Wednesday, September 29, 2010

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds” James 1:2

The past couple of weeks have been a test. A test of our strength, endurance and, especially, our faith. My husband was in an accident and really hurt his shoulder. So bad it required surgery to repair.

It was a lot to process and pray over. You see, he makes his living with that arm giving hitting lessons and running a baseball academy. So, not only are we praying for healing, we are praying for provision as well. His recovery will take several months.

I have seen God moving in big ways as we’ve experienced the accident, surgery and transition back home.

Before this happened, Steve was pressing. Firing on all cylinders. Between running the academy for competitive teams, giving private lessons and working as a hunting guide, he was spread pretty thin. I think the devil was at work in the situation, keeping him so busy he barely had time for his family, much less time to focus on God.

Just before he left on this particular guiding trip, we had a talk. As the one who picks up the pieces and tries to keep “everything else” going, I needed more of him. More important, he needs more of him. The Steve who is fun to be around, makes me laugh , loves his kids and is there for his family. All this happens when he is able to relax and refocus after busy days.

Interestingly and concurrently, his academy coaches have been counseling him to spend less time throwing and hitting to the kids, and more time instructing. We talked about this a couple weeks ago while I was reading in the Book of James, so I read him the first few verses. We talked about confirmation of his calling and that even with that realization, there would be many trials.

Can’t you just see God’s hand weaving all this together? With that knowledge, we need to cling wholeheartedly to our faith in Him because the trial isn’t over and it isn’t isolated to Steve alone. This is a family battle and I’ve felt my own flaming arrows.

As I’ve balanced playing Florence Nightengale with Wonder Woman (and failed miserably, I might add), I’ve been driven to my knees. He is the only one who can give me the kind of strength I need to get through this. When it’s the pain talking and not Steve, only He can help me extend the grace that covers. Only He can cause me to pause and pray rather than react and respond as my flesh would have it. Only He can wrap His arms around me in the middle of angst and worry to reassure me that He is in control and is working it all for good. Only He can give me the words of comfort for our children as we pray each night. And only He can take this circumstantial mess called life and polish it to make it shine for His glory.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

“I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

My son wanted to play football so badly it was almost irritating. He pestered us for months about it. For a variety of reasons, he wasn't able to play for the past couple years, when he would have played flag, learned the ropes and determined if he really liked it or not. So this year, at 10, he’s playing tackle.

The first two weeks were brutal. He was afraid. Afraid of getting hit, afraid of hitting, afraid of getting hurt, you name it. There were tears, stomach aches, asthma attacks and more. Every night, he told me he did not want to play. It took every ounce of strength I had not to let him quit.

My husband talked to him about commitments, perseverance and dedication to his team. Steve firmly believes that you do not quit. This is a man who played an entire year of professional baseball with a torn ACL. The guy is tough, and doesn’t give up.

Sadly, I am not so tough. This episode forced me to take a look at a part of my past that I had long forgotten and buried. It was a wound I didn’t even realize I still had. You see, for a long time, I was a quitter and that defective part of my personality tried to resurface to protect my son.

But God. God brought those painful memories back to use them for good. He helped me use the memories to teach Trevor a life lesson that will make him a stronger person and a person who clings to his identity in Christ. When the football issue was at its peak, I had a long talk with Trevor. In that conversation, I painfully recounted examples of how I had quit when things got tough. Even more, we talked about how for a long time, I did not have Jesus to lean on, to help me when times got tough, to ask for strength. It was one of the most vulnerable conversations I’ve had with him. He could see my weakness and regret. But, he could also see how desperately I need Jesus to face the challenges of this life. We found a couple of power verses that I prayed over him that night.

He still doesn’t love football and I’m fairly certain he won’t play again. But, he did not quit and he is learning to declare that he cannot face life’s hurdles without help. Help that comes from the One who can conquer anything. I pray for him before practices and games. He smiles a little when I do. In fact, at tonight’s practice, he did pretty well. When we got home he told me it must have been because of the angels that I had asked to protect him in my pre-practice prayer.

