5 Star Links for Friday

 

It’s 5-star Friday! Yay! Time for me to share some links to great online reading and/or listening.

1. Heart Condition (by Kasey Van Norman at Mentoring Moments) explains why the condition of our hearts is of greatest concern to the Lord.

2. Understanding the Unfathomable: God’s Unconditional Love (by Pastor Andreas Custer at Oakwood Community Church) reminds us how deeply God loves and encourages us to love one another.

3. The Most Needed Peer Pressure (by Wendy Alsup at Desiring God) urges us to love unconditionally when bearing with a loved one’s struggles.

4. 8 Tips for Talking to Your Kids about the Sermon (by Pastor Joe Holland) tells how little folks sitting in the pews retain more and understand more than you think they do and how we, as parents, can follow up with them after the sermon. Great tips!

5. Gaining Clarity on Women’s Roles Part 1 and Part 2 (by Leanne Popeko at CBMW) explains some key aspects of God’s lovely design for women in the church.

I pray that these words encourage and inspire you as much as they did me.

Also, may I ask a favor? I recently re-wrote my personal testimony as part of an assignment in the Bible study group I attend. The new version is much shorter and employs a very different format than the earlier version, which I posted years ago. If you would read it and perhaps leave a comment, I’d be ever so grateful to you. Just click here. Thank you!

“March on, my soul; be strong!” -Judges 5:21b

To Ethiopia with Love

Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.”

-Isaiah 1:17 NLV 

Earlier this week the girls and I went shopping for boy stuff!

Can you imagine how excited they are to buy boy stuff? You see, as part of our sponsorship of a little boy at Kind Hearts Orphanage in Ethiopia, we are putting together a little care package that will be delivered to Dawit this fall.

So we bought a little toy car, a soccer t-shirt, chewing gum and lots of other little stuff — emphasis on little because it all has to fit in a gallon-sized zip-lock bag.

I had to keep reminding my little shoppers of this noteworthy detail throughout our shopping excursion. They are so generous, and they think so big when they are excited!

The girls also are full of questions about Dawit’s life in Ethiopia and why he can’t just go to the store and buy these sorts of things for himself. Oh, how tender and compassionate their hearts are growing toward this little boy living such a different life half-way around the world! Laurel is so ready to adopt him and be his mama herself. I keep having to explain that he isn’t available for adoption, not to mention that he’s older than she is and probably wouldn’t like her bossing him around!

Still available for sponsorship through Children’s HopeChest  are several children at Trees of Glory orphanage. For more information or to sign up as a sponsor, please contact Karen Wistrom at kjwistrom@yahoo.com or hop over to her blog, Family from Afar.

Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.”

-Isaiah 1:17 NLV 

A Love Story

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24 NIV 

A little over a year ago, very dear friends of ours adopted two beautiful little girls from Ethiopia. Over the past several months, we have had the honor of walking beside them as they have gone through the many ups and downs, joys and struggles of the adoption process.  

Can you imagine, for a minute, the language and behavior challenges in adopting a 6-year-old and a 1-year-old into a family that already has three children under the age of 8? Whew! And can you imagine the joys of hearing orphan cries turn to shrieks of laughter and limp arms turn to passionate embraces? 

The last several months have not been easy for our friends. Not easy for one minute. Day after day, they are the hands and feet of Jesus to these girls as they feed, clothe, educate, parent and love them. God called them to this great endeavor of caring for orphans, and He never promised it would be easy. But God did promise to bless their faithful obedience to Him and His word, and God always fulfills His promises. 

Our friends’ faith in God and their love for these two precious daughters continues to amaze and inspire us. We’ve seen true compassion. We’ve seen faith in action. We’ve seen unquestionably sacrificial love. We’ve seen incredible obedience to the Lord. What a joy to see God so clearly at work in their lives! What a testimony! They have made such a profound difference in the lives of these girls, and God is writing this great love story on the hearts of their biological children as well.   

I don’t know if our friends will ever comprehend how much they have spurred our family and other on toward love and good deeds. Truly they have encouraged us and kept our hearts from being hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. Passion like theirs is uncommon and quite contagious.

In fact, their uncommon, contagious passion has encouraged us to sponsor a little boy in Ethiopia through a program called Children’s HopeChest. Our sponsorship provides this precious little boy direct help for emotional, educational and medical needs. He will receive age-appropriate Bible training and discipleship classes that will offer opportunities for a national believer to share Christ through word and deed. He will receive birthday and Christmas gifts and parties. And we will offer him encouragement through prayer, letter writing and relationship. Our prayer is that we will make a profound difference in this young boy’s life. Our prayer is that this little boy will know how long and wide and high and deep is the love of Christ, a love that stretches across the globe from Minneapolis, USA, to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and beyond. 

