Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Gift that keeps on giving

It is New Year's Eve.  I am alone except for She Who Hides Under The Bed.  It is a crisp, frosty night, turning your breath into little puffs of white vapor.  I've just been blessed with a guest speaker at our church, talking about prophecy and how very many have been fulfilled in the last 60+ years, starting with the regathering of Israel. 

The New Year will begin soon, and only God knows what it will contain.  This year will unfold more prophecies, more events foretold by His faithful ones thousands of years ago.  It is astonishing to realize that how many prophecies have been fulfilled in my lifetime!  Even more astonishing is that He has chosen me to be His child, and has sworn Himself to be my Father. What a gift!

But then, our God is a generous Giver.

He has given us so much - life to begin with, and then Life if we have asked Him to enter in.  Everything about God is rich with giving.

In His Word, the word "give" and its derivatives occurs roughly 2100 times. (statistics from Acts & Facts, the magazine of the Institute for Creation Research)

It is interesting that the first occurrence is when He created the great lights in the heavens to give light upon the earth (Gen 1:15) as God Himself  is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. How fitting it is that this season is heralded by light - dancing on rooftops and outlining every bush.

The last mention of giving is in Rev22:12 - from Genesis to Revelation, God is a giver.

The greatest mention of giving is, of course, in John 3:16: "for God so loved..."

That pretty much sums up our God doesn't it?  For God so loved us all that He is ready and willing to give us Light whenever we need it.  He gave us the greatest Light of all time and eternity in His Son, and through that one act of giving bought our freedom from the darkness of the slavery we had been sold into by Adam. 

And each day He gives us the grace needed to deal with whatever He has allowed into our lives - and that includes CI.

Thinking of CI as a gift of God to be thankful for ...well... it's a bit difficult sometimes.  But nevertheless, it's true - everything that touches me He has ordained.  It is not some cosmic mistake that I am ill, it is a chosen path He has presented me with, a path that will last as long as He wills it.  And looking back over the last 24 years, I can see some of the blessings, and can honestly say there are many things about it that I am thankful for.

Primarily, it has taught me that He knows, and He is able.  Those two things enable me to leave the details in His hands.  He knows each day what He has chosen for me, and He is able to keep me safe through it.

Sometimes though, His opinion of "safe" and mine differ a bit.  That's when the fear sends me flying to His lap, choosing to worship where I don't understand.

Don't misunderstand me - I do not burble happily through each bout of pain or whistle a happy tune through the fear.  There have been days lately where my main prayer has been not to pass out from the pain - a severe bout of sciatic nerve pain has begun and I dearly hope it will soon be concluded!  It's hard to understand the whys and wherefores - but God has never promised to explain Himself to me.  He is the Creator, I am His creature - and I have no right to demand explanations.  He wants me to trust Him, and I have no doubts whatsoever of His worthiness, His faithfulness, or any of the other things that make Him a trustworthy person. 

And so I set my face like flint and I trust Him. Sometimes, I confess, through gritted teeth.  And when I can, I thank Him - for many things, my illness among them.  I trust there is a reason for the pain and the darkness and the fear.  And I can see that each time I trust Him through some difficulty, I learn something new about Him, His love, His ways.

A friend introduced me to the concept of having a single word be the focus of a year (or week or a month - whatever you choose)

And so, for the coming year, I have chosen the word "teachable".

I want my spirit to be open to what He has for me - whether it's a bend in the road of my CI, a formal class opportunity, a new path, new lessons wherever they are.  Perhaps a new way of journaling, combining my art with my writing - I don't know.  Whatever it is, I want my heart to be open to it.  I want to concentrate on hearing His voice, doing His will, being what He would choose for me to be - and rejoicing in it, even in the midst of discomfort. I want more of Him and less of me, more being able to say "Ahhhh!  THAT'S what He meant!"  More worship.  More prayer.  Less murmuring, less letting pain win.

When this time comes around next year, I want to be able to say, "thank you for using my illness to teach me things I could have learned no other way.

"What an awesome Gift it has been."

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Christmas Play

I wrote this years ago - yet, with the arrival of the Christmas season, I bring it forth every year.  It never fails to make me cry, because this is a true story.  It happened in the midwest in the late 1950s, before the mention of God was banned and prayer in schools was legal.  I pray it blesses you - and if you've read it before, perhaps a second reading will bless you, as well.

The Christmas Play

The first grade class prepared for the Christmas play with great enthusiasm, especially Karl. Karl was what we used to call "slow," He tried so hard to fit in, and wanted so much to help with the yearly school play,  that his teacher moved him from task to task, trying to find a place where he would fit.

Painting scenery didn't work out, his donkey looked like a dachsund, and no one knew exactly *what* his palm trees looked like.

From there he went to props, where he accidentally knocked them over, then to the choir of angels where he lost his halo, and on through the list of helpers. His teacher couldn't bear to crush his open, giving heart.

Finally, she decided to make him an innkeeper.

All he had to do was open the painted cardboard door and say gruffly, "There's no room!" and shut the door.

Rehearsals went well. Karl enjoyed being gruff and "slamming" the cardboard door as best as he could. And finally the big night arrived.

Parents dropped off excited children and found seats in the auditorium. The jumble of voices died as the curtains opened.

Backstage, Karl's eyes grew bigger and bigger as the play progressed. With everyone in costume and the bright lights on, the cardboard and bathrobes really looked like wood and eastern cloaks. He could almost hear that donkey clopping down the Bethlehem street, and didn't that man look dusty and tired, and his wife seem exhausted and hungry?

Mary and Joseph passed the first inn.

"There's no room!" the innkeeper shouted, his beard falling off as he flung the door shut.

The few steps to the next inn seemed to take all of Joseph's energy...

"Please, sir, my wife is great with child and we have no place to stay..."

"Go away! We're full up!" the next innkeeper growled.

Karl swallowed twice as the couple came towards him. He'd practiced so hard, but now the words weren't fun anymore. Suddenly he heard the knock on his door.

"Please, sir, my wife is great with child, and we have no place to stay."

Karl swallowed again. Then he forced the words out. He tried to bluster and yell, but the lump in his throat wouldn't let him.

"There's no room," he whispered, and as the tired, disappointed Joseph began to turn back, the tears in Karl's eyes overflowed.

"Wait!" he called as they began to move away, "Wait! You can have my room!" And with that he rushed through the door crying, enveloping Joseph in a big bear hug.

Pandemonium broke loose as parents laughed and cried along with him. Joseph hissed, "That's not what you're supposed to say! Lemme go!" and, finally, the teacher came onstage to comfort the sobbing Karl who would not let the struggling Joseph go free. They never did finish the play.

Some of the children say that Karl ruined the Christmas pageant that year.

