The Factor in Miracles

When miracles happen, God uses people and things – and His power.

When God asks us to do something, He expects us to factor in His involvement.

Think about the miracles described in the Bible.

miracle

The widow who owed money had only one jar of oil. Elisha told her to borrow empty jars and fill all the jars with oil. She obeyed by gathering containers from neighbors. Next, she lifted up her oil jar and started to fill the jars. Her obedience caused the miracle – factored in with the involvement of God.

miracle

When Jesus healed, He asked something of those He touched. The lepers were to go present themselves to the priest. The lame man was told to get up, take up his bed, and walk.

When thousands were hungry and had no lunch, Jesus told the disciples to feed the people.

They couldn’t, because they didn’t have any food to give to the masses.

There was, however, that one small boy. He had one lunch. One small lunch. Two fish and five loaves, and 5,000 men (not counting women and children).

It’s true that Jesus could have have fish and loaves appear out of nothing. Yet, He expects us to be involved in His miracles. He didn’t have to have that lunch, but He expected the disciples to factor in His involvement in the miracle. He took that one lunch and used His disciples to pass out the food. How much better for them to be participants, than just bystanders. How much better for them to see and experience the miracle as it was unfolding!

miracle

What do you have that you can share? What do you have that He wants to use?

By itself, it might not amount for much. Yet ,when we factor in His involvement, a miracle can happen.

Will you let Him take your small lunch and feed thousands with it?  Will you factor in His involvement?

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Things I Learned as a Mom after the Virginia Tech Shooting

 

Virginia Tech shooting

The 2007 Virginia Tech Shooting

“Don’t you have a son at Virginia Tech?” one of my coworkers asked me.

“I have two there,” I told her. “Why?”

“There’s been a shooting at Virginia Tech and  it sounds bad.”

I’m sure you know what I did. I called my boys and, when I didn’t get an answer, I called my husband.

Dave reminded me that what was happening was out of our control and the best – and most important – thing we could do was pray.

For over two hours, we tried to reach our guys. The phone lines were jammed (of course); other times there was just no answer. Our secretary kept punching in their phone numbers from her desk as I continued to do my job. (Thank you, Jean.)

I prayed. I asked God to keep my sons safe; I asked Him to give them courage if they were afraid; I asked Him to give them protection if they were in harm’s way. I asked, above all, that the name of Jesus would be known on this day, no matter what the outcome would be. I didn’t need to ask God to be with them or with me. He was already Present. I knew this, because I felt His presence with me.

There was nothing else I could do except pray and leave it to God, Who already knew.

It sounds easy to say that now, so many years later.  Was it easy at the time? Nope.

My stomach kept wanting to curl into a knot. My mind was full-speed ahead, thinking What if?!  I had to constantly choose to remain focused at my job. I had to keep reminding myself of this:

God does not give us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)

When I stopped and thought about what might happen or what might already have happened, I knew there was nothing I could do at the moment but trust God to give me peace. I knew that, even though I didn’t know, there was one thing on which I could rest: either Jesus was with them, or they were with Jesus.

Updates from co-workers kept coming to me: the school was in lock-down; the shooter was dead; there were many casualties; students and professors were dead.

Where were my boys?!

In time, we reached son number one. Later we roused son number two, who had decided to skip class that morning and sleep in. (Do tell.) Neither one was in harm’s way, although as older son walked across campus, he heard the gunshots and learned later that each building through which he walked was locked down just moments after he exited the building. His concern was for the students for whom he was responsible as an RA. As it turned out, we knew more about what was happening on campus than he did at the moment. He didn’t understand my concern, because he thought the turmoil was about the two students killed that morning; he didn’t know that students were lying wounded and bleeding in buildings on campus.

Virginia Tech shootingThe Twin Towers

Six years earlier, on the morning of the 9-11 attack on the twin towers, I received phone calls from friends and neighbors.  At that time, we had six children in four schools, and I couldn’t wait for them to get home from school so I could hug them tightly. When death is all around us, it makes us want to hold our kids more tightly, to tell them how much we love them (and we should), and to keep them safe with us (we shouldn’t). My kids came home from school that day and shrugged off my hugs because, to them, it was just another ordinary day. They didn’t understand the emotions parents faced that day because they felt no fear. (Thank you teachers and administrators.)

As moms, we want to hold our kids tightly. That is the most natural thing in the world for a mother to do. Really, we should be letting them go. They don’t belong to us – and they never did.

It’s true that no matter how old they become or where they live, they will always be our children. They are a gift, and not a right, from God.

That is why we need to begin releasing them the day they are born.

Hold them loosely, and remember that no matter how much we treasure the gift, we need to remember and recognize the Giver.

Virginia Tech shooting

The Temptation to Worry

We have been blessed. Other parents had children who never came home again.  Other parents still remember this day with sorrow, while I remember with gratitude – and prayers for the families of those who mourn as well as the family of the perpetrator of this crime. At the same time, we know it could happen to us.

When the temptation comes to worry, I pray.  I can’t be with my kids, but God is with them no matter where they go or what they do. Even though I don’t know what’s happening, He does. Like incense before the Lord, my prayers keep ascending to the throne of Grace.

