Colorado — THE Petersen Vacation of 2012 (#2)

(Sorry this is kind of a long post because we’ve done a lot in the past two days!)

Yesterday we took it a little easy. I have to say I was a little relieved because I’ve been quite tired during this trip. I don’t sleep well in new places or in the car, thus I haven’t gotten a lot of rest. God blessed me last night with 9 blessed hours, however, and today I had plenty of energy for the fun things that entailed.

Yesterday we went to see Pike’s Peak. I LOVED the drive up as we kept going higher and higher. The drive to the top takes almost an hour, but it seemed to go very quickly because there were so many new views to ooh and ah at. The hairpin turns were a little nerve-wracking, but the views were absolutely spectacular. I couldn’t get enough pictures, though none of them do justice to the great cliffs and depth of the shadows from the clouds. You can see for miles and miles at the top; I can only imagine what early explorers like Lewis and Clark thought of views like that after climbing the treacherous, wearying clefts. At the top it was 52 degrees, so I should have brought my sweatshirt! Silly me; oh well. 🙂 There were SO many rocks at the top, so I guess I know where the Rockies got their name.

When we came down from the mountain we returned to our cabin and chilled for the evening, which I loved. I finished a book that I started the day before and began a new one. I also watched more TV last night than I have all year! Reed, Jenna, and I watched Storage Wars for over an hour before I went to take a shower and read some more. I fell asleep thinking about how God can change me through what I am reading (definitely a good way to doze off!).

This morning we tried to find the Royal Gorge but instead ended up driving in an hour-long circle. 😛 Whoops! At least the scenery was very beautiful! Since we couldn’t find it we turned around and went to Colorado Springs again.
In Colorado Springs today we ate lunch at Chic-fil-A. Then we found the Compassion International USA office and toured there. They have beautiful statues in the lobby depicting their Christ-centered, child-focused mission, as well as showing how Compassion’s work with children can influence a whole community. Then Sean (our tour guide) showed us the history of Compassion and how it all started back in 1952 in South Korea. I knew that Compassion really built up the economic, social, and spiritual stability of South Korea, but I never realized that S. Korea is now a partner country with the USA and 11 other countries to sponsor children themselves! How COOL is that?! Amen, Jesus!!!
All along the walls was artwork done by various sponsored children. When Sean was talking about the 3 programs: child sponsorship, leadership development, and survival, my heart was drawn to the survival program for mothers and their babies (from conception to age 3). Abba, do You want me to sponsor a survival program center??
Then we got to see where they process all of the letters!! That was my favorite part. 😀 Sean said that over 5 million letters from sponsors are processed each year, and that doesn’t even include the letters from the children! How crazy!! I left postcards for Andrea, Blinzler, and Tumpesia (my sponsored children) there. 🙂 Finally we got to see a replica of a child development center (basically like a small, one-room schoolhouse). They had toys, books, shoes, crayons, hygiene stations, and lost more, though it surprisingly didn’t look crowded. Sean said that each child is put in a group with a few others in their age category (3-5, 6-9, 10-12) with one or two other tutors that give them specifically the attention they need to succeed.
I’m SO glad we got to visit Compassion!!

After leaving Colorado Springs we drove around Denver to Estes Park (which includes Rocky Mountain State Park). Dad was testing my patience because we spent 2 hours driving past all of these different lodges and motels looking for one to stay in, but not stopping at any of them. Weird, I agree, but we finally stopped at one by 8 p.m. and were able to get a little cabin, which is nice. 🙂 We walked downtown to look in little stores and find some food (finally!) before coming back to rest. It’s surprising how tiring traveling can be! But Abba has sustained me, especially through Psalm 23. Amen, LORD Jesus.

Reflections: The Rule of Peace

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.
~ Colossians 3:15

Hmmm. This is a high calling. It is hard to let peace rule in your heart. As a being-reformed perfectionist, it is difficult for me not to worry about things, even the smallest things. Paul is saying here not just to let peace passively exist within you without any impact, but to let it RULE your heart. Ruling implies authority. It conveys power over that which is under its rule.

