Buried Treasure

“We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7 (KJV)

I  had accepted  teaching Ancient Hawaiian Studies among other social studies courses in my certification area  at Lahainaluna.  I hardly knew Hawaii, or its proper pronunciation of Hawaiian words, its history or culture. I learned with the gracious help of a Hawaiian staff member tutoring me during  lunch hours on pronunciation.  Another teacher friend loaned an invaluable resourceful book.  My classes chuckled at my attempt to teach them but my aim was to present unknown facts to expand their knowledge, too.  By the end of the year we were all enjoying aspects of a rich Hawaiian heritage.

Fascinating was that Hawaiians of old sometimes buried their dead in sand dunes with such skill in positioning the bodies, that tides would never hinder their placement. Loved, honored and revered through succeeding generations, they were never forgotten. Oral histories of bravery and honor followed them along with their genealogy.

We, like the Hawaiian people, see death as the end of a journey and also a crossing over to a life not yet lived in a new world, a new place.  This earthen vessel which is laid to rest still houses the treasure placed by God within.

There is a story in the Bible referring to a burial scene and it is the first and only time that the word coffin is used throughout Scripture.  It is the story of Joseph having come to the end of his life’s journey and it reads he was embalmed by the Egyptians and placed in a coffin in Egypt.  The beautiful part of this is found in the interpretation of the word ‘coffin’ which means a hope chest.  To the bride, the significance of a hope chest is invaluable for in it is contained all those precious things that will become part of her new life in marriage.

The beautiful part of death to both the Hawaiian people and ourselves is the anticipation and preparation for a rich and fulfilling afterlife.   We have this treasure contained in an earthen vessel which also like that hope chest will be opened when we stand in the presence of our beloved bridegroom, Jesus, our Savior and Lord.  Remember Joseph’s request was not to be left in Egypt but to be taken with his family when they entered the Promised Land.  According to Exodus 13:19 (NIV) “Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the Israelites swear an oath.  He had said, God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up (to the promised land) with you from this place.

I can’t wait for you to come and gather us to Yourself in anticipation of the words You promised that we will be prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.   Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus. What a beautiful plan of making Your family complete.

An Alabastar Box of Radiance

 

she-anointed-his-head-matt-26-7     A Memorial Tribute of the Christ She Served

There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat…Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her. Matthew 26:7 & 13 (KJV)

Vibrant, beautiful Sheila attracted friends to her with a winsome smile and glowing vitality of blessing others.  In church she was the first there on Sunday mornings praying at the altar before people arrived; the first one standing for praise and worship, singing with hands uplifted in love and reverence.  At Lahainaluna High School, I observed the bounce in her step where she was employed as a special education aide and with interactions between teachers, students and staff.

And slowly, life presented unbearable, hurting hurdles…her son, a heavy drug addict, succumbed to major mental  inadequacies; her daughter became unstable in relationships, and then her husband committed suicide. Through all the shaking and tears, a smile remained on Sheila’s face.  While carrying a broken, grieving heart, she still radiated the love of God!

The last time I saw Sheila was at the health clinic.  I was there for a routine doctor’s appointment, but she was there with a life-threatening illness.  Her verdict was swift and tragic–she had two weeks to live.  At her funeral she was dressed all in white, laid in a white-inlaid casket and encased in a white box.  My thought on seeing her…she looks truly like the bride of Christ!  Half way around the world in our next pastorate, I remembered the life dynamics of my precious friend, Sheila. Through her impact, a large group of ladies would begin a new women’s ministry called Radiance.

The Bible woman with the alabaster box of perfumed ointment knew the secret of displaying her love and beautiful devotion to the Master.  She was unafraid of taking her most costly possession to best visually demonstrate her loyalty to Jesus.  Although jeered by the men who saw her, Jesus looked into the very essence of her being to see a heart overflowing with warmth and intensity.  Her beautiful gift became a halo that she placed over Jesus head, that then oozed a fragrant oil that flowed and anointed him for a burial that would happen within the week…but the next week she witnessed her Risen Lord!

Radiance glows best in the lives of those who let you shine through them in multifaceted ways.  “What we keep for ourselves lives but for a moment. What we freely give from our hearts will last for eternity.” May I, too, reflect sacrifice of myself with an intense devotion and appreciation of the Divine. Isn’t that the very best way for You to radiate outward?

 

God’s Breath of Life

BreathofLifeLogo    ‘HA’ IN HAWAIIAN

And the Lord God formed man out of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul. Genesis 2:7 (KJV)

“I am just so frustrated!” Jeff lamented in a couple of months after starting Maui High School. “Former courses required now I didn’t take in Pennsylvania and courses taken there have no follow-up here.  P-l-e-a-s-e  allow me to go back to finish my education!”  God was expecting our family to be divided after moving half way around the world together? Where was God now? I wailed, but God reminded me that Jeff was his son first and ours second.

