Monday, October 20, 2014

The Prayer I Was Scared to Pray

"Overwhelmed" by puck90 via Flickr
Oh, that you would bless me, indeed,
and enlarge my territory.
That your hand would be on me
that you would keep me from evil
that I might not cause pain.
~ 1 Chronicles 4:10 NLT ~

The first time I read the Prayer of Jabez, I was horrified. That second phrase - and enlarge my territory - sounded like the scariest prayer I had ever heard; almost as terrifying as praying for patience. 
I am a Step-Mom/Mom of four boys: two of which have multiple disabilities (ages 10 and 18) and two of which are just starting to act more like humans, rather than wild animals (ages 3 and 4). I can not imagine why anyone would ask for MORE areas of responsibility. I was certain this would be a disastrous prayer for me to pray. Yet, as the day progressed, I could not stop thinking about Jabez's prayer. Finally, I gave in to researching the prayer further, even though I was still not ready to commit to praying it.
God took that one "inch" I gave him and made it a mile in the very first resource I stumbled upon. The Prayer of Jabez 30 Day Challenge broke the prayer into five easy-to-digest parts with clear explanations. I jumped right to the phrase that concerned me the most and was shocked and immediately revived beyond belief at what I read!
"Ask God to allow you to do more for him and his kingdom.  As your territory (opportunities to serve him) expands, your ability and resources supernaturally increase, too.  All he gives us to do, he will empower us to do by his Holy Spirit." - Sharing Hope Ministry Amarillo, TX
I am not asking for more exhaustion, more dread, more toil, wear and tear on my day.  I am asking for more opportunities to SERVE HIM. This is his yolk and his burden, which are easy and light (Mt. 11:28-30)!  And God doesn't just leave me alone to serve him, he increases his power and influence within me so that I may serve in power, love and self-discipline (2 Tim. 1:7)! This prayer is layer upon layer of the very things God promises us in the New Testament!

This prayer is already at work in my life and these words are the primary reason I am still able to smile (even if it's an internal, not external display) at the end of each day. These words are his own promises and gifts he wants for us. When I pray along with Jabez, I am basically saying to God that I want what HE wants for me. I want his promises. I want to be fulfilled by his ways, not my own. 

Now every day I voice this prayer with confidence and joy rather than fear and uncertainty. And every day it becomes just a little bit easier to see things from HIS perfect perspective, which makes my territory a little less painful and the temptation to "check out" a little less appealing. 

PRAY: Dear Lord, bless me indeed and enlarge my territory.  That your hand would be on me, that you would keep me from evil, that I might not cause pain.  Amen. 

- Emily Krill

Saturday, October 18, 2014

"Are You Serious" Awards - Volume XXXV: The Repugnant Politician Edition


I know my expectations are not realistic.  We live in a fallen world.  Our behavior is so far from the loveliness of heaven, some days it isn't even funny.

Nevertheless, there are some roads I wish we humans just wouldn't venture down.

Attacking a political candidate on the basis of their disability just ought to be one of those things, in my mind.  Yet, that is exactly what Texas gubernatorial candidate, Wendy Davis, did this week.  You can watch her controversial political ad on her YouTube channel

This commercial opens by focusing on her opponent's wheelchair, made necessary by an injury accident.


The ad, which frames his paralyzing injury with a dark voice, then goes on to attack Greg Abbott's voting record on a number of issues, including disability rights and tort reform.

What I find truly sad is the fact that these points all could have been powerfully made without casting Greg Abbott's paralysis in a negative light.

Are you SERIOUS?!

This particular ad is so beyond distasteful because it carries a dark, implied undertone.  It's as if the underlying message is, "Don't vote for this man because you feel sorry for him.  He's not really inspiring.  He's just using his wheelchair, his disability to trick you.  He's really evil.  He wants to hurt people who are injured like he is.  What a horrible man!"

I don't know about you, but I get tired of being caught in the cross hairs of ugly politics as I advocate for my loved ones with chronic illness or special needs.  I really don't like that the disabled are considered to be a voting block that is largely controlled by one political party.  No one side is right 100% of the time.  Reasonable people should be able to disagree without all of the venom and vitriol that have overrun this nation in ever-increasing measure over the past four decades.  

What sort of sad descent have we taken in embracing our utter depravity when we cannot disagree with a person's ideas or point of view without completely assaulting them personally?  Adding to that an attack shredding a candidate's character because they had a disabling accident should be considered beyond what any decent person of any political persuasion would think acceptable.

Frankly, this political ad goes too far.  And for that, the Wendy Davis campaign is the most unenviable winner of this week's award.

~ Barb Dittrich

Friday, October 17, 2014

That's a WHOLE Lotta Sin!

