Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Brandon's Memorial Weekend

We had been at the lake this past weekend when the kids had their week off school. It was great to be out there and to spend time with each other and with friends. Brandon now has his Learner's license and so he's been driving a bit. When we got there, I had him make tracks in the driveway cause there was quite a bit of snow and we wanted to walk where the snow wasn't so deep. So, he was driving up and down the driveway, and oops, went over too far and got stuck. At least it happened in the driveway and not on the road in the ditch. :-) The deer traffic in our back yard was just incredible - they were beautiful to watch.
Kyrstin and her friend Amy had great imaginations and were pretending to be scientists. It was fun to watch them make their experiments. It's neat when they have such creative ideas to pass their time rather than sitting in front of a tube.

Copper, a beagle, the new addition to our family since November, was so funny, he just loved running beside the snowmobile while we gave rides to the kids and drove around the lake. Sometimes, one of the kids would sit in the saucer and hold onto him while he ran down the street - he just pulled them along like a sled dog. :-) It was hilarious!! He loves running up and down the hill chasing the kids while their sledding. He just can't get enough - and he hardly gets tired. I wonder what would happen if we let him into the bush chasing a deer or a rabbit - we'd probably not see him again for a long time. :-) Oh did he love watching the deer out the window with Roger and wanting to go after them too - he was so funny. Other times he would just be bored and lay upside down in his kennel.

The kids were just begging to go sledding down this huge hill which was down the road from town. We did! They had fun although Kyrstin got plowed pretty good so we had to take her into the clinic at Shellbrook and get her checked out to make sure she hadn't broken anything. Fortunately she just got a huge bruise on her butt!

After a great week, I decide to let him drive partway home and he was taking the curve a little too fast and ooooops, slid into the snowbank on our street at the corner. :-) Our neighbor drove by on his snowmobile and saw so he got his truck to pull us out. Then another friend walked by with her kid and saw too - Oh how humb
ling it is learning how to drive. He was very quick to remind me that he hadn't hit a deer yet, which his mom has done and his dad; he hasn't driven into a huge hitch on a guy's truck and had to sit in the backseat of a police car - which his mom has done; - we'll just wait to see what his driving experiences will lead to yet. :-) He's very lucky we didn't get far enough into the ditch to hit that huge rock!!!

L.I.F.E. (Living in Faithful Evangelism) Groups - Bible Study Groups

This is part of my dear family - my brothers and sisters in Christ - God has brought us together to walk through difficult and joyful times of life with. I treasure these people with all my heart. Yes, I treasure Roger too - he's missing from the photo cause he had to go pick up the girls from gymnastics. Brandon took this photograph for us. Ever since Roger and I started going to Cornerstone, we've always been part of an evening Bible study group and have just loved it. So many wonderful people have come through our lives as we've lived and grown together in the Lord.

We come together and we talk, pray, laugh, and cry too, and study God's Word with. In these photos we're having a dessert and finger food potluck just before Christmas. It's so good just to get together and fellowship. We've gotten to know so many people through church and our community through groups like this - so many wonderful people have walked through our lives in these groups. What an important and exciting part of church life. If I didn't have groups like this, or Ladies Bible study groups, I'd find it very difficult - they've both always been such a huge part of my life/of our lives - it'd be super tough to live without them. :-)

The following is a report that I wrote up for an annual church book that gets printed each year with reports from all the different committees in it - it gives everyone a heads up as to what has been happening in our church all year and what each individual committee looks after.

Since L.I.F.E. groups/Bible study groups began so many years ago in our church, Roger and I have always been a part of one, it has always been a huge part of our lives. We've always enjoyed the fellowship, laughter and the learning of God's Word together with other believers. We've always believed strongly in the gathering together as believers to share our lives together - whether in joy, laughter, sorrow or hardship. Fellowship has always been an important aspect of our walk with God and in our marriage. It has strengthened us and it has taught us so many things of being part of the family of God. We learn and glean so much from each other and we share a bond with the people of God that can not possibly happen just on a Sunday morning each week. When there's laughter, we laugh together; when there's sorrow, we cry together; when there's pain, we carry each other's burdens together in prayer; when there's joy, oh how blessed it is to share that joy together. God never meant for any of us to travel this life alone, He's blessed us with people, with fellow believers to share the journey together with us all, to uplift and encourage each other.

