Metamorphosis

As I walked my dog this week I could not miss the bright yellow caterpillar in my path. Knowing about metamorphosis, I wondered what it would become. I learned it turns into a moth that has intricate shades of gray, called an American Dagger moth.

Perhaps the moth is not as impressive to look at as a colorful butterfly, nevertheless, the process of metamorphosis is amazing! One living thing changes into a very different kind of living thing, in this case from a crawly creature to a flying one. The way it lives and moves is dramatically different that it was before it changed.

An American Dagger moth caterpillar along my path.

A synonym for metamorphosis is transformation.

I have thought about spiritual transformation lately and I see how closely it resembles the metamorphosis of a crawling caterpillar to a flying moth or butterfly. In 2 Corinthians 3:18 Paul explains. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image [of Christ] from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” As we learn the word of God, gazing on the nature of Jesus, the ways of God’s Spirit and spend time with mature followers of Jesus, we go ‘from one degree of glory to another,’ and morph into who our Creator intends us to become.

In Galatians 2:20 Paul tells us,I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” He learned to turn himself over to the will of God.

An adult American Dagger moth, [The moth image was originally posted to Flickr by Wildreturn]

Our metamorphosis is both a moment in time and a process. When we accept the Love of God through the loving sacrifice of Jesus, we are crucified with Christ and are instantly morphed, or sometimes the word translated is used, into the Kingdom of God. The first unique life is still present, but now in a new and different presentation. We do not know or understand all it means at first. That process of discovery we go through is how we mature.
I am not the same person I was at 16 when I began to walk with Jesus. Like any baby I crawled then fell down a lot those first few years. Eventually I learned to “fly like the moth,” as I matured in the Kingdom of God. The experience and process of walking by faith in the power of the Holy Spirit is the transformation, or metamorphosis process.

 

Come Help Change the World!

I think I’ve always wanted to change the world for the better. Initially I had limits on how that might look. When I was a kid I swore I would never be a teacher. Teachers have to deal with unruly kids and long hours for relatively little pay. I saw what I put my teachers through and decided there was no way I wanted to take that from other people’s kids!

When I became a follower of Jesus, I said I would never be a missionary in Africa. I was a sorority girl from a good family. And though I was a Tomboy, enjoying sports and camping….I was convinced that being a missionary in Africa was NOT God’s will for my life. I was convinced I would have more impact by making a stand in my own area of influence and culture….

37 years ago the tag line for Campus Crusade for Christ [now CRU] was “Come Help Change the World!” What 22-year-old just out of university does not want to make a difference in the world? We all hunger and thirst for significance. We all want to feel like we have contributed to making life better for us and for others.

I signed up!

Me, circa 1982

Even before I signed up with CRU I knew I was going to Africa. God met me at the CRU Christmas conference in Chicago the December of 1979. I literally heard bells ringing, that no one else heard, when an announcement was made for a recruiting meeting. I attended the meeting and God deeply impressed on my spirit that I was to apply to go to Africa. This was really odd because I was taught that emotions and experiences were the caboose on the train of faith. They were not essential. I have since learned that the caboose is, however, a part of the train=}

Within months I was in cross cultural training to go teach school in Nigeria, West Africa. Next I moved to Côte d’Ivoire, putting all my years of classroom French to practical use, or at least beginning to. Then I spent years in Senegal and Mali with a month in the Philippines in 1991. It was there in the Philippines I began to connect deeply with my passion for prayer.

My life has moved a long way from there. There have been twists and turns I did not anticipate. God has remained the same and He is making me into His image, sometimes in spite of myself.

I still find ways to “Come help Change the World!” I mostly work from my base in Massachusetts at this phase of life. But that’s the awesome thing about prayer. We can literally affect lives and events anywhere through prayer.

Technology also allows us to have an impact beyond our four walls. I receive prayer requests from all over the world. I use Skype and Face time to have audio and even face to face conversations and prayer with people in Europe, East Asia, Africa.

