Help for the Helpless

“Please don’t kill it!” she sobbed. “It’s unfair.” … “Fern,” he said gently, “you will have to learn to control yourself.”

“Control myself?” yelled Fern. “This is a matter of life and death, and you talk about controlling myself.”

Tears ran down her cheeks and she took hold of the ax and tried to pull it out of her father’s hand. …

“But it’s unfair,” cried Fern. “The pig couldn’t help being born small, could it? If I had been very small at birth, would you have killed me?” … “This is the most terrible case of injustice I ever heard of.”

And so begins one of the most beloved children’s stories, Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White.

I’ve felt like Fern this week. Another state, Illinois, is celebrating the fact that children are disposable. They live at the whim of their mother and her doctor. They aren’t considered precious. All of their protections have been removed up until the day of delivery. The picture of the governor gleefully signing it into law made me sick to my stomach. (See link to the article below.)

This is a very personal issue to me. All three of our children are adopted. I have two nephews that are also adopted. Four of those 5 children have 10 children between them. That is fifteen people who might be missing from my family if laws like this were enacted thirty years ago. I have a hard time with the “celebrations” going on.

A few months ago New York signed into law a similar bill and they lit up the capital to celebrate.

I have heard all the arguments. I have cried with and looked into the eyes of women who have had abortions and are now suffering greatly from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). I can’t fathom what the agenda of the legislators is, but it isn’t the protection and care of women.

Killing babies isn’t a new idea. Pharaoh ordered all the male Israelite babies to be thrown into the Nile. Plain and simple, he was racist. He didn’t like that the Israelites were prospering. He thought there were too many of them in the land.

Herod was another tyrant who had all the boys two and under killed in Bethlehem because he was afraid of a usurper.

Throughout history civilizations have sacrificed their children to their gods in an attempt to earn favor.

The God of the Bible has a very different view of children. Israel was to treat their children differently than the pagan nations around them.

“You shall not behave thus toward the LORD your God, for every abominable act which the LORD hates they have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.” Deuteronomy 12:31 (NASB)

I believe each life has purpose and meaning. We are each made in the image of God. There is no less or more important. When we stop protecting the most vulnerable among us, our society has lost its foundation.

To quote Fern…”This is the most terrible case of injustice I ever heard of.”

I pray our country changes direction.

For further study:  Jeremiah 1:5; Mark 10:14-15; Romans 5:6

 

https://world.wng.org/content/illinois_governor_signs_extreme_abortion_law?fbclid=IwAR2PVOKpY5-4_-bvQlIQhQr0F-29TPtzzAnMbCNke3VwL3gu03oX-zka4tA#.XQFsBfv6TMM.facebook

Praying with Conviction

I was reminded recently of my cousin who attended the local university where I grew up. He lived in an all men’s dorm at the time. There was one fellow who really wanted to be married.  He started praying for a wife and as time passed felt impressed that a certain young woman was the one for him. He approached her and told her what he felt God had told him. Other men heard his story and followed suit. Each prayed a respectable amount of time and then approached the woman they felt certain God had given them. As word got around campus of what was happening the women started responding with…”Well, God hasn’t told me and until He does I have no interest in dating, let alone marrying, you.”

Praying is always a good idea. We need to pray more, but we shouldn’t use it as a tool to manipulate others who might not agree with us. Many people pray. Many people come up with different conclusions. Who is to be believed as having the word from God? I find that my prayers are colored by my desires. I am still human and my heart is deceitful. I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t have this heart issue. I can respect someone, but that doesn’t mean I agree with everything they come up with when they are in prayer.

I am reluctant to proclaim…”I have prayed about it and this is what God wants!” Often the reality is “…I have prayed about it and this is what I want.”

So how do we pray? How do we know when the conclusions we come up with are the right ones?

A good place to start is to be honest with God. Lay out your desires and your wants, but also lay out your desire to follow His lead. To be ready to take yes or no as the answer. To be uncertain enough in our own ability to know the truth that we won’t be disappointed when God takes us down another path. Maybe one that is unexpected.

