On Miracles and Facing The Unknown . . . .

Do you believe in miracles?  I certainly do.  One of the primary reasons I love my job, is because of the joy and privilege it is to witness God working miracles in the hearts and lives of those I am privileged to serve.  When facing a challenging situation, I encourage many a Client with this reminder: “We serve a God of miracles.  He parted the Red Sea for the Israelites and changed your heart and mine–so keep going–He is worthy of our trust!”  

The Bible talks about miracles and encourages us
to remember them as we face the unknown.

In fact, remembrance is so important in the Scriptures, that I draw a little cloud around words or phrases such as, “remember” or “do not forget”, so the reminder stands out on the page.  Psalm 105:3b-5 says this about miracles and their importance:

Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Look to the Lord and His strength;
seek His face always.
Remember the wonders He has done,
His miracles, and the judgments He pronounced . . . .”

Amy and her much-loved doll, Ka'wen.

Amy and her much-loved doll, Ka’wen.

The following is a fun little miracle that, had I not witnessed it myself, I would never have believed it.  It involved our middle child, Amy, when she was about 3 years old.  At the time my nicknames for Amy were, “Sweet Pea” (when things were good) or “Stink Weed” when she was being obstinate.  All that to say–she was quirky.  (One year later, when we moved to England, we were grateful to be able to assure Amy that there were no volcanos there.  For whatever reason, Amy was intensely afraid of them, so it would have been quite a fight getting her to board the airplane!}

I was busy working on a project in my sewing room when Amy slipped through the doorway and stood next to me.  When I glanced at her, she looked down at the floor and mumbled, “I put ‘um up my . . . .”  I put my finger gently under her chin so she would look at me, and asked her to repeat what she had said.  Looking sober and slightly embarrassed, she still tried to avoid my eyes as she said, “I put gum up my nose.”  

Stunned yet not wanting to upset her, I immediately forgot my project to give her my full attention.  I could see the gum lodged in her nostril but could not quite reach it.  Trying to stay calm, I instructed Amy to: (1) open her mouth to take a deep breath of air in, and then (2) told her to close her mouth as she blew the air (and hopefully the gum) out her nose.

Of course, that is not at all what happened.  Amy took a huge breath in through her nose and sucked the gum far up into her sinus cavity!  I called the Advice Nurse and was instructed to immediately bring her in to remove the gum.

As we drove to the clinic I asked, “Amy, why on earth did you stick gum up your nose?”

I nearly drove off the road when she soberly replied, “I didn’t.  I was looking at it very carefully on the floor, when it turned into a worm and crawled up my nose.”

 So far this is a cute story, right?  Well, that is not my reason for sharing it.  This next part is what is what has remained a miracle in my memory more than three decades later:

When we arrived at the clinic that late afternoon, Amy clung to me slightly but otherwise appeared fascinated by everything that was happening around us.  We were put in a side room to wait for the doctor.  When he came in, I explained why we were there as Amy soberly looked down at her toes.  When he put her on the patient’s table to locate the, “worm”, the doctor saw that it was lodged too far up to remove without special instruments.  Concerned (I’m sure) about the response of his young patient to what needed to be done, he gathered his instruments (a very long thin set of tweezers and a special light he wore on his head so he could differentiate between the gum and the tissue surrounding it) and four technicians to hold Amy down in case she turned into a wildcat.  (Which I knew was entirely possible.)

As the four technicians held Amy’s legs, shoulders and hands, she became transfixed on the doctor and the light on his head.  Her body did not tense, in fact, she appeared quite relaxed as the doctor positioned the long tweezers above her.  As I watched the tweezers enter her nostril, Amy appeared to be fascinated by what the doctor was doing and NEVER FLINCHED–TRULY!

After the doctor had removed the gum turned off his light, he turned to me looking totally astonished as he said, “I have never had a child stay still like that for such a procedure–NEVER!”  The technicians appeared equally impressed as they pulled out a bunch of stickers to commend Amy’s bravery.  It was truly miraculous!

