Monday, March 25, 2013

Invite Me to Join You

On my run this week.  This picture has nothing to do with this post, but I liked it. So I'm sharing it.
I am in another season of intensity in parenting.  It feels like** every time I turn around someone is challenging my authority or being disagreeable, disrespectful, disobedient or sassy.  The fact that I'm outnumbered 4-1 and that we have large quantities of quickly fluctuating pre-teen emotions adds to the chaos.  I've been going through each day head down, internally chanting, "I will teach them to be obedient.  They will be respectful, functioning members of society if I have anything to do about it."  

(** DISCLAIMER:  how things feel in a situation and the actual truth of the situation can be and often are two different things.)

I've been feeling spiritually depleted too.  My assigned Bible reading has been taking me through Jeremiah, Lamentations, and now Ezekiel.  While there are portions of beauty in these books, the majority of the text consists of prophesies of destruction against nations and people that rebelled against God.  Not exactly uplifting, especially when I feel like every day is difficult.  I am going through the motions of following Jesus but feel disconnected from Him.  Kind of like when Curt's work schedule is so busy that we go for days coexisting but not connecting in any meaningful way.

All of these elements combined for the perfect storm this weekend. Curt and I had an uncharacteristic fight.  The kind we used to have when we were newly married.  I raised my voice and stormed off.  Are we in Junior High here?  How embarrassing.  My epic failure and the shame surrounding it followed me as we headed to bed.

My problem is that I've been trying to power through this storm on my own strength.  I will win this battle.  I won't let him talk to me like that.  I will get my way.  I. I. I.  It's so self-focused and self defeating.  It's so wrong.  But I was still too upset to really see things clearly.  

Jesus says, "I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the Light of Life."  (John 8 verse 12)
That night I woke suddenly from a sound sleep.  It was like someone shook me awake.  As soon as I opened my eyes the room appeared full of light even though in reality it was pitch black.  I knew instantly it was Jesus trying to get my attention.  I know it sounds cooky and I promise I'm not crazy.  But God has been revealing Himself to me consistently through dreams and midnight awakenings in the past several months.  It doesn't feel strange to me anymore.

I expected to lay awake and pray for the things God put on my mind but this time was different.  In the bright light of that surreal, dreamlike state, I heard Jesus speak to my soul.  The voice wasn't audible but the message was clear.  "Invite me to join you." That was it.  

As soon as the message was delivered, the light left and my mind got sleepy.  I thought to myself, "You should get up and write this down so you don't forget in the morning," but it was so vivid I was convinced nothing would make me forgot.*

(*Note to self:  put journal and pen by bedside to record things that come to mind in the middle of the night.)  

The next morning, I could not remember the message.  Isn't that ironic?  I knew it was short.  I knew it was powerful.  I knew it would change my perspective on life right now.  But I could not remember the exact words.  

Later that day, as I was facing yet another blatant challenge from one of my kids, I asked Jesus, "What was that message?  I know it was important.  I know I need it."  And then it came back.  Quietly and softly.  Not pushy or shaming.    "Invite me to join you."

So simple.  But the exact reason why I was failing so miserably.  I forgot the entire reason I need a Savior.

Me on my own = failure.  
Me with Jesus = success through His power. 

Invite me to join you

Last night I said out loud as I wandered the grocery aisle at Fred Meyer, "Jesus, I invite you to join me. In case you haven't noticed, I'm kind of a train wreck right now.  Please help me.  Fill me with your Spirit and help me to follow the way of love.

Guess what?  Today is SO much better.  I've been pausing a lot and saying, "Jesus?  HELP!"  And He has shown up.  

My dear friends, Jesus cares about the things that matter to us.  He COMES DOWN to rescue the people He created and loves.  He runs TO us.  Picks us up.  Wipes away our tears of disappointment and shame and frustration.  He helps us.  Loves us.  Saves us.  Offers us an alternative to failure.  He gives us peace and hope.  Don't we all need hope?  

But Jesus is NOT pushy.  He sits and waits for us to invite Him to join us in the messiness of life.  Won't you invite Him to join you?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Why I Read the Bible Cover to Cover - Q & A with Katie Stilp

Last year our daughter Katie decided to read the Bible cover-to-cover.  She was nine years old when she made this commitment.  Katie printed off a reading plan from our church's website and systematically tackled five chapters a day.  On December 31st, she showed us her completed reading schedule - every box checked off!  We rewarded her with her first mani/pedi and still owe her dinner at the restaurant of her choice.  We are SO proud!

