Thursday, April 29, 2010

Building our Homes Part II


I sit here with a cap on my head, the faint smell of chemicals in my nose...and the hopes that all those holes that I (and Bryan!) poked into my head will look something like the highlighting I am hoping for!:)

I am heading back to Psalm 127 tonight...but I am dropping down to verse 4....I'll go back, I promise.

"Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth."

Our children are like arrows...and I can't say that I know too much about archery...but I do know that a warrior wants arrows that, when shot, will hit the mark...and stick! So those arrows must be sharp and they must be straight.

And that is the way we need to seek to raise our kid....sharp and straight. The only way to be "sharp" is to know the Word of God.

"For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." Hebrews 4:12

His Word is living and active, His Word convicts and does not return void. In the end, the only words that we say to our kids that will matter (that will affect their soul) are God's Words. We as mom's need to first love His Word and that love should spill over into helping our kids to love it too! Memorization, reading it to them, encouraging their own personal time with the Lord, speaking His truth to them throughout the day...as we love them, encourage them, correct them, etc.(Deut. 6:7-9). These are all ways that we can make our kids "sharp" in what really matters. How that affects their heart and changes their lives is solely a work of God...but we must be faithful to do our part.

And we need to seek to raise up straight arrows. We need to continually be helping them and guiding them...encouraging them to acknowledge the Lord in all their ways for only He can make their paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).

"Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed." Hebrews 12:9-13

One thing I have been convicted about in regards to these two objectives "sharp and straight" is that often I am quick to point out my kids sin and tell them what to "put off" without encouraging them in what to "put on". My kids have often said, in frustration:"Mom, I have asked the Lord to help me but He is not helping me...I keep sinning." We have talked through the fact that often there is no help because they are asking with wrong motives (James 4:3)...their desire is not to glorify God but simply to get what they want or not get in trouble.

But I also believe that they feel frustrated because they are not being instructed in what to "put on" and so they quickly revert back to the very thing they just repented of. Colossians 3 is a fantastic passage on this subject. In fact, Micah and I are going to be working on memorizing a portion of it (we spent some time sitting on the floor of his room discussing this very subject today!). As moms, we need to be equipping them with what God's Word says not just about what NOT to do but what TO DO instead. I have found it often helps to "role play"...to go back over the situation at hand and do it again...this time, thinking Biblically and therefore acting and speaking in a way that honors God. It may feel a little corny at first..but it has been a huge tool in helping my kids to see the "straight path" and to be "sharp" in the ways of the Lord.

And, let's not forget...unless we are doing this in the strength that God provides, seeking His way for His glory...it is vanity!

"Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain..." Psalm 127:1a

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Confessions of a Sweet Tooth


Ever since my Dad had his surgery, the way I see food is a little different than the way I saw it before. I'm my Dad's daughter...genes and all...so I know that what has happened to him could be me several years down the road.

I have always been conscience of my weight and a desire to "keep it down" but I have truly never been a "healthy eater". For instance, when I was on Weight Watchers, I would eat as little as possible throughout the day so that I could have a big ice cream cone at the end of the day!:) Ice cream, chocolate and just about anything sweet would be my pick over a meal any day of the week...unless, of course, you wanted to throw in some yummy bread and butter and a bunch of cheese!:) I put smiley faces at the end of the sentences but it really is all true...and I'm not really that pleased with myself.

At this point, some of you may be thinking I'm from another planet, others of you may actually find some delight in the fact that we hold these things in common :) and, some of you that see me on a regular basis will start watching me at potlucks and dinner's to see if I am really changing at all!:) And, you know what, I welcome the accountability...I really do!

Anyway, back to seeing food a little bit differently....it's not just about calories...but what kind of calories I am putting into my body. I've been looking at saturated fat content and sugar content and reading up on what carbs, protein, fiber, fat and sugar does to and for our bodies. It's super amazing how God has made our bodies to work and how, what we put into it, really does determine how well our bodies will be able to do the job they've been given to do by God.

So, we've begun to make some changes in the Pichura home...nothing drastic...but everything in moderation! And yes...once mom is on board, everyone gets to get on board!:) Poor Faith asked me yesterday when our "diet" is going to be over :)...I'm not sure she liked hearing that this was the way we were going to be LIVING!:)

The junk addict in me is not liking this whole thing too much either. In fact, I have noticed myself struggling with being irritable and not being joyful. With a disposition of "cranky" instead of a disposition of rejoicing. And I think food is at the heart of it.

There are so many ways people in our world seek to be satisfied, to be happy. Of course, we know that apart from Jesus, nothing will satisfy...but there are still many ways others look to find happiness that we, as believers, cannot and do not take part in because they are sinful. Not so with food. Food, in and of itself, is not sin...so it has always felt very "safe" for me. I spend much of my time "denying self" as I take care of 6 kids and homeschool, etc... and (junk)food has been one area that I don't deny myself...that I can enjoy and not have it taken away from me no matter what is going on that day. And, if you have ever had a "Friendly's" Reece's Peanut Butter Cup Sundae than you know that food CAN make you happy...at least for a while!:)

The ability to eat junk food whenever I wanted (and as much as I wanted) really had become an idol to me without me even realizing it. And the reason I can recognize it now is because as I am seeking to deny my cravings and desires in the area of food, I find myself losing joy and growing irritated. A sure sign that an idol is lurking nearby!

I guess what I am learning is that there is no such thing as a "safe" affection. Everything, no matter how good it is, can still become an idol when we want it more than God. Anyone, no matter how dear they are to us, can still become an idol when we love them more than God. It's a daily battle to fight against the idols that so quickly creep up...and it's a fight in which the battle cry must be that of Lamentations 3:24:

"THE LORD IS MY PORTION"

That is my prayer, that is my goal...that is the truthful confession from a "sweet tooth"!

