Story Time- I Always Use Popcorn Setting on Microwaves

Sunday afternoons I am part of a Life Group at church. We meet for bible study, prayer, and fellowship. One Sunday afternoon my friend Tim was talking about cooking in a microwave. I shared my profound cooking wisdom with him. I told him, “Just press popcorn. That’s what I do for everything in the microwave.”

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My friends in my Life Group burst out laughing. They didn’t see the wisdom in my cooking advice. 🙂

It seems funny that I can speak three languages, I can meet people from diverse cultures, learn about them, and form friendships with them. I can write drama scripts, act, and direct. But there are things in life that seem to elude me.

When I step into a kitchen, it is foreign to me. Recipe is not one of the languages I know. Strange things happen when I am in a kitchen.

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So I have found the best thing to do is to keep it simple. That is why I use the popcorn setting for everything I cook in the microwave. It is simple and if the food isn’t done yet, I just push popcorn again.

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We all have our different gifts, talents, and abilities. Jesus gives everyone who comes to faith in him spiritual gifts to serve others. He has given me an ability to teach and share his love with people from diverse cultures. He has given wonderful gifts to all of his children. Those gifts are not for us to selfishly enjoy for ourselves. They are given to us to bless others.

I think perhaps I will not try to share food I cook with anyone, That is my gift to others.

But there is the popcorn setting 🙂

Thank you for reading. God bless.

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30 Years Later-Would I Do It Again?

Thirty years ago on a Saturday in July, I went to an outdoor Christian Music Festival. I had begun to come back to Jesus and my Christian faith. In my spirit I felt Jesus calling me to go to the music festival. I went and during the afternoon as one group performed, I felt the presence of Jesus so strongly.

The next morning I drove out to a lake in my city before going to church. As I sat in my car, I listened to a song repeatedly while reading from John. The song was Lord of All by First Call.

It was that day in prayer that I rededicated my life to Jesus and told him wherever he wanted me to go and whatever he wanted me to do, I would go and do.

At the time I had no idea that Jesus would lead me to work with refugees and immigrants I also did not know that I would experience going through the valley of being sick and almost dying only five years later. Following Jesus has been the greatest adventure I could have dreamed of. He has led me to go on eleven ministry trips to four different countries and blessed me with visiting six others as a result of those trips.

Honestly, if I had been shown all of the valleys I would experience over the past thirty years, I am not sure if I would have prayed the wherever you want me to go and whatever you want me to do part of my prayer. However, all of the valleys, ups and downs, twists and turns my life has been through led me to the wonderful ministry he has given me of showing his love to refugees and immigrants.

It brings to mind the scene from Chronicles of Narnia when Susan asks Mr. Beaver if Aslan the Lion is safe:

“Safe? Who said anything about safe, Of course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He is the King I tell you.”

Jesus isn’t safe in the sense of leaving us in our old ways. He loves us the way we are but loves us too much to leave us the way he found us. He works in our lives to bring about changes. But he’s good. He is the King.

Now that I am thirty years looking back would I do it again? Yes,

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

This is Lord of All by First Call:

July Is Here/Makes Me Wonder What Will Happen

July is here. Here is my city, state, country, July means the 4th of July or Independence Day for the USA. It can be a fun holiday filled with barbecues, picnics, fireworks, and friends. For those outside the USA, July can mean summer is here except of course my friends in the Southern Hemisphere. 🙂

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For me though, July always makes me wonder what will happen. Major things have happened in my life in July. Some examples:

1- July 1989 I rededicated my life to Jesus.

2- July 1991 I left my career at the time to go study for ministry.

3- July 1995 I was finally diagnosed with hypothyroid ending a two year health crisis.

4- July 2001 I began teaching English Second Language for the college where I teach.

5- July 2007 the Lord showed me he wanted me to be a home missionary reaching out to refugees and immigrants and not move to another country.

6- July 2010 the Lord had me start to study Spanish.

7- July 2017 I was diagnosed with Celiacs Disease.

8- July 2018 I started treatment for depression.anxiety.

There have been other life developments in July, but I didn’t want to overdo it. 🙂

So when July comes, I tend to wonder what it will be this year. I don’t why the Lord does big things in my life in July. It has been an adventure.

Is there a month in your life that seems to be a time the Lord works?

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

10 Different Homes in 10 Different Cities?

No, I am not wealthy and do not own 10 different homes in 10 different cities, I wish 🙂 But then where to have them? I love so many places I have visited and so many cultures I have interacted with. But this is not about where to have homes. It is about a comment someone made to me, an observation shared with me.