Their parents, however, remember the tears in Karl's eyes and the love in his heart, and they are not so sure.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

And He looked at all He created and called it good.

I took a watercolor workshop a few weeks ago.  When I was AB it was one of the things I loved most - I belonged to a calligraphy society and had the blessing of studying with some of the biggest names in the Calligraphic art world.  It was pure joy.

What is it about creating something that nurtures the heart?  Whether you do it with art or music, spray paint or pots and pans,  it leaves you with a sense of satisfaction and delight.  Two of the workshop tasks were these :

I had never drawn this way before - the techniques I learned were worth the price of the workshop. It has been several years since I was well enough to take a workshop - and I had several people praying for me so I could last for two days.  I didn't make it all the way through the second day, but did make it 3/4 of the way.  I was thrilled. There is something about calligraphy and watercolor that really speaks to me - sort of like visual poetry.  And I find that fascinating because God calls us His "poema", His poem, in the Word.  Each of us is a masterpiece of design unmatched by anything man or any other being can create.  Man thinks he's such a hot shot, but he cannot create life - even though he stridently maintains that life "just happened" on the earth and "evolved" from there.  If it was so easy, why can't he figure out how to do it? How laughable is evolution when it talks about a "simple cell" that was formed from lightning (or something -  they're not sure) striking the primordial ooze on the earth's surface?  They don't tell you that a "simple cell" has DNA, the most complicated structure man has ever seen. If even one chromosome is imperfect there are horrible anomalies in offspring. It's akin to throwing everything that you need to make a watch into a paper bag, thumping it with a mallet, and expecting a watch to fall out! That "simple cell" somehow developed, full blown, an eye.  According to evolution, anything that doesn't work gets discarded - and there are so many working components to an eye that if even one was missing the eye wouldn't work - and evolution would have discarded it.  The myths of evolution read like some fantastic science fiction, which it is!

If you think it is real, please, just for one moment consider:  there is a flower in South America whose stamens and pistil resemble a female wasp.  The male wasps emerge before the females, and, thinking that the pistils are a female, the male investigates, and in doing so pollinates the flower.  Now, imagine the odds of something like that happening.  The wasp is the lone pollinator - how did the plant survive while "evolution" did its evolving over "millions of years.?"  No one can say. 

Why is there no fossil record of one species turning into another.  Surely one lizard-becoming-a-bird took long enough to be captured by the primordial ooze!  No one can explain that.

And what about the spider that lays its eggs in a stream by blowing saliva bubbles, diving,  coming up to get more air and blowing another bubble it adds to the first, and finally, when there is enough air in the bubble, it lays its eggs there and climbs out of the water.  While it was learning this essential behavior, a  million spiders would have drowned and the others would not have been tempted to keep at such a senseless exercise.

All of these are a ginormous leap from coloring changes in moths (dark moths congregate on dark trees: change the color of the tree to white, and the moths become white, ie., the moths that survive are the light colored ones because predators eat the easily seen ones.)  There is a world of difference between a light colored surviving moth and a lizard becoming a bird.

But I digress (sorry). Learning how to capture an image and compose music are two ways the spirit soars.  I call it a sense of wonder - I feel the same way in the awesome forests of Big Sur, near Carmel and Monterrey in California.  Or standing on a boat watching two blue whales, the largest creature on earth, circle around the boat while feeding for an hour.  Why does "wonder" or an appreciation of beauty happen?  There is no evolutionary benefit from my heart being filled with wonder and joy - yet it happens to every human at one time or another.

God gives us a little taste of the joy He experienced when He molded man out of dirt and breathed life into him.  We were created in His image - and being able to feel joy in creating something is part of that image. I am so very grateful that He gives us moments when we are "surprised by joy" as CS Lewis put it.  He could have made us able to live in a white, vast wasteland like the moon.  Or a world of molten methane lakes and waterfalls like Venus.

But He didn't.  His love for beauty and perfection stirred Him to create an unimaginable wonderland in that first garden.  This earth is tainted and torn, worn with age, groaning to be delivered - and yet, how the vast stretches of unimpaired nature move us, and how we thrill to the power of gigantic surf or the colors of coral reefs.

What must Eden have been?


That seems to be the question on everybody's mind, doesn't it?

Bear with me here, I'm trying to think this through.

This week my pastor brought up the question of murmuring.  We all do it.  We compain about out aches and pains and how difficult being CI is.  And yet, the pastor said, If Jesus never did one more thing for us than He has already done in saving  us, we would have nothing to compain about for the rest of eternity.

It's had me thinking.  I'm sure it's had a lot of us at my church thinking.

God is generous with us.  From behind the filter of CI it doesn't come to mind that often.  But it's nonetheless true.  He ministers to us more than we know, and I think one of the great surprises and joys of heaven is going to be when we get to see that all the time He was right here with us, as close as breathing, keeping us safe.

But we're not safe, you say.  We're sick.

Reading Romans (Paul again!) vss.1-6 in the Modern English Translation (Berkely translation) Paul tells us that we should glory in our afflictions.

Can you imagine that?  I have, never once, considered glorying in my illness.  Yet, that's what he says:

"Since, then, we have been pronounced righteous through faith,let us have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we also obtain through faith entrance to this grace in which we stand firm, and rejoice in the hope of God's glory.  Not this alone, but we glory in afflictions as well; for we know that affliction produces patience, and patience develops a tried character, and character begets hope, such hope as does not disappoint; for God's love is poured out into our hearts by means of the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us. For when we were still helpless, Christ at the proper time died for the ungodly."

So then, our CI is working into us patience and tried character and hope - and God's love is pouring into our hearts.  Wow!  that's a lot!

Perhaps that is why God entrusted us with these afflictions.  He wants to develop in us things that we wouldn't get from a busy AB life.  Although I don't feel more patient, I trust that the Word is true, and something is developing in me that God prizes, and the means of that development is my illness.

Now, I realize, as Amy Carmichael said, that I am writing for those who know far more than I do about the awful, trampling power of pain.  She talks often about how in acceptance lies peace.  And I have found it to be true in my life

Pain draws us close to God.  CSLewis said God whispers to us in our joys, but shouts to us in our pain.   That's because when we are in pain, we hear better.  We are listening. We are not distracted by the busyness of daily living.  I know that when I was AB and out and about, working and supporting myself and "taking care of business"  I didn't listen well.  I still feel like I don't listen well, but He finds ways to speak to me - most often when I least expect it.

I  met a man at a church board meeting in Seattle whose spirit has become so very sweet through pain - it's left me deeply humbled .  He hasn't swallowed anything in over 20 years - his cancer and radiation and surgery removed his salivary glands, part of his jaw and tongue.  He speaks with slurred speach and receives nourishment through a tube, and yet he comes to Christmas dinners and smiles as others chow down and the joy just radiates from him - he still has a michievous look in his eye and is great at teasing. I have a  feeling I couldn't do that in a million years.

