Faith and “The Draft”

It’s fall football time, in our area the Seattle Seahawks are usually the favorite, but because we are also a military town we also understand that it is not the only team that is playing! Before every new season there is something called “the draft”. It is when coaches and owners send scouts out to colleges and universities to see which player would be an asset to their teams. They examine their “stats” versus the positions that they may have open and during the special “draft days”, in some kind of predetermined order select a new player for their team. I am sure it is done with many calculations and those young players are thinking “pick me, pick me”.

Joining the NFL only happens to a small percentage of the population–it is like a subgroup. There are many subgroups in life–some we actively choose to join, others that life seems to choose for us. A friend of mine son just joined a subgroup of children with diabetes 1. Not their choice by any means. Receive a cancer diagnosis? You’ve just joined a subgroup. Found out your child is autistic or born with Down Syndrome? Another subgroup. Got divorced? Infertility diagnosis? Addiction in yourself or family? Dealing with mental illness? Yes, you are now part of a subgroup. Sometimes being drafted into these subgroups can seem unfair, random and overwhelming.

Sin entered into the world. It brought death with it and over the years has also affected not only our physical bodies, but also our emotional and spiritual self. To be honest, life in the general “mainstream” has enough challenges. The younger me when hearing of someone in these “subgroups”, would just be grateful it “wasn’t me” or my family. I, too, was drafted into some subgroups without my choice. My husbands debilitating stroke shoved me into the role of caregiver. His subsequent death enlisted me in the “widow” subgroup. If you have the courage, look around you. Your neighbor, your co-worker, your friend or extended family is probably part of a subgroup that they neither chose or want, but are taking up that cross.

Matthew 25:34 then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink, I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was in prison and you visited me. These are other subgroups Jesus encourages us to acknowledge and care for. Father, open our eyes to other subgroups that we can minister your words of hope. Open our hearts where we are afraid to reach out because of some unknown fear. Father, help us not to be afraid of you drafting us into any subgroup. You know our purpose. I ask for strength, grace and mercy for anyone reading these words that feel they are overwhelmed by their subgroup. Help them. Heal them. Send help from your sanctuary and your people. In Jesus Name, amen

There is hope for you in whatever subgroup you currently find yourself in. God has not forsaken you. Part 2 is next week!

Faith and Answered Prayer!

August 25, my children put together a wonderful (almost) surprise birthday celebration for me. It was a very special time–I felt very loved and cared for by my family, friends and the Lord. September 6 our son turned 37–so we were able to celebrate him with family–again it was very special.

However, September 8 was even more amazing! Our church has started doing a very special “water baptism” Sunday each summer. The children’s ministry teaches on water baptism a few weeks before–preparing their hearts. The Sunday of, the preaching pastor also teaches and shares about this step of obedience. It is a very special day.

A few weeks ago I had talked with four of my grandchildren about baptism. They were not interested–citing various reasons why they would/could not take part. Each of these children have each personally encountered Jesus as Savior, so I really was surprised at how adamant they were about not following this next step. It was curious to me that they felt sooo strongly they weren’t going to participate. (Too cold, don’t want people looking at me etc–I just said, well I guess you simply aren’t ready.) But I began to pray against these obstacles.

During my birthday celebration there were words given about our family legacy. It was very special and encouraging. My adult children are all committed to following Him, but I saw a picture of piece of aluminum sheet metal separating the next generation from that legacy. I began to pray seriously about this resistance.

I woke up Baptism Sunday morning praying that the Holy Spirit would make each one’s baptism significant to them. I had no idea of who was going to get baptized. It was so strong on my heart–that I just kept praying about it all morning. Praying for the sermon as the pastor preached on different scriptures concerning baptism. At one point I thought–we don’t know what is going to happen. Certainly all the people who witnessed Jesus’ baptism did not know that they would be hearing a voice from heaven! For this special day, all the elementary children join their parents in the main sanctuary for the service. Something amazing happened during the preaching of the Word or the worship–but three of my grandchildren had their hearts changed and chose to be baptized! How surprised, blessed and excited I was to be able to witness their obedience! After the service they told their folks of their desire! What a joy it was to see their parents join the pastors in the pool and participate with these precious children. There were 28 people in total who followed Jesus into the waters of baptism that day. My heart is full–praying for the rest of my grandchildren to make their own decision when the time is right. They were so excited. Only the Holy Spirit could have help them overcome their fears and reluctance. They were so so happy they did it!

