Why the 7-11 Clerk Does Not Buy Powerball Tickets.

Lottery Balls

As I drove the two ballerinas to class, the older dancer wondered aloud if a slurpee would ease the pain in her aching mouth from her newly adjusted braces, and I caved. After a long day of homeschool classes, she still had 3 hours of dance ahead of her. She negotiated a large, while her little sister jumped on the gravy train acquiring a small slurpee for her yet brace-less mouth. Standing at the cash wrap, I couldn’t help but notice the ad for  powerball. How many billion dollars? What if? What’s a couple bucks? Can you even imagine?

“Ever buy a ticket?” I asked the man behind the register. He paused for a moment while I wondered if he would honestly answer my inquiry. After a few moments, he smiled and shook his head.

“No, I don’t buy them.” he finally told me truthfully.

“It’s kind of like throwing your money in the garbage, isn’t it?” I suggested.

“You know what?” he continued. “I am leaving for India next week, and when I go there, I can use the two dollars I would have wasted here and go do something with my children.”

I knew he was right. Instantly I was reminded of our short stint in Greenville, SC, 9 years ago. The apartment complex we lived in was not very diverse, and we were the minority. Middle eastern Indian families were the norm. My now teen ballerina was only 4 years old then and quickly made friends with little Nithya Priya at the park. Her mother and I became friends also, and they invited us over for a lunch of coconut rice one day. We sat on the floor with boxes scattered throughout acting as furniture  as if they had recently moved in, but I knew they hadn’t. Instead of spending money on furniture, they were saving money. More specifically, they were saving thousands for a trip to India, and every dollar they saved by not buying more furniture brought them closer to that goal. They were expected to bring gifts and support for those they left behind.

We talked about God and life. I shared my faith, she explained hers. I don’t have any way to know what she took from our time together, but her family’s focus on what really mattered stayed with me all these years later.

Tonight on “In the Market with Janet Parshall” Janet spoke with Todd Nettleton from “Voice of the Martyrs.” He shared his latest conversation with a newly converted Christian named Mohammad. Forced from his house because of his new faith, Mohammad met with Todd in a tent that he now called home.

“How can I pray for you?” Todd asked Mohammad, but Todd could not have anticipated his response.

“I don’t need anything.” he answered.

“We have all we need.” He continued shockingly as they sat in his tent where their very safety was in jeopardy.

That’ll preach.

Of course I know that God loves to give his children gifts, and clearly I am not saying we shouldn’t pray for needs and and even wants. But coming off the last few months of massive consumerism and straight into this powerball extravaganza my soul needed these stories. Typically when someone asks me how they can pray for me I have a list.  All too often I need bigger, more, and easier. But not today. Today I was reminded in three different ways from all over the world, that I have all that I need.

 

 

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When the Bitter Things Become Sweet

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A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. – Juliet

Trying to convince her family that Romeo’s lineage didn’t matter, young Juliet proclaimed this familiar quote. But is it really true?

When I was pregnant with our third girl, I wondered about this concept as Paul and I contemplated names. I couldn’t help but ponder over the relationship between names and legacies in the Bible. Jacob means deceiver, and that was his destiny until God broke his heart and changed his name to Israel. Abram became Abraham, Simon was called Peter, and on and on. The reason for my consideration was that our two young daughters, ages 2 and 4, were both very …ahem…dramatic, you could say, which left me dreaming of a peaceful 3rd child. I wondered if I could give our new baby a name to encourage that attribute.  After searching countless name websites, I still couldn’t find one that resonated. Then, somehow, I started thinking of the name Mary. Hmm. Sounds peaceful. The hubby agreed.  However, being students of the Bible we knew that Mara- the root word- meant bitter. Maybe you know the story. In the book of Ruth, Naomi’s husband and two sons had died causing her to raise her voice crying,  “Call me Mara- for I am bitter!”

No, I thought. This can’t be true.

I mean, what about Mary at Bethany, the woman that sat at the feet of Jesus?

