Sunday, July 31, 2005

Living In His Ways and Loving It

I am a truly blessed woman.

I am crazy about my husband - madly in love more than ever - delighting in marriage and His plan for a man and a woman to live in covenant for all their days. This just keeps getting better. Could anyone love more than we do?

I am thrilled beyond measure with my children - proud and pleased - enjoying the discovery of each new treasure held within these vessels. The gifts and talents, character and love for God seem to be ever increasing. Every day brings some new delight. Could a mom be happier?

I am fulfilled in my creative outlets - still finding my own strengths - serving the Kingdom in new endeavors and adventures. Could any woman feel more liberation and fulfillment?

A few short decades ago I was held captive by feminism and all its empty promises. I was unhappy in relationships, insecure about future plans, and miserable with my self-absorbed ways. Instable, egocentric, unsure, and on the verge of emotional breakdown, I traded it all in for this life I now live.

Was this an instant exchange? Rome was not built in a day; neither was my mind instantly renewed.

Have there been agonizing challenges along the way? I would be a liar to say there weren't.

Does this life require daily death to self? It does not exist apart from death.

Would I do it all again? In a heartbeat - and even sooner if I could.

Oh, what joy is mine - in Him.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Traveling again

I woke up yesterday morning and decided it was as good a weekend as any to head to Pittsburgh for a visit with my daughter and her family. So off we went, Mom and four kids. Sometimes spontaneity is just fine. Other times, it throws me for a loop!

Everyone is out shopping except Merrick and me. So I will take advantage of the fact that new toys have totally captured his imagination and spend a few minutes here with you!

Time to let the cat out of the bag: I will not be doing a musical this year. After much agonizing I have been released by God and others. My heart was aching over the missed opportunity for so many students. But it was aching even more acutely to see a good year completed in our home with my own kids. And that is my first priority. I still hope to bring many good things to the students at CFA, but not a full length musical this year. I know there will be some disappointment, but God is faithful and will provide everything we need.

In turn, I am feeling exuberance regarding the coming school year. Many ideas have been rumbling around - a Shakespeare club, American poet gatherings, history display night - just to name a few. I can hardly wait to dig in and get my kids excited about these academic endeavors. And, of course, we will get back on track with music lessons. That's always a given in our household.

Time with God in prayer and in His word always blesses and strengthens me. Funny how it always comes back to that same old thing. You would think it would be exactly that - old and tiresome. But when I need refreshing, encouragement, newness of heart - whatever! - off to Him I go and I am never disappointed. He is most definitely our all in all.

Merrick has just shown up with two videos in hand. "No, we stayed home so you could try out the new toys without interruption. We did not stay home to watch videos." More disappointment from my hand. That comes with being in a place of leadership.

Funny how hard it is to experience flesh dying. No matter the age, it is difficult. But we do learn to embrace the difficulty more readily once we experience the newness of life - His life - on the other side of that death. We begin to treasure His ways more than our own. Definitely much better. Infinitely better.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Why This Merry-go-round?

My last post focused on the need to recognize children as a gifts from God.

Another question that was raised as I watched "Mona Lisa Smile" with my daughter came up again last night with another daughter. What is the point? Why do most women get married, have children, train them, and then they marry, have children, train them, they marry, have children, etc... What is the point?

Believe me, that same question has rumbled around in my own head more than once.

Titus 2.3-5 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. NAS

Why did God set it up this way? Is there not more to do in life than this? Surely the fulfillment of career is more worthwhile as well as more challenging. Certainly it would be better if I somehow spent more time serving the church, the community, the world at large. Why should I invest all this time and effort in training children to serve, only to see them turn around and invest most of their time and energy in their own limited sphere of home and hearth? Isn't there a better, more efficient way?

The simple answer: this is God's plan and we walk by faith when we choose it. We don't even need to know the answer to these questions.

But, fortunately, there are some known reasons for His plan as well. Let's look right now at children of the current generation. They are the fruit of feminism, the product of a culture that has abandoned home as the core of life. Their mothers have education, jobs, independence. Their fathers have learned to share authority and parenting and have gladly allowed women to have their sexual freedom (after all, that provides their liberty as well.) I am personally not impressed.