It also says to let peace rule in your HEART. The heart is the center of will, the seat of volition. It is where all of our desires are ordered; it is where we determine the organization of our life. The heart involves the power of choice — what we think about, what we say, how we react to others around us. If we let peace rule in our hearts, this means that we let peace be an over-arching determining factor in how we order our life. We let God’s peace control what we think about, what we say, and how we treat other people. If we let His peace rule in our hearts, just think how much less stressful the world would seem. I’m not saying that the circumstances would change; they won’t necessarily, because this world is still fallen. BUT our perspective of the circumstances can change dramatically if we simply let Christ’s peace have control over our lives.

“Be thankful.” Wow, that can be hard. Again, though, if we thank God for the good things AND the hard, painful things, our perspective of the circumstances can transform our attitude and outlook on the situation. Thanksgiving leads to worship, and worship leads to thanksgiving. Both worship and thanksgiving lead to peace. I think a big way to begin letting God’s peace RULE in our hearts is to start thanking God.

So what can you thank God for today? What pleasant things has He blessed you with? What trials has He blessed you with? Both are what we need, even if they are not what we want. How can you begin letting His peace RULE in your heart?

Beatitudes: They Will Be Comforted

“Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.”

~ Matthew 5:4

This is such a beautiful verse that reveals two simple, yet vital truths.

1) It shows that we CAN mourn. Jesus was giving the people permission to cry, to mourn, to feel sorrow. We live in a broken world; Jesus knows this better than anyone else. He’s reminding us that it is not only okay to mourn, but that we are blessed when we mourn. It takes strength to mourn, despite that people say otherwise. It takes courage and trust in Christ to let yourself acknowledge that things are not as they should be, that the world is fallen. It takes strength to feel the sadness and sorrow that we should feel in regards to sin and the effects of sin. Christ is encouraging those who mourn to take heart; He has blessed them and will bless them.

2) It shows that Christ WANTS to comfort us. Jesus doesn’t just want us to mourn forever. He wants us to mourn as we should and as we need to, but He calls also calls us to comfort. He is our greatest Comforter and Counselor. He will be there when no one else is. He went through the greatest trials and troubles that any person ever did or will, so He can be present in our suffering and sorrow as well. He promises blessing to the mourners, those grieved by sin and sorrow.

What a comfort this verse about mourning and comfort is. Thank You, Jesus, for being the Great Comforter.

Reflections: Joy and Hope

*This post will refer to Saturday and the Hope of Sunday, so if you haven’t read that one, it might be helpful to read that first.

Abba, I have to confess that this morning I was not feeling celebratory. I know, I know… it’s Easter! It’s the day that we rejoice that You are ALIVE! How could I NOT be happy and excited?! Well, I was at first… but then I experienced the reminders of pain and suffering and knew the isolation of deep loneliness. No matter what I did, I could not get past the despair that seemed to hover over my soul as a storm cloud of darkness. I rested. I prayed. I read Your Word. I sat and listened. Nothing was working, and I was beginning to lose heart. I know that joy doesn’t equal happiness, but I so badly wanted even joy, if not Your happiness and tangible presence. I kept asking myself, ‘Why can’t I rejoice in this suffering, rejoice that I am carrying my cross for Jesus?!’ but then I came across 1 Thessalonians 1:6 — “You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” Woah. What I realized after reading this passage is that I DON’T have to rejoice in the trials themselves — they are evil and Jesus tells us to avoid them, to pray against them in the Lord’s Prayer! He says that we are to ask Him to “lead us NOT into temptation”. Since God cannot tempt us to sin, I think this means to lead us not into trials and bad circumstances. Now, even if I am wrong in this, Paul still tells the Thessalonians to rejoice IN THE MIDST OF severe suffering — he doesn’t say that we have to say “Yay! Suffering!” with a smile on our faces and laughing, but he does say that we should rejoice DESPITE suffering, rejoice in who we KNOW Christ to be and what the eternal outcome will be. This brought me so much relief this afternoon as I rollerbladed as far as my tired legs would take me (I ran my first 5K yesterday, so they were already quite sore!).

