Monday, August 20, 2012

It's Not About Me

We shared a booth at the only sit-down restaurant in the row of fast-food giants along the highway not far from where I live. He was eager to share stories in anticipation of his 50th wedding anniversary celebration. I powered up my laptop and prepared to record his musings. I don't share any of his history and only know him as my husband's co-worker; slightly more as we have socialized with him and his wife on a few occasions.

I had agreed to compose a letter from the words he would share with me which a friend of his would read to his wife at the milestone commemoration.  Listening carefully, I tried to capture his voice and use his language to create a document that would express the affection he wanted to relay to her, as well as tease her with his playful exaggeration of specific memories. The assignment was quite fun for me as I heard and recorded how they had met, their short courtship and fast trip to the altar. I wrote up the memento that night. After he suggested a revision or two, he seemed pleased with my  rendition of his narration.  My husband, Kevin, and I planned to attend the celebration two weeks later.

The room was buzzing with conversation when we arrived at the event. Half a century of relationships had gathered to honor the couple and we eased into the circle of work-related guests. After visiting for awhile, attention was called to a stage at one side of the room. Soon the designated reader stepped to the microphone, unfolded the letter and began to read Charlie's sentiments to his bride of 50 years. I listened intently, grimacing when a pause broke the flow of thought where I never had imagined one to be, holding my breath as I anticipated the punch line in the funny parts and tensing my muscles like a spectator at a wrestling match, hoping every next word would be as I had crafted it. I breathed a sigh of relief with the last word of the closing.

On the way home I wondered aloud to Kevin whether I now know how a ghost writer feels. You create something, your skill is used by someone, but you don't receive the credit. The satisfaction isn't in the praise from others, but in knowing the job was done well because it successfully accomplished the purpose it was designed for.

I thought of other life experiences that might be similar: watching your child perform after you spent hours helping them practice their part, planning a surprise birthday party and knowing the work and effort you put into it honored and pleased the one you planned it for, the cook who creates the scrumptious entree dishes you order from a restaurant menu, and the money you give to a good cause, anonymously.  Last Sat. I helped my step-daughter sew a dress for my almost two year old granddaughter, her daughter. Our instruction is often given without expectation of acknowledgement. My reward will be to see little Elika in her new dress at her Elmo- themed birthday party this weekend.

As believers we would do well to remember nothing we do for Him is done in vain, whether we know the outcome or not, or whether we receive praise or not. Just to serve him is privilege! To work alongside the Creator of the universe is big stuff!  There is reward, whether now or later, so let's do it all for him, for the Kingdom, for his glory. Long live the King!

1 Corinthians 15:58

J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)
58 And so brothers of mine, stand firm! Let nothing move you as you busy yourselves in the Lord’s work. Be sure that nothing you do for him is ever lost or ever wasted.

Here is the dress Elika will wear.
Here is the blog we were inspired from.

We altered a few things like threading the ribbon through both the front and the back so it would tie on just one shoulder instead of both. We added the Elmo motif that we cut from a kids T-shirt we found at Goodwill.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Father Heart Expressions

Recently, friends from Germany visited and shared a weekend with our church on finding and experiencing the Father Heart of God.  Del, one of the speakers, shared his personal story of discovering freedom from a performance based mentality by encountering God as Father.  Del was driven to excel.  Whatever he did for God he had to do better than anyone else. He never believed he was doing enough.  God was always the most pleased with more. During a period of brokenness, Del discovered God's love was unconditional and he wanted relationship with Del more than he wanted Del's labor. From that new place of rest, Del is able to help others just enjoy their heavenly Father and be more childlike and carefree. This point was emphasized throughout the weekend as the visiting presenters used various visual aids as tangible ways to listen and receive the Father's love.