But God didn't call me to do that.  He didn't call me to do what you have to do each day either.  He's called each one of us to a walk that He intends to grow us up and give us wings.

Too often I forget the wings part.

The Word says all the ways of the Lord are good.  All.  Not some.  All.  Not "all except my illness."  Not "all except this part that I hate". It says "all."

So back to the original question at the top.  "Why?"

I am not a theologian.  I am a sinner saved by grace because if it wasn't for that grace, I wouldn't be saved.  But I think the "why" of illness has to do with the fact that God has a plan for our lives, for good and not evil.  He has promised to restore all the years the locust has eaten - and if CI isn't a locust, I don't know what is.  He has so many promises in His Word to sustain us and give us peace, but they can't come to us unless we accept His right to do as He wishes with us. I firmly believe He is the only cause of anything that happens in our lives.  This illness came to me directly from His hand.  It came to me for good and not for evil.  He hides treasures in the darkness the Word says - but sometimes it takes awhile for our eyes to get used to the dark.  And CI is an excellent way to teach us to see in the darkness.

Have you ever noticed that the tiniest pinprick of light shines like a beacon in the darkness?  And just think, God's being is light itself - "in Him is no darkness at all". James tell us there is no shadow of His turning - because He Himself is Light.   He is using our CI to give us keen eyesight in the darkness, to see the treasures it holds, to appreciate His light - and to form patience, and character and all the rest. 

Is that not enough reasons to answer the "why?" that the evil one whispers in our ears?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Struck down, but not destroyed

I've been reading in the New Testament in Paul's writings for the last couple of weeks, and I'm seeing him as I never have before.

When he was blinded at his conversion, the Word tells us that for 3 days he prayed, neither eating or drinking.  Wow. 3 days without stopping - what was he saying?

I cannot imagine being struck blind (my 6 weeks with one eye was enough, thank you).  Added to the fear of the present and future without sight. Is it permanent?  Is it a punishment for persecuting Jesus so harshly and condoning the torture and murder of His followers?  How terrifying to discover his whole life was - well, completely wrong and evil - a man who had studied every second practically since birth to know and follow the law according to the Pharisees - of which he was one - the group Jesus had pronounced the "woes" upon.

I think Paul's heart was broken. All this time he'd been trying to please his God - and he'd actually been dishonoring him. I can't imagine the sword through his heart, the nausea, the shame.  Did he spend those three days confessing sins and asking for forgiveness?  He knew nothing of grace yet, nothing of how "The Way" worked, its laws and customs.  Was he going over all the scriptures in his mind to see where the Messiah predictions pointed to Jesus?  Sick at heart, sick in body, hurting, isolated, totally alone and distrusted by anyone who knew Jesus, for Saul had a reputation that ranged far and wide, and it was not a good one to those of The Way.

And then, like his Lord, on the third day he arose.

"...something like scales fell from his eyes and he could see."

But according to tradition and clues in the Word, he could not see clearly.  It seems his eyesight was bad for the rest of his life.

Making him a CI.

Jesus said He would show Paul how much he must suffer for Jesus's sake.

And suffer he did. In 2 Cor:8-10 (Modern Language Bible) "We are hedged in from every side, but we do not live cramped lives;  we are perplexed, but we do not despair;  we are persecuted but not deserted;  struck down but not destroyed, all the while bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that by our bodies the life of Jesus may also be shown." He was also shipwrecked, spending a night and a day on the sea - I can't imagine clinging to a piece of flotsam for 24 hours, in the dark, sharks circling, circling. It gives me shivers.

Then there were the floggings - plural.  The Jews could only give him 39 lashes, but the Romans had no such rule.  The whipping with the cat o' nine tails had leather thongs with nails and thorns and sharp pebbles attached to them, ripping and shredding with every lash - and then being raw and rubbing against any clothing you wore, finally healing in long, ropey scars that would shrink with age into hard ridges - and nothing much in the way of pain relief was available (and if it was, prisoners wouldn't get it!).  He was stoned  by a mob - the people thought they'd killed him; perhaps they did - it may be then that Paul had his vision of heaven.

He often was imprisoned - he would consider an American prison a country club.  Those prisons were many times in caves, dark, cold, smelling of mildew and unwashed humanity.  In many there was no such thing as "cells", plural - many were kept in a huge enclosure, no lights, food shoved through a hole and the strongest got the most.  If you were ill or slow you didn't eat.  And Paul mentions being without food, without lodging, without warm clothes, naked, plotted against, lied about - the list goes on and on.  All while being CI and disadvantaged by not seeing well.  According to Josephus he was a small man.  I'm sure when he showed up somewhere people would look at him and say, "You're Paul?'

Amazing how those verses fit being CI!  Now, I am in noooooooo way equating my life with Paul's.  He got out and converted the known world!  But in those verses I found a blueprint for living.  There are hours of meditation in those words.

As a Christian CI, my life does not have to be cramped - I can travel the world in prayer, studying a specific country and praying for their needs.  Or, as the now defunct Pray! magazine recommended, to pray for the world in the grocery store - all the fruits and veggies are marked with the country they come from, and the specialty foods aisle has a smorgasbord of lands represented, all in need of prayer.  I get one of those rider carts and putt-putt my way around the world.

I never have to despair - although I am perplexed, a lot!  Despair and faith cannot live together.  Because He lives, I can face tomorrow (hmmm - that sounds familiar). The reason is, I may be persecuted because of my illness, by hospitals and health organizations impatient for money, declining coverage to many because of one tiny ailment when I have gazillions! Or it may be friends who slowly delete you from their lives, not calling, not including you anymore, breaking your heart over and over again - but I am not deserted.  The Comforter is always with me.  I may be struck down on bad days, but I am not destroyed - and these ailments are bearing in me the dying of Jesus somehow, mystically, and by my disabled, CI body the life of Jesus is shown - because one and all of these things - living free, not despairing, not deserted, not destroyed - are impossible in the flesh.  At least in my flesh! When I can do something, people know it ain't me.  It's Him.

2Cor:16-18 "For this reason, we are not discouraged,even though our outer nature suffers decay, our inner self is renewed day after day.  For this slight, momentary trouble is producing for us an everlasting weight of glory that exceeds all measures, because we do not fasten our eyes on the visible but on the unseen; for the visible things are transitory, but the unseen things are everlasting."  (emphasis mine)

I can see in Paul's life an everlasting weight of glory that exceeds all measures - Paul was definitely an A type personality, an abundant over achiever with a "face set like flint" to be a slave to his Master. He was the poster boy for abundant, loyal, unending sharing of his faith, spending his last breath in service to his Lord.

But Paul includes us in that "we."

