Thursday, February 28, 2013

Nothing More Can Be Done

I encountered three different situations in this past week when people were told, "Nothing more can be done."

One friend  of mine was struggling to see, having been told that there was nothing more that could be done about her failing eyesight. 

One young woman was fighting for her life, the doctors having done all they could to stem a virulent infection.

One precious grandmother was fading slowly into the next life, nothing more that could be done for her;   her husband distraught, not leaving her side for two weeks, day and night.


Because the presence of God changes everything.  It is that point of "nothing can be done" that God does His mightiest work.  It is in those times that we can most readily see His hand and trust His unfailing love.

There is nothing more that can be done...but God...

The story is not over.

My friend visited yet another doctor who suspected early cataracts, something none of the other doctors even considered at her age. With surgery on just one eye completed, she is seeing clearer than she could have imagined.

Buoyed up by the prayers of family, friends, and strangers,  the very ill young woman began a slow and unexpected improvement when a solitary doctor thought to tweak a procedure.  She has gone from the edge of life and back again, not yet out of the woods, but God's presence is thick in that room.

In the hospice room, a woman began to sing a hymn by her old mother's side: "When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing there will be..."   "That's funny," her father interrupted, "your mother was singing that very song in the middle of the night."  Everyone was skeptical if that actually occurred, but that day for the first time in months, the man was at peace.  And early the next  morning, his wife crossed over from one life to the next.

We can never know what God will do.   But we can be assured that He is working still.  Sometimes we can see Him parting the Red Sea, sometimes things deeper than we can know.

But the story is never over.

That is what eternity is for, His purposes beyond measure.

...we look not to the things that are seen,
but to the things that are unseen,
for the things that are seen are transient,
but the things that are unseen are eternal.

                          2 Corinthians 4.18

And now, LORD,
          for what do I wait?
My hope is in You.

                           Psalm 39.7

Friday, February 22, 2013

A Midwinter Night's Soup

There are winter days in the cold north that chill to the bone.  Here, we learn to dress in layers, hoping to keep out the wind on a bitter commute, at times the air so cold, it appears to take the oxygen right out of one's lungs.  This morning we awoke to four inches of fresh snow.  We are deep into soup weather.

A few days ago, I was just beginning to put together a pot of White Chili when my schedule suddenly tightened.  Instead of cooking it on the stovetop, as I usually do, out of necessity I had to pull out the slow cooker, drop in the ingredients, and leave.   There was no time to prepare as usual, there were no skinless, boneless chicken breasts in the freezer, and no time to go to the store.  I found one lone package of boneless skinless chicken thighs in the back of the freezer, dropped the frozen clump into the soup mixture, planning to chop the chicken later.  I figured that I was well on my way to yet another culinary misadventure.

And so, the soup simmered all day, while I was elsewhere.  By suppertime, the chicken thighs were cooked so thoroughly, they self- shredded upon stirring the soup.  I served the soup with tortilla chips, shredded mozzarella to sprinkle on top, and apologies.

But God redeemed my glitches.

I have made this soup for 23 years, one of our family favorites.  And this recipe that I thought I had messed up turned out to be the best batch yet.

There is nothing like hot chicken soup to warm your insides.  And to complement it, I would like to suggest a book to warm your heart.  I have lost count how many times I have read and re-read  The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom.  It is the true account of an elderly Dutch watchmaker and how God uses the most unlikely of heroes in incredible ways.  It will become one of your favorites.

"I know that the experiences of our lives, when we let God use them, become the mysterious and perfect preparation for the work He will give us to do."    (Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place)

A good soup and a great book.  Enjoy.

White Chili
1 1/2 to 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
6 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon chicken bouillon powder
3 cans Great Northern white beans, drained and rinsed
2 medium onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2  4-ounce cans chopped mild green chilies
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoon dried crumbled oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Add all ingredients to the slow cooker.  (Chopped onions can be sauteed first in 1 tablespoon olive oil, if preferred.)  My chicken was even completely frozen when I put the ingredients together.  Cook on high setting 4-5 hours, or low setting for 8 or more.  Makes enough for 6-8 servings.

Please note that this soup is perfect for busy working families.  You can even put all the ingredients together the night before, store the slow cooker container in the fridge overnight, pop it in the slow cooker before you leave, let it cook slow all day, and supper is ready when you get home.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

You Can't Just Sit There

I pointed the little computer arrow over the button that said "register."  And I hesitated, fully knowing the commitment that single click would mean.  My finger hovered for a minute or two.  "Do I really want to do this?  Again?"

My mind raced back, now nearly ten years ago, when I clicked that marathon registration button for the first time, completely naive about what I was getting into.  It was early August 2003.  I had just turned 50.  We were making a major move with our family to Memphis, a place where I didn't know a soul.  I felt challenged to do something different to celebrate these new beginnings.  The week before, I had just run the longest distance I had ever attempted in my two years of running, eight miles with my sister in law who was training for the Chicago marathon. Eight miles?  "Oh, if I can run eight miles, I can surely do a marathon," I surmised, totally clueless as to what 26.2 miles meant.

