Saturday, March 29, 2014

Encircled by His love

--written by Rob Peterson--

When our family went for the ultrasound to see our youngest child for the first time, we expected nothing unusual. My wife’s four previous pregnancies had all been normal and we had no reason to think this one would be any different. 
It was very different. 
When we asked if everything was okay, the doctor just smiled and said we would talk when she was done. We waited in a cubicle while she reviewed the images.

After what seemed an eternity, we were informed of several malformations involving our baby’s bladder and rectum, the kidneys, and the heart. The bladder and rectum issue was usually fatal.
My wife was in tears. I was numb. We questioned God, “Why?” His response, “Just trust Me.” So we prayed and tried to trust.

Future ultrasounds revealed the worst diagnosis was false. There were problems with the bladder and one kidney. The heart seemed fine. By the time Josiah was born, we knew he had one good kidney and that there were cysts in his bladder, but everything worked and we went home thinking we could settle down to enjoy our baby.

By three months we realized Josiah was not growing as he should and took him to our pediatrician. After listening to his heart she said, “He has a significant heart murmur.” She made an appointment with a cardiologist who discovered that he had a hole in his heart. It was not large enough to warrant immediate surgery, but required careful monitoring. 

Again, our question for God was, “Why?” His response, “Just trust Me.” So we prayed and tried to trust.

Josiah’s growth needed to meet certain minimums to avoid surgery and we returned home determined to help him grow. He didn’t nurse well so my wife pumped breast milk to provide him the best nutrition and, for the next few weeks, he just met those growth requirements.

About this time our daughter was asked to be in a wedding in Montana. We had planned to make a vacation of it, camping the whole way. A doctor friend suggested we take oxygen and an oximeter as a precaution, since we would be at high altitudes. We requested these items from the cardiologist, but she felt these measures weren’t needed since high altitudes ordinarily relieve the symptoms of a hole in the heart.

Heading up the mountains west of Denver, Josiah began to turn blue around the lips and show signs of distress. At the emergency room, his oxygen levels tested low. After a phone consultation with our doctor friend, we decided it would be safe to proceed on our trip – with oxygen. We made it over the mountains. It was Friday evening.

By Sunday morning Josiah was not well. Our other children had the flu, and it appeared he had it as well. He looked bad enough that we cut our visit to Arches National Park short and headed for the children’s hospital in Salt Lake City.

There, on Monday morning, we discovered Josiah was a very sick baby. He had a viral infection which, coupled with the hole in his heart, had sent him into congestive heart failure. We spent a week at the hospital as he recovered from his infection and as the fluid was cleared from his lungs.
Yet again we asked God, “Why?” His response remained the same, “Just trust Me.” So we prayed and tried to trust.

The rest of our trip was a blur of oxygen tanks, tubes, and beeps. The wedding, visiting friends, and three days of camping on our way home; all were overshadowed by our intense focus on Josiah’s oxygen levels. We arrived home exhausted, thankful, and with a different attitude toward surgery. We were ready!

At ten months, Josiah had open heart surgery to repair the hole in his heart.
It’s impossible to describe our feelings as the nurses took our son from our arms and walked down the hall. We wondered, “Why? Why us? Why our son? What purpose could there possibly be in all this?”But God whispered again, “Just trust Me.” So we prayed again – and trusted! 

It was an incredible experience. God’s presence had never seemed so real. It was almost as if we could see His arms of love encircling us. We didn’t worry; we just rested in His presence.

Surgery was very successful and Josiah’s heart is working fine now, however, along the way we discovered that his problems were caused by a genetic condition which has additional symptoms. Having seen multitudes of specialists, we now praise God that his symptoms are mild compared to what they could have been. His development is delayed and he requires several kinds of therapy, but he is the joy of our lives. We are no longer asking, “Why?”

This experience reminds me of something I once read; 
“The Father’s presence encircled Christ, and nothing befell Him but that which infinite love permitted for the blessing of the world. Here was His source of comfort, and it is for us. He who is imbued with the Spirit of Christ abides in Christ. The blow that is aimed at him falls upon the Saviour, who surrounds him with His presence. Whatever comes to him comes from Christ.... Nothing can touch him except by our Lord’s permission, and ‘all things’ that are permitted ‘work together for good to them that love God."

