Wednesday, April 28, 2010

stepping into comfort....uh-oh

I stepped into my tennies this morning for a run with a friend and thought about how much I love my tennis shoes. They're the most comfortable shoes I've ever had in my life. Before last April, I mostly purchased Payless and Wal-mart shoes, with an occasional purchase of tennies for sports that would reach the $50 mark. Last Spring, when I began to train for a marathon, I was told that shoes make a huge difference, and I was referred to the Runner's Flat for some quality running shoes. At about $100 a pop, I can now never go back. In fact, I put on some old tennies at home the other day to work around our yard, and I couldn't believe the difference. I love, love the comfort of my expensive tennies.

Starbucks coffee. It's some real fine coffee. I'd go broke if I drank it daily, but I sure do like it as an occasional treat. Problem is that it now makes regular coffee somewhat less palatable...

Last week, I had a friend tell me that she was lobbying for me to get my own office at church. I currently share an office with some folks and sit in a cube that has some traffic into our AV/computer equipment room. After she told me that she had sent an email to a few of our staff management, I promptly went to our operations leader and said, "Don't even think about it." The last thing I need is to get more comfortable in an office space. It's SO hard to go in reverse once you experience comfort. Our dishwasher died over a year ago, and it's taken me about a year now to "normalize" washing dishes by hand again. Comfort and convenience have such a way of lulling me away from faith, service, and sacrifice. And the more I gain comfort and convenience, the harder it is to go in reverse and to give them up.

I don't know about you, but God seems to grow me spiritually the most when I am uncomfortable, when I am giving up that which hinders me, and when I willingly enter into the pain and brokenness around me. Certainly, there is blessing and gratitude in comfort and luxuries, but there is danger lurking as well. Anyone else know what I mean?

"When the Lord brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you- a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant- then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery." Deut. 6:10-12

"You lie on beds inlaid with ivory and lounge on your couches. You dine on choice lambs and fattened calves. You strum away on your harps like David and improvise on musical instruments. You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions, but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph." Amos 6:4-6

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

love cedar valley 2010

From free treats and hotdogs to cleaning the vans for Covenant Medical Center to walking dogs at the Humane Society, Saturday was a day in which Cedar Valley churches banded together as one to reach out into our community to share Christ's love in real and practical ways. There were 40 local churches represented to pray, serve, and worship together this day. And God even brought the sunshine out after some early morning thunderstorms. It was a day of abundant blessing for the givers and the receivers and a day in which we could taste and see the goodness and power of God when His Church comes together in unity.

serving the Cedar Valley

Posting some photos from Saturday's Love Cedar Valley. There were 140+ ways reported that people reached out to tangibly share Christ's love with people in our community (and multiple ways that were not ever reported).

Saturday, April 24, 2010

classic Saturday

This week's devotional classic comes from Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855). It is an excerpt from The Prayers of Kierkegaard. I was not very faithful in the Devotional Classics this week, but I still wanted to get a short passage in, and I think this speaks well of what this Love Cedar Valley day was focused on....Loving God, loving others. All because God has loved us first.

"Father in Heaven! You have loved us first, help us never to forget that You are love so that this sure conviction might triumph in our hearts over the seduction of the world, over the inquietude of the soul, over the anxiety for the future, over the fright of the past, over the distress of the moment. But grant also that this conviction might discipline our soul so that our heart might remain faithful and sincere in the love which we bear to all those whom You have commanded us to love as we love ourselves."

what's big in the small

Small acts of kindness can help strangers begin to act like neighbors.

Friday, April 23, 2010

rain or shine

So, I was checking this morning and pulled up the hour by hour for zipcode 50613. It showed rain today every hour, thunder and lightening with the rain through the night, dark clouds through the morning hours tomorrow, and then for 2 hours- noon and 1 p.m., it showed a cloud with sun over it before thunder, lightening, and rain resumed in the pictures and hours beyond that.

Tomorrow's Love Cedar Valley Kindness Explosion into the community is from Noon to 1:30. I don't know how the day will play out, but it was just such a cool visual to see rain, rain, rain....those exact 2 hours of partly sunny...then rain, rain, rain. :) Just a little picture of a God of light and hope.

Romans 15

I've been sitting in Romans 15 as I have been planning and preparing for Love Cedar Valley ( and as I consider Christ's call for His Church to be...

giving ourselves away. (Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. for even Christ did not please himself....vs. 2)

unified. (May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and one mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. vs. 5-6)

humble. (Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. vs. 7)

hope-filled. (May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. vs. 13)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

update from Kristie in Haiti

pic. 1: new home pic. 2: youth group cleaning at the market pic. 3: UCI Board and officials

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Phil. 4:6
Dear friends and family;
Greetings from the Mompremiers and many the Lord of grace be with you. We want to thank you for your prayers and your support.

