Sunny Pathway

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Word of Wisdom in Action

Fellow blogger Larry Who wrote a post on June 25 that provides a wonderful example of a word of wisdom. A word of wisdom is one of the gifts of the spirit listed in I Corinthians 12. I'd written earlier about the gifts of the spirit (June 15) and was so impressed by Larry's story that I asked if I could share it. He graciously said yes and, because I'm feeling a bit pressed this week, decided I'd pass it on today.

To clear up possible confusion, I'll mention that he refers to what happened as a prophesy or a prophetic word. My belief is that all spoken revelations and/or gifts are prophetic in nature but, because Paul identifies various types of prophetic expressions, it's sometimes helpful to identify differences.

I'd plan to insert his URL to take you directly to the specific entry I'd like to highlight. Well, my computer skills are improved but not improved enough. After struggling for over an hour with various posibilities, I finally posted something that didn't quite work. In desperation I decided I must go on to something else. So, I'm sending you to his blog address and trusting that you'll find the June 25 posting. His postings aren't long and the search will be interesting. Press here .

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cleanse Me with Hyssop, Part 2 of 2

Hyssop. I'm interested in it. The Hebrews used it to apply the blood of their Passover Lamb to the top and sides of the door frames. If it wern't important, it wouldn’t be mentioned by name. My Bible dictionary tells me it’s a form of marjoram, similar to the caper plant, with clusters of small yellow flowers.

After the Hebrews left Egypt and slavery, when God gave them instructions concerning worship, Levitical priests used hyssop. It was part of the cleansing ceremonies after someone was healed of leprosy, (Lev. 14:2-6) and it was used when preparing water for purification. (Lev. 19:18) David drew from that background when he cried, Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. (Ps. 51:7) The context was his personal cleansing: For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. he said. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight. . . . (v. 3,4)

I’m going to make a leap here, so hang with me: God’s use of metaphor is consistent throughout Scripture. That’s one of the wonders of our Bible. When He told the Hebrews to sprinkle the blood of the lamb, the blood pointed to the blood Jesus would shed for the sin of all mankind—a one-time sacrifice. Blood pays the penalty for sin. It provides forgiveness.

And when God told them to apply the blood with hyssop, the hyssop indicated God’s ability to cleanse or purify—to change the very nature of the sinner. Perhaps the aromatic herb already represented cleanliness—a fresh smell to brighten a difficult lifestyle. The Hebrews didn’t understand all the symbolism—couldn’t. Their job was to obey. (I'm not suggesting hyssop has ability to cleanse in itself. Only the sacrifice of Jesus covers and cleanses from sin.)

Slave mentality means lack of personal value. It can mean inability to decide a personal response and it almost always means inability to express personal responses. It often includes poverty, fear, inability to provide for family members. Slavery inhibits freedom, and it's difficult to overcome. Sin is horrendous and slavery to sin is outside God's plan.

But purity is frightening, too. It's an impossible goal. Obeying God is a different kind of slavery—a slavery that promises the elusive internal freedom. One of God’s glorious paradoxes.

It’s almost as important to believe God restores—purifies—as it is to believe He forgives. And it’s every bit as hard or harder. Accepting His forgiveness is vital—our eternal destination depends upon it. But entering into and receiving His life (because only He is good and pure) is our key to receiving the abundant life Jesus promised while still on earth. It’s also the way we pass His life on to others.

In fact, we can’t pass His life on to others unless it’s reality in our lives.

David said, Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. (Ps. 51:10-12) He knew that just as the Hebrews couldn’t make the transition from physical slavery to freedom without God’s continued intervention, he couldn’t make the transition from the slavery of sin to spiritual victory and freedom without God’s continued intervention.

One more Biblical reference to hyssop. Jesus said, I thirst as He died on the cross. Then soldiers used hyssop to lift sour wine to Him. (Jn. 19:29) We read, When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished.” And he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”(v. 30)

Hyssop. Only John records the little detail, but there it is. Cleansing. Jesus didn’t give up His life until hyssop—cleansing—was part of the package. Everything we have comes through Him.

