Miracle on 5th Street (I once was deaf, but now I hear)

Miracle on 5th Street

I would not consider myself to be a prayer warrior. But, I do pray. Not because I believe in the power of prayer, but because I believe in the power of God. At times, I have prayed big, brave, badass prayers; but for the most part, in tough situations I try to pray “make it count” before I pray “make it better”.

So, keeping my general cowardice in prayer in mind, I have a story to tell you.

I’ve waged a long war with illness this winter, and early in January, I lost hearing in my left ear. A course of antibiotics and a bunch of other medicines could not clear it up. Instead, it grew worse, and after a month, my right ear decided that since misery loves company it, too, would start to block up.

Coupled with weeks of coughing, sewer drama, pneumonia, family crises and my daughter coming home with headlice, I was at my wits end. I had agreed to speak at our church’s women’s retreat, as well as at a college ministry function; and with just days to go – I was exhausted and partially deaf. My mom nagged me to go to the doctor. “I don’t have time,” I protested. “What little time I have, I need to prepare for retreat.” But she prevailed on me: I needed a better plan.

One Friday morning, I left my children with the babysitter and escaped to a coffee shop. My agenda for the morning was simple: make an appointment with the doctor, get out of the college speaking engagement, and do some prep work for the retreat. I settled in with a latte at the coffee shop, only to discover I couldn’t connect to the wifi, and so, unable to contact the doctor or the college pastor, I dived into retreat prep.

My passage for study was James 4 and I made steady notes, mentally formulating my talks about our Father who loves us and who invites us to ask him for our heart’s desires. I found myself continuing to James 5, where all of a sudden these verses leapt up at me:

12 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.

Really? Really? This verse, right there, right then, while I was preparing talks about asking our loving Father for big, bold, heartfelt things?

The contrast could not have been clearer. My “wise” plan for coping had been to 1) say no to my commitment, and 2) call a doctor about my illness. But here were two verses that say 1) let your yes remain yes, and 2) ask the elders to pray if you’re sick. Oh, and use oil.

The words simple obedience floated in my mind, and I surrendered in tears. I sent a message to the college pastor, assuring him I’d be there the following Tuesday; and I mentally rehearsed how to phrase my awkward request to the elders.

I spent the afternoon tending to kids and re-checking my daughter for nits. I had a meeting at church later that night, at which several of the elders would be present. Leaving home, I hastily grabbed the tea-tree oil we’d been using for lice treatments and stuffed it into my purse. On the drive over, though, I felt sheepish about the oil, and resolved to just ask them to pray instead. Surely the oil was symbolic, anyway? Simple Obedience came to mind, but I squashed it.

We finished up our meeting, each person speaking clearly and slowly since I’d explained I had lost most of my hearing. When the meeting was over, I sheepishly explained about James and all the coffee-house tears earlier that day, and asked them to pray. They gathered around and laid hands on my shoulders and prayed for God to please heal my ears.

We said our Amens, and things were that strange combination of warm-and-awkward, and someone made a joke that there should have been oil. I threw my face into my palms and confessed, “I actually have oil in my purse but I felt too stupid to bring it out!”

“Well, then let’s use the oil,” someone said, and so – adding to the awkwardness – they gathered around once more and removed my tea tree oil from its ziploc back and wads of paper towel (so holy, I know) – and prayed once more, this time dabbing some of the lice-repellant on my forehead.

Another round of amens brought everything to a close, and I packed up my oil into its plastic bag and made my way to the parking lot. What was that about, Lord? I wondered, pulling my car out into the dark, foggy road.

Thirty seconds later, tiredness caught up with me and I yawned. My left ear crackled and I was suddenly engulfed by a wave of nausea. My vision swam in front of my eyes and I gripped the steering wheel, afraid I would black out. I pulled over, Jesus-take-the-wheel-style, hoping I wouldn’t land in a ditch, and waited for the nausea to pass and my vision to settle down.

