Tag Archives: missionary preparation

When winds turn turbulent the One who calms storms is still Lord! Wave after wave buffeted the hull of Noah’s ark, yet all mankind still descends from his sons. Joseph, though tormented in dungeons, still brought to bear his ministry of deliverance for Israel. Persecuted and scattered, Christ’s own disciples wondered if they’d come so far for nothing, yet they sit as fathers of the Church. “In his heart a man plots his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9, NIV 1984). Special waypoints confirm themselves, but the steps in between call for faith in the One who set the stars.

When winds turn turbulent the One who calms storms is still Lord!

In July, I reported a miracle of God’s providence when He landed me an unimaginable job ("Nurse Todd takes a Job"). The Lord planted me in an intensive care unit when I had never dreamed of asking for such a distinction. Since then, I have toiled, wrestled, grieved, and strived, only to find myself involuntarily moved to another assignment less demanding. I grieve the loss of the work family I developed in the ICU, and the blow to my pride since I can no longer say, “I am an ICU nurse.” I would be remiss, however, to think that such was never His will. Any one of the patients I’ve served, the families I’ve comforted, the coworkers I’ve encouraged, the complex health issues I’ve studied, the severe situations I’ve experienced, or even this recent lesson in humility I’ve been dealt could be reason enough for me to have been brought through this season.

I can no longer say, “I am an ICU nurse.”

I well remember that a missionary is not called to do what is easy, but what is necessary. That very notion has helped me to make a decision about where to plant my next footfall. Given the option of a sparklingly attractive job in predictable, routine orthopedics or a more clinically demanding medical-surgical unit, I have opted for the latter and have already joined the ranks of my new work family. They seem to be happy to receive me and, only two days in, I’ve already had an opportunity to make an impact on patients and coworkers alike.

a missionary is not called to do what is easy, but what is necessary

I am learning that the key to living through loss with grace is gratitude. I am grateful for the knowledge that God is sovereign over my circumstances and has a plan for me. I am grateful that my end destination is not God’s only plan, but that every stepping stone en route is no less carefully designed and appointed. I am grateful for relationships built, experiences had, and ministry opportunities capitalized. Today, I honestly thanked God for the lesson in humility represented by my reassignment. I don’t need to know what lies ahead to trust the Navigator.

the key to living through loss with grace is gratitude

Whether you are experiencing turmoil in your life or not, I hope you will remember that the Master of the waves and wind is also the Architect of your soul, sinews, and senses, and He will plant your every step if you surrender your course to His will. That said, I cannot overstate the value of faithful encouragement. The words of my friends through this have really propped me up when I needed it. My hope is that every child of Christ has a family of encouragement to prop them up. The entire purpose of the Church is to glorify God by caring for one another in the manner Christ taught us.

the Master of the waves and wind is also the Architect of your soul, sinews, and senses

Where the Lord guides the Lord provides. The battles to which He brings us are His to win, while the orders of a spiritual warrior are to “pray without ceasing,” “be still and know,” and “after all, to stand.” When those battles have to do with health, we are further instructed:
“Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.” (James 5:14, NIV)

It is in response to these orders that I write this update, which may err on the side of overshare since my recent prayer concerns are of a physical nature. You may remember I alluded to some of this in September's post.

For the last couple years I have endured minor pain and stiffness in my back, but dismissed it as merely part of nearing fifty. It turns out that aging is not supposed to hurt and pain really is an alarm for something amiss. After many sessions with my doctors and an MRI machine, it has been revealed that I have a lower spine issue that requires intervention. I have had two lumbar epidural steroid injections and have been going to physical therapy in hopes that surgical spinal fusion can be avoided. At the same time, another pain symptom in my groin, which green-flagged my start to the doctor after all this ignored pain, has proven to be an inguinal hernia, for which I have been referred to a surgeon. Each of these issues has brought warnings not to lift heavy objects, difficult orders to obey when one is a new nurse on an intensive care unit.

A good military commander will not attack merely one front, but will overwhelm an enemy with flanking maneuvers from all sides possible, and Satan is a crafty destroyer. So it is with my family recently. My physical concerns come at a time when I am also under the pressure of an extended orientation at work. Having failed to achieve satisfactory progress in critical decision-making necessary to remain in the ICU, I risk being reassigned to another new unit where I may have to learn everything anew. On other fronts, someone very dear to me faces the news of a cancer diagnosis, my parents are addressing their own health problems, and so on and etcetera.

I am reminded that the Lord has crafted His handiwork, and the maintenance of our bodies is a shared stewardship. While I should care for His temple with the diligence of one loaned an antique car, I also have to remember that He is the Chief Mechanic and Great Physician. We are called to pray for God’s will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven, because the will of God is not the rule on this dirt world. God gave authority over this world to Adam, and man has been running the way of sin, decay, and death ever since. The Son of God and Son of Adam, Yeshua (Jesus), was born to combine the power of Heaven with the authority of Earth, and we as heirs were given permission to wield that powerful authority with prayer. It is precisely this miraculous combination that we celebrate at Christmas and, as Christians, every day in prayer. Thank you for fortifying my position with your prayers. My hope is for full remission after my loved one's treatments are complete, that I may be spared spinal surgery, and that a hernia repair will not interfere with my new job.

I am an ICU nurse by the will and design of God - the Lord of Heaven’s armies, and He will resource my development. For where the Lord guides, He provides!

Copyright © 2015 HarperCollins Christian Publishing.

I confess I am much like the Israelites delivered from Egyptian slavery. A few days in the wilderness with Moses, and they seemed to forget the mountains of water between which they walked across the Red Sea on dry land, and instead began whining about where their next meal might come from. Here I am, a new graduate from nursing school, draped in honor cords, after repeatedly begging for deliverance from what seemed like countless narrow brushes with disastrous failure. My feet are dry and the fish are watching my onward march from the confines of their heaping habitat. No sooner have I heard the crashing of the waves behind me before I’ve turned my eyes to peer past the pillar of fire and smoke to what lies ahead.

Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced... (1 Chronicles 16:12, NIV)

How will I pass the nursing boards? Where will I work? Who will hire a middle-aged man when there are so many young kids graduating with me? Why did my first-choice hospital pass me over? Why haven’t I heard back from the other recruiters? How did s/he land a job ahead of me?

What is this manna? Did you lead us out here to die? When will we get some meat? Surely we were better off as Egypt’s slaves than being stuck in this wilderness!

“…remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability…” (Deuteronomy 8:18a, NIV)

As it turns out, God is already doing new and wonderful things. Allow me to share a miraculous demonstration of His undeserved goodness:

I was invited to apply for a nursing job about which I was eager but mysteriously uneasy. It seemed perfectly tailored to me with elements of corrections, addiction, and youth all rolled into a low-stress environment which was even conducive to continuing education. It tempted me with its apparent answer to my ongoing question: “Why would God make a nurse out of a retired police officer?” The drawbacks were that it would not give me much clinical nursing experience and it seemed like a step back toward law enforcement rather than forward into nursing. I prayed with friends at church about it, that God would make the right decision obvious, and that a clear “Gideon’s fleece” would be if the nurse I would be replacing decided not to submit his notice as anticipated. The next day, I woke up horribly dizzy (a condition that passed in about 6 hours and was likely related to a recent sinus surgery). When I contacted my friend to postpone our meeting about the job, she informed me that there was no rush to meet because the nurse I would be replacing decided not to submit his notice as anticipated. Soaked fleece identified! The job is not for me. Out of respect for my friend and her invitation, I proceeded a few days later to meet at the rehabilitation facility where she affirmed in several ways that, while this was a good paying job and a wonderful ministry, it was not a place to build the experiential nursing skills I will need to be a productive missionary nurse.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

(Lamentations 3:22-23, NIV)

The very next day, at precisely 3:06pm, my friend and pastor sent me a text inquiring about my health. I shared with him the details of my progress and the soaked fleece story. He responded prayerfully, “Ok God, send Todd the next test on your agenda.”

