Sunday, December 18, 2016

Yesterday afternoon my husband, Jon, and I encountered a situation that many of us fear: An accident with power equipment.

Just before finishing-up with snow removal, Jon got his hand lodged in the auger mechanism of our snow-blower. He now has 15 external stitches, a few internal stitches to mend a lacerated tendon, two fractured fingertips, one broken fingertip, and a prospective six to eight week "vacation" from work.

Amazingly, however, the entire time that we were in the Emergency Room I was not focused on the injury, but was overcome by God's grace! The knowledge His comforting presence and omnipotence remains with me this morning.

As we waited for the doctor to work on Jon's hand and determine the necessary course for recovery, I had an inner peace as God revealed to me His many blessings in this situation:

1) If the Lord hadn't prompted Jon to put on a pair of heavy leather gloves that he usually does not wear when using the snow-blower, Jon would have lost his fingers completely.

2) The volunteer EMTs who arrived at our home were calm, knowledgeable, patient, and comforting.

3) My cousin, Ryan, saw emergency vehicles in our driveway and came over to help calm our children, take care of our dog, and make sure that our woodstove and other household items were tended to.

4) My parents were home and able to pick-up the kids so they wouldn't have to travel to the hospital, but instead could go someplace where they felt comfortable and would be assured of Jon's wellbeing.

5) Each of the Emergency Room personnel who worked with Jon was extremely gifted in their work, very caring, and straightforward enough that Jon made the best decisions for his care.

6) Despite some seriously bad weather earlier in the day, the roads were perfectly clear and safe for our trip to the hospital.

I'm sure that, over time, I will discover many other ways that God was working in our lives yesterday afternoon - that knowledge is just one more reason for me to praise Him!

My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord.
Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.
Psalm 145 (verse 21)
-Trish Gerstel

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Satan's attacks started the minute I woke up today, and they didn't stop all morning. My back was extremely sore; despite being bone tired, I was unable to fall back to sleep after waking at 4:00 a.m.; my shower was cold; I had to make sure my daughter (a dilly-dallier of the highest order) was ready for an early Cantata practice; and I knocked an open coffee canister off the counter.
As I packed things into my "church bag," I was wholeheartedly regretting my earlier decision to take Jon's place teaching Children's Church so that he could get some respite from all of the activities on his own plate. Trying to keep several young children occupied and acceptably quite for any stretch of time seemed well beyond my abilities, and I was wondering if I'd make it out alive.
Thankfully, the Spirit was whispering to me throughout the morning. I was prompted me to pray, to lift the Lord's name in songs of thanksgiving, and to recite encouraging Scripture verses, and by the time I got to church I was at peace with the idea of teaching Children's Church. When Children's Church started, my mood was lifted even more by the smiling faces that surrounded me; and by the time Children's Church came to and end, my heart was overflowing with thankfulness for all the amazing growth I'm seeing in the hearts of our church's youngsters.
Left to my own devices today, I would have been a tsunami of anger (probably flattening a few kids in my wake!). Because of God's grace, however, I found myself in the position of role model and confidant to budding hearts and minds, a blessing beyond compare.
-Trish Gerstel
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
-Ephesians 6:10-18

Monday, January 4, 2016

I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:13

Only God's strength could've seen me through Clyne's birth!

I went to the hospital on New Year's Eve with a very bad stomach bug. I couldn't keep anything down so I became very dehydrated, which brought on contractions. This is after spending the whole night before awake with Jayli and Avyn, who also had the stomach bug.

I felt so bad dropping-off my sick babies to my sister, but Jay insisted I was in labor and we needed to go to the hospital. When I got there they hooked me up to an IV, but the contractions persisted. I was dehydrated, exhausted, and throwing up between contractions, but God has given me a wonderful husband who also happens to be an amazing labor and delivery coach.

God also gave me two amazing nurses who decided to admit me even though it looked like I was not progressing, which is a good thing because once they decided to get me into a delivery room everything went by in such a blur -- my sweet baby Clyne was here in no time after that; he was born no longer than five minutes after I got into bed in the delivery room.

