The Library and the Gospel

Last week, a dear friend came over to connect and pray together. Before she arrived, my morning imploded and I needed to run a few unexpected errands. One of them being the library. I had to return something that was due, so I could avoid the over-due fine. So, we ran a few errands around town together, catching up in the car along the way, and we end up at the library. The blessed, beautiful library.

Our family loves the library. One of us is there at least 3 times a week, sometimes more. Turning something in, picking something up, requesting items, returning items, and the cycle goes on. Between the five of us, our family usually carries about 90 borrowed items from the library at a time. The limit is 100. We’ve exceeded the limit before and carried over our max borrowed items into my account, which is our secondary account. We try not to use my account, but sometimes we need to check out and borrow more than 100 items… Because… We really love to read and watch movies and borrow the libraries video games… and *bonus* we don’t have to pay for them. Well, technically our taxes help foot the bill for us to borrow. borrow. borrow…

I returned the items due and picked up the item on hold. The held item was a video game. A few months ago, the library changed their policy on borrowing video games, after several hundred of their video games were stolen. You have to go to the front desk to check out games. They don’t leave them in the cases, they can’t trust people anymore. It is so sad, really. 1,000’s of dollars worth of video games were stolen from the poor innocent library. The very place that we can borrow -nearly anything- for freeeeee…  Our library goes above and beyond books, CD’s and video games, offering a “library of things“.  You can check out bakeware, kitchenware, tools, instruments, arts and crafts, electronics, science and technology items… the list is endless!

Anyhoo, we went to the desk to pick up the game and the librarian pulled up my account and the shame of our outstanding F I N E slapped me in the face. “…I see you have a fine of $5.05 on your account”… Before she could finish the sentence, I was agonizing internally over the fact that I did not bring my wallet in with me, as I had planned for this to be a super quick-run inside, pick up the game and run back to my car-trip. “Yes.” I feebly replied, hoping she would let me pay the fine later, yet knowing there is a certain limit to how long you can carry a fine at the blessed, beautiful library, before they make you pay it off in order to check out more items.

The librarian, turned her computer screen so that I could see the long list of items over-due which had been fined. “Miss, this is your balance. But see, what I can do this week is erase your balance. This is library fine-forgiveness week.” Stunned, shocked, speechless. I just stood there. Perhaps reading my mind, or my body language, or my lack of words, she went on to explain… “This week, the library fathers have allowed us to clear all outstanding fines.” Click Click Click. And just like that, our balance was Zero. Once I regained my verbal abilities, I replied “Wow, this is just like Gods Grace!” And just like that. It was finished.

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I walked out of the library with my friend, overwhelmed by the fine-forgiveness from the library fathers, and the forgiveness I have received from my Heavenly Father. Amazed by this experience occurring the same week as Easter… In the middle of celebrating Holy Week and the miracle of Easter ~ the death and Resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ ~ I was struck again by the depth of my Heavenly Fathers forgiveness.

The Death of Jesus ~ John 19

28Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” 29A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. 30When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and released his spirit.
31It was the day of preparation, and the Jewish leaders didn’t want the bodies hanging there the next day, which was the Sabbath (and a very special Sabbath, because it was the Passover). So they asked Pilate to hasten their deaths by ordering that their legs be broken. Then their bodies could be taken down. 32So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the two men crucified with Jesus. 33But when they came to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead, so they didn’t break his legs. 34One of the soldiers, however, pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water flowed out. 35(This report is from an eyewitness giving an accurate account. He speaks the truth so that you also can believe.) 36These things happened in fulfillment of the Scriptures that say, “Not one of his bones will be broken,” 37and “They will look on the one they pierced.”

Thank You Jesus for Your sacrifice. You gave of Your own life, so that we may fully live as Children of God. Thank You for colliding the simple grace of library forgiveness with the powerful grace of Your forgiveness in my life. May I live a life which extends the same grace, love and forgiveness You have given me, toward others, every moment I have life on this earth.

