Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Repairing the Walls

There aren't many Christians in America who would disagree that we have some crumbling walls in our nation.  Morally, there just isn't much left standing.  Our nation's desire for freedom has caused us to both neglect the maintenance of God's walls of protection or to even tear them down.

As I was reading in Nehemiah last week, I couldn't help but be struck with how pertinent some of the points were in that time when the walls of Jerusalem were in disrepair with how our land needs some careful attention.  This text has been used many times in this context and I am not a theologian, but I just wanted to share some things that would be unique to my vantage point.

My nearest vantage point has to do with my city, Defiance, and my home church.  Faith Family Fellowship.   My heart is stirred with how I see God raising repairmen for the walls.   In Nehemiah, God has listed the names of many of the repairman and even the parts of the walls they were working on.  Was that necessary for the meaning of the text?  Not necessarily for me, but it shows me that these people were doing an important work!  They focused on their part of the wall and did what they were called to do.   We have some road construction going on in the main part of Defiance and even some construction work being done on our courthouse, but when I read articles about the work in the paper, I don't see anything like, "John Smith is working on laying the asphalt between such and such streets." or "Harry Eglemeier is applying the shingles on the south side of the courthouse roof."  These construction workers are doing an important work, but it isn't anything like repairing God's city/kingdom.

 The Bible says that the repairman of the walls looked around and saw that the work was great!  this meant there was a lot to do!!  Yet, they each had to not become overwhelmed or get distracted by what was undone elsewhere and just focus on what their assignment was in front of them.  Our nation has need of great repairs!  To look at the whole task can be greatly overwhelming!   But, how is something like a wall repaired?  One block at a time.  Can we not take this back to our nation being repaired one family and one church at a time?  Then the families can take it back to one person at a time?

 Repairing the wall in our culture often means someone being light and truth.  Upholding biblical principles.  Being men and women of integrity and putting God's will first.  Men being true husbands and fathers.  Women being faithful mothers and wives.  People who are uncompromising in keeping sin out of their lifestyles and who speak truth in love.

I remember when I was raising my four older children.  I was homeschooling and we had a mini farm.  It kept me busy, but I was still tempted to do other things.  Money making opportuniites, charity work or church work, furthering my education, socializing.  I did all of these things to a degree, but I kept having to reign myself in and remind myself what was important.....raising and training my children for the Lord.  I couldn't fix the whole world.  I couldn't take in all the foster children I wanted....and so on.   This was my wall to build .....this was my donation to the repair of my country's walls.  It seemed narrow minded at times and very limited in scope.  In a way it was, but now I see how their influences are used in our countries and in other countries around the world.

 Last Sunday, we had a beautiful missions church service followed by a baptism of five of our church members from ages 7-40 something.  My heart was filled with thankfulness for how God was moving in our midst.  We are a small congregation, but we are endeavoring to focus on the assignments that God has given us.   This involves the training/raising of a good number of children/young people and it involves a passion for the world.   Someone shared over the weekend that if we didn't have a passion for the world (the whole wall) then we won't have a passion for our own locale (family/neighbors).

Because of this body's faithfulness, there are wallbuilders being prepared and wallbuilders being sent out by the help and grace of the Lord.   I will name some names.   Norma Beck has a daughter repairing walls in Taiwan and Dick Beck has a daughter repairing walls in Paulding, OH with the youth.   The McIntoshes have a son repairing walls in Fort Wayne, IN and a daughter ready to be sent to work for the Lord in Cincinnati and eventually overseas.  They have a daughter repairing walls in the business world of Defiance, OH.   There are 8 more yet to go out!  The Grahams are preparing wallbuilders with one or two already having their sights on the mission field.  The Jones have been assigned an especially deteriorated section of the wall and we have been amazed  at the speed and beauty of repairs! God is going to send them out.

This small church supports pro life mission work, a work in China, Rev. Schultze's newsletter to several countries and has sent out their own missionary to Thailand already!   Individuals support other mission works around the world.   Most of us are involved ourselves in investing time and finance in the pro-life cause in America.  We are a small congregation, but we are trying to focus on the children we have in our homes, the needs of families in our church, and trying to be a light in our community.   Do we still need some help?  Oh, yes, we really do.  However, I'm encouraged with the focus and the foundational work that's being done.   Because parents are focusing on raising their children well, they will be sent out with strength and purpose.  Praise the Lord!

