Archives for May 2009

A New Chapter

A few days ago, a new challenge took up residence on the landscape otherwise known as my life. God altered my horizon by calling me to a new ministry. Yes, another new chapter for this middle-aged gal :)

If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you may remember that a little over a year ago, God moved me out of a prayer ministry I had led for my church for over 11 years. At the time, I could only speculate about His reasons, but I wondered if, as I said then, “it could also be that I’m about to enter into a new season of increased demand in some other area — something I can’t see yet but that He can.”

Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy. Months later, without remembering that particular post in the least, I actually wrote about increased demand as we entered such a season with Don’s mother. And now that that demand has eased as her health has somewhat stabilized, I find that God has placed another need, another task, before me.

With the death of my friend Amy, I, along with my church, am feeling her loss in many ways. One of those is the role she filled as our Angel Tree coordinator. You might not think Angel Tree would be on our minds right now, but Amy reached out to prisoners’ children through Angel Tree Camping as well as the Christmas outreach. She had already sent out the invitations for kids to participate in our church camps and had received several positive responses. And thus, the immediate need for someone to fill her role…

The interesting thing? I had talked with Amy a year or two ago about how the Lord had started drawing my heart toward ministry to those in prison. I didn’t know why because we don’t have a prison in our area, but I knew Amy had a similar interest so it was natural to talk with her about it. As I remember, we just decided to keep our common interest in mind if an opportunity presented itself.

Within a couple of days of Amy’s death, I thought of the Angel Tree need, and the question soon came to mind, “Lord, were you preparing my heart to step into Amy’s role as our Angel Tree coordinator?” I began praying about it and asked a few friends and family members to join me in asking God for clear direction. I definitely didn’t want to take on a big job like this if it wasn’t His will for me — or take on something He had in mind for someone else. I wanted His will alone.

God is so good, so faithful, to guide us when we ask for His leading. His Word promises that as we trust in Him, He will direct our paths (Proverbs 3:5-6). Just a few days ago, He gave me the direction, the confirmation, I needed to know that He indeed is calling me to the Angel Tree ministry.

I admit it scares me a little — okay, maybe more than a little :) It will be a challenge to figure out where Amy was in the process by just looking through her materials. I also don’t know what the future holds with Don’s mother and when my schedule may swim out of control again. And to be honest, it would never be my natural choice to take on another big commitment during the holiday season.

But you know, God knows all these things. And still He called. I must trust Him and rest in the fact that He will “equip [me] with everything good for doing his will…” (Hebrews 13:21). He is the one who will accomplish His purposes. He will empower this ministry, just as He did when Amy led it.

And so a new chapter begins for me. I sure could use your prayers. Anyone game? I appreciate each and every one of you!

“See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19

Living to Tell About It

Some folks hit the lake on Memorial Weekend, but our gang heads for the hills — the hills of Missouri to be exact. They’ve become our annual destination since Mom and Dad moved there nearly 20 years ago. While others are boating and water skiing, we get back to nature by trekking through the Ozark mountains.

This year we ended up with a little too much nature, in fact. What started out as a fun family outing down a nature trail near Mom and Dad’s house soon spiraled out of control into a wilderness family fiasco. Around two or three months ago, Dad had inspected the trail and found it to be in good shape. Not so this weekend.

I guess the first clue should have been the fallen tree blocking the path less than 10 feet from the trail head. Someone even said, “This doesn’t look too good”, but determined to have our adventure, we forged ahead. After playing limbo with the tree trunk while avoiding other maverick undergrowth, we fell into single file as we snaked along, attempting to follow in Dad’s footsteps.

The unrelenting rains of the past several weeks contributed not only to the runaway growth of the woodland floor but also to the tricky path we found underfoot. All of a sudden our little jaunt into the woods morphed into a task fraught with unexpected perils.

We concentrated on every step, so as not to twist our ankles. Talk of ticks and poison ivy soon surfaced, though most of us had made sure to use insect repellent before we left for the hike. When Dad began calling out poison ivy alerts, my sister Janice said, “I’m outta here” then darted back the way we came. Not long after that, someone trumpeted the first tick announcement. Everyone went on high alert but to no avail. One by one, we answered in disgust with our own discoveries of the dreaded enemies. Complaints began to flow freely. I admit to muttering more than once, “This is the most stupid thing we’ve ever done.” :)

Deep into the trail by this time, our daughter Kristin began feeling the onslaught of another enemy — out-of-control allergies. Combine that with the creeped-out feelings inspired by the ticks, and she and Shawn hightailed it next. Within the next couple of minutes, my sister Carolyn and I decided it was utter madness to stay in tick territory any longer than absolutely necessary. We turned back and caught up with Kristin and Shawn in no time flat. The others continued on but ended up exiting the trail early rather than retracing their steps as originally planned. Some might say nature kicked our butts that day, but I’d rather say, “we lived to tell about it.”

Traveling the trails of our spiritual lives is not so different from our Memorial Weekend “tick hike”, as our family later affectionately dubbed it. The adversary of our souls keeps our paths strewn with traps to avoid and enemies to battle. The Word of God tells us to “be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith…” (1 Peter 5:8-9a)

Instead of arming ourselves with insect repellent, we can arm ourselves with the Word of God and prayer. We can train our eyes to detect the poisons that threaten to do us harm. We can pull off the enemies that try to attach themselves to our minds and souls, and sometimes we may even need to hightail it out of certain situations.

