What Do You See Outside YOUR Open Window Today?

What Do You See Outside YOUR Open Window Today?
Remember: "When God closes a door, He always opens a window!" You never know what might be out there waiting for you!

Monday, June 28, 2010

An Open Door...

Psalm 111: 1 “Praise the Lord! I will praise the Lord with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright and in the congregation.”

More Steiner Family Adventures and Leaps of Faith... This is a continuation of last night's post...

As our first summer in Ohio was coming to a close, so were our finances. We had enjoyed our little church in the country, “Ruggles Church”, but we knew that we could not live on the $100.00 a week we were receiving from them. John was already enrolled in the Intensive Greek program at the Seminary, which was exactly that… “Intensive”! What he didn’t realize when we started this venture was that the regular classes would require that he have a reading knowledge of Greek from day one! He had never had a Greek class, and did not feel that linguistics were his forte’. Fortunately they had this “Intensive Greek” class that lasted for three weeks just prior to the regular semester. Amazingly God quickened his mind so that he was able to learn enough Greek in that short amount of time to be able to start his classes as planned.

Since his regular classes would be starting in a few weeks, he needed some compatible employment soon. It is so easy to give in to despondency when things don’t happen as quickly as you think they should, or to the “specifications” that you had dreamed up! We were beginning to second-guess God and wonder if we had misinterpreted His leading. There just didn’t seem to be any jobs available for either of us.

One afternoon we were really starting to feel the pressure and felt the need to get out of town for a while and take a country ride. We wound up driving through the little town of New London, about fifteen miles north. I told John that I thought there was a church from our denomination in that community, but I didn’t have any idea where. Suddenly, there it was, right there on the road on which we “just happened” to be driving ! We pulled in the driveway to look at the church and noticed a log home behind the church building. We figured that was probably the parsonage. About that time we saw a man in a suit walking from the church toward that house, so obviously we determined that he must be the Pastor! We pulled around a little closer and he turned and saw us driving in and started walking toward us. As we stopped the car he came alongside of us and said, “Hi there! May I help you?” We asked him if he was the Pastor, and he said, “No, but I am a member of this church and I live here.” He added that this was the Pastor’s day off, therefore he did not expect to see him.

We explained to him who we were and that we were just out for a ride and admiring the church. He gave us a warm welcome and offered to take us inside. Of course we hated to impose, but since he was so nice and actually insistent, we said we would love to. As we began a tour of the building, we passed one small office and the man said to us, “That is our Assistant Pastor’s office, but we currently don’t have an Assistant.” John and I looked at each other with big eyes, and then we looked back at him and asked, “Are you looking for one?” He said that they were. We then asked, “Is that a paid position, or voluntary?” “Paid”, he answered.  John gulped and took the plunge and asked, “Do you mean paid as in a regular salaried position?” And the  man patiently smiled and replied, “Yes, it’s not a lot of money, but it’s pretty good for a part time position!” John and I were both getting very excited under the surface, but trying hard not to appear too anxious.  Then it just kind of came right out…we couldn’t hold back any longer. John began to tell this man, who happened to actually be an Elder in the church, about our current circumstances and that we had just been praying about finding a job that would be compatible with going to Seminary, and that we did not know anything about this church before taking that ride out there that day. Then this man did something very special. He said, “Why don’t we go into the sanctuary and pray about this?” And so we did. As we all knelt there at that altar to pray it was as if we could feel the presence of God in that room right there with us. I will never forget how comforted we felt at that moment, and how God’s Holy Spirit flowed through us,enveloping us with His peace.

When we stood up from the prayer altar and started to walk out of the church, there was a man dressed in overalls walking through the door. We were surprised to discover that this was the Pastor, and that he had a garden planted behind the church, which he was coming to tend on his day off! The Elder appeared very surprised to see him and immediately introduced us and explained our situation. He was very happy to meet us, and we spent the next couple of hours talking! He never did get to his gardening that day! And to make a long story short, a couple of weeks later John was installed as the new Assistant Pastor for Music and Youth at the church! (Can you tell this was in the late 70's? Salmon Suit! :)

In Isaiah 55: 8-10, God reminds us, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

More of this story to follow... keep watching... Thank you!  Part Three: Bells, Whistles, Sirens

Sunday, June 27, 2010

“Trust and Obey”

Deuteronomy 31:8 “And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”

The next few blogs are going to go back in time to when my husband was attending seminary in Ohio..when our kids were still quite young (and we were too).  I hope you will enjoy some of the adventures and "misadventures" that we experienced during that time. 

