Thursday, August 15, 2013

Count it all joy...when your iPhone breaks?

A friend of mine recently dropped her iPhone on her tiled kitchen floor and watched in horror as her screen shattered into a spiderweb of cracks.

This would ruin the day of most of us smartphone-dependent first world people.

But for my friend, this happened on one of the worst days of her life. It was a day that she was given some truly devastating news. Her mind and heart was reeling from the blow. And now this hopelessly broken down iPhone sealed the deal of it being a day from hell.

Being the good friend that I am, I immediately volunteered my husband's services in repairing her screen. Not that he had ever opened up that particular model. But, he had gotten all up in an older version of mine a few years prior (twice) when I dropped mine (more than twice) and needed some "internal repairs."

I assured her that he would be delighted to fix her phone. In fact, he was dying to do it. Okay...that may be a bit of a stretch, but I pretty much volunteered him on the spot with the assumption he was good to go.

So, my friend ordered the replacement screen and digitizer from Amazon. But then she went out of town. And she stayed out of town. And finally, when she came back, the part was waiting for her.

I took it home with her jacked up iPhone and waved them at my hubby. He blanched and said, "she has a 4s? I haven't worked on one of those before."

But, the amazing guy he is, he got to work -- only to discover that Apple had changed out the type of screw they use on the phone from the 3Gs. Thus, the special "iphone screwdriver" we had no longer fit. So, I had to tell my friend that her beloved iPhone would have to wait in ICU while we ordered the new screwdriver. I even gave her our extra "low-tech" cell phone so that she could have a phone in the interim. Fortunately, we have Amazon Prime so it would only take two days.

It took two days.

She came over to wait while he did his handiwork. My husband opened up that package, sat down with the iPhone and replacement screen and took it all apart (which took a reaaalllly long time since it was the first time he had done it) and...discovered that my friend had accidentally ordered the replacement screen for the iPhone 4.

My friend was agitated. She was missing calls and texts left and right. The personal crisis that was happening in her life had blown up even further. She felt out of touch and dare I say, naked without her smartphone.

There was crazy talk about her breaking her contract and going out and buying a new phone. I talked her down and stealthily ordered the correct part (after verifying it with my husband). I selected the expedited shipping for $3.99.

I may have also mentioned something about God using this shattered phone as an analogy of what he was doing in her life as she took back the "low tech" phone and got ready to leave to drive home.

She barely resisted slugging me in the stomach.

Two days later, the three of us were waiting in our living room with the phone still all taken apart. It was 7 p.m. and the part hadn't arrived. I contacted Amazon and expressed my frustration. They refunded the expedited fee. Then at 7:30, the part arrived.

My friend and I sipped coffee while my hero of a hubby worked on putting in the new part -- painstakingly watching the "how to" video on You Tube while doing so. Hours later, he put it all back together, powered it up, and .... didn't work. The screen was a faint white, but there were no square apps or any sort of button to push to make a call, play music, etc.

It was a fail.

My poor friend nearly lost her mind. She was convinced that she needed to go out and buy a $500 new phone. Before she could do it, I hopped on Amazon and bought another replacement part, got the expedited shipping (again) and charged it on her card before she could do something rash.

I might have made another one of those "God is using this phone to show you something" comments. I narrowly avoided her fist this time.

Two days later, once again it was coffee time. We talked about her crisis and what God seemed to be doing and could possibly be doing through it. It was a good chat. It was 7:30 and we were waiting for the UPS truck to come.

But it didn't.

Amazon tried to track it down. After all, delivery was promised for that evening by 8 p.m. -- which came and went. They were very sorry to inform us that the delivery would not be made until the following day and they would be refunding the $3.99 expedited shipping fee.

At this point, we had to laugh. I mean, what else can you do?

I may have chanced that comment about "all things working together for good" in her general direction. I may have done that.

So, it was after 8 p.m. and there was no part. So, what did we do? We listened to worship music. And we sang. I taught her how to listen for the harmony part and then sing it. I told her she should join our church's worship team.

We both got chills listening to "You Are For Me" by Kari Jobe.

I burned her a CD of a few songs that she requested.

And then she left full of encouragement and God's idea of who she is.

She texted me the next morning (from her don't feel too sorry for her) that she had a wonderful night of sleep -- the first in a long time.

I told her it was because her heart and mind were full of God's spirit and she agreed.

Today when I got home at 4 p.m., guess what was waiting at the front door? And it wasn't even 8 p.m.  My friend asked if she could come hang out at our house. And when she arrived, I had an awesome surprise.

We talked, she perused her iPad. We had dinner. My husband worked on her phone.

And 15 minutes ago, I walked outside where she was talking to a friend on my iPhone (I can't even imagine being without my iPhone for 2+ weeks...shudder!), and I gave her the fixed smartphone device of her heart.

Her smile was huge.

She barely said goodbye, hung up my phone and thrust it at me, taking her "baby" back into her hands to call her friend on it.