Dear Jesus, open my heart to receive forgiveness from sin. Open my heart to receive Your cleansing. Break down the barriers that keep me from receiving Your life. Amen.

Next time, a look at the person of the Holy Spirit.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Cleanse Me with Hyssop, Part 1 of 2

Perhaps you’ve heard stories about people who met God while in a prison—and who then declare that even while in prison, they are free—more free than they had been when outside because they're free from sin.

I believe them. They don’t feel the need to pretend or hide their true feelings, so they're free to be themselves.

Very few of us are there—truly there. Aren’t there emotional places where you don’t go—can’t go—because something from your past constricts you? This isn’t freedom.

After reading the book of Exodus recently, I’ve been thinking about coming out of slavery. God led the Hebrew slaves out of their physical bondage in Egypt, but I’m thinking about a different type of bondage, of course—personal slavery to sin. God is dealing with me on some issues.

Slavery to sin has more than one form. Some people are in bondage due to horrendous sins against them—abuse of all types. When hearts are unable to respond to God or to others because they've been abused, they're experiencing isolation, a form of salvery, caused by the sin of others. But sin is a huge subject. Some people are in bondage due to personal sin. They’ve done something that separated them from God and other people, so they also live in a measure of isolation.

(Separation is God’s punishment for sin. The separation to Hell is the final or ultimate separation, but we can experience many degrees of separation or isolation in our daily life while still on earth.)

The Egyptians isolated the Hebrews by making them their laborers. Rather than enjoying the benefits and blessings of an affluent society, the Hebrews provided the physical labor that made everything work. Their basic status wasn’t caused by their sin but by the sin of their oppressors. Then God arranged for their deliverance.

But deliverance wasn't a quick work. First, Moses told them God wanted to set them free. What a joy that must have been. They believed. . . . And, when they heard the Lord had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshipped. (Ex. 4:31 ESV) But then they had to go through trials to attain the new status. And as they struggled to understand, a different type of sin and bondage became a new reality. When they failed to believe—or to obey God’s Word through His leaders—they sinned on their own and isolated themselves anew from God and others.

The same is true for us. When God moves in our lives, we move into the joy of freedom. We’re no longer separated or isolated. But then we discover it requires a different mindset. We’re asked to trust and obey. When we do, we have new responsibilities. We learn following God requires brokenness and transparency before the One who loves us.

Knowing God is working in our behalf brings new desire to love God and please Him, sometimes at great cost. The Hebrews experienced plagues. They lived the terror of being unable to fulfill unjust demands and they experienced the uncertainty of day-to-day trauma. By the time of the Passover, they had first-hand experience of God’s ability to move on their behalf, but they were hardly comfortable with God’s strange requirements and promises.

Still, they participated. They packed their belongings, secured their Passover lamb, slaughtered it, daubed the blood of the animal on the top and sides of the door frames with hyssop, baked unleavened bread, and ate a meal that included not only the Passover lamb and unleavened bread—but also bitter herbs to represent their lives as slaves.

Next time, part 2 of looking at the purity issue.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Great Time

Did you read about our celebration? Our 50th Anniversary celebration? If not, and if you're interested in a family event, you can get the preview by reading my post of June 4. If not, my series will continue Monday.

The weather had been unusually cold and rainy the week before the event. Both Ken and I fretted a bit but comforted ourselves by the thought of no mosquitoes. Then, as a special blessing, the weather changed. Rain disappeared, the thermometer rose to the low 70s in the afternoons, and the mosquites hadn't had time to hatch. Perfect.

Our children with families arrived according to schedule. Ted and family—who came Friday, June 5—had some difficulty adjusting to the 9-hour time difference, but survived to thrive. The time alone with them gave us opportunity to get re-acquainted with almost 3-year-old Simon and 10-month-old Salome. They’ve changed since we last saw them in Ethiopia in October!

On Wednesday the 10th we all went to a lake resort in Minnesota for a few days. On Saturday we came back to West Fargo by way of Wahpeton, ND, where we lived for many years. This will be a straightforward account via pictures of a few highlights (almost all from the resort). When I bring up the idea of sharing pix on a blog, some members of our family are camera shy, so I've selected pictures that don't reveal identities.

