Resilience Despite Mistakes and Adversity

I have just finished chapter 5 of Jodi Detrick’s book The Jesus-Hearted Woman.  The chapter is titled ‘Resilience.’  In it Detrick discusses the need to continue fulfilling the tasks God has called us to even when (1) we make mistakes, (2) others hurt us, or (3) life throws curve balls our way.  Detrick refers to these events as My Bad, Their Bad and Too Bad.  Her discussion questions at the end of the chapter focused on Joseph and the resilience he needed in order to become the leader God desired him to be. Unfortunately, Joseph experienced a number of My Bad, Their Bad and Too Bad moments along the way.

As a young man, Joseph had a dream that his brothers bowed down to him.  Unfortunately, sharing the first dream was one of Joseph’s ‘My Bad’ moments.  His brothers already were angry with him because he brought a bad report about them to his father, and they were jealous that their father loved Joseph more than his other sons. This dream added fuel to the fire.  Genesis 37:8 tells us, “So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.”  If this wasn’t enough, Joseph had a second dream in which not only his brothers but also his parents bowed down to him.  And, of course, he shared this dream with his father and brothers–another ‘My Bad’ action. His brothers were angry and wanted revenge on Joseph.

Joseph experienced a ‘Their Bad’ moment when his brothers sold him as a slave to a company of Ishmaelites.  Joseph was bought by Potiphar, a captain of the guard in Pharaoh’s army.  God favored Joseph, and he rose to a position of prominence in Potiphar’s household. Apparently Joseph wasn’t yet ready for the leadership role God had in store for him, as he was falsely accused of inappropriate behavior toward his master’s wife and thrown in prison–another ‘Their Bad’ moment.

We don’t know how long Joseph was imprisoned, but we do know that thirteen years passed between the time his brothers sold him and when Pharaoh released him.  At least several of these years were spent in prison.  It must have been difficult for Joseph to sit in prison year and year waiting for God to deliver him.  I am sure that he recognized that he and his father bore some responsibility for his brothers’ hatred toward him, but he was completely innocent of the charges brought against him by Potiphar’s wife.  It would have been easy for Joseph to become bitter about the circumstances of his life.  He could have convinced himself that God was against him and that his life was over.  But Joseph didn’t get angry and he didn’t give up.  He persevered.  He was resilient despite all the adverse things that had happened to him.

Genesis 39: 21 – 22 tells us, “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.  And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners who were in the prison; whatever they did there, it was his doing.”  Joseph’s rise in the prison to a position of leadership did not come overnight.  He had to prove to the keeper that he was reliable and responsible. As he did, his responsibilities increased until Joseph was running the prison.   After some time had passed, the king’s chief butler and chief baker were imprisoned.  Joseph interpreted dreams for each of them which came to pass just as he had foretold. Joseph had shared his plight with the butler and asked the butler to mention his situation to Pharaoh.  How he must have hoped that his release from prison would come soon.  Yet, we read in Genesis 41:1, that another two years passed before the chief butler remembered Joseph.  ‘Too Bad,’ but again Joseph was resilient and persevered.

Eventually, however, Pharaoh had a dream which his wise men could not interpret.  It was then that the butler remembered Joseph.  Joseph interpreted the dreams, being careful to give all the glory to God.  He shared with Pharaoh that God was giving him an opportunity to prepare Egypt for the coming famine.  Pharaoh appointed Joseph to a position of great power, second in command only to Pharaoh himself.  Joseph was used by God to save Egypt and Joseph’s own family from starvation.

We can only surmise as to why God delayed Joseph’s release from prison.  Certainly, in prison Joseph was developing the leadership skills he would need later as a leader over Egypt.  During those years, Joseph continued to serve the Lord and God’s favor was on him.  As the leader of Egypt, Joseph had grown and changed much from the arrogant teenager his brothers had sold into slavery.  When Joseph appeared before Pharaoh, he was humble and quick to give the glory to God.  God opened Pharaoh’s eyes to see that Joseph was the right person to lead Egypt through the coming famine.