It was an exciting day when John received a letter from the Seminary telling him that he was accepted to begin his studies that fall. The Associate Dean of the Seminary wrote to John in April, and said, “You were right this is a big leap of faith but it isn’t often that we get an opportunity in life to completely trust God. While it makes one apprehensive to launch out this way, we are reminded that God says, “Trust Me”, paraphrasing from Malachi 3:10, “and see if I won’t open the windows of heaven and pour out blessings such as you cannot contain.’” We were on our way to our next big adventure! We were moving to Ohio!

The little church we had been serving in Florida sadly bid us farewell as we departed for Ohio in early June. It had been a marvelous time of growing together in the Lord, and yes, the church had also increased in numbers as well. We loved the people and they loved us, and we had made some wonderful friendships that would last us for eternity, but it was time to move on.

So now you are probably asking yourselves, how are they going to pay for this adventure? Well, that’s a good question! We had managed to save a little from John’s extra teaching job to pay for the move and help sustain us through the summer. We were going to look for jobs as soon as we got up there, and trust that God would provide as always! When we drove onto the campus of the seminary several days later, the Dean of the College met us at the door of our little two- bedroom apartment, which was on the seminary campus. He gave us the keys to the apartment and asked John how he would like to preach on Sunday! There was a little country church, which needed someone to preach Sunday mornings only, and they could pay $100.00 a week. Of course we jumped at the opportunity and marveled that God had indeed provided so quickly! Obviously $100.00 a week wasn’t going to go very far for a family of five to live on, but it was a start. That, coupled with our small savings, would tide us over for a couple of months any way! There was a lot of praise going on in that little apartment that night (as soon as we could find our way through the boxes and furniture piled from floor to ceiling in an apartment that was about half the size of our previous home!).

That summer we were in a whirlwind of activity settling into our new life far away from our home in Florida. One of the first things that happened, however, wasn’t so great! We had visited with some new friends whom we had met previously in Florida who were also attending the Seminary in Ohio, and who lived in a nearby city. Our kids had a wonderful time together and it was the beginning of a great family friendship. Their little girl had something that appeared to be bug bites on her back, but we didn’t think too much of it, until a few days later her mother called us and said, “I hate to tell you, but those weren’t bug bites! Those were chicken pox! So guess whose kids had the chicken pox not long after? Right! Ours! Only, they couldn’t all three get them at the same time and get it over with. Oh no! That would be too simple! They each had their turn about two weeks apart, so that it totally wrecked our whole summer as far as being able to go anywhere!

A few weeks later our older son Benton, who had not yet gotten the chicken pox, was out playing with some neighborhood children, while I was inside our apartment taking care of the other two boys. Suddenly there was a loud pounding on the door, and there stood our neighbor lady in her bathing suit with a towel wrapped around her (she had been sun-bathing), and she practically screamed,
“You better hurry up quick and get over to the hospital! I think your husband is going to need you!” “My husband!” I cried, “What happened to him?” (He had been outside watching the kids playing in the yard the last I knew). My neighbor was almost hysterical, and I was beginning to panic. She then said, “Your husband is ok, but it’s Benton!” I shouted, “Benton! What happened to Benton?” She then said, “I don’t think he’ll lose his finger, but you better get over there quick!” By now I’m really confused and scared, and I cried, “What happened to his finger?” She said something about a big rock smashing it, and then yelled, “You’d better hurry!” I cried, “But I can’t leave Matthew and Scott here alone! They have the chicken pox!” She almost recoiled and said, “Well, I can’t stay with them either! My kids haven’t had the chicken pox yet!”
 At this point I wanted to strangle this woman for scaring me half to death and then not being willing to help me do what she said I had to do! So, what WAS I going to do? Thankfully, about this time another neighbor, overhearing this rather loud conversation going on at my door, came to my rescue! She volunteered to watch the kids so I could leave and go over to the hospital and check on Benton and John. Apparently, this hysterical neighbor lady had driven them over to the hospital in her car as things had happened so quickly that John didn’t have time to come tell me before they left.

I hurriedly drove myself over to the hospital, which thankfully was near by. I found John in the emergency room, looking rather pale and shaken, as he tried to prepare me. Apparently Benton and the little neighbor girl were playing in the yard and decided to pick up a very large heavy rock together and tried to move it over to a concrete pad where they were building a little “fort”. The little girl couldn’t hold up her end of the rock and let go so that it came right down on Benton’s middle finger, smashing it between the rock and the concrete! Ouch!

