April McGowan

Peace of Mind

An email from a relative reminded me today that life is fragile. After watching his wife lay gravely ill in the hospital for the past week, its tenuous nature is more apparent than ever. He’s openly sharing struggles and triumphs. And their appreciation for prayer is apparent. In the midst of their trials, which are tremendous, he’s finding things to rejoice about.

Oftentimes, though, it’s just the opposite. In talking with some whom I know are hurting, there seems a pervasive attitude that if they admit they have difficulties, this would cast some sort of shadow on God. They feel pressured to put on a happy face, not be sad, not grieve. I, myself, have been told this. Try as I may, it’s been hard for me to understand. But I think I’m finally glimpsing where it’s coming from.

We live in a sales orientated society. What can that product do for me? Watch out—if it doesn’t do what I expect, then I won’t buy it again.

I openly admit that my prayers haven’t always been answered. God is not a magic genie. He’s not my God because I can manipulate Him by saying certain words (seriously, do you want to worship a God you can manipulate?). I can pray, and if it’s not in God’s greater plan, whatever the reason, I won’t have my prayers answered the way I want. Does that mean God doesn’t love me? That I shouldn’t tell people about it, because then, when we’re sharing about God, they might not buy it?

Well, there’s the problem. God is not for sale. The relationship He offers through belief in Christ is free. In fact, Christianity is the only free religion. Free of guilt, free of doubt, freedom of forgiveness—you don’t have to work for it and you can’t pay for it. Grace is given to all who ask.

My God is mighty. Jesus came to save the sinner, the frail and the poor, the weak and the sick. He did not come to save us out of our circumstances, but in the midst of them. And in those trials, thanks be to Him, we can have great peace.

Mark 2:17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Full text here

Philippians 4: 4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Full text here)

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And So This Is Christmas

The other day I had an opportunity to share my faith with someone who was confused about Jesus’ deity. And, as when anything like that happens, my faith deepened as I went about finding the verses of the Bible to share with him.

As it’s Christmas, the time of year when Christians choose to celebrate the birth of their savior, I thought I’d share a bit of what I found for my searching friend. I think the misconceptions of the world often infiltrate our ideas of who Jesus was. I often hear through the media that He was just a good man, or that He never claimed to be God, or that He was a just a prophet. Rather than listening to what others say, I think the best source of information is the fountainhead—the Bible. I’ve linked all the verses to read in context if you’d like.

The Bible says this about the birth of our Savior some 700 years before He was born:

Isaiah 7:9 Therefore the Lord himself will give youa sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, andwill call him Immanuel (which means God with us). (Full text here)

Isaiah 9: 6-7 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this. (Full text here)

Equally powerful are the statements Jesus makes about Himself:

I AM the bread of life (John 6:35)

I AM the door (John 10:9)

I AM the light of the world (John 8:12)

I AM the good shepherd (John 10:11)

I AM the resurrection and the life (John 11:25)

Before Abraham was born, I AM (John 8:58)

I AM the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End (Revelation 22)

Romans 5:6-7 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Full text here)

I know things are ramping up. There are family pressures, parties to attend, the perfect gifts to find, and a whole world of madness outside of our homes (and sometimes inside). But, I hope you join with me in celebrating our Lord’s birth this season, thanking Him for all the things Jesus is to us, and what He’s done for us. Mostly, I hope you slow down and spend time with the One, who gave Himself up for us as a willing sacrifice, a gift of love.

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One Foot in Front of the Other

Right now, uppermost in my mind, is the beginning of our school year. We homeschool our children—have from the very beginning, and intend to go all the way through high school.

People not familiar with homeschooling usually ask me what the benefits are of schooling at home. First and foremost, it’s created a bond in our family that I don’t think we’d otherwise have. It’s also allowed my children to not only learn about our faith, but see it lived out in our daily lives. God’s definitely not just for Sundays around here. They also have opportunities to try out many different areas of focus—where as the public school system just can’t afford the staff to do that. We hold a belief that God grants each of us a gift—and that gift is to be used to bring Him glory (rather than ourselves). We are blessed to see their gifts growing and encourage them in their use. My son is on his way to being a building or robotic engineer, and my daughter has a passion for drawing and working with children. I don’t know how the Lord will use these gifts, but I do know that if my children are looking to Him, He will.

Every year we begin and I think to myself, “This year is going to be normal.” By that I mean things will go according to schedule with no hic-ups. I don’t know why I think this every year—it has never gone the way I expected. Ever. The first year we formally home-schooled I was pregnant with my second child and, unlike many other lucky mom’s out there (but I’m not bitter), I spent 9 months throwing up about 9 times a day. It’s rather hard to teach like that. Then the next year, we had an infant—this posed some problems. The next year, that infant was a toddler—more issues! Then my health started to go awry. Then my son’s health began to challenge us. That’s been a pattern for the past several years, really. Some how though, through all of this, my daughter, and then my son, learned to read, write, spell, study the Bible, history, science, grammar, vocabulary, robotics, art, and math (these are not listed in order of importance).

There’s a well used verse in Christian circles: Proverbs 22:6 Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.  

These past nine years have held some important lessons for us all. I think all our food allergies and health challenges have brought the idea of God’s providence clearly into view for my children. They are learning from a young age that God is directly involved in all aspects of our lives–and we can and do rely heavily on Him for our day to day strength.  God’s word is active and alive in our lives, not just stories printed in a book. Most importantly, prayer isn’t something to do when you are caught in a jam, but an ongoing conversation with our heavenly Father.

SO, what’s this year going to look like? Is it going to be normal? After 9 years of doing this, I think the answer is unequivocally ‘no.’ However, this year, as I learn to put my health in the Lord’s hands, I’m turning over every other aspect in my life to Him as well. What are my expectations of our school year going to be? We’ll be putting one foot in front of the other as we all keep our eyes on Him.

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