//April

When They Leave…

by Darla Lauterbach-Reeves

 

Have you been walked away from? Ghosted? Not committed to? Replaced? Even when our kids leave, as is the natural way of life, there is a tremendous amount of pain. It’s a ripping—a tearing away at our heart. I have experienced all of the above. I’ll bet you have too, and if not yet, you may. I want to help you see a positive in the pain.

After my divorce, I boldly asked God to remove anyone not meant for me from my life. I meant that request but never thought it would take so many “tries” to find the right person. It takes a lot of courage to try again with anyone after such a blow as a divorce. It is even harder to stick your neck out when you have kids—and when you’re in public. I had no desire to date “in the dark” or without intention, so I continued in prayer, worked on my weaknesses, gave them to God, and asked Him for help. My deepest desire is to grow closer and closer to God with my partner and show His love to others. I promised myself to take the attitude that if that scares anyone off, so be it. I hate to lose people—I love people—but He comes first.

Sometimes I thought me “being me” was the problem. I did a lot of inner work and crying out to God. Still, in my heartbreak and bewilderment, I trusted God’s heart in the pain and the questions. What was going on in my life? Why? Even my truest friends didn’t understand why any of this had to be part of my story. I prayed, they prayed. I loved, they loved.

Rejection is one of the most excruciating things on this planet. I have not only been rejected, but I have also done the rejecting. That’s hard too, but I knew it was best for me and my girls. I’ll just go ahead and assume the guys who rejected me felt the same way, and I wish them the very best. I’ve learned from each relationship, even through the hurt, and I truly appreciate the way dating the “wrong” people pushed me closer to God. I became a fighter, a learner, a stronger person. These relationships helped me dig deep for healing and to find my truest Lover and Corrector. But I can say now that I fully trust God’s heart in each painful experience—and would do so again. I trust that He wants what’s best for me. And I trust that anyone He chooses to remove from my life would ultimately distract me from my first love, which is Him. Either that, or I would distract them from Him.

Now I realize that the lessons I’ve learned have given me a ministry. I wouldn’t have the lessons without the story. I’ve always loved to write, but I wouldn’t have the content without the story. It’s been in the confusion and rejection that I found my beloved Jesus and a way to use the gift He’s given me. He’s the One who never turns His back on me—or leaves for college or draws a final breath. Rather, He holds me closer than ever. Each time I’ve experienced loss, this has been confirmed and has deepened our relationship.

I pray that this helps me understand and sympathize with my daughters’ dating experiences better than before. I also hope that I can help others heal from their childhoods or divorces, and that maybe they can even gain insights from their past relationships if they choose to date again. I pray that sharing my experiences helps others not only stay married but have a better marriage. I pray it helps others find worth in Christ and not in those who walk away or put them down. I pray it helps women to find their beauty in their Creator and men to recognize that both sexes have the same Creator and Father. I pray it helps us all remember and recognize that we are accountable to Him for carrying out the tasks He has put us here to achieve. What has He asked you to do?

The enemy messes with me. He discourages me and tries to silence me. But I continue to pray that my lips and fingers never stop praising my faithful God—the One who lovingly turned His back only to protect us from His Glory (Exodus 33:23). The One who will return and never have to leave again. The One who welcomes the prodigal sons and daughters home. The One who asks me to share my heart. The One who craves His time with me. The One who teaches me.

May each rejection, loss, and season of sadness push you closer to His heart. That is His will for all of us.

 

Darla Lauterbach-Reeves was raised in the church, but it wasn’t until her marriage fell apart that she came to truly know her Greatest Love—Jesus—in whom she found the relationship she had always craved. She is the author of the book He Loves Me THAT Much? available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

2019-04-28T16:00:35-07:00April 29th, 2019|Living God's Love|

Joy Hard Won

by Connie Vandeman Jeffery

 

How does one “rejoice in the Lord always” and then rejoice some more? This directive in Philippians 4:4 is hard for me. I sing along with everyone, “I have the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart, down in my heart, down in my heart,” but maybe my joy is buried so deep in my heart that it doesn’t reach my brain. Because I sometimes feel joyless.

And that is how I felt on a cold December day in 2000 when Ken Wade, the producer at Voice of Prophecy, and I went to the Joni and Friends ministry in Agoura, California, to do a radio interview with Joni Eareckson Tada about an article on joy that she had recently written for Decision magazine.

