Friday, April 22, 2016

Is this seat taken?

On Wednesday I had the amazing experience of having a woman of high standing, one who is well regarded and respected in the academic world and the world of music, come over to where I was seated and ask to sit next to me.

She wanted to share her thoughts with me. She wanted to tell me about a song she had composed and how it came to her...a song my little choir had sung the Sunday before. As she spoke to me, she encouraged me and yes, commended me in my work.

The encounter was something I used to dream of, but never really thought could or would happen given my lack of training and expertise...especially compared to hers!

But she came over to me. She wanted to sit beside me. She want to converse with me.

"Is this seat taken?" she asked.

It was not. It was empty, and then she filled it.

As I reflected afterward on this incredible event, I suddenly realized Jesus asks the same of us...

Is this seat taken?

He wants to be near us - to talk to us - to share in our work and to encourage and commend us. He, who was there when the heavens came to be, humbles himself for our sake. His desire is to be where we are, to be our counselor, our confidant, our friend.

Is this seat taken?

Let Him come and sit beside you.  If that seat is filled with pleasure or worries, tell them to move out of the way, and let the Lord take their place. Better yet, give him your own seat! His favorite spot is in the hearts of those He created. Let Him dwell there. Let His arms encircle you. Let His words encourage and instruct you. Let His peace bring you peace.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

I Love to Tell the Story

I have a story to tell. I’ve been telling it all week. It’s pretty amazing. Here it is.

This past year I have been really, really busy doing lots and lots of things. I like keeping busy, so I haven’t complained too much, but lately, it’s been affecting the things I do. My friends have begun to notice. December was an especially busy time for me. And so it happened that in December one of my dear friends sent me an email.

In the email she said she was worried about me and all that I am doing. She suggested I quit handbells.

Quit handbells? Absolutely not! Of all the things I’m doing handbells is the most fun! And it’s practically the only thing I do where I’m not in charge. I just show up, ring my bells, and go home. No planning or preparation required. I would never consider quitting handbells.

That was December.

In January and February our church had it’s first official Discovery Workshops. As a Member Ministry Coordinator, I help facilitate the workshops, and I can tell you… they are wonderful!  The participants take all sorts of assessments to discover their unique set of spiritual gifts, abilities and interests. We talk about how each one of us was created with a plan and a purpose, and how God is working in us to fulfill his purpose.

Once an individual has completed the workshop, they have the opportunity to sit down, one on one, with a member of the Member Ministry Team to discuss what they learned from the workshop and any reflections or referrals that might be appropriate. After the January workshop I got to meet with a lady who is very busy, just like me. But she was also feeling a little overwhelmed. Recently someone had asked her to run for an office, and she had to say no. She was feeling bad about that, so I told her to remember…

When you say “No,” that means someone else gets to say “Yes,” and that’s a good thing.

I wasn’t sure where that sentence came from, but I thought it sounded pretty good, so I repeated it several times over the next couple of weeks.

As our February Discovery Workshop got underway and once again we began to reflect on God’s plan for each of us, I had a feeling God was trying to tell me something. Then on Saturday morning, as I was thinking about  the workshop and my new favorite saying (printed above) a little voice in my head said, “Linette, can you follow your own advice?”


For the first time I considered what would happen if I left the handbell choir. Someone else would get a chance to play. They’d find out what great people are in that choir, and how wonderful our director is. They’d have the fun of making music, and the joy of contributing to worship. They’d be able to enjoy what I have been enjoying these past ten years. And that’s a good thing.

After the workshop that day as the facilitators and I were reflecting no how everything went, I told them about this change of heart God was working in me. I told them how I wondered if there might be someone out there who wants to give handbells a try. A friend looked at me and said, “You know what, I bet there is.”

The next morning during my quiet meditation time, I was ready. I sent our director a long email explaining everything. I told her I’m not quitting. I’m only saying that if there’s someone who's interested in joining the choir, I think God wants me to give them my spot.

After I sent the email I typed out my prayer for the day, which is how I always end my daily journal entry. I thanked God for changing my heart. I thanked God for the joy I felt in yielding to his will. And I told him that if there is someone, and if I do step down, that I would be so happy to share this story! I was careful not to tell God what to do. Maybe he didn’t want me to leave handbells. Maybe just knowing I was willing to do so was enough. But either way, I knew my future was in good hands.

I hope you’re still reading, because here comes the really good part.

So I closed my lap top, and there on the couch beside me I saw Krystal’s Participant Profile from the workshop. Everyone who attends a workshop gets a Participant Handbook, which is theirs to keep, and a Participant Profile, which contains the information we’ve discovered about the individual’s specific gifts and abilities which we then enter into our church’s database. Since I was to spend the afternoon with Krystal  I thought it might be good to look hers over. So I picked up her Profile and I’m paging through it when I get to the last page. It’s there that we have the participants list their previous service history, and also rank each experience as to whether or not it was a good fit. The last thing she wrote in her Profile was “MLC Handbells – yes.”