I guess this blog is an attempt to encourage each of us not to try to fight battles that aren't ours or to throw up our hands in despair, but to look at the task at hand and put our heart into our work and see what God does with the results!   Think about it....what would happen if each family in our country focused on repairing it's walls and sending out properly equipped and prepared laborers for the harvest?   Just one a time.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Concealed Greatness

Concealed Greatness ( a letter to my father)

Some greatness is concealed.  Not to everybody, but to the majority.  God understands that.  He displays His greatness on a daily basis, but yet there is an element of concealment, and most are blind to the wonder of it all.  Yet He is still great and His goodness continues.

There are things that are ‘great’ in my memory of being your daughter.

You are big.   I always took pride in the fact that my daddy was ‘big’.  I loved hearing my peers exclaim, “He’s sooo tall!”  To, me it was so rewarding that they could see right away that you were special.

I loved your hands.  They are big too, and I loved the look of how big and strong they were.  I loved to hold that hand as we were coming and going.  I loved seeing your hand holding a pen and scribbling (yes, scribbling!) out your theological thoughts.   I liked seeing them working on projects around the house for mother or piddling with an engine or motor.

I remember the greatness of being held in your arms after a good spanking!   The spankings were definitely painful and did their work, but the rest I felt in my heart and the bonding I felt with you when being held afterward still warms me.

Bikes.  I remember dragging a junk bike across the Zeman Elementary school yard.  It was humiliating because this school had ritzy kids in it that would sneer at my bike and occasionally make mocking comments.  I think Esther told you what was going on, because it wasn’t long before you surprised me with a brand new cinnamon colored Schwinn ten speed!   I was struck as new things of any kind were a rarity at our house.  I felt loved and cared for.   I kept it for way too many years!!   Then a few years ago, you heard I was struggling keeping my balance on another old bike and you bought me a new ‘granny’ bike with all the bells and whistles!!  I love cruising on my bike and thinking of my Father’s love!

Extremism.  Within the Kingdom, it was ALL for God or not for God at all.  As a first generation Christian, you leaped the boundaries to do things that were quite unusual for one not raised in a Christian home.  You stepped in when the school called for dances or evolutionary science.  You taught us not to date when no one had heard of that before.  You prayed and praised loud, hard and long.  You uprooted your family and went to unfamiliar cities because you felt the call of God to do so.   Messages that were loud and clear to us on being cross cultural and of obedience to the Lord.

Humor.   Your dry sense of humor made me laugh and made me proud.

Time.  You valued us by spending family time and vacations, but we’ve talked about that before.  And then there were the Saturday mornings of tennis when I got older.

Now that I’m an ‘older’ adult, I enjoy these qualities in God.   He is BIG and I’m proud of that and thankful for his protection over us.  His hands are loving and caring.  His discipline is horrible just like yours but it brings good fruit.   He gives me good gifts like you have given me bikes.  He surprises me and blesses me beyond what I deserve.   God is radical and your example helps me accept and understand that.   God makes me laugh and gives me joy.  God cares enough of me to spend time with me and I know that’s true because my earthly Father thought I was valuable enough to do so.

All these lessons are learned and accepted as God intended.  HE  designed families and the father to teach the child about a relationship with God.  I praise the Lord that you have done well!

Thousands know and love you, but the greatness is still concealed to it’s full extent from many of them.  You aren’t a common name in the world …not even in the Christian world.  But, true greatness does not have to be well known to exist.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Spirit of Adoption

For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.  - Romans 8:15

God has adopted us into His family so we as families on earth should offer the same to orphans.  Adoption websites promote having the 'heart of God' toward the fatherless.  Pictures of cute, adorable and sometimes hungry children fill these sites.  We're encouraged to become that 'forever family' that will satisfy the needs of these orphan's hearts.  Very noble, isn't it?

Yes, it certainly is.

However if you know someone who has adopted or read books about the long term results of adoption, then you've probably learned 'the other side of the coin'.  Adopted children don't easily accept their new parents as their own.  They often reject and test the family's values in an extreme way.  These new members can intentionally or unintentionally bring division between existing siblings or between husband and wife. Even if that doesn't happen, the new parents can find themselves struggling in their marriage as a result of the stress of trying to win the child's heart and affections. The child often begins to long for his former family and their ways.  Upon reaching the teen years, the child can struggle with identity and often with appropriate boundaries.  It may take years for them to accept the new family.  And some never do.

Hey....if adoption is so much the heart of God, why is it so difficult and messy? Are we missing something?  Are we doing something wrong?

