Wednesday, February 25, 2009

SOVEREIGN


For about the past half-dozen years I have had the great privilege of serving as a mouth-piece for those with bleeding disorders and disabilities as I serve on the Advocacy Committee of the Great Lakes Hemophilia Foundation. In this capacity, I have had the unique experience of traveling to visit lawmakers on Capitol Hill, organize with others at our State Capitol and even connect with leaders in the local community to share concerns and ideas regarding legislation. I have even had the remarkable opportunity to see laws that we were advocating for get passed.
As I've lived out this process of the American system of government, I have rubbed elbows with inidividuals all over this great country. I see the stock they place in these visits. They come to meet lawmakers with tremendous hope in bettering their lives and the lives of others like them.
While this is truly something huge for all who "bleed red, white and blue", I tend to have a unique perspective. I don't place my hope in these activities. What? Yes! I don't place my hope in these activities.
Let me explain further. You see, I have come to learn over the years that there is only ONE who is sovereign. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines "sovereignty" as "1 supreme excellence or an example of it 2 a: supreme power especially over a body politic b: freedom from external control :
autonomy c: controlling influence3: one that is sovereign ; especially : an autonomous state." Psalm 145:13 tells us, "Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The LORD is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made." No lawmaker, no matter how decent, can measure up to that standard! I've seen lawmakers have to abandon perfectly good legislation because of budget constraints or because something utterly foolish is tagged onto a bill. With that in mind, I understand that I may go back home feeling like we got nowhere in our quest for justice.
So how does this square with the time and energy I spend on advocacy? I press on remembering that it is essential to make our voices heard, but to always fully rely on God. I pray ahead of time that God will soften hearts and give clarity and wisdom to those we are speaking with. And my ultimate happiness does not depend on what any government does. Only the Lord of my life has the power to make good on the promise, "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." (Revelation 21:4-5)
As of this posting, I am traveling to DC for yet another of these meetings. Pray for me and others like me as we advocate for those Jesus poured out His tenderness on! May God's will be done in our lives and the lives of our government.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Who's In Charge Here?

"It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man." (Psalm 118:8 NIV)

How many times do we look for answers from the medical community only to be met with frustration? I can remember when our son was hospitalized with a life-threatening bleed and the doctors couldn’t find the cause of his troubles. I was wrought with anxiety.

As I shared my sorrows with my wise “spiritual mom”, Phyllis, she reminded me that the doctors aren’t ultimately in control. They don’t know it all or have the final say. (As my hubby likes to put it, "There's a reason they call it 'practicing medicine'!") But God knows what is going on and remains sovereign. Phyllis challenged me to let go of putting all my trust in the medical staff and what they had to say.

Now, we know the Lord has endowed the medical professions with the gifts of healing and wisdom. But we, especially in the special needs community, need to stop setting them up as a god. Fleeing to God as the source of our healing, strength, discernment and comfort is far better than relying SOLELY on human wisdom. And when we give God the trust He rightfully deserves, He will allow us to be first-hand witnesses to His miracles.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

See You at the Finish Line!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. (Hebrews 12:1-3 NLT)

I often joke that our family's "second religion" is the American Birkebeiner Nordic Ski Race. For over 25 years, my husband has ventured to the very North of the State of Wisconsin, after months of training and skied with "over 7,000 of his closest friends" the 50 K gruelingly hilly race. Often finishing in the top 10%, my husband has now set his sights on raising a new generation of Birkie skiers as he trains our children to enjoy the sport.

Having been his support crew for the past 19 of those years, I see the perseverence it takes to even finish that race. What admiration we both have who are out on that trail for 8 hours just trying to make it to the finish! Along the trail, the skiers who have not properly fueled-up ahead of time or properly paced themselves can "hit the wall" or "bonk", which leaves them in a state of delirium and fatigue. It takes endurance and sometimes a bit of rest and refueling to get back on the trail and make it to the cheering crowd awaiting them on the main street of Downtown Hayward.

So why am I sharing this family obsession with you? Well, St. Paul made many athletic analogies in his epistles, letters to the various churches. And always with those analogies, he talked about the intense physical demands and our need to get in shape, press on and never quit.

Are you properly preparing and including God's word in your training diet every day? I know that is the one thing that can keep me from "bonking" or "hitting the wall" as I deal with the daily stresses of my life. Even at that, I may have to pull over at one of the rest stops along the way, replenish and restore myself before I can press on. As my wise, seasoned Pastor Don says, "Come apart before you come apart!"

