When the Situation is Deadly, Dangerous and Desperate.

The Deceptively Quiet Start
It was a quiet evening in the Canela village, half a lifetime ago, when I learned an important lesson. Jo was next door attending the birth of a baby that had been coming since the afternoon. With our three daughters in boarding school in Belem, I had our mud-walled, palm thatch house peacefully to myself for the next hour or two. As I relaxed in my hammock with a book, I thought, I love days when most of the Canelas are away hunting meat for a festival. No one to bother me as I catch up on my reading.

The Birthing Scene
But only ten minutes into my book I heard a kid running towards the house. He burst in through the open back door and shouted, “Your wife wants you to come right now!” I jumped up, ran after him to the house next door, and rushed into the room where a typical Canela birth scenario was unfolding. The young mother-to-be on the pole and mat bed leaned back against her husband who had his arms around her below her breasts ready to tighten and squeeze down when the moment came. A couple of elderly women were taking turns feeling inside her to check the position of the baby. What was not typical was that the mother’s head lolled to one side and her unseeing eyes were rolled up so that only the whites showed.

The Danger
Jo looked at me with deep concern showing on her face and said in English, “Honey, this woman is dying. She is unconscious. I can’t even feel her pulse anymore. She has been in labour too long. She’ll die if we don’t do something.” I checked her pulse on the side of her throat, it was faint and slow. Not a good sign. If she died now the baby would die too, unless I cut her belly open to take the baby out. But there was zero chance of the relatives consenting to let me do that. “ Great Father in heaven, help us!” I prayed in Canela.

The Prayer of Desperation
I also prayed as I ran back to the house, “Lord, give me wisdom and give it now!” I grabbed a flashlight and began to look over the medicine shelves at the scores of bottles, boxes and packages. We had everything from antibiotics to anti snake bite serum, from pills for intestinal parasites and diarrhea, to eye and ear drops. I had no idea what I was looking for.

Suddenly, behind some dental extraction tools and anesthetic, an ampoule stood out, Adrenalin. Hmm, that’s for allergic shock. I remembered. It makes the heart beat faster and stronger. Okay, that’s it! I grabbed the ampoule, a syringe and needle. In the bright light of my flashlight, I drew in one millilitre of adrenalin and ran back to the house. Still praying, I injected the adrenalin into the muscles of her upper arm.

The Waiting
My fingers on the side of her throat, waiting. Ten seconds, no change. Another ten seconds and I felt a slightly stronger beat.

Another twenty seconds and her heart was beating hard and fast. Then her eyes popped wide open, she stiffened, panted, gave a scream and a mighty push. Her husband helpfully squeezed down, everyone shouted encouragement, and within a few minutes, Whump! There was the baby! Whew!

One Week Later

“Thank you, Lord,” I prayed as I walked back home to boil the syringe and needle. “Thank you for focusing my eyes on that adrenaline. Thank You for showing the Canelas You care and answer a desperate prayer for help.”

It’s amazing what we can accomplish in situations where there is nothing to lose. The woman and the baby were going to die. That was sure. We had heard of it happening before. When death is inevitable and near, people will take crazy chances. Nothing to lose, everything to gain.

The Miracles in Desperate Times
God often works his greatest miracles at times of utter desperation. Four lepers were starving outside the walls of a besieged city. “If we sit here, we die” they reasoned. “If we go into the city we die. Let’s go over to the besieging enemy, they might give us food. The worst they can do is kill us and we’re going to die anyway.” Their act of desperation in the end saved the lives of everyone in the besieged city. Read the whole story in 2 Kings 6:24 to 7: 20.

Queen Esther and all the Jews of the Persian empire were facing certain death. Only the emperor could stop the executions. Although Esther was the wife of the emperor, she risked her life if she came to him without being called. But she went anyway, saying, “I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish” Esther 4:16 (NIV). She was going to die anyway and had everything to gain. Her act of desperation in the end saved the lives of all her people.

It’s amazing what God can do when we call on Him for help in dangerous, deadly situations,and we are ready to act in desperation.

Money CAN Buy Happiness

Money can buy happiness after all.
A study done a few years ago appears to indicate that, contrary to the popular saying “Money can’t buy happiness”, spending money can actually make people happier.

