Image of Character

Today’s post comes in the form of an essay written by one
of Western Days Ministries young friends. Hannah is a remarkable young lady who’s love Christ and for others shines brightly. We are so pleased at how God is growing and using her to further His kingdom. 

Character Essay

            When people ask me about my character, my mind automatically thinks about all the good I’ve done. I think about how I encourage people, especially my friends and family. I think about my patience and how, unlike some other people, I can tolerate waiting in a long line or can help someone who requires patience and gentle assistance. I think about my positive attitude, and how I can make the best out of every situation, or how I not only help others but I thoroughly enjoy doing so. But character is not all about the good you do, it’s also about who you are when nobody is looking. The times that I was rude or didn’t accept someone who needed a friend come to mind; or the times that I have lied to others or even myself. The times that I did or said something wrong behind closed doors. Of course, like most people, I want to become a better person by the time I graduate, but that’s not all. I want to become like Jesus. I don’t want to be God, but I want to reflect his character. Schiller family photoshoot in June 2017
Though I am loving, hate creeps into my heart occasionally. I may be joyful, but I still entertain dissatisfaction. For the most part, I feel peace about my future, then worry settles in when I think about it too much. Patience is a virtue I seem to possess, but at the same time, I battle anxiety daily. I am kind, but at the same time I catch myself worrying about myself way too often. People will tell you that I am good; a good student, a good person, a good friend, but in reality, being good is the last thing on my mind sometimes. I try my hardest to be faithful, and I am for the most part. I go to church. I say the right things, but sometimes my heart is not in it. Once anger settles in, gentleness gets set aside. I have self- control, but putting it to use is another story. I have just as many weaknesses as I do strengths, and of course, I tend to dwell on the weaknesses more. But the truth is I am fearfully and wonderfully made, yet a sinner in need of saving. The character of Jesus is all of my strengths and more. I realize that the only way to be like Jesus is to know him. All in all, my character is human. I do both good and bad things. When people talk about me, I hear words like sweet and helpful. Honestly, I do want to develop into a better person, but that’s not all. By the time I graduate, I don’t want people to see me and my character, I want them to see the image of Jesus shining through me in all that I say and do.

 

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Birth Pains

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Read Matthew 24

I’ve given birth to 4 babies, naturally, no drugs. Now, please understand I’m not sharing this informtion to boast, but just to give you the idea that I might have an understanding about the birthing process.

(Hold on guys! don’t click away just yet, I promise this post is for you too. Read on, I promise not to scar you.)

Right now there is a lot going on in this world that might concern us. Wars, rumors of wars, storms and earth quakes. Suffering, persecution and uncertainty. We do need to be aware. We need to keep a pulse on what is going on in this world. But, you know what we don’t need to be? We don’t need to be worried.

You see, the thing about labor, or “birth pains” is that is really hard work and it can be painful, but there is usually a fantastic reward for persevering and finishing that work.

If we look at what Matthew 24 says about labor, I think we can agree that the earth is in it.

Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.
Matthew 24:4-8

It is also true that as labor progresses those “pains” will become more intense and increase in frequency. We will be tempted to give up. We will be tempted to look for the easy way out. But we can’t, and thankfully we have the best labor coach ever: Jesus Christ.

So, hang in there. Do not be alarmed. These things must happen. But, when it’s all over. When we have been stretched beyond what we can imagine, our reward will come.

And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.
Matthew 24:31

So, how do we make it through all that we could potentially face during this hard work?

Let me give you some tips on dealing with birth pains:

  1. Read all you can about the process so you won’t be caught off guard.
    If you are in God’s word daily, nothing should catch you by surprise. Remember, we know how this whole thing ends.
  2. Trust your Labor support. It is their job to help you, they know you best and will keep your best interest in mind. They know the birth plan.
    So, what I’m saying is. Jesus knows you best. He created you to be alive at this very moment. He WILL stay with you until the end. He will not give up on you, so don’t give up on him. He CAN be trusted to see you through.
  3. It’s gonna get hard. It is suggested that you find a different terminology than the word “pain.” If you think of this process as painful, you will feel defeated and that you do not have any control over what is happening. While the process will continue either way, if you change your terminology to “hard work” or “dis-comfortable” you are more likely to maintain your prospective that this is a temporary situation, with an end in sight.
    What I mean is, Jesus is coming! No matter how bad it gets, there will be an end. So, rather than wallow in the hard, let’s keep our eye on the prize and remember that any suffering we experience are a privilege and have a purpose. (2) 
  4. When the contraction/birth pain reaches it’s peak it is helpful to have a focal point. This kind of goes with #1. When I was in labor my focal point was often the eyes of my husband (whether he liked it or not.) It was his eyes and his encouraging words that helped me remember that I was created to do this. I was designed to bring these babies into the world. Likewise, we are created to live in this moment. Keeping our eyes on Christ will help us manage the most difficult parts of this life we live. Just remember Peter at this point. So long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, he could walk on that water, but as soon as he took his eyes off of Him, he became overwhelmed by the storm around him and he began to sink. (3)
  5. Keep breathing! Breathing deeply will help you relax and release. Don’t fight the pain/discomfort.  The more we fight to hold onto even the little we have, the more we will feel overwhelmed. We must remember that God created birth. Be it the birth of a new human life, an animal, or His New Heaven and New Earth. Keep breathing. At the right time we will receive the reward He promised to us. 

