Monday, June 29, 2015

Where Heaven and Earth Collide

There’s a story that most of us are familiar with in one form or another. It happens all around us, but can take several shapes. It’s the story of people setting aside their differences and coming together for a cause. In recent American history I think of 9/11… a country coming together in our grief and mourning. Or perhaps #BostonStrong, as the people of Boston rallied following the tragic bombing at the Boston Marathon. If we move to Hollywood, we see movies like Remember the Titans, We Are Marshall, or even The Lego Movie… People setting aside their differences; teaming up to complete a goal, or make something awesome happen. It’s a story all around us, but what would happen if it was us?

            I was on a mission trip recently where the speaker was talking about just that. It was a tale of two stories, God’s story, and ours. He was talking about impact, and how impact happens at the point where God’s story and our stories collide. It’s that point where Heaven and earth collide and these two stories become the Story. He was saying that when we partner with Jesus, and we decide to follow him, God will do some amazing things. It might not happen immediately, and it might not even be a huge, ground-shaking occurrence, but when we are going God’s way He can use us in powerful ways.

            I find it so important to remember that in my own walk with God. It becomes easy to be complacent, or to try and go my own way without God. But I need to continually remind myself to set aside my agenda and continue to partner with Jesus in everything I do, because there is impact when our stories collide. God can use all of us in big ways when we are willing to partner with Him and follow His leading. As you spend time in prayer this week, think about those areas where you are trying to take control and give those things to God, because there is power and freedom when Heaven and earth collide. 

~Jake Houf

Monday, June 22, 2015

Quiet Wonder

In October of 2005 we moved into our home and the following spring I began to tackle the fabulous challenge of “the yard”. The lawn was mostly weeds and a neighbor later mentioned that as long as her yard looked better than mine, she was good. Yikes! I spent hours upon hours digging, cutting, weeding, feeding, pruning, planting, enriching the soil and transforming our little plot of earth.

About four years ago, while expanding the garden “just a titch more”, I noticed a robin hanging around. I figured she had noticed the freshly dug soil and was waiting for a chance to hunt, so I tossed a few worms her way to see what she would do. Sure enough, she tentatively gathered them up and gobbled them down!
My little robin friend has returned each year since and with each visit has become a little more bold. Last year she added a nest under the eaves of our roof and this spring I was treated to an incredible gift.

Ms. Robin had returned to her previous nest, laid and patiently sat on her eggs and when they hatched she fed her nestlings worms that I had gathered and shared with her. Her little brood eventually fledged the nest and I thought that was it for the season. 

But I was wondrously mistaken!

I was out in the garden weeding when I heard a chirp (I had begun to notice that she gives a little call when she is near). I looked up and not only was Mama there, but she had brought one of her fledglings to me! The still-speckled bird gave several hungry peeps and wouldn’t stop until Mama gathered a mouthful of juicy worms from my pile…and then fed them to baby! All this within five feet of me! When they were full, Mama flew through the chain-link fence and baby followed after a few attempts at trying to figure out how to get through.

After they flew away, I let my trowel slip to the ground, sat back on my heels and began to cry. I was completely overwhelmed with the beauty and wonder of not only creation, but the Creator. His fingerprints are all over and He is pleased to surprise us with wonders if only we are still and quiet enough to notice. This gentle, peaceful interaction was a gift from the hands of my Father, reminding me that He is good, that He is present and that He loves me. Be still my soul.

The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.  Psalm 65:8

~ Sarah Bennor

Monday, June 15, 2015


When I was in middle school I had a math teacher named Mr. Logger. Between classes we would see him outside sucking down as many cigarettes as he could, as fast as he could, before the bell rang and classes resumed. He also had this huge green thermos, the kind with the handle on the side, and the lid that you could take off and use as a mug. Every 20 minutes or so, all day long, he would walk over to this thermos he kept by his desk and refill his mug with steaming hot coffee. I didn’t mind. None of this bothered me.

But, what did bother me…what drove me nuts…what made me nervous and sick to my stomach, was when I got stuck on a math problem. I knew I needed his help to work through the problem, but if I asked, I knew he would come over to my desk, kneel down next to me, and blow his stinkin hot, coffee laden, cigarette breath right in my face.

…And then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20:22 This is Jesus breathing on his students. They didn’t have toothpaste or toothbrushes back then, so his breath had to be pretty bad. I can’t help but think of Mr. Logger, who I’m sure had good intentions, but needed to drink just as much Listerine as he did coffee.

Jesus a teacher, leans over and right after lunch, and breathes on his students. The word “breath” is pneuma (nooma) and can mean “breath, wind, or spirit.” Jesus breathes on his students and then says, receive the Holy Spirit, or breath. The words, Breath and Spirit are the same word, so Jesus is using this play on words. Receive the breath. Receive the Spirit. He then goes on to tell them about the spirit, the breath. It’s full of peace and joy, and hope, and truth, and comfort, and love.

Breathe in.
It’s full of forgiveness, and grace, and love, and mercy, and hope.

