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Archive for March, 2017

Do you remember The Who’s song “Who Are You?” I’m old enough to know it from the initial release in 1978 (high school graduation year) but I sing it more because it was the opening theme song for the “CSI” TV series. Of course, I only know the opening lines: Who are you? Who, who, who, who?…repeat indefinitely. You are now singing it in your head, aren’t you? You’re welcome.

But this could also be my theme song every day…or at least a question I should ask myself frequently. Who are you, Kris…who, who, who, who?

Who are you when:

  • you stub your toe in the dark
  • that crazy driver cuts you off on the interstate
  • someone unfriends you on Facebook
  • you bomb that job interview
  • there are 20 people in the only open Wal-Mart checkout lane
  • a mole wreaks havoc through your lawn
  • an “overdraft” notice arrives
  • your identity information is hacked
  • ugly rumors about your pastor reach your ears
  • your husband watches TV while you clean the house
  • the church committee didn’t ask for your help
  • your favorite (fill in the blank) comes up missing
  • a deer sideswipes your car
  • you get caught by the red light cameras
  • you miss a deadline
  • the scale shows five pounds more than yesterday
  • the dishwasher floods the kitchen

We don’t need more examples…pretty sure you get my drift.

Who I am is what’s on the inside that comes out during times of stress, or disappointment, or rejection, or pain, or normal living of your everyday life. Although I love being on the mountain top, I become the real “me” in the valleys of life. And sometimes, I don’t like what comes out of me. Sometimes I see the ugliness of gossip, shame, condemnation, rejection, self-hate, and impatience.

However, I want to welcome these wake up calls. Because if I don’t see the yuck inside occasionally, I won’t ever be able to clean my house. If I don’t recognize the nastiness inside, I’ll keep going along, thinking I’m just fine, so fine.

Don and I had a wonderful mentor who told us often:

“CharacteCB063014r is what happens when someone tips over your coffee cup.”

Who are you? I hope you find out today.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
    and lead me along the path of everlasting life.Psalm 139:23-24

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One year later, and still the same…it never gets easier, just different.

Ordinary Life Extraordinary Destiny

Sean and David 1

Parenting is hard.

In fact, the actual act of giving birth is the easiest part. Once those big brown (or green or blue) eyes look into your soul and those little fingers get a grip around your heart, you are toast. And the pressure to be everything they need is overwhelming. It’s really the hardest and longest battle of any parent’s life ~ the battle to let them go.

It starts around age two. Some call it the “terrible 2s” – not sure why – just because my beautiful compliant baby has now learned the word “no” and refuses to wear clothes in public?

We work so hard to help our kids learn right from wrong. We teach them colors and numbers and letters…we listen and love…doing fractions homework and science fair projects…agonizing together through middle school, watching them struggle, succeed, struggle, succeed, over and over and over.

This parenting…

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It random-act-of-kindnesswas a saying my mom used to tell me when I complained in junior high about people being mean to me. Looking back, I cannot remember anyone’s actual actions or words toward me that I would consider mean…but I certainly do remember my mom’s advice, “Just be nice to them, Kris. Kill them with kindness.”

Most of the time, I think I’m a kind person, but I also realize that plenty of times I’ve chosen what felt good to me over what may have been kindness extended toward someone else. The times I could have allowed someone in front of me at the WalMart check out lane, held a door open during a walk instead of hurrying on myself, or getting Don a cup of coffee while I was up getting my own…I could go on. So could you.

Today I’m grateful for kindness. I’m also grateful for the POWER of kindness, because I believe if we, all of us, make the intentional choice to be kind to others, we’ll help inch our society in the opposite direction of where it is currently heading.

“Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32 (NLT)

Here’s my intentional kindness action plan for this week:

Day 1 – Baby steps: smile at everyone I meet, even if they are grouchy or frowning. This includes while I’m driving (my biggest challenge) and when I answer the phone. I don’t know about you, but I can tell when the person on the other end of the phone says “hello” with a smile. I’m weird that way.

Day 2 – Everything from Day 1 PLUS…within the course of the day, choosing kindness in the little things. This could include holding doors, making coffee, running errands, doing a favor, extending grace, being generous, laughing at dumb jokes.

Day 3 – Day 1 + Day 2 + taking note of my body language and tone of voice so I exude kindness with more than just words. Walking the walk, not just talking the talk, as they say.

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud.” 1 Corinthians 13:4

Day 4 – Everything from the past three days PLUS adding in kindness to those who don’t like me.

NOOOO!

This one is the hardest, of course. Who likes doing nice things, being nice, showing kindness to people who do not deserve it? Not me.