I am in awe of Joni, who is one of the world’s leading international advocates for people affected by disability. A diving accident in 1967 left her a quadriplegic in a wheelchair at the age of 17. After two years of rehabilitation, she emerged with new skills and a determination to help others in similar situations. She founded Joni and Friends in 1979, and the organization quickly grew to provide Christ-centered programs to special needs families, churches, and communities.

I had laid my dear father to rest just a few weeks earlier, and I couldn’t shake the exhaustion, sadness, and joylessness I felt. I missed him so very much. What I didn’t count on was that Joni’s joy was positively contagious. As she propelled herself in her high-tech wheelchair into the conference room where we’d already set up the digital recorder and mic, she looked stunning with every hair in place and her makeup perfectly applied. What struck me immediately was her gorgeous smile and her kind, penetrating eyes. They were filled with joy!

Joni was the first to suggest that we ask God to bless our efforts. Ken had already turned on the recorder, and by the end of her simple but powerful prayer, I was beginning to “catch” some of her joy. She prayed:

Days like this are always wonderful, Lord Jesus, when the clouds hang heavy on the coastal mountains and it’s a gray day and it reminds us that change is helpful and variety is always a gift from you. And these clouds remind us that there are showers of blessing that come from your heaven. We thank you for these dear friends who are going to be sharing some incredible insights about your joy! And, Lord Jesus, it occurs to us that we’re a bunch of sour-faced people and we get grumpy and irritated, and yet your joy is so powerful. You are the high Hoover Dam of Joy! It’s spilling and splashing over heaven’s walls, and we just seem so satisfied to drink from a mud puddle. So please help us to appreciate your joy by the insights shared today. And now give us your words. We ask in your name. Amen.

Joni’s prayer calmed my nerves. I asked her how she was able to have such joy, and the answer that followed filled the rest of our five-minute interview. She said, “I don’t do it.” Then she went on to describe her daily routine. “After my husband Ken leaves for work at 6:00 a.m., I’m alone until I hear the front door open at 7:00 a.m. That’s when a friend arrives to get me up. While I listen to her run water for coffee, I begin to pray, ‘Lord Jesus, my friend will soon give me a bath, get me dressed, sit me in my chair, brush my hair and teeth, and send me out the door. I don’t have the strength to face this routine one more time. I have no resources. I don’t have a smile to take into the day. But you do. May I have yours? God, I need you desperately.”’

“And does He give you that smile?” I asked, already knowing her answer.

“I turn my head toward my friend and give her a smile sent straight from heaven. It’s not mine. It’s God’s,” Joni explained. “Whatever joy you see today was hard won this morning.”

Joni went on to describe how the weaker we are, the more we need to learn to lean on God—and the more we lean on God, the stronger we will discover Him to be.

I totally forgot about myself and my loss during that hour with Joni. I learned in a fresh new way that I needed to keep my eyes focused on Jesus. She showed me that the “harder won” the joy, the more it is appreciated.

At the end of our interview, we gave Joni some Voice of Prophecy materials and a copy of my dad’s autobiography, My Dream. “I don’t know if you’ve heard of my father,” I said, “but he was a television evangelist for many years and he just passed away. I’d like you to have this.”

“George Vandeman!” she exclaimed. “I used to watch It Is Written when I was lying in a hospital bed in Baltimore, Maryland. I would flip through the channels looking for religious programs and I found him.”

I left Joni’s office feeling incredibly blessed and not even a little bit sorry for myself. We all experience sadness and the loss of precious loved ones. But Joni reminded me that God, the Source of all Joy, would always be there to put His joy—however hard it is won—down deep in my heart, and His smile back on my face.

Connie Vandeman Jeffery is the host of All God’s People, a weekly short video series highlighting the people and ministries of the Pacific Union Conference, and has had a long career in media.

2019-04-25T14:17:12-07:00April 22nd, 2019|Living God's Love|

Pacific Union “All God’s People,” April 18, 2019 Episode 315

This week in All God’s People:
Special guest Greg Evans sings his original song, “A Hill Far Away.”

