Life unexpected

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by Bill Parsons

“I have more tests tomorrow, and I sure hope we find out something. I haven’t slept much, and neither has my wife, since the doctor first mentioned the word cancer.”

I hung up the phone after calling my uncle. The last time we talked, they were excited about some of the homes in eastern Washington they had contemplated buying so they could retire in a few years in a quiet, small town. Now, they are “weighing their options.” Their future is in the results of the next round of tests. This was not what they had planned.

The day after that phone call, I went to work to find out that a superintendent on a neighboring jobsite had collapsed and died at the feet of his crew. Nothing had alerted anyone that he was even sick. That was not what his family had planned.

With parents at the 80-year mark, we dread answering a ringing phone past 10 p.m., but our last midnight phone call was our overjoyed daughter: ”I’m engaged!” Although we were very happy, we had to change our plan to gradually remodel on our household budget. “We think we might be pregnant.” Our son and his wife didn’t plan on having a child for several years. Those phone calls suddenly changed the plan we had for our lives.

Most of us like to set goals, make plans, dream dreams. This is all good, but we know life can change unexpectedly in a moment. Some changes come as a shock, others are more gradual; some bring happiness, some bring sadness. So how do we prepare ourselves for these changes? Or should we?

The questions I wrestle with as a Christian involves placing the future in God’s hands.  How do I plan for the future, but not worry about it? It’s easy to say “Take it to the Lord in prayer,” “Spend time in the Word” “Let go, let God,” but I know when the money train came to a halt in my household, and it was impossible to pay the bills, it was an awful feeling to look  my family in the eye and admit I was not able to provide for them.

The way I grew out of financial troubles was obedience. I continually prayed to become clay in His hands. However He wanted to solve our problems, I agreed to abide by it. I climbed up in His lap and said, “Take care of me, Daddy, I completely trust You.” Some of the things we had to go through were difficult, some were painful, most were humbling.   But the more I put the future in His control, the more I understood what Paul meant: that our circumstances do not affect our relationship with Him.  (Phil. 4:11)

Jesus promised us trouble in this world (John 16:33), but we will be joint heirs with Him in the next (Rom. 8:17). We have learned the sooner we grow closer to Him, the sooner He can bless us with His total and loving care. I pray you will learn the lesson more quickly than I did and place your complete trust in Him today and every day.

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Asleep In The Food Dish

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by Bill Parsons

Through the years, my family has rescued many homeless cats. My wife, the animal lover, says God sends them to us, but I don’t believe her. Most of them showed up at our door, but one particular kitten came from a job site in the country. He appeared under a tree one day and drove the crew crazy as we tried to build a house while hearing his constant mournful cry.

The kitten was determined to survive, and spent three days meowing and raiding our lunchboxes. I decided he was too skinny for coyote bait, so I threw him in my truck and took him home to my daughter. He immediately began to explore his new surroundings, being particularly enthralled with the large dish of dry food, as if he couldn’t believe he could have his fill and still have leftovers! We watched him race between the food dish — gobbling as much as his little mouth could hold — to the human beings who were waiting to pet him, then back to the food dish. Over and over he ran this path, until he was so exhausted he finally plopped into the food dish, stretched out his tiny feet and fell asleep.

Have you ever had this experience? We have. When we were in business, a client failed to pay us for a major remodel, causing us to lose a huge amount of money. We fought for two years to collect the debt, but the situation ruined our financial health for most of the next 15 years. We were finally able to work our way out of debt, getting to the point where we could pay our bills and have leftovers. When that time finally came, I would go to our online bank account every day to make sure the money hadn’t disappeared. When my wife teased me about it, I would answer, “I’m just going to sleep in the food dish for awhile!”

For a long period of time, Elim also struggled financially. I remember when we had to wait until the offering was collected on Sunday to know whether we could pay the pastor on Monday. We had to split his paycheck, giving him half one week and half the next. Staff members were cut and we couldn’t pay the utility bills. Most of our elder meetings were consumed with discussions on how to juggle funds to survive.

As we near the end of 2009, we marvel at how richly God has blessed our church. We have enough for expenses, have given away more than we budgeted, and still have leftovers. But when I look at the financial reports, I’m afraid I may want to hold on to this abundance too tightly. I don’t want to be caught asleep in the food dish when the opportunity arises to do God’s work. What plans does God have for His resources? How will He use us to accomplish those plans?

For this reason, the elders have been praying that God will make it clear how He wants our church to use all of the resources He has provided. Please pray with us, praising God for what He has done and asking His wisdom and guidance in our decisions.

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