Reminding Myself: The Bug Brought Blessing

IMG_5383I’m reposting this today, five years later, because I still need to remember how faithful God has been to me. Every time the enemy of my soul tries to slam me, God comes through with goodness. Truly, greater is HE who is in me than he who is in the world.

Feeling my way from chair to chair in the darkness, I sat down next to someone in church on Wednesday night, perplexed by my phone’s cryptic voice message from the bargain travel site: “Go online immediately to view your reservation.” I was set to fly to Thailand the next Tuesday with a suitcase stuffed with donated card-making supplies to take to a missionary conference. I’d done the same thing two years earlier, intending to give a “girls’ night out” to women from all over the globe, but the response from men, women and children who flooded the dining room and cut, glued, and stamped with delight had absolutely stunned me.
Set and eager to reprise the blessing, I suddenly sensed my body’s churning “voice message” alerting me that lunch wasn’t the only thing in my stomach; an unwelcome “bug” was growing. Oh, no! Not the flu a week before my flight! Nausea growing, I left the service and called my boss on my way home, “Dean, I won’t be in first thing in the morning. I’ve come down with a bug and may need to come in late.”
Once home, I quickly brought up the email and, to my confusion, read two conflicting flight times into Seoul: one arriving 45 minutes before my connecting flight, but another arriving just 15 minutes before the flight to Bangkok.“Maybe,” I thought, “my head and intestines will be calmer by morning,” so I curled up with a hot water bottle and prayed for healing.Morning was worse, but I called the site. What I heard filled me with panic.
“The airline changed flight times, so we’ve cancelled your itinerary.”
“No!” I blurted over waves of nausea. “I made the reservation months ago, and I have to be in Bangkok for a conference.”Oblivious to my alarm, the agent said I could rebook my flight for only $3000 more. “That won’t work,” I replied in calm I didn’t feel. “Can you call the airline?” That began a four-hour fencing match, the agent thrusting they were only a broker, me parrying with, ”Please call the airline,” and I prayed ferociously between holds and offers, declaring every scripture I knew about God being my shield and sword of victory. Could I leave next month? Could I leave in two weeks? Could I go to another destination? No, no, no!
During the hold times I lay on the floor and prayed, decreed, over myself:
It may be that the LORD will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today.” 2 Samuel 16:12 NIV
All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. 2 Corinthians 4:15 NIV
Her insensitivity churned frustration in my stomach on top of the bilious “bug,” and her tide of consternation rose higher with my relentless requests to try again. Desperate, I finally pleaded, “Let me call the airline then; just don’t cancel my reservation!”
No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me,” Says the Lord. Isaiah 54:17 NKJV
The agent, glad to get rid of me, gave me a phone number, which turned out to be the airline’s air cargo line. They transferred me to an agent, and twenty minutes later God air-dropped a miracle into my lap: the airline took responsibility for the schedule change and offered that, if I could leave on Monday night and stay one extra day, they’d put me up for the day in a hotel in Seoul so I could make my connecting flight to Bangkok!
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 NIV
Hooray for God and an upset stomach! I needed those four morning hours to battle bureaucracy and for God to bless me via the most unusual means He’s ever used in my life. The “mess” made a miracle that blessed me with time in Seoul to walk, shower, eat lunch, and nap before my flight, a day to get over jet lag, and a day on the end of the conference to stay with friends I hadn’t seen in over ten years!
In one more miracle, the “body” I sat beside in church when the battle began was my friend Judy, who asked if the missionary ladies would like bracelets. “I couldn’t help you the last time you went, so I’d like to help you now,” she’d sweetly offered. Two days later I discovered a box at my doorstep containing 50 lovely costume jewelry bracelets for the missionary women and girls, and $500 for my trip costs.
“Oh, God,” I gratefully cried on the other side of the world as again women and girls – with beautiful bracelets adorning their arms – and men and boys stamped, glued, cut and created wonderful cards and bookmarks, “you did so much more than I could have ever dreamed, done or imagined!”Thank you, God, for the bug in my belly that brought blessing beyond belief!
A “…BUT…” to pray: Most Merciful God! How many times, I wonder, have you diverted a scheme of Satan in my life and I never even recognized your hand was in the blessing, even if it looked like a calamity? Remind me now of a time when things looked black, BUT YOU my God came through for me and made a wonderful way for me to prosper _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________. Thank you, thank you, Loving God, and help me to trust you in days ahead that you CAN cause all things to work together for my good. In Jesus’ Name, amen. Holy Spirit, I’m listening _______________________________________________________________
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Strike the Rock

Perseverance. No visible results. Twenty-five years. How long could you endure? When would frustration overtake your faith? And was this a word God intended for me?