That is an amazing thought. God sees something that is precious to Him when we bear with the pain, the weakness, the isolation.  He has allowed the suffering only to a predetermined point - this is not a random situation we are in, it is a planned event.  God chose us for some reason - clay vessels so leaky that His glory leaks out when we are not looking. 

I often think that God treasures things in an upside-down way.  The dearest treasure of earth - gold - will in heaven be merely pavement.  Instead of rock stars, God chooses us - tattered and weakened, souls worn down to the nub, not faithful in prayer (I speak for myself here,) often lowered from top priority on my "to do" list.  We are His examples of what He can do with nothing - weak, fallen mankind, sinners saved by grace and grace alone.

But it occurred to me today that is I, not God, who has things upside-down.  It is not for Him to bend Himself to my way of thinking, it is for me to be "renewed in my mind," transformed, not conforming myself to the world. God thinks straight, my thinking is a wee bit off.

OK, it's a lot off.

I am open-mouthed with wonder at what Paul accomplished, the travels he took, often having to rely on  others for health care (the beloved physician, Luke) and having a traveling companion, no doubt to help him when he had a physical need. 

Cesarea Maritime, the Bema seat where Paul stood in front of Felix and Herod Agrippa
I saw some of the places Paul went - to Cesarea, appearing before Felix and Herod Agrippa, to Corinth, to the Parthenon, to Pergamom, to Ephesus (I saw it in my sister-in-laws photos - I was sick that day).  It was an awesome thing to see the Bema seat where Paul stood - the climates so varied, in some places the heat intense, walking mile upon dusty mile, then sharing scriptures in the Synagogues, facing rejection by his people yet again, walking more, arguing prophecies and scriptures fulfilled.

If Paul, who was a mere mortal the same as us, could survive the things he did,, it humbles and encourages me. I have my soft bed with downy coverlets, pain medicine at hand,  help always available, no one (yet) breaking down my door to drag me off to a flogging or imprisonment. 

I am not negating the suffering that CI brings, the strange stretching of a time warp that makes minutes spent in pain seem like hours, or the isolation, or the discouragement.  But the same One Who comforted Paul is available to me, the same grace, the same promise that He is made strong in our weakness, that I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.  Inch by inch I am learning to stand on those promises. 

I pray for any who stumble on this blog, that His tender love and unending strength will fill you with peace, the knowledge that you are dearly loved, and the strength to endure.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Give thanks with a grateful heart

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

I've been doing some ruminating lately.

And it has rendered me overwhelmed this morning by all I have to give thanks for: 

My right eye is functioning as well as my left - and the time without both eyes functioning taught me to give thanks for those things that still work, for the days with less pain, for the days with small joys, not just big ones.

Because of the bizarre eye paralyzation, more intense MRIs of the brain were performed which have provided the assurance that there is nothing growing or destroying my brain cells - a comfort when the headaches are blinding and the thoughts of glioma, a common cancer with CFIDS, come rushing in.

My brother survived a serious 911 emergency.  He had just installed a security front door and neglected to give me the key.  I knew he had fainted, had been vomiting for a long while, had split his forehead open with the fall, and did not have the strength to even crawl to a door to let us in.  The firemen had to break the picture window in his bedroom to gain entry.

Later that morning I remembered I did have the key to his back door.

The next day, he remembered I had the key to his back door.


But he is alive and well, the last remaining member of my "growing up" family.  And I am very,very grateful.

My sister-in-law, who makes my days possible, who looks out for me, drives me to appts when I don't feel good, cleans the house, does the dishes,and is generally my caretaker, is also doing well.

The house is paid for, we don't have to worry about foreclosure - just the maintenance and the HOA.

My Norwegian Forest Cat, Katrina, now middle aged at 7 years old, has recently begun to mellow, and will, on rare occasions, allow me to pick her up for a brief cuddle.  She also will allow me to pet her while standing on occasion.  This is the cat who firmly believes, after having been showered with love and attention for 7 years, that I have been planning all this time to kill her - but only while standing, and certainly if I bend down to pet her.  Accordingly, she runs under the bed, which is where she lived for her first 3 months here.

She stays at arms length and one inch beyond it.  She won't let me near her when she has something stuck in her mouth.

I took my complaints about her to my Eternal Papa and He said,

"She is just like you."


"For days you keep Me at arm's length - you go about your business and push me to the back burner of your life.  When You have something dangerous or something that won't go down stuck in your craw, you won't let me catch you, either, and insist on carrying it alone when my eternal arms are underneath you, ready to hold and comfort.  You're just like Katrina."

Oh. (a little throat clearing here while I search for a way to change the subject.)

The only thing that comforts me about this is that Katrina doesn't let me out of her sight.  She follows me faithfully and has to be within sight of me.  I hope that applies to my walk with Jesus as well.

And it makes me thankful for her.

When I look back at the last 24 years of illness, I can find much to be thankful for there, too.  It allowed me to be home for the last years of my mother's life, and a chance to get to know my youngest brother who died at age 45.  I have a mild case of  CFIDS - I can still read, on good days I can go somewhere, I have dear friends who don't forget me, and my doctor doesn't withhold pain medication, which many doctors have begun to do.  Withholding of pain medications is one of the chief causes of suicide in those with CFIDS - the DEA has begun to crack down on "drug pushers" in the medical professionn.  Unfortunately, they include chronically ill in the groups that use too much pain medication.  So far the Lord has protected me from that - another huge reason to be thankful.

Some very dear friends of mine have both had life-threatening illnesses in the last 2 years.  Things seem to be almost healed there and I am so very grateful.

I was able to go to a watercolor journal class - the first artsy fartsy thing I've been able to do in a couple of years, and I was able to attend both days.  I got to see my great-nephew for his birthday and go to one of my favorite restaurants in the California town I came from.

I had my first Starbucks confection  ever (the Peppermint lured me in).

I have a Pastor who is not only a great exegeter and teacher, but a tender-hearted man who daily seeks ways to be the Father's hands, to comfort, to shepherd his flock with a great tenderness - and a wicked sense of humor that not only keeps his sermons from getting boring, but communicates deep truths with it as well.

But mostly I am thankful for Philippians 4:13, for Romans 8:1 and a million and one other verses that comfort and call to courage under fire.  God gave us His Word to guide us, speak to us, warn us, teach us, and lead us to a relationship with Him that, truly, makes life worth Living, and the capital L is intentional. My great-niece described her life as Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, and I think that is a perfect metaphor for this life. The warnings the ride carries are also worth noting when the bottom drops out and you are screaming in seeming free fall - keep your seat belt on, don't try to stand up while the car is moving, and keep your hands inside the car.

I pray your Thanksgiving will bring with it much joy and leave you with many wonderful memories - and an uncountable amount of things to be thankful for.