Consider the state of marriage in secular humanist cultures. I cannot give hard and fast statistics (although I may need to look that up some day) but I think we all know that the institution of marriage is not prospering. I was told that there were more divorces in Spain last year than marriages. The US may still have plenty of people getting married (check out Madison Ave. - weddings are good money-making adventures so let's keep pushing them) but they don't last. God's plan for women to make home their focal point, and for men to accept the challenge of leading and loving, protects marriage and children. It provides a nurturing atmosphere for covenant, growth, love, service, and work.

But what about in Christian homes? Aren't those failures due to a lack of faith in Jesus? Can't we see our children and marriages prosper simply through sound Biblical teaching? Can't we have our cake and eat it, too?

Once again, I do not have hard and fast stats, but my own observation as I travel and talk with others in various places is that this pattern of living given in the Word was intentional. It is more than just a good idea - it is essential for the health and prosperity of marriage and family. Christians have dabbled, and even given themselves over, to wrong paradigms regarding marriage and family, and it has not borne good fruit. This should not be. This cannot be!

Our call to see the next generation prosper insures the growth of His kingdom. The earth is existing for one reason: we await His return and the ushering in of His eternal kingdom. Until then, we are not only to be occupying, we are to be extending the knowledge of the gospel in every place.

We will not do that by losing ground with every generation. We will not do that by failing to keep marraige covenant and losing our sons and daughters to the enemy. We will do that by seeing children who prosper in His kingdom, bringing forth fruit before their time, and by having marriages that are a reflection of Him and His unfailing love for His bride.

There is only one way to do that: God's way.

And I guess that prerogative is His.

Monday, July 25, 2005

God's Gift

Genesis 33:5 Then Esau looked at the women and children and asked, "Who are these people with you?"
"These are the children God has graciously given to me," Jacob replied.

I forget that in this culture and in many others throughout the world, the knowledge of children being gifts from God has been stolen from us. The prince of this world has robbed us blind, as they say. We no longer see children as gifts - good gifts. Actually, they are precious gifts to be desired and longed for - they are, after all, the heritage of the Lord. Funny that we would gladly accept a Porsche or a new house and probably even a new CD player, but a child? Could this possibly be a gift from Him?

At any rate, I was brought face to face once again with the absence of this understanding as I spoke with church leaders in Spain. And last night I watched "Mona Lisa Smile" with a daughter. How empty was the philosophy being espoused, how void of understanding. The only positive thing I can say about the film is that it presented an opportunity for open dialogue on the deceptions of feminism and the truths of God's Word regarding the importance of home and family. It reminded me of the need to be continually teaching Godly precepts, because this world is perpetually bombarding us with everything contrary to truth.

So I thought that today I would present a reminder of how precious children really are. What we do at home really matters to God. Let us not fall prey to wondering if there is value in this investment. Stay home, pour into them, sacrifice on their behalf, spend yourselves on the eternal things of God - His heritage.

It is a walk of faith. We do not see today what fruit will be born twenty years from now. We must take Him at His word. Well, what kind of life would it be if we didn't walk by faith? It would be a life that brings Him no pleasure, since without faith it is impossible to please Him.

I would rather do the adventurous. I would rather walk on water. The promises of this world look fulfilling for the moment, but result in barrenness. I choose God. And so far I have not been disappointed.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Graduation at 50

Isaiah 40.29-31
He gives power to those who are tired and worn out; he offers strength to the weak. Even youths will become exhausted, and young men will give up. But those who wait on the LORD will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

It's official. I've reached the big 5 - 0!! You heard it. 50!!

Everyone seems to think that's pretty eventful. Some think it's big potatoes, so to speak.

I don't think I feel that way. I simply find it unbelievable. Totally unbelievable.

But, in spite of the dropped jaws, funny jokes, reminders that I need to grow old gracefully, and everything else that seems to accompany this phenomenon, I have decided that it's not all that bad. I've already adjusted to announcing my age. I just smile and flippantly let them know that it's 50. Yup. 50.

After all, even young men grow weary. It's not just the old folks like me. So we're in good company.

But there's even greater solace. When I wait upon the Lord I will find strength to fly. Soar with the eagles. And it seems I get better and better at waiting the older I get.