More than three decades later, it still gives me pleasure to think about that day.  I never have entirely figured out what caused Amy to remain so still, but I do remember that she seemed transfixed as the doctor spoke softly and she focused on the light that shone brightly above her.  What I DO know was that something special happened in those moments when Amy steadfastly refused to give way to fear.

What can we learn from this, especially when we face the unknown?  For me, the lesson is about choices–in every season we come to in life there are choices to be made.  Do we give way to fear, anger or some other emotion that can so easily overwhelm us?  Or, do we take that deep breath of faith, steadfastly looking to the Light of Christ to help us in our time of need?  After all is said and done, isn’t that what it is all about?  We serve a God of Miracles, tried and true!

All to His Glory!

 

 

 

How to Make Joy in Your Journey a Reality . . . .

There is a small sampler hanging in the entryway of my home.  Few people notice it (probably because it is surrounded by pictures of family) but I quite enjoy its depiction of a colonial home with a tree along with a beehive with bees framed by flowers and greenery typical of a colonial sampler.  Yet, as lovely as it is to look at, for me, the best part is the message it proclaims:  “Blessed is the life that finds joy in the journey.”  

Blessed are those who find . . . .

Blessed are those who find . . . .

JOY.  The Bible mentions joy frequently, but in ways that a world focused on itself cannot understand:

“Consider it PURE JOY, my brothers,
whenever you face trials of many kinds . . . .”

 James 1:2

“Do not be grieved,
for the JOY of the LORD is your strength.”
Nehemiah 8:10b

“But REJOICE . . .
as you participate in the sufferings of Christ,
SO THAT YOU MAY BE OVERJOYED
when His glory is revealed.”*

I Peter 4:13

Holding onto joy in the journey can often elude us in our ever-changing, increasingly upside-down world.  For more than twenty years I have been privileged to come alongside people fighting personal battles large and small in the Counseling Room.  As we have looked to the Scriptures for wisdom and perspective, God has faithfully spoken to each hurting, hungry soul. Repeatedly, I have witnessed God’s faithfulness in shepherding the hearts of those faithful to do their Journey Notesas the assurance of His Presence and Purpose being worked our in their lives, provide a quiet JOY that settles in their hearts.

So, how can we receive JOY when life hits hard?
By giving thanks to God IN the hard places.

An even better question to ponder is:

How can we retain JOY throughout our journey?
By give thanks to God FOR the hard places.

I met a young woman recently who, though shattered by infidelity in her marriage, told me about how God had softened her once angry and bitter heart.  She confessed her own failures as she expressed her determination to be reconciled with her husband.  She admitted that she almost canceled our appointment except for one remaining question: “Is there anything else I can do to encourage my husband to want to re-build our marriage?”

I responded with a question that burned brightly in my mind as soon as I heard her question, “Have you given thanks to God for your husband’s life and for your marriage?”  I went on to explain, “You have testified to me about how God has brought about change and spiritual growth in your mind and heart.  GIVE THANKS,  for the blessing of God’s divine purposes being worked out in your heart and life–a maturing, humble faith.”  She nodded with a thoughtful smile as the wisdom of what was said settled in.

What lesson can we learn from this?  While the world touts “happiness”, God calls us to go deeper as we choose JOY as a reflection of our trust in Him.

The Apostle Paul wrote to encourage his friends about the basis of his JOY from a prison cell:

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,
whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
I can do all this through Him (Christ) who gives me strength.”
Philippians 4:12, 13

If you are looking for a formula for Joy/contentment in your circumstances, this acronym for JOY will serve you well: put Jesus first, Others second and Yourself, last.  

