This blogging journey coming to an end…..and a new one beginning.

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The early days of inner city ministry

It started out as a place for a young mom doing full time inner city ministry alongside her husband to process and document the things they were doing and learning. It trickled, died, resurrected, morphed and followed this family as we welcomed moves, pregnancies, children, changes of plan, struggles and victories into our lives…. all under the gracious Hand of God, ever drawing us closer to Himself through the process.

Eight years this place has acted as an ebenezer of sorts…a place I return to, to reread and remember what a merciful God teaches through the gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) promptings of the Holy Spirit. It has been a place where others are allowed “into” to ponder, mourn, and celebrate along with us. My earnest prayer has not been for outsiders to look “in” and compare, or contrast their own lives with ours, but rather for them to catch glimpses of God’s goodness, guidance, and faithfulness to his promises in our family life, and then to take Him at His Word in their own.

With some sorrow and nostalgia,

this eight year journey is coming to a close…

…but not without the embarking of a new one.

If you are interested in the next phase of this Jesus-seeking, church-planting, Kingdom-laboring family’s journey, join us over at

www.journeytoshalom.com

as we document together the journey to discover and display Shalom in our hearts, lives, home and community in an underprivileged neighborhood of downtown Atlanta….all places desperate for the Prince of Peace to visit.

Embarking on a new sort of inner city ministry...with six of our own kids involved.

Embarking on a new sort of inner city ministry…with six of our own kids involved.

**If you are currently a subscriber to lovingtheleastofthese.com, then please be sure to subscribe to JourneytoShalom.  Although this blog will remain up, all of the current adventures will be posted to JourneytoShalom, and there will be no more notifications coming through this site. The lovingtheleastofthese archive has travelled with us to our new spot, but our subscribers haven’t, and we don’t want to lose you in the journey!

 

Three months and no words? Where have the Iversons been all summer?

 

Where have the Iversons been all summer?!?©KathrynMcCraryPhotographyAtlantaPhotographer-150

Three full months, and no words?

No blog posts?

No adventures to recount?

No thoughts or impressions from the Lord?

No musings from the Living Word of God?

Oh, they have been there.

They have been mulled over while scrubbing pots and pans.

They have been formulated while setting up chairs for the large number of houseguests coming over for dinner.

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extra bodies and mouths start to gather for dinner

They have been pieced together in nights spent rocking sleepless babes.

The kid that smiles big during the day, but sleeps little during the night

The kid that smiles big during the day, but sleeps little during the night

They have been composed while sitting in traffic, driving home from multiple doctor appointments for an eight year old’s broken arm.

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wounded, but cheerful little broken-armed girl

They have been half typed, at wee hours in the morning, but always interrupted by a coughing child, or a bad dream or a wet bed.

They have been there…but so have the setbacks…broken arms, bashed mouths with teethe getting knocked out.  A baby’s bad fall. Bloody battles (literally and spiritually)

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This is the “rated G” picture…be glad his lips are covering what the inside of his mouth looks like. Two teeth completely gone, and another just dangling

The adventures have been had, the sightings of God’s mighty work has been seen, abundant answers to prayers for ministry partners have been witnessed, but Oh, for the time to be able to sit and record them…to have the time to do as Isaiah 63:7 states

I will recount the gracious deeds of the Lord, the praiseworthy acts of the Lord, because of all that the Lord has done for us, and the great favor to the house of Israel that he has shown them according to his mercy, according to the abundance of his steadfast love.

 

I know the Lord wants us to recount these deeds He has done. The homeless family that is learning how to be a family again, without the throws of dysfunctional relationships and drug addiction.  The little baby born to homeless parents who should have died at delivery two weeks ago but is now ventilator free and ready to come home from the hospital, despite her blindness and multiple health issues. The way the single mom was thrilled at the Bible study we held in the home, declaring “I’ve never heard the Bible taught like this. This is exactly what I have been needing.”  The way that the young man who was about to convert to a very deceptive religion, ran up to Danny the other night and said, “I don’t want to be a part of that other stuff! I want to be baptized.”  The way the doors of this Shalom home have opened to four different homeless people who needed to be a part of a family’s rhythms, as rocky as they might be,  so they could learn what being  covenant family is all about.  The way that the boy, all rough and tough and angry, melted in tears last week at church with us.  The way that God has answered my prayer that He raise up an older black lady to be my prayer partner…and He brought her into my life in the most creative of ways. The way teachers from our kids public charter school want to come over for dinner to learn more about what this church plant is all about. The way we have been praying that God would take all these buildings that have been abandoned by business owners and put new businesses in them…and God sent a Christian Korean couple to start one .3 miles from our house, with them declaring, “We kept trying to avoid the call, but the Spirit of God kept telling us to open this Wings and Philly place right here…and we couldn’t figure out why.”

