Thursday, December 31, 2015
Tuesday, December 29, 2015
Isaiah 43:19 says,
“Behold, I will do something new,
Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness and rivers in the desert,
To give drink to My chosen people.”
Five years ago, Mike and I faced a decision that was very hard to make. It was a decision to leave a church and step out on faith not knowing where the road would take us. We felt as if God had another place for us where we would not only be loved but where we could serve God in the way that we knew He had planned for us. We also wanted it to be in a place where Hannah would see Godly examples around her. Stepping out on faith was hard. It meant a loss in income over time and my return to full time employment. It was a desert because we did not know what the future was going to hold for us. The verse in Isaiah was a promise that although it felt at times that we were stranded in a desert, God promised that he would make a way for us. We all know the happy ending to that desert. God brought us to Meadow Heights. Mike thrived in his gift to preach and teach the word of God to people who desired to hear and apply it. Hannah was immediately surrounded with Godly examples and we all were loved by everyone beyond what we ever expected.
However, that is not the end of my story. Once again, I find myself in an eerily similar circumstance. The future is once again unseen and unsure. What I do know is that God is faithful in His word, over and over, again and again. Let’s break down that verse – in true Pastor Mike fashion. (I was married to him for 20 years and he taught me well!)
In Isaiah 43:19 it begins with saying that He would do something new. This eludes to something that hasn’t happened yet, something new and wonderful that will surpass what He had formerly done. Nothing is impossible with God and we can look for the blessings that God has promised. I know that as we (and the church) continue to mourn the passing of Mike, we must continue to look for what the new thing is that God wants to do. It also says that it shall spring forth. What do you think when you hear that phrase? I think of a bud opening and blooming like a flower or a shoot of grass or plant coming up new from the ground. It is a happy feeling thinking of spring. Will you not be aware of it? We have to be careful to keep our focus in the right place. We still need to worship together, serve together and unite so that we will be aware when God is working among us. I will make a roadway in the wilderness. When we are walking in a fog or in an unfamiliar place, it helps to be able to follow a road or path. It keeps us on target so that we don’t get lost. Being lost and separated from God breaks our fellowship with him and it prevents us from receiving the blessing that he might have for us. Rivers in the desert – Have you ever been in a desert and suddenly a river popped up? Not a stream…not a bubbling brook – a river!! We are talking Mississippi, Ohio, Missouri RIVER. That is what God is promising here. He will put a river in our desert. This is the river of Life, the living water, this is what we need to survive. It will come in abundant supply.
I have always loved Nativity scenes. I collect them and some I leave out all year long. It is a reminder to me about the greatest gift that I have ever received, Jesus. One of my favorite nativity scenes is the one that we got while we were in Israel. We actually bought it in Bethlehem and it is made out of wood from an olive tree. The olive tree is one of the trees growing in the Garden of Gethsemane, the very place where Jesus prayed before being crucified on the cross.
When I was a little girl, maybe 3 or 4 years old, our family had a nativity scene and it sat on our big box TV. Kids of today don’t realize how BIG televisions used to be! My mother used to go by the nativity scene and find that the Baby Jesus was missing! You see, it was in a manger but it wasn’t glued down. It was a little tiny figurine that was just in the manger. At first, she couldn’t figure out how it was missing and then back in the manger later. Then one day, she discovered what was happening. Jesus was with me at a tea party. I had a blanket down in my room with all my dishes and teacups and the baby Jesus, from the manger, was there with me. It turns out that I really loved that little baby from the nativity scene and wanted him to enjoy a tea party with me. One day she even captured me in a photo with her old Kodak camera as I was taking Jesus out of the manger.
I wonder how many of us really make Jesus a part of our Christmas. Do we invite Him to our parties and celebrations? Do we want Him with us everywhere we go or are we just leaving Him in the manger to look at and make it appear that He is a part of our lives. This Christmas season, make an effort to include Jesus in all that you do. Because God gave the most indescribable gift ever, He gave us salvation. He gave us the tiny baby who grew to teach, perform miracles and pay the ultimate price for us, death on a cross so that we may live eternally with Him.
This Christmas is a very different Christmas for us. I know that we are missing Mike and that many of you are missing him too. It has been hard to face and so easy to just wish that the holidays are over. Anyone who has suffered loss of a loved one or sudden hardship may be tempted to fall into a dark place. However, I choose to still celebrate Christmas. Mike loved Christmas and loved finding new ways to preach and teach the story that we know so well. Christmas isn’t just for us to celebrate relationships with our loved ones. It began as a way for us to have a relationship with God. If we forget that part of it and only focus on our loss, then we lose sight of the best present of all. Death and hardships remind us that we live in a fallen world that is suffering. Jesus came to end the suffering and provide eternal life to us. We celebrate this gift at Christmas. You may open many gifts from friends and family but be sure to take the best present of all, Jesus. He came to us in a manger but He wasn’t meant to stay in that manger! He was meant to become a part of your tea party, your family and your life.