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that[h] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
Romans 8:18-25

As someone who get’s overwhelmed easily, and feels deeply for those who are suffering. I want to be clear that I am not trying to discount the hardship many face, will face in the times to come. It can be overwhelming when we think of all that is going wrong in the world.
My point is to encourage us to remember that we serve a BIG God. Keeping our perspective is key; nothing on this earth happens that He does not know about or have His hand in.  

Missionary Corrie Ten Boom said it well:

“Look around you and be distressed,
look within you and be depressed.
Look to Jesus, and be at rest.”
– Corrie ten Boom

Blessings,

 

~Rita

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References:

  1. Matthew 24
  2. James 1:2-4
  3. Matthew 14:25-32
  4. Romans 8:18-25

 

 

 

 

Where have you seen God?

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Where have you seen God? This is the question that Western Days Ministries leadership often asks. Where have you seen God in your life this week? 

It is a familiar question, however, it has the tendency to make us all clam up. Why? Are we afraid? Do we suddenly draw a blank? Do we doubt that we have really and truly seen God at work in our lives?

At our most recent gathering, this familiar question was asked. I think we still –though we shouldn’t — get caught off guard when it is asked. Perhaps, and unfortunately, it is still not so common in churches today for the “audience” to participate. 

The thing is, that it is moments like these, where we are collectively sharing how God is showing up, (Not to puff up ourselves,) that we encourage one another. In doing so we bring glory to God. And it is no secret that Glorifying God is exactly why we are gathering together in the first place.

23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 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.

Hebrews 10:23-25
[emphasis mine]

 One of the purposes of the gathering of the Church is to encourage one another, especially as the day of Christ return is approaching! 

It is so important, vital even, that we believers regularly gather together with other believers (however God leads you.) To encourage one another, to comfort one another, to testify how God is working in your life. We (and I’m also talking to me here) should be jumping out of our seats to testify of God’s power, comfort, goodness, faithfulness, hope, correction, patience, healing, etc… and do you know what happens when we do?

They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb
    and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
    as to shrink from death.
Revelation 12:11

We triumph! There is coming a day when that enemy of old will be destroyed once and for all. That victory will come because of Jesus and his sacrifice, AND because of the words of our testimony. Because of these things we have a part in the defeat of the devil. We win. When we testify to how God is prevailing in our life, we push back the dark. Amen?

~Rita

 

 

 

In All Things…

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28

 

Ah, those famous words. “All things God works for the good of those who love him…” Romans 8:28 are words that often seem to come up when we are confounded by life.  They are tossed our way by other well meaning souls in hopes of offering genuine comfort or at the very least in hopes of placating our souls. For some these words do bring great comfort, for others, they can seem empty and even mocking.

I confess I’ve been in both camps at various points in my life. Sometimes, I’m able to lean and trust that God’s plans, even if they are not working out in my favor are still good plans… Other times, I’ve wondered how any part of a life burden could bring good?

It was reminded me this week that a little more than 6 years ago, I was in a pit of sorrow. I had just gone through one of the most trialing times ever in my marriage to that point. We had made it. But life was still raw and uncertain. Yet, God found reason to place in my womb a new life. And all I could figure was that He must have a good plan. God must know something that I didn’t at the time. He knew I could somehow handle caring for a new life when my own still seemed so fragile.

But, as the weeks went on… that life, that flutter of a heartbeat vanished. And I was left in the dark about God’s good plan. I was left with a vacant hole in my heart. I was left rocking and trying to understand how a “Good God” after so much hardship would strip away the very thing that might of been good, that might have testified “Restored,” from our lives.

Yeah, Roman 8:28 rang hollow in those days.

