Wednesday, November 4, 2015

"Be a Storyteller for God"...

I am being challenged this fall through the pages of an EXPERIENCING GOD workbook as I respond to author Henry Blackaby's commentary, questions and video teaching.  During the week I write out answers to questions, memorize scripture and then participate with a group of people at my church each Sunday evening for discussion.  This study is requiring me to consider how I can more obediently be involved with God in His work in this world.

I'm about at the half-way point in this study,  We are now getting more specifically into the possibility that I may be facing "major adjustments in order to join God in what He is doing" and to His invitation for me to work with Him in some way that I have been neglecting or not open to.

With this post I want to share an experience I had last week as I did my daily lesson.  The following were words that led to some personally thought provoking questions requiring my response.
"...When God calls a person to join Him in a God-sized task, faith is always required. Obedience indicates faith in God.  Disobedience often indicates a lack of faith. Without faith, a person cannot please God...  When God speaks, what He asks of us requires faith.  Our major problem, however, is our self-centeredness.  We think we have to accomplish the assignment on our own power and with our current resources.  We think, 'I can't do that.  That is not possible'." 
We forget that when God speaks He always reveals what He is going to do - not what He wants us to do for Him.  We join Him so He can do His work through us.  We don't have to be able to accomplish the task within our limited ability or resources.  With faith, we can proceed confidently to obey Him; because we know that He is going to bring to pass what He purposes.  Jesus indicated that what is impossible with man is possible with God.  Mark 10:27" 
Following these paragraphs and examples from scripture of Biblical characters who exhibited faith with the result being God-sized results - Moses crossing the Red Sea, Joshua crossing the Jordan River, Jesus feeding the 5,000 etc. etc. - the personal questions were facing me.
"What do you know God is wanting you to do that you are not doing?"
It was easy for me to answer this question but responding may be my challenge.  Here is what I wrote to answer that question:
"Writing blog stories"
The next question was:
"Why do you think you are hesitating?" 
My response was:
"lacking confidence"
  1. Now why would I write that?  
  2. Why would I even think that?  
  3. What is the reason that I can be 70 years old and still tripped up by feelings of low self-esteem or as I see from this lesson, 
  4. lack of faith? 
So I spent some time admitting to God my lack of faith and trust even when I have had a number of dear friends and family members encourage me when I have written something.  And when I have shared in conversation with individuals, I often hear from them, "You should write that down..."  And even more humbling is to know that when I get an assignment from God, "I join Him so He can do His work through me."  He provides the ability and resources.  With faith, we can proceed confidently to obey Him; because we know that He is going to bring to pass what He purposes.

As I concluded my lesson that day, I felt very encouraged and hopeful.  I felt renewed energy and resolve to begin exercising greater discipline in my blog writing.

And then this happened:

I decided to check Facebook and this is the very first thing I saw which was being shared by a friend:
"When God is doing something amazing in or through you, it's not just for your's also for others. Be a storyteller for God."
I was amazed!!!  I felt that God had just underscored my assignment from Him and gave it to me in a message I could not deny.  I love Him so much.  May my faith continue to grow and my words be His in order for His work to get done in this world through my God-sized assignment from Him.  

Monday, November 2, 2015

Emergency Landing in Wichita, KS...

I began this story on September 10th.  I return today, November 2nd, to conclude this story of what happened to us that day and what my thoughts are as I recall this incident.

John and I boarded our Delta flight in La Crosse, WI this morning, September 10, 2015 as we headed back to our home in TX.  We were just ending our wonderful time of family reunion there over Labor Day weekend.  The weather had been perfect as had been the conversations and connections with family and friends - some planned and others serendipitous.  The whole 10 days of being there had been a very special time for me.

Our flight to Minneapolis - St. Paul went as planned and I kept my eyes glued out the window to the beautiful green of the lush fields and forests below in WI and MN.

We had a long layover in the MSP airport which allowed us to catch up with emails, reading and first of the month book work for me.

