Saturday, March 28, 2015

Oh! How He loves you and me....

Still thinking about pain.

But not mine.

His.

I remember way back when I was in high school, I found an essay on the medical description of what Jesus endured on the cross.  I don't remember the details, but I remember the horrified impression they left.

Now, as we approach "Holy Week", the last 7 days before the crucifixion, I have been praying to understand more of what He went thru.

I am a nurse, so just thinking about the nerve endings tortured (there is no other word for it) for 6 hours on the cross, is daunting.

For most of my life, I thought He had spent only ("only?") three hours on the cross.  But if you read the time of crucifixion carefully, it occurred at 9 am, not noon. The last 3 hours, from 12 to 3pm, were in utter and complete darkness - of the soul as well as the body.

The first 3 hours were all the Father could bear to look at.

When He withdrew, He took the light with Him ("In Him is light, and no darkness at all",) and His presence as well.  In order for Jesus to actually become sin, Jesus had to do it with a totally human perspective.  He chose to be separated for the first time in all eternity (and the last) from the Father God.

I have thought of this quite a bit.

What a choice!

That means that He put aside every iota of knowledge He has as God.  He became like us - in the "dark night of the soul", where we don't have a clue what God is doing in our lives, and must choose, like Jesus, to trust in the darkness.

But not without pain.

Pain is an integral part of the process of faith.

IN spite of not having a clue, in spite of that feeling of "alone-ness", where the voice of God is silent and we feel abandoned in the universe, in spite of the pain and fear engendered by that feeling of wondering if we really do belong to God and if He really does love us, in spite of allll of that, we choose to believe He is Who He says He is.

And Jesus, "being tempted (tried) in all points, even as we are", chose this unimaginable separation from all that is holy, pure, and true.

Think of it!  He Who is light itself, chose to endure darkness, evil, the depths of depravity, so that He could redeem us.

Chose it.

As I mentioned in the last post, it is easier for me to endure physical pain than the pain where the soul itself is twisted and torn and stretched out of shape and tortured.  Physical pain, however it governs our physical bodies, will end with this body, this "tent," as Paul calls it.

Tents are temporary, fleeting.  They can be destroyed by a strong gust of wind, hail, fire, just about anything.  They are flimsy.  The strongest tent is still flimsy.  It is a very temporary entity - and we do not even expect it to stand the test of time.  It will wear out - day by day the elements will ravage it.  It is doomed from the start.

Altho heartache, if we accept His sacrifice, will also end with the body, it  is another animal completely.

I believe that is why, that last night in the garden, He sweat, as it were, "great drops of blood."

That, by the way, is a medically documented process caused by great suffering.

The pain of the cross, after all, was not an exclusive method of punishment.  Legions of felons experienced it.  So what made this particular crucifixion worthy of paying off our sin debt?

It was this separation, this contamination on a level we can only imagine!  A 100% pure soul (not 99% - 100%) Who had never contemplated committing a sin, Who lived - really lived - a life in the presence oF His Father - this pure soul would become, actually become, sin.  One by one.  Filling His being. Tasting of it.  Each breath, which was pain in itself, for He had to push up with His nailed feet and pull on His nailed hands to be able to breathe, each time, with His newly scourged back dragging on splintering wood, each nerve ending screaming with the physical pain, each breath He drew contaminated with evil thoughts and pictures and sensations until He reeked of it.  Every cell full of sin.

My sin.

Your sin.

Every angry thought.  Every rancid deed.  Every wish for someone else to be destroyed for what they did to you. And the doing itself. One by one. Coming at You. Sliding down Your throat. Filling You with bile. Every cruel deed, every perversion, every horrific act devised by man in conjunction with satan.

In the darkness. Alone.

No refuge. No cleansing.

No Father.

Filled to the very brim.

I believe it was the contemplation of this that made His very blood want to run away  - please Papa (the word is "Abba", used today in Israel, meaning "Daddy") if there is any way, any way, any way - three times He begged: don't abandon Me, Daddy! If there is any other way.  Please, Please, Please.

Until He wrestled Himself into submission. He "set His face like flint" and never wavered - altho the evil one would be whispering, enticing, trying every trick and seduction he could draw on to cause  Him to call legions of angels to free Him.

Even now, He said, Do you not think I could ask the Father to send legions of angels to rescue Me?

A legion was 1000 Roman soldiers.  And He had plural :legions at His disposal.

Even now.

Yet, with the picture of my eternity laid out before Him, He chose to endure.

We were in His heart.

He chose us over freedom from an experience so overwhelmingly painful that His very being shrank from it.

So during this last week of His time on earth, I think He was savoring those He loved, those Who loved Him.  Looking at them, His poor, confused, sheep, bleating on the precipice. And knowing - knowing beyond anything that we can even imagine - that He would still have to chose His answer.  Knowing that He would have to agree in every detail.  Whispers,whispers of safety surrounding Him as the time approached. You don't have to do this, You know.

All You have to do is say no.

