Archive | March 2010

CHILDISH THINGS

This year is the 50th anniversary of our church, Lake Hills Baptist Church of Schererville, IN. We have a number of special events planned throughout the year to celebrate the occasion, as well as to encourage our folks and to reach out to the community around us. One of those outreach events is “Springapalooza.” On May 1st we are inviting the community to join us for a fun day which will include a fun fair, classic car show, 5K run, food, bouncy inflatables and so on. It is totally free to all who attend. We are expecting at least a thousand people and are hoping that this will result in some of those folks taking a look at our church, and maybe ultimately someday coming to know the Lord

I volunteered to help out with the fun fair by ordering the prizes since that is something I could do from home. It turned out to be a much bigger job than I expected. I’ve spent a good portion of this week pouring over catalogs and websites in pursuit of five thousand prizes for the fun fair. The church people are donating candy to be used as consolation prizes, but we still needed little toys and gee-gaws for the dozen or so games – multiplied by hundreds of kids. Our budget sounded like a lot, but I quickly discovered buying five thousand prizes with $500 wasn’t going to be easy. I’ve had experience buying these cheapie little trinkets before and have learned the hard way that some of them are so cheap they’re not worth even the few pennies they cost. I was determined to get the best value for the money, but all week long all I could think was junk, junk, junk!

Spending $500 on a bunch of junk goes against my grain. I suppose if you look at it like the money isn’t really being spent on those bits and pieces of plastic and paper, but on the fun and excitement all those little kids will get out of playing the games and winning a prize (WHOO-HOO!), then you can justify it a bit more. What looks like junk to us, though, are treasures to the kids. They love those little prizes. They can have a whole room of expensive toys at home, but they are still thrilled when they win a whistle or a play tattoo, a bottle of bubbles or a few stickers. They’ll stand forever in front of the prize displays at Chuck E. Cheese’s with a fistful of tickets, deliberating which treasures they can trade for. They’re delighted when they come home from a party with a goody bag filled with plastic prizes.

As adults, we don’t understand the attraction of these little pieces of junk. We know they’re worthless. We know they’re not going to last. We know they’re going to end up lost in the bottom of the toy box – if they don’t end up in the garbage first. But we ooh and ahh, nevertheless, when our children or grandkids come running up with their newest prize, and then shake our heads as they run off to win another treasure.

I wonder how often our Heavenly Father shakes His head as His children go running after worthless pieces of junk? That new house or new car in which we have so much pride has no value in His eyes. The great bargain I’m so excited about is nothing but ashes to Him. A fancy vacation, a closet full of new clothes, tickets to the big game or popular concert are all just junk, junk, junk to Him. Does He shake His head when we spend 99.9% of our time pursuing more, bigger, better earthly junk? Does He wonder why His children cannot see that these things have no Heavenly value at all?

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We expect as our children grow and mature, they will begin to understand the true value of these cheap little prizes. They will begin to put away childish things eventually. Our Heavenly Father wants us to mature, as well, and begin to realize that this life and all the earthly things we so treasure are not all there is. “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” (I Corinthians 13:11)
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Of course, there is nothing wrong with having a new house or car, going on vacation, etc. but when material things and earthly experiences are our major focus in life, with little thought to what the Lord may have us do for Him or give for Him or even give up for Him, then we need to adjust our thinking and grow up. Some Christians never grow beyond the baby Christian stage. The Lord wants us to grow in Him and mature. “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a mature man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13-15)

Where am I in my Christian life? Have I grown beyond the baby stage, able to go beyond the milk of the Word and dig further into the meat of His Word? Am I past the little child stage where I am still more interested in playing with the pleasures of the world than I am in spiritual things? Or have I finally begun to mature and experience God’s work in my life refining me and molding me into the person He wants me to be who brings glory to Him and points others to Him as well? “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be mature, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.” (Philippians 3:13-15)

It’s time to put away childish things and grow up!

A STEP UP

We’ve been rejoicing this week in several things the Lord has provided lately for our family. I mentioned a couple weeks ago that we had ordered a Sleep Comfort adjustable bed for Robbie. It came this week and we are truly enjoying it. It is everything we had hoped it would be for him and is certainly a big step up from the mattress and air mattress we had on the floor. The first time I raised the head and foot of the bed and turned on the massager for Robbie his head whipped around and he got a look of wonder on his face. He grinned from ear to ear. He still gets tickled every time I raise or lower the bed as if he were going on some carnival ride! It is going to work out just fine. I was afraid it would look obtrusive in the living room since it is a little bigger than his old bed, but it doesn’t at all. In fact, I got a beautiful new quilt for it and it looks even prettier. So Robbie is happy, and Mama is happy, and when Robbie and Mama are happy, Daddy is happy, too! What a happy little family we are!

