Friday, September 23, 2016

The Heart is Won

Apart from love for Christ, my kids will, at best, be nothing more than Pharisees. Outwardly conforming to the rules while their hearts are far from Him.

I so want the Lord to save them, so want their hearts to fall in love with the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Yet, I am reminded how often I focus on their external behavior while leaving their hearts untouched.

I can't save my kids...only the Lord can raise the dead to life, open blind eyes to see His grace, and transform a heart of stone into a heart of flesh....but I do want to be faithful to build a love for Him in their hearts. I want them to see His glory and mercy and beauty and faithfulness and majesty. I want them to see the "good news" for what it is: good, great, mind-blowing...the best news they will ever hear.

I'm reading a super practical, super helpful book by Jack Klumpenhower called "Show Them Jesus" and he says this in chapter 4:

"Our sins are all paid for - not just the few sins we notice but the whole ugly heart that secretly loves them. All forgiven.

The good news takes us daily from despair to astonished laughter. With relief in our eyes we look at the man who's done all this for us. And who do we see? We see the strongest yet gentlest, most regal and yet most humble person imaginable. Most of all, we see the kind of lover we've never known before. Jesus's love for us is pure love. It has nothing to do with us being the least bit lovely. If it did, we'd feel pressure to keep up whatever earned his love. But no, "if we are faithless, he remains faithful" (2 Timothy 2:13). He loves us forever. No payback needed. No conditions. No guilt trips. We are loved, period. 

And where that is believed, the heart is won." 

True obedience from the heart results from an overflow of love, not duty.

How lovely is Jesus to you? How lovely is He to your children?

"How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord of Hosts. I long and yearn for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh cry out for the living God." Psalm 84:1-2

Saturday, September 17, 2016

A Yummy Illustration!

I have been working on my Sunday School lesson for tomorrow and came across this fantastic illustration:
"Ask the children if they have ever helped bake a cake. There are a lot of ingredients that go into making a cake, but if you were to eat salt, vanilla extract, or oil by themselves they would probably not taste yummy. But if you don't put them into a cake, it will not taste the way it should. Obedience is like this. Sometimes we are asked to do things that, by themselves, don't seem to make sense. But we must be obedient and follow all the directions that God and our parents give us. In the end, we will see that is was for our good." *
I don't know about you, but this is not just something for our kids to hear...we need to hear it, too!
God calls us to faithful obedience as we trust His Word and His character...even when we can't see or do not understand the circumstance He has put us in or what He is calling us to do. 
What a blessing that God has given us a plethora of Biblical examples of men and women, a great cloud of witnesses as Hebrews 12:1 tells us, who were called to obey even though it did not make sense to them:
Abraham and Isaac
Joshua and Jericho
Gideon and the 300 men for battle
Ruth with Boaz
Jonah and Nineveh
Elijah and the alter with the prophets of name a few.
Their obedience was not predicated on WHAT the knew but WHO they knew. What hope and encouragement they give to our weary hearts as we seek to faithfully fix our eyes on the Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith. He, too, faced the bitterness of the cross, the beatings, the scorn, and, ultimately, the wrath of His Father God, for the joy and sweetness of redeeming a people for Himself.
Much to think on, much to rejoice in!
Tomorrow, my Sunday School kids will taste salt and flour, by themselves, and the looks on their faces just might be picture-worthy. But they will also taste the results of those, and other ingredients, mixed together to form a yummy cake. My prayer is that they (along with the rest of us) will begin to grasp the beauty of God's sovereignty in all of life's events and begin to see the sweet blessing and fruit that comes out of faithful obedience to the One who is forever and always faithful! 
"We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28
"Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely. And may your spirit, soul, and body be kept sound and blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it." I Thess. 5:23-24
*Generations of Grace

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Purpose in Homeschooling (and's not to go crazy!)


What do you think when you read that word? 

Do you picture girls in matching dresses and boys in jean overalls? 

Do you think the words “weird and awkward” in your head? 

Or maybe you actually know some families that homeschool and they look normal and the only “weird and awkward” coming from them is the same “weird and awkward” you experience in your own home as your kids grow from babes to adulthood. But, when you think about homeschooling, you’re quick to think, “I could never do that!”

That was all of the above. And, if I’m totally honest, it’s still me some days! 

The stereotypes still die hard. There is always that niggle of concern that I’m making my kids weird and, almost daily, I have to take my thoughts of “I can’t do this!” captive to the truths of God’s Word that His grace is sufficient! 