At 3:24, only eighteen minutes later, I received a call from a recruiter who represents my first-choice hospital, one I had been informed had passed me over. She informed me that, if I was still interested and not turned off by the prospect of night shift, she had a spot open for me. We scheduled an interview for later this week, and I am over the moon with excitement about the prospect. Other options continue to become available, and I am reminded that, whether I get the whole picture of the destination on the horizon or am blinded by the blazing cloud in front of me, the One in the pillar is directing my steps and I have nothing to fear.

I do believe, Lord Jesus! Help me overcome my unbelief. *

"And if I could tell you all, you would see how God has done all, and I nothing.”  - Florence Nightingale

Cindy and I sort of have an agreement that we will not spend our household budget on inflated gifts and flowers for Valentine’s Day, but that doesn’t mean I can’t put something celebratory in her online profile.

A social media caption I wrote this morning, which grossly understated her contribution, read:

“There’s nothing quite like a girl who's willing to put up with late night shifts, extended hours, insecurity regarding hubby's safety, taking care of things at home, and habitual control issues that can wear and tear on any relationship. My valentine is a champion! "A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. ...Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all." (Proverbs 31:10-11, 29, NIV) Happy Valentine's Day, Cindy Lemmon!”

Her husband has full confidence in her......

Cindy’s had anything but a happy way of it lately. Our precious furry friend, Duke, took ill a couple months ago and we finally had to put him down.  In his last days, Cindy broke her shoulder heroically cradling Duke instead of catching herself in a fall.  She’s been nursing her gimpy fin ever since, dealing with intense pain and all the inconveniences of not being able to flap both wings, but she’s done it with a smile. As if pain and grief weren’t enough of a duo, they teamed up to form a villainous alliance with unmet deadlines at work, an upper respiratory infection, and the typical specks of irritation in any home or relationship that make everything chafe when rubbed together.

Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all. 

I’ve been so overwhelmed with Nursing School and whether I’m making a passing grade on any given day that I have failed to recognize what the lady beside me is pulling off. An honest inventory of the foes she’s fighting would include: my mid-life career change, being a Nursing School wife (every bit as demanding as police-wife), seemingly endless missionary preparations with ambiguous ministry launch plans and dates, plus all the stuff that goes in between like medical evaluations, surgery prospects, emptying nest, outstanding debt, and more. The truth is life is tough. But when the ones who live it give it what they’ve got and come out shining like my wife does, that’s a sparkling example of God’s refining fire at work.

I have failed to recognize what the lady beside me is pulling off. 

I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33, NIV

Thank you for praying for my Valentine! She’s got her hands full and I’m not always the most attentive sidekick.

God has been correcting my attitude of trepidation that keeps His joy from being complete in me and limits my effect on others while I trudge through Nursing School. Since the last of four terms in the Associate Degree program starts tomorrow, it is a good time to address this.

I have addressed many in crisis, often in the wake of trauma, and one of the pearls I share in such times is that trauma, whether physical or emotional, causes the human body and mind to focus on self as a preservation mechanism. We need to expect it, address it, let it do its job of preserving our lives, then overcome it so interpersonal relationships aren’t overwhelmed and capsized by the experience. An example of this is the warrior shot in battle who loses peripheral sensation, manual dexterity, complex reasoning, and many other functions as the body focuses all its resources on the wound and survival from it. An emotional example is the grief shared by a family when a central member is lost. While each party recoils from the bereavement, their interpersonal sensitivity and capacity for consideration is shunted in a preserving mechanism of self-interest. Even as blood flow is redirected from extremities to a bullet wound, thought energy is redirected at surviving emotional wounds. Any who attempt to settle a relative’s estate while empathy is in such an impaired condition soon witness the self-serving effects of this biophysical reaction as an attitude of “every man for himself” prevails in such proceedings, often destroying family relationships.

Even as blood flow is redirected from extremities to a bullet wound, thought energy is redirected at surviving emotional wounds.

I am discovering it is similar for those in the tumultuous realm of Nursing School, where fear of failure makes every experience one of perceived trauma. It is something like teetering on a high balance beam when you’ve stumbled once already. Every muscle quakes with the trembling awareness that another slip may send you crashing. Every communique from the faculty seems to impale a student’s spirit with the same advice: “Try not to worry, but if you screw this up you’re out!” It is about as helpful as the dubious advice, “Don’t look down!” to one scraping for their lives on a rock face. I’m tired of looking down and worrying about what happens if the unknown ahead of me is unfavorable. The immutable truth is that God will still be on His throne, and I will still be His no matter what happens. So what is there to worry about? Nothing! (Someone please remind me this in twenty minutes.) God is fashioning me into a nurse. It is not an overnight process. He might be done in four terms and He might take longer. Either way, I will be answering His call to “become a nurse” so I’m fulfilling my part. The rest is to be diligent and live out my calling as a missionary while I’m at it, rather than waiting for some far off day when I am somehow magically transfigured into something I haven’t been.

To grow into tomorrow’s version of me, I have to be today’s best version. That may mean letting go of a lot of yesterdays worth of dysfunctional living, but it most certainly means letting God do the whittling and plastering instead of insisting that I get to be art, artist, and architect. His ways and thoughts are not my ways and thoughts, and neither is His timing mine. That’s the tough part of servanthood: doing what the Master says instead of what I want; letting the results be His design and not mine; allowing Him to fret over the details instead of me. I don’t have a dog in this hunt; I am the dog in this hunt!

One of the ways I plan to accomplish this revolution of attitude is a new way of thinking. When I start my morning reading Scripture and praying, it is easy to get stuck in the “such a worm as I” soundtrack that so often accompanies repentance (especially when reading Old Testament Scripture). God is showing me that I have no business remaining on the floor of repentance once it has done its work. He longs to lift me into His lap if I will but stand in His grace and allow Him access to lift me. Still, we worms have great difficulty standing with no feet to stand on. That is why I plan to limit my morbid reflection to that which is necessary to lead me to Holy Papa’s throne of repentance then, without delay, move into a receptive attitude to receive His grace, declare my royal priesthood, and don His heavenly character with the authority and confidence of one purchased at high price.

It is easy to get stuck in the “such a worm as I” soundtrack that so often accompanies repentance...

This morning, I invited my bride to join me in such a celebration as we took the Lord’s Supper together. The sacraments do have significant power to change spirit, emotion, and attitude! Even as the elements were blessed, those words of affirmation began to have effect.
Furthermore, I was reminded that, since we will be called to account for every idle word, I need to be more careful of the words I say, the thoughts I think, and the postures I assume. Each has a bearing on my faith, and I refuse to be hung by the tongue.

I am. I can. I have. I will!

  • I am a child of God, dearly loved, highly prized, and purchased at great price; a warrior, prince, and priest by Jesus’ declaration and Holy Spirit power.
  • I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I can say to that mountain, “Be moved,” and watch it march into the sea.
  • I have the dominion of Adam, the blood of Jesus Christ, the indwelling Holy Spirit, and the favor of Holy Father who supplies my every need.
  • I will seek God’s will for me and follow it with all I am, have, and do. I will cease to give evil a foothold in my life by doubting, worrying, or fearing those things over which I know God is already sovereign.

I am. I can. I have. I will!

What about you?

