Friday, December 31, 2010
And I heartily agree. He is more than enough. He is everything.
"...we also glory in tribulation, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance character, and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." Romans 5:3-5 KNJV
Have you ever gloried in your illness?
I sure haven't!
But reading this verse today, the Holy Spirit stopped me in my tracks.
Perseverance, character, and hope. 3 things obviously valued by our God. And tribulation is the key to developing them.
Because being CI means that we are turning to Him more often, seeing His interventions in our lives, more clearly - because AB's are often distracted by their world and the demands made upon them, while CIS are, simply, watching for proof of His hand in our lives. We are actually hoping in His power to keep us and provide for us.
And we are learning lessons about His trustworthiness that can be learned no other way.
To glory in pain and weakness is counter intuitive to most of us - but in the reality of God, it is a proven method of training, a time when His presence and power are sought and released in forceful and deeply felt pleas, a time of closeness and dependence. Should He ever choose to return us to AB status, these lessons will be so ingrained in us, God willing, that our first response to difficulty or tribulation will always and ever be prayer. To glory in weakness is simply rejoicing in being in a position where His power and goodness will come into play on our behalf, vividly, in glorious abundance. And the by-product will be virtues He values becoming a deep integral part of our spirits.
Surely a reason for praise - and glory.
Soooo our CI is earning glory for us as we endure, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" Romans 8:18
Friday, December 24, 2010
It is my custom each year to meditate a bit on Christmas - its meaning and everything that comes with it.
This year I've been thinking globally.
If you saw the movie "Fiddler on the Roof", there is a scene where the Sabbath is being celebrated - first by the papas, then the mommas, then the sons, then the daughters, and then it spreads to a multitude of households, all offering their Sabbath prayer, all lighting candles, all singing and celebrating the coming of God's Sabbath day.
I've been thinking of Christmas like that - how in each home, city, country, the traditions are different, but all have at their center the Birth. In my mind's eye I see gazillions of homes, hear Christmas carols in a thousand languages, see hearts tender and remembering the Babe Who first opened His eyes on the world He came to save.
The Light of the World shines in each light bulb on each decorated house, in each candle, in each speck of brightness that shines in the darkness.
Smiles light faces instead of frowns, excited children can't wait to dive into the presents, and family traditions reassure us and usher in the holiday with a sense of timeless nostalgia. In our hearts, we all come home for Christmas, even if the family is no longer "home" on earth. God gave us memories to bless us and comfort us while we sojourn here - for this, at Christmas more than usual, reminds us that this is not our Home - and for me, 90% of my family is Home. (They are no doubt listening to the original choir that sang on that first Christmas evening, to threadbare shepherds guarding the Passover lambs.)
I think of Joseph, how he must have been wondering what God was doing when they wound up in a stinky, cold stable, where the manger was carved from cold stone in the side of the cave, their only source of warmth the un-housetrained cows and donkeys, chickens and dogs who shared their space. And then he probably wound up having to deliver Mary, who was not yet his wife in the full sense of the word, and feeling embarrassed and terrified - he was, after all, delivering the Messiah! Alone. And altho he no doubt would have helped sheep or donkeys deliver, this was waaaaaaaaaay different.
And Mary, who was personally told by an angel that she would give birth to Messiah, the King of the universe, perhaps had dreams of giving birth in a royal household, of having her Son welcomed by the Pharisees and Sadducees and religious authorities. Yet somehow she finds herself in an unsanitary, uncomfortable, un-royal stable, alone - no midwife - having to give birth attended by a man who wasn't yet a real husband, but a bodyguard. She was only anywhere from 13 to 16 years old, had probably never seen a birth or been told much about it. God, what are You doing???
All of which tells me that God does not act in ways that we would imagine - He often does things in ways we simply do not comprehend. I wonder what He thinks of what Christmas has become. Certainly there is a lot of hubbub about things that have nothing to do with the birth of the Savior.
But for those of us who look back to His birth with a touch of wonder and adoration, and look forward to the next time He comes, also with a touch of wonder and adoration - and yearning, and being excited children who can't wait to dive into our celestial presents, and impatiently waiting to see The light of the world, face-to-face - the day in itself is a foretaste of the celebration that is to come. For we have opened our hearts - no doubt originally as stinky and cold as that stable - and He, our Savior and King, has entered without hesitation, cleansing us and filling our earthen vessels with a treasure the world at large has ignored. And the world at large is, for this one day of the year, concerned with giving instead of taking, peace instead of strife, and instead of snarling and grabbing and backstabbing, singing the carols of Christmas.
May your difficulties and pain, your limitations and illness, fade a bit during this time - knowing that He is near, He is listening, and He loves you with an everlasting love.
Friday, November 26, 2010
After a few weeks and several antibiotics, she was still very sick, and the pain in her back, which initially had driven her to seek medical help, had not diminished. She was sent for consults and a myriad of tests, then finally for an MRI.
About a year ago, she and her husband had both had lapbands inserted, a procedure that, while reversible, decreases the size of the stomach to lose weight. Unfortunately, they had trusted a yahoo of a doctor, and her husband almost died of an infection from his terrible technique. We thought she was OK.
The MRI showed that the lapband had eroded into her stomach. Gastric juices had been leaking into her belly, causing an infection of the inside of the belly, widespread. Because of the initial doctor's reputation in the medical community, she had a difficult time finding a doctor who would treat her - the lapband obviously had to be removed, the stomach repaired and her peritonitis treated.
