Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Legacy of Faith

The sermon was emphasizing international missions, the music was worshipful and uplifting; still three weeks ago as I sat in church, an unexplainable wave of emotion came over me. The speaker kind of reminded me of the way my father used to preach. He mentioned that his wife had battled cancer. Anytime I hear someone characterize their experience with disease as a battle, I think of the pain my father endured for years on a daily basis. As soon as I started thinking about Dad, it was like the enemy leaned over my shoulder and whispered, “God could’ve answered your prayers and healed your dad, but He didn’t.”

Right there in church the tears began to flow. I can’t think of anything in my life I spent more time praying for than for my father to be healed. I was just fifteen when he was first diagnosed with liver failure. He was successfully transplanted my senior year in High school. We looked at every day he lived after his transplant as a gift.

He lived to see his grandchildren, celebrated graduations, preached weddings and even baptized one of his grandsons. The summer after I graduated from college he took mom and me to the mountains nearly every weekend so we could see the town and he could conquer impossible mountain trails in his International Scout.

Dad cherished the second chance at life he’d been given and went right back to the work God had called him to do as a young man, the work of faithfully preaching the Gospel. Just a few months after his transplant the Doctors released him to go home. Dad and Mom came back to our home in Amarillo, Texas. With a new passion to serve, Dad went to visit the neighborhood he grew up in as a child and found children still living in physical and spiritual poverty. To him this looked like a great location to plant a church!

That same year our family started a church in downtown Amarillo where Dad began preaching again. His desire to serve so faithfully inspired many others to give their lives to preach the Gospel. For years he drove a lunch route in his old neighborhood telling the children who lived at his old address about Jesus and invited their families to church.

While he had a new liver, the disease that had destroyed his old liver was still in his blood. There would be days when he felt great and days when he was so weak he couldn’t get out of bed. The medication he took to fight the disease was a monthly injection that would bring on severe flu like symptoms.

Even though he battled illness, Dad used his testimony of faith to point others to Christ. He made the most of the good days and still pressed forward on the bad days. Many times he would say that God has been able to use him more in times of weakness than in times of great strength.

Yes, I prayed that God would heal my father. Every day. Still, four years ago this month, he passed away. Is it true that God ignored my prayers? Did God turn a deaf ear and a cold shoulder to my request? Was my faith not strong enough for God to release His healing power?  That Sunday, despite all the attempts to fight the lie with the Truth, I was left with a heavy heart.

This morning Chad left the house early. It was quiet and I couldn’t go back to sleep so I opened my Bible. There in John chapter 11 I found Martha saying to Jesus, “Jesus if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”

It brought me great comfort to see how Jesus responded to Martha. Jesus knew Martha did not have the same understanding He had of eternal matters. Through her grief she could not see how Jesus would use the death of her brother to bring glory to His name. Still, Jesus wanted her to understand! He wanted the faith of Mary and Martha and everyone else who was witness to the death and resurrection of Lazarus to be strengthened. Jesus comforted these sisters, showed compassion and shared in their loss; then He brought the victory!

In my father’s case, there was no instant healing, but through brokenness he lived a life of eternal significance. He believed and taught that there is more to life than what we experience here on earth.

When we trust Jesus with our life, we are trusting that while we may suffer and though we may not understand our circumstances, God can use our lives to bring glory to His name. So nothing, not even death, can destroy us when we are in Christ.

This is my response to the lie. Yes, God had the power to answer any one of my prayers and heal my father. No, there was no instant healing. Instead God did something much greater. He used the life of Don Lane to spread the hope of the Gospel so that many could be saved alive and his legacy of faith goes lives on in my life.

The night of my father’s funeral, after a full day of preaching, worship and talk of Heaven our oldest son David started asking questions about Salvation. Chad and I talked with him for a while then sent him to bed. A little while later, David came into the living room to tell us God had been talking to his heart and he prayed to accept Jesus.  We prayed with him again and thanked the Lord for the hope we have in Jesus. The next Sunday David was baptized.

