Thursday, July 28, 2011

Prayers for a follower

Please pray for Melissa Viers, 28, Creston Iowa. She is my daughter Sara's college roommate. Her story follows. Her cancer has returned and is in her bones and lungs.
Thank you and Blessings

Article is from the Ames Star Tribune March 2011
A benefit at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Nevada this Saturday will help a Creston family, with ties to Nevada and Maxwell, cope with the harsh financial reality of cancer treatments.

James and Melissa Viers, who grew up in the Nevada and Maxwell area, are no strangers to helping others in their community—James has been a full-time firefighter in Creston since 2006, and Melissa has been working as a breast feeding peer counselor with the MATURA office in Creston. MATURA is the designated Community Action Agency for several counties in Iowa, and offers program services for low-income families, individuals and children.

The sad irony is that it was breast feeding that led Melissa to discover she had breast cancer. “I was still nursing my youngest at the time, and I found a lump,” she said. “He was staying with family and I was pumping for him when I found it. I didn’t think anything of it because when I picked him up I was able to nurse him again and it didn’t hurt.”

But a couple of weeks passed and the lump seemed to be getting worse, so Melissa went to have her doctor examine it. “My doctor thought it was just a cyst, but he wanted to be careful so he ordered an ultrasound, and that didn’t show anything. About two or three weeks later I had a biopsy, which came back positive for cancer,” she said.

Since Melissa started chemotherapy, the medical bills have been starting to pile up. “Last year wasn’t too bad—insurance covered most of it. But we have to meet all of our out-of-pocket expenses this year,” Melissa said. Couple the chemo costs with the therapy for their daughter, who Melissa said was born very premature, and things add up fast. “We have to come to Des Moines once a week anyway and the travel costs and out-of-pocket costs are really starting to rack up,” she said.

It also doesn’t help that the Viers’ insurance health insurance is now trying to deny payment for one of the treatments Melissa needs. “Our insurance is denying one of my chemo drugs that I have to have once a week for 12 weeks—we haven’t gotten the bill for that yet, but I’m not looking forward to it,” she said.

Melissa said their church family from Cornerstone Baptist in Afton has been very helpful in assisting her family; and now her friends and family here are looking to help assist them financially with a benefit.

The Viers benefit will be a soup supper/silent auction at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Nevada on Saturday, March 26, from 5-7 p.m. Viers’ stepmother, Kim Flynn, said that companies such as Ben Franklin, Pioneer, Hy-Vee and Ames Racquet and Fitness Center have donated items for the silent auction. Flynn said they are requesting “good will donations” for the soup supper.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Pearl

Women of Faith:

With all of the recent tragedies that have affected my friends and family in the past several weeks I can’t help but wonder what message God is trying to give each of us. Personally, it seems like He is trying to get our attention, to get us to depend on Him for our daily needs, and to get us to realize what is really “valuable” in our lives. I also think He is giving us the opportunity to serve one another by letting us help each other in all ways possible: prayer, food, cleanup hands, a listening ear, comfort, or simply a hug.

As I have listened to those affected by both tragedies and storms, some in multiple ways in their lives –through the death or illness of a close family member (or members) and then blasted by the natural disaster of the storms we have so recently seen-- I have heard the pattern of the talk shift from “this is so terrible” to “it could have been much worse.”

There is a consistent “theme” that all of the THINGS lost were not as important as what was saved—life and our faith in God….

“Jesus said to his disciples: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.” Mt 13:44-46

Faith in God, husbands, wives, children, family and friends, wisdom and understanding—these are the pearls in our lives. Most of us would give up all of the “stuff” we have in our lives so that we could keep loved ones with us forever. And most of us would pay any amount of money to keep our loved ones from harm or from hurt.

Unfortunately for some of those who recently lost someone they loved it wasn’t until they were lost that those who loved them realized just how important they were in their lives. But even in these tragedies, I have heard mentioned more than once the comfort the family received because of the knowledge that they are/were not alone, that not only was their family member loved, but so are they loved.

How many times do we miss the “pearl” inside our life? How many times are the “pearls” in our lives overlooked because they are buried under an ocean of stuff?
How many times are the “pearls” lost because they are washed away by the current of the culture? How many times do we reject a “pearl” because it does not look perfect? And how many new “pearls” are found, because another one was lost?

