Before and After


Last week we were in Mexico. As I prepared for the trip I wrote….

I’ve spent every summer in Mexico since 1998 except the summer of 2000; the year when Genesis was born. But this summer, I’m not looking forward to being there. It took a lot of effort, prayers, godly counsel and muscle to get our family of 6 along with two of our dogs to the states and now after being here 2 months, I must return South of the Border. As far as I can remember, this is the first time since September of 2004 that I have not wanted to return.

I remember traveling with Rodney and 3 of the girls. Zion was only 8 weeks old and I did not want to return to Mexico. Life there was difficult, we didn’t know the language, we didn’t have many friends, the house we were renting was moldy. In fact, there was a time when Rodney, Trin and I all had mold growing under our fingernails. We were poor, felt alone and life was tough.

After spending a few extra days at the boarder wrestling with our negative feelings and with God, we decided to return to Mexico. We didn’t want to spend our lives wondering what God would have done through us had we only been faithful.

Over the years the hardships and struggles only served to strengthen our faith and deepen our relationship with each other and our Lord.

This week as I struggled, once again, with my feelings of not wanting to return to Mexico, I read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

It didn’t take long for me to adjust my attitude. I have so many things to be thankful for. And now after all these years I can look back with thankfulness at all that God has accomplished in spite of the difficulties that we faced.


Fast Forward to the end of our trip…..

Lord-I thank you for this trip! I did not want to come, but I’m glad I did. You have blessed us and loved on us while we were here. Thank you to our friends LeAnna and Jerry who have blessed us with their “little house”. Staying here has given us privacy and precious downtime we both desperately need. While here we have gotten to visit friends and loved ones, we have shared laughs and tears. Thank you, Lord, that we were here to be able to comfort our friend Lucinda as L.C. passed into glory. Thanks that I got to sing once again with my friends, who I’ve missed, in the LCBC Choir. Thanks for Hope House! Annel and Ismael are doing a FANTASTIC job, much better than Rodney and I could do at this point. They are standing on our shoulders and advancing God’s Kingdom and changing lives. Investing 15 1/2 years in her life was worth it! Thank you that she and Ismael embrace the vision You Father gave us for Hope House and they are not only maintaining in our absence, but thriving. This trip has reassured me that we are exactly where we need to be, doing exactly what we need to be doing. It has brought much healing to my weary heart. Thank you for blessing me with peace that YOU have got this under control. Thank you for encouraging me to rest in You.


There are times when life is difficult and there are times when we just imagine that life will be difficult. I know that God has a plan and purpose in each of them. I pray that God gives us the wisdom to know the difference and to be thankful for both seasons.


A Letter From God: Oh That You Would Understand. 

It hurts Me to see the walls you have built around yourselves. You sit high in the judgement seat piously looking down on others. I’m sorry you don’t understand.
The more you separate yourselves from the world, the more you isolate yourselves from those I love. How will they know My love if it is not for you. You were intended to be an expression of Me to the lost, hurt and dying. But that expression has become distorted. Instead of showing My love, you have become callous. It is not Me that you are portraying. It is your distorted, sin stained view of who I Am. Oh you look good, all shiny and put together on the outside, but inside you are messy. You attend church every time the doors are open. And you cling to the ritual of a lot of mandatory events (and rules)! You wouldn’t think of missing a service, but who are you when you are all alone? Are you like Me?
After all of your busyness, do you have any time left to share Me with those outside the church walls? Do you have time for the lost, the hurt, the ugly, the smelly, the broken? Do you think that miraculously the lost are going to step foot into your meetings? Would they even be welcome if they did? 
While you have a members only party in My Name those who need Me most are kept at an arms distance. How are they going to meet Me?
You have such potential! Oh I know you mean well, but even within the church you do not express love one to another. You are not an attractive representation of Me. Your aroma is not compelling. Instead it serves to push those who need Me farther away from Me. 
I am different than you. I met people on their turf and I loved them when they were unlovable. It wasn’t until after they experienced Me that they were changed. Do you remember how you were before I called you to Me? You were waist deep in the muck of sin, some of you were even blissfully swimming in sin. But then I found you and you were forever changed. 
I did not save you to be judge and jury, to separate yourselves so fully from my creation. No I saved you to love Me and share that love with others, who like you were, they are lost and blind. Oh that you would understand. 


Make Me Like You

“God, I asked for You to make me more like You. While I was waiting, our baby girl died. It was a difficult time and I was angry with you for allowing that to happen. Then one day I remembered that You also lost a child and I began to realize that through loss, we had something in common. Without me even realizing, You had answered my prayer.”
Kina Dutro-20?? 

