Friday, December 1, 2017

Power in Creating

“Why pay $39.99? I can easily make those,” I said to my husband. We were wandering the shops of McKinney, Texas while on our anniversary date and the varieties of stuffed pumpkins caught my eye. I am a great copier. Not many of my ideas are original. But I can take a sample or a pattern and expand it to make it my own.

So I hunted ideas on Pinterest (a crafters heaven), pulled the sweaters out of the Goodwill give-away bag, and began creating pumpkins. But crafting is a slippery slope. My pumpkin spree (and a new front door) led to decorating my entryway. Pine Cones from East Texas turned into a new wreath. Salvaged logs doomed for the fire pit added height and dimension. Old fence wood—also destined for the fire—became a painted Burkholder wall hanging.

Before I knew it, I was on another crafting binge. I made five wreaths, twenty pumpkins, four entryway signs and eighteen tissue box covers. 

I love crafting. In my teens years, I learned to tie macrame knots which resulted in dozens of wall hangings, plant hangers, belts, necklaces and even a lamp shade. (And yikes, these designs are back in vogue.) For many years, I made macrame Christmas ornaments to give away every year. While serving in Indonesia, I helped design and instruct local sewers in various small projects that were sold in a successful business. 

My crafting comes in spurts and phases. I find an idea, ruminate on it, experiment and make dozens of the same item. My husband thinks I obsess and make too many, but when my ideas and materials run out, I stop. I move on to the next idea. Some of my crafts are fleeting like the origami vases and others are long lasting, like the annual Christmas card. One project—the pressed flower and homemade paper cards—actually resulted in earned income. Over the years, I have made scores of other projects.

Crafting and creating—especially for my home—brings me life. I am happiest when I have a project underway. But I also wonder if my life-giving activity is too introspective, too solitary. Given a choice, I would stay home and craft. I must force myself to also choose time with others. 

Last week, my pastor taught on Abraham’s faith. Yet [Abraham] did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised (Romans 4:20-21). He then reminded me that one of the ways God demonstrates this power that builds faith, is through creation. God creates from scratch and brings life to dead things.

Whereas I need inspiration from others’ designs and I rummage for materials that exist in my piles, God needs no Pinterest and creates from nothing. His incredible power gives me fuel for my faith. When I know God is powerful, I then believe he will do what he says he will do. 

In what ways do you create?
What are your life-giving activities?
How does God’s power seen in creation build your faith?

Prayer
My Master Creator, thank you for the ability to create even though my crafting is so puny compared with your great power. Making my little projects reflects your image in me. Thank you for the joy and revitalized life I experience when I create. But help me remember that creating is not just for me alone. I seek to be renewed so that I can pass on life, bring beauty to others and be reminded of your power. You can do the impossible and therefore, I believe. Strengthen my faith as I create.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Joy and Crown

As the nip of autumn fills the air, my mind turns to Thanksgiving. This is my reminder to thank you who make my ministry possible—you who intercede and give. I struggle every year because words seem inadequate. A gift card or a souvenir is too small. But a larger gift is a conflict of interest. How can I take funds from carefully sacrificed donations and turn around and spend them on a gift to the giver? Such is my strange lifestyle and predicament. 

The Apostle Paul found himself in a similar situation. He relied on the gifts of others to complete his missionary journeys. While in prison, he needed the family of God to send him money and encouragement. And he had absolutely nothing to give in return. So, he wrote letters. Thank-you notes, if you will. To the church at Philippi, he said, I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now (1:3-5). 

Along with gratitude, Paul’s deep affection for the church was expressed throughout the letter: God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus (1:8). My brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown (4:1).

The frequency of Paul’s gratitude—every time I remember you—and the strength of his expression—my joy and crown—challenges me. How often do I remember you who are so vital to my life? Are you my joy and crown? Can I say, as Paul did in I Thessalonians 2:19, that you are my hope, my joy, and the crown I will be proud of when our Lord Jesus Christ comes?