Stepping rather boldly outside my box, I signed up for the Chicago marathon which was taking place in eight short weeks, thinking that I was registering for a one-time event and be done with it.  Little did I know where that adventure would take me. I am still feeling its effects.

It encompassed far more than training for a race.  God used it powerfully to stretch me, to develop new relationships I would not have had, to spur me on in my writing, and to deepen my relationship with Him. No, running did not "change my life," as many have claimed.  Running is not my salvation.  But God has used it in my life to encourage me to attempt things a little bigger than what I thought I could do.

When I finished that first marathon, I checked it off a mental list.  Been there, done that.  When I completed my second, I asked my friend Becky to stop me from signing up for another.  And yesterday afternoon, now seven marathons later, as my finger hesitated over the registration button, I knew I needed to come full circle.  I ran Chicago  in 2003.  I need to run it in 2013, a milestone of sorts for where it has taken me.  I have no idea what will happen in these next eight months of training, indeed my knees might give out tomorrow.  But I do know that God will redeem this experience as He always has.  

In the first two hours of registration yesterday, I tried a couple of times to access the website. "Should I do it?  God, stop me if I shouldn't," I prayed.   "Unavailable," the screen read. "Maybe that's a sign that you shouldn't," scoffed the complacent chicken in me.  But then suddenly, one more click, and there appeared the application form.  I filled it out and registered.  A few hours later, I found out that almost immediately after registration began at noon, the computer registration site crashed from an overload.  Very few entrants were able to register at all.  But strangely enough at 2.30 in the afternoon, despite my trepidations and the apparently inoperable website, my application was accepted and confirmed.  Guess I'm committed.

Our grandchildren will not care that their crazy gramma runs at all.  But perhaps it will help them to see how to live unafraid. You can't just sit there. 

Join me on my journey.  Let's see what God will do with it. 

...and let us run with perseverance
       the race that is set before us...

                         Hebrews 12.1

Monday, February 18, 2013

Change Point

Pray like you mean it.
Live differently
         because you did.

The prayer of the righteous
has great power
in its effects.

                  James 5.16

Friday, February 15, 2013

Ain't Nobody Got Time For That

I unpacked late yesterday from a week on the road, traveling to Nashville for the birth of our new grandson and then driving on to Cleveland to spend several days with our other young grandchildren while our oldest daughter was getting things ready to leave on vacation.  The grandkids give a new definition to the word, "active."  And I love every minute of it.

Last night I slept soundly, my gramma "radar" finally turned off, no need to listen for cries in the night and the sound of little feet, or for a call from Nashville announcing, "The baby is here!"   Throughout the week, God reminded me of those days when a successful day was one in which the laundry got done, the kids were fed, and I was able to get a shower.  Somewhere along the line,  I have lost my skill in maximizing those ten minute pockets when the kids are all napping at the same time.

No matter our season in life, we all are faced with situations when time is not big enough to wrap around the list of things to be done.  My own tendency is to bounce from one thing to another, touching, reacting, and completing nothing, all the while wasting time tripping over speed bumps of fear and worry.

My situation cries out "panic."  But ain't nobody got time for that.  The world says "prioritize," which at times misses that which is most significant of all.  I have learned from experience to use the other "p" word.  PRAY.  Really? You don't understand how busy I am.  "Ain't nobody got time to pray," when in actuality, we can't afford not to.

"LORD, show me how to navigate this day.  Open my eyes to YOUR ways, YOUR portals, and YOUR solutions.  Help me to KNOW what is needful and to lay aside the unnecessary or turn away from what distracts."  God points to me what is needful.  And oh, more times than not, it is a way of seeing things differently or a path not yet on my own radar.

One thing is needful.   That is my relationship with God.  And when that is first, it is amazing how clearly I can see what needs to be done, how to do it, and even what order to do it.  Trust me.  God's deliverance does not land in a neatly wrapped package on my doorstep.  His deliverance works me through my day.

But the Lord answered her,
"Martha, Martha,
you are anxious and troubled
about many things;
       one thing is needful."

                      Luke 10. 41-42

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Nothing Will Ever Be The Same

For the past few weeks, we have been awaiting the birth of our third grandchild.  Our daughter would call frequently talking about her preparations and her journey through pregnancy.

And all along, I have been thinking, "She has NO idea what is coming, NO possible comprehension of what is in store, nothing will EVER be the same."

And suddenly, this daughter of ours -- you know, the one that thought sleep was a waste of time, the one who hid science experiments under the bathroom sink, the one who brought home spiders and moths and shiny rocks -- has become a mom.  Yesterday at 11.11 a.m.  She and her husband have a beautiful baby boy.

We saw Adrian for the first time late last night, his big eyes full of wonder at this new world around him, much as I would think when we walk through the pearly gates someday. Wow.

