Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Are You Blessed to have had a Pastor Jim?

While Steve and I sit with snowflakes swirling outside in the darkness of an Alaskan morning and the Christmas lights twinkle on our tree, our thoughts turn elsewhere.  As I pen these words, our dear friends and acquaintances, family, missionaries, colleagues, and other disciplers are gathering to celebrate and thank the Lord for the life of Pastor Jim. Some belonging to Pastor Jim's "Boys (and a few girls,)" will gather together. Steve and I are honored to have been counted among this group, and regret that we cannot be at First Free today to weep, share stories, and laugh together as we recall the impact of such a godly man. 

Pastor Jim first entered into our lives in 1975, before our marriage, when Steve began attending First Evangelical Free Church of Rockford, Illinois. As a part of the pastoral staff, he seemed friendly enough but little did we know the impact his life and ministry would have upon each of us.

It was several years later that we began to benefit directly from Pastor's Jim discipling. He gently, but strategically, discipled both Steve and me.  We learned some valuable things from this godly, gentle and humble man of God.  We would like to share these attributes with you.

Gentle, Strategic Caring
Pastor Jim barely knew us when he began to care about our concerns.  He gently moved us both into active ministry with the church, in ways that were respectful and demonstrated that he really valued our opinions. I will never forget the day I sat in his office describing the issues I had observed in the church nursery. He listened carefully and I could see his mind working on the problem and the opportunity. I finished my story and he looked at me and said, "So what would you like to do about it?"  If he had not already built such a caring relationship with Steve and me, I might have been offended. However, it was a straightforward question for me and God used it to motivate me to step forward in response to the need. Pastor Jim was always watching for people that he could motivate to grow and minister.
Investing in Others
Steve remembered how he and Pastor Jim met regularly to discuss ways to build my confidence and help me grow spiritually. They prayed together and kept this collaborative prayer times to themselves, until years later when we all enjoyed a good laugh at their spiritual conspiracy!  Steve commented that he knew Pastor Jim was not only interested in helping me find my place in the church, but that he was actively discipling Steve throughout this process.
Wisdom and Patience
We both recall Pastor Jim's influence on us as a young family. He helped Steve grow as a young husband and father. When Steve began to sense God's call to full-time ministry, it was Pastor Jim with whom he met and discussed God's leading. We valued his wisdom. We appreciated his networking and experience in ministry. Ultimately, we knew Pastor Jim had watched us grow spiritually and was patient with our failings, our fears, and our struggles. Pastor Jim was instrumental in our journey into ministry. We saw God work in miraculous ways with our family,stretching our faith and trust in God, and preparing us for the journey in our future. Pastor Jim lent a steady hand and wise counsel as we walked through this new opportunity. He utilized his experiences, connected us to others, and supported, prayed, and helped launch us into ministry. Pastor Jim and Corey never stopped their discipling, supporting, and praying for us, our family, and our ministry. We knew that we could grab the phone and talk with him at any point, and glean from his years of experience and godly wisdom. And that's just what we did, knowing that he would always make time for our conversations.
Finally, we remember Pastor Jim as a humble, gentle, behind-the-scenes kind of man. He and Corey were a stable and solid team in our lives, for which we are so grateful. Whether he was in leadership at First Free, the Home Office Missions Department, or seated in their living room, there was never any change in his demeanor. Pastor Jim could lead, support, come alongside, or watch and pray, and he bore all these roles equally well. We benefitted from his wisdom and he was so brilliant when it came to steering people into ministry. Pastor Jim and Corey were responsible for discipling and mentoring many godly men and women, individuals that started new mission organizations, and yet never was there a proud attitude in Pastor Jim. He wore his humility as easily and gracefully as he wore his gentle spirit.  God used Pastor Jim and Corey to point us to missions, mobilize us, and support and pray for us.