I am so thankful that even in the face of death we were able to tell David about how he can trust Jesus and have eternal life. We will continue to teach our children and strive to follow the example set by generations of true Christ followers before us, that nothing we face in this life can separate us from the love of our faithful God.

Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again. They are given eternal life for believing in me and will never perish. Do you believe this, Martha?” John 11:25

I do believe! Thank you Jesus for this great HOPE! 

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Thousand Hills Cattle Company

It was September 2005 and our country was struggling to respond to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Chad and I were living and serving in downtown Amarillo, Texas at the time and had just received word that our city would be a major hub for refugees from Louisiana.

As is typical in disaster situations, everyone was on stand by and no one was sure how many refugees would be coming. In preparation for response, the city began calling on the resources of local churches and relief organizations. At the time, one of my jobs was managing the kitchen. We were used to feeding lots of people and had a pantry that never went empty.

The Mayor held a meeting to coordinate resources, and it was determined that Citychurch would be providing the meals over the next few weeks as traffic came and went from the staging area at the Amarillo Civic Center. This meant we would be feeding local emergency workers and volunteers as well as children and their families who would have made the long bus trip after facing such a crisis.

When we had the staff meeting to plan for these meals, we didn’t really have a lot of information to go on. The number of people who would be landing in Amarillo kept fluctuating from 300 to 3000. Basically, the plan was to start buying food, cooking it and catering it over to the Civic Center. We would also be feeding people around-the -clock as the buses would arrive.

After we discussed the amount of food the church had on hand and the amount of food we would need to purchase, my dad looked at the numbers and said, “Well, we know who owns the cattle on a thousand hills. We’ll trust him to provide.” With that, we prayed to God for provision and everyone went to work.

I gathered up my shopping list and headed out the door for Sam’s. As I walked down the sidewalk to my car, I saw a man standing on the curb looking up at the church sign. He seemed a little confused, so I stopped to ask if I could help him. He explained that he was a pastor and his church wanted to help with all the relief efforts in Amarillo. “One of my members came to me and said he has a bunch of ground beef they want to donate to you guys since you’re providing meals.” When he told me that I laughed and explained, “I’m sorry, I’m laughing because we were just talking about how much food we would need and my dad said he’s not worried about it because he knows who owns the cattle on a thousand hills.” The pastor got a real stunned look on his face, and I was really afraid I’d offended him. Then he opened his wallet and pulled out the business card of the man with the ground beef. My voice started shaking as I read the name on the business card aloud, “The Thousand Hills Cattle Company!”

The pastor and I laughed and praised The Lord right there on the sidewalk as both our hearts were stirred to see the hand of God moving to provide for this unexpected need. He later invited me to come share this story with his congregation so that their faith might be strengthened as well.

I’m convinced that God uses our weakness and our needs to draw us closer. When we learn to trust and we finally lay all we don’t have on the altar, it’s like He says, “Now, watch what I can do!” Boldness to move forward in obedience comes when we have experienced His glorious faithfulness firsthand.

What are you trusting God for today? Whatever the need, the Heavenly Father is big enough to provide. 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

How Not to Raise An Ostrich

When I lived at home in Amarillo, Tx my family would eat dinner at Granny and Pa’s house once or twice a week. On one particular night, my dad, mom and brothers were over and some other uncles and cousins. My Pa took his place at the table and became unusually quiet.

Our big family was crowded around the little dining room table while some of us stood at the bar to eat. After enjoying the meal everyone started visiting until Pa abruptly announced, “kids, y’all come on. I wanna show you somethin’” 

We stood up and waited for him to turn either to the basement or the garage. The basement was where he kept his collection of Avon trucker cologne bottles, and the garage was where he kept his rock tumbler and metal detector collection. We couldn’t imagine what else he might have accumulated and where, but this time what he wanted to show us was in the basement. The dark, brown shag carpet lined, basement.

Before I go any further, I need to share with you my limited knowledge of ostriches. Did you know that the ostrich is the largest living bird in the world? A baby ostrich grows 10 inches per month and can weigh 100 lbs. by the end of its first year. Full-grown male ostriches can grow as tall as 9 feet.