I did not know how the Lord would answer my prayer that day. I did not know that the Holy Spirit had me praying for my own grandchildren–I am so glad I followed the Spirits leading and prayed anyway. The amazing thing is several of our other friends children were baptized the same day–different towns and even in different states! What is the Lord going to do with this “class” of disciples? I certainly will keep praying, watching and believing for them to fulfill His purpose in each of their lives. The other wonderful fact is that their grandfather’s birthday was September 9. I still am not sure how much Heaven’s citizens know about what goes on in earth–but I know it must have made him happy too!

Dear ones, do not give up praying. Those girls were very adamant just two weeks before how they were not going to be baptized. I kept praying. I did not pressure them, condemn or cajole, I just said ok. You must not be ready yet. It is about Jesus and following Him, not about your likes and dislikes and left it. Their parents also talked and prayed with them. Do not forget to rely on the Holy Spirit to bring the changes you need or others! He does good work!

Faith and The Awareness of Change

A few weeks ago I took a walk around my yard with my daughter and son in law. We have a large willow tree in our front yard–which has been a great source of joy and blessing for my grandchildren. I remember when my mom and my brother in law planted the tree as a young sapling almost fifty years ago. After we moved into this home, in August 1990, Darryl consistently would prune it. He watched such things. He knew what it needed and simply took care of it.

After our son in law, Timothy Haslet joined our family and became a landscaper he would ask Tim to help. In caring for Darryl, to be honest, I sort of forgot all about the need to prune the tree. Somehow, I just thought it would either grow “correctly” or simply be OK. I did begin to notice some changes–but really did not think them through. During this “walk in the yard”, Elizabeth pointed out some obvious changes. Some of the lower branches were dying. No or few leaves. I began to really LOOK at the tree and somehow it kept on changing during the past several years. Some of the branches have grown out over our fence line over the sidewalk the city maintains. Some of the branches have grown over our neighbors shed. Some of the branches were encroaching onto my sidewalk where people enter my home. Even though I was not paying attention to it–changes were happening. Little by little the branches grew.

Change happens. It is happening to each of us–even today. Some of my grandchildren are beginning to show signs of puberty, while I must admit I have been showing signs of aging! Some of these changes are predictable and welcomed. Others, not so much. I cannot go back and make sure the tree was pruned properly every year. It is too late for that. The canopy is grown to thick for the lower under branches to get enough light to properly grow which is why they are dying. I’m not sure what I am going to do about it as yet. It is not dangerous, but it could be if it does not receive attention. My daughter pruned the branches that were interfering with people coming into my home. Because I am now conscious of the willow tree, I began to notice the maple trees and how they are growing over the driveway. More change. How are we to handle these changes?

The willow tree changes took place because of its nature. Children maturing also, part of God’s plan–and alas, as much as I might not like some of my body’s aging process it is also natural. But what about our spiritual growth? John 15 is very clear that the Father is the gardener and he cuts off branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. I admit, I don’t really enjoy the pruning process. Learning to trust our Heavenly Gardener in every area of His pruning is essential, but not always easy!

We also have an apple tree on our property. Last year we barely picked one bowl of fruit. My son in law pruned it. This year I was shocked to find we had over six big bowls of apples. Pruning works! I now had to figure out what to do with the fruit! Sometimes it is harder to all Him to prune areas where I have already seen fruit. I am content with the known. However, as He moves in and through my life I must trust Him to do His best in and for me and for the others around me. As I begin to expect more fruit, I also must release my faith that He will help me manage that fruit!

