Daily Archives: December 11, 2011

Happy Holidays to All My Family and Friends

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called:    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Dear Friends and Family,

I pray that God’s joy has found you this holiday season. As another year draws to a close, I’m sure most of us are reviewing the past year — reflecting on both the good and the bad, and probably spending more time on the latter than we should.

God has done and is doing magnificent things in my life. During the last eight years, He’s taken me from a farm in the middle of nowhere to a small college town where I helped facilitate worship through a college ministry. He then gave me a job in the midst of economic turmoil where I was able to flourish and now…on to aid in the planting of a new church in Minneapolis, MN. As many of you know, I, by the divine grace of God, embarked on a new adventure this last year. In March of 2010, my pastor at BWC and our worship leader pulled me aside to ask if I would consider coming with them to the Twin Cities to help plant a new church and play keyboard for their worship team. My heart and mind were in syn with the hope of moving on…I felt I had exhausted all He had called me to do in both Brookings and Sioux Fall, SD. It was time for change and I said yes.

January and February of this past year brought with them the ups and downs of job-hunting, along with the unnecessary stress and chaos I faced in Sioux Falls. I’ll also add that looking for a job 250 miles away during a Minnesota/South Dakota winter was not my brightest idea. I pressed forwarded, know thing that this was what God had called me to do.

Come March, feeling hopeless in my search, I had signed a short lease on my apartment. I soon discovered that God had other plans.  Doors began to open. Within one week, He had provided a job in downtown Minneapolis, the tools necessary to start and complete that move, a sublet for my apartment, and a place to live practically rent free until the position was solidified.

I spent the majority of th next couple of months discovering myself in this new city. Ths sights, sounds…almost all of it were too much to comprehend in one day. Thankfully, I would be spending more time in the city and I’ve since learned that I could live here the rest of my life and just barely get into it all. The rest of the group — Rick Wipf, Ben Gietzen and his wife Abby, Jared Clausen and his wife Kelsey, and Holly Almhjeld — arrived by the end of May and we’ve been digging into scripture and eac other’s lives since. Good stuff!

My job became permanent in September and I moved into the city. I know call downtown Minneapolis my home with work practically being in my backyard. Being able to walk to most destinations on foot or biking definitely has its benefits. And so does my view! God has opened doors and literally moved mountains in getting me and the rest of the team from BWC here.

Plans for The Vine (our church) are well underway. The location has been narrowed down to the Uptown area (southwest of downtown) of Minneapolis, just north of Richfield. The hunting process for a building is underway and hopefully, within God’s timing, we will have a base to call home soon. We are also anticipating a start date in March 2012 and the plan is to have monthly services for the first six months before going all out. The core group continues to grow and has over 110% in the last eight months. God has been doing amazing things within our group, in our individual lives (He’s definitely messing with me), and with the planning process for The Vine. All credit is due Him. We wouldn’t be where we are now if it weren’t for His choosing, divine will and holy design.

Soren Kierkegaard once stated that life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards. Think about it. We all know the saying, “Hindsight is 20/20.” There are some days in this life where I tend to find myself thinking if only I had know then what I know now…I stop myself and bring to memory God’s word in Lamentations 3:22-26: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning…

How many chances do we get? Many. How expansive is His love? It encompasses all. It’s deep. It’s wide. It’s strong. Unending. It is also because of that love that we are free; free from our yesterdays, free from the worries of tomorrow; free to be content with now, this moment. Having a life of constantly looking forward has forced me to remind myself to be satified now; that I am His. He has provided all that we need in this moment and will continue to do so in the moments to come. Sure, it’s not easy. Christ did not come so that we could have a stress and problem free life. Oh how uninteresting life would be if He had! He only said that His yoke was easy and the burden light. Why? The hope we have because of what He did for us. Faith and trust make life easier to carry; it’s what sets us free. He came to set us free.

Take a few moments to focus on the lyrics written below. Feel free to even check the song out on YouTube at http://youtu.be/ifeJRC5lvhs

May you all find peace, hope and love in the coming year, and may you all be blessed in knowing that you are forever His. Enjoy it!   Merry Christmas,

A Resolution to Forgive

When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.” Catherine Ponder

Shirer brings attention to the faults we’ve done to ourselves and how we can’t get past those. Some people easily forgive others, but cannot seem to forgive themselves.