Likewise, we pray that this endeavor will further teach us how long and wide and high and deep the love of Christ is. We pray it will make a profound difference in our hearts and the hearts of our two daughters. We pray this will soften our hearts so we are more tender toward those in need. We pray that, in however small and remote a way, we will be the hands and feet of Jesus to this dear little boy. 

Of course, dear readers, I want to spur you on toward love and good deeds as well. So I’d like to encourage you to prayerfully consider sponsoring a child through Children’s HopeChest. Find out more at http://www.hopechest.org.

May you also know how long and wide and high and deep the love of Christ is, and may you spur others on toward love and good deeds.

This post is part of Rachel Olsen’s devotion carnival, in which she asked readers to write a devotion on the topic of love.

A Heart Condition

Oh, you’ve heard it before. You probably read it on a candy heart recently. Or maybe you’ve even said it once or twice.

“Follow your heart.”

“Trust your heart.”

“Listen to your heart.”

Bad news, folks. We have heart problems. Yep. The diagnosis is pretty serious, too. Just look at Jeremiah 17:9, which says, ” The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” And then there’s Hebrews 3:10, which says, “…’Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known My ways.” Hebrews 3 goes on to warn against unbelieving hearts that are hardened by sin’s deceitfulness and turn away from the living God.

God is testing our hearts. Proverbs 17:3 says, ” The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart.”

What’s more, the consequences of our heart condition can be eternal. Consider Luke 10:25-28:

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

 He answered: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind;’ and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

Hebrews 3:7-8 says, “…Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…”

So how do we keep from being hard-hearted, disobedient and sinful? Love God. Listen to His voice, and trust Him. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”

To keep the sinfulness away, it also helps to memorize Scripture and meditate on it. As Psalm 119:11 says, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

What’s more, we need to love each other and encourage each other. Hebrews chapter 3 goes on to say, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

Today, on Valentine’s Day, let’s pray for soft hearts that love the LORD completely. Let’s pray for hearts that fully trust in the LORD. Let’s pray for hearts with God’s word written all over them.

Let’s thank God for His grace and mercy and goodness. And let’s pray the words from the third verse of one of my favorite hymns, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” by Robert Robinson:

O to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.

Love is in the Hair

Linnea donated 10 inches of her beautiful, silky smooth blond hair to Locks of Love today. Locks of Love is a non-profit organization that provides  hair pieces to financially disadvantaged children suffering from long-term medical hair loss.

Long before…

And shortly after…

Love is most definitely in the hair.

Spurring on Toward Love and Good Deeds

Up! Our families hiked to this peak in the Boundary Waters last summer. Pictured are my two girls and our friends kids, two who were adopted from Ethiopia 13 months ago.

 

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24 NIV  

A little over a year ago, very dear friends of ours adopted two beautiful little girls from Ethiopia. Over the past several months, we have had the honor of walking beside them as they have gone through the many ups and downs, joys and struggles of the adoption process.   

Can you imagine, for a minute, the language and behavior challenges in adopting a 6-year-old and a 1-year-old into a family that already has three children under the age of 8? Whew! And can you imagine the joys of hearing orphan cries turn to shrieks of laughter and limp arms turn to passionate embraces?  

The last 13 months have not been easy for our friends. Not easy for one minute. God called them to this great endeavor of caring for orphans, and He never promised it would be easy. But God did promise to bless their faithful obedience to Him and His word, and God always fulfills His promises.  

“…Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” -Luke 11:28   

Our friends’ faith in God and their love for these two precious daughters continues to amaze and inspire us. We’ve seen true compassion. We’ve seen faith in action. We’ve seen unquestionably sacrificial love. We’ve seen incredible obedience to the Lord. What a joy to see God so clearly at work in their lives! What a testimony! They have made such a profound difference in the lives of these girls, and God is writing this great love story on the hearts of their biological children as well.    

I don’t know if our friends will ever comprehend how much they have spurred our family on toward love and good deeds. Passion like theirs is uncommon and quite contagious. And it is their uncommon, contagious passion that has encouraged us to sponsor a little boy in Ethiopia through a program called Children’s HopeChest.  

