Posted by: valerieburgess | May 20, 2008

Worship the Baseball

I’m a “drop and run” Mom, as I once heard it negatively stated by a parent who never leaves their child at any event alone. For me, there’s always another child to pick up or drop off at the next event, a prescription that needs filling, or a sudden urge for a latte that needs addressing. So I drop my child off with a coach or tutor and take off.

But today, I slowed down, life slowed down. I sat in the Alaskan sun on cold, metal bleachers and watched my son’s baseball practice.  About 30 minutes into the practice, the coach told the boys to get in a circle. He then proceeded to place a ball in the center of the circle and told the boys to kneel down. He demonstrated how to lean forward with your palms on the ground and “bow to the baseball.”

The coach said, “We’re going to worship the baseball. Repeat after me. Oh ball, I won’t let you fall out of my glove. Oh, ball, I won’t overthrow you at second base.  Oh ball, . . . . ”

I watched as my 12 year old refused to go along with the shenanigans and refused to quote his coach’s words of worship. I was pleased that he refused to bow down.I was disappointed that he was the only one who recognized that worshipping anything other than God is wrong. 

Sure it was a joke, but many people worship the ball or at least the game. This phenomena is real. This little worship “game” was reflective of the value many place in a sport like baseball. The love of it replaces or squeezes out a love for God.  Lord, protect my children as they play sports. Keep their first love You.

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Posted by: valerieburgess | April 28, 2008

What it is like to be a pitcher by Zion

(I loved reading this piece by my son. So I could be biased. But I thought others might enjoy it. Val)

Usually when I pitch its very hot except when it rains. And the crowd is cheering and my teammates are cheering. And you can see the batter just ready to smack that ball out of the park. And the smell of popcorn, slushpuppies, and hot dogs are in the air.

It is a very tense moment. im sweating like crazy.  The feel of the ball in my hand getting just ready to throw that ball faster than a speeding bullet. And the other team in the dugout is singing another one bites the dust.

And I get ready to throw the ball and I wind up then zoom right down the Alaska pipeline and the umpire yells strike three your out. Then all my teammates run around yelling we are the champion’s yeeha.Then after the win I go to the snack shack and buy two hotdogs three slush puppies and two snickers bars. And after that I take a shower and go to sleep the rest of the day.      

 

Posted by: valerieburgess | April 23, 2008

Sealed For the Courts Above

“Come Thou Fount” is currently my favorite hymn. I’m encouraged by the line: “Here’s my heart, O, take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.”

I love to serve and minister before God. Often I do this in a church setting. My desire is to do this consistently wherever I am. But this song points out that glorifiying God doesn’t take an earthly building, such as a temple or a church. True ministry goes straight to the courts of heaven.

I’m like many people. I look for a “place” to minister. I want a concrete result or even a numerical number as proof of ministry. But through this song, I hear God telling us, “I have your heart and the ministry that pours from it sealed in my celestial courts.” There could be no better “place” to minister.

With every muscle and breath, I want to serve Jesus. God sees and understands the twitching of my body and searching of my soul as I desire to completely serve Him. Before I move a tendon or initiate a plan, I think God takes that desire to serve Him, that heart to love Him, that yearning to glorify Him and translates it as ministry in His courts. I don’t need a “place” on earth; the courts of heaven resound with my heartbeat for God.

God hears your heartbeat. He understands your inner spirit. The incense of your prayers and yearnings go straight to heaven as ministry in His courts above. Our heart’s ministry  is sealed and authenticated by the wonderful Holy Spirit working in each of us.

 

Posted by: valerieburgess | April 23, 2008

Wall of Fame

My girls and I frequent bookstores and libraries. As they chose books to read, I’m usually walking, praying, and thinking. As a result, one of my favorite places to meet God is in the book aisles. Saturday night in a small section of a local run bookstore, I found the “Wall of Fame.”  Pinned to the wall was a newspaper clipping for every author that had visited that bookstore.

I’ve never published a book, but God knows my heart is to write for Him. As I glanced across the walls, I distinctly felt the love of God fill me. In my spirit, I heard God say, “You’re already on my Wall of Fame. You don’t need to write another word.”

