Saturday, June 19, 2010

Change me Lord! And when necessary, use desitin!

I got a funny picture today about growing as a Christian. I was asking God to purify my heart, show me where there was sin that needed to be rooted out, and also by the way, to help me to LET Him do that! So clean me up and let me have the faith to allow it to happen.
I saw a baby getting it's diaper changed. Sometimes babies don't want to be changed. Maybe it's because they don't know they need to be changed, and they have more fun things they want to do! You can (and sometimes you MUST) wrestle them down and do it anyway, but it's hard and sometimes messy. They cry and fight, and it takes a lot longer.
Sometimes they have been in the diaper WAY too long and they are sore and smelly! It hurts even to be touched. But because you love them, and you know it has to be done, you do it despite the smell. You have to be very gentle, and use a little desitin or A & D ointment to soothe and protect the tender areas. As they grow they find out that your intent is not to trap them or hurt them, and they trust you enough to lie quietly and let you clean them up.
I think God wants me to know that just as I minister to babies He wants me to trust Him to clean me up, soothe and protect my tender areas (hurts from my sin and from others) and make me fresh and clean again, so I can be free to explore the world and live the life He created me for.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Who do you think you are? Pride rears it's head again!

I went with Mom to the doctor this week. I do it because I love my Mom and because I speak healthcare; a foriegn language if there ever was one. The doctor and his nurse were both very respectful and kind. They took time to answer our questions, and seemed to be very thorough. I asked if her EKG had returned to normal after the "small" heart attack last month. He ordered an EKG to be done before we left. Whenever we have a wait, Mom & I like to work on crossword puzzles, cryptoquotes or other mind challenges. So we were working on a particularly difficult one when they came to get her for the EKG. I forgot that I was the one who was interested in the results, so I stayed in the waiting area. When she came back out a couple of minutes later, I said, "Oh I forgot I wanted to see the EKG!" The tech said, "You can't see it. Only if a doctor is there." I tried to argue with her, but it was obvious she wasn't going to change her mind. I was FURIOUS! I wanted to bite her head off, in fact I thought I started to, but Mom told me later she thought that I was extremely polite to her. I don't think I was at all--I certainly didn't feel that way. It was partly that I really did want to know, the doctor wanted me to know, and so did Mom. It was also partly because in my heart I felt superior to her, and I wanted her to know that I was. Problem with a living sacrifice is it keeps crawling off the altar. That's me--again.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The second greatest story

