Thursday, July 21, 2016

My Election Advice

In this time, here in the United States, signs for candidates are popping up in our neighbors' yards and on the bumpers of cars I drive behind, I have decided to throw my two cents out there. I didn't like any of the signs that I have seen, so I decided to make my own.

I am not trying to make a political statement. I am promoting the best choice and hope that we have for this nation, the way to truly be for our country and to make it, and the nations around the world, great. 

The Bible says, "[God] changes the times and epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding." Daniel 2:21 

Since it is God who puts them into power (and takes them out again), I need to be talking to Him about it, asking Him to do His will on earth as it is done in heaven and to show me what my part in it is.

Whether to reward, punish, or guide, God puts or allows rulers to come to precedence according to His plan, for His glory and our ultimate good. We can't always see what that good is, and sometimes it doesn't seem like there could be any good at all. But that is when we get to walk by faith. Once we get to heaven, we won't be able to walk by faith any more, it will all be sight! So here on earth is our opportunity to honor God by trusting Him and obeying Him even when it doesn't make sense. He is something to truly believe in.

God has told us, "I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings who are in authority..." I Timothy 2:13  So when we pray for the authorities and that the right ones will be put into power we are obeying God.

  • Do you pray for your nation's and the world leaders in your private times of prayer?
  • Do your children hear you pray for these leaders in your family devotions?
  • Are they prayed for publicly in your church?

I urge you to do this and to encourage others to pray as well. Feel free to download and use this "election sign" on social media. Use the hashtag #AppealtoaHigherAuthority to encourage others to be praying for the United States nationally and locally, and all the nations around the world.

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Fifth Way to Draw Your Family Together - Cry Together

(This past week I received three emails from this blog announcing new posts including a post from last December. I have no idea what caused it, except that I am working on my iPad mini from Germany where I am helping my daughter with the birth of their first child. If you did as well, I am so sorry.)

Before you click away from this post because you don't want to cry--or what I actually mean, suffer--with your family, give me a second to explain!

Remember that vacation when you missed your flight and your suitcase didn't arrive? The day when your toilet overflowed on your guests in the middle of the night and they couldn't find you because you had changed rooms with your son and his wife? When your car overheated in the middle of the Utah Salt Flats in the days before cellphones? When the four hour hike turned into an eight hour odyssey without a trail? These are all vivid memories in my mind and great bonding experiences I had with family and friends...we just didn't know it at the time that we were drawing closer. That takes about three weeks.

Think about it. Anytime things have gone "wrong" you have special memories and laughs with the people who were with you. 

Then think about true suffering: a broken arm in the wilderness, rushing through the night to the hospital with a parent having a stroke, fears for biopsy results, a miscarried pregnancy, or the loss of a loved one. We have done these as well. If you are willing to go through this with others, to weep with those who weep, you will have a relationship bound in the way no other can be.

I have come to believe that there are (at least) five ways you can draw closer to people and families can become closer to each other. I'm going to talk about the final one in this post, and have four other posts you can read on the others. They are: 

In the first post in this series, Be Together, I told about a sleep over I had when I was about 32 with four other women between 25 and 40 or so. The reason that I did that was I wanted us to have some common suffering. A camping trip is a perfect opportunity for this: uncomfortable sleeping arrangements, collapsing tents, rain, animals, fires that won't start...but as I explained, camping wasn't possible, so we slept together on my living room floor and only endured a little loss of sleep and an uncomfortable hardwood floor.

Other than a camping trip, or an Outward Bound experience, it's hard to plan suffering. And while I don't think you need to intentionally plan to forget your sleeping bags when you are camping at 8000 feet, I don't think we need stress about providing idyllic circumstances for our families either.  Of all my kids' birthday parties, the one we remember most is when it was pouring rain outside so all our games suddenly had to become indoor games, and just as we were about to start one, the gutter suddenly overflowed into the living room, making our wall a waterscape. One of the six year old boys looked at it and said, "Cool!" That was definitely not what I was thinking at that moment! But my husband was there and said, "Take the boys to the patio to play the games and I will work on this." 