Building our Homes


This morning in Bible Study, the gal who heads it up shared a great verse with us...along with some thoughts, that really got me thinking.

"Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over a city, the watchman stays awake in vain." Psalm 127:1

We are each building our homes. We don't do it alone...our husbands are the "head"...but God has given us the job of "manager"(I Tim. 5:14). What an amazing job we have! What a gift we have been given. Our own little "kingdom" for God's glory. God has seen fit, in spite of us...in spite of our selfishness, our flesh, our moments of anger, our harsh words, our unkind responses, our inadequacy...to bless us with the gift of a family!

I think it's so easy to focus on the responsibility (and, believe me, I know what a huge responsibility it is!) that we forget that it is a gift from God. Our "job" as a wife and mother comes straight from the hands of an infinitely wise and amazing boss...God Himself!

And He has made us managers...not of McDonald's or Dairy Queen (though Dairy Queen might be kind of fun!:) )....He has put us in charge of SOULS! That is an overwhelming thought were it not for the fact that He provides us with every resource necessary to accomplish the job He has given us...strength for our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9), adequacy for our inadequacy (2 Cor. 3:4-6), wisdom for our foolishness (Psalm 19:7).

I think I'll write more about "building our homes" and Psalm 127 tomorrow...but I couldn't help but start by reminding myself what an amazing gift I have been given in being a wife and a mom. And, to take time to examine my life and my priorities in light of my job. There are many "good things" that I could be doing...many "godly things" that would bless the lives of others...but that does not mean that, in this season of my life, they are part of my "job description" from the Lord. They may not all be the way that God has called me to "adorn the gospel" (Titus 2:10) for right now...and that is where I need to get lost in my own thoughts and contemplations...and I'll leave you to get lost in yours!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Words of Life


Have you ever read an article or thoughts by a believer and, when they share some scripture verses in what they are saying, you find yourself scanning over the verses (especially if you already know the verse by heart) so that you can quickly get "back" to what the man or woman is saying?

I have been guilty of that...of taking the most important words, God's Words, in any article, book, blog, etc...and skimming over them. How sad it is to even admit that. Those words, God's Words, are the only words that are not tainted by sin, the only words that will not return void...the only words that are living and active!!! They are the words that should be read slower than all the rest, meditated on above all other "quotes" and "sayings", and held more dear than anything else that is shared!

Having said all that...I wanted to share with you some of God's Words that have blessed my socks off this week!:) There are times in life when I just feel weary, when I feel as though I am not doing enough but I can't imagine doing even one thing more! When I don't do what I should be doing and do what I should not be doing and it leaves me discouraged...I shared some of that the beginning of the week. What I haven't had a chance to share is the "Words of life" that I have read this week in the Bible that have brought great hope and encouragement to my soul. As I keep faithfully reading God's Word I find myself falling deeper in love with Him...blown away by this amazing Letter He has written to us, blown away by His tender love and compassion though I have done nothing to deserve it and everything to deserve hell.

Wherever you are at, whatever you are going through...I pray these verses (that I have pieced together) help you to soar on the wings of our mighty Savior!!!

"Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable....a bruised reed He will not break, and a faintly burning wick He will not quench. For He knows our frame, He remembers that we are dust. He will tend His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in His arms; He will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that have young. He says, "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. You are precious in my eyes and honored and I love you. I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." He gives power to the faint and to him who has no might he increases strength. Our sufficiency is from God!"

(Isaiah 40-42, Psalms 103:14, 2 Cor. 3:5)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A new favorite


For a very long time, both Bryan and I have appreciated the ministry of Albert Mohler. Bryan will often come home and share with me the things that Mohler has said (on his radio program) or wrote on, well....I guess I never asked where...until yesterday. Mohler has a blog...maybe I am the last one to be clued in...but, I'm super excited to place his blog on my list of "favorites" and encourage you to check out his wise words and his discerning takes on things going on in the world around us.

For instance, here are some of the titles of articles he has written this past week and, having read them all, they are worth our time, thought and even tears that come with the reality of living in a sinful, fallen world:

-When Adoption Fails, The Gospel is Denied
(thoughts on the little adopted Russian boy who was sent on a plane back to Russia)
-Newsnote: "Aborting The Wrong Baby?" (This one hit home a bit, as well, because Micah's test results came back saying that he was going to be Down Syndrome and a even a second level ultrasound left us wondering...we didn't know for sure until he was born)

-Can Animals Be Gay?
(You are curious, aren't you?!:))

Head on over and read more!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Daily Radical Sacrifice


"If you're living out the Gospel in your marriage, you're living a life of daily radical sacrifice."

It was a quote I read by a man I do not know (Pastor Eric Bancroft) on the blog of a woman that I don't know....but God used both of them to encourage my heart! We serve a BIG God, don't we?!!!!! Not the mention the fact that the internet is a very cool thing!:)

Okay, back to the quote. They are some serious words to chew on! I couldn't help but read the quote again inserting the words "to your children" in the place of marriage to really get a "double whammy" effect!:)

As I run this race, the goal is the Gospel...Paul says it this way, "Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel" (Phil. 1:27) and he say in 1 Cor. 9:27 that he does "all for the sake of the gospel." And, going back to the quote...it's simply echoing the words of Jesus Himself when He said in Mark 8:34-35:

"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it."


I so deeply want to obey Jesus...want to be filled with the fullness of HIS joy as I stay in HIS presence and walk in HIS footsteps. And that means dying to myself...it means letting go of what I think will "save my life" and bring me joy and, instead, "lose myself" in the precious blood of Jesus and in HIS beautiful promises for my life. It means living each moment of every day of my life as a wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend and sister-in-Christ with an attitude of joyful surrender and sacrifice for the glory of God and the good of those around me and ME!

