Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Picture of Faith





If you could take a snapshot of faith, what would it look like? 

It would probably involve the scene of a crisis. Perhaps it would tell the story of a lost job or a difficult doctor-patient consultation. It might be a portrait of a prodigal son or daughter struggling to find answers apart from the truth that already exists. It may be watching over a family saying tearful goodbyes to a young soldier leaving for a tour of duty in a dangerous place far from home. 

Faith is there. It’s resting in a quiet corner of the scene, waiting - no, longing to be embraced. It’s reaching for the heart of the unemployed, the patient, the son or daughter. Never intrusive, but so eager for the opportunity to fill a void and offer the peace that defies explanation, except as defined by the Master who authored it and Who is the finisher of it. 



"There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4,6 NASB) 

Faith is that moment of realization that God is bigger. He is our Source. He is our Answer. Whatever the issue, faith bears the face of our Heavenly Father, with eyes that see beyond our deepest desires or most desperate needs. Faith is tangible and real. It’s filled with hope and promise. The only limitation comes when we choose to embrace fear, whether of the known or the unknown. Faith cannot co-exist with fear. 


Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, 
let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  (Hebrews 12:1, 3 NASB)

If you’re longing for peace, waiting for answers, or fighting fear, look past the circumstances that cloud your view and find that corner in your snapshot that awaits your discovery and your surrender. Open your heart and accept the faith and the hope resting on the fingertips of Jesus' outstretched hands.             


 And He said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you, go in peace.’”
 (Luke 7:50, NASB)


Friday, May 20, 2016

He's Got This

It was only our second meeting as the local chapter of the non-profit, Days for Girls. A dozen sisters-in-Christ gathered on a Monday night to measure, cut and sew reusable menstrual kits. The colorful drawstring bags would contain contoured waterproof shields and flannel liners that would literally change the lives of girls who had been missing school every month just because they had no way to manage their periods.  


At the end of our night of hard work and friendship building, we had 43 bags and 75 liners completed.  Fabulous progress, but if we were going to meet our goal of having 50 kits ready to go to Guatemala the next month, we’d need 325 more liners and 100 shields completed.  As we were packing up to leave, I mentioned to the group that there was a special die-cut machine that would make cutting the fabric significantly easier, faster, and more precise.

“It costs $600,” I said, “so, if you have any connections or know of any businesses that might want to contribute to this, please let me know.” 

At home an hour later, my phone rang.  It’s almost 10 o’clock, I thought. This can’t be good.

The voice was unfamiliar.

“Hi, it’s Jan, from the meeting tonight.  What you said earlier about needing $600 for the die cutter? I have it.”

Jan went on to explain how she and her husband had been dealing with the IRS over some old tax returns.  She’d picked up her mail before she’d left for our meeting, but hadn’t had time to look through it.  When she got home, she found a check from the IRS for $613, and she and her husband wanted to donate it so we could get the die cutter. 

“The amount is just a perfect match, don’t you think?” she gushed.  She was so thrilled to see God provide in such a direct way.  She was so thrilled to be a part of it.

I shared in her excitement and thanked her for her generous spirit; together we praised God.  But I’ve been down this road before.  I’ve seen God provide in many, many different ways. But what struck me this time, was that he had already provided even before I shared the request with the women earlier that night.  That check was already in Jan’s purse, just waiting for her to open the envelope. 

…your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.
Matthew 6:8


There it was, another reminder that He’s got this. Whatever our assignment, yours and mine, our job is just to keep up and keep moving forward—for His kingdom. 

In Christ,

LuAnn Kern

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Out of the Ashes


The world is so much more beautiful after it rains. Dark clouds are illuminated through a brilliant sun and every color dazzles the senses. After a storm the earth breathes in all the toxins around her and exhales life and growth. During the most malevolent hour of the downpour nature props up her instrument and prepares to play…

In this month’s Readers Digest editor Liz Vaccariello shares the story of her recent family vacation to Yellowstone National Park.

"I saw the charred evidence of those fires, tall back trunks bearing witness to the half-size offspring growing beside them. Turns out, the ubiquitous lodgepole pine trees can reseed themselves only after fire. The ’88 “catastrophe” was just the facial the park needed.” Liz Vaccariello, Readers Digest, Pg 5 May 2016 issue


The fires that Liz was referring to burned nearly 800,000 acres and caused more than 3 million dollars in damages. Yet she states that the effects of such widespread damage were actually beneficial to the park as a whole. She claims that today Yellowstone is healthy, vibrant, and thriving, apparently a direct result of the devastation caused in 1988. How miraculous that such beauty arises from such tragedy! Are we any different?

