Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 1 comments

I was recently asked, "What was the best and the worst thing that has happened to you this year?" The first thing that came into my mind as the best thing that happened was when God "blessed my socks off" (see Aug 30 posting.) It was so unexpected and so above and beyond my imagination; it was so God!

God tells us in Scripture that we are to remember all the things He has done for us, probably because we're so prone to forget. At the end of Joshua 3, Israel was called to cross the Jordan river, which happened to be at flood stage at the time. When the priests leading the procession took a step of faith (literally) into the deep waters, the water was held back before and behind them so they could cross on dry ground.

"When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the LORD said to Joshua, "Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan from right where the priests stood and to carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight" serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, `What do these stones mean?' tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever." ~ Joshua 4:1-3, 6-7

What was the best thing that has happened to you this year? What kind of reminder can you give yourself so that you don't forget and can tell others what God has done for you? I write things down. In fact, I write all the "cool God stuff" in my journal in a different color ink so that when I need encouragement those blessings just jump out at me. Not a writer? Perhaps you could have a photo or small item to remind you of an event. Then, when someone looks at it, you can say, "Let me tell you the God story behind that..."

I really haven't come up with an answer to the question, "What is the worst thing that happened?" I think that is a good thing because it means:
A) Nothing tremendously negative has happened, and
B) I'm becoming more focused on the positive than on the negative.

In Philippians 3, Paul shared his desire to live a life totally focused on Christ. Though he continued to fall short, he kept persuing it. "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." ~ Philippians 3:12-14.

New Year's is traditionally a time of looking back and looking ahead. I think it's a good idea to stop every now and then and examine our lives. Scripture tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:15 that "God will call the past to account." Yes, it's good (and necessary) to look back and assess our shortcomings so that we can ask for forgiveness and make the necessary changes in our lives, but once we've done that we need to follow Paul's example by leaving our past in the past and focusing on what is ahead.

Where is God calling you to take a step of faith this year? What are you going to do to become more like Christ? Write it down, look at it often, and celebrate what God is doing in your life!

Lord, yesterday You called Bob and I to take a step of faith; to commit to something that, practically speaking, doesn't look like something we can do. Today something happened to make it seem even more impossible. Father, help us to be obedient regardless of how things look to us. Help us to take that step of faith so that we can look back and be amazed at your provision! Thank you for always equipping us for what you've called us to do. With all my love and devotion, Lisa.
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“I’m sure he must have been surprised at where this road had taken him
Cause never in a million lives would he have dreamed of Bethlehem
And standing at the manger he saw with his own eyes
The message from the angel come to life

And Joseph said:
Why me, I’m just a simple man of trade?
Why Him with all the rulers in the world?
Why here inside this stable filled with hay?
Why her, she’s just an ordinary girl?
Now I’m not one to second guess what angels have to say, but this is such a strange way to save the World.”

“A Strange Way to Save the World” by 4Him is one of my favorite Christmas songs. Maybe it’s because I can relate to Joseph and his confusion so much. Let’s face it; God does a lot of things that just don’t make sense to us.

He Himself said as much in Isaiah chapter 55:8-9:
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Joseph had to be puzzled by what was going on and the part he played in it, but he is an example to us because of his obedience despite his lack of understanding. Most of the time, God doesn’t ask us to understand; He asks us to obey.

“Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, "Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, "Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.” ~ Deuteronomy 30:11-14

It’s easy to use our perceived lack of qualifications as an excuse to ignore God’s call. I’m sure Joseph and Mary both felt totally unqualified to be raising God’s Son. I know I feel totally unqualified to do most of the things God calls me to do. Honestly, that’s because I am unqualified to do most of the things God calls me to, at least in my eyes and in the eyes of the world. But perhaps God calls me to do these things because I look unqualified. That way there’s no mistaking Who is making it happen and Who should get the credit.

Today I read this from Oswald Chambers: “We talk as if living a sanctified life were the most uncertain and insecure thing we could do. Yet is the most secure thing possible, because it has Almighty God in and behind it. The most dangerous and unsure thing is to try to live without God.”

As usual, we have it backwards. We’re afraid to go to the unfamiliar where God is calling us and feel perfectly safe trying to figure things out for ourselves. Yet the only true safety comes from our obedience.

Father, I thank you for all the examples you give us of the blessings that come from obedience and the consequences that stem from disobedience. Most of all, I thank you for the gift of your Son Jesus, who not only led an exemplary life for us to follow, but gave us something we could never achieve on our own: salvation and an eternity with you. Help me to step out in faith, follow Jesus’ example and be more like Him. Happy Birthday Jesus! Love, Lisa

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Sometimes it takes seeing what we have through someone else’s eyes to really appreciate it. Take snow, for example. I don’t hate it, but I can’t say I love it either; it’s just there when it’s cold (which is perhaps why I don’t love it.)

