Monday, February 26, 2007

Lenten Update...

Okay, so I wrote in the previous post about our decision to give up TV and movies for Lent. We have been TV and movie-free for 6 days. Within those six days, Charlie and I have both battled sickness, Emma came down with a fever and cold, we were invited to dinner by Mormons, Charlie has faced several challenging situations with his staff at work, and Olivia was diagnosed with two ear infections and Type A and B influenza. I'd say we're under attack.

I can't say I've remained completely calm. I was practically screaming at God to take control of my mind on the way to the doctor's office this afternoon. I have felt a continual sweeping and re-sweeping of the floor of my heart all day as the Holy Spirit has attempted to keep me clean. It is wearisome. I keep remembering the words of my good friend and teacher, Lyn's: "Oh what blessings we will have missed because we could not weather this." I know there is a blessing in here somewhere!

Charlie has been reading the book of Nehemiah and sharing with me some things the Lord has been showing him. In the very last chapter, Nehemiah writes that while he was away from Jerusalem, the people went astray. They misused temple space, denied the Levites their portion, broke the Sabbath with work, and allowed foreigners to buy and sell on the Sabbath. Nehemiah records his reprimands and subsequent cleansing of the temple and reinstitution of the Sabbath rest. He then positioned guards at the walls to keep the foreigners from tempting the Israelites to buy and sell on the Sabbath. Only after Nehemiah himself shouts from the wall, threatening harm to the foreigners, do they stay away.

Today, I was thinking about how God has led us to sanctify ourselves in a small way as a family. We did so willingly and with cheerful hearts, anticipating a deeper walk with the Lord. It's only been six days but it has not been the happy adventure I had in mind. Somewhere, though, in my spirit, I know that God is showing Himself strong for us. He is revealing His character to us. I thought all day about Nehemiah and about how grieved he must have been to return to Jerusalem to find the people going astray. I thought about the wall he helped build. I thought about him placing his servants at the gates to keep temptation to disobey outside the walls of Jerusalem. I know that God is my strong tower and the wall around my heart. I know that Jesus stands guard at the gate, keeping temptation at bay. I know the enemy is encamped around me, waiting for me to open the gates enough to let a fiery dart in. I know my Savior Himself shouts down those darts. I also know that whatever Jesus allows through that gate is ultimately working for my good.

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28

"No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it." 1 Corinthians 10:13

I think I felt convicted to share what we are experiencing because sometimes obeying the Lord doesn't feel glorious; it is glorifying. Unfortunately, we are socialized to "feel good" and receive instant gratification for our good deeds. We almost can't stand not getting a pat on the back for doing the things the Lord commands us to do. I wanted to share that sometimes the road of obedience is filled with potholes and flat tires, hairpin turns and long stretches of the straight and narrow. In the end, we will be more conformed to the image of Christ and He promises to never leave us stranded along the way. We'll see how the next 34 days go. For the time being, tomorrow is our seventh day and since the Lord rested on His seventh day, I will rest in Him tomorrow, knowing that He is in complete control. Amen and Amen.

Sunday, February 25, 2007


Wednesday marked the beginning of another Lenten season. If you don't know what that means, long story (very) short, it's the 40 days before Easter (Easter being the day we Christians celebrate Jesus' resurrection and our life triumphant). When I first came to the Lord, I was pretty confused about a lot of things. I came to the Lord on my 17th birthday (that would be December 21, 1989...gulp) and had attended church for most of my life. I had some head knowledge but very little heart knowledge. I wasn't really discipled and I still continued to attend a church that wasn't (and still isn't) what I would call a Bible teaching church. I remember my first Easter season after being born-again, thinking that part of following Christ meant I had to give something up for Lent. My Catholic friends talked about giving up red meat so I decided that it would really please God if I gave up something, too. I also decided that it should be something hard, something that I really, really liked doing or having. Something that would require suffering, after all, wasn't that what Lent and Easter were about--Jesus' suffering? I thought about it (key word here--"thought," not "prayed") and decided to give up swearing. Some of you who know me now probably can't imagine that being a problem for me but it was a big one! I never swore in front of my parents or teachers or at church but I could curse like a sailor with my friends and sometimes my brother. I knew all the curse words--big ones, small ones, you name it. I knew them and seasoned my conversations with them.