True Christ-centered JOY, chooses to trust more in His love for us,
as we give thanks that we are never alone.**

 Christ-centered JOY remembers the all-surpassing love of the One who came expressly to save us from ourselves . . . for Himself:

He died for us so that,
whether we are awake or asleep,
we may live together with Him.
Therefore encourage one another. . .
build each other up,
just as in fact you are doing . . . .
Rejoice always, pray continually,
GIVE THANKS IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES*;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
I Thessalonians 5:10, 11, 16-18

ALL to His Glory!

*Large capitalized letters, emphasis mine.
**Psalm 139

Wisdom, Courage and Confidence in the New Year . . . .

Happy New Year!

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly God can speak to the human heart.  From the very beginning of my counseling career, I learned that the best way to minister to the hearts and minds of hurting people is:

  1. To offer a listening ear and
  2. Help them get into the Scriptures to gain God’s perspective on them and their circumstances.

What I am about to share is a lesson I learned from many of the Clients I have been privileged to serve.  Many who seek counsel are broken . . . others are angry . . . ALL are in need of direction, feel misunderstood and often are devoid of hope. Respecting the it took courage for them to make that first phone call asking for help, I am humbled by the privilege and responsibility that I bear–not only to them, but to God–as we work together.

I decided to write this post as we enter this new year:

Journey Notes: All to His Glory!

Journey Notes: All to His Glory!

  • To offer wisdom and courage to those of you who are struggling with fear and trepidation in these uncertain times,
  • To help deepen your relationship with Christ as you gain confidence in His ability to shepherd your heart through any storm,
  • As a practical means of helping you encourage a friend or family member who has been spiritually or emotionally”stuck” for too long.

So what is the means by which you (and/or your friend or family member) can move into the new year with wisdom, courage and even confidence?  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 provides our first clue:

“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their work.
For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion.
But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up . . . .
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

We use this passage in the Counseling Room to illustrate God’s vision for healthy relationships.  We talk about how helping others honors God’s command to love one another–two ARE better than one!  However, we need God as our third strand, to gain the wisdom, courage and confidence needed when we are in trouble.

More than needing a listening ear to talk to,
we need to develop an ongoing conversation with our Lord and Creator.
That is the benefit of Journey Notes Praise Journaling

If you are not familiar with Journey Notes Praise Journaling, the introduction and instructions are accessible at the top of this page.  It is a process I developed twenty-plus years ago when I started counseling–believing that as a Biblical Counselor, my Clients deserved far more than just a “good listening ear.”  My goal for my clients as they entered into the Journey Notes process was that they would gain wisdom and courage as they worked through their problems.  This they did as we worked together over weeks and months.  The benefit that I did not expect was how the vast majority gained confidence in God’s ability to shepherd their hearts.   Most notable to me were those Clients whose problems remained about the same, but who no longer looked at themselves as victims, but actively chose to trust and honor God as Sovereign and Good.  It has been amazing and humbling to watch the transformation that takes place in those Clients who enter a conversation with God through their Journey Notes.

In the Counseling Room, there is a simple principle we go by:

With every tragedy/ disappointment that comes our way,
we are gifted with an opportunity to trust God more.

For those who have learned to rely on God’s Spirit and His Word using the Journey Notes Praise Journaling process, this makes total sense.  It makes sense because they have experienced the faithful working of God as their Shepherd, not only helping them with their problems, but in transforming their minds and hearts as they endeavor to apply His teaching to their lives.  It takes courage to trust God like that, but when we do the outcome is nothing short of miraculous.

The times Jesus lived in were also perilous.  Knowing that He would soon be arrested and taken from His disciples, Jesus sought to prepare His disciples for what would be a frightening turn of events for them.  In John 14:18-20 Jesus offered words of assurance that they would not remember until later:

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
Before long, the world will not see Me anymore, but you will see Me.
Because I live, you also will live.
On that day you will realize that I am in My Father,
and you are in Me, and I am in you.”

John 14:18-20

Such powerful words to be strengthened by!  Jesus offered His disciples (and all who trust in Him) MORE than a shelter in the midst of storms or a place to stand.  Jesus words call us to move forward in faith as He directs our steps:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.”
 