Born and raised in Michigan, it’s hard for me to imagine what it would be like to have never experienced snow, but today we had the privilege of being with someone seeing snow for the first time.

It’s not often I’ve prayed for snow, except perhaps as a child hoping for a day off school, but I did pray that we would have snow for Naftaly. He is here from Kenya for just a couple days, and I knew that snow was something he wanted to experience firsthand.

When we stepped outside and saw everything covered in a fresh blanket of snow, he didn’t comment on the cold as much as the beauty. Even the trees that “looked dead” without their leaves now looked beautiful.

As a Christian, Naftaly thought of the snow in Scripture:

“Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” Psalms 51:7

"Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;” ~ Isaiah 1:18

Really, what can you think of that is whiter than snow? Personally, I can’t think of anything. Imagine seeing a blanket of snow that is whiter than anything you’ve ever seen before. This is how pure we are when God has forgiven our sins. Thank you, Naftaly, for reminding us of this truth!

Thank you, Lord, for allowing me to live in a place where I can experience the beautiful seasons of Your creation. Thank you for reminding me that in Christ we have a clean slate, and thank you that after every cold winter comes the new beginning of spring. Love, Lisa
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While listing items on eBay in the evening (which is another story entirely), out of habit I often have the television on in the background. Last night I listened to a sitcom that I’d never watched before (and probably won’t again). It featured the dysfunctional family typically found on television these days, with one exception: this family attended church. The mother has been a part of the church choir for seventeen years, and for seventeen years the same woman had sung the lead in the Christmas Eve service. This year the woman was unable to sing, giving the mother a chance at the part she’s always wanted. The dilemma was she couldn’t put the extra time into choir practice when there were so many preparations to be made for Christmas.

Enter the typical, inept father. Not working for the holidays, he offered to take care of ALL the Christmas preparations so his wife could focus on her singing. Of course, every time he completed a task, she would say, “I can’t believe you did that without me! That was my favorite part!” Each time, this was followed by a flashback of her begrudgingly doing the task and complaining about her family’s lack of participation. Oh, how our minds like to improve on the past! I wonder if that’s what Lot’s wife did. She was told to leave Sodom and begrudgingly did, but she “looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” (Genesis 19:26) Rather than focusing on the blessings of that moment, she looked back to mourn what she had left behind. I’m sure her memories, too, were far better than the reality they represented.

The show concluded at the Christmas Eve service. The choir stood in the front of the church, dressed in their choir robes, and the mother kept shooing people out of the front row seats that she was saving for her family. Back at home, the father had just woken up after dozing in front of the TV and was frantically trying to get the family into the car so they could get to church. They arrived just as the mother was starting her solo. She was singing the words to the Christmas song while simultaneously shooting daggers at her disheveled family as they attempted to sneak into the back row.

Again, rather than focusing on the blessings of that moment they were lost because her focus was elsewhere. This mother had waited seventeen years for this solo, and yet she did not enjoy it because she was instead focused on what wasn’t going her way. How often do we do that? We physically go through the motions while our heart is elsewhere.

"And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?" (Deuteronomy 10:12-13)

God doesn't want us just going through the motions, He wants us to serve Him with all our heart.

Father, during this busy Christmas season, help me to keep my focus where it should be - on You and on the precious gift of Your Son. I want to have an undivided heart so that I may serve You fully and in a way pleasing to You. Your Daughter, Lisa
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"I'm thankful that God doesn't always give me what I want, but always gives me what He knows I need. Given the opportunity, I'd choose the easy route every time and God knows this. Twelve years ago I began having pain so incredible I couldn't imagine living through it. A doctor at the pain clinic told me I'd be fortunate if I could become functional. I'm still dealing with the remnants of pain and the effects of a closed-head injury nine years ago. People have told me if I'd claim healing, I'd have it, which really makes me angry because a) I must be "doing it wrong" and b) they're discounting the very thing that God has used to form me more into the image of His Son. Without the suffering I've been through, I'd be running around, crazy-busy and concerned for only myself. Instead, I'm teaching Bible study for 100+ women and getting ready for our fourth trip to Kenya. Who but God would choose someone with physical limitations and memory issues to represent Him in a country half-way around the world? I even memorized the entire book of James this summer - me, who can leave a seminar and not be able to tell you one thing said without looking at my notes! There's no way I'd want to go through what I did again, but I'm thankful that God didn't let me take the easy way out. I wouldn't trade my life now for anything. The benefits of walking with the Lord outweighs everything it took to get me here."

