Flourish

But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon. Psalm 92:12


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Don’t forget to look in your rear view.

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As January approaches, there’s always a bit of talk about goals and resolutions for the new year. Before you finish your list, however, I want to challenge you to take a minute to consider last year and even the previous years that bring you up to today.

“Disregard for the past will never do us any good. Without it we cannot know truly who we are.”

-Syd Moore

I don’t know Mr.Moore, but I think there’s great truth to his quote. I’ve looked into the “rear view” of my life many times and each time, it seems, I gain more and more insight to who I am today. Sometimes, I even go way back to deal with a sin issue that keeps rearing its ugly head. One very memorable “rear view” moment, I found that I had not truly forgiven someone and needed to. My “grudge” was holding me back from loving them fully, without strings attached. Those have been some of the most healing times in my life and they allow me to move forward in an emotionally healthy way. But today, I thought I’d share a piece of my journey as I looked back some years to my college days.

On the day I graduated from Cedarville College in Ohio, (now Cedarville University) I left with diploma in hand and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. I was proud of the woman who had developed over those four significant years. We took pictures in front of buildings that we had walked by day after day on our way to classes and posed with friends that had become so dear. Later that day, my roommate and I went back to our house and cleaned out our rooms. We laughed and cried over the memories that had occurred in that old house on the edge of town: there was that time that some boys hid in our basement and nearly caused all the girls in our house to have a heart attack at the ripe old age of 21. Ahh yes, good memories.

Later that day, I packed up and hit the road with my family and left an incredible place behind. Out the car window, I looked back:

I remembered a girl who stepped foot on campus with excitement, but within a week wanted nothing more than to go home.  She was so overwhelmed by her new “books” (aka. “syllabi”) and all the new faces. She missed her familiar surroundings and suddenly felt shy for the first time in her life. She missed friends that she had real history with and her parents, so much so, that it hurt.

She started Nursing classes and struggled her way through Microbiology. There were labs and a couple horrible tests and finally, clinicals with REAL people! Scary.

Living a life of excellence was imparted to her through the many voices on campus. And of course, who could forget that she and the entire Freshman class had to exercise at least 3 days a week to pass a class?!

There was chapel every day and it was here, that God grabbed her heart and wouldn’t let go. She told Him that she would do “anything, anytime, anywhere” and she considered what that might really mean for her life. Her love for God grew. It was during these faithful years where God met her not only in chapel, but in the midst of clinicals at the hospital or through difficult tests that made her trust Him more.

Her relationship grew with the man she hoped to marry. They were encouraged to walk a life together that would point others to Jesus and to bring him glory no matter what God called them to do. They benefited from couples who mentored them for their upcoming marriage, where they were given “tools” to help work through the broken times to come.

I had to look back.

My life sings of these crucial moments in my past. They are a huge part of who I am today and why I do what I do and why I think how I think. I would be remiss if I failed to notice how much these past experiences contribute to today’s goals and dreams.  Sometimes we want to shove the past in a closet. It brings up painful memories or unfulfilled dreams, but there’s something to be gained there as well. Instead of saying good-bye to the past, why not invite its input and see how you’ve grown because of it?

As you think through this past year, what difficulties did you face? What dropped you to your knees? What made you cry? Where were you undone? I felt all of those emotions at one time or another this past year. There were times that days with my children felt unfulfilled and my desire for “more” stood in the way of engaging them like I should have. There were moments of pure frustration with ministry life and people, but as I took a step back I realized that there was so much to be gained there! God met me in those places of unrest, revealing areas of my own life that needed to be surrendered.  I felt hurt a few times too and learned that God will always require me to extend grace…especially when I don’t want to. I was reminded that many of us think very differently than one another, so we aren’t always going to agree and that just might have to be ok. I was reminded again that I need to obey God relentlessly and stay faithful to what He has called me to, regardless of what anyone else thinks.

If you haven’t already taken some time to feel the weight of your past’s hard lessons, do it!  Adjust your rear view and don’t miss what God has placed there for you to consider. Learn from what you find. Let it transform you.

So don’t move forward just yet. There is so much insight to be gained from looking back. You might laugh or maybe you’ll have a good cry, but I hope you won’t miss it.


