Sunday, December 13, 2009

What Child, What World?

Today in the Christmas choir we sang a unique arrangement by Audrey Snyder called The Coventry Child. In it she masterfully weaves a 16th century lament called The Coventry Carol which mourns the babies that a jealous and power-hungry Herod killed, with a more popular 16th century melody, What Child is This?

A haunting, lonely "lullay, lullay," mourns goodbye while notes of wonder ask what child has come--and well we might ask, what world has He come to? The nativity scenes we set up always look so peaceful, but the reality is that Christ was born to a lost and fearfully dark world full of tragedy and evil.

Out of darkness came a glorious light--though He was different than what they expected. They expected a political leader to come overthrow an oppressive government--and that was a serious need. Instead He came to overthrow something even more insidious and harmful, and to create not a temporary kingdom, but an eternal one. He came to save our souls.

Isaac Watts aptly expressed the juxtaposition in his hymn When I Survey the Wondrous Cross when he wrote, "Sorrow and love flow mingled down..." Jesus carried the evil of the world and the burden of all sin when He gave His life in love. He who suffered through no fault of His own knows intimately the pain of suffering--and when we suffer unjustly, we draw near, we understand a part of what He went through willingly.

Perhaps today Jesus is still different from what we expect. We long and look for the one who will overthrow the oppressive forces in our lives, and sometimes He does. But sometimes He overcomes them silently by strengthening us and enabling us to endure, because His kingdom is not of this world, and His purposes go beyond what we see in the here and now.

Lullay thou little tiny child...
What Child is this who laid to rest...
By by lully, lullay...
This, this is Christ the King...

As the strains of music encircle and interweave, the song reveals the identity of our Savior and ends not in the minor chord of a lament, but the major chord of the hope that has now come. The hope that is ours even now, that beacons, calls to each heart: even in the midst of suffering, now is the time of God's favor, now is peace with God. May His peace reign in your hearts this Christmas.

Merry :-)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The essence of life

Sometimes life can be so discouraging. This summer and fall have been a season of discouragement. Dave has been unable to read again. He wanted to teach our small group, but his body is not cooperating in so many ways.

I read another blog, Find Us Burning, tonight, and she had great truth in her post on Love. She wrote:

"I loved it when God told me that even if I was in a coma I could still fulfill His purpose for my life. That He would not be disappointed if I didn't lift another finger for Him. Everything I was doing on the outside, in the physical realm, was just extra...just a day job. This changed my life, the day I chose to believe this! It is such a special promise. To God, knowing Him and dwelling with Him, praising Him and trusting Him, this is the essence of Life."

To read her complete, and very worthwhile post, click here.

It might be easy to think that this is true for someone else--but it's very difficult to believe this for oneself.

It's not easy to give up our vision for what serving God should look like--and as Lindsay describes in her post, we can feel such anger over what God has taken when all we wanted to do was show God how much we love Him. For all that chronic illness steals--it cannot steal your worth and value to God, and it can't separate you from Him--even when it feels like it does.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Sufficient to Each Day

No matter how many times I hear this sentiment, it's never too many times! So, I thought I would share today's "Grace Gem." Perhaps as I usually do, you have some anxieties you should let go of today.

Sufficient to Each Day

by Theodore Cuyler

"As your days--so shall your strength be."
Deuteronomy 33:25

Sufficient to each day are the duties
to be done--and the trials to be endured.

God never built a Christian strong enough to
carry today's duties and tomorrow's anxieties
piled on top of them.

"So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow
will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is
enough for today." Matthew 25:34

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Top 20!

Happy 20th Honey!

Can you believe it? We've been married TWENTY years! So, in honor of this momentous occasion, I thought I'd countdown the top 20 reasons I'm glad I'm married to my honey.

20. He knows I'm an abstract random and that these are not necessarily in any discernible order--but he loves me anyway!

19. Confessions: I was late for our own wedding! (Only 5 minutes or so. Hey, we were taking pictures with our 2 & 3 yo nieces, they were so cute! That was a worthy cause, right? Plus, brides don't wear watches, do they?) The poor groomsmen were all up front waiting for us ladies because the organist (who had a crush on the best man) started playing. I think she made it through Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring 3 times. (Sorry, honey!) Well, I'm still no good with time. But he loves me anyway!