Photo image courtesy of SweetCrisis via freedigitalphotos.net
Unlike those other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices every day. They did this for their own sins first and then for the sins of the people. But Jesus did this once for all when he offered himself as the sacrifice for the people’s sins.
~ Hebrews 7:27, NLT ~

Are you a reader?  How often have you picked up a book because you heard so many people recommending it as a "must read'?

Stick with me here, because it might take you a bit to see where I'm headed.

In April 2013 I first began reading the contemporary spiritual classic, KNOWING GOD by JI Packer.  I had heard from so many people that I would consider to be spiritually mature, this was a "must read".  So when a small group of women, seeking to grow together in faith and intimacy with the Lord decided to study this book, I was eager to jump in.  I wonder how many in that group actually finished the book.  Our gathering dissolved before we were even half-way through it. As for me, it took me until March of 2014 to get all the way through this complex tome.  It definitely wasn't light reading.  

One of the most important themes in the book that continues to come up repeatedly in my spiritual life, now that I have completed this volume, is PROPITIATION.


Sweet Mother of Pearl!  What a word!  In a nutshell, what it means is that Jesus, God in the flesh, was horrifically tortured and executed on a cross to pay the penalty for the sins of the entire human race, so that God's justice could be satisfied.  This payment for our wrong made a way for us to get to heaven, where we never could have before.  It would be like having a million dollar bail set that we could never pay on our own.  Yet, God is so loving, that He took the punishment for our crimes.

Think about that for a minute...  That's a WHOLE lotta sin!

Take my own household for instance.  Now, we know that God cannot be anywhere near anything that is not sinless, pure, loving, and glorious.  It's as if His very nature repels such imperfection.  Yet, in any ordinary day, amongst the 5 people living under my roof, we collectively offend our Maker beyond belief.  There's the swearing of the teenage boy who has endured one too many pokes with an IV needle this week.  There's the edgy crankiness of the teenage girl who forgot to take her medication to manage joint pain.  There's the impulsivity of the junior high girl who just has to blurt out the inappropriate thing that she has running through her head.  There's the irritated father who says unkind things to the children.  And there's the frustrated mother who shreds the father in response to how he handled the kids.  

Whew!  That's just one, brief, instantaneous snapshot of the many manifestations of sinfulness under my roof.  Repeat those scenarios several times in 24 hours.  Add to those the nasty, prideful, or judgmental thoughts we have towards others, the cheating or lying that goes on, the impure things viewed or listened to on the internet or TV, and we are looking pretty repugnant within these 4 walls.

Now take what I've described within my home and multiply it by the number of houses just on my street.  Statistics would make it likely that at least one person on this street is cheating on their spouse, maybe even more than one.  Now take that sin and multiply it by my city.  The probability is that there are spouses being abused, children being neglected, substances being abused at an alarming rate, gossip overflowing, shoplifting or stealing being repeatedly perpetrated in homes and shops, and lies being told every waking hour in this town.  Are you disgusted yet?  Now multiply these behaviors by our state, our nation, and our world.  Think of the horrific things that you are flooded with on the news every day.  The disease, wars, beheadings, economic difficulties, dirty politics, riots, and pervasive injustice are enough to put anyone in a dour mood.  That's a WHOLE lotta sin!


And the Good News?  Jesus paid for ALL of it ONCE AND FOR ALL!

Sit and marinate on that for a bit, my friend, because you can't begin to experience the full awesomeness of God until you do.  

Despite all of my children's special health care and psycho-social needs, I so often still want to wring their little necks.  Despite all of my husband's devotion and commitment to our family, I still want to walk out on him at times.

Yet, once I begin to understand how incredibly much I have been forgiven, I can begin to forgive.  I have to say, the uglier I am willing to admit I am, the more beautiful Jesus looks to me.

If Jesus died once for ALL, I can not only give grace and mercy to my family, but also to the doctor that is frustrating me, or to the insurance company who is trying to deny my claims, or to the school staff who doesn't want to try things my way.  It may not come easy at first.  I have to let go and take many a deep breath.  Still, I am grown more and more into the likeness of Jesus as I follow hard after Him, and keep a grateful heart for His enormously incomprehensible gift.

PRAY:  Wow, God!  When I contemplate all that You have done to save us, I realize that I have no right to be so selfish and unforgiving.  When my patience is running thin, remind me that Your patience doesn't run out on me.  Make my heart look more like Yours, Jesus. 

~ Barb Dittrich

Thursday, October 16, 2014

WHATEVER IT TAKES

Photo image courtesy of Deyan Georgiev via 123rf.com

“Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them.  Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on.  When Jesus saw their faith he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”  Mark 2: 3 -5, NIV

One reason my favorite Gospel is Mark is because I get distracted easily. It’s the shortest and most fast paced of the four, and when my friend from prayer group said she was re-reading it I thought that sounded like a great idea!