That is RADICAL living...it is far beyond the norm...it's impossible on our own...it's Spirit filled living...and my heart cries out for it!

Running the Race...with eyes fixed on the goal!


You know how there are just times when you can't put into words how you are feeling or what you're thinking? I'll admit, finding words is not usually a challenge for me :)...but this past week, my mind has been a bit of a "jumble". I feel like I have been "running the race" but forgetting about the goal (to glorify God by being satisfied IN HIM and to become more like Him) and instead have barely been able to fix my eyes beyond the "next thing" that has needed to be done. And, since there is always a "next thing", I have been feeling exhausted and "tired" of the "never ending cycle". I have been fixing my eyes on what is "seen" instead of what is "unseen" as 2 Cor. 4:18 says:

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."


Anyway, the reason I can share this with you is because I have been spurred on today by a dear sister in Christ...who I also have the blessing of calling MY SISTER...Kimberly. Her post on her blog was exactly where I have been and exactly what I needed to hear! I know it would bless your heart too...so head on over and be encouraged today like I was!
Thank you dear sister of mine for sharing what the Lord has been teaching you...and for spurring me on to "love and good deeds". I love you!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Stupid Rain


That is the title in the first chapter of "Everyday Talk"...one of my most favorite parenting books. It was a title that caught my attention and held it...all the way through to the end of the book!:)

It's starts with a father and son staring out the window on a day that they had planned to go out and play baseball...and it was raining. The father whispers under his breath "Stupid rain!" and, from then on Younts spend the rest of the book talking about how EVERYTHING we say reflects our view of God and what we believe to be true about Him. He gives the rain...and, since all that He does is good...there is no such thing as "stupid rain".

Today, Micah had a baseball game and, you guessed it, it was rained out. It was an opportunity to help him preach to himself the sovereignty of God in ALL things...including rain and baseball games! It's in the "everyday talk" that our kids learn what we truly believe about the God that we love!

Today was also the day that my dad went home from the hospital! He is doing well but still has a long road ahead. My mom's fibro myalgia has flared up (probably due to the lack of sleep she has been getting) so her pain is pretty high right now. Thank you so much for your ongoing prayers! I have so many emails to respond to myself...I just haven't had much "down time" since getting home...thank you so much for the ways you have all showed your love and care!

I was tickled to read my dad's "carepage" today and find out that HE wrote it!!! Thought I would post it here so you could read for yourself my dad's thoughts on going home!

When I think about home, the Bible often equates heaven with home. It was the home I thought I might experience last week when I learned about the condition of my heart. Knowing I had a Savior who would greet me with opens arms, made the invitation a better choice than having to endure what I've been through this week. And there were moments when I thought heaven was God's choice for me; thanks to all the juicy burgers I've eaten, sinful choices I've made, and my family heritage and gene pool, that contributed to my body's deterioration.

When Dorothy talked about home in the Wizard of OZ, she was speaking ABOUT going home to Kansas (It's that sort of home I going back to, today). It's the home where the people you love live and the people who love you call to reach and visit you. It's also the home that my beloved wife Sandy has created for her undeserving husband, Bruce (Me!). It's a home where God's love dwells and His joy is experienced, and His grace has carried us through 32 wonderful years. This is the home I long to enjoy before entering the place Jesus is preparing for me one day, and I'm glad to be going there.

I don't have the energy right now to tell you about all that has transpired this week. I don't even know how much I remember. But I do know this: I'm going home to Hood River, and I'm still alive!

I know many of you will want to call, visit, pray with me etc. This I have been told, and again today ... You can't do it this week. My body needs rest and won't allow for the stimulation. Sandy will be guarding the gate (i.e. phones, mail, e-mails, answering door, etc. Her own fibromyalgia has limits, as well, so please be senstive).

We love you and appreciate all of you so much. Thanks for your continued prayers. The wheel chair is HERE!

Friday, April 16, 2010

We need memorials


So, if I am being honest...I sit here typing more out of discipline than out of sheer joy...right now "blogging" feels like one more thing to do on my growing list!:) So, why do it? Why not just put it off till another day? Because it brings a sweet benefit to my soul as I recount the faithfulness of God...as I remember what He has done...as I take time to ponder how GREAT our God is! It's a way to set up a memorial.

I had the blessing of listening to some great messages on my trip to and from Portland. In fact, going back one step farther...I had the blessing of going at all. Friends from church stepped up in AMAZING ways to help with the kids (and even meals), Bryan is an amazing husband and father and he "stepped up" in ways well beyond his comfort zone and all this was orchestrated by the mighty hand of God so that I could go and be with my parents. As I sit here typing, tears fill my eyes as I praise the Lord for being able to make that trip. There is much more I could share and plan to share about the trip...but I'll leave that for later.

Back to the messages. One of the sermons I listened to was by John Piper "Sustained by Sovereign Grace-Forever". What a perfectly timed message for me (and I think no matter what is going on in your life...it would be a perfectly timed message for you too!:) ). Thanks, Bryan for picking out some great messages for me!

Anyway...the main point of the message was that God allows suffering and trials so that we can see His amazing, sovereign grace and how it can and will sustain us no matter what He takes us through. In other words, if God could cause my dad's appendix to start giving him pain so that he would go to the hospital and, in the middle of his appendectomy, have a small heart attack to reveal the bigger issue of a very diseased heart, so that he could be transferred to Portland, and given a surgeon who loves Jesus with all of his heart to perform an operation that, without it, would have left my dad most likely dead of a massive heart attack...if God could do all that...then he could have kept my dad's heart disease free and never in need of a surgery or the months of recuperation that will ensue. BUT, He has done all this to show the surpassing greatness of His grace and that it WILL sustain my dad and mom today, tomorrow and always. And the scars on my dad's chest, arm and leg that he will carry for the rest of his life are better seen as memorials...memorials of God's sustaining, sovereign grace!

