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A Mother’s Wish

You’ve heard the phrase….”a mother is only as happy as her least happy child”.  Whoever thought that quote up was wise because it rings true to many.  When our children are born we moms seem to have a Polaroid picture of how it’s going to be, how our kids are going to be, and how life in general is going to be.  But as our children grow, we realize that we don’t paint their canvases but steward their lives as God uses their lives for His glory. I accidentally found this video and wanted to share it as Mother’s Day nears.  My own children are almost grown and it is still hard sometimes to step back and watch God show off in their lives.  So this video captures what mother’s do best all their lives – pray for their children and offer them hope.

Elisabeth

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“A man that hath friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24

 

Say What Needs to Be Said

When I walk into a restaurant or any crowded place, it occurs to me that probably about one of every six folks battles some type of mental illness.  Fact.  And that number doesn’t take into account the families of those folks and all of the relational challenges that go along with mental illness.  And right in the middle of the crowds and statistics is a big pot of love – whose depth is tested most every day.  What I mean is that much angst is felt by close friends and family who are trying to find good information, grasp a new reality or a new “normal”…..why?  Because they love them.  Because they are family.  Because they are friends.  These people are not “bi-polars” or “schizophrenics” but a brother who battles bi-polar or a father who strives to overcome depression.

And the reason I posted this particular video is that it caught my eye AND MY HEART.  I don’t know much about the organization behind the video but I myself have spent much of my life advocating for those afflicted with mental illness.  That’s hard enough without the social stigma offered by our society.  Isn’t it 2010?  Is a salt deficiency in the brain any different from a salt deficiency that sometimes causes arrhythmia in the heart?  And so it goes.  If you are the loved one of one struggling be brave and blaze a trail.  When you walk into that restaurant, remember the statistic and know that whether or not folks are speaking openly about their challenges, they may need someone to speak in soft tones…..to be reassured that they are not alone – because they aren’t.

 Elisabeth

A dear friend asked the question, “When you think about the end of your story, do you ever think about your memorial service? If you could plan it — what music would you want to have included? I think I would like Finally Home — ” Just think of stepping on shore and finding it …heaven, of touching a hand and finding it God’s, of breathing new air and finding it celestial, of waking up in Heaven and finding it home! How about you?”

I actually think about this from time to time and have included links to the songs – I would want these songs played at my memorial…”I Can Only Imagine” by Mercy Me from my own perspective and, of course….”Untitled Hymn” by Chris Rice to encourage believers and challenge those yet to come to faith in Christ. Click on the highlighted links to hear them.

What about you?

Thank you, Wez, for the email you sent to me. You will enjoy the new insights that Rick Warren has, with his wife now having cancer and him having “wealth” from the book sales. This is an absolutely incredible short interview with Rick Warren, “Purpose Driven Life” author and pastor of Saddleback Church in California. In the interview by Paul Bradshaw, Rick said:

People ask me, What is the purpose of life?
And I respond: In a nutshell, life is preparation for eternity. We were not made to last forever, and God wants us to be with Him in Heaven. One day my heart is going to stop, and that will be the end of my body—but not the end of me. I may live 60 to 100 years on earth, but I am going to spend trillions of years in eternity. This is the warm-up act – the dress rehearsal. God wants us to practice on earth what we will do forever in eternity. We were made by God and for God, and until you figure that out, life isn’t going to make sense.

Life is a series of problems: Either you are in one now, you’re just coming out of one, or you’re getting ready to go into another one. The reason for this is that God is more interested in your character than your comfort: God is more interested in making your life holy than He is in making your life happy. We can be reasonably happy here on earth, but that’s not the goal of life. The goal is to grow in character, in Christ likeness.

This past year has been the greatest year of my life but also the toughest, with my wife, Kay, getting cancer. I used to think that life was hills and valleys – you go through a dark time, then you go to the mountaintop, back and forth. I don’t believe that anymore. Rather than life being hills and valleys, I believe that it’s kind of like two rails on a railroad track, and at all times you have something good and something bad in your life… No matter how good thin gs are in your life, there is always something bad that needs to be worked on. And no matter how bad things are in your life, there is always something good you can thank God for. You can focus on your purposes, or you can focus on your problems: If you focus on your problems, you’re going into self-centeredness, which is my problem, my issues, my pain. But one of the easiest ways to get rid of pain is to get your focus off yourself and onto God and others.

