Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Revolutionary Prayer & Dirty Carpet

"Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted."
~ Matthew 23:12, NASB ~

Prayer.  Is there anyone who thinks they are an expert at it?  Do you know of a single person who prays that doesn't think they could become better at praying?  I know that I personally never shake the feeling of needing to grow deeper in my prayer life, my communication with God.

Prayer is, according to Unger's Bible Dictionary*, "...the expression of man's dependence upon God for all things...  It is a means of grace that has large value, for it affords the privilege of close communion with God, especially when one is alone with Him in its supplications.  Although on the one hand there arises a deep sense of need, helplessness, and unworthiness, there also comes an assurance of the divine fullness and love, which enlarges our petitions and brings confidence of answers to our prayers."

In the "New Barb Translation" (as I often jokingly put it), prayer is the opportunity for intimate community with the divine, available by sharing the deepest thoughts of our hearts with our Maker.

That intimate community grew for me when I took one significant measure.  It all began when my women's Bible study was going through the Book of 1 Peter.  As our instructor, Margo, pulled apart Chapter 4  in her expository teaching, we hung out for awhile on verse 7, "The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray." (1 Peter 4:7, NIV)  She applied it to our living in these times by admonishing us to 1. Live with commitment; 2. Live with wisdom; and 3. Live applying yourself to serious prayer.  For the next 2 weeks, she then went on to detail 10 serious prayers we should be praying.  

What happened after that first week of study was life-changing.  In my early morning quiet time, before the rest of the household awoke and put demands on me, I felt compelled to get face down on my dirty, lived-on carpet and speak my heart to God.  I fell to my knees, slid my hands forward on the worn fibers, and lay my forehead on my folded arms.

At first, my kids thought I was either dead or tremendously upset about something, when they happened to pass through the room while I was literally "on my face" in prayer.  

That was a good thing!  Because they perceived me as being dissolved to tears, they quietly tiptoed through the room rather than launching into their usual morning, "Mom! Mom! Mom!  I need...  Did you...?  Guess what...?".  I got the opportunity to get on solid footing with God before the demands of the day began firing at me.

My mind also tended to wander less when I assumed this position in prayer.  I found that every distraction that stood between the Lord and I was removed when I was face down at His feet.  No more did my mind suddenly begin rabbit trailing over to what was on the day's "To Do" list or that one thing I had better not forget to do.  There was only me and my Savior, in complete unity of heart and mind.

The thing that impressed me as most significant, though, was that I felt like I was in the proper position when I prayed this way.  What I mean is that when I was on my face, on my dirty carpet, I was completely humbled in the presence of our Awesome God.  A common, average, imperfect, sinner like me coming before an unfathomably loving Holy Yahweh has the fullness of the power of prayer when she is on her face.

This became revolutionary prayer for me.  I made it a habit to pray this way from that time forward.  It is not that getting face down on my worn living room rug significantly moved the hand of God, but that my intimacy with Him grew, and my reassurance of His unshakable faithfulness became my undeniable reality.  It changed me.  And isn't that we seek in prayer?  To align ourselves with the will, the power and the plans of God?

The idea of crawling onto your floor to lay prostrate in prayer may sound like a crazy idea to you.  It may not even be something you feel inspired to do.  But there is no doubt what this position of prayer has done in my life over the past couple of years.  I encourage you to try some "face time" if you are looking to take your prayer life to a whole other level.  Who knows...  It might just draw you closer to the heart of God.

PRAY:  Father, we join the faithful of old and the angels around Your throne in humbling our hearts before You.  Thank You that You hear our prayers and allow us to come into loving communion with You.

~ Barb Dittrich

*Unger, Merrill F., R. K. Harrison, Howard F. Vos and Cyril J. Barber (Jun 1, 2009), The New Unger's Bible Dictionary, Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL, pp 1025-1026
 

Photo Image Courtesy of 123RF

Monday, October 28, 2013

God Gave Me a Big Mouth for a Reason

"But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
    will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
    I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’"
~ Jonah 2:9, NIV~

I love my dentist's office.  He and his staff are the only ones in the world who have ever told me my mouth is small!  All joking aside, for the better part of my life I was incredibly ashamed of that very part of myself.  I was raised by a mother who would regularly condemn me for having "such a big mouth", mocking me for my content and volume.  That condemnation continued into my young adult life.  I can recall a college friend saying, "You never shut up.  What makes you think everybody wants to hear what you have to say all the time?"  For many years I shrunk back in embarrassment and regret because of my big ol' mouth.

It wasn't until I read Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life that I felt set free.  I learned there that God had given me a big mouth for a reason!  He created me with a specific purpose in mind.  Without my personality, characteristics, quirks, experiences, talents, and abilities, I could never accomplish the mission He had in mind for me.  It was terrifically liberating to look back on my life and see how the Lord had brought together a unique intersection of these things, so that I could become the person He meant for me to be.