What memorials do you have to remind you of God's sustaining, sovereign grace? In the Old Testament, memorials were often piles of rocks. For my dad, one of his memorials is now his scars. I have my own scar...from a c-section that brought forth the life of my little son, Titus. We have a stone in a cemetery in New York that is a memorial of God's sustaining, sovereign grace in the midst of our baby's death. And there are SO many other little memorials...reminders of God's faithfulness and sovereign grace throughout each and every day of my life.

We need to be so very thankful. We need to be reminded of God's sustaining, sovereign grace. We need memorials!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

It's Wednesday Already?!


Hard to believe it's Wednesday morning. My mom and I are getting ready to head back to the hospital. When we left Dad last night we wondered what today would hold...he had a bit of a fever, the pain was increasing and his lungs had been starting to fill with some fluid..that is what the x-ray said. It was nothing really serious...but still, hard to see him uncomfortable.

Mom just called the hospital a few minutes ago and talked to Dad!!! :) They took another x-ray and it is looking better and some of his tubes are coming out today! PRAISE THE LORD!!!

I am planning on heading back sometime today....still would like to wait to see him "moved" to the general cardiac floor before I do go...but we'll have to see about that one!

Thanks for your continued prayers!!!
He looked better in this picture than he did in reality! :) Thought it was a good one, though!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Update

This will be brief as I am typing from a "tiny" computer!:) I just wanted you all to know that my dad is out of surgery. He went in at about 2 pm, surgery started at 3 pm and he was done by 7 pm. He ended up having to have a quintuple bypass surgery (yep...5 arteries were clogged!). The surgery took about 4 hours. Dad looks good...he is asleep and still has a breathing tube. Mom and I are going to get dinner and will come back around 10 pm when they say he will be awake. They said the first 24 hours are the most critical...so we would continue to covet ALL your prayers!

The time as been precious...we had a wonderful time of prayer with his surgeon before he went in. We are praising the Lord for sparing my dad's life...and I will update more in the morning.

You can also go to www.carepages.com, fill out some information and then find my dad under "Pastor Bruce" so you can be updated a little bit more there.

Thanks again...God's peace that passes all understanding has truly guarded my mom and dad's minds (and mine) throughout the whole day!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

"You are the Christ"


"You are the Christ". That was Peter's bold assertion when Jesus asked His disciples who they thought He was. He got it right. He knew what many did not. God had revealed to Peter who Jesus was and it's a beautiful passage of Scripture! It's one of those "mountaintop moments" for Peter. But in the next few verses of Mark chapter 8, Peter takes a painful tumble down that mountain. In fact, Jesus actually refers to him as Satan...or, to put it another way, as one doing Satan's bidding.

Jesus was sharing all that God has planned for Jesus....we call it "God's will". It involved suffering and death and was too much for Peter to take...so Peter rebuked Jesus. Yep, he pretty much told Jesus that God's will was not best. Peter was sharply rebuked and it's easy to point the finger at him and say, "There goes Peter again...foolishly shooting off his mouth! Who does he think he is?"

Truth is...we are all guilty of being just like Peter over and over again. Just as deserving of the words "Get behind me Satan" as he was. Just like Peter, we know that Jesus is the Christ and we understand with growing awareness all that His name means...yet, how often do we (in Jesus' own words in vs. 33) "not set our mind on the things of God, but on the things of man". How often do we question God in a "rebuking" way for His plan and the way it is unfolding in our lives?

Jesus did not call us to "easy living". His plan for us is, most likely, so much more different than our plan is. In fact, if you finish out the rest of Mark 8 Jesus actually says that if anyone wants to be a true follower of Him then he must "deny himself and take up his cross and follow him". He must die to self...to his own passions, desires and plans and live hidden in Christ...resting in His amazing, perfect plan that can be oh so painful but oh so peaceful...and in the words of Ecclesiastes...a plan that is absolutely beautiful in HIS time!

Mark 8 was a beautiful passage to read in the light of this past week...and I am so thankful for God's timing in the reading plan that I am doing to bring me to this chapter at such a time as this!

Thank you for the emails so many of you have sent sending your love and prayers. I am driving down to Portland tomorrow after church to be with my mom and dad. I am so thankful for how the Lord has worked out all the details for me to go and for those the Lord is using to make the trip a reality. I will, Lord willing, leave Tuesday afternoon...a full day after my dad's surgery. His surgery is scheduled for Monday at noon.

My dad commented on my last post...and I wanted to share what he wrote here...just in case you didn't read it in the comments! I know it will bless your heart to see the "state" of my Dad's (and moms)heart in the midst of all of this!

Well, Mom showed me the blog and I've read every word from all of you through eyes that are sobbing from the kind words I don't deserve. Hope, I'm crying, too ... but not because I am worthy of what all of you have said, but because Jesus has convicted, converted, corrected and continues to conform my soul to reflect more of His love and grace than I am able to give you myself. I have failed so many people who have put their hope and trust in me, but Jesus never fails the earthen vessels He uses to bring power and glory to His name. I'm honored to know that the Lord has touched many of you through our lives, and that my ministry in particular has helped so many. That truly is amazing grace!

I know God has a plan and purpose for this trial (that was the risk I took when I chose to preach through 1 Peter). Some of our people said, "Pastor, that's easy for you to say, you haven't been through __________. Well, if I come through this surgery repaired, I pray I can help them continue to find their peace and rest in the Lord; He is my only ROCK during times like these, and yes, Wendy, you are absolutely right, He is even sovereign over the doctors, too!

