Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Problem and Solution

My heart continues to ache over the recent events of our nation. My mind continues to seek understanding. As I have listened to the news, read my social feeds, and talked with others, I see a common theme. We are all looking for answers, explanations, justification. Some say it is a brutality issue, some say it is crime. Some say it is racial, some say it is general hate. Some blame our president, some blame the NRA. Some blame the media, some blame the police. As I reflected on each of these explanations this morning my mind began to see a pattern. The cards started to fall into place. I ran to my computer to try to catch the glimmer before it slipped away. 



We are caught in a cycle. As a nation we have experienced success. With that success came an independence. We began to think that WE were the reason for our success and became less dependent on God to meet our needs. As we made that shift our values shifted as well. As a result of our "self-sufficiency", we stopped seeking God and teaching the values that truly led to our success. Respect for others and for authority became a thing of the past. People who do not respect one another become very selfish. You have something I want? I'll just take it. I don't like what you said? I'll harm you. You look/love different than me? I will hate you. Selfishness and crime enter the picture. When one puts their own desires above the needs and desires of others, fear and hate are reintroduced into the picture, but I think at this point the order changes. Disrespect led to hate and fear, but I believe selfishness and crime lead to fear and hate. Fear is a powerful emotion. It makes us react in extreme manners for self-preservation. Our brains are actually wired that way. When safety is threatened the blood flow of our brain changes and we begin to think from the very primal parts of our brain - fight, flight or freeze. Our responses are not what they would normally be. Fear is powerful. That fear in the good, and hate in the bad, leads police and others in authority to react with forceful corrective actions. Without the crime there would be no need to react at all, but the crime warrants a response. The perfect storm of disrespect, crime, fear, hate, and a required response lead to actions that at times (and this is actually more rare than our media would have us believe although still an issue to address) are extreme. This forceful corrective response leads back to fear and hate and in turn retaliation. The more this cycle repeats, the further we move from God; the further we spiral into the problem.

But there is a solution.


If as a people group, not people groups-- not black, white, brown, heterosexual, homosexual, but as Americans we begin to move back toward God and the values associated with good then we will see a change in the way we raise our children. We will return to teaching that ALL people deserve respect and that it is essential to our survival. When people respect one another the level of love and understanding increases exponentially; our communities become supportive and caring. Crime is not necessary because we HELP one another meet our needs. The help we give one another breeds more love and understanding and requires LESS corrective action. Less corrective action means MORE love and understanding. Each repetition of this cycle brings us one step closer to the foundation upon which we were built. One nation. Under God.

We have got to decide if we are going to be part of the problem or part of the solution. Which cycle will we follow and promote? We cannot continue to meet our personal needs with no regard for how it impacts those around us. It is true that we need leaders who will guide our nation in this direction, but it is even more true that our leaders do not matter if we ourselves will not take responsibility for bringing about change. 

Where do you stand? Are you the problem, or the solution?

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Hate is Just Too Heavy




My hands flew to cover my mouth and I held my breath in shock. I felt immobilized as I watched the video and listened to the sound of gunshots echoing off the buildings in downtown Dallas, Texas. How? Why? What next?  My mind was flooded with unanswered questions. Questions that I have asked over and over as of late. 

I am weary of watching people die. I am tired of reading hate on social media. I am heartbroken by the lack of compassion in our country. I am saddened that to disagree with someone has somehow become equivalent to hate.  The hate is just too heavy. While we were busy watching and fearing the terrorists from a land far away the true enemy crept in among us. This enemy whispers to us that we should fear what we don't understand, we should hate what is not like us, we should repay evil for evil. We have blamed the politicians, we have blamed the media, we have blamed each other.  We seek to point fingers at one another for surely we ourselves are not to blame for the state of our nation. We aren't just watching people physically die on the television screen, we are watching them die all around us. The deaths may not all be physical, but they are real all the same. We are witnessing the spiritual death of our nation, the emotional death of our families and friends, the profound loss of that which made us great. 

