1 Corinthians 3:4-9

"For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere men?

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building."

1 Corinthians 3:4-9

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Heart of flesh

"Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgements and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God." Ezekiel 11:19-20

I read these verse today and instantly was drawn back in time to the first time the Lord taught me through them. The Lord speaks of a heart transplant here, but instead of a medical professional performing the surgery, the Lord Himself is the surgeon. I remember well the day I knew without a doubt these verses were true in my life.

As I read through Ezekiel this year, I cannot help but see several things the Lord chose to repeat like the way He calls Ezekiel "son of man," and the way he says "Do not be afraid." Also, the Lord chooses to tell Ezekiel over and again "whether they hear or whether they refuse, for they are rebellious.." speaking of the Israelites. The Lord is calling Ezekiel to speak truth to the Israelites, knowing that because of their rebellious hearts they will not listen to Ezekiel because they do not listen to the Lord himself. But the Lord tells Ezekiel not to be rebellious and to open his mouth and eat what he gives him. And what the Lord gave him to eat was a scroll- parchment- which in my mind would not taste good at all. But when Ezekiel ate of it it was sweet like honey.

Often we look at our circumstances, our situation in life, our responsibilities and we get stuck on how unfair they are. We allow ourselves to think about what it would be like if this...and if that...

We deceive ourselves when we think like that. You see, what the Lord gave to Ezekiel was a task destined to fail, yet in it the Lord was with Ezekiel. He told him not to be afraid, whether the Israelites listened or refused to listen. Ezekiel was to be faithful. The Lord gave him a scroll to eat.

And when he ate it, Ezekiel realized that it was sweet like honey.

The Lord is reminding me this year as I read through Ezekiel, that no matter how things look to me, the things of the Lord are sweet like honey. Not easy, comfortable, or without suffering...yet because they are His will they are sweet like honey. No matter the outmode of the task I have been given, He is good and He is faithful!

So as I read verses 19-20 in chapter 11 today, I realized how very true it is that the Lord takes from His children the stony hard heart and replaces it with a heart of flesh.

I fought this transplant for so long in my life (and you can read that story below...). We all fight it a little, don't we? Why? Because a heart of flesh feels. It is soft and can be punctured deep. In contrast, a heart of stone is, well, hard. It is not affected by things a heart of flesh will feel.

And all my hard-hearted years kept me protected from pain and hurt and suffering...

Or so I thought.

I am so thankful for the Lord's hand upon my life. I am so thankful that He performed heart surgery on me and gave me a heart of flesh. I am thankful because I now can walk in His statutes and I learn from Him every day. I am His and He is mine.

I am oh so thankful.

Below is a post from May 2012, shortly after the Lord did a mighty work in me. Rejoice with me in His amazing grace, mercy, and love!

Original post from May, 2012 (written while living in Villarreal, Costa Rica)

"Today I met a man whose father turns 101 tomorrow. I was out running errands. I had to run into the video store and drop off movies Matt and the kids had borrowed over the weekend. As I entered the store, an older man cheerfully greeted me. He stuck out his wrinkled hand and shook mine heartily. 

He said, "Do you know what? Tomorrow is my dad's 101 first birthday! 101! Do you wanna come to the party?" 

The woman working in the store explained that the man's whole town was celebrating by throwing the dad a party. 

I told him thank you and then I said "My son's birthday is tomorrow. He is not celebrating quite as many years though- just 12."

"Twelve!" he turns to the wooman working. "Twelve years old! Ya hear that? Her son turns 12 years old tomorrow! Well, ya wanna bring him to the party too?"

The woman began laughing and said, "You're not gonna have enough food for everyone if you keep inviting all these people."

"Do you like grilled pork loin?" he turns to me and asks.

The woman then turns to me then and explained he'd already invited her to come to the party. Then she told him he better not invite anyone else or he'll run out of food. 

"Oh no..." he said, smiling. "God," he said, pointing up into the air, "You know him?" he asks me. 

"Yes, I do." I said, smiling back at him. 

"You do?  Well, God, he multiplies pork! We'll have plenty of food. You like pork?" he asks me.

"Yes, I do!"

"You do? Well great! Why don't you two come together?" he says to the woman and I.

I smiled at the woman and then at this sweet, joyful old man. 

"Well, I'll probably be celebrating at home with my son. But thank you very much for the invitation! Maybe next year," I said.

He laughed and then looked at me and asked, "Are you 40 yet?" 

I coughed, then tried to laugh it off and said, "Well, no, not yet!"

He asked how old I was and I told him "34."

"Ahhhh...34...you're almost to 40! See you have a lot of time left. But my dad- he's turning 101 tomorrow. 101! Only God knows if there will be a next year for him!"