Two reasons that is a great memory: A little boy helped me see a different side of things, and we worked together to still make it a fun birthday party rather than reacting in anger. 

When it comes to crying or suffering or things just going wrong I think what we need to work on most is our reaction to the situation. 

Ask God to help you train yourself to:

  • Not Overreact - This includes anger, fear, and panic. So you forgot the sheets at the couples' retreat at a camp that does not provide bedding except blankets. Improvise and do not blame one another, even if it is their fault. This helps no one.  You find yourself in a  potentially dangerous situation, pray out loud, "Lord protect us!" But starting to scream will probably not help anyone.
  • To Make the Best of it - Without sheets at that retreat, we took our bunk beds and rattled them against the wall so everyone would think we were having a great time! We laughed and  then we covered ourselves with the blankets and slept. 
  • See the funny side - Remember Chrystalla and I in the tent sharing a sleeping bag while a Frenchman told us in heavily accented English to please go to sleep? The whole situation struck us as ludicrous and we laughed. We can laugh (now) about our living room waterscape birthday party and the time we rounded a mountain curve in Colombia to be greeted by a band of camophlage wearing, gun-toting men. Military or FARC (a terrorist group)? After the men were patted down we were told to go straight down the mountain by the army who said this was a militarized zone and we had no business being there, our laughter was nervous, but now it is (almost) a fond memory.
Let me tell you about the best trip our family ever took. My husband had a dream of visiting all the Emmaus Course offices in Spanish speaking South bus. We flew to Chile and then over to Argentina and from there came by bus in pieces through Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, the whole length of Peru, and Ecuador before flying home to Colombia. The trip lasted six weeks and our three youngest children were with us and we're 13, 17, and 18. 

We were at turns, fascinated, exhausted, hungry, cold, hot, thrilled, interested, bored, meeting new people, staying with people we'd never met, seeing new sights, dealing with new cultures, always looking out for one another, vigilante for pickpockets, on buses, in cars, walking, on horses, in a 22 hour school-bus-like ride through the freezing Chaco desert, on boats, in ancient taxis, in motto-taxis, in snow, in the Bolivian hot low-lands, on the Ecuadorian Pacific coast, puffing at 11,000 feet in La Paz, and exploring ancient Incan sites in Peru, in a light plane over the Nazca lines, and in meetings, meetings, meetings, until our children could quote along with Dad some of the statistics and illustrations he would use to inspire people to study the Bible with Emmaus courses. 

The best moment for me? After we had been home a couple of weeks we were excitedly telling some friends about the trip and the mother asked, "Didn't you get tired of being together so much?" I held my breath waiting to hear what my kids would say. After a moment of silence they said, almost shocked, "No! It was the best trip ever! It was like us against the world!"

Of course, it is different if your situation is the death, or impending death, of a loved one. But face it and allow your children to face it. Glossing over it, does not help them deal with life when Mom and Dad cannot protect them from the ups and downs that are a part of life. Life can be sad, hard, disappointing, and rigorous. Walk through it together. Even the death of a loved one can turn into a time of fond reminiscing about their life, tears for your loss, and even reconciliation between estranged family and friends who all loved the same person. Seek these things.

All this  will draw your family together in ways you cannot imagine. Don't be afraid to walk through them hand in hand looking for the good.

To read more on this secret to a close family, here is a link to an article by Gary Smalley who got me thinking along these lines and helped me develop my thinking on this whole series of how to draw together. 
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How has suffering drawn your family together?

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Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Fourth Way to Draw Your Family Together - Work Together

(I am currently in Germany helping my daughter after the birth of her first baby, a girl, and our sixth grandchild. I'm struggling with German Internet and my iPad Mini. You might find some typos in this post that I have tried to correct, but something won't allow me to. Thanks for your understanding.)

In June, my husband and were were the "Memory Verse station" for our church's Vacation Bible School. I came up with the creative ideas and gathered the materials we needed, Jim was the uninhibited front person. We had about 70 kids come through and learn a five verse passage. I loved watching him interact with the kids. He thought my different ideas for each night were great. It was so much fun to work together and I fell in love with him all over again.