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Christmas morning breakfast

I’ve never posted about food on my blog before, but as you get to know me, you’ll learn quickly that good food is one of my love languages. Bringing food to your house when you are ill or just had a baby is one of the ways I enjoy loving on my friends. I’ve also been on the receiving end so many times and it speaks more love than you know!

With Christmas literally days away, I thought I would share a couple of recipes that we love as a family and will plan to enjoy this week.

On Christmas morning, we like to sit down for a nice warm breakfast after the Christmas story has been read and presents have been opened, but I don’t want to slave away in the kitchen that morning. With lots of little ones, I don’t have time for that, nor do I want to take time away from the fun that is to be had with our new treasures. So, I plan ahead. Here are two recipes that I hope you’ll enjoy as much as we do. If not for Christmas, try these carmel-pecan cinnamon rolls some other time. They are worthy of your recipe file! This is not my recipe, just a great one that I found a couple of years ago.

http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Caramel-Pecan-Cinnamon-Rolls

This next recipe is one of those recipes that has evolved over time in our house. It’s a true, no fuss, throw-it-all-in kind of recipe. You probably have one of these, but this one is good! I’m not a precise measurement kind of girl, which is probably why baking hasn’t always been a favorite of mine. I like to call it “using my artistic side” while cooking. A dash of this and a pinch of that is my kind of meal! I’ve made it heartier when I wasn’t watching my weight and was nursing a baby and I’ve revamped it a bit for times like now, when I’m being a little more careful about what I eat. However you choose to alter this recipe, it just always seems to come out tasting great. So enjoy and have fun using your own artistic side!!

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8×8 inch glass dish (or whatever you have that’s closest to this) with non-stick spray or coat with butter if you don’t like chemical sprays.

In a large bowl mix:

  • 8-10 eggs (depending on the size of your family)
  • 1/2 cup either half & half or heavy whipping cream *this can be substituted for milk if you like a lighter version
  • 1 cup milk (use whatever you have in your fridge, but 2% is probably ideal)
  • 1 tsp ground mustard (don’t try to skip this-it adds tons of flavor)
  • 3/4 cup cooked ground sausage or 6-8 strips of cooked crumbled bacon
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese
  • optional: 3 cut up green onions, chopped red onions, chopped red pepper (add whatever you like for veggies)

Place into greased glass dish and place it into the oven for 40-45 minutes until golden brown and eggs are set. Then sprinkle another 1/2-3/4 cup of cheddar cheese on top once it comes out of the oven. Serve warm and enjoy!

*You could also work with pepper jack cheese to make a nice spicy version, just know that younger kids aren’t usually as fond of the spice. This can also be made easily without meat and tastes delicious!!

A few steps the day before and these are ready to be simply placed into the oven on Christmas morning. Your family will enjoy a nice warm breakfast and you’ll be able to enjoy all of them.

Merry Christmas!!

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A thankful Christmas

It sure has been a busy December. If you’re anything like me you’ve done your best to avoid wading through the busy aisles of people in search of “just the right” gift.  Or maybe you’ve stayed home more and focused on the people in your life a little more intentionally.

At our house, we’ve been busy baking Christmas cookies, hosting parties with dear friends and listening to the same 30 songs on the radio. I’ve hugged my kids more and spent time reading special stories with them as we’ve made some sweet memories.

This week, we’ll take part in our church’s Christmas Eve service, family gatherings, and we’ll eat more than our share of delicious food. You’ll probably do the same. But, as we are met by another Christmas season, there is one idea that keeps crossing my mind: Be thankful.

I haven’t lost track of which holiday it is, don’t worry. I’m just choosing to focus on something different.

I’m thankful for the gift of life, the gift of family, and the gift of freedom. I’m thankful for beautiful Christmas lights and hot chocolate, which accompanies them so perfectly! I’m thankful for silly songs that we sing that cause me to ask lots of questions and laugh a lot…(It’s a Marshmallow World?? What?!) I’m thankful for the smell of our first “real tree”. I’m thankful for my husband and the tradition we have of taking our children on a special Christmas date each year. I’m thankful that we have friends and family and an amazing church to share this beloved season with.

But, this Christmas, I’m mostly thankful for Jesus. He has changed the whole direction of my life. It’s because of God’s plan to bring His son into the earth as a small baby, that gives my life real hope. His main purpose in coming was to later die on a cross to pay for the sins of the world…even the unspeakable. He would be ridiculed and murdered by the masses, so that you and I and many others before and behind us could have a relationship with a perfectly Holy God.