A beautiful family from our former pastorate- Mary Kay, Doug and their children-Jason, Heather and Holly-graciously opened the door of their home and their hearts to our son to become part of their family. We were very happy for Jeff, but devastated to see him leave our own family unit!

A couple of days later still in shock and sorrow, I discussed this with Ulu, my teacher’s aide.  We hardly knew each other but that day she breathed comfort and astounding wisdom into me.  She replied, “We call that hanai in Hawaii and have practiced this from ancient times.  If families were large or children were orphaned or needing fostered, other families would take a child and raise them as their own.  I did that myself of having others help me raise my children.  Jeff, too, is a hanai child and being cared for by another family.”

That first Christmas, Jeff’s hanai family and we celebrated together. Exquisite was Mary Kay’s gift to us–a journal she’d written of “our son together,” glimpsing his life each day in her family’s care.

‘Ha’, in many Hawaiian words, means breath of life. God breathed life into Adam and essentially, then, into all of us. Families, too, have life breathed into them either biologically or by design. Little did we know the beauty our sons would find in their own families, designed by God, with some biological, adopted and fostered today.

You invite and adopt us into your own family, God, to live forever with you. I trust you to implant your own spiritual breath into remaining family members who need to know you as Abba, Father!

 

Maui Special Needs Youth With Big Hearts

All children can learnHowever, they taught me much more!

“…With God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 KJV

Embraced by our new church family in Maui when we arrived in July, we settled into the parsonage with our two sons.  Wasting no time, I pursued employment by the Hawaii Department of Education. All positions had been filled for the upcoming school year in my areas of elementary and social studies so I offered to teach in special education, if possible.  I was honored to accept full-time employment of that with Lahainaluna High School.

Previously, I had subbed in special education in a full-time position where I met Louie and Robbie.  Louie was my energetic, vivacious young man who knew how to proceed through the locker-lined halls by taking a step, then banging both feet up on the lockers to the left, with another step before hurtling his feet to those on the right, back and forth, as he proceeded.  Robbie was dealing with traumatic issues at home and would have severe meltdowns at school. To calm him down in a chair, I would kneel behind him and just wrap my arms around while I soothingly spoke to him. These precious boys had engraved themselves on my heart.

Now with Cody, David, Becky and Mary Jane along with Ulu, my aide, the school year began.  All four had different mental challenges.  We enjoyed spending time with each other in a setting very unique  for instruction–a fully-equipped kitchen, a living room area plus the classroom .  Life skills were taught such as operating the washer, dryer and stove plus basic computer skills. Ulu, my aide, was also involved with public transportation and through her, our four students had access to the resorts in kitchen areas and with other supporting vocations there that might accommodate   interests after graduation.  Cody continued in regular gym classes.  Becky loved pecking away on the keyboard so was accommodated by being enrolled in a regular education typing class.

We continued the involvement with Special Olympics and were flown to the final competition in Honolulu to compete.  Ulu, Larry (my husband) and I plus the four students (with compliments of the state) took a fascinating trip. Our only expense of $18 a piece, flew us out of the Lahaina airport to the Big Island. Then we proceeded to the Atlantis Submarine to view fantastic aquatic life.  Land, sky and ocean travel were completed in one school day!

The uniqueness of that class with all their strengths and joys of learning has taught me that God designed each in such a splendid way. Their beauty of strength and character exhibited tenacity and joy in their individual journeys.

God, your heart is entwined within each heart of special needs youth.  Their radiance is manifested in smiles, in simple pleasures, in demonstrating their awesome personality in their individual journeys. In this fast-paced world, let me learn to manifest the simplicity of contentment wherever life finds me!

 

 

Maui Bound

MAUI Map    MAUI BOUND

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Sun, sand and surf for Larry and Ruth.  We were excited to be visiting the four major islands for rest and relaxation after sixteen years in the ministry for a vacation in Hawaii.  Our sons were staying with my parents and our church was left in capable hands during our absence.

Kauai, Oahu and the Big Island were beautifully bathed in tropical paradise.  When we arrived on Maui, however,  rain pelted the island everywhere generating bursting waterfalls, giant waves and minor flooding everywhere that we glimpsed through gray fog. Yet  the Living Water pulsated within Larry as a still, small voice quietly mentioned, “Some day this island is going to be your place of ministry.”

