Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Little More Perspective

Yesterday's post raises this question: How can people who have less than nothing be overflowing with joy, yet people who have everything are always so unhappy?

God always seems bigger to those who need Him the most. And suffering is the tool He uses to help us need Him more.*

Those Africans who live in cardboard boxes or under torn and tattered sheets, who are surrounded by waste and stench too terrible for our civilized senses, who have no money for food and no arms or legs to even find food...those are the people who have a joy that manifests from deep within and shines brighter than the sun.

They have to trust God. They have no other hope.*

They literally have nothing. We, in our comfortable recliners drinking sodas and eating potato chips, have no idea what that even means.

"There's nothing to eat around here!"

"I have nothing to wear tonight!"

"There's no phone service out here!"

"They're out of the brand I like!"

What if our lives were different? What if we were born in a desolate slum somewhere instead of the Land of Plenty? What would we say then?

"I have no food to eat this week."

"I have nothing to sleep under while it rains tonight."

"My little girl doesn't have a shirt to wear."

"I don't have legs to walk on."

Can you see how those people would have no other choice but complete and utter dependence on God?

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. -Psalm 34:18

Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in Him and He will do this:
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. -Psalm 37:5-6

Some who suffer choose to blame God and hold a grudge. But those who recognize their need to cling to Him hour by hour share sweet intimacy with His very Spirit.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. -2 Corinthians 4:17

People who are stripped and laid bare before the Maker - whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually - and choose to believe His promises...those are the people who know true joy.

_____
*When God Weeps by Joni Eareckson Tada

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Little Perspective

An old classmate of mine had this video posted on his blog. It's an interview between Conan O'Brien and Louis C.K. Quite funny.

I laugh every time I watch this clip. It's funny, largely because what he says is so true. I might be dating myself here, but it's more likely that my family (and small hometown) was and is always behind the modern age by a few decades. I grew up with dial phones. And I found dialing zeros to be a complete inconvenience because it tripled the time you spent trying to call someone.

My mom still writes checks to herself at the bank.

Look at where we are now. Computers are almost out-dated because now we can carry around a phone that not only calls people, but texts, takes pictures, checks email, and surfs the web. We can drive through a restaraunt and have an entire meal handed to us within minutes. We can flip on the tv and watch any movie we want, or DVR it and watch it later when it's more convenient.

We are so spoiled.

We have everything that the history of humanity never even dreamed possible. And we have no idea how to appreciate it.

This clip reminds me of an experience Joni Eareckson Tada shares in her book When God Weeps. She traveled with a group to the poverty-stricken, gut-wrenching places in Africa to deliver wheelchairs and crutches to the disabled. People crawled out of the woodwork to greet these Americans and celebrate Jesus together.

People who had lost arms to disease. People whose legs were rendered useless from polio. Or, just as often, people who had lost both legs and hands.

The Africans and Americans gathered together, sang in worship, shared testimonies, and distributed wheelchairs. Sadly, there were more people than wheelchairs. Two teenage boys who had legs useless from polio did not receive anything.

They danced for joy for their friends who did receive.

A comment from a young boy who made his home in a box near a trash dump sums it up: "God has given you [westerners] so much, you have been so blessed...why are so many people in your country so unhappy?"

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Just Arrived...

Remember how I said I was going to create a Prayer Wall for you to leave prayer requests? (If you don't remember, click here.)

I now have a page up and running. Nothing fancy, but I hope that you will use it. All you have to do is type your request into the comment box. I will screen them before they're posted. I have committed to praying for anything requested on at least a weekly basis. So be assured that you will be prayed for. You don't have to leave your name. If you want me to pray, but don't want to post for all to see, just make a note of that and I won't post it.

If you don't have any requests to pray for right now, go ahead and drop by anyway. See what other people have posted and take a few moments to lift them up in prayer.

There is a link called "Prayer Wall" at the top of the right-hand column, just below the picture. Or, to go there right now, click here.

Who Do I Work For?

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.... Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men... It is the Lord Christ you are serving. -Colossians 3:17, 23-24

Last week I had to drag myself through each day of work.