When you say “No,” that means someone else gets to say “Yes,” and that’s a good thing.

Could it be that easy? Was God answering my prayer in Krystal?

I couldn’t wait to find out. So that afternoon as Krystal and I drove to Redwood Falls, I rattled off the entire story and even before I got to the end Krystal says, “I’d love to join handbells.” We were both overjoyed! The Lord guides. The Lord provides. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

And so I’ve been telling this story a lot lately. I told it to the handbell choir. I told it to my friends. And now I’m telling it to you, because I just love it. I love how God had a plan for me, and Kyrstal. I love how in just a matter of days God was able to flip my heart completely around. And I love how I was able to say farewell to my beloved handbell choir with a huge smile on my face, and a story that gives all the glory to God.  

Sunday, April 13, 2014

We Get It

I love movies with surprise endings. The kind where you think one thing throughout the film, and then at the very end you realize, something very different was going on all along. You know the ones I mean. Movies like “The Sixth Sense,” “A Beautiful Mind,” and “The Prestige.”  You can’t just watch a movie like that once. You have to go back and figure out what you missed the first time around. “Oh, I get it,” you hear yourself say, as the light bulbs go on one by one.

I often think about Jesus’ disciples and how they just didn’t get it, especially during Holy Week. So much went on that they did not understand. So much happened that caused them anger, fear, and sorrow.

They watched helplessly as their friend Jesus was captured, forcibly tortured, and brutally killed. They tried to fight it. They ran away. They cried. They hid. It looked as if all their hopes had been dashed. They were in despair.

But they didn’t know what was really going on. What looked to their eyes  like defeat was really a victory.

It took awhile for them to put all the pieces together. Even when they heard Jesus had risen they didn’t believe it right away. They were still hiding; afraid the Romans would come and do to them what they had done to Jesus.

But little by little they went back over the events in their minds. They recalled the things Jesus had told them. And with the help of the Holy Spirit (especially at Pentecost) they began to see what really happened.

Jesus wasn’t captured. He had gone willingly.

Jesus wasn’t forced to do anything. It was his purpose all along.

Jesus wasn’t killed. He gave up his life. For them. For us. For the entire world!

As Holy Week begins we all have the opportunity to go back and see it all unfold again with new understanding.

We watch as Jesus rides into Jerusalem, not on a noble stallion, but on a little donkey. We understand his humility.

We smell the perfume poured on his feet, and it dawns on us. Jesus let his body be anointed with oil before his death, because he would rise before the women got there to do it Easter morning!

We feel Jesus’ tender hands wash our feet, and realize, he’s not just the best friend we will ever have, but God’s Son.  God’s Son washed our feet, and told us to wash each other's feet. Now we understand. It wasn’t about clean feet. It was about living a life of love.

We try to keep watch with him in the garden, but we’re too tired. If only we had known what he was about to do for us, we would have kept watch. But we didn’t know. We should have known. He told us over and over again. But we didn’t really believe it. We didn’t want to believe it.

When the soldiers come to take him we try to stop them. We pull out our sword and attack, but Jesus reaches out in love and heals the pain we inflicted. Why does he do that? How could his love be so strong? He even loves his enemies. What wondrous love is this?

We listen in anguish as the people cry, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Even though he’s tried by the Jewish leaders (Annas, Caiaphas, and the entire Sanhedrin) as well as the Roman leaders (Pilate and Herod Antipas, who just happens to be in town), his real sentence to death comes from the people. We hear their plea, “Let his blood be on us, and on our children,” and we realize their words are as profound as any we have heard this week. Yes! Let his blood be on us and our children!
We watch his suffering. Has there ever been suffering like this? Light is swallowed up by darkness. And still he suffers. It seems to last forever. And then suddenly he says, "It is finished," and dies. Just like that. We see it ourselves. We know. They did not take his life. He gave it.

He gave it for us. It was his plan all along. Now we get it. Now it all makes sense.

 And we want to go back and watch it over and over again.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Oh, That We Were There

    On Sunday I was blessed to be able to lead my Women's Choir in song for the annual Christmas Song Service at our church. We met at 7:25 AM sharp to run through our songs one last time, but another group was practicing from the balcony, so we had to wait. While we waited I nervously shared with them a short devotion I had prepared earlier that morning. It went more or less like this...

Years ago I heard a sermon where the Pastor shared something his mom once told him. She said that the one place and time in the Bible she would have liked to have witnessed herself was that first Christmas night, on the hillside, with the shepherds. She wanted to see and hear the angels as they filled the skies, proclaiming the God News of the Savior’s birth.

