Church at the Lab

Yesterday a group of precious teen girls and I commiserated about the difficulty of sharing our faith with a world that is easily offended. “I don’t really talk about my faith with my friends at school. I just don’t know how.” One by one, each girl confessed their struggle to share God outside of the church. I, being 30 years older than most of the girls, agreed. It’s a challenge in a world so consumed with the possibility of offending someone.

Walking into the lab this morning, I saw the room filled with people such as myself. Some did not appear ill and others visibly weakened by whatever ailment they had. But, even those who looked healthy, had a story. They were at the lab so a doctor or a team of doctors could meticulously check their blood for any abnormalities. Each person was either entering a trial, in the middle of one, or possibly just coming out of one.

And, right there in that dark lab, God planted one of His saints. God opened my ears to a man who’s vocabulary only included his faith.

“I see a miracle happening here!”

“God’s doing something in you.”

“I think He’s healing you.”

“Oh, it’s going to be good.”

In the cold, sterile, underground lab, I attended church. Along with about 50 other  patients and lab technicians, we heard and saw faith lived out.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I didn’t receive a church bulletin. But I was definitely welcomed.

There was no group prayer. But prayers were being uttered.

No worship songs were sung. But worship was heard.

No Bible to be seen. But God’s word was being shared.

We were in the Lords house. Simply because one saint chose to live out his faith with every breath, every word spoken, every interaction he faced.

He didn’t speak anything profound or even planned. Yet it was purposeful and prophetic.

He simply included his faith in his everyday life. His faith was his life and there was no hanging it up at the door upon entering his workplace.

I thank God for showing me this saint in the middle of the bleak weariness of the lab. I thank God for the practical example of living out faith.

“Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” James 1: 22

Seek Him and Brush Your Teeth!

Yesterday I didn’t smile.

Yesterday I didn’t look my girls in the eye.

Yesterday I didn’t brush my teeth until the afternoon.

These confessions glare what kind of day I had yesterday.

Last night, when my youngest daughter asked if we could have our monthly breakfast date in the morning, I said, “No.” Don’t worry, I went on to explain why. I told her about how I had not had my quiet time in the morning and my whole day went downhill from there.

Now, truth be told, it wasn’t just the missing quiet time with the Lord that did me in. It was literally not taking a second to slow down and hear from the Lord all day. He is so good to me. When I slow down, and seek Him, He shows me what I need in each given moment. Maybe it’s fresh air, a nap, His word, a snack, a tough conversation, time with my husband. But when I just plow through the day, I am useless.

This morning, the Lord brought to my mind the image of the flight attendant reminding parents to first place the oxygen mask on themself and then tend to their children.

That is how today looks.

Placing the oxygen mask on myself first today looks like: taking time to study God’s word and be filled up through prayer, exercising with weights and sweat, making a green smoothie, listening to piano hymns, taking a shower AND brushing my teeth, and letting my girls sleep in so they get what they so needed.

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Dear One, it is not selfish to take care of yourself. God loves you so much. He does not want you to neglect yourself. You are not able to serve Him if you are completely spent. Seek Him today!

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33

Update: at 10:00 am when my youngest daughter finally surfaced and asked once again about our breakfast date, I could answer, “Yes!” Thank you, Oxygen Mask! You truly are my Savior!

Life After the Trial

Oh, beautiful cherry blossom tree. You do not hide your condition. The winter has taken its toll on your beauty. On your branches. On your shape. On your structure.

The broken branches strewn about the ground. The sharp, ruggedness of the fracture, left on your trunk. Your dead leaves scattered around your base.

But, yet, God’s work in you is not over after the harsh winter. No.

Fall came and went. Your leaves changed. Dried up. Fell to the ground. The wind played a game of havoc on you.

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And, then the cold of winter came and finished off what life was left on you.

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But, deep inside, underground in your roots and in the marrow of your branches, life remained.

God protected and nourished that life deep within you all through the brokenness of the winter.

And now, in all your glory, you blossom your purpose, your fruit, your God-given beauty. Life is emerging on each branch. In each bulge brimming with life. In each blossom, opening for all to see. In each branch, stretching out further than the season before. You show your healing. Your life.

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Through the trial of the winter, the tree remained. Through the harsh reality the tree faced, the Creator’s plan never changed.

Winter still holds on. The bitter cold of the night still remains. The frost still appears each morning. The temperature and shorter days still threaten the growth of the tree. Yet, the Creator’s plan remains.

The evidence of the plan is seen in the tree: new life, new growth, new beauty.

