Tuesday, April 27, 2010

God Made This

Brad and Tara Hofer met their son and said goodbye to him all within a matter of hours.

The pain is intense. The suffering nearly unbearable.

But God, our God, is still very, very good and we will continue to praise Him.

This post is for Benaiah, whose name means, "God made this".

Benaiah Darwin
God made this.

Benaiah, God loves you.

Benaiah, Jesus holds you.

Benaiah, Mommy cherishes you.

Benaiah, Daddy adores you.

Benaiah, Heaven embraces you.

Benaiah, Welcome Home.

“My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

Psalm 139:15-16

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


We must never measure our spiritual capacity on the basis of our education or our intellect; our capacity in spiritual things is measured on the basis of the promises of God. If we get less than God wants us to have, we will falsely accuse Him as the servant falsely accused his master [in Matthew 25:14-30] when he said, “You expect more of me than you gave me the power to do. You demand too much of me, and I cannot stand true to you here where you have placed me.” When it is a question of God’s Almighty Spirit, never say, “I can’t.” Never allow the limitation of your own natural ability to enter into the matter. If we have received the Holy Spirit, God expects the work of the Holy Spirit to be exhibited in us. (from My Utmost for His Highest)

This passage by my buddy, O.C., gave me pause. I do judge my spiritual capacity on my natural abilities. I need to judge them on the promises of God. The Bible tells me in Philippians 4:13 that "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Do I believe this? Or do I just do the things that I think I can do and by so doing, tell God that He's not quite strong enough to bring me any further? Just like the master in the parable in Matthew 25 gave each of his servants talents according to their ability, God gives me talents and gifts that I am to use wisely. I am supposed to invest these talents in the kingdom and produce great fruit--the fruit that Jesus has already placed inside me when I accepted him--the fruits of the Spirit.

If I have the fruits of the Spirit inside of me, yet I cower when I am compelled to use them, then I am like the unwise servant--burying the talent I was given. If I do this, I am telling God that the fruits he has given me are not ripe yet--not sweet yet--unusable.

He says they are not! Hey says that His promises are "Yes!" in Christ! He says I have the same spirit in me that raised Christ from the dead! And if I question my ability to be Godly, if I question my ability to make it through the situations in which I am placed, if I blame God for my inability to be holy, then I have misjudged God--I have falsely accused my God of being unfaithful to His word. God is never unfaithful, but sometimes I am.

God tells us through this same parable in Matthew 25, that faithful, fruit-bearing servants will share in their Master's happiness. Upon seeing these steadfast ones, God will greet them with the longed for, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" I want to hear that, don't you?


For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God."

2 Corinthians 1:20

Monday, April 19, 2010


"...you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed."
1 Peter 1:5-7

I decided to put the scripture at the top of the page tonight because I am trying very hard to understand what Peter is saying to Christ-followers in the early church--because I think He is trying to say it to me too. So, Let's unpack this passage:

If I am a Christ-follower, Peter says that I am shielded by by my own faith and through God's power. I am kept safe--shielded from the arrows of this world--by believing in the Truth of God's protection. I am shielded from this world until it becomes new--under Christ's headship. Then I won't have to be protected any longer for everything will be according to God's design.

I need to rejoice in the fact of this protection. Nothing can hurt me here. But...things feel like they hurt me here which is why I suffer. Suffering is the bad things that happen to me while I keep the fact of God's provision in my heart. Suffering is the world trying to "unshield me". I must choose minute by minute to stay under God's authority and protection. Then I will be safe whether I feel safe of not.

Suffering has to come so my faith, which is worth more than anything imaginable--even gold--may be proven to be REAL. Is my faith real? Suffering will tell me if it is. Easy times do not show me my true colors. When this suffering produces more faith and more decisions to stay under God's protection, then my life will result in PRAISE, GLORY, and HONOR because Jesus Christ will be reflected in me. I will have done something I didn't want to do (suffer) and continued to live ... and to love... and to praise the One who allowed it all.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Just a Thought

Last night, I was trying to make some instant mashed potatoes for a recipe and the water, milk, butter and salt mixture got really hot and I knew it would boil soon--but I thought it would take a lot longer, so I turned my back to do something else. Then--while my back was turned and I wasn't paying attention--the mixture boiled. And boiled. And boiled--until it boiled over on my brand new, shiny stovetop. It was such a mess! Even when I tried to move the boiling pot, some spilled over and the greasy white liquid was everywhere--even down the front of the oven. It was so baked on the burner that I had to wait for it to cool and carefully scrape it off the ceramic cooktop with a razor blade.

