Thursday, June 15, 2017

Death Is A Miracle

Sometimes life royally sucks.  Today I had to tell my kids that one of their teachers passed away.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after my mom was and they both ended treatments right around the same time.  I spent quite a bit of time talking with this teacher about her cancer journey because it paralleled my mom's journey so much.  She was so hopeful and cheerful and kept on teaching all through chemo taking only one day a week off for chemo treatments--really, she was a saint in my mind for doing that.  She finished her last round of chemo right before Christmas break and came back to school full time in January.  Three months later she left school in the middle of the day after getting sick and she was never able to come back.

I just helped my kids through their sadness over their grandpa dying last week.  That was much easier for them because it made sense.  He was 96 and steadily declining.  He was ready and praying for heaven.  

This time it doesn't make sense.  Their teacher was young. She was full of life.  She did a cartwheel in the middle of class one day.  She was fun and wonderful and an excellent teacher.  She even managed to teach my son how to write papers and spell!  

I found myself getting angry.  All those kids in the school had been praying for her all school year.  They expected her to get better and to come back in the fall ready to teacher again.  Their faith was strong that she would be healed.  And then she wasn't.  Why didn't God answer all those prayers?

Where was her miracle???

And I felt like God said to me that Death is a miracle.  We pray for miracles all the time.  For people to be healed, relationships restored, money to be provided, etc.  But all of these things are temporal miracles.  Here today, gone tomorrow.  But in death, a Christian is brought to new life with Christ in heaven.  Bodies are restored to perfection.  The broken relationship between God and man is fully restored.  Temporal life is transformed into eternal life with God forever.  

No, this wasn't the miracle that we had all been praying for because we wanted her to stay here with us.  But God did answer our prayers.  He did miraculously restore her body to complete health.  He did make her hair grow back into its spunky blond waves.  He replaced her off-key singing voice with an angelically beautiful one (this was Lizzy's assessment).  She is no longer in pain.  No longer suffering.  No longer tired and broken and sick.  She is at the feet of Jesus singing, doing cartwheels and miraculously healed.

It still hurts the living.  Hearts are a bit broken right now in my house.  But we can rest assured that God is at work even in the midst of our grief and sorrow.  There is life after death.  And death in Christ is a miracle.

Now we do not want you to be uniformed, believers, about those who are asleep [in death], so that you will not grieve [for them] as the others do who have no hope [beyond this present life].  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again [as in fact He did], even so God [in this same way--by raising them from the dead] will bring with Him those [believers] who have fallen asleep in Jesus.  
~1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

Monday, June 5, 2017

You Will Receive Power--Come Holy Spirit

Pentecost Sunday. The day that we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the early followers of Jesus. This is what the liturgical Church celebrated this past Sunday. And it got me thinking about my own experience with the Holy Spirit.

I was 8 years old and went to a week long summer camp hosted by the prayer group I am a member of.  This is no ordinary summer camp.  While the kids do all the normal "camp stuff," the main purpose of the camp is to help the kids grow in their relationship with the Lord.  On Wednesday night every year, there is a prayer meeting where the kids are prayed over for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit or for gifts of the Holy Spirit.  So, my first experience with the Holy Spirit was on a Wednesday night when I was 8.  I was prayed over for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and I remember being so overwhelmed by the Lord that I cried and laughed at the same time.  

Since that day almost 30 years ago, I have never regretted that decision I made as a child.  Yes, every believer has the Holy Spirit at work in them already and that is a good thing.  But what I asked for was to experience Him in new and powerful ways.  To more fully experience the life, the work, the fruit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  The charismatic experience of being baptized in the Holy Spirit is one of coming into a personal relationship with the Holy Spirit, to become open to the gifts of the Holy Spirit operating in one's life, and to begin worshiping the Lord in a particularly charismatic way: loud praise and worship with room given to exercise the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  

Of course all of this didn't happen in one fell swoop when I was 8.  As a child, I had only a child's understanding of what any of this meant.  I knew that I wanted God to be more fully at work in my life and that being baptized in the Holy Spirit would help me get there.  

