Visiting Shut-Ins

In 2007 I was able to spend a week with some family medicine residents in Shenyang. One afternoon I went with them to a nursing home to do a  health check with the residents. I was able to help out by taking blood pressure. Later, one of my friends took me to visit some of the other residents. Some were bedfast, others were in wheelchairs while some were semi-independent. One of the residents was a 93 year old lady. When I met her she was wearing a simple outfit with a vest and some earrings. At 93 this lady had a very clear mind. With the help of my friend this lady and I had a pleasant conversation. She was very curious about my life in the United States and asked several questions. When she found out I was married she asked how many children my wife and I had. When I told her we didn’t have any children she seemed surprised and said, “Meiyou haizi?” which means “No children?” I explained that we do have many nephews and nieces which are like our children. As I was getting ready to leave this lady reached out,  took hold of my hand and asked “When are you coming back?” I told her that the next time I came back to China I would try and come visit her. Later, after I had returned home my friend emailed me to let me know that this lady had passed away. I’m thankful for that brief visit we had together. I still smile when I remember that sweet lady asking “Meiyou haizi?”


    The people in that nursing home in China aren’t  that different from those in nursing homes in this country. They look forward to visitors. With all the physical ailments that they have to deal with perhaps the worst ailment is not physical - it is loneliness. At Norway we have recently started a shut-in ministry. This is an opportunity to reach out to our shut-ins, to visit them and to let them know they are not forgotten. 
 

Visiting Shut-Ins

In 2007 I was able to spend a week with some family medicine residents in Shenyang. One afternoon I went with them to a nursing home to do a health check with the residents. I was able to help out by taking blood pressure. Later, one of my friends took me to visit some of the other residents. Some were bedfast, others were in wheelchairs while some were semi-independent. One of the residents was a 93 year old lady. When I met her she was wearing a simple outfit with a vest and some earrings. At 93 this lady had a very clear mind. With the help of my friend this lady and I had a pleasant conversation. She was very curious about my life in the United States and asked several questions. When she found out I was married she asked how many children my wife and I had. When I told her we didn’t have any children she seemed surprised and said, “Meiyou haizi?” which means “No children?” I explained that we do have many nephews and nieces which are like our children. As I was getting ready to leave this lady reached out, took hold of my hand and asked “When are you coming back?” I told her that the next time I came back to China I would try and come visit her. Later, after I had returned home my friend emailed me to let me know that this lady had passed away. I’m thankful for that brief visit we had together. I still smile when I remember that sweet lady asking “Meiyou haizi?”

The people in that nursing home in China aren’t that different from those in nursing homes in this country. They look forward to visitors. With all the physical ailments that they have to deal with perhaps the worst ailment is not physical - it is loneliness. At Norway we have recently started a shut-in ministry. This is an opportunity to reach out to our shut-ins, to visit them and to let them know they are not forgotten. 

Prayer Time On The Great Wall

One year I was with a group in China visiting the Great Wall. The weather was beautiful that day and there was a huge crowd of people (mostly Chinese) walking and climbing the many steps on the Wall. A lady in our group was standing beside me as we were just taking in the sights -- the Wall and all the people there. This lady asked that as we were standing there that I say a prayer for China and the Chinese people. On the Wall there in China as people were walking past us this lady and I had a special prayer time, talking to God. God has given each one of us an extraordinary means to communicate with Him. We don’t have to be in a special place or assume any special position to approach God in prayer. The Bible gives us examples of people praying in different places. Without a doubt the most unusual place where anyone prayed was Jonah -- in the belly of a great fish. We also read of Paul and Silas praying and singing while they were in prison (Acts 16:25), Peter praying on a roof (Acts 10:9), Nehemiah prayed in the presence of King Artaxerxes (Nehemiah 2:4), Daniel prayed in an upstairs room with the windows opened toward Jerusalem (Daniel 6:10). Jesus, our perfect model in all things, prayed on a mountain (Matthew 14:23, Luke 6:12), in front of a tomb (John 11:41,42) and in a garden (Matthew 26:36-56). Actually, I can’t think of any place where we can’t pray. In 1962 a ruling by the Supreme Court prohibited state-sanctioned or mandatory prayer in public schools. Since that time I’ve heard people say, “They’ve taken prayer out of our schools.” I don’t think any government, any official, any court could ever remove prayer out of schools, the workplace or any other area. Students, teachers and support staff can still go to God in prayer anytime during the school day.  People at work, regardless of where they work, can take a few moments during their busy workday to say a prayer.  

