Love God. Love Others. At Basketball Practice.

I sat with a friend while our sons were practicing basketball and I looked at her weary face.  I knew she was pregnant with her fourth baby and I could tell since the previous week that something was going on.  Something wasn’t right.

“How are you holding up?” I asked her.  She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “Not good.  I have cervical cancer.”  She proceeded to tell me that the doctors were saying she would most likely lose the baby.  Things needed to move fast—decisions needed to be made.  She was carrying what she considered her “miracle baby”—how the cancer never would’ve been diagnosed in time were it not for that little heartbeat in her womb.  Her heart was connected to this “Lil Bit” and it was pretty much shattered from the weight of the world.  She and her husband had the insane job of figuring out God’s will and direction—ultimately deciding if the baby’s purpose on earth was complete or if this child was meant to live and be a huge testimony to God’s miraculous hand.  Yeah, no pressure.

I’m pretty certain my only response (between tears) was “yikes.”  And when I asked her, helplessly, how I could help, her only response was “Pray.”

Pray.  Immediately after talking with her I experienced something I’ve only had happen a few times in my adult Christian life.  I was overcome with the conviction that God wanted me to pray (and I mean the “pray without ceasing” kind) for Megan.  I wandered the lobby of that gym and prayed for the power of intercession on her behalf.  Sure, I pray for lots of people all the time but I think there’s a difference when the Holy Spirit tugs at your heart and says, “This is something I want you involved in.  This is something you will have the privilege of praying for.  Pray, trust and love as if your life depended on it.”

So I told her that I would be praying diligently, expectantly and unceasingly for her.  I would not shoot up a quick “please take care of this situation” once or twice.  I would be devoted to this daily on her behalf—praying for healing and discernment and miracles and peace.

Things moved along so quickly since that conversation.  Miracles did occur, doors opened.  God moved people to do their small part in the story, which led to an appointment with the leading doctor in the world being willing to take her case in Houston.  When no one else was willing to perform surgery while trying to save the baby—this man said he would.  God smoothed the road so she and her husband felt confident they were making the right decision.  And what resulted was a surgery that saved both Megan’s life and her unborn child’s.  They removed the entire tumor with clear margins and declared her—miraculously—cancer-free.  She would not even need radiation treatments after the baby was born.  Saying that we were all stunned by the news is an understatement.

What’s amazing is that even in my diligent prayer, I never thought to pray for what happened.  I prayed for a successful surgery and protection over her and the baby, prayed they would not realize the tumor was too big and need to perform a hysterectomy unexpectedly, prayed she would wake up from anesthesia with the knowledge her baby was still thriving, that she could make it until radiation treatments this summer, prayed that she would just make it, period, for the sake of her three children and husband.  But God, whoa, God had bigger and better plans for this amazing woman of faith.  While I (and those of us around the world who were praying for her) felt like we were praying for the most miraculous outcome possible, God’s view on the matter was more complete.  More awesome.  More.

February first was the day it all happened—appropriately in the month focused on love.  And come summer, there will be a baby who will be a living billboard of a love bigger and better than we could ever imagine.  But loving God is a powerful thing as well.  He allows us to love others in a way that goes beyond sharing a seat on the sidelines at a basketball practice on a Tuesday evening.  It’s deeper.  It’s eternal.  It’s a privilege, indeed.

Check out Megan and Billy’s miraculous story–and meet baby Houston (that living billboard of love I was talking about!)

The Bowling Alley Evangelist

She turned and looked at me in the middle of the bowling alley and I could tell by her face she was going to ask me something important.  “Can I ask you a crazy question?”  I knew for some reason that she was going to ask me something about God and that the words out of my mouth needed to proclaim His truth.  Oh, man, I thought.  I am such a messy speaker. I cannot think on my feet to save my life.  Give me a computer and some time and I’ll write something down for you but asking me, point blank, can result in a tongue-tied mess.  I felt like Moses when God called him to speak to Pharaoh and he stood before the Lord and said, “Really?  I’m not so great at talking to people—I’m pretty certain you’ve made a mistake in choosing me.  Can I at least bring a friend to help me out?”

But I looked around and there was no one.  And she was asking ME.  God put me there on purpose—He knows I’m terrible with this kind of thing but He put me there anyway.  My friend asked me what I thought about some of the Bible stories we read to our kids and how when we think about them (as logic-seeking, control-loving, proof-demanding adults), they are sometimes really hard to believe.  I mean, really, Jonah?  The whale?  The lion’s den?  Parting of the Red Sea?  I took a deep breath and began.

I told her that I understand those feelings and thoughts (after all, I’m an adult who likes things to make sense as much a possible, too).  I think we like things to fit neatly in a box so our brains can feel comfortable with ideas within our earthly parameters.  But I told her that I believe God created this fantastic world—out of nothing.  So what’s a little man in a whale compared to that?  I believe the God who created THE story is able to use whatever means He desires to tell His story—and miracles are one of the many ways he chose (and chooses) to reveal Himself to us.  Timothy Keller says in his book, The Reason for God, “If there is a Creator God, there is nothing illogical at all about the possibility of miracles.  After all, if he created everything out of nothing, it would hardly be a problem for him to rearrange parts of it as and when he wishes.”  And all the miracles of Jesus—the healing, feeding, raising of the dead?  They were impossible by human standards but Jesus wasn’t putting on a magic show.  Keller says, “We modern people think of miracles as the suspension of the natural order, but Jesus meant them to be the restoration of the natural order.”

But I also said that as I parent my children and reveal God’s truth to them, I am very honest when I tell them there is much I don’t understand.  And there are some things I believe we won’t understand until we see Him face to face.  I said a silent “thank you” as I looked over at my son who happened to be sitting close by.  I said, “Bigs, what’s one of the first things I’m going to ask God when I get to heaven?”  Without missing a beat, he said “What’s up with snakes?”  We all laughed but I was thankful he was there to reveal my transparency that I try to have with my kids as I teach them to love the Lord.

I don’t know all the answers but I don’t have to know them.  I know the God who created it all.  I know His Son who died for me.  I know the One who lives within me as I muddle through conversations in bowling alleys.  His story is wonderful and perfect and interesting and scary and impossible for me to fully comprehend.  It takes a childlike faith combined with a mature passion to fully know the Author and accept the beauty of how the story ends.