A Servant’s Heart

Life has a way of turning on a dime, doesn’t it? All week I’ve been meaning to begin this little article for our Sunday publication but somehow kid’s events, work, and a driver’s test scheduled in Marshall kept me from getting it done. (Marshall is not convenient, but he did pass!) I did, however, take the time to start a new Bible study and was sure my article would focus on Genesis 1. But as I said, life has a way of turning on a dime. Early Thursday I was startled awake when Josh’s phone began to ring. We all know a phone ringing before the rooster crows is usually sad news, and it was. My mother-in-law had called to deliver the news of Josh’s sweet Grandma Ossefoort passing away during the night – just shy of her 96th birthday. As my day went on I knew I had to get this little message written so I could get it turned into the office on time, but all I had on my mind were sweet memories of Grandma O.

The first time I met this little gem of a woman was at a Christmas party when Josh and I were dating. She was busy in the kitchen making her famous chicken and there were swarms of people I had never met. The size of the crowd was a bit intimidating and it had everything to do with the nine children she had raised. I could tell each person meant the world to her just by the beaming smile on her face. Her welcome made me feel very special, but over the years I learned it was nothing out of the ordinary rather, just the way Grandma O treated everyone. As the years continued Josh and I were married and soon lived a short block away from her. Some of Kaylie’s first words were ‘Bamma O and our children were spoiled and loved with every encounter. From time-to-time she would watch them for an hour or two, each Sunday she hosted after church coffee for crowds of people, and she worked every day serving lunch at the elementary school until she officially “retired” at the ripe age of 85. After her retirement, she had a little more time to relax but you knew to call before you visited to make sure she was home. She stayed busy visiting and helping friends around town and serving coffee to the “old folks” at the nursing home – many who were younger than her. Grandma O was a very simple and humble woman who never had much, but trusted there would be enough. She worked hard her whole life, found great joy in serving others, and loved well. In turn, she was loved well by many and she will be missed.

As I said, the topic of my article this week changed from my original thoughts and ponderings. It was supposed to be based on Genesis 1 where we find the story of Creation and my focus would have been on the gift of rest after a good, honest week’s work. The timing could not have been any better – after all, it is Labor Day weekend. But instead, God’s reminder of Grandma O’s servant heart among her daily work seemed to speak louder to me today. (Her apple bars she made each fall come to mind as well. ☺) I’m reminded of several scriptures as I reminisce of her beautiful, kind heart, but perhaps Philippians 2:1-4 fits her life the best. “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.”

May it be so of us too, as we go about our daily tasks and routines that the humble and gentle love of our Savior would pour from us as we look to serve those around us with a true servant’s heart.

Becky Ossefoort

 


Anniversary Sentiments

The subject of this article isn’t what I thought it was going to be, but I hope you still like it because it cost me $13.98. See, just before I was going to sit down and write my other thoughts, the Spirit reminded me I had better get an anniversary card because our anniversary is tomorrow (August 28).

Now normally a tradition on our anniversary for Vicki and me is to go to the card section in some store and look for the card we would give each other. Then, after we find just the right card that verbalizes the exact sentiment of our hearts, we exchange the cards and then read them right in the aisle of the store. Then after we wipe our tears of joy and happiness away we put the cards back and then we share a little public display of affection.

Of course, the whole point is to save the $13.98 we would’ve spent on the cards so we can buy pizza later. But we decided we weren’t going to do that this year because this anniversary is a special year for us; yep, 39 years of marital bliss.

Anyway, I go over to Lewis to find the perfect card. Now, have you ever noticed how self-centered and lame those anniversary cards are? Just listen to the message of this card. He tries to tell her how much he loves her, but who is the focus of the card?

To the woman I love with all my heart.

Marrying you is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

You’re my partner, the love of my life, and my best friend.

Having your love makes such a difference in my life—

just knowing you’re there, supporting and caring for me means everything…

I’m grateful for our life together. I love you so much and I always will.

Happy Anniversary.

