Sunday, December 23, 2007

Suffering Heroes vs. The Man of Sorrows

I have noticed a trend in modern culture. We like our heroes to suffer and experience pain. Unfortunately, we also like them fallible. The most popular in the last few years, Frodo Baggins, Anakin Skywalker, Harry Potter all fail in critical areas. Yet many still admire them, even among Christians. How long will we forget that we have the ultimate suffering hero in Jesus, the Man of Sorrows?

Jesus was God who choose to be born as a baby in a stable. He suffered poverty, rejection, and finally a cruel death. But these were nothing compared with the weight of all our sins which made him feel forsaken by his Father. Jesus never failed in love, always spoke against injustice, he never faltered though he was "in all points tempted as we are". No fable has ever dared to go so far as to have God chose to suffer at the hands of men. Only the truth of Christianity would be so bold.

Do I enjoy other heroes more because I have come to feel that he does not really understand me, that he is not really one of us? May I banish that foolish notion! Jesus came to earth to show me that he does understand, that he does care, so that he could be one of us. I do have the ultimate hero. If I really worship him, I will talk of him as others do of their heroes. Let us truly rejoice in this season of remembering our Hero.

Merry Christmas,

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Burning a hole in Selawik

I had a topic all ready for the blog and I thought I could write it today. Now that Christmas preparations are under control, I felt ready to write again. But that was superseded when I heard the church bell ringing and discovered that there was another fire.

The fire appeared to be near the Friends church and Warren went to go help, taking granola bars with him. The girls and I had breakfast, then Warren returned. It is the coldest day we have so far this winter (40 below), and I was a little uncertain for a moment that it was him, since I have never seen so much ice on his face before. "The church is burning and there is nothing we can do" he announced and we cried together.

As many of you know the Friends church is the church of Selawik. Though weekly attendance was low, it was the place for weddings, funerals and holiday gatherings. This is a loss that will change a lot about how Selawik runs. I expect the Christmas gathering will be moved to the school gym as it is the only place large enough to hold the village. Please pray for the courage of the people of Selawik. We are all deeply saddened at loss of this house of prayer.


Church with the parsonage behind and bell beside

Monday, December 10, 2007

Fighting Fires for Jesus

Friday morning I was awakened by a phone call. "There's a choir over by Friends Church" I thought I heard. "At 3:00 am?", I asked in dubious surprise. Was I expected to go sing with the choir at this time of night? "Look out the window!" was the response.

When I looked, it all made sense. Fire! A huge fireball shot into the night sky, and I quickly hung up and got dressed to go help fight the fire. Running across the river I saw a transformer explode in sparks, and redoubled my pace. Reaching the watching crowd, I found my friend Bert Foxglove. "Is everyone out?" I asked breathlessly. "I think so. Go find out!" Bert urged me. "Around back". I followed where he pointed and made my way to the leeward side of the house. A strong breeze was fanning flames and billows of smoke out from the house, fortunately away from the house next door only a few feet away.

I cautiously hurried between the burning house and its neighbor, and joined the group of onlookers. One person was spraying a garden hose from the faucet next door, on the back wall of the house. Another was calling, "Lucky! Lucky!" through a window, trying to save a pet dog. Entering the house was out of the question. The fire was a hurricane of flames.

"Is everyone out?" I again questioned. "Yes, but the dogs are dead by now" was the response. Helplessly I watched as the garden hose was sprayed first on one side, then the other, trying to keep the side of the house nearest the neighbors from bursting into flame and spreading the fire to them. Flames licked the power lines and soon the power to the homes of the surrounding neighbors went out. All was blackness except for the roaring flames.

A wail went up from the home of the nearest neighbor. Soon I saw an elderly woman being helped from the dark home, to safety some distance from the fire. Not knowing what else I could do to help, I took her arm and helped her down the steps of her endangered home.

"A knife! Does anybody have a knife?" I was glad to have something else I could do to help-- loan my leatherman I always carry. Soon I saw a firehose being dragged from the river, but agonizing minutes passed without any water coming from it. "What is taking so long?" I worried to myself. "God, please don't let anyone be killed or the neighbors houses burn!" I prayed silently.