Matthew 11:28, 29

HAPPY NEW YEAR . . .
ALL TO HIS GLORY!

Christmas: A Reflection of His Light . . . .

For weeks I have struggled with thoughts about what to write to you as Christmas approaches.  I have to admit that with so much ugliness happening around the world, Christmas can be a nice diversion.

But when we look to Christmas as a diversion rather than for instruction,
we lose sight of the blessing God intends for it to be.

In the end what grabbed my heart to write about, were the instructions Jesus gave His disciples before sending them out to a world that was no friendlier then than it is today:

"Freely you have received, freely give." Matthew 10

“Freely you have received, freely give.” Matthew 10:8b

“The Kingdom of Heaven is near . . .
Freely you have received, freely give.”
Matthew 10:7 & 8b

Jesus’s words serve both as a warning–that God’s Kingdom (the only kingdom that ultimately matters) is only a heartbeat away–and, as a reminder of how our lives are enriched as we follow Him.  As I reflect on Jesus’s instruction I am touched by His simple directness:

“The Kingdom of Heaven . . .

freely . . .

give!”  

For those who claim Christ, Christmas is not a seasonal event, wherein generosity and caring are in vogue for a set amount of days.  No.  For those who claim His name, Christmas should be:

  1. A lifestyle–that reflects our awareness that Christ’s return is closer than ever before.
  2. A daily reflection of Christ’s Presence in our lives–as we set our sights on loving Him and our neighbor as He requires.
  3. Extravagantly given to those He puts on our paths–as we honor the Gift as well as the Giver who changed our lives for all eternity.

As I reflect on the times we live in, I am encouraged in knowing that living in such times, is meant to draw us ever closer to Christ.  When you think about giving gifts this year, don’t limit your thinking to mere tangibles.  Think instead about the treasure you have received in Christ Jesus, and give it away freely to a world in desperate need of His Light:

“I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.”

John 8:12

All to His Glory!

We Dare Not Turn Our Backs . . . .

After spending hours watching events unfold in the news and listening to the chatter of a myriad of opinions as to how to respond–it was after I finally turned off the television, that I experienced palpable relief from the tug-of-war going on in my mind and heart.  It was then, as the quietness settled within me, that a verse from James ran through my mind like a wafting banner:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God,
who gives generously to all without finding fault . . . .”

(James 1:5)

Ah, yes . . . PRAYER!  I was grateful for the reminder that the evil unfolding before us is not merely political or sociological.  It is part of an age-old spiritual battle.  The Apostle Paul gives clarity as to the stakes and the means whereby we must do battle:

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.
On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up
against the knowledge of God,
and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

II Corinthians 10:3-5

So what are Christians to do?  The best way to stay on course is to depend on the guidance of Scripture and God’s Spirit to provide the wisdom and strength we lack.  The following is a “game plan” that I have found helpful:

A Call To Prayer . . . To be quiet before God who already knows the end from the beginning.  As I bask in the quiet of God’s call, the weight in my heart is lifted as I pray for the displaced millions of men, women and children who, through no fault of their own, have no place to call home.  James 1:27 declares,

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:
to look after orphans and widows in their distress
and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

 Bottom line: WE DARE NOT TURN OUR BACKS ON OTHERS IN NEED.

Pray also for our political leaders, that God will convict their hearts as He ultimately works out His Plan through them.

A Call To Face Our Enemies . . . .   

  1. Some call it, “madness . . . sheer madness!”  Be it one individual shooting up a theater full of people or an organized group, it is a calculated, ugly, hate-filled assault on people–seemingly the more innocent the better.  After the killing is done, the descriptions reported by the survivors are similar as they describe the perpetrators as, “emotionless . . . robotic . . . appearing dead except for the merciless shooting.”  The problem is real, it is global and it is not any one group–an angry deadness of the soul.
  2. The second enemy may surprise you, but it must be faced to gain the wisdom we need to face enemy#1: FEAR fueled by what I call, “the court of public opinion.”  It is easy to get sucked into fear, for me it is a constant battle. When fear grips the heart, wisdom and faith are far removed. What keeps us steady is in knowing that FEAR is a ploy the devil uses to deter us.  Here’s what James wrote to Christians facing adversity 2,000 years ago:

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Come near to God and He will come near to you.
Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.”

