Waiting Room Blues

innmon-1_000 Sitting in a waiting room on the 6th floor of MCV’s Ambulatory Care building, anticipating the moment when a too busy neurosurgeon would have time to see us, I had ample time to think and wonder what the future held for my 79 year old mother.

For two years she has been losing the use of her legs and no doctor, no matter how confident in appearance, has yet been able to unlock the mystery behind her condition. Nor has one ventured to describe what she can expect in the remaining years of her life.

Oddly, as I sat thinking how much I would like to know her future I was flipping through magazines that dated back to the year 2000.  Yes, the wait was so long that I began reading about Brittany and KFed who had just returned from their honeymoon!  They were aglow–enjoying all that we think will assure a bright future –thin bodies, overt sexuality, expensive cars, designer clothes, and of course, well defined abs.

I moved on and was reading an interview with Kirstie Alley who was weary of being the “Fat Actress” and was determined that the time was right to lose the weight. Her reasons were that it would jump start her career and give her a better chance of finding someone with whom to sleep.  I was pretty sure that she meant that euphemistically.

I was reading about the “true” love between Brad and Angelina.  This article was written right after he abandoned one wife to take up another and before he began preaching to us about how we should be more caring people.

What a weird sensation to sit there and know “the rest of the story” in these people’s lives.  How ironic– I knew their futures but really wanted to know Mom’s.  I also knew that while I was not focusing on gaining a bright future in the way that Brittany, Kirstie and Brad were, that we all had the same longing for things to turn out right.

IMG_1397[1] (Small) Still waiting on the doctor, looking out at the skyline of Richmond from the sixth floor, rescuing thoughts flooded my thinking. First, I recalled Hebrews 4:13,

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.  Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”

Mom belongs to a God who sees what we cannot, she belongs to a God who has promised that

if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” 2 Corinthians 5:1

Mom belongs to a God who so captured my heart that when the doctor pronounced that she had a systemic problem rather than a surgical one, I was not disappointed.

In my mind I heard, Lissa, I came and defeated the greatest systemic problem your mother has.  This one will last for a few months or a few years, the victory I won will last forever. I can see your mother’s future and I promise it is very bright!”

Those words did not come from outdated magazine stories that with the vantage point of time mock the main characters’ bright hopes. 

Those words came to me from a precious book of revelation that is thousands of years old and never mocks the main characters.  It is a book that promises an unfading bright future as a gift from a loving, eternal, unchanging God.

Mom passed away March 11, 2014 and entered the eternal house of God.

Beyond Cameraman Prayers

If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

Matthew 21:22

cameraman So, I ask for relief from financial distress, safety in travel, smooth relationships, healing from every sort of malady that I hear about.

Aren’t they the best prayers?  Don’t those requests reveal my belief in the truth of this verse?

Yes and no.  I think my eye gets so fixated on what comes after the comma that I fail to weigh the significance of the words that come before.  “If you believe…”

The second part of the phrase really has no substance or benefit apart from the first.
It raises the question, what do I have to believe in order for the second phrase to stand in all its truth?  Psalm 145:13 answers that question.

The LORD is faithful to all his promises.”

“This, then, is the prayer of faith: to ask God to accomplish what He has promised in His Word.  That promise is the only ground for our confidence in asking.” ((Sinclair Ferguson, In Christ Alone, Reformation Trust 2007, p. 146))

So, if I believe — that is, have unswerving confidence in the promises of God, how will that affect my prayer life?  Both Peter and Paul address this question:

“He has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”  2 Peter 1:4

“Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”  2 Corinthians 7:1

These verses reveal that through God’s promises He reveals His goal of holiness.  The promises that I believe impact what I will pray and what I pray is intended to impact what I become.  With promises in mind, my prayers would be focused not on health, comfort, ease, convenience, prosperity and approval but for God to progress His promised plan of transformation within me!

