Tuesday, June 25, 2013

In the Midst of the Whirlwind

2200 miles. Fourteen days. Thirteen nights. One Annual Conference. Two family reunions. One of my best friend's (aka brother's) wedding. It was a crazy - but blessed - two weeks. We stayed in the same location no more than four days before traveling to a new one. We went from North Dakota to Minnesota to Wisconsin and to Minnesota to Wisconsin and back to North Dakota. We saw extended family on both sides. I played ultimate frisbee for the first time in probably four years and felt the effects for days. I cried as I saw the love in my brother's eyes for his beautiful bride. My son touched his grandpa's bald head for the first time and increased his fascination with mowers.

It's been a crazy whirlwind of two weeks for this Langness family.

And now we're home. I'm on my third load of laundry since yesterday evening with hopefully only one more to go. I've got a front flower bed that needs weeding. Somewhere in my vegetable garden are watermelons; I just can't tell because of the plethora of weeds in that corner. I've got groceries to get and a few errands to run. The in-laws are coming on Thursday. Zeke has a doctor's appointment in Bismarck on Thursday morning. We've got a wedding reception on Saturday evening. Jordan leaves for the FLY convention on Sunday. And then there's the every day stuff of simply enjoying life with my toddler and husband, making sure that toddler doesn't dive headfirst into his new pool, cooking, washing dishes, cleaning the bathrooms, and all the other joys of routine life.

Coming home has been a whirlwind too.

As I was making a to-do list last night, I felt overwhelmed with all that I needed to do, that I should get done in just a few short days. But this morning I was given a gift. The gift of sleeping in for all three of us -- including my ever-active one-year-old. Because of that, I was given much needed rest and time. Time in the Word. Time with my Lord. Time to simply stop, sip my coffee, read the Word and be refreshed.

During that time, I was reminded of the importance of stopping. Of resting. Of putting to the to-do list literally out of sight and praying that it will be out of mind as I spend time with my Savior. And I was also struck by how Jesus Himself took that time to be with His Abba - even in the midst of a larger to-do list than mine.
"And immediately after they came out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon's mother-in-law was lying sick with a fever; and immediately they spoke to Jesus about her. And He came to her and raised her up, taking her by the hand, and the fever left her, and she waited on them.  
When evening came, after the sun had set, they began bringing to him all who were ill and those who were demon-possessed. And the whole city had gathered at the door. And He healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He was not permitting the demons to speak, because they knew who He was. In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there. Simon and his companions searched for Him; the found Him and said to Him, 'Everyone is looking for you.' He said to them, 'Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.' And He went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out demons
And a leper came to Jesus . . . " - Mark 1:29-40a, NASB, emphasis mine
The work - the to-do list - never ended for Jesus. Always He was needed. Always He was wanted. And yet He never complained. He served and loved because that is what He came to do. He spent time with His Father -- setting an example for us to follow in.

I only wish setting aside the long lists and being able to truly focus on the Word and on Christ was as easy everyday as it was today. But I guess that's what this whole learning to "set your minds" (Colossians 3:2) is all about.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Come and See

While reading from the first few chapters of John last week, a phrase stuck out to me. 

"Come and see." 

Jesus called people to come and see, and their lives became forever different when they followed and had their eyes opened. The disciples used the same phrase. And people again, were forever different. 

Am I, are we, calling out 'come and see' to those in our lives?

And if we are, to what end?

If I'm calling "Come and see this neat church I go to." … I'm not going to see lives become forever different. 

If instead I call out, "Come and see this man Jesus, who has forever changed my life. Walk with me in life and I'll introduce you to Him…" Then lives will become forever different as they come and see Jesus.

This is discipleship, "Come and See."

Monday, June 17, 2013

Serving by Grace

Remember that lesson I was learning about servant hood and that servant heart? I've found myself in situations this week yet again where that has been tested. Where my desire to have a servant heart has been challenged. Where I've learned even more about how selfish I am and how much work my heart needs. 

And you know what else I have learned this week about being a servant? 

It's not something I can do on my own. Not on my own strength. Not by my own will. Not by my own power. 

Only through Christ can I serve when I am exhausted and crabby. Only through Christ can I love as He has called us to love. Only through Christ can I have the grace to respond as He would respond. 
"I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." - Philippians 4:13, NASB (emphasis mine)
So not only have I been praying to be a servant; but I've been praying for the grace to be a servant. When those trying moments come, when I am crabby, when I am simply exhausted -- I've started asking the Lord to give me grace. Grace to show to others so that I can be a servant. 

Praise God we don't have to do this stuff on our own!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Make Me a Servant

Alright. I have a very anti-Christian-sounding confession to make. But don't write me off or let this statement keep you from reading this in full:
Sometimes, I really don't like praying. 
Not the actual act of praying, the whole talking to my Father, sharing my heart with Him stuff. I'm fine with that. But I don't like praying for change . . . specifically, change in me. It's like that whole concept of  "Don't pray for patience, otherwise the Lord will give you more opportunities to practice patience." I had one of those experiences this past week. Except I prayed for a servant heart. And man, was I ever tested.

It all started when I decided to start reading through the book of Mark. I began to notice how often Jesus mentioned servant hood and how often He Himself was a servant (1 Peter 2:21). And because He has left us an example to follow, I knew I needed to become a servant as well. That I needed to become less selfish as mother and as a wife. That I needed to exemplify love as Paul describes it in that all-too familiar chapter that we don't even really get it anymore - 1 Corinthians 13. That I needed to put the needs of those in our church family and our community above my own. So my prayer became that of the old song -
"Make me a servant, humble and meek. Lord, let me lift up those who are weak. And may the prayer of my heart always be, make me a servant. Make me a servant . . . today." 
After only a few mornings of praying this prayer, the opportunities seemed to abound for me to be a servant. And they weren't opportunities that came from a far-off place or would send me out of my comfort zone. They were in my own home.

