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Posts Tagged ‘healing’

Hand ReachingI love the way friends and family rally around when there’sa  big crisis. We pray, we bring food, we give words of encouragement, cards, little gifts, offers of help and anything else that comes to mind because we recognize a critical need.

But sometimes the smaller challenges go unnoticed and yet are often the sandpaper that wears the body down leaving it raw and open to depression and despair. An outsider might look and wonder how something small in comparison to what others are going through could have such impact.

I’m afraid I have been guilty at times of brushing off what I considered lower priority battles.

When my friend went through cancer I was there for her, constantly trying to think of new ways to encourage and give hope. I jumped in and rallied others to do the same. It’s not hard to be inspired into action when someone you love is facing a life and death situation.

But what if it doesn’t look like a life and death situation? What if it’s not big on the Richter scale of crisis but it’s huge on the personal scale of an individual’s limits at that moment in time?

I learned a great lesson summer before last when I severely damaged both my feet in a fall. The first few days were certainly noteworthy on the crisis scale. But after that, life settled into ice packs, crutches, physical therapy, the inconvenience of not being able to move as fast as I wanted and the insult of ugly shoes. (Yes, I am a cute shoe fanatic.)

When I looked around, there were people with much more serious injuries, illnesses or life challenges. Still found my small scale troubles pushing me into depression.

I think my biggest problem was feeling I didn’t have the right to complain or whine or get discouraged because my problem wasn’t that big. Of course, the size of a crisis doesn’t always determine the size of its impact. It made me stop and look around at what was going on in the lives of those closest to me. Were any of them where I was – minor trouble, major impact?

I’ve seen people sail through stuff that would bring a prize fighter to his knees. And I’ve seen people crumble under what appeared to be a minor annoyance in the scheme of things. I think I was almost one of them the summer of the foot fiasco.

Through that experience I have gained a great appreciation for waves of life that keep washing over the solid rocks on the shore. You can be rock hard and still be worn down by constant pressure no matter how gentle a disguise it comes in.

Every time that rock enjoys a little drying out in the sunshine, it once again gets a good soaking. I have friends who are like that rock. It seems that each time they get their head above water, they get soaked again. It’s seldom a tsunami. It is more often a shower. But after a while, a person can get waterlogged and the moments of sunshine are hard to enjoy. Please God, give me insight when they get to that point.

Here’s to my friends who have not gotten the cancer diagnosis or lost the loved one or faced the giant mountain of a lost job or something equally monumental but who still face challenges every bit as life threatening.

I recognize your daily struggle trying to slog through the paperwork for the divorce, the dissatisfaction with the job you have, the annoying health challenge, the trying marriage, the chronic pain, the never-quite-enough money situation, the tough decision making, the acceptance of things not going the way you want them to again.

Don’t discredit your need for help, encouragement and support. Don’t belittle your reaction to what others might consider minor worries.

If it makes you sad, if it makes you tired, if it makes you want to give up and cry – I understand. I’m praying for you. I’m reaching out to you and I’m ready to jump in and do what I can to help.

Just think of me as the very absorbent pink fluffy towel standing ready for the next dousing.

You just call out my name and you know wherever I am, I’ll come running (Carole King, 1971)

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. Psalm 34:17 (God, from the beginning of time through forever)

 

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MB900422771[1]With this being the 40th anniversary of Roe versus wade, the news has been filled with commentary from both sides. You can read the pro life side and you can read the pro choice side and both have parts and pieces of logic.

I firmly believe the reason we can’t come to an agreement on the issue is because we have never had the right to even have a choice in the matter. Only God has the knowledge and foresight and vision to know whether a life is valid. And since He is the one who creates that life in the first place, He is wise enough not to create something of no value.

All of the arguments aside, I got a practical lesson on the whole issue this week. It was a beautiful illustration of life value and I wish I could pass it on to every pro-choicer out there.

The real story began over 60 years ago when a baby boy was born to the parents of one of my best friends. He was severely handicapped from the start, his body twisted and useless. And though normal communication was not possible, it soon became apparent that his mind was sharp and comprehension of the world around him keen. His fierce determination to fight for life earned him the nickname of Tuffy.