Yes the whole message is all about ME! The romantic words on the card are all about everything the wife does for her husband. For some reason I picture this husband as a couch potato who doesn’t haven’t a job. I picture the husband who buys this card for his wife is like a child who uses his wife as his comfort blanket. Of course he loves her! “Just knowing you’re there…” What?!! I can tell he doesn’t want to talk to her or do anything with her, he’s just glad she’s in the same room. He says it “means everything…” although; he didn’t take the time to give some concrete examples.  Poor woman, he didn’t love her nearly as much as he loved himself.

And then how about the message of this card. Like, who makes this stuff up?

To the woman who makes my life amazing.

I wouldn’t change a thing about our life together—

Every step, every challenge,

every beautiful moment that has brought us to this day makes us who we are.

I’m proud of us, of all we’ve seen and done, and I couldn’t be more in love with you.

Happy Anniversary

Okay first, isn’t Jesus the one who makes our life amazing? Second, maybe this guy can’t think of anything he would change about his marriage, but I bet his wife could. I could think of lots of things I would change. (Having written that for the whole world to see, I’m pretty sure Vicki is going to want to talk about that while we eat our pizza. Please pray for me. ☺

And no, not every challenge or every beautiful moment has made us who we are. Who we are is only by God’s grace which then erases any chance of becoming proud of who we have become. Apparently the author of this card doesn’t even know that pride comes before the fall. So, let’s give credit where credit is due. The reason I couldn’t be more in love with Vicki is that God has filled our hearts full of love by his Holy Spirit.

Ok, that’s enough fun; hopefully you’ve enjoyed giving some thought to my challenge of finding a meaningful anniversary card. Please pray for Vicki, 39 years is a long time to be married to me. He who finds a wife finds a good thing. Proverbs 18:22. And the wife must respect her husband ☺, Mike Altena

 


Let’s Talk

Many of my evenings this summer have been spent with young people who have already entered into their marriage covenant, or who are about to. In addition to addressing nine other areas of their relationship, much time is spent on communication. According to the Prepare/Enrich material that I use in our sessions, communication is, “We share feelings and understand each other.”

One statement on the pre-marriage assessment is, “I wish my partner were more willing to share his/her thoughts and feelings with me.” To which most gals are like, “Yes!” And most guys are like, “No, she shares more than enough of her feelings with me.”

Whether you and your spouse have developed healthy communication skills, or your communication could use a dose of vitality, I thought I would share an adapted version of some communication tips that were sent to me from Prepare/Enrich.

When you finally get the chance to reconnect with your partner at the end of the day, what do you say?

“Hi, honey. How was your day?”  “Good. How was yours?”  “Good.”

There’s definitely nothing wrong with that question! It shows you’re interested in each other’s daily lives and can be a great way to start a more in-depth conversation. But when you both start asking the question mindlessly and responding with one word answers, it might be time to say hey, we can do better.

So what could you do to take your end-of-the-day conversation to a deeper level? Therapists and researchers John Gottman and Bill Doherty both believe that “rituals of connection” are an important tool in nurturing successful relationships. Create a daily ritual where you intentionally reconnect each evening, whether it’s after supper or after the kids are in bed.

To get you started here are five questions to ask instead of “How was your day?”

  • What made you laugh out loud today? This might sound like a silly question, but more than likely it will lead to sharing a story, whether it’s to provide context or explain what happened. Out of this you might learn more about your partner, increasing your connection.
  • If your day was a meal/song/color, what would it be and why? Here’s another question you can have fun with, but that can actually give you insight into the flow of each other’s day.
  • What gave you a sense of accomplishment today? Sure, you might find out about a big work project or the third day in a row of hitting their step goal, but the conversation might take a deeper dive as well. Maybe they don’t know how to answer because they’ve been struggling with balancing work and home responsibilities, and that’s okay. The goal is to have a more meaningful conversation or at the very least give yourselves the opportunity for one.
  • How would you like today to end? Maybe their day was so busy they didn’t have a spare moment to catch their breath, and now all they need is some quiet time to relax. Maybe it was a bad day and they just want to leave it all behind them and play games with the kids. Either way, it gives them an opportunity to tell you exactly what they need – and an opportunity for you to help make it happen.
  • What did you learn today? Sure, this might sound more like something you’d ask your kids after school, but hey, we adults learn new things, too! Maybe it’s an interesting factoid from that new podcast they’re listening to. Or perhaps they learned they shouldn’t stay up so late reading (they were dragging today) or to always make sure the blender cover is on tight. Whatever it is, you can hopefully also learn something new about each other.

