Good Out of Bad

As we weather this corona virus pandemic, I have already seen some good things coming out of it. Neighbors are finding creative ways to encourage others from a distance or provide assistance. Some are literally putting their lives on the line through their jobs. And some of us are also seeking Biblical guidance when faced with difficult decisions. (I will share two personal examples of that shortly.)

In all of this, it is crucial that we don’t judge others in the decisions that they make. We don’t understand their circumstances nor their motives. Only God does. Our role is to extend mercy, grace, hope and help as we feel led. Each of us must follow our own conscience. If we can learn to extend mercy rather than condemnation, good will have come out of this.

I will share some Scriptures that have helped me in my decision making, and share some of the decisions I’ve been wrestling with. But first, let’s look at what we know about the corona virus. We’ve been told by the experts that the virus can live for up to 14 days on metal and plastic surfaces. That means, whether we shop online or at the grocery store, chances are high (apart from divine intervention) that we’ve brought the virus into our homes. We’re being encouraged to isolate as much as possible and sanitize as much as possible in order to slow down the spread of the virus to where hospitals can adequately cope with it, and allow researchers time to create a vaccine.

Now, let’s look at some Scriptures that apply to those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ.

1) We are told not to be anxious but to trust God. (See Philippians 4:4-7). Supernatural peace comes with trusting God. The Lord is bigger than anything we’ll face in this life-time. I must seek His will and then do what I think He wants me to do.

2) We’re told to obey our authorities (as long as they don’t contradict God’s commands). (See 1 Peter 2 :13-14; Romans 13:1-5; Acts 5:29). After seeking God’s will in prayer and surrendering my anxious thoughts to Him, I need to consider what my government leaders have to say. For example: If they tell me the parks and beaches are closed, I stay out of parks and beaches. If I’m sick, I will do my best to self-isolate until I’m healthy.

3) Wives are told to submit to their husbands as unto the Lord. (See Colossians 3:18 & Ephesians 5:22). As long as my husband is not breaking the Lord’s commands, I should respectfully follow his lead. I may share all my thoughts and feelings with him, but if I’m not sure what to do, or if we can’t come to an agreement, then I should follow his lead, trusting God.

So, what does this look like in my life? Here are a few situations. My 71 year old husband is in remission from cancer, but he still goes for monthly immunotherapy treatments. As a result, he has a compromised immune system.

Decision #1: We have a 39 year old disabled son named Shon who lives two blocks away from us. He has between eight and nine helpers who provide 24 hour care (they do not live with him). He also has three roommates (renters). It isn’t hard to see the virus risk factor in that household. Question: Should my husband and I go there?

When one of the roommates couldn’t fix a light bulb that had broken off in its socket, I left a desk lamp on the table for him to borrow. But my husband, Tom, decided to go over and fix the problem. A few days later, Tom decided to go over and clean our son’s very dirty bedroom floor.

Up to this point, I was trying to find creative ways to encourage our son from afar. I started a text message grouping with our children and us to share jokes, I encouraged Shon to share music with us via internet, and we had phone calls periodically. But I knew Shon was really missing his chiropractic and massage appointments, which offer him physical relief, as well as going to movies, church, etc. (We encouraged him to be respectful of his helpers’ feelings re: where he goes.) I was trying to be protective of my husband, but my heart also ached for my son. Once Tom decided to go over, I decided to follow his lead. I’ll do my best to give our son a massage when I’m there (although my 70 year old hands aren’t the strongest) and teach his helpers to play some simple board and card games that they can do with our son. We won’t go there regularly, but compassion compels us to go there sometimes. We will trust God and accept whatever happens.

Decision #2: I have been praying about whether to go to my dermatologist (to have a growth removed), to my gynecologist (for my routine care), and to my eye exam. I decided that if their offices are open, and if I’m healthy, I will go. (I will also go prepared to share the gospel, as led.) All of those appointments are in April and my husband is leaving those decisions up to me. As of this writing, I don’t know how those will play out. I will continue to pray for guidance right up to the date of each appointment and trust God to be clear. (See James 1:5-8).

