Monday, October 27, 2014

Of this I am convinced...

Last Thursday ended with my husband in ICU. All of a sudden.

At 7:30 pm he was fine, and by 9:00 he was in the ER with machines carefully measuring his malfunctioning heart, working to bring it back into order to avoid a stroke.

By Friday afternoon, he was released... his heart once again beating strong and steady... essentially back to normal health levels. He's back to work this morning.

It's odd for life to be so "normal" after something so serious and NOT normal has just happened. I suspect that people who walk away from a serious car accident without a scratch feel similar.  I am very grateful for modern medicine that knows how to bring down down a dangerously fast heartbeat, and I am grateful for my God who caused his heart to reset to normal rhythm.

But most of all I am grateful for my God who knew in advance what was going to happen at 8pm on 10/23/14. My God who was there with me driving home while this was happening and who was there in the ER and ICU with my husband. My God who is there for my kids, watching over their hearts and minds as they process this. My God who was oh-so-Present when I layed there at 2:00 in the morning, alone in our bed, but home for the sake of my kids who could not spend the night in ICU with Daddy and who didn't need to be home alone without either of us. My God who knows that the financial mountain this frail and weak daughter of His was facing is now many times larger. My God who is bigger than even THIS looming mountain. My God who knows what the doctors don't know... why this happened... and whose grace is sufficient for everything that all five of us need, both now and in the future.

In fact, my overwhelming emotion these last four days has been that I am grateful. I am thankful.  Oooohhh-so-thankful. I cannot express how much my heart was overflowing with thankfulness in the darkness of Thursday night, and how it still is, just because of who my God is. Again, I find myself understanding why He calls Himself the "I Am." Because there are no words big enough and marvelous enough and powerful enough to express everything that He is.

And there is no way to fully express how thankful I am that He Is everything that that He is, and everything that I need, have ever needed, and will ever need, regardless of what lies ahead of me.

I am far from the only one "going through stuff."  I can look around and see people going through divorce. Loss. Far bigger health issues than we just did. Far bigger financial issues than what we now have. Betrayal. Depression.

My heart aches to help them.

But of this I am convinced:

There is nothing more vital than knowing Him. Nothing.

Not knowing about Him. Not knowing the Bible or having hundreds of verses memorized. Not doing amazing things for Him. Not knowing how to receive perfect healing from Him. Not having my theology 100% correct. Not "standing for what is right in a fallen world." Not even reaching the lost and telling others about Him is more important than knowing Him myself.

For how can I accurately tell others about Him if I do not know Him myself? People know the difference when you're telling them about someone you've only heard about, compared to when you're telling them about someone you truly know.

How can we stand for what is right if we have not sought to know His heart? For His heart is the source of what is TRULY right... and His heart is filled with love and grace and mercy, given freely to overwhelm all that is wrong.

And what better, more accurate way to enrich our theology is there than to know the One whom it is all about? After all, theo means One... Him... not many studies and versions and interpretations given by others who may or may not truly know Him. Knowing about Him is nothing compared to truly knowing Him.

And doing things for Him is worthless unless He is the One doing it all... through those who knows Him.

Regardless of whether life has blindsided us, or whether it has sucked us into an unending mire... whether it's going great, or whether we're aching with the desire to help loved ones who are "going through it"... there is nothing more effective than seeking Him.

Nothing matters more than to know Him
because everything follows that.  

He said it Himself, "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added."  He said this right after He finished listing and going through things we seek and things we worry about.

Seeking Him comes with this promise:
You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’

Thursday night, when my husband looked me in the eyes and said, "I love you" in that just-in-case-this-is-the-last-time-I-can-tell-you sort of way, this is was my security... that I knew my God.

Do you know Him?  If you have not met Him, can I introduce Him to you?

If you've heard about Him and don't much like what you've heard, will you consider that maybe what you've heard didn't come from someone who actually knew this God who said that He is Love?

And if you know Him some but have not experienced how He can overwhelm your struggles and difficulties and pain and guilt and loneliness... if the concept of watching Him face down your looming mountains isn't one that makes you smile... will you take my word for it if I tell you that He is so much more.  I've been discovering that He is more for over 20 years... and still He continues to show me even more and more. More wonderful. More powerful. More marvelous. More complete. More loving. More merciful. More lovely. More awe-inspiring. Overwhelming. He is more than enough. For everything.