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Kids time, during house church

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Bible study and prayer! We are all soaking it up.

There are so so many other stories….stories of God answering specific prayers laid out MONTHS ago before the Throne of the One who reigns on High and is more passionate about this church plant than we are.  And OH, for the time to recount them.

Would you join me in prayer that this would come about?  That God grant the windows of time to work on the new blog, and the new ministry website which recently got hacked, crashed, and now has to be rebuilt before we have a new place to declare the faithful deeds of the God we serve?

Would you pray for a mother, busy with the life of running a household of eight+ all the people staying with us, to be granted the windows of time needed to type, and pray, and record, and write these posts and finish that book that was started two years ago now?

The enemy of our souls, wants the stories silenced. But I believe our God wants His glorious goodness to be put on display.

His Church is being built.  His Kingdom is advancing. His saints are praying and seeing miraculous answers.

And these stories will not be silenced.

 

**stay tuned for information about JourneytoShalom;the journey towards wholistic peace and flourishing in an under privileged community of the inner city: launching soon, Lord-willing**

 

 

 

 

No other explanation

It’s all his fault.

He made me do it.

Just if he hadn’t written that little book. Just if it hadn’t hit such a chord in my soul. Just if I hadn’t begun to pray that prayer based on what he had written.

“I cannot-and only God can….It means bowing to the fact that you cannot and only God can.  It means acting on the assumption that this is true, and exposing ever situation to Him moment by moment, for HIM to accomplish what you cannot, while you tell Him ‘Thank you!’…Then you will be begin to live miraculously. A life that can only be explained by the fact that there is a Resurrected Christ and He lives in his people.”

Major W. Ian Thomas, The Indwelling Life of Christ

So, I foolishly started praying that God would work in such a way in my life, that “there would be no explanation except that there is a Resurrected Christ and He lives in His people. “

I had envisioned constant energy. Unending peace. Supernatural optimism.  The God-given ability to keep up with everything, and manage 8 people’s different schedules, and have joy in my children while doing so.

But, instead, I end up with an incredibly debilitating pregnancy.

And a sick boy.

And a husband having major reconstructive surgery. **

And then postpartum depression to top it off.

Not exactly what I was expecting.

But in all my weakness, and inability, the body of Christ rallied. People made us meals. Friends volunteered to watch children.  Teachers took kids on extended playdates. Administrators at school showed grace when things weren’t done or turned in on time. A neighbor volunteers to read to little ones, so I can help big ones with homework. Other friends gave rides, fed little people snacks, welcomed my kids into their homes and loved them like their own.

It was just embarrassing, how needy I was.

But then, God gently reminded me of the prayer I had been praying ever since Ian Thomas’ message broke into my life….

“…there would be no explanation except that there is a Resurrected Christ and He lives in HIS PEOPLE.”

Not just Kimberly, as one person.

Oh no, that would give her far to great an opportunity for pride.

No, He was answering that prayer.

For He was surely putting HIMSELF on display not through simply one person, but a BODY of PEOPLE all moving as the Spirit led them. All offering themselves, their time, their resources, to help another member of the Body…

me.

And Danny

And this rather large brood of energetic, ready-for-LIFE little children.

and the church planting mission He has placed us on.

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so, when people stop and gawk at the entourage of Iversons, and say, “I don’t know how you do it!”

I tell them,

“I don’t.”

“You want to know my secret?”

“Two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ lived, died and rose again from death. He is alive NOW. and He lives in His people.”

Our family can offer no other explanation.