You might handle these situations differently, and I respect that. I will leave all judging in Jesus’ hands. He alone is perfect and all-knowing. These are challenging times and we’re going to be facing many difficult situations. May we pray for, and encourage, one another while doing our best, and keep trusting God in the things we have little or no control over.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

The Frog Story as told by Rick Warren

I thought the following was worth sharing (although I didn’t write it):

Rick Warren: As a child, I remember reading a story that went something like this:

A group of 12 frogs were traveling together through a forest when two of them fell into a very deep, dark pit. The other 10 frogs gathered around the pit. When they realized how deep it was, they were certain this was the end of their two friends.

The two frogs who’d fallen into the pit started jumping with all their might to get out. But from the perspective of safety, the other 10 frogs began to urge the trapped frogs to stop trying and just accept their fate. They kept yelling, “You’re in too deep! There’s no way you’ll get out of this! It’s impossible! Save your strength and die peacefully!”

But the two frogs at the bottom ignored the comments and kept trying to jump out. Still, the safe frogs kept yelling, “It’s no use! It’s hopeless! Save your energy!” Finally, one of the frogs in the pit got so discouraged by all the negative news, that he gave up and died.

But the other frog kept jumping harder and harder. And with every jump, he seemed to get stronger and stronger! It was an amazing effort to watch. Finally, he made it out to safety!

The other frogs looked at him in astonishment and asked, “Why did you keep trying so hard when we were all urging you to give up?”

Interpreting what they said from their gestures, the frog explained, “Well, actually I’m deaf–so I couldn’t HEAR a word you were saying. But I could SEE you were all shouting vigorously at me. I assumed it meant you believed I could make it and were encouraging me to not give up. So I was determined to keep trying as long as you believed in me!”

Rick then asked these questions: During this virus crisis, are your words helping or harming? Are you spreading hope or fear? Are your words encouraging or discouraging? Your words have a powerful effect on those around you, especially your family.

From Jorja: May we be a beacon of hope in the darkness!

 

 

A Miracle Wedding

Almost three years ago, Kat, a young woman from Germany, came to live with us. She was part of a team of young foreign missionaries who came to our church to work with our youth program and public high school students, as well as serving in our church. Kat remained (usually they only serve for one year) and we then hosted both Kat and Cainan (from Brazil). The next year, we hosted Kat and Michelle (from Germany). Over those three years, there were other team members from various countries who were hosted in other homes.

Meanwhile, Kat met Chris at our church and they ended up becoming engaged. A large wedding and reception were planned for March 21st and a number of the past missionaries flew out for the event. Michelle, Cainan, and Kat’s brother (from Bolivia) stayed in our home. Kat was still living here.

On March 16th, Chris had a strong impression that the wedding date should be moved to March 17th. Less than 24 hours later, 25 people attended a lovely wedding and reception in our yard and home. A friend loaned us tables and chairs and her husband (with about two hours of notice) played the keyboard. Chris’ parents provided the dinner through the restaurant that they had originally booked to cater the event. (Chris’ father picked up the food). In a week of intermittent rain, we had a beautiful day. Kat and Chris were also able to change their hotel room date, so they still got a night away.

Near the end of the night, we learned that our state would now be restricting social gatherings to ten people or less. Soon, we would be encouraged to self-isolate as much as possible.

As countries were closing their borders and flights were being canceled, we prayed and worked together to rearrange flights and provide transportation for the foreign guests. Thankfully, everyone made it safely back to their countries.

This wedding was a demonstration of God’s faithfulness and what can be accomplished when people act decisively and work together. As the world faces the challenges of the corona virus, may we all be cooperative and helpful, doing whatever is possible to slow down this pandemic. May we also be fervent in prayer and trust God for the impossible. Mark 10:27: “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

I would like to encourage you to journal about the large and small acts of God’s faithfulness in your life. A big one for us was getting all our foreign guests safely home. A smaller, but encouraging, event that happened in my life recently is that one of our bankers called to see how we were. I learned that he and his wife are Christians and we prayed together over the phone. It is good to keep our focus on God’s faithfulness, especially during these challenging times.

(You can read about another wedding miracle in the Bible: John 2:1-11)

A Man Named Nathanael

Someone recently sent me an article about a certain controversial government leader. As I read it, what came to mind was nothing directly related to that particular person. Instead, I thought of a man in the Bible named Nathanael.

