Friday, February 7, 2014

A Light for Each Step


“Going on from there was the bravest thing he ever did.  The tremendous things he did afterward were as nothing compared to it.  He fought the real battle in the tunnel alone, before he ever saw the vast danger that lay in wait.”  -J.R.R. Tolkien (The Hobbit)

        A few weeks ago we went with the youth group on a retreat at a camp not too far from home.  The dining hall was a short walk from our cabin, but in the absence of streetlamps above us and in the presence of all sorts of stumps and twigs and rocks below us, it was necessary to have a small light to roam around at night.  I relied on the flashlight app on my phone and as it poured out it’s pale white light, illuminating just a few steps ahead, I was reminded of the promise in the book of psalms that God’s word would be a lamp for my feet, a light for my path (119:105).
         A couple of months ago I found out that I have lupus nephritis, which basically means that my body is now attacking not only my joints, but my kidneys as well.  I am taking medication and I go to my doctor every few weeks to receive additional medicine through IV.  My doctor is optimistic that twelve to eighteen months of this treatment should be effective in ridding my kidneys of inflammation.  So, now, I pray and wait and learn to rein in my thoughts that sometimes like to wander into places full of darkness and despair: what if the treatment doesn’t work and I have to go on dialysis?  Or get a kidney transplant? Or what if my kidneys fail altogether?
         I’m so glad that contentment is something that can be learned (Philippians 4:12) and I’m so grateful that tomorrow belongs to God.  Courage and contentment don’t come naturally to me, but by God’s generous grace, I sense something supernatural is happening inside me.  There are days when I have been able to dwell fully on the beauty of the now and not worry about bridges I might not ever have to cross.  In those times I know peace and joy are not just taunting illusions, but more tangible than my body itself. 
         Sometimes I wish the sphere of the light spread out before me was wider and higher, not just with my health, but I long to know what God has for my children and our church and our family’s future in general.  However, I’m not sure if that knowledge would change anything and I am pretty sure that I wouldn’t be able to handle it responsibly.  In His book, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis says, “ Future is, of all things, the least like eternity.  It is the most completely temporal part of time- for the Past is frozen and no longer flows and the Present is all lit up with eternity…Gratitude looks to the past and love to the present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead.” 
         So, today I feel healthy, hopeful, and thankful.  I have no idea what the future holds, but I know the end of the big story in which my little story is only a part.  I know the light that shines in the darkness and He is enough for each step.  

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Surrounded and Shielded in Love (Psalm 5:11-12)


            First of all, thank you for your prayers and words of encouragement.  It was such a blessing to know that I had friends literally all over the world praying for me.  I’m sure many of you are wondering what exactly happened and why I was in the hospital, so I decided to revive my poor, neglected blog to fill you in and let you know some of the things I am learning from this process.
            On Thursday, November 14, I developed common virus symptoms: chills, fever, cough, and nausea.  By Monday, things were getting worse so I went to the doctor.  I couldn’t get in to see my primary care doctor, so I saw an assistant who assumed I just had a bad virus and sent me home to rest and get fluids.  By Thursday of that week, things were worse.  My fever was rising and I couldn’t get it down.  I went back to see my primary care doctor and she had an x-ray done on my lungs and assumed I had pneumonia.  She gave me antibiotics and told me to come back the next day.  I couldn’t keep the antibiotics down and my situation grew even worse.  On Friday (Nov. 22), I was too weak to walk and I couldn’t even keep a sip of water down.  Danny took me back to the doctor where they discovered my body had basically crashed.  My blood pressure was down to 65 over 40, my sodium levels where dangerously low, and my liver function was off.  They hooked me to an IV and checked me into the hospital.
            The first few nights in the hospital were really challenging.  The doctors could not figure out what was wrong with me and they were not able to put an end to my fevers and nausea.  I couldn’t sleep or eat, I received a blood transfusion and countless tests and procedures.  However, Tuesday was a turn-around day for me.  The doctors at the hospital were able to find a rheumatologist to come out to the hospital (apparently it’s very difficult to get rheumatologist to leave their practices and pay hospital visits).  This doctor was able to look at my numbers and see right away that I wasn’t experiencing a virus, but a severe lupus flare (it might have began with a virus the previous week).  Immediately, they stopped giving me antibiotics and started giving me steroids instead.  The fevers left and my numbers started to slowly stabilize.  This doctor stayed and talked to Danny and me for a long time and he agreed to take me on as his patient.  We truly feel like he is an answer to years of prayer and I am excited about the treatment plan he has for my future. 
            On Tuesday I was also able to get a pick line which is like a fishing line that ran through my arm to a vein near my chest.  Before that, my arms were bruising under the pressure of my weak veins  and all of the blood work that I had done.  I had two IV catheters literally fall out of my arms and I had begun to panic when I saw the techs approach with needles.  The pick line was a true blessing.
            My parents came up from Alabama and helped with the kids (and my mom and Danny took turns spending the night with me in the hospital).  When they left, my brother and one of my nephews came.  It was so nice to have family around.  I was released on Thanksgiving afternoon and I was able to enjoy a meal that dear friends brought by and watch Auburn’s crazy win a few days later.  Yesterday I went back to the hospital for one final procedure: a biopsy on my kidneys.  I should know the results by next week and my instructions until then are to rest, rest, rest.  I’m still weak, but I’m so glad that I get to recover at home.
            In no particular order, here are a few things I have learned (or have been reminded of) through this process:

