Roller Coaster Mama

 

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The Coaster Kid with California Screamin’ in the background

With chagrin I share this today. I had no idea 16 years ago when I wrote it that I was speaking prophetically to myself. Today I tell myself, “Teacher, teach thyself! Listen to and learn from the One who taught you this!”  Twice since then the floor has suddenly, catastrophically fallen out from under me on my life ride. Is what the LORD showed me decades ago still true? Yes! Is Jesus still my secure floor, my “ride buddy,” and is God’s Word the restraint I need? Yes, humbly, and yes, gratefully, God is STILL God, and I can buckle into Him alone to find security in the “Mad Mouse” ride we call life! And to myself: this ride ain’t over yet, so hang on to Jesus, Rose!

From time to time, people who have children in college or way too much time on their hands figure up the current cost of raising a child and broadcast it across the Internet.   Whatever the figure, it’s always enough to make young would-be parents scan their checking account and think twice. I’m glad I never thought to count the dollars-and-cents cost of having children, or I would have missed the bargain one e-mail pointed out: “For your investment, you get to finger-paint, play hide-and-seek, blow bubbles, catch lightning bugs, and never stop believing in Santa Claus. You have an excuse to keep reading your favorite bedtime stories without embarrassment, watch Saturday morning cartoons without shame, and wish on stars. You have the power to heal a boo-boo, scare away monsters under the bed, patch a broken heart, police a slumber party, ground them forever, and love them without limits, so one day they will, like you, love without counting the cost.”   The bottom line of all the tallies and figures is this: The best thing to spend on your children is time.

Mothers typically spend lots of time “doing” for their children: driving them to T-ball games and dance classes, decorating special cakes for birthdays and making costumes from boxes and Styrofoam for class plays, scoring for the soccer team and bringing ice and water for track season, sitting through so many piano recitals that you hear “Für Elise” in your sleep, surrendering your kitchen and your clean house to be a den mother for eight little Cub Scouts, and walking marathon distances door-to-door to help sell Girl Scout cookies. You do these things to enrich your children’s lives and give them opportunities that equip them for their future, and to let them know they matter to you. All these hours are time well invested.

From the time he was three, my older son wanted to be the first man on Mars, so we slept out in the backyard to be sure we didn’t miss meteor showers and lunar eclipses. We sent him twice and drove him once to Alabama for Space Camp. I gave up my freezer to science fair projects, saw “Star Wars” at the theater 23 times, and – before the days of one-hour developing – found a photo lab that would develop in an hour photos of the space ship model Eric had completed just three hours before the entry deadline for a “Destination: Mars” competition. Eric worked on NASA projects four summers during his undergraduate years. Then he met Emily and decided to become a linguist instead of an astronaut. His goals changed, but all the “Star Trek” sheets we bought and pizzas I made for sleep-over Science Olympiad study sessions were not in vain. Those times we invested in his life were time invested in love, and they’ve brought a great return on our investment.

So you get involved in the things that matter to your children. If you’re lucky, none of your children want to grow up to be crocodile handlers! What do you do, though, when your child wants to be a roller coaster designer? That’s right: you ride a lot of roller coasters.

Faster than a Ferris wheel, More powerful than a merry-go-round pony, Able to leap a spilled snow cone in a single bound –I am Roller Coaster Mama!

His father is at least partly to blame for this. He’s the one who cajoled me into riding “Montezuma’s Revenge” at Knott’s Berry Farm when I was three months pregnant with our second son, Ethan. It was either that loop-the-loop, or the vacation when Ethan was six months old, when we unknowingly set up our tent trailer by a lovely grove of trees that turned out to be within screaming distance of a roller coaster. It ran – click, click, click, aaahh! – till one in the morning, which was about the time Ethan finally went to sleep.

Since then, I have been on or listened to him recount the statistics of so many thrill rides that I can tell a corkscrew from a cobra roll and a boomerang from and out-and-back. Splash Mountain and Space Mountain don’t even faze me. I have spent five straight days in the “happiest kingdom on Earth”, and now I know it’s true that there is such a thing as too much happiness. I’ve plummeted 121 feet straight down on Superman. I rode in succession The Medusa – no floor – and The Viper – no more fillings in my teeth. I can say “linear synchronous induction motor” and sort of know what it means. I hardly flinch when Ethan exults, “It goes from zero to 100 miles per hour in four seconds!” I’ve pulled g’s, caught air, free fallen, been looped, banked, and double-helixed. I’ve hung suspended from tracks and haven’t even screamed on outside loops, with the only ill-effects – other than serious motion sickness – being a cracked rib from a wooden coaster on Mission Bay, and several urgent trips to the chiropractor.

The truth is, though, I have a love-hater relationship with roller coasters. They ceased to be totally fun to me when motherhood gave me good sense, or keener awareness of my own mortality, or a combination of all the pains in the neck, literally, I now have. Oh, I can manage anything Disneyland  or the State Fair can throw at me, but Magic Mountain is another story. I prefer steel coasters to wooden ones, because the ride is smoother, they hold you in more securely, and I’m less likely to crack or dislocate something important. Still, I did not get a warm fuzzy when Ethan reassured me that the Viper was easy to ride because it’s heartline roll – a 360 degree spin something like tumbling in a clothes drier – would rotate my body but keep my heart in the same place. It did – it started out and stayed in my throat!

Why do I subject myself to this physical and mental abuse? Because I love my son, and experiencing thrill rides is important to him. I really do want to share a part of this part of his life, so I’ve had to learn some coping – or survival – skills for riding roller coasters.

FIRST – I SECURE MYSELF TIGHTLY IN THE RESTRAINTS

 Restraints are your friends, even if they are uncomfortable. On a thrill ride, G-forces and centripetal forces propel your body in ways and at speeds God never intended them to go. This is what coaster designers and enthusiasts call “fun”. Unrestrained fun can kill you, so I snug those belts tight and make sure my head isn’t going anywhere the rest of my body isn’t.