God is truly watching over me and I am so thankful! Praise God, I am so blessed!

Cindy Capasso

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Not too long ago I shared with a friend how God had given me a new appreciation for 2 Corinthians 12:9 ("But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me"). That new understanding came by way of a Satanic attack that caused my husband to become anxious, angry, and sullen, and which brought me to a point where I felt as if my sympathy had run dry.

It was at that moment -- when my mind was filled with unloving thoughts toward my spouse -- that the Holy Spirit revealed to me just what it means to have God's power perfected in my weakness. Because I was so desperate for His peace and direction, when I heard His gentle voice whisper, "Pray," I didn't hesitate but immediately repented of my sinful thoughts and admitted that I couldn't overcome the resentment in my heart. The Spirit's voice immediately grew louder and I was instilled with a wave of powerful, godly love toward my husband as well as a desire to show him mercy through the simple act of a gentle word and a smile.

That act of mercy was the turning point. Over the next few days my husband and I were unified in our prayers and our time spent in the Word, and we overcame the attack. Thankful to put the situation behind us and sure that things would be calm for a bit while I reveled in my new insight, I was surprised to find out that God had other plans.

The past seven days have been physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting: a "simple" switch of Web hosts for the church ended up in shambles; my nine-year-old daughter's tendency toward the dramatic went into overdrive more than once (more than a half-dozen times, in fact); efforts to provide local families-in-need with a Thanksgiving meal went awry; I (once again) caused my daughter to break out in hives by inadvertently feeding her food made with pea flour; my computer, for no apparent reason, decided to stop working; and to top it off, two of my chickens suddenly and very mysteriously stopped laying eggs!

On more than one occasion over the past week I have been tempted to forget what God had just taught me about His strength in my weakness---and more than once I came very close to the edge of that dangerous cliff. Thankfully, however, He is faithful and His Spirit never once stopped whispering to me, "My power rests on you." Now that this difficult period seems to have come to an end, I can look back and see that God allowed me to have one of the most troublesome weeks of my life so that, through each and every trial, I would fall back into His arms and be reminded of His perfect strength.

-Trish Gerstel

Saturday, November 7, 2015

As most of you know, today was a very hard day for many of us at church. This morning Doctor Victor Burdick (Doctor Vic) died, and while he is joyfully celebrating and meeting his Savior, the rest of us are left missing him. He has only been in the area a short time and yet was loved by everyone he met. Why was that?
First of all, Doctor Vic passed the love of his Savior onto everyone he met by being genuinely interested in their lives, both the good things and the struggles. He prayed for a large number of people on a daily basis and frequently asked for follow-up information about their situations so he could better direct his prayers. Doctor Vic also stepped into a leadership role simply by being a mentor and sounding board. He demonstrated Jesus’ long-suffering spirit by being long-suffering with others, particularly in caring for his wife. He strived to demonstrate the character and love of Christ in everything he did.
Doctor Vic also stepped-up to the plate and became involved in the church and its ministries even though physically he was limited in what he could do: He planned and prepared intricate Children’s Messages, read and frequently contributed to the weekly blog, wrote articles for the church newsletter ("The Buzz") based on his recent study of Scripture, he was a prayer warrior, and he willingly took on a ministry group as a deacon. Even though he could not physically serve communion or physically assist the individuals he ministered to, he supported them through regular contact and through prayer. Most of these things he did from the comfort of his own couch using his computer and cell phone.
Doctor Vic could have moved to Stephentown and become bitter. Bitter that he was not living on his own. Bitter that he was no longer a practicing physician. Bitter that his wife was struggling with dementia. Bitter that he was physically struggling with a disease that left him weak and out of breath, and that limited the time he could be away from home. Bitter that he could not actively participate in the church in a way that he was able to do when he was younger.
Or, he could have sat back rested on his accomplishments: He had served in the mission field; worked as a physician for many, many years; raised three successful children; been active in several churches; and served on the diaconate. He could easily have come to Stephentown in his final years and let the church serve him.
Many of us drop out of ministry when life gets hard, when we cannot do the things we used to do, or when we just decide we are too old (or too young . . . or too inexperienced) and someone else should step up to the plate. Doctor Vic was our shining example of how a Christian should live out their final years on earth. They should continue to be a servant of Christ in whatever way they are able to, right up until the end.
There is always a ministry you can be doing no matter what your age, health, finances, or skills. God can use you and wants to use you. When you die, the church should be left with a hole, and if they have to scramble to find someone to fill the ministries you were doing, all the better. Let Doctor Vic’s life be a challenge to your own Christian walk. Step up to the plate, figure out what type of ministry you can do based on the cards you have been dealt, and just do it.
Ellen Olson