I found a song that begins like this: “Anytime, anywhere I can pray. And Jehovah will hear what I say.” How true! Thanks be to our God and Father that He is always there to listen when we call on Him and we can call Him “anytime, anywhere.”  

Community

 Community- everyone needs one. Whether we believe it or not, we can all benefit from it.

A few months ago, Paul and I had the opportunity to help organize a support group for people that do home dialysis. Some of the people are sicker than others, some more depressed than others, but everyone has a common thread of living with dialysis. There are people that share their feelings of frustration from lack of independence, the illnesses that accompany kidney disease,  the side effects of dialysis, and the mental anguish that can occur. It has been therapeutic for all of them to know they are not alone. To have a commonality with others that are dealing with a serious illness has been comforting. Likewise, it has brought a measure of peace to those of us that are the care givers. Knowing that other dialysis caregivers feel helpless at times and are often exhausted has helped relieve that feeling of being the only one going through a difficult situation. Yes, community can help bind people together, create friendships and help heal brokenness. 

We are grateful to also have a church community that is there to listen, offer help, and pray for us. They have been an indescribable lifeline for us.

Perhaps many of you have a group of friends that are an encouragement.  My community of friends show support and share advice with one another, along with praying for difficulties that arise for each of us. The groups I have make me stronger and help me persevere. 

Do you belong to a community that helps you through life? If you don't, a church community is a great place to start. Jesus had His community of disciples. He didn't need them as much as they needed Him and most of all, each other to navigate through the unknown territory of following the Savior of the world.

Proverbs 27:17 says: As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.

We're all in need of being sharpened. Getting with your community can help you make it happen.

Spring Festival

Of the many festivals in China the Spring Festival is the most popular. It starts with the Lunar New Year and takes place late January or early February. This year the Lunar New Year will begin on January 28th. The festival lasts for two weeks and it is during this time that people travel back to their home town to celebrate with family. It is estimated that between 300 and 500 million people travel during this time. For many in China it is the only time of the year that they can all be together as a family. Each day of the Spring Festival is a special celebration. Meat filled dumplings are eaten during this time. The dumplings are a reminder that years ago meat was served just once a year -- during the Spring Festival. Angel, one of my friends in China told me that when she was a girl there was not as much too buy but now they have “yummy food on the feast and candies.” She also told me that the people there “never tire of spending many hours just preparing the feast.”  Rebekah, another friend told me that as a young girl she would look forward to Spring Festival because they would buy new clothes for the holiday. Lynn, my Chinese sister,  shared with me that Spring Festival is not only a time to be with family but also a time to visit with friends. The Spring Festival has many rich traditions. According to one of these traditions a monster would visit villages this time of year. The monster’s name was Nian (which just happens to be the Chinese word for year). Nian would terrorize the villages until they discovered that it was afraid of the color red and loud noise. So today people place red posters on their doors and set off fireworks during the Spring Festival. Angel told me that she doesn’t like the firecrackers. She wrote that, “they are so noisy and it makes the air more worse.”

My Christian brothers and sisters in China told me that during the Spring Festival they witness and share the Gospel Message with their families. Rebekah told me that when she is with her family she tells Bible stories to her nieces. Please pray for those traveling during this holiday and also pray that they will bring their families to Christ.        

Weiji - Crisis

Since my first trip to China in 2001 I’ve been studying the Chinese language (Zhongwen) and after all that time I still feel like a beginner. During that first trip a Chinese friend told me that I may be able to speak Chinese but as to reading and writing the characters -- forget it! I read that on the average a person would have to know three thousand characters just to get by on a daily basis - reading a book or newspaper for example. Even with that warning from my friend I still enjoy studying the Chinese characters. The Chinese word for crisis is weiji, two characters (wei and ji). Wei means danger and ji means opportunity. Now we usually don’t associate danger with opportunity but sometimes in the face of danger we do have opportunities. One good example of this can be found in the 21st and 22nd chapters of Acts. In these chapters we read of Paul being arrested amid cries from the crowd to kill him. This was a crisis, Paul was in danger (wei). But, just before the soldiers took Paul away he asked and was granted permission to speak to the crowd. Chapter 22 records Paul’s message to the crowd. Even the face of danger (wei) Paul saw an opportunity (ji) to preach the Gospel.

Now, since “discovering” the word weiji I’ve read articles that stress that too much can be made about the meaning of weiji. However, I believe that sometimes, like Paul, we may find ourselves in a crisis that is very dangerous but at that same moment we have an opportunity. Recently I saw on the news about two young men who saved someone from a car wreck and after they rescued the driver the car caught fire.  Weiji! Danger and opportunity! 

