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To Seniors and Others Missing Out

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.         Colossians 3:2

This piece, originally entitled “What Else Matters?” was posted May 3 of last year. I wanted to share it again, for all my readers who are or have seniors missing their prom, graduation, and other festivities they thought they would be enjoying now. Feel free to share this with them. I hope it encourages those who are feeling the loss.

It was the morning of the National Day of Prayer. I was sitting in the auditorium at City Hall, listening to my daughter’s school choir singing a goosebump-raising rendition of “You Are God Alone.” They were warming up for the city-wide prayer meeting that was starting in half an hour. And I was crying.

My daughter Kelly had been having a rough time in high school. The migraines that had first appeared when she was four years old had continued to plague her through grade school and middle school and had caused her record absences through high school, in spite of years of prayers and attempts to find a solution through medicine, both traditional and “alternative.”

But in spite of enduring more pain than some people suffer in a lifetime, Kelly had found a few sources of pleasure in her life. By far her greatest joy was singing, and her favorite part of school was choir. When the students performed, Kelly’s face radiated with unmistakable joy. She had looked forward to the national Day of Prayer and taking part, and as I had said goodbye to her that morning and she left for school, I had whispered a special prayer of thanks to God for this special day.

My optimism had been short-lived, however. Kelly had called me from the parking lot of a McDonald’s half a mile from school to tell me about the migraine that had assaulted her shortly after she had walked out the door. When I had suggested that she come home, take some medication, and rest until the assembly, she had sobbed that if she didn’t show up at 8:00 she wouldn’t be allowed to sing with the choir.

There are definite advantages to a small Christian school, one of them being teachers who know each student well and practice grace along with discipline. As I called the office to explain Kelly’s dilemma, the choir director, who “happened to be” right by the phone, responded with compassion. She said to let Kelly come home, take a pill and a nap, and meet the choir at City Hall at 11:30 if she was feeling better.

But the medication that knocked out the migraine had a way of knocking out the patient as well, and when I had tried to rouse Kelly for the prayer meeting, she had been hopelessly (and predictably) dead to the world. Now as the choir finished their warm-up and filed off the stage, there I sat, with nothing to do but feel sorry for Kelly, thinking of all the important high school events she had missed and would never again get a chance to do. And yes, I’ll admit I was feeling pretty sorry for myself, as well. (When “BabyBear” hurts, “MamaBear” hurts, too.) So in spite of my efforts to contain them, the tears flowed.

I was digging through my purse, looking for a tissue when I came across my small New Testament. Since the prayer meeting didn’t start until noon, I knew I had twenty minutes to kill, and the last thing I wanted to do was spend them wallowing in self-pity. So I pulled out the Bible and prayed.

Lord, Jesus, please encourage me. I don’t want to feel this way today!

I was not in the habit of looking for answers to problems by haphazardly opening the Bible; I hadn’t done that since college. But since I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, I opened the Book at random, planning just to read until I found something helpful, or until the prayer meeting started, whichever came first.

The scripture that first caught my eye was the last chapter of Mark:

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb, and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen!”                    (Mark 16: 1-6)

Something told me I had seen enough, so I stopped reading.

OK, what does that have to do with Kelly’s migraines? I wondered. But then I pondered the significance of the passage.

Jesus is alive … JESUS IS ALIVE! That means that death is not the end … for Him or for us! And it certainly means this life isn’t the be-all and end-all for those who trust in the Lord. – It’s barely the beginning!

Yes, my daughter had missed the National Day of Prayer, over a hundred days of high school, and numerous weekend festivities. She had missed Homecoming, but someday she would be at the greatest Homecoming in history. She had missed singing in the choir that day, but someday she would sing in heaven’s choir forever. Kelly loved Jesus, and she would get to spend forever with Him, at the never-ending, greatest celebration of all time. When one had that to look forward to … what else mattered?

What else matters? I asked myself, and I found that in spite of my pity-party, I was smiling. I decided that I would pour myself into the Day of Prayer and keep a better perspective on life from that day on, by remembering the one thing that really matters –

Jesus is alive!

Excerpted from BARRIERS (So, if prayers are so powerful, how come mine don’t get answered?)                           c 2015 Ann Aschauer

Prayer: Lord, we rejoice that You are alive! Keep us mindful of what really matters. In Your name, amen

Turn It Off!