18. The Lord knew I needed someone to help me plan ahead. Take the other day--Zach and I were going to the store to buy curtains for his room. We got halfway there and I said, "What size curtains do you need?" (he didn't know either!) "See, if your dad was taking you on this trip, he'd have measured!" (By the way, we never did make it home with curtains...)

17. Speaking of not making it home with what we set out for...I remember when we were first married and looking for couches--that time we came home with a roll-top desk that we both fell in love with. Then a month or so later we went into Walmart for hairspray (for these frilly, palm-frond decorations we bought for our couch-less livingroom)...and came out with couches! Yeah, freak occurence, Walmart somehow had a load of couches filling their aisles. Thanks for the spontaneous times, honey!

16. Oh, spontaneous reminds me of surprises--there was the time we worked a week at Camp Wonderland leading the Winter Camp, and then we were going to stay for another day afterward... Poor Dave thought it was going to be a quiet, intimate time with just the two of us. In a huge cabin that had rooms for like 20 people. (This one has a fireplace, honey, that's why they moved us here, honest!) Unbeknownst to him I had planned a surprise happy graduation party, as he was nearing the end of seminary. Friends started showing up one by one, and by the third or fourth person he "got it" that these were not coincidences and they were not leaving! (In his defense, reunions at camp are pretty normal, and he was very tired.) I think I owe you a night with a fireplace, Hon! But he loves me anyway!

15. A night in front of a fire--reminds me of camping on Washington Island, making pudgy pies, and going to People's Park up on the cliff and watching the sunset over Lake Michigan. The picture at the top of our blog is from People's Park. I can still hear the waves crashing against the rocks below, the peace we felt together there, "North of the Tension Line."

14. Speaking of tension, Dear, thanks for all the times you supplied me with maps and directions complete with exit numbers and landmarks. (See, I like to just "drive and then I get there." He's the practical one!) One time I drove to a wedding in Toledo that way--the tension was not mine, it was Dave's and he couldn't come along--I really didn't know where I was going, but along the way I met some friends at an oasis who were also going to the wedding, and I followed them! Yep, he loves me anyway...

13. Another tension-reliever: I think I have a bone to pick with you! Picking on my gullible nature! One time Dave told me about a weather-predicting toaster--it could dial up the internet and print an image on the toast depending on the forecast. Yep, I'm so gullible I'll believe anything! Not this time, I wasn't buying this one. Funny thing was, it really was a true invention! Laughter has been a true gift for both of us.

12. Number 12 goes to the 12-year-old! Our son Zachary, a very special gift to us. And even though he chases me around the house with a dart gun sometimes, he's made our lives richer. Thanks for our son, Honey.

(No, I don't know where Zach gets it from...)

11. Dave's a great father. He spends one on one time with our kids, teaches them respect and practical life skills and gives all of himself that he can to them. I'm glad to walk this parenting journey with you, Dave.

10. Have to dedicate this one to Princess Anna, our 10 yo daughter. She too is a wonderful gift. Our children have been a joy to know and raise and homeschool.

9. Speaking of homeschooling--Dave is my biggest cheerleader, encourager, and supporter. Sometimes I wonder what I'm doing, and he reminds me why we are on this path and not to lose heart.

8. Dave has taught me such important truths as the Fact-Faith-Feeling Train (and not to get the cars mixed up), and "the answer is always no unless you ask," (so don't "say no" for people if you need something--ask and let them have the opportunity to say no.)

7. For years of ministry together and the laughs--I remember the student from one youth group who said they could lock Dave and I in a room with nothing in it, and we'd still find a way to have fun. From Colorado to South Carolina--it's been quite a journey, Hon!

6. Dave is our "hunter-gatherer" we like to joke, but he does all of our grocery shopping. He may have to do it only a few items at a time, but he's a diligent and wonderful supplier. (It's a good thing, I'd just forget we need food until I was hungry anyway!)

5. My closest friend. The one who used to pluck my gray hairs for me (and thankfully no longer does, I'd be bald!)

4. The one who has taught me that sometimes the antidote to depression is to find someone to serve.

3. The man I respect and admire because of his honesty, character, and love for the Lord

2. The romantic who swept me off my feet when he gave me my first kiss and said, "That's a touch with a promise, a promise I intend to keep."