Jesus warned us in John 16:33, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." When we face the daily perils of our lives, we need to train, fuel-up on this encouragement our Lord gives us, and keep putting one foot in front of the other until he welcomes us with open arms. It's an endurance race... See YOU at the finish line!!!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Shock & Awe

"We often suffer, but we are never crushed. Even when we don't know what to do, we never give up. In times of trouble, God is with us, and when we are knocked down, we get up again. We face death every day because of Jesus. Our bodies show what his death was like, so that his life can also be seen in us." (2 Corinthians 4:8-11 CEV)

Whom of us haven't endured unspeakable difficulties in our daily lives parenting our children with special needs? Have you, like me, cried out to the Lord, "ENOUGH!"? Some days we can't get our heads above water before another wave crashes over us.

Last Sunday, I spent time in the ER with my youngest. She had sustained a kidney injury as a result of falling backwards on top of another child. While I was complying with my instructions to keep her quiet for the week, I was notified by her school that she needs to see a doctor for other disorders and reactions as well. Add that to her severe allergies and I've got another child contending with special needs. What really had me "hard pressed on every side" was the fact that I had my own illness, pain and diagnosis that was seriously limiting me. Can't anyone in this household be "normal"? When will it ever end?

Let's be honest, we've all had these struggles. Wondering how the copious medical bills will get paid is a source of constant stress. Advocating with schools for what our children desperately need frustrates countless parents. Trying to make medical "experts" understand that nobody knows our child like we do, while still being open to the help that we sincerely need from them requires clarity beyond our own humanity.

So often I think, If people only knew what a mess I am... I must look ridiculous! But God tells me it isn't so. He allows the shock in our lives so that others may witness the awe that only He can provide. We may feel like we're barely putting one foot in front of the other, but He's holding us up to take those next steps, parading us in front of others to see the beauty He creates from our ashes.

Friend, you are not alone. Even in those times where we're knocked down, not knowing what to do next, if we cling to Him, something awesome can be produced from our adversity. He is with us and makes ALL things new!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Talk Is Cheap!

"Talk is cheap!", so it is said. A person can bloviate endlessly, but experience proves the truth in their words. This is true in our faith life. "I believe," "Jesus is Lord," "I trust God alone," are all things that are easy to say when life is going our way, but can we praise Him when life is going against us?

Praising God when we're in the middle of a storm, even when we don't feel like it, "puts our money where our mouth is". This is why God is so pleased with a "sacrifice of praise." (See Hebrews 13:15-16) It proves our trust in God. We confirm how highly we think of Him and His sovereignty in our lives. A tested faith is a solid faith.

It's easy to say "Hallelujah" when everyone is healthy, the bills are paid and no crises face us. Yet, those who don't believe would scoff at us just as Satan did at Job, knowing that everything is serene and happy. However, when people see us weak, worn, under the pressures of turmoil and still praising God, they are drawn toward Him. They see in us a peace that transcends our circumstances. They see a floor under our free-fall. And they want what we have.

Praise Him in the storms! It is a pleasing sacrifice to God. If you are at a loss for words, try Psalm 22, Psalm 56 or Lamentations 3. God's Word is filled with the anguish of those who felt close enough to the Lord to share their honest anguish with Him. When you offer this kind of sacrifice, you will find both yourself and those around you blest as well.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

REMEMBER

Knowing that I run at a break-neck speed on any average day, I partook of a wonderful book by Pastor Donna Schaper, entitled SABBATH KEEPING. In her book, she makes the case that keeping the Sabbath is truly a matter of “holy remembering”. We are called to pause once a week to look back at what the Lord has brought us through in order that the Holy Spirit might empower us for the things we are about to face in the days ahead. I definitely found this to be an idea worth pursuing.

The proof of Pastor Schaper’s idea is borne out in Scripture. In preparing this entry, I found that the word “remember” was used over 233 times. (NIV) God commands His people to remember through things like Passover, Communion, sharing history with our children and being mindful of those less fortunate, whom we tend to forget. In Lamentations 3:21-23, the prophet, Jeremiah, displays the benefit of remembering by stating, “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (My italicizing)

What would our lives look like if we made the effort to pause, at least weekly, to recall all the Lord has brought us through? I, for one, would be more at peace and full of joy. Just this past week God has brought us through a frightening internal bleeding incident with complete healing. Hallelujah! Recalling that strengthens me for the week ahead with the assurance that the Savior is watching over my son. And this is just one of the things I could pause to remember. If I listed all the health situations, joblessness, financial woes, relationship difficulties and assorted crises we should have dissolved under by man’s standard, it would be far too much to contain in this entry.

Why don’t you take some time to get quiet today and remember? I’ll bet you’ll find that the Lord has carried you through some amazing situations. And when these memories return to you, He will fill you with His contentment and peace. Blessed Sabbath!