Hurricane Ike Band

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He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed.

Psalm 107:29

In September of 2008, my son and I flew to Houston for a weekend. My daughter flew down from Montana and we all stayed at my sister’s house.  We made these reservations long before we knew Hurricane Ike was headed right towards Houston.  Having grown up in Houston and being very familiar with hurricanes, we began the work of preparing for possible disaster.

We bought food and water and put things up that were outside and boarded up what windows we could, rounded up flashlights and batteries and the radio.  All that was left to do was pray and wait.  Hurricane Ike hit Houston in the middle of the night.  The winds were howling, rain was pouring and all power went out and the city was dark.  When we got up the next morning, we surveyed the damage and realized we were housebound for several days along with the rest of the city as workers worked to get roads open and power on.

My sister has two guitars, a piano and a keyboard that didn’t require electricity and we started playing songs.  We spent a long time singing and playing instruments and laughing at our not so good songs and marveling at our great ones. We called ourselves the Hurricane Ike Band!  It was a wonderful, memorable time together waiting out the storm.

You may not be going through an actual hurricane.  I certainly hope not, but what storm howls at your door and causes you sleepless nights? What answer are you waiting on?  Are you in need of divine healing that hasn’t come? Waiting stinks, but it doesn’t have to.  We could have huddled over the radio listening to all kinds of bad reports and wrung our hands and made ourselves sick with worry, but we chose instead to create music.  Peace in a storm is possible.  Remember when Jesus was sleeping on the boat when the storm hit the lake and the disciples freaked out?  Jesus woke up, calmed the storm and the disciples were left scratching their heads.  Who is this Jesus?

Jesus is the calmer of the storm, the peace in the midst of bad reports, the Comforter who holds us through difficult times.  Whatever the storm of your life is, He is greater and He is for you not against you.  Isn’t that something to sing about!

Jesus, calmer of my storms, thank You.  You are always present, always here for me no matter what the circumstances of my life may be and I am so grateful.  Thank You for keeping me safe through the storm and giving me new songs to sing.  Help me, I pray, to remember that when the storm comes I can count on You. Amen.

 

pic credit: texascoastgeology.com

Why Doesn’t God Heal Him?

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“Could not this man,

who opened the eyes of the blind man,

have kept this man also from dying?”

John 11:37

Our dog Molly gave birth to 9 beautiful puppies. People had placed their deposits and were anxiously counting down the days until they could take their puppy home. Names had been chosen, collars and leashes and toys and puppy chow all lay in wait for the puppies to come to their new home. All systems were go, and then, one day, for no explicable reason, 3 puppies could not use their back legs. They were belly crawling around on the ground and crying. Not from pain, from just not being able to get to mom and nurse. As if that weren’t enough, a fourth puppy was having issues with his front legs; they were terribly bowed out and clearly not supporting him very well. I took one puppy to the vet and she ran many xrays and sent them off to be examined by an Orthopedic Surgeon and several days later came back with this report, “We don’t know”.

We were heartsick. It was terrible to see these puppies like this and to think of breaking the bad news to the families who were expecting their pups in just 3 weeks. But, there was more to it. These puppies are our means of support. Four puppies that we had to return deposits on was a severe financial blow.

My husband mentioned this to people at church and they prayed for these puppies. The pastor and his wife and many good people prayed. Within a week, all four puppies were upright and walking like they were designed to walk! We were all so excited and grateful.

That week, at the Life Group we attended, a man who had prayed for the puppies shared the testimony. Everyone agreed it was a wonderful miracle. Later in the evening, a man shared of his life experiences with physical pain beginning when he was 14. He spoke of morphine and suicide attempts (3) and how the pain had redefined his life and how, at times, he was angry with God for leaving him like this. Everyone agreed it was a horrible way to live.

Driving home that night I couldn’t help but wonder at the irony there. God healed 4 pups that had been alive only 5 weeks, did not serve Him, did not acknowledge Him but left a man who did serve Him, who did acknowledge Him unhealed for decades.

Too many times I have heard pat answers – he doesn’t have enough faith or there is sin in His life. I have been on the giving and receiving end of pat answers to the question – why doesn’t God heal him? Why heal puppies and not this man? Pat answers offer no comfort and usually end up hurting the one who receives them.

I have severe arthritis in my knees that has been there for 41 years and God hasn’t healed me. But He healed the puppies. Don’t get me wrong, I am so grateful for those puppies being healed, but it does beg the question – why them and not this man? Why them and not me?

After 20 years of actively pursuing divine healing, I have come to the same conclusion that those vets came to – I don’t know. I just don’t know. But I know this: I know who my Healer is and He is enough.

