Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Living With Impossible

"He's too little," the nurse told me. "Life looks pretty impossible. I hope he makes it, but he's got a big battle ahead.."

I reached through the incubator wall to touch his tiny arm. I was ready to fight for this newborn baby boy, to battle alongside of him. It would be weeks before I could take him home from the hospital, but in that moment all I could think about was how much grace it took for God to send this precious, valuable child into my world.

The hardest day for a foster mother is not the first day, though those are indeed memorable. The child so lost and afraid, the newborn failing to thrive, the teenager angry and rebellious. We rescue our child from those problems through consistent sacrifice and diligent love.

The hardest day is the day you watch them walk into their life journey without you.

Life can be impossible. You look at your life and whatever it is going to take to get through a particular hardship, you're empty. There's not enough energy, not enough endurance, not enough hope, not enough fight.

Sometimes the apostle Paul faced circumstances too impossible for him, too.
"We don’t want you in the dark, friends, about how hard it was when all this came down on us in Asia province. It was so bad we didn’t think we were going to make it. We felt like we’d been sent to death row, that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally—not a bad idea since he’s the God who raises the dead! And he did it, rescued us from certain doom. And he’ll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing. (2 Corinthians 1:8-11, The Message)
Are you lost and afraid? Like a newborn that is failing to thrive, are you dying on the inside? Are you using your last ounces of strength to rebel in anger at the God who is able, but seems to have left you without hope?

That little newborn and I battled through the pneumonia, the drug withdrawal, the pessimists and severe eating difficulties. With hands painfully cramped from feeding him slowly through a tube, arms and back aching from rocking him and a voice gone from singing to him we battled forward. I faithfully prayed and waited. I worked alongside angel armies when only the God who is able could rescue this life.

God is faithful. Even when we are not faithful, God is faithful. He sent his own precious, valuable son, Jesus, into the world to rescue you. He is the God who sees, the God who loves, the God who is able to do more than you ask or imagine he can do in the impossible.

Stand back and see what he will do for you this day. Don't walk into your life journey without him

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Katherynn and the Tangled Mess

"Why do you sort all of your hangers into colors?" Katherynn asked me. "All the blue. All the black. All the pink. All the green. All the white."

"I like knowing where to find things I need," I answered, tossing her some clothes to put in the washing machine.

"Most people don't do that," the six year old explained to me as she worked. "They just dump them in a big tangled mess."

"That's true," I agreed, searching my brain for a life lesson that surely was in the laundry room with us.

"Which way works better? If you need to grab a hanger quickly, is it better to be already organized or to sort through an overwhelming tangled heap of hangers?"

"Well. If I want a pink hanger today, I know where to get one!"

"Being organized helps me to be ready for a problem, like needing a hanger right away. If I'm in the habit of doing something, like putting the hangers in order, then that habit is very important when I am in a hurry."

"So you aren't supposed to hurry when you do the laundry, right?" Katherynn agreed, trying to grasp yet another life lesson I was trying to tuck into her mind.

"Sometimes you have to hurry," I told her. "Life gets busy. Problems just happen. But good habits train us to be ready even when there's no time to think about it. Quick, hand me a green hanger!"

Katherynn raced to pull it out and hand it to me. She was laughing, but she understood. If the hangers had been tangled it would not have been an easy task.

I don't care that much about the habit of sorting hangers by their colors.  But I do care about nurturing the habit of looking for life lessons in little things to teach the children.

Because of that habit, I gave Katherynn the gift of fun and laughter in a laundry room. I planted hope that she can find answers to problems if she plans ahead.

And I helped God to build a little woman.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Prisoners of War

"I only have 2 more weeks to go," Jill told me. "Prison has been the best thing that ever happened to me, but I can't wait to go home."

We pray to be spared hardships and trouble. We want abundance and freedom, not brokenness and prison.

I have an imaginary prison cell in my mind. Jesus paid my ransom and opened wide the steel door. I am free to leave my prison cell.

I can remember what it was like to be in bondage to the evil one, to believe his lies and accusations. My chains are gone and I am free, but it doesn't mean I'll never face pain and brokenness again. My freedom does not spare me from hardship or being taken captive by the evil one.

Job didn't sit in a prison of grief and loss because he was sinful or because God was harsh.

