M. R. Wells, page 18
Nadja had some tough times growing up. But her American mom was there for her and her brother and sister. Mom loved them dearly and also taught them about Jesus’s love, which is infinitely greater even than her own.
Part of that love involved discipline. Nadja learned about obedience from both her mom and her dog. Rosie wasn’t too good at minding the children, but when Mom came into the room Rosie ran to her, sat down, and waited for instruction. She knew Mom was boss. She also learned that if she was obedient, doggie biscuits were in her near future.
Nadja’s mom enrolled the children in a private Christian school where I was teaching at the time. She hoped it would help them adjust to their new culture more easily and also learn more about the love of Jesus. I had Nadja in my class. At one of the chapel services, the school presented all three kids with an American flag that had been flown over the White House. Their mom was so pleased. She hugged us with tears in her eyes.
That was about twelve years ago. Lately I’ve been going to a special pool to swim for therapeutic exercise. The other day I was introduced to a new swim coach. She was tall, slender, and beautiful and her name was Nadja. I looked at her and had to ask, “Are you from Russia?” She said yes. Then I asked if she had gone to Heritage Christian School. She had. I told her I was Mrs. Fleishauer, her third grade teacher. She gasped, “Oh my gosh! Yes you are!”
You just don’t expect to see your third grade teacher in a swimsuit. We had switched roles. Now she was my instructor. It was obvious to me as we talked that Nadja had grown up not just physically, but spiritually as well. She shared with me that she had a personal relationship with the Lord and would soon be attending a Christian college.
I know Rosie was a great instrument of comfort for Nadja’s family. Nadja was really little then, but she remembers how much she loved Rosie and that Rosie loved her. She recalls how comforting it was to have Rosie close to her when she was frightened or lonely. But, like her birth parents and her American dad, Rosie wouldn’t be around to do that for her forever.
Jesus will! Nadja’s relationship with Rosie was like a prelude in a very small way to how she felt when she accepted Jesus as her personal Savior. She accepted God’s invitation to sit in His lap of comfort and strength, and she can go there always.
Many centuries ago, the apostle Paul also had some tough times. He suffered horrible persecution and severe physical hardships for his faith. But he also found great comfort in God’s lap. That’s why he could write, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
God invites all who will come to climb on His lap and receive His comfort and goodness. Paul and Nadja said yes. Have you?
My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life (Psalm 119:50).
What persons or pets have been most comforting to you in tough times? How did they make you feel better? How has God been a source of comfort and strength?
Munchie Gets a Leg Up
Answer God’s Help Wanted Ad
God has not called us to see through each
other, but to see each other through.
Munchie, my little papillon mix, is the stockiest dog I’ve ever had. He’s also the least athletic. In their prime, all the others could easily leap up onto my king-sized bed. They adored snuggling and cuddling there, and I adored their soft warmth and affection. When Munchie joined my four-footed family, his fondest wish was to enter into the lovefest. But he didn’t quite trust that his little legs could jump that high. And whether what he lacked was faith or spring, he usually couldn’t make it.
I didn’t want to overly baby the new dog in the pack. I felt that with encouragement, he could take this leap. Munchie loved food and I used treats to try to coax him to jump higher. He did manage to make it onto the bed now and then, but usually he came up short. Frantic to join us, he’d paw furiously at the bed’s edge while loudly proclaiming his doggie frustration and begging for help. At this juncture, I sometimes just gave in and lifted him up. But I wasn’t completely happy with this solution, and some furniture in my bedroom suggested another approach.
I have an easy chair in the room with a separate ottoman. I decided to scoot it next to the bed. With this assist and some coaxing from me, Munchie managed to get up on the bed on his own.
Okay, true confession time. I didn’t persist in my ottoman solution. It’s a bit heavy, and pushing it over grew tiresome. I got lazy, abandoned the practice, and went back to lifting Munchie onto my bed at night.
No matter. I think that ottoman exercise was more for me than my dog. God has shown me that at times, I expect too much of people. He has turned my experience with Munchie into a metaphor for that. On at least one occasion, He has literally whispered to my heart, “They can’t jump from the floor to the bed. They need an ottoman.” And I knew He wanted me to provide it.
I believe this metaphor has wider applications too. I’ve recently had the joy of becoming acquainted with a marvelous organization called Free Wheelchair Mission. They design simple, durable wheelchairs that cost roughly $50 to $60 each. Over the past ten years, they have given away half a million of these chairs to the poorest of the poor in countries all over the globe. These chairs have lifted crawlers off the ground, freed shut-ins to venture outside their homes, and in some cases made it possible for people to go to school or hold a job who couldn’t have otherwise.