In Song of Songs 2:15 the Lover invites the Beloved to, “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.” May it not be so with you and me that we would let a lack of authentic communication with our spouses be the “little fox” that ruins your marriage.

Grace and peace to you, Mike Altena

 


Almost Home

This past Monday I traveled to Sioux Center to pick up our oldest three granddaughters so I could bring them to Inspiration Hills where they spent a few days with Vicki. Shortly before we reached Rock Valley, I heard a little voice from the back seat asking a question I hadn’t heard in a long time. You guessed it, Noelle who is four years old asked, “Grandpa, are we almost there yet?” She was so excited to reach our destination.

I responded by letting her know we were about half way to which my seven year old granddaughter responded, “Really, Grandpa, it seems like we have been traveling only for five minutes.” Sauren then went on to explain to Noelle that the drive to Inspiration Hills would not take that long at all. For one granddaughter, the trip wasn’t going fast enough because she couldn’t wait to so see Grandma and the cabin. For the second granddaughter, the trip was going really fast. And then there was Rilyn, she was already sleeping in the front seat, oblivious to how fast the trip was or wasn’t going.

As I continued to drive, I began to reflect on our journey through life. I especially wondered why we often find it difficult to enjoy the speed at which life is going. I can remember when our kids were toddlers I couldn’t wait until they got to the age where I could play ball and do other fun things with them. Then when Jonathon went off to college and moved to Minneapolis, I remember thinking that the journey of life is going way to fast.

After a difficult conversation during our Consistory meeting about a very divisive topic that has no real easy solutions, I found myself asking, “Father are we almost there yet?” I just want this journey through the covid pandemic to be over. Like Noelle, I find part of this journey difficult to enjoy.  This part of the journey feels like Psalm 90:10, “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are sorrow and trouble, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.”

And yet by the grace of God, I know this is what awaits me, from Revelation 21:3-4 “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

May it not be so with you and me that we have become tired or impatient with our present journey, but rather that we keep our eyes fixed on the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross. Consider him so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

I leave you the link and some the lyrics to one of my favorite songs by Mercy Me, Almost Home https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lKdHXfpsFQ

Are you disappointed? Are you desperate for help? You know what it’s like to be tired and only a shell of yourself… Well this road will be hard. But we win in the end. Simply because of Jesus in us, it’s not if, but when. So take joy in the journey, even when it feels long. Oh find strength in each step knowing heaven is cheering you on.

We are almost home brother it won’t be long. Soon all your burdens will be gone. With all of your strength, sister, run wild and free. Hold up your head keep pressing on. We are almost home…

I know that the cross has brought heaven to us. But make no mistake there’s still more to come. When our flesh and our bones are no longer between. Where we are right now and where we’re meant to be. When all that’s been lost has been made whole again. When the tears and this pain no longer exist. No more walking, we’re running as fast as we can. Consider this our second wind. Keep pressing on. We’re almost home. Almost home!

Keep pressing on,

Mike Altena

 


What Is Beautiful In Your Life?

“I’m tired, boss. Mostly, I’m tired of people being ugly to each other.” These words came from the mouth of death row inmate, John Coffey, in the movie The Green Mile as the prison guard struggles with the possibility of Coffey’s innocence. I can echo those words; maybe you can too. I’m tired; tired of the ugly. Tired of ugly actions, ugly attitudes, and ugly words. Tired of ugliness in families, between friends, at retail stores and schools and meetings, on the news, on social media, in the church, and in the mirror.

Backstabbing, shaming, name calling, pot-stirring, belittling, aggression, passivity, apathy, defensiveness, self-righteousness… it’s all ugly. Ugliness seems to be running rampant while beauty seems to be in short supply. Or is that just what the enemy wants me to believe? Is my mind being trained to see the ugly rather than the beautiful?