It was while I was in college that I made an adult decision to live my life fully for the Lord.  My first two years of college, I talked the talk, but I didn't always walk the walk.  The Holy Spirit would knock on my heart and convict me, and I would tell the Holy Spirit to leave me alone.  But the Holy Spirit just kept coming back over and over until finally I listened and set my heart back on the right path.

It hasn't been until the past 5 years or so that I have really started to embrace the gifts that the Holy Spirit has given me.  I used to think that when I tried praying in tongues that I was just making the words up.  But the Lord has taught me that praying in tongues is a powerful prayer.  When I pray for people to be healed, when I pray for people to be freed from the ever-harassing devil, when I don't know what to pray, I pray in tongues.

I practice discernment when I pray for people.  Sometimes they only tell you a little bit of what's going on, but the Holy Spirit puts thoughts in your mind of what might also be going on, and when I share that with the person, it is spot on.  I use wisdom in parenting.  When one of my kids comes to me with a problem or a question, or if I have a discipline issue that I don't know what to do about, I pray for wisdom and wait for the Holy Spirit to lead me so that I can address the situation to His glory.

I even have a gift that I have asked for and am still working on--the gift of healing.  This is one of those gifts where the more you use it, the more it grows.  But you really do have to use it for it to work.  And I am not usually quick to offer to pray for people I don't know well.  Hence why it is a gift in progress.

As an adult, having grown up in an environment where people pray and worship with gusto, where they raise their hands and prophesy, where they ask for and receive spiritual gifts to be used to build up others, where they pray over people for healing and they receive healing?  It is like getting a small glimpse of heaven on earth.

Pentecost serves as a reminder to all believers that God is a Trinity.  He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  May all believers pray for a further outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  And Jesus promised that He would send His Spirit to be our Helper and Guide and source of Power.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you: and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.  Acts 1:8

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Cavalry Arrives (The Day We Came Close To Losing Our House--Part 2)

You know how when you are watching an epic battle scene where the good guys are completely outnumbered and it looks like they are about to lose and die?  That is how it felt when I looked at my yard after the tree fell down.  Complete regret at having hired these people and wondering if all was lost on getting a real backyard.

We sat down to dinner that night and no tree crew.  I cleaned up the kitchen, still no tree crew.  Just before 7:00pm, I see a bucket truck drive past my house.  I see a truck pulling a wood chipper.  I see a third truck.  And I am excited!  The cavalry had arrived!

So fun to watch that even Kitty got in on the action

Five guys hop out of their respective vehicles, the new Boss Man talks to me for a few minutes about what needs to get done, I ask him who is paying for this (I just want to be clear that it is not me), and he laughs and says, "I am going to charge the other guy whatever I want."  He turns to his crew and says, "Let's go, boys."

It was amazing.  Watching them haul back the wood chipper, power up their chainsaws, and the Boss Man drive around the side of the house on "The Claw."  I felt like I was watching The Lord of the Rings when the reinforcements arrived and turned the whole tide of the battle.

The Claw--I'm sure it has a real name, but I like mine better

The guys cut down the rest of the trees, turned all the branches into wood chips, and essentially clear cut our entire property leaving a big, open, usable space.  It was pretty impressive to watch.

A panoramic view of our now cleared out backyard

Joy checking out The Claw in our newly cleared backyard

The Dead-To-Me landscaping company came back to finish the job I'd hired them to do.  Except they sent all new guys because I think the original guys may have been afraid of me.  Oops.  They rototilled up the pool area, raked out all the weeds, hauled in dirt, seeded it and covered it with straw.  Now we are waiting for the tree people to come back and grind the stumps (gotta have MISS DIG come out first of course), then we will clear out the rest of the backyard and seed it so we will have one big yard for years to come.  My once ugly, overgrown backyard is going to be beautiful.