July 27, 2015
"Dressed in full protective gear, I offered the young woman my right hand protected by two surgical gloves. She grabbed hold. 'Felicia, my name is Dr. Brantly,' I said. 'This is David. He's one of our nurses." David greeted her. 'We are going to take good care of you here,' I assured Felicia."
I was on page one of Called for Life the newly released book of Kent and Amber Brantly and I was already being challenged.
I have always LOVED reading accounts of missionaries and spiritual greats. I have read and re-read Hearts on Fire, the Autobiography of George Muller and The Simple Path by Mother Teresa. From my couch with my cup of coffee I can be jolted through words on a page to look beyond myself and my world.
We have inspiring biblical accounts of Paul and his missionary journeys, Ruth and Naomi setting out together, and Abraham leaving his homeland just to name a few. All of these stories teach me great truths about the faithfulness of God and what great things He can accomplish through people who will walk in the path He has set for them. I love these stories. They have stood the test of time, thousands of years and they are still riveting.
However, through modern day accounts of people who have let God have His way with them we can also be inspired. Modern day accounts of God showing us He is alive and active though his people, here and now, builds my faith in exponential ways.
The Holy Spirit will ask me the question when I set down a book like Called for Life once I have turned the last page. So what? Are you going to let this book change you in some way or are you going to stay the same?
I have had several days to think about what my take away would be. I am not a missionary doctor, my vocation is not one of working in a church. How does one translate holding out a hand to an Ebola patient in Liberia to living and working in Abilene, Tx? I think what I love so much about the account of Felicia is that Kent probably knew that he could not take away her Ebola. He knew that she would continue to become more sick each day. His job would be to help her medically how he could, but equally (or more) importantly was to let her know that she was not alone. The team at ELWA would walk it out with her. They would offer her dignity and assurance through her illness. This love that Kent and the team at ELWA would offer would be a supernatural love that comes from being a vessel of Jesus.
In scripture, just like the Good Samaritan stopped when the others had passed the beaten and broken man, maybe I can stop more often, too. It might not be convenient, but it probably wasn't convenient to move across the world to be a hand to hold for Felicia as she was dying. We can pray for God to bring people into our lives that could use a hand. We might not be able to fix or heal them, but we can walk beside.
There are worse things than struggling through life,... struggling alone. I cried the hardest when reading Called for Life when I read about the times Kent was alone as he was getting sicker and sicker. A friend or helping hand brings comfort even in the darkest of times. God was certainly with Kent, but he needed a physical presence in the room with him, too.
There are times that I have been able to walk along with others and just a physical presence has eased their pain. Many times other people have been that for me. God does not ever let that desire subside, He has lots for us to do. He has so much love to share and to be the vessel that the love flows through to others is such a gift. In the words of Samuel..."Here I am, Lord,.... I am listening...send me."
To sum up where I think God is tapping on my shoulder is to simply live a life of hospitality. What that means to me is welcoming others. Holding a hand out like Kent held his hand out. Offering a smile and kindness when there might be some discomfort for me, making others feel welcome and not judged or as though they have some sort of standard to live up to. Just being a friend.
July 01, 2015
It seems like our world has gotten really noisy this last week, month, year... This last week especially I have avoided television, lightly skimmed Facebook to be able to look past all the political and moral condemnations, but still trying to keep up with friends and family. I have prayed for a heart centered on God and His greatness to keep me from swaying to and fro with the loudness of other voices. Voices on social media are so loud, even though I can't physically hear them, it seems as though they are screaming for or against a cause with deafening clarity and force.
The entity of politics has a gift of taking the faces, emotions, life circumstances, heartbreak... and turning it into a faceless mass that is easy to condemn. There is a book I was required to read in my Christianity in Culture class with Dr. Jerry Taylor. It was written by a man in politics that spoke to the way that the political machine plans carefully how it wants to swing it's followers. (I wish I could remember the name and author of the book). Since then I have made myself be more aware to the stories that I latch on to. If I hear a news story that starts up my adrenaline I will take a step back and try my best to think through what the agenda is of the story teller.
A couple of questions I ask myself before hopping on a cause:
1. Does this cause line up with the message of Jesus?
2. Does this cause bring people to Jesus and exhibit the love, mercy and grace that He so freely offers?
3. Is there a possibility that I haven't humbled myself to see all aspects of the cause? Have I tried my best to put myself in other's shoes?
4. Am I spinning my wheels...wasting emotional energy when I could be doing something more effective?
5. Do my words encourage people to be their best and helping them see themselves through the eyes of Jesus? Or would they be condemning?
