Saturday, May 30, 2009

GOD OF THE IMPOSSIBLE SITUATION


"Who is this man, that even the wind & waves obey him?" (Luke 8:25, NLT)
Read Luke 8:22-56
The Bible is rife with stories of God accomplishing the impossible. From parting the Red Sea to knocking down the walls of Jericho to Daniel surviving the lion's den, the Maker of all sometimes intervenes in our world to bring about that which we cannot do for ourselves.
What makes this passage from Luke so remarkable is the compressed revelation of all that God controls. In Jesus, the Lord humbled himself in human form for 33 years, dwelling among us. Yet, He gives us eternal hope by decisively showing that He rules over nature (vv 22-25), the spiritual realm (vv 26-39), our physical well-being (vv 40-48), and even death itself (vv 49-56). There is no circumstance too impossible for our Savior!
It's easy to see what the implications of this word from God are to us. What are we struggling through today? Physical trials for ourselves or our loved ones? Financial woes? A battle of the mind or soul? Circumstances that are beyond our control? Bring it to the Lord who can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves!
While that may be easy to see, it's not always easy to do. We can develop that habit of relying fully on the God of the impossible situation by doing a few things. First, reading His word and the stories of those who have gone before us daily will bathe us in the encouragement we need. Second, godly friendships will put human flesh on the cheering section we need at times like these. Third, prayer and praise help us to get real with God, venting our emotions to the only One who can really do something about them. These things will keep us hanging on until God, in His perfect timing, acts. That may not be until we see eternity. But He who overcame the impossibility of death fills us with the hope of all that is possible in Him.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Defying Faith in the Flesh


"For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh..." (Philippians 3:3, NIV, Emphasis added)

We who are in the special needs community have a unique perspective on what is unseen due to the circumstances in which we live. Consistently good health, peak physical functioning, and sound mental judgment is NOT where we place our full reliance. If we did, we would lose any shred of sanity!

We know that things don't always go as planned. Medical tests don't offer the expected results. Treatments need to be adjusted. Expert opinions frequently aren't reliable or relevant. Even daily schedules get interrupted because of unexpected, but intermittant emergencies. This is no place to hang our hope!

But in Christ, we have a joy that can be experienced in spite of "the flesh". As King David put it so aptly in Psalm 73:26, "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." (NIV) We know that our bodies, our minds, our emotions, our faith all fall short at times. We know better than the average person how temporal the successes in the physcial realm can be.

That is why we are called to share our comfort and wisdom in knowing there is so much more than the eye can see. We are commanded to strengthen and encourage others with the eternal perspective that Christ alone provides. Our especially difficult circumstances give us a platform that lends credibility when we speak the truth to a world in need. If we can find strength beyond our fleshly trials, surely it is available to anyone!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

ATTACHED & CLINGY


"I am the vine. You are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing." (John 15:5, NIV)

Once upon a time, I was a professional person. I thought I was in full control, managing millions of dollars in investments, taking nice vacations, doing as I pleased. I started to realize I wasn't in control when my husband and I had difficulty with getting pregnant and carrying a baby to term. It was at that time that I surrendered; first, by becoming a believer in the saving grace of Jesus; next, by wholeheartedly praying, "THY will be done," when it came to the issues of building a family. But it wasn't until our 2nd child was born with severe hemophilia A that I became a clingy woman, letting go of all my control (which, in reality, was very little) and wrapping myself around The One who's truly in the driver's seat.

I am a living testimony to, "...apart from me, you can do nothing." Apart from Jesus, I could not have abandoned my old life of chronic worry when a true source of worry surfaced. Apart from my Savior, I could not manage starting and IV push on my young son every other day with my typically shaky hands. Apart from my Lord, I could not handle the challenges of daily living with this disorder, including school, siblings, and outside activities. Apart from Him, I would be overcome by bitterness from endlessly dealing with doctors, insurance companies and those who are ignorant.

I always want to laugh when people throw the cliche, "God never gives you more than you can handle," at me. I want to shout, You think I can handle this? What I've come to understand is that God does allow us to experience more than we can handle, so we learn to fully rely on Him.

In his devotional version of the outstanding book SECRETS OF THE VINE, Bruce Wilkinson states, "As we come to the end of our power, we encounter the beginning of God's power. If we allow God to work, our faith will grow in ways we never thought possible. For first-century Christians, trials turned the raw ore of new belief into the steal of unshakable faith. And God used them to change the world... After all, if we don't face new and even more difficult challenges, we don't need a greater level of faith. So God "pushes us" over the line. He allows circumstances to take us past what we can handle to teach us what God can handle through us. And our faith grows dramatically."