They were opportunities with a toddler who suffered from a 102.2 fever and just wanted to cuddle for nearly two days. They were opportunities with that same toddler who, after the fever broke and he seemed to be himself, didn't want to take naps in his crib and would only sleep while being held. They were opportunities with my husband, who can't read my mind after only (almost) four years of marriage. They were opportunities to make a meal for a VBS team even when I felt like we had so much to get ready for our trip. They were opportunities to open our home to new friends even when I felt so tired at the end of the day.

Here's my other confession: after a couple of days of constant opportunities to be a servant, I stopped praying that prayer. I was exhausted.

But ya know what? I should start praying that prayer again. Because Jesus was a servant even in death. I guess this time though, I'll try not to be as surprised at the constant opportunities to serve.
"'You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.'" - Mark 10:42-45, NASB (emphasis mine)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Slowing Down

"I only see it because I'm looking..."

I've been reading 1,000 Gifts this week, and it is slowly changing my heart. What does it look like to slow down and be thankful for the time you're in at the present? What does it mean to live as Jim Elliot once said, "wherever you are, be all there."

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Last week I told a Ugandan woman that she is blessed to live here. Her eyes shot open in surprise, "Me? Blessed? But you are from America. You are blessed." There is such beauty here. The stars shine just a little bit brighter, the red dirt roads are vibrant with color bursting all around. Lake Victoria and the Nile River are a stone's throw away. The sun almost always shines. And yet, in comparison to the abundance that we have in America, many are blind to the beauty that is right before them.

It is hard to slow down. It is difficult to just breathe and be thankful sometimes. But it's in that thankfulness, that stillness, that I find God.

I think David must have understood this well. So many of the Psalms start with a praise of thanks to the Lord. "Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's." (Psalm 103:1-5)

When I was young, I went through the Psalms and circled every time it said "bless" or "praise". I wish I had that Bible with me as I can't recall how many thousands of words were circled, but the pages were filled with ink. I want my life to be like that. To be filled with praise.

In 1,000 Gifts, the author takes time to notice the little blessings in life, things as minute as a ray of sunshine hitting the suds of bubbles to make a rainbow. She repeats the phrase, "I only see it because I'm looking." I think of how often I don't see the beauty before me, the thousands of ways I can praise the Lord each minute, because I'm not looking. Because, honestly, I don't have time to just look. I'm too busy focusing on getting from here to there that I forget to stop and smell the flowers (which, if you know me at all, isn't entirely true in the literal sense...I like flowers!) But what would life look like if we made time for praise, if we scheduled in times of thankfulness. That doesn't need to be saved for the dinner table surrounding the turkey in November, it is a state of mind, of heart, that can change a life.

It's in this quietness that I can obey the Word of the Lord when He said, "Be still, and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10)

Monday, June 3, 2013

Out of the Drought

The sound of rain hitting the rooftops or windows used to be one of my favorite sounds. Used to be is key in that statement. Those of you in the Beulah area know how endless the rain has seemed to be over the last couple of weeks. For those of you outside the area, I'll simply say that in the past two weeks we have broken the previous record for spring rainfall. So, on those rare occasions, those brief days when the clouds vanish and the sun shines, Ezekiel and I spend every possible minute outside. On Saturday, after nearly two days of non-stop rain, we were strolling around the neighborhood after our morning walk. It was glorious: white fluffy clouds (not rain-producing ones), beautiful blue sky, and warm sunshine. As we passed one house, I noticed a lady outside watering her flowers. I shook my head, thinking how ridiculous that was given all the rain we'd had. But after a moment, her actions made me think.

There are times when I feel saturated in the Word of God. Times at camps, retreats, conferences, where I feel so refreshed, so renewed, so solid and so strong in my faith. Those time are wonderful. I love that feeling.

But let's be honest: those feelings never last. I enter times of drought. Times when Scripture seems so dry, where I feel like I've heard it all, where I seem . . . stuck. Those times aren't so wonderful; and unfortunately, they seem to happen more often than I'd like. I don't like these feelings.

So when I saw that lady out watering her flowers, I thought about how I need continual nourishment. Daily waterings. Those "spiritual highs" aren't enough to sustain me and won't get me through the times of drought. What will get me through those times of drought is Him. Jesus. The Word. My Savior.

Thankfully my salvation is not dependent upon on how I feel about my current spiritual state. It's all Him; it's all His grace. But drawing near to Him is not going to happen on its own. As a checklist person, I'd like a list to follow; "Do a-b-c, and then you will feel closer to God today," - but it doesn't work like that.

So what am I going to do? I guess I'll start praying - pray for a new heart, a new spirit, a renewed joy (Psalm 51:10-12). And seek Him. Seek Him diligently (2 Chronicles 16:11). Intentionally set aside that time (even if it's on the toilet) to plunge into His Word for those few precious moments alone (because as a mom, sometimes those are my only moments alone!). Use that four mile walk to commune with Him (Mark 1:35). And looking back at that, it sure looks like an "a-b-c" list. But I hope and pray Jesus never becomes someone I simply check off on my to-do list
"Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." - James 4:8, NASB

Sunday, June 2, 2013


God is not a man,
so He does not lie.

He is not human, so He
does not change His mind. 

Has He ever spoken
and failed to act?

Has He ever promised
and not carried it through? 

(Numbers 23:19)