I yawned again, and this time my right ear crackled and another wave of nausea washed over me. I closed my eyes, waiting for the horrible swimming sensation to go away. As it ebbed away, I blew my nose and yawned again, trying to shake out the clogged feeling that remained in my ear. With that, my right ear suddenly cleared: and with two ears now open for the first time in six weeks, I realized that the radio was on. I hadn’t been able to hear it before, but now with crystal clarity the beloved voices of Simon & Garfunkel singing these, the first words that drifted into my nearly-restored ears:

Here’s to you, Mrs Robinson,

Jesus loves you more than you will know.

God bless you please, Mrs Robinson,

Heaven holds a place for those who pray.

Hey. hey. hey.

I sat in the car and cried and cried: tears of gratitude and surprise and the overwhelming knowledge of being loved and heard by a Father who cares.

And all of a sudden it made sense: the talks on asking our loving Father boldly for our deep desires, the call to simple obedience, and even the silliness of the oil. Because no matter how old we get or how sophisticated people may think we are, some truths bear repeating: Jesus loves you more than you will know, and heaven holds a place for those who pray.

 

 

On the day you were born – {Judy Douglass}

There’s something about Judy Douglass that makes you want to be near her: something about her joy, her welcome, and her gift of encouragement. And I think, that when you read this wonderful guest post, you’ll see what I mean…

on the day you were born

 

For baby gifts I give books. Old favorites, new releases, baby board books, picture books. And usually one of several Day/Night You Were Born books.

These birth books are celebrations of the new life that has joined a family. Each recounts in different ways the heavens and the earth, animals and people, all of creation rejoicing at the arrival of this child “because there has never been anyone like you…ever in the world” (On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman)

I’m sure a similar story was told on the day you were born, the night I was born.

You see, God Himself was deeply involved in creating you. Sure, your parents played a major role. But our heavenly Father, through the words of the psalmist, reveals the backstory:

“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:13-16)

He was there! Choosing, designing, forming you. Every detail: color of eyes, shape of face, height in the future. This from mom and that from dad. Temperament, personality, abilities, gifts, strengths, weaknesses—the whole package “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

The story continues.

The Apostle Paul helps us to understand what God thought and felt on that day, that night when you were born:

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)

That word “handiwork” is hardly adequate. The meaning has an artistic connotation. A more appropriate translation would be “work of art” or “masterpiece.”So imagine our Lord’s response as you appeared: “Look at her! She is just what I had in mind. She is perfect, my work of art, truly a masterpiece!”

Let that sink in.

But that’s just the beginning of the story.

God didn’t make just beautiful art, to be looked at and appreciated. He made you for a purpose. He said it right there in that verse: “I made you just the way you are to do the good works I’ve prepared for you.”

Your story unfolds, gradually revealing each new chapter of your journey. Times of joy and fulfillment, periods of challenge and struggle. Growth and fruitfulness. Persevering in the hard times.

He invites you into the storytelling. He offers His very good plan—the one prepared for you from the beginning. He walks with you all the way, giving grace and strength for the path.

But you get to choose—will you follow His way or pursue your own way? Most of us do some of both. Sometimes—or often–we think we have the best idea—or we don’t like what we are seeing of God’s ideas.

My experience tells me, in major life events and in the little daily choices, His way is always better. It may or may not include fame or wealth or a comfortable life. The purpose, meaning and significance may not be readily discernible. Surely there will be joy and peace as well as pain and disappointment.

But that birthday plan goes beyond what you can ask or even imagine. He writes the best story. He makes the promise on the day you are born and brings it to pass every day of your life.

Judy SOS- 2012-red shirt-compressedJudy Douglass is a writer, editor, speaker, encourager. She partners with her husband, Steve, to lead Campus Crusade for Christ globally and writes at www.judydouglass.com, connects on Facebook at and tweets @Jeedoo417. And she treasures her seven grandchildren.

Snuggling Always Helps

Snuggling Always Helps

I expect I’ll start vomiting within the next few hours.

Our eldest came down with something 48 hours ago: a debilitating bug which has emptied her in every way, and she is limp and pale in her Daddy’s arms. We thought perhaps it was something she had eaten, but tonight after dinner our son stood up from dinner, and promptly divested himself of the evening’s meal.