Then I was reminded of these verses. And this week, my perspective has changed.

Does that mean I love my job now? I like it as well now as I did before. Do I enjoy getting out of bed early each morning? Definitely not. I still call on God in the morning for my daily portion of strength to get through each hour until I clock out.

But this week I'm not driving to work just because I have no other choice or because I have to earn a paycheck.

It would be easy to leave out a few exercises and send my patient home five minutes early. I could cut some corners and put off my paperwork for another day. It would save time to fill in only the information I need to on the evaluation form.

But is that the work I want to turn in to the Lord at the end of the day?

There are souls at stake. Dozens of people pass through my life each week. Do they see Jesus in me?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I Can Carry You

Lord of the Rings is an amazing story. (I have to confess that I've only seen the movies and have never read the book. But the movies were superb.)

There's one scene in particular towards the end of the story that I think is incredible. Frodo has been hauling this little ring all over creation to destroy it. It's an evil ring, and as the journey drags on, Frodo becomes increasingly worn down by this burden. He finally reaches the last leg of his quest. He has to cross this dark, rugged, barren, dangerous mountain to get to the only fire that can destroy the ring forever. Frodo is tired. He's exhausted, weary, beaten, bruised, and alone.

Alone, except for his best friend Sam, who has refused to leave his side.

When he cannot take another step, Frodo collapses in a heap. Take a look to see what happens next*:

Frodo has become utterly lost in the darkness of his burden. It has closed in around him, choking the very life from his body. All he can feel is hopelessness and despair.

But Sam does a beautiful thing. He shares the burden. He knows he can't make it go away. There isn't a thing he can do to ease Frodo's suffering.

But he can carry his friend.

What a beautiful picture of bearing one anothers' burdens. Some people are carrying burdens so heavy and dark that their very lives are being smothered. They can no longer move forward, and there is no way out. All they see is the darkness surrounding them, and all they feel is hopelessness and despair.

But we can carry them.

_________

*I apologize for the bilingual subtitles. It was the only clip I could find.

Monday, June 22, 2009

What to Pray For? - part 2

The other week I wrote about things we pray for. My Sunday School class had discussed and observed the differences between praying for the physical vs the spiritual (i.e. health, jobs, success vs righteousness, wisdom, hope, faith). Since then, I have been trying to shift the focus of my prayers...but have fallen far from mastering this new art.

But then I had a fleeting thought that slipped in between my other thoughts.

Jesus prayed for the physical.

Even our Savior - God in flesh - prayed like we tend to pray. In the moments leading up to the most selfless and greatest act of love ever seen in heaven or on earth...the Creator of the universe prayed for Himself. Prayed that He might avoid the very thing He was put on this earth to do.

"If it is possible, may this cup be taken from me." -Matthew 26:39

God, I really don't want to do this. It's hard, it hurts, I'm all alone, and I'm going to die. Please make it go away.

Jesus prayed, maybe even begged for his circumstances to change. He didn't like pain any better than we do. He struggled to face it head-on and willingly. He asked for God to take it away, to make it easier.

So now I know it's ok to pray for the physical, and it's even ok to pray the physical for myself. Jesus did.

But Jesus did something else, too. He didn't just stop at His prayer for deliverance.

He asked, struggled, wrestled, cried, looked for another way, something easier. He trembled and fought to catch his breath as his soul and flesh crashed together, each fighting to dominate the other. But then...

He took a deep breath and stilled his quaking heart.

"Yet not as I will, but as you will."

I choose to trust that You have this under control, that my pain will bring You glory. As horrible as this is for me, You have a reason for doing it. I choose to do this Your way. I will follow You.


Jesus surrendered.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Fog

This morning the fog surrounds me on my journey.

Yesterday was sunny. Bright. Warm. Things made sense. I could see everything around me. I could see the bigger picture.

It was beautiful.

Now I can't make sense of where I'm going. What I could see and grasp yesterday is hidden today.

I still know what lies ahead. The landscape hasn't changed. Everything is still in its place.

But today I can't see it.

It's not warm and sunny anymore, or beautiful and bright. It's cold and dark.

And now it's raining.