One day while my four children were at school I went in their rooms and was so frustrated that there were things from all over the house in each of their rooms. Rather than put them away myself, I made piles in the middle of each room, two in the girls room, one in each of the two boys' rooms. When they got home, I told them they could have their snack when everything in their pile was put away where it belonged.  

I was not sure how the kids would react, But they had a great time! They were carrying things all over the house, laughing about what what in their room and putting it where it belonged whether it was a tool of dad's, a dish from the kitchen, a toy from the toy room, dirty clothes, books for the bookshelf , or a towel from the bathroom. When they finished they all sat down together at the table for their cookies and milk and joked about the things they had on the floors of their rooms. They had a common bond of working at the same time. It would have connected them even more if I had had them help each other, working together.

I have come to believe that there are (at least) five ways you can draw closer to people and families can become closer to each other. I'm going to talk about the fourth one in this post, and have four other posts you can read on the others. They are 

  • Vacation! Believe it or not, vacation can be a good time to work together. One of the great things about camping is it requires work: setting up the tent, gathering wood, cooking over a fire, maybe fishing and scaling the fish, and clean up Next week I want to talk about another way camping bonds families, but, the working together aspect is a great one, even if it does not seem like the kids think so at the moment!
  • Yardwork: Working in the yard as a family is a natural time to get this kind of togetherness in, whether it is planting flowers, pulling weeds, raking grass or leaves, or watering plants. Everyone outdoors, with a common goal (even if it seems like their  goal is to get it over with) is good for a family. One caution: if you have little kids working in the garden, you might get pulled flowers, plants broken, and weeds missed. Make your goal good bonding time, and not a perfect yard.
  • Work Days:  Our chapel has workdays a couple of times a year to get the building cleaned up and in good order. Sometimes schools or parks have volunteer workdays too. These are a great time to bring the kids along and find jobs They can do as well, Either with you, or working with others. A fast food lunch or an ice cream out is always a great way to end the day on a happy note!
  • Helping Others:  Maybe you know some older people who could use some help winterizing their yard, or a friend who needs a hand with a shed he's putting up, or a mother with a new baby, who would love to have her older kids entertained , some laundry folded, and dinner prepared. Take your kids along and serve others together. You all get that great feeling of having done a good deed together.
  • Moving Day:  When our oldest son, his wife and two kids Their wee moving from a small apartment to a first floor of a house  with a yard!)  our other son and his wife and my husband and I were there to help, packing, watching kids, carrying things out of one place to the van or truck and into another place a few blocks away. Sure, it was hard work, and some of us were sore at the end of the day, but we shared the joy of helping.       
  • Mealtimes : Meals provide natural ways to get kids to help out, setting the table, clearing, helping prepare the food, and washing and drying the dishes. My ideal was we would do this together after dinner, one washing, one drying, one putting away, me overseeing wiping up. That happened far less times than I'd like to admit, but I usually had one helper for setting and one for clean-up. It gave us sometime to talk and bond, even though they had the goal of getting out of the kitchen in the shortest time possible!
I was not sure if I should put prayer first or working together first as I am writing these topics from "lightest" to "deepest" bonding, and I still do not know, but I believe it takes all these stages to    truly deepen any relationship.   

Tell me how you get your family to work together.

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Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Third Way to Draw Your Family Together - Pray Together

While I was in France on that summer missions experience for ten weeks, we often had outreaches in local parks. One night after we had shown a Moody Science film, a man stayed after to talk. As he was talking with the one who was going to drive us back to the house where we were staying, about 5 of us were waiting. After putting everything away and picking up any garbage lying around we gathered together. Someone suggested we use the time to pray for the man who obviously had some spiritual interest.

We bowed our heads and began praying that this man would understand the gospel and be saved. After about ten minutes of prayer, the tone of our prayers began to change and we found ourselves thanking God for hearing and answering our prayers. We went on to boldly thank Him for this man's salvation. And then we closed in prayer.

When we opened our eyes, we looked at each other in surprise. I think each one of us was wondering, "Did we just do that? Was it presumptuous? Or was it in faith?"