We could hover under a patio umbrella, waiting for God, the Father, to fill our minds with thoughts of his goodness and touch our emotions with his gentleness. A large heart, outlined with rose petals on the floor, invited us to step into God's father heart and our guests were waiting there to pray with us or share words of encouragement.  A bowl filled with papers that had prayers written on them stood ready for it's secret messages to be withdrawn.  Christian brothers and sisters in Germany had written the prayers as though the Father was speaking to whoever would read them.  It was amazing how the prayer I randomly picked from that container held significant meaning for me and the same for the one my husband chose; it held a pertinent word to him.

There were also photographs sprawled around on the floor, mostly scenes from nature: waterfall, desert scene, close-up of flowers, animals...  As we viewed the photos we considered how our Father might be speaking to us through one of them.  Taking pen in hand we would write down the message we sensed God saying to us.

                                                      Here is the photo I chose

In that setting of opening up to the heavenly Father he spoke gently and easily into my thoughts. Here are the words that flowed from my pen:

I [Jesus] was thinking of you when I stood on the newly created moon for the first time. I knew you'd especially enjoy this soft, nightime glow.  It drew you to me in that tiny upstairs bedroom, amidst your struggles of loneliness, rejection and confusion [middle school and highschool years]. You were a joy to me because you kept reaching for me, believing in me, responding to me.  I reached back, you responded and I kept you safe, spoiled for me, forever.  I never abandoned you, nor was I ever displeased with you.  You wearied yourself, the burden became heavy, but you kept pursuing me.  I was able to use what you offered me and I had my timing in delivering you and teaching you new and greater things of my love.  Keep coming to me.  I know you will because my Spirit is drawing you.  Allow the things around you not to distract or confuse you in your devotion to me.  I will reveal more of my beauty to you: Remember I said it's time to celebrate.  Throw a party and it will become clear what you have been mourning about. [Someone else had spoken a word to me not too long before this weekend that it was a time for celebration in my life and mourning was over. I wasn't sure what the mourning referred to, but I was certainly looking forward to the celebration]
The moon reflects the sun.  I reflect the Father and you are part of that reflection.  A softness and beauty in the darkness.

(To better understand how meaningful this particular picture was to me read a blog post I had written back in February 2011.)

Another weekend activity had us up and intermingling with the other seminar participants. A sheet of paper was taped on each of our backs and we were instructed to write words on others backside stationery. The comments were to be composed as though the Father was speaking to the person. How encouraging to then detach the posterior remarks and drink in their blessing and affirmations!
                                             Here are the words that were sprawled across my back:

Hear his words to you, Child, today:  

Deuteronomy 32:9-10   
"But God himself took charge of his people, 
      took Jacob on as his personal concern. 

He found him out in the wilderness, 
      in an empty, windswept wasteland. 
He threw his arms around him, lavished attention on him, 
      guarding him as the apple of his eye."

Deuteronomy 33:12
"...The beloved of the LORD shall dwell in safety by him; and the Lord shall cover him all the day long, and he shall dwell between his shoulders."

Zephaniah 3:17
"For the Lord your God is living among you.
    He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
    With his love, he will calm all your fears.
    He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

This is the Father who loves us. Let him whisper his intimacies into your ear. There is nothing you can do to change how deeply he loves you. Whether he creeps up from behind and catches you unaware, or you run with open abandon into his arms his face is full of smile and delight in YOU! Just stop and rest in that truth for awhile. Breathe him. Hear his heart beat. Cuddle close.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Called to Controversy [Book Review]

Called to Controversy by Ruth Rosen , shares an engaging story of a man's transformation from Jewish origin to God's messenger to convince many to believe in Jesus Christ the Messiah.  Moishe Rosen's life was Jewish in nationality, but few of the religious traditions were practiced in his home growing up or handed down to him.  His pride in Jewishness came more from the history of his people than their religion. By the time Moishe was a teen the Jewish religion held  no meaning for him.  However, he was loyal to his Jewish community.

Before graduating from high school, Moishe had made significant decisions: he met the girl who he would eventually marry, he chose not to work in his father's junkyard business, he joined the National Guard, and began studies towards a business career. He also met Orville, an outspoken Christian who eventually was instrumental in helping Moishe to a solid faith in Jesus. How Orville and his wife persisted in praying for the Rosen's salvation is very inspirational.