What does God do in the adoption process that works better?  He's the Perfect Parent, right?  He absolutely is.  That's why all of His adopted children assimilate all His values and trust Him completely and without hesitation.   Well.....maybe not quite.

In the last week, I've begun to realize why adoption can be so messy and heart rending.  It's not Plan A.  Plan A was for Adam and Eve not to sin.  Plan A was for the orphan's parents to provide a good, godly home for their children.

God's redemption plan is magnificent and some would say it really is Plan A.  I'm not going to get into that, but in all honesty, God's adopted children just aren't very cooperative.  Read the Bible.  Kings fall out of greed and lust for power and women.  God's chosen people complain and want back in Egypt to their old life and reject the abundant fruit of the promised land. And, just look around at the present church.  Once fruitful members, slip into temptation and sin.  People make decisions based on what they want rather than what God wants.  People are still uncertain about trusting God, the perfect Father, the omnipotent, omniscient One who knows nothing but Love.

It appears to me that for adoption to be fruitful, it involves the choice of the new parents to embrace the orphan as their own.  Then it involves the child receiving that gift and being willing to trust the parents to provide, guide and protect.  Not an easy thing when your heart has been broken by sin and tainted by sin's influences.  The gift of adoption must be nurtured by both the parent and the child.  It involves surrender to new authority, trust in an entity that is not familiar and obedience to new guidelines and processes.  When one side or the other does not nurture the gift and cooperate then the adoption process is less than God intended it to be.

As we see how messy things can get for humans and even when adopted into God's perfect family, we may want to shy away from taking on adoption ourselves.  Surely, by now, God has given up on the process Himself, right?  Enough of this ungrateful and rebellious response to such sacrificial love?  Yet God still adopts, risks and gives chances.

This is the love that needs to motivate us into earthly adoption.  An attitude that wants to give and wants to love with no guarantee of success or return.  Adoption should cause us to give our very best effort just because we value the person, the process and the God who created them both.  Church, let's keep adopting even when it's messy.  THIS is the spirit of adoption.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Making of a Missionary Family

I was asked the question again, "To what do you attribute your children being around the world sharing the gospel?"   I often don't have an answer.   It's not exactly what I planned.   I probably don't need to tell you that there's no one set formula, and I probably also don't need to tell you that God doesn't call every family to this kind of mission work.  Missionaries we all must be, but 'where' is the  question.
But, as I was sitting at our dining room table with this friend, I started to recount some events that contributed to the making of this particular missionary family, the Litchfield tribe.

Not necessarily in the order of importance!  But all crucial in our situation!

1) Grandparents with a vision......Grandma Schultze was going to be a missionary nurse and Grandpa Schultze a medical doctor.  God didn't grant that specific desire, but the desire was sensed and passed along (on fire godly aunt and uncle didn't hurt anything either!)
2) German grandfather/pastor - No nonsense.  Black and white.  No excuses.  God obey!!!  It doesn't matter what people think, how much it will cost you or even what YOU think....get over whatever it is and obey!!!
3) Marrying in God's will (again not essential for everyone but it sure helps!)  My parents and Don and I endeavored to marry who God wanted us to marry
4) Knowing the purpose of family.  Before I even married, the  question was on my mind.  Why have children?  To be honest a lot of them didn't look very enjoyable!  And to my teen mind they were an inconvenience.  Do we have children just so they can have children and so on?  I didn't have all the answers at the time, but as God unfolded our lives, we learned that children were to be born and raised with the purpose to serve God.... not us. 
5) Separateness from the world and much godly instruction.  In our family, home schooling and much training were involved.
6) Denny Kenaston's Godly Home Series.  When I would listen to these audio tapes, I would become so stirred by Denny's vision to send our children out to the far corners of the world to share the gospel.  My children heard me exhorting them after I would hear some of these messages!
7) Missionary biographies.   Most of our children's reading was educational in some way and that which was spiritual.  Missionary biographies were required reading as well as reading biographies of other great men and women of the faith.
8) Mission trips.  We took them on mission trips.  They went on some on their own.  They saw me weep when leaving countries because we couldn't do more.  They saw their father invest in lives of people he didn't know.  They ministered in song and deed to spiritually hungry people.  They sang with their grandpa in the open plazas in Europe and people would gather.
9) Honest hearts.  Okay.  This one could be essential.  We tried to have honest hearts and to respond to the Spirit even when others around us saw things differently.  We wanted Gods will personally and we were willing to make changes where necessary.
10) Heart ties.  We endeavored to love, understand and enable our children.

