Acts of Love

On Motivation and Encouragement

In-Laws, Illness, and Insight April 14, 2012

Filed under: faith,Family,Serving,Uncategorized — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 3:18 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Hoping that you all had a wonderful and blessed Easter!

My in-laws joined us for the week of Easter. Their presence in our home is always a blessing. They live about 14 hours away, so my children eagerly look forward to their visits. Both my mother and father in-law have been blessed with the gift of generosity–and not just a regular generosity: but a this-can-only-come-from-faith kind of generosity.

My mother-in-law in particular is an inspirational woman of faith. She spent the first half of her life in a small village in South Korea. She met and married my father-in-law while he was stationed there during his time in the military. The whole family moved back to the States when my husband was about five.

The Korean culture is very much a part of our family because of the influences of my mother in-law. She jokes that my father in-law is in fact a asian man in a white man’s body. We had a wonderful dinner together at the Wu-Jung, the best Korean restaurant in our area. As is common with most fantastic restaurants; it is an unassuming  little place that would never catch your attention from the outside. People wait for hours during the dinner rush, and there is always a constant stream of people picking up takeout We decided to go there for lunch. Once inside we removed our shoes and took out seats on the floor. My mother in-law proceeded to order an array of savory dishes which we enjoyed at a leisurely pace. I love this style of dinning for my kids because when sitting on the floor kids can engage in their normal fidgeting and moving about without being disruptive. Makayla also got several lessons in cooking from her Halmoni  (grandmother). Theirs is a special relationship. She is extremely patient when teaching the kids.

Unfortunately, my husband was abed for most of his parents visit. Henry woke up one morning with partial facial paralysis and extreme vertigo. The doctor diagnosed him with Bell’s Palsy and a virus. All the information we got from doctors over the week was conflicting and rather ambiguous. My husband has been speaking out a full healing for himself. He refuses to believe the lie that he is sick. It has blessed me so much to see his faith during this time. Rather than beg God for a healing, we are trusting that it was already accomplished on the cross, and that Henry’s healing is forthcoming. I know that this is going to help Henry, and those around him, to have a powerful revelation of God’s healing power.

If you are sick, or someone in your life is dealing with illness, here are some scriptures you can speak out:

* Psalm 107:20 “He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.” (Jesus is the Word!)

* Mark 11:22-24 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered.  “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Use your words carefully! Do not speak discouragement, speak healing and healthy. Do not cut one another down, but speak love and encouragement)

* Isaiah 53:5 “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,  And by His stripes we are healed.” (Write this verse on your heart! Christ died for our sins and our healing)

* Mark 11:24 “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” (Believe!)

While sitting in church this past Easter morning I kept thinking of the following line from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol; “Marley was dead to begin with…The mention of Marley’s funeral brings me back to the point I started from. There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.”

The same is true of Jesus’ death and resurrection. We must pray for a full revelation of the Easter story, because unless it is distinctly understood, nothing else matters–not the tithing, not the bible study, not the fellowship, not the service, nothing. Nothing wonderful can come of the story unless we understand that Jesus was dead, and that He rose, because the same power resides in us through the Holy Spirit. All healing and salvation was accomplished on the cross–this is the God’s wonderous story, and it is the foundation of the insight and revelation He longs to give us.

Be blessed,

 

Stephanie

 

The Fickle Season Of Lions and Lambs April 1, 2012

Filed under: faith,Family,Serving,Teaching and Learning,Uncategorized — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 6:40 pm
Tags: , ,

Here in New Hampshire we have ended the fickle month of March, which as the old adage goes; comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. The uncertain nature of this season can leave us all wary, because we are not sure if the lion has in fact left and if the lamb is here to stay. The beastly winter storms give way to the gentle lamb of green sprouts and warm rains, but any old fashion New Englander knows that the lion can return, unexpected and with a vengeance.Many of us refuse to put away our winter clothes, knowing we made need them at any  moment. While at the local garden center this week I joked with an older woman over the pansies that we may be acting on an overly optimistic impulse  with our flower purchases. The mothers pushing babies at the park declared that

“We should enjoy this warm weather now–because it could very well be snowing next week.’

