Monday, February 13, 2017

Guest Blogger: Ezekiel and the Dry Bones

I was sitting with my friend, Heather, sipping coffee in her home while my kids played in her backyard. We caught up for several hours, and during that time, she shared this story with me. I asked her if she would share it, and she was happy to oblige. Thanks, Heather!

Our church was struggling.  Leaders and members were disgruntled and leaving.  Our elders were aware of tough issues and hurt feelings, and were making long-term plans.  But long-term plans take a long time to plan and carry out.  My heart ached Sunday after Sunday, weekday after weekday, at the unmet possibilities of all the Godly people who were in our church, and of how difficult it had become to go there to worship our Lord.
One option the elders worked towards was a merge with a young, growing church which had been started a few years past out of a Bible study from our church.  Familial and spiritual relationships thrived between members of the two churches.  Reading Ezekiel 36:36-38, I began praying these verses for our church, as the verses themselves seemed to invite:
“Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the LORD; I have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate.  I am the LORD: I have spoken, and I will do it.  Thus says the LORD GOD; this also I will let the house of Israel ask me to do for them:  to increase their people like a flock.  Like the flock for sacrifices, like the flock at Jerusalem during her appointed feasts, so shall the waste cities be filled with flocks of people.  Then they will know that I am the LORD.”
The verses following this passage tell an amazing story of Ezekiel being taken to a burial valley, full of dry, human bones.  But God asked Him “Can these bones live?”  Unlike mine might, Ezekiel’s answer didn’t include a plan for God of HOW to raise them!  He simply answered “O Lord GOD, you know.”  Then God raised the bones and gave them life!
This seemed perfect to me!  I felt as if we were a nearly dead church, and I wanted God to bring us instantly to life as He did with the dry bones!  All He had to do was bring the other church into our midst!  Just as Jerusalem would be normal nearly all year, the three annual feasts would bring men, women, children and animals from all around the country to worship God.  The city went from normal to overflowing in only a few days!  The flocks greatly multiplied because people would bring their animals to sacrifice to God.  This is what I wanted for our church—from normal to bustling and overflowing with only a vote from the churches!  
But God had other plans.  The vote did not pass, and our churches did not merge.  Bitterness deepened.  Hopelessness appeared.  God had to remind me many, many times that He is sovereign, and in control even of church votes.  
And He continued to speak to me through Ezekiel.  I admit, it did take me a few months to return to praying from this passage.  He reminded me that when I first read the words, “This also I will let the house of Israel ask me to do for them:  to increase their people like a flock,” He had allowed me to pray for Him to increase our people like a flock.  But He hadn’t told me He’d let me choose HOW.  So I continue to pray.
Two years later, the children’s Sunday morning lesson was Ezekiel 37.  Reading and meditating on the passage for the lesson, the Holy Spirit showed me important details I had missed:  the bones revived, and came to life, but in steps!  First, Ezekiel prophesied, then the bones came together, then sinews came over the bones, then skins covered the insides.  But they were not breathing.  God and Ezekiel both spoke again before God’s breath came into the bodies and “they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.”
Amazed, I could only kneel down, cry and worship God, because I easily could see steps He had taken in our church family.  We are now united, as if the bones have come together.  He is healing our minds and hearts and spirits like the sinews.  He is setting up new church structure and methods.  He has shifted authorities in the body.  And He is even adding young, new life to our fellowship!  I look forward to worshipping Him with others again!  
Ezekiel and the skeletons continue to remind me tangibly of what God is doing spiritually and physically in our church body.  Praise to God, who continues to work in our church body, and who does not give up His work in me, either.  I hope and pray to trust Him more tomorrow and each day after, because He and His plans are trustworthy.

~Heather Neumann

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Corinth's Surgery

Of course I am biased. I am her mother. She is my first-born. But I really do think she is adorable. She is quirky, friendly, super-smart, and beautiful. Where we live, she's like a little 4-year-old movie star. People always want photos with her! I suppose a bit of my pride of being her mother came from the fact that I really thought she was a gorgeous tiny girl. Then, 1 week before her third birthday, her eyes suddenly and drastically crossed. On Monday, her eyes were normal. On Wednesday, I mentioned to my husband that something didn't look right with her eyes. And on Friday, her eyes were completely crossed. She and her dad travelled to the capital to get an evaluation of what was going on. She came home 5 days later wearing glasses. 

1 1/2 years later was last week. My sweet 4 1/2 year old had surgery on both of her eyes to correct the lazy eye. The doctor is great and the surgery went well. What I didn't know is that her lazy eye is caused by two things. First, the muscles in both eyes were too tight. The doctor loosened them and fixed that issue. The second issue is that she is extremely farsighted. A normal farsightedness (is that a word?!) for her age is up to a 3. She is a 5 on one side and a 5.5 on the other. For that reason, her eyes work so hard to compensate for the farsightedness that they cross. With glasses, this issue will also be fixed.

Please pray for Corinth. She's a super awesome girl. She doesn't think anything of wearing glasses. However, people are sometimes very unkind. Especially where we live, people often ask why she has glasses, what's wrong with her eyes, what happened, etc. I know they don't mean any harm, but I never want Corinth to feel sad. I still think she is absolutely beautiful! God is good. He makes different people in different ways, and I want to value and celebrate the ways God has made Corinth unique. Love on her, pray for her, and say hi next time you see her!


The 50 States of 'Murica

Well, my goal was to do a blog a week. So, now that it's February, I guess I should get started with the year! 😛
Before we headed back to America, I wrote the tourism office of all of the 50 states of America, explaining that we live abroad and I was hoping to teach my kids a bit about America while we were stateside, and would love any fun stuff they could send us. We got lots of great responses. I also let them know that I'd write about what they sent, so here we go!
P.S. Get excited about a guest blogger coming soon! (I'm excited!)
All of these states sent us maps, magazines of tourist destinations, and/or brochures about state parks:
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Dakota
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming
On top of that, these awesome states went above and beyond with some extra goodies! (Starting top left in the picture)
  • Kansas- Good job Sunflower state! Fun things for my kiddos, including a series of 'Fun Facts' pamphlets, Fun Folder, 2 coloring books with crayons, and a package of sunflower seeds.
  • Delaware- Someone put extra effort into printing out the kid-friendly info for their state and put it into a fun packet for easy-reading.
  • New York- Activity Book, Trivia Book, bumper sticker, and 2 I<3NY buttons. Score!!!
  • North Dakota- Fun poster that looks like a license plate.
  • Mississippi- Postcards. Corinth and Noah will love sending these to friends!
  • Wyoming- Bookmarks from a bookmark program their state did- cute!
  • Maryland- A series of pamphlets on major historical events that happened in Maryland. Nicely done.
  • Missouri- More postcards they'll enjoy sending!
  • Wyoming- Fun, retro-style bumper stickers (one of which my husband claimed and put on his journal before the kids even got to see the goods).
  • Nebraska- Another fun postcard!
Last, but opposite of least, is the great state of my birthplace. And not just because it is my birthplace, but because they are genuinely awesome people (every citizen, actually!). Way to go
(Boomer!) Not only does Oklahoma obviously have awesome graphic designers, but they sent a bajillion pamphlets for fun stuff to do in Oklahoma! You should go, and say hi to all of my extended family while you're there!
Thank you to all of the states who participated. Go do fun things wherever you live- there is LOTS of world to see! Enjoy!