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When the Unexpected Happens

August 26, 2015
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I hate surprises! I don’t like to open my closet door to find a scorpion on the rug. I don’t like to begin to bake a cake only to be surprised that the milk is sour. I don’t like to put on a new pair of hose only to have them run as I do so! I don’t like plan an outdoor event only to have a sudden downpour. You get my drift. I don’t like surprises.

A couple of years ago some friends gave me a surprise birthday party – that was OK! I liked that!

But when the unexpected happens it can throw us for a loop. A car accident. A devastating diagnosis. A reversal of finances. How do we handle it?

I think for all of us at first, immediately, there is shock. And that is God’s way of getting us thorough the first hours and days so that we can cope with the unbearable. Then there may be a time of denial “This can’t be happening.”, “She will come home tonight.”- perhaps those two go hand in hand. I am no expert but I have had some traumatic events in my life and I have seen these things play out in my life.

However, in the shock, in the surprise, in the denial is the overwhelming sense of God’s peace. He promises to never leave or forsake…I can give personal testimony to the truth of that fact. And His peace does pass all understanding. When the unthinkable happens we can know He is there even if we don’t feel or hear Him. For me, often it seems when I need Him the most He feels silent and distant. I am not alone; others, like C.S. Lewis, felt that too.

But don’t give up on Him. We cannot go by feelings only the truth of scripture. It tells us He is tuned into our cries; He hears and answers. Don’t quit reading the scriptures – even if just a sentence or two. Keep praying – even if it is just groaning. He hears our groans and understands them even when we don’t ourselves.

As a father whose child is hurting and would not turn away but is attentive, so God does not turn away from us and is attentive to our cries. He said to Moses at the burning bush, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people…I have heard them crying out…I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue…and to bring them up…” (Ex. 3:7-8) God does not ever change – He still sees, hears, rescues and brings up His children when we cry out for Him.

We can thank Him for that even in the darkest, loneliest times. He is with us – never to leave us. Ever.

Graduation!

August 14, 2015

My son in law, Maury Davis, graduates this weekend from the University of Virginia with a Masters of Information Technology! (He’ll walk in May.) He did it in less than a year with a full-time job at the University of Virginia with 4  children under eleven and a wife! Amazing! And he did it with a sweet, gentle spirit.

I am so very proud of him! I am a very satisfied mother-in-law (VSMIL) and a very proud mother-in-law (VPMIL)!

I know he did it but the whole family supported him – the weekends the kids did not have a dad around and the many nights my daughter carried the load. They did it together. Such a sweet family seeking to serve God and each other.

Please join in my happiness and pride for them.

If You Knew…

August 7, 2015

When Jesus encountered the woman at the Samaritan well she had lots of questions…some were genuine curiosity, some were genuine, wanting information, some were a way to keep Jesus away. We do that – ask questions, keep talking so we don’t have to see the truth in front of us.

Sometimes we don’t even bother to engage. Just pass on by. Not interested. I do that to the ladies at the perfume counter at the department stores or kiosks at the mall – I don’t even slow down as I pass by. I know that if I do, I’ll get snagged into a sales pitch.

But Jesus and this woman were engaged in conversation in the broiling sun – He had “snagged” her and she was interested. What He was saying was intriguing and He had her attention – but it didn’t make much sense to her.

Then He said to her, “If you knew …you would have asked…and he would have given…”

That caught my attention this morning.

If we really knew we were dealing with the Almighty God who loves us passionately and what He wants to give us then we would ask – in a different way. We would want to grab hold of all He has for us. Instead, we (I) don’t know or don’t acknowledge we are talking with the One who knows, has, governs, creates, sustains all things. We don’t engage Him fully with our full selves. The scripture says, No eye has seen, nor ear heard, no mind has conceived wha God has prepared for those who love him.” (I Corinthians 4:9) Do we really think about that?

If we did…then we would ask. Ask all the questions we have (He never tires), ask for the wisdom we need for the decision ahead; ask for the strength to get through the day; ask for restoration of the relationship; ask for the patience with our child; ask for an extra measure of love for that person so had to love; ask for help in forgiving the past wounds inflicted by others…no end to the questions/needs we have. All we have to do is ask.

In asking we acknowledge we do not know…we’re not supposed to. The important thing is that we know Who has the answer and we turn to Him.

And it says, “He would have given…”

How many times has He been ready and willing to give and we have not asked? We thought we could do it on our own. We didn’t have the time to ask. We miss so much that He wants to give to us.

