Monday, December 24, 2012

Grateful for Christmas

Merry Christmas!

I could say a lot about Christmas. A lot of it though, would probably be stuff you've heard countless other times throughout the month. So instead, I'm just going to let the Word and David Crowder say it for me. May your celebration of Jesus' birth be blessed and centered on the One who so greatly loves you.
"But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!' Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God." - Galatians 4:4-6

Sunday, December 23, 2012

who is first?

Day after day I struggle to put Jesus first. "I Am Second" has a 22 day challenge, for those who will take it, to put Jesus first, and self second. Day 1's video is a good reminder of how it is the Love of God that changes a heart - not judgement or condemnation. It also encouraged me to remember that I am not alone in my struggles.

Let us as Christians embrace and love each other. As we focus on Jesus this Christmas season, let it be a time to put HIM FIRST.

Are you second?

Brian Welch: I am Second

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Finding the Merry in un-Married

This next week holds, not only Christmas, but my birthday. Every December 28th I am reminded that I am still single. And yet, this does not cause me shame or fear--and not because I am 'independent', career oriented, too-proud-to-show-it, or too-selfish-to-bothered-with-someone-else-or-take-care-of-kids (attitudes pervasive in our society). No, I lack shame or fear because time and again I have seen God's providential hand work in the lives of those around me--knitting together beautiful romance stories... in His time. I rest because He is so worthy of my trust. 

The attached blog by Mary Kassian gripped me in such real way. It touches the cry I have heard from the aching hearts of so many dear friends--men and women. I share this because Christmas is a season when satan loves to voraciously attack the minds of singles. I know. 

In case you just can't take the time to click on the link below, at least read the following excerpt. These words of Truth are powerful... and comforting.
Marriage, relationships, and boys in general are not rewards handed out to good Christian girls for living in obedience and purity. There is a bigger plan and purpose at work in your singleness. God is not playing games with you. He’s working out His perfect will through your life (Rom. 8:28–29, John 10:10). God is not holding out on you, He is giving you—the daughter He dearly loves—the best thing for right now. You may not understand it—and you may not particularly like it—but you are asked to trust Him. Trust God. He is good, and He gives good gifts to his children! (Ps. 84:11, Matt. 7:11) --Mary Kassian 

KEEP READING--CLICK HERE--> Merry Single-mas

Comfort & Joy!
Karyn Ballmann

Friday, December 21, 2012


the world is supposed to end today.

so, i took the opportunity to do weird, crazy things this morning.

things like math.

after looking at today's date - 12-21-12 - i did some math.

12-21 became 12+21 which equals 33.

crazy, huh?

the craziness continued when i turned to Psalm 33.

noticeably within the date, the next pattern in the numbers appeared ... 1-12.

so i read Psalm 33:1-12

Let the godly sing for joy to the Lord;
    it is fitting for the pure to praise him.
Praise the Lord with melodies on the lyre;
    make music for him on the ten-stringed harp.
Sing a new song of praise to him;
    play skillfully on the harp, and sing with joy.
For the word of the Lord holds true,
    and we can trust everything he does.
He loves whatever is just and good;
    the unfailing love of the Lord fills the earth.
The Lord merely spoke,
    and the heavens were created.
He breathed the word,
    and all the stars were born.
He assigned the sea its boundaries
    and locked the oceans in vast reservoirs.
Let the whole world fear the Lord,
    and let everyone stand in awe of him.
For when he spoke, the world began!
    It appeared at his command.
The Lord frustrates the plans of the nations
    and thwarts all their schemes.
But the Lord’s plans stand firm forever;
    his intentions can never be shaken.
What joy for the nation whose God is the Lord,
    whose people he has chosen as his inheritance.

after that the next pattern emerged from the date ... 12-21.

of course i read verse 12 - 21 then.

What joy for the nation whose God is the Lord,
    whose people he has chosen as his inheritance.
The Lord looks down from heaven
    and sees the whole human race.
From his throne he observes
    all who live on the earth.
He made their hearts,
    so he understands everything they do.
The best-equipped army cannot save a king,
    nor is great strength enough to save a warrior.
Don’t count on your warhorse to give you victory—
    for all its strength, it cannot save you.
But the Lord watches over those who fear him,
    those who rely on his unfailing love.
He rescues them from death
    and keeps them alive in times of famine.
We put our hope in the Lord.
    He is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
    for we trust in his holy name.

then, all that remained was verse 22 - which ought to be our prayer today - whether or not the world ends.
          Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord,
                      for our hope is in you alone.

now, i'm just hoping we have more of these apocalyptic scares because working with numbers isn't something i normally do and this was just too easy today!