Recently I visited the area headquarters for an missions organization sending humanitarian workers to indigenous people in Mexico. Paper banners hung along the walls of a large multi-purpose room. One color indicated New Testament translations completed, one color indicated translations underway, and just a few of a third color targeted languages remaining to have Bible translation underway. Those weren’t just banners; those were life stories, joys, tears, sacrifice, illnesses overcome, dangers faced, loneliness for families far away, children growing up isolated from their home culture and friends and extended families, miracles, healings, minds given the gift of literacy, the good news of Jesus planted in hearts and lives, a chronicle of lives invested over decades to bring hope, vision, humanitarian aid, and God’s word in their own heart language to how many hundreds of thousands of people.

If we were there, doing their work, pushing through, going without, threatened by local shamans and witch doctors, how long would we persevere before we saw “results”? One man asked that after 25 years of his and his wife’s befriending, helping, giving into lives in the village, learning the language and writing book after book of the Bible to give the villagers the hope of Jesus. Though they’d made friends in the village and the people truly appreciated all they had sacrificed and given, twenty-five years passed and not a single person accepted Jesus as Lord. The local witch doctor had over the years threatened the villagers that, if anyone embraced Jesus, he would put a spell of death upon them.

Had all their work been for nothing? I know I’d be asking that question, ready to pack up my family and belongings and head home deep in doubt that God had actually called me to that work. Deep in confusion and nearing despair, one day the man experienced a vivid dream. He was standing in front of a large boulder, and a hammer lay on the ground. An angel walked up to the man and told him, “God wants you to strike the rock.” Obediently the man began hammering away at the hard rock. he hammered, and hammered, and hammered, and hammered. Not a single chip flaked off the rock, not a single crack appeared in the hard, resistant surface. Tired and confused, the man put the hammer down.

Up walked the angel again, this time with a question. “What are you doing?”

The man poured out his exhausted frustration, saying “The rock won’t break!”

Then the angel kindly asked him a pointed question: “What did God tell you to do?”

“Strike the rock,” the man replied.

“God didn’t tell you to break the rock,” the angel explained simply. “He just asked you to strike it.”

Revelation and validation flashed into the weary man’s mind and spirit. He and his wife had done exactly what they were sent to do, regardless of the results they did or didn’t see!

They moved on to a neighboring village, and almost immediately, people began accepting Jesus as their Lord. What in the world was the difference, the couple wondered?  Villagers explained matter-of-factly, “We aren’t under the power of their witch doctor. He can’t put a curse on us!” So many came to Christ that a church was planted in the second village. Not long after, the witch doctor in the neighboring village died, and Christians from the second village came to the of the first and led them to faith in Jesus, planting a church there as well. What truly did all their years of love and labor invested in that first village do? Make the rock ready to crumble at just the right time!

How many of my prayers seem to have gone unheard and unanswered? Is it possible that God has asked me simply to “Strike the rock”?  Are my fervent prayers truly more effective than I know, than I see now?

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Luke 18:1-8 NIV

Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. Always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

I’ve thrown my hammer down in exhaustion and frustration more than once, and I know I’ve lost some blessings out of sheer sorrow in not seeing results. What blessing did I miss? What did I give up? How about you? What good are you weary of doing? Um, okay … has anyone seen my hammer?

Rose into cave at Mooney 96

A  “… BUT … “to move: God. I’ve prayed and prayed repeatedly for _______________________________________ and it looks like nothing at al lhas happened, no answer is coming. Show me if I need to simply persevere in “striking the rock” or if it is time to move on, trusting that you will __________________________________ when I keep on doing good in ______________________________. I will let you be God and Lord of the results!