1. Because I can't think of anyone else I'd rather spend my life with. Happy Anniversary, My Love!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Need to save a couple hundred $?

On Mother's Day, Dave informed our dear little cherubs that their mother is priceless...and that they'd be getting the bill soon, LOL!

The kids tried to guess how much it would be & one of them said, "1.1 million dollars?" I said that sounded pretty good (Dave said it wasn't enough!).

Then when we were cleaning up, my sooo sweet son asked, "Can I help clean anything else?"

"Oh thank you honey, that was so sweet of you to ask..." I said, to which he replied,

"That ought to be worth a couple hundred off!"


Oh my...

Merry :-)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Grace in our Time of Need Part 6 (conclusion): God Hears

Unanswered Prayers

A few years ago, during an advent service at church, I remember feeling so alone. The first unity candle, signaling our hope in Christ, was lit by a young couple and their two year-old daughter, her pigtails bobbing with each step. As I sat in my pew alone, I remembered when we were them, healthy and strong, ready to face the world, excited to be serving the Lord—and the tears started to flow. I have no hope today, God, I silently confessed.Our Sunday School class was struggling with questions I knew Dave could answer, if only God would release him to the service he loved. Instead Dave was home, left with no answer to the unthinkable question: Will I need to be taken care of for the rest of my life?

I know the question comes with the depression and anxiety of having a chronic illness. But that doesn't erase the pain of the question, or the agony of not knowing. There is a truth in there that Jesus understood. Remember in the Bible when Lazarus died, Jesus wept. He felt deeply the pain that Mary and Martha felt. It didn't matter that He knew He could bring Lazarus back to life—understanding didn't erase the pain of the moment. He called out to God, and God heard—and answered—and Lazarus was brought back to life.

And isn't that what we all long for, the God who answers with His power and love? Then we know our prayers have been heard.

But God doesn't answer simply yes—or no or wait awhile. When Jesus cried out to God the night before His death, "take this cup from me,” Hebrews 5:7-9 says He was heard. The passage reads, “During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him…”

God heard—but He didn’t remove the cup.

And God answered powerfully and with love as He strengthened Jesus' resolve to say "not my will, but yours be done."

We do not have a benign paternal God who looks down from on High with occasional sympathy. We have Emmanuel: God with us. The God whose Holy Spirit has chosen to dwell IN us. Do we stop to think what this means? The God who lived through intense anguish in His life on earth, continues to choose to live through it along with us. He doesn't merely see our pain; He says that "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." (Mt 25:40). He is hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, and in prison, along with us. When He says "never will I leave you, never will I forsake you," He means to impart a depth of love and grace that if we truly understood it, would take our breath away.

What you and I live through, often involuntarily, God has chosen to live through with us, intimately, daily, weeping with us.Why He would choose pain rather than immediately use His power to "fix" everything, I don't know—but I have a glimpse of some possibilities. I think Jesus knows that power doesn't erase pain—He wept when Lazarus died, even though he then went on to raise him from the dead. When someone lives through something with us—really cares—they can comfort in a way someone more distant can't. On a deeper level I sense, as strange as this may sound, that God thinks we are worth the pain He goes through with us—and that the prize He is seeking is us, is relationship with us.

Would we understand what Jesus was willing to go through to woo us if we didn’t experience some of our own suffering? Could we truly know the love He has for us?

In us, and walking with us, God is making possible a relationship that will fulfill us so much that we will look back and think the pain was worth it, was miniscule in comparison. We can't see that now, but one day we will. Pour your heart out to God. Grief and depression can't be rushed—and they are not without purpose. God is a redeemer, and He will redeem this time, and restore your soul. Cling to Him.

Habakkuk 3:17-19 says, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.”

The very sovereignty that allows our hard circumstances is the same sovereignty that protects us.

Finding our refuge in God means knowing He is good when life is not. He is sovereign when life seems out of control. He is loving when we feel alone or abandoned. His grace is sufficient for us and what we need will be there, even if what we want or think we need is not there. Seek first the Kingdom of God. Know that He hears when He appears silent, when it seems He is paying no attention. Know He answers—and He is near. He will give us grace in our time of need.

Grace in Our Time of Need, other posts:

~Part 1:  God's Joy
~Part 2:  God's Silence
~Part 3:  Can I Still Be Your God? 
~Part 4:  Lies and Truth
~Part 5:  God's Protection
~Part 6:  God Hears

Ps 71:20
Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.