Obviously peaceful.

And then there was Mary the sister of Martha, the one who just soaked in Jesus’ presence.

Sounds peaceful.

And last but obviously not least, there was Mary, the mother of Jesus. We have all seen the pictures. She looks positively serene!

So we named our forthcoming baby Mary and hoped for the best.  As her due date passed by with no baby in sight, we continued to wait in anticipation, until finally, she was born seven days “late” yet right on time, as if just to confirm her name. Yes, our Mary was BORN ON CHRISTMAS!

However, 10 years later, with a daughter named Mary that I wouldn’t necessarily describe as “serene” I had another thought. Maybe God didn’t pick a quiet, reserved, “peaceful” woman to raise his Son. Maybe God in all His sovereignty knew that this chosen woman would need a little spunk to walk the path carved out for her. Maybe she would need more spice than usual to endure a weight too great for a typically timid lady. She would be maligned, misunderstood, and mistreated as she watched the Christ-child grow into a man, wondering if the words she heard as a young woman would ever come true. Where was His throne, and why was there a cross?

One day I spoke with a woman named Mary I had known for decades. This Mary was notorious for her smile and joyful disposition.  As I shared with her the story of my own Mary’s name, she could relate. She shared with me that knowing her name was related to bitterness used to really bother her until she learned another fact that brought everything into focus. The same root word is also used for the herb myrrh. Myrrh is bitter, this is true, however it is only bitter until it is broken . After it is broken it brings forth a sweet fragrance. This special herb also has a unique response to heat. Instead of liquefying and melting, it blooms and expands. Another translation for the word “bitter” is strength. Yes, Mary, the mother of our Savior, would require much strength. She would experience deep brokenness,  and come forth sweet. The heat would be turned up beyond belief, yet instead of melting and disintegrating she would be called to bloom and expand.

While Mary’s position was unique, this same strength is available to us all.

Maybe you have heard Jesus referred to as the balm of Gilead. This balm was an aromatic, medicinal substance made from the same plant from which myrrh is derived. The Bible uses the term “balm of Gilead” metaphorically as an example of something with healing or soothing powers.

Jeremiah 8 records God’s warning to Judah of what Babylon would do to them. Upon hearing the news, Jeremiah laments, “Is there no balm in Gilead?” (verse 22). His question is a poetic search for hope—a plea for healing.

Jesus is our healing.  If your life feels broken, He will make it sweet. When the heat is turned up, He will keep you from melting away. Yes, the joy of the Lord is our strength.

How lost was my condition
Till Jesus made me whole;
There is but one Physician
Can cure a sin-sick soul

There is a balm in Gilead,
To make the wounded whole;
There’s power enough in heaven
To cure a sin-sick soul.

Next door to death he found me
And snatch’d me from the grave,
To tell to all around me
His wondrous power to save.

The worst of all diseases,
Is light compared with sin-
On every part it seizes,
But rages most within.

At length this great Physician-
How matchless is His grace-
Accepted my petition,
And undertook my case.

First gave me sight to view him,
For sin my eyes had sealed-
Then bid me look unto him;
I looked and I was healed!!!!

A dying, risen Jesus,
Seen by the eye of faith,
At once from danger frees us,
And saves the soul from death.

Come then to this Physician,
His help he’ll freely give;
He makes no hard condition,
’Tis only look and live.

There is a balm in Gilead,
To make the wounded whole;
There’s power enough in heaven
To cure a sin-sick soul.- John Newton 1899

Dear Younger Me,

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Dear Younger Me,

From our earliest moment together, you knew exactly what I was thinking. I told my friend, an experienced mother of three, I had a feeling you were going to be born early. “That’s what all new mom’s say,” she informed me. But sure enough, you agreed, and you arrived two weeks earlier than your due date.