First, because it was lovely (and spotless!), the resort. From our cabin we looked in two directions. On one side the lake. Here I focused on a birch with the lake as a backdrop. When I become a better photographer, I'll know how to make the white of the bark stand out the way it did in real life.

Through the front window we viewed a maple, an oak, a willow and a pine. The lodge is in the background.

There were wildflowers along the edge of the woods.

Our children rented a pontoon one day for fishing and touring. East Silent Lake is quiet and beautiful.

However, our children and grandchildren wanted activity, so the pontoon stood unused in the afternoon and evening in favor of kayaks and a canoe.

I thought I took pictures of the fun on the raft—but apparently didn't. Some used the kayaks to reach it while a few swam in the frigid waters. All converged to jump around and generally have a good time while the prudent (or the less daring?) laughed from shore.

There was fun on the beach, too. Here some of the teenagers and a parent get things started for the younger children. Later, Simon (center) with his 7 and 8-year-old cousins played together for almost two hours in the sand, each doing their own thing.

The baby and older brother went on excursions.
And played on the playground.

Ken and one of our son-in-laws caught fish from one of the private docks.

Here’s the beach in the quiet of the evening when everyone went to their respective cabins to rest up.

All family stuff—no great shakes for the rest of the world. But we had a great time. On our final night we had our only rain shower just as we were about to eat. Quickly moving everything inside the closest cabin, the girls arranged and served another wonderful meal. This time they surprised us with an anniversary cake—and I didn’t think to shoot a picture until we’d all had a piece. As we finished, Ken waxed eloquent about all being together under one roof.

And here's Ken on Saturday, looking at where the Ottertail River and Bois de Sioux River converge to form the Red River of the North between Wahpeton, ND, and Breckenridge, MN.

It wasn't all over, however. On Sunday we had a few extended family members stop by our condo to see the children and grandchildren. Fun to show them off.

Then the children left one by one. That helped the feelings of emptiness when all left. Although Monday, on the last full day of having someone with us, I was so tired that even the adrenalin was running low. Yet how I hated to see them go. I can't help but wonder when we'll all be together again.

P.S. I had Ken read this before posting and he laughed and laughed because I ended up with his backside after avoiding anything that revealed identities. If you got this far, I hope you were able to take it in stride the way he did.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Gifts of the Spirit

Before looking at the gifts of the Spirit as listed in I Corinthians, I want to mention that praying privately in tongues is not one of them. Private prayer in tongues is simply praying in an unknown language. Personal use of a prayer language was a familiar practice among early Christians and among pagans of the time as well. Specific references to praying in tongues can be found in Acts 2, 10:44 ff and 19:6.

Praying in tongues makes it possible for me to pray beyond myself. There are times when I don’t know what to pray. I pray in tongues. There are times when I feel limited by English. I pray in tongues.

Praying in tongues builds me up. Praying in tongues comforts me. Praying in tongues offers release when I'm distruaught. Praying in tongues makes it possible to pray when I’m at a loss. After many years, my testimony is that I can’t imagine not being able to pray in tongues.

The fact that tongues can be abused—and used by spirits other than the God the Holy Spirit—should not be frightening. Satan counterfeits praying in tongues because it’s effective. He wouldn’t bother to counterfeit something than has no value. As with anything from God, motives make all the difference.

Whenever anyone desire to do something for God, self enters in. In fact, that self of ours is a huge problem. Just as focusing on fruit causes problems, focusing on gifts causes problems. As a person with a sinful nature, I'm prone to decide what I think God should do and, specifically, what He should do in me. But I can't. And I can't decide what gift or gifts God should give any more than I can decide I want to grow a specific fruit. Everything comes from God and depends upon allowing Him to do His thing.

When thinking about gifts of the Spirit, it’s helpful to remember that they’re external. They have nothing to do with me other than whether or not I’ve opened myself to receive a gift. Even the faith to operate in these gifts is a gift. And so, gifts are not a sign of maturity or spiritual growth. In fact, it seems new Christians often receive faith to move in gifts—a baptism of sorts into the supernatural workings of God. Then God begins to work in them—grow the fruit. Gifts might take a back seat for a season—until God gloriously resurrects them. But individuals have no control over the process. They can only yield or fail to yield to God.