SECOND – I BRACE MY FEET, OR CROSS MY ANKLES IF THE FLOOR WON’T BE THERE

 Part of the fun of a roller coaster, so they tell me, comes from the sense of instability and insecurity that heightens your senses and sends those “fight or flight” chemicals coursing through your brain and body. When I crest the first hill on Superman and plunge down that more-than-vertical drop, I press my feet into the floor for all they’re worth. It doesn’t make the ride safer or shorter, but it helps me feel more stable and keeps my seat in the seat. If I’m riding a suspended coaster where there is no floor, or if the floor will at some point drop away, I always cross my ankles, so my legs don’t whip wildly around on the loops and snap turns. At least it gives me the feeling of support, and I know my feet won’t be thrashing around at the mercy of centripetal force.   I watch the riders while I’m waiting in line, and I’ve seen where their feet go. My mother always told me it was ladylike to cross your ankles – but I also know that feet don’t painlessly fit in your mouth after you’re four months old, and knees are really hard to repair.

 THIRD – RIDE WITH A BUDDY

 Riding with a buddy on a wooden coaster is a smart idea: another body helps to keep you from slipping and sliding. I generally ride with my husband or our son, but if they want to ride in the front seat of a roller coaster, I opt to ride alone behind them, and I opt to pray. I want the Lord beside me. The truth is, even if someone is riding beside me, I still pray!   Psalm 91: 9-12 is a standby when I go to amusement parks: “If you make the Most High your dwelling, then no harm will befall you, for he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” I love my husband and our son and would rather sit next to them than ride alone, but I also want as many angels as possible crammed in that car with us!

FOURTH – I CENTER MY FOCUS                                                                                                            

Here is where my approach differs radically from that of the rest of the family. The males ride coasters with analytical minds and cast-iron stomachs. They’re absolutely electrified, keeping their eye open and anticipating the snaps, loops and dives, so they can lean into the curves. They just don’t comprehend that in me, anticipation produces anxiety, and my eyes looping all over everywhere set my inner ear spinning and my stomach churning. I know that the odds are overwhelming that I will be alive at the end of the ride. Coaster designers do have to factor in maximum and minimum G’s, friction, velocity, centripetal forces, and human anatomy when they design rides. My brain knows that, but that knowledge never seems to reach my emotions and my stomach.

I have to attack my panic on two fronts. First, I’ve learned to WILL myself to think of positive truths when I ride. Yes, I am hurtling over a precipice which is, according to the park brochure, “the nearest sensation to throwing yourself off a cliff,” but I have timed this ride while standing in line, and I know the first drop takes just 3 seconds to the bottom; then it’s only a four minute ride from there to the end. That is also truth. I CAN be at peace for four minutes. I can put all those natural childbirth classes to use here and choose to relax and breathe calmly.

Second, to keep my inner ear and stomach contents from sloshing around, I’ve learned to focus on one spot directly in front of me (even if that spot is my white knuckles on the safety bar or an imaginary spot on the tip of my nose if my eyes are closed). It’s like the way a dancer or skater spots when doing spins. Granted, these two procedures thwart the intention of the coaster designer, and the whole purpose of thrill rides, to drive me to the brink of terror and nausea. But MY purpose in riding is to contribute to quality family bonding AND get off the ride in one coherent piece, so I don’t really care that I miss half the fun.

This brings me to my last coping skill – KNOW YOUR LIMITS. I can’t bond with the family if I’m hugging the toilet in the ladies’ room. I won’t be pleasant to be around if my neck is frozen in some picturesque, but painful, pose. I ride what I think I can handle without unreasonably taxing my back, my capacity to use mind over instinct, or the angels who have to ride with me. I try to discern when to say “no,” and to say “no” without guilt. I try to recognize when I can say “yes,” take a deep breath, and trust that the amusement park is as interested in their insurance liability as I am in my safety.

Lately, I recognize this has broader practical application in my life. For mothers in particular and women in general, if you’re part of a family, or if you have relationships at all, life often resembles a roller coaster. Can anyone else identify?   Take a typical day. It’s 7:40 a.m., and I need to drive Ethan to school by 7:50, then get 45 miles across town to take my mother grocery shopping, run errands along the way to make it worth the time and gas involved, start home before 2:30 so I can use the carpool lane on the freeway, make dinner, and get to Bible study that evening with a dessert to share. But this is the day the garage door opener won’t open. No panic yet. Between the two of us, Ethan and I manage to shove it open. Mental note: drive back home to call garage door company before hitting the freeway. Pray with son and kiss him goodbye. Drive back home, make phone call, and leave a message for husband to let him know what’s going on. Remember to stop by store I don’t usually frequent to get almond butter and rice milk that Mom can’t get on the west side of town. Hit the freeway. Make it intact to Mom’s, to learn that her medical monitor just arrived and she can’t understand the directions. Help her put on the monitor, run test recording, call the monitoring company, re-write directions for Mom so she can do this on her own, take her to lunch, as it’s now noon, take her to store. Realize it’s next to impossible to start home by 2:30, so kiss carpool lane goodbye, gird my loins for battle, and kiss Mom goodbye. Drive to discount store for errand, find what I need, discover they only have two checkout lanes open and lines a mile long. Look at watch and remember that son did not take house key, so he can’t get into the house if he gets home before I do. Madly put everything back (what would Jesus do?) and dash out of store, into the freeway frenzy, to hopefully get home before son does. And so on . . . . Have you been on that ride lately?

Up, down, whip, drop, snap, loop, squashed by four g’s, panicked by those negative g’s when nothing’s supporting me, light speed through the curves– does this sound like your life, too? How are we supposed to cope positively, calmly, with roller coaster days and thrill ride weeks?   It seems to me the same survival skills I put into play when I’m riding a coaster apply emotionally, spiritually, and practically in my daily life. I’m sure none of these principles is new to you, but looking at spiritual truths through a different context helps me remember and apply them in my life. Lets’ re-examine those coaster survival skills again and see if they fit in life as well.