1. I married a good man.  Danny has been a rock and a humble servant through this whole process.  I am truly blessed.

2. Children are a blessing from the Lord.  There was absolutely no better medicine in the world than the visits and hugs from the precious three I get to call my own.  I was blown away by their bold prayers and I was ministered to by their sweet presence.

3. Laughter is good medicine.  My sister, my sister-in-law, and I had a running text message joke about the hospital gowns.  When everything was so serious, I really needed some silliness and I’m thankful for those goofy jokes.

4. Music is powerful.  When I was too nauseated to read or watch TV, I could listen to music.  Hymns were balm to my soul.

5. We have a loving community here.  We left such an incredible community in Boston and I missed my friends there so much that I didn’t notice that God is also building a community for us here.  I have been so blessed these past two weeks by our Raleigh friends and neighbors and I am so thankful.  We have meals coming all this week.

6. Liturgy is a good thing.  On nights when I couldn’t concentrate to make my own coherent prayer, I prayed the Lord’s prayer.  I don’t remember ever intentionally memorizing it, but all of those years of saying it week in and week out at church ingrained it in my mind. 

7. All of God’s ways are good. His mercies are new every morning.  Every. Single. Morning.


           


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Faithfulness is What I Long For


“The writers of most of the biblical books concentrate on those people and events that are central to redemptive history.  This focus on great events easily obscures the fact that often whole generations are born, grow old, and die without them…For every biblical hero there are thousands of Israelites who know God only through what is taught by priest and prophets, and seek to be obedient to the law in personal devotion, in home and family life, and in worship of God.”  -Graeme Goldsworthy (According to Plan) 