God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all. Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The tenderness of Jesus

I've been reading in the Gospel of John, from Chapter 13 to the end, and I've been struck continuously by the tenderness of the heart of God.

He was so kind to them, trying to bolster their courage, praying for them, protecting them.

At one point He says to them, "I will not leave you orphans..."


It struck me that that is exactly how CI sometimes makes me feel.  Like an orphan. But no matter how overwhelming it feels, Jesus said He would not leave me an orphan.  He would send the Comforter -He promised.

Some days I cling to that.

Then in His prayer for us, He said He hadn't lost one of the ones His Father had entrusted to Him, except the son of perdition (Judas).  How many times did He protect them from unseen dangers and attacks, as they blissfully argued about who would be the greatest?  How many times did satan try to discourage them or destroy their faith?  How many times has He protected us?

And then lastly - and this one brought tears to my eyes - there was the matter of Mary Magdalen at the tomb. (I seem to be on a Mary kick lately)

I've read it so many times before, but this time I was there - I could feel her agony.

She was so anxious to to get to Him she came, John tells us, while it was still night!  Can you see her, hurrying through the darkness in the chill of the early Spring, running to get to the One Who had cast seven demons  - seven! - from her body?  See her as she wept broken-hearted, stricken to the core with grief, appalled and horrified that some creep would actually steal the body of Jesus?

She knew how much the Pharisees and Sadducees hated Jesus, could only imagine the disrespect with which His body would be treated. Or perhaps the rich folks were upset because Jesus was buried in their graveyard - they didn't want the notoriety, the scandal.

She'd come that morning to undo His hastily prepared body - Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimethea had been in such a hurry to get it done before the Sabbath began at sundown and perhaps had been sloppy (men!) She wanted His body properly prepared - washed well, the spices tenderly twined and wrapped, His body respectfully entombed with honor and reverence.

How absolutely horrifying to find the stone rolled back, the tomb empty!

She ran to the apostles and told them, then ran back, following them to the tomb.  Peter and John looked in, one after the other, looked at each other - and left!

Where did they go?  Why didn't they tell her what to do?

So she bent down to look into the tomb - and two men, sitting one at the head and one at the feet where Jesus had lain said, "Woman, why are you crying?"

Sobbing, she answered, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I don't know where to find Him."

Disconsolate, sobbing, confused, her stomach churning, her heart breaking, perhaps she was wondering if the demons would come back now that Jesus was dead.

Blinded by tears, she saw what she thought was the gardener.

He spoke to her, so gently, "Woman, why are you weeping?"

"Oh please," she sobbed, "If you've taken Him, just tell me where and I'll go get Him!" (translation liberties mine) "You don't have to do anything!  Please, please just tell me..."

And then her frantic sobbing and despair were banished by a single, tender, gentle word:


She knew that voice.  She knew it!

It was HIM!  And He was alive!

Sobbing now out of joy and wonder, she fell at His feet and did the only thing an unrelated female could do in that day and culture - she grabbed His feet - His precious, broken, nail-scarred feet.

Her grip must have fierce - and I believe there was a hint of a chuckle in His voice when He said, "Don't cling to me, Mary - I haven't been to My Father yet!  I'll be back."

And that very line - with my translation liberties and emphasis included - really hit me today.

Mary - not the apostles, not even His own mother, was the first person Jesus appeared to that Resurrection Day.  He hadn't even been to His Father yet!  Imagine it!

He loved Mary with such a great, overwhelming tenderness that He wouldn't let her hopeless grief continue a moment longer - or her fears that the demons would come back, or her horror that someone would desecrate His tomb, His body.

And He loves us with that same great, overwhelming tenderness.

He doesn't want us, either, overwhelmed by grief, or fear, or despair.

Being CI didn't happen to us by accident, dear one. And sometimes, yes, it is heartbreaking, and grief-provoking, and fearful and devastating.

But into that darkness, He speaks our names, too - tenderly, never leaving us orphans, or unprotected, or Comfortless.

Like the stars, He calls us each by name.

And all we need to do, really, is listen.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


I haven't been able to write for a long time.  Sometimes illness wears on you, especially chronic illness.  He has been leading me into difficult places I've never been before, and it's taken time to acclimate.

Then today, I came to a point in my reading schedule that revisited a favorite story.

And this came pouring out.

Mark 14:3-9, Mt 26:6-13, John 12;2-8

Mary has always seemed to me to be the one who “got” Jesus. She sat at His feet to learn all she could – perhaps a little in rebellion to controlling Martha (as the younger sister without a mother, Martha would always have had the upper hand.) Men and women never sat together or worshipped together, especially the unmarried ones. But headstrong Mary felt something for this itinerant callous-handed Nazarene, something that gave her hope, something that made Adonai seem touchable, lovable, something that spoke to her heart – so, she sat at His feet and listened.

Her brother Lazarus would have supported them. We are not told, but it seems all three were single. Their parents were both dead or the girls would be living with their father. If the mother had been widowed and still alive, Lazarus would, as the only son, have taken her in. Tradition holds that Lazarus was the rich young ruler whom, “…looking upon him, Jesus loved him.” Mk 10:21

I’ve always wondered where Mary got the ultra-expensive nard she anointed Him with that day. It is unlikely that she bought it for herself – all of her spending money would have come from Lazarus, and this perfume cost 300 denarii . A single denarius was a whole day’s wages. She would have had to scrimp and save for years, then spend it all in one glorious day for that one thing.

I think that it was a gift from Lazarus, her loving brother. Perhaps one day when they were in the market together he noticed her wistfully looking in the direction of the perfumiers. Or perhaps it was the one thing she had left of her mother’s. However it came into her possession, it was clearly a treasured object, sparingly used if at all. Perhaps it gave her pleasure just to look at it – alabaster is a very fine variety of marble. It was quarried in Egypt and carved into delicate and often quite beautiful containers for expensive perfumes, adding to its value. And when the time came, she would give her heart with that bottle of nard, released in its entirety from its broken alabaster container.

They were at Simon the leper’s house – a man most likely healed by Jesus, as a leper could not be in society with others. They were outcast, begging by the side of the road, and if someone approached they were to cover their mouths and cry, “Unclean! Unclean!” so no one would become ceremonially unclean by accident. No one touched them for the same reason – except Jesus, of course. Perhaps this dinner was in gratitude for his healing – obviously Simon was well off. Perhaps he had learned that his money was useless when it came to the important things – that money was, when you got right down to it, not important at all.

