Monday, December 31, 2012

To Make Much of Christ in 2013

The weary soldier collapsed on his cot and kicked his battle worn boots on the ground beneath.

The Commander nodded and handed the soldier a pair of new boots  saturated with the aroma of fresh leather.

"Ah! New boots for battle, sir. Thank you, sir."

The optimistic Commander smiled, "Why, not only for battle, chap! These too shall be worn in victory... Great victory that still lies beyond the horizon. It won't be long now. We'll be going home soon."


We stand at the brink of a finish line, and say farewell to another year gone by.

We are battle weary, and wonder when Jesus will call us Home to Glory — when this earthly life shall be no more.

Maybe this year was for you a year of unfulfilled dreams and longings. You are... still... waiting. Waiting for hope, waiting for the fulfillment of your dreams. And maybe your dreams are good, RIGHT things, but they haven't come to fruition and you are frustrated at God. Why isn't Psalms 37:4 coming to pass in your life? "Delight thyself also in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desires [for] thine heart." *italics by me.

Psalms 37:4 and 5 have been my personal life verses since I was in high school. Quite frankly, I am not who I dreamed I would be then. When I was fifteen, I journaled of my hopes to be a Pastor's wife or a missionary one day. When I was eighteen, I liked the idea of being a young wife & mom... still of course, married to a somebody in ministry like, to a missionary in some foreign land like Africa or something.

Years later, today, I am none of those.

Instead, I rent a little place inside someone else's home in Colorado. I work at Chick-fil-A, and I have a part time photography business. (Yeah. I'm not riding elephants in Africa or anything like that!)

Have I unfulfilled dreams? You bet! Are they wrong desires? Not at all. But WHAT am I doing with my dreams?

Just recently, the Lord asked me to bow my knee (once again) in obedience to Him, to whatever He asks, to wherever He wants to send me. 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20 says,"...know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own. For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."

My life is Christ's. Jesus longs that I would place my expectation & hope in Him. When I love Jesus more than my dreams, and HE is my life, I WILL make MUCH of Christ — no matter what He asks me to do.

I won't lie to you. I am a little nervous about what lies beyond the horizon. I don't know what 2013 will hold. But I'm deciding to let Him handle my unknown. He's big enough! His grace has carried me through 2012, and His grace will be what carries me through 2013  no matter what the days may bring.

My prayer is that 2013 wouldn't be a year filled with my own striving to make MY dreams come to fulfillment, but that it'd be a year to make much of Christ  whether great loss or great gain.

And so my friend, step into the unknown with the Savior who knows all things. Pick up your "new boots" (as the soldier). Receive fresh grace and daily bread from the One who will carry us through all our tomorrows.

Cheer up, dear soul. It won't be long now.

We're going Home soon.

“If God is on our side — and He is — what need do we have for fear?”

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Those Who Have Gone Before

It was December of 1931 when a certain baby girl was born. She was raised in a home of good morals, but not a Christian one. It wasn't until she was eighteen years old that she made a personal decision to put her faith and trust in Christ. So desiring to learn and grow in her Christian walk, she left home and went to Bible school (college) at nineteen years old. In order to help pay for her tuition, she worked as kitchen staff.

Not long after she had been in Bible school, a young man named Roger noticed this classy young lady. She had caught his eye. The Bible school students all sat around a long dinner table, and Roger, being the outgoing young man that he was, stood up and said, "Alright, how about everyone give their names and where they're from." As the students - one by one - began to introduce themselves, all he *really* wanted to know was what HER name was.. and he eagerly listened for her reply. Finally... he found out her name. It was Dolores.

On Labor Day weekend of 1951, Roger walked over to the girl's dormitory (a large, third floor house) to invite one of the young ladies, Naomi, to join him for an evening at the City Wide Crusade. Naomi and Roger were both from the same home church and their Dad's were both Pastor's, so naturally, they were good friends. When Roger inquired for Naomi, he learned that Naomi wasn't around... so he thought to himself , "Why not ask that new girl, Dolores to come with me?" Just then, Dolores came walking down the staircase, dressed in a beautiful plaid skirt & matching sweater. Wow, she looks beautiful, he thought. He asked her if she'd like to join him, and she replied, "Oh, but I'm not appropriately dressed for the service!" He was quick to reply, "You look great to me!"

