Making Room for a Miracle

Rose_and_EmmanuelWe were completely caught off guard Monday evening, August 1, 2011. We were expecting to be in the paperwork process of adoption for several more weeks before we could even be eligible for a referral. My heart dropped in my chest as I read the email we were unprepared for — medical information, pictures, demographics of a 3 year old girl and a 4 year old boy. The chubby-cheeked girl was clearly angry in the pictures, and the boy tore at his clothes in grief. It was the moment they were turned in to the orphanage, and they were broken. And we were being asked to adopt them.
In order to demonstrate our intent to adopt, we had 6 weeks to come up with $17,000. With sinking realization, I knew we just didn’t have it. We actually didn’t have any money because we had spent all of our savings to start the adoption process and were living from paycheck to paycheck. We had no way to even get it.

I turned to Ken and said, “Unless it starts raining money from heaven, we are going to have to turn these kids down, raise money, and then accept the next referral that comes our way.”

I am quite certain that God chuckled at my words.

Little did we know, checks had already been written. Contributions had already been sent. Without saying a word to anyone, we had $5000 given to us in the first 24 hours after that email. God was sending rains of generosity through people who were sensitive enough the spirit to give without even being asked. Dozens more followed in the next few weeks, and there are hundreds of people who were able to be a part of making beauty from ashes in the lives of those two broken children.

Jewett (43)
And the kids in those pictures are sitting in the living room of our house in North Carolina watching cartoons.

When we started out the adoption process, we had no idea how we were going to pay for it. The only thing we did know was that God was asking us to, and that we would need to have faith that He would provide as we were obedient.

When we were adopting, if we had asked ourselves, “How much can we afford to spend on adoption?” we never would have adopted. We had to step out in faith, knowing that God would provide what we needed.

Without the need, we never would have seen God provide the miracle. 

Faith promise giving is exactly like that. Faith promise giving is not looking at a budget and asking, “How much can I afford?” but looking at God and asking, “How much do you want me to give?” In fact, if you can afford to give, faith really isn’t involved. Faith steps in and says, “Without you, God, I cannot make this happen. I am trusting you to provide.”

 

Without a need, God has no room perform a miracle.

 

When Ken lived in Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia as a young single pastor, there came a day where he was down to his last $40. He had pledged to sponsor a child through Compassion, and it was either the child that was going to eat, or Ken. No one would have blamed Ken for calling up Compassion and cancelling his sponsorship. He really couldn’t afford it on a part-time pastor’s salary.

But Ken wrote the check to Compassion and trusted God to provide, or to lose some weight in the next week.

As Ken was leading youth group that night, he heard some rustling going on upstairs at the church — they were having a board meeting, he was told. After youth group, Ken went upstairs, and found the members of the church had planned a grocery shower for Ken. There was a whole table of food — cereals, soups, crackers, pasta — more than Ken could eat in a week!

God must have smiled as Ken chose to write the check to Compassion. The blessing was already on its way.

Without the need, he never would have seen God perform the miracle.

I know there are many of my friends who would love to support our work in Ghana. We are so blessed by people who are praying for us and cheering us on. There are some of you who read this blog whom I’ve never met before, who are drawn to what God is calling us to do.

I’d ask you to consider one thing: Don’t ask if you can afford to support God’s work in Ghana. Ask what God wants to provide through you.  Would you consider putting yourself in a position of need, so God can work miracles through you?

Without a need, God cannot perform a miracle.

Is it time for you to make room for a miracle? 

Hungry

Being back in medical practice has been so wonderful in so many ways, and so difficult in others. I love interacting with patients, caring for those who can no longer care for themselves, and bringing God’s love through the practice of medicine. The paperwork is horrific. I spend far more time doing paperwork than I do seeing patients. My decisions for care get overruled on a daily basis by someone behind a desk somewhere who doesn’t hold any kind of medical degree. And my patients suffer the consequences in front of me. I am the one who sits face-to-face with patients, wrestling through their problems with them.
Medicine has always been meant to be practiced in the context of relationship. For centuries, medicine was one of the primary ministries of the church. We still see remnants of this in our Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Catholic hospitals. It really wasn’t until less than a century ago that the church turned over the ministry of medicine to be practiced as a business. Insurance companies and the government dictate the way we practice, and I feel we’ve lost an important part of the practice of medicine when we’ve removed the context of ministry. I feel the dissonance on a daily basis.
I think our we often practice our faith without the context of relationship as well. Scripture talks about our relationship with God as something we should crave, not consult.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6 NIV

“Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” Luke 6:21 NIV

The trouble is that hunger is not a very comfortable situation to be in. I’ve often thought about wanting to hunger and thirst after God as something good, something pleasant. But hunger, by its very nature, is painful. There’s a big difference between a desire and hunger. Hunger goes beyond desire to a physical discomfort of craving. A piece of cinnamon and sugar toast sounds good to me right now. One could even say that I DESIRE to have a piece. But am I hungry? No. No hunger pangs. No stomach rumbling. But if I eat the desired cinnamon and sugar toast, I actually shortcut hunger.