I am realizing that there are some struggles and pain that I have locked away in the dark places of my heart. I need to let Jesus shine His light on them and wash over me so I can release the burden that I still carry from it. He’s forgiven me and wants to take it from me. I need to release it and let Him.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing...

...If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” John 15:5-6

I notoriously run the gas in my car down to fumes before I fill up the tank. This habit has bitten me severely on more than one occasion. Most notably, the day my daughter was born. The day before, I stopped for gas after work. There was some glitch with the debit card reader, so instead of going inside to pay, I got annoyed and left without getting gas. The indicator light was on, but I was certain I could get gas the next morning when my mom and I went shopping for the baby. Oh yes, you know what’s coming!

Sure enough, at 1 a.m. I was in labor. By 4 I thought I’d take a shower to help the pain. At 4:30, my water broke and I knew we were in trouble. With me still soaked from the shower and in crazy pain, we scrambled to car to high-tail it to the hospital. We had a 40-minute drive. Speeding along, my husband realized we had NO gas. Frantically, he stopped, pumped just enough to get us to the hospital and tossed money at the clerk. All the while, I was doing everything I could NOT to have the baby in the car, especially since our 2-year-old son was in the car with us. All I could do was breathe and pray. We pulled in to the emergency entrance at 6 a m. Abby was born at 6:14. It was seriously ridiculous. You would think I’d learn my lesson about filling my tank.

Sometimes that’s how we approach our relationship with Jesus, isn’t it? We go and go, thinking we have everything under control, and wait for the spiritual tank to run on fumes before we stop and pause to refill it. That is such an injustice to Jesus and is so far from the relationship He wants with us.

John’s Gospel records a profound statement from Jesus. In John 15:5, Jesus tells us, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” With Jesus, we will bear much fruit – nourished and flourishing for God’s glory. Without Jesus, as He tells us in verse 6, “If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to wither and dry up. That is what can happen with a dry tank.

He is there all the time, ready and willing. To refresh us. Tor revitalize us. To renew our spirit and be a part of us. When we recognize this and begin to understand just how radically life-changing that truth is, we can’t help but want more of Him.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

“Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me.” Psalm 35:1

I wasn’t the one under attack, it was my husband. I don’t know about you, but my fleshly, protective instincts kick in much harder when someone I love is being attacked. Even more so than if I’m the one who’s being lashed out against. Its mama bear meets Indian blood and I tell you, it can get to boiling pretty fast.

My husband had weathered this criticism on his character and ability for months. He shared small pieces here and there, but not the full-on assault. A couple weeks ago, he shared more. A lot more. Seriously, I felt my neck heating up and my instinct to defend him kicking in. After all, I’m a writer and much of the attack was written. Surely I could craft a perfectly composed response that would certainly put the accuser in their place, and maybe, take them down a notch or two in the process. This is my man, after all.

Steve knows me all too well. He could sense my wheels turning and cautioned me to leave it alone, he wasn’t nearly as upset over this as me.

This festered in me for days and I don’t know why, but I could not seem to give it up. In a sense, it came to a head that weekend, and Steve again reminded me that he was okay; the attacker was not affecting him. I left alone and drove away, headed to a function.

That’s when it hit. I clearly heard the Lord’s whisper in my spirit. “Don’t you know that I have Steve in the palm of my hand? That this is my plan for him?” I started to defend my actions, “yes, but this…” He interrupted my defense. “Don’t you TRUST me? Am I not big enough to carry him through this? He believes me. You need to also.” Wow. Okay. Boy, when He speaks, there’s no denying it. Father please forgive my disobedience.

Then, the most amazing thing happened. He turned my heart from anger to sadness, showing me the hurt from which the attacker was coming. This person is lost and scared. Attacking others is a defense mechanism that feeds an insecure spirit. It was something only God could do in my heart. I stopped and prayed for this person. And then, I let go of it.

Incredibly, a few days before Steve shared this with me, I felt compelled to study Psalm 35. I couldn’t understand why at the time, but I obeyed. The reason became crystal clear in the car that afternoon. He is big enough for anything we may face. No attack, no circumstance is too big for Him. As He gently reminded me, he has us securely in the palm of His mighty and gracious hand.