Archive | March 2013

Good Friday?

Jesusoncross
Why do we reflect on Christ’s crucifixion? How can we relate to such torture? How can we understand such love?

God transformed a traumatic memory to give me insight. Read how:

The psychiatrist advised, “You have to get Chris into the hospital as soon as possible. He’s becoming very dangerous.”

How am I supposed to get him to the hospital without him first harming me? I hid all sharp objects, but Chris has his black belt in karate.

A few nights later, our family returned home from the movies. Robert and Howie went upstairs. Chris approached me in the kitchen with an audiocassette tape in his hand. Breaking it in front of me he said, “This is what I will do to you.”

Suddenly, he struck my jaw with a karate chop.

Chris turned and walked towards the steps, punching a hole in the wall. I followed him.

Chris walked into our bedroom and began to speak calmly to Howie, as if nothing happened. Unprovoked, he suddenly attacked Howie with a running side kick (a powerful karate foot kick). When he turned toward me, Howie grabbed him.

Quickly, I helped Howie hold Chris down on the floor. Chris’s nose started bleeding. Blood poured from his nose onto our carpet.

With Howie was on one side of Chris and me on the other, I couldn’t see what was happening to Howie. But, I could hear Howie making grunting sounds as if he was getting hurt. Chris thrashed his feet about in an attempt to break loose. kicking me over and over. He cursed at us and growled like a caged animal.

I screamed, “Robert, call 911! Tell them to send an ambulance.”

An army of police officers arrived at our house. I never thought I’d be relieved to have my son handcuffed. But, I was. I knew we would all be safe and Chris would have the best chance of getting better. The police took Chris away in an ambulance. Although Howie and I were exhausted, we jumped in the car and headed to the hospital.

We arrived at the hospital just as the police were escorting Chris into the emergency entrance. We caught up to him. The dark, empty look in his eyes was replaced by a pathetic look. I saw the helpless, pleading look of a son who needed his mother.

“I’m sorry, Mom.”

“It’s OK, Chris. We know you didn’t mean it. You’re just sick. That’s all.”

In the waiting room, Howie and I noticed our injuries. The inside of Howie’s lip was raw and bloody from being hit repeatedly by Chris’s head. There was a large cut on his face just under his eye. I had no cuts. Only bruises. All over my arms and legs.

During the six hours we waited, doctors and nurses tried to get Chris to admit himself. But he refused. He would have to be admitted against his will.

After a while, Chris fell asleep. He was taken to a room in the adolescent psychiatric ward of the hospital.

As we left the hospital, we were given a packet of information. It contained all the rules and regulations of the psychiatric ward. A lot to read after experiencing such an ordeal.

We returned home at 6:00 AM.

Later that day, Howie and I compared notes.
“What were you thinking when we held Chris down, Howie?”
“I felt tremendous sorrow for him. I didn’t want him to get hurt.”
“That’s exactly how I felt.”

Howie and I were careful not to hurt Chris as we held him down. Neither of us minded the blows we received. Even though Chris cursed us, we loved him unconditionally.

That’s how it was with Jesus. His accusers cursed, beat, and whipped Him. Yet, He took the pain upon Himself…For our transgressions. The Lord replaced that dreadful experience with a beautiful reminder of Christ’s love.

As a little girl, I wondered, “What’s so good about Good Friday?” Our experience with our son years ago gave me insight into Christ’s crucifixion. Jesus willingly died because of His unconditional love for us. He preferred to take our punishment so we could have eternal life in heaven.

Do you have a painful memory that haunts you? Christ, who overcame death, can surely transform those troubling thoughts.

Kristyn Getty’s “The Power of the Cross” reminds us of His unconditional love.

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Photo Shop

Bird Paradise digital 007 fixed Bird Paradise
Wouldn’t it be nice to photo shop your life? Tweak imperfections in relationships the way photographers tweak photographs?

Just for fun, imagine the possibilities.
Let’s delete shadows of painful memories. Click! Regrets of parenting mistakes gone.

Now, blur specific painful scenes. Click! Stories your child told of being bullied or ignored can no longer be seen in your mind’s eye.

Next, air brush ugliness away and smooth out edges. Click! Tension in the family dissolves.

Don’t forget to crop out unwanted emotions. Click! Anxiety and worry are gone from you and your child who has mental illness (MI).

Let’s try reducing the noise that clutters up a marriage. Click! Resentment is replaced with clear communication.

Finally, use the red eye tool to remove the tear-stained, sleep-deprived inflammation. Click! A false façade hides deep sorrow.

Sadly, it seems impossible to remove painful memories, erase regrets, smooth away tension, restore a marriage, sleep peacefully, and stop the tears.

We walk from peaceful days into the darkness. Why?

I discovered a wonderful symbolism of God’s ways when I tinkered with tools in Photo Shop.

My newest pastime is altering photographs. I’ve recently learned how to change the background of pictures.

I captured a nice picture of a macaw. The context of the cage pulled my attention away from the bird’s pretty colors. I wondered if I could improve the picture.