As our flight readied for take-off at about 5:40 PM, one of the pilots welcomed us as usual and mentioned severe storms in Nebraska which would cause our route to take a path around the area of concern.  We took off.  All went well.  We were both tired and napped for the first hour.  We woke as beverage service reached our seats near the back of the plane.  We were served, the cart moved past us and then we started to experience some significant turbulence.  We noticed flashes of lightening and looked at each other with concerned surprise.  The flight attendant serving the drinks stayed still but decided to return to the front of the plane when the turbulence seemed to let up.  He had just gotten to the front when an announcement was made that the storm was continuing for another 15 minutes so we would climb about 2000 feet where we could hopefully get above the storm.  The plane was moving up and seemed to be getting away from the storm when suddenly lightening flashed, the plane shuddered and swooped downward and immediately back up as though we were an amusement park roller coaster ride.  Neither of us felt sick but I felt sure there would be passengers that would be getting very upset with the sudden shaking and swooping of the plane.

We had been holding hands while we napped but had detached to tighten our seat-belts and put away all our reading material, finish our drinks and prepare for more turbulence.  We said little but squeezed our fingers together tightly and prayed silently.  As I looked around, I was noting one man across from me with his head down and his hands gripped tightly into fists.  I thought he was surely praying.  The passengers were all quiet and I wondered if they, too, were thinking that we might be taking the last flight of our lives.

Within a couple of minutes, a flight attendant began to tell us that we would be landing within 10 minutes in Wichita.  She said that the storm had generated some cockpit warnings that required our plane to land.  She said one of the pilots would probably give us more information before landing but that they were quite busy as she was speaking.  Neither of the pilots was able to talk to the passengers before we landed.

I prayed and prepared for whatever would happen during this emergency landing.

We heard the landing gear unfold and knew that was good news.  We landed normally though perhaps with more speed than usual as it seemed there was sharp braking as we landed.  I looked out of the window and saw a number of vehicles on the runway with flashing red and blue lights - emergency vehicles ready to respond if there was fire or some other crisis.  As I saw that preparation for our emergency, the tears threatening to flow began to trickle down my cheeks.  It has been somewhat scary and I was very thankful to land safely.  Even though I feel ready to die, I told God I really wanted to live longer.

We have been in Wichita for about 5 hrs.  A plane and crew have just arrived from Atlanta and we'll be boarding in about 30 minutes to finish our trip back to San Antonio, TX.  Then we'll have a one hour drive to Kerrville.

Delta has been taking care of us with drinks, snacks and pizza.  This section of the Wichita airport opened June 3 so it is quite lovely.  All have been genuinely caring and the airport comfortable.

We have an email from Delta already to let us know that we are each receiving 10,000 miles for the delay and inconvenience in our return to San Antonio. I have learned that our plane was "struck at least once by lightening which damaged/destroyed some of the systems of the plane" - unusual for the altitude of our plane I was told by the Delta rep waiting with us. That man also told me that pilots train thousands of hours in simulators to deal with the type of situation we were in today. A man sitting across the aisle from me with whom I've had a conversation since deplaning was sure his life was about to end. He flies frequently and hadn't experienced the type of turbulence we had today before. He said he knew he would be in heaven after he died but he was concerned about his wife and children.

I am grateful.  I am alive.  I was ready if our plane would have crashed.

We are about to board.  It is about 12:17am - just after midnight.

Now to continue the story on Nov. 2, 2015...

A statement about our emergency landing included the following paragraph which was posted on an aviation website by September 12th.
Last Update: 2015-09-14 22:35:44 GMT
An Expressjet Canadair CRJ-700 on behalf of Delta Airlines, registration N710EV (our reports database features 0 other incidents for the same aircraft, Expressjet has been listed 66 times within our reports database) performing flight EV-5151/DL-5151 from Minneapolis,MN to San Antonio,TX (USA) with 65 people on board, was step climbing from FL360 to FL380 about 80nm northeast of Wichita,KS (USA) when the crew reported a lightning strike and decided to divert to Wichita where the aircraft landed safely about 25 minutes later.

The aircraft is still on the ground in Wichita about 18 hours later, lighting strike marks were found at its left hand wing.