Everything started out just fine. I was already used to using clean language in front of my parents and teachers. I figured I could just continue doing the same with my friends. That lasted about 3 hours. It was too comfortable, too easy to slide back into old habits. It was especially hard when everyone else was using the same language--even other Christians. I did feel guilty, though. I mean, here I am, a Christian, one of God's chosen, and I can't even stop swearing. I redoubled my efforts, determined not to let God down again. This time, though, I had a plan. I remembered my Young Life leader saying one time that when you get rid of a bad habit you have to replace it with another good habit. I decided to create my own "curse" words to replace the bad words I was using. I came up with some good ones, my favorite being "sugar!" My friends teased me relentlessly calling me "that Jesus freak," which, at the time, felt like such a slander. But, the new swear words worked and I made it through the entire 40 days without "swearing."

A couple of weeks after Easter, I was at an early morning breakfast Bible study (my first of several) taught by our Young Life leader. Part of the breakfast included fellowship, as a couple of leaders got to know each of us better. Our leader, Doug, was sitting across from me and heard me say my new favorite curse word--"sugar!"--as I dropped my fork on the floor. He laughed and asked me why I used that word that way. Pridefully, I boasted of my Lenten suffering for Christ and my creative way of using the English language. He listened politely and then asked if I would come 30 minutes early to our usual Young Life meeting later in the week. I agreed, assuming that he might want me to give my testimony concerning my "taming of the tongue" as some others had done in the past.

That Thursday evening, I arrived at the meeting early, as arranged. Doug invited me to sit down with another leader, Laura and himself. He then proceeded to show me in the Word what suffering was really about. He and Laura explained what Lent and Easter represented and why we celebrate both. I cannot remember the exact scriptures they shared with me but I'll never forget the awful feeling in the pit of my stomach. How could I have gotten things so terribly wrong? Not only had I not understood what true suffering was, I had been a poor witness to everyone around me. I was like the Pharisees, cleaning the outside of my cup with "clean language," but I had not allowed Jesus to clean the inside of my cup, my heart. Not allowing me to feel ashamed, Doug and Laura prayed with me and assured me that God would indeed clean me up from the inside out if I would just let Him do it in His own way and in His own time. I remember feeling so small as worship began and I also remember that being the very first night that I understood how truly big God could be in my life.

Every year since that first Lenten season, I have tried to give something up. Not with the intention of suffering for Christ but so that the Lord will have greater latitude in my heart. Some years have been better than others. My usual prayer is for the Lord to reveal to me something that is impeding intimacy with Him--something that is sitting on the throne of my heart. One year, I gave up long distance phone calls. Another year, I gave up all sweets. The past few years have been harder with the arrival of the little people in my life. Once I simply tried to give up certain ugly thoughts I was having. This year, Charlie and I decided to make it a family affair. We decided to give up something as a family in order to allow God greater access to us. We chose to give up television and movies. We're not huge TV watchers but our little girls love to watch Disney movies--namely anything with a princess in it. They beg, they plead, they cry to watch these sappy movies over and over. We sat them down and explained the plan and why we are doing this. They received it remarkably well (almost too well, I thought!) and we started our 40 day "adventure" Tuesday evening.

We've been reading more, starting a new Henze family tradition of reading a family book together (our first book is "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" by C.S. Lewis). Charlie and I are trying to figure out how to play "Sudoku" and the girls are enjoying more one on one time than they've had in several months. Are we giving up movies and TV forever (the first question Emma asked, too)? Probably not. But, our prayer is that the Lord will honor our request to draw us closer to Him individually and as a family. That He will reveal His will to us. That He will reveal Himself to us all.

"More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which comes from God on the basis of faith, so that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Philippiams 3:8-11

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Body of Christ

Yesterday, our church body celebrated the life of George Markey. My family and I did not have the privilege of knowing George and we do not know his wife or children or grandchildren. But, we have felt the influence of the Markey family. Our pastor and teachers and elders were discipled by George and his wife, Pam. Our church is in existence in large part because of their faithfulness to the Word and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. We are reaping the benefits of George's consistent planting of the Gospel.

Today, I find myself thinking about the beautiful body of Christ. Specifically, about our church body. When news of George's illness and subsequent death spread, many people who knew the Markey family, offered to help in a variety of ways. Money was given, comfort was provided, homes were opened, vehicles for transportation were offered, love overflowed. The arrangements were made and the funeral was planned. I was asked to help with a special dinner for the family and our church body.

As we were preparing for the meal, the Lord showed me that many of the women who were diligently, cooking and cleaning and preparing the church all day, were women like me--women who didn't personally know the Markeys. But, each of them shared a bond in Christ and were ready to serve Him when He asked. It was a beautiful sight.

