Refusing Help

Sometimes I watch the Dr. Phil show.   It’s mind blowing to me how Dr. Phil can confront people with cold hard facts in an overwhelming way and they still deny the facts he’s presenting to them.  I was watching a clip from his show recently where he was confronting a lady who thought she was married to a man overseas but in reality she was being scammed for hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Doctor Phil and this woman’s family laid out all the facts and showed her evidence after evidence of how she was in fact being duped and used.  She held on to her fantasy because perhaps the truth was too painful.

This is an extreme example but I think we all don’t like to be confronted with areas of our life that are toxic. Screen Shot 2019-06-12 at 7.57.40 AM.png

In the Book of Mark Chapter 5 Jesus came to a village and set a man free of the bondage he was in. The man had been full of demons for years.  Jesus cast many demons out of this man and the whole village was in shock.

When this miracle took place instead of getting excited about it the people of the village asked Jesus to leave.  The people were afraid.  Jesus came to help these people and to set them free.  He came to offer them salvation but they would end up begging Him not to stay.

The great irony is that they were kicking out of their city the only one who could help them.
They thought they were ok but they weren’t.
They thought they didn’t need help but they did.

Have you ever been guilty of pushing someone away who was there to help?
Have you refused the good advice someone was giving you because you didn’t want to hear it?
Have you gotten angry with a friend or family member because they told you a hard truth about yourself that you did not want to deal with?

I know I have!

My wife has a way of telling me things I don’t want to hear about myself.  I usually get defensive but upon further reflection she is almost always right. The truth hurts.  I think there have been times when we have all said or done something to push the person away who is sent to help.

Why?
Why do we do that?

We do it because change is hard.
We do it because it exposes our motives.
We do it because sin is fun.
We do it because we want to stay the ruler of our own kingdom of self. 
We do it because we don’t want to admit we are wrong.
We do it because it may hurt our pocketbook.
Pride.  

Are you doing this now?

If Jesus came to your house today would you want Him to stay or leave?

It sounds simple enough but the reality is that when Jesus comes things change.  They always change.  The closer you get to Jesus the more your life will change.

He is a great big light that exposes what is in the dark of your heart.
He is the doctor that tells you that you have the cancer of sin and it must be cut out.
He is the one who pulls back the rug of your life and exposes all the dirt that is underneath.
He is the Dentist you have been avoiding that has to do a root canal to fix the problem.

Today, if Jesus came to you exposing all the junk that is inside of you would you want it fixed?

He offers to fix you but in order to fix you, you must come clean about your sin and repent. There is no other way to let Him fix you.

People hated Jesus. They wanted Him to leave their city.  Ultimately they wanted Him dead.   We never like our sin and wicked self exposed.  So much so, that we would be willing to kill an innocent man to keep it a secret.

This almost sounds silly but this is what millions of people do everyday.  They are confronted with truth and rather than live in the light of the truth they simply ignore the truth or just deny it.

You can ignore truth. You can ask Jesus to leave.  You have the freedom to make those choices.

But you can never make bad choices and have good long term results.

Eventually your sin will find you out.  Eventually you will reap the bitter fruit you planted.  Eventually you will have to pay for your sins.

It’s better to invite Jesus to have control now then for you to end your life separated from God.

Do not ask Jesus to leave.  Today, let Him come and do His work in your life.  Let Him deal with your ‘demons.’  Let Him expose your sin.  Let Him love and forgive you.  It will require some pain and change but in the end it will mean the difference in life and death.

A few steps:

  1. Listen when people you love tell you that you have a problem.
  2. Read your bible and identify what needs to change in your life.
  3. Confess your sin and repent.
  4. Get help.  Go to church. Find a small group.   See a counselor.  Get in a recovery program like this one https://www.christplace.com/chance2/
  5. Follow Jesus.   Make time each day to seek Jesus in prayer and reading the Bible.