“I will make them and the places all around My hill a blessing; and I will cause showers to come down in their season; there shall be showers of blessing…”

We look at our bad choices and painful memories as a smoldering, charred landscape devoid of life and beauty. It’s a hot mess and every time we walk through it we cringe. What good can possibly come from all this devastation?

The answer is in the face of the child we painfully delivered. It is in the sobriety chip we hold in our pocket. It is in the diploma that hangs on our wall, the friend we encouraged yesterday, and the forgiveness we received today. Stunning, breath-taking growth is found in the places we’re least likely to expect it- underneath a burning pile of ash.

“Then the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase...”
Ezekiel 34:26-27

Basking in His beauty,
Sherry




Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Temptation in Bloom

This past Sunday, the majority of my Sunday School class, including the teacher, was out, so we remnant sat in with another class. The lesson on temptation was deep and soul-searching--just like I like them. I was glad I decided to go instead of sleeping in, and I was even more thankful that afternoon. I was sucker-punched when I realized how easily the enemy can sneak in.


Like most Mother's Days,  the deacons went through the congregation and handed each woman a single flower tied with pretty ribbon. I was thrilled, and touched, and I oohed and ahhed. I LOVED my little white rose!

I felt loved.


Then I turned around and saw my friend Barbie's rose. It was huge! It was a beautiful light peach that almost glowed. Her daughter's was almost as big and a lovely pale pink. Both were full, fresh and aromatic. I looked down at my little Charlie Brown rose with less than a dozen wilting petal sand no longer thought it was so special. I shook it off and made light of it. I gushed over their roses with Barbie, and even asked someone to compare our roses and guess who was the better mom. When I got home, I stuck my rose in the center of a bouquet I've been salvaging. It looked pretty there, but it was already drooping.

I spent the afternoon on the back deck, alternately Facebooking, attempting to write, reading a novel, and listening to the birds as I thought back over the morning. The question I "took away" from the lesson: What "visuals" does Satan use to tempt me? And the flowers: Barbie did deserve, or at least need, the most beautiful rose in the bucket more that I did--her son is away on a secret mission for the miliary and her daughter is recovering from a long, mysterious illness, not to mention she teaches the 1st Grade Sunday School class.

And then, to take a Bible verse totally out of context and misapply it for the sake of a metaphor, the two became one.

That sneaky Satan had slithered in and caused me to sin with the simple gift of a thornless rose.

(Caused me to sin? Oops. Tempted me. Thanks, God.)

Take 2: 
That sneaky Satan had slithered in and whispered in my ear. And I had succumbed without even realizing it.

The simple gift of a thornless rose pricked my pride because I was jealous for someone else's gift. I had been perfectly happy and completely satisfied with what I had until I saw what another person had received. Suddenly mine wasn't good enough anymore.

The Holy Spirit brought me me face to face with the last but not least of God's ten commandments: "Thou shalt not covet......"



https://disciplesofhope.files.wordpress.com/2015/12/covetousness.jpg?w=604



"You shall not covet your neighbor's house.
You shall not covet your neighbor's wife,
or his male or female servant,
his ox or donkey,
or anything that belongs to your neighbor."
Exodus 10:17



(Or her rose.)
In love,
Cat



Thursday, May 5, 2016

Take Charge of Your Habits

As I walked around the yard, something caught my eye. I walked closer. Sure enough, those leaves didn’t belong to that flowering bush. They belonged on a Maple tree. I love trees. But did I want one there? It was close to the fence and the house. In years to come, would that be a problem? I wanted to let it grow, but made the decision to get rid of it.

It was still young enough to allow being pulled out by hand. In no time at all, the young Maple tree began to wither and die.
 
Just that quickly, my thoughts turned to life. We develop habits in our life that seem innocuous at first. For some it’s smoking just one cigarette…others might take one drink. Maybe you are married, but have to travel out of town on business. You catch the eye of that pretty lady and flirt a little. Next time you’re in town, you take her out to dinner.

If you realize early on you’ve begun an unhealthy habit, it’s still young enough to handle yourself. You change friends. You go to a different hotel next time you travel. The potentially harmful habit withers and dies.

But what if one drink leads to another and another. Or dinner with that pretty lady leads to a bed in your motel room? The pattern is no longer harmless. You know you need to stop. But the roots have grown deep. It’s exciting and fun. You are unable to stop the regularly repeated behavior pattern.

You need help.

If I had allowed the tree to grow, by the time the branches were pushing on the fence and scraping on the roof, no longer would I have been able to handle it myself. I would have needed professional help to remove it.