Here are some of the purposes that God has shown me for my big mouth.  I bet you will find that He has some of these same purposes for you:
  1. First, last, and if nothing else, my Creator gave me the mouth I have to bring glory, honor and praise to His name!  ~ Sing forth the honor and glory of His name; make His praise glorious! (Psalm 66:2, AMP)
  2. I am called to speak life and hope into a hurting world. ~ I call Heaven and Earth to witness against you today: I place before you Life and Death, Blessing and Curse. Choose life so that you and your children will live. (Deuteronomy 30:19, MSG) 
  3. My voice should point the world to Jesus. ~ “Go home to your own people,” Jesus said, “and tell them what the Lord has done for you and how he has shown you mercy.” (Mark 5:19, CEB)
  4. With the training and experience I have been given, I am to advocate for those with special needs or any who are treated unjustly. ~  Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:9, NIV)
  5. I have been moved to lighten the heavy load of life for others by sharing humor. ~  "He will fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with happy shouting." (Job 8:21, GW)
  6. God has called me to be an encourager, especially to those raising children with special needs. ~ We ask you, Christian brothers, speak to those who do not want to work. Comfort those who feel they cannot keep going on. Help the weak. Understand and be willing to wait for all men.  (1 Thessalonians 5:14, NLV)
  7. My mouth should serve to instruct, my children first, and others thereafter. ~ "So keep these commandments carefully in mind. Tie them to your hand to remind you to obey them, and tie them to your forehead between your eyes! Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are sitting at home, when you are out walking, at bedtime, and before breakfast!" (Deuteronomy 11:18-19, TLB)
Several years ago, I had the honor of hearing our governor speak to members of his own political party.  He concluded his talk by posing the question, "So why am I telling you all this when you already know and agree with it?"  He then went on to draw the analogy between himself passionately making his case to like-minded people and his father, who was a pastor.  

He told the crowd, "A man asked my father why he goes on evangelizing his own congregation each Sunday. He said, 'Pastor, aren't you just preaching to the choir?'  And my father replied, 'Yes, but I preach to the choir because I want the choir to sing!'"

My hope in sharing the story of my big mouth with you is that you will sing!  Whether God has also given you this tool or some other, know that the Lord fashioned you, dear parent, with a unique set of skills, experience, quirks, and talents all to be used by Him for His glory.  What an amazing privilege!   

PRAY:  May my words and my thoughts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my sheltering rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14, NET)  

~ Barb Dittrich 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Let the Tears Come

You have seen me tossing and turning through the night. You have collected all my tears and preserved them in your bottle! You have recorded every one in your book.
~ Psalm 56:8, TLB ~

I lost it yesterday.  After a week of trying to keep it together for my husband, for my kids, the dam broke.  For my family's sake, I have tried to offer the comfort and stability they all crave right now.  Welcoming them all into the warm, strong arms of a mother has been my gift to them at such a tumultuous time.  

Still, God tells me that there is a time to laugh and a time to cry. (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4)  If my family never sees me melting in tears, I appear cold.  I make it unsafe for them to express their emotions.  No, instead of trying to keep it together for my husband and my children, I need to obey the Lord's command to grieve right along with them.  (Romans 12:15)  We need to hold one another close, let the tears come, and have a good cleansing cry.  Sometimes life is just that hard.

Jesus is my Rock and my Salvation.  Rather than trying to be emotionally stalwart, I need to cling to the Rock that is higher than I.  (Psalm 61:2)  My responsibility as a wife and mother is not to be the solid ground on which my family stands, but to point them to the One who is.  

Have you tried to be stoic through a child's mental illness, through frightening surgeries, through job instabilities, or through major strife at school?  Jesus told us we would face trouble and hatred in this fallen world.  (John 16:33)  But He pointed us to HIS saving, overcoming power, not our own.  Let the tears come, and stop trying to be strong for everyone else.  Allow others to see that, despite your tears, you keep pressing on in the strength of the Lord.

Here are some verses to PRAY when you are fearful or heartbroken.  Get the tissues and let it flow:
  • My friends scorn me, but I pour out my tears to God. ~ Job 16:20, NLT
  • Lord, I am so weak.  I cried to you all night.  My pillow is soaked; my bed is dripping wet from my tears. ~ Psalm 6:6, ERV
  • Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. ~ Psalm 126:5, NIV
  • He will swallow up death forever.  Adonay Yahweh will wipe away tears from every face, and he will remove the disgrace of his people from the whole earth.  Yahweh has spoken. ~ Isaiah 25:8, NOG
  • I weep because of these things; my eyes flow with tears.  For there is no one in sight who can comfort me or encourage me.  My children are desolated because an enemy has prevailed. ~ Lamentations 1:16, NET
  • While he lived on earth, anticipating death, Jesus cried out in pain and wept in sorrow as he offered up priestly prayers to God. Because he honored God, God answered him. Though he was God’s Son, he learned trusting-obedience by what he suffered, just as we do. Then, having arrived at the full stature of his maturity and having been announced by God as high priest in the order of Melchizedek, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who believingly obey him. ~ Hebrews 5:7-10, MSG

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Don't Tread On Me

Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.
~ Luke 10:19, ESV ~
  
What does your enemy look like?  Do you feel like you are thrust out into the world only to be devoured by that foe?

