Rodeo Crowd or Bernie Supporters?

IMG_9061 Last night some friends and I went downtown Cedar Rapids to pass out gospel tracts. We thought we would be giving them to people that were going to see a rodeo in the US Cellular Center. Little did we know that Bernie Sanders was also speaking downtown. We were thrilled to see hundreds of Bernie supporters walking down the sidewalk…now we had more people to give tracts to! They eagerly took the gospel IQ quizzes we were passing out. I think they may have thought we were part of their campaign. :)

IMG_9057 Shelby and Luke also did a great job sharing the gospel with some people protesting the rodeo. They seemed to think they were good enough to get to Heaven on their own. Yet, if this could be so, why did Jesus need to die? His death on the cross was unnecessary if we could get to Heaven by our good lives. Galatians 2:21 says “if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” I hope they remember this point.

IMG_9065 My friends and I look back over the evening with gratefulness to God for how he arranged the circumstances, provided swarms of unexpected people, good weather, and good conversations. Praise the Lord.

Haley Experiences Iowa Cold

We are so grateful to Haley for the countless ways she has been a support and blessing to the Bright Lights ministry for the past 7 years.

IMG_9025 She normally volunteers from her home in Texas (For example, one of her recent projects was the Simplified Bright Lights Songbook), but we were delighted that she was able to spend about 10 days with us in Iowa at the beginning of January.

IMG_9021 The only problem was that it was a little colder here than she expected. I’m not sure she ever acclimated. :(

Here were her remarks after we went sledding in 3 degree F weather. (Her idea, by the way. :) )

We love you, Haley. Thank you for everything! (And sorry you missed our weather here yesterday, it was -9.)

Mom’s Accident on the Ice

“Mom just called,” Dad said in a worried voice, two days ago. “She fell on the ice in the back yard, and she can’t get up. She doesn’t sound good.”
We jumped in the van and raced home from our office.
I began imagining the worst case scenarios. What if she hit her head on the ledges of the stone steps?
Thankfully, Mom’s injury wasn’t a head injury, but a foot injury. It turned out to be only a sprained or broken ankle and mildly hurt knee. What a relief. It could have been so much worse.

IMG_9034 Our icy back yard

Here’s what happened: On Monday afternoon, Mom was carrying paint supplies through the yard, and she chose to walk through the snow instead of taking the stone path because usually the path is icy and the snow gives better traction. Usually. But not Monday! The snow was basically pure, hard ice. Mom found herself snowboarding down the hill–except without the board…and with her hands filled with paint supplies. The bushes at the bottom stopped her, and she hurt her foot on some bricks.

We’re praising God things didn’t turn out worse.

It’s been a nice change of pace for me to work from home and take care of her the past few days. The first day she didn’t have crutches, but I finally found a way to transport her to different rooms: my harp cart! Mom and I were both excited about how well it worked.

Her foot is still blue and swollen and we are still not sure if it is broken or sprained. She has a high pain tolerance and doesn’t complain much. We are grateful for God’s protection.

Today my dad called a good friend of ours, Dr. Bill Roberts, who is an orthopedic surgeon. He gave my dad some helpful medical advice, and then some spiritual advice. He said, “Here’s my prescription for Rebekah. It comes from Psalm 23. ‘He makes me to lie down in green pastures.'” Dr. Roberts explained that sometimes God MAKES us lie down, and when He makes you lie down—it’s green pastures. He reminded my dad that God is giving my mom a time of rest in His green pastures, so she should take advantage of it and enjoy this time of rest with the Lord.

Secondly, he mentioned that when Jesus was on the cross, He didn’t focus on the pain. Rather, He was concerned about others: The “daughters of Jerusalem” who followed Him weeping on the way to the cross, His mother, the soldiers crucifying Him, the people watching Him, the thief next to him… So when we experience pain, it is a reminder to follow His example and focus on others, praying for them.

Of course, my mom considers her foot injury to be minor compared to the pain so many others experience.

This phone conversation was a special encouragement to both of my parents. My dad mentioned how the fellowship we have among each other as Christians is such a blessing and so strengthening and encouraging in time of need.

