Active & Steadfast Faith

So many things can cause me to worry—illness, divisive politics, concerns about friends and family, goals not met. Do I live in fear or do I hold fast to God with faith?

The book of Joshua in the Old Testament lays out great examples of active faith. Today I was reading about Caleb. Caleb was one of the twelve men that Moses sent to spy out the promised land.

Caleb had faith that they could enter the land and fight for it. God would give them victory. But ten of the men were afraid of the descendants of Anak, described as giants. Fear settled on Israel like a mist. As a result 40 years would pass in the wilderness before Caleb would enter the promised land. I wonder how those years went for Caleb. Forty years is a long time to be patient. Caleb was steadfast.

Caleb was with Joshua when they entered the land and took possession (as God promised). God was with them in the battles.

When the land was being divided and given to each tribe, Caleb reminded Joshua that he had been promised land for himself and his descendants. At the age of 85 he offered to win the hill country from the Anakim—the same area of land that he had seen 45 years before. He was ready to fight the giants. Steadfast faith.

Caleb’s example speaks to me. He actively listened to God. He believed God and was ready to act. He endured 40 years of waiting patiently, steadfastly. At the right moment he was victorious at Hebron.

The good news is that when we are listening to God, willing to act, he helps us. Our faith is molded by prayer, Bible study, obedience to God’s word. We receive encouragement in community with other believers.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

This post is linked with the Five Minute Friday writing community. Today’s prompt is: ACTIVE

Sharing this post with Faith on Fire , Inspire Me Monday and Heart Encouragement

An Honest Prayer

They arrive in the middle of the summer . . .

For the past several years the leaves on my cherry tree and raspberry bushes have been devoured by beetles. Only the veins of the leaf remain after Japanese beetles have had their feast.

So I have been devising strategies to rid my yard of these pests. I tried the pheromone traps that brought more beetles to my yard. Then I did walking tours to tip them off the leaves into a bowl of soapy water. I have shaken branches and jumped when one of the beetles fell down my shirt.

This year I sprayed my tree with neem oil and continued the walking tours with my bowl of soapy water. It is working.

In the midst of my annoyance I have to admit that I have a bit of wonder over the Japanese beetle. They have a metallic green/brown color that catches the light.

Japanese Beetle

Sometime they fall in my bowl of water when I tip a leaf—other times they get their wings out in an instant and fly off. The female beetles emit a pheromone that attracts the male beetles. So a few females on the leaves of a plant soon becomes a party.

The beetles have wiry legs (I have felt them on my hand). The female beetle is able to dig down into the earth to deposit her eggs and then climb out. Over a summer she may deposit as many as 60 eggs. The eggs develop into grubs and in one year—sometimes two—they will be an adult beetle. They are unique insects.

Yesterday, while I was with the grandchildren I showed them how to tip the beetles off a raspberry bush into soapy water. The boys were fascinated, the girls said that beetles were gross. We captured 20 beetles.

A little while later I was sitting with the children while they had bedtime snacks. The two year old pointed to the top of my head. I was in the middle of a sentence when my granddaughter said, “Grandma there is a beetle in your hair.” She giggled when I picked it out of my hair and put it into our bowl of soapy water.

Later that I night I was praying with my grandson. I thanked God for the blessings of the day and the interesting beetles. And then these words slipped out of my mouth, “but God I don’t know why you made them.”

After praying we talked a little more about the beetles. Some things in our world are puzzling. The beetles do so much damage to plants. My grandson said, “Maybe they do something good that we don’t know about.” 

Kate’s prompt for the Five Minute Friday community of writers is: MIDDLE

Around the World with Prayer

So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. Acts 12:5

Do you know the rest of the story? An angel led Peter out of prison and he went to the house where people were praying. When he knocked on the door Rhoda came to the door, but she was so shocked that she did not open it. Instead she went to tell the others that Peter was at the door. They didn’t believe her. When Peter kept knocking they finally let him in. God had answered their prayer in a miraculous way!

Sometimes circumstances seem so bad that we are overwhelmed. Tonight I was at a prayer meeting for the persecuted church. We had information about Christians around the world. This statement was part of the news: A British report ordered by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has concluded that persecution of Christians has reached “near genocidal” levels in parts of the world, particularly the middle east.

What can we do? The Bible instructs us to pray.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12

One of our prayer team reflected on what it would be like to be imprisoned for faith in Jesus. She said, “I would want to know that people are praying for me.”

As the apostle Paul encountered trials and difficulties he wrote to the church at Corinth.

You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. 2 Corinthians 1:11

Paul also instructed the church at Ephesus.

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints. Ephesians 6: 17-18 

We can follow the example of the early Christians and pray for the believers in the middle east, in China, in Africa, in Venezuela, in Haiti and places around the world. We are encouraged to pray.

Continue steadfast in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2

Note: The painting of Peter in prison is by Raphael (15th century)

This post is linked with the Five Minute Friday writing community. The prompt today is: WORLD

March Madness, Texas Tech and Prayer

My daughter is amused that I have become a college basketball fan. “Mom, you never watched basketball!” 