Any one in leadership positions faces My Bad, Their Bad, and Too Bad situations on occasion.  The challenges Joseph faced prepared him for more leadership responsibilities. Like Joseph, we must be resilient and allow the adversities we face to help us develop as leaders.  As we do, we will be able to do more and accomplish more, until we complete the work God has called us to do.

I Got My Life Back

Have you ever had to give up a job, a project, or a dream that you really wanted, only to find afterwards that the sacrifice had given you your life back?  I have had the experience a few times.

The first occassion was about 20 years ago.  I was teaching part-time in the small private school my sons attended.  I had a wonderfully supportive principal and liked most of my fellow teachers.  The families of the students were encouraging and supportive.  Theoretically, my work day ended at noon, giving me three hours of ‘free’ time before my children got out of school. However, the free time was often taken up with grading, lesson planning, and filling in where needed.  Additionally, the school had some issues which I couldn’t overlook.  I struggled with these issues my last year before making the decision to not return.  I chose instead to homeschool my sons.  A friend questioned that decision.  She had homeschooled her son previously and she told me, “When I sent him back to school, I felt like I got my life back.”

For me, the opposite was true.  As I adjusted to being a home-school mom, I realized I had gotten my life back.  I enjoyed teaching, but it was time-consuming and extracted a toil on my family.  Homeschooling allowed my children and I to sleep in and be better rested.  It allowed me to focus my ‘best energies’ on my husband and sons and to have more time to take care of my home and prepare more home-cooked meals.  An added benefit was the ability to travel and take vacations when everyone else was in school.  I never regretted my decision to be a full-time mother and homeschool teacher, even though that was not what prompted me to make the decision to my teaching job.

After six years of homeschooling, my husband and I decided to open a restaurant.  The boys were hold enough to work in the restaurant.  The plan was that my husband would run the restaurant in the mornings, while I home schooled the boys; the boys and I would cover the evening shifts.  It was a good plan, but needless to say, things did not work out exactly as planned.  Homeschool and family life soon took a back seat to the demands of business ownership.  After much soul-searching, we decided to sell the restaurant.  It was a difficult decison for me, as I felt we had worked so hard to make this dream a reality.  I was heartbroken that it hadn’t worked out as planned.  Yet, once it was sold, I again had the feeling that giving it up allowed me to get my life back.

Once the business was sold and we had moved back to our home town, our twins asked to enroll at the local Christian high school.  They needed a math teacher, so I found myself teaching again.  I loved being part of this wonderful Christian school, but it was demanding. I taught seven classes daily in addition to being a class sponsor and helping out with other clubs and projects.  I stayed for two years after the twins graduated and thoroughly enjoyed it. Yet, I felt God leading me to leave.  Again, it was a hard decision.  God led me to another job that allows me to use the skills I have honed through my past work experiences and through business ownership.  And, once again, I felt like I got my life back.  Teaching was very demanding and required many hours of grading and planning after school hours which took away from my family time.    It was also very rewarding, which made the decision to quit that much more difficult.

Since leaving teaching, I have had time again to engage in hobbies and try my hand at some new ones, including writing and blogging.  I have had two novels published and recently completed a Bible study on money and finances. God has opened doors that I would not have had the opportunity to walk through if I had remained a teacher.

Perhaps you are wrestling with making a change in your life, such as leaving a job you love or giving up on a dream.  Change is never easy, but it can lead to new and exciting opportunites that would never come if the change were not made.  Search your heart, pray, and allow God to lead you.  As a Christian, I know that God has a great plan for my life.  His plans and purposes are much more wonderful that the plans I would make for myself.  I have found that I am happiest and feel most like ‘I got my life back’ when I follow the path He lays out for me.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”  Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Have you ever made a change and felt like you got your life back?

Do you feel God is leading you to make a change now and you aren’t sure that you want to let go of your current job and/or dream?

