Monday, March 3, 2014

Jar of Happiness: Ingle Reflections on an Amazing Year

Last year, Crystal started something new.  Perhaps it will grow into a family tradition.  She simply calls it, the "Jar of Happiness," a jar with slips of colored paper beside it.  Don't let the simplicity fool you, because the slips of paper are opportunities for any member of the family to write out little things they're thankful for.  The jar becomes the happy collection of these incredible notes throughout the year.

At the close of 2013, we sat around the table and read these notes, laughing together, and thanking God for His blessings.  Here are a few of those notes (employing the original spelling) organized into categories.

The Value of Time
"Lessons are done"
I wrote some curriculum that a family member was thankful that I finished, taught my first two courses at Messenger, studied at Asbury, worked full time, etc., etc.  The year was so busy that I didn't even blog, because I gave all of my extra time to my family.  I thoroughly enjoyed teaching, and for the first time I was able to co-write some material with my Dad, Vernell Ingle.

Family Entertainment
"Family Wii night 3" (Mateo)
"We watch The MAN OF STEEL" (Cruz, Mateo, Dad, Mom, on the silver screen)
There are certain entertainment choices we make as a family, like our traditional movie and homemade pizza on Friday nights - delizioso!

Good Weather
"Opening windows in JAN. b/c the weather is so nice"
We are an outdoors, camping, biking, walking, hiking, jogging, exploring type of family.

Specific Family Prayers
"New computer"
We pray together every night, and often very specifically.  Mateo and Cruz eagerly take our concerns to the Lord as we share them.  There are other answered prayers of 2013, but the computer is a central one, necessary for so much of what we do.

Friends like Family . . . i.e. the Shaffers
"We went to Gatiland with Ms. Kayla & Baylee" (Teo, Cruz)
"Mr. Ron’s house with Call of Duty" (Mateo) [editor's note: this was completely supervised lol]
"Got Toys R Us Cards from Mr. Ron + Ms. Kathy" (Mateo, Cruz)
We are so very thankful for families over the years who have invested time in our family.

"Surprise visit from Papa and Gamma" (05.19.13)
"Both sets of grandparents visited at Thanksgiving right after the move to MI"
Both of our sets of Grandparents are taking time to visit, FaceTime, and everything possible to bridge the miles.  We love them and are so thankful for the ways they connect with our children.

Family Vacation
"Dallas Trip" (Mateo)
"We went to TEXAS to see Gramma and Grampa!  Then we went to see our other cousins!" (Mateo, Cruz, Jared, Crystal)
"TX VACA: museums, friends, etc."
We have traditionally chosen to spend our family vacation time with extended family.  On this occasion, we were able to spend extended time with the Palmers, Vernell and Pam in Dallas, and the Ingles in Missouri.

"Making good friends in MI" (Mateo)
"There will be 80 inches of snow every winter in Mishagan!" (Cruz)
"We are moving to Mishagan!" (Cruz, Teo, Jared, Mom & Eliseo)
"Strong boys to help move furniture"
We have been invited to minister in a community of faith that is completely new to us, Mt. Zion Family Worship Center.  We have accepted the offer, moved up north, and are enjoying this totally new adventure!

The McMillans
"Jeremiah + Minnie May’s Wedding"
"We got a new Bow and Arrow!" (Cruz, Teo)
Lindsey Palmer became Lindsey McMillan, much to Jeremiah's delight.  After years of courtship, 2013 became their year.  We were privileged to be an integral part of so much of their celebration, from pre-marital counseling, to wedding planning, to the ceremony.  We are grateful for all God is doing with them, and our children are thankful for their wedding gifts from the McMillans.

"Pregnant! :)"
"Cruz felt the baby move first" (5.15.13)
"Cruz + Teo felt baby move" (5.17.13, 21 weeks)
"Growing Belly" (05.28.13)
"Had to move stuff around before the baby came" (Cruz, Teo, Mom)
"Got stuff out of storage" (Mom)
"Baby shower @ Church w/ a massage"
"Baby head down" (40 weeks) [one of the various miracles of this birth]
"Ms. Stephanie watched the boys while giving birth"
"Eliseo Joel"
"Gammaw taking Teo + Cruz to VA so Mom could heal"

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sacred Rhythms Review

Last year, Crystal and I worked through a couple of books together, along with some other readings.  We have always enjoyed reading out loud to each other, and highly recommend this practice to any couple!