And after all of that work, apparently the speakerphone feature is not working right. At this point, I'm not sure my friend cares so much. It's not exactly the way it was before. But it's pretty close. And she's grateful that my hubby was so amazing to do the repair and it cost a fraction of the cost of a new phone. It will get her through until February when her contract is up.

And here's where I go all metaphorical on this story...

I'm so glad that with God, "pretty close" is not as good as it gets. With God as our life technician, he takes our shattered, broken existence and he restores it. It's not the same as before.

It's new.

He works everything out for our good. Cracks and shards and all.

In fact, as I just typed that last line, she used her iPhone 4s to read Sarah Young's, Jesus Calling for today and here's what part of it said.

Enough said.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Imperfect people vs. a Perfect God

Photo credit:

I was at church this morning, as I often can be found on a Sunday. I was standing on the platform having just finished singing an old hymn at the request of my pastor (who is also my father). God was doing something in the service. I could feel the whisper of his Love and Grace and could feel that there was something He wanted to do in His people.
As I was standing there, I felt that internal voice I hear from time to time whisper, 

"never let imperfect people with imperfect actions color your view of a Perfect God."

It was as clear as day and it was not something from my own mind. I knew it was something I should share. My heart was racing and my hands got sweaty. But I didn't speak. Although I can stand in front of the church congregation and sing a solo, I could not get up the gumption to bring that same microphone up to my lips and say those words. 

All of "those thoughts" came into my mind....

"Who am I to say anything? What do I know?

"This isn't 'my gifting.' I sing. I don't give 'words from the LORD.'"

What if I'm wrong and it's not from God. I'll look foolish.."

And on, and on that internal dialogue went.

But more than looking silly, I fear missing out something God has for me. I never want to be guilty of hearing the word of the LORD and not obeying. 

So, I offered God a deal.

"God, if you want me to share this...then have my dad say something about feeling like You want to speak a word to the people."

A few second later, my dad/pastor says, "I just feel like God wants to speak to us. If you have something you feel like He's given you, speak it out."

And I just stood there. 

Just as I got the nerve to try to even lift up the microphone (which I was not sure was even on anymore, by the way), someone else spoke up from the audience. And it was good. It was definitely 'of God,' but it wasn't what I felt like I was supposed to share.

And so I missed my chance.

I told God, "I'm so sorry I didn't speak up. Maybe it wasn't my word that you wanted spoken. Maybe I got it wrong. But my heart is still beating fast and I'm about to drop this microphone from the moisture on my palms. So, if you want me to share it still, give me another chance."

A few seconds later, my pastor/dad says, "I still feel like God has more to say. Anyone else?"

And I was ready. But I hesitated for a few seconds. And before I could open my mouth, someone else had a scripture to share. And it was so good. But it wasn't my 'word.'

I thought that perhaps I had just misheard God as we closed in prayer. Or, worse, I missed my chance to trust God and take a step of faith into something that was 'not my calling' and scary for me.

As the final benediction was said, another church member added an exhortation to "fall to your knees and seek God and He would be found."'

It felt like God wasn't done even though the service was over. 

My dad spoke of this...that God seemed to still be doing something and that those who wanted to remain and receive should do so and those who wanted to go, could quietly exit and visit in the foyer.

I wasn't going to miss it again.

I got my dad's attention and told him that I had something to share, but that I hadn't done it when I had the opportunity. So, he told me to go ahead and share it.

And that's when I explained what God had spoken into my heart:

"Never let imperfect people with imperfect actions color your view of a Perfect God."

And I was broken when I shared it -- because far too often I've let people who are flawed by humanity and sin speak something into my heart that has created distance between me and a flawless God.

Too often we say things we shouldn't. We act in ways we shouldn't. We act in 'the flesh' and not in the Spirit. And we hurt each other. All of us do it.

And church people are not exempt from it. 

Church people are just that....they are people. 

Should we know better? I think yes, we should. But we all struggle with the same human-ness that often leads to destruction and not edification.

We would like to think that we speak for God or on his behalf. But we sometimes get it so wrong. 

We are imperfect. We are becoming. We stumble. We fall. We get back up again. We apologize if we've taken someone else down with us. And the hard part is that we may not always know when we've done it.

And because we've "all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God," we need to be able to recognize how much God has saved us from -- our own sin -- our own bad choices. And we need to extend that same grace to other people in our lives who have hurt us -- intentionally or not.

But we should never, ever put those imperfect actions by imperfect people on our perfect God. We should never allow our 
pain and resentment paint Him as the target of all our spiritual and emotional distress.

The true tragedy would be to withhold ourselves from Him because we somehow hold him responsible for actions that other people have done in His name.

Because when you know who you are in Him...when you find your self-worth and identity in Him, the words and actions of other people do not destroy you. Yes, it hurts. Sometimes it burns. But only God gets to tell us who we are, because only He knows.

He, and he alone is Perfect.