I told the old, joyful man in front of me that it was nice to meet him and to have a nice day. 

And I walked out the door of that store smiling and pondering the source of all joy, Jesus Christ. 

That nice old man was so excited about his father's birthday. He wanted to invite everyone he met to his dad's birthday party. For it might very well be his last. His father had lived 101 years- a long and full lifetime...

"He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High 
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; 
I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. 

With long life I will satisfy him, 
And show him My salvation."

Psalm 91:1,16

The Psalmist speaks of the safety we find in the shelter of the Most High. We learn that we can find help, deliverance and honor and abide in Him. We also learn that we are promised long life and salvation in Him.

Wouldn't the world be a different place if we all lived with joy such as the son had inviting me to his father's birthday party?

What would the world be like if we all celebrated our Heavenly Father as much as this man celebrated his earthly father?

This weekend I had the very special blessing of being invited to a women's retreat. The Lord truly had planned for me to be there and I am so very thankful for His provision and nudging to get me there. 

Little did I know that there was major surgery slated to take place at that retreat. The Great Physician was prepped and ready to cut out old, stony hearts and replace them with fleshy, new ones. 

Little did I know, I was one of the many who needed a transplant in a big way. 

You see, there had been a stone wall erected around my heart for so many years I felt that it was part of me. I had long ago stopped trying to knock it down. I had grown comfortable with it there and had learned how to do life with it there. I had grown to like it, as it seemed to me to offer great protection in times of stress or storm. 

But, the Lord Jesus is a compassionate, mighty, powerful, loving, just, kind, and tender-hearted Physician. He has known my heart condition for quite sometime. He knew that this weekend was the time for the heart transplant that would change the way I lived for the rest of my years. He knew it was time that the wall came down and the stone heart was cut out. He has been waiting for so long to give me a new heart, I just hadn't given him the chance. He knew I was finally ready. 

I didn't know quite yet, but I would. 

The speaker at the retreat is a wonderful lady named Debbi Bryson. You can learn more about her here.  She spoke at four sessions on four separate sections of scripture. We went through each section verse by verse and dug into each one and cut them up, chewed on them, swallowed them, and digested them. It was an amazing excerise of study and immediate application. She spoke on Mark 4:35-41, John 15, Mark 1:32-38; 40-45; Luke 8:43-48; and 1 Corinthians 13. 

I listened intently through all of the sessions. I took pages of notes. I prayed and listened and heard God speak to me. I was really digging what He was saying to me. I could feel the pieces fitting together from each of the teachings and I was so thankful for what I was learning. The Saturday night session brought great healing for many women there. So many were broken and had been bound tight from sin or hurt or tragedy in their lives. And many were set free that night. I had been praying for one specific woman that whole day and specifically that session. I hadn't really thought much about any healing I needed. I looked around and watched as many women came to repentance, found forgiveness and then healing! Sweet freedom from the enemies lies. Bondage that had held precious captives for far too long. All set FREE! Beofre my eyes. And I watched and wanted to be a part of it, but I didn't dare ask or search for what I might need to be set free from. No tears came to me, which I found unusual. 

The next morning, Debbi asked who had been healed last night. Hands went up all around the room. I so wanted to raise my hand too, but I knew I hadn't been healed of anything.

Debbis began to speak on 1 Corinthians 13- the love chapter. She taught on each of the aspects of love that Paul teaches on in that chapter. She used examples the Lord has given her in her own life to demonstrate what love is and what it isn't. She went on down the list...Love is patient...kind...does not envy...etc...then she got to it- 

                   not easily angered or provoked...keeps no record of wrongs...

Ohhh...I looked around and so wanted to find a place to hide.

Easily angered? Remembering wrongs? 

I couldn't run. I couldn't hide. Of all the other ways in which the Lord spoke clearly to me through the other sessions, this time I heard His voice more clearly and more directly.

This was the moment that He had planned. It was this moment for which I was there. Because in that moment, I began to remember back some thirty years ago. I began to remember why I had built that wall in the first place.

Debbi continued talking and I listened intently, sweat beads beginning to form on my brow. 

She said, "There is no excuse ladies for being easily angered! No excuse!" And she made us write down several things that are commonly used as excuses by women to justify their short fuses. She said, "NONE of them are excuses!"

"Love keeps no record of wrongs," she continued. "Do not use words as weapons, but as love and truth. Open your heart."

Open your heart.

How could she have known? 

There is no way she could have known. She is simply a vessel you used to bring long-awaited truth to my life. My Lord Jesus spoke directly to me through this tiny little woman who came all the way to Costa Rica to minister to women of all nationalities. 