Jesus Christ was the quintessential mentor and leader.  He would instruct, equip, model and then send his disciples forth to practice what had just been demonstrated to them.  In the book of Luke, Chapter 10, we see Jesus sending out 72 disciples to preach the Good News to others that God was in their midst.  Very specific instructions are given along with authority to heal in Jesus' name.

You can virtually hear the smile of the Savior as He gives even more authority to the returning 72 who are gushing with their stories from the mission field.  Jesus reveals to these disciples who their enemy really is, and gives them complete dominion over that enemy.  

You see, the serpent and the scorpion were both symbols for Satan.  Most of us are quite familiar with the devil taking the form of a tempting snake in the Garden of Eden as detailed in the Book of Genesis.  However, it is likely few of us realize that aside from being a nasty, venomous creature, a "scorpion" is also the name of the very type of scourging whip* that was used to torture Jesus before his crucifixion.

Snakes and scorpions engender much fear in us.  They look wicked.  They have the ability to harm us, paralyze us, even kill us.  Often they seem so powerful to us that we are frozen and terrorized merely by the sight of these beasts, before they even strike.

Yet, the Savior of the World has given each of us who follow Him the power, the right, the dominion to tread on the ability of Satan.  You, dear friend, have the power to put your foot on the neck of your opposition just as the Israelites did in Joshua 10:24.  You need not be disturbed that anything can harm you, because God Himself assures you security.  You can resist the devil with confidence, knowing that any pain that comes your way is Father-filtered.  You know the outcome.  If God allows negative experiences in your life, it is to shape your character and for Him to be magnified.  In the end, you win, and Satan loses.

So what is your snake or scorpion?  Is it your child's diagnosis?  Is it the bill collector that continues to hound you until those medical expenses are paid off?  Is it the deterioration of your child's behavior, despite your best efforts?  Where does your enemy work on you?

Take heart, fellow struggler!  You are not alone.  The Holy Spirit who lives inside of you has given you marching orders with the power to trample these enemies under foot.  You know the outcome.  This only represents a season you are passing through.  God has His best in mind for you and those you love.  When you feel frozen and terrorized by your snakes and scorpions, proclaim with the authority given to you, "Don't tread on me!", and move forward in the power of Christ.  You are the head, not the tail!

PRAY:  Jesus, only with your instruction can I learn how to go forward with this day.  Holy Spirit, fill me with the wisdom to follow Your directions, so that the power You give me to handle life's challenges is fully available to me.  Thank You for the ability to walk in freedom and authority, rather than fear and destruction.

*The New Unger's Bible Dictionary, Unger, Merrill, RK Harrison, Moody Publishers; New Edition edition (June 1, 2009), p 1140
 

Photo Image Courtesy of 123RF

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Mile in Our Shoes

Let us, then, hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we have a great High Priest who has gone into the very presence of God—Jesus, the Son of God. Our High Priest is not one who cannot feel sympathy for our weaknesses. On the contrary, we have a High Priest who was tempted in every way that we are, but did not sin. Let us have confidence, then, and approach God's throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it.
~ Hebrews 4:14-16, GNT ~

"Honey, I went into a meeting this morning with my boss, and...  I lost my job."

Words can barely explain the feeling that hits a person when they hear this from their spouse, especially if that spouse is the main breadwinner in the household.  Life as you know it is up-ended.  Your mind races to a million horrible places that it should never go -- "How will we pay the bills?  What if we lose the house?  Will we be able to afford adequate health insurance, especially for our child?".  Fears that you could never anticipate eschew forth from children's mouths -- "Promise me this doesn't mean that you will get divorced like Johnny's parents did!  Will we lose our pets?  Can we still drive our car or do I have to walk everywhere now?"  There are sad faces and downcast eyes when the children have to be told "no" at their request to buy some small treat that currently doesn't qualify as an absolute necessity.  The stress can literally be debilitating if you allow it to be.  It is hard to push on and take the next step, living life as usual. 

This past week we returned to this extremely difficult life scenario as my husband joined the millions of Americans who are without a job.  I say returned because we have been down this road several times before.  Our prayer is that we will better glorify the Lord this time around and not find our hope and trust in Him fading. 

Early in this journey, I am much encouraged.  Allow me to share with you why.  They say, "No one understands like a person who has walked a mile in your shoes."  How true!  In fact, this is largely why we have found value in developing our Parent Mentor Program.  I have seen this truth lived out by how my husband has treated other men who find themselves between jobs over the years.  Because he has endured the pain, the ego-bruising, and the anxiety of unemployment in the past, my husband has remarkable compassion for other guys facing this challenge.  We women don't seem to have a good grasp of what men feel when they go through this type of trial, so it warms my heart to see my husband reach out as only another male can. 

