Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Little Way of Ruthie Leming by Rod Dreher

I recently read The Little Way of Ruthie Leming by Rod Dreher.  It was a very moving book and touched me deeply in several ways.  It is the story of Mr. Dreher's sister, a teacher who was much loved in her community who died of lung cancer.  Having lost my much loved Dad to lung cancer a couple years ago, I related deeply to this story and woke up with puffy eyes from crying while I read the night before on more than one occasion.  I am not normally a crying person, but this really touched me.  The wonderful thing about this book is that it isn't just a book about Ruthie but an intriguing book about family, community, roots and faith.  Beautifully written and moving, this book left me with lots to ponder and rethink.  I highly recommend it.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

God Shouts to Us in Our Pain

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world”

God has been holding my heart in amazing ways the past few weeks and I am extremely grateful for the tight bonds and spiritual foundations established with my children by a life of home education and for a God who gives beauty for our ashes.  One of Our daughters is in India to teach English as a second language to university students for six months.  Actually she feels called to a lot more there, but this is a stepping stone. The spiritual battle has been extremely intense and she wound up in the hospital for more than a week.  It culminated in her legs being paralyzed and finally a night of excruciating pain followed by erratic breathing, her heart going crazy, and the paralysis creeping up to her neck. None of the tests they did could reveal what was wrong and we were making plans to send a nurse friend with a current visa to help her fly home hoping she would be strong enough, with help, to travel by commercial flight.  Our doctor here (who is a godly man of faith and a dear friend) prayed a beautiful prayer for her healing and God's glory one night on the phone with me and the following morning someone from the church there came and laid hands on her and prayed over her and of course all of our church, friends and relatives here have been praying.  God has been faithful to answer those prayers and two days later she was able to walk and actually leave the hospital and go back to her apartment there.  Now less than a week later, she has been back in the classroom teaching, traveling to school alone by rickshaw....  God is amazing and powerful. 

About the same time another daughter found out she is pregnant.  She is facing life as a single mother.  Our hearts are wrenched by the pain and challenges she and her precious little one will face, but we rejoice that she has chosen life for her baby.  Even in the face of pressure from friends and the baby's father to abort - she is outspokenly pro-life. It is this pregnancy that God is using to answer our prayers for her salvation - for she has returned to her God and His light is back in her eyes.

We look for relief from pain, instead God chooses pain to shape us and to make a platform to display His love and glory.  He doesn't leave us alone in our pain, instead he carries us.  I have felt His arms around me and the sweet breath of His peace comforting me. 

The familiar Footprints in the Sand poem is so true....

 During the week when the above things were taking place in our lives, my Mom (not knowing about the pregnant granddaughter) shared Laura Story's song Blessings with me and I played it over and over that week, weeping every time!  "What if the trials of this life are your mercies in disguise?"

I rest in His mercies - His wisdom to bring days of joy and days of pain - sometimes running on parallel tracks!  He has good plans for us - His goodness supercedes any evil that can come our way - He uses it all for good. 

More on Scars and Pain as a Gift

My sweet sister wrote to me after my last post on scars pointing out that there is a big difference between the first two examples who were victims of the sin of others and Jacob who was wrestling with God.  I agree with her.  I won't say that God causes evil,  but He certainly uses it and even on several occasions takes credit for having plans in it.  Joseph is one clear example when he said, Genesis 50:20 NLT says, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people." Of course the cross is another case in point where people meant evil but God had it all planned from the foundation of the world for the good of all.  So, though I admit that my example wasn't really fitting, I still feel that when pain or evil touches our lives, God has a hand in it and a plan for good. Where evil touches my life, leaving a scar - there, too, is the touch of God.  I also have a hunch that it is the very things that cause us the most pain that God will use the most to bring about good in others' lives providing we don't turn away from Him and become bitter.

I was thinking this morning about a couple of Biblical passages that relate to our scars and the gift of pain.

II Corinthians 1:3-5KJV says, "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.  For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth in Christ."

The compassion born of suffering is deep.  Someone who has suffered can bear our burdens and share our sorrows with just a look or a touch.  One who has suffered doesn't give out simple platitudes and empty words in times of pain because they have already been on the other side.  The comfort they found in their dark hour is the word or action they know to share with another.  God means our sufferings to make us more compassionate and thus more useful in the body.

Our earthly suffering is just temporary, though it can feel like forever in the middle of a dark night.  They hold for us great benefit - 
 II Corinthians 4:17 KJV says, "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;

New Living Translation says it this way, "For our present troubles are small and won't last very long.  Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!"

So if you are in pain - look up, take the hand of God and cooperate with His good plan for redeeming an ugly situation.The intensity of the pain is probably in direct proportion with the weight of glory He intends to bring about through it.  And of course that good lasts forever!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Scars - the Touch of God

"To be human is to be beautifully flawed"  October Baby

Some random thoughts rattling around in my brain and connections being made.  I don't know if I can get it into words, but I'll try.

It started with a conversation with a dear friend who adopted a precious little boy as a toddler from an orphanage in his country of birth where he had spent his babyhood.  He is grown now and trying to work through his feelings.  He's not even really ready to admit that there are scars in his life, that his early experiences would necessarily have shaped who he is and how he processes relationships.

One of our precious daughters has just recently returned to the LORD after being wildly wayward for the past four years.  Through those years bits and pieces  have come out revealing childhood scars brought on by sexual abuse.  I knew long before she was willing to tell us that something like this must have happened to her because of her responses to life.  Her experiences colored how she thought about herself and how she related to others. I am confident that God will bring into her life the necessary instruments of healing, I am equally sure that He intends to use the scars in turn to touch others for good. 

Scars, we all have them.  They are what make us unique.  The traumas they represent have been allowed by a good and loving God, a God who from the beginning plans to heal and redeem. 
If I've learned one thing in the past four years it is that God isn't looking for perfect vessels, he is looking to redeem us broken ones - and we are ALL BROKEN.  We all come with the sin nature and all have been touched by the sin of those around us.  "There is none righteous (whole) no not one...."  It seems that rather than draw back from these "flaws" in our lives, God weaves them into our story and uses them to bring glory to His name.  Man may mean it for evil, but God means it for good - our good and the good of others. 

When Jacob wrestled with God the story ends with God touching his hip and Jacob is never able to walk again without a limp - a constant reminder of God's touch. 

Our scars are the touch of God on our bodies and lives.  Painful perhaps but a reminder that we are not alone in this world - we have a God who is writing our story and wants to be the central theme.