It’s recognizing who God is and who I am in relationship to Him, that brings me to my knees in thankfulness.

One final note, thank you, as well! Thanks for joining me each week. I have thoroughly enjoyed these past several months and hope that you’ll come visit my blog again in the New Year. Many blessings to each of you as you enjoy family and friends this Christmas!

Isaiah 9:6

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.


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I’m Wonderstruck!

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If you’re anything like me, you’re often looking for a great and challenging read that won’t waste your time, but encourages your walk with the Lord. I’m happy to share my latest treasure with you. It’s called Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God by Margaret Feinberg. Margaret is a new friend that I met through an internet conference that she and my husband spoke at this Fall.

Her new book will be released on Christmas day, but since I was able to be a part of a group of folks who previewed this book, I thought I would share a bit of it today.

The goal of this book is to help us to “awaken to the nearness of God”: to see and experience Him in everything. I was particularly drawn to one chapter where Margaret beautifully describes the night sky while a passenger on a ferry-boat in Alaska. She artistically crafts a scene in which she wasn’t able to sleep, because of the exploding lights in the sky. What she was observing was the aurora borealis (Northern Lights).  My mind began painting pictures of the canvas God was painting in the sky and my bucket list began to grow. Margaret describes how she couldn’t go to sleep because she was so riveted by the ever-changing display of God’s majesty before her.  She couldn’t take her eyes off the “midnight delights”. Then she says, “It occurred to me that this is the posture that we’re supposed to take in our spiritual journeys. God delights for us to cup our hands in prayer and scrunch our faces against the vault of heaven in holy expectation that he will meet us in beautiful, mysterious ways. The Creator desires to captivate us not just with his handiwork but with himself-displaying facets of his character, igniting us with his fiery love, awakening us to the intensity of his holiness.”

Beautiful. True. Inviting.

As I read page after page of this descriptive tribute to the wonder of God, my heart swelled with joy. As I read my Bible, I yearn for more and more of my Maker, so I can’t tell you how fun it is for me to find others who feel the same! I would call Margaret a “kindred-spirit” with an absolutely amazing talent to story-tell.

In Wonderstruck, Margaret invites you to toss back the covers, climb out of bed, and drink in the fullness of life.

She says:

“We all need a table, a place where we gather to be fully and truly ourselves. Without such a place, we may lose track of our souls, embracing a cheap, snap-together fiberboard image of ourselves instead of the uneven, rustic, knotty reality that, when unveiled, reveals the mystery and beauty of the imago dei—the image of God. We need a place where we pray for a replenished wonder of friendship and wait for God to answer in unexpected ways.”

I am wonderstruck. Over the years, as I’ve awoken to the nearness of God, I’ve begun to see Him in everything. His plan for our lives is so clearly presented through the scriptures. His ways, while not always easily understood are best and right and fitting for each of His image bearers. He is everywhere, and I love to point this out to others, because while I didn’t have this terminology before (thank you Margaret!!) I want you to be wonderstruck as well.

So where have you seen the wonder of God in your life?

Explore more:

MargaretFeinberg.com

**Margaret’s 7 session Bible Study is called, Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God. Her book, by the same name, releases on Christmas day, but can be pre-ordered now on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. 

 


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It’s only going to get worse.

I woke up this morning, quickly reminded of the tragic events of yesterday. I remembered seeing scared little faces trying to escape from their elementary school. There were reports from police and we hung on their every word to try to get some sort of answer as to why something so awful would happen.

Who did it? What was the motivation behind something so horrific? We felt angry. We cried. And most of us clung tightly to our children; thankful that yesterday, it wasn’t them. But we ache for the families of 20 innocent children. Their Christmas’s as well as their every day will feel the weight of this tragedy.  So I pray for them.

But I was quickly reminded of something:

It’s only going to get worse.

The Bible warns us of wars, fighting, earthquakes, famine, murders and rampant sin. (Matthew 24 and Luke 21)  All of these tragic events are spoken of in the Bible as signaling the Lord’s return. We don’t know when it will be. He is very clear about that, not even the Mayans have been privy to such information.

