Friday, October 28, 2016

Empowered

Empowered means to receive power.

The only prerequisite is to be in need. Tired. Weary. Lacking. Limited.

And then to be connected to a source of power.

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.” 
(Isaiah 40:28-31)


Last week was fall break for four of our kids, and we took a road trip to visit Jordan for Family Weekend at Calvin College in Grand Rapids. One of our highlights was the 40 foot high Rock Climbing Wall. After watching a few people climb, David surprised us by saying he wanted to try it. And he did great! His success inspired Daniel, who announced that he wanted to climb too. I knew there was no way he could climb the wall, but he was so excited that I decided to ask.

"Could he wear his own shoes to climb?" I asked the guy behind the desk. "He has braces on both feet...

"Sure," he responded. "No problem."

"I know he won't be able to make it all the way up. But he really wants to try it. Could he just go up a little way and then come back down?

"Of course," he assured me. "You know, we've had Calvin students who were paralyzed from the waist down climb the wall."

Encouraged by this enthusiasm and positive attitude toward disabilities, I told Daniel he could do it.
 He could barely contain himself as his new friend strapped him in.

Then he started his climb.


As he began his ascent, I realized that the guy who had strapped himself to Daniel was pulling him up. It didn't actually matter about his being able to place his feet the right way.


So Daniel kept going higher. And higher. By the strength of his partner.


He told us afterward how scared he felt. But he kept climbing.


And he had a great cheering section.


He reached the top of the wall!


He could hardly believe it.


And his partner didn't seem tired at all.

Empowered.

To climb higher than I ever thought possible.

To soar on wings like eagles.

I know that Daniel believes this verse: "I can do everything through him who gives me strength."
(Philippians 4:13)

His climbing adventure rings true with the song You Raise Me Up.


You raise me up. To more than I can be.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The End of Me in Ministry

Not a polished presentation of the gospel.

Not winning a religious debate with someone of another faith.

Not having the perfect house, the perfect kids, the perfect life 
(along with the perfect amount of humility) to win all neighbors to Christ.

Ministry means coming to the end of me.

Recognizing my limitations.

Embracing my weakness and brokenness.

Creating a safe space for others to enter into and be real.

Being attentive, available, and approachable.

Not knowing all the answers but knowing the One who does.


One day about 10 years ago, my friend Karen (not her real name) quietly knocked on my apartment door. To be honest, I had been dreading her visit since she had called the night before to tell me that she had just discovered her husband was having an affair.

I had no idea what to say or do as I opened the door and embraced her. My dear friend, dressed in all black, mourning her shattered marriage.

We sat together in our living room and shed tears as she unveiled more of the deep pain of betrayal she had been through.

As I listened to her, I became aware of our 1 Corinthians 13 scroll in Chinese characters on the wall behind her. So I got out my Bible, opened it to that passage, and handed it to her to read on her own.

After a few moments she looked up at me with shining eyes and exclaimed, “I know what I need to do.” I held my breath as I heard her answer. “Love him."

"I can let God love him through me."

And with those words her life was transformed. A spark of restoration in her broken marriage...in the coming days, her husband, greatly impacted by her forgiveness expressed a willingness to change. Their marriage grew stronger. And, by God's grace, is still strong to this day.

God's power made perfect in weakness. The impossible made possible. Hope for the hopeless. Beauty from ashes.

Clearly not because of any advice or wisdom from me. Because I had none.

I just provided the space.

God's power.

Through His Word.

Through His Spirit.

Through the weak.

His Ministry. Not mine.

Now to him who is able to immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

"Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory because of your love and faithfulness." (Psalm 115:1)


Linking up with Velvet Ashes this week on the theme of Power.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A Road Called Deliverance

I did not find Deliverance on the road by that name. I got lost.

Purgatory, just two roads over off of Union, I would have expected to provide wrong turns and no way out.

But for Deliverance, a name that offered such Hope and Promise, I had other expectations. Instead of connecting me with the trail I was hoping for though, it turned back up the hill I had just run down. And left me feeling even more confused. Ready to quit.

Deliverance took me in the wrong direction. And wasn't the road I wanted after all.

Sometimes we find ourselves on wrongly-named, bumpy roads going in the wrong direction, that feel like Purgatory, wondering how we got there. And how we can get back on the “right” road. To take us to the pain-free, stress-free, ideal life that must be out there somewhere. Right? Is it actually out there?


We recently listened to a sermon by Thomas Thompson called Choosing Joy in Change. He said that “The detours in life can hold new paths to joy.” What is God calling you to in the detours of your life? There's no way we can know all that He is doing behind the scenes.

The detour can become The Road that He has always intended. We just didn't know it. Are we resisting or accepting? Resenting or surrendering? Our response determines whether or not we find joy. God's goal for us is actually not to be pain-free, stress-free, always-getting-everything-we-pray-for. He wants us to be able to choose joy no matter what kind of road we're on. 

He wants us to become more like Jesus. The One who walked a hard road of suffering, that no one would have chosen. For the joy set before Him. For us to have true life in Him.

Following Him on the road He chooses.

Detours.

Feeling lost.

Running out of gas.

Doubting we're going to end up in a good place.

He is with us. Leading. Strengthening. Providing. Sustaining.

HE is our Deliverance (not the road).

And He uses many different roads to bring us Home. Roads that we would not have chosen.


New paths to joy.




Saturday, October 8, 2016

Quotes by Daniel

I LOVE my body!” (while I was helping Daniel dry off after a bath when he had his arm in a cast)


JESUS! Jesus is in the bathroom!” (at a friend's house this summer after discovering a picture of Jesus in an unexpected place)

Can you be quiet?” (in a singsong voice to himself while sitting on the couch)
No, I can't” (his singing answer to himself)

How many days we stay in this house?” (after house-hopping for the summer and moving into the house where we'll live for a year)

I think you seem very lost” (to me after I made a wrong turn on the way to his neuropsych exam)

I've got a lot of jeans going on!” (after sorting through a bunch of new hand me down clothes)


 
For me???” (after watching this video of his cross country finish last week, surprised at how many people were cheering for him. He was so focused on the finish line that he didn't hear the cheers while he was running)

"God, help us more love you." (his prayer at dinner last night)

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Desires of God

Come all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; 
and you who have no money, come buy and eat! 
Come buy wine and milk without money and without cost.” 
(Isaiah 55:1)


Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. 
Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, 
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.” 
(Isaiah 55:7)

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace
the mountains and the hills will burst into song before you, 
and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” 
(Isaiah 55:12)


And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to serve him, 
to love the name of the Lord, and to worship him, 
all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant—
those I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. 
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; 
for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” 
(Isaiah 56:6-7) 


And it will be said: 'Build up, build up, prepare the road! 
Remove the obstacles out of the way of the Lord's people.' 
For this is what the high and lofty One says—
he who lives forever, whose name is holy: 
'I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, 
to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.'” 
(Isaiah 57:14-15)

The Lord will guide you always; 
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. 
You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. 
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; 
you will be called Repairer of Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” 
(Isaiah 58:11-12)


The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, 
because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted
to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, 
to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, 
the oil of gladness instead of mourning, 
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair
They will be called oaks of righteousness, 
a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor." 
(Isaiah 61:1-3)


Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, 
no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.” 
(Isaiah 64:4)

Behold I will create new heavens and a new earth
The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.” 
(Isaiah 65:17)


Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.” 
(Isaiah 65:24)

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