We are getting ready to embark on our second year of homeschooling since being in Canada ( I had homeschooled several years ago before the kids went to Christian school). Bryan and I believe this is the road God has marked out for us in this season of life. That is not to say that it’s the road for everybody else or anybody else. It’s our road. Yours might be public school or private school. For us, we don’t see homeschooling as they only way or the right way...just the best way for us for now. So, whatever you do, just be convinced it’s what God has called your family to...and then walk that road faithfully and humbly before the Lord. 

And as we seek to walk faithfully and humbly before the Lord, it’s helpful to remind ourselves of our purpose in all of life, whatever road we are walking: to glorify God. I love how Tim Challies puts it in his book Do More Better, “You need to structure and organize your life so that you can do the maximum good for others and thus bring the maximum glory to God.”

I was also encouraged last year to write down our specific purpose in homeschooling. A goal that I could be reminded of when the going gets tough and I want to run out of the house :) . After thought and prayerful consideration, we have a written goal along with some verses I want to memorize to encourage my heart in moments of weariness. While our specific goal might not fit your home life...the verses apply to all of us, I figured I’d share...and maybe it just might encourage you to write down some of your own (I’d love to hear your own goals and verses in the comments!).

Pichura Purpose in Homeschooling:

“To create flexibility in our daily schedule to minister to those around us, treasuring the fleeting years we have as a family of 8, as we seek to instill a Biblical worldview lens and a strong work ethic while building camaraderie, unity, and sweet memories as a family.” 

(Note to you all....this is the goal. Given that all 8 of us are sinners living under the same roof, please do not be shocked if you show up to our house and see the opposite taking place at any given moment...just pray for us!;) )

Prayers of this mama’s heart: 

“Let my teaching fall like rain and my words settle like dew, like gentle rain on new grass and showers on tender plants. For I will proclaim the Lord’s name. Declare the greatness of our God.”  Deut. 32:2-3

“And we exhort you brothers (that includes mothers!): warn those who are lazy, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient with everyone...Rejoice always! Pray constantly. Give thanks in everything for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 
I Thessalonians 5:14,16-17

“She opens her mouth with wisdom, and loving instruction is on her tongue.” Proverbs 31:26

“A house is built by wisdom, and it is established by understanding; by knowledge the rooms are filled with every precious and beautiful treasure.” Proverbs 24:3-4

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Who Do I Think I Am?

I am reading a new book by Jen Wilkin entitled " None Like Him: 10 Ways God is Different From Us (and why that's a good thing)". (If you have not read her first book "Women of the Word", I highly recommend that one, as well!)

I love books that highlight the character of God! As I read, I truly find myself standing in awe of our great God and find myself falling deeper in love with Him. In a world that says there is no God and in a church-age that seems to often minimize the holiness and awesomeness of God and, instead, exalt man....we need to be constantly reminded about who God really is as He has revealed Himself in His Word, the Bible.

One of the attributes Jen highlights is God's omniscience. She defines it as "....limitless in his knowledge. He knows all things, not because he has learned them, but because he is their origin. God does not learn. Learning implies change, and as we've already considered, he is unchanging."

I've known that to be true and have greatly rejoiced in the fact that God knows all things. What I didn't take time to consider until reading this chapter was just how much I often live seeking to be omniscient myself. If you had asked me a month ago if I thought I could be omniscient I would have laughed at you and said, "No way! That's an attribute for God alone and it would be blasphemy to think I could have a part in that!" And yet, here I sit, convicted by my own pursuit to control, to know more and more, to figure out the future,  and to stretch beyond the here and now.

Jen says it this way throughout the pages of chapter 8:

"Whatever tomorrow holds, we can be certain that its contents will raise as many questions as they will answers. We can trust God to manage the future without our help. It is none of our business."

"Rather than obsessing over the future, learn contentment in your God-ordained innocence of what is to come....This will mean less time chasing curiosities online and more time mining the treasure in Scripture. It will mean leaving the knowledge of the future into the hands of the God who is already there. It will mean minding our own business instead of meddling. Our comfort lies not in holding all knowledge, but in trusting the One who does." 

"The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law." (Deut. 29:29)

"Because God holds all knowledge, we don't have to. Our lives are filled with questions awaiting answers, but not so our omniscient God. He does not suffer the anxiety of not-knowing that plagues our days. He has no cause for worry, for all is certainty to him. We live in the darkness of partial and incomplete knowledge, but to him the darkness is as light. No fact conceals itself from his eyes or buries itself in the shifting shadows of time. We are free to spend our years learning in healthy ways, seeking to expand our understanding humbly, in such a way that we are transformed not into smarty-pants but into servants." 

Psalm 139:16 says, "Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began." Verse 5 says that we are "encircled" by God and His hand is on us. His grace is sufficient for TODAY. His comfort brings us the joy we need for TODAY. His mercies are new TODAY. The Lord has made and called us to rejoice in TODAY.