When I switched to a black background, the glorious colors exploded like fireworks in the night. I gasped in awe at the result. Once distractions were removed, the exquisite rainbow of colors became strikingly vibrant.

Has MI plunged you into darkness? The Designer of the universe knows how to focus your attention on Him. The darker the trial, the brighter His presence. Suddenly all that’s seen is His vibrant love.

The complicated context of our lives masks God’s presence. When our lives are uneventful, we rarely notice Him. So, God switches the background.

Walking in darkness conjures up images of someone stumbling. It stirs up ugly emotions: fright, uncertainty, loneliness…But, God ways aren’t like our ways. He knows when we walk in darkness, we look harder for Him.

In our darkest of times, God’s presence captivates our attention. His love comes alive. His comfort reaches out to us. His peace calms our heart.

Words in the Bible, once a multitude of verses, become God’s personal message to us. The Bible, previously our Daily Bread, becomes a true feast for the heart. Our lifeline. We witness His faithfulness and learn to depend on His promises.

My camera has a switch for automatic. But, I prefer using the manual switch. I like to be in control.

Have you got your life on manual? How’s it working for you? Try switching to automatic. Let God capture your heart. He’s perfecting His masterpiece. Your family portrait is framed in His perfect plans. Wait for them to be fully developed. What He’s begun, He’ll complete.

For now, we see only in part. Like this small glimpse of a snapshot.
stainedglasscrop
God sees the big picture.
stainedglass
Ask God to give you His heavenly perspective.

Reflect on God’s Hand in your life as you listen to Chris Tomlin sing ‘Take My Life’

I regret it.

Jesus hugging a teen
Did you ever say something that was taken the wrong way? Last Saturday, I unintentionally hurt someone I care about.

I managed to make a gifted artist feel discouraged by asking one simple question. Ryan Jackson is the illustrator for a new picture book I wrote. He studied under Chris Van Allsburg, the author and illustrator of award-winning children’s books such as The Polar Express, and Jumanji. So, it’s not surprising that Ryan’s illustrations are breathtakingly beautiful. When my husband first saw Ryan’s work, he literally was knocked off his feet. Howie had to lie down.

Ryan has almost completed all the pictures for our book. Howie and I met Ryan and our graphics designer for some last minute planning. At that meeting, I casually asked, “How hard would it be to change Beth’s hair color?” Since Beth is the central character, she’s in every scene.

That one impulsive inquiry caused Ryan to feel as though I wasn’t happy with his work. Which couldn’t be farther from the truth! The poor young father of three darling little girls has been working through the nights to meet our April deadline. Along I come with a comment which sounds like criticism.

In tears, I apologized.

Saturday must have been the day for accidental misunderstandings. Howie casually reminded our son that it was daylight saving time…time to move clocks ahead an hour. Chris mistook Howie’s reminder as a lack of respect. He was insulted and angry.

Ever since Chris became a teenager, he hated hearing advice from us. Now that he’s 32 yrs. old, he resents it even more. More than anything, Chris would love to own a home rather than live with us. While he saves money toward that goal, he endures living under our roof.

Is it possible to stop parenting? Maybe when a child turns 18, goes to college, enters the military, or gets married, it’s possible. Painful, but possible. Young parents know a day will come when their children will no longer need them. The days of nurturing and providing will end.

A friend once said, “Parenting is demanding. When children are toddlers, it’s physically demanding. During their elementary school years, it’s mentally demanding (helping with homework). Along come those turbulent teenage years and it’s emotionally demanding. Finally, when they become adults, it’s spiritually demanding (as you pray for their bigger needs).”

But, how can a mom stop parenting a child with serious mental illness (MI)? Affection, once happily received, is suddenly rejected. A teenager with MI recoils at a loving touch. Encouraging words once restored joy to a sad child. But, sadness has become depression and loving encouragement doesn’t soothe emotional pain.

We need to find different ways of showing our love. It’s not giving up parenting…it’s giving our parenting up to God. We seek Him in earnest. Our prayers become deeper and more heartfelt. We commit our child’s thoughts and emotions to God who is able to do exceedingly abundantly more than we ask.

The One who died so that we might be forgiven, is there to help us each day. Because He lives, we can face tomorrow.

Does it really help to be a Christian?

A story or God’s Word? Fiction or Truth?

A story or God’s Word?
Fiction or Truth?

Liza Long wrote the article “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother – It’s time to talk about mental illness.”
She answered the question, “What’s it like to have a child with serious mental illness (MI)?”

Left unanswered were numerous other questions. Questions many of us grapple with and secretly ask God.

The big one: Is there a God who cares?

Hagar found out. When she became pregnant with Abraham’s child, Sarah banished her. Alone in the wilderness, God spoke to her. “She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me. (Genesis 16:13)’”

He sees us as we stagger through the wilderness of MI. Wandering alone. Is there a God who cares? Yes, El Roi is the God who sees.

