Monthly Archives: September 2010

This Week and God’s Higher Ways…

This week has been a week of watching and looking for understanding at the work of God around me.  My banner on my cell phone is Isaiah 55:8-9.  It is a constant reminder that God’s vision is so much bigger than mine.  That God’s work in the world around me is on a level that I will never fully be able to comprehend, although it is exciting when I can capture little glimpses of it in the way I see Him working in my life.

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This week our hearts were pulled back to Texas as two friends in our church in Plano passed away.  Rick Farmer and Lance Jackson left this earthly life too early, but they both lived the lives they had here with tons of passion for making an impact on the world around them.  I remember always finding Rick (and his entire family) serving in the places that were often most unnoticed — Organizing prop rooms for the childrens’ ministry or cooking hamburgers and hotdogs for 500 plus folks at the church cookout.  Rick took joy in making a big difference for God by serving behind the scenes, in places others might have not noticed.

Lance, like Rick could often be found serving in places others might not have noticed.  In the nursery, holding babies alongside Janice, his wife or passing out bulletins on Sunday on the way into service.  When Lance saw a need he went after it full force.  In addition to being actively involved in his church and with the activities of his three children, after his cancer diagnosis Lance organized Team Jackson, a group of friends and supporters that rode and walked in the Livestrong races to raise money for cancer research.

Rick was a year older than me and Lance was two years younger and while their lives may have been short, they were full lives that were lived with a passion to serve God on this earth while they were here.

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­­­­­­­­­­­­My heart was also pulled back to my earlier Texas years this week with the birth of new little baby at 27 weeks.  Suellen Grace Finch weighed in at 1 lb 13 oz.  Growing up in Orange, TX, the entire Finch Family, Dean (my youth minister) Suellen, his wife and Andy, Lizzie and Rachel were like my second family.  Dean and Sue were my mentors even into my adult years and watching the three kids grow up and have their own families has been amazing.  This week Lizzie and her husband Curt, who have just returned from years of service in the foreign mission field, gave birth to their first baby – Suellen Grace (named for her grandmother who passed away years ago) and due to severe preeclampsia, little Suellen was delivered almost 12 weeks early by c-section.  And even at less than 2 lbs she has proved to be a fighter, scoring a 9 on her Apgar scale at birth and actively pulling out her feeding tubes in the NICU.

My heart also goes to Kate McCrae and her family this week.  I’m never met little Kate or her family, but I’ve followed Matt Chandler’s twitter and he has introduced the world to her.  Reading her mom’s journal of their journey through brain cancer is yet another chance for me to see God at work, even in the most painful moments of our lives.

Finally, my friend Ken Baker posted his blog about the work of God in his life when it came to finding a new job.  Ken serves in multiple ministries at Church by the Glades and left his job in June when he felt God was calling him in a different direction.  And after several months of unemployment and total trust in God and an amazing series of connections and events, Ken is now where he knows God wants him to be.

As I reflect on this week, I realize that God has used each of these people and their experiences to impact my life and to teach me more about His character.  While all of these stories involve a different level of pain, suffering and struggle, they also teach me more about the character of God.  How when we run to God instead of relying on our own strength He can use our trials and pain to develop our character and faith.

I may never know the reason behind why my friends, family or even I go through pain, struggles and suffering.  But I am always mindful and thankful that I have a God that is in control of everything that happens in my life.  And that if I will allow him to use even my most painful experiences, he will use them to shape me into the person that He wants me to be.

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Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  James 1:2-4 (NIV)

There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!   Romans 5:3-5 (MSG)

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Love at Last Sight — Day 8

I’ve been reading this incredibly rich book called “Love at Last Sight,” by Kerry and Chris Shook. I’m not sure how kosher this is, but I really want to share a big chuck of Day 6 in this book. A few of my own thought are also below:

…in the same way many close relationships appear warm and inviting: a bride and groom gazing at each other in candlelight, a new parent holding a cuddly, doe-eyed baby, or friends sharing hot coffee and laughter. It’s easy to see why these emotional moments seem like they’re enough to support a lifelong relationship. But the reality is that most of life is spent doing common, everyday stuff. Sure, great moments happen, but real life is lived in the midst of dirty dishes, overdue bills and broken water heaters.

Good feelings aren’t reliable enough to sustain any relationship. Here’s the truth: our commitment to each other is the scaffolding that our key relationships are built on. Romance, shared dreams, laughter, memories and deep conversations are the plaster and paint we use to decorate our relationships, but without commitment everything else will disintegrate with the little earthquakes that come into everyday life.

Whenever I meet an elderly couple that has been married for fifty or sixty years, I have to ask them, “How did you do it? You must have weathered lots of tough times together over these years – job changes, disappointments, health problems, parenting challenges, empty-nest readjustments and times when money was scarce. But you are here. You beat the odds. What is your secret?”

The remarkable thing is that almost every couple responds in the exact same way. They’re quick to agree that, yes, life was very hard at times. Then they usually go on to share stories that make my eyes brim with tears as they tell of the heartbreak of losing a child, going to war, or struggling through an economic crash or natural disaster. This information is shared stoically, but they are always mindful of the original question and quickly move from the past to the present. Why are they still together?

Because they gave their word.

When the said “Till death do us part,” there was integrity in their promise. They’ve been held together by the strength of their commitment.

I’m used to the response now, but the first few times I was surprised. I had always assumed the answer would be “love.” After all, if you can just work up enough love feelings, your marriage can handle anything, right? No, I was dead wrong. The one thing these life long partnerships had in common was commitment.

Today’s culture tells us that all we need is love. But in the end, love wasn’t even enough to keep the Beatles together. Its ironic that a band that sang such great love songs ultimately had no love for each other. That’s because love is more than a song, a dream or a feeling.

The commitments we make are like magnets: they pull us toward each other. In friendship, commitment means being there for someone even when its not convenient. In family relationships its being by someone’s side even after years of dealing with a disappointing father or a brother stuck in addiction. In marriage, commitment means divorce isn’t an option.

When you know you are stuck with someone for life, you’ll do whatever it takes to resolve an argument. Of course, it takes two to make and keep a commitment, and if you’ve gone through the pain and alienation from a family member or a divorce, rest assured that God hurts with you and wants to heal your heart. However, there is no chance of love at last sight in any relationship unless you begin with commitment.

The chapter continues on to talk about the same importance of commitment when it comes to staying engage in the lives of our kids, even when it is not easy. Even when they let us down. And I have to say that I love this thinking.  I’ll admit I don’t always feel “in love” with my family, but when love is more than feelings — when a big component of love is commitment it brings so much more depth to my relationships.

As a mom of teenagers and someone who works with teens, I wonder how I teach this to my children and other young people close to me. The culture teaches them that relationships are all about the emotional highs that we get from our friends and significant others, but long term relationships will not survive on emotional highs. Friends, boyfriends and girlfriends will let you down.

When it comes to choosing the one person we will spend the rest of our lives with we have to be willing to accept that over time those “warm fuzzy feelings” will go away (or at least they won’t be there every moment of everyday!) And what you are left with is the character of the person to whom you have committed the rest of your life. And they are left with you. Two imperfect people who will need the commitment of their word to build a deep and rich relationship that will last the rest of their lives.

I love a quote that the Shooks share a bit further on in the chapter:

“I suddenly realized that, just like building a marriage, raising a family is messy. Of course! It involves imperfect people! That’s when I began to celebrate the glorious mess of our family.”

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