Letting Go and Letting God

The phrase “let go and let God” has been popular in Christian circles for many years.  It simply means give your problems, concerns, and worries to God and allow Him to take care of them for you.  It’s a catchy phrase–easy to say and easy to remember.  However, it’s very hard to put into practice.  More times than not, I find myself praying about a situation and then spending many hours or days trying to work out a solution on my own.  A beloved former pastor of mine calls that “picking the problem up again.”

Yesterday I read a great blog post by Pastor Tim Burton entitled “Get Rid of Self-Imposed Limitations.”  (http://readfreshmanna.blogspot.com/    January 7, 2013)  Pastor Tim addressed this very issue and his struggles with “letting go and letting God.”  In this post, Pastor Tim described a situation in which a friend confided to him before the Sunday morning church service that he had been laid off from his job and asked Tim to pray for him to find a new job.  Pastor Tim agreed to pray for his friend and provided him with the name of a contact who might be able to assist him.

Pastor Tim had been supportive and offered his friend useful information.  His sole responsibility at this point was to pray for his friend.  However, as he tried to worship, his mind kept trying to come up with solutions to assist his friend.  I could relate to Pastor Tim’s experience.  Too often, I ask God to handle a problem and then begin working out the ways God could best accomplish the task.

Pastor Tim reported that he had come up with three possible solutions when he felt God reprimand him with these words, “You are trying to solve what belongs to me. Can you see how limited your thinking is? Stop your limited thinking and turn this over to me! There are no limitations for me and you could not figure out how I will be directing his life.”  

To his credit, Pastor Tim immediately stopped interfering and stepped back to allow God to work.   This simple story illustrated to me that when I spend time trying to solve a problem that only God can solve, there are two unintended consequences: (1) I waste my time and (2) I put limits on God.

Isaiah 55:8 says, “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.”  This tells me that God has plans for me, or my friends, that I could never fathom.  If I will get out of the way and allow God to enact His plans, the results will be far better than any I could come up with on my own.

I believe that this illustration will help me to truly be faithful in letting go of the problems I bring to God and allowing God handle them in the way that He knows will be best for me and will bring Him glory.

Do you find yourself asking God to help you and then not allowing Him to work?  If so, I hope that Pastor Tim’s inspired words will bless you and help you to let go and let God.

My Take on Proselytizing

I grew up in a Christian home and have attended church regularly all my life, yet I was not familiar with the term ‘proselytizing’ until I was in my thirties and then I only heard it used on rare occasions.  In recent years I have heard the term used more and more frequently, often as a criticism.  The term is bandied about so negatively that I found it hard to believe it was an action I could be guilty of committing, so I looked up its meaning.  Webster defines proselytize as ‘the attempt to convert’.

Christians are instructed by Christ to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’ (Matthew 28:19), which certainly results in an attempt to convert those who don’t know Jesus Christ as their Savior to Christianity.  We don’t use the term ‘proselytizing’, however.  Rather we ‘share the gospel’ and ‘evangelize.’  In Christian circles, these are viewed as positive actions.  We are attempting to lead people into a relationship with Jesus Christ, because we are convinced that salvation through Jesus Christ is the only access to eternal life.

Of course, many people have a different and negative opinion of evangelism. The Atheist Revolution recently published an article entitle ‘The Condescending Nature of Proselytizing.’  The unidentified author discusses his disdain for those of any religion who proselytize.  He quotes Rick Levy who finds this practice “rude and condescending because of its implication that the adherent’s beliefs are superior to those of other people’s and thus they need to be saved from the error of their ways.”

Interesting.  I make no apologies for Christians believing that salvation comes only through Jesus Christ.  Christ himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:60)  In Acts 4:12, Peter preached “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”  There are no alternative beliefs for anyone who truly is a disciple of Christ.

What I object to is the assertion that sharing our faith makes Christians condescending.  We are not trying to present ourselves as superior, but rather as sinners saved by grace who want to give others the opportunity to share in this wonderful gift.  We desire that everyone would experience the peace and joy that comes from knowing Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Recently quotes from an interview given by Penn Jillette in 2008 have been making the rounds on the Internet.  Jillette, of Penn and Teller fame, is a very vocal atheist, yet he states “I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize…How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize?”  When I saw the video of this interview, it reminded me of the Seinfeld episode in which Elaine discovers that her boyfriend Putty is a Christian.  She gets upset that he would let her go to hell rather than try to convert her.

Proselytizing, from a Christian’s point of view, is the attempt to share the most precious, valuable gift ever given to man–the gift of eternal life.  Christianity is so wonderful that not sharing this good news is not an option.

If you don’t know Jesus as your Savior, I urge you to examine your heart.  Do you have true peace?  Do you know your sins are forgiven?  Are you confident that you will spend eternity in Heaven?  If not, you might want to open your heart and your mind the next time a Christian wants to share the gospel with you.  You have nothing to lose and eternity to gain.