Sounds like graduation time to me - to wings!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

A Spanish Adventure

God had plans for my visit to Spain that I never anticipated - nor did anyone else. But the details were impeccably ordered. It was clearly His hand.

I will not try to recount the details (how long did you have?...) I will, however, try to share the heart of the matter.

Spain, like much of Western Europe, is extremely hardened; humanism reigns and licentiousness abounds. In my short time there, God allowed me to connect with several leaders in the Christian world, all of whom expressed deep concern for the future of the Spanish church regarding the next generation. "What should we do with our children?" "The Spanish family is being destroyed and we see that the church is not exempt from this." "How did you educate these young people?" "Can you help us?"

If you know me you know that my answers came quickly and freely. This is a subject near and dear to my heart and I was ready to give account for the hope within me. "The Spanish culture must be changed. The minds of your parents must be renewed. You must cast a fresh vision for the importance of these precious children. Your parents must begin to recognize their responsibility for each one of these lives which God has created. They need to understand the value each child has in God's eyes."

Again and again as they learned that the young people on the team had been homeschooled, they approached me with questions. "Why do you homeschool?" "Christian schools don't work in Spain - should we consider introducing homeschooling to our parents?" "Can you help us set up a Christian homeschool program here in Spain?"

More answers. "My husband and I believe our children have a destiny in the Lord. We are responsible for training and preparing them to fulfill that destiny. Homeschooling is the tool that we have chosen as part of that preparation. We want them to be established in a Biblical worldview and the public schools are unable to do that. Homeshooling provides a wonderful opportunity for building relationship as well. But homeshooling in and of itself is not the answer. I do believe it is the best platform for Biblical instruction, but it is not the end - it is simply a means. Your parents must begin to look at their children as God looks at them. They must see the need to invest their lives in the future generation. This is not a quick harvest. There is no immediate fruit. This is a 20 year process. Your parents will need continual reminders, constant encouragement. You will need to cast the vision again and again and again. You will need to be in it for the long haul. Changing a cultural mindset is a huge undertaking. It is not accomplished overnight. A large ship is not turned around quickly or easily. It is a long process that requires patience. But in this case, it is essential. You are headed for destruction unless you turn this around. When the Church sits idly by, allowing the future generation to be lost, its own destruction will soon follow. We must see our young ones enter into the kingdom. This is God's plan. This is His heart. He sees the future when He looks at the present. We must learn to do the same."

Another question. "Will your husband come and help us set up a pilot program for the church in Spain?"

This time I could not answer so quickly. I brought the written request home. "Through conversations with Darlene we have been learning a lot from your many years of home-and-church based Christian Education experience and would like to invite you to consider helping us launch a home-based Chrisian education movement in our country. This is something that is vitally needed and that we believe is a priority in God's kingdom for generational building in our country." "Finally, I would like to invite your church to keep praying and seeking God for ways in which you may assist us in setting up some pilot projects in Malaga and Madrid of home-based Christian Education." "Yours for the extension of His kingdom in Spain, Francisco G., Ph.D."

So now you know what I mean when I say that there may be some more adventures in Spain in the near future. This excites me. I am passionate about generational building. If in any way I can help someone grasp the importance of passing the baton I will do so.

Rick contacted this man last night via e-mail and will call him today as well. The Lord knows what will come of their conversation.

"Lord, let Your will be done in the hearts of the Spanish people. Let those little ones be raised up in You and carry the banner into the future. And if in any way You want us to aid You in this endeavor, we will obey. Amen."

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Home again, home again, jiggety, jig

Mission completed. Arrived home safely. Done once again.

I am sure I will be tired soon, but for now it seems like I am ready to start this day (my body is undoubtedly confused and will rebel later...)

I cannot even think about what is next. A quick tour of the house tells me that my daughters have done well - I hear from Dad that twelve year old Liana really rose to the occasion of being the oldest at home. Hooray! Congrats to you, Nanna-Na!

The gardens are a bit overgrown: weedy, falling over, gone to seed, etc. All this tall green stuff seems foreign after spending all that time in Spain. Lush and beautiful, but foreign! Will need to make a plan for reclaiming the grounds.