Not only did the idea of rejoicing despite the suffering bring me relief, but it brought me hope. (Yes, now I’m finally getting to the reference you’ve been wondering when I was going to use!) I was feeling earlier as if all hope was gone, as though Jesus’ sacrifice didn’t give me any reason to be hopeful. Now, I know that feelings are not everything, so I was determined to not let negative thoughts and painful feelings get the better of me. So I meditated on all that God has done for me in the past; I KNOW that He is faithful and that He can (and will) work in every situation for my best. I brought to mind testimony of the past where I know that God has worked in my friends’ lives and in the lives of His people (in Scripture) in similar ways. I took captive the negative thoughts (that God can’t work in my pain) for Christ and spoke His truth to my soul. Through this process, God brought hope back into my heart, even though the pain and loneliness still resided there. I did not feel His presence, but I did not need to. I KNOW that He is with me always, whether I feel Him there or not. THIS is how I’m able to speak with conviction and sing with sincerity these words which I felt guilty singing only a few short hours before:

Jesus, hope of the nations
Jesus, comfort for all who mourn
You are the source of Heaven’s hope on earth
Jesus, light in the darkness
Jesus, truth in each circumstance
You are the source of Heaven’s light on earth

He IS the hope for the nations, no matter how corrupt, no matter how broken, no matter how destitute, no matter how far away from Him they may be. He IS the comfort for ALL who mourn, whether they mourn in the open, physically, or mourn in silence, too tender and personal to ever show it. He IS the source of hope to the earth, to this fallen, shattered, broken world. Hope isn’t just wishful thinking; it is an expectation of what we know is to come. He IS the hope that we have of redemption, of healing, of love. He IS the light in the darkness of this sinful world. He IS the truth in every circumstance, no matter how painful, horrifying, or remote it may be. He IS the source of light — not just physical light, but spiritual light, too. Jesus Christ brings HOPE through His miraculous resurrection. He IS hope through His remarkable, unexpected return. And He will return again — it will be unexpected and remarkable, just like the first time, but this is where Christians place their hope. This is where I place my hope.

In what or whom does your hope lie? My prayer is that it lies in the only One who can fulfill it.

Transformation: Our Minds

Renewing our mind… what does that look like? Romans 12:2 is the famous verse that talks about transformation happening because our minds are renewed, but what does that mean? The New Oxford American Dictionary defines renewed as: given fresh life or strength; replaced. Interesting, huh? So if we were to apply that to Romans 12:2, the verse might read like this: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the replacement or fresh life and strength given to your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Now I don’t know about you, but those things sound quite appealing. I want to prove what God’s will is! I don’t want to conform to this world! I want to be transformed! But what does it mean to have your mind “replaced or given fresh life and strength”? Where does that strength and life come from? Where does the “transplant mind” come from, if our minds are to be replaced? Who does the replacing? These are all questions that I am going to explore in the next few paragraphs, so hang tight.

Fresh strength and life — we all want to have extra energy or motivation, right? I think the secret to finding fresh LIFE and strength is found in knowing God. He gives those things to us when we know Him! When I say “knowing” I don’t just mean in knowing who He is and what He has done, I mean knowing Him Himself. If I asked you, “Do you know your mom?” (and you replied, “well duh!”), in what ways could you tell me you know her? Maybe you know her favorite color, her height, her pet peeves, her most despised food. And you would be right in telling me these things. But what if I want to know more? “How do you know that you truly KNOW her?” I might ask. And you might respond, “Well, I just do. I live with her; I spend time with her. I talk with her and know her heart about certain things. I enjoy her company. I love her!” And THESE were the answers I was looking for! This is also how we can know God. To know God, we must live with Him — listen to His Voice, walk with Him, and talk with Him. We must spend time with Him, learn His heart for different things, and enjoy His company. We must love Him!

Part of knowing God, I think, is developing great thoughts about Him. “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:5-6). Romans says that if our might ISN’T set on the Spirit of God, that IS death! This means that we need to have thoughts of God. This may look like memorizing His Word and keeping it in our mind (constantly in our thoughts), spending time with Him in silence, remembering His truth and discovering more of His truth (about ourselves, about the world, about ontology or epistemology, about science, about psychology, about language — the list could go on and on!), or meditating on His character — His omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, aseity, greatness, love, justice, peace, etc (if you don’t know what some of those big words mean, it might be a good idea to look them UP). This may be dangerous ground on which to tread, but I might go as far as to say that God seems only as great as the thoughts that we have of Him. IF this is true, we need to have greater and greater thoughts of Him!