Greg’s song reminds us not only of that old song, “The Old Rugged Cross,” but why those events of two thousand years ago are still so relevant today.

Greg’s music speaks to our hearts, and for all of us here at All God’s People, it speaks of our faith and greatest longing during this Easter.

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“Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” -Romans 8:34

2019-04-30T07:09:41-07:00April 15th, 2019|All Gods People|

Our Wrongdoings Pile Up

by Becky De Oliveira

 

Isaiah 59:12-15 in The Message translation points the finger directly at each of us. It uses the word “our” repeatedly, as in, “Our wrongdoings pile up before you, God, our sins stand up and accuse us” (Verses 12-15). And just so we can’t argue that we really aren’t all that bad because we haven’t robbed any banks, killed anyone, slept with anyone else’s husband or wife, worshipped any golden images, or told any whopping lies, the prophet itemizes what he means by “wrongdoings” or “sins.” These are as follows: 1) Mocking and denying God, 2) Not following God, 3) Spreading false rumors, 4) Inciting sedition, and 5) Muttering malice. These are not as shocking as murder or theft or—gasp—adultery. They sound somewhat tame, at least when I imagine myself doing any of them. Other people? That’s another story entirely.

I recently took a lengthy health survey at my university, and one of its more interesting techniques was first to ask the respondent about, say, his or her drinking behavior and then ask what the respondent thinks other people would report about themselves. “How often do you pass out when you’ve been drinking?” it asks. Then “How often do you think the average student at your university passes out when they’vebeen drinking?” It feels a little tricky, like a kind of Rorschach test. “I have thisfriendwho passes out a lot when he drinks . . . Not me, just a friend.” Uh, yeah, OK. Maybe one could look at these five sins in the same way. Think about whether you do them—then think about other people. Then go back to yourself.

Let’s take a look at two of the sins that are easy to see other people doing: spreading false rumors and muttering malice. My first reaction is to think that I do neither of these; I am careful with what I say about others publicly and I’m always upbeat and positive. Other people? When we moved out here to Colorado, an organization published books containing false statements about the One project (co-founded by my husband and his friends) and sent them to all the elders in our church, along with just about everyone else in the state. This was not helpful. “These people,” I have been known to fume, “have ruined my life and nothing and no one has stopped them.” Of course they think they were telling the truth, bravely and boldly. So there’s that. Everyone has a point of view. Perhaps I could be called to account for the fact that I am making this accusation here in writing. I think I am defending my family but maybe I’m spreading false rumors too. My understanding is at no point complete; I don’t even know these people.

Then there’s muttering malice, which certainly seems connected to spreading false rumors, and which I interpret as meaning complaining about everything and everyone all the time. In a church setting, everyone has this problem. But there is no one worse than me. You can see evidence in the preceding paragraph which is a sanitized summary of one of my big, bad grievances of the past five years. There are more. I complain far too much. For Lent one year, in order to address this character deficiency, I decided to give up complaining. For seven whole weeks. What that meant was that I really couldn’t talk at all. It was a useful exercise though, because it helped me understand how much of what I say and think is 1) negative or 2) pointless. I need to work on cultivating more gratitude and positivity. For example: Not everyone in Colorado has conspired to ruin my life. In fact, I’ve made lots of friends here whom I will love for as long as I live. And I am eternally grateful for them. But it’s somehow easier to focus on the bad things that have happened, especially when I’m feeling sorry for myself generally.

It may not seem like a big deal, but negativity spills over into everything and changes the way we approach life. It does not please God; it is a sin.

Becky De Oliveira is a writer, editor, teacher, and qualitative researcher working on special projects for the Pacific Union Conference from her home in Colorado. This blog is adapted from a reflection for the Daily Walk, an online Bible study produced by Boulder Adventist Church.

2019-04-15T12:22:23-07:00April 15th, 2019|Living God's Love|

Pacific Union “All God’s People,” April 12, 2019 Episode 314

In this week’s episode of All God’s People –

Over ten years, one woman’s gift impacted a million people through Christian Record Services, Sonscreen Film Festival hosted at one of our universities, and a creative Easter message from Pete McLeod.