In April of 2010, I was privileged to travel with this organization to Chile. Seven of us flew from the U.S. and teamed with their distribution partners in Chile, FEDES Foundation, to give out a number of wheelchairs personally to prescreened recipients. They all had touching stories, but one young man in particular grabbed my heart.
This young man, roughly 30 years old, could not speak—he could only make sounds. A childhood illness had left him unable to walk. He had had a very rough life. But despite it, he had an indomitable spirit. He was clearly beyond grateful for the wheelchair and embraced it, eagerly soaking up our team’s tips on how to drive it. We had the sense that he was eager for any small chance to be more independent…and would seize any opportunity he was offered. As we pulled away in our car, he was wheeling his brand new chair up the street.
One of the Americans could not get this fellow out of her mind. Could more be done for this young man? Through a series of events, and with help from the wonderfully caring Chilean distribution partners, a special school was found for this worthy fellow. It is especially for young adults with disabilities. With financial help from his American sponsor, this young man is now being helped there.
But that’s not the most amazing part of the story. His school evaluation revealed that this man’s physical condition was deteriorating. Without therapy, he would soon have been unable to sit in his new wheelchair. The interested American had no clue about this, but God knew! God knew this young man needed a second “ottoman.” Because a stranger answered the help wanted ad God placed on her heart, this fellow is now receiving much-needed therapy at the school, and both he and the “ottoman-giver” feel blessed.
Free Wheelchair Mission doesn’t just distribute wheelchairs. They do it in God’s name. They tell recipients their chair is from God, because He loves them. Their prayer is that the chairs not only open doors to greater physical mobility, but to a relationship with the Lord as well.
I am reminded of a certain cripple in Jesus’s day whose physical infirmity also brought him to the Lord. He, too, got an “ottoman” from his friends. Mark 2:3-5 tells us, “Some men came, bringing to [Jesus] a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed
I doubt forgiveness of sins was the goal this man and his friends were consciously seeking. Nor did it sit well with the watching religious elite. It sounded like blasphemy to them. So Jesus threw in the physical healing to prove His spiritual authority, and told the man to get up and walk—which he did.
As Munchie’s loving master, I need to help him grow and learn and offer him an ottoman when he needs a leg up. God does the same for us, but not always directly. He often chooses to work at least partially through His children, like He did with the paralytic and the young man from Chile. God gives us the incomparable privilege of providing ottomans in His name. Will you listen for His help wanted ad and answer His call on your heart?
Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:37-40).
Has someone ever given you an “ottoman”? What was it? How did it help you? How did it affect your faith in God? Has God ever posted a help wanted ad in your heart? Did you answer it? If so, how was that a blessing?
Tag, You’re It
How Does God Speak to You?
Every happening, great and small, is a parable
whereby God speaks to us, and the
art of life is to get the message.
Peter took his golden retriever, Bob, on regular hikes in the local mountains. Bob was fitted with a canine backpack to carry his water bottles, water dish, and dog snacks. If there was any room left over, Peter managed to sneak in a few of his own items.
Bob’s backpack had pouches on the sides with two-way zippers that opened or closed in both directions. Peter made sure the zippers were pulled shut to the rear, not the front. Bob liked to go off-leash and explore on his own. If the zippers were closed to the front, they could snag on the brush and be pulled open and spill their contents.
Of course, one day Peter unintentionally shut the zippers in forward position. During the hike, Bob took off into the hills. When his dog returned, Peter noticed all the zippers pulled open. The water bottles were gone…as well as his car keys.
But it wasn’t the missing keys that had Peter so upset. It was what was attached to his keys. It was the loss of a memento he had carried with him ever since he signed up for the military in 1959: his U.S. Army dog tag.
This little rectangular piece of stainless steel stamped with his name and number had been a part of him for over 50 years. He always carried it with him. And now that it was gone, he was furious. If Peter were a crusty curmudgeon cartoon character he’d have gone beet red with steam hissing out of his ears. He took a quick mental inventory of his worldly possessions and that dog tag topped the list of things he’d be devastated to lose.
After the initial shock wore off, Peter had only one mission: find that dog tag! He scoped out the area that Bob would’ve covered in his wanderings and systematically scoured every inch of dirt, brush, and rock. Peter emotionally flogged himself for zipping the pouches the wrong way. He checked, double-checked, and triple-checked the area, looking for any clue that could help, like a tell-tale water bottle or dog dish.
Hours later, hands and arms scratched by thistles and thorns, covered with dust and sweating like he’d been in a sauna, Peter was ready to give up. He was disgusted, frustrated, and broken. He was 99 percent sure he’d never find that very special part of himself that he had lost.