A question was posed to me during a recent conversation that has been stirring in my thinker. “What is beautiful in your life?” I didn’t have an immediate answer. Maybe I’ve become too accustomed to looking at the ugly. Perhaps my rose colored glasses have been stained.

Beautiful, according to Google, means “pleasing to the senses or mind.” Sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touches, thoughts… What is beautiful in my life? I started a list:

  • A cool evening breeze
  • Open windows
  • Marigolds full of blooms
  • Aroma of fresh cut grass
  • Baby birds chirping in their nest
  • The ‘pop’ of canning jars sealing
  • Buttered sweet corn
  • Rodent traps that did their job
  • Mask-free conversations
  • Friendly phone call dialed on accident
  • 60 years married for Mom & Dad
  • Forbidden hugs
  • Helping hands
  • Fresh Starts

The beautiful is there in the midst of the ugly. I just need to look for it. I think this is what Peter is talking about when he says “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Wouldn’t that be just like the devil to distract us with our own thoughts and senses, focusing our attention on the ugly rather than the beautiful.

It’s like weeds and flowers. A friend has been volunteering many hours pulling weeds around the church property, especially in the rain gardens by the highway. From the roadway it appears like everything is healthy and green. But take a closer look and the actual shrubs and flowers were overgrown with thistles and vines and weeds of all kinds. Some weeds were so big we had to confer with Gardener George that they were indeed weeds and not plants to be saved. As happens in most gardens, the ugly weeds and the beautiful flowers grow up side by side, and if nothing is done to control the weeds, they will soon take over. As sinful, selfish people, our default is weed watering instead of weed pulling. But we need to nourish the flowers (the beautiful) and pull the weeds (the ugly).

Paul reminds us in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” Our mind is a powerful tool. May it be said of us that we trained and renewed our mind to see the beautiful.

Erin Jacobsma

 


Heads Up

Our family was able to escape to the Black Hills for a little getaway in July. Instead of the normal sights and busy tourist traps, we decided to pull a couple ATVs out with us and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. We rode through bumpy terrain, trees, and cliffs for two full days. Each of the 200 plus miles ridden was spectacular, but there was one area of trail that left my stomach in knots. The trail itself was not steep, bumpy, or on the side of a cliff. In fact, it was quite the opposite; a nice, gentle, flat, gravel path through the bottom of a canyon. What created the uneasy feeling in my gut were the devastating effects of a tornado that had ripped through the forest about 10 days prior to our adventure. The evergreen canopy which had once dressed the top of the steep canyon walls was now laying on the floor of the canyon. In addition to the splintered trunks left at the top of the walls, thousands of dainty birch trees on the lower slopes were bent on their sides doing everything in their strength to reach for the sun once again.

We wound our way through the shattered canyon and selected a path to take us to an active fire lookout station. The view from the top of the peak is breathtaking and you can see four states in the distance as you scan the terrain. As I was taking in the view I heard a woman’s voice from the fire tower above me ask if I knew what I was looking at. After a short conversation about different landmarks miles away, the forest ranger and I started talking about the tornado that created so much destruction along the trails. She had been at the tower all day observing the storm, but once the wind picked up and there were lightning strikes all around, she headed down the mountain to seek shelter. Thinking about what that must be like up there, higher than the mountain itself, in a small shack built in 1941, I can’t say I blame her!

In the days following the storm, her job from the tower was not only to watch for fire in the distance, she was also the emergency crews “eye in the sky.” She said it was critical for someone to be up there on the peak watching for approaching storms as the crews worked “heads down” in the canyon. Because of the tall canyon walls, one working with their head down (or up for that matter!) would not know what weather was approaching until it was directly overhead, making her job essential for their safety in the event of a severe storm.

Just a few days after the tornado there was another storm and without her in the tower, crews would have been left in great danger. As rain and lightning moved in she reported to crews, “Lightning approaching 8 miles from my location.” As she prepared to move down the mountain to safety, she made the call. “Heads up. Heads up. Move out and seek shelter immediately. Strong thunderstorm approaching 2 miles from my location.” was sent over the radio waves, giving crews ample time to move out of harm’s way.