Lessons Learned from a Former POW

This week I had the opportunity to hear former POW Paul Galanti speak about his experiences during nearly 7 years of confinement in North Vietnam’s Hanoi Hilton.  It’s hard to imagine a tougher situation to find one’s self in, yet Commander Galanti began by saying that there were positive aspects of his confinement.  Although he mentioned some of the extreme hardships, he focused his remarks on those positive experiences. 

The men who were confined together, some for as long as 9 years, formed bonds that are strong nearly 40 years after their release.  They keep in touch and hold periodic reunions.  No one complains if the service isn’t perfect at the reunions–they know what hardship is and it is not having a meal that is less than perfect.

Although Commander Galanti did not reference God or faith in his remarks, it was evident that the men were sustained by faith.  They had faith that they would survive the ordeal.  They had faith that the government and their loved ones were doing all they could do affect their release.  They also had faith in the human will to overcome the darkest of situations.

The most fascinating  part was when he described how strong his memory was during the days of solitary confinement.  All the lessons from his college courses came back to him in minute details.  Later, when he was reunited with a larger group of men, the college-educated among them taught what they had learned to the others.  Upon release, former prisoners were awarded up to 120 credit hours for materials taught to them by their fellow captives.

So, what lessons can we learn from Commander Galanti and his imprisonment.

1)  The mind needs periods of silence. Commander Galanti was able to recall his college lessons clearly only because he was in solitary confinement and spending long periods in silence.   The Bible teaches us  to ” Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)  We need periods of silence and solitude to reflect on God’s Word and to hear his voice.

2) We can survive whatever life throws our way.  Commander Galanti and the other men in the Hanoi Hilton faced hardships that most of us cannot even fathom.  Yet, they not only survived but they rose above their circumstances.  God promises that He will be with us in all circumstances and “He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.”  (1 Corinthians 10:13)  There must have been many times when the prisoners were tempted to give up, but they remained strong and determined to survive their terrible circumstance.

3) Being connected with others is important.  For the prisoners of war, communication with each other was their life blood, despite the extreme punishment they endured if caught.  Through their clandestine communications they got to know one other and encouraged each other in the darkest times. The Bible teaches Christians that they should “not give up meeting together” but should “encourage one another.”  (Hebrews 10:25)  We need the support and encouragement of our Christian brothers and sisters.

4) It is important to be optimistic and have hope.  The prisoners were confident that their confinement would end one day.  They were sure that the end was in sight and would come within six months or a year.  They continued to be optimistic as the months  stretched to years.  They looked forward to the day they would be released and returned to their families.  God wants us to have hope, too.  He has promised good to us, even though we may be going through a dark period.  Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God has “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” 

5) Good can come out of terrible circumstances.  The men who were held captive in the Hanoi Hilton could have become bitter and angry about their circumstances.  But they didn’t.  They chose to redeem their time to help one another and to better themselves.  Several of the former prisoners, including Senator John McCain, have served in prominent positions in our government.  The Bible teaches us that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” (Romans 8:28)

We often face difficult circumstances, but most of us will never face the hardships that compare to those of the American servicemen imprisoned in Vietnam.  We should strive to follow their example of rising above our circumstances to look for the good in life and be all that God has intended us to be.

It was an honor and a privilege to hear Commander Gilanti speak.  I was uplifted by his message of optimism.  Nearly 40 years after his release, he continues to spread his message and improve the lives of others through his work.  He serves as an inspiration to all of us.

What hardships are you facing today?  Will you strive to rise above your circumstances and face the world with hope and optimism, striving to be the man or woman God created you to be?  Will you allow God to give you hope for a better future?

Blessings Through Tears

Laura Story’s song Blessings is the song which I most identify with at this time.  Our family, like most families I know, has endured some very difficult situations in the past few years, but in the midst of the difficult times we have felt God’s presence every step of the way.   His strong arms have carried us through unemployment, bereavement, and uncertainty.  We have absolute assurity that our God is in control of our lives and our future.  Athough we would never pray for God to bring difficult circumstances our way, we recognize that He uses those circumstances to reveal to us our need for Him and to help us grow in our faith.  Life on Earth will be challenging some days–many days–but as the song says, “This is not our home.” 

 

Blessings

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home
It’s not our home

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise

 

 

‘My One Word’Experiment for 2011—Closing Thoughts

Last year I heard about the “My One Word” challenge on my local Christian radio station. The idea is that instead of creating a list of resolutions, which are generally broken and long-forgotten by the time February 1st rolls around, we should choose a word to focus on for the year.  The originators of this idea refer to it as an ‘experiment.’  Their web site states that choosing one word “provides clarity by taking all of your big plans for life change and narrowing them down into a single thing. One word focuses on your character and creates a vision for your future.”  For more information on the My One Word experiment, you may go to their web site:  http://myoneword.org/.