Yet, I feel alone...

God tells us that we will have struggles. He tells us how to handle it. Like Isaiah 40:30 and 31..' 30)Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31) but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. ' However, the devil tells us how to handle it too. He offers drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, gossip, pornography and other devices. All ways to escape reality for awhile and not feel the pain and struggles in life. NO ONE wakes up one morning and says I think I will become a drug addict or alcoholic. I think I will spend all my free time and watch pornography and deny my spouse that time. Some people are raised around it. Some people get addicted to drugs from an injury and a prescription drug. Some may be lost from losing a love one and in their time of pain and confusion are introduced to do drugs and/or alcohol by someone that the devil put in your path. It is a very slippery slope. We find ourselves lost before we realize that we have even taken a wrong turn. This world moves so fast. Everything is about money. Bills don't stop because your money is gone. We work and work to make ends meet and slowly slip from our families and LOVE aka GOD! ......As we slip our hearts grow harder and harder and we look for energy, comfort and peace in the wrong places. We gossip about others to make ourselves sound good. Before we know it we are 'praising' the devil. What we don't see is God is still with us. 'Emmanuel' 

We are God's children and he is always waiting on us to come home. Luke 15:10 'In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.' This verse is in the parable of the lost coin Luke 15: 8-10 In this parable a woman loses one of her 10 silver coins and she turns on a lamp and sweeps her home until she finds it. She shares the news with her friends because she is so happy it is back in her hands and that is how happy it is in heaven when one sinner repents. 

Right now is the Christmas season. The time of the year where bright lights are lit up and songs fill the air and love is in the air. We take the time to show love and to remember a child was born. A child for all of us. A child that grew up as a boy and died a brutal death for each of us! To save us not condemn us to sin and addiction. We all need to find peace and comfort in this. He will supply all our needs! Luke 12: 22-24 22) Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23) Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24) Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them...." This is how he tells us not to worry. Faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains. If we stay focused on him, he WILL deliver us from sin and addictions. Psalm 46:1 'God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.' If we live each day as we should by beginning and ending our day in prayer God will carry us through our hard times. With God by our side nothing can beat us unless we give into the flesh. Wake up and thank him, tell him you love him, ask him for his protection, peace, guidance whatever your need for the troubles for that day. Prayer is very powerful. Surrendering to God and seeing his blessings develop in our lives and feeling his LOVE is the best 'high' any worldly thing can give you. 

The poem footprints in the sand is another tool that I use in my daily walks to help me get through all day to day issues and pain and disappointments. This world is full of evil and without our Godly amour WE WILL DIE!!!

The Footprints Prayer

One night I had a dream...

I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord, and Across the sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; One belonged to me, and the other to the Lord. When the last scene of my life flashed before us, I looked back at the footprints in the sand. I noticed that many times along the path of my life, there was only one set of footprints.

I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in my life this really bothered me, and I questioned the Lord about it. "Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, You would walk with me all the way; But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, There is only one set of footprints. I don't understand why in times when I needed you the most, you should leave me.

The Lord replied, "My precious, precious child. I love you, and I would never, never leave you during your times of trial and suffering. When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.


God Bless!

Exhausting

Sometimes life can be incredibly exhausting. It's easy to be caught up in too much to do, not enough time, and too many responsibilities. Exhaustion can bring frustration, anger, tears, and the desire to give up. Once in a while, I let it affect me to the point of wanting to escape. To just get away from the overwhelming feeling and forget about all of my responsibilities. 

Everyday life can cause those feelings but it can be exacerbated for caregivers, especially when the person being cared for is struggling. When they're suffering from relentless pain or other difficulties, the caregiver can feel totally helpless since there's nothing that can be done to relieve the suffering.

I've had some days like that recently. My husband's pain from neuropathy has gotten worse and other medical issues are surfacing. I sit by, watching the suffering with no solutions.

Psalm 55:22 says, "Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken."

When I have those days or moments where I'm at the edge and mentally ready to jump off, I need to always remind myself to give it to the Lord. It's not for me to handle this alone. He'll sustain me. He's got this.