Jesus’ disciples were warned that they would be persecuted for believing in him and they were. But, he also told them to stand firm in him and they would not lose their souls. They were to preach the gospel, the “good news” of the Savior so that every nation would hear it and then the end would come. (Matthew 24:14)

Today, I woke to remember that God is still on His throne. He hasn’t changed. He isn’t any less of who He was, before yesterday’s tragic events. His love for people is still as powerful as it was the day He sent Jesus to die for our sins. The hope He offers is still here for the taking, to all those who will receive it.

Tragedy and evil in this world, should point us to one person only: God. It’s in Him that we find peace. On this side of eternity, we’ve been told there will be trouble. There is one who is working hard to steal, kill and destroy, but there is one greater, who gives us life abundantly. (John 10:10) It’s Jesus.

Allow this tragedy to point you to our Savior; our hope in hopeless times. If it’s going to get worse as we’ve been warned, then buckle up my friends. We’re going to need each other and we must be grounded in the truth.

Stand firm and love well! 


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I want it all!

This past Spring, our family took an amazing trip to Disney World. Our dear friends, had wanted to take us to Disney-as a gift. The husband is my husband’s “spiritual father” and led him to Jesus about 19 years ago. This couple goes to Disney almost every year and loves this place like few I’ve ever known. They speak with experience about every restaurant, every ride, every show and adore taking others to enjoy the novelties. We finally coordinated our calendars and set out for our trip. We were floored at the food we ate while at some of the finest restaurants in the parks. We watched princess shows, went on an African safari and swam in the coolest “clown” pool. Our children squealed most of the time, unless they were exhausted from all the fun they were having.  As we pulled away from our vacation a week later, my husband and I raved about this amazing gift. It was rich and a time we’ll always cherish. It sparked the question, if this is what our “earthly fathers” give, how much more does our heavenly Father want to give good gifts to His children? The greatest of course, being salvation!!  Matthew 7:7-12 

It’s fun to talk about blessings and rich ways that God meets us, but what about the flip side? What about missing out on His blessings because of our disobedience?  This isn’t a popular topic of discussion for obvious reasons. A good friend shared this example the other day and I thought it was brilliant: Sometimes he and his wife have something really fun planned for their kids, but because of their disobedience that day, they choose not to do that fun thing and instead stay home. The kids don’t even know that they are missing out on a great blessing, but they are. It made me wonder how often we miss out on God’s greatest blessings, because we are knee-deep in our own bad choices.

I often tell the Lord, “I want all that you have for me in this life”. That’s every experience, ministry, blessing, pain, child, relationship, heartache, and joy. I want it all! I don’t want to miss out on anything God has in store for me, because I truly believe that His “gifts” are best. I certainly don’t want to miss out because of my own sin.

King Asa, found in 2 Chronicles 14-16 is a good example of a life that was lived initially obedient to God, but later trusted in his own efforts. At the beginning of his reign as King of Judah, Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord. He got rid of idols and even deposed his very own grandmother, the “queen mother” because she worshiped idols. God brought peace to the land for the first 10 years of his reign and then brought about great triumph over other kingdoms. By God’s word, their enemies were crushed in defeat and Judah found themselves to be the victors again and again. Asa said things like, “Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. Lord, you are our God; do not let mere mortals prevail against you.”

But in the 36th year of Asa’s reign, found in chapter 16, he began to trust in his own abilities and began to “wheel and deal”. He made a treaty with the King of Aram. He took money from the temple and paid him to be an ally.

A seer (vision communicator) came to Asa and told him that because he had chosen to trust in this other king, rather than in the Lord, he would now fight this battle alone. The seer reminded him about times when the Lord was “enough” for him and how God had won battles against armies much larger than Judah. Then Hanani, the seer quotes a popular verse to him that I’ve grown to love:

“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.” vs 9

We love that verse and quote it often, because it’s so true, but don’t miss the last part of this verse. For Asa, it meant walking the rest of life without the Lord’s help.

“In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars.”

Asa became angry and began oppressing his people because of his own grief. He was later struck with a disease in his feet. Consider some of these last words written about him. They were a sort of epitaph, which spoke of the sad state that ended his life:

Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the physicians.

Early in life, Asa had experienced the strength of the Lord. Battles that weren’t his to win were won by God’s hand. God had moved mightily and blessed Asa’s obedience, which is very clear throughout these scriptures. But then, Asa chose to believe in himself and others, instead of the strength of the Lord. For this, he suffered greatly. He missed out on the blessings of victory and prominence. His kingdom, that was once great, was marked with defeat. Instead of having a heart at peace, he became angry and bitter and sick and even then, did not turn to the Lord.