Women did not feast with men. They would have been in the banquet hall only to serve, not to mingle with the guests. Time-wise, this was “6 days before the Passover,” the last Passover Jesus would spend on this earth, the Passover where He Himself would be the sacrificial Lamb that takes away the sins of the world. Jesus is the “Lamb that was slain” of Revelation 5 who was worthy to take the scroll (the deed to planet earth) not because He was God, but because He was a man, and had purchased the right to the deed with His blood, the very deed that satan received from Adam the day Adam knowingly sinned to stay with Eve, thus valuing her more than he valued God.

What was in Mary’s heart that day? She alone of those who followed Him had realized He was soon to die. The commentators say she didn’t really realize what she was doing – but Jesus, Who certainly knew what was in her heart, said she was anointing Him for His death. She knew all right. She knew and her heart was breaking.

Everyone else was feasting, having a good time, Martha in there slaving away – only Mary, out of them all, “got” it. Did she suddenly realize, in the midst of everything, that Jesus had come to Bethany (about 2 miles from Jerusalem) to say goodbye? Was there something bittersweet in His eyes that she alone saw? Did their eyes connect at the moment she saw it – fear in her eyes, certainty in His? Was He savoring this last time of joy with those He loved? In less than a week He must drink a cup so foul He shrank from it – and all of His love and support would be gone. This was it.

Did she slip away to her home then, heart breaking, praying for a way to show her love, perhaps to bring Him a moment of comfort? Looking frantically around her room, her eyes fell on the breathtaking, intricately carved bottle of pure nard. He was going to die, He’d said, although no one had seemed to believe it – “oh, not You, Lord,” they’d said, and passed it off. But Jesus didn’t joke about such things and He didn’t lie.

He was going to die.

Well then, she may have thought, taking the bottle of fragrance in her hand, she would anoint Him for that death.

How long was the walk back to Simon’s? Was she trembling? Were her shoulders back, her face determined? Or was she tearful, aware of the notoriety her actions would bring?

We don’t know – Scripture doesn’t tell us. But I believe she was thinking only of Him – that she had to tell Him she believed Him, believed in Him.

She entered Simon’s house, walked to the banquet hall. Her eyes were on Jesus only as she walked to Him. Did He see her then? Did His eyes shine with delight, knowing that her heart was giving to Him all that she had to perhaps buy Him one moment of comfort?

All the noise and hubbub slowly ceased at the sound of the alabaster breaking. She poured the oil on His head, a woman alone in a roomful of men. Then, as John alone adds, she walked to His feet and anointed them, too.

By now everyone was staring.

The room filled with the aroma of the costly fragrance.

Then, in an act of worship, she uncovered her head. Gasps all around – for a single woman to do this in the presence of unrelated males was akin to going topless. But she went further. In an act only done in the presence of a husband, she let her hair down, releasing the heavy coil, letting the silken tresses fall, and then bent over His feet, using her hair to dry them.

This act of undeniable intimacy would have had the room abuzz with righteous indignation. Scripture doesn’t tell us this, but I believe she was silently crying, the ache in her heart distilling itself into salty, silent tears of worship that ran unheeded down her face.

Into this personal, intimate act of sacrifice and surrender comes a cutting voice, condescending, denigrating.

“A whole year’s wages, wasted!” Judas spat out,”Why wasn’t it sold, the money given to the poor?”

Note not a word was said about what would have been considered wanton behavior. The only outrage in the heart of Judas was concerned with money. The others chimed in with him, but John tells us that the words belonged to Judas.

The response of Jesus is immediate and commanding.

“Leave her alone! Why do you trouble her?” He says. In the Modern Language Bible it is translated “Why do you embarrass her?”

Can you imagine how Mary felt in that moment? She has laid herself bare, as it were, to give Him the tiniest bit of comfort and understanding, and now Judas has soiled what she meant as a pure kindness. She must have wanted to crawl under a rock. Here she meant to ease His heart and all she’d done was embarrass Him.

But Jesus then puts things into a Godly perspective: “She has anointed me for my burial,” He tells them – a fact that they have all industriously refused to believe or act upon. “The poor will always be around. I won’t. She has done for me a mitzvoh (a blessing, a good work) She did what she could,” He says, perhaps giving Mary a reassuring smile.

Mary listened to Him, when no one else did, and she gave Him the gift of believing what He said. Several times Jesus tells His disciples “I have so many things to tell you, but you cannot bear them now.” They simply couldn’t listen.

They believed, of course - believed that He was Messiah, the Anointed One who would free them from Roman rule and set up His Kingdom (presumably with them as His trusted officials – they often argued about who would be the greatest in His kingdom.) They just didn’t listen.  In their book, Messiah would be a victorious conqueror - and anything else just didn't fit in with their scenario.

Out of all of them, there was this one young woman who not only believed, she listened and, Jesus says, “She did what she could.”

And then, Jesus revealed a little bit of His own heart.  The only time in 33 years He said this of anyone or anything, He says, “Whenever this gospel is preached anywhere in the whole world, what she has done will also be told, as a memorial to her.”

I can only imagine what relief flooded Mary’s heart. He understood. And she had done a good thing. It had meant so much to Him that it would be told again and again, down through the ages as a memorial to her.

But I don’t think any of that mattered to Mary. What mattered was Jesus. And she had blessed Him.

The fragrance in her hair – and in His – would have lasted for days, perhaps even unto the cross.

I find it interesting that for Judas to be reprimanded publicly – and that for a woman – would have been insulting and most embarrassing. The image he’d sought to create for himself of someone so kind-hearted and benevolent to the poor had come crashing down around his ears – he had been made to look obtuse and money-grubbing, a public unmasking.

Iscariot means, “the man from Kerioth,” a small town in Judea about 20-some miles south of Jerusalem, whereas everyone else was from the Galilee, north of Jerusalem - and Judas is always identified that way, sort of like an outsider. Perhaps Judas felt he never fit in. It is possible he never really believed in Jesus as God, he just thought He would eventually become a powerful religious or political leader leader – and Judas would be His friend. He’d all but salivated over the “wasted” 300 denarii, and this country bumpkin had publicly embarrassed him for it. Did his pride smart under that rebuke and simmer, unresolved, growing in importance in his mind?

In the gospel of Mark, the next verse is chilling.

Then Judas…went to the chief priests to betray Him to them.”

In Matthew it says, "And from that moment he began to look out for an opportunity to betray Him."

And so I ask myself: -

Am I believing in Him, acting on what I believe and blessing Him?

Or am I betraying Him – selling Him for far less than 30 pieces of silver, to save something as usless as my pride?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

And another round

Well, not satisfied with normal MRIs, my neuro guy ordered another 2 - he thinks I've had a stroke in the brain stem, which is what my baby brother died of at age 45.  He also set up more EEGs.  As the double vision worsens and the eye has less movement - the eye patch is irritating in the extreme (as I murmur against the One Who ordained this for me.  Again.)