Many people who hear about Katie's accomplishment are shocked that a nine-year-old would WANT to read the Bible and that she actually FOLLOWED THROUGH on such a lengthy, time-consuming commitment.  We've also gotten feedback from confused parents who think we're crazy to have our kids read the Bible.  Doesn't it have sex and violence in it?  What about the Song of Solomon?  GAH!

Our perspective is this.  Curt and I are ALL IN when it comes to following Jesus.  We have chosen to receive the salvation Jesus offers.  As an outpouring of our love and thankfulness for this gift, we will follow Him as He leads.  That's a HUGE commitment.  If I'm going to make that type of commitment, I want to know WHO I'm committing to.  

I find Jesus in the Bible.  It's God's love letter to His creation.  The Bible tells the story of creation, free will, love adulterated and then redeemed through Jesus.  In the end, God makes all things new.  The more I read the Bible, the more I understand who God is, grasp my need for a Savior, and begin to understand my purpose and calling in His kingdom.  Without the Bible, I would have a surface level knowledge - at best - of who God is and what I'm supposed to do with my decision to follow Jesus.

Our kids don't know or understand everything about following Jesus (neither do I), but they know enough to say, "Sign me up."  They made a commitment to receive Jesus' forgiveness of their sins and follow Him.  By reading the Bible consistently the image of God comes into focus through the person of Jesus.  The big picture starts to make more sense.  As our kids dig into the Word, they fall more in love with the God who died to save them.  The lightbulb goes on and as it burns brighter, their passion grows for their Jesus who love them outrageously.

It says, "I'm done!"

I sat down with Katie to ask her WHY she read the entire Bible and WHAT she learned.  Here's what she had to say.  I think you'll be encouraged.

Q:  Why did you choose to commit to read the Bible cover-to-cover in one year?
A:  I chose to read the Bible cover-to-cover in one year because Grant (my older brother) and my parents told me it was fun and very good. I wanted to see for myself.

Q:  Were you nervous about reading so many chapters each day?
A: Yes.  I was nervous that I wouldn't keep up with the assigned reading.

Q:  How much did you have to read each day?
A:  I read two chapters of the Old Testament, one chapter of the New Testament, one Psalm, and one Proverb each day.  That means I read the book of Proverbs twelve times and the book of Psalms two-and-a-half times, and the rest of the Bible one time.

Q:  How on earth did you find time to do that?  Aren't you a busy student and athlete?  I've heard your parents make you do chores too.
A:  At first, I struggled to keep up with the assignments.  But once I got used to the plan and schedule, I didn't struggle very often.

Q:  What do you mean by "plan" and "schedule?"
A:    My plan was to read every morning before school.  If I didn't finish it all in the morning, I would read at night before I went to bed.  The schedule was a sheet of paper that I checked off for every day.  I already told you that Mom.

Q:  How long did it take you each day?
A:  It took me probably about twenty to thirty minutes.

Q:  Did you have to start getting up earlier?
A:  In the beginning of 4th grade, I moved my wake up time from 7 a.m. to 6:30 a.m.  This was before I started reading the Bible every day.  But the extra thirty minutes turned into my Bible reading time once January started.

Q:  Was the Bible hard to understand?
A:  Some parts of it were.  Some parts I was familiar with and they weren't confusing at all, but some parts I hadn't heard before were confusing.

Q:  Can you give an example of something that you hadn't heard before that was confusing when you first read it?
A:  The book of I Kings and the book of Revelations.  I had never read either of these before.  Nobody ever taught us about the end of the Bible which is where Revelations is.  Revelations has unexpected things in the plot like dragons and creatures that I've never heard of before.  I Kings talked about a bunch of Israelite kings that I had never heard about before.

Q:  What was your favorite book of the Bible or story?  Why?
A:  Ruth and Esther.   They were women who were heros.  That was a nice change from all the men the Bible talks about.  I like their personalities.  They are different, but have similar traits.  Ruth grew up in a bad place and became good by following Jesus and married a godly man.  Esther grew up in good places and married the King, not a farmer person.  The King was not that good, so God used Esther to lead the King to make good choices.