There is a very simple answer to why we are in this state. Mark 12:30-31 says, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these." We have forgotten our most important tasks. Love God. Love each other. That's it. That is all it takes. Were each of us to put down our pointing fingers, shift our focus from hate to love, we would see a DRASTIC change in our land. It isn't magic. It wouldn't make things perfect. We would still see the world through different eyes, but if we loved God and loved each other we would seek resolution not retaliation, understanding not condemnation, peace not war, joy and not sorrow. We would look for chances to help one another along and we would discover help for ourselves along the way. We would find that we can persevere through a great deal when we can depend on one another. We would not have to fear threats and attacks from afar because we would be a strong and mighty army. One nation, under God, INDIVISIBLE...

This is truth: we can not, we will not, survive if something does not change and that thing is US. I am calling on each of us to love. I am begging you to refrain from hate. I am not asking you to be blind--ignoring our problems is not the solution, but I am asking you to love each other as you seek resolution to the trials we face. 

Christians, RISE UP!! We are failing. We are losing. God is not failing us, we are failing him. We have go to step up and LOVE HIM AND LOVE OTHERS.

Non-Christians-- know there is hope and a God who loves you. I am SOOO sorry if sometimes the behavior of his children keeps you from seeing that he is a good father who loves you very much. We have done a terrible job of caring for you and sharing with you his love. I am so very sorry.

We have no time to waste. We can make a difference. We have very clear marching orders. 
Love, not hate
Hope, not fear
Resolution, not retaliation
It begins with me.
It begins with you.


Monday, July 4, 2016

The Destination



This week my son Spencer and five others join students from around Texas to travel to Munich with iGOglobal. He has been heavy on my heart and in my prayers to say the least. I was creating a collage of the kids as a reminder to pray for them. The quote on the collage has been turning over in my head all morning. "One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things." I have been praying for a year about his trip to a destination, but what I really pray for is a new way of seeing things. I pray he comes back with an entirely new view of his role in the world around him. I have also been thinking about our country though--it is the 4th of July after all. My prayer for Spencer is also my prayer for our country-- that we would have a new way of seeing things.

If you believe everything you read on social media and in the news then you would assume that we live in a country where political party lines, hate, and terror rule. While all of these things exist, we seem to have lost sight of the fact that daily--no, EVERY MOMENT, beautiful people do beautiful things in a beautiful land. Compared to the rest of the world the very least of us live better than the majority of the world around us. We experience freedoms that most of the world will never know. As a woman I rarely experience fear to walk down the street. I have the freedom to worship my God openly and publicly. I have the freedom to disagree with you respectfully. I can dream and live those dreams out loud. I have access to medical care, food, shelter and clothing. I travel freely state to state and enjoy the beauty of a blessed nation. Our problem is not the challenging issues we face as a country, our problem is that we have lost sight of the blessings we possess. Blessings that were purchased at a high price. Blessings that we have begun to take for granted. Until we develop a new way of seeing things then perhaps our destination truly is what our newsfeed suggests.

On this 4th of July I pray for my son as he travels to a new place. I pray that his experiences there will create a burden in his heart for the people of our world and that he will have a new recognition of the blessings of his home. I also pray for our country. I pray that on this Independence Day we will begin to have a new way of seeing things. I pray that we will post more things about the blessings of our country; that the ever growing chasm created by beliefs and differences of opinion will begin to be filled with the recognition of just how fortunate we are and how much we have in common. I pray that we would return to the beliefs that united us rather than looking for issues to argue over. I pray for us all to have a new way of seeing things.

Happy 4th of July! And be safe my sweet Spencer! Travel the world and remember your destination is not a place, but a new way of seeing things!



Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Safety of the Nest




This weekend I went out on my front porch to take down the wreath that has hung on my door throughout the fall and winter. As I reached to remove it from its resting place, I noticed something that seemed a little out of place. 





 Tucked neatly in the folds of the wreath, a bird had built a cozy little home. I was delighted to see the carefully placed grass, feathers, and twigs of a tiny little nest. I quickly grabbed a stool for a closer inspection. As I did I was tickled to discover yet another surprise. Nestled inside were two perfectly formed speckled eggs. 





A little bird picked the wreath as the perfect location to start a new family. (I suppose the decoration will stay for another season!) I was excited to think of the prospects of watching these tiny eggs become clumsy little birds. I can't wait to see them hatch and watch those big mouths open to receive food from their mama. I can't wait to watch as they stretch their wings and learn to fly.