So I am awaiting whatever God has in store for me.  And while I wait, my Master gives me songs, and fills me with His peace, for He has promised I can do all things through Jesus Christ, and that includes whatever physical malady He chooses to bestow.

But His Word also promises treasures in the darkness - and so the poems come.  Thinking about prayer and faith, I often start to write out my thoughts, and those thoughts often arrange themselves into poetry.  So here is what I found in the darkness - and to me, they are truly treasures:

I am finding prayer to be a dance.
God leads
I follow,
Swirling our footsteps together -
And floating in His everlasting arms
I hear music
People of the Book

Grant me, O LORD,
A vibrant, shimmering faith
That dances before You
Like David.
Gird it with strength enough
To sacrifice my heart's desire
Without a seconds hesitation
As did Abraham.
And may I be blessed to know
That the friendship of God
Lingers in my tent
Like Job -
Enabling me, too,
To bear the pain
Hear songs in the night
And whisper
Through the shredded fiber of my soul
"Though He slay me,
Yet shall I trust Him."

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

In everything give thanks

The results are in: the MRIs are normal.  My doc and I looked at each other in wonder!  The enlarging lump on my salivary gland is still there, still enlarging, with no answer as to why.  My right eye has ceased responding to movement and has hitched itself to my nose, resulting in double vision.  The opthomologist says "I dunno" and the neurologist comes up with all kinds of scary reasons, all of which are not evident from the Mris.  And while several alleluias are still rising in gratitude that nothing of urgent or life-threatening caliber is occurring, it is surely life changing.

Seeing with one eye results in no depth perception.  Stumbling becomes frequent, bumping into someone on the covered side is commonplace, I can't sense when someone is near.  And the eye patch has me thinking of saying "ARRGH!", buying a parrot, and sitting tin-cupped in the heart of Vegas to earn money to pay for all the MRIs!  The neurologist wants to do another one to see if there are any changes that might explain why the right eye would suddenly give up its muscles and nerves and lie there, not responding.  Both eyes perfectly focus and work, they just don't work together.

It's hard to give thanks for.  I would much rather have something they could see, diagnose, and fix.

But I don't .  What I have is something that throws me upon my Papa's breast daily, whining for a bit, crying for a bit, and then asking Him to do whatever He chooses for me, because His choices are the best.  And then, at this stage through mostly gritted teeth, thanking Him in this.  I wish I could say that I'm perfectly at ease and coping well, thanking Him with each breath, but that would be a lie.  I'm struggling a bit.

I love to read.  It has been my solace and joy through 20 years + of CI, and without it in those first few years I would have perished.  I discovered Amy Carmichael, Annie Johnson Flint and others whose marks I now bear in my spirit.  I escaped into the books of Jan Karon, visiting Mitford, North Carolina and meeting friends there, learning to pray with a loving heart by the example of Father Tim.

And now it's difficult to read.  I am more afraid of losing this ability than of anything else the Lord could allow into my life.  I am a calligrapher.  I know the rudiments of American Sign Language, though I am far from proficient.  I can sign better than I can read sign because I can practice signing alone, but not practice reading alone.  I need headache-free eyes to do that as well as finding someone to practice with.  I knit and crochet, and while I have done so for so long I rarely look at the stitches while knitting, I do need to see mistakes.

Amazing how important some take-for-granted ability becomes when its existence is threatened, isn't it?  So many days I had the chance to praise and thank Him for eyesight and never did, and now I must praise Him for allowing me to lose some of it.

My solace is His presence, His reassurance that He does indeed have a plan for my life, and yes, as hard as it is to swallow sometimes, this is part of that plan.  It has repercussions for my life, my spiritual walk, and the attitude of my soul.  He either is my Lord and my King, or I am.

This is where the rubber meets the road, and it has surely met me!  I have already learned to thank Him with a humble joy that I can still hear, I can still speak, my earthly tent is still intact and those I love are safe and sound for the moment.  I have a roof over my head that is warm and safe, and am able to pray and be instantly face to face with the Creator of the heavens and the earth and Who, I am constantly amazed to realize, wants nothing more than for me to come and talk to Him, alone and with my heart in my eyes.

Soooooo, balancing things out a bit, I've come to realize I am still quite wealthy in gifts He has dropped into my lap, and praising comes a bit easier to my heart - the same One Who showered all these riches upon me is the One Who has decided, for the time being, to remove some of the awesome capabilities of the tent I inhabit and asked me to have trust enough to thank and praise Him for this stretch in my life.

And I have committed to do it.

I invite you to join me, thanking Him for the things you normally take for granted, for the ones you love that you trust will be there when you wake up of a morning, and to praise Him for each time you do just that - wake up!  The gift of one more day on this earth should not be taken lightly.  We are more fragile than we think, and tomorrow is not guaranteed to anyone

So, I thank You, my King, for these circumstances and praise your wisdom in choosing these blips in life's road for me.  Make me strong enough to delight in Your choices and praise You in everything those choices entail.  I ask this in Jesus' name.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

One day at a time

In Thee do I put my trust - Ps 7:1

Where is your trust?

Currently I've had disturbing physical changes taking place, a mass growing on my salivary gland and something is apparently pushing my eye out of its socket, resulting in increased headache pain and double vision.  The testing has been grueling and seemingly endless, and I have been given no results yet - the big day will be Thursday (I am writing this on Tuesday).

It has set me to thinking about trust.

When things come up that take  your breath away, decrease your comfort in life, or shake you up, where do you turn?  Do you continue with your days as usual, trusting Him as usual, or do you run hither and yon looking for comfort.

When Jesus first burst into my life, I had a good friend who facilitated the introductions.  We were riding on a California freeway one day and a car in front of us started swerving erratically.  Immediately he cried out "Father, help them!"  ( My own reaction was along the lines of "Lookit that idiot..." )

I was so impressed by his automatic reliance on Jesus that later, when I was alone with my heavenly Papa, I asked that He would put that reflex in my heart, way down deep, that my first and always reaction to anything would be prayer.

I am very grateful to tell you that He answered that prayer.

So during these trying testing times He has drawn me  closer in prayer, and the peace of His presence has guarded me.

I am not saying I'm blissfully unaware of the connotations of these symptoms.  Being a nurse, I know what they point towards - a tumor of some kind, and if  it's glioma, it's a virtual ticket Home, which I consider a get-out-of-jail=free card.

I'm also not immune to fear.  I find it interesting that I'm not afraid of death per se, but I am nervous about the mode of exit.  I'm not looking forward to more pain, and I am praying that if this is His choice, He will carry me through it.  He has never failed me before, I have no reason to suspect He will fail me now.

So what am I struggling with?