Posted by: valerieburgess | April 12, 2008

Face to Face With Love

 

Jacob acquiesced only to save his grandchildren, the next generation. But what would he do without Benjamin? He daily bowed before God recognizing His sovereignty, but surely God would not ask that he give up another son. Was this truly God’s love? He’d recognized it before, but now he questioned it.

 

Benjamin eagerly joined his brothers as they journeyed toward Egypt. He hadn’t traveled outside of his Father’s watch, ever. But today he had grown up. Father had released him to assist his brothers. He’d be a part of the triumphal entry when the men returned with food for all.

 

Joseph heard word of their coming long before they arrived. He ordered servants to prepare the food and the table. Joseph had so many questions. What news would they convey? Surely his father was still alive. Did Benjamin accompany them? Yes, he must be with them. He’d have the cooks create a meal five times as tasty for him; after all he is his younger, beloved brother. He revealed his devotion as he organized not only his surroundings, but his mind and emotions for their arrival.

 

Once again when face to face with Joseph, his brothers didn’t recognize him. His identity was totally hidden. Joseph’s feelings and his love for them was kept behind closed doors.  Although his intense love surrounded them, they were blinded to it. Joseph greeted them warmly and personally. He invited them to his table for conversation with avid interest in their well being and that of their distant family. But they didn’t understand his intentions.

 

Often I come face to face with Jesus’ love and don’t recognize it. He’s smiling and waiting. He’s ready to converse, but I’m too wrapped up in the days work. He’s blatantly spread love around me through my church and my family. But like Jacob, surrounded by family and God’s provision, I question His love. I want to rest in His sovereignty, but I can’t believe His choices are truly love.

 

I know that each morning is a wake up call to the love and mercies of God. It clamors over me. But I don’t hear Him above the din of a full day. The sounds of His loving preparations are drowned out by the stuff inside of me that glowers rather than expects.

 

I ignore life’s banquet and see instead my fears and insufficiencies. Jesus sets patiently across from me. He waits. He doesn’t hide his emotions like Joseph did. He laughs with me and cries with me. But all life’s intenseness and tomorrow’s demands blind me.

 

Before the brother’s left for Egypt, Jacob instructed them to gather a package of choice foods for Egypt’s leader. They were to offer him two times the money for their provisions. Jacob’s family created a beautiful, elaborate gift. They used their savings to provide the necessary funds. But they didn’t really need it. Egypt’s leader Joseph already loved them. He waited patiently for them to recognize His love. He had a banquet table waiting for them.

 

Sometimes like Joseph’s brothers, I want to present Jesus with a beautiful package. I tell Jesus that I’ll fast to show my love. But then I stumble over a cookie or a piece of homemade bread. My best is usually fuddled up, and I’m left humiliated in His presence. But God says, “You are the best. I made you just the way I wanted you. Your performance is unnecessary. I love you package-less.”

 

Jesus’ love is strong and sincere. He has a lavish table set up. You’re the younger brother Benjamin with five times the amount of food set before you. We’re each the younger brother, Jesus’ younger brother.

 

He loves us elaborately whether we recognize his face or not. I think He cries behind the closed doors of heaven as He tries desperately to show us His love, and we reach else where. We grasp at life’s activities. We keep ourselves busy until we are starving. Then we are forced to journey to Egypt where the banquet awaits.

 

Egypt, known throughout history as a land of provision. God, known throughout history as One who provides. Jesus waits. He loves. Come empty handed so He can elaborately fill you.

Posted by: valerieburgess | April 7, 2008

Crying out to God

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. (Hebrews 10:36, NIV)

Today I’m living by this verse, but two days ago I was crying out to God. I woke discouraged and in fear. Usually I wake up knowing that God’s mercies are new every morning. Usually I realize that each day God gives me is a new day with new possibilities. But on that day, fear overcame me.

I feared my dreams would not come true. I feared that the direction I was pursuing with all my heart would come to a sudden halt. I panicked because I felt there was a world beyond my home that wasn’t friendly to my desires. As I lay in bed, the fear built and built. Could I even make it through the day? I imagined my life falling apart over and over again. Tears began to flow. I dwelt in this fear. I said prayer after prayer. I wondered why I had this fear.