DISCLAIMER: I am well aware that during this time of pandemic not everyone has had spare time on their hands! I know that some have been overwhelmed with trying to juggle working at home and home schooling kids. I know that some of you are working harder than ever to hold down your jobs in ways that are safe for everyone, and that some of you are risking your lives caring for the sick. – BLESS YOU ALL! This post was written more for those who have found themselves isolated, bored, and restless, a perspective where we have an extraordinary opportunity to hear from God – an opportunity we should not be wasting. On the other hand, when our lives are busier than ever – when we would welcome some boredom – this is something we may need even more.

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”                                                                                                                                                                                                             I Kings 19:11-12

Elijah had prophesied a three-and-a-half-year drought for the rebellious nation of Israel. When the drought took place as predicted, the prophet spent three and a half years alone in the wilderness, hiding out from the evil and unrepentant Queen Jezebel, who was bent on killing him.

(You might say he was quarantined.)

During this time of isolation Elijah drank from a stream and was fed by ravens. The nineteenth chapter of I Kings describes the day the prophet heard from God. First he was assailed by all manner of natural disasters. Like special effects in a Hollywood blockbuster, a wind whipped through, powerful enough to split rocks, followed by an earthquake, then a fire. But it was only after these things had passed that Elijah heard the voice of God.

Today we have our own types of distractions, demands, interruptions, and crises coming from every direction, and sometimes it seems there is never a moment of quiet.

Until recently. Now for some of us our hyperactive minds have tended to think there’s been too much quiet, and reaching for a device to fill the void was almost an involuntary reflex. But as the quarantine continued and many have grown impatient, we have gone from filling the void to being bombarded by countless voices – opinions, rants, conspiracy theories, scandals, propaganda, trivia, and pointless chatter about every topic under the sun. How can staying “safe at home” feel so stressful? And how do we transition into the “new normal” without taking that extra stress with us?

Before turning on the noise again, let’s consider an alternative.

As abnormal as our present situation has felt, this lessening of daily demands may have been offering us an opportunity to hear a Voice we’ve possibly never heard before – a Voice well worth hearing.

Recently I came across this parable of a present-day “Elijah’s” experience that I wrote years ago. I wish I had found it a couple of months ago, but it’s still relevant – maybe more than when I wrote it – and it’s never too late to reevaluate our priorities and start making necessary changes. Check it out, and if the shoe fits, it just might be the last thing you’ll want to read on line today:

A young man was looking for God. He took his smartphone, read his text messages, checked his voicemail, and looked at his pictures. But the LORD was not in the smartphone.

He took his laptop and checked his emails, Facebook, and Twitter. But the LORD was not in the laptop.

He turned on the TV and checked the news, Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu. But the LORD was not in the TV.

Finally, the young man turned off all technology and sat in silence. And in the silence, there came a still, small voice …

As we wait for our society to finish reopening, instead of regretting the boredom, quiet, and isolation, let’s take advantage of every moment of solitude and quiet, while we still have a chance. Let’s use this time to develop a good habit to take with us into the “new normal” – the habit of not only talking to God, but also listening for his Still, Small Voice.

OK, I gotta go. I think Someone’s trying to reach me …

Prayer: Lord, we know that the battle for our souls takes place in our minds. Whether we are quarantined or back in our usual routine, help us to clear out mental clutter and make room for You. Help us daily to tune out the world and focus on Your still, small voice – to hear, to understand, to remember – to have Your divine perspective. Then help us to heed and obey what You tell us, in Jesus’ name and for Your glory. Amen

Mystery Blogger Award x 2 (and more information about me than you ever wondered about)

Outdo one another in showing honor.           Romans 12:10

 

First of all, I’d like to thank Alicia at For His Purpose ( link http://forhispurpose.blog ) and Debi Sue at Seriously Seeking Answers (link http://seriouslyseekinganswers.com ) for nominating me for the Mystery Blogger Award. Alicia shares heartfelt stories centered around Jesus, told with honesty and humor.  Debi Sue shares her personal spiritual journey with “fellow travelers” – “plus a few recipes.” 😉  Be sure to check out their blogs if you haven’t already.