The day after word got out that my beloved had been pink-slipped, our house became another Grand Central Station.  First came a visitor who had faced losing his job a number of years ago.  He commiserated with my husband about the immense weight a man feels when he perceives himself as being unable to provide for his family.  After he and his wife had left, men whom my husband had supported or encouraged through similar circumstances stopped by one after another for an impromptu visit.  

It took my breath away as I witnessed what God was doing.  He was sending through our door the knowledge that He is present with us in the darkness of our news.  Having men who had walked a mile in my husband's shoes pay a comforting visit was the Lord's tangible sign to us that He cares about us in the midst of our crisis.  And through these visits He also proved the truth in His word from Proverbs 11:25, "A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed." (NIV)  This promise was certainly not why my husband ever extended mercy, listening time and a pat on the back to others, but it is an assuring comfort when the Holy Spirit reminds us of it in our time of need.

After the doorbell had stopped ringing, it suddenly occurred to me that even without this stream of fellow sojourners coming through our door, there is another Person who has walked a mile in our shoes.  In Matthew 8:20 (NLV), "Jesus said to him, 'Foxes have holes. Birds have nests. But the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.'"  He didn't have a paying job the last 3 years of his life.  He didn't know where he would sleep, eat, live.  His walk fully relied on the provision of Jehovah Jireh.  And because He has walked a mile in our shoes, and went through all of that human uncertainty, Jesus is fully reliable to cling to during these times we face.

What comfort!  Jesus gets it.  So even if the road gets long and the visits or encouraging words from friends are few, we have a Savior who has walked a mile in our shoes.  With only the whisper of our heart's concerns, He is at our side to help us get through.

PRAY:  Lord, every good and perfect gift comes from You.  Because You suffered like us in every way, yet didn't succumb to the sins that our self-pity engenders, You have made a path for us to boldly claim those gifts when all hope seems lost.  Thank You for caring about our every need.  Like the birds of the air or the flowers of the field we can live peacefully knowing that you will not abandon us.

Photo Image Courtesy of: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday, October 18, 2013

Attitude Is Everything

Don’t act out of selfish ambition or be conceited. Instead, humbly think of others as being better than yourselves. Don’t be concerned only about your own interests, but also be concerned about the interests of others. Have the same attitude that Christ Yeshua had.
 
Although he was in the form of God and equal with God,
    he did not take advantage of this equality.
Instead, he emptied himself by taking on the form of a servant,
    by becoming like other humans,
    by having a human appearance.
He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
    death on a cross.
This is why God has given him an exceptional honor—
    the name honored above all other names—
so that at the name of Yeshua everyone in heaven, on earth,
    and in the world below will kneel
and confess that Yeshua Christ is Lord
    to the glory of God the Father.
~ Philippians 2:3-11, NOG ~

Have you ever had one of those "Come to Jesus" moments?  I mean the type of moment where suddenly the veil has been lifted and your eyes are opened?  The type of moment when you suddenly realized that you were the problem and not your circumstances?

I recently attended my annual BSL Women's Retreat.  The topic was "Relentless Forgiveness:  Forgiven to Forgive".  Seeing that I usually have 3 precious kids making demands of me, I rarely get time for deep self-awareness like I do at retreat.  God did some deep work in me this year, and it is work that is worthy of sharing with you.

You know, the world tells parents like us that we have a right to be angry.  That our lives are unfair.  That the world owes us something because we have a child that has special needs.  It isn't supposed to be this way.  We have every reason to be bitter.

Yet, when we ask help of that same world, we can often be left twisting in the wind.  The world that tells us we should be angry ends up making us angry by refusing to accept our children, by being too self-absorbed to assist us when we're barely hanging on, and by often treating us indignantly, like we are a bother to others around us.  According to human culture, we should be putting our hope in cures and money.  These lies fall flat as we struggle on.  This only adds to our sense of frustration.

The anger and bitterness from these misguided expectations can leave parents like us with a bad attitude about almost everything.  It was during the quiet of my retreat that I came face to face with this stubborn, ugly attitude in my own heart.  I suddenly realized that all of my irritation, edginess, and short-tempered responses were not merely because I was seeking answers for my children, but because my own desires were not being met.  It was ugly to see that I am reactive because I don't want interruptions to my schedule to run to a hospital.  I want to know what "disposable income" means rather than having everything go to either basic living or medical bills.  I want healthy, happy kids, rather than always having to comfort sad, harassed, anguished children who face the hardest parts of life at too young an age.  I want what my neighbors have.  I am tired of seeing life's jerks enjoy a comparably easy life.

Do you hear what I was hearing in myself?  "Me, my, I, I, I."  Suddenly, I didn't feel edgy, but rather repentant.  What would I think if I were sitting next to a person like me?  Would I think they were godly if they were always so indignant?

In the stillness of time with God, the thought was reinforced to me that attitude is everything.  How we frame our circumstances mentally, prayerfully, has everything to do with how we behave.  When the Lord is called "my shield" in the Bible, it doesn't necessarily mean that he prevents everything from touching us.  The revelation, instead, is that anything He allows to touch us, touches Him first.  He is wrapped around us as our shield.  And any suffering we or our children may endure allows us to enter in to His Divine nature.  What a privilege!