Written sometime as I began to come out of the fog…

Our daughter Faith would have been 11 years old today. I am not trying to start a theological debate about God’s perfect will versus His permissive will, by what I wrote above. I just remember it was a great confort to me when I realized that Father God could genuinely identify with my pain and my loss. 
Last year some dear friends of ours also lost their daughter just after birth. As they navigated the pain and bewilderment of the situation, I faced my own memories of giving birth to a still born daughter. One can never imagine the emotional pain that accompanies such an experience, nor can one going through it imagine the pain will ever end. But after 11 years I can promise…the pain does end! It does not last forever. 
In John 16:33 Jesus warns us that in this world we will have trouble. Later in the first chapter of James we are encouraged to count it all joy when we face various trials because they produce in us steadfastness. Rest assured we are never promised an easy life. We will experience difficulties, but through those dark times Christ promises to never leave us nor forsake us. 
As you walk through your own difficulties I pray that you will find hope in knowing that you are not alone. God too has suffered and through your suffering you are becoming more like Him. 
One day as I walked through that dark season a good friend looked at me and said, “Your face is smiling, but your eyes are not.” After 11 years, this I can promise you. You will begin to smile again and it won’t just be superficial. 
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. – James 1:2-4
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die…

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 


The Prophet Isaiah writes: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)
According to Ann Spangler, in her book, Praying the names of Jesus, “The Hebrew word for peace…means much more than the absence of conflict or the end of turmoil. Shalom conveys not only a sense of tranquility but also of wholeness and completion. To enjoy shalom is to enjoy health, satisfaction, success, safety, well-being, and prosperity.” 
Jesus Christ is known as the Prince of Peace, in Hebrew He is called Sar Shalom. It is no surprise that there is more and more turmoil in the world! In fact, it is only logical that as “Peace” is rejected and as people ignore Jesus and His principles, we should expect to see increasing chaos in the world around us. 
Yet the New Testament teaches that the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus if we would but come to God. In fact it instructs us to not even be anxious about anything, but to come to God in prayer and thanksgiving and we will experience peace in a way that is unknown to us. (Philippians 4:6-7) Through Christ, even in the midst of difficulties you can find Shalom. 
God can hold you together as you walk through difficulties. God can give you insight and wisdom for the decisions you must make. God can give you Peace that you have never experienced, all through Jesus Christ His son. Will you give Him a chance?

Have Your Cake and Eat it Too!

Prosperity gospel promises financial blessing and physical well-being in this life as the will of God for Christians. No wonder it is so very popular! It promises such desirable things, with no personal sacrifice. It’s the “have your cake and eat it too” gospel. 
Beware of being saduced by the name-it, claim-it gospel that promises that all that glitters is gold and that by following Christ we are somehow exempt from the hardships of life. Christ himself promised us that, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
The New Testament is full of teaching that contradicts trying to make the gospel fit our own desires. 1 Peter 1:6 talks about believers being grieved by various trials in order that their genuineness of faith- be tested. 
1 Peter 4:19 states, “therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” Romans 8:23 talks about the redemption of our bodies. 2 Corinthians 4:16-17 encourages us to, “…not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison..” If in fact the promises of Prosperity Gosple are true, then there is no need for the above encouragement. 
Regarding personal wealth, Jesus taught, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).

Additional Christ teaches us, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19). 
Much of New Testament teaching warns us of the difficulties that life will bring, how is it that we can rightfully believe the exact opposite.
According to John Piper, Christians in prosperity churches are often profoundly unprepared for what life under God’s providence is going to deal them.” When difficulties of life unfold, followers of the Prosperty Gosple are often dismayed and turn their backs on Christ, because they are not prepared for life’s realities. 
Prosperity teaching should not come to us as a surprise, infact in 2 Timothy 4:3, Paul says there will come a time where people will gather themselves teachers that suit their own passions. The lust for health and wealth certainly fit that category. 
The Bible teaches us to understand that life will not always dish out what we want, but those who believe and follow Christ have hope in Christ as our defender and friend and in an eternal future, with non perishable bodies living surrounded by heaven’s riches in God’s glorious presence. And that is the true prosperity message of the gospel.

Clean Freak

I’ve worked with children the better part of my life, but I never have liked to touch dirty kids. Green snot running down their face mixed with food and dirt. Brown sticky hands from the lollipop they ate a couple hours ago.
I used to carry a giant container of wet wipes and some hand sanitizer with me wherever I went, just to knock down the dirt a little before lovin’ on ‘um. 
Call me crazy, but I have never liked dirt. 
I have a friend who has no trouble scooping up the little rascals, hugging and kissing them. It’s like she can’t see the layer of dirt nor the lice crawling on their heads. But not me. I cringe and wrinkle up my nose. I guess God tried to help me get over that, because my youngest daughter had allergies really bad when she was little. Before she started taking allergy shots, she had green snot running down her face for the better part of 5 years. I’m not saying I don’t love kids, nor love on them. All Im saying is that I just feel the need to clean them up a little bit before I’m ready to snuggle. 
But God is working on me. Recently my daughters were telling a story about one of our mission trips to Honduras. They were talking about me holding all the little street orphans and them being covered in dirt and snot and how I didn’t even notice. So I guess I have gotten a little better over the years. 
One thing for sure, It’s a good thing God doesn’t wait for us to get cleaned up before coming to Him! He loves us and loves on us just the way we are. 
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Consequences of Freedom

Freedom of choice allows us the opportunity to decide for ourselves if we want to follow God. However, this freedom does not exempt us from the consequences of turning our backs on Him. Newton’s third law of motion states, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Likewise in our lives every decision we make provokes a reaction called consequence.
The Bible is clear that Jesus is the only way to heaven and eternal life. In the book of John, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6 In the book of Acts, it is said of Jesus. “…there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” – Acts 4:12
Don’t be mistaken, salvation comes through Jesus Chris alone. If in fact this is true, freedom of choice should not be taken light.
Remember, Just because you choose not to believe something does not mean that it is not true! The Bible sums it up like this. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” Galatians 6:7-8
Taking this into consideration, perhaps you should give Christ a chance. He will not make you accept him. But He will make himself known, if you truly seek Him. (Matthew 7:7-8)