Yesterday, I spoke at the women’s prison in town. One general theme that arose again and again was crying out to God. David the Psalmist did this well. He said in Psalm 142:1:

“I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy. I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble (NIV).”

When fear overcomes me, I’m a lot like David. My spirit grows faint. I lose confidence. And the only thing left is to cry out to God. Sometimes when I’m apprehensive, I pour myself into work. This helps for a short time. Often when my faith is dwindling, I spend more time with my husband, my children or a friend. This is good. But the tranquility fades. The only answer to fear for me is crying out to God.

After the service at the women’s prison, a young woman came forward. She said, “I can’t sleep at night here. I don’t have peace. Is there some type of prayer I can say, some specific words that would help?”

I now knew at least one reason why my serenity had been rocked that week. I sympathized with this woman. I pointed her back to the unexpected theme of the service, crying out to God. We read together a few verses in Psalm 141 and 142. We cried out to God for peace.

Today I encourage you and myself with the following words: “Do not throw away your confidence, it will be richly rewarded . . . We are not like those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved (Hebrews 10:35, 39, NIV).

Cry out to God and believe!

 

Posted by: valerieburgess | April 2, 2008

Bus Stop Opportunities

This week I checked out the Anchorage People Mover System. I enjoy riding buses because of the opportunities to meet and talk with people. On one section of my bus trip, God allowed me to visit with a current friend, renew a past relationship, and make a new acquaitance.

As I stood at the bus stop, I heard my name.  A tall woman with dark hair was yelling my name from across the street. I couldn’t tell who she was, but soon she came bounding across two lanes of the four lane road.  I recognized Amelia as she came closer and continued to talk. She now stood in the median and continued to express her excitement. She wanted me to know that she had spent the past hour in her UAA class learning about Burkina Faso. She drew me into her conversation quickly as we both had an interest in this country. I had visited it once and members of our church family ministered their often. It was great to spend a couple moments with Amelia.

Next I walked up to a young girl waiting for the bus and began to ask questions about the bus transportation system. She said, “I had a class on how to ride the bus, but don’t I know you.” Of course, I knew Deanna. I had taught her as a pre-schooler in Sunday School. Since she no longer attends my church, we would from time to time meet on the streets or in the stores. Congratulations to Deanna on beginning her first job soon. She is growing into a beautiful young lady.

It was 9:15 p.m. I had waited at the bus stop for an hour. But God was good and rewarded my wait. I met Rachel. A question about the bus system and its timeliness broke the ice. Conversation began to stir. When the bus arrived, Rachel and I sat across the aisle, and we continued to talk. Rachel and I had a lot in common. She’s a young adult on her first trip to Alaska. I came to Alaska at about the same age the first time as well. When asked why she came she responded, “Because God told me to go.”

As a young adult I had prayed and responded to God’s call to come to Alaska. In my heart, it was a missionary call. I didn’t come with a missions organization. I came on my own paving the way with my own finances and hard work. I had a job at a Christian school and another as a nanny. God had called me to Alaska.

I thank God for that call. I also thank Him for allowing me to meet Rachel who reminded me of my reasons for being here. I am here to spread the good news about Jesus Christ in a powerful manner. God continue to grant Rachel and I the power to be witnesses for you.

I had a great day making and renewing friendships. I thank the Lord for the opportunity to be uplifted on a simple bus trip from UAA to Eagle River.

Posted by: valerieburgess | March 30, 2008

Baseball Begins

My 8 year old girl decided to try out for minors baseball and skip her last year of “boring” coach pitch. It was 3 p.m. and the tryouts began at 4 p.m. Ashlynn insisted she make tryouts in full baseball gear. We raided her older brother’s closet for black baseball pants and a matching black and white jersey. Next, she’d need a baseball belt. We began the search. No belt in her brother’s room, but Ashlynn remembered seeing her red baseball belt a few days ago. She ran up to her room to look.

I thought, “Red and black. That should match okay.”

I followed. We searched her whole room. I gave up and went back to her brother’s room.