I am the most at peace in prayer when I leave the end result up to God. To explore possibilities on my knees is better than pushing my agenda.

This makes me think of a verse in Psalms.

“He gave them their request, But sent leanness into their soul.” Psalm 106:15

Am I so determined to get my way that God gives me my request?

God’s ways are not my ways. I long to be so close to Him that there is no doubt about each step I take, but until I step into glory that will not be the case. So in the mean time I pray. I pray for wisdom. I pray for grace as other brothers and sisters come up with different conclusions. I pray that God is at work in each of us to make us more like Him. And in the end that might be more of the point than all the grand plans we are determined to set in motion.

 

You Should Tell It!

Someone once told Amy Carmichael, “You should tell it!” They were referring to the growing number of children she was able to save from the temple service in India. Time and again they prayed, acted and saw God do amazing things.

As I think back on this year there are things I need to tell. When God works in those we love we need to tell it. And so I begin.

I have a nephew who was traveling in a foreign country with a friend. They were taking a tour on motorcycles. As his friend came around the corner on a mountain road she encountered someone in her lane going the wrong way. She laid her bike down to avoid hitting them and slid under the guard rail that keeps people from falling down the mountain. Miraculously, she barely fit under the railing and just as miraculously she didn’t go flying off the mountain to certain death. They had some tense days as they tried finding competent medical care for her broken bones, but eventually they made it home to America where surgery was done. She is expected to make a full recovery. The only explanation was that God protected her. God spared her for a reason.

I have another nephew who was on his way to work in the wee hours of the morning. Going 70 mph or better on the interstate he came up to an unmoving deer in his headlights. He swerved. His car spun, hit the guard rail on one side, spun again, and hit the other side of the road. When he came to a stop he was facing the right way with no other cars in sight. The only explanation was that God protected him. God spared him for a reason.

I have an uncle who is 89 who lives in a small town in North Dakota. Just before Christmas he was changing the tire on his truck. While putting his jack away in the back he fell while getting out of the truck bed hitting his head on the trailer hitch. They rushed him to the hospital, not knowing if he would make the trip. He suffered two brain bleeds. There was surgery to repair what they could and they patched him together with 45 staples. We all prayed as his brain swelled and it looked hopeless. After spending some weeks in the hospital he recently came home and is gradually improving. The only explanation is that God protected him.  God spared him for a reason.

In October of this year a girl named Jamie was kidnapped from her home after both of her parents were shot and killed. Many people around our state, Wisconsin, prayed. Most of us had given up hope. Then miracle of miracles she escaped and made her way down the country road to someone who could help her. She had been missing for almost 3 months. We continue to pray for the difficulties she has ahead of her, but are praising God that he delivered her from her captivity. God spared her for a reason.

While talking to a friend about the miracle of it all, I mentioned that her kidnapper had put her in a trunk and she could hear the police sirens as he drove her away from her family’s home.

My friend quietly said, “I was in a trunk”. All I could say was “I’m sorry”. I remembered her story includes being kidnapped when she was a teenager and held by an evil man. Miracle of miracles she survived while others didn’t.  I thank God that she survived and that I can call her my friend. God spared her for a reason.

There are other stories.

Today is a good day to remember what God has done and thank him for each breath.

Feel free to leave a comment below. What has God done in your life this past year? You should tell it!

 “… And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.” Luke 8:39 (NASB)

Faith Crisis

Lake_2952When I was little our family would pile into the car every summer, drive to Minnesota and spend a week at the lake. This was before the day of the internet. We didn’t make reservations, we just drove until we found something that looked interesting.

We never doubted that we would spend a week at the lake. The minute my sisters and I got into the car with our suitcases we were already there.

It was as good as done. We weren’t sure about the journey, but the destination was guaranteed.

We understood that we might have to stop two or three times before we had success, but we had faith in our Dad’s ability to find what he had promised.