Announcing: Midwest 26 Below Retreat

MW 26 below flyer

I have high expectations for how the Lord will work at this youth retreat coming to Iowa next month! This retreat has been running on the East Coast for almost two decades, and last year I had the joy of being a part of it. (I blogged about it here.) I was so excited to hear that the first “26 Below” was being held in the Midwest.

I would highly recommend that you look into coming if you are below 26 years of age. (And if you are a few years older, you’re still welcome.)

It will be held at Hidden Acres in Dayton Iowa (an hour north of Des Moines). See more details here. If you live in the Cedar Rapids area and would like to ride with us, we’ll probably be bringing a van or two.

The speaker will be Nate Bramsen, missionary to Niger. See him sharing some thoughts after persecution hit his village in Niger last year:

Sixty Years Ago Today!

What a significant event happened sixty years ago today! After we watched this video, my grandpa began sharing stories about Jim Elliot. He and Jim led a youth group together at Lombard Gospel Chapel, and Jim was in my grandparents’ wedding. I have appreciated hearing stories from them, both serious and funny, about how Jim was the “real deal” – with a huge heart for God and people…even walking in between stopped cars at traffic lights to pass out gospel tracts :)

Young People Entering 2016 On Their Knees

IMG_8977 Over the turn of the New Year, I was blessed to be surrounded by about 70+ youth, praying in a hotel hallway, asking God to bless missions around the world in 2016. We split into several groups and divided the world into sections so we could “cover it all.” I think many would report that an hour was only long enough to “get started” … but at least it was a start!

Why pray together with our brothers and sisters in Christ?

– It’s the pattern modeled for us by the apostles / early church
– We get to know each other’s hearts
– We grow in love for each other as we “wrestle together” asking the Lord to work
– We’re strengthened by each other’s faith
– We learn from each other
– We are reminded of more things to pray for than we’d think of on our own

The reason we were in a hotel was because we were all attending a conference together called the “Believers Bible Conference.” There were about 500 in attendance. About a third of those in attendance were young adults.

12473519_10205804223039896_6316214577901123399_o_1 Nate Bramsen and Brady Collier led sessions with the young people at 9pm after the normal conference sessions were over. These times were fantastic.

IMG_8969 I snapped this picture during the Q and A time the final evening. Questions answered were mostly on courtship/dating, pornography, evangelism, and decision-making. Nate and Brady both have a way of powerfully articulating what it means to be a sold-out follower of Jesus… not asking “where is the line?” or “is this okay?” but rather running as far from “the line of sin” as possible, for the glory of God. Victory is found when we daily experience the “explosive power of a new affection” which transforms every area of our lives.

IMG_8927 If you look closely, you can see that little clay oil lamps are now part of my “Will Our Generation Speak?” table display. I was blessed as I explained to people over and over a few analogies between us and oil lamps. The lamps are a continual reminder that if we want to burn brightly, we need to make our relationship with Christ first priority–going to Him daily to be refueled. :)

IMG_8987 Heidi and Haley rode with Sarah and me to and from the conference. Our fellowship in the car was enriching and basically non-stop. :) Thank you, Haley and Heidi, for your vibrant walk with the Lord and the refreshment you are to us!

Surprise Christmas Gifts

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Our good friend Arturo came over for Christmas breakfast and brought us all a gift. Can you guess what it is? Now I own my first Hawkeye item. :)

“So do you love the Hawkeyes, Arturo?” someone asked him.
“I love JESUS,” Arturo exclaimed.

No question there, Jesus is basically all Arturo talks about.

“Jesus loves us. Soooo much, too much,” he said, with a glow on his face.
Anyone who knows Arturo knows you only have to talk to him for about five minutes and he’s quoted you about five Scripture passages. Hard to believe he’s memorized so much Scripture since Jesus radically transformed his life five years ago. It is no stretch to say he is an example to all of us!

Instant Family :)

IMG_8580 You know how you can meet someone and bond so quickly you feel like you’ve known them forever? That’s sort of how it was when Anderson, Josue, and Keren visited us over their Thanksgiving break. (They’re students at Rio Grande Bible Institute, a Spanish speaking college in Texas, and a mutual friend arranged for them to come help with Spanish ministry in Cedar Rapids for a few days…sort of a “practicum” with our church.) It didn’t matter that they were still learning English, we were instant “family,” and we appreciated their fellowship and passion for Christ so much.