Instead of heavy sighs and eye rolling, these insights imparted from intimate, quiet time with my Creator, left me realizing that I was a fool, passing up an opportunity uniquely chosen for me and my family.  God has our family sitting smack dab in the middle of His activity.  We are granted the honor of participating in that activity.  This is news that is not worthy of disgust, but humble resolve, of gratitude, not grumbling.

Will you work on your attitude with me?  We have a unique platform to show the world what Jesus looks like, and we may be blowing it.  Let's adopt His attitude and cast aside the toxic mentality of the world!

PRAY:  Holy Spirit, only by Your power in me can I reframe the way I view my circumstances.  I forget way too easily.  Remind me what my challenges really mean.  Remind me that You are allowing me to be involved in Your activity.  That is much better than anything I could expect for myself.
 

Photo Image Courtesy of 123RF

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Sisterhood of Warrior Moms

For I want very much to see you, in order to share a spiritual blessing with you to make you strong. What I mean is that both you and I will be helped at the same time, you by my faith and I by yours. 
~ Romans 1:11-12, GNT ~

I am feeling my oats today.  I recently launched a full-on assault against some pediatric specialists who proved themselves unworthy of caring for my child.  Don't get me wrong -- I wasn't nasty.  I did, however, assert myself by documenting troubles and mailing that documentation with complaint letters to these specialists, either requesting change or telling them that they were no longer in our employ.  To my surprise, the specialist whom I had asked for change called me today with great kindness, assuring me that they still want us as patients of their clinic. He suggested that we work with the specialist that he recently hired away from his previous employer, a younger doctor, well-acquainted with current best practices and methodologies.

I felt a send of victory and relief as a "warrior mom" who had firmly, but politely, advocated on behalf of her child.  The situation could have gone the other way.  This specialist could have called me with great irritation or disdain after receiving my letter.  Yet, he responded with professionalism and my goal was achieved.

Sharing the Spiritual Blessing

The balance of fighting for our children while hoping not to lose our cool or make our status worse, makes our sisterhood of warrior moms essential.  Our  stories serve to encourage one another.  We gain strength by watching each other conquer obstacles.

The enemy you are sparring with might be financial.  In watching you, I might learn to be a better steward of my earnings.  I could learn about a new resource for financial aid or patient assistance.  You may even show me what my rights are with disputing a health insurance claim denial.  In such mind-numbing territory, you strengthen me.

I might be doing battle with my child's school.  In watching me, you might learn about educational rights.  You could gain knowledge about navigating an IEP.  I may even point you to some excellent online resources or a local advocate to help you.  In dealing with such a stressful piece of  the education journey, I strengthen you.

And when any of us charges forth in these warrior mom encounters with godly integrity, we kick the inspiration, strength and spiritual blessing to a whole new level.  If you can be firm, but fair, and still treat your adversary as a child of God, then you make it possible for me to do so as well.  If I can keep my cool in a meeting with those who seem to be working against me and my child, but vent to you afterward, then I am demonstrating for you a Christ-like response to our "enemies".

Spurring Each Other To Greatness

"As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend," Proverbs 27:17 (NLT) tells us.  This sisterhood of warrior moms keeps our fights clean and assures God's best for us.  We spur one another on to greatness as we live our lives out loud, sharing the journey together.  We inspire the best in each other as we share our stories, encourage, and comfort other battle-weary sojourners.

Thank you to all of my fellow warrior moms.  You help make me the mother God intends me to be for my remarkable children.

PRAY:  Yahweh God, thank You for making us relational beings.  Bless my warrior mom sisters!  Thank You for their example and the way they strengthen me.  I pray that I might be an equal encouragement to these fellow parents.  

*For information on our Parent Mentor Program, see our links here and here or e-mail barb@snapin.org for an application.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Bathing in the Healing Power of Forgiveness

 As holy people whom God has chosen and loved, be sympathetic, kind, humble, gentle, and patient. Put up with each other, and forgive each other if anyone has a complaint. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Above all, be loving. This ties everything together perfectly.
~ Colossians 3:12-14, GW ~

As you are checking in today, I am away at my annual women's retreat in the great Northwoods.  I cherish this time, 4 days every year, to pull away from the usual duties in my life and refresh.  I get intense time with God and much-needed time to enjoy myself with other precious women.

This year, the theme is "Relentless Forgiveness:  Forgiven to Forgive".  I don't know one of us who doesn't need constant work in that area.  In fact, the Lord has already been working on my heart ahead of this weekend, cleaning house.

Since I can't take each of you with me, I thought you might make this journey of forgiveness with me by availing yourself of this resource developed for Key Ministry's Inclusion Fusion special needs ministry web summit back in 2011.  As you have time over this weekend, pour yourself a favorite beverage, put the world on hold and spend some time listening to what God wants us to learn about forgiveness.