It's hard to imagine almost a whole month off, but here I am at the end of the third of four terms of Associate Degree Nursing School, with no classes until January 2nd of next year.

This has been a monster week for me, and I must confess the disturbance has not fully given way to sabbatical just yet with final exam grades yet to be posted and some health issues being investigated today. There was little doubt that I would pass my class going into the final exam since, according to my obsessive calculations, I only need a 46% on that test to achieve a passing overall grade (76% gets me a B, and an A is not possible since it would require 111%). Grades are expected to post some time this week.

Just one week ago, I was on an ego roller coaster, receiving word that I had been accepted into the honor society for associate degree nursing students just before the news that I had failed a previous exam. A dear friend stunned me when she responded to my report with a commendation. Here is the exchange:

Me: I failed (the exam) but God owns the outcomes.

Friend: Yes he does. His ways are so interesting. I'm so happy that your outlook has changed. It was painful to see you flog yourself after a perceived fail. Thank-you for letting me see another miracle today. I love you brother.

I often hear it said that one can make a mistake without claiming they are a mistake. Apparently God is bringing about a transformation in me significant enough to align me with the grace in that statement. I have exercised application of that principle to "mistakes," but the word "failure" resists adherence to the same rule. I am slowly coming to recognize that I can fail a test, whether written or lived, without being a failure. Nursing school is certainly teaching me that, since I have failed several written exams over the course of this venture, and still God has managed the outcomes so that I was inducted Monday into the Alpha Delta Nu Honor Society. Miraculously, even the failure of a week ago was turned around after a faculty review of the exam.

Somehow, the obsessive perfectionist in me refuses to die, and yet I can say with ultimate certainty that there is no such thing as a satisfied perfectionist. Einstein's definition of insanity feels far too fitting: "doing the same thing over again and expecting different results." Furthermore, if I insist on condemning myself even while my Heavenly Father extends me grace, then the wrong one of us is in the Judge's chair. I was reminded this week that, no matter how often I dethrone and place myself at God's feet, the Good Father is never content to leave me there, but gently lifts me up onto His lap and celebrates my sonship which I did not earn, but which He bought at great price. The ultimate irony is that in relationship with Heavenly Papa, I am elevated higher and more securely than I could ever be sitting alone on a throne meant for the Master of the universe.

ADN Induction with term 3 professor, Dr. Sandra Taylor
Last day of Term 3 clinical with Professor Chelsa Fore
My precious bride, Cindy, came to celebrate the occasion of my ADN induction.
My dear friend and sister from another mister, Sarah
My dear friend and classmate from prior terms, Emily
Eryn and Kelly, my clinical and study partners. They keep me young, along with Ashley (not pictured).
Eryn is my clinical partner, study buddy, and closest friend in class. This term wouldn't have been what it was without a friend like her.

I'm having a hard time knowing where to stand between a position of faith and one of humility and diligent stewardship. On one hand, I know that I need to let go of every aspect of control in order to let God have complete rule of my life. On the other hand, I am told to be diligent, to strive after knowledge and wisdom with everything I have, and to pursue learning as a precious jewel. Every time I share my concern about Wednesday's final exam I am met with well-meaning statements of faith: "Oh you know God will be there for you," "You've got this, and there is no reason to worry," "Oh, I'm not even concerned because I know God will give you the grade you need." I just can't be so presumptuous to expect God will do everything I want Him to do every time I want Him to do it that I shirk my responsibility to diligently study.

I'm reminded of Daniel's friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who were thrown into the fire. Before their date with the furnace, they exclaimed that the God of Heaven was able to deliver them, but that even if He didn't they would never bow to the idol (Daniel 3:16-18). I want to stand like that, completely assured that God is capable of getting me through this and delivering the miracle I believe I need, but content to know that, even if He doesn't, I will walk in His way for me.

To put it more in terms of Elijah, I believe that the altar has been built, the trench has been dug around it, the wood and the offering have been saturated, and the ground all around is soaked with water (1 Kings 18:30-39). What I need now is fire from Heaven to come and blaze for the glory of God in my grade-book. But even if God chooses instead to administer a lesson of patience and humility, I will walk in His way for me.

OverwhelmSo much has happened! In the blur, I have not written much while school was in session. If anyone wants to recover from perfectionism, just go to Nursing School!

This last session was a snarling grizzly bear from which I only narrowly escaped by the grace of God. I am reminded that while God said, “Become a nurse,” He didn’t call me to get straight As or maintain my place on the President’s List. It’s a good thing! After failing three of the six written tests of the past seven weeks, I will scrape by with what I calculate to be the lowest passing grade plus two and a fraction points. God is capitalizing even the scary moments of overwhelm to His glory, and refining my  character by and in the process. He reminded me that He, and He alone, can only be as consistent as perfection, and that my part is to get out of my own way and lean into trust. Every obstacle ends with His sovereignty - every one!

“Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself, like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk. Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.” Psalms 131:2 NLT

Let me share some highlights of my recent clinical rotations that I found affirming. Those I served were highly complimentary, many remarking that I was the most caring healthcare worker they had ever met. I silently hoped no one told them how new I was, and I met each instance with the prayer that I would always maintain the focus to make each person I deal with the most important thing to me at that moment. In the operating room from behind a surgical mask, I learned the power of touch and the communication of the eyes, as I watched sheer terror on the face of an 80 year-old man melt away with just a smile, a reassuring word, and a hand held. Rather than just observing, I made myself a part of the surgical team that day, and each member expressed what I believe was genuine regret at seeing me go and commended my compassionate fitness for Nursing. My medical-surgical patients bonded with me, and often saw me as their point of contact, even though I was shadowing a supervising nurse at all times. It was a strange and wonderful feeling when, even in a room full of more qualified healthcare professionals, a patient sought me for support and comfort while the others addressed her care. I was permitted to pray with some patients, and readily capitalized the opportunity. A nursing assistant who observed my work on the medical-surgical block asked me if I was also a missionary, then said the reason for her question was, “You just seem like someone who would be a missionary.” I can’t tell you what a pat on the shoulder from Holy Father that was!

Mental Health ChecklistWith all the struggling in the classroom and the affirmation of the clinical practice, the biggest changes over the last seven week session have actually been in my personal growth. God is teaching me how better to pray: to take the dominion He gave Adam (Mankind), combine it with the authority of Jesus’ name, and call for God’s will on Earth as it is in Heaven. I am called to wrangle with this world, not dangle in it. Furthermore, I am reminded that I cannot expect to treat everyone as the most important thing to me in their moment without treating my precious bride with the same priority at least daily. So much gets brushed aside in preference of the business at hand, what is important gets neglected. I need to make the priority of marital unity an intentional part of my day. Last, and perhaps most altering, is the recognition that the sinister voice in my head that tells me I’m not good enough or I won’t measure up, is a mental foothold of Satan that has no business in the mind of a blood-bought child of God. Man’s dominion of Earth begins in the individual mind.

I am called to wrangle with this world, not dangle in it.

And so, I close with this prayer I prayed for a hurting sister recently. It stirred my spirit so much, I wept over it and her; and as I reread it discovered it was exactly what I would pray for myself or any of my siblings in Heaven’s family, including you just now:

May the Master of the universe calm your storms. May you see past your wind and waves, to visualize His face guiding your path. May the water at your ankles serve to remind you that the Creator of their molecules also ordered yours to have dominion over this dark world; that you are highly esteemed by Him, betrothed to be delivered from the veil that now obscures your true reality: you are vibrantly alive in a world dusty with the ashes of death - you are destined for a royalty that will never tarnish, corrode, or decay. May the sufferings of this dirt world remind you that you have died to it and are merely preparing to be at home in holiness. May every moment of pain be capitalized as motivation for compassion when, in future moments, you discover another weary soul feebly crossing through their shadowy valleys of fear, anxiety, and despair. May your kindness and gentleness be evidences of God's grace working through you, for His purposes and by His providence. May you live to see this dark day as one in which you turned another revolution of renewal. As seasons ring the pulp of a tree, so may your experiences leave their mark on your spiritual growth. May God grant you, now and always, knowledge of His will for you, resource to carry it out, and faith to see His hand at work for His purposes in Christ Jesus our Redeemer-King, amen!