Trusting the Lord to help us manage our change takes faith, courage and will enrich and deepen our relationship with Him as we allow His Word and Spirit to help me manage that fruit. Pruning can be as simple as the Holy Spirit quick conviction, a word from your child or message from a sermon or word from your leaders. If we respond quickly we will benefit from the pruning sooner. Dear brethren, let us receive His pruning with grace, maturity and trust! We all need it.

Faith and Words!

I turned 70 this week (that word, in itself sounds old!” It sounds very old to many, but for those of us close to this age–not so much! My wonderful children set about to throw me a surprise gathering–with friends and family. Somehow along the way, I found out about it. I am one of those kinds of people who love celebrating others–myself, not so much. So I was glad to be able to prepare in my heart for it!

Our Youth Pastor preached a wonderful message on Sunday–about forgiveness and touched on the behavior patterns of middle- schoolers. That reminder was helpful to me as I watched four of my grandchildren this weekend–two which are middle schoolers! So I went up and thanked him for his words. His wife was out of town, so I thought maybe he would like to come to my birthday gathering that evening (as I invited him I remembered Sunday evenings are youth group nights). He said, no, he couldn’t–but then he goes “right, your birthday. You are going to have FUN!” I thought–what does he know that I don’t know? This was a very simple phrase–but it stopped me. I had not thought about it being “fun”, just that it would be “nice” or “good”, but “fun” isn’t something I usually think about for myself! That single word changed my expectation!

That little phrase set up an expectation in my soul that surprised me! I heard it, trusted it and believed it. I went, “OK!” As the day progressed I found myself getting excited with a new expectation. Due to my son in law’s open art studio week end, their four children were with me since Friday. We had a wonderful time, but I was a bit tired. I just prayed, “Father, let Your Will be Done”. I did not know who was coming–only those who had told me they couldn’t. So I did not know what to expect. The decorations began to go up. People stopped by early–which was great. And as a bonus gift, one of my friends who has been on dialysis for about three years got the call they had a kidney for her while she was here! We were able to pray, find a place for her dog, a ride to the hospital while we were in prep mode!

My dear friends of 42 years arrived the night before, so they were helping any way they could as well. I want to encourage us to use our faith filled words to help frame others lives. I did have fun. There was amazing food. Great words of encouragement from everyone who came and Words from the Lord which filled me up to begin this new decade. I felt loved and so cared for. I chose to listen carefully and faithfully to the encouraging words that people shared about how my life has intersected and impacted their life. It was a bit overwhelming, but I chose to receive them to motivate me on to touch even more lives.

Interestingly enough, they weren’t necessarily big things–but they were important to the individual. Friends, let us love both in word and deed. It makes a difference. Words are important. They are precious. Let us spend them to help encourage others. Speak words of life, God’s words. Last night our Life Group watched the movie Breakthrough–if you get a chance, watch it. You will see the power of words–first the mom’s words in desperate prayer, and then in words of life over her son and how they changed the situation. It’s something we each can do!

Father, we ask you to help us speak words of life. Convict us of any words which contradict your Word, which tear down and bring discouragement. If needed, help us with one conversation at a time. In Jesus Name, amen.

Faith and Surprises!

About 12 years ago or so we needed a new fridge. One of the features I really really wanted was an ice maker. In our previous fridge there was the option to have one, but my husband did not want to have to worry about getting the water pipe to it–concerned about possible leaks etc. So we opted out. I persisted in my wishes when we needed to purchase a new one and it not only came with the ice maker installed–he paid a friend to install the water line for me! I felt so loved and excited to finally have this great feature of an ice maker.

It has been so fun to simply open the freezer compartment and have fresh ice whenever I want to without the struggle of filling and refilling ice trays. I have so enjoyed this feature. I know many people have a fridge which dispense water, ice cubes and crushed ice on the front of their fridge. Even though we could have chosen one of those options, we did not. I was one happy camper just getting the ice cube maker! (It still makes me happy!)

