Friday, July 10, 2015

Matters Of the Heart

I wanted to write and share some things that have been happening lately.  It’s not a typical update-more a journal of thoughts.  It’s long so I am posting as a blog post rather than a regular update.

Anyway, God has really been doing a lot in my heart and mind over the past years since being in Italy.   Before we moved, I thought it was going to be heavenly-the picture most of us have of Italians is overly friendly, always inviting you over for something to eat, hospitable, etc.  I truly imagined that within a year I would be fluent in Italian and trying to keep up with my planner with so many invites.  Ha ha, was I ever setting myself up for disappointment and serious disillusionment.
When we arrived there was the curious neighbor or two peeking through their window across the way as we would walk through our kitchen.  Thankfully I knew how to say ‘ciao’ but quickly discovered that you only say that when you know a person well.  Jim was actually rebuked at the toll place because he said ‘ciao’ to the guy.  It was quite strange and we were left wondering where were these friendly Italians!   I soon discovered that though we lived in a neighborhood, people went to work in the morning, came home and went inside.  I was perplexed!  After a while, we realized there is a huge difference between the north of Italy and the south of Italy.  It is a bit like California in many ways with the differences between north and south.

For the first few years we would pray and try to start some program, some outreach, some something-anything that would bring people to church.  We started out on Saturday evenings and were overly excited when the Lord opened up a place for us to have church service on Sunday mornings.  Once again-our expectations were so high, only to be brought down to the lowest point.  We realized that most would come on Saturday evening because they either went somewhere else on Sunday morning or didn’t have to wake up on Sunday morning for church.  Here in Italy most children go to school until 1pm on Saturday so Sunday am is the day to sleep in.  Once again, we were asking God why, what, how, etc.  We were barely hanging on by a thread.  Thankfully, we know that it’s ok to hang on to Jesus by only a thread.  When the world, even the church, looks at you as failures when you are hanging on by a thread, Jesus is well pleased that you didn’t just cut the thread off, rather used it to cling to Him.

I remember one particular Sunday leaving church and burst into tears.  I looked at Jim and said ‘I just can’t do this anymore’.  You see, in Hungary, though we had our share of challenges, we really didn’t have much of a problem ministering to people.   Hungary, though many are Catholic, there are also many Protestants.  We also had the poor and needy, we had those who would come and listen.  Some stayed and grew in their relationship with the Lord, some chose not to.  But, the difference was, it wasn’t so difficult to invite them to come and see.  One person begat another after being set free and we were thrilled to see God work in so many lives.  We couldn’t find people to come and see here in Padova.  We would make up flyers, sometimes using the last euro we had for another two weeks, only to see them crumbled up and splattered across the ground.  Our hearts sank and we wondered so often if God’s money couldn’t be better used elsewhere.  We just couldn’t seem to get the people to care enough to engage in conversation or even be curious enough to come to a Sunday service.

Lo and behold, one day Marla and I were walking in the city center and we saw a poster on the window of a Bar.  It was for an English Club that met once a week where everyone was invited to come and practice speaking English.  It was quite interesting and I went home to tell Jim about it.  Of course when it came time to go, I decided that the word ‘bar’ prohibited this pastor’s wife from going.  “What would people think if they knew I went to a bar?”  “How could I possibly carry on a conversation with someone, even if it was in English, at a bar?” These and other fears kept me from going.  I told Jim he could go check it out if he wanted but there was no way this girl was going to be around such a crowd of people.  He went, came home, and couldn’t say enough good things about it.  He said there were about 100 people all ages, from many countries and it was great.  A bar here is so much different than what we thought of.  It is a sandwich place and people may drink one thing through the evening if anything.  So different than what we considered a bar atmosphere.  Needless to say, I joined him the following week and was amazed.  It was so fun and a pleasant environment.  The people we met actually wanted to speak to us and Jim was able to share the Gospel with those he felt God sending his way. 

Over the last year and a half, the Lord has taught me so much.  All my Christian life, I never really had to go outside the church for fellowship.  Within the busyness of church functions there wasn’t a need to go out and meet unsaved people.  There was enough to do with the church.  It was good-very good and I grew so much.  I loved women’s ministry and still do.  I love discipling other women.  I love all that ministry involves in this way.  But, I hadn’t had to go outside the church until we moved to Padova.  In my mind, it was going to be the same as Hungary.  People would come and want to be discipled, then bring their friends and the chain would continue.  But wasn’t going to be this way and I was so distraught.  I cannot tell you how many times I cried, how many times I wanted to quit, to give up being in ministry all together and just ‘be a Christian’ and have my husband have a ‘normal’ job and we could be the ones writing checks to others once again.  Yes, it may sound alarming and unfaithful to some, but that is where I was at.  I could no longer see the reason God would have us in a place where no one was interested.  I thought of all the horrid things some had said about us in the past and started to believe that oh yes, they must have been right and we are worthless, useless.  I tried so, so hard to beg God to just take us away from this place.  He never allowed it to happen.  Fleece after fleece was being met by Him and to be honest, at times I was disappointed that He provided the fleece because I thought ‘oh no, here we go again-is it a trick”?  God had a plan and it would be His way, His timing. 