But…

That’s what God has asked us to do…and in fact, it is what He did (and keeps doing) for us. We don’t deserve God’s love…we never deserved Jesus’ sacrifice for us, but He did it anyway. Because He loves us more than we can imagine. And if we really want to show the world a better way…the BEST way…we must demonstrate God’s love through our actions. Kill them with kindness.

“Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.” Romans 12:20-21 (The Message)

I once heard a message from a guest speaker about kindness. A person sitting near to me scoffed about it afterwards – “What a stupid topic for a sermon!” I guess they thought it wasn’t spiritual enough. But in actuality, showing kindness is one of the most spiritual disciplines you can aspire to reach. By showing kindness, you are showing an unbelieving world the unconditional love of our Father God. We are proving His love for them, and using us as instruments of that love. What is more spiritual than being a tool in the hands of the Master?

“We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us,[a] and by our sincere love.” 2 Corinthians 6:6

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Stream_2_Yosemite

I know I am a blessed woman. I’m so grateful for the many friends I’ve made throughout my life…the many places I’ve visited…the many opportunities I’ve had to travel, work, play, serve and enjoy life. I have thousands of pictures in my head of places I’ve been, people I’ve met, and memories I’ve made.

My view of my world includes:

  • That breathlessness in my chest when I walked up the steps to see the grassy field and ivy-covered walls of Wrigley Field for the first time. I stood in quiet wonder as people swarmed in and out, beer and cotton candy vendors selling their wares. Definitely a forever picture.
  • The magnificence of El Capitan and Half Dome,Half_Dome_distance the gurgling waters of streams rolling through the forests, the blackened trunks of burnt pine trees, and the awe-inspiring heights of sequoia trees – all this kept me snapping almost 400 iPhone photos on my week’s vacation visiting my first national parks.
  • Looking out my plane window to see the Grand Canyon spread out in all its glory below me. What a great view I had from 15,000 feet! Couldn’t get a stamp for my new national park passbook, but I should did get a pretty good picture!Phoenix_race
  • The view of the finish line as I ran the last hundred yards of my half-marathon relay with my brother in Phoenix, holding hands over our heads as the emotion of the moment overwhelmed me.

Also:

  • My first glimpse of my nervous bridegroom waiting for me at the end of the church aisle.
  • Crying as I hold my first-born son in my arms after a very traumatic labor and delivery, his brown eyes staring up at me.
  • My throat closed with emotion as I hold my second-born son, after his non-emergency C-section turned into a few anxious moments….once again, looking into sleepy deep brown eyes.
  • Looking out over my classmates during our high school graduation in that little gym in Durand many years ago, excited to think that my life was about to change forever but having no idea how much.
  • The indescribable views from the top of the Arch in St. Louis, the pinnacle of the Washington Monument, the basket of a hot air balloon, the viewing platform at the summit of Pikes Peak and tramway ride up to the crest line of the Sandia Mountains in New Mexico.Sean_strech
  • Some of my favorite moments are just normal, everyday sights…like looking out my kitchen window while I did the dishes, watching my kids play in our backyard. Or the misty view of David’s back as he heads off on one of his many trips to places around the world. Or recognizing Sean’s signature stretch before he steps into the batter’s box.Grandpa_boys_lawnmower Or looking through our bookcase for a naptime story. Or watching my dad take his grandkids for rides on the John Deere lawnmower.

But my favorite view and the one for which I’m most grateful is my view forward…into the continuing journey I have ahead of me. It isn’t always clear but I know it will be full of fun and adventure. I don’t regret any of my past experiences but I desire to be intentional in looking ahead…always onward!

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My favorite five missions or charitable organizations (in no particular order)…

Great_CommissionI can’t narrow it down to five total so I picked five which operate nationally or internationally (which I’ll blog about today) and five which are more local in nature (next Friday). Each is unique in who they help – from women and children in Uganda, to women and children in Cedar Rapids, Iowa…I love missions, spreading the love of Jesus and helping those in need.

#1 – Amazima Ministries

One of my favorite books is “Kisses from Katie,” the story of an 18-year-old girl who gives up her comfortable life in the United States to become the adoptive mother to thirteen girls in Uganda. katies-story-buttonIt was a life-altering book for me and I’ve been challenged while following Katie Davis’s story of radical love. Katie started Amazima (“truth” in native Luganda language) Ministries, with a mission to help educate and empower the people of Uganda with God’s love. They operate The Amazima School, a scholarship program, the Masese Women’s Beading Circle, medical care outreach and a farming outreach. One year for Christmas I gave some special friends earrings formed from beads made in the women’s beading circle. They were beautiful and I loved knowing I was helping, in a small way, to give these women a purpose and an income.