As part of a project, we tried something new.  We selected a book and invited another couple to join us.  We set up a private group for the four of us on Facebook.  We all committed to reading 1-2 chapters a week.  We all made comments on each chapter, utilizing questions from the "Journeying Together" study guide at the end of the book.

The book was Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation, by Ruth Haley Barton.  Instead of telling you how great the book and the group reading was, I have decided to let the participants do so.

The following quotes are excerpts from the group discussion on each chapter.  I have only included my personal comments from the introduction.  The couple's names are not included.  They are referred to as "Husband" and "Wife."


Jared: I like Barton's language.  I have studied spiritual disciplines over the years.  I think the language of "disciplines" puts too much emphasis on work, when really these are ways to participate in the grace of God.

Barton calls these spiritual practices "rhythms."  "This language draws on the imagery of the natural rhythms of the created order: The ebb and flow of the ocean waves and tides, which come and go steadily but are full of infinite variety and creativity" (p. 15).

She is saying something I haven't heard often.  That is, as you practice these rhythms, don't be rigid.  Allow yourself time to respond.  Don't get frustrated if you respond to one idea more than another.  That's natural.  Pay attention to the ways God might move your soul.

1) Longing for More: An Invitation to Spiritual Transformation

Crystal: One quote that stood out to me from Chapter 1 is, "the experience of longing and desire . . . reminds me that I am alive in ways that I want to be alive" (p. 19).  I love the Scripture about Christ having come to give us life and THAT more abundantly.  I want more abundant life.  I want to be alive in ways I have never experienced.  I want to express joy in the midst of trial, peace in the midst of chaos, grace in the midst of turmoil.  I want the LIFE of Christ to flow in me so readily I respond and do greater things than He (like He said we would).

2) Solitude: Creating Space for God

Wife: Oh, solitude.  I would love to intentionally become more quiet and create a "sacred space."  My quiet moments are few and far between.  It was nice to just sit and think about the rhythm of my life and how nice the rhythm of quietness is.  I do not spend as much time as I should (or want to) doing this or even meditating of His word in general.  This chapter opened up my eyes to the importance of just being . . . and finding the right rhythm . . . but I need to spend time alone reflecting on things and just be in His presence.  I need to learn to rest in God.  I bet that feels worlds better than simply a good night's sleep.

3) Scripture: Encountering God Through Lectio Divina

Crystal: The words that stood out to me in Mark were, "So Jesus stood still . . ." (Mark 10.49).  We know the song, "Reach out and touch the Lord as He passes by," but here He stood still.  He stopped.  Bartimaeus didn't have to chase him down.  He called out and Jesus stopped, stopped what He was doing, stopped where He was going and "stood still."  With as small as we are in this universe, it is comforting to know the Creator will stand still to listen to us, to hear our cry, and ultimately to answer.  Lord Jesus, stand still for me.

4) Prayer: Deepening Our Intimacy with God

Wife: I loved the concrete information on how to find your "breath prayer" (p. 76).  I plan on doing this, to create my few-syllables-long prayer that will be my go-to breath prayer when I am waiting or need to feel close with Him.

5) Honoring the Body: Flesh-and-Blood Spirituality

Husband: I never thought about exercise and eating right as being pleasing to God.  I will be more conscious now.  Instead of eating two double cheese burgers, large fry, and a dollar sweet tea; I will just eat one double cheese burger, large fry, and a dollar sweet tea.  All jokes aside, I will start looking for new ways to take care my body like getting more sleep and exercising on a regular basis.

6) Self-Examination: Bringing My Whole Self Before God

Crystal: The quote, "confession does not ultimately lead us to shame or obsession, but rather to a sense of cleansing and release," is a freeing statement (p. 105).  When I examine my self/actions and find I need to extend forgiveness or ask for forgiveness, I tend to go the route of shame.  This statement reminds me that God's love is unconditional.  He is always forgiving, and He desires to cleanse and release me, not condemn me.  He frees me.  He does not scrutinize me.  I do that to myself.

7) Discernment: Recognizing and Responding to the Presence of God

Crystal: I don't want to come through any period in my life, especially the one I am in right now, and be the same.  I want to be changed into His likeness.  So many times I am not sure that I am gaining ground with God (getting closer to Him).  I fear that I may go through something and not learn the intended lesson or have discerned what He intended for me.

