Adversity, Bible, Life's Moments

Awake…Again…’Cus the Lord Knows Me Well.

3:00am, Ricki, do you know where you are? How far have we traveled together? Seriously, oh man, the challenges we’ve stared down, climbed over, worked through, or even ignored…remember? Do you recall that time, really it was a season or should I say siege, during which you just kept wagging your head back and forth muttering “No, no, no, no?” Yeah, that’s the one. And…yup, that one too. Well, yes, that also. Now do you know where you are? Where you always are? Umhmm, you got it.

Remember when I said, “I will never leave you or forsake you?”

Right. That’s how I said it in the later Letter to the Hebrews. But do you remember how I said it first?

Yup, there you go. Moses was finishing. Joshua was getting started. Your brothers and sisters long ago needed encouragement as the time for entering the Promised Land was upon them. So, what did I have Moses say? Exactly, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6) That was a long time ago…about 3400 years! And then again, about 2000 years ago, my people needed that encouragement , so I reminded them again. (Hebrews 13:5)

So, “Let not your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1-3)

Now do you remember where you are? Yes, yes, yes, you are with me. We got this.

Thank you, Jesus. O Lord, thank you.

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Culture

Border Crises Abound and The Children Suffer.

The border crises continue! Will they never end? Once again, please do not think I’m engaging the political gamesmanship regarding illegal immigration. Rather I’m begging and praying for the rescue of children.

Please, please read the USA Today article at the following link for the latest update on the long standing border crossing crisis regarding littles.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/nation-now/2018/05/25/immigration-children-separated-families-lost-column/643793002/

Spanning two administrations, government bureaucracies have failed hundreds upon hundreds of innocent border crossing children… miserably. I’m not speaking of dreamers or 19 year olds currently attempting to cross, but little tykes nestled in Mama’s arms or held by her hands. They are innocent. They are held in camps. They are often taken and separated from their family. Whatever any others motives may be, theirs are innocent. They just want their Moms, Dads, and peace. For the sake of the children, we should replace the broken cisterns of failed government intervention with a coalition of NPOs like Samaritan’s Purse and Sisters of Mercy. This long standing siege, through which thousands of children have been failed by our broken bureaucrats, will not end until “we the people” quietly, humbly, come together and stop allowing the two sided government to take turns being egotistical, self-absorbed, and wreckless. We need leaders who lean right who are other-centered enough to say “The right is not always correct,” and leaders who lean left who are other-centered enough to say “The left is not always correct.” We just can’t take much more of today’s left vs right warfare. The cost is too high. Neither do we need old-fashioned political compromise.We need leaders who embrace contrition. We need a 1000 Mother Teresa’s before we ever need another Barak Obama or Donald Trump, another Rachel Maddow or Sean Hannity, or even another Stephen Colbert or Dennis Miller. For the sake of the children we need revival.

P.S. Also, please see… https://rickileebrooks.com/2014/07/14/permission-to-help-children-in-need/

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Bible, Culture, Life's Moments

Memorial Day Thoughts…

Grandpa McGrath’s leggings: WW1

I am thankful I come from a long line of veterans. Some fortunate enough, like me, to never see combat. Others, not so fortunate. I am also thankful I have never had to suffer the ultimate loss of any of those who served in combat. However, for some, to whom I owe everything, the losses of those they fought with are staggering. From my Grandpa Micky on my Mom’s side in WW1, to my Dad and Father-in-law and my wife’s step-father, and uncles in WW2, to my brother-in-law and my cousins in Viet Nam, and my nephew in this long war against terrorism, the numbers are hard to even imagine. Dad and Earl stormed the beaches in WW2…Dad in the Pacific, Earl on D-Day. Both made it from basic training to the beaches, through multiple large battles, to mop-up patrols, and finally home. They literally lost 1000’s of their brothers…all around and very near them on their full assaults, behind their covers, in their fox-holes, and further to the rear and both flanks, but never their fronts…because both served with squads on point. Dad and Earl and Lee separated from service upon their returns home. Dad was recalled for Korea. He fought again. He was recalled for the Berlin Crisis. Thankfully resolution occurred before any fighting started. He was then called again. So he took up his weapon and his aid bag and fought and bandaged and splinted and removed dog-tags yet again in Viet Nam. His service spanned 35 years with 22 on active duty and 5 (possibly 6…we’re not sure) in combat. Through it all he grieved most the condition of his little brother who returned from the Korean War with what we now call PTSD. His little brother never really recovered. Family breakdown and alcohol became his partners until the alcohol consumed him and brought death far too soon. So, actually, I was wrong earlier when I said, “I am also thankful I have never had to suffer the ultimate loss of any of those who served in combat” for surely Uncle Jim’s death was the last fatality due to WW2 to strike so close to Dad’s heart.

So to those in my family who fight no more, to those still with me, to those now on active duty, call me to attention because I owe you my salute, my respect, my love, my freedom, indeed my life. To my dear Brat Family: the same salute, respect, and love do I extend to you and yours. Your Dads and your Moms, who served just as faithfully as their husbands, are just like mine. They are heroes, legends…ordinary people who rose to extraordinary heights. All my love.