Lam 2:19
"...pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord..."

Ps 73:21-26
When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Ps 13:1-6
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, "I have overcome him," and my foes will rejoice when I fall. But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.

See also Stories of Hope

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Grace in our Time of Need Part 5: God's Protection

We have lost part of the protection of God in our world (after the "Fall" of Adam and Eve), and we live with the result—a world plagued with horror and disease and the atrocities of what one man does to another. Some people consider these things to be evidence that there is no God. However, I think Thomas Merton’s view is closer to the truth, he wrote:

“It is only the infinite mercy and love of God that has prevented us from tearing ourselves to pieces and destroying His entire creation long ago. People seem to think that it is in some way a proof that no merciful God exists, if we have so many wars. On the contrary, consider how in spite of centuries of sin and greed and lust and cruelty and hatred and avarice and oppression and injustice, spawned and bred by the free wills of men, the human race can still recover, each time, and can still produce men and women who overcome evil with good, hatred with love, greed with charity, lust and cruelty with sanctity. How could all this be possible without the merciful love of God, pouring out His grace upon us?” —A Thomas Merton Reader, pg. 40

If God has not extended to you the grace you wanted, the miracle healing, the return of a prodigal child, the freedom from wondering how you will make it until the next paycheck, the restoration of a marriage in trouble, relief from depression or anxiety, or maybe a past hurt such as abuse—if God has not extended you this grace, I humbly submit He has extended you another grace that is just as powerful and amazing. How could our faith remain, even thrive, if not for the grace of God? I think I would have crumbled long ago.

God has protected man throughout the ages by always ensuring there is a remnant who follows Him. We have no way of knowing how many things God really does spare us from, in His mercy. He lets us see the full extent of sin, how awful it is to live without God—and I believe it is in the hope that we will turn to Him, realize He is our only protection and hope. His desire is that we will allow Him to draw us near, to shelter us in His wings, to receive His love.

“Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.”
—Ps 63:7-8


What are God’s intentions towards me?

… to bind up the brokenhearted,

to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,

to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion

to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. —Isaiah 61:1-3

Jesus’ Call…
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls… —Matthew 11:28-29

Our Response to God…

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. —Habakkuk 3:17-19
Next time Part 6 (the conclusion): God Hears

Grace in Our Time of Need, other posts:

~Part 1:  God's Joy
~Part 2:  God's Silence
~Part 3:  Can I Still Be Your God? 
~Part 4:  Lies and Truth
~Part 5:  God's Protection
~Part 6:  God Hears

See also Stories of Hope

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

And the winner is....

Teacherpippi who loved the pups in a cup! Congratulations! Thank you to all who participated. And a big thankyou to Marie Rippel for sponsoring this giveaway, thanks Marie!

Merry :-)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

My daughter made me cry today

She & dh went out to get me a rose, and she sang a song she made up:

There is no one richer than me, richer than me, richer than me. There is no one richer than me, because I have a mom who reads to me.

There is no one richer than me, richer than me, richer than me. There is no one richer than me, because I have a mom who teaches me.

There is no one richer than me, richer than me, richer than me. There is no one richer than me, because I have a mom who loves me.

(She got the idea from a poem we read the other day, "The Reading Mother" by Strickland W. Gillilan--in the Glorya Hale collection, An Illustrated Treasury of Read-Aloud Poems for Young People. Such a great poetry book!)

"The Reading Mother"

I had a mother who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea.
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth;
"Blackbirds" stowed in the hold beneath.

I had a Mother who read me lays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every boy has a right to know.

I had a Mother who read me tales
Of Gelert the hound of the hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness lent with his final breath.

I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings-
Stories that stir with an upward touch.
Oh, that each mother of boys were such!

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be --
I had a Mother who read to me.

by Strickland W. Gillilan

Keep reading to your kids :-)

Merry :-)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Happy Spring! Chocolate & Beehive Reader Giveaway!

UPDATE: Congratulations to the winner, Teacherpippi!

Just a short break from my Grace in Our Time of Need series for something a little lighter... (I've never had a giveaway before!)

So, do you like chocolate?

Do you like adorable characters in your children's early readers?

