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Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Is Jesus Worth It?

 1 Peter 4:12-14 "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as your share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you."

I heard a few weeks ago that believers in China pray for persecution to come to America. I remember that struck me in an odd way. Why would you pray for persecution to come to America? The ANSWER? They have seen how persecution has spread the gospel in China. It makes no human sense at all. How can a hurting, suffering church actually grow? I believe it is the power of the resurrection and the power of the gospel message.

Yesterday, I came across a free version of "The Insanity of God" video on Facebook. Since the girls and I have been reading different missionary stories, I thought this would be a great addition to our school day. What I didn't realize is that God had a message for me. Maybe He has a message for you too, since He woke me up at 3:00am to write this blog post. I normally never wake up on my own this early. However, I was wide awake with the Spirit prompting me to write and share what I learned in the video. As I sat here reflecting and asking the Spirit to guide me, I recalled on my plane ride to Nebraska seeing this young couple reading a book called "The Insanity of God". The title caught my eye because it sounded so anti-God to call Him insane. As I sit here now, I wonder if that was God's first attempt to get my attention about this story I'm about to share with you. I don't claim at all to understand God's ways, since I know that His thoughts are higher than my thoughts and His ways are higher than mine. But, I also know that if we will listen, He has a message for us in His word and through other people's testimonies.

Through Celebrate Recovery, I have discovered just how powerful people's testimonies are to others. To hear someone share where they have come from, how God has moved in their life, and to hear how God is using them now is powerful. I think that is why Peter says in 1 Peter 3:15, "but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the HOPE that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect." As I typed that verse, I'm struck with the reminder that the first week of Advent is the Hope candle. I believe that is what differentiates believers...the hope that we have in the midst of trials and the storms of life. I have said many times that I don't know how people cope with a cancer diagnosis apart from the hope that we have in Jesus. I also don't know how people handle death without Jesus on their side.

This I believe is what struck me so much about the video that we watched yesterday. My human mind could not imagine some of the things that I heard. Let me give you a quick, brief background on the video. This missionary couple, Nik and Ruth, were missionaries overseas. They saw God move in so many ways during their years of service. Unfortunately, while overseas, they lost their son. Nik shared how he cried out to God that it was too much. God asked too much of him. At this point, God started him on a life changing journey to travel around the world and interview Christians who had been persecuted and ask them, "Is Jesus Worth It?" What followed was literally mind-blowing and challenged my faith. One pastor was tortured for years by the KGB for his faith. When his family was finally able to see him, the guards dragged out an emaciated man. Instead of crying over seeing their loved one in such a state, his eight year old son leaned over and told his father he was proud of him. What?!? That is mind boggling that an eight year old saw his father's tortured body and said he was proud of him for living for Jesus! 

If that wasn't enough, another pastor was thrown in jail for 17 years. He would wake up every morning and sing a love song to Jesus while facing east. He was beat numerous times when guards found scriptures he had written down from memory to revive his soul. One time, the guards had enough and told him they were going to kill him in the prison yard right now. As they dragged him out of his cell, they were suddenly silenced by 1500 hardened criminals with the arms raised up to the east singing the love song that faithful follower of Jesus sang for the last 17 years. 

Story after story of people experiencing such difficult, hard times and suffering. At the same time, story after story of their faithfulness to a faithful God who never left their side. When asked, "Is Jesus worth it?", they always responded the same. Yes! He is worth it all. Such power in their testimonies and it challenged me to my soul. Tears streamed down my face as I heard stories that were like people stepping out of the pages of the Bible, especially in Acts. How many times do we question God sitting here in the comfort of our homes? I know that I am guilty of telling God it's too much to have to raise a child with psychosis and mental health issues on top of having a husband with a terminal illness. Then I hear of these people suffering for the name of Jesus to the point where any human would ask, "Is Jesus worth it?" And their answer is yes! This right here shows the POWER of the gospel and the resurrection! No one would be tortured and suffer such hardship for something that wasn't real to them. That is what was powerful to the testimony of the early church and how the gospel spread, and that is the power of the church now. It is when we are weak that we are strong and God's message can be displayed to the world. When you have been striped of everything and only have Jesus, you discover that He is enough!