For 60 years his family has faithfully loved and cared for him. They were his advocates when the long term care facility was giving less than adequate care. They went out of their way to make sure he spent holidays with the family. They visited regularly – almost every day – for 60 years to make sure he knew he was loved. They managed to understand his method of communication and did everything they could to address his needs.

I have seen them kiss him and hug him, shave him and joke with him. I have watched them turn his chair for the best view out the window, readjust his pillows to assure comfort, get in the faces of medical staff to get them to listen, and nurse him through fevers and infections.

My precious friend has her own serious health problems, has a very challenging marriage, lost a daughter in her twenties to cancer and fights every day to keep her head above water. Never once have I heard anger, bitterness, regret or impatience over the demands of keeping Tuffy safe and secure. While from the outside this did not look like a regular, gather around the dinner table every night kind of family, it was no less a family because of Tuffy. In fact, the extra effort needed to hold them together probably made it more of a well bonded family than most.

Several times, especially in the last few years, Tuffy became critically ill. Never did my friend wish for it to be over. Her prayers were always for comfort and healing. She never asked that her life be easier, only Tuffy’s. 

Tuffy passed away this past week and my friend along with her family have deeply grieved.

To my friend he was never a burden, he was a brother. His life served a purpose regardless of his ability to walk and talk in a “normal” manner. I believe Tuffy’s life made her kinder, more thoughtful, more compassionate, more tolerant and more thankful than life without him would have.

Was their life easy with a child like Tuffy? Not in the furthest sense of the word. Was their life better because of Tuffy? You bet it was. He brought a light and a love, a focus and family closeness, and  lessons beyond measure.

Tuffy was different but no less dear to his family than any other son or sibling. I rejoice that he is free of his twisted body and running around heaven shouting and singing today. And I thank God for my friend and the life lesson she passed on by embracing what others might have called a life of little value.

If we could all let God handle life and death and just tend to the things He gives us control over, events like Roe versus Wade would not exist. Instead, love and compassion would take their place.

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:13-16 

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MB900427740[1]Two interesting stories came my way recently and made me examine our tendency to generalize.  It also caused me to examine the way Jesus listened individually not collectively to the people He came in contact with.

The first story hit the headlines in our town, was repeated several times on the local news stations and stirred many heated discussions.  A 50 year old man, a familiar figure because of his daily begging on the same busy street corner, was found dead in his vehicle from an apparent drug overdose.  The police also found $1,700 in cash and over $83,000 worth of cocaine in his possession. Week after week this man had put on his beaten down face, shuffled back and forth in a humble, down on his luck manner and and carried a sign pleading for “just one dollar”.

You can only imagine the reaction from the community.  Much ranting and raving about how these street corner beggars are all con artists, dangerous criminals, only used the money collected to buy drugs, and should be outlawed. I can honestly say not one radio caller or letter writer voiced any kind of compassion. I can also honestly say I did not feel one ounce of compassion for the main character in this story.

My second story didn’t hit any headlines or talk shows. It was related to me by a co-worker who had walked from her home to a local convenience store. As she approached she saw a man standing by the door and could tell right away he was going to ask for a handout. Her mind flashed to the recent news story noted above and she shoved her hands deeper into her pockets where she was carrying several bills of different denominations.

Sure enough, the man approached her and asked for seventy cents. She was surprised at the amount and asked what he was going to do with the money. He answered that he was hungry and the convenience store sold corn dogs for seventy cents. She sensed honesty in his statement and quickly prayed for God to guide her. She felt compelled to give the man whatever bill she pulled out of her pocket. She had a twenty, a ten and a five. So she added to her prayer that God would let her fingers grasp the five.

Pulling out her hand she offered the money, which happened to be a ten dollar bill, to the man. To her surprise he refused it, reminding her he only needed seventy cents. She tried to encourage him to take the entire bill but in all humility he explained that all he needed was seventy cents and he would feel bad taking more. She went inside, picked up her purchases and on the way out handed the man seventy cents.

She couldn’t help but look back as she walked away and sure enough, the man was inside purchasing a corn dog.

Two beggars, two different motives, two different actions – proving not everyone lies, not everyone cheats, not everyone takes advantage of generous people.