Join me in the journey! I would love to hear your thoughts, and feel free to share our story… the half-written journey continues. In Him, Leslie

 

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Honoring our next President of the United States of America

Tuesday, November 8th 2016 will likely definitely go down as a day for the history books and websites to record and remember. In a Presidential race where one catch phrase has been “Giant Meteor 2016 – Just end it already”, many are feeling as though they are ‘choosing between the lesser of two evils’ when they vote. While others are declaring they will move to Canada if their candidate does not win, or wishing President Obama could win again and remain our President for infinity and beyond… America has been divided, united, and twisted.

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The pressure to post and respond to every political opinion on social media about your candidate of choice is fierce. Facebook friendships are faltering, families are divided, co-workers are confused… But hold onto the reigns of your tongue and typewriter… somebody is going to become our President Elect tomorrow, regardless of our social media opinions and outlets… regardless of this blog… And I can respect you even if you have a differing opinion from me.

You guys. Here’s a crazy thought… What if both Trump AND Clinton became President(S) … and had to share the responsibility and work in the oval office TOGETHER!!! What if the Democrats and Republicans had to work together in civility and UNITY?!! That would be INSANE!!! I know our democracy isn’t set up this way, but WHAT IF?!! #dreams #whatif #Godisstillincontrol

News Flash >>> yes, only ONE is going to win this election. The debacles debates are over, journalism has successfully exposed every truth and lie both candidates have ever told, every thought they’ve ever had, email they’ve ever written, tweet they’ve ever tweeted, outfit they’ve ever worn and every way they’ve combed their hair… and has any of this really important vital information helped any of us? Are we now more honestly educated and informed? Is either candidate or political party truly trustworthy?

((( … crickets … )))

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Even if we see choosing between the two lovely candidates we have as subpar choices, and we know two wrongs don’t make a right, we still need to vote. And respect one another.

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It is funny, yet so serious, as Liam Neeson’s characters always are. I am on the edge of my seat anticipating to see who our next President elect will be. This is not a blog to sway votes or predict what will happen tomorrow. Other than casting my vote and praying, and then praying more, much of the election outcome is out of my personal control. And it’s out of your control too. This is a humbling fact.

Regardless of who becomes the next President of the United States of America, I will choose to honor him… or her. As a follower of Christ I trust in a higher authority and I can honor all earthly authority. 

I can do this because the Truth I know is this: God is in control and ultimately holds all governmental authority. Recently, the Lord prompted me to read in the book of Daniel. As I was reading, I began weeping. I have not read my Bible and wept over the Words of Life in a very long time. I was overcome and the Holy Spirit spoke… “You can honor the next President, even if you disagree with him… or her, just as Daniel honored King Nebuchadnezzar.” It is an honor, a privilege, to vote and we can honor, respecting those in authority, even if we may disagree with them.

From approximately 605 BC – 562 BC, King Nebuchadnezzar ruled over Babylon and was considered the greatest King of the Babylonian empire. Daniel was one of several young men selected to serve in King Nebuchadnezzar’s court. Daniel did not choose to be a servant in King Neb’s court, however he remained pure and continued to worship God during his time of training.

Daniel and three of his friends also chosen, were renamed, given Babylonian names while in the Kings court. Daniel was called Belteshazzar, Hananiah was called Shadrach, Mishael was called Meshach, and Azariah was called Abednego. They did not choose these names, but they answered to them. They were told to eat the Kings food, worship his idols, interpret his dreams and were eventually thrown into the blazing furnace for refusing to worship Neb’s golden statue.

Daniel was determined to not defile himself. He honored the Lord with his worship and he honored his earthly king. He walked in humility and was full of Godly wisdom. He gained great favor in the eyes of King Neb, and was promoted to the royal service. Daniel successfully interpreted the Kings dreams, and was made ruler over the whole province of Babylon. Thru many dreams and trials and after much distress and anger, King Nebuchadnezzar was humiliated and humbled, driven from human society. After time passed, he turned his heart toward God, and gave honor and praise to the King of heaven. Eventually, his sanity returned and his kingdom was restored to him.

Daniel and his friends served the King under great oppression and challenge to their personal worship of Yahweh God. There are many truths we can learn from Daniel and his friends during their service in the courts of King Nebuchadnezzar.