And it was really that simple.

It was really all He had to do.

Just say, "no."

"Oh! How He loves you.  Oh! How He loves me.

"Oh! How He loves you and me."

Sunday, March 22, 2015

the never ending adventure...

I've been thinking about pain today.

No big surprise - it's pretty much my daily companion.

But today I've been thinking about the varieties that the evil one has devised for us.

God had pretty much safeguarded me from mental pain - for which I am deeply grateful!  I have dear ones who fight depression, Bi-polar and SAD, and the suffering they endure can not be called anything else but pain.  And it breaks my heart, because I fight with my heart, and their hearts are so battered and worn by the type of pain they experience, that they feel inadequate and weak.

And they are anything but.

I so admire them.  I've had my heart stabbed a few times (figuratively ) and I almost couldn't bear it.  I am not strong enough for that kind of pain.  And I so respect those who fight that battle - and I cheer their victories and the beauty that comes out of them.

Give me physical pain anyday.  (I mean, instead of mental/heart stuff)  Not that I'm asking for it.  I've just pretty much figured out it's gonna get me sooner or later in my daily life.

I was in a pain study once, and the cartographer asked me how I could laugh and still say I was in a high rate of pain.

He was probably thinking about sharp pain.  I am a wuss when the pain gets sharp.  I don't handle it well.  At all.

]But my pain is the deeeeeep ache that seems to settle in your bones and scream at you from just beyond your reach.  It's the kind of pain that sucks the energy out of you like a 5 year old with a straw and a root beer float.

I didn't know how to answer him that day. I'd only been sick for a few years, and didn't realize that I was starting to learn coping.

Coping is a big part of pain.  I feel like the pain wins if I let it dictate to me - something that has gotten me in trouble a few times.  So, after 26 years and counting of pain, I know the answer now.

Chronic pain is like no other.  When it's constant, day in, day out, and the only thing that varies is where/how strong, you can take pain meds and bear it.  You can focus on other things that are enjoyable and get those endorphins humming, and yes, even tho the ache is bone deep and the black hole of energy, you can laugh and make light remarks - often because it would be useless to do otherwise.

I routinely tell people I'm ok when they ask how I am.

It's not true.

But unless you have experienced pain in that way, for that long, you would have no clue what I was talking about anyway.  And worse, you wouldn't know what to say.  It's a guaranteed conversation killer.

Aren't you worried about addiction? that's a frequent question.  And my answer is no.

There is a light year's worth of difference between addiction and dependence.

Addiction seeks drugs for the high.  And because your body gets used to the dosage you are taking, to get that high, you need more and more as time goes on.  And to get that high, you would do anything. And that is what you think about and plot about and designed your day around

Dependence doesn't produce a high.  No weirdness or dizzyness or wiped out-ness.  Just a decrease, deeply welcomed, in the pain.  I've been at the same level of narcotic for almost 10 years. And one of my problems is, I completely forget about taking my pain meds.

So by the time I realize "Oh!  This is getting nasty!" my pain meds are less effective, and I mentally kick myself for it, and remember to take it the next time it is due.

I have partially gone into withdrawal twice.  And I do not want to go there again.  You cannot stay still. You feel like your legs will walk off without you if you stop moving.  You can't think.  Your pain becomes so obvious that suddenly you realize, "I'm in withdrawal!" and mentally try to figure out the last time you took your meds and promise yourself you will never ever do that again.

And yet I did.  One more time.

I've discovered I can't go longer than 24 hours without taking it.  In that respect, it has me bound.  But it still is not even a blip on my consciousness for most of my day. In addition to the regular, on going pain I have severe arthritis in my neck, which makes a lot of things difficult.

And yes, I can still talk and laugh with people, even when it's bad, even when there's no relief for hours after I take my meds, and I know it's because I'm not alone in this.

I serve a God Who has measured out my allotment to the last bit of dust there is in me.  He walks through it with me, and teaches me a lot about what I can do and what I can't - and Who holds each one of my breaths in His hands, and has measured them, too, down to the last O2 particle I will breathe out. He knows the kind of pain I can't tolerate - that sharp, suck the life out of you pain that comes with nails in your wrists and  heels and your back torn to ribbons and rubbing on the rough splintery wood each time you take a breath that in itself is agony.

And I am keenly aware that He did it for me.

And no, I don't know why He chose to give this to me. Or the mental agony He chose for some of those I love.

But this I know:

He can be trusted beyond my capacity to imagine, and His motive is love for me. And if I can submit it to Him day by day, it will be the greatest adventure of my life.

Selah


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Our God is an Awesome God! He reigns from heaven above...

Another sleepless night last night.

I am prone to bowel obstructions (BI) due to several abdominal surgeries and the scar tissue they left behind.

So when my abdomen begins to hurt, that's the first thing that comes to mind.  And last night, it hurt.  Badly.

