Archive | September, 2012

Demoted

21 Sep

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me,
if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me
–the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.
Acts 20:24

As I look back over the decades of my life, there has been one Constant.  God has always been there.  God has always been tugging at my heart, seeking after me, and longing for me to return His love.  I also realize that all my relationships through life have been interlaced and intermingled through God’s love.  It’s just who I am and have always been.  In fact, a gal several years ago got all irritated with me and said she wanted to be my friend without all the ‘God stuff’.  I chuckled and quickly told her that there is no separating God out of who I am, for then it wouldn’t be me anymore.

Family Christmas Photo
Albuquerque, NM ~ 1997

Ministry has always kept me very busy… missions, women’s ministry, music, Sunday School, etc  ~  with an increased acceleration through the years.  When our family responded to the call of God on our lives in 1997 and moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico to be Work & Witness Coordinators for Nazarene Indian Bible College, our ministry became our job.  Our job was our ministry.  And with the wardrobe of ministry, one never just wears one hat.  Within a short period of time, Tim and I were both sporting several hats, some worn at the same time as others.  But we knew God called us, and we knew He was faithful to help us keep our hats on straight.  In time, God’s call took on a different look, involved more people and additional responsibility, but His mission to win the lost remained priority.  As what often happens when life becomes demanding, exhausting, and our world is shaken up by our circumstances, what is real stands firm while the rest sloshes out and makes a mess.  During this time of my life, scripture grew more dear to my heart, my personal prayer time became my lifeline, and I dug in even deeper as Jesus truly became my Tower of Refuge and Strength.

Lunch with my mom and brothers ~ 2008

I’m a firm believer that God never wastes anything … and so He once again took a broken vessel and restored it for His use.  The next 4 years placed us right where God knew we needed to be…for such a time as this.  Employment at Higher Ground Conference and Retreat Center was the ministry behind each paycheck, but my heart longed to be personally involved with people and to shine a light for Jesus. God honored my desire and through the lives of my co-workers and a few other friends, a new ministry was born.  Friendship, encouragement, and accountability were priority to our gatherings, and Jesus was always the Center.  What began as Tasty Tuesday evolved into Munchy Monday … and is still an active group of ladies who encourage one another, love each other, and love Jesus.  Not only was it the season for a brand new ministry, but after many years of living far away from my mother, I then was close enough to travel the hour and a half to see her on a regular basis.  I was there when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent surgery and radiation treatments.  I was there during the recuperation period following her fall and shattered elbow.  Although it was short-lived, my time with my mother was a blessing beyond words.

There came a time when we knew that our assignment at Higher Ground was inevitably coming to an end.  Once again, I had to envelop my heart in several layers of bubble wrap as we packed up all of our belongings and moved to south central Pennsylvania … another move, another location, another restart.  With no ministry involvement in the existence of our everyday, this change has been very different, and often difficult for my heart.  Finding a job with the hours I wanted to work was a challenge.  The church we attend is a lighthouse in its area, but we travel quite a distance to get there, which has not allowed us to become part of the fabric of this fellowship.  The only friends we have made are those we work with or in some way associated with our jobs.  As the months have slipped by and it has now been 2 years since we arrived, I have often found myself on my knees, questioning God, pointing out the many miles that separate me from all of my friends and family, reminding Him of the baggage we brought here with us that is still not completely unpacked, and truly feeling demoted.  The ache in my heart for the lost is still as strong as it was in Albuquerque.  My desire is to be a light for Jesus, but I have often felt as though I’ve been stuffed in a dark corner of Pennsylvania with no ministry, no outlet, and no joy.

One bleak day a few months ago, I was talking to one of my friends … Sigh!  Yes, one that I left behind in Ohio.  It’s not too often that I get whiney and begin to pass out party hats to my own self-pity party, but that day I had, and I invited Linda to join me.  Like a good friend, she listened, but like a true and committed friend, she also held me accountable.  Her words to me were God directed as they lassoed me out of the dark clouds and brought me back to reality … God’s reality.  She began to point out the obvious ~ our greatest blessing in living here … our close proximity to our daughter and her precious family.  Being an intricate part in the lives of Kim and Troy, Cole, and now Baby Lillie, is a gift from God’s own hand … the joy, the responsibility, the thrill, and the honor of not only being parents, but Mimi and Papaw.  In the same breath, although this move closer to the east coast took us that much further away from the west coast and Ryan, it offers more opportunity for our entire family to be together more often in the same place.  I’m not sure what else Linda said to me, but her accountability catapulted me into my devotions the following morning. I told God that I was going to begin each day from here on out, expecting to find a passage of scripture that was mine.  I was determined and committed to not leave my place of morning worship without a message from God to my own heart.  Every day since, with very few exceptions, I have done just that.  A couple days following that near fatal pity party, I believe God personally hand-picked a few verses for me that sums up my current ministry…

Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care,
watching over them—not because you must,
but because you are willing, as God wants you to be;
not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve;
 
not lording it over those entrusted to you,
but being examples to the flock. 
And when the Chief Shepherd appears,
you will receive the crown of glory
that will never fade away.
1 Peter 5:2-4

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter,
“Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time,
“Do you love me?”

