Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Lessons in Anger - Part One

Many of you who know me may not realize this, but I struggle a lot with anger, especially in the private arena. It's definitely something I'm not proud of, but something I'm learning to control. I have a tendency to want things to go a certain way, & when those expectations aren't met, sometimes I let anger get the best of me. I decided to do a word study to learn how to better control my anger. Basically I've just gone through scripture references about anger in order and written down a few insights. Currently I'm just studying human examples of anger. There are plenty of references to God's anger, but I thought I'd save that for a separate study. Many of the scriptures are entire chapters, so I'm only including the references here.

Genesis 4: Cain was angry because God did not find his sacrifice acceptable. Cain wanted to serve God on his own terms. He wanted to serve God in way that was easy and convenient instead of the way of sacrifice that God required of him. Cain sinned in his anger and was unrepentant for his attitude and for his sin. His anger was from a place of self-centeredness rather than faith. Rather than repenting, he turned his anger onto Abel, murdering him, and consequentially was separated from his parents' family. He also left a legacy of sin for his offspring rather than righteousness. As a result his children and the generations that followed continued in selfish and evil behavior.

Genesis 27: Esau lost his blessing in large part because he was more concerned about the moment than his future. Part of his anger toward his brother Jacob was justified because of Jacob's deceitfulness, but most likely he was more angry at himself for his short-sighted foolishness. He displaced this anger toward himself onto his brother. Jacob fled for his life. Because of Esau's inappropriate anger he not only lost his father's blessing, but he also lost his relationship with his brother for a time.

Genesis 31:36-43: Jacob had legitimate reasons to be angry with his father-in-law, Laban. However he handled his anger poorly. Jacob was passive-aggressive and manipulative. Laban had been unjust with Jacob on several occassions and Jacob kept his anger pent-up until he "exploded" onto Laban and overreacted in this situation. Laban's reaction was to refuse to accept responsibility for his actions and instead tried to make himself look like the victim. Anger must be dealt with quickly and head-on so it will not interfere in our relationships with God and people. Also, the longer we allow anger to fester, the more likely we are to sin in our anger.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I Corinthians 13 - Part Eight

I Corinthians 13:8b-12 – As for prophecy (the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose), it will be fulfilled and pass away; as for tongues, they will be destroyed and cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away [it will lose its value and be superseded by truth]. For our knowledge is fragmentary (incomplete and imperfect), and our prophecy (our teaching) is fragmentary (incomplete and imperfect). But when the complete and perfect (total) comes, the incomplete and imperfect will vanish away (become antiquated, void, and superseded). When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; now that I have become a man, I am done with childish ways and have put them aside. For now we are looking in a mirror that gives only a dim (blurred) reflection [of reality as in a riddle or enigma], but then [when perfection comes] we shall see in reality and face to face! Now I know in part (imperfectly), but then I shall know and understand fully and clearly, even in the same manner as I have been fully and clearly known and understood [by God]. (AMP)

Prophecy, tongues, and knowledge – things that are highly valued in the Church – are temporary because we will not need them anymore when we are fully joined with Christ. Those things currently exist to guide us in our earthly existence. A day will come when we reach full maturity in Christ and we put those things aside. We will realize their fulfillment in our complete union with Christ. However, love is eternal, will always be necessary, and is its own fulfillment. Prophecy, tongues, and knowledge will become obsolete and therefore will be done away with, but love, along with truth, will never become obsolete, and so will never be done away with. Love, the outward expression of God’s heart, cannot be done away with. It is perfect.

1 Corinthians 13:13 – And so faith, hope, love abide [faithconviction and belief respecting man's relation to God and divine things; hopejoyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation; lovetrue affection for God and man, growing out of God's love for and in us], these three; but the greatest of these is love. (AMP)

Faith and hope would not be possible without love. Love is the one quality that will abide forever unchanging. The nature of faith and hope will change once we enter eternity with the Godhead. Faith and hope may even become obsolete in some respects, but love will never be obsolete.

Monday, April 28, 2008

I Corinthians 13 - Part Seven

1 Corinthians 13:8a – Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end]. (AMP)

The human lover may not always feel loving toward the beloved, yet will always choose to act in love toward the beloved. This is part of the maturity and self-sacrifice of love. The true measure of love is never based on the strength or lack of feelings, because feelings fluctuate based on circumstances, but love is a constant. The statements, “I just don’t love you anymore,” or “We fell out of love,” are not possible with true love. Love always succeeds, prevails, overcomes, is victorious, no matter what it faces. No circumstance, no matter how difficult, can cause true love (real, agapĂ© love) to end because such love is greater than any circumstance. Love, along with the other characteristics of God, is one of the most powerful forces on earth. Love is always relevant, vital, fresh, and new, looking at each new circumstance that comes as a new opportunity to yet again show itself to the beloved, as well as an opportunity for God to work and show His strength through our weakness. Love delights in the act of loving. When we love we are an expression of God to those around us. It is a fruit of the Spirit. (In fact all the other “fruits” can be found in love – they are components of love.) The Holy Spirit, and only the Holy Spirit, gives us the power to love without fail. What an awesome thing – through loving we carry God to those around us! Through our love of others God is not only on the inside of us, but He reaches out and impacts the hearts of each person we encounter. Therefore, we have a responsibility to love, but His burden is easy and His yoke is light. Through love we surely can conquer the world.