Prayer partners, please share in my grateful praise to God for the news I received last week: I am the recipient of a full scholarship for the rest of my Associates Degree Nursing program, including books and school fees. God did what I could not do, and filled in the gaps I saw no bridge to cross. He is amazing!

Furthermore, I managed to find a new home for the truck I obtained for interim transportation, and replaced it with a more economical sedan, ideal for a commuting student nurse. God just keeps smoothing over rough places and making ways where there appeared no way.

I know that the view while climbing uphill always seems empty, but as I crest each obstacle I find the horizon always opens up to new opportunities, resources, and motivation to drive onward. Thanks for standing in the gap for me through so many various climbs. The God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills also owns all the hills; so I, one of His blood-bought heirs, lack nothing. Hallelujah!

                  photo credit: National Geographic

Hallelujah! My tuition got paid and the books, supplies, and uniforms have been purchased. Nursing School began Wednesday, ushering me into a new phase of life. I’ve pushed out of the cocoon of the idle fall term, shed the crusty title of retiree, and emerged as one of many new Associate Degree Nursing Students. I’ve already made new contacts among my cohort, which experienced nurses tell me will become like a family of fast friends. Together we are all working out the kinks of a brand new curriculum on a new, all-electronic textbook format. It is nice to know that no one is ahead or behind. I am not expected to lead or follow, but to grow alongside my equally unsettled classmates. God, who called me, equips me, and purposes me, will not fail to escort me to and through this new stage of development

Hebrews 12:11(NIV)

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

 

Down to the wire     There was neither fanfare nor chiming of any bells to mark the occasion, but the local state college has upgraded me from “provisionally accepted” to a registered nursing student, with classes beginning January 6th. Among the voluminous correspondence received by applicants was a study guide along with a hint that there would be a test administered on orientation day. Measurements, ratios, conversions, dosage calculations, medical terminology, and abbreviations, much of which looked like Greek to me, was to be mastered by Monday, November 16th. True to my nature, I studied every jot and tittle until I had found every typographical error in the packet and unraveled every mystery within its pages, but not without some measure of anxiety. There was that little voice in the dark corner of my mind whispering that I would not measure up, be enough, win the prize, shine brightly, or whatever it was I was after. Without my devotional exercises reminding me Whose and what I am, I surely would have been pierced by those fiery darts of the destroyer.

When I arrived for orientation, I was surprised at the number of future nurses who were completely unprepared for any such exam. “What study material?” was repeated by more than one horrified face gathered around me. Later, when the topic of the dosage calculation and medical terminology test came up, the proctor dismissed it as merely one of the many forms that would be passed out, signed, and turned in. It was, she said, just a pre-test to determine where the collective starting point was for the group. The “test” was actually a single leaf of paper with twenty questions on it, and would in no way count toward anyone’s grade. Simultaneously, I was relieved for my friends who had not prepared, disappointed that I had prepared so diligently and would receive no credit for it, and ashamed that I had worried for nothing. When will I ever learn to just do my best and let God control the results?

It was a good thing I received that remedial lesson in not fretting, because when I finished registering for classes I was shown the bill for the next two semesters. The amount was staggering, but includes all electronic books. I have been in person and on the phone with every financial aid, loan, and scholarship office available to me, but it looks like I will need $1,200 by tomorrow, November 19th. Those in authority have told me to wait until just before 7:00 pm to contact any of the others in authority, but by then offices will be closed and students will begin being dropped from classes for non-payment. The confusing, conflicting information I received boils down to a choice to go deeper into debt even though scholarships have not yet been awarded or risk being dropped from the nursing program. I sure am glad I learned not to fret! The God who owns all the cattle and all the hills on which they graze will make a way for this to all smooth out.

Dear Father, today, help me surrender the worries to You and to be obedient with the steps You orchestrate as I reach them, never more than one at a time.

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I have been collecting letters of reference and crafting my scholarship application. Below is the essay I wrote to describe my career and education goals, work experience, community involvement, and current predicament. If you're new to this blog, I hope it's a good way to catch up.


In the late nineteen-eighties, there was no college requirement to become a police officer. I was drawn to public service, and so gave up my job pumping aviation fuel at the local municipal airport and went to work protecting and serving for our county Sheriff. That our security was directly dependent on our physical mobility was a fact most of my peers avoided considering. The truth was that without any post-secondary education or training outside our specific field, should any one of us lose a trigger finger or the ability to jump and run, we would be up a very narrow financial creek without a proverbial paddle. Twenty-five years later, only as I have come to the end of that particular creek have I ventured out into greater waters, frantically scrambling for headway with my police pension serving as makeshift oars as I have returned to college pursuing a nursing degree.

When the idea of switching professions was new, I discovered I was entering a field that was undergoing drastic changes. The American medical field rumbled from Presidential mandates and newly enacted laws that shook many doctors into retirement or relocation and shifted emphasis toward nurses. Nursing was responding to changes with advancing education requirements. Associate degreed registered nurses with decades of experience were expected to quickly advance to Baccalaureate degrees. I knew I needed a bachelor’s degree in nursing in order to serve in this changing climate.

At the same time, I was confronted with a grievous need on the other side of the globe. While westerners gulp seven-dollar espressos and drive luxury sport sedans, our brothers and sisters in the East walk six miles a day to heft barrels of filthy water onto their heads and shoulders to present it as the only means of hydration and sanitation for their families, many of whom die from preventable diseases such as malaria and diarrhea. The reality of this inequity weighed on my heart, and my wife and I began to consider serving as missionaries. As our love for the hurting would not be silenced in our hearts, we committed to move to Uganda to serve where an estimated 2.6 million children are orphaned by war and disease.

Just after I retired my gun and badge, my bride and I set out to meet the land and people to which we had devoted our futures – Uganda. We introduced ourselves to over a dozen missionaries from nearly as many different missions as we made a circuit around the country. We discovered a people eager to smile, content with their labor, and dependent on a beautiful land filled with want, disease, corruption, and difficulty. Twice we found ourselves in police stations where a newly abandoned child needed attention. The desperation for food, water, and clothing outweighs the human connection of family, and the stigma of AIDS still looms like a death sentence on this uneducated population, thrusting need into despair. The Lemmons fell in love with Uganda, their some-day home.

Our lofty plans and higher ideals screeched and burned like landing gear tread on the runway as our feet again touched U.S. soil. Our burden now is bridging from here to there, building a retired police officer into a useful missionary nurse. The first step is education. I need a degree. The obstacle is finances. A police pension and a wife’s wage keep the roof patched and the lights on, but tuition, books, uniforms, skills kits, and testing all takes money our budget does not allow. The demand for excellence precludes working while in school unless absolutely necessary, and so I am compelled to petition for scholarships, loans, and external support.