FIRST – SECURE YOURSELF IN THE RESTRAINTS

Most accidents on roller coasters happen when riders ignore safety mechanisms. When riders ignore the lap belt, they pay the consequences. Don’t do what the sign at the station says to do, and you will become a statistic. I am not above the law of gravity. Neither am I above the laws of God. If I live in a way that is foolish, selfish or reckless, I will certainly be thrown for a loop when life takes me for a ride. Just as there are safety systems on a thrill ride, God has given us safety mechanisms – guidelines and wisdom – that are meant to secure us and keep us from harm, especially through the ups and downs of life. Consider this advice, for example:

“Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”      James 1:19

What protection for the emotional well being of our lives and our families following this simple instruction gives! My hands – what I do – and my tongue – what I say – would remain safely inside the vehicle of what’s helpful and good at all times

Thrill ride designers keep safety mechanisms simple to use. If you just do the dos – one click, one pull, hold tight – you’re good to go. God gives us similar simplicity in his safety mechanisms for our lives. Jesus summed up all the commandments in two steps:

“Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12: 30-31

Think for a minute about what your life would look like if you just “buckled up” with those two do’s. Love holds us securely through the dips and drops in life.

“But you are to hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have until now. “ Joshua 23:8

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful, and let us consider how to spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”  Hebrews 10:23-24

If I’d hold fast to God and do the loving thing in everyday circumstance, my heart would remain secure and stay where it belongs when life spin-dries me in a heart-line roll. One click –love God – one pull – love others – hold on to God, and we’re good to go.

SECOND – BRACE YOUR FEET, OR CROSS YOUR ANKLES IF THE FLOOR WON’T BE THERE.

In daily life, that “fight or flight” reflex is not a 50/50 toss-up. I know I lean heavily toward “fight.” Flailing feet aren’t safe on a roller coaster. Flailing attitudes and words aren’t safe in life.   When I’m stressed, my foot frequently ends up in my mouth, or I figuratively kick the person next to me with hurtful, thoughtless words.   That’s why it’s wise to press into the support around us, even when life’s running smoothly, to give us the stability that strengthens peace and self-control within us. Your family will appreciate it, since the riders sitting next to you are the ones who bear the brunt of your flailing.   My family has no clue how many crazed tirades they’ve been spared when I do think to press into the support around me.

A primary source of support is – or is intended to be – our family, but I’m sure you’ve experienced that you may not be able to look to them for support when they’re part of the corkscrew.   We all need people with whom we can be genuine and open, people who will love enough to push back with truth and encouragement when we need it. We need people we can count on for practical help, too. That’s why it’s wise to make a floor to brace yourself through a Bible study, small group, prayer partner, or support group. One of the first things we did when we moved was to search for a small home group through our church. The group we’re part of is consistently there for each other with very practical help through illnesses, house repairs, picking up kids at school when a car breaks down, shoulders to cry on, victories shared, and keeping each other accountable.

Even before you look to other people for support, plant your feet firmly on the faithfulness of God . . . for :

“. . . the Lord will be your confidence, and will keep your foot from being caught.                                                                                                                                                 Proverbs 3:26

God designed us to need each other, to be needed, and to be the hands and feet and heart of Christ for each other. It’s our function as parts of the same body to support and encourage one another.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

In thrill ride terms, be a supportive floor for each other.

THIRD – RIDE WITH A BUDDY

 Sometimes people fail you, and the floor you trusted in completely falls away without warning. Sometimes your floor of support can’t be there in the moment to brace you – like when you’re alone in the car with just that teenager and toddler, the alternator quits, and your day spins off in a double helix.   That’s when an unfailing buddy is vital to keep you from sliding. Invite God along for the ride to keep you from cracking a rib, emotionally, mentally, spiritually – perhaps even physically speaking. God does intervene in circumstances, but more importantly for me, he intervenes in my thoughts, giving me a healthy, proper perspective that keeps me from sliding when I’m ready to panic.   God never leaves us to ride alone.

“You hem me in – behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?”    Psalm 139: 5-7

God’s presence in our lives is security, confidence, and power. Knowing God is on the “coaster” with me straightens the curves and lowers the drops – as well as my blood pressure. Psalm 16:8 is a promise to hang onto when I’m pulling G’s:

“I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

FOURTH – CENTER YOUR FOCUS

 Choose to think on positive truths. There are generally several things true in any situation. Increasingly I see how important it is for me to choose to focus on the truth that leads to positives like compassion, peace, and faith. I may be powerless over my circumstances, but I have power over my attitude and thoughts. Many of the stressors in my life lose their power to produce stress if I choose to relax, be flexible, and shift my focus. Just saying, “Well, Jesus, what’s this about?” instead of spouting, “What in the world am I going to do now?” actually reduces my anxiety level, and I’m sure it protects my brain chemistry as well. That has a practical effect on my body and my day.

“. . . choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. . . . But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”                                                                Joshua 24:15

I can focus on the positive truth, and choose whom I will serve in my response: God, or my anxiety and agitation.

When the apostle Paul advised the Colossians to set their hearts and minds on things above, rather than earthly things (Col. 3:1-2), he wasn’t urging them to deny reality and live in some fantasy land. Choosing positive truth and re-setting your focus changes, practically, how you respond in everyday situations. Recently I was on my way to our Tuesday morning women’s study. I teach, so I need to be at church early to set up my class. I had some time, but on this day I happened to leave just as a school bus stopped a block down from our house and put out its stop sign. It was a handicapped bus, so I waited, and waited, and waited as the mother and driver loaded a child on the bus. As I sat there – choosing not to fume – I decided to shift my focus. I didn’t know a handicapped child lived on our street. I prayed for her, for her mother, for their family, for the bus driver who so patiently helps this child every day, and for the teachers who invest their lives working with special needs children. It was true that I’d sat in the same spot for five minutes, but which truth was more profitable, both for others and for myself – not being five minutes further down the road, or spending five refocused minutes in prayer? Choose to focus on the positive truth.

Set your focus on one spot that will not change. That’s the way to keep your balance and settle your insides in a loopy world. Where is that unchanging spot?

