My time would best be spent elsewhere. Perhaps I need to put a limit on it...

3. Jesus changes the way we speak.

I am not much of a talker, but many people turn people away with their words or their tone. We should speak with gracious words.

4. We need good Christian friends.

I am blessed to have some wonderful, godly women in my life. And I need to be that good Christian friend to those around me. I need to be closer to God so that is reflected in my life and my friendships. We need people who will lift us up and show us what is beyond our culture, beyond worldly values.

Jesus, our faith, should change everyday life. Let’s make a resolution that 2018 will be a year that reflects those changes.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

A peaceful moment on our land

We were clearing felled timber from a huge walnut tree on our land, and then I see my husband walk away.

I came back from taking branches to the wood pile and see him walking back from over the hill.

"I was enjoying the view. Want to see?"

"Yes," I said, giving him a hug.

We walked about 100 feet away and stood, taking in the view of the slough with the sun starting to go down in the early winter afternoon. The wind was calm, which is quite unusual here, and it only moved the grasses around us enough to quietly create a swishing noise.

The temperature was about 40 degrees, and I was toasty in my Under Armour, jeans, T-shirt, sweatshirt and Carhartt bib overalls.

Nate sat down in the dried smooth brome, a grass that we hope to replace with native species someday, and I sat down next to him.

I started to think about our land. I've done the math, and it makes me nervous. Building the house that we want is going to be difficult. It gnaws on my mind some days.

But then, when I sit there, amidst a hard day's work outside, looking at the beautiful view, with my husband next to me, it feels right. It feels like we're right where we're supposed to be.

I wanted to share that with Nate, but I didn't want to bring worry into this perfect moment. I'd say something later. At that moment, all I wanted to do was be secure in the fact that we are of one mind, and if God wants us there, he will do something to make it happen.

And if we don't get the house we want, we will make do with a smaller version. We will be fine.

Because perhaps, someday, a couple of generations from now, our grandkids will be sitting in that spot, in a prairie, talking about how their grandparents bought that land. How they did everything they could to bring their family up in that beautiful place, to appreciate the outdoors and hard work. How their grandparents sacrificed and built what they could, but how it has grown as the next generations have become more successful and built up what had begun.

I leaned back, and Nate stood up, coming back to sit behind me so I could lean against his chest.

We were just quiet.

It was a moment of peace.

I don't know what the future will hold. I have hopes and dreams, but who knows what the next couple of years will bring. But I do know that we will do everything we can to hold on to that land, to bring up a family that knows about chores and what it means to be a steward of not only money but of the earth, of family values, of love.

I didn't get out my phone to take a picture, because I didn't want to burst that bubble. But that photo is so clear in my mind.

Our Carhartt-clad legs, our boots, amidst dried grasses, looking out to a tree-lined wetland with the bright sun reflecting off of it.

If our future is as bright as that moment, as peaceful as that moment, I can't ask for more.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

That gnawing feeling

My feelings tend to come in my gut.

When I do something wrong or think I've done something wrong, I get a sickening pit in my stomach. Until I resolve it, that pit stays in my stomach, and I absolutely hate it. It makes me anxious and stressed.

When I go for a while without that pit in my stomach, I'm happy and at ease.

This past week though, I've gotten that feeling a few times. It has come when I've said a little something or done something that I realize afterward wasn't the right thing to do. Usually, I feel better when I have apologized for what I've done to someone, but these things didn't seem like they really were anything that warranted an apology, just were things I shouldn't repeat.

But they still gave me that pit in my stomach, and I wanted to ignore it because it didn't feel good.

When I started thinking about what I did and whether it warranted an apology, I realized that this aching feeling that I hate so much really is the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

I have been praying for a closer relationship and that I wouldn't be afraid to go through troubles or be put in uncomfortable situations if it means spiritual growth, and I think that God is answering my prayer.

Conviction isn't fun, and I don't want to feel bad, but if it means that I'm learning the little things that I do wrong and are realizing them enough to not want to do them again, then that is growth. That is answered prayer.

I'm trying to listen to the Holy Spirit and that convicting feeling more and appreciate when it comes so that I can grow instead of being afraid of feeling bad for a little bit.

May the little changes help me to be a better mirror of Christ in my life, and may I learn to grow a little bit closer to him every day.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Profanity is profane

I have a confession --- I've started to swear a bit too much.

There was a few times when swear words would pop out among friends. Then when repeating movie quotes. But I've noticed, swear words have popped out in normal conversation with Nate. It's probably once or twice a week, but I never wanted to be a person that swears.

Last week in church, the pastor was talking about holiness and what is profane. He said the definition of profane is common. When we profane something, we are making it common.

It makes a lot of sense that we call swear words profanity. It is taking language and making it common. Swearing is the way that common people speak; it is the way most of the world speaks. However, it shouldn't be the way that I speak.

Christians are to be set apart from the world, to be holy. When we take what is holy and make it common, we're making it profane.

It's time that I make sure that my life is not common, and my language is not common.

A short blog today. Have a good Sunday!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Just accept love

"I love you."

"Why? Why did you choose me?"

What if every time you told your spouse or your children that you loved them they asked why? For the first couple of times, you'd say "I love you because you're wonderful" or "I love you because your caring" or "I love you because..."

But if they kept doing it, you'd finally get fed up.

"I love you. Can't you just accept that?"

This morning, the pastor talked about how we are chosen by God, and how some people have a difficult time accepting that. Why did God choose me? Why didn't God choose someone else, someone better?

He chose to save us because he loves us. He loves us, even in our difficulties and sin, to show his grace and glory to the world.

That's it.

Accept it.

When we keep questioning God, his motives and why he didn't choose someone else, it's annoying and self-deprecating, just like if our family members kept asking why we love them. We would just want them to accept that love.

That's what we're supposed to do --- accept God's love, love him back and show him we love him through our actions.