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Christian Record Services for the Blind Celebrates 120 Years of Service
https://christianrecord.org/

NAD Hosts Annual Sonscreen Film Festival at La Sierra University
http://www.sonscreen.com/

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“With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all. . .”
-Acts 4:33

2019-04-30T07:09:42-07:00April 8th, 2019|All Gods People|

Unexpectedness

by Becky De Oliveira

 

“I hope you’re including the issue of unexpectedness in at least one of your reflections,” my husband, micromanager that he is, mentioned in passing as I was getting close to the end of writing a week’s worth of reflections for an online Bible study that our church creates and distributes to several thousand people around the world. Lucky for me I still had one reflection left to write. “The point of this chapter,” my husband continued, helpfully, since it is often a struggle for me to glean the point of anything, “is that the Messiah, when He came in the form of Jesus Christ, was not what the people were expecting. He didn’t fulfill their ideas of what a Messiah should be.”

Right. I get it. Some years ago, very early in the morning when the streets were nearly empty, I was chased (by a slow and incompetent would-be assailant who promised to cut my throat) into the London Tube at Piccadilly Circus. I appealed for help to the men wearing the orange vests who appeared to be in charge. A few minutes later, after I’d descended several escalators down into the belly of the underground and was waiting for my train and hoping the throat-cutter wouldn’t find me, a cheerful huffing and puffing man with a red nose and a pronounced limp approached to inform me he’d come to save me. He didn’t say it quite like that—no British person ever would—but that was the gist. He was my savior. A closer look revealed that he had a prosthetic leg. Up until that point, I hadn’t been aware of what I was expecting in the person who might protect me from a homicidal maniac, but in that moment I knew for sure that this guy was not it.

“What does a human being have the right to expect?” I used to ask my undergraduate classes at Andrews University. Many of the students would reply, “Nothing,” but that’s a disingenuous answer—or at the least not particularly well thought out—and I could have proven this point easily by giving them all arbitrary Fs and then waiting for the flood of indignant phone calls from Mom and Dad to start pouring in.

We are always exceeding, meeting, or failing to meet expectations or having other people, places, or experiences exceed, meet, or fail ourexpectations. Famous people are often told that they are shorter in person than members of the public expected them to be. Many people express disappointment at the Colosseum, the Alamo, Stonehenge—all of which are not as expected. We expect life to be fair, for the fire truck to come when we call, for our water to be clean, for those who govern over us to act justly and sometimes with mercy. These are reasonable expectations. We also, most of us, carry unreasonable ones. We expect other people to read our minds, to make us happy, for the world to configure itself in such a way as to avoid activating any of our pet peeves. We even have expectations about who should save us and how.

So Jesus Christ was not what the people were “expecting” in a Messiah. Well, what were they expecting? We’re often not explicit about where our disappointment comes from. We have these half-formed and hazy images of things that we’ve never fully articulated and they loom large. Who knows what the people at Jesus’s time were expecting a Messiah to be like. Just different, right? Bigger or smaller. Shorter or taller. More religious. More real. And in clinging to their expectations they missed the power of what was standing in front of them.

In the movie How to Train Your Dragon,Hiccup, miming his father’s disappointed expectations in his son, sarcastically says, “Excuse me, barmaid! I’m afraid you brought me the wrong offspring! I ordered an extra-large boy with beefy arms, extra guts, and glory on the side! This here, this is a talking fishbone!”

What do we expect of a Savior now? What evidence has God provided of what a Savior is? Video game creator Hideo Kojima says, “the story does not trick the player, it is the player that tricks himself.” Perhaps we have everything we need to see the Messiah clearly but we trick ourselves, over and over again.

Becky De Oliveira is a writer, editor, teacher, and qualitative researcher working on special projects for the Pacific Union Conference from her home in Colorado. This blog is adapted from a reflection for the Daily Walk, an online Bible study produced by Boulder Adventist Church.

2019-04-08T11:12:53-07:00April 8th, 2019|Living God's Love|

Pacific Union “All God’s People,” April 5, 2019 Episode 313

This week in All God’s People, the Paradise Prayer Warriors take on Pacific Union PBE, the Recorder publishes 2nd Annual Education Issue, and Loma Linda Academy preps for Mini Maker Faire.