#2 – Youth With A Mission

In a nutshell, Youth With a Mission (or YWAM) is a global movement of Christians who have dedicated themselves to serving Jesus, no matter where He calls them to go. Originally intended just to get young people involved in missions, YWAM now involves people of all ages, in more than 1,100 locations in over 180 countries, with a staff of over 18,000.  I did my own two-week YWAM intensive when I was 15 years old. It was terrifying to think about spending two weeks with total strangers going door-to-door telling people about Jesus. By the end of that time, I was bolding stopping people on the street and inviting hitchhikers to receive Jesus as their Savior. If you are looking to invest in missions around the world, YWAM has done it well for over 50 years.

#3 – JDRF

I’m sure I don’t need to say much about juvenile diabetes. We all have friends and family who suffer from this life-threatening autoimmune disease. The JDRF organization, through volunteers who either have the disease or parent children who suffer with it, works tirelessly through various events to raise money for research to find a cure. My best friend in college recently passed away from the effects of a life-long battle with type 1 diabetes. Improvements in treatment have been made since her diagnosis back in the early 70s, but so much more needs to be done. I love walking with my friend Sandi and her daughter Celia as we inundate the NewBo area of Cedar Rapids for the One Walk event each May. It is inspiring to be even a small part of this movement to find a cure.

#4 – Samaritan’s Purse

“Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God,” famous words from founder Bob Pierce. Samaritan’s Purse’s mission is to follow Christ’s example by helping those in need and proclaiming the hope of the Gospel. They do this in so many different ways: medical missions, feeding programs, clean water & hygiene education, construction projects, human trafficking prevention and discipleship training. Sam_PurseThey are on the front lines of any disaster relief efforts both in the U.S. and internationally, especially in the current refugee crisis, earthquake and flood recovery and in war torn regions of Iraq. As a family, we first started working with Samaritan’s Purse through their Operation Christmas Child program, where we bought small age-appropriate gifts, packed them in shoeboxes and sent them off to the Samaritan’s Purse center in Minneapolis. From there, hundreds and thousands of shoeboxes are sent each year to children all over the world.

#5  – Child Hope

We have sponsored a number of little girls through Latin American Child Care, or as it is now known, Child Hope. We started way back when our youngest son started asking for a baby sister. Not happening. But he seems satisfied with the little girl we “adopted” through LACC. For $36 a month, Child Hope provides a safe environment where a child receives a Christian education alochild hopeng with preventative medical and dental information. More times than not, that monthly stipend provides a school uniform, hot meals and needed medical attention. At
Christmas and birthday time, we send a little extra so our little girl receives a special present just from us. We have welcomed each picture and personal letter throughout the years. We are on our third child since they grow up and move out of the program eventually, but each one is special and we are blessed to be able to assist a small child hear and learn about the love of Jesus.

Jesus said that we were to go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Though we can’t all go away from home, we can pray and use our resources to see the good news of Jesus spread all over the globe. I hope you have a favorite charity or missions organization you give to regularly. It is one our greatest joys to give so others can hear and know about Jesus.

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“What technology are you grateful for?”

I remember pre-microwaves, pre-Internet, pre-home computers, and pre-flat screen TVs. I remember when you had to watch your favorite TV show the first time, because there was no guarantee it would ever be on again. We did have reruns, but no way to know when a particular show would re-air. I remember when social media consisted of picking up the party line and listening to your neighbor’s conversations. I remember when I got to use one of the four electric typewriters in my Typing class in high school for one quarter. Otherwise, we were stuck with the manual ones. I remember being so excited when my uncle had a console color television delivered to our house for Christmas one year. Color TV! Oh yeah, we were so cool. I remember when my parents had their kitchen remodeled and it included a flat cook top and double oven. I remember when we got a really long cord on our home phone so I could sit in the living room and talk to my friends. I remember when my brothers would call on the holidays and we would pass around the long-corded handset to each family member in attendance.  I remember taking a dime (and later, a quarter) to my high school basketball games so I could use the pay phone to call my mom to come get me. If I forgot the quarter, I just called “collect.” Do they even offer collect calls anymore? Do they even have pay phones?

Me_phone

Not proud that I held that phone throughout the whole wedding reception. Taking pictures was my excuse.

Technology has improved our lives dramatically…and yet, complicated them as well. No longer do we gather around one phone handset to talk to family members. We each stare at our own phones, texting our holiday greetings in words and not voices. When I was growing up, my dad and I talked about movies and actors and who starred in which TV series and when.  Now we wouldn’t need to debate those things – we have the IMDb app to prove our opinion.

