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Archive for December, 2010

SLOW HEALING

Flying down the snowy hill, I clung tightly to the edges of the cardboard box, preparing myself for a crash landing at the bottom.  I was already regretting my decision, but it was too late to turn back now.  What on earth made me think it was a good idea to go sledding with a recently sprained foot?

Just a week ago, I was hopping around on crutches after falling down some cement steps in Germany and pulling a tendon in my right foot.  But this thirteen-inch snowfall over Christmas was the most snow Virginia Beach had seen in twenty years, and I didn’t want to miss the rare opportunity for some winter fun with my family.  “My foot’s almost back to normal,” I told myself. “It’ll be fine.”  I felt like I was ten years old as I slid down the hill again and again with the icy wind in my face, landing in a sprawling heap at the bottom.

By the time I finally returned home, however, and peeled off my snow-encrusted shoes, my foot was complaining at the mistreatment.  The soreness and swelling was a painful reminder that it hadn’t completely healed yet.  Going sledding at this stage of recovery had not been the wisest choice.

The experience made me think of a conversation I’d had a few weeks earlier in Germany with Pastor Chris, a teacher at the Bible school where I was serving as a volunteer.  He asked how my experiences these last few months in Germany differed from the four years I worked with an Asian ministry in China.  To my embarrassment, I started crying as I talked about the supportive, encouraging atmosphere in Germany, and the leaders who trusted me to make good decisions.  It was very different from the authoritarian, hierarchical Asian system, where I was expected to do as I was told and not ask questions, even when I was struggling with physical exhaustion and emotional burnout.

“I don’t know why I’m crying,” I apologized, blowing my nose.  “It’s been two and a half years since I’ve come home from China.  I thought I was over these issues.”

“Sometimes the healing process takes longer than we expect,”
Pastor Chris responded gently.  “You have to allow time for the Lord to complete the work in you.  And it seems this time in Germany is part of that process.”

Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us that God makes everything beautiful “in His time.”  God’s timing is not always according to my preferred schedule.  My impatience to hurry up the healing process and “get on with my life” can slow down the recovery even more!  Just like my sprained foot needs time to heal and get strong, so the emotional healing God is doing in me will take time.  But I know He’s at work, and I know His timing is best!

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6 (New Living Translation)

Going vertical!

MJ

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SLEEP IN HEAVENLY PEACE

Sleep is something I don’t take for granted.  Even with my trusted eye mask and ear plugs, I have a lot of trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.  Night-time is when my fears and anxieties plague me the most.  Often I lie awake in bed for hours, staring at the ceiling, trying desperately to turn off my racing brain.

Recently a German friend told me about a period of her life when she was extremely anxious and depressed.  For weeks she didn’t sleep any more than a few minutes at a time.  “When you sleep, it’s the one time you’re completely out of control,” my friend explained.  “I couldn’t relax because I didn’t want to be out of control of my life.”

What is the real cause of my sleeplessness?  Are my anxious thoughts the result of trying to run my own life?  It’s easy to say “give it over to God,” but how do I actually do that?

In Psalm 4:8 David says, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.” David was running for his life from enemies that wanted to kill him!  How could he lie down and sleep in peace?  With danger all around him, David chose to put his trust in the Lord.  His peace came from releasing control of his life to God.

I’m going to try a new strategy at night now.  Along with my ear plugs and eye mask, I’ll employ David’s technique for sleeping soundly.  If an anxious thought is keeping my awake, I’ll identify it and surrender it to the Lord, declaring that I trust Him with my life, and that I give Him control of my future.  Only then can I say with David, “in peace I will lie down and sleep.”

Going vertical!

MJ

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HELPLESS

“Oh happy day, happy day, You washed my sins away!” Singing along to the Tim Hughes CD, I was having fun decorating the shop next to our Bible school for Christmas.  We use the rented space during the week for after-school tutoring, a neighborhood cafe, and small group Bible studies.  Hanging pine branches, gold ribbon, and strings of lights, I imagined how surprised everyone would be when they saw the final effect.

After a bathroom break on the second floor, I eagerly skipped down the cement steps back to the shop, taking them two at a time as I belted out to the echoing walls, “Oh happy day, happy day…”  Suddenly there was no step beneath my feet.  Before I realized what was happening, I crumpled on the floor, feeling a sharp pain in my right foot as it turned under.  Shakily I tried to stand, biting my lip to keep from crying out.

I briefly debated calling one of the students next door to ask for help, but felt too embarrassed.  “There’s hardly anything left to do – I’m sure I can manage it,” I told myself.  For the next thirty minutes I hobbled through the shop hanging decorations, arranging candles on the tables, and sweeping the floor with a push broom.

By the time I finished cleaning up, locked up the shop, and stumbled up the three flights of stairs to my room, my foot was throbbing.  Taking off my shoe to inspect the damage, I saw a swelling mass on the right side that was already turning purple.  My pride and stubbornness in not wanting to ask for help caused unnecessary pain!