Since then I've thought about what Biblical event I would most like to have been an eye-witness to. There are many, but the one that I come back to time and time again is that night in the upper room. After Jesus had washed the disciple’s feet, and after he had broken the bread and gave them the wine, and after he had prayed for them, Matthew tells us, “they sang a hymn.”

Can you imagine… singing a hymn with Jesus! It takes my breath away just to think about it.

What did he sound like? Was his voice deep and full, or soft and tender? Oh, that we were there! 

For years I wondered what song they sang together that last time. I supposed there was no way of knowing. But amazingly, about year ago, I found out!

The celebration of the Passover for the Jewish people is steeped in tradition and ceremony. It includes the singing of several Psalms. Psalm 113 and 114 were sung before the meal. And Psalms 115 to 118 were sung after the meal. The last song that Jesus sang with his disciples that night was most likely Psalm 118. The first verse of 118 is a familiar one:

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.

This is how Psalm 118 ends:

22 The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone; (He's singing about himself here.) 
23 the Lord has done this,
    and it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 The Lord has done it this very day;
    let us rejoice today and be glad.
25 Lord, save us!
    Lord, grant us success!
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
    From the house of the Lord we bless you.
27 The Lord is God,
    and he has made his light shine on us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
    up to the horns of the altar.
28 You are my God, and I will praise you;
    you are my God, and I will exalt you.
29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.

Did you notice, the Psalm begins and ends with the same words, “His love endures forever?” What a comfort that is! We may not see Jesus with our eyes, but he is certainly here with us, in our hearts. 

So sing to him, and sing with him! Sing with joy, knowing that he will bless us, and be with us, and that his love for us endures forever.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Grandma Florence

Taken in 2010 - Zack, Great-Grandma Florence, Grandpa Jon, and Jeff

Jeff’s Grandma Florence died yesterday. She was 95.

If anyone had visited with her even a few days before that, they would have had no idea she was dying. She was as sharp as ever. But on June 1st Grandma fell off her kitchen stool. Jeff got a call from his mom to go see how she was doing, but when he got there she had her things ready and told him to take her to the ER. She had cracked her hip.

A few days later Grandma was moved from the hospital to the nursing home. From there she just seemed to go downhill. Each time I’d go to see her she was a little paler, a little more slumped over, and a little more depressed. She didn’t like being in the nursing home, and hoped to go home. She also didn’t like how much being there was costing her. When I saw her last Sunday she said, “I hope I make it until the end of the month. My checks come then and I need the money.” I laughed a little and said, “I hope so too.”

Well, she made it to the end of the month, but went down quickly after that.

On Sunday she had visited with her daughter Janice for a remarkable 40 minutes…but that was her last lengthy conversation. On Monday her kidneys completely shut down. I saw her around 2:00 that day but I spent the entire time visiting with Janice. Grandma just rested. She did open her eyes when I spoke to her, but it’s hard to know if she heard me or not. I told her I had come to see her, and that it looked like she’d be with Jesus soon. I told her it would be wonderful and I would see her there! I told her I loved her, and I left. It was hard to say good-bye, it always is, but it feels good too.

I thought that would be the last time I’d see her, but at 4:30, while I was out running errands, Jeff called my cell phone. He wanted to go see her but didn’t know which room she was in. I told him I’d take him over.

So at about 4:30 last night we drove to the nursing home and I took him to Grandma’s room.  His parents were there, as well as all of Florence’s other kids…Jerry, Jill, and Janice. When I had last seen Grandma, just 2 hours before, she was mostly snoring. But this time she was rattling really bad, and moaning. A few minutes after we arrived the nurses, who were wonderful, said they would try to roll her on her side to help her breathe easier. So we left the room and went out into the hallway. A bit after that the nurses came back out, and said she’s only breathing once every 20 seconds or so now. One of them said (when we asked) she didn’t think she’d make it the night. They also said it was nice that so many of her loved ones could be here with her. Too often that’s not the case.

Jill had already gone back in the room at this point and we could hear that Grandma’s moaning had stopped. The nurses went back in then and a minute or so later they came out and told us she was gone. It happened that fast. We all went back in the room. While one of the nurses hugged me Jeff went over to Grandma’s side and silently said the Lord’s Prayer.

There were tears, of course, but we all said God was kind to take her so quickly and that she’s with Jesus now…and Ferdinand. She’d been a widow over 60 years. When her husband died she was pregnant with Janice. Grandma was about 35 at the time.

She was a tough lady, but she had to be. She was both mom and dad to 4 small children, and times were pretty hard on her. A few months back she was telling me about those years. She lived on Social Security. And her family helped out by giving her money when she needed it. But that’s when she learned to skimp and save. Grandma was an expert at skimping and saving.