I can't see the bigger picture anymore. I can't even see what's in front of me.

I can't feel the warmth of the Son.

But He's there. Behind the fog that clouds my soul.

I embrace the beautiful sunny days. I want to embrace the cloudy ones too.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Too Much to Bear?

Suffering has been a source of much learning for me lately. Not that I'm necessarily suffering myself, but conversations, books, and verses on this topic continue to pop up. They keep revealing to me the purpose of our pain and trials in the grander scheme of things.

People often say that God will never give us more than we can bear. They quote a verse to go with their statement.

But it's a verse that gets misquoted.

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. -1 Corinthians 10:13

Yes, it says God will not give you more than you can handle. But it's talking about temptation, not suffering.

Does that mean some suffering bestowed upon us will be more than we can deal with? I don't know. I'm still out to lunch on this one. I think of people who have lived their whole lives with painful and crippling diseases that only progressively worsen, or mothers who lose their husbands and children in one day to a car accident.

How can one possibly bear up under such painful suffering?

Maybe some suffering is more than we can handle. And maybe God allows that. Because under such circumstances we are forced to depend on Him, and through our brokenness He is glorified.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Coming Soon...

It's now 9:00 on the night before Wednesday morning, the day for which I have nothing ready to post. Several topics rolling around in my head, but none ready to come out yet.

We've had good discussion and challenges in Sunday School the last couple of weeks regarding prayer. I've been challenged and stretched to intercede for others.

If you've been keeping up with my posts, you know that I've also been searching for ways to serve in my community.

So, given those two thoughts, I've decided to set aside time each week to serve others by praying for them. It may not physically get me out and about in the community, but really, what better way to help someone than to pray for them? That's more powerful than anything my feeble hands can offer.

I'm trying to figure out a way to create a prayer wall on my blog. I want to create a page, a virtual room of sorts, where you can leave your prayer requests. Then I can pray for you. And other readers can drop by the prayer wall and also pray for you.

Sadly, I'm no tech geek, and my efforts at trying to make this happen for the past hour have failed miserably. So...coming soon (hopefully) - prayer wall. Somewhere here. I will post again to let you know it's ready and running. In the meantime, if there's anything that you would post on the prayer wall (if there were a prayer wall to post on), please leave a comment instead. If it's private and you don't want the whole world reading about it, make a note of that and I won't make the post public. (I screen everything before it goes public.)

If you have any technical suggestions as to adding this new page to my blog, tell me. Please.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Mouth Divided

Been thinking about speech. Words. Stuff I say that people hear. Or stuff people say that I hear.

There were two or three days this week where I kept opening my mouth when I should have kept it shut. You know those things you say innocently that actually sound more like an insult? That's what I couldn't stop doing.

But that's not really what I was thinking about. I was thinking more about things like gossip. Prayer. Swearing. Singing. Complaining. Worshipping.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. -James 3:9-10

We sings songs of praise to our Lord.

We share rumors flying around about the person in the office next door.

We pray for our friends and family.

We say mean things in anger to those same people.

We thank God for the blessings He's given us.

We complain about our jobs.

Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing...

You wouldn't use the same bowl to feed the dog and serve supper to your family.

You wouldn't use the same brush to scrub the toilet and wash your dishes.

You wouldn't use the same scoop to clean the litter box and flip your burgers.

My brothers, this should not be.

Why do we use the same tongue to praise our Lord and tear down His people?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Ever feel like this?



Yeah. Me too.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Reasoning with the Unreasonable

Ever tried to reason with the unreasonable? Not an easy task. I recently watched one of my co-workers struggle with one such patient.

This man is elderly and lives in a nursing home. My co-worker was trying to persuade him into some therapy and exercise, but he would have none of it. His mind slips in and out of dementia, thus impairing his mental processing and emotions. His intentions don’t make sense and his actions are impulsive.

He was refusing to walk down to therapy because he was looking for his buddy’s room. He was getting frustrated with my co-worker because she was trying to talk him out of it. He would enter whatever room he came to and insist it was the right room. She finally walked him to the room he wanted. He walked in, then walked right out. All he had wanted to do was look out the window.