  • We can honor both the Lord and His authority first, and earthly authority. (Daniel 1:8-9)
  • We can put our trust and hope in a King who rules the nations. (Daniel 2:21-23)
  • We can live with courage and without fear. (Daniel 3:17-18)
  • We can earn favor in the eyes of earthly authority and God will promote us. (Daniel 2:48-49)
  • With His favor, we can influence earthly authority for the Kingdom of God. (Daniel 4:37)
  • We can walk in humility and grace, under authority we may disagree with. (Daniel 4:19)
  • We can boldly declare Who God is under extreme persecution as Daniels friends did in Daniel 3:17-18 “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. 18 But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”

On Wednesday, November 9th, after America has chosen our President, Jesus will still be on throne and King of all the earth. And the Holy Spirit will give comfort and peace to all humanity. Just like Daniel, God calls me to honor those in authority. Even those I may deeply disagree with. I will honor those in authority, but I will first honor the Lord and trust He will do what He says He will do in Daniel 2:21-23.

“Praise the name of God forever and ever,
for he has all wisdom and power.
21 He controls the course of world events;
he removes kings and sets up other kings.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the scholars.
22 He reveals deep and mysterious things
and knows what lies hidden in darkness,
though he is surrounded by light.
23 I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors,
for you have given me wisdom and strength.
You have told me what we asked of you
and revealed to us what the king demanded.”

We can trust and we live in peace. We can be still and know that He is God and He is good. For we know as Psalm 22:28 says, “The Kingdom is the Lords and He rules over the nations.” God will be exalted among the nations. God will be exalted in the earth. Amen.

Thank you for reading. I would love to hear your thoughts. Our story continues… In Him, LRB

 

 

 

Move over adults… Youth are taking over the church.

We are in awe of ALL God did at our Fruit of the Roots youth event last weekend!! Youth from Vineyard churches all over Oregon and Vancouver, gathered at our church to worship and seek God together. They connected with one another, old friends and new, deepening community. They had loads of fun, ran around like loons, drank liters of gatorade and ate tons of food… And they worshipped. They prayed. And they served.

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Together the youth made care packages for the Police officers in our community, they gave Hope packs out to people at the hospital and prayed in the emergency room, they made shoes for children in Africa suffering from jiggers thru the ministry Sole Hope, they made meals and gave them to our homeless community, and they prayed for and gave money to various people God led them to.

Personally for our family, God met us with His kindness and faithfulness. Here are a few stories… Selah (6yo) prayed after hearing testimony of eyes being healed on Saturday… “God You are the only God, the One True God. You are the Healer, not the sicker, You are the Healer.” I loved how she prayed “not the sicker”  🙂 The Truth of who God is has been sealed upon her heart. Salem (10 yo) was battling some discouragement when we came to the church. I asked him to come and listen to the service Saturday night, as testimonies were being shared from outreaches the youth participated in on Saturday afternoon. As he listened to the testimonies, he was reminded of the Truth of Who GOD IS. Immediately, the discouragement lifted and he returned to his joyful silly self! This year was Soleil’s (12yo) first time to participate in Fruit of the Roots as part of the youth group. She has been sharing stories of her outreach group going out into the community and serving people God led them to with us all week. She is growing with a burning passion for Jesus that is evident in her joy and Worship!!

Sunday morning, we had an overflow of joy in worship as our church community gathered for our service. There was freedom to dance and shout as we all proclaimed “I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a Child of God!” Across all of the generations represented in our church, from babies to 80 years young, we proclaimed and sang out “We are the Children of God! We know Whose we are, we are the Children of God!” After the worship time, Adam called for prayer over those in need of healing, addiction and for an increase of Joy. He asked the youth to pray and God moved powerfully over those who responded. We sang again “I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God”. This time, I asked one of our 8th graders to lead out on the song … hesitantly she started singing (since I put her on the spot!) but WOW, God gave her courage and she sang boldly and beautifully as He used her to lead us!

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Sunday evening, we had our Harvest Party. Families from the church and community gathered and our little building was filled with everyone enjoying LOTS of candy, chili, games and FUN!!!