"Can somebody give me a hand with this hose?" I heard the Baptist pastor on the other side of the house. He had another firehose hooked up to the water mains coming to the houses, and though it was too short to reach any farther than the corner of the house, he was able to keep the side nearest the neighbors cooled with the water.

The next two hours were engaged with holding the firehose and participating in bucket brigades (using five gallon buckets filled from the firehose, since it would not reach far enough). Finally, another matching hose was located and we were able to take the hose around the sides of the house, and work on putting the fire out. Walls of the house were knocked down and the fire attacked and gradually put under control.

Working together with others for a common goal was a good experience, though tiring. I am saddened that it came at the loss of Buddy Cleveland's home and pet dogs. Visiting with him later, I asked what woke him up. He showed me a couple burns on his wrists where burning plastic fell on him while he was sleeping. He doesn't know if the fire was started due to faulty wiring or his wood stove. It was an older house and either one could be the case.

Please keep Buddy in prayer and feel free to send donations to assist him and his brother (who lived with him). He had just retired, received his payout, and made purchases which are now unfortunately gone. So, if you wish to send him donations, I'm sure they would be much appreciated.

Just use:

Buddy Cleveland
General Delivery
Selawik, AK 99770

God bless,

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Mission: Ekwok

The village of Ekwok is the destination of Dillingham SDA church members Rod and Brenda Rau most Sabbaths. No, they are not trying to get away from the Dillingham church-- they are extending its reach with a branch Sabbath school. They have permission to meet in the Ekwok city hall/post office, in a room about 20x20 feet in size. Conveniently located in the same building as the post office, they sometimes have people drop in after picking up their mail.

Ekwok is a village about 42 miles North-East of Dillingham, that has had previous Adventist work, years ago when the Aleknagik mission school was still open. At first glance, it would appear that all that remains of the original work is a small 10x20 foot structure once used as a meeting house. However, people are what make the church, and Ekwok has people who are interested in learning more about the Bible.

Please consider if you may be called to be an evangelist this summer in Ekwok.


Mission: Manokotak

The branch Sabbath school work in the village of Manokotak has made some exciting strides in the past year. But the story goes back about ten years, to when Dave & Shirley Williams befriended a man we'll call T (some names will be changed for privacy). Dave Williams, a Dillingham Adventist church member, did some mechanical work for T, an elder in the Moravian church in Manokotak, and shared some Bible studies and Sabbath school quarterlies with him at that time.

Now, fast forward to last year, 2006, when Dillingham members Margarita Merino and Florie Jewell visited house to house in Manokotak throughout the year. In the process, they found many interested people. One man we'll call A was willing to have Bible studies in his home. These began this spring, 2007, and have had around 13-14 people each week. A woman we'll call R (along with her mother) was one of those people. When R learned of the Sabbath and discussed it with her mother, she said "I've known that for a long time". R wondered why she hadn't been told about it all this time.

By June, R was ready for baptism, and she and her husband were flown to Dillingham for her baptism in June, 2007. At the baptism, her husband also seemed very interested. He also expressed his desire to begin paying tithe.

Since learning of the Sabbath, R has been active in outreach. She has shared her faith with the V.P.S.O. (Village Public Safety Officer) and also T, the Moravian church elder mentioned at the beginning. The V.P.S.O. was initially skeptical, but he studied the Sabbath for himself, he found it to be Biblical. Under conviction from the Holy Spirit, he made a decision to keep the Sabbath. Based on his convictions, the V.P.S.O. quit his job so he could keep Sabbath.

Meanwhile, the Moravian elder, T, had heard Sabbath presented at the Moravian church. When the Sabbath was presented, T noticed the reactions of the members. Some reacted with surprise, some with apparent anger, but some reacted with excitement and acceptance. T wanted more studies for his church. He wanted the Dillingham pastor to present the Bible truths from the Bible at the church, not pushing any denomination, just the scriptures. However, when the pastor called, the church wasn't ready for such a presentation yet. Nonetheless, T did request more quarterlies, further studies, and DVDs, which the pastor subsequently took over to him.

T wrote a letter in July to the Dillingham Adventist pastor, giving these details, and stating that he had begun keeping the Sabbath in June this year, and that besides the V.P.S.O., another family has also made a decision to keep the Sabbath. He has shared the Sabbath with his Thursday Bible study group, and they would like a Bible-based study given without pressure to join another denomination. Many young people, children and adults are listening to him, but fear persecution and name calling as the Adventists have received.

