Yesterday

Yesterday, November 10th, marked the 35th anniversary of my wedding day. I spent the day in much contemplation. I thanked my Savior for so much. I thanked him for Vanita. I thanked him for our children. I thanked him for our grandchildren. I thanked him for how two identities were made one…and I lamented that just under 20 of those years were given to us to be together.

I thanked God for our mission statement for life: to love our Lord, one another, and our children more and more every day and to help as many as possible to do the same thing. I thanked God for our Bible training and the ministries we partnered in. I thanked him for the folks we helped along the way…and I lamented that I have been far less effective without her…but went back to praise and thanksgiving for allowing me to be no less impassioned.

Yesterday was equal parts sad and glad. I spent time in tears and many smiles. Some memories crushed me only to be removed with others that made my heart soar. I found myself asking “why” yet again and again only to hear the word of God hidden away in my heart provide an answer for every question.

Yesterday…yesterday was like all my other days…just more intense. This is a part of God’s answer for adversity, anguish, and agony. He doesn’t always promise to remove our agony or anguish. He doesn’t even promise to always remove our adversity. He does, however, always promise to be the joy, the peace, the hope, and the wisdom to accompany and carry us while all that hurt helps us learn to be sympathetic and compassionate toward others. His presence and the purpose we receive from him is the answer we’re looking for when we keep asking “why.”

The Apostle Paul learned this when he asked over and over and over again, “Lord, please remove this thorn in my flesh.” There may be debate on just what he referred to with the phrase “thorn in my flesh,” but there is no debate about what the Lord told him: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” In my weakness the power of God takes over, because his grace is sufficient. (Read Paul’s account in 1 Corinthians 12.)

Yesterday, like every day, I found this to be self-evident. There were yesterdays when this was not so…not because it wasn’t true, but because I had not come to terms with it. Perhaps you know just exactly what I mean. You’re feeling the thorn in your flesh, asking why, begging that it will be excised, waiting, waiting for it to go away. It doesn’t. You ask “why” yet again. Then again. And while you wait for a promise you think God made, but didn’t, you miss “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Think about this for a while. When God translates your pain for his glory he also translates your pain for the benefit of so many others. Ultimately, you want people around who not only endure, but thrive when life is difficult. From Moms who do without so their children can eat to Mother Teresa who invited poverty so others could live, people who finally get the sufficiency of God’s grace are filled with joy even though they remain haunted with sorrow…are filled with peace even though they remain shadowed by turmoil…are filled with hope even though they remain showered in tears.

Soldiers tempered by battle, victims motivated despite violence, lovers rewired in widowhood, patients inspired through illness, these are folks who have learned just a little of what our Lord Jesus showed us when he too faced adversity, anguish, and agony. Contemplating the Cross, he expressed these words to the Father when he prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Walking in dependence upon and in fellowship with his Father was not just the way, it was the best way…for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for you, for me, for everyone. Walking in dependence upon and in fellowship with God is not just an answer, it’s a far better by far answer to adversity, anguish, and agony…for God’s glory, your benefit, and mine.

Yesterday…yesterday was awesome.

 

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Funny Little Moments with God

If you are a fortunate child, you will have a Dad like my nephew Jeff Camp. He recently posted the following on his Facebook page:

Funny little “Mckoy moments”…

Me: I guess your stuffed animals stay awake while you sleep and protect you.

Mckoy: God is the only one who protects me while I’m sleeping

Me: I know…I was just joking

Mckoy: well, dad, you shouldn’t joke about stuff like that

Me: ………..

If I was to rewrite this, the changes would be simple yet profound. I would add a line at the top and a line at the bottom. The perspective then would change from Jeff’s to God’s.

God: Funny little “Jeff moments”…

Jeff: Funny little “Mckoy moments”…

Jeff: I guess your stuffed animals stay awake while you sleep and protect you.

Mckoy: God is the only one who protects me while I’m sleeping

Jeff: I know…I was just joking

Mckoy: well, dad, you shouldn’t joke about stuff like that

Jeff: ………..

God: Thank you son for leading McKoy, both my child and yours, so very, very well…

Another Antidote for Adversity: Grace in a V.A. Hospital

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So yesterday I had the privilege of taking my 90 year old Dad to the VA Hospital at American Lake near Tacoma, WA. No worries, it was just for his regular visit with Dr. Allen and an annual visit with the lab. It’s what always seems to happen there that keeps me encouraged.

While waiting to see the lab techs, another vet walked in. We both said hi. He asked me, “How you doing?” 

“Fine,” I answered. “And how are you,” I asked.

“I am blessed. I woke up this morning. For that I am grateful,” he replied.

