Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 5 comments

I almost ran into a friend a while back - literally! She was walking out of a building as I was driving up to the door. It was obvious she didn't see me since she was looking in the opposite direction, so I stopped rather than run her over (I'm nice like that...) I rolled down my window to say, "Hi" but before I could utter a word she asked me the question I dreaded hearing that day...

"How are you?"

And I started crying.

Because, you see, I was having one of those days. 

One of those days when nothing seemed to be going right.

One of those days when I had more things to do than I had time to do them.

One of those days when I felt over-worked and under-appreciated.

One of those days when I what I had to do was not the thing I wanted to do.

One of those days when I realized I could devote every waking moment to one particular task for the rest of my life, and it would still never be enough.

One of those days when I was fighting to keep my equilibrium.

Have you been there? 

I was spent; it took every morsel of energy I could scrape up just to hold it together and carry on.

It was just at that precarious moment that I was asked, "How are you?"

My tears made it obvious that, even if I could have uttered the perfunctory reply, the truth was I wasn't fine.

Even on good days, one of my pet peeves is when "How are you?" is used as a greeting. Have you ever stopped to think that, as is implied by the question mark, it is a question? Shouldn't asking a question require us to stop to hear the answer? 

I don't think anyone means any harm when they use, "How are you?" as a greeting, have you ever considered that not everyone you greet is fine? That you may be speaking to someone who could desperately use a listening ear? Someone whose spirit is lifted by the hope that there is indeed someone who cares about how they're doing, only to have those hopes dashed as you keep on walking?

Maybe you've been in there.

Where your emotions are so close to the surface that being asked "How are you?" leads you to tears.

Where you were heartbroken to have someone walk away when you thought they were genuinely interested in your well-being.

Have you ever said you were fine when in reality you were anything but?

Though I try to avoid it, I've fallen on both sides of this issue, being the asker as well as the asked. 

There were times when I asked, "How are you?" without even considering the other person's state of mind.

There were times when I asked, "How are you?" while I was walking and never missed a step.

Are those actions loving? Do they honor the other person?

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. ~ Romans 12:10

Unfortunately, this dilemma is not unique to America. Thanks to our mission trips to Kenya, I can say the dreaded exchange in three languages:

     Habari?            Mzuri.
     Idhi nadi?         Adhi maber.
     How are you?   I'm fine.


I've declared war on the phrase, "How are you?"

Not only do I do my best to avoid saying it, I also avoid answering if the speaker is still moving. And do you know what? Most of the time, they don't even notice I didn't reply.

So, you may be thinking, what should you say when you want to greet someone?  May I suggest "Hello," or "Hi"? Or if that's seems too brief for you, how about saying, "It's good to see you"? No response required and no expectation that you're interested in any more of a conversation than that. 

Fortunately for me, that day my friend really did want to know how I was. 

Don't we all need friends like that? 

Will you be that friend to someone?


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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 6 comments

This past Monday my husband and I got a new cat. New to us, anyway. 
My brother-in-law has a friend who moved and needed to find a new home for his cat. She's indoor/outdoor, about a year old, fixed and a great hunter. Just what we needed, what with being overrun with mice since Christmas. Which, incidentally, is about the last time we saw our previous cat... 

Just last year, which for me was the perfect storm of health issues, I was diagnosed with allergies to dust - not that there's any of that around here - and pets. So when our cat didn't come back I thought that solved the dilemma of what to do with a pet I was allergic to. Unfortunately for me, I forgot a hard lesson learned back when I first married my husband: living in the woods, you either have a cat or you have mice.

So since December there have been mice under my kitchen sink and in the basement chewing into the extra groceries in my pantry. Having a cat, which is much safer around my grandsons than rat poison, sounds like a stress-reliever, doesn't it?

One would think...

My brother-in-law and his friend brought Striper over Monday, and the first thing she did was run under the table in a corner of the room. Eventually she warmed up and actually walked over and let me pet her. That's a good sign, wouldn't you say?

One would think...

After they left, Striper wandered downstairs to explore, which is fine since that's where the mice are. My sister stopped by and when we went downstairs we found her hiding behind the water heater, at least until she took off...

There was no sign of her for the rest of the day Monday. 

Or Tuesday. 

I can't say I was too thrilled to have a (relatively) strange cat on the loose somewhere in my house. And I definitely didn't want her to curl up and die, whereabouts unknown, like whatever I've been smelling in the wall upstairs for the last couple months. Ugh! I can tell you, they don't make air fresheners strong enough!

Wednesday my brother-in-law was back to try to coax Striper out of seclusion. 

No such luck.

