Sunday, January 31, 2016

If We'll Lift Our Eyes

Dave and I were leaving Hornbach, a building supply store in Ostrava, this afternoon, when I suddenly asked him to pull over and let me take a picture.

When I got back in the car he asked me, "Why did you want that picture?"

"Because I think there's a blog post in my head about it," I replied with a laugh.

"Do you know what it is?"

"No, but I can feel it somewhere inside of me."

And so goes blogging for me! With eyes, ears and heart open, I actively try to seek and look for God's story every day...his perspective, his provision, his peace, his power.

Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually.

Seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.

With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments.

These are His words that I try, with all my heart, to live out each day. Why? Because I want to know, see, worship and adore Him all the days of my life. And when I keep my eyes open for Him, I find Him.

So what did he show me in these pictures today?

When I took them I was honestly focused on the drab, dreariness of winter and didn't see anything until I got home and uploaded the photos. But then I saw it.

The line between heaven and earth.

What I'd originally seen was true. There wasn't much beauty to admire on the ground at the spot where I took the photos.

But if I'd just lifted my eyes in the moment I would've seen something else.

A glimpse of heaven in the sunset.

As soon as I saw it on the photos I felt a catch in my breath. It was so beautiful, especially in contrast to the brown, scrubby earth. With smokestacks in the distance and unkempt ground in front of me, I only had my eyes turned downward. But just a little lifting of my eyes brought such a different viewpoint!

I'm still in this school of seeking and seeing God each day. But it's a school I want to stay in.

Yes, a lot of life on this earth is messy, complicated, painful, even ugly. BUT GOD! There is always hope, light, beauty and redemption to be found in Him.

If we'll lift our eyes, we'll get a glimpse of heaven.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Problem Solver

There are a lot of things I love and appreciate about my husband. But lately, nothing more than his God given ability for problem solving.

I often tell him that after so many years of developing this skill, he's certainly earned a doctorate in it by now!

Yes, that's my "Dr. Dave", fixing a problem for me!

But that's not the only problem he's been fixing.

The past few weeks have been extremely demanding, with many different types of things "out of sorts", kind of like my dishwasher.

As he worked on it this afternoon, spending hours figuring out what was wrong and then fixing it, I thought about all the different talents and abilities in the body of Christ, and how we need them functioning together.

While one of Dave's gift is sorting out problems, others are blessing people by their financial or mechanical abilities. Some are gifted at reaching out to those who are hurting, teaching a Bible study, or leading a school. Other lend a listening ear and bring meals to those in need.

Some pray, some give, some build, some preach.

And we need them all!

"All of you together are Christ's body, and each of you is a part of it....the human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ." 

Those are Paul's words to the church in Corinth, exhorting them to use their gifts and abilities to bless and care for the body of Christ. 

Watching Dave these past weeks use his gift of problem solving to bless the "body", our community of believers far and wide, brings me so much joy, as I know it must the Lord too. And you know what? Dave gets a lot of satisfaction out of solving those problems! That's because he's doing what he was designed to do.

I have a working dishwasher again today, thanks to my problem solving husband.

But even better, I watched as he contributed his gift and talent to the "body" (which happened to be me today!) and was deeply blessed by it. Not just because of my dishwasher, although that was a nice benefit, but by his sacrificial manner of using that gift for the good of the body.

Oh might we all readily and happily contribute our gifts and talents to the body, valuing and appreciating what God's given to each one of us.  As we use our gifts for building up of the body of Christ, He gets lots of glory and many are blessed and cared for. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Unshaken In Christ

God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her at the break of day – Ps 46:5

I read this in my favorite devotional, Streams in the Desert, this morning. Little did I know I would need it later on in the day when I got some hard news from a friend that shook us both.

Oh what balm the words of today's devotion were to my soul, reading this wise missionary woman's words of exhortation from so many years ago, yet applicable TODAY!

Shall not be moved”—what an inspiring declaration! 

Can it be possible that we, who are so easily moved by the things of earth, can arrive at a place where nothing can upset us or disturb our calm?

Yes, it is possible; and the Apostle Paul knew it. When he was on his way to Jerusalem where he foresaw that “bonds and afflictions” awaited him, he could say triumphantly, “But none of these things move me.”