A replacement Canadair CRJ-900 reached San Antonio with a delay of 6 hours.
I read the above paragraph that was published by Sept. 12th but I did not realize there was added information until I returned to the website as I began to add to this blog.  I now learn of an update with further information which was posted on September 14th and is copied below.

On Sep 14th 2015 The Aviation Herald learned that the aircraft experienced the failure of all air data computers including standby resulting in altitude and airspeed indications becoming unreliable.
I now have learned of the severity of the lightening strike to our plane.  "...failure of all air data computers including standby..."   No wonder our flight crew decided to emergency land as soon as possible and no wonder emergency response vehicles were ready for our landing in Wichita, Kansas.

Since I do not have expertise in aviation, I do not fully understand how serious our circumstances were.  But "failure of all"  sounds rather dire to me.  I was told that pilots train many hours on simulators for just such an emergency.  Planes are designed to withstand lightening strikes.  Airports have emergency response equipment and personnel available for whatever arises as flights enter their location.

I sit at my computer today typing about this incident knowing that all the preparation for this "act of God" (the lightening strike of the plane at 35,000+ ft of altitude) and the protection plan of God himself, resulted in the safe landing of my flight.

But I also know that there could have been a different result.  I do not know "why" my husband and I plus the other 63 passengers on this plane had this result when other planes crash with catastrophic loss of life.  I do not wish to claim I understand why God preserved our lives during this flight.

Though I do not fully understand "why", I am very grateful.  And I have a sense that perhaps I have been given extended days to the length of my life.

With this provision, I now face the following question.
How will you live during your extended time on earth?
My response is not lightly considered.  I am still contemplating ways in which to answer this question.  One thing that is helping me in this process is the Experiencing God study I'm involved in at our church.  Henry Blackaby wrote this study many years ago but the godly wisdom of this material remains crucial for Christ followers at any time.  Our pastor is leading this study.

I will close this post with a quote from the lesson I'm doing this week.
"When God speaks to you, revealing what He is about to do, that revelation is your invitation to adjust your life to Him.  Once you have adjusted your life to Him, His purposes, and His ways, you are in a position to obey.  Adjustments prepare you for obedience.  You cannot comtinue life as usual or stay where you are, and go with God at the same time.  That is true throughout Scripture."
May I be an obedient child of God.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Life as We Celebrate 49 Years of Marriage...

View from the deck into a portion of our son's backyard.
We are spending time in Richmond, VA with our oldest son, John G. Worden and his family.
Photo taken Dec. 2013 - boys now tower over Dad...

Inside our son's Chick-fil-A restaurant...

Following is an email update I sent to some family and friends today.  This version will come with photos to illustrate my thoughts.

Stephen, age 13, Dec. 2013

Dear Folks,
We have been in Richmond for almost a week and it has been filled with lots of activities of this busy family as they prepare for the start of the school year and handle all the usual aspects of life.

Stephen, age 15, had jaw surgery on August 10th.  For some reason, his jaw was out of alignment and he was unconsciously grinding his teeth while he slept. This caused significant deterioration of his teeth.  The surgery broke his jaw in two places and allowed the realignment of his jaw. His two bottom wisdom teeth were also removed and on his right side, a hematoma in his jaw was removed.  To preserve the new configuration of the jaw, his teeth were "wired" together (with very strong rubber bands).  This is projected to require 6 wks of healing before he can begin to open and close his mouth normally.  He will live on a liquid diet during that time.  At Stephen's first follow-up Dr's appointment, the Dr. felt he had an abnormal amount of swelling and bleeding which he feels
could be strong indicators - along with other things such as flexibility/looseness of joints - of a disorder called Ehler's/Danlos Syndrome.  But that is not yet confirmed and will take testing by a genetic's specialist in
the future.

The 2nd post-surgery Dr. visit received a much better report.  Stephen's swelling is decreasing each day and bleeding has stopped. He does not have pain.  He can be understood mostly when he speaks.   He is very good about making his own liquid meals using the soups and items the rest of us are eating.  He has not been complaining about any discomfort and inconvenience.  He of course cannot participate in sport activities now so is catching up on sleep and summer school reading.

Diane is back to school full time with teacher meetings and Kindergarten room prep.

