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

 

 

 

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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

He Needed to be Forgiven

Genesis 4-4

This past weekend we went to a new church plant. We went to support friends who are stepping boldly forward and answering the call of God saying, “Here I am, send me.” We went to support a friend looking for a place to worship. 
But, I had no idea that what would happen in that little service would tear open our hearts, clean us out and fill us with the water of life. Quenching that insatiable thirst and yet leaving me craving, praying, worshiping all day, like I could never get quite enough. 

And it all came out of the mouths of babes. 

Cain and Abel

Adam[a] made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain.[b] She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth[c] a man.” Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord.And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you

But, God was doing something greater. 

The pastor, asked the congregation, “What was the difference between Cain’s offering and Abel’s. And we thought it was rhetorical. We know the story. We get that it was a heart issue. Yet no one offered to put themselves out there and answer the question. 

But one young boy raised his hand. 

In the sweetness of his seven years, he shyly put together the words, “He knew he had sinned and needed to be forgiven.”

……

He (Abel) knew he needed to be forgiven.

I still have to soak that one in. 

You see, as many times as I ever heard this story… as many times have I have recounted it’s meaning. I have never once thought of Abel, the son who brought the best offering as a broken sinning soul. 

I have never once thought that Abel, understood something about the disconnect of sin, and the need for atonement. The longing for restoration and connection with God. 

I thought Abel had it all figured out. I thought he was the good boy who knew how to do the right things. That he was so pure of heart that he never messed up. 

But, today a sweet seven-year-old boy taught me a lesson. Abel, was bringing that sacrifice, bringing the best of what he had to the Living God, not because he had already done all the right things, but because he wanted to be restored. He needed to be forgiven. He needed to be right with God. 

yeah. 

 

~Rita

 

The One

Luke 15-4

Most know I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I love it because it allows me to stay in contact with far away friends and family, who otherwise I would not hear from except for the annual Christmas card. I love that it allows us to peek into each others lives and remember that none of us are alone in our struggles. I love that it has given me and this wonderful ministry as a platform to share God’s word and his love for all people. Of course there are many things I don’t love about it, but for today, lets just stick to the positives.

It was because of the blessing of social media I was able to witness baptism of someone I once knew growing up. This proclamation of faith and baptism has stuck with me and I have been rejoicing over it for days. You see, though I don’t really know this person anymore, I did know of the love and prayer and continual reaching out of this persons family. A family who both knew Christ and who was new to a personal relationship with Christ. I knew this person needed Jesus too.
So, it was such a wonderful surprise when the video of this baptism popped up in my news feed. My heart literally stopped as I heard the confession of faith and watched in awe that someone who I had no idea was looking, yet I knew soooo needed Jesus shared the testimony of how God had intervened in their life, And here they were getting baptized, not just this person but his children as well! Can we get a Hallelujah in here!!!

It got me thinking about what Western Days Ministries is all about. You see, even though this ministry had nothing to do with leading this person to the Lord, we rejoice because of the ONE.
Our theme has always been, “Gather’n the Strays.” Though we love putting on events that are family friendly, that seek to draw the community together and unite churches, it is really all about the one. That one person who thinks they have no hope, that one person who needs to hear that God loves them. That one person who feels, …lost.
I’ve heard it over and over, since the beginning of this ministry that if what we do brought just one person to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, then it was worth it!

The Parable of the Lost Sheep
Luke 15:1-7

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons
who do not need to repent.

This is our Calling. Leaving the ninety-nine and going to look for that one. 

The question is, will you join us?

~Rita

Living Well

1 Corinthians 9-24-25

There are many things in life that seem so far out of control. When a new mother prepares to give birth, she has no control over the day or time that her baby will be born. Thus on the other end of life, we have no control over day or way a person’s life here on earth ends. 

Last week I made a trek to the mountains of Southern California, to honor the life of my grandfather who had passed away. It was a time to mourn and a time to reflect.

Death, to me, is still one of the most unnatural parts of life. I don’t believe that mankind was created to die. God’s original design for us was to live and to thrive in His beautiful earth creation, and to have direct fellowship with us. Unfortunately sin broke that fellowship and the consequence of death was introduced to our once perfect existence.