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**THANK YOU-to all who prayed for Danny’s surgery.  The doctor told me beforehand, “I’m actually really excited about working on his shoulder. Its not your standard repair, so its an exciting challenge for me.”  Welp. I’m glad Danny could add some excitement to his day. But seriously, the doctor was AMAZING and is one of the best shoulder arthroscopic surgeons in the country.  We are beyond blessed to have been able to use him.  The surgery went well, the doctor is optimistic, Danny is very groggy, and is now embarking on a 6-10 month journey to full recovery, through an enormous amount of prayer and physical therapy. Let us know any prayer requests you have, because he’s gonna have ALOT of mindless exercises to do that can be filled with times of prayer and intercession!

Broken, just enough

Danny when he first got his motorcycle

Danny when he first got his motorcycle

He was to be the capstone preacher for the Young Leader’s preaching series this summer. He had several excellent sermons to follow. There is always the questions, “what do you focus on?”, “how will you be received?” “what do you wear?” when you preach for a 6,000 member church.  When a man prepares to bring God’s Word to a crowd it is a struggle to fight the intermingling motives of wanting to be faithful to the Word of God, and wanting to be approved of.

Thats’ why he had to be broken, just enough.

Sunday afternoon, one week before he was to preach, we finally both returned home after dropping off multiple people after service (we take two different cars because we have so many stops to make…God is working in people’s lives to want to come to Perimeter Church!)

“I feel really led to go back to the office and work some more on my sermon.”

He tells me when he gets home.

Three of the five kiddos had JUST fallen asleep, so I send him off to go listen to the Lord.

or get broken, just enough, by Him.

Thirty minutes later, moments away from me getting to lie down and rest this pregnant body, I get a phone call.

An agonizing voice on the other end,

“Honey, I’ve been in a motorcycle accident….I can’t move my arm, its dislocated. An ambulance is coming for me. Can you meet me at the hospital?”

Shock. Then disbelief. Then the adrenaline starts pumping.

As he groans in pain I pray over him and hang up the phone. Quick phone calls are made to find someone to dump five children off to while I go meet my who-knows-what-else-is-broken-or-damaged husband at the ER.

On the way there I see the sight of the accident, his motorcycle and the cop still waiting for the tow truck to come. I quickly pull over and talk to the officer.

“Ma’am your husband will be fine (i hear wailing coming from inside my car…”Daddy!!! Is Daddy going to be OK??? I want Daddy!!!”) but he sure got lucky.  He’s gonna be in some serious pain but he can be glad there were no cars right behind him…they would have run right over him. He got off real easy for a motorcycle accident.”

I get some more information from the officer and then continue on my trek to drop my sobbing children off at a friend’s house.

“God is so good, guys!  Daddy’s going to be OK. God protected Daddy so much, and even though his arm is hurt, there is so much more that could have happened to him!”

“But Daddy won’t be able to make cheesy eggs for us!! Daddy won’t be able to take us to the pool!  Can Daddy still play basketball with me?!?”

But they calm down as we try to name all the things God protected Daddy from, instead of what DID happen.

I get to the hospital just in time for the nurse to tell me, “Ma’am you’ll have to wait in the hall. We don’t like family members to be around while we pop joints back into place. We’ll come get you when he wakes back up again.”

Danny’s mentor had beat me to the hospital (he didn’t have sleeping children to load into the car and go drop of) and he waits with me in the lobby, calming my fears and keeping me occupied so that my imaginative worry doesn’t take over.

We finally get called back in.

Danny in pain after getting his arm popped back into joint and the gravel scrubbed out of his road rash.

Danny in pain after getting his arm popped back into joint and the gravel scrubbed out of his road rash.

The nurses are busy cleaning gravel and dirt out of his road-rash-ripped-up-arms and hands. I start breathing freely again as the doctor reports that there are no major head injuries, and no broken bones.

But God had done some breaking.

Danny being broken, just enough, to get his attention.

Broken just enough, to pierce through muddled thinking in order to get the Eternal Kingdom in clear view.

Broken just enough to disengage from caring about temporal things like what people think.

Broken just enough, to need an abundance of prayers…

which led to the healing of body and healing of heart.

A heart broken just enough, and healed just enough, to hear, discern, and then deliver the most powerful sermon I have heard preached.

Would you like to watch it  or hear it, too?

Be ready to be broken

Lent (A Little Late): The best thing to give up for Lent

Lent.