But he would still have none of therapy. Instead, he next insisted on going out the exit door at the end of the hallway. She tried her best to deter him, but it just wasn’t going to happen. He was bound and determined to go out that door.

Except then he found an electric wheelchair charging in the hallway. Not his, but he sat down anyway. Upon being told it was charging and wouldn’t work, he then demanded to be pushed in it. When told that wasn’t going to work either, he insisted on sitting in the regular wheelchair nearby. But rather than wait for the therapist to get it set up for him, he got involved and set things up the way he wanted. Very unsafe and dangerous as he stepped over tangled foot pedals in his impulsiveness to get where he wanted to go. But we helped him and got him in the chair without any major disasters. Then he was content to ride for a while, but still determined to not go to therapy.

I hung around for a while in case my co-worker needed help. Seemed like this guy was either going to do something that would require more than one person to correct, or he was going to turn violent. Thank goodness it all worked out ok.

Honestly, if I had been the one treating him, I would have given up early on. This man was NOT going to do what we wanted him to do. But my co-worker didn’t quit. She repeatedly and gently tried to guide him in the right direction. The safe and healthy direction. She didn’t give up on him.

I don’t talk about patients to poke fun and laugh at them, so please don’t find me insensitive and rude. I tell these stories because I see a parallel in my relationship with God. In this man I see myself when I decide that I know what’s best for me. I know what it is I want to be doing, and when God tries to gently steer me in another direction, I fuss and try to shake Him off. So I go along and do what I want to do – even though once I get there it doesn’t have any meaning or value. Then I’m right off onto my next plan, balking and griping and even sometimes becoming mean and violent. I am unreasonable, and sadly, I don’t always even realize it. Until it’s too late.

But praise God for never giving up on me. He will always be holding onto me, encouraging me to follow Him to a place with greater purpose and meaning. He will stand by and keep me from falling, and when I really mess things up, He’s right there to help untangle me.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Patient Endurance

The book of Revelation and the topic of the end times has recently re-peaked my interest. I’ve been listening to the Bible on cd while I drive home from work each day. Finally made it all the way through to the end. And when it was done, I gave Revelation one more listen.

There’s something about listening to someone else reading these prophetic words that sheds new light on them. Throw in some great sound effects and it’s almost like you’re watching a sci-fi movie…except without the watching part. And then comes the realization that these things are real events yet to come – it’s no wonder so many of us tend to shy away from Revelation in fear and trembling.

I haven’t received any great insight into deciphering the words of this mysterious book. But there was been one short phrase that popped out at me.

Patient endurance.

Things are gonna get bad. Real bad. You think the world has seen suffering already? Indeed, it has. Great piles of it. But these piles are mere anthills in the cracks of sidewalks compared to the calamity that is to come. So God sticks in this little phrase as a message to His people.

This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints.

First, evil is going to trample God’s people. The beast is going to wage war and conquer the saints of every nation on earth. He’s not going to be gentle about it. And if you don’t bow down to worship this beast? Then he’ll arrest and kill you.

This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.

Then God interrupts the beast’s little party and takes over. Those who bowed down to the beast receive the wrath of God. They receive torment and hell forever and ever.

This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints…

Two very different powers at work, yet the same command to believers. God never gives a command lightly, so there has to be great significance in those two words. Evil is going to be allowed to conquer God’s saints. Pain, suffering, abuse, torture – it must happen. So have patient endurance, because in the end you will see victory.

God will take back His power and punish the beast worshippers. Their torment will be even worse than the torment dished out on the saints. So have patient endurance, because God is going to come through.

Compared to these things to come, my light and momentary trials suddenly don’t seem so huge. If I think my patience and endurance is being tested now in average, everyday life, what kinds of truckloads of faith am I going to need on down the road? That’s when it’s really going to matter.

So for now, maybe I’ll consider my current trials as mere practice and training for the days ahead. Maybe I’ll be fortunate enough to not have to live through them. Or maybe I’ll be fortunate enough to one day see Christ come down from heaven and establish His Kingdom here on earth. Either way…patient endurance.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

What to Pray For?