The natural predators of the ostrich are cheetahs, lions and leopards. To keep from becoming lunch, God created the ostrich with the ability to run at sustained speeds of up to 40 miles per hour. To raise Ostriches it is recommended to allow ¼ - ½ acre of land per pair. Now, back to the basement we go.

Slowly we descended down the stairs, filed into the small space to find ourselves hovered around an oversized incubator. Pa flipped on the light switch, pointed to the incubator and stood back with pride so we could all see. Contained in the incubator was an ostrich egg the size of a pee-wee football. We all looked at each other, somehow not surprised, but shocked all at the same time. This egg was glowing under the light and you could almost see it vibrate as the life of the largest known species of bird in the world formed beneath the thin translucent shell.

“What in the world, Dad?!? What are you going to do when that egg hatches?” asked my dad. “I’m going to feed it milk with a bottle, son. I’m going to raise it!” To which someone astutely responded, “IN YOUR BACK YARD?”

In the book of James we see the progression of sin laid out for us. James 1:14-15 says first we are tempted. When we are tempted we are being drawn away and enticed by our own evil desires away from following God. When desire is conceived, it gives birth to sin and when sin is fully grown it gives birth to death.

I am thankful for my Savior Jesus everyday. John 10:10 says, “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come that you may have life and life more abundantly.” This is a promise, that through Jesus we can be forgiven and live an abundant life in Christ.

Thinking about growing an ostrich in your basement? It’s about as good an idea as following temptation. James 4:7 gives us some guidelines to avoid having full grown sin in our hearts, 
“Therefore, submit to God. But resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, 
and He will draw near to you.”

Friday, September 6, 2013

Why Are You Still Here?

Chad and I may or may not have gone on a date to see the movie “Jobs” this morning while the kids were in school. Let’s pretend we did. Okay, we did. The movie was inspiring for many reasons, but one part in the movie got me all stirred up.

Steve Jobs had been betrayed and lost his position at Apple. Years later when the company began taking a nose-dive the new board invited Steve back in as a consultant. He began visiting each department and in the movie they showed him standing in the design department staring at rough drawings on the wall of what would become drawings of the first iMacs.

Even though the drawings were in the rough stage, Steve could see the passion behind their inspiration. He turned around to the design team, looked at the design leader and asked, “Why are you still here?”

The artist, looking stunned, refused to skirt around this very direct question, so he stammered until the truth came forth. “There are still some of us who believe in what you stand for.” He said. To which Jobs replied with a snicker, “And what is it that you think I stand for?”

Steve Jobs was looking to overhaul the company with people who were as passionate about his vision as he was.

In John Chapter 6 Jesus was giving a graphic description of what would be required of those who truly followed after Him. He said that unless his disciples eat of the flesh of the son of man and drink of His blood they will not have eternal life. Of course Jesus was not speaking literally; however, to the Jews who were ridiculing Jesus, He was making a clear admonition that unless they fully embrace
His death on the cross as complete payment for their sins then they could not receive eternal life.

Jesus was thinning out the crowd of those who were following Him for personal gain, notoriety and power to find those who were passionate enough about the work of the Father to persevere with Him until the end.

Many of the disciples responded to this call by saying, “these things are hard to understand.” When they couldn’t get Jesus to back down, many who were following turned away that day.

Jesus stood before “the twelve” who were left and asked “Do you also want to go away?” Basically, Jesus asked, “Why are you still here?” To which Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of life.”

That’s passion! Simon Peter saw life in the words of Jesus where everyone else was consumed with dying flesh. “We have come to believe and know that you are the Son of the living God.” Peter testified.

Jesus calls His followers to selfless and challenging work!  I am always inspired to to see how others respond to the call. Some feel called to open their home to foster care and adoption, some mothers dedicate their lives to home educating their children, some plant churches and others travel thousands of miles to train and educate pastors. Some give their life to be teachers, nurses or doctors. Still others serve faithfully in the nursery, or teach three- year-olds in Sunday School.