A time to prepare our hearts for the sacrifice of the One who was sent to save people from the judgement they deserve.

A sacrifice necessary to gain us favor in the eyes of our Holy Maker.

And in honor of His sacrifice, we choose to sacrifice for 40 days leading to Easter.  All that we might know Christ–yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. (Phil. 3:10)

And every time I open that age old book, hungry for some soul-sustaining Truth, I see it.

Sacrifice.

Funny, how you’ll drag tired body out of bed in order to read about animals being butchered. But in my Bible reading plan, I just finished reading through Leviticus and Numbers, and sacrifice after sacrifice after sacrifice is made.  Insane numbers of animals sacrificed, on a daily or regular basis. (to be honest…it seems like such a waste, I mean they could have eaten all those animals in their desert wanderings…but thats a whole different blog post)

And then I read that God doesn’t even care about all those animals He so specifically told Moses to sacrifice.

I will not accept a bull from your house
or goats from your folds.
For every beast of the forest is mine,
the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know all the birds of the hills,
and all that moves in the field is mine.

If I were hungry, I would not tell you,

for the world and its fullness are mine.
Do I eat the flesh of bulls
or drink the blood of goats?

Psalm 50: 9-13

Well, great. Now I’m wondering why God won’t make up His mind. He commands them. Then He says He doesn’t want them.  But I read on. And sacrifice pops out from the pages once again.

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and perform your vows to the Most High,
and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.

Psalm 50:14-15

And the very next morning, not so early (it was a painfully fatigued day), but during a few stolen moments while small children built forts with couch cushions, and very successfully unorganized the entire playroom, it pops again.

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;

you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;

a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

Psalm 51:16-17

And the pondering and praying I had been doing on what to give up or do for lent, (meat?…no this pregnant body is desperate for it these days, even-earlier morning prayer sessions? no this pregnant mamma needs more sleep, not less. Coffee? I’m sorry but my children would bear the brunt of that each day) it all came clear as to the sacrifice I was to make for these forty days leading to His magnificent one.

A sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.

A sacrifice of a broken and contrite heart.

And how could the two go hand in hand?  Well, for me to praise the Lord and give thanks in the midst of physical suffering? Well, thats a sacrifice of brokenness. Broken of my own desires and agendas. A sacrifice of me being on the throne and dictating to God how I want my world to be run. A sacrifice of my will, to declare “whatever You give is good, and I will thank You for it”.   And a sacrifice of praise is one contrition and repentance, for I simply cannot do it.

But I know the One who can.

And as I share in some suffering, and choose thanksgiving in it, I choose CHRIST. I choose Him IN me to accomplish it. And I choose the resurrection that comes when Christ is alive in a dead tomb of a struggling mamma.

And the sacrifice of self,

leads to the Resurrection I long to experience.

So, the best thing to give up for Lent

is myself,

for this is where I meet Jesus in that dark garden and know Him in me intimately as I, too, cry,

 “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42 ESV)

And choosing to praise Him no matter what, is a constant declaration,

not my will, but yours be done.”

More Lenten helps

And to help with the sacrifice of thanksgiving, I downloaded this app on my phone to help me record all those things worthy of giving thanks to God for.

With the kids in the afternoon (when I can gather some of the neighborhood kids as well) we are doing this Lenten devotional.  There are only 17 entries which is perfect for late starts and moms who can’t get their act together on some  most days (namely, ME).  We always take time to observe and recount what we see in the painting (most DEFINITELY a homeschool activity as they learn to observe famous historical art, as well as get their hearts probed by the Word)

Last year’s Lenten endeavors.

We must win them.

We had just finished going through Barnabas Aid’s prayer guide for the persecute church.  Nearly every single prayer plea was for Christians suffering in the hands of Muslim persecutors. That’s when Dave called to tell me he found an international student that needed a room to rent, and would it work out for us to rent ours to him?

“Yes! We’d love to meet him and see what we can work out.  Where is he from?”

“He’s a Muslim young man from Libya.” I hear on the other end of the line.

And I’m embarrassed to confess the very first thought that flashed through my mind.

“He’s going to bomb our house.”

It’s true.  It’s the very first thing that came to my mind, and in light of last weeks events, and the many worldwide ones, and 9/11, it probably runs through yours as well.