So, following Paul’s example:
I thank God for you, not just this month, but every time I think about, pray for and communicate with you. I rejoice in your accomplishments, your growth, your commitment to multiply God’s church around the world. The sacrifice of your prayer time and hard-earned cash makes me proud. I love each of you because you care about those who have yet to know and experience freedom in Christ and you entrust me with the privilege of serving workers who strive to make that freedom a reality. You are my joy and crown. Thank you.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

In The Boat

 Lake Brienz, Switzerland. Photo: Mark Burkholder
     (Mark 6:31-34) Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.
     But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
    (Matthew 14:15-20) As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
     Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” 
     “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. 
     “Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.

Lord God, I have been coming and going a lot lately. Those around me are coming and going. I haven’t been still. I feel harried and rushed. Sometimes it seems as though I don’t have time for even the necessary things like eating and sleeping. I am hungry. Hungry for time with you. Hungry for a break. Hungry for deep connection.

That’s why I love your invitation to go with you to a quiet place. For there are many people coming for help and I need rest. At my core I want to be the kind of person, like Jesus, who attracts those who need healing and help. But at the same time, I don’t want too many. I want them on my time frame. I want them to not be too needy. And sometimes, I wish they’d just go away. Teach me compassion, Lord, when I see a need and remove my annoyance when it isn’t convenient. Show me when my best laid plans to rest need to be delayed.

When life is like this, I must be with you every moment. Teach me to rest on the journeyin the boatas we travel, along the way. Whether the boat ride is long or short, I can rest, for true rest is not the location or the ambiance or the length of time (although these are helpful). True rest is YOU, abiding in you. Even though there are times I don’t get the quiet place that I envision, You still invite me to rest and I can climb in the boat with you.

Hungry people come to me, and I don’t know what to do. I want to send them to someone else because I am afraid I cannot help or I am inadequate or ill qualified. But you tell me to give them something to eat. You take my few loaves and fishes and you multiple my abilities so that I can help others. I give you myself, Lord so that you can feed others through me.

But I am also one of the crowd. You, Lord are available to me whenever I need it. I do not need to go to other sources to find my nourishment. I need only come to you. You will feed me. And when you do the feeding, I am satisfied and there is abundance all around with leftovers to spare for others.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Adrift

Twelve weeks ago, my fatherthe last of my direct ancestorsdied. As I adjust to a world without dad, unfamiliar feelings are rising in me and I have been struggling to put words to them. Is this simply grief? Or is it symbolic of more? 

I feel like I am sitting motionless in water. Adrift, unmoored, untethered, rudderless, foundation-less. My tie to my forefathers was cut and I am unattached. Grief and responsibilities toss me to and fro and I no longer guide my course. I am insecure. I am an orphan. It is all very weird.

Now the mantel of matriarch rests on me and my siblings. Perhaps this is “adulting” in its final form. What is strange is that I haven’t relied on my father for decision making or financial provision for many years, and yet I feel his loss. He symbolized provision, care, protection and now he’s gone.

My father’s death forces me to change, to adjust. It stretches me. It takes me out of my comfort zone. I am handed unwanted tasks that make me feel small and inept. I am required to deal with a world that is different, to steward new financial gifts, to relate to and cooperate with siblings on a new level, to help disburse his assets. These are the things that, to me, take extra energy and grief has sapped mine.

And so I am resisting this new level of growing up. I want to default to the familiar, the comfortable, the easy. Let my days be same and boring, without event. This constant change and needing to call on my “adult self” is too much. I want to be taken care of, to be coddled.

Deep down, I realize I am anxious. Anxious because things have changed. Anxious about the new choices and decisions I have to make. Anxious about the level of interaction I must now have with my siblings. Anxious about my future because life is temporary.

