Sunday, June 24, 2007

Live Like We Believe

Most Americans over the past few decades (at least middle and upper class citizens for sure) have grown too comfortable with life in general. We hold strong convictions and beliefs; but when it comes right down to it, are these convictions really important to us.

In the days of the pioneers men and women worked hard. They often spent their days working tirelessly on tasks they did not enjoy. The men slaved away to make a home for their family to live in, and then worked and toiled trying to produce food from the sometimes stubborn land. The women spent long hours making clothing, food, and other necessities for their families. Sometimes they had to be extremely creative to provide for the needs of those around them. Why? Why would these people voluntarily subject themselves to rough conditions? Because they believed in something. They had a picture of what their family needed, what would ultimately give them what was best, and they stopped at nothing to reach that goal.

There are stories of people in the Bible like Paul and Abraham who stopped at nothing to serve their Lord. Paul went on many journeys, suffered persecution and imprisonment time and again, why? Because he truly believed in the gospel message. Abraham was willing to take his son Isaac to the alter and sacrifice him as God had asked. Why? Because he believed that God is a God that keeps His word. God had promised that Abraham would have enumerable offspring through Isaac, and He believed what God said.

So often we live like we believe until it gets hard. We talk about the importance of health or losing weight...until we have to put into practice some things that are difficult. We talk about the importance of family and friends, and we mean it...until we have to sacrifice things we don't want to, or we have to put forth more effort than we desired. We tout the significance of investing our money and recognizing that it's God's...until that means we can't have the latest thing. We easily admit the importance of making sacrifices for God...unless that means we actually have to work harder or do something we don't like, or step out of our box to fulfill that calling. We easily talk with other Christians about the importance of living our lives for God first, and we truly believe that...until God's plans don't match with ours, or until He asks us to do something hard, or if He asks us to let go of something we don't want to.

My question is this: Why don't we live like we truly believe? We live in an age of ideals and opinions. Everyone has strong opinions and can talk-it-up like you wouldn't believe, but we fail to step out of our zone of comfort, we fail to ask God to help us to do what is difficult, we fail to trust Him implicitly, and we live like we believe as long as it's easy. I don't want to live like that anymore.

"And [Jesus] was saying to them all, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it...'"
~Luke 9:24-25
What do you believe in?

Confused and Loving the Commission

This sign seems very fitting for my life lately. I'm so lost. I have no idea where God wants me to go or what He wants me to do. Over the past week I have gone through so many ideas it's not even funny. Most of them are falling through. So, what does God want of me. It's too the point that I'm not even sure about the next step any more.

I wish I could share with you all of the possible future plans that are unsure, but I cannot. Arlen and I have decided that for right now, we need to pray and leave room for the Holy Spirit to work. We don't want our decision to be based on the ideas and opinions of those around us, but rather on the clear leading of the Holy Spirit. So, on that note. I solicit your prayers.

I do, however have an adventure to share with you! Last night Arlen and I were driving home from taking care of a friend's animals. I felt a sudden urge to go downtown to check out the houses we had been looking at online. It seemed like something fun to do. We don't know much about the safety of the "neighborhoods" so we decided a Saturday night might be a good time to check it all out.

We went home, picked out the four houses we were most interested in and printed out directions. At 8:58 (I think that's the right time), we set out on our grand adventure. We maneuvered our way around the city to come to the first house. As we turned onto the street we were delighted to see children of all ages and ethnicities playing together. There were people socializing. That was a good sight. The houses were not very big and were diverse. Some were in bad shape, and others had obviously quite recently been remodeled. As we approached the house, we looked inside and were very pleased with what we saw through the windows. The yard was big and the house was surrounded with trees (kind of). It was like a little piece of heaven at the end of that street. Our next step was to talk to the people who actually lived there. Would they be friendly? Would the neighborhood be safe?

As we talked with one guy we learned that the street was very friendly indeed. Everyone knew each other and enjoyed spending time together. That was exciting news! We felt very safe on the street, which was good. We loaded back in the car, and prepared to search for the second house on our list.