8) Sabbath: Establishing Rhythms of Work and Rest

Wife: The chapter really got me thinking about setting a time for family-time.  My husband and I live on the go.  He is always so busy, and I have numerous things on my plate too.  I would really like to set aside a time when nothing else can get in the way of just being together.  It sounds so wonderful for our relationship with each other and our son.  This is a chapter that I would like to re-read.

9) A Rule of Life: Cultivating Rhythms for Spiritual Transformation

Husband: I want to become more of a spiritual leader in my house.  This also comes into play with the community thing.  I want to be a part of a community where I can be a leader and we can share experiences and be supportive.

Barton, Ruth Haley.  Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation.  Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Ingle Family Top 10 of 2012

As January draws to a close, many are still looking forward to the new year.  The resolutions of others have already been tried by fire.  Some are participating in Church-wide fasts.  I want to take a moment, step out of the usual format, and reflect on 2012.  After some conversations with the family, we came up with a top 10 list for 2012. These are the great events, local hot spots, and traditions we enjoyed.  Perhaps these snippets will spark a little creativity for your family in 2013.

10) Libraries. What would we do without libraries?  Libraries offer books, inter-library loans for books they don't have, semi-scratched DVD's and CD's, office amenities, Freegal Music, a random homeschool mom for Crystal to chat with, and sometimes coffee.  Then there are the kids programs: summer reading programs, storytelling, family movies in the park, holiday parties, special events, etc.  Best of all, it's all free with a library card!  My favorites: 1) the new library at Kyova with nice tables, seating, and a fresh morning pot of coffee, and 2) the surprisingly resourceful Theology and religion section at Ironton.

9) Local Hotspots.  There are certain places that are too good to be mass produced, ma and pa shops, regional chains, etc.  We love to frequent local hot spots, feeding back into our economy (Bella Fonte, Casa Grande, Dick's Pizza, Pullman Square, Empire Books, etc.).  One of our favorites, The Pottery Place, served as the location for Cruz's 7th birthday party, complete with Crystal's homemade Ninjago cake!  

8) Outdoors.  Crystal and I both come from outdoors families and we've continued the tradition.  We can't always get away to the Rockies or Yosemite.  However, we can take the family hiking, biking, walking, and fishing often at nearby city and state parks (i.e. B.F. Crager Community Park, Central Park, Ritter Park, Greenbo, Vesuvius, Beech Fork, etc.).

7) Day Trips.  We are the masters of the family day trip.  Flatwoods is about two hours from everywhere . . . literally . . . Charleston, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Lexington.  We frequently quote the movie line, "Well, ain't this place a geographical oddity.  Two weeks from everywhere!"  In Lexington, we hit Joseph Beth, Trader Joes, Chipotle, Cokesbury, and the Apple store.  In Columbus we like Easton Town Center with the Lego Store and Panda Express.  However, by far the discovery of the year is COSI in Columbus.  This is the best family hotspot since the Monterey Bay Aquarium!

6) Friday Nights.  We typically rent movies from Redbox for a dollar (74 cents with a coupon), or we check out oldies from the library.  Crystal has been perfecting some homemade pizza recipes.  Typically, our little Chef Cruz assists in the prep.  We start with dinner in the living room and a family movie.  Sometimes we have a "Family Wii Night" instead.  Then, after the kids are in bed, Crystal and I watch a good movie.  I must be the luckiest man alive, because I married a girl who would usually rather see an action movie than a chick flick! 

5) Palmer Park.  We are so thankful to be living a little over four hours away from all of Crystal's family in Palmer Park, Roanoke, VA.  We have been able to drop in for dinner and spend a couple days here and there.  It is such a blessing to have family close by, especially during the holidays.  Of note this year: the boys learned to ride dirt bikes and to work with Papa in the garden.  Crystal and I enjoyed watching the Giants win the World Series.  The whole family loved a couple of meals at El Rodeo and the corn maze and pumpkin patch at Layman Family Farm.

4) Church Productions.  Both Mateo and Cruz were part of the smash hit "Cookin' Up Christmas"at Christ Temple Church.  Cruz was a choir member, a wise man, and he handed out homemade cookies to the audience.  The Children's Ministries Director told him, "You are the best and cutest wise man I have ever seen!"  Mateo joined some other Food Network all stars with a main role as Guy Fieri from Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.  A couple weeks later, Mateo sang a solo in "Adore Him," as the Children's Praise Team performed for both Sunday morning services!

