Thursday, August 25, 2016

Transparency


Throughout the years, I have been told that I'm transparent.  I easily share my feelings.  I don't try to hide things.  I'm a fairly open book.  And by that, I don't mean I share every last thing in my life, but I certainly wouldn't be called reserved.

I looked up the meaning of transparent this morning.

Transparent -
a. light to pass through so that objects behind can be distinctly seen.

b. Easy to perceive or detect.

Yep.  That sums up who I am.  Because in all the times I share and am transparent, my desire is to point people to the Lord.  I want them to see Him in me.  I want them to know that even when I struggle, my desire is to please and serve God.

Being transparent can be painful.  Sometimes it means opening myself up to criticism or misunderstanding.  It means I have to be vulnerable.  Some people don't like transparency.  But my desire is that God's light would shine through me and people would be able to see Him.  And that makes the vulnerability worthwhile.

Matthew 5:16 (NIV) ~

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Wednesday Words of Encouragement

Zechariah 8:4-8 ~

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each of them with cane in hand because of their age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there. ”

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “It may seem marvelous to the remnant of this people at that time, but will it seem marvelous to me? ” declares the Lord Almighty.

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “I will save my people from the countries of the east and the west. I will bring them back to live in Jerusalem; they will be my people, and I will be faithful and righteous to them as their God. ”

Matthew 18:12-14 ~

 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.


Life was good for the remnant of the Jews.  They were back in Jerusalem where they belonged, sitting in the streets, smoking their pipes and watching their grandchildren playing.   They were content and would often exclaim, "Isn't this wonderful?"

Yet to God it was not wonderful.  He wanted all of His people back where they belong.  His eyes weren't just on the few that were home.  He was looking at the rest of His people who were lost and suffering.

Life can be good for us too, can't it?  We go to church and have a small little circle of friends.  We work, come home and care for our families, go out with friends from time to time.  We can be content and exclaim, "Isn't this wonderful?"

Yet, the Lord is looking at those who do not know Him.  Who are lost and suffering.  And He is not content with our few in the pews.  He desires that all should come to Him.  I love the story of the shepherd who goes looking for the one lost sheep.  I'm sure to the ninety-nine sheep, one didn't make a difference.  They probably didn't even notice that it was gone.  But God notices.

He does not want even one person to pass into eternity without knowing Him.  Shouldn't we have the same desire?  Should we be content to have a small congregation with just a few people?  Should there ever be a time when we become complacent and apathetic in telling others about what the Lord has done for us and for them?

Let's remember that while it's okay to enjoy our lives that God is constantly desiring that all come to know Him.  We should do the same!  Let's put the same care into finding that one lost sheep that we do to the ninety-nine in front of us.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Slipping and Sliding

Psalm 94:18-19 (NIV) ~

When I said, “My foot is slipping,
your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
When anxiety was great within me,
your consolation brought me joy.

For the past few weeks, Dan has been speaking about hindrances to our faith.  This Sunday he talked about the lack of joy as one of those hindrances.  We will have trials and troubles in this life.  Not a week or month will go by without some sort of struggle happening.  It's my attitude as I go through those trials that matters.

I slip and slide my way through life.  My anxieties often cause me to flail and flounder.  Yet, the joy I have is a result of trusting that the Lord has a reason for allowing me to go through something.  I'm at peace because I know who is in control.  I can lay down and sleep each night because of the hope I have. 

I may slip and slide, but God's hand steadies and supports me. 

Nehemiah 8:10b (NIV) ~

Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Frugal Friday


It's Frugal Friday again and one of my favorite days because I enjoy sharing some of my money-saving tips.  It keeps me motivated and hopefully, helps some of you. 

Pinching pennies is work.  I'm out scouring the blackberry bushes every other day.  I have my eye on an apple tree out in our back field.  It has small apples on it but they are free and good for sauce.  I look for deals wherever I go.  I find ways to squeeze out every bit of goodness out of our material possessions so I don't have to go out and buy things constantly.  It's hard but it's satisfying!






I hit the regional market again and I scored big this time!  I like going there because I go with a specified amount of cash and when it's gone, I am done.  This week I took a bit extra because I knew I wanted to get some items to can and freeze.

For $50 I was able to purchase the following:

1 bushel plum tomatoes
5 dozen ears of sweet corn (got a deal for purchasing 5 dozen at $3 per dozen and the guy actually gave me 13 ears instead of 12)
5 lbs. of red potatoes
4 onions
3 lbs. of green beans
4 beets
1 bag of mini-bell peppers (about 20) - $1.00
12 plums
1 watermelon
1 head of lettuce
3 zucchini - 3 for a $1 

I thought that was very good.  Today I am shucking corn, blanching it and cutting it off the cobb for the freezer.  It is actually some of the sweetest and best I've ever tasted.  I'm also going to start on the tomatoes, making tomato sauce to can.

Some other ways I saved this week:

  • One of the ways I squeeze the most out of my dish towels or old t-shirts that are ready for the garbage bin is to use them for rags.  This way they are being used to the fullest.  They work great!


  • Also I found a container of homemade blueberry ice cream in the freezer.  It was still creamy and delicious.  It uses the simplest ingredients and is much less expensive than store bought. 


  • I made four loaves of bread this week and the extra went into the freezer so when I need it all I have to do is pull it out.


  • I make my own spice blends rather than spend money for something I can make myself.

  • I make quite a few of skillet meals.  It's easy, a balanced meal is in one pan and cleanup is much easier.  One of our favorites is stir-fry anything! 

