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I hear something . . .

July 15, 2010 — 6 Comments

I was recently reading in I and II Kings in my Chronological Bible, and I found myself feeling miserable as king after king “did evil in the sight of the Lord.”  It just seemed so sad as each successor failed to lead the people back to God, and I wondered how God remained so patient with His people.  And then a New Testament-everybody-knows-scripture flashed through my mind.  John 3:16

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Usually this scripture causes me to think about how difficult it must have been for Father to send His precious son, Jesus into this sin-laden earth, knowing what He would face here.  And that He reeeeally must love us to have done so. But this time, I saw something more.  I realized those unfaithful kings who led God’s people to do evil, caused great heartache and pain to their Father.  One generation after another chose false gods instead of the Father who loved them . . . and it grieved His loving parental heart.

I get that!

When my kids make bad choices or simply face struggles I can’t fix, my parental heart hurts in unexplainable ways.  I lose sleep, I don’t focus well, I pray a lot and always, always, always, I find myself wishing it was me instead of them.  In thinking about this I realized … that’s exactly what Father was doing by dispatching Jesus.

By sending Jesus to die on the Cross, He would actually do what I could only wish to do regarding the pain and suffering of my children.  He would take it for them, so they could be free of it.  Finally, Father would be able to help each person  in their sin and weakness!  And He’s still doing it today — helping each one of us in our sin and weakness!

Well, I certainly view John 3:16 from a brand new angle . . .  the angle of a Father who loves us so much He took action to alleviate our pain!  But wait . . . I think I hear something behind the scripture I never heard before.

Listen.  Do you hear it?  It’s the sound of a father’s soothed heart regarding his children’s pain!

I hear a grateful sigh!

Where Have I Been?

June 25, 2010 — 2 Comments

Some who visit my blog may have wondered if I had decided to quit blogging.  My answer would be “no”, I’m still blogging.   Like Macy (my granddaughter) dashing across the sidewalk in this picture, I too, have been dashing around to various important family events in recent weeks.  I thought perhaps I would catch you up on the activities that have kept me away from my blog.

First, my daughter-in-law, Felicity,  graduated from the University of Illinois at Springfield, with a BA in English.  We are so proud of her!  She took classes on-line, while at the same time being an amazing wife, mother of 4 precious children and a gifted teacher at Heartland Christian College.  Here you can read more about her graduation from a really great writer — Felicity’s mom — Kathy Nickerson.

Next we returned to Dan & Felicity’s home where we were thrilled to watch our grandchildren, (Jesse, Claire & Ada) and their mom (Felicity) perform in the musical Psalty Songbook.  Felicity played Charity Churchmouse, and our grandson Jesse was Risky Rat.  It was fabulous!  If you’d like to read more about it you can go here

Then it was time for our next graduation!  Kindergarten!  Ada Jewel graduated this year!  We watched as she did a tremendous job reciting a very long scripture passage,and ALL the  States and their Capitals.  Then she finished the night by telling us all what she’d like to be when she grows up — a doctor!  Oh . . . and of course, she received her diploma!  We are so proud of her!

Then it was time for a very special event — our annual golf outing with our sons, Dan and Drew.

Oops!  You caught Don & I exchanging a little moment while on the golf course 🙂  (I like this guy .  . . A LOT!)

Oh, there they are!  My 3 golfing buddies (Don (center), Dan (left) and Drew (right)!  Actually, I don’t golf.  I just ride along in the cart and have a great time with them!  Oh . . . and I chipped a ball into the cup on my first try! Yay!

Just a couple more little pictures of some little people who (happily) have also occupied some of my time lately. . .

This is Rhythm                                                    And this is Luke

Well, I won’t add any more pictures and drag this out — mainly because I don’t have pictures of all the other things we did.  A short run-down would include, a trip to Pittsburg, KS, an anniversary trip to Kansas City, where we were able to spend time with special friends we hadn’t seen in a very long time, came home and hosted a pastor’s gathering at our church, took a trip to Casper, WY with some ladies from our church, and last, but by no means least, attended my nieces’ Dance Recital right here in town.  Their final dance for the evening was River Dance and it was a take-your-breath-away, give-me-goosebumps, and make-me-cry, kind of dance!  If I had pictures it still wouldn’t do it justice!  Totally amazing!!

Thanks to all of you for who stopped by and allowed me to catch you up a bit!