In addition, I want to mention that what I'm sharing here could be considered old teaching. When people currently share about the gifts of the Spirit they often focus on the person of the Holy Spirit Himself. Or they might tell about something the Holy Spirit is doing in the world at this time. Both are good and worthy approaches. However, sometimes a return to basic texts provides a helpful perspective.

Now a brief look at the function of the public gifts listed in I Corinthians 12:7-10. Sometimes a public 1) Message in Tongues is given within a congregation or group. Then, rather than functioning as a private prayer language, the message becomes a gift for the Body of Christ and for the edification of all. This is almost always an extension of an active prayer language. There are miraculous stories surrounding this gift—of people in the audience who hear a message in a language they know. This happened in Acts. But Paul refers to speaking in unknown tongues of men and angels (I Cor. 13)—and I’m not going to argue with Paul. The possibilities are endless.

I’ve also experienced 2) Interpreting Tongues. This is simply an interpretation of the Message in Tongues. When I've received an interpretation, the message was almost always a thought or thoughts I’d had earlier—thoughts that suddenly became so focused that I had to say them out loud for the group's benefit.

The same is true of the 3) Gift of Prophecy which is a message spoken directly in the language understood. I don’t know why God gave both—but there I times when I’ve merrily sat in my spot with no thought of contributing. Then there’s a message in tongues and I know I must be open. Anything else would be irresponsible.

Prophetic words come in all sorts of packages. Quite often they're shared by someone within a group in a way that somehow identifies them as a prophetic word. Also, some preachers regularly preach with a prophetic anointing that moves the message into the spirit realm. And then there are those times when a prophetic message is spoken in a conversation without the speaker even realizing what they've said. But the one hearing the message knows.

4) Healing was familiar territory for me. Dad experienced healings off and on throughout his ministry—several remarkable. Historically, every major move of God was marked by healings. I’ve experienced healing and I see doctors—and find no conflict in that lifestyle.

Then there’s 5) Faith. What Christian hasn’t had to step out in faith on occasion? Scary, but we learn God is with us. I’ve found that when I try to drum up faith on my own, it's usually my doing. But if something happens outside my control that requires faith—or if faith is required to do something I feel God has called me to do—then I can call on Him and He faithfully provides faith. Remember, the gifts originate outside the self. That’s why we can’t work up faith on our own.

6) Discernment of Spirits and the 7) Word of Wisdom are often realities or thoughts I’ve learned through reading the Bible—but that God brings to mind in times of need. What Christian hasn’t experienced that? Nevertheless, there have been times when I supernaturally understood something within my spirit. And there have been times when I've understood a spirit working within another person. There were times when I knew exactly how to approach a problem. Those types of occurrences are God’s gifts or His revelation at work.

That leaves two I’d rather not discuss. First, the 8) Word of Knowledge or supernaturally knowing something. This doesn’t mean a general truth—it means something specific and it includes information that could be shared—probably for encouragement or correction. I stepped out with a word for someone once—and my word was wrong. After that, I started backpedaling—and since then I’ve moved in the gift only once or twice. On the other hand, I’ve been grateful when I’ve received words from others—sometimes key words.

And 9) Miracles. I’m so aware of damage done by people who claim God did or does miracles through them. While healing is actually a speeding up of the natural healing process, miracles involve creating something new or different. A miracle is, by definition, impossible. I don’t doubt the stories of miracles in the Bible, Nor do I doubt the stories of miracles embedded in Christian history because, Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Heb. 13:8) But I think miracles are more likely in areas where people have no recourse to meet their needs other than a miracle. However, I also think miracles could become more common if people turned whole-heartedly to God.

While I think it important that spiritual gifts be challenged at times—and carefully weighed—the gift of miracles especially carries the burden of verification. If not documented, all sorts of claims and charlatanry can follow.

