Friday, March 30, 2012

Complaining, Complacency, and Compassion (Part 3)

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.  John 13:34-35

"As I have loved you, so you must love one another."

Well, Jesus gave up His life for us.  Do you love others like that?

Sure, yeah!  I would give up my life for my husband, my son, my daughter, my best friend, etc.!  I love others!

It's easy to love our friends and family sacrificially.  But are they the only people in the world that God loves?

No.  Not by a long shot.

Jesus demonstrated over and over and over again that he loved (loves) people of low stature.  Whether it was the woman at the well, lepers, the poor, the sick, the disabled, or little children, Jesus loved them all.  His heart for the hurting and the lowly was clear and evident when He was healing people, restoring them to life, talking with them, walking with the Gospels and you will see over and over and over again that Jesus' heart is clearly invested in that group of people.

So where do we, as prosperous, comfortable, and pampered Christians, get off thinking that our comfortable lifestyle supersedes caring for the very people that Jesus tended to?

I will confess that I struggle with selfishness, especially since Ryan has been diagnosed with cancer.  I occasionally have the attitude, "Well, I'm going through a rough time in my life, so I deserve to be selfish about material desires and how I spend my time."  My attitude towards that is flat out wrong.  We (Ryan and Kendra) don't get a free pass to be disobedient to the Lord just because our lives are tough.

Something that we have been convicted of many times during the last several months (hey, we're slow learners) is that if we are to live our lives in radical obedience to God, then our compassion for those that God loves (which is everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, age, gender, nationality, disability, economic status, smell, health, and grammar) should be overflowing from our hearts into their lives.  One of the simplest ways that we have done this is to sponsor Lonyamal, a twelve-year-old boy from Kenya through Compassion International.  As much as I love praying for Lonyamal, writing to him, and sending him monetary gifts, I can't help but feel that God is asking more of me.

What does this look like?  For me, I'm not quite sure yet.  I am praying that God would direct me to more opportunities to have an impact in people's lives and to show them Christlike compassion.  I have some opportunities with my students to show them love and compassion, and that's one of the primary ways that I am trying (and occasionally failing) to live out the commandment to love others.  But again, I feel that there is more that will be asked of me.  Lord, open my eyes.

I also know that God has continuously been working in my husband's heart to see people in a different light.  One of the things that he has always struggled with is to judge people before he ever knows them (don't worry, I have his permission to share this).  Before he was diagnosed, Ryan tended to overlook or ignore people that were clearly poor and shabbily dressed.  He feels as though his eyes have been totally opened since last April.  He recently was driving through Hart and noticed three individual people walking down the road, downtrodden, shabby, and dejected.  Instead of making judgement about how they must have lived their lives in order to get to such a sorry state, he felt his heart overflow with compassion for them and felt even more strongly convicted to share the hope that he has with those that are hurting.

If you are sitting here, reading this and wondering whether or not there is something more that you could be doing to show the same compassion that Jesus has for people, the answer is more than likely yes.  We all have areas of our lives that we could convert from chasing pleasure to making a difference.  I know that I certainly do.  The question is, are you willing to give up some of your closely guarded time, some precious money, or your comfort in order to be obedient and demonstrate love to others?

Complaining.  Are you complaining about insignificant troubles in your life?  Do you have spirit of thankfulness for the blessings you've been given?

Complacency.  Are you sold out for God's Kingdom?  Are you wholly committed to living your life according to His purposes?

Compassion.  Do you love the same people that God loves?  He loves every person.  Are you ready to demonstrate compassion in a real, tangible way?

Lest I ever come across as arrogant or as if I have all of my ducks in a row, let me tell you guys that these three lessons are things that I am continuously being challenged with.  I complain a lot.  My spiritual life has been in shambles the last month or so since I've been struggling with personal issues and I've fallen victim (again) to complacency.  And even though I think that God has done incredibly painful but good work in our hearts to be more compassionate towards others, I have a long way to go until I'm a great model for that.  As I have written these messages, I have been really frank with people and flat out challenging others because these have been the words that the Lord has laid up on my heart.

Thank you guys for letting me be real here and for continuing to pray for my family.  Even though it's a little scary to be transparent, I know that God is doing work through us and it is a blessing to be along for the ride as He teaches us more and more about what it means to be radically obedient to Him.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Your Family

I've been blessed to work full time since I was diagnosed. Many people wonder why I do that. I don't always feel 100% but still go in most days. I've shared before that I feel strongly every day at work is an investment into some one's life. That kind of intrinsic value in what I do makes it worth it.