 

Of course, I could go on and on. Most of you can remember what life was like prior to the expansion of  technology in the last 50 years. In many ways, I miss the simplicity of life then, but I don’t think I’d turn in my iPhone to go back. I enjoy being able to connect with my friends and far away family on Facebook or to talk/text my kids in far away places at any time (without calling “collect” – I don’t think they’d accept). I enjoy watching my niece dance on live Instagram. I like checking in with my husband multiple times of the day, just to say “Love You” with a little heart emoji.

I certainly don’t want to lose the ease of keyboarding on a laptop from a coffee shop, blogging my thoughts about technology, or life, or gratitude. I like Amazon and Google and dictionary.com.  I need my flash drives because my memory isn’t what it used to be. I’m attached to my e-reader and touchscreen laptop. Though I receive too many, I enjoy reading my emails and shopping online.

So I guess it comes down to balance. Keeping perspective about the old ways and adapting to new ways. The expansion of ways to “know” things has expanded beyond our ability to keep up. If you read all day, you wouldn’t be able to digest the amount of words being written just on the msn home page alone.

Technology will never replace sitting down around the kitchen table for a meal with my family. Cyber hugs will never be as satisfying as real ones. Maybe we should determine to put down our technology once in awhile, and connect the old fashioned way – face to face, not FaceTime. Mano y mano, not selfies. Rants around the water cooler, not anonymously on Twitter. Coffee in a real cup  listening with actual ears, to flesh-and-blood people in need of real connection.

I challenge you to leave your phone at home the next time you go out with friends. Who’s going to call you anyway? You can check the game scores later. Technology is here to stay, but you still control how much it controls you.

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Do you have a favorite Bible lesson? Maybe it was something you learned as a child. The stories of David and Goliath, or Jesus walking on the water or feeding the 5000 illustrate some great Bible truths about God’s power on the earth.

Possibly, as an adult, you gravitate more toward the deeper spiritual lessons on forgiveness or faith or grace or trust.  You know there are endless lessons we can or have learned through the years.

I’m not sure I have a favorite or even if I have one I’m more grateful for than another. Mostly it depends on what I’m going through at the moment. However today, I had to pick out a Bible lesson for my blogging calendar and my morning Bible reading in Numbers 22 highlighted an exceptional lesson…the story of Balaam and his very wise donkey. I’m not going to tell you the whole story so read Numbers chapters 22 and 23 to get the complete picture.

Balaam was an interesting guy. He wasn’t a follower of the One True God, yet he spoke to God and God spoke to him. Balaam practiced divination during the time when the children of Israel were wandering around the desert. He was more concerned with lining his own pockets then with doing the right thing. When Balak, the king of Moab, needed someone to curse the Israelites, he was confident Balaam was the man for the job. Funny thing was, Balaam would not curse the children of Israel because God instructed him not to. However, he still kept Balak on the hook for his divination fee.

While Balaam was riding his donkey to see the king, the Angel of the Lord stood in the road ahead of him. Balaam couldn’t see the angel with his sword drawn, but Balaam’s donkey could, and it turned off the road into a field to get away. Of course, the animal got a beating from his master as a result. This happens two more times until finally, the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth.

Donkey“What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?” Now, I don’t know about you, but hearing an audible voice from my donkey would be disconcerting, however, Balaam doesn’t seem bothered at all. He proceeds to have a conversation with his donkey, in the middle of the road, until the Lord opens Balaam’s eyes and he sees the Angel. Finally, Balaam gets it and he prostrates himself before the Lord.

God informs Balaam that He used the donkey to stop Balaam from taking a reckless path against the children of Israel. If the donkey had not turned away each time, God would have killed Balaam (but spared the animal). I think that probably got Balaam’s attention. I’d like to think I wouldn’t have let it get that far – I hope the talking donkey would have made me pay more attention.

I distinctly remember the first time I read this story. I was a pastor’s wife before I ever heard about the donkey who talked. I guess I’d never made it through Numbers in my hit-and-miss Bible reading back then. For some reason, I easily trusted all the other stories throughout the Bible. I believed He created the world from nothing, formed Eve from Adam’s rib, destroyed the earth by a flood, parted the Red Sea, turned water to wine, calmed the wind and waves, raised Lazarus from the dead, healed the multitudes of various diseases and cast out demons. No problem with any of those. But a talking donkey? That one seemed to stretch my faith. And I’m not sure why because the first talking animal in the Bible wasn’t Balaam’s donkey – it was Satan as a talking serpent in the Garden of Eden. I never had any problem accepting that story either.

My takeaway from the adventure of Balaam’s talking donkey is simple: If God can use a donkey to see the supernatural and give wisdom to his master, then there is hope for me. If a donkey can be an approved vessel of God, then I hope I would be faithful to His work as well. If I am willing, He will fill my mouth with His words. My purpose in life is to bring glory to God, whether it is by speaking or remaining silent.

If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 4:11a

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Psalm 19:14

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