I found our conversation fascinating and could have listened to her all day, but there were miles of trails to explore. In the days following our trip, I’ve thought about what she shared with me and it has reminded me of the active role the Holy Spirit has in my life. All too often I meander through this life with my head down participating in the things of this world and unaware of what is coming at me, yet the Holy Spirit will send me a warning message, much like the sweet woman at the tower, saying, “Heads up! Pay attention to what Jesus is doing!”

The last several weeks we have been exploring the Holy Spirit with Mike during our Sunday morning worship. As I have done some of my own studying I was reminded in John 16 of Jesus teaching of the Holy Spirit with His disciples. Jesus pointed out to them that after his death they were scared, lost, and “filled with grief.” (vs. 6) Then he shared He would be leaving again, but this time He would send a helper to them. I suppose I was like that in the past. As a child I had grown to know who Jesus was, but when faced with realities of this life, I was scared and full of fear because I felt lost and didn’t have a relationship with Him. Then, one day, I caught a glimpse of Him at work in my life and decided to trust all those words I had heard long ago. Now I live with Him in my heart and His Spirit guiding my steps just as He promised. “13But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own; he will speak only what He hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”

May it be so of each of us as we walk through this journey, with our heads raised, that we may trust the Spirit’s leading each and every moment of our life, sharing His Kingdom with all we encounter along our trail.

Becky Ossefoort

 


Let’s Go Out For Supper

One of the things I appreciate about Vicki is her ability to cook and bake. She just has a knack for making really good meals and goodies, and she’s always trying something new. And since I highly dislike cooking or baking, even more I appreciate that she has been willing to cook for me day after day after day for nearly 39 years now.

That being said, there are those days, when I get a text late in the afternoon saying, hey it’s been a really busy day for me, do you mind if we just go out for supper tonight. I would guess many wives and moms know what I’m talking about; there are those times when you just don’t have the time or energy to cook something up and so you go out and let someone else do the cooking for you.

Well, in some ways I can identify. Not necessarily when it comes to cooking food, but when it comes to writing this archive article. Most often writing these articles is fun and they come fairly easy. Most articles begin when something happens during my week that interacts with the gospel. However this week I had so many exciting and challenging events happen that when I sat down to write about them I felt paralyzed. I actually sat at my computer for an hour and half this morning (Friday) trying to put my thoughts on paper. I felt mentally and emotionally tired. And because I gave some of my challenges to much space in my head, I sensed the flow from the Holy Spirit had dried up

I finally gave up and sent an e-mail to Erin saying, I’m not going to have an article for this week. Basically I was throwing up the white flag, I wanted to cook up a great article for all of you to feast on, but    in the end I just didn’t have the mental or emotional capacity to write anything. So I’m asking you as you read this, would it be ok if we just go out for dinner tonight? Would it be okay if I just let Jesus feed you in this article?

Well, I’m guessing, like I always am when Vicki asks if we can go out, you are more than happy to let Jesus prepare the spiritual meal for this article. So here it is; this is what I’m going to feast on and hope you enjoy it too.

From Matthew 11:28-30, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

And for desert, for those who are reading this on your electronic devices, please click on this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGFDplYGG-U

May in not be so with you and me that we become burned out with the rhythms of our current reality, but rather may it be so with you and me that we learn from the unforced rhythms of grace. Thanks so much for giving me permission to take a “real rest.”

May God bless you and keep, may his face shine on you and be gracious to you, and may the Lord turn his face toward you and grant you shalom.

Mike Altena

 


Optional or Required

One of the ongoing debates within the Covid pandemic is whether or not a person should wear a mask. With the recent spike in Covid cases, it appears that there are many more businesses, cities, or states mandating mask wearing. In preparing for the opening of school this fall, I believe one of the questions administrators are wrestling with is, do we make the children wear masks.

On one level the debate is about health. Does wearing a mask actually keep a person from receiving or transmitting the disease? Or does wearing a mask only serve as a reminder not to touch your face? And then are there any negative health effects from connecting the intake manifold to the exhaust system, if you know what I mean. Some people would claim wearing a mask is like sitting in the garage with the car running. Many people have difficulty breathing when wearing a mask.