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal.” Isaiah 26:3

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”   2 Corinthians 4:18

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”     Hebrews 13:8

FIFTH – KNOW YOUR LIMITS

I don’t have to take every ride. I create many of the loops and drops in my life by taking on too much, or by assuming something is my responsibility when it isn’t, or by letting myself get sidetracked (and isn’t the Internet helpful in that department?). I can choose to say “no” to some thrill rides and still be a supportive, encouraging mother. Good judgment, not guilt or compulsion, should tell me when to say yes and when to say no in life, too. What can I wisely take on? What can I let go? What SHOULD I let go? Let me name a few of the rides I’ve created:

Mind-Bender: Trying to reason with a tired two-year-old

The Enforcer: Proving to my husband I’m right about wasting electricity when he always leaves the radio on in the garage while he works in the back yard

Temptation Station: When the budget is tight and I really shouldn’t buy anything but necessities, but I allow myself to walk into Dillard’s, lured by those clearance sale signs, just to look around.

Avalanche Alley: Trying to accomplish just one more thing in the five minutes I have before I need to leave for an appointment.

Ooooh – cobra roll! Here comes a stress headache! Do any of these sound familiar? On a regular basis, it seems, I have to remind myself, “Don‘t go there; don’t even get on this one if you don’t want an argument or problem that’s more stress than it’s worth. I’m not taking this ride today.”

Sometimes , though, you have no choice. Life just drops you onto a thrill ride you weren’t standing in line for. When that happens, I need to realize I have my limits, but at the same time I also need to recognize that, for a Christian, life isn’t about my limits. No matter how scary or negative the situation, Philippians 4:13 is always in operation:

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

Since the limitless Jesus gives me strength for the ride and the power to love, to pray, to choose, and to center my focus on him, I can handle the coasters that circumstances put in my life. Through Jesus, I can be at peace for the next five – okay, two – okay, for the next one minute – when an upset to my life takes me on a heartline roll.

Sometimes life goes along smoothly; some days bring a little “wild mouse” like an upset schedule. My usual rides lately are “Time Bandit” and “Mind Eraser”!   But life can seat you on more serious rides. You may suddenly careen down “The Financial Funnel” when a layoff comes along. Life-threatening illness can drop the floor out from under you faster than “The Bottomless Pit.”   Life does not give you a map of the park to help you prepare for the next coaster. You don’t know when life is going to twist you through a corkscrew roll. But you can have stability, confidence, and sound perspective that will help you handle the drops and loops with peace, and maybe even with joy.

So Lord, let me be a roller coaster mama! With your help, I won’t panic, hyperventilate, lose my lunch, or scream. I’ll buckle into love for you and others – even the ones who put me on the roller coaster. I’ll look for a supporting floor of friends and groups to push into, so I don’t kick anybody riding with me. I’ll ride with a buddy through prayer so I don’t slip and slide. I’ll center my thoughts on positive truth. When it’s within my power to choose what I get involved in, I’ll be wise about my choices. When it’s not within my power to choose, I’ll hold onto God’s strength and whooeee! l believe I’ll at least survive, if not enjoy,  the ride!

(Parenthetically – God has faithfully been beside me as He was with Daniel when he faced roaring lions, as he was with David when he stood before Goliath. People may not understand the stands  I’ve taken in the last nine years when, literally, the Devil has raged and roared against me, or why I’ve chosen to stand, but I  MUST stand for and with GOD and the sanctity and truth of God’s Word if  I’m going to stand before Him at the Judgment with any integrity at all, and even then, my only defense is JESUS CHRIST THE RIGHTEOUS, the Savior and Lover of my soul!

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Detoxing Spiritually

In doing some writing and editing for a biologist in the last two weeks, I’ve  seen serious parallels between toxins in our bodies and toxins in our heart/mind/spirit/attitudes. Toxins in the body destroy  tissue and organs and compromise our physical health, especially as they build  up over time.  Our blood deposits excess wastes and toxins in organs like the lungs, kidneys, heart, pancreas, liver, colon, or other locations. There the toxins “hide” and do their damage.

“Whole-body inflammation refers to chronic, imperceptible, low-level inflammation. Mounting evidence suggests that over time this kind of inflammation sets the foundation for many serious, age-related diseases including heart disease, cancer and neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Recent evidence indicates that whole-body inflammation may also contribute to psychological disorders, especially depression.”       drweil.com/reducing-whole-body-inflammation

Like waste sites that must be cleaned up before safe building can begin, we need to clean up our bodies before we begin building and rebuilding good physical and even mental health. I strongly suspect the same is  true  in our spirits, emotions and attitudes/thoughts: toxic thinking and believing can accumulate in our spirits and emotions over time, with results just as deadly and degenerative as inflammation and toxicity in the body. I  imagine we all  are aware  these days that what and how we think influences how we feel.

“If you have a tendency to over-react to stress, it could be due to changes in your brain brought on by negative thinking. Negative experiences are stored in the brain by the amygdala. The thalamus is responsible to sending sensory and motor signals to the rest of the body but it does not understand that negative thoughts aren’t the same as real danger.  As a result, our bodies experience real stress symptoms of rapid heartbeat, elevated blood pressure, and a state of heightened arousal.  Stress from negative thinking creates changes in the brain that may affect your likelihood of mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, schizophrenia and mood disorders. The problem is that our brains are good at learning from bad experiences but bad at learning from good experiences.” drweil.com

Rapidly triggered release of chemicals like cortisol can affect your mood for an entire  day,  and  your memory of those moods can linger and accumulate for years.