Nathanael’s friend, Philip, came to him and said he and others had found the Messiah that the Old Testament had prophesied about: Jesus of Nazareth.

Nathanael’s first response was, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”

Philip replied, “Come and see.”

What amazes and inspires me about Nathanael is that, despite his biases, and all the negative things he had heard, he was open to investigating the matter. I respect a person like that.

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.” Nathanael was a man who was willing to lay aside his personal biases and seek the truth.

When we hear negative (or even positive) things about people, do we seek the truth, or do we only listen to those who share the opinions we have already formed? Personally, I want to be more like Nathanael!

(Note: You may read about Nathanael in the Bible: John 1:43-50)

The Subtleties of Taking Control

The Lord periodically reminds me that I need to beware of trying to take control when I shouldn’t. It happens so subtly. Even though God has given me a helpful way to discern when I’m overstepping my bounds (see my article, “Communication: God’s Role & My Role” in the communication category), I still slip up now and then. I’ll share a recent example.

I have a 39 year old special needs son named Shon. Like all of us, he likes to have as much control over his life as possible. One day, I learned that he was sometimes feeding his dog human food from the dining table. There were two negative results: (a) the dog would sometimes jump up and take food and (b) the food sometimes made the dog sick.

I told our son I had an idea: he could put his dog into her kennel while he’s eating. He subtly resisted the idea. What I should have done, at that point, is said, “OK, it’s just a suggestion. What ideas do you have?” Instead, I tried to convince him it was a good idea. That only upset him. The ultimate goal is for my son to exercise self-control, and that’s a matter for prayer.

Later that day, the Lord revealed my mistake to me. So I told Shon’s helper to just ask my son if he wants to put his dog in her kennel when it’s time to eat, and then do as he says. Meanwhile, I just prayed. A few days later I learned that Shon was no longer feeding the dog from the table.

In short, it’s fine if I present ideas for someone to consider, but I shouldn’t try to persuade them to do what I’ve suggested.

Helping Children Keep Commitments

When my husband and I were raising our children, we had to learn how to balance a respect for their feelings with the need to teach them the importance of keeping commitments. This was a learning process for us.

Our children loved to sign up for extracurricular activities, but once they lost interest, they often wanted to drop out immediately. With our strong-willed child, this often led to a series of arguments and sometimes, unfortunately, we gave in. Then we learned to sit down with the child and tell them we respected their feelings and would give them the option of dropping out after they had completed a specified amount of time (usually a semester or until they had completed any obligations to be in a performance). At the end of that time period, we had them write out their reasons for quitting and state that this was their choice. They signed and dated the letter (and I kept it for future reference, if necessary.)

Eventually, we learned a better approach. We sat down with them before they signed up for the activity and discussed the expectations and determined how long they would have to keep that commitment. Then we wrote out a contract and the child, my husband, and I signed and dated it. This shifted some of the responsibility to the child’s shoulders and it cut down on the complaints because we all had copies of the letter. (This began when our children were mid-elementary school age.)

Some parents are naturally good at being consistent with their children. Tom and I had to learn the hard way. Thankfully, the Lord patiently instructed us and we gradually improved.

Focused Prayer

I don’t know about you, but I have often found that distracting thoughts bombard my mind when I’m praying. I’m going to share some things I do that help me to stay focused. Perhaps some of these ideas will help you.

  1. I ask God to protect me from demonic influence and to focus my attention on Him.

2. I use the Psalms to guide my prayers. (I might only select one verse, or work through the whole Psalm.)

Example: Psalm 1

(verse 1) “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked nor stands in the way of sinners nor sits in the seat of scoffers.”

Lord, help me to seek Your wisdom and the wisdom of Your people rather than listening to what the world has to say. Help me not to hang out with the wrong kind of people (but to pray for them.)

(verse 2) “But his delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night.”

Lord, help me to read, understand, memorize and think about Your Word (the Bible) throughout the day.

(verse 3) “He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.”

Lord, help me to yield good fruit for Your glory (Galatians 5:22-23). Help me to be patient and wait for You to work things out in Your time frame. Fill me with Your life. Replace my selfish desires with Your desires, so You may bless me as I serve You and others.