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Many years ago a chaplain at a treatment center told me, “Matt you are the kind of person who could have ten different homes in ten different cities and you would thrive not just be okay.” When he said that to me, I had the blank look of ‘I don’t get it’ on my face because at the time I was numb to life and only knew I was confused, but that comment from him stuck in my head.

Fast forward to now and I understand what he was getting at. God wires each of us uniquely for what he is calling us to do. Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are his craftsmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works….” It seems from birth, relating with diverse people has been an interest of mine.  People different from me have always been a fascination of learning for me. When the chaplain observed me at that treatment center, he observed me interacting with the various groups and being at ease with them all.

That has benefited me in my ministry and work with other cultures. My home city of Lincoln is now VERY diverse. Our public school system has children from over 100 different languages. A big reason for that is refugee resettlement. Lincoln is a designated refugee resettlement city. We also have international students and immigrants. Yes Lincoln, the city in the middle of nowhere, is very diverse. On any given day, I might interact with several different cultures.

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from my birthday 10 years ago with friends from Belgium, Brazil, Congo, Germany, India, Japan, South Korea, Ukraine, and Vietnam

For example, one Friday, I taught my morning class for moms from Mexico, Guatemala, Burma, Iraq, and Syria. Then I went to have coffee with friends from South Korea. Then I had a ministry appointment with someone from Vietnam. In the evening I had dinner with friends from Brazil.

That is how God wired me. Each of us is given talents and abilities and is wired differently to express God’s love. For me when I reach out to refugees, I feel what Mother Teresa said about working with the poor when she said in them she sees the face of Jesus in distressing disguise. I feel a connection to what Jesus said when he said, For God so loved the world….”

So I guess what I am getting at is that for those of us who call ourselves Christian, let’s try to remember that we have been given abilities from God to reach out and show his love to those around us. God is the craftsman and we are his craftsmanship. God has gifted us to feel at home in what he has called us to do.

How has God gifted you?

Fell Asleep and Missed the Opportunity

It is a bit humorous for me to remember it. It was late August of 1991 and late in the afternoon that day. I had spent the night before driving from Lincoln to Minneapolis a 430 mile drive . It was also the night before registration day at school. Early in the morning, I went to register for my classes and buy my textbooks for the semester. Other students invited me to a Minnesota Twins versus Seattle Mariner baseball game. I had never been to a professional baseball game before, so I jumped on the chance and went with them.

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To say I was tired is an understatement. I was exhausted. I had driven six hours the night before and had little sleep. Registration was crazy and hectic. There was no online back registration back then. But it was my first ever professional baseball game, so it didn’t matter whether I was a Twins fan or not. It was just exciting for me to be there.

We sat in the hard plastic shell seats which were about as comfortable as sitting in a classroom chair all day. Even though I drank a large coke for the caffeine to stay awake, I fell asleep in the hard plastic chair about halfway through the game partly because it was a scoreless boring game up to that point and mostly because I was EXHAUSTED.

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Suddenly the crowd broke out in a roaring cheer so loud that it woke me up. Kirby Puckett had just hit the game winning home run to break the 0 to 0 tie at the end of the game to give Minnesota the win. I missed it. I missed the only score of the game and the game winning score no less because I had fallen asleep.

The disciples, Jesus’s closest followers, fell asleep shortly after Jesus asked them to watch and pray while he prayed the night he was arrested.

Sadly sometimes I have fallen asleep while praying.

I don’t want to miss opportunities to share the love of Jesus because I am not awake spiritually. My time in this life is growing shorter by the day. We only have a certain allotted number of days in this life.

I love the bible verse Galatians 6:10:

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

My desire is to show the love of Jesus through my actions and to take each opportunity God gives me. I don’t want to ‘fall asleep’ spiritually. What may seem small to us, can seem HUGE to others. I don’t want to miss an opportunity to show the love of Jesus. There is so much suffering in this world and so many people who are searching for someone to show them they care.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Doctor- ‘You are now a healthy man’ Reaction-‘What Do I Do Now?”

It was in April 1996 that I heard these words from my doctor, “Matt, you are now a healthy man. It’s a miracle you didn’t die.”

So the natural first reaction is:

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Jump for Joy, right?

Well I did celebrate at first. Who wouldn’t after going through what I went through from 1993 to that day in April 1996. The tests, the doctors appointments, the symptoms, the complete changing of my life would all be behind me.

But then another thought hit me, “Oh No!!!! What do I do now?”

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I had a similar reaction to the character Stella Abbott had in the new show Life Sentence. She had cancer for eight years and then she found out she was cured after getting married thinking it would only be for six months or so until she died. She had the “Oh No!!! Now what do I do” reaction.