This was very serious. Every day increased the damage caused by the erosion. And the danger to her life.
The doc they found "worked her in" a week later, and waited yet another week to operate.
I was furious.
Not normally an angry person, I found myself horribly angry with the doctor, her husband, the world and anything in it. I fumed and fussed internally day after day.
The surgery finally occurred the day before Thanksgiving.
By the next day her temperature was 102, her pulse fast, her breathing labored. My anger increased with the worry.
Of course all this time I had been praying, passing it on to prayer groups all over.
But I was still angry, and didn't know what to do with it. She seemed to be getting sicker by the minute and I was so angry it brought me to tears.
That day and into the night I spent much time praying. Every time I thought of her, I prayed. And that night as I lay in bed, I kept praying.
Then God spoke to me.
"Do you trust me?"
"Of course I trust you"
"Don't you think I am bigger than her infection?"
"Of course! That was never the question!"
Quietly, "Well then?"
The swift kick in the pants I had needed showed me I was concentrating on the problem, not the Person in charge Who, as much as I hated to admit it, had allowed this thing to befall her for eternal reasons - perhaps something to do with her walk, certainly something to do with mine.
Who was I to get angry over something He had allowed? My personal sense of right and wrong had been offended. I wanted it put right. Now.
But Jesus had something else in mind. He wanted me to learn that, even as He had carefully taught me to leave everything He allowed in my own life in His hands, I was to realize that that also applied to those I loved. And while I could and did pray for those I loved, I was to trust Him with the outcome, and take any fallout emotions of worry (or anger) to His throne. And leave them there - repeatedly, if necessary.
Could I do that?
I'd like to say, as I had said so many times to the Lord, "Of course," but truthfully, it took some time - to think over just where I had gone wrong and to, finally, confess my lack of trust and ask for forgiveness. I had certainly been walking in the flesh, letting my "natural" reactions take the place of my spiritual walk. He showed me that at the first swelling of anger I should have come to Him - with the anger. Instead I had let it enter me, and kept feeding it for the whole time. I should have been praying and trusting Him to do the perfect thing and thanking Him for controlling the situation.
I'm sharing this because, at least for me, it is so easy to slip into the human ways of thinking - to worry, to carry anger deep in our hearts ( and I mean deep), to handle things in our own strength, to pray without listening for feedback ( which I do all too often). Finally He had to forcefully enter my thoughts to get my attention.
Prayer needs to be a two-way communication. We need to listen.
And if you have never heard the Lord before, I want to tell you that it is no great echoing voice as Charlton Heston portrayed it. It is words you hear in your head, with your own voice, only the thoughts are certainly nothing that you would begin to think to say to yourself. The words often convict or correct, sometimes to speak comfort in a time of need, sometimes to, lovingly, as He did with me, kick you in the pants and screw your head on straight.
Perhaps by my sharing my easily-led-astray heart with you, it will help you to avoid the same pitfalls, and to remind you that, in all things, He is to be trusted. Just because we can't understand why something bad happens to good people, it is no excuse for a lack of trust. He is either Lord of your life, or you are. There is no in-between spot you can cling to, no balancing-on-the-fence act that you can tolerate for long.
And if you are busy being Lord of your own life - well then, you need a swift kick in the pants.
PS The morning after Jesus straightened me out, her temperature came down, her breathing returned to normal, and she felt much better. In fact, she was discharged the next day.
We serve an Awesome God.
Friday, October 22, 2010
I recently spoke with a dear friend whose illness often drains the life from her, and the darkness closes round and she simply wants it all to end. I know how pain, mental or physical or both, can steal the sunlight from our days and haunt our nights. Sometimes it seems they cannot be borne.
If you are contemplating this way out, my advice to you is : DON'T DO IT!
Do not let the evil one, the king of liars, infect your soul with the desire.
God has a great plan for your life, It sometimes feel like that is not true.
But it is,
The devil wants you to think it will just end and it will all be over. Instead, you will be facing a Holy God Who wants to know why you took the gift He gave you and threw it away. If you don't know Him already, please visit my church's website and find out how to know Him. http://www.ccgreenvalley.org/knowHim.aspx Please believe me when I say that you are loved by a Being Who created you for joy, Who has watched every breath you have ever taken, Who has seen every rotten, secret thing you have ever done and Who, in spite of it all, loves you so much He died rather than live without you. If you doubt that statement, ask Him to show you His love, ask Him to open your eyes to see - and then watch for His love to be shown to you - because He will move heaven and earth to gather you into His arms and comfort you.
There is another reason I beg you not to end your life:
It kills every person left behind that knew you - that misses you, You will personally destroy any and all of your family and friends who cared.
Each one will wonder every day, "Did I say/do something that caused this? Am I to blame for this wonderful person leaving us?" Your parents will go over and over and over your last conversations " Could I have picked this up? How could I not have known? What did I do wrong.?"
The questions will go on and on for the rest of their lives , and there will never, ever be any answers because you took them all with you.
For the rest of their lives they will live with the pain you chose not to deal with - you will multiply it one hundredfold on every person who ever knew/loved/cared for you.
I know people living in this hell. I hear from one in particular every year on the day they found her son dead by his own hand.
That was 20 years ago.
It never ends.