For 2011, I chose “Delight” to be my word.  The scripture I focused on was “Delight yourself also in the Lord and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”  Psalm 37:4 (NKJV).  The last three years have been challenging, and at times draining, as we faced the loss of my husband’s job and resulting long-term unemployment and the declining health of his parents.  The pressures of life had weighed heavily on me in 2009 and 2010.  I was determined to not let them steal my joy. 

I did none of the suggested exercises.  My total commitment to the exercise was to write two blogs about my word.  Yet, whenever I found myself getting bogged down by cares of the world, ‘Delight’ would pop into my mind.  Just thinking the word gave me a better perspective.  It is almost impossible to say or think the word ‘Delight’ without feeling a bit ‘delightful.’

As the year drew to a close, I once again read Psalm 37 during my devotions.  This time it was the 23rd verse that caught my attention.  It says, “The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. He DELIGHTS in every detail of their lives.”   What a joy it brought to my heart to be reminded that God delights in me and in everything that concerns me. 

I can come to God with all the details of my life and He delights in guiding me to making the best decisions and the right choices.  God will direct Steve and me as we continue to search for a new home (see January 17th post).  He will guide me to be the best employee I can be and Steve as he continues to seek direction regarding earning a living.  God cares about our marriage, our health, and our relationships.  He is delighted when I bring these things to Him and He delights in helping me.  And those thoughts fill me with ‘Delight’.

I am still praying and pondering ‘My Word’ for 2012.  I plan to make a decision this week.

Will you participate in the ‘My One Word’challenge this year?  What ‘one word’ will you focus on in 2012?

Follow Up Visit to the Burn Center

Three weeks ago, our oldest child awakened us with a 4 a.m. phone call to tell us he was in our local emergency room and was about to be transported to the burn center at Medical College of Virginia in Richmond.  That was a scary phone call and one no parent wants to receive.  Fortunately, his burn was relatively minor and he is healing just fine.

Last week he made his follow visit to the burn center.  As he and his father sat in the waiting room, they were surrounded by patients who had been severely burned.  My son later told me that he felt a bit foolish even being there when his burn was so minor. 

In the waiting room were two men who had been engulfed in flames after a wood chipper they were welding blew up.  The other two men with them were also severely burned and one of them did not survive the ordeal.  After extinguishing the flames, one of the men had to place a 911 call.  When help arrived, the men had to be transported 2 miles on foot to reach the helicopter that would take them to the burn center.  The accident occurred last May and the men are still in considerable pain.  They have had numerous surgeries and face more in the future.

Among the other patients was a child whose face had been burned.  As a parent, it is horrifying to think about a child being severely burned and perhaps disfigured for life.  This experience has made us very grateful that our son’s injury was so minor in comparison.  It also reminds us that horrific accidents happen everyday. We never know when we  or our loved ones will be involved in an accident that can alter their lives. 

Our prayers go out to those who deal daily with the after effects of a severe accident.  And we are grateful to God that He daily watches over and protects our loved ones.  If such a tragedy should befall us, we are confident that God will be faithful to walk through the difficult times with us.

4 a.m. Phone Call

My heart always skips a beat when the phone rings at 4 a.m.  No one calls at 4 a.m. with good news.  Fortunately, most such middle-of-the-night phone calls turn out to be wrong numbers.  Unfortunately, the call we received at 4 a.m. Wednesday morning was not a wrong number.  It was our oldest son.

He begins the conversation with “Don’t freak out, but I’m in the emergency room.”  Not a good start.  But it can’t be too bad, can it, since he is able to make the phone call himself?

“I burned my hand on hot grease.”  We breathe a sigh of relief.  A burnt hand isn’t that bad.

“They’re transferring me to the burn unit at MCV.”  Our hearts skip a beat.  There is no way to put a positive spin on being transferred to a burn unit 50 miles away.

We hang up the phone and try to process the information we have just received.  We begin imagining the worst possibilities.   We shed a few tears, hold each other, and pray for our son.

We’ve never been to the university hospital in Richmond, so we call our local emergency room for directions.  We are told that our son is still there and will be for another half hour, so we dress and rush over to see him.  He seems fine except for the large bandage covering his right hand.  “It’s not that bad,” he tells us; however, his nurse disagrees. “It’s pretty bad,” she whispers.

Soon after he arrives at MCV, the burn specialist declares that it really isn’t bad for a grease burn.  He had been prepared to perform skin grafts but realizes that grafts will not be necessary.  Praise God!  However, it is 6 hours before they release him and only after he agrees to having a home health care nurse come to the house to perform wound care for the next couple of days.

The end prognosis is that he should heal fine, if the wound does not become infected.  He is home-bound for the next 2 weeks to minimize the possibility of infection.  We have been assured he will retain full mobility of his hand. We are unsure  whether the hand will be scarred. 

We are grateful to the doctors and nurses who treated our son, and we are thankful that he had the good sense to seek medical attention.  Most of all, we thank God that He protected our son from permanent injury. 

This 4 a.m. was a reminder that we never know what each day (or night) will bring.  Even though our children are grown, they are still our children and we worry about them.  And that will never change.