I responded, “Michigan has a good team this year.” I followed the Wolverines in March Madness and was disappointed when Texas Tech beat them.

Photo by Markus Spiske – Unsplash

Then I had to find out how one of our arch rivals, Michigan State, fared against Texas Tech in the final four game. Texas Tech beat Michigan State. When the game ended the TV cameras followed the players to the locker room, expecting a party atmosphere. The players waited for their coach.

When Coach Beard arrived they all dropped to a knee and began praying. The commentators were stunned and the cameras immediately cut back to the sports analysts.

The TV station handled it awkwardly and seemed to have discomfort with prayer.

Sports writer VF Castro tweeted: “Really annoyed that CBS cut out of Texas Tech’s post-game prayer. That’s a huge part of that team’s identity.”

I was thinking about the state of our nation as I read the book, Saving Amelie, by Cathy Gohlke. The novel tells the story of a little deaf girl in Nazi Germany. She does not meet the standard for a pure Aryan blood line. Will she be eliminated as the eugenics movement gathers momentum?

Saving Amelie

In the author’s Note to Readers, Ms. Gohlke writes: In my quest for answers I traced the evolution of the pseudoscience of eugenics in the United States and Germany, with its determination to eradicate disease and its design to eliminate certain bloodlines while promoting others . . .

It is still hard to understand what took place in Germany under the rule of Adolf Hitler. Cathy Gohlke did a great deal of research as she wrote this book. She also referred to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book, The Cost of Discipleship. Through Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life and writings we see the importance of God’s truth infusing all aspects of life.

Our faith in God should inform our lives. Faith should be part of daily life, science and even sports. It seems that there is a growing desire to put faith and religious freedom in a little box. Some would say that our faith in God and our belief in the Bible has no place in medicine, science, and the interactions of daily life, but I disagree.

I’m joining the link-up at Inspire Me Monday .


Seeking Guidance for Parental Rights

Parents today have difficult issues to confront. As I was driving home from Michigan today I was listening to Janet Parshall on the radio.She was discussing a case that was decided by the Supreme Court of British Columbia. It hit me hard because a friend of our family recently disclosed that he/she is transgender.

In British Columbia the court decided that a 14 year old girl could receive testosterone injections without her parents consent. In addition, her parents could not refer to her with female pronouns or by the name they gave her at birth. If they did they would be guilty of family violence.

This is stunning, but parental rights are being infringed in other ways. 

In Illinois a bill is being proposed that would mandate that all children entering 6th grade receive the HPV vaccine. There has been a lot of controversy over this vaccine. According to the Children’s Health Defense:

. . . during Gardasil’s clinical trials an extraordinary 49.5% of the subjects receiving Gardasil reported serious medical conditions within seven months of the start of the clinical trials. Because Merck did not use a true placebo in its clinical trials, its researchers were able to dismiss the trial participants’ injuries as coincidences, employing the term “new medical conditions,” rather than classifying their injuries as “adverse events.”

Parents should be able to weigh the risks and benefits of this vaccine (which is for a sexually transmitted virus). They should be involved in a decision to vaccinate or not.

It is so important that parents stay alert and informed. Even more important we must bring our concerns to the Lord Jesus. God designed the family, and as we defend our parental rights, the Holy Spirit can guide our words and action.

I am in touch with a group of moms that are very concerned about government mandates. It was refreshing to hear several say, “We need to pray.”

The book of Luke records the Lord’s Prayer. After teaching the disciples to pray Jesus continued with these words: “And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you.” Luke 11:9

The book of James reiterates this. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5

This post is linked to Five Minute Friday. Today I mulled over the prompt, SEARCH, thinking about recent events and the radio program.

A Joyful Answer to Prayer

When I assisted at home births I became more aware of the spiritual nature of childbirth. When labor reached a peak intensity, when the woman felt she couldn’t get through one more contraction, she asked for prayer. Sometimes the husband prayed or one of the attendants. I was asked to pray.

Prayer gave the woman the confidence to release herself to the waves of contractions that were bringing the baby to birth. As I thought about it, it seemed right. In the moments before birth the mother was leaning in to God for assistance.

Prayers rarely took place in the hospital but I remember one. A young woman was in labor.  As I worked with her to alleviate her pain I noticed her anxiety.  She received an epidural for pain management and I hoped it would help her to relax. 

A short while later she grabbed my hand, her eyes wild.  “I am afraid,” she said.  “The pain is much less but I am afraid.” 

This young woman had a circle of friends that had come to the hospital with her. One friend offered to read scripture, but she replied, “No, no I can’t concentrate. I want to pray.” 

In a loud voice she confessed her inadequacy and asked God to help her.  A short while later she gave birth to a healthy boy.  With baby in arms, this new mother gazed at her infant with joy and wonder.

photo credit: T. Adriaenssen

I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. Psalm 34: 4-5

This post is part of #Write28Days and is linked to Five Minute Friday.