Something else happened this week, also, that brought a smile to Bob’s face. He got a call from his former place of employment asking if he would come back to work for them. He was laid off from his job last October and was unemployed for three and a half months before a different former employer called him and offered him a job at a quite substantially higher rate of pay. Although he loved the people and had enjoyed his job there, he was able to tell them “no thanks” since this new job is going well and is a step up for us. What a blessing to even have another job fairly quickly in this market, to be making quite a bit more money, and to be wanted by both companies because of his strong work ethic, integrity and good people skills. It makes him feel good to see that many times his testimony has made an impression on his co-workers and employers even years after they have parted ways. It is so nice, too, to be able to pay our bills each month without wondering how we can possibly stretch that paycheck to cover everything. We are truly thanking the Lord for giving us a little step up financially after many years of barely being able to make it.

Laurie and Fernando got a step up this week, too! They have been house-hunting since last July when their landlord told them he was planning to sell the house despite the fact that they had more than a year and a half left on their lease with him. They had put a lot of money, blood, sweat and tears into that house making it livable and a cozy home for their large family and although it certainly wasn’t fancy, it fit them perfectly. Moreover, the rent they were paying was a bargain – only $300 a month. Where would they find as good a price for rent as that?

The truth was – they wouldn’t. For the last seven or eight months they have diligently kept up the house hunt, looking at two or three houses almost every week. Everything they looked at that fit the size, condition and area they needed was $800 – $1000 a month. If the price was under $500 a month, the house was either a tiny cracker box, trashed, too far out of the city, in a bad area of town or something that made it unworkable for them and their special needs. They weren’t being picky but they had to have a study for Fernando, a place to do home-schooling, space for having people over in their ministry, bedrooms for seven people, etc. A tiny patch of yard or patio where the kids could get outside a bit would be a plus. A safe neighborhood was essential, and not having to sink a lot of money, time and energy into just making a house habitable for them was important now that their ministry was growing and demanded so much of them.

They finally found the house this week! It is in a nice, quiet neighborhood and is certainly a big step up from the house they are living in now! It is beautiful, and so much more than they had asked the Lord for. It is large, with all the space they needed – and far more space than they have now for having people over – beautifully finished and move-in ready. They had looked at several other houses of that size and quality and they all were around $1000 a month. This one was $500. That was $200 more than they are spending now, but after looking at more than a hundred other houses they knew they would not find anything for even close to what they now pay that would work. If they were going to have to spend a minimum of $460 or $480 for something that needed a lot of work and money poured into it before they could even move in, than they would rather just spend the $20 or $40 a month more and get this “perfect” house.

They are all thrilled, and after seeing the pictures Fernando sent, we are all delighted for them. They will make the move in April. Laurie says it will be the nicest house they’ve ever lived in and so much more than she would have ever asked the Lord for. He has provided far above what they ever dreamed of!

Isn’t that just like our Father to do, though? One of His names is Jehovah Jireh—which literally means The Lord Will Provide. Our Father supplies all our needs—what we need for our daily lives, as well as what we need to carry out His work. But even more than providing all our basic needs as He promises in Matthew 6:25-34 and Philippians 4:19 (“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”), He is able to do far more than we ask or could even think! Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” I am always happy and grateful when the Lord supplies the very basics, and when He goes so much further and provides so many of our wants, too – well, what an extra special blessing that is! And then when He steps it up even a notch further and gives beyond what we could even dream of, it is an amazing and humbling experience!

I have never asked God for great riches or a fancy house or all the material things that so many Americans enjoy. I have tried to take Paul’s words in Philippians 4:11, 12 to heart: “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” We need to be content no matter what our circumstances, and to set our hearts and minds on heavenly values rather than earthly gain or material goods. Someday we’ll enjoy our mansion in Heaven and this house here on earth, no matter how grand, will seem pitiful in comparison. In the meantime, though, when God does surprise us with that little something extra from time to time, we can enjoy it and be grateful, and pray that we will be just as content the next time He allows us to “be abased.” A nice house, a bigger paycheck – even a comfortable bed – are only temporary and can easily be lost. Let us, as the old chorus says, keep eternity’s values in view and be grateful to God no matter what our earthly circumstances!

“With eternity’s values in view, Lord, with eternity’s values in view…
May I do each day’s work for Jesus, with eternity’s values in view!”

PICTURE THIS

We had our family picture taken yesterday. Our church is doing a new church directory and each family was asked to schedule a time with the photographer over the past three days and come in for a sitting. I always feel like our family portrait is a little pathetic with only the three of us in it. “Family” to me is the Naranjos, Sanchezes, Robbie, Bob and I, so we’ll be missing a huge chunk of the family in this picture. We did have a family portrait done of all fifteen of us in July of 2008 before the Naranjos left. It’s a tight squeeze getting us all in, and quite the trick getting everyone looking at the camera and smiling at the same time, but it is fun and a fond memory of family time spent together.