BATHING IN THE HEALING POWER OF FORGIVENESS©

Notes and Recommended Resources


THREE AREAS WE STRUGGLE WITH FORGIVENESS
1.      Forgiving God  (Questioning, Feeling Violated)
2.      Forgiving Others  (Expectations, Hurtful Words, Hurtful Deeds)
3.      Forgiving Ourselves  (Ruminating, Wanting to go back & do over, Depression)

B.A.T.H.E.
·         B stands for Believe (in who God is; in God’s holiness & mercy on us)
·         A stands for Attitude (our response to God’s forgiveness)
·         T stands for Trust (growing in reliance on God & know His ability to care for us)
·         H stands for Hand Over (continually releasing our hurts & anger)
·         E stands for Endure (persisting in handing over troubles to God & seeking to forgive)

Recommended Reading

Recommended Viewing

"John Piper Interviews John Knight"

Recommended Listening 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Neverendingness

 Being happy-go-lucky around a person whose heart is heavy is as bad as stealing his jacket in cold weather or rubbing salt in his wounds.[a]
~ Proverbs 25:20, TLB ~

For over 13 years I have slogged my family to a combined hospital clinic.  It may be any mix or arrangement of the 5 of us.  Although, there is usually only one of us they want to see.  I remember our first visit.  It seemed like an eternity sitting in that small exam room with my husband, a 3 year old daughter, and our  newborn son for 5 hours.  

I was so scared, overwhelmed and ignorant back then.  I had no idea that the hematology kids were treated on the same unit as the oncology kids.  Over the years, I saw so many hairless children, battling cancer of every kind, as we sat alongside them waiting for treatment.  It was there that I first learned that children with Down Syndrome were predisposed to a certain type of leukemia.  Such a difficult double diagnosis always made our troubles seems small.

Until those kids started graduating out of the clinic.  To God's glory, at least 80% of those children diagnosed with cancer are cured.  However, 100% of the children with my son's diagnosis, will never be cured this side of heaven.

That's what hit me at our most recent visit to the hematology/oncology clinic.  There is a "neverendingness" to my son's chronic illness, as there is to the battle that so many others like him fight.  Hanging hope on a cure in this life can be utterly frustrating and futile.

So we celebrate milestones, hurdles overcome.  There is this bell mounted on a wall near the check-in desk of the clinic.  On the last day of a cancer patient's treatment, much fanfare is made by ringing this bell loudly, declaring a proclamation, and posing for pictures to remember this victorious occasion. When our son learned to administer his own every-other-day intravenous medications this summer, I asked, "Hey!  Can he ring the bell?"  

"No," I was told by Patty at the check-in desk.  "That bell is only for the cancer patients."

If I weren't so sad and humiliated, I would have given her a snarky reply.

"I'll ring her bell!", I angrily told the psychologist we met with after that encounter.

If it were up to him, the doctor told us, we could have rung that bell.  After all, our son has been jabbed with IV needles nearly 3,000 times in his 13 years on earth.  That is no small thing!  Yet, we never get that conquering joy.

Don't get me wrong.  I wouldn't deny that victorious celebration to the child overcoming cancer.  EVER!  What they have overcome is monumental.  All I wish for my child is something to help us get through our neverendingness.

This week we had yet another visit to that clinic.  As my son was in with the psychologist, discussing ways to overcome all of the anxiety he faces in his difficult treatment, I sat reading in the waiting room.  Another cancer patient graduated, hair fully restored and all.  While he loudly clanged and made his proclamation, I looked away, swallowing tears.  The entire staff and waiting room were applauding as I dabbed my eyes, praying I was unseen.  I was also praying my son didn't hear all of the commotion of celebration, inside a room where he was busy trying to slay demons.  My heart broke in a million pieces again realizing that we will never have "arrived" with this disorder.  My son never gets to graduate.

O how I hate this neverendingness!

PRAY:  Abba, Father!  Nothing is too big or too small for You.  Strengthen us to persevere through the unrelenting battle with chronic illness.  Remind us to celebrate small victories as they come.  Confuse the plans of those who would derail our small landmarks, because we need those celebrations to give us hope and keep us going.

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 25:20 rubbing salt in his wounds, literally, “like vinegar upon soda.”

Monday, October 7, 2013

Of Training Wheels and God's Silence

Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, [a]the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses]. ~ Hebrews 11:1, AMP

We all want to be heard.  We all want to matter.  So when it seems as if we are utterly abandoned by God, our prayers and cries for help bouncing off the ceiling, it is easy to become completely discouraged.  Hope appears to be totally lost, never to return.

Whether we are a seasoned Christian or a teenager just coming to make our faith our own, we all battle with times like these.  I held a tearful child in my arms today, who wondered why it seemed as if prayers were unanswered, when her cries out to God were continual.  In my ministry role, I find myself comforting so many parents who wonder the same thing.

We find ourselves feeling just like our Savior in the moments before his death.  "At three o’clock Yeshua cried out in a loud voice, 'Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?' which means, 'My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?'" (Mark 15:34, NOG)

I have been there many times, and continue to visit that lonely place with more frequency than I would deem as "fair".  Nevertheless, I think these painful experiences help me speak with authority on the topic of pressing on when we feel abandoned.