Rick will contact some of our new Spanish connections today regarding some requests they sent home with me. Will keep you posted. Could prove to be very interesting and exciting.

Have you all heard that my daughter and her husband are moving to the North Country where he will take on a fulltime position at the church?! Well, now you have, and I hope you are jumping up and down with me on this one! Hooray - my Brietta will be nearby! It seems quite within the Lord's timing the way certain things are coming together. Who can say what the details of His purposes are until they unfold - we can merely guess. But my guess is that this move is providencial. Once again, I will keep you posted!

Today I will unpack, sort out thoughts, look for Him (it has been so busy, that getting much "quiet" time has been difficult. When you share a room with 6 other girls . . . well, you get the picture.) Hopefully soon my posts will be a bit more reflective and less "daily routine-ish".

Good to be home. Haven't yet seen the little man - looking forward to that for sure!

Monday, July 18, 2005

Tomorrow We Fly

Last day here with no scheduled ministry. We hit an open market on the west side of Madrid this morning. Most of the kids are now taking advantage of the siesta but then we will head downtown for a stroll, winding up at Madrid´s version of Central Park. Should be a relaxing evening before our long trip home.

We did our dramas at a park near Aluche (a part of Madrid) last evening. As we prepared for our sharing I asked the kids what the highlights of the trip were. I had a list of all that we had done and everyone agreed that it has been amazing. They are very aware of God doing things beyond what we had imagined. That was mentioned. The sense of history in everyplace has also been huge for them. They spoke of learning about working together and all that it entails. It has been rich, indeed.

So tomorrow we head out. Soon I will return to the room (the girls are sleeping on the floor in one classroom, the boys in another). I will write cards to accompany offerings and gifts we intend to leave for so many generous hosts. Every need has been met. It has been wonderful.

This morning we gave a gift to the cafe man here at Betel Ministries; a leather journal in which we inscribed words of thanks from Team Spain 2005. Every morning, Peter has greeted us with a warm smile, kind English words (he is from Nigeria), and a friendly countenance. He has been a gift to us from our first day here when no one else spoke a word of English. He was moved by our act of appreciation. He wants us to return next year. It is good to know that eternity will not separate us from our brethren - very good.

Pray for our safe return. And I will share more interesting news with you then!

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Spain again

So much news, so many things that God has done. And it´s because our young people are being wonderful examples of His love! I never dreamed of all that God had in store. I am only glad that we have heard His voice and followed!

One example: Thursday we spent the day at a children´s retreat outside of Toledo. We found that they planned for us to spend the night. All of our meals were provided and the setting was breathtaking. We were on a mountain top in a hotel that had been purchased by Remar, a ministry here in Spain. From our balconies we looked out across a broad plain surrounded by mountains. Hundreds, no, thousands of olive trees lined the landscape. It was truly magnificent. On the mountain behind us were very old windmills. The sense of history was awesome. As we drove up I exclaimed to the team, "Hasn´t the Lord blessed us everywhere we go!" They agreed unanimously!

The ministry there more than stretched us. We arrived at 11:00am, were told that there were 80-90 seven to twleve year olds, and were asked to minister to them from noon until 2:00pm, then again from 5:00pm to 8:30pm, then to close the day at 9:30 with an evening service! That was 6 1/2 hours of ministry to 90 young children! We had 1/2 hour to prepare. Needless to say, we tried to plan, but concluded that all we could do was pray. I assured them that if God has given us the opportunity He would be more than faithful to help us complete it. There were difficult moments and the afternoon ended with us feeling out of control (these children were unruly and the counselors had no control with them - and we could not speak Spanish!)

As we regrouped for the evening service, I told them that we could not allow the group to get silly and crazy. We must enter into worship and bring them into God´s presence. I assured them that even 7 year olds could be touched by Him and could worship Him from their hearts. They were a bit skeptical but did just as I asked. They pressed into worship, entered His presence, did not hold back or give up. Suddenly the Spirit fell, the kids were silent as Josh McGrath shared with them for over 15 minutes. He led them in prayer as the team played worship and prayed. Soon they called on me to pray for a group of children who needed deliverance from fear. When I looked up, the team was worshipping in the center, lines of children had formed in front of me, groups in other places were receiving prayer from their chaperones and team members. There were tears, honest requests, and the sense of God doing a deep work in these young hearts. By the end of the evening we were in awe of God´s work in these children through us.

