Thursday, July 28, 2016

Praying for What We Cannot See

Recently an acquaintance, the mother of three small children, received the devastating news that her cancer has spread too far; there is nothing more the doctors can do. They told her husband and her that she has a life expectancy of about six more months.

Many of my friends are very close friends with this family. Their immediate reaction was a strong show of support--hugs, cards, meals, a gift card shower, and at least two churches held special prayer meetings for her.

Before I get to my point, I want to say that I think this is the right response. We must not back away from those who are suffering. We need to draw a tight circle around them, find practical ways to show love, listen, encourage, and, of course, pray. "Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray...Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him." (James 5:13-14)

I believe in the power of prayer to God in Jesus name. I believe God is able to heal. I believe God wants us to ask Him for what is on our hearts.

What I question is why we are so mobilized to plead with the Lord to keep a suffering young Christian woman out of heaven for a few more years, but not to beg for the lost souls of our family and friends?

By all means, pray for the sick and suffering, for the unemployed, the poor, the homeless. Pray about which car to buy, which college to go to, for wisdom in raising your children, for your marriage, to get a husband or wife, for a sunny day for your event, for whatever is on your heart and mind, but entreat, beseech, implore, petition, and supplicate God for the people you know who are on their way to a lost eternity!

Jesus came and lived and died to seek and to save the lost. (Luke 19:10)  God "wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of truth." Paul wrote to Timothy, "I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings be made on behalf of all men...[to God] who desires all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." (1 Timothy 2:1, 4)

Why do we pray so much for the sick and so little for the lost? I believe part of the answer is found at the end of 2 Corinthians 4. We should "look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."

But it's hard to look at what you can't see.

We can see a sick or dying friend. We can see the distress and suffering in their lives. But our unsaved family may be doing pretty well. Our neighbors don't seem to have any problems. And I can't see the flames of hell licking at their feet.

But heaven and hell are more real than the chair you are sitting on or the pain you are experiencing at this moment.

My friends, do not fail to pray for one another. But even more urgently, do not neglect praying for the unsaved. One question I like to ask people who have come to Christ after growing up in  a non-Christian home is, "Who was praying for you?" They always can name someone: a grandmother, an uncle, a neighbor, a friend.

Be that person.

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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, a doctor saying, "malignant", 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 were 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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For More Ideas and Inspiration:

Check out the book  Around the Table: Connecting With Your Family at mealtimes . You can read the first chapter at this site and order a copy of the book!

Linking with these great blogs. 


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