T has stated that while he doesn't want to change his denomination, he wants to keep the Sabbath and be faithful to the truth of the Bible. He is also aware of many other non-Biblical teachings in his church, such as the use of graven images and communication with purported spirits of the dead (forbidden by scriptures).

This fall (2007), child dedications have been given for 3 of R's children. Decisions are also being weighed by many, to follow the Bible more fully. Please keep them in your prayers and consider whether you may be called to dedicate some time this summer to evangelism in a village.

There are always challenges to deal with, and some of them are physical. Manokotak consists of an old village and a new village, which are about five miles apart. They could really use two groups of evangelists going out, rather than just one. Alternately, a light vehicle such as a moped or even a bicycle could be helpful for transit between the villages at least in the non-winter months.

Most of all, however, dedicated volunteers are needed who see that the fields "are white already to harvest." (John 4:35). "The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest." (Matthew 9:37-38)


Mission: Togiak

We have been wanting to share with you some of the exciting things that the Dillingham church is doing in the surrounding villages, especially Aleknagik, Togiak, Manakotak, and Ekwok, but we wanted to get our stories straight from those who are involved. Here is our first from Judi Thompson that we received last week.

Hi folks,

This morning (Sabbath) we checked the weather on the computer, and when I saw that it still looked pretty windy and rough between here and Togiak I prepared to stay here today, and enjoy fellowship lunch for the second week in a row, here in Dillingham :) But Gavin (Thompson) did a little more digging, and Dave (Williams) said he thought the weather was good enough to make a run for it, so after church, we came home, and I changed clothes and we headed for the airport. (The church here has decided to change the services around, to try and get more of us "village people" to be able to participate here too. This week was the first week of the new program, and they started with church at 9am, and then Sabbath School, finishing the entire service by 11, when Rod and Brenda (Rau) usually head to Ekwok. We still have to leave a little earlier, but I think overall, it's going to be a good change.) We were pretty fully loaded (we took the Cherokee, as it was Manakotak's turn for the Hawk).

But it went well, and I got to practice a short, soft field landing with a 20 mph wind! There weren't very many people today, about five adults and three children, but we had some really good discussions with the ones who were there, so I think it was good that we went. One young man, who is almost completely deaf, has a sister with several young children, who was arrested recently for drinking, and is now in jail in Anchorage. So he now has the responsibility of caring for her three children while she is gone. He lives with his father and sister, but he says they are not a lot of help, and he ends up looking after them too most of the time. Sometimes he gets so fed up with them all that he comes over here to Dillingham, to get away from it, and spends the whole time here drinking! Today, we talked to him for a long time, and had special prayer for him before we left. I asked if he'd like us to dedicate the children and him next Sabbath, and have special prayer for them as a "family", and he said he'd really like that. So we'll be having a dedication next Sabbath :). I really wish that the Lord would provide a couple who could not only be spiritual leaders there, but could also volunteer to open an Adventist school there too. If they could volunteer their time, the parents wouldn't have to pay huge school fees, and some of these wonderful kids could be in a Christian school!



Mission: Dillingham area villages

The next few posts will discuss missions work in the villages in the Dillingham area. The Dillingham church has a number of members involved in branch Sabbath school work in Togiak, Manakotak, and Ekwok. The church has adjusted their schedule so the participants can attend at least part of the Dillingham service before going to one of the villages. Here are the villages and the groups that have been going out:

  • Togiak: Judi & Gavin Thompson & Jim Bingman
  • Manakotak: Florie Jewell, Margarita Merino, Linda & Wendell Downs
  • Ekwok: Rod & Brenda Rau
The Holy Spirit is really at work in the villages, and we'd like to see that work go forward with power. While there has been talk of having ShareHim meetings in Dillingham itself, in the past, interest has been hard to arouse there. While we do not wish to limit the Spirit of God,
ShareHim meetings may work better in the villages than in Dillingham at this time. In any case, we hope to reach people while their interest is at a peak. Read on to learn more about how God is working in people's hearts.


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Basis of our Salvation

Sometimes I come across people who are concerned that because I emphasize obedience to God, I may not understand the basis of salvation. Thus, I am writing this short Bible study on the subject. I'd be interested in feedback, additional Bible references (whether you agree or disagree), etc.