He is more than enough when your husband is in ICU. He is more than enough when you're in the middle of a divorce. He is more than enough when your friends are deserting you.  He is more than enough when you have no way to pay your bills. He is always, always, more than enough... but He will never force all that He is on us. We have to seek Him. That voluntary act of the heart is us giving Him permission to enlarge our minds and hearts so that we are capable of knowing Him. Trust me... there is no way we can possibly know Him in our small-minded human-ness... He has to change us before we can even begin to comprehend all that He is.

And that is why He sent a Savior.

This is the glory of the gospel. And this is where Hope is.

I wrote six months ago:

He offers all of Himself... to you.

This is not something you have to do. It is not something you can do. You cannot ever "be happy" because you're supposed to. You can't even be happy in the depth of joy that I'm talking about because He died for you and you accepted Him into your life.

What I'm talking about is beyond knowledge and beyond a prayer and a decision because it's wrapped up in who He is.

And because of that, it is only found by those who seek Him. He said:

You shall seek Me, and you shall find Me, if you search for Me with all your heart.

"All your heart" means everything you've got in this moment. And after you fail and wander away and realize it and repent, it means everything you've got in that moment. And the next. And the next.

"All your heart" means giving whatever little you've got -- no matter how messed up you are -- to Him, in every moment that you come to Him in humility and repentance for the hours and days and weeks and months when you were holding back something or everything from Him.

He takes those moments, and His mercy flows through them to cover the rest of your life. And His mercies are replenished and start new every morning!

And then His grace flows so that the moments when you are holding back everything become fewer, and the moments when your heart is reaching for Him become more, and He begins to change your life from the thing you know right now into something that is beyond anything you've ever dreamed.

I know, because I live it.
If you don't know how to get there from wherever you're at, then email me. Or just get alone by yourself and say, "God help. I need You. Please show Yourself to me. You said You'd be found if I seek You. Show me how 'cause I don't even know that. I'm asking in Jesus' name, because I know that I can't come to You on my own merits. I'm not going to put any time constraints on You. I'm not going to tell You how to do it or when You have to do it. Do whatever you have to so that I can know You, because life is not worth living without You. Take all I am... this mess... and do what only You can do, 'cause I sure can't do anything with it. Help me."

Friday, October 17, 2014

Fear vs. Compassion...

Ebola has "reached" the United States and Europe, and the world is paying attention to what is going on in Africa.

But are we concerned because of fear for ourselves and our loved ones? Or is our concern motivated by compassion?

Are any of the rest of you thinking about this? Granted, who or what you listen to will tell you whether or not to worry or not. And yet... if it's not this, it's something else. We live in an age where the media is constantly providing us with things we could worry over. And then everyone wants to know whose fault it is and what's being done about it.

I just read this article on the BBC:

Ebola – as seen through the eyes of a 13-year-old from Sierra Leone

When Ebola first arrived in my country, we weren’t too worried. Then came “sensitisation” – all the community groups and NGOs running around talking about Ebola. But many refused to believe in the danger and even tried to make politics out of it. We had a riot in Kenema, under the banner of “Ebola is not real”. 

Then, in early August, the situation changed. The government banned all movements in and out of Kenema and Kailahun districts. This hurt everyone, not just those with Ebola, as almost everything came to a standstill. We were trapped – and still are. My aunt, who used to go to the trade fair to buy local goods at low prices, could no longer travel. 

