Friday, November 18, 2016

LIfting Holy Hands To Carry Our Cross Daily

I have a frozen shoulder, and am recovering from a very bad cold. Nonetheless, today my bright red nose will light the way as my sore arms help hand out huge boxes of complete Thanksgiving feasts to five of the moms who chose life over abortion at the busiest abortion center in Charlotte. This wonderful feast is courtesy of Common Cupboard, a ministry that helps the poor in our community. All I did was contact the moms I work with who could benefit from the offer, and then coordinate the pick-up/meeting place. I get all the fun, handing the boxes to the moms.

I must admit to a little head shaking when I read yet another FaceBook post this morning that talked about 'picketers' outside an abortion clinic. That term dismays me. The mission of Cities4Life is anything BUT picketing. We proclaim the Gospel, we offer hope, we offer friendship, we give them our name and number, we give them baby showers, we help them find resources, we refer them to adoption agencies, we find them a church family, we find housing options, we list their needs as they state them and then systematically go about trying to help meet them. Some of the counselors have housed the mamas, even provided a wedding for one of them recently with every exquisite detail attended to including a gorgeous wedding gown. Another counselor and his church is providing a Thanksgiving meal and gifts to a woman who left her job in the abortion clinic through our offers of God's truth and real help.

This week alone, my 'picketing' included the following: found a financial advisor to counsel a mom for free, went over the results with the mom to help determine a doable budget, helped insure a dead-beat dad was legally held accountable for child support, with a donor's assistance helped with a mom's car down-payment, connected a donor with a mom who needed winter clothes for her kids, gathered a bag of clothes and Christmas gifts for one other new mom,  and for today, coordinated five Thanksgiving feasts for five of the moms.

Please know this is not to brag. None of it could I have done on my own, and without the wonderful group of donors and supporters of our ministry. I write this list of what we really do on the sidewalks because it irks me to hear us called 'picketers', but also to encourage all of you: every person can make a difference in the darkest places if they will let the light of God shine through them.

Every counselor out there is putting their heart and soul into these women, providing real hope and real help. This is because we believe so strongly in the sanctity of human life and God's command to save those marching to destruction. (All life is precious in my book. In fact this morning, instead of stepping on a spider, I caught him in a cup and put him outside.)

Now, on to a new but related topic. Warning to anyone who thinks it's a good idea to catch a bad cold when you have a frozen shoulder. I would recommend don't do it. All that lying around in fetal position, coughing and sneezing, and not moving unless you absolutely must is not the way to keep a frozen shoulder loose.

When I walked into therapy yesterday, my therapist told me that I had lost range and mobility but it was perfectly understandable given how sick I was, and she would get it back. She did, but not without pain and some pretty tough moments of stretching.

I have a week now without therapy because of the Thanksgiving vacation and time spent with my dear sister and husband in Florida. I warned my therapist I fully intended to kayak and I might come home in pretty bad condition. She told me to go ahead and have fun. But she warned me: keep up my stretching and trigger point releases.

Anyway, there is a very obvious lesson. When we have any kind of trauma or sickness and there is a prescribed therapy, we must do it. If we don't, we will suffer more and lose ground. This is true in the physical realm and it's especially true in the spiritual realm.

We all have a sickness in the spiritual realm. It is called sin. Every one of us is susceptible to the siren call of sin. Every one of us can rationalize why our sin is OK just this one time and then maybe the next time too. Sometimes our sin is one of omission. (For example, we criticize those on the front-lines of the abortion center, but don't lift a finger to help any of those desperate mamas make a choice other than abortion.) The Bible says anyone who claims they do not sin is a liar. But God gives us a specific therapy for sin, and we are to do it daily.

First, God prescribes the only medicine that heals us of our sins. The atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ is the only thing that can prevent letting sin have its inevitable result, death and eternal separation from God.

Then, the Bible says we are to "take up our cross daily". The cross is a symbol of pain and suffering, but also of death. When Jesus said we are to take up our cross daily, He meant that we are to put to death the whims and will of self, and in absolute obedience, follow Christ. Every single day we must exercise our spiritual muscles to keep them in optimal shape. That means daily reading God's word, daily putting into practice all that He as the great physician has commanded, daily helping others who are just as sick as we are, but maybe don't know that they are, and assuring them there really is a cure. Daily, we are to reflect our Lord in all our circumstances, despite the pain and the struggles in a fallen world, glorifying God's name no matter what.

It's a tall order. But if we sit around in our sin and don't do anything to combat it, we will freeze up and shrivel away just like my frozen shoulder did with disuse and without therapy. It grew less and less mobile the less I paid attention to what I needed to do to heal it. (I am being harsh on myself - in all honesty, I was too sick to do what the therapist wanted me to do, and she let me off the hook. But it is still an apt, although imperfect illustration.)

I won't say it didn't hurt, but when I left therapy my range had increased by about 30°.
"See?" said the therapist. "Now don't fall away. Work on your exercises while you are in Florida, at least a little each day."

But first, I get to use that arm to hand out  turkey feasts to five grateful moms, praising God for the privilege.
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Luke 9:23 

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

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