Once a month my husband and I attend a very unique meeting.  We gather locally with eight other people from our church and we assemble around a computer screen, where we  “meet” with friends from ten other churches in our Family of Churches.  Sometimes we can see only the primary leader on the screen, yet we know his room is filled with people we love.  These moments cause my heart to feel connected — as if we’ve gathered in a cyberspace room to discuss our purpose and destiny for the Kingdom of God.

Last week, with my eyes peering at the screen, an axiom came to mind.  We say it frequently among our churches:  “Success is successors.”  In that moment, as I looked down the table where our group was physically gathered, and then at the screen where others were gathered, it hit me!  Success was right there “behind the screens”.  Young people meeting together with those older, to learn and apply the truths being taught by experienced men and women of God.

These were the successors!

Like a relay race, some are approaching the hand-off, although not quite ready to grab on fully, some are grabbing on and taking their first few steps holding the baton alone, and some are still needing to run some distance before they begin to reach for the baton.  Perhaps some of them fail to see themselves as successors, however, the destiny God has set before them calls them such.

In I Chronicles 28:8, David is “passing the baton” to his son Solomon and he states, ” Be careful to obey all the commands of the Lord your God, so that you may continue to possess this good land and leave it to your children as a permanent inheritance.” To me, this demonstrates the success of having successors.

Don’t we all long to have Him call us successful?  To hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant,  enter into the joy of your rest.  The joy of my rest would be, like David,  to know the seeds of the Kingdom were planted, rooted and moving forward through those I will leave behind. I know this is true for all the primary leaders who are a part of this meeting.

This is at the core of our lives!

My Little Sis

March 23, 2010 — 3 Comments

I was 6 years old when my adorable baby sister, Jeanne, came into my life.  I’m pretty sure I felt envious of all the delight everyone found in her, although I am unable to recollect the feeling of jealousy.  What I do remember is teasing her “unmercifully” when she was old enough to scream her head off about it.  Somehow, finding ways to get a scream out of her seemed to satisfy some feeling inside my heart!  Hmmmm, could it have been jealousy?

Every summer our family would drive a total of 3 long miles out-of-town to my mother’s vacant childhood home, which we affectionately called, “The Farm”.  We would pack for a two-week stay at The Farm, but in reality we all knew we would end up spending our entire summer there.  (I could write a whole book about The Farm & our childhood memories there, but I’ll save that for another day).

An outhouse, kerosene lamps, a pump rather than running water, an old-fashioned ice box for a refrigerator, and wood stove for cooking, were a normal way of life out there.  Imagine how fun it was to lock the door of the outhouse on my little sister and leave her in there (with the daddy-long-leg spiders), screaming at the top of her lungs, or enticing her into the tree house, only to climb down and remove the ladder so she was stuck up there.  I know what you’re thinking . . . I was pretty mean . . . I agree.

A long time ago I repented to her and she forgave me — and I’m really glad, because today she’s one of my very best friends.  Over the years, she lived in our home on two different occasions, she was with me when I gave birth to my youngest son, she stayed with our two young children the day I was flown to Denver to deliver our twins, and she’s been a loving aunt and friend to all my children.  We’ve laughed together until tears have run down our cheeks, we’ve worshiped and prayed together,  taught school together, spent holidays together, cried together over my brother’s death, a broken engagement and our pre-mature baby and grandbaby going to heaven, and we’ve held each other as we said good-bye to our dad and mom, respectively, before they left us to live in heaven.

She waited for (what seemed like a long time) for her prince to come into her life and sweep her off her feet, and then they had three beautiful children who have called me Aunt Ree ever since the first one started talking.  Jeanne is a fun and loving wife and mother, a creative and wise teacher, a godly role-model to her children and students, and a loyal and caring sister to me.   This year Jeanne, and her terrific husband, Dan, celebrated their 21st year of marriage.  Someone asked their son Jared, what he thought about his mom and dad being married for 21 years and he said, “Fun!  They have fun together!”

So you see, all my teasing when she was little, paid off . . . instead of screaming, she learned to laugh and have fun!    Happy 21st Anniversary Dan & Jeanne!

Reading an older post by Donald Miller, regarding rituals he states:

Most mornings I make my bed after I get up: I do this because it gives the day a feeling of organization as I start, but it is also a ritual. I make sure there is nothing on the floor in my room, and all the clothes are folded. While it may seem silly, I’ve been able to turn this ritual into a way to honor God. Bill Hybles says that excellence honors God. Making my bed is a way for me, as an adult, to honor my Father as the keeper and provider of my home. It’s not a right or wrong thing, just a ritual that I keep. And it’s a great way to start the day.”