And of course there are our neighbors, co-workers and shop keepers and others we see regularly. Do my interactions go beyond paying for my purchases and trivial greetings?

Last weekend at Restore & Revive I was delighted to listen to every plenary speaker and several workshops emphasize the need for the power of the Holy Spirit for Evangelism. The event did take place at D.L. Moody’s home town and campus. He is one who clearly depended on the love and power of the Holy Spirit to win people to Jesus.

In a week or so the different sessions will be linked to the Restore & Revive site. Also God.tv will also be showing at least some of it in the near future. I hope you are able to watch and listen, and I pray you are restored and revived to come help change the world!

The Glory That Is To Be Revealed To Us

This phrase from Roman’s 8:18 jumped out to me a while ago and again recently, “The Glory That Is To Be Revealed To Us.” Let me give you a fuller context. [ Italics mine]

16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. PS 19:1

I cannot speak for you, but in my experience most people are like me. We have spent much of our lives avoiding suffering. Interestingly, suffering is a requirement to join in the glory. I have heard sermons on how suffering for our faith is all that counts, suffering consequences for being stupid doesn’t. Eh…maybe. But as I have learned to embrace pain from physical suffering, emotional suffering, and even from natural consequences, by turning it over to Abba, I learn to yield to Abba. I allow unrefined bits of me to go to the cross.

So what about the glory? (Or: get me off this suffering talk please.)

As more unrefined bits leave me and go to the cross, I am transformed from glory to glory. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor 3:18)

This is the eve of Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement.  On this side of the cross, we have a perspective of Hope. When Jesus died on the cross, he paid for ALL our sin. That is complete atonement only our Creator is able to provide. The result is great hope. It gives us assurance that the refining is worth it.

As we begin the Jewish year 5778, the year of open doors, may we position ourselves to expect the glory of God in us and around us. May we have eyes to see and ears to hear what Creator is doing. It requires seeing through the surface, the anger so prevalent in every quarter these days. Abba is calling the Church Universal to rise up in LOVE. Repent of our judgments and lovelessness. We are called to see the individuals who are hurting, suffering and extend a loving had. “But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” [emphasis mine.]

Abba has and is pouring his love into us through the perfect atonement. May we receive it fully,  then allow it to over-flow to those around it who so desperately need it! When that happens, we indeed see the glory of God revealed!

 

Can You Say No?

I am learning...

This past summer was bookended by weddings for me. My Son Alex married Evelyn on May 28th and my daughter Kathryn married Dewey on September 9th. I have said, “no” possibly more than ever before in my life. I put other things aside to focus on and be available to get us all through the weddings. It worked. I was not overly stretched going in to the events.

Now that the weddings are over I still have to find out if I can continue to say, “no.” Sadly, I did not have a good start. I thought I cleared my calendar for the week after Kathryn’s big day. But I came home to a week of meetings and commitments. Why did I schedule my dentist the week I got back? (Can you see my hands in the air?)

How do you use your time?          Free internet image.

On top of meetings every day after I got home, I put off an important decision about doing a workshop in early October until after the wedding. Once I accepted, there were a lot more opportunities to say, “no.” Now some commitments I thought would start in September are on hold until at least mid-October so I can complete the workshop well.

So how will I do when I meet mid-October? That is a good question. And why do I make this a blog topic?

Learning to hear from God to focus on the things Abba wants us to do is important. Being distracted by less important options is a big challenge in this age of options.

I am still learning to narrow my focus and strengthen my ability to say no. When we can hear Abba’s word clearly, there is more fruit in the finished product. As we move into this new school year and Jewish new year, I am consciously examining my time use in light of Abba’s call on my life.

I hope and pray I can continue to say no in order to follow the new season and the timing of my calling. At the same time I seek to say, “yes” to Abba’s best. Not all people have the challenging relationship with the word no that I do.

How about you? Does Abba want you to say no to something so you can say yes to a more fruitful life?