This house was less than a mile away, but felt like a completely different part of the world. As we turned on the appropriate street, we noticed immediately that strange men were randomly wondering around. I quickly locked all the doors in the car. When we realized we were going the wrong way on the street we turned around, and this guy (he must have been drunk), tried to flag us down. We still hadn't found the house yet, but at that point we decided it didn't matter. We did NOT feel safe in this neighborhood, so we headed to our next destination.

The next house was in a nice area, definitely more middle class. While this neighborhood wasn't as friendly as the first, it did seem safe. People seem to keep to themselves (like typical Americans). The house was nice. It's nice and big, with a separate apartment option on the top. It also had a nice big deep yard. We looked at what little we could see and resumed our journey.

Suddenly, we were redirected on our trek. As we got to a crosswalk, Arlen was letting a guy in a wheelchair cross, but instead of crossing, he came to our car and tried to get a ride. We looked at each other, and thought "why not," so he skillfully and quickly got himself and his wheelchair settled in our back seat and gave us directions on how to get to the Tennessee aquarium (that's where he wanted to go) from where we were. By this point, we were totally turned around and confused. We successfully dropped him off, got our bearings and headed out again.

As we got closer and closer to our destination, we felt more and more the suffocation of the city. We were exhausted, and confined and we wanted out. We quickly drove by the last house, and we were ready to go home!

What an experience. It's amazing how much diversity there is in such a small area. I think the biggest impact our Saturday night exploring had on me was the realization that there is a whole world out there that I am completely unaware of. I have lived my life in a middle class, Adventist community my whole life. There is so much to experience in life. There are so many ways that God can use me! So many ways I want Him to use me. (I just wish I knew His plans.) I'm eager to face life head on and experience more than comfortable suburbia. I feel the incredible inspiration in the great commission, and that is what I leave you with:

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
~ Matthew 28:19-20

Thursday, June 21, 2007

I Think I'm Graduating With the Wrong Degree

Have I chosen the wrong major? Here I am, only 3 classes away from graduating - sick and tired of school, and I think I've finally figured out what I'm supposed to do with my life...well at least what degree I should graduate with. I should have been an education major!!

Let me explain. I love kids. If any of you have worked with me at camp, you know that God has placed in my life a special kind of connection with children. There is no better feeling in the world than to help kids grow a little closer to God. I also LOVE to make lesson plans. I know this sounds crazy, but I really do. The problem is the kind of lesson plans I like to make. (And this is the reason why I never went into education). I am not a text book person at all. Now, don't get me wrong, I think text books have their time and place, but they are way over rated, and completely overused. I enjoy this kind of all or nothing learning. For example - reading text books - I just don't get it. Now it's possible I could be missing something, but why do we have them? Especially in today's world where you can get books on just about any topic at about any reading level. Why not read about some of the other things you are learning in class, to get kids excited about reading. You can read about animals, history, science, God, social studies; you name the topic, there are bound to be level-appropriate reading materials on that topic.

With just about any subject, you can have hands-on activites that teach far more than being confined to worksheets and textbooks will ever teach. With math - apply the math that is being taught to fun situations - cook, have "stores" set up to learn how to use money, be creative. When you are learning about science, don't just read about it in a text book, experience it. Rather than just reading a chapter about clouds, go outside, look up at the sky, peak your students curiosity by asking them questions. Go, lay on your backs, look up at the sky. What do you see? What shapes are in the clouds? What kind of clouds do you think they are? How many kinds of clouds are there? Do different clouds do different things? Then maybe think of creative ways to find out about clouds and let the kids do the teaching - let them present their findings.

I am also a huge proponent of field trips! Take the kids to experience as much as they can. They will learn much more from these experiences. Have them take pictures and make scrapbooks of the field trip. Get them excited about life, about all the things God has blessed us with in this world. The last thing I support in school is family involvement. If parents aren't involved it's no good. So you bet as a teacher I'd be having parents over to my house for meals, I'd be having all sorts of activities in which the whole family can get involved.