Two years later, Larry was invited to become part of the ministry team in Pukulani, Upcountry Maui.  This momentous decision would also need to be positively accepted with our boys, Jeff in eleventh grade and Chris in eighth.  How would they react to leaving their extended family with cousins their ages plus church, school and community friends they’d made?  For Jeff already in college prep courses, the reality of moving half a world away immediately hit hard as interrupted future goals collided in the rigors of transitions that could create chaos for his last two high school years. Yet within a very short time, Jeff said, “Who am I to interfere with the plan of ministry God has for us?”

For Chris, this was an easier decision to move half way around the world as he was the sports enthusiast, especially with baseball.  He had played on a team from the time he began middle school and made friends easily. This seemed to be more of an adventure with all kinds of water sports beckoning, as well.

And so we boarded a plane in Pennsylvania with several family members waving good-bye in the airport terminal as we began a journey that impacted each of the four of us.

Lord, it was difficult to leave our comfort zone, selling all we owned, tearing ourselves from loved ones. Yet I heard my husband say while we were 35,000 feet in the air heading towards our destination of ministry, full of unanwsered questions and an uncertain future, “I’ve never felt freer in my life as I am now!” God had called and we had answered…

 

 

 

Larry’s Transition in God’s Design

Praying-Hands-Bible

“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” James 5:16B  (KJV)

“Ruthie! Ruuthiee!” Was I rightly hearing my husband calling outside our second floor bedroom window? It was a beautiful snowy Christmas Eve as I hurriedly ran down the stairs and out the door.  There sprawled across the cement slab at the bottom of the steps lay Larry in excruciating pain with the inability to move. The ambulance came and transported him to the hospital. I hurriedly called a nearby family from our church to come take care of our two little boys.

The next day the doctor operated on Larry’s shattered hip. “You will always walk with a limp! It was very hard to even try to repair it with all the damage. A pin was inserted to hold it together as good as I could with a probable hip replacement needed within two years.”

Convalescing at home, Larry pondered and asked God, “Why did you let this happen? Why so much pain? How would this be your plan while I pastor  this church?” Immediately he heard within his heart the voice of God saying, “Remember when you prayed and asked for a miracle of healing? Do you have faith to believe now that I can heal you?”

On crutches, Larry finally improved enough to assume his place behind the pulpit.  Before  preaching that morning’s message, the Board surrounded him and prayed for his healing.  Larry finished the service, then placed his crutches down beside him and slowly walked down the steps of the platform to greet the people in the back of the church.  Hurriedly his former day and night nurse at the hospital who attended him and were at the church for the first time, urgently instructed him to use the crutches.  Larry reassured them that he had to do what he knew he should.

And the healing continued.  On his first visit, the surgeon said “According to these x-rays, I can’t even tell where your hip has been broken. Either I am a good surgeon or you had a miracle healing!”

Shortly afterwards, those two nurses had miracles of their own. They gave their lives to the Lord and became faithful in church attendance. One became a children’s church worker and one, a medical missionary to Alaska.

We truly become part of the answer to every prayer that we pray when we leave all the results in His capable hands!

 

 

 

Daughters-In-Law and Rubies

Adoption-Heart

Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts her so he will have no lack of gain.  She does him good and not evil all the days of her life. Proverbs 31:10-12 NKJV

Rubies: They are the most rarest and precious gemstones in the world! To find a twenty-caret ruby is unusual and brings the much higher price per carat than diamonds!

God exquisitely designed two multifaceted young ladies for our sons. Jeff met his wife, Nikki at Branson Tourism where both were employed.  Her pleasant personality emanated from God within to her fellow workers and guests, putting all at ease. Working as a teacher in a Christian preschool, previously, endeared her to children of all ages.  Her stepdaughter, Jessi, became a welcomed member of their wedding party.  After hearing of a homeless couple with two children, she and Jeff adopted their one year old daughter. Now fostering her two-year old brother,  hopes are high also for his adoption.   Nikki is also a nanny to another little guy the same age. Christ through her is illuminated in all she does.

Chris met his wife, Lindsay, at Evangel University where she graduated  as an English major. She became a world traveler to Russia during this time, as well, where she taught English to a group of young people one summer.  After teaching high school, she became a homeschooling Mom for their three daughters. Birthed within Lindsay and shared with Chris, was a desire to host a young lady through New Horizons for Children over Christmas.  After three trips to Latvia as prospective parents, this sweet, young teenage girl became theirs in adoption.  Beautifully prepared while waiting for their new sister with little anxiety, were three younger sisters who enthusiastically welcomed her into the Hill family. Lindsay emanated with the love of God at home and abroad.

Both sons treasure these wives. designed by God, for them. Priceless is their value!