Love and God are the two most misunderstood topics in our society today. Love is often seen as mere emotion subject to change at any whim, in constant flux according to mood or circumstance. People think that love has its limits. It is true that as finite human beings that we are only capable of limiting our love to a small number of people, but when we truly love them, that love is infinite. God is capable of infinite love towards infinite numbers of people and beings.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

I Corinthians 13 - Part Six

1 Corinthians 13:6-7 – It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail. Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]. (AMP)

Love doesn’t look for loopholes, and doesn’t make excuses, or try to justify wrong behavior. Love is always honest and the lover is a person of character and integrity, knowing that when right and truth are allowed the freedom to have their way that everything will work out for the best in the end. Acting with conviction and standing up for what the lover believes is required. The weathering of difficult circumstances and the self-sacrifice of allowing disciplinary pain to be inflicted upon the beloved might also be necessary. Love never looks for the easy way out, but the best way through the circumstance. Love acts out of God’s wisdom for the situation.

No matter what circumstances the relationship faces, the lover will never give up on the relationship, will always support the beloved, and will endure all sorts of difficulties without wavering in his love for the beloved. The lover sees circumstances as temporary, but love and the relationship as eternal. Anything can be worked through, no matter how difficult. One such circumstance might be the lack of emotional love for a time. The lover must remember that love is a decision followed by action. He must therefore choose to continue to act in love toward the beloved, and the feelings of love will eventually be revived.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

I Corinthians 13 - Part Five

1 Corinthians 13:4-5 – Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God's love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]. (AMP)

Sometimes what we perceive to be acting in love is really just doing what is easiest and has no lasting benefit to lover or beloved, but brings about destruction in the end. When an action accepts the beloved as he is without encouraging him to better himself that is not love. Love accepts the person as he is yet always encourages growth and maturity in the beloved.

Sometimes self-sacrifice looks like what we expect it to – this is what I want, but because the beloved wants something else, I will do what he wants instead. Sometimes it means inflicting pain on the beloved for the purpose of bringing discipline and correction. Such action often requires the lover to overcome the fear of rejection, and it requires the lover to inflict that pain despite the desire to avoid pain for the beloved. Sometimes when the lover disciplines the beloved he also has to discipline himself. (The pain of discipline will be physical, mental, or emotional depending on what is best for the circumstances. The correct form of discipline is the one that will best achieve the desired result in the beloved without trying to “break” the beloved.)

This type of relationship may sound very one-sided, but imagine the possibilities if both people in the relationship were operating as the lover! That would be a very powerful relationship, indeed. Sometimes the relationship will be one-sided, like parents and children, or when a spouse is entangled in sin. But, ideally, adult relationships should be two-sided, and both people should be playing the roles of both the lover and the beloved. This type of relationship is not easy – it definitely requires work, but the rewards of such a commitment are eternal. The offspring of love is love. If you sow love, you reap love.

Friday, April 25, 2008

I Corinthians 13 - Part Four

1 Corinthians 13:4-5 – Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God's love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]. (AMP)

Love’s focus is on improving the life of the beloved rather than on improving only his own life. As he works to accomplish this goal, his own life is in turn blessed. Love is its own reward. It is impossible for love to be selfish or self-seeking. The very nature of love is outward and giving, rather than inward and taking. When a person acts in (what he perceives to be) the best interest of himself alone, he is not acting in love. The lover never puts himself first. The lover always holds the beloved in higher esteem than himself. Once he starts acting in any other way, he ceases to act in love.

On the other hand, neither is love self-deprecating. The lover must love himself in order to truly be able to love the beloved. Otherwise he will act in ways that sabotage the relationship rather than build it up. If the lover does not truly love himself, he will be incapable of fulfilling 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Sometimes we need to be our own beloved so that we can love those around us better (Matthew 22:39). The lover will involve himself in self-improvement for the purpose of enabling himself to love the beloved better.

Self-sacrifice and self-deprecation are not the same thing. When someone deprecates him/herself for what he/she thinks is the sake of the beloved or the relationship, he/she is really acting in a twisted form of pride which is motivated by the fear of being alone and not being accepted by the beloved. This enables the beloved to continue in sin and gives the beloved unspoken permission to become more depraved. However when the lover sacrifices what he wants for the betterment of the beloved, he acts in a way that brings conviction to the beloved and will not allow the sin to continue. Actions, based out of love, encourage the person to become what God created the beloved to be.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I Corithians 13 - Part Three

The language in today's post may be a little difficult. I tried to make it as simple as possible. When God began showing me this stuff I was taken back. I thought about how difficult it is to practice what is written here. As I said at the beginning of this series, I am nowhere near close to acting this out even on a mediocre level. But I just need to remember that this is something I'm moving toward as I mature in Christ. Only God is perfect, and only God can walk perfectly in love all the time. My purpose is not to condemn, but to hopefully inspire you to think about how you act towards God, the people you love, and yourself.

