Mary Christmas Week

Mary Christmas Week

As we sat in the doctor’s office, our oldest was about 3 yrs old, I will never forget it. We sat across from his desk as he told us the results of the battery of tests that I had just gone through.  When he just blurted out ” Well, You should have never had your first child and you certainly won’t have any more!” Our hearts dropped as it suddenly seemed that something Jeff and I had dreamed of since I was 13 and he was 16 was now gone forever.

Then imagine our surprise just about 6 years later as I looked at the positive mark on a pregnancy test. Our prayers had finally been answered.  Our dream was coming true. The 3 children we dream of having as teenagers dating, was about to come true. We believe it all began when we sat in a service and as the minister got up to take the offering he said ” I have a son that isn’t living for the Lord and tonite I am gonna give the best gift I can in the offering and write on the back of the envelope, “for my sons salvation” and if you are believing God for something I want to encourage you to do the same. Jeff and I looked at each other in that service and both knew what we had to do. We placed our best gift in the offering envelope wrote “Baby” on the back and dropped it in the offering plate. Over the next month suddenly out of the blue several different times just random people would show up and hand us money. Just saying “the Lord laid this on my heart that I am supposed to give this to you.” Jeff and I could not figure out what was going on. Then it hit me, I begin counting up the random acts of kindness that had been given to us and it was exactly 10 times the amount we had given in the offering, then it hit me and I thought ” Oh No!” God isn’t gonna give us the baby we asked for, He is just giving us back our money and then some” My heart was broken, but I remember thinking ” Okay, God If it isn’t your will for us to have a baby, then I am willing to accept that you have another plan”. I am sure God must have been looking down on me saying ” Oh! Ye of little faith.  “See what I didn’t realize was that this was just the beginning of God’s blessings. Because about a year later I was holding the little girl we had dreamed of having for so long,  But my mind couldn’t conceive what He had in mind.

Have you ever felt like that? Has God ever tried to tell you something that you just couldn’t imagine? See, I have a feeling that may have been the way Mary felt when and Angel told her she was going to conceive a baby and she had never even known a man. I think all too often we envision the people in the bible as some kind of superheroes with super powers and super strength. When they were really just human beings like you and me, with the same doubts, fears and questions and I believe we serve a God big enough that He can handle those doubts and questions.

The bible says, that as soon as Mary heard the news, she “made haste” or hurried quickly to her cousin’s Elizabeth’s house. (a 10 day trip on foot) Could it have been because the Angel had said that her cousin Elizabeth was expecting too?  Perhaps, Mary knew if she went to Elizabeth’s house and found out that Elizabeth really was pregnant as the Angel had said, that this all might actually be true? One commentary (Barnes Notes on the Bible) said “Troubled at his saying – Disturbed or perplexed at what he said. It was so unexpected, so sudden, so extraordinary, and was so high an honor, that she was filled with anxious thoughts, and did not know what to make of it.” I mean let’s face it if an Angel shows up at your house tomorrow and says you are gonna have the Christ Child, wouldn’t you have some questions, maybe even doubts?

Then there was the birth of Jesus, in Luke 2:17-20 Mary has given birth and the Shepards show up. I don’t know about you but with each child, I have had it has seemed like a dream to me. You are just in awe and amazed that this little thing came out of 2 peoples love. I can’t imagine, what Joesph was feeling then, and what questions were running through Mary’s mind. The awe, the amazement of it all and at the same time they had to be asking themselves ” Is this really the Christ child? If it is, why is He being born in a stable? Why, didn’t God take better care of us? Did we do something wrong? But perhaps it is just about this time that all this is running through their minds when these shepherds show up! Telling everyone this is the Christ Child and in verse 19 the bible says ” She (Mary) pondered all these things in her heart” Have you ever pondered something before?

Then there was the time at the temple Luke 2:20-33 Where Simeon and Anna both sensed by the power of the Holy Spirit that this was the Christ Child and the bible says, in verse 33 that Joesph and Mary were amazed at the things spoken to them. Have you ever been amazed at what God was doing and at the same time wonder why or what God was up to?

