טליתא קומי Little Girl, Arise!

sleeping-beautyHave you ever felt drained of all motivation?  Have you asked yourself when your passion for life evaporated?  Perhaps the dreams and desires you yearned to fulfill when you were young have all but disappeared.  After months or even years of waiting for progress, maybe you decided to relinquish those dreams and label them visions of grandeur or vain imaginations.  For all practical purposes, those dreams seem as good as dead.   The very real cares and challenges of life seem to loom like giants, blocking any vision of dreams that once fueled your passions.  

In Mark 5:22-43, we read the account of Jairus’ daughter, who was seriously ill and on the brink of death when Jairus requested that Jesus come and heal her.  Clearly, Jairus, who was one of the local synagogue leaders, had some level of confidence that Jesus was capable of healing his daughter and preventing her from dying.   However, en route to the house, a desperately ill woman in the crowd touched the hem of Jesus’ garment; when He realized someone had touched Him, He stopped to speak with the woman and assured her that her faith in Who He was had released healing to her.  In the meantime, after this apparent delay in the urgent trip to heal Jairus’ daughter, someone arrived from Jairus’ household to report that his daughter had died; there was no point in bothering Jesus for healing.

THAT was, no doubt, what Jesus was waiting for!  We function within the confines of time, but Jesus is the Creator of all time and space, and He was not threatened by the death report.  He heard it but ignored it, and He even exhorted Jairus to keep on believing in the face of that dire news!  In fact, when Jesus arrived at Jairus’ home, mourners were already wailing loudly in front of the house.   Nonplussed, He questioned why they were mourning and asserted that the little girl was not dead but sleeping (apparently a laughable statement in view of the seemingly obvious circumstances!).  He entered the home, took the little girl by the hand, and said, “Little girl, arise!”   To the astonishment of her parents and Jesus’ disciples, she immediately got up and started walking around the room.  

Things are NOT always what they appear to our human eyes.  When we have lost our passion and buried our dreams, we tend to consider ourselves dead in terms of any future, any further adventures, or any hope.   However, Jesus regards us and our circumstances quite differently.  Clearly, He even defines death differently.   His thinking processes are far higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9).  

Could it be possible that God has been waiting for you to die to your version of the dreams He planted in you, as He desires to resurrect those dreams in a more glorious form than you could have imagined, had you persisted with your own timetable?  Resurrection and restoration are far grander than human achievement.  Listen for His voice saying, “Little girl, arise!”   You might be surprised at the power of the fresh life you find in Him to empower you for a new season you thought would never come!

Father, I give You my dead, lifeless hopes and dreams and the sense of destiny and purpose I once allowed to burn within me.   I surrender them to You, in Jesus’ Name.  Would You take my hand and empower me to arise at Your touch?   

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What Do You Have in Your Hand?

6a00d8341cbbc953ef0147e139bbda970b-800wiSo often, we tend to spend inordinate amounts of time worrying about our inadequacies and deficiencies.   We feel we are not up to the task at hand; we lack the training or knowledge to perform well in a given situation, or we brand ourselves as failures before we even attempt to solve a problem. However, God is not the least bit concerned about what we do NOT have in our hand, as He is more than capable of compensating for our shortcomings!

Instead, He merely asks us:   “What do you have in your hand?”   The question He asked Moses was just that!  In Exodus 4:1-3a, we read:  Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you?’;” Then the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?”  “A staff,” he replied.  The Lord said, ‘Throw it on the ground.”  God asks us to acknowledge what we already have in our hand, what is already available to us.  Then, He asks us to throw it down and relinquish it to Him.

Again, when Jesus prepared to use His disciples to feed the five thousand, He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?  Go and see.”  (Mark 6:38) When they responded that they had five loaves and two fish, Jesus was nonplussed.   He took the meager supply that they gave Him (which was woefully inadequate by anyone’s estimation), gave thanks for the loaves and the fish, and gave them to the disciples to distribute among the thousands of hungry people.  As we know, everyone ate to his fill, and there were leftovers that exceeded the initial amount of food donated!   The key was that those who possessed the initial paltry supply had to relinquish the little that they had.