Please notice that none of the gifts are necessarily outside our normal Christian experience unless they’ve been rejected—perhaps out of fear because they’ve been practiced in error. The key to healthy use of spiritual gifts is submission. People who operate in the gifts must submit to God and to each other. Leaders, especially, must trust others to hear from God. They must believe God can speak to more than one and that His Word is confirmed by multiple witnesses. They must be willing to submit to other people. If not, they will begin to think they are something or someone special.

I also want to suggest that the personal gift of praying in tongues I received so many years ago seems to open the door for the others gifts to flow more freely. But that’s an observation, not a doctrine.

Next time, a look at the purity issue.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

We Don't Get to Pick and Choose

Why do I feel so shaky when telling about my Pentecostal/Charismatic experience with its gifts of the Spirit? Is it because in my personal world most people reject what I’d love to share? Is it because I’m acutely aware of problems? Is it because I’ve not embraced the Holy Spirit's gifts as fully as I could?

Yes. To all of the above.

Paul provides a listing of gifts of the Spirit in I Corinthians. We read, To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. (I Cor. 12:8-11 ESV) If you count the gifts as listed here, you’ll find there are nine.

In Galatians, Paul provides another list—the fruit of the Spirit. Here we read, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Gal. 5:22) If you count the fruit as listed here, you’ll find there are nine.

I don’t think either list is conclusive. But many years ago, I either heard or read something that compared these nine gifts and nine fruits to the bells and pomegranates on the priestly garments. The Scripture reference was, On the hem of the robe they made pomegranates of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. They also made bells of pure gold, and put the bells between the pomegranate—a bell and a pomegranate, a bell and a pomegranate around the hem of the robe for ministering, as the Lord had commanded Moses. (Ex. 39: 24-26)

Pomegranates represent fruit, of course. Bells represent gifts—I Corinthians 13:1 tells us they can clang! In the Tabernacle of the Arc, the high priest entered the Holy of Holies only once a year—by himself—and it was a fearsome responsibility. If unclean, he would die. While the assistants waited outside, they listened for the sound of the bells and pomegranates as a signal the high priest was still alive and fulfilling his duties. So the pomegranates and bells provided a way to determine whether or not things were going well.

In the past I’ve heard so many link fruit and gifts—emphasizing they would rather have fruit than gifts because fruit reflects humility while gifts became a thing of pride. I don’t think God intended an either/or. We aren't to choose between them. In fact, we can't choose.

Fruit is organic. It grows from within and it develops over time. Gifts, on the other hand, are inorganic, external, and instantly received. Both come from God and neither replaces the other.

A quick look at fruit production: Consider apple trees that blossom in the spring. Although I’m not a scientific person, I know buds form and then delicate petals unfold. When the petals fade, they either drop or the wind blows them away to leave a miniature apple—a fruit—hard and bitter but containing everything necessary to be an apple. It slowly grows or matures until the fleshly part is crisp and sweet, and it can be enjoyed in a multitude of ways.

Many things can happen to an apple on the way to becoming mature. Soil conditions could be poor—water could be scarce—growing conditions could be crowded—worms could infest—wind or hail could damage—and then, after the apple reaches perfection, honey bees could find them and eat them. Each step of fruit production is precarious. Meanwhile, all the apple does is be an apple. It grows from within, but something beyond itself is at work.

Likewise, the fruit of the Spirit that grows in God’s people is also precarious—vulnerable at every point in its development—and then it can be lost even after it’s seemingly fully developed or mature.

Spiritual fruit develops only when we respond to God. If we focus on growing fruit, we lose sight of God and become self-obsessed. For example, if we try to grow the fruit of long-suffering, we don’t become long-suffering—we become pathetic. We cannot decide to grow the fruit of love by deciding to grow the fruit of love, either. And not joy or peace or patience or kindness or goodness or faithfulness or gentleness or self-control. Growing fruit depends on looking beyond fruit to our master gardener. Spiritual fruit grows and develops only as we respond to the life of Christ.

