Archive for November, 2008

Miracles Part 7

November 25, 2008

The miracles I’ve seen in my life point me to God.  They are a little too complex to be mere coincidence, and in every case they were an answer to prayer.  I think it was GK Chesterton who said “Whenever I pray the coincidences happen with greater frequency.”

Prayer is another reason I have learned there is a God.  My first real, sincere prayer in which I reached out to God was answered in a surprising way.  It was the desperate “God if you are real, I want to know you” kind of prayer.  Immediately I felt God’s presence in a real way.  There was a physical reaction in my body, my sight and my sensation.  I heard His voice inside my soul and it was surprising.  He said He loved me at a time I did not love myself.  He gave me purpose when I was totally lost.  He gave me that physical awareness of His “next to me” presence when I wasn’t sure if God was real or just something people wanted to be real.  Ever since that time I have learned to recognize His voice.  It is a “still small voice” as the ancients said.  Its Him, I know.  He answers my questions with ideas I would never think of, things that are bigger than me, better than me and they have that ring that is His signature: they speak of love.

Miracles Part 6

November 25, 2008

My sixth miracle was a small one, but it meant a lot to me.  I was working for a small non-profit.  We had a food pantry, a clothes closet, a free clinic, and we provided a hot meal at noon.  We operated with little money, mostly volunteer labor and donations of goods.  One day the director was gone, and the cook came to tell me there was nothing but bread and peanut butter in the kitchen.  We decided to pray together about it.  We offered our bread and peanut butter the way the child in the bible offered his loaves and fishes to Jesus.  We asked God to make it be that everyone who came to us would leave satisfied.  Almost immediately there was a knock at the door and several people were standing outside with pans of lasagne.  The lasagne was left over after a church supper the night before and someone had suggested then, that our lunch program could use it.  Our prayer was answered.  Everyone went away satisfied that day, after our hot lasagne lunch.  What was so interesting though, is how our prayer was already answered by someone’s idea the night before.  God already knew our need before we asked, and had already provided an answer to our prayer even before we prayed!

Miracles Part 5

November 25, 2008

My fifth miracle happened during the adoption of our child.  Her adoption itself was quite an answer to prayer, but it was going to end up costing us $5500.  This was $4000 more than we’d saved and would surely mean no trip home to see our families this year.  My husband thought we might get a $4000 personal loan from our bank to pay for the rest of the adoption expenses, but he wasn’t sure.  “Lord,” I prayed, ‘please let them approve the loan, and please, if possible, help us save enough to see our families this year, too.”  A couple days later the doorbell rang.  The postman was waiting with a registered letter.  It was from my uncle.  He had found three US Savings bonds which my grandfather bought the year I was born.  They were supposed to help with my college education.  I was now about 15 years past graduation.  My uncle’s letter was most apologetic, and he suggested I take the bonds to a bank to see what would be their current value.  The bank told me they were worth $5500–the total cost of the adoption!  This, incidently, left us with our original $1500, enough for the trip home to see our families!!

Miracles Part 4

November 25, 2008

My fourth miracle happened when my husband began a new job in a new city.  He fell through the paperwork cracks and didn’t get paid at all the first month.  It was Christmas, and we wanted to spend the holiday with some family who were about a day’s drive away.  We had no money to pay our bills, much less go anywhere.  “God, please let him get paid before Christmas”, I prayed.  The mail came and still no paycheck.  There was a letter from the bank.  In it was a refund from the escrow balance on our mortgage.  Being fairly new homeowners, I’d never heard of such a thing.  But here it was, and worth two paychecks.  We had a very happy Christmas, and when we got home, the paycheck was waiting too.