Fear of radical Islamist and their slow, strategic infiltration of countries throughout the world, including our own, haunts me. Fear for my children, and fear for their children haunts me.

But not for long. Because, just as I had to remind myself of the truth when my first thought was that this Libyan man who ended up becoming like a family member was going to bomb our house,  I also have to remind myself of which Kingdom I belong to. And where my Hope and Security rests.

For persecutions, nail-embedded bombs, and crashing towers are a temporal thing, and I serve a King whose Kingdom lasts far longer, and has far greater power than the encroaching power I see entering into this temporal “Land of the Free”.

And I serve a King who did not run and hide from those that would crucify him, but who entered into their midst that He might win the few whose hearts would open to a love and forgiveness and truth found in Him.

And I serve a King who even today has not turned His back on the 1.6 billion Muslims who have been told lies about who Jesus is, and who live, and work, and play, and raise children in a darkness yet to be infiltrated by the Light of the World.

And I serve a King who told us to love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us.

Because He Himself did so.

He even loved me.

And because I was once an enemy of the Living God, declaring jihad on anything or anyone who got it the way of fulfilling the god of myself, and he didn’t ignore me.  He didn’t move away from me.  He did not hate me.  He died for me.

So our family moved into a place of personal death of fear, death of stereotypes, and death of pride.

And we extended our hearts, and our home, to a man from the religion that licenses the killing of my brothers and sisters in northern Africa, and the Middle East and throughout the world.

And OUR world opened up. We got to know quiet, thoughtful Adnan whose smiles were brought forth most frequently when seeing our children play. Which led to meeting his friends, and celebrating their graduations, birthdays, and births of new babies. Which led to the joy of getting to know “James and John” through a Christmas hosting program. Which led to adopting our next very Muslim, Libyan tenant-turned-family member, Nader.  Which led to his entire family, including his parents come to stay with us over the course of the next few weeks. Which has led to a whole new view on Muslims.  The Muslims who DON’T make the news because they are busy working, and taking care of their children, and having parties for their friends, and living a quiet, humble life, just like we are. How do I know?  Nader’s mother, Wafa, brought me a stack of old pictures from Nader’s childhood (brought from Libya to be put in a slideshow at Nader’s upcoming wedding).  And they could have been a stack of my own family’s pictures…Vacations to the beach, toddlers running around in diapers, siblings playing dress ups, trips taken to other countries, Boy Scout events (yes, they have Boy Scouts in Libya), birthday cakes, and smiling faces pausing in the middle of life’s joys to be captured on camera. And they stop to say their prayers, and they memorize the Qaran, and celebrate their religious holidays, JUST LIKE US.

Except.

Except, they do it without the Light of the World reigning in their world.  They do it, having a truncated view of the real Jesus, Isa or Yesu, and therefore live in ignorance of Who He Truly is, and the wonder and joy of knowing Him. They do so always trying to obtain a righteousness, good enough for Allah, when a Righteousness has already be paid in blood, and given freely to them to receive as a gift, not as an earning,

IF

SOMEONE

WOULD

JUST

TELL

THEM.

AND SHOW THEM. AND PRAY THEM INTO THE KINGDOM OF THE KING OF LOVE.

What better way to reach a people who have been so unreachable for the past several decades.  We are hindered from going THERE.  But they are coming HERE.  And we cannot ignore them, or hide from them, or fear them or fight them…… we must win them.

Win them with love. Win them with hospitality. Win them with generosity. Win them with forgiveness.  Win them with prayer. Win them with the TRUTH.  For Truth Himself, won us, and now lives in us, and He is strong enough to overcome every hint of fear, stereotyping, and pride in our hearts, if we just offer up to Him ourselves.

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Two Ways of Being Carried

“…In His love and mercy, He redeemed them;

He lifted them up and carried them as in the days of old.”              

Isaiah 63:9

There’s only two ways to do it…the whole “being carried.” business. We can either willingly be carried by the Holy Spirit, or we can try to move forward in our own power, and end up being carried away by temptation.