Almighty Father: Blessed be Your name. You turn grains of sand into pearls. Help me to keep my eyes, ears and heart open to the “pearls” in my life that were sent here by You. Thank you for giving me the wisdom and understanding to know that the lives of those I meet are the real pearls in my life. Help me never to reject or overlook the “pearls” You give me which will enrich my faith and my life. And give me the patience to wait for the grain of sands in my life to become the pearls you intend them to be. Amen.

I consider each of you a pearl in my life. Look for the pearls in your own lives this week.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Patience Required

Women of Faith:

I’ll admit it, I can be very judgmental and don’t have a lot of patience for all of the wrongs I see around me. I want EVERY relationship, every marriage, to be loving and kind. I want kids to be disciplined and obedient. I want communication between families to be “right.” I hope that more will give, more will serve and more will dedicate their gifts to others. I wish everyone could “see” the difference between the truths of the Church and the evils of society.

I am impatient with laws and the interpretation of laws which allow and tolerate freedoms which so obviously go against God’s natural design for life. I think our laws should protect us from abortion, pornography, terrorism, gay marriage and other self-serving greed. And I want immediate change and the satisfaction of seeing a world changed by God’s perfection.

Sunday’s reading of the parable of the weeds sown among the seeds of grain was a gentle, humble reminder of the fact that God is stronger than the abundance of evil around us. It gave me hope because it reminded me that the devil who plants the evil among us won’t be the ultimate decision maker over which seeds will be harvested.
I must be patient….

"Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” He said in reply, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear.” Mt 13:24-33

Jesus taught in a parable, but then explained that parable so that it wasn’t left to our own interpretation. He said that each of us, as children of God, were created as good seed and that the “bad” seed is sown by the devil who is trying to choke out our good nature, the nature God created in each of us. Jesus said that none of us will be thrown out until the last day, because to do so might be to throw out someone who might change, and God is giving us time to change and always allows us the opportunity of forgiveness for our sins.

We are reminded that it is God who has the ultimate power, and that it is in God’s time that these decisions will be made. We are told that if we succeed in growing healthy amongst the evil weeds we will ultimately be harvested into His kingdom in heaven.

Aw, more patience…..

“For your might is the source of justice; your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all. For you show your might when the perfection of your power is disbelieved…. and you gave your children good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins.” Wis 12:13, 16-19

Again a reminder that I must be patient for there is perfection in God. A perfection that allows Him to be perfectly tolerant, perfectly lenient, and perfectly merciful, as we slowly change, growing in our faith to become the grain that He has so lovingly planted and that He will harvest when it is His chosen time.

Heavenly Father, I am awed by the mercy you show us when we give in to the evil that continues to plant weeds around us. Thank you for Your merciful forgiveness. Thank you for giving us Your son as the sunshine to light our way. Thank you for giving us the Spirit raining down upon us so that we can grow stronger each day. Help us to avoid the choke hold of the evils planted in our lives and stand strong together as Christians. Help us each to assist each other in finding Your good soil and to be patient as we grow together in Your love. Amen.

May we each be as patient, tolerant and merciful of each other’s sins and imperfections as God is of ours.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Caught in the Storm

Women of Faith:

I was awakened this morning to continuous lightening, wind and rain pounding against my window and darkness caused by no electricity, tree branches, roof shingles and debris scattering across our yard. I can’t remember the last time we actually felt the need to go to the basement in the storm, but this morning was one of them.

The weather seemed to be reflecting the storm of my out of control life. All I really wanted was the peace of a calm restful night.

Summer has always been busy, but for some reason the last few weeks (and the upcoming several) have made me feel as if I am caught in a storm not of my own making. While the calendar isn’t all that full of “have to’s,” there seems to be a continuous list of responsibilities and needs, all seemingly urgent.

We’ve had travel plans and company; parties and friends; good times and sad times with friends and family. I feel like I have a million things to do but no time to do any of them. My list of “to dos” is growing faster than I can write. And I am having a hard time deciding what should be made the priority.

I feel caught in the storm.

I keep trying to get my bearings, to stand up straight and to find the light but I am being knocked around by heavy branches and worldly debris. I feel like I am running against the wind.

Every project, every responsibility has a deadline and that deadline was yesterday; every need seems to have an urgent desire to be fulfilled, and every friend and family problem seems to be something of great importance.

No I’m not complaining about life. I know that I have more than I need. I know that simply living in America gives me blessings that I consider “basic” and the rest of the world can’t even comprehend.

I am blessed by friends and family to love and that love me. I have enjoyed opportunities to be in their presence, whether for a few short hours or a few precious days. I have food, shelter, clothing, a job, health, a standing barn and freedoms that many only dream of.