I’m reminded of a story I heard about Israeli shepherds in Jesus’ time.  If a young lamb kept wandering away from the flock and didn’t listen to the shepherd, the shepherd would break the lamb’s legs and carry it around his own neck.  This apparent cruelty by the shepherd was necessary to protect the lamb from being attacked by wild animals or getting lost on its own.  During the weeks or months it took for the lambs’ legs to heal, it grew to know and trust the shepherd’s voice.  In a time of total helplessness, the lamb became completely dependent on the shepherd.

The past few days it’s been a real struggle as I’ve had to depend on others to help me up the stairs, open the doors, or carry things to my room.  Every time I think “I’m OK – I can do this by myself,” the pain in my foot reminds me that I really do need help.  I feel like the little lamb that thinks it doesn’t need the shepherd.  If a sprained ankle will keep me depending on Him, then I’m thankful for it!

Going Vertical!
MJ

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. …For when I am weak, then I am strong.” II Corinthians 12:9-10

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GRACE UPON GRACE

“Would you like the 25 centimeter or the 35 centimeter broom head?  And do you prefer the 3 meter or the 4 meter handle?”  The helpful salesman held up the options, smiling as he waited for our decision.
For the past hour, my co-worker, Bridget, and I had been perusing row after row of buckets, mops, sponges, and cleaning solutions.  Our task was to select sufficient supplies to stock our Bible school for the next two years.  Countless decisions had to be made about size, amount, and quality of the items.  My head was spinning with choices.

The strangest thing about the whole experience was that money didn’t influence our decisions.  If the salesman told us a particular type of toilet cleaner or window squeegee was the best, we took his word for it, never once asking the cost.  On this particular trip, price didn’t matter – because the bill had already been paid.  The Christian owner of this well-stocked cleaning supplies shop had given us an extremely generous offer – we could select all the supplies we needed for our ministry, and he would pay for them himself.

Although I knew it was a voluntary donation, I still had a hard time accepting it.  When offered a choice, I gravitated towards the smaller bottle of solution or the flimsier broom handle.  I was hesitant to take full advantage of the owner’s offer.  But the salesman who was helping us insisted that we should get the better quality options.  I struggled with feeling like I was being greedy just for accepting what was being freely given!

As we drove home, Bridget said she felt like a princess today, selecting what she wanted from the shelves without thinking of the price.  And suddenly it hit me – I am a daughter of the King!  The God of the whole universe calls ME His beloved child and wants to shower me with His love, yet I’m turning away from Him, saying I don’t deserve His attention.  Why do I have such a hard time receiving?

James 1:17 says “Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.”  So our shopping spree today was really an outpouring of love from our Heavenly Father!  Looking at our van stuffed with cleaning products we didn’t pay for, I had to laugh.     Each time I clean the floors with our new microfiber swivel-head telescoping-handle mops, I’ll remember to receive with gratitude the good gifts God wants to give me!

“For out of His fullness (abundance) we have all received one grace after another and spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing and even favor upon favor and gift heaped upon gift.”
John 1:16 (Amplified Bible)

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IT’S ALL IN WHO YOU KNOW

It was a perfect day for the beach.  The Costa Rican sun was brilliant in a flawless blue sky.  Vibrant palm trees and tropical flowers flashed past the windows as the car sped towards the coast, the passengers growing more excited with each passing kilometer.  Natasha and her fellow German teammates had been serving in Costa Rica on a month-long outreach with Youth With A Mission.  They were all looking forward to a day of relaxing in the sun.

Suddenly, Nathasha saw flashing blue lights in the rear-view mirror.  Her heart sank.  They’d been speeding.  This wasn’t a good start to their weekend.

“Pasaportes!”  Demanding to see everyone’s documentation, the policeman who pulled them over did not look at all friendly.  To her horror, Natasha realized they’d all left their passports with their team leaders at the YWAM base several kilometers away.  What would they do now?

Angrily the officer asked the German students what they were doing in Costa Rica.  Praying silently, Natasha calmly explained that they’d been working with a local Christian leader named Diego, serving in his church and distributing Bibles in the town.  At the mention of Diego’s name, the policeman’s countenance immediately softened.

“Ah, son amigos de Diego?”  Diego was well-known in the area for his humanitarian efforts in poor neighborhoods.  Smiling, the officer waved them on.  “Since you’re friends of Diego, I’ll let you go this time.”  Natasha and her team continued to the beach, amazed at the transformation that had occurred, all because of a relationship.

Just as Diego prepared the way for Natasha and her friends, there is One who has gone before us and bridged the gap to our Heavenly Father.  Jesus told His followers, “You did not choose Me but I chose you.  And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask Him in My name.” (John 15:16).  What power we have in that Name!  It’s not because of anything we’ve done, but because of the relationship we have with the Father, through the Son who intercedes for us!

Going vertical!

MJ

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