Jesus wept. But not out of powerlessness.

Jesus, Nigeria, suffering

The soft spoken teenage girl had been thrust into sudden adulthood.

Her hair wrapped in a bright turquoise piece of long fabric, she looked young but protective of her newborn baby boy.

She came into our office at the hospital’s crisis pregnancy center. She had given life to a baby boy just a couple of short weeks ago.

He hadn’t been eating and had been fussy lately. She couldn’t explain exactly why, but she knew that something wasn’t right.

I’ll call her Ruth. She’d come to our office months ago for a pregnancy test. She decided to keep her baby and raise him with her boyfriend and his family, in a village area not far from town.

Ruth was brave. In America, you face judgement and criticism as a pregnant teen. Or, conversely, you can be on TV on a reality show. It’s certainly not an easy road, no matter what. But in Nigeria as a pregnant unwed teen, there are more complicated matters. Like another mouth to feed and a high infant mortality rate.

Our center offered medical help for new moms and their babies, so I escorted Ruth over to the pediatric ward. We checked in and she began the long wait to see a doctor. I knew that it would be some time before the baby would be seen, and I headed back to our office.

Lunchtime was near, and I realized that we hadn’t heard anything from Ruth. I walked over to the pediatric ward, and saw Ruth in the waiting room. Her face was drawn and vacant, almost catatonic looking.

I asked her what was wrong and she softly whispered, “He died.” My gut felt like it simultaneously fell a few feet and tied in a knot. I couldn’t believe it. I asked her what happened and she just stared off into the distance, not speaking to answer my horrible question.

I was crushed and shocked at the same time.

Tears began to flow immediately and I felt as if I was crying for this devastated young mom who remained expressionless. I asked the nurse, “Why? What happened?” She didn’t know.

Devastating, those three words. I don’t know.

My heart and mind demanded an answer. Why? What had happened to this beautiful new baby? He hadn’t been eating well, but to come to see the doctor and DIE?! NO!

The nurse sternly pulled me aside and chided me. “You need to stop crying. She doesn’t need to see that. She needs you to be strong!” I don’t remember if I said anything in reply, but in my heart I knew that it was right to cry. This great loss deserved tears to be shed.

As if walking through a bad dream, Ruth and I gathered her baby boy, still wrapped tightly in his pastel blanket, and drove him to the village for burial. Very few words were spoken on the drive. Tears said what I couldn’t say on that day.

I was honored to be with Ruth on the very dark day when she had to bury her newborn son.

Since then I have had other days with friends on dark days, and them with me. Many times I have said stupid, thoughtless things. Sometimes I said things that I hoped would make them feel better.

The reality is that sometimes nothing that we say will make it better at all.

Sometimes the best thing that we can do when our loved one is hurting is to enter in to that sad place with them, and simply grieve alongside them.

I’m thankful for friends and family that do this with me on difficult days.

Jesus knew this and did it well. The account of Lazarus’ death tells us that Jesus wept. The shortest verse in the Scriptures, but so profound.

Jesus didn’t weep for Lazarus’ death, because Jesus, being fully God and fully man, knew that He would raise Lazarus from the dead.

Could it be that Jesus wept out of empathy, compassion and care for his friends who were deeply grieving the loss of their loved one, Lazarus?

I think that this is a great reality for us when we grieve anything in our lives: Death, chronic illness, a prodigal child, divorce, or loss of a job. Jesus enters into our grief with us.

He weeps with us. Not because He is caught by surprise, or powerless to change it.

He enters into our pain with us.

Powerfully, lovingly, and sometimes, as with Lazarus, it may look like he doesn’t come through until it’s too late.

He is more than able. He himself was a man of sorrows and feels compassion with us.

He is Emmanuel,

God with us.

P.S. This is a true story that happened over a decade ago during our time with SIM  in Nigeria.

Although I went as a missionary to serve in Africa with all kinds of love and zeal for Jesus, it turns out that I learned much from the people we were to serve.