When your pain seems to have reached beyond what you can bear, talk first to Jesus about it. You don't have to be fancy, just be yourself - talk to Him the same way you would talk to anybody else. Then read Psalm 139 and see how very much God does care about you. You did not happen by chance, you were not a mistake, you were known by God even before the moment the spark of life entered the egg. You were planned. And this illness is part of the plan.
God has entrusted you with something hard. It isn't easy to face the hard things day after day without let up, alone, perhaps home bound or wheelchair bound. So many things you used to do to bring joy to your heart you are no longer capable of doing. But He is there with you, walking each day with you, as close as breathing.
Pain carries darkness in its back pocket. It will swallow you whole if you let it. Instead turn to Jesus and let His light flow in.
But how do I do that?
The best way I have found is through worship, praise, and prayer.
When you know Jesus Christ personally, despair is not an option - it cannot survive with faith alongside it. They are mutually exclusive because, with God there is always hope, and nothing - nothing is impossible to Him.
Tell God how awful everything is face to face - exactly the way you would to a friend, because He is the best friend you will ever have. Offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving, especially when you can find nothing to thank Him for - thank Him anyway. Think of all of God's attributes, His holiness, His mercy, His love Open your heart to Him.
If the pain is too bad, talk to your doctor about increasing pain meds. If the pain is not physical, talk to your pastor - he can tell if you need a referral to somewhere to get help.
DON'T TRY TO FACE THIS ALONE.
Jesus knows all about pain. Physically He died one of the most painful kinds of deaths there are. He was alone, truly alone in the universe for the first and last time in all eternity. He was spat on, they pulled out His beard, they ripped His back to pieces with a whip which had rocks and nails in it to tear and shred. It was designed to cause the most pain and the most blood loss.
He knows well about pain.
He wants to carry it with you,
Please, please, please -
Sunday, October 10, 2010
I've been thinking a lot about hedges lately.
Hedges can be many things. They are protection - they help keep things out.
But they also keep things in.
Hedges hide things. And some hedges are fruit bearing.
I remember as a kid walking home form school past a hedge with berries.
I think every kid in the fifth grade knew that hedge.
We'd stop and gather a few on the way home. They were crisp and purple and slightly sweet. They flowered beautifully in the spring, and we kept a close eye on their progress.
The girls would snatch a few and move on. The boys would grab a handful and have berry fights, leaving the sidewalk full of purple splotches. Or they'd throw them at us girls, leaving us full of purple splotches.
More than one hedge enclosed dogs that barked and snarled like they had rabies, and their hedges bore larges signs with red letters that said BEWARE OF THE DOG. Some of them sounded so scary I would cross the street before I got to that house.
Some hedges had flowers. Some had thorns. Some had flowers and thorns.
Some hedges enclosed private gardens, with sweetly burbling fountains heard clearly through the hedge.
CI is a type of hedge.
Sometimes it has thorns that prick and nettle. Sometimes they scratch and make us itch. Sometimes they are so tall we can see nothing but our illness. Sometimes they "hedge us in" so tightly we have no room to move and nowhere to look - except up. And sometimes they protect us in ways we will never know until heaven.
I began to wonder if my particular hedge held the snarling dog or the secret garden.
I discovered that sometimes it holds one, and sometimes it holds the other.
There are times when all I can do is look up - when the pain is winning or the fatigue is battering or my muscles are aching or I can't focus my thoughts enough to accomplish anything. That dog is snarling in my ears and I must either look up or huddle in the darkness.
There is One Whose presence can quiet the snarling and barking and replace them with a life-giving fountain of Living Water that burbles and freshens my spirit like nothing else can.
It all depends on where I'm looking.
If I concentrate on the hedge itself, I feel confined and deprived and ready to huddle in the darkness and pity myself for my "hard lot".
If I look up, my spirit can fly free and recognize that if Jesus picked this hedge for my life, it must be good, as all He does is good. He has things for me to learn that can be learned no other way. For my particular kind of soul needs these lessons given in this way, whereas someone else can perhaps learn them on an easier path.
Where Job's hedges kept all of his wealth and his children and his choices, they also limited him in the paths he could choose, and he learned well which ones to choose because of his love of his God. When the hedges were moved ever closer and closer, and began to hedge things out and him in, the lessons he had learned earlier stayed with him. He refused to curse God and die,as his loving wife counselled him. Instead he continued to talk to God, asking for a judge Who could translate for God what it meant to be human, how hard he had tried to "be good" and how unfair it was for a nice guy like him to have to suffer so much.
At one point he said "Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden, and whom God has hedged in? For my sighing comes before I eat, and my groans pour out like water...I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest for trouble comes." [Job 23,24,26 NKJV]
Yet after God comes and questions him, Job realizes he spoke of things of which he had no knowledge, things which were too great for him.
And so do I when I question the hedges He has enclosed me with - truly I have no idea why He chose them for me, what He is accomplishing by them, how long they will last.
But I have learned that when I cannot understand, I am to trust. When the going gets rough I am to worship. When I cannot stand another moment, I am to throw myself upon Him and offer the sacrifice of praise when it is the last thing I feel like doing. And I pray that my hedge will be one of the ones that bear fruit.
When the sons of Abraham say a blessing, it always begins with, "Blessed art Thou O LORD God, King of the Universe, Creator of (whatever the blessing entails "fruit of the vine" or "the growing of grain for bread" or "the giving of life"or "the hedges that enclose me") I often begin my prayers that way because it reminds me that the King of the universe is my God, that all things are possible to Him, that He created me, and chose this hedge for me. All the ways of the LORD are good.