This wouldn’t be the same, but I did the best I could to prepare us for the big day. We always do the color-coordination thing, and this time the colors were black and red. Robbie was excited about his new red shirt. I tried to prepare him, as well, for the sitting by telling him over and over, “Now Robbie, when the photographer tells you to smile, you have to smile real big, okay?” and I would flash a big grin to show him what I meant. I doubt if he had a clue what I was talking about, but he understood the word smile and that Mom was acting goofy, so he’d grin back and then try to hug my head.

The best laid plans, though… I had scheduled our appointment for around two o’clock because that is normally Robbie’s best time of day. He usually sleeps all morning because of all the seizure medicine he takes and then is awake in the afternoon. Wouldn’t you know it, though – Robbie stayed awake all morning and then about the time we wanted to get him ready, he fell asleep. We tried everything to perk him up and get him excited to go, but he pretty much ignored us and tried to go back to sleep. By the time we were loading him into the car I was getting worried. “This is going to be a big bust,” I fretted to Bob.

“He’ll probably perk up when we get there and he sees other people,” Bob replied hopefully.

He was right. Robbie did perk up a bit, but his smile wasn’t as quick and easy as normal, and he was having trouble sitting up in his wheelchair. It was obvious he was very tired and not too excited about being there. There were a few people ahead of us and I hoped he could hang in there until our turn arrived. At last the photographer called us over and our sitting began.

Robbie would not smile. No way, no how. In fact, he pretty much glared at the pretty young photographer, which is so unlike him. Normally, Robbie is so smiley and loves meeting new people – especially pretty young girls! He kept trying to slump in his chair and Bob and I discreetly tried to hold him up and lift his face to look at the camera. The whole thing was becoming a disaster. She took five or six photos of the three of us anyway, and I resigned myself to having to settle for picking the best of the worst for the picture that would go in the directory and be our free 8 x 10.

Finally she asked if we would like to try to get a picture of Robbie by himself. I had hoped for that, but the way it was going, a good outcome looked doubtful. Well, maybe with us standing in front of him, we thought, instead of behind him we could get him to smile. We moved behind the camera and then did everything we could think of, other than stand on our heads, to make that boy smile. Nothing worked until finally Bob got right in his face and started in with his little play routines that he does with Robbie. At last! Robbie’s face lit up and a big smile broke out. Bob jumped out of the way of the camera and success! After that, Robbie continued to smile and we got several good shots.

“Quick! While the mood lasts let’s try to get another one of the three of you!” the photographer said. We hurried back to our positions behind Robbie and we finally got a nice family portrait of the three of us. Whew! She took a few more of Bob and me as a couple and individually and at last our session ended.

Of course, there is a down side to all that. I ended up spending too much money on those nice photos, whereas if Robbie had never smiled we would have probably walked away with only our complimentary 8 x 10. I am happy, though, with how it turned out and I know we will enjoy our new portraits and the memories of that day for many years to come.

Dealing with Robbie sometimes is like dealing with a one-year-old. You can explain something until you’re blue in the face, but he’s just not going to get it. Like a toddler, he wants what he wants now, and nothing else will do. In this case, he just wanted every one to leave him alone and let him to go to sleep. I knew once he saw the pictures he would love them. One of his favorite things to do is to look at family photos, and we have several hanging near his bed and recliner so that he can look at them whenever he wants to. I catch him looking at them all the time, and smiling and nodding his head, and even “talking” to them. Yesterday, though, he just wasn’t getting it that if he just went along with what Mommy and Daddy wanted him to do, he would be so happy in the end with a new family photo to enjoy.

We’re a lot like that sometimes when the Lord is working in our life and we don’t understand what He is doing. We get upset when things don’t go the way we had planned or hoped for. We can’t see the big picture, as He does, and so we don’t know the good things that lie ahead of us if we would simply trust Him and obey. Like a little one, we fuss and complain, and maybe even throw a little temper tantrum because we can’t have it our way.

I can be pretty inflexible sometimes when I have something all planned out and someone else tries to come along and change my “perfect” plans. I have had to learn to step back and think about it and maybe even let go of some of the control that I have so tightly grasped. I egotistically wonder how anyone could have a better plan than me! Ha! I have learned that there are better ways of doing things than my way. Other people are just as smart or creative or talented or skilled as me – or more! And another shocker is that even if my way is the best way, it’s not the only way. It doesn’t hurt me to step aside and let someone else shine. It’s taken a long time for me to learn to surrender control and I have had to go through some humbling experiences at times to learn it.