He said, “Lord, you know all things;
you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.
John 21:15-17

My children and Me ~ July 2012

My primary roles as wife, mother, Mimi, and daughter are ever before me, as these relationships represent the core of my world right now.  My current employment is one of choice, enabling me the time away from the office to be available to help others when and where needed.  And let’s be honest … at this stage of my life, I truly have no authority to correct or discipline, except for Mimi’s little loves.  Most of my influence right now is by example.  That example must have a solid foundation, rooted and grounded deep, so when the winds of life begin to blow around me and those in my world, I can stand firm with confidence in Jesus.  And in that confidence, I can stay on my knees for my family, seeking God on their behalf.

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence,
so that we may receive mercy and find grace
to help us in our time of need.

Hebrews 4:16

I have thought a lot about this topic of being demoted, asking God a lot of questions, seeking Him, reading His heart, listening to Him.  In the stillness of His whisper the other day, instead of demoted, I heard the word promoted.  Promoted.  Me?   Scripture does say in Matthew …

And everyone who has left houses
or brothers or sisters or father or mother
or children or fields for my sake
will receive a hundred times as much
and will inherit eternal life.
But many who are first will be last,
and many who are last will be first.
Matthew 19:29-30

  

As I read the devotional for Sept 19th in Streams in the Desert, I had already underlined this paragraph a few years ago …

 “Pruning seems to be destroying the vine,
the gardener appears to be cutting it all away;
but he looks on into the future and KNOWS that the final outcome
will be the enrichment of its life and greater abundance of fruit.”

It seems that I have been pruned and it appears that much has been cut away …

I do know and understand that a totally surrendered heart relinquishes all rights and claims, empties soul of self, and then invites the Holy Spirit to fill and take up residence.   Jesus wants to take my perspective of being demoted, and ultimately turn it into a promotion.

Just over 10 years ago at a ladies’ retreat in New Mexico, this song gripped the very core of who I was at that moment in my life … and the message still echoes the cry of my heart today …

“Everything I am, all I’ve done, and all I’ve known
Now belongs to You, the life I live is not my own
Just as Abraham laid Isaac on the sacrificial fire
If all I have is all that You desire
I surrender all”

Click on this link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THHu5QPjB_4
to hear I Surrender All … by Clay Crosse
(After listening/watching the video, simply click on the BACK arrow in the left corner to come back to the blog)

Won’t you join me today in allowing what might seem to be a demotion in life ~ whether it be relational, employment, circumstances, physical, spiritual … trusting God with all the details of the heart?  As we relinquish and surrender, Jesus becomes our Promotion.

Until next time,
Debbie

I Surrender All lyrics
Songwriters: Hamm Regie Glenn; Moffitt David E

I have wrestled in the darkness of this lonely pilgrim land
Raising strong and mighty fortresses that I alone command
But these castles I’ve constructed by the strength of my own hand
Are just temporary kingdoms on foundations made of sand

In the middle of the battle I believe I’ve finally found
I’ll never know the thrill of victory till I’m willing to lay down
All my weapons of defense and earthly strategies of war
So I’m laying down my arms and running helplessly to Yours

I surrender all my silent hopes and dreams
Though the price to follow costs me everything
I surrender all my human soul desires
If sacrifice requires that all my kingdoms fall
I surrender all

If the source of my ambition is the treasure I obtain
If I measure my successes on a scale of earthly gain
If the focus of my vision is the status I attain
My accomplishments are worthless and my efforts are in vain

So I lay aside these trophies to pursue a higher crown
And should You choose somehow to use the life I willingly lay down
I surrender all the triumph for it’s only by Your grace
I relinquish all the glory, I surrender all the praise

I surrender all my silent hopes and dreams
Though the price to follow costs me everything
Well I surrender all my human soul desires
If sacrifice requires that all my kingdoms fall
I surrender all

Everything I am, all I’ve done, and all I’ve known
Now belongs to You, the life I live is not my own
Just as Abraham laid Isaac on the sacrificial fire
If all I have is all that You desire
I surrender all

I surrender all my human soul desires
If sacrifice requires that all my kingdoms fall
That all my kingdoms fall, that all my kingdoms fall
I surrender all

Labor Day Mini-Vaca

7 Sep

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching
and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Acts 2:42

There were several options floating around as possible destinations for the final long weekend of the summer … and we chose the one that combined a few of our favorite things, and topped it off with a visit to Toms River, New Jersey.