Saturday, October 9, 2010
Genesis 2:8 NKJV
I think God has an affinity for gardens.
He could have begun the world anyway He chose.
Instead of starting it out impersonally, drearily striking primordial ooze with a stray bolt of lightning (which, incidentally, doesn't make life) He chose to carefully prepare a glorious creation. He made unimaginably complex and beautiful plants and animals and an intricate footprint of life called DNA, which even a "simple single-celled organism" contains - thereby cancelling the concept of a "simple single-celled" anything.
He prepared so carefully for man, with grasses to soothe bare feet, and trees to shade them (and provide perches for singing birds to please them.) He made animals small and great, some utilitarian and some, I think, just to make us laugh aloud with joy - seriously now, a rhinoceros? With sheets of metal skin and that horn on its nose? Have you ever really looked at a giraffe? A duck-billed platypus? A raccoon? Plus He made some to astound us with size - Elephants and grizzly bears- and beauty - Bengal tigers or leopards or majestic lions. Some were small and cuddly looking, like Koalas and spider monkeys. And some are soft and furry - loving kitties or doggie companions. He even made tiny bugs intricately - aerodynamically-challenged bumblebees that don't know they can't fly and happily buzz their days away. Hummingbirds that defy flight patterns by doing it backwards and upside down. And that giver of summer magic, the firefly - sparkling in the long summer grasses on hot, sticky evenings.
Each one of these were Hand crafted lovingly for the delight of the last ones He made: mankind. Man is the only created being with an awe and appreciation of beauty, who gazes in wonder at redwood forests and giant Sequoias and seaweed forests filled with colorful animals. It has always amazed me that His fish have abundant, heart stopping color - as do corals of all shapes and sizes - and yet the color disappears the deeper you get in the water. It waited for man and his artificial light sources to see the corals at their finest - and deeper yet, submersible subs that go so deep there is no light at all - except for the animals themselves, pulsating with glorious neon lights that thrill the spirit.
The sheer diversity of life and its stunning complexity will often drop me face down before Him in awe.
And yet, this beautiful, glorious, heart-stoppingly amazing world around us is tainted and broken, thanks to Adam - and if this is broken and tainted, what must Eden have been? What will heaven be? We can't even begin to imagine the answers to those questions - and all of it is for our delight.
How His Father-Heart must have delighted in the finishing touches - giving that animal especially soft fur for cuddling, and then tacking that wee light onto the firefly's bottom, no doubt seeing generations of future children thrilling to this wonder-filled dancing light on lawns and gardens.
When days are long and difficult, filled with pain or infirmity, it's hard to get jazzed over a few twigs and bugs. But the more I meditate on God's love of beauty, the more I begin to see that He is in the process of "beautifying" me! The pain makes a wonderful sandpaper for bringing out those rough things that need to be smoothed. My self-centered heart needs to learn to look beyond today's difficulties and see the beauty He has promised to us as He changes us, not from scuzbag to less scuzzybag, but "from glory to glory" (how that phrase astounds me!) The garden He is planting in our heart is a secret place where He comes, as of old, in the coolness of the evening, to join us and refresh us after a bad day. He even speaks of the dangers of "roots" of bitterness, and how "love of money" is the "root" of all evil. And yes, it is possible to have a love of money even when you have none. Perhaps especially when you have none. It is then that the temptation to bend rules to acquire money has its greatest power.
There are weeds of the soul as well as weeds of the soil - and the locusts of pain and fear can make the soul as barren as any empty dry field.
For me the comfort comes in knowing that He Himself planted that first garden. And He Himself planted the one that is growing, right now, in my heart of hearts. And when things go bad, the pain is ferocious, or I have stumbled so badly I'm struggling with guilt and shame, He is there, in the garden, waiting for me with open arms.
And He waits for you, too - just a little east of Eden.
Saturday, October 2, 2010
It rained today.
When you live in the desert, it's a wonderful thing.
Sometimes the sky is a searing iron, and the rays of heat radiate from the street or sidewalk in wavy lines that paint mirages of phantom lakes in the roadways. Everything is parched, dry, dusty.
And then it comes.
The clouds puff up like blobs of shaving cream spurted from a can.
Then the clouds get dirty feet, and the gray spreads upwards until the sky is made of billowing swirls that get darker and darker.
Lightning flashes across the sky, sometimes flaring sideways and never touching the ground. A distant rumble grumbles towards you. Then another flash, perhaps some virga showing in the distance (rainfall that never touches the ground). The puffs start to smooth out, another flash, a closer grumble - then another even closer and finally crashing through the heavens above the house. The first drops are timid - and the size of silver dollars. They dry almost instantly. A cool wave of air comes and then - the heavens open.
I had never seen rain the way it rains here. From two drops to a torrent so thick you can't see the nearby hills. The arroyos ( ditches) and water channels fill and surge with brown angry water that pushes boulders down the washes as if they were pebbles. Flash floods come racing down the streets until they, too are aswirl with water.
And then, drop by drop, it slows. The sky clears the tiniest bit and rays of light like the dawning of creation poke holes in the heavens and shine down like spotlights. Everything glistens. A bird sings as if in celebration. The air feels fresh and new. An occasional deflated little grumble reaches you as if from another country. The storm has passed by.
I was cheering God's unmeasurable power and praising aloud in wonder while I watched all of this.