We all nodded in agreement, because this warm weather could be snatched away at any minute.

Observing all this has made me think how this fickle season is so unlike the kingdom of God. Unlike March in all its unpredictability, the Kingdom of God unshakable and unchanging. His character is eternal, His promises are not fleeting, and once we abide in that kingdom, nothing can snatch it away. There is a sharp contrast between God’s kingdom and the world we live in: and the weather is not the only thing that is given to unpredictability. This past week the lottery jackpot was upwards of a half a billion dollars. People bought tickets with the fantasy that they could become a millionaire overnight (myself included). How like the American dream; our national ethos that by simply being born here we are guaranteed entry into the middle and upper class. We believe that we have the right to prosperity and success; without necessarily having to work for it. We have all been sold this bill of goods; this idea that riches will bring us happiness, this idea that our self-worth is inherent on college degrees, car titles, and paychecks. This American dream was a roaring lion in the 1990’s with the technology boom. But, what do we see happening now? People are realizing that this dream is not consistent, it is not stable, and it is given to erratic changeableness. Our riches can be gone in a second; snatched away by bad investments and failed businesses. What was once a roaring lion is now a meek and humble lamb.

Please do not misunderstand me here: I love my country. I thank God that I live in a place where I am not subject to abuse and oppression, where I am free to share my faith with others and to worship openly. I also know that simply because I am an American, and because I have a home and a car and food in my kitchen, I am in fact among the world’s wealthy elite. I am rich, and not just in a spiritual sense, and if you are reading this so are you. However, I know that many  have fallen victim to this American dream. They invested in the world’s economy and were left disappointed. We are called to be good stewards of what we have, and I would be lying if I said I never prayed to God about my husbands work life. I pray about Henry’s work life all the time, I pray that God would bless him with sales and opportunity. I do however know that our true investments are in God’s kingdom.

Because we are blessed to be a blessing (Genesis 12: 1-3)

We sometimes confuse our ‘blessings’ with the materials things that are given to us. Blessings are way more than money and belongings. Blessings are the capacity to know God. There is so much in my life that allows me to have a relationship with the Lord. I am blessed that I have time to spend in fellowship with other believers. I am blessed that I am educated enough to read God’s word and study it. I am blessed that my husband earns enough money so that I might stay home with our children and be actively involved with ministry.

I will say it again: we are blessed to be a blessing.

All that God gives us we can use to bless others, that is helping them to know God better. If you invest your time and energy in God’s kingdom, you will not be left bankrupt. If you plug into the Jesus dream, rather than the American dream, you will certainly not be left disappointed. If we get too caught up in the American dream we are in danger of becoming  that camel trying in vain  to squeeze its enormous hump through the eye of a needle (Matthew 19:24).We can become bogged down with the never-ending desire for ‘things’. Once we get the shiny new ‘thing’ we desire, we cross it off the list and move onto the next ‘thing’. This desire can become insatiable and distracting. We will never be satisfied if we desire materials things. However, if we seek after the kingdom dream, we find ourselves thirsting and longing for Jesus. This is a healthy desire!

There does not have to be any fear or hesitation when investing your time and blessings in God’s economy. You don’t have to feel like the gardener who is worried that by planting her garden, the frost may come and destroy her work. No, God promises us that we will bear fruit.

6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:

 to loose the chains of injustice  

  and untie the cords of the yoke,

 to set the oppressed free

and break every yoke?

 7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry

 and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter

 when you see the naked, to clothe them,   

and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

 8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,  

 and your healing will quickly appear;

then your righteousness will go before you,  

  and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

 9Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;   

you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,   

 with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

 10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry   

and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,

then your light will rise in the darkness,   

 and your night will become like the noonday.