I didn’t have cancer. It was autoimmune issue number 2 for me. First it was asthma. The second? Nothing serious unless it is not diagnosed until it is too late (in my case it almost was) my thyroid stopped working. By the time they found it, I was about to go into heart, liver, and kidney failure. I had lost memory. I had left the school where I was studying for the ministry in April 1994. When I came back to my home city, I thought it was to die because of the decline I was experiencing. I was working part-time delivering pizza just to scratch out almost survival living. I had left everything behind and then came those words, “Matt you are now a healthy man.”

An illness can be an intrusive interruption of life. When we are sick for a prolonged period of time, no matter what the illness is, and then hear we will be okay, yes there is a relief, but there is also the rebuilding of one’s life to start on. For me it meant transferring to a school in a city one hour away, continuing to work, and trusting God to make sense of it all for me as I started to pick up the pieces with his help.

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I was literally trusting in the truth of what is written in Romans 8:28:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

There were the one hour drives to class, four hours of being in class, and one hour drives back home. There were different tries of new jobs. It was through my first three trips to Romania that God led me to teach ESL, but that is a story for another day.

I thank God for the people he put in my life during that time. One such friend passed away a few years ago and is with the Lord now. Joel and his wife Marlys were a huge blessing. One day my car broke down as I was driving to my class. I called Joel hoping to get a ride back to my city. He came and towed my car back to my city. There were others God put in my life too, but if I list them all the post will be way too long.

Here is the ‘plot twist’ so to speak in the story of my life. I am not happy I went through those years; one year getting sick, two years being sick, one year recovering, two more years to finish my education, but I am grateful for what those years did for me. Going through suffering, the doubt, and regrouping not knowing how it would work out, has given me a lot of empathy for my refugee and immigrant friends God has called me to help. I hope to be as good of a friend to them as Joel and Marlys were to me.

If you are experiencing an “Oh no” moment, hang on because God has a hold of you.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

10 Different Homes in 10 Different Cities?

This is a post I shared when i first returned to blogging last year at this time. I wanted to share it again. 🙂

No, I am not wealthy and do not own 10 different homes in 10 different cities, I wish 🙂 But then where to have them? I love so many places I have visited and so many cultures I have interacted with. But this is not about where to have homes. It is about a comment someone made to me, an observation shared with me.

berchtesgaden-alpine-watzmann-berchtesgaden-national-park-957002.jpeg

Many years ago a chaplain at a treatment center told me, “Matt you are the kind of person who could have ten different homes in ten different cities and you would thrive not just be okay.” When he said that to me, I had the blank look of ‘I don’t get it’ on my face because at the time I was numb to life and only knew I was confused, but that comment from him stuck in my head.

Fast forward to now and I understand what he was getting at. God wires each of us uniquely for what he is calling us to do. Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are his craftsmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works….” It seems from birth, relating with diverse people has been an interest of mine.  People different from me have always been a fascination of learning for me. When the chaplain observed me at that treatment center, he observed me interacting with the various groups and being at ease with them all.

That has benefited me in my ministry and work with other cultures. My home city of Lincoln is now VERY diverse. Our public school system has children from over 100 different languages. A big reason for that is refugee resettlement. Lincoln is a designated refugee resettlement city. We also have international students and immigrants. Yes Lincoln, the city in the middle of nowhere, is very diverse. On any given day, I might interact with several different cultures.

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from my birthday 10 years ago with friends from Belgium, Brazil, Congo, Germany, India, Japan, South Korea, Ukraine, and Vietnam

For example, one Friday last fall, I taught my morning class for moms from Mexico, Guatemala, Burma, Iraq, and Syria. Then I went to have coffee with friends from South Korea. Then I had a ministry appointment with someone from Vietnam. In the evening I had dinner with friends from Brazil.

That is how God wired me. Each of us is given talents and abilities and is wired differently to express God’s love. For me when I reach out to refugees, I feel what Mother Teresa said about working with the poor when she said in them she sees the face of Jesus in distressing disguise. I feel a connection to what Jesus said when he said, For God so loved the world….”

So I guess what I am getting at is that for those of us who call ourselves Christian, let’s try to remember that we have been given abilities from God to reach out and show his love to those around us. God is the craftsman and we are his craftsmanship. God has gifted us to feel at home in what he has called us to do.

How has God gifted you?

Do We Take All of the Times God Says Yes for Granted?

I read a couple of blog posts this week that I enjoyed about answers to prayer, one about an answer of no and one about an answer of wait. For me an answer of no is a temporary disappointment that I get over to move on. Wait is an answer more difficult to deal with because then I wonder when.

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The post about no was by jesskidding of jesskidding17.wordpress.com titled The Season of ‘No’. In the post she discusses how she has to say no to her two year old. It is a humorous intro to God saying no.