John and I have:
1.  been doing cooking and household fixing projects...
2.  shuttles to volleyball practice which is 5-8pm 3x a week
On our far left is #20 - athletic and beautiful

Stephen and his Mom...
3.  Dr's appm'ts for Stephen and Joanna - she had a fractured ankle

4.  Reading classes at U of Richmond - Wed. am/Lydia;  Wed. pm/Joanna 5.  3 day volleyball tournament this Th. - Sat.

Game Night with Catan...
Braiding Lydia's beautiful locks...
John and I squeezed in an anniversary lunch on Wed. the 20th at the very beautiful Jefferson Hotel built from 1892-1895.  It opened in order to host the wedding parties and guests of a "Richmond beauty to a famous Richmond artist, Charles Dana Gibson."  He would become most famous for the pictures he painted of gorgeous girls based on his wife's beautiful face known as the Gibson Girls. The hotel burned in the early 1920's but was rebuilt and still is host to many people and elegant parties.  This was a sweet way to celebrate 49 years of marriage. 

Jefferson Hotel, Richmond, VA
My delicious lunch at the Jefferson...
August 20, 2015
August 20, 1966
Wedding party August 20, 1966
John and Diane took us to dinner in the evening.  The high school 3 were at a birthday party so Lydia was with us and picked her favorite Italian restaurant.

We took time to share our Moldova mission trip photos and stories last night before bedtime.  Hooked my laptop to their TV so had clear vision.

This next week will be about the same.  The children have one last week of summer vacation.

Will send this with thanks for your thoughts and prayers.  We are thankful to be here to share life with this busy family.

All for now,
Linda and John

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Safe Travels All the Way Home...

We arrived at our home a little after midnight earlier today to find everything exactly as we'd left it 2 weeks ago.  That was a welcome way to arrive home even if we were very tired after a long day of travel which had been uneventful.  We were able to sleep some on flights.  We crawled into bed with hearts filled with gratitude.  We awoke mid morning with many thoughts about our trip which continued the feelings of deep gratitude we have for all the ways we were guided and sustained by God.   We experienced his strength which was sufficient for our work. 
Flay flying at our home in TX on July 4, 2015
Since it is the 4th of July, I hung the flag as soon as I awakened.  I am thankful for what that flag stands for and I'm extremely thankful for all who serve or who have served in order for our nation to remain free and protected.  God has given our nation honorable, wise founders and many others who have led our country with selfless distinction.  May many more men and women be elected to lead whose choices will represent the values established by our forefathers in our Constitution.  With wisdom from our divine Creator, this can be so.

The day is ending.  We've watched our town's fireworks from the street in front of our home.  We live part way up a hill and it has become tradition to stand with neighbors to view the fireworks which shoot high above the trees in our area.  Well done again this year.

Thanks for all prayers that have been offered on behalf of our team as we have prepared for and carried out the 2015 Mission Trip to Moldova.  May there be fruit from the seeds we planted which will continue to bring honor and glory to God for generations that last until the end of time on this earth.  We know God is faithful and will be at work to draw people to Himself. 

My heart is overflowing with joy because God has chosen to use me again this summer in the little country of Moldova.  I love that land and its dear people. 

There is an open invitation to return next summer with another team.  Stay tuned.  God may want you to be part of a team in 2016. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Thursday... St. Cyril's, Georgian Restaurant & The Botanical Gardens...

One of the things our son wanted most to see in Kiev was St. Cyril's church where he had learned that there were paintings that had been done by his favorite Russian artist, M.Vrubel.  That was our first stop today and he says it was so worth getting there to see this artist's work in 4 icons and other fresco paintings done in 1884-85.  The church was built in the 1100's and has had significant damage over the years but has been in a restoration phase for the past nearly 100 years.  It is in quite excellent condition now as a museum rather than an active church.  It has been necessary for us girls to cover our heads as we have gone into the Orthodox Churches here.  We used our own scarves for that purpose.

No photos were allowed inside this church so we only have our memory of this art which our son feels was well worth the subway, bus and walk to get to.  This artist is not well known outside of Russia and Ukraine but he was indeed, a gifted, excellent painter.
Note the most famous M. Vrubel in the center of this entrance board.
Took this photo through the protective covering of this board.