2 Samuel 22: 31-34:

"God's way is perfect.
All the LORD's promises prove true.
He is a shield for all who look to him for protection. For who is God except the LORD?
Who but our God is a solid rock? 
God is my strong fortress, and he makes my way perfect.
He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights."

Friday, August 9, 2013

Caught in the Overflow of His Love

Photo credit:

A few weeks ago, we were sitting in church listening to a sermon about tithing pulled from Malachi 3. Unlike some, tithing sermons and talking about giving money to the church do not bother me. I'm already sold. I'm on board. I'm a team player.

Talking about giving something that belongs to God anyway is fine by me. How could I ever withhold a measly tenth from Him when He has given us so very much?

So, there we were in church listening to the scriptures:
"Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do," says the LORD of Heaven's Armies, "I will open the window of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won't have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe," says the LORD of Heaven's Armies. "Then all nations will call you blessed, for your land will be such a delight," says the LORD of Heaven's Armies.     - Malachi 3:10-12

And I believed it.

As we stood for the final closing prayer, I took my husband's hand and leaned over and whispered, "don't you see this in our life?"

He looked at me and nodded, "I do."

You see, I grew up in a pastor's home. Tithing is what we did...always. When I got married almost 15 years ago, it was an easy thing to continue because my husband was of the same belief on the subject.

So we've tithed....always.

It's been easy, really. Yes, there have been times when I've thought about the other things we could be doing with that money or how it would help us out of a bit of a financial scrape.

But, we've never withheld our tithe.


And we've been so blessed.

Truly, amazingly blessed.

We have so much to be grateful for...two cars, a house, bikes, skates, basketball hoop, electronic devices, toys, travel, and more clothing and shoes than we need to be honest.

We are also rich in friends, love, family and so many more of those "intangibles."

By most of the world's standard, we are very rich. I know that.

But by the Western's world culture, we are merely "okay."

And that messes with my head sometimes.

We've chosen to be a one-income family so that I could stay home while the children are little. And now that we have made the choice to homeschool our family, I'm at home still.

We've always lived a bit close to the edge financially because of this decision. In fact, I didn't even know that living "paycheck to paycheck" was a bad thing until I heard the concept explained. That's pretty much how we have lived since we said I do all of those years ago. I didn't know there was anything different.

There is not a lot of extra at the end of the month with all that we are committed to financially and then those "extras" that crop up from time to time.

It's just how it is. But we have never truly gone without or have been financially devastated. Our "crops" have truly been "abundant and guarded from insect and disease."

He has sustained and protected us. I know this full well. And I revel in it.

But we are still trying to be "good stewards" with what we have been giving, and we have needed to tighten things up once again of late.

So, at the beginning of this summer we told the kids that unlike summer's past, we were going to be more conservative with our money. There weren't going to be season passes to the local water park, movies, out of town vacations, etc. Barring a few frugal and pre-planned activities, we would be hanging out at home.

And that's what we started out to do.

But then....

I stumbled across free movie tickets to "Despicable Me 2." Our family of 6 went and saw it for free in 3D -- something we would not have done if we had to pay the full price. Our local library launched their summer reading program and the kids all earned free passes to one of our local water parks. The day we went, I was rejoicing that I only had to pay for two adult passes when someone walked up to me in line and handed me a free ticket in one hand and a coupon for half off in the other. I'm not even kidding. Final price to get in for all six of us....$16.50.

And that was the beginning of free fries, smoothies, ice cream, reduced cost tickets to the "other" water park we were blessed to enjoy, another free movie premiere in 3D and much more. It has truly felt like "the windows of heaven have been opened."

My intentions of working on my direct sales business this summer did not pan out due to unforeseen commitments and time issues. So, I gave the business stuff to God and told Him that I would trust Him to lead me and to take care of it. And, wouldn't you know, in the last two weeks, I have had four opportunities to make sales that I did not even seek out!!

We have made sure to point these blessings out to our children and remind them of how generous God has been with us this summer. They have seen God at work firsthand. And it's been so good.

And then...He took it one step further.

He gave us a Kindle Fire HD!!

Actually, He gave it to our eldest daughter who was one of seven grand prize winners from that summer reading program which had provided water park tickets earlier in the summer.

Talk about being blown away. Talk about an "overflow" of blessings. It's almost a little embarrassing. It's humbling.

And I know that this isn't some formulaic thing. Obey God and do it just right so He will give you stuff. It's all about Love.

He gives to us because He loves and delights in us -- not because he "owes us" because we are following His command. It's all motivated by love. And it's that same love that compels me to give back to Him without restraint or grumbling. I do it out of Love.

It's not difficult at all.

Because when you realize that it's all His anyway and not only does He enjoy giving "good gifts to His children," He delights in it, it changes everything.

There is no sense of obligation. No expectation of "getting what's owed to us."

It's a true love and trust relationship. One that is always "enough" whether we are in a time of extravagant abundance or flexing our faith muscles when times are tighter.

I wouldn't want to live any other way.