Archive | September, 2010

Jesus Loves Me

29 Sep

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son
 into the world that we might live through him. This is love:
not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son
as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends,
since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another,
 God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 
1 John 4:9-12

 

In previous years of experience, after having just moved to a new location … new job, different house, an unfamiliar area, and still undecided on which church to regularly attend, Sundays were usually a difficult day for me.  This past weekend, however, was not that way at all.  Please allow me to take you on a journey  …

When our family lived in the state of Pennsylvania back in the ’90s, I baked homemade cinnamon rolls quite frequently on Sunday mornings.  They were tasty and quick to devour just moments before heading out the door to Sunday School and church.  Knowing that we were driving down to Baltimore to attend church with our daughter and her little family this past Sunday, I was inspired to bake these decadent treats once again and take them with us to share.  With a slight chill in the air as it was raining outside, the sweet aroma of the rolls baking put a warmth in the heart from the memories of when we were much younger with much smaller children…and this put a smile on my face. 

Reminders of ‘home’ greeted us on our hour drive to the Arndts as I received texts from a couple Higher Ground friends, checking on us and sending their love.  Rolls and coffee were enjoyed in the usual fashion, just moments before going to church.  Grace Pointe Community Church of the Nazarene is currently gathering its congregation in a really nice school building as new construction is taking place nearby.  A quick glance in the bulletin advertised Caravans, creating a smile of joy as I imagined my grandchildren earning badges while they learned the Articles of Faith and other core values in this Christian scouting program.  As I stood there in the auditorium sharing in the worship experience with my family, I took notice of the pulpit bearing the Nazarene logo “Holiness Unto the Lord”.  A heart full of gratitude for a prayer answered, knowing that a heritage of holiness upbringing will continue another generation in this Arndt/VanHook home.  The music filled the hall, nothing elaborate with a full orchestra or 50 person choir, but a simple platform of instruments and singers that lifted their talents and hearts in worship as they led us to the Father.  There were songs I didn’t know, but the message of these words spoke to me …

“All that is within me cries.
For You alone be glorified Emmanuel, God with us.
My heart sings a brand new song.
The debt is paid these chains are gone.
Emmanuel, God with us.

Such a tiny offering, compared to Calvary, nevertheless we lay it at your feet.
Such a tiny offering, compared to Calvary, nevertheless we lay this at your feet.”

 

Then there were songs I did know, songs that continued to draw me into His presence …

“Blessed be your name, In the land that is plentiful
Where the streams of abundance flow, Blessed be your name
Blessed be your name, When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness, Blessed be your name

Blessed be your name, When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s all as it should be, Blessed be your name
Blessed be your name, On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering, Blessed be your name

Every blessing you pour out, I turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord, Still I will say…
Blessed be the name of the Lord, Blessed be your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord, Blessed be your glorious name

You give and take away, You give and take away
My heart will choose to say , Lord, Blessed be your name”

Pastor Bolerjack began to relate a story concerning his son who is an avid OU fan and attended the OU vs UC game the night before.  I sat there and had to sort of shake my brain loose and think “Where am I?”  I now live in Pennsylvania, but at this moment am hearing this story in Maryland.  Pastor’s son lives in Oklahoma and attended the game, which was in Cincinnati.  Wow!  A connection … a real BIG connection to our hearts!  I know Tim was anxious to chat with the pastor following the service to tell him that we just left the Cincinnati area and Higher Ground, which is where the University of Cincinnati Bearcats annually hold their pre-season football training camp.  Having just watched the exciting game ourselves, it was quite fun to share this connection with him.  We also inquired of his relationship to R.T. and Pat Bolerjack, who we found out to be his uncle and aunt. More connections were made as we shared of our friendship with them from our days at Nazarene Indian Bible College in Albuquerque. 

Moments before at the end of the sermon, as the piano began to play a very familiar song, my heart was moved to tears. A few months ago while working in the kitchen at Higher Ground and it was an extremely busy and tough day, I suggested to my friend that when we felt frustrated and and worn out, we should start singing Sunday School songs to help us through our shift.  Just the day before, this friend had texted me that her work day had been very rough, and at one point she began to sing her Sunday School songs.  I then told her that I’m so glad that she could sing Jesus Loves Me. As I stood there the next morning at the close of the service, the melody of that childhood tune began to fill that church auditorium.  Once again, I felt the extreme love of Jesus, His approval of me, my walk, and my relationship with Him. 

I knew right then that I would write about all of this … a personal, very intimate connection with God Himself, knowing that He hand-picked details of this day, at this time in my life, just for me!  Somehow, I need to express that just believing there is a God, religion, and all the churchy stuff of life is not what it’s all about.  It’s even so much more than a daily routine of Bible reading and prayer time.  It’s a relationship with God, communication with One Another, and as I read this morning in Streams in the Desert, it’s a ‘Peace that breathes music in my breast.’  Do you hear the music? … “Jesus Loves Me!”