We discovered quickly that in spite of the prayers of hundreds of thousands of people, God was not going to heal Kay or make it easy for her – It has been very difficult for her, and yet God has strengthened her character, given her a ministry of helping other people, given her a testimony, drawn her closer to Him and to people.

You h ave to learn to deal with both the good and the bad of life. Actually, sometimes learning to deal with the good is harder. For instance, this past year, all of a sudden, when the book sold 15 million copies, it made me instantly very wealthy. It also brought a lot of notoriety that I had never had to deal with before. I don’t think God gives you money or notoriety for your own ego or for you to live a life of ease. So I began to ask God what He wanted me to do with this money, notoriety and influence. He gave me two different passages that helped me decide what to do…2 Corinthians 9 and Psalm 72.

First, in spite of all the money coming in, we would not change our lifestyle one bit…we made no major purchases. Second, about the midway through last year, I stopped taking a salary from the church. Third, we set up foundations to fund an initiative we call The Peace Plan to plant churches, equip leaders, assist the poor, care for the sick, and educate the next generation. Fourth, I added up all that the church had paid me in the 24 years since I started the church, and I gave it all back. It was liberating to be able to serve God for free.

We need to ask ourselves: Am I going to live for possessions? Popularity: Am I going to be driven by pressures? Guilt? Bitterness? Materialism? Or am I going to be driven by God’s purposes (for my life)?

When I get up in the morning, I sit on the side of my bed and say, God, if I don’t get anything else done today, I want to know You more and love You better. God didn’t put me on earth just to fulfill a to-do list. He’s more interested in what I am than what I do. That’s why we’re called human beings, not human doings.

Suffering & Grace

As I enjoyed the morning I was reading 1 Peter 4 and 5 – about suffering and grace. Well, this week has certainly been a tough one….two steps backwards. Chapter 4:12 says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you;” Well, I find that many times I do. I wonder why we’ve been dealt our situation for SO LONG. In fact, this morning I cried as I told the Lord that part of the reason for my tears is that I DO believe He could change our circumstances. It IS because of my faith in Him that I greive. Yet the scripture eludes that there is some mysterious value in suffering….but for the life of me, I am not able to grasp it.

Then verse 5 that tells me….”but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation.” And I began to consider if Jesus really did know what grieves me. And I began to note a laundry list of His earthly friends that caused him grief, and, of course, he wept when Lazarus died of illness. So even when it feels unnatural, I am told to rejoice and also reassured that nothing’s wasted because His glory will be revealed. I’m holding on, Lord.

Verse 19 of chapter 4 it says, “therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.” So it’s not “if” but “when”. Suffering is included in the God experience. And scripture reminds me that the One who created my child is faithful and furthermore, HE WILL DO WHAT IS RIGHT. When I’m hurting, this is opposite my natural inclination to be pessimistic about God’s attributes…that God’s not listening and probably not able to help either. So here’s where it gets honest and dicey for me. In the next chapter (5:6-7) it gets to the point…. Here is the verse: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.” So – I don’t know everything, I don’t understand everything, He is God, He’s given me a relationship with Him despite my limitations, and He’ll manage my situation for His purposes. So I’m to HUMBLE myself and suborninate my will to His and let God be God. Why isn’t this natural???????????

Now please allow me to skip verse 8 for the moment and skip to verse 9-10….”be firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” I get the feeling that collectively suffering is deeply connected to Jesus and has a collective purpose THAT IS UNKNOWN TO ME. It also rings true at it’s in the duration of our suffering that we experience God. And, of course, the end of the race sounds comforting, doesn’t it – Christ Himself will perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you – isn’t that what we really want as Christians?
I want to be part of something ultimately good and larger than myself.

It’s difficult now and many times I find myself dealing with the verse I skipped – chatper 5:8 which says….”be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your advesary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” And beginning of verse 5….”resist him”.

And on the days I give up, let my guard down and give the advesary my thoughts and heart, I am another Child of God rendered ineffective. Lord…give me Your strength and Your mercy today. As the prophet John said, “You must increase and I must decrease.”