My extra-curricular involvement centers around my church, as I am a section leader in the church choir, serve in the nursery, and enjoy contributing to children’s and youth events several times throughout the year. I was recently inducted into the Emmaus community, a religious organization outside my church. At school, I have involved myself in the ASL (American Sign Language) Club and the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. I have supported my peers by forming a study group to which as many as five Anatomy and Physiology students have flocked, several of which have become great friends which I mentor even now. I look forward not only to what I will receive from applying myself to my scholastic endeavors, but to what I can leave in the relationships I make on the way. Every one of us is on a mission field of sorts, sharing what we are with those we contact. I may have a grand destination, but the journey itself is the mission at hand.

victoryPraise God! My Nursing School acceptance letter has arrived. Thank you for all the prayers.

I have an amazing encouragement support network. Even my postal clerk was vigilantly checking my box, eager for the chance to congratulate me upon receiving this good news. As I opened the large white envelope with all the enthusiasm of a child at Christmas, I was surprised to find that a congratulatory greeting was not the first thing out of the package. Where I would have expected it was a laundry list of things to do, prove, and buy, along with very strong warnings not to miss deadlines which were emphatically repeated in multicolor boldface. About three pages back was a letter that began with the word “congratulations” but the context was even less celebratory than its position in the packet or its peculiarly small and plain font.

“Provisionally accepted” are the terms which describe my current status. They hit me like Mother’s “maybe” (if you can remember those). Some of the provisos about which I have no concern are a background check, fingerprinting, and drug screening, but the one that slows my hallelujah roll is the physical exam. I was almost excluded from being a police officer decades ago because of a spinal condition of which I had no knowledge and even since have had no symptoms. Since then I've aged a bit and lost enough of my hearing to require correction. This struggle with a stethoscope seems far more relevant than whether my vertebrae connect to the tailbone. Perhaps it is in my human nature to be cautious before celebration, or perhaps it is just plain doubt, but either way, my prayer warriors should know to shift from focusing on the acceptance letter to the tedious processing that now follows.

I have ordered most of my supplies and uniforms, have submitted my drug screen sample and fingerprints, and am checking off my to-do list as I go. There will be a basic skills pre-test at our orientation, November 15th, and I am studying for that, brushing up on fractions, ratios, learning how many drops are in a milliliter, how to convert milliliters to teaspoons and tablespoons, and things like that.

Meanwhile, Cindy is on her Walk to Emmaus (a weekend spiritual experience, similar to a retreat but with too many differences to call it one), so I'm playing the bachelor at home, trying to ready the place to surprise her when she returns. In between trying to find a men's nursing shoe and properly size myself up for white scrubs, I’m cleaning and repairing to beat the band, and praying fervently for her and the other lady pilgrims on her walk.

I was confronted with a very basic principle during a chapel visit on my walk last weekend. I confessed to those with me that I have a basic fear of not being enough. As I worked it out in meditation, God reminded me that I most certainly am NOT enough, but that no man is. “All…have fallen short” (Romans 3:23, excerpted for emphasis), “but,” God seemed to continue, “I AM!” So the passage in Romans continues, “and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24, NIV). I am redeemed, not just from sin and its eternal consequence, but from failure, from not measuring up, from falling short of the glory of God. Who am I to counterfeit the glory of His perfection anyway? I don't have to impersonate the Victor. His victory is already mine by His grace! My sufficiency is not in my bones, my ears, my aptitude, or my grand plans, but in Christ Jesus alone. There’s my hallelujah roll!

Thanks, everyone! Please keep praying.

- Todd

Walk to Emmaus stampLast night I returned from a three day Walk to Emmaus, a spiritual renewal event that jump-started a new chapter of my life. Each new pilgrim on the Walk was asked two questions toward the end of the weekend: what he got out of the experience, and what he would then do about it.

For me the takeaway was summed up in one word: inclusion. Situated between two careers, no longer a part of the brotherhood of law-enforcement which had been my family for two and a half decades and not yet a part of the community of nurses to which I will soon belong, I often feel lost, stuck in the crevice between. The Emmaus community welcomed me with a warm embrace, and I look forward to being a part of that community and a more integral part of my church family.

The second question, which asked what I would do about my spiritual renewal, required something more of me. I made a commitment to abstain from fabricating excuses.

When I arrived home last night, the first thing I did was kiss my precious bride, but the second thing I did was throw away a video game that has become a foothold of sloth in my life. I have found myself in the past weeks manipulating my schedule to allow more time with that silly electronic mind magnet. It has done nothing for me but rob me of energy and time that I might otherwise have used developing myself and supporting others.

This morning, after a refreshing sleep, I returned to the gym after an absence of almost seven months. This absence began with a legitimate excuse, a lingering chest cold that did not permit my physical exertion and which also waylaid my running regimen. Abstaining from excuses meant I would be starting over today, and start over I did. My muscles responded as though they had never even seen a gym before. The stacks of weights were cut nearly in half from my last visit, and my repetitions were also dramatically reduced. Still, I gave myself grace rather than giving into excuses, and finished the workout. Afterwards, I ran the errands I needed to run, and found myself available to support and encourage friends at the hospital.

Nursing School acceptance and rejection letters are being received by some of my fellow applicants, but there has been nothing in my mailbox yet. I was encouraged myself, to learn that my application score is well above the cutoff limit, so I have nothing to fear, but I will still rest easier when the letter is in hand. My primary study partner was one who got disappointing news today, and I spent time adjusting to the loss of her partnership then reached out to encourage and affirm her as she seeks other options.

It would have been convenient to return home and relax, but a precious friend from church is leaving to resume her missionary work in Haiti and was being honored at a send-off party at our pastor's house. I was blessed to participate and to have the opportunity to bless and love on her as she prepared to embark on her mission.

Saying "no" to excuses today freed me up to say "I love you" to those who needed to hear it, including myself.

I received a very simple email the other day, and it reminded me that, while I may not know the details of my future, God has not stopped knitting my circumstances to propel me toward His purposes for my life. While preparing for missions deployment, a lot of logistical concerns can plague the mind if we let it. This little picture reminded me that the first missionaries took no spare sandals, no spare money, no change of clothes. Paul worked as a tent-maker, a term now used to describe any missionary who works to pay his/her way. Suddenly, with the receipt of this little collection of digital code and lit pixels, a thousand "What next?" questions were washed away with one very possible godly "What if?"

CURE jobs

There is a CURE hospital in Mbale, Uganda, which we did not get to see on our tour a year ago. They specialize in diseases of the brain, mostly hydrocephalus, a disfiguring and lethal disease, often a consequence of malnutrition and poor fetal development. As I considered the possibilities that open up as a result of emigrating as a "worker" rather than a "missionary" I am amused at how things change with Uganda's Ministry of Immigration. Missionaries need permission to enter; workers apparently just need opportunity.

I need to emphasize this is not a decision that was a made, but merely a suggestion that opened possibilities.

pleasing interviewGod’s hand on Cindy is an inspiring touch to behold. She would never tell the details so I will. She has been doing contract work for a local temporary administrative services agency which has been faithfully attempting to land her choice positions that may translate into full-time positions. One such was with the local chapter of a major national organization that benefits young girls. She was feeling uneasy about the choice, so she laid out a sort of Gideon’s fleece about it when she said, “God, if it is Your will that I should accept this position, make it obvious by causing them to offer it to me before the close of the interview.” When I heard this story the first time, I thought as you might have just now, “Nobody offers an applicant a position until they have completed all the interviews and examined all their options.” God showed up, and she was offered the position during the initial interview.

