Thursday, July 31, 2014

Precious Prayers


 

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the

Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change

 like the shifting of the shadows. James 1:17

Yesterday I had a lovely surprise, a mid-morning visit from my son Jeffrey. Due to our work schedules this never happens but it did and it was delightful. Normally when I see Jeffrey there are at least three children (his) around and usually more along with more adults. It is a rare and precious thing to spend time with anyone of my four children and be able to just sit and chat.

            While we were chatting Jeffrey was telling me about praying with his wife and children, Isabelle who is eight, Samuel who is seven and Abigail who is three. We’d been talking about taking some pretty big blessings for granted and Jeffrey shared with me how Samuel’s prayers had humbled him a bit and shed a light on what should be obvious to all of us.

            Samuel is a practical child and he is still very much a child. He is delighted by things too many of us take for granted. He is still at an age where is something is funny once, it’s probably hilarious on the fortieth repetition. Samuel’s laugh or more accurately giggle is extremely contagious. In short, he’s all boy and just precious. Apparently he is also aware that all good things come from above. Jeffrey shared with me that Samuel’s nightly prayers always include one of thanksgiving for the good food he received through the day.  Jeffrey’s take on that is that a blessing over our meals is something Samuel has experienced his entire life and so believes that all prayers should contain that thought. Maybe….

            What touched Jeffrey’s heart and subsequently mine, is how great that prayer really is. We are as my son pointed out, Americans (read spoiled). We take food, clothing and shelter as a given. No one in our family is wealthy. We’re all somewhere in the upper lower to lower middle class range but again, in America. We all have at least one vehicle. We all have nice homes. We’re all fed, every day, several times a day and we just expect that. All of us, it seems, except Samuel.

            There is the expression, out of the mouths of babes and it is so true. By thanking God for his food, not at the table when it’s right in front of him but later, after teeth are brushed and there is no chance of one more chicken leg (one of his favorites) or another treat, Samuel is still grateful that he was fed and fed well. He’s seven and God bless him, he gets it in ways those of us who are older and “wiser” have forgotten.

            I see myself as a fairly grateful person. I count my blessings several times a day and keep record of them. Still my little Samuel made me aware of how deep, wide and precious is the love of God, lavished on us, His children, His selfish, self-centered, undeserving children.

            We should all be thankful in the extreme for those things we see as simple facts of life. I am currently sitting in front of my computer, that is to say one of several in this house. My house… with the pool in the backyard, the well stocked kitchen, the working air conditioner and the fairly new furniture. I stepped out of my own bed on my own steam this morning and I’m breathing. On top of that, yesterday I had a surprise visit from my youngest son and a planned visit with my oldest son and youngest grandson. God is good all the time and all the time, we should acknowledge Him.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Touch


 
Jesus said, “Who touched me?” When all denied it Peter and those with him said, “Master, the multitudes throng and press you, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’” Luke 8:45

 I love this story and the accounts in Matthew and Mark. They all read pretty close to the same when it comes to the bleeding woman. She’s been ill for twelve years and seen every doctor around. Finally she gets her chance to see Jesus and out of total desperation she touches Him, not Him exactly but his clothing, the very edge of His clothing. The whole thing is amazing.

          First it’s sad. This poor woman! She’s ill enough to risk touching a man, a strange man at that, which was unheard of in that day. Plus she’s somehow dragged her weak body into the streets and hustled her way close enough to touch, if not Him, at least His cloak. Your heart has to break for her. For years I got migraine headaches. Due to the type of migraine they came in a very cyclic pattern.  At the worst I was miserable for four straight days, unable to sleep or eat and every movement caused excruciating pain. It was awful but I knew it would end, at least for a few weeks I would have a break before the onslaught of more pain. From what we know, this woman didn’t get any breaks. She was sick for twelve long years. Sad.

          Then there’s Jesus and this is the part I love. It amazes and inspires me. In the same moment it bolsters my faith, it also makes me question it. This woman had such great faith. She didn’t need to be acknowledged by Jesus. She didn’t need or expect Him to stop and have a long conversation with her to see if she deserved healing. She saw Him as healing. If she could get close, she could get well. And she did! That’s not all of it. Jesus stops, turns to His guys and asks who touched Him. Seriously? They’re looking at the crowd, the multitude (love that word) and thinking, “Yeah right, like we’re going to find that one person who touched you.” Everybody was touching Him, grabbing at Him, wanting something from Him but Jesus does find her, not that it matters. It wasn’t the woman herself or her suffering that called to the heart of the Healer. It wasn’t an earnest and well-spoken plea that compelled Him to grant her request. It was her faith! There was no question in her mind that close proximity to Jesus meant restored health. Wow!

          That is where I question my own faith. Why do I feel the need to plead my case, explaining the myriad reasons why I need healing or help? Why don’t I just know that Jesus has my best interest at heart? It’s a simple answer. It is because God’s ways and mine are different. What God sees as best for me often isn’t what I want. Beyond that I rarely understand why I get an answer that is or looks like a no. Oddly, that is where my faith is bolstered. I may not get what I want or think I need but somehow in the process of seeking His face for an answer I draw closer to Him. My faith is not where the bleeding woman’s faith was but it’s stronger than it was a month ago.

          If times are hard for you right now read this story, the whole story, in all three Gospels. I’ve barely scratched the surface here of the miraculous nature of all that is going on. Then reach out and touch Jesus. Something miraculous will happen, He promised.