Q:  Are you reading the Bible cover-to-cover again this year?  Why or why not?
A:  No.  I'm reading the New Testament and a devotional book my parents gave me.  I think devotions will be a nice change from a lot of reading each day.  I still want to be in the Bible so I'm also reading one chapter a day from the New Testament.  This plan will get me through the entire New Testament this year.

Q:  Why would you read the Bible a second time?  Didn't you already read it?
A:  I wanted to understand it more, especially the New Testament, because it talks more about Jesus and how to live for Jesus.

Q:  Do you feel like reading the Bible every day has been helpful to your quality of life?  Why?
A:  Yes!  Now I know how God can speak through me and to me.  He speaks to me through the Bible and prayer.  He speaks THROUGH me when I tell my friends about Jesus and how much I love Him.  I can also understand stuff about the Bible that my parents tell me.  Before it didn't always make sense but now I can see a connection to what I read.

Q:  What would you say to people who are considering reading the Bible cover-to-cover but say they don't have time or are "too busy?"
A:  You don't have to read it in a year on a time schedule, but you just have to be in the Word every day.  That's what matters.  Stick to it.  It doesn't have to be fifteen minutes.  It could be five or ten minutes or just one chapter.  You just have to decide to do it and follow though.  If I can do it, so can you!

And there you have it.  If Katie can do it, so can you.  Why not take some time to get to know the God of the Bible?  You might be surprised by what you discover.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

We Needed Each Other - Part One of Grandpa George's Legacy

On February 17th, our family lost a hero.  My Grandpa George Klippenes left this earth and rejoined his parents and his Savior. Within 24 hours of being notified of his passing I was on a plane bound for Great Falls, Montana, where my brother Shane lives.

Shane and I are typically pretty organized, but we were so discombobulated from our grief that we couldn't seem to get our act together.  Thankfully our spouses are calm and helpful, and they babystepped us through packing our stuff and actually getting on the road.

Curt didn't flinch at being in charge of the kids for an entire week and insisted they'd all survive just fine without me pre-planning meals and carpool.  He arranged my entire travel itinerary and took over packing my bag when I was staring blankly at piles and piles of winter clothes that would not fit into the tiny suitcase I originally pulled out.

Shane's wife Quenby rearranged her entire work week to accommodate me on the one day I was visiting.  She took me out to breakfast, insisted I take a nap, and wouldn't let me help make dinner.  She also made a point of telling Shane, "Take all the time you need.  We'll be okay."  All this with kiddos that were either sick or just getting over being sick and a big volleyball game to coach that evening!  There is no doubt about it.  God gave us both the perfect life partners and we are so blessed!

Shane and I loaded the entire back half of his van with winter survival gear, sleeping bags, cots, food, guns of various shapes and sizes (this is Montana after all), and who-knows-what-else.   Our route took us through some pretty barren landscape at sub-zero temperatures and it was reassuring to know we were prepared for any scenario.

Before we left, we huddled as a family and prayed -for safe travels, for God's blessing on our time together, and for peace in our grief.  It was a sweet time of fellowship and made it difficult to actually go get in the van and pull away.

We drove away at 8 p.m. with an estimated midnight arrival in the town of Jordan, Montana, where we planned to stay the night.  I overheard Shane making the hotel reservation at Fellman's Motel.  He was talking to the owner Clyde and he said, "Oh we need a room with two beds.  I'm traveling with my sister.  I'd prefer not to sleep on the floor and I'm sure as hell not sleeping with her."  Welcome to the world of Shane and Jodi.

We weren't a block from Shane's house before things got crazy.  Shane parked his car sideways in the Walgreen's parking lot then left it running when we went inside to buy a phone charger.  He was hungry so we had to go through the McDonald's drive-thru to get a Fourth Meal before we headed out into the Wild Blue Yonder.  And the van was out of gas.  After Shane filled it, he quipped, "Are you going to be like this the entire trip?  Cause I'm not sure how I've managed to survive so far."  All this and we were still in the Great Falls city limits.  Let the bantering begin.

Shane made up for lost time by exceeding the speed limit driving rapidly on the two lane highway that we used to get across the majority of eastern Montana.  We spotted herd after herd of deer on both sides of the highway so Shane drove straight down the middle.  "I pay taxes on the entire road," was his logic.