As with any culture, there is good and bad, but most Nigerian people we know are resilient and joyful, many of whom I call friends and now family.

We are far richer because of them.

 

 

Read the entire story of Lazarus here.

Living Dangerously

Jesus, Uncategorized

I love adventure, but I don’t like to be in danger. Sometimes I can be a scaredy-cat. A few years ago our family was watching the action-adventure movie Salt, with Angelina Jolie.

I’ve never been a big fan, because I’ve only seen one of her movies. But this movie had me enthralled from the very beginning.

It begins with a beautiful CIA agent, Jolie, who is being tortured in a North Korean prison on suspicion of being an American spy. She is released, and a beaten Jolie gets in the car where her boyfriend is waiting, understandably shaken.

He tenderly kisses her, looks at her with deep love, and she tells him, “You can’t be with me. It’s too dangerous; I’m not safe. It’s not safe for you to be with me.” He replies,

“I don’t want to be safe, I want to be with you.”

At this line, I gasped out loud.

My husband thought I gasped because I had the hots for Jolie’s onscreen boyfriend, or because I thought it was so romantic. No. I was struck and audibly sucked in my breath because this is so profound.

What if we answered that way every time God called us out of our comfort zone? I don’t want to be safe, I want to be with YOU.

Let that sink in. I don’t want to be safe, I want to be with YOU. Let that be my answer every time. And may it be yours. Do you believe that God can speak through a movie?

He spoke through the mouth of a donkey. Do you and I want to be safe, or do we want to be with Jesus?

Embrace Weakness

Jesus

Y’all may think I’ve gone a little crazy, but this is what I’m doing and it’s setting me free like never before. Embrace Weakness. This is upside down from the “pull up your bootstraps” mentality that is so prevalent in this culture. I tend to shun weakness and pretend that I don’t have any inadequacies. (chuckle) That is worth a loud snort because we all have frailties in our life.

My eyes aren’t working the way I want them to. As a result, I’ve had severe double vision for the past two and a half years. There are periods of time that I just can’t drive myself around to and fro the way that I’m used to. I have to call or text friends or ask my kids to take me to the grocery store, or to run errands, or to go to work. For a time, I was so fed up with asking people for help that I hired a college student as a driver for a couple of months. She is very sweet and was a blessing to us during that time. I wasn’t embracing my weakness. I was kicking and screaming and throwing a fit about it.

I kicked and screamed for about two years. I researched on the internet. I had several MRI’s, countless blood tests, doctor visits and went to the incredible Mayo Clinic. Suddenly, over the past few weeks, my vision is getting worse. My heart, however, is becoming more and more free. How? By embracing my weakness. I am weak. I can’t fight it. Well, I guess I can, but it’s just plain exhausting and fruitless. I have been angry at God, mad at my own body for betraying me and not behaving the way I want it to, and finally, I am done fighting.

I accept that I am weak. But Jesus is strong. He is my strength. I have tried to be strong my entire life and put up a persona of a strong woman, and I don’t have to do it anymore. It’s so relaxing and peaceful. Embrace weakness.

When I was a single mom of a little baby boy and had to prove to the world that I could do this, I was strong. When I was a young girl who was sexually abused and I promised myself I would never be a victim again, I was strong. I don’t have anything to prove now. I’m embracing my weakness, embracing Jesus and His peace. And it feels good.

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What does fashion have to do with Jesus?

Jesus

Well, I’ll tell you.  Jesus doesn’t need fashion to proclaim His great story to the world. But why not use it?

Early Tuesday morning, my friend Lynette and I packed our bags for a day trip, and hit the road for a two-hour journey to talk about Jesus and how to “dress like a million bucks without spending it”.  I’m one of the rare people who actually enjoys public speaking. I don’t just enjoy it, I LOVE it.

However, I wasn’t real sure how I could pull off a feat like this day trip. Especially considering that I’m not physically able to drive myself most places lately and I have serious short-term memory loss along with word retrieval difficulty. Good thing nothing’s too difficult for God.