God showed me that no two places are alike.  Through the English Club I started meeting quite a few people.  Ladies who were my age and even some younger.  I was excited but nervous.  From the start, they knew why Jim and I were here and what we were all about.  It was so awesome to see week after week when we were at the bar how the same people would come talk to Jim even knowing he was going to be talking about the Lord.  Now when some see him they call out ‘hey pastor, I really need to talk to you one of these days’.  We have been able to see a guy who is about Jim’s age, tell him the first night they met ‘well, I am an atheist’ and yet he has come to our home for meals, went to events we had with church and now for the first time has actually come to a church service.  “you make it sound so simple Jim” he said!  Yes!!! It is that simple!!!  Another gal we met from there has been coming to church and telling her friends about what she is learning.  Others will come when we have special events, even at Easter we had many come.  I am learning patience.  Learning that it is up to God to do the work in the lives of others while I need to be willing to be out of my comfort zone and go and do as He leads.  We have learned that God indeed has a plan for the place He has called us to but we had to allow Him to take the old wineskins of our thinking and allow Him to give us new ones. 

This past week has been exceptional.  Two ladies I met at the English Club both invited me out different times during this week and ended up pouring out their heart to me.  Each said they really liked that my life seems so simple and it’s different than most they know.  God so graciously allowed me to insert His grace and love in our conversation and I am thrilled.  In the past, I would have given up on them a long time ago.  They have come to our ladies Tea and a couple events but one has not come to Sunday service.  In the past, I would have sadly written her off as one not interested and tried to move on to someone new.  But God!  His ways are not my ways, His thoughts are not my thoughts. His timing is not my timing.  Oh what I would have missed out on had I been my old self.  What I would be missing out on right now had I allowed my fears to take over because or the word 'bar'.   Most all the friendships Jim and I have now, most all the people who come to the church events, are those we have met through this English Club!

One of the biggest things the Lord has shown me these past few months is not to judge the work by who shows up on Sundays.  As I read through the Gospels there is very little mentioned about a Sunday service and what was going on ‘in the church’.  Jesus’s ministry was everywhere.  He was up on a hill teaching, in a boat, by a well, in peoples’ homes, at a beach bbq.  Not all of our ministries are going to look alike and I have learned that that is ok.  I am one who has the tendency to look around at others and compare myself to them.  You can imagine that that only leads to depression and destruction of heart. 

It is a slow process, but I can say that we see the fruits of the labor.  I cannot imagine that I wanted to give up and yet God was so very faithful and didn’t let us quit.  I know that God loves the people here and we love being His servants.  I love that He doesn’t think like the world and say we are too old or can’t be used by Him.  I love that He loves us and loves to shake our world at times to show us that it really is all about Him-that we don’t get to a point in our lives where we  have this ‘Christian Ministry’ down to a tee and think we could do it in our sleep.  God help us when our thoughts go there!!!  May we never think, no matter how long we have served Him, that there isn’t something different He wants to teach us, to show us.  Our work truly must be all about Him and the only way it can be all about Him is when He is in control.  He is taking the lead and we are willingly laying down not only our lives, but our way of thinking and doing so that His work can be accomplished.

I pray that through my struggles, doubts and fears that some may be strengthened and know that it’s never too late to surrender to Him.  Whether it be your desires, your thoughts, your plans, your way of doing what you’re used to, or even clinging to what you know.  Don’t try to stick with what you know.  If you are right now holding onto a thread that is ok.  He will take that thread and make something beautiful out of it if you let Him.

Please continue to pray for us, the ministry here and the lives God has intertwined with ours.  Pray that we would always be clay in the hands of our gracious and loving Potter.

Monday, June 1, 2015


Greetings to all!

When I was younger I used to laugh when I heard people ask 'where did the time go?'.  Now, I understand.  It seems like the days, weeks and months just hurry before our eyes.  One moment we are complaining about how cold it is and the next it is time to get the fans out of the garage.  We have been quite busy but it has been a good busy.

