A Faithful Friend

standard September 6, 2017 1 response

Just then some men came, carrying on a stretcher a man who was paralyzed.  They tried to bring him in and set him down before Him [Jesus].  Since they could not find a way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on the stretcher through the roof titles into the middle of the crowd before Jesus.  Seeing their faith He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” (Luke 5:18-20)

Have you ever experienced paralysis in your life?  The kind of paralysis where one debilitating episode comes after the other.  Your body aches all over, even though your muscles have long stopped working.  You struggle to pick yourself up off the ground, but to no avail.

And then you hear that there is a man in town who performs miracles.  He goes by the name of Jesus, some are even calling him the Son of God.  Every fiber of your being knows that your healing lies within the building that is close enough to hit with a stone…that is, if you could throw a stone.

And as you lie there simply defeated, your friends walk in and gently place you on a stretcher. They inform you that they are taking you to meet this Jesus.  Just as your hope begins to soar, it is immediately dashed as the realization that the chances of your friends getting you inside the jam-packed building to where your healing lies are slim to none. There is not an inch of room to spare.

But your friends are not ordinary.  No. They are extraordinary.

They look at the seemingly impossible situation and find a way to climb the walls with you on the stretcher, remove part of the roof, and lower you into the room where the Son of God is teaching.  But you didn’t end up just anywhere in the room.  Amazingly, you are placed at the very spot you need to be: in front of the only One who is capable of forgiving your sins and healing your limp body. 

This is all because of your friends, who saw your need as greater than their own. You know that they each have things they would like to ask of the Son of God.  They could use miracles in their own lives, but their selflessness and desire to see you restored took precedence.  They are faithful friends.

And Jesus, seeing their faith, grants the healing and forgiveness that you have desperately hoped for since the paralysis hit.  You will never be the same.  Your healing came because of the self-sacrificial love of your friends who were willing to do whatever it took to place you directly in front of your Savior.

Now that you are healed, will you do the same for others?  Are you willing to be a faithful friend?

Lord, would You allow me to be a faithful friend to others, pointing them to the only One who can heal them and forgive them of their sins, Jesus? Thank You also for the friends that You have placed in my life who show me Your love continually.      

Do All Lives Matter?

standard July 17, 2016 5 responses

Recent events have left no doubt that our country is broken and hurting.  We are especially heartbroken in Louisiana today at the news that three police officers have been shot and killed and three additional officers are injured during a senseless ambush attack in Baton Rouge. This attack comes on the heels of the loss of Alton Sterling, an African American man who was shot and killed as he wrestled with two police officers on July 5, and the loss of five Dallas police officers in a sniper attack on July 7.  Everyone’s emotions are running high. We respond with posts bearing hashtags such as #blacklivesmatter and #bluelivesmatter, each with extremely valid reasons of why these particular lives do matter.  The #gaylivesmatter community is saying, “Don’t forget about us…we are hurting too.”  So we come up with an all-inclusive #alllivesmatter.  And, yes, all lives DO matter.

So, what is the solution to all the chaos we are currently facing and how can we do our part to promote healing?  And where is God in all of this?

When Paul was writing the Book of Philippians, he was facing days of uncertainty and dire circumstances (think oppressive Roman imprisonment).  Yet the over-arching theme of this book is for the church at Philippi to have JOY and UNITY despite their circumstances as Paul was striving to do in his own life.  He gives these simple instructions that also applies to our current reality as much as it did to the early church.  The solution lies in these words:

“Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.”  Philippians 4:5

Could it really be that easy? Well, I suppose it depends on what your definition of “easy” is.

Gentleness, a fruit of the Spirit, is used in this verse as an adjective meaning that not only are we to be considerate of others, but we are also to treat people in a manner that is “fitting, right, or equitable.”

The word for all is πᾶς meaning just what you think it does: each, every, whole, ALL.

God is telling us that we are to treat each and every person that we come into contact with on a daily basis with consideration and view them as equitable in God’s eyes.  Whoa! Take a minute and let that soak in.  If we are all equitable in God’s eyes, then why are we still stereotyping each other? And therein lies the rub. We all want to be viewed as if our life matters and we want to be treated in a fair and equitable manner.

But most definitely, killing is not the answer; anger is not the answer; retaliation is not the answer.  Love is the answer; peace is the answer; gentleness is the answer.

But why can’t I just live my life and you live yours? Why do I have to be considerate of others and their feelings?