I guess I've been so afraid that this type of teaching would not be accepted. Especially now with all of the "No Child Left Behind" laws. Yet I wonder. What am I to do? What is God's plan for me? How does Joshua's House fit into all of this? Was I supposed to be a teacher? Do I get a degree other than the one I'm graduating with in December? So many questions. These questions spin my life kind of upside down.

Amidst all of this I am drawn to God. He knows my future, my past and present. And He knows how everything will work out. He tells us
"For I know the plans I have for you...plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." ~Jeremiah 29:11-13
So I rest on that. The question is, am I ready? Am I ready to lay aside all my preconceived notions of what life SHOULD look like? Am I willing to lay down all the plans that I have laid for my life? Am I willing to live radically? To do whatever God requires of me? Am I willing to let go?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Contagious Excitement

This week we had some exciting things going on in our house. Let me explain. Arlen received a call from one of his clients asking him to meet at their office for a thank you surprise they had for him. Not thinking much of it, Arlen headed over to their office. As he talked to the staff member he had been working with the most, she handed him an envelope with his name on it. Arlen opened it and what he found inside made him stand there for a minute dumbfounded. It was a $2000 voucher with the MAC symbol on it. Not wanting to believe that this really was $2000 toward a new mac computer, Arlen waited for some sort of explanation. Sure enough, his initial reaction was correct. The company Arlen had been working for really appreciated his work and wanted to tell him thank you by getting him a new mac computer.

Arlen has been elated. This week he has told everyone he knows about this amazing gift he has received. Each time he tells the story, his face lights up more than it did the previous time he told it. As I was watching him share his story one time it hit me. This is totally how it is with God. God does amazing things for us. Often they simply go unnoticed, and even when we are aware of them, we keep them to ourselves. However, if we would share the wonderful things God is doing in our lives, our excitement would only grow! Just as Arlen gets more excited every time he shares about his new mac, we will get more excited about God's working in our lives every time we share what He's doing with others - and they will get excited too! (I've also noticed that excitement seems to be contagious.)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Petition for Prayer

I am requesting your prayers. You see, for a while now (I'm not really sure how long, but I know at least a year), I have been having issues with sleep. It's not insomnia, no, I can fall asleep pretty quick. The trouble is staying asleep. I wake up several times throughout the night. Most of the time I easily fall back asleep; but as you can imagine, waking up at least 6 times a night doesn't prove for a very restful sleep. This is a problem. I often wake up in the morning still feeling exhausted, sometimes even more tired than I was when I went to bed. This problem is affecting my life, and I don't like it. Because of this, my emotional stability is not that good, and that affects my life in so many ways. Worst of all, it affects my ability to serve God fully and completely. I'm so exhausted I just don't have much to give Him.

Realizing this I have made a decision. I will no longer stand for this. I am soliciting everyone that I know to pray for me...hard. I know God wants me to be an effective worker for Him. I also know that He has promised His children rest (Matthew 11:28). He tells us again and again to be persistent in our prayers. He also tells us to have confidence in the prayers that we send heavenward (1John 5:14). So that's what I'm going to do. And that's what I ask You to do with me. Together we can pray until God gives me rest. I know this is important to God because it effects my relationship with Him. I know He will answer our prayers.

Thank You all for laying this issue before the throne of grace with me!

God bless!

Laura Byrd

"With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." ~Matthew 19:26

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Is Anyone Listening?

So, this has been killing me for a while. I've been wondering...who is really reading my blog? Is anyone reading my blog? Are my words simply slipping into oblivion? If that's the case, I'm kind of sad, but I will not stop writing. I could never stop writing. There is something powerful about putting my thoughts into words, about taking time to really reflect on God's work in my life, about recognizing His workings. So no, I won't stop writing, I just wanted to know...who's listening.