Jordan, Montana, (population 355) looks decent sized on the map.  In reality it's just two motels, a gas station, and a smattering of houses.  We arrived at midnight and had no cell service, making it impossible to text Quenby and Curt to let them know we arrived safely.  Clyde told Shane he'd be in bed when we arrived so he left our room key in the drop box outside the motel office.  We giggled when Shane pulled out a key on a big plastic keychain with a Post It note stuck to it that said, "Shane K. #24."

Our room was outdated, but clean with comfy beds.  It had everything we needed, except the few pink tiles that were missing in the bathroom.  We left the next morning by 7:30 and Shane complained the entire day about "getting raked over the coals" by Clyde's (who also owned the gas station) prices on gas.

Circle, Montana, (population 607) was the next big city.  It seemed like a thriving metropolis compared to Jordan, and it had cell service.  Both our phones started exploding as soon as we came in coverage.  Poor Quenby was worried sick and about to call the Highway Patrol to find us.  OOPS.  We won't make that mistake again.

Shane and I had great conversation and boatloads of fun the entire time we were together.  The road trip was a highlight.  We have never spent so much alone time together as adults.

It's a rare gift to have a brother like Shane.  We bantered back and forth.  Whined about all the crappy coffee we drank.  Sang Home on the Range six times in a row - once for every time we saw the "Home on the Range, North Dakota" sign on the Interstate.  It got funnier with each repetition.

We sang along to the radio.  (I forgot what a deep and melodious singing voice Shane has).  We car danced.  Laughed.  Prayed.  Made bets about if Dad would immediately talk "time to Brainerd" when we called him with a location update.  We wrote down all the funny road signs we came across:  Camel Hump Lake, Sucker Creek Preserve, Oint Joint Road, and BUMP signs that were marked by so many reflective diamonds we expected to drive over a crater instead a small blip in the road.  I made Shane stop or slow down at each state crossing so I could get a picture.  When we crossed into North Dakota it was -3 degrees.

We laughed.  A lot.  At one point we said, "Are we supposed to be having fun?"  But we knew Grandpa would be happy that even in his death, he was spreading joy to those who loved him.  We shared our hearts.  Our dreams.  it was really special for both of us.

When we finally arrived in Brainerd twelve hours later, our mood changed.  We got nervous and sad the closer we got to Grandma's house.  Right before we parked outside her home, we grabbed hands and prayed together.
It was FREEZING cold (often at zero and sometimes below zero) when we were driving.
When we saw Grandma it was emotional.  I burst into tears and she said, "Don't cry Granddaughter.  You always were Grandpa's Blondie."  She called Shane, "Grandpa's Boy" then gave him Grandpa's fireman pins from his dress uniform and a ring that Grandpa often wore.

Love and grief were thick in the air.  It made our loss seem so real to be in Grandpa and Grandma's house, but Grandpa wasn't there.  He wasn't sitting in his chair watching the weather channel or reading his Bible.  His absence was palpable. I was so glad to be sharing this heaviness with my Dad, Marcy, Shane and Grandma.  Somehow it didn't seem so oppressive because we were all together.  

We didn't stay at Grandma's long.  We had dinner together - casserole, bean salad, pickles, and chocolate covered Rice Krispy bars - all handmade by Grandma's friends and neighbors, and then headed out.  When Shane and I got back in the car to drive to Uncle Jeff and Aunt Jacque's house, we were both emotional.  We talked about having regret.  Why didn't we call more?  Write more?  Visit more? Do more?  As Shane said, "Regret is an evil Mistress."  We knew we couldn't dwell on it, but we both started crying.

That's when Shane reached over, grabbed my hand and squeezed.  But he didn't let go.  We cried, talked, held hands and gathered strength from each other all the way to Jeff and Jacque's house.  I needed Shane.  And he needed me.  We needed each other.  What a gift that God gave us this time together.

As the week progressed, Shane and I continued to support each other.  We laughed, cried buckets of tears, and made sure everyone knew we were brother and sister and NOT husband and wife.  (Gross.)

I know Grandpa would be proud of how well my big brother protected me and comforted me, in spite of his own grief.  It's part of the legacy he left - a loyalty to family, no matter the cost.  Thank you Shane for being so loyal, tender, and loving.  I love you Bro!