The last few months Jim has worked so hard getting the church in order along with Franco and Rosa.  The kitchen was put together and thanks to 'YouTube', Jim could do the plumbing himself and also put in a burner and oven.  We are good to go.

can you believe this stainless sink was set out for the trash!  Good thing Jim spotted it :)

We had Easter at the church which was wonderful!  Doug and Rose Martin were here and Doug helped Jim get things set up so we could enjoy Easter lunch after service at the church.  We are thankful they use their holiday time to come visit us each Easter!  We invited a few friends and they came out to join us.  It was a great day and the Gospel of Hope went out with love.  We pray the seeds that were planted will continue to be watered and eventually sprout up to new life in Christ with those who heard the message.  We also had a great visit the following week with Mark and Renata Nigro.  Mark is now teaching at bible college in Murietta and he brought a group of students over for a time of outreach in some of our cities here in Italy.

my lovely friends Ornella and Emanuela
Edney-such a wonderful servant of the Lord
Easter Sunday 

A few weeks later we hosted a Mexican food evening.  A few students from the bible college came down and we enjoyed a night of meeting new people and sharing the love of Christ with those in attendance.  One of the university students who came is Paolo.  He is getting his Masters in Physics and is also the Italian Rubik Cube Champion!  He and Jim corresponded a few times after that night and now Paolo is attending church on Sundays.  He is very interested in the Bible and even asked Jim which 3 books he would recommend for him to read first!  So exciting!

We have really been blessed with the friends we have met through the English Club here in Padova.  Each time we host an event at the church we invite many/all to come and each time about 8-10 show up.  From that, we have now had 3 people start coming to the church.  It's such an encouragement.  We are able to see the faithfulness of God to keep our friendships with these people without having to compromise who we are or in whom we believe.

The past couple days we have been able to host Rob Nash and an young guy Steven who is interning at CC Vista at our home.  It is always great to have friends visit and encourage us in the ministry.  Last night, Rob shared Simply the Story at the church.  He shared from David and Goliath and the interaction was phenomenal!  He had everyone's attention-from the young child on up to us older ones.  We all enjoyed learning this way of storytelling and bringing out different facts to think about and apply to our own lives.  Afterwards, we enjoyed a great time of fellowship and food with our friends from CC Treviso and CC Ferarra.  Denae, Bethany, Lorenzo and Steven led worship which was so sweet.  Jim and I were both overjoyed that so many from these two churches came out to join us and support not only CC Padova, but our guest as well. It was such a great night and I know the Lord was smiling down upon His people.
Steven, Denae, Jim, Bethany and Lorenzo 
Lorenzo and Rob 

Praying good things for this guy :)

So,  do you see a theme here?  We invite people, share the Word, eat and enjoy fellowship!  It's Acts 2:42 and we love it!  We have found that when we have an event and share food, the people come out.  Praise God for His provision that enables us to do this and prayerfully will continue to do so.

The women's leadership conference in Portugal was awesome!  We had a great time in God's Word, meeting new friends, and enjoying the beautiful sunshine and seaside.  Thanks to all who prayed for this event and we are already looking forward to next year's time together.  Our teachings from Romans 12:9-13 were each challenging, encouraging and heart-searching.  It was a great blessing to attend CC Lagoa and see the amazing work the Lord is doing through Jon and Laura and others.  They have a ministry to the homeless each week and they are seeing God work miracles in the lives of drug addicts, prostitutes and the homeless.  People are getting saved, reading the Word and now some are even getting jobs!  It's so great to see the Lord change peoples' lives!
When Leaders Lead In Europe
So much fun!!!

Jim will be going to Germany to help with an English Camp at the end of July, early August.  He is also having some band guys from Hungary come over to Padova to hopefully play some concerts one of the weekends.

We want to thank all who pray and support us and those who support our building rent.  It was such a step of faith-not only for us, but also those coming alongside of us.  Thank you for hearing from the Lord and helping us with this.  In such a few months, we have been able to do so much now that we have a building to meet in any day and any time we choose.  It's incredible!

We have a list of ideas and plans for September once the students are back at University.  English club, Student Nights, are just a couple of the ideas.  Please pray that God would give us His wisdom on what to do and how to best do these things.  We don't want to just do things for the sake of doing them.  We want the Holy Spirit to guide and direct all of what we do.

Please keep our daughter Marla in your prayers as she has one more year before graduating with her Masters Degree in Non Profit Management.  She is working in Milano and taking her courses online.  She has been doing so well and we are very proud of her.  Please pray that the Lord would work things out for her in the next year to move back to the US and that she would find a good job and a place to live.  She has been a tremendous help to Jim and me-especially to me as I am not as mobile due to my back issues.

As many of you know, we have our annual Missions Conference coming up in August.  It is often the highlight of our year as we get to listen to so many encouraging teachings, catch up with our friends who are serving in different countries throughout Europe and just relax in the beauty that surrounds us in Milstatt.  We really are quite spoiled for the week as we don't have to clean, do dishes, set up chairs, teach Sunday School etc.  A team comes each year and has a VBS for all the missionary children and they are able to have so much fun with their friends.

I want to ask you to please pray for a special family that is so close to our hearts.  They don't get outside support so things are really difficult financially for them.  They are a family of four and would really be blessed to attend the conference this year.  Would you please pray that they would be able to attend.  If the Lord puts it on your heart to donate towards the cost please let me know.  They would need airfare, car rental (it's 4 hours from the airport) and then of course the conference fees for their family.  They don't really get much outside fellowship and the conference would be so good for them.  They have been blessed to attend a couple times and I know that they would all greatly benefit from being able to attend again this year.  It's been 'one of those years'.  Thank you for praying for them and seeking the Lord how you might be able to help them out.