Towards the end of the movie was when this message was shared from believers in China. These are the very same people who pray that persecution comes to America and who don't trust people who come into their midst unless they have served time in prison for Him. The next section has almost direct quotes from the movie "The Insanity of God". It was so powerful, I had to write it down word for word in some parts.

When China re-opened their borders, believers around the world looked on to see what happened to the 400-700,000 known believers in China. During this time of closed borders and extreme persecution, the church grew to 10 million Christians. These Christians didn't just survive in persecution, they thrived. This is not a secret church in China. You cannot hide what is currently 85-100 million Christians. This is an illegal church, but it blesses the community in which it exists so much that there have been numerous times authorities have asked the church to help settle disputes within the community. Why have they done so well? Here was their response: They said we have a decision we have to make every day. We ask ourself this question, do I want to identify with believers in persecution or do I want to identify with their persecutors? And when you ask them how do I determine who I identify with, they say by whether or not today you share Jesus with someone else, or you keep Him to yourself. In America, I hear faith is a personal matter and that is from satan. What believers in persecution have said, that's brutally honest, is when I keep my witness from my brother, father, sister, or boss, then I am identifying with persecutors because I'm keeping my witness to myself. In 2000, it was said that 90% of baptists will never share Jesus with another person.This is what's killing believers in persecution. They are saying you are giving up in freedom, what we would never give up in persecution and that is our witness to the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They said here is the mistake you are making. You think that witness is tied to political freedom and that is Biblically incorrect. I am as free to share Jesus in Saudi Arabia today as I am in Kentucky. An I am as free to share Jesus in Afghanistan today as I am in Ohio. Politics, countries, and presidents have nothing to do with this. God has said you are free and you are to share the gospel with everyone. When we are obedient and exercise our freedom, then we do have the courage to suffer the consequences. 

Romans 8:2, 11, 28 says, "For the law of the Spirit of life has set you freeing Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death...If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you...And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose." 

Wow! I know that God used those words to challenge my heart. How many times do I stay silent and not share Jesus with the world around me? We like to say we "share" by how we live. Although this is true, we need to live lives that match the message we are to share, is that just an excuse? I know that out of fear of what people will think that I have shut my mouth in public. What the persecuted believers are saying to us is that we have it all backwards. We think by us having freedom to worship and freedom of religion, we are in a better position than our "poor, suffering" brothers and sisters around the world. The secret they know is that they are actually more free in their suffering than we are in our "free" lives. Freedom and joy come from living the life that God has called us to live. We are told countless times to share the gospel with the world around us. Testify to His greatness in your life and allow your testimony to be the vessel by which God can transform other people's lives around you. May we be willing as believers to fight harder for sharing the truth of God with others as we are to fight for our freedom. Maybe in shedding some of our "freedom", we will actually get to experience true freedom!

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Tribute to Emily


Psalm 147:3 "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."

On May 29, 2018, our lives were changed when Wayne met a beautiful young girl at Midway Airport. I remember receiving a phone call from Wayne on the airplane explaining that he didn't get her contact information and really wanted to find her. He told me that all he knew was her first name and that she was from Nebraska. He asked me to go on Facebook and find her. I remember thinking, "Social media is pretty amazing, but that is like a needle in the haystack." But, I decided to give it a try and here was my post:

"I know this is a long shot, but I thought I'd ask you all to share this post and see what happens. My husband, Wayne, met a girl about our daughter's age at Midway Airport today (5/29/18) who has brain cancer. They had just started talking and sharing stories about their brain cancer, when Wayne had to board his plane. I believe they were at gate A16. He thought they were getting on the same flight, so he didn't get her name. She was from Nebraska and was flying with her mom. Wayne is hoping to somehow connect with her so that he can encourage her along her brain cancer journey. Wayne has glioblastoma brain cancer and hopes to encourage her. Can you share this so that maybe we can find her? I know it's a long shot, but you never know. I already shared it on a brain cancer Facebook page that we belong to. I included his picture for reference."