2016 will be very different but we know that God is with us and has a plan for us.
We interrupt your regularly scheduled program for….
As a child, I never liked those words when it interrupted my favorite TV show. Whether it was a message from the president, the news station or the weatherman, it was still interrupting my show. How do you react when your life is interrupted by something unexpected? Do you get mad, roll with the punches or are you happy that it happened? After all, life does get interrupted. We may receive an unexpected bill, someone in the family gets hurt or injured, your boss gives you an extra project with an immediate deadline, or you find out that you are the person providing snacks for a get together and your cupboard is bare. These things happen and how we react to them tells us something about who we are.
Let’s take a moment to think about some people who had their life interrupted in the book of Luke. First, we have Mary. There is no denying that her life was interrupted in a mighty way. She was an ordinary girl in Biblical times going about her life like every other girl in that time. She helped her parents, spent time in worship and with other girls her age. Then all of a sudden, her life was interrupted by an angel who told her that she was going to give birth to a son, the Messiah. Our life interruptions seem a little less now, don’t they? Let’s go on and look at how Mary handled her life interruption. Mary praised God in a song of praise that is written in Luke 1, beginning in verse 46. In Luke 1:48, Mary says, “For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.” Now, Mary was not lifting herself up or putting herself on a pedestal. Many people will use this verse to make her that way. The Greek word for “blessed” in this verse actually means, “well-spoken of.” When we bless God, we are speaking well of Him which is equal to praising or thanking Him. When we ask God to “bless” us or “speak well” of us, we are asking Him to not just approve our plans but to interfere or interrupt our lives. God interrupted Mary’s life but because of that she was blessed.
Second, we have Joseph. His life was also interrupted. He had already pledged to become Mary’s husband. However, his life was interrupted when he found out that Mary was going to give birth to the Messiah. Not only did he also have to have faith in the prophecy of God, but he would be caring for Mary and the newborn Jesus.
Third, we have the shepherds. The shepherds were in the fields on what they thought was an ordinary night. They were taking care of their sheep, making sure they were together and safe. I can imagine that they probably had their eye on the one wayward sheep that always tried to get away. Perhaps they were maintaining a fire to stay warm. Then life was interrupted by not just one angel, but a host of angels. The host of angels proclaimed to them that their long awaited for Messiah was finally here and they were to find them. Can you imagine the look on their faces when they saw their Messiah and he was in the form of a baby? I am sure they were thankful that their ordinary life was interrupted that night.
Whether we want it to or not, life gets interrupted by good things and bad things. We must see that these are all ways that God “interferes” with our life. We may not understand it when it is happening and we may not understand why the interruption happens. The Lord never promised us that we would always have happiness, good luck or favorable circumstances all the time. He does promise that we will be blessed. Mary endured her circumstances and was blessed. In that same way, we can endure life’s interruptions and feel blessed for them. I now return you to your regularly scheduled program. Be blessed this Christmas season and allow God to interrupt your life whenever necessary so that you can look for the blessings that can come along with them.
The community thanksgiving service meant a lot to Mike. He believed it was important for the churches in this community to come together in corporate worship to give praise and thanksgiving to God. We may come from different denominations and have different traditions but we all have the same God. We all worship the God who created all living things, brought the Israelites out of Egypt, gave David strength to battle a giant, gave Joshua strength to march around the walls of Jericho, and sent His own son to us as a baby so that he could walk among us and one day die for our sins so that we could be forgiven and live in eternity with Him.
Mike was a wonderful husband and father. We met in 1993 and got married in 1995. He was a perfect mate for me. He always put God first and family second. That is the way it should be so that he could lead our family as the spiritual head of the household. He also always took out the trash, changed the litter box, kept the car full of gas, helped clean the house and helped to cook. He was a great example for Hannah and she definitely had him wrapped around her little finger from the moment she was born. We did everything together as a family and those memories are what we now hold on to forever. We just celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary in August and we had considered renewing our vows on the 25th anniversary. He loved football and was an avid Dallas Cowboy fan. He would have been so happy today that they finally won a game after a much too long losing streak.