About the Mystery Blogger Award

This award was created by Okoto Enigma (link HERE) to recognize bloggers who “find fun and inspiration in blogging” and who “do it with so much love and passion.”The award also gives us a chance to create a friendly blogging community by telling others about our own favorite bloggers.

Here are the guidelines:

  1. Put the award logo on your blog.
  2. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  3. Mention the creator of the award.
  4. Answer the five questions you were asked.
  5. Tell the readers three things about yourself.
  6. Nominate 10 bloggers.
  7. Notify the bloggers that you nominated them by commenting on one of their posts.
  8. Ask your nominees five questions with one weird or funny one.
  9. Share a link to your best posts.

Three things about myself:

  1. As soon as I could write, I created stories in a little brown spiral notebook (Readers who are old enough will remember those.) with multiple chapters and illustrations hand drawn in crayon by yours truly. In the second grade I wrote about an astronaut going to the moon. Since it hadn’t happened yet, I didn’t include many details. I explained why I was telling the story in the past tense: “I know this hasn’t happened yet, but by the time this story is published, it will have happened.” It seems even then I had an inkling of how long it took to get something published, as well as being pretty prophetic for a 7-year-old. (Are you impressed yet?)
  2. I have been told by my former students what a fun teacher I was. I did make the class entertaining for my own sake, since I myself had the attention span of a squirrel. Fortunately, my teaching experience had plenty of variety. Over the years I taught every grade from K4 through 12th grade. I taught public school, private school, Christian school, charter school, home school, and a home school co-op. Subjects I taught included English grammar, literature, public speaking, drama, French, and music.
  3. I have been more privileged than 99.99% of the rest of humanity, but not without some struggles, namely chronic allergies/laryngitis and other health problems that were probably due to an eating disorder, that was probably due to low self-esteem, that was probably due to not knowing who I was as a child of God. Jesus has delivered and healed me, and as long as I stay close to Him, I can be confident that I am in His will, even when things aren’t as pleasant as I’d like them to be. Staying close to Him involves remembering that while I am utterly unworthy of His love, He loved me enough to die for me, so I must be incredibly valuable anyway.  😀 ! Although I am weak and utterly dependent on Him, He is strong and utterly dependable.

My best posts:

  1. “Forsaking My First Love” https://seekingdivineperspective.com/2020/02/14/the-dream-that-broke-my-heart/
  2. “Worth Repeating” https://seekingdivineperspective.com/2020/01/03/worth-repeating/
  3. “True Love Is for Losers” https://seekingdivineperspective.com/2019/02/13/true-love-is-for-losers-2/

Five questions I was asked by my two nominators: 

1.Why do you write? I have always loved to talk, especially telling stories, but sometimes after a while people’s eyes start to glaze over, so I figured if I write these stories down, they can be read by more people, only those who want to read them, and in their own time. And I can talk less and listen more. 😉

2. How often do you post blogs? I usually post once a week, on Fridays. I want to respect my readers’ time by writing something excellent (worth reading). I usually spend an hour or so writing a post, then another hour trimming it down to 1000 words or less. And the next few days “perfecting” it (Nit-picking 😉 ). Obviously this post is an exception, but I couldn’t trim it down any more without cutting out the rules of the award or my recommendations.

3. Are you a night owl or a morning person? I am mostly a night person. I wrote much of my first book between the hours of 2:30 and 4:00 AM. It was nice and quiet then. 😉

4. How would you describe yourself? A work in progress: self-centered, becoming Christ-centered; a good talker, becoming a good listener; hypersensitive, becoming thick-skinned (but tender-hearted – God has assured me it is possible!); scatter-brained, becoming focused on the things that matter – gaining “divine perspective.” 🙂

5. What inspired you to start your blog? Frankly, I’m not sure I would call it “inspiration,” more of an assignment done with selfish motives.  I was writing a book proposal for a major publisher, and one of the questions was about blogs and followers. I had never read a blog, much less written one, so I decided it was about time I tried blogging.  It has turned out to be one of the most rewarding endeavors of my life. I love having readers from all over the world, and some of you I think of as my friends. I’m trying to get back to my latest book, but it’s hard to be motivated, when the rewards of blogging are so immediate.

