Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Enforced Rest

Yes, it's been a week since I posted anything.  This weekend my son had a Boy Scout camping trip and I went with him.  The stars were stunningly spectacular.  The kids had a blast.  I thought I rested.  Turns out my body didn't agree with me on that one. 

I arrived home with arms and legs of lead.  I've been working to get exercise into my days, but it's nothing like the 1/4 mile trip to the bathroom at the campsite.  We packed well and were well prepared for most of what Florida can throw at you, but Sunday morning, the temps were in the low 40's and I awoke to neck spasms.  (By the way, you can make hot packs from wet towels placed on top of an old-fashioned Coleman lantern.)

I didn't have time to rest much when I got home that day either.  By Monday, the cold and the extra exercise had me in a full blown Fibromyalgia flare up.  Every muscle and nerve in my entire body screamed at me.  I dragged out of bed and got Kate to school, but PJ wasn't feeling great either so we just stayed home.  I rested most of Monday and Tuesday, including a visit to my prayer partner for a massage.  Today, I asked God if I could get back to stuff (I really am a go-getter) and He said maybe tomorrow.   I'm cleared to do some writing and thinking, but not much more.  I would love to jump up and go finish my garden bed. It's almost done.  Instead, I'll go to church again tonight, but it's going to be slow going. 

I hate this.  More than once, my Lord has accused me of becoming a human doing rather than a human being.  I've always measured my self-worth by what I've accomplished.  I've stubbornly pushed my heart and mind to their limits, ignoring my body for years.  When He tenderly stops me, I chafe at His direction and discipline.  In the end, He has had to use pain to get me to recognize the folly of my frantic activity.  To Him, my value is not contingent on what I do and if necessary, He will make me unable to do anything to prove it. 

I laid in bed this morning and asked, "What can I do now?"  He said, "Pray and rest."  I am slowly learning that the rest preceeds action--the Hebrew day starts at sundown; the Christian week starts with our rest day; the Christian era started with Christ's death--the most passive repose a human could take.  It is during our rest that He acts on our behalf, preparing the way for the good works He has planned in advance for us to do.  To skip the rest is to skip ahead of His preparation.  Most importantly, it is in quiet and rest that He comes and shows us Himself.  I have climbed ladders as fast as I could only to find that the ladder rested on the wrong building.  When we rest with Him, He makes sure the ladder we climb is the one He picked out for us.  Our warfare become effective rather than shadowboxing. 

I don't know if He will ever heal me.  I hope I learn the lesson well enough that He can.  In the meantime, He has made space in my life for the unforced rhythms of His grace.  I trust His provision. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Unexpected refreshment...

There are days when it seems like life is a wilderness and you have nothing before you but a barren dessert.  The last week or so has felt like that.  I know the way forward.  It is clear but difficult and lonely. 

I set aside yesterday to pray about it.  As I did, my gentle Father reminded me of the massage appointment in the middle of the day.  It has been our one remaining splurge and with two people in chronic low-level back pain, it's less of a luxury than a needed maintenance.  The Lord instructed me to ask her to join me as I prayed.  I explained the situation to her and we began to pray as she continued working on me.  This humble message therapist morphed into an intercessory giant before my eyes.  Her prayers joined with mine and were ferverent and Holy Spirit directed.  As she prayed, the Spirit provided new directions to ask and encouragement beyond what I could have imagined.  The Holy Spirit even used her to remind me of the work I need to be doing to publish some of what I've already written.  I left refreshed in body and spirit, with encouragement to stand strong and focus.  Before I went, I had a way in the wilderness, but I left washed and satisfied by rivers in the desert.  I have often been skeptical about the spiritual implications of message therapy--it is frequently bathed in new-age mysticism, but this was a new old thing.  She truly "laid hands on me and anointed me with oil" and had the spiritual maturity to do so as an elder.  We confessed sin and much was healed. 

