Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Week Twenty-Six - Momma Needs Ten Minutes

     When I was a young mother with five kiddos under the age of eight, I remember the pressure of trying to keep up with the housework, mountains of laundry, endless meals, caring for the children, and the demands of ministry, etc.  Sometimes the pressure would build until I had to get behind a closed door.  As I retreated to my bedroom, I announced, “Momma needs ten minutes.” 
     There I would decompress before I exploded!  Flat on the bed I would pray, cry, and shut my eyes for just a few minutes asking the Lord for strength to continue.  As I opened the door to face the remainder of the day, five sets of beautiful dark eyes greeted me.  We joined in a group hug and got back to the job of life.
     Pressure comes from many areas, finances, health, marriage, jobs., and a variety of relationships that all take a toll on our personal sanity and strength. Seems even watching the nightly news can create a subconscious pressure and fear.  This world is full of it!
    David Jeremiah tells the story of a submarine crushed by the force of the ocean depths.  As the examiners investigated the cause of the accident, they noticed fish swimming around the wreckage.  After a good look, they discovered the fish were designed to have the same pressure inside their tiny bodies as the pressure coming from the water around them.  Only a thin layer of skin divided the two great forces enabling the fish to withstand the ocean depths.
     In order to withstand the pressure we face from the outside world; we need an equal or greater power working within us.  My mind immediately went to Ephesians 3:16, “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.”  I remember when this verse caught my attention.  I had done a little study of all the 3:16 verses in the New Testament.  This one popped up.  I knew I needed this promise, this prayer, this verse.  I needed the strength in my inner man.  And I saw what I hope you see—that the strength is not my own.  It is His Spirit within me that gives me the might I need.
     I also thought of 1 John 4:4, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.”  Greater is He that is in you!  And greater is He than whatever is on the outside.  We are overcomers because of His presence and power in our lives.
     The pressure of this world will crush us unless we have an equal or greater power working inside us.  God knows that, so He provides the power we need to withstand.
     That power is gained by time alone with the Lord, being in the word, and prayer. But also, by keeping our lives free for poisonous radicals like pride, fear, anger, and sin.  A healthy balance in our Christian life creates for us an internal pressure protecting us from the crushing and destroying outside forces.
     I didn’t know the example of the fish when I made my bedroom retreat, but I knew I needed at least ten minutes to regain the strength I needed to endure the challenges of life and He was my only source.
    How about you?  Are you strong inwardly?  Are there toxic radicals tearing away at your strength?  Does the pressure of the world around you destroy or inhibit your spiritual mood?  Maybe it’s time to draw aside so you can draw strength, refresh, and renew.  Close that door and ask!
     Remember—the power in you is stronger than the power outside of you.  You have only to draw on that power—His power—to face your pressures.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Week Twenty-Five - Disappointment

     Ever have a plan that just doesn’t work out?   I sometimes do. For example, this past weekend Tom and I planned to meet my siblings on the square in our hometown for what promised to be an evening of classic cars, country music, and loads of smoked meats.  When we arrived, the music was playing, the cars were lined up for examination, but there was little to no meat to be found.  Needless to say, we were not impressed.  After wandering around hoping things would start to look up, we lost hope and headed to Rib Crib for that smoky, barbeque taste.
     I faced a different sort of disappointment in our early missionary career that sent me on a three-year depression.  I am calling it a disappointment, but I think the word disillusionment might be a better choice of words.
     I went to the mission field with the romantic idea of giving the gospel to souls eager to hear and receive.  After years of watching slides from mission fields around the world containing pictures of large crowds singing and listening to the word and hearing stories of numbers of people coming to Christ at a single service, I guess I thought that if we did it right, we would have the same outcome.  Though I knew my mission field was considered difficult, I was resolved to win the world for Christ.
     After a few years, the truth of the hardness of our field began to sink in.  There were no large crowds, only the faithful few.  People were not walking the aisle to find Christ; they were coming privately, and the fruit was slow to ripen.  They didn’t need us, and they weren’t backward in letting us know.  Making friends had become the only way to witness and that was an arduous job requiring hours of time and effort.
    I remember the day when I could take no more.  In no uncertain way I let my husband know I was disappointed and disillusioned with the mission field and especially in the way he was doing ministry.  I saw it as his fault the crowds weren’t coming and the fruit was scarce, and I told him so.
   Being the wise and patient man that he is, he let me rant until I collapsed in tears.  And that was the beginning of God’s healing in my heart.
   I remember that day vividly, and the feelings of frustration.  I also remember God turning the tables and within the next five years we saw growth and more doors of ministry.  What did I learn through my disappointment and depression? 