The conditions of salvation remain the same as they have always been-- "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household" (Acts 16:31). The word, "believe" is used in the strongest sense. This is active faith. "We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak." (1 Cor 4:13) God wants us to share what we believe. This is not like "the devils also believe and tremble" (James 2:19), nor can those who are saved "hold the truth in unrighteousness" (Romans 1:18). "For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. " (Hebrews 10:26-27)

Those who believe must "hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end." (Hebrews 3:6) and not harden our hearts (Heb. 3:8), not "departing from the living God." (Heb. 3:12). We may not think we are departing from God or hardening our hearts, but we may "be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin" (Heb. 3:13) if we do not "Watch and pray, that (we) enter not into temptation" (Matthew 26:41). Further, we are especially warned, "Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is." (of Christ's return, Mark 13:33). Because of this danger, Hebrews 3:13 warns us to encourage each other daily to remain faithful.

God says, "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean [thing]; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." (2 Cor. 6:17-18) and Paul encourages us, "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." (2 Cor. 7:1) by becoming "partakers of His holiness" (Heb. 12:10). We can only do this by being "in subjection unto the Father of spirits" so we may live (Heb. 12:9). We are to be like Jesus: "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; " (Heb. 5:8-9) and we are to learn obedience in the same way.

We cannot do any of this in our own strength, but we can through claiming His "exceeding great and precious promises" by which we may "be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." (2 Pet. 1:4). We do not need to fear for our salvation as long as we submit to God (Heb. 12:9). Instead we can be "confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ."

We can "stand against the wiles of the devil" (Eph. 6:11) by putting "on the whole armour of God", which consists of:

  • The belt of truth (Eph. 6:14). Our clothing (the robe of Christ's righteousness, Isaiah 61:10, imputed to us when we repent and turn to God for salvation) must be sustained by our faith in God's truth.
  • The breastplate of righteousness (Eph. 6:14). Our obedience to God will be the result of our trust in His righteousness.
  • Shoes of The gospel of peace (Eph. 6:15). The good news that God wants to make peace with us, will be too good for us to keep to ourselves.
  • The shield of faith (Eph. 6:16). Trust in God's promises will protect us from the devil's lies sent to discourage us, and his attacks on us.
  • The helmet of salvation (Eph. 6:17). Knowing we have God's salvation as a free gift gives us assurance.
  • The sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17). The word of God (the Bible) divides truth from error and separates us from our sin.
  • Praying without ceasing (Eph. 6:18, 1 Thess. 5:17). Faithfulness in prayer is like regular breathing. It keeps us spiritually alive.
It might be helpful for us to remember that God asks us to be "faithful" as well as to have faith. This means more than "full of faith" in the way we usually think of faith. It means, staying with the task God has given us. (See the parable of the faithful and evil servants in Matthew 24:45-51).

It is clear that God expects us to overcome sin in our lives:
  • "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:21)
  • We should not be overcome by sin (2 Peter 2:19-22)
  • We should at the same time never claim to be free from sin: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:8-9)
  • "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1). God wants us not to sin, but He has provided a solution if we do.
  • God gives us the victory over the wicked one (1 John 2:13-17)
  • "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, [even] our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1 John 5:4-5)
  • In Revelation, those that overcome God will "give to eat of the tree of life" (Rev. 2:7). They "will not be hurt of the second death" (Rev. 2:11). They are promised the "hidden manna" and a "white stone" with a new name on it. (Rev. 2:17). They are the ones God will "give power over the nations" (Rev. 2:26) and the are the ones that will "be clothed in white raiment" and God "will not blot out his name out of the book of life" (Rev. 3:5). God will make the overcomers a regular feature of God's temple (Rev. 3:12) and will be given a seat on God's throne (Rev. 3:21).
  • Finally, "He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son." (Rev. 21:7)
However, we need not fear that it is impossible for us to overcome. "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of [our] faith without wavering; (for he [is] faithful that promised;)" (Heb. 10:22-23)

Our desire should be, "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if [there be any] wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psalm 139:23-24) As David, we should pray, "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me [with thy] free spirit. [Then] will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee." (Psalm 51:10-13)

If you are God's child, there is a joy in letting Him lead in your life, not just in removing the more obvious sins, not only in cleaning out the secrets of your life, but also in cleaning up the "little things" that most people don't even consider sin. If you pray for God to show you His will for you life and listen for the still, small voice, God will be happy to communicate with you. I can tell you this from personal experience, one that is ongoing as I write this.