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Adults, be aware – THIS is what happens when young people are in the church. And it is GOOD!  Thanks for reading… our story continues… In Him, LRB

Redeeming Death and Darkness

In our stores this month, death has been for sale. Have you seen it? People actually pay their hard earned cash, people actually spend REAL money… on death. I don’t get it. Here’s what I know about death – it stinks, it rots, it decomposes and it’s ugly. So why do we pay to display and dress up in it? At Goodwill recently, I ran across a statue of a vampire holding a head. The lovely piece of “Art” was on sale for $79. Yes, you read this correctly. It was once sold somewhere else, then donated, then re-sold at Goodwill, where everything is supposed to be ‘cheaper’ for $79.

We buy death. We decorate with death. We display death around our homes and neighborhoods. Halloween has become an opportunity for companies to make money off of selling items, which if portrayed in real life, people would be arrested for. One would be incarcerated if found dressed up and holding someones cut-off head. It is disgusting.

The United States of America is a very interesting place. In many other countries Halloween is not celebrated. We have friends who live in Austria where Halloween has only gained popularity in recent years. We are confusing our neighbors across the pond with our obsession with darkness, death, fear, scary costumes, gore, horror, and the list could go on and on. We spread it around our lawns and like this house I often go running by, we hang it from our treeeeeeeeeesssssssss.

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Yes, visiting our neighbors houses is fun. Collecting candy is fun. Decorating is fun. Costumes are fun. Games are fun. But glorifying darkness, death and fear? Not fun. And this goes beyond Halloween… What are we portraying day to day with our time, energy, actions and money? Life or death?

“Oh death, where is your sting? Oh death, where is your victory?” Jesus conquered death. We have no reason to fear. If we are Christ followers, we no longer live in darkness, we live as Children of the Light. We are called to walk as sons and daughters of God, as children of the Light. The same power that raised CHRIST from the dead LIVES within US!

Friends, this is our time to shine. Shine with the light of Christ. In a season where death is glorified and darkness overtakes our neighborhoods, we have an opportunity to shine as fierce as the sun! In the past our family has hibernated and hidden away from Halloween, and we’ve missed opportunities to talk with our neighbors. I’m not proud of this. A few years ago, we spent Halloween being a “fun house” on the block, and hosted a carnival style party where games, candy and fun spilled out of our house and driveway and onto our neighbors. At our house tonight, we are planning to shower our neighbors with friendship thru games, candy and fun as we shine the light of Christ thru our actions.

Perhaps nothing will change from this simple blog and these humble ideas. But perhaps… perhaps some of you will decide to do something different next year. My one suggestion would be – trash it. Don’t pack it up and donate it to Goodwill to be re-sold. Perhaps there will be a new generation of Halloween participants who will share light instead of darkness, fun instead of fear, and shower this world with the Light of Christ proclaiming LIFE over DEATH!

Thank you for reading and sharing in our journey! In Him, LRB

Two wrongs don’t make a Right

Recently, I was talking with my sister in law on the phone. While we were talking, the clock was ticking along and I needed to leave to pick up my kids from school. I kept her on speaker phone, holding it on my lap, while I was driving (1st wrong) and continued on my merry way down the road as we finished up our conversation. While stopped at a red light, I was in the right lane which eventually turns into a merge lane, where I need to merge left. I merged, and accidentally cut in front of another driver (2nd wrong). He honked at me and I was flustered, realizing I had merged sooner than I needed to and cut him off. Thankfully he did not rear-end me, and I didn’t cause anymore problems…

Amber kept talking to me, and as I listened to her on the speaker phone, I watched as the driver I had just accidentally cut off was driving behind me, along with the other vehicles down this (now) one lane road, like ducks in a row. I kept my eyes on the road, and a few moments later watched as he jerked over into the middle dividing lane, sped up and cut right in between myself and the car in front of me, slamming on his brakes (3rd wrong). This now causing me to react – slamming on my breaks, watching between him in front of me, and in my rear view mirror to see how the driver behind me is reacting… I’m praying “Please stop and don’t ram into me” and at the same time thinking, “This guy is now cutting in front of me, trying to ‘teach me a lesson’.” Geez. OK dude, “lesson learned” Thanks for this teachable moment. But no, there’s more to this story…

Now I was fully stopped, and the car behind me stopped just short of hitting me, and in a matter of seconds, I realized what what fully happening as we are all stopped in the middle of the road and all stopping the flow of traffic. The guy I had previously accidentally cut off parks his car, in the middle of the road (4th wrong) jumps out of his car, angry coming towards me (my windows are down) looks at me and yells ” YOU JUST CUT ME OFF BECAUSE YOU’RE ON YOUR PHONE!! GET OFF YOUR DAMN PHONE AND PAY ATTENTION!!!” thru which I feebly mumbled a reply, “I’m sorry… it was an accident…” btw, He doesn’t accept or even hear my apology, then stomps off, jumps back in his car and drives off.

