“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV
The game was close, the players intense. Suddenly a Viking went down, the ball spiraling out of his hands. A Saint picked it up and, in the melee around the player on the ground, ran a clean run into the end zone for a TD! Wow, no obstacles in his way. He grabbed the opportunity and ran with it, literally!
That TD was taken away from the Saints because the knee of the Viking who initially carried the ball was on the ground before the ball left his hands, taking it out of play.
Nevertheless, I was impressed with the Saint who took advantage of the opportunity at hand.
How often do we take advantage of such opportunities to live or share our faith? When a ball is fumbled, do we grab it and run with it, regardless of the outcome?
And what about when I’m the one doing the fumbling? Irritable, moody, feeling overwhelmed with the day to day tasks of life? Do I look for ways to work through those feelings or allow them to overtake and overrun me?
In my last post I wrote about looking for my word for the year. I thought it might be GAZE – to gaze on my God and take in His presence, His peace, His character. I’ve tweaked it a bit, to LEAN. I choose to lean on, and into, Jesus in the ups and downs and sleepless nights and writing pressures and joys and challenges that make up the patterns of my life. So if you see me grouchy, out of sorts, or needing encouragement, feel free to remind me to LEAN.
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
Today is Veterans’ Day, a day to thank those who have served our country in military service. And there are many stories of veterans who have been heroes, caring for children in war zones, helping their companions, often separated from family members for long periods of time.
Like me, you’ve probably teared up at some of the TV news spots showing a serviceman or woman surprising a spouse, a child by walking into their place of work or school. Or the one where the soldier’s dog greets him with unabashed joy, whole body wiggling, tail wagging.
My favorite veteran, my husband Don Loewen, was part of the cleanup efforts in Okinawa for sixteen months at the end of WWII. While others within our Mennonite peace culture did significant alternative service like teaching or working in hospitals, building artificial limbs for returning soldiers, Don believed he had a responsibility to serve within traditional means and trusted God to guide him in that. Don was assigned to the medics and worked in mosquito abatement.
My husband doesn’t like to talk about his service. Like many who have been in war zones, he doesn’t want to relive the memories that have never left him. But there are some stories he has told me, like the time in 1945 he hung onto the bottom of a cargo truck for eight hours while a typhoon rocked the island with wind gales up to 180 mph.
Or the times he went into a bar with his best bud. Don would order a Coke while Ray drank hard liquor. But when Don told him he’d had enough, Ray stopped drinking.
Don carried his pocket Bible with him at all times. I didn’t know him then, but I like to think back of that handsome young soldier who stood for God, country and family. Who wasn’t afraid to walk into a place that was foreign to his upbringing (like a bar) and do the right thing, because of his commitment to Jesus Christ. Who was willing to confront Ray when his actions jeopardized his health and decision-making.
So while I know there are abuses of power in the service, I am thankful for those men and women who serve(d) with honor and integrity. I also ache for those who came home with tremendous scars, missing limbs, PTSD, broken families.
To each of you, starting with my husband, Don, thank you for your service!
On every page of the Bible there are words of God that give us reason to hope…In the promises of God, I find inspiration and new hope. Charles A. Allen
II Peter 1:4 NLT “Because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.”
If you’ve read my posts for awhile now, you probably know that I come from parents who were fully committed to Jesus Christ, and who raised us to love and honor God and them. No entitlement mentality was tolerated. If we sinned, or disobeyed Mom or Dad, if we were disrespectful, we felt the brunt of discipline. Neither we nor our parents took that lightly!
But we were loved. I still have pictures of Dad playing “farm” on the floor with my two older brothers, Mel and Arn, and me as we laid out the fences, cows, horses and chickens …
And when I accidentally spilled my glass of milk, Mom got a rag, cleaned it up, gave me more milk, and said something like “Oh well, we can clean that up.” No recriminations. Although I expected punishment, she knew the spilled milk was an accident.
We were taught obedience. No, we didn’t always obey; and we didn’t always like each other as kids. And yet, we stuck together. Once, at my first boyfriend’s house (I was five), my leg went to sleep. Mr.Wageman was a tall, distinguished German man with a strong accent, intimidating to my little self.
It was time to go home. Somehow I managed to tell Mel that my leg was asleep and I couldn’t walk. And my big brother got down in front of the couch so I could wrap my legs around him and ride piggyback home. My dignity was saved!
I don’t remember specific words about how Mel, Arn and I treated each other; but somehow we learned to be kind to each other. I recall getting into trouble for some misdeed when my brothers both spoke up for me. They had my back.
And when younger brother Bob joined the family when I was eleven, we extended the love to him. As I grew I took him places with me and loved it when I was 16 (Bob was 5) and others asked if I was his mother. Mel and Arn turned Bob’s stroller into a hot rod and pushed him all around the neighborhood.
My siblings and I have had some major disagreements as adults. But we have managed to communicate about and resolve those issues, sometimes through tears, other times through respectful, honest discussion.
So what did Mom and Dad do to foster this kind of love and mutual respect?
“Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6, ESV) They taught us about God’s love and taught us scripture from earliest childhood.
They modeled respect, affirmation and forgiveness in how they treated us.
They had, and expressed, high expectations of us and didn’t tolerate lying, cheating, laziness, nasty language, or meanness.*
I am not a parent, but I see some of my nephews and nieces who are wonderful parents – patient, exacting, understanding, accepting, loving, giving and forgiving. I admire the ways they lead and teach their children in example and word. So, if you are a parent of young children, my hat’s off to you! God bless you and guide you and give you every bit of strength, courage, resilience, and love you need to wisely guide those little ones into love for Jesus Christ, and to productive adulthood. And may God give you times of rest in the process!