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Parenting is hard - especially in those moments when you and your spouse don't see eye-to-eye on how to handle a child-rearing situation. Thankfully these types of moments don't happen very often in our home. Even better, my heart has been softened and I now seek out God's guidance so He can gracefully lead me through those situations when they do come up.

A few nights ago my spouse was disciplining our child and acted in a way that I found harsh. In the past this would have caused contention, maybe even an argument (maybe even an argument in front of the children!) - but not this time! Instead of immediately jumping in to give my opinion on my spouse's terrible parenting technique, I prayed to the Lord for His guidance, waited until the initial anger had gone, and then spoke with my spouse. Through God's grace my words were words that built up instead of tearing down, and my spouse and I both left the conversation feeling enlightened instead of angry and bitter.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. -2 Corinthians 12:9

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. -Romans 8:28

It is an amazing gift: When we read passages of Scripture -- or even another Christian's account of God touching their lives -- the Holy Spirit gives us a supernatural understanding of those words (John 14:26, 16:13) so that we are able to apply them to our lives and share them with others. A more amazing gift still is when God gives us an opportunity to experience His Word.

The gift of experiencing God's Word is something that has happened to me a few times (i.e., when I was so badly hurt by someone's words and actions that I didn't know what to pray, but I could feel the Spirit interceding on my behalf [Romans 8:26-27]; or when I was facing a situation that should have terrified me, but instead I felt a sense of peace because I focused on God's promises [John 14:27]) -- but without a doubt the events of this weekend were the most powerful imparting of the gift I've yet to receive.

Thursday afternoon I began to get a headache; that headache continued throughout the day on Friday, and by Saturday morning it reached a level where I (a stubborn mule if ever one existed) asked my husband to take me to the local urgent care clinic to get things checked out. With an initial diagnosis of lyme disease and a prescription for antibiotics, we left the clinic thinking that things would get better from there. They didn't. All of Saturday evening and throughout that night I was crying out to the Lord, asking Him to take away a pain so severe there really are no words to describe it. In the midst of my pain and my desperate pleas for relief, I felt Him guiding, telling me that He was not going to take away the pain, but that there was a reason; 2 Corinthians 12:9 and Romans 8:28 were continuously brought before me, and I submitted to His will.

As events unfolded Sunday -- beginning with a trip to the Emergency Room at St. Peter's and ending with a diagnosis of bacterial infection (possibly lyme, but possibly something else [it takes days to get the blood work back]) and even more antibiotics to take -- it was made clear to me exactly what the Lord had done: He allowed me to experience the initial pain because without it I would not have gone to the doctor on Saturday, learned that I most likely had lyme, and gotten my first antibiotics; and He had allowed the excruciating pain of Saturday evening/Sunday morning, because without it, this stubborn mule would not have gone to the Emergency Room, would not have received stronger intravenous antibiotics as well as a second prescription to take home, and thus would not have the correct medications needed to kill the bacteria besieging her body. The Lord allowed me to experience a pain unlike anything I've ever encountered, because without that pain I would not have received what I need to heal.

This weekend, I experienced God's Word, and that is a gift of grace beyond measure.

-Trish Gerstel