When you live in the desert, you know what it is to pant for water. Your eyes seem always to be seeking shade. You can't stand in the sun for long - you can actually feel your skin burning.
In Israel, David spent a lot of time at En Gedi. It's a hilly country, and the hills are full of little caves everywhere. En Gedi means "stream of the wild goats" and the desert goats indeed wander by. Even in the Spring, when I was there, it was dry and parched,. For miles around there is nothing but sand and hills and parched land.
And then you get a little farther into the wilderness, and you come upon a spring that trickles down through the rocks and fills a small pool. Israeli families sometimes bring their children to wade and romp in the cooling water. There are ferns in the rocks. Greenery greets the eye and you feel a change in the air. Dancing through the deep silence comes the sound of sweetly trickling water. It soothes your very soul.
It reminded me of Psalm 42:1.
And it perfectly describes how I feel sometimes about God.
My soul gets parched sometimes - I feel dry and dusty. The heavens feel like iron and it seems to build like a thunderstorm until I'm driven into His presence, to worship and pray for renewal.
And then it comes..
Sometimes it is drop by drop.
Sometimes it's like a thunderstorm, and His grace seems to fall all around me and wash me, refreshing my soul and setting that caged bird inside me singing. My spirit lifts as if carried on a sweet zephyr of a wind, and comes to rest, face down at His feet.
So today, for whoever reads this, wherever you are, whenever you stumble on this little blog, I pray that you will know those sweet zephyrs of the soul, and you, too, will know the times of refreshing that come when your soul pants after Him.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
I haven't been up to par, so I've been in bed mostly. Yesterday was the due date. So I went out to my car, papers in hand.
The battery was dead.
I called AAA, bless their hearts, and a nice young man arrived shortly thereafter. He hooked up his instrument - then double checked it to see if it was even working because - drum roll please- not only had the battery died temporarily, it had died permanently. Can't hold a charge. Nothing. Nada. Zip.
Ok. What can I do? I asked hopefully (please let there be a simple, painless answer!!)
The nice young man (hereafter known as NYM) had come prepared with a battery (desert heat kills batteries on average in 2 years. Because I don't drive often, mine lasted 4) He was able to change it out for me in about a half hour and I was on my way.
I had to get a smog check. Usually this entails at least a half hour or more, depending on the crush, at a hot smelly garage (no offense to car magicians). A new "Speedy smog" kiosk had opened near home so I thought I'd try it. Five painless minutes late I was done!
but - it failed the test.
AAAAAAAAAAck! Lord, Help!
This NYM explained that it could be from a new battery or....THAT'S IT! I cried, I HAD ONE PUT IN TODAY!!!
"Today?" he said, astonished. " Lady, it takes a week to two weeks of driving for the gases of a new battery to clear out enough to pass this test."
Aghast, I replied forlornly, "ummm, it's due today..."
The NYM told me not to worry, just go to the DMV and get an extension. It's early in the day, the DMV is still open.
"just' go get an extension.
Our DMV has lines millions of people long ( at least it feels that way) You often spend hours waiting to be called. And the parking reflects it.
We joined the pack of circling sharks looking for a space. Cars were left, hap-hazard and illegally parked all over the place. I prayed out loud, asking God to help.
And - BOOM!!! - right in front of me a car pulled out - and it was in the shade!! Hosanna!! Praise You Lord!
My sil (sister in law) was with me, and she pushed my wheelchair thru the door, to the end of a long h/c info line. This state cares about h/c folks, and has a special line. The line is shorter( but sometimes it feels longer.)
A NYMguard arrived and said," ma'am "(ick)" the h/c line is now over there" and pointed us to a line marked h/c and there was only one person there.
He was short, to the point, and done.
The exhausted, bored, overworked, hard-looking gent barked "NEXT!"
I explained my situation-"youwantanextension" he broke in. He turned to his computer, punched in some numbers, printed it out, stamped it , told me to post it in the right-hand back window of my car -
AND I WAS THROUGH!!
Less than 10 minutes had elapsed since parking.
Since I became ill, it has never ceased to amaze me how lovingly He provides for me. On good days, I may have to walk a bit, things may take a little longer. But when I"m really not doing well, parking spaces appear miraculously. Crusty people become sweethearts. Needed batteries appear from emergency aid trucks. And trees grow for years just to shade my vehicle on a hot end-of-summer day in the desert.
What an awesome God we serve! He showers blessings on the most undeserving people - like me - and smooths rough spots, straightens roads, and makes trees grow, just there.
My heart falls, face down, before Him, in thankful worship.
Spend just a moment thinking of the blessings that crop up in your day, often even unasked for - they don't happen by chance.
Someone is thinking of you with love.
And that Someone is named Jesus.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
The children learn from this, first - that God loves a good party, and second - that even when His is not seen or mentioned, He is in absolute control.
|The "Wailing Wall"|
I am learning that He is moving in dynamic ways, just beyond my range of vision, yet is as close as breathing. He is never so near or tender as when He is silent and unseen.
And Jesus, Who knows what it means to be alone, helpless and in pain, can minister to us through His Holy Spirit when we open ourselves to Him. Trusting Him, silent and unseen, allows us to praise and turn from even severe pain to worship. I'm not saying the pain goes away, but being in the awesome one-to-one presence of God moves my spirit to a different place altogether.
I pray that you will find this to be an effective weapon - for we enter into His presence with praise and thanksgiving.
