Saturday, March 31, 2012

War of the worlds

If I mention the country Serbia, what picture comes to mind? What do you know or remember about Serbia? To be honest with you, I do not know much about this country that used to be Yugoslavia and was torn apart by a bloody civil war. Yet, it is right there, in the middle of Europe.

Although news media may have painted a negative picture of Serbia, we are not afraid to stand up for them and we have started a project with our organisation Traveling Light, because time moves on and we must look ahead. A new generation is being raised up, a generation that wants a positive future and is desperate for God. Yes, new believers are added to the number of Christians every day. Sometimes they come to Jesus from a life of drugs and alcohol abuse. That is why 12 years ago Sasa and Svetlana Ivanovic started a rehabilitation home for people with life controlling habits, all under the flag of Teen Challenge in Southern California, where we were members of the Advisory Board in Ventura. This is so much more than getting people off of drugs, it is basically a discipleship program that forever changes men and women once they have an encounter with the living God.

Up till now most of their support came from faithful supporters in the USA, but we believe there is a shift taking place. It is time for Europe to step up and take responsibility for their own projects and initiatives. We, as Traveling Light, are taking humble steps by planting seeds of hope in as many countries as we can. We are in URGENT need of help for Serbia, please check our weblog! We believe a person, a family, a street, a town, a country... yes, all nations will be changed by the love of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Kindness

It doesn't matter how many times we read the words and lessons of Jesus, we can always learn something new.  This week I stumbled upon a comment from the Master that made me go... ouch! Is this really in the Bible?

I was reading through Luke chapter 6, a chapter full of wise and practical life lessons for Believers. Verse 35 says, But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High... There is enough meat in these words alone to do a blog series of 10 weeks! But this time, my eyes were drawn to the concluding words Jesus gave, words I haven't heard too many sermons on, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.


He (God) is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Is this the picture we have of God? Is this the picture people see when they see us? Often we have this image of a God who is cruel to the wicked and maybe even punishes Believers who have done wicked things. But Jesus, who knows the Father best, tells us something else. God is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. What a lesson to learn! Are we kind to the ungrateful and wicked?

God = love and 1 Corinthians 13:4 says that love is kind. It is Gods nature to be kind. What about us? The Bible teaches that kindness benefits people. Proverbs 11:17 says it simply like this, A kind man benefits himself, but a cruel man brings trouble on himself. I don't think we would call ourselves cruel, but the question today is: are we kind? Not necessarily to our kind of people, but to the ungrateful and wicked.

Kindness is fruit (Galatians 5:22) that the Holy Spirit wants to produce in our lives, so that we will become more and more like Him. How can we grow in this area? By being kind to the ungrateful and wicked people that cross our path every day! That is a challenge we must take up if we truly want to be called sons and daughters of God.

I am the Lord, who exercises kindness... [Jeremiah 9:24]

Friday, March 23, 2012

All you need...

Which mountain needs to be removed today?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Jewish king

Last week Europe woke up from her winter slumber after the shooting at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France, where four people were killed (three of them children). The discussion about anti-Semitism once again heating up.

I am sure everyone will have an opinion, I am sure everyone will know what must happen with the person who did this. It is, after all, so easy to point a finger at such a horrible crime. But I ask myself: how many Christians are out there who do not have a love for the Jewish people and Israel? How many Christians are out there who do not stand behind the Jewish people and Israel? How many churches still exist that never even mention the Jewish people and Israel? How is it possible not to have an outspoken love for the Jewish people when the King of the Jews has made His home in your own heart?

Meanwhile Yeshua stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" "Yes, it is as you say," Yeshua replied.
(Matthew 27:11)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What now is love?

Painting by Wendela Verstoep: Prophetic Heart
Recently I was reading something in Ademruimte, the new book by friend and christian psychologist Matthijs Goedegebuure. Just a few random sentences that made me think, I like to share 'm here...

"When something dramatic, something with great impact, happens in our life, we all have a first automatic response. A habit, a way of reacting.  I have asked myself today: 'What is my first automatic reaction? What is my first action? Or, what is my first thought?'

My first thought often is: 'What is the best thing to do now?', 'What is honest?' or 'What is wise?' I have a tendency to immediately search for the best solution. But the more I advance in life and years, the more I  discover that not the best solution, but love is the most important thing. I hope to reach a point in life where my first reaction will be: 'what now is love?'