I’m so glad God hasn’t left us defenseless against the evil one. Ephesians 6:10-18 tells us how we can put on the armor of God each day as we take our stand against the devil’s schemes.

Come now and join me — let’s put on the helmet of salvation, the belt of truth, and the breastplate of righteousness. Let’s fit our feet with readiness and take up the shield of faith and the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God. And let’s pray. And be alert. And keep on praying… Let’s live to tell about it, huh?

*My photo

A Weekend for Remembering

Since like so many of you, I’ve been out of town celebrating this holiday weekend with my family, I thought I would post a little something I already had on hand. In keeping with Memorial Day and remembering our loved ones who are no longer with us, here is a poem I wrote several years ago in memory of my grandparents, Charlie and Marjorie Barnes. In the May issue of my newsletter, I included a poem about my Grandpa Hoy. Now it’s time for a look at the other side of the family :)

Hope this inspires some pleasant memories of your own. Enjoy — and Happy Memorial Day!

Downtown with Grandpa and Grandma

When Grandpa and Grandma came to town
Fun followed right on schedule,
They’d leave their worries
Back on the farm
To make memories for us
We’d never forget.
Just going downtown together turned into
An adventure every time.
The dime stores held treasures
We never tired of looking at,
And sipping sodas at the fountain there
Was a dream
They always made come true.
Grandpa couldn’t pass the candy counter
Without getting his peanut clusters,
And, of course, he’d slip one
To each of us, too.
We’d check the parking meter
To see if we had time to sit for awhile
Just to watch the people go by.
We could always count on someone
To make us turn our heads and snicker
Or even laugh till our faces hurt.
What a day it was
When Grandpa and Grandma came to town!

“I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works…” Psalm 143:5a

**What’s one of your favorite memories of your grandparents??

Flickr photo by jimg944

Giving Good Gifts

Don’t you just love it when you give a good gift? I scored big a few days ago with Don’s birthday present. Who knew an outdoor light for the garage would thrill a guy so? Well, I had my suspicions. After all, he loves his outdoor gadgets. Remember his love affair with his new mower? :)

When asked for gift ideas, Don’s never any help. He always says he doesn’t need anything. Lucky for me, though, I remembered helping him shop for a garage light last summer. He never decided on one because he didn’t want to spend the money for the nicer ones. He contented himself with just keeping the old rusty light fixture awhile longer — as if 30 years is not long enough :) Fact is, it’s older than that. It was here when we moved in!

So…when his birthday rolled around this year, I knew I had the perfect idea — if I could just pick out a light that he would like. My friend Teri was just the gal I needed for a shopping escapade to Lowe’s. She knows that store inside and out, thanks to her husband Dennis :) I thought she might want to whack me over the head when I told her I needed to stop there during our April trip to T-town, but she’s a real trooper. She just laughed, got in the spirit, and helped me conquer the task with relative ease.

When it came gift-giving time, I teased Don with remarks like, “You’re gonna be really surprised…” and “I got you something you’ve been wanting for a long time…” It nearly drove him crazy. He couldn’t imagine what I had gotten him.

When he finally saw it, he did go crazy. He loved it. He raved about it. He couldn’t believe that I’d gotten him a garage light. You would have thought I’d just presented him with a snazzy new car or a he-man pick-up. But no, a brushed silver, beveled glass garage light thrilled him just the same. Well, maybe not exactly the same… :) But however you look at it, I hit a homerun with the garage light. I did good.

Giving good gifts brings great joy and satisfaction — to the giver as well as to the recipient. And as much as we love giving good gifts, God loves it even more. Jesus said, “‘If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!'” (Matthew 7:11)

God delights in giving us gifts — good gifts. What good gift has He given you recently? Or do you need to ask Him for something that’s on your heart? Go ahead. Talk to your Abba Father. Then trust Him to give you what’s best for you!

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…” James 1:17a

**Update: I heard today that Tara is home from the hospital. Thank You, Lord!

Blessing Amid Sorrow

If you’ve dropped by the blog in the past few days, you know we’ve had a difficult week. Saying good-bye to my friend Amy and her son Kyler has been heartbreaking, but I wanted to let you know that God has been busy being the loving heavenly Father we know Him to be. We felt His touch at many times this past week, and I’m sure the Blaggs could give example after example of His tender love and sustaining grace. I guess you could call it blessing amid sorrow.

One of the blessings of the week came to us all the way from Texas. Mike Myers, minister of Beautiful Feet in inner city Ft. Worth, traveled to Kansas along with Glen, another “Feeter”, to offer comfort and support to Amy’s family as well as our church family. If you read my post honoring Amy, you already understand why.

Brent and Amy and many others from our church have many times made the January trek to Texas to serve alongside Mike and all the Feeters who are daily ministering to the needs of the homeless and inner city folks in Ft. Worth. This time Mike came to stand with us — to serve and minister to those who have stood with him in Ft. Worth. After all, he and Glen and all the Feeters consider us family.

What a blessing to have these special friends travel a long distance to let Amy and Kyler’s family — and the church family — know they’re hurting with us. What a blessing to have them stay in our home and enjoy that extra time of sharing. What a blessing to be in the family of God.

Yes, blessing amid sorrow. And this is just one such story. We have a Father who looks on us with compassion, who acts in response to the cries of His children. And oh, when I think of the distance that Jesus traveled so that we could be with Him forever… What love!

“Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.” Lamentations 3:32-33

**Tara is doing very well! The doctors had originally said she’d be in the hospital for a few weeks, but the day of the funeral we heard she may be released in a few days. Thanks for the prayers!