Rebekah

In Philippians 1:3 we read these words, “I thank my God every time I remember you.” I’m reminded of this passage when I remember my brothers and sisters in China. They have and continue to be a blessing in my life. One of these sisters is Rebekah. Rebekah and her husband Silas live in Guilin. They have a house church and are reaching out, helping and encouraging the people in Guilin. In their house church they have a small inflatable pool which they use for baptisms. Their house church is small and sometimes Silas gets discouraged. He wants to bring more people to Christ. Rebekah has told me that many people in their city are ancestor worshippers and it is difficult to lead them to Christ. Guilin is located in the province of Guangxi and within this province forty per cent of the population practice ancestor worship while less than one per cent of the population are Christians. Rebekah continues to be optimistic and understands that she and Silas are sowing the seeds in Guilin. I’m sure Rebekah is aware of the passage in Galatians 6:9 but I shared it with her anyway -- “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Please remember Rebekah and Silas and their ministry in your prayers. They are changing lives in Guilin.

Slammed by the Holidays!

We hadn’t finished Halloween sugar rush and already the Christmas hype had started.  Even the Hallmark channel is showing non-stop Christmas movies.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas, but there is such a thing as too much!  -Especially for children, their eyes dance at the sight of the Christmas catalogs arriving.  
So what can be done to do to bring down the intensity, while preserving the wonder of Christmas?

  1. Limit exposure to the holiday madness. If you must watch television, pull out the videos that are not focused on a holiday at least until after Thanksgiving.
  2. Get outside and do something.  Rake leaves and jump in them with your child. Go to the park and view the glory that God made with your child. Walk to a neighbor who is shut-in or just lonely with your child, with the purpose of letting the neighbor know Jesus loves them.
  3. Take some time to enjoy giving “THANKS”. Make a card to thank a teacher, custodian, or pastor with your child. Plan a play date with a friend who has been helpful to you in the past and include the children (oh, did you think the play date was for the children, hmm funny.) Include a moment to thank the person for their helpful attitude.
  4. Encourage the attitude of giving over getting. Make gifts with your child to give to family and friends. Intentionally give them opportunities to express the spirit of giving. Help them to create lists of people they might bless with the true spirit of Christmas. 
  5. Read age-appropriate books to your children about the birth of the Savior. Isn’t that the reason we celebrate in the first place? Remember young children learn best through play, so Grandma’s antique nativity set may be beautiful, but the children are more likely to get more understanding from a nativity set that they can touch, move and use in pretend, symbolic play.

All of this said and done, don’t miss Thanksgiving because Christmas is coming like a train wreck. Have two happy holidays!

 

Does God Really Answer Our Prayers

Why does it seem that some of our prayers go unanswered? We pray diligently, often multiple times a day with the hope that our determination will yield the results we want. We cling to the scripture from James 5:16, that says "the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much," because we think our multiple prayers should qualify as a fervent prayer that God will answer. When that doesn't work, we try to be a better person thinking that our actions will boost our chances of a better outcome. Then, in desperation, we bargain with God, in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, He will say yes to that far-fetched tactic.

In 1984, I tried all of those things when my husband became ill. We also had special prayer services at our church, along with multiple other churches praying for his healing. Yet, 32 years later, that prayer hasn't been answered.....or has it?
He's still alive and was able to work for over 20 years. He was told by a reputable physician at a world renown hospital that he only had a 20% chance of living more than 5 years. That was in 1985. I'd say our prayers were answered, just not in the way we expected.

We don't always get the answer we're hoping for when we pray. That doesn't mean we shouldn't pray. God wants us to be in prayer because it brings us closer to Him. It's saying we need Him and we can't do it alone. That is what He wants us to feel- that we need to depend on the Lord to maneuver through this life. He may have different plans for us and sometimes those plans are hard to understand. God can see an infinite picture of our lives that we could never see or imagine. We can't comprehend what's ahead of us in this life, but He knows and will plan our route accordingly. Regardless of what happens in this life, one promise we can count on is that He will never leave us and that is truly the comfort we need.


The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8

Playing Dress-Up

Dressing up like others is a common part of growing up.  It even helps us to work through some of life’s questions on roles that people play.  It helps us to regulate our behavior, to practice social experiences, and to create scenarios in which we can control the outcomes. 
I was watching a group of four-year olds who were playing house.  It was an interesting window into what the children were thinking and what they viewed as typical behaviors for the roles they were playing.  

Daddy: (Enters the play area wearing a large hard hat, which he tosses onto the couch) “Hey, woman! Get me a beer.”
Mommy: (Her fist on her hip turns to “Daddy” and says) “Get it yourself, I don’t see any broken legs on you.” (She returns to what she was doing and begins wiping the dishes with a towel). 
Daddy: (Murmurs under his breath) No body’s got no respect around here. (Rises and goes to the refrigerator.)

This short little skit was an interesting window into what these four-year-olds had obviously observed and considered as behaviors indicative of roles they were playing.  It certainly raises questions to families. 