I love the whole concept of excellence and honoring God.  So I read this to my husband, Don, who had recently attended a city-wide pastors meeting hosting a presentation by Bill Hybles via video.  In the meeting, Don said Hybles stated that excellence honors God, however he also talked about how excellence can be a hindrance to our creativity.  I understood Hybles’ statement immediately!  I live in it all the time.

In teaching my students the writing process, I have discovered some of them shut down in the creativity department once the rules of grammar are added into the equation.  One of my friends who is a beautiful dancer, struggles with “letting go” and dancing freely in worship as opposed to feeling restricted to a beautifully choreographed dance.  I personally experience the tension between excellence and creativity when it comes to writing.  I wrestle with writing well and communicating correctly or simply writing more directly and “telling it like it is”.  My desire to do it right sometimes feels like it restricts the flow of creativity in my heart.

I agree with the concept that excellence honors God and I agree that excellence sometimes hinders our creativity.   I guess I am struggling with what to do about the tension between these two concepts.  Any suggestions?

Does anyone else struggle with this?  I would greatly appreciate any feedback you can give me!

Our daughter Stephanie loves British movies, British novels, British accents and has always desired to visit England.  So, when we realized our trip to the UK would be on the date of her 30th birthday, we decided our gift to her would be to join us in England for a week.

We arrived a week before her, and she joined us in time for the European Leaders Conference being held in Oxford.  After the conference we traveled to Basingstoke, where we all stayed with John & Marilyn, a lovely older couple, whose love story melted our hearts!  We dined at our friends Dave & Chris’s home each night, and went sight-seeing during the day.

Places we saw included Winchester Cathedral, Christ’s Church in Oxford, the home of Jane Austen where she resided in the latter part of her life, and the city of London with its ornate architecture and enduring political history.  Upon our arrival in London, we stood under the London Eye, and as we looked across at Big Ben, I heard Stephanie say, “I’m really in London.”

Here are a few pictures of our group enjoying the sights.  It was a pretty cold day, but we remained undaunted!

Hannah Couzens, Stephanie, Dave Richards, me and Chris Richards inside Winchester Cathedral

Pat Forbes, my hubby, Don & Dave Richards -- with Big Ben in the background!

Kristen Forbes & Stephanie. Notice the horse's interest in Steph -- he's looking for food.

In front of Buckingham Palace!

The windows in this structure are actually apartments where people live.

The London Eye! That thing is HUGE! You can see all over London from inside it and it takes an hour to go completely around. Since we were packing a lot into our day we didn't take the time to ride it.

As you can see — we really were in London!

Benchmark Day!

March 5, 2010 — 6 Comments

Waking in the pre-dawn hours with excruciating contractions I knew I was in trouble.  Knowing our twins due date was almost 11 weeks away fear shot through me as another rugged contraction came and went.  It was March 5, 1982, and was also my husband, Don’s 31st birthday.  This day would become a benchmark day in the chronicle of our life.

After being flown by air ambulance to Denver, CO, our twins were born in the mid-afternoon.  Luke David had gone to heaven while still within me, Paul Donald cried as he was delivered, and the whole medical team cheered as they heard his tiny cries!  He came out fighting for his life, and the battle raged for many weeks to follow.

As the day unfolded, we said good-bye to Luke while  at the same time welcoming our son Paul into our lives.  I remember thinking Don’s birthday would always be marred by both sadness and happiness.   Somewhere in the struggle for Paul’s life, the truth began to infiltrate my heart, that neither Paul nor Luke were ours.  They were designed and created by their loving heavenly Father and were entrusted to us for whatever length of time He deemed necessary.  Although, I wouldn’t be able to know Luke here in this life, there came a confidence — a knowing — there would come a day when I would be with him in heaven, and I would be able to wrap my arms around him and know him for who he is.  Though difficult to embrace, this truth helped me come to the place where I could release Luke and find peace.

Looking back from where we stand today, each birthday has been filled with gratitude to God for Paul’s life, for seeing him healthy and whole (even though his prognosis had not originally been such), and for the fun it has been to have celebrated father and son birthdays for 28 years!

Here on planet earth, Don and Paul celebrate the years of their lives on their joint-birthday.  And . . . I like to think that Father God and Luke David are celebrating the incredible, joy-filled life they live together in heaven!  For everyone, it’s a day to rejoice!

Don & I at the European Leadership Conference last month. Happy Birthday Don!

Paul, with his beautiful wife Revonna and their son Luke (we love that they named their son after his twin brother), and their little girl Rhythm.