We thank you all for your love, prayers and financial support.  It's in thanks to your faithfulness that we are able to minister here in Padova and continue reaching out to the many here who so desperately need to know the truth and love of Jesus.  Pray for those who are still hardened and stubborn that as we allow the light of Jesus to shine in and through us that they would see Him, desire to know Him and then walk with Him daily.  Please continue in prayer also that the Lord would bring a few people to come serve alongside of us here at CC Padova.  We really need some help :)

To God be the glory for the great things He has done!
In love,
Jim and Margie

If you would like to be a part of supporting us financially there are a couple ways you can do so:

Send a check to with a memo stating it's for Jim Stewart CC Padova to:
Calvary Chapel Vista
885 E Vista Way
Vista, CA 92084

OR you can give via online donations at either of the two websites.  Just be sure to scroll to designate for Missions/Jim Stewart
Go to 


All donations are tax deductible

Friday, March 6, 2015

Update/Prayer Requests

Dear Friends,
Sorry it has been awhile since writing with news about life here in Padova.  It’s been a strange winter for us with both Jim and I going back and forth getting sick.  I was ill in January and then Jim returned from a Pastor’s conference in Austria with a fever and sickness.  Shortly after, I started feeling poorly myself once again and it has now turned into bronchitis.  Thankfully today seems to be less coughing and my nose and I are friends once again Smile :)

Our new church building is great!  We are so blessed and the location of it couldn’t be better.  We are in the area where many university students live and hang out.  There is great opportunity for using our building to reach out and invite them to come join us.  Jim is busy trying to set the kitchen up and once that happens we are going to have a night where we make food and invite the students to come hang out and chat with us.  We know Jesus loved sharing meals with people and it is especially a good way to reach the young ones who miss Mom’s cooking! 

We have had a couple new people come to the church.  It’s been a neat blessing to have them with us.  One of the guys is from the base in Vicenza.  He showed up one Sunday asking ‘Is this church?’  Sure is buddy!!!  He was excited to have found us and we were thankful he made the 45 minute drive!  Another guy, Franco, is a fairly new believer but so on fire for Jesus.  He went with Jim to the leadership conference in Austria and has such a desire for the things of the Lord.  He has a real servant’s heart and is always there to help Jim.  He has been out of work for a long time and just the other week found a part-time job!  Such a praise and blessing for him and his wife.  Please pray for Joseph, a guy from Nigeria, to also find some work. 

Jim sharing music at the English Club Carnevale Celebration in Padova

We are praying about English conversation classes in the building since so many students learn English in most of the European countries.  I am also praying about having a class for elementary children.  This would also help with meeting parents and perhaps having another VBS this summer.  We are within walking distance of the park so the location is perfect for VBS.  Also, English film night and a worship night.  These are just a few ways we have been wanting to reach out.  Pray that God would give us wisdom as to how to move forward.

Jim has been teaching through Romans on Sundays and it has been such a blessed time in the Word.  God is using the study to remind us the foundations our faith is built upon.  Since we have new believers God has led Jim to parallel the OT teachings and it’s been just wonderful.  Franco is going to record the Italian part so that we can put the teachings on the website.  We pray that God will use this as a way to bring more people to know Him and join the fellowship.
We are now praying about Easter service and the best way to reach out to the community.  We are praying to be able to put together a worship band and perhaps have the service outside like we did last year.  If the kitchen is finished we will invite everyone to join us for Easter lunch at the church-if not, perhaps at the park or our home.  Our dear friends Doug and Rose will be heading this way for our annual visit.  It's always a wonderful time of fellowship and refreshment.  Please keep them in prayer as this year they will be flying first to Nigeria for the 10 year anniversary of the church plant they were a part of from the beginning.  

Bought 3 sign enclosures to put up so everyone can see what is happening at the church :)

We will be having some students from different bible colleges come to help out a bit this Spring.  We are praying they will be able to share the love of Jesus with those in the area We look forward to seeing how the Lord is going to use them in Padova!

I am going to be helping with a retreat in Portugal this coming May.  My friend Laura is the pastor’s wife there and the Lord has provided an incredible retreat center for them overlooking the beautiful ocean.  Laura had it on her heart to start a When Leaders Lead In Europe Retreat and I am blessed to be helping her with the event.  Our teachings this year are taken from Romans 12:9-13  We will have pastor’s wives and leaders throughout Europe teaching and also attending.  Please pray that all those desiring to attend would have the finances for the airfare-including me.  If it’s something you would like to help out with, please email and let me know.