Letting Go of A Dream

Tonight I am contemplating how difficult it is to let go of dreams, even when it is clearly in one’s best interest to do so.  This spirit was brought on by watching You’ve Got Mail.  I love this movie and have watched it many times.  It is a romantic comedy and, as such, it ends on a happy note. Yet, much of the movie deals with the struggle of a young woman to keep afloat the children’s book shop her mother opened 42 years earlier.  Eventually she makes the difficult decision to close the shop. She feels that her mother’s dream has died. She expresses her despair to her Internet pen pal as, “People are always telling you that change is a good thing. But all they’re really saying is that something you didn’t want to happen at all… has happened.”

Store closingDifferent life

 

The movie resonates with me because I know the feeling of having to decide to discontinue being in business.  In our case, we sold our business rather than closing it. Several years ago my husband and I opened a restaurant in a small town.  We had high hopes and great expectations that this business would be enjoyable, support our family, and be handed down to our children.  The business was profitable but not exceedingly so.  We worked hard and it consumed most of our family time.  There were days we enjoyed it, but many days it just felt overwhelming.  Over time it became apparent that we were not cut out to be business owners, and  we decided to sell the restaurant.  It was not an easy decision.  On many levels, we felt like failures.  Fortunately, a buyer was found and we walked away with our finances and credit in order and returned to more traditional employment.

I watched You’ve Got Mail many times during the months we agonized over what to do and the ensuing months between putting the restaurant on the market and closing the deal.  We weren’t being forced out of business, yet I empathized with Kathleen Kelly’s struggle and felt her despair.  Ironically, after watching the movie tonight, I got on Facebook and saw that a local business woman has decided to close her business after 10 years.  I am acquainted with this woman and know how hard she has worked to make her business a success.  She is a gifted seamstress and makes unique and interesting handbags.  However, her business was hurt terribly when the economy crashed and, although the economy has recovered somewhat, her business has not.  Many people in our area are concerned about another government shutdown and/or furloughs.  Others have seen their insurance premiums rise as the Affordable Care Act proves to not be the solution to the healthcare crisis.  Many others are simply more cautious with their money, having struggled through significant periods of unemployment.  I am sure that other factors played into her decision to close the business.  My heart aches for her, even as I recognize that this is not the end of the world.  It is, however, the end of this particular dream.

My husband and I have had a good life since selling the restaurant.  I don’t regret the decision at all, yet there is still a twinge of pain in remembering the death of that dream.  Neither do I regret the decision to open the restaurant.  New doors have opened for me because I have had the experience of being a business owner. Today I assist others in evaluating whether business ownership is the right decision for them.  If they decide to move forward, I assist them in writing their business plans, applying for loans, developing marketing strategies, and making other decisions about their businesses.  I have valuable insights to share from my experiences in opening, running, and selling my business.

My friend will move on and find new dreams to follow.  I hope that she will look back on her period of business ownership as a good experience and that she will have learned many valuable lessons that will guide her as she moves forward.  Someone posted on her Facebook page the comment, “When a door closes…a window opens!” That was certainly true in our case.  Closing the door on our dream of restaurant ownership opened other doors and allowed us to choose a path that was better for us.  And I believe it will be true for my friend, as well.

My husband and I are blessed to have built our lives on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ.  We know that God has a plan for our lives and we trust Him to guide our steps.  Some times the path is rocky and filled with trials and disappointments; other times the path is smooth and filled with triumphs and joy. Either way, our hope is in the Lord.  In Jeremiah 29:11, we read, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.'” We don’t know what the coming year holds for us.  We look forward to it in anticipation of new dreams and plans as we strive to follow God’s leading.

Whether you have let go of a dream or are trying to make a new dream come true, please know that God has a plan for you.  He wants to help you make the dreams He has for you come true.  I pray that 2014 will be a year of letting go of old dreams and making new dreams come true.

What dreams is God placing in your heart for the coming year?

No Whining

When my children were growing up, one of our house rules was “No Whining.”   Usually their inclination to whine was in reaction to being told to do their chores  or to help around the house. I worked diligently to help them realize that (1) whining was not going to change anything–they would still have to do as they were instructed–and (2) the tasks they were whining about generally required less time and energy than they expended in whining.  My sons are grown up and highly responsible men now.  I am proud that they carry out their responsibilities without whining or complaining.