My surgeon is a humble man of God who loves Jesus and I am privileged to have him be an instrument in the Redeemer's hands. He is one of the nation's leading experts in the field and we talked theology and practical ministry for a half hour yesterday, then we prayed and talked about my case. He also serves as an elder in his church.

Although I expect to come through this surgery and see you all again; there is risk. All the facts have been explained, and I would be lying if I said that my human fears don't assault me now and then. But as the Scripture says, "Faith is the victory that overcomes the world!" Last Sunday's resurrection hope is the only hope we have ... that whether we live or die, there is eternal joy for the believer who belongs to Jesus! The same joy that enabled Jesus to endure the cross is the joy that is taking me through this trial, regardless of the outcome.

Given the trauma I will be experiencing the next month or two, I will not likely be reading or writing anytime soon. Kristin will have to keep you all posted in the near future. I have appreciated her words of wisdom as much as she claims to have learned from mine. God has used all of my kids to help show me my sin and my need to cling to Jesus, my Savior, and I am eternally grateful for their love, patience and kindness toward me all these years. And yes, my beloved wife, Sandy is my best friend and having her by my side is such a blessing!

Thanks again for all your kind words, and your prayers, too!

Resting in Jesus!

Dad

Friday, April 9, 2010

Please Join Us in Prayer


Sometimes the words don't come when I sit down to type...the tears do. This is one of those times. They are not tears of sadness but of thanksgiving...for God's plan, for God's timing and for the life that He gives...and especially the life He has given to my dad.

While my dad was in surgery for the removal of his appendix...his heart did some funny things for a few minutes. Those "funny things" turned out to be a mild heart attack and He was taken yesterday morning to Portland for some additional testing. Those additional test revealed that he needs triple bypass heart surgery. Truly, God used his appendix to save my dad's life.

I would lie if I told you that the unfolding of the last few days has not affected me at all...it has. I know that our days were planned out by God before the foundation of the world...and I have spent plenty of time the last few days reminding my children of that as they have been quick to fear when it comes to their beloved Papa. But I also have realized there are so many times that I live life without thought of death, without thought of life being a vapor, without living life in light of eternity. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, death is not a possibility...it is a reality, each day is a gift from the Lord...our very breaths are acts of grace and mercy.

I have struggled with selfishness this past week...wanting a break from children who I spend each and every day with. I was forgetting Psalm 118:24, "This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it," and wishing instead for my day to look differently. The idol of "me" had grown in my heart and and God and His precious gifts seemed small. God has ways of waking us up, huh? Truth is, though, none of this is really about me...it's more about my dad...but mostly, it's about God and the glory that He will not give to another. It's taking what we know in our mind about Him and His character and hiding it deep in our hearts so that it overflows into all that we think, say and do.

Part of that has resulted in an overflow of thanksgiving...for all that God is for us in Christ Jesus and for all the promises that He has given to us that cannot be broken...not even by death. And my heart has overflowed with thankfulness for my dad. If you know him...you know why. Each year he becomes even more precious to my heart as, each year He becomes more and more like Jesus. He's a godly man and a pastor who proclaims God's truth week in a week out with a shepherd's heart, a husband who truly does call his wife his best friend and favorite person to be with, a loving sacrificial father who has blessed us with his wisdom and council more times than I can even count and a Papa who is adored by his grandchildren.

My thankfulness gives way to prayer on behalf of my dear dad and I would ask for your prayers on his behalf as well! He sent out an email to explain a little bit more clearly what has taken place this past week...and I thought I would include it here for you to read!

Dear Family and Friends:

I wanted to send a summary e-mail to as many as possible to give you an update on what has transpired this week. The Word of God says, “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Prov. 16:9). Well, my steps have been redirected this week and for months to come. I am writing this from Providence Hospital in Portland after just enjoying a shower and feel OK right now. After reading this you will understand why I am still grateful to be alive.

Sandy and I would appreciate your prayers as we have encountered a most unusual week. It all started on Tuesday when I noticed pain in the area of the appendix. That evening I went into ER to get checked out and all tests showed that I was suffering from appendicitis. They removed my appendix on Wednesday morning. During the operation the EKG also revealed irregularities with my heart. Further tests showed that I had suffered a very mild heart attack during the surgery. On Thursday morning I was transported by ambulance to Providence in Portland and admitted for further testing. My angiogram revealed extensive blockages in all major arteries. Fixing the problem will require open heart surgery, perhaps a triple or quad by-pass. While they thin my blood in preparation for the surgery, they must walk a delicate line as they need enough coagulation to heal the wounds from the appendectomy. God’s in control!

The surgery is scheduled to take place on Monday unless unexpected complications develop over the weekend. My surgeon is a believer and very skilled at what he does. He has an excellent reputation in his field and loves the Lord and His church. We believe God has placed us in excellent hands and has guided this whole week’s procedures for His glory and our future good.

Currently, I am in very good spirits, though still sore from the appendectomy. I believe the Lord providentially allowed all of these circumstances so that I might live and continue to serve Him and you for many years to come. However, if it His will is to take me home while on the table, I pray I will see you in heaven (trusting Jesus for forgiveness of your sin is the only way we can be sure that we will be reunited in glory). Sandy has been a blessing to me this week and it’s good to have her by my side. Sleep has been hard to come by as they wake you every so many hours for blood tests and medications, etc.

Please do not feel like you need to make a special trip to Portland to visit. Just keep us in your prayers. We are being well-cared for by the staff at the hospital and Sandy is a great companion. Also, everyone in the Providence system has been wonderful. The care we are receiving and the kindness shown to us is excellent.

We miss and love you all, and, Lord willing, we will see you on the other side of surgery.