Hebrews 10:25 says " Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."

I'd say that this is the theme verse for Cornerstone L.I.F.E. Groups. We are not to give up meeting together. God wants for us to have the fulfilling fellowship with other believers. It has been such an incredible blessing in our lives. We have walked with others through the joys of baptism, graduation, reunions, weddings, birth of children or grandchildren, job promotions, and many other celebrations of life. We have gathered strength from each other as we've walked through and prayed through the sorrows and hardships of this life; death of a child, sicknesses and diseases, death of a spouse or loved one, children moving away or not following the Lord, chronic pain/illness, financial difficulties, the challenges of dealing with aging parents...and many others. Other times we've shared such laughter together that our guts hurt, especially when Pastor Russ Reid had to eat baby food blindfolded at a baby shower. :-) What a blessing it is to be part of the body of Christ.

In Fall 2007, Roger & I accepted the invitation from Cornerstone Church to become L.I.F.E. Group Co-ordinators. After being a part of Bible study groups for so many years, it felt very natural for us to become leaders at church in this area. We have been and we know we will be so blessed by accepting this call from God. We have learned so much already and we've only just begun this role. We were only in this role for a month when The Truth Project vision stirred in our hearts, in my husband's heart. I knew that was what God was calling us to bring to our church and to our communities. After attending the conference in November, we knew even more, that this was where God was leading us. Confirmation after confirmation has now gotten us to leading 85 believers in 5 different groups through this series, both in our church and in our community; leading them so that in turn, they can then lead others through the Truths of God's Word. When we receive teaching and truths from God, we are not to keep it to ourselves but to tell others about it and to share the Good News. "Go ye therefore into all the world" and to me that means into all our communities and homes too. In the homes is where transparency and lasting relationships often take place - a great place for Bible study groups and sharing a bond with each other through Christ. In John 8 verse 31b & 32, Jesus is speaking to the Jews who believed Him, and "Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." This is what the Truth Project is all about - setting the captives free - we are being held captive by many lies that our culture is feeding us and Jesus wants us to be set free. God wants us to live in freedom, not capitivity. When we are in God's Word, praying and acting on what we believe through Christ, we will be set free. When we learn and grow together through Bible study and prayer, we will be blessed.

We are excited with what God is doing in our church, in His church. We wait in expectation as we witness Him transforming hearts and renewing minds to become more like Christ's.
Serving Him,
Lisa & Roger Braun

Breakforth 2008

At the end of January, Roger & I had attended Breakforth 2008 in Edmonton with a bunch of other great people from our church. It was absolutely fantastic!! I don't know of any other place that you can worship God together with over 10,000 believers and choose from over 150 speakers to hear or workshops to go to. It was an incredible blessed time! I had been once about 5 years ago but this was the first time Roger and attended. He was very impressed! It was really a total God-thing that we went. Usually I'm saying that we need to go to stuff like this but this time it was Roger's idea to go - in spite of the costs involved and even though we also went to the Truth Project seminar back in November as well. I know God is working and moving in my hubby's life, my life and in our lives together as a couple, and in our kids lives. God wanted us there for a very specific purpose. And we were blessed!!

Roger & I went to a couple of the same workshops but we also attended different ones as well. Roger loved Lee Strobel - who was an atheist for many many years and has now come to believe in Jesus Christ, the resurrection, Creation and our God of the Universe - who made everything in it. Lee had amazing testimonies, photos, videos and presentation. What a journey he's been on. So many of his teachings went along with what we've been going through in the Truth Project. We took those as confirmations from God that we were supposed to be there and He had us there for a purpose. Josh McDowell (www.josh.org ) also had a great talk. All the speakers did - Erwin McManus, Lee Strobel (www.leestrobel.com ), Josh McDowell, and David Nasser. I had gone to two of Donna Carter's workshops but I would've also loved to have caught one of Kay Arthur's workshops - she was really good too.