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Are you looking for the evidence of the Creator’s plan in your life? Even in the trial, the evidence is there. Sometimes it’s deep within. Like the sturdy roots of the cherry blossom tree, holding it in place, securing it through another trial. Yes, the evidence is there, Dear One.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

 

Welcoming Pain as a Friend

I have always been polite. I learned the importance of manners from a young age. But, honestly (sorry mom and dad), I was just memorizing a set of rules. “Remember to say thank you when your friend’s mom drops you off”, “Don’t forget to say please and thank you at your grandparent’s house”, and “Did you finish your thank you notes, yet?” I was acting polite but not actually feeling thankful.

But, recently a heart change has begun.

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It began when a friend at church gave me this challenge, “Just say the words, ‘Thank you’, right in the face of the challenge.”

“Oh, okay, yeah, I can do that. My daughter and I have talked about how we can say thank you for every trial because it leads us closer to God.”

“Yeah, that’s true,” my friend replied, “but there’s more. You know everything, EVERYTHING,” she repeated a little firmer, ” comes to us through the Father. So, everything, EVERYTHING is allowed in our life by God. It’s been filtered through God. So, I can say thank you for everything, EVERYTHING.”

In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Mathew 26:50 says, Jesus replied, “friend do what you came for”. He was referring to his betrayer, Judas, as friend. Jesus being God knew what was coming. He knew that he was about to be severely abused, spit upon, slapped, and ultimately killed. Yet, he knew everything that happened to him, everything he experienced, everything he encountered was Father Filtered. The Father agreed and allowed this. The Father allowed Judas to betray Jesus. So he could welcome his betrayer as friend. Jesus trusted his Father’s plan.

This kind of understanding goes so far beyond just a set of memorized words to express thanks. To actually refer to your betrayer as friend, to welcome pain, to walk into the fire,  this takes an understanding of the Father.

You see when I told my friend’s mom thank you for the ride, I was just glad I had a way home. I didn’t stop and think about the heart of the woman who drove me home. The sacrifice and care she took in arranging to drive me home.

But, to be thankful for the pain of my parent’s divorce, the disease that has wreaked havoc on my body, the challenges my daughters face, my husband’s health trials? That takes having an understanding of the Father.

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To be thankful for the pain requires getting to know the Father’s heart. It requires surrender. You must trust. And, you must remember what He has done for you in the past.

So I can say thank you. I can say thank you for the trials. Thank you for the disagreements. Thank you for the testing.

Thank you Father. What is in my life right now was filtered through you, My Father. Thank you.

yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. 1 Corinthians 8:6

Go and Be With My People

My health status is in a day-to-day flux. Yesterday was good. I woke up with energy to make my family breakfast. I felt well enough to go out to lunch with my husband. Throw in a couple of loads of laundry, and it was a good day.

Today? Today is different. My alarm went off in time to get ready for church. “I am teaching Sunday school tomorrow morning,” I declared to my family the night before. “Let’s set our alarms so we make sure we are there early so I can get ready for my class.” Laying my plans out there without doubt of the day to come.

Sunday morning came, my alarm sounded. My energy low. Fatigue high. The battle in my mind began. Do I stay home? Do I go and not teach Sunday school? Do I go and try to teach? The kids are 4 and 5 years old and full of energy. The lesson will include games and projects requiring a fully engaged and healthy leader. God…is that me today? Can I really do this today?

I feel the pull….Go and be with my people.

But, God, I am so tired…

Go and be with my people.

But, God, they are preschoolers…

Go and be with my people.

But, God, I am having difficulty standing up today.

Go and be with my people.

But, God…

Go and be with my people.

Walking into church, I am greeted by a warm, familiar face who knows my physical and emotional battle. She knows because just days prior she was in the women’s group at church where each woman courageously shared a current struggle they are facing. Not the usual, “Hi, I am Lisa, I have gone to church here for 11 years. I have a husband, 2 kids and 2 cats…” No, none of that surface level stuff. No, more like, “I am Lisa. I have struggled with anxiety, am currently struggling with depression and am in the process of testing for a kidney transplant.” How’s that for real? Woman after woman shared hard things. Woman after woman cried. Woman after woman opened up their hearts. And, woman after woman loved on the one next to them. Go and be with my people.

After the hug and encouragement from the saint who greeted me, I headed up the stairs to my classroom. My 13-year-old daughter, also my teaching assistant, rushed up the stairs to see what she could do to help in the classroom. Scanning the lesson, she determined which parts of the lesson she would lead. Choosing the parts which require action and preparation, she relieved my concerns. Go and be with my people.

Then come the kids. One by one, they entered the classroom, each flashing me a smile, some offering a hug as well. The delightful energy and happy chatter spread to my soul. One by one they took off their shoes and became comfortable in our little classroom. I watched the kids build with blocks. I laughed at the funny greetings they gave each other. I marveled at how tall they were becoming. Go and be with my people.

