Archive for January, 2014

New Every Morning

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You know the quotation from Lamentations (it may be the only one you know from Lamentations, if you’re like me!) about God’s compassions being new every morning? The verses conclude “great is thy faithfulness.” Here’s a little story about the truth of those verses.

The last half of 2013, while personally happy for Jeff and me, made us a little nervous. We’d hoped for more growth at church, more people in the pews on Sunday mornings, more involvement in Bible Study, more hearts open to learning. We love each one of our wonderful members, whose faithfulness has been steadfast in the extreme, I need to point out. Their sacrifice for their church has been a model. But I think some of them were also wondering if this was going to work! A former student of Jeff’s from NAU said to him a while ago “What are you doing here in a place like this?” which didn’t build his confidence, though it was meant lovingly. Satan was obviously working overtime to discourage us.

Peace Lutheran has grown, of course–just very slowly. I’m not bragging to say that this has never happened before in Jeff’s ministry, just stating a fact: it simply hasn’t. We know many of the reasons why churches here are slow to grow–the size and stability of the town, with little movement in and out taking place, the preponderance of the LDS membership locally, and so on. But growth’s been so slow as to be worrisome at times. We’ve had to abandon our modest vision for church growth in favor of trusting that God had the ultimate and best vision. Wouldn’t you think that would be an automatic mindset, given the years we’ve worked in the Kingdom? But it wasn’t. We needed to learn–really learn, not just in theory–a lesson in trust ourselves.

And recently, several things have happened in our own hearts. We’ve come to trust more deeply than ever before that high growth or not, our congregation will be fine, and we will be fine in it. As we’ve trusted more completely and left Peace’s growth or lack of it in God’s mighty hands, we noticed something curious happening. The numbers began to go up just a little. Some more folks began to attend from the community. Because Jeff conducts Saturday night chapel there, the numbers of folks from Bread of Life Mission has also risen, just a little. I can’t help but see the connection with God’s lessons in trust.

We realized also what a blessing it is to have small numbers, but the chance to go deep with members who wish to grow. My hyperactive (in a good way) husband plenty to do here between church, Kiwanis, and the Chamber of Commerce. I have a job I love at the library and a garden that could feed three times as many people as it feeds now. We love living in Holbrook, which may not be the most beautiful town in Northern Arizona, but which is certainly one of the friendliest. Optimism replaced concern in our hearts. Numbers began regularly swelling into the 30’s and sometimes even 40’s instead of the 20’s (Could 30+ people be called a “swell? Or at least a faithful insect bite?)

Last Sunday, we took in new members, whose pictures are above (I hope none of you is in the Witness Protection Program!). Just a few new members, not dozens. But they’re sincere, earnest Christians, whose faith will strengthen Peace Lutheran and build up the family of faith here. For the next two weeks, we have an adult baptism each Sunday. And those will also be sincere commitments, a fact which delights us. We’re hopeful again, but we’re letting God write the script, not trying to take the pen from His hands to write our own. We needed to learn this lesson, and I’m grateful that he took the time to teach us. Indeed, His compassions are new every morning!

 

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Who’s that Knocking at my Door?

ImagePicture this: it’s late on Christmas eve, and the last of the expected family members have just arrived. In the midst of our hugs and laughter, the doorbell rings. We pull open the door, wondering who would have the audacity to come at this late hour, on this special night. Outside the door in heavy fleece and Green Bay Packer cap stands our son from Guam, Andrew. He wasn’t expected to make it back half-way around the world, but he’d taken some vacation from work, spent some time with friends in Texas, and then got to Holbrook on Christmas Eve. After the tears and the welcome embraces, I asked my daughter if she had known he was coming. “We all knew except you and Dad. We couldn’t wait for him to get here!” What a welcome surprise he was! Other than our sadly-missed granddaughter, Kayla, who was in Washington, we were all together for Christmas. What a gift!

But another surprise would add to the joy of Christmas dinner the next day. Matt and Arlene announced their intention to marry within the next year! Every face at the table reflected happiness at the announcement, none more so than Matt and Arlene themselves.

Our new daughter-to-be was born in the Philippines, the eldest child in a large and beautiful family. She’s lived in the US her whole adult life, is an engineer by training, and works at Chase with Matt, though in different areas. To our delight, she’s an active Christian with a tremendous heart for others. And she’s fun–enthusiastic, smart, and up for anything. This couple realize they aren’t children any more, and they both know how fortunate they are to have found one another. We know, too, and are so pleased by their relationship. We’re looking forward to a wedding soon. You can see the happy couple in the photo below.

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And finally, the Johnson clan is shown below:

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Hope all your Christmas surprises were good ones, too–and Happy New Year!