 

 

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When Life Is Overwhelming

As I get older my life becomes more and more about responsibility.   I have a job where a number of people depend on me.  I have 5 children and sometimes the perfect storm can happen when life can just feel downright overwhelming.

That’s where I find myself this morning.  My 4th child, Joy has pneumonia and she’s been in the hospital for 6 days. If you’ve ever stayed the night in the hospital it’s a super expensive hotel room that provides the most awful nights sleep.  My wife has been there 4 nights in a row.

When one child is sick that doesn’t mean the other 4 cease to have needs.   Here’s a little rundown of the frustrating week we’ve had.

It all started with Joy getting a virus.  Joy passed the stomach virus on to Charyl.   A few days later Joy’s cold worked its way into her lungs and Joy was hospitalized with pneumonia and low O2.  This led to Charyl and I missing our 14thwedding anniversary date because we were in the hospital with Joy.  Next, we missed our baby, Mary Charlotte’s, second birthday party because Joy was in the hospital.  The next morning Mary Charlotte woke up with the stomach bug and threw up all over big brother Ty.   Because of Mary Charlotte now being sick both Charyl and I would miss Ty’s (Our oldest child) 5th grade graduation and end of the year festivities.  From here things went from bad to worse for Joy.  Her O2 numbers were not going up quickly enough so she was transferred to ICU at Scottish Rite by ambulance.  Around this time I picked up some of Joy’s bacteria and decided to develop bronchitis.   To the doctor I went to get a Z-pack.   The drama continues as Ty then received the blessing of the all night stomach bug from Mary Charlotte.   It gets better!   Grandma (my mom) who came to help with all this chaos now received the gift of the stomach bug.

Joy is still in the hospital. If the dog died this week then we would complete our country music song of a life.  Good luck Duke.

Sometimes these kinds of weeks happen when you have a lot of children.  Sometimes life is just hard.   Life is suffering.  I know there are so many people out there whose daily reality is worse than my overwhelming times.

God gives Grace.

When these things happen I always feel like God is making me sit still.

I hate sitting still.
I like to do things.
I need to move.

When life is overwhelming sometimes you have no option but to sit in a hospital room and wait.

Wait and think.  Wait and Pray.   Wait and trust.

It’s hard to see far into the future when you have an immediate issue in front of you.  But when life puts you in time out you need to think.  You need to pray.

Think about your blessings.

In the midst of trials to get your mind out of the gutter you need to think about the blessings of God.

Thank you Lord that I have children to love and take care of.
Thank you Lord that I have an amazing wife who takes such good care of all of us.   Thank you Lord for your church that reaches out to help.
Thank you Lord for sending Charyl’s mom and sister to help her at the hospital and provide the support and encouragement that Joy and Charyl have needed.

So many people have checked on Joy, helped with children, brought us dinner and prayed for us.

What do people do who do not have a church family?

Thank you Lord that we live in a place where our children can get good health care.  Many children in the world don’t have hospitals like we do.
Thank you Lord for nurses and doctors that care about helping my child get well.
Thank you Lord that my mom is here from Florida to help with the other 4 children. There is always so much to be grateful for.

If we keep our eyes on our circumstances we will be overwhelmed and consumed.  But if we keep our eyes on Jesus we have hope.  We have hope that there’s a better tomorrow, even if today stinks.

If you take the time to be grateful in the midst of feeling overwhelmed it brings a calm to your soul.  It’s God reminding you that He is good.

A pastor friend in Florida has been praying for my family and for Joy.  He sent me this text: “Hold to His promise to you in Lamentations 3:21-23 ‘This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.  It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness”

Think about the faithfulness of God.

Remembering what I have to be thankful for and dwelling on the faithfulness of God helps me when going through overwhelming times as a parent.   Knowing deep in my heart and soul that He doesn’t leave me and He doesn’t forsake me.  If I will lean into Him, I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.  I can be content and even joyful in every situation.

When you have a sick kid and you can’t help them, the beast of fear starts rising up in your heart. You are keenly aware of your lack of ability to help your child.   The only answer to fear is faith.  Fear yells at you with all the things that could go wrong.  Fear brings up the worst-case scenario first.