Now we know…

If God Came Down

July 30, 2015

I read in the Bible yesterday, “Bow Thy heavens, O Lord, and come down.” (Ps. 147:5) Do we really want God to come down? Perhaps we’d like Him to stay in His heaven – distant. He is safer that way. We don’t want Him to intrude into our comfortable lives.

If He did come down, what would He find?

Well, we look at our world and, at first glance it is a mess. Things seem out of control. Hopeless. Killings. Moral decay – if not abandonment. Cheating. Bribery. War. Distrust. Greed. Ingratitude. Selfishness. Bankruptcy. Inequity…the list could go on… It looks grim.

But if we take a deeper look we see good things. Hopeful things. Relationships are getting healed. Forgiveness is being lived out. Progress in the fight to cure terrible diseases. Dialogue between sworn enemies. The Gospel is being preached in more places than ever before. People are getting to know God personally. Neighbors help neighbors. Children laugh. Couples are in love. Flowers bloom. Hope shows in faces.

Maybe some of that seems shallow…maybe it is. But God wants us to enjoy life. It is a gift He gave to us to enjoy. What if you gave someone a lovely gift but all they did was moan about how hard it was to maintain and complain about all they didn’t have? Is that what we do? Too often I think so.

I remember visiting an Eastern European country some years ago with Operation Christmas Child. The country had been under a ruthless dictator. As I looked into the eyes of the people walking in the city – even in the faces of children – I saw such despair. They had no hope. It was very sad…

What if God came down and walked around my town? What if He came to my house? Would He see joy? Delight? Hope? Would He see gratitude?

One of mankind’s greatest sins is ingratitude. Are you guilty? Am I? Right now think of one thing you are grateful for…name it out loud. Thank God for it. That’s a form of worship.

Negotiations

July 14, 2015

Well…POTUS announced a nuclear deal with Iran. Makes one’s mind spin.

There are Christians suffering in Iran because of their faith in Jesus. Was that issue addressed in these negotiations? Were they considered “collateral damage”? Or maybe just not worth the effort, not valuable. I got the feeling that POTUS was not going to let anything stand in the way of this deal – even lives.

Let’s pray for those held in Iranian prisons because of their faith who may suffer even more intensely now. Pray for their families. We cannot forget them now- especially now.

At a time like this I know I think more as an American and not s a citizen of the world. I am proud of my country and her great history. She is the greatest nation in the world – a beacon of hope and freedom to so many. I fear the light is fading slowly. Maybe not so slowly now…

But God is still alive and well. We have read the last chapter and we know who wins. POTUS is God’s man for this  hour but he is not in charge! God is! We can rejoice!

Gender Dysphoria

July 7, 2015

I may make some enemies here…but I have learned something new…”gender dysphoria”. It is the condition of gender “mismatch between one’s psychology and biology”. I read an article by Mark Yarhouse in the new issue of Christianity Today that helped me understand this issue better. I am still not sure I can wrap my head around it but I want to understand so that I might exhibit grace to those who do experience the reality of it.

It is a real issue. Men who identify more as a female and women who identify more as a male. A la the former Bruce Jenner. He is not the first but, at the moment the most famous.

If I am honest, I dismissed much of it as aberrant behavior. As a choice. It isn’t. Somehow, someway that I can’t begin to understand, these individuals have an “incongruence between one’s biological sex and one’s psychological and emotional experience of gender”. It can become such a distressing experience it affects the life and work of the one suffering. It then is a diagnosable condition. This is different from “transgender” and “homosexuality”.

The professionals do not know what causes it. No doubt it happens in utero as the chemicals wash over the fetus determining maleness or femaleness. One can make oneself live with the biological sex and gender role learning to cope with it; engage in cross-gender behavior on occasion or make the move to cross-gender through reassignment surgery. Often it simply goes unresolved as the person lives in fear and shame never seeking help.

Do I understand? No. Do I know a transgender person? Not that I know of. Do I think it is sin? I am not sure. Is the person acting out in sinful ways? Dr. Yarhouse points to Deuteronomy 22:5 as God’s restriction to avoid pagan practices in a pagan culture. It must be noted that there is the sacredness of our maleness and femaleness that God put into creation.

This discussion will go on for many years to come. I think it is good to have it out in the open to try to understand and exhibit grace. Not to be trite but, what would Jesus do? Knowing the painful struggle of those who authentically have gender dysphoria I believe He would reach out in love and grace – not ridicule and rejection and condemnation. We must follow His example.

When Christian Leaders Fail

June 25, 2015

I may have posted this before…but in light of this week’s events, I thought it worth reposting. Let’s not forget to pray for those caught in the wake of sinful choices.