I have wondered what to focus on, and this morning it became clear.  There is a lot of pain in my life and it's hard right now to see above it.  I awoke this morning with peace and praise in my heart, seeing nothing but Jesus' love for me and my overwhelming love for Him.  It has been a quiet and productive morning.  Where things could have been tense, God's presence made me complete and content. 

Thank You, Father.  You truly make all things new.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Suffering Myths 2--Exemptions...

Jeremiah, by Rembrant
Myth 2:  Committed Christians don't really suffer.  God either organizes their circumstances for the best or miraculously lifts them up so they can walk above it.


First, if God organizes our circumstances for our best then that will include growth opportunities, which will, by definition, include growing pains.  Childbirth hurts (believe me, my son PJ can tell you I know that all too well: he gets reminders often that he was worth all 32 hours)--and those are just the good things that hurt.  Pain is a gift that teaches us how not to injure ourselves or others.  That's why leprosy causes such devastation--leprosy deadens pain nerves and the patient destroys their own body without knowing it.  If you're alive, you're going to have pain. 

As for living above our circumstances, that's only partly true.  He does promise He will never leave or forsake us--that He will be with us, even to the end of the earth.  There was a time when I was really angry at God because I could feel how close He was to me, but I remained in debilitating pain and agonizing depression.  His love was just as real as my pain.  David, Jeremiah, Paul, and many others often cried out in tremendous pain--we know because their cries are critical passages within the Bible.  David often models the furious dance that acknowledges both extreme pain and God's glorious presence.  Jesus himself wept many times and was identified as a "man of sorrows, aquainted with grief."  Would God lift us above the pain from which He did not protect Himself? 

To the contrary, Jesus says:  "33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”--John 16:33. 

A corrolary to this myth is that pain and suffering happens because of sin in our lives--also frequently malarky.  There are times when sin brings about painful consequences for us and those around us.  There are times we are blameless and suffering is just a result of the fallen world we live in.  There are times when, like Job, we suffer as a part of the spiritual battles that rage unseen around us.  There are times when God directly sends suffering into our paths as a tool to refine and change us. 

In the end, the question of "Why?" is less important than the question: "To what end?".  When we begin to try to partner with God through the pain, He redeems it as only He can--and the results can be so beautiful that it looks like God intended it, even when it's just His work-around.  In this way, every pain, every sorrow, every bit of suffering becomes an opportunity to display the glory of a God who can spin worthless, scratchy straw into gold. 

If you are still alive, you will have suffering.  Don't waste it. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Suffering myth 1...

This morning one of our pastors, Jimmy Knott, preached on myths of trials.  He included one of my favorite pet-peeves.  Well meaning people will say silly things like, "God will never give you more than you can handle." 

I am here to tell you right now that this old saying is patently untrue.  First of all, life happens and we are not always up to it.  For a Christian, circumstances must first go through the fingers of our Heavenly Father, but He lets a lot through.  My dear friend, Steve Brown, has said in the past, "It may seem cold-hearted, but I believe that every time a pagan gets cancer, a Christian gets cancer so the world can see the difference."  Years ago, I made the choice that building the Kingdom of Heaven was worthy of my life and the lives of everyone I know and love.  Don't get me wrong, it's hard when your kid has a debilitating disorder or you have to face hardships, but if it brings Glory to God, that's what we're here for.  We don't get out of this alive anyway. 

God WILL intentionally give His adopted children far more than they can handle.  He expects us to do what He does and that is a lot more than we can do.  The Truth is that He will not give us more than HE can handle.  Part of why we're still here is to learn how to trust Him, rely on Him and work beside Him doing His work.  I Peter 1:7 tells is that the testing of our faith is more precious than purified gold and will bring the Father praise and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.  I want Him to be proud of me more than anything.  He's not going to be proud of me doing what I can take credit for.  He's going to be proud of things He does through me--only what He does lasts anyway. 