God desires an obedient heart from us as well. He longs to show His great strength in our lives. If your life is feeling dry and you wonder why others around you are experiencing peace, is it possible that you are like Asa? Instead of offering up every “battle” to the Lord, you are trying to fight them yourself? Your best efforts will not win wars, but will leave you crushed in defeat. Perhaps God wants to give you a platform to influence others for Him, but you’ve become distracted or you’re “interfering” like Asa did and so you’re missing out on the real influence God could grant you. It might be time to examine and refocus. I have to do this often. We all do, if we want to walk closely with the Lord.

God will you show us areas where we are being less than obedient and cause our hearts to fall at your feet in surrender? In our weakness, you are made known!

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

2 Corinthians 12:9


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My new mantra

Imagine with me for a moment that you just received some “troubling” news. It wasn’t news you were expecting to hear and now life is about to drastically change. What would your first response be?

  1. Cry
  2. Withdraw
  3. Say, “May it be to me as you have said.”

 

Did any of you pick “3”? I know, me either.  I usually cry. But, this is how Mary, the mother of Jesus, responded when she was greeted by an angel and informed that she would bear the son of God. Luke 1

“I am your servant. May it be to me as you have said.”

I’ve often read the second part of this statement and have contemplated it several times in my adult life. But, the first part struck me in a new way this week as my husband preached on Sunday. “I am your servant”, she said. She was just delivered some very troubling news- “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.”

Mary was pledged to be married to a young man, whom she may have hoped to have children with. I wonder if they had already dreamed together about what life would be like when they got married, what they would name their first child and where they would live.  And yet her response to this angelic delivery was, “I am your servant.” In other words, “I have no rights. I don’t get to decide my future. I will do as I’m told.” That’s the life of a servant and it comes at great cost, yet Mary boldly claimed it for the sake of God’s calling on her life.

Sometimes, I don’t even want to do the laundry in my home or pick up after my little people and my husband could tell you how much I hate to iron. But aren’t I God’s servant as well?

Mary would be looked down on by many in her own town, because she was going to bear a son at a less than optimal time. It would appear that she had done wrong and yet actually, she was just being obedient to God’s call on her life. Have you ever felt misunderstood for obeying God? Mary’s response seems to show a confidence in Him, which she would certainly need as she faced accusers and even her own family’s questions.

“May it be to me as you have said.”

In times of God’s prompting, I’ve responded with these words…but, I’ve also fought them. Sometimes, I so badly want what I feel is “owed” to me. It’s so ugly and I hate when I act with entitlement, but nonetheless, I do it at times. But, then I’m reminded of Mary’s sweet spirit and servant-hearted response. Her example helps me to refocus when I want what I want. She knew God’s ways were best and that He cared about little ol’ her. Mary was from Nazareth, a town people looked unfavorably on and said “nothing good comes from” and yet God was going to use her to bring our Savior into the world! He knew her heart and chose to use her willing spirit.

I don’t want to miss out on opportunities because I lack obedience or faith in what God might want to do through me. I don’t want to miss out on discipling my children and showing them how a servant-hearted woman responds to cleaning her home, making meals and handling God’s word. I want God to use me to open my mouth or unleash my fingers to write-His message-to any who will listen. So, my new mantra: “I am your servant. May it be to me as you have said.”


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Life on the front row

I sit in the front row at our church. I wouldn’t normally pick this spot, but as the Pastor’s wife, I really enjoy the view. Each week, as I come in to find my place I’m only rarely surprised, because no one usually tries to steal “my seat”. In fact, as I think back over the years to all the churches I’ve been to, I remember the front row always being a little sparse. The Pastor is often found there before he goes up to preach or the worship leader would sit there with a few people from the band, but more times than not, it’s a wide-open space.

There are several things I like about the front row, but the most meaningful to me is that I’m not distracted there. I don’t have to watch people come in late, talk to each other during songs or lean over in response to what the pastor just said. There are no crying babies in the front row and certainly, no one leaves to go to the bathroom. It’s there that I get to be focused on literally one thing: worship.

I want my life to be more like the front row.