"It's no wonder the Bible describes this [conversion] as being born again," Moishe thought. "There's so much to learn!" (p. 68) To Moishe and his wife, Ceil, Christianity was very foreign. Yet from the start he witnessed to everyone.  After receiving a call to ministry the Rosens packed up and moved from Denver to New Jersey where Moishe attended Northeastern Bible Institute in Essex Falls; he was sponsored by ABMJ, American Board of Missions to the Jews.

Adjusting to college culture was difficult and Moishe was outspoken. "Anything stated in absolutes rubbed him the wrong way and he often challenged his teachers." (p. 95) The structured activities and opportunities of school zapped Moishe's natural enthusiasm for witnessing.  The book showcases Moishes's strong self-motivation.  Determined to not become passive he strives to set goals for evangelism which are not possible during his studies.  He learns more of God's grace yet never becomes complacent about sharing his faith. He also learns to rely on God for personal needs as God provides during these years in miraculous ways.

While a student, AMBJ assigned Moishe to street preaching without any training. Moishe sought his own mentors.  Hecklers became a sport to Moishe as he used them to draw a crowd to a meeting.  The book highlights many men who mentored Moishe after he finished school and began to work for AMBJ.

In 1957, the Rosens relocate to California and Moishe becomes the director of the Los Angeles AMBJ. Very little guidance was given him during this time yet he grew as a leader. He became known as an expert in how to do Jewish evangelism.

Moishe is asked to go to New York in 1967, and here encounters the hippie culture as a new harvest field.  The Jews for Jesus slogan is birthed during this period. AMBJ had high hopes for Moishe in New York yet he never felt that he was given the authority to carry out his vision. After three years, Moishe requests a transfer back to California and is placed in San Francisco.  Jews for Jesus was becoming an entity of its own and God was bringing together a very diverse group of people for a very specific purpose; to tell the world that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. "They were unconventional people following an unconventional leader to perform an unconventional task." (p. 191)

Eventually Moishe and AMBJ parted ways. Issues concerning leadership and authority led to the separation and Moishe acknowledges that both sides could have handled things differently.  But it was also time for Jews for Jesus to be on their own. There was much to learn in the new organization and both of the Rosen's adult daughters become involved the work.

Ruth, the younger daughter and author of the book shares honestly about contention and controversy regarding Moishe's issues with anger, control and leadership styles. Consequently, many people he worked with were disappointed and hurt. However, "Moishe retained and, in some cases, regained many wonderful friendships throughout his life through the grace that he both gave and received". (p. 222)

Moishe's influence increases beyond Jews for Jesus to Jewish missions all over North America and other countries. He invested time to teaching in Bible colleges, upholding the inerrancy of Scripture.  During the 1980s he wrote articles for Christian magazines.

After stepping down from leadership of Jews for Jesus, Moishe travels and speaks worldwide.  His activities in latter years included training missionaries, writing books and expanding ministry into the Internet.

The book ends with Moishe's death in 2010. An epilogue, several appendix and a letter from Ceil complete the book. Appendix B is a letter from Moishe pleading for the church to support ministry to Jewish people that promotes Jesus Christ as the only way to be saved. He is clear that there are no shortcuts.

I received this book free of charge from the program in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Who Do You Influence?

We had Activity at our house last week! This welcome guest brought along Youthfulness, Candy ( this sweet character hardly ever stops by anymore), Clutter, more Candy and Never-a-Dull-Moment. Jill, our granddaughter of eleven years, and her nine year-old sister, Elle, accompanied these visitors for a busy, exciting week of bustling fun and on-the-go excursions.

Wanting to make the most of every inch of our time together, I had packed each day with plans that I hoped would be pleasurable and memorable for these charming lassies who only come to my house maybe once a year. This visit was the first time they had ever been here without the parents. Oh, yes, it was time to spoil, love on and cherish the moments!