Then there was that time about 2 years later. I don’t know what mom of a 2-year-old doesn’t question what is going on with their child at one point or another. But, I just wonder if on the day the 3 kings showed up, what was going on in Mary’s heart? What battle was she struggling with? Were funds a little tight and they were wondering how they were going to make it? Was Jesus being an all-out human being 2-year-old that day and Mary was questioning “Can this really be the son of God?” I don’t know what was going on in her mind that day, but I do believe God had prepared 3 kings several months, even perhaps years before to show up on her doorstep that day at that very moment,  as a little reminder. God was in control. Because we know soon after that God tells Joesph to take his family and flee because Herod is about to have all the baby boys under 2 years old killed.

I don’t know about you, but I have questioned God, I have miss read His plan. I have even doubted what He was doing. But just like when we placed that envelope in that offering bucket, we had no idea what God was about to do and it certainly didn’t happen the way we planned, but God was faithful through it all. He provided more than we could ever hope or imagine and I wondered today if God doesn’t want to do the same for you? No, I know He does!!  He wants to do the same, Because His word says, “He is able to do exceedingly above all you can even ask or think”  (Eph 3:20) I am pretty sure Mary had no idea what she was about to get into when that angel showed up, just like Jeff and I had no idea what was about to happen when we place that envelope in the offering, but what we can rest assured on is that He is in control and we may question and we may even sometimes doubt but if we will continue to trust Him. He will see us through. Won’t you trust Him today?

 

 

 

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CRAZY LOVE

CRAZY LOVE

Bob and Sondra Cave, Overland Park KS

Do you see these two people? I like to joke that this is the perfect example that just because you have an education does not mean you have any common sense. I can say that because these two people have been some of our closest friends for over 20 years. They know I would defend them in an instant if anyone said anything bad about them.  You know, it is kind of like your siblings you can think they are crazy but no one else better talk about them, kind of thing.

You may be asking why I question the sanity of these two perfectly normal looking people.  (Ok! almost normal looking)  Well, these two people with doctoral degrees take this 1972 VW campmobile (also known as a Westy in the automobile world), that has already been to the Yukon and South America before they bought it, now they take this already well used and loved vehicle across the country themselves. They have made their way across the country from Kansas to California, with their most recent adventure that took them from Kansas to Albuquerque, New Mexico for the Balloon Festival. Every time they get in this campmobile they affectionately call “The Beast,” I get on my knees in prayer for them.  I remember when they first got this vehicle, after seeing it on the internet.  Bob flew out to Canada to pick it up, thinking he would drive it home.  However, after having it carefully checked out, it was deemed that it was not road worthy enough to make it back to Kansas.  He met his wife Sondra, who flew into Seattle, and they towed it back here to Kansas behind a U-Haul Truck.  All along the way they stopped each night and slept in “The Beast” at Walmart parking lots. This was just the beginning of their VW adventure and collection.  They now own five VW’s of different models and styles.

Needless to say on these adventures “The Beast” has broken down on them a few times. Bob says he has: adjusted the valves, repaired gas leaks, the alternator, and replaced the brakes. There also was the one time the oil filter fell off and all the oil drained out while he was driving to Woodston, Kansas and he ended up needing to replace the engine altogether.

It’s a good thing they have the highest coverage possible with AAA Auto Insurance because they have had to be towed five times in the 5 years he has owned it. Now if most of us owned a vehicle with this many problems, we would have sold it and moved on, but not Bob and Sondra!

Now mind you, this couple is completely financially capable of owning pretty much any vehicle they want. They could afford to fly, almost anywhere in the world and stay in nice hotels that would even serve them room service. But do they choose to do this for these special trips they take? NO! They avoid all that silly security of knowing they will get there safely and staying in nice comfortable hotel rooms with soft mattresses preferring to sleep in “The Beast,” in a Wal-mart parking lot somewhere along the way, without heat or air. They set out knowing something is probably going to break down on this thing and because of their love for adventure and these VW’s they jump in the Westy and go! If you ask me, it is just crazy! Just a crazy kind of love!