I can say for sure that the parents I've met with disabled or injured kids are really amazing folks.  I can also tell you pretty confidently that they didn't start out that way.  I wasn't called to be the mom of a child with Down syndrome or ADHD.  I was called to be Katie's mom and PJ's mom.  They have those disorders, so we address those issues one day at a time with God's direction, healing and planning.  He builds us up to the tasks before us as we rely on Him.  As I pray, the Lord sends strength, stamina and solutions.   I didn't get those things before I had the need.  I got them when I needed them.  I can share the solutions He has provided to spread God's Glory and so others will have what they need when they need it.  In the end, the best things I've gotten from all of this was the chance to know Him better.  That alone has been worth it. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

More than enough...

There was a time when I was in High School that I made a fatal error.  I was at the height of enjoying my Heavenly Father.  Ministry stuff was going great.  I was beginning to take college classes.  Despite all that was going right, my heart ached and I couldn't place why.  I wasn't a loner, but I was lonely.  I cried out to God one night that He wasn't enough--I needed people in my life.  What my heart was saying was that I needed a man in my life.  My dad was busy as a schoolteacher and I just didn't feel treasured by anyone.  Every woman needs someone to tell her she is beautiful, but instead of going to my Heavenly Father to meet that need, I assessed Him as inadequate to it.  I reasoned if it wasn't good for man to be alone, then how could a "derived creature" like woman be good alone. 

What came next was predictable.  Like the Israelites who demanded a King, God gave me what I asked for.  In His graciousness, He gave me a good man on the whole, but even a good man makes a terrible god.  He constantly demanded I prove my love for him and took great pleasure in pushing me farther and farther every time we met.  This continued into our marriage and became the nightmare anyone could have predicted.  He is still a good man but he is also still a terrible god.  He has wounds of his own and my need for a minor deity has often kept me from adequately tending to his wounds or holding him accountable for his own healing. 

Over the last year, I have renounced that vow within my own heart.  Jesus is indeed more than enough for me and any time I am tempted to think otherwise, I push harder into Him.  I continually find He is more than sufficient for my needs.  He reminds me that in His eyes, I am beautifully perfect and that He is perfecting all that concerns me.  He tells me that He has loved me with an everlasting love and that He has drawn me with unfailing kindness to HimselfHe rejoices over me with singing.  He has written my name in the palm of His hand. 

It's hard to dethrone a god.  Subtle fears and devotions must give way.  Rather than blindly doing all that he wants, no questions asked, I have to make choices about who I am going to honor.  I have to respond as a servant but an equal and a joint-heir to the inheritance of salvation.  I have to speak up when I am hurt rather than cow-tow or placate. 

Make no mistake.  It was my need for something that my husband could never be that placed us in such a horrible position.  We've been together for a quarter of a century and we won't get free of this problem overnight but we will get free. 

Father, I thank You for being my God.  Only You are sufficient to the task.  I again renounce any other gods I have placed before You and lay my heart at Your feet.  I trust You completely with my life. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Group Rules

Last night I started a class on the Connected Child.  It's about how to connect well and provide a healthy environment for kids (or adults) from hard places.  We were created to connect, but emotional connection is unbelievably difficult for many.  We instinctively reach out for others, but without someone to reach back, we don't learn connection.  It takes two to tango.

One of the things I found compelling were the class/group rules the teacher introduced near the middle of the class:

1.  Stick Together
2.  No Hurts
3.  Have Fun

The elegant simplicity of these rules belies their profound universality--(wow).  In a nutshell, these summarize and flesh out the second great command:  Love your neighbor as yourself.  The point of the group is to connect and learn connection, so we have to stick together.  We can't hang in together if we intentionally or carelessly hurt each other and we won't stick together if we aren't actively working toward having fun together. 

I'm going to find a way to post this in my home as the new home rules. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Choosing your focus...

"1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory."  Colossians 3:1-4

"4 Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal."  Is 26:4

 Circumstances are the most distracting things in the world and attitude is absolutely crucial in the middle of a battleground.  Because we are called by God to be conformed to the image of His son, we are in a battleground.  Our enemy's primary targets are our children, our marriages, our calling. 