The Lord works the same kind of miracles today — He regularly asks us to offer Him — to “throw down” — whatever meager supply we have in our hands.  As we give Him what we have, He works miracles of multiplication with the little that we give Him.   He does not even bother to consider what we lack, as He is the One who fills all in all!  (Ephesians 1:23 NKJV)   He is more than able to compensate for our inadequacy, and He is the God of more than enough!  “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)

What is the message from these verses?  We can honestly acknowledge our inadequacy and recognize that we are not up to any challenge that may face us; when we relinquish what little we do have to the Lord, He takes over and supernaturally multiplies our apparent lack into an abundance of supply!  He loves to “daily load us with benefits!” (Psalm 68:19)   Truly, He is the God of miracles and multiplication, the God who supplies all our need, the God of more than enough; we only need to give Him the little we have.   Our lack is His opportunity!

Thank You, Father, for the clear signs in my life that I truly am lacking!  Thank You for my inadequacies and weaknesses, for they serve as opportunities for You to fill my life with Your supply and Your glory! Help me to give You everything — the little I think I have — that You may work wonders!

 

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Does She Look Like Her Daddy?

Every time a new baby is born, all the friends and relatives insist that the hands-father-child-17297036[1]baby looks most like his father — or his mother — or Uncle Harry or Grandma Bess.  However, the fact is that, although infants may bear some resemblance to a particular relative, babies change as they grow.  One of our children was born looking like his daddy and ended up looking more like his maternal grandfather.  In other instances, the resemblance might not be physical, yet may be clearly evident in behavioral patterns or personality characteristics.

Family resemblances give us a clue to a spiritual truth:  Just as we tend to look like our human parents, Daddy God designed us spiritually to reflect Him in this world. When people look at us, He wants people to see Him.   That means I should walk like Him, talk like Him, forgive like Him, love like Him.  Of course, the transformation process of bearing His image is a lifelong one!   The good news is that, since I am powerless to change myself, the Holy Spirit Himself does the work.  The only requirement is that I be willing and available!

Paul explains the looking-like-Daddy-God process in 2 Corinthians 3: 18 (AMPC):

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Changing Seasons: The Joy of Harvest

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To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted; 3 a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build p;a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to gain, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away;7 a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.  Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NKJV)

One of the challenges in life is learning how to transition from one season to another with grace.   Gratitude for a season that is ending ultimately needs to replace the sorrow of losing its treasures; unfortunately for many of us, sorrow over loss can easily overshadow the gratitude for those treasures we held before we lost them.   Similarly, joyful expectation of the new season needs to overshadow any fear of the unknown; however, fear tends to rule our thoughts when we do not really know what that new season will hold.

We may not wish to move from winter to spring, or from our roles as students to new tasks as teachers, or from childhood to parenthood, because we have grown familiar with our roles in the old season. Indeed, it is a bittersweet experience to send a child to the first day of kindergarten or to admit the season of hands-on parenting is over when that child leaves for college. However, if we insist on remaining in familiar places where we are comfortable, we risk missing the joys of the next part of the journey.

The Church is entering a season of unprecedented harvest, if we will only be willing to position ourselves in our assigned part of the harvest field.   People who do not know or understand the Gospel are not flocking to us; instead, we must go to them.   The question is:  are we willing?   God makes us able, but we must be willing and obedient.   If the Body of Christ insists on remaining cloistered in the four walls of the church building, seemingly stuck in the old season of being fed and focusing on her own personal spiritual growth, she will be ensnared in self-absorption and will completely miss the rewards of the next season, the rewards of harvest.   

Training, teaching, and equipping are good practices to follow, but, at some point, we need to put that training to use by actually practicing it on someone other than ourselves and those in our comfortable circles.   Jesus commands us to go, not stay where we are.  The harvest is ripening at a giddy pace.   If we do not put on our work clothes and run to the field, we will never experience the joy of giving away what God has put in us during our training!

In the case of harvest, most of us have never actually experienced the intense season of labor a harvest entails, nor have we experienced the joy of the crops safely gathered in.    Perhaps we are afraid of the field (the people we will face or the location to which God might send us), or of the level of commitment requisite for the task, or of our own inadequacies.   We forget that the joy of the Lord is and will be our strength, and that His power is made perfect in weakness.  

However, the harvest is PREPARED, and the fields are ripe.   The Lord is calling us there now.  Father, show me the plot of land you are inviting me to harvest, for THERE is my true inheritance!   Empower me to take a leap into the field You have appointed for me!