Soon the two men walked over to where we were sitting and our driver said, "I'd like you to meet a new brother in the Lord!"  

I wish I could say that was my experience in prayer often, but that is the only time I can remember believing that God had answered my prayer as I prayed and thanking Him before I had "proof". Because of that time in prayer, the five of us had a special bond for the rest of our time together. We had prayed earnestly together and had seen God answer!

I have come to believe that there are (at least) five ways you can draw closer to people and families can become closer to each other. I'm talking about the third in this post. Below are the links for the first two. Come back to read about one in each of the next three posts. They are 

3. Pray Together -- At our local church, I am in charge of a ministry called Titus 2 Alive! Our goal is to have women who are older in the faith, pray with, mentor, and disciple younger women. When my co-leader and I were getting this off the ground in a church where it hadn't been in practice for its 35 years of existence, we were a little fearful about reactions and how to get it going, so we decided to start last summer with "Ladies Summer Prayer Partners". 

We invited the women to sign up if they wanted a prayer partner for the summer. They could either sign up with someone they had already talked to, or we could match them up with someone. We ended up with about 11 pairs of women praying together. 

The results have been amazing! Most of them didn't end their time together at the end of the summer, but have kept going all year. They have become friends, started having lunch together, or visiting the farmer's market together, and one pair even took a flying trip together to visit a great aunt who needed care!

This all happened because they had grown closer to each other by sharing their personal concerns and taking them to God together in prayer. When we pray with someone, we will also probably pray for that person on our own because their needs are in our minds and come to be on our hearts, giving us an emotional bond. Then when we talk with that person, we don't have to fritter the time away with small talk about the weather, we can get deeper by asking about how God is working on various concerns and how the Lord has led us to pray for them.

This will work in families, too. Perhaps the family times of prayer won't be as earnest, especially when children are young. But that's when we should start praying together, modeling how we pray for our needs and for one another. As our children grew, we had them pray from the youngest one to the oldest, which meant Dad closed in prayer during our family devotions. Usually it took about six minutes or less for all six of us to pray, but some nights when someone had a concern, or we had learned about a missionary, we would go a little longer. Today when I hear my grown children pray in church, my heart swells with joy and love!

Some practical ideas:

  • Have short family devotions. A good time is when you are together around the table for a meal. No need to regather everyone, they are already there. Close that time in prayer.
  • Vary your prayer times. Maybe go around the circle and let each one pray for whatever is on their heart. Another time, have "popcorn" prayers where each one can pray two or three short prayers as something comes to mind. Have a time where you only thank or praise God for what He has done and what you have. Have each person pray for the person on their left or right. It is so wonderful to hear brothers and sisters pray for each other.
  • Read excerpts from a missionary letter and pray for them.
  • Have each one pray for the person whose birthday it is, even if it is Grandma and Grandpa who live far away.
  • Ask for prayer requests and assign who will pray for each one.
  • Keep track of prayer requests and answers in a family notebook. We did this for a while and it was an encouragement to see how God was working.
  • Stop and pray about things as needs arise throughout the day. I remember holding my 3 year old's hands praying the electricity would come back on in time to cook dinner for guests and praying with my teen and tween daughters before we went shopping for clothes.
Whatever you do, keep it interesting and length appropriate for their ages. We want to inspire them to pray, not make it a chore! And Mom and Dad, you two should be praying together, too! You will be amazed at how making the effort to pray together will draw you closer to one another.

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How does your family pray together?
Write and tell me at this link!

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Second Way Your Family Can Draw Together - Laugh Together

My five month old granddaughter has the best laugh! When we find something that can get her laughing everyone loves it. The other day it was just saying, "Ma-ma-ma-ma!" Sometimes it's a game of peek-a-boo or little tickles. But I tell you, we adults will do some crazy things to make that adorable little one laugh out loud! And we all love it when she does.

Laughing together draws peoples close to each other. It releases stress, relaxes you, and improves your mood. When people laugh together they are bonded over something special between them. You can create opportunities to laugh, but the best way to laugh is to be willing to laugh at life and yourself.