One of the reasons I wanted to post this information is to combat the skewed ideas our society has about love. Our society has trivialized love. Love is not a feeling. It is a decision first, followed by actions and is sometimes accompanied by euphoric emotions. Oxytocin, the "love hormone" creates those euphoric emotions and is inconsistent at best, based on the newness of a relationship, our health, our hunger, our circumstances, our desires, and the list goes on and on. We should never base our love for others on feelings created by the presence or lack of a chemical compound in our bodies. We love others because we decide to. That's why God loves us. He decided to do so. And every action He has taken since is in rooted in that decision. That is the reason that countries in which prearranged marriages are the norm have a much lower divorce rate than the United States. I spoke with a lady in India when I was on a missions trip there who was in a prearranged marriage. She said that she loved her husband because she chose to love him, not because of how she felt about him. I'm not advocating prearranged marriage over the system we have in our culture. What I desire to see is that we choose love over feelings in all of our relationships, even when it is difficult.

1 Corinthians 13:4-5 – Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God's love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]. (AMP)

Love is meek, humble, and considerate, putting the ease and comfort of others above its own pride and desire for attention. Love carries the heart attitude of a servant. Love doesn’t seek out attention for itself. Neither does it seek negative attention (seeking attention just for the sake of getting attention). The lover is content when all the attention is focused on the beloved and will act in ways that draw attention to the beloved and enhance the appearance, reputation, etc. of the beloved (e.g., the relationship between the Holy Spirit and Jesus).

Love defers to the beloved when necessary, even when its rights are encroached upon. It doesn’t remain angry or get offended when it suffers wrong at the hands of the beloved. But at the same time, love is balanced. Because love is always seeking what is best for the beloved, it will not become a “doormat” for the beloved. It is not passive, and certainly not aggressive. It is assertive. Love is not intimidated by the beloved. Love is not afraid of confrontation. Love will confront when necessary. It will apply correction when necessary, always with the goals of encouraging growth in the beloved and deepening their relationship in mind. When correction is applied it won’t be through anger or an argumentative and defensive position, but in a firm, assertive, and kind manner that will encourage a positive response from the beloved. It doesn’t force its point of view on the beloved and always try to be right, but fights fair so that the best solution can be accomplished.

Even in anger the lover always acts out of love toward the beloved. Anger in and of itself is not good or bad, but is qualified by our motivation and actions when we are angry. It is meant to motivate and empower us to do things we might not do otherwise – things that are positive, yet difficult. When the lover gets angry, he channels that anger into energy for seeking the best solution rather than allowing it to linger and turn into offense.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I Corinthians 13 - Part Two

1 Corinthians 13:2-3 – And if I have prophetic powers (the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose), and understand all the secret truths and mysteries and possess all knowledge, and if I have [sufficient] faith so that I can remove mountains, but have not love (God's love in me) I am nothing (a useless nobody). Even if I dole out all that I have [to the poor in providing] food, and if I surrender my body to be burned or in order that I may glory, but have not love (God's love in me), I gain nothing. (AMP)

It is much more important to possess God’s love than spiritual power or prowess, or to have all knowledge. Without God’s love we are useless even if we possess all those other things. God possesses all those things in addition to His love, and His use of them is motivated by and within the context of His love for us.

God’s love is the only basis for our value and worth. What you can do has no bearing on your value. Talent, intelligence, possessions, human reputation, human relationships, hard work and striving, beauty, or human success, etc., will never add to or take away from your value! It is only through God’s love that we have any value. God loves every person who has ever existed and ever will exist. Therefore we are all valuable. No matter what choices we make, even if we choose to reject God’s love, He will always love us and we will always have great value. This is one of the great tragedies of Hell: all that value is wasted because men chose stubbornness and self-righteousness over God’s love. Our God-given purpose does not stop at death. I was watching "House" the other night and the ever benevolent doctor (yes, you do detect a note of sarcasm) said that dead people have no value. But he was wrong. God has purpose for our entire existence – primarily to have relationship with Him throughout eternity. But my purpose here is not to get into doctrine, so I'll go ahead and end that discussion.

People strive to make themselves valuable in their own eyes rather than choosing to accept the value God places on us – a value that is far greater than what they could ever bestow upon themselves. No matter how hard they try, they cannot bestow any real value upon themselves. Even if they could bestow a great amount of value upon themselves, God’s value would still far exceed what they could do for themselves.

Again, your actions do not add to or take away from your value. Only God’s love gives you value. And His love never ends, so your value will never end. His love is constant, so your value is constant. Stop striving to be valuable on your own terms and accept the value that God alone gives you through His love.

In addition, God’s love must be the basis for any actions you take in order for them to have any eternal value. No matter how benevolent your actions are, if they aren’t motivated by God’s love, they have no lasting benefit.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I Corinthians 13 - Part One

A while back I was reading through 1 Corinthians 13. I was studying the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23 because I'd like to write a series of young children's books about them. So far I'm still stuck on love. The following and the next several posts are what I journaled while reading through the "love" chapter (seemed like an obvious place to start). God showed me some really cool stuff that I want to share. I'm nowhere close to perfecting the things in these posts in my own life. They are things I'm aspiring to. In fact I need to read through this stuff quite often to remind myself of what I'm working on. So anyway, here goes...