I always start out attempting to do the undoable task of walking independently.  Don’t we all? We want to do it our way, with our own effort, by our brute strength and will power. We even attempt good things, setting out with our own determination and desire to serve God, “do the right thing”, be a good parent, care for those around us, try to stay away from sin. I have spent the greater portion of my Christian life attempting this. I muster up a new resolve to follow and obey, but my inner strength and focus doesn’t really last long.  As soon as that temptation to indulge that craving for chocolate when I feel like having some, or the rage that erupts when the kids aren’t behaving as I want them to, or irritation that gives way to disrespect when my husband doesn’t use his time the way I think is important.  As soon as those things hit, swwwooooosh!  I’m being carried away by the currents of selfishness and sin.

Photo by Jim Christensen

Photo by Jim Christensen

This is the first way of being carried. I am carried this way often, and those currents deposit me in a place I hate being. Muddied, murky waters of brokenness-broken relationships with children, with spouse, with God.

But it makes sense that the ending place is a pool of selfishness, because the whole process started with self. I am the beginning and the ending.  I started the day, the process, the situation with ME walking forth in an attempt to follow God in the midst of the stream. And it is ME that gives way to the rush of the moment, failing miserably. And ME wallowing in the puddle of self pity, self condemnation, self inflicted guilt. I have become the alpha and omega. And its ugly.

But there is the supreme Alpha and Omega, that is more than willing to do the carrying. In fact, He has already done the massive carrying.  The carrying of my sin, repeated failures, and the messes I made has been done by Him upon that cross.  He carried all the brokenness that this prideful (boy, it would feel good to be able to do this on my own) selfish, seeking-to-be-autonomous sinner has made. But the carrying didn’t happen just once over 2000 years ago on Calvary. It happens daily, hourly, momently.

When I start my day, declaring, “I must be carried by you, Lord, or else I will be carried away by all the currents of temptation and chaos that come streaming towards me!” He is faithful to lift these wobbling knees out of the stream, and over the rushing waters. And I see God work in real time, what he did thousands of years ago for the Israelites, “…how I carried you on eagles wings and brought you to myself.” (Ex. 19:4) And God is so much smarter than my formula-loving self, for if it only took one declaration at the beginning of the day, then I would not be brought to Him but to a formula that I can check off my list, thus repeating the cycle of being self-centered and self-sufficient.

No, I must cry “Carry me!” in the early a.m. when lunches need to be made, breakfast serve, Bible read, and kids ushered out the door, after I’ve been up all night with the baby.  I cry, “Carry me!” when, while occupied nursing Malachi, Benjamin has written on the wall and unrolled the toilet paper while Katy-Grace didn’t quite make it to the potty, and Trinity’s downstairs trying to (very messily) make herself a snack. I hum, “Carry me!” when in the afternoon, I am tired and could consume half the bag of chocolate chips in an attempt to get a sugar boost.  I sing out “Carry me!” when everyone needs something at once and tonight Danny’s working late and I’m flying solo doing dinner, feeding, clean-up, baths, and family devotions….for five children. I whisper, “Carry me!” when I can’t turn my mind off from those critical, judgmental musings or those thoughts absorbed with self.  I moan “Carry me!” during weeks like last one, when I had the stomach flu and then dealt with it spreading through our family , many of whom don’t know how to make it to the bathroom in time. And, this week,  I CRY (literally!), “Carry Me!!” through every excruciatingly painful feeding of my baby with thrush, which has been spreading like wildfire.

And since HE carries me, I am enabled to “take up my cross” in each of those situations and carry it to follow Him (Luke 14:27)

And those strong arms, carry me.

Those strong promises of Isaiah 40:11-

He tends his flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.

and Isaiah 49:4

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and rescue you”,

they carry me.

Jars of Clay’s song Dead Man (Carry Me) has truly helped me sing, “Carry me!” in those moments.

Undeserved Gifts

 

 

 

 

 

Our God is a lavish Giver.  I dare anyone out there to try to out-give Him.  It just can’t be done.

My most recent experience with the fact that He is far more creative, generous, and extravagant than I could ever attempt to be towards Him and His Kingdom work, was evidenced in a wonderful, refreshing trip a few weeks ago.

Six months ago, Danny was asked to be a groomsmen in the wedding of good friends in California.  I immediately thought, “We can’t do that, we have no money!” Oh, me, of little faith.