You know this got me thinking….. this isn’t the only crazy kind of love I’ve seen in my life. Since I was born I have been told about this Guy who could buy anything, and stay anywhere He wanted. There was nothing that He could not afford. But His father who owns everything asked Him to leave the optimum lifestyle where He had no worries or concerns and go to a world where He would have problem after problem, the breakdowns in communication with these people would be astronomical for His survival. But yet He chose to go. He was so crazy in love with these people He knew the only way for them to survive would be for Him to die so maybe, then they would realize how much He loved them.  He left His perfect world knowing something would go wrong but yet He was willing to go anyway.

If you haven’t figured out by now this Guy I am talking about is named Jesus and He is so crazy in love with you that He came from heaven to earth to make a way for you to one day to join Him in heaven. The questions is, have you recognized just what He gave up for you?  Do you realize He did it all for you?  He is crazy in love with you. Do you know that? The Bible says that “For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, so whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) That is how much the Creator of the Universe loves you! You know there is no greater love than this, John 15:13 tells us that “Greater love has no one: than to lay down one’s life for one’s friend.” I know many reading this, if asked would say “God is my friend.” So if that is the case let me ask you a question. “Have you laid your life down for Him?” Several times in this column over the past year, we have talked about denying or dying to ourselves. What that really means is laying down our life, our will, our way and saying “Lord use me, and do with me what you want because I am yours”. Let me tell you that is the craziest kind of love. But the Bible tells us that is what is required of us if we are going to be His friend and after all if He gave up so much for us. Can’t we give our all to Him? Yes, it is a crazy kind of love to leave what we deem the security of being in control of our own life and giving it over to Christ. It is a crazy kind of love that He would continue to pursue people that have rejected and denied Him time and time again. But He did it for us and out of gratitude and appreciation for what He has done for us we need to do the same for Him. Won’t you give your life to Him today? If you don’t know this crazy kind of love, I want to encourage you to find a local Bible believing church and get involved and begin to really get to know what God has done for you today. Christ’s love doesn’t make any sense, that is why we have to accept it by faith. It is just a crazy kind of Love.

 

 

Daddy’s Girl

When I was a teenager my daddy was the pastor in a small Mississippi community where we lived. I was raised with strict rules not to drink alcohol. But of course I had some friends that did drink and in my effort to try to be in the cool crowd I wanted to hang out with them. But I had a quandary. See, I didn’t want to hurt my daddy. I loved my daddy more than anything and I respected him. Because I loved him I wanted to honor his reputation in the community and if the Pastor’s daughter of the Assembly of God Church would of been seen underage drinking or worst yet been arrested, that would of just killed him and his reputation. But…… I also wanted to be cool, So I devised a plan of how I could save my daddy’s reputation and still be cool.

See,  I knew my friends would hang out in front of the arcade in the small town I went to school in (9 miles away from where I lived) For those of you that don’t know what an arcade is, it is a building full of video games, foosball machines and pool tables. They were much more popular in the 80’s before Nintendo and X Boxes came to our homes. As a teenager the Arcade was the place to hang out, and meet up with friends. Today we just know the Arcade as a place, maybe in a room at the Movie Theater or the Pizza Parlor.

Since the Arcade was the place to be, after I got my drivers license I would drive the 9 miles over to the next town where the arcade was and would hang out with my friends,  now not all of my friends drank in fact my best friends didn’t.  But, I wanted more, As many schools, towns, and even work places are today there were clicks in my school there was a pecking order and I wanted to move up in the pecking order and it seemed to me at the time to do that I needed to drink, but how could I do that and not break my dads heart. I knew it would kill him if I ever took a drink and I respected my dad to much to want to hurt him. So I devised a plan.