Ever been there? I have.

Six years ago, I found myself in a situation I never imagined I would be in. The yearning I had as a young single woman to be an “us” with someone was stronger than ever before. I didn’t know how to tame it, or rather, lock it up and throw away the key until the time was right. I dove head first into a relationship and lost a good friend in the aftermath. In my obsession of trying to forgive myself for letting things go too far on the one end, I was left unable to forgive anyone else that played a part in the mass of destruction of that situation. I couldn’t forgive myself. Period.

Can I let you in on a secret…one that I have to keep reminding myself of each day? The capacity to forgive yourself is personally impossible. I can’t do it. You can’t do it. Nobody can. But take a moment and breathe.

There isn’t a single place in Scripture that tells us that we are supposed to forgive ourselves.

We have no capability, much less responsibility, to forgive ourselves. Take a moment to read Romans 3:23-26.

The forgiveness of our sins is something that Christ suffered a terrifying death to give us. God chose to never recall our misdeeds again. He does not intent to punish us for them.

So why should you?

Think about it. When you say “I can’t forgive myself” means that you don’t fully believe that what He did was quite enough, that in some strange way His forgiveness of you is inadequate. This is the arrogant, hubristic tendency of fallen humanity, refusing to accept that His gift was and still is enough.

It is enough. More than enough.

And only through a gracious acceptance of the gift extended to you through Jesus will you ever really be free – free from the bondage, free from its hold, free to see that you Savior pressed the delete button for your sins when He…walked the road to Calvary…felt the crown of thorns pressed onto His head…took the beating…allows the sword’s piercing…flinched against the nails puncturing His hands and feet…when He hung on Golgotha’s tree.

In accepting this, you have forgiven yourself and you give God the right to forgive others through you.

Imagine purchasing a circus pony. The days of working the circuit are over. But the pony does nothing but wander in circles all day.

Choosing not to forgive someone is like that. The thing haunts you. Defines you. Restrains you. Controls you. It keeps you living life in the same pattern to which you had relegated yourself to for so long. You forget that there’s another way to live. This is the legacy of unforgiveness.

Choosing not to forgive is like choosing to let an open wound fester with infection and not doing a thing to let it heal. Many of us are guilty of letting unforgiveness eat us alive and are professionals at leaving the world around us none-the-wiser.

But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too – Mark 11:25-26

Choosing forgiveness is a lot like pressing the delete key on our computers, backspacing over the accidents and unacceptable actions that have been written on the pages of our lives. Forgiveness means making the decision to incorporate the spoiled residue of the last ones. Pressing the delete key is a choice – a conclusive, one-time decision followed by an ongoing series of smaller yet equally important daily decisions to continue deleting, releasing the desire to hang on to what was done. – Priscilla Shirer

Not deleting it causes the occurrence to hang around and cause trouble.

I’m sure most of you have seen the film Hitch. In it, Will Smith’s character quotes the following:

Live is ten percent what happens to you; ninety percent is how you respond to that ten percent.

True. But how can you be set free? Three ways.

1: Refuse to hold that grudge. If a person has wronged you and you find it hard to forgive, release that person to God. Release all of it.

2: Leave room for God to act on your behalf. Some people will never admit to the wrongs they have committed. Refuse the urge to retaliate – let God deal with them in His timing.

3: Pray. To release others from the debt they owe requires supernatural resources. Pray for it. Pray for all of it. And God will respond.

How about you? Is there anyone you need to seek forgiveness from? Is there anyone you need to forgive?

Seek God out in this as you choose to live a life of someone who forgives and who has been forgiven.

Advent Week 2: Peace

A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.” Luke 1:39-45

Today’s focus: peace…or rather, Shalom, the Hebrew word for/about peace. This peace goes beyond our earthly understanding of peace. It is not niceness or political correctness. It is not the absence of armed conflict or a peaceful co-existence. Shalom goes beyond serenity. It speaks to wholeness, completeness and fulfillment. The presence is ever-expanding. And to pursue it would be to pursue fulfillment. And purpose began at creation.

We were created to partner with God to bring Shalom into the world. We were created to take what was created good and make it better; to bring it to completion. Then came sin and this became impossible.