A pastor preparing his Thanksgiving sermon asked what people were thankful for and above is my reply. Though I did not ask for any respose, when I posted it I felt that someone would respond to it. For some reason I thought it would be a positive response, but I was mistaken. Sure enough, I did receive an unsolicited response, which in a nutshell said a) I'm "doing it wrong" and b) discounted the very thing that God has used to form me more into the image of His Son. I guess I should've seen it coming. I think this must be what it feels like to get beat over the head with a Bible. I can't say I like it much. In fact, it makes me angry. People are healed according to God's will and timing, not man's. Anything said to the contrary is a lie and very hurtful to those in the midst of suffering, which is why I decided to address some of the statements made. (These statements are in italics.)

First, I was challenged to "find any place in the New Testament where Jesus said, "No, I'm not going to heal you." Lazarus comes to mind. While his sisters wanted Jesus to come right away and heal him, Jesus deliberately stayed away until Lazarus was dead. Jesus did not heal Lazarus in the manner his sisters desired, but allowed him to die so that people might believe (John 11:14-15). Jesus was often surrounded by crowds of people wanting to be healed, and there are many, many examples of Jesus healing, but I don't think Scriputure says Jesus always healed everyone. Luke 5:15-16 says, "Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." (Matthew 4:24-5:1 and Mark 3:10-13 tell similar stories.) Jesus did not stay until everyone left satisfied. Time with the Father was a priority in Jesus' life and He didn't let people's expectations take away from their fellowhip.

It was pointed out that Isaiah 53:5 says "by his (Jesus') wounds we are healed." Do I believe God can heal? Absolutely! Do I believe He heals everyone who asks for it in the way they think it should be? No. I believe God always does what is best for us, but we don't always know what that is; we just think we do.

I was reminded that I myself quote Jeremiah 29:11, where God says that His plans are "not to harm you," and then was told, "The God I serve would never, ever use bad to have good...he don't [sic] need to." While I'm certain that He doesn't "need to," I think there are many times in Scripture when God does "use bad to have good," starting one verse back with Jeremiah 29:10. "When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place." Yes, God had great plans for the Israelite's future, but first they would have to endure seventy years of hardship as captives in Babylon.

Romans 8:28 says, "we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him." I think this verse says that God does indeed use bad to bring good, and I find that to be very comforting. In God's great economy, nothing is wasted. Knowing that God will bring good out of each and every situation is what keeps me going every day. Who would want to suffer for nothing?

I was asked, "If you say God made you sick or allowed can you believe Him to get you well?" My answer: He did it with Job. My question is, "If God did not cause it or allow it, who do you think is in control?" Job was blameless (Job 1:1) and yet God allowed satan to test him and set the parameters for that testing (Job 1:8-12, 2:3-6). Job stood firm in his faith and ultimately was healed (Job 42:10-17). In fact, God rebuked Job's so-called "friends" who told him he was "doing it wrong." "I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has" (Job 42:7).

I was told, "your healing is according to your faith," and while Jesus often says, "your faith has healed you," I do not believe faith is a prerequisite to healing, although I do believe lack of faith can be an obstacle. There is no mention of the faith of the invalid healed at Bethesda (John 5:1-9); he didn't even say he wanted to be healed!

God does not promise that we will be happy or healthy, His goal is to make us holy. While I'll never reach perfection this side of glory, I'm a lot closer than I would have been, had I been left to my own devices.

Yahweh Rophe, the Lord who heals, thank you for the healing you'ver brought to my life. Thank you for not letting me take the easy way out, but instead doing what You knew would be best for me. I hope I grow up to be just like you. Love, Lisa

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Thanksgiving should be a way of life, not something relegated to just one day a year. By giving thanks every day and remembering even the little the things God has done for us, we realize just how much we have to be thankful for.

"And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. He said to the Israelites, "In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, `What do these stones mean?' tell them, `Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.' For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over...He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God." ~ Joshua 4:20-24

We had a great Thanksgiving service at Corinth, and in it we were asked some very thought-provoking questions, which I wanted to take the time to answer.

