Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Dark Places

Psalm 143:3-4 "For the enemy has persecuted my soul;
He has crushed my life to the ground;
He has made me dwell in dark places...
Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me;
My heart within me is distressed."

That's sure how it feels some days, doesn't it?  

Dealing with CI day after day is wearing on the spirit.  Some days it is hard not to feel abandoned or isolated or discouraged or alone in the dark.  

And, you can be sure, the enemy of our soul is quick to take advantage of it. Innocent remarks by someone will seem sinister or accusatory - we start to get prickly or short-tempered - which, of course, we seek to excuse because we "are having a bad day".  It's all too easy to fall into self-pity or, on the other hand, snap at people "who can't possibly understand what it feels like."

I agree that most folks can't understand what it feels like - but God can.  He chose this path for us, whether we want to admit it or not.  In my case, CFIDS (Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome or ME/Myalgic Encephalitis in the UK) is just beginning to find acceptance and respect.  Many people say to me "Oh, I was soooo tired yesterday I didn't know what to do. I know how you feel."  

No, you don't know how I feel.  The fatigue I have is so deep it in itself is pain - and it doesn't go away after a good night's sleep - because I never get a good night's sleep.  If I'm fortunate I get a 4 hour block somewhere in the night, but mostly I awaken every hour or two.  My brain gets so muddled sometimes, I find myself lost on familiar streets that suddenly are no longer familiar.  My head pounds, feeling as if it exploded, or someone kicked me in the head - sometimes throbbing, sometimes as though my head is in a vise, slowly crushing me. It feels like an iron bar runs just behind my eyes, from temple to temple - and sometimes the sensation is so real I feel like I could reach up and grab it.  And fluorescent lights, which everybody from dentist to doctor has in their office, are guaranteed to ignite a headache in an instant. My muscles ache so deeply it's all I can do to climb the stairs to bed.  My bedroom is a mess because I climb those stairs carrying something and put it down "just for a second" until I'm strong enough to deal with it - and I'm never strong enough.  So layer after layer accumulates, like an archaeological dig!

It's overwhelming sometimes, isn't it? I know some of you deal with problems far more severe than mine - and my heart goes out to you. Many times I feel fortunate to have so little to deal with.

So, where is God in all of this?  

If He is the One Who chose this for each of us, knowing exactly how much we can bear, and not trying us more than we are able (1Cor 13:10) - and He is - where do we find the strength and courage we need to deal with it?

Just 2 Psalms over, in 145:14, God says to us, "The LORD upholds all who fall, and raises up all who are bowed down."  CI is certainly capable of causing us to be bowed down ( and the enemy of our soul is sure to grasp the situation and try to tempt us to fall).  

And again in Ps. 145:17-19  "The LORD is righteous in all His ways, Gracious in all His works.  The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth...  He will hear their cry and save them."

So here God is telling us that His way is righteous and His works are gracious - including His choice of paths for us, including CI.  How do I know this?  Because the Word of God tells me that all His ways are righteous, all His ways are gracious.

How many?


And all means "all". Not "some".  Not "all except for the ones I don't like" ( and I really don't like my CI - grin!)

It is not contingent upon my approval of His plans for me.  I, the leaky, cracked, dirty ol' pot cannot say to my Potter "Why have you made me thus?" or, in the colloquial, "Why me?"

God has a plan for our lives.  He has chosen for our plan to include CI - and He knows what He wants to accomplish with it.  CI affects not only us, but the ones who surround us, the doctors who treat us, the family who loves us, the friends who pray with us, the ones who watch us - and don't kid yourself, people watch us all the time to see how we handle adversity. Have you ever thought He might be using your illness to teach others, to do a work in their lives?

And these verses show us how God intends for us to bear it - He will uphold us, raise us up, be near us, hear our cry and save us. He is working in the lives of all who know us, and He is using our CI to do it!  Stop and think for a moment about how your CI has changed the lives of those around you.  I know those around me have learned patience (...ahem) and I have seen them become more generous, more compassionate, more giving - and I know they pray more. In His graciousness, He is blessing others through my path.
Just think about that for a moment.

So if the enemy is persecuting your soul these days, and you find yourself in one of those dark places, remember He is upholding you, and He is near enough to hear your cries and save you.  And always remember that, besides those who surround you on earth, Someone Else is watching you.  

This Someone is not watching to catch you slipping up, to criticize or judge you.  This Someone died in your place, paid for each sin  you have or will ever commit (and He knows them all.) 

When the enemy of your soul taunts God with accusations of His children, perhaps He is saying of you as He said of Job: "Have you considered my servant ______ (insert your name here)"  The CI that so haunts us and rules our days may be the very background upon which we shine for our Master, proving that we do not love Him for what He can give us; proving that we value His gifts less than we value the Giver; proving that even though we do stumble and mess up and fall flat on our faces, we get up, dust ourselves off, and continue on the narrow road for love of Him.

And how glorious that would be - to someday stand before Him and learn that all the while we thought the suffering endless and useless, He was glowing with joy that through the power of the Blood and the Holy Spirit, in His Name we became more than conquerors.

Press on, dear one, press on!