The lesson I learned is this: If I had just been more careful to watch my pot, I could have avoided this big disaster on my beautiful new stove. The clean up was very messy, time consuming and exhausting--and there are still some smudges I am going to have to work on later.

Sometimes, life is like that pot. We go on living our lives according to the recipe--doing all the things we need to do, but not taking time to order our inner worlds, not allowing ourselves sabbath rest, not spending time alone with God. Then we get distracted by all of the urgency that calls our names. And by the time we look back, our life is boiling over and becoming very messy, time consuming and exhausting. We have not taken the time to discipline our minds, our desires, or our children. What a mess we have made! Will we ever be able to clean it up?

Moral of the Story: If we keep an eye on our "pots", we can be much more effective and proactive--and clean up will be a breeze!

May our shiny, ordered lives reflect our Perfect God.

"Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers."
I Timothy 4:16

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Live to Lose

I have learned to live to lose
I have found my all in you
I cannot hold it all,
it's lost, it's true
cause I have learned to live
to lose

These words from an Aaron Shust song called "Live to Lose" ring true in so many ways. When we choose to become Christ-followers absloutely and entirely, we must face some facts. One of those facts is that we must give up. We must give up our ways of thinking and being and doing. We must adopt God's character. We must lose ourselves in Christ, and then find the self that He intends us to be, also in Him. Sound confusing? I'll try to explain: When I finally make that decision to follow Christ no matter what--when I decide that I am all in--then that is when He can truly begin to work in my life. The more of my life and my aspirations and my personal preferences that I give up, the more God can fill me and make me who He wants me to be. I must learn to live to lose.

Because I am giving up what I want and trusting that God will give me what is best, I also have to be prepared to be totally dependent on Him. I cannot put my confidence in anything of this world. I must hold on loosely to all things He has given. They are really His anyway. If God allows one or more of these very important things to be taken from my life, I must believe that He will use this overwhelming pain and sadness mightily in my life or in the lives of others--if I will let Him. As a Christ-follower, I must trust God's sovereignty even when I don't understand. I must learn to live to lose.

If I complain when God allows hardship in my life, have I truly given up my rights? As a Christ-follower, do I not pray daily to become more like Christ? Christ suffered. I must suffer to become like Him, otherwise I nullify my heartfelt prayer. I don't want to nullify Christ's power in me because I am unwilling to suffer. I want to free his power to work mightily in my life. I must learn to live to lose.

God help me not to fear suffering and to trust that you always know what is best for me. For I know that all things work together for good for those who love You and who are called according to your purpose. I must learn to live to lose.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me all of your heart."

Jeremiah 29:11

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

For Teri

God, my life is breaking. Are you there?

Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea;

What have I done, O Lord? Why is this happening? I am so scared.

My heart is in anguish within me…Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me.

I just want to go away—to find a place that is safe—a place where I can hide.

I would hurry to a place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm.

Why is everyone turning on me? Save me, Father, I don’t understand.

Destructive forces are at work in the city; threats and lies never leave its streets.

If an enemy had hurt me, I could bear it, but this is my closest friend. My memories are intertwined with theirs.

But it is you…my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God.

I don’t know what to do, God. How do I live now?

But I call to God, and the LORD saves me.

I will keep calling and crying and calling and crying because I know you are listening.

Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.

You will keep me safe even though others want to hurt me.

He ransoms me unharmed from the battle waged against me, even those who oppose me.

O Lord, did we not make a covenant together? Why must he attack?

My companion attacks his friends; he violates his covenant…war is in his heart.

Catch me Lord, for I am falling apart---piece by piece by piece. Will you take care of me?

Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.

God, I am tempted to be bitter, yet I will let you avenge the wrong done to me.

But you, O God, will bring down the wicked into the pit of corruption.

I am hurting, barely breathing, confused. But God, I choose to trust in you alone.

But as for me, I trust in you.