When I heard the happy news of a safe delivery, I rejoiced and then realized that it is I who have no comprehension of what is in store.  The world is a little different because of this new life.  And I too am a little different because of this child.  When each of our four daughters were born, another new dimension of love was revealed, as if opening a door that I didn't know existed.  And now, as a gramma, I feel that happening again.

On our way here last night though, I kept thinking about my own grandmother, a quiet, gentle presence in my life as a child.  With her I had the freedom to ask a billion questions or just sit and enjoy the silence between us.  More than anyone else in my life, she pointed me to God just by the way she graciously lived.  And when confronted by deep mystery, I can clearly hear her voice, "Well, darling, sometimes we just need to trust Him."

Looking forward to the adventure ahead.

how majestic isYour name in all the earth.
Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
You have perfected praise.

                         Psalm 8. 1-2

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Text Message: Please PRAY!

I opened a text on Friday afternoon from my friend Liz who was attending the final day of a conference: "Upset stomach.  Need to fly home at 4.  Please PRAY!"  There is only one thing worse than having an upset stomach, and that is having to fly with an upset stomach.  I began to pray for God to help her navigate through the next few hours.  She stowed away a plastic grocery bag in her purse.  And she spent her waiting time, not at the gate, but in the airport bathroom, afraid that she was going to have to cancel her flight.

She was flying Southwest Airlines, and so, an assigned seat was not waiting for her.  But then again, perhaps it was.  Boarding the plane, she headed down the aisle through the crowd, searching for the first available window seat, hoping to somehow sleep through the flight.  About midpoint behind the exit row, she spotted a vacant window seat over the left wing.  She was eager to close her eyes to block out her tsunamic waves of nausea.  But as she sat down, something caught her eye.  There, tucked in the seat pocket directly in front of her, was an entire unopened sleeve of saltine crackers.  JUST what she needed.  JUST when she needed it. Her husband glanced over.  "Where did you get those?" he asked, incredulous.

She munched her way through the flight, her stomach now calmed.  God provided not a single crumpled-up cellophane packet of crackers discarded from someone's lunch, but He lavished her with even more than she needed -- in a way she could not have imagined -- in a way that only God could have engineered.  Unassigned seat?  I don't think so.  God had those crackers waiting.

Later she texted me:  "I just wanted to make it through the flight.  It was the sweetest gift ever."

After she arrived home, she messaged me, "He knew I would need that now.  He precedes our days and needs."

This morning, I asked her permission to relate this story of God's provision and to verify some of the details.  About an hour or two later,  she texted back:  "Wait a minute.  I asked you to pray earlier that day."  Yes, I acknowledged.

"What if I hadn't asked for prayer?" she typed. 

If we had not prayed, would those crackers have been there anyway?  Maybe or maybe not.  But they appeared not a moment too late, nor a row away.  And because we prayed, we can recognize with delight Who put them there.

One of the names of God in the Old Testament is Jehovah Jireh, the God who provides.  My friend was passing through her own place of wilderness.  And when she cried "Help!"  God had already worked out the details.   He was there.  As they say in the Jimmy John's commercial:  "Freaky Fast Delivery."  Before she even knew to ask, God delivered  His bounty to the seat pocket directly in front of her.  Nothing random in that.

And I wonder if the person who sat on an earlier flight in that seat -- who left their crackers behind -- has any idea how he or she was used by God to bless a sick woman in desperate need.   How clueless we are to His great designs and how He uses us in them.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are My ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
                           Isaiah 55.9

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Make Every Day Epic

There is a Super Bowl commercial from last Sunday that has stuck in my head.  It starts with a family sitting down to breakfast, and a young son asking, "What are we going to do today, Dad?"

The rest of the commercial showed the family have a wildly fun day, doing the unusual and laughing together.  It ends with the phrase, "Make every day epic."

Sounds inspiring, but in reality, that advertising jingle is based on spiritual truth:  Every day is already epic.  We miss it, because we don't see it that way.  Not grumbling, "oh no, it is morning already," but seeing each morning a gift designed by our Creator.  Every day is significant and full of purpose and meant to not be wasted.

LORD, reveal Your day for me.  Help me to follow You into it. "What are we going to do today, Abba Father?"  It is not that my situation becomes different, but my vision sharpens and I gain a better grasp of the greatness and goodness of God.   Nothing is insignificant in His eyes.

Because our internet has been malfunctioning for almost a week, I am sitting right now in a Panera restaurant, using their wi-fi for the price of a cup of coffee.  I have been distracted from my work, however, by the clerk at the counter.  She is not just taking orders and giving change.  She is GREETING every customer, most of them by name, and treating those she doesn't know as if she did.  "How are you feeling?  You look good," I just heard her say to an elderly man.  She sees her minimum wage job through different eyes.  She is not selling coffee, she is building relationships.

See every day as epic.  Because it is.

This is the day that the LORD has made,
let us rejoice
    and be glad in it.
                             Psalm 118.24