“It’s as though we each look at life through a video camera and ask for changes in everything except the person filming.  The cameraman is never in view.  We will pray with parents for their straying teenager to straighten out; we rarely pray for the parents not to be fearful, bitter or controlling.  We will pray for a person to get a job; we rarely pray that he would grow in faith as he learns not to fret about money.  We pray for the conversion of someone’s loved ones; we rarely pray that the believer would grow more loving and honest in the way she treats the loved ones.”  ((David Powlison, Speaking the Truth in Love, New Growth Press 2005, p.118))

As a cameraman whose view finder is full of the disruption of joblessness, today I want to believe more and pray something bigger than, “Lord, please bring us a good job.” Today, with reverent trembling I want to pray, “Lord, you have promised to perfect holiness in me–that will mean purifying my heart from so many contaminating loves that reside there. 

Let me love your transforming work and the tools you use to accomplish it. I believe you are accomplishing your promised goal of helping me escape the corruption of this world, so I am bold to ask now, allow me to be a participant in the divine nature. 

That is a promise prayer too wonderful for me to comprehend.  I believe that you are working out 1 John 3:2 and so I say, your will be done Father.  In the name of Jesus.  AMEN

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure

Time of Testing

“So, as the Holy Spirit says:
    ‘Today, if you hear his voice,
    do not harden your hearts
    as you did in the rebellion,
    during the time of testing in the desert,
    where your fathers tested and tried me
    and for forty years saw what I did.”

Hebrews 3:7-9 NIV

takingtest-JobTest I am constantly amazed at what God is willing to reveal about Himself and His ways. 

When I read these verses this morning I thought, “God is letting us know that He uses our resistance to turn the tables on us!”

When we feel so in control and get preoccupied with resisting, rebelling, testing and trying God’s patience—thinking that our wiggling and straining against Him will be allowed to succeed, He reveals that He is the One doing the testing!

Continue reading “Time of Testing”

Back in the Saddle Again

August 7, 2004

Dear Friend Jane,

Well my friend, I have spent two birthdays in Africa now. On our return trip we had an eventful time in London.  Our flight to Entebbe was delayed 5 hours so DSC 074 (Small) we spent the day walking around London streets.  DSC 072 (Small) We took the train into the city and managed to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and Big Ben.

I slept on the plane ride to London but Mike and Casey were unable to and were pretty beat when we got back to Heathrow.  As we were boarding the plane for Entebbe they discovered that they had double booked our seats so we were upgraded to Business Class –oh, what a great grace that was!  The recliner seats allowed us to sleep on this 8 hour leg of the journey and get prepared for the work that awaited in Uganda.

Would you believe that I left my pocket book on the American flight that we took from Richmond to Boston?

Picture 067 (Small)Shirlene, the Rafiki Girls Center Director, met with me the day we returned and asked me to begin the next day observing the classes that I would teach: Music, Cooking & Nutrition and Sewing.  Procuring the groceries needed to prepare the noon time meals, making menus and gathering recipes, teaching the recorder, teaching the girls to make a dress on treadle machines and supervising in the Weaving Room on Tuesdays and Thursdays will be some of the pieces of my new assignment.  Picture 075 (Small)Uganda 018 (Small)

Shirlene seems most anxious for me to take over the sewing class even though I don’t know a bias from a facing!  I am ready and observing to beat the band to get up to speed.

The Mamas and Aunties are expressing much confusion about my status in the village since my return.  The truth is it is as difficult for me as for them right now. Auntie Edith invited me to come to her home for a visit on her off day yesterday so I went after work.  She had cooked 5 traditional foods over charcoal each was wrapped in banana leaves and she wanted to share them with me.  Jane the extravagance of this gift will astound me forever–she cooked the equivalent of a holiday meal for me and her children were sitting and watching me eat…I can only hope that they tasted some of this when I was gone.

I said, “Edith you don’t eat this early.”  She smiled that sweet smile and said, “Jja Jja, I wanted to share food with you and to pray for what has happened.  I want this meeting and our words to be Christian and honoring.”  That was her way of saying she was not asking me to gossip and she knew that being Christian meant our language needed to be different from that of the unbelieving world.