There is a second reason though. That staff that I work with is incredible. If you've never worked at a camp or a community where you live, work, serve, and minister together it may be hard to understand. The camp staff are truly more of a camp family then any other way to describe it. We walk side by side in this journey to use The Power of Camp to change lives.

We also walk side by side through life. Whether it's joys and successes or births and weddings to sadness, sickness, death, and pain. We are a family and we're here for each other.

Scans are always excruciating for Kendra and I. The day of and really the 10 minutes before the doc walks in seem to stretch for hours. I think I age a week in 10 minutes. So much hinges on that doctor's words and our futures could change dramatically. It's just really stressful.

This past set of scans was the most peaceful we've ever encountered. I think there's one main reason. Beginning the day we left to go to Chicago we started getting periodic e-mails from the staff at Grace Adventures anonymously under the alias These were inspiring scripture, links to worship videos, anything people thought might encourage us.

It was so powerful to know that these people who love us so much went out of their way to help keep us focused on all of our God as we were in a valley of waiting.

So thank you Grace Adventures! Thanks for your help, support, love, encouragement, and friendship. Everybody from staff, to volunteers, to board members, to former campers and families. I couldn't be where I am today with out you guys and you've been a vital part of our journey. We can't say thank you enough!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

...and then I remembered that he has cancer.

So things were going awesome today.  It's super beautiful outside, the warmest March on record in Michigan.  The sun is shining!  My students were a lot of fun today, and I thoroughly enjoyed teaching them about possessive adjectives.  I know, that doesn't sound like fun to most of you.

So as I say goodbye to them and prepare to leave school to go out and enjoy this beautiful weather...

I remembered that I have to meet my husband in Muskegon today.

Not to go shopping, which is my favorite Muskegon event.

Not to go out to dinner, which is my second favorite Muskegon event.

But to take him to his chemo infusion.

Because he has cancer.

And all of a sudden I just felt really deflated and tears instantly sprung to my eyes.  I'm losing my happy, peppy, energetic husband to another stinking week of lethargy, nausea, and malaise.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Complaining, Complacency, and Compassion (Part 2)

Whoops, here's part 2.  Sorry about the delay, life has been at warp speed lately!  And that's kind of a good thing...busyness is normalcy for the Prudhomme family.  In case you missed it, my post about complaining was the first part of my three-part blog series.

I love coffee, in case you had forgotten.  If you want to be friends with me, offering me coffee is a surefire way to move along our friendship.

In the morning on my way to work, there is nothing that I love more than to enjoy a cup of piping hot coffee with vanilla, hazelnut, or amaretto creamer.  If I forget to make it at home (which is more often than not), then a quick McDonald’s or Starbucks stop is often in order.  Oftentimes, I find myself the coffee ninja at work, stealthily grabbing a mug of coffee from the office just before first hour starts (Amanda, I know I at least owe the office coffeepot at least one coffee can…I promise I’ll do that sometime soon!).

If I make coffee at home, I like to hold onto the cup the whole way to school.  My son watches me drink it on the way to Montague, where I drop him off.  Is it any surprise that “coffee” is already in his limited vocabulary?  He says “coffee” and then he usually immediately follows up with “yuck”.  I’m not sure if he’s genetically related to his father and I…that’s never something that we would say.

Anyway, so why am I rambling about coffee? I’m getting there. Once I get to first hour, I usually set my mug down and start teaching.  I’ll have a couple of sips here and there, but sometimes the mug is abandoned for a lengthy time period as I go about my daily business of shaping lives and imparting knowledge.  Inevitably, I will come back to the mug as second hour nears and I will take a sip.  Sadly, travel mugs still have a long ways to go in preventing coffee from ever getting cold.

Yuck!  Lukewarm coffee!  Often I spit it right back into the mug.

Guess what?  That feeling of disgust that I get over lukewarm coffee is exactly how God feels about complacent Christians.

Revelations 3:14-18
14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
   These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 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. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see."

I have statements to make that might rock your world.

Just because you darken the doorstep of a church on a regular basis, does not mean that you are a passionate Christian.

Just because you read your Bible on a fairly regular basis, does not mean that you are a passionate Christian.