This morning I went to peek in on my little family. Another surprise! Little mama has been busily adding to her brood! The two little eggs have been joined by another. 



I cannot wait to watch this little family grow! I snapped more pictures and smiled at my luck! Moments later I sat down to look at the images on my phone and realized I had a notification from my Timehop app (This fun little app brings up pictures and posts that you have shared on this day over the past years.) I was momentarily distracted and opened the app to see what images from my past might pop up today. Six years ago on this very day I posted this quote, "It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad." ~C.S. Lewis

I am always amazed at God's planning. I think he must be trying to get my attention!

I began thinking about that quote and the little eggs on my  porch. They are sweet little eggs. They seem perfect in every way, but God's plan is not that they stay little eggs. The babies inside will have their days of sitting peacefully in the nest protected from the world by a thin protective shell, but then the moment will come when they either break out and begin the next adventure or they stay inside and go bad. They were never intended to only be eggs. They were meant for so much more.

The same is true for us. Sometimes we want just the comfort of the nest. We don't want to get outside of our protective shell and be exposed to the threats of the world. Becoming a "bird" seems like really hard work and we'd rather just stay safe, but we can't learn to fly until we take a risk. We weren't meant to stay in the safety of our shell. We were meant to learn to fly, but worries and anxieties keep us from taking that next step. What if I fail? What if I get hurt? What if I look foolish? What if it isn't safe? God knew we would have those questions. Here is what he says, "Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?" Matthew 6:26

You and I can't be all we were intended to be in the nest. It may not seem safe to get out of  our shells. We may have fears and worries, but God is very clear. The one who provides for the birds will also provide for us.

"So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." Matthew 10:31

I don't know what lies ahead, but I am going to be watching! I don't want to be just an ordinary, decent egg. I want to fly! Come with me!!


P.S.
I can't let it go without saying that six years ago God planted this quote in my mind. Weeks ago he had that little mama bird start building a nest. A few days ago that little mama started laying eggs. Today a silly little app brought the quote full circle at just the right moment. All these things were perfectly aligned to teach me a lesson today. God is all around carefully orchestrating ways to communicate with us. All we have to do is see. Some say seeing is believing. I think what my sister posted yesterday on facebook is the real truth ---believing is seeing!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Snapshots



Don't get caught up in the early 90's hair-do, but this picture has such a great life lesson in it. 

What do you see when you look at this image? You probably notice the tears. You can't hear the sobs, but I promise you they were there. This photo was taken in a moment that knocked the breath out of me. I was overcome with emotion in a way I had never experienced before. My family stood nearby. They, too were caught off-guard by the unexpected emotional wave as it swept through the room.  While this snapshot reveals a highly emotional moment, it is not the complete picture. You see the camera is limited in that it can only capture what it is focused on. It is unable to display all of the other details that may be going on just outside the screenshot. Should the camera be pointed in a different direction or panned out a little, suddenly things become much clearer; there is more context to interpret. This image might lead one to believe that this moment in my life was destructive and a time I would not wish to relive. But let me show you more.







This day was the birthday of my first nephew and boy did he take my breath away! Though there were tears, they were tears that brought great joy!

In church a few weeks ago we were discussing how life is a series of snapshots and how sometimes our view is limited to only those things we are focused on. I couldn't help but think of this photograph and how it was such a great visual for that lesson. You see sometimes in life there are tearful moments. There are things we do not understand; pain that it seems cannot possibly be used for good. It is so easy to get caught up in just the details we can see, but God sees a much broader picture than the snapshot we hold. While our lens tends to zoom in on the close-up and personal tears, God's lens pans out and sees how those tears are part of a much larger picture. We tend to be focused on the immediate, God sees the eternal. We see the heartache, God sees new life.

You may be in a season of tears. Maybe your breath has been taken away. Be reminded that this is just part of your picture. It is a snapshot that is part of a much larger image, a still-shot taken out of context. Sometimes the tears are a part of new life! This is not the end of your story, it is a beginning!
Say cheese!


