Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Great Snow-Throw

I saw this old man with a small snowblower the other day, slowly making his way along his snow-covered driveway. The odd thing was that his machine was pitifully spitting out the snow, right into the path he was trying to clear, just a few inches in front of the whole operation. He basically was throwing the same snow, over and over, as he trudged through the winter white landscape. I thought about this for a moment, and heard a message that was bold, yet comforting at the same time.

God equips us with tools to remove the obstacles in our lives. And while we are the ones meant to do the work, the Holy Spirit is the One who gives us the power to do such things. I thought of my own life, represented by this frail man, so eager to be done with the problem of a snowy driveway. I want so badly to be rid of the negative in my life that I sometimes jump the gun and muster all the strength I can from within, resulting in a poorly-powered snowblower, like our elderly friend mentioned earlier. Waiting on the Holy Spirit, for guidance and help in every situation, is of utmost importance. We were not meant to go this alone. God has given me many tools to help me along my way, but these tools are merely powerless knick-knacks without the supreme power of the Holy Spirit. 

To rely on the Power from above is of first importance in this life. To rid ourselves of our own strength, which really is not strength at all, is not only what we should be striving for, but also one of the hardest lessons in life. We have always been taught to rely on self-strength, self-empowerment, and the like. I believe it is God’s desire to see us shed this fictitious exterior as quickly as possible, and rely completely upon Him and His Holy Spirit. Otherwise, we are simply throwing regurgitated snow. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

What is Love?

Yesterday, a very dear and beloved friend to me and my family was taken from this life. He had battled with Leukemia for several years, and later developed Diabetes. But the illness that won the battle over his life was Pneumonia. 

Pneumonia. It still boggles my mind that people die from this respiratory illness, but amazingly enough, many--especially the elderly--do. Ivan, also more fondly known as "Ike," was a major help in me landing my job as a Park Ranger and the Traverse City State Park Campground when I was around 20. It was a beautiful place, with good enough pay and great hours. Ike was my boss there. He was also very involved in Boy Scouts, along with my family.

Ike always had a tremendous heart for everyone. Each time I saw him, he wore compassion on his face and love in his every word. As time went on, I saw Ike less and less, as I moved away for different colleges, and then to begin my new married life. And every single time I went back home and had the pleasure of running into him somewhere, it was always full of warm family embraces and meaningful words. 

As I have been thinking about this, and feeling sad, of course, I have also been thinking about how tomorrow is Valentine's Day. The day of love; the day Ivan's wife will not have her valentine to snuggle up with. And while it will be a very hard day for her, I know she will see him again, as will I, and any other person who belongs in the Kingdom of Heaven. Ike was born again, and this is the best news. He is without Leukemia, without Diabetes, without Pneumonia, without pain. And the best part is Who he is with: Jesus.

So I thought about Valentine's Day, and love, and the loss of my friend, and these things blended together took me to a place that makes me understand just a bit more of this thing called life. Jesus showed the ultimate display of love: He died a horrific death for each one of us, because He loved us. Because God loved us, He sent His Son, Jesus, to die this death. They knew what had to happen. And all for a bunch of unworthy sinners. That is love.

I've also been listening to a podcast by Louie Giglio (tremendous anointing, you should check him out), from December 2010. In this particular teaching, Louie said something that changed me. "In God's economy, waiting is a very vital part of the process." And knowing that I have had some very dear loved ones pass along within the last five years, this gives me hope. Not only do I have hope that I will see these people again, but I have an even greater hope that through this waiting process, I am being shaped to be more like Jesus. 

In everything I have seen and heard, it seems to me that God is patiently awaiting my maturity. And He is so gracious. Each moment in my life is a lesson. And thinking about love, thinking about Jesus, thinking about Valentine's Day, and thinking about Ivan, I know that many of us who are in mourning are in waiting. There is a secret training happening inside of our hearts right now, that is carving away the ugly, misformed parts--the parts ill-affected by sin--and uncovering the beauty that God has truly planted inside each of us.

So today, I honor you Ike, for the friend you were to me. And I thank You Father God, that You have rescued your son from his afflictions. My heart is currently split between the loss and the gain, but will soon resolve to be all for the gain. With love, your friend...  Lauren

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Life. And One "Who Must Be Admired."

This past week has been a whirlwind of emotion, grief, tears, praise, and thanksgiving. February 5, 2011, a tragic accident happened, which took the life of a beautiful woman and soon-to-be mother. She was taken so early from this earth, never knowing the reality of motherhood. She had waited 15 years to even become pregnant and then, just two weeks before experiencing the birth of her child, she was taken from this life. I did not personally know Sara, but I know her brother-in-law and her in-laws. It was close enough to home for me to weep each day for this family.