The answer is this: Because the Lord is near.  This does not mean the Lord is near as in the Holy Spirit is among us (even though He is), but this is better translated as “People get ready! Jesus is coming!” 

If we really believe that all lives matter, then we have an obligation to not only be considerate, but also to be the Light.  Pointing others to Jesus, telling them of a Savior who values their life so much that He gave His own life.  Ultimately, Jesus is the answer.

So, you see, healing is never “easy,” but you and I can do our part to show the world that all lives matter by doing these two things in our everyday lives:

  1. Let your gentleness be evident to all. To the black police officer who took a vow to protect you. To the young white man you pass on the street. To the person bagging your groceries. To your gay coworker. To the waitress serving your food. To your spouse. To your children.  To ALL.
  2. Let your light shine. The world is watching and waiting to see how we will respond. Resist the urge to speak out judgment or condemnation on others who are different than you.  Rather speak the name of Jesus…the Name above all names…the only name that saves.

He is near and He is the original author of life.  His desire is that everyone (all) would come to repentance and know Him as their Savior (2 Peter 3:9).

He is a God who truly believes that ALL LIVES MATTER. 

Have Courage & Be Kind

standard November 11, 2015 14 responses

“Have you ever experienced this kind of pain?…you received a phone call from the doctor’s office saying that they would rather you come in to discuss your test results.  ~ Help me, Jesus! I need You now!”

When I wrote these words in When The Earth Keeps Spinning, But Your World Has Stopped, I never imagined that our family would be experiencing them within a few short weeks.

My mother, Kathi, was recently diagnosed with Stage II Breast Cancer and we were all in disbelief. My mom? The one who eats healthy and exercises regularly? You mean to tell me that a bunch of cells coagulated together into a lump and formed cancer inside her body and now she has to have surgery, and chemo, AND radiation? Stop it. You’re joking, right?

But it was true. So we put on our pink boxing gloves and jumped up and down in the corner, ready to knock this thing out. But that’s not my mom’s style.  She’s more like Cinderella in her approach and the saying, “Have Courage & Be Kind” fits her to a tee.

Don’t get me wrong. She’s a fighter, but she’s a different kind of fighter. She fights with courage and she fights with kindness, but most importantly, she fights on her knees.

From the very beginning she put her trust in the Lord and she told everyone around her that she was already healed. When she met her oncologist she told him, “You’re my doctor and I am grateful for you, but the Lord is my Great Physician.” What could he say to that but “Yes, Ma’am”?

As news spread of mom’s cancer she ended up on countless prayer lists and more than a few times she was placed in the middle of a prayer circle with people laying hands on her. She told me, “I feel the peace of the Lord. Through every turn, He’s been there. Leading me to the right doctors, opening doors, showing me kindness through others. And, oh the kindness of others! Of course, my friends have poured out their love on me but I have also felt the love of people who hardly know me. They are kind to me because they love my kids. They are sending me notes of encouragement, making me quilts for chemo treatments, praying Scripture over me and our family, posting sweet comments on social media. That’s what really touches me and makes me cry. The kindness of others.”

And it makes me cry too.

The examples are so many, from the gentleness of the lady at the barber shop who shaved Mom’s head with such tenderness to the unknown contact of my sister’s coworker who offered her apartment in Houston for my mom and dad to use during radiation treatments. It is the sweetness of the Lord manifesting itself through human hands and feet. It is community and it is beautiful to witness.

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The second part of the equation is how much courage has played a part in Mom’s battle with cancer to the point that others can see courage radiating from her.  She described an exchange with a perfect stranger who was battling a serious struggle of her own whom Mom befriended. By the end of the conversation the woman told her, “I see such courage in you.”

When I asked Mom where she got her courageous spirit, she said, “It’s a gift. I didn’t get it, it was just handed to me. Growing up the way I did makes a difference. I don’t know if it is courage or not, but I feel such an assurance that God is in control and I don’t have to be in control. He orchestrated everything and He is the One who makes it livable, workable. The Lord is good. He holds you up and covers you.”

This is what it means to me to have courage and be kind. Thank you, Mom, for your beautiful, selfless example. Your testimony of God’s faithfulness in your life is an inspiration to many and I hope that one day I can be just like you. Kind and courageous.IMG_2652

‘“The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”

Numbers 6:24-26

I Will Testify

standard September 24, 2015 7 responses

Do you believe in the supernatural power of God? I do and I have for several years. But this month I got to experience a supernatural work in my own life.