My nominees:

  1. “insanitybytes” at “See, There’s This Thing Called Biology” (https://insanitybytes2.wordpress.com) This is a Christian lady whose snarky personality comes out in everything she posts. You may or may not agree with her, but there’s never any sense of “come on, i.b., tell us how you really feel,” and you will find her entertaining and thought-provoking.
  2. Bruce Cooper at “Reasoned Cases for Christ” ( https://bcooper.wordpress.com/ ) some excellent pieces defending the faith. If you’re interested in apologetics, this is the blog to read.
  3. Nora Edinger at “Joy Journal” ( https://noraedinger.com/author/noraedinger/ ). Nora is in the process of treating her readers to her newest novel, “Suspended Aggravation,” which she is sharing with us one chapter at a time, with background information on real places and landmarks that are in the story.
  4. “SlimJim” at “The Domain for Truth” ( https://veritasdomain.wordpress.com/ ) He has a series that debunks so-called “contradictions” in the Bible. He has also been publishing weekly suggestions for positive ways to participate in church, or, more recently, to contribute to the life of the church while separated from one another.
  5. Lisa V. at “The Write Side of the Road” ( https://writesideoftheroad.wordpress.com/ ) I am a new follower of hers, but she expresses herself well and addresses current issues of interest to all of us. (I reposted one of her pieces yesterday.)
  6.  David Ettinger at “Ettinger Writing.Com” (https://insanitybytes2.wordpress.com) is a Messianic Jew who writes on biblical themes, sometimes with video of classes he teaches. David is more knowledgeable about the Old Testament than most Gentile Christians, so his perspective is especially enlightening. He recently reposted video from Israel.
  7. Lady Quixote/Linda Lee at “A Blog about Healing from PTSD” (https://ablogabouthealingfromptsd.com/ ) shares her everyday battles and triumphs, relating to her struggle with PTSD. Although I’ve never met her, she’s one of those who feels like an old friend. 🙂
  8. eccllibya at “Evangelical Christian Church of Libya” (https://eccllibya.wordpress.com/) This blog caught my eye, because years ago at a conference we committed to praying for a nation, my nation was Libya. Their daily posts are very short, sometimes just a Bible verse, with a picture. There’s always time to read this one. 😉 I guess in countries where the Word of God is not as easy to come by, one verse of Truth can sustain a believer more than you’d think.
  9. Kavita Ramlal at “Sunshiny SA Site” (https://sunshinysasite.wordpress.com) is “proudly South African” and posts her unique perspective of current events, the state of her country, and gorgeous photos that make you want to hop the next plane to South Africa.
  10. Efua at “Grace Over Pain” (https://graceoverpain.com) has a thoughtful blog that looks at familiar Scriptures and applies them to life today, encouraging us to take a deeper look into our own lives.

Questions for my nominees:

  1. If you could ask God one question and receive an immediate, definitive answer, what would you ask Him?
  2.  When you get to heaven, who (besides Jesus) is the first person you want to see?

To my nominees, please don’t feel pressured to participate. (Or, if you’ve been nominated before, don’t feel obligated to participate again.) Just know that I appreciate reading your posts, I’m so grateful you read mine, and your comments and feedback help me grow!

If you do participate, send me a link and let me know. I would love to read your answers! Stay healthy!

Blessings,

Annie

 

Tired of Fighting

(What she said.)

Write Side of the Road

(Hopefully, this is my LAST pandemic post)

It seems like we humans have done nothing but fight and judge for the last twenty years, and I am sick and tired of it.

Political Correctness has run a muck. Though after some research, I wonder if it was ever a good thing. Turns out, according to Britannica, “The term first appeared in Marxist-Leninist vocabulary following the Russian Revolution of 1917. At that time it was used to describe adherence to the policies and principles of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (that is, the party line).”

But today’s “political correctness” is dividing and is an excuse to point fingers.

The 24-hour news cycle certainly doesn’t help, nor does social media. We’ve mistaken “journalism” with “factual news.” Journalism, much to the general population’s disadvantage, includes “feature writing,” which has NOTHING to do with facts. Think the Weekly World News Tabloid of…

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Pandemic: God’s Plan A???

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”                                                                                                                                                               Jeremiah 29:11

A while back I wrote a piece encouraging people to stay flexible when seeking divine perspective on their lives. “Your ‘Plan B’ (or ‘Plan C,’ or even ‘Plan D’) might just be God’s Plan A.” I recently heard a couple of good examples of this concept unfolding.