And here’s a frightening truth: if we aren’t bearing good fruit, we’re rejecting God’s Spirit. When we look to God, He deals with us. His dealings might be hard, but that's when our fruit becomes sweet and lovely. If we resist His dealings, we remain stunted bitter apples that no one wants. It's not a matter of choosing fruit over gifts or gifts over fruit. It's a matter of focusing on Him. Fruit is natural to healthy fruit trees—and good fruit should be natural for healthy Christians. If that isn't the case, something is wrong.

While we can’t try to grow fruit on our own, we can examine ourselves regularly to see if the Holy Spirit is doing something significant—to see if we’re actually allowing Him into our lives. Most of the times we know without an examination—because He is at work pruning, force-feeding reality we’d rather not face, showing us how to stand against spiritual attacks, and doing the things God does—because interaction with Him is an ongoing process.

Next time, a brief overview of the gifts of the Spirit.

Monday, June 8, 2009

My Pentecostal/Charismatic Roots

I’m expanding the subject material covered in my blog today. In the past I’ve shared my Lutheran roots—and doctrinally I’ve never stopped being a Lutheran. I believe the truths revealed to Luther are the foundational truths of every Christian denomination. That doesn't mean other denominations are wrong, but they're not me. I know Lutheran doctrine can be expanded, but the basic teaching are the essentials, and I’m not willing to insist on more.

However, I have another major spiritual source—one I haven’t shared—my Pentecostal - Charismatic background.

First, let me share that on January 28, 1967, I met God—entirely within the Lutheran tradition. Shortly after, at the invitation of a gal I’d talked to once, I began attending a prayer group in our Lutheran church. After a couple of meetings that seemed normal, someone said something that begged a question. My new friend responded by lending a book to me titled, They Speak with Other Tongues by John and Elizabeth Sherrill.

I’d heard about people who did that kind of thing! My parents began their ministry in rural Montana where Mom contracted polio when my oldest brother was a baby. After Dad took Mom by train to the Minnesota University Hospital, he returned to Montana where he fellowshipped off and on with a group of farmers who had experienced a spontaneous outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the early 1930s. In the spring a member of the group, a man who farmed, received a prophetic word that Jesus was coming in the fall—and several didn’t plant their fields.

Dad had farmed before going into the ministry—loved farming, and that added to his distress. He tried to tell them that no one knew the day or hour—but they weren’t dissuaded. After that, both he and Mom erected a barrier against the Pentecostal experience. I grew up on stories of well-meaning but misguided Pentecostals.

But my friend had been good to me so I read the book, and I think I must have been ready for a supernatural encounter—which, by the way, was not alien to my parents theology. When I finished the book, I had spiritual eyes to see the Pentecostal experience throughout Acts and the Epistles—and I knew it was from God.

In the book, John Sherrill shares his salvation testimony—not unlike my own. I felt connected to him. He tells how, as a reporter, his editor sent him to cover a story on people who prayed in tongues—and how he came to believe the people spoke real languages. His interest piqued, he researched tongues and other supernatural gifts as practiced in Scripture and throughout history—material he covered in detail. And finally, he shared his personal pentecost.

The slim volume is hard to find now. There are newer books—but that’s the book that spoke to me. Even so, I didn’t reach out immediately. Knowing the Pentecostal experience was valid didn’t mean I wanted anything to do with it.

We lived in Phoenix, Arizona, at the time which gave me a measure of freedom—we were a long way from family. I began attending a small independent church on Sunday evenings. The pastor, Charles McHatton, had a Baptist background, but I was struck by the similarity between him and my father. Both preached a solid Word from the Bible. He was an expository teacher—gave me a foundation that’s stood me in good stead. For example, he taught that if the devil can’t keep you from a truth, he’ll try to push you overboard and make you a fanatic. One must always search the Bible. He called prophecies similar to those of the farmer in Montana Angel of Light Deceptions.

On January 3, 1968, God dealt with me to go forward and receive this strange gift of speaking in tongues—because that was the signature gift at the time. Ken was not happy—until he saw positive fruit in my life and was eventually convinced by Scripture as well. In time, we even took our children to this crazy church, attending our Lutheran church Sunday morning and our Charismatic church Sunday evening.