So then I take pain meds - which is another factor  in BI's - it hurts, you take meds, it slows the bowel moving things along in the intestine, which makes you at high risk for a BI and causes so much pain you have to take the pain meds, which slows things down yada yada yada - the most vicious of cycles begins, again, to steal my sleep and increase my fear.

But then again, it knocks my soul to its knees and draws me to prayer.

And so, off and on, thru the night, I prayed.  A lot.

Because today, no excuses, I HAD to drive a fur piece to Costco, one of those ginormous airplane-sized hangars stuffed to the gills with giant-sized packages of, well, just about anything. And on a Saturday, it was a mob scene, even bigger than the regular-sized daily mob scene. Even tho I was sleep-deprived, I had to go there.  Had to.

  Because I was completely out of a very necessary heart medication that can itself cause a heart attack if you stop it suddenly.

So I asked my Papa to please arrange for me to 1) find a parking space and 2) find one of those put-put thingys they have for those of us who are physically challenged to even contemplate walking the mile and a half way to the back of the said plane hangar to pick up my Rx.

Wellllll perhaps not a whole mile and a half.  Maybe just the half.  Altho, when I am walking it because all the put-puts are occupied, it sure feels like a mile and a half!

And both of those things that I prayed for?  They are few and far far between on a Saturday.

So I pulled into the ginormous parking lot and just (mentally) shook my head in defeat.  I gave up. Because cars were circling all around the parking lot like sharks, looking for a spot they could do battle over like a scene from Jaws.

So I turned into the handicapped section.

And there, smack dab in front of me was .....an empty parking space! Astonished, I told my Papa thank You.  And kicked myself for being astonished.

He does that frequently when I really need it - and every time I am astonished. Why is that?  He is the Creator of the universe and I don't think He can provide a puny parking space? In the handicapped section that never has an empty space? Close to the door?

Shame-faced, I am astonished every time.

So now I looked for a put-put - the place where they should be was, of course, empty.  And on top of that, the other kind of shopping cart was waaaay far away.

Then one of the shopping-cart-rounder-uppers came trundling towards the warehouse and left a line of shopping carts right by the entrance - and they sort of sat there in a flock as people came up and grabbed one. And front and center, camouflaged by all of the shopping carts was.....

Guess.

No, really Guess

Yup.

Good guess.

You are correct.

A put-put. 

Waiting. For. Me.

For me.  The astonished one. The I-can't-even-muster-the-faith-to-believe-You-can-find-me-a-parking-space one.

The help-me-I've-fallen-and-I-can't-get-up-one.

The one to whom God says, oh so gently, "Don't you know by now I love you anyway?"

And then (oh, come on!  You knew this wasn't over yet didn't you?)

And then...I stepped up put-putted to the Pharmacy and:

My med wasn't there.

"Not for two more days" said the lady.

"How can that be? I'm not just low on this med - I'm out of it. None. Nada. Nothing. And it's a must-have medication."

So she sent me to the drop off window and said to talk to them.

I did.

And the nice wonderful go-the-extra-mile-lady at the window said, "We can do this.  Come back in 30 minutes and it will be ready,."

So I came back in 25 minutes, 5 minutes early even - and there were no lines to wait for, nobody in front of me, step right up and there it was.

And my heart was face down on the floor worshipping the One Who holds my breath in His hands.

And I was astonished - and humbled and in awe and full of gratitude.

And, wonder of wonders of all wonders, He still loves me anyway.

Sigh. 

We worship an Awesome God.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

And then the Sky puts on a Show For Free...

I drove home from chores late this afternoon - and happened upon my favorite time of day.

The sun had begun its lingering slide down the sky,  stretching to kiss the mountaintops and move on to a morning in someone else's day.  The sharp blue shadows on the hills grew inch by inch, wrapping the cliffs and rocky outcroppings in a dusky blanket, tucking them in for the night.

Driving into the sun was at the perfect spot in time - high enough that my visor could block out the brightness so I could see, and low enough to outline the grey, dirty-footed clouds in silvery backlight - while in between was the deep turquoise sky of the Southwest.

My heart was face down in worship as I drove.  The spectacular colors and variegation splashed themselves on the walls of my soul and I felt something ease there, like a sore muscle with a healing warmth settling around it, in the exact spot to bring the greatest comfort. Thank You, Papa!

And again, not for the first time, I thought how sad it is for the people who depersonalize creation into a vague imaginary evolution - for which there is not a single fossil of verification, by the way.  (Surely there should be at least one.)

But I digress.

The One Who formed each and every ray of light, arranged for those rays to lengthen and bend each evening, turning the sky into wild splashes of orange and purple and flaming reds. They all  melt and blend into an ever-deepening dusky blue that settles on the dimming bits of gold with a kiss.

What glory and honor is due to such a magnificent Artist!

It is full night now - and yet the colors and swirling sensations are with me still.  I see the silver outlines, the lengthening shadows,  the steadily decreasing glimmer of the sun as it sets.

And, as always, in spite of the pollution and destruction and degrading of His crowning creation, I think to myself :"What must Eden have been?"


Selah.