P.S. Our prayer group at church is believing for a notable miracle in this man’s life – feel free to join us in prayer for him if you’d like.

God’s Prescription for Healing

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 and My people who are called by My name humble themselves

and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways,

then I will hear from heaven,

will forgive their sin and will heal their land.  

Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place.

For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that My name may be there forever,

and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. 

II Chronicles 7:14-16

There it is – God’s prescription for healing. First, recognize that I am called by His name, I am His. Secondly, humble myself. I was real excited when I read this passage this morning. Until the word humble came along. I tripped on that, I had to look it up and then had to repent and have meditated on it all day. Basically, it means to submit to God all that I am in order for Him to be all that He is in my life. Sounds like an exchange that is definitely in my favor, so what’s the snag?

I googled “what does it mean to humble yourself” and found this answer by wfestrock: “I think humility is coming to grips with who and what you really are. A very weak and flawed being who is ever prone to evil and very insecure and fragile and vulnerable in ten thousand ways. If you could see the truth, humility would come very naturally.  When you humble yourself, you are beginning to see things as they really are”.

I read all kinds of other more sophisticated answers from Bible scholars but this one struck a nerve with me. I have felt so vulnerable lately as more and more, God shows me the weak and flawed aspects of me, aspects I would rather just not deal with. But I do want to healed of this chronic pain and arthritis, and so, I find myself in a conundrum. Go all the way for this healing, humble myself, own up to my flaws and insecurities and yuck and begin the process of unloading all that and be one step closer to healed or leave all this alone and look for another path. Problem is, there is no other path, this is the path God is leading me on.

I realized this morning, that I am the land God desires to heal. You are the land He desires to heal. The healing might just take a different path that the one I started on. God is a holistic healer and He, apparently, is not willing to simply heal my body without healing the rest of me.

The big help in all of this is His promise that if I will humble myself and pray and seek His face and turn from my ways that don’t honor Him, He will forgive me and heal me and His eyes and His ears will be upon me perpetually. What have I got to lose?

Gracious, heavenly Father, I submit to Your plan and Your purposes for my life, even Your pathway for this healing to manifest fully. Forgive me for all the times I have tried to have it my way, to do things the way that seems expedient to me, easiest to me, least painful to me when You have a more complete view of healing than I ever could have. Grant me the grace to humble myself and seek Your face and pray and please keep Your eyes and ears on me perpetually. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

picture credit: wmconnection.BlogSpot.com

Life Lessons

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And now, the Master, God, sends me and his Spirit
    with this Message from God,
    your Redeemer, The Holy of Israel:
“I am God, your God,
    who teaches you how to live right and well.
    I show you what to do, where to go.
If you had listened all along to what I told you,
    your life would have flowed full like a river,
    blessings rolling in like waves from the sea.
Children and grandchildren are like sand,
    your progeny like grains of sand.
There would be no end of them,
    no danger of losing touch with me

Isaiah 48:17

You know what they say, “hindsight is better than foresight”. I don’t believe that is God’s way, however. I don’t believe learning from our mistakes is the best way to learn. He gives us pretty clear instructions in His word on how to live successfully, but, all too often, those words go unheeded.  Fortunately, God doesn’t give up on us.  I am glad for that because despite the things I have read in the Bible, I can quickly go back to my old ways of doing, my old familiar ways of living life that didn’t really work that well, but hey, they are familiar.

If I be honest here, I would have to admit that often times, I know the right thing to do, but don’t do it. Somewhere in the Bible, it calls that sin. UGH!  That’s a rather ugly word for it, but considering all that God has done to show me the better way to live, my reluctance to those things is sin and, well, ugly.

Knowing my propensity to wander away from what is right and doing something pro-active to stop it are two different things. I need a plan, reminders, if you will, of the things I know to do but all too easily put off doing. Things like quit hitting the snooze button and get up and spend time in the word of God. Or turn off the TV and meditate on God’s word, His character, His promises. I could watch less Law and Order and read more Truth and Grace.  I could look for ways to be a blessing to others more than I look for ways to protect myself from others. I could stop making excuses for lazy habits and start building new ones.

I want that life that flows full like a river, I desire to have blessings rolling in like waves from the sea, I desire that my children and grandchildren be blessed because of my faithfulness to do what is right. Right here in this verse, God tells me how to achieve those things – listen and obey what He says. Not just now and then when it’s convenient, not just when I am rested up and don’t feel the need to snooze more, not when I have a few moments and can cram in a scripture or two and call that good, but daily, every day, all day long. I don’t want to look back on a life that is dotted with missed opportunities, moments of bad decisions and a stagnating faith. I want to look back on a life full of God’s best for me and for my family.