Love for God and people sometimes takes me on a different route than my so called wisdom or my idea of what the best solution should be. Love is not always logical and sometimes not even fair. Love enables me to even accept stupidity or dishonesty. Love is the greatest force in life."

But the greatest of these is love
1 Corinthians 13:13

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Kind words 4 fellow bloggers


Have you told someone today how much you enjoy their blog?

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Sowing generously

It seems most of the news we hear today is money-related. Newspapers, magazines, television and radio are all broadcasting messages about the economic recession, the struggling real estate market, investments gone sour and stocks going down.

The Bible talks about money quite frequently as well; there is nothing new under the sun. The words being used may have changed, but the spiritual principles are still the same. The Bible doesn't talk so much in terms of spending and earning, but in terms of sowing and reaping. The apostle Paul wrote about it in his second letter to the Corinthians. I like to highlight a nugget from his writing on this blog: Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously (2 Corinthians 9:6).

What an awesome and simple principle for a worry-free life! Within the context Paul is speaking about money, but this principle can be applied to all facets of life. If we never give other people a smile, it is very unlikely that others will give a smile to us. If we are always critical, others will be critical towards us. The principle that Paul is teaching here is based on the words of Jesus: For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Luke 6:38b). That goes for the way we love, judge, forgive, and share.

Paul writes 'remember this' as if wanting to say 'Make sure you realize what you're doing'. Surely, God promises in his Word to take care of his children, and He will. That is a promise, a truth that will never change. There are, however, some basic and simple principles that we should learn and practice while growing into spiritual maturity. Let's say you always faithfully give an offering in church, but it is no bigger than the amount you spend on a magazine and a coffee at Starbucks. Then, the measure you use for God is the same as the measure you use for your own leisure... Maybe I am taking that a bit far, but I am trying to give an example. Let me re-phrase: we should begin to sow according to the harvest we are expecting. If we need tender loving care, we must give tender loving care. If we need a hug, we must give a hug. If we need finances, we must give finances... and remember: if we sow sparingly, we will reap sparingly.

Sowing sparingly (sparing, thrifty, economical, with frugality, moderation, scantiness, reserve, forbearance, sparsely) will NOT produce an abundant harvest. These are not my words, but the Bible says it. Although it is not an easy lesson to learn, it is one that will generate a breakthrough in our lives once we understand the principle behind it. When we start to give joyfully, freely and abundantly we will see that God will throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it (Malachi 3:10). That is a biblical principle that will not be effected by the world's economy. Never! The Bible calls for good stewardship and is against waste (Jesus even ordered for the crumbs to be picked up after the supernatural feeding of the thousands), but the Bible does not call for thriftiness when it comes to giving!

Is there an area where you need to change the way you sow your seeds?

Lesson from king David:
No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing (2 Samuel 24:24)

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Interview with Karen Lange

A while back I asked fellow blogger and writer Karen Lange whether I could interview her for my blog. I am thrilled she said yes, and that she decided to share part of her (writing)journey with us. Karen is is an excellent writer and faithful blogger. Her blog WRITE NOW is a great resource for book reviews, meditations, writing tips and random thoughts on life. Here we go.

Please introduce yourself…anything special we need to know about Karen Lange? 
I am a follower of Christ, wife, and mother. My husband and I are blessed with two sons, a daughter, a daughter in law, and a very cute 4-year-old grandson. My current projects include a collaborative work on a novel and maintaining my blog. I also freelance, teach online writing classes, and act as bookkeeper for my husband’s carpentry business. 

How and when did your start your blog? 
When I started blogging in March of 2009, I didn’t have a clue about what it involved. I did a bit of online research and decided to use Blogger. It was pretty much trial and error, and I learned as I went. Shortly after I started blogging, I connected with Susan J. Reinhardt, and she offered tips and encouragement. I think of her as my blogging mentor. 

What is your drive behind blogging? What do you hope to accomplish? 
I love the blogging community! I have met great people from all walks of life - writers, artists, book lovers, and everything in between. The support from other bloggers is nothing short of amazing. The experience has provided benefits beyond what I expected; it’s been a huge blessing. 
My original goal was to build blogging experience so I could add it to my resume. I decided to offer info and encouragement to new writers. When I started writing in earnest some years ago, MaryAnn Diorio, a sweet writer friend, offered her wisdom and encouragement. She is a great mentor and blessing, and I wanted to follow her example and be an encouragement to writers. Not that I felt that I’d arrived, mind you. I just wanted to cheer others on in their journey as MaryAnn has so kindly for me. 
Current goals also include offering writing tips, information, interviews, and book reviews. One of my favorite things to do is to generate conversations between my followers. I love it when they comment and share their insight. Blogging has taught me a lot, and I’ve built some great relationships too. 

