Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tiny Hearts...Big God

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008 was a day that forever changed the lives of many. On that day, Maria Chapman died tragically. A happy little five year old's heart ceased beating. The hearts of her family members, friends, and fans of her famous daddy were broken.

On that same day, in the community of Bedford, Va., a baby girl was born. Her daddy's fame, at the present time, is primarily in the eyes of God ( the only one that really matters), his precious family, his friends, church members, and the youth that have come to know Christ better because of his tutelage, his passion for Jesus, and the work that God has called him to. This baby girl, Elle, didn't have her story told over the airways or in newspapers. There are millions of people that have no idea that Elle was born with a tiny malfunctioning heart that would be unable to sustain her life without major surgery.

Although no newspapers, radios, or televisions carried the word of Elle's need for the touch of God's hand through the hands of amazing doctors and nurses, because of the technology of email, Facebook, blogs, and cell phones, word spread quickly and prayers were lifted on her behalf...and on behalf of the troubled hearts of her wonderful family. Parents, Grandparents, Great-Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Pastors, and friends gathered around that beautiful baby girl and prayed. They praised God...even in the trial. They worshipped Him together. They sought Him fervently and prayed for a miracle.

There are not many commonalities between the trials of May 21 for the Chapman family and the Minor family. Unfortunately, the miracle that the Chapmans prayed for didn't happen. That's hard to comprehend. Lives are changed. The pain is breathtaking. Hearts will be scarred forever. The miracle that the Minors prayed for did happen. Elle's tiny heart bears scars that will allow her to live, a scar on her chest will forever be a reminder to her family of God's work on her behalf.

The two stories do have one thing in common. As Hebrews 12:1 says, they were both "surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses," of family, friends, and strangers who prayed, who testified of God's goodness...even if the miracle doesn't come. God has been glorified through the lives of Maria and of Elle. God has given the comfort and the strength to endure, to persevere and "run the race" before them. He will continue to "bind up the broken-hearted" Isaiah the broken hearts of grieving families and in the repaired heart of a baby girl.

He is good. All the time.

Lord, thank you for your mercies that are new every morning. Thank you for the miracles that you perform and for the strength that you give when the miracle doesn't happen. Help our faith to be like that of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who proclaimed their faith in you, that "even if [You do not]" save us from the flames (Daniel 3:18) we will still believe in You and trust Your heart. Lord, give us the faith, the help, the strength to run the race in a manner that is pleasing to you. Thank you for family, friends, and strangers (that one sweet day will be joined as family with You) that are there to surround, to hold up, to pray.

For updates and to encourage: and check blogs

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Broken Hearts in Need of Binding Up

"He has sent me to bind up the comfort those who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion-to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor." Isaiah 61:1b-3

During this hour, as I write, the Steven Curtis Chapman family is experiencing the funeral of their 5 year old daughter, Maria. As I look into the eyes of my own beautiful China doll, Melea, I can't even begin to comprehend the agony that they are enduring. As tears flow and the weight in my chest feels almost suffocating, I know that their devastation is intensified beyond imagination. And not only must they fathom the death of their vibrant child, but minister to their son, Will Franklin, a precious young man having to deal with the heartbreak of being the driver of the vehicle that backed over her body.

As I question God as to how something so unthinkable could happen, the lyrics to the song, "Held" by Natalie Grant keep playing in my head.

To think that providence would
Take a child from his mother while she prays
Is appalling.
Who told us we’d be rescued?
What has changed and why should we be saved from nightmares?
We’re asking why this happens
To us who have died to live? It’s unfair.
Chorus: This is what it means to be held.
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive.
This is what it is to be loved.
And to know that the promise was
When everything fell we’d be held.

Yes, someone sacred has been torn from the Chapman family...from a family who has "died" to selfishness, to privacy, and sacrificed so many things to LIVE that others might come to know Christ through testimony and song, so that through setting the example of adoption and sharing their story with others, and providing financially so that many beautiful little girls from China have been brought into homes where they could be nurtured, loved, and taught about Jesus. But the promise is that when "everything fell" they will be held.

I know that our Heavenly Father is not only holding little Maria, but that the entire Chapman family and friends, as well as the thousands of people, joining them in their grief, who have been touched by Steven's music, the Shaoey picture books, and the pursuit of international adoption, are HELD in His almighty hands. As God's children...members of His "forever family" we must not forget that He is our Comforter, our Prince of Peace, our Refuge, our Strength, our Ever-Present Help, and our Father, Who has loved us since before time began and Whose love is unfailing.