This morning as I start my day, I find myself reflecting and remembering the funeral service for my grandfather, and trying hard to store the memory and the stories of the extraordinary life of this man. I also find myself pondering about living life well. A value that my grandfather truly embodied, and a desire he clearly had passed on to his children and now grandchildren.

I suppose this is the mercy of death. As someone we love passes on, we cannot help but look at the way we are using the time God has given us here on earth. Facing the reality that our lives are so temporal. That we truly are but a vapor. It causes us to take time to realign priorities and remind ourselves to live with purpose.

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last,
but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
1 Corinthians  9:24-25

 I’m sure many of us have read this Scripture before. Is this not the goal? Is the idea of finishing the race, and getting the prize what we put our focus to when we read these verses?

But what about the in-between? I know, at least for me, I get distracted easily. Life has many urgent moments and moments where we get into survival mode. There is so much going on that if we are not careful, if we do discipline ourselves, we can very quickly go from living well, to just trying to get to the other side.

Now, I’m no runner. But I am a horsewoman, and I did compete for several years. In my experience it was sometimes very hard to not rush the horses I was bringing along. I had goals, and those goals were admirable and even good, but I was often tempted to take a shortcut and/or push the horse to do more than he was physically prepared to do. I would forget the benefits of developing my horse slowly, and carefully. My vision would get clouded and I would loose sight of the goal of not only winning, but of improving the connection I had with my horse. The connection which was developed in all the moments in-between and before the competition. The connection which was properly developed when we trained with self-discipline. Which in the end made the winning much easier.

Even as a parent I can see the pressure to hurry through the childhood of my children. It takes an extreme amount of patience  to not rush my kids through their school, or tying their shoes to get out the door. I must remember that all those little moments in-between matter. That I am training them in matters greater than the task at hand. I must be aware that how I respond to these in-between moments decides the outcome of the end moments.

With the destination as our focus, the journey will seem to be in the way. Living well goes deeper than that. It is the time in-between the goals that count. The moments leading up to the completion of the race that determine the outcome. So remember, you are in training. Live well so that you will receive that prize that will last forever.

~Rita

 

 

 

Equipped

Eph 2-10

When I started a little blog 6 years ago to share our adventures as ranch hands in Montana, I had no idea if I would make it past the first post. I had never been a writer before. If I’m completely honest I barely paid attention to my language arts lessons in school. Who needs to know how to structure a sentence, anyway? I was probably the only senior in high school I know who still had a speller to work on. Though I always loved literature, I was never known as the “Creative one.” Goodness, I still struggle to make up fairy tales for the kids! So, believe me when I say, no one is more surprised than I am to find myself writing.

I think often when we think of our lives, and especially in our spiritual walk, that everything must fit in its little box. Then on each little box, we mark ourselves finished, and when opportunities arrive we are oh so quick to say, “Sorry, I can’t do that.” or “Sorry, that is not my gifting.” We judge that just because we have never been able to do something before, it means we will never be equipped or qualified to do anything more.

I know it is so much easier to point out our faults. Honestly, if you asked me, I still struggle with calling myself a writer. I still am not a great speller (thank the good Lord for spell-check) and  when I go back and re-read my work I often see all those grammatical errors that probably cause all your toes to curl. Even when I google how to correctly place a semi-colon, I still second guess if I’m doing it right. Yet, it seems like all day long words are filling my head, and eventually they meet a point with God’s word and suddenly they spill onto the page and before I know what I’ve done, I’ve written something. This is certainly not something within my nature or natural ability, it is a gift from God. 

You’ve I’m sure heard the saying, “God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.” Well, what if we believed that? What if, when we first feel that burning in our hearts to do something for the Lord, that we really believed that he can equip us to complete the work?

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Ephesians 2:10

When God formed you in your mothers womb, you were not a mistake. When he knit you together in the hidden places, he already had a purpose in mind and a plan for your life. 

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
Psalm 139:13-16

He already knew every gift you would have, and He knows every gift yet to be bestowed upon you. Our job is to have faith that He will complete it. Not for our gratification and fulfillment, but for His.

~Rita