Finally, what we think about in our minds affects our relationships with others, our feelings, and our body. If we constantly worry about the future or other things in our life, we will quickly become a very anxious person. If we contemplate sin frequently, we are creating an even higher potential in ourselves to go commit those sins. Our relationships will be affectd because the things we talk about are the things on which our minds are most frequently set. We will only talk about the things that worry us if we only feed our minds with these worries. And if we only feed our minds with contemplation of sin, then we are very likely to talk about these sins in a desiring way. This not only causes selfish relationships, but it creates discussions that are not God-honoring. By fretting about the little things in our lives, we are saying that God is not big enough, wise enough, or caring enough to provide for our every need and remember our desires. By discussing sins that appeal to us, we are often saying that God is not holy enough or great enough for our respect, obedience, and worship.

Not only will these thought patterns affect our friendships and other relationships, but they will also affect our overall mood and lifestyle. When we are anxious constantly, this affects our body, too. We may be constantly restless and unable to possess the peace that God so freely offers us. We also may not sleep well or eat enough. This could make us feel sick and, in turn, not provide our body with enough exercise, which will add to the unhealthiness of our lifestyle. If we ponder sinful or selfish things incessantly, this may cause us to eat too much, to become lazy, or to become irritated or angry far too easily. This can cause the opposite spectrum of unhealthiness.

As you can hopefully see, our minds are very important, and what we set our minds upon can very quickly affect all aspects of our lives. If we truly desire to honor God with our minds, the first step is to make the decision to give Him our minds. “Commit your works to the LORD, And your thoughts will be established.” (Proverbs 16:3)

Reflections – Relating to Others

“The single desire that dominated my search for delight was simply to love and be loved.” ~Augustine (in Confessions)

Augustine was touching on a very important truth in this short, quotable statement. As human beings, what is the most common universal experience which everyone wants? Is it to not feel pain? Is it to get married? To have a high-paying job? To be famous? I would argue that none of these are the most commonly held universal truth. All human beings want to love and to be loved. Babies are born with this need and desire. Little girls dance around dressed in princess costumes because they connect with the fantastical idea of Prince Charming coming to sweep them of their feet. Adolescent boys try to find a manly way to show courage or strength to the pretty girl down the street because they want her to admire them. Elderly ladies call their grandchildren to talk for hours on end because they are lonely and want to be reminded that someone cares. Homeless men sitting on the sidewalks sleep with their faithful dogs because they find comfort in the company. Everyone needs unconditional love.

“Love is the divine way of relating to others and to oneself that moves through every dimension of our being and begins to restructure our world for good” (Revolution of Character, Dallas Willard). If only all of life looked like this! But unfortunately our world is permeated by this thing called sin, our fallen nature, which gets in the way of us experiencing love like Christ’s continually. Because of sin, there are two basic forms of evil in our relations with others: assault (attack) and withdrawal (distancing). Both show lack of concern and care for others around us: lovelessness. “He who does not love abides in death” (1 John 3:14). John is saying that the mere absence of love is deadly! Lovelessness is withdrawal from the LIFE of God Himself.

How can we change this?

  • See ourselves the way God sees us — as made in His image, redeemed, WHOLE, and His beloved!
  • Be willing to be known for who we really are — abandoning defensiveness and being open and transparent
  • Do away with all pretence — showing others genuine LOVE and compassion instead of trying to conjure up false feelings or pity for others –> ask God for the ability to be genuine
  • Open up our social life to include God’s work — serve others devotedly without fear, knowing our identity and worth is found in Christ

I think this is a very practical process for seeking the true, deep community that God intended for us (and in which He Himself participates in the nature of the Trinity!), for “the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 John 4:16)