Friday, September 17, 2010
When her last daughter was born, they called with great excitement to tell me the name. I was overjoyed that her little one had arrived safely, and got used to the new name in my mind. But I was wrong.
When the birth announcement came, I discovered that they had, indeed, done me the honor of naming her middle name after me! I spell it differently than the norm, the difference being a single letter - and when they told me they what they had named her, I automatically "saw" her name in writing with the ordinary spelling. When the announcement arrived, I realized the honor I'd been given. It is one that has amazed and blessed me since that day - and the daughter is now in college, seeking to find her own path, her own walk with Jesus, her own way in the world.
What a dufus I can be! It still bothers me that it didn't "click" while I was talking to them that morning! But once a moment is lost...
And today it gave me pause again. I started thinking about how the written word is more solid of a standing, and what a difference one letter can make!
And how awesome it is to know that God took such amazing precautions in creating the Word we rely on.
To be a scribe in the Jewish world was a post of honor. The scribes would practice their craft for years until being scrupulously judged worthy of copying, onto a vellum scroll, any part of the Word.
They would begin by taking a ritual bath. Then they would begin counting the number of consonants in the passage they were to copy. Next they counted the vowels. Next they counted the number of words. Next the spaces between the words. Next the verbs. Next the nouns...and so on until the copy would be able to be reproduced exactly.
On vellum, it is possible to scrape off a calligraphic mistake. But not for a scribe of the Word. One error, no matter how miniscule, and the vellum would be burnt to embers.
Also, only the most accomplished scribe could transcribe the Name of God. He would have to stop, take another ritual bath, change clothes, transcribe the YHWH, representing His Name, often in gold leaf or blood red, take another bath, and change back into "ordinary" clothes to continue.
All work was checked carefully after finishing for errors.
And this Word has come down to us so complete, it has enabled the Bible "Codes", numeric letter sequencing that, according to the mystical rabbis, has every event that will/has ever happened in our world encoded in it. This was deduced hundreds of years ago (they also deduced from the Word that the world has at least 10 dimensions, something recently verified by quantum physics!). They have found astounding things in the Word - and all because it is written, and it was protected by our Father when it was written down for us.
Jesus could answer the evil one with the words "It is written..." and it ended the argument.
Immerse yourself in it, day by day, and your strength in Him will be as solid as the Rock it speaks of.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
I've not been up to par, so I've had to skip a few days. I'm sure my fellow CI friends will understand, yet I want to apologize. So, sorry about that!
"Say to those who are of a fearful and hasty heart, 'Be strong, fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance :with the recompense of God He will come and save you.'"
I myself have a fearful and hasty heart. Do you?
What I am afraid of, I cry out to God to shield me from, or to take it away - and do it now, please! I want a quick end to whatever has made me afraid or given me pain.
And His answer to me is, "Be strong! Fear not!"
I can force myself to be strong. And, if God commands me not to be fearful, there must be a way to do that, too, for He never commands me to do something I cannot do.
The power lies in His promises.
I must feed on His Word and store up His promises in my heart.My illness is teaching me to trust Him and not depend on how I understand a situation (Proverbs 3:5-6) In temptation or trial I must look for the way of escape, for He has promised there will be one, and that He will never give me more than I can bear (1Cor 13:10).
And there are hundreds more of His promises in His Word, waiting for me to find them, trust them, rely on them.
He has given me the tools - and He has given you the same tools. We must force ourselves to put away our fear and search for them - to be still before Him (Psalm 46:10), knowing He is our God and He cannot lie (Numbers 23:19), remembering that His arms are always under us, and they are everlasting (Deuteronomy 33:27).
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Therefore we do not become discouraged (utterly spiritless, exhausted, and wearied through fear). Though our outer man is [progressively] decaying and wasting away, yet our inner self is [progressively] renewed day after day.
For our light, momentary affliction (this slight distress of the passing hour) is ever more and more abundantly preparing and producing and achieving for us an everlasting weight of glory [beyond all measure, excessively surpassing all comparisons and all calculations, a vast and transcendent glory and blessedness never to cease!]
Perhaps at this time it is impossible for you to add your "Amen!" to this verse. You are discouraged and wearied - and although it is true that your "outer man is [progressively] decaying and wasting away," the inner man seems to be absent. To speak of life-changing chronic illness as a "light, momentary affliction" is beyond you at this moment.
Few of us are as single-minded and strong as the Apostle Paul. But to speak like Paul, to walk like Paul, we have to figure out what his outlook was and how he got there.
Paul himself had a chronic affliction. Some think it was his eyesight, others have different theories. But it was chronic, constant and disabling enough that Paul prayed 3 times to be healed of it.
Think of this now: Paul, a man of whom the Word says "...and God did unusual and extraordinary miracles (Acts 19:11-12) by the hands of Paul so that handkerchiefs or towels or aprons which had touched his skin were carried away and put upon the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them."
And yet God refused to heal him.
God chose this illness for Paul, chose to use his ailing, weak body to display the power of grace. In answer to Paul's third request for healing, Jesus said to him, (2Corinthians 12:9) " ...My grace (My favor and loving kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]: for My strength and power is made perfect (fulfilled, completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness."
Paul's answer to this is also recorded: " Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weakness and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me."
I can imagine some jealous individual sneering that Paul, who was a short, odd-looking man according to Josephus, could heal others but couldn't even heal himself. So added to his daily struggles were those who sought to defame and denigrate him.