God worked all the details out and we were able to be connected through a nurse. She reached out to Emily's mom and gave her our information. Looking back, it was only something God could do. 

Picture of Emily and her mom in Chicago right before they met Wayne at the airport                                            

Over the next 2+ years, we would meet up with Emily when she came to Chicago with her mom for treatments. We absolutely fell in love with Emily. 



Back in March, right before COVID hit, we were supposed to travel to Omaha to see Emily because we heard that her cancer was back after having surgery in July 2019. Unfortunately, because of COVID and all the unknowns, we canceled out trip to see her. 

On October 23, after his MRI, Wayne drove the kids to Nebraska to see Emily. I flew to Nebraska to meet them there and visit Emily. Emily's mom had reached out to us and told us that Emily was not doing well. We wanted to make sure we got to see her at least one more time. The trip was heartbreaking! I wouldn't trade that trip for anything, but it was so hard to see the once vibrant young lady, laid up and broken by brain cancer. All cancer is terrible, but brain cancer is just vicious. It slowly steals everything about the person away from them: their ability to walk, communicate, their personality...just everything. 

Last night around 11:30pm, Emily breathed her last breath here on earth. I had received a text earlier yesterday morning letting me know that the nurse told her about 2 days. Wayne and I shed many tears after that text. Waking up to that terrible text this morning broke my heart. I'm broken for the young life lost to brain cancer and also I'm broken for her family who was robbed of years with this beautiful young girl.  








Please join us in uplifting her family in prayer. Please also pray for our children as they process through this loss. Although they didn't know her really well, we have prayed for her since we met her and it strikes too close to home.





Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Beth Rapha Farm Fundraiser

 2 Corinthians 9:7 "Each one must give as he has decided in his heart not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

Just in time for Christmas! Help support Beth Rapha Farm and get some of your Christmas shopping done! I have been working hard to create gifts that will look good in any stocking or under the tree. Are you struggling to figure out what to buy your co-worker, child's teacher, or maybe your family member that is hard to shop for? Below are some great gift ideas that will not only complete your Christmas list, but will also help us raise some extra money to finish setting up Beth Rapha Farm. 


                                    $10 - Homemade Vanilla (clear) - 8.5 oz



$8 - Lavender Bath Salts
Ingredients: Epsom Salt, baking soda, and essential oils. 
(We can custom make a scent that you would like as well)


$8 - Large Bath Bombs (pictured left)
$6 - Medium Bath Bombs (pictured right)
Ingredients: Baking Soda, Epsom Salt, Citric Acid, Cornstarch, and Essential oils
Available Scents: Lavender, Peppermint, and Christmas Spirit





$10 - Tin full of chocolate fudge

For those who do not live nearby, I can also ship these to you! Shipping will range from $8.30-$15.50. Please contact me to find out how much shipping would be. The more you buy, the more you save! Bath Bombs and Bath Salts are buy 3 and get the 4th free. Buy 4 Bottles of vanilla and get the 5th free. 

Feel free to email any questions or your special order requests to bethraphafarm@gmail.com

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Vision in the Midst of a Pandemic

 Hebrews 10:23-25 "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching."

In June, we traveled to Chicago for Wayne's MRI and a wedding. While we were in town, we stayed with our previous pastor and his family. So much had occurred in our lives between this trip and our previous trip in March, which was literally hours before the country started shutting down due to COVID. Not only had the pandemic hit, but our country was in the midst of racial turmoil. We know how much stress and anxiety all of these events created in our lives, but how much more in pastors? 

Think about all that a pastor normally has on his plate: write and deliver a sermon, serve his congregation's needs, minister to people in the community, etc. Add on the stress of deciding how to safely proceed with services and outreach in the midst of a pandemic: Should we just meet on-line, should we have small services, should we wear masks the entire time, how do we proceed with people having mixed feelings about it all, navigating how to create services that will still reach the congregation...the list goes on. I know I would not want to have been in a position where I would have to make decisions that might impact so many people's lives. COVID and racial tensions have created so much division in the church, and our pastors have had to navigate all of this while still trying to shepherd their flock. I know that there are pastors out there who are worn out and stretched thin. 

