This past Sunday as I was picking up my Bible from the front row to head out of the sanctuary, I noticed a folded up piece of lined paper with
written on the top. Since I was in a conversation I placed the note in my pocket and continued to say “good-bye” to the precious people from First Baptist Church at Lake Placid who had hosted us the preceding five days. Cindy and I had a tremendous experience with this Body of Believers who welcomed us so warmly.
Later that day, when I had turned the driving over to Cindy, I pulled out this folded, hand written letter. It was from a young college student who only attended about an hour of the training. She is working full-time and is also enrolled with an online University for her bachelor’s degree, specializing in Life Coaching.
She wanted to thank me for the encouragement I had given her regarding her field of study. It couldn’t have been more than a few moments, but it apparently breathed some life into her soul. She explained that when she tells people about her degree most people ask, “Well what are you going to do?” or “What does that get you in life?”
She went on to share how much she appreciated Cindy and me investing in the people of her church, for the love we displayed and the teachings we shared with them. Needless to say,
I was stunned that a twenty-something would take the time to write a note to a complete stranger and pour out her gratitude for our brief words of encouragement to her and for our investment of time and resources in her church.
During the last three and a half years, Cindy and I have had the privilege of traveling around the world, sharing with a kaleidoscope of God’s people what it means to be a disciple and, as a result, a disciple-maker.
It is a humbling experience to hear their stories of trials and sacrifice as they seek to expand God’s Kingdom among some of the least reached people in the world. It seems we always head home with our hearts overwhelmed with gratitude for our experiences.
So, in light of this Thanksgiving season, we want to extend our heartfelt gratitude to each and every one of you who are reading this letter.
It is quite a humbling experience to be completely dependent upon the gifts and offerings of God’s people. Each month we lift our heads in gratitude for all of you who have considered us in your Kingdom investments.
So, on this day that we pause to give thanks to God for all of His blessings, we especially give thanks for each of you who have invested in us during these last three and a half years.
Whether it was through an encouraging note like the college student above, or through your prayers, your spoken words, your finances, a gift bag left on our front porch, or simply a heartwarming smile.
We are so grateful!
Wishing You Our Father's Bountiful Blessings,
Denny & Cindy
“Every time we think of you, we give thanks to our God!” Philippians 1:3
P.S. Speaking of Gratitude...
FAMILY – September 2, 2013
Who is my family? I’m reflecting on the gift of “family” today because I encountered family this weekend everywhere I turned….it is complicated, loud, confusing, comforting and often a very beautiful picture of the Body of Christ….actually much of my “family” is not what we called in Branford “blood kin”.
Family has always been a conglomerate in the Ware household beginning with “Uncle” Carl Schneider’s visit to my grandparents when their youngest son, my Uncle Albert, was killed during the Korean War. I never had the chance to know him since his plane crashed in the Sea of Japan several years before my birth. But I KNOW my Uncle Carl, one of his dearest friends, who fulfilled a promise to visit Albert’s family in the event that Albert never made it home. Albert DID make it home, we know it as HEAVEN, and that’s when Carl became “Uncle” to a grieving family.
From that time on, our family grew. Although Mom and Dad had but three “biologicals”, they began to collect children, tucking each in their hearts to be forever part of the Ware Family. I remember the day Daddy called home from the pharmacy and told Mom to set two more plates for the noon meal we called DINNER. He had taken in two young scruffy men who were paddling their days away on the Suwannee River. Troy and Roger made their way into our home and into our hearts.
Mickey & Mary Dean, young newlyweds in the midst of crisis, came to live in our home the day their house was consumed by fire. As their family grew, the generations have adopted each other. We’re on the third generation of sharing the love. Preston and Fairly are our amazing godchildren!
Pam, my look alike, came to us at 14, in need of love and family. Mom and Dad would only take her if the rest of the family agreed that it was a “forever” arrangement. Randy & Gary, distant cousins from Iowa in need of a Mom, reached out to “Mama Doris” during the difficult years of high school and college. My siblings, Peggy & Harry and Scott & Melissa continue our parent’s tradition of extending family via fostering and adoption. Aunt Cindy & Uncle Denny cherish ALL of our nieces and nephews – Danny, Kayla, Jessie, Kristina, Meagan, Coral and Bryce AND their furry rescue pets!
Denny and I married in 1980 and that year one of my best friends moved in after the death of her husband. Thus began a long tradition of extended family in the Heiberg home! I cannot began to count the numbers of “sent family” that have joined our home over the years, enriching our lives and expanding God’s love toward us in ways that look a lot like the Walton Family on steroids. “Good night, Tess”, “sweet dreams Holly”, “nite-nite Benjy”, “good night Chris”, “Buenos noches Amanda”, “night, love ya, Em”, “night Margaret Ellen”…..we could be awake all night saying “Good night, sleep tight!”
In the midst we have been blessed with our own “biologicals”. Rachel, Joanna and Sarah helped raise us and, through their friendship connections, our dining room table bulged with “Family Dinners” that sparked a 12 year run of “Monday/Thursday night dinners”. Our girls increased family as we married three new families!!