You were my first. My experiment. I did everything wrong. As a baby, you hated going to sleep! (and still do) Just like me. A popular book told me I was supposed to teach you discipline when you were only two weeks old, so I made you cry in your room alone. But you knew better. Your persistence taught me to toss the book of formulas and trust my mommy instincts to spoil you with love and cuddles. All the good parenting websites warned me that if I kept nursing you to sleep, you would never learn to sleep on your own. But I am happy to say that we sure proved them wrong, didn’t we?

Your independence and confidence was never in short supply. From the time you snuck out of the sushi restaurant at 2 years old to the way you currently handle every new situation with ease and determination, you never fear.

Something about your confidence, however, made me nervous. There seemed to be too many conversations telling me of your latest accomplishments. Feeling like it was my job to keep you level headed, I tried to combat your confidence with my realism. Instead of affirming your aspirations, I tried to stifle your swagger. Until one day, as I shared my concerns with daddy, we came to the same conclusion. Maybe your declarations of grandeur weren’t done in spite of my critiques, but because of them. Maybe your expressions of excellence weren’t meant to commend you, but to convince me. Maybe if I gave you the approval you needed, you could stop trying so hard to elicit endorsement.

For reasons I don’t fully understand, I was afraid to praise you too freely. What if you got too confident? What if you tried something and failed? Isn’t it my job to tell you the hard truth that everyone else is afraid to tell you?

Thankfully and providentially God put a book in my path last year to show me another way.

In Sam Crabtree’s book “Practicing Affirmation,” he cleared up my confusion.*

“….if we fail to affirm our children, they may tune out the truth we are so interested in telling.”

Yes. I need to tell you the truth. But our conversations were so “truth” heavy there was no time for affirmation. This realization felt like a weight I couldn’t bear. I desperately fought the shame and regret only a parent could know. How many years had I wasted assuming you needed more judgement than encouragement? How much damage had been done? Was it too late?
As I recalled and meditated on the principles from this convicting yet encouraging book, another feeling began to emerge, stronger than the shame.

Freedom.

You see, if it isn’t my job to keep you grounded with “constructive” criticism, then I could freely shower you with all the praise and affirmation I felt inside.

I was finally liberated to regularly tell you what I always tell everyone else about you. You are beautiful and kind. Thoughtful and smart. God fearing and Bible following. Imperfect but consecrated to God. Yes, I can daily lavish you with all the praise due to you as an image bearer of God.

And Sam Crabtree explains “why” so beautifully.

“The elementary desire to be commended is not wrong….We should all want to be praised by God Himself. Are you not longing to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant”? ….Then we ought to fulfill the Golden rule and award the penultimate praise to others also for the glory of God. In the process, we give our loved ones a foretaste of glory divine.”

As your mom, I get to be the first and most consistent person in your life to tell you, “Well, done my good and faithful child. Enter into the rest of knowing you are a daughter of Christ, clothed in His righteousness”

So instead of telling you all the things I see that need correcting, I am going to borrow a song from Mercy Me to tell you something even more important.

Dear younger me
Where do I start
If I could tell you everything that I have learned so far
Then you could be
One step ahead
Of all the painful memories still running thru my head
I wonder how much different things would be
dear younger me

Dear younger me
I cannot decide
Do I give some speech about how to get the most out of your life
Or do I go deep
And try to change
The choices that you’ll make cuz they’re choices that made me
Even though I love this crazy life
Sometimes I wish it was a smoother ride

Dear younger me,
If I knew then what I know now
Condemnation would’ve had no power
My joy my pain would’ve never been my worth
If I knew then what I know now
Would’ve not been hard to figure out
What I would’ve changed if I had heard

Dear younger me
It’s not your fault
You were never meant to carry this beyond the cross
You are holy
You are righteous
You are one of the redeemed
Set apart a brand new heart
You are free indeed

Every mountain every valley
Thru each heartache you will see
Every moment brings you closer
To who you were meant to be

 

*  https://www.amazon.com/Practicing-Affirmation-God-Centered-Praise-Those/dp/1433522438