We are so prone to generalize and paint similar groups with the same brush, be it race, ethnicity, gender, occupation or whatever else we can pounce on.  Jesus didn’t stop healing lepers because one was ungrateful. He addressed the honest questions of Nicodemis even though other religious leaders had ulterior motives. And when a crippled man was lowered through the roof, Jesus assessed his faith and addressed the real problem, not of his infirmity but of the sin in his life.

Jesus weighed each scenario, evaluated each need, studied each circumstance to make sure He did the right thing at the right time.  Very few things fit neatly in a box with a generic label. It takes an open mind and an open heart to seek the proper response in each situation.

There are plenty of people and talk shows and written articles to try to convince you that everyone is up to something. They will say don’t trust, don’t love, don’t give and don’t take a risk.

There is still one very good resource, however, to remind you that God listened to your story. He didn’t toss you into a pot of you’re-just-like-all-the-rest stew. Instead, He listened, He loved and He gave you what you needed. That resource is called the Bible, the precious Word of God. The more you study it the better you will be able to discern your part in the scheme of your every day encounters. Sometimes you will know to turn away and other times you will feel led to reach into your pocket.

Two stories, One God with all the answers.

“When Jesus saw how much faith they had, he said to the crippled man, “My friend, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2:5

 

 

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It happens every January 1, a new year like a blank page begging for a story.  It stretches out before you, not yet sullied, not yet marked by disappointment, not yet peppered with regret.  You look back and analyze the past year and there are always parts you’d like to erase.  You look forward and begin to make resolutions that will guarantee improvement.

There is excitement and enthusiasm for a while.  If you are like me, you get into a cleaning frenzy.  You reorganize.  You dust corners you’ve forgotten about for the past several months.  I would love to start every year by throwing out the old wardrobe and starting over with everything brand new, never worn. 

The first day of a new year is perfection – for about five minutes.  Hard as you try you can’t keep it that way. Before the day ends you’ve probably said something you wish you hadn’t, neglected something you should have taken care of, and shoved an item into a place it didn’t go. All those wonderful resolutions already starting to crumble and you have another 364 days to go.

Still, I am a hopeless resolution maker. I am a dreamer of better decisions, kinder thoughts, more generous actions and a deeper walk. I am a seeker of more meaning and richer relationships.  I am a planner of more organized days and fewer busy nights.

For several years now I have been reading through the Bible, beginning January 1st and finishing triumphantly December 31st. I have not failed to live up to this commitment yet.

And God has not failed to reveal new ideas and thoughts to me through His amazing words.  Here is the perfect example.

It’s January 3, 2013 and I have just read through the story of creation again.  I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve studied this particular section of scripture. However, this is the first time I was struck with how it parallels the start of a brand new year. Picture God looking out on nothing and deciding to create something, so He starts with light.

Now here is the clue God gave me for how to improve my life in 2013. God didn’t create light and jump to the next step. “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  God saw that the light was good,…” Genesis 1:3-4a

God took time to look His first step over and make sure it was good before moving on. What a thought!  Take time to make sure where you are is right and good before you move forward.

To me that means when the realization comes that I’ve stumbled in thought, word or deed, I need to stop and make amends. When I’m short with my husband, who is one of the few people who can push me from my normally tolerant and gentle self to irritation, I can’t just walk on.  I have to stop and ask forgiveness because I desire to please God in all things.  I want Him to look at me and say “that was good, move on.”

When I neglect my devotions or don’t take time with someone who needs time, or spread gossip, or fail to put all of my effort or talent in what God has called me to do, I need to go back and make it right.

God stopped several times in the creation process and assessed His work. Did the world He created stay beautiful and unsullied? Nope.  Man messed it up within a very short time, and continues to distort it every day. But that doesn’t change what God did.

Take some time this first week of 2013 to look for the original good in God’s actions that first week of the very first year ever.  Here’s what you will find:

  • There is still heart wrenching, soul moving beauty in a sunrise. 
  • There is still tranquility in the still waters and breathtaking power in a waterfall.
  • There is still majesty beyond description in the mighty mountains and cool, soothing peace in the lush valleys.
  • There is still hope in the shimmer of moonlight, laughter in the antics of animals, wonder in the effortless soaring of a bird, faith in the ebb and flow of the ocean.
  • And never doubt, there is still goodness in man. The news may try to hide it, evil will try to cast a shadow on it. But it’s there, every day, in the heart and spirit of the ones who choose to walk with God and live out love, forgiveness and grace.