Restore and Revive

September 29 through October 2

God is calling New England together in unity. Restore & Revive is taking place in Northfield, MA in a few weeks. I have been invited to teach a workshop on Monday morning, October 2nd. Also, I will be involved in intercession and generally helping out. I recently read a biography of D.L. Moody. He founded the Northfield campus to train women for the mission field. He was a well-known international evangelist in the second half of the 1800’s.

One of the goals is to bring people together from all over New England in unity. Biblical teaching, workshops, worship tent, and the fellowship of living on campus or at least spending the night nearby promises to be a rich experience for all who attend.

Workshop presenters include Dr. Claude King (TN), co-author of Experiencing God with Henry Blackaby, Gaylord Enns (CA), author of Love Revolution, Rabbi Grant Berry (CT), Author of Ezekiel Generation, and Laban Jjumba, one of the fathers of the Ugandan prayer movement.

Dr. Collins Lein (Western MA) will share on the unique sound of worship that God is bringing forth from New England, while Dave Gadoury (RI) and James Robinson (CT) present a plan for 24/7 prayer in NE and every state.

See the full schedule here: Schedule

 

Be in prayer for this event. If you listen to Christian radio in New England, please let me know what radio spots and interviews you hear and where. There are also Facebook adds. We want to know how people are hearing about this event, so please be my eyes and ears.

Please pray for the plenary and workshop speakers (I am among the latter=})

There are still many details being worked through at this point. We generally have good unity, but as we approach and people get tired, from my experience, your prayers for all the organizers will help.

You can click on any of the links to learn more and pray as you are lead. Thank You! And by all means, COME to Restore and Revive if you possibly can, for one day or the entire time!

Surrender With Hope

Surrender is sort of a dirty word in our day. Maybe it has always carried the stigma of being a failure, a loser. Today, however, I propose that surrender is far from bad, or a sign of losing. Surrender is actually to our benefit when we stop trying to be in control of things that are out of our control, things that were never intended to be in our control.

This tree has surrendered to the wild rages of Lake Superior, yet it thrives.

One consideration is who or what are we surrendering to? Giving in to a maniacal dictator is threatening for our life on all levels, but to a benevolent leader, that is a different story. What we seldom understand when we try to take control or protect ourselves, is we are taking the place of our Creator in our lives. The one who made us tells us his plans for us are good, abundant, loving and full of hope. Surrendering to one with those characteristics almost feels good.

Rather than feed you all those scriptures, I invite you to sit with Psalm 103 for a few minutes. As tempted as I am to emphasize verses or ideas I will resist this time. I will, however, feed you a question or two to prime your thinking_

  • If I am going to surrender to anyone, why should I trust the God of the Bible?
  • What is unique about how the God of the Bible sees us? (Opposed to people or sometimes ourselves.)
  • What characteristics of this God are most inviting to you today?

Please take a breath and try to take your time. Please journal what you learn if you can. Come back later if you need to. I would enjoy hearing from you and what touches you.

Abba,  Give us grace to receive what you want to say to us. Thank you that you are both willing and able to speak each of us as unique individuals. We surrender to you long enough to sit with this psalm for a while. 

Psalm 103 

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
    his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
    nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
    so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;
    he remembers that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are like grass;
    he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
    and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
    and his righteousness to children’s children,
18 to those who keep his covenant
    and remember to do his commandments.
19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
    and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
    you mighty ones who do his word,
    obeying the voice of his word!
21 Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
    his ministers, who do his will!
22 Bless the Lord, all his works,
    in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Where’s The Bug? Admiring God’s Creative Nature

I love to take walks. Cities will do, but I am happiest in nature. When I buy a cell phone the most important feature to me is the camera! I am one of those who walks around with my eyes nearly always on alert, at least at some level, for a good photo. Attempting to capture God’s creative nature, hoping to help it live beyond the moment, is a joy to me. So, enjoy the photos and look for the bugs.

Easy assignment to find the bug.

In this first one, I liked the bright yellow against the gray cement. There is something about the mix of God’s creative nature and man’s ingenuity. These flowers are under a large bridge next to an asphalt walk way. A semi-urban feel, where God’s creative beauty still thrives. Man’s God-given creative abilities rarely deter flowers and bugs and so much more of creation from adapting.