And so I do what I always do in times like these. I turn to the Truth. I tell myself that
God is my Security: I find him an anchor for the soul, firm and secure in Hebrews 6:19 
He is my Provision: Psalm 37:25 reminds me the righteous are never forsaken or will their children beg for bread. 
He gives me Guidance and Protection: He is my hiding place. He will protect me. He will instruct me and teach me in the way I should go. He will counsel me with his loving eye on me. His unfailing love surrounds me as I trust in him. Psalm 32:7-11 
He is my Connection: God has not left me as an orphan. He has come to me in the form of the Spirit of truth. He is my advocate to help me and be with me forever. I am in him and he is in me. John 14:16-20
Father God, help me to be a true adult, to be rid of co-dependency and the need to be taken care of by my daddy, my husband, my boys or anyone else. There will be times I need to rely on the help of others - but not from a place of soul neediness. Today, I rely on You, my true provider. I trust You, my protector, and I come to You to fill me up. I talk to You, spend time with You, connect with You. I ask You to guide me through each task that is difficult or uncomfortable. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Treasure and Ponder

Recently I watched Anne with and E on Netflix. This is the newest episode version of the classic Anne of Green Gables story. There is a scene in this series where Marilla opens her closet, reaches high up on a shelf behind other things and pulls out an old box. She lovingly opens it to reveal a bundle of old love letters tied up with a bow. Then she sits down in a rocker and slowly opens a letter, remembering the love of a former beau. This is what we often do, isn't it, with items of sentimental value that we want to keep and treasure. 

I imagine Mary doing this in a figurative sense. Mary’s heart was pierced over and over. How did she manage to remain a faithful disciple of her son? How do we too, live with and survive a pierced heart?
Mary gave us beautiful practice we can imitate. Luke 2:19 says that Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. Treasured (syntereo) means to remember or keep in mind lest it be forgotten and pondered (symballo) means to consider, dispute mentally or reflect. Further insight into this practice is found in Luke 2:50-52 they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them...And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. Treasured in this instance (diatereo) means to keep continually or to store in one's heart.

I believe Mary "was continually keeping all these things in her heart, the picture being of her carefully guarding and keeping them together in her mind as in a treasure chest. She brought them all together and joined them with other thoughts so she could carefully compare and reflect on all they mean." (Principles from Women of the Bible, Book 1)

To illustrate what this means for us today, let me bring Mary into the 21st century. If Mary were alive today, I think she would find or make a treasure or keepsake box for her love letters from God

First, she would rememberPsalm 71:11 says remember the works of the Lord. In her box she would put (in either objects or words form) what the Angel told her and Joseph and the Shepherds, what Elizabeth and Simeon and even Jesus said. This way she could remind herself again of the promises, the miracles, the dreams, the amazing visitors, the fulfilled prophecies and how God kept them safe over the years.

Then she would reflect. II Timothy 2:7 says reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this. As Mary touched and took out each item, she could consider what it all meant, the words, the miracles, the promises, the pain. She wrestled in her soul to make sense of it.

And finally, she would retain. Luke 8:15 says But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. Mary kept everything to refer to in the future, to give her comfort and faith when the next piercing came along. 

I have my "love letters" from the Lord in my “Treasure Box”. I don’t literally keep a box, but I have these truths on cards and bookmarks and flowers and in the notes on my smart phone. Here are some of mine that I remember, reflect on and retain:




How can we, like Mary, not say "let it be to me" when we treasure and ponder all God had done for us in the past and ask him to help us understand what he is currently doing?

May I suggest that you make your own box of remembrance or collection of objects or a special file on your computer or some unique way to help you remember, reflect and retain. I would love to hear how you treasure and ponder.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

My F(f)ather

Almost every Saturday for the past three years, my father has walked through my front door for a weekly visit. We sat on the couch, drank tea and chatted about our lives.

Two Saturdays ago, my father walked through my door as usual. Only it wasn’t so usual because it was the first time in six weeks that he could drive himself to my house. It felt right and normal again.

Then, last Saturday, I walked through my father's hospital door, sat by his bed and chatted about how he had lost the ability to walk. As we parted, he held my hand and said, “I’m sorry I won’t be able to walk through your front door again.” Since we were focused on walking, I was hopeful we could find other means to make sure Dad made it through the door.

The next dayFather’s DayI was in church singing the words to a favorite song, Good Good Father* and hearing the Holy Spirit speak to my breaking heart:

I've heard a thousand stories of what they think you're like
But I've heard the tender whispers of love in the dead of night
And you tell me that you're pleased
And that I' never alone

Eva, you are not alone, I am pleased with you

You're a good good father
It's who you are

Eva, I am your true Father even after your earthly father is gone. I am good.