See I knew that the I.B.C Root-beer bottle looked an awful lot like the beer bottles my friends carried around. So I figured I could just pick up a bottle of I.B.C Root-beer on my way to the Arcade, I mean after all we usually got something to drink before going over there anyway, and if I just happen to have that bottle in my hand and hid the label with my hand when I walked up to my friends drinking, maybe just maybe this new crowd would accept me. So I did, and I felt pretty good until one of my other friends who didn’t drink and knowing the horror it would be to my family if I did drink, walked up to me in shock and asked “Alesa, are you drinking?” As I looked innocently at her and said, yea, Root-beer!

I couldn’t help but remember this story this  past week because it was my daddy’s birthday and even though he has spent the last 28 years celebrating his birthday in heaven, what I remembered most about him is that I loved and respected him so much, I never wanted to do anything that would hurt him. This got me thinking how many of us feel like that about our Heavenly Father?

Do we love our Heavenly Father so much that we don’t want to do anything to hurt him. Now the truth is, if my daddy had seen the compromised I made that day.  Even pretending to drink but acting like it was just an accident when it was really a conscious decision to disobey,would of been a terribly disappointed in me.

I don’t think he even knew about this story before he died but I still remember it because I think it was one of the times that I consciously choose to disobey. But how many times have we blow off something that God’s word says not to do just because we wanted to. How many times do we just ignore what we have been taught is right just because it isn’t convenient for us. Because we want more and we are willing to do whatever it takes to get it. How do you think your Heavenly Father feels about that? I guess I can relate to my Heavenly Father because I had an amazing daddy. He was my rock, my provider, my protector, He loved me with an everlasting love and there was absolutely nothing that I wouldn’t do for him. Why, because all that He had done for me. See my daddy didn’t have to love me, he didn’t even have to take care of me. But he choose to, see I am adopted. So He didn’t have to love me.

You know what? You have been adopted too! If you choose to follow after Christ the bible says that you are adopted into His family. In Ephesians 1:5 (NLT) the bible tells us God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” Now, I don’t know about you but after all Christ as done for me I don’t want to disappoint Him either. So, I don’t live the life I live striving each day to please Him (and yes there are still plenty of times I mess up) because I don’t want to go to Hell. No, I live this life to please Him because of the gratitude I feel toward Him.

The same kind of gratitude I felt for my earthly father. Because of what my daddy had done for me I knew He loved me and trusted me. He disciplined me too. plenty of times.  But I knew when my earthly father did it, it was because He loved me and wanted the best for me. When my earthly father told me to not to walk across the street before looking both ways. It wasn’t because he didn’t want me to cross the street it is because he wanted to protect me. That is the same thing with God’s word, When He tells us not to do something in it He is telling us because He loves us and wants to protect us. 

So this week Let’s seek to please our Heavenly Father, Let’s consciously choose to please Him, Remember if He tells us no about something,  it is because He loves, not because He wants to harm us.

You call me Friend !