As I was sitting in church in Chicago reflecting on all of this, God laid a vision on my heart. The vision centered around a desire to see pastors have a place to refresh, renew, and revive their passion for the Lord at no cost to them. God not only put this concept on my heart, but He also gave me a vision of what the place would look like. I saw a quiet place in the country with rolling green hills, a pond, and space for a pastor and his family to just spend quality time together. This vision both excited and scared me. How would all of this work out? Did God really want us to step out of the boat again in a crazy step of faith? I presented the idea to Wayne and he wasn't so sure about it. We prayed together about this vision to see if it was really something God wanted us to do. Of course, I started looking at places that had the things that God had laid on my heart. We found one place that we thought may be the answer, but God shut that door. Later that day, I "accidentally" came across a piece of property. I quickly called Wayne over and said, "This is it! This is exactly what God had showed me." The property has a pond, a cute cottage, a barn, fruit trees, raised garden beds, and gorgeous views! With God's help and provision, we were able to move forward and buy the place.


Beautiful views from the cottage.






The name that God laid on my heart for this place is Beth Rapha Farm. I have loved studying the names of God over the years and Jehovah Rapha means the God who heals. Beth is the Hebrew word for house/home. So the full meaning of our organization will be the Home of Healing Farm. We want pastors to have a safe place to just rest and spend time alone with God and their families to find healing for their weary souls. 

So where are we at in the process? We are currently working on our website (anyone want to help? LOL), preparing the house for future guests, and trying to finish paperwork to make Beth Rapha Farm a non-profit. We are also in the last stages of kicking off a holiday fundraiser to help raise support (keep your eyes open the next week or so for fun ways you can help support us in bringing encouragement to pastors). 

We hope to have the website up and running in the next month or so. At that point, pastors can apply to come stay. Unfortunately, the cottage is only a one bedroom at this point, so we will be limited on how big of families we can house. We hope in the near future to either expand the little cottage to a two bedroom, or build an additional home that could house a larger family. Please pray for us as we embark on a new adventure. Life is never boring with God, if you are willing to step out of that boat with Him! www.bethraphafarm.org


Friday, October 23, 2020

The Christian "F" Word

 "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." James 5:16

"As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another." Proverbs 27:17


I heard a statement last night at Celebrate Recover (CR) that really stuck with me and it convicted me. It went something like this, "Have you heard the Christian 'F' word? 'I'm FINE'." We all laughed at the moment, but as I have thought more about it, this statement has made me sad. How often do we as believers tell people we are "fine", when really we are not and our worlds are falling apart? How can we pray for each other and help sharpen one another if we do not know what is going on in each other's lives? And how many of us have been guilty of getting that panicked look when you ask someone how they are doing and they tell you something besides, "I'm fine?" I am sure that we have all been in both sets of circumstances.

I think this concept of "I'm fine" reaches beyond our conversations. When we post pictures of our lives on social media, subconsciously or not, do we try to make it look like we have it all together, that we are fine? I know I have been guilty of this. Wayne asked me why I haven't blogged lately and I told him because life has been hard and what am I supposed to blog about? He asked me, "Why can't you blog about life being hard? Do your blogs always have to be filled with the good life?" I thought about it and I know that in the past I have blogged about hard things. I mean come on, having a husband with terminal brain cancer is HARD! Raising eight kids is HARD. Adoption is HARD. But I have discovered the last year that there is one HARD that has been very difficult to navigate. You know the kind you don't want to talk about with other people and you just want to say, "I'm fine!"? This HARD is the straw that "broke the camel's back", my back. As people at CR say, this was "my bottom". I knew that I couldn't keep trying to do this on my own. I needed a band of fellow believers to help walk along side me and keep me going. People that could pray for me and encourage me on the super hard days. 