Whining is not restricted to children, however.  Many adults have fallen into the bad habit of whining about the difficulties life throws at them.  Life is never easy, and God never promised that it would be.  Most of the time, life seems pretty good or at least manageable. However, there are times when it seems we can’t get a break.  One crisis follows another with barely enough time to recover in between them.   How we respond during those difficult times determines whether we build character and perseverance or we figuratively ‘throw in the towel’ and give into whining and complaining.

I heard a story yesterday of a woman, Linda, who had been through a very challenging time several years ago.  She had decided to take a risk and start her own business.  A few months later, her husband was severely injured.  The doctors estimated that he would need three months to recover.  His actual recovery took nearly two years. Six months after his injury, their daughter was deployed and left with them her infant daughter.  Linda was now responsible for a helpless baby and her recovering husband, as well as trying to maintain and grow her fledgling business.  It was a challenge that many people would not be able to handle.

Rather than whining or giving up her business, Linda allowed her circumstances to motivate her to take control of her life. She developed her time management skills and created systems that work for her.  Her business is helping people get organized.  She helps people sort through paper, clothing, household items, and other belongings to determine what adds value to their lives and what is cluttering up their lives. Due to the skills she has developed, she was able to expand her business to teach people time management skills in addition to clutter management.  Rather than whining about her circumstance, Linda responded positively and grew as a person and a businesswoman.

I have known Linda for a few years, yet I had not heard this story.  Linda was speaking to a group on time management skills and shared her story only to demonstrate how important these time management skills were during this challenging time in her life.  Her skills are insightful and I plan to share them in another post.    I appreciated that Linda could share her story without trying to elicit sympathy, but rather to encourage each of us in the audience to know we can handle much more than we think we can if we manage our time properly and focus on adding value to our lives.

Philippians 2:14 tells us to “Do everything without complaining or arguing.”  This doesn’t mean that we will always be happy about our circumstances.  Linda certainly was not happy that her husband was hurt or that his recovery period was much longer than the doctors had predicted.  However, she knew that she could not change her circumstances by complaining.  She could have whined to God and to the doctors that these circumstances were too difficult, that she didn’t have time for these challenges with a new business, or that life simply was not fair.  Linda did not choose to whine.  She chose to move forward without whining or complaining.

Life is challenging.  You may be going through a challenging circumstance right now.  If now, you will be soon, I can assure you.  When life gets rocky, remember to keep your eyes firm fixed on God, as He is the only source of help.  Keep doing your best each day with God’s help.  And remember, “No Whining.”

Showing Up One’s Enemies

Have you ever been in a situation where you were hurt or embarrassed and you said to yourself, “I’ll show them.”?  I have on many occasions.  I can remember thinking something along the lines of, “If I win the award, that will teach them.”  Or “People will take me seriously if ….”  It’s seems odd to me that as I write this, I cannot remember any of the offenses that caused me to have those thoughts, but I clearly recall thinking them.  I hope, and pray, that my lack of recall stems from truly forgiving those who hurt me.

As I read Psalm 109 this morning, I felt like David was expressing this same basic sentiment.  He begins Psalm 109 by calling on the Lord to come to his defense.  “O God, whom I praise, do not remain silent.”  (Psalm 109:1).  David spend the next several verses laying out his complaint to the Lord:

  • “they have spoken against me with lying tongues” (v. 2)
  • “they attack me without cause” (v. 3)
  • “they accuse me” (v. 4)
  • “they repay me evil for good, and hatred for friendship” (v. 5)

David then clearly and specifically asked God to destroy his enemies.  He asks that God cut his enemy’s life short, leaving his wife and children with no means of support, so that they have to take to the streets as beggars.  He furthers requests that no one show kindness to this family and that the family name be blotted out.