 1 Corinthians 13:12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Beautifully Broken



Recently a friend of mine posted a picture that has just fascinated me. It was a photo of Japanese pottery in a style called Kintsugi. Legend has it that in the 15th century a Japanese shogun broke his favorite bowl. Instead of discarding it, he had the bowl repaired. A Japanese craftsman created a solution of gold and filled in the cracks, transforming the brokenness into something beautiful. Rather than hiding the damage and trying to make it appear as if it had never happened, the craftsman masterfully transformed the broken vessel into a work of art. Transformed through suffering.



I LOVE the imagery of that story for I too am a broken vessel. So are you. My cracks have been caused by many things. The Nuisance (aka cancer) left me feeling quite broken at times. Even now when I am blessed by good health, the scars and shadows wake me up to remind me how easily life can be shattered. Not a day goes by that I am not confronted by that brokenness.

Some of my cracks are self-inflicted. They are a result of foolish choices and a strong streak of stubbornness. Silly girl. I have made some really stupid mistakes in my life. I am definitely a broken vessel, but like kintsugi pottery, a wonderful craftsman has filled the scars of my life with gold. Each mark on my body and on my soul is constantly being mended with the gold of healing, forgiveness, grace, and mercy. Some would have chosen to throw me away, but God sees an opportunity to turn my brokenness into a masterpiece.

 I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 4:7-9 which says, "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." That sounds very kintsugi to me. Life may leave us feeling very broken; we are, after all, merely jars of clay. While we may feel pressure, confusion, despair, and brokenness, God will not allow us to be tossed out as worthless and beyond repair. No, he lovingly picks up our shattered lives and fills each blemish with the gold of restoration. There is a trick though. We have to let go and let him.Have you ever tried to fix a broken base or figurine? I have, and boy did I make a mess of it. The smeared glue was uglier than the crack itself. I think I have done that in my life as well. I try to mend things on my own, but I just make things worse. In order for the Japanese potter to repair the Shogun's bowl, the Shogun had to let go. In order for God to repair our damaged lives we must do the same.

You are broken, too, aren't you? Your brokenness may be different. Perhaps your brokenness is a relationship, depression, a great loss, or a huge regret.  The truth is at the end of the day we are all a little bit cracked! I want to encourage you to change your view on your life. God wants to turn your brokenness into beauty. He wants to turn your scars and regrets into evidence of his power to transform. He wants to transform your suffering into a work of art.

I don't know about you, but if I have to be broken, I wish to be beautifully broken.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Lessons from Accidental Eavesdropping



Not too long ago I was on a plane ride home after a long trip. As the stewardess was making announcements and people were storing their luggage, I couldn't help but overhear the phone conversation taking place behind me as a man made a final call before take off. At first I thought he was talking to a child. So loving. So nurturing. He asked the person he was speaking to about his day, his nap, what he was looking at as they were speaking. They spoke of watching TV, of what might be for dinner, and what they would do when they saw one another again. I thought perhaps he was a grandfather speaking lovingly to his grandchild. His tone was so doting. I didn't mean to eavesdrop, but I was drawn in by the obvious love of the conversation. As the dialogue continued, the announcement came that we were pulling away from the gate. The man began to say his goodbyes and assured the person on the other end that he would call as soon as we landed. They said their I love yous and ended the call. I smiled to myself at the sweet exchange. As I tightened my seat belt and leaned back for the flight, I heard the man's traveling companion say, "So how was your dad?" I felt my eyes grow moist and a lump in my throat. The affectionate conversation I had just heard was not between a grandfather and grandchild, but between a man and his father. That somehow made it all the sweeter.

I began to think of my conversations with my father throughout my life. My daddy has always been my teacher (though I could be a stubborn student), my protector (though I usually thought I didn't need one), my fixer (after I had royally messed it up trying to fix it myself), and my rescuer (when my stubborn-I-can-do-it attitude has become the perfect storm and I am in a mess). Daddy has always known the value of letting me have my headstrong way and then helping me pick up the pieces when the inevitable consequences have taken place. I have always known my father's love for me.  In the past years as I fought the nuisance I watched him hurt because he wanted to badly to take it away from me. He would have gladly stood in my place if he could have (though if that were possible we would have had a fight because I would never have let him).

