30 Days of Thankful: Day 2

Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me? (Jer. 32:27)

Welcome to30 Days of Thankful.”  I’m honored you’ve decided to join me as we strive together to develop a thankful heart.

Sometimes I wonder if my view of God is too small.   Just the other morning, I was outside enjoying the quiet when suddenly, two fighter jets flew overhead at a very low altitude. Their roar was deafening and everything around me shook violently. I realized the two massive jets were probably part of the game opener show at a nearby college football stadium so I wasn’t alarmed. Even so, I was overwhelmed by their sound, speed, and power.

Strangely, tears welled up in my eyes and I got a lump in my throat.  Now I admit to having a soft spot for our military, but this went deeper. It was if God whispered to me: “You need not fear anything in life,  for I am far stronger than these mighty, fighter jets.”

Then, I remembered the words God spoke through the prophet  Jeremiah: “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?” (Jeremiah 32:27).

I thought about the word behold.  Not a word I use every day.  The dictionary defines behold as “to see through sight or apprehension;” or “to gaze upon.”  I realized that beholding is connected to thankfulness:  If I want to develop a thankful heart, I need to spend time each day “beholding” God’s majesty. Simply put, I need to “gaze upon him.”

Then it hit me: The closer I get to God, the more easily I behold his awesomeness. I was very near to those fighter jets—so their might and power were awe inspiring. How often am I awed by God? Maybe I need to spend more time each day drawing close to him.

My prayer partner once said this:  We should “glance at our problem, but gaze on God’s promise.” The fighter jet episode reminded me that I also need to gaze upon God himself. I need to draw near to him each day and behold his majesty and glory.

When I truly behold God, fear, discouragement, and hopelessness flee.  And my heart swells with thankfulness.

30 Days of Thankful

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thess. 5:18)

Ten-year-old Willie Myrick is one of my heroes. Willie was kidnapped from his home in Atlanta by a knife-wielding assailant. His kidnapper placed a ten-dollar bill as “bait” at the foot of a tree near Willie’s driveway.   When the curious youngster reached down to pick it up, the man came from behind the tree, forced Willie into the car and began to drive.

Speeding across town with the little boy in the back seat,  the man spewed profanity and threats.  The frightened  ten year old decided to sing. And not just any song–Willie began to sing his favorite worship song, “Every Praise.” When Willie was later asked why he sang this particular song, he answered, “Well, because I knew that Jesus was gonna be with me and he was gonna take me through the steps of getting out!”  Continue reading

Becoming Simple Again

Have you ever been arrested?  Not by the police,  but by the Word of God.  It happened to me the other day.  I was reading through Matthew’s Gospel, my usual chapter a day.  But when I got to Chapter 18,  I was “arrested” by Jesus’s warning to His disciples:  Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3 NIV).

The word used in this verse for change means to turn in a different direction, or “to repent.” What keeps me from becoming like a little child?  In what ways do I need to repent?  I pondered the question.

The next verse gave me a clue. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom (Matthew 18:4 MSG).  If I truly want to see the kingdom of heaven and if I want to have kingdom impact here on Earth, I have to become simple.

I can think of a lot of words to describe my life, but simple isn’t one of them. Can you relate?  We live in an incredibly complicated world.  It’s busy and noisy with to do lists and deadlines.  But simple?  Who can afford to be simple?  Jesus knew His words would hit hard.

I decided to do a little “research” of my own.  I was sharing a cup of tea one afternoon with my four-year-old granddaughter, who was feeling quite grown up as she carefully balanced the delicate china cup and saucer on her lap.  “Guess what Jesus tells grownups,” I said to her.  “We have to be like little kids if we want to know Him better.  Why do you suppose Jesus likes kids so much?”  She just looked at me for a minute as if to say, You should know that answer.  And then she said matter-of-factly, “Because they are so fun to play with.”  It was that simple. Period.

In the eyes of a child, Jesus is not only God of the Universe and Savior of  souls.  He is also their friend. He actually likes children. They know it.  My granddaughter’s natural assumption?  Jesus likes her, not because she’s wise, or rich, or in control.  He likes her just because she’s who she is.  He likes her simple faith in Him.  And probably because she’s fun to play with.

In this busy, complex world, I must repent if I want to become simple.  Yes, it’s simple to believe in Jesus.  To depend on Him.  To trust Him like a child.  Simple, but not simplistic.  It takes courage to believe.  Humility to admit my need for His forgiveness. And I have to wrestle to the ground all the doubts and fears that attack my mind.  All the clutter that robs me of clarity.  So I can see Jesus.  I have to get back to simply believing in Him.  Like a child.



Brain Tumor a Blessing?

He has made all things beautiful in His time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Sometimes, when the answers to our prayers are slow in coming, we wonder if we can truly trust God.  Could there be an unseen purpose behind His delay?  My friend Bethany learned that God may have reasons which we don’t understand until later.  She also came to realize that His timing is for our good and His glory.  Above all, He can be trusted.