      Last weekend our family went to Danny’s grandfather’s 90th birthday party.  Surprisingly, his grandfather wasn’t the oldest person in the room.  At 91, his grandmother is the baby of her family and I was pleased to finally meet her 100-year-old big sister.  It was a great time for Danny to interview his great-aunts and uncles and piece his family history together, going back to when his great-grandparents took the journey from Italy to Ellis Island and their experiences during the World Wars and the Great Depression and all the years that followed.  It was a time for feasting.  It was a time for old pictures.  It was a time for the youngest branches from the family tree to play together on the grassy hill beside the church where we were gathered. 
Most of all, it was a time for stories.  Some were humorous and many were told through tears, but my favorite was a simple memory from my sister-in-law, Lauren.  She told of when their family lived with their grandparents for a few months when she was a girl and how every single morning she saw her grandparents with their toast and coffee, reading the word of God together at the table. 
       At 37 and 36, Danny and I are among the oldest members of our current (and previous) church and we miss having the opportunity to learn from some of the wisdom that can only come from time and experience.  Christianity today is often described as an exciting and dangerous adventure. Our generation tends to eschew comfort and conformity and focus a lot of energy trying to figure out how to be radical and relevant.  I don’t think this is bad.  I hope this generation can lead the way in ending human trafficking and that we will take seriously our call to care for widows, orphans, and all who are marginalized.  I am glad there are voices calling us to move from excess to generosity and from judgment to grace. 
      At the same time, I hope that we don’t forget that obedience isn’t always exhilarating.  Sometimes it’s much easier to make a great and shocking sacrifice than it is to be faithful in the mundane, when you think no one else is looking. 
      I pray, by God’s grace, that I would always be listening and ready to respond to any crazy call God might have for me and I pray I would be equally content if He wants me to “make my ambition to live a quiet life” (1 Thessalonians 4:11).  Either way, I want to number my days, to drink His word with my coffee, to learn to love God and my neighbor, and to “press on toward the goal.” I’m thankful for those who have gone before me. 
           


Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Comforting Paradox


“I want neither a terrorist spirituality that keeps me in a perpetual state of fright about being in right relationship with my heavenly Father nor a sappy spirituality that portrays God as such a benign teddy bear that there is no aberrant behavior or desire of mine that he will not condone. I want a relationship with the Abba of Jesus, who is infinitely compassionate with my brokenness and at the same time an awesome, incomprehensible, and unwieldy Mystery. ”




     My first image of God, from a very young age, was a loving father.  I believed He loved me, always forgave me, and always cared about all of my hopes and fears.  For years I took for granted that everyone who knew God, knew Him in the same way.  It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized many believers grow up seeing God as distant, angry, and unconcerned.   After hearing some of their stories, I realized my foundational view of God was a special gift.
            In college, my understanding of God’s character grew.  First, through reading about Lewis’s Aslan in the Narnia series (as well as other Christian authors), and then from reading the Bible afresh, I realized that God is not only grace and mercy, but also power, strength, and majesty.  He was no longer just a father to me, but also creator, judge, and king.  He was not only worthy of my love, but my holy fear.  I found this to be incredibly good news.  God is strong and His might is enough to change me and redeem a fallen world. 
            This new (to me) doctrine of the fear of the Lord was so exciting that I began to share it every chance I could, though it was met with mixed reviews.  Many, whose backgrounds were similar to mine, found God’s awe-inspiring, sovereign rule inspiring for worship and obedience.  However, others found this message confusing.  In time, I realized that both messages were imbalanced; that only in the tension of seeing God as both gentle shepherd and mighty warrior can we get a clearer view.
            Of course, God is more multifaceted than the human mind can comprehend, but in continually coming before him as a dearly loved daughter before a gracious father and as a humble servant before my righteous master, I am able to experience a deeper understanding of the Lord of my life.   When I see evil and injustice around me, I am comforted that God’s wrath is real and that He will not sit idly by.  And when I contemplate the God who has every right to smite me, I am more overwhelmed by his mercy. 
            If God really spoke the world into being, if he really is the potter and I am the clay, if every breath I take is a gift from him, than how can I not draw back in wonder?  Yet, he drew near and Jesus, when teaching his disciples to pray, said to begin with “Abba,” an intimate, personal word for father. 
In the Bible we see God create and destroy, judge and show mercy, lifted up and, yet, coming close.  It is in these seemingly opposing views that I work out my salvation, make decisions, pray, and seek wisdom.  I am thankful for the paradox. 
           



Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Does God Want to Fix Us?