Prisoners of war suffer even though they are trained, courageous soldiers.

"I just want to go home," Jill continued. "I'm so tired of living with joy in the storm, being free inside these prison walls."

In a prison, locked into the ugliness, the weakness, pain and brokenness can be overwhelming. Held captive, the taunts and accusations of the evil one shatter hope and manipulate thoughts.

We all find ourselves beaten down, in prisons of our own. Maybe you are in a prison of financial hardships or terminal illness. Perhaps you're locked in a difficult marriage or have a life that is harsh and unfair.

Some prisons we enter because of a bad choice and some are prisons we enter through no fault of our own.

Prison is a dark, ugly place to be, regardless of the reason you're there. Even freed from guilt, living each day with joy, the dark night of the soul is exhausting. It takes everything you've got to endure. You just want to go home.

But being in prison is the best thing that ever happens to us. It is in our brokenness that we are healed, in our weakness that God becomes strong. No one is as grateful for water as he who is thirsty.

Jesus came to set the captive free.

It's not true that time heals all wounds, but it is true that there is a God who sees and is able to bring you out of your prison. He knows and meets you where you are in your brokenness. It doesn't matter to him how you got there, only that you need to be rescued.

Monday, April 7, 2014

All About with Blaine

"It would be a good idea for us to write a song together," I suggested to my five year old student as we finished up his piano lesson books for the day. "What could you write about?"

Blaine puckered his lips and frowned as he considered my suggestion. "Well, I think I could write a song about black and white because I'm all about black and white."

"That's a really creative and fun idea! Tell me about black and white."

"Penguins are black and white...and a panda. Oh! And piano keys are black and white!"

"Let's do this," he said, beginning to put his song into words and music. "All about black and white."

What are you all about?

When Jesus was twelve his parents, Mary and Joseph, discovered he had gone missing from the group of people traveling together. They back tracked until they found young Jesus in the temple talking to the elders and teachers.

When asked what he was doing, he replied, "Did you not know, I must be about my father's business?"

The phrase literally means, "Did you not know I must be all about my father?"

What are you all about? When people spend time with you, do they find that you are all about your job? Your worries and complaints? Maybe you're all about knitting, reading or football.

When people describe you, what would they say you're all about?

Blaine sighed with contentment as he played his finished composition. "It's wonderful. Can I play it at the recital? Nobody has ever heard it before. They don't know that I'm all about black and white yet. I'm the only one who is going to tell them."

You are unique and there will never be another life just like yours. The lifesong you choose is your legacy. Are you all about the Father?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Hailey, Chris and the Penny

During church Sunday morning Hailey learned to count to five with her grandma. She held hands with her daddy, memorizing his smile and each of his fingers. She sang like her mom who was on stage helping to lead our worship songs.

With a pile of pennies tucked into her chubby little fist, Hailey patiently waited to give them to God. As she was dropping them in the offering plate one at a time, a single penny went wayward across her chair, rolling to the floor and out of reach.

Chris, an elder who was passing the offering plate, loves Hailey. He has been watching her grow and praying for her heart to be tender toward God since she was born. Hailey is growing up in the church.

My husband and I spend our Monday nights in a state women's prison loving people to Jesus. Frequently we ask the group of women if they went to Sunday School, Vacation Bible School or church camp. I get a rush of joy every time I see all the hands going up.

"My grandma took me to church every Sunday. We always sat on the second row. I still know those songs."

"We had a neighbor that took us to Vacation Bible School. It was the only time all summer I would get cookies and Kool-aid. I loved the crafts we made."

"I never went to church on Sundays, but I always went to church camp with my best friend. Every year."

Chris got on his knees and chased the penny under the chair. He picked it up and gave it to Hailey so that she could put it into the offering plate. Hailey beamed up at him with delight and pride in getting to be a part of the worship of giving.

Chris won't remember that he did that for Hailey. Hailey won't remember giving God that penny. None of us will remember that particular Sunday.

But such moments have eternal value, even though forgotten.

Hailey has been loved in our church. She has not only love, but faith tucked into her jacket as she journeys into life. Her heart is tender toward God, ready for him to mold someday when hope is illusive and peace gets shattered.

Look around you for the little ones. Who might like a ride to church this Sunday if only you would ask?