The First Experiment
Elizabeth Dunn, an assistant professor with the University of British Columbia’s department of psychology, and Michael Norton, an assistant professor at the Harvard Business School, analyzed results from three reports of happiness and spending.

In one experiment, the researchers asked people to report their annual income, then give a detailed description of how they spent their money each month, and, finally, rank their general happiness.

“Regardless of how much income each person made”, Dunn said, “those who spent money on others reported greater happiness, while those who spent more on themselves did not.”

The Second Experiment
In another experiment, researchers tracked how employees of a firm who had received bonuses spent the money and how they felt afterwards. They reported, “Employees who devoted more of their bonus to spending on others experienced greater happiness. The manner in which they spent that bonus was a more important predictor of their happiness than the size of the bonus itself.”

The Third Experiment
A third rather artificial experiment also supported this concept. The researchers gave a group of university students varying amounts of money. Half were instructed to spend the money on themselves, the other half to spend it on others. Then they were rated on their happiness. As in the other experiments, those who spent the money on others reported being happier.

My Comment
After reading about this study on the CBC On Line news, I logged in to the comment section and wrote,

“For two-thousand years Jesus’ followers have been proving the truth of what He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”

Jesus also said, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” Luke 6:38 (NIV).

Generous People Are Happy People
Both the statements from Jesus and this research report excite me since there are so many Kingdom building projects and ministries Christians can give to. Having first given ourselves to God, our gifts of time, energy and money flow naturally. When we give to God’s work of meeting people’s needs, we make deposits in our heavenly investment accounts while His Kingdom grows.

Money, when given away, brings happiness.  Jesus said so, and, for what it is worth, so do the researchers. Givers just can’t lose. It’s a win-win situation.

“I’d Rather be . . .”  

In January of 1966, I loaded my pregnant wife and our two pre-school daughters into an old Volkswagen van and drove 6,600 kilometres (4,000 miles) from Edmonton, Alberta, to a jungle survival training camp for pioneer missionaries near the Mexico-Guatamala border.

The Surprise.
As part of our training, for one week, we recorded everything we did each day on time sheets, marked off in 15 minutes segments. At the end of that week the totals staggered us. The hours we spent in classes, private study, and working on academic projects were minimal. Time for recreation and entertainment was zero. The rest of the time was maxed out with chopping wood, hauling water, preparing food, washing clothes, and keeping the rain out of our makeshift shelter. Work, work, work, just to keep ourselves fed, clean, and minimally rested. I was deeply frustrated.

The Aggravation.
Today, fifty-two years later, I still get aggravated at how much time I need to spend in work activities that are not what I really want to work at. “I’d Rather be Writing” would be a good bumper sticker for my car. No, I don’t have to chop wood or haul water, but I do resent spending time on the mechanics of my blog, the email list, keeping accurate records of our complicated finances, and learning to effectively use computer writing programs.

What’s more, every time I hear of the death of a friend or acquaintance who is close to my age, I get a shot of adrenelin and just want to sit down and write faster. I have so many God-honouring stories to tell, and yet, like in those months in jungle camp, there are so many tasks that interfere. I have talked with many older Christians who confess to the same frustration. It makes me ask this question: What is God’s plan in all this?

1: God-given Abilities
God gives each of us different abilities and talents which we develop through diligent practice. He also gives spiritual gifts like faith, insight, and ministry gifts such as evangelism or service. The gift He gave me is the ability to communicate by telling stories. When we “fan into flame the gift of God which is in you.” 2 Timothy 1:6 (NIV), we enjoy our work, we work at it more, we become very good at it, and we bring praise to God.

2: God-Given Community.
God has made us unique, but He has not made us to live as independents. He designed us to live inter-dependently, as a community, each of us operating in the area of our strengths, not only meeting our own needs but also the needs of others. “Carry each other’s burdens” Galatians 6:2 (NIV) God wants us to use our strengths to help others in our  community. Others, in turn, help us using their giftings and strengths. This biblical concept contradicts our North American culture which glorifies rugged independence. I have always practiced delegation whenever possible. At my age, I increasingly ask myself, “What is that one thing I alone can do?” and then focus on doing that. Lately I have used the finances that God moves people to provide for us to hire others to do some of the things others can do much better than I can.