Friday, July 18, 2014

A List of Miracles


 
It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me.
Daniel 4:2

 
Today had kind of a rocky start for me. To go into the reasons why would, however, give the enemy attention and I prefer not to do that. So let’s just say it was a bit of a battle to refocus my thoughts and hold onto my joy. In fact as I type there are still little dings coming my way. Here’s the good news, God is good. I’ve said it before but I think it bears repeating, I’m irritated by the whole “life is good” slogan. Life is not good. Life is hard. God is good all the time.

          As soon as I read this verse from the book of Daniel I had the support I needed. I was reminded of the greatness of God, His faithfulness, mercy and love. Why? Well, let me borrow from Daniel and make it my great pleasure to tell you about God’s movement in my life.

          I have a wonderful husband. I’m aware of that always but every now and then there are small things that shine a huge spotlight on just how much of a blessing he is to me. He has great integrity and greater faith. He is kind, loyal and protective and sometimes he makes me crazy which just proves he’s the real deal. We have four adult children, three sons and a daughter, and three lovely daughters-in-love. Our oldest son is truly a walking miracle. He was diagnosed with brain damage as an infant but spoke in full sentences at a year old and is apparently starting an advanced degree collection.  Our second son has a heart that has caused people to comment since he was two years old. There are no strangers in his world, only friends he’s yet to meet. Our third son has a musical gift, to call it “talent” would minimize its intensity. With no training he plays several instruments and sings beautifully. Our daughter is a hurdler, not in the traditional sense. Trust me our baby girl does not run. No, she’s a life hurdler. She’s vaulted over more obstacles than I care to remember and she does it with humor and better yet, without self-pity. Our children have blessed us with ten grandchildren. All of whom are unique and precious. One is another miracle baby, as his existence came as a bit of a shock, considering his parents were told that his conception was something of impossibility. Hmm, see Matthew 19:26 for that answer.  Miracles, all of them.

          Where life has handed me more than a few challenges, God has handed me strength, faith and grace to rise above. Once during a very hard time I was asked how I was handling it. I answered quite frankly that I wasn’t. My hope and strength are in the name of the Lord. Miracle.

          My day job is working with “special needs” children. That may not sound miraculous on the surface but I promise you, it is. I have learned so much about love, life and faith from my kiddos. That job wasn’t on my list of things I wanted to do and yet it has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.

          Then there are the “ordinary” miracles and signs.  Take today. I’m sitting in my nice, comfortable home with a full pantry and two full refrigerators. In a short while I will take laundry from my washer and dry it on my line, because I am blessed with a gorgeous sunny day not because I don’t have a dryer. After that, I’ll lounge in my pool and read a book, because I have a pool, a book and the vision and intelligence to read. Even later I will spend time with my wonderful husband and three of our precious grandchildren because their parents trust us to take care of them. They will be here while their parents celebrate their wedding anniversary, which involves too many miracles to list here.

          This is a short and sadly lacking list of the miracles God has done in my life. I didn’t even get to the signs but to list everything would take far too many words. My hope is that it will get you started on your own list and that when you see God’s fingerprints all over your life you will stop and give Him the praise He so richly deserves.  

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Drawn In By Grace


 

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.  1 Peter 3:9

 
A few weeks ago I had an eye opening conversation with a woman I’ve known for several years, I’ll call her Ann. Ann expressed her displeasure over another woman’s lack of gratitude. She told me how no matter what she does, how often she does it or how much of a sacrifice it is, the woman never thanks her. That conversation was very enlightening. I saw Ann wanting the recognition, expecting the thanks but I also saw that she neglects to give those things to the people who do for her. In that moment I saw a bigger picture. I wondered when or if Ann ever thanks God? She professes to be a Christian but it doesn’t seem to impact her life. I continued chatting with her but honestly only half-listening as my mind traveled a different path.

 A few days after my conversation with Ann I had a very different conversation with another friend. On the surface the two don’t seem to bear much commonality but for me, they do.

My second conversation was with a friend who was upset because she felt that she’d been wronged and she was right, she had. What she failed to see was that her own actions were the catalyst of the wrongdoing. She was hurt by another person’s behavior but neglected to see that her choices had clouded up and rained all over many other people including the one with whom she was angry.

Both of those attitudes bothered me. Thank me. Acknowledge me. Don’t offend me regardless of the fact that I have offended you and caused you to receive insult that is not yours. In both instances I wanted to scream “Look in a mirror!” Why I wondered did those set off such strong reactions in me? In both cases I did what I do. I prayed to ignore my feelings and respond as my Father would have me respond. While I pray that very often I have to admit I fail in it far too much. Thankfully in these instances I relied on God’s grace and stayed quiet and that grace allowed me to see why I reacted as I did.

Jesus Christ, at the very young age of thirty-three years old, hung on a cross and died for me, for my sins. He did nothing wrong, not one single thing, no snide remark, no blatant lies, no murder, no lust and on and on and on. He didn’t indulge in a single ugly behavior but he suffered unspeakable torture and died because we do indulge over and over again. My friend may see herself as an innocent victim and she may be but it’s nothing compared to Jesus’ innocence. Which brought me to the gratitude thing. Ann wants thanks for every miniscule act but when does she thank or praise God? She doesn’t. In fact she minimizes Him. She sees herself as the giver in all things and does not see that without God’s grace she’d have nothing to give.

My aggravation with both friends quickly turned to gratitude. How often do I cast myself in the put upon role? Or think someone “owes” me a thank you? Bigger question. Do I spend everyday living with the knowledge of the sacrifice of Jesus? Does that act fuel my behavior? Do I realize that He was completely innocent but took shame, pain and punishment because I’m guilty? Do I thank Him for every miniscule thing?

We live and move and have our being by God’s grace and God’s grace alone (Acts 17:28) and I am very thankful for the reminders that I received, irritating though they were. It’s just further proof that God can and will use everything in my life to draw me to His side.