Thursday, September 26, 2013

Do a Family Service Project

Have you noticed just how self-centered and shallow our society is becoming?

Indeed, we live in a culture that seems to constantly crave entertainment while eschewing service. Sometimes, Christian families can carelessly fall into this trap, one that promises personal fulfillment and satisfaction in life, but comes up empty in the end. The Christian life, at its very core, is all about serving others. Jesus, of course, is our ultimate model of self-sacrifice and service. Matthew 20:28 says, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many.”

One of the key ways that we can demonstrate His Heart with our hands is through compassionate, meaningful service of others. This can be done as congregations, individuals, and as families. Galatians 5:13-14 states, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’.”

Families can become so inwardly focused that we forget our purpose and mission to glorify God through our good works. So how about it? Why not come up with a family service project that everyone can be a part of not matter their age. Perhaps the project could be to serve together in a soup kitchen, help out with some good cause, like “Relay for Life” or a fund-raiser for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Or maybe you could plan to clean an elderly person’s home, work in their yard, or wash their car. Another possibility is to provide respite to a young family who needs a date night and watch their children free-of-charge.

There are tons of ways that our families can mobilize and work together to serve others in a special way. And believe me . . . when we serve side-by-side we will naturally draw closer to each other and enjoy some great conversation and make meaningful memories.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Finding Faith through Hard Times

The following essay was written by my beautiful, fifteen-year-old daughter, Olivia Jean Fraser. She has captured some powerful concepts and sentiments that speak volumes about holding tenaciously to faith in God, while going difficult experiences in life. You will be blessed for reading what she has written!
 ~ Dr. Ryan Fraser, one proud daddy

“Without faith nothing is possible, with it nothing is impossible.” —Marv Bethune

My family has a history of illness. When I was seven and my younger brother four, we found out he had leukemia. My dad, who was a preacher in Henrietta, Texas, was busy leading the Vacation Bible School. My mom had arrived at church with a plan. She was going help for a while and then leave in order to take my brother, who was already showing symptoms of cancer, to the doctor. It was not long after that the doctor called delivering the awful news, and with that we left for the hospital. Our lives came to a grinding halt, and my parents scrambled around trying to pick up the pieces that had become our life. I have spent a good part of my life in hospitals, and, if anything, it has taught me patience. It took a while to learn all these things, a long while, and even at times I struggled and found myself thinking, “If God truly loved us why would he make my family suffer?” But I always found myself looking back to Job, and all the trials he faced—how he lost everything from his family to his health, but he had always put God first and never once cursed him. The most important thing I have learnt is that God is in control, and that he would never give me anything I could not handle.
            I had not realized it then, and would not till much later, how close my brother was to dying—how close his organs were to shutting down. But, with God’s help, we found out in time, and we did get the help my brother so desperately needed. After mom had thrown some clothes in a bag for all of us, we left for Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas, which was an hour-and-a-half from where we were living at the time. I remember being told that we were only going to be there for a short while, but we ended up having to stay for fourteen weeks during his first stay. The sleeping arrangements were awful. One parent would sleep with Austin in the hospital bed, while the other would sleep with me on the small uncomfortable couch. The nurses would come in at all times of the night to give Austin his medicine, a lot of the time he would throw it up and then he would have to take it again. People were always coming to visit, and would try to help us in any way they possibly could. They brought money, food, candies, and most of all prayers. They came from all over just to sit with us for the day. My dad, when doing gospel meetings, likes to tell the story of when Mr. B.J. came to sit and visited with us for the longest time. From my parents and these people, I learned that God will always answer your prayers, maybe not in the way you always want, but he will do what is best for you.
Save for a few memories, such as the one above, I have trouble recalling most of the time I spent in the hospital. I remember when Austin’s hair began to fall out from chemotherapy and gathered in clumps on his pillow. My parents decided to get all of it shaved off to avoid anymore of a mess. I’m sure they thought it would be easy to do. Just take him to the barber shop, shave his hair, and then maybe we could go out for lunch. What they were not expecting was for Austin and I to both throw a fit about it. You see, Austin and I may fight like cats and dogs, but we would never let any harm come to each other from anyone beside ourselves. In my seven and his four-year-old mind we thought getting his head shaved was the end of the world. I was crying so much that I had to sit in the car while my equally distraught brother went inside with my parents. By the time it was over, and he had gotten a sucker for his “bravery,” he was fine while I, on the other hand, was angry for much longer. I think the worst memory I have is when Austin had his first spinal tap procedure. One of the nurses lay across the top of his back immobilizing him, while the doctor did the surgery. For a spinal tap surgery, you have a large needle go into your back at the base of your spine and pull out some of the bone marrow. Why they did not put a four year old to sleep for this is beyond me. I remember having to leave the room with my mom while, my dad went into sit with my brother. My mom still tells us how angry she was that they had not put him to sleep, and at the time had wanted to hit someone. Austin, as you can imagine, had a lot of surgeries. That meant we spent several hours in the waiting rooms. I remember going to the gift shops to get candy multiple times during each surgery. Waiting and sitting still for that long is not easy for a young child, or anyone one, but after a while you get used to it, and I found ways to entertain myself by playing with the other children, or in the little stations they had set up for those who were waiting with children.
Half way through Austin’s treatment at Cook Children’s, God answered my parents’ prayers, and gave my dad the job he wanted. Freed-Hardeman University, where my parents attended college, offered my dad a position as a professor and he gladly accepted the job. We began to pack right away for our long move from Texas to Tennessee. It was like a two-in-one blessing: not only was my dad getting the job he always wanted, but we were also moving closer to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. St. Jude’s was amazing! They helped us in so many ways. They knew how to deal with children, they helped families that could not afford the expensive treatments, and they paid attention the sick child’s siblings. The doctors and nurses were kind, and it was clear that they loved children. I think Austin and my favorite part was the hospital cafeteria. The choices varied anywhere from sushi to chicken fingers, and their gelato was the best. If you got chocolate they would stick bits of a Hershey chocolate bar in it, so the chocolate was my favorite. Austin’s cancer treatments were still cancer treatments, and when he felt up to it we went down to the playroom. On the days when he was too sick to get out of bed, I drew pictures to decorate our hospital room. I enjoyed it when they would do special things like have a circus day, where you could get your face painted and things like that. I still have my picture from when I was eight or nine, and I had gotten a blue butterfly that covered my whole face. We made many friends while at St. Jude’s, and a lot of them were from all over the world.
Looking back, I realize how much God has done and continues to do for my family. He helped me face all the hard trials that came my way, and still continues to do so. I have been surrounded my people of great faith all my life, and sometimes I wish I could have seen it sooner. While my life has not always been smiles and rainbows, if given the chance to change the past I wouldn't change a thing. God put me through those trials for a reason—maybe to prepare me for the other sicknesses my family would face a few years later, or perhaps to help me through a hard time yet to come. My brother is now in full remission. I have learnt that God has been by my side through it all, that I’ve always been blessed, and that someone always has it worse than I do. A Bible verse I love, and try to live by, is the second part of Philippians 4:11, “… For I have learnt to be content whatever the circumstances.”

~ Olivia Jean Fraser