And so, Roger and Dolores continued to go out on dates and their friendship grew. Infact, things began to go so quickly that Roger began to wonder if it was the right thing. After all, just earlier that year in the Spring, he had broken off his engagement with a young lady who wasn't God's will for him. Maybe he was getting too serious with Dolores too fast. He wanted to make sure he was doing God's will. In November, just before Thanksgiving, Roger told Dolores that they probably better "cool off."

A couple weeks later, Dolores went home for Thanksgiving. Wouldn't you know, Thanksgiving weekend, Roger & the quartet he sang in were going to be singing at a church meeting nearby. Dolores was still interested in Roger and since the young men were going to be representing the Bible school that they all attended, she decided to just go to the meeting.

All this time, Dolores quietly had had her eye on another young man. He was rather good looking, she thought, and he was a nice guy. Wouldn't you know, after the meeting that Roger & his quartet sang in, this "other" young man noticed Dolores standing outside the building, waiting for her ride. He asked her if she needed a ride home, and she thought, "Why not?"

The "other" young man and Dolores were on their drive home and he said, "Hey! Do you want to stop and get a snack?" She said, "Sure!" And so, Dolores & he stopped at a restaurant and found their table inside. Dolores chose a seat facing the front door of the restaurant — then... in walked Roger & his quartet with him! Dolores put her head down and couldn't look up. Roger saw Dolores right away, and noticed how she couldn't make eye contact with him... but he proceeded to sit at his table. It was then that Roger realized that he truly loved Dolores, and it was okay if they continued to step forward in their relationship.

And so, as the story goes, Dolores & Roger got back together again, and about a WEEK later, Roger asked Dolores to marry him! Dolores went to Roger's family's for New Years, and that's where she met her future-in laws.

Dolores was still a new Christian, and Roger felt God's calling to be a Pastor. (His Dad was a Pastor too.) Roger was thrilled to disciple Dolores & teach her the word of God, and she loved learning more of the things of God.

It was a summer day — on June 13, 1952 —  that Roger & Dolores were married.

Over the next few years, Roger pastored at Fennville Bible Church and Chester Gospel Church, both in Michigan. During that time, which, the Lord led Roger & Dolores to become missionaries to Quito, Ecuador.

For several months, Roger and Dolores first lived in San Jose, Costa Rica where they went to language school to learn Spanish, and that is where she gave birth to their second daughter, and third child.

The next two years, Roger & Dolores served as missionaries in Quito, Ecuador where he served at HCJB radio station.

Due to Roger's health, the Lord called their family to move back to the States in 1960.

After they moved back to the States, Roger continued to faithfully Pastor at three different churches over the course of the next several years — Calvary Bible Church (Michigan), Calvary Baptist Church (Maryland), and Calvary Baptist Church (Michigan).

In May of 1982, Roger was diagnosed with Leukemia. He was admitted into the hospital... and he never came out.

As he sat there in his hospital bed, he had his Bible leafed open where he was reading and he said, "I just don't feel like it's my time yet. God still has work for me to do!"

Only six weeks after being diagnosed, at the young age of 50, the Lord called Roger home to glory on June 29th, 1982.

It was his wish for many years that the "Hallelujah Chorus" be played at his funeral... and it was.

This man was... my Grandpa.

I never knew him, for I was not born yet.

Over the years, I've heard countless stories from others about this man of God... a man who loved the Lord and made an impact in others lives. To this day, my Grandma still hears stories from others about how my Grandpa touched their lives, and some, of whom he personally led to Christ.

So you see, I cannot wait to get to glory. Not only and most importantly to see my Savior, but I can't wait to meet my Grandpa with outstretched arms and say, "Thank you for leaving behind a godly legacy."

The challenge for you and I today is to ask ourselves, "What kind of legacy will I leave behind?"

You are choosing TODAY whom you will serve.

"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith."

—Hebrews 12:1, 2

Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas!

"The King of kings... In all our trials born to be our Friend.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
...Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace...
In His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord!"