3: God-Given Power
Sometimes God assigns us to something we must personally do, when no one can help, even though the task is outside our area of strength. That’s when we need to pray, “Holy Spirit, please give me the power and self-discipline to do this task well.” It is the rest of what Paul wrote Timothy, “. . . the Spirit God gave us . . . gives us power . . . and self-discipline” 2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV).

Work within the area of our native abilities; work inter-dependently within a community; and when neither of these are possible, trust God to give us the power and self-discipline to see us through the task.

I began learning these 3 lessons 52 years ago in jungle camp, and hope to fully learn them soon.

Why Should Christians Need Encouragement?

“Working vacation” and “original copy” are oxymorons:  the words cancel each other out. “Discouraged Christian” should be an oxymoron, but it isn’t. Why?

Nine ‘Ds’ of Discouragement
We human beings are very often dejected, disappointed, depressed, dispirited, disillusioned, downcast, disenchanted, disheartened, and in the dark! No wonder the encouragement theme is so pervasive throughout the thousands of years of biblical history.

But why should Christians need encouragement? Here we are, children of a loving Father-God. We know He is Love, He is Light, He is Just and all-Knowing, all-Powerful, all-Wise, and Present everywhere. The more these truths about God soak into our minds, the more we set ourselves to live right, love others, speak kindly, make biblically sound decisions, and fill our minds with pure, uplifting thoughts.

And what is the result?
We, His children, the ones He says He loves, suffer the same sudden disasters that fall on those who live selfishly without any thought of God. We also experience deep disappointments, car accidents, killer cancers, botched surgeries, and financial failures.

In fact, the more Christians live in obedience to God and His Word, the greater the attacks of Satan. Witness, for instance, the growing antagonism the Alberta government is focusing on Christian parents right now.

Encouragement in the Bible
Before Joshua started his invasion of Canaan, God told him, “Be strong and courageous.” These words were passed on seven times to Joshua, to Moses, to the leaders, and to God’s people. David repeated the theme in the Psalms, saying, “Be of good courage.” Jesus, after telling his followers they would have lots of trouble in this world, encouraged them by saying, “But cheer up, I have overcome the world.” The apostle Paul constantly urges his readers to encourage each other.

Eight Ways to Encourage Ourselves and Others
1) It may be too soon to judge if something that happened is good or bad. We may only be halfway into God’s story of our lives.

2) When we receive comfort and encouragement in hard times, we are better able to sympathize with others and to comfort and encourage them. 1 Corinthians 1:3-4

3) Like a grower who uses a pruning knife on his vines to produce more and better fruit, so God uses persecution to purify His Church, sorting out the lukewarm, easy-believism church goers from those who are willing to pay a high price for following Christ closely. John 15:2

4) Just as Jesus suffered so mankind could be saved, so we need to suffer to bring His salvation to others. Colossians 1:24 (TLB)

5) God wants each of us to live bringing glory to Him. Some will do this by being highly successful in business or in ministry, others by quietly suffering under multiple stresses. Philippians 4:11

6) God has given every person on earth the ability to make choices. Every choice, good or bad, has consequences which affect other people, even Christians, but God works out all things for our good. Romans 8:28

7) Even if the story ends badly in this life, God is no one’s debtor. He is just and will reward suffering for Him in this life with glory in the next. 1 Peter 5:10

8) A well-known poem tells us God answers our prayers, although not always in the way we expect:

I asked for strength and God gave me difficulties to make me strong.
I asked for wisdom and God gave me problems to solve.
I asked for patience and God placed me in situations where I was forced to wait.
I asked for courage and God gave me dangers to go through.
I asked for love and God gave me troubled people to help.

Encourage Ourselves in the Lord, Not in the Circumstances
We can’t help but get discouraged at times, but we don’t have to stay discouraged. We can be like David after raiders had kidnapped his own family and the families of his followers, and his own friends wanted to kill him. David “encouraged himself in the Lord” and with God’s help, went on to win a great victory. (1 Sam. 30:6)