The truth of this quote has become very real and precious to us. We have learned that we don’t need, or even want, to know why. All we need to know is that we are encircled by His love.                                                                                                        

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Power of Words

Over 2,000 years ago, the wisest man in history penned this profound truth, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Proverbs 18:21. 

Have we ever stopped to think about what this means? What we say can effectively make or break someone and potentially affect them the rest of their life.

Once spoken, a word can never be taken back but will make its mark in the heart of the hearer. What are we communicating to those in our circle of influence? Are we tearing them down by sarcastic comments or negative feedback, or are we building up their positive traits by using encouraging words?

Consider the results of the following experiment. A group of students were given a test and told their scores would determine whether they were likely to succeed in their academic endeavors or whether they would be inferior. The test results were shared with the students, and school continued as usual. 

A year later, a follow up test was given with interesting results. The students who had been among those told they would likely succeed scored an average of 10-30% higher than the rest of the group. 

Even more interesting was the fact that none of the original test scores had been used to determine who belonged in the “smart” group and who fell into the average or below group. All of the student’s names had been placed in a hat and drawn out to be randomly placed in one group or the other. 

What are the odds that all of the students involved in the testing produced scores that placed them in the group predicted? 

The answer is simple.

The “superior” group was treated by teachers and students alike as though they were indeed superior. They rose to their perceived potential even though they may have initially been average students. Those higher than average students now found themselves in the average or below average category. Lack of affirmation and an absence of belief in their potential reflected in their scores.

What messages are we giving on a daily basis through our communication with those within our sphere of influence, especially to our spouses and children? Do they know that we believe in them and that we can see past their mistakes to their potential? Are we affirming them in the positive things we see in them? It's easy to let right behavior pass by without comment, but the moment a mistake is made what do our loved ones hear?

Does this sound familiar? 
“What’s wrong with you? Why can't you ever do anything right? 
You're so stupid! At this rate you're never going to amount to anything.”

Ouch! The door is now open for negative thoughts to be formulated in the mind of the receiver. 
“Maybe I will never get it right. I thought I was doing better. I thought I was improving but nobody seems to notice. I'm just stupid. If I'm never going to amount to anything, why try? I don't care anymore. Why should I? If everyone thinks I'm a failure, I guess that's what I must be. I'm not good for anything. I might as well give up.” 

The speaker of such harsh words never stops to think of the damage they have inflicted. The wound begins to heal; but before it does, it is cut again by more sharp words. An emotional scar eventually forms, limiting the receiver's ability to even hope for a bright
and promising future full of potential.

We may be tempted to think that people don't need encouragement until they are consistent in doing right. I challenge us all, however, to consider how Jesus treats us unworthy, sinful, rotten mortals who nailed Him to the cross and who have made many mistakes. He does not treat us according to what we deserve. Instead, He pursues us with His love until He has won us, offering forgiveness and a new start. He sees our potential; and in His eyes, we are of inestimable value. He encourages us with the promises of His Word and gives us power to live a changed life. He freely expresses the worth He sees in us and His belief that we can rise to our full potential in Him. How beautiful! How 

Love is the greatest stimulation for positive change. The following quote supports this important concept: 
“Let each give love rather than exact it. Cultivate that which is noblest in yourselves, and be quick to recognize the good qualities in each other. The consciousness of being appreciated is a wonderful stimulus and satisfaction. Sympathy and respect encourage the striving after excellence, and love itself increases as it stimulates to nobler aims.” Ministry of Healing, pg. 361

Countless marriages and families have been destroyed because of words that were spoken in the home. We will not become another statistic if we take hold of His strength and allow Him to control our thoughts and words that they may be a “savor of life unto life”! Truly, “death and life are in the power of the tongue."


-- If correction is necessary, follow with positive words of encouragement
-- Look for and express appreciation often for the good you see in others.
-- Inspire others by making known their potential and expressing your belief in them.
-- Pray for God's help to be a catalyst for positive change by speaking words of life! 

                                                                                                                   Written by: Allison Fowler