Everything in Paul’s life and experience that could be shaken had been shaken, and he no longer counted his life, or any of life’s possessions, dear to him.

And we, if we will but let God have His way with us, may come to the same place, so that neither the fret and tear of little things of life, nor the great and heavy trials, can have power to move us from the peace that passeth understanding, which is declared to be the portion of those who have learned to rest only on God."

Again today, as I have done many times through the years, I declare:

I trust you Lord Jesus! You are sovereign. You are in control. You see all things. You know all things. You are trustworthy!

I will not be shaken when trials and hardships come, I will cling to you, I will rest in YOU alone. You are good, loving and entirely trustworthy. May the truth of this bring a balm of peace to my heart, today and every day.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Little Birthday Neighbor

A sweet little girl celebrated her first birthday today!

This is my little neighbor, Olivia, who lives here at our house with her family (in the apartment over our garage). A year ago I had the privilege of being in the delivery room when she arrived into this world, and have had the joy of watching her grow this year.

And tonight we got to celebrate her first birthday with her mom and dad, complete with a spectacular cake from our favorite bakery in Ostrava!

This sweetheart brings lots of joy to her family with her quick smiles and joyful spirit. I look forward to seeing who she becomes in the years ahead.

"Sweet Olivia, it's my delight to live near you! May you grow in the grace and knowledge of our Savior Jesus Christ for all the days of your life!"

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Paradox of Prayer

"Prayer is helplessness plus faith."

What a paradox this is, one that I wrestle with every single day.

Some say that I am a prayer warrior, probably because I often talk about what I'm praying for and how God is answering. And I don't just talk about it. I pray. A lot.

But the truth is, I don't do it because I feel strong and capable. I do it because I feel helpless and don't know what else to do.

In the face of my family's and my difficulties and struggles, because of seemingly insurmountable troubles in the world, due to sorrows and trials in the lives of people I love, I don't have many answers or solutions.

So I just pray.

There are three books that have been meaningful, influential and life giving to me as I've learned this discipline of prayer.

Bill Thrasher, a professor who taught at Moody Bible Institute, wrote his book with a heart to inspire people to call on the Lord in ALL things that concern them. He says that in the process of doing so, we will "discover the great, holy and kind God who answers prayer and desires to show Himself strong on your behalf."

This has been true for me. I have grown to know the Lord through prayer in ways I never could've imagined. Having him answer my requests is the cherry on top!

Many years ago I came across Catherine Marshall's writings. They have profoundly impacted me, including this little book, a compilation of writing she did for Guidepost many years ago.

"Admittance to the School of Prayer is by an entrance test with only two questions. The first one is: Are you in real need? The second is: Do you admit that you are helpless to handle that need?"

She too recognizes that coming to the Lord with your helplessness is actually a vital aspect of prayer.

I love that she sees the value of faith as well:

"God insists that we ask, not because HE needs to know our situation, but because WE need the spiritual discipline of asking...making our requests specific forces us to take a step forward in faith."

She adds, "In order to make sure that we are not retreating from the tension of faith, it is helpful to ask ourselves as we pray, "Do I really expect anything to happen?"

Guilty! I still don't pray with full expectation sometimes. But I'm growing in this.

Andrew Murray, a South African writer, teacher and pastor, authored over 240 books during his lifetime (1828-1917), with numerous ones being about prayer. A friend gave me this book ten years ago, and I'm still trying to digest, understand and live out his writings on the ministry and work of intercessory prayer.

"Beyond anything else, we give glory to God through intercession. By it we bring blessing to the church and to the world. By it we have our highest honor - the power to be God's instrument in saving souls."

"Be of good courage as servants of Christ and children of God. Let no weakness or any lack cause you to fear - simply ask in the name of Christ. His name has all the power of Christ himself. His promise still stands: You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it."

Prayer is the simplest, and the hardest work.

It's simple in that it's simply and wonderfully communing with God.

It's hard because it takes time, effort and perseverance to stay in a state of prayerfulness.

My hope this year is to be more helplessly dependent on my Father, bringing every need before Him, whether it be small or big.