Eventually (when the kids were all in school) she got a part-time job in the courthouse. An old classmate of hers remembered how well she had done in High School, and recommended her for the job. A few years later, when the house they had been renting was to be sold, she was able to get a loan with the help of one of her employers. She paid off the loan ahead of schedule.

When she was in her late 40’s or 50’s she still worried about money. She was making enough to get by, but hadn’t been able to save up much if anything for her retirement. She went in and talked to her boss about it. It just so happened that one of his clerks was retiring so he gave her the job. It was a big promotion and one she needed badly. She said she felt God had done this for her to make up for all the hard times she had had in her life up till then.

In addition to being a tough lady who worked hard at whatever she did, she also was very active in church and as a volunteer. She walked a lot and was in great shape. She was also very attractive. Although she admitted to me that she never thought so, and often worried about her looks, I told her that she worried for nothing. She was a beautiful lady, inside and out.

Grandma loved to read, and it was because of her I finally read “Gone with the Wind” last summer. It was one of her favorites. We often talked about books, and movies, and current events, even though she knew more about current events than I did most of the time. We also played a lot of Scrabble and a few other card games. I enjoyed our visits. I will miss her. What a great lady.
We’re still planning to go to Kentucky. We weren’t sure if we should, but everyone has told us to go and not worry about missing the funeral. So we will. But our thoughts will be here with everyone who is mourning our loss. I feel just like I did when Grandpa died 3 summers ago. Death stinks, but knowing we will see our loved ones again makes all the difference.

John 3:16

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Adventure's Out There

There was a time, not too long ago, when I believed seeking adventure was wrong.   After all, the Bible says quite clearly, “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.” (1 Thessalonians 4:11) Or in the words of one of my favorite hymns…

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free

'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,

And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gain'd,

To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,

To turn, turn will be our delight,

Till by turning, turning we come 'round right.

And so I’ve never really allowed myself to let my dreams take me too far from home. Or as I usually put it, I don’t have much of a life.

But lately, I’m beginning to wonder if it’s okay to have a little adventure now and then. Maybe, just maybe, making bucket lists, and trying to experience new and exciting things isn’t sinful after all. Maybe God wants me to enjoy all this life has to offer. 

I was sharing these thoughts with my kids on the way back from our big Boundary Waters Adventure (which was amazing and a life-long dream fulfilled), when my son JJ gave me a bit of insight I had not expected.

He said, “God knows what you want to do in life and if He wants to send you on an adventure He will. So don’t worry about it.”

A few weeks later, through a strange string of events I won’t go into here, I was cast as a nurse in the Community Theater Summer Production of South Pacific! Danica is the Assistant Director, and Zack’s one of the sailors. It’s so much fun being in a musical again…and with my kids! It doesn’t get much better than this. 

And on Tuesday, Jeff and I are leaving on a road trip to Kentucky to visit his sister and her family. We haven’t even left the state in over 6 years!  And it was Jeff’s idea. Who’d a thunk?

In short, my summer is turning out to be FILLED with adventure. And I’m just as surprised as anyone. I think JJ may have been right. If God wants me to have adventure, then adventure I shall have. And I guess He does. Cuz I am. And it’s pretty wonderful. Thanks God.

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

Thursday, June 20, 2013

BWCA Adventure - More Pictures

My Favorite Portage

A few weeks ago I posted a blog
 about our trip to the Boundary Waters
 in early June. Since then my brother (and our guide) Tim, 
sent me some of his pictures, so I decided to do a follow-up blog
 with more pictures. (Remember, you can click
 on the pictures to see them bigger.)

Because both my brothers were going up to the BWCA the same week, Bruce (aka Pooch) had to go get this spare one from Wisconsin. It needed a bit of cleaning, but Tim's not afraid of a little hard work, as we soon found out.

Here's a picture I took of Danica and Sadie on the side of the freeway. Danica was in charge of keeping Sadie watered and fed, and out of the way. She seemed to enjoy it.

Sadie enjoyed the tow truck ride back to Pooch's.

One thing I left out of my first blog was that behind our campsite was a bay. I named it "Beaver Bay." It's not a very creative name, but very fitting, as the next few pictures will testify. And yes, that's Zack and JJ in the canoe.

Danica looking for Beavers.
There one!

This tent-like contraption is called the "Skeeter Defeater." It was a great place to take refuge from the mosquitoes and black flies. In this picture Danica and I are playing the dice game "Phase 10."I think she won.

At Drag Lake

Is fishing without a license illegal if you don't catch anything?

The loons are always great to see. Tim got a nice picture of one.
Danica and Sadie do what they can to stay warm and dry.

Tim's proudest accomplishment. The bears didn't stand a chance.

All of us came back heavier than we we left. But we're pretty sure the added weight was all muscle!