Lord, You know how easy it is for me to do things my way, even when I know Your way is so much better. Forgive me, and help me to be a doer of Your word, not just a hearer. Help me to daily draw my strength from Your word and to pattern my life after the truths I find there, even if they aren’t convenient at the time. I desire that my life flow full of Your blessings not just for me and for my family, but for all You place in my path. Cause me to be that vessel for You, I ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

picture credit: devomom.wordpress.com

Take Time To Play

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A joyful heart is good medicine…

Proverbs 17:22

Standing in line at Walmart the other day, a boy about 4 came up to me and showed me his cookie he had gotten in the bakery. I saw the chewed up cookie in his mouth before I saw what was left of his cookie in his hand. He was shopping with his grandfather. I asked the boy what he was doing this day and he said playing. Just playing. But he was quick to add that playing is on his agenda everyday! We must have become fast friends because when he left, he gave me a hug! What a cutie!

When my husband was diagnosed with cancer, I found a book at the library called, “CANCER: 50 Essential Things To Do”.  Chapter #39 is “Take Time To Play”.  The author suggests making play a priority much like any other area of our life, even scheduling it into our daily planner; it’s that important to a healing process.

I am fortunate to work with kids and so play is built in to that job, but I can honestly say that if I weren’t surrounded by kids all the time, I might not make time for play. I am busy, as you are, as we all are. I personally like card and dice games and playing HORSE with my son. What the fun is isn’t as important as just doing it.

It could be something simple – when was the last time you sat down with crayons and colored, or played with playdough, or skipped, or played with a hula-hoop?  How about building with Legos or floating in the pool or singing at the top of your lungs (and not in the shower!)?

This author, Greg Anderson, suggests making a list of things that you consider play and purposing to add them into your life.  There are scientific studies that show how play and laughter benefit our bodies and act as medicine, much needed medicine, especially if you are going through a difficult time. These studies only back up what God knew all along; that we would take ourselves far too seriously and would have to be told that a joyful heart is good medicine to our body. It’s so simple, even a four-year-old with a mouth full of cookies, knows the importance of having play be on the daily agenda!

Catch and Release

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Many years ago, I had the opportunity to go deep sea fishing in the Sea of Cortez.  We were about five miles out when something unseen grabbed the line and began pulling us farther away from the shore. The two guys on the boat began speculating about what could be doing this.  At that time (and maybe now for all I know) catch and release was the gentleman’s way of fishing in Baja. Catch a good one, let it go. So the discussion was about how they would let it go. They were gentlemen, right? This went on for well over an hour without even knowing what was on the line. But they had agreed – catch and release. Gentlemen.

Then the fish jumped out of the water and we were able to see for the first time what was dragging us along – a huge blue marlin. It seemed to hand suspended in the air just over the horizon while we all stared, open-mouthed, but speechless. It was incredible!

Immediately, the talk changed. All the discussion about catch and release disappeared as quickly as the marlin disappeared back into the sea.

The first thing out of the mouth of one of the men was, “how much freezer space do you think you have?”

So much for catch and release.

Another hour or so later, the marlin lay on it side by the boat and they were able to determine that it was about 17′ long. Magnificent and tired, it lay there, awaiting its fate.

While the guys were discussing what to do next to keep it, the marlin caught its breath, broke free and swam away.

It’s so easy to think that we hold things lightly, that we are willing to let go, if need-be, that we truly get that what we hold dear in our hearts and in our hands was given to us by God and He rightfully owns it all. It is easy to think that, until we are faced with letting go.

I am facing letting go of reasonable expectations and hopes about our future. I am facing letting go of my plans, my dreams, my ambitions even though none of them were ungodly. I am facing letting go because cancer has invaded our family and put dreams and expectations and plans on hold indefinitely.

I am choosing to release but it hasn’t been easy. I don’t like change, especially when it is imposed on my by something out of my control. That marlin was magnificent in its release; my hopes and dreams will be magnificent in release also. And only God knows when and how and if they will be caught again. Until then, they are in His hands.

There is something freeing and frightening at the same time about letting go. About laying aside carefully thought out plans and dreams and learning to take things one day at a time. Be my peace, Jesus, be my comfort while I open my hand and let go of all that I have held onto so tightly. Help me, as I purpose to take one day at a time, to enjoy the simple moments: the sunshine, the flowers, the smile from a stranger, preparing the dinner we all love and the family and friends You have blessed me with. I trust You with my hopes and dream. Amen.

picture credit: tropicalfishing.com

Fear Minions

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Yesterday, I took my dog Chloe to work with me. I do this regularly; the kids love her and she loves the kids. But yesterday, I witnessed something very disturbing. My assistant was absent and there was a sub there in her place. This woman was terribly afraid of dogs, even my wonderful, sweet one. For three hours, I worked at keeping Chloe away from her, but still several times, when the woman approached us, Chloe went into attack mode, barking and baring her teeth (which isn’t something you want in a Theraplay dog). Despite my efforts, Chloe and the sub never got past the fear that stood between them.