  • What behaviors are we showing to our children?
  • What attitudes are we exhibiting before our children? 
  • Do they see what we would hope they would emulate? 
  • More importantly, are they seeing and hearing what God would want them to later adopt as a behavior pattern. 

Listen to the children, they will tell you what they think and know every time. 

 

We All Have a Different Path to Walk

I have been thinking about this blog a long time and I am very late getting this in. Since I began writing this blog, I have had to take this time for some interior perspective. Living sober is not easy I have failed many times. I wonder why I was asked to write this there are so many more qualified people than I. I see such success stories like Jeff Garrett and Rocky Meadows and i feel like a failure in my struggles, but then I realize we all have a different path to walk. I could not walk their path and they couldn't walk mine. 

My dad was a raging alcoholic and my childhood in a lot of ways was a nightmare. He was not a good or a nice man. He beat my mother, brother and sister's. I did not get that normal childhood and as a result at the age of 11 I started trying to find anyway that I could to numb myself to the world I knew. That was mainly weed, then as I got older I fell into my dad’s trap and began a long relationship with alcohol. I have had DUI's and wrecked cars and disappointed my mother in so many ways that it breaks my heart. But as I developed a relationship with Jesus, He has helped me heal. No, I am not where I want to be yet, but I have hope in Christ that He will deliver me. 

This brings me to where I am now, I am struggling, but still swinging. I give the hope I have as the biggest reason I am still in the battle and didn't totally surrender. Now I think about what we are seeing in our city on a daily basis. My nephew and his fiancé were struggling and in one night of weakness they slipped back, and went and got some heroin. They went to sleep and when he woke up she didn't. She was 24 and had lost her best friend and her father to heroin. She was a Christian. But I think those 2 loses eroded her hope. I am worried that my nephew will follow. 

Our children are doing what I did, following in their addicted parents footsteps. That's the path we are showing them. I had my best friend just a day later have to call 911 because his daughter was laying on his bathroom floor dead of an overdose, but this time the wonderful EMT workers were able to save her life. Thank God, but he did have that moment of holding his dead daughter in his hands. I can’t imagine that and do not want to. My friend and the mother are no longer together because of addiction. The mother went to her daughter after she was sick and recovering from this traumatic event and asked her where she got the heroin because she wanted the "Good Stuff". 
    
This is what we’re fighting. A disease that eats whole families either if you use or a family member of someone who does. God has plans for us to prosper and not to suffer. Children follow our example's good or bad. Living sober is not just for you, you may save your child.


God Bless   

Reflection

When I was first presented with the opportunity to go to Roatán, I was hesitant. I wasn’t sure what to expect and it was intimidating being an outsider in such a close group. I prayed over the situation a lot. Once I agreed to go, I went to the talent show that the church held as a fundraiser. From the instant I walked in the door, I had the overwhelming peace that I had made the right decision. Everyone was so welcoming and all of my hesitation was gone.

I had the opportunity to work at the Clinic Esperanza, where I spent the week loving on some really great kids. As someone who intends to spend the rest of their life working with children, I loved every second of it. I think that those children taught me more than I ever could have taught them.

Most of the children at the clinic were sick and had been waiting to see the doctor for quite a while. They were so patient and I genuinely don’t think that I would have been had I been in their place. I am in a season of life where I am constantly on the go and I often find myself in a state of frustration when I have to wait on something. We live in a society that is all about instant gratification. We want what we want when we want it. But these children reminded me the importance of slowing down and being thankful for what we do have. So many things that I see as a chore, they see as a privilege. The pastor at my home church gave a sermon on a similar topic a few years ago. You don’t have to; you get to. It has always stuck with me, but the people of Roatán lived it out. Those children lived it out.

I also went with a group to a church in La Colonia, where we did VBS for the kids that lived there. The church was on a hillside and it was a tiring walk, but the people of the community did not let that prevent them from going to church. When we arrived at the church, the concrete room had quite a bit of water on the floor. Before we could even react, the children were cleaning it up and setting up chairs so that we could begin VBS. These people had a desire for the Word of God that I so often pray for. I am so much more aware how much I take for granted. I go to a nice church with more than one room, with video screens, with a worship team, and with so many other things that I fail to take notice of because I’m just so accustomed to them. I have not just one but three Bibles, not to mention access to it on my phone anywhere that I go. Yet I do not spend nearly enough time digging into the Word as I should.