A radio pastor announced in his on-line service this morning that since the pandemic and the enforcement of “social distancing” that his audience has gone from about 30,000 to over a million. For his ministry a good 3-day crusade might result in 10,000 people indicating decisions to follow Christ. Since not being able to hold crusades, their taking the ministry to the internet has resulted in over 36,000 indicating decisions.

Another favorite ministry of mine is the “JESUS” Film Project. The movie that was made several decades ago telling the story of Jesus, taken word for word from the Gospel of John, is by far the most translated film in history. It has been produced in over 1,800 languages and used to reach largely illiterate people in tens of thousands of villages in remote parts of the world. The ministry teams would bring equipment and copies of the film into these remote areas, often on foot, and after getting permission to set up their screens or to show the movie on the side of a building, they would present the gospel to people who have never heard the Good News before – and often have never seen a movie in their own language, either. They would be so excited to hear Jesus speaking in their language, they would sit enraptured, hearing His teachings and watching Him heal the sick, feed the hungry, even raise the dead. They would weep as they saw Him being crucified, and they would cheer wildly at the resurrection.  At the conclusion, as it was explained to them that Jesus’ death paid the penalty for their sins, and His resurrection means all who believe will be raised with Him to eternal life, most if not all of them would respond to the invitation to place their faith in Him.

Of course, with the Corona virus pandemic and nations in lock-down, gathering people together for a showing was virtually impossible. In my daily prayers for the ministry I asked the Lord to bless this time of isolation and to help the ministry workers and planners come up with new strategies to reach people.

The answer to that prayer came when I received word that the “JESUS” Film Project had been granted permission to air the film on not one, but six secular TV stations on Easter Sunday, in a country that until now had seemed very hostile to Christianity. I was so excited, thinking of how many millions of people might be watching and learning about the gospel for the first time in this nation that is 98% Muslim and only 0.2% Christian.

Realizing that Easter was still eight days away, and with this new vision of what was actually possible, I prayed even harder that more doors would open up in other parts of the world.

My prayers (and no doubt the prayers of many others) were answered “exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we could ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:20) Two days later I got an email with a world map and a list of all the countries that would be airing “JESUS” on Easter.

All 72 of them.

These countries included Communist, Islamic, and Hindu nations, many where Christians had been persecuted the most. I was incredulous, wondering, What were they thinking?? – But I had no complaints!

So, as far as I know, in the absence of being able to take the gospel into little villages the way it’s been done in past decades, recently the gospel has been proclaimed in nations all over the world, to literally billions of people.

(Could this have been God’s “Plan A” all along?)

In the first century the Apostle Paul was a key figure in the evangelism of the civilized world. He was well educated, multilingual, and able to travel from one Roman province to another to preach the gospel. People from every ethnicity were being saved, and churches were planted and growing everywhere Paul went. But then something happened that was unexpected by many, although a few had had an inkling of what was coming. These followers had begged Paul not to go to Jerusalem, where he would be arrested and handed over to the Gentiles (Romans). But Paul proceeded and indeed was arrested, as expected.

So ended his followers’ “Plan A.”

Confined to prison and “house arrest” (quarantined), Paul could not travel to visit the churches, he could only write letters and send them to the churches by way of his good friends. The early believers so esteemed Paul that his letters were kept and treasured.

And this is how we got roughly 28% of the New Testament. I firmly believe that as Paul trusted and obeyed God, his situation was God’s “Plan A” unfolding.

So, instead of sitting around waiting for this pandemic to be over, let’s be in prayer and ask how we can be part of God’s Plan A, even when the rest of the world sees it as a major holdup. How might He want to use you during this time?

Prayer: Lord, You reign supreme. You are infinitely wiser than we are. Help us to be a part of Your plan, even when Your plan doesn’t conveniently fit into ours. In Jesus’ name, amen.

 

Are We Praying God’s Priorities?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,                                                                                            neither are my ways your ways,” declares the LORD.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Isaiah 55:8

Most Christians these days are praying more than usual. Some are praying for protection, some for the healing of the sick, wisdom for our leaders, and the stop of the Corona virus. Some are asking – pleading – for the eradication of the disease, others boldly demanding it, some directly commanding it to leave in the name of Jesus. Is one approach better than another? And are we praying for God’s will or our own?