6. The world is so noisy... could I just be a person of peace and hold the hands of those around me, letting Jesus do His work of inviting people to be closer to Him?
Words of condemnation never bring people closer to Christ. It is through the fruits of the Spirit that we can be His people, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control that we can be used by Jesus.
I look back to my former self that was a follower of politics (many years ago) and it was through the conviction of the Holy Spirit that I saw that it many times brought bitterness, anger, judgmental-ness, fear, condemnation. I was convicted to step out of the noise. I have tried my best to become a listener and prayer, not a talker when it comes to political/moral causes. The times I am a talker...I almost always regret it.
Maybe it is just me but it seems like the entity of politics has a great way of separating us from our neighbor...
June 22, 2015
It seems like I have this thought several times a day right now. Derek has graduated from high school and is preparing to move into the dorms towards the end of summer. Each day I think of some truth I want to remind him of.
This list is not all-inclusive...but these are some important truths we have talked about with our kids through the years that have taken on a new importance during this last summer.
1. You are loved. We will always walk beside you. God loves you most.
2. You are smart, but distractions can affect your future if you will let them.
3. Always treat others with respect and dignity and with kind words.
4. Sex outside of marriage will affect your marriage. Be smart with your choices.
5. Underage drinking and/or excessive drinking can screw up your life and other
6. Don't stay up all night. Our bodies need sleep. Our brain needs sleep.
7. You have the Holy Spirit in you. Listen to that voice that will guide you to great things.
8. Enjoy this time. Make great friends. Choose friends that will help you succeed not pull you down.
9. You don't have to have everything figured out. Enjoy the journey.
10. When you make mistakes go back to number 1.
When I think about moving Derek into his dorm room and driving away I am sure I will have a million emotions but most of all I will be excited for this next step in his journey. As parents we have done our best to raise our children to have good hearts, to be hard workers, not to be entitled, to always see who could use encouragement around them and to love and follow Jesus. Do I wish that I could have assurance that my precious boy will follow all of my advice...yes. But I also know that it was through my mistakes that my heart was made compassionate for others. It was through my mistakes that I learned how blessed I was that I have been given grace through Jesus and then could give it to others. It was through my mistakes that I learned that I really didn't know best for myself, that God is the one who must lead me. God is in control. Into Thy hands I commit my son. Thanks for choosing me to be his mom.
June 06, 2015
A Sacred Rhythm
Acknowledge that God is all I need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called me by his own glory and goodness.
He has given me precious and great promises so I can escape corruption and become a participant of His divine nature.
For these reasons I must make every effort to support my faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self control with endurance, endurance with godliness, godliness with mutual affection and mutual affection with love.
If these things are mine and are increasing they will keep me from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
If I lack these things, I am short-sighted and blind, and forget the cleansing of my past sins.
I need to be all the more eager to follow the above steps and then entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for me.
This last year I let worldly desires take the driving position in my car. Desires that took my eyes off God. Life without God in the driver's seat is excruciating. I let the desire to get debt paid off take me to a place that I was determined to "get it done." Numbers became what I measured myself by...once I opened the door then Satan was thrilled to lend me the spirits of anxiety, control and fear. Thanks be to God he has been faithful and allowed me to be restored to a place of peace and rid of the constant torture of anxiety, control and fear and He has taken the wheel that I gave back to Him. He is a much better boss to me than I am to myself.
I am so thankful for the power of prayer and good friends who listen to God and will reach out to me and help me in my journey.
June 03, 2015
When I started my new business in March of 2014 I would be asked about what my goals were. My first answer was always the same...to keep a balance in my life. God, family and then work. I have not done a very good job of making balance work. Namely work and family edged out my time with God, which meant I was lacking in so many ways. I went from regular time with God every day to trying to remember to say my prayers before I fell asleep at night, and much of the time if I am honest I wasn't successful. I always felt like God was with me and continued to feel close in my relationship with Him and would still call out to Him, but I wasn't making my time with Him my priority which in turn left me depleted of the gifts He so freely gives. Worry became a big part of my day,...starting a new business with overhead can lend itself to a bit of worry. Stress and the effects of stress became more apparent. Over the last 6 months rheumatoid arthritis has been working it's way into my fingers and toes. And places that I would have given over to God I have kept for myself to fix.
God is the one that brings us the fruit of the Spirit...love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control. But it is my responsibility to till the soil of my heart and make myself ready to receive what He so generously gives. Margins at the edges of my day were non-existent. My chest was heavy and I would worry about tomorrow, next week, next month, next year...