I'm struggling with discovering my obligations to this tent He has placed me in.  Must I fight for one more day of pain?  Can I simply lay down and let whatever this is do its work and free me from this mortal coil?  How do I ease the way for those that love me?  Is it possible to ease their hold on my life enough to let it go?  Can I possibly do anything that will increase their trust of the One Who makes all Decisions, helping them to see Romans 8:28 at work here?

And all this, mind you, without any concrete information as to what I am dealing with ( how illness gets us going, doesn't it?).  It may turn out to be nothing more serious than a local infection easily dealt with - in which case my navel pondering will all have been for nought. 

Nevertheless, the questions are real, and must be answered - if not now, then at some future date, barring the rapture's occurrence (Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!) 

So I am wrestling with the answers,  for I truly seek His will in this.  And it boils down to living the same way any CI has to live: one day at a time, bringing each day's events before Him in prayer, doing the best with what He gives us each day.

I don't know what tomorrow (or Thursday) will bring. 

But I know Who will bring it.  I know His love for me is eternal. I know His choices for me are perfect. And I know He will never fail.

In Thee do I put my trust.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Cross

Have you noticed that the cross touches everything in your life?  Relationships, activities, phone calls, prayers - everything.

We have been chosen to love.

The cross, which is the ultimate depiction of love, requires us to be sacrificial in our daily lives. 

What does that look like?

Perhaps it means not unleashing our bad moods, or bad days, on anything that moves.  Replacing irritability with a heart that is focused on the other person, not on how rotten we feel.  Forcing ourselves to say or do something that would mean a lot to the other person, but which we find hard to deal with.  In essence, to quote Amy Carmichael, "See in it a chance to die."

The problem for those of us with CI is, we already feel like we're dying (on really bad days).  It is so very easy to become consumed with how our bodies are betraying us and narrow our focus down to include only ourselves.  We cease to recognize how our actions and reactions affect others.  In short, CI often breeds a subtle selfishness we fail to recognize or excuse because we feel so rotten.  We replace Jesus on the throne of our hearts with our illness.  Because it dictates our activity level, we coddle our bodies to the point where everything else - and every one else - are relegated to 2nd place.

Surely this is not what Jesus had in mind when He allowed this illness to enter our lives.

I know how hard it is to tear your focus away from the pain, the weakness, the inability to function the way ABs can.  Pain has a way of blotting out everything else - especially when it's throbbing or attaining new heights of affliction.

But all of that is still under the dominion of the cross.  He charges us to love others.  And when we force ourselves out of the bubble CI places around us, girded with pain and disability,  we are most like the One Who truly died rather than live without us.

For the Messiah, Jesus the Anointed One, the Christ, spent His time teaching us how to love.  Not to keep rules and regulations, but to love - and in doing so, the rules and regulations take c/o themselves.

Did you know that the cross is visible in the Old Testament as well?  Before any one had even conceived of the torture of the the Roman cross, God included it in His Word - then, as now, God can look on His people only through the redemptive power of the cross.

Go to Numbers, Chapter 2.  In it, God gives directions for how the Israelites are to travel.
Get a piece of paper.  In the middle put a capital "T"  for the tabernacle Make an x for every ten thousand mentioned in the text.

East of the T, we have Judah. v.9 tells us there were 186,400 from that tribe: make 19 x's to the left of the T.                                                                                                                          

 v.16 tells us the tribe of Reuben's divisions to the South are 151,450.  Make 15 x's downward from the T.

To the west is Ephraim's divisions: 108,100.  Make 11 x's to the right of the T.

And to the north are Dan's divisions: 157,600.  Make 15 x's  upward from the T.

What have you created?            

Amazing, isn't it?  When God would look down on His people, even then, He always saw the cross.  When He looks at us, He sees the same thing.

The trick is, when we look at ourselves, do we, too, see the same thing?

For me, that is a rare occurrence.

My heart's desire is to be a good and faithful servant.  Too often I am neither.

But the Holy Spirit reminds me that the cross has paid for all of my failures.  My task is to get up from where I've fallen, confess it, and move on - taking my place with the Tabernacle now within me, and following like the Israelites did:   keeping my eyes on Jesus and following wherever He leads, into illness or out of it, keeping the prize of loving in His Name ever present in my heart.

A friend of mine chooses a word to concentrate on each year - like "praise" or "obedience", etc.  I've decided to follow her example.

You can probably guess what word  I chose.

You're right.


Sunday, January 9, 2011


While they were worshipping the LORD and fasting, the Holy Spirit said,' Separate now for Me Barnabus and Saul for the work to which I have called them.'" Acts 13:2  NKJV

Have you been called, separated unto the Holy Spirit by your illness?

That certainly never occurred to me - until today, when the Holy Spirit touched these words and they stood up and waved.

I do feel like this illness has separated me, that's for sure!  I never know when I will have enough energy or the ability to think straight enough to accomplish something or go somewhere.  One by one friends stop calling because I have become so unreliable.  It also prevents me from involving myself in physical tasks at my church, prevents me from serving in some capacities I would love to be involved with. 

But our God neither makes mistakes nor wastes anything.  CI, and what the world calls "infirmities" are occurrences that carry with them rich opportunities.

Look for a moment at those whose lives were "afflicted" but chose to seek God through them instead of choosing to concentrate on the suffering itself.  The poet Annie Johnson Flint, who has blessed my life immensely, from the age of 21 was confined to a wheelchair in intense pain from arthritis - and wheelchairs in the 1800's, not to mention pain relief, were certainly antiquated and uncomfortable.  Fanny Crosby was blind, Madame Guyon scarred and weakened by smallpox, Amy Carmichael hurt so badly in a serious fall that she was confined to bed in severe pain for the last 20 years of her life.  Her attitude?  "See in it a chance to die," she said.  And did you know that Charles Spurgeon suffered enormously from headaches and black depressions?  Yet each one of them concentrated instead on the One Who chose this path for them, Who "separated" them by it, and were more than conquerors!

Well, I am definitely no Spurgeon!  But others are watching us, whether we realize it or not.  If they can see a peace-filled loving Christian who worships where they cannot understand, who vigilantly refuses bitterness and self-pity, anger or despair, blessing their caregivers and giving thanks "in all things" they will remember us when their own dark moments come - and dark moments come to everyone.

That remembrance may have eternal significance.

If we will simply (!) give one day at a time to Him, purposing in our hearts to make this one day a day in which our hearts will abide in Him and seek His will in our lives for that one day we will have accomplished the purpose for which He has separated us: that His will may be foremost in our lives.

It is so easy to say, and so difficult to do, isn't it?  Whenever I hear someone say the word "simply" I know a hard thing is coming!  So, this is my prayer, just for today:

Papa, just for today I choose to allow You to separate me however You desire. I turn it all over to You, trusting Your choices for me.  Through Your Holy Spirit I choose to live for You, just for today.

...and please, Papa, help me to live each day like this one.  Amen.