Just because you pray, does not mean that you are a passionate Christian.

I’m not condemning Christians that go to church, read their Bibles, and pray.  I feel quite the opposite: all of those things are totally essential components of our Christian walk and should be done.

But is there a passion in your heart to see God’s kingdom be furthered and to serve Him recklessly?

Is there a yearning in your heart to know His character more intimately, to feel His presence in your life more strongly?

Is there an aching in your heart for the same people that break God’s heart: the orphan, the widow, and the lost?

Being obedient to God is more than just following rules and having good behavior - it's an all-encompassing, totally motivating, deep and insatiable desire to see God's work be done.  It's what drives one to wake up in the morning and do what they're called to do, and to reach out to the hurting.  It's what drove men to literally drop everything and follow after their Savior.  It's what drove Paul to endure unthinkable hardships to see God's work be done.  It's what calls people to dig deep into their pockets and give well over the standard 10% of their income to the Lord.

Note that the passage from Revelations says, "I know your deeds."  If you love the Lord with an all-encompassing passion, the way you live your life reflects that.  How you spend your time, your talents, and your treasure is going to be a reflection on the depth of that passion.  If you are insular and selfish, you'll probably spending the overwhelming majority of your time, talents, and treasure on yourself, your house, and your own family.

Comfort is the biggest killer of this passion.  Comfort breeds complacency.  If you are content with your cute little life, your comfortable microcosm of Christian culture, and your like-minded group of friends, then I would seriously challenge you to find a way to step outside your comfort zone and see what God may have in store for you.  Following God is not just about going to church , but about being recklessly and passionately devoted to the things that He cares for.  What have you done lately that has stretched you?  What are you committed to doing for the Lord that makes your life even remotely similar to Paul's life?  If you can't find anything, then you might be a complacent Christian, as unpalatable as lukewarm coffee.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A radical perspective about a death sentence

Maybe because he wrote half the New Testament, but I've been spending a lot of time with Paul lately.

A verse that resonated with Kendra and I right from the beginning was 2 Cor 1:9. This has become our theme verse more or less.  You'll find it at the top of this page, where it's been since late April 2011.

"Indeed in our hearts we felt like we've been given the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead."
I can relate to feeling like I've been given a death sentence. That first couple weeks I could hardly breathe at times. Every once and a while it hits again and I'm brought to my knees. I have a cancer diagnosis, but what did Paul have that made him feel that way? Paul shares the depth of his struggles in 2 Cor 11: 25-28.
25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers.27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.
I've never been shipwrecked, or spent time in the open sea. However all these circumstances led Paul to feeling the "sentence of death". That I can relate to. Maybe you can too. How is it that we maintain the correct persepective in the midst of the most difficult circumstances? What allows us to praise God in the midst of the refining fire?
If we continue to look at Paul's response he give us the answer to Living in High Definition despite any circumstance. 2 Cor 4:16-18
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
As the weight of almost every negative circumstance imaginable weighed on Paul's chest his response is to call it, "light and momentary troubles..." How can he say that? He has an eternal perspective. He knows that these circumstances are achieving an eternal glory that far outweighs it all. He has chosen to fix his eyes not on the circumstances that he "sees" but on the future and the promises God has given which are "unseen".

Some days this cancer and the future feel overwhelming. I may very well have a lot of pain and suffering in my future. I may have the loss of dreams and goals and hopes. Continuing to work at being obedient and living our faith out is hard, very hard at times. Yes as bad as all this feels what must Glory be like? If it makes this hell that we are going through "light and momentary" what must that be like! Chew a moment on what could possibly make shipwrecks, beatings, imprisonments, poverty, sickness, and more seem "light and momentary". How does that not motivate us to do everything we can to honor God?

That is Living in High Definition. To see every situation and circumstance through an eternal perspective. Fixing our eyes on what is unseen, what is eternal! I can relate to Paul's feeling a death sentence, but I'm also starting to understand the incredible future that is called Heaven. It doesn't just give me peace, it drives me to serve Him more and more. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Stop praying for me to be healed

There are many many many people out there in this world praying for Kendra and I. You're praying for my healing, for our family, for our emotional and physical well being, and many other prayer requests.

Stop praying that God would heal me, only.

It's okay for us to make our requests known to God. He actually commands it. Jesus prays for relief from His burden in the Garden of Gethsemane. However we're missing something entirely.

