Have you ever had the opportunity to go to the circus, see a comedy act, or watch a Chinese acrobatic group do amazing feats of contortionism while spinning plates? The performance centers around putting a plate on a thin pole or stick and then spinning it, creating a gyroscopic effect. The more plates you can spin the more amazing the stunt. We “ooh” and “aah” at the ability of the “spinner” to keep more and more plates whirring and turning, then quickly jumping to the ones that begin to teeter and spin them again before they fall. David Spathaky, the current world record holder, spun 108 plates simultaneously in Bangkok, Thailand in 1996. He had a spotter helping him!
Though I have never spun a plate on a stick, I’m absolutely certain I have spun 108 demands at some point in my life, and, as a woman, you have, too. And while the audience in a show may find it mesmerizing and awesome to watch the spinner spin, those in the audience of our daily lives rarely find the process pleasant…not to mention our disposition while trying to keep all the demands and commitments turning. We may have different plates, but girlfriend, we have them: friends, kids, grand kids, work, volunteering, bills, carpooling, play dates, golf dates, haircuts, teeth cleanings, car repairs, keeping the house, going back to school, caring for parents, and the list goes on and on.
Summer is here!!! Ok, maybe not officially until June 21st…BUT here in Southwest Florida it’s felt like summer for a while now! As a school teacher I always rejoiced over summer. The break from the normal routine of school allowed for a time of rest and recharging. My days were random and relaxed. By the end of summer vacation I was eager to meet a new group of students and get back in my rhythm. Fast forward to life with children…while I still wait anxiously for the change of pace that summer brings, it means something different. VERY different. When you are a mom of young children, summer involves carefully planning activities to keep the kiddos entertained and engaged. Sounds easy enough you might say. After all, there’s plenty to choose from. Check out the local family magazine or Google the different camp options and you can easily fill up your summer! Well, at the risk of sounding ungrateful I still struggle. Does summer really mean that we have to spend exuberant amounts of money running and racing to keep our kids occupied? I’ve come to realize that for me, the answer is no. Personally, I have found there to be a difficult balance between over scheduling and enjoying summer! I feel like I battle the over scheduling and the myriad of activities all year long! Isn’t this the whole point of summer anyway?
Sunday afternoon I decided to brave the dense afternoon heat and take a walk down the street. I needed to clear my mind and this often does the trick! No sooner had I stepped into the garage when I heard a thrashing and flapping sound. I live on several acres and encountering wildlife is one of the hazards you sometimes face. Upon inspection, I realized that a blue jay had managed to trap himself between the vertical blind and the window of the garage. My immediate thoughts were: 1. Go back inside and let things fall out where they will. My husband was due home in an hour…if the jay was still flapping, Chad could handle it, or: 2. Rescue the crazy creature. I’m not usually freaked out by wildlife, but this bird was frenzied, and I had visions of him flying into me in his desperate desire to escape. I grabbed a lacrosse stick, thinking it would be good for lifting the blind and whacking the bird if it decided to fly in my direction. (Please don’t judge me…until you are face to face with rogue wildlife you don’t know what you’re capable of!)
Ok, enough plot development…I used the stick and carefully lifted the blind that was restricting the bird, and guess what? He didn’t fly away…instead he continued to look straight ahead out the window frantically flapping his feathers out – literally! The jay was convinced his way was the best way to go! I actually (and lovingly) had to scoop the bird with the lacrosse stick for him to see that he was able to fly away, not in the direction he was facing, but by the leading that came from behind (that would be me and the lacrosse stick)…and it got me thinking about times I have been in a situation or a season that has me trapped. Like the Jay, my fleshly reaction is to start flapping (in my thought life)…sometimes it’s flapping to figure out how to control the situation or the people in the situation, other times I have flapping thoughts on how to manipulate the outcome. The truth is all that flapping just leaves me in a frenzied and frantic state with nothing to show for it but some featherless bald spots. Like the jay, I need Someone who is able to come and lift the burden and bring peace to the anxious flapping in my mind and heart. Philippians 4:6-7: “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving; let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (HCSB) Praise God! We experience freedom when we come to the Father in prayer, with praise and petition. He is the One who is able to bring peace! His peace guards our thoughts and emotions like a soldier guards his post! So join me, ladies, in experiencing the freedom that comes when we stop flapping and start trusting!
Last night I had the opportunity to have some of the Women’s Ministry lay leadership over. This was the second annual gathering, and though not everyone could come, it was a great time to fellowship and share about what God has done and is doing in the ministries under our umbrella. During our prayer time one of our gals prayed for those women who are struggling to step out of the shame they are living under and walk in the forgiveness and freedom that Jesus offers to His own. She prayed, “Lord, help them to be courageous.” The expression struck my heart and I opened my eyes and jotted the words down on the note card in front of me. Be courageous…those words carried me back to Kaduna, Nigeria. I was on my third trip to this country…this time to help Janet, our Pastor’s wife, lay the groundwork for a widow’s ministry. Women who are widowed in Nigeria find themselves without rights to their husband’s assets and in some cases even to their children. This culture gives the brother of the deceased the right to take any and all possessions and property held in the deceased husband’s name. Many women are left penniless and homeless. I’m sitting in a chapel on the campus of the Kaduna Baptist Seminary, where widows are sharing their prayer requests with our leadership team about the current issues they are facing. The needs are staggering financially, emotionally, and physically (hepatitis and aids are a reality of their existence). One young woman shared that she was a widow with two young children and that she had hepatitis and was praying she would live to care for her children. Her economic needs were also overwhelming. Rosaline, the Director of Women’s Studies at the Seminary, who is a presence and strong leader, looked this sweet woman in the eyes and said, “Be courageous…God is with you…you must be courageous.” I was struck to my core with these powerful words of truth. She didn’t say we can provide medical care and financial support – the needs far outweigh the resources – she said, “Be courageous, God is with you!”
1. How can a loving God allow so much pain?
This question implies that if God were loving…or good and kind….He would not allow pain and suffering. Most people ask the question to further the point that they do not believe in the existence of God since pain exists. However, it is because our good and loving God exists and because He made us that we are even aware of a moral compass that would point to right and wrong, goodness and evil, love and hate.
This question also does not recognize the reason pain and suffering exists in the first place. Because God designed human beings as free moral creatures, there remains the possibility that man could choose rightly and wrongly. Most of the pain we each experience is a result of our own personal choices and the wrong personal choices of others….and that ability to choose God will not violate.