Today as we reflect on the life and impact of Pastor Jim, we are so grateful to have known him and we value our friendship with Corey. He was a mentor, a friend, a partner in ministry, and he was always available for us. In the verbiage of, "Four Chair Discipling," Pastor Jim took us from Chair Two and discipled us into Chair Four.  We pray that those of you reading this today have benefitted from a godly leader such as Pastor Jim.  We pray that our lives also exhibit such godly attributes.  To Corey, Mark, Shannon, and the rest of the Forstrom family, we thank you for sharing "Pastor Jim" with us and so many others.  Our prayers are with you as you grieve his departure.  We look to the day when we will also step into Heaven and see Pastor Jim's smiling face once again!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

But are we always REALLY searching?  Whose truth?  Do we really want to know it?

This morning as I enjoyed coffee and my Bible, I was reading through Mark 2. Jesus was at the beginning of His ministry, and yet was already facing opposition from the spiritual leaders of His time.  Jesus had just finished healing a young man. "Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, "Why does this man speak like that?  He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"   Mark 2:6-7.

At first glance, it looks like they had inquiring minds, truly seeking for Truth by observing Jesus with a spiritual discerning and critical eye.  But that's not what was really happening.  In fact, they revealed the truth of their hearts in these two simple verses.

First, they were not actually questioning.  They never actually asked Jesus for clarification.  The questions were a facade of being open to the truth. Second, they already formed their conclusions. By refraining clarification from Jesus, they could observe and conclude without any of the facts affecting their deductions.  In other words, their minds were made up.

I think we are all guilty of doing the very same thing.  We walk through life and make our own conclusions about God, about what He is doing or what He is not doing, based only on what makes sense to us.  However, this only leads to TRUE conclusions if we are Truth.  We know that we are NOT the source of all Truth. So when we form conclusions, if they are not based on the Word and lots of it, we are doomed to repeat the same mistake as these scribes- interpreting God, traveling down the pathway where that interpretation leads us and finding ourselves at the wrong destination.

Our conclusions, particularly about God and how He is at work in the world or our lives, has to be formed by first and foremost actually coming to God. Ask Him to guide the interpretation. Ask Him to show us what He is doing. And the primary way He does this is through His Word.  Read Scripture. Not a random verse to prove our point, else we do exactly what the scribes did. Read all of the Word and know it. Let it seep into our lives and change the way we see life. Read. Pray. Change. Honestly seek TRUTH- the One Who IS TRUTH.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

 Today!  Here it is!  The longest day.

Always a little sad when it actually arrives, since it ends the drastic increase of daylight each day, and tomorrow we begin to lose daylight.

Today is also Aboriginal Day in Canada, a day where we would be traveling to town and enjoying parades and extra events, usually in Boitanio Park.  Happy Aboriginal Day to our CA friends!

Today what I was pondering was the passing of time.  It made me think about HOW we spend our time.  Eccelesiastes talks about time, and was frequently used at weddings and funerals.  3:1-8 was the foundation of a popular song in the 70's, sung by the Mamma's and the Papa's.

This morning I was reflecting on the passages of time.  I want to utilize my time wisely and make the most of my days.  I could just enjoy life and live for myself, and it would be fun for a season. But when the passing days began to shorten, and my life began to draw to a close in the last days of life, I might find I had little that was lasting.

This is a great season to ponder life and how we utilize the daylight.  I want those days to last for eternity, and to have an impact for the good in this world and also in the next.  It sure seems that the only way for that to happen is for me to be very connected to the ONE Who lives before, within, and beyond Time.  As I am connected to God, and let Him guide my life, then what I do can extend beyond the short years of my life.

1 John talks a lot about walking in the Light.  And, of course, the Light John is talking about is Jesus. If I walk with Him, living my days as He leads, commands, and directs, then I'm in the Light and the things I do will count for something that outlasts me.

What's the Inheritance you are leaving?  As you enjoy the Summer Solstice, take a few moments to ponder the Light.

Friday, February 3, 2017

The northern lights were just above the Chugach mountains this morning, waving one last farewell to the night and welcoming the sun- in several hours.  A cup of fresh coffee and soft music waited as I settled in my living room corner.