David then reminds the Lord that David was not the only one his enemy treated badly.  “For he never thought of doing a kindness, but hounded to death the poor and the needy and the brokenhearted.” (v. 16)

Does David’s complaint sound familiar?  If we are honest, we all have to admit that we have made, or at least thought, similar statements.  “He’s the meanest man I have ever met.”  “She never has a nice word to say about anyone.”  “He would step on his own mother if it would help his reach his goal.”

heaping coals

There will always be mean people in this world, and when we encounter them, we often wish evil on them, as David did.  Or we hope to show them up.  If we can play fair and still win, that will really show them.  Or if God blesses us mightily, they will wish they had been nicer, fairer, kinder.  This sentiment is expressed by David near the end of this psalm.

In verse 21, David writes “But you, O Sovereign Lord, deal well with me for your name’s sake; out of the goodness of your love, deliver me.”  He goes on to say, “Let them know that it is your hand, that you, O Lord, have done it.  They may curse, but you will bless; when they attack, they will be put to shame, but your servant will rejoice.  My accusers will be clothed with disgrace and wrapped in shame as in a cloak. (Psalm 109: 27 – 29)

If David, a man after God’s own heart, wanted to show up his enemies and disgrace them, we cannot hope to feel less animosity toward our enemies.  The desire to show up one’s enemies and force them to realize that God is blessing you is a natural one.  However, like David, we need to remember that if God answers our prayer as we desire, it is for His sake and for His glory that He does so.  David reminded God that since David is his servant, God is glorified when David prospers.

We should also remember that David’s son Solomon advised treating our enemies with kindness.  “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”  (Proverbs 25:22)  Solomon is reminding us that although we may pray for God to embarrass our enemies and show them up by blessing us, we are still to treat our enemies fairly.   And Jesus taught us to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  (Matthew 5:44)   Justice is to be left to the Lord. 

love your enemies

So, the next time you feel like showing up your enemy, maybe you should stop and pray for him.  Ask God what kindnesses He would have you show him.  You may be heaping burning coals on his head, but you may also open his eyes to the love of the Lord, and in doing so,  your enemy may become your brother in Christ.

What situations have occurred in your life where you really wanted God to honor you in a way that would show up your enemies and make them take notice that God had blessed you?

How have you ‘heaped burning coals’ on your enemy’s head?

Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

In Matthew 20:1-16 Jesus tells the story of workers in a vineyard.  In the parable a landowner goes out to the marketplace to find workers for his vineyard.  Those he chooses agree to work all day for a fair day’s wage.  Later the landowner goes out and finds others who have not been hired.  He sends them to work, promising to pay what is fair. Three more times throughout the day, the landowners returns to the marketplace and hires additional workers.  At the end of the day, he pays them each the same amount–a fair day’s wage.  Those who had worked the longest grumbled that they should have been paid more than those who had worked only a portion of the day.  The landowner responds that he is not being unfair, as he paid them the agreed-upon wage.

Many scholars interpret this parable as having to do with salvation.  Eternal life is promised to those who accept Jesus as their Savior, regardless of whether they make that decision early in their life, later in life, or at the very end of their life.  As a parable reflecting salvation, I am thrilled that Jesus continues to offer the free gift of salvation to people throughout their lives, particularly as I don’t find ‘laboring’ for Jesus to be hard work.  I find that living for Jesus makes my daily life rewarding, fulfilling, and more meaningful. I am glad that Jesus allows people to make the decision to follow him even up till the time they take their dying breaths.

Taken literally, however, I would be equally bothered as the first workers were.  This parable violates our sense of fairness.  If I’d been toiling hard for many hours, I would feel that I deserve more pay than someone who only worked for a few hours and particularly those who only worked one hour.

Yet, as Jesus pointed out, all the workers got the pay they agreed to accept when they were hired.  The owner of the vineyard paid those who worked all day a fair day’s wage.  He simply chose to be more generous with those hired later. Of course, this wouldn’t be permitted in our society today, unless the employer did it clandestinely.  Those workers who had labored all day would file a lawsuit and the landowner would be forced to pay them more or those hired later less. 