Father, thank you for them all. Please honor them. For those gone by, attend them as no human hands ever could. For those still with us, encourage them, keep then, protect them, prosper them.

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Adversity

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

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).

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Adversity

3 Words That Scream Adversity Is Winning

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

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Adversity

Good Things In Small Packages

christmas boxI love that old saying, “Good things come in small packages.” Wedding rings come in small boxes. Pay raises come in small memos. Encouraging words come in small whispers. I like the old saying, because I like the truth of it: life is good when we get good stuff in small packages.

I was reminded of this when I read a small passage in the New Testament. It’s not a lot of words, but it sure contains some mighty good stuff. For me, it’s a gift from God in a quest for peace in a life filled with stress.

Here it is (Philippians 4:2-9): “(1) So then, my brothers and sisters, you are dearly loved and longed for—my joy and crown. In this manner stand firm in the Lord, dear friends. (2) I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to agree in the Lord. (3) Yes, I also ask you, true partner, to help these women who have contended for the gospel at my side, along with Clement and the rest of my coworkers whose names are in the book of life. (4) Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (5) Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. (6) Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. (7) And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (8) Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things. (9) Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.”

Now don’t run off just because it’s addressed to two ladies with funny names in a country far away and a time long ago. Let me share the good things coming in this small package. There are six of them…and who wouldn’t love to possess them when life and relationships run wild with stress.

—to stand firm in one’s faith (verse 1)
—to be at peace with others (verses 2 and 3)
—to rejoice at all times (verse 4)
—to be gracious with everyone (verse 5)
—to dwell upon virtuous, beneficial things (verse 8)
—to consistently apply God’s truth (verse 9)

Now notice, in verses 6 and 7, the one thing we need to do: pray. However, don’t miss the power in this small package. Remember it was originally delivered to two ladies with funny names feuding about forgettable things. What do you suppose Euodia and Syntyche were being asked to pray about? Right. One another. And what should inform their prayer. The six wonderful things surrounding this encouragement to pray.

Stop going in separate directions and pray for the capacity to stand firm together.
Stop fighting to gain advantage and pray for the capacity to get back on the same page.
Stop pouting to receive sympathy and pray for the capacity to rejoice over the good in others.
Stop criticizing to inflict pain and pray for the capacity to be gentle toward others.
Stop dwelling on negative things and pray for the capacity to see what’s noble and right about others.
Stop banking on faulty opinions and pray for the capacity to see God’s much larger picture.

Imagine: the ladies with funny names start seeing one another through the far-sight of God’s eyes rather than the near-sight of their frustration.

Imagine: you start to see your life and relationships through God’s eyes rather than the stress of your frustration.

Imagine: you face conflict, but pray to resolve it rather than fight about it.

Imagine: you face loss, but pray to challenge it rather than retreat from it.

Imagine: you face stress, but pray to manage it rather than crumble under it.

Imagine, just imagine.

It may have been delivered in a small package, but it’s mighty good advice.

 

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Life's Moments

A Simple Invitation

Over the years in our youth ministry we have often discussed “God Bombs.” I learned the power of their effectiveness from my wife, Vanita. They are just simple, yet meaningful and timely, name dropping opportunities. Here’s how it works…

Sally, the soccer mom, sees Molly, another soccer mom, by being at most of the practice sessions and soccer games in which their two little girls participate. The little girls become instant friends. Sally and Molly take a little longer. Sally works at a relationship of integrity. The ladies become “soccer mom friends.” Time passes. They talk about many things. They share about their likes, their dislikes. They Facebook. They meet for coffee. Trust levels increase. They become friends, not just “soccer mom friends.” One day Molly seems a bit agitated. Sally, doesn’t pry, but as always she is friendly and encouraging. They sit with one another observing the game. They cheer. They chat about the usual small talk. Molly then says something out of the ordinary. She complains, not terribly, just simply about something her husband did. Sally just listens. She makes no observations. She just listens. She lets Molly be Molly. Maybe the only words she utters are something like, “Molly, I’m sorry things are not going as well as you like.” Something simple like that. Time passes. Days pass. Friendship grows. Molly talks. Sally is a good friend. One day, who knows why this day, maybe it just feels right, Molly once again is discouraged and shares something personal. In response, Sally says, “That must be frustrating. I don’t know what I would do without prayer when I deal with tough times.” She then goes right back to listening. That’s a God bomb.

Over time, Sally refers to her life with the Savior as simply and as meaningfully as she refers to her family, her hopes, her dreams, her daughter’s last game, her work, and what she has cooking in the oven. She and Molly become good friends. She doesn’t drop the entire Book of Romans on Molly as they discuss their lives with one another. However, over time, it becomes rather obvious to Molly how important the Lord is to Sally–and it doesn’t repel, it compels. One day it all falls into place. Sally has prayed and prayed for her friend. Molly’s heart is open to a simple invitation. It might look a little like this brief video…except, of course, it will be far more in keeping with the special nature of the friendship shared between Sally and Molly. It may be an invitation to a concert, to church, a retreat, or, better still, it may be an invitation to the Savior. But it won’t be awkward. It won’t be stiff. It will be a simple invitation…one as simple and natural as an invitation to meet for lunch.

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