Things got much worse still when Ebola came into our community. There was a pharmacist who got ill but said he was suffering from a septic ulcer, so he never went to the hospital. We believed him because he was a medical man and maybe because we didn’t know any better. Many people came in contact with him during his illness. When he died, his corpse was washed and prepared for burial by people in the community, as is our custom.
But when his death was reported to the hospital, it was found that he had died of Ebola. After about two weeks, several people who had come in contact with him and those who washed his corpse fell ill. Then 16 more people, including dear Aunty, became ill. Out of that number, only Marie and my aunt mercifully survived – or else I too would be an Ebola orphan. I guess I am the lucky one, but it is hard to see it like that.
Our community was quarantined from the rest of town and we were told that no one could leave or enter for 21 days. People who attempted to sneak out, in need of food, were forced by the guards to return. No one brought us food or water for the first two weeks of isolation. In the third week, a charity group brought bulgur, oil and beans. We refused to eat the bulgur though, because it gives you a runny tummy; and if you have a runny tummy and are in an isolation zone they will definitely say you have Ebola and may take you away. So we bought gari (granular flour) throughout the three weeks because that was all my poor aunt could afford – it costs just 500Le (15 pence) for a cup that can feed three people for a meal.
Even now, with all this, there is a problem with educating people about Ebola. I just met two of my friends who told me about the illness of their uncle and how they were taking care of him at home, which they should not be doing as their uncle might have the Ebola virus.
Over 100 children have been orphaned in my community alone. Who is going to take care of them? How will they survive or even go back to school? Fear always grips me when friends who I know don’t regularly wash their hands with chlorinated water want to play with me.
Thinking a little towards the future, how do I go back to school? Where will my aunt get money to support our education again? It is hard to depend on others. We want to depend on our own like we were learning to. Because of my aunt’s weakness and the difficulty of trading we have eaten the money there was in the business. We are suffering. If Ebola does not kill us, maybe hardship and hunger will get us down if no one helps us before Christmas.
Three of my friends have been impregnated already, and I am also under pressure to go after men in order to survive and to buy a dress for Christmas. This is what girls have to do in Sierra Leone when there is no money. It is not right, but it is normal. If this Ebola does not end soon, many more girls will get pregnant before schools reopen and that will be too bad for the future of children in this country.
Of course, those who get Ebola and their families suffer the worst. They are provoked and the stigma keeps them worried and isolated without help. They have no food to eat and even the properties that are burned down are not replaced. But everybody in Sierra Leone is suffering because of all the other things. There is no business, no money, no food, no schools. Who will help us out of this trouble?

This article "put a face" on it for me.

Do I really believe my life is in God's hands?

Do I truly believe that eternity matters more than anything?

What is more important to me? How long my life on this earth lasts, or what I do with it while I'm here?

What answer would God give?

Am I concerned for myself and my family? Or am I thinking and praying for these multitudes half a world away who might not know my Savior? A Savior who defeated fear.

Few people can stare death in the face, knowing it is hovering nearby, and know that even should it come, fear is defeated forever. I think that, even among Christians, very few can do that.

The world needs more than just a few.

The world needs a multitude who demonstrate that security from fear comes in knowing the all-knowing and all-loving One, not in knowing that ABC and XYZ and everything in between is being contained and fixed and investigated.

Because only when fear is conquered can compassion become our driving force as it was for Jesus.

Will you join me in asking God to release and reveal this compassion... and this knowing that fear is defeated... among all those who seek Him? That the knowledge of Him might spread faster than Ebola?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Catching up...

This year continues to be a strange season of answered prayers and waiting, of wandering and closeness. Of miracles and disappointments. Nothing in life (other than God) seems consistent, least of all me.

Unfortunately, the overtime I have put in at work lately has gotten in the way of my blogging... but I hope that will change, along with some other changes I am working on making.

For those who are interested, I did just now post two small bits I wrote over the last two months that somehow or other never got posted. Here they are, if you want to catch up:

A season of answered prayer...

The miracle of worship...

So yes (if you read that first link) my husband does have a new job, after years of prayer for one. We took a pay cut for the job, but it is worth it on so many levels.

The thing is, though... we're discovering that the pay cut, compounded with significantly higher expenses on several fronts that we did not foresee the new job entailing, are equaling a bit of a financial quandary.

You know what, though? I'm discovering that God prepared me for this. If you read through the history of this blog (or even just look at all posts labeled "finances") then you'll see that fear over finances has been one of my biggest struggles.

So it's quite remarkable to me the way this isn't upsetting me. Yes, I'm perplexed as to what to do (if there's anything we're supposed to do). And yet, my trust in this God who cares for me is unwavering. Through it all, I've come to know Him. And it is inconceivable to me that He would so marvelously answer a decade's worth of prayers and not have all the details worked out.

My prayer as we walk through this is not that He will provide... why ask Him to do something He's already promised to do? It's that He will continually teach me more and more to follow His leading. That we will be able to remain in His rest and peace. That we will not get in His way by doing our own thing.

I know down one path is worry, exhaustion from overwork, lack of sleep, etc. Down the other path is rest, peace, strength, and miraculous provision.

The way to choose the second path is to seek Him and wait.

They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength... 

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