Okay, so we know industrial wastes and – yikes – even prescription medicines in our waterways, pesticides and herbicides on crops and in runoff,  recreational drugs, smoking, and alcohol put physical toxins into our bodies. What are, and what puts, spiritual toxins  into us? God’s Word is pretty clear about what  “toxins” we need to KEEP OUT of our hearts/minds/spirits, and with what we need to PUT IN to cleanse and protect ourselves from the deterioration, blinding, bondage and poisoning of “toxic thinking/feeling/acting”:

Cease from anger and forsake wrath; Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing. Psalm 37:8

In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a footholdGet rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4: 26-27, 31-32 NIV

Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool. Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues. Proverbs 10: 18-19 NIV

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6: 14-15

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister  (see Ephesians 4:  26-27) will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ (let’s call it name calling/reputation destroying with any words) will be in danger of the fire of hell.Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift….You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. Matthew 5: 21-24, 27-10  NIV

Then Jesus called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand! It is not what goes into your mouth that makes you ritually unclean; rather, what comes out of it makes you unclean.” Then the disciples came to him and said, “Do you know that the Pharisees had their feelings hurt by what you said?”  “Every plant which my Father in heaven did not plant will be pulled up,” answered Jesus.  “Don’t worry about them! They are blind leaders of the blind; and when one blind man leads another, both fall into a ditch.” Peter spoke up, “Explain this saying to us.” Jesus said to them, “You are still no more intelligent than the others. Don’t you understand? Anything that goes into your mouth goes into your stomach and then on out of your body. But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these are the things that make you ritually unclean. For from your heart come the evil ideas which lead you to kill, commit adultery, and do other immoral things; to rob, lie, and slander others. These are the things that make you unclean. But to eat without washing your hands as they say you should—this doesn’t make you unclean.” Matthew 15: 10-20 NIV

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5: 43-48 NIV

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:  19-21 ESV

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. James 4: 17 NIV

But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. James 3: 14 ESV

In our physical bodies, toxins can come from within our body, too. Stress, infections, changes in the body’s population of good bacteria and even rupturing of cells also can raise toxin levels in our bodies. Fortunately, the body CAN cleanse itself of toxins. Our bodies have biochemical “cleanup workers” that know how to detoxify each of our cells . To  help our  body cleanse, we can also take  supplements and cleansing herbs, colonics,  saunas, steam baths, foot baths, exercise, deep breathing, and prayer/meditation and other stress relievers.  Here are more spiritual “toxic take outs”, coupled with what we should put into ourselves to “detox” emotionally, mentally, attitudinally, spiritually:

 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Ephesians 4: 25

You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.  Colossians 3: 7-10

Yes, none of us hasn’t stumbled or sinned in some of these ways. Not one of us can, on our own, truly “be perfect even as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” THAT’S WHY I/WE NEED  THE ATONING BLOOD AND FORGIVENESS AND POWER INSIDE US OF JESUS!  That’s why I need a Savior, why I can only trust in Christ’s Righteousness to cover me, and why I try to be quick to confess my sins/wrongs/stupidity and make amends when, yes it happens, I hurt someone,  even unintentionally (as it is with me, because I never set out to hurt anyone)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

Yes, yes, yes,  let’s all take out the toxins that “inflame” our heart, mind, spirit and will, starting with recognition, humble honest confession, and repentance, and put in the “anti-inflammatories” that quench that destructive fire! And here are  the anti-inflammatories Doctor Jesus prescribed for us in the “BE attitudes.” Talk about a cleansing detox!

“Blessed are the poor in spiritfor theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn (my insertion,I do mourn when I recognize I’ve sinned, or when I see someone stumble in Satan-induced spiritual blindness), for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek (humble) for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousnessfor they will be filled. Blessed are the mercifulfor they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakersfor they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousnessfor theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5: 3-16 NIV

 

Boy I needed to be reminded of this today, and I just found a note I wrote years ago quoting some of Brennan Manning’s book “Ruthless Trust, “ which I read on a trip to Asia, as I recall, going to do childcare at a missions conference . Wish I still had a copy!

“Trust, the winsome wedding of faith and hope…. Christianity is not a message which has to be believed, but an experience of faith that becomes our message.” (p.88) He cites 2 Corinthians 3: 2-3 that God’s message is written on the tablets of our hearts. “We must deduce everything we know about God from what we know about Jesus… For me and many others, Jesus IS the revelation of the only God worthy of trust,” (p. 89) “The promise of His presence and the presence of His promise.” (p. 94) “What does lie within my power is paying attention to the faithfulness of Jesus. That’s what I am asked to do: pay attention to Jesus throughout my journey, remembering his kindness.”(p. 97)

May God cover all of us His children with His powerful Hands and Love today and give us courage to honestly confess,  genuinely repent and  let Him take  out the toxins in us., put in His cleansing, and help us say that we are HIS and live like we mean it!

 

A  “…BUT…” to pray: LORD God, I freely admit I can’t live up to all the things I know I should put into my life and make my BE attitudes, and yes, I need YOU to help me see and cast out the toxic ideas, attitudes, feelings, assumptions, and flat-out dumb  actions  in me. I can’t do it on my own, BUT HOLY SPIRIT, YOU CAN do it in me as I yield mtyself to You, so I ask You now to tell me _______________________ and show me _________________________ and take it all OUT of me,  and  show me _______________________ and  tell me  ____________________ that YOU WANT TO put into me  out of Your self, Your love, Your purposes,  and Your powerful grace. In Jesus’ name, Loving  Father God, amen, and Holy Spirit, please amp up the volume so I can hear you as I’m listening __________________________________________.

 

Here God is again …

IMG_1778God surely knows how much I/we need Him, His Presence,  His affirmation,  His love in my life/our lives.Today again, perfect timing in the midst of a “goof” I made in the time of an  appointment. Being over an hour early, I decided to run to the bank to take care of something I’ve needed to.First the map app on my phone directed me toward  the wrong bank (and my duh, when I didn’t see the first entry was an ad, not the search I’d  put into my phone). I did a quick course correction, found a branch of my bank, and met with a friendly, positive banker, then had to leave the bank while the request was being processed to go back to the appointment, which was a great connection with an accountant who is a man of faith.

An hour there, then back to the bank, but the banker I’d worked with was at lunch. Okay, pop across the street to Taco Bell, and oh look at that: the second bank I needed to visit had a branch right on the  same corner!  Check off that from my list, hop across the street, meet quickly with the banker with the change all finished.