3) The Paramount.  Once again, Crystal and our two young actors hit the stage at the community theater.  They joined a full production of "Miracle on 34th Street" at the The Paramount Arts Center in Ashland, KY.  Crystal had a main supporting role as the high-strung Shellhammer.  Mateo had a speaking part and Cruz was part of the chorus.  The cast also put together a float for the Ashland Christmas Parade!
2) The Hobbit.  I have read this book before, and loved it.  Crystal and I also read to the boys.  Last year, I completed the Chronicles of Narnia with them.  This year, in anticipation of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," I read the book to them during the summer.  When the movie came out, we planned a Christmas day trip to Lexington and watched it together as a family.  This certainly ranked as one of our best day trips ever, and is something the boys are still talking about.

1) Christ Temple Church.  We found a Church to attend this year, and it quickly became a Church that ministered to our entire family.  The boys were instantly drawn into the children's ministries, known as "ArKidz."  This year, both of them have been filled with the Holy Spirit in their services, in answer to many prayers.  Crystal and I are continually refreshed by the main services, with fantastic worship and preaching.  God has truly ministered to us during this season, and has kept us excited about His house!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Athenagoras on Praying for Leaders

1 Timothy 2.1-2: I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness (New International Version).

Little is known about Athenagoras of Athens.  It is uncertain when he was born or died, but he lived in the second half of the second century.  He is known to be an Athenian philosopher who was converted to Christianity.  His writing certainly reflects this.

Perhaps he should be better known for one of his statements on the Godhead.  He writes one of the clearest and earliest formulations on the Trinity known in history.  If this had been heeded, it would have saved the Early Church a couple centuries of debate.

With the Church still facing the fires of persecution in the second century, Athenagoras appeals directly to the emperor in “A Plea for Christians” (around 177 A.D.)  “Apparently Athenagoras believed that it would help the emperor to stop persecuting Christians if he understood that Christians believed in a God much like he believed in.  Marcus Aurelius was a philosopher most influenced by Stoicism, whose god was virtually equated with the immutable and perfect order of the universe.”[1]  In the final essay, “Entreaty to be Fairly Judged,” Athenagoras appeals for favor from Marcus Aurelius based on the fact that Christians obey the Biblical command to pray for their leaders.

“And now do you [Marcus Aurelius], who are entirely in everything, by nature and by education, upright, and moderate, and benevolent, and worthy of your rule, now that I [Athenagoras] have disposed of the several accusations, and proved that we [Christians] are pious, and gentle, and temperate in spirit, bend your royal head in approval.  For who are more deserving to obtain the things they ask, than those who, like us, pray for your government, that you may, as is most equitable, receive the kingdom, son from father, and that your empire may receive increase and addition, all men becoming subject to your sway?  And this is also for our advantage, that we may lead a peaceable and quiet life, and may ourselves readily perform all that is commanded us.”[2]

First of all, we see that Early Christians not only pray for their leaders, but also pray specifically.  They pray that the rule of Marcus will be established and passed on from generation to generation.  They pray the empire will increase, will prosper, and will be able to conquer new territory.  They pray for men to come into submission to the empire.  This type of specific prayer is exactly what Paul is discussing in 1 Timothy 2.1.  How specifically do we pray for our leaders?

Governor Romney and President Obama
First Presidential Debate 10.03.12
Second, Athenagoras claims that specific prayer is rewarded, “that we may lead a peaceable and quiet life” (see 1 Timothy 2.2).  Under intense persecution, a little peace and quiet for Christians is priceless.  Athenagoras rests his entire defense of Christianity on this one promise from Paul.  How could the emperor read such a statement without the sting of conviction?  Athenagoras points out that these Christians that Marcus is persecuting, are praying for his reign and realm, and desiring to live in peace.  If these Early Christians can follow the Biblical injunction to pray for their emperor, despite the fact that their emperor is killing them, what excuse do we have to keep from praying for our leaders?

Third, Athenagoras makes it abundantly clear that the Church has a voice in society.  Despite persecution, he writes directly to the emperor and voices the concerns of the Early Church, citing Scripture.  In our society, we have at least one way to let our voices be heard, by voting.  Furthermore, we have every right to allow our Christian values to inform our decisions.  We also have the right to be involved in the processes of government, a luxury the Early Church does not enjoy.

Let us consider the honest, respectful, prayerful approach of Athenagoras as we discuss politics with those around us, as we formulate our opinions, and as we cast our ballots.  Most of all let us pray for our leaders.