When I was 19 I went on a missions trip in France, our carload got slowed down by the Tour de France crossing the town we needed to get through. By the time we got on our way again, it grew dark and late and our driver was tired. He decided we should pull over into a field. The other girl, who was from England, and I would share a tent and the two guys would sleep out in the open. The two French guys had blankets or something but Chrystella and I only had my sleeping bag and sheet. We put the sheet under us and the open sleeping bag on top of us. 

Chrystella and I had only met each other that day, and here we were sharing a sleeping bag! We talked for a few minutes trying to overcome the awkwardness of the whole situation when the team leader said in his thickly accented English, "Seestairs, Eet ees time to slip." Suddenly we got the giggles.

Maybe you had to be there...but the next three weeks, Chrystella and I were fast friends and we kept in touch for years after that while she married a Swiss man and went to Nepal as a missionary and I married an American raised in South Africa and lived in Peru and Colombia as a missionary. We had our faith in common, but not a lot else, except that night when we had laughed together in a tent in an empty field somewhere in France.

I have come to believe that there are (at least) five ways you can draw closer to people and families can become closer to each other. I'm talking about the second in this post. Read the first one here and come back to read about one in each of the next three posts. They are 

  • Be Together
  • Laugh Together
  • Pray Together
  • Work Together
  • Cry Together

2. Laugh Together -- How can you set up laughter in your family? Here are some ideas to get you going. 

  • Laugh at Yourself--Maybe, like me, you aren't someone who guffaws easily, but let's work on seeing the funny side of life and not taking ourselves so seriously, it will make us more enjoyable to be around and draw us closer to those we laugh with. We don't want to laugh at people, but we should invite them to laugh at our foibles. I think that is one of the things that draws people, young and old, to my husband.
  • Tickling and Rough Housing--This is especially good with little ones. My grandkids love it when Daddy or Grandpa gets on the floor and plays with them by giving them rides, "wrestling," or just tickling. And it takes one sour person to not laugh when a child is laughing! 
  • Tummy Time--From time to time on family nights we would have our whole family lie in a circle, each one with their head on another person's tummy. Then one person would start making laughing sounds. As the next person's head started bouncing up and down they would start laughing for real, which in turn bounced someone else's head. It didn't take long for the laughter to become contagious and everyone was burning calories and sending endorphins through their bodies!
  • Act Out of Character--If you do something fun that is totally out of character, especially if you are usually a serious person, you will get your family laughing. Maybe you could come to the table dressed in a funny outfit and wig and have a strange accent and pretend that you are Nahid from Nigeria or something. Tell wild stories about the things you've experiences, the more outlandish the better. You can bet the chuckles will come.
  • Jokes--I once sent out an invitation to a get together that read on the outside, "What happened to the butcher who backed into the meat grinder?" Inside it said, "He got a little behind in his work." Then I asked the people to come to a "Groaner Joke Night" at our house. I promised refreshments and plenty of groans and laughs. They came with their jokes and we had a hooting time!
  • Funny Games--One of our favorite things to do was play charades with our kids. The best part is when someone starts getting answers that are no where near what they are trying to portray and they get the giggles. Pretty soon no one can talk as they dissolve into laughter. Here's another game that got me laughing so hard I cried.
  • Do a Phunny Phamily Photo Shoot--In the first two pictures in this post, we wanted to get some family pictures, but we had a little tension going on. As we walked toward the camera I said, "On the count of three, everyone jump!" We did it and felt so silly that our laughter over came the situation. Try getting fun props to use. One of our ways to get a good mood going was to tell everyone to do their "album cover" photo. Each person would pose as they've seen on an album cover and, "click." The result could be hysterical, especially when Grandma and Grandpa or Mom and Dad didn't realize what was happening and sat stiffly smiling at the camera!
  • Words--Words can be very silly. Get a book of tongue twisters and try to read them outloud. Ask silly questions like: If we all lived in a zoo, what animals would we be?
  • Just Laugh--see what I mean here.

When you share joy with someone it multiplies the joy and provides a common bond that gives your relationship an extra dimension which will draw you closer. Find a reason to laugh today and then tell someone about it so you can laugh together.