Look for it and you will find it. When you do, remind yourself “it is good”.

 “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good….” Genesis 1:31a

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bth_MarywithBabyJesus[1]Merry Christmas to a world that has rejected the Christ part and embraced the shallow commercialism. If you really listen I think this is what you might hear, straight from the words of One who wriggled in a lowly manger, hung from a wooden cross, and now does His Christmas shopping by wandering among the crowds purchasing broken toys at full price and making them new again.

He might tell us He was cold on the night of His birth. The night wind came through the cracks of the stable wall and caused His tiny body, slick from birth fluid, to shiver.  But His mother knew. She quickly wrapped Him in what was handy and held Him tight against her heart, pouring her warmth and comfort into Him.  It’s where He learned how to hold us.

He might tell us He was frightened when He became separated from His parents and found Himself in the temple answering questions and sharing with the priests. But when He looked up and saw His mother and father enter, He felt strong and valued and secure. It’s where He learned to never stop seeking us when we go astray.

He might tell us He was disappointed many times over when He poured His heart into the people, touching and healing, teaching and caring, and then watching them walk away to never look back in gratitude or love. It’s where He learned to give, and give and give with no thought of payback.

With tears He might tell us of the fickleness of Peter, the betrayal of Judas, the horrible death of His cousin, John. But then with great conviction and wisdom He would say it’s where He learned that the ups and downs of life cannot overshadow the reunions in heaven or the hearts that change and go on to do great things in the name of His Father.

Rubbing the scars on the backs of His hands, He might say the pain of the cross was more agonizing then He could ever have imagined but the joy of introducing each newly redeemed soul to God the Father is so blinding He can’t see the cross behind it anymore. It was on that cross He learned how to let go of life and truly live.

For sure He would say that walking daily in a world that rejects His father, deliberately misinterprets His Word, kills His children, abuses His brothers and sisters, and allows His arch enemy to pollute hearts, souls and minds until they believe they are on the winning side is enough make a Savior want to wash His hands of it all and call it quits.

But then He would say there are diamonds sparkling in the filth, just waiting to be pulled from the mire, washed with His blood and placed in the mighty hands of God to be shining examples of what Christ can do. He would say that I alone was worth it all.  He would say that you alone are worth it all.  He would say that no matter how deep a diamond is buried, no matter how evil the environment His holiness has to enter, no matter how hard and bloody the battle, the end result – a child restored, redirected, and reconnected shines so bright His eyes are blinded to all it took to get there.

It’s why He still comes despite the cold He will experience, the loneliness He will be subjected to, the rejection He has come to expect, the pain that will nearly cripple Him along the way. He still comes to shop for broken people because He believes the buy of the century is one who can be gently repaired and put back on the shelf brand new.

 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?3 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.” Matthew 18:12-14

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MB900431278[1]Our Christmas program at church took place yesterday. It was filled with music, a little drama and a bit of narration to tie it all together.  I composed the narration and as I wrote in an earlier blog, I agonized over every word, praying it would be exactly right to bring people closer to Christ.

I want to share with you a piece of that narration I never could have known would have much deeper meaning in light of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut.

To introduce the part of our program that emphasized the birth of Jesus and led into a touching rendition of “Isn’t He Beautiful”, I wrote the following:

What child is born that a mother’s heart doesn’t melt the moment she sees his squirming wrinkled body?   What long anticipated newborn comes into this world that a mother’s love doesn’t overflow in a flood of emotion?

The weight of carrying, the pain of labor – all forgotten in the moment of that baby’s first cry.  A mother’s heart swells and she is convinced at that moment that her child is more beautiful, more perfect, more amazing than any other.

Mary was no different than other mothers in that respect. But when she gazed upon the infant Savior, she was consumed with much more than motherly love.

Mary saw a miracle, a mystery,  a majesty far beyond anything she’d ever experienced.  And at that moment, this woman of grace exhaled her last normal oxygen filled breath, and inhaled a new life.

Never again would her lungs expand without the presence of Jesus filling them.

Never again would she speak without the experience of Jesus softening her words.

Never again would her arms reach out without the feel of Jesus in them.