Mike celebrated this time of year because he loved to give God praises for all the blessings that we have. Mike loved to preach and teach others about the Word of God. As his wife, I often saw him experience sleepless nights before delivering a hard message that God had given him. I always would pray for him during the service that God would be with him and deliver the words that he should say. Some Sundays he would come home after the morning service physically and emotionally exhausted because he had poured himself out to so many through the message or just through talking with someone afterwards. He was always ready to go back on Sunday night and teach through a book of the Bible. It was truly his passion to teach others how to break down a verse or chapter, understand the context but ask questions so that they could apply it. He was teaching through the book of Philippians and he would always put his Bible marker where he left off. His marker was left in Philippians chapter 3 and 4. Philippians 4:13 was a verse that Mike held close and one that became a favorite of our family, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
It didn’t matter what age someone was because he always found a way to deliver the message to them. He loved the little children and sharing the gospel with them throughout the year but especially during Vacation Bible School. He always created his own hype with them and they loved to see Pastor Mike around the church. He loved working with our youth and always supported them of their ideas and helped them when they had hard questions. He loved missions so much and always made sure that the church had a mission focus, which wasn’t hard to do because there are so many mission minded people at Meadow Heights. Mike always tried to go on all the mission trips. While he was gifted in preaching and teaching, he may have not always known how to do construction but he was always willing to learn and he learned so much from our talented construction crews. Whether it was putting up drywall, building a deck ramp, clearing out overgrown brush, or just helping a church member save a level that was about to drop from his hands. He loved to be with his church members and lookedfor “God things” as he called them. These were special encounters that God places in your life at any moment. No matter where you are, you should always keep in mind those people that cross your path each day that may need a word of encouragement, a hug or just have someone listen to their need. They experienced them as they were working at the mission sites and even when they took an afternoon to go sight seeing. One of the most meaningful times was when they went to help rebuild in New York after hurricane Sandy. They were on a beach on a sight seeing trip and ministered to someone who had experienced a loss of a family member. He also had an opportunity to pray with someone in the subway of New York with a lady who just needed someone to pray for her. These are the “God things” that Mike wanted each mission team member to see and anticipate.
He also loved seniors and truly enjoyed getting together with our senior adults with their luncheons and outings when he could. He loved talking with the senior adults and sharing with the godly Sunday school teachers that this church has.
When we made the decision to homeschool Hannah a couple years ago, I asked Mike if he was going to mind having her with him 3 days a week. We had worked it out with my office to allow me to work from home one day and he would have her the other 3. We both were off on Friday which made for a perfect family day. He never minded and I think it was a special time for him to share his day with her and allowed her to see what was going on in the community as well.
On October 7, 2015, our lives changed permanently forever. He went to sleep and woke up in heaven. God decided that Mike had completed his mission on earth. The grief we experience right now is unpredicatable, sometimes solitary, and one that can’t be healed in a moment or month but takes time. Sometimes it is like the ocean, we experience the ebbs and flows. One moment, you remember happy times and other moments you experience the waves of sorrow. It is almost like a fog where you can’t see the end of the road. Loss can open your eyes to see the same world from a different viewpoint, with new scenery. It is a journey of life where things that may have mattered before suddenly become miniscule and unimportant.
As we celebrate this community thanksgiving service, I have definitely seen a community in my life. People have surrounded me when I needed it most and I know that I could not have made it without the my church and this community. For that I give praise and thanksgiving to God. I have always believed that God brings you through trials of life so that he may build the testimony in your life and so that you can be there for someone else that is going through the same things. For me, it is important to continue Mike’s legacy because he never would have realized the impact that he had on so many.
Today, I received a card from a loving church member. I have received so many and each one have the perfect words for what I need right at that moment. Today, those words were:
This time in your life isn’t easy, but you’re walking through it with such a clear reflection of God’s grace. Still there must be days that are harder than others, when you feel like this is more than you can handle. In those moments your heart is in a perfect place – a place where God’s strength will be there to give you everything you need.
My identity as a pastor’s wife may be completed but I am still a mother to a wonderful and strong daughter that has her father’s strength and soft heart for others. Most importantly, my identity now is still as a child of God and I know that I will be with Mike again one day, because of my faith in Christ. Mike and I had the honor in visiting Israel in the year 2000. As we walked along a mountainside in Jericho, it was a dry and rocky path that went straight down and had no rails to protect us on the path. Psalm 121 became very alive for us that day.
Thank you all again for being here and may God be with you as you leave this place. Be a light to this world that sometimes seems like darkness. Show love to everyone that crosses your path. Look for the “God things” that come into your life. This is Mike’s legacy for us for us to live the life God has for us until God calls each of us to be home with Him.
Thanksgiving is approaching and then the holidays will be in full swing. It brings a different feeling to Hannah and I this year. I want the time to slow down so that I have more time to prepare for the emotions that it is going to bring, but time keeps moving.
Thanksgiving is a special time of year when we take time to be thankful. For some of us, the list can be endless. We can go on and on listing all the blessings that we see. For others, it may be a struggle with finding things for which to be thankful. Circumstances in life may have caused you to avoid being thankful because you aren’t sure why you should be thankful for those circumstances.