Marie Rippel, the author of All About Spelling has published her new Beehive Reader 1 with gorgeous illustrations by artists Dave LaTulippe and Donna Goeddaeus. The reader is SO cute! (Even my 12 yo son thinks kids and parents will enjoy it--he asked if he could read it while he was waiting to use the computer. About page 70 he said, "This is really nice, parents are really going to like this for their kids. It's a good book to snuggle with. And it's a lot better than what I had to learn to read with!")

(Cobweb the Cat thinks so too).

So, what does this have to do with chocolate?

One of the illustrators (Donna Goeddaeus) is a chocolatier. She does all the artwork for her chocolates (and if you like horses, you'll want to check out her site!).

Anyway...Marie has donated a Beehive Reader 1 AND the above-pictured box of chocolates as a giveaway! These chocolates are hand made with rich, creamy European Chocolate. And the little bunny you see in the center is solid hand molded milk chocolate.

Here's a close-up of the picture on the lid:

To enter, click on the link for the Beehive Reader 1, check out the sample stories, and pick a favorite character. Then post in the comments section here. Everyone who votes will be entered in a random drawing for a half-pound box of Donna's Happy Spring Chocolate collection and a Beehive Reader 1. Comments must be posted by Monday, May 4th, and the winner will be announced on Tuesday, May 5th. Have fun :-).

Merry :-)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Grace in Our Time of Need Part 4: Lies and Truth

Several years ago I was going through a period of depression, and I went to a Christian Counselor. The first thing he asked me to do when I went home was to write down all of my negative thoughts. Yeah, that sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Ha! My first thought was, “I don’t have any.” Then, when I started hearing them, I didn’t want to share them! But as I did, the counselor began to show me truth—what God’s word says, and how my negative thoughts were really lies.

I started keeping a “Lies and Truth” chart, and wow, was that transforming in my life! When you start identifying the thoughts, and asking God to show you what the lies are, and then what the truth is, and you write it down, it becomes a powerful tool for healing.

Here is a list of some of the lies we say to ourselves—maybe without even realizing that we are filling our mind with lies, and the truth of how God sees us, the truth in His word, the truth of His grace.

Lie: God is distant, He doesn’t care about me.
Truth: "The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." — Zephaniah 3:17

Truth: "He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart…" — Isaiah 40:11

Lie: I am worthless to God. He despises me.
Truth: "Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers." — Hebrews 2:11

(That one still startles me in amazement--God as Father has almost become cliche--but Jesus as brother--meditate and absorb the depth of that thought).

Truth: "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. —Luke 12:32

Lie: God is mad at me.
Truth: "…We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand." —Romans 5:1-2

Lie: God abandons us when we’re hurting.
Truth: "The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." —Psalm 34:18

Truth: "The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge." —Psalm 18:2

Truth: "My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life." —Psalm 119:50

Lie: God can’t still love me.
Truth: "'Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,' says the Lord who has compassion on you." —Isaiah 54:10

Lie: I can never change, I don’t measure up.
Truth: "And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with everincreasing glory."
—2 Corinthians 3:18

Truth: "Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." —Lamentations 3:22-23

(That last one was written by the Prophet Jeremiah when the Israelites had been taken captive by the Babylonians.)

You might also want to see a copy of the “Identity in Christ” chart compiled by my husband and from Neil Anderson's Victory Over the Darkness.

When we want God to change our circumstances, I think it’s tempting to shrug off what God is offering, His Presence, a spiritual stronghold, a refuge for our souls from the assault of lies that tell us we must be unworthy or God would answer. And yet...Jesus, our brother, was not unworthy when He suffered. Maybe today, God wants you to know that even though you don’t understand why He doesn’t answer as you want, you are His worthy child, the one He cares for deeply as He seeks your trust in a difficult trial.

Next time: Part 5, God’s Protection

Grace in Our Time of Need, other posts:

~Part 1:  God's Joy
~Part 2:  God's Silence
~Part 3:  Can I Still Be Your God? 
~Part 4:  Lies and Truth
~Part 5:  God's Protection
~Part 6:  God Hears

See also Stories of Hope

Friday, April 17, 2009

Grace in Our Time of Need Part 3: Can I still be your God?

Ken Gire, in his book The North Face of God, tells the story of a young man, we’ll call him Jim, who loved the Lord and wanted to serve as a pastor—and he longed to be a father. Jim was close to his own father, and dreamed of having a son he could share his life with.