What are ways your parents trained you that helped you grow and mature? What are you doing with your own children to raise them wisely and with love?
*NOTE: this is my experience with my parents. My brothers may have different perspectives as each relationship is different.
I have learned now that while those who speak about one’s miseries usually hurt, those who keep silence hurt more.
Secrets. Deadly. C.S. Lewis lost his beloved wife, Joy, to cancer. But he didn’t hide his grief, writing about it in A GRIEF OBSERVED. His wisdom is meaningful because it comes out of his own life experience.
Our culture tends to think of pain as a negative, as something to sweep under the proverbial rug.
“How are you?” “I’m fine thanks. And you?”
We may not want to take someone else’s time to share the truth of our journey, the faith crisis we’re in, the pain of loss, a wayward child, bankruptcy, or challenges within a community, a ministry, a marriage.
But secrets divide us. They raise barriers. Don’t go past this point. No more questions. Change the subject.
Have you been there? I have. In my last three posts I’ve written about being part of an inner city ministry for ten years, years that included times of significant joy and reward as we helped people through times of personal crisis, led children’s clubs and adult Bible studies, a teen choir, food and clothing distribution, and started a school in the ghetto. Joy as some committed their lives to Jesus Christ and started to walk a new path, making different, more positive choices than many around them.
But those years also included times of pain, with a controlling leader who told us not to talk to family or friends about doubts or issues with his leadership. So, along with others, I held a lot inside. I kept secrets. Was I fine? Definitely not. Did I tell anyone? Not for years.
So being with other women who were part of that organization two weeks ago was extremely meaningful. We shared honestly and openly, asking and answering questions and also sharing about our current lives. Although I know there was and is more to share, we spoke the secrets aloud. And it was healing.
Someone said when people speak about their joy, people listen and affirm. But when we speak our pain, people lean in. All of us have experienced pain, whether physical, emotional, mental or spiritual. And pain spoken loses some of its power, while pain held in spreads like a cancer.
Obviously we need to be wise. Sharing everything with everyone is neither prudent nor effective. But we do need safe places where we can be authentic with a few trusted individuals.
When we speak of our pain (within appropriate boundaries), others want to hear. They may be experiencing something similar, and they want to know how we overcame. What gave us the strength to move through the pain to new understanding, to finding hope again?
Perhaps we can begin to welcome pain as a gift to help us grow or warn us of needed changes. The child who places her hand on a hot stove learns not to do that. The pain of betrayal may caution us against trusting too quickly, about delving more deeply into a person’s integrity before getting too involved.
The pain of distance from God may remind us that we need to spend regular time with him, enjoying this most important of all relationships.
None of us wants pain. Few of us invite it. And God doesn’t send it. But he can use it in our lives as it reminds us …
that God is our comfort as we move toward rather than away from him. “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (I Peter 5:7)
to serve others–God comforts us so that we can pass that comfort along to others in need (II Corinthians 1:3-5)
to patiently endure–“My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees.” (Psalm 119:71) and
to rely on God–“Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life” (I John 5:12).
Out of pain and problems have come the sweetest songs, and the most gripping stories.
Those are reasons to be thankful for pain’s impact in our lives.
May God guide you as you open your heart’s secrets to him, our ultimate Counselor; and to trusted confidantes, so that you may be healed.
I had taken a high school girl from our Youth for Christ group to a basketball game. She had a curfew, which I fully intended to respect. However, as we sat in the car outside her home after the game, Lisa began having flashbacks from the drugs she’d taken. I couldn’t see sending her into the house with that going on, so stayed in the car and talked and prayed with her. (This was in the dinosaur days of no cell phones.)
Eventually her father came out, looking for his daughter. He was furious, and rightly so. A college woman they didn’t really know had taken their daughter out for the evening and her parents were probably panicking about what might have happened to her. I couldn’t explain without destroying Lisa’s faith in me. Her dad pulled her out of the car, yelled at me with words about never wanting to see me again, and stomped off.
Talk about a sleepless night! I cried and prayed for some time, and finally just committed this to God, with the plan to call Lisa’s father at 10 am and apologize again!
At 9:40 someone came to my dorm room. “You have a phone call in the lobby.”
Picking up the phone, I heard Lisa’s father’s voice.
“I called to apologize for my words and behavior last night. I know you were trying to help Lisa, and appreciate that.”
I was stunned. God had turned something ugly into something good as I too apologized for not handling the situation better, for causing them worry and concern. And Lisa’s parents and I became friends!
A Strong Tower
I think that’s one example of what scripture means when it says “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” (Proverbs 18:10 NKJV) A tower is a refuge, a sanctuary. When Don and I walked the city walls around Dubrovnik in Croatia, we came across a lot of towers in which one could hide, or from which they could attack the enemy. God gives us gifts and abilities that can be a great help to others and ourselves, but we need his sanctuary, his refuge, to protect, guide us and help us meet the attacks that come our way, whether through evil, as the school murders that are occurring more and more frequently, or through illness, loss or doubt.
If my security rests only in myself, it can be removed in an instant. Having had two major surgeries in the past nine months, I’m well aware of my physical (and sometimes emotional) limitations. Watching me get up from a chair or table after sitting awhile, following a total knee replacement, is not a pretty sight. I’m humbled by my own limitations and try to laugh at my foibles. But I also recognize my confidence cannot just be in myself.
Proverbs 28:26 says “He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe.”
So while I thank God for the blessings he has given — loving family, health, friends, capabilities — I choose to trust him as my Strong Tower, my refuge, my helper, my Lord and Savior. When I am weak, he is strong; when I am empty, he is love and grace and goodness and righteousness.
Have you experienced God as your Strong Tower? I’d love to hear about it.
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 but you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:23-26