What’s the ultimate torture for a mother? To watch her child suffer and die. Hagar couldn’t do it. When her son’s water ran dry in the desert, she left him. Can you identify with her pain? Are there days when you doubt whether or not you can bear to watch your child suffer any longer?

The God who sees also hears. He heard the cry of Hagar’s son. “God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, ‘What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.’
Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink (Genesis 21:17-19).”

Is there a God who hears? Yes. He’s the same God who opened Hagar’s eyes to see His provision and her ears to hear His future blessings. Ask Him to open your eyes to His provision and your ears to hear the blessings He plans for you.

Is there a God who can make a way when there seems to be no way to help our child with MI? Yes. El Shaday, God Almighty is the God of all possibilities. Nothing is impossible with Him.
Here’s an experience I had that helped me understand His limitless power.

Early in the morning, one of my second graders entered the classroom looking downcast. I could see he was fighting back tears. Samuel was normally a happy-go-lucky kind of kid…very even-tempered and mature. That’s why his demeanor alarmed me even more.

Before he unpacked his backpack, I took him out in the hall. I asked him what was wrong. From his backpack he pulled out a pink folder with a ballerina on the cover.
In disgust he said, “My yellow folder ripped, so my mother gave me this – my SISTER’S folder.”
He was embarrassed and ashamed of the folder and obviously angry with his mother.

Every student in the class had a yellow pocket folder they used to take papers to and from home. Samuel knew the pink folder would be noticed by all his classmates. He feared others would tease him.

My student didn’t know that I kept a supply of new yellow pocket folders in my cabinet for emergencies.
I instructed him to, “Wait here” and went to get a new yellow pocket folder. I printed his name on the front.

When I presented the new folder to Samuel, he was so relieved that he snatched it out of my hands and proceeded to rush into the classroom. But, I gently pulled him back into the hallway. This was an opportunity to share a biblical truth.
“Your problem seemed like a HUGE problem…one that couldn’t be solved. But, to me it was a very small problem. When you get older, you will have bigger problems. To God, all those problems will be easy for Him to solve. Never forget this pink folder. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).” Always remember how much God loves you and never forget His mighty power.”

Is there a God who can make a way when there seems to be no way? Yes. El Shaday, God Almighty is the God of all possibilities. Nothing is impossible with Him.

Is there a God who can restore joy? The psalmist believed so. He reminded himself to tap into that fountain of joy.
“Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God (Psalm 43:4-5).”

During my darkest days, I turn on Christian worship songs. Like the psalmist, I find that praise leads me right to God, my joy.
Can God restore joy? Yes. His joy is yours for the taking! Drink freely.

Is there a God who can restore peace in the home and in the hearts of our children? Yes. Our Shepherd restores our soul. He will lead us out of turbulence to rest beside still waters. His rod and staff comfort us.
Can God restore peace? Yes. The Lord, our Shepherd will be with us all the days of our lives. He will never leave us.

Is there a God who can intercede in a marriage to rebuild that relationship? If Christ can be our Mediator between us and God (1 Timothy 2:5), He can surely be the mediator in our marriage.
Is there a God who can restore marriages? Yes. The One who sent His Son to restore His relationship with mankind wants to renew your relationship with your spouse. The One who forgave all sin can help you unconditionally forgive and trust again.

When MI suddenly shattered our son’s live, Chris questioned God’s love for him. Don’t we all do that?
Chris demanded, “Don’t tell me Bible verses! I want to know that He still loves me. Where’s the proof?”
God’s answered by painting an exquisite moon that said, “Here’s a symbol of my love for you.”
A small child draws a picture to show their love. God paints the sky.
Can God be found? Yes. Elohim, the Creator can do amazing things to remind us of His love.

When Chris was out of touch from reality, he harmed our dog. The dog he loved. Zelda’s bloodshot eyes reminded him of his uncharacteristic violence. Tormented by those actions, Chris despaired of the loss of his pet’s love for him. “She won’t love me ever again.”
By faith, I responded, “Yes she will. Just call her.”
He called her name and she willingly responded.
Can God be found? Yes. Elohim, the Creator can do amazing things to remind us of His love.

Can God use the ugliness of MI for any good purpose? He uses trials to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit in us. In this spiritual boot camp we find ourselves in, He teaches us how to show unconditional love to our child with MI. He helps us respond in gentleness when we receive unprovoked anger. He fills us with His perfect peace amid great sorrow. He is Melek, King. King of all kings. His power is limitless.

When things seem out of control and we can’t hold it together, God is still seated on the throne, holding the universe together.

When we feel the sting of searing stigma, the image of Christ reaching out to the outcasts and touching the lepers comforts us.

When we feel helpless, we remember God provides hope in abundance, as we recall the promise, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).”

Can God help a mom of a child with MI? Yes. He is:
• Our refuge when we need protection
• Our rock when things are uncertain and unstable
• Our loving Father who will provide all we need in His perfect time
• Present when we feel alone
• The One who sent the Holy Spirit to comfort us when we need His perfect peace

So, you tell me…Does it help to be a Christian?

I say yes!

Listen to Don Moen’s popular song “God Will Make a Way”