Miracles Part 3

November 25, 2008

My third miracle happened when I was a young mother.  My husband was at work one Sunday and I decided to take my two year old boy and six month old baby to church by myself.  After church I let my son play in the church playground until almost everyone had left and gone home.  When I told my son it was time for us to go home, he behaved like a two year old and ran the other way.  He ran up the outside stairs to the church’s second story choir loft, slipped through the railing and was on the roof of the building’s ground floor level.  I reached over the railing and grabbed his shirt, but couldn’t lift him back over because I was holding the baby in my other arm.  I couldn’t get him back through the railing without his cooperation, and he was pulling away.  If I lost my grip, he would be off the roof, falling 12-14 feet to the ground.  No one was around to help and I just breathed a desperate “help” to God.  Behind me the door to the choir loft opened and a man stepped out, whom I’d never seen before.  He picked up my son, and carried him to the car for me.  He explained to my son how important it was to obey parents because they protect you from harm.  I wanted to thank the man again next time I saw him, but I never saw him again.

Miracles Part 2

November 25, 2008

I saw my second miracle when I was in college.  My dad had been diagnosed with cancer of the bladder and told he had less than a year to live.  One day the pain was so bad he asked God to have mercy and either take away the pain or take him home to heaven.  Immediately he felt a warm, vibrating energy pass through him and he felt an urge to urinate.  As black material passed from him, he sensed he was healed.  He lived another 14 years free of cancer.  He always said when it was time to leave this earth, he wanted to be in his favorite chair.  Thats how it happened.  He told Mom his head felt funny.  She went to get some aspirin, and when she returned, he was gone.

American Music Awards

November 25, 2008

I watched the American Music Awards last night.  It was the first time in my very long life I have seen this show.  I have lived long enough to see many, many kinds of music come upon the scene, and a number of styles exit the scene.  I have seen fads, “flash in the pan” personalities, and some enduring music.  Last night’s show made me wonder “what is music” anyway?  A couple of stars talked about “pushing the envelope”, and I wondered what they can push.  Do they want to redefine music the way some people want to redefine marriage?  It seems to me, music has to have rhythm, harmony, a melody and if its a song, then it has to have meaningful lyrics.  I wondered how much more you can push the boundaries of music until it becomes something that is not music.  Do we equate cacophony, noise and the like with music because we like the artist?  I have heard some of the hoopla about the Jonas brothers.  I will agree they are handsome young men, clean cut, probably very nice, and I have heard from some young people that they are very talented.  Well, from the performance I listened to on the American Music Awards, I had to assume they aren’t very talented.  Even to my amateur ear, these young men can’t sing.  I suppose they might play guitar fairly well, but the singing, frankly, was on the low end of a high school variety show.  What makes them popular?  I think its personality, pure and simple.  Young girls like them.  They are heartthrobs, and it wouldn’t matter if they are musicians, actors, skateboard stars or ball players.  The girls like THEM.  All else is forgiven.

I saw what seemed like endless performances of what passed for music, including other stars who sang off key, had raspy voices, etc, and “music” that sounded like so much noise.  The visuals obviously were dramatic, and in some cases just sexually sleazy.  However, the music probably wouldn’t have gone anywhere in another era because, by itself, without the visuals, there’s nothing to please the ear.

Whatever happened to beauty?  The last two performances of the evening were real music, and arguably beautiful.  Alicia Keys has talent.  As for most of the rest of the performances, I am reminded of “modern art” where the beautiful is sacrificed to “pushing the envelope”.  The arts are a mirror of the culture.  The culture has also sacrificed beauty for many other things of lesser value.  The culture itself reminds me of a beautifully decorated “cake” I saw once at a show, and was amazed to learn it was iced hatboxes–nothing but cardboard and air underneath.  I long for beauty and substance once again.

Miracles Part 1

November 17, 2008

Some say the age of miracles has passed, but I don’t think so.  I saw my first miracle when I was 11 or 12.  My family was very poor, and our roof was very old.  We were using nearly every container in the house to catch the leaks during one of the slow moving frontal storms with day after day of rain.  Daddy went through the kitchen in the dark one night, and kicked over yet another new, leak catching bucket.  He called the family together and announced we would pray for a new roof.  He reminded God that he usually only asked for spiritual blessings, but wanted to make an exception this time because our situation was getting serious.  That week he got a free estimate and learned a new roof would cost the equivalent of two months income for our family. 