A few months ago, I noticed a light inside my fridge had turned from green to red. I thought, what does this mean? The notice by it mentioned something about it being time to change the filter. I hunted all around for something to remove/replace etc, couldn’t find anything so I just sort of ignored it! Praying it wasn’t hurting anything!!

A few weeks ago, as we were cleaning out the fridge I noticed a button. I pushed said button and water came out!! Not only did I have an ice maker all these years, but I also have a cold water dispenser inside my fridge! Talk about a surprise! For 12 years I lived unaware of this amazing feature that we bought and paid for. I know it is hard to believe that I did not notice this feature–but because I am tall and the button is hidden under a dip in the freezer door it was harder to notice. When I clean my fridge I am looking inside–usually on my hands and knees and don’t look up!

I realized that my excitement and enthusiasm for my ice maker made me content with that feature, so I did not even think to explore for other features. I thought that is how it can be with the Lord–we get excited about one aspect of our walk with Him and miss some of His “other” features. We enjoy salvation and the forgiveness of our sins, but we may not embrace the power He has given us through the Holy Spirit. We partake of our personal walk with Him, but neglect to connect with His family through the local church. We enjoy reading the comfort of the Psalms, but do not explore some of the “meatier” passages encouraging us to walk and live holy through the letters.

My son came and helped me find and replace the water filter! My grandchildren are enjoying this new feature as well. I felt so foolish to not have seen this, now obvious, feature for all these years, but I am excited and blessed to have easy access to cold filtered water at the push of a button. I asked the Lord to show me things I have been missing or over looking in my walk with Him. I find myself praying more for myself and others. As I pray He has caused a greater appreciation for the gifts others have that I may have overlooked before. In some ways I feel like He has given me better sight! Father, I thank you for opening our eyes to your surprises. Help us to see you in others. To appropriate more of You in our lives and help impart it to others. Just like the fresh cold life giving water tap was sitting their available to me for 12 years and I was ignorant to it, help me to receive your insight to other blind areas in my life that I may reflect your character and glory even more.

Faith and “Remembering”

Solomon instructs us to “remember your Creator in the days of your youth” (Ecclesiastes 12:1. If we develop the habit of remembering our Creator when we are young, it will help us remember Him no matter what age we are! Our memories can be quite a gift–or they can be a nagging torment. It is up to us what memories we choose to cherish.

If you have accepted Jesus as your Savior–how often do you remind yourself of that special moment when you prayed that miraculous prayer that took you from darkness to light? I remember laying on my bed as a nine year old and asking Jesus into my heart and life. I don’t remember the exact date–but I do know it was summer. Remembering that night always brings me hope, joy and peace. It leads me to remember why I needed and still need a Savior. It reminds me of His faithfulness and character.

I remember as a college student, I surrendered to Him, not only as my Savior, but as my Lord. The leader of my life. It was a cold, rainy day in March as I walked the streets around the University of Washington finally yielding my life to Him fully as an adult. It brought more peace as well as an understanding that His plan, no matter what it was and where it would lead, would become my plan. As I remember that day and the covenant I made with Him to serve Him and walk with Him, it reminds me to yield my life every day to His will and purpose.

I remember when He told me that I was going to marry Darryl Rodman! I carried those words in my heart as Mary pondered the angel’s words to her. Finally I shared them with our elders–and that set in motion events which led to our wedding day and 38 years of an adventurous marriage! So many stories of His faithfulness in us, through us and for us. No wonder Revelation tells us we overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the Word of our Testimony. I also remember the day of his stroke and his passing. Not easy memories, but made easier by God’s Presence and Words of Hope.

As all of us who have lived awhile on this earth–not all of my memories are sweet, up-lifting or beneficial. Some of them bring condemnation, regret and guilt. Usually these sorts of memories are triggered by another event. Some of these triggers are known to me (like certain dates on a calendar), but some of them I haven’t figured out–my emotions seem to stir them up. It is then that I must choose to replace them with God’s Word and His perspective. Taking the time to pray as these memories arise, helps me put them to rest and shift them to their proper place–under the blood!