Nearly an hour after the accident, her baby was delivered via C-section, with no pulse, no brain activity. Miracle one: They got her heart beating again. Miracle two: Her daddy was able to see and know his daughter. For three days, the family was able to meet their newest addition to their family, Miranda Evangelene. 
Such a beautiful girl.

The doctors were unable to detect brain activity after three days, and therefore, Daddy made the decision to take her off of life support. And while this is sad, it was the right thing to do. Miracle three: The family was able to hold her, love her, and greet her before she made the journey Home. 

Now I would like to talk about Miracle four. One thing this world needs is a unified body of Christ. Through this horrible accident, Miranda, or "She Who Must Be Admired," was the focus of more than 38,000 people on Facebook, joining in prayer for her and this family. I can't even imagine how many other thousands of people throughout churches and families were also united for this family.

I will forever remember Miranda and surely will admire her life of three days on this earth. She, without lifting a finger, inspired tens of thousands of people to pray. She, without uttering a single word, united many around the globe. And most of all, she allowed her daddy to love her in the here and now, and give him hope for the future; when he will see his daughter and wife again in Heaven.

Continue to pray for the Cole family. And continue to look for the beauty in all things. For even in the grimmest of situations, God is at work. He's already laid the path before you, and knows each step. Miracles don't always look the way we think they should... And why should they? We are not the ones who create them, God is.

As Isaiah 55:8-9 reads:
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
   neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
   so are my ways higher than your ways
   and my thoughts than your thoughts."

Thank You, God, for having higher ways, and for giving us the faith to believe in these, Your ways.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Bountiful, Beautiful Blessings...

*This is the first of my "list" of things I love about snow.*

A while back, a friend of mine had reminded me that God sent manna from the heavens to feed the Israelites while they sojourned in the desert. It was good to remember that. I thought about how God had supplied their every need, and that He has promised to do just that for each of His children even today. 
Paul wrote to the Philippians (in 4:19), “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” This is true. Yet we tend to be a generation of doubters. In these “get it now,” and “buy now, pay later” times, it’s no wonder that we are an impatient people. 
When we simply rest in God’s goodness and faithfulness, we allow our true provider to shine. Even Jesus taught us to pray, by asking God to “give us this day our daily bread.” (Matt 6:11) This of course is reminiscent to the days of manna consumption, but speaks of so much more. Manna really symbolizes our every need, whether edible, monetary, emotional, etc. God is Jehovah Jireh, which means “God provides.” Who are we to limit what He provides, the timing, or even quantity?
Rewind a few days to this year’s Groundhog's Day, and to the 5th worst storm recorded in Wisconsin’s history. At my house, there are snowdrifts that reach to the top of our 6-foot fence. Our garage door was nearly hidden by the bounty of white splendor, and our driveway became nonexistent, as a five-foot-high by six-foot-wide drift swallowed it whole like a ravenous whale. It took two neighbors with their snowblowers about 45 minutes to carve out a path large enough for a car to fit through. 

So, what does this have to do with God providing? Well, some may take the path of God providing friendly neighbors to help us in our time of need. Sure, that is more than right, and we truly appreciated every minute of exertion they spent on us. But there is something else here that stirs my faith and excitement.

As I was driving through our city, now fortified with bulwarks of a northern winter’s bounty, God spoke to me very clearly. He reminded me of the manna that was always enough, never sparse. He also reminded me that He promises to bless us richly. 
So what is our part in this? First we need to trust God with our all. That is key. Our faith in Him should always be our number one priority, for it is through faith that we expand into all other aspects of Christian life. Second, we need to trust God enough to give Him what He asks for. Know this: God doesn’t need anything of ours. But he loves our contributions just as a parent loves the offerings sincerely brought to them by their three-year-old. It’s not a patronizing event, either; it’s one that tells of adoration and care. 
So we, as little children, offer everything in our lives to God. In return, He pours out His blessings upon us in a dance of life, love, and passion. If you’re in a climate that can support this... Next time you look out at the high walls of snow, guarding your every step along the carved-out paths, think of God and His abundance. He doesn’t look to blanket our meager surroundings with His blessings. No, I believe He longs to completely cover and engulf our lives so that the only thing people see when they look in our direction is His bounty.
“Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts.” 
--Malachi 3:10-12