(all scripture quotations from the New Living Translation)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

An Ordinary Night

 'Tis the season! I love Christmas, from the snowy fields and trees to the lights on the houses. I love singing old hymns about that precious night and I love being with my family. But most of all, I love being reminded of the great, deep love of the Father in sending His Son to Earth for me, for you.

My favorite Christmas song is “O Holy Night”. It was just an ordinary night for everyone else, from the innkeeper to the shepherds in the field. But this was no ordinary night, it was a holy night, a night divine. This was the night that God HIMSELF would come to His own people in the most humble way possible.

“Mountains would have bowed down. Seas would have roared. Trees would have clapped their hands. But the earth held its breath. As silent as snow falling, He came in. And when no one was looking, in the darkness, He came” (The Jesus Storybook Bible, 176).

Jesus, the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, would choose to come to be born amongst the barn animals. He wouldn't come in shades of purple to signify royalty or trumpets blaring, but He would come in the secret of the night. “How Many Kings” by Downhere depicts this beautifully; take a listen:

This King, Messiah, Savior, was promised in the third chapter of Genesis. It didn't take Adam and Eve long to disobey God. However, the second they did, He promised One would come to redeem them – to buy them back and obey the doors to Eden once again for communion with the Father.

The people of Israel thought He would come as a King. “Though He was Mighty God, He has become a helpless baby. This King hadn't come to be the boss. He had come to be a servant” (The Jesus Storybook Bible, 198). Boy, were they ever wrong! But I think sometimes we forget this humility as well. In Luke 3 it lists the genealogy of Christ: from Joseph, His step-father listed in verse 23, all the way to verse 38, “the son of Enos, the Son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.” Jesus came as a man. He didn't just look like a baby, He was a baby. He came to know our temptations and weaknesses, to know our joy and to know our hurt. It's in that humility that Christ meets us still today. He was and is fully God, but the God who placed the stars in the sky dwelt among us (John 1:14) and He knows.

This Baby, this Man, this King was sent to Earth with a purpose: to buy us back. He came to tear the veil that stood between the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man. It was just an ordinary night, but it was certainly a holy night, a night divine. That night would change the course of history – HIS-story – forever. And the story is not over yet.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Little Things for God

I'll be honest: when I hear about people like Katie Davis, I feel guilty. At 24, she is the mother of 13 orphaned Ugandan children. She has also started a child sponsorship program, a feeding program, and a vocational program for women. She also wrote a book, "Kisses from Katie" and started her own organization, Amazima Ministries International. Ya know, I'm also 24. And my list of life accomplishments isn't nearly that impressive. 

In fact, I live in little Beulah, North Dakota. I'm a wife and a mom (to one). My involvement in youth ministry and church ministry has drastically declined as I now have a little man to care for and a bedtime to meet. I  missed last summer's mission trip to Haiti, and it doesn't look like I'll be going there or to Africa in the near future. I hang out with middle schoolers for a hour or so on Thursday afternoons, but the Bible teaching doesn't come from me. On Sunday mornings I lead a group of elementary kids in singing songs and dancing around like a hippopotamus. No adopted orphans. No starting feeding programs or sponsorship programs. No book to inspire fellow believers. 

By all appearances, I'm not involved in anything "big"; anything "significant".

As Jordan and I wrestled with a difficult decision over the past weeks - a decision that would definitely lead us down the road of something that appeared "big for God", I was reminded of an Adventures in Odyssey episode I heard back in November. It's called "Something Significant" - and if you're lucky, you may be able to go back in the archives and listen to it for free at  If not, all you need to know is that Trent DeWhite found himself in a similar position as myself: wanting to do something big, something significant, for the sake of the Kingdom. After sending him on an Imagination Station adventure, Mr. Whitaker told Trent - 
"I know you want to make a big difference for God, but often times that means doing the little things, whatever we can do - and letting Him decide if they ever become big. More than anything, He should receive the glory. Because anything good that happens, happens ultimately because of Him." 
Doing the little things. Letting God decide what becomes big. I needed that reminder. God calls me to be faithful with what He has entrusted to me. He has placed upon me a different calling than He has Katie Davis. He has gifted me to do certain tasks, to impact certain people. 
"'It is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his ability; and he went on his journey. . . Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents . . . His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.''" - Matthew 25:14-15, 19-21 (emphasis mine)
The question is not "What big things will I do for God?"; the question is, "Will I be faithful in the little things God has called me to do?" May we all be faithful . . . no matter how small and insignificant the tasks seems to be.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

What can I do?