Saving money is work but anything worthwhile is difficult.  I would encourage you to start small because any little bit will help your budget.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Oasis


Dan and I walk side by side in silence; the only sound is the crunching of leaves under our feet and the shrill chirp of chipmunks.  Every now and then we are rewarded with the sight of wildlife; a doe and her two fawns, squirrels, or a garter snake, slithering across the path to get out of our way.  The air smells sweet and earthy.  The forest air is thick and humid.  It is our place to retreat and reconnect.


There aren't many forests in Central New York and we are happy to have this little oasis.  I mentioned to Dan yesterday that the minute I leave the car and begin walking here, I feel the burden lifting from my shoulders and my head clearing.


Being in full-time ministry isn't easy.  So many people look at the pastorate with scorn.  They think it's a cushy job and the joke is that pastors work one day a week.  And the truth is at times it is unique because of the flexibility many pastors have.  But it's also a job where your brain never shuts off.  You are on call 24/7.  Emergencies don't schedule themselves and you have the burden of providing spiritual care for a group of people who have many expectations.


If the church isn't growing, people look at the pastor and wonder, "Why not?"  If you there is something going wrong, the pastor shoulders the responsibility.  People call us to help solve their marital issues, their family issues, and a host of other problems.  There is not a moment of the day that we are not thinking about or praying for someone's problems and there is a level of shouldering their burden as well.


I'm not complaining because both Dan and I love what we do.  I just know that we need moments away and a place to go that feels like a retreat from the world. It's a place where we can shut off the cell phones and interest.  A place where we can connect with each other as a couple.  A place where we can be silent.

I'm so thankful for our forest oasis. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Wednesday Words of Encouragement

Exodus 14:13-16 ~

Moses answered the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still."

Then the LORD said to Moses, "Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground."


The Israelites are at the edge of the Red Sea with Pharoah's army riding hard on their heels. After letting them leave Egypt with Moses, he had a change of heart and was after them to bring them back into captivity. We pick up this story here where the Israelites are panicking and start wailing and lamenting to Moses that he should have let them die in Egypt.

I love the Lord's solution to this. He tells the Israelites, "Be quiet!" "Stop whining." "Have faith and follow my leading."

How many times are we like the Israelites? We see God work in our lives time and time again. Yet, when we are faced with an impossible situation or trial we start wailing and carrying on like the Israelites. It's like we forget everything we've seen God do up until that point. We freeze in our tracks and become totally incapacitated.

Yet, all He wants from us is to be quiet and step forward in faith. It's only when we actually step out in faith that we see Him work. If we stand still and complain it may very well be that we will never see the miracle. Moses had to go forward and touch the sea with his staff. The Israelites had to step in between the roaring waves. It was when they obeyed that God showed them His power.

So whatever obstacle you face today, face it with courage and faith. Don't waste time and energy complaining. Listen to what the Lord is saying and then take the step into the waves! It's through our willingness to follow when we can't see the outcome that we see the biggest working of the Lord in our lives.

Remember, "The Lord will fight for you; you only need to be quiet and move on!"

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Rough Waters



It's been a hard road to have children while being in the ministry and I fear we've made numerous mistakes along the way.  The hardest part is when you see your children affected by decisions you've made. 



Moving here was hard on two of my children.  Emily had close friends in our last church and it's been a hard adjustment for her here.  She's made some friends and also lost a few along the way.  The year we first moved here, she went to summer camp, excited to see her friends from her last church.  However, they had moved on and to be honest, were quite unkind to her during the week of camp.  The day we picked her up from camp, she sobbed all the way home.  Then there have been some hurtful situations here as well.  I've watched her close herself off from people quite a bit.  She's more cynical than she ever used to be and that breaks my heart.


Stephen is doing okay though still struggles quite regularly with generalized anxiety disorder.  Lack of sleep and structure at college do not help with this.  Then when he is home he doesn't have a place to call his own because we live in a small house.  So he is camping out in the middle of our sunroom during the summer months and vacation.  All of that really doesn't help him get good rest.  This is his last year at college too and he is looking forward to getting out into the "real world."




Nathan has struggled the most.  He went from enjoying both his job and the fire department and really blossoming to feeling depressed the majority of the time.  He is continually picked on at work and ignored at the fire department.  He went from being a self-confident young man to retreating into his shell again.  In fact, he often says he feels like he's under a curse since we moved here.

Why do I share these things here on the blog?  Because even though it's been a hard few years on our family, God still works in the midst of these things. I can't see the future and I don't know what the Lord has in store for my children.  I'm not sure what they will face years down the road.  But the Lord does and He is preparing them for that.  

Emily went from being overly dependent on having friends to being okay with just a couple.  She has developed compassion for the outcast and downtrodden.  She has a heart for those who are hurting and shunned.  I'm not sure that would have developed without some of the things she's gone through herself.

Nathan is learning some hard things in life, but he is also learning to advocate for himself.  He is finding other interests in life besides just firefighting.  He is growing up and learning responsibility.  He is also finding that when he gets spiritually fed during the week by spending time with his church family that he is better equipped to deal with whatever comes his way at work.

As parents we want to protect our children from all the hurtful things in life.  We want to make it better.  And yet, much of their growth happens during the hard times.  When I look back on my life, it's the hard places that caused me to depend and trust in the Lord.  So why wouldn't I want my children to grow in their faith? 

I still hurt and ache for my hurting kids, but I also know that I can't run in and save them from every situation.  I'm working on just offering guidance and advice as they navigate the choppy water and praying that they will come through mature and depending on God for guidance.