Month: October 2011

Immeasurably More

I am forever telling God how I think situations in my life and in the lives of those I love should turn out. As if I think He requires my input. As if I think I know better. The sad, but true part of this is, that most of the time I do think I know better… or at least as good. Silly me.

A few weeks ago, while talking about change, I mentioned that my dad had suffered a small stroke. (It’s only small if it is not happening to you.) For my dad, it was a major change in his life. For the whole first week we saw no improvement in his deficits. None. Zero. I became so concerned over this that I pestered his Neurologist enough that the man, himself, finally called me back. I’m sure his nurse told him that if he didn’t call me back she was going to have to do something drastic.

He was kind, patient even. He went so far as to lie and tell me that he didn’t mind all my phone calls, but that no, he would not be admitting my dad to the hospital. He just didn’t think that would be necessary. I pleaded my case, but in the end, the only way my dad would be admitted to the hospital was if he got worse. Ouch.

All along I had been praying for my dad. Everyone I could enlist had been praying, too. I had asked for God to restore my dad to his prior level of functioning. I told God that seventy-four was just too young for my dad to hang it all up and take to the rocking chair. I told God that quite often I still needed my dad for real things. (Somehow it always comes back to me, doesn’t it?)

A couple of days after my conversation with my dad’s doctor, things began to happen. All of a sudden my dad could tie his shoes again. Then he could write his name and button his shirt. Slowly, things began to work again that had not worked in a few weeks. Just a few days ago, my dad started driving again. God help us.

All that is just fantastic. Really it is. But there is more. My dad is happy. I mean really happy. Euphoric even. He’s not grumpy, short tempered or crabby. Ever. He’s helpful, considerate, kind and… happy! Not that he was an old crab before, but he had his days, just like us all. Except that now he doesn’t. Every day is a good day for my dad. Together, my parents are like a young couple just starting out.

And then it occurred to me. God had not only restored my dad to his previous level of health, he had made him better.

Then a verse from Ephesians Chapter 3 came to mind:

Verse 20

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,”

We tell God what we want him to do for us. But how limiting is that? When He is able to IMMEASURABLY more!

And then I backed up and read these verses from that same chapter:

Verses 16-19

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

So there is was. My father, who is rooted and established in love, now has the power to grasp how much the Father loves him. God saw fit to not only restore my father to health, but to make him better than before. I can’t understand it, its logic surpasses my knowledge. But I don’t care. It’s wonderful. So maybe I’m ready to stop telling God how He should work all these things out. Maybe it’s time I just stop all the worry and fretting. Maybe you should, too.

There are some really hard things you are dealing with. Some things those you love are going through break your heart. You know what would make all those things better. You’ve told them, and you’ve told God, too. If only they would just listen. How about we just take those things to God and then trust him with the outcome? How about that? Then let’s just sit back and watch him do immeasurably more than we can even imagine.

Kindest to Animals

I was going through an old box of my kid’s school papers the other day, and found an award that was given to my daughter. When my daughter was in second grade, Awards Day was far different from those of my childhood. Why? Every child in my daughter’s class received an award that day. Every one. What award did my daughter get? “Kindest to Animals”. I’m not kidding.

By the next school year, someone had seen the error in this approach, and only academic awards were given. At the end of that ceremony, the principal stood, and addressing the students said, “If you did not receive and award today, let that encourage you to strive harder so that next awards day I can give you an award, too.” The kids did find encouragement in her words, and the determination was visible on many of their faces.

I thought back to an Awards Day from my own youth. As each academic award was called out, it was awarded to the same kid. Over and over this kid got up from his seat to receive his award. I remembered thinking, “Wow. Eric is really smart. He studies a lot, and he deserves every one of those awards.” By the time he went up to receive his final award (seven in all), we students were on our feet to give him a standing ovation that he, and only he, deserved. We all felt inspired by Eric to study harder.

When my son was younger, he played one season of little league baseball. Let’s just say that in that one season we discovered that baseball was not his calling, but at the season’s end he got a trophy along with every other kid on the team. He got that trophy for showing up, rather than for any skill or talent he brought to the team. It served only as proof that he had attempted to play a season of baseball. I’m not sure where that trophy is today.

These days we do so many things to try to make our kids feel better about themselves. Whether it’s a contrived award or a trophy awarded for participation, we fail to see the lack of value these things really offer. Any value added is only temporary, and quickly fades.

A friend of mine recently told me that her son tried out for, and didn’t make the basketball team at school. She told me he really wasn’t ready for the team, that he needed some more practice and instruction. She told me that not making the team didn’t bother her son. Instead, what bothered her son was that another kid had rudely criticized her son’s ability to play the sport.