When I come to church, I try to be “ready”. My heart has usually been prepared already that morning and I crave the challenge that I’m about to receive. We don’t want to come frivolously. Now, it’s true that I get 4 little girls ages 1-7 ready for church and out the door by myself each week and this is nothing short of a small miracle.  But, even on the rough mornings (which are many at this stage), we repent pray together, turn on some uplifting music in the car and I prepare for God’s Word to speak into the hidden crevices of my heart or perhaps the glaringly obvious ones, like how I may have just spoken to one of my children.

I sing loud on the front row and I’m never really all that worried that anyone can hear me. Sometimes, I lift my hands in worship and I do so freely, because my heart is spilling over with love for the God I’m singing to. When God’s Word is preached, I hold onto every word, because my life depends on its truth. See, I desire a life that is unhindered, free of distractions and set apart wholly to God. I want to impact as many people as I can in the little bit of time I’ve been given on this earth and it’s only been in the past couple of years that all of this has become so crystal clear to me. I’ve certainly wasted time. I just don’t want to waste anymore.

I want to live my life “on the front row”.

But then, church is over and I begin to pick up all of my children from their respective classes. It’s here that my heart is sincerely tested. Hunger pains, cause one to act like a wild animal, someone has to go to the bathroom, and we lost a sweater or a hair bow or a coat. Guaranteed. My blissful moments of soaking in the truth and worshiping like no one, but God, was watching are now over and it’s time to put into action all the great things God’s been teaching me. Oh, but it’s so hard and I so often fail! And honestly, this “scene” is not much different from my day-to-day life.

Each day we revisit some of the same issues, not only with our children, but also with ourselves. There are little victories, but there is a lot that happens in between. Fatigue sets in and we want to just throw discipline and consistency out the window and then I long for the front row, where the distractions are so minimal and the worship is so focused.

I’ve realized that “front row” living is a heart choice, because it’s certainly not a physical reality. I was never called to live my life inside the walls of a church or in our case, a movie theater, where our church is meeting until we can build a permanent facility. We were called to reach those people who God places in our lives as we “live and move and have our being”. It’s going back to the hard places with my children or loved ones, that feel more like “work” at times, than an overflow of my ever-loving heart. But it’s right to do and God called us not, to a life of constant satisfaction and self-fulfillment, but to bear one-another’s burdens and carry the truth of God like a torch in an otherwise dark and hard-hearted world.  We have to make the choice to not become so easily distracted. People and finances and schooling and jobs and exercise and you just fill in the blank, can distract us from worshiping God and bringing Him glory in this life if we don’t live intentionally focused on Him.

So will you join me? There’s plenty of room “on the front row”.

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’  Acts 17:24-28


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HIV Healing

It was April of 2005 and I was a newly pregnant woman as well as a nurse. I could not have been more excited to be having our first child. God had called my husband and I to start a church in Raleigh, North Carolina, so we would be moving in a few months to begin our preparation. I went in for my first “routine” prenatal exam at my Obstetrician’s office. At the end of the appointment, where I had blood drawn and a sonogram to look for our baby’s heart beat, my Doctor said that he would see me in about four weeks, as long as all of my tests came back ok. As soon as he said that, I suddenly had a pit in my stomach, but chalked it up to “new mom jitters”. I walked out of the doctor’s office that day excited to have just seen a tiny heart beating and amazed by the miracle of life.

Several days later, my Doctor called. He began the phone conversation with things like “I’m so sorry…. I don’t know how to tell you this, (long pause) but…. your lab results say that you are HIV positive.” I was stunned. I sat there on the other side of the phone. I knew what he had said, but did he really just say THAT?!  All I could muster was a breathless, “What?!” I couldn’t breathe.

I was driving in busy Dallas traffic when I received this phone call. It was all I could do to get home. I knew my husband would be waiting for me there and I had no idea how I would tell him this news. I cried the whole way home and begged God not to let it be true. But, my doctor had just told me that the anti-body test had been repeated several times and then, the Western Blot confirmed that I indeed was HIV positive.

In the first hour after finding this out and having to break this terrible news to my husband, I said to him, “How can we start a church? We need to move to an island where no one knows us.” Yes. I said that. It’s amazing how irrational we can be in moments of crisis. I also said, “I’m so sorry for this baby. How could we do this to a child? Why did we get pregnant?” There were so many unknowns and the more I thought, the worse my view of our future became.