11 The LORD will guide you always;   

he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land   

 and will strengthen your frame.

 You will be like a well-watered garden,

   like a spring whose waters never fail.

 12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins   

and will raise up the age-old foundations;

you will be called repairer of Broken Walls,   

 Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” Isaiah 58

This is perhaps one of my favorite verses. When I feel tired and worn out I remember that God promises strength to those living their lives according to His will. He promises that we will be a beautiful thriving garden watered by His very spirit.

There are lions and lambs in our world. There are roaring beasts that can consume us. There are also quiet lambs that can secretly creep into our lives and cause us to misstep. In the kingdom of God however, the lion and the lamb are one in the same.

“Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Heir to David’s throne, has won the victory.” Revelation 5:5

“Worthy us the Lamb who was slaughtered–

To receive power and riches

and wisdom and strength

and honor and glory and blessings.” Revelations  5:12

We live in an ever-changing world. The seasons here in New England are unpredictable and erratic. Everything seems subject to change and even disposable. What is hot and trendy today is forgotten tomorrow. We change our hair, our homes, our friends, our spouses, and our politics. amidst this whirlwind of erratic change however, there is one place we have a guarantee of return on our investment, a promise of thriving spring,  and that place is God’s kingdom, because there is no difference between the lion and the lamb and there are no fickle seasons. His promises are eternal and His character is steadfast. His love for us is unending and His dreams for us will not leave us disappointed.

“For I am the Lord; I do not change.” Malachi 3: 6

 

Grace Defined March 6, 2012

Filed under: Serving,Teaching and Learning,Uncategorized — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 12:15 am
Tags: , ,

Lent Day 13

Grace, a noun

* beauty of form or movement

* a sense of what is right

* a short prayer of thanksgiving before a meal

* a delayed allowance as a favor

* mercy

Grace, in the Christian context is defined as the unmerited mercy that God gave to mankind by sending His Son to die on a cross and give us eternal salvation.

Synonyms: elegance, poise, ease, pardon, charity, forgiveness, benevolence, prayer, generosity, respect, esteem, enrich, glorify, and elevate.

Antonyms: disfavor, ugliness, tactless, ill-will, spoil, insult.

one can fall from grace, have grace, extend grace, and be in good or bad graces with another person.

Grace is related to three greek words:

1) Charis: the state of kindness and favor, often with the focus on benefiting another.

2) Charisma: gracious gift

3) Chairo: to rejoice, be glad, and delight

The Hebrew word for grace is Chen, which is defined as favor, charm, and the moral quality of kindness.

Grace and Mercy are two parallel aspects of God’s character: Grace is getting the good that we do not deserve, and Mercy is not getting the bad we do deserve. Grace is God’s favor, that which God does for the benefit of His people. It is something we can never earn through works; it is totally free.

Grace conquers sin

It is a way of life

It is sufficient

It lightens our burden

It is beyond our understanding

Grace heals

Grace forgives

It is the opposite of ego

It helps us to accept

It fills our hearts

It sustains us

It allows God to see us for our best, and not for our worst

It allows us to love and be loved

It fills our churches, our homes, and our lives

It is glory with no beginning and no end

It is eternal

It is assurance and peace

It is hope and light

It is all around us

Grace is Amazing.

 

“Amazing Grace 

how sweet the sound 

that sav’d a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found

was blind but now I see”

~ John Newton

 

 

 

The End of a Nonsuch Winter March 4, 2012

Filed under: Books,Teaching and Learning,Uncategorized — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 4:36 am
Tags: ,

 

 

 

Henry the VIII built Nonsuch Palace in 1538. He named the palace ‘nonsuch’ because it was the grandest building project of his reign, and no other castle like it existed in the world. The Swiss Family Robinson built a fictional  Nonsuch Bridge to cross a swamp when they were shipwrecked on an Island off of New Zealand. Here in New Hampshire, we have had a Nonsuch winter, that is, a winter marked by little snow and warm temperatures. The girls and I were playing outside, at the park, in February. Unless you are a hearty New Englander yourself, this may not see so amazing to you. Normal winters here are characterized by 6 long months of interminable snow; but this has been a Nonsuch winter.