Dealing with a loved one with mental health issues is HARD. You do not know what to expect from day to day. You visit numerous doctors and try different drugs to try to help the person live out as much of a normal life as possible. I have discovered through CR that one of my character defects is co-dependency and control. I have discovered that somehow I feel like I can somewhat control the situation when someone has a physical handicap or illness (I know technically I have no control, but in my mind I feel like it is somewhat controllable). When it comes to mental health, there is no control at all. I feel like my life has been spinning out of control the past year. I had to reach the bottom and realize that I have no control over anything. Part of The Serenity Prayer says, "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will..."

Each day is a new day. Some days I feel like with God's help it was a victorious day. Other days, I feel defeated and overwhelmed. On those days, I reach out to my "people". We all need "people" in our lives who we can be 100% transparent with and who can hold us accountable. I don't want to be "fine", I want to be transparent, real, and transformed into who God wants me to be. "Fine" is not who God wants me to be. God wants me to be real...with Him and with others. What about you? Are you just "fine" today or are you hurting and need someone to talk to? God never promised us lives filled with unicorns and rainbows. He told us life would be hard and we would have trials and temptations. We cannot do this race on our own. We need the help of the Holy Spirit and other believers who can help us when we feel like we can't take one step further in the race called life.

Prayer Requests:

1. Wayne's MRI results (MRI today).

2. Shan Chen’s new prosthetic leg that he picks up today.

3. Our trip to Nebraska to see Emily, the young girl who is struggling with brain cancer.

4. For my friend Amy and her husband Brian, who has GBM.

5. The Landing (teenage level CR) that started Monday night. Pray that young kids attend and that God uses it to change their lives.


Friday, October 16, 2020

Ethnos360

 1 Chronicles 16:24 "Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples!"

Romans 10:13-14 "For 'everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?"

I love Proverbs 16:9, "The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps." Our family had been planning a camping trip to Gulf Shores since January. Unfortunately, Hurricane Sally had other plans and wrecked havoc on our campground and our plans were changed. At the last minute, we reached out to missionary friends in Florida and asked if they could use any help. So at the last minute we changed our plans for Fall Break. Our family had the privilege of getting to serve for a week at The Homes of Ethnos360. This amazing ministry ministers to missionaries who have retired from the mission field. I love heart of Ethnos360 (used to be known as New Tribes)! They are pouring out love and assistance to those who faithfully served God. The grounds are just beautiful! We met numerous missionaries who had served the Lord for many years. Unfortunately, due to COVID, we were limited on how much personal interaction we could have with residents. In the future, I would love to go back and just sit down and hear stories from these faithful servants of God! 



Our typical day consisted of getting up and eating breakfast and praying, followed by a day of work. We would eat dinner and then head to the beach or go hang out with friends who just moved there from California. Although the work was hard, it felt so good to participate in God's work. I am so thankful that we were able to make this trip to Florida. Some of the jobs we did were: tearing apart old furniture and putting it in different containers (wood, metal, and materials), spreading mulch, organizing steel materials, and repurposing a 20 foot long 10" diameter pipe to be used on bridges around the property. We also learned how to properly use a fire extinguisher since they were expired and needed to be disposed of.

















We got super dirty sanding and taking the tar off the huge pipe!



Enjoying time at the beach. Our first time at the beach it was raining and the sand was blowing, but we made the most of our time and were able to score some beautiful shells (see picture further below).





















Our friend, Mike Hartman, gave us a tour of Ethnos360. Their building was just gorgeous inside and we all enjoyed seeing sample Bibles that have been translated into different languages around the world. God's Word is powerful, so we know that when others can read it in their own language, God uses it to transform lives.





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We are currently reading about Nate Saint and Cameron Townsend for our read alouds in school. Even though they worked for different mission organizations, the goal of all of them is for God's Word to be translated into every language. If you've never read a missionary story, I highly recommend it! Our favorite ones are "Christian Heroes Then and Now"







New Tribes first office was in Chicago!