Hmm… now can I go to the county offices to see about getting a new passport? I slip right in, find out what I need, and the clerk tells me that there’s a Costco just down the street where I can get my necessary photos at one-third the price of the drug store. Super! Drive down to Costco, have the (why are they always so unflattering?) photo taken, and then I dutifully stand at the corner of the counter, right at the entrance to the store, while I wait for the pictures to be processed. Less than five minutes into my waiting time, who should come pushing a cart  right past me but Kate, a friend from a Christian singles group and Sunday School class whom I haven’t seen in three years!

Coincidence?  All of those other errands and timing, my mistakes included, had to happen in exactly the  right timing for me to be there when Kate came into the store!

Yes, it was wonderful to see Kate, catch up with her, share a hug and how tightly we’ve both had to hang onto Jesus through troubled times. but the deeper message to me was God’s reassuring message, “I’m still here beside you, with you, still in control, and I still love you deeply! And yes, I  am able to lead you even in what you think  are your ‘mistakes!’”

Oh, thank you Jeremiah for speaking the truth: “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 NIV

And thank you, David:

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
    I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Do not be like the horse or the mule,
    which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
    or they will not come to you.
10 Many are the woes of the wicked,
    but the Lord’s unfailing love
    surrounds the one who trusts in him.

11 Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous;
    sing, all you who are upright in heart!  Psalm 32: 8-11 NIV

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
    for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
    for to you I entrust my life.
Rescue me from my enemies, Lord,
    for I hide myself in you.
10 Teach me to do your will,
    for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
    lead me on level ground.  Psalm 143:8-910 NIV

I take to heart today the acronym I heard on the radio yesterday: I truly am a DORK –  Daughter Of the Risen King!

God Almighty, good Holy Spirit, again and again shows me he’s doing exactly what he says he will do. God keeps his promises, and his Word IS his true and faithful promises!

A “…BUT…” to pray: Lord, Holy Spirit, sometimes I think I must be the biggest  goofball on the planet, and often I  don’t feel your presence or your love, BUT you promise to lead me, so help me FEEL you in my heart, because you know how much I need that reassurance, help me trust you even when I don’t trust myself and can’t feel you beside me, and help me know you keep your Word and ___________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________, In Jesus’ name, amen, and Holy Spirit, today HELP me to listen and hear you _______________ ____________________________________________________________________________________.

 

 

One Thing I Know

One Thing I Know

 

This is just a quick post, but so important for all of us. 

 Two weeks ago God woke me in the morning with the words “You are worth fighting for!” immediately in my mind and heart. So true, not just for me as a woman in terms of relationships, but for all of us as the chosen and won by Jesus. God fought for us with the greatest,most powerful weapon in His arsenal: His love for us incarnate in Jesus!

 Those words were on my lips when a friend called not two minutes later – literally just after I turned my cell pone on -to cry out to me with a desperate need that had her ready to take her life.  Thank you, Jesus, that you made the connection between us and gave me resources to help! Yes, when we call to Him, He will answer! And we,set free, are his answer to another’s cry for help to know they matter to God.

 Isaiah 62:4-5 tells us: No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah (My delight is in her) and your land Beulah (chosen, married); for the LORD will take delight in you . .. as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.

 To say I am worth fighting for would sound arrogant except for this truth from God’s own mouth! He backed up this word with his own blood, Y’shua, Jesus!

 Knowing my value, I can give value extravagantly even to those whose actions toward me don’t put them in the “deserve it” category. Because I am fought for and won, I can fight for the value and validation of others. In terms of marriage, this is what gives a wife the power to love with unquenchable fire.The way to the depths of a woman’s heart is not through gifts and dinners, but through valuing and honoring her as someone worth winning and protecting. Men,this gives you a woman whose heart will never fail to support, encourage,and fight for you as the warrior heart in her rises. 

 It amazes me how God fashioned us for each other – yet it’s only out of knowing how GOD values us that we are truly set free to be what He means us to be to and for each other. I embrace this truth as my identity, an identity no one’s actions or words or attitude toward me can take away. How that sets other people free from the requirement to be my validation! 

 We give each other a priceless gift when we take our identity from God.Not arrogance,but bought and set free receiving!

My “. . .BUT . . . ” to move: Other people have failed me, cut me down, and rejected me when they placed their demands on me to be their source of value. I’ve done the same thing to others, BUT GOD you tell me I am worth fighting for, and because I embrace your truth, I am set free to _____________________________________________________

Mr "Good Wrench" and "Good Advice"

Sorry all that this is just a quick glimpse into what the Spirit said to me Tuesday, August 15. Driving to work I heard Lysa Terkeurst and Amanda Carroll on KLOVE radio, Lisa talking about her new book Unglued and about ratcheting our anger when we’re repeatedly offended. 

Oh, Eureka! Exactly what my beloved did over 34 years and more of our life together: put his arm to the wrench and ratchet down on the nuts of anger, bitterness, contempt, offense, unforgiveness, wounding, and self-preserving seeking on the tires of his life, so tightly that he can’t let go of his wounded emotions and cultural-norm “look out for yourself” choices. No wonder he’s stuck!

A very able engineer, he always warned me and our sons not to let a tire dealer use the pneumatic wrench to snug down the bolts on the nuts of our wheels too tightly, or we’d never be able to break them loose if we had to change a flat on the road. Ah, but beloved, you did just that, and I almost did until I saw the lies I was believing about your motivation in the things you said and did, and started believing that you DID love me in the ways you could. 

Oh, the PNEUMA of the Holy Spirit to break free the lock-down on our “lug nuts” and fix our flats, give us re-treads or just plain new tires to keep us moving in God’s direction and purposes! This may be a copyrighted phrase, BUT I praise ” Mr. Good Wrench” Jesus and the Holy Spirit to do the releasing for us what we can’t do ourselves if we let him!

