Sunday, December 16, 2012

unexpected

Recently I was walking from our house to the grocery store.  To do that, I have to cross a bridge over the Hudson River.  I had been to the post office and library and was thinking how nice it was to be able to walk to everything, because it gave me some serious prayer time.  I had been praising God because earlier in the day a friend had called and asked for prayer, and just before my walk had told me that God had met her in that.  It had also been a great week of fund raising, and on top of it all, we heard from a friend that they wanted to give us their van.  In other words, it was a time of great thanksgiving and praise in my talking with God.  I was not depressed or coming to him and pouring my frustrations and anger out (as I have done many times!)  This was simply a time of joy with my Father.  Then, as I was crossing the bridge, it was as if I physically bumped into a wall.  I almost "bounced back" and in that moment - what was probably just a second or two, but felt like a long time - I heard very clearly voice tell me to kill myself.  I actually looked over the side of the bridge.

I was stunned.  In the same amount of time that it came to me, it left.  There was no fear, no wall anymore.  The voice was gone.  Yet I was changed completely in that moment.

I have seen and participated in spiritual warfare in many different areas of life.  I have heard demons before; seen miraculous healing in people when illnesses were rebuked; I have even seen them in front of me.  Yet this incident took me completely off guard.  I have never felt it in such an intense way so suddenly.  I usually have some sort of warning when it is me personally.

A few years ago our then 7 year old son dealt with these same things - even having voices telling him to kill himself by jumping off the bridge.  He suffered from these voices and this torment for several months before finally opening up to Shawn and learning who he was in Jesus.  We had been worried about him, but even though we were helping people to learn to walk in freedom themselves, it hadn't occurred to us that Andrew could be dealing with the same things. When he finally shared with Shawn about an imaginary friend swearing at him and telling him to kill himself, his behavior and lack of emotions made sense.  Teaching him to rebuke these things in the name of Jesus Christ, because he believes that Jesus is his savior was a powerful, emotional time for us as his parents.

And here I was, hearing almost the same thing.  It broke my heart to think that my son had been tormented by this for so long before experiencing freedom.  And it made me realize that all the "senseless acts" that we see in this world are really not senseless at all in the minds of people doing them.  If they are being told and learning to believe something, it will eventually play out in their lives.

Hear me, friends - I am not saying that everything evil in this world is attributed to demons.  There is the fact that we live in a broken world.  There is sin, darkness, brokeness, and the flesh that we fight each day.  Though the events that happened in the last few days are obvious examples of evil in this world, I am not going to get into an argument of gun control, mental illness treatment, spiritual warfare, and the moral state of this world.  (I believe there is some part of all of that - and more.  It is not a simple matter)  But I have to ask from my experience on the bridge, if I didn't have the Holy Spirit living in me; if Andrew hadn't had parents praying with and for him, and people teaching him about who he is in Christ- if these things hadn't been factors in my life up to that point (or in Andrew's life) what would have stopped me from jumping?  The urge was so strong momentarily, if I did not have that hope that only those in Jesus have - then what?  What would have stopped Andrew from killing himself - or being one of those horrific stories that we were reading about this weekend?

My heart aches for this world.  I have been crying all weekend as I think about those families and the children that were victims of such cruelty.  I think about some of the stories of the kids that my friends doing ministry in downtown Troy interact with and the heaviness is so thick that it seems hopeless.  My thoughts go to stories of people all over the world - friends, family, people I don't know.  Refugees, people killed by their own government, unwanted babies, orphanages filled with unloved children, hospitals brimming with sickness and death, hatred, violence, and greed.  And I repeat the words that I have seen on Facebook so often this week and been singing in my head.  "And in despair I bowed my head.  'There is no peace on earth,' I said. For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth good will to men,"

But that's not the end of the story.  My story isn't over, and didn't end that day in death.  Andrew's story continues, and I watch him grow and shine and love Jesus and really understand freedom and how to be a warrior.  That song doesn't end with that verse.  The next verse says, "Then rang the bells more loud and deep, 'God is not dead nor does He sleep.  The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, of peace on earth goodwill to men.'"  I don't understand the failings, the sorrow, and the death of this world.  But I do know that this story isn't over.  And I am thankful for that - and for all the lessons that he teaches me in those unexpected moments.  