Then my friend did something so important.
She talked to her son about where he should find his worth. She told her son that he is to find his worth in Christ, rather than in the words or deeds of another person.

What a great lesson for a parent to teach her child. As parents, we should be telling our children that their worth is not found in what they do, say, produce, present or receive. It is found only in Christ. That Christ found them so valuable that He gave His very life to save theirs for all eternity. What in this world could make us more valuable than that?

We should never teach children that their worth is found in how well they do in school, in sports, or in any other arena of life. We should praise them when they succeed, encourage them when they fail, and teach them whether in success or in failure, as followers of Jesus, their position in Christ is secure. They need to know they are loved with a wild and unfathomable love by the very Creator of the universe.

If we don’t do that, then they will likely grow to be adults who find their value in what size house they live in, what cars they drive, what clothes they wear, what job they hold, or any number of other rulers by which people measure each other and themselves.

If we teach this lesson well, they will find that when their egos are bruised by criticism or failure, they can find their true worth in the only One who really is worthy.

27 Million

Just a few weeks ago I shared about a women’s conference I attended at my church. The speaker, Christine Caine from Hillsong Church in Australia, spoke to us about the 27 million people worldwide who have fallen victim to human sex trafficking. I decided that the best thing I could do to fight this evil against largely women and children was to shed a little light. Light always dispels darkness, and this is a really dark issue. So today is October 21st and in honor of the A21 Campaign (A movement to eradicate human slavery across the globe), I wanted to continue to shed a little light. I’d like to share a story of a young European girl who was helped by the efforts of the A21 Campaign.

Penelope’s family was in need of money, or they would be unable to survive. When a friend offered to smuggle her across the Greek border and set her up with a “well paying job,” it seemed like an answer to her prayers. She had never had the chance to travel outside of her village’s boundaries, and the idea of an adventure was exciting!

Shortly after she arrived in Greece, Penelope was cleaning a room when “her boss” came in and locked the door behind him. Over the next few months, she was forced to endure things no teenaged girl should ever have to be subjected to. What had seemed like such a great opportunity to help her family ended up being the very thing that destroyed her childhood.

But Penelope managed to escape. After months of planning, she was able to overcome her fears; it was better to die trying to escape than to remain and die of a disease or from a violent beating. While her boss was sleeping, she stole his keys, unlocked the front door, and ran for her life. When her boss awoke and noticed she was missing, Penelope was already safe in a police car that was headed to the A21 Shelter.

When she first arrived, Penelope had an empty look on her face, and was gripped with fear. Today she is smiling because she knows she is loved, she is valued, and has hope for her future. Penelope is currently working very hard to learn the Greek language so she can complete high school, and enter college to become a nurse. Her biggest dream is to be able to help people.

You might be thinking that human trafficking is not a problem here in the States. As Americans we are far too advanced a society to tolerate such as this. Actually that’s not true. One community in Maine is fighting against the problem in their own back yard. Officials stated that they received twenty tips in one year related to human trafficking. Here is a short excerpt from an article on the WGME 13 website:
“When you’re able to make money at it, it’s going to draw more people,” says Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Perry. “And with the profit motive of doing this, it’s going to get violent.  People are going to protect their assets – whether it’s the people who are being exploited or their turf.” Police say it’s hard to get specific numbers on human trafficking in Maine because it’s often prosecuted as a different crime. They’re asking for the community’s help to prevent the problem from growing. 


So what can we do? How can we fight this evil among us? How can we save those who are living this nightmare? We can shed a little light. Our best, next, opportunity is coming up on November 11, 2011. Yep, that’s 11/11/11. Easy to remember, right? It’s called the KEY@FREE Movement. All you need to do is wear a key on a necklace around your neck. You can get the A21 keys from their website at www.theA21campaign.org or you can just wear one you have already. The idea is, that when people ask you why you are wearing the key you can tell them about the issue of human trafficking… Awareness: It’s the KEY to their freedom. You can shed a little light. It’s easy and it won’t cost you anything.

Today, though, I’d like you to join me and pray for the abolition of the sex slave industry worldwide. Are you unsure where to start? Here’s my prayers for today… Maybe these will give you a place to begin…

1. Pray protection over those fighting this battle on the front lines.
2. Pray for conviction of those who are paying for the services of these young girls. That their very attempts to participate in this activity are thwarted at every turn. (Remember, no customers, no business)
3. Pray for awareness in the countries where this is happening to poor and uneducated families. Pray that as A21 and other groups move into the schools and orphanages to teach about human trafficking, that they will unhindered in their efforts.
4. Pray for those who have been sold into slavery. For their protection and for their rescue. For opportunities of escape and for safety when they do.