Probably not a comprehensive list.  But it's a start.  These 10 factors contributed greatly to what our children doing today.


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Home and Family

Our homes and our family have played crucial parts in our lives.  Of  course, our children have entangled their way in our hearts, but also the homes that have been the framework for great memories.  First of all, the children.  We have invested much in raising our family.  It takes time, energy, patience, finance to home school.  And we felt the call of God to make that sacrifice.  Along with the investment came heart ties.  As the Word says: where your treasure is, that is where your heart will be.  We also felt the call to include them in ministry.  We took them with us to prayer meetings, local outreaches, and to mission trips overseas.  Again....more heart ties.  We invested in their physical bodies in the way of being involved in select sports activities and tried to develop gifts by taking them to special classes and to music lessons.  So much of our lives were spent....and with joy we did so.
Then God began to take our investments....away to other places.....ouch.  Too soon it happened.  The children were beginning to sound really good in their string ensembles.  Our maturing voices were blending well in song.  Their bodies were strong enough and capable enough to be helpful around the house and homestead.  Yet, there they went.  What we had built began to change form and to be reconstructed in other environments.  My footing was being shaken.  My grasp loosened on what I loved and gave myself to.
Then there were the homes.  The main home is the one we visited a weekend ago.  We spent most of our child raising years there.  The hands of our children had helped Don build an addition on the home.  Their hands had pulled nails out of the hardwood flooring we had installed.  They had nurtured baby goats, chicks, lambs and donkeys on the acres there.  The boys had helped string the fencing and stack the hay.  We had sung in the music room we had added on and they played instruments together.  In the living room, the Word had been opened for family devotions.  Youth groups had gathered.  We had family meetings planning how we could better serve the Lord and others.  A treehouse was built and a natural fort existed under the large, overgrown junipers.
The basement was used for friends to frolic in adverse weather.  We snuggled on the couch in front of the VHS movies we used for math.  We had wonderful believers to worship with.  The children's grandparents were nearby.
(This is the rear of the house now overgrown and vacant)

We had bought hand shovels to dig our pond in the side yard.  The front yard was used for soccer, volleyball and football with friends.
The dining room with it's cathedral ceiling was a gathering place nearly every week for fellow believers to fellowship as well as the setting for birthday dinners.
We dreamed of our grandchildren experiencing the same joys on that land.
Then God said, "Go."
Again what had become entangled in our hearts....through investment in the Kingdom things....had to be torn away.  We were leaving it for....we knew not what.

What is God doing?  Why doesn't it feel right?  In times like these, we learn what it really feels like to forsake all and follow God.  We learn what it means to not love the world or the things of the world.  We start to feel what God is saying when he says not to love your children and your family more than Him.  It hurts.  It's an adventure.

In retrospect, I can see how God is leading  and working.  Leaving this home brought us in contact with people that we needed to meet.  Our children found their companions through venturing away from us and home.  They found their callings.  I thought they should find all this right there in that home we had loved and worked in!!  Couldn't God do that?  But, no, it wasn't the way I imagined it or how I had planned it.
If we leave houses, lands and people, God will provide more in His time and His way.  But...I liked the ones I had.  Why did I want to leave them?  I didn't want to, but God called us out and He has given good fruit out of the obedience.

When I visited this former home a few weekends ago, our son, Jake, told us that the homestead where he has been living with his mother-in-law and family will most likely be sold when they move to Thailand.  Double grieving that weekend in my heart!  Look at this place!  
I'm not trying to be overly negative....I just want you to feel the cost.  A shaker shingle barn.

 A cabin on over 100 acres of woods.  Moose and bear coming through the pasture.  An old greenhouse to start plants in the cold springs of Maine.  Cousins for our grandkids walking distance down the lane.  Warm wood heat in winter and a wood stove for cooking and heating water. 

Going is leaving what is comfortable...but also it is a forsaking in the heart.  Yet, Jake and Naomi are gearing up to leave what is precious of this earth for eternal rewards....which they do not know yet what those will look like.   Are the rewards worth it??  Oh, yes!!  The people, experiences and spouses for our children are soooo worth it.  Yes, I would have preferred these things be provided WITHOUT me leaving what I loved.  But, that's not how God wanted to do it.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Discipling Those Arrows

I've been reading "Radical" by David Platt.  Yes, put it on your 'must-read' list!  If you've already read it, then you understand what I'm saying!