1 Corinthians 13:1 - IF I [can] speak in the tongues of men and [even] of angels, but have not love (that reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion such as is inspired by God's love for and in us), I am only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (AMP)

It doesn’t matter how well spoken I am, or even what I say if I don’t say it with love. I may be extremely eloquent, or even have a lot of passion behind my words, but if I don’t speak in love no one will want to listen. Without the context of love, what I say will just be a bunch of harsh, loud, and unpleasant noise that causes the listener to cringe. In fact, what I say will be so abrasive that people will only want to cover their ears and run away. A few may hear me, but most likely those will be the ones who already agree with what I am saying. I may win over a handful of people to my message, but most will be turned off by what I say, and they may even become opposed to my point of view. The motivational context to my message is the most important key to a successful delivery, no matter the message. This is true for a message to the masses as well as a request of my spouse or kids in my day-to-day life.

Recently I ate a piece of chicken that had a strange texture, which made it very unappetizing (please bear with me here). So much so that I ended up giving it to the cats to eat. The flavor was good; in fact the recipe was excellent. I was really looking forward to savoring it, so when I noticed the odd texture, & realized that I couldn’t eat the chicken, I was really disappointed (not to mention that I was in a hurry & didn’t have time to fix something else). The thing that struck me was that I kept feeling the texture in my mouth long after I had finished eating. I had even grabbed a banana to eat after surrendering my plate to the cats, but even that did not replace that awful “mouth feel” left by the chicken.

I don’t want my message to leave a bad taste in people’s mouths. I may use all the right words, and have a beautiful speech or manuscript at first take, but if I’m not speaking in love, then the texture of my message is all wrong & I will leave a bad taste in people’s mouths. People may even be looking forward to my message because they are looking for answers, but end up disappointed because the motivational context makes the message hard to take. And in terms of the Kingdom of God, time is short. Every second that passes brings us closer to the end. People don’t have time to try a lot of different messages, so they end up grabbing whatever is in easy reach (like the banana). But no matter what they try it cannot completely erase that awful “mouth feel” left by the poor texture of my message.

“Texture”, “context”, and, “text” come from the same Latin root, “texere”, meaning, “to weave”. Think of textiles, how a piece of fabric feels when you put it on. Some fabrics look beautiful, but the way they feel against your skin is just a little off, like commercially prepared wool that is scratchy. However, wool that is processed by hand feels just as soft and beautiful against your skin as it looks. What is the “feel” of your message? I hope the point is made by now that no matter how wonderful it sounds, if it is not motivated by love it will feel wrong, and people will be unable to accept it. Let us always examine the motivation behind our message. Is it love or something else? Pride perhaps? Fear? Selfishness? Hate? Acceptance? The desire to look good in front of people? The desire to be right or in control? Is it an attempt to manipulate the listener? Is it judgmental or prejudiced? I dare say that if we take the time to adequately examine what we want to say, we will say a lot less, listen a lot more, and be much more likely to get our point across, because people will be able to hear and accept what we have to say. My desire is for everything I say to be motivated by love. If I speak in love people will hear and receive what I say. I will be reasoning, intentional, and inspired by God when I speak in love.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Trust, Peace, & Protection

My family was recently faced with an unexpected trial when a came across the Catherine Marshall quote. What follows is a combination of what I journaled after reading it and what I wrote a few weeks later around Easter time.

“To know God as He really is – in His essential nature and character – is to arrive at a citadel of peace that circumstances may storm, but can never capture.” –Catherine Marshall

As we spend time with God, loving Him, and truly coming to know and understand Him, He is able to release peace and protection into our lives. This is not a difficult thing. It only requires us to decide that our relationship with Him is important enough to invest time into it every day by reading His Word and talking to Him through prayer, just like we invest time into any other relationship that is important to us. Then we can take the time to share our hearts with Him and let Him know our requests (Phil. 4:6-7). The truth is that God cares about us, and He wants to support us through life’s circumstances. He does not want us to take the easy way out, but He will guide us to the best way through the circumstances if we allow Him to. God never promises that as Christians we won't have trials. In fact, the opposite is true (John 16:33). What He does promise is that He will protect us through them if we set our hearts on Him (Psalm 91). Circumstances can either cause us to stumble or they can present opportunities for us to know God better and see Him work miracles in our lives (James 1:2-3, Rom. 8:28). It all depends on where our focus lies. If we focus on the circumstances we will stumble. If we focus on and trust in Him, we will overcome. Circumstances are temporary; God is eternal. Any circumstance can be worked through, no matter how difficult, if we allow God to guide us, and then follow through and do what He has shown us. We can only be victorious to the degree that we trust in Him (Matt. 9:29b). Our trust is displayed through our actions. “Only as [we] walk will the waters of adversity be parted before [us]” (Frances Roberts) (Josh. 3:13).