Some people are up in arms about global warming and other nonsense, and quite frankly if this is global warming I am all for it. I know that the seasons are constant and reliable, and this nonsuch winter is not the harbinger of eternal summer and desert wastelands, it is just an unusally warm winter. As this nonsuch winter comes to an end, I find myself imbued with a sense of balance and consistency. On order to be balanced, I think it is important to pay equal attention to Words, Deeds, and Prayer. When one is missing or lacking, you suddenly become unbalanced and uncertain.

Words and powerful. We must choose them wisely and carefully. The word of God is a sword, with which we can fight evil (Ephesians 6: 17). Swords must be sharpened and maintained in order to be effective. I know that in order to stay balanced I must spend time in The Word, and watch the words spoken by my own mouth. Our deeds have the ability to speak louder than our words, especially when our actions convey the character of God to the unbelievers around us. Our words and deeds must be in agreement. Anyone can spot a hypocrite a mile away. To use a cliché, it isn’t enough to talk the talk, we must walk the walk. Above all, in order to seek the heart of God for our words and deeds we must pray, without ceasing and an all occasions, and as the Spirit leads us (Ephesians 6:18).

So there it is, spring in on the horizon. This is a great time of year to take inventory of  yourself mentally and physically, and to ascertain if there is any imbalance in your life. The greatest model for a balanced life is in the person of Jesus Christ. His Words and Deeds were in perfect harmony, and He taught us to pray. He took the time to pray, to reflect, to reach out to one person, to fellowship, to mourn, to celebrate, and to heal. He is the epitome of balance and discipline.

Nonsuch Palace was dismantled in 1682 by the Countess of Castlemaine in order to pay a gambling debt, and the Swiss Family Robinson is the figment of an authors celebration. Likewise,  I am fairly certain we will have a very much ‘such’ winter next year. Seasons and buildings are subject to change and the whims of people, but one thing remains constant in the lives of believers.

Psalm 136

1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.

His love endures forever.

2 Give thanks to the God of gods.

His love endures forever.

3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords:

His love endures forever.

4 to him who alone does great wonders,

His love endures forever.

5 who by his understanding made the heavens,

His love endures forever.

6 who spread out the earth upon the waters,

His love endures forever.

7 who made the great lights—

His love endures forever.

8 the sun to govern the day,

His love endures forever.

9 the moon and stars to govern the night;

His love endures forever.

 

Prayer for Yemen March 3, 2012

Filed under: Teaching and Learning,Uncategorized — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 8:19 pm
Tags: ,

Lent Day 11

A Prayer for Yemen

  “Through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations.” Romans 1:5

1) Pray that the people of Yemen would hunger and thirst for the forgiveness and righteousness found in the person of Jesus Christ.

2) Pray that God would remove the obstacles that prevent outsiders and Christians from sharing their testimony with the people of Yemen.

3) Pray that God will raise up intercessors and those willing to reach out to the people of Yemen.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

4) Pray that God will soften and prepare the hearts of many to be open to receiving the Gospel.

5) Pray that strong local churches would be built in Yemen.

6) Pray that the Christians in Yemen would be strengthened and unified in love and holiness.

7) Praise God for the work that the Holy Spirit is already doing in the hearts and lives of the Yemenis people.

8) Ask for forgiveness if there is any judgement or misconceptions in  your heart in regards to muslim people. Ask that God would allow you to love the people of Yemen the way He does.

9) Ask God to comfort and protect the many children living in poverty in Yemen.

10) Ask God to comfort and protect the many young girls subject to forced marriage and human trafficking.

