Friday, April 29, 2011
Monday, April 25, 2011
Sometimes we hear a story that initially sounds unremarkable. But then we hear what is behind the story and it gives insight that changes our appreciation for what we first heard. A reflective reading about a paralyzed man in scripture once brought about a change in perspective like that for our family. For Larry and I, it was the birth of our thinking about who our Walking Partners are and what they mean to us.
In short form, here’s the Bible’s recount of what happened to the paralyzed man:
Some men came, bringing to (Jesus) a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” MARK 2:3-5
What Larry and I used to remember most about this situation is that the man was physically healed (recorded later in verse 12) while Jesus claimed and proved to be God by also forgiving him. The central message of the story seemed clear, but we discovered there is so much more to be learned from this man’s experience. Reflecting on the back story deepened our faith and opened our eyes to a better way to live.
Consider this: a man’s life was forever transformed (inside and out) because there were friends who brought him to Jesus. His friends didn’t stop short at simply meeting his practical needs. They tore through somebody’s roof to get their friend in front of Jesus where more, so much more, was accomplished. Not only was the paralyzed man healed, he was saved from his sins and would spend eternity with God. To top it all off, many others witnessed it and glorified God.
I often wonder: Did this man ask his friends to take him to Jesus or did they initiate the journey with an offer to come pick him up after lunch? Did the man go willingly or did his friends have to urge him, prod him or just take up the corners of his mat saying, “You may not like it, but we’re going and you can’t do thing one about it!”
I’m glad I don’t know those details of this situation because it leaves all the options open. I’m stretched to consider many ways of walking in friendship that can be eternally meaningful — things like being willing to ask for help, initiating support even when it may not be welcomed, sacrificially giving my time, enthusiastically and tenaciously sharing my faith.
In the mid 1990s, Larry and I went through a storm in our marriage. Our small group of Bible Study friends and two Christian temperament counselors were instrumental in walking us back to a strong relationship with each other and into much deeper intimacy with our Savior Jesus Christ.
A few years later, after Carly was diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome in 2000, we had friends who helped us in several practical ways (probably not unlike the friends of the paralyzed man who helped meet many of his daily needs in addition to carrying his mat from time to time). But even more valuable than supporting practical needs, we had friends who came alongside of us in grief and confusion with prayer and Christ-centered encouragement. They helped us gain insight into what God’s purposes might be in our challenges. They took us to the feet of Jesus where the deepest longings of our hearts could be fully satisfied and things of eternal value could be birthed out of our suffering.
For all the support we have received, sometimes people have let us down too. We have been disappointed many times over the years when even close friends or family seemed to forget us. But even then, there were others who helped bring our focus back where it belonged — on our infinitely perfect Heavenly Father rather than on imperfect people who will always fall short. If the world could meet all of our needs, we would forget how desperately we need God. The best Walking Partners compassionately remind us of that.
LORD, I realize there is too much at stake to miss any opportunity to build friendships like this into my life. Help me to be strategic in developing Christ-centered friendships. Show me how to give and receive the kind of friendship that bears fruit of eternal value. AMEN
Friday, April 22, 2011
HOLY GOD, I am gripped on this Good Friday by the profound reality of who You are and the deep things I can learn from what happened at the cross. When I slow down to reflect on the enormity of the burden you bore for me and the infinite love you extend to me, I am compelled to better reflect that kind of love to my spouse. Show me how to express love towards my husband/wife the way Christ did for the Church. Help me to more gracefully receive my spouses’ imperfect but heartfelt expressions of love toward me. As our family celebrates Easter this weekend, show me how I can lighten a burden for my husband/wife the way Simon shared the load of Christ’s cross when it got too heavy to carry alone. Thank You, Jesus, for the hope and power of Easter! Please bring that same holy intervention into the “crosses” my family is bearing today. Help me never to forget that there is power in the blood! AMEN
HOLY GOD, I am gripped on this Good Friday by the profound reality of who You are and the deep things I can learn from what happened at the cross. As I reflect on the enormity of the burden you bore and the infinite love you extend to me, I am compelled to share that with others I love. Specifically, I want to pray right now for the married couples I know. Many of them are struggling with burdens and are still learning how to love each other well. Show them how to express love towards each other the way You did for Your Church. Help them to more gracefully receive each other's imperfect but heartfelt expressions of love. As my friends celebrate Easter this weekend, show them how they can lighten a burden for each other the way Simon shared the load of Christ’s cross when it got too heavy to carry alone. Thank You, Jesus, for the hope and power of Easter! Please bring that same holy intervention into the “crosses” my friends are bearing today. Help them never to forget that there is power in the blood! AMEN
Monday, April 18, 2011
"This mystery (marriage) is profound, and I am saying that it refers to the Christ and the church." Here is Paul's point. From before time began, God had marriage on his mind. He was preparing a bride for his Son, whom he would marry forever. It would take the crucifixion and resurrection of the Groom to bring this marriage to pass. Think of it. God created the most intimate human relationship, marriage, to speak of the intimacy of his relationship with his church.God created the institution of human marriage to reflect, or mirror forth, this eternal union. In other words, human marriage exists to point men and angels to the eternal marriage of Christ and his church. The gospel made this divine marriage possible. Here is our point: human marriage exists to preach the gospel. It exists to illustrate the fruit that should follow the preaching of the gospel in the church.To whom does our marriage preach? Of course, the first audience is God and his angels. They watch and rejoice, or if your marriage is a war zone, they grieve.Who is the second audience? Most of us think first about our non-Christian neighbors. Maybe they will see our attempts to model Christian marriage and want the gospel? They might, and we hope they will, but actually they are the third audience.The second audience, usually overlooked by most Christians, is our children. What is our marriage telling them about Christ and his bride? They see it all. They hear our fights. They absorb our attitudes. They know who or what really sits on the throne of our lives. They watch how we handle resentment. They hear the way we talk to each other. They know when we hear the Sunday sermon and apply it. They also know when we ignore it.The message that our marriage preaches either repels or attracts our children. God wants your child to watch your marriage and think, "I want a marriage like that, and I want the God that produced it." Or, "When I think of the beauty of the gospel, I think of my parents' marriage. I want to be part of a church that is loved by God the way my dad loves my mother. I want to be part of a church that finds its joy in submitting to Christ as my mother joyfully submits to my father."