While Peter was experiencing a form of hell on earth, Bob seemed totally unaware. He was still in dog heaven, enjoying the outdoors, sniffing and rooting around for endless canine pleasures and treasures.
Then, at the precise moment when the proverbial last straw landed on Peter’s back, when he conceded the dark forces of the universe had won, when he was 100 percent sure he’d never see his dog tag again—
Bob sat down.
Bob hadn’t sat down once during the whole search. He’d been a perpetual motion machine. Now at rest, Bob looked up, smiling at his exasperated and broken master.
Peter took a step toward Bob, then glanced down at the space between him and his golden retriever. There, at his feet, completely exposed and glistening in the sun lay—
The dog tag and keys!
It was utterly baffling how he could’ve missed them. He had searched this exact area multiple times. He bent down and picked up his keys and dog tag to make sure it was solid, his name stamped in metal, not some devilish illusion.
Then there was Bob. Peter looked at him, as if waiting for Bob to explain what had just happened. But Bob continued to gaze at Peter with that goofball grin dogs wear to cover up the possibility they’re a lot smarter and wiser than we give them credit for.
The thought crossed and re-crossed Peter’s mind. Did this dog know all along?
Peter vaguely remembers throwing a “what the heck” glance heavenward—not because he believed in God, but perhaps from years of cultural conditioning. People in the movies always glance upward after witnessing a miracle, right?
Peter has never been a religious man. He avoids church like soldiers avoid minefields. He doesn’t pray to God, read the Bible, or sing worship songs in the car. Peter has never had a supernatural or spiritual moment in his life. That is, not until this incident with his dog tag and a golden retriever named Bob. Peter felt incredible relief being reunited with his precious dog tag. At the same time, it was spooky; downright “Twilight Zoney.” And he’ll be the first to admit that it made him acknowledge the possibility of God.
Could it be that ol’ Bob knew something Peter didn’t know? Could it be that dogs see things we don’t see and hear things we don’t hear? Could it be that the realm God resides in is outside the reality of man’s five senses—but it’s there?
The spiritual dimension is not the natural world we see, hear, feel, touch, and taste. It is a supernatural world we can only catch fleeting glimpses of, like a shadow seen out of the corner of your eye that vanishes when you turn to face it. For some, that glimpse of eternity may come through a great sermon, or meditation on a Scripture, or by being swept up in a divinely inspired song. But God doesn’t always speak to people through pastors, TV evangelists, or the Bible on CD. God speaks to some of us in creative, nontraditional ways. He’ll do whatever it takes to get our attention.
The apostle Peter was afraid to be associated with Jesus after He was arrested. Peter denied even knowing his Lord. God spoke to Peter through a bird. “And immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: ‘Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that you even know me.’ And he broke down and wept” (Mark 14:72 NLT).
The Old Testament prophet Balaam was trying to force his donkey to carry him in a direction God didn’t want Balaam to go. God literally spoke to Balaam through that donkey. “Then the LORD gave the donkey the ability to speak. ‘What have I done to you that deserves your beating me three times?’ it asked Balaam” (Numbers 22:28 NLT). Then God revealed that the donkey had seen the angel of the Lord blocking Balaam’s path. By balking, that donkey had saved his errant master’s life.
So why should it surprise us that God spoke to our twenty-first century Peter through a dog…and a dog tag? Amazing how God gets our attention! How is God speaking to you today?
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe (Hebrews 1:1-2).
Recall the interesting, nontraditional creative ways God has used to get your attention. After your attention was gotten, we
Puppy in a Haystack
The church is the great lost and found department.
Early in their marriage, my friends Val and Jim got a female Beagle puppy they named Beazley. Their eldest son was a toddler then, and he and the pup were little together. Beazley weighed only about six pounds…small enough to get lost when her people weren’t watching. And one day, she did.
Val had heard some noise outside and went to investigate. A small neighborhood parade was passing by. She stood watching from her front porch. She never noticed the puppy slip past her and wander away.
Not until later did the family realize their dog was gone. Val’s little boy was devastated. Val was too. She feared Beazley might be lost to them forever. The tiny pup had not been wearing any kind of identification. She and Jim worked for an urban ministry and some female ministry staff shared a house half a mile away. But, apart from them, she didn’t really know her neighbors.
Val called the staff women and asked for prayer. She prayed all afternoon—while her little boy wept. At about 4 p.m., the phone rang. Unbelievably, one of the staff women had seen Beazley near her own home. She had caught the pup and brought her inside. Val went to fetch her and Beazley was home before dinner.