The music was outa this world - really - it was, it was, it was, sooooooo good. Friday night we were led into worship with Mercy Me and then later that night they gave us a concert. WOW! We love their songs - each song is so deep and so meaningful and so about God. Mercy Me has this one song on their new CD and I just cried the first time I heard it. They sang it at their concert and of course it really affected Roger & I. The lead singer's dad had passed away when the singer was 19 years old - hadn't started this band yet. So in the song he talks about wrapping his arms around his daddy's neck when he sees him and telling him all the things that he's wanted him to know - telling him of how far he'd come and what God had done in his life - hoping that his dad would be proud of him - he wanted to tell his dad how much he's missed him and tell him how much he loved him. Then at the end of the song he sings about when he sees Jesus how all the questions that he thought he would ask him would all leave him and how he might just be speechless and then he sings the line "But the sweetest thing my ears have yet to hear, are the voices of the angels - aaaahhhhh!" Oh it's such a beautiful song and spoke to closely to Roger's heart and to mine. The kids love it too - especially Alysha, she wants to play it over and over again. There's just certain songs like that that just go so deep into a person's heart and every song that Mercy Me sings seems to speak to a person to deeply like that - each song has so much soul in it. What an incredible gift the Lord has given to this band. They will surely be blessed for singing these songs that God has written on their hearts to bless others with. WOW!

I'm not sure what happened with this one photo but I love it. I had been taking a picture of the stage with all the lights and pulled my camera down too soon. Instead the camera caught the reflection on the floor of the lights along with a shadow of a person. To me it looks like a young person standing with their face raised up to the light that God is shedding on their face. I love the thought of that - standing in God's spotllight. :-) In a sense, are we not doing that everyday??

There were 4 separate worship sessions where we sang for about 1/2 hour and then we listened to a speaker after that. On Friday, Mercy Me led worship - that one was my favorite. Then on Saturday morning during worship, a fellow was painting this picture - it took him about 45 minutes while we were singing songs along with the band. It was incredible!! There was a silent auction on the painting for the rest of the weekend and it went for $4,500 - and that money went to World Vision or Compassion, I can't remember, one of those two. It was a gorgeous painting. Two of my other favorite worship leaders are Robin Mark from Ireland and Paul Baloche from Alberta (I think) - they both led worship - Paul on Saturday night and Robin on Sunday afternoon for the final worship time together. Both of these men have written so many worship songs that we sing in our churches today. It was great to sing their songs that they've written together with them too.

Saturday night Lincoln Brewster gave a concert as well but we hadn't stayed for that one - but we heard it was fantastic. Sunday night Third Day gave a concert and we stayed for that - was that ever worth it, even arriving home at 3:30 am and driving all the way home through a blizzard - it was sooo good. I loved seeing older people raising their hands and dancing to the music. I loved seeing so many people moved by God as we all worshiped Him in unity. Something that really struck me during these concerts was the fact that we were all there worshiping God together, people's hands were raised and the band wasn't there to put on a show, but to praise God in the songs God had given them the words to sing for us. These singers weren't there to get the glory from us or for us to 'worship' and idolize them but to give glory and praise to God. To me that's such a difference at a Christian concert - the band always talks about God and brings the praise to Him rather than to themselves. Incredible.

Both Friday night and Saturday night were a ton of different events you could take in from movies, to live comedy acts, to blues cafes, to concerts.... It's a very full and uplifting weekend and you don't want to miss a thing. If you ever get a chance to go, it is so worth it. It happens every year at the end of January. Be sure to check out their website www.breakforthcanada.ca

Monday, February 25, 2008

When Life Ain't Easy

It was 5 am on Friday morning when I got the phone call from a friend - he was calling from the hospital. Their son had just been in a truck fire and was hanging onto life from his hospital bed. I got up and was at the hospital as quick as I could. As I drove I prayed. What do you say at times like these?? Often you don't say a thing, you just be there and give hugs when needed. I had never been in this type of situation before. Just before Christmas I had witnessed a mother holding her son in the ditch right after an accident - he had already passed away - her son was the same age as mine. I had thought then, "God, why her and not me? Why her son and not mine?" Well this morning at the hospital, little did I know that I would be meeting a teacher who taught with this mom and God would give me an opportunity to share my heart of my experience through that difficult day. A bittersweet blessing.

We don't always make sense of God's timing in our lives or in our kids lives. What can we do at those moments when things just don't seem to make sense? Hold on to God for dear life and personally, as hard as it is, what other option is there but to trust God to take us through those dark valleys.