Dear God,
Please help me through this day. Help me to finish at the nursing home as quickly as possible, and please keep that one lady from throwing up on me. Please let the afternoon go fast and help others to see you in me. Please be with my friends and give them a good day too.
Amen.

Does anyone else pray like this? I've been trying to do better, but quite often this is what my prayers mean, even if I'm not saying those exact words.

Our Sunday School class has been studying prayer. This past weekend we talked about (among other things) praying for others. We looked at some verses that revealed the heart and focus of the early Church.

They prayed...that they might receive the Holy Spirit... -Acts 8:15

I keep asking that the...Father may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you... -Ephesians 1:17-18

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being... -Ephesians 3:16

Pray also for me, that enever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mysetery of the gospel. -Ephesians 6:19

We constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. -2 Thessalonians 1:11

I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. -Philemon 6

One of the first things we noticed about these prayers is their focus. We tend to focus our prayers on the physical, while the early Christians found it important to pray for the spiritual. We pray for safe travel and a good day, they prayed for wisdom and revelation. We pray for a headache to go away, they prayed to know the hope of Christ. We pray to have enough money to pay the bills, they prayed that God's purpose would be fulfilled in them.

Not that we can't or shouldn't pray for safety and healing and daily needs. But what would our lives look like if we prayed for each other the things listed in the verses above? How would that affect our very approach to prayer?

Our challenge in Sunday School is to pray these Scriptural things for each other this week. I suspect it might rock our worlds a little bit.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Getting Myself Out of the Way

Last week I decided to make a conscious effort to start doing things outside of myself. This has potential to create huge challenges for me...but I think I'm off to a good start.

Or at least just a start.

Over the past few weeks I've slowly been seeing how self-centered my life tends to be. (By the way, working in a job that revolves around other people does not necessarily qualify one as selfless and giving.) I live for my evenings and weekends, and the things I do with them totally focus on me. God has been revealing to me what the important things in life are that carry true eternal value. I asked myself what I was doing each day to bring people closer to the eternal Kingdom...and I didn't really have an answer.

That led to searching for ways I can serve in my community. I like serving. You probably wouldn't know that from watching my life. But I do enjoy it. I like doing all the behind the scenes stuff that keeps everything working together. I like encouraging and blessing people. But I've been so caught up in my own woes that I've done pretty much nothing in the past ten months that benefits anyone else.

So...a new leaf has turned over. I may have to keep turning it over, but you have to start somewhere, right?

I found a co-ed softball team to play on this summer. Or rather, it found me. That's not really serving and giving as much as personal recreational activity. But I'm still counting it because it's going to be the first thing I've done that involves meeting and interacting with people outside of church or work. It's a chance for me to get involved in my community and build relationships. Relationships are of eternal importance. They're one of the few things that matter in this life.

I'm also keeping my ears open for opportunities to serve. Today I stayed after church and helped set up for VBS. I don't feel like I did much at all, but at least it's a couple of hours' worth of odd jobs that someone else doesn't have to do.

Let me know if you have any ideas for other things I can do. I don't have a huge time capacity, and a regular and frequent commitment probably isn't the best thing for me right now. Little things that require me to give of myself and allow me to love someone through Christ is what I'm after. I have a few ideas that I'm ruminating on right now, but please share any others you might have!

Friday, June 5, 2009

What the World Sees

I’m sure by now most of the nation has heard of George Tiller’s murder in Wichita this past Sunday. In case you haven’t, Tiller was a doctor who performed late-term abortions. He was often the source of many anti-abortion protests, some of them violent. This past Sunday, Dr. Tiller was shot to death in the lobby of his church.

With his death has come many mixed feelings. I’m glad to say that most of the comments I read on facebook were uplifting, asking friends to pray for this man’s family and stating that murder isn’t the answer to stopping abortion.

I’m also sad to say that I have read other comments stating that his death was a good thing and he deserved it.

You know, as much against abortion as I am, I can’t say that George Tiller’s murder makes me feel any relief or joy. It doesn’t make me want to celebrate and cheer. It’s true that what he did every day was sick and murder in itself. But I can’t imagine that God was cheering on in heaven as this beloved child of His was gunned down. Why should we be glad over this man’s death when it pains our Heavenly Father?