James 4: 7, 8 & 10

 A Call To Faith . . . I have said it to many a Client and learned it long ago:

To be overwhelmed by trials and uncertainty
is an opportunity to trust God more.

God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.
If we claim to have fellowship with Him
and yet walk in the darkness,
we lie and do not live out the truth.
But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light,
we have fellowship with one another,
and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.”

I John 1:5b-7

Over time I have learned to listen less to my fears as I  have determined to trust God with it all.  These words (also from James) have been a tremendous encouragement to me and to those I counsel facing hardship:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,
whenever you face trials of many kinds,
because you know that the testing of your faith
produces perseverance.
Let perseverance finish its work
so that you may be mature and complete,
not lacking anything.”

James 1:2-4

A Call to Action . . . REFUSE TO TURN YOUR BACK!

 1.  It is easy to hate the perpetrators of evil, but when hating comes easy we are in danger of becoming like them.  Take seriously Jesus command in Matthew 5:43:45:

“You have heard that it was said,
‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
But I tell you, love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

Matthew 5:43-45

God knows the heart of everyone.  Pray for the individuals caught up in this evil; that the attitudes and actions of Christians being held will touch the hearts of their captors.  Pray also that fleeing Christians will reflect the love of Christ to those who are also fleeing but do not know Him.

2.  Start looking for ways to help.  If your church has organized a means of reaching out in big and small ways, then by all means support that.  (Last year my church found a way to support Iraqi Christians by sending dental supplies {tooth brushes, toothpaste, etc} through a friend with contacts there.  It was such a small thing but I know it was an encouragement to those who could give as well as those receiving those small gifts.)

There are numerous charities working to help in this global crisis.  The following are some of my favorites:

Samaritan’s Purse
http://www.samaritanspurse.org

Mission to the World
https://www.mtw.org/disaster-response

Open Doors, USA
https://www.opendoorsusa.org/donate/

Voice of the Martyrs
http://www.persecution.com

3.  Watch the news following the stories of those caught up in this crisis and begin to pray for those who touch your heart.  There are several bloggers doing excellent work to help with this.  This post, by Humans of New York, is a good place to start: https://medium.com/@humansofnewyork/humans-of-new-york-refugee-stories-243336f4adeb#.ywdau2x1t

In good times and in bad, God calls us to prayer and to action as we live out our faith.
These are scary times to be sure, but they are potentially growing times
as we entrust ourselves to the One who Saves.  

“God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea . . . .
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
He lifts his voice, the earth melts.”
Psalm 46:1-6

All to His Glory!

Image Source: Google Images

A Faith That Flies . . . .

Forty-five years ago, I married a man in love with flying.  On our first date, he rented a small airplane to fly us over the Los Angeles Basin as we shared a pizza.  When he asked me to marry him, that man made sure I knew that flying would an important part of our future when he asked, “How’d ya like to join the Air Force?”  (All these years later, I still find myself smiling as I remember saying, “Yes!”–even though a small part of me wondered if he was an Air Force recruiter!  I was quite relieved when (four days later) he handed me a brochure titled, The Air Force Wife!)

On those occasions when we fly together, I always marvel at how carefully he looks over every inch of the outside of the airplane, making sure nothing is loose or missing.  He does the same thing once we get into the cockpit, handing me the checklist to read aloud as he confirms each section is in good order.