It took me a long time to learn that I could trust other people with control of my little projects, but thank goodness I learned at a much younger age that I could trust God with control of my life. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” I can’t see the big picture, but He does and if I can trust Him enough to faithfully and obediently follow Him even when I don’t understand what He is doing, I know He will never lead me wrong and that a better future lies ahead of me than I could ever dream.

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The Bible tells us, “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:17) Wisdom begins with understanding, and understanding His will begins with knowing His Word. The principles of how He wants us to live our lives are all there. True wisdom also includes obedience. “Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me…Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding…” (Deuteronomy 4:5, 6) If we understand but do not obey, the Bible tells us we are simply fools. “The wise in heart will receive commandments: but a prating fool shall fall.” (Proverbs 10:8)
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We may not understand the specifics of our Father’s will in our lives, but as trusting and obedient little ones, we need to simply take His hand and walk along side, step by step. He will lead us into a better future. Robbie was having a problem understanding and cooperating with his parents yesterday. Robbie is retarded. What’s our excuse?

SLEEP COMFORT

We ordered a new bed for Robbie this week. It is one of those adjustable beds, where the head and/or feet can be raised or lowered. It was horribly expensive and I dragged my feet about ordering it, but the time has come when it is pretty much a necessity for him – and us. He is getting progressively weaker as far as his ability to hold up his own weight. When he is in a drug-induced sleep, he is a dead weight and I am having trouble moving him at all then. Bob picks him up like a rag doll, but I am getting older and am not as strong as I once was, and with my heart history I really shouldn’t be trying to lift him like that. Even Bob, as strong as he is, has to be careful about hurting his back. He’s had a muscle strain the last few days from lifting Robbie. We would be in a real pickle if one of us threw out our back or had a heart attack while lifting Robbie.

Robbie’s world since he became so sick has shrunk for the most part to one or two rooms in our house. We have his bed in the living room, primarily so that he can always feel a part of everything. Robbie is tube-fed, and must be sitting, or at least reclining, for an hour after each feeding. His bed is right next to the recliner and every four hours we move him back and forth from bed to Lazy-Boy, which besides preventing reflux, also helps to prevent bed sores. He has always had perfect skin and we want to keep it that way. The new adjustable Sleep Comfort bed will solve the problem of lifting him when he is asleep, but we will still move him as much as possible when he is awake.

Robbie’s bed the last nine years has been a full-size mattress on top of an air mattress. One of us must sleep with him at night so that we will know if he has a seizure in the middle of the night and can take care of him. I’ve never been thrilled about having the bed in the middle of our living room but, as they say, ya gotta do what ya gotta do, and Robbie’s needs have to come first. The new bed will be here in a couple weeks and I am holding my breath and praying that it will not seem even more obtrusive in the living room than his old one does. On the other hand, it certainly will be nice to have a really comfortable bed to sleep in after all these years. It even has a three-way massager (at no extra cost) which will be good for Robbie – and really, really nice for me!

It was hard to spend that much money on a bed, and yet we are happy that we can do something to make life a little better for Robbie. He spends a lot of time in his bed and if it makes his body rest easier and be more comfortable then, even beyond all the other considerations, it will be worth it. One of the things we do with him before he goes to sleep at night, or sometimes in the morning when he first wakes up, is sing songs to him in bed, or play the harmonica for him. I was tickled when I recently came upon this verse and shared it with Robbie: “Let the saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud upon their beds.” (Psalm 149:5.) That’s us – singing aloud upon our bed! I can’t wait for Robbie to experience his new bed – or to see the look on his face when we turn the massager on!

Yes, it will be wonderful to make life more comfortable for Robbie, and a little easier for us. God, in His grace, has made it possible for us to care for Robbie all these years, and has cared for our needs, as well. And just as He has provided the physical things, including at this point a new bed to comfort Robbie and help lift him up physically, even so He promises to provide all we need spiritually to comfort and lift our hearts. Jesus said in John 14:16, 27 “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever…Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” He is there to comfort us in all things. “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation,” (II Corinthians 1:4) Jesus also said, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) When we need Him most, He lifts us up. “The Lord upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down.” (Psalm 145:14) and “The LORD lifteth up the meek.” (Psalm 147:6) And far better than that adjustable Sleep Comfort bed – “But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head…I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the LORD sustained me.” (Psalm 3:3, 5)

Someday Jesus will say to Robbie, as He did to others in the New Testament, “Arise! Take up thy bed and walk!” I am sure Robbie will not only walk, but jump and run and dance for joy, as well! He’ll no longer need a bed of any kind. Praise the Lord! And the older I get, the more I look forward to having a new, perfect body of my own, too! Until we come to that day, however, when all our earthly cares and pain are gone forever, we can rest in Him and be lifted up and comforted in the here and now. I say again – praise the Lord!