Till next time,
Debbie

Every Day Matters

24 Sep

Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life
will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it
for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?
Luke 9:23-25

 

I’m down to the final days and the final room of unpacking boxes.  Yes, I know. It has taken longer than it should have to get settled.  But I have set a goal for myself that by this time next year, when our year lease on the big brown house is up, I will have substantially gotten rid of a lot of stuff.  Stuff that I have kept for the sake of keeping it.  You know, “so and so gave that to me” or better yet … “I have kept this all these years but do not remember where it came from.”   In order to weed through things like that, it takes time. 

So back to my final days and the final room.  This room was saved for last because I knew it would take me the longest.  It is officially called ‘the office’, but there is very little office work accomplished in this room.  There are two desks, filing cabinets, receipts, pens, paper and paper clips … oh!  And stamps.  But little else that could give someone reason to call it an office.  In truth, it’s more like the Taco Bell/KFC/Pizza Hut combo restaurant!  Ours is the Office/Library/Museum Room.  Along with the office, which we have already covered, is the Library.  I have a very large bookcase, which is full of all sorts of books, from Chilton mechanic manuals to Little House on the Prairie, and everything in between.  My assortment of reading material mostly consists of books regarding the Christian life, written for a variety of different readers … woman, wife, mother, Grami, friend, husband, son, the troubled, the sick, the young, the old, and much more.  The final part of our trilogy room is the Museum.  Cows, plaques, pictures, magnets, forks, mugs, special notes, candles, pillows, old computers, footballs, posters, peacock feathers, a walking cane, forks, and SO much more.  I love people, I love memories, and I love to be surrounded by it all!  This is my room of treasures.  (except the old computers … they belong to desk #2, but still qualify as part of the Museum!) 

So back to my final days and the final room.  Yesterday afternoon, I was working on a bulletin board that I have always kept at my desk.  It was full of pictures of my family, cut out and cropped to fit a gazillion photos in one area so I could be blessed every time I looked at it.  Several years has gone by since I created this collage, and life has brought a couple new faces into our family.  So, I took out a few outdated photos and added a few current ones.  I was also combining little trinkets and special treasures from another board I kept at my desk at Higher Ground.  From that board, I peeled off the words  “Every Day Matters”   and stuck it to the bigger board I was working on.  This small three-word phrase comes from J.C. Penney’s sales ads and catalogs.  I remember the first time I saw it and thinking how true it was!  Every day does matter. 

 Here are some excerpts from my favorite devotional book, My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers  ~  July 28

“We have the idea that God is leading us toward a particular end or a desired goal, but He is not. The question of whether or not we arrive at a particular goal is of little importance, and reaching it becomes merely an episode along the way. What we see as only the process of reaching a particular end, God sees as the goal itself.

What is my vision of God’s purpose for me? Whatever it may be, His purpose is for me to depend on Him and on His power now. If I can stay calm, faithful, and unconfused while in the middle of the turmoil of life, the goal of the purpose of God is being accomplished in me. God is not working toward a particular finish— His purpose is the process itself. What He desires for me is that I see “Him walking on the sea” with no shore, no success, nor goal in sight, but simply having the absolute certainty that everything is all right because I see “Him walking on the sea” (Mark 6:49). It is the process, not the outcome, that is glorifying to God.

God’s training is for now, not later. His purpose is for this very minute, not for sometime in the future. We have nothing to do with what will follow our obedience, and we are wrong to concern ourselves with it. What people call preparation, God sees as the goal itself.

God’s purpose is to enable me to see that He can walk on the storms of my life right now. If we have a further goal in mind, we are not paying enough attention to the present time. However, if we realize that moment-by-moment obedience is the goal, then each moment as it comes is precious.”

Every day matters.  Yes, ultimately Heaven is our goal, but it is the journey that really makes the difference.  We must recognize that God is walking on the seas of our lives and that we must allow Him to be the God of our winds, waves and even the calm and peaceful days.  If we don’t allow Him to be the Lord of it all, then scripture tells us that Heaven will not be our end.  Every day matters.

So back to my final days and the final room.  My goal is to have less stuff in a year, and what I do keep will be carefully gone through and well organized.  But a few weeks ago as I helped carry box after box after box into the moving truck … and then back out again two days later, my projected goal and its task seemed daunting.  A year from now will show the difference, but it will be the every day between now and then that truly matters. 

There are countless circumstances in our lives where every day does matter.  Relationships, our jobs, our health, …  you finish your own list.  Please join with me in all these areas of our lives to embrace the truth that Every Day Matters.

Until next time,
Debbie

Love Notes

16 Sep

The angel went to her and said,
“Greetings, you who are highly favored!
The Lord is with you.”
Luke 1:28

 

Just this morning, on a paper towel tucked away in his lunch box, I wrote a few words of affection to my husband.  During the recent visit to our daughter and son-in-law’s home, I caught a glimpse of a note lying on a dresser in their bedroom.  It was from him to her, no doubt written in the wee hours of a morning before he went to work … for her to find as she woke a few hours later to the giggles and sweetness of their toddler.  Earlier today, I slipped a couple cards into the mail, with sentiments of love and prayer for friends. 