DSC02777 (Small)With tears she thanked me for making her feel valued as a person and for speaking to the women of Rafiki as though they were as important as anyone  else.  She said, “Jja Jja, my heart felt like it had been put in a cold box when Mommy told us you had asked to go to the RGC.  I thought, ‘What has happened? I know Jja Jja loves us.’  Then I thought you would come back and sit us down and explain to us all the reasons that there were so many changes because you always tell us everything.  What I find is that you walk by with only a wave now.”

I did spend some time explaining things to Edith and assuring her that my help to her family would continue no matter how things were different within the gate.  I asked her to trust God that the changes would help the running of things in the village and we would wait and watch how things went.  We clasped hands and spent a long time in imploring prayer–I will never forget what happened in that hut.

You of all people know how that meeting affected my heart.

I do want you to know I am seeing God and am sustained by Him in all this.  In fact, I am so grateful to be with the girls at the center in morning devotions each day. God broke out in all our hearts while we were praying today.  For devotion time we were looking at the attribute of God’s Impartiality.  Later, during the time of confession one girl asked God to forgive her because she often suspected that He favored others more than He did her–she went on to say that she wanted to believe what the Word said rather than her feelings.  Picture 034 (Small)

The girls sing beautifully and I am most blessed to stand among them during hymn time.  Later, the first term girls completed their first blouse project and were thrilled to think they were allowed to take them home to show family–they kept saying to Shirlene, “God Bless you Miss Shirlene–for assisting us.”

It has been a great morning. I haven’t read our Psalm for the day but am even now rehearsing the truths that are there in Psalm 91 (that is the one right?) through my head. DSC 079 (Small)
We will have mini missionaries for dinner tonight and hope that they are made to feel welcome–Jane, I am glad that God saw fit to knit our hearts together–I miss you daily and am helped and remember to say, “God thank you for e-mail, phones and yearly chances to sit and sip coffee with Jane.”  What would I do without a friend with whom I can talk about any and every thing!”

love-lissa

Death Defying

How could the Apostle Paul be on trial?  Why so many appearances in court? In the last chapters of Acts we see him on trial before the Sanhedrin, he is brought before two Roman Governors and has another hearing before King Agrippa II.  Each trial was convened for the purpose of uncovering what charges the Jews had against Paul. 

Speaking clarity into the confusion that exists, Paul states, My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee.  I stand on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead.”  (Acts 23:6)

Why does Paul think this is the crux of the matter?  I remember reading a quote by a Canadian scientist named G. B. Hardy regarding this question.

Jesus_ResurrectionWhen I look at religion I have two questions. One, has anybody ever conquered death and two, if they have, did they make a way for me to conquer death?

I checked the tomb of Buddha, and it was occupied, and I checked the tomb of Confucius and it was occupied, I checked the tomb of Mohammed and it was occupied, and I came to the tomb of Jesus and it was empty.

And I said, there is one who conquered death. And I asked the second question, did He make a way for me to do it too?

And I opened the Bible and discovered that He said, ‘Because I live you shall live also.’

Paul understood that the claim of resurrection was the pinnacle truth claim of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

At death, all human resources are exhausted there is no power on earth that trumps death.  Paul had met Jesus–resurrected from the dead — the One who is stronger than death!

He knew that his brothers in the Jewish faith had nothing greater than this life giving Jesus.  Their way of dealing with death was to avoid it in order not to be defiled.  They warned their followers to stay away from dead bodies and tombs so that there would be no chance of becoming unclean from the corrupting influence of death.  The truth was avoidance was all they could offer and there is not way to ultimately avoid death.

But Jesus!  Rather than avoid death Jesus reached out to touch the dead.  Rather than be defiled Jesus’ touch brought life to that which was dead!

His resurrection is a message–it is the message and Paul was so secure in the truth of it that he was willing to die knowing that yet would he live.

Christ’s resurrection is an invitation to be united with the One whose life overcomes death.  With our future secure we are freed to really live the life we have been given here and now.

I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.

Do you believe this?”  (John 11:25-26)

Faith in Jesus is Life Giving and Death Defying!