 I am one of the lucky ones. I am one of the children of the world who can honestly say that my earthly father is a reflection of my heavenly father. His life and my relationship with him has given me a glimpse of the love of my heavenly father. Just as my daddy is my teacher, protector, fixer and rescuer, so is my Father. My Father knows that sometimes the best ways for me to learn is to let me have my way and then when I am picking up the broken pieces he kneels down and lends a loving hand. Lesson learned. Just as my daddy would stand in my place if given the chance, My Father did stand in my place through Christ. Unfortunately I know that many do not see those same reflections in their earthly fathers, but it is what God desired for each of us.

I thought about conversations with my daddy and I thought about prayer. While my daddy is happy to receive my cries for help, he finds joy in the daily conversations of life. He likes to hear about my day, my projects, and stories about what I am up to. He likes to tell me about what HE is up to. He wants our relationship to be a two way street. And so does God my Father. Sometimes in life we get so busy and so caught up in ourselves that we forget to take time just to talk.  In our prayers we have requests and concerns, but we forget to just have daily conversations with God. As I thought about the conversation I had heard, I felt a little nudging in my soul that I needed to have more of those conversations with my daddy AND with my Father. I need more "Father, what are you up to today?" and "I just want you to know I love you". I want my conversations with my daddy and My Father to be as sweet, loving and doting as the conversation I accidentally eavesdropped. I want my daddy AND My Father to know how much I love them!

On that flight home, I whispered a prayer of thanks for the beautiful reminder of the sweetness of talking to The Father. I leaned my head back against the chair and began a conversation of my own.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

In the Words of Willie Nelson--"On the Road Again"

We have come so far in almost 3 years! Tomorrow, November 18, 2015, Rodney and I will leave for Houston for tests at MD Anderson. I was scrolling through my blog and was reminded of a BIG trip to Houston when we went for surgery. God is so amazing and has done SO much since May 2013. This week we will see the same doctors from the story below. Pray for us as we travel and pray for our doctors as they guide us. Pray for our boys as they are in the loving care of family!


You all have been, and continue to be, such a blessing to our family! Thank you for your prayers and encouragement! We expect miracles! LIVING AS IF!!



May 2013

This is a big week for the Jackson crew.  We have checked off our final round of Power Aide (hear the angels sing?!?) and now we move to the next phase of attack---surgery. Wow! By the time I am done I am going to have more scars on my body than a road map of Texas, but if that is what it takes to kick this nuisance, then so be it. I will be a personally monogrammed map of triumph!

Your prayers and encouragement have sustained us on this rocky road. It is an amazing thing to look back over the past 6 months of struggle with this and honestly be able to say that I have cried more tears of amazement than tears of sadness. You have loved us, fed us, covered for us, supported us, and prayed for us. If it isn't too much to ask, we'd love to solicit your prayers for the needs that lie ahead.

Wednesday morning I will leave for MD Anderson. Rodney is giving his Chemistry End-Of-Course exam (big state test) and doesn't want run out on his kids who have worked so hard, so he will fly in later that day to catch up with me. I will have labs and CT scans done on Wednesday to see where we are standing with things.  Please pray that my blood counts are all good and that the CT scans show that the little boogers (tumors) got blown to bits by my Power Aide and are no longer existent! Pray that everything is in order so that surgery can be performed.

Thursday morning I will meet with my MD Anderson oncologist. His name is Dr. Blumenschein. He will review the labs and scan with us and give any input on treatment that he sees necessary. We saw Dr. Blumenschein on our initial visit, but he has been out on leave for our last two. That means he will have a little catching up to do on my progress.  Pray that he gains a thorough understanding of where we are in my recovery. Pray he has wisdom in his decision making regarding my case. Pray that God blesses him for his willingness to be a healer.

Friday we will meet with the surgeon, Dr. Vaporciyan. I LOVE THIS MAN! Each time we have met with him he has given us valuable information about our situation. If you remember my earlier blog, In the Details, I talked about the miracle we had our first time at MD Anderson when we realized that Dr. Vaporciyan, whom we were squeezed in with at the last moment as an afterthought, trained the surgeon who did my initial surgery in Lubbock. He is a miracle and we are glad for him! He will make final surgery plans with us and answer any remaining questions. Pray that he is able to remove any remaining cells of the nuisance--each little one. Pray that the margins of the tumors are clear and that the pathology is good so it never regroups and attacks. Pray for Dr. Vaporciyan's hands, his eyes, his mind and his judgement as he performs surgery on me. Pray that God uses him to perform a miracle!