After watching him commit to memory so much about each airplane’s systems and procedures for so many decades, I asked him why a checklist was even really necessary?  This was his answer:  

DSC03194

“They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31

“A checklist is a necessity because human memory is fallible.
We get into trouble when we forget parts,
add what isn’t there,
or do things in the wrong order.
To go through the checklist verbatim makes sure nothing is overlooked.”

Bottom line?  Flying is serious and sometimes risky business.  Whenever there is an accident, especially when there is loss of life, there is always a team sent to determine the cause of the crash.  There can be many reasons cited when a plane comes down, the one that is most dreaded and hardest to bear is, “pilot error“,  because it implies the accident could have somehow been avoided.

As I reflect on how essential reviewing a checklist is before every flight,
I am convinced that Christians have a responsibility to rely
on the Scriptures themselves, rather than memorization,
to navigate a world filled with danger.  

I do not mean to say that Scripture memorization has no value–because it certainly does!  However, there is always a danger of misapplication when it is taken out of context.  In the Counseling Room, no matter how knowledgable a Client may be when it comes to familiarity with Scripture, there is always danger for “pilot error.” We are fallen, fallible beings who need the wisdom of the Scriptures–within its context–to keep us on track.   Hebrews 4:12 affirms our need:

“For the Word of God is alive and active.
Sharper than any double-edged sword,
it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit,
joints and marrow;
it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” 

The wonderful thing about investing ourselves in the Scriptures, is that they offer so much more than the basics of living.  Through this “alive” and “active” entity, the Creator beckons us into a relationship with Him.  This, my friend, is the call to risk everything we perceive as being “safe”, for something larger and far richer than anything we can humanly imagine. In his second letter to the church at Corinth Paul wrote:

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature;
the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
II Corinthians 5:17

If you have surrendered your heart to Christ, celebrate His provision of the Scriptures and His Spirit to help you stay on the path He has marked out for you.  (Ephesians 2:10)

A faith that takes flight is alive and active.
Such a faith reflects the constant nurturing of the Scriptures
through the working of God’s Spirit.
In difficulty and well as in times of ease,
a faith intent on worshiping God is one that ultimately soars.

So . . . no matter where you are in your life, God calls you not to deal with the challenges and joys of life in your own strength–too much room for “pilot error”!  Instead, remembering “the old has passed away . . . new things have come”, go to the Scriptures with intentionality to get to know Him better.  The following are some passages that are some favorites of mine:

 Psalm 96:9:

“Worship the LORD in the splendor of His holiness;
tremble before Him all the earth.”

Psalm 104:2-4 makes me shiver with wonder:

“He wraps Himself with light as with a garment;
He stretches out the heavens as with a tent
and lays the beams of His upper chambers on their waters.
He makes the clouds His chariot
and rides on the wings of the wind.
He makes winds His messengers,
flames of fire His servants.”

I love the powerful images in Isaiah 4o:27-31:

“Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and His understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”

Of course there are so many more . . . if you have the time, please share some of your favorites in the comments section.

Now for a little earthly honesty: When I met my husband I was full of fear when it came to flying.  In fact, I hid my fears from him because I wanted to get to know the guy with the twinkly eyes better.  Over time I admitted my struggle to him–did my best to support him in his career–but it was tough.  A breakthrough for me came in early 2002,. I was preparing to fly 3,000 miles from my home, when I came upon a verse I had read many times.  Somehow, it seemed to jump off the page with new meaning as it  connected with my problem:

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”

Psalm 139:16

Ka-pow!  God spoke to my heart at that moment with an assurance I had never fully appreciated.   I realized that there is nothing that can rob me of one moment of the life God ordained from the beginning of time.  The wonderful news is that it is the same for you!  I urge you: fly to Him with whatever burden is weighing on your heart–NOW!  Release it to Him with thanksgiving, as you enjoy the wonder of His faithfulness . . . All to His Glory!

A Lesson On The Heart . . . .