Ken Gire speaks on the subject of spiritual hunger in The Reflective Life. “Because hunger hurts, though, we try to take the edge off it in any way we can. One of those ways is with religious activity. And that can include the activity of reading books, listening to tapes, or going to seminars. Through these things, which are often very good things, even nourishing things, we are fed the experiences of others. But they are not our experiences. I can read a psalm about David crying out from a cave in the wilderness, and I should read that psalm, but it is not my psalm. It is not my psalm because it is not my cave, not my wilderness, and not my tears.”

My pain. My cave. My wilderness. These create a true hunger. There’s no easy substitution for hunger.

In a world of self-sufficiency, my faith can be hampered by shortcutting hunger. Do I snack on the spiritual experiences of others, rather than working through and learning from my own? Probably more often than I’d like to think. In the same way that eating at the first desire for food without true hunger creates overweight people, feeding off of the experiences of others without allowing true hunger for God creates overfed Christians.

How do I create true hunger for righteousness rather than snacking on the experiences of others? Many times I find myself in stages of life in which I tangibly feel the need for God’s healing or provision. In my middle-class North American culture, that’s often not the case.

Nowhere in Scripture does it say, “Blessed are the self-sufficient, for they will not annoy God with their requests,” or “Blessed are those who do not need to depend on God, for God does not love His children.”
I think at times we have to carefully and prayerfully create vacuum of need that only God can fill, by stretching ourselves outside of what is spiritually, physically, or financially comfortable. Maybe by moving into a neighborhood that needs a spiritual light. Perhaps by supporting a ministry financially when we’re not sure how God will provide for our needs. Maybe by engaging in spiritual disciplines, like fasting, that remind us of our hunger for God. Perhaps by attempting something that without God’s help would be a sure failure.
Our faith is best practiced in the context of relationship, and in a culture where self-sufficiency is applauded, sometimes I need to be reminded that it is the hungry, not the spiritual snackers, who will be filled.

The Day I Said Yes

campground

The Wesleyan tabernacle as it stands on the campgrounds outside Atkinson, Nebraska today.

The summer sun beat down on the roofs of the Nebraska Wesleyan District campground, with its white-washed structures randomly planted among the cornfields and cow pastures, surrounded by country dirt roads and barbed wire fences. Thousands of dogday cicadas softly hummed their weeee-oooooooo-weeeee-oooooo, welcoming the human intruders to their rural domain. Sand burrs lay hidden in the sandy soil waiting to impale bare feet. Any grass lay trampled by the feet of dozens of children gathered for church camp.

The morning breakfast of pancakes and syrup with a side of canned peaches had been consumed with a side of Tang, and the iron bell clanged its beckoning call to chapel. The air was musty and humid in the cement-floored tabernacle, which stood boarded up against the elements most of the year, until summer camp rolled around. Now it was filled with pre-pubescent mischief and energy, anxious to get on with the activities for that day.

The day I said yes.

Fowler familyI was sitting on the aisle at the end of the wooden pew in the right half of the building, a half a dozen rows back from the front of the platform. The breeze blew in lightly from the screenless windows through my permed towhead hair. My feet squirmed in the sandy dirt on the concrete floor beneath my feet. The pastor was preaching a compelling message, and though my eyes were fixed on his polyester baby blue plaid suit, I could not focus on his words.

Someone else was speaking to me.

“I want you to say yes, no matter what,” the Holy Spirit whispered.

“Yes, to what?”

“I want you to say yes, no matter what.”

The words reminded me of when Moses asked the name of the One who spoke from the burning bush.

“I Am Who I Am.” While obviously a person cannot tell God that is a lousy answer, I’m sure that Moses did a little shaking in his sandalless feet when he realized that was actually the answer God expected Moses to give to Pharoah. The Pharoah with the temper, and a grudge.

If I were in Moses’ bare feet, I would have thought, “Are you trying to get me killed by making me into a smart-mouth, ‘I Am Who I Am’?” Thankfully, Moses chose his words more wisely at that time.

“I want you to say yes to me, no matter what,” the Holy Spirit pressed again as if the wind itself were carrying the words through me.

“Jesus, I already have you in my heart, I don’t know what more you want from me,” I protested.

“For the rest of your life, I want you to say yes to me, no matter what. I have great plans for you, but I need you to always tell me yes.”

By the time the pastor gave the altar call, I was running for the front of the altar to pray with hot tears of conviction streaming down my face. My counselor, Tracy, followed me. I felt awful for her because I was sobbing so hard, all I could say was, “I just want to do what Jesus says.”

That day, I committed my life to Christ in what I now know is called sanctification — the moment when God got all of me. I had already experienced all of God’s forgiveness and love, but it took years before I gave God the right to overrule any of my decisions. That day, I knew that if God made His will clear, I would follow it, no matter what.

I was not saying yes to a project.

I was not saying yes to a profession.

I was not saying yes to a pursuit.

I was saying yes to a Person.

Jesus didn’t want my affection, my talents, or my plans, He wanted my YES.

He wants your YES too.

When I tell people today about God asking us to move to Ghana, I’m always a bit surprised to hear people say, “Oh, Africa? I could NEVER do that!” Saying “never” to God is not an option. For me, the choice was made more than 30 years ago on a sandy concrete floor in the front of a musty tabernacle.

The choice was made the day I said yes.

 

“But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.'” — Luke 9:62 NASB