On another level, the debate seems to be about personal freedom. Many people have the sense that no one has the right to tell them whether or not they have to wear a mask. Many people fear that mandating the wearing of masks is only a way for the government to see how easily the public submits to their rule. But then there are those who argue, it’s really not a matter of freedom, if you really cared about me, you would wear your mask. I’m still not sure if I should be wearing a mask because I love me, or should I wear a mask because I love you.

And then a final reason we resist the idea of wearing a mask is because of the impact it might have on our appearance. I wonder if in fact by wearing masks the spread of the covid virus was completely stopped, would some people still refuse to wear a mask because of how it makes them look. Such vanity.  🙂

As I reflect on my process of discerning whether wearing a mask is “right for me,” I realize I often use the same arguments when it comes to obeying God’s instructions. For example, in Luke 14:26-27 Jesus gave these instructions, “Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one’s own self!—can’t be my disciple. Anyone who won’t shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can’t be my disciple.

In this passage Jesus basically is informing me as I count the cost of following him, that if I’m not willing to elevate my relationship with Jesus and engaging his mission as the highest priority in my life, then I cannot be his disciple.

And yet when reading those shocking expectations, just like when deciding if I’m going to wear a mask, I begin to question whether or not this is a command or suggestion from Jesus. Like, is picking up my cross of rejection and suffering really necessary? Can I get to heaven without making Jesus my top priority? What would my family and friends think of me if I became a “Jesus freak?”  Is Jesus establishing those guidelines and qualifications for my good, or is he just seeing how far he can push me to submit? And can I actually love Jesus without giving so much of myself?

Should I wear a mask? Certainly in those places where it’s required, otherwise, still optional for me.

Should I make Jesus and his mission the highest priority in my life; even if it leads to persecution and suffering? May it not be so with me that I would ever question, resist, or consider this mandate from Jesus as optional.

And my prayer is the same will be true for you.

Grace and peace to you, Mike Altena

 


God is Good

God Is Good.

Are these three words foundational truth, or just a good catch phrase? Is this declaration dependent on circumstances, or unconditional? Is God good even when conditions are not?

Last week our family was thrown into the midst of a challenging situation. My daughter, Gretchen, and her boyfriend were traveling down a South Dakota highway when another car came into their lane, resulting in a head-on collision at 65 mph. Plans for fun and relaxation, quickly melted into seven hours of fear, panic, pain, sirens, needles, x-rays, scans, tests, prayers, phone calls, and tears. In the end, it was truly a miracle that the two of them walked out of the emergency department with many bruises and scrapes, but not one broken bone or life-threatening injury. I was able to take my baby girl home, tuck her in bed, kiss her goodnight, and tell Jesus ‘thank you’ a thousand times before I drifted off to sleep. God is good.

The following morning on my way to work, as I drove past the funeral home, my throat became tight, my stomach turned, and my eyes filled with tears, at the thought of what could have been. Rather than going about my regular Thursday activities, I could be pacing the floor in the ICU waiting room, watching my child cling to life with the aid of machines, or planning a funeral. By the grace of God, that was not to be. And again my heart was overwhelmed with gratitude. God is good.

Last week my family also enjoyed a productive day of outside projects in the hot summer sun. We were pleased with our accomplishments only to come inside to discover our thermostat hovering at 80 degrees. Further investigation revealed that the comfort of a cool home would not be a cheap fix. The compressor on the air conditioner was caput and repair was not an option. God is good.

This week, the multiple rains that poured down heavy in our area created a river through our ditch and also through our basement. Three sump pumps are laboring to keep up and the dehumidifier is running non-stop. The new dehumidifier… the old one died last week. God is good.

Now why in the world would I say that God is good even in the midst of pain and suffering, trauma and tears, struggle and brokenness? Because He is! I resolved a long time ago that God is inherently good and nothing in this world can add or subtract from that. In life, God is good. In death, God is good. In prosperity, God is good. In poverty, God is good. In wholeness, brokenness, ease, struggle, peace, pain, joy, sorrow… God is good.