Reflections — Ezekiel 36:26

This afternoon I attended the Crossroads Chorale’s home concert of their choir tour! They made beautiful music while worshipping our Great Creator through each unique and special song. One song in particular, sung by the men of Chorale, touched my heart: “My Savior, Lest Your Mercy Free” (text and music by Brian Dunbar).
Here’s the first stanza:
My Savior, lest Your mercy free
Be trampled under foot by me
Bring to my mind Your wounds, Your pain
Which heal my own, my heart of stone.
This reminded me of a verse in Ezekiel (chapter 36 verse 26, to be exact) where God tells His people, “And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.” This has been a continuous prayer of mine which just took on a deeper meaning over the last few days as I’ve read the book “Revolution of Character” by Dallas Willard. In his book, Willard discusses what the nature of the heart is. He states that the heart is the seat of volition and will (the power to select what we think about) in a human being, the dimension which organizes our life (when rightly, around God). The heart is the source of our self-determination.
Meditating on this verse, I came to realize what this might mean. When God says that He will “give you a tender, responsive heart,” He is saying that He will mold our will and volition to listen to Him and to resemble His own. When we allow Him, He will remove our sinful, fallen will which is often divided, contradictory, and destructive. He will then begin to reform our character to become more like Him. This process involves surrender to His will in thought and intention (decision), abandonment to His will in action (all circumstances), and contentment with His will. This will lead to our participation in accomplishing His will, which is the most fulfilling step! By doing this we can experience peace, joy, and love unlike any we have ever known previously.
Only God can begin this transformation in us. He is the Healer and Perfect Physician, capable of performing even the most complicated heart transplants in the most difficult human being, as long as they allow Him access. The final stanza sums this up beautifully:
My Savior, lest Your mercy free
Be trampled under foot by me
Take my heart, so vile, so poor
And mend it to resemble Yours
This is my fervent prayer tonight, LORD Jesus. ♄

21 Reasons Why I LOVE the Bible!

21 Reasons Why I LOVE the Bible!

  1. It is GOD’s Word. I LOVE Him, and this is how He most often speaks to me (and humanity, in general, I think). This is HIS message to me, just like I get messages and have conversations with all of the rest of my friends!
  2. It is TRUE.
  3. It is full of wisdom; I seek wisdom.
  4. It is inspiring! SO many people in the Bible are my “heros” in the faith.
  5. It is encouraging. God knows exactly what I need each day to keep me focused and full of courage when life is difficult.
  6. It is beautiful. Have you read any of the Psalms recently?!
  7. It is alive. I don’t know about you, but reading a Book that is active in my life is way more helpful than any other book!
  8. It teaches me what is right and wrong. I want to grow in righteousness, and how would I do that without His instructions?
  9. It challenges me. I love a challenge — I WANT to grow more and more like Jesus, and reading God’s calling for our lives challenges me to live up to that calling!
  10. It is holy. I want to be holy!
  11. It is the most widely-read book EVER. How cool is that?!
  12. It gives me HOPE.
  13. It talks about eternity. Everyone wants to know what will happen after they die. Well, I’ve got my answer! How about you?
  14. I can KNOW God through it.
  15. Jesus (my Brother, Savior, and Best Friend) tells me about everything that matters in the Bible.
  16. If I read it every day, I’d ALWAYS know I’m loved. Check out 1 John 4:19!
  17. I can overcome sin with the truth of the Bible! Memorizing it sure helps, too.
  18. God works through me when I read the Bible. When I read it, He usually tells me how I can encourage someone else through the same things I am reading. Then when I do tell them, they are built up, and Abba has affirmed His work in my life through that, too!!
  19. It gives me PURPOSE. Every human being needs a purpose!
  20. It teaches me discipline. Interesting that the word “discipline” looks a lot like the word “disciple”… think they’re related? (Even if they aren’t, I think they should be!)
  21. It is God-breathed. WOAH. Did you hear that? It was the sound of my mind blowing.

Reflections: the Fear of the LORD

God has been teaching me much recently about what it means to fear Him. It does not mean to be afraid or scared of Him, but rather to love what He loves and hate what He hates; to value what He values and not value what He doesn’t value; to tremble at His word — His commands; to obey Him instantly, when it hurts, when it doesn’t make sense, or when we can’t see the benefits. Fearing Him keeps us from sinning. Fear of Him prevents us from falling away or back into sin. “He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure.” ~Isaiah 33:6
If we fear God, we will obey Him even under great pressure. If we fear man, we will yield to man and drift toward that which benefits ourselves. Understanding the judgements of Christ is one aspect of fearing the LORD, I think. The fear of the LORD is the key to a healthy life of love, devotion, and service to Abba which will not be shaken.

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