Allow me to share with you what I told with my crying teenager regarding this agony.  Humans have felt this type of pain forever in this broken, sinful world.  From the time Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden, man has suffered in his separation from his Maker.  St. John of the Cross, who lived in the 16th century, wrote his famous poem and treatise The Dark Night of the Soul about this experience of God's silence.  He learned that times of spiritual "dryness" or feeling isolated are actually a means to grow us in spiritual maturity.  And St. John of the Cross learned through many painful experiences in life, writing this classic when he was imprisoned by his own religious order for 9 months.

In my own simpler language, let me explain that I have come to learn that these times are much like God taking our "training wheels" off.  Our faith hasn't reached its fullness until we stand in that faith even when we don't sense God's presence, spiritual joy, or positive feedback from others.  Up until that point, we are operating on feelings rather than faith.  Any time we are stretched to such a new level of capacity, it is uncomfortable.  


Yet, we know that one of the names of our Lord is "El Roi" meaning "The God Who Sees".  Whether we can feel it or not El Roi is present and active, carrying out plans for our good and His glory.  No tear falls apart from His sight.  (Psalm 56:8)  God is also known as "My Shield".  (Psalms 3:3, 7:10, 18:2, 18:35, 59:11)  This means that as we suffer, we can be assured that everything we endure is "Father-filtered".  Nothing touches us without touching Him first.

These truths are breathtaking!  Pondering the fact that our Creator cares this much for us should leave us amazed.  I am especially fond of the Amplified Bible's translation of Hebrews 11:1.  As stated above it says,

Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, [a]the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses].

Imagine that you hold the title, the piece of paper confirming that you already own what you hope for, even though you cannot see it with your eyes or feel it with your emotions!  What blessed reassurance!  When our hopes align with His desire for our good and His glory, we can be confident that those hopes are as good as fulfilled. 

Clinging to these truths about God, knowing they are immutable or unchangeable, is what keeps us steady when those training wheels come off.  Doing the next right thing and trusting the truth in what the Father tells us about who He is gives us endurance and perseverance in our own dark night of the soul.  That may mean scribbling what we know to be true on a notepad in our child's hospital room.  It may mean doing some "holy remembering" of all the things that the Lord has brought us through in the past.  Whatever the means, never stop reaching out to others, knowing that you are being drawn into a deeper level of intimacy with the One who really should be the greatest object of anyone's affection.

PRAY:  Jesus, even if I cannot feel You near, I will trust You when You assure me that You are always with me.  Holy Spirit, fill me with Your supernatural endurance and strength to get through these times of loneliness and spiritual dryness.  Help me to lean in to my dark night of the soul and grow in You, rather than abandoning my faith.

Footnotes:

  1. Hebrews 11:1 James Moulton and George Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament.

Photo Image Courtesy of: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Weather Geeks Have It!

We have been born into a new life which has an inheritance that can’t be destroyed or corrupted and can’t fade away. That inheritance is kept in heaven for you, since you are guarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed at the end of time.
 
You are extremely happy about these things, even though you have to suffer different kinds of trouble for a little while now. The purpose of these troubles is to test your faith as fire tests how genuine gold is. Your faith is more precious than gold, and by passing the test, it gives praise, glory, and honor to God. This will happen when Yeshua Christ appears again. ~ 1 Peter 1:4-7, NOG

You may be surprised to learn this, but I am a weather geek.  While I love sunny days with their crystal clear blue skies, I find dynamic weather to be exhilarating.  I feel blessed to live in a time where I can watch  weather movement on radar live via the internet.  Rumbling thunder is music to my ears.  I can barely take my eyes off of heavy snowfall.  And the fun part is that my delight is something I can share with my husband and children.  We are a family of weather geeks!

When we moved to our home a little over 12 years ago, the thing we came to enjoy the most was the fact that, because we were in a new subdivision, there were few mature trees around our house, so we could have wide open views to watch the skies.  Vistas of "anvil" clouds like the ones pictured above were suddenly easy to witness as weather around us would change.  In fact, I can even remember relaxing one evening, pointing our chairs facing north out of our living room windows, as we watched God's spectacular light show luminating such lofty cumulonimbus bodies.  There was no doubt the Lord's glory was on full display that night.

And isn't that the way it is with the trials we face in life as well?  Depending upon how we view the inclement or ominous, it can be either foreboding or bring glory to our Maker.  Preoccupied with ourselves, eyes focused downward, we can fail to witness or share the awesomeness of God in life's storms.  It is easy to become overwhelmed by cold, wet, darkness.  Anxiety nips at our heels, because all we want is shelter from the unpreventable that falls on us.  We shudder and complain that our circumstances aren't sunny, warm, and blue, the way we would prefer them to be.  We have plans, and they've been disrupted by the uncontrollable.