 

A couple of days later, a letter came to my mother from an elderly, maiden aunt.  She told Mama “you are in my will, but something prompted me to wonder if you might not need help now.”  Enclosed was a check for the amount of the roof estimate.  The check had been written before the roof estimate!

Who is Your Isaac?

November 17, 2008

Abraham was known as a friend of God, yet God is a demanding friend.  He wants nothing to stand in the way of our total relationship with Him.  He is to have absolute first place in our lives and never in our ongoing conversation with Him, are we to be preoccupied with anything else.  In Abraham’s case it apparently had become his son Isaac.   God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.  Now there is evidence in Scripture that Abraham knew God would somehow save Isaac.  God had, after all, promised Abraham descendants through Isaac, and Abraham believed God.  What Abraham did not know was how absolutely trustworthy was God, and whether God was worth risking what He loved so much.  The question for each of us is, who represents Isaac in our lives.  Maybe it isn’t a who, maybe its a what.  With whom or what have we become so preoccupied that we aren’t hearing God’s voice in some area of our lives?  It may be a friendship or other relationship that has developed an unhealthy hold on us.  It may be a possession which is taking too much time or attention or costing too much to keep.  It may be wealth which is giving us our sense of security instead of our finding our security in God.  Maybe that is why the rich young man in Jesus’ life couldn’t give up his possessions to follow Jesus.  Our Isaac could even be an emotional crutch.  Maybe its an excuse we always use to avoid what we don’t want to do.  Maybe its a cherished bitterness that makes us feel righteous.  Maybe its a prejudice that makes us feel superior.  Lord, please help us identify the Isaac in our lives and sacrifice it once and for all into your keeping.  You are our security.  You are our righteousness.  You are our identity.  You are our motivation.  You are our life.

Difficult People

November 16, 2008

I was a difficult person, so I have some  idea what makes them tick.  I grew up with a deep sense of shame.  I’m not sure where it came from, but it was very real.  Guilt is a feeling of wrongness about something we did.  We can apologize and make amends.  Shame, on the other hand, is a feeling of wrongness about who we are.  In the creation story, when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they became aware they were naked and they were ashamed.  It doesn’t say they felt guilt over offending God by their actions. They were ashamed of their bodies and their very selves.  Shame comes from Satan, and whispers to us that we are dirty and bad.  It has to be dealt with on a spiritual level, and the healing of shame is a gift from God when He enters a life.  All human methods of coping with shame have their drawbacks, as shown in human relationships. 

Shame can make us difficult persons in several ways:  It can make us controlling, self-promoting, defensive, cruel and unloving.  How can shame make us unloving?  If we feel unworthy of love, we close our hearts and withdraw from involvement in real relationships.  It can make us cruel in that we want to eliminate those people who make us feel uncomfortable.  If we feel shame and they exude confidence, we want them to feel as miserable as we are.  We hurt them or act in vindictive ways toward them.  Shame may make us defensive and we may jump down the throat of someone who is innocent because something they said brought out the feelings of shame in us.  We may become very controlling, because we feel more powerful if we are in charge of everything and it keeps the feelings of shame at bay.  We may use our power to manipulate others to serve us, and then take credit for their work. The boss in the movie 9 to 5 was an example of this.  Lastly, we may become very self-promoting trying to “be somebody”.  We’re certain that power, celebrity status, rank, privilege and the trappings of wealth will ensure the feelings of shame will leave forever.  It doesn’t work.  One need only look at celebrity suicides to see that.

 

One thing is needed:  God’s own healing.  When we recognize our lack, our inability to be truly great or truly good, we see we’ve come to the end of ourselves.  When we realize we need God as much as we need air, we call out to Him.  The words we use don’t matter.  He understands the cries of our soul.  As Jesus said “Behold, I stand at the door and knock and if anyone hears me calling him and opens the door to me, I will come in and have fellowship with him, and he with me.”  (Revelation 3:20)  When the Lord of the Universe enters our souls, we never need to feel shame again.  Its no longer about us, its all about Him.  When we become His friends and workmakes, there’s no shame in that.