As time passed in that office, Cindy became uneasy about the position, but was reluctant to petition God about another step because of the amazingly obvious direction God used to get her there. We talked about a Bible reading I had just done that seemed appropriate: Aaron, whom God chose as priest over Israel, did not remain priest over Israel indefinitely. There came a season when God called him up the mountain because it was time for him to graduate on. Cindy saw the relevance and was fairly certain she had learned what she could from this experience. She asked God to direct her next step. Within a week, she was being fought over by the company that made her uncomfortable and a local non-profit girls’ organization offering her a higher-level executive assistant position. This one, though temporary, offered a greater salary, safer workplace closer to home, and a more stable, established work environment, where she has already made herself more comfortable. It was not the fleece laid out this time, but I was amazed to hear that my precious bride was offered her new position while she was still in her initial interview. God has a way of signing His name to His actions by what the world calls “coincidence” or by making what is normally unheard of seem commonplace. When she told me the address of her new office and asked me for directions to get there, I laughed and informed her it was the building owned and occupied by my pension office, so technically (though I am retired), we have the same employment address!

peelingThe Lemmons have been paring down, gradually peeling off the grip that ties us to any place or thing. It looks like moving may not be in our immediate future as I thought when I wrote “Paring Down the Lemmon House,” but we are still taking the cue to shrug off the material attachments that entangle us (Hebrews 12:1). Cindy has written about her “nest stuff,” from which she has begun to at least emotionally turn loose. I have waged war on my attachment to material things landing sword-blows like these:

“..whoever loves wealth is never satisfied…” (Ecclesiastes 5:10 NIV)

"You cannot serve God and wealth." (Luke 16:13 NASB)

The reality is when we move to Uganda we cannot keep what will not move, and what we try to move will not be secure (as if anything really is). The conclusion of this thinking has been surprisingly liberating. There is nothing we cannot live without, and there is nothing we must stay in one place to preserve. As we turn loose of our hold on stuff it is shocking to discover how tight a grip it actually had on us.

I just got back from a road trip during which I delivered to my siblings the prized heir-looms of my house. While I was at it, I got to enjoy several family visits that fit into the trip, and I was blessed by each one. Though delivering these gifts was something of a tearing away, I felt cleaner for the parting. Lighter even! Furthermore, I was enriched in a different way by building relationships with family.

On the return leg of my trip, I learned another lesson in material wealth and resource when I stopped at the scene of a blowout that claimed one of my tires several weeks before. It was a long shot, but I wondered if my missing hubcap might still be somewhere along the highway. I had priced a replacement at $60 but decided that good stewardship demanded I stop and spend time looking to recover it before giving up that much. I walked up and back more than a mile, all the while talking to God about His resource, my faith, and my contentment regardless of the results of this search. “It is Your resource,” I conceded, “If You want to restore it, You are entirely capable of directing my steps and guiding my glance, and I trust You to do just that.” I didn’t find the wheel cover, but I was content that I had left the ninety-nine to seek the one. I returned to the "ninety-nine," my trusty old pickup, in unmolested condition, but not entirely whole.

It turned out the mysterious noise I heard as I pulled off the highway, which I had already determined was not another blown tire, was actually an air compressor and a drive belt, the repairs of which would cost $1,100 more of God’s resources. On any other day, I might have reacted differently, but since I had just spent the better part of an hour talking to my Heavenly Father about the community nature of our property, all I could do was wonder why He would want to spend $1,100 on mechanical parts and service when He already owns the cattle and auto parts on a thousand hills. It is perhaps not for me to know.

What is promised to me is enough. God will always meet all my needs. He may not make my wheel covers match or my paint job sparkle, but He will always be there; and everything I have will always be His. Furthermore, in light of the truths that God owns everything, He has loaned me some of it, He has not delivered me from this troublesome world, yet He has overcome the world (John 16:33), I have cause for neither worry nor regret. My citizenship is of Heaven, and it is there I am building myself treasure. Material here on Earth is but dust on my feet.

Oh, yes! In the waiting room of my mechanic’s shop, just in front of a Ugandan Okoa Refuge missionary display, I did meet a retired transplant surgeon, and we spoke about his heart for service and his current project that just happens to involve a local church congregation – mine. Interesting.

three strikesIt is said that bad news comes in threes. I hope so, because today I received a gut punch that wears that number, and I could use a rest.

It happened this morning when I confidently strode into the Nursing School Administration office to submit my application for the Fall semester. It was promptly rejected by the director of the program, who informed me that the classes in which I am currently enrolled must be completed before I submit my application. This sets back my admission into Nursing School another semester, to Spring, 2016.

Bad news number two was the kind that rattles faith and shakes foundations. I have been engaged in what can only be described as fervent and faithful intercessory prayer on behalf of my cousin, who was expecting a child with complications. I was forced to concede the battle Tuesday, when the news came that my unborn second cousin graduated directly to Heaven without taking a breath.

Bad news number one was merely an appetizer for these later two disappointments. It had to do with a mechanical failure on my 1997 pickup truck that amounted to about $1,200 in repairs. This seems trivial next to the loss of a baby and a rejected Nursing School application, but when one doesn’t have $1,200 and is trying to find a way to pay for school on a fixed pension income, it at least constitutes bad news number one.

I know that God’s will is better and higher than mine, and that there is surely some concealed reason for these hiccups in what I would vainly call “my plan.” I am certain that I am doing what I was called to do, and that God’s purposes, not my vanity, will be served. I am critically searching myself for any sins of the flesh to which these annoyances may be trying to direct my attention. Perhaps I said, “I start Nursing School in the Fall,” too many times without adding, as James 4:15 exhorts, “If it is God’s will.” Maybe I suffer from a case of overconfidence in self. Maybe God is just trying to protect me, my cousin, and my budget from unseen struggles we will never be fully exposed to. Whatever the case, I am content to offer up my expectations as sacrifices to God, and to let Him operate the universe as He sees fit rather than as I would have it. Still, though I am not a superstitious person and do not believe in luck, after this very disappointing week, I sincerely hope that three is the limit of my bad news for a while.

When I was a teenage brother of three, I took Proverbs 17:17 out of context to suit myself. On my bedroom door I posted a sign that read, “A brother is born for adversity,” and I did my best to bring to each of them their fair share of it. I knew it was an ironic perversion of the phrase, but it served my purpose.

The truth of that verse struck me recently, and I was pierced with the awareness that the adversity for which I am preparing has not yet come. I have no idea to what extremes I will be pushed, or to what disaster I will respond. I do know this: God’s purposes are always provided for and He is transplanting a sheepdog to where the sheep are very near the wolves. I will be tending the flock in a different role than I ever have before, but the Spirit reveals to me that, as bad as things have been in Uganda and continue to be in her surrounding countries, there is something coming which none of us has yet seen or understood.

While mulling this over, I was recently preparing for a speaking engagement in which I would address the survivors of fallen police officers. I considered how I could adequately summarize my own traumatic experience in a way that would communicate the gravity of my pain without going into so much detail that it would divert the focus off the healing. This phrase was given to me:

LRA child soldier“I was forced to kill my fellow officer.”

As soon as I said it, I was overwhelmed with passion for the children escaping from the conscripted service of Joseph Kony and the LRA. Recently forced out of Uganda, the LRA press-gangs boys into military service forcing them to kill their family members and neighbors as initiation into their army, and exploits girls as sex slaves and burden-bearers. Refugees from this genocidal terrorist organization, including those who escape its service, often flee to Uganda.

As I prepared to communicate a few thoughts on “support” to a fellowship of  grieving Floridians organized for that very purpose, the appropriateness of God calling someone with my experience to minister healing in Uganda became abundantly clear to me: I, too, was forced to kill one of my own.

 

 

Scripture references:

Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.

Matthew 10:16 I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

Matthew 24:22 If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

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PackingTheHouseI am surprised how fast January flew by. Classes are in session, and this week has brought me four exams. I was disappointed in my failure to prepare for one, and started it more on edge than usual, but received a notification by the end of the day that I had aced it. That glory goes entirely to God!