I was reminded of the times, when as a child, we would go to our Uncle Bob’s house. We loved playing with our cousins and being there, but they had a dog that loved to chase us. Chase with intent to harm. Uncle Bob told us repeatedly to stand our ground and not run (really?) because dogs can sense fear and they respond to it in an aggressive way.

I saw that up close and personal yesterday at work. I hated seeing my dog be so aggressive and hated even more that anyone would have cause to fear her. But there it was.

Some 365 times in the Bible we are admonished to fear not.  God knows fear is going to rear its head, but He says, not to fear. Sounds about as easy sometimes as standing your ground as a child when a dog that weighs as much as you do is giving chase.

So what can we do when the fear minions start attacking?  One thing might be changing the channel in our head from fear talk to faith talk. Find Bible verses that speak against fear, (I have a page of No Fear Confessions you might look at) and let them be the tape that plays in your head.

Another thing might be to remind ourselves of God’s faithfulness in the past to bring us through what seemed impossible at the time. Joshua did this for his fighting men. Right after they had conquered five enemy armies, leaving more to yet conquer, he told his men “Don’t ever be afraid or discouraged… Be strong and courageous, for the Lord is going to do this to all of your enemies”.  Then Joshua killed the five kings of the five armies.  Joshua 10: 25-26. The story continues until Joshua and his men had defeated 31 enemy kings and their armies!

The same God who brought victory in your life in the past will do it again. He hasn’t changed and His love for you hasn’t diminished. Whatever you are facing, don’t ever be afraid or discouraged. God is on your side.

You are the God of angel armies. Your word assures me that You have my back and You go before me when the battle rages. Help me to remember that when the fear minions are chatting in my head. Thank You for the times in the past when You brought me through what seemed impossible at the time, things that produced fear and discouragement. And where are those times now?  Gone, just like the enemy armies Joshua defeated.  Only You God, can bring that kind of victory in my life and I am grateful beyond words. Thank You for past victories and the ones to come. I love You. Amen.

 

picture credit: devomom.wordpress.com

I’ve Got This!

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That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”

Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat.

There were also other boats with him.

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.  

Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.

The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!”

Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

Mark 4:34-39

 

Biopsy, cancer, surgery, disfiguration, medical leave, chemotherapy, radiation, imaging test, lymph nodes, oncologist, mass, tumor, metastasis, pathologist, precancerous, pre-op, etc. The words we have added to our vocabulary are not pleasant words. Not by any means. In fact, these words can strike fear in most people. They certainly did in us. In the midst of the cacophony of noise in my head though was this single, recurring phrase “I’ve got this”. It wasn’t as loud as the other noises, it was strangely soft and quiet and I had to purpose to hear it.

I’ll be honest, all of this took me off-guard, I certainly didn’t see it coming. But God did. It didn’t strike fear in Him like it did me. On the contrary, He confidently whispered to me, “I’ve got this”.

God knows the end from the beginning. He wrote the story of my life, of my family’s life and He knows the way the story ends. Maybe like me, you have wondered, well, if God knew this was coming, why didn’t He stop it?  If everything that happens in my life is filtered through His foreknowledge and He allows it, what does that say about an All-Powerful, All-Knowing God that He could stop it but didn’t?

I wrestled with questions like this in times past. Maybe you have too. I don’t have an answer, maybe you don’t either. I suspect though, that much of what causes our diseases and illnesses is related to the toxic world we live in, a world we were charged with taking care of and didn’t. I don’t say this to point fingers, I say this to say that I believe God allows what we allow. Our bodies are paying the price for our failure, corporately, to keep our world safe and clean. Please don’t stone me; this only my opinion. God can’t stop us from polluting our world and our bodies without violating His commitment to free will.

There is a comfort in there; God is so committed to His word that He keeps it even if it might be so much easier to break it. So while He won’t stop us from destroying ourselves along with our world, He does the next best thing. He makes a way for all that is wrong to be righted. He brings life to our deadness, He provides healing and restoration to broken bodies and lives. He offers comfort to those who are going through difficult times. He whispers, “I’ve got this” when the storm is raging and my boat is rocking.