Ken had always planned to return to our home territory after he finished college—and we had lived in Phoenix several years longer than anticipated. So in 1974 we moved to Wahpeton, North Dakota, where he taught electronics at the North Dakota State College of Science.

After moving to Wahpeton, we found a Pentecostal church in a town across the river—in Minnesota. We also learned that in our relatively small North Dakota community, attending two churches confused our neighbors and friends. We eventually left our Lutheran church to become full-time Pentecostals.

Looking back, it makes perfect sense. The Lutheran church of our heritage had changed greatly since our childhood—the small Pentecostal church with a Norwegian background was comfortable and the people were good people. We felt we’d found a home.

So often testimonies like this end abruptly with a happily-ever-after ending. Reality, however, is that life is a mixed bag of the good and of the not-so-good. Sometimes they're inextricably entwined. As people, we haven't yet escaped from our human propensity to sin. But even so, God has been faithful. That's our miracle. I'll be sharing more on the subject in future posts.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Celebration

Twenty-five years ago, our oldest daughter Borgi asked us if we wanted a twenty-fifth wedding anniversary party.

That type of occasion has never appealed to me. As a the youngest child of a pastor, I was often carted off to such affairs—probably because my parents couldn’t afford a babysitter. Anniversary celebrations might be great for others, but I never overcame my distaste for them.

Borgi was motivated because other couples in our church—the parents of her friends—had been celebrating in just that fashion, but she was relieved by my response. She knew her brother’s involvement would be minimal and our youngest was just a young child at the time.

We did do something as a family. We settled on take-out pizza rather than dinner out because then we’d have more freedom to interact.

You might have figured out where this is going. This month we’re about to celebrate our 50th. In addition, Ken turns 75 and I’ve just turned 70. This a summer for milestones.

Of course, in the second-twenty-five years our family has expanded numerically—by four spouses and seven grandchildren. We’ve also expanded geographically—one son and his family live abroad and one daughter and her family live in Las Vegas. Getting everyone together has been, so far, an impossible task. At some point—and I know I did it more than once—I verbalized my desire for everyone to be together for our anniversary. I don’t want any presents, I said. I’d just like to get everyone together in one place at one time.

Last fall the phone rang. Caller ID indicated our youngest daughter’s home. Ken answered expecting to hear Sarah, but Nadya, her youngest, a first grader, was one the line.

First, she told him to get Grandma because she had something to say that she wanted both of us to hear. I was already on my way to another phone. When she knew we were both there, she read an invitation to a family gathering at a lake resort in Minnesota in June—at which all your children and grandchildren will be present.

I was too stunned to say anything. Ken finally asked, Did you say lake resort?

We heard this sweet little voice say, Yes, I did.

I can’t recount any more of the conversation because I don’t remember it. We didn’t know how to respond to her, to Sarah, to our other children. Neither of us slept well that night.

All along I’ve been fearful something would happen—and that it wouldn’t come about. In fact, although we’ve talked about it and made plans, it hasn’t seemed real until two weeks ago. We called Ted in the UAE on a Friday morning—which was their Friday evening. He and Simon were reading. He put the phone on speaker so Simon could hear and we asked him if he was coming to visit. His little sweet voice said, Yes.

Something about the certainty in his response made it real for me—and Ken understood when I mentioned it later so I think he felt it, too. Simon’s coming. His parents and baby sister are coming. Our daughter and family in Vegas are coming. Everyone will be together.

And now the time is upon us. By our time, Ted and family leave the UAE around 3:00 PM today (Thursday). They arrive around 6:00 PM tomorrow (Friday) . Sarah and family comes Tuesday. The others are more-or-less local and their schedules vary. We’ll all be at the lake together for one day and we'll probably get together a couple of times the following weekend. There will be no program.

Concerning blogging while they’re here—I’ve written ahead and prescheduled the postings so they will appear as they usually do. However, the material I'll cover will be different, an expansion of sorts.

Because we'll be busy, I probably won’t monitor or respond to comments when our family is with us. I probably won't even respond until we’ve had time to rest and recover.

If you think of it, send blessings our way!