"How has God been your Rock?": I like order and routine. I mean, I REALLY like it, but lately I've been surrounded by a lot of chaos. I used to descend into a panic as I tried to figure out how to fix everything, but God has reminded me that He is the One in control of everything and He will take care of whatever needs taking care of. It's amazing the peace I feel while in the very circumstances that used to cause me to panic. No God, no peace. Know God, know peace. "The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." ~ Philippians 4:7

"How has the Truth brought hope and encouragement?": I'm falling more and more in love with Scripture every day. No matter what the topic, I always find Scripture that addresses it perfectly. More and more I find myself thinking, "Wow! I didn't know that was in there!" "You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry." ~ Psalm 10:17

"How has God brought comfort to your heart?": In the past, when a situation came up, I'd try to think up all possible scenarios and pray specifically for them. Not that God ever seemed to choose one of my solutions, but I wanted to keep my bases covered. We're in a situation now that we don't want to be in, but it's totally out of our control. I have know idea how this is supposed to work out, if it's supposed to work out, but I've come to realize that I don't need to have all the answers (or even the right questions). Rather than pray over random scenarios that I come up with, I've learned to pray blessings for those involved. When God answers those prayers, that those involved would live a life of love (Gal 5:25), love justice (Ps 11:7), be merciful (Lk 6:36), show respect (1 Pet 2:17), etc, the situation will be resolved. That keeps my focus on God rather than all the things that "might happen." "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things...And the God of peace will be with you." ~ Philippians 4:8-9

"How has God brought answers to your prayers this year?": He continues to open my eyes to see how He is working in my life, answering not only the "big" prayers, but the small ones as well. "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" ~ Matthew 6:26

"How has God brought light (direction, wisdom and insight)?": The greatest blessings this year have come from memorizing Scripture. The fact that I could even do this amazes me - because of a closed head injury, my short-term memory is often nil. Yet I felt God calling me to memorize the book of James and I did. It meant months of nothing but James, but I did it! I'd be going over a verse for the twentieth, fiftieth, or even the hundredth time, and suddenly I'd have a new understanding of it, or a situation would arise and just the right verse would come to mind. I found I could be preparing to teach anytime and anywhere because I was always carrying the Scripture with me. If I can do it, anyone can! "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16-17

"How has God enabled you to persevere?": God has always spoken to me through Jeremiah 29:11-14. "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 with all your heart. I will be found by you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back from captivity." However, it was many years before he brought verse 10 to my attention: "When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place." God has great plans for me, but I have some unpleasant things to go through first. Just knowing there is an end to the trials and that the One who is in control has a plan enables me to keep going.
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"I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil--this is the gift of God." ~ Ecclesiastes 3:12

I don't remember there being a time growing up when the TV wasn't on. While I've cut back considerably, I do like watching a good show on those occasions when I want to "check out" for a while. One of my favorite shows is Monk. Maybe it's because I've liked detective stories since those childhood Saturdays curled up in my bedroom with a volume of Nancy Drew, or maybe it's because I could very easily be Monk; I definitely share his love for details, order and routine.

Adrian Monk worked as a detective with the San Francisco Police Force until he suffered a breakdown following the murder of his wife, Trudy. For the last eight seasons, obsessive-compulsive Monk has been recovering from his trauma, overcoming his fears, and working with the force as a consultant. His greatest desire, next to finding Trudy's killer, was to have his badge returned and be reinstated to the police force. This desire became reality in this week's episode. While initially happy to be back on the force, Monk found himself encumbered by all the rules and regulations he now had to follow. While discussing his frustration with his long-time assistant Natalie, he realizes receiving his badge back did not make him happy. In fact, it was just the opposite.

Monk said, "I was happy before! Why didn't you tell me I was happy?"

Isn't that just like us? We decide what we want and chase after it, only to learn we were actually better off before. Then, rather than taking responsibility for our own actions, we look around for someone else to blame.

Why is it that we, with our limited understanding, think we have to figure things out for ourselves? Why do we think we're capable of figuring things out for ourselves?

"I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea." ~ Isaiah 48:17-18

Lord, forgive me for all the time I've wasted chasing after what I thought I wanted rather than looking to You to guide me in the way I should go. I want to follow Your ways and be filled with Your peace. Help me to set aside my own futile plans and learn from You what is best for me. Love, Lisa
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I confess, I am technologically challenged. To be more accurate, I have poor short-term memory and not enough time (or patience) to learn the same things over and over again.

Technology was not my friend this morning. When we began the Journey Bible Study, there were two of us in charge of the program; one would teach and the other ran around doing everything else. Now in the mornings there's one, me, so even though I was getting ready to teach, I needed to make sure everything else happened as well. I know I can't do it all on my own and, thankfully, God has brought women in who can take the responsibilities in one area or another.