Time to sit down in our circle for prayer and the Bible lesson. “First of all, I need to tell you guys, I am just not feeling well this morning,” I share with the 4 and 5 year olds. A couple sets of concerned eyes met mine.

One little one in particular looked up at me in a very solemn way, “Teacher, can I pray for you?” Others joined in, “Yes, I want to pray for my teacher, too.”

One by one, they offer their prayers of thanksgiving and their requests. I hear, “Thank you, God for my teacher. Please help her feel better today. Please heal her, God. Thank you for healing my teacher, God. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”

My eyes are dripping now. My heart is bursting out of my chest. These humble, faith-filled prayers are the culmination of what my heart needed this morning. Go and be with my people. 

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I am aware that some of you reading this have not had this experience at church with God’s people. I share this to encourage you to keep searching. There are so many churches. But, also, you will not find this type of fellowship unless you take the risk yourself to open up and allow God’s people in…to know you, to encourage you, to love you. Go and be with God’s people.

 

When Your Burden is a Boulder

A few years back I was one week away from having a scheduled kidney transplant. Leading up to the surgery, there were times when I would tremble with fear. I worried about the pain in recovery. I worried about the medication I would be on for life after the transplant. I worried about my body rejecting the kidney. But, what caused me to break out into an all out panic attack was thinking about how would I ever manage all of my responsibilities during recovery.

In Galatians, Paul talks about carrying our own load but also sharing in one another’s burdens.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.  For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.  For each one shall bear his own load.

I don’t know about you, but it’s the whole part about allowing someone else to help bear my burden, carry my load, and share in my pain, that causes fear to set in.

But, as I lean into Jesus and experience more and more of His grace and compassion I see that He is to be trusted. Ultimately it is He who carries my burden. It is He who sees just how big my burden is even when I try to minimize it. It is Jesus who holds the burden and the solution in His all-powerful hands.

My burden…my failiing kidneys, my children’s unique needs, my husband’s health, the lies the enemy feeds me…it all compounds into a boulder too large for my shoulders.

When I find myself thinking I am something, I think I can and should bear it all. I should be able to pick up all the wounded pieces, place them neatly in my pack, and hoist them onto my back. It’s a lie from the pit of hell that I am alone and that I should be able to hold my heavy load myself.

Oh, Satan loves that lie. If he can get me to fall for it, he’s got me. He’s got me in an impossible situation trying in vain to hold up my pack, setting myself up for failure and a heavier burden.

But, Jesus….Jesus who knows pain. Jesus who knows betrayal. Jesus who knows loneliness. Jesus who knows love. Jesus who knows me. He knows the boulder I am facing. He knows what I am capable of carrying. He knows my needs.

But, Jesus…

the Boulder Taker

the Boulder Lifter

the Boulder Mover.

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What a peace it brings to my burdened soul, coming back to the reality that I am nothing. I am unable to bear this boulder. The Lord has not even asked me to bear it alone.

Thank you, Jesus. Those words seem insufficient. I have been known to utter the words, “Thank you, Jesus” about finding a good parking spot on a rainy day. But, to say “Thank you, Jesus, for carrying a boulder I am too weak and ill-equipped to carry myself” seems trite. So, I will spend my life uttering the words, “Thank you, Jesus. You are so good to me.”

 

 

 

Suffering Obedience and Freedom

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Have you ever waited all week for results to come back to tell you whether or not you have cancer again? The doctor who removed the troublesome skin humbly admitted that she had never been in that position.
I’ve never once walked into a week hoping for suffering, hoping to have to wait on more lab results. Never once.
Jesus didn’t hope for suffering. He didn’t delight in the great agony He faced as he awaited probable pain and death. He cried out to God. He asked to be delivered. He asked if there was any other way.
But then He chose obedience. Perfect obedience which led to suffering. Suffering which led to freedom.
As I walk this road of suffering, complete with twists and turns which seem to lead away from what I desire, I am being trained in obedience. My ways are being stripped away. My flesh pierced. My mind and will transformed.
This week the transformation came in allowing Jesus to partner with me. The enemy loves to tell me I am alone. He loves to feed me lies about no one else understanding my pain. And, I seem to have a sick way of clinging to those lies.
But my suffering is bringing about transformation, when I obey. When I listen to that prompting to stop the Facebook scrolling and instead read the Word, I read the promises of Jesus. I read about His faithful love for me. I read about His pain and suffering. I read about the anguish He expressed during His most intense trial.

I read about freedom. Freedom the believers received as they opened their hearts to His Spirit and were then released from past bondage.

Just as Jesus didn’t desire the suffering that was coming to Him, I do not desire more suffering. But nowadays, I can walk into it with much less fear and much more peace, knowing suffering, coupled with obedience, always results in freedom. Thank you, Jesus!

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5