I’m in shock… and start driving again. With or without the speaker phone in my lap, I could have easily made this mistake. I am a good driver. Thankfully, I’ve never been in an accident that I caused. I have been in the wrong place at the wrong time, side-swiped by a truck which was being chased by the police. I have been side swiped by a car who ran a stop sign. I have hydroplaned my own car in the rain, landing myself on the side of the road. And I have seen terrible accidents happen right before my eyes, that I barely avoided… Thankfully, I have not been a dangerous driver or been the victim of a dangerous driver.

Although I was in shock after this man yelled at me, I calmed down and my heart turned to ask God, what can I learn from this? I have been a person who lives with rage. I have thrown my fair share of fits and temper tantrums. I understand rage. I have lived with reactions of rage and my anger has caused many problems, but spewing my anger on another person has never solved anything. Thankfully, I have experienced a ton of freedom from anger and God has re-directed the passionate feelings He created me with. From anger, bitterness and depression to FIRE, JUSTICE AND PASSION.

The moral to this story is “two wrongs (or more) don’t make a right”. What I did was wrong and what he did was wrong. But which was MORE wrong? It’s tempting to choose which of the 2 wrongs are the “lesser evil” ? Or which of the 2 wrongs are less wrong? It’s tempting to recognize my own wrongs as “lesser wrongs” and blame this man for upsetting me, yelling at me, cutting me off and almost causing an accident. But blaming never solves anything. 

This man obviously has passion. He was passionate about my cutting him off and I believe he wanted to ‘teach me a lesson’. I’m guessing – just an educated guess – he might experience and live with rage or anger issues, since that was his reaction. I’m praying for this man. That his anger would be turned to passion for true justice, and not just road rage. I’m praying my own reaction to this experience and future situations would be forgiveness and grace. Not holding on to blame and anger.

Which brings me to the upcoming election….. YIPEE!!! I have not been watching much of the banter and blame exchanged between the 2 lovely choices we have as Presidential candidates. I have only watched a small portion of the wonderful exchanges we Americans call “debates”. We’ve been too busy watching “Leave it To Beaver”. We’ve been learning a lot from how the Cleaver family solves their problems.

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You know what? No matter who is elected, they won’t be able to “Make it all right again”. They just won’t. Only JESUS can do that. Whether you believe God can save us or not, He is the only One who can. And will. He is the ultimate ruler and governor over this earth, regardless of who we Americans elect into the oval office. This is a truth that roots my heart to be still and trust.

Christ followers, have we prayed? We do need to educate ourselves about government policies and issues before we vote. And we have a responsiblity to pray. Pray for our current administration. Pray for our future President. Pray for all of our elected leaders. Pray they will be able to work across party lines. Miracles can happen! Government needs to take responsibility for their own actions, but will they? I’m going to pray it will happen, but I’m not going to wait on that to happen. We as citizens are the ones who have contributed to the problems we experience in our nation, by our own choices. We need to take responsibility for our individual choices and quit blaming everything on the president… or the devil for that matter (although he is real and does exist to kill, steal, destroy and cause confusion).

Regardless of who becomes our next President, the truth is this –  Jesus will still be on the throne, at the right hand of God interceding for us. On Tuesday, November 8th, we will have a choice in how we respond. Will we respond in rage or walk in freedom? When we make mistakes or encounter others, their wrongs and our own wrongs, we have a choice. And we are responsible for our own choices. We need to walk in forgiveness whether it’s accepted or rejected. As cheesy as it sounds – We need to give space for grace with one another. And we need to Pray. Only then will we walk in true freedom as souls, and as citizens.

Thank you for reading. In Him, LRB