Thursday, June 02, 2011

What's My Focus?

"So they called the two apostles back in and told them that they must never, for any reason, teach anything about the name of Jesus. Peter and John answered, 'Do you think God wants us to obey you or to obey him? We cannot keep quiet about what we have seen and heard.'" Acts 4:18-20 CEV

In finishing up Joni's book "A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain and God'Sovereignty", I was very challenged by a paragraph where she quotes Dave Powlison, who at the time of the writing of the book was battling cancer but able to face the challenges of the disease while keeping an emotional balance. He tells Joni his secret, and she quotes him in the book.

Joni, I have learned that for every one sentence you say to others about your cancer, say ten sentences about your God, your hope, and what He is teaching you, and the small blessings of each day. For every hour you spend researching or discussing your cancer, spend ten hours researching and discussing and serving your Lord. Relate all you are learning about cancer back to Him and His purpose, and you won't become obsessed (with fears and doubts).

Wow. While I don't have physical disabilities, I do have a "chair" like I talked about yesterday. I am parenting difficult children who have mental illnesses, developmental delays, and emotional and behavioral disorders. Some have organic brain damage due to prenatal exposure to alcohol. And so the challenge to me came across very clearly:

For every one sentence, particularly the negative ones, that I say about parenting my kids, I need to say ten sentences about my God, my hope, and what He is teaching me and the small blessings of each day. And while I don't research my children's issues as much as I used to, the rest can apply as well.

One of the things that I have noticed about people who get together for "support" for any hard thing, is that the support group meetings can get negative. But what if we were to practice this rule?

So today, I'm asking you -- when it comes to your "chair", that I mentioned yesterday, where is your focus? Is it on the situation of your life or on the One who can and does sustain you through that situation?

The apostles, in the verses above, said that they would not be able to stop talking about what they had seen and heard. And I imagine that they weren't talking about just the difficult things that they had seen and heard -- the suffering of Jesus, the pain of watching him die, the diseases and troubles of the people around him -- but they were talking about the One who in the midst of those things not only healed and helped, but conquered death.

If our focus is on Jesus -- we won't be able to keep quiet about what we've seen and heard -- and at the heart of every conversation we have is going to be God's power and provision in our lives.

I'm hoping as I write, speak and educate others about my children and what it is like to parent them, that I can keep my focus on the One who is teaching me more than I ever imagined through my life with them.

Want to join me in shifting focus?

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

What is your Chair?

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
Phillipians 3:10-11

I have been reading through Joni Eareckson Tada's book, "A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain and God'Sovereignty" and I must admit that while it is very true and I agree with what she is saying, that it is a hard book to read. But it's a book I need to read.

She wrestles with questions that we all ask -- why God heals some people and why He doesn't heal others, why suffering exists when He could take it away with but a thought in our direction. And many of her conclusions are not what we want to hear. She talks about how there is growth through pain, about how our relationship with God is deepened through our struggles.

When Bart and I were heading to bed last night, I told him that Joni -- after spending over 40 years as a quadriplegic and now battling chronic pain and breast cancer, said in her book that she would not trade the depth of the relationship she has with God for her chair (wheelchair).

And Bart said, "Don't you think everyone has their own chair?"

And it got me thinking about how that works -- how we each have things that we go through -- some of them publicaly and many privately, that are our "cross to bear." And we would prefer for God to take those things from us -- because we don't want to go through them. But instead HE knows that we need them.

The task then, is not for us to focus on how to get rid of those things that force us closer to God's heart, but to learn from them and grow closer to Him.

So I ask you to join me in asking these questions:

What is my wheelchair? What are the things that I view as difficult in my life? Am I running away from the purpose God has for me in them? Or am I willing to accept them and grow closer to God because of them? Will I allow them to produce fruit in me? Am I really willing to participate in His suffering, as Paul wrote, in order to experience the power of his resurrection?

Tough tough questions. In one section of her book, Joni writes:

My Christian life became a wounding work and remains so during this current crisis of chronic pain. My heart has been set to God's like a grafting cut into the living heart of an apple tree. Whether I like it or not, it has been heart to heart and back to back, with so much doubt and fear, heartache and tears. It has definitely not been a smooth, easy-going process -- and to this day it isn't.


Friend, you may be going through a time of wounding right now and, if you are, take heart, because your heart is being set to God's, and there is no saving work apart from pain. Your life will produce so much more fruit from it all -- fruit that you probably won't even see or know about.

For those whom God loves, He grafts.

Just remember what I have learned these many years: Apart from Him, you can do nothing. But IN HIM, with his life sap flowing through your branch and leaves, you have strength for everything. He said so.

And somehow, the result of all that cutting and wounding, grafting and healing, will be fruit beyond what you have ever produced.

I'm praying that God will help me to learn how to sit back and relax in my "chair", knowing full well that He has a purpose and that He knows why I'm here, how long I'll be here, and what the results will be.

Because if all my energy is spent in the struggle to fight the fact that I'm in this particular chair, then I won't have the energy to embrace the God who sits in it with me and learn the lessons He has for me.

Teach me, Lord, what you have for me to learn today...