As I read this story this week, God opened my heart and I envisioned this story in the present day with the workers as unemployed people (and perhaps homeless) who have been waiting all day for an opportunity to work as day laborers. My attitude toward the workers changed. Many day laborers wait all day hoping and praying for the opportunity to work. Their need to provide for their families and pay their bills is no less great than the laborers who get hired.  These men and women want to work and they want to meet their obligations. 

So, how can I feel indigent if a kind employer shows mercy to them by paying them for more time than they worked? 

Jesus demonstrated once again that God’s thoughts are higher than ours and that He cares deeply for each individual. I pray that as I study God’s word and spend time in prayer that I will come to see people through Jesus’s eyes.  The world would be a much better place if we all worried less about what is “fair” in our own eyes and considered how we could show Christ’s love and compassion to our neighbors.

If I won the lottery…

Mega millions jackpot
Mega millions jackpot

Last week a couple in our community won the lottery in the amount of $217 million.  They took a one-time payout of $135 million.  I’m not sure if that is their before-tax, or after-tax, winnings.  Either way, it is a  lot of money.  The husband and wife were reported to be planning to retire early, buy a large retirement home, pay off debts, and give money to charity.  The husband bought a quick pick ticket on the spur of the moment as he was preparing to board a plane in Richmond to go on a business trip.  It was certainly a fortuitous decision.

It got me to wondering what I would do if I were to win the lottery.  It’s not going to happen, as I don’t play the lottery.  However, it’s interesting to think about.  I bet most of you have at least thought about how such a staggering sum of money, or even a mere few million dollars, would change your life.  I think most of us would agree in general with the decisions this winning couple announced–early retirement, vacation home, debt elimination, and charitable giving.

But what would I do specifically with that amount of money?  This is what I have come up with:

1) The first ten percent would go to my church and like-minded Christian ministries to share the gospel and love of Jesus Christ.  God asks that we return a tithe, or ten percent, of all that He gives us to support the work of the church and spread the gospel throughout the world.  A big chunk would go to my local church and to support Assembly of God missionaries.  Another portion would go to the Assembly of God’s  emergency relief ministry, C0nvoy of Hope, and to organizations such as Samaritan’s Purse.  Based on the one-time payout of $135 million, the tithe would be $13.5 million.  Let’s round that up to $15 million, leaving $120 million for other things.

2) A large vacation home at the beach would definitely be on my list.  And perhaps a second vacation home in the mountains.  I would love to have a place large enough for my children and grandchildren, as well as my parents and siblings to all gather together in one place.  And, of course, with all those people in one house, I would gladly spend money on a cleaning service. It is hard to imagine spending $1 million or more on a home, but for the sake of this exercise, let’s budget $10 million on vacation homes, leaving $110 million.

3) Donations to my college alma maters would be another priority.  It would be nice to give back in a substantial way to the institutes of higher learning that played a prominent role in my education  My father taught at my undergrad college, now the University of Mary Washington, for 32 years.  It would be very satisfying to donate several million dollars and have a building named in Dad’s honor.  Let’s assume that $5 million goes to each institution, with $100 million left.

4) I would spend another large portion, perhaps the largest, to provide first-rate care for my mother-in-law.  She is in a nursing home and, while she is more than adequately cared for, she longs to be in a real home of her own.  However, she needs round-the-clock care and the socialization afforded her by being with other people.  It would be very satisfying to provide her a warm, homey environment with the care she needs.  I can envision spending $20 million to build a nursing home in which each patient would have a private room and a personal staff to attend to their needs.  After building a nursing home, about $80 million would remain.

5) I would set up college funds for my grandchildren and a nest egg for each of our sons.  Conservatively, these savings funds might consume another five million.  $75 million remains.

Beyond these five expenditures, I think I would set aside a rainy day fund for Steve and I and would donate the rest to charities.  Of course, it would be a chore to decide which charities to support.  The Bible teaches us that “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded.” (Luke 12:48)  I believe I would feel burdened to do the most good I could would the money.  Therefore, I would target organizations that help the homeless and our wounded veterans to get back on their feet.