Faith reminds you that you have been here before and God’s brought you through.
Faith reminds you that God is in control of every breath.
Faith reminds you that God loves your child more than you do.
Faith reminds you that no matter what happens God’s in control of it all and His word is true, “He works all things to the good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.”

Faith and hope working together are powerful forces.

Who knows when this season of sickness will end?  We may be in for another difficult week.Screen Shot 2019-05-27 at 7.29.08 AM.png

I pray we will honor God in the storm.  I am also praying that He will stand up and calm the storm.   He knows best.

 

How To Have A Drama Free Thanksgiving

When should a Christian speak up and when should they shut up?

At the time of this writing it is just a few days away from Thanksgiving.  It’s a time of year we get to spend time with our family, be thankful, and argue meaningless politics over a family meal.  Whether it is at the dinner table or on social media, our culture is full of political opinions and division.

As a Christian how do we balance Romans 12:18 which says, “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone,” with our great desire to tell everyone we know our great wisdom on who to vote for that will save the country?

My friends and family are like yours; they are passionate about political issues. As a pastor I often wrestle with when to speak up and when to shut up.  I am a person who speaks more than I listen. This can get me in trouble.

The older (and hopefully wiser) I get the more I keep my mouth (and social media account) shut when it comes to political opinions. There are no lack of pastors and spiritual leaders speaking into politics. Some even run for office themselves.
Jesus told His followers how to live but that is not the same as telling a nation how to govern. The disciples of Jesus and the crowds on multiple occasions tried to make Jesus their political leader (king). He would have none of it. He clearly showed the path to have, ‘God’s Kingdom come and will be done on earth as it is In Heaven’ was not through any political means. It would be through His disciples living differently and sharing the gospel that would be the change agent in the world. Christians would not take up arms but lay down their lives as sheep to the slaughter.

Here are a few things I am learning from watching years of endless political debate on TV, online and in person.

Political debates/arguments are almost never helpful and almost always cause further division.

Whether you believe the President is an orange buffoon or if you believe that Hillary Clinton should be locked up, or both, telling everyone probably will change no ones mind.  I know that when I put something on social media I have many friends with many different political beliefs. I don’t want to risk a greater wedge between a potential friend and myself over a fruitless argument. I would rather be a bridge builder than a wedge driver. The gospel of Jesus is by its very nature offensive. The gospel reveals our sin in order to give us the good news of repentance and faith in Jesus. Politics just divide and hurt.  I see it everyday online from all parties.

Jesus chose to stay out of explicitly political arguments and this is a great principle for me to follow.

Jesus always spoke spiritual truth. When He would address spiritual issues of the day it would often bleed over into addressing the political issues of the day. He could not have been clearer about the fact that His kingdom was not of this world. Ours should not be either.

Both Parties have flawed platforms

The fear of elevating a party and arguing its points is that you can become part of group thinking that never opposes your party.   I often disagree with policies and people on both sides of the aisle.  As a Christian, you should too.

My job is to speak Biblical truth and when that spills over then it spills over but it should not be my aim to get tied up in political arguments.

If someone really cares about my opinion about a political matter then they will ask me. If they ask me I will tell them.  For a Christian the goal of life is not to support an elephant or donkey. We have allegiance to a Lamb. We lay down our lives so that others may know Him. My political leaning could be a stumbling block for people knowing Jesus. I don’t want to be a stumbling block.

A few guiding questions:

Is speaking about politics your calling? 

God specifically calls out people to speak to certain issues.  If this is you, then go for it, but this is not most of us.

Is this helpful?

Is what you’re about to say going to help anyone or is it just sharing your opinion?  

Did you take a day to think about the repercussions?

Most of the time when share something that offends or “triggers” others it is because we did it in hast.  Whatever you share on the Internet is forever…even if you delete it. Screenshots can be made of whatever you post and can come back to hurt you later.  If you think your post might cause unnecessary division then take a night to think and pray about whether to say or post it.