After we meet with Dr. Vaporciyan, I will meet with the anesthesiologist. I do not know who that will be yet, but he has a very important job! The greatest obstacle I faced with the last surgery was nausea from the anesthesia. It lasted for days. Pray that they will find the perfect balance of medication to control the pain and avoid the nausea.

Then the waiting begins. Rodney and I will stay in Houston over the weekend. My mom, dad, and two sisters will join us on Monday. Then Tuesday is the big day. I will have surgery on the 14th. The surgery will involve an incision between my ribs on my back (a few will be broken to get in there). It is a pretty tough little surgery. The goal of the surgery is to remove any remainders of tumors. There are two that have been seen on scans that have already shown improvement, but during my first surgery more were felt on my diaghram. These have not shown up on any scans so we don't know exactly what we're dealing with there. Hopefully, they are no longer there or by some strange chance, were never tumors, but some kind of scarring or other medical mystery! One of the greatest risks is to my lungs. Since they have already been beaten up a little by the first surgery, there is a chance they will have small punctures when they begin to manipulate them. This is one of the greatest risks. Please pray that my lungs hold strong. Pray for success in the surgery- clean margins and easy removal. Pray that my recovery is smooth and that we are able to get home without any bad side effects.

That brings me to the biggest prayer of all. Our total time away from home is probably going to be around 15-16 days. That is a long time to be away from my babies. Pray for our family as we are apart. Pray that the days goes swiftly and that all our needs are met while we are apart. Pray that my boys are confident and courageous (and us too!) Please pray for my family members as they take care of my kids and for their teachers as they take care of them at school. And if you see them, give them a big hug!!!!!

Finally, please pray for the next phases.  After surgery, my medical team will have to make some decisions about what is next. It could involve more Power Aide, radiation, or by the grace of God a miracle. Radiation would involve 4-6 weeks in Houston (PLEASE NO!!!!!!!!). Power Aide would involve more of what we've endured. Neither sound very fun. PRAY FOR A MIRACLE! Pray that we don't require any more treatment to have this thing totally beat. But most of all, pray for God's will. He knows what is best for me. That is what I want.

Thank you again for loving us. Thank you for sharing these requests with your prayer groups. Thank you for being a part of our healing team and our lives! Now, let's get ready for the miracles!!!!!!!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Prayer for the Persecutioner

This post is very different from anything I have shared before, but I cannot get it out of my mind. I actually wrote it months ago and hesitated to post it, but each new event brings it back to my mind. I know that we all have a variety of opinions on war and politics, my intent is not to fuel a feud, but to share a different perspective. You do not have to agree with me. I do not have to agree with you. We each answer only to one. This is what that one has been laying on my heart. 
..."But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you.





Persecuted. Women. Men. Children. Persecuted.
My mind has struggled to make sense of it. I have felt anger. I have felt despair. I have felt fear. I have wondered how to pray. I have seen responses calling for hell fire and damnation, and sometimes that is how God disciplines, but my mind could not find rest with that prayer. I keep thinking of a particular persecutioner. Worse than the rest, he feels totally justified in his killing. He prides himself on his crimes and feels no repentance for his violence. He marches across the country slaying those who do not believe like him, leading others in the crusade. He breeds fear. He breeds anger. He breeds despair. And then one day, this murderer of believers, is traveling on his mission of destruction. Like a predator he stalks his prey when suddenly he is blinded by a light. Lifting his hands to shield his eyes he hears a voice, and in a moment his life is changed, and so are ours. Not hell fire, not damnation, but a question. "Why are you persecuting me?" He had an encounter with Jesus Christ. On that day it was the persecutor that died--- to a life of murder. He began a new life as a passionate servant of a God he could not deny.