Inspired by Psalm 55

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Awesome Jotham

Ever impressed by the insight of Oswald Chambers, I read this in My Utmost for His Highest yesterday:

Even the weakest saint can experience the power of the deity of the Son of God, when he is willing to "let go." But any effort to "hang on" to the least bit of our own power will only diminish the life of Jesus in us. We have to keep letting go, and slowly, but surely, the great full life of God will invade us, penetrating every part. Then Jesus will have complete and effective dominion in us, and people will take notice that we have been with Him.

After writing, "I want this" on the side of this passage, I opened my Bible to 2 Chronicles, where I have been reading about the kings of Judah and Israel. I started at chapter 25, where I found out how not to have complete and effective dominion in my life (I realize these people were pre-Jesus, and didn't have the Holy Spirit...but hang with me here and you will get the basic idea). Here's what verse 2 says about King Amaziah:

"He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, but not wholeheartedly."

Just like the kings before him (Rehoboam, Asa, Joash), Amaziah started off well, "He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, but...", he ended poorly and full of himself. This happened because Amaziah "hung on" to more and more of his own power, and relied less and less on God's power. He would not listen to God, so God allowed Israel to attack Amaziah's kingdom, take hostages and vandalize the temple.

Chapter 26 also starts out well with Uzziah, the king of Judah. His bio states;

"He sought God during the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God. As long as he sought the LORD, God gave him success."

Uzziah was a pretty cool guy--very powerful, innovative and intelligent--everybody loved Uzziah. Even Uzziah loved Uzziah. Here's what else we learn about this fast starter:

His fame spread far and wide, for he was greatly helped until he became powerful. But after he became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the LORD his God...".

Another instance of great start, great pride, bad ending. How depressing.

But wait, look at Chapter 27 and Jotham. Jotham was righteous and successful. He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD. And...I hesitate to read on because I think that he will be just like his fathers. But what's this? Jotham is not! Verse 6 of chapter 27 says,

"Jotham grew powerful because he walked STEADFASTLY before the LORD his God."

Jotham chose to make God famous and not himself! That is why he grew and remained powerful all the days of his life.

Those, then, are the keys: Selflessness, Steadfastness, and Saturation with God's ways--not the world's. Uzziah was not steadfast...nor selfless. Amaziah was not saturated with God's ways--only his own. But Jotham, Jotham was more concerned with God's reputation than his own. Jotham showed selflessness. Jotham walked steadfastly. Jotham was truly familiar--saturated--with the ways of God.

Jotham understood true dominion. Do you?

"Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. "
Isaiah 26:8

Sunday, April 11, 2010

How to Grow A Running Partner

1. Birth/Adopt/Acquire a baby.

2. Take a walk everyday with said baby. Make this an event that is pleasurable for both you and baby.

3. As baby grows into kid, encourage active games like tag and capture the flag. Make sure running is viewed as natural and fun.

4. As kid grows into elementary age, start to run short distances together and make up word games to play to distract them when they struggle.

5. Set small achievable goals for kid and when they reach these milestones, reward them with their very own running watch in a cool color.

6. Take kid to beautiful running paths where you can take in God's creation and look for red birds (and tell them that red birds mean "God is watching").

7. Sign entire family up for short runs that support a cause. Run the race. Eat lots of cookies, bagles, and Coldstone ice cream afterwards and talk about how hard it was and who you beat.

8. Continue to run yourself and bring home priceless treasures you find on the roadside.

9. As the kid grows into a teenager, push them to run farther distances with you. Tell them you know they can do it even when they can't believe they could ever run that far. Breathlessly recite every Scripture you have ever memorized in your life to distract them those last two grueling miles.

10. Run with teenager--your stride matching theirs--on a warm Sunday afternoon and feel the joy fill your heart as you realize it has finally happened. You have grown yourself your very own perfect running partner. Good Work!

" Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. "
I Corinthians 9:24-25

Saturday, April 10, 2010

I Want That

When I was running this morning, I passed an elderly couple walking hand in hand, and I thought, as I passed them, “I want that.”