Stronger Faith

So normally I try to blog about Joshua's House stuff on my Joshua's House blog, and what's going on in my life on this blog. Well, those two paths are now crossing. Astonishing, I know. The reality is that my other blog is more of a professional blog, and well, Joshua's House is just so much a part of my life right now that I can't possibly reduce it to a continually formal level. Okay, sorry for that ramblesome introduction, now I will stop and actually write what I was planning on writing.

I've been spending a lot of time over the last few days kind of throwing myself into Joshua's House. I've been loving it. And God has used it in amazing ways to stretch and strengthen my faith. Yesterday evening I went to a birthday party. While I was there it seemed I spent the whole time answering questions and sharing with some of the people present about this wonderful ministry that is taking shape. It was so much fun! It made me think a lot too. You know, it's kind of hard starting a ministry, especially one with the scope of Joshua's House. There are so many choices to make, so many things I'm unsure, so much work that needs to be done. At time it becomes overwhelming. It is at those times that I want to start taking over. I immediately jump into fund raising mode desperately trying to find a way to come up with funds to pay for people to design a website, write songs, stock photography, stories, and the list continues. But all of these things show a lack of faith. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that fund raising is bad at all. Let me explain what I mean just a little more.

Last night, David Gates shared some thoughts with us for sundown worship at the party. He was talking some about his ministry, Gospel Ministries International. This is an amazing ministry run entirely by volunteers - nobody gets paid for their work. David was talking about how his family decided to take a year off. They would be totally ready and open to God's guidance and would not accept a salary for any of the work that they did. They knew that God would provide for their needs. And sure enough, He has. He shared story after story of contacts that God brought to David that he needed to push things forward. He shared stories about how they got helicopters, airplanes and all sorts of things that they needed with no money. He reminded me that God owns it all. He owns the whole world. He doesn't need any money. If I need help, or volunteers or anything, I just need to turn to God. Joshua's House is God's ministry. It's not mine. I just have to be willing to do what He asks of me, and He will provide the finances, volunteers and all the resources that are needed. I just have to trust Him.

Over the past few days, I have felt really challenged by all that God is asking me to do. I still do not understand it all completely. I am not positive where He is leading, or even what the next step is, but I pray that I may always seek Him first, rather than trying to clumsily make it through on my own puney knowledge. God has promised that He will show me the way!

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it."
~ Isaiah 30:21

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Vacation at Little River Farms pt. 2 Peacocks and Pony Rides

We're still having a great time here at Little River Farms. As you can see in the picture, I especially like that my traditional garb (overalls) is quite appropriate for such a vacation.

Now it's time to share a little more about our trip. One of the places we spend the most time is down at the big bird cages. Ronan particularly likes to sit and watch the turkeys, ducks, chickens and homing pigeons. Although all of these birds are fun, he most enjoys watching the peacocks. There are two Indian Blue and One Java green males. (The females aren't quite as fun to watch.) We like to watch as the males slowly spread their beautiful feathers and stamp and dance around trying so hard to get the attention of their female cagemates. Often they are like little sonars following the females around the cage begging for attention. This display can be slightly depressing to watch as the males put forth so much effort to attract the females, but often, the females ignore the very existence of the males.

On Sabbath we had an exciting adventure! First we took off on a hay ride. Ronan wasn't too sure about a hay ride on Friday, but by Saturday, he was ready to go. This is MarMai, DarDai and Ronan on a god ole' trailer hay ride.

After we got off the trailer, Janetta was quick to note that the pony was out and ready to give some pony rides. As Netta is a horse lover, it didn't take long for her to become interested in the idea of getting her kids up on Baby (that's the pony's name). Ronan quickly protested, proclaiming that he was afraid of the horse, so his little sister, Aurora, was the first to sit on Baby.

Ronan still wasn't sure about the pony, even after seeing how much his sister loved sitting on the stout animal. Janetta confidently picked him up and plopped him on the horse before Ronan really knew what was going on. A little unsure, he gave a smile, and after the pony started to move, a huge grin lit up his face.