          [1] Roger E. Olson, The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition and Reform (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), p. 62.
          [2] Athenagoras, “A Plea for the Christians,” in Fathers Of The Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, And Clement Of Alexandria (Entire), vol. 2 of The Ante-Nicene Fathers Translations of The Writings Of The Fathers Down To A.D. 325, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, in the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, (accessed September 18, 2012).

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Christians and Government: Romans 13 for July 4th

How should Christians view government?  Where do Church and state intersect?  When I think of July 4th, Independence Day, freedom, and all that America is, I am drawn to Scripture. One of my favorite teachings is found in Romans 13.1-7.  I personally like this reading in the New American Standard.  Here is a quick look at the passage and the language that makes it so rich.

Romans 13.1: Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.
Government is an institution of God, designed for specific purposes.  The governing authorities are those with the authoritative power, the exousia (in the Greek). This word for power is often used in connection with the Kingdom of God.  Furthermore, the authorities are established (or ordained) by God.  He sets them in place. Is it possible He has His way, even in our democratic republic?

Romans 13.2: Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.
Governments are utilized by God to establish order in the earth.  When a ruler or law is at odds with Scripture, the Christian holds to the Word, even in the face of legal or physical persecution.  In all other cases, the government is to be obeyed. Whoever disobeys, rebels against God and runs the risk of condemnation, or literally damnation.

Romans 13.3: For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil.  Do you want to have no fear of authority?  Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; 4: for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.
God ordains the public office.  The public leader is a minister, or diakanos, which is also the same word for deacon (verse 4).  There are a couple of functions of civil office that God requires.

Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good (verses 3-4a).  Authority rewards good behavior, civil servants, and good initiatives.  The Church can better society, and should co-operate with government to do so.

But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil (verse 4b).  Be afraid, evildoer!  Afraid, or phobeo, is the root word for phobia or terror! Authority terrifies the unlawful and is the avenger, or revenger, of evil.  God helps the good guys win (see Andy Griffith Show or Matlock)!  If rebels do not fear authority, they should fear the swordThe sword is understood as the power of physical punishment, the power to go to war, and the power of capital punishment.

Romans 13.5: Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake.  6:For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. 7: Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.
We do not obey because we are afraid to get caught.  We submit for conscience’ sake.  We  obey when no one is watching (verse 5).  We pay taxes as we do our tithes, because those in public office are servants of God (verse 6).  We pay our dues and pay our respect to our authorities.  Whether or not we stand on the same political platform, we owe them our honor (verse 7).

We may think that we are having a difficult time with our authorities in America, and so this passage certainly does not apply to us. However, we may want to remember those who were in power in Paul’s time, and all he suffered.

“Authority is the minister of God – so says the apostle, who had had frequent occasion to learn what it meant to be imprisoned by that self-same power without having committed any crime.  On three separate occasions he had endured the cruel punishment of whipping, and he was well aware how the Jews had been banished from Rome under the Emperor Claudius (Acts 18.1 ff)”[1]

If Paul can recognize God’s hand in establishing the Roman government, certainly we can see God at work in America!

[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (New York: Macmillan, 1959), 237.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Aftermath: Remembering Joplin After The Storm

On this day last year, Crystal and I drove into Joplin, Missouri.  The whole nation had seen glimpses of the devastation caused by the tornado that was six miles long and a mile wide.  The twister destroyed one third of the town, razing it to the ground right through the heart of the city.  St. John’s Hospital made headline news because the facility was badly damaged.

St. John's Hospital

However, nothing we had seen on T.V.  could have prepared us for the devastation we witnessed on May 25, 2011.  We joined Daniel and Rhonda Davis, and the relief efforts of the Pentecostal Church of God, which were underway at Messenger College.  After arriving at Messenger’s gym, Daniel took us on a tour of the city.  Because buildings were flattened, one could see from the area of town where the tornado began in the west (not far from St. John’s Hospital) to Duquesne Village in the east.

Over the next few days, we had time to hear the stories of our family, all of whom survived the tornado.  My brother Bret’s twelve-year-old son Rio was with his mom and step-dad in their house near St. John’s Hospital.  By the time they knew the tornado was upon them, there was nowhere they could run.  Counting immediate and visiting family, there were nine in their house.  Without a basement, all nine crammed into their innermost room, a small laundry room.  Rio’s step-dad Daniel sat Rio on top of the washer and literally laid his torso over Rio to protect him.  Rio’s mom Monica sat on the floor clutching her small son Marko in her arms.  At one point, she could feel the vacuum of the tornado pulling Marko up into the air.  When it finally passed, they all looked up into the sky overhead where their roof had just been.  They emerged from the laundry room to discover it was the only room in the house that still had all four walls intact.  Crystal and I listened to Daniel tell the story, all of us tearing up, as we stood with him in the wreckage that was his house.