Does your spouse think you should say/post it?

My wife is great at telling me what is and what is not helpful…if I would just listen to her.

Will this drive an unnecessary wedge between you and your friends and family?

Will people you love lose respect for you because of your engagement in this discourse?

One of the hardest things about the last Presidential cycle was how many spiritual heroes I lost great respect for because of how they voiced their political opinions.  In my eyes many of those leaders showed blatant hypocrisy in their politics.  These are leaders that I now no longer look up to as I once did.  I do not want what I think politically to make me lose spiritual influence with someone who may look up to me.

When it boils down to it the Thumper rule is always a powerful rule.  You remember Thumper from the movie Bambi.  His mother told him, “Thumper, if you can’t say anything nice then don’t say anything at all.”    If we all lived by the Thumper rule oh how different our world might be.

Screen Shot 2018-11-19 at 6.35.39 AM.pngSo for the most part, I will simply keep my mouth shut about things political.  I will speak for life and I will speak for issues, but I will try to stay above the drama and hurt.  There is a wise Proverb from the Bible that can really help when it comes to this area of life.

Proverbs 17:27-28 “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.  Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.”

After looking at everything, if you are still unsure whether you should speak up or not…it is probably best to just keep it to yourself.

 

 

 

The Horror Of Having A Child With Down Syndrome

Horror!  That is quite a word.   It is a word that makes me think back to when I was a kid and saw my first Dracula movie.  I was so scared that I had nightmares for weeks (Now vampires sparkle but that is a blog for another day).  Horror is a terrifying word and yet when people think about their supposedly healthy child being born with the condition of Down syndrome (DS) the word Horror comes to mind.  It is almost like a death sentence.

This is not what you expected.

This is not what you had hoped for.

So much to learn…so much to do…so much to think about.

Since our daughter Joy was born with DS everyone one asks me, “How are you and Charyl?”

“How is Joy?”

I have to be completely honest with you.  I am not going to hold back the bitter truth…

Joy has been the most delightful child I could imagine!

Here are some real horrors we have experienced with our little Joy

THE HORROR OF SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT – Joy is now 11 weeks old and she has slept through the night since we brought her home.  Our other children have not been sleepers.  We went almost a solid year without a good night’s sleep with our twin girls.  Joy’s awesome sleeping schedule has allowed Charyl and I to be able to quickly adjust to the needs of a family of 6.

THE HORROR OF SNUGGLINESS – Apparently snuggliness is not a word but I am making it up because it so accurately describes Joy.  She is the cuddliest child imaginable.   I have nicknamed her “Snuggles.”  She is like having a little warmer full of love on your chest.  If you could somehow package love and hold it in your arms my little girl would be what you would come up with.

THE HORROR OF SUPER BIG SMILES, TONS OF BABY NOISES, AND PLAYFUL EXCITEMENT – I don’t want you to get the impression that Joy sleeps all the time or does not interact.  She loves to interact with everyone she comes in contact with.  She is very social.   She “talks” all the time.   She loves for her brother and sisters to talk with her and play with her.

I will not say that our experience with Joy is typical of all parents who have children with Downs.   Many children have open-heart surgery during the first few weeks of their life.  Some children with DS have many different health issues.  However, I will say that the joy found in parenting a child with DS seems to be unanimously wonderful across the board.  I have had the opportunity to meet a number of parents who have children with DS and all of them have such a deep love and appreciation for their child.

The only real horror of downs is the same horror I have for all of my children.

It is the horror of fear.

The horror of fear of the future that has not yet come and may never be.  Fear and worry are brothers from the same father, Satan.  They say that worry is a down payment on something that you may never need to pay for.

Fear is satanic in nature.   When we worry we are saying to God that we cannot trust Him with our future.   We cannot trust Him with our children.

2 Timothy 1:7 God didn’t give us a spirit that makes us weak and fearful. He gave us a spirit that gives us power and love. It helps us control ourselves.