First, let me say that our commitment to sponsor this little boy really seems quite miniscule in comparison to our friends’ loving commitment to adopt two orphans. Day after day, they are the hands and feet of Jesus to these girls as they feed, clothe, educate, and parent them. Our sponsorship is a much smaller, long distance commitment, but we are doing it in the same spirit, in the same love.  

Our sponsorship provides this precious little boy direct help for emotional, educational and medical needs. He will receive age-appropriate Bible training and discipleship classes that will offer opportunities for a national believer to share Christ through word and deed. He will receive birthday and Christmas gifts and parties. And we will offer him encouragement through prayer, letter writing and relationship. Our prayer is that we will make a profound difference in this young boy’s life. Our prayer is that this little boy will know how long and wide and high and deep is the love of Christ, a love that stretches across the globe from Minneapolis, USA, to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and beyond.  

Likewise, we pray that this endeavor will further teach us how long and wide and high and deep the love of Christ is. We pray it will make a profound difference in our hearts and the hearts of our two daughters. We pray this will soften our hearts so we are more tender toward those in need. We pray that, in however small and remote a way, we will be the hands and feet of Jesus to this dear little boy.  

Of course, dear readers, I want to spur you on toward love and good deeds as well. So I’d like to encourage you to prayerfully consider sponsoring a child through Children’s HopeChest.  

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” -James 1:27  

The boy we are sponsoring is at the Kind Hearts orphanage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. While dozens of children at Kind Hearts already have sponsors, a few are still waiting for a sponsor. Maybe the sponsor they are waiting for is you. To find out more details, hop on over to Family From Afar or contact Karen Wistrom at kjwistrom@yahoo.com. It may not be easy, but God promises to bless your faithful obedience to Him and His word, and God always fulfills His promises.

Love and Hearts

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

What’s more heart-warming than a sweater knitted with love by your great-grandma? When we were in Washington in November, my grandma and I took the girls to pick out yarn. Then Grandma went to work knitting these beautiful sweaters for them. She mailed them shortly after Christmas. Don’t they look precious on my little sweethearts? 

When we picked up these photos at the drugstore this morning, Laurel (age 3) looked around and said quite matter-of-factly, “Well, it looks like they are ready for Valentine’s Day.” She seemed to think they were getting ready for a party rather than capitalizing on the holiday.

Of course it’s all hearts and love every where we go lately, so how fitting that I’ve been memorizing Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (NIV). I am going to type it from memory just to test myself. Please leave a comment if you notice that I’ve left something out!

“Hear O Israel the LORD our God the LORD is One. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

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The girls and I made dozens of these sugar cookies today. We wore our matching pink aprons (thanks again, Aimee!) and destroyed the kitchen with sprinkles, sugar, flour and icing.

Sugar cookies were not something my mother ever made, so I’ve never been a huge fan of them. However, they happen to be Michael’s all-time favorite cookie. It’s tradition in our nearly 20-year history of Valentine’s together for me to make and decorate the cookies so he can consume most of them.

About six years ago my friend Dani gave me what I believe is the BEST EVER sugar cookie recipe. The dough rolls out better than any other recipe or store-bought dough I’ve tried. And the cookies are pretty tasty. Coming from me, that’s saying a lot since most sweets are incomplete without chocolate! Anyway, here’s the recipe: 

SUGAR COOKIES

1 cup softened butter

1.5 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 Tblsp. vanilla

3.5 cups flour

2 tsp. cream of tartar

1 tsp. soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Mix all together with beater and chill three to four hours. Roll out and cut into shapes. The thicker cookies are better. Bake about 11 minutes at 350 F (longer if you use airbake cookie sheets). Bake until cookies are just slightly brown on the edges.

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We also made these heart-shaped lollipops. We got the candy melts and molds at Hobby Lobby a few weeks ago. So fun and super easy!

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Here, Laurel is get ready to slurp up what we are calling “raspberry floats.” They are perfectly pink for Valentine’s Day or girly parties. You can mix it together in a punch bowl or in individual glasses if you are just serving a few. Here’s what you need:

RASPBERRY FLOATS

2-liter of raspberry gingerale

1/2 gallon of raspberry sherbert

a handful of fresh raspberries

Scoop sherbert into individual glasses or punch bowl. Pour in gingerale to finish filling the glass or bowl. Mix with a fork if necessary. Let stand for about 5 minutes so the sherbert melts a little. Garnish with a few fresh raspberries and enjoy!

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