The big developing news with the Lemmons is a recent decision to sell our house and downsize. We were looking at our finances and recognized the only way to be free of debt before we begin our adventure overseas is to release the house. This idea came roughly a week after I began to prayerfully submit to God that I was ready to surrender whatever He decided was next if He would only make it known to me. The house it is!

An online value estimator predicted the possibility that we just might be able to shake these chains free if God wills that we should do so. We are counting on the knowledge that He does want us free. We calculated the result of rolling our mortgage savings into our consumer debt, and the result (God willing) will be financial freedom in about twenty months. Now that is something to celebrate!

In the meantime, this is sort of a dress rehearsal for the paring down of material possessions that will come prior to our trans-Atlantic migration. I like to think of this move as a wide funnel rather than the eye of a needle we anticipate then. We will likely find ourselves in either a shared house or an apartment, either of which would provide us a one bedroom existence with drastically reduced living areas. God doesn’t want us dependent on material things anyway, so it’s good to loosen our grip on them. It is amazing the perspective you get on possessions when you know you will lose them in several years anyway. The “just in case” collections don’t survive. “What if I ever need one of those?” is no longer a good reason to keep something. If it doesn’t get used frequently now, chances are we won’t need it in the next seven years. It’s actually liberating!

It makes me think: weren’t we supposed to be living that way in the first place? Ready to go at a moment’s notice? Not clinging to the things of this world? If I never make it to see the red clay of Uganda again, I am still pleased to release my grip on the soil beneath me and the trappings of Earth!

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.” (1 John 2:15, NIV)

“Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’” (Mark 10:21, NIV)

“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:29, NIV)

“You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” (Revelation 3:17, NIV)

2014-5If there was anything that needed doing in 2014 today is our last chance to do it. I have no regrets.

I planned to retire in March and, after celebrating 25 years of service in January, did just that on March 14th.

I set out to tour Uganda, where God has called me to prepare to work as a missionary nurse. In April, my precious bride and I set out and met our future home as well as some very dear friends we made while in that country. There, God gave us a glimpse into what our future will hold and a burning desire to drive toward that mission.

I planned to return to school as a full-time student, tackling that fear which kept me from getting a college education all these years. I marched through the doors of my classes, made myself at home, and achieved higher marks than I ever imagined I could and made some friends who will be accompanying me in my preparatory track for nursing school and perhaps beyond.

I committed to develop my physical training program to include more than the rudimentary getting off the couch three times a week, and in March bought my first pair of running shoes. With training and a coaching mobile application, I progressed to a 5k then 10k run, then graduated on my own and finished the year by running my first half marathon.

I committed to getting a rein on my finances, and my bride and I have graduated from Mvelopes financial coaching “boot camp” and are well on our way to paying off our debts. The exception to this is a new student loan, which I obtained to meet the needs of this year’s tuition costs while both of us were briefly unemployed.

I renewed my commitment to do my part to maintain my weight and, as of this day, God has held me steady at my goal weight for three years and two hundred two days.

 

Looking ahead, I hope to keep up my grade point average. The adult 4.0 still balances against the sins of my youth to end up somewhere in the high 3s. I plan to graduate with my associate of arts degree following the summer term, during which I will also apply and (God willing) be accepted into nursing school. The fun will really begin in the fall term of 2015, when I hope to be a full-fledged nursing student. Allegedly those are creatures without social lives, forced into isolated study. I will be approaching it as a spiritual exercise, tackling each next obstacle as a fulfillment of my calling.

As for the rest, I am looking forward to keeping on doing what I am doing: seeking God’s purposes in my daily life and fulfilling them to the best of my ability; harming none I don’t have to and helping as many as I have the opportunity and resource; building myself and others up and abstaining from behaviors that would tear me or them down. In 2015 I want to leave the world better than I found it in 2014.

This semester is drawing to a close. With only two days left, I am relieved and amazed at what God can do when we just put Him in charge and follow His lead. I had a choice this past weekend: worry, fret, isolate, disappoint others, and cram for the cumulative final exam in Anatomy and Physiology or trust in God to refresh and recall all that I spent a semester learning. Harried holiday schedules have begun to collide and crowd out any extra time even this retiree might have. I even battled the temptation to break a commitment to sing in our church choir’s annual Christmas presentation to make time to study. As I deliberated I was given this peaceful thought which pervaded both concerns and my entire weekend experience:

The time for Martha-type preparations is over and the time for resting at the feet of Jesus in the Mary way has come. (Luke 10)

As I shared that little tidbit of peaceful reassurance, it progressively became more real to me. My spirit calmed. My thoughts slowed. My worries dissipated. On the eve of the great and fearsome exam, instead of cramming, I went to the concert. As the sound and light engineers, logistics managers, and many of the choir scurried around with last minute preparations, I stood in peaceful surrender, prayerfully accepting things as they were and offering the outcomes to God. My expectations adjusted. My perfectionist nature was whittled back to accept excellent, or even good, if that was to be the product of our service.

photo credit: Ansley Ward
photo credit: Ansley Ward

The performance wasn’t perfect. I didn’t come in on every cue, remember every line, or hit every note, but my spirit was at the feet of Jesus instead of on a stage, and I thought it was a beautiful worship experience. The next day was no different. I went to school, breathed deeply, conceded to accept whatever excellence God helped me attain, and discarded all expectation of perfection. With that air of calm I approached my study buddies and prayed with them before the test, first one, then another, each happy and grateful to join me in prayer. As the exam began, I recommitted myself to sacrifice worry as an act of worship, and recalled my diligent effort and submission to do the necessary work as further acts of worship, with the results being wholly God’s. Then, just like they always do, the walls came tumbling down! The fearful monster that had been the dread of all us A&P students was pacified by God. Though I was walking in its den, its mouth was clamped shut. There were moments when I heard its gravely growl and thought I caught a glimpse of its teeth, but its bite was divinely constrained. I stroked the now domesticated beast, finished my dance with it in about half the time allotted, and presented it to my professor with all the confidence of any I had taken before it.

The exam grades obviously haven’t posted yet, but I am confident and, having given the results to God, am completely secure that His will, which far exceeds my own, will be done. I am left with this constructive thought for the future:

A perfectionist is never content. I can strive for perfection only as long as I am content with excellence. God gives the purpose and the provision. My part is to accept His motivation and take appropriate action steps as my act of worship. The results are the Lord’s.

“Godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6)

ListeriaIn this, the same year during which I toured the African country of Uganda, ate the fare of the locals, and drank water that may or may not have been purified by a handheld UV light, I apparently contracted a foodborne illness right here in Jacksonville, Florida. A week ago today I was attacked by what must have been Listeria monocytogenes. For those who, like me, did not know, Listeria is a bacteria that can live and grow in refrigerators, is common on fresh foods, and is often transmitted in fecal matter like that used in organic fertilizers. The first question I was asked when I told a doctor of my experience was, “Did you eat any organic salads or salad products?”

This week has been one of weakness and disability, but I know that in my weakness, God’s power is glorified. I imagine that the biological war in my body this week will leave the battleground in a better condition to turf skirmishes in the future. As the fever and aches have sapped my strength, I know my systems have been fortified for battles yet unknown and threats that may never be revealed to me. During this spell when rest has replaced exercise I know God has risen up antibodies for my defense. I am content to rest secure in the knowledge that “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

DoNot Lose HeartTherefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. (2 Corinthians 4:1, NRSV)

I found this in the New Testament in a year reading our local congregation was challenged to follow this year, and needed to publicly confess it, highlight it, bookmark it, and remember it.