Today, however, the person running the sound board couldn't come in. I was quite impressed that I was able to get a CD to play, especially since I couldn't figure it out just last week. However, I forgot some of the details, or maybe I just didn't have enough time to think of them. First there's the clicker. I'm pretty sure that's not the technical name for it, but it's the thing you click to move from one Power Point screen to the next. The music was starting and I was tearing around the sound booth looking for the clicker. When I finally found it (right in front of my face), I couldn't get it to work. By this time, the ladies were waiting for the words to appear on the screen so they could start singing.

I went with plan B, which is quite remarkable because the old Lisa would've been hung up trying to get plan A to work. Plan B was to use the computer keyboard to manually change each slide. Not a problem, except that I needed the clicker when I stared teaching, which would be immediately after worship. My first thought was to change the batteries. The warning light came on the power pack for the wireless mike, so I needed to change those as well. Keep in mind I'm teathered to the computer, so the only time I could run and look for batteries (two different sizes, of course) was in between hitting the key on the computer to advance the screen, which needed to be done every fifteen seconds or so. Plenty of time!

Hit the key; run to get batteries. Hit the key; figure out how to open the battery compartment. Hit the key; get the batteries out. Hit the key; get the new batteries in. While I sucessfully changed the batteries in the microphone, the clicker still didn't work, even with new batteries. I kept trying to get it to work, between hitting the key and putting the microphone on. No luck.
By the providence of God, this week I had a song I to play immediately after worship and before my teaching. That gave me just over two minutes to figure this out, and now I had someone to help me. "Where's the other piece to this clicker?" she asked. "I didn't know there was another piece," I answered. Obviously I needed help.
Back to plan B (or would that be C?) She would advance the power point while I taught. Not an easy task since there was not an outline for her to follow and she had no idea what I was going to say next. I'm not sure if I was trying to keep up with her or she was trying to keep up with me or both. This was the first time I taught without advancing the Power Point myself, another thing that normally would have thrown me, but miraculously didn't.
Then, while I was teaching, someone in the back row caught my eye. (In school, wasn't it always the kids in the back row causing all the problems?) I could see her mouthing something to me, but, since I was trying to decipher her message and teach at the same time, I wasn't having any success. Finally, I just stopped and asked. Again, this normally would have been enough to thoroughly fluster me, but I picked up where I left off just fine.
On a day like today, the "old Lisa" would have been "freaking out" (to use someone else's terminology.) But today, I just rolled with the punches like it was nothing. That is God in action!
"If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" 2 Corinthians 5:17
Lord, thank you for giving me the opportunity to see the work you've been doing in me. Thank you for refusing to leave me where I was and stretching me into who I am now. You are AWESOME! Love, Lisa
Sidenote: The clicker worked fine once one of the batteries was turned right side up (imagine that!) Oh well, I would've never figured out the missing piece thing anyway. :)
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"Bless your socks off" - to receive blessings from God in such a quantity and with such force as to cause the coverings to fly off one's feet.

OK, this definition did not come from Websters; I made it up. But it's the best way I can describe my experience this weekend - God blessed my socks off!

"Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." Exodus 3:5

Moses, get ready. God's going to bless your socks off!

God blessed my socks off! Perhaps part of the blessing was that I didn't see it coming. We organized a retreat for our small group leaders, and one of the women knew someone with a cottage on a lake who would allow us to use it for the weekend. Just having a place where we could hold this retreat was a blessing. The place God provided for us was AMAZING!

The cottage was not a cottage at all (perhaps, in my limited mental capacity, that term was all I could comprehend). It definitely wasn't something you would ever find in The Parade of Homes. Nope. The Lodge, as it is called, would be better suited on "The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous." Except you would never see it there because the owners just aren't that kind of people. I don't even know who they are.

I'm sure our eyes grew bigger as we approached the Lodge. Because the caretaker met us there, we showed as much decorum as we could muster up. But once he finished our tour and left, we could no longer contain ourselves and started jumping up and down and screaming. Literally. Not something I normally do, but then nothing about this experience was normal.

I knew the Lodge had twelve bedrooms, but my mind couldn't fathom the SIZE of this place, and my words cannot describe it. I wonder if John felt this way as he was writing down his vision of Heaven in the book of Revelation?

I was one up on John - I had a camera. I will admit, I took a picture of every room. I thought the pictures would express what my words couldn't. A picture is worth a thousand words, right? If that is true, I needed it to be worth a million. As soon as I got home I loaded the pictures on the computer to show my husband and realized how far they fell short of the reality of this place. So even if John had illustrated the book of Revelation, we still would have only a sliver of the reality of what Heaven is.

I even took a picture of the refrigerator-sized freezer, open and full of a half-gallon of every possible flavor of Hudsonville icecream - all there for us to enjoy. (I called the woman who was going to pick up a half-gallon of vanilla on the way over and told her, "never mind".)

