Thursday, December 27, 2012

A New Year

Because, like many of you, Bill and I are enjoying our family over the holidays, this week I am taking a blog vacation—except to share with you one scripture I am praying over in 2013.

“You make known to me the path of life;
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
At your right hand are pleasures forevermore”.
Psalm 16:11

I am praying that in the new year, I will not only look for God’s path, but I will be aware of God’s life-giving path. I will pray the same for you.

Blessings to you in 2013,

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Immanuel, God WITH Us!

My soon-to-be husband, Bill, was a seminary student in Kentucky that spring when The Navigators extended an invitation to him for a staff internship at the University of Illinois. He was surprised, honored, and intimidated all at the same time. The U of I was home to the largest Navigator collegiate ministry in those years.

A few days later while reading Exodus for one of his classes, he came across Moses’ conversation with God in Exodus 3. God initiated: “I have seen …I have heard …I know … I have come to deliver … and to bring them … I have seen (again) … I will send you”. Exodus 3:7-10. God’s invitation to Moses was peppered with His presence.

Moses responds, “Who am I that I should go …?” (v. 11) The very same question Bill was asking, who am I that I should go to Illinois? God never answers his question, but he promises, “I will be with you,” (v. 12)

A similar scenario is repeated in Joshua 1: “I will be with you. I will not leave you … for the Lord your God is with you” (v. 5-9)  In the book of Haggai when the people are exhorted to return to building the house of the Lord, God promises through Haggai, “I am with you”. (Haggai 1:13)  God echoes over and over throughout the scriptures the same truth, I am with you. The well-known passages of the great commission in Matthew 28:18-20, or the prayer promise in Matthew 18:20 end with the assurance of God’s presence.

Our Christmas cards this year proclaim, Immanuel, God with us. When I chose those well-known Christmas words, I didn’t know I would be so challenged by them.

I ask myself:
How aware am I of the gift of
God’s presence with me?
Do I thank him for his
presence in the midst of the
Do I remember his presence
in my delights?

Bill accepted the invitation. We married  and spent our first 9 years together at the U of I. We are still Illini fans.
Merry Christmas,
Immanuel, God with us!

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Hebrews 13:5

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Joseph Listened

Ken, Denise,
Matthew and Elizabeth
God reminds me of another of his Christmas gifts—my adoption. No, my parents didn’t adopt me. I was born into their family; they gave me my name; they provided my first identity; they raised me—I was their child.

As a late teen I was given another name—my adopted name, child of God, a new identity, and a new purpose. God now relates to me differently. He is my Father; I am his child. That could have never happened unless Jesus had been born. And that could have never happened unless Jesus had gone to the cross in my place. God sees me through the lens of Jesus’ life and death; he sees his adopted daughter. 
Precious In His Sight, Greg Olsen

With my adoption, I’m given a new name.                      
With my adoption, I’m given a new family.
With my adoption, I’m given a new identity.
With my adoption, I’m given a new care-giver.
With my adoption, I’m given a new invitation.
      I love Jesus' words, "Let the children come to me"
With my adoption, I’m given a new purpose.

Jesus, the son of God, was also adopted. Like me, he had an earthly father, Joseph.

Danny and Angie introducing
their sons to the wonders of s
southern CA
Joseph listened to God. He heard from an angel that his betrothed, Mary, was pregnant. (According to the custom of the day, Joseph and Mary had a legally binding contract; sexual unfaithfulness was considered adultery. Mary faced the death penalty.) Thankfully, the word of God, coming to Joseph through a dream, was more impactful than the culture Joseph and Mary lived in. Later in Matthew 2, it is recorded two additional times when God spoke to Joseph in his dreams. Each time Joseph listened to God and obeyed.

Because Joseph listened and obeyed, Joseph was Jesus’ earthly father. In a sense, Joseph adopted Jesus. He provided for him; he raised him as a devout Jew; he taught him his carpentry skills; he cared for him; he worried about him; he gave him an earthly family—brothers and sisters.

Gina and Jason and their kids

Joseph gave us an amazing gift because he listened to God. He models adoption. I am so thankful for my earthly family. And I am so thankful to be adopted into God's family, to share his name, to enjoy his purposes.

Eric and Loretta and their fam

Although any human illustration of spiritual truth is limited, I've included pictures of some of our friends who listened to God as he whispered in their ears about adoption. These friends  welcomed children into their homes. They gave them new names; a new family; a new identity; a new future; and new customs as they celebrate Christmas. I am so thankful for my friends, who like Joseph, listened to God and adopted children.

"What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it - we're called children of God! That's who we really are".
I John 3:1, The Message

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Elizabeth's Encouragement

My Aunt Elizabeth died in July. She was 94. I miss her, but she left me with a wonderful gift—Aunt Elizabeth was a modern day picture to me of Elizabeth, Mary’s relative, whose story is recorded in Luke 1.

The first descriptor of Elizabeth given to us is she is righteous before God (Luke 1:6). In the last several years I often visited with Aunt Elizabeth on my way to see our son and his family who lived nearby. Aunt Elizabeth always peppered me with questions about me and my family, and about our ministry. She challenged me with her heart to serve even in her later years. I heard about her involvement with her local church; her love for her Sunday school class; I learned of her heart for her community through Meals on Wheels—a program she was instrumental in bringing to her town. Her personal stories spoke of a right relationship with God.

Further down in Luke’s record of Elizabeth, her relative Mary—newly pregnant with Jesus—visits Elizabeth who is six months along in her own miracle pregnancy. When Mary arrives Elizabeth welcomes her ecstatically. All her attention rests on Mary and her pregnancy. Mary is carrying Jesus, Elizabeth’s Lord. Elizabeth's hospitality shined.  That is how I experienced my Aunt Elizabeth; her hospitality shined. One time in particular is cemented in my memory.

The fall leaves were golden, almost crispy; they floated on the slight breeze to their resting place on the ground. The deep blue sky and the clear, fresh air made the drive to Aunt Elizabeth’s home a gift. It was noon when I arrived. As Aunt Elizabeth greeted me with her words and a warm hug, the aroma of her homemade vegetable soup simmering on the stove in the kitchen wafted to the living room. It was so welcoming. We enjoyed a wonderful time visiting over her lovingly prepared comfort food. Like Elizabeth of old, Aunt Elizabeth was given to hospitality.

And like Elizabeth in the Bible, to my Aunt Elizabeth family was important. The last time I was with Aunt Elizabeth was Mom's 90th birthday party. (The picture above was taken at the party) She and my cousin Cindy braved the wintery roads to celebrate with us. We stayed in the same motel that weekend. When I thanked her for coming, Aunt Elizabeth responded, "Your Mom is 90 and I am 92. I don't know how many more times there will be like this to be together." I was humbled and thankful.

Elizabeth and my Aunt Elizabeth paint a picture for me of encouragement and hospitality.
I want to follow their examples.

“And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb … and she exclaimed …”Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”
Luke 1:41, 42