 

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Vision Repair

example-vision1Over the years, I have learned that reality does not always correspond to what I see with my physical eyes.  As a child oblivious to my own nearsightedness, I remember being completely shocked when I found out that what I saw on the blackboard was not actually what the teacher had written.  Many of the math problems I had correctly answered had been marked wrong, as I had copied them incorrectly and had worked the wrong problem. After a seemingly magical eye exam  and acquisition of  a pair of glittery red frames for my new glasses (frames only an eight-year-old girl could possibly find attractive), I marveled at the new view available to me through those glasses.

Over the years, I became increasingly nearsighted but always felt confident in what I could see with my glasses, and — by the age of fourteen — high-powered contacts.  In my early thirties, when I could no longer be corrected with glasses (for some then-unknown reason), I remained nonplussed, as my contact lenses were extremely effective in correcting my vision.  

Even when I was diagnosed with keratoconus in my mid-forties, I did not worry too much, as specialty contact lenses could be ordered to bring the multiple images I saw into focus.   However, I became concerned when I began to experience challenges with reading (rather than only with distance).  It turned out that I was seeing double images on a regular basis and did not even realize it.   My eye doctor had to prove it to me in her office by compelling me to gaze at a series of single images with both eyes open; in every instance, I saw double images instead of single ones.  I was flabbergasted!  She explained to me that the brain has an amazing capacity to compensate for vision malfunctions and override such things as duplicate images.   Fortunately, a simple surgical procedure corrected the double vision issue (but not the ghost images characteristic of keratoconus), and I was up and running again in short order.

More recently, I suffered a retinal detachment and underwent emergency surgery to have it repaired.   Again, what was surprising is that I had no idea that the small blind spot in the corner of my field of vision was due to the retina beginning to detach.   Although I continued life as usual (carrying heavy book cartons, running up and down stairs, hopping on a couple of planes) for over a week, the expanding tear did not reach the macula — for which I am grateful!  When I finally called the eye doctor, she summarily ushered me off to emergency surgery with a specialist.   This procedure, while highly successful, has caused me to experience life with vision in only one eye for an extended period of time.   Whereas vision is slowly returning in the operated eye, it is obscured and quite blurry during the healing process.   

As I reflect on my decades-long history of vision limitations and corrections, I am reminded of how vastly different God’s vision is from ours.   My human vision, even when corrected by brilliant physicians, is still far from perfect.    Moreover, even when I think I am seeing everything well, I have a tendency to automatically compensate for my  vision shortfalls to the point that I fail to recognize my own impairment.   Certainly, using only one eye the past several days has required me to acknowledge my insufficient range of vision and has made me painfully aware of the perils of being essentially blind on one side of my body.   

What have I distilled from these challenges?   I must make a concerted effort to rely on the Holy Spirit to empower me to see people and situations from His perspective, as He sees and understand things that are invisible and incomprehensible to me.   As the Lord explains in Isaiah 55:8-9:   “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”declares the Lord “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (NIV)

Yes, my human vision is miserably inadequate, but God promises to grow me in seeing things His way.  In I Corinthians 13:11-12, Paul states, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.  For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.”

I thank You, Father, that You are Lord of my vision — both physical and spiritual, and You are able to make blind eyes see, both physically and spiritually.  Be Thou My vision, O Lord of my heart!

 

 

 

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Re-Defining Home

d12edeb1a0bce4778fefb21e1ecc327cGrowing up, I was never from a particular place, as we never lived anywhere more than three years.   We learned to associate “home” with where our little family happened to be; home was more a relational concept than a locational one.   I grew up without ever feeling connected to a hometown and occasionally felt envious of friends who actually had an association with a physical place and context   However, my home was always connected with my parents and sisters and whatever friends happened to gather wherever we happened to be living at any given time.  The house was full, and my parents were charismatic and generous; they attracted people to themselves like a flame attracts moths.   I thought this phenomenon was normal; it never occurred to me that it was unusual.

When I married, I was attached to my husband and did not care one bit where we lived; however, after giving birth to three of our five children in Norway over the course of over seven years in that breathtakingly beautiful land, it was a challenge for me to move back to the States.   Moreover, I didn’t feel very “at home” in the tiny Texas town to which we were transferred.  As a result, my sense of “home” remained  relational rather than physical — connected to my husband, children, and parents (who always were several states away from us).