As we traveled around the island, we were all stunned by the state of the roads and of the homes. We were also enamored by the way that they did not waste anything. There were stairs made out of old tires and murals made from plastic bottle caps. Things that we would ordinarily toss aside were things treasured by them. On our way to Corozal and Hottings Sparrow, we drove past the dump. You could smell it before you see it. On top of the piles of trash stood people, just like you and me. This dump is their home. It is an image that will never leave my mind. I spent a lot of time questioning why I get to live in such a nice home with such nice things, while they are living on a mound of trash. Through this questioning I realized that it isn’t what we have or how much we have that matters. Its what we do with it. We were blessed so that we could bless others, and these people remind me of that each time that I think of them.

Far too often I forget that happiness is an emotion. Joy, however, is a state of being. I find myself seeking joy in material possessions and in people. I am met with happiness, which is fleeting. The people of Roatán have so little, but they are so full of joy! They have reminded me that my joy is rooted in Christ. No matter what season of life I am in, I can be joyful because God is with me. That will never change and that will never fade.

I took a step out in faith and God showed up in mighty ways. This experience is something that I think of daily and that has changed the way that I live my life. Roatán is written on my heart. When I came home, somebody asked me, “So, where do you go from here?”

I’m not sure what exactly they meant by this question, but it is something that I consider often.

Honestly, I’m not sure where I am going. I do know that wherever I go, I’m not going alone. God goes before me. Wherever I go, He is with me. But when I think about this question, this is my response:

The question is not “Where do I go,” but rather “Where do we go?” Church, we are one body. We are called to serve. We are called to love. We are called to share the gospel. Not everyone is going to go to another country, but that does not mean that missions are not for them. We could not have gone to Roatán without the people that supported us financially and those that prayed for us continually.

Something the Church so often overlooks is what is right in front of us. There are people in our own backyards that have never heard the gospel. Our lives are a mission field. How many opportunities have we missed to share the gospel because we were just too caught up in our own world? Think of all of the unreached people that we come into contact with everyday. The coworker you eat lunch with. The girl who sits next to you in class. The neighbor you wave to as you drive by. What is stopping us from sharing the gospel with them?

So, where do we go from here? Church, we go everywhere. We go everyday. And we tell everyone.

"I have leaned that I will not change the world. Jesus will do that. I can, however, change the world for one person and if that one person sees the love of Christ in me, it is worth every minute.” -Anonymous

Prayer Time in Beijing

One of my friends in Beijing would host a small group meeting on Wednesdays. We would get together for Bible study, prayer and some delicious food and fellowship -- just like our small groups at Norway. When it came time for prayer requests each person would mention someone or a particular situation that needed prayer. I was told that I would pray for the request that the person to the right of me had mentioned and the person to my left would pray for my request and so this went around the circle. At the end of the requests I asked, “Who starts the prayer?” My friend smiled and said, “Brother, we all pray at the same time.” So in this group, and there were about ten of us, we all prayed at the same time -- everyone praying in Mandarin except me! It was an unusual experience but later I thought at any given moment of the day or night an unknown number of people from around the world are praying to God in all kinds of languages and He hears every single one.

John 5:14 “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” NIV

Christine

Christine is a well-known horror novel and movie written by Stephen King.  It is the story of a nerdy teen who purchases a vintage automobile, dubbed Christine by its previous owner.  The car is apparently supernatural and commits many evil deeds against the owner’s adversaries.  It’s a pretty interesting tale if you’re into that kind of thing.

A few years after Christine was released, I bought an older Toyota pickup truck.  I had always wanted a truck and was very proud of it.  It was painted State Road orange and was covered in so much rust that I was afraid the bed would fall off if I hauled anything heavy.  No matter what everyone else said, I thought it was beautiful.  My wife and children were completely embarrassed the entire time I owned it.  I, naturally, loved my little orange pickup truck!

The very first day I drove my truck to the office, my coworkers teased me all day about my “ugly” truck.  I took it all in stride, as I knew they were jealous of my awesome truck!  That same day, we had an auditor flying in.  She was an inexperienced traveler and was intimidated about renting a car and driving in unfamiliar turf, so we had told her we would take care of her transportation needs while she was in town.

Being her main contact at our office, I volunteered to pick her up at the airport.  As I was about to leave, one of my coworkers Jennifer said, “You can’t pick her up in that awful truck.  Take my car!”  Jennifer had a very nice Nissan Maxima, perhaps one year old.  Knowing she would not relent, I reluctantly accepted her keys.  As the auditor and I were attempting to leave the airport, I could not get Jennifer’s Maxima to go into gear and had to call for someone to pick us up.  Jennifer had her car towed to the dealership and was informed the transmission had gone out.  Fortunately, it was still under warranty.