CNN News was on tv at work the other day. An occasional clip would play where viewers called in and voiced their opinions. A lady from across the country added her two cents, and what she said saddened me further. I didn’t catch her statement word for word. But the core of her message was this: In church was a man who killed babies. Also in church was another man who tried to fix the problem by shooting the first man. Christians are supposed to be good, but look at all the dirty rotten people there are sitting in those pews. None of them are any better than your average person – in fact, they are worse.

This is the message of light we are sending to the lost souls around us. (I speak collectively, not specifically. I know many wonderful Christians who spread the love of Christ to all they meet.) We become so wrapped up in a few select issues and beat them to death. Yes, abortion grieves God. Yes, gay marriage is an abomination in His sight. Yes, divorce and drunkenness and pregnancy outside of marriage saddens Him more than we can imagine.

But what are we saying to the people outside of our church walls who have murdered, aborted, divorced, wasted their lives on alcohol, and raised children without a husband? Are we going to rub these sins in their faces? Clearly that’s not the way to draw them to Christ, as this particular caller pointed out.

Jesus lived a life of love. He ate lunch with cheating accountants, touched the disgusting skin of the diseased, and embraced the whores. He loved them. He didn’t point His finger at them or spear them down because their daily lives disgusted Him. He opened His heart to them. He held them closer and embraced them more intimately than He did the righteous Bible scholars who lived the “right” way.

Instead of following His example, we Christians think we know what’s best. We choose condemnation over grace. We build fences around the gospel so that the very people who need it can’t get to it because we choose to filter who we let in. In doing so, we show ourselves to be hypocritical to the very souls who look to us for the love of Christ.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Stumbles and Near Falls

This is another story I posted as a guest blogger on my friend's website. If you're looking for a good blog to read, you should check her's out. She's currently in the middle of a series on Gideon. Good stuff.
. . . . .

Recently I experienced one of the scariest moments of my short career.

Part of my current job as a physical therapist involves working in a nursing home. I’ve been working with an elderly woman who had a stroke several months ago. She should have died, but her stubborn will kept her heart beating. The first couple of months were spent lying in bed, so when she came to us she was very weak and dependent on everyone to take care of her.
But with the help of physical, occupational, and speech therapies, she quickly began to make a comeback. Now, three months later, she is still quite dependent on others, but is able to sit up, transfer, and walk.

Actually, she doesn’t really walk.

She kind of springs out of her chair and takes off at a dead walk-sprint.

But her balance isn’t great and she is still weak. So I try to always have a hold of her gait belt when we’re doing stuff. That’s the purpose of the belt – I hold on so the patient doesn’t fall.
On this particular day we were walking. Or more accurately, she was speed walking and I was trying to hold onto her with one hand and pull her wheelchair behind me with the other. She eventually tired out and was ready to sit and rest for a few minutes. So I one-handedly reached down to lock the brakes on her wheelchair so she could sit safely.

That’s when things got scary. It happened before either one of us knew what was going on.
Which is usually how it goes. Older people don’t even realize they’re falling until they’re already on the ground.

Suddenly, my patient was taking a nose-dive forward. Straight down into her walker, which would only slightly break her fall before she hit the hard floor. Thank goodness for my hand on her belt. I yanked her backwards from behind her wheelchair and she just barely landed in her seat. Thank goodness for locked brakes.

She was (understandably) startled and began crying out that she couldn’t get herself back into her chair. So I did my best to lift her up far enough into the seat so she could get herself in the rest of the way.

I sat down as well.

This woman also has severe short-term memory deficits. So after a few breaths she asks, “Where do you want me to go?” I’m pretty sure she had already forgotten about her near-smack experience with the floor.

I said, “Let’s just rest here for a few more minutes.” I still needed to sit.

After a while we both got up and finished our walk and all was well. But had I let go of that belt for just the brief second I needed to reach across to the brake, the story would have ended differently. Badly.