My house is surrounded by huge oak trees. I am not good at estimating sizes but most of them are about 6 to 8 feet in diameter and rise to a lofty height of 100+ feet. These are magnificent giants. I enjoy their shade and watching the squirrels romp along their long, sturdy branches. They are messy trees in the fall as they drop millions of acorns not to mention leaves. In the spring their stringy pollen clogs gutters, drain pipes and it is tracked into the house where I try to keep a futile effort to keep it out. In the summer the squirrels begin to build their drays and drop leaves and branches. Each morning I arise to find a new crop in my yard. And it’s sort of fun to see how they travel from one yard to the next making a mess on different lawns – “The case of the traveling squirrels”. They have a whole neighborhood going in on my street! Anyone who lives under oak trees can identify.

This summer we had a violent thunderstorm one night and lightening struck hard. I knew it had hit close but didn’t think much about it. The next morning I was up early to fix my coffee and noticed one of my trees had split bark. I looked twice thinking, “I don’t think that tree looked that way yesterday.” When I went into my yard a little bit later to weed my flower beds there was shredded bark everywhere. Even on my roof! Still, sort of clueless, I picked up the large chunks of bark to throw out. As I got closer to the tree I could see that the bark had been skinned away – not off – just away from the trunk. It was a huge gash that went all the way down the tree. Then it began to dawn on me that the tree had been hit by a powerful bolt of lightening.
But I was hopeful. Since it hadn’t been girdled I thought perhaps it would survive. I hate to see big trees being cut down or dying. The tree expert came out and informed me that when lightening strikes a tree the sap boils and causes the bark to explode outward. Sadly, he said that a tree that size rarely survives. It wasn’t long before I noticed that the topmost leaves were withering, turning brown and falling. It would have to be cut down – and that will be quite a project!

It will leave a huge gap in my skyline. The shade it provided for my yard will vanish. The breeze in its’ branches will cease. The playground for the squirrels will go. It makes me sad and I wish somehow I could save it.

In all of this I have thought a lot about giants falling.

In the past few years we have seen giants fall very publicly and in very ugly ways. Politicians. Preachers. Actors. People we respected. It is painful. It makes us cynical. Too often we feed on the titillating details. We buy the gossip magazines. We think, “If they did that, then maybe I am not so bad after all”. In a perverse way we feel better about ourselves. How many of us stop to pray for them, their families and those affected by their fall?

I would hope that at some point we would examine our own lives. I would not like to have my deepest failings and sins paraded out on the evening news. Where are we, where am I, vulnerable to lightening strikes? In ethics? Morality? Finances? Addictions? Anger? Our leaders stood tall because we put them in that place. We like to put people on pedestals. We look up to them. Yet fail to recognize that they are just humans – like you and me. We stood in the shadow of their leadership. True and righteous leadership is found in God alone. We felt stronger because they appeared strong. Our strength comes from God alone. We listened to their wisdom forgetting that true wisdom is embodied in the Person of Jesus Christ.

Sadly we have hewn out cisterns that leak. Don’t hold water. (Jeremiah 2:13) And we are surprised when they fail. They, we, all need grace and forgiveness. The good news is that God is a God of grace and forgiveness. He redeems and wastes nothing – even our faults and failures.

This giant tree fell. But it doesn’t mark destruction alone. It marks a new beginning. Knowing God does not waste anything I began to think about the positive side. The shade may go but a new vista shows as mountains become visible. More sunlight will shine on my yard which will be good for my flower beds. The breeze in the tree tops may cease but the lumber will be used to build new homes. The play ground for the squirrels will go but the squirrels will find another tree to build their drays. God has already provided for them. And just think there will be fewer leaves to rake this fall!

It will be fun to discover what grows. There will be more sky and space. I’ll have more sunshine in my back yard. And I love sunshine!

So it is when giants fall. It is a time for a new beginning as God gets rid of the dead wood in lives. Sometimes His pruning is hard – lightening strikes – we feel stripped, exposed, angry, hurt, humiliated, ashamed but His purposes are always for our good. New areas for service and growth show themselves. God’s light will shine in ways not possible before because the giant blocked the light. Look at the change in Charles Colson after he fell.

When giants fall it is a time for forgiveness, grace, humility and self-examination. The scriptures say in Galatians 6:1-2, “…even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens and thereby fulfill the law of Christ”. And again in II Corinthians 2:5, “But if any has caused sorrow…sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority, so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.”

When our giants fail us and fall when we fail ourselves and fall, God doesn’t abandon us. He already has a new plan in mind. As we yield to His purpose for us we begin to see that what He has in mind is far better than we could have planned for ourselves. He gives us a new beginning and it is good.

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