Breathe out. Inhale. Exhale.

Breathe in the breath of God and experience his love and hope and peace and comfort and joy.

Breathe out the breath of God. Breathe out God’s love and hope and peace and comfort and joy on others.

There are times where I feel lonely, and desperate, and hopeless, and afraid. Times where I feel defeated and depressed and anxious and stressed out, and I breathe in. I inhale God’s hope, and joy and comfort and peace. The more I breathe in the breath of God, the more I am able to breathe out his hope and truth and joy and comfort and peace into the lives of others.

Breathe in the breath of God.
Breathe out his breath on others. 

~ Brad Holmes

Monday, June 8, 2015

Your Ways Are Not My Ways

“Don’t be giving me any dented up cans!” said a very irritated lady to me while I was assisting her at the local food pantry.  A minute later, “this bread is squished on one side.”  

I pressed my teeth together and told her as politely as I could that all of this food was donated and if we turned down every dented can or squished bread, there would be no food to give. 

So she rolled her eyes and threw it in the cart.

Later, when I had finished my volunteer shift and was driving home, I realized that I was really angry.  How dare this woman complain about free food?!  I started to think of all kinds of snippy comebacks if she were to come again.  I said to myself, most people are so grateful, but gosh, some people!  Clearly, she must not need the food if she is going to complain about it.  She shouldn’t even be coming to the pantry!

So home I went, in a huff about ungrateful people.  I knew I should pray for this lady, so that night, I opened my Bible and said a prayer that God would soften her heart.  When I looked down, I realized that my Bible was open to Luke 6.  I read it, and one verse struck me like a palm to the forehead.

“If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other one also.  If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also.” Luke 6:29

As I read this verse, I was ashamed to admit that I had responded to the woman at the pantry in a very non-Jesus-like way.  But this way doesn’t make any sense!  I thought.  This is enabling her to come in and mistreat the volunteers who are just trying to help!  And that’s when I heard God say to me, ‘your ways are not my ways, Kristin.  Your’s is the heart that needs softening.’

It was a few short months later, when the same lady arrived at the pantry again. Silently dreading the employ of Luke 6:29, I said a quick prayer and went to greet her.  I put a huge smile on my face and called her by name.  When she demanded non-dented cans, I searched through our supply and found some.  When she rolled her eyes at the over-ripe produce, I did my best to find her some that looked better.  When she treated me rudely, I smiled at her and said, “ok.”  And when she was done, I touched her arm and said, “God bless you.”  She looked at me for the briefest moment, smiled, and said, “you too.” 

The more I walk in the ways of Jesus, the more I realize that he knows what he’s doing when he issues instructions for us.  There are all kinds of reasons that I could justify treating her just as rudely (and the world would be ready to back me up with a high five) but God says not to trust those.  God says all people deserve love, and if you can’t show them love, just show them a loving response. 

The most beautiful thing of all is that I feel better, too.  I actually look forward to seeing her now, because I get the chance to see if she’ll smile again.  After all, who doesn't love a challenge?

In Christ,

Kristin Vanzanten

Monday, June 1, 2015

Lake of Pigs

In Mark chapter 5, an account is shared of when Jesus arrived to a town by boat and a man that was demon possessed comes before him and pleads with Jesus, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?  In God’s name don’t torture me!”  The man was filled with many demons and Jesus commands them to leave.  The evil spirits beg Jesus to let them enter a herd of pigs that are feeding nearby.  Jesus gives them permission, and they leave the man and enter the pigs.  The 2,000 pigs run wildly into the lake and all of them drown.  The people that were tending to the pigs run off and tell the townspeople what happened.  The local people then come to see what happened and they see the man that was possessed dressed and acting normal and they see the lake filled with dead pigs.  Frightened by all that they see, they ask Jesus to leave, and so Jesus leaves them.

When I reflect on this story, I think about the fact that Jesus arrived to this town, and crazy things began to happen.   The townspeople missed out on the blessing of Jesus being in their life because they were frightened of what they saw around them.  A wild man becoming normal, and a lake filled with dead pigs.  Can you imagine what that must have been like!?  Looking out over a lake with around 2,000 dead bloated pigs floating, some may have even washed upon shore?

How many times in our own life do we miss out on the blessing of Jesus entering into our life because our eyes are focused on the havoc that we see around us? The people of this town missed out because they were so focused on the chaos they saw, that they failed to see that their Savior had arrived to be with them.  

Do we miss out on opportunities for Jesus to be with us too because He doesn’t enter into our life in a way we think He should.  We see chaos entering into our life and we get frightened and we close our eyes to the fact Jesus is stepping into our lives. 

Keep your heart and eyes open as you live your life.  We sometimes expect God to come into our life in a way we perceive as positive and making things right in this world.  We don’t expect a lake filled with floating dead pigs.  We lose sight of the fact He comes to make things right and new from within, just like He did for the man who was possessed with evil spirits.  

Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 
Matthew 10:34

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  
Hebrews 4:12

~ Sue Parrott