What if God let go of us every time we fell? What if He turned His back on us every once in a while and missed catching us?

Our spiritual growth is sequential. As baby Christians, God often holds us and carries us so we can see and experience Him up close. As we grow, we learn to walk on our spiritual legs. But the difference with our spiritual mobility compared to physical mobility is that we never walk independently. No matter how “big” we get, we still need God to hold onto us. For when we stumble.

That’s a promise. We will stumble. No matter how much of a spiritual giant someone may appear, even they will stumble. And even fall.

Sometimes it hurts. We might stub a toe or bump a knee. Sometimes we fall and we are wounded so badly we’re not sure we are ever going to be able to walk again. But God always has His hand on us. We never fall so hard that He can’t break our fall.

“If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (Psalm 139:9-10).

There is no place we can go where God isn’t holding onto us.

And maybe we should embrace a lack of short-term memory. Sometimes it’s ok to sit down, take a break, and recover a bit. But it does no good to sit and dwell on our mistakes and punish ourselves repeatedly for stumbling. Maybe we should be more like my patient – forget about the near disaster we just about landed in and ask instead, “Where do you want me to go?”
Our destination won’t come to us. We have to walk to it. Even if it’s one baby step at a time.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

What My Sinus Doctor Taught Me About God

Breathing has become increasingly more difficult for me over the past year. My nasal passages have slowly been swelling shut, and it finally drove me to see a doctor last week.

I was fully prepared and expecting to leave my appointment scheduled for surgery to clear out my nose. I had this surgery once already, several years ago, and it was quite a success. I arrived at my appointment all geared up for the doc with my previous medical records in hand. This way he could see what treatments I’d had in the past and understand my history a little better.

My appointment was nothing what I expected.

As I was waiting for him, the nurse asked me what I was seeing him for. I told her I was there for my sinuses. We went through the standard pre-appointment questions, and I also explained to her that I had my old records for him.

Finally he arrived. Late, because he had been in surgery. Now, I had been warned ahead of time that this doc is good at his job, but has a poor bedside manner. He seemed pleasant enough at first, but then things got rolling.

First question: “What are your symptoms when you have a sinus infection?”

Who said anything about a sinus infection? But I answered him.

“What are you allergic to?”

“Everything.”

Then he proceeded to tell me the prime allergy seasons for all outdoor vegetation. And that it’s worst during harvest, and when ragweed comes out.

I know these things. I grew up on a farm. In Kansas. That’s why I was shipped off to Grandma’s every harvest. Because I couldn’t breathe if I stayed home.

“What do you do for your allergies?”

“I take Zyrtec. And I do a nasal rinse every night…”

“Those are bad…(blah blah blah and off he went)…”

Then he looked in my nose. “Wow, you’re blocked big time.”

Thanks. I know. Thought now might be a good time to mention my surgery. “I had surgery about six years ago…”

“Some doctors like to do those surgeries, but the symptoms are usually manageable without…(more blah blah blah)… Have you ever read any articles on your condition?”

“No.”

“You should. Go home and do some reading. You’re a medical professional. You should know to do these things.”

“Ok.”

“Did you say you had surgery?”

“Yes.” Didn’t I just try to tell you this?

“When?”

“2003.”

“Oh, you were pretty young. You have to stay on top of things to keep stuff from returning. I enjoy doing the surgery, but won’t unless it’s absolutely necessary. You really have to stay on top of it. So here’s what I want you to do...” He proceeded to write a couple prescriptions for Prednisone and a nasal spray and explained how to take them. “Take the Prednisone for a week, then start the spray, then I want to see you in about a month. Any questions?”

“Well, I also have Afrin that I…”

“That stuff is terrible! You should never take it! It’s addictive and after two or three days it does no good. You shouldn’t even be taking it!”

Well ok then.

“It was nice meeting you. If you run into me at the hospital, let me know how you’re doing. If it’s not working, then we’ll try something else.”

And that was the end of that.