There is nothing I can do that matters more. No matter how many miles they are from us, our prayers can cover them.  Our kids are grown and mostly gone. They travel thousands of miles each year by plane, motorcycle, and car. One of them has been to countries that I didn’t even know existed. (At this writing, he’s now in Rawanda .) Others have been in situations which could have been dangerous. Each time when I’m praying a kid to a foreign country or praying them home, I remember.

Worry accomplishes nothing; it only increases my fear. Prayer leaves my kids and my cares at the Throne.

He already knows.

No matter where our children go or what happens, He is already there.

Virginia Tech shooting

 

 

Remorse or Repentance? There’s a Difference

remorse

The Easter story and the aftermath is full of emotion and rebirth. It also has its share of sorrow, betrayal, and denial. As Jesus was facing the Cross, He was abandoned by the disciples. By the time He died and rose again, the disciple circle was in shambles.

I’m sure when Judas looked back at what he had done, he realized there were ways he could have done things differently. He was remorseful, but he moved away from the crowd. However, moving away from the crowd only distanced himself from Jesus. Remorse does that. It distances us from those we have wounded. Scripture tells us that  when it was over, Judas went out and hung himself.

When Peter heard that cock crow, he remembered what Jesus had said would happen.  He wasn’t with Jesus, but he eventually came back. He was one of the first at the tomb that Sunday morning, but that night, Peter went out and wept bitterly.

remorse

These two men betrayed and denied Jesus when He needed them most. Two different responses: 0ne of remorse, which took  him farther away from the Man who could bring healing and the other of repentance, which brought him back to the open, empty tomb and a relationship with the One he had denied earlier.

With remorse, so often we are just sorry we got caught. We’d never admit the truth unless it was discovered by someone else. In repentance, there is sorrow for the sin. There is also a change of direction. Repenting means turning around and going the other way.

Peter made the right choice. He acknowledged his sin and was so sorry – a fact evidenced by his bitter weeping.

It’s a lesson for all of us.

remorse

 

Remorse only drives us further from Jesus. Repentance brings us to Him.

The pain from their sins was felt by their Master. Restoration came to the one who repented of his sin. Remorse was not enough. It was the repentance that brought restoration.

How about it, friends? What is our response when we’ve failed the One who died for us?

Remorse is not enough. Repentance is – for it brings complete healing and restoration.

remorse

remorse

Three Questions for Peter – and Feeding Sheep

Feed my sheepAfter the resurrection of Jesus, there were still things He needed to teach the disciples before His ascension to Heaven.

For starters, the disciples no doubt had guilt about their disappearance during His trial,  His scourging, and His awful crucifixion. We know John was at the foot of the cross with Mary, the mother of Jesus; yet, Judas betrayed Him, Peter denied Him, and Thomas didn’t believe He had really come back to life.

One morning the disciples gathered on the shore of the sea of Galilee for a breakfast of fish prepared by the Master Himself. Sitting around that fire, Jesus asked Peter three questions and gave Him three instructions. You can read about that here. 

feed my sheep

This was the third time Jesus was with the disciples since His resurrection. The men, led by Peter, had been fishing. The fishing was Peter’s idea, and the others followed. Jesus asked them to bring some of their fish to Him for their breakfast.

When they got to shore, they saw the coals of fire, the fish, and the bread.

Jesus gave a simple invitation, “Come, and dine.”

After a breakfast of fish and bread done over coals, Jesus asked Peter a question.

feed my sheep

Do you love me?

Peter replied, “Of course, I love you.”

Jesus said, “Then feed my lambs.”

Twice more Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?”

Each time Peter replied, “Of course I love you.”

Both times Jesus replied, “Then feed my sheep.”

Jesus provided a way for Peter to find restoration. Three times Peter had denied that He knew Jesus.  Now, three times Jesus gave him instructions for what to do with his love for Him: “Feed my sheep.”

Jesus didn’t reprimand Peter for his denial of Him. There is no record that He scolded Peter or refused to be his friend. Instead, Jesus invited Peter and all the rest to sit down at His “table” by the sea.

Jesus says to us today, “Come and dine. If you love me, then feed my sheep.”

It’s a two-fold lesson.

He prepares nourishment for us and asks us to come and dine at His table. From that nourishment we gain strength to go work  in the Kingdom – to feed His sheep.

Nothing about other successes or employment. Just, feed My sheep.

“If you love me,” Jesus says to us today, “Then feed My sheep.”

It’s a challenge. First, come and dine, then go and feed His sheep.

How about you? Do you find nourishment at His table, or do you rarely visit there? How about His sheep? Are you helping to feed them?

When we’re weary from feeding sheep, does the weariness come from lack of spiritual nourishment for ourselves? When we’re tired of dealing with difficult, stubborn sheep, is the tiredness because we’ve lost the vision Jesus has for His sheep? Have we failed to take the time at His table to nourish our souls?

“Come,” Jesus says. “Come and dine.”

Then, “If you truly love me, you will feed My sheep.”

feed my sheep