A few minutes later, Ashlynn runs up to me. “I found my socks,” she announced. I looked down to find her wearing one orange sock and one white sock.

“Ashlynn, let’s see if we can find two socks that match. Baseball pants are shorter, and those unmatched socks will really stand out,” I said.

I went to the drawer where we kept baseball socks during baseball season. Amazingly, we found one pair, black.

Ashlynn said, “Now we just need a belt.”

We had thirty minutes left before the tryout, so I said, “I’ll rush to the store and buy one. Find your shoes and your mitt. Be ready when I get back.”

“Mom, can you get a black belt to match my outfit?” Ashlynn asked as I dashed toward the door.

“Yes, honey!” I answered as I grabbed my keys.

In the sporting goods section, the baseball stuff wasn’t in the aisle marked “baseball.” I asked the sporting goods manager, “Do you have baseball gear?”

He looked at me like I had requested the impossible. He said, “Baseball, there’s still snow on the ground.”

He led me to a back aisle where a small section of last year’s un-bought, odd sized mitts and baseball gloves were stacked. No belts.

I knew we were out of time. We’d have to make due. I drove home disappointed. Ashlynn met me in the garage ready to go, but still holding up her pants.

“Ashlynn, the store was out of belts. We will have to use some other belt,” I said.

As she left to find a belt in her room, I began looking through the baseball gear in the garage. I prayed a sincere prayer, “Jesus, if there’s any baseball belt in this house, can you help us to find it. Amen.”

A few seconds later, Ashlynn comes trotting out. “I found this black belt. Will it work?”

She was holding a black baseball belt. “Ashlynn, where did you find that?” I asked.

“It was where we always keep our belts, but it was under some clothes,” she said.

I had looked under every item on those hooks and somehow missed just what we needed. But God brought it to Ashlynn’s attention after a simple prayer.

God cared about the desires of a little girl to show up in complete uniform ready to go. He cared so much that he provided her not only with a baseball belt, but one that matched.

When she arrived at tryouts, she was the only girl. The first four boys in front of her missed the fly balls, but she caught the one thrown to her. Her pink and white shoes stood out a little in the crowd of 25 kids. But she was dressed well, and very happy. She made it into the minors, too.

Today you have a need. God wants to provide.

“If you ask anything in my name, I will do it (John 14:14, RSV).”

Believe this promise and pray often. See you on the baseball fields.

Posted by: valerieburgess | March 22, 2008

Sweet Anointing

I woke up praying, wanting the anointing of the Lord to flow over me.  At the same moment I insecurely wondered, “If my life changed, if my relationships or friendships changed, or the place I lived changed, would Spirit of the Lord that I often feel still be with me?”

This morning I read I John 2: 27, “But as for you, the anointing (the sacred appointment, unction) which you have received from Him abides (permanently) in you.”

It’s so sweet to know that the anointing poured over and in me by the grace of Jesus Christ will sustain me, without a doubt.

(Check out Sweet Abandonment in the pages to the right for a related poem.)

Posted by: valerieburgess | March 20, 2008

Our Full and Perfect Day

“But the path of the righteous is like the light of the dawn which shines brighter and brighter until full day

(Prov. 4:18 RSV).” 

On the brisk Alaskan day, the sun shone into the hospital room. As I talked with my friend Linda who recently had double knee surgery, I could tell her day wasn’t as bright as the sun outside. But it reminded me of the verse I had memorized that morning. So as my husband spoke strength and faith over her circumstances, I shared with her the hope of the righteous. The weariness and pain that she felt wasn’t going to last.  Just as the dawn comes over the Alaskan mountains, and the sun rises higher and brighter in the sky, so would be her days of healing. Brighter and brighter the sun would shine until the day she was fully healed–her full and perfect day.

For each of us a full and perfect day might mean different things. Proverbs 4:18 tells us that the path of the righteous shines brighter and brighter guiding us to the “perfect day (KJV).” The word “perfect” more specifically means “perfected.”

The nuances don’t mean “perfect” as in no mistakes. But the word does mean fully established and ready or “perfected.” Another dimension of this meaning is prepared.

