Archive for February, 2009

Good Conversations…

So thought I’d post parts of a conversation that I had today that both challenged and encouraged me. I don’t want to forget what I learned from the conversation and hope it is challenging and encouraging to others…

J: OK, I’m just going to say this. At the risk of sounding cliche, you’ve got to remember that God is your provider… God is the one who got you that job and if you lose the job then God will be the one to get you a new one. I hesitate to be so blunt since you’re (slightly) older and (much) wiser than I am, but I think you need to remember who your Father is… and that every good thing comes from him. [if you lose your job,] God will find another way to provide what you need. He’s not going to let you down. But you’ve got to trust him. He’s not going to force himself on you. If you want to trust [in others], then God will let you, but [others will] let you down. God won’t.
LA: You’re not cliche. At least not yet. And I KNOW all that (and I figure you know I know – but am obviously not living it or else you wouldn’t sense the need to remind me)… But here’s my question: Is it responsible of me to “let the job go” (so to speak)? Is that “trusting in God” to provide or is that NOT trusting in God for the strength to do the job? I feel like I fail either way. I mean – seriously, what is my part to play in this? What are my responsibilities while trusting in God for His part?
J: You need to do your part. Your part is trusting God to provide for you and in the meantime doing your best to fulfill the job you have. God will do his part. You don’t have to let go of this job – not at all! Your trust in God to provide should give you MORE strength for this job, because you know he’s behind you. And if you’re dependent on him, then you’ll have peace as you work because you know what no matter what happens, you’ve done your part, so God will do his.
LA: And that makes sense and sounds right when I’m sitting here at work – but when I’m home in bed – and the dizziness is not as bad as constant spinning but worse than “I can safely drive and get around” it’s harder. The lines blur. I know it is possible for me to push so hard that I end up hurting myself – because I’ve done that before (and that’s not trusting in God) and yet how do I know when I SHOULD push and how hard (before going too far)?
J: I can’t tell you that. Only you and God can figure that out. But you have the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16) and he has given you his wisdom and discernment so you’ll be able to figure it out. All I can do is pray for you that you will have that wisdom to know when to push and when to rest. And all you can do is ask God for wisdom and inundate yourself with the Word so you can hear God when he speaks to you (which, I’ve found, he often does through the Word)
LA: I keep telling myself to trust my instincts – because they’re usually right. And I figure that it’s not my instincts so much as the Holy Spirit’s guidance – but I don’t trust my instincts because I question if they are the Holy Spirit or simply my own voice… and so I question and second guess. And I want to be able to hear the Voice of God clearly above all so that I can follow that voice… but with my own thoughts and fears and worrying about what others think (so there’s others’ voices, too) my head is SO FULL OF VOICES that it gets so hard to hear God’s…
I’ve had some clear moments. Some times when it is MORE than clear that God is speaking directly to me on a specific situation. Like fire in the desert – or a cloud to follow by day. But sometimes God is in the whisper – not the fire or earthquake or hurricane-winds. And that’s when it becomes difficult.
And I realize that the more time I spend with God – and the more I learn to quiet myself and BE STILL, the more clear that voice will become.
(and of course at that point I chastise myself because if I’d have been better at being still and listening in the FIRST place then maybe I wouldn’t be having these issues now… and then the guilt comes…)
J: You need to stop listening to yourself. Whatever you did or failed to do in the FIRST place is gone now and now you need to focus forward. You’re incredibly talented and you have a wonderful heart for God and for his people. God’s got something awesome planned for you, of that I am absolutely positive. And he started it by using you to minister to us… And he’s going to continue it, so keep looking ahead for the sunrise. It’s coming, I promise. God promises. And he’ll deliver. And I guess that’s all I can tell you. Except that I love you. And I’m praying for you every day.
LA: “My soul waits for the Lord, more than the watchmen wait for the morning, more than the watchmen wait for the morning.”

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romantic comedies…

Mom and I watched a romantic comedy tonight. And I got to thinking tonight about this popular genre. You know, boy and girl miss each other, boy and girl meet each other, boy and girl have mis-communications and issues that drive most of the plot, boy and girl finally get together, tears shed. “It’s so beautiful!”

And there are a few things that all romantic comedies seem to have:

  • Someone always gets drunk
  • There’s always a scene in the rain
  • There is always a mis-communication
  • Someone always either moves or loses a job
  • Someone always has sex before/outside of marriage (perhaps this explains the conflict?)
  • The best friend(s) of the main characters are always comedic, often one-dimensional
  • There’s always a small (romantic) gesture or momento that turns the plot around and finally brings the couple together
  • There are always long speeches on love (whether for good or ill)
  • They are full of cliches
  • Yet there are always one or two lines that actually stand out as good and true
  • Usually, one of those comedic best friends are given one of those lines and so it usually gets lost in the fray…

We watch (or at least I watch – and I imagine many others do to) because we like the emotion, the romanticism of the thing… we enjoy being swept away with all our emotional theories of love…

And while I still enjoy a good RomCom now and again, I find the whole thing getting predictable and feeling rather empty. Empty of a Christian worldview and the biblical principles of love and marriage – which are far from our culture’s.