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These Austin, Texas ladies were delightful. Best of all, I got to see God work one of the greatest miracles of all….a changed life.

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We discussed the fun stuff of fashion: accessories, self-confidence, and the basics that every woman should have in her wardrobe.

1. A great fitting pair of jeans. In your current size, not the size you wish you were.

2. A classic white shirt

3. Trousers

4. Jacket that coordinates with trousers (aka a pant suit)

5. Little black dress

6. Cardigan

7. Blouse

I transitioned into the story of my life. Pain, self-destructive choices, and then crisis that led to the best thing ever: Realizing I’m a messed up woman who needs a Savior, Jesus. I think it’s really cool that with a captive audience of women who are having fun thinking about wardrobe and fashion, we can look at the reality that we are people who don’t just need a makeover, we need a Savior that can give us a new life and new mind.

That’s what fashion has to do with Jesus.

And I’m glad.

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God is constantly at work in us

Jesus, marriage, Uncategorized

Today’s text from our friend Brian Haynes will speak for itself:

God moments happen all around us all of the time. I love that God is constantly at work in people, in marriages, and in churches. If you need hope for your life, your family, your marriage or your church, take 6 minutes to watch this short documentary. It is a God story.

Followup thoughts

Jesus

I clicked on “Publish” a couple of hours ago on a post about my mind-bending thoughts on God, healing, and hurts. Imagine my delight when I plopped down on the couch this afternoon to read today’s entry for the devotional book Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. It’s written from the perspective of Jesus talking directly to us about our circumstances:

January 29

Keep your focus on Me.  I have gifted you with amazing freedom, including the ability to choose the focal point of your mind.  Only the crown of My creation has such remarkable capability; this is a sign of being made in My image.

Let the goal of this day be to bring every thought captive to Me.  Whenever your mind wanders, lasso those thoughts and bring them into My Presence.  In My radiant Light, anxious thoughts shrink and shrivel away.  Judgmental thoughts are unmasked as you bask in My conditional Love.  Confused ideas are untangled while you rest in simplicity of My Peace.  I will guard you and keep you in constant Peace, as you focus your mind on Me.

2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Isaiah 26:3 (AMP)

You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.

My favorite Christmas season

Christmas, Jesus
our mantle

our mantle

So far, this has been my favorite Christmas season to date….the least stressful and most relaxed. I have been reflecting on that, and wondering, why?

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

1. We don’t have a huge list of people to buy for. We have never practiced the Santa tradition in our family (gasp!) but since our kids are high school and college, we don’t feel the need to go nuts with presents. They’ll have some things to unwrap and hopefully a couple of surprises. One of our extended families (mine) played the draw-a-number-then-pick-a-present-or-steal game instead of the huge, expensive normal gift exchange this year, and it was fantastic. I highly recommend it!! Lots of fun and we all went home with something we liked but wouldn’t have bought for ourselves.

2. I’m not going crazy baking, cooking, or crafting. I love doing those things, but I’m just doing them throughout the year as I feel like it. No pressure to do anything added to our normal stuff this Christmas.

3. Minimal Christmas decorations. One partially decorated tree in the living room, a wreath on each window on the front of the house (which I think looks really cute and simple), some greenery with berries and stockings on the mantle. The end. Still looks a little festive, but nothing crazy around here.

4. No Christmas card with Christmas letter. Are you thinking, what a Scrooge? Well, at our house it’s kinda opposite….If you have all kinds of Christmas craziness going on, then you probably have one cranky mama on your hands. I’m a little cranky today, but not because I feel pulled in million different directions with Christmas craziness.

I don’t think Jesus minds that we’re celebrating Him this year with a little less excess and a little more joy. That equals a Merry Christmas around here.

christmas mantle

christmas mantle

Our simple but festive house

Our simple but festive house

Relax

Christianity, Jesus

google.com

from google.com

Check out this great devotional for today, September 27th, from the book Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. It’s short and is written from the perspective of Jesus talking to us, His children:

Relax in My everlasting arms. Your weakness is an opportunity to grow strong in awareness of My Almighty Presence. When your energy fails you, do not look inward and lament the lack you find there. Look to Me and My sufficiency; rejoice in My radiant riches that are abundantly available to help you.