Yes, at times life is hard, the struggle is real, and some days just plain suck. But God is good, all the time. Favorable life experiences don’t add to God’s goodness, neither do traumatic events negate His goodness. Goodness is a part of who He is, in addition to being omnipotent, faithful, loving, merciful, holy, omniscient, eternal, and perfect. He can’t not be good.

Psalm 100:5 states, “For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” For me, that is a foundational truth. It’s not conditional or questionable.

“O, taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Psalm 34:8)

Erin Jacobsma

 


Swamp Monster

If someone offers you a free pool, you take it! At least I did a few years ago. My husband would argue the silly swim hole is anything but free, but he knows better than to say anything negative about “my pool”. He has learned when I come home after a long day and take fifteen minutes to float in silence things will go better for all involved. I sometimes feel a little guilty as I float around, but I can actually stop and be still when I’m not looking at laundry, dishes, and the couch pillows everyone seems to think belong on the living room floor. The worries and struggles of the day seem to disappear as I listen to the birds chirp, a pig or two squeal in the distance, and breathe in the fresh country (cattle yard) air.

A few weeks ago the crazy, tornado like winds we experienced threw my water balance off and I soon had a pool with green water. Because of commitments to organizing and helping with the mission week in town, work duties, baseball practice, serving as the executive of mom’s taxi service, and less than ideal weather other days, algae began to grow and I didn’t have the time to get it cleaned up before it got a little out of control.

The Service Over Self week filled me and created a great sense of joy and accomplishment within and I actually forgot about my murky tank of water for a little while. Watching students give up their summer vacation to love on others, expecting nothing in return, is incredible to witness and be a part of. But when the devil sees joy, he seems to work overtime to destroy. I’m not sure he even had to work overtime because by Tuesday morning I was a crabby mess. My pool was a swamp, I had a full schedule for the week, someone had aired their concern over a situation, and not to mention the other day-to-day hiccups of life. By the end of the day I had had it, so I got out some pool equipment to get my retreat in tip-top shape. Once again, the pool turned out to be more of a place of therapy than activity.

In order to get the gunk off the bottom of my pool, I first need to raise the water level with fresh water. The newly added water ensures there is ample water to suck the yucky stuff off the bottom through a brush and hose and out of the pool. The pool guy calls this very simple device a vacuum and it does wonders in just a matter of a few minutes. Once it was all hooked up and ready to go, I climbed in the pool and started vacuuming. As I went about my work, I thought about the things that had me down and crabbed to myself in my head. When I was about half done vacuuming, I looked up to check the water level and heard a voice say, “Remember, you need to put the good stuff in to get the bad stuff out.” I froze as guilt flooded my body and I recognized my lack of filling up with God’s goodness over the last few days. The things I had been so frustrated with caused me to shift my focus away from the eyes of my Savior and my heart had quickly become a green, smelly swamp just like my pool.

While I did quick finish the vacuuming, as soon as I got out of the pool I sat down and filled up on the words God had for me in His scriptures. My little retreat on the patio was just what my soul thirsted for and I’m happy to report the condition of my heart looks a lot less gross than it did just a few days ago.

How about you? Do the things of this world have your heart turning into a green slime monster? I beg you to stop and feel God’s presence today. Find a place to retreat in silence and just be still before Him. God’s voice will speak and be a comfort to you.

I’m out of space to share the verses I read on my patio, but below is a list of a few to help get you started. While it may feel easier and a little faster to simply read the scripture from this page, I can promise digging into the Bible and seeking God for yourself is way more fulfilling than anything I can retype!

Exodus 15:2; Deuteronomy 20:4; Psalm 19; Psalm 23:3; Psalm 27:1; Psalm 46; Psalm 51:13-17; Psalm 63:1; Psalm 73:26; Isaiah 12:2; Isaiah 40:31; Matthew 6:25-34; Matthew 11:28-30; John 3:16; Acts 3:19-20; Romans 15:13; Ephesians 6:10-12

Enjoy your retreat!  Becky Ossefoort