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” ― Abraham Lincoln

Many tragic events have happened in the US over the past few days. Many lives were taken, many lives were shattered, and many hearts all over the nation grieve.Many will draw closer to God in this time, seeking His strength and comfort. But there will be many who will ask “where was God?” and “how could a loving God let this happen?” As posted a few days ago, God is not distant to those who call upon Him. He is near to the broken hearted, to the humble, to His children. He has given a promise in James 4:8: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Purify your hands, you sinners; sanctify your hearts, doubting souls.” How can the US as a nation ask where God was, when in every area He has been shoved out, unwelcome, unwanted. It is a common thought that God should only be around when we think He should. So so so many people need Jesus - in the US, and around the world!

In the Old Testament, it is recorded of how the Israelites turn from God over and over. We see the many accounts of this happening and God wants us to remember them so that we could learn from them. And He wants us to remember what He has done in the past in our lives and generations before us. The US needs revival, there is no doubt about that. But every fire has to start somewhere.

After thinking about how the recent events have broken my heart and how much the US needs to turn back to God, the thought came to my mind of, how am I pointing others around me to the Truth? Am I doing everything I can to keep myself as near to my Shepherd as possible? Am I faithful in my daily time with Him, in my prayer life, and in my relationships with others? God wants to use each of His children in mighty ways – but how can we hear His voice when we are made deaf to it by the world, Satan, and our own self? We must be faithful to draw near to Him, to listen, and to obey!

We can be in our day what the heroes of faith were in their day - but remember at the time they didn't know they were heroes.”  ― A.W. Tozer

O Lord, revive my heart, pull me close to your heart and fill me with your Spirit. Rise up your children to live for You, to stand boldly for You, and to proclaim You, the Truth. Bring the US back to you. Show me how you can use me for Your glory. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Hope and Waiting

Flurries of activity. Flurries of snow. Flurries of cars in traffic, stop and go.

Town is buzzing with excitement. The ski hill opens tomorrow.

A white Christmas is coming.

In the midst of chaotic retail stores, busy families, sweater parties, consumption of cookies and winter sports sliding into their familiar groove; there is more than what meets the eye during this season called Advent.

You might say the tradition of frantic frenzy traces its ancestors to the weeks before Jesus' birth.

We find ourselves in that time, that frame of mind, once again. Looking forward to the arrival of Jesus Christ - God in human flesh - bringing grace and truth, holiness and hope, joy and peace to this crazy world.

This is a time of hopeful anticipation. A time of waiting for Christ to come.

In the book of Lamentations (not your typical, cheery Christmas type text) we see the heart of Advent.

"It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord." 
-Lam. 3:26

I didn't just stumble upon this in my quest for good Advent content. Rather, I was reading an old book - one that smelled of dust, cheap shelving, and senior citizens who went to Seminary before my parents were born.

In this old book, I read some thoughts from George Matheson in response to this portion of lament ...

"Hope is a state of flight; waiting implies repose. Hope is the soul on the wing; waiting is the soul in the nest. Hope is the eagerness of expectancy; waiting is a condition of placid calm." 

I read this a week ago and over the last seven days these words of lament and this statement concerning hope and waiting have stuck with me while contemplating what Advent is meant to be.

Those Latin words which give us so many English words intrigue me. One particularly intriguing word is  adventus which is basically the grandpa word to Advent. It's also grandpa to the word adventure.

Adventure flows through the veins of discipleship. Following Jesus is a process of hope and waiting.

So during this flurried state of snow, retail madness, crazy schedules and family time - consider the fact that Jesus is coming again. We are living in Advent twelve months of the year.

Hope keeps us going, actively pursuing life.