Winning such a staggering amount of money is really beyond my comprehension.  While this couple is free to spend, save, and share this money as they wish, they have a moral obligations to use the money wisely.  History has demonstrated, however, that many lottery winners frequently wind up broke or in debt in a few years.  They aren’t prepared to handle such a tremendous sum of money and they spend it lavishly and donate to any and all groups that asks for a donation.  I don’t expect that to happen to this couple.  I hope that the money brings them happiness and that with this money, they help many other people to have better lives.

Have you thought about what you would do if you won the lottery?  I bet you have.  What would be your top priorities for the money?

 

February 26, 2013

Follow up to blog post:  I just read a post about a couple who last year won half of the largest powerball jackpot ever.  This couple, Mark and Cindy Hill, have remained true themselves and are generously using much of thei $136 million lump-sum payout to improve their community.  The article states that this is unusual and that history shows that 70 percent of all lottery winners will spend or lose it all within a few years. To read the entire articles, go to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/25/missouri-powerball-winner_n_2749795.html?1361825691&icid=maing-grid7%7Cmain5%7Cdl3%7Csec1_lnk3%26pLid%3D275177

“Do You Love Me?”

A few weeks ago Lisa Whelchel announced she was divorcing her husband after more than 23 years of marriage. Yesterday I watched a video of an interview she did with Jeff Probst in which Lisa said that she was never really in love with her husband.  Lisa explained that she thought she was following God’s will for her life by marrying her husband, yet her heart was never committed to the relationship.

As I listened to the interview, I was reminded of  the very touching scene in Fiddler on the Roof where Tevye asks Golde if she loves him.  Golde tries to avoid answering but finally concludes that all they have shared in 25 years of marriage is the definition of love.  The song ends with each professing their love for the other and concludes with “It doesn’t change a thing, but even so, after twenty-five years, it’s nice to know.”

It’s not my place to judge Lisa or to try to determine what was right for her and her family.  However, my heart breaks at the realization that a Christian couple who have tried to follow God’s will for their lives could live together for more than two decades and raise a family without truly bonding with one another.  Tevye and Golde are right when they conclude that going through the ups and downs of life together really does constitute love.  I’m sorry Lisa was not able to come to the same conclusion.  I wish her all the best as she moves forward in life as a single Christian woman,  and I pray that she will find the lasting love that she seems to have missed in her recently-ended marriage.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Fiddler on the Roof, I encourage you to check out the video of “Do You Love Me?”   starring Topol as Tevye and Norma Crane as Golde:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_y9F5St4j0 .  It’s a beautiful song and a touching scene as these two long-married people finally reveal the love that is in their hearts.

Preparing for the Storm

I got an unexpected day off today as the Eastern seaboard prepares for Hurricane Sandy, the latest storm to head our way.  At a minimum, Sandy will bring with it a lot of rain and high winds, which is what we expect in the greater Washington, DC, area.  Power outages are also likely.  Those more directly in Sandy’s path will experience stronger winds, more rain, and flooding.  As the path of a hurricane is never certain, a wide region must prepare for a possible onslaught.

Although our area doesn’t expect to experience the worst of Sandy, most of us have prepared by stocking up on bottled water, nonperishable food, and flashlight batteries.  We’ve made sure our pets are safe and protected.  We’ve cleared debris from around our sump pumps and secured outdoor furniture that might become projectiles in strong winds.  Most government agencies and many business have closed for the day and most likely will remain closed tomorrow.

If the storm does not come our way, we will feel a great deal of relief and thankfulness.  Thanks to oft-maligned weathermen, we have had many days warning that Hurricane Sandy might head our way and those caught unprepared will have no one to blame but themselves.

Unlike storms of nature, storms of life hit us with no advanced warning.  We are going happily about our life when suddenly we are hit with a storm that wrecks havoc in our life.  It might be the unexpected death of a loved one or a diagnosis of cancer after a routine medical screening.  It could be the loss of a job or the loss of a dream.  We typically don’t have an advanced warning of these types of storms, but we know that we will all face them from time to time. 