Just making the list of these basic gifts makes me feel overwhelmingly guilty. And I am reminded that my purpose isn’t of this world; that God will provide my daily needs and that my reliance on God is really all that is important.

“Then would the waters have overwhelmed us; the torrent would have swept over us. Over us then would have swept the raging waters. Blessed be the LORD, who did not leave us." PS 124: 4-6

I know that the storm that I feel is just His way of saying there is something far more important than my wants, than my desires. That the storm I am caught in is of my own making.

What I also know is that God is using both the physical, thunderstorm; and the mental, struggling, out of control feeling; to remind me that it is God who is supposed to have control of my life.

He is reminding me that I need to remember my blessings; he is reminding me that He
is in protecting me. He is reminding me to PRAY, to be quiet and to listen. And He is reminding me that I need Him in my life more than I need any of the other things I am trying “to do.” That His Spirit will work if I let it. That He will sort out the priorities if I let Him.

Heavenly Father, I praise You who are all powerful, You who never leaves me, and You who that always protects me. Thank you for being the light in the darkness of the storm. Thank you for protecting me from the debris of life. And thank you for my many blessings. Help me to allow you to have control of the turmoil that is life. I look forward to the peace granted by Your Spirit in the calm after the storm. Amen.

I pray that you will all be protected from the storms of life (and weather) this week.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Freedom of God's Amazing Grace

Friends in Faith,

Happy 4th of July! America was founded under God to give us the freedom to create and the opportunities to achieve a bucket list. Are the bucket lists we have created with the freedom of our independence something that God would be proud of?

“Consequently, brothers and sisters, we are not debtors to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Rom 8:9, 11-13

Is the bucket list you have created heavy with goals of the world rather than the Spirit? Is your bucket filled with self doubts or self pity that you don’t have enough worldly gifts to reach the bottom so that you can empty the bucket? Is the bucket filled with worries about family, friends and things that cloud the goals with fear?

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Mt 11:25-30

So who lightens your bucket? Who is in your life to help you see clearly to the bottom, unload the burdens, and empty the bucket?

“Know that I am with you; I will protect you wherever you go, and bring you back to this land. I will never leave you until I have done what I promised you.” Gn 8:10-22a

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind, but now, I see. T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear. And Grace, my fears relieved. How precious did that Grace appear the hour I first believed. Through many dangers, toils and snares we have already come. T'was Grace that brought us safe thus far and Grace will lead us home. The Lord has promised good to me His word my hope secures. He will my shield and portion be as long as life endures.” Lyrics Amazing Grace

God’s amazing Grace. The Grace that He gives us in the Spirit is always with us, always near us, and always promised to us no matter how heavy, how murky, or how covered up the goals become. His Grace, His Amazing Grace, will help lighten our load, will help carry and empty the bucket, will help free us to get us to our own ultimate goal and to help others get to what should be their ultimate bucket goal—heaven.

“Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4: 6-7

God’s grace calls us not to worry, to always ask and to always give thanks to God for all that we have. If we can remember to ask, if we can remember who has given us every blessing, if we can remember who is ultimately responsible, not only for helping us attain our bucket list, but also for who is in charge of what should be in our bucket list, than His Amazing Grace will also lighten our burdens and flow into us when we need Him the most.

As servants of God we are called to be the spouse, the spiritual advisor, or the friend who can help lighten someone’s bucket by making someone smile through their tears; by saying a comforting word to give someone a glimmer of hope; or by using our gifts with the purpose for which God intended.

God is giving us Grace to be shared, the Spirit that needs to be spread, and the hand to lighten our spouses, neighbors, or friends load by sharing their sufferings and sacrificing our own worldly goals for that which is spiritual.

Is our service to God today, not to complete our own bucket list but to help someone carry their bucket, or to lighten their load? Are our words and deeds helping someone accomplish their bucket list by clearing the junk out of their bucket?

Heavenly Father, In you my God, I place my trust. Thank you for giving me a bucket to fill. Help me to fill that bucket with YOUR desires for me. Help me to share my gifts so that they will help lighten the buckets of those around me. Please fill the buckets of my family with Your Amazing Grace. Thank you for the people who sacrificed their lives so that we can live in a land so abundantly rich and so free. May I always be reminded that the richness, the freedoms, that have been given to me are from You and are for Your purpose. Amen.

May your bucket be filled with the Spirit of His Amazing Grace,