Blessings to you all,

Bruce Parker



"You keep Him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You because he trust in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock." Isaiah 26:3

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Happy Birthday Samuel!!!


God has blessed our dear Samuel with 8 years of life...and He has seen fit that, out of those 8 years we have, for the last 8 months (and for always), had the privilege of calling him our son! So, today, April 7th, we celebrated Samuel's first birthday as a Pichura.

He started out the day going with Dad for a birthday doughnut before school! Gotta love having a Tim Horton's 2 minutes away.:) All the kids were hoping that I would call today a "holiday" and that there would be no school...they were sorely disappointed!:)
We had one of our pastor's families over to celebrate at lunch...gotta love the flexibility of homeschooling! Samuel was so excited to play mini stick hockey with his brothers and friends...and he loved his cake...which blessed my heart because I am not an artist by any means! You should see the cake that my sister in law, Michelle just made for a neighbor boy! He also had another friend stop by to wish him a Happy Birthday. By the end of the day, he was sporting more "Canucks" gear than most B.C. Canadians! From socks, to a hat (yes...the wrap job was all Bryan!) to a poster of Luongo, the Canuck's goalie and a hockey arm pad...he was smiling big!

Samuel, you are a precious gift from God...hand picked before the foundation of the world to be apart of our family. Every day of your life has been planned out by God and God knit you together so beautifully in your Ethiopia mommy's womb just has He knit our hearts to you and your brother in the most beautiful way! Samuel, we can't imagine our life without you. God has given you such a tender spirit. You truly do weep when other's weep and rejoice when they rejoice. We were reminded of that tender spirit in the way you cried last night for Papa because he needed to get his appendix out and you didn't want him to be in pain. We see your tender spirit when you give of what you have because someone else doesn't have it. You, so often, consider others more important than yourself...and, in that, we see Jesus in you.

You are such a hard worker at school...finishing kindergarten mid way through the school year and not giving up even though the words are getting harder and you still don't understand what all the words even mean. You love life...sometimes a little too much :) and, yet, you are growing in self control! We are so excited to see what the Lord has in store for you...and we pray that He will grow you up to be a man who loves Jesus with all of his heart!! We love you dear son!
PS...my dad decided that it would be fun to be a bit more like his daughter :)...so he had his appendix removed, too. He is doing great...but going to have to take it easy for a couple of weeks. Lord willing, he will be going home tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Rejoicing in our Risen Lord...all 8 of us!!!




This was our first Easter as a family of 8. What a sweet privilege it was to crack open each Resurrection Egg and share with my dear children the heart of the gospel...the cross. So many of the events surrounding Christ death and resurrection were new to Samuel and Caleb and it was fun for us all to be able to share with them God's plan so that we could be forgiven!

Easter is quickly becoming my favorite holiday! Give it a few more years...and it just might beat out Christmas! I was reminded of a Christmas song that sings about the joys of Easter morn when the chorus line goes, "He made a way in a manger...a way to the cross". Christmas is so amazing because of the beauty of the cross. There is hope and joy Christmas morn because Jesus lived to die...for our sins. The culmination of the celebration of God become man was Easter morning when Christ rose from the dead having born the wrath of the Father in our place! Our hearts should spill over with wonder and praise!!!

Sunday's celebration at church was glorious...and we continued celebrating in sweet fellowship with a fellow pastor and his family!
Friday, we were driving home from our Good Friday Service and it was stormy and cold. Micah said that the weather kind of fit what we were celebrating but he was praying that it would be sunny and bright on Sunday to celebrate Jesus rising from the dead. The forecast called for rain all day...but God gave us clear skies and a bright sun! It was a special gift for all of us...but especially Micah!

Yep...that really is a cat...and Grace was loving it!:)
The girls got their first knitting lesson :)

On our walk, the girls collected dandelions to fry up and eat...that was a new one for the Pichura Family.:) You boil them, cut off the stems, dip the "head" in egg and fry it. Tastes a little bit like spinach...interesting...:)




Titus couldn't wait for the Easter egg hunt!

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Battle Rages

Last Monday I shared a letter with you all that John Piper had written regarding his leave of absence. It was a precious letter and I shared how encouraged I was and thankful for Piper's example.

This Monday, I have to be honest...I am disappointed with this same man. He has made a decision that I do not agree with and that I would not follow him in. Without going into details here, I would encourage you to read an article on the subject by Tim Challies. I thought it was fair and well written.

I continue to pray for Piper, continue to be thankful for his ministry and continue to rejoice knowing that God is at work and that His purposes stand and cannot be thwarted...but it was also a reminder at how much more I need to be praying for these "great men of faith" in our generation that they would continue to hold forth the Word of God without wavering and without compromising...and that they would continue to live lives of discernment and steadfastness to their calling and to their pulpits.

The battle rages all around us...we need to be good soldiers, fighting with all our might, in the strength that God provides, for His glory and for His name's sake!

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Reflections of a Centurion


I cannot claim the following story as my own...my beloved husband wrote it. He wrote about what Good Friday may have looked like from the eyes of a centurion and the perspective he had and creative way that he wrote was too good not to share it with you here! Praying it touches your heart as much as it did mine.

I am Centurion and this is my Story:

It was Friday and I was expecting it to be like any other ordinary day. It wasn’t. I will never forget that day and I write, not because I fear that any of the details will grow dull in my own memory, but that my children and their children may know what occurred in my life that particular afternoon!

It began shortly before sunrise with a knock at the door. It was my personal messenger and if he was here at this hour something was of the utmost importance. I dressed and was out of the house as quick as if Rome was being invaded.

My orders were simple: to arrest a religious teacher named Jesus the Nazarene. My soldiers and I made our way through the predawn streets headed to where he was, as disclosed by one of his followers, Judas. We would arrive and wait for the signal, a kiss from the informant.