When someone we know or love has a crisis enter their life we instantly begin praying for them. Most of the time our prayer is one of "remove this obstacle". Whether it is health, or job uncertainty, or relationship problems. Whatever the  issue, "Lord please take this out of their lives. Heal them. Provide a job. Make the problems stop!"

Let's think a moment about why those trials enter into our lives.

Proverbs 17:3

The crucible for silver, and the refining pot for Gold, but the Lord tests hearts.

Isaiah 48:10

Behold I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.

What's more valuable than pure gold? For ages, for centuries it is the measure of wealth and prestige. However in order to attain pure gold there's a process.

It's grueling, intense, and radical. Fire which destroys everything it touches is the very thing you use to eliminate waste and imperfection.

Not a match.

Not a candle.

Not a campfire.

A melting pot in a forge heated to almost 2000 degrees.

This is not a light or easy test for the gold. It requires that it radically change its complexion. It must physically change states before it can become the end product.

You can not pull it out of the fire early and get the same result. The only way to purify it is to let it sit in the fire until it is completely devoid of foreign material.

So how many times are we trying to pray our friends and family out of the fire prematurely? Is it because we feel sorry for them, or it's hard to watch them struggle? What if you knew that what they're going through is the process that God has told us MUST happen in order to become pure?

Have you ever sang the song "Refiner's Fire"? Did you really mean the words you sang?

As Christians in the western world we judge our maturity in Christ by how comfortable we are. Is life going well? Well then God must be pleased with me. Am I comfortable? Must mean I'm doing something right.

Are there trials and struggles in my life? Oh no, something's wrong. I just want to get back to the place where things were easy, under control, and going the way I like it.

The opposite is true. You will be pressed, and crushed, like a grape in a wine press. In order to yield the wine. Or crushed over and over like an olive in an olive press, however you'll produce the olive oil.

Do not avoid pain, trial, tribulation. As a matter of fact, you're actually called to rejoice in it.

Romans 5:3 - Not only so, but we also rejoice in our suffering....

Are you thanking God for the suffering He has placed or allowed in your life right now? How about in my life?

It goes even further though.

James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Not only do you have to rejoice, you have to consider "pure joy" when you face trials. And you must let perseverance finish its work. You can't shortcircuit the process. However, when you do finish you'll be mature, complete, and lacking in nothing.

So my dear friends and family. Please pray for God to heal me. I pray that every day. Let us also pray that God would use this test to refine my character and my person to pure gold, that I would be obedient to the lessons He's calling me to. Pray that His will would be done.

Pure gold does not fear the fire.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Complaining, Complacency, and Compassion (Part 1)

I haven't blogged for the last few weeks, due to just being plain crazy busy...and maybe a slight plateau in my writing enthusiasm.  As I was praying the last few days for God to teach me something new, He brought me back to three things that have been on my heart and mind: complaining about trivialities, complacency in our spiritual life, and compassion for those that God feels compassion for.  Rather than force people to read a humongous manifesto about the three of them combined, I decided to break it up into three parts and tackle one item per post.


My son is a darling.  I love him to pieces, and most of the time he is an angel.  However, lately he has had some really tough mornings.  He definitely takes after me, his mother, in his lack of enthusiasm and general grumpiness when it comes to waking up.

Yawn.  Argh, the light is starting to peek through my room-darkening shades.  It must be about eight a.m.  It's too early.  I wish that my toddler circadian rhythm would allow me to sleep until nine like I used to.  Alright, here we go.  Mama!  Sheesh.  It's been five seconds since I called to her.  I thought she'd be waiting outside my door.  MAMA!  Ugh.  Where is she?  I want my diaper changed immediately, and she'd better have a sippy cup full of warm milk when she walks through the door.  I would think that anything less would be atrocious on her part.  Okay, we're working on thirty seconds now.  Finally, here she comes.  She'd better have that mil...WHAT!  How dare you come in here without a sippy cup!  I'm liable to throw myself back down on my pillow pet and scream at you!  No! Don't you dare change my diaper now!  I want MILK! 