Waiting teaches us to stop, allows us to listen.

Hope and waiting allow us to embark on the adventure of an eternity!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Gazing in Wonder

Back in November I received the Jesus Storybook Bible (by Sally Lloyd-Jones), and have been reading excitedly through it as part of my quiet time with my Abba. This morning I read about the coming of Jesus to earth as a baby in Bethlehem. A phrase kinda jumped out at me. 

"And they(Mary and Joseph) gazed in wonder at God's Great Gift, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger."

I realized as I read this, it's far too easy for me to miss out on the opportunities to gaze in wonder at what God has done, is doing, and will do. Christmas is an excellent time to reflect on who Jesus is, what He came to do, and how He has been at work. To remember 'God's Great Gift' with wonder.

As I've been reading through the Jesus Storybook Bible, I've been drawn in to seeing things as kids do. I've been reminded of how to gaze in wonder at the Story God is writing each day, in my life, and in the whole universe. 

In this wonderful time of the year, may we be blessed with the eyes of children, gazing in wonder at our Savior and His love for us.

Monday, December 10, 2012

God is not Watching from a Distance

I'll admit it: I was getting worried that we were going to have a brown Christmas.  I really like snow - especially at Christmastime. But it seems like I forget how awful it is to drive in during the few short months we are without snow. This past weekend as we traveled to Minneapolis to visit family and attend a concert, I was reminded of how scary it can be to drive on icy, snowy and slick roadways.

After spending nearly an hour in the ditch where I-494 breaks of into I-694 and I-94, the lyrics to the song "From a Distance" played in my head. As they did, I wondered where on earth I had ever even heard that song. My heart also broke for those who believe such a truth as "God is watching us . . . from a distance".

I guarantee you that the Lord's hand was upon our little Ford Focus on Sunday night. He orchestrated events so it turned out that there was no one behind or next to us. He orchestrated events so that the snow was still soft and not hard-packed. He orchestrated events so that no other cars hit us while we waited one hour for a tow truck. I know and believe without a shadow of a doubt that we do NOT serve a God who watches at a distance. We serve a God who is ever-present with us wherever we go.
"But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge. . ." - Psalm 73:28 (emphasis mine) 
"'Do not fear, for I am with you . . .'" - Isaiah 43:5a (emphasis mine) 
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea. . ." - Psalm 46:1-2a (emphasis mine)
What a fantastic, wonderful, blessed promise! What a comfort! Know that whatever heartache, pain, or fear you may find yourself in: you are not alone. God is indeed watching you - but He isn't simply watching. He is right there with you.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Food for the Soul

Can I be real with you today?

I've struggled with an eating disorder in the past. I was really good at hiding it and nobody knew for a long time. I don't know if you've ever experienced not having food in your system, but it's a really strange feeling. Very empty.

In the same way, we can go without spiritual nourishment for a long time and nobody would notice. We know all the things to say, songs to sing, and t-shirts to wear. But it's a strange feeling. Very empty.

Note: Your salvation is not based on how much you read your Bible.

Please understand there is a difference between justification -- how you stand before God in faith, washed in the sacrificial blood of Christ -- and sanctification -- how you stand before man being made into the likeness of Christ. We are speaking in terms of sanctification today.

It is through the Word of God that we get to know God the Father, from His creation of the world to His deep love for us and desire to send us a Savior from the very first moment we were in need of a Savior (Genesis 3:15). It is through the Word of God that we get to know God the Son, from His incredibly humble birth to His death on the tree that should have held each one of us. It is through the Word of God that we get to know God the Holy Spirit, from His coming throughout Scripture to the arrival at Pentecost and now His presence with us and in us today.

"Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by Your name, O LORD, God of hosts." -- Jeremiah 15:16.

Jeremiah speaks of eating the Word here. In the New Testament Paul speaks of feeding the churches he writes to, whether they be new believers in need of spiritual milk or mature believers with solid food. The food is the Word of God.

Friends, we have the Word of God at our fingertips. Many of us have multiple ways to access one throughout the day -- be it my regular one, the smaller one I have in my purse, or even using the Internet. If you're super cool and have a smart phone you have access hiding in your pocket at this very moment. In calling it the "Word of God", that's exactly what it is. These are the words that God, THEE God, the great I AM, spoke. These are His words. He used men throughout history to pen these words, but they were instruments in the process much like a pencil would be an instrument in you writing a letter. These are His words.