The light shines brighter and brighter as we stroll. As we follow the path God puts before us, we will become “perfected.” We will be fully established and ready for the plans he has ordained for our life.  Our full and perfect day will come.

For most of us there are several full days in a lifetime. When we come a “full day,” we look back and say, “So that’s why the Lord has been preparing me” or “So that’s His purpose in sending me down such a path.” The purpose of our days and his guiding light is to prepare us, ready us, establish us for the “full day.”

Esther realized that her full day came when she stood before the King to save the people of Israel. Mordecai reminded her that she was in the King’s palace “for such a time as this.” For Esther the dawn turned to full day.

Our full day comes when our life lighted by God crosses the path of someone in the darkness. They need God’s light to shine into their day. Like the people of Israel that Esther rescued, these people need salvation. We cross their path “for such a time as this.” We have been fully established, readied and prepared for this reason or purpose, this “full day.”

The days of our life are fully ordained. The perfect path always ends in the fullness of God. In addition, their will be a final fulfillment. The fullness of his glory is firmly established in the heavens. In our final full day, we will stand before God fully mature and perfected, if we continue down the path of righteousness, not straying to the left or the right.

Like Linda, we need the light of God to shine into the darkest corners of our abode. The nurse said as we prepared to leave, “Linda, I asked the janitorial service to clean up the dust bunnies in the corners of your room.”  The wonderful Alaskan sunshine had brought these to light. When Jesus shines on my life, the dust bunnies begin to show up. But as the Holy Spirit does its cleansing work, His rays simply reflect the light of God’s glory.  Let God’s perfect light perfect you.

Posted by: valerieburgess | March 17, 2008

Identity and Hope

Americans place their identities essentially in three places: their jobs or the power that the job wields them, their money or the power this buys, and other people or the power that identifying with them provides. But these identities are easily shaken. I have found a better place to put my identity and my hope. I identify with Jesus Christ.

Like most Americans, I have found myself in crisis because of identifying myself and my hopes with jobs, money and people that came crashing down. These times remind me of the black and white scene in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy’s world swirls around her in tornado-like fashion. The items she cherishes, the people she identifies with, and the work she knows, becomes uprooted in her mind. I can relate to this tornado-like turmoil.

When I found my first job in the career field of my choice directly out of college, I began to identify myself by that title. I’m an editorial assistant for such and such a company. That title brought a certain amount of hope and potential for personal growth. My identity became wrapped up in that job. But eventually, that job came to a crashing end. Where then was my hope?

My husband had a business that made an income large enough to supply my family with their basic needs and a little more. We sold that business when my husband decided to start a second career as a minister. With the change, this income then supplemented his current pay helping us immensely.  My hope was wrapped up in the income or what the money from that business could provide. We even bought a new house based on that income level. With Black Friday in April 2000 followed by the whirlwind of 9-11 and the general change in Alaska’s business climate, the business fell apart and the money it provided disappeared. Where then was my hope?

As a young child, my identity was wrapped up in my parents. My Dad and Mom were everything to me. But when my Dad left, so could have hope. I remember clinging to every message or hopeful thought around me. My Mom’s identity had been wrapped up in her husband. She had taken his name as a change in identity. When he left, so did the plans and dreams they had made together. Where then was her hope?

Each of these times, my identity had been wrapped up in something that came crashing down. I know another man whose world swirled around him in an even more drastic fashion. His name was Job. Like many of us, Job partially found his identity in his work, his possessions, and his family. But when all of these came to an end, he said, “My days are past, my purposes broken, and so are the desires of my heart. . . Who can see any hope for me? (Job 17:11:15)

But through these crises, like Job, I’ve learned that my identity and hope is not wrapped up in jobs, money, or other people. In 2 Samuel 22:2, David says, “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer.”

He also says, My Rock is like no other rock. I know this Rock to be Jesus Christ. As a Christ-ian or Christian, I’ve taken Christ’s name. I have staked my identity in His stability.When my friends and family fail me, I take my hopes and dreams to Him in prayer. When the economy shakes like an earthquake, He’s an unfailing foundation. His promises have lasted through 1000’s of years of disasters, loss, and economic destruction. He is a fantastic place to put my identity and my hope.