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How does your family get laughing?
Tell me in the comments below or
Maybe I'll share your idea with my readers!

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Be sure to check out the whole series on how to draw your family closer!

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

The First Way Your Family Can Draw Closer -- Be Together

During the eight years we lived in Peru it was the height of the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) Terrorist group and it wasn't safe for us to go more than a few hours outside of Lima unless we flew to another city. Camping was out of the question. But I had a group of 5 women I was discipling and I wanted to have some sort of retreat with them, so I settled on having a sleepover in my living room. 

There we were, six women ranging from early 20s to early 50s sleeping on the floor of my living room. (I think we gave the oldest the long couch to sleep on.) We talked late into the night, even though my brain shut down at 9:30 and Spanish no longer came out coherently! Of course, I was the first to fall asleep.

In the morning, I announced to the women that I overcame a great temptation during the night. They all said, "You wanted to go sleep in your own bed upstairs!" That was definitely it. I thought about my husband in our comfortable bed and wondered if I was crazy to be sleeping on the parquet floor.

After that we had a bunch of private running jokes that we could just look at each other, or say one or two words and start giggling. It drew us closer together. 

I have come to believe that there are (at least) five ways you can draw closer to people and families can become closer to each other. I'm going to talk about one in this post, and one in each of the next four posts. They are 

  • Be Together
  • Laugh Together
  • Pray Together
  • Work Together
  • Cry Together

1. Be Together -- Sounds pretty obvious. That is what these women and I did that night. We didn't have deep discussions, or bare our souls but we spent time together. 

I remember an annual conference when I was growing up that was every evening Monday through Thursday and all day Friday and Saturday for one week. It was an hour away from where we lived and many people from our church would go, so we carpooled with a different group each year. After spending 12 hours together in the car over the space of a week, we had gotten to know each other and become friends.

On our younger son's wedding day he had six groomsmen, five of whom spent the morning at our house waiting for their time to go be in the photographs. As they ate lunch together, I listened to these young men from different eras of my son's life get to know each other by talking about their favorite movies and why they liked them, what kind of food they prefer, and what sports they watch. They didn't get deep into life goals or thoughts on marriage, but they started getting to know each other over lunch and a game of Settlers of Catan.

Families can easily work on time together as they all live in the same house. But you have to be sure you actually spend time living there and not just sleeping and grabbing a bite to eat. It seems like it should "just happen", but really it has to be intentional.

How can you do it? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Family meals -- you knew I would say that, didn't you? If you carve out half an hour (and some days an hour) to sit around the table, eat, and talk to each other, you will have a regular time to spend with each other.
  • Car rides -- the "taxi mom" is a reality in today's life. Make that time count. Don't let everyone plug in their earbuds all the time, but listen to something together, talk, even pray! A friend of ours drove her children and several others to the school where she was Director every day. Anyone who rode in Mrs. Afanador's car knew that on the way they would pray--outloud! No one was forced, but everyone was encouraged to bring to God whatever was on their hearts.
  • Outings -- whatever your family likes to do, do it together. For us it was, and still is, picnics. As you might know, I don't particularly enjoy restaurants, but I love a picnic! But for you it might be attending a kids' sport event, going to the mall, taking a hike, and yes, maybe, eating out. Just do it together.
  • Road Trips -- this is a longer version of rides, but where you are "trapped" together in one car for hours on end. Interweave family time between time-for-earbuds-in. Play the alphabet game, guess how far it is to that sign up there, sing a song for each letter of the alphabet (we did this often), listen to an Adventures in Odyssey (our family favorite), or a sermon, tell jokes, or just listen to music together. Back in the day before personal music players, my parents had the rule that we each could listen to one tape of our choice and no one could complain or make rude comments. My mom chose hymns. I picked a popular Christian artist, my brother had rock music. And Dad? He had a 90 minute blank tape!

Just choose activities where you get to talk to each other, not just watch a movie in a dark theater, or if you do, go out for ice cream after to talk about it. 

The first level of drawing closer to each other is just spending time together. Make time for your family today!