I have tasted God's peace, for years with my priorities straight God had blessed me with an abundance of His gifts through His Spirit. Once you have lived in that peace it is more than apparent when it is gone...or at least seemingly out of reach. Every day my spirit yearned to be with Him, but one more thing, or I'll take time tonight or tomorrow morning to set time aside to be with God were regular thoughts. God is so kind and would offer me Himself but I was too busy and stressed to see to stop and take His hand.
I have seen in myself in this last several years between school and work that I have a drive to succeed that I didn't realize was there before. If I make a mistake I am too hard on myself. I want to be the best mom I can be, the best wife I can be, the best worker I can be... it was hard for me to discern where I was crossing the line, and what was too much to bear. Several years ago we built up debt that could not be helped, I just kept thinking that if I worked harder and longer I could pay off that debt. That is not how it has worked out because of continuous major repairs for our home and cars since last November, so I just worked harder and longer...and I just wore myself out.
This summer, which is a down time for my business, I want the deep breathes to be normal again, I want to read books, I want to watch a movie with my kids and not work on the computer at the same time, I want to prepare meals that take longer than 10 minutes and enjoy the slicing and dicing in the kitchen, I want to take walks, hang out at the pool, drink iced tea, write in my journal, and most importantly find my step with God again, find my sacred rhythm of prayer, meditation, reading my Bible, and just enjoying God's presence.
In a couple of weeks I am going to take some time for a silent retreat. I need to have some one on one time with God with no distractions. No phones, no computer, no dinners to plan, just me and my Father. I am so ready.
February 18, 2015
I am not much of a news watcher. But I definitely watch enough to have seen the pictures of the 21 Christians who were slain on the Libyan beach by ISIS. The image of the men in orange jumpsuits lined up on their knees will always stay with me. Each day I have been leaning into God with that image close to mind. We are a nation of fixers...so in my mind I would wonder what "we" as a nation could have done to prevent this, or what "we" should do to make sure it never happens again, that is what the news is asking for sure. Putting blame. Media helps with this doesn't it? I am not going to list here but you can probably think of all sorts of blame being tossed around right now.
I had felt a stirring in my spirit for several days. Was I going to hate the men who beheaded the Christians. I wondered to myself...what would Jesus do? I want to do what Jesus would do...and then I realized we know exactly what Jesus would have done. He would have asked forgiveness for those that persecute, Jesus words from the dangerous cross that the evil men hate..."Father, forgive them they know not what they do." He would have loved.
The government has a job to do to protect it's citizens in the USA. So I am not talking about government stance or action here. I am talking about me. My heart. In difficult times Satan loves nothing more than to turn people of peace into people of hate. We might not have been on that beach that day, but Satan is sure going to take every advantage..travel to and fro across the earth to try to infect us with fear, hatred and bitterness because of that beach. It would be a righteous hate, right? We have every right to hate them because of what they did? No. As easy as it is to be pulled into this way of thinking there is a more difficult road of love that Christians are called to. It is NOT for the faint of heart.
So I felt like God said to my heart, it is time to gird your loins, get ready, dive deeper into me because you do not possess the supernatural love that it will take to fight the infestation of hate that can come of this. I can not control any government, I can not control ISIS but I can submit my heart to The Way of the Cross. The men that died last weekend and the many men, women and children that have died for their faith through the centuries chose Jesus. They chose His way.
I don't think I am expected to like the persecutors, but I am expected to not give my heart to bitterness or hate. I am called to revisit Ephesians 10 and prepare for my own personal battle to keep my heart right before God. I must stand and be aware that fear can seep in almost unseen, but the feelings it brings are not.
I know I can't do this on most any subject without God: What fruits of the Spirit have I mastered that I can do on my own without God's supernatural power flowing through the Spirit to me?
None. If I am seeking God with all my heart these do flow naturally out of me. Some more readily than others. If I am not seeking God and thinking that I can be kind or full of God's peace without fully relying on Him for these things...I am desperately and wholeheartedly wrong.
Am I ready?
I am ready only if I am fully relied upon God. That picture of those 21 Christians, 21 souls that were murdered will remind me what it costs to be a servant of Jesus. If it is not costing me anything then I need to give that some thought and prayer and start asking some pretty tough questions.
Questions I ask myself:
Do I really trust God? The answer to this for me is...never enough. So I pray each day..."Father, I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief."