We set about building a sense of home, rooted in traditions but designed to reflect our personality as a couple and as a growing family.   Over the course of decades, we have hosted hundreds of people in our home from all manner of nations and backgrounds.  After all, that is what I was taught to do!  As wanderers, we included other people as a matter of course, people who were different from ourselves.

Ultimately, my parents retired and moved to the Rocky Mountains, where they personally shared some history.  They built a beautiful home on six acres of land — their dream home after decades of moving around the country — and welcomed us and whoever else wanted to visit them.   Unfortunately, my mother began an arduous downhill spiral not long after their much-anticipated move to the Rockies.  It seemed one affliction struck her after another, and soon the family gatherings were tainted by her pain and our collective concern about her health.

Through all the challenges, my father remained resolute in supporting my mother in word and deed.  When her infirmity became psychological and neurological, he did not waver.   Much later, we finally realized that she had been tormented for years with progressive phases of dementia; after several trying years, Dad reluctantly admitted  he was no longer able to care for her, and we assisted him in placing our mother in an assisted living facility two miles from the house they had so excitedly built together.  There were many tears, and our father was left alone in a hollow house replete with memories, yet with the love of his life absent.

Undaunted, my dad visited my mother faithfully every day; he was resolute and unwavering in his devotion.   When he entered her assisted living apartment, she would briefly snap out of her doldrums and beam in recognition.   As she weathered the trials of a fractured hip and a broken femur, as well as multiple bouts of pneumonia, he was always at her side, only returning home at night to eat and sleep in the empty house that echoed with the memories of long-evaporated dreams.  During this time apart, he adjusted to Mom’s absence and the sense of distance created by dementia, and he faithfully cleaned the house, learned to cook for himself, paid the bills (always my mother’s job), and grew familiar with a life of relative solitude that revolved around his daily visits to Mom.

Recently, the time came when Dad could no longer live alone, despite his valiant attempts to manage everything himself.   His own health had deteriorated, and my sisters and I suggested that perhaps he should join our mother in her apartment.   He could no longer drive and spent his days fretting about how he could visit her, worrying about how she was faring, and desperate to be with her.   Ultimately, an emergency situation prompted his physician to recommend he not be left alone in the house any longer.   Reluctantly, he relinquished his independence and chose my mother in her little apartment over the beautiful home full of memories and majestic mountain views.

When the day came for the transition to her apartment, he worried she might reject him.   He wondered where he would sleep.   We assured him there was plenty of room in that apartment for the two of them, and, intending to comfort him, we reminded him that Mom had been sleeping in the recliner of late.  He responded wistfully, “I wish she would sleep in the bed with me.”   That statement brought tears to my eyes.

The first night after installing him in the apartment with our mother, the two of them slept together in the bed they had shared decades before, on the same sides of the bed we remembered them sharing when we were children.   It was as if they had not missed a day together, and the four-and-a-half year gap when they had been separated by Dad’s inability to care for Mom at home simply evaporated.   Now they are together every day, all day.   Although Dad is a bit bewildered at times by what is happening with the physical property that was their home for twenty-five years, he is not looking back.   He has clearly chosen our mother over their physical house.   He belongs with her, and he does not question that.

Nothing means more to me than watching my father gaze admiringly at my tiny mother (who is gradually losing her teeth) and proclaim, “You look so pretty today!”   Sixty-five years of absolute devotion, commitment, respect, and admiration far exceed any physical house anyone could ever build.   My father has chosen well, and he loves my mother unconditionally and forever, whether she speaks his name aloud or not (and sometimes she does).  Instinctively, she knows he is home; and HE knows he is home.   And I know that I have inherited matchless treasures.   My heavenly Father is revealing His Kingdom to me, this side of heaven!  “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Matthew 6:21 (NIV)

My father chose well — his treasure was in relationship, not in any building or possession. Just as Mom had left many friends and houses behind when Dad’s job repeatedly required  re-location over the course of their life together, he forfeited all for her and never looked back.   May I be as devoted as he — first to My Savior, and second to my earthly husband!  Thanks, Daddy, for an invaluable heritage and your priceless example!