Maybe you do too. 

“Turn back from your doomed way of life. Straighten out your lives.” Jeremiah 18:11 (MSG)



Monday, April 25, 2016

How Big Is Your Storm?




          On May 30, 2013 this cloud was taking aim for Falls Creek Baptist Assembly. Located near Davis, OK, it is one of the largest youth camps in the nation. There were 4,500 children and sponsors attending one of the weeks set aside for 4th, 5th and 6th grade students from around the state. The local weather teams who make it their life's work to study storms and keep our citizens aware of danger had instructed those at Falls Creek to "get below ground."
          Can you imagine being at the camp, or even a parent or other relative, of one of these children. Oklahoma had just said good-bye to nine of our youngest citizens. And now...this.
          Personnel and volunteers are well-trained and prepared for this type of emergency and got word, through the news outlets, that the children were in structurally sound buildings. 
          But, still we prayed and requests were quickly shared through social media. 
          God heard. And He answered..
          The weather reports began to change. The super cell was "failing to organize" into what could have been another disaster for a state still reeling from May 19 and 20, 2013. 

"Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
  And He brought them out of their distresses.
  He caused the storm to be still...
  Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness,
  And for His wonders to the sons of men!
  Let them extol Him also in the congregation of the people,
  And praise Him at the seat of the elders."
   (Psalm 107:28, 29a,31,32 NASB)

          There are more storms coming. Some in the form of tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes. Some in the form of men who seek to destroy and to weaken our faith.
          God is bigger. And He is our only hope, whatever the storm. 
          Should we do everything in our power to avoid the things that seek to destroy us? Be aware? Be prepared? The answer is obvious. 
          Regardless of the particular storm heading toward us, we must also:

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and
supplication with thanksgiving let your requests 
be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, 
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
(Philippians 4:6,7 NASB)


     

 Photo by Mandy Kniskern, OKC




Photobucket

Friday, April 22, 2016

What It Feels Like When God is Waiting on You

No more than 6 column inches long, the magazine article told the story of an organization* that was working to change the lives of girls across the world by providing reusable sanitary supplies so that girls didn’t have to miss school because of their periods. The effort resonated with me because my own daughters were the age of the girls in the photo. And while my daughters started their lives across the world, it was by the grace of God that they would have all the supplies they ever needed. 

I cut out of the article and put it in my “In Box” to investigate later. But it was quickly buried in the paperwork of life.

A year later the article rose to the top of my pile. I re-read it and then spent some time researching the organization on-line. This is something I could do, this is something I should do. I learned what I could, enlisted the help of friends, got the support of our church, and made plans to take this effort to the next step.

I didn’t take that step. For the next year my path was averted as a family member's health took center stage in my life. My strong start was at a dead stop.

What’s it feel like when you know God’s waiting on you?

I knew that my priorities were right, that every ounce of my time and energy was needed at home. But I felt like I had failed God. Again. While I had no idea how long my situation would remain, God kept the goals of that organization on my mind and in my heart. Countless times I thought about it and wondered, Is this really a banner He wants me to carry for His kingdom? He was taking us along a different journey for the time being, but He was also letting me know that this would be waiting for me.

We’re so used to waiting on God that we forget that He waits for us.

Fast forward a year. Our family member's health crisis has eased, life is returning back to normal. I was asked if I would like to have a table promoting the project at church on Sunday morning. I was unsure. I had started and stopped once before. If I started again, could I commit to the work ahead?

Yes, God said. It’s time.

Then He gave me two pages of names on the sign-up sheets.

One month later, 28 sisters in Christ helped kick-off our compassion start-up. I looked around the room, praising God for all the heads bent over fabric, hands guiding scissors, eyes focused on the sewing machine needles moving up and down, laughter, new friendships, hearts beating in unison to help bring justice to His kingdom and change the lives of girls in Guatemala, then Zambia, then Nepal, then….







All I did was finally take that first step. I can take it from here, He tells me, you just keep up.

Thank you for waiting for me, Lord.

"Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him."
Isaiah 30:18



The organization?  It’s Days for Girls, an incredible network of volunteers across the US, Europe, and Australia, who work to create reusable menstrual kits for girls. Because keeping girls in school breaks the cycle of poverty. But without sanitary supplies, girls miss 5 days of school a month. Every reusable menstrual kit produced by Days for Girls volunteers changes the life of a girl. To learn more and find out how you can join the effort, visit www.daysforgirls.org.

For His Kingdom,

LuAnn Kern

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