 “But Jesus Christ did not come for us to have the same old, nasty, funky, trifling, hard heart…He gives you a new heart, He gives you receptivity—that means a new value system, new affections, and your will being taken out of bondage to be able to serve Him.”—Dr. Eric Mason



            I recently read an article in which the author, a Christian, repeatedly told her readers not to worry or fear because “God not only welcomes you as you are, but he does not want to fix you.”  Over the past few years I have heard this message in various places, in slightly different forms, but each time it is presented as wonderful news.  I’m not so sure about that, though.  What is the gospel without transformation?
            Before I go any farther, let me get one thing straight: I am a mess.  I have a myriad of fears, sinful patterns, deep-rooted lies, and selfish desires daily battling within me.  However, because of God’s grace, I’m not anywhere close to being the mess I was ten years ago, and I can have hope, because of that same grace, that I won’t be quite as messed up ten years from now.  The promise of sanctification, that God has begun and will continue the work of making me holy and clean, has become music to my ears.
            Sometimes when I go back to my college town, a simmering sadness works it’s way through my heart.  Though my college days were almost completely void of the prodigal wildness displayed in movies and shared in testimonies, I remember my more pharisaical rebellion, the instances when my pride, vanity, and relentless comparison hurt those close to me, stole my joy, and made me miss opportunities for good.  I’m thankful-yes, by grace, again-that it is possible to “flee the desires of youth” (2 Timothy 2:22).   I once heard a speaker say that one of the most inspiring words in the Bible is “were”. We were enemies of God, but we have been brought near.  We don’t have to serve ourselves; we don’t have to destroy our relationships with God and others.
            I’m so glad that we are accepted just as we are.  I’m glad that the father ran to meet his son even when he was a long way off.  I’m glad Jesus gave honor to the woman caught in adultery and convicted her accusers.  I’m glad he spoke to the woman at the well.  I’m glad he went to Zacchaeus' house for dinner.   Yet, I’m equally glad that he didn’t stop there.  He told the woman to “go and sin no more.”  Dinner with Jesus led Zacchaeus to give back four times what he stole.
            As Easter approaches, I have been thinking about life eternal and present. I’m convinced the former will be far better than our best dreams and I have hope that we can experience shadows and dim reflections of what is to come even now.   I’m not na├»ve about the nature of sin and our flesh.  I know that very few lives fit neatly in the categories ‘before’ and ‘after’.  “Fighting the good fight” and “running the race” (2 Timothy 4:7) will take a lifetime and will often be a jagged line full of peaks and valleys, but I thank God that He promises that transformation can take place now (Romans 12:1-2).  God alone knows the weight of the personal battles each of us fight and one day when we finally hear, “well done good and faithful servant,” those will certainly not be empty words.  Redemption will be complete and we will finally be fixed.  Now, that is incredibly good news.


“Therefore, we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed every day.”  -2 Corinthians 4:16
           
           


Monday, February 25, 2013

Praying for the Oppressed


“Of all things, guard against neglecting God in the secret place of prayer.” 
-William Wilberforce

“Christianity is the story of how the rightful King has landed, you might say in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in his great campaign of sabotage.”  -C.S. Lewis