There you go. Will you pray with me? I love the song from Hillsong, “Hosanna”. In it there is a line that says,

“Break my heart for what breaks Yours. Everything I am for Your kingdom’s cause.”

May our hearts break over this, and let us do what we can to make a difference. Shed a little light.

And the Lesson Continues

I realize that I have written recently about change, but as this blog is generally concerning things God is working on in me, it appears He is not done with this lesson on change.

I believe that there are two kinds of change. There is the change that takes place within us and then there is the change that takes place to us or around us. For the most part, assuming the change is positive, the changes that take place within us usually don’t disturb us very much. Those changes within us grow us in maturity. It’s those changes that come to us from the outside that leave us fretting.

On closer inspection, though, it’s often those changes outside of us, even outside of our control, that prompt the changes that come within us. So I think it is safe to say, that these changes we are faced with, come in part, to grow us. Some might say they are two sides of the same coin… or at least they are first cousins.

I have a big change on the horizon.
For the last sixteen years I have been blessed to work outside of our home only two or three days a week. Part-time nurse, full-time mom. (There are no part time moms. No good ones, anyway.) As our four children have grown, and the economy has taken such a downturn, the pull on our finances necessitates a change. So, for the first time in nearly two decades, I will be a full-time worker. I’d like to say I am throwing up confetti, but in all honesty, I’m just trying not to throw up.

In addition to the financial benefit that will come immediately, this “opportunity” will eventually also allow my children to attend college with a substantial discount on tuition. With four kids to push through college, that is no small thing. So there are some definite pluses in my going to work full-time. I try to focus on those. But then I am pulled to all those things that “might” happen in my absence from the home.

Among other things, I do still have four kids… and a husband… and a house to take care of. I have devoted a great deal of my life to their benefit. And I’m not done yet. The kids are growing up, for sure, but I’ve said before that just because your teenage boy’s voice drops an octave doesn’t mean your job as a parent is done. Teenagers make choices that can impact the rest of their lives. This is no time for me to be absent or distracted. My daughter is traveling headlong into womanhood. She doesn’t need to navigate that road alone. And the baby? Well. He’s still the baby, and babies need their moms.

Having a ministry spouse is a full time job in itself. They need tons of support and encouragement. So far, I’ve been able to provide both.

But change is coming, and it’s coming soon. I love my job. I really do. I am thankful, first that I have a job in this economy, and also that I have a job that I enjoy. I have wonderful co-workers, and I work in a stimulating environment.

Still, I have reservations. Let’s call them concerns. Not fear. I refuse to call them fear. We are not supposed to be afraid, after all, but I am concerned. I did pray that the Lord would shut this door of opportunity if it would not be beneficial to my family. It did shut several times, but now it is swinging open wide. So in my attempt to learn to walk by faith and not by sight and I am walking through this door. So often I live by sight. I look to and depend on what I can see to guide me. Yet the Bible tells us that things are often not the way they appear, and therefore we must walk by what we know by faith to be true and not by what we see. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

But here is the real lesson for all of us who are learning to walk by faith and to grow in the changes that are coming. In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, Paul tells us this:

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

So let us accept His grace and know that it is sufficient. Let us boast in our inabilities to keep up with all we have to do, if for no other reason than to elevate Christ’s strength in us. Then His strength becomes our own, and we can do many things. Actually we can do, endure, suffer, and master all things. How? Because of Christ in us.

Yes. Change from the outside, often brings change within. Pretty neat.

Lost in a Maze

I heard about a family that got themselves lost in a seven-acre corn maze in Massachusetts. Don’t laugh, it’s true. Of course the whole premise of a corn maze is to get through it, not to get lost, but this particular family got themselves lost and stayed that way. They stayed lost so long, they were the last mazers on site and the sun had gone down. To make matters worse, they had their three-month-old baby and five-year-old child with them. (It’s probably not a good idea to bring along a little baby to a corn maze. I’m just saying they probably should have reconsidered that.)

I’ve never been lost in a corn maze myself. I was lost once in a cornfield, though.
When I was little, my grandparents owned a farm and they planted corn on quite a few acres of it. I can remember chasing a pretty blue butterfly into the cornfield one sunny day. I followed the butterfly far enough into the cornfield that when I looked up to find where I was I realized that I was lost. The corn had grown well above my head and I had lost my bearings. I could see the blue sky above me, but that was it.

