Monday, March 27, 2017

Questioning God


When my older son got his diagnosis, one of my initial responses was to get angry with God and ask Him “Why my child? Why me? Why not just heal him if you’re an all-powerful, loving, healing God?”

One day, after months and months of pleading these questions and God not giving me an answer, the bitterness growing stronger in my heart, I felt strongly that God was telling me I’d been asking the wrong question.

“What other question is there?” I asked.  And it hit me. The question to ask was not "Why?" but "What?" with a heart to learn God’s heart.

“What do you want me to learn from this journey? What good do you want to come from this? What testimony will we have from this? What do you want me to do to help my child? In what areas do I need to trust you more?” On and on, the questions went.

And He started answering those questions. Because He wanted me to grow stronger through this journey, to trust Him in ways I’ve never had to trust Him in before. Because He wanted me to encourage other moms going through the same journey. Because He would give me and my son an amazing testimony to share one day. Because He was growing in us a compassion for others, a strength to persevere we wouldn’t have had otherwise. Because we were growing closer to God than we would have without this journey we were going through.

By asking what, instead of why, it put God back on His throne. Asking “What?” questions suggests humility, trusting God. Asking “Why?” suggests a hostility toward God, a belief that we know better than the Creator Himself. Ouch.

It’s not wrong to ask God questions. We just need to make sure we’re asking them in humility, acknowledging that God is sovereign and in control.

Job asked God lots of questions after all the suffering he experienced. Did I mention lots of questions? Chapters of them throughout the book of Job. A lot of them demanding things of God and His character. Several which were those demanding why questions. “Why did I not perish at birth?” (Job 3:11) and “Why is life given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in?” (Job 3:23). Job doubted God’s goodness, God’s wisdom in creating him. God’s answer, a whopping four chapters in the Bible (chapters 38-41), can be summarized in a nutshell as “I am Creator, and I am in control.” Job’s response was to repent in dust and ashes declaring to God “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know,” (Job 42:3).

I find it interesting that God never answers Job’s deepest questions. God doesn’t tell Job “Well, since you asked, I was just so proud of you and bragged about you to Satan, and then Satan said if we made you miserable you would turn away from me, so I had to prove to him that you really are a loyal follower and that you love me, no matter the circumstances in your life.” No, God never gives an explanation, but He does remind Job that He is God the Creator, and He is in control.

And that is the answer He always gives us.

Prayer: Oh God, help us to ask questions with a humble heart and a desire to learn about you and your ways. Help us to trust you, that though things may not be turning out the way we desire, you are still in control and you are good.

By Jenn Soehnlin

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Who are You Leaving Out in the Cold? ~ #SacredSunday

Photo image courtesy of Pezibear via Pixabay.com
Who are you leaving out in the cold that needs to be included? The Body of Christ is incomplete unless people of every ability are loved and welcomed.
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Friday, March 24, 2017

Do You Want Jesus to Live in Your Heart?

“For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
Zephaniah 3:17 NLT

"Do you want Jesus to live in your heart?" I asked my son, who was just about kindergarten age. The fear and horror that crossed his little face was a dead giveaway that I had made a serious parental error. Although it sounds like a simple question from a Bible-believing parent, I should have known already that as a child on the autism spectrum, he was a very concrete learner. I've been told that children who are extreme concrete learners have trouble picturing God as real at all because they cannot see, feel, touch, or hold Him. While I was imagining a growing relationship with our Savior, my little boy was picturing a tiny man taking up residence in his little body. I guess we all imagine God a little bit differently, don't we?

How do you see God? And how do you think God sees you? I've been told that we see God and His views of us in the same way that we see our earthly parents and their views of us. So if our parents were very strict, reigning control tightly over us, we'll probably see God as foreboding, strict, filled with disapprobation for our earthly misdeeds. If our parents were distant, we might think God is out there, somewhere, doing something or other and not really paying attention to anything that is happening in our lives. If our parents were loving, we might see God as loving, benevolent, kind. And if our parents were mean-spirited, we might really feel that God doesn't like us one bit and there is absolutely nothing we can do to please Him or make Him happy.

I don't know if that line of thinking always holds true, but the truth, the reality is that God delights in us! He loves to be with us, to enjoy our company, and to calm our fears. And you can be absolutely assured that no matter what your parents thought of you, God absolutely delights in you. Hopefully, the more time you spend reading the Bible, praying, growing your relationship with Him, the more you will see and feel His unending love for you. We need to know this love, we need to let it penetrate to the core of our soul so that we can pass it on to our much-loved children.

As parents, how do we portray God's love to our children? Are we passing on the views of God we learned through the relationship we had or have with our parents? Are we working to spread His hope, love, and grace to our own little ones?  Are we comprehending that God delights in us, dwells with us, enjoys us, and are we passing that understanding of His delight in our littles ones on to those we love best?

As a mom, I soon figured out where my little one needed to meet Jesus. I loaded up his iPad with some apps that tell the story of Jesus in a way that little ears can hear and little eyes can see. And now, instead of picturing God as an invasive little man, He sees God as His friend, Creator, and someone who loves and is pleased with him, just as he is. He knows that God delights in him.