Yet, Paul found Jesus was enough - His presence in the person of the Holy Spirit and His grace - that same grace that would "pitch a tent over and dwell " on him. From this response on Paul's part we know he availed himself of that grace, and sought continuously to have that tent pitched directly over him.
Do we avail ourselves of that grace?
I don't know about you, but complaints spill out of me as easily as water spills from a joggled cup. Then when I realize I was murmuring, I have to confess and ask His forgiveness.
But I want Christ to spill out of me, not complaints. I want others to see that tent of grace pitched over me and realize that I couldn't possibly handle this on my own, couldn't be a conqueror, let alone more than one (Romans 8:37).
I want my life to show that His grace is more than sufficient.
I have a loooong way to go. One step at a time.
How about you?
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
A friend who runs a mission in Mexico drives up to the desert here once each month to teach a Bible study. His website is Grace Thru Faith, or GTF.org, and is a fantastic resource, as he is a fantastic teacher. His mission is run on the principle "Where God guides, God provides" and any money received above operating expenses is given away.
He drove up one Friday with his wife and 4 year old son.
The car hit one of those guiderails that are meant to prevent a car going over the cliff, and we are thanking God it did its job. Aside from their badly needed car being totalled and a myriad of bumps and bruises, they are all ok.
It set me to thinking about how a split second can change your life.
When I was an AB, I never gave a second thought to something like that . It never occurred to me that my life would ever be anything different than what it was, or that my body would one day betray me.
Now, of course, I know better. Those of us with chronic illness know that we cannot put our trust in our bodies, nor take for granted its capabilities. On good days we trust our bodies only slightly - and thank God for a lessening of pain or increased function, or simply the ability to take a deep breath, unhindered. But that take-for-granted "I will feel wonderful tomorrow" attitude will never be ours again.
For most ABs, I would venture to say that it never crosses their minds that something might happen to hinder their existence and cause a paradigm shift in how they functioned in the world - it certainly never did mine!
But my friend's brush with death set me thinking about the One Who holds our breaths in His hands, and knows the precise number we will be able to draw on this earth.
I have had a number of split-second changes in my life that have ended irrevocably my way of life and/or how I perceive it. Looking back, the ones that hurt the most were not the ones that removed me from a profession I loved or changed my physical abilities, but the ones that caused a loss of someone I loved. I would not have survived those losses without Jesus.
He was with me for the last 3 of those losses - the last one caused the loss of my home and my way of life in CA, necessitating a move to the desert, where I now reside. That was the death of my caretaker and also my youngest, dearest brother - for months I felt like I couldn't breathe without him. If not for Jesus and the comfort and healing He provided, I don't know if I would have survived it.
Because out of all the split-second changes I have experienced, the most life-changing of all was when Jesus blasted His way through my arrogance and self-conceived image of "my" god into my life, changing it from black-and-white to living color in an instant, revealing to me the Ancient of Days, the Great I AM.
And trust me, it was probably one of His bigger challenges.
In the end, it is the only one that really matters.
I never, in a million years, could have imagined the path my life has taken, or dreamt of the existence I lead or the places He has walked with me, carried me, comforted me. What an amazing privilege it is to hear the Voice of the Living God speaking to me!
He has carried me through hours of pain, kept me company in endless sleepless nights, taught me to sing in my bed, and when pain raises its unbeatable head He, Who knows better than I ever will what the word "pain" entails, has taught me to worship - and somehow, in some unexplainable way, I am lifted above it. No, not lifted up in a chariot of fire and taken off somewhere - I am still aware it is there - but so is He, and that makes all the difference.
It has been estimated that each cell in the human body transacts over 300,000 chemical tasks per second. I look at my hand and find a wonder of construction and utility. My eyes work - a little worse for wear, but working nonetheless. Ears, legs, knees- even my replaced ones - a brain that perhaps deviates from the path now and then, but functioning still.
I am ashamed to say that, most days, I take these wondrous functions totally for granted, not giving a second thought to the fact that Someone keeps my heart beating, my lungs filling and emptying, and my blood with its assorted elements flowing to their destinations.
So, at least for a day or two (until I fall back into my bad habits again) I am going to try to be aware of this miracle I walk around in, the one that was Hand-formed in my mother's womb.
And I leave you with two simple questions:
How many times did your heart beat today?
How many breaths did you take?
Jesus knows the precise number. And He knows how many remain of those allotted to you.
He holds each one in His hands.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
These devotionals are for all of us who are chronically ill (hereafter referred to as CIs) and you able-bodied folks (hereafter referred to as ABs) can sneak in if you want to.
What is a devotional? It's a little story, basically, illustrating a verse of scripture that is noted at the bginning. It's a good way to start your day - thinking of God and His faithfulness to His kids, something to think about and chew on each day. Hopefully you will find something that "clicks" and will bless your sox off. I highly recommend looking up the full scripture at the end of the day, and think about it as you go to sleep.
Where will these devotionals come from? Well, basically, I'm sharing what I've learned from 20+ years of being ill, and being led and comforted by the Spirit of the Living God. This is an unabashedly born-again Christian blog. I depend on the Holy Spirit for each day's energy and needs. You may quote as much as you like, but please respect the copywrite and give due credit.
I make no claims of special holiness or being better than anyone else. I'm just a fellow sojouner, a sinner-saved-by-grace doing the best I can with what I've got, and turning it all, the good and the bad, over to Him.
