Monday, June 29, 2015

Elephants, Leopards, Killer Bees, and the Gay Marriage Debate

Horrified, I ran for my life. Fear gripped me as I listened to my daughter in the distance ahead of me screaming and crying in terror. How did this happen? This was like a scene in a bad movie, and yet it was inescapable.

Just moments before, we were laughing and chatting about our latest find. We were on safari in the Masaii Mara, admiring God’s handiwork. We had up close visits with elephants, watched hyenas scoping out the land, and even saw a few wildebeests in the distance. We were on the hunt for the elusive leopard. Our eyes peered into the trees searching for any signs of movement, when out of nowhere, we were attacked.

At first it was just a couple of bees flying in our open topped matatu. It seemed like in an instant, we were surrounded by swarming bees. They began stinging me as I tried desperately to kill them. In the seat in front of me, Jeff was swatting at them with his hat and stomping them with his feet. I could hear our friends and our daughter screaming for the driver, “Go!” And yet, we remained. By now the stings on my face were continuous; the pain was excruciating. The worst part was I didn’t see an end to the throngs of bees attacking us.

As the number of bees grew, Jeff began yelling for someone to open the door. He knew that if we remained in the van, the results could be fatal. Yet leaving the van was prohibited – there were wild animals outside and we were in leopard country. As he continued to holler for someone to open the door,  Jorjanne freed us and jumped out. Once we were out of the van, the situation began to make sense. Our van was stuck with one tire off of the ground. As the driver pushed the gas pedal, exhaust had flooded straight into the bee’s hive.

We began running…the bees followed. Charles, our driver, screamed, “Don’t run far; there are wild animals that will attack.” He handed me a Masaii blanket and told me to wave it in the air to scare away any animals. With one hand I swatted at the bees and with the other I frantically waved the blanket in the air. We were all screaming as we ran past the other van with our friends looking at us with horrified expressions. They could not help us. If they opened the doors, they too, would be attacked.

We continued to run when another van came to our rescue. At first they thought we were jumping up in down in celebration. They wondered if someone had gotten engaged. When they saw me waving the blanket, they realized something was terribly wrong. There van was enclosed (no open top) and they began yelling for us to get into their van. As we entered, so did a few bees. Killing the bees that entered, they began to assess the situation. One of my friends looked at me and said, “Oh my gosh! You have stingers all in your face.” I began to weep. One by one, my friend pulled at the stingers. A stranger in the new van offered us all antihistamines – a gift the nurse later said was timely and saved us from further complications.  At last we were safe.

I am struck by the devotion of the bees to protect the hive at all costs. We later learned that we had been attacked by African killer bees. They are called this not because their sting is more poisonous but because of the vast number of bees that join forces to attack. Once they sting, they will die. They literally sacrificed their own lives for the sake of the hive.

As I’ve reflected on what happened, I’ve looked for life lessons. What take away would God have me to learn from this experience? As Christians, we know who the real enemy is. Are willing to work together, and do whatever it takes to protect the Church from his attacks?

Since the SCOTUS decision on gay marriage, I have been brokenhearted at the response of Christians on social media. Supporters on both sides have attacked those with opposing views like much like the killer bees. One person makes a comment and a hundred more counter, kicking the bee hive.

The words thrown back and forth between the groups are causing division within the Church. Regardless of a person’s stance on gay marriage, the person is someone with dignity that deserves to be treated with respect. I’ve read posts where people in support of gay marriage call those who are not uneducated bigots, and I’ve read people against gay marriage tell supporters that they are going to hell for their beliefs. Arguing an issue is one thing, but casting stones at people is another. When we think we can belittle others because they see things differently than we do, we show disrespect.

My point is that we do our part to stop attacking other Christians who view this issue differently. Will we do our part to uphold the sanctity of the Church and come together and pray for our nation during this time of division? If we don’t, people will continue to be stung, and the results could be disastrous.

*Feel free to comment on this post, but please exercise restraint from attacking people on either side of the debate.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

You Can Make a Difference

“I am a loser. No one likes me. The world is better off without me.” Countless teenagers believe these negative thoughts. Students may be surrounded by their peers and yet feel completely alone – like no one would notice if they disappeared.

I don’t know about you, but it breaks my heart to think of children and teens who feel like no one cares. Feeling sad for these kids is not enough. It is time we take action.

What can you do to make a difference?
  • Consider mentoring a student
  • Volunteer to work with students at church, YMCA or other civic organizations
  • Be intentional to get to know your friends children. Show them you care.
  • If you have a teenager, get to know their friends.
  • Go to sporting events or plays to support youth you know and to show you care.
  • Commit to pray daily for students in local schools.
If it takes a village to raise a child, then surely it must take a Kingdom to raise teenagers who love the Lord. Leave a comment to share how you are making a difference in the life of a teen.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Balancing Act

We all listened with disbelief as the Great Nik Wallenda announced his plans to walk on top of a 400 foot tall ferris wheel without a harness or safety net. For him, its about balance and about faith.