TOMORROW is none of my business. And that is a very good thing!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Reflection Ministry

Sometimes, as I read the Bible,  chapter breakdowns and even the inserted "titles" along the way can really throw me off. It's amazing how quick my mind can allow those "breaks" to isolate what is being said from what was said and then stop short of what will be said that further explains what I just read! 

Have I lost you yet? :)

2 Corinthians 3 and 4 contain one of those types of passages...and I'm so thankful the Lord stopped me from being a lazy student of the Word and reminded me to slow down and read the full context. 2 Corinthians 4:1 says, "Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not give up." 

What ministry? Did I miss something? This is the first verse of the chapter, after all. gotta go back to the last verse of the previous chapter!  2 Cor. 3:18 says: 

"We all, with unveiled faces, are reflecting the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit." 

It is the ministry of reflecting the glory of the Lord, as He transforms our lives through His Word and trials, so that we might be more like Him, therefore reflecting Him all the more accurately. 

And I LOVE the beautiful way Paul writes about those trials that are transforming us...."glory to glory" or, as the ESV says, "from one degree of glory to another". 

So, even if your husband doesn't carry the title "pastor" and your family's salary doesn't come from the church...don't think for one moment that you are not in ministry! We all are...and, at it's core, our ministry is all the same. To reflect the glory of the Lord! 

How do we do this? We live before others as what we are...jars of clay that are often afflicted, discouraged, and perplexed but who have great hope in the Treasure living inside of us, our mighty Lord. They see us as not losing heart at the momentary trials because we know there is enough grace for those trials and they become "glory" moments as we reflect the greatness of our God in and through them. They see us as joyful even when our outer man is wasting away, because we can't wait for Heaven, to finally be home with Jesus, free from sin and the sorrow of this fallen world. In the ordinary and mundane to the tragedies and unexpected, they see us reflecting the One Whom we love,  our Lord Jesus Christ! 

May our "reflection ministry" be such "so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving to the glory of God" (2. Cor. 4:15)

"But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere."  2 Corinthians 2:14

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Summer Sweetness for the Soul!

Every now and then I read a book that I wish I could buy by the truckload and give to every woman in my life...and by every woman in my life....I mean every woman that I have ever met...even if it was just one time!

Betsy Childs Howard wrote "Seasons of Waiting: Walking by faith when dreams are delayed", and she wrote it beautifully! In all my years of ministry and in the hundreds (maybe thousands?!) of conversations I have had with other women over those years, there is a theme that has almost always emerged as we talk. All of us are waiting for something. All of us are praying for something to end or something to start. Be it big or small, there is a level of waiting that fills every heart. Sometimes waiting brings with it a level of excited expectation as we see the thing longed for approaching. But, many times, waiting can be painful. It can feel like a cloud that follows us around or a burden that never quite seems to leave our shoulders.

I have often cried out to the Lord in seasons of waiting, "Please, help me learn what I need to learn, Lord, so the wait can be over." Sounds like a Biblical prayer, right?

I was only a few pages deep into "Seasons of Waiting" when I was confronted in regards to that very prayer! Betsy says, "You may have picked up this book in the hope that it will help you learn your lesson (and thereby bring your waiting to an end). My hope is that it will help you learn to love waiting, to want to wait well, and to see that God has a beautiful kingdom purpose that he is bringing about through (not in spite of) your waiting."

I couldn't put the book down after that. I wanted to learn how to love waiting, to wait well, and to see God's story in the midst of my waiting so that I could give Him glory, even through the painful waits. As I read, I found myself experiencing a wide range of emotions as she dealt with very real topics (singleness, bareness, sickness, unsettledness, prodigal children/spouse). I often found myself in tears over the pain that waiting can bring (in my life and in the lives of others)...and yet, over and over, I couldn't help but pause and give glory to our faithful God as my heart was filled with hope and JOY over the gift that waiting can be and the testimony it can be to a watching world as we proclaim Christ and His forever promises in the midst of the temporal and as we fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen (2 Cor. 4:18).

I'm not sure I can use strong enough words to encourage you to BUY THIS BOOK and then READ IT! Outside of your time in God's Word, it just might be some of your sweetest reading this summer!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Christmas in least the letter part!

It's been a long while since I took the time to give a Pichura update....a window into this crazy, blessed life that God has given us. Of course, a window is just a window. This "glimpse in" just shows part of what God has been up to in our lives this past year. I'm choosing to (mostly) share the blessings...not all the tears and trials. But our year has been full of those, too. How could we expect less when God has promised that we WILL have trials?....not just because of the fallen world we live in, but also because of our own flesh. We rejoice greatly that God has "overcome the world" and we look forward to the day when He comes back or calls us home where we will see Jesus face to face and no longer fight sin!