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Tell me how your family spends time together!

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Thursday, June 9, 2016

"Hold Both the Blessing and The Trial Lightly"

I was lying in bed in great pain. I'd been to the urgent care facility and had the antibiotics for my UTI, but hours into it, it still hurt...bad. I was drinking gallons of water and waiting. If my husband hadn't been sleeping next to me, I think I would have moaned.

I remembered the words of a friend, "I've learned to hold both the blessing and the trial lightly." I cried out to the Lord, "How can I hold this lightly? This hurts so much, it's all I can think about!" 

I knew my friend's wisdom came from scripture. 2 Corinthians 4:17 "For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison" and Job 1:21b "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." Not that a few hours of pain can be compared with what Job went through! A few hours..."momentary". I focused on that for a minute. I knew the antibiotics would take affect and within a few hours I would have relief for most of the pain I was feeling. In the grand scheme of things, a few hours is momentary.

"Light", at that instant I could not call what I was feeling "light affliction." It was definitely the most painful bladder infection I had ever experienced, but it was light in that I could go to a doctor, the medicine was there and I could afford it. What did they do before antibiotics? I have no idea. Could one die of an untreated UTI? Did they?

I had been studying passages in the Bible on suffering and trials and now God was giving me a small practical test. I recognize now, and even then, that this was not a huge trial I was going through, but God still brought home some lessons:

An Eternal Perspective -- In the course of a lifetime, what are a few hours of pain? But stretch that out even further, what is it compared to all of eternity? Recently a girl I'm discipling said to me, "No one has suffered more than one lifetime." When I think of someone who has chronic pain or sorrow that lasts a lifetime, I wonder if they could be comforted by that thought? I can't speak to that, but even a lifelong trial or persecution "is not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us." Romans 8:18 What will that glory be? Seeing God in all His holiness, majesty, and splendor!

A Dependence on God -- Whenever we recognize our weakness, we can have the blessing of depending more on God. It's so easy to rely on ourselves when everything is going well. "I've got this one. I don't need to disturb you, Lord with this little thing." But God wants us to lean on Him all the time. That's why Paul said, "When I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:10 When we are strong, we are only as strong as ourselves. When we are weak, we let the "power of Christ dwell in [us]." (verse 9)

A Greater Understanding of Others -- I had a bad ear infection a couple of months ago with both ears draining for almost two weeks. When it was all over, I had lost 30% of my hearing. Suddenly everyone had to be looking at me when they talked to me and background music became an annoying noise. My mother and mother-in-law are quite hard of hearing, to the point that hearing aids are not always effective. Suddenly I felt like I could identify with them to a much greater extent. It made me more patient with repeating, at least I think it did! And more aware of how someone raising their voice to be heard sounds like being shouted at. (Thankfully, a "patch" on my eardrum has given me back much of my hearing.)

Rejoicing in Blessings, While Realizing They are Temporary -- I'm rejoicing in being able to hear today. There is a house wren outside my window who sings until I sometimes think the tiny bird will burst. I can hear the woodpecker knocking on my tree, my neighbor's lawn mower, and the voices of the children who live behind me playing in their yard. Thank you, Lord! I think I'll hear in heaven, too, but, if I live long, there's a good chance the ability to hear these things will diminish. I have a lovely house and garden, but one day it will mean nothing to me, this body will be in the ground and I will be in a mansion in eternity. I can't grasp these and other blessings tightly, just like I can't let trials and suffering control me. God is the only permanence in my life.

Live by Faith -- This brings us back full circle to our eternal perspective. "We look not at the things which are seen, for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:18 How do we look at what is not seen? By faith. Hebrews 11 tells us of men and women who were able to look at what was not seen...Noah built an ark when it had never rained before...Abraham followed God, not knowing where he was going. They lived in tents, how temporary is that? But they looked "for a city whose architect and builder was God." Hebrews 11:10 This was a city they could not see, but one they knew would mean truly coming home. Forever.
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I would love to hear from you what you have learned through your trials. You can respond in the comments below or by writing to me at: 
aroundthetableblog (at) gmail (dot) com

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