On a personal note, I would like to ask for prayer as I have some doctor appointments and tests that need to be done.  I have had to put them off because of being ill but hopefully next week I can get started on them.  A couple of tests are a  bit concerning and nerve wracking so please pray I would just have peace and not be anxious while awaiting the results. Also, I know this may sound silly, but would you pray God would provide for us to get our teeth worked on.  I have had 2 teeth break this last month.  I need quite a few teeth replaced and probably implants.  Jim is also cracking his teeth and needs some implant work.  We found a place to go here in Padova that has a good reputation but dental is not covered under the National Insurance here. 
As always, we thank you with sincere hearts for  your prayers, your friendship and your support.  We are in this together-we just happen to be the ones on this soil.  We are so appreciative for each of you and the part you take in partnering with us and CC Padova. 

Until He Appears!
Jim and Margie

If you would like to be a part of supporting us financially there are a couple ways you can do so:

Send a check to with a memo stating it's for Jim Stewart CC Padova to:
Calvary Chapel Vista
885 E Vista Way
Vista, CA 92084

OR you can give via online donations at either of the two websites.  Just be sure to scroll to designate for Missions/Jim Stewart
Go to 


All donations are tax deductible

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Update and Prayer Requests

We had a wonderful time in Austria at the Missions Conference.  We always say how great and encouraging they are but this year had such a sense of refreshment and this call to go forward in whatever God is calling you in.  The messages and the fellowship were awesome!

We have been meeting at the park again this summer.  It’s been good and though no one new has joined us, it’s interesting how many people are hearing the Word and the worship.  There are some regular people who are there each Sunday reading their papers or utilizing the free WiFi that we continue to pray to join us.  Leno, the manager of the park is wonderful to us.  Last week he had music playing when we arrived and turned it off so it wouldn’t disturb our study time.  We keep praying he will get saved and trust the Lord that one of these days he will!! 

As you know we have been praying fervently for a permanent place for the church.  We haven’t had this since being in Padova.  It looks like we found the right place.  As we took time to pray, wanting to hurry but sensing the Lord telling us to wait patiently, we found a place smack in the middle where most of the University students are.  We prayed a lot about the location-in one sense we wanted a place that was family friendly.  But with our experience we have seen that tradition plays a huge role in the older generation and though they don’t even attend their traditional church, to come to a Protestant church is not something they are comfortable with.  We have had some couples start coming but we sense that God is leading us to go all out with the University students.  There are still families in the area and of course the park is right up the street so we will have plenty of opportunity for outreach.  The building has a small yard and also a terrace.  There is a room that we will be able to put a little kitchen area in also.  One of the things we want to do is to have women’s and men’s meetings each month or every other week-but with a meal.  There seems to be more of a turn out when we invite people to a bible study with a meal.  Perhaps it sounds less threatening to them.  Either that or they want to find out if Americans can cook Smile  We are also praying about having a weekly Thursday Taco Night....something like that for the students –as a way to get them familiar with us.  All the things we have in mind are up to the Lord and we want to hear from Him what He would have us do.  It would be nice to say that we can just meet people on the street, share the Gospel with they show up for church-we still pray that to happen but so far it hasn’t so we are seeking the Lord as to ways we can reach out to our community.  Please pray also for laborers.  We would really love to have some young people come alongside us as we reach the college students.  The ability to lead worship is an added plus. 
We have seen the difference it has made with the other CC churches here and pray that God would put it on some hearts to come to Padova to help for a season.

In a couple weeks I (Margie) will be flying to CA.  I am so excited since I haven’t been for over 2 yrs. now.  I am looking forward to seeing as many of you as possible!  I do have need to borrow a car while I am there so if anyone has one available please let me know.  I have one to use for 2 weeks mid Oct so beginning and end of Oct is needed as is a couple weeks in November.   Please email or private message me via facebook if you can help me out with a vehicle.  I promise not to drive like we do here in Italy!

Next weekend we head to Munich, Germany.  Jim’s been asked to lead the worship for their church conference so we will be driving there Fri-Sun.  After a 6 hr drive home next Sunday, I need to catch a 6:45am flight on Monday so please keep all that travel in prayer for us please.  I have MRI’s, dr appts and a girl’s discipleship class to teach next week too so it’s going to be a busy week.  Thankfully Marla is taking the week off to come and help out.

We appreciate your prayers so much.  So many of you stand in the gap for us and the ministry here in Padova.  It has been a long, difficult few years but God has always told us that we are to continue on in the work here,  keep pressing on, and so we have obeyed even when we had no more tears left and thought of every reason to move on from here.  And now, He has renewed our hearts, given us fresh vision and an excitement of things to come. 

Please pray also for Franco and Rosa.  They are both new Christians and on fire.  They are a little older than we are and have been such a big help.  Also pray for Michelle and Gianni-they live about an hour away and it’s expensive for them to come since they are on a pension but they are such a sweet part of the fellowship.  Joseph is from Nigeria.  He is looking for work and I tell you-he tries so hard every day to find work.   Please pray that God will open something up for him.  He is a real neat guy.  Pray for those we meet and share God’s Word with, but they haven’t made the decision for Christ yet. 