That man, Saul of Tarsus,  went on to write two-thirds of the New Testament. He was himself persecuted, imprisoned, beaten, abandoned, for his dedication to a Savior he had once denied. His messages to the churches of his day continue to speak to churches of ours. I am left wondering if in our fear, despair, and anger we are praying the wrong prayers. Instead of justice and vindication, what if we pray that today's persecutioners meet a Savior who will change their hearts, a God who will show them love. What if we pray that they are blinded by a truth that is too brilliant to be denied? What if the tide of hate is changed because we pray for the persecutor's salvation rather than their destruction? What if?

Things can change. People can change. Even those most committed to a mission can be changed by an encounter with a loving God.
Pray for the persecuted, oh please pray for them and their protection, and then pray for the persecutioner as well. It may very well be the greatest of all weapons in this war!

ACTS 9:9-22
9 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.


“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”


7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.


10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”


“Yes, Lord,” he answered.


11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”


13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”


15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”


17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.


Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” 22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Off to Houston Again (God Has A Plan For That!)

This week has been one of ups and downs. My kids have had some victories in their lives and some sadness. I celebrated the life of a great man with his family and friends as we sadly said our final earthly goodbyes. I watched with sadness as our world was once again attacked by terrorists and I had to click off the news page as I read of mothers who have killed their children. Our world can be a really broken place. Meanwhile, life moves on and as mine does I face another trip to Houston for tests and doctor visits at MD Anderson. Normally as I gear up for that trip the verse, "They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD." Psalm 112:7 is running through my mind, but this week there is another I have been reflecting on. I  found myself saying it as I talked to our youth group on Sunday. I referenced it as I talk to my son about a loss he experienced that brought heartache. This morning it popped up on my phone as the verse of the day. I have quoted it to myself for assurance all week. "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."


As I read my Twitter feed this morning I saw a world asking how a good God can allow bad to happen. If He is so loving, why did people die? If He is so powerful, why do families fall apart? If He is so great, why do people get sick?  

"You know God, they actually have some pretty good questions there. If the plans you have for us are good, why does the world seem so bad?"

And then the verse ran through my head again, but this time it was if he placed the emphasis on the words a little differently. "For I know the plans I have for you are good." GOD'S plans for our lives are good, but there are other forces in the world. You see, free choice in the world led to sin. Sin in the world led to death, darkness, sickness. Yes, He could have kept that from happening, but to do so would have meant creating man to have no choice. He could have kept us from choosing sin and we'd all be living happily ever after in the Garden of Eden, but to do so would have required that we also didn't get to choose whether we loved him or not. He wanted us to choose Him, and because of that free choice bad things began. That doesn't change the fact that the plans HE has for us are good. God didn't sit down with a calendar and say that in November of 2012 Anna Jackson should be given cancer, but when that plot twist entered into my life he DID sit down and say, "Satan is planning an attack on my beloved, Anna. In that evil plan Anna will face cancer so MY plan is that in it she will find amazing joy. While Satan is trying to bring harm, I will show her peace. When Satan attacks with pain and nausea, when he takes her hair, her health, her energy, when he scares her children and husband and saddens her parents and sisters, I will show them things about me they never could have imagined. During the attack Satan thinks he has so wisely planned, they will be blessed by friends, family and strangers and they will see love. When they fear for the future, I will comfort them with provision. When the healing comes, but the tests continue, I will send remembrances of our journey together and remind them that my plan for them is good. In the end their memories of my presence will overshadow their memories of the pain. Through this trial, MY plan is to show them I am God. I am good."

Our world is broken. Man is mean. Satan is real. Pain exists. Bad things happen that should never, ever happen. But GOD, is good and his plan is to take the bad and use it to prosper us and not to harm us. Even if Satan takes our very lives, God has a plan for that.

This week people in Paris will have chances to see God in ways they couldn't have before. My prayer is that it brings revival and renewal to their hearts. This week my friends will begin learning to live without a man they dearly loved. I pray that as they do God brings comfort they could never have dreamed of. This week my son will begin to walk a different path than what he had planned. I pray that God will use it to show him opportunities he would have missed otherwise. This week I will travel to Houston for more tests. I pray that God will once again take my breath away with his love for me. The world is bad, but God has a plan for that!