God bless in your lives as you let Him live in you.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Subscribing via email

For those of you who have tried to subscribe to our blog but found no
email subscription option, I've added that to the bottom of the blog
page (in addition to the RSS/Atom subscription option that was already
there). Now, all you need is an email account and you can be notified
when our blog has a new post. When you enter your email address, you
will receive a one-time confirmation email with a link you must click to
activate the email subscription.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


This is the time of year we all think about feeling grateful for what we have. It's hard to get get excited about the same clich├ęd "things we were thankful for" that we talk about every year. Yet, I am grateful for all of those things. Family is very dear to me. I wish I could see all of you, but that just isn't possible this year. Besides travel difficulties (it was near impossible for Warren to make it for his Grandma's funeral), as I write I think of those who wouldn't be there even if I could go. I still have much to be grateful for.

All my girls are growing spiritually. Sara is enjoying recorded prophecy lectures, Abby is singing a lot, and Miriam is learning to pray. I definitely know a lot more about what spirituality is than I did five years ago, when I had no idea how much growing I had to do or how to do it.

I love being here in Selawik. I wish I had pictures of the breath-taking sunsets of this last week and the frost cover on everything. We are slowly becoming closer to the people here. It is such a blessing to be able to devote ourselves to eternal matters.

So I am also thanking God for all of you. I know that there are thank-you notes I have neglected to write for the ways you have helped us last summer. I did not make a list of them as I should have and so I forgot what they are before we got home. So please forgive us if you did not receive a note. It seems our monthly donations are going up, we have received $300 a month for the last two months. We do not have the names of those who are sharing with us, but we wish you to know we are very grateful. It helps so much.

Blessings to you all,

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Passing of a Generation

Nine years ago, my grandfather (on my Dad's side), born in 1903, breathed his last. Today, my grandmother (on my Mom's side), passed to her rest. She had been suffering with bone cancer, so her death was expected in a way. I am glad that I took the time last week to call her and talk with her before it was too late. I'm glad she is no longer suffering. Nevertheless, there is a loss at her passing. One by one, our elders, a source of wisdom we should not neglect, are passing off the scene of life.

We were not meant to suffer death, or loss of loved ones. The sorrow we feel demonstrates that fact. Nevertheless, we look forward to eternal life in heaven, when there will be no more death, pain or suffering.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. [Revelation 21:4]
May we all be ready for that day.


Poem: The Church and the World

A good friend of mine posted this old poem (Circa 1890 or earlier, see note #75) on his blog. I was curious who the author was, and in a Google search found it most often attributed to "Unknown", second most often to Matilda C. Edwards, but also to Winkie Pratney and H Jahnke). While searching for the author, I ran across several variations of the ending, which show interesting differences of how hopeful the future of the church may be.

In any case, I found it spoke to me. Read it and contemplate its message for your life.


The Church and the World

The Church and the World walked far apart
On the changing shore of Time;
The World was singing a giddy song,
And the Church a hymn sublime.
"Come, give me your hand," cried the merry World,
"And walk with me this way;"
But the good Church hid her snowy hands,
And solemnly answered, "Nay;
I will not give you my hand at all,
And I will not walk with you;
Your way is the way of endless death;
Your words are all untrue."

"Nay, walk with me but a little space,"
Said the World with a kindly air;
"The road I walk is a pleasant road,
And the sun shines always there.
Your path is thorny, and rough, and rude,
And mine is broad and plain;
My road is paved with flowers and dews
And yours with tears and pain.
The sky above me is always blue;
No want, no toil, I know;
The sky above you is always dark,
Your lot is a lot of woe.
My path, you see, is a broad, fair one
And my gate is high and wide;
There is room enough for you and for me
To travel side by side."