I think I startled Marian Larson when I called her name out as she walked through the hospital where I was working. "Are you still having a Bible study at your house?" She was, and very graciously invited me to come. I think I startled myself when I asked her. I didn't know that was coming out of my mouth. I remember at the end of the Bible Study each person had the opportunity to pray, and I asked God to give me patience with my kids. I wondered at the serenity that came over me in the next few days as I DIDN’T lose it when they got into things, or when I was tired and they weren’t.
I am the child of a mother without a mother and a father without a father. I had 5 brothers and 2 sisters (I am the oldest--born when Mom was 17.) My parents worked hard to keep us fed and clothed, but we were poor. Dad worked nights for the railroad, and always had Thursday and Friday off, never a weekend. We had lived in 12 homes by the time I was 12. Mom didn't drive. But my mother's father always came to where we lived and took us to church. No one particular denomination, but a good church near our home. So I knew church well. I felt like God's grandchild—He was fun to visit, but I didn't live with Him.
Once at a Church of Christ camp there had been HEAVY pressure to "go forward and give your life to Jesus." I didn't want to do that, but after 17 choruses of "Just as I am" I thought I was the only one left in the room who hadn't, so I did. Not only was I very uncomfortable implying that I wasn't already a Christian, I was very scared of putting my head under water. (Oh you can't get to heaven without immersion, I-M-M-E-R-S-I-O-N!) At the age of 15, it was "let someone else put my head under water or eternity in hell, which will it be?" Both seemed pretty tough. I did go forward, and survived baptism by immersion, but I really didn't get the whole "Jesus died for your sins" part. I thought that my confession and baptism covered my sins up until that point, but after that each one had to be individually brought to Him. That was a heavy burden--I could see myself arriving at heaven's gates only to be told, "Sorry, you're out on a technicality. You forgot to ask forgiveness for sticking your tongue out at your Dad when he wasn't looking on October 17, 1962 at 7:19 p.m." After a few weeks of struggling to be perfect and completely up to date on all sins, I told God, "Maybe when I'm 30 I can be a Christian!" and gave it up as impossible. I eventually married John, a man much like my Grandpa, but not particularly spiritual. He was a Lutheran, which was fine with me. I was ready for some nice well behaved church, with organ music, beautiful candlelight services and no challenges! We lived near both our families in the Vasa area, and started our family. I went to church, taught Sunday School, and kept God pretty much at arms length. God is a gentleman. A decade went by. The whole year that I was 29 I felt a restlessness, an incompleteness, like I was missing something. Then my cousin and lifelong friend Becky told me that she had been going to Women's Aglow meetings and was really becoming much closer to God. She said, "I don't speak in tongues much but . . ." I didn't hear WHAT she said after that. All I could think was "You speak in tongues at all?" I had never heard of such a thing in my life. I would have written her off as a wierdo and avoided her permanently if it weren't for a very strange thing that happened next. She told me that I had to get rid of the Ouija board I had picked up at a garage sale and MADE me pray a prayer of renouncing it and repenting of using it. She also insisted that I burn it. Something about the first commandment--I wasn't sure, but Becky was not usually so pushy so I agreed. When I went home that night, I did throw it in the burning barrel in the back yard, but I wasn't sure it would actually burn. The barrel was full of ashes almost to the top and it had rained a lot so the ashes were wet. And the Ouija board wasn't exactly made of wood--some kind of plastic. I crumpled up some newspapers and lit them, and left to take the kids to church.
Although my husband was never gone at night, it happened that that night he had to be away. So I came back much later to a dark empty house. Because of Becky's words and being alone, I was pretty nervous. But the strangest thing happened-after the kids and I went to bed, throughout that night, I had dreams or visions. There were evil things in my room that wanted to harm me. I could see them. But they had no power to do anything because of the strong power of love that filled the room. Dream after dream came; all of them various expressions of love. I knew then that I had always had some fear of the dark, but that I never would again. Yes there are scary things in the dark, but Jesus is there, protecting me from them. The next morning when I looked at the burning barrel there was NO trace of the Ouija board!
I began to read and study more about the baptism in the Holy Spirit, which Becky had talked about and coincidentally, Marian's Bible study group (did I mention they were Lutheran?) was also interested in. One day, shortly after that, I was driving to work, and suddenly God spread out a panorama of my whole life before me. I could see every event as it had been woven into His plan for me. Meeting and marrying my husband, learning to play guitar, going back to nursing school, things that I thought I had done on my own, were not a surprise to God--He had known about all of them before I did. I could see that He had always been there, when I was troubled, hurting, working, playing--all the time. And that He was very interested in me.
It would have been enough if that were all that had happened. It made me feel like I wasn't a random accident or an inconvenience. That alone would have been so precious. But He started answering my prayers. I would have thought that my greatest need during that time in my life was money. But I realize that money was what made me feel secure. So first, God showed me that He could provide financially--someone stopped John and asked if they could buy the broken down baler with weeds growing up around it for exactly what we needed to make the tractor payment. Stopped him on the road and gave him cash! Then He started to show me that it wasn't just money He could provide. My life was changing and others could see it. My sister gave her life to the Lord as soon as I told her what had happened to me. I also told John. He wasn't quite so impressed. At first he thought I was completely nuts! I got very good counsel from the Women's Aglow members to "not be your husband's Holy Spirit. Imagine a sign on his back--KEEP OFF!" I prayed for my husband to know the Lord too, and God sent him a co-worker who belonged to the AG church in Northfield. He came home from work one night having received deliverance and the baptism in the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues! We were invited to be part of Servants of the Lord in Hastings--mostly Catholic Charismatics. Life has snowballed since then. Or maybe I should say rollercoastered! It is such an adventure to have that spiritual awareness. To be able to release the power of God through prayers and see them answered. To pray for someone sometimes once, sometimes for years, and then watch them catch fire! While I can't say that we haven't had troubles, there has never been a moment when I haven't felt God's presence through them. 7 years ago this month the unimaginable happened. John died at the age of 57. We had been married 36 years, my youngest daughter was just 15. The prayers and love of others were so precious during that time. I can't imagine how hard it would be to lose someone you have lived with for 36 years if you didn't KNOW that you would see them again. It's been the hardest thing I have ever done and I still miss him a lot, but I know he is in the presence of the Lord. And I know that whatever other difficulties I may face, they will not take God by surprise. He will be there with me, helping me to go from strength to strength.