The next day was our opportunity to record a TV show for a Christian network in Madrid. None of us had experienced TV from that side of the camera. It was wonderful and they were very pleased with all we did. They will edit it and have promised to mail us a copy. I hope they can!

I cannot tell you all that has transpired here - there is too much to tell, and much more that only God knows! Please continue to pray for us. When I get back I will explain in greater detail just one thing that has come from our time in Spain which I believe could have impact for the future of the church in Spain. God is so big - so very big...

Please tell others to read this post. I will use this as a means of updating for my church family and friends.

Be blessed and we look forward to seeing you all soon and give even fuller reports.


Sunday, July 10, 2005

More from Spain

Last night the team ministered to a youth group in LaLinea. The church was the most prosperous church in the area. The building was beautiful, the group was large (40-50 youth), and the sound system was terrific (our team was very happy about that!) At first the kids were a bit intimidated. I am sure they were thinking, "What can we possibly give to these people? Most of them are older than us and more talented." But they persevered and in the end, the group was thrilled with their zeal and devotion. They want us to come back again.

This morning we ministered at a small church. We most definitely brought them a blessing. The pastor and his wife had tears in their eyes as the kids laid hands on them and prayed. They spoke prophetic words about generational building. It was wonderful. With sincere expression the pastor looked my way and emphatically announced a desire to have us return annually to bring to them what the new generation is doing. He was very excited about the team's ministry.

Tonight we will minister to another small church. Tomorrow we move on to Madrid. God has appointed many great things there. We have the expected ministry, but God has already added to our agenda. We have been invited to attend a youth camp in Toledo all day on Thursday and minister in the service there that evening. We have also been invited to tape a TV show at the Remar studios. Very exciting. Everyday I wait to see what new things God may have!

Will run now. In Madrid I don't think I will have as much access to internet. We shall see!

Saturday, July 09, 2005

From the sunny Spanish shore

Finally! For the first time since I have arrived I am able to open my weblog! Hooray! I will, at least momentarily, be in touch with a Little Corner of My World!

For those who don't know what I am doing, I have been in Spain for 11 days and have 10 more to go. I am leading a team of wonderful young adults who are doing outreaches in the southern cities and soon in Madrid. It has been a learning time for all of us. I have never lead a missions team before or had to interface with ministries on my own. Tom Spyker, our contact here in southern Spain, has been a great help, but the Spirit of God has had to lead me in many new paths. It has been wonderful. The kids are learning how to keep relationships clean; daily we confess our needs to let go of offenses and cover sins for one another. They will have grown immensely in their ability to work with teams of people - this is invaluable growth in kingdom work. They will be even greater assets to the local church and I can envision many of them leading teams on their own with great skill and capability.

God has also enabled me to make some new contacts apart from Tom Spyker. He is up to something wonderful, I am sure of it. As it unfolds, I will share in more detail. Let it suffice to say that the church in Spain at large is in a place of hunger and need for vision regarding raising up the next generation. Because of the wonderful testimony our young people are presenting, some men have approached me with questions about education for Christian children. They are impressed with what they see in the team: their love for God, their relationships, their interaction with the church here. They know that they have all experienced, in some measure, a form of alternative education. The secular school system here in Spain is terribly lacking. They want to know what we've done. We shall see what comes of their interest. Keep it in prayer. Surely God has great plans for the next generation here in Spain as well as in the US. If in any way Rick and I can be used to facilitate growth and vision in this arena, we would be willing. And more than willing, we would be blessed and honored.

God does great things. I stand in awe as I watch the church in Spain and see His hand. I am amazed as I see these young people apply His principles and find them true. I am humbled by His willingness to use me. What a mighty God we serve.

In Madrid Spain or NY, He is worthy of all my praise and devotion.

Be blessed in your homes, work, and churches. I hope to be able to get access again before heading home, but if I don't, go to my Xanga account. That seems to be always accessable.

Thanks and keep us in your prayers.