Following St. Cyril's, we headed off to find a restaurant that served Georgian food.  That was the second thing son James wanted while in Kiev.  We found the restaurant and were served some really delicious food - mostly things I'd never before eaten.  I did order Borsch which was familiar to me. 
You do not see pizza.  This is bread with melted cheese inside.  It is very delicious.

The last thing we fit in for our visit to Kiev was a trip to and walk around in the Botanical Gardens.  Parts of this garden are still well maintained but other parts are being neglected.  It was a beautiful day with temps in the 70's, some occasional sprinkles but mostly a great last day in Kiev.

My favorite travel companion...  

Church in the Botanical Gardens.  Service was in progress so we stood with the others who were there and listened to the liturgy being spoken and sung by the Priests.
While inside the church, we heard bells ring but we were not outside to see it happening.
View of the city from a high point in the Gardens.

Bumble bees were buzzing all over this beautiful heather.

A taxi will pick us up in 7 hours at 3:15 AM.  Should take 30 minutes to get to the airport.  We're about packed.  Should be back in San Antonio by 11:30 PM Friday - 28 hrs of travel - then an hour's drive to Kerrville.  Will send an update when I wake up on Saturday in TX.  So thankful for this safe, significant and memorable trip.  Really appreciate all prayerful support.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A Little Rain, Mostly Sun and A Long Bike Ride...

Bikes left outside as we visited an open thatch roofed house.
We spent  today's sight-seeing outing at the Ukraine National Museum which is an outdoor site. As we arrived, we bought a map and observed long expanses of roads and buildings which have been brought in or built on a large acreage in a southern part of Kiev. The next thing we noticed was a bicycle rental area.  Our son was immediately interested.  The rest of us were a little wary but we all decided bikes would be a great help with all the walking that would be required to see and enjoy this property.  So off we went with pretty easy biking at the opening of our self guided tour.

Enjoying P,B & J sandwiches...
We stopped at a first grouping of homes where one was open.  It was a model of a country home from the 1960s.  From there we biked around a corner where we stopped to explore another structure which we thought may have been a large kiln.  We continued on the road to another grouping of thatch-roofed homes which looked interesting but as we arrived, so did a sudden downpour.  We saw a covered pavilion across from the homes and hurried under the roof there without getting too wet.  There we stayed with other visitors for at least an hour as the wind and rain came.  We had brought some sandwiches with us so decided it was time for our picnic.  The other folks were 4 adults and 6 children and they did the same.  It was spacious and restful so we weren't too worried about the delay.

In time, the rain let up and we headed across the road to the homes we had passed earlier.

These were Cossack homes and there we met a host of that complex of buildings.
They had a couple beautiful horses also.
Windmills in lots of places on the property.
 The rest of the pictures will have few explanations.  This museum had lots of buildings but very few were equipped with an interpreter and they were locked.  The signage was predominantly in Russian which son James could read and mostly understand so that was very helpful.

Stopped at this church which was locked.

 When we did find an interpreter, we stopped and looked inside but weren't able to learn much about what we were seeing.  It was quite self-explanatory, however, which I think you will agree.

The hostess at this home took our picture.

Another church...  Eastern Orthodox - all of the churches.
Water Mill...

Beautiful grounds...

Some pretty steep hills we walked up...
But loved sailing down from the top...
Late in the afternoon we arrived at a spot which had food.  We ordered and lingered over borsch, chicken, pork, bread, pickles, potatoes...  Delicious.
Another church stop which was open.
We ended our day at 5pm as the museum closed.  The man from whom we rented bikes called a taxi for us which took us back to the apartment.  It had rained on and off so a couple more times we had to head for shelter.  All in all it was a fun day.  We really enjoyed the beauty of the property and the quiet as most people stayed home apparently.

Now it's time for tea and cookies before we head to bed.  Last day here is tomorrow.  We are enjoying Kiev and very grateful to have our son with us who speaks and understands enough Russian to engage folks to help meet all of our needs.  More tomorrow