In my book BARRIERS (So, if prayers are so powerful, how come mine don’t get answered?) one chapter deals with the “barrier” of wrong priorities. We forget that sometimes what we consider of utmost importance is secondary to God, and vise versa. For example, God has made it clear that He values a person’s spiritual health more than physical health, and eternity more that our brief lives on this earth. He cares more about our deeds than our material wealth.

Does that mean God doesn’t care if we’re sick or dying or out of work? Of course not! He delights in blessing us in every area of life. But when “blessings” don’t seem to be happening, we need ask ourselves whether there is something else going on.

The following is an excerpt from BARRIERS, Chapter Five: Wrong Priorities:

In the Old Testament God was constantly warning the children of Israel of the dangers of prosperity. Moses pleaded with the people not to forget the Lord when they had times of plenty and ease in the Promised Land, and again and again they did just that. The pattern repeats itself throughout history: God blesses His people; they become comfortable; they stray from Him; He disciplines them; they repent and come back to Him; He blesses them again; again they get comfortable and stray. In reading the history of the Israelites, I have been astonished that they never seemed to catch on. It could be because, while I was reading a condensed history of the people, they were living out their lives, day to day, without stepping back to look at the Big Picture – the eternal picture.

Then I realize it isn’t just ancient Israel’s nature; I have seen the same pattern in recent history in the U.S. God has blessed this country more than any other, and over time our culture as a whole has drifted away from Him, with occasional milestones that indicate which direction we are going.

Occasionally there is a disaster that makes headlines – a shooting at Columbine high school, a bombing in Oklahoma City, mass murder on 9-11 – and for a while churches in America overflow with people grieving, searching, maybe even repenting. But it isn’t long before most of them get back to “business as usual,” with attention to God relegated to one hour on Sunday morning, if they think of Him at all.

I have often wondered what would happen if people came to love the Lord in the hard times, but then continued to love Him, even in the good times.

We may never know.

On a smaller scale, take the example of the woman who is praying for her son to know the Lord. Maybe he has known and served Him before, but in times of prosperity he is now distracted by work, vacations, entertainment, money matters, and everything else that comes with an affluent lifestyle. The devoted mother faithfully continues praying that God will get his attention.

The one day the diagnosis comes: terminal cancer.

And now God has his attention!

And what is the request that the prayer team gets? “Pray for healing!”

Now please don’t misunderstand – I’m not at all against healing – I’ve been healed on several occasions, and I’m thankful to God for it. It has enabled me to serve Him with more physical energy and strength. And I do pray that my friends and acquaintances who struggle with sickness will be healed. But I have another prayer for them that I consider far more significant.

Think about it. Which is worse – having cancer, dying at age 50 knowing God and spending eternity in heaven, or living in good health for 100 years without any regard for God, then spending eternity in darkness and regret? I realize it doesn’t have to be one or the other, but it does seem a little ironic that we pray fervently for God to get someone’s attention, and once He does it, what we immediately cry out to Him is, in essence, Make it stop!

After many years of unsuccessful prayers for sick friends, I have changed my approach. Acknowledging that God is ultimately in control, that He has a plan, and that He probably knows way more about what that person really needs than I do, I pray:

Lord, whatever You want to accomplish with this sickness (or job loss, or other trouble) I pray that it will be accomplished in Your perfect will, in Your perfect timing.

And the sooner that is accomplished, the sooner trouble can be done with and victory celebrated.

I have even come to the point where I can pray for myself with this eternal perspective, although sometimes I let my immediate pain keep me in the make-it-stop! mindset, which usually just prolongs the agony and afflicts those around me with my bad attitude at the same time.

Well, one cure for a bad attitude is the realization that I can’t make it by myself. …                                                                      excerpted from  BARRIERS, Chapter 5

Prayer: Lord, we are in troubled times, yet we know that nothing happens that hasn’t gone through the filter of Your will. You have our attention. Please guide us in how to deal with our present circumstances with Christ-like attitudes, and help us to trust You in the things we have no control over, knowing that You love us more than anyone else can. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Spiritual Exercise (Blessed Crisis, Part 2)

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering.”                                                                                                                                                                                                      Hebrews 10:23(ESV)

(Today I’m sharing the conclusion of the story that started last week with a predawn phone call that shook our world. There was reason to believe that our daughter and her family had been exposed to a deadly parasite through a baby squirrel their oldest daughter had brought home and played with. The squirrel had died, followed by three of their four guinea pigs. The parasite in question is incurable and, more often than not, fatal to humans.)