He sat down. Some small talk took place. Then he began to share. I won’t give you the details. It would take too long. However, a few points are necessary for what’s coming next. His wife left him (he reported this with no anger or animosity). He lost his home in the settlement (again his attitude was one of “she needs it more than me”). He is currently homeless (but trying to get back on his feet). To say the least, I was moved.

While we continued chatting another vet walked in. He shuffled toward an empty chair to sit, but not before shaking all our hands and asking each of us personally, “And how are you doing?” After taking a seat, he breathed out deeply “Whew.”

The other vet asked, “So how about you? Hanging in there?”

“Trying,” the other said, “but I need another $40.00 by the end of the day for rent or I’m out for good.”

The first fella I was talking with quickly asked, “And are you positive your landlord will be satisfied with the $40.00?”

The other vet answered, “That’s what he told me. I think I can trust him.”

And out came the other vet’s wallet. I watched and observed. He pulled two twenty dollar bills…leaving what looked to be three ones behind. He reached across the small waiting room to offer the money to his fellow warrior. The other’s response? “No, I can’t do that. I know you need it just as much as I do.”

He was met with, “No, I insist. Please, I don’t mean to offend you, but you have a deadline.”

The other received the gift graciously. He then asked, “How do I repay you?”

The response was beautiful, “Pay it forward, brother, pay it forward.”

And then came church. We celebrated. The vet who received the gift quoted scripture. The one who gave responded, “Amen! You know He is good.”

I too said, “Amen.”

There was more testimony. The rejoicing continued.

Finally, a nurse came into the room. She said, “Mr. ______________. Is Mr. ______________ here?”

The vet who had received the gift stood. Without ceremony, he followed the nurse down the hall. The vet who gave the gift went back to filling out paper work. I read a brochure. My Dad sat quietly. A few moments later a lady asked “Mr. Brooks?” We stood up. We followed her to Dad’s exam room.

This seems to be a regular occurance for our trips to the VA Center. Last year, after returning home from a visit with Dad’s docs, I shared the following on Facebook (August 23, 2013):

Today was a lesson in the art of soft-spoken tender warrior-ese. While helping my 89 year old father at the VA Hospital, I was privileged to have a conversation with a highly decorated vet. 82nd Airborne. Ranger. Recondo. Pathfinder. Multiple combat deployments. There was no brag, just simple facts offered only because I asked. His voice was soft and gentle. His disposition indicated no pain or regret. He was well-spoken and equally polite. He had been waiting in line for over two hours and was still waiting when my Dad and I left. Both his words and his attitude said, “It was an honor and a privilege.” He was a man, sir, a man. Yes, his body was broken, mended, broken again, twisted, and mended yet again…at least as much as the Army Medical Core could fix…a six two frame reduced to a shadow of its youth, but a king-size heart bursting and filling the halls, waiting rooms, offices, and exam rooms of a soldier’s sanctuary. Thank you VA Hospital for a college level education in humanity by a professor of life, battle, and grace all in the space of a Friday morning.

I’ve been learning something through these visits. Adversity is usual. It’s common. It’s every day. You might just as well get used to it. It’s either already arrived or it’s on the way. However, that’s only half of what I’ve been seeing through the eyes of wounded warriors. The other half is far more spectacular. It’s one of those surprising antidotes that begins to sooth the pain of adversity. It’s called giving. Grace.

When adversity slaps us around, we sometimes need to go with it. Let the slap propel you. Let it turn you. Let it motivate you to come full circle. And as you come back around have your hand extended, not to receive, but to give. Hear that wounded warrior’s answer, “No, I insist. Please, I don’t mean to offend you, but you have a deadline.” Give yourself away…even if the giving also hurts. 

No wonder our Lord Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Looking For Some Help Regarding Adversity

So, this time around it’s not my thoughts I want to share. Instead, I want to ask a question and a follow up question. While I have my own tendencies regarding the question, I’m interested in hearing back from pastors and other leaders. Here it is:

When folks facing adversity come to you for help, where in the Bible do you turn?

And how do you help them to apply that passage?

Thanks.

Second Post In One Day, But I Could Do No Less

Let me see if I can get this straight or not…

Our government cannot account for 619 Billion Dollars

( http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2014/08/05/federal-spending-transparency-money-missing/13485581/ )

Children of the Border Crossingand the complaints are few and far between, but folks in southern CA, and folks near Ft. Sill, OK, and my neighbors in Pierce County surrounding Joint Base Lewis McChord pitch hissy fits about taking care of children who are by every conceivable measure victims.