1. God gives the increase.  It isn’t about what we do for the Lord, as much as it is about our leaning upon and trusting Him alone to bless His word in His time and in His way.

2. The ministry belongs to Him alone.  I, and my husband, are simply tools in His hand.  It is a privilege to serve and watch God at work.  We are but unprofitable servants doing what God has asked us to do.

3. I will not be called upon to give an answer for my husband’s service. (Which was not inadequate, by the way.)  I needed to understand that my husband has a relationship and a leading from the Lord that is personal.  It is not my job to be the Holy Spirit, but to be a loyal and supportive wife.

4. I will be called upon to give account of my own service, and that includes my attitude toward my husband.  I think I will have enough of my own things to answer for without trying to judge, motivate, and direct him as well! 
     Those great life/ministry lessons strengthened our marriage and made us a better ministry couple.
     Our field remains one for the long haul.  There are still no crowds pressing to hear the gospel, but the gospel is going forward and God is faithful in honoring His word!
     If you are facing a disappointment or a disillusionment in life or in ministry, let me encourage you to take it to the Lord, honestly bear your hurting soul, and let Him teach you lessons that will encourage your heart. 
     You won’t be disappointed!

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Week Twenty-Four - It Is What It Is

     “It is what it is.  It becomes what you make of it.” 
     I saw these two sentences on a plaque above the doorway in a little house where we were staying in St Louis.  The idea captured my thoughts for several days as I began applying it to various situations.
     First, I thought of where we were staying.  It was a cute little house in an older community.  The house has been updated, but it had some drawbacks.  I could choose to mutter under my breath or enjoy the time and the company around me.  I chose to let it become what I made of it—a great few days!
     Later that week we made a visit to my family farm, the place holding all my childhood memories. As we drove down the lanes and pulled up to the now empty houses, my heart sank.  I didn’t realize I had been away so long and was not prepared for the decay before my eyes.  With trees growing wildly in the front yard and a sagging porch roof, my grandmother’s house showed no sign of life. “It is what it is.  It becomes what you make of it,” I heard in my mind.  What was it?  Empty.  Old.  Vacant.  What was I going to make of it? 
     Well, initially I found my eyes welling with tears and my voice starting to crack.  I struggled to take in the absence of life and the finality of the passing of my family.  It took a while, but I faced up to the facts and knew that though today the places looked empty, my memories were not.  The joy, the meals, the love, and the fun we all experienced as we grew up in those beloved houses were vivid.  Decay could not steal those memories.  I chose to appreciate the memories and accept that time passes relentlessly for us all.
     This past week I spent some special time with my grandchildren.  Again, I heard those words.  “It is what it is.  It becomes what you make of it.”  I knew my time was limited.  Soon we would be returning to the mission field and many months would pass before I saw any of them again.  I remembered when my grandson, Titus asked me a few years ago, “Grandma, why do you have to live so far away in England?” 
     I choked back the tears and told him, “Well, sweetheart, that is just the way God has planned it.”  I wasn’t sure how he would take my answer, but he leaned in close with a precious hug and said, “Grandma, that’s awesome.”  It is what it is.  It becomes what I make it.  I choose to make it an amazing thing.  A God thing.  And I choose to help my grandchildren to see it that way, too.
    There are so many of life’s situations that demand we choose to accept the facts and create the best possible outcome.  It is all a matter of our outlook.
     As God would have it, I started another old book yesterday, and it started out with this same theme.  In his anthology, Good in Everything, H.L. Gee writes: “During the Second World War I was greatly impressed by something a girl said.  She was compelled to leave her home, her own town, and the profession she loved, in order to work in a munition factory over a hundred miles away.  The night before she left for her new task she looked in to see us.  “And what do you think of it all?” I asked.  She made a little face; and then, with a smile, she said: “Oh, I shall get along quite well, I think.  You see, I’ve made up my mind that I’m going to like it.  It was one of the most sensible and gallant things of the war, and it reminded me of the profound truth which Shakespeare borrowed from the ancient Greeks and passed on to us in a dozen memorable words:  There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” (p 1)
     It is what it is.  It becomes what you make of it.  Is there something in your life you need to grasp and face with a determination to look for the better side?  Maybe it’s a situation where your thoughts and attitude need to change?  Or, something you need to stop resisting and accept as a tool of God in your life?  It will become what you make of it. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Week Twenty-Three - Meet Me at the Corner