With sin, came chaos. No fulfillment. A constant yearning.

Jesus came to bring Shalom – to bring fulfillment. That’s why the angels sang “peace on earth.”

When we look at the life of Christ, we see anything but peace. God chose to become less; came in the form of a baby, was born in a stable and laid in a manger because there was nowhere else to put him. While He lived, he was oppressed and afflicted. Towards the end, he endured mocking, brutality, and the cross.

Does that sound peaceful?

Attending Church of the Open Door, this morning’s speaker, David Johnson, then proceeded to ask three questions.

1: Have you ever been a part of a miracle?

At this, we look to Mary, the mother of Jesus. She was a disturbed teenager who had just seen an angel and heard of the impossible. She couldn’t bring this disturbing news to her parents – they wouldn’t understand (I was there once too…we all were teenagers once). She chose then to spend time with her cousin Elizabeth; who was also pregnant…as the angel had told her. Keep in mind that angels do not have a natural calming affect…I know I would probably freak if I were to ever see one while walking this terrestrial planet. Wouldn’t you?

We, too, should understand that when God calls us to something and that although it may be exciting, it is always disturbing, will probably be painful, definitely questionable and unsettling.

Johnson then pointed to the by-product of Mary’s arrival: what happened to Elizabeth when she came. The baby leapt within her womb and, due to the Holy Spirit’s coming upon her, she knew the gift that Mary carried and, in turn, calmed Mary’s fears. Elizabeth brought Shalom into the picture.

At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

When God’s life is born within each of us, we have the capability of feeling Him move. God is not dormant – He is fully alive – and He will begin to grow within us, stretch us, scar us, scare us and that growth may even hurt. We need to remember that is all for His glory. He is preparing us to do a great work for Him and preparing us for His kingdom.

2: If you were called to play a part in His story, would you say yes?

3: What if you knew (fully believed) that all of the things in your life that have ever grown/scarred/scared/disturbed you were actually moving you towards Shalom? Would that give you peace? What if you knew that you were part of something…if you had a place in bringing and restoring Shalom…would that give you Shalom?

Johnson recalled last week’s message about Joseph. He was disappointed in the fact that Mary was with child before they were even married. He had considered leaving her…then…then God revealed to him the plan. And in accepting that plan and saying yes, Joseph was given the Shalom he needed to go through it.

Mary, on the other hand, wasn’t as lucky. She saw an angel – that disturbed her. She then went to Elizabeth; a woman who was older; a woman who had lived; a woman who knew loss, who knew what it was to be barren. Elizabeth was able to stand firm and be the confident spirit (through her wisdom) that Mary needed:

“God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”

Mary was blessed because she had said YES even when she didn’t fully understand. All of that administers peace and it can stretch from one generation to the next.

I couldn’t help but ask those questions of my own life and point them towards The Vine. Every step towards this moment has been a part of a miracle. Each person on the Vine team has been asked to be a part of God’s story. We all have. And that third question? I couldn’t help but think about my current situation:

What if you knew (fully believed) that all of the things in your life that have ever grown/scarred/scared/disturbed you were actually moving you towards Shalom? Would that give you peace? What if you knew that you were part of something…if you had a place in bringing and restoring Shalom…would that give you Shalom?

I fully believe that everything that has led to this moment, here and now, has been moving us towards bringing that Shalom to Minneapolis. There are thousands of people in that area that do not know God. Some may have not even heard of Him or what He has to offer. I’ve been given peace in spite of not knowing what steps are coming next. I’ve been given peace even though I do not know what the outcome will be.

I have.

Been given…

Peace.

Have you?

Day 11: The Nativity – A Study of Character

Have you ever taken a moment to glance at the characters in the Nativity scene your family probably sets out each December, along with the rest of your Christmas decorations?

Each Nativity consists of the three main characters: Mary, Joseph and Jesus (baby). Then, there are the bystanders: the wisemen, shepherds and maybe an angel…along with the animals that any given stable would probably have had in it.

This week, I’ll be taking a deeper look at the lives of each person involved at the start of Jesus’ life here on earth. Again, disclaimer: I am not an expert. Nor do I claim to be. Every idea/thought/story posted here is a byproduct of the life I’m living now, the truth I seek through God’s Word and the world around me. Let’s just see where this takes us.