(Just for comparison, I was about nine years old and alone, cell phones had not been invented, and my grandparent’s farm was about forty-four acres with maybe twenty acres of it planted with corn.)

When I heard about this poor family lost in a corn maze I had a few thoughts. First, I remember that I didn’t panic when I realized I was lost in my grandparent’s cornfield. I never even told anyone I had gotten lost. Even in my nine-year-old mind, I knew that if I just kept walking in a straight line, I would eventually walk out of the cornfield. Now I might have ended up on the far side of the field, but I knew there was no way I wouldn’t get out on my own.

Again, I didn’t have a cell phone as this family did, but if I’d had the phone I now have I could have called 9-1-1 like they did (Yes, they really did call 9-1-1), or even better, I could have pulled myself up on GPS and followed it’s instructions on how to get out, or called the maze owners and gotten help. Also, the story in the news said that there were signs posted instructing lost mazers to text in for clues on how to get out.

Instead, as darkness was falling, this family began to panic.
I’ve mentioned before that panic never serves us well. They had made a poor choice in bringing a baby with them, bugs were beginning to bite, and I am sure the five-year-old was getting really scared in a darkened cornfield. Still, they had everything they needed to get themselves out of this bad situation on their own, if they had not let panic take hold of them.

Even if they had been in right the middle of those seven acres, walking straight in any direction would have had them out in just a few minutes. Instead they freaked out, shut off their brains, and had to call in reinforcements through 9-1-1. A police department K-9 unit was dispatched and found them a mere twenty-five feet from the maze entrance.

Twenty-five.

Feet.

The Bible tells us in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of a sound mind.”

If we ever have the feeling of panic rising up within us, we need to remember that it is not coming from God. The Bible tells us that He is not the author of chaos. We have to learn to stay calm and take inventory of our situation. We should pray for wisdom and for peace in the situations we face. We can ask for a clear mind and we can fight against the panic that wants to confuse us and keep us lost.

I doubt that many of us will ever find ourselves lost in a corn maze, but we may feel lost in other situations. Before we hit the panic button, lets just stop and think. What resources do we have on hand? What wisdom can we call upon to help us? And remember, even if we are completely out of control of our situation, our God is not. Its in times like these you put your trust in Him, take a deep breath and move forward, not in fear, but in strength and confidence. He’s likely already provided you with all you need to make it out of your maze.

Change is Inevitable

As I watch the leaves turn loose from the trees, I am reminded that change is a part of life. I was just talking to a friend this week about how much she hates change. It’s true. Most of us would rather avoid change. Even if our lives stink to a degree, if we have to go through a major change to improve our lives, we’d rather plod along in our stinky lives. But sometimes change comes along in spite of our best efforts to prevent it.

That happened in my family this week. In an instant, things changed. One phone call altered my day, and every day since. This change couldn’t have been predicted or controlled. It just called me up on the phone and said, “Here I am. Deal with me.” I don’t know yet if this change is permanent or not. My hope is that it is not.

This change came in the form of a small stroke in my father’s brain. One moment his world made sense to him and the next it didn’t. One moment he could make a call on his cell phone, and the next he couldn’t. Bam. Just like that, change came. Thursday my dad could drive his truck. Friday we took his keys.

What I do know is that the brain is a really amazing organ, and I am hopeful that over time my dad will experience full recovery. I want the change that came crashing into his life to go away just as quickly. My nurse’s brain knows the recovery will be much slower, but my daughter’s heart still hopes.

I am seeking the peace that passes all understanding that is promised to me in the Scriptures. (Philippians 4:7) I am trying to still trust in the Lord in all my ways for right now I really need him to make my paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6) My parents are leaning very heavily on my nursing experience and knowledge right now. They are hoping for a real return on that college investment they made twenty-five years ago. Proverbs says that the fruit of the womb is a reward. I think my parents would like their reward now.

I take their trust in me, and my opportunity to be here to help them, as a privilege. I am blessed to have always had parents who were there for me no matter what. Now it’s my turn to be there for them. It would do my parents no good if I found what happened to be too overwhelming to handle.

When these uncontrollable changes come along we have to be able to look to the One who saw them coming long ago. This little stroke my dad had, did not come as a surprise to God the way it did to me. I would have appreciated a little heads up from Him, but alas, that’s not how things work. I have to trust that He is still in control and that more than I; He loves my dad and plans the best for him.