I had never met this Jesus but I knew of Him and knew He was not a warrior but a common Jewish teacher and religious babbler who claimed to be God’s Son. I just assume “deal” with the situation and return home for my morning meal. For the day was Passover, as the Jews call it and it was always a longer day with all the extra coming and going of Jewish worshippers.

We arrived in the garden, announced who we were seeking, Jesus simply stated “I am He” and suddenly, without explanation, we all fell down. It was as if His words knocked us off our feet. Then, to make matters worse, one of His followers swiped off the ear of the High Priest’s slave. To my amazement, this Jesus healed his ear. I had never seen anything like it. I had heard about His “miracles” but never had seen one…He simply touched it and his ear was restored.

Other than Jesus, the rest fled…even the ear hacker. As I reflected back on those first few moments it filled my heart with many questions: Why did one of His own betray Him? Why did we all fall down? How did He heal that ear? Why did He heal that ear? Why did the others get away when we should have rounded all of them up and why did the entire event seem out of my hands as if I was under His control rather than He mine? Like I said, though, that was all hindsight. In those moments, none of these questions perplexed me. In fact, although I watched it all play out it was almost as if I was blind to it as well.

We first took Him to the High Priest where the Jewish leaders made their religious accusations. I have seen many criminals and just as many deaths. Killing Jesus had no bearing on me…if He committed a crime against glorious Rome that was worthy of death, then I would find not a twinge of hesitation to take his breath from Him. I have to admit, I began tuning out. I could have cared less about their religion and it’s debates.

Yet, as much as I tried to ignore what was going on around me, I could not help but notice something odd…Jesus said nothing. Even before Pilate, His countenance was one I have never seen before. I have seen many trials and I have seen men shout and curse as well as cry and beg but…nothing? Silence?

As I mentioned, today was Passover and it was customary for Pilate to release a prisoner on this day. I always hated this custom. Release a prisoner? Criminals deserve to be punished not released. And of all the criminals, Barabbas? But the crowd was full of passion, some may even say hatred, for Jesus and they wanted Barabbas released and Jesus’ blood.

As you know, I was a Centurion in Rome’s army. I was not ashamed of the service that I gave to Rome but I understood that what I did repulsed most. In Roman culture, crucifixion is absolutely degrading and disgusting. In fact, Roman citizens were never put to death in that manner. Yet, the crowd that day cried and shouted that Jesus be crucified. Pilate did not find any crime worthy of death and, trusting his judgment, I personally felt that a mocking and beating was more than enough punishment for any religious uprising He was guilty of…if He was even guilty. But the crowd was so persistent…as if He was guilty of every crime though found guilty of none.

I’ve driven nails through many a man’s hands. I have beaten more men than I care to count. I truly was numb to death. It was my job…my business was killing. Yet, on that day, I found myself pricked by the injustice. Was I pricked enough to care? No, but enough to pause momentarily. You must understand that crucifying someone is never easy. I had made sport of it at times and I had even hated it at times but mostly all I felt was numbness. Numbness made it easier.
As customary, Jesus was to be beaten and adding some mocking and belittling was all apart of the process of humiliation and then death. I stood back like an approving father would with his son, as my men mocked Him and beat Him. I caught myself chuckling as I watched. You see, the reality is, if you do this enough, belittling becomes like an art form and my men were very good at it.

No sooner did I begin to laugh and simply allow the numbness to take over that I was again pricked. It was His eyes! Eye contact is always the toughest…to look someone in the eyes and then beat him, or take his life is beyond words. At first I could not do it and then, as the years went by, I began to be able to look…but almost as if looking through them and not at them.

This time, I did the unthinkable; my eyes locked with His and to my utter shock, I was met with a look of great tenderness…you might say even love. As if what He was experiencing was not simply about enduring it but truly embracing it! I confess uneasiness came over me as I began to feel that this Jesus, if He so desired, could have stopped all that was going on. It made no sense to me but I believed it to be true.

I exploded into a rage. Who does He think He is? If you cross Rome, you cross me! I found a robe and put it on Him and called to my men to find “the thorns”. I was going to show this “King” who He really is! We bowed and mocked before the great, thorny crown wearing, Jewish King; and, for the first time in many years, my numbness was gone and great delight came over me as I poured my misery upon Him.

The crowd roared and I drank from their delight like a spring on a hot day. We led Him through the streets like great warriors leading an enemy to his death. I used to tell my men that I knew how to take a man to his last breath without taking it…Jesus was getting to that point! I was determined that the last breath He took would be on the cross, so we made a man in the crowd carry His cross.

My men and I did the nailing and lashing to the cross and I made sure that that He was completely humiliated. As this Jesus hung on the cross the crowd shouted and mocked Him, even the other criminals next to Him mocked Him. For once in my oversight of a crucifixion I felt a sense of joy, fulfillment, and satisfaction in my work as executioner. In a word: proud! The only feeling I can compare it with is the way one feels after a battle won. You are aware of the men whose lives you took; that they, like you, have families and loved ones. That they too are fighting for what they believe in or simply told to do. Yet, you still feel a sense of pride in the accomplishment…that this day you have won! I found myself standing a little taller and feeling a little more dignified.

As death began to slowly creep in, the larger crowd slowly dispersed and left a smaller crowd of observers. I found “my spot”. It’s an area I go to as I wait for the cross to take the life of the crucified. I have spent many hours waiting for a man to die. I have had many terrible thoughts and memories during these times: the smell of death, the groans of the crucified and my own memories of battle, death and friends lost seem to consume my mind as I wait. This time was different, I could not stop watching Jesus. My rage and emotions had died down and I sat quietly, reflecting on the day. My thoughts were foreign to me as reflecting on the death of a criminal is not something I had ever done.