How do we get that--lifelong, loving commitment? This is the question I pondered for the remainder of my run. Here are the conclusions I came to:

For lifelong commitment you must do these things:

Choose to love when you feel slighted

Choose to forgive when you feel you can’t

Choose to embrace when you feel like separating

Choose to pray when you feel like sulking

Choose to build up when you want to slander

Choose to think with a renewed mind when your emotions tell you lies.

It’s all about the choices we make. We can live self-centered lives that encourage individualism, defensiveness and pride, or we can live Christ-centered lives--denying ourselves, promoting our spouses, and reflecting God clearly.

I want what that elderly couple had. I want to make the hard choices that lifelong commitment requires. I want my husband to be my best friend. And I want someone, somewhere, sometime to notice Brent and I walking hand in hand and say, “I want that.”.

“Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
it’s jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like a blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.
Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away.
If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned.”

Song of Songs 8:6-7

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Straight Wisdom

OK, no more of “I am not going to write until I feel inspired”.

I need to write regularly, and I must discipline myself to do this, whether I feel “inspired” or not. My friend, Laura, says that feelings have an IQ of 0. In other words, feelings are often not accurate or helpful when undertaking a difficult task. Nike has it right when they say, “JUST DO IT”. My feelings will not dictate what I know that I should be doing. I will write, inspired or not, and tell of my wonderings and wanderings (and inspirations when they appear).

So…I have been thinking a lot about worldliness lately and why we, as Christ-followers, choose it. I mean God is pretty clear in Proverbs 3 when He says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Don’t we all want straight paths? Don’t we want to trust Somebody who knows how to do this thing called life? Why do we ignore that advice, then, and go down our own unknown, crooked and muddy trails?

Last night in D6, we taped paths to the floor for the 2nd graders to follow during a competition. Some of the paths were straight (fast, better, easier to follow), and some of the paths were crooked (slower, easier to fall off, not as efficient). At the end of the race—in which the participants with the straight paths won—I asked the students which paths were better. They answered with a resounding “The straight ones!” Of course the straight ones were better. They were pointed in one direction, focused on the goal, and had less distractions of going this way, then that way, then this way again…. Even a 2nd grader can recognize the wisdom in the straight path—why can’t we?

God promises that if we trust him, he will make our paths straight. That’s not just a comforting axiom. That’s not just a suggestion. The part about making our paths straight is a promise—but a promise with some qualifiers:

First, we have to trust God with our whole hearts. Why do we struggle with trusting the God who made our hearts—and the whole world for that matter? Do we really think that he cannot meet our deepest desire? He is the fulfillment of that desire.

Second, we can’t trust in our own understanding of reality. God does not reside within our reality and is not limited by it. When we stop trying to intellectually solve our problems, our spiritual vision clears greatly.

Third, we MUST acknowledge God. Not just when we are with our Christian buddies. Not just when we feel comfortable doing it. ALL THE TIME. We must acknowledge God all the time—with every fiber of our being—“in all our ways”. We must acknowledge God in church and at school. We must acknowledge God at home and at Hy-Vee. We must acknowledge God by what we say and what we choose not to say. We must acknowledge God by loving Him and not the charms of this shiny world.

Then… and only then…will God make our paths straight.

“For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.

Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path.

For wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.”

Proverbs 2:6-11

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Heart of Salvation

Having just experienced Easter, I have been thinking often of the Cross. So, when I read this excerpt from Utmost today, it brought me to tears. Here it is:

"The heart of salvation is the Cross of Christ. The reason salvation is so easy to obtain is that it cost God so much. The Cross was the place where God and sinful man merged with a tremendous collision and where the way to life was opened. But all the cost and pain of the collision was absorbed by the heart of God."

All the cost and pain of the collision was absorbed by the heart of God. Not us. He took it all and gave us everything. Because He loves.

When you betray me and reject me and leave me, I will never stop loving.

When you whip me and beat me and accuse me, I will never stop loving.

When you ignore my face in nature, when you invent theories for the creation that I sustain, I will never stop loving.

When you call yourself my child but allow the world to catch your eye and your heart and your attention, I will never stop loving.

When you chooose yourself over my son, I will never stop loving.

When your needs, your desires, your fame are more important than my glory, I willl never stop loving.

When you do these things, my child, my heart hurts and yearns for you to run to me, your Father.

I cry.

I grieve.

I give.

I never stop loving.

"He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed."
I Peter 2:24