I left with my head spinning just a little. More than anything else, I felt like the doctor hadn’t bothered trying to get a comprehensive picture of who I am. He didn’t look at my chart at all before seeing me, and somehow must have thought I was there for a sinus infection. Never asked me why I was there, what symptoms I was actually having, or what I had done about it in the past. He jumped right in, told me what he wanted to say, heard me say what he wanted to hear, and then gave me medicine (that I’ve been on many times in the past) and shooed me out. Now he could move on to the next thing in his day.

A few days later, after my head stopped spinning, I started to recognize spiritual similarities in all this. Except this time, I am the doctor, and God is the patient.

God is waiting for me to come see Him. He waits patiently, sometimes for hours or even days. Finally, I show up. Late, of course, because I was occupied with other things. I breeze in like I own the place and start firing questions at God. But I never wait for an answer, even though He would if I’d let Him get a word in edgewise. Sometimes He does tell me things, but I only hear what I want to. Most of it flies right by me without notice. In the meantime, I’m busy firing information in His face – about my day, what I want from Him, what I think about this or that, and anything else in between. Once I’ve said what I wanted to say, I’m out the door and on my way to the next thing without a second thought.

And how does God feel about this? He doesn’t just schedule an appointment once a year to see me. He’s waiting faithfully and patiently every day for me to show. And more days than not, I stand Him up. If I come at all, I’m only present in body, not mind or spirit. I talk about the things I want to talk about, read off my wish list, and call it good. He wants me to listen to Him, but I don’t pause long enough to hear His voice. He yearns for me to enjoy His presence, but I’m too busy thinking of the other things I need to get done.

Check out this video. I think it better explains what I'm trying to say.





Tuesday, June 2, 2009

TV Junkie

It’s hard to function without television.

I recently did away with my cable. (Kept the internet, of course. Otherwise bad things would happen. Bad things.) When I first signed on with this cable company, they gave me a good packaged deal for a decent price – internet, lots of channels, and a movie bundle for six months. What I didn’t realize was that the movie package only lasted for four. So once they took away my movie channels, my monthly cost went up. How that makes sense is beyond me. So then I asked them what I would pay to reduce my 300 channels to the basic 72 after my six month deal was up. They quoted me a price that was even higher than what I was paying for 300 channels and no movies.

So I decided to quit altogether. Once the American Idol season had finished, of course.

I only follow a few shows anyway, and have learned to live without the others I used to watch in a former life. Just didn’t have time to keep up with them all. And after missing the first few weeks of the new seasons last fall, I found I didn’t really miss those shows all that much. All in all, there wasn’t a lot of serious tv watching going on in my house.

But I did tend to always have it on when I was home, mostly just for background noise. I would put the same shows on, but I never just sit and watch tv. Too boring. I’m always doing something else. Figured I’d just replace my visual noise with audio noise and play the local Christian radio station instead. May as well be filling my senses with something holy, right?

I didn’t realize how much I depended on that visual noise for entertainment. I can still get all the same things done that I did before, but somehow it seems harder and more work to make myself do them. I can definitely feel the gap there (and see it since my blank television screen is staring right at me from across the room).

I’m a little surprised at this finding. But I’m hoping my feeling of lacking goes away soon. And I’m a little excited to see what happens when I fill my subconscious with constant songs of praise to the Lord. Can’t beat that, right?

Monday, June 1, 2009

All About Me

My cat does this weird huffy thing at me whenever she gets annoyed. I’ve never seen a cat do anything like it before, and I have no idea where she got it from since she was raised by humans.

She’s been banished to the basement during the night and whenever I’m gone, because she’s built a reputation for herself of doing naughty things when no one is watching. So every night before I go to bed I herd her downstairs and shut the door. And every night this provokes her to huff at me. Take a look (if you turn your volume up enough you can hear her):

video

One time I was going down to the basement to put some stuff away, and she was already down there. Must have thought I was putting her to bed, because she started huffing away. So I said to her, “It’s not all about you like you think.” The thought continued in my head, “Your life is all about me. That’s why I have you.”

Hmm.

I could so hear God saying this to me. “You know, life isn’t all about you like you think. You react to everything in a way that centers around your desires. But really, your life is all about me. That’s why I created you. That’s why I gave you life. For me.”

Time to stop huffing.

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