Because being CI is not like being AB and getting sick, it requires a paradigm shift in your thinking - because we know that tomorrow when we open our eyes, by the grace of God, our illness will be there to greet us. The ABs have the hope that when they get sick, some medication and correct treatment has a pretty good shot at getting them better. We CIs know that won't happen. Each day we awaken to the fact that we are still sick, still make-it-thru-the-day challenged, fighting scary scenarios and self-pity, bed-bound or house-bound or wheelchair-bound and trusting that Jesus meant what He said in Hebrews 13:5, when He promised to never,never,never,never leave us (the implications of the Greek translation, emphatically promising to be there). And so far, He has honored that promise in my life. He has never left me, never failed me, never chastised me for failing Him. The Lover of my soul has carried me when I was too sick to walk, comforted me when yet one more thing was taken from me, and loved me through some of the the foulest moods known to mankind.
He is my rock.
So I'm sharing the lessons I've learned. Think about Him throughout your day and invite Him in - into the darkness and anger and fear and pain, or whatever else your day may hold.
And if you've never met Him, I invite you to do that also - He's waiting with arms open wide to welcome You to a kingdom that will open your heart to a new way of life. Just ask Him - something like,
" Jesus, Please come into my heart and be my Lord and King. I give my life to You, and ask for Yours in return. Thank You for dying in my place, for paying a debt You didn't owe when I owed a debt I couldn't pay. Teach me now how to walk daily with You, and learn Your ways. I ask this in the Name of the One Who, truly, died rather than live without us, Jesus. Amen"
If you prayed that prayer, welcome to the family! Get yourself a Bible in a translation that you can read - I prefer the Amplified Bible, which not only gives you a close to the original translation, but in parentheses the implied or alternate meaning of the words. And then read it - the gospel of John is a good place to start. Spend some time every day in the Word (church-speak for "your Bible"). Pray about anything that happens in your day - from your mood to an unexpected blessing. I'm not talking formal "thee and thou" stuff, just talk to Him the way you would your friend - your very best friend, who knows you deep down and doesn't get offended no matter what you say - because Jesus is like that. Find a bible-believing church that teaches through the Bible - a Cavary Chapel is a good place. You can find one near you by going to http://www.calvarychapel.org/ . You have chosen an exciting, amazing path to travel. The God Who created the Universe is actually waiting to hear your voice. And even more amazing, as time goes on you will begin to recognize His voice talking back, if you sit in the silence and listen. It won't be a thundering scary thing, it will be soft and quiet, the same way your own voice sounds to you when you are thinking, but He will be telling you things you would never think to say in a zillion years. Spend time worshipping Him - there are many praise albums out there to lead you on the way. And, this is very important, begin to trust Him. Things may be difficult, but He is there to listen, even when you are angry at Him, and He will love you no matter what.
By the way, the letters in parenthesis after the quoted verse refer to which translation I used : NKJB is the New King,James Bible, AMP is the Amplified Bible - and if I use any others, I will identiy them as they come up.
So, here goes:
"Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin?... Do not fear, therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows."
(NKJB) Matthew 10:29-31 (NKJB)
It had been a really tough day. I'd not been ill very long and hadn't learned even one coping lesson yet. I'd never had a headache before in my life - and this one would recur every day for the rest of my life. Sound hurt. Light hurt. I had no energy and my body hurt so badly I felt like I'd been thrown into a clothes dryer with a sack of rocks and left by the side of the road to die.
I was not in a good mood.
Condemned to my shuttered bedroom, all the light was banished - except for a small, north-facing window that seemed to me my last link with the world (Did I mention I'm a bit over dramatic?) I plopped onto my bed and began praying, asking for some something that would give me hope or show me that He had indeed chosen this way of life for me at this moment in time.
I opened my eyes and looked out my window to the only light that didn't make my head feel like it was going to explode - and, dagnabbit! Smack dab in the middle of my precious, tiny rectangle of blue there was a huge, black telephone wire.
" Lord," I whined, " does there have to be a phone wire right there? There has to be about a billion other places for it. Why is it there?"
I continued in this saintly whining for awhile. I was discouraged. I was disgusted. I was in relentless spirit-crushing pain.
And I was scared.
Self-pity and I were having a battle. I knew that this grumbling stuff was not the way God intended this illness to change my life. So I was not going to give in to it. And the only way, in all these years. that I have ever found to beat self-pity is to yell, "No!" (inside my heart) and turn to the Holy Spirit saying, "If you don't take over I'm going to fall right into the middle of that pit. Please, Lord, Help me!" I had tears in my eyes, but I lifted my clenched fist to heaven and opened my hand, giving this whole mess to the One Who promised to meet my needs.
And God won.
I laid down again, looking steadfastly at that stupid wire cutting into my blue sky.
And then -
And then, a small yellow-rumped warbler landed on the wire (did I tell you I love birds)
And then it began to sing.
With tears running down my face and a ginormous smile, I was crying out to my Tender Loving Father thanking Him over and over, asking for forgiveness - how could I have ever doubted Him? My spirit soared out of that shuttered prison, singing thank yous and hosannas and joy.
I don't know how long the bird stayed - 2 minutes? an hour? Time seemed suspended. In the whole universe there was only this Tender, Loving God I was learning to trust, a beautiful, bright, yellow-patched singing bird.
And from that day forward, I have found it to be all I ever really need.
(uh...not necessarily including the bird)