Go gently through this day, leaning on Me and enjoying My Presence. Thank Me for your neediness, which is building trust-bonds between us. If you look back on your journey thus far, you can see that days of extreme weakness have been some of your most precious times. Memories of these days are richly interwoven with golden strands of My intimate Presence.

Deuteronomy 33:27; Psalm 27:13-14

I couldn’t have said it better! That’s all folks……

Don’t waste your cancer! Or any trial for that matter…..

Cancer, Christianity, Jesus, suffering

In 2006, Pastor John Piper announced that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. He responded to his diagnosis with the following:

“This news has, of course, been good for me. The most dangerous thing in the world is the sin of self-reliance and the stupor of worldliness. The news of cancer has a wonderfully blasting effect on both. I thank God for that. The times with Christ in these days have been unusually sweet.”

These challenging words are an excerpt from a letter to Pastor John Piper’s church.  Click here to read Pastor Piper’s entire letter to his church announcing his trial with cancer. It will probably rock you a little bit, as it did me.

As an American Christian, most of the time I have the wrong attitude about trials. We often feel forsaken and forgotten when we have a serious illness or undergo some sort of major trial. I have definitely felt that way lately as I’ve had an ongoing health trial. Piper reminds us that this isn’t the case, and he gives some great practical applications in his 16 page booklet Don’t Waste Your Cancer. You can download the PDF form and read it for free from desiringgod.org website.

This is a great booklet if you are suffering with a chronic or terminal illness, or if a loved one of yours is afflicted with sickness. It may just give you a huge shift in the way that you view trials, especially medical ones.

Think about it

Christianity, fear, freedom in Christ, Jesus, joy, Multiple Sclerosis

Think about what you are thinking about. Is it worry, or fear? I heard it put this way recently: Worry is telling God that you think He can’t handle things correctly.

Fear is crippling and will consume us if not proactively fought. We must think about what we are thinking about. I am learning that peace and freedom from fear are my choice….what are you choosing to think on and meditate on? If we are not intentional, fear will be like a roller coaster that we didn’t mean to get on. It will strap us in and take us wherever it wants us to go.

We choose whether or not to get on the roller coaster of fear. If we aren’t proactive about our thoughts, they’ll take us for a ride we may not want to go on…

Check out this song by Hillsong, Forever Reign. It helps to focus my thoughts on Jesus when I am struggling with fear:

Today’s devotional from Jesus Calling addresses this beautifully:

Trust Me and don’t be afraid, for I am your Strength and Song. Do not let fear dissipate your energy. Instead invest your energy in trusting Me and singing My Song. The battle for control of your mind is fierce, and years of worry have made you vulnerable to the enemy. Therefore, you need to be vigilant in guarding your thoughts. Do not despise this weakness in yourself, since I am using it to draw you closer to Me. Your constant need for Me creates an intimacy that is well worth all the effort. You are not alone in this struggle for your mind. My Spirit living within you is ever ready to help in this striving. Ask Him to control your mind; He will bless you with Life and Peace.

Isaiah 12:2; Romans 8:6

Tired of being afraid? I am. After a few months of absolute freedom from fear, it came back fiercely lately since undergoing medical tests to diagnose some neurological issues. Fear & worry seem to be the things I struggle with the most.  The past six months have been up and down and I have struggled with fear and the unknown during lots of tests for multiple sclerosis. So far the tests are inconclusive, as MS is very difficult to diagnose or completely rule out. In the moments of peace that I experience, I have joy and peace that it really doesn’t matter whether I have MS or not…my life is not my own and it belongs to Christ who gives me life. In my worst moments, I run with my imagination and fear the unknown and worst debilitating scenarios that MS can cause. What goes on in our thoughts is our choice. You and I must choose to think on truth; if we don’t, fear and worry can take us for a ride.