Saturday, July 14, 2012

The first covenant of all

"And God said, ' This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you and every living creature that is with you for perpetual generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember my covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.'"  Genesis 9:12-16

We've had cloud-filled skies for the last week, culminating in thrilling thunder rolling endlessly over the arroyos and mesas, off and on throughout the whole day yesterday. The welcome rain left behind an invigorating freshness, the lovely smell of newly-washed leaves and pavement, the plants standing a bit taller, looking shiny and new after all their dust had been washed off.

In the late afternoon around 6 pm, the low angle of the sun set me to looking for rainbows.  The clouds were so dark and still heavy with moisture, I kept looking, looking, looking, alas! to no avail.

And then, in the twinkling of an eye, it appeared, the whole glorious arc, as if God had swooped His arm over the earth and said                    "Ta Daaaaaah! "  And not just a portion of one, the whole glorious shebang, from one end                                                   

to the other!  Magnificent!I ran to grab my camera and started shooting.

Then, in awe, I realized I was actually seeing a covenant.  One announced to Noah and his family as they came out of the ark.  The first covenant God made with His creations - the people, the animals, the planet.  And He said, "My rainbow"  - speaking of the one that rises above His throne in heaven (see Ezekiel 1:28) So as the sign of the covenant, He took part of the rainbow over His throne and put it in the clouds to remind us of His promise.

I stood there with the fresh realization that I was seeing the actual rainbow that stands over God's throne in heaven, and He said He would "look on it to remember..." - and it came to me today that, at that very moment in time, He and I were both looking at the same thing - that glorious rainbow! Oooooooo - goose bumps galore!

So many times, as a CI, we miss out on things - a family get together or celebration, a picnic, or even just a night out at the movies, just being left out - again.  And yet - God, Who tenderly and individually knit us together in our mother's womb (see Psalm 139) knows every time that happens, and He shares it with us, asking us to give it to Him and let it go. And then, every once in awhile, He shares with us something glorious - like a part of His throne's rainbow, or Venus and Jupiter clustered around the moon in the deep blue velvet of a night sky - and gives to us something that will delight our hearts, and dust our lives with a bit of wonder. He remind us that no matter how alone in this cosmos we may feel, He is right there with us, hiding little delights in our day that come straight from Him to us - if we have eyes to see and ears to hear.

So, keep an eye out, watch for His small treasures, generously given from a loving Father-heart to ours, individually tailored and dropped into a dismal day to give us hope - it could be something as simple as a rainbow on a rainy day.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The clouds are the dust of His Feet

"He spread out clouds to shelter them..." Ps.105:39 (Moffat) emphasis mine
"The LORD has His way
In the whirlwind and the storm
And the clouds are the dust of His feet." Nahum1:3

How often do I pray He will take the clouds away?  Clouds of pain, clouds of illness or incapacity or difficulty. Clouds of circumstances that drive me to Him. Unknown dangers are lurking at my door - but He is sheltering me from them; it just so happens that the method He is using is a cloud.

The clouds spread out above me, threatening me, but shall indeed, as Cowper said, "break with mercies on my head."  They are not, the Word tells me, clouds of trouble and doom, but protection from a loving Heavenly Father to His child.

Those whirlwinds that so frighten me, the tempest in a teapot that steals my peace - they are all one and the same : the LORD having His way.  I personally think He delights in those whirlwinds and storms  that keep me from becoming complacent and taking Him for granted - and on some days I am convinced He is up there dancing up those clouds and whirlwinds with me in mind, whistling a happy tune.  He knows one of the quickest ways to bring me to Him are to have a little tumult going on.

Because, you see, clouds are murky, swirly stuff, hard to see through. When they hug the ground, they are called "fog". They creep you out, blot out the usual landmarks,  make you nervous.  They are cold and wet, and have the capacity to make your life miserable.

I have been in San Francisco and the Cleveland Nat'l Forest mountains when fog at its worst has occurred.  Driving is in essence Russian roulette - can't see the center line, can't see the outside line, can't see the traffic signal until you are upon it. You need to go very slowly and watch the tail lights of the car ahead to help figure out where you are. Most people know better than to go it alone on such days - especially in the mountains - where the roads are windy and slippery and are sculpted by a sheer cliff on one side. People know to take it slow and think before they move (well most people do...) Without guidance it would be easy to go over the edge - but there are reflecting guard rails that warn of impending danger.

And it is just those things, happening in our spiritual lives, that His clouds guard us from - we need to hold onto His hand when we can't see clearly, slowly going one step at a time - and if we don't look to Him, it is too easy to crash right through His heavenly guard rails and over those cliffs.

So from now on, I am going to try to remember that the clouds I'm so afraid of  are not out of control. The LORD will have His way with them, and will use them to give me a future and a hope.

One of the best things about living in the desert, to me, are the monsoons.  Glorious towering clouds begin to form and sharp winds twist and turn and blow things over.  Thunder booms and shakes the very foundations of the house, lightning cracks the scalding sky and the refreshing rain begins.  And since finding these two verses, it has become very comforting to me to know that there, right above my head, is the dust of His feet.

And sometimes, from an airplane, you can see the holes His feet leave, punching through the clouds in the top 25% of the photo