Lemonade Anyone?

At the risk of revealing my age, I’d like to take you on a quick tour of my bedroom when I was a teenager.  Picture bright yellow walls, royal blue curtains, and an orange bedspread.  Atop the bed sits a smiley face pillow and an autograph dog.  Covering the yellow walls are really wild posters with puppies that say “I Wav You,” and a cat hanging by her claws reminding me to “Hang in There.”  Before I lose you to wails of laughter, look just to the left of the Peter Maxx peace sign and you’ll see the poster of a bowl of lemons sitting next to a frosty pitcher admonishing “When Life gives you Lemons … Make Lemonade!” But, this is 2016, so I’d like to update my circa-1970’s poster to read, “When Life gives you Lemons … Make Lemon Water!” I will share more about that shortly.

Before we get lost in analogies, read Ephesians 5:15-17 (NIV).  This passage points out two foundational truths. First, Paul tells us we live in evil days. Satan wants to deliver lemons every chance he gets. No matter what, struggles and trials will come our way.

Secondly, Paul tells Lemonsus to be careful how we live to make the most of every opportunity. So what do we do with the lemons? Do we hide them in a closet where we hope no one will find them?  Or, do we stash them in so many places throughout the house, we can’t even find them all?  Have we been giving them away to others who have hurt or offended us?  I have a better idea.  Let’s make lemon water!  Lemonade may be sweet and tasty, but lemon water has many more health benefits.  I recently read that lemon water can cleanse our body of toxins and maintain a healthy pH balance creating an environment hostile to a number of diseases.  It strengthens our immune system, helps prevent joint pain, and nourishes brain cells.

Perhaps God is inviting you to mix up some lemon water to promote your spiritual health and well-being.  Perhaps God wants to use your bitter experiences to cleanse you from self-centered and self-sufficient tendencies.  Maybe God is using life’s difficulties to help you maintain a balanced life preventing the disease of arrogance and pride from taking root.  I wonder if God wants to use your painful circumstances to strengthen you by keeping your mind clearly focused on Him.

I don’t know about you, but I want to heed Paul’s advice and be ready for the lemons.  I want to be wise in how I live. I want to make the most of every opportunity God brings, the times of trial as well as seasons of rest.  But most of all, I want to allow God to use every single circumstance and experience He brings into my life to grow and become spiritually healthy, prepared to walk in wisdom.

These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.  John 16:33

 About the Writer:
Teri is a wife and mother of five children. She is passionate about teaching, writing and ministering to fellow sojourners. She and husband, Ken, spend their days working in ministry and their evenings and weekends raising their final child at home, a fifteen-year-old son.  

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The Intervention of God

Do you ever have times when you know God is at work but you really don’t understand what He is doing or just how He will work things out?  So many times in my life I have had to just trust that God would intervene in a given situation without knowing just exactly what He would do.  One of those times was when my youngest son decided to enlist in the Army.

My son really wanted to go to Iraq and serve his country.  I was not concerned about the situation because I knew that at seventeen years of age, God had called him to the ministry.  I knew if he was to eventually be in full time ministry that God would protect him.  I had no idea how God would work things out, but I knew He would.

In the first week of basic training my son started having some health issues that required surgery.  After he recovered from surgery, he went back to basic training without the benefit of any physical rehabilitation.  Several days into the second basic training session he injured his left shoulder; however, they allowed him to continue with his training class until the end of the training.  When he could not complete his physical fitness test because of the shoulder injury, he was placed in a rehab unit and his class went on with their specialization training and eventually on to Iraq.  After seven months of unsuccessful rehabilitation and a total of fifteen months at Fort
Benning, the Army discharged my son with a twenty percent medical disability and sent him home. His disability qualified him for vocational rehabilitation which paid for his college education.Iraq car bomb

The young men who trained with my son, who were in the same area of specialization, lost their lives soon after they reached Iraq when their vehicle ran over an IED.  I was grateful that God had other plans for my son.

For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.  Jeremiah 29:11

God intervened in a way that I never could have imagined because He has other plans for my son’s future.  When you find yourself in a situation where you just can’t imagine how God is going to work things out, just trust and watch Him work.

About the Writer:
Anna leads the W.E. C.A.R.E. team for the Women’s Ministry of First Baptist Dallas, a widow, a mom, a grandmother and grateful to the Lord for giving her opportunities to share with other women in several ministries through First Baptist Dallas.

Only God Can Move the Clouds

On the evening of the total lunar eclipse of the super moon a while back, we let our sons stay up late to see it.  In my head, I pictured an enjoyable, quiet evening with my loved ones snuggled close, admiring God’s handy work together.  Anyone with kids knows that was completely unrealistic.

cloudsIn reality, the evening was frustrating and loud.  My husband and I spent the majority of the evening playing referee between the boys, watching frogs jump, readjusting the telescope (because the boys kept bumping it), and repeatedly saying “Look at the moon boys.” The clouds were not cooperating either. There was a thin veil of clouds covering the moon. We could see the moon, but not clearly.  I was feeling defeated.