Two weeks ago this evening, Tim and I pulled down into the driveway of our new home.  Life had already set an incredible pace of busyness several weeks previous, including packing, work, more packing, and more work.  Once the big white truck was unloaded and returned, that pace continued for a few days in order for our household to function while our kids came to help us get settled.  Boxes were emptied, their contents placed throughout, allowing the house to quickly become our home.  What joy it was to cut open the protective tape from the sides of each box and to randomly come across a love note written somewhere on the box!   The gift givers were my precious friends from Higher Ground with whom I’ve worked side by side in the kitchen now for about a year. 

“Is the salad bar finished yet?    Love ya, Chrissy”

 

“Don’t worry  –  Be happy!     Love, Pat”

 

“Are you there yet?  Gonna miss you!  Don’t be too persnickety!
Ha! Ha!   Joy”

 

“Debbie, do you miss me yet?    I promise to come visit you! 
I wuv you so much!  Love Courtney”

 

“Hi   Miss you already    BP”

 

“- Tim and Deb –
Do you know that you are blessed and highly favored? 
Have a great day!
Love, Pat”

 

“   😮     I love you   BP”

 

 

“I’ll fly away!”

 

As the girls were using the products from these boxes, instead of their usual routine of breaking down the boxes for easy disposal, they took them to the back, often with a marker and a message.  How delightful it has been during these days of unpacking to reach into a box and find a simple greeting  …  a love note. 

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.
I Tim 3:16

 

Throughout the New Testament, the various authors of the Bible penned letters which became God’s personal love notes to us.  Scriptures offer direction, love, correction, accountability, encouragement, and friendship.  With God’s Word as our only true example of love, will you join me as I desire to stay alert to the nudgings from the Holy Spirit … and to give notes of love that will express support, prayer, encouragement, accountability and friendship?

I have several more boxes to unpack  …  and I do so with great anticipation of more love notes!

Till next time,
Debbie

You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts,
known and read by everybody.
You show that you are a letter from Christ,
result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God,
not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
2 Corinthians 3:2-3

 

The Fork

4 Sep
 
 

 

Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.
He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.
Psalm 126:5-6

 

It’s September 4th…a special day marked on my calendar.  Today is the first Saturday in our new residence in Pennsylvania.  No alarm clock to wake up by with no real agenda … except to keep unpacking boxes and to make this house our home.  Sigh … the tearful good-byes, the long trip on Thursday, and the stresses that accompany the initial move seem a bit distant right now as I sit out on the screened-in porch, enjoying the recent welcomed change of temperature and some Constant Comment in my Schnauzer mug.

On Facebook, I named the photos taken and posted during the last couple weeks “Crazy Last Days at Higher Ground”.   That really says it all.  Packing and working, sleeping very little, and spending some last minute cherished moments with friends and family … non-stop!  This past Monday evening was a special edition of Munchy Monday when the girls threw a ‘See you Later’ party for me.  The usual spread of delicious food, warm hospitality, and fun fellowship was blended quite heavily with lots of tears, prayer time, and gift giving.  At one point in the evening, long past the time of dinner and dessert, plastic forks were passed out and each lady held hers in her hand while this story was told to us …

A Woman and a Fork  

 
There was a young woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So as she was getting her things “in order,” she contacted her Pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes.  

She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in.  

Everything was in order and the Pastor was preparing to leave when the young woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.  

“There’s one more thing,” she said excitedly.  

“What’s that?” came the Pastor’s reply.  

“This is very important,” the young woman continued. “I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.”  

The Pastor stood looking at the young woman, not knowing quite what to say.  

That surprises you, doesn’t it?” the young woman asked.  

“Well, to be honest, I’m puzzled by the request,” said the Pastor.  

The young woman explained. “My grandmother once told me this story, and from that time on I have always tried to pass along its message to those I love and those who are in need of encouragement. In all my years of attending socials and dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, ‘Keep your fork.’ It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming…..like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance!’  

So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder “What’s with the fork?” Then I want you to tell them: “Keep your fork, the best is yet to come.”  

The Pastor’s eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the young woman good-bye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the young woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She had a better grasp of what heaven would be like than many people twice her age, with twice as much experience and knowledge. She KNEW that something better was coming.  

At the funeral people were walking by the young woman’s casket and they saw the cloak she was wearing and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over, the Pastor heard the question, “What’s with the fork?” And over and over he smiled.   During his message, the Pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the young woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and about what it symbolized to her. He told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either.   He was right.

The best is yet to come!  How I appreciated that simple act of encouragment  as I sat there surrounded by my precious friends and co-workers.  I’ve experienced moving far away a few times already, and it is very difficult on my heart to leave friends and family behind.  But it is receiving text messages like this one that helps cushion the ache …

“Four years ago you came to Higher Ground. 
Three years ago my life took some pretty crazy turns. 
It took me awhile but I ended up just where I needed to be. 
God is at work again, as you leave us to touch the lives of others.”

I’m grateful for the blessed opportunity to serve and to love while at Higher Ground … and I look forward to the same privilege, honor, and responsibility throughout the rest of my days.  Won’t you join me in picking up the fork and saying “the best is yet to come!”

Until next time,
Debbie

I lift up my eyes to the hills–where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip–he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you–the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm–he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
Psalm 121