Friday, April 15, 2011
Monday, April 11, 2011
I am a driven and impatient person who has been stretched in recent years to surrender my desires about the timing of things to God’s ever-wise timing. This does not come easily for me. I don’t like it when God seems mysterious or slow to respond — well, except for when He’s slow to get impatient with me.
Here’s are just a few of those things for which I’m waiting:
- Waiting for Carly to hit a new developmental milestone (she is our 12 year old daughter who has Angelman Syndrome)
- Waiting for educators in this country to awaken to more effective ways of teaching children with special needs
- Waiting for churches to respond more generously and Biblically to the needs of families facing disability
- Waiting for God to open doors for Larry to a new job (my husband has been laid off since 9/7/10)
- Waiting for a business goal to be accomplished and new ministry doors to open
- Waiting for resolution to a contract issue
- Waiting for an opportunity to do more writing and finish new books
- Waiting for clear answers to a prayer about an area of my life where I’m confused
Last night I spoke with about 30 women at a nearby correctional facility, each waiting out a lengthy incarceration for things like drug convictions and drunk driving arrests. This week I spoke with others who are waiting for things too.
- Waiting for healing
- Waiting for a spouse to come to his/her senses
- Waiting for a wayward child to come back home
- Waiting to lose more weight
- Waiting for encouragement amidst overwhelming circumstances
There are several reasons why waiting for God to reveal answers to my prayers is getting easier. One very gratifying reason is that I’m starting to see how profoundly God uses waiting times for HUGE things. Instead of waiting being a tedious, frustrating or worrisome experience, I’ve been noticing that God squeezes critical things out of those times. Sometimes those things are for me (lessons learned, character stretching, faith bolstering, etc.) but often there are important things coming out of my waiting times that are for the benefit of someone else entirely.
Like it or not, it’s not always about me. Actually, there’s a great freedom in knowing that when God doesn’t answer right away, it’s not always because I’m failing Him in some way. Often, God is carefully putting numerous things into place so that the answer is ultimately much more, better, or amazing than I could ever have imagined (Ephesians 3:20-21). Sometimes it even means that I might have to endure some hardship so that someone else can benefit in some way (2 Corinthians 1:3-7, Colossians 1:24). After all, Jesus endured a whole lot more. God will most certainly empower and sustain me because there are always Kingdom purposes at work (Colossians 1:11-12)!
When I look at waiting on God for answers as an adventure — a time of anticipating what incredible things God will do next — it’s more exciting and not so grueling. While none of us aspires for our life to follow the plot line of a mystery novel, I’m growing to appreciate that the best stories are complex, take time to unfold, build our confidence that adversity can be overcome and show us that the wait is worth it!
LORD, help us to catch Your vision for the value of our story in the broader Kingdom perspective. When we get impatient for Your answers or actions, help us to be confident that You are always at work in the midst of every situation — always near, forever faithful, completely sufficient to bring our stories to the best conclusions. Show us how to live so that every chapter declares Your greatness and captures the best of intimacy with You for us AND for others. AMEN
If you can take 5 minutes to prayerfully listen to this song, I believe God will have something very special for you!
“While I’m Waiting” by John Waller
Friday, April 8, 2011
Monday, April 4, 2011
"Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame." Psalm 34:5As we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, there is NO CONDEMNATION (see also Romans 8:1, Hebrews 12:1-3).
Because of the Holy Spirit, we are RADIANT (see also Psalm 19:8)!
Thank you, Almighty God, for giving such good gifts. Help us to keep our eyes (perspectives, vision, plans), heart (emotions and attitude), mind (thoughts and beliefs), and body (activities, priorities, habits) fixed on You. Today's verse reminds us that what makes us attractive and appealing to others — both physically and in character — starts and grows from looking to You. We want you to have our undivided attention, Lord! AMEN