As the pony ride came to an end, Ronan decided he didn't want to get off. He wanted to ride the pony all the way "home" to the inn. That's just what he got to do! Like a joyful little cowboy, Ronan got front door service with the fun pony, Baby.

You know, I wonder how much God tries to give us good things, and we either completely ignore Him, or are too afraid to accept His wonderful blessings. I've been thinking about that a lot this weekend as I have watched Ronan and the Peahens. No matter how hard the Peacocks try to get the attention of the lady peahens, they simply ignore the males in their cage. How often does God try to get my attention and I cruelly turn the other way, or even pretend I don't notice Him.

And, just like Ronan, how often am I so afraid to try new things and accept the challenges that God lays before when a magnificent reward awaits my obedience. Ronan's rewards for overcoming his fears were a pony ride and a hay ride. How much more wonderful things is God ready to give me if I will simply acknowledge His presence and follow His leading, even when it is a bit scary?

Monday, June 04, 2007

Vacation at Little River Farms pt. 1 Little Emma

On Thursday, May 31 only about an hour behind schedule, the Byrd van set out from Lonny and Netta's house. We were headed out on a great adventure. As we began to travel on the windy roads, our trip began with a wise word of advice from Ronan, my three year old nephew. "MarMai," he said to my mother-in-law who was driving, "don't forget to stay on the road." Thus began our exciting journey. A little less than an hour later we drove up to a wonderland of peacocks, goats, donkeys, chickens, a pond, a river, a playground and so much more.

As all six of us piled out of the van, we were happily pleased to see the accommodations for the week far exceeded our expectations. After unpacking, no one had to ask where we were headed next. We were going down to see the animals.

The first animal to greet us was almost literally right outside our front door. It was a shy llama.

It didn't take long for us to discover that there were actually three llamas. All of them are quite curious and come up to the fence every time we pass by. However they are not too sure about us touching them. They are a bit shy.

As we trekked down the dusty trail we soon spotted the goat pin to our left. I was thrilled to discover this fun little critters. I would love to have a goat farm, and I think now that Arlen has seen the fun animals, he may agree.

This is me with Emma. Emma is the sweetest goat of them all, and I quickly fell in love with her. As we stepped inside the goat pin she looked up at us and quickly came running over. That's just how Emma is. Every time we visit her, she comes trotting right over as soon as she sees us. This little goat loves attention, especially if it includes a good neck scratching. Not only is Emma a sweetie, she is quite curious. When Arlen was taking pictures, she saw the flash on the camera, and immediately she was there, trying to figure out what that flashy thing was. She even climbed Arlen in a effort to figure out her discovery.

The thing about Emma is that although she is a sweet heart, she is very jealous. She wants all the attention, and doesn't want to share with anyone around. These are a couple of goats that very much wanted our attention, but were afraid of Emma. (She has a tendency to head butt any of the other goats who get too close to the people giving her attention.) All of the goats are well behaved, but when Emma is around, they are much more cautious to approach humans for attention.

I'm looking at the time, and I'm realizing that I'm going to have to end this blog here pretty soon. I'll continue part two tomorrow. But, rather than ending abruptly, I'd have to say that as usual, God has taught me a lesson through little Emma. She is very sweet, however her jealousy often gets in the way of her enjoying the attention she craves. When people come to the petting zoo Emma typically gets put in the barn, away from all the excitement. Her selfish battles tend to scare the kids and her behavior to the other goats is completely unacceptable. The thing is, if Emma allowed the other goats to come over and get some attention as well, she would end up with a lot more loving pats, scratches, rubs (and even a few more treats).

I can't help but realize how much I take after this little goat. I often am so afraid of loosing the gifts that God has given me that I become protective of them. I don't want to share my time, my stuff, my husband, I want these things all to myself to be used how I think they should be used. I wonder how many times God has to give me a "time out" because of my selfishness. God has created us to share all the blessings that He has given us. Only by doing this will our blessings continue to grow and our joy increase. I pray that God will help me learn to share...ALL of the blessings He has given me!