Neighbors have become family in the midst of difficult circumstances. How I cherish the children “of my heart”, Jorge, Emily & Lily. As I put the period to the sentence, I heard voices in the kitchen. Emily, her daddy and her friend, Emma were in our kitchen getting a snack! How I love the open door policy!!
Our “collected children” have come from continents far and wide from the outskirts of Branford, from the perimeter of the University of Florida, to the southernmost tip of Africa with China and India interspersed. We are blessed!
Our children have continued the tradition begun by Grandmama & Grandaddy. Rachel and Jon are part of a “community group” that do real life together on a daily basis. Just check out Rachel’s FB page….little Lydia might live at another house, but Rachel is one of her Mamas! Joanna & Ben have parented more kids through the ministry of Young Life than we can possibly count! Sarah & Kyle are also “Young Life Parents” and their photos reveal two little girls that might keep them grounded in Orlando for longer than planned!
Last night “family night dinner” included six new international students, along with several local families. It was loud and messy, the strains of “Heart & Soul” being banged out on the piano while the dishes piled higher in the sink. The dishes didn’t last long as two of the guys jumped in to clean up and to give impromptu lessons in how to run a dishwasher and a dryer. One-on-one conversations took place in various areas of the room while the kids ran around with wild enthusiasm. The strains of laughter wafted through the house and Jesus smiled.
FAMILY – a priceless gift from God! How I thank Him for those birthed by blood and brought to us by His blood! We are the FAMILY of God!
A few years ago we walked through a message series at Grace Church called “Essential G.E.A.R. for Following Jesus.” For seven weeks we took a look at a portion of Luke’s gospel that records the conversations and events of Jesus as He takes His final journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. In the first message of the series we offered a practical guide for reading through the Scriptures that enabled each of us to dig deeper into the Bible and to help us apply what we have read to our daily lives.
I first learned of this method while attending a pastor’s conference in February 2003. A pastor named Wayne Cordeiro, from New Hope Christian Fellowship in Honolulu, challenged each of us to join him in a simple method of personal Bible study that he had used successfully for years. As a result, I have found this devotional method to be very helpful for me in digging deeper into the Scriptures. This method is also easily reproducible for others to apply to their lives. In light of our outfitter’s image of discipleship at Grace Church, I modified the method to fit within our context.
For those of you who may not remember this teaching, I’ll briefly summarize the G.E.A.R method of Transformational Bible Study.
1. Select a portion of Scripture to read. (During these next seven weeks we will be focusing upon Luke 9:51 thorough Luke 19:27.)
2. After you have read your portion for the day, select a verse or two that seems to stand out to you and that you would like to spend a few moments reflecting upon.
3. Now that you have a verse or two to focus upon, you will begin the G.E.A.R. method of Bible Study.
God’s Word: Write out word for word the Scripture you have selected for the day.
Examine: Now begin to examine what the text is saying by making observations. This is where you answer some of the following questions, “What is the context of this verse?” “What does the text say?” “Who is speaking?” “Who is the recipient?” “What is happening here?” “When is this taking place?” “Where is this happening?” “Why is this event taking place?” “How did this happen?” You also look for key or repeated words. Write down in a few sentences what you have discovered in this examination stage.
Apply: Here you answer the question: “What is God saying to ME through this Scripture?” “How should I respond?” “How does this work in MY life?” After you have a sense of how this Scripture might be applied to your life, spend a few moments writing our your thoughts.
Resolve: In light of what God has revealed and said to you, how will your life be different as a result of reading this Scripture? What will you resolve to do? To be resolved means to come to a definite decision about something, to make up your mind to obey what you have learned. Once you have a sense of how you might commit to live out a lesson that comes from this Scripture, take a moment to write it down as a prayer of commitment.
Now that I’ve unpacked the method for you, let me illustrate this method on a verse of Scripture so that you might see an example of the G.E.A.R. method.
God’s Word: “Blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8
Examine: The Lord is speaking through His prophet, Jeremiah, to God’s people in Judah. They have turned from following the Lord and have placed their trust in the strength of other nations who do not worship the Lord. Unfortunately, the majority of God’s very own people have turned their hearts away from the Lord God. In these two verses Jeremiah reveals that those who determine to trust in the Lord and place their hope and confidence in Him will receive God’s blessings and favor. They will stand strong and healthy like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Even in times of drought and distress, these trees will continue to produce fruit.
Apply: Even when my life is in distress and turmoil and I am tempted to place my trust in human wisdom and strength, I must continue to trust in the Lord and His Word. When I place my hope and confidence in Him and develop a discipline of nourishing my soul from God’s Word, then I will be fruitful no matter how difficult the circumstances are at the moment.
Resolve: Lord, I want to thank you for your abundant provisions for my life. In light of this passage, I resolve to begin a daily practice of reading and studying your Word so that my spiritual roots will be nourished and my life will be fruitful and productive.
Let me encourage you to begin this time alone with God and His Word by praying for God to open your eyes to the wonderful truths in His Word. Here are a few sample prayers taken right from the Scriptures:
Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions.
Teach me your ways, O Lord, that I may live according to your truth!
Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you.
Teach me, O Lord, to follow every one of your principles.
Give me understanding and I will obey your instructions;
I will put them into practice with all my heart.
Denny & Cindy Heiberg