Wanting to Control: Learning to Release

It feels good when we think we are in control. As a mother I  pursued the health of my children vigorously. I had been trained as a nurse at the University of Michigan. I believed in the medical profession and my ability to protect the health of my children.

The mental illness of my brother and the impact that it had my parents, my siblings and me, infused me with fear. As a mother I was devoted to maintaining the physical and mental health of my children.   

Women and Families

At first I put my trust in the medical field, going to the pediatrician with every concern.The pediatricians and gastroenterologist that we consulted did not resolve the repetitive ear infections and gastrointestinal disturbances of my twins, despite the antibiotics and medication to relax the gut.

So I pursued answers and treatment with a doctor practicing alternative medicine. With allergy testing we made changes in our diet and the health of my children improved.

Soon I was putting all of my energy into allergy diets and nutrition. I was was gradually depending on my own abilities for the health of our family. I wanted to be in control.

When one of the twins developed leukemia I continued to pursue nutrition and supplements to support him through chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant. My husband and I studied research. We prayed, and I was sure that Steven would be healed. We saw God’s love for Steven and our family, but Steven wasn’t healed.

Although we have tools for health we are not in complete control. Medical science is not perfect and does not have all the answers. God was teaching me to trust him. Could I let go of my fears? 

I have learned lessons (and I am still learning). God does not want me to be motivated by fear.

Nutrition and medical interventions are tools. It is important to learn about an illness that we encounter and possible treatments. It is important to ask questions and prayerfully make decisions.

God will guide us as we seek him and pray for appropriate care. He will stay with us during times of suffering.

As a grandmother I see the importance of supporting the immune system with a healthy life style—nutrition, adequate rest, physical activity. God has designed the human body with an amazing immune system. It is good to pursue a balance of prayer, healthy lifestyle and medical intervention when necessary. 

Although I started out with fear and a desire to control our health, God has blessed my study of nutrition and support for the immune system. My daughters have learned and their children have been healthier as infants and young children than they were.

One of my daughters is now a pediatric nurse practitioner helping families reach a better level of health.

This post is part of #Write28Days. You can find links to all the posts in the series on my landing page.

Illness, Resilience and Spirituality

Two years ago I began corresponding with Marguerite Bouvard. She was looking for contributors for an anthology on illness and faith. I offered to write a chapter about my family’s experience caring for our son during his treatment for leukemia.

We continued to e-mail back and forth. I wrote my chapter, and Marguerite edited the anthology that includes the stories of twelve people that refer to different faith traditions:Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Native American,Yoga.  The book is titled Illness, Resilience and Spirituality.

Now I have the book in hand, and as I read through the chapters I see vulnerability as well as resilience. The book is not theological. It is the way twelve people have encountered illness and death, along with the questions that come with human frailty.

A serious illness leads to a search for hope. Some chapters have a perspective that seem self reliant. Other chapters find hope through the Bible and prayer. A couple of chapters mention how the faith of a grandmother was influential. 

Victoria Molt’s account of faith and prayer through mental illness touched me. My brother’s illness has sensitized me to the isolation that many with mental illness experience. 

The importance of a faith community stands out in many of the chapters. 

The chapter that I wrote is the first in the book and is titled, “Prayers Through Illness and Loss”. The book is available on Amazon. 

This post is linked with Booknificent Thursday and Literary Musing Monday

When Pain Leads to Prayer

After Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden God said, I will greatly increase your pain in childbearing; withpain you will give birth to children. Genesis 3:16

Was this a punishment or a way of reminding Eve to seek God’s help?

In my own life, periods of suffering have motivated me to communicate with God. When our son was diagnosed with leukemia I experienced great emotional pain. I learned to open my heart and ask God the questions that were weighing heavily. The Psalms were helpful in guiding my prayers. I prayed for God’s help and guidance.

Pain can cause us to pause and seek help.  

For a period of time I attended women who labored and gave birth at home. As labor intensified they sometimes prayed. One mother asked her husband to pray. Another mama asked me to pray.

As I observed the prayers I saw faith and motherhood in a new way. Beginning motherhood with a prayer for God’s help was right.

Christmas is coming. Do you wonder about the birth of Jesus? Certainly Mary experienced pain. What was it like for Mary?

Mary and Manger

Yes, there was pain and stress but God demonstrated great love and grace in the incarnation.

Jesus experienced the ultimate pain as he approached death on the cross. He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. “Father if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. Luke 22: 42-44

Pain, prayer and love are connected.

The prompt for the Five Minute Friday community is: WITH

The manger scene is courtesy of FreeVintageArt.com

Pray for Our Elected Officials

Whew, the election is over.

The mood in our country has been intense.

For the first time I went door to door,

passing out flyers, in support of my state representative.

Now there is time to pause and reflect.

People have many different burdens and concerns.

Many are hurting.

We are all sinners in need of forgiveness.

The government can’t save us.

Only Jesus can.

The issues facing our country are complex.

Now is the time to pray for our elected officials.

Pray that they will seek wisdom from God.

It is Friday and I am joining the Five Minute Friday writers. The prompt today is: BURDEN