Joanna’s husband Sean contacted a friend who was the head of Metro Animal Services. He validated their concern and offered to pay for the dead guinea pigs to be sent away for autopsy. They could have the results Monday.

This was going to be a rough weekend for all of us.

I wanted to rush down to Louisville to be with the family, but when I suggested it, she told me they already had plans for the weekend. So I packed and headed across Michigan for my scheduled speaking engagement.

But as I drove, my mind was consumed with the crisis. When I wasn’t talking to Joanna, I was praying. A part of my regular prayers took on special significance that day. It was the part where I gave my heart to the Lord for the day and spoke out loud (so I could hear myself saying it) the truth about emotions:

Lord, thank You for emotions that confirm the Truth, but I also thank You that Your truth stands on its own and needs no confirmation from me or anybody else.

Thank You for emotions that motivate me to serve and obey You, and thank You for enabling me to serve You, whether I feel like it or not.

I thank You that my emotions don’t get to define me. They don’t get to dictate what I say, do, focus on, believe, or choose. Lord, I choose You as my Lord, my Savior, my King, my Counselor, my Shepherd, my Bridegroom – my everything!

After reminding myself that God was God and Truth was Truth, no matter how I feel, I decided to purposefully worship Him, stress or no stress.

I popped in a CD of worship music and sang God’s praises at the top of my lungs, continuing to give thanks for His promises. Hearing myself sing God’s Word gave me courage.

As strange as it may seem, Joanna’s family spent the weekend camping. It was the wisest thing to do, since all they could do about the crisis was wait, anyway. Out in the beauty of nature she and Sean took each child aside to make sure that child knew the gospel and was assured of eternal life. One by one, they made sure their children understood that their sins had separated them from God, but that He loved them so much He had sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross to pay for those sins. They were reminded that by believing in Him they were forgiven, washed clean, and “born again” into eternal life. Each child gave his/her life to Jesus (again), and the whole family was assured that whatever happened, they were all going to live forever in heaven with the God who loved them so much. The rest of the weekend was spent just “being together and enjoying being alive,” according to Joanna’s text.

Meanwhile, I changed my topic for the author event. Whatever I had planned to say, I felt compelled to share honestly with the attendees what my family was going through. It turned out I was speaking not once to the whole group, but multiple times, to smaller groups throughout the event.

I told each group that God is good, that I trusted Him completely, and that no matter what, I would praise Him for the rest of my life. My daughter, her husband, and all three of their children were in God’s hands, and if He chose to take them from us, I knew they would be in a much better place, where someday I would see them and be with them again, forever. I didn’t particularly like that plan [understatement!], but this wasn’t about me. God is God, and He knows best, whether I agree or not. From the response I received, I knew there were people there who needed to hear it, who were undergoing their own crises.

I have long been a teller of “God stories,” but this was the first time in my life I was telling a story as it was unfolding. I didn’t yet have the part where “God worked it all out!” – the happy ending, tied up in a neat little bow.

Like physical exercise, this spiritual exercise made me stronger. Each time I told my story I found myself speaking with more confidence and certainty, even though I didn’t yet know how the story would end.

I didn’t know that while squirrels can get the parasite from raccoons, they can’t transmit it to humans, only raccoons can. I don’t understand why, and we still don’t know what killed the rodents, but we don’t need to. The important thing is that the tests came out negative, and that Joanna’s family was fine.

(For now.)

Just like today’s pandemic has done on a mass scale, this crisis of faith caused my family to face (again) the fact that our lives are finite. Like it or not, “We’re all gonna die,” sometime, somehow. If a crisis causes us to face this reality and prepare for the inevitable (which we should have been doing all along), then I say, “God bless the crisis.”

Prayer: Lord, thank You for the priceless gift of life. Forgive us for so often taking it for granted. Thank You for the “wake-up calls,” as unpleasant as they are, that turn our minds and hearts toward You, toward eternity –  that give us “divine perspective.” In Jesus’ name, amen.