I don't know about you, but I want my life and all it's challenges to matter. I want my struggles to bear good fruit. If you share that desire, join me in staying attached and clinging to Him. After all, apart from Him, we're pretty ineffective!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Busy!


And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (Philippians 1:6)

"I'm too busy!" I don't know about you, but I think this has become the perennial excuse of our era for any number of situations. And why shouldn't it be? We all live at break-neck speed in today's culture. We're working AND raising kids at the same time. We have a high standard of living to maintain that our parents didn't. We live in a commuter culture where kids have to be carted all over the place. And computers certainly didn't create a paperless society as promised, they only produce more paper and more work. There's no where we can't be reached, by computer or by cell phone.

Nevertheless, the busy-ness of this post-millennial era can be hemmed in by creating strong boundaries. Have you ever heard the acronym for BUSY? Burdened Under Satan's Yoke? Our oppressor loves nothing more than to keep us in a perpetually frantic, distracted state. And what better way to do it than to seduce us into doing things that look good and worthy. The problem is that those good and worthy things might not be things God wants us spending our time on right now.

Let's get this straight. Our priorities should first be God (start each morning with Him in prayer & His Word.); second, our marriage; third, our children; after that, we are to use our time and talents where the Lord directs us. Each choice of how we spend our time should be run past the Father. It's way too easy to opt out of helping others by claiming the demands of family, etc make us "too busy". It's also way too easy to do things to the exclusion of our families. When we seek God's will, He is faithful to give us clear discernment and direction as to where He wants us. In his terrific book IF YOU WANT TO WALK ON WATER, YOU'VE GOT TO GET OUT THE BOAT, author John Ortberg states, "Where God calls, God gifts."

In a family where medical needs may constantly interrupt a schedule or a disproportionate amount of any week might be spent with doctors, it's important to keep our ears turned toward that Fatherly direction. There is extra noise in our busy-ness because of the immense needs of our special situation. Even so, God doesn't want us sitting on the sidelines when it comes to activity outside of our home. There may be a place where we can make good use of our time and talents that only requires a small portion of our schedule. As I often remind people, "Many hands make light work." When we consider that the Lord might be asking us to pitch in rather than opting out, we move closer to helping another relieve their overload.

Moving through our week ahead, let's remember to turn to the Maker of time to verify where He wants us best using the set 24 hours He's entrusted to each of us. When God starts something in us, He will equip us in a way that will foster our passion and bring Him joy. All the rest is mere overburdening distraction.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

When the Darkness Doesn't Fade


I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. (Isaiah 42:16)

There are times when things feel like they will never get better. The many challenges we face with Charlie's hemophilia often feel like they will never end. Some days, when we see no solution to an ongoing problem, when there are no good answers, when we run out of options, it seems like a heavy darkness settles over us. It may even set up residence with us for awhile. Low energy, overwhelm and gloom seem to accompany it.

So what is a person who follows Jesus supposed to do at a time like this? How do we function when we can't feel His presence, can't sense His hope?

First off, don't rely solely on your emotions. How many times have you wasted energy worrying about something that never happened? Remember being afraid of something in the dark when you were young? Did your emotions prove to be fully reliable in those situations? Challenging your thoughts can prove to be fruitful.

Second, trust God's words to you. He promises that He'll never leave or forsake you. He calls you precious, honored, His own. And though you may not sense Him near, His eye is ever on you.

Sunrise has never failed us yet. I know that even when darkness becomes oppressive, it's clear as daylight to our Creator. With His divine perspective, He will faithfully guide us through seemingly insurmountable troubles. A God who is big enough to overcome death itself is undoubtedly big enough to handle any challenge I may face!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A Mother Like No Other

A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds. Her husband trusts her without reserve, and never has reason to regret it. Never spiteful, she treats him generously all her life long. She shops around for the best yarns and cottons, and enjoys knitting and sewing. She's like a trading ship that sails to faraway places and brings back exotic surprises. She's up before dawn, preparing breakfast for her family and organizing her day. She looks over a field and buys it, then, with money she's put aside, plants a garden. First thing in the morning, she dresses for work, rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started. She senses the worth of her work, is in no hurry to call it quits for the day. She's skilled in the crafts of home and hearth, diligent in homemaking. She's quick to assist anyone in need, reaches out to help the poor. She doesn't worry about her family when it snows; their winter clothes are all mended and ready to wear. She makes her own clothing, and dresses in colorful linens and silks. Her husband is greatly respected when he deliberates with the city fathers. She designs gowns and sells them, brings the sweaters she knits to the dress shops. Her clothes are well-made and elegant, and she always faces tomorrow with a smile. When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say, and she always says it kindly. She keeps an eye on everyone in her household, and keeps them all busy and productive. Her children respect and bless her; her husband joins in with words of praise: "Many women have done wonderful things, but you've outclassed them all!" Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades. The woman to be admired and praised is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God. Give her everything she deserves! Festoon her life with praises! (Proverbs 31:10-31, MSG)

It never ceases to amaze me that the God of the Universe cares about little, ol' me! Numerous times throughout the Bible, He shows us how mothers are on His mind and in His heart. In fact, isn't it sweet that God-In-Person, Jesus, made one of his last concerns the earthly care of his own mother?