IMG_8520 The first thing they did while with us was help with the annual Thanksgiving Event that our church hosts. We do this every year, partly as an outreach to extended family and international students. It’s always a great time.

After dinner we had a time of sharing and our Hispanic friends shared Christ boldly from the heart. I believe it left a real impression on everyone.

IMG_8554 Good talks also developed with the international students at their table …

IMG_8579 So much so, we arranged to meet at a coffee shop in Iowa City to continue the conversation.

IMG_9100 Josue (from Argentina) told us that one of his dreams was to build a snow man. He wanted to know if he could go outside and make one. Of course we said “sure!”. I thought he might make a 1-foot snowman on the back deck of our office (because we didn’t really have that much snow), but he got some help and the snow man ended up being huge!

IMG_8568 In fact, it started drawing observers over to chat, and we ended up sharing with two people about the Lord — all because of the snow man. (New evangelism strategy: build a big snow man and see how many neighbors come over to start chatting with you. :) )

IMG_9198 Keren got together with a Hispanic mother at our church that really needed some encouragement. At the same time, the guys met up with some of the Hispanic guys from our church, and one boy trusted Christ for salvation! There was much excitement.

IMG_8585 After 3 great days of ministry, discipleship, fellowship, street-witnessing, coffee shop discussion, and snowman witnessing, our three Hispanic friends shared with the rest of our church of what God had done. What a joyful time that evening was as we rejoiced together.

IMG_8589 As we drove to the place we’d have to part, we shared some verses from the Word on “thankfulness.” Though it had only been 3 days, it felt like 3 months. We had bonded so quickly as we did ministry together. That’s what I love about brothers and sisters in Christ. And, the fact that goodbye is never really goodbye. :)

Will Our Generation Speak: Study Guide/Handbook Available

IMG_8595 Today a semi-truck delivered 139 boxes of “Will Our Generation Speak? Study Guide and Handbook for Witnessing.”

This project has been in the words for a while, and I praise the Lord for His faithfulness from beginning to end.

We did a small “quick print” this past summer, but now we finally have the full quantity finished available for order.

IMG_8606 Stephen and Grandpa, stacking the boxes in our little “warehouse” (the basement of our office).

IMG_8616Although we are calling it a “study guide” it is more comprehensive than a typical “study guide” – it is actually a study of its own that corresponds with the chapters of Will Our Generation Speak?. For more info, see explanation on our online store here.

Colossians Weekend

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Last weekend we hosted a girls’ “Colossians retreat” and were SO BLESSED by soaking in that book together and hearing each others’ insights! I was amazed by how much I began seeing in the book that I had never seen before: themes running through, the flow of argument presented through the entire letter, the core message of it that kept arising in different ways, etc.

If you want to do a weekend like this with your friends, I highly recommend it! Just put it on the calendar, and you’ll be pushed to dive into God’s Word!

Here are a few tips:

• It’s vitally important to study the book individually in advance. Read through the book several times, outline it, circle theme words, and write out questions you have.
• PRAY for the Lord to open your eyes.
• Keep the weekend simple so you can spend basically all your “preparation time” studying Scripture. We had friends sign up to bring a dish to share for some meals, and then did Chick-fil-a for one meal.
• Divide the book up in advance so that you have different girls lead the discussion for different sections. For example, here was our schedule:

Friday Evening:
Colossians 1:1-8 Sarah
Colossians 1:9-20 Shelby
Colossians 1:21-29 Anila

Saturday Morning /Afternoon:
Colossians 2:1-12 Abby
Colossians 2:13-23 Grace
Colossians 3:1-11 Jolynn

Afternoon Break (We took a walk, went shopping, and had dinner at Chick-fil-a. Last time we did an event like this, our 1 Peter Retreat, we went ice skating.)

Saturday Evening:
Colossians 3:12-25 Sarah
Colossians 4: Nickie

IMG_8471 Dinner at Chick-fil-a

Since we had been studying Colossians on our own before hand and CAME with questions and insights, discussion on Colossians came quite easily, haha. :)

I think most of us are familiar with the pressure of preparing for deadlines. Whether it’s a test, an event, or buying Christmas gifts, as that deadline gets closer you make it a priority to finish preparing. The great thing about planning a “Bible study weekend” is that the way to prepare is merely to spend time in Scripture! How refreshing. :)