How can we prepare for these storms?  I prepare by putting my faith in my Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.  When Jesus ascended into Heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell with us and guide us through life’s storms.  “I will ask the Father and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever–the Spirit of truth.” (John 14:16, NIV)  As we call on the Holy Spirit, He comforts us and guides us through the trials, or storms, or life.

I awoke this morning with the old hymn The Solid Rock running through my mind and I’ve been singing it all morning.  The chorus says, “On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand, All other ground is sinking sand.”

I am truly thankful today that no matter what punch Hurricane Sandy throws at us, my feet are firmly planted on solid ground.  With Jesus Christ as my Savior, I have nothing to fear.

Are your feet planted on a firm foundation today?  If not, I pray that you will look to Jesus as your solid rock.

 

The Solid Rock
Lyrics by Edward Mote, 1797 – 1874
Music by William B. Bradbury, 1816- 1868
 
My hope is built on nothing less,
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name
 
On Christ the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
 
When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the vale.
 
On Christ the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
 
His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.
 
On Christ the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
 
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.
 
On Christ the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

Welcoming Home A Returning Hero

On my recent trip to New Orleans, I was seated beside one of our military heroes as he flew the last leg of a very long trip home from Afghanistan.  Sam had been away from his family for a year, serving with an Army unit.  His trip home had taken him from Afghanistan to New Orleans by way of Africa, Germany, Indianapolis, and Atlanta over a period of 36 hours.  He was exhausted but willing to talk to me about his family and his life in New Orleans.

Sam’s military service qualifies him as one of America’s heroes.  He put his life on the line to protect our freedoms and defend our nation. Additionally, Sam is helping to rebuild New Orleans while realizing the American dream and supporting his family.  Sam has been able to purchase damaged homes, renovate them, and rent them.  He is building a future for his children while helping to rebuild his home town.

I enjoyed my visit with Sam and looked forward to witnessing Sam’s reunion with his family after his long absence.  So I was disappointed to learn that Sam was sneaking into town unannounced. He planned to surprise his family by suddenly showing up at home.  I’m sure it was a great surprise and that his family was delighted to have Sam home.  However, I couldn’t help but feel that Sam had denied them the great pleasure of waiting excitedly for their first glimpse of him as he made his way through the airport.

Many years ago I waited at the Savannah airport with my mother, three sisters, and little brother as Dad returned home safely from Vietnam.  It is one of the best memories of my life.  Even now, forty-four years later, there are tears in my eyes as I recall that joyous day.  Dad had left home 13 months earlier and served in Saigon during the TET offensive.  Although we were in elementary school,  my sisters and I couldn’t escape the daily barrage of news on the war in Vietnam.  We were aware that he was in harm’s way everyday and there was nothing we could do except pray for God’s hand to protect him.

Mom received word of Dad’s homecoming a day before he arrived home.  I think he had called her from Hawaii to let her know he was on his way.  She tried to keep the news a secret from us, but we noticed her whispering to the neighbors and figured out that something was up.  Mom soon realized that we feared something was wrong and told us the wonderful news.  Shortly afterwards, Dad called from California.  It is impossible to describe the joy I felt as a nine-year old girl upon hearing Dad’s voice for the first time in more than a year.  There was little sleep in our house that night and in the morning we piled into our station wagon to make the trip to the airport. 

In 1968 airports were not equipped with the security systems now in place.  We stood behind a chain-link fence and watched as Dad came down the steps of the plane.  Then we raced into his arms.  It was so wonderful to have our Dad home. 

Dad could have chosen to surprise us, as Sam did and as many fathers are choosing to do these days.  I’m sure we would have been just as thrilled to have him home.  But we would have been denied those glorious hours of anticipation, knowing that he was on his way home, and the pure joy of watching him step from the plane.

Thanks, Dad, for your service.  You deserved the hero’s welcome you received from your grateful family.  And Sam, thank you for your service.  Thank you for making the sacrifice to serve your country thousands of miles from home and those you love.  I hope your homecoming was as special and joyous in its own way as my father’s was so many years ago.