I wonder how often I do that - settle for vanilla when God wants to give me a smorgasbord of the best? Scripture says in Ephesians 3:20 that God "is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine." After this weekend, I have a better understanding of what that means. It wasn't just the house (or the icecream), it was that God was there. He was lavishing His love on us. He was speaking to us. We were listening and we were blessed.

"In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you." John 14:2 KJV

I could have never imagined a person like me staying in a place like this. In a way that is only possible in God's kingdom, this experience reminded me of my time in Africa. The houses were different - a mansion vs. dirt floors and mud walls, but the hearts were the same. In both places I was offered the use of everything they had.

It IS a small world after all.

Daddy, words cannot express how much this weekend meant to me. I feel so loved and cherished. The best part was that I got to be with you. I can't wait for Heaven! Thanks for knowing my heart and allowing me to skip the decorum and just jump up and down and scream when I get there. Love, Lisa
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I am having a terrific day, just bursting with joy and excitement! I've really been making an effort to give thanks to God for blessings big and small, especially since I'm so quick to petition Him with needs. I want to be like the one leper who returned to give thanks, not the nine who took the blessing and walked away (Luke 17:12-19).

Our "nest" is pretty much empty, with the exception of random sightings of our youngest son whose belongings still live here, but last night my daughter stayed over. Since she doesn't live here any more, any time we can spend together is a treat. We spent the morning just doing everyday things, made special by the fact that we were doing them together.

We knew her boyfriend was joining us for lunch, and just as we were getting ready to eat, my son made one of his random appearances, happening on a great meal rather than his usual bowl of cereal. Just having us all in one place is a rare occurance and reason for celebration. We spent the afternoon together playing a game and enjoying each other's company.

The highlight of the afternoon came when we learned that there will be a wedding next summer, the first in our family! I'm so thankful that my daughter will be married to a young man with such a passion for serving the Lord!

Little did I know, the blessings would keep on coming! My daughter was barely on her way out the door when I got a call from a reporter from the Grand Rapids Press, wanting to do a story on a quilt I recently finished. I've spent the last three years working on a quilt made of neckties, some of which come from well-known pastors. I plan on auctioning it off on ebay September 8-15 with the proceeds going to a remote village in Kenya that my husband and I have worked in.

All the advertising for this auction has been by word-of-mouth, so having this published in the Press will be a huge boost. I also sent letters to everyone who donated a tie, showing them the finished product and giving them the auction date. I received a couple replies from people telling me they're sharing the information and praying for the success of the auction.

One of the calls came from one of my favorite people in the world, an eighty-something missionary from California that acts half his age - if that! He called me with a blessing from Deuteronomy 28:12:

"The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of His bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands."

I definitely feel the Grand Rapids press article (due out August 29) is the result of his prayer. I looked up this verse and found the chapter starts out by saying:

"If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all His commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All theses blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:"

Following these introductory verses is an encouraging list of all the blessings the Lord wants to give us. The tone of the chapter changes in verse 15, though, when it says,

"However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all His commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you:" followed by over fifty verses describing the fate of the disobedient.

"This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him. For the Lord is your life..." Deuteronomy 30:19-20

God asks us for a lot- total devotion and obedience - but I find my life simplifying as I give things over to Him. As I let go of things (or as He pries my fingers away) I find that those things pale in comparrison to what God wants to give me. We all have a choice. Choose life in Christ, you'll never regret it, and remember to give Him thanks for all He has done!

Father, I thank you for the many ways You've blessed me, both big and small. Help me to notice all you do for me so that I may never fail to give you thanks. Love, Lisa
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I saw the beginning of a movie called "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" last night. It appeared to be an action/adventure movie (think Indiana Jones) and featured the oddest conglomeration of characters I've ever seen assembled: Alan Quatermain, Dorian Gray, Tom Sawyer, Captain Nemo, Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde, and an Invisible Man, among others.

The character of the Invisible Man got me thinking about feeling invisible. Have you ever felt that way, like you're flying under everyone's radar? Have you ever felt like no one listens to what you have to say until someone else says it? Have you worked hard with barely an acknowledgement that you're doing anything? Perhaps your hard work doesn't leave any visible results. You clean the house, do the laundry and cook the meals, only to get up the next morning and clean the house, do the laundry, and cook the meals. Have you ever felt trapped in a never-ending cycle that seems to be leading nowhere?

Our society tells us that if we don't have anything to show for our efforts, we must not be doing anything. Our human nature tells us to take matters into our own hands - to let others know that we are doing something. We want to tell everyone exactly what that something is and why it matters.