God’s word says: “He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors me.” - Psalm 50:23
Sometimes it takes a sacrifice on our part to be thankful. Through the tears or through the fears, God wants us to be thankful. It seems like I shed some tears almost every day. I miss the man God gave me 22 years ago but I am thankful for each and every day that God gave me with Mike. I am thankful for the daughter that God blessed us with and for each and every life moment that we all experienced together. Through the good times or the bad times, we were thankful.
When we are thankful through the difficult times, we are making a sacrifice that honors God. It brings joy to the Lord. We must look through the difficulty to be thankful for Jesus. He is the one constant in our lives. He always loves us. He never changes. He is always there. There will always be storms or seasons in life when it is difficult. I know that I am going through one of those seasons. It is important to remember that I still have to be thankful for the air that I breathe, the people that God continually puts in my life to encourage me, the daughter that I have been blessed to raise, and that God loves me. While it is still hard for me to see why God felt Mike’s work on earth was finished, I am thankful that I see ways that it is still continuing.
There is a little part of a song from the Veggietales bible animated cartoons that says this:
I will continue to say thanks everyday because that is how God would want me to live my life. As you go through this season, be sure that you are thankful and always make that sacrifice to honor God. See the ways that he has blessed you. Don’t let the circumstances in your life make your eyes to foggy to see the things that God is doing for you each and every day. Also, don’t let negativity prevent you from allowing others to bless you.
In the words of Philippians 1:3-4 “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Monday, December 28, 2015
My family and Mike’s family have been so wonderful for me but I have also learned that I have a much greater family in the community. Mike would have never realized the legacy that he left. He just liked preaching, teaching and sharing God with people through missions. He taught me so much too. The one thing that has stuck with me is that we never know when our time is finished and when we will face God. What we do know is that our lives need to reflect God in all that we do. The last movie that we watched together as a church was, “Do You Believe?” We wached it just three days before he left this world. It was the story of 12 people who each had different encounters. They were all intertwined by God. It is funny how that happens. God is our common denominator. He is the one that brings us all together. We all have the choice to follow Him. He doesn’t force us to do that. He gives us the choice. So many people go through hard times, tragic times, times when they may get mad at God because they feel like they received something that wasn’t fair. I understand now. It wasn’t fair for Mike to be taken from me leaving me to raise Hannah alone. I know that Mike is in heaven because he made the choice to BELIEVE – Believe in God. We will see him one day because I know that I have made that choice to believe too. When you ask forgiveness of your sins and believe that Jesus took them all away, God promises to save a place for you in heaven. It doesn’t mean I am perfect and doesn’t mean I will not miss him because I will. Hannah and I will be thankful for the time we had with him and know that his legacy will continue in us. “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Phil. 4:13.
I was thankful when October was over and November began. October brought much sadness and trials to our family. It ended with Hannah getting hurt while at cheer practice as she fell from a cheer stunt onto her knee. It was a minor injury and she will heal quickly. However, it just was another thing in October that was another trial to face.
When trials come, we are faced with options on how we can handle it. We can cry, get angry, shut down, get alone, or give up. Our first option should be to turn to God but one of the previous options usually comes first or comes along with it. Throughout the last month, I have relied on my faith in God. I know in my heart that He is with me and that He surrounds me with people who are praying for me and for Hannah. While we sometimes look forward to heaven and want to be there with loved ones, God has given us a purpose on Earth. We may not know or understand what that purpose is while we are suffering through a difficult time. I truly believe that God reveals that to you. Sometimes we don’t see it when we are in the midst of the trial but when we focus on God, he promises that He will guide us. Mike mentioned in a recent reminder that just checking your Bible app or your “verse of the day” is not enough. It is important to interact with a body of believers as well as read God’s word each day. Pray and ask God during that trial or difficult time to reveal to you your purpose. He will do that in His own time. Romans 8:18 says “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
Mike always referred to the words of the hymn, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.” The lyrics say: “The things of this earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.” I can almost hear Mike quote those words because he did so recently. The sufferings that we face are so minimal compared to the glory that we will one day see. This was the glory that Mike saw immediately and is walking in each and every day.
This past fall, Hannah and I watched the movie, "God’s Not Dead.” It is a great movie and one thing that I got from the movie was that pain and suffering from a broken relationship, sick loved one, or family troubles are temporary compared to the joy that God wants us to have. We must live our lives to show that God is alive in all that we do and our purpose is to share that with everyone.
There is a song called “God of this City." Some of the lyrics are:
God is not finished with me. He is not finished with Hannah. He is certainly not finished with MHBC and this community. Psalms 30:5 says, “Weeping may endure for a night, but the joy comes in the morning.” I definitely weep a lot lately. I know it is normal because I miss the man I loved so much. People say that I am strong but I feel weak. It is the strength of God that is coming through because I do not have it on my own. I keep getting up the next day and going on because I know that I have a purpose. Regardless of the trial that you are going through, God has a purpose for you. Give Him that chance to lovingly reveal it to you.