Jesus, You know the storm is raging, You know the reports from the doctors and the diagnosis we don’t really want to hear. I need You to calm our little boat, still the waves and hold us tight. I rest in the assurance You offer – You’ve got this.  You’ve got our backs covered, our futures secured, our present moments held tightly in Your loving, healing hands. Thank You, from the bottom of my heart. I love You. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Increase of Life

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…the seed is the word of God.

Luke 8:11

My seedlings are coming up. I planted kale, lettuce and tomatoes. I’ll have cucumbers and spinach before I’m done. I am always fascinated by seeds. How they grow (even with me). There’s a determination in them to grow to fruition – to produce what they promise. Jesus told a parable about seeds and sowing and harvesting seeds. He ended by explaining that the seed in the parable is the Word of God.

Seed is peculiar, I can leave it in the bag unopened, stuffed away in a drawer and it remains the same. But once I have opened it and planted it, something amazing happens. New life springs up. It’s an amazing phenomenon, actually.

God’s word is like that. I can leave it alone, file it away and forget all about it or I can plant it like seeds. I need a harvest of healing in my life in my family members’ lives and I can’t expect a harvest where no seed has been planted. God’s word on healing needs to be planted, settled in my heart. I can’t just think I know, I can’t just hope it’s His will to heal, I must know for myself, that it is God’s will to heal, everyone, all, the many and my family and me. I need His word, His seed planted in the soil of my heart, not just once, but daily.

Notes I have scrawled in my Bible for this parable read like this:

Word – seed – the source of all saving life and growth possibilities transmitted from the Father to mankind.

All increase of life within His love comes by His word as human response gives place for His blessing.

I wish I knew who said that, but I don’t, probably notes I took years ago at Bible school. Could you use an increase of life in your body, your relationships, your finances, your heart?  I know I could. Whoever wrote this knew that God’s word can bring life only where we give place for it, only where we give response to it.   His blessings are the harvest of the seed of His word. Is it planted in you?

Heavenly Father, I  thank You for the seed – Your word and the life it has produced in me. Thank You for the life it will produce in me and the harvest of Your blessings I will see as Your word brings forth fruit in my life and in my family members’ lives.  Be my gardener, till the stony ground of my heart, gently water seed that has been planted in me and watch over it, I pray to perform it in my life and the lives of those I love. I ask in the name of Your gracious Son, Jesus. Amen.

The Terror in the Hallway

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The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
   he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

Psalm 23: 1-4

 

When we were kids, we loved to watch Alfred Hitchcock and Twilight Zone.  We would all (except mom who didn’t like TV) gather in the family room and watch and tremble and get sooooo scared.  At some point, Dad would sneak out and hide.  We had a long, dark hallway that led from the family room to the bedrooms and we would have to walk down this hallway right after watching one of these shows.  We knew Dad had snuck out, we knew he was just waiting to jump out at us and scare the daylights out of us, but we loved it and walked right into anyway. He would jump out at us and we would scream and run in opposite directions. It was great fun.

It would be nice, as an adult, if the things that jumped out in the dark were anticipated; if it was staged and all in fun and no harm, no foul, just a massive adrenaline rush and lots of laughter.  But alas, that doesn’t seem to be the case most times. We are caught unawares, blindsided at times. And no one is laughing anymore.

This beautiful Psalm, a favorite of so many, is such a comfort and brings a wonderful promise. No matter how long the dark hallway, no matter what jumps out at me, no matter what diagnosis, bad report, pitfall, set-back is waiting to jump out at me, I don’t need to fear. My Shepherd is with me.

The role of the shepherd was to lead his flock safely to grazing places and watering holes and then safely lead them back to their safe place for the night. The shepherd protected the sheep from wolves and stayed on constant alert for any sign of danger approaching the flock.

Jesus is our Shepherd, watching over us, leading us, guiding us not only to safety but to places that feed and comfort us, protecting us from whatever may jump out at us. He never sleeps,  He never slumbers, He is never caught off-guard.

Whatever the long, dark hallway you may be going through, Jesus is with you, every step of the way.  You do not need to fear; I do not need to fear. How amazing is that?

Jesus, my Shepherd, thank You. Right now the hallway looks long, dark and is full of so many things just waiting to jump out at me. It’s not fun now like it was when I was a kid. I don’t want to walk down this hallway, I don’t want to be scared. Thank You for being with me, for promising me Your presence and Your comfort. Lead me beside the still waters, refresh my soul and cause me to lie down in green pastures. I will fear no evil, for You are with me. Thank You Jesus, I love You, Amen.

 

 

picture credit: ellenlandreth.wordpress.com