And this is the same for each and every one who lays down the former life and embraces the Christmas miracle.

As those words were shared during the program Sunday, my heart rushed to the parents grieving for lost children in Newtown, Connecticut. A senseless, tragic, unimaginable few moments have left them shattered. There are no words of comfort that could ease their pain, no quote of scripture that will cause the tears to stop falling – at least for a time. Grief, while it may soften, will be their constant companion for the rest of their life.

But the words God gave me for that narration reminded me of what we take for granted every day.  We have nothing except what God gives. The people we treasure in this life are merely on loan, sent by God’s grace to enhance our experience. Mary certainly discovered the truth of this when she watched her Son die.

Here is a wonderful reality in a time of great loss.  The physical presence of a loved one is gone, but God makes sure the memories are left behind to carry us through our time of grieving.

Like the words in the narration, here is what those parents are left with.  They will never again take a breath without the presence of their child filling it, never again speak without the experience of their child softening their words, never again reach out their arms without the feel of their child filling them. The experience of a child, regardless of how short the time span, changes us forever.

Nothing justifies the evil that took those children away.

But God, in His great compassion, will not leave those mothers and fathers bankrupt. He is prepared to fill their emptiness, catch their tears, heal their hearts and gently care for their children until they are reunited in the moment He chooses to bring them together again. Let us pray that through the cloud of pain and grief, they can see the hand of God extended.

“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.” Rev 21:4

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 This morniMB900262644[1]ng I was looking out the large window of my office, watching eight deer forage for food under a light covering of snow. Graceful, beautiful creatures in a winter landscape worthy of a Christmas card cover.  I’m sure my face reflected the peace and sense of contentment the scene outside my window evoked.  Psalm 42 immediately came to mind.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” Psalm 42:1

Shattering that peaceful reflection just minutes later, I caught a news flash of the shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut leaving twenty seven dead, eighteen of them children. I am sitting here now with tears streaming and a million questions running through my head.  How can something like this happen?  How can anyone feel anger so deeply it would lead them to this type of action?  I’m so confused. And I find myself crying out to God. 

“Why, God?  How can you let something like that happen?  I get that we live in an imperfect world and I get that you never promisCed us smooth sailing or lives exempt from sadness or pain.  But this? 

I am thousands of miles away from the tragedy and I want to run out of my office, pull my own grandchildren out of school and shelter them forever. I don’t want them to have to grow up in a world so ugly and so evil.

I am furious at the 20 year old shooter, angry at whomever or whatever brought him to this point, and to tell you the truth – I am upset with God.  I want Him to turn back the clock, bring those children home tonight to the parents who sent them off to school this morning never dreaming what lay in store.  I want the world to stop hating and hurting people. I want the peace on earth that songs of this season harmonize about and that the Bible promises.

The hardest part for me is being lulled into a picturesque, isn’t it pretty, all is well state of mind when at that very moment unspeakable tragedy, chaos, and ugliness was taking place.  Where is the justice in that?

The rest of Psalm 42, when I take time to read it, speaks to my mood.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. Where can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” Psalm 42:2-3

These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. Psalm 42:4

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:5

This is a “yet I will praise Him” time for sure. I can’t make sense of what happened this morning, or for that matter on any given day when the world out-shadows the glory of heaven.

Sometimes I praise Him with joy so overwhelming it lifts me off my feet and threatens to rupture my heart muscle it is so powerful.

Sometimes I praise Him when I’m walking through a ho hum time, my emotions too lazy to cause a ripple on an ekg.

And sometimes, like right now, I praise Him even though I’m weighed down and weary with crying.  Even though I am crying out “Why”, I am still singing “How great Thou art”. When fear and doubt and anger and confusion play basketball with my soul, I choose to see myself on the winner’s bench with my Coach’s hand on my life and on the dysfunctional world in which I live.

My soul does long after you, God, more than it longs for understanding or explanations when horror happens. I am hungry for your touch, thirsty for your living water, and desperate for your strength and your love to help me overcome the battles of life is this harsh world.

Please join me in praying for the families who are living this latest tragedy, for a society where this type of thing happens all too often, and for each of us individually that we might be a healing salve in a mortally wounded world.

By day the Lord directs His love, and at night His song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. Psalm 42:8

 

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