But, life steps forward whether we are ready to step forward with it, doesn’t it? Sunrise to sunset the days come and they go, and we move with them.  And to some extent time does heal all wounds and God speaks again. Jesus softly whispers: “I didn’t do the destroying. I’m too good for that. I came for you to have life, abundant life.” (Ref. John 10:10

And there were glimpses of the good plan again. If only in that I now knew the grief another might encounter. I could now better (I hoped) walk alongside someone, and mourn as they mourned.

Good enough, I suppose.

Leading the children in Sunday school last week, I found myself lead to the story of Joseph. You know him? Josephs story begins in Genesis 37, picks back up in Genesis 39 and continues until the end of the book.

Joseph: the favored son, the one who bared the envy of his brothers. The boy who at 17 was tossed in a pit, sold as a slave, later thrown into prison, and oh yeah, who God was with the whole time, yet he still couldn’t seem to catch a break.

As I read the children’s version of this story to these wide eyed 4 and 5 year-olds, I heard myself saying after every turn of the page, “But, God had a plan.”
I began to wonder, if Joseph ever questioned God’s plan? Did he ever think, “Seriously? Now what?”
It is true we don’t know his thought process in the whole matter, and sure, there is plenty to wonder about. Was it wise for him to so chipperly chat up his brothers about these prophetic dreams of his? Eh, maybe not. Should he maybe have second guessed working in the house alone with his bosses wife? Probably.

However, the theme that I kept catching as I went back and re-read the story. I began to see that whether Joseph was acutely aware or not, whether things were good or not, God was still with him.

God was with Joseph when everything he did prospered and God was with him when it all fell apart in his hands. God never at any point said, “Sorry, I’m out.”

In the end what did Joseph have to say about all that he had gone through? Essentially (and I am paraphrasing) he was able to say, “I can now see God had a plan.” (Ref Genesis 45:4-8

You see, when we are in the midst of hard. When we are in the valley of sorrow, or pain, or whatever heartache we face. The thing I hope you will remember is that God has not left you. Whether we are the subject of the enemy’s cruelty or our own poor choices. Whether we are a victim of circumstance or have come to where we are by our own steps. God has not left. He sees. He knows. And He can and will bring us to the other side, however far the journey. Why? Because of the other part of that Romans verse. Because we love him, we have been called according to his purposes. He has a plan.

Later this week we are celebrating a birthday. Six short years after my time of deep sorrow, I will hold the hand of a little girl who will be turning five years old. I call her my “Rainbow Baby.” She is the child born after the storm. Born after grief and loss. She is our gift. And God didn’t skimp either. He gave her passion, and the light and love of several children. The very light of her smile is testimony that God overcomes darkness EVERY TIME.

Romans 8-28 blog

~Rita

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Reference
Romans 8:28
John 10:10 NKJV
Genesis 37
Genesis 39 – 50

Mirror Mirror

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Read 2 Corinthians 4

I think it is interesting that one of the bi-products (if we can call it that) of having children is the opportunity to see ourselves more deeply. I’m of course not just talking about the physical attributes, though those are fun. I’m speaking more to the deeper things. The soul inspiring, or soul crushing. The things we wish to hide about ourselves or the things we love about ourselves. Never have I been more humbled than by a the words spoken from a round little face with more heart in her eyes than in her chest. Words that at one point may have been my own, be they loving and life giving, or soul injuring.

As a mother, every day I am watched and mimicked and copy-cat’ed. Sometimes it makes me laugh. Sometimes, it makes me want to hide and have a good cry. Parenting has so much beauty and it is also so much hard. No doubt, it is a refining fire.

And it reminds me of something else, for these mirror like little bodies walking around me all day long, I am also a mirror. Or at least I am supposed to cast the reflection of someone else. Sure, I am a reflection of my own upbringing, but if we are Jesus followers we are also supposed to be vessels of light shining the nature and character of the one who has seen us in our most broken states, and loved us anyway. The one who had no fear of our screaming, our tantrums, our own ugly moments and saved us anyway. We are to be Jesus mirrors.

Every day (by God’s great mercy) I find myself learning more and more about the reflection I am casting on these little ones around me. Of course I will not even suggest that I have things figured out. No, our bedtime routine (or the lack there of) last night was an absolute testimony to the fact that I don’t. But, I am in the process of learning and becoming more aware, that while I am walking in the mercy and grace my Father in Heaven has shown me. I must also look for the opportunities to shine Christ, though dimly, to these little ones and others around me.

~

I know these people. They are probably the most unique people I have ever met. They have chosen to do something really, rather radical. They said, “Yes” to God. And they said, “Yes.” wholeheartedly with no holding back. What is so interesting about these people is that I would say they glow. Not in some weird ethereal way. But, often (and I do know they are human) they shine Jesus in a way that I would say is rare and precious today.