SO, the wedding was approaching and the bride and groom offered to help pay his ticket to get there, BUT since Danny didn’t play it safe last April and flew to Japan in the midst of a nuclear crisis, we racked up a whole bunch of Sky Miles (and evidently a “free companion ticket” that had to be used by the end of 2011).  Danny started scheming a 7 year anniversary get-away plus wedding combo due to the fact that we could both get to California for FREE.

My servant-hearted sister-in-law, Sara-Beth, agreed to watching Trinity, Katy-Grace, and Benjamin (in addition to her own three!) and our pastor and his wife welcomed in Daniel Josiah for those four days. (PRICELESS GIFT!)

THEN, since the amazingly generous bride and groom didn’t have to pay to help get Danny there, they put us up in an AMAZING, quaint hotel just across the harbor from San Francisco (I thought we would be crashing on the couches of someone in their home church! I didn’t find out about the hotel until 3 days before the trip!)

THEN, Danny was able to score an ABSURDLY good deal on a rental car AND not only did they give us a deal but then they UPGRADED our car (Danny pulled his “Enterprise” connection on that one) The car providing really cheap site-seeing ventures.

THEN, most of our meals were provided through wedding festivities, and they were such FULL meals, they’d last us through the next meal time.

THEN, Danny got paid?!? to speak at a small gathering of men two days before the wedding. (which fully paid for the car, gas, and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream as we strolled through the picturesque harbor one afternoon)

THEN, a situation arose with our room, and we just let the front desk know that they might want to fix it after we left, and they immediately gave us a $50 credit for room service, their restaurant, or renting a movie! At this point I was thinking “Ok, Ok, Lord, this is getting ridiculous!!”

AND THEN, we were super late for our flight home, which would have resulted in a full night camped out in the airport, plus a hefty rescheduling fee, but miracle upon miracles I was able to get them to hold the flight for 15 minutes while Danny returned the rental car and sprinted through the airport. (Believe me, that was NOT due to my persuasive abilities, because I have none)

The whole trip, I couldn’t believe that we, a poor seminary student and a homemaker of 4+ kids, were experiencing a luxury vacation on the West Coast.  This could only be done, because God is a Giver of good gifts, and He far outgives any feeble offerings we make to “sacrifice for the Kingdom.”

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Swords and Secrets of the Kingdom

the two most important swords: God's Word and the duct tape sword that Daddy made

Last week Daniel Josiah’s preschool was doing a “Bible Character Parade” in which the kids were suppose to dress up as their favorite Bible character.  When I asked Daniel Josiah what he wanted to dress up as, the conversation went like this:

Me: So, Daniel Josiah, who do you want to be for the parade?

Daniel Josiah:  How about King Saul? (if you need a refresher, King Saul offered David his sword in order to go fight Goliath)

Me: Saul wasn’t a very good king, he didn’t follow God.  Can you pick someone else?

Daniel Josiah:  What about Goliath? (Goliath also had a sword…probably a very large one to fit his mammoth sized body)

Me:  Goliath was an enemy of God and his people.  You don’t want to be him!  What about David?

Daniel Josiah:  Who else had a sword?

Me: I know!  Why don’t you be King Josiah because he loved God and loved the sword of God’s Word!

(and, not sure that he was buying the whole “sword of God’s word” , I added:

“And I’m sure he had a sword because he was a king.”

Right after this conversation, it dawned on me that the “heroes” that God uses don’t typically have big weapons or even a lot of external gifts, for that matter. It makes there accomplishments extremely puzzling…until you know the “Invisible Power” behind all of what they do and are. My little boy wanted something physical to show off, and so often we do too.  We want either a great gifting set in ourselves, or the ideal ministry circumstance, or money in the bank account before we are willing to “fight battles” for God.  But the beauty of all the heroes that God has used in the past (that DJ did NOT think it would be fun to be in a costume parade) is that they had nothing physical going for them. They only had a hope in the unseen God, who specifically chooses to use people that have nothing except HIM.

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of WHAT WE DO NOT SEE”.  The cry of my heart for my life and my family’s lives is that our lives would be lived in such a way that there would be no other possible explanation but that there is an Invisible God that has chosen to dwell in visible people.

This little secret of the Kingdom makes for much glory to an Almighty God, but not much help for a little boy who wants to get to carry a sword at school. Sorry, kiddo.  You’ll be thankful for this truth when you get a little bigger.

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