You are a writing instructor at the Coffeehouse for Writers. Can you tell us a bit more about that? 
The Coffeehouse for Writers is a site where writers will find resources, forums, and online classes that help improve their craft. I teach Basic Boot Camp for Writers, which is a four-week refresher class that reviews writing fundamentals like active/passive voice, homophones, subject/verb agreement, and a whole lot more. We discuss ways to keep our writing fresh and on track, and stretch our writing muscles through fun and interesting prompts and assignments. I designed the course to be user friendly with the busy adult lifestyle in mind. Students can interact with each other on a private forum and they receive feedback on every assignment from me. The Coffeehouse website offers all the details, Coffeehouse for Writers.com

Your current work in progress is an historical novel. Anything new you’d like to share? 
Susan J. Reinhardt and I are making progress, but still have a long way to go. It is set in the American Colonial period, and we are adding twists and turns to the plot as we speak. 

How does your faith in God help you in your writing journey? 
When I get discouraged, I remind myself of my bottom line, that I feel God has called me to write. I trust Him to direct my steps, and open and close doors in His perfect timing. I am very thankful that He has brought me this far, and continues to lead me each day. 

Top three writing struggles: 
1 – Procrastination – At times, I am adept at doing everything but working on a project. From laundry to phone calls, bookkeeping to checking email, you name it; I can use it to procrastinate. 
2 – Discouragement – I battle this particularly when I have other, outside issues going on in my life. For example, when my Mom and sister passed away in 2010, just eight months apart, I struggled to regain my balance and stay upbeat and focused on writing. God is faithful, though, and continues to see me through. I’m learning a lot of good lessons all the time. I confess to be a work in progress in Him. 
3 – Frustration – I work at home, and some days interruptions are the norm. I am not always great at going with the flow. (Although if my husband comes home and suggests that we go out for dinner, I am totally willing to be flexible.) 

Top three writing goals for 2012: 
1 – Make good progress on the collaborative book project. 
2 - Break into more freelance work. 
3 – Convert a booklet (that I wrote for homeschool parents) into an ebook. 

Do you have any authors or specific books that have been an inspiration to you? 
There are so many great writers out there! I particularly enjoy James Scott Bell. He not only writes Christian fiction, but also pens books on the craft, such as The Art of War for Writers and Plot and Structure. I study his fiction for pointers on how to write it well. I also glean nuggets of wisdom from his nonfiction books. He’s an excellent writer; I appreciate and respect his insight. I’d love to attend one of his conference workshops someday. 
The Elements of Style by Strunk and White is my favorite must-have resource. This small book is a treasure; it has answered many of my writing questions. Another inspiring one - I picked up a copy of Bruce Ross-Larson’s Edit Yourself a few years ago on a bookstore sale rack. Now that was a find! It has all kinds of helpful goodies within the pages, including an explanation that helped me better understand the difference between active and passive voice. 
Writers such as Liz Curtis Higgs, Cathy Gohlke, and Jody Hedlund inspire me in the fiction department. These talented women have a gift for putting words together, and when I grow up, I’d like to be able to write just like them!

Any words of encouragement to us bloggers? 
If you feel called to write, then keep writing! Explore different methods and genres, play with words, take a class, and read other blogs. Delve into the blogging community – there are wonderful friends and resources within. Don’t be afraid of having your writing rejected. It’s part of the process, and though it stings, if we press on, it helps take us where we are meant to go. Don’t be shy about joining a writer’s group, online or locally. Feedback and info from others is usually a good thing. Keep learning, always. 

Thanks so much for inviting me to visit, Marja! Your blog is a blessing, as are you. I am so thankful that we met through blogging. 

Bio - Karen Lange is a writer, blogger, and online writing instructor at the Coffeehouse for Writers. Her work has appeared in print and online in business, parenting, educational, and writing publications. Visit her blog at karenelange.blogspot.com or contact her at karenelange@gmail.com.

Thanks Karen, for taking the time to share your knowledge and writing experiences with us. You are a treasure in blogging land!