It has taken me a long time to understand it. But, it dawned on me the other day, as I was coming away from a moment where I had yet again failed to be light in my own home, to my own little mission field. That what was making me different from these people I so admire and respect, is that when I look at them, I totally see the reflection of Jesus.

I began to consider why there was such a stark contrast in how me, as a redeemed human’s light was so different from these other redeemed humans? It finally dawned on me perhaps it was the level of “Yes” they had offered God.

~

Isn’t Jesus good? Today, as I sit here watching the sun rise on a land that yesterday was cast in shadows, rain, and darkness. That the difference between darkness and light is the filter through which it shines. The sun was always behind the clouds of yesterday, though they blocked it’s golden rays. But, this morning, with the clouds scattered that light is free to fall on and through the freshly washed trees and grasses.

My point: Christ is always with us, waiting patiently to shine through us. And the best way to clear out the clouds is to repent, and then say, “Yes.” Not so we can be like anyone else, but so that we can shine more like Him.

 For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”[a] made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

2 Corinthians 4:5-7

~Rita

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Reference:
2 Corinthians 4

Perspective Adjustment

2 Cor 13-11

I personally love to receive adjustments to my perspective. These moments where God steps in a realigns what is out of place in my heart are of great value to me. I also love how they come in the moments I least expect.
My most recent adjustment came last week.

So, last week my son got glasses for the first time. As you can imagine this was a significant event in his life. For me however, it was a bit of a shock. Up until this year, he had had pretty good vision. He had no trouble reading. And other than seeming to be inching himself closer to the TV, I really hadn’t noticed a change, nor did he ever complain about having trouble seeing anything in the distance.

Nevertheless, the result from the eye exam: Nearsighted.

Fast forward two weeks when his glasses arrived and we went to the eye doctor to have them fitted. This is where the adjustment in my perspective began to take place.
As my son sat in the chair in front of the attendant, mirror before of him, the gentleman cleaned the already spotless lenses of his new glasses and handed them to my boy. “Go ahead and try’em out.” he said. Gingerly holding the glasses my son slid them on and over his ears. “What do you think?” I ask. Totally expecting him to be looking at his own reflection in the mirror. To my amusement he was not even looking in the direction of the mirror. He was looking at the rows of glasses on the wall, he was looking toward the back of the building. His gaze took him around the entire room. And that’s when my heart broke a little. He was trying to see everything he couldn’t before.

He also, was not the least bit interested in what these glasses did to change his appearance.

Over this past week, so many new observations have been shared. Things I have taken as common place have been exciting for him. Things that I have counted as small have shown up large to him.

This week, that still small voice within has been asking if I get it yet? Do I get that it is more important and more valuable to see what is around me than to focus on me? Do I get that the ordinary in every day can be extraordinary? Do I see that letting my gaze fall far, letting it fall on Christ and the glorious future he has planned for us, helps bring meaning, purpose and clarity to what seems out of focus or out of order today? 

Then on Sunday, our pastor took time to notice my sons new glasses and take time to celebrate them. If I’m honest, I haven’t been feeling so excited about this process, thinking still about the hassle glasses might impose on a energetic young man. But, in that moment that still small voice piped up again, “Do you get it? Do you see that restoration that brings clarity is worthy of rejoicing?”
Yes, I think I’m starting to get it. And so, we rejoiced.

Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice!
Strive for full restoration,
encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace.
And the God of love and peace will be with you.

2 Corinthians 13:11

 

~Rita

There’s a Spot for You!

We are just a two short weeks away from the Allegan Western Days!!!
As excited as we are, and as amazing as it has been to watch God step in and prepare every detail of this event, we still need to remember that each of us must do our part to reach out to our community and make this event happen.

So, we are once again sharing a list of needs for this years event. Remember we are all a part of the body of Christ, and it is such a beautiful thing when God’s people – a.k.a. “The Church” unite and function according to His design.

Western Days is not about being a cowboy. It is about being the hands and feet of Jesus, it is the live action of the Church reaching out to our community and fulfilling The Great Commission starting right where we are.

So, I encorage you to read through this list. You know the gifts and talents God has given you, or even the ones that have yet to be developed. Let’s all step out of our comfort zone and serve God and our community wholeheartedly.

On behalf of the Ministry team, Thank you.