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Paradise Prayer Warriors Among First Place Teams to Advance to the North American Division PBE

Paradise Prayer Warriors Win First-place PBE AwardLast Sabbath, the Paradise Prayer Warriors won a first-place award…

Posted by Northern California Adventists in Action on Thursday, March 28, 2019

Recorder Publishes the 2nd Annual Education Issue

Loma Linda Academy to Host Mini Maker Faire on April 7
https://www.lla.org/schools-/maker-faire/

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“All glory to God forever and ever! Amen.”
-Galatians 1:5

2019-04-30T07:09:42-07:00April 3rd, 2019|All Gods People|

How Can Pain Be a Blessing?

by Darla Lauterbach-Reeves

 

We learn from pain. Some of us learn more than others and some more quickly than others, but we all do learn in some form. If not, we wouldn’t be careful around hot stoves or warn our kids not to touch them. We usually have to experience enough pain to change anything about ourselves or what we do. Physical pain brought on by our actions makes us more careful. You’ll more than likely avoid that coffee table corner after stubbing your toe on it or that person after being hurt over and over.

Pain we witness in others makes us more careful too. “Wow, that could be me!” It can make us think twice. Hopefully, we learn this way too. Pain brought upon us by others makes us mad. We didn’t want this pain. We didn’t ask for it. We didn’t even make the mistake that caused it. Still, there is so much to learn from this anger and frustration. There’s always something to learn.

As unpleasant as pain is, imagine what life would be like without pain receptors. The only way to know if we were hurt would be to see bones or blood. So thank God for pain receptors! How would we live day to day without them? Extremely timidly, constantly hurt, and continually supervised.

If we learn from pain, it makes sense that the wisest people we know have experienced the most of it. They haven’t just been through it, they’ve allowed themselves to feel it. They’ve gone there, they’ve grieved, they’ve felt and expressed the pain rather than avoiding it or covering it up. They’ve taken it to God. They’ve owned their part and they’ve changed because of it.

The pain of divorce may lead some to fight for marriage, while others blame marriage itself and refuse to even consider it again. The pain of co-parenting may lead some to surrender and embrace, while others vengefully fight the rest of their lives. The pain of betrayal may lead some to a deeper intimacy with Jesus and others to deem it foolish to trust anyone again or to become untrustworthy themselves. The pain of failed relationships may lead some to a deeper appreciation of the one who’s different or to write them off altogether. The pain of family disapproval may lead to a deeper reliance on God or a life lived to please others.

Are you being crushed? All of these experiences are painful, but it is in the crushing that the sweet aroma is produced. Grapes and olives must be crushed to make wine and oil; so it is with us. The deeper the crushing, the more pure the outcome.

Have you seen the joy and laughter people get from stomping grapes with their bare feet? That’s how I imagine the devil looks while we are being trampled on; he thinks he’s doing us in. But the trampling leads to something so beautiful in the transformation that is only made possible by the crushing. I don’t recommend looking for pain. But I do recommend gleaning whatever wisdom you can from it, looking for the blessings during it, and remaining thankful in spite of it. There is always something to be thankful for. He’s always there and He knows how you feel. He may have allowed it, but He hasn’t forsaken you because of it.

“The Lord says, ‘It was my plan to crush him and cause him to suffer. I made his life an offering to pay for sin. But he will see all his children after him. In fact, he will continue to live. My plan will be brought about through him’”(Isaiah 53:10, NIRV).

Jesus wasn’t just crucified for us—He was physically, emotionally, and spiritually crushed for us. It’s in contemplating this pain that we come to tears and surrender over what He did for us. The suffering He endured for us is how His love was expressed and how the ultimate gift was provided.

Because I love Him so much, I hate that Jesus experienced any pain—but if He hadn’t, I couldn’t live with Him forever. He did it for me. It was because of God’s immense love for us that His worst pain turned into our biggest blessing.

Being crushed for His purposes hurts like no other in the process, but coming out the other side you recognize the honor that it is and the joy it ultimately brings. You’ll come out closer, forever changed, and with a sweet personal aroma (story) of who He is to you.

Darla Lauterbach-Reeves was raised in the church, but it wasn’t until her marriage fell apart that she came to truly know her Greatest Love—Jesus—in whom she found the relationship she had always craved. She is the author of the forthcoming book He Loves Me THAT Much? 

2019-03-31T17:50:09-07:00April 1st, 2019|Living God's Love|