These terrible days were bound to arrive. In a 1994 brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, Mother Theresa included the following, “America needs no words from me to see how your decision in Roe v. Wade has deformed a great nation. The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men. It has sown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships. It has aggravated the derogation of the father’s role in an increasingly fatherless society. It has portrayed the greatest of gifts–a child–as a competitor, an intrusion, and an inconvenience. It has nominally accorded mothers unfettered dominion over the independent lives of their physically dependent sons and daughters. And, in granting this unconscionable power, it has exposed many women to unjust and selfish demands from their husbands or other sexual partners. Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government. They are every human being’s entitlement by virtue of his humanity. The right to life does not depend, and must not be declared to be contingent, on the pleasure of anyone else, not even a parent or a sovereign.”

Now, 20 years later, we are beginning to see the bottom of the slippery slope. Not only the defenseless unborn, but the defenseless already born will be forgotten.

Bureaucrats misplace, misappropriate, mis-spend, or, probably most likely, simply mis-report (who knows) $619 billion and not very many even flinch. “Oh well, what do we expect after the scandals in the Secret Service, Veterans Affairs, Home Land Security, Dept of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, General Services Administration, National Labor Relations Board, and the IRS (and all these just since 2009). Yet we whine about accepting responsibility for the compassionate care of innocent children? We use excuses like, “We don’t have enough resources for our own? Who are we trying to kid? Drive the streets of America, then look up the conditions of any third world nation.

I don’t have to be a democrat, republican, something in-between, or something to either the left or right of both to say, “Shame on us.” I need only be one of two things: an American citizen who recalls the profound words of both our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution; or the kind of follower of Jesus who at the very least “wants” to do as he does.

I’m both.
I’m praying.
I’m sending money to help.
And I’m pleading with you to join me.

Will Your Main Thing Remain the Main Thing

I once heard a preacher say, “There is an old German proverb that says, ‘The main thing must always remain the main thing.’”

Makes good sense to me.

However, what happens when the main thing goes away? We may very well want the main thing to remain. We don’t want to lose it. We cherish it above all else. Yet…there it goes…

…a relationship dries up.
…a business folds up.
…a skill shrivels up.
…one’s drive gives up.
…one’s appearance ages up.
…one’s health withers up.

What then? One or more of these often form the very foundation of the “main thing” for many people. Yet, each of them runs the very real potential of “going away.” It’s at times like these that we really start to understand phrases like…life just tossed me a curveball and it feels like the roof just caved in.

The expression, “I have a heavy heart,” takes on all new meaning because you literally feel like a stack of bricks is lying on your chest.

When you say, “It seems like I’m living in a dream world,” you mean it because to you life literally looks foggy on the edges.

The questions then are these:

  • What can really be the main thing?
  • What won’t ever go away?
  • What is there for us to cling that by its very nature will forever be a firm foundation?

Answer these correctly and adversity receives a whole new look.

3 Words That Scream Adversity Is Winning

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Adversity can make you better or bitter. Adversity can be a kick in the pants. It can also kick you in the teeth. Obviously we want the former, not the latter. But how do you know? How can you tell when adversity has become your master?

Three words can help: critical, apathetic, and sullen.

If these adjectives paint your life picture, adversity is winning.

● When finding fault sprints to the lead while compassion and understanding struggle to keep pace…adversity is winning.

● When indifference and insensitivity climb the leader board while concern and kindness fail to make the cut…adversity is winning.

● When pouty pessimism scores all the goals while cheer and hope get shut out… adversity is winning.

It means you’ve lost purpose. You’ve lost your way. Helen Keller once said, “True happiness… is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”

If a worthy purpose puts criticism, apathy, and sulleness in their places, imagine the power of ultimate purpose.

“Higher than the mountains that I face
Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant in the trial and the change
One thing… remains…”
by Jesus Culture

What if I don’t marry?

rickileebrooks:

Yeah, I know her. Just sayin.’ Seriously, the young people in our church sometimes take my breath away. Keep on keeping on, Miss Hyla. Eph. 3:14-21

Originally posted on hylachamberlain:

In spite of my purity ring, people have asked me what I will do if I do not get married. This is a great question! My answer is, wear it of course! Yes, even if I am sixty and if I do not marry I will be wearing my purity ring. As I have mentioned in my other writing I Wear This Ring I do not only wear mine as a reminder of sexual purity before marriage, but also for purity in all areas of my life. Say I do marry, then what happens? Some people add to their purity rings, or save it to pass down to their children. In my case, I will replace it with an engagement ring, and then add the wedding band to it. I’ve explained to other girls that a wedding ring is just another purity, but within marriage. 

I’ve broken it down…

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