So looking forward to talking to you in person!!  Thank you for your prayers, your love and financial support.  We are all in this together!!!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

102 Minutes

Yes, I am alive, no I haven't written here in a long time!  Now that that's out of the way....

(Disclosure-I am not good at Math lol.  I thought I calculated correctly between the first plane attack and the last and came up with 81 minutes.  I decided to Google it and CNN states it was 102 minutes)

On September 11th, I went into town to the 9/11 Memorial we have here in Padova.  I went to pray, to reflect and catch a glimpse of what others were doing on that day.  As the train schedule would have it, I was at the site at the exact times the World Trade Center was hit.  Two wreaths were beautifully placed at the memorial.  One with a ribbon from the City of Padova, the other from the Vincenza Army Base.

I arrived solemn, tears for the victims and their families, and anger as I looked at the piece of structure from the site that was hoisted at the Memorial.  Evil.  Evil had struck and taken the lives of thousands of people.  Evil showed its ugly face that day.

Around me were a group of high school boys walking down the ramp and around the back of the Memorial to sit and smoke their cigarettes.  One couple touring Padova walked down to take photos.  Two gals who were obviously a couple, giggling loudly as they shared their time together.  That was it.  It would appear to have been any other day.

While at home, I watched some footage from the actual morning of Sept. 11, 2001.  It was interesting to hear the TV hosts speak about what a gorgeous day it was that September morning.  One weatherman even commented on how it was a quiet day, nothing much happening in the country.

People on their way to work, Moms getting their children out the door and into school, people running to chase their bus, their train.  Others off to a late start and upset that they are going to be late to work.  Passengers on airplanes looking forward to seeing loved ones once they reach their destination.  Lovers kissing each other goodbye with the assurance they will see one another later that evening.

And then, something happened that would change the lives of so many forever.  Something so unexpected and shocking.  A catastrophe that would alter our world as we know it.

102 minutes that would be used to kill, rob and destroy. 102 minutes that the world would stare at in unbelief. 102 minutes that we thought would never end.  102 minutes of unknown, fear and tragedy. 102 minutes that would live on in the memory of all of us for the rest of our lives.

After awhile, I walked around our city, watching people scurry about to their destinations, stopping for coffee, going in and out of various shops looking to buy the latest fashion. All seemed normal, typical, nothing earth shattering was going on around us.

Naturally my thoughts turned to the Rapture.  The day when Jesus will return for His church and take those that are His with Him.  It's going to be a day just like the September 11, 2001 and just like September 11, 2014.  A day that seems like any other day.  A day where for many there is no forethought that something life altering may occur.  A day where people will be eating and drinking, making plans for the weekend, picking out the perfect blouse...........and then...............something happens.  A trumpet will sound.  Will everyone hear it?  I don't really know.

The news media went on for days, weeks, even months about the 102 minutes on that September day.  They brought in all kinds of analysts, experts, and anyone else willing to discuss the hows and the whys of that day.  Everyone had their own opinions and thoughts.  Questions asked about how to prepare for such a tragedy, how do you move on, and of did we not know?

I can only imagine the day of the Rapture.  The news media sitting around their desks, trying to bring in as many 'experts' as they can find to try to explain the phenomenon of what occurred.

The saddest is going to be those that do know what happened.  Those that were warned and yet didn't heed the warning.  Those who had friends or loved ones that told them beforehand about this day and yet for whatever reason, they chose not to believe it.  Those that mocked their friends when they shared Christ's love with them and told them how they, too, could take part.  Those who thought they had more time and put off this important decision.  Those who thought they were guaranteed tomorrow.

We are not guaranteed tomorrow my friends.  We know the saying that every day is a gift from God. Today is the day of salvation!  Tomorrow is not promised to any of us.

Jesus said "I am the Way, the Truth and the Light."  There is no other, there is no other way.  Each of us has to make a decision as to whether or not we believe this.  And how we respond to this truth will effect our lives for eternity.   It's a choice we all have to make.

As I mentioned earlier, I entered the Memorial sad and in a solemn mood.  After awhile, everyone left the area and it was just me and the Lord.  I walked over where the wreaths were and prayed a little more.  And then, I found myself looking at that piece of steel and thought how mighty our God is.  There is nothing impossible for Him.  He is Alpha.  He is Omega.  He is stronger than anything that evil might throw our way.  He will stomp the enemy and all its evil under His mighty foot.  Soon, I started to sing aloud, (not too loud mind you) the song by Janny Grein-We've Been Made More Than Conquerors.  We do not have to fear evil, we don't need to worry about the future.  As someone put it--we know the end of the Book.  Do you?

Sunday, January 5, 2014


This morning at church Jim was teaching from Matthew 25 and the parable of the talents.  We have been studying different parables since last summer and it's been great.  One of the advantages that we have of being a small church is being able to have discussions about what we are studying.  I personally have learned a lot through the parables lately and there is always such good application.  It's also been good just as a check seeing where my heart is and the attitude of my heart.  I don't think we ever reach that point of being content with where we are spiritually-there is always room to be taught, to learn and to grow.

