Thursday, July 17, 2014

Morning Journey

The alarm clock jolted me awake this morning.  I had struggled to go to sleep the night before and had a bad dream in the process when 5:30 rolled around.  In addition to that, there were a couple real life situations heavy on my mind. After some devotions, I decided to head outside for an early morning walk.  Love these cool mornings we've been having!  I was enjoying the fresh air, the quiet and the lush vegetation.  Even the soybeans in the field had a beauty to offer!  As I walked by the lake near our house, the trees were reflected in the still water and a soft steam rose like mist from it's surface.
As I absorbed the beauty of God's creation, my heart lifted the needs of those on my mind to the Lord.  I was searching for wisdom that I could offer those in troubled situations.  Then the obvious occurred to me....just give the needs to the Lord.  Suddenly I envisioned myself climbing a steep mountain and pushing a heavy load.  I was near the peak and knew as I pushed a little further, the heavy load would be thrust off the mountain and up into the hands of God.  As the load lifted with all it's weight off the earth, it disintegrated into God's presence.  Not that the problem was 'gone'.  It was taken care of.  The answer was There.  On it's way to those who needed it as only God can do.
I'm not trying to get into mysticism here - I'm just sharing how God helped lift my burdens this morning.  How wonderful to have a God who not only knows the best solution to every problem, but also cares enough about every detail of our lives to lift and guide us.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Word of God over Media

Thoughts from Bro. Sams:
Charles Colson wrote in A Dangerous Grace the following thoughts about No Graven Images.
“Neil Postman’s devastating critique of television Amusing Ourselves to Death, was welcomed by critics, reviewed in all the right magazines - but not once did we learn where Postman got his ideas. It turns out, he got them from the Bible.
Postman’s thesis is that different types of media encourage different ways of thinking. The printed word requires sustained attention, logical analysis, and an active imagination. But television, with its fast-moving images, encourages a short attentions span, disjointed thinking, and purely emotional responses.
Postman says he first discovered this connection in the Bible. As a young man, he read the Ten Commandments and was struck by the words: “‘You shall not make for yourself a graven image.”’ Postman says he realized that the idea of a universal deity cannot be expressed in images but only in words. As he writes, “‘The God of the Jews was to exist in the Word and through the Word, an unprecedented conception requiring the highest order of abstract thinking.”’
This is the God Christians worship today - a God known principally through His Word. Many religions have a scripture, of course. Yet most teach that the way to contact the divine is through mystical visions, emotional experiences, or Eastern-style meditation. Judaic Christianity alone insists on the primacy of language.
Gene Edward Veith, in Reading Between the Lines, explains why” The heart of our religion is a relationship with God - and relationships thrive on communication. We cannot know people intimately by merely being in their presence. Veith says. It takes conversation to share thoughts and personalities. Christians are meant to have an ongoing conversation with God. We address Him in the language of prayer, and He addresses us in the language of Scripture.
Historically, this emphasis on the Word has had a deep impact on Western culture. In earlier societies, reading was confined to an elite. It was the Reformation that first aimed at universal literacy, so that the Bible could be put into the hands of every believer.
Today, missionaries are still doing the same thing. Yet we are in danger of coming full circle. The visual media created by modern science may ultimately undermine literacy, turning us back into an image-based culture. In the Old Testament, God’s people were tempted by graven images.

Today the images are graven by electronics on cathode-ray tubes. Christians need to learn when to flip the switch - to remain true to our historical reputation as the “‘people of the Book.”’

Sunday, June 8, 2014

All You Can Be

This article is inspired from Bro. Clair Sams who wrote a similar article for the Bible Methodist magazine.  I could not find the same article online to post so I'm sharing on it here.

"You can be anything you want to be"  is a statement often told to children.  We adults often say it in order to encourage them to be striving for excellence and to encourage them away from feelings of inferiority and inadequacy.  The motives are good.

 Bro. Sams points out in his article that this statement may not be in line with reality however.  He mentioned he could not be a professional baseball player even if he wanted to be.  He doesn't have the ability to run fast or pitch well.  If we're realistic, there simply are some people who will not make the team no matter how many hours they practice!

A more appropriate encouragement for children and for each other is, "You can be whatever God calls you to be!"  The challenge should lie in surrendering our life plans to God and letting Him direct us and enable us into the calling we have.  It may be a calling we can already see we have natural gifts for .....or it could be a calling we feel very inadequate for.   It could be something we always wanted to do....or it could be something we have NEVER wanted to do!!  The calling may be upfront and in the open or hidden in secret.  It could bring us fame for a short while then cause us to lead a life in the shadows thereafter.  It could be soon or it could be later.

But, when we wait on the Lord, we CAN do it through His power!  Not only can we do it, but I believe we will receive great fulfillment in doing it!  There will be joy in the doing and the surrendering.