This morning, (for that matter, this whole week) has been a struggle, and the battleground has been in my mind.  It's a battle to decide whether I'll be looking at the pain of my circumstances or the provision of My Lord.  This time it truly is a heart battle.  It's about my attitude.  Do I believe I am loved or that I am useless?  Who do I believe? 

What I believe is dependent on where I focus.  This morning, my Father's message was "Watch Me."  There have been moments today that were hard, moments that were productive.  In the end, He wins a little more each day.  It's good enough for now. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Satisfaction and multitasking...

"Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?  Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare."   “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”declares the Lord.  9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty,  but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."  Is 55:2-3, 9-11.

It should not be amazing to me that God desires our deep satisfaction.  If anything it should amaze me that we are tolerant of so small a satisfaction.  What struck me this morning is that in the same chapter that the Lord chides us for our petty desires and offers to satisfy us fully, He also points out that everything He does multitasks by its very nature.  His solutions are what engineers call "elegant,"-- they accomplish many different things within one process or action and each accomplishment benefits the whole. 

Of course, my immediate thought had to do with simplifying my life.  As Alton Brown says, I only have one unitasker in my kitchen:  the fire extinguisher.  Having multiple purposes for everything means having less, or at least it should. 

Still, as the passage says, His ways and thoughts are higher than my ways.  I blurted out to him this morning, "This is why I keep asking You to do all You do."  At that point, He stopped me dead in my tracks.  He said, "No, you've never asked that before.  Ask it again."  I instantly realized that I have been asking to see what God can do, but I have never asked to see ALL that He can do.  I've been overwhelmed with what I have seen.  I'm a little afraid, but since He directed me to ask it, this is my prayer (and you can pray it with me, if you dare):

Lord, I would like You to do all that You can do with us, with our family, our home, our church, our community, our country, our world, Your kingdom.  We need Your grace for this.  We cannot do those things.  Only You can.  

Let me know what He does. You know I"ll keep you updated.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

My provider

Yesterday, I had a meltdown in the middle of the day.  No one was here.  I needed to consult with PJ's therapy director but I just couldn't bear the weight of my pain anymore.  I usually do pretty well in general.  I know the path I'm on.  It's not an easy one, but I know my life is going in the right direction.  I'm walking in obedience and it's just a matter of being disciplined enough to stay on the path.  Unfortunately, my dreams at night tend to trip me up a bit.  That's when I have to come face to face with the pain of this path in ways I can't blow off.  So I had a meltdown.

As I laid in my bed in the agony of brokenheartedness, the phone rang.  That meant that I had to get up.  The Lord sent a good friend to comfort and encourage me.  She knows the struggles I face.  She knows how painful they are.  She called just to listen and encourage.  It was important to know that I am not alone.  It didn't change the path.  It didn't eliminate the pain, but it did help me recenter on Jesus and carry on. 

After my friend picked me up off the floor, I was able to meet with PJ's therapy director who helped me prioritize his work and moved me forward in getting him help.  Last night, PJ had great victories to tell me about from school.  This morning there was a small crack in the issues that hurt me the most.  Even my dog came and gave me big sloppy kisses to comfort my heart.  One of my morning devotionals was right to the point as well, reminding me that until I get the core issue dealt with, these things will remain unbearable.  The catch is that the core issue isn't my issue, so all I can do to deal with it is continue to choose to starve it out, like starving out a cancer, until the Father can be allowed to remove it surgically. 

Sometimes the way we have to walk is not going to be easy.  James tells us:

"2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."--James 1:2-4

Ginny Owens once said in reference to this verse: "So there's going to come a day when I don't lack anything?!?  Well, it's not now!"  I'm not there yet either, but He promises we will get there.  In the meantime, my great Provider gives me all it takes to perservere. 

Thanks, Father!