Dear God, Help me to see You as the amazing, loving, caring, Creator God that You are truly are. And help me to pass that image of You in a gentle and loving way to my own children.

Amen

Amanda Furbeck

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Waiting Well Takes Work

You can make many plans, but the LORD's purpose will prevail.” 
Proverbs 19:21 NLT

I am very good at making plans. I have a degree in strategic leadership and am convinced that it is simply the outflowing of my special gifting, particularly when my plans outnumber my hours. I make plans, come up with task lists, prioritize all that I need to do and actually get quite a bit of work done. The problem is not my ability to plan. The problem is my inability to wait upon the purpose of the Lord.
I don’t do patient well. I don’t do waiting well. I don’t do Sabbath well. Am I alone in this?
I believe that many of us struggle in this area, especially because America has become the land of overtime, overwork, over hurry and overstress. We pride ourselves on telling people that we are busy. Why? Well I know I feel important if I am busy. I feel productive and accomplished and valuable. While my heart knows that my value comes through relationship with Christ, my mind continues to believe that my value comes through what I do.


If I am busy doing and planning, it leaves very little space for waiting. It’s one thing to be reminded that we need to wait, but quite another to consider how to wait. And is it even possible to actually wait well?


I don’t know what your definition of “well” might be, but for me, especially in this area, it means that I am doing better with waiting than I was yesterday. I know that waiting well takes work. I might be more of a two-steps-forward-and-one-step-back type of guy (and often it’s more like one step forward and two steps back), but here is what works for me.

  •  I must actively and continuously pursue Christ as the source of my identity and value. I am nothing outside of Him, so no matter how much I might accomplish at the end of the day, it carries little weight if my relationship with Jesus didn’t grow. I do best with this idea when I consider my children. While their grades and accomplishments and sports achievements are fun and are worthy to be applauded, I do not love them more or less based upon these activities. They are my children no matter what they do. Now if only I could remember that God sees me in the same way.
  •  I must listen to and respond to my body. When my alarm clock no longer works, when afternoon fatigue becomes a regular occurrence or when I find myself distracted due to being tired, I need to slow down. I need to push pause and wait. I need to get back to the rhythms that I know allow me to connect with God, connect with my family and lead ministry well. Ignoring these signs will simply lead to greater fatigue physically, but also reveals that I am burning the candle at both ends and working hard on my plans. God’s plans involve health and rest and downtime.
  •  I must remember that it simply is not about me. I’m just not essential to the accomplishment of much. While it is true that I have value and purpose and that there are specific skills God has given to me, it is more true that He cares about me as a person more than as a producer. Saying no doesn’t mean that I am failing – it means that I am protecting my space in order to better connect with God. If my plans only involve my ideas and don’t involve the input of others and the vision of the Lord, then they will fail. The plans and purposes of God are more about relationship with Him than accomplishment for Him.
It might seem weird that we have to battle in order to wait well, but I am convinced that a ploy of the enemy is to keep us busy in whatever way possible. This keeps us from slowing down, from depending upon God and from connecting to His still small voice. Be encouraged that busyness does not come from the Lord and take a chance that being still and quiet will allow His purposes to prevail without your plans having to fail.


Lord God, You know me far too well. You know my tendency to rush and hurry and be impatient. You know my shortcomings in waiting for You and on You. Help me to slow down and enjoy times of peace and quiet, so that I am more in tune with Your purpose for my life. Amen.
~ Mike

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Mama - Wipe My Tears

photo credit - society6.com 

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.

Psalm 56:8 NLT


Bethany:  intense pain on her right side, tender to touch, temp 100, chills and nausea. But tears were the final clincher for me to call our doctor! Tears are rare for Bethany, and she has a high tolerance for pain so tears and complaints of pain set off alarm bells in my brain. 

Our doctor had no openings for 2 days! After listening to the symptoms she asked us to go to the ER to rule out appendicitis. (Bummer - that's what I'd been afraid of.)

We checked into the ER about 4:30. The entourage of nurses and doctors, and tests began. 

The tears began in earnest (her and me) as the nurse poked and dug the needle this way and that, trying unsuccessfully to find a vein.  

I finally said, "Please, just leave it for now. Can get somebody else to do it?"

As she left the room, Bethany asked, "Mama, will you wipe my tears now? I'm too tired."  

As I wiped her tears and stroked her hair, I murmured how much I loved her, how proud I was of her. I wished I could just take her place. But all I could do was to be fully present in her pain and pray my love would comfort her.

But how much more is the Father heart of God? He didn't just "wish" He could take our place -- Jesus took our place; our pain, our sorrows, our suffering.

Image result for Jesus holds us
Photo credit- Trinity Mount Ministries
We toss and turn. He not only notices -- He is instantly moved with compassion and takes action.


Our lives are full of sorrow. He knows sorrow -- He knows grief. He covers us with His wings and shelters us from destruction.

Our hearts are overwhelmed and afraid. His heart beats one with ours and He whispers His love.