I'm one of those who has struggled with 'evangelism'.  I'm not good at cold turkey witnessing.  I want people to move in with me and then I can best reach them!  Thus we did foster care and other reaching out.  But, I felt like a failure because I wasn't winning more people.  Platt's book is helping me be more encouraged....and challenged.  The type of discipleship I prefer is the kind He encourages.  The challenge to me is to do more of it and make more of a conscious effort to pursue the deeper relationships that I feel more comfortable sharing the gospel inside of.

Platt reminds us that at the end of Jesus life, He didn't tell the Father how many people He had healed or how many huge crowds He had spoken to.  He told the Father how He had been faithful to the 12 men that God had given them and only one had been lost (Judas).

Maybe this is a good sign that we need to quit putting ourselves on a guilt trip that we haven't performed miracles or preached to thousands, and start trying to disciple those God has put across our path.

Read this quote:

"The more I read the Gospels, the more I marvel at the simple genius of what Jesus was doing with His disciples.  My mind tends to wander toward grandiose dreams and intricate strategies, and I'm struck when I see Jesus simply, intentionally, systematically, patiently walking alongside twelve men.  Jesus reminds me that disciples are not mass produced.  Disciples of Jesus - genuine, committed, self-sacrificing followers of Christ - are not made overnight.
Making disciples is not an easy process.  It is trying. It is messy.  It is slow, tedious, even painful at times.  It is all these things because it is relational."

Now reread the quote above, and think about it in relation to raising children for the Lord.  Are our own children not multiplying the Gospel?  Isn't it messy and trying at times?  Should we be dreaming about reaching the world and neglecting those young branches He has put right in our home?

Here's more:

"He spent three years with twelve guys.  If the Son of God thought it necessary to focus his life on a small group of men, we are fooling ourselves to think we can mass-produce disciples today.  God's design for taking the gospel to the world is a slow, intentional, simple process that involves every one of his people sacrificing every facet of their lives to multiply the life of Christ in others."

Praise the Lord!   It's more 'doable' than we thought!  And it's more 'tedious and systematic' than some of us thought too.  What a great example Jesus was! 

What if we don't have arrows to whittle and refine?  Get to know your neighbor....WELL.  Co-workers, cousins, acquaintances at church, etc.  Platt's book will give you more ideas and challenge you to use your gifts globally to 'make disciples'.

Praise the Lord for Jesus training those 12 disciples!  Then the Holy Spirit took them and Christianity has spread like wildfire!  Let the Holy Spirit take the discipling we've done and bring the increase!


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Missing Those Arrows

As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.
Psalm 127:4,5

I am happy with the arrows the Lord has given me.  One in Northern Ireland, one in India, one in Guatemala and one soon to go to Thailand.  And then one arrow still being whittled and carved into straightness.  And, oh! how I'm thankful for the beautiful arrows which have entered our family through marriage!

Yet, lately I have really been feeling the loss of the arrows that I did not put into my quiver.  After bearing four children, I listened to the worldly culture and the church culture and chose to put an end to Don's and my childbearing.  My husband was not wanting to quit, but I yielded to my own fleshly fears and to the pressures of others.   Let's face it, having babies and nurturing them is hard work!!  Yet, I have had to seek forgiveness for my lack of belief.

If God would have granted us more arrows, where would they have gone?  Perhaps they would have been helpers to their older siblings in other lands.  They could be helping the needy around home.  There is an elderly woman or two that I could be sending children to help.  My husband could have a 'young helper' on his construction projects.  Perhaps they would be an encouragement to other young people in our church.  At Operation Save America, I kept thinking of how some extra arrows would be good in the battle for life.  Not to mention countries afar that may need a missionary.  

I'm not intending to wallow in regrets, but I believe the mourning is appropriate for a time.  It's probably a bigger loss than I even realize.  That said, I believe and see God working out His alternate plan in my life.  He's giving me other children to watch out for and to influence.  He is showing me ways to use my extra time in ways that glorify Him.  I'm thankful for His mercy and grace.  But, perhaps on judgment day, the glory I gave up in missing those arrows will be revealed to me and those tears will have to be wiped from my eyes.

Until then, I choose to rejoice in God's grace, praise God for the arrows I have, pray for the grandchild arrows I've been given, love and serve other's children that are in my life, and continue to use my gifts and time for the Kingdom.  I rejoice that with our present children/grandchildren, we have been able to propagate over a dozen times!  And Mikah and Ariana haven't even begun to help us out yet! :-)  The work of Christ must be multiplied by the lost being saved, but also by believers training up a godly seed.   What a mighty God we serve.  I mess up and fail, but He does all things well!