Saturday, December 8, 2012

growing up

Yesterday we took John on a college visit to Nyack.  He is young - only 10th grade.  But he will be in Africa when we should be doing the college visit rounds, so we decided to get him in the loop as we traveled and give him some opportunities to see what is out there.  Since we were visiting family and friends and doing some support raising in the NYC area, we decided to make an appointment at Nyack and let him check it our.  If nothing else, we figured we would get a free lunch! ;)  He was not real receptive to the idea of visiting.  He seemed to be bucking the idea and not at all excited, which I couldn't figure out.  However, as we sat in the admissions office and he met some of the people working there, I watched him grow up before my eyes.  Where was the boy who was shy and introverted?  Here was a young man making eye contact, answering all the questions, laughing and enjoying the whole thing.  Later, as we sat in the cafeteria, he admitted that he thought it would be a bigger and more chaotic, but now that he was there, he liked the atmosphere.  It was funny that he didn't even notice some of the things that Nyack points out as being a strength - the whole multi-cultural, multi-ethnic thing is something that is normal in his life.  And when the admissions guys said he knew that one of our concerns would be for his safety, I suppressed a giggle.  I'm moving him to Africa - I'm not so worried about Nyack.  And there are plenty of family and friends in the area that will check up on him!  Overall it was a good visit, and now John knows what to expect when we go to the next place.  I don't know where John will end up at college - that is totally up to him (and God), but I am glad that he had the chance to see Nyack and think about that opportunity


Saturday, December 1, 2012

lessons from little hearts

I learn so much from my kids.  They are really God's biggest blessings to me.

Anna wanted to go Christmas shopping - for me - today!  (Yay - I like gifts, I admit it!)  And the kids decided to exchange names with each other so they could get a little something for each other without going broke.  They just love to give gifts!  So I headed out the door with Anna, Andrew, and RJ this morning to go looking.  We were planning to go to the dollar store, Walmart, and Big Lots.  My thought was that they would find a few little things at the dollar store and then we could head home and forget the other stores.  They each found some fun stuff at the dollar store - but then wanted to go to Walmart to head to the lego department.  Apparently, they decided that the best idea was to forgo the little pieces of things that break and to get something that the person really wanted.  I hesitated.  See, my kids don't really get an allowance.  And the younger two don't have jobs to make extra money outside of our home like John and Anna do.  They rely on getting money as gifts for the most part.  They had some money from my grandmother as an early Christmas gift and some money that they had found in their treasure hunt over Thanksgiving. And they wanted to buy an exciting gift.

So we went to Walmart and headed directly to the toy aisle.  They zeroed in on the legos, and each found something that made them very excited.  Anna had RJ's name, and immediately picked out the perfect lego set for him.  RJ decided that the nail polish he bought Anna at the dollar store was not the only thing he wanted to give her, because she would "love the dinosaur in this lego set, Mom!"  And Andrew, who thinks John is about the coolest big brother ever, couldn't wait to pick out the hobbit set for him.  (I hope my kids don't read my blog...)

Here's my dilemma.  I was looking at the money that they each had in the envelopes and thinking, "They want to spend all their Christmas money on each other?  Then they won't have anything left for themselves."  I pointed this out - more than once.  Mostly I didn't want meltdowns or buyers remorse later.  But each of them was so excited to give "the perfect gift" to their sibling.  They can hardly wait until Christmas because of it!  And I must admit - they really are the perfect gifts.  They put a lot of thought into it, and gave generously.

I am constantly going back and forth at this time of year.  To give or not to give.  To spend or not to spend.  I think people go crazy, and I do not agree with going in debt and giving in excess for the sake of keeping up with others.  I don't believe the craze of more, more, more  and living in stress because of it is pleasing to Jesus, nor a wise use of what he gives us.  But I LOVE giving my kids gifts and watching their faces light up when it is the thing they have been wanting.  And I think that's ok.  God loves to give us good gifts.  He delights in us and in giving us those good things.  I understand that feeling from watching my kids.

And now after watching them sacrifice and give to each other - generously and excitedly - I saw another side thing that makes Him happy.  He loves for his children to be generous.  That's why he gives us so much - to glorify him.  My kids weren't worried about not having any extra money left.  They have a pretty good understanding of giving, saving, and spending - we have been teaching them that for years.  And they are so good at each part of those!  They all know that we will get them gifts and that their needs (and even some of their wants) are taken care of because we love them.  In that security they can give and love others.

Thank you, Jesus, for always loving me and giving me so many things.  Thank you, especially, for my children and their hearts for you and others.