I think Christ's submission to His Father in the garden is the best example of trusting God in a trial. As Christians we’re to be like Christ. Before Jesus went to the garden He had walked in relationship with His Father and knew His Father "in His essential nature and character" (Matt. 11:27). What struck me as I was reading the story of Jesus in Gethsemene, was His implicit trust of the Father, and the peace that He carried despite what He was about to face once He settle in Himself that He would follow through with the Father's plan. Three times He asked His Father to take the cup from Him, yet each time He ended with, “Not my will, but Yours be done” (Matt. 26:37-45). It was God’s plan that Christ be crucified. Many scriptures show us this (Isa. 53:10, Rom. 3:25, 1 Cor. 2:7, 1 Pet. 1:20). If it was man’s will for Christ to die, He would have been dead in the first months of His ministry. Two separate occasions are mentioned in Scripture where He escaped mobs bent on murdering Him (Luke 4:28-10, John 10:31-39). He even said when He was arrested, “Do you suppose that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will immediately provide Me with more than twelve legions [more than 80,000] of angels?" (Matt. 26:53). If He had not trusted His Father, He probably would have escaped yet again & never looked back. But He was determined to fulfill His purpose (Matt. 26:54). We don’t know exactly how much He understood about what would happen to Him after the arrest, but He had returned to Jerusalem so that He could be arrested, tried, and crucified (Matt. 16:21-23, Mark 10: 32-34). He even told Judas to go through with the betrayal: “What you are going to do, do more swiftly than you seem to intend and make quick work of it” (John 13:21-33). He knew that He was going to endure the worst thing He had ever faced, yet He trusted the Father enough to go through with it (1 Pet. 2:23). We may not always understand what is going on in our lives, but it’s important that we trust the Father implicitly and follow through with His guidance even though it may seem like we’re coming through Hell & back. If we trust Him, He will protect and support us with His peace, and guide us with His wisdom, and we will come through victoriously!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

More About Sadey's Ear - Part Two

As I said yesterday, God has given us a different perspective about Sadey's ear than what the medical community has given us. This took place a couple of months ago. I was at church on a Wednesday night. In our church a bunch of people go stand right in front of the stage during Praise & Worship. I wasn't singing on stage that night, so I was holding Sadey while I was worshiping down front. An Elder in the church asked if he could hold her, so I let him. During the worship time our pastor heard God tell him to pray for healing. He came over and prayed for Sadey and then walked away. Later he came back and prayed for again. His wife also came over at the same time. They had been praying for different people and hadn't even looked at each other before they both came to us. They both stated that they felt that God was doing a creative miracle in Sadey's ear.

As I said in a previous post, God had previously showed me that Sadey's ear was
perfect for His purposes & He would use it to bring glory to Himself. So, we knew that some sort of miracle would take place. What we didn't know was what sort of miracle it would be, whether simply through the example of her life, through medical intervention, or through a creative miracle. But as Pastor Whit was praying for her, I saw ear being reconstructed cell by cell over time, causing it to open up like a flower blooming. As the ear grows bigger, it won't stay as it is, but it will grow open. Since then several other people have told me the same thing, confirming what God showed me.

So now we know what sort of miracle is taking place, and have further clarity about what God is doing for Sadey. We're in full agreement that it
is a creative miracle taking place even now.

I can't wait to see the repercussions of what God is doing for Sadey! She's a special child. For those of you that have not yet had the privilege of meeting her, she's a sweet, happy baby with an amazing personality. She loves people. There's a depth behind her eyes when she looks at people that's unusual for a child her age, as though she's looking right into your heart. I'm astounded and so grateful to God that He gave her to Shawn and me and assigned us to raise her, a responsibility I'm not sure I'm fully qualified for, but one He's giving me grace to perform. I've been told that she carries God's beauty. Before she was born it was prophesied that she would bring joy and peace with her to our family. So far that has proven to be true. Someone else prophesied that she will be a leader, a position that's unusual for a third child, but one I can definitely see her taking on. It's also been prophesied that salvations will take place as a result of God healing her ear. As I write this and contemplate all this I'm brought to tears over God's goodness and graciousness. He's an awesome and amazing Daddy.

Now, I'm well aware that some of you may not like what I've said in this posting.
If that's true I would challenge you to just stick with us through time and see what God does. For everyone, we covet your prayers. We know that Satan does not like to see God get any glory in our lives, so he tries to interfere. But I know that every time he interferes that it is yet another opportunity for us to overcome and for God to be glorified. So, please pray for us, and we will pray for you as well.

Friday, April 18, 2008

More About Sadey's Ear - Part One

As I mentioned in a previous post, our youngest child, Sadey, was born with a congenital abnormality in her right ear. Here is what we know from a medical standpoint: Shortly after she was born a BAER test was performed to see if her auditory nerve can conduct sound. They found out that it does conduct sound perfectly. She does have some hearing impairment in that ear -- her threshold is 65 decibels, meaning a shout sounds like a whisper in that ear. However because the nerve is intact, we know that the impairment is because of the stuff that's between her outer ear and her inner ear (the extra skin, etc.) This means that the impairment can most likely be overcome with reconstructive surgery. We also know that because of the impairment, Sadey will have difficulty hearing in a crowded room with a lot of background noise, and she will also have difficulty locating which direction sound is coming from. Other than that, she should have no problems with her hearing, and her speech development should be normal.