After driving two or three hours our Dad would stop at a small resort and walk to the office while the rest of us held our breath.

Sometimes the resort was full.

Sometimes it was too much money.

Sometimes our Dad didn’t care for the look of the place once he was closer.

We could tell by how he was walking whether he had success or not. If his head was down and he was walking with a determined gait we knew it was a no. If he was grinning, almost running back to the car we knew he had found the spot.

A couple weeks ago I was reading in Hebrews 11, the faith chapter. I turned there specifically because I was struggling. Struggling with weariness, questions, confusion; struggling to believe God had a good plan that He was working out; struggling ____________( You can fill in your own blank).

I know God is faithful, but I needed to be reminded just how faithful.

The first verse got me headed in the right direction.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1 NASB)

William MacDonald has this to say about that verse.

“…it is a definition of what faith does for us. It makes things hoped for as real as if we already had them, and it provides unshakable evidence that the unseen, spiritual blessings of Christianity are absolutely certain and real…Faith is confidence in the trustworthiness of God. It is the conviction that what God says is true and that what He promises will come to pass.”

I would encourage you to read the rest of Hebrews 11. Think long and hard about the men and women listed there. Their faith was not in their ability to overcome obstacles, but in God’s ability to walk them through extreme difficulties. Sometimes the results were glorious, other times the immediate results were trouble and even death. Both are examples of faith in a good God.

As a child I had utter faith in my Dad. I never doubted that he would bring about what he promised.

As a child of God I need to have utter faith in the one who made me for His good purpose. He has been faithful in the past. He will be faithful in the future. Although the journey isn’t always easy, I can trust that my destination is sure.

For further study:

“While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen, for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” II Corinthians 4:18 (NASB)

“…it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast…” Hebrews 6:18-19 (NASB)

“In this confidence let us hold on to the hope that we profess without the slightest hesitation – for he is utterly dependable.” Hebrews 10:23 (Phillips)

“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance, and my God.” Psalm 41:11 (NASB)

Grace in the midst of Storms

Wisconsin has had some rough weather in recent weeks. Our dry summer caused many of us to pray for rain. The rain came and then the storms.

We were just sitting down to eat supper when we heard there was a tornado warning. Since it didn’t look that bad we quickly ate. Soon our lights started flickering and went out. When we noticed the rain going sideways outside our window we hurried to the basement.  About 30 minutes later we came up to peek outside. We noticed one tree down and then another.

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We were feeling bad until we started seeing other people’s damage.

My sister and her husband lost the roof to their barn and a huge maple in the front yard. My brother-in-law spent the hours after the storm trying to remove the branches that were covering the road. The sheriff saw and stopped to help.

 

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Another friend had a big tree come down next to their house, knocking the glass out of one of their windows, while another tree took out part of their shed.

One of our neighbors down the road lost 18 big trees.

In our little town there were big trees across the road in several places. Many of the trees took out power lines. We were without electricity for two days. (Small towns aren’t a priority.)

Another friend who lives 30 miles away had the electrical box ripped out of their house while they huddled in their basement. Every tree in their yard was damaged or knocked over. They were without electricity for almost a week.

What surprised me through all of this was how much interaction was going on. We were all talking to our neighbors. We were going out of our way to check on each other. Those with chain saws were walking down the street to see how they could help. Those with big machinery were lifting heavy trees out of the way. Local churches were providing water and hot meals.

We saw grace played out. The first grace was that in all the destruction and close calls, no one was hurt. Some garages, barns and trees were lost, but no loss of life. The second grace was seeing people in action helping one another. We are usually too busy to stop and chat. The storm gave us an opportunity to check in with each other. We tended to the important things and put our regular routines on hold. So while I don’t pray for storms to come, I pray that I can learn from them.

Learn to see my neighbors…to remember to check on my friends…to be thankful for the calm…to see God’s grace in the midst of it all.

 

Don’t Be Unreasonable!

We dread dealing with the unreasonable person, yet more and more we are a people who demand our rights, voice our opinion and complain when things don’t go our way.