He became a youth pastor, and got married, but his wife had a heart defect and they were told that she could never have children. So they decided to adopt. One day the call came that a 4-day old baby was waiting at the hospital, ready to be theirs: Their long-awaited son.

They brought him home, and were full of dreams for this little one—but they soon realized something was wrong. The baby hated to be held and would stiffen up all over. As the boy grew, they learned he had a number of learning disabilities and psychiatric problems. They took him for many assessments and tried to find help for him. When he was 10 or 11, they were told that by the time he was 18, he’d be dead or behind bars.

They refused to believe it, and tried a private school, and then homeschooling. Sure enough, he got mixed up in drugs and ended up in jail.

Jim had a friend who also had a son in trouble, and they talked often. Exciting things were happening at his friend’s church—God’s hand was moving, and people were coming to know Christ—and finally even his friend’s son was turning back to God. But nothing changed for Jim. And he told his friend he couldn’t stand to hear one more miracle of Jesus story. It was too painful.

Some people might have abandoned Jim at this point, but not his friend. They continued to meet and talk over the years. And one year a group of people from their church decided to meet with the man and pray with him, and they prayed together every week for a year and a half. They became the man’s lifeline.

Jim did a 40 day fast and sought the Lord in every way he knew how, but his only answer was silence.

One day he decided to go to the prayer room at church and stay there until he heard from God. Jim was broken and at the very end of his rope, he was desperate. He waited for 5 hours, and then he finally heard God speak. And this is what God said:

“Can I still be your God if I never heal your son? If I never speak to you the way you want Me to?”

“Yes,” the man replied.

Do you think Jim’s faith brings less joy to God than the faith of his friend whose son turned back to God? Do you think Jim is less worthy of God’s love and grace than his friend? Yet how often do we reject God’s grace in our lives by our negative, self-degrading thoughts?

I’m not worthy. I’ve messed up too many times.

God must not really love me, or He would change this circumstance in my life.

I’m not important to God or He would answer.

I think of the words Jim heard—“Can I still be your God?” what vulnerability—what love God communicated in that simple question. These were not the words of a vengeful, unfeeling God. God saw the man’s pain. God knew he asked much of the man to endure such pain.

If you are doing your best to love and follow God, and you wish you could more and more—can you believe God is pleased with you? He takes joy in your effort, your heart’s desire.

Romans 12:1 says, “I urge you, brothers, sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-- this is your spiritual act of worship.”

When we go through pain in our lives, it doesn’t have to be meaningless. We can turn it around and say, “God, I don’t know why I need to go through this, but I ask You to somehow be glorified in this.” We can remember that Christ thought we were worthy of His suffering, when we go through our dark nights and struggle to remember that He is worthy of our suffering.

Next time Part 4: Lies and Truth

Grace in Our Time of Need, other posts:

~Part 1:  God's Joy
~Part 2:  God's Silence
~Part 3:  Can I Still Be Your God? 
~Part 4:  Lies and Truth
~Part 5:  God's Protection
~Part 6:  God Hears

See also Stories of Hope

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Grace in our Time of Need, Part 2: God’s Silence

My husband Dave and I moved here 11 years ago. Dave was the children’s pastor at our church for 2 years before he had to go on medical leave. At the time he left, he had a myriad of symptoms but no diagnosis. A few months later we finally learned that Dave has Chronic Lyme Disease, and that he probably went undiagnosed for 15 years. That is how far back we can trace his symptoms.

Lyme Disease, when it is treated right away, is usually curable. But when left untreated or when it’s undertreated, it can wreak havoc on any, and sometimes nearly every organ and system in the body. Dave has had incredible pain in every joint in his body, and horrendous headaches. The neurological problems are the most disabling.

Near the end of his time at church, he would have conversations with people but couldn’t remember what they talked about. He would keep lists of what to do and lose his lists. After he left and the illness progressed, he would get lost in familiar places—one time he got lost between our house and the Subway restaurant which is 3 blocks away.

He will sometimes feel good enough to go get a paper or go to a store, and will see someone there. They look familiar but he can’t always remember a name and sometimes doesn’t remember if he’s supposed to know them. To him this is so discouraging. His job was to love people, his passion was to love people, and Lyme has stripped away his ability to do that.