Housing. Thank you for helping our brothers and sisters from Port that had no place to live. Their houses crumbled in the earthquake and they have been living with people generous enough to open their homes to them. Many times they are sleeping on the ground and don't even have a room to call their own. UCI has been able to help many to rebuild their lives. We have been able to complete 3 entire houses. We hope to build several more. Several teams from the States have come out here to help build the houses. It was a lot of fun to work side-by-side with the masons and family members. We praise the name of Jesus.

NGO: Non-governmental organization status. We are very close to having NGO status in Haiti. We have had the officials come out to our place 2 times to talk to the UCI board, employees, and beneficiaries of UCI. They have recorded all the projects that UCI has done which includes: pastor and leader training, housing, cement floors, agricultural projects, goats, pigs, cows, feeding centers, water irrigation, etc. They went home very enthusiastic about getting the NGO status for UCI. They were very helpful in their ideas of how UCI can further their impact. NGO status will be a tremendous help to UCI. With it, we can get supplies, even vehicles, without having to pay customs.

Youth group. Yesterday, the youth group went to our local market area and cleaned up trash. Not a fun project but very rewarding. When we arrived, there wasn't very many people present. We started out by asking neighbors to let us borrow their brooms. The kids got to work. We had to burn the trash as there was no where else to go with it. After awhile, several people came out of their houses to see what we were doing. Soon, we had doubled our group as people came to help us out. The kids did a good job and felt good about doing it. With the money their earned selling coffee and Haitian candy, we will be going on our 2nd field trip soon. We will be going to the Hinch area to look at Haitian-run projects.

Cement floors. We are continuing with our project to help people not have to sleep in the dirt. We are at 92 floors (last year and this year) and many more to complete.

God bless,
JeanJean, Kristie, Tana and Kerri

Saturday, April 17, 2010

classic Saturday

George A. Buttrick (1892-1980) was born in England, educated at Lancaster Independent College, and then came to the United States where he served as pastor of the Madison Ave. Presbyterian Church in NYC from 1927-1980. His book Prayer is considered on of the most thorough and comprehensive works on prayer ever written. In it he offers some detailed guidance on prayer. Here's a short summary....

"Prayer is friendship with God. Friendship is not formal, but it is not formless; it has its cultivation, its behavior, its obligations, even its disciplines; and the casual mind kills it. So we offer here, as a guide-map not as a chain, a simple regimen of private prayer."

1. Silent self-preparation and an act of faith.

2. Thanksgiving. "We need deliberately to call to mind the joys of our journey. Be specific..if we are "thankful for everything, we may be thankful for nothing." The thanksgiving should also probe to save gratitude from earthliness and circumstance and be rooted in Life beyond life. This prayer should end in glad and solemn resolve: "Lord, seal this gratitude upon my face, my words, my generous concern for my neighbors, my every outward thought and act."

3. Confession. A wise order, as "God has been exceedingly kind, and I have given him selfishness for love." Because of our sin against God, "we have neither inward peace nor inward power until we have offered prayers of penitence. Confession, like thanksgiving, should be specific. Assurance. "The wise prayer of confession always leads to an acceptance of God's pardon. It might be wise to rise from kneeling at this point in the prayer as a token of our acceptance of God's pardon, our sure faith in his absolution, and our new freedom in his grace. That standing erect might also symbolize both our resolve to make wise restoration insofar as we have power to mend our blunders, and our sincere renunciation of our sins. Confession is incomplete without that resolve. Our will, however feeble it may be, must descend squarely on the side of a new life."

4. Intercession. Needed to keep from sinking into selfishness. Private intercession should be specific and pondered. "Genuine love sees faces, not a requires us to bear on our heart the burden of those for whom we pray." Praying for our enemies might be first in order. "Bless ____ whom I foolishly regard as an enemy. Bless ______ whom I have wronged. Keep them in your favor. Banish my bitterness."

5. Petition. "We should fear the encroachment of a selfish mind. Petition is defended against that threat if we first give thanks, confess our sins, and pray for our neighbors....Petition should grow in grace so as to 'covet earnestly the best gifts'; and it should always acknowledge that our sight is dim and that our purposes are mixed in motive. It should always conclude with, 'Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.'"