Western Days 2017 Allegan, MI

This year’s event will be held June 17th-18th. You can find a detailed schedule of this years event on our website: https://www.westerndaysministries.org/
Also, keep updated about our events on our FaceBook page:
https://www.facebook.com/Western-Days-Ministries-1543022115955344/

If you would like to help us out with getting the word out about western days here are a few ideas:
1. Call your friends and invite them. Let them know (especially if they could use encouragement) that cowboy or not Western Days is a great way for families to spend the day together, and be encouraged. There is something for every age at this event. So, don’t be shy, the worst they can say is, “No.” But, who knows how many might say, “YES!”I

2. Share our Facebook event posts, or even better open them and invite people. These FB Events are public and that means you can invite anyone on your friends list. If you can jot a quick note to your friends and let them know you really care and would love them to come, even better!

3. Have you seen our brochures around town? When you do grab one, but don’t keep it to yourself, give it to someone; your neighbor, a friend, a stranger on the street. It doesn’t matter, just let people know you care and that this event is for them.

Tuesday Nights

We have just TWO prayer/planning meetings left before Western Days! This Tuesday Night at 7pm our Prayer and Planning is at the Allegan Fairgrounds. The last one will be at Rectify (728 River St., Allegan) and will include our favorite Christian Country Music Artist, Tommy Brandt! Don’t miss these meetings if you are (or want to be) involved in this event.  From the very beginning Western Days has been God’s event and therefore we want to keep Him in the forefront of the preparation and planning. We can testify that God has done mighty things to ensure the success of our past events and we look forward to what is ahead.

Saturday June 17th

This is our “Big Event “ day and we will have a lot happening. There will be complementary food available throughout the day as well as food available for purchase from a local vendor, but feel free to bring a picnic lunch if you’d like. Toss a blanket or some lawn chairs into your vehicle and plan to spend the day with us.

  •  Life Walk: Back again this year, Positive Options will host their annual Life Walk fund raising event. Participants will begin the walk inside the fairgrounds. Contact your local Positive Options on how to get involved in this special event.
  • Family Bible Camp: This is a unique opportunity for families to learn biblical principals in a truly “cowboy” way. Camp is currently scheduled to run from 10am – 1pm and will include several learning stations, each complete with life lessons from the Word of God and hands-on activities. Plan to participate in this one-of-a-kind camp with your children or grandchildren. If you would like to volunteer contact: Sue Sowle (269) 650-6288 or email her at: solwesue@gmail.com
  • Cowboy Eventing: ENTRIES FOR THIS EVENT ARE NOW OPEN! Contact Brian Sowle to enter: 269-720-7690.
    We are also looking for volunteers to help with set-up/tear down. Contact Kyle & Rita Gleason to help: 269-370-8108
    This event features obstacle challenges for horse and rider teams that mimic what a cowboy might experience “home on the range.”  Cowboys must be proficient in all areas of horsemanship, as well as be able to ride hazardous terrain to search out stray or loose cattle. The horses that were required for this work also had to be adjustable, in that they had to transition easily from job to job. Cowboy Eventing requires horses and riders to be efficient in three events.
    1. Cowboy Dressage
    2. Open Range
    3. Cattle Sorting.
    Winner of the event will be determined by the highest score from all three events.
  • Ushers: We need about a dozen ushers to help with various tasks on Saturday. These jobs could be greeting, helping direct people, Security, and Safety Staff. Please Contact Brian Sowle (269-720-7690) if you can help.
  • Set up/Tear down: If you don’t mind a little manual labor, we could really use some strong men or women to help with the set up and tear down of this event. The more the merrier. As the saying goes, “Many hands make for Light work.” Brian Sowle is the contact for this as well.
  • Evangelism Team: If God has laid it on your heart to share the gospel, then please contact Marcia Wright (616-218-4916) Don’t be shy, anyone can share God’s love.
  •  Chili Cook Off Judges & Participants:
    Are you a Chili connoisseur? We’re looking for a couple of judges to choose a worthy winner of this friendly competition.
    On the other hand, do you cook a mean Chili? Then you’ll want to get your entry in A.S.A.P. Contact Patricia (269-793-0138) if you want to help with this part of the event.

Sunday June 18th

Happy Father’s Day! We hope you will join us as we close out our weekend with a pancake breakfast and a community church service.

  • Pancake Turners: We are still looking for Pancake turners for the breakfast starting at 8am. If you can help us in this area, please contact Patricia (269-793-0138)

Last year we not only had a multitude of people come forward to receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior during the weekend events, we also had over 20 people come forward during the church service to be baptized cowboy style – in a water trough. Plan to lift your hearts and voices together as “The Church,” in Allegan while we praise and worship our Heavenly Father.
If you and your congregation would like to become more deeply involved in this outreach ministry, please contact Sue Sowle for additional information. [sowlesue@gmail.com]