And I'm loved by you
It's who I am

Eva, I love you and will take care of you.

Because you are perfect in all of your ways to us

Eva, my ways and timing are perfect.

As I was singing and weeping, my earthly father walked through his Heavenly Father’s front door. My father was right! He will never again walk through my front door. But while we were focusing on my physical home, God was focusing on his eternal home.

Oh, it's love so undeniable
I can hardly speak
Peace so unexplainable
I can hardly think
As you call me deeper still
Into love, love, love

Eva, my love and peace are here for you. Come deeper into my love, for I am your Good Father.

And now today, this Saturday, we celebrate my father’s life, legacy and testimony. We honor him and put his earthly bodythe one that ran at full steam for 92 years and then just petered outto rest. But his soul, his spiritmy real fatheris chatting about his life with his Real Father. The same Good Father that loves me.



*Songwriters: Anthony Brown / Joseph Patrick Martin Barrett
Good Good Father lyrics © Capitol Christian Music Group

Thursday, June 15, 2017

My Magnificat

Mary: How I praise the Lord. How I rejoice in God my Savior!
Hannah: How I rejoice in the Lord!
Miriam: Sing to the Lord! For I will sing about the Lord, the God of Israel.
Deborah: Praise the Lord! For I will sing about the Lord, the God of Israel.
Today I feel like Mary and Hannah and Miriam and Deborah! I must lift my voice and my pen and praise the Lord. Today I rejoice in my God and my Savior! I feel a song rising in me that has to be sung!

Mary: For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and now generation after generation forever will call me blest of God.
Hannah: How he has blessed me!
While I haven't been blessed in the way that Mary was, I still feel that God has taken notice of me - a lowly, ordinary woman seeking to serve him. His marvelous grace has been extended to even me.

Mary: For he, the mighty Holy One, has done great things for me.
Hannah: No one is as holy as the Lord! There is no other God. Nor any Rock like our God.
God has been listening to my prayers and I am beginning to see real, concrete, tangible answers to the deep cry of my heart. His answer, his healing has been so gradual that at times it has seemed negligible. But lately, it has come in spades and leaps and bounds! There is no other answer, no one else who could do the work he has done.

Mary: His mercy goes on from generation to generation, to all who reverence him.
Hannah: He lifts the poor from the dust - yes, from a pile of ashes - and treats them as princes sitting in the seats of honor.
God's lovingkindness that I see to Mary has been extended to me. He has withheld what I deserved and given me what is undeserved.


Mary: How powerful is his mighty arm!
Hannah: For the Lord has solved my problem.
This kind of healing and change only comes from his hand. Only he can reframe a habitual life, renew a patterned mind and reprogram a heart.


Mary: How he scatters the proud and haughty ones! He has torn princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly.
Hannah: Quit acting so proud and arrogant! The Lord knows what you have done, and he will judge your deeds. Those who are mighty are mighty no more! Those who were weak are now strong.
At times I was proud and felt I deserved his attention and his immediate action to the desperate cry of my heart. But he is teaching me to be accept his ways in his time. 

Mary: He has satisfied the hungry hearts and sent the rich away with empty hands.
Hannah: Those who were well are now starving; Those who were starving are fed.
He has been more than what my hungry heart has needed and even wanted. He has filled me when I was empty and satisfied me with himself.


Mary: And he has helped his servant Israel! He has not forgotten his promise to be merciful. For he promised our fathers - Abraham and his children - to be merciful to them forever. 
As God did not forget to show love, compassion and mercy on the children of Israel, so he has not forgotten me. He has shown the same love to me. It hasn't been in the way I wanted or in the timeframe that suited me, but his love has always been there.

Thank you, my Lord for the recent grace and love I have experienced. It is from your hand and I want to give praise to the mighty, Holy One!

Mary: Luke 1:46-55 The Living Bible 
Hannah: I Samuel 2:1-10 The Living Bible