Monday, July 23, 2012

The Heart of a Servant

Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, (Ephesians 6:7 NIV)

I love to read. I will read any genre, any author, as long as there's a story in which to get completely lost. For me, the sign of being in the midst of a a good book is when I have difficulty returning to reality after I've turned the final page for the night.

I had little to no experience with "Christian" literature until recently. A friend from Michigan (Hi, Kate!) recommended a series called Acts of Faith by Davis Bunn and Janette Oke. The first book, The Centurion's Wife, was compelling. I was quickly pulled in by the time period of the book, which takes place in Jerusalem in the days immediately following the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, at that time a well known but little understood prophet. The story winds through the days following Jesus' resurrection and the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It all makes ones wonder what it would have been like to have been one of the first Christians in a culture dominated by politics and religion.

The second book, The Hidden Flame, follows a secondary character from the first book and her work with the Apostles in the early days of Christianity. The persecution and fear from the Jewish establishment finally comes to a head and leads to the martyrdom of one of the group's members.

These books have intrigue, romance, culture, and adventure. But also lessons for our lives in modern society.

The lesson that deeply resonated with me was how the men and women in the story were ready and wiling to serve the Lord. The women found joy in small tasks, like cooking and laundry, a task made exponentially more difficult and mundane without our modern conveniences. Yet they knew their tasks were blessed by God, and through their small contributions larger things, like being examples of Christ's love, we're being accomplished.

In an age where women are encouraged to have careers but still complete most household duties, it was refreshing to see that these women viewed their tasks as not only noble but essential to the survival of their colony of Christians. They didn't need fame or fortune to know that they were fulfilling God's will.

Do I undertake menial things with joy, or do I groan and feel certain tasks are beneath my talents? Do I realize that my attitude towards difficult or boring tasks helps shape my childrens' attitudes toward the same duties? Am I an example of joyful obedience? Am I always thankful that I have home to clean and food to prepare? How do I let go of my selfishness and learn to faithfully follow? Do I have a servant's heart?

I have one book left in the series. Perhaps I'll have more answers after I finish...

Anyone read any good books lately? Leave your suggestions in the comments!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Life is Precious

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." (James 4:14, 15 NIV)

It is so easy to wish the days away. In the past month, my mind has flitted from one task to the next in impatient succession: "First I have to pack my house, then the moving truck, then unpack, organize, clean and paint, and then I'll be able to relax."

Well, we've been in Tiskilwa for nearly a month and I can assure you that I have not yet relaxed. I'm busy doing things around the house like cleaning, preparing meals, organizing, getting paperwork together, chasing children (and now a dog!). To say I've enjoyed every minute is a flat out lie.

I'm in the bad habit of always looking forward to the next task instead of living in the moment. And then suddenly I look at my children and realize I've missed the good stuff. I've been so busy gathering paperwork to enroll Maddie in school that I missed her putting the leash on Oliver and taking him out to go potty (without my asking!) all by her big self. I've been so obsessed with arranging and rearranging things in my new home that I brushed off Ava's sweet invitation to join her in a make-believe game of My Little Ponies. Life is far too short to miss these precious moments.

I am reminded of the frailty and brevity of life this week because of a tragedy in one of our congregations. Todd is performing his very first funeral tomorrow for a baby that died just days away from her due date. I cannot even begin to comprehend the sadness and loss that the parents and family are going through. But I can wrap my mind around the thought that this poor mother would give nearly anything for just a moment with her lost child, while I casually brush off my children when it's inconvenient to take my attention off of another task.

It's a staggering and sobering thought.

James tells us in the above verse that we are but a mist that appears for a short time, then vanishes. God has an appointed amount of time set aside for us on this earth, and only He knows when He will call us back home. It is our job to make the most of the time we're given to His glory and purpose.

So if you stop by the house in the next few days and there are toys on the ground, dishes in the sink, and laundry unfolded, be happy for me. I will likely be with my family enjoying life's precious moments.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

With Gratitude

Whatever happens, keep thanking God because of Jesus Christ. This is what God wants you to do. (1 Thessalonians 5:18 CEV)

It's been easy to be grateful lately.

We're settling in to the house nicely. Rooms are taking shape. Pictures are beginning to fill the empty spaces on the walls. It's becoming a home.

We've added a family member, too: a six-month old yellow Labrador Retriever named Oliver. We adopted him from Friends of Strays, a rescue in Princeton, Illinois. He's a great dog and a perfect fit for our family. In the near future we hope to get Oliver trained as a therapy dog so that Todd can take him along on hospital visits.

People have been excited to come to church to check out the new pastor. The parking lots of our two country churches are getting more full with each passing Sunday. Todd has gotten a lot of positive feedback. Some have called Todd's preaching " a breath of fresh air." Both the Sheffield and Tiskilwa congregations have been kind, generous, and welcoming. We can feel God setting the stage for big things in these communities.

At our family meeting on Monday (more on this new tradition in another post), each of us expressed an overwhelming feeling of gratitude to God for bringing us on this adventure. He has provided for and protected us. It is clear that God answered our prayers in a big way.

We know things will not always be so easy. The enemy often strikes when one is forming a closer relationship with God. But for now, we're enjoying this time. We're building our spirits for the hard work we have ahead.

Thank you for all of your prayers and support. Keep them coming! And know that you are lifted in our prayer as well.