Having taken two weekend trips already to the beach this summer, we put the car on auto pilot and headed the 3 hours east to the sandy shores of New Jersey.  Our early morning arrival at the board walk secured us a front-row parking spot and a short distance to walk to the ocean with our strategically packed bags, beach umbrella and sand chairs.  Since the day was still young and only a handful of seasonal guests were already set up, we claimed our spot at the water’s edge and were in awe at the calmness of the sea.  It looked more like a lake than an ocean that continually slipped further and further away as the tide went out.  We pulled the umbrella and dragged the chairs down closer to the surf a couple times, and by afternoon, children were giggling, older kids were skim boarding, and people of all ages were wading out to where the waves were finally picking up some momentum and adding some splash to the day.  That is usually where Tim will be found.  He loves to go out as far as he can in the water and still barely touch … and just roll with the flow.  Literally.  When he’s not bobbing up and down in the waves, he’s back up on the sand taking a nap in the sunshine.  For me, the act of sitting and doing nothing is very foreign to my normal daily routine, but at the beach, it’s acceptable and embraced…what luxury!!  So, I enjoy watching people and sometimes reading.  After a full day in the sun and surf, a quick clean-up and change takes place in the bath house, followed by a delicious dinner at our favorite local DDD spot (Diners, Drive-in and Dives) and a leisurely evening drive south to find some friends of ours.

Toms River, New Jersey has been a special place in my heart ever since 1996 when a pastor friend of ours accompanied Hershey Nazarene Church on a Work & Witness trip to Albuquerque, NM.  In the next 4 years, Pastor Del returned to Nazarene  Indian Bible College a few times with teams from his own congregation, this time working with our family as the host Work & Witness coordinators and giving us the privilege of getting to know all those fine folks from New Jersey.  Through the years, a connection has remained in tact due to the creative pens of my friend and I.  Del Bieber can tell a story like no other and has captured my attention every time he publishes a new devotional.

Del and Patsy Bieber

Having received an invitation to stay at their home during one of our weekend jaunts to the shore, Tim and I graciously accepted and found our way last weekend to the parsonage of Del and Patsy Bieber.  It did my heart so much good to simply sit and mutually share about life, family, health, prayer concerns and the memories that originated the friendship.  I love to hear missionaries share their stories, feeling every fiber and thread of their narrative … and I feel much the same way toward Pastor Del.  He’s been a missionary to the people in his world for more than three decades, and he also has stories that I could sit and listen to for hours!  Pastor Del is not only a pastor, he is an avid hunter, a sportsman, a photographer, a writer, a narrator, a PopPop, father, husband, and friend.

Sunday morning was a highlight for me as I always anticipate God’s personal and intimate communication with me when I worship…our ‘secret’ vocabulary, if you will.  I’m one that enjoys the newer songs of today … popular praise and worship, but my heart is truly lifted to another level of worship as I’m carried back to my roots when I join a congregation to sing a familiar hymn.  Even though I can recite every written word as I harmonize to When We All Get to Heaven and I Will Serve Thee, the fact that I no longer sing them very often just magnifies the message of these old-time favorites.  In a warm embrace of God’s love to my soul, the service was closed with an extra special hymn that I remember all so well … gathered around the piano with two dear friends and singing from the depths of our hearts …

Sometimes the day seems long, Our trials hard to bear.
We´re tempted to complain, to murmur and despair.
But Christ will soon appear to catch his bride away!
All tears forever over in God’s eternal day!

CHORUS:
It will be worth it all when we see Jesus!
Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ.
One glimpse of his dear face, all sorrow will erase.
So, bravely run the race till we see Christ.

Mr. Fox

It WILL be worth it all … but until that day when we do see Jesus, won’t you join me as I follow the example of Pastor Del in being a missionary to my world?  Whether there is a certificate of ordination on the study wall, several pounds of deer bologna in the freezer, a beautiful stuffed critter by the name of Mr. Fox in the corner of the living room, or Spike, a lively spider who eats mosquitos by the porch light at the back door, in our unique and special ways, let’s do all we can do to be Jesus to the people in our lives every day.

Until next time,
Debbie

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.
Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.
Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.
 In the same way, let your light shine before men,
that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16

PS  –  I would highly recommend a listen to Pastor Del’s sermon from this past Sunday, Sept 2.  It is not yet posted on the church’s website, but check back from time to time until you see it listed.  It’s part 2 to “You Ran Well”.  You will enjoy it!
http://www.tomsrivernaz.com/

Also, Pastor Del writes and then narrates a devotional … Enjoy his creativity and his love for nature, his family, and life.
http://www.jerseypilgrim.com/