I'm reading a book by John Bevere called "The Bait of Satan." The introduction begins by saying, "Anyone who has trapped animals knows a trap needs one of two things to be successful. It must be hidden, in the hope that an animal will stumble upon it, and it must be baited to lure the animal into the trap's deadly jaws. Satan, the enemy of our souls, incorporates both of these strategies as he lays out his most deceptive and deadly traps. They are both hidden and baited."

He goes on to say, "One of [Satan's] most deceptive and insidious kinds of bait is something that [everyone] has encountered - offense. Actually, offense itself is not deadly - if it stays in the trap. But if we pick it up and consume it and feed on it in our hearts, then we have become offended. Offended people produce much fruit, such as hurt, anger, outrage, jealousy, resentment, strife, bitterness, hatred, and envy."

What I've read in this book so far has been very eye-opening. It had never occurred to me that being offended is a choice, but now that I am aware of this, I see the opportunity presenting itself with great frequency. I think recognizing this is a good thing. Now I can see the bait for what it is and choose not to pick it up and be offended. However, I'm also seeing areas in my life where I have picked it up. One of these areas is where I'm feeling "invisible." I've taken offense to my efforts going unacknowledged. Sometimes this offense is directed at an individual or group, but sometimes I think it's directed at the world in general. Like that makes sense, being offended by the world! What was even more shocking to me was the realization that I was ultimately offended by God for allowing these circumstances I find myself in.

We only need to look at Scripture to see life doesn't take us directly from where we are to where we want to be. God gave Joseph dreams of his family bowing down to him, but he didn't expect to be abused, wrongly accused and imprisoned before ruling over them and all of Egypt. God told Abraham he'd be the father of many nations, but Abraham couldn't have imagined that at age 75, he'd wait another 25 years before the birth of his only child, and then later be asked to sacrifice him. God anointed David as King of Israel, but I'm sure he never dreamed he'd be fleeing for his life before ascending to the throne.

What's striking about these men is that they didn't take matters into their own hands, and they didn't blame God. They continued to believe Him even when His promises didn't make any sense. Joseph even said to the brothers who abused him, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good." (Genesis 50:20)

The lives of these men help me to make sense of my own life. I did hear God's promise to me correctly; He will make it happen, and all the events that seem to be heading in the wrong direction are all part of His perfect plan.

Yesterday someone said something to me, and for a moment I didn't feel invisible. They said they spoke to me because I "happened" to be in the right place at the right time, but I know better. God was sending a message to me, as I'm sure He did to Joseph, Abraham, David, and so many others who've strived to follow Him. He was saying, "I'm here and I'm in control."

Really, what more do I need to know?
Father, forgive me for the times when I've doubted you. Forgive me for wanting things to go my way and taking offense at what is part of your perfect plan. Open my eyes to offense and help me to refrain from taking the bait. Thank you for making it possible to avoid this trap.
Photo: The Invisible Man by DagsDownunder/all rights reserved
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It was January, and we were using frequent flyer miles for the first time, escaping frigid Michigan to take a much needed break in sunny California. While checking in at the airport, we discovered that Bob's driver's license had expired. Thankfully, they let us on the plane, though he was "marked" and had to be checked by security at every checkpoint (which I probably enjoyed watching a bit too much!)

How can one be so negligent as to let their driver's license expire? We send those things in as soon as we get them, so how did this happen? (Translation: How could Bob be so negligent as to let this happen?) I have to admit that my reaction was less than stellar. Maybe it was my vacation passing away before my eyes, but still, that's no excuse. After all, I was the one who insisted we didn't need our passports, but that our driver's licenses would be adequate ID.

Fast forward to July. I wrote my first check in a long time, and I was told MY driver's license had expired. (Beware all you Michigan residents - I don't think they send out reminders anymore.) At this point, a plethora of Scripture verses were assaulting my brain:

"You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things." Romans 2:1

I did do exactly the same thing, given time.

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?" Matthew 7:3

I seem to be quite good at that, unfortunately.

"Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." James 1:19

I'm memorizing the book of James right now, and I have to say that committing Scripture to memory gives you a whole new perspective. It's like God holding a mirror up and saying, "You are who I'm talking about here!" It's easy to miss those messages just reading through Scripture once. Especially when it's a message I don't particularly want to hear.

Today I start memorizing James chapter 3. I see a lot more verses on the tongue coming my way, and a lot more messages for me, I'm sure!

Dear Father, Thank you for the infinite patience You show to me. Forgive me for the times I don't show that patience to others. Thank you for loving me enough to correct me when I'm wrong. Help me to accept your correction and become more like You. I love You so much!