Today, Jim used an example about chapters in life.  He didn't get into it, but for some reason it really stood out to me.  Chapters.  We know the term and we use it so often in describing many things-where we are in life, where we were, and where we may be in the future.

I thought about books.  Obviously we would think that when the word 'chapter' is being used.  I thought how the chapters of books so often parallel lives.  We tend to divide our lives into sections.  For some, there are the chapters of being single, a new chapter for when we are married, have children and then there are even chapters reserved for the future-perhaps retirement or a new adventure that we know is coming.  For Christians, we often hear people categorize their lives as a chapter or chapters before they came to know the Lord.  That was one chapter, then new chapters arise as they walk with the Lord, follow after Him and journey along the road where He leads them.

Think about an adventurous novel.  Think how when you read a book it is usually exciting at first-especially if you are fond of the author.  You grab a cup of tea, a warm blanket and find your little nook on the couch or snuggle up in your favorite chair and get ready to escape into the tales that await you.  (can you tell it's winter and cold here) You get excited because the scene is being set.  The characters are being named and identified.  Usually within the first few chapters we meet each of the characters and know the role they will have throughout the book.  We figure out how this person is connected with that person, what the purpose is in the main character heading out for some kind of adventure.  Enthusiasm builds and we find ourselves unable to put the book down because so much is going on and we don't want to be left hanging and wondering what is going to happen next.

More often then not, what happens next?  Well, I venture to say that many times we get to the middle of a novel.  We get to that section that is not thrilling to read.  It seems boring, we wonder why the author wasted time even putting all those sorted details in there.  Perhaps we think it was just to make the book a little bigger -we cannot see the importance of the middle portion of the book.  All these silly details of someone going to a shop, doing the ordinary, nothing that seems to have to do with much of anything.  Surely we think the author could have just skipped all that and just got to the end.

How many of  you have become bored reading a book once you get to the middle of it?  It's hard to keep your attention and you may even be tempted to skip over a few chapters in hopes to get back to the exciting parts.  And then........finally.......finally the author starts to get your attention again.  Things start happening, some surprises, some things that we sort of expected or hoped to happen we just didn't know how it was going to work itself out.  And what happens from this point forward is all leading up to the end-the final chapters.

So today I thought about life.  I thought about just like a book, our lives can be categorized into chapters.  We have the beginning chapters, middle and then of course the ending chapters.   But, I thought about ministry too.  I thought about how just like in life, we have chapters in our ministries whatever they may be.  For some, like Jim and me, our ministry is overseas.  We had the beginning chapters.  The newness of it all where we were so excited to start writing the story of what God was doing and how He was using us.  The things the Lord was teaching us as we embarked on this new chapter of our lives.  It was exciting too because others were just as excited.  Something new!  Excitement often times begets excitement.  We all have been in situations where exciting news is shared and we want to be able to share and talk about it also.

But what happens later on?  It's kind of like a book-you have the 'normalcy' of life.  The chapters of the ministry where it is slow, mundane, seemingly day after day the 'filler' pages.  The pages that aren't so interesting for others to read about.  The excitement others once had for you has now been replaced with something else, something newer.  You feel as though the chapters of your book are not important to anyone any more and they just lay aside the 'book' for another time.  Just as people get bored with reading a book when they get to the middle, they can get bored with people or ministries when it doesn't seem like anything exciting is taking place.

Yet, we know that just like with most books, there is a purpose for the 'middle chapters'  There is a reason, albeit sometimes only known to the author, for those middle pages.  There is a story to be told, there is a connection between the first chapters and the last chapters.  We may not see it, but that doesn't mean it isn't there.  There has to be a beginning, a middle and and end.

Even our bibles have the same set-up.  There is a beginning....Genesis.  There is an end....Revelation.  Yet, between those 'chapters' is so much more.  Can you imagine if the Holy Spirit didn't inspire all the rest of the bible?  All the lives and lessons we would miss out on because there weren't those 'middle' pages in between Creation and Christ coming again.  Would it have been enough?  Well, I suppose since it is God's Word it would have been enough-but we wouldn't have all those amazing verses underlined to help us through each day.  We wouldn't have the record of those whose lives we can so relate to to remind us of our loving and forgiving Savior.

I feel like we need to be reminded not to get bored with things, with people, with ministries.  We live in a world that moves so quickly.  I tell you I cannot even watch tv when I am home because it just moves so quickly that I cannot understand what is happening.  My brain doesn't process things that fast anymore!   Society wants to tell us to just get rid of the old and bring in the new.  Think about the phone system in the US-oh you have had your phone for 2 yrs already-that is way too long, you MUST get a new one!