Jill, creative and careful, embraced the crafting and painting sessions.  She eagerly and swiftly maneuvered the sewing machine after my brief tutorials.  One day, invited guests munched on fancy fare at our dining room table; compliments of this young chef who chose the menu and helped me roll-up, bake up and stir up the food we ate.

Jill was the one who enjoyed the summer Fair without eating fried food or petting the Clydesdale's face when we walked by its pen.  She rolled her eyes at her sister's antics and spent her money with caution.  Polite and sensitive, Jill impressed me with her maturity and loveliness.

Elle, my energetic beauty, carefree and impulsive, kept me amused and ever needing to make judgment calls on her requests and cravings. A trip to the mall with Elle is like chasing a butterfly from one colorful alighting to another. Delayed gratification seemed foreign to her and lectures like 'maybe you'll see something you want even more later on' didn't phase her very often. The visitor Candy, mentioned earlier, clung to Elle like a baby in its mother's sling: cotton candy at the Fair, a Kit Kat from the gas station, sprinkles and icing from decorating cupcakes... I had to force the door closed on this tag-along more times than a grandma wants to say 'no!'

Elle imagined stories for us, painted with abandon, not caring to keep her hands paint- free, followed her swim in Lake Michigan with a face-forward angel-like impression in the sand, found it great fun to squeeze the frosting tube directly into her mouth and took a younger cousin by the hand to lead him to the playground.   Elle impressed me with her love of life and eager embrace of new experiences.

                                  Fun loving Elle- proof she did have something other than candy in her mouth

Crazy Mouse Ride at the Fair!

What Papa and I do under the influence of grandkids!  

Henna tattoos at the Fair! Could that bigger foot be Nana's??!!

                                                    Uncle Austin joins us at Lake Michigan

Now that the house is void of noise and interruptions, and during this recovery time, I'm assessing observations and discoveries from the week of the grand girls' invasion. I don't think I would have planned anything differently.  We had the right mix of goings and stayings. I enjoyed the moments I had to teach some cultural history of our area of the country; to share stories of when the girl's daddy was a little boy. Night time routine included a devotional reading from books I had bought for them to take along home, my dual back rubs to both girls sitting on the bed between them (my skills were significantly challenged the night I was asked to simultaneously give a back rub to one and a foot massage to the other) and the glorious privilege of praying for them before kissing their sweet faces with a soft goodnight.

It was good to have opportunity to share thoughts and answer questions together. It was harder than I remember with my kids to share why I believe what I believe about things like "is there anything wrong with wearing short shorts?",  or "can I wear makeup today?". Maybe it was because I was aware of my influence and wanted my answer to be helpful and God-honoring. Moments like these are rare with Jill and Elle because we don't have face-to-face time very often and I wanted my thoughts to build them up and encourage their faith. It could also be that I hadn't taken the time to think through some of these things for myself lately and my ideas and beliefs have changed since I was a mom of impressionable kids; hopefully I am more full of grace and have grown away from legalism. It isn't easy to say no to them, period, but I want to honor what their mom and dad expect and want them to do also.

So my conclusion from all this is that grandparents should share themselves honestly and answer as needed with the wisdom we have now. And parents should take advantage of the years they have with their kids at home to teach them in every day situations what God is like and what he wants from them.  When these questions come up, take time to answer thoughtfully and be the example of what you want them to see and model what you want them to do.  You have the day in and day out, all-the-time moments with them, so make the most of it.  You can give the firm 'no' when needed, rather than the 'well, I g.u.e.s.s sooo' I might tend to reluctantly say. You can pray with them whenever, and get to know their hearts and motives and instill Godly values that will become a solid foundation in their lives.

Deut. 6:4-9  Msg

Attention, Israel!
God, our God! God the one and only!
Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that's in you, love him with all you've got!
Write these commandments that I've given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.

We will be praying for you, parents! And every moment we have with our grandchildren is treasured. Know that we will love them and share ourselves and our faith with them as the opportunities arise. And we will pray for them also.  What a God to create family! How blessed I am to be a parent and a grandparent!

Thank you, Josh and Sarah, for entrusting your precious Jill and Elle to us last week!