I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; give ear to me and hear my prayer. Psalm 17:6

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Unexpected Delight

Who ever would have expected a spring like day in the middle of January?

I had a meeting in a nearby town this afternoon, and then errands to run after that. Because it was so beautiful once I finished everything, I decided to take a walk over to the nearby zamek (palace, chateau...not sure what to call it!). It's funny, I wasn't even sure why I was doing it as I started walking - was just one of those intuitive, Spirit-led moments I guess.

But how glad I am that I did!

I've walked to, in and beside this zamek many times through the years. But never behind it.

What a surprise I found there.

I had no idea there was a beautiful park, reconstructed just four years ago, with beautiful paths and overlooks.

I wandered for quite a while, simply drinking in the sights and sunshine.

With the temperature above freezing, the sun streaming down, and just a hint of a gentle breeze today, it was one of those unexpected delights that I love so much.

I felt like a little girl being taken on a walk by her daddy, just because it was too beautiful of a day not to!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Unsung Heroes

While many of our Josiah Venture married couples were in Krakow last week for the marriage conference, there were some very special people standing in the gap with their kids.

One hundred and forty kids, to be exact!

Many of our single JV missionaries kindly, willingly and lovingly took on the load of caring for kids of all ages.

Several grandmas of our North American missionaries flew over from the States to be with their grandchildren. And of course there were local grandmas and grandpas staying with kids of our national missionaries.

All week I loved seeing photos come through on Facebook and Instagram of baby/kid-sitters having fun with their little charges. What an investment they made in these dear kids!

Grandparents, friends, aunts and uncles, and our single JV missionaries are the unsung heroes of last week's blessed conference.

Were it not for them stepping in to provide love and care, the parents of these kids could not have made the significant investments in their marriages that they did.

To all of you who served our married couples: "I'm sure you heard heartfelt thanks from the parents of the kids you stayed with, but I too am sending out huge "thank you's", with all my heart, for blessing these families by your sacrifice last week. You are THE BEST!!!!!

May you be richly rewarded by the Lord for your kind service!!"

Friday, January 22, 2016

God's Design for Marriage

 My heart is unbelievably full as I look at these dearly loved people.

We wrapped up our Josiah Venture marriage conference this afternoon, ending four days together learning, discussing and living out God's design for marriage. As you can see from the smiles on their faces, these couples are happy to have spent time with their spouses this week!

All week, they bravely jumped into issues in their marriages and worked hard to resolve difficulties and conflicts. That's not easy to do, and some would say there is no way you could have significant breakthroughs in just a few days.

But this group willingly engaged and persevered, which resulted in some very deep changes. There are some who said they had breakthroughs on issues they've been wrestling with for years. We absolutely praise God for this.

As Dave prayed for all of our couples this afternoon, he asked that the riches of Christ would flow through their marriages to everyone around them. How we long for that to be true!

God used this group of people in deeply significant ways to move our couples in that direction.

How thankful we are for servant-hearted counselor/coaches who met with all of our couples to listen and give input to how they can have more God-honoring and deeply meaningful marriages. SO thankful for this selfless group who gave their all this week.

And then there are some others who blessed us as well!

These precious four came from Slovakia to care for our tiniest missionary kids. While parents were in sessions all morning, and in the afternoon, these four lovingly, kindly and tenderly cared for SEVEN babies!

Thank you Monika, Julie, Andrea and Tania! You blessed us all far more than you can ever know!

And last, three more significant women brought their gifts and talents to serve some of our couples this week.

Thank you Annie, Zuzi and Sara for your unbelievable simultaneous translation into Czech and Polish during each session, making it possible for the couples that needed that to fully gain all they could from the conference.

This has been a powerful week here in Krakow, one that we will never forget. May the progress made in marriages continue to bear fruit and bring about much joy in the lives of our dear couples!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Making the Investment

While it's cold outside here in Krakow during our Josiah Venture marriage conference, it's anything but that inside.

Especially on the day we're talking about passion and romance from the Song of Solomon!

"You should fight for romantic, passionate love because it's an anchor for your marriage. It protects and secures your marriage, creating glue between you."