John took me into the cubicle where they had taken Benton, who was also looking rather pale and shaken. But in spite of his obvious pain and discomfort, he was so sweet and concerned about me! He very bravely said, “Mommy, maybe you’d better not look at my finger. It might upset you!” I said, “It’s ok sweetie. I think I can handle it.” So he uncovered it a little so I could see, and I must say I started to feel a bit nauseous and faint. The end of his finger was split in two, and it looked a lot like the end of a hot dog that had been cut at the very tip. The Doctor came over and said that they were going to remove the remainder of the fingernail, and then try to sew it all back together. She felt that it should be able to heal, but it would probably always be a little sensitive and look different. I was allowed to stay with him while they sewed him up and then they put tons of gauze bandages around his finger and hand.

We took him home and tried to all calm down. A few days later Benton broke out with the chicken pox, and the area that had the worse pox on it was, you guessed it! His poor little sore hand! So now it not only hurt like the devil, but it itched too! And to make matters worse, I also broke out with a mysterious, very itchy rash all over my torso! The doctor said it was a type of contact dermatitis or possibly a variation of the chicken pox virus. Whatever it was, I was miserable!

Needless to say, it was not a great summer, and certainly not the way we had hoped to start this new adventure. We could only hope that the rest of our giant leap of faith was going to be better!

Thank you, Lord, that even though our summer days were a bit difficult, You were there, guiding, protecting, and comforting. You did not leave us or forsake us, just as you promised!

Tune in next time to hear more of the adventures of the Steiner family as they answered the call of God to prepare for the ministry.  Part Two: An Open Door

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Who's Getting Flabby?

Proverbs 31:17: "She girds herself with strength, and strengthens her arms."

I recently took a good look at my arms and realized they were getting rather flabby. (No comments, please) I find that even on the warmest days of summer, I shy away from wearing anything that reveals the extra baggage on my upper arms. I used to be in such good shape! They tell me that once you turn forty, everything sort of goes to pot. And now that I’m approaching sixty I can assure you that is true!! (Only took me twenty years to admit it!)

Exercising has never been one of my favorite things to do. When I was younger I really didn't need to do any extra exercise as I was already too active. I could eat anything in any amount and it never made any difference.   Now I can eat practically nothing in miniscule amounts and it makes a huge difference! (Did I say huge?)

Not only have my muscles gotten flabby, but my strength is failing. I find I can't lift or push or pull the kind of loads I used to be able to carry with little effort. I held someone's fifteen-pound baby for a few minutes not long ago and found myself having to sit down on the job! It could become rather depressing! Or I could do something about it. But I find that my will to do something about it has gotten rather lacking. So it's my own fault. I really can't blame it on "being over the hill."

The same goes for spiritual strength. Many times I feel like my spiritual strength is getting flabby as well. I find that I can't carry the kind of spiritual loads that I used to carry. Oftentimes I find myself sitting down on the job, lacking the fervor that I once knew. The desire to study and learn and grow is waning. And it certainly isn't because I know it all! Far from it. But my will to do something about it is lacking. Again, it is my own fault. I really can’t blame it on God or my circumstances.

In God’s message to the Ephesians we are given a pattern for living that will keep us strong in the Lord if we follow it.
Paul says in verses 10 through 18 of Chapter Six that we should “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” We are admonished to “put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” We are reminded to “stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.”
Oh Lord, please help me to remember to put on this armor each day of my life that I may be able to stand those fiery darts that are out to get me down. Help me to take up my sword, Your precious Word, and to read it daily, so that I will have the protection of your promises and assurances to keep me from falling. And Lord, help me to remember to pray for others who are also out on the front lines of this battlefield.  Lord, “strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees” and make straight paths for my feet, “so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.” (Hebrews 12:12-13) Amen.

Me, trying to bowl on Wii...That's about my speed of exercise....
How about you?  Want to join me in getting back in shape?  I need your encouragement to keep me moving in the right direction...maybe we can encourage each other!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Thoughts on Restoration

Psalm 23:3a “He restores my soul…”

Have you ever restored a piece of furniture, or an old house, or some other precious antique? If you have, there were probably many times during the process of that restoration that you stopped and asked yourself why you were doing this! I have had several such experiences, but the most memorable project of restoration was my husband’s grandmother’s “Hoosier Cupboard”.

Quite a few years ago now, John’s beloved Grandmother, “Nanny Martin”, passed away. Nanny was more to my husband than a grandmother…she was his confidant, encourager, disciplinarian in many cases, and a lovely example of a Godly woman who trusted and served the Lord with her whole heart. Nanny was very special not only to John, but to me as well. I was so blessed to become a part of the family early enough to get to know and love her myself. When our dear Nanny departed this world to be with Jesus, we became the recipients of several pieces of furniture from her home. Her lovely antique curved glass- front china closet, complete with the enclosed china, the dining room buffet, table and chairs that had so graciously served all the most wonderful family special occasion dinners and gatherings, and the “Hoosier Cupboard” that stood in a corner of her kitchen ever since her children were young, were among the treasures handed down to us.