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The post about wait was by Becoming His Tapestry at becominghistapestry.com titled Say Something….AnythingPlease. She discusses not giving up on God. It is an excellent post to read.

I enjoyed reading both of the posts. They caused me to think about my responses to God’s answers of no and wait. Then I thought about something else. There are hundreds perhaps thousands of yes answers that I take for granted. I would like to encourage us to think about the every day yeses that we can too easily take for granted.

What got me to thinking about the every day yeses we take for granted was actually jesskidding’s post. When I read it, I thought about all of the yeses she gives her child every day as do all moms such as yes you can have a hug, yes I will tuck you in, yes we can read a book etc. Moms say yes so many times to their children, but kids can tend to focus on being told no.

Then I thought about all of the yeses God says to us at times without us even asking. Yes, I am always with you. Yes, you can be with me forever in heaven because of Jesus. Yes, you can have friends at church. Yes, you can have air to breathe. The yeses are endless when it comes to God, but we focus on the nos and the waits. I think we tend to take all of the wonderful yeses for granted.

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Have you ever wondered how God feels about us taking him for granted? One time Jesus healed 10 people who has leprosy but only one returned after showing himself to the priest for confirmation to thank Jesus. The man was a Samaritan who Jews considered foreigners. Jesus’s response was in Luke 17:

“Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?”Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

A good way to not take the yeses for granted is to take time to thank God and appreciate him. In the morning, I like to start my day listening to worship music and praying. One thing I try to do is thank God for the classes I teach, the opportunities he gives me etc. I think taking time to do so in the mornings has helped me with the depression that accompanies the chronic illnesses I live with.

But there are way too many other things I forget or neglect to thank him for. This blog post of mine is an expression of me feeling convicted that I need to thank God for more of the wonderful ways he cares for me.

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I don’t want to take the every day yeses for granted. God says yes to us every day in numerous ways.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

A Soap Opera Like Story Reveals That God Sees Us

Think soap operas or other TV dramas have bizarre plots? Consider some found in the bible.

Imagine the plight of a woman who is pregnant by her employer having to leave her home out of fear for herself and her unborn child because of being mistreated by her employer’s wife whose idea it was in the first place for her husband to make the woman become pregnant. Sounds like a soap opera or telenovela, but it actually happened and involved people we admire in the bible.

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Abraham and Sarah were not able to have a child and grew tired of waiting for God to fulfill his promise of a son, so Sarah came up with the idea of Abraham sleeping with Sarah’s servant Hagar. Hagar got pregnant, but instead of being grateful, Sarah became jealous and mistreated her. To make matters worse, Abraham consented to letting Sarah treat Hagar however she wished. Really sounds like a soap opera now.

It is recorded in Genesis 16.

Hagar ran away, but God came to her through the Angel of the Lord and promised to greatly increase her descendants. In response, Hagar called God, El Roi– The God who sees. It is the only time in the bible this title is used. It was used in a time of desperation for a pregnant woman. God saw her.

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Yes God said some unflattering things about her soon to be born son such as he would be a wild donkey of a man always fighting, but that is my focus here.

The point of this post is that God sees us. When we are mistreated by others, God sees us. If we struggle with chronic illness, depression, anxiety, family drama, or any difficult circumstance, God see us.

Do you have struggles? God Sees You.

God See Us.  🙂

We are never overlooked, God sees us.

 

 

 

 

Music Mondays- Need You Now by Plumb

“How many times have you heard me cry out
“God please take this”?
How many times have you given me strength to
Just keep breathing?
Oh I need you
God, I need you now.”

I love the lyrics to the chorus for Need You Now by Plumb. Life isn’t always easy and in fact can be a struggle for many reasons. These lyrics describe how I have felt at times looking to God in the midst of a difficult time.

For me the past several years it has been about going to doctors in search of answers and relief. It has also been about seeking to serve Jesus by sharing his love at times wondering how I was going to make it.

Jesus promised something in John 16:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Notice before the promise he makes to us, he says- “In this world you will have trouble.” Coming to faith in Jesus and following him is not a wave of a magic wand and all troubles disappear. We continue to have troubles. The difference is the encouragement and promise Jesus made.

He said to take heart because he has overcome the world. That is the reason we can take heart in any situation-Jesus is greater than any situation.

So when, not if, we have struggles such as illness, financial, family, loss, whatever problem, he is greater than our problem and he has promised to always be with us in Matthew 28:

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

We will have times that we can only cry out to ask God to please take something off our shoulders, but we need to trust him about whether is is best to lift it off our shoulders or to give us the strength to continue with the burden. It is the reality of living for Jesus in this life.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.