Rainbow Connection

June 14, 2004

Dear Jane,

I trust the time with Nancy and David Writebol was good for all, they seem like such a devoted missionary couple.  I told Mike I hope you heard stories of people impassioned for Christ.  I look forward to seeing them at Enrichment Week in San Antonio.

DSC02405 (Small) I went to Owino Market on Monday and bought 57 T-shirts, 2 pair of sandals, 42 pairs of shorts and 5 book bags for under $100.  Each outfit for the children costs 75 cents!  For the last two days I have been culling worn out, too little clothes from the cottages and replacing them with “new” things.  The children are thrilled and are colorful as rainbows.  When I give new clothes to the children, I have to first take the old ones away.  If I leave them in the cottages, the mamas continue to have the children wear them no matter what the condition.  This is not a culture that has the luxury of  “throwing things out” — it just is not done here.  They really do not have any understanding of why I come and take things away!  It is very difficult for them and they continue to tell me that a pair of shorts or shirt is still good–regardless of the holes or faded look.

When I do get clothes out of the cottages, it is when they are in better condition than what most children in the surrounding areas are wearing.  I take the clothes that are recyclable to Central Baptist in Wakiso and let Susan distribute them to the children in her congregation. I will never forget the day we went there for Sunday School and a little three year old girl came in by herself totally naked except for a string tied around her waist.  I actually bought her a church outfit and knickers which she was so proud of she lifted her dress for everyone to see!

DSC02113 (Small)I had a fun morning with the aunties and children.  It is Hero’s Day and so all the children were home doing chores from 9-10.  At 10 the aunties had promised them that we would go get mangoes.  Kasmiri our gardener got a long pole and jabbed at the mangoes until he had knocked about 15 out of a tree. We had a feast. DSC02136 (Small) They like to eat their fruit before it is ripe here so the taste of an unripe mango is about like a Granny Smith apple.  We sat and laughed and enjoyed those mangos and it was a sweet time of fellowship.

Later, Mike and I went to town for groceries and we found my favoriteDSC02139 (Small) cracker in stock so I am a happy woman!  It is difficult to find crisp things here and I get so hungry for that.  Mike discovered a cracker made in Malaysia that is really the ticket! I can’t tell you how thrilled you can get when you find something like what you loved in the States–it makes a party!

It is Marsha’s afternoon to cover the activity time and dining hall so I am in with Casey who is off from school. We gave Edith a ride home from work and she took me to her place to meet the 2 orphans that she raises along with her own 3 children. John and Norbert are from 2 different women who have died of AIDS and named Edith as the caretaker. Edith’s countenance about this is never that it is burdensome or out of the ordinary to pick up a couple of extra children.  She cannot imagine that there was any other response than to joyfully take these children in.  One of the boys is infected with HIV but Edith has kept that from the other children so that he will not be ostracized.  In material things, this family is not rich but in love and care they are most blessed!

Well it is the end of the day and I am going onto the porch with a glass of tea, my Bible and watch the sun go down…..

I hope the Lord is very near you today my friend.

with much love,

lissa

Its All About Me

me“If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.”Philippians 2:1-8

Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” Luke 9:23

The verse is Philippians snatches the rug out from under my natural “Me-ology.”  Jesus was not like us Americans!  He did not think equality was the highest value in life!  For Him the highest good–the greatest joy was found in emptying Himself for the sake of others.  He did not demand that it be all about Him–even though in reality it is!

As Paul describes the self giving attitude of Christ, he invites us to consider a value that he says leads to complete joy…having the same mind and the same love as Christ.

“I am personally convinced that this submission, this dying to self, this crucifying of pride is crucial to our joy.  We think of denying self as somber, grim-faced business when it is in truth a prelude to dancing.

The reason our death [to self] increases the joy level all around is that it also increases the love level all around.

Only when we die to self can we fully love another.

Self is a devilish creature, demanding all of our energy, wanting our constant attention, reaching even into our pocketbooks for favors.

How can we ever hope to be attuned to another when self screams for our constant care?

When self is alive and well, it offers us an all-or-nothing proposition.

We either pacify self, or crucify it!”

Judson Edwards

Pathway to joy is the pathway that goes from “Me-ology” to “Thee-ology!”