My Gentle Leader

On June 25th, Tom and I will have been married 48 years. We have both grown in the area of communicating with respect and sensitivity. I want to share a recent example of my husband being a good listener and leader.

I had a desire on my heart that I wanted to share with him. I was genuinely seeking his opinion and was prepared to follow his lead in the matter. I presented my thoughts and he did the following beautifully:

1) He listened without interrupting as I shared my ideas.

2) He investigated the idea with me, demonstrating that he was open to considering it.

3) He came up with other scenarios of how it might be handled and we discussed those.

4) He asked good questions and brought up good points.

By the end of the discussion, I decided to abandon the idea, at least for now. It became clear to me that this was not the right timing and that the idea may not be the Lord’s will at all.

I thanked my husband for being such a good listener and leader. I’m also thankful for the growth that has taken place in both of us as we have come to see how much we need each other and have learned how to work together as a team. These are truly our “golden years.”

The Finch (God’s Faithfulness)

Yesterday, when my husband took the mail out, a finch flew into our house. Tom lost sight of it, so we began the search throughout the house. Finally, Tom spotted the bird frantically trying to fly through the skylight in our vaulted ceiling. We opened the back door, but had to figure out how to get the bird to come down. I suggested we tape our small fish net to a long pole. We did that, and Tom attempted to catch the bird. I was praying, being concerned that we might accidentally crush its delicate legs or a wing. After a few attempts, Tom asked if I wanted to try. I decided to, and the bird finally went into the net. As I pulled it down, the finch flew out of the net and through the open door. I was so thankful God led it to safety!

I’ve heard the comparison before, and you probably have, too, how we’re often like the frightened bird, struggling against God’s attempts to free us. The finch was another reminder of God’s tender care, and how He works through our prayers.

Related Scriptures:

Matthew 18: 12-14 (lost sheep; God cares)

Matthew 6:25-34 (don’t worry; God provides)

Luke 4:18-21 (don’t resist; God desires to set us free)

The Invisible Enemy

As the Coronavirus lingers and the weather gets warmer, people are, understandably, getting increasingly restless. My heart goes out to people at every level: families in small apartments or with young children, all those serving on the front lines, those who can’t visit their loved ones in the hospital, the unemployed, and our government leaders as they wrestle with trying to protect lives without killing the economy or facing a revolt.

I was thinking, today, that it’s especially difficult fighting an invisible enemy. If people were being bombed, as in World War II, I don’t think many would protest orders to stay inside and even keep the lights off. The enemy would be very visible.

This reminded me of another invisible battle that is easy to overlook. The Bible, speaking of the devil and his demons, reminds us that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)

To fight such a battle, we need Godly wisdom. James 3:17-18 says that “wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.”

I confess that, without God’s help, I’m selfish. I just want my problems (and troublemakers) to go away and leave me alone. But God wants us to lay aside our selfish desires and work at getting along with others.

This pandemic is getting on everyone’s nerves. But we can ease the tension if we’ll do our best to extend grace to others, even when we don’t agree with them. Instead of being critical, let’s strive to be encouraging, cooperative, and helpful. I have been seeing many wonderful acts of kindness and positive attitude changes in the midst of this crisis. That is good. Let’s keep in mind that the real enemy is invisible and not let our guard down. May we continually strive for harmony and peace.

Blessed are the peacemakers. (Matthew 5:9)

 

Peace Through Surrender

Last September, Tom and I booked a trip for this May to the beautiful islands of Bora Bora and Moorea in French Polynesia. Yesterday, April 2nd, we made the decision to cancel that trip, due to the coronavirus pandemic. When my husband canceled our reservations, we learned that we may not get a refund on our hotels. At first, we tried to problem solve, looking for ways we might get our money back. But later, we decided to pray as Jesus did in the garden of Gethsemane: present our desires and then surrender to God’s will. So we prayed:

Father, if You are willing to restore the money to us for the May trip, we ask for that, but if you know that the Islanders need the money more than we do, then bless them with it and help us just to be thankful for each day of health that you grant to us and our loved ones, which is a greater miracle. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Once the responsibility had been lifted from our shoulders and we were ready to accept God’s will, we were at peace.

During this time in history, we, like everyone, will face many disappointments and difficult decisions. I’m so thankful for the peace God gives to those who know Him when we trust in His loving wisdom and surrender to His will.

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.