At the end of that same day, my boss Ed and I were standing outside talking before we left to go home.  Ed looked at my truck and snickered, “Man, that is the ugliest piece of junk I’ve ever seen!”  I laughed and said, “Thanks!”  I have to admit I was enjoying all the attention I was getting because of my truck.  The next morning when I arrived at work, Ed said, “You’ll never guess what happened right after you left yesterday.  My car wouldn’t start and I had to get it towed to the shop!”  It was an almost new company car, I believe a Chevy Impala.

Jennifer and Ed figured out that both of their fancy new cars had broken down minutes after they dissed my rundown old truck, so someone decided to name “her” Christine in honor of the infamous Stephen King vehicle.  That name stuck the entire two years I owned Christine.  People were always joking about not upsetting me, lest Christine would exact revenge on them.  To this day, I am certain if you asked any of my children or former coworkers who Christine was, they would all answer, “Dad’s/Randy’s ugly orange truck!”

Of course, I was not offended by my friends’ good-natured ribbing, and certainly Jennifer and Ed’s car troubles were not related to their playful banter about my beloved truck, but I have used this humorous memory to illustrate an important point about our words.  We were all taught as children that “Sticks and may break my bones, but words will never harm me,” and to a certain extent that is true; however, the Bible warns about how our words can be hurtful.  As Christians, we need to be careful to choose words that are uplifting and encouraging, and especially that will not cause anyone to stumble in their Christian walk.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29).

“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in Me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea” (Mark 9:42).

Normal Family Life

I recently heard a mother say that she loved fall. It was the time her family slipped back into a routine. She said she longed for the normalcy of fall. Now fast forward. Here we are, two or three weeks into the fall “normalcy” and what do our homes look like? Book bags with papers jammed into the pockets. Notes from teachers, and even more scary, evaluations sent home from teachers who want a response back! 

If you are feeling like your child is not normal, let me just say this: Normal is a setting on the dryer. It does not in any way relate to children. Each child is unique and valuable. One of our primary jobs as a parent is to find the sweet spot on our child. How is my child special? How is my child great? Remember, they probably will be potty-trained by the time they leave for college. They will probably not take their pacifier with them to the first grade, but if they do, does that make them less of a person?

Look out when you think you have hit normal. “Normal”, besides being a setting on the dryer, is a mere illusion. It is what we think happens in other people’s homes, but not in ours. I have done hundreds of home visits over my career as an early childhood educator. Do you know what I find? “Normal” is chaos. “Normal” is no time to do the laundry because your child has soccer practice. “Normal” is the occasional fast food meal from the drive-thru. “Normal” is stress! “Normal” is not getting the baby a nap because you had errands to run. Don’t you sometimes wonder, if we are a royal priesthood, where the household servants are for the palace in which you live?

We are called to be a peculiar people and aren’t you glad! God did not call us to be normal; He called us to be uniquely fitted for His purpose. So, as you make decisions about what to do and what can be left for another day that seems to never come, reread Luke 10:38-42. If this had been a contemporary story, Jesus would probably have said to Martha, “Let’s just order a pizza, no big deal!” The King James Version in 1 Peter 2:9 calls us a peculiar people. I like that; I think Jesus may think normal is a setting on the dryer as well. 

Drowning

This is a story about how one should never underestimate any father’s ability to mortify his family, whether intentional or not.

On one of our family vacations many years ago, we visited a theme park that had a snorkeling attraction.  All seven of us decided swimming with the fish sounded like lots of fun.  Our older children were high school age and in the prime of their “Dad, please don’t embarrass us!” years.  As usual, they would be staying as far away from me as possible, so surely there was nothing I could do in a pool of fish that could humiliate them, right?

Wrong.

It started out innocuously enough.  I communicated to park personnel that I did not want to snorkel if it meant removing my eyeglasses, as what’s the point if you can’t see the fish?  They assured me the masks would seal over the sidepieces and that people snorkeled in glasses all the time (Ironically, I would soon be making a “spectacle” of myself!).

The tank was perhaps ten feet deep, well over my head.  I swam several feet from the edge before putting my face under the surface.  The instant I submerged, my mask filled with water and I coughed and gagged a little, but was totally okay and in complete control.  I started treading water with my feet as I attempted to adjust the mask to accommodate my glasses.  Suddenly, I was grabbed from both sides by two young lifeguards and “rescued” to the side of the aquarium.  The next thing I knew, I was sitting on the edge as they stood above me announcing to the entire building, “Sir, are you okay?”