The one is easy, but can you see the second? (Enjoy the thistle=}. It makes me think of my Scottish friend and another friend in Scotland this week.)

The bees were very busy on the thistle. The second bee kept bombarding the one on this flower. I thought he wanted a turn, but when the big guy moved to another thistle he did not replace him. More wonders of the created world….

This was the toughest one, but I cropped it to help you out a bit.

I may have made this too easy with my cropping. =} This monarch butterfly with its wings closed blended really well with the half blooming flower. It is remarkably easy to keep walking and miss these small wonders. It really helps to walk with our eyes wide open on every level. In some urban districts our radar is on our safety, but on this nature path on the outskirts of a town it was hard to not notice the beauty both large and small.

I hope you are able to enjoy the gifts of beauty Abba has placed along your path. Sometimes it takes work to see them, other times, like a bright sunset, God’s creative nature is hard to miss. When you do notice, please take a deep breath and enjoy the gift. I bless you with eyes and spirit wide open to the Creator of all things. May you be able to stop, daily, in wonder of God’s creative nature…let me know how it goes.

A Tribute To Peter Van Boven Jr.

A tribute is a way to thank and honor someone. My dad, Peter John Van Boven Jr., was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan on May 19, 1928. His parents came to Ann Arbor from other parts of Michigan to attend the U of M. After Dad completed his studies at the U of M and his military service in the Air Force Reserve, he had a blind date with that woman who became my mother, Carolyn Snyder, a student at the U of M.

Image may contain: 1 person, suit and closeup

He was instantly smitten. It took Mom a bit longer to realize it was right to spend the next 50 years married to him, and they married on 9/11/1954, decades before 9/11 became infamous. They raised a family in Ann Arbor, of which I am the middle child. Dad ran Van Boven Inc., A fine men’s clothing store just off campus.

I began working for him when I was eight years old. Yes, I manned the front of the store during sales. My job was to keep an eye out for “five-finger discounts.” If anyone looked tempted to take something without paying, I learned to ask if they needed help. A warm body keeps most people honest.

From dad I learned the values of honesty, hard work, responsibility and the beginnings of leadership development. As a member of the owning family, I received few if any privileges. The only one I remember was dad taking me to lunch most of the days I worked with him. That was over the span of my 14 years of seasonal employment. He taught me to set the example, even if I was a child. One winter I literally walked over two miles to work in a blizzard because the roads were unpassible and dad & I lived the closest to the store of all the employees. We had to open.

Dad was athletic, fun-loving and adventurous. (He and the teams he played on won many awards.) All of those are characteristics he passed on to me. When my years of university were coming to an end, I let my parents know that I felt I should go to Africa to be a teacher/missionary, Dad gave me a blessing to go follow my adventures while I was young and able, then he and mom came to visit me in Nigeria where I spent my first two and a half years in Africa. On the way to the airport for them to leave the continent, we had a flat tire. Dad taught me as a teen how to change a tire, but he was out in the 110 degree Fahrenheit heat serving a van full of my friends who had come for the ride.

When he was 56 he was playing water basketball over lunch when he was hit hard in the neck. A few days later he had a massive stroke from a clot that formed in his artery and lodged in his brain. For the next twenty years he lived with dignity in spite of little to no ability to talk. He could function remarkably well considering. When he was finally freed of his earthly shell he had lived to see my kids into high school. He died less than a month before his 50th wedding anniversary. I launch this very small and terribly incomplete tribute to this great guy on the anniversary of his going to glory.

I am truly grateful you already heard this from me before you passed, but here a few more words of tribute.

Thanks dad for being the role model you hoped I would become. Thanks for loving mom all those years and for being faithful! I am grateful to God for placing me with you and mom. How happy I am that you are now more whole than ever! I do not anticipate joining you for a while, but I know you are in the great cloud of witnesses cheering me and others on.

Do you have someone you want to give a tribute to? Even if you do not or cannot give it to them, you can write it for yourself and Abba. Or, take some minutes to think and pray about it.