Not many of us like change, but here’s a fair warning: If you aren’t experiencing a change in your life right now, hang on… it’s coming. It could be a perceived change for the good, or it could be a perceived change for the not so good. We tend to judge for ourselves what is good and what is bad, but let us always remember that in some way, each change that comes to us will ultimately be for our good. God has a real knack for weaving those things into the fabric of our lives and making something beautiful from it.

Change comes at the speed of life. It will try to pull the rug right out from under you. When it does, plant your feet and stand firm. We either trust Him in the change or we don’t. I am learning there isn‘t a lot of middle ground there.

In times like these, we often go to God and unload. That’s fine. He wants us to come to Him. He is our Father in heaven and He loves us. But what if we tried something else? In times of trouble we are supposed to run to God. But what if, when we got there, we turned around. What if we turned around and with God at our back, we faced our problems and life changes that way?

What if, instead of telling God how big our problems are, we turn around and tell our problems how big our God is? I didn’t make that up, but I like it.

Trust in the Storms

I say quite often that I trust in the Lord for all things. And I do. That is, until I don’t. I mean I do trust him.

For most things.

I really do.

I am happy to say that more and more that is the case. I just wish it was the case all the time.

I wish I never had those “Oh my goodness” moments. You know the ones. Those moments where life throws you a curve ball, and the first response you feel is panic? I really so much want my go-to response to be to trust in Him, no matter what my situation. Thankfully, I can usually get to that place eventually, but it’s not always my initial landing place. Sometimes I have to circle around worry and panic a few times before I am able to land on fully trusting in God.

Take this past week, for instance. I got a call from my mother while I was at work. In all honesty, those calls always worry me. She knows I am at work, so she only calls me at work if she really has to. So I answer the phone already on the alert. She says calmly, “I’m a little worried about your dad.” Loosely translated this is, “It’s complete freak out time. Something is really wrong. Alert the media!”

I could feel my adrenaline already picking up. My pulse began to race a bit, but I breathed deeply and asked her to tell me what was up. The battle between panic and trust began again.

I know the Bible verses I need to go to in those times of unrest.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge him and he will set your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5

“God is our refuge and strength. An ever present help in times of trouble.”
Psalm 46:1

“He will work all things to the benefit of those who love him and are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

I used to spend a lot more time worrying than I do now. So I am making progress. But I think that any second we spend panicking over situations we have no control over will have us riding on the sin carousel. My first go-to verse tells me to trust in the Lord with my whole heart. With all of it. Not with most of it. What if the verse read this way?

“Trust in the Lord with most of your heart. But play it safe and lean some on your own understanding. When you can, acknowledge him, and he might help you out.”

That would make a lousy Bible verse. Who would read a Bible like that? I’d be taking that one back to the Bible store and getting my money back.

The Bible scolds us for worrying. It tells us that we can’t add a single day to our lives by worrying. (Luke 12:25) Ninety-nine out of a hundred things we worry over never actually come to pass anyway. But on the occasion that something does go awry, we are often surprised when that trouble comes our way. I’m not really sure why. The Bible tells us we will experience trouble. It guarantees that it will find us, and it gives us fair warning. Whether we send trouble an engraved invitation by our own poor choices, or whether we are innocent bystanders, we are targeted for trouble. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Earth was supposed to be Utopia. Yet all that changed when sin entered the picture and we’ve been plagued with trouble ever since.

I do really strive to trust the Lord in all things, and with my whole heart. If I am honest, I must admit that I am not always successful immediately. I’m not happy about this, and I am trying to rest in the Lord during times of uncertainty from the very moment that uncertainty presents itself.

Just imagine how great our lives would be if we were truly able to take all things that this life has to throw at us in perfect stride. How great would our faith truly be then? Remember the story in the New Testament of the storm on the Sea of Galilee? (Mark 4:35-40) Jesus had fallen asleep in the boat after a really tiring day of preaching, and the disciples were left to man the vessel. Suddenly, a storm came upon them and these seasoned sailors were experiencing a total come apart. Jesus was right there, in the flesh, with them and they still freaked out. Now normally I never underestimate the value of a good hissy fit, but really… Jesus was RIGHT THERE.

When they woke Jesus to tell them they were all about to die, he was disappointed in their apparent lack of faith. He was not impressed with their hissy fit. With a word, Jesus calmed the storm and they were all safe and sound. There was no need for the panic. Jesus was right there with them and he had everything under control. Are we so different? Even now, no storm is too great that he cannot calm it or walk us through it.

It is not his desire that we are tossed about by every wave that hits us. It is his desire that we learn to ride out those waves and trust in him to take care of us. Things are often out of our control, but they are never, not for one second, out of his.