"For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ." 1 Corinthians 12:12

One last comment: our little Emma already has an interest in mission work. We have shown her pictures of our missionaries at church and she knows that the Markeys helped start the Calvary Chapel in Ukraine. One day over a year ago, George was visiting our church and was standing outside greeting folks as they arrived. As we approached the door, I leaned down and pointed out George to Emma. She stopped, gave him the once over and said, "He doesn't look like a George Markey to me but I think God could use him."

Use him, God did, Emma. Praise the Lord for His works in and through George, Pam and their family.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

This Is Love

During the snow storm this week, we've had our friends, Henry and Harmony, here while their preschool is closed. Today, since it is Valentine's Day, I asked all four older kids, "What is love?" Here are their replies:

Emma (age 5): Love is sharing and not yelling or bossing too much. It's doing something you know God wants you to do except maybe you don't want to do it. Love is for everybody--even the mean kids on the playground but I don't know if they know it.

Henry (age 4 1/2): Love is cool. Really cool! It is not being mean and sharing my favorite stuff. It's liking people, too. I love my mom and dad and usually my sister but sometimes that's hard. And, firefighters love to drive firetrucks and make rescues except when they are tired.

Ruthie (age 3 1/2): Love is nice. It's what God wants us to do. Love is Jesus and God and angels and the Bible and Sunday School. Oh, love is getting a present even when it isn't my birthday.

Harmony (age 2 3/4): Love is big! Really big! Love feels like my mom.
Love is not scary, either!

I loved their answers! They were so honest! Here is what the Bible says about love:

We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He
first loved us."
I John 5:17-19

Happy Valentine's Day to you! May it be a day filled with an awareness of God's love for you and for us all!

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Best Friends

I met my best friend Sandy, when I was twenty, working at a summer youth camp. I was a camp counselor, she worked on the kitchen staff. We hit it off pretty quickly, although our friendship deepened over the next few years. We continued to write back and forth through college (before e-mail became so wildly popular!) and managed to spend time together each summer, either working at a camp or going on vacation.

A few years after I graduated from college, we found ourselves living 30 miles away from each other. She was living with her folks here inCrawfordsville, while I was working and living in Lafayette. It was so great to be able to hang out all the time, going to the movies, staying up late giggling and talking about what we hoped our lives would be like. One day, she brought this incredibly handsome man to my apartment. She introduced us and a year later I married him. Now, that's an awesome friend!

The thing I love about my best friend is that she loves me the way I am but encourages me to allow God to change me. When I look back over our almost 15 year friendship, I see how I was such a young girl when we met, full of aspirations and passions but very little knowledge or experience. Now, I'm a grown woman with a family. I have definitely gained some wisdom and experienced victory and defeat in my walk with the Lord. But, Sandy still sees me as that young girl while at the same time rejoicing in my spiritual growth.

When we get together, we still act like girls. We giggle over the same inside jokes and reminisce about our shared experiences. Even if it has been months and months, we pick up right where we left off, comfortable and familiar. Sandy, her husband Don and her mother-in-law, Andrea, visited over Christmas. We had a couple of opportunities to do "girly" things together and just sit and talk. It was such a blessing and I found myself continually thanking the Lord for her friendship and her witness in my life.

Just before the Super Bowl, I received a package in the mail from her--a Colts t-shirt. She knows I love football and my beloved Colts and, although I know she doesn't share my fanaticism, she supports my enthusiasm. When I opened the package, I started laughing and laughing. Emma and Ruthie started laughing, too, and then Emma stopped and said, "Why are we laughing?" I told her that "Aunt" Sandy was the best best friend in the world. She said, "Well, I hope I have a best friend like that someday, too. You know, someone who will make me laugh like that. You look like a little girl, Mommy!"

I hope she has a friend like that, too.

Thank You, Lord, for Sandy. Bless her today in whatever she is doing. I praise You for the way she is wonderfully made. Thank You for allowing me the privilege to call her my friend. Thank You for showing us what it means to truly be a friend, to lay down our lives for one another. Thank You for giving me a sister to walk with. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Bedtime Prayers...

Ruthie: Thank you, God, for this day. Bless the family as we sleep. Heal Mommy and Daddy's colds. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Emma: Thank you, God, for this day. Please be with the children in China who are thrown away because no one wants them. Please find someone who does want them. Maybe we want them. Bless us, Lord. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Who Is God

About a month ago, as we were enjoying some great after-dinner conversation with our girls, Ruthie (age 3 1/2) asked me, "Who is God?" It sort of caught me off guard. I mean, we have talked to our girls about the Lord since before they were each born. We have prayed with them daily and read them lots of Bible stories. They have each been active in their Sunday school classes and have what I think is a pretty Christ-centered home life. It was almost like she was asking me who her parents were. How could a child of mine not know who God was?