This is a picture of me with some new friends on a flight to El Salvador that I almost didn’t have the privilege of being on.

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In the early summer months, I received an invitation from a Compassion Advocate to attend a women’s only mission trip with Compassion International in September to El Salvador. Knowing that I would be taking eight credit hours in my Master’s program this fall I was somewhat hesitant to commit right away. But earlier that spring, through the Compassion Experience, the Lord had led our family to sponsor a child from El Salvador. His name is Jaime (pronounced Hi-mee) and he was absolutely adorable in his white tennis shoes. My husband was instantly drawn to him and claimed him as our own. We began praying for him and writing him letters, and in one such letter Adams sent him a verse, Jeremiah 33:3: ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’FullSizeRender 2

I told my friend, the Compassion Advocate, that we were actually the sponsors of a child from El Salvador and I wondered if I could meet him while on the trip, however, I did realize that El Salvador is a country, and it may not be feasible to ask for such a request. My friend was quick to call Compassion and they answered that it could indeed be done. I took this a sign from the Lord that I was to participate on this trip and I immediately began brushing up on my Spanish. (Hola!)

Two weeks before I was set to leave on my trip to El Salvador, I began to feel ill. I called my husband (thinking it was possibly food poisoning) and asked if he was feeling the same way, but he was not. I brushed it off and that next day he left for a spiritual men’s retreat in which he had been planning for several months. The following day the pain in my stomach worsened. I thought possibly I had an ulcer, so I contacted my good friend and pharmacist and asked her for antacids to help relieve the pain.  But the pain in my stomach was substantially increasing each day and eventually I was not able to stand up straight.  I finally accepted that I was in a real predicament so I drove myself to my doctor’s office and begged to be seen. He was gracious to see me, but when he delivered the news that my symptoms pointed to appendicitis I was upset.

I do not have time for this! I am leaving for my trip to El Salvador in two weeks. My husband is out of town. Doesn’t this require surgery? I can’t have surgery. I have school on Monday. What should I do?!

A CT Scan was scheduled for the following week and I was given strict instructions on what to do if I needed to go to the Emergency Room over the weekend. I called my husband and relayed the bad news with a shaky voice and more than a few tears shed. Ever the voice of reason, he assured me that the Lord was in control and he began making phone calls to surgeons to put together a game plan for us. I was grateful for the support, but I knew that his concern over my situation was taking away from his effectiveness at the retreat…which was exactly what the enemy wanted.

The next day I woke up with a pounding headache, no doubt detoxing from sugar and caffeine due to my lack of appetite. I forced myself to eat a small bowl of cereal and slipped outside to do my Bible reading before my girls woke up. While I was in the middle of reading, I started praying for healing. It was in that moment that the Lord met me where I was.

I kept saying, “I will testify. Lord, please heal me and I will testify.” And while I was praying, I literally felt the pain leave my stomach and disperse into thin air.

When I closed my eyes I saw everything that I had on my plate: Seminary, Bible Study, a Women’s Retreat, the Compassion trip, my ministry with Reflecting Light, my girls’ schoolwork. I felt the Holy Spirit whisper to me, “All these things are good and important, but you, April, are trying to do them in your own strength and not Mine. Give them back to Me and let Me accomplish what I want done.” So I did and the burden was lifted.

You may be asking yourself, “Why is she telling me all this?” The reason is, dear friend, I told the Lord that I would testify and so I am here to do just that: to testify of His faithfulness once again in my life.

The Bible Study that our Wednesday morning group is currently doing is on Spiritual Warfare and putting on the Armor of God. I don’t think that it is any coincidence that my health was attacked prior to my Compassion trip and other ministry opportunities. Ephesians 6:10-12 says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

Rest assured, our God is victorious! But sometimes our faith requires us to stand firm and fight the enemy. Not in our own strength, but in His! And then we need to testify.

To conclude, I did have the CT Scan performed the following week so that everyone’s mind could be at ease before I left for a third world country. We were not surprised when the scan came back “normal” and there was no inflammation in or around my appendix. I was truly healed and cleared to go on what would be a life changing trip for me. But more on that next week…

Thank you, sweet reader, for taking the time to hear my testimony. The Word of God says that the accuser (Satan) will be overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.  (Revelation 12:10-11).  Believe it! There is power in the Word of God and in our testimony.

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Now it’s your turn! Please share any story you might have of God’s supernatural work in your life.