 

 

 

 

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Loss, Legacy, & Life

20170121_081936Recently I made an unexpected trip to assist my father in conjunction with a move based on safety issues and health concerns.   As usual when in my mother’s kitchen, I decided to bake my dad a pie.  During the process of rolling out the crust on my mother’s time-worn, decades-old pastry cloth, I suddenly found myself overcome with waves of sorrow rooted in the realization that this banana cream pie was the last pie I would ever bake for my dad while he was actually still living in the house he had shared with my mother for many years.   As the pangs of loss threatened to overwhelm me, I realized that, although my parents might be slipping away from me, they were leaving me an invaluable legacy that not even death will be able to plunder.

Baking a pie is really a simple pleasure and an easy task — or so I had thought when I was a small child.  My mother could be found baking pies in our various kitchens (we moved often) two or three times a week.  I did not find that remarkable at the time, as that process was a normal part of life for our family.   When my dad was out of work, my ever-resourceful mother continued to bake pies using the rhubarb that grew wild in the back yard.   One of my friends even preferred watching my mom bake pies to playing with me, which hurt my tender feelings.   I could not understand how such a routine activity could fascinate my friend to that degree.  (I discovered years later that her parents were alcoholics, and her mother never baked anything.)

When I was about ten, we were eating in a diner (a rare treat), and I insisted on ordering a piece of my favorite pie (sour cherry).  Despite my mother’s polite warnings that it might not taste like what I expected, I ordered that piece of pie.   To my chagrin, the crust was leathery, and the filling consisted of a few artificially-colored red cherries floating in a sea of corn syrupy, gelatinous liquid.   The light was dawning….

My sisters and I grew up by my mother’s side and learned to bake and cook as part of the ordinary rhythm of daily life.  Friendly and inclusive, my parents both came from large families and believed in including everyone else in our family.  That process involved hosting many overnight guests, inviting everyone imaginable to dinner, and even preparing food for parties of various types in our home (including my father’s office events).  There was nothing my culinarily curious and talented mother could not do, and my sisters and I considered this lifestyle of cooking and hospitality as normal.   It never really occurred to me that few people ever reciprocated, or that it was possible  NOT to know how to bake something as simple as a pie with a good crust.  Cooking and eating together were ordinary and fundamental parts of family life.

Ultimately, I grew up and realized many of my friends could not cook and bake or were afraid to try preparing anything new.   Their mothers had never allowed them in the kitchen, or their family circumstances had not been conducive to inviting people over.  I also noticed that most of the meals my husband and I enjoyed as young adults were in our own home, to which we immediately invited people not long after our wedding day.  Rarely did someone invite us to dinner.  What was the simplest and easiest dessert for me to make?  Pie, of course!  (I have learned to prepare many delicious desserts, but pie is still my favorite!)

Decades later, we realized my mother was suffering from a form of dementia; one of the saddest, most telltale signs of her decline was the day she called me and asked me for her own pie crust recipe.   I felt a deep sense of loss at that moment as I explained her recipe and method to her.   I knew something serious had happened in her mind, as pie-baking had always been instinctive for her.

Back to the counter and the crust for the banana cream pie:  while contemplating the fact that this pie would be the last pie I would prepare for my father before he moved out of the house, as the undertow of grief threatened to swallow me up, the Holy Spirit revealed to me that a simple pie represented a tremendous, enduring legacy of hospitality, inclusion, life, and love — a legacy that no one can rob from me — a legacy of caring about others, a legacy of good food and laughter, a legacy of sharing simple pleasures, a legacy of conversation and fellowship, a legacy of giving.   How could I ever have regarded THAT as boring or ordinary?  As a child, I had taken all those things for granted and failed to realize what treasures I enjoyed on a daily basis; of course I appreciated them, but I had considered those routines normal.  As an adult, I recognize what a priceless inheritance my parents imparted to me, an inheritance that reaches beyond possessions and bank accounts.

Gratitude flooded my heart.  “Besides,” I thought to myself, “I will be able to bake Dad a pie when we visit the house and bring him home for dinner.”   I pray I will bake hundreds more pies for people in the years to come; my mother would do so, were she able.

Moreover, I have begun to search my heart with this question:   “How many treasures in Daddy God’s Kingdom have I taken for granted and considered ordinary?”  I am asking the Holy Spirit to reveal His legacy to me, in me, and through me to others as I navigate the remaining days of my own life.   May I not overlook the priceless gems lying in the ordinary places of day-to-day life!

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