Well, this “Hoosier Cupboard” had quite a history itself. My husband loves to tell how as a little boy he would open up one of the drawers and play in the snowy white self-rising flour that was stored inside. Had his grandfather ever found out that dirty little fingers and possibly small toy trucks or soldiers had trampled through the very flour that made his biscuits, there would have been some kind of trouble for those dirty little fingers and a certain young man’s behind! There is also a dent in the porcelain enamel counter top about the size of a silver dollar where a certain young lady, (my mother-in-law) dropped the flat iron that was kept on the very top of the cupboard, when she, as a young child was climbing up to the top to see what was there. But with all of its scratches and dents and six coats of paint, I saw potential and beauty waiting to be restored!

To make a long story short, the potential beauty lying under all that paint took me quite a while to recover. Each layer brought new revelations, (why did she paint it that color?). The old-fashioned metal sifters attached to the cupboard were rusty and crusty and dented, but it wouldn’t be complete without them. So they too were cleaned, stripped of their paint, and varnished to show their natural metal sheen. The porcelain enamel counter top received a new layer of paint, but the dent where the iron fell retained its character.

After several months of painstaking work stripping away those layers from every crack and cranny, the natural wood began to glow. Surprisingly, it wasn’t a solid oak cupboard as I had hoped, but a mixture of several different hardwoods on each side. But, no matter, the completely restored “Hoosier Cupboard” was a thing of beauty…a true conversation piece, and an honor to the memory of a dear loved one, as well as a practical addition to our household. I’ve had many offers from other admirers, but this cupboard will remain in our home as long as the Lord allows, and hopefully to be passed on to one of our children someday.

Why did I go to so much trouble to restore an old piece of furniture that at first didn’t look like anything but an overly-painted worn out old cupboard? Maybe it has something to do with seeing the potential within…wanting to preserve something that had been a part of someone we loved…maybe it was because we could see how useful and special that object had been and could be again.

Why does God go to so much trouble to restore His children? Could it be that He sees the potential waiting beneath the layers of sin and burdens and cares of this world that we have placed upon ourselves? Could it be because He wants to make us like new and useful again? Could it be that we belong to Someone He loves? Could it be that He loves us that much…that He would go to great lengths to scrape away the layers of ugliness that have attached themselves to us over the years of hurt and sorrow? I am so thankful that my Heavenly Father didn’t just throw me away on the scrap heap of wasted lives…He saw something beautiful waiting within…He saw the character that had developed from the dents and scratches of life…He saw me, and brought me back to new life in Him, restored, forgiven, and transformed into a person of beauty…for His honor and glory.

Thank You, dear Father, for not giving up on me.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Contemplations on Dust, Spiders, and other stuff...

"I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, and on Your wondrous works..." Psalms 145:5

Ha ha ha...I'll bet you are wondering what on earth I could say good about dust, spiders, and other "stuff"...Well, at least it got your attention!  Actually, one of my facebook friends had put out the idea for us to name something that was brought into our house without the benefit of one molecule of oil.  I said, "dust"... So, my friend had to change the question to "something useful"  that entered my house without the benefit of oil...Of course I rose to the challenge saying "Dust isn't useful? I probably could find enough to insulate something against the cold/or heat. It gives me something to sneeze at...it gives me something to work up a sweat removing from my furniture...which in turn burns calories...it causes me to purchase products to remove it...where would Johnson & Johnson's be without Pledge? Or Endust? True, it takes oil to manufacture those products...but the dust just blew in from who knows where...."   

So the challenge continued...no one else seemed to get it...but I thought of another..."Spiders, I replied"....My friend said...."Are they useful?"...."Hey!!! Spiders are good, I responded, "they eat the other bugs...and when you are looking up at the lovely spider webs, you forget about the dust!"

It is good to think of happy thoughts and silly thoughts...helps to chase the blues away...and I think that is exactly what the Psalmist had in mind when he wrote the Psalms... Psalm 145 in particular is full of praise and worship of our Creator God...