Sometimes he will try to walk and his leg won’t move, or he’ll have tremors in his arms and legs. Other days he can walk in a store and even pick up groceries. Some days he can read, and other days the words dance around on the page and don’t make sense. There are times when he’ll forget he’s on medical leave and ask me if he has a meeting to go to. He lives forever with the feeling that he’s forgetting to do something, because the Lyme affects how the neurons in the brain communicate with each other. Some days he will think and speak fairly clearly, and others he will stutter and his speech will be slow. He’s very sensitive to sound, smell, motion, and light. We keep the shades drawn most of the time and use no overhead lights.

I remember one day Dave was sleeping and our daughter Anna, who was 2.5 at the time, looked at me as she reached for the light switch, and I told her she could turn the light on. It struck me then that we live much of our lives in semi-darkness.

The kids and I typically have to change clothes and bathe after church and other outings because the smell of perfume makes Dave pass out.

You never know what to expect with Lyme. I think that is one of the hardest parts of dealing with the illness; every day is different and you can’t plan on anything. I’ve seen Dave improve and slip back so many times that I know judging his symptoms does not give us solid ground to rely on. Sometimes he’ll ask, “Why is my body doing this?” and the answer of Lyme seems empty and hollow.

I cannot even begin to explain what it has been like to lose my soul mate. The intimacy we once had is gone as he is not able to sustain the same level of conversation, the memories, or the depth we once enjoyed with one another. We get glimpses—and oh, I love the glimpses! We share when we can, but then the moment melts away. A simple conversation is exhausting to him and often will end with him needing to lie down.

He has made some improvements since beginning treatment. He has been able to go to our small group, and last fall he was able to teach for a time. This winter he was struggling to read again. So we take the good with the bad on this roller-coaster of life we live!

Our children are 10 and 12 now. They recognize his symptoms, and encourage him to rest or take his medicine. One minute he is the father, taking care of them—the next they are trying to take care of him.

I remember the first year Dave was diagnosed, and we felt so hopeless. Years of searching led to answers that weren’t really answers at all. And I often prayed, “God, heal him, bring him back to me—or take him home to be with You, but don’t leave him this way.” I prayed that for months, until I felt like I was banging my head on the brick wall of God’s silence.

Exasperated, I remember going to God and saying, “You have to do something!” But there was no answer. And then, when I realized that God wasn’t taking either of the alternatives I had offered Him (go ahead, laugh!), I asked, “God, what are your intentions towards Dave?”

And I heard God’s answer, clearly, almost audibly, “Merry, what are your intentions? What will you do if nothing changes?”

My intention was then, and remains today, to be faithful to my husband and my God. The grace of God brought me into this place of faith.

What are your intentions?

Next time, Part 3: Can I still be your God?

Grace in Our Time of Need, other posts:

~Part 1:  God's Joy
~Part 2:  God's Silence
~Part 3:  Can I Still Be Your God? 
~Part 4:  Lies and Truth
~Part 5:  God's Protection
~Part 6:  God Hears

See also Stories of Hope

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Grace in Our Time of Need, Part 1: God's Joy

It’s been awhile since I told our story or gave an update. A couple of weeks ago I gave a talk for a women’s retreat, and several people have asked to see it, so I’m going to do a series of posts over the next week or two. I guess you could call this my personal testimony of God’s grace to us in a life-changing circumstance that I never would have asked for!

But first I thought I’d tell a cute story about grace. One day when my kids were about 5 & 7, I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. I had a headache, I didn’t want to face the day, I was a total grump. I had been teaching my kids about grace and how we can help each other, and this particular morning I let my kids know that I just didn’t feel good and didn’t have energy for anything. I sent them to do some chores while I was working upstairs. I came across them 5 or 10 minutes later, both doing extra work, each having independently decided that *Mom* needed some grace that day. And they were right--*I* was the one having trouble meeting the standard! Their grace to me gave me such a huge boost that I had extra energy all of a sudden, put some of their clothes away and cleaned out their dressers for them.

God’s grace is amazing. It changes us—Titus 2:12, one of my favorite verses says that grace teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly pleasures. Grace is contagious—when we share it with others, they want to share it too. And grace is what brings us through the hard times, isn’t it? When we just don’t think we can deal with anything more, God somehow gives us His strength to continue on.