Half shyly the Church approached the World,
And gave him her hand of snow;
The old World quick grasped it and walked along,
Saying in accents low,
"Your dress is too simple to please my taste;
I will give you pearls to wear,
Rich velvets and silks for your graceful form,
And diamonds to deck your hair."
The Church looked down at her plain white robes
And then at the dazzling World,
And blushed as she saw his handsome lip
With a smile contemptuous curled.
"I will change my dress for a costlier one,"
Said the Church with a smile of grace:
Then the pure white garments drifted away,
And the World gave in their place
Beautiful silks and shining satins,
And roses and gems and pearls,
And over her forehead her bright hair fell,
Crisped in a thousand curls.

"Your house is too plain," said the proud old World;
"I'll build you one like mine
Carpets of Brussels, and curtains of lace,
And furniture ever so fine."
So he built her a costly and beautiful house,
Splendid it was to behold;
Her sons and her beautiful daughters dwelt there,
Gleaming in purple and gold;
And fairs and shows in the halls were held,
And the World and his children were there;
And laughter and music and feasts were heard
In the place that was meant for prayer.
She had cushioned pews for the rich and great
To sit in their pomp and pride;
While the poor folk, clad in their shabby suits,
Sat meekly down outside.

The Angel of Mercy flew over the Church,
And whispered, "I know thy sin":
Then the Church looked back with a sigh and longed
To gather her children in;
But some were off a the midnight ball,
And some were off at the play,
And some were drinking in gay saloons,
So she quietly went her way.
Then the sly World gallantly said to her:
"Your children mean no harm,
Merely indulging in innocent sports";
So she leaned on his proffered arm
And smiled and chatted and gathered flowers
As she walked along with the World;
While millions and millions of sorrowing souls
To eternal death were hurled.

"Your preachers are all too old and plain,"
Said the World to the Church with a sneer.
"They frighten my children with dreadful tales,
Which I like not for them to hear.
They talk of brimstone and fire and pain
And the night of an endless death;
They talk of a place which may only be
Mentioned with bated breath.
I will send you some of the better stamp
Brilliant and gay and fast
Who will tell them that people may live as they choose
And go to heaven at last.
The Father is merciful, great, and good,
Tender and true and kind;
Do you think He would take one child to heaven,
And leave the other behind?"
So he filled her house with gay divines
Gifted and great and learned
And the plain old men that preached the cross
Were out of her pulpits turned.

"You give too much to the poor," said the World,
"Far more than you ought to do;
If the poor need shelter and food and clothes,
Why need it trouble you?
Go, take your money and buy rich robes,
And horses and carriages fine,
And pearls and jewels and dainty foods,
And the rarest and costliest wine!
My children, they dote on all such things;
And if you their love would win,
You must do as they do and walk in the ways
That they are walking in."
Then the Church held tightly the strings of her purse
And gracefully lowered her head,
And whispered, "I've given too much away;
I'll do, sir, as you have said."
So the poor were turned from her door in scorn,
And she drew her robes aside
As the windows went weeping on their way,
With all their needs denied.
And the sons of the World and the sons of the Church
Walked closely hand and heart,
And only the Master who knoweth all
Could tell the two apart.

Then the Church sat down at her ease, and said,
"I am rich, and with goods increased;
I have need of nothing, and naught to do
But to laugh and dance and feast."
And the sly World heard her and laughed up his sleeve,
And mockingly said aside:
"The Church is fallen, the beautiful Church,
And her shame is her boast and pride."
The angel drew near to the mercy-seat,
And whispered in sighs her name,
And the saints their anthems of rapture hushed,
And covered their heads in shame.

Then a voice came down through the hush of heaven
From Him who sat on the throne:
"I know thy works, and how thou hast said,
'I am rich,' and hast not known
That thou art naked, and poor, and blind,
And wretched before my face.
Unless thou repent I will cast thee out
And blot thy name from its place.
I counsel thee to buy of me
The gold that will make you rich;
And anoint your eyes with the heavenly salve
To discern your Maker's wish."

Then the awakened Church with deep regret
From her worldly course returned;
She opened her heart to the knock of Christ
As His love in her bosom burned.
And gave her robes and forgave her sins,
And together they sat and supped;
His proffered throne He shared with her
For whom He had suffered much.

O Church of Christ, hear the Spirit's voice
As He calls through the world today.
Would that every church throughout the realm
Would turn from the world away.
The world will be lost in eternal night,
But the penitent saved for aye.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Do you believe? Seize the Day!