So, what's the point of all this?  Well, I suppose it is that we try hard not to get bored with our ministries, with other people's ministries, with our friends, with life in general.  Change is good and we all need it when the time is right.  But, there is something to be said for steadfastness.  There is something to be said for faithfulness.  All of us are going to experience 'the middle chapters' in life.  We will experience them in our personal lives, in our jobs, in our ministries, in whatever things we are involved in.  I don't think any of us want to go through them alone.  None of us wants people to get bored with us and set us aside just because we may not be as exciting as we once were.  Let's all be willing to cheer one another on through the middle chapters.  Let's all be those who don't give up on whatever we are called to do just because the middle pages seem redundant and boring.

There is a new chapter coming for each of us.  God is the author of our lives and just as He planned a beginning, and the years in between, He is planning the final chapters.  We all know as His children that it is going to be a glorious chapter.  Sometimes I get so excited about the end that I want to forego the middle stuff and just get right to the chapter where I am home with my Jesus.  But, he wants us to know that even though we don't understand the middle chapters, they are there for a reason.  He has a purpose and a plan.  He has given us His Word that all things will work together for good-and that means even the ho-hum chapters we think we could do without.   Don't be in a hurry to skip chapters to get to the end.  I think in the end we will often times see that those middle chapters were the ones used to form us into the people God wants us to be :)

Friday, November 1, 2013

A Picture Speaks 1000 Words

Have you ever looked at a picture and there is something that speaks so loudly about it.  It isn't necessarily a great photograph but within the photo there is great meaning.

This happened recently when I saw this one.
At first it looked like a great photo from Venice.  The architecture there is phenomenal.  It is truly a city like none other.  In the years I have lived in Italy I have been privileged to go many times with friends and visitors longing to see this picturesque city by the water for the first time.  It never ceases to amaze me.  Each time we go I find something different, some little area yet to be explored.  A street, a store, even a new gelateria!   
On this occasion, Sandy and I had ventured off for the day to explore Venice for the second time in a matter of weeks.  There is nothing like a brisk autumn day with nothing pressing on your calendar 'to do' list so you take the train into Venice for a few hours.  

To me, this picture speaks volumes.  We've heard it said many times before that 'a picture speaks a thousand words'.  In this photo, one would never know that just around the corner are crowds of people, hustling and bustling about the city.  People young and old taking in the sights, others just wanting to get to their apartments so they can make the family lunch.  Laundry is strung about on makeshift clotheslines-taking advantage of the fresh air and sunshine.  Restaurant waiters are busy trying to lure in customers for a meal, tourists trying to get one last bargain, children crying because they are tired of walking.  And yet, you would never know it looking at this still photo.

This photo became so personal.  A part of me looks at it and weeps and the other part rests at peace knowing that midst the clamor and busyness one can find solitude and rest.   Weeping perhaps because you are not a part of the noise, not a part of the laughter and excitement that is found around the corner.

This past year of my life has been that way.  All around me there were exciting things happening.  People moving to new cities, new countries, new bible studies starting up, people stepping out in faith to do a new work.  You hear of new growth in churches, new people attending, events going on around you that you are no longer a part of.  It has been a year of trying to rejoice for those rejoicing all the while weeping because it is not happening for you or the place you are in.  Just like in this picture-it was like to the left and to the right there was noise, there was excitement and there you are in the middle of it all asking why.  Not asking why for the others, but asking why not for yourselves.  

A time of learning who God is in the stillness.  Who He is when it is just you and Him.  Is He enough?  

This picture also spoke to me about the need to keep walking forward and not looking back.   Our walk, our  journey with the Lord continues on.  Step by step we go forward.  As Paul says, we press on towards the goal, not looking back.  I love the depth of this photo.  You can clearly see the the steps walked to get where I am going and yet there is still more in front of me.  I love how there seems to be this darkness and gloomy grey on the stones and yet up ahead there is the light where the sun is shining.  The further I would walk, the more light would appear.  

Just like in this picture-we keep walking.  We keep moving in the direction the Lord has mapped out for us.  Noise and excitement are wonderful, but there are those times in our lives where God wants us to walk in solitude.  He wants to work something in us that is so personal and unique that it is between us and Him.  He teaches us His character.  He reminds us that though He had crowds following Him most of His ministry life, He was often alone.  During difficult moments and great temptation He was often alone.  No one wanted to journey with Him in those times.  No one could stay awake and pray with Him.  But, it was in those times that He was so intimate with His Father.  He cried out to Him and was heard.  He journeyed on.  

There came a time that day that when once again I was in the midst of the crowd.  The hustle and bustle was all around me once again.  The noise, the smells, the familiarity of the sites and the people were crowded around me.

How personal this picture is.   What a promise from the Lord.  Don't be afraid to be alone.  Don't get anxious about what is going around you or frustrated about what is not going on where you are.  God has a plan, He has a purpose and reason for those quiet times, for those alone times.  Take advantage of them because they may not last.  Take in those moments when it is just you and your Savior and you cannot hear or see the crowds to your left or right.    

Forget what is behind and continue to press on!