Mark 2:1-5 made a big impression on me WAY back when I was in college.  Jesus was in Capernaum and so many people gathered to hear him that it was a packed house.  There wasn’t even any room left to stand outside the door and listen!

Mark 2:3-5 (shown above) tells us four men carried their friend, who was paralyzed, on a mat to get to Jesus.  They knew Jesus could help him.  But they experienced a big obstacle.  The crowd was too thick to reach Him.  So they dug a hole in the roof to get him there!  What faith they had.  And what faith the paralyzed man had to let his friends lower him through the roof—scary!

 It struck me 25 years ago that these men did WHATEVER IT TOOK to get their friend to Jesus.  They persevered.  How different the story would have been if it read, “Since they could not get him to Jesus…..they went home.”  Actually there wouldn’t have been any story then.

I’m sure both the man and his friends had physical healing in mind when they went to Jesus (which Jesus did as we read in verse 12 of Mark 2 that the man got up, took his mat and walked out!).  But we see that first and foremost Jesus was concerned with the man’s spiritual healing—forgiving his sins so that the man who was paralyzed could be in right relationship with Him.  And did you catch what the Bible said?  It said when Jesus saw THEIR faith He then forgave the paralytic.  He saw through their extra work and effort (both the friends and the paralyzed man) that they had great faith.

All this meant so much to me as I pondered many things. “Do I have faith that Jesus can meet my friends and family’s needs—especially for forgiveness and a relationship with Him-- and do I do whatever it takes to get them to Jesus?  Will I go against what society says (after all back in Jesus’ day those with disabilities or sickness were viewed as having these conditions because they or someone in their family sinned) and care for the marginalized? 

And oh how much more this passage means to me now that I have a child with special needs.  Not that I think Jesus will always heal our bodies or minds here on earth -- but because I see in this passage how He wants  the man to receive His forgiveness and be in right relationship with Him.  I see how much Jesus loves him.

I’m so thankful for many ministries (like Snappin Ministries!) that follow the example of this story by doing whatever it takes to get those with special needs to Jesus.  Yet I am devastated by the many churches and organizations that—with or without knowing it—block the paths of these precious ones.  Come Lord Jesus come.

Prayer:  “Help us be the kind of people that open doors (or roofs!) for others to see and know you Lord.  Help us be like the paralyzed man in this story who lets himself be lowered through a roof to be near Jesus. Heal your bride the church oh Lord so we can be the community you want us to be.”

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Day of Simple Glory


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Jesus Was a Foodie!


Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus…When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish that you have just caught." So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." (John 21:4, 9-12 NRSV)
“Jesus was a foodie!” Thus said Dr. Len Sweet, currently one of the most influential Christian leaders. Well I’m a bit of a foodie too.  I love a good meal with family or friends.  This is yet another way that it is good to be like Jesus.

I recently traveled to worship with Dr. Sweet and in his message he talked about the importance of sitting down together at the table.  Sharing the results of a recent study, the number one indicator of whether or not a child will be successful (stay motivated, stay engaged, graduate high school, etc.) has nothing to do with all the typical predictors one would expect, such as school, economic advantage, and even IQ.  The greatest predictor had to do with whether or not the child regularly gathered at the table for a meal with the family. That’s all.  Simply sitting down together to eat as a family has much more influence than we might imagine
How often?  Three times a week. That’s the dividing line
.
There are plenty of other studies supporting the link between the family meal and better outcomes for children. I think the family meal is a great resource to add to our parenting backpacks.  Sitting down to eat together at the table is how we connect as a family. It’s where we share our stories about our day, finding nurture and support. It’s where we form social skills. It’s where we set aside the business and pressure of the outside world and say, “You are my top priority and I want to spend time with you.”

Jesus set his priorities around the table too.  His ministry in the Gospel of John opens at a wedding feast. The company he kept at the table raised the eyebrows of folks who didn’t want to dirty themselves by association with sinners and tax collectors. He was anointed by Mary at a table in Bethany. The night before his arrest he gathered with his disciples at a table.  After his death and resurrection he appeared to some of his disciples as they walked on the road to Emmaus.  They did not recognize him until they sat down together at the table and he broke bread.  In the Gospel of John we have the story of Jesus meeting his disciples on the beach of the Sea of Galilee and sharing a meal he cooked over a charcoal fire. Sharing table fellowship with Jesus is our promised future per Communion liturgy anticipating “when Christ comes in final victory and we feast at the heavenly banquet.” Dr. Len Sweet was right. Gathering at the table was at the heart of Jesus’ ministry.

How can we make family time at the table more of a priority in our daily lives? What gets in the way?  

Loving God, we are so grateful for the way that you nurture our hearts and minds with your holy presence. Help us to be that nurturing presence to our own families, whatever their shape or size.  Help us gather more regularly around the table and create memories that form us as your people. Amen.



“Grilled Salmon” Image courtesy of amenic181 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net