I just stared at her. My husband stared at me, waiting for me to answer. How should I answer her question? How could I explain something so indescribable? As I fumbled over my words, trying to think of what to say, Charlie broke in and said simply, "Ruthie, in the Bible, Jesus says that if we have seen Him, we have seen God."
Ruthie thought about that for a minute and then said, "Oh, I know Him! He loves me and He's my Friend!"

It really is that simple. If we have seen Jesus, then we have seen God. John 10:30 says, "I and my Father are one." That is the whole reason God sent Jesus to live among us sinners--so we would know His character, His compassion, His concern, His love for us. God wanted us to really know Him. Not as a nebulous, unreachable Maker but as a living, breathing, walking, talking, hugging, holding, teaching, praying Saviour and Friend. We make Jesus so complicated but His love for us is so simple and pure. I was so concerned about Ruthie's image of God, how her little mind would imagine Him, that I had forgotten to look to Jesus. That's all the image she and I and all of us will ever need.

Praise you, Jesus. Thank you for being the very image of God. My Maker in the flesh. Thank you for walking around in this dirty world, touching dirty people like me, making precious jewels out of miry clay. Thank you for showing me God's love. Thank you for Ruthie. Amen.

Snow Days

Twenty and Forty

I'll be 35 this year. Not old but also, not new. When my mom was my age, I was 15. My oldest daughter is 5, my youngest is 16 months. That seems like quite a gap between my age and theirs. But, I wouldn't trade what I know now for what I knew when I was twenty. Here are some of the things I wish I had known when I was twenty:

To be more patient. Everything has a season if we will but wait for it. I wish I hadn't been in such a hurry to "find" God's will but just enjoy the season I was in.

Being single is a gift. I love my husband and children but my single life gave me opportunities to serve in a different way. I should have appreciated that more.

Every person is redeemable and, therefore, lovable. I wish I would have spent more time with some of the more challenging people in my life, learning then how to love the unlovable.

Being unique is a good thing. I spent so much time trying to do things "right" and not enough time understanding who I am in Christ, what purpose He has for me, why He gifted me the way He has. That understanding would have been helpful earlier.

The attitudes I developed early in adulthood would be hard to change the older I got.

My opinion is not the Gospel. In fact, my opinion is not even worth voicing most of the time. What is important in the simple, beautiful Truth of God.

Youth is not an excuse for ignorance of the Word. I wish I had spent more time studying and seeking the Word then so it would be a broader, deeper foundation for me now.

My identity in Christ has nothing to do with what I do and everything to do with what He has done.

I'm still learning. The Lord has been, and continues to be, so patient with me. Here are some things I hope to learn by the time I'm 40:

How to allow God to be my true all in all.
More of the Word!
How to raise my girls to be in the world and influences of the world without being wrapped up in the world.
How to use my gifts in a deeper, more Christ-like way.

I really do enjoy getting older. I can't run as fast. I'm out of shape. My knees are starting to bother me now and then. I find myself a little more irritable in the mornings. But, I love being on this tremendous journey with the Lord. I love knowing that He still loves me and that I have learned to love Him more. I love knowing that He is building wisdom into me with every passing day--wisdom that I couldn't have known at twenty. I pray that when I am forty, I will look to the past and see God's gracious hand guiding me through life and then turn my face to the future with great joy and anticipation at what He has planned for me. My God is a good God.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Welcome Lilly Marie!

You came slowly.
Labor made your parents weary.
Forty hours of labor, nine months of wondering.
All of that erased in a moment--a precious moment.

The air outside was frozen and still.
The night had been filled with a glowing, orange, full moon, low on the horizon.
You came in the soft, early morning hour,
Softly wailing at your new surroundings.

I stood outside, praying, urging God to give your mother strength.
Asking God to draw all of you closer to Him.
Thanking Him for the blessing and miracle of new physical life
And new life in the Spirit.

Your chubby cheeks, your thick, black hair,
All uniquely yours,
Designed by the Father
For His glory--a reflection of His creativity.

You are loved:
By your mother and father.
By your grandparents, aunt, uncles and cousins.
By your Saviour you have yet to know but Who knows you intimately.

Welcome, Lilly Marie, welcome.