Well, we had a consultation with a specialist back in November at UNC Chapel Hill about her ear. We really didn't learn much that we didn't already know because Sadey is so young. The doctor did confirm that Sadey's diagnosis is Microtia (which literally means "little ear") in her right ear. Her pediatrician had basically just diagnosed her as having a nonspecific congenital ear deformity. We still don't know what internal ear structures Sadey has, other than that her inner ear is intact. We don't even know if she has an ear canal. The doctor said that they won't do any scans until she is older (maybe 5 or 6) because they can't do anything about it yet, so it would just be exposing her to extra radiation. Also, they would probably have to give her a general anesthetic to perform the scan at this time. Before the appointment I was hoping they would go ahead and do a scan just so we could know what to expect and how to pray, but when I heard the doctor's explanation for waiting, I knew that it was the best thing to do. Ah, well, guess we just have to trust God... ;)

The doctor emphasized that Sadey's ear will not change form as it grows. On it's own it will not open up, and it will never look like the other ear. It will just get bigger as it is. Many people have been diagnosed with the same condition, so they have ample evidence of this fact. And, of course, they have no idea what causes it.

One of the things that helped me feel reassured through the appointment was that the doctor didn't try to shove reconstructive surgery down our throats. She said that when the
time comes we'll make a treatment decision together based on what's best for Sadey. In fact, she said she was glad that we knew that there are other treatment options, such as a prosthetic, or doing nothing. We appreciate the chance to objectively consider all the options.

As I said, that is what we know from a medical standpoint, but God has a different perspective, which in the interest of your time, I'll share tomorrow. :-)

(To be continued...)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Feeling Stretchy

God uses so many different things to stretch us so that we can be bigger people. I really didn't realize how much blogging would stretch me. Although I only have a few posts up so far, I'm already starting to feel a pull on my soul. I mentioned in one of the previous posts that I find vulnerability frightening. I realized in the last few days that I'm really putting myself out there through this blog. I've put myself in the position where people know more about me than I know about them. It's not really a place I like that much. But, strangely enough, I don't feel compelled to stop blogging. Perhaps, I'm growing up a bit (*sigh*). I want the things I've learned lately to help others, and how can they help people unless I share them?

Revelation 12:10a says, "And they have overcome (conquered) him [the accuser of the brethren] by means of the blood of the Lamb and by the utterance of their testimony," I have always thought of that scripture before in outward terms: how the blood of Christ and sharing our testimonies would enable us as Christians to win corporate battles over the enemy in the world now and in the last days. But it just struck me that by sharing my testimony here, I am overcoming the enemy's influence in my own personal life. I am overcoming my own tendencies to remain withdrawn and separated from people, and I am opening up my heart to others in a way I never have before.

The other, more obvious, challenge of blogging is that I have to decide what to post (almost) every day. There are so many directions that I could take this thing. That was one reason it took me so long to start blogging (I decided to do this back in January or February). I just wasn't sure where to go. It's really challenged me to look to God for guidance in a different way than I have in the past. I want to make sure and communicate what He would have me say, not what seems good to me. One reason I decided to blog is that I realized that I can communicate my heart a lot better through the written word than when I speak. I have time when I'm writing to reread and reread until I feel that the words I've used adequately communicate what I want to say. I feel empowered when I write. In conversation I never really know what to say. I'm thankful for this forum and for the ways it is enabling me to grow in God and in myself.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A New Point of View - Part Five

Sadey was born with a congenital abnormality in her right ear, the full extent of which we don’t yet know. The condition is called Microtia, which literally means “little ear”. Basically her ear is underdeveloped. When I first learned about it I was a bit surprised, but I’ve never seen it as a problem. Yet if Todd had been born with the same abnormality, I’m not sure that I could have been so easygoing about it because of my frame of mind at the time. For Sadey, her special ear is simply a part of who she is. One day when she was only a couple of weeks old, I was thinking about Psalm 139:13-15 where it says,

13For You did form my inward parts; You did knit me together in my mother's womb.
14I will confess and praise You for You are fearful and wonderful and for the awful wonder of my birth! Wonderful are Your works, and that my inner self knows right well.
15My frame was not hidden from You when I was being formed in secret [and] intricately and curiously wrought [as if embroidered with various colors] in the depths of the earth [a region of darkness and mystery]. (AMP)

As I was considering the passage, it occurred to me that Sadey’s ear wasn’t perfect according to my understanding of the word. God showed me that as He was knitting her ear He stopped before it was “completed” and said, “That’s perfect. Perfect for My purposes.” Then He reminded me of the man born blind that Jesus healed. The disciples asked Him why the man was born that way. Jesus told them, “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.” (John 9:3 NLT). The man was born that way so that God could be glorified. God showed me that the same is true for Sadey. More recently He also showed me that we should always expect to receive from Him, but we should let Him decide what we are going to receive. I didn’t know how God would use Sadey’s ear for His glory. He could’ve chosen to miraculously heal her, He may have used doctors, or the ear may have remain as it was, but either way God would use her life and testimony to bring glory to Himself. By the grace of God I’ll always have faith for her healing, but I will accept whatever He has for us. (God has given me more clarity on this in the last couple of months, but I’ll share more about that later.) Before Sadey was born I was given prophetic words (I Corinthians 12:10) that she will be a leader and she will bring peace and joy with her. God has already started fulfilling this promise. I can’t wait to see just how God will work all of this out as we continue to move forward.