Our hearts ache so much from our own issues that sometimes we take it out on the next unfortunate soul who comes across our path.

We are masters at blaming those in leadership, those who sit across the aisle, those with a different view or conviction than ours. We blame anyone but ourselves. “Freedom of speech!” we proclaim loudly, but only wish it for those who agree with our way of thinking.

Yet, as Christians we are called to be reasonable. (Not doormats, but reasonable.)

Philippians 4:5 says, “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.” That verse implies they had something to be unreasonable about. We tend to excuse unreasonableness when we have a “good reason”. The trouble is we always have a good reason, but Paul doesn’t include a qualifier. Not just our friends and those we love. “Everyone”, even those we disagree with.

This verse is sandwiched between; “rejoice in the Lord always” and “do not be anxious about anything.” (vs. 4 & 6) The words always and anything don’t allow for exceptions either. How is this kind of life even possible?

If God is our life, like we claim, storms won’t shift our eyes off of Him. We rejoice that He is with us in the storm. We rejoice that this life isn’t all there is. We rejoice that this “momentary light affliction” (2 Corinthians 4:17) is just that; momentary in the time table of eternity.

We won’t be anxious knowing that our God sees, hears and knows our difficulty. That to worry about what might happen shows a lack of faith in the one we have put our trust in. To know that whatever happens, good or bad, He is there with us. We will brave the storm together. We will learn more of His faithfulness through it.

And so as His redeemed children we rejoice, we put anxiety aside, we learn to be reasonable. In our own strength impossible. But our God makes all the difference. If He can raise Christ from the dead he can transform us as well.

 

 

Forgotten Grace

The grace of God is all around us. We have grown blind to it. We take it for granted or forget completely what God has done for us. Recently, while at a family gathering, God reminded me of His grace.

My cousin, Dennis, told me of a time when we were children. One summer his family came for a week-long visit. His dad planned to help my dad build a basement so he could expand our four room house.

Someone drove the older children in to town to swim. Dennis, being the only boy, went to the boys’ changing room alone while my sisters and his sisters went through the girl’s side. He changed quickly, raced out the door and jumped straight into the pool. Too late he realized it was over his head. He hadn’t learn to swim yet and he sank down below the surface of the water. No one saw him.

While struggling he saw the ladder that went below the water line. He grabbed it, worked his way up and dragged himself out of the pool. It was amazing he didn’t drown. He went back to the changing room, having had enough of “swimming”.

No one saw, no one helped. But I believe God was watching that day. God saw a little boy full of life jump into danger. God helped him make it over to the ladder and get out. He showed him grace.

My sister, Nancy, told us of a time she was with our Dad while he fished. There were long reeds near the shore of the lake that disguised where the water began. At one point my Dad saw that Nancy was missing. He happened to look down to see her hair floating on the water in the midst of the reeds. He grabbed her hair and pulled her out. God was watching that day too. He saw a little girl wander into water that was over her head. God caused my Dad to look around for her before it was too late. He showed her grace.

My cousin realized too late the danger he was in, but his eyes saw the ladder and he had faith enough to reach out and grab the only thing that could save him.

My sister realized too late that under the grass was water, not solid ground. She had sense enough to not fight against the strong arm of my Dad who pulled her to safety.

But there is a greater danger than drowning and physical death. We are all weighed down by the sin that will drown us. God sees and God has provided a way out of certain eternal death.

John 3:16 reminds us… “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

There is nothing we can do to save ourselves, but grace is freely offered.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;” Ephesians 2:8

Physical life, though precious, is but a drop in the bucket compared to eternity. God is extending grace to each of us. Don’t fight against His good hand. Don’t close your eyes to His offer of salvation. His Son has died so we could have life.  Just as it would have been certain death for my cousin to turn away from the ladder, it means certain death for us to turn away from Christ, our only hope.

How will you respond? Will you ignore the ladder? Will you fight against the strong arm?

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.” Jeremiah 31:3