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My Utmost for His Highest devotional mentioned "God's Surgical Procedures," which were defined as "His use of external circumstances to bring about internal purification." This got me thinking about surgery on the physical body.

When we undergo surgery it's a planned procedure, whether it's physical or spiritual. The only question is, "Who's doing the planning?" I'm the one to plan a physical surgery. It may not be something I want to experience, but I get to decide whether or not to undergo it and when. On the other hand, God is the one who plans any spiritual surgery, and it occurs when I need it. Quite often, I don't even see it coming, and I'm usually not given any choice in the matter. (Although, to be honest, God's surgical procedures in my life have mainly taken place only after I've failed to respond to His promptings to make necessary changes in my life.)

"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." ~ Hebrews 12:11
Surgery is painful. At least with physical surgery, we're numbed and unconscious. If you've had surgery on your body, you know how it feels when the pain meds wear off. Imagine what it would feel like if you were alert when you went under the knife! I've never received anesthesia for spiritual "surgery", though I admit asking for it on several occasions. It's painful to be opened up and have something I've grown attached to removed from my life, but it's necessary if I'm going to be less like a sinful human and more like my sinless Father.

Surgery has its benefits. If all goes as planned (which it always does with God), we're better off for it. As God removes impurities from my life, He replaces them with things far more beneficial. He removes fear and replaces it with trust in Him. He removes anxiety and replaces it with peace. He removes animosity and replaces it with love. He removes sorrow and replaces it with joy, and so on...

Successful surgery requires cooperation. Recovery is much swifter when we follow the surgeon's instructions. Our "shortcuts" tend to extend the process rather than get us through it more quickly, and repeating previous behaviors often erases any benefits we may have received.

I've learned to trust my Surgeon, knowing that after all is said and done, it will be so worth it. God wants to give me more than I could ever ask or imagine. I just need to be willing to allow Him to do His work in my life, rather than hinder it.

Father, I thank you for performing surgery in my life, especially in those times when I don't want it or think I need it. Thank you for your faithfulness. Your joy and peace has more than made up for any pain I've experienced. I love you!
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I would have never guessed I'd be writing a blog, but then again, since beginning my adventure with God, I've done a lot of things I could've never imagined!

Why the name "True Hope and a Future"?

I was trying to come up with a name that would be intriguing to Christians and non-Christians alike, and I think the desire for hope and a future is universal. This comes from the Bible, Jeremiah 29:11-14 ~ "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." (:11)

The Lord first brought this verse to my attention many years ago, while studying Scripture with my children, just before a major period of growth and change in my life. He has truly sustained me with these words. How comforting to know that God has a plan for my life, especially during the times when I feel like I'm in the midst of chaos. I sincerely believe that God wants what's best for me, and I'm so thankful that He knows exactly what that is, because most of the time I have no idea.

"Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you." (:12)

I don't know what's more amazing, the fact that I can approach the one, true God, or the fact that He listens to me. Notice he doesn't say "hear," a word used when perceiving a sound. He uses the word "listen," a word used to show that He's paying attention to what is being said. God cares about what I have to say! It's important to Him because it's important to me! Isn't that amazing? Think of all the people who have no interest whatsoever in what you have to say, then try to wrap your head around the fact that the Creator of the universe listens intently to everything you say. Astounding!

"You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart" (:13)

God has made my heart His home and given me a burning desire to spend time with Him and come to know Him ever more deeply. I seek Him because everything worth having resides in Him, and because I earnestly seek Him, He has allowed me to find Him.

"I will be found by you...and bring you back from captivity." (:14)

I have lived far too much of my life in captivity - captive to fears, captive to emotions, you name it! The good news is, God says it doesn't have to be that way! God, in His grace, has set me free. No matter where we wander, God will always "bring us back" when we seek Him.
I first pondered these words over twelve years ago, and I'm so thankful that God, in His infinite mercy, waited years before bringing verse 10 to my attention. "When seventy years are completed...I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise..." In other words, "I will do these things for you after a long period of discipline." While it didn't last seventy years for me, (thank you Jesus!) it was a very long time. In the process I lost almost everything familiar to me - friends, work, health...but what God has replaced it with is infinitely better than anything I lost. While I don't ever want to go through that again, I wouldn't trade the life I have now for anything!

Father, thank you for choosing me to be one of your children and allowing me to have a relationship with you. Thank you for always listening to me, even when I have no idea of the work you want to accomplish in my life. Thank you for refusing to give me what I wanted, but instead giving me what you knew I needed. I love you so much!

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