Friday, September 19, 2014

When Miracles Don't Come

Last week our church laid to rest a young mom.  A mom who had battled cancer for the last three years of her life.  A mom who left behind behind a husband, a six year old daughter and a four year old son.  

A few weeks prior to this, in a completely separate conversation, someone asked me if I thought God still performed miracles.  

I told her, "Yes! I absolutely believe in miracles!"

Do I still think that today?

Yes.  I really do.  But I also recognize that it is not always in God's will to heal.

Some of you may nod your heads and agree with that statement.  And some of you may see red and get spitting mad. That's okay.  I get that. I do.

How could it possibly be "God's will" for a child to lose a mother or a husband to lose a wife?  Honestly? I don't know.  I don't pretend to understand why God does what He does.  Why God allows what He allows.  I don't understand why there is so much loss and pain in this world.  I only know there is.  

I also know God never leaves us nor forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5).  I know God is our refuge and strength in times of trouble (Psalm 50:15 and 62:8).  I know that in Him is a peace that passes understanding (Phil 4:7).  I know His word is true and He keeps His promises.  

There was a time in my life, years ago, when I fell to my knees and cried out to God for a miracle.  But that miracle never came.  I know what it feels like when God chooses not to answer your prayer.  I know what it feels like to believe in a God you know is perfectly capable of healing, perfectly capable of performing miracles; and yet have to live with the aftermath of a dream shattered, the absence of a miracle, the loss when healing didn't come.  I know what that feels like.

And though I can accept those moments, share my grief (and sometime even anger) with God and lean on Him in the turmoil that follows; I would be lying if I said the question of "Why?" never entered my mind. 

Sometimes, I am able to understand the "Why?" given enough time and distance.  Other times, I'm not.  I still have no answer to give when someone comes to me with a heavy heart asking why God didn't do what they know he is capable of doing.

In my seminary reading this week Richard Rohr, a catholic priest, wrote something to this effect...  Jesus never healed for the sake of healing.  The miracles Jesus performed, all of them, were always about, and always will be about, inner transformation.  People today cry out to God and ask for healing, but have no interest in the inner transformation that must go along with it.  

So I looked back at many of Jesus's healings and it turns out, Rohr is right.  Jesus healed not so bodies would be healthy but so souls would be saved.  When I cried out to God for my miracle years ago, the one that never came, I wasn't crying out for transformation, I wasn't interested in inner change.  I was calling out for my wants.  Legitimate, God honoring wants, but wants all the same.  In the 12 years since the night I spent on my knees, I have been more transformed by His faithfulness, His love and His devotion to me, than I ever would have been had He performed a miracle that night.  

I will never fully understand why God takes a child before their life has been fully lived.  I will never fully understand why God would take a young mother from a family that desperately needs her.  But these are things God never intended for me to fully understand;  that is why it is called faith.  I have to have faith that His way is best.  I have to have faith that His plan is perfect, even when it makes no sense to me.  I have to have faith that "ALL the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful" (Psalm 25:10), even when it's not the way I want things to be.  

God is gracious and compassionate (Neh 9:17), don't forget that.  Even when the miracle doesn't come.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Treasured Possession

"For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession."
Deuteronomy 7:6

It sometimes amazes me how you can feel so alone in the middle of a great big crowd.  Have you ever felt that way?  You are surrounded by people, voices, even laughter; you are sharing experiences, stories and life with others and yet somehow you feel...lonely.

This reality was a heavy weight on my shoulders throughout my time in Haiti.  The kids in the orphanages were surrounded by people, 56, 80, sometimes 89 other kids depending on which orphanage we were at.  This number doesn't even include the mommas (what they call the caregivers), the teachers, the pastors or other staff that was there. The kids were surrounded by other people, yet if there was one word I could use to describe these kids it would be... lonely. 

They were starved for attention, desperate to be held, yearning to have someone look them in the eye and say, "I see you!"  "I know you!"  "I love you!" They needed that as much, if not more, than they needed food or the fun we brought.  I guess that doesn't make them so very different from us.

We all have this desperate need to be seen, to be known, to be loved.  We need to know we are valued, adored, treasured.  We need it like we need air to breathe and food to survive.  It is a basic human need.  And the children of Haiti are human.  Just like you.  Just like me.  

If you are like me, you have had people around you all your life.  And I am willing to bet that most of you have had someone in your life speaking these words to you, telling you "I see you."  "I know you."  "I love you."  

But if you are like me, there have also been times in your life when you have been lonely.  When you are convinced that you are not seen, not known, and not loved.  I am guessing there have been times when you, just like the orphans in Haiti, have wondered if there is anyone out there who values you, adores you, treasures you.

I want to tell you there is.  

Your heavenly Father absolutely adores you!  He does!!

He sees you.

He knows you.

He loves you!

YOU are His treasured possession.  

Don't forget that.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


It was pretty obvious as soon as we stepped off the plane, we were NOT in Kansas anymore!

This was definitely not home!

As we exited the airport to the chaos of the Haitian culture, foreign languages surrounded us, people crowded us, and smells overwhelmed us.  Isabella grabbed my hand and whispered in my ear, "Will it be like this the whole time we are here?" I squeezed her hand and said a quick prayer.  

It was pretty clear that we were strangers in a foreign land, "aliens" the Bible would say.  This was not our home.  And honestly, it was a little.. okay... a lot uncomfortable.

We missed being able to communicate with the people around us.
We missed our familiar American food.
We missed American plumbing and hot water.
We missed air conditioning and drinking tap water.
We missed our cozy beds and nights free from the sounds of Haiti (roosters crowing at ALL hours of the night; dogs barking, cars honking).
We missed the families we left behind.
We missed home.

We didn't miss Facebook, emails or text messages.
We didn't miss our hectic American schedule, running from one place to another.
We didn't miss the constant demand for more (more stuff, more toys, more clothes, more entertainment).
We didn't miss those aspects of home.

But then again, those things aren't home.  The truth of the matter is, sitting here at my familiar desk, in my cozy house, hair drying from a nice hot shower, my favorite jeans and a nice new t-shirt on, I'm still not home.  This isn't home.

1 Peter 2:11 says we are aliens or strangers in this world.  The whole WORLD should be a foreign land to us, it should ALL be uncomfortable; even my cozy little house, in my cozy little neighborhood should be uncomfortable.  We are called to be in this world yes, absolutely, but we are not of this world. And all the worldly things that surround us, drowned us, and pull us from our true home, where we REALLY belong should leave us feeling uncomfortable, foreign, alien, like we aren't where we are supposed to be.

Ephesians 2:19 says we are members of God's household, fellow citizens with God's people.  That is where our home is, with God, in heaven.  And no we aren't there yet, none of us are.  We are simply not home yet.  And we should feel like that.  This world is a foreign land, even if you have lived your whole life in the same small town, that little town is not where you will spend eternity.

As I looked around the strange land of Haiti, taking in the trash in the streets, the broken buildings and abject poverty, it was uncomfortable, it was pretty obvious I didn't fit in.  But I also knew I was right where God wanted me, and surprisingly, there was a whole lot of comfort in that. 

I wasn't home, that was for sure.  

But then again, this isn't home either.