Which reminds me… I want to see Fireproof. I’ve heard it’s good. (Oh, but please don’t tell me there’s a rain scene in it!)

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Small graces…

So yesterday I wrote a Facebook blog that was basically me ranting and raving and raging (mostly against the healthcare system and somewhat against my health). Earlier in the day I had actually thought about writing this post. But then I got the Aetna notice that they’re not paying a $2000 hospital bill. Hence my rage.

But was thinking today that this post would be much more approprite.

It’s so easy to complain when you’re sick and feeling all tired and crummy and junk. And yet over the past few weeks I have noticed so many little blessings. These are the things I should be focusing on…

• l have great parents who let me live at home, who drive me around when I can’t, who get me food and bring me things when I’m stuck in bed, who make me smile and laugh and tell me they’ll help me get through this.

• I have a couple of friends that I am able to IM with on a regular basis. Say, daily. *grin* They check up on me and make me smile and encourage me and keep me in line when I complain and lose focus of trusting in God.

• I have a recliner (it’s actually Mom’s but she lets me use it) and a laptop and wireless internet that allows me to connect with more friends when I am homebound and dizzy. (Except for the constant spinning – no computing then!)

• I have this nifty little invention they call a cell phone. It stays with me at all times. I have three very important buttons memorized by feel. The voice-activation button. The speaker button. The end button. It allows me to call my Mom in the other room or even my boss if I can’t sit up or even open my eyes.

• I have learned from past episodes of vertigo (though never lasting this much or this long) so that I know for the most part how to handle myself when dizzy – things like walking (sometimes crawling), standing, getting up (and down when absolutely necessary), avoiding looking down, moving about (in general) – things to avoid, things to (kinda) help, things to keep me from completely passing out or falling down and hurting myself…

• And this is the “little thing” that got the idea for this rolling. This year for devos I’m doing the daily offices from the book Celtic Daily Prayers. I found out a few weeks ago that I had already (and inadvertantly) memorized all the confessions of faith and prayers for the morning, midday and evening offices. And I pretty much have my prayer list memorized. I don’t have the 31 daily meditations (one for each day of the month) yet… but still… even if the world is spinning and won’t stop and I can’t read the Bible reading or other readings I can still go through the prayers and my prayer list… and I’ve found a vast store of scripture that I didn’t even realize I had memorized that I can think about, meditate on or simply quote aloud when my head is spinning. And that is a simple, small and yet profound grace I’ve been given. And for that I am very thankful.

• Oh – and those daily confessions of faith and prayers I have memorized? I find I think about them more than just the time of day – and they are good things to confess and pray regularly. And that’s another grace.

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I am a weakling…

Suck it up. Don’t cry. Let it roll off your back. Push through it. Oh, that didn’t hurt. You cry too easily. That’s not going to bruise you. You don’t need help with that. Get over it. You’re too young for that. Rise to the challenge. Think positive. You’re such a weakling.

Things I’ve been told most of my life.
Things I kick and scream and fight against being seen as – as defining me.
Things which still haunt me in the dark times, lurking in the shadows and easily perceived even when they’re not really there.

I have these few memories that I cherish. That I am so very proud of. Like pulling off my wrist braces and climbing to the top of the 50 ft. alpine tower at camp. Like rearranging the dorm room, including de-bunking the heavy Roush beds, all by myself. Feats of physical strength.

I see those episodes like scenes in a movie. Slow motion. Close-ups of hands and feet and grit. Perhaps faint strains of “Chariots of Fire” or the theme from Rocky playing in the background. Because that is what has been epitomized for me. Memorialized in photos and headlines and television screens and motion pictures. Those who train long, work hard, push through to accomplish the goal, win the prize, beat the bad guy. We hail them, these heroes. We admire them, we esteem them, we hold them up as the model for strength – and success and perfection.

Which is why I hold so tightly to those few favored memories of mine.
Which is why I balked the other day when Mom said to me, “you’re just weaker.”

It wasn’t an insult. Wasn’t meant to be. Wasn’t actually. But my inner self screamed out, “what do you mean I’m weaker!?!? Just because I’m having health problems that I can’t “push through” the way others expect me to? Just because I’m having pain that others can’t see? Just because I take a nap or take a pill or splint/heat/elevate body parts so as to take care of problems with my body when others think they are trivial and over-stated? What no one sees is how much my health problems bother me! What no one knows is how much I do push through on a regular basis! Pain, fatigue, fog, dizziness!”