Amy & Chad

Amy & Chad

We have all done it: admired and looked up to a leader or person from afar; created pedestals for them, and somehow now believe they are better than us. We think we would never be able to speak to them or be their friend; that they are beyond the reach of what we could be. They are too pretty, too smart, too gifted, too anointed, too rich, or too skinny. They are far more than we think we could ever hope to be. They are the people who appear to have their stuff together and make those of us, who feel we don’t, even more conscious that we could be doing better. Not in a condemning kind of way, but a way that inspires us to do more, be more, do our best.
Then it happens. You get the e-mail or the phone call, and they call you, “friend!” I remember when this happened to me. There was a particular ministry leader who I could not imagine would ever have anything to do with me, I just wasn’t that good. Then one day I got an e-mail from her that said, “Hey Friend!” Friend? She called me, Friend?? What??? No way!!! I can’t be her friend, I am not that good. I could never be good enough to be her friend! After having a small meltdown and a little panic attack, it hit me why I was freaking out.
It was because I looked up to her relationship with Christ; I admired her spiritual leadership; and, as long as I looked on from afar, I wasn’t on her level. But as soon as I became her friend I was no longer looking up to her, but I was her peer! I would suddenly (at least in my mind) need to be on the same level as her spiritually!  Or, worse yet, is it possible she saw something in me that I had not seen in myself that she felt she wanted to be a part of? Could it be possible I could be a blessing to her?? I don’t know about you, but I am always amazed that God would choose to use me, that He sees something worthy enough in me to allow me to be a blessing to someone else, because I know I am just not that good and it is only in Him that I can do anything.
You know, in the Bible it says that Jesus calls us “friend.” (See John 15:15). In fact we were created because God wanted someone who could choose to be His friend. Not because we had to, but because we chose too.  The Bible says the very rocks will cry out and praise Him, if He commands them!  But God gave us a choice, a choice to choose to choose Him, and I don’t know about you but I am amazed that Jesus chose me to be His friend! (See James 2:23).
The unique thing about my perspective of not being good enough for my “friends,” is the truth is that there is someone out there who feels that way about you and me. They feel privileged and a little better about themselves when we reach out to them with a smile, or a quick lunch, a listening ear, or when we call them “friend!” The truth is, we all have influence on someone; and the question is, are we using it for the Lord?
There is a song that goes something like this: “I am a friend of God, I am a friend of God, I am a friend of God, He calls me friend! Who am I that You are mindful of me, that You hear me when I call . . . ”
I love this song because it reminds me how much God loves me and cares for me. And that makes me want to share this love with someone else. I don’t think I will ever (and I hope I will never ever) get over the amazement that God loves me and will use me, if I will just allow Him to do so. The question is, “Who does God want you to bless today with your time and attention?”  Sometimes all we need is someone to call us friend!

What To Do When God Puts You Where You Don’t Want to Be

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Recently, God pulled up my deep roots from the place where we had been living for thirteen years, and moved us to a new place; one that is totally the opposite of our previous home. Not that there is anything wrong with our new location – it’s just that 10 months can’t compare to 13 years! There doesn’t seem to be anything terribly right about it at this time!  By that I mean, you can sometimes feel like a foreigner in the land where you know God has sent you.
You see, after living in a small town for 13 years, we knew just about everyone and just about everyone knew us. A level of comfort comes with that.  Especially for a preacher’s daughter who had gone to 9 different schools in 12 years! You know where to go to get your groceries; you know where your favorite stores for dress shopping are, and the place to get your favorite Chinese food. You have your close group of friends you know you can depend on. You become comfortable in your surroundings and that brings a level of familiarity this preacher’s daughter had never had before.   I know that God allowing us to stay in one location for such an extended period of time was nothing short of a miracle.
But, the funny thing is, those 13 years were probably the most trying of our lives. Spiritually, physically, relationship-wise in our family, and financially, it was a complete mess for us personally! We were like the children of Israel who were slaves in Egypt. And yet, like Moses, we knew without a doubt God had called us there! So why would God call us to a mess where He knew our feet would touch the fire? Where He knew our relationship would dangle over the edge, almost to the point of no return.  Why?

The children of Israel prayed to be delivered by the hand of God out of Pharaoh’s control. So in Exodus 9:1 it says, “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and speak to him…”. But the Bible also says in Exodus 9:12, that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.  Now why in the world would God send Moses if He knew Moses was going to hit a brick wall when he got there? I don’t know about you, but that just seems like God is setting himself up for a lot more work. I mean, God could snap his fingers and Pharaoh would release the children of Israel, they would walk into the Promised Land, and – bottabing, botta boo – it’s over with! End of story!! Done!!

But, no! See, God wanted the children of Israel to trust Him. He wanted to give them an example they could look back on and know that God was with them. He wanted the children of Israel to be able to see every trial as a testimony of His faithfulness and love for them so that, when they came to the battle of Jericho, they would have the faith to withstand and follow what he had called them to do – which was . . . nothing. See, while they were slaves, they had had to work (fight) for everything they had ever been given, and to struggle (fight) with all their might just to survive. Many of them may not have even known what it was like not to have been a slave. But God knew what laid before them at the battle of Jericho and to get them where He wanted them to be they were going to have to completely trust in Him – and not fight! So he laid out a plan that would take them through various trials and temptations, just so he could prove himself to them, time and time again – beginning with the 10 plagues.