This was life altering, as you can imagine. It stopped us in our tracks and forced us to make a decision. In those days, between redrawing my blood to retest it, we fell before the Lord on our faces in tears, buckets of tears. We told God we believed He could heal. We told Him there was no other place we would turn. We knew He had the words to eternal life and we knew that we would follow Him with our lives no matter what He allowed. There were many conversations during those days. Many big prayers prayed in the quiet of my heart as well as with my husband and many scriptures were read that were foundational to us believing the truth, instead of the lies the Enemy would have loved for us to believe.

Later that night, after crying loads of tears and calling my parents to tell them what was happening, we began to search the scripture. It was just all we could do to ask the Lord for a word. My husband began reading in James 4:2…”we have not because we ask not”. “Shanna” he said, “We are not going to have HIV, because we didn’t ask God to take it away.” I loved that he was saying “we”. I knew I wasn’t alone in this. We prayed. We begged God for a miracle.  Then, we asked our dear friend Marc, who is a pastor to come over. He laid his hands on me and prayed that God would fill my body with new blood. I remember that prayer like it was yesterday. I’ll never forget thinking, “Wow! I wouldn’t have thought to ask for new blood!” If you have never been through something so life altering you may not understand. If you have, then friend, you know exactly how much I anticipated new blood running through my veins!

“We have not, because we ask not.” So we asked.

We understood that God didn’t have to heal. In fact, at the time, being only in our late twenties, we had already experienced enough life to realize that sometimes God chooses the very difficult things to bring glory to Himself. I think this is a terribly difficult concept though. It’s easily said, but not easily lived. Because, when you are the one whose life is about to drastically change, your real concern is not often “God’s glory”, but rather, for your comfort. I understand this and I wrestle with it still.

The Lord used one passage of scripture very powerfully for me. It is found in Mark 9 where a father brings his demon possessed son to Jesus. He must be at the end of his rope, after-all he has a son who literally couldn’t be taken out in public and when he was, it was dangerous. I think I have it bad when my children grab grape juice off the aisle at the grocery store and it falls down in slow motion and breaks. This man had a son that was throwing himself into fire and getting burned and then into water and almost drowning! I imagine this man felt a little like we did. He was shocked, tired and probably a little mad about his situation…but he had hope. He brought the little hope that he had and placed it before Jesus. Their conversation went something like this…

“Jesus, my son is demon possessed. Look at all he is doing! If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us!”
pause…
Jesus: “If I can? Everything is possible for one who believes.”
Immediately the father responded, “I believe! I believe! Help me overcome my unbelief!”

I was there. I believed that God could heal me, but would He? It was all too big for me. I was a young woman who was pregnant for the first time. I was already in love with a little baby that had just begun growing inside of me. I feared for her future. I feared for mine. But I had hope, because I knew God. I laid the hope I had before the Lord and begged Him for healing. I had determined that no matter what the outcome, God would get the glory.

God did choose to heal me!  After further testing, the new vials of blood came back negative for HIV. The lab was so confused by all of this that they went back to my old vials of blood and they too came back negative!  I have been retested several times since then, because this is standard protocol in pregnancy.  With each of our other 3 children, I have been reminded of the great big miracle God performed in my life. Each of their lives screams of His amazing grace. Praise Him!

Looking back almost 8 years later, I see God’s hand all over my life. I see how much more I love Him. I see how hard church ministry really can be and how much we needed to know the strength of the Lord in such an intimate way. We needed to know that nothing is impossible for the Mighty Healer. I thank God continually for His grace in my life and will certainly never get over this miracle. I also see that Christians have a great responsibility to love those with this disease. There are HIV+ orphans who need to be adopted into a loving family and there are many others who simply need to receive life-saving medications and some who need to hear the hope that is still offered to them through Jesus. The church can make a difference here! We need to be a safe place for those whose life has been affected by HIV/AIDS. Jesus didn’t shy away from the sick, in fact, he touched them and shared the hope he came to give. So, how will you respond?

To God be the glory, great things He has done!

Our life verses:
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,to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.  Ephesians 3:20-21


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Take a side.

My heart has been heavy lately. I find myself sad as I talk with friends and disappointed as I check my Face book homepage. I’m finding that as I open my Bible, the same message is being delivered to me over and over again. This Fall, I’ve been reading the major prophets and some minor prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel) and they have left a hard and painful impression on me. In fact, it’s nearly impossible at this point to look at my own life and the world around me, without looking through the lenses of their message.