"I will extol You, my God, O King; and I will bless Your name forever and ever.  Every day I will bless You, and I will praise Your name forever and ever.  Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; And His greatness is unsearchable.  One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.  I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, and on Your wondrous works.  Men shall speak of the might of Your awesome acts, and I will declare Your greatness.  They shall utter the memory of Your great goodness, and shall sing of Your righteousness.  The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy.  The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.  All Your works shall praise You, O Lord, and Your saints shall bless You. They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom, and talk of Your power, to make known to the sons of men His mighty acts."  Psalm 145: 1-12

This psalm continues on and on...I love reading it...and it helps me to appreciate all of God's creation...yes, even the dust and spiders....they all have a purpose whether we like them or not. 

Have you thought about God's wonderful creation and majesty lately?  Take a few moments to think about all that He had created and done for you...you might be surprised...and you might even find yourself declaring His greatness and singing of His righteousness...Try it...it really does help chase the blues away....

Good night friends.  And thank you for being just that...friends.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Just What Is Cancer?

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal...And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing...And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing..."  I Corinthians 13:1-3

I asked the question above, "Just what is cancer?"  This is not going to be a medical message...but certainly a message concerning our human condition.  According to the American Cancer Society, "Cancer begins when cells in a part of the body start to grow out of control. There are many kinds of cancer, but they all start because of out-of-control growth of abnormal cells." (ACS: The History of Cancer - http://www.cancer.org/).

The American Cancer Society states that there are "many kinds of cancer...but they all start because of out-of-control growth of abnormal cells." I submit to you that there are indeed many kinds of cancers of the human condition...and they all start because of out of control growth of abnormal "cells" of emotions, feelings, fears, attitudes, anger, stubbornness...or more simply put, because of a lack of "love". 

We are all very conscious of cancer causing elements in our lives...smoking, chemicals, unhealthy diets, pollution, even heredity. But are we just as aware of the cancer causing elements in our hearts and souls?  Greed, lust, jealousy, ambition, the need to be "in control" of all situations at all times...a critical spirit, superiority complex...or inferiority complex...unchecked anger, rage, addictions to things that harm the mind as well as the spirit...these are just a few of the "cancers" that permeate our society and our homes...and our very souls.

Is there a cure for such cancers as these?  Is there any surgery or therapy that can stem the tide of the abnormal growth of these heart-damaging cells?  Yes, there is...a four letter word that covers a multitude of sins and completely changes the heart and mind of the unwitting victim of this disease...LOVE.

"Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails. 
But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away."  I Corinthians 13:4-8

"When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.  For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three;
but the greatest of these is LOVE."
I Corinthians 13: 11-13

Lord, Help me to LOVE like You love.  Help me to put away my childish things...the "abnormal cells" of wrong thinking and acting out when I don't get my way...the need to always be "in control" in my life and in others' lives too...the need to always be right when I ought to recognize that I just may be wrong (did I say that?). Yes, Lord, help me to LOVE like You love.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Psalm 128: 1, 8  "Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, Who walks in His ways....."  "Yes, may you see your children's children..."

What a joy it is to be blessed with children...and even more blessed to have grandchildren!  We have just returned from a trip north to Maine to visit our children...and our one grandchild...How grateful we are to have had this time together.  Even more grateful because God granted us this special time together on the heels of a very difficult couple of months for our son and his family...and also for us.  As those of you who have been following this blog are aware, our son Matthew was diagnosed with a very rare and aggressive cancer about two months ago.  In the weeks that have followed this diagnosis, he has undergone extremely strong chemotherapy...which has resulted in many days of physical discomfort, exhaustion, and misery.  On the bright side...his prognosis is not as bad as originally feared in that the doctors believe they have discovered his cancer early enough to hopefully bring about a cure with the vigorous application of this chemotherapy for many weeks and months to come. 

So tonight I am giving thanks for the hope that we have...and for the fact that during our visit with our son he was feeling great...thanks to a three week respite from the chemo.  I don't love the fact that the day we left he had to go back for his next dose of chemo and has spent today very ill again from the effects.  I do love knowing that he has loving and helpful family and friends surrounding him and encouraging him day by day. I don't love that we are so many miles away and unable to participate in that time of care-giving. I do love that this treatment, even though uncomfortable and not very pleasant, will hopefully result in giving our son a long and healthy life.

I do love that so many of our friends, family, people near and far...have prayed and sent words of hope and encouragement to us and to our son and his family.  Many of these people have never met our son (or us!), but because of their compassion for others they have taken the time to reach out to us with that love that can only come from God above through His servants.

I am thankful...so very thankful...for the many ways God shows His love to us and sends us His mercy when we are feeling overwhelmed. I pray tonight for our family way up there in Maine...may God shower His grace and compassion upon them...and give them rest and strength for each new day's challenges.  And yes, "May you see your children's children..."  Amen.