I write these words to you today because much like it's easy to fall back into an eating disorder, it's easy to put off my need for spiritual nourishment. It's easy to let my devos slide for the day, or just read a chapter to cross it off the to-do list. But these words bring life!

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." --Matthew 5:6

Are you hungry today? Or are you too empty to feel hunger anymore? I pray that God would give you a hunger and thirst for the true bread of life today.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

That You May Be Filled...

Do you ever feel like your brothers and sisters in Christ just don't have the passion you'd like to see them have? Or, maybe you don't feel like your church has the New Testament like testimony it should in the world?

I have.

My small group just started into the book of Colossians last night. As I read through the first chapter, I was convicted. And I share this with you, not to convict you, but to encourage you, to follow the example of Paul.

Verses 9-12 of Colossians chapter one says; "...we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light."

As I read these verses I was convicted because, when I see things lacking in others, or my church, I rarely take it to prayer. And if I do it's something like; 'God, they need to change, so please do it, according to Your will.' Which isn't bad, but in that, my heart isn't crying out for their wellbeing.

Could we, in an effort to see change in those whom we love as other parts of the body of Christ, pray for those around us, and each other, in this way? I wonder what may change around us in the next month if we partake in heartfelt, uplifting prayer for our brothers and sisters in Christ?

Who's up for giving this a go?

Monday, December 3, 2012

I Like to be Comfortable

I like to be comfortable. Sweatpants and t-shirts are my favorite. Dressing up isn't my thing. I also really enjoy the soft flannel sheets on our bed. It's not uncommon for one of my first thoughts in the morning to be, "Ugh. I'm so comfortable; can't I just stay in here for a little longer?" I prefer to take long car trips in my husband's Ford Focus instead of our Chevy Prism because it is a more comfortable ride. No doubt about it, I like to be comfortable.

I've been thinking a lot more about comfort lately. And not just physical comfort like my attire and bed sheets. Comfort in the spiritual sense; in where my heart is aligned with the will of God. To be honest, I like my life right now. I've finally come to a place where I can say that I enjoy living in Beulah. I absolutely love my husband and our little boy. I am grateful for the friends I have nearby and faraway. I am comfortable.

But lately, I've been struggling with if God wants me to stay that way. I've been wondering if God is getting ready to stretch me out of my comfort zone. And that terrifies me. Completely terrifies me.

Tonight as I set out to tackle a small hill of dishes, I pulled up a sermon from my pastor back home in Sioux Falls, Pastor Kirk Flaa. His message from November 4 was entitled "Jonah the Runner: Running in the Storm" and was about, you guessed it, Jonah. A man that if you would have asked me back in elementary school, I would boldly declare that I would never be like Jonah. (Who really runs from doing something God told them to do?) Unfortunately, as I've grown up, I've realized how like Jonah I tend to be.

I know that in the midst of busy work schedules, looming final exams, kids who seem to need constant attention and meals to cook, it can be difficult to find time to listen to a 30 minute sermon. But if you have time to surf Facebook, read this blog, and pin a couple of craft ideas on Pintrest, you have time to listen to this sermon. Even if you don't, I encourage you to set aside the time:
As I listened to this message, I was challenged with the thought that Jonah was becoming complacent as a prophet of God. He was becoming comfortable where he was; comfortable in his current service to God. And so God calls Jonah to go to the Assyrians, some of the cruelest, most wicked Gentiles out there. He called Jonah to travel 600 miles away from his comfortable, complacent ministry in his comfortable home. What God was calling Jonah to was not an easy task -- it was extremely difficult. The call was not one that Jonah would be able to accomplish in his own strength. It would be one in which he must fall completely dependently into the arms of the Lord, drawing from His strength.

So Jonah did what most of us would probably do: he ran away.

I was challenged tonight to consider if I am running. Sometimes it is so difficult to be certain of God's call - how do we know that He is calling us to such and such a task? But when the call comes and I am certain that the call is from my LORD, am I going to answer as Jonah did? Or am I going to answer in faith - stepping out of my comfortable, complacent life to follow that call, leaning on strength that can come only from Him? I hope to say that I will follow His call . . . but I really like to be comfortable.