There He was. Standing at the shore with me. Softly calling to me to drop my nets- let go of it all- and follow Him. It was Him calling to me to come with him to the other side and finally break free from death that had held me captive and find life. "I am willing," He whispered to me. "I am willing to make you clean. I will take your burden. You've carried it for too long."
"I am your true vine," He reminded me. "Only in me can you grow roots," He whispered in my ear. "Come on. Let's get in the boat and cross over to the other side..."

"Open your heart. 

Love is not easily angered. 

Love keeps no record of wrongs.

Open your heart."

My sweet Jesus knew how long I've been angry in my heart. My Lord knew how long I've kept such an accurate record of wrongs done to me. 

And that wall around my heart had done some good keeping out what I didn't want in. I had erected it long ago and had come so used to it. I had actually forgotten it existed. 

Until I felt it crack. Until I felt the breath go out of me at those three little words- 

Open your heart. 

But my God is a Sovereign God and He knew that it was time for the wall to come down. He is the Great Physician and He was ready to cut out the heart of stone I'd used to only half-live almost my whole life. He was ready to give me a new, fresh, heart of His own flesh that would allow me to live whole and abundantly for the first time ever!

I had thought I had crossed over the river of anger years ago when I worked through forgiveness of someone in my life. But I had just begun to realize that was not the true source of where the anger came from that had held me captive so many years.

And so I asked Him where had it come from and instantly I wished I'd never asked. Because the wall began to crack even more and I wanted to reach inside of me and hold it up, to fill the cracks because it had been a part of me so long and I was afraid and I didn't know how I would live or survive with out it's protection around my heart. It was the only security I had...I thought.

Oh but my sweet Jesus knew that was a lie straight from the pit of hell and He was standing there with me asking me to crossover once and for all and finally be free. To finally give up holding on to death that had kept me from abundant life for far too long. 

"Let's go," Jesus said...

But I hesitated.

The last session ended without me entering the boat. We went to pack up our things and then went to lunch.  I was quiet. I knew He were urging me to talk with Debbi. Although she sat at the table next to me at lunch, I made excuses. I finally told Him to make it happen if He wanted me to talk with her. 

He so made it happen!

Later, I was sitting on a little ledge and found myself right next to Debbi and wouldn't you know she turns to me and says, 

"So, sweetie, what's your God-story?"

And so for the next 45 minutes or so I shared my story with her...all the way up to the point where the Lord had brought me to in the last session. 

The first question she had asked me was what was the source of my anger...and here I was at the point of no return. If I shared anymore, I knew life would never be the same. I knew I could never hide again if I shared why the wall existed in the first place. I knew that it would come crashing down if I said anymore...

I'd only spoken of it two or three times and even then never to the extent with which I knew I was about to. I had stuffed it so deep and built that wall in an attempt to hide it and to protect my heart...

But, clearly, 30 years is too long to have lived with a heart of stone. It was time for a transplant. 

I had prepped for surgery with Ezekiel 36:26-27;

"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh."

It was time for surgery to begin. It was time for me to get my new heart. 

I had written in my notes, 

"I will never be whole until I learn to love, Oh Lord."

I told Debbi what had happened that day. I told her all I could remember. every part that had made me feel dirty and unclean all these years. I told her that I had stuffed this and hid it for so long it scared the pants off of me to let it out.

She looked me right in the eyes and said, "That is so wrong!"

Then she asked me if I was a person who built up walls...

Hahahaha...such a sense of humor, God...

She said what happened to me was wrong. She said that the lie I had been believing for far to long was wrong. 

But I had to choose life and stop clinging to death. 

I looked the enemy in the eye and spoke the words that released me from being walking dead...I killed the lie and the wall came tumbling down. I spoke the words that released me from deaths grip in an instant.

"That is wrong! I am not your victim of your lies! I am free! I choose LIFE!!"

Debbi and I prayed then and peace and joy filled me and my lungs began breathing a fresh new scent as my new heart pumped life into my body!

And I felt clean! Totally white as snow! 

That day I shared what Debbi and I talked about several more times. Each time instead of pain and shame that I had expected to feel, I felt more and more freedom. I felt like a bulldozer was in my heart working steadily digging out my heart from the rubble the wall had left. By Monday morning, I felt so fresh and new and whole and healed and clean.

The wall was gone...No more rubble. No more dust...Fresh new heart...

"Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, 
and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. 
For why should you die, O house of Israel? 
For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies," says the Lord GOD. 
Therefore turn and live!" Ezekiel 18:31-32

 I am rejoicing today and each new day - celebrating my Father and His great work in me. 