What does it mean to believe Jesus is coming again very soon? Many Seventh-day Adventists and other Christians have felt a special urgency because of 9/11 and the changes in the world since then. But does believing that Jesus' return is very soon just mean becoming enthusiastic about the latest signs? I think not.

"The time is short just means the time is now." We are free to simplify our lives. We can downsize instead of supersizing. We can choose not get a bigger house, expand more than ample wardrobes, or upgrade the couch. It seems to me that most of us who are not currently retired will not retire on earth, so why worry about our retirement plan? Is our faith dead or is it alive, active, and moving? We need to spend more time making new friends to come with us and encouraging our current friends and family to be ready.

Maybe you think I am just being critical of those who haven't taken the radical step our family has. But we are still working on simplifying our lives. This week we cleaned out two large boxes of videos and CD's that we no longer feel we need. I must confess I have been dealing with a lust for travel, since my sister offered to help us come visit her in Europe and fulfill our childhood dream of visiting our grandfather's birthplace in Sweden. Recently it has been brought to my mind how strong the feeling that "heaven is better" was expressed by those have seen it in vision. If this world is that dark and dreary compared with heaven and the things God has planned for us, how can I spend that much time planning a visit to part of it?

If we believe, now is not the time to spend most of our precious time and money on the things that will soon be fuel for the fire. I miss opportunities like everyone. I think of Angela who disappeared last summer. I never met her, but we lived in the same village for more than a year. I think of Kenneth who visited last week, but I was too tired to give him the attention I could have. Every day needs to be filled with becoming closer to God and each other. I want to remember that better.

"Everybody I know says they need just one thing, and what they really mean is they need just one thing more". What is your one thing?

Seize the Day!
Verity (quotes are Rich Mullins)

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Where do I belong?

I have been meaning to write for a long time. But homeschool, housework, visiting and quality spiritual time take almost all my day. I have learned to balance all these fairly satisfactorily, but I have very little left for writing. Also, I alternate between feeling burdened by expectations and misunderstandings and feeling that we are making progress. So choosing what to write about is difficult.

On the one hand, we have offended all of church members at one time or another, that has been hard to swallow. But thankfully now they have all forgiven us, which feels very good. Starting a Pathfinder group is one of our goals. But having a plan to get a regular group to attend and develop leadership are issues that have kept us from getting started. It is hard having a church expecting you to lead them when you don't know where they want to go and they don't know how to tell you.

On the other hand, I feel so much better about how our family life is going. I am feeling more prepared for an afternoon of visitors. When we returned from our vacation I really appreciated how much a couple of friends had missed me. Vacation Bible School, led by a group from New York, went well and about sixty attended, including teenagers. Warren has been making more friends (including especially one promising contact) and we are getting to know more people.

I am so grateful for the things that I have been learning these past few months. Homeschool is becoming a joy daily. I am learning to hear my girls better. I am becoming a better wife. I still have all the same struggles, but I hear what I sound like to others better than I used to. Spending more time on the things of God is gradually changing me, but I have a long way to go. As I get closer to God, I see more of all the things I lack. Today I again allowed myself to descend into tangents that had little to do with my family or our mission here. Yet God has brought me back to the tasks I needed to do in time to save the day. A good day requires the same concentration on Jesus for me as walking on water did for Peter. And it is just as exciting when is happens.

Whatever I may feel, I do need to be here for our family and for this village. Choosing to live more simply, we have more time for eternal pursuits. As I look out the window, I am encouraged by the beauty I am surrounded with. The river is calm, even though it is evening, the boats having been pulled up since freeze-up has begun. I am encouraged by the historic church yesterday (for us anyway.) We had a boy and a girl come to our Cradle Roll class just before church, the boy brought by his grandmother. We have never had any other children come, so it was just an impromptu affair we were conducting for Miriam's benefit which has been hit or miss. Praise God, we were ready this week. Now I have a plan and am prepared. Following that very pleasant surprise, we had a full church service, missing one previous member, but adding the boy's grandmother who is becoming regular in attendance.

I may not have miraculous events to remember when I am discouraged. I may wonder if God is blessing our efforts. But I can know if I am following him right now and if I am growing closer to him each day. That is all I need. If I have that, then I am right where I belong.