The blessing of remembering our Creator and His covenant promises is the hope it brings to our present and to our future. They remind us that we are not alone and we have a way maker who is helping us navigate our current life situations. There are always those memories that in themselves may be horrendously evil, sad and difficult. I don’t mean to make light of them. However, I do believe as we ask the Holy Spirit to help us with His perspective we can find His handiwork in the midst and that is a very good thing. It brings hope and comfort.

Father, I ask that you teach us how to respond to our memories. I ask that you help us navigate them with your perspectives, your grace and your mercy. I thank you for helping us with our difficult memories as we choose to trust you even when they are hard to understand. In your name, amen

Faith and a Focused Heart

I haven’t felt well this past week–received an uninvited upper viral respiratory infection–which laid me low. However it gave me some extra time of reflection between coughs, sneezes and fevers! I just finished reading through 1, 2 Samuel, 1 , 2 Kings and a few minor prophets in my Bible reading plan. I began to meditate and ask the Holy Spirit about David’s heart versus the other kings who “did evil in the sight of the Lord”. What helped David develop a heart after God’s own?

Here are some things we do know about David. He was the youngest son of eight, to his father Jesse. He spent a lot of alone time out in the fields where he took care of some sheep. Was it this alone time that gave him ample time to worship and pray as he walked among the sheep? Did he develop his dependence and appreciation of God as he endured the elements? We see his resourcefulness as he developed his skill with his harp, sling and club! The short description found in I Samuel 17 where David defends his ability to defeat Goliath because of his previous accomplishments of dealing with lions and bears is done with humility, but persistence. Somehow, in his young life, he grew to trust in, rely on and walk in an amazing understanding of God and His faithfulness. even when he made horrendous mistakes he still walked in this trust. No matter if or when things were tough, he always returned to the goodness of God. Even when he sinned, he trusted in God’s character to restore and help him.

So how can we help foster this desire in our young people today? Was David an unique boy, who just happened to develop this personal trust in His God? I don’t think so. The Holy Spirit is at work calling and planting His passion in the hearts of many young people across the world. I believe there are young people everywhere who are growing into tenacious men and women of God who will fulfill their promised future. It is, obviously,their personal relationship with their Savior–but we can either be a help or sadly, a hinder.

The first place I must look is my own heart. It surprises me often with its critical tendencies, frustrations and un-Christ-like attitudes that seem to spring up from its depths that lead me off track. So as Jesus and I deal with these weeds with mercy, grace and repentance I still press on to the prize that awaits my finish line. My heart was hurt this week as I read about a well known influencer who has walked away from both his marriage as well as his faith in Christ. Even though we are warned about these things happening in the last days, it is my fervent prayer that my faith will overcome. Please do not underestimate the power of your “steady-walking” in Him. Consistency, stability and dependability is needed in God’s kingdom now even more than ever.

Older saints, do not let your heart grow cold or especially lukewarm. If the cares of this life–its disappointments, discouragements and griefs are touching your soul–take the time to deal with them. Ask for help from friends or counselors. Do not let discouragement ruin your later years of the fruitfulness of your life in Christ. I admit there have been times where I have felt tempted to draw back–but then I literally turn my heart to Him and think, “who else has the words of eternal life”? Where would I go? So I press in and on, often it seems with baby steps, but still I move forward, grateful for His mercy, once again.

Those of you who still move with the same faithful fervency–thank you. Thank you for being faith witnesses to our dear Savior. Thank you for weeding your own hearts and lives of those cares that would choke out His fruitfulness. Thank you for standing in the face of your adversities, overcoming the trials of life and walking with His loving grace. You are making a difference. A life lived with a focused heart, like David’s, produces much fruit. Do not let the distractions of this world draw you aside, but press on dear friends, press on.