"The intervals of these four prayers should be filled by meditation. Prayer is listening as well as speaking, receiving as well as asking; and its deepest mood is friendship held in reverence. So the daily prayer should end as it begins- in adoration. The best conclusion is, "In the name of Jesus Christ: Amen." For in the name or nature of Jesus is our best understanding of God, and the best corrective of our blundering prayers. The word "Amen" is not idle: it means 'So let it be.' It is our resolve to live faithfully in the direction of our prayers, and our act of fatih in God's power."

Friday, April 16, 2010

quotes of the day

"The love of neighbor is the only door out of the dungeon of self." - George McDonald

"Make it your life's goal to personally grow closer to Jesus and to touch every single person you can with Christ's love." - Steve Sjogren

"Silence and inaction do nothing to change anyone's negative perceptions of Christianity. The only thing that can change those perceptions is for people to personally experience Christ's love firsthand." -Steve Sjogren

"The way forward for churches that want to redefine their position in the community will be through service and sacrifice." - Reggie McNeal

Thursday, April 15, 2010

laurie in africa

It's 4:08 p.m. in Ethiopia right now. According to Laurie's itinerary, she has painted a mural today at a transitional home and has gone to the Kids Kare orphanage. It is my understanding that this orphanage is where she and Kent's future child will be from. Can you imagine that....meeting and playing with the children and knowing that one of the children will someday be a part of your family back home?

I've been burdened in prayer for Laurie and that group this week. She is in "to the core" kind of environments these fluff to mask the raw reality of injustice and poverty and the insane gap between the two worlds of have's and have not's. Tomorrow, their group goes to the Korah city dump to work with kids. How can city dump and kids even fit into the same sentence?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Haiti update from team

Good Morning Everyone!

We just returned from church, worshiping with our brothers and sisters in Christ. The message today was from Mike Brost, it was from Malachi Chapter 3:6 about giving back to God and his generous blessings to us. JeanJean had everyone welcome us and we each stood up in front of the church and announced our names. Jared and Stacy Nikkel from Pella who recently moved to Pignon are out here at JeanJean and Kristie's house to eat lunch with us today. Since it is Sunday the cooks do not prepare our food so we are having Kraft macaroni and cheese and PB&J sandwiches! Later this afternoon at 2 there is a "come as you are" service in the new worship center at UCI.

Yesterday we continued at our work sites building the two houses. We are divided into two different groups, the first location will house a mother with 13 children that she cares for. Her current house is ready to collapse, she is too scared to sleep inside so she is sleeping outside under banana leaves. The group working on this house is: Natalie, Luke, Pat, Mel, Diane, Michaela, Darrell, Deb, and Aaron. Some of the members of this group had to walk 1/4 mile (up hill and barefoot both ways) with 5 gallon buckets of water. The second team is building a home for a refuge family from Port au Prince, this family is currently sharing a home with a total of 26 people under one roof. The group working at this site is: Sally, Kaylie, Elaine, Mick, Marla, Judy, Craig, Mike, and Dean. We spent most of the morning hauling sand and rock but took time to paint nails, blow bubbles, and spend time with the children.

Yesterday UCI received a wonderful delivery of 930 boxes of "ready to eat" meals. This amounts to almost 11,000 meals! We formed an assembly line handing the boxes from person to person from the truck to the storage room in the worship center. The youth group joined in for a total of nearly 40 people in our line. We will have the opportunity to distribute much of this food to families in need during our stay.

Last night we called in pizza and it was delivered to our table! Just kidding, but we did receive Haitian pizza for dinner last night along with homemade cookies for dessert. It was awesome!

After our wonderful meal we enjoyed a Haitian men's choir, which consisted of 16 men. This choir was formed and has been going for the past 30 years. The other half of the choir was singing at a harvest festival. You can really see their true love for Jesus through out their music. Our team also sang the "Fill it Up" song for them, and they joined in at the end.

Tomorrow we will rise again to the sound of roosters crowing and donkeys "hee hawing" before we head out to our work sites. In the afternoon we will begin one of the three sessions of Vacation Bible School. We are all looking forward to that! Elaine and Mel will be conducting a clinic for people with medical needs. The men have been working really hard on the well system to help regulate the pressure. As of last night it is a success!

We all miss our friends and family back home. Keep our safety and renewed energy in your prayers everyday and we will remember you in ours!

In Christ's love and ours,

Haitian Mission Team

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

it's not about how Ed died....