I cannot speak about what God has in the future for Joy, or any of my other children.   I can speak of what I know.  I know that God has been faithful to my family and I.  I know He WILL continue to be faithful.  Joy’s DS has just given us one more reason to trust our heavenly Father more, for that I am eternally grateful. IMG_3069 IMG_3244 IMG_2933

DON’T CALL HER BIG MAMA

My wife is gloriously pregnant with our 4th child.   She is beautiful.   I love her round belly.  I love to put my hand on it and feel our little daughter moving inside.   I love the “pregnancy glow” that my wife shines about.   With each pregnancy we go through I am more grateful for the sacrifices my wife makes in order to bring children into the world

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Each pregnancy has its difficulties.   It starts of with a few months of sickness.  Morning and evening spent nauseous and throwing up as her body adjusts to the new life forming within her.  Those first couple of months she is very tired and finds it hard to find the energy to do very much.  Next, her clothes stop fitting and she has to switch over to maternity clothing.  She then has a brief window during the second trimester that affords relative ease and enjoyment.   Then the 3rd trimester comes.   This is the hardest.  Her back hurts.  Her legs hurt.   It is very difficult to sleep at night and to get comfortable.  Her walk becomes a waddle.  Stairs and everyday movements become more restricted.   Bending over to pick something up becomes a challenge.  The closer she gets to the due date the more miserable it gets.   She goes through all this because she knows that the little life God is creating within her is worth the entire struggle.   I have found that through each pregnancy the most difficult effects for my wife to endure are not physical but emotional.   With each pregnancy I have seen her become discouraged by how others respond to her changing body.   This has really made me love her more because of her sacrifice.

Some things about middle school and high school I can remember pretty vividly.  These are some of the hardest times in life as you are self conscious about the way you look and how others perceive you.  Some kids are skinny and some are overweight.   Some are smart and some are jocks.   I don’t think any person makes it out of middle school undamaged.  We have all been ridiculed and hurt by the words of others.

Acne was particularly embarrassing to me.  I had a reoccurring large zit that would come up on the tip of my nose and it dominated my life and thoughts.   It didn’t help that my close friends would call me ‘Rudolph’ (thanks Carson J) and ridicule me about it.   I can remember not wanting to see anyone, not wanting to go to school for fear of embarrassment, and every time I spoke with someone I was sure that all they were thinking about was the large abnormality on my nose.   There was nothing I could do about my nose condition, but after a few days it would go away and life would be back to normal.

As I have seen my wife struggle as she gets dressed and looks at her ever-expanding belly in the mirror.  Little comments people make deject her.   Most people do not realize how they make her feel.   Most of us don’t think through how our words will make others feel.  People say things like, “You haven’t had that baby yet?”  “Are you having two again?”  “You still have HOW MANY months left?”  Most of the people that say these things are friends, family and well meaning loved ones.  Each time I hear someone say something like that to my wife it hurts me because I know she must feel like I did as a middle school kid facing ridicule.  Motherhood is a special calling that should be held in honor among all things.   I am so thankful for what my mother endured to give me life.   Most of us know someone right now who is pregnant.  As you think about moms and pregnant women let me offer a few suggestions when speaking to them.

Only say uplifting words to pregnant women.  If you cannot say anything nice then don’t say anything at all.  Here are some statements that would be appropriate: “You look great!”  “Congratulations.”  “Pregnancy looks so good on you.”  “I can’t wait to meet your new baby.”  “Is there anything you need?”  “Is there anything I can do to help you?”

Don’t say anything that might verify what the pregnant lady already feels about the way she looks. I listed a few of these above but here are a few more to watch out for: “That’s going to be a BIG baby!”  “Wide load coming through!”  “How you doing, Big Mama?”   Just a quick reminder even if you are being sarcastic…sarcasm almost always hurts.

Let’s do all we can to watch our words and be sensitive to those who give life.

1 Timothy 2:15 But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.