As usual, the world has come up with an idea that sounds good, "You can be anything you want to be." and fallen short...and even twisted a truth that God has in mind for all His dear children.  It's a glorious truth which should not be hidden - "We can be all God wants us to be"  as we surrender and obey.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Saturation Theology

I just finished reading the book of Deuteronomy.  This particular reading I am coming away with a 'saturation theology'.  The book is instructing the Hebrews on how God wants them to live.  It's not just the ten commandments.  God tells them what it means to worship God.  Establishes places of refuge, tells them how to conquer idolatrous nations, how to handle debts, remembering God through obedience, what to do with false prophets, a list of forbidden practices, how to take care of the Levites and so on.  It seems like every area of their lives is touched as God gives them guidelines and instructions.  Over and over God says it will go well with the Israelites if they will follow all His commands, and it will not go well for them if they don't. Several times God tells them to talk of these commands often day in and day out so they will not forget.

The saturation is not only in every situation of life, but in their conversation.  The Israelites were to remember, remember, remember.  Through feasts, discussion, sacrifices, how they handled crimes.....  The Israelites were to be saturated with God and His ways.

What do you say about our culture today?  Are we as Christians saturated with God?  Does God not only touch every area of our life, but does He infiltrate every area?  Yes, we can pray before we do certain events, but does God saturate it?
  Of course, my world involves family so I think in those realms.  Can we really raise godly children by just tokens of faith?  Maybe church on Sunday and regular prayer before meals?  I believe God still calls for saturation and remembering, remembering, remembering.   As Don and I sought the Lord to raise a godly seed, He led us into more and more saturation.  It infiltrated our schooling option.  Through home schooling we could teach and teach about God's ways and the benefits of those.  It affected our talk around the house.  Discussions of what we had read in the Bible happened.  Discussions about how to handle social situations in a Christ honoring way.  Discussions on how to better live out what the Holy Spirit was teaching us.  Entertainment that encouraged romance, frivolousness, violence and materialism became appalling to our spirits.
 Saturation affected our entertainments.  We began to spend time preparing to enhance our corporate worship times with music; we did visitation; we started an outreach to children in a needy area; we worked to raise money for mission trips.  Saturation affected our relationships as far as if people did not want to talk about God....then the friendships were strained.  Those that had hunger for more truth thrived.  It no longer worked so well to have shallow relationships.  Saturation affected our dress.  It became more gender distinctive and careful in the area of modesty and discretion.  Our goals in life were reformed.  Not what career will make the most money....but what does God want me to do and how can I best invest my time for Him?

Saturation of God.  Not possible to do when most of your talk around the table focuses on Hollywood, sports, secular pursuits, etc.  Not possible when the main goal in life is to have 'fun' while being a 'good' person, or if the main goal is worldly success.   Too often we see a mixture of worldliness and godliness...not a saturation.  Perhaps our culture is missing out on the saturation aspect in the midst of our prosperity.  The Israelites struggled with the same thing.  When life went smoothly and well, how easy it is to not emphasize God.  Because....God demands to be emphasized.  He knows our frame and in order to thrive spiritually, we need a saturation theology.  He must be everything.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