Because I was born three years after the conclusion of World War II, I grew up with a lot of questions about the war and why it happened.  My biggest question had to do with how any nation could embrace the hatred that resulted in the extermination of six million men, women and children.  I received insight into the answer to my question in the autumn of 1965 when, at seventeen, I learned about the corruptibility of the human heart.  My lesson began when an assignment was handed to me on a small piece of paper in Mrs. Story’s high school speech class: Debate ABORTION (against).

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“Abortion?” I wondered to myself, “What the heck is abortion?”  

Too embarrassed to ask anyone what it was, I made my way to the high school library that afternoon to find out.  Back then, there were no books on the subject in our library, but I did manage to find several articles.  As I began reading about abortion, I remember feeling sick inside at the thought of an innocent baby being killed like that.  However, as I kept researching the subject I was assurred that when abortions were performed, there really was not a baby at all.  According to the articles I read, there was “only a smattering of cells . . . a blood clot . . . certainly not a baby!”  Besides, I learned as I read on, there was the life of the mother to consider . . . wasn’t her life far more important?  Certainly I felt empathy for any woman caught up in an unwanted pregnancy that could potentially ruin her life!

I began to wonder how I was going to debate against this weighty topic; the pros certainly appeared to hold the upper hand with the voice of reason.   I kept researching articles, increasingly depressed by the topic, until I read an interview with President John F. Kennedy on why he was against abortion.  Because He was Catholic, I assumed his answer would be based on religious reasons . . . but that was not what he said.  Instead, Kennedy explained that his conviction was based on a claim Adolph Hitler made about abortion and the hardened hearts of the German people.  Apparently, Hitler wrote that when abortion was legalized in Germany, he knew he could get away with anything else he chose to do–sadly, history bears out Hitler’s assertion.*

I can still remember sitting in the library that day, realizing that the answer to my questions about the horrific slaughter of innocent people was linked to hardened hearts.  It would be more than a decade before I came to understand that every human heart is prone to corruption–my own included.  In fact, the Bible has a lot to say about how the heart is reflected by what we say and do.  Jeremiah 17:9-10 declares:

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?
‘I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind,
to reward each person according to their conduct,
according to what their deeds deserve.’”

In Luke 6:45 Jesus said,

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart,
and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.
For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

Fifty years later,  I remember nothing about the actual debate that took place in my speech class.  Since then medical technology has stripped away our naivety about abortion, but it does not seem to matter.  It would seem that our “rights” reign supreme no matter what the cost to our own children.  Over the past two decades, I have been profoundly touched in the Counseling Room, as women have poured out tears of regret, because the birthdays of those lost children were never to be celebrated.  Instead, they speak of the ages their children would have been, had they not had an abortion.

I share my story with you, because I have never been able to find the interview with President Kennedy that touched me so deeply.  Yet I write this not only about the tragedy of abortion, I write this during a time when each of us need to be examining our hearts as we respond to the masses of people who are fleeing for their lives because of the faith we share.  

It is tempting to avoid watching the news, I confess there are times when I have done that.  However, I was grateful when I saw this video by Samaritan’s Purse two nights ago: to see families . . . young . . . old . . . and every age in-between, desperate enough to leave their homes, climb into those flimsy rubber boats in the hope of finding somewhere safe to start over.  It struck me then, that to ignore the problem, tempting though it may be, requires that I (we) harden our hearts. 

But God calls us not to hide in times such as these,
but to be looking for opportunities to be large-hearted
in helping where we can with our prayers,
our finances or whatever else God provides us to offer.

The wisdom of the Apostle John speaks to the responsibilities Christians bear in such challenging times as these:

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.
And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need
but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

I John 3:16-18

All to His Glory!

*President Kennedy knew what he was talking about.  A serious student of history–particularly political history— he wrote his senior thesis at Harvard on what was later titled and published as, Why England Slept.  His second book, Profiles in Courage (focuses on eight American Senators whom Kennedy particularly esteemed for their political and moral courage) won a Pulitzer Prize for history in 1957.  To read a good synopsis on both books, you will find The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum site helpful.