Great quotes in the Waterloo Courier last night. Ed Thomas, beloved football coach and community leader of Aplington-Parkersburg, was shot and killed last summer by a young man, Mark Becker, who was suffering from a mental illness and instability. The story made national press due to Coach Thomas' character and legacy in the community, and due to the supernatural presence of compassion and forgiveness that lived in both the families and the community. ESPN is airing interviews of the Thomas family tonight at 6 p.m., and an article in last night's paper has Jan Thomas, Ed's widow, quoted saying, "I think he would be very proud of how his boys responded and how the communities responded. And that's what we want. We want unity....we don't want people tearing each other down. It's not about how Ed died. It's about how we are called to live." Powerful, huh?

The reporter from ESPN was quoted saying, "I've never come across a story with as many layers as this one has. It went from sport to humanity in a heartbeat. Compassion and mercy are two words that keep coming back and are most common in mind."

Way to go, Thomas family, for reflecting the mercy and love of Jesus in such evident and powerful ways. As our church leader often says, "the people were amazed and perplexed." I think this story fits that statement.

bridge of hope

After volunteering at Waterloo's House of Hope and coming to know moms and children who had been homeless and who were in great need, I happened upon Bridge of Hope, a national organization that works to mobilize the Church in a community to form mentoring clusters around homeless moms and their children. Because one of the greatest holes in many of these moms' lives is a network of relationships that work for life and growth, a mentoring cluster of Christian women and their families is a tremendous picture of a healing, loving, Christ community offering help and friendship in a very wholistic way.

I was able to share this idea with a friend in Hampton, IA, and then watch how Bridge of Hope became a vision and a reality there this past year. My prayers are that Bridge of Hope North Central Iowa will continue to be led by the Spirit of God as He links people together with people for growth, reconciliation, transformation. You can check out Bridge of Hope National at

Sunday, April 11, 2010

how does your garden grow?

Some of the best conversations about the spiritual life that I have with my daughter, Sara, are in the garden. Today, on a beautiful mid-70's April Sunday, she and I cleaned up a flower bed and pulled weeds. We couldn't believe how many weeds there were already that have sprung up. And how big some of their roots were. And how, even though we pulled bunches of weeds today, there will be that many again in a few weeks. We kept wondering aloud why flowers don't grow with such ease and abundance. No fair!

It was a great opportunity to talk about how weeds spring up in our lives all the time too. And how they don't just permanently disappear, but we constantly have to tend to our souls and uproot the weeds that threaten to take over our lives and keep us from blooming in Christ. There's intentionality and discipline needed to grow a healthy garden and a healthy soul.

laurie in africa

Laurie and group are at Canaan Children's Home in Uganda today and tomorrow. You can learn more about Pastor Isaac and the orphanage at After reading the story under the tab "Children Soldiers", I am speechless and desperate for justice and redemption in our world.

My prayers are with the children and leaders at Canaan Children's Home, with the touring group, and with our friends in Haiti this week.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

classic Saturday

Henri Nouwen is our featured devotional author of the week. He is one of my all-time favorite writers on the spiritual life and has been instrumental in my journey of solitude and silence. Here is an excerpt from Making All Things New:

"The spiritual life is a gift. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit, who lifts us up into the kingdom of God's love. But to say that being lifted up into the kingdom of love is a divine gift does not mean that we wait passively until the gift is offered to us.

Jesus tells us to set our hearts on the kingdom. Setting our hearts on something involves not only serious aspiration but also strong determination. A spiritual life requires human effort. The forces that keep pulling us back into a worry-filled life are far from easy to overcome.

Here we touch the question of discipline in the spiritual life. A spiritual life without discipline is impossible. Discipline is the other side of discipleship. The practice of a spiritual discipline makes us more sensitive to the small, gentle voice of God. is clear that we are usually surrounded by so much outer noise that it is hard to truly hear our God when he is speaking to us...thus our lives have become absurd. In the word absurd we find the Latin word surdus, which means "deaf". A spiritual life requires discipline because we need to learn to listen to God, who constantly speaks but whom we seldom hear.

When, however, we learn to listen, our lives become obedient lives. The word obedient comes from the Latin word audire, which means "listening." A spiritual discipline is necessary in order to move slowly from an absurd to an obedient life.

A spiritual discipline, therefore, is the concentrated effort to create some inner and outer space in our lives, where this obedience can be practiced. Through a spiritual discipline we prevent the world from filling our lives to such an extent that there is no place left to listen. A spiritual discipline sets us free to pray or, to say it better, allows the Spirit of God to pray in us."

everyday's a holiday

A good friend sent me this in an email today. She mentioned the beauty in this and how she is going to keep this on the front burner of her thoughts today.

This little bit was on CNN this morning, in a story about the funerals for the miners who died in the exposion in West Virginia...

