Monday, May 29, 2017

Anything but this...

When the children were young and we were so very deep in debt there was no way out, when we were forced to one inescapable conclusion - that we had to declare bankruptcy - I groaned inside. "Oh God. Anything but this."

But of course it happened. And through it, I learned about mercy, and grace, and forgiveness, and provision. I learned which people were our friends and which ones didn't want to have anything to do with us because they judged us. I learned how God can take the most awful experiences of our lives and teach us lessons we need to learn: how to live within our means, for one thing. 

When the government came after my husband and took him to court - and we had no money to fight them - when they broke every promise they made to us when he stood trial, I closed my eyes and said, "God. Anything but this." But it happened anyway... and through that experience we learned the pain of being falsely accused with no way to fight back, and we learned who stayed, and who judged. We also learned even more about God's provision, and were given even more opportunities to forgive.

When our child was injured and had to undergo surgery - when she faced unjust treatment by one health care professional after another - when she was declared disabled ... I dropped my head to my chest and sighed, "Oh God. Anything but this." But through that experience we learned how to ask for what we needed, how to accept help, and how to see light even in the midst of darkness. 

When our other child rebelled, hung out with people who were in trouble with the law, stole for them, stole from us, and finally wanted to leave the province, I ached inside ... "God. Please. Anything but this." I was so scared, felt so rejected. But ... she left anyway. And through her leaving, I realized that the hedge of protection that I had placed around her no longer protected her because she had chosen to leave. At the same time, and probably BECAUSE of that loss of protection, I learned how to trust Him for all things, how she needed to be away from that protection to see how bad things were "out there".  I learned how to let go more and more of my need to control the outcome, and how to develop a relationship with her that grew more and more precious in such a short time. And I knew the joy of seeing that same child embrace a vibrant relationship with God - something she never would have done had she stayed. 

When she got evicted and had to live in her car, when she fought fatigue, sickness, hunger and cold for days and days ... making her so exhausted she fell asleep at the wheel and was killed ... I cried in anguish, "Oh GOD! Anything but this!!"  But of course, through the searing pain of loss, I learned the sweetness of God's presence, the wonder of true friendship, the amazing impact of her legacy the more I told her story, and the empathy that allowed me to be there for someone else who lost her own daughter not long after that. 

More and more I am convinced that God uses the darkest, most terrifying experiences of our lives to show us His great love and to make us stronger for whatever is around the bend. I have learned this through the things I have gone through, usually kicking and screaming like some petulant child. He is patient with me. I am learning.

Photo "Doctor In Surgery" by
taoty at www.freedigitalphotos.net
When my brother got cancer, and needed to have surgery, I knew by then that God was going to work something amazing out of it all. And He did. The surgeon got all the cancer. There is none left. Sure, there are physical problems still, and it is hard, but God has this under control. 

When my mom got dementia and went wandering one day last month, and had to be put into protective custody in the hospital, part of me went to that place of fear: "Dear God, no. Not this." But this time, I didn't stay there. I started to see how God was working even in the midst of this horrible thing in our family. I can see God's love in the situation even while she waits, still wanting to go home, to be placed into a nursing home - the last place she ever wanted to go. In spite of all of that, I have confidence that He will make a way in that wilderness just like He did with all the other barren places I have mentioned, and way more besides. 

He does this because He loves us. He LOVES US. Not because there is anything we've done or not done - but because He WANTS to. That's it. No more than that. 

And I am sure that He will amaze us all. And that He will delight in His lavish love when our jaws drop at how good He is to us.

So ... when people ask me to pray for God to take something away from them that is hurting them, or hurting someone they love, I will pray - of course! But I pray for God to do the same kinds of miracles that He did for me and for us, ... for them.  I pray that He shows them His presence not only with them, but IN the whole situation. I pray that they have peace, that they will learn the joys of letting go of their situations and clinging to Him. That they will realize that He is right there with them.  

I have seen too many miracles happen "in the midst" to believe less than that. 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Waking Up

Winter's long sleep is reaching the twilight hour before the dawn, when we're not even sure if there is a change happening, except ... except ... the geese have returned.  The trees - still leafless and silent - are budding.  Female mourning doves are returning, and the males waiting for them have taken to billing and trying to chase them down one at a time. The daylight lingers just a little bit longer. Rain melts away snowbanks - imperceptibly at first, then more noticeably as the earth awakens.  The grass - if it shows at all - is still brown and wilted, but as if by magic, gradually appears green moss and the first stirrings of the lichen that will eventually bear the muted purple tones of heather.  

Photo "Blooming Snowdrops In The Spring"
courtesy of radnatt at
www.freedigitalphotos.net
Those who know me best know that I hate winter: the cold, the piercing damp wind, the lack of light, the ice and slippery footing, the bulky clothing, and how it feels like it never seems to end. Every year, though my head knows it will, my heart wonders if it will EVER end. 

This morning, a snowbank, which had stubbornly persisted the last two months outside our picture window, was suddenly gone after a soaking drizzle kept at it all night.  Beneath it, I was surprised to see tiny one-inch sprigs of green: thin sword-like leaves bearing, in a place or two, another layer of foliage that had a tinge of purple to it, a promise of a bud soon to form. "Crocus," I breathed, noting my own sudden, internal sprig of ... what was it? happiness?  Hope? I couldn't quite tell which it was... 