Daniel and Monica's Laundry Room
Looking Up Out of the Laundry Room

Later I met with my brother Matt and we walked through his father-in-law’s house, where his family was when the tornado struck.  Matt’s father-in-law Dennis received a last-second call from someone urging him to take cover because a tornado was on the way.  At that moment, Matt was at the back entrance watching the storm.  He saw the wind whip the trees violently one way, then bend them back violently the other way.  Then the sky suddenly changed color and he knew it was bad.  Matt started yelling, telling everyone to go to the basement.  Everyone was headed down the stairs, but Dennis suddenly turned back.  He is a car salesman and had a company car in the driveway.  He told Matt, “I gotta get the Escalade in the garage.”  Matt refused to let Dennis by, and moved him down the basement steps.  The instant Matt had turned and closed the basement door behind him, he heard the house ripping apart.  Thankfully, all were safe in the basement, by a split second.  Later, as they climbed out of the basement, they discovered that much of the roof and second floor were gone.  There were also projectiles all over the house, items that had flown through, many that were from other places.  Even though the main damage was on the second floor, there is a good chance someone would have been injured by a projectile on the first floor.

Matt's In-Law's Basement

Looking Up from the First Floor
The Missing Second Floor

Over the course of our six days in Joplin in the aftermath, we were honored to aid in the relief efforts.  However, we were blessed when people would entrust us with their stories.  We discovered that the split-second decisions our family made were not uncommon.  People just knew where to hide at the last moment, as if someone had told them, and in fact many claimed that someone did.  These stories are not easily dismissed, and are nothing short of miraculous.

What actually happened in the real world on May 22, 2011?  What if the veil that separates the physical world from the real world could be pulled back and we could see the truth?  As the reports kept funneling in, we realized that people knew what to do at the last second.  Some claimed a voice told them.  Others even claimed angels appeared.  Many children said butterflies led them to safety.  In the aftermath of the Joplin tornado, I believe I heard stories from people who were eyewitnesses to the Host of Heaven!

Joplin has suffered loss.  Families have suffered loss.  But Joplin is still rebuilding.  A tedious journey still lies ahead.  Yet God is still interested in this Mid-West town.  Although there were deaths, God showed His protection, when countless lives could have been taken.  He will continue to show His strength as Joplin faces each new day.

Psalm 91.1: He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.  2: I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.  3: Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.  4: He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.  5: Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; 6: Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.  7: A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.  8: Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.  9: Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; 10: There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.  11: For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.  

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Garden

One day, in the fall of 2008, I decided to take a day of solitude.  I went to a nearby site with historic buildings and a large flower and plant garden.  The purpose was not to enjoy everything, but to quiet myself.  As I sat silently in a secluded vantage point in the garden, I was finally still enough inside to hear the voice of God.  He ministered deeply to my soul, assuring me that I could trust Him despite the pains of life.

A few days ago, I came across this paragraph in my readings.  Instantly I was transported back to the garden experience, because the words are nearly identical to what I heard that day.

“It is impossible to be wide open with someone you don’t trust, let alone with a God whom we cannot see and whose ways we don’t always understand!  Subconsciously (or even consciously), we may blame God for some of the difficulties and traumas we have experienced.  Though we may have a hard time admitting it, these traumas and disappointments have caused us to wonder, Is God really good?  If I trust myself to him, isn’t there a good chance that I will wind up where I least want to be or that God will withhold what I want the most?[1]

Amid seasons of pain and suffering, I must admit that it becomes difficult to trust that God is good.  That was in the fall of 2008, and I have returned to that conversation with God over and over.  When I try to continue as if nothing is wrong, my spirit slowly withdraws in pain.  When I admit the difficulty of trusting, it is as if He breathes new life and hope into me. 

No matter what we face, God is near.  He is able to field our toughest questions.  He is still good.  He is trustworthy.  No matter what we face, He has already faced it.  He walks with us in our suffering and strengthens our hearts.

Hebrews 12.3: For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (New American Standard).

            [1] Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 117.