And the “good advice”? Disclaimer: I am no one’s Savior, I’m heartily glad Jesus took that role upon himself, and I surrender that right and role to him. I was wondering, though,  how Jesus would have responded in the Garden of Gethsemane to, and how our lives now and forever would play out if Jesus took the advice of, some solid psychologists and counselors who ought to have been there in his agony instead of the snoozing Peter, James and John. Can you hear their advice to him, like the advice given to me?

“It’s time to look out for yourself.”
“Do what’s best for you.”
“Take care of yourself.”
“You can’t change them. They have their own free will.”
“You need to establish healthy boundaries for yourself.”

And the best one, the one I hear caregivers say at the preschool every day : “Just walk away.”

How would YOU have counseled Jesus to respond in his situation?   What if he had? Aren’t you glad he didn’t?

I AM!

So flying in the face of what sounds “right” is our fully functional, not dysfunctional, Lord and lover of our souls Jesus.


Here’s the world’s best “. . . But . . .” to pray:  I was lost in my selfishness and self-seeking frantic attempts to validate myself and find love, and I’ve wounded other people in the search, BUT JESUS YOU DIDN’T WALK AWAY! You thought of me and gave yourself, and in YOUR GIFT I have validation and amazing love now and forever! Jesus, Mr. Good Wrench, put the arm of your love on the lug nuts of my anger and bitterness over ____________________________ and break me free, change my heart, fill me with the penuma – air- breath – of the Holy Spirit so my heart is free to love ________________________________.

All I Have is All He Is

The Word in the middle of silence. The Word in uncertainty and no clear path. The Word in pain and grief. I hate to admit it, but so many times I have cried out to God that I need more than scripture; I need a visible sign of his hand at work in my battle. But there have been no signs. Oh, there have been apparent breakthroughs that turned into closed doors, promise stolen, and plenty of those. Friends see visions, have dreams, receive miracles . . . but not me. All I have is God’s Word from verses that have leaped out to me.

Is that enough to sustain me/you in the deadliest battle and hurricane-strength storm? Maybe that’s what I’m here to learn. I don’t know for certain, but maybe why I’m here is to tell someone else going through Heck that God’s Word IS enough. Right now I’m listening to a live worship CD “Let Your Healing Flow” with an inspired prophetic song/word from Andre Ashby: “My word is sure, and it will stand forever and evermore. My word is sure and it will not return void unto me, for I am a faithful God and I see your need. And I’m drawing near to you, I’m drawing near to you to touch you, to heal you, to make you whole. My word will stand forever. Come boldly unto me, come boldly to my throne of grace, for my grace is sufficient for all you need. Come boldly unto me, come boldly, for I will prove myself to you, I am a great big God. There’s nothing too hard for me, there’s nothing that I cannot do. I am all you need, and I’m here for you.”

And he’s all I have. I have no power to change my husband’s choices, his stubborn selfishness and hard heart, his rebellion against God, newest betrayal and full-speed-ahead hardened will to divorce. All I have is God’s Word that I have been praying and confessing over communion every morning for the past year. BUT I know that Jesus is the Living Word, that he is his word – who he is IS his Word – that God watches over his Word to perform it:

The LORD said to me, ‘”You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.” Jeremiah 1:12

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return to it without watering the earth . . . so is my word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55: 10-11

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the LORD more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. Psalm 130: 5-6

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

Almost every moment of every day, as soon as I open my eyes in the morning, I am aware of my complete helplessness to change my circumstances and the heart and mind and will of my beloved husband. BUT I am not falling into the void, even though I feel like it many times. Even though the word some days seems like the thinnest thread I cling to on the edge of a bottomless abyss and I can feel the winds of destruction swirling up from the depths, YET my life is not determined by my husband’s choices, so says my God’s word:

The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. BUT the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. Psalm 33: 11

I am God, and there is no other . . . I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. Isaiah 46:10

Even to your old age and gray hairs, I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. Isaiah 46:4

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1

And the word tells me this much of God’s will for sure: rejoice in the LORD always and in everything give thanks. He promises to be my shield and sword (Genesis 15: 1 and Deuteronomy 33: 29) and he will fight the battle for me (Exodus 14:14 and 2 Chronicles 20: 15,17)

Not much from me, but much from the Word today. All I have to give you is all I have to live, hope, trust and rejoice in: God’s Word is God himself, and he cannot and will not deny it, no matter what my circumstances look like and no matter who wars against me. God is love, his love endures, and the purposes of his heart will bring me victory somehow, some day, some way, for sure.

So I will bless my enemy and pray for the one who bitterly abuses me, because God’s word tells me to, and I know the Spirit will pour out upon my husband every spiritual blessing and weapon against deception from the coals of the altar of Heaven, where Jesus lives as the great high priest to speak and decree and make intercession and send his living word for him, and for me, too.

Does that give you something to cling to? I hope so. My greatest praise to God and the greatest work of my life may just be trusting in his Word and living in the peace, hope and victory it brings, and encouraging some other grieving heart to do the same. Whoever you are, I love you, and I pray for victory for you, too.

A ” . . . BUT . . .” to move: Jesus, all I hear is silence, all I see are closed doors and looming defeat, BUT you are your Word, and you promise to deliver on your Word when I confess it and cling to it. Because I know you don’t lie and you don’t dishonor your Word or your people who believe it, I will hang onto this thread knowing that your Word is stronger and more powerful than hammered steel. I will trust you, even when it doesn’t look like I should, and I will rejoice in all you are. Amen!

You own ” . . . But . . . ” to move: Jesus, I feel desperate, lost, without hope, BUT I trust that you _________________________

A Miracle-working God

Rose Jackson© 1/2009

The miracles began to unfold when the problem became a crisis. I got the phone call on Monday afternoon. “Mom, Emily’s bleeding. They’re evacuating her to Hong Kong.” He paused, the anguish breaking Eric’s voice,” I don’t know if Evan and I will be able to go with her.” A cold jolt ran down my back and momentarily paralyzed my breathing. “I’m on my way,” I exhaled, my thoughts speeding off in dozens of directions. How? Where? Who could help?