This means it’s a bug, and since I’ve been doing the mopping of brows and floors, the bug is likely coming for me. But it’s not here yet, and so for now when my son asked if I could please lie down with him as he went to sleep, I said yes. Of course. Yes, I will stay with you.

“What did you do today?” my husband asked when he got home.

“I took the kids to the doctor, and then I sat with them on the couch and read my book while they watched shows.”

On a different day, a day of reading-on-the-couch while my kids watched TV might have felt like a terrible mommy fail – especially since it’s the first day of Spring Break and the weather outside is glo.ri.ous. But today, sitting quietly on the couch with my daughter tucked under my wing was the best way I could love her as she drifted in and out of sleep. It was a gift to be present.

Half an hour after my boy suffered the first wave of the virus’ onslaught, it was his turn to curl up close. I rubbed his back as he pressed his head into my chest, listening as his breathing slowed.

“Snuggling always helps,” he whispered, moments before sleep took him.

Snuggling always helps. Yes. It does.

I can’t answer my daughter’s question of why this is happening to her, nor can I tell her how long it will last. But I can assure her I am nearby and that I love her, which is, come to think of it, just exactly the comfort God gives me when I’m bent double, weak and weeping. Though you pass through the waters, I will be with you, says Isaiah 43:2.

The presence of One who Loves us makes all the difference.

Just like my boy said: snuggling always helps.

Pick of the Clicks 3/21/2015

clover-400x282

One morning, about eleven years ago, I was standing by the photocopier minding my own business when one of my co-workers walked up and pinched me – HARD – on the arm. Tears and rage sputtered to the surface: “What the heck?” I yelped.

“It’s St Patrick’s Day,” she answered, as if that were an answer.

“I did not know he was celebrated by acts of meanness in the US,” I pouted.

This was how I learned about the pinching-if-you-don’t-wear-green tradition. So, this week on March 17th, I’ll have you know I dressed myself and ALL my children in bright, grassy shades, and we survived the day pinch-free.

Also, this week I found some fun stuff on the internet. Here you go: enjoy :-)

I spent last weekend with the fabulous women of the Redbud Writers Guild at a retreat in Chicago. My friend Lesley Miller summed up the weekend perfectly here: On women and writing and community.

I also loved this post from new Redbud Esther Emery: The Muse and the Machine, or Why I Don’t Believe in Blogging Consistently. (This made me feel better, too, about hardly having written a word in March!)

Micha Boyett’s reflection Cultivate: Choosing Love & Humility over Rightness, or when Resurrection is Our Story is gorgeous writing saturated with deep truth. Read it. Let it cultivate in you.

A number of church leaders wrote An Open Letter to Franklin Graham this week, dealing with such hard things (race, history, and more) but with such openness. This dialog is critical for the health of the church and a better future for the US. (Thanks, Lisa Sharon Harper.)

The Church of the Rez put out a fun quiz for Holy Week: Which Saint are You? (based on your Myers-Briggs profile.) So fun. Here’s the summary:

HW-MB-Share-Final

I have only seen the ads for the new Netflix series The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, so I can’t comment on the show, but I can comment on the stellar quality of most everything Alissa Wilkinson writes. Read this as an example of the fabulousness: I, too, thought the world was coming to an end. Here’s what Kimmy Schmidt gets right. 

This week’s music segment is from Jimmy Fallon Neil Young and Neil Young. (Enjoy their vocal talents, and if you want an extra layer of wonderful reflection, read Michelle van Loon’s post Old Man, I Really, Really Am A Lot Like You. Wonderful stuff.)

And if this mash-up of movie dance scenes doesn’t make you smile, have somebody take your pulse, won’t you?

From my corner?

Some thoughts on parenting and teaching our kids how to handle their bodies in Let’s Not Play That Game.

A fantastic guest post from Nancy Ortberg: Dear Women, There Are Many Ways To Live A Good Life.

And, the exciting announcement of a new blog discussing women and the church: Passing the Salt Shaker (I’ve been sitting on this secret for weeks and literally did a jig on the day we got to launch it!) More than any other question I get asked, readers email me to say “What do you think about women and the church?” Finally, we get to chat!