Posted by: valerieburgess | March 7, 2008

Please Hold My Hand, Jesus

Today I woke up, and I just needed Jesus to hold my hand. I wasn’t prepared for the tasks on my list. They seemed too essential and immense to handle alone. So I cried out to Jesus, “I can’t make it without you nearby.” A reminder echoed in my mind, “Remember yesterday?”

Yesterday morning, I had reached over to hold my husband’s hand while still lying in bed. I started to pray and worship God. I must have become lost in the prayer time, because I moved my hand forgetting I had placed it in my husband’s hand. Feeling his hand startled me. But it also gave me the sudden perspective and physical feeling of God holding my hand during that time of prayer.

Posted by: valerieburgess | December 17, 2007

Miraculous Faithfulness

   As I petitioned God yesterday, I remembered the words of a friend in a brief conversation about prayer. He asked, “Do you know any great prayers?”
   Then he began to list off a couple of people he felt were great in the area of prayer.    “_____is a great prayer. And ____ loves to pray.”
   I thought about the people listed. Each had prayed recently and seen God work miraculously. After their prayers healings had taken place. I began the usual comparison game that happens in my mind. “God, what’s wrong with me that I’m not seeing miracles happen?”
   Then God reminded me of His incredible faithfulness to keep my family, my five kids. I felt God asked, “Is that not the greatest miracle you could ever ask for?”  Then
In my mind, God took me back to 1976, the year God healed our Grandmother of cancer. I pictured three boxes of groceries setting on a dining room table in my childhood home because someone listened to God on behalf of six kids who had no food.
   I remembered that financially it had been near impossible for me to go to college, but God had provided. I thought back to the many times I wanted to quit various classes while in college. I’d cry and pray. God always answered.
   As I petitioned God, I could see His faithful hand working not just for a season but for a lifetime. I serve an amazing, miraculous God. And it has nothing to do with my prayer life, but everything to do with His faithfulness and love for the world He created.

Posted by: valerieburgess | December 2, 2007

Stay positive!

In last-minute-planning-for-dinner mode, I searched the cupboards for ingredients that could be made into a meal. Spaghetti? No sauce! Tacos? No seasoning! Chili? No beans!

            How about sloppy joes! Since this was a fairly new item on our family menu, the kids were excited. I added some salad and a hot vegetable. Voila, a meal!

            As I began to set the table, I remembered the finishing touch. Hamburger buns! We won’t use regular bread, because I had bought fresh hamburger buns the night before. I searched for the buns with no result. Then I found them–in the freezer.

            Frozen hamburger buns! I totally dislike using hamburger buns once they’ve been frozen.  My dismayed voice rose above the dinner commotion. My eldest teenage son came running out from the dining room.

            He yells, “Group hug. Everyone come quickly. Mom needs a hug!”

            Suddenly I’m surrounded by loving kids with the oldest saying, “It will be okay. Let’s just stay positive. We can thaw out the hamburger buns, Mom!”

            I retort, “But its time for dinner now!”

            Another son, says, “Let’s microwave them.”

            I again say, “I hate frozen then microwaved hamburger buns!”

            My eldest comes up with another solution, “Everybody stay calm and positive. We can toast the buns.”

            The group hug turned into a resounding roar of approval as the younger children gathered around the toaster with buns in their hands.

            And Mom was rescued from a sudden negative impulse with a hug and a reminder that if we stay positive,  we can get through any situation.

Posted by: valerieburgess | November 30, 2007

The Perfect Father

I talked to my pastor in regards to my thoughts and Yancey’s quote. He had helpful insight. He believed that we know so little about a perfect fatherly love, a perfect relationship with a father. He thought God wasn’t anything like the father in this illustration.  I knew I understood my pastor’s interpretation when I said in unison with him his concluding thought on Yancey’s quote, “God doesn’t struggle.”  In particular, He doesn’t struggle with teaching or being a part of our lives. It was nice to know that God doesn’t look upon us as our human fathers often do. God doesn’t just humor us; we’re not a problem to God. God is the perfect, all knowing father who understands our every hope, dream, and desire. Who loves, guides, and directs. Who wants to know us and be known.

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