He is Faithful and the Chapman family, because of their faith in Him, will continue to be "oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor."

Our Heavenly Father, we thank You that we can trust that You will always hold us. Thank you for the depth of Your love for us, that the arms that hold us through our trials are the same arms that were stretched out on a rugged cross so that we might live eternally in Your presence. Lord, we pray especially for the Chapman family. Please comfort and strengthen them. Help them and hold them tightly. Please bind up their broken hearts.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Firming Lotion...For Real?

"Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled...." 1 Peter 1:13a

A few weeks back, my Mom (grandmother of the bride) and I (mother of the bride) were discussing various self-tanning preparation for the upcoming Big Day!!! I told Mama that I'd had good experience with Jergen's "Natural Glow" in the past and recommended that she try it. Well, Mama called from the store. She found a bargain and was buying some for both of us. And not only was it a sunless tanner, but it was also a "firming" lotion!!! Now that's something to get excited about! You see, I had really great intentions of taking off a pound (or a few) and toning up before the wedding by getting back into the routine of walking in my neighborhood...but somehow that just didn't happen. The possibility of tan, firm arms and legs (minus the time and energy of exercise) sounded fabulous!! I couldn't wait to get that lotion!

I have to admit, over the next few days, as I waited to get the lotion I thought about it fairly often. Was it For Real? Could a lotion really "firm"? And all I had to do was to rub it on? (Now, just in case you are laughing at me and thinking you might like to sell me some property in the middle of a swamp...just indulge my positive thinking!!)

I finally got my lotion. I was anxious to read about the promises held within! To my dismay, it said, "Clinically proven to firm skin." Let me just say that I don't think that any amount of skin firming is going to make any difference in those unsightly bumpy,bulges just above my knees and that baggage hanging from under my upper arms! I really know better than to think that you can get those kinds of results without the work. Don't you?

That prompted me to think about our spiritual fitness and firmness. Do we think that we can go to church for our weekly slathering of holiness...spending a few minutes worshipping, listening and maybe even taking notes during a really good sermon, putting a little money in the offering plate... and look the way God intends for us to look or live the way He intends for us to live? Of course not. We must take action. We must be self-controlled and self-disciplined...actually I prefer God-controlled and my self is far too incapable.

Let's determine to seek Him deliberately, whole-heartedly, and actively. Let's exercise our minds in His Word. Let's firm up those memory muscles. Let's bend the knee in prayer. Let's pursue avenues of active service for Him.

"Therefore, I urge you, [sisters], in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies [and your minds] as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God." Romans 12:1

Lord, draw us to Yourself. Help us to actively pursue You. Make us hunger and thirst for Your Word. Make us faithful in prayer. Prompt us to action on Your behalf. And Lord, help us, too, to care for these bodies, these places where Your very Spirit resides. Help us to treat them as the temples that they are. For You.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Not By the Hair of My Chin-ny Chin Chin...or Leg

"Search me, O God, and know my heart....See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Psalm 139:23-24

Okay, so how many of you out there have fallen victim to that lone, unsightly black...or gray hair that somehow erupted on your chin? Don't you despise when that happens? Or how about those random spots that you just miss when shaving your legs? True confession time...One of those first warm spring days, after a winter of wearing long pants and rare leg shavings, I remember standing outside sporting cute little flip flops and capris. I kept feeling like there was something on the back of my leg, just above my heel. I tried brushing it away, but continued to feel a strange sensation. Finally I lifted it up to see if I could see the source...and there it was, a single hair that had somehow escaped the razor's blade. It was blowing in the breeze!

Fortunately tweezers or a touch up shave can remedy those problems. Just a little pluck or stroke and the unwanted culprit is conquered....flicked into oblivion.

How often does sin slip into our lives unnoticed? Things like gossip, a critical spirit, "little white lies" just eek their way into our thoughts and poke through into our conversations. Left unchecked and unattended, they mar our beauty as daughters of the King. Let's pray for God to reveal the sin in us. Let's pray for His conviction so that we may confess any "offensive way" in us, and allow Him to "pluck" it from our lives.

Lord, we pray for you to examine our hearts and minds, to lead us to repentance and forgiveness, so that we may be a glorious reflection of you.