Emily and Eric were working and studying Asia. Expecting their second child, our daughter-in-law was 29 weeks into the pregnancy. After episodes of spotting in her first trimester, things had been going fine. Until now.

Emily had started spotting again on Sunday, so she and Eric went to the hospital while their three-year-old son Evan stayed with friends. Things took a drastic turn on Monday, and the hospital staff told Emily and Eric they weren’t equipped to handle such a premature birth. Both the baby and Emily could die. The closest hospitals equipped for premature births were 350 miles away in Hong Kong. How could they get there in time to save the baby’s life? At this point of desperation, when none of us could do anything but pray, God delivered miracles.

Looking back on them now, it’s almost like peering over God’s shoulder as he marked off a checklist:

Make a corporate jet “coincidentally” available and close enough to fly in.
Make the jet big enough for Eric and Evan to go along.
Connect a colleague in Hong Kong quickly with an ambulance to meet them there.

Getting to Hong Kong was just the tip of the iceberg of impossibilities. Which hospital? Was there a hospital with a bed available and staff available for whatever might happen? Where could Eric and Evan stay indefinitely on their meager resources? Who would take care of Evan?

On the other side of the world, I bought an airline ticket while my mind whirled with my own questions. How could we afford this? What about local currency? A miracle itself, my passport had just come back in record time the week before, but did I need a visa to get into Hong Kong? Where would Eric and Evan be? How could I find them?

“Call Julia” flashed through my mind. We’d met Julia six years earlier when we lived briefly on the East Coast. She was from Hong Kong. Her parents still lived there. Could one of them possibly meet me at the airport? Was Julia even home? I was set to fly out at five in the morning. Making a connection would take a miracle. God’s checklist:

Move us to New England in 1997 so we meet Julia.
Be sure Julia is at home on Monday night.
Ensure Julia’s mother is available and willing to meet me at the airport.
Provide a phone number where Julia’s mother can contact Eric and find out where he is.
Send Emily to the hospital with the best neonatal intensive care unit in all of East Asia.
Provide an affordable apartment in Hong Kong for four weeks.

“What-if’s” swirled through my thoughts. How would I recognize Julia’s mother Linda, whom I’d met only once? I tucked Julia’s wedding photo in my carry-on, held my husband close, and tried to get a few hours of fitful sleep. Thirty-four hours later across the Pacific Ocean, I saw a small hand waving a sign that read “Rose.” Amid a sea of people I thankfully hugged Linda, who had taken a taxi, bus and subway across two islands far out of her way to meet me. One hour later I leaped out of a taxi to embrace Evan and Eric in the middle of a narrow, dark street between canyons of buildings. Eric smiled and said, “Welcome to Hong Kong . . . Grandma!”

Born by emergency C-section, little Elsa weighed two pounds fifteen ounces. Doctors guardedly told Eric and Emily to expect Elsa to be in the NICU until her original due date, even if she didn’t develop complications. Now our needs were less critical, but real, nonetheless. After the first four weeks, where could we stay that would be close enough to allow Emily and Eric to make twice-daily breast milk runs to the hospital? How could they afford rent when Eric already had paid the hospital thousands of dollars? How could Eric and Emily continue their studies without their books? The miracles continued:

Connect Eric and Emily’s Hong Kong colleague with a friend who worked for an elder in a local church.
Through that that church provide an apartment, rent-free, for Eric and Emily for two weeks.
Make another apartment available rent-free for six weeks beyond that.
Bring friends through Hong Kong with Eric and Emily’s books and some of Evan’s best-loved toys.
Protect Elsa and keep her infection- and complication-free.

Three weeks passed, and we had so much to be thankful for at Thanksgiving that we weren’t too disappointed by our oven that didn’t work and the turkey dinner we couldn’t afford at a local restaurant. We were content to find turkey sandwiches at a nearby deli, but God, who had pulled off huge miracles for us already, had two small, delightful ones still on his list. At the church we attended the Sunday before Thanksgiving, a genial woman with twinkling eyes turned around to offer, “Would you like to come to our apartment for Thanksgiving dinner? It will only be chicken, but I have a can of cranberry sauce!” Astonished, we delightedly accepted. After church, one of the members told this woman she’d bring over a complete turkey dinner from the outrageously-priced restaurant, where she worked! God must have winked as he checked off:

Provide a turkey dinner with all the trimmings, down to pumpkin pie.
Supply for free a small Christmas tree complete with lights and ornaments.

The most amazing miracle left the NICU two weeks later, and one week after that, one month ahead of schedule, little Elsa Faith was released from the hospital, well on her way to becoming the bright, beautiful, unstoppable toddler she is today.

Is it a miracle when friends drop their own agendas to make critically needed things happen that you can’t arrange or do for yourself? Is it a miracle when strangers go out of their way to meet your needs, both the desperate and the simply encouraging ones? Is it a miracle when you’re moved across the country to meet someone who will fill a unique need in years to come? Is it a miracle when the cells of a tiny body grow healthy and strong despite being thrust suddenly into a hostile environment?

Technically these extraordinary, ordinary provisions – even taken together – may not be miracles, but they certainly felt like miracles to Emily, Eric, Evan and me! This much I do know: when my loved ones or I am in formidable, urgent, grave need that’s beyond our capacity to fill, I’ll take my miracles any way God wants to conceive, create, and deliver them!

If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. . . . For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. . . . your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Psalm 139: 9, 13, 16-17

A “. . . but . . .” to pray: Loving Father, so often when trouble strikes, my first reaction is to cry out to you, “Why are you allowing this?” and fly into panic mode, BUT again and again you have proved yourself faithful and mighty to provide everything my loved ones and I need. The world is not too large, no emergency is too difficult, AND no heart-cry is too insignificant for you to care, provide, heal, and bring victory. I will remember that in the needs I face today. In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Your own “. . . but . . .” to move/pray: Loving and living Father, I fear that ___________________, BUT I choose to put my confidence in your compassion and your power. trusting you will _________________________. Thanks that you will meet all my needs in amazing ways – and I surrender my expectations to your greater wisdom and limitless love. Amen!