Sunday, March 30, 2008

God is good...all the time!

This week has been so crazy! But then, it's Workshop week, so it's supposed to be. :-) Workshop was incredible, to say the least; God was working in mighty ways. So many people worked so hard to make this happen; they did an awesome job. The speakers were all amazing and filled with the Spirit. As many wonderful things as God has done this week, one of them was particularly incredible and I am so grateful to God for what He did.

Shane, our worship leader at Memorial, and his wife Alice had a pretty rough week. Shane had a strange pain in his hand and arm that spread to his other arm, his legs, his neck and basically throughout his entire body. Alice took off work for three days to take care of him. There had been emails sent out to our prayer chain at church, so everyone was praying for them, but I don't think many of us had a grasp of how truly awful Shane was feeling until we saw him Wednesday night. Now, Shane isn't the kind of guy that will complain, no matter how bad he feels; but he was moving pretty gingerly, so we could all tell that he wasn't doing well. He kind of hobbled through the church building, doing everything he had to do to make the Workshop kick-off go well. Prayers continued to go up, because we all knew that in a little while, Shane was going to have to get on stage and lead our worship. I was beginning to wonder if he would even be able to stand, but he went on stage (using a mic stand part of the time because it hurt to hold the microphone) and worshipped our God from his heart, as we have seen him do on so many Sunday mornings. He was so focused on God that you could hardly tell he was in pain at all. As we came to the chorus of the final song of the night, Shane said, "Let's raise the roof!" And did we ever! I'm pretty sure that if you had been standing on the sidewalk outside the building you would have been able to hear the praises lifted up, "Jesus, Lamb of God, worthy is Your Name!" Tears sprung into my eyes as Shane, in spite of all of his pain, stood tall on the stage and lifted both of his hands heavenward in humble praise and adoration of his awesome God. After that, Shane pretty much collapsed into his front pew. The elders, the majority of the praise team and some others surrounded him, laid their hands on him and lifted him up in prayers to God. There wasn't a dry eye in the bunch when they finished. Everyone was feeling his pain, as much as we could, anyway. Then we just stood around and kind of stared at him and Alice. After a while, Shane said it was too weird with us all looking at him and he wanted to go home. I felt kind of bad, but then I realized why we were staring at him: we didn't know what else to do. We had no words to make it better, and we couldn't hug him, because it would hurt; so we just stared.
We all continued to pray, and Thursday night Shane felt much better than the night before. Even so, we were still a bit apprehensive about Friday night, when our praise team was going to lead worship.
Friday night, Shane got up on stage and, before we sang, he talked about God's goodness. He told us how much better he was feeling since Wednesday night, and he gave all the glory to God. What amazed me the most, though, was what he said next. After he said how good God was for making him strong enough to get up there that night, he said, "But I would still say 'God is good' even if I was laying in a hospital bed for the second time this week." What faith! And I know Shane well enough to know that he wasn't just saying that; he really would have said "God is good."
On Saturday night, Shane was on stage again, joking with Terry as they made announcements. This morning, he (Shane, not Terry =D) sang bass with the Zoe group at church. Afterwards, he smiled as he told me that he was completely pain-free today. God is so good! His grace was sufficient for Shane and His power was perfected in Shane's weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).
God has truly blessed our church family and me, personally, with Shane and Alice both. Their faith and trust in God, even when things aren't going the way they might like, is a wonderful example and testimony to all of us. Thanks, Shane and Alice! Shane, it is my prayer that Jesus has said to you what He said to the woman in Matthew 9, "Your faith has healed you." Thanks for your faith, brother! God is good...all the time!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

"I have this under control."

The other day, I took Jonathan, Stephen and Andrea to the park. Andrea wanted to swing and asked me to push her. After a few minutes, she said, "Okay, you don't have to push me anymore," then in a very big-girl tone for a 5-year-old, "I have this under control." I nearly fell over laughing as she continued in her sing-song voice, "I have it under control. I don't need help. I can do it." (Okay, maybe you had to be there, but it was really funny at the moment.) A few minutes later, I looked over and she was swinging all over the place on her belly. Grinning, she said, "It's more fun this way."

Later that night, I started thinking about how often I do that with God. So many times I ask Him to lead me (or push me, in some cases) in the direction He wants me to go. But when I think it's going well enough that I can handle it, I say (whether consciously or subconsciously), "Okay, You don't have to push me anymore. I have this under control." Then, even though He knows I can't really handle it, just as I knew Andrea couldn't really keep herself swinging, He lets me do it on my own. For a while I may relish my new-found "control" over my own life. Soon, however, I find my self swinging on my stomach completely out of control and nearly falling out on my head. Still, I'm too proud to admit that I can't do it alone, so I desperately try to convince myself that "It's more fun this way." Though I have no doubt that it really was more fun for Andrea swinging that way, when I get to that place, it isn't fun at all, but rather it is my last ditch effort to try to stay in the driver's seat of my own life.

Why? Why do I, clueless and incapable as I am, try so desperately over and over to control my own life when I know good and well that I can't? I don't really know; I guess it's just human nature to want to be in control. I think one of the most difficult parts of following Christ is to obey the command of James 4:7, "Submit yourselves, then, to God." As hard as it is to do that, though, I think that if/when we finally do get there we will find that swinging when He's pushing us is much, much more pleasant than swinging every which-a-way on our bellies trying to keep ourselves going. Though we will still be swinging back and forth between trials and easy times, joy and pain, spiritual mountaintops and spiritual valleys, there will still be that strong, steady Hand at our back, pushing us gently on through it all. How much better is that than going through all those same things, only swinging out of control with no comforting Hand at all?

I pray that this week we may all give the control of our lives back to our Father; then, though our circumstances may not change, may we rest in the fact that He is there, He is in control, He loves us and He has a plan for us. I love having a God that won't push us so hard that we can't hang on, or at least if He does, He'll be there on the other side to catch us.

Now, if I can just remember all of this when I wake up in the morning. :-)