Yet, there is another view that brings God far greater glory.  In my weekly women's Bible study group (affectionately known as B.S.L. for Bible Study Ladies), we are currently studying the Book of Psalms.  This week we began pulling apart Psalm 3, which King David wrote while he was enduring the sorrow and fear of being murderously pursued by his own son Absalom, who coveted the throne of Israel.  Despite this unbelievable betrayal and threat, David shows us that the one thing we have control over when life is out-of-control is our response.  He displays for us how to bring God glory by our steady faith in the storm:
  • David cried out to the Lord in the midst of ominous and uncontrollable circumstances.  Only a self-abusive fool would call bad good.  The reckless person refuses to heed the weather warnings that tell us to take shelter (even if we are a weather geek).  David recognized that his circumstances were dire.  But in his crying out to the Lord (v 4), he emphasized that the God of his heart was greater than his greatest troubles.  Whether we are aware of it or not, the contrast we create by crying out to Yahweh in the midst of life's storms gives Him immense glory.
  • David recognized Yahweh as not only his shelter, but the lifter of his head.  In verse 3, David sets the scene for the ultimate outcome simply with the words, "But You, O Lord".  The size of his trials shrink when he compares them to the Almighty.  Is there any trouble that can overcome the shelter of God?  Anything that comes to us, must first come through Him.  And rather than the dread that besets us when our gaze is cast downward, He lifts our chin, focusing our view on His awesomeness.  That glory is breathtaking!  No matter the weather, He is stunningly wondrous!
  • As David's view is fixed upward, he acknowledges God's ability in the midst of the worst life has to hand out.  It is nothing short of a miracle to be able to calmly sleep and awake unharmed when you are being relentlessly hunted down by tens of thousands of soldiers.  David experiences the glory of the Lord in the simplest phenomenon amidst his trials.  As he repeatedly pauses and meditates on that throughout Psalm 3, he gives the glory he experiences right back to Yahweh by again crying out for help and affirming the Lord's character.  Life is unfair, but Yahweh is the ultimate arbiter of justice.  Problems can be huge, but His salvation and blessings dwarf them.
I think that if he were alive today, David would be a weather geek too.  Using his Psalm 3 approach, even the most inclement weather can be glorious.  Likewise, we can experience the awesome glory of Almighty God, even in the greatest sorrows and challenges facing our remarkable children.  When we allow the Lord to lift our head and fix our gaze upward, others see the difference in us, and want to know our Jesus too.  What a privilege to not only experience God's glory ourselves, but also bring Him more glory by how we approach our circumstances!

PRAY:  (For today's prayer, please take a "Selah" moment to meditate on all that the Lord has brought you through while you listen to this relevant song by CASTING CROWNS)

Photo Image Courtesy of 123RF

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Gift of Each Other

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.

Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?

Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
~ Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NIV ~

Life has a way of beating us up...  Especially when we are raising a child with special needs.  Sometimes it can feel like we are fighting the war on endless, multiple fronts.  While we struggle with our child's cognition, emotional well-being or health, trying to responsibly manage their challenges, we can find ourselves having to advocate for their rights within the school halls at the same time.  As we attempt to provide for our kids by holding down a job, we can also find ourselves doing battle with the insurance companies or medical billing service.  The weight of the stress we bear can be crushing.  Yet, God has a priceless gift for us in the midst of these challenges.

I found myself praising God for that gift last week as I laid in bed with an unrelenting migraine.  

"Lord, thank You for the gift of each other in this storm," I whispered.  "I'm so grateful for my precious family."

It brought a smile to my face as I laid there feeling victimized by a stabbing headache that was surely triggered by some extra trials we have been facing lately.  I treasured the fact that I could feel such a deeply thankful, content heart in spite of how I felt physically.

You may not be old enough to remember the lyrics to Helen Reddy's 1974 recording "You and Me Against the World".  Although it may sound hokey if you do remember, one stanza captures the tender feelings engendered by having that shelter of one another in the storms: 
"You and me against the world,
Sometimes it seems like you and me against the world
And for all the times we've cried I always felt that
God was on our side."*

When everyone seems to be against us, what a blessing to at least have a family where we are loved.  When it seems we don't have a friend in the world, what relief to have a group of people where we always have that sense of belonging.  When all we can do is cry, how precious to be able to hug one another.  When the medical bills refuse to relent, how soothing to know that regardless of our finances, we have each other.  When the burdens are more than we can bear, what unspeakable relief it is to share precious memories or inside jokes with the few people in this world who "get it".

Regardless of how your family looks -- single parent or married, multiple children or only one -- you enjoy a remarkable gift that not every person in this world has the great fortune to claim.  As life's storms buffet you, hold one another close and treasure the fact that God has given you each other to love and strengthen.  It is a gift we take for granted far too often.  Thank Him for this blessing today.

PRAY:  Father, I am so grateful that you made us for relationship.  You never meant for us to go through life's greatest challenges or joys alone.  Thank You for the gift of my family.  What a blessing to know that although we may not have it all together, together we have it all!

*"You and Me Against the World" is a song written by Kenny Ascher and Paul Williams, recorded by Helen Reddy for her 1974 album Love Song for Jeffrey.