The Miracle

I looked down and stared at a mound of broken glass at my feet. 

“Karen! What happened?”

Her response was something I will never forget.

When I knocked on my sister’s front door that morning, Karen greeted me with a broom and dustpan in her hand. Only a few minutes earlier, she and three of her daughters had been making breakfast in their tiny kitchen. While they were cooking, someone accidentally left an empty dish on a hot burner. They were working away when, suddenly…

Happy Campers

I was actually looking forward to that miserable morning!

I’d crawled out of bed before the crack of dawn, brushed my teeth, jumped into my clothes and, minutes later, pulled into the parking lot just before the gym doors opened. 

George was the gym’s best trainer. I’d watched him from afar for a very long time. He got results – great results - month after month, client after client.  He even trained professional athletes – household names – people even I had heard of. 

Yep. George was the best, and everybody knew it. 

George and I would always say hello, and we’d chat from time to time. Then one day, he offered to give me a free training session! All I had to do was show up at 5 AM the next morning!

I was elated!  A free session with George! I counted the minutes and pulled into the parking lot - ready for an hour of torture.

And George did not disappoint.

George cleaned my clock.  He pushed me harder than I had ever been pushed.  He paid no attention to my gasps for air, winces, and even a groan or two.  Nope. George knew what it would take to get the results I wanted - and he was going to make sure I got them.

I did my very best to do whatever George told me to do. I pushed. I pulled. I ran. I jumped. I did it all without question, until finally – yes, finally – he told me to stop.  I was a hurtin’ puppy for sure, but I had no doubt that it would be worth it. If I kept up, I’d be a very happy camper in the end.

When I said goodbye to George that morning, I could barely walk. I was exhausted, dripping with sweat, but smiling ear to ear. 

After I got home and took a shower, I opened my Bible and began to read: "He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze … your right hand sustains me;  your help has made me great." (Psalm 18: 34-35)

As I read that passage, the words sounded eerily familiar. Yep. Just like George had a training plan for me, God had a training plan, too!  But I had to admit, I wasn't very cooperative when God was trying to train me.  Why did I do whatever George asked yet stiff-arm God with grumbling and questions?

After all, when George put a weight in my hand, he was helping me build a muscle. But when God put a challenge in my life, He was helping me build a much greater treasure. George was training my body, but God was training my heart and soul. 

When God puts difficult people in my life, He is helping me learn how to love. The roadblocks help me learn patience. The failures are making me humble and kind.  Even the horrible losses and tragedies teach me perseverance and perspective.

Yes. God is designing an obstacle course to soften my heart and strengthen my character. And the reason He does it is so that my life will be filled with love and blessings. Those challenges in my life were never put there to hurt or destroy me. They were strategically placed by a loving God for my ultimate good and His ultimate glory.

And so I pray that you and I will have the strength to obey our ultimate trainer, and we will remember that blessings lie on the other side of every challenge He gives us. For God is wise beyond measure, he sees a bigger picture that we can see, and He loves us more than we can imagine.

But best of all, He promises to make us very happy campers in the end!

 

All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful;
yet to those who have been trained by it,
afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

-Hebrews 12:11

 

Second Chances

Last week I lived dangerously.

It all started out with a seemingly harmless tradition. Every time January 1st rolls around, I sit down to a time of planning and reflection. I enjoy dreaming up a few adventures for the new year, and I try to make an honest assessment of the year gone by.

Usually I end up with a heart filled with hope and an eagerness to tackle a brand new beginning. But things went awry last week when I found myself camping out, way too long, on some pesky little things called regrets: things I wish I hadn’t done; foolish things I’d said; or things I wish I’d been strong enough, disciplined enough, or even honest enough to say or do.  The longer I focused on those mistakes and foolish choices, the deeper I fell into a treacherous place – the woeful world of “What If.”

But as I wallowed in that dangerous world, God brought a story to mind that pulled me up by the bootstraps and brought me back to a place of peace and hope.

My friend, LeeAnn, has an aunt who is in her 80s.  Aunt Lib is an amazing woman: well-traveled, well-"adventured,” a gracious southern lady with a whole lot of stories to tell. In her youth, Aunt Lib’s big dream was to go to Israel. She pinched pennies for what seemed like ages until she had enough money to join a church group for a summer working on an Israeli archeological dig. Their day of departure was closing in when – go figure – a war broke out in Israel.

The trip was cancelled. Aunt Lib was devastated. 

But being the positive, proactive woman she was – Aunt Lib decided to make the best of it. She promptly went out and spent all the money she'd saved on something else that brought a gleam to her eye.

That was 1967. Six days later the war was over, the trip was back on, and Aunt Lib was broke.

Desperate and dejected, she begged God for help.

Within days, a hail storm pummeled her car and covered it with dents. An insurance adjuster wrote out a check and, instead of fixing her car, she thanked God and boarded a plane bound for Israel.

Aunt Lib had the summer of her dreams.

When she got back home at the end of her trip, she discovered that the south had experienced the hottest summer on record. Moreover, the heat had caused all of the dents in her car to pop back out! Sure enough! God had repaired every dent! Her car was good as new!

A true story.  An amazing answer to prayer!  And a beautiful lesson for us all.

If you are looking back on days gone by and have found yourself in the world of "what if," take heart from Aunt Lib.  We’ve all made decisions that we regret, but God is a God of redemption. He won’t always take away the consequences of what we have done, but He always has something good in store if we will learn from it, put it behind us, and ask Him for help.

He knows how to make something good out of anything, and He has the power to do whatever He wants. Just watch and see what He will do in your life if you let Him.

So let's break free from the world of "What If." Lift your head up, focus on the year ahead, and join me in a prayer I learned long ago...

"Oh God of second chances, here I am again."

 

“Behold, I will do something new,
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness,
Rivers in the desert.”
- Isaiah 43:19