GUEST BLOG: By Bethany Kortekas

“A brain tumor? I have a brain tumor? Lord, we have been going through tests and doctor appointments for the last two years for unexplained infertility, and now a brain tumor?”

Adam and I have been married for five years and were excited about having a family. When we were not able to have our own, we started exploring our options: adoption, foster care, kidnapping, or even not having children. We talked to several families about their journey and discovered embryo adoption. When a couple has gone through In Vitro Fertilization, the doctor uses the couple’s eggs and sperm to create babies for them to carry. Sometimes a couple is not able to carry all of the children created by the doctor in this process. Currently there are 600,000 embryos in medical storage waiting to be implanted or donated to science.

When we realized that we could adopt embryos and still experience childbirth ourselves, we were excited to start the process. We put our profile on Miracleswaiting.org and told friends on Facebook to pray with us. A friend out of state contacted us and suggested she talk to her co-worker. This lady had four embryos left and had recently been asked by her medical storage to donate them to science. She had agreed and had all the paperwork notarized, ready to mail that day, when she got the call from our friend that we wanted her embryos. It felt like a sign that God had saved those babies for us!

However the normal legal work and medical approvals dragged from weeks to months. The implant we had hoped for in December pushed to January to April and then finally in June, I went to the doctor about something unrelated and they discovered something. The doctor found that I had a tumor on my pituitary gland, which is right between my eyes. The doctor explained that this tumor grows off of the hormones that increase during pregnancy. If we had become pregnant on our own or if we had been able to implant our embryos when we had hoped to, the tumor could have grown to impair my vision and I could have gone blind!

Now, I am not sure how you view prayer, but it can be easy to assume that if you have a good enough request, God will give you whatever you want when you want it. Sadly as Christians, we can become so self focused that we forget about the sovereignty of God. Our God has the whole picture.  All  of the past, every angle of the present and all of the future. Isaiah 55:8 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.

Did God know that I had tumor that could have blinded me if I had conceived a child? Absolutely! Was any of this a surprise to Him?  Did it mess up His plans for us to adopt four embryos? No! If He says wait to my prayers, I can trust that He knows best.  He is orchestrating things for our benefit or for the benefit of others. As I look over my life, there is no doubt that I would rather have God’s best for me than whatever I originally picked out. My vision is too small and my choices are too self-serving.

Currently my tumor is under control with medication.  We’ll find out the results of our implant in May, and I have to be honest. I am hoping for twins! However, we know that whether these first two embryos will finally rest in our arms or in the arms of Jesus, that prayer is a power tool to remind us that God is in control. We do not have to worry about the future because God is using His timing for our benefit that ultimately gives Him the glory. What an incredible security that gives us as we pray!

Trained by our Trials

Trials are the food of faith. –George Mueller

I’ve been thinking a lot about how hard it is to wait for answers to my prayers. God’s delays can be frustrating. For an impatient person like me, waiting can be one of life’s more difficult trials. When God seems silent, I can fall into the trap of thinking that if I just pray harder, memorize more Scripture, or pound harder on the gates of heaven, I can move God’s hands.  And I have to admit. I do love those times when God gives an immediate “yes” to my prayer. But more often, I find the answers are painfully slow in coming.

I’m not always a good sport when God says “Go slow,” or “grow,” or even “no” in response to my prayer request.  Sorry to say it, but I can sound a bit like my friend’s three-year-old daughter who, in the middle of a tantrum, howled, “But Mommy, all I want is what I want when I want it!” Isn’t that how we all feel at times? What’s so wrong with wanting what we want when we want it…especially when what we are praying for is a good thing?

I’ve come to learn that even though my prayer may be within God’s will for my life,  I may still have to endure lots of waiting before the answer comes.  I look at our three grown children and remember how fervently I prayed for them. The long years of infertility sometimes left me wondering if we would ever have babies. I persevered in prayer for a total of about 108 months. And though God did heal me and I finally got my “answers,” the journey required much endurance and many tears on my part.

So why didn’t God just give me those babies when I wanted them? I probably won’t know all the reasons for His timing until our first conversation in heaven. But I will tell you this. I don’t think a drop of the waiting was wasted. From a purely practical standpoint, He knew just which children He wanted to give us and the precise moment each of them needed to be born. But beyond that, I truly believe He used those long months to prepare me to be a mother.  That season of my faith journey also drew me much closer to Him.

I believe that “wait training ultimately prepares us for our dream.  God knows exactly how to use the times of waiting for our good and for His glory.  Someone once said, “We grow great by our dreams.” That may be true, but we are trained by our trials.  So stand firm, dear friend.  Let’s draw encouragement from God’s Word as we wait for the answer to our prayer.

Consider it sheer joy, my brothers, when you encounter various kinds of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance carry out its intended purpose, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4 MOUNCE).