I am learning that the same is true for me. Life is about balance and faith. Last week, I experienced a grown-up meltdown as I collapsed under the weight of life's constant demands. I realized that while I spend hours teaching other people's children and counseling others, I had little left to give to my own family and friends. Surely this is not what God meant when he encouraged us to pour out our lives as living sacrifices. In order to continually give to others, I must also continuously receive. Think of it like a sponge. I can only squeeze out the water that is in it; if it is not doused with new water, then eventually it will dry out.

Friends, we know in our heads that we need to make time for the Lord and for our family and friends -- why is it so difficult to do so? I think one of the greatest tools of the enemy today is busyness. I fall into this trap far too often.

So what do we do?  The answer is simple -- LESS.

Do less. This is so challenging for me; I want to do it all! The problem is that I can't do it all, and its my own stubborn pride that thinks I can. I am entering a time in my own life where I am seeking God's wisdom to help me to discern what He wants from me versus what everyone else wants from me.

This is a path I've trodded far too often, but I will trudge ahead and take time to rest along the journey.  With a little faith, perhaps my LESS will accomplish much MORE.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Walking in the Dark

I am so grateful for family. I don't live near my family so anytime I am able to spend with them is a blessing. A couple of months ago I visited my aunt and uncle, and in the middle of the night I woke up and went to the bathroom. When I went back into my room, I could hear their dog breathing and wagging his tail. It was pitch black so I couldn't see the little fellow; I began reaching for him to put him out, but could not seem to get my hands on him. Reaching for the light switch, I slid my hand down the wall. Where was that blasted switch? I reached and reached to no avail.

Pausing to think, I decided to go back into the hallway and turn on the hall light so that I could see to get the dog out of the room. As I turned to exit, I felt clothes on all sides. What? I was somehow in a closet. I went back into the bedroom and tried to leave again only to find myself once again in the closet. What in the world? Startled and disoriented, I stopped and pondered what to do. Aha! I would get my cell phone off the bed and use it as a flashlight. Why didn't I think of that sooner?

So, I practically leaped out of the closet and over to the bed. When I reached for my phone, I jumped in terror as I grabbed a leg! Where was I?  My uncle sat up in the bed as my aunt asked what I was doing. Mortified, I turned and ran back into the closet. I turned around and couldn't find another door. I rushed back into the closet as I frantically tried to leave the room. My aunt was calling out to me, "No Natalie, the other door." I couldn't see another door. Finally, my uncle turned on his phone so that I could see well enough to race out of the room. Embarrassed does not begin to explain my plight!

While I can laugh about this now, at the time I was both confused and lost. This is what happens when we walk in darkness. One wrong step and our path changes. We make one seemingly small compromise and it leads us down a path toward other compromises, taking us further astray. The alcoholic convinces himself that just one drink is harmless...thus begins the journey away from sobriety and toward a path he swore he'd never walk again. The teenager justifies that she can make out without crossing her boundaries only to find herself slowly progressing down a slippery slope to a path she swore she'd never take.

There are times when all it takes is a little light to set us back on track. Just as the cell phone lit up the room illuminating my exit, God's Word will guide us to a path of hope and restoration. May we take time daily to fill our lives with the Light so the darkness will flee from our lives.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Do You See What I See

Several years ago, I went to Sonic with friends and ordered an ice cream cone. Imagine my shock when the server brought me exactly what I asked for – an ice cream cone – but without ice cream. I tilted my head and questioned, “Um, can I have some ice cream with that?”  His face turned red and he looked down and mumbled, “Uh, yeah. Sorry,” and he turned and went back into the restaurant. The server did what was asked, but his actions were missing something vital – he missed the key ingredient!

Look at the picture above. Can you guess what object is in the picture?

Sometimes we are so close to a situation, that our perspective is limited. We tend to zoom in on one aspect of a given situation, without seeing the bigger picture.  In other words, we can’t see the forest for the trees. We all have blind spots in our lives where we need others to help us find perspective. One of the benefits of having a counselor is the ability to see things from a different perspective.

When Paul was on his missionary journeys, there were several times when he would travel for hundreds of miles only to be prevented by the Holy Spirit to enter a specific place. He would turn around and go a different direction. He could have gotten mad and cried, “God why would you bring me this far only to slam the door in my face now? How dare you!” I am amazed at Paul’s response. He simply kept going and waited for God to speak. There are times when God does things that make no sense to us.

When I was in college, I felt like God was leading me to spend my summer doing missions in England. I had been accepted by the sending agency and God had provided all the funding I needed for the trip. As the departure date approached, my excitement grew. Less than a month before my travel date, I received word that the missionaries on the field were having some personal trials and as a result the trip had been canceled. Not only was I disappointed, but I wanted to know “Why?” Why would God allow me to go through the strenuous application process and support raising only to be denied the opportunity at the last minute?

What I didn’t know was that God had another plan…he could see the big picture. I ended up spending the summer as a youth minister in my home church. God used that summer to call me into full time ministry and gave me a passion for discipling youth. If I had not spent that summer serving in the local church, I may not be teaching teenagers today.

God sees the big picture. He not only knows where we are, but He also knows where He is taking us. When our perspective is limited, we can trust in His ability to see the big picture.