Your Story, HIStory

One of the interesting things about being a follower of Jesus is that he has a history and we have our own history. When we meet him and begin to follow, we begin a personal history of our relationship together. I grew up a skeptic. My family attended church regularly when I was small, but despite hearing about Jesus I did not move from myth to personal relationship with the resurrected Jesus until I was a teen. Even then I had a lot to learn.

Josh McDowell was a big help for me coming to understand the difference between scientific fact, that can be repeated, from historical fact, that cannot be repeated. Once I learned of the overwhelming historical evidence for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, I had to make some decisions. If he is really who HE said he was, I had to decide what to do with that information. How can I continue to live as if Jesus was just another good guy?

He was radical in all the right kind of ways. He did not care what the religious leaders of the day thought. He loved people and had the power of the Creator to heal the sick, make the lame walk, blind see and the deaf hear. He even resurrected people from the dead. Yes, it all checks out as historical fact. Best of all he loved people, perfectly… even me… even you. That is what the Cross is all about.

I was still young and idealistic. I left my comfortable life behind to go teach secondary school in Africa so people who had yet to learn about Jesus could hear about him. It was in those times of sickness, loneliness and difficulties, so far from biological family, as well as the joys of new friends and disciples of Jesus that Jesus and I forged our HIStory together.

Looking back over 40 years of shared history with Jesus I find it hard to imagine any other way of life. I have learned, like King David in Psalm 139, that I am never alone. The power and the love of our creator is always with me, no matter what. [emphasis mine]

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
    Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
    If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
    and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with you.

Where are you in your personal history? Are you young and idealistic? ‘Seasoned’ and faithful, with your own full HIStory? Or are you still not sure if Jesus even truly existed? What do you want to ask Him? Whether or not you believe, He is listening. He will find a way to answer so you can know it is Him if you are open to look. (The Bible is a reliable short cut. ;=} )

Genuine Kindness

Blessed Is The Influence Of One True, Loving Human Soul On Another. -George Elliot

Every day we have options… choices to make. Unless we live alone is some isolated place, we interact with other people. That has its pros and cons! Over a lifetime I have tried interacting with “challenging”  characters and situations in many ways. Being defensive, angry or manipulative generally do not work well. Genuine kindness goes the farthest. I have learned the hard way, both by giving and receiving in all kinds of human interactions, the truth of the statement: “Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another.” George Elliot

There are three words in this quote that lead me to translate the concept to “genuine kindness.”

Influence is about the exchange of information and ideas and how they change us. It is subtile. Influence does not require obedience. It is more of an invitation to a new or different way. It involves mutual respect and often more listening than speaking. Many times the one influenced observes behaviors and tone of voice more than the information conveyed in words.

True is a word we hear less and less in our culture of ‘everything is relative.’ It requires acknowledging facts and regarding some things as real. Not only tangible things, but things like gravity we cannot see or touch.  When it comes to personal character it is authenticity. Most people can detect if someone is honestly interested their well-being or if they are being used at some level.

Loving sometimes feels like a lost or dying art. So many people spend time with their eyes glued to a computer, TV or smart phone screen that many are losing the art of personal interaction. Our souls do not receive the same response from an emoji as we do to face to face, focused attention with physical eyes and ears.

With few exceptions, people respond to genuine kindness.

Kindness is one facet of loving. It is friendly without being controlling. Kindness is respectful and considerate of others thoughts, opinions and feelings. It reads reactions and adjusts gently as it seeks to understand.

A genuinely kind person has a healing effect on others.

We all hunger to be heard and understood and want to be seen for the good in us. We may be afraid to be seen for what really goes on in our heads, but a kind person believes the best. They call us up to our better selves.

Some great advice that has been around forever is, if you want to have a good friend, be a good friend first. Genuinely kind people make good friends. It’s not always easy, but it is worth it. Abba provides all the resources we need when we lean in and ask because He is the source of all that is true, kind and loving.

How can you bless another person with genuine kindness?