Many times I've despised that Proverbs 31 woman, labeling her as Mrs. Perfect! But as time goes on, I see that even on our worst of days, we moms display so very many of her characteristics. And it should give us perseverance when we see how our Lord esteems us for the seemingly mundane, unappreciated work of motherhood.

Furthermore, God chose YOU to be the mother of the child or children He has entrusted to your care. I always laugh when people throw that phrase at me, "God never gives us more than we can handle," because I think quite to the contrary! I believe God allows us to be stretched, especially as mothers, so we'll learn to rely fully on Him. But He also combines the right traits, experiences, and talents to make us the ideal parent for that child He's going to bless us with, whether biological or adopted. How amazing that He trusts ME to be the good steward of these little lives!

Now, remember that we can blow it if we don't follow OUR Father in complete trust and obedience! If we don't pray before we act, the results can be less-than-desirable. And certainly, not taking God's word seriously in the "if/then" scenarios He lays out for parents is unwise as well.

This Mother's Day, may we cherish all the blessings we are infused with: God's word, God's guidance, God's esteem and the love of a precious child. What more of a priceless gift could we ask for?!

PRAY: Lord, make me worthy of the job You have called me to -- precious motherhood.

~ Barb Dittrich

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

All for ONE


There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

Words cannot express the amazing week I've enjoyed with a diverse number of people. I've prayed over lunch with two precious sisters in Christ who attend an African American church in the city. I've shared time and encouragement with dear fellow members of the bleeding disorders community, both young and old. I've rubbed elbows with state lawmakers and persons of influence at our state capitol. I've listened to and learned with the disabled and their families from every corner of the state. I had the distinct honor of praying and worshiping with a city congregation lead by two pastors from Kenya. I've heard the stories of a missionary home on furlough from India, offering him prayer and monetary support. And I've dined with a couple who minister to AIDS-ravaged Swaziland, chatting about how we can partner in our service of hope.

You know, in this era we talk a good talk about "tolerance", "inclusion" and unity. But our actual living-out of that belief falls way too short. If only we could all live with that peek of heaven that I had the privilege of seeing this past week, where every nation, tongue and tribe, every physical and cognitive ability unite in love for our Savior and for one another! After all, we are going to spend eternity together, so the divisions within the Body serve only to corrode our hearts.

Today, thank God that Jesus is no respecter of persons! Thank the Lord that He finds me just as worthy of loving as my son with hemophilia, or my friends in the inner city, or that family up in the middle of the north woods, or those living and serving in Africa or India! May we each be imitators of Him until that day when "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:9-11)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Hurry Up & Wait


We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. (Psalm 33:20)

Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. (James 5:7)

The past few days, I have been taking my turn staffing our booth at the state's largest disability conference. During the breakout sessions, you find yourself in the exhibitors hall waiting... a lot. One or two people may straggle by when they leave their breakout because it's not quite what they expected. Other bored exhibitors take the opportunity to check out and connect with other vendors during the lull too.

I found it ironic that I rushed to the conference center only to find myself sitting and waiting. And then it suddenly occurred to me that a disproportionate part of our lives are spent waiting. We wait for:
  • health to improve

  • a diagnosis to be given

  • doctors to see us

  • financial aid to come in

  • things to get better

  • people to be more accepting

  • therapies to be completed

  • pain to end

  • family & friends to be more supportive

  • Heaven

This life can get so tiresome and discouraging. How critical it is to cling to the hope that God will make good on all His promises to those who wait on Him! So often I long for the renewed strength and stamina He has stored up for me. (Isaiah 40:29-31) Who doesn't look forward to the day when He will wipe away every tear and there will be no more pain or suffering or fear? (Rev 21:4) No human life lacks the need to feel comfort and compassion. (2 Corin 1:3-4)

Let us be of support to one another as we find ourselves in life's waiting room. Encouraging our fellow travelers to keep that eternal focus can bless us all with the stamina it takes to endure. And realize that only the Holy Spirit can fill us with the peace needed to be still, wait, trust, be anxious for nothing, and know that He is God.