We cry. He wipes our tears and stores them in a bottle! He actually collects every tear!!!

Why?

Because His love compelled Him to rescue us from our sin and sorrows.

To the point of death. 

His death swallowed up death, hell, and the grave, for you, for me.

His life infuses us with new life and a good future.

In the appointed time, He will deliver us from the life of dangers, disease, disability, disappointment, and death. 

He is a God moved with compassion. He even stores up our tears. Someday, when we look at our bottle, we may understand just how much He cares!

***Thankfully, it was not appendicitis. The CAT scan/Xray revealed pneumonia and inflammation of the pericardial sac around the heart. Thank God for antibiotics, ER rooms, and most of all Jesus- who is with us every step of the way! It's been a week and Bethany is gaining strength every day!
 
Pray: Father God! Thank you for wiping our tears, for holding our hands through tough times, for never leaving us alone. Your love is more than we can comprehend! Help us through this life! 
In Jesus Name! Amen

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Dimetapp, Robitussin, Church and Grace

"Is that all you have for me?"

20 plus years of parenting knowledge condensed down to two words; Dimetapp and Robitussin. My secret ingredients revealed. I suppose you were expecting church and grace? Sorry to disappoint you, it's Dimetapp and Robitussin.

You see, in my house, if you are sick, it doesn't matter what your symptoms are, I am going to give you Dimetapp and Robitussin. It's my "go-to", my "power suit", my traveling snake oil salesman's "cure-all elixir". Okay, maybe I am getting a little carried away, but you get my point. 

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1: 3-4 NIV)

Praise be to God, I have thanked Him for those two medicines on many occasions when they have helped my sick children. I have also passed the knowledge of their comfort on to others when I have found them searching for medicine, whether they fit the symptoms they were describing or not. I would often laugh and joke that it didn't matter what the symptoms were, just give them Dimetapp and Robitussin...they cover most things.

(Just to be perfectly clear...I am in no way giving you actual medical and/or pharmacological dispensing advice!)

Not too long ago, in the hopes of connecting with other special needs moms and families, I inquired at our church about a special needs Bible study or group of some sort. (It's a large church with multiple campuses. I was open to anything.) They referred me to someone, who referred me to someone, who eventually called me. This person was very nice and truly seemed to be concerned about my family and our need to attend church together. (Even though that wasn't what I asked about.) We spent a great deal of time discussing our church attendance, our son, and his needs. We talked about things that might work for my husband and I to attend church together and a couple of things that they have in the works for newly diagnosed families. (This last thing she was sure I could appreciate the need for and remember what those early days were like, or at least I think that's what she said, my son was screaming for chicken.) I managed to slide in my original Bible study question a couple of times in our conversation, but never quite got the answer I was looking for. (A "We don't but maybe we could see if there is interest" might have been a nice response.)

I have to tell you, I hung up the phone a little grumbly; I felt a little square peg hammered into a round hole. I called my husband, "Apparently we have to attend church together before we can move on to the hallowed ground of Bible studies, small groups and the next level of Godliness."

His response, "Are you surprised?"

I was.

I was surprised.

I was surprised and I was grumbling, murmuring, and complaining.

So my husband listened, I ranted about inclusion and not fitting anywhere and then he said something about grace and we're all sinners and he had to go.

So I sat there, in my grumbling, for a couple of days.

Philippians 2:14 says "Do everything without grumbling and arguing." Different Bible versions use different words; grumbling, murmuring, complaining. Those words are listed first, before the words arguing or disputing, and that's important. They deal with our internal response to situations.

My internal response has been shaped by years of battling for services and inclusion for our son. We have lived through years of insisting he fits and belongs; that he should be included, in school and in the community. I needed grace, and after talking to a good friend who felt sure their heart was in the right place, my heart began to soften a little and remember to extend that same grace to others. 

That is when I realized...I had been Dimetapp and Robitussin-ed.

They responded to my symptoms with what they had and most importantly with what they knew worked. My husband and I know what it means to be able to attend church together during those early days and years of diagnosis. We have experienced a church being The Church and standing in that gap for us when we could not stand for ourselves and our family. It's good medicine, some of the best, and I thank God that our current church is there to dispense it to those in need.

It's just not the only need, and attending church together is not the only medicine. Sometimes it's not the right medicine, and that's ok. It's hard to meet every need and have all the answers; actually, it's impossible. I know that.

I also know that we are many unique members of the same body with our own purpose and needs, and most importantly, we are all under the care of a Creator and Healer who has a far greater repertoire of healing than Dimetapp and Robitussin.


So I will pray:

God our Father and Healer fill us with Your peace, remind us of Your grace and help us to always remember that You will meet every need and every symptom with exactly what is needed. God open our eyes and our hearts to those around us who reach out with needs that can not be met with what we have, expand our healing power beyond what we are familiar with, equip us. I pray that we see and recognize You meeting our needs and bringing healing through frustrating circumstances that so often leave us grumbling. Father help me to replace that grumbling with grace and extend it to others. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.