            Last Friday, I went to a viewing of the documentary, Nefarious:Merchant of Souls.  The film gives voices and faces to the millions of women and children enslaved by the global sex trade.  Although it was extremely difficult to watch, I recommend it for adults and older teenagers.  I have read and seen a lot on this subject, but Nefarious was unique in at least three ways. One, the film included interviews with men who are no longer abusers, highlighting their former enslavement and the hope for redemption. Two, it effectively broadened the definition of trafficking.  Three, most importantly, it portrayed prostitution as not only a cultural, political, and socio-economic problem, but a spiritual problem as well.
            I remember all of the sadness, anger, and fear I felt the first time I learned about the details of the Holocaust in eleventh grade U.S. History.  I wondered how a conscience could grow numb enough to inflict such pain on others.  I wondered how people on the outside could watch and do nothing.  I felt similar feelings when I really began to understand the transatlantic slave trade and the injustices that lead to the civil rights movement.  As an adult, I’ve read sorrowful accounts from various places and cultures, throughout many different periods of history, and sometimes it feels impossible to have hope in this dark, broken world.  It’s hard to have hope that the light of the gospel can break though in places like Cambodia where parents willingly sell their children to be repeatedly raped for money (a practice that reminds me of the parents in the Old Testament who sacrificed their children to other gods).  It’s hard to believe the gospel can bring light to Amsterdam, Bangkok, and Las Vegas.  It’s hard to believe the gospel can be trusted by women who have experienced abuse from those who were supposed to protect them, who have only heard lies and never experienced grace or love.  Yet, some of them have amazing stories of healing and faith.
            I’m glad I saw this documentary during lent, a time when I’m supposed to be preparing my heart for Easter.  I believe, by sins of commission and omission, we are all part of the brokenness in the world and any hope we have stems from Christ alone.  I agree with Paul when he says, “if Christ is not raised than our faith is useless” (1 Corinthians 15:17).  However, if what we sing and say is true, God does care and He did come and He was raised.  He established a kingdom, that is still gaining numbers and power even while the darkness seems to reign, and one day he will come back and all that is hidden will come to light and all that is nefarious will be crushed, forever defeated, and the curse will be lifted, all things will be made new. 
            We, who live in between the two comings, have choices to make.  It can be such a helpless feeling to have ones eyes open to unthinkable evil.  There was a palpable heaviness in the dark room as we watched, muffled sounds of crying or a slight gasp of disbelief occasionally cutting through the silence.  Yet, the makers of the film ended with action points inspired by the great abolitionist William Wilberforce: raise awareness, give money to ministries that work to end trafficking, and pray. 
            I confess it is hard to believe prayer can make a difference, but I agree that this battle is not only physical, but spiritual, and spiritual power is needed to break these chains.  I believe God is close to the broken-hearted and hears their cry.  I believe he calls his church to proclaim “freedom for the captives” (Isaiah 61:1) and he uses us for his purposes.  I believe it is Friday, but Sunday is coming.  “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:2)
           
           
For additional information and prayer guides, check out:

Monday, February 11, 2013

Why I Write


“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”-Maya Angelou

Two years ago I started this blog with this post.  Since that time, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with blogging.  It’s more love than hate; I love the process of writing and it’s encouraging when others can relate to my thoughts and experiences, but, on the other hand, I have a relentless, inner nay-saying voice that can sometimes be hard to ignore.  It’s the voice that tells me I should be using the few free hours I have each week doing something productive like cleaning my house (trust me, it needs all the help it can get) or clipping coupons or exercising or lesson planning, basically anything but clicking away on my laptop at Starbucks, Jam n Java, or Sola Coffee, imposing my thoughts on others.  This voice can sometimes convince me that this whole endeavor is pretty silly and I’ve come close to stopping several times, but I always come back.
I write because there is a “fire in my bones” and I grow “weary from holding it in” (Jeremiah 20:9).  I distinctly remember the wonder of being introduced to creative writing in 4th grade and since that time, it has been hard for me to think, pray, or attempt to make sense of the world around me without writing.  I find myself putting pieces of stories and essays together while driving, putting away the dishes, and taking a shower (which explains at least some of my scatter-brained tendencies).  Phrases and words swirl around in my brain and drive me crazy until they make their way to my hands, and then to a page or a computer screen, where I feel the relief and joy of trapping and organizing them. 
I’ve discovered, with awe and gratitude, that writing can be worship and even ministry.  Unfortunately, it can also be an idol.  There is a thin line.  I find this is true sometimes on days when I love it, but mostly on the days I hate it.  I am, thankfully, taking baby steps to the freedom of not thinking too highly or too lowly of anything God allows me to do or create.  I want to know the beauty of self-forgetfulness as I place my sacrifice on the altar, leaving the rest up to him.  In the parable of the talents (Luke 19:12-28), it is the servant with the least amount of money who is scared to invest it.  Maybe he thought that it would have been worth the risk if he had received a larger share, but he was condemned for not using the portion he had been given.  I try to remember that.
            I think writing, like cooking, acting, building, preaching, crafting, joke-telling, and almost any other activity that comes to mind, is incomplete until it’s shared. I appreciate this place to share and store some of my words and experiences.  I hope one day to pursue other writing projects, but this is just enough for this season.  So, I’m going to do my best to silence the nay-saying voice and I’m going to keep clicking away, grateful for the journey and thankful for those of you who read along. 


 

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...