You know I had only met my friend's child once a couple of years ago. When your kids are older and don't always attend the same church or are not in the same circles of life, you don't always know that much about the family of your friends. In our Bible study groups we often pray for each other's kids and talk about them, but that's about it. So that's how it was with this friend. What a blessing it is though when you have a group of friends or a Bible study group that you can pray for each other. God had brought us together for such a time as this.

So, I had stopped at the hospital a few times that day, to stand by my friend's side and to support and pray as much as I knew how. I didn't always know how, it was something that I hadn't done before in this type of situation. But it's amazing how God gives you strength and the ability to do the things which He calls you to do. It was such a privilege to walk through this dark valley with this friend, as difficult as it was and as sad that it was. At one point, when Roger and I were there together, they asked us to come in with and pray over their son. I had never done that before either. God is amazing at how He prepares us for these moments where it would just not be humanly possible to do something like that on your own strength. Even though it's so difficult, it's amazing to see how God is at work through these times. Tyler had been on life support since he was brought into the hospital. His one brother was down in Texas and would not get in until late that night. But it was like he waited. In the evening, his vitals kept going down and down, but when his brother got there and started talking to him, they just jumped. It was like he knew. But then they plummetted again and mom said, "It's okay Tyler, you can go now." And you know what? He did. It was like he knew his brother needed to say good-bye and he needed his mom's blessing to leave and be with Jesus. God is so amazing!!

The funeral was on Wednesday. God had it all worked out that my girls would be asked to sing a song at the funeral. Alysha had been working on this piano song for a good month now -- she was playing it completely on her own. She had just gotten a new book and had seen this song and just started playing away. She knew it quite well. Kyrstin also knew how to sing it because we had sung it in church many a time. So, when the question came up if they would sing and play at the funeral, we knew just the song that God had in mind. The girls had never done anything like this either. The only other funeral they had been at was their grandfather's 5 years ago. They were quite nervous and it was quite difficult for them to practice together without fighting. The day of the memorial, they were practicing at church and just fighting and crying. I held up my hands and said, "God, there is no human possible way that this is going to work unless you intervene. Please be the song that comes out of Alysha's hands and please be the voice that comes from Kyrstin's lips because they cannot do this on their own. You gotta work through them and help them. Please Lord." I was frustrated and thinking that this had been a big mistake. God had other plans in mind.

The Memorial service was beautiful. A teacher shared, a mentor shared, an aunt and uncle shared on behalf of the grandparents, and then the brothers shared. After the sharing, Pastor Russ gave an incredible message of how God loves all people and how He loved each one of those people at that Memorial - even the rough tough dudes that don't like to step inside a church. There were not many dry eyes after the sharing and the message of love. Everyone there needed to hear that message. Then came these two girls, these two angels, to sing to the hearts of all these souls that had just heard the message. And you know, God was in Alysha's fingers playing the piano and God was in the voice that came from Kyrstin's mouth. It was beautiful! He did it just perfectly. The mike wasn't working but Kyrstin didn't flinch and she sang her heart away for God. I had told the girls during the sharing that God was at work in all these hearts through all these messages and that they were going to finish this message for Him through the song. They were missionaries that moment, sharing the love of Jesus through song. This was the song they played and sang:

Above All

Above all powers, above all kings,
above all nature and all created things;
above all wisdom and all the ways of man,
You were here before the world began.
Above all kingdoms, above all thrones,
above all wonders the world has ever known;
above all wealth and treasures of the earth,
there's no way to measure what You're worth.

Crucified, laid behind a stone,
You lived to die rejected and alone.
Like a rose, trampled on the ground,
You took the fall, and thought of me,
Above all.

You know, they didn't do it for themselves or for their parents, but they did it for our friends and for God. It wasn't a performance, it wasn't a show - it was a message from the heart from the angels of the Lord to the hurting souls in that church. God amazes me. He is so worthy beyond our comprehension. His ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not our thoughts. He is amazing, steadfast, loving, forgiving and comforting. He is everything to us and He'll take our hand through anything here on this earth as long as we let Him. Won't you let Him today?? He's waiting for your invitation to be a part of your life. He wants to bless your socks off but He also wants to walk with you through the difficult valleys of life here on earth. He wants nothing more than an intimate relationship with you. It's the best place on earth to be, in the arms of our Loving God, in the security of His Wings, and the shelter of His Promises. Thank you God for loving me and everyone else.