Thursday morning we had a sighting! She was hiding in the corner of the closet of my husband's work room - coincidentally the only room we haven't gone through during our recent clean sweep of the basement. And she ate some of the food I put out for her the night before. Whew! No dead cat; just one that refuses to come out unless under the cloak of darkness. {sigh}

I've really been fighting to keep myself on an even keel lately, and I can't say this stealth cat is helping matters. We've been back from Kenya for almost a month, and unfortunately I'm still trying to reacclimate. These trips cost me big time when it comes to my health. It's not easy to manage here - it only takes my jaw being off a fraction of a millimeter to send me into a tail spin - so imagine what 30+ hours of travel will do, not to mention a 7-hour time adjustment! My TMJ doctor told me it would take some time for me to recover, and that was when he thought I was on a pleasure trip - before I told him about the jostling I took over the worst roads imaginable, stumbling into holes during hour-long hikes, running into things in the dark while living without electricity and slinging mud to build houses!

It's going to take a while to put Humpty back together again.

Have you ever felt like this?
Not only am I trying to adapt; not only do I have an unfamiliar cat roaming around my house; but I'm also back to watching my grandsons, which is anything but routine. Their dad is in the hospital 2 hours away, waiting for a heart transplant and my daughter is trying to balance that with returning to teaching this week. And I wonder why I'm having a hard time holding it together these days...

I began asking God what he had to teach me through this scaredy-cat I have holed up in my house and this morning He revealed it to me: 

I am the cat!

Neither of us travels well and honestly, curling up in a corner and hiding doesn't sound all that bad to me right now. As a result of this recent revelation, I've decided to do for myself what I've done for the cat and cut myself a little slack! I'm giving myself the month off to get reacclimated, and if that's not enough I'll give myself more time. 

So if I can string a few sentences together - like today - I'll have a post. If I can't - like the past week - I won't.

I'll do what I can and not beat myself up about what I can't.

I'll keep my eyes fixed on Jesus and when life gets overwhelming, I'll pull in even closer. You see, it's Him that I work for.

I couldn't ask for a better boss!

Where do you need to cut yourself some slack?


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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 11 comments

This is a question we have all struggled with at one time or another, in one form or another, isn't it? 

Why is there illness and injury? 

Why is there suffering? 

Why is there evil in the world?

Why is life so hard?

Why, why, why?

Today my Bible reading plan called for me to read the book of Habakkuk. And because I chose to cut myself some slack today - I'm still trying to recover from my trip to Kenya and nursing yet another headache - I allowed myself the luxury of studying until I was done studying. Today that meant reading the chapter on Habakkuk from Dr. Larry Crabb's book, 66 Love Letters, both before and after I read the book in my Bible. He had such great insights into the answer to the questions above that I decided just had to share them with you!

A little background: God had revealed He would allow the evil nation of Babylon to bring judgment on His chosen people Israel. The book of Habakkuk records the conversation Habakkuk had with God about suffering and justice. If I tried to paraphrase I couldn't do it justice, so the "dark redprint is quoted directly from Dr. Crabb. He says God's message to us in the book of Habakkuk is basically this: "Never ignore your struggle with how I do things. Ask every question that rises in your heart as you live in this world. But prepare yourself to struggle even more with My response. You must stumble in confusion before you dance with joy."

Well, I think I have the "stumble in confusion" part down, how about you? 

But seriously, isn't it a relief to know that it's ok to struggle wondering why God allows bad things to happen; that it's ok to ask questions? Isn't that good news, since that's what we often do? Yet Dr. Crabb also warns that we should "never let your struggle with how ... [God] operates keep you from waiting for Him to deliver what He promised." I think that's where we fall short. So often life gets hard, we don't understand why and we either:

      -  Believe the lie that God isn't good;
      -  Conclude God doesn't exist at all; or    
      -  Decide to take matters into our own hands.

None of these are good options. It's only as we become mature in our relationship with God and become certain of His character that we are able to trust Him and wait, in faith, in that difficult place between confusion and understanding. 
How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? ~ Habakkuk 1:2

"God allowed Habakkuk to continue in the mystery of His silence until he was worn out. Only when false hope is abandoned will God’s strange but true hope be embraced." I think Rich Mullins said it clearly in his song "Hard to Get" when he said: "I can't see where You're leading me unless You've led me here, to where I'm lost enough to let myself be led." Unfortunately it's often not until we run out of options that we will turn to God and seek His direction.

"Nothing catches God off guard.  Nothing has ever happened or ever will happen that He is not using for His purposes" If it doesn't fit with God's plan, He doesn't allow it to happen. "What God allows seems to contradict His holy and pure character. He requires us to live in the tension between the evil that prospers…and His plan to restore the beauty of His character in this world. It is that tension that shifted Habakkuk’s focus away from frustration with what he saw in the world towards the mystery of how God executes His plan.