Just like the old man I met today was celebrating his father, I too will be inviting others to come and celebrate my Father with me! 

"Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler 
And from the perilous pestilence.

He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.

 Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; 
I will set him on high, because he has known My name." Psalm 91:3, 4, 14

I am safe. I am protected. I am loved. I find refuge in Him. I am delivered. I am covered. I know His name. I am loved. I am whole. I am clean. I have a new heart. 

I am whole! 

I am healed!

Thank You sweet Jesus! 

I invite you, too, to come and celebrate my Father with me. Have you met Him? Do you know His Son? Would you like to?"

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Does it get any easier?

That's the question he asked as he sat across from us just hours before he was to board a plane and fly back to his homeland. He would be flying with five others who had served with us for the past nine months. They have all become family.

"No, it doesn't," Matt and I both said as we shook heads and chuckled.

It was heartbreaking when we said good-bye to our first pair of interns years ago in Costa Rica. Initially, we were shocked at how quickly we became family, even in a matter of months.

Now, nine classes later, it is increasingly hard to say good-bye to the young adults who come into our lives and stay for nine months and then travel on to the next part of their journey.

But this is what we do. This is the life we are called to. This is the life we are blessed to live.

Call or no call, it never gets easier.

Last night, we sat around the family area in our home with the five interns who have served their field time in Guatemala these last six months. One of them said, "I wish this moment right here would never end."

Alas, at three am this morning, they piled all of their luggage and themselves into the van and departed for the airport for the next part of their journey. They should be arriving in Montana soon, if they have not already. They will be reunited with the other six members of their class. They will begin their next phase of the Ignite program which is three weeks of re-entry. They will have the opportunity to 'unpack' their spiritual suitcases and lay out before them all the lessons the Lord has taught them over their time on the field. They are able to reconnect as a class. They will be poured into by the PFM staff in Montana who have faithfully prayed for all of them these last six months. they will also be able to share about all they saw and experienced and look at all these things through the light of God's word in order to determine what needs to be packed up with them and taken along to the next phase of their journey and what can be left behind. It is such a blessed time for them and we rejoice!

In order for this phase of their journey to being, the previous one had to end. And thus, that moment in our living area of our home ended. The morning came, tears were shed, hugs were given, notes were passed back and forth, and we said our last good-byes. And their journey continues.

And so does ours. Even as we remain in Guatemala, our journey continues. Because, really, we are all on a journey. We are all sojourners, none of us really at home in this world. So then, this life we as a family live - the one full of good-byes - must not really be far from what it's really supposed to be like, if you really think about it.

This afternoon, I got a message from one of the five who just completed their nine-month field time. She had just entered United States soil for the first time in six months.

"People are mean here. I miss you. I wanna come home."

Home. That's the thing- none of us are really home this side of eternity. And all of these good-byes really only point us to that day when we will be in the presence of our Lord and there will be no more good-byes. One day soon, He will wipe away every tear and we will no longer feel the ripping and tearing of having loved deep and then having to say good-bye.

One week from today, we will receive the next class of interns who are currently visiting with family and friends in the United States after having just completed their three months of training here in Guatemala. They have about ten days home and then they fly off to the countries where they will be serving for their six month field time.

So as hard as it was to say good-bye this morning, blessing comes in a week as we will have the privilege to welcome the new team to their new home. And we truly are blessed! We live a life full of a constant flow in and also out of young adults sold out to serve Jesus in tangible, every day ministry opportunities, for at least a year of their lives. Our children are incredibly blessed to live with these young people. As hard as it for them to say good-bye, the gift of this life is one we will forever be grateful and thankful for. Our oldest daughter, Isabelle was up later than Matt and I last night, writing letters to the five that were leaving this morning. She told me this morning she used a flashlight to write each one of them because 'she felt like she just needed to tell them each a few things.'

Today, those of us left on the property have all felt their absence. It is quiet. There are too many empty rooms.

Yet, we have hope. We are joyful because our joy is not found in our circumstances nor in the people around us...but in Christ.

"And not only that, but we glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." Romans 5:3-5

We might feel the sadness and pain of the separation from ones we love, but we trust the Lord that this present suffering produces in us perseverance and therefore is forming in us more of the character of God himself and therefore building our hope. And the hope we have in Christ does not fail or disappoint.

To those of who who faithfully support our family- we thank you. While our life might look very different than yours and might not even make much sense...know that we are blessed, we are content, and we thank the Lord for His mighty hand upon our lives. Whether easy or whether difficult, we give thanks that He gives us the opportunity to serve Him among the nations 'Til the Whole World Hears!