Of course, all of my family--and almost everyone else in the facility--rushed over to make sure I was alright.  As they realized that once again, it was just Dad being Dad, their concern was quickly replaced by that old, familiar embarrassment.  I think I recall my teenagers actually covering their faces, but I could be mixing up this memory with a thousand others.  For once, I might have been more red-faced than they, but there was definitely enough to go around for everyone.

So for the rest of the day for all the patrons who were in the snorkeling attraction with us, I was the guy who almost drowned.  I actually saw a child point at me several hours later in a completely different area of the park.

There is not a person who has ever walked (or swum!) this planet, who would not have been drowning in their sin if not for the saving grace of Jesus.

“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24).

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

FRENCH!!!

When my daughter Kara was about three, our family took a rare trip to a nice restaurant while we were visiting my sister in Florida.  Normally my wife, Amy, ordered for our young children from the kids’ menu, but when the waiter came around Kara told us she wanted to order “French.”  One of us said, “Do you mean French fries?”

“No, French!”

Everyone started to pipe in.  “Do you mean French toast?”

“No, French!!”

“French onion soup?”

"No, French!!!”

“French bread?”

“No, FRENCH!!!”  Kara was starting to get very frustrated that we couldn’t understand “plain” English.

“French vanilla ice cream?”

“Noooo!  FRENCH!!!”

“French dressing?” (We were running out of “French” foods to suggest).

“NO, FRENCH, FRENCH, FRENCH!!!!”

At my wit’s end, I blurted out, “French dip?”

With tears welling up in her eyes, Kara just looked at me like I was stupid (I got that look a lot raising five girls).

Finally, Amy had the brilliant idea of looking on the menu to find a food that sort of sounded like French.  At the same time I decided to check the children’s menu.  Something immediately caught my eye and I recalled ordering this before for Kara.  Triumphantly, I bellowed, “Fish sticks!”  Adorable little Kara, who by this time was crying and looking defeated, laid her head on the table and whimpered, “No, Daddy.”  My heart broke for my little angel but I knew it was time to just order something for her.

At this point, Amy offered up, “Shrimp?”  I thought, nice try, but that doesn’t even start with an “F.”

Kara raised her head and breathed a huge sigh of relief.  Still sniffling a little but also beaming from ear to ear, she wiped the tears from her face and replied, “Yes, that’s what I’ve been saying, French!”

Whew!

Although we really couldn’t afford to pay restaurant prices for shrimp at this point in our lives, after all that nobody had the heart to tell Kara she couldn’t get it!  I think Amy and I shared a sandwich.

Have you ever worried, or heard someone else worry, that you must be an eloquent speaker to pray to God?  A prayer does not have to be anything fancy; you are just talking to your Heavenly Father who loves you more than you can comprehend.  When you are so exasperated or confused that your speech comes out garbled, or if you are unable to even muster audible sounds, our all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present God always knows exactly what you mean.

“…for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8).

“Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24).

A Positive Attitude that only God can Provide

Every August, we celebrate another year that Paul has been on home hemodialysis.

Eight years ago, it was very overwhelming to think how much our lives would change. Not being a fan of change, it caused a lot of anxiety for me. The reality that our time in the evenings wouldn't be our own anymore, but be dictated six times a week by this dialysis equipment, was difficult to accept.  We trained for almost six weeks at a dialysis center in another city. As the time came for our training to be completed, I became more anxious about us doing this ourselves, in our home, without the safety net of the nurses at the clinic. In the beginning, we had some tense moments which still happen on a rare occasion, but now it's a part of our lives. It took a lot of prayer to get my attitude adjusted but it has made the difference in how we deal with this day after day. Now, it's just part of our daily routine.

We're so thankful that we have this opportunity to lengthen his life.  It also allowed him to continue working for seven more years. Over time, we've been able to realize the many blessings there have been from this lifestyle change.

On a much larger scale, a shining example of positive attitudes through God's strength has been the West Virginia flood victims. Earlier this summer, heavy rains caused unthinkable flash flooding in several areas of our state. Many lives were lost and many more homes were destroyed. The damage has been unimaginable. Yet, through all the pain and devastation, we saw people tell reporters that they would be okay and their homes could be replaced. There were those saying God would get them through this. There were those that were thankful for what little they had left. I heard several stories of people not wanting to take flood relief supplies because they thought others needed them more. Their attitudes are helping them to persevere. God is giving them strength to see the light at then end of this tragic, dark, period in their lives.

What is it in your life that needs an attitude change? Do you need the strength that only God can provide for that change? Pray about it. Ask Him for it. He can do it. Attitude IS everything when it comes from above.