I will look to see what He will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint. ~ Habakkuk 2:1

"People respond in one of two ways to God’s requirement to wait. Either they refuse to wait and instead try to manage life according to their desires; or they live by faith in God’s character, confessing their own selfish ways and yielding to His plan and His timetable.  Those who live by faith will struggle in ways that those who live to make their lives work will never know. It is that struggle, to believe despite desperate pain and confusion that a good plan is unfolding, that will open your eyes to see God more clearly."

This vision (message) is a witness pointing to what’s coming. It aches for the coming—it can hardly wait! And it doesn’t lie. If it seems slow in coming, wait. It’s on its way. It will come right on time. ~ Habakkuk 2:3 (MSG)

"The price to see God more clearly is this: you will tremble in agony as you live in a sinful, self-prioritizing world as a sinful, self-prioritizing person, knowing that no sin will go unpunished even though, for a time, God will appear to be doing nothing."

I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; 
decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. 
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us. ~ Habakkuk 3:16  

"You will learn to wait in emptiness and frustrated desire for God’s plan of love to reveal itself." 

"Though my marriage tree may not bud and though my crop of children may fail and my work produce little yield, though there is no money in the bank and no dream left in the heart, though others may choose different ways to live their one life, till my last heaving breath, I will fight to the death for this: "I will take joy." ~ Paraphrase of Habakkuk 3:17-18 by Ann Voskamp in her book, One Thousand Gifts.

With confidence in God and hope in His plan, you will not only feel the pain of living in the valley but also see His glory from the mountaintop of faith. Only those who struggle in confusion and wait in hope will be strengthened to struggle well and to wait with confidence 

"yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights." ~ Habakkuk 3:18-19  

Why does God allow bad things to happen?

- God gave us freedom to choose, and each of us have chosen to sin; to do those things God has said are not right or good. We live in a fallen world because it is made up of fallen people. 

- God's thoughts are not our thoughts; neither are His ways our ways.  Let's be honest - we want an easy life. We want to have things our way, but that's not going to happen before we get to heaven. And things will only be our way in heaven because we will no longer choose sin; we will choose to do things God's way.        


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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 5 comments

Tips for Tuesday

In between my 3 weeks in Kenya and a week of R&R at a cottage full of ladies, I was very excited to find a "Red Hot Faith" Bible study set waiting for me amidst the mountain of mail that had accumulated while we were gone. (And yes, after opening up cards from a couple of close friends, I went for the package first!)

I consider myself blessed to have spent the past week with a group of ladies who were up for an impromptu Bible study, the majority of whom actually brought their Bibles with them on vacation. (Imagine that!) It "just so happened" that we were at the cottage for 8 days (Sunday to Sunday) and Red Hot Faith is comprised of 8 lessons, so we were able to go through the entire study during our week away.

Red Hot Faith is a Bible study written and taught by my friend Cindy Bultema, so I can tell you first-hand that she not only writes about Red Hot Faith; she lives it! She's as passionate, warm and fun-loving in real life as she is on the screen. I actually had the privelege of being present for some of the tapings, so you may or may not catch a glimpse of me (or the back of my head) when you watch! 

The Red Hot Faith set is comprised of 2 DVD's, a Leader's Guide and a Participant's Guide. While I've done many studies where the DVD didn't really add to the study, this is NOT one of them. Cindy's teachings are simple enough to be understood by non-believers yet have the depth that more seasoned students of the Bible crave. If you attempt to do this study without the DVD, you're going to be missing out on some amazing content!

I have to be honest and say that I rarely even look at Leader's Guides because I so seldom find them to be of any help. Again, with Red Hot Faith this is not the case! I was pleasantly surprised to find The Leader's Guide full of helpful information, from "How to create a Red Hot Faith group" to great ideas for a "Red Hot Fiesta" to wrap up your time together. My favorite feature is the format recommendations for 60- 90- and 120-minute groups, as well as suggestions for activities based on the format you've chosen. "Red Hot Tips" and ideas to "Spice it Up" are sprinkled liberally throughout the Leader's Guide as well. 

Since I didn't have Participant's Guides for my unsuspecting test group, we just went through the discussion questions located after the note taking sections of each chapter. I found the majority of the questions sparked some great discussion, and since we didn't have any time constraints (other than our nightly domino game that followed) I let the discussion go wherever it went.

You can order your copy of Red Hot Faith here, and I would definitely recommend purchasing the set, which is currently being offered at a special price. At the current time, a discount on participant's guides is also available when you purchase 5 or more.


Disclaimer: I was given the Red Hot Faith set in exchange for a review, but all comments are strictly my own.

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