We moved to Chilliwack, British Columbia, June 29th of 2015. With the move came many changes, one of which was the kids and school. All the kids were homeschooled this year. After being at the Christian school in Hood River for 3 years, it was a bit of an adjustment for us all. And by "bit", I mean "huge, gigantic, and massive". And that is just how the change felt to me. ;) It took us about half the year to get into a rhythm and the other half of the year to warm up to the change. We officially found ourselves enjoying school as of June 1st and I'm happy to say the school year officially ended June 3rd. :)  Okay, okay....maybe I'm the only one giggling at this point! In all seriousness, we have finished school for the year, we did have lots of adjustments, and it wasn't always easy. BUT, we are thankful for God's grace and provision, thankful for the sin that was weeded out of our hearts as we all worked in close proximity to each other, thankful for much forgiveness, both from God and each other, thankful for the time we were able to spend together, thankful for the learning that took place, thankful to have made it, and looking forward to what God has in store for us in the coming year!

With each year, like it or not, our kids keep growing up!

Micah will be a junior in high school this fall and turns 16 in October. read that right...although we have a hard time believing it! He's got his sights set on driving...and we have our sights set on a bus pass. :)

Grace finished 9th grade...adding inches to her height and taking several more off her hair this year. Grace isn't a big fan of change...but once she determines to do something,  it's a joy to watch her bloom!

Samuel turned 14 in April and is ready for high school in the fall. He loves all things basketball...though he made a fantastic goalie in ice hockey this winter!

Faith decided she could use homeschooling to her benefit and skipped the 7th grade this year. She'll join the ranks of her older three siblings as a high schooler come September. She also entered the world of contact lenses this week...and will be praying she can babysit enough to pay for the damage :)

Titus turned 12 on Saturday....and is excited to join the youth group this summer as an incoming 7th grader. He continues to love all things water and still has his sights set on the Coast Guard one day.

Caleb turns 11 in just a few days. He's our last elementary kiddo with 6th grade just around the corner. He's got a smile to melt your heart...and a retainer to help hold it in place :).

(Note: most of our kids have a bit of metal in their mouths....apparently they got the "metal mouth genes" from both Bryan and I)

Bryan and I celebrated 18 years of marriage this past January. I was 18 when I married Bryan, so I have officially spent half of my life married to my other half! ;) And he truly is my other half! It has taken time and years to grow in deep appreciation for all the ways Bryan is different than me. Those early years, I found it easy to grow frustrated by the wish that he would see it my way....or at least to realize that his way was not the best way. (yep...I really did think that)  I am SO THANKFUL that those God saves, He changes! That He is the master potter transforming lumps of clay into useful purposes for His glory, our sanctification, and for the good of all who love Him. The longer I am married (and the more God sanctifies me through His Word and Spirit), the more I see just how much Bryan's differences strengthen where I am weak, complete what I am lacking, and are a beautiful match to my half. The two shall become one. What a beautiful gift!

Andrew Peterson has a song called "Dancing in the Minefields" and it's a favorite of ours. When we got engaged on June 24th, 1997 we never imagined the many minefields (the daily and not so daily trials of life) that our married years would hold, or we might have jumped in a fox hole and given up before we even started. But, by the grace of God, we have been able to dance through them. The dance has not always looked pretty, but we have always been sustained by our Saviour, held up by God's mighty hands, and encouraged by His glorious Word. We have danced, not because our eyes have been fixed on each other but because they have been fixed on our Heavenly Father...the God of all comfort and HOPE!

A minefield of this past year was that our church, here in Canada, went through a church split not long after we arrived. It's painful, it's hard, it's so far from what you ever desire to see the church be and do...and yet, it happens. So, you cling to God's Word, you seek to walk faithfully in His truth, you pray, you keep serving, you keep reaching out, you keep loving, you keep being the body of Christ. And there is beauty for ashes, there are fresh blooms that rise out of what looks like barren land, there is dancing after the mourning. And the roots of steadfast faith grow deeper in the God who is faithful and promises to complete each and every work He has begun!

We look back on this past year with a thankful heart...not because life has been a bowl of cherries...but because the Creator of those cherries has chosen us, called us, saved us, rescued us for His glory, and has promised to use all things to accomplish His GOOD purposes.

We stand right now with the prayer that we will be "steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord knowing that our labor is not in vain in the Lord."

And we look forward to God's plans for the Pichura Family in the coming year for we know that every moment, of every day, of every month of the year is held in His hands...for "from Him and to Him and through Him are ALL things. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen!"