(verses 4-6) “The wicked are not so, but are like the chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”

Thank You, Lord, that someday the wicked will be dealt with and I will not have to be with them anymore. Thank You that You know the ways of the righteous (those saved by faith in Jesus). Please help me to walk righteously (obeying You) and please work in the hearts of those who don’t know You to draw them into Your kingdom. Thank You, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

3) I can pray through a proverb.

Example: Proverb 15:1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Lord, when someone speaks harshly to me, please help me to hold my tongue until You are in control of it. May my response be respectful and loving.

4) I can personalize prayers from Scripture.

Example: Ephesians 3:16-20 personalized

Lord, out of Your glorious riches, please strengthen me with power through Your Spirit in my inner being, so that Christ may dwell in my heart through faith. Root and establish me in love and grant me (and all Your children) power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is Christ’s love, and help me know this love that surpasses knowledge–so I may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Please work Your power in me, Lord, to bring glory to Your name. You are able to do immeasurably more than anything I could imagine or think to ask for. I put my trust in You. Be glorified.

5) As I go about my day:

a) Thank Him for every blessing I see (large or small).

b) Lift up my concerns to Him (concerns about others or myself), reminding myself that He already has the answers and I just need to trust Him, pray, and wait expectantly.

c) Continually seek His guidance: What do You want me to do right now, Lord? Please help me to do it.

My prayer life is far from perfect. But I’ve found these tools to be helpful in battling distractions. May the Lord continually help us to stay focused on Him!

Devotional: Countless Blessings

I can really relate to John 21:25! “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”

Journaling is like breathing to me. I love to write down as many things as possible about my daily journey with Jesus: how He blesses me, what He teaches me, etc. The problem is, I have closets full of journals! So, I have decided to only record major answers to prayer and keep everything else between God and myself (unless He leads me to share something). That’s like asking a woman to say very little about her beloved fiancee, but I’m trying!

In marriage, there are many experiences that are kept private between a husband and his wife. It’s the same in a relationship with Jesus. Some things are just too intimate to be shared with anyone else.

Challenge: See how many blessings, large and small, you can count today, and thank the Lord for each one.

Share Honestly

Because of my people-pleasing personality, I struggle, at times, with sharing my feelings and view-points. But I know it’s important to do so because, if I don’t, then I may be faced with a situation where I’m going in a direction I’m not at peace about.

Here’s a recent example. I have a little Facebook page that one of my daughters set up for me. I use it to notify people when I post on my blog. The problem is, I understand very little about how to use it. I know how to post on it, but that’s all. I don’t know how to read, or reply to, people’s comments. Until I learn how to do that, I want my readers to know that I’m not intentionally ignoring them. I would very much like to communicate, I just don’t know how to do it on that particular page.

So, I decided to tell my Facebook readers about my limited computer knowledge and ask them to respond on my blog, instead, where I know how to find their comments and reply to them. When I mentioned this to my husband, he felt I should simply ask them to communicate with me through my blog, without mentioning my lack of computer knowledge. He was being protective. As a retired businessman, he was watching out for my professional image. He felt my readers might not respect me as a writer if they knew I wasn’t technologically savvy and up to date. Therefore, initially, I just said “ok,” but later felt I needed to explain my perspective to my husband.

I was concerned about the feelings of those who had already sent messages (that I didn’t know how to read or respond to). I wanted them to understand why I wasn’t responding to their messages. So, I told my husband that I appreciated and respected his protective concern for my professional reputation, but I’d rather be transparent with my readers. He understood my feelings and was not offended that I decided not to follow his suggestion.

For those of you who, like me, have difficulty sharing your thoughts and feelings with people who have a different viewpoint, I want to encourage you to pray for the courage to do so, and for the wisdom to know how to do it. Then step out in faith, and respectfully share your thoughts.

Resource: Strong Families

I would like to recommend www.StrongFamilies.com (which has wonderful resources for improving relationships).

In particular, the books:

The Two Sides of Love by Dr. John Trent & Gary Smalley

The Blessing by Dr. John Trent, Gary Smalley, & Kari Trent Stageberg

Dr. Trent’s children’s books are also wonderful.

When you get to the website, click on “The Store” for resources.