Another thing that God has shown me lately is that there is a difference between hurt and offense. Hurt will happen to us as long as we live on this earth. On the other hand, being offended is a choice (Psalm 119:165, James 1:19). No matter who they are people are not perfect, and they will hurt us (James 3:2). Sometimes we hurt ourselves because of our own poor choices. We have an enemy who wants to destroy us. We live in a fallen world and circumstances will take place that are out of our control. Even God hurts us sometimes when He needs to. He is our Father. Because He loves us He disciplines us (Proverbs 3:11-12, Hebrews 12:5-7), and discipline usually hurts. The thing is, it hurts Him, too. When people hurt us we can either choose to be offended or to forgive (Proverbs 17:9, 18:19, Matthew 18:35, Luke 11:4, 17:4, Colossians 3:13, I Peter 4:8). When we reap the consequences of our actions we can choose to be offended and to play the victim role or we can accept what we’ve got coming. When the enemy attacks us we can choose to ask “Why me?” or we can position ourselves to allow God to turn it into good for His glory. When we’re hurt by circumstances or God’s discipline we can either choose offense or to accept, learn and grow from what has taken place (Matthew 11:6, Luke 7:23).

This time I was able to choose acceptance rather than offense. This time I can say with Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” (Job 13:15 NKJV) (Job also had a lot more to lose than I did.) Choosing to accept the circumstances that present themselves at any given time enables me to hear from God no matter what I'm facing. I’ve allowed myself to become fully planted at Christian City Church Greensboro ( and I am flourishing (Psalm 92:12-15). I’m being freed from fear and enabled to love and be more aware of God and those around me. Everyday I'm amazed at what God is doing in my life. His blessings are awesome!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A New Point of View - Part Four

At one point after I started hearing from God again, I was dealing with some difficult issues with Korrynn that brought out some things in me that frightened me. I was reminded of Psalm 127:3 that says that children are a blessing from God. I told God that it was a double-edged blessing. He showed me that I was very willing to accept the nice parts of His blessings, but not the difficult parts. He showed me that blessings are not always pleasant, and sometimes trials are actually blessings because they allow things to be brought to the surface so they can be dealt with and we can become more Christ-like. (This discussion reminded me of a few scriptures: Philippians 4:12-13, I Thessalonians 5:18, I Peter 1:6-7, James 1:2-4.) So I began to accept the circumstances and be grateful for both sides of the blessings in my life, though I still didn’t like them very much.

The time for Sadey to be born was drawing ever closer, and I was again believing God for a natural delivery for her. This time, though, I was more willing to accept whatever God had for me. Again her birth didn’t happen as I had hoped, but this time I was able to trust God anyway. I still don’t understand it, and it still hurts, but I accepted it this time. Something Chrysostom said in reference to Abraham when God told him to sacrifice Isaac (not that I feel that my situation really comes close to Abraham’s – he had a lot more to lose) sums up my feelings pretty well: “The things of God seemed to fight against the things of God, and faith fought with faith, and the commandment fought with the promise.”

I’m typically a person that wants to know the reasons behind everything. I’m always analyzing everyone and everything around me (just ask Shawn). I want everything to make sense (according to my terms of what does or doesn’t make sense). I want to be able to come up with solutions to everything that I consider problematic. This means I have a hard time processing hurt and disappointment. I need someone or something to blame, because otherwise things just don’t make sense to me. I don’t know what to do with disappointment, so I usually let it turn into anger. This time, however, I was able to accept the outcome that I had previously deemed unacceptable. I chose not to blame God. I chose not to ask “Why?”. I chose not to be offended.

(To be continued...)

Monday, April 14, 2008

A New Point of View - Part Three

(Sorry about the delay. We were out of town without internet access.)

After God didn't give me the desire of my heart by giving me a natural delivery with Todd, I was devastated. I didn’t know what to believe anymore. The Scripture no longer made sense to me. What do you do when you feel like God is the one who hurt you? I became depressed. I stopped trusting God and started asking “Why?”. I wanted to give up on God and church. I was confused and inundated with mixed emotions. I was astounded that I was in this place spiritually. I grew up in church – saved and baptized when I was six, baptized in the Holy Spirit when I was nine, and I never strayed from God as a teenager. I went on missions trips with Teen Mania and even spent a year in Tulsa in the Teen Mania Honor Academy. I had thought I would always be close to God, but now I felt like He had betrayed me. I wanted to give up on everything, but I knew it wasn’t an option because I had a husband and two kids who needed me. Something had to give – I couldn’t go on this way anymore.

I tried to give up on God. I tried to ignore Him. I tried to believe He couldn’t really be there. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t deny Him. No matter what I tried to think or imagine, my thoughts always went back to Him. He was, and always will be, a part of me and who I am. And I can’t exist without Him. I realized that I really do need Him, even if I don’t always understand what He is doing.