"At the funeral for Benny Willingham, the Rev. Gary Pollard said the 61-year-old miner had three loves in life: God, his family and his job. "He loved God so much that every day was a holiday, every meal was a buffet," Pollard said at Mullens Pentecostal Holiness Church in Mullens."

May your love and joy in God make this day a feast of celebration today!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

love's a big deal

In the planning for Love Cedar Valley these days, two Scriptures and two quotes keep running through my mind:

Galatians 5:6 "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love."

Hebrews 10:24 "And let us consider how we might spur one another toward love and good deeds."

"It's not the magnitude of our actions but the amount of love we put into them that matters." -Mother Theresa

"More people are brought into the church by the kindness of real Christian love than by all the theological arguments in the world." - William Barclay

laurie in africa

Laurie Williams should be asleep in Africa right now. Tomorrow she will head to Jinja, where her group will visit a small orphanage with 25 children run by a woman named Alice. The group will then enjoy a boat ride to the source of the Nile, and some from her team will go help Katie Davis set up for the following day's feeding program.

You can check out Katie Davis's blog at This really is one of the most moving blogs I've read.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Haiti prayers

I am filled with anticipation of what God will be up to the upcoming ten days in and through our Haiti/Orchard Hill partnership. Eighteen friends from Orchard left early this morning for Haiti. Pray that God might move in His supernatural power and goodness throughout this trip.

what's up in Manila?

The Cleope's are friends of Orchard Hill Church and have been serving as missionaries in the Philippines for several years now. They'll be relocating back to the States this summer, but in the time between now and then, Lauren Cleope is busy playing soccer.

Lauren, a senior in high school, and her teammates, put on a soccer clinic for children this past weekend in Manila. Soccer skills, snow cones, the Gospel message, and lunch. Looked like a great day and a great way to connect with kids relationally, have fun, and to learn about soccer and Jesus!

Monday, April 5, 2010

visiting orphans

Well, my friend Laurie is off Wednesday morning for her trip to Uganda and Ethiopia to visit orphanges. Laurie and her husband, Kent, are currently in the process of adopting a child from Ethiopia. Meanwhile, in her research, she got connected to a mission organization that takes small groups on a two week trip of visiting orphanages in Uganda and Ethiopia. You can read a little of Laurie's story at her blog

She's left me with a trip itinerary, so I will try to post her daily schedule beginning Friday. I am guessing that God will use this trip as one of those "defining moments" of Laurie's life, and I am praying that her trip will create God ripples into the lives of her family, friends, and church after her return.

that we be one

Tonight we had the final church gathering for Love Cedar Valley which is coming up on April 24. It was so awesome! Forty-two of us gathered. We shared a meal together...lots of good food provided by everyone. Then, we talked some details and talked about how a gesture of kindness is so simple but so profound. To receive an unexpected treat and to be reminded that God loves me is always a wonderful bright spot in my day! That's what we hope for Love Cedar Valley all over our community on April 24. That people would see and feel a little of God's love through the gestures of God's people, and that this simple gesture would have a profound heart impact!

To close our evening together, we took time to pray together, share communion together, and sing together in worship. As we stood in a big circle, I looked around at the beautiful diversity in the room. A great mix of Hispanic, African-American, and Caucasian friends, and even one Indian friend in this big circle. We held hands, we clapped hands, we lifted hands all in praise to Jesus who reconciles us to Himself and to one another. The night closed out with one of our Hispanic friends taking the guitar and singing "Open the Eyes of our Heart" in Spanish. It was tremendously good! If that was a little glimpse at the worship together on April 24, then you all will be in for a beautiful time of coming together in worship as the Body of Christ that day!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

classic Saturday

Today's classic devotion comes from Douglas Steele (1901-1995), a Harvard
philosophy professor, Rhodes scholar, and the author of many devotional books through the years. The following quotes are taken from a book entitled Prayer and Worship (1938), and focus on intercessory prayer.

"There is no greater intimacy with another than that which is built through holding him or her up in prayer."

"It is not a question of changing God's mind or of exercising some magical influence or spell over the life of another. Before we begin to pray, we may know that the love of the One who is actively concerned in awakening each life to its true center is already lapping at the shores of that life. We do not do it at all.

Such prayer is only cooperation with God's active love in besieging the life or new areas of the life of another, or of a situation. If you pray for something other than what is in keeping with that cooperation, you go against the grain, and if you remain in prayer and are sensitive, you will realize this and be drawn to revise it. As in all petitional prayer, the one who really prays must be ready to yield."

Friday, April 2, 2010

2 Corinthians 5:21

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.