But they had barely gotten out of Egypt when they began to moan and cry, “Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” (Exodus 14:12)  They couldn’t see the something greater God had for them, because although they had been beaten and abused in Egypt, it had become a comfortable, familiar place to them.

I wonder how many times God looks at us and sees the same thing. He is trying to move us out of our comfort zone to take us to a higher level that will draw us closer to Him and yet we are content to be the slaves in Egypt.
God knew what was ahead of them at Jericho and was trying to prepare them for the Promised Land; for something they had never had before; for a way that a war had never been won before. They were simply to march, to stand, and to praise! Just walk around the walls of Jericho for seven days!

I don’t think it is by accident that all of the men of Israel were circumcised not long before they were to walk across the Jordan River to take Jericho. It wasn’t an accident that for forty years God covered them with a cloud by day and gave them a cloud of fire by night; and it wasn’t because he didn’t love them that He supplied manna to them every day!  God didn’t just sneeze and the Red Sea rolled back when they got to the edge of it, either. God wanted them to learn to trust Him and let Him do His work.

I don’t know about you, but I think the society we live in today is no different than the slaves in Egypt.  So many of us feel we have to fight to survive; to pay the utility bill, to put food on the table. We might even feel like we are fighting to survive to do God’s work. But I want to propose to you today that perhaps, like the children of Israel, God is saying to us, “Give up! Surrender your ideas, your ways, your thought’s, your plans, and just stand firm and march around the walls you are trying to tear down. Just march around these walls in silence, carrying me!” That is what the children of Israel did. They walked around the wall of Jericho carrying the Ark of the Covenant.

Maybe the new level God wants to take us to is just for us to walk around carrying Him, to let the love of Jesus inside us be all the weapons we need.  Sometimes we just have to let go – give up everything that is familiar to us, that makes us feel comfortable – and walk in a way that can feel totally different and uncomfortable, in order to get to the place where He wants us to be. I don’t know about you, but I want to always go to the new level God has for me, even if I find that it is taking me out of the comfort zone in which I have been living.

I am not gonna lie: I have looked back since our move and said ”What are we doing here?” Then I begin to list off all the highlights and accolades that happened where we came from as I try to convince myself, ”Would it not have been better to die in Egypt than in the desert?” But then there is that quiet voice in me that reminds me of the things that were not so sweet, those secret things which I never let the world see – of my heart breaking, the fear of feeling my world was falling apart, and my marriage almost crumbling. If I wanted to deceive myself, like the children of Israel did, I could convince myself that going back to the bright lights of the big city would make me happy. But the truth is, the only thing that will make any of us truly happy is walking in Gods perfect will for our lives. And for me, and I am sure for you, failure to do that is not an option.

So if I have to give up all the conveniences of being near a big city to walk in a new level of relationship with Christ, so be it. If I have to give up Macy’s and familiar surroundings to see God use me in a mightier way than He ever has before – bring it on!! Because I have found that, in this life, there is nothing, and I mean nothing, that can replace the peace of walking in God’s will and doing His work.

I firmly believe that the trials of my past were only allowed to come into my life for the same reason God hardened Pharaoh’s heart: to teach me to trust in Him.  I am thankful for the hard times in my life, because without them I would never know that I could make it through whatever comes my way. I have learned to trust in the creator of the universe and know that He is working all things for my good!

So I hope today, if you are feeling like a foreigner in the land God has sent you to, you will know that He is not punishing you but is simply taking you to a new level of intimacy with Him. He wants to bring you closer to Him in a way that will probably look very different than it has before. God never wants to leave us where we are! God never wanted the children of Israel to die in the wilderness; He only wanted them to trust Him.  Will you trust Him today?