—my favorite carol, 'O Holy Night'

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Remembering His Goodness in Mexico

As you are well aware, I went down to southern Mexico for nearly a month this fall. I departed the States on September 19th with plans of photographing a local Pastor's wedding and helping out with any missions work that I could help with. I also ended up helping decorate for the wedding, taking some portraits for another missionary family in the area, teaching some photography classes to my friend Grace, and I went to the rural jungle for two days where I got to take pictures for one of the local missionaries who had installed 30 some cook stoves in local village homes (and he needed pictures to send to the missions organization). When I left the States I honestly imagined I was going to be quite busy, but contrary to my thoughts, my time in Mexico was rather slowed paced and the few events I participated in were sporadic. I went there expecting to bless, but came home blessed instead.

Every morning in Mexico, I would wake up to the sound of the water truck driving by on the cobblestone streets outside, "Agua! ... Agua Fresca!" Without leaving my bed side, I got to spend an hour to an hour and a half in God's Word before breakfast each morning. It was such a blessing not to have rushed quiet time!

There were different days when I shared heart struggles with my friend Grace. Each time she would look me in the eye and say, "Leah, God doesn't need your help." Not only did my friend remind me of the truth that God doesn't need my help to accomplish His will, but she also encouraged me to make certain situations a matter of prayer EVERY DAY. As she shared personal stories & testimonies of God answering prayer in her life, she encouraged, "Leah, give it to God, and He will take care of you. He is a good Father."

One day I was stepping out onto the cobblestone streets in San Cristobal, and one of the missionary wives just blurted out to me, "I used to ask God why I have to be so quiet & shy. My husband is a speaker & preacher. He's outgoing & likes to talk. But then God taught me that being shy is okay because God has brought opportunities for me to minister to the OTHER shy people." She had no idea what an encouragement that was for me to here right at that moment.

On our two day trip into the rural jungle, we had a 3-4 hour drive each way, and during that time, my friends Steven & Grace shared their detailed story of how God brought them together and how the Lord led them to be missionaries in Mexico. Wow, listening to their story encouraged me so much. God worked through so many details and removed obstacles to accomplish His perfect will for them. It encouraged that God is still in the miracle-working business today, and if He can do it for somebody else, He can works wonders on my behalf as well. He is no respecter of persons and nothing is too hard for Him!

Before I knew it, three and half weeks had passed in Mexico, and it was time for me to go back to the States. The night before I left, Pastor Enrique & Maricruz (the couple who's wedding I photographed) came up to my room and gave me some dark roast coffee to take home. As we exchanged goodbyes, I thought I saw their eyes get misty with a tear.. and then it made me want to cry. ;-) "You need to come back! You should come back next summer with a missions team." I said, "Yeah! We'll see what God has in store." They chorused, "No, you NEED to come back." I replied, "Oh, that would be wonderful. If not here, we do know that we'll see each other in glory ... oh that's going to be a wonderful day!" Pastor Enrique then said, "Yes, but we're going to pray we'll see you back here in Mexico first." :-)

The next morning before I left for the airport, all of us (Steven, Grace, Gabby, Mrs. Ozuna, Pastor Enrique and Maricruz) stood in a circle and held hands together as they prayed for my travels home and for God's hand of blessing in my life. My heart was full & blessed. (My eyes were full too - of tears). ;)

As we drove down the winding, twisting mountain roads to the airport, Steven & Grace had one of the Getty's CDs playing in the car. The sun was beginning to rise, and the valley below was covered in a purple, foggy mist. I contemplated the goodness of God over the past month and thanked Him for reminding me once again of who He truly is. 

"May the peace of God, our heav'nly Father, and the grace of Christ, the risen Son, and the fellowship of God the Spirit keep our hearts and minds within His love. And to Him be praise for His glorious reign; From the depths of earth to the heights of heaven, we declare the name of the Lamb once slain— Christ eternal, the King of Kings. May this peace which passes understanding, And this grace which makes us what we are, And this fellowship of His communion, Make us one in spirit and in heart..."

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Birthday + Heart Meditations on Psalms 16

Today we flipped our calenders to December 1st, and I am another year older. 

The following passage of scripture has been a very near & dear comfort to my heart the last few days, and I close with it,

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. 
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” 
...The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply... 
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. 
...I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
In the night also my heart instructs me. 
I have set the Lord always before me; 
Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. 
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; 
My flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul... 
You make known to me the path of life; 
In your presence there is fullness of joy; 
At your right hand are pleasures forevermore. 
—Psalms 16