Ugh, she's still stronger than me.  She wrestled with me all the way to the diaper changing station.  Guess I'm going to have to wait for TWO WHOLE MINUTES to get my milk today.  Grrrrr.  Alright, diaper change over.  Off we go to the kitchen.  It's MILK TIME, baby!  Here's my mom, pouring the milk.  SERIOUSLY!?  You're using the BLUE cup?!  You know that I like my milk in the YELLOW cup!  OH MY WORD, why are you NOT answering my requests!  I want things the way I want them!  And I want it NOW!  I'm going to go throw a fit now because I want milk in the yellow cup!  I'm going to go complain to all of my toddler friends about how when you serve me milk, you serve it to me in a stupid blue cup, AND you waited 30 seconds to come in and rescue me from my crib today.  I'm going to complain about you a LOT, Mom!  You didn't do things exactly the way that I think you should!

Yes, that is really his general disposition on occasion in the morning.  Most mornings he's happy and grateful to be picked up, changed, and given milk, but on occasion he has a negative attitude and the smallest things give him cause to complain.  Now, I know that he's not quite two and he's prone to irrationality by virtue of his developmental stage, so I laugh off the mornings where he is a total grump and chalk it up to totally normal toddler behavior.

But as you were reading the above story, did you notice anything similar to the way that Christian adults sometimes behave?  We feel that anything less than us being absolutely comfortable is a mistake on God's part.  We had saved up X amount of money to go on vacation, and then our kid got sick and we had to pay medical bills.  Rather than thank God for having allowed us to pay for the medical bills immediately because of the provision of savings, we complain about the missed trip.  Rather than thank God for our job, which helps provide for our families, we complain that it's not high-paying enough, that our boss is too ___ (fill in the blank), or that we are passed over for a promotion.  Rather than thank God for the beautiful children that he has created to be in our families, we complain about the gender of the child or the burden of raising it.  Instead of thanking God for our health, we complain when we contract the common cold.  Try having cancer once in your life, you'll never complain about a cold/flu bug/sinus infection EVER again.

We Christians complain ALL the time about ridiculous stuff.  We somehow place an expectation on God that we are not to endure trials or character-building situations.  How do you think this reflects our faith to non-believers?  We are commanded to do everything without grumbling or complaining (Phil. 2:14), and yet so many of us have bought into this mentality that we deserve nothing less than a beautiful house, an easy life, and tons of extra money in the bank.  When Christians complain about trivialities, non-believers hear them and think that there is nothing special or different about our attitudes.

The truth is, very few of the Christians that I run with have any reason to complain against God's provision in their lives (including Ryan and I!).  We are all comfortable, safe, and well-provided for.  But there is an innate feeling within many of us that is a toxic remnant of our inherent sinful nature that makes us feel like we are little gods on our throne, and no one had better forget that.

The Israelites were famous for this grumbling & complaining attitude as they wandered the desert.  Numbers 11:1-4 details their lack of thankfulness:
And the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, and when the Lord heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp. Then the people cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the Lord, and the fire died down. So the name of that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the Lord burned among them. Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat!

Notice that it said that God's anger burned.  Here were a couple million of His people, that He was lovingly teaching and caring for, and they continued to complain...because wandering in the desert was not what they had planned for their lives, nor was a vegetarian diet.  They even wanted to return to their life of enslavement in Egypt at some points during their forty years.  How about that for rationality?  What a slap in the face it is to God when we flippantly tell Him, "Yeah, I know that you're providing for me and all, but it's not enough.  You're not enough for me."  I don't know about you, but that makes me shiver to think of the way that God's anger burns against those that complain about trivialities.

Now, I am not expecting that we are all going to be perfect at this notion of not complaining.  Sometimes life gives us seriously bitter lemons, and it is healthy for us to express our disappointment and our anger.  Bottling our feelings is never a good idea emotionally, and I do truly believe that God wants us to come to Him with our feelings.  What I don't think God likes or desires is for us to be ungrateful and bitter and negative.  It is a good idea to have someone in our lives that is a mentor or a close friend that is able to point out truth to us when we are in the depths of despair or crisis.  For an example of this, read the book of Job, specifically chapters 10 and 11.  Job was in the middle of his trial and illness, and he complained bitterly against the Lord in Chapter 10.  His friend Zophar confronts him with truth in Chapter 11 and pretty much tells Job to check his sinful attitude.  Do you have a Zophar in your life?  Is there someone that you're willing to listen to when they straight up tell you that your attitude is not where it should be?

Complaining is not something that any of us are immune to.  However, we need to train ourselves to think more in terms of thankfulness and to ensure that our prayers and petitions are chock full of thanksgiving.  Our God is a giver of good gifts!