      I’ve just finished a book titled Prescription for Anxiety written by Leslie Weatherhead in the 1940s. One of the paragraphs that really struck me was a story about a lay preacher called Hugh Redwood.  As told by Dr. Weatherhead;
     “At one period in his life, Hugh Redwood passed through a difficult time. He had some very hard decisions to make, and wasn't sure what he should do. He asked God for guidance, but as sometimes happens, it seemed that no guidance was given. The heavens were silent. One evening he went to have dinner with some friends before going on to address a large public meeting of several thousand people. When the meal was over his hostess said to him, "Hugh, don't wait around for the small talk; go upstairs to the study. There is a fire burning. Put your feet up and relax for a little while." Redwood was glad of a little peace and quiet, so that is what he did. He found, as promised, that there was a cheery fire in the grate. He sat down on an easy chair and noticed that on the table beside the chair was a Bible. He picked it up and discovered that it was open at Psalm 59. He began to read, and when he came to Verse 10 he found the words, "The God of mercy shall prevent me."’ (Psalm 59:10 (KJV) The God of my mercy shall prevent me: God shall let me see my desire upon mine enemies.)
     The word ‘prevent’ has a different meaning in the King James version than its use in today’s modern language. If we prevent something, we mean that we are stopping something from occurring. In King James times, the word ‘prevent’ meant to ‘go before’. To prevent someone was to go before them.  The ESV reads: My God in his steadfast love will meet me; God will let me look in triumph on my enemies.
Returning to the story about Hugh Redwood; “But somebody else had written another translation in the margin, and it found its way into Hugh Redwood's mind with such power that he never forgot it. The anonymous hand had written, "My God, in His loving kindness, shall meet me at every corner."
     When I visualise corners, I picture the street we used to live on in Leicester. There were rows and rows of red-bricked Victorian terraced houses that were intersected by yet more streets to form a grid pattern. The houses were arranged in squares with the backyards all facing toward each other and the front of the houses facing the road. I used to walk home via a zig-zag route, around various corners until I reached my front door. I could never see around the next corner and I remember whilst pushing the pram having to stop before the corner in case I ran it into someone walking perpendicular to me!
     Corners in life represent changes in our direction. This could be a move from school to University, a new job or relocation to a new town. We worry and stress because we can’t see around the corner. We don’t know what’s coming and we humans naturally react to the unknown with anxiety.
     Most of the corners in my life have led me to wonderful, unexpected and beautiful places – even if at the time they seemed like hesitant steps into the unknown. Newly married, we moved away from friends and family to a new city where we knew nobody. I left behind a good job to study a new profession and our household income halved overnight. This hard decision resulted in some difficult times yet blessings we could never have imagined – including a much-loved child, a wonderful new church family, and opportunities I’d never have dreamed of. God met us at the corner. He was already in Leicester and beyond. His mercy prevented us!
     Some corners in life are not ones we choose but ones that find us - perhaps bereavement, financial loss or a physical or mental illness that requires us to change our lifestyle in a way we never anticipated. We worry because we think our lives should be like an orderly straight line along which we tread, going from one plan to the next. When these plans of ours are interrupted by whatever means our first reaction is to panic. “You see, if the story of our life is like a line drawn on a sheet of paper, then God is not another intersecting line, but the page on which the line is drawn! He encompasses us at every point. There is no place at which His loving action does not touch our life. Dame Julian of Norwich expressed it perfectly when she wrote, "We are all in Him enclosed." That is, we are wrapped round by goodness and love. Not only forgiven for what is past and strengthened in the present, but drawn into a future that is filled with divine mercy” (Dr. Maurice Boyd)
We can’t see around the corners in our lives. The future seems filled with uncertainties. But God is already there. When we look to the future, we can be certain that we look to a place where God already dwells. Whatever lies beyond the corner can be faced because God has already been there and will travel with us.
   So, friend, fret not about the corners in life. God will meet you there. He is already there. We are ‘all in Him enclosed’. What a beautiful thought.

I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew
He moved my soul to seek Him, seeking me;
It was not I that found, O Saviour true--
No, I was found of Thee.
I find, I walk, I love, but O the whole
Of Love is but my answer, Lord, to Thee;
For Thou wast long beforehand with my soul,
 Always Thou lovedst me.

Dr. R Owen.

Prescription for Anxiety by Dr. Leslie Weatherhead
Prevenient Grace by Dr. Maurice Boyd