"Passionate love doesn't occur by accident. Like any fire, there are things that fan and fuel it, and other influences that starve and extinguish it. Every fire needs tending. Fight to find your way back to passion, the way God intended and created it to be." ~Dave

While we're in our track with the group above, having a great time talking about all the riches that are found in safeguarding and building into our marriages, the other group is doing the same.

These couples have already been through the foundational teaching with Dave at one of our last two conferences, so they're working on further refinement of their marriages.

Through teaching from two of our JV couples and some of our marriage coaches from the States, they're gaining new insights and tools into how to continue building strong, passionate, God honoring marriages that bless them, and everyone around them.

Tomorrow we'll finish our conference, talking about how to "tend the garden" of our marriages in the midst of demands and pressures.

Dave and I are extremely passionate about our own marriage. In the midst of many demands of life over the years, it's been a great priority to us. We personally know it takes much time, effort and investment to go from a good, ordinary marriage to a great and extraordinary one. And we want more of that for ourselves, and for each of our JV couples!

That's why we're making such an investment in them this week.

We pray for ourselves and our fellow married friends here, that we will:

~ Follow God's biblical design for marriage steadfastly in the months and years to come

~ Experience more deeply the profound mystery of becoming one flesh

~ Wholeheartedly live out our God given roles

~ Fight to keep passion burning

~ And be transformed more into the image of Christ through our marriages

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


On a cold January day in Germany twenty three years ago, this adventure loving boy came into the world and has been living with zest, joy, boldness and courage ever since!

All of life is, and always has been, an opportunity for adventure for our Caleb. As evidenced here, if there is a pile of dirt, he will find a way to make something really cool out of it...metaphorically and literally speaking!

Not only does he take the high road to adventure, but he loves to work hard.

A difficult hike in the mountains, a steep hill to climb, a wood pile to be chopped...he'll work at it until it's done and accomplished. And have fun doing it!

Along with that, he's not afraid to try new things. In fact, he throws his whole heart into it when he decides there is a skill or talent to develop. Like when he decided, having never known anyone else who played, that he would learn the saxophone. Those were fun days watching him learn, and he's actually good at it!

These are just some of the things I love, value and appreciate about our Caleb! He's brought joy and laughter, displayed strength and wisdom, shown depth and maturity, and blessed our lives immensely with his happy and kind spirit.

And on this day, his 23rd birthday, I'm celebrating all of who he is! I thank the Lord for the privilege of watching this dear boy grow into the strong man he is today, and pray for much blessing from the Lord in this coming year.

"I love you so much Caleb!!"

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Back to the Garden, Take 3

Out of my window this morning I have quite a different view.

Dave and I drove from home in Czech late last night, and woke up at a hotel in the center of the city. Where are we?

Across from the central train station in Krakow, we are here this week for our third Josiah Venture marriage conference, called "Back to the Garden"!

Six years ago we hosted our first marriage conference at this same hotel, with around thirty couples. Three years later, at a different hotel in the same city, with almost twice as many couples, we hosted another conference to invest in our marriages.

And now we're back at the same hotel we started in, with one hundred couples, ready to dive in and work hard on going deeper in our marriages!

Dave and I will be with half of those couples, going through the foundational teaching of what it means to return to God's original design for our marriages.

At the same time, the couples who have already been through the material will be in sessions learning from two of our JV married couples, and from several couples who we've brought in from the States to do personal marriage coaching.

Each JV couple will not only hear truth from God's Word each day on what His design is for marriage, with time to process and work through those truths, but will also have the opportunity to meet personally with one of our eight coaching teams who have come to serve us and are equipped for helping couples take steps towards even greater intimacy and maturity in their marriages.

Putting on a conference like this is a joy! And a lot of logistics. Here to serve us is our JV conference coordinator, Martina, who has spent many hours wrapping her head around the details that it takes to get everyone here for an event like this. "Thank you Martina!"

Later this afternoon, couples will begin arriving through these doors and get checked in at this desk. We have been praying over this event for months, asking God to make this place holy and safe for each couple, giving them time and space to work on their marriages.

I am beyond myself with excitement over what God has for our JV couples in the next four days! The past conferences have resulted in much fruit in our marriages, and I expect that God has even more for us as we dive in to his good design for healthy, vibrant, rich and deeply happy marriages!