IMG_3317.JPGGod allows us to be prompted along His way for us in sometimes strange and alarming ways. After serving there for more than twelve years, Cindy was let go from her position at the school our children attended since it opened its doors. It was no one's fault. When the school board finds a replacement for the Head of School, his Assistant is bound to find herself awash with the wave of ministers brought by the new regime. Now we look forward to whatever lies ahead, faithfully choosing to view this as an opportunity to follow God's divine guidance to more fitting training ground. Meanwhile, with me on a pension and her without a salary, the words, "give us this day our daily bread" never meant so much. Still, I know His plans are to help us, not harm us, and His timing is always proper. If I've learned one thing it is that God signs His handiwork with astonishing timing and breathtaking occurrences of what the world might call "coincidence." I choose to see His hand at work, and I gratefully submit to His will.

Our household is busy with excitement. Long overdue repairs, arranged before news of Cindy's unemployment came, have just been completed; our daughter is facing some medical challenges and is in unsettling discomfort; and our son is facing big career decisions. These all add up to a turbulence that would rattle the rafters of any home. I am trying to keep my focus off the wind and the waves and onto the gaze of the beckoning Christ, to keep from sinking into doubt as, like Peter, I seem to have been called out of the boat. If it is true that only an advancing troop gains the attention of its adversary, then Satan must be fully alert to the Lemmons, as evidenced by the volley of firebrands in our proximity. He is no foolish opponent, but he is already defeated in Jesus' name, and it is that name by which I claim dominion over all that would stand against my home and family, and declare once again that all I am, have, and will become belongs to God. None can take, torment, nor tarnish this offering, because it is God who created us, God who crafts us into what we are becoming, and God who receives the living sacrifice of men as a glory to Himself. And God will not be robbed, least of all by an enemy who stands already defeated.

Romans 8:37-39 NIV
[37] No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. [38] For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, [39] neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 12:1 NIV
[1] Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God---this is your true and proper worship.

20140727-020945-7785155.jpgGod gave Man dominion, but Man passed on it.

In Genesis 1:28, as God was giving Adam his basic operating instructions, He declared that mankind was to rule over the earth, to subdue it, to master all the wildlife and produce of the entire planet. The next time we hear from Adam, he's ducking responsibility, pointing blame at Eve and at God Himself, saying (and I paraphrase Genesis 3:12), "That woman You gave me - she did it!"

From that point on, Man was separated from God, but Man's job was still the same: exercise mastery over all the earth. I've been thinking about this with regard to prayer.

I know that praying brings no news to an omniscient God. He knows what we need, want, and think before we do, even interceding on our behalf when we don't know what to pray (Romans 8:26). I also understand that there is significant power in calling things that are not as though they are (Romans 4:17), in the exercise of faith, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews11:1). Jesus cautioned His followers not to be "like the babbling pagans" (Matthew 6:7), but still taught them to persist as the relentless petitioner appealing to a judge (Luke 18:1). His instruction was for private, but repeated prayer.

So I have this dilemma: if God doesn't need me to tell Him what to do, and my prayers don't constitute His laundry list anyway, why does He want me to pray at all? There is something about me bringing my will under His that is hugely significant, but that just is not enough of an answer for me anymore. I am growing to believe that there is a link between prayer and our original mandate of dominion.

God's will is done in Heaven but not on earth unless it is called for as in Jesus' example (Matthew 6:10). We are promised that when we ask anything according to the Father's will He hears us and we have what we ask (1 John 5:14-15). When things are awry on Earth then, who is at fault? God, who said there was going to be trouble as long as we inhabit Earth (John 16:33); or Man, who was given dominion but keeps handing it over in preference for convenience, time management, other priorities, entertainment, and just plain apathy?

Even Jesus declared that the devil is a temporary "prince" of this world (John 14:30), but God gave mastery of Earth to us. We have a responsibility to assert our dominion, and, since Eden's fall, prayer is our only remaining connection with God, whose power we utilize for that purpose.

The condition of the world is evidence enough that Mankind is derelict in his duty of prayerful dominion. I have decided that prayer must be a priority, and not just the kind that realigns my spirit with God's, but intercessory, reach out and grab the globe by its horns and shake the devil off his strongholds kind of prayer.

Who's with me?

Caveat: one way I know I'm on to something is the spiritual attacks on me and my household have been intense lately. Be prepared. If you assume this role of prayer warrior and Heaven ambassador, then get ready for the smear campaign.

I haven't written since our trip for several reasons. First, I had so much to say while we were in Uganda, I feel as though I should either come up with something profound to say or keep quiet. Second, school is in full swing and I've been busier than I could have imagined I would be during a Summer semester. Last is the least valid reason of all but probably the weightiest, and that is because we still just don't know where our piece will fit into the whole Uganda puzzle.

From where I am, isolated in my prerequisite studies, a nursing mission in Uganda appears small in my window. It is no less a priority, no less real, and no less the path I am following at God's direction; I just feel so far removed from Uganda and her children. I remain connected to my friends I made in country by way of Internet, prayer, and a common love for the same people, and that helps me keep focused on the mission rather than the baby steps toward it I am making, but progress feels slow and our deployment to the mission field far removed. Proverbs 13:12 says, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life." I like "tree of life" references - maybe it's the Lemmon in me - but I'm somewhere in that deferral that makes for heart-sickness right now. It's not a condition of being lost, afraid, or doubtful; it's just that 2021 is so many pages ahead in the calendar.

I'm in good company. Jacob (aka Israel) had to work seven extra years to earn his bride, Rachel. Noah, wasn't told to go sailing; he was told to build an ark. With the world mocking him, he stacked gopher wood until he had the resources to begin scraping, planing, boring, and fitting the logs together into a floating fortress that would be seventy-five years on dry land before the first drop of rain fell on it.

I, too, have received a share of mocking, of condescending interrogations, missiles of doubt fired from people, some nurses themselves, who may mean well but tend to emphasize obstacles rather than successful experiences, strength, or hope. The shock of disbelief that is typical of most people who hear our plans for relocation and service overseas is so staggering that I tend to keep the long-term plans to myself in casual conversation and just say, "I am studying to become a missionary nurse," to which responses are usually more positive. Leaving off the word "missionary" saves me even more interrogations, and usually evokes a response about a relative who is, was, or wants to become a nurse, but removes me even farther from the end goal of treating and educating Ugandans in abundant living in Christ Jesus.

I took a practice nursing school entrance exam, the HESI A2, this morning to see what kind of things I can expect and to feel closer to the process. I was encouraged with my results but received valuable feedback concerning what needs attention. I visited the websites and Facebook pages of my missionary friends, and rejoiced in their successes, praying for their ministries and the people they serve. In my bedroom, a handmade Ugandan souvenir hangs on my wall, reminding me to "Always remember Uganda." I cannot forget her! She's in my heart, which is torn to be this far removed.

Noah did everything just as God commanded him. (Genesis 6:22 NIV)

It was not for Noah to pump water up the hill or perform test-trials on his workmanship. He was not required to study meteorology or predict weather patterns. His job was to build an ark. Mine is to become a nurse. For now, I don't get to know the end-game, and I am not yet responsible to guess it. Trivial though daily assignments may seem, they are steps along the path of obedience. While I have no child in my arms, and no soul to heal just yet, I do have homework, and no task is irrelevant when I am doing it in obedience to the Lord. I will look to Noah's example as I continue on, as removed from Ugandan souls as a ship on a dry hill, and do what comes next, contenting myself in the knowledge that I am doing my Master's will.