God Given Parent Power

How clearly I remember the turmoil we were in a few years ago at a family camp in Missouri.  The family camp was not the problem....but issues with our foster daughter were.  We had driven 15 hours straight through to get there and we were all tired and wanted to rest a few minutes on our bunks after unloading the vehicles.  Hannah had different ideas and when we insisted, she rebelled.  I remember the screaming, the refusing to stay on her bunk or even in our room, the hitting.  The high point being a cold stare given to Don with a "What are you going to do about it?" look after a hard shoe was thrown with energy into Mikah who was sitting at the side trying to stay out of it.  Obviously, there was no rest that afternoon before heading to the evening service.  This wasn't the end.  It seemed much of the weekend was spent putting out 'fires' - one of the worst having a runaway ward of the state when you're not in that state.  Not looked upon as good by the social worker.  Well, we got through that weekend barely, and many other times like it.
 Now, I cannot imagine our daughter acting in such a riotous manner!  I am fairly certain we will never have a weekend like that again!  What has brought about the changes?  Adoption and security some would say.  A work of salvation others would say.  Proper discipline would be another guess.
As you can imagine, all three of these have played a role in the changes we are seeing.  But, as I reflect on our limited experience with foster children and child evangelism, I have thought hard about what it means for a child to be saved and what we should expect from that powerful experience.  Ariana had had a salvation experience at the time of this family camp episode.  A few years before, we had 3 foster boys who had received the Lord in their hearts as well.  Of these 4 foster children, the biggest change we saw through their 'salvations' was a greater sensitivity to right and wrong and a better sensitivity to spiritual things...but the actual changes in behavior seemed to be minimal.  So the questions ran through our minds.....did they really get saved?  How could they be saved and still continue in this ungodly behavior?  They are more repentant now and more frustrated with themselves but why not more change?
Now, I'm going to admit I'm going into surmising with my non-theological mind, and I'm not establishing truths....I am just thinking and encouraging others to think.  My surmising is that God did not ideally intend for salvation to work and stand alone and to be the end all without compliance to God's plans.  Yes, salvation has everything we need in it....but does that mean that love and security are optional in a child's life?  Does that mean that teaching a child to deny himself is optional?  As long as he's SAVED does that really mean we don't need all these other things?  Maybe you're getting my drift a little.
I believe any of these foster children could keep chipping away at endeavoring to do God's will and in a three steps forward and two or three steps backward method eventually learn how to walk with God, deny themselves and accept God's unconditional love.  Yes, it could happen.  The Holy Spirit CAN lead them and enable them.  But, in most cases, its' a hard road and the chances are great that they could be sidelined.  The chances are great that even though they have good intentions they will be still wounded enough and recovering by the time they are married and have children that the next generation will still suffer.
This is where I see parent power coming in.  God has an ideal plan and things work best when we adhere to it.  It involves using God's tools to enable this child to do and be all God wants HIm to be....leading him to salvation and then to a heart and will that can utilize consistent obedience thereafter.
Our daughter's greatest spiritual growth came not in the first year after she was saved and was still a foster child, but in the few years after being adopted, secure, disciplined, home schooled.  It's not that the Holy Spirit was not enough...I don't really know how to say it....but perhaps there are certain spiritual laws which had been broken in her life and really needed to be fixed....and a PARENT needed to do it in hand with the Spirit.
That said, we are still struggling, though gaining, because the wounds of the first 8 years of our daughters life are not fixed overnight.
Sometimes when wounded adults get saved, the church needs to be that parent to offer the love, guidance and discipline a new convert needs.  I am beginning to believe it can be unfair to walk away from new converts who are failing at this walk and just say, "They weren't really saved."  Perhaps they have no concept of self denial, of accepting God's unconditional love in order to get up and try again.  Can we be that support for them if they are willing to let us be that parent in the Spirit?  It takes a lot of time and effort....but isn't it worth it?  I realize there are way too many people in our country who claim to be saved, but resist godliness.  I'm not talking about them.
I'm wondering if it's unfair when these wounded traumatized, poorly trained children accept Christ's forgiveness and love to expect them to "get over it" so suddenly.  Yes, Jesus is able to help them overcome everything right away....but as we know....it takes LETTING Him take over, and perhaps that is where they need help.  Learning to yield to a parent may need to come first.  Learning how trusting and yielding to authority brings good fruit.
God's grace is great, and can overcome any obstacle, but let's not overlook the joint power of God's grace along with obedience to the paths of the Lord.
So these are my thoughts are parent power.  Incomplete, I'm sure....

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Litchfield Food Group

Perhaps people are like food groups.....some are starchy, some are fruity :-), some are high in protein (edifying), some are calcifying :-), and some are....well....at best....nutritive....

And that may be us.  Nutritive at best.  I said 'may'.  I'm not making any solid claims - I'm just surmising.

I'll say it.  The Litchfields may be vegetables. I say that because fellowshipping with the Litchfields can be like eating your vegetables.  You have a feeling it's good for you....that eggplant is such a beautiful purple, and the squash such a vibrant orange,  and you're all pumped up to get the benefit and then you take a bite and ..... well, they are just vegetables!   I mean a few of us may be the more palatable ones like green beans, tomatoes, carrots, but then it moves into the the middle range of cauliflower, broccoli, onions, and there may be some that are unavoidably.....a brussel sprout.  I cringe to say it. Full of antioxidants and Vitamin A.  It just takes a certain palate to appreciate it.  But God made it nonetheless.  Just the way it is...and pronounces it good.
Yes, we can put sugar in my carrot souffle, cream of mushroom soup in the green beans, cheese on the broccoli....or even the brussel sprouts, but still no one can change our vegetable family into a Hostess cupcake or Grandma Elder's sugar cookies.   Sooner or later, it will be discovered.
Vegetables mean business and they don't put on too many airs to make sure people like them.  They are practical and they have the best of intentions.  They are rather taken back when others don't quite understand when we squeeze onto their plate.  Don't they know that the FDA now recommends that at least HALF of your plate is now to be vegetables???
So, that is my surmising for today.  I am aware that there are those in my family may claim that I am not judging their food group correctly and I will get a good dose of antioxidants to try to 'fix' me, but, hey, it's worth considering.  I hope they at least can find it entertaining.  I would think vegetables are in heaven.  And, one last word - Papa Schultze, don't laugh too hard - at least half of this came from YOU.  :-)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Visit with Americans

On Saturday, we had an American Thanksgiving with some American friends.  These colleagues live about 15 minutes away from the Streets.  There are two families and a single lady.  They don't live in the same apartment - but they live within walking distance of each other and work for the same 'company'.  We traveled by auto rickshaw this time.  I felt much more comfortable and safer in this vehicle than the standard bicycle rickshaws!
Beth, below, and her husband have a teaching English business.

Most of the seating in this home was Indian style....on mats on a marble floor.  There were a few straight back dining room chairs....and I took advantage of them!  We had a time of singing together!
These two reach out to Indians through music workshops

Lori reaches out through women and children's ministries.  She is known in the area as the 'tall, white woman'.  :-)
Morgan is very thankful for these contacts who understand what it is like to live in a different culture.