A few feet away, like tiny rolled up cones of forest green paper, tulip plants were sprouting from beneath the mixture of soil and wet maple leaves from last fall, half-decomposed maple leaves I had forgotten were there until the snowbank was gone. They were about three inches above the soil, so I realized that they had been slowly growing beneath the snowbank - and with the rain, the snowbank slowly rolled back like a heavy velvet curtain at a live theater performance.  

I stayed at my position in the window, kneeling on an armchair with my nose pressed up against the glass, for a few minutes.  I drank in the sight, reveling in the tiny slivers of color, until my knees told the rest of me that it was time to get back on my feet.  Yet, a few times throughout the day, I have returned to my perch to check and see whether the buds have shown any sign of maturing.  My soul needs this gentle, delicate whisper of promise, a distant echo of God's own rich voice.  Too long my soul has just been "hanging on" waiting for better times, for more daylight moments in which to soak in nourishment as the leaves soak in the sun's rays. It is as if my soul has joined the Earth in its trip around the sun; it is now in a better position to benefit from the warmth that was always there all along. 

I, like the Earth, the plants, the birds, the trees, and the grass, am waking up. Winter is finally giving way - even if only a little - to the persistent hopefulness of spring.  The longer, darker nights are shortening.  I am more aware of the Light. It is good; He is good.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Making room

You make room for what matters to you.  I've heard people say this. I've said it. And I believe it's true. 

But what if what matters to you, after you have made room for it, becomes so deeply ingrained into you that it's like breathing?  Well  ... then you just breathe. You don't think about it; you just do it. And when you are prevented from doing that, you fight with every ounce that's in you to regain that thing that is like air to you. So the question becomes not whether you make room for something but WHAT you make room for ... WHAT will eventually become indispensable to you!!

When it comes to spiritual things, there are a lot of people who have made A room for God and all things spiritual. It is a nicely furnished room - filled with warm fuzzy feelings and lots of symbolism, music and pretty things. Or they furnish it with war banners and weapons of self-righteousness (but that is another post for another time.) There, in that space, they are able to contain their faith, compartmentalize it, give it a place to exist without fear that it will overtake the rest of their life or make any real changes in them or in their world. After all, that would be fanaticism. Right? 

Photo "Fountain" courtesy of dan at
www.freedigitalphotos.net

But I'm not talking about making A room for God. I'm talking about making room - allowing Him to overtake, fill, overflow, and transform everything we are. 

Listen to the words of Paul: "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear..." (Colossians 3:4). This is how He becomes so deeply infused into us that we cannot imagine life without the assurance of His presence... living in constant contact with Him, bubbling up from within us like an artesian well of clean, refreshing water. This is where prayer becomes an act of intimacy, as I spoke about in my last post. This is where God's love becomes a moment-by-moment reality, not one of those struggle-to-believe-it things, but a wonderful reality, making us naturally burst forth in an automatic grateful outpouring of worship and praise, an eternal fountain of confidence in His power and grace. 

From that fountain (which comes from that artesian well!) we CAN speak with His authority to the problems we see and experience in our (and another's) life. We CAN command sickness to leave. We CAN banish oppression. We CAN - because He has delegated that authority to us.  And - I say again - we don't even have to rely on our own faith; we have His ... so there is no doubt that can creep in, no faith-killing phrases, no negativity. There is only His love, His power, His faith, His authority.

How can I say this? Because ... I've experienced it.  The last few months in my life have been a testament to how strength, provision and miracle after miracle flow from this supernatural source of living water! Those who know me best know about these miracles - but I will give a couple of examples, just from the last 3 or 4 months, of commanding sickness to leave and seeing direct results:
(1) my own diagnosis of pre-cancer of the uterus, followed by a complete hysterectomy (almost fully recovered and feeling better than I was before the surgery in some ways), and 
(2) my brother's diagnosis of stage 1 colon cancer, the fact he actually survived the surgery, beat gall-bladder complications, and his kidney function (stopped at one point) began to improve. The doctors are still baffled. But we both know what happened: the authority of Jesus released through the spoken word and producing healing!

And these stories need to be told; there is no arguing with experience! 

In the same way that we can make room for God and His power, we can also make room for the enemy of our souls. I explained it to one person this way: death and life are in the power of the tongue, the Psalmist said.  When we, as ambassadors of Christ, speak and agree with the words of satan, we make room for him to do as he pleases. He kills. He steals. He destroys. And those innocent predictions (fears, worries) that we make out loud or even to ourselves? They actually make room for the enemy to have his way, for him to win. When we make room for satan by words of negativity, doubt and fear, we hand over to him the power over those situations to actually do what it is that we fear the most. I've seen this happen, time and time again. And it's so unnecessary!

However, when we take that forfeited space back - when we make room for God's passion for us to come to the fore, and we speak those things that He wants (life, love, healing, peace, joy, grace, strength, wisdom) then the enemy of our souls is routed, overthrown, and defeated in that situation. We walk in God's love. We don't try to convince people; we just live in that life-filled place, breathe, sleep, eat in that reality where God is large, in charge, and for us (Romans 8:31). We make room for God to have His way in us - to take His rightful place. Not because we "should" but because He loved us from start to finish before we even were conceived. Such lavish love is enough reason to make room.