Each of these men were given a word from the Lord for the nation of Israel. They warned relentlessly. And they were asked to do things that seem ridiculous to me, like Ezekiel laying on his left and right sides for over a year for Israel and Judah’s many years of sin. Jeremiah was imprisoned and asked God to just let him die. Daniel received visions that made him fall to his knees and become literally weak and sick. Hosea was told to marry a woman who would prostitute herself to many other men and he was to take her back over and over to represent how God would forgive Israel of even their most heinous sins. These men ached over the sins of their people to the point of illness. They cried and begged God for mercy. On several occasions, they asked God to forgo sending them to give the message that they were about to give to a people who didn’t even seem to care. Each time they were told the same thing by God. In so many words, “Go and tell them what I’m going to do if they don’t repent.”  And it was always something awful. Many Israelites would be killed. Women and children were no exception. The sins of generations of people would be payed for by their very lives and it would be gruesome if they didn’t repent and turn to God.

However, there was ALWAYS a message at the end. It was one of love and forgiveness and it cannot be looked over. It was their only hope in an otherwise hopeless and helpless situation. The message was simple: “If Israel repents, I will forgive them. If they repent, I will save their lives and their people and we will have a loving relationship again. I will bless them abundantly if they repent and turn to me.” It was clear. Repentance was the key.

And this my friends, is why my heart breaks for all of us. I am afraid that we are in big trouble. We aren’t Israel, but as Christians, we are God’s representatives to this world and yet, this is what I see: hopeless people, who would rather guzzle a bottle of wine each night instead of getting on their faces before the Lord for their troubles. I see friends who are so easily amused that they invite all sorts of evil into their homes and talk about it publicly as though their choices wouldn’t appall God. We have friends whose marriages are breaking up-the very picture of Christ’s love for the church-and yet we hear from them, “it’s just not worth fixing”.

They worshiped worthless idols and became worthless themselves. 2 Kings 17:15b

I’m afraid that too many of us enjoy what we hear about God and we hold onto all that He can do for us, but we’ve broken our end of the covenant just like Israel did. How are you obedient to God’s Word if you’re not in it? How can you know what He wants from you and for you if your only time spent with him is grabbing a verse, twisting it to fit your life, and calling that a “relationship”? This kind of life is “worthless” before the Lord. I didn’t say it. He did.

When King Josiah, in 2 Kings 22 was given the books of the Law that were found in the Lord’s Temple, he read it and tore his clothes in despair! He called the leaders and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem together and read them what was found. He pledged to obey God and his commands with all of his heart and soul. And then the people followed suit. But, he didn’t stop there. He went on a purification rampage. He broke down idols, poles that were worshiped and tore down houses full of prostitutes. Then, he abolished the places that children were killed as sacrifices, brought by the hands of their very own parents.

These things sound so strange, but we’ve just “Americanized” the very same things. As a nation, we’ve uninvited God from our schools and many parents abdicate responsibility of teaching their own children about God, hoping that maybe they’ll catch it at church on Sunday (or just plain don’t care).  And we kill over 1 million children a year-that’s more than 3,000 babies a day! We sell young children and teens to use as sex slaves up and down the coasts and probably even in your own town. We laugh at homosexuality in movies and sitcoms and for the first time ever, a president, our leader, publicly declared support of this lifestyle. I don’t hate any group of people, so putting words in my mouth is unnecessary, but God’s Word speaks clearly about how this lifestyle was a result of exchanging the truth of God for a lie. We sing music that degrades women and talks constantly about sex and we even let our children sing along…are you kidding me?!?

Is anyone actually still wondering if we need to repent as a nation?

I’m pretty sure that I may have just lost a few friends, but I’m honestly not too worried about it. The truth is clearly put before us. The question is, what will your response be to the truth? Will you be like so many others who ignored it and continued about their lives with not so much as a flinch or will you let the truth sink in and stop you in your tracks? Josiah tore his clothes in despair and then he moved to action. God saw his response and put on hold (until after Josiah’s lifetime) what was being planned for the nation of Israel. Pray for our nation and for yourself and your friends, like a faithful few who cried out in brokenness did and then make a choice. We are in a battle here. It’s time you took a side.

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