Thinking of yesterdays thoughts, I listened to Chris Tomlin's song, "You're a Good, Good Father."  And that was the difference between these two pieces of music- "You're a good, good Father, it's who You are, it's who You are. And I'm loved by You, it's who I am, it's who I am."  My identity is not that I am worthy of His love or saving, but that I'm loved by Him because of WHO He is.  Beautiful way to start my morning.

1 John 4:7-21  All about love.
Good morning from Alaska.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

"Back to God?" Groundhog Day- 2017

 Back to God- have you seen it?  Reba McEntire's new album has been featured on Facebook, with a video of her feature song, "Back to God."  Most of this song is pretty amazing and engaging.  It is a poignant reminder that we cannot remove the pain, turmoil, confusion, sin, and desperation without turning to God.  He stands before us with the answers, with the hope, and with the Deliverance.     Keep on praying- amen.    Give this world back to God- amen. (Although we didn't actually have the power to remove it from Him!)                    

 But, while I appreciated MOST of this beautiful song, and her praiseworthy efforts to shift our focus where it belong, there is continues to play in my mind- because it stands in contrast to the rest.

"We're still worth saving."
Are we?  I value life. We are told that we are created in the image of God.  That means life is valuable and precious. But does it mean that we are worthy of saving?
We have been going over and over the book of 1 John. I believe God has a different view of mankind.  He loves us. But His love for us comes NOT because we are so wonderful. His love for us comes only out of His character and His choice. He loves us because He IS love.  We are not wonderful. Without His redeeming us we are nothing but dirty rags. 
So, in my reflective moment...I believe we DO need to symbolically hand this world back to God.  We Do need to get on our knees and pray.  We DO need to cry out to Him.
But we do it because He has provided a way to Himself through Jesus, not because we have a right or even an access to the Creator God. We come with the recognition that He is not obligated to do anything for us. We are full of sin and flaws and failures. I am so thankful that God's saving work in my life and in our world does not depend upon my own worthiness. It is because He is just, righteous, pure, and full of love and mercy- and He has provided Himself as a way out of the pain.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

2014-2015 Winter! Enjoy a few snapshots of ministry and life in Alaska.

Native Musicale 2015.

LEaD Alaska 2014-2015

Watching for a fish from the ice!

Frequent visitor in our yard.

Conan the fantastic.

Quaid and Devlin.

The Alaska "Horsman" women at Annual Christmas Tea.

Some of our girls- skating on the pond.

LEaD Alaska guys working on a sled.

LEaD Alaska Passover Activity.

Watts' family and great idea- InterAct giving water to the Palmer Colony Christmas volunteers.  (Anna Coke helping Grandma.)

Winter sunset from office.

Sunset from our house.

1 of may Christmas concerts.

Some of the girls!

Learning activity with LEaD Alaska.

More learning activities.


Celtic Woman- Performing Arts Center in Anchorage, with friends.

Alaska Federation of Natives- 2014.

Driving- Alaska views.

Grandpa and Devlin.

Exercise room.

Outside our kitchen window.

Ice fishing- Kepler Lake.

We had 3 days of "great" snowshoeing before the rain.

Ryley enjoying Blue Spruce Rec Site- his Eagle Scout Project.

Roanen at Wasilla Climbing competition.

Grandpa and Devlin.

Driving in Palmer.

Family meals at our house.

Another winter sunset.

Shoveling the pond- a week of great skating.

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Getting the tree.

Cutting the tree!

Grandma and Meresiet at Christmas.

Ryley and his scout troop- Blue Spruce Rec Site on Lazy Mountain Campus

Ruth and her family.  Congratulations to Ruth and Jeremy- August wedding!

Getting the tree.

Getting the tree?

The Nutcracker.

Grandma and Devlin.

Beautiful sunsets.

Nathan and his new son.

Horsman family with Devlin- September.

Coke family- welcome to our two new granddaughters.