11) Ask that God would reveal himself to the men and women of Yemen through dreams and visions.

Psalm 67 

 May God be gracious to us and bless us

and make his face shine on us

so that your ways may be known on earth,

 your salvation among all nations.

 May the peoples praise you, O God;

 may all the peoples praise you.

May the nations be glad and sing for joy,

for you rule the peoples with equity

  and guide the nations of the earth.

May the peoples praise you, O God;

may all the peoples praise you.

 The land yields its harvest;

 God, our God, blesses us.

 May God bless us still,

 so that all the ends of the earth will fear Him.

 

Happy Birthday Harper March 2, 2012

Filed under: Family,Teaching and Learning,Uncategorized — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 12:01 pm
Tags: , ,

Lent Day 10

Today we celebrated Harper’s first birthday.  I made a small cake, which we shared as a family and Miss Harper has a few gifts to open. Sunday we will be having a bigger party with family and friends. The topic of today’s reflection is ‘a mercy given and a mercy received’. I immediately began thinking about Harper’s entrance into this world, after a whopping 80 plus hours of prodromal labor (and yes, they can go longer). Is there an example of mercy in this story? Every mercy we experience is given to us by somebody, and sometimes it is up to us to receive it, or be open to it. This story is about just that, being willing to accept mercy.

I should start with the beginning. Before I even became pregnant with Harper my husband and I knew we wanted a homebirth for our second child. In New Hampshire these things are pretty easy, no one really tells you where and how to have your babies. My case was only slightly more complicated because I had a cesarean with Makayla. I met with a doctor, who gave me a 30% chance of having a regular homebirth and not a repeat cesarean. In my mind, I was going to have a homebirth. I did everything under the sun to ensure this was going to happen, but ultimately I knew the entire thing was up to God. People would ask:

‘are you scared?’

‘what happens if you need to the hospital?’.

These are valid questions, but my answer was the same: God is always going to be God, wherever I give birth, He will be there.

When my labor began we got pretty excited–this was it, the culmination of countless prayers and a panoply of natural childbirth research. We stayed at home for a while, and as things got more intense, we headed to see the midwife. However, my labor stopped when the sun comes up the next morning, and despite a long night of hard work, I  made little to no progress. This went on for four days, I was ‘spinning my wheels and getting nowhere’ as my midwife put it. My labor would intensify at night, and peter out during the day. I tried a lot of things in an effort to get the labor to progress, including strapping on my snowshoes and taking off into the woods in a fit of righteous indignation–what was going on?  I was supposed to be having a peaceful candlelight homebirth! It became evident, as the sun began to set on day four, that something was amiss. I needed to receive some mercy at this point, and as it was, I had a few options. Number one: the midwife offered some meds that would have knocked me out for quite a while. Number two: I could go to the hospital. It was up to me. I knew I needed to go to the hospital, I knew in my heart of hearts that this idyllic homebirth was not God’s plan for this birth, so I choose option two. I was in the operating room shortly after we arrived to the hospital–it was nothing rushed or frightening, but the doctor did reassure me that what he saw was not ‘normal’, and that coming to the hospital when I did was the right choice. I knew at that point that God’s mercy and protection had been upon me and this unborn child. Thankfully, I had been able to swallow my pride and receiving this mercy given.

We were blessed with a healthy baby girl, whom we named Harper May. In contrast to her stubborn debut, she has proven herself to be amenable and happy in all situations. She is such a blessing and we all love her in such an uncomplicated and joyful way.

People asked about my failed attempt at homebirth:

‘are you okay with how it turned out?’

‘are you disappointed?’

Did I have to reconcile some of my prideful emotions, yes of corse, but I was able to do it while praying with my husband in the hospital room. I was able to release all the expectations I have placed on myself and receive the compassion of surrender. And when all was said and done–God was still God, and I still had a baby, He is Good.

For tomorrow:

A mercy prayer