And finally, I’m over at the very wonderful SheLoves magazine this week with a piece about (yet another) time I said a horribly wrong thing: Humble Pie and I Scream.

Thanks for reading, friends! I appreciate you so much.

 

“What Do You Think About Women In The Church?” – Introducing Passing the Salt Shaker

Salt Shaker

I get some very interesting an unusual letters from readers, but far and away the most common question I am asked is this: “What do you think about women in the church?”

To date, I have not really written about this question much – largely because I have so many more questions than answers and it’s such a huge and hot-button topic. Also, I have felt intimidated by how loudly those at opposing ends of the spectrum shout, and how much meanness can be demonstrated in their characterizations of others’ positions.

However, a few months ago some friends on Twitter and I discussed the possibility of putting together a blog where we could discuss a variety of viewpoints, but do so in a way which demonstrated that our unity in Christ was primary. We had the vision of a family dinner conversation: topics can get heated, but no matter what we know we belong together. We’ve been practicing the conversation for a few weeks, but today we’re going public and inviting you to listen in. Keeping with the dinner table theme, and the Colossians 4:2 directive to keep our conversation both gracious and salty, I’m thrilled to introduce…

Passing the Salt Shaker.

Our goal is to listen, share, explain, and learn from one another’s understanding and experiences. (For a great picture of what we’re aiming for and were we’re coming from, read fellow contributor Alastair Roberts’ post here.) We’ll take two weeks or so to talk about each topic that is introduced, and each of the contributors will weigh in. We will invite guests to chat with us from time to time, but public comments will be closed. (You can read more about the contributors here, where each of them introduces themselves and their background to this conversation. My own introduction is here.)

We’re kicking off with a conversation about Marriage, Singleness, Family Values and the Church. Join us, won’t you?

 

Dear Women: There Are Many Ways To Live a Good Life – {Nancy Ortberg}

I am thrilled to have Nancy Ortberg as a guest writer today.

Many Ways to Live a Great Life

I was so hopeful when the evening began. I was by far the oldest in the circle, but had been invited to join a group of young women, committed Christ-followers mostly in their twenties and early thirties, to talk about the intersection of faith and work.

Some were married, some single, a few engaged. A handful of them were mothers, and one or two had lovely round expectant bellies, with motherhood just around the corner. Their work? A lawyer, a couple of writers and a teacher. One was a student, others worked in the tech industry or the medical field. All were earnest in their wrestling with both this time in their lives and this tension of work, faith and life.

At least, I thought, they won’t have the same struggles my generation of women had.

None of them thought they were getting it “right.” The ones who had children and jobs were worried that their time was too fractured and that they weren’t able to give either the attention they wanted. The ones whose work was full time parenting were mourning both the pause in their career and the lack of mental stimulation their work had brought. A couple of the single women wondered aloud if pursuing their careers would make them ‘unattractive’ to the average Christian guy.

My heart sank. There were stories of other people, mostly women, who had questioned their choices in ways that left them feeling like they had missed the memo on ‘how to design a perfect life.’

“Oh, you work AND you have kids?” “How will you ever meet someone if you are so busy pursuing that career of yours?” “But aren’t you afraid you’ll never get back in the work force if you take time off now?”

Perhaps it was the situation that allowed the conversation to go to these places, but no matter what the reason, it made me ache that we are still here.

I worked before I had kids. I stayed home full time for a few years when I had kids. I worked part-time when I had kids. Eventually I worked full-time. And in all of it, God was there.

Listen. There is NOT simply one way to have a good life. There are many ways to have a good life. Why is that so easy to forget? Maybe women need to be reminded of this most of all. Maybe many of us need to get this tattooed somewhere where we can easily look at it to be reminded of this profound, life-giving truth…THERE ARE LOTS OF WAYS TO HAVE A GOOD LIFE.

I know women who are full time stay at home moms. Women who have kids and work. Women who work and don’t have, or maybe don’t want kids. You know them too. And in every single one of their lives, God is present. He is active as they work, delighting in the difference they are making in the world. He is near when they are bent down playing with their children, delighting in the difference that is making in the world. He is present with them in their singleness, delighting in who they are.