If you asked these followers, “why are you still here?” they would point you to Jesus. They know what it means to find a life of purpose in Christ. The passion of their service to His glory testifies that they believe in what He died for, and should inspire us all to run the race!

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3

Monday, August 19, 2013

That's Our Girl!

Silly. Funny. A Hoot! These are all words used on a regular basis to describe our Ruby. She is a beautiful, sweet, ball of fun, and tonight, I’m a ball of mush as I anticipate dropping her off for her first day of Kindergarten in the morning.

For five years she has ridden my hip and played at my feet through all sorts of life changes and the completion of big projects. She’s used up reams of paper in my office to write messages and draw pictures, but I didn’t stop her because it kept her busy (and the notes were pretty cute).

I’m going to miss being distracted by the sound of My Little Pony on loop while I’m working. The boys are going to wonder why, suddenly, their room stays clean while they’re away at school. Daddy is going to miss having a Starbucks date with Tinker Bell on Monday mornings.

Tonight, at bedtime, I tried to remind her of all the good things she can do to help her teacher. We went over some of the rude things we don’t do now that we're a big girl. 

When I took her to see her brand new classroom today she became uncharacteristically quiet. I could tell she was overwhelmed by the size of the new room and the lack of familiar pre school toys. Pretty soon she just started walking around each table. I realized what she was doing after she yelled out “R U B Y! That’s me!” I think the room became smaller to her once she found her place. Give Ruby a spot with her name on it and she knows what to do!

Truly, I am thankful for the wonderful school our kids get to attend in the morning and for their bright-eyed teachers we met today. So, if you see me parked at Sonic tomorrow morning crying it out in my car, just know that at least one-third of the tears are tears of joy. The rest are all because of Ruby.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Catching The Wind

Chad and I both love to be out on the water. Spending time out on lake Ray Hubbard in Dallas was where we went on a lot of dates in the early stages of our relationship. Also, my mind tends to run constantly, even in my sleep, but when I’m on the water I can truly relax. Chad loves to sail and so do I, but I also enjoy kayaking.

Recently Chad and I were discussing which sport was actually more fun. When we lived in Amarillo Chad worked a trade to get an 18 foot Catamaran. While it is a simpler contraption than the big sailboat it still requires a lot of rigging. Sometimes it can take hours to set the mast, rig the sail and unfurl the jib. Since having time off for recreation is so rare and precious, I like the simplicity of setting out on the water with a kayak and paddle.

Last year Chad kind of gained the upper hand on our ongoing discussion after a float trip down the Illinois River. Some friends in the ministry graciously invited us along with some of our youth on their float trip. I was excited because it was the first real trip where I was going to get to paddle to my heart’s content. About half way down the river, with the sun on our backs it occurred to me, “the only way I’m going to get all the way down this river – and back, is to paddle, paddle, paddle.”

I paddled up next to Chad and could tell by the look on his face exactly what he was thinking, so I asked, “Where’s the wind, Captain?”

When we go out on the lake, after all the rigging is in place on the Cat and we’ve shoved off from shore the next step is to find the direction of the wind. When the wind hits our sails and we find a place to go on a run everything in the world feels right. It’s time to hang on and enjoy the ride.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in the ministry is that doing good works out of my own strength leads to burn-out and frustration. When I humble myself and follow Jesus, He leads me into the good works prepared beforehand for me to do and it is in this work where joy and endurance can be found.

In John 16 Jesus was leaving a charge for His disciples. He said,

5 “But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.”

Jesus was charging these men with the continuation of His life and legacy on earth. And what does He promise them? He will send a Helper! This Helper is no less than the Holy Spirit, the breath of God! He didn’t say, “Get out your paddles boys! It’s all up to you!” Jesus knew that the wind of God would fill the hearts of these ordinary men and send them on the ride of their life!

When it comes to watersports, I still enjoy both sailing and paddling; however, there is no better way to serve God in the ministry than to learn to hear His voice, set out on the water in obedience then move with the power of His wind!