Most of us probably have some hurt, some painful trial, present or past. You may feel trapped, like you have no choices—you may be suffering under a burden of false guilt or other negative thoughts—or you may feel that no one is watching out for your needs. In Hebrews 4:16, God tells us to “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Let’s pray.
“God, we thank you and praise you that you are with us. May we see you today. Fill us with the joy of your presence. Give us a desire, a longing to seek you more and more in every way, to cry out to you, and know that you are the best and only thing we have. Our rock, our strength, our security, our hope, our stronghold. Teach us, Lord, to be honest with you, to submit to you and to allow your grace to transform our hearts. In the name of our precious Lord Jesus, who for the joy set before Him shed His blood. Amen.”

Isn’t that amazing? Do you ever think about what God’s joy was, what made Him willing to die on the cross? It’s a relationship with us, that’s His joy.

Take a few moments this morning to bask in the sunshine of God’s joy—to calm your mind and soul, put aside the busy-ness of life for a few minutes, and remember He takes joy in you. Next time, Part 2: God’s Silence

Grace in Our Time of Need, other posts:

~Part 1:  God's Joy
~Part 2:  God's Silence
~Part 3:  Can I Still Be Your God? 
~Part 4:  Lies and Truth
~Part 5:  God's Protection
~Part 6:  God Hears

See also Stories of Hope

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Do you have hope?

If you're feeling like you just might not have the strength to make it through this time--if you just can't keep going, can't get up again--well, you've got to see this amazing video. Nick Vujicic will encourage you.

Today my husband Dave told me that he thinks often about the little boy from John 6:9. He had so little to give--five small barley loaves, and two little fish. What if he had just thought it wasn't worth giving? What if he thought Jesus couldn't possibly use what he had to give? I mean really, feed 5,000 people? But what he had, he gave, and trusted the Lord to multiply. And so we need to give, we can't think it's too little or that God can't use it. We have to give--even if it's our lunch and we might go hungry--if we want to see what God can do.

Dave, this video is especially for you. Sometimes you are him, continuing to get back up, and you amaze me. Sometimes you might need to be encouraged by him--might feel like you can't get up again. Thank you for inspiring me, and letting me inspire you.

Merry :-)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

So am I the last one?

The last time I went shopping for new jeans was possibly last century. I bought used the last time I needed any, and I think I was given some before that, and before that I have no idea! Well, my jeans had holes, so it was time to hit the store.

So I went out to Stuff-Mart (Christmas gift card!), ready to spend half an hour looking at the denim delectables. Three hours later, I think I tried on every pair of jeans in the store to figure out what fit. I was hoping to find some that were "hip," as I know it's no longer in fashion for them to come to your waist. Little did I know I'd have no choice; they really don't make ones that come to your waist anymore anyway. I think there was one pair that did! That's when I began to wonder if I might be the last woman in America with spleen-high jeans.

All the other types were a range of hip-huggers, some so low I knew I'd need fancier undies, some more tolerably "mid-rise." Then I had to wade through flares, boot cut, straight legs & tapered, and then all the colors--did I want black jeans, dark blue, medium blue, light blue, faded in parts, faded all over, stone-washed, with detailing or without, with rips or without (that one was easy, I already had the with-rips set)... All I wanted was a pair of BLUE JEANS!

Some advertised "new technology" in the form of various tummy restraining or tummy "smoothing" (whatever that is) "panels." Are we talking control-top jeans here? I did have to laugh that the size 8's had this too. I'm a size 8 in my dreams :).

I told the Fitting Room Attendant around 10 pm that I hoped I was finally done after trying on a boatload of jeans and a barrel of shirts. Mistake. On my way out I saw a couple of shirts I loved, but by that time I was too tired to try them on, so I just brought them home. I wasn't sure they were the right size, so I went back this morning at 8:30 to try on a smaller size. I joked to myself that she might be there again, but the coast was clear when I went into the fitting room. To my chagrin when I came out, there she was! It was like seeing a ghost! I ran!

Well, I did find 2 pairs of jeans that will work, and I'm set until the next decade. (Kinda scared to know what they'll come out with next!). The ones I bought are comfy and only have one little problem. That 2" or so space on my back that is used to another layer of clothing is cold now! Do they sell waist-warmers?

Merry :-)