So, eventually I came out on the other side and slowly began trusting God again as I let Him heal me. Then I got pregnant with Sadey when Todd was only six months old. I wasn’t totally emotionally healed yet and now I was hormonal on top of everything else. I chose to let depression overtake me again. I wasn’t ready to be pregnant again and I was terrified that I wasn’t going to be able to handle another child at that time in my life. (Fear has been one of my closest accomplices most of my life.)

During that time I was on the worship team at church. I had a hard time bringing myself to worship God. I felt like every time I got up on stage I was being hypocritical. I felt like I needed to step back from the team for a while because I couldn’t lead people where I couldn’t go myself. (Depression really skews your thinking. It keeps you totally focused on yourself, and even twists selfish thoughts so they seem altruistic.) So I told my Worship Pastor that I wanted to step down for a while. Rather than accepting my reasoning, she reminded me of why we worship. She told me that we don’t worship God based on how we feel. We worship God based on who He is. Worship isn’t about us. It’s about Him. Sometimes we have to make the choice to worship even though we may not feel like it.

So, I made the choice to worship God and things started to turn around. For a while it truly was a sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:5). As I persisted, however, I was strengthened and it became easier to choose to combat the depression rather than accept it. I started acting on II Corinthians 10:4-6 by taking the negative thoughts captive and replacing them with positive godly thoughts. I began to reach out to other people for help, (which is one of the hardest things in the world for me to do because vulnerability scares the crap out of me) and allow others to help bear my burdens (Galatians 6:2). I started meeting with God and hearing from Him again.

(To be continued...)

Friday, April 11, 2008

A New Point of View - Part Two

Time passed after our unexpected move to Greensboro, and we developed a routine. Though I still wasn’t happy I put on a brave face and let myself exist in the new life. I didn’t have the strength to constantly fight the circumstances and I knew it was pointless to do so, but I didn’t accept them either. I guess it’s kind of like a prisoner – he can’t change where he is, but he doesn’t have to like it, either. So he develops a routine to survive and turns his anger elsewhere (fellow inmates, guards, himself, etc.). Of course, the truth was that I was only a prisoner to myself. If I had chosen to accept what God had for me rather than be offended by Him I would’ve have been released from my self-made prison. Instead I remained angry with Him. I wanted the circumstances of my life to go according to my terms, and what I thought was best for me.

It wasn’t all bad. There were good times and at times I felt pretty close to God (though never fully connected to Him). I had boarded the spiritual roller coaster, and I was in for one very bumpy ride!

I got pregnant with our second child, Todd, and things improved for a while. When Korrynn (our first child) was born I ended up needing a C-section because the cord was wrapped around her neck three times with only four inches left to the placenta. The surgery potentially saved both of our lives – she most likely would have strangled and I may have hemorrhaged. While I understood the circumstances of why I had the surgery and was grateful that we were both alive and healthy, I still didn’t like it. I felt God could have removed the complications, but didn’t. Even so, in time I accepted it. However, I believe that a natural birth is best. In all of my pregnancies it has been the desire of my heart. So, while I was pregnant with Todd I prayed, believed, confessed tons of scripture on a nearly daily basis, had other people praying and believing with me, and had faith that I would be able to deliver Todd naturally. I felt the closest to God that I had felt in some time. I felt I was doing everything the Word said I should do to see my desire fulfilled. But, even though I went into labor on my own, Todd started showing signs of distress, and I ended up having another C-section – another offense.

I know that the most important thing is that we are both alive and healthy, and again I was grateful for that. However I was devastated by the rest. I was confused, hurt, and turned upside down. I didn’t get it. I had tried so hard to delight myself in God. Psalm 37:4 says to delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. I thought it was pretty straightforward – if I did this, then He would do that. But He didn’t…

(To be continued...)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A New Point of View - Part One

I think that the best place to start this blog is with a testimony of what God has done in my life in the last three and a half years. It's kind of long, so in the interest of your all too precious time I'll divide it into several posts.

Hebrews 12:27 says that whatever can be shaken will be shaken and removed so that only eternal things will remain (my paraphrase). This testimony starts three years ago when God transplanted us from Virginia Beach, VA to Greensboro, NC. After a grueling job search that took over a year, God finally opened a door for my husband, Shawn, to get a job with a federal government agency. Though he requested the Norfolk, VA, office as his first choice, he was assigned to Greensboro – his second choice. We literally had to make the decision to go to Greensboro or stay in Virginia Beach in a matter of minutes. Though we really didn’t want to, we felt like Shawn was supposed to take the job and we were to move to Greensboro.

That was the first offense. My heart was broken. Even though I was a transplant to Virginia Beach my heart was there. That was my home. I was firmly planted in the church we attended there. I couldn’t understand what God was doing – why He was digging us up and moving us somewhere else. Shawn and I met there, married there, bought a home there, and had our first child there. We envisioned ourselves as potentially living our lives out there, working in the church where we were planted.

I guess in a way I idolized my life there because no matter how much I knew I needed to, I couldn’t let go of Virginia Beach and let my heart attach to the church and new life in Greensboro. I knew I needed to accept the new circumstances of my life, but I continued to mourn the life I had left behind. I was pretty miserable.

(To be continued...)