My men cast lots for His garment while I listened to the mocking insults that passer Byers kept throwing at Him. I also heard Jesus actually pray that God would forgive them. What really struck me, though, was the conversation He had with one of the thieves next to him. It appeared that the thief was seeking forgiveness as well as a place with Jesus in what Jesus called “paradise.” Grown men have cried for their mothers while on a cross but this guy was actually clinging to the words of the Man dying next to him. He was convinced that Jesus’ words were the truth.

Soon after this conversation something happened again that can only be described as supernatural: In the 6th hour, a darkness came over the land. I have stared death in the face and death has stared back at me and I have not flinched; but this…this brought great fear into me! It was truly eerie. I did not want to dwell on the darkness so I focused on the criminal. He seemed to be doing fairly well considering He was enduring a crucifixion. He made some arrangements for whom I presume was His mother and not long after that He began to shout and then He died. Shouting was not uncommon, but the timing of His shout was remarkable. When a man on a cross can still shout, death is still sometime away. You see, a man on the cross usually dies of suffocation as he slowly looses strength to pull himself up and breath. Clearly, the fatigue of the cross had not set in. Yet, after shouting “It is Finished” He died!

So many things happened that day that I cannot explain, but of all of them, this is the aspect I am unable to even begin to grasp. The cross takes life from a man yet this Man’s life was not taken…it was as if He simply stopped living. It was as though He yielded up His life. He may have died on a cross but the cross is not what killed Him. Believe me, He was in much pain and I know He suffered like anyone on a cross but I assure you the cross did not kill Him!

No sooner did His head hit His chest in death that the earth began to shake and I mean really, really shake! I could see people falling to the ground and I struggled to keep my footing. I later found out that stones were split, the Temple Veil was torn and that people once dead were risen to life again. The events of the day flashed before my eye: How I fell to the ground in the Garden of Gethsemane, watched Him heal an ear, saw Him endure a beating with such noble integrity, listened as He made provisions for His mother and prayed for those, me being one of them, who were mocking Him. I saw the complete turn around of a thief, deep darkness, Jesus dying on a cross but not being killed by the cross and a horrific earthquake.

I had seen so much that day…but it is what happened inside me that has compelled me to share all of this with you. After the earthquake, it was as if the lights had been turned on, as if there was a veil over my own eyes that had been torn enabling me to see. There, before me, was a lifeless Jesus….a man I had watched all day and yet, it was not until that moment that I actually saw Him for who He really was. My men and I knelt and I declare to you now as I did then: that truly He is the Son of God! The verdict in our mind was in – we had mocked, belittled and nailed to a cross the Son of God…the righteous One!!!

As time has passed and I have learned more about Jesus and His teachings I have come to believe that, most likely, my soldiers and I were the first to be saved by His atoning work that crucifixion Friday…the greatest Friday of my life. The very men who pounded the nails in were graciously saved by the hands in whom those nails pierced! I am one of those men. This is my story. It is my song. He is my life!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

"I love you, Mom"


"I love you"...they are three beautiful words and, to me, the greatest way they are made beautiful is when they are words that are initiated, instead of words that are said in response.

John says that we love God because He first loved us. Our response...our love for the Lord is a wonderful thing....but the fact that He loves us...now that is AMAZING. We were His enemies...God-haters...living in sin and loving our sin. We were everything that He isn't and everything that He hates and yet, God's Word says that He first loved us. As a result, we have been given the gift of love, His love, with which we can love Him!

Not only have I been loved first by God but I have also been the recipient of self-initiated "I love you's" from someone who, for the last 7 months had only responded but never really initiated. That someone is my adorable, little, brown skinned, brown eyed son Caleb! For the longest time, he has held me (and Bryan) at arms length. I would have to ask for a hug...I would tell him I loved him and hope that he would respond in the same way but was often met with silence...I would grab him to give him a big "squeeze" only to have him resist and pull away. Don't get me wrong...it's not that he never showed affection, he did...but he seemed most comfortable "going it alone". He seemed unsure of attention and therefore shied away from it. I know without a shadow of a doubt his Ethiopian mommy loved him very much...but, since coming home, it had been as though he did not know how to be loved or show love.

This past month that has all changed. It's as though my little caterpillar Caleb has emerged from his chrysalis and is a beautiful butterfly. There are many things that he is still clearly "insecure" about and plenty of things we are still working through...but loving mom and dad is not one of them. Those three little words have become words that come out of his precious little mouth multiple times a day...completely self initiated. All of my children's "I love you's" are precious to me...but Caleb's bring tears to my eyes and my heart leaps. His hugs have become more frequent and there is a true sense of him delighting in being hugged. And, in the morning when he first gets up, he will actually come to me so that I can hold him...laying his head on my shoulders and putting his arms around me.

The uncommon has become common.

And my souls sings praises to God for the work He has done in my dear little son's life and how it mirrors my adoption into the family of God. You see, I believe that the more and more Caleb has gotten to know us...he knows that we love him, that we are not going to leave him, that we delight in him and love him when he is good and even when he is bad. He can do nothing or say anything that will make us love Him less...and he is starting to believe it and to trust us. And the more he knows us and trusts us...the more he breaks out in expressions of love for us.

The more we know God...truly know who He is and what His character is...and the more we study His Word the more we will trust Him. And, as a result, we can't help but fall deeper in love with Him. When we see the love that He has for us, in spite of us, we cannot help but love Him all the more...and to live lives that break out in expressions of our love for Him.

Adoption is teaching us many things...about ourselves, our family and our amazing God who is the author of adoption. And, this month...it has taught me and reminded me anew of the beauty of being loved first.
Caleb, when he was still in Ethiopia