My 4 year old son was whining, because I could not move the clouds.  With a hint of sarcasm, I remarked, “Only God can move the clouds.” My 5 year old son’s face lit up and he said, “We can ask God to move the clouds!  Let’s all hold hands and I’ll pray.”  My son voiced the sweetest, most honest prayer to God.  He thanked God for the day, our family, the moon eclipse, and asked Him to please move the clouds.  My husband and I exchanged a look and a smile.  It was obvious to me that our son offered his prayer out of faith.  He believed with all of his heart that God would answer his prayer. However, my thoughts were pessimistic.  I was already pondering how I would explain unanswered prayers to my sons.  Then the boys started arguing again; and just like that, the sweet moment was gone:  more arguing, more frogs, more distractions, and more frustrations.

Then, one last “Look at the moon boys!”  And the clouds had moved! Both boys gasped and were speechless for a fleeting moment. They were looking at the moon, but I was looking at them.  Their faces were full of amazement.  “Mom! God heard us and He moved the clouds!” they exclaimed.

And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.  Matthew 21:22

My son was bold in his beliefs. He believed and he prayed and he received.  My heart dropped and this scripture came into my mind:  “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31b)  Why did I doubt?  Did God really just intervene in our lives and answer my son’s prayer?  Absolutely!

My boys learned the power of prayer that night.  It was a beautiful testimony of God’s faithfulness and His ability to intervene in our lives.  I also learned a wonderful lesson that night.  God does not promise us a future without clouds.  There will be clouds, distractions, and frustrations.  Storms will come.  It will be hard to see clearly, but I will not doubt His ability to help us in a time of need.  It is okay to ask for help.

But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.  James 1:6

About the Writer:
Meghan is a former art teacher who feels blessed to now be a stay-a-home mom to her two boys. She loves volunteering at her sons’ school and with the First Baptist Dallas Women’s Ministry and First Impressions Team. She is passionate about art, cooking, working out, and playing volleyball.

 

Intervention

The show Intervention has always been a guilty pleasure of mine.  If you aren’t familiar with the show, allow me to hook you with the premise.  The 60-minute reality TV show films the story of a person battling addiction and the families’ valiant effort to bring their loved one to sobriety through the help of a trained interventionist.  I have interventioninvested interest in the show as a professional counselor who often works with individuals in similar crisis.  However, my interest goes beyond a professional context. There is nothing I find more inspiring or exciting than hearing the testimony of a changed life.

I think God often works as our interventionist.  John describes
the Holy Spirit’s role in a believer’s life.

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to remembrance all that I have said to you. John 14:25

God points out through His Holy Spirit the areas of our lives that are not pleasing to Him.  God even tells us in His Word the necessary “interventions” that need to take place in order experience a fulfilling life.  God also brings people into our lives to help us in the process repenting of sin, kicking that addiction, or forgiving that person who wronged us.  The problem is most people are waiting on God to do all the work.

Where does our responsibility come in?  Is God responsible for making every change in my life?  If God is all-powerful then can’t he just take away this temptation, situation, addiction, difficult person, etc.?  A question I hear probably more than anything else in my counseling office is, “Why did God let (fill in the blank) happen?”  While the answer to that question is multifaceted and in many respects a mystery, there are instances where we tend to ignore our role in our present difficult situation.  Ignoring our role prevents us from gaining full insight into what contributed to our plight in the first place.  While it sounds very spiritual to “let go and let God”, often God is responding, “Wait! I’m not doing all of this! You’re coming too!”

While the Bible is full of recounts of God’s power, it is also full of stories of people having to listen and respond to God’s “interventions” in order to experience freedom. David gives a perfect example of this in the Psalms.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.  Psalm 139:23-24

One of the most honest and difficult prayers we can pray is to ask God what our role is in our present situation and what He would like us to change.                                     Questions to ask God:

  • Is there any area of my life that is displeasing to you?
  • Did I ignore or disobey principles in Your Word that contributed to my present situation?
  • What is one thing You would like me to start doing and stop doing?

About the Writer:
Julia is a counselor at Meier Clinics where she specializes in treating teenagers and women struggling with eating disorders, depression, anxiety & self-harm.  She is the Girl’s Ministry Associate for the Student Ministry at First Baptist Dallas and a professional youth speaker for Just Say Yes.  Julia has served in student ministry alongside her husband for the past 7 years. Julia has a heart to see people experience the same freedom through Christ that she has experienced!