 

Christopher, Carrier of Christ

http://www.gospelgifs.com/art_pages_17/images/plns1.gif

Footprints are visible signs of God’s beauty of design outwardly.  “I have a special birthday gift for you,” Larry remarked to my mother as he handed her a card.  There was the tiniest footprint of love manifested–Christopher’s, who had just been born minutes before on her birthday.  His name means carrier of Christ and as a receiver, his grandmother exuded the joy.

At two years old, Chris one morning faltered in his toddler steps with head movement weaving in circular patterns.  “This little guy may have a brain tumor.  Get him to the Cleveland Clinic as soon as possible!” said the  ER doctor.  Just the day before, a pilot friend of a board member had flown to Pennsylvania from Florida and generously, he transported us to Ohio.  Divine direction had orchestrated events and thankfully, Chris fully recovered.

Getting older, Chris carefully planned on broadening his interest in computer science that led him to Evangel University.  At the Assemblies of God Headquarters he is now employed as an information technologist. God directs his steps in helping to translate the love of God through social media at home and abroad.

Chris never projects himself but quietly illuminates Christ. Recently I learned of a godly impulse he had standing at the checkout counter. “Get cash back and plan to give it away.” Minutes later while exiting his car, a woman approached asking, “Can you give me some money?” “Just what would you do with the money?” he responded. She satisfactorily replied with her needs. He proceeded, “You are cared for and loved by God.  Just a short while ago, I withdrew cash knowing I’d give it away. You are the lady God wants to bless. Use it wisely.”

Family life is enhanced when God-influenced steps are taken such as Chris having daddy-daughter dates with each of his four girls,  designing a surprise anniversary date each year for his wife, Lindsay… or finding a home and furnishing it as a surprise for his parents who are retiring and moving back from half a world away.

Love extended through Chris refreshes and sustains each of us. Watching the Lord poignantly leading him allows us to be the recipients of a life well lived and directed by the Lord.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeffrey-Designed by God

Hand With Silhouettes Family Stock Photo

“I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life, he will be given over to the Lord.”                   I Samuel 1:27-28 (NIV)

I joyfully bounced up the street to our home a couple of blocks away, the news reverberating inside.  “We are going to be parents!” I ecstatically proclaimed to my husband, Larry.  Thrilled and thanking God, we prayed for that sweet little one. Finally the day arrived and we took off for the hospital. The next morning, alone in the labor room, mind a whirl, back pain intense; I felt God’s calming presence in an unusual, phenomenal way.  I heard a beautiful song sung by Doug Oldham. My heart and spirit responded to the joy of feeling God minister to me…and yet, how could that be? I was behind double doors in the obstetrics ward with no one around. Even though infectious complications soon arrived;  I was buoyed by His presence.   Fifty-two hours later, our precious son arrived. Periodic injections aided his immune system in combating all he had been through.

One night when the shot was given in front of me, we both cried.  I prayed, “I commit this son to you for life, for keeps. Let him serve you all his days.” Like Hannah of old, it was a personal covenant. Two weeks later we left the hospital and later dedicated him to the Lord in front of our church family, vowing to do our best in parenting.

Our son was four when he said, “Mommy, I want Jesus to come into my heart!” God had planned and sealed this day to recognize he really belonged to Him.  Shortly after Jeff became a teenager, he accompanied his Dad to a beautiful Christian resort where a featured singer also performed.  When Jeff came home, he greeted me and then amazingly said, “Mom, I was called into the ministry while I heard Doug Oldham sing!” We had never shared the miracle in the hospital with him.  Jeffrey’s Hebrew equivalent name means God’s peace or God’s friend. Peace and friendship from God were confirmed  in a most unusual way through the ministry of an anointed musician that promised a treasured future awaiting for that boy called Jeffrey!

 

Brothers United

 

P_cerebralPalsy1

The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. John 1:41-42 NIV

“I’m just a nobody! I can’t do anything!” Richard cried and sadly proclaimed to Larry in his halting speech.  His countenance mirrored the turmoil going on within. Dejected, frustrated, of little value were feelings that clamored in his cerebral palsied body.

Larry gently and compassionately answered him.  “Richard, it was you who faithfully got on the church bus each week by yourself.   During verbal prayer requests, you would say, ‘Pray for my brother, Larry.’  One night at a youth rally I heard the message of Jesus’ love and forgiveness so committed my life to Christ. I started attending church with you and  was told of your faithfulness in having others pray for me. Later I was called by God into the ministry. There’s something you need to realize, Rich, that for all the lives that were touched and changed in this ministry, it  really started  with you. Think of the people in heaven who will rejoice in how faithful you were to pray. The results–eternity we all get to enjoy with God!”

Richard responded with a simple word of surprise -“Really?” to which Larry replied, “Really!” His tears disappeared, replaced with a joyful heart reverberating within as he glimpsed God’s plan from the beginning…

My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in (your) weakness. KJV