And so I reel.

And much of that is true. I do push through more than most see. Things are better than they were a couple years ago, but I still struggle. And every time I re-cycle an old symptom or start fighting a new one (like now), I feel as though I’m starting all over again. And I do get frustrated with a society that says on one hand “if you don’t look sick (or if you’re not throwing up or if you’re not in the hospital or if the docs can’t name it or if we’ve never heard of it) then you’re not really sick” and on the other “well don’t keep complaining, no one wants to hear about your problems.” And so I get frustrated when I try to be cheerful and not complain and people say “well, you don’t look or act sick.”

Because I want to be seen as strong. As an overcomer. As a winner.
Because that’s what our society values.
Because I want to be valued.

But what if I’ve been wrong? What if the memories that I cherish so much aren’t really the ones I should be cherishing? What if there’s nothing wrong with being weak?

Where do we get the idea that strength (particularly physical) is to be so esteemed and sought after and that weakness is to be abhorred and kept away from? From a culture that idolizes action movie stars and superheroes? From a society that worships sports heroes and athletic prowess? From incorrigible remnants of Greek thought which idealize strong, disciplined physical bodies? From the Bible?

We have a tendency to remember and picture the strong in the Bible. Jacob rolling away a heavy stone to water the flock (he got the girl) or wrestling with God… Moses as a mighty prince of Egypt (thank you, Dreamworks)… Samson… David with Goliath… David’s Mighty Men… Elijah outrunning a chariot… 3 Hebrew boys not getting burned in a fiery furnace… Peter the fishermen (almost always pictured as big and strong)…

Lest we forget where their strength really came from.
Lest we forget how many more were used in their weakness…

Abraham and Sarah were old and childless. Moses stuttered. Ehud was left-handed (often perceived as a weakness). Gideon was unsure. David was just a shepherd boy (with a heart for God). Jeremiah felt too young (and is known for his weeping!). (Several of the writing prophets had issues.) Timothy was young and had stomach issues. Paul wasn’t the greatest speaker and had some sort of physical issue…

It was Paul who wrote, “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong” (1 Cor. 1.27) and “On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary” (1 Cor. 12.22).

Most of the time in the New Testament the Greek word for weak or weakness is (or comes from the root of) asthenes. (Those who’ve read The Rising of the Light should be familiar with this word.) It comes from the word sthenos (strength) and really means “without strength” (in the same way that apathy = a-pathos = without passion). It is used referring to physical weakness as well as weakness relating to the law, faith and even consciousness. Most of the time when weakness is used in reference to faith or the law, it is in a negative sense (ie. what the law was weak to do). Yet most of what I see in terms of physical weakness or weakness in general (from Paul) is not really negative.

God has chosen the weak things to shame the strong things. What seems to be weaker is necessary. Boasting in weaknesses.

And the famous passage in 2 Cor. 12 “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (vs. 9-10).

When people would quote that verse to me, I would picture those movies again. People summoning inner strength at the climax of the sequence. As though I should use that verse to ignore or easily push through the problems.

Of note here is that when Paul says “for when I am weak, then I am strong” he is not using asthenes and sthenos. Rather he uses asthenes in comparison with dunatos, which is from the word dunamis. And dunamis, as many scholars and preachers expound on, is typically used in reference to God’s power or miraculous power (as opposed to normal human stuff). Which is cool. Because it’s not saying that when I am physically weak then I somehow come up with some physical strength… but it’s saying more that when I am weak than it is God’s strength that comes through. God’s sustaining grace!

What I have found is that sometimes God’s grace is grace to rest and take time to heal when needed. Sometimes God’s strength means simply surviving the pain or dizziness and hanging on for better days. Sometimes it is the grace to accept very real limitations and the strength to let go of my plans (and, sometimes, others’ plans for me). And sometimes (but not always), it is the strength to climb 50 ft. alpine towers.

So I have to learn to be okay with being weak. Being seen as weak. Being called weak. I have a body that is broken by chronic illness and does tend to get sick easily. But I have a God who IS strong and who DOES give grace. What I need, when I need it. Whether I “feel” it or not.

Thus I must forsake my pride over those few strong memories. Instead there are other memories I need to hold onto. Ones in which God is glorified rather than me. That time in college when I felt at my worst and was told “I can really see God through you right now”… That time I got a test back, not even remembering what it was about, and having a good grade (that was the semester where my memories have big black holes from my health issues)… Those paper plate awards that show others seeing God at work in my life when I felt weak and broken….

I am a weakling.
And that’s okay.

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