Have I given into fear, hate or bitterness....if so, ask God for forgiveness and send those evil spirits away. I would say this: "In the name of Jesus, the spirit of hate, must leave and go where Jesus sends it, Father fill me with fruit of your Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and self-control." See Paul in scripture for his example in casting out spirits. One does not need to be possessed by evil to be oppressed by evil.
Am I actively pursuing a relationship with God? Going to church on Sundays doesn't really count in this question. Yes, it is a good thing. But you would not develop a deep relationship with a friend or spouse in the middle of a church building with lots of people around. This is one on one time. Me and God.
Am I being silent before God?
Am I so scattered with busyness or thoughts that I can not even focus on God? Does it seem like God is distant? I can keep God at arms length by never stopping to be silent before Him. This is where the transformation of my heart is at it's greatest with God.
Prayer is such a gift. Praying for our enemies, praying to love those that hurt us or our family or friends, praying for the strength to make it through a storm of difficulties, praying for the light of Jesus to shine through you. Praying for the increase of the fruit of the Spirit. Praying to be released from _______.
November 15, 2014
Thanks to a friend, Amy, my friend Denise and I found out about a presentation called the Jim and Casper show that was brought to Abilene by Hardin Simmons University.
I had never heard of Jim and Casper before.
So who is Jim? He is a Seattle pastor that isn't fond of "religion". He is about practicing faith and love through Christ.
Who is Casper? He is an atheist who was sought after by Jim to travel to different congregations through out the States with Jim. With Casper's perceptions and thoughts as an atheist Jim was able to see church through the eyes of the "other." Other not being a bad connotation, but just someone other than a Christian who doesn't know the church speak, theological references,...
Their talk wasn't long. Maybe 30 minutes.
The main point of Jim's presentation, which was basically an informal conversation with Casper and the audience, was how valuable it is for everyone, but especially for Christians to learn to stay in the room with difference. Not that we need to agree with difference, but that there is value in just listening, conversation, finding commonness with another.
This staying in the room with difference could even be practiced in two short weeks when families from far and wide come together to celebrate Thanksgiving.
Here are some points I wrote down:
"We don't need the 'other' to be the enemy."
How to learn to stay in the room with difference-
Practicing Otherliness: -Being unusually interested in others. (Out-listen people)
Practice staying in the room with difference. (Don't break up with people)
Stop comparing my best with another's worst.
Some basics for us Christians to be aware of that could be a problem:
Certainty has replaced faith. To me this means that our firmness of belief can be used as something that can wound people. Jim spoke of being humane with other humans.
Fixed ideology can be destructive.
A fundamentalist is someone who is mad and mean, not helpful. (side note: a fundamentalist does not necessarily limit itself to Christianity, it could be an atheist or politician...who is mad, mean and not helpful. However, as Jesus followers we are called to not be mean, mad and we are commanded to be helpful)
A test for yourself in this is are you building people up or tearing them down while living out your faith.
I was blessed through this conversation.
The other for me is generally not the sinner (as I am one, like Paul I am one of the worst), the homosexual, the poor, the homeless. Maybe there was a time that the fear of the unknown brought fear into the equation, and in those times I saw that fear was my driving force so I would serve the population that seemed unknown to me. I knew that I needed to look into the eyes, hold hands, give hugs, speak words of kindness and life to those that I did not know. God did not change them, but me. The one that needed the change.
Satan uses our fear against us and against our witness for Christ.
For me the other is the fundamentalist, the proof texters, the one's who looks are filled with arrows if you don't believe the way they do. So my challenge is to stay in the room with the differences and find commonness in life with those that make me uncomfortable.
Jim asked Casper to share with us how we should go about trying to "save" the lost. Casper shared that it is much easier to believe in God than to believe in the Bible when you don't believe in either. So it is not helpful to throw verses at people. It is helpful to live life alongside others so through our love and kindness we could be a witness to what a life looks life when following Christ.
It is love that saves.
I know many years ago before I came to know Christ that scripture pelted at me had no effect. But I can surely tell you the names and still see the faces of those who loved me in my mess. Just loved me, mess and all. It was the love of Christ that drew me in, and He used the kindness of His followers to melt my frozen heart.
Here is a link to Jim and Casper's first book: http://www.amazon.com/Jim-Casper-Church-Conversation-Well-Meaning/dp/141435858X
Their second book is called "Saving Casper." I haven't read either but have ordered used copies from Amazon and I anticipate reading them both.
I pray that we can practice staying in the room with difference and that when others see us they see kindness, love and interest in their lives. They are the children of God as we are.