I was sent this prayer this morning.  It is beautifully written and expressed by the author, Charlie Gunter, capturing my attention as I find myself praying portions of it each day for my own children…

Heavenly Father, thank You for my children’s salvation. Thank You for choosing them to be children of mine and Yours. Thank You that You have lavished Your riches and Your inheritance on them, although they could do nothing to earn it or deserve it.   

     I pray for my children’s legs to walk always with You, not racing ahead, not lagging behind, not wandering off, but day-by-day walking with Jesus, so that He is their constant companion. God, take them where You want them to go and keep them from the places they shouldn’t go. Give them strength to continue when they feel weak. Give them courage to keep on walking with You, even when the road ahead looks uncertain and dim. Give them grace to bridge gaps, to leap walls, to span the separations between people and groups.

     I pray for my children’s feet, that You would place them where You want them to stand. Plant their feet on the immovable rock of Jesus. Talk to them when storms come or the world’s attractions try to lure them down its path. Whisper in their ears and to their spirits, “Stand firm.”

     Through my children’s arms, always do Your work. Strengthen them, hold them up, and direct them to do whatever You want them to do. Make their time valuable for eternity, not just the quick flash that is the span of their days on earth.  

     I pray for my children’s hands that they will often fold them in prayer. Make them mighty in prayer. Teach them to pray after Your own heart. Enable them to live their lives so that everyone will see Your signature, “This one is the Lord’s.”

    Give my children the patience to wait on You, Lord, so that You may renew their spirits and they may soar as on eagle’s wings.

     By Your enabling power, make my children’s will as strong as iron for clinging to what is good and resisting evil. Cause them to be unyielding in following righteousness and rejecting anything not pure, holy, and completely from You. Make their wills toward You as pliable as spun silk when You convict them of sin or following their own ways. Give them tender hearts and teachable spirits for You, God.

     I pray for my children’s character, that You will make it strong and godly. Use godly men and women to mold, shape, and weave their character, beliefs, and views of You as You want to make them.  

     Enable by Your grace that their conscience will be clear. I pray they will keep a short list of accounts with You and quickly acknowledge sin to You and confess their wrongs. Give them the humility to seek forgiveness from the ones they offend. Enlarge their hearts to grant forgiveness freely, even before it is asked, when they are wronged.

     I pray for my children’s heart, that You would guard it. Keep them protected, covered, shielded, and sheltered from all harm that seeks to touch them. Make their hearts soft when they should show compassion, firm when “tough love” is required, and always holy.

     By Your power, protect their bodies. Keep them well and safe, and heal them when they are sick or injured. Hold them and comfort them when they are afraid, lonely, sad, or discouraged. Give them the strength and the courage to keep on keepin’ on when they feel they cannot any longer.

     I pray for my children’s minds, that regarding the things of Christ they will be full of knowledge and wisdom, and regarding the things of sin they will be ignorant. Give them Your wisdom and discernment to evaluate what they see.  

     Light my children’s eyes with the light of Christ shining within them. Filter what they will see through holy filters. Protect them and keep them, for the devil masquerades as an angel of light. Give them holy understanding to see past the surface, to see the world from Your perspective, and to respond as You would.

     Father, put Your Word in my children’s ears and in their hearts frequently. I pray that they will not listen to unwise counsel or foolish talk and will seek Your wisdom and Your ways all their days.

     I pray for my children’s mouths, that words of praise and prayer will be on their lips always. Curb them from speaking rashly or without thought, so that they will bring honor and glory to You. I pray for my children’s countenances, that they will reflect Your glory and the radiance of the hope that is alive within them.

     Sanctify their pocketbooks, and teach them to be good stewards of what You give them. Teach them the principles of Your economy, the way to manage and use the things that You loan them. Beyond finances and possessions, make them good stewards of their talents, time, and opportunities You send. Help them to acknowledge that everything is Yours, and because of that, they need not worry or fear loss.

     I pray that they will abide in righteousness and live worthy of the One who purchased their lives from destruction and eternal death. Show them that life is in Christ alone, that there is no other source of life, joy, light, peace, comfort, love, or truth that can endure forever, and no other is pure or holy but You.

     Father-God, I place all these things in Your hands in the name of the One who is able to do all things, beyond anything we ask or imagine, to whom is all glory, honor, and praise, Amen.

        -Charley Gunter, praying for Richmond and Margie Louise