And rather than criticize or compare, we should lean in, eyes wide with curiosity, and ask questions. Tell me about the life you have carved out for yourself in this season? Tell me about what it is like, what you are learning, where are your joys and fears, where you are experiencing God in all of it? And maybe, if we increase the curiosity and decrease the judgment, we will see a new generation of women, living deeply with God, knowing He is pleased with their creation of value in His good world.

NOrtberg-Head & Arm- 4cNancy Ortberg served as a teaching pastor for eight years at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois. During that time she lead Network, a ministry that helps people identify their spiritual gifts and find a place of service in the church, and Axis, a weekly gathering for the eighteen- to twenty-something generation.

She is a founding partner of Teamworx2, a business and leadership consulting firm affiliated with Patrick Lencioni, which provides fast-paced, practical, and compelling sessions to leaders and their teams. Teamworx2 works with businesses, schools, nonprofits, and churches to address issues of organizational effectiveness and teamwork. Nancy is currently working at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church as the Director of Leadership Development where she is working to create a dynamic and innovative approach to leadership development.

Nancy is the author of Looking for God: An Unexpected Journey through Tattoos, Tofu, & Pronouns and, Unleashing the Power of Rubber Bands, Lessons in Non-Linear Leadership.

She and her husband, John, live in the Bay Area and have three children: Laura, Mallory, and Johnny.

Let’s Not Play That Game

nomeansno

I did not know I had an addictive personality until I had children. As it turned out, I would do anything – anything – for the high of hearing my babies laugh. Silly faces, songs on repeat, tickles and puppets and raspberries on their squashy bellies: whatever it took. On a good day, diaper changes were a festival of delighted squeals.

However, as each of them turned the corner into toddlerhood, something about the game changed and mock-resistance became part of the play. “Noooooooo, Mama,” my daughter would giggle as I bent to kiss her neck. “Stop it!” my son would squeal, trying to shield his tummy even while breathless with laughter.

And one day, I stopped.

“Let’s not play that game,” I told my confused toddler. “You said no, and so Mommy is going to stop. If you say stop, I will stop.”

She sized me up for a minute. “Tickle me again,” she dared. So I did.

“Stop!” she cried. And I did.

“No means no,” and “stop means stop” have become well-worn phrases in our house. When the wrestling gets too rough with Daddy, when the baby keeps trying to grab the glitter glue project, when the game of Tag turns into a game of Shove: “no” has to mean something. We practice it in play time, because these are the rehearsals for a life time of knowing your boundaries and owning your voice.

There was something terrifying in that moment, poised mid-play above my giggling daughter, in realizing that even though she was laughing and I was laughing, she was still saying no, and I was strong enough to overpower her. At what age would she learn that she had the right to say ‘no’ about what happened to her body? When would my sons learn it was okay to stand up to a bully? After all, a bully’s most cowardly line of defense is “what are you getting so upset about? I was only joking.”

I flushed at the realization. If owning their “no” is something I hope for my children in adulthood, then I had to let them own their no in their childhood. Even as toddlers. Even while giggling. Even with their mother.

We took a family trip to the beach recently: a weekend of ice-cream and boardwalk rides and gorgeous Santa Cruz sunsets. Walking home after an afternoon of breathless wave chasing, we passed by a teenage couple seated in a car in the parking lot. Something about them caught my eye.

They were smiling and flirting, and the boy leaned over and put his hand on her breast. She swatted his hands away, laughing. I saw her lips move: “Stop it.” He reached for her again, and again, and again, both of them laughing, her swatting, and me with a rising sense of panic .

He startled at the loud knock on the car window, nostrils flared at the stranger yelling at him: “Cut it out! Her body belongs to HER, and she will tell you if and when you are allowed to touch it. If she says no: stop. Immediately. And wipe that smirk off your face. No means no.”

I don’t even know where the voice came from.

But I wondered, as I walked away stunned at what had just happened, whether either of those teens had ever played a game in their childhood where tickling trumped discomfort, and no’s were smothered by giggles. Maybe nobody had ever honored their toddler resistance, and said, “Let’s not play that game. Your no means no.”