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Archive for July, 2012

waking well

The question, “how did you sleep?” has always bothered me.

I sleep notoriously not well. Trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, tossing and turning, pain and discomfort, frantic nightmares… and none of it consistent.

Thing is, I can’t do anything about it. Well, for the most part. I mean, getting to bed at a consistent (and early) time, having a good and relaxing pre-bed routine, turning off electronics and lights, having a good bed, controlling room temperature, ensuring proper breathing throughout the night, stretching before bed, taking supplements like melatonin or magnesium, quieting my mind… all of those can have some small effect. But for the most part, the culprit is my fibromyalgia.

So “sleeping well” is largely out of my hands.

Not something I can control.

Not a choice.

I found a friend who is the same way.

Different cause.

Same result.

We hate the “how did you sleep?” and “did you sleep well?” questions.

She, perhaps, more vehemently.

So earlier this spring when I came across the “try these phrases” section of the “learn about this country” page in a children’s devotional book at work, my attention was immediately riveted. The country in question was Namibia and the phrases were in one of the tribal languages. One phrase in particular stuck out.

Wa penduka nawa.

It’s how you say “good morning.”

But it literally means, “did you wake well?”

Did you wake well?

The concept was revelatory:

Even if I don’t sleep well, I can wake well!

I introduced my friend to this phrase (it was thrilling for her, too) and so we will often now ask each other,

Wa penduka nawa?

Did you wake well?

Over the past few weeks, however, I have had many a morning when I awake fuzzy, confused, disoriented and discombobulated. I’m pulling out of nightmares or moving into pain and I’m not sure if I’m waking or awake or what is really going on.

Those first few moments are hazy.

The processors in my brain need longer than my eyelids to open.

So I began to dread even the question, “did you wake well?”

But this morning I realized something.

Waking well isn’t something that happens.

Waking well is a choice.

“Waking well” isn’t about the instant my ears perceive my alarm and I (ideally) throw open my eyes, smile and jump out of bed ready to take on the day…

“Waking well” isn’t the first opening of my eyelids to take in the new day’s light.

“Waking well” isn’t the first breath of the wakened morn.

“Waking well” is my first choice of the day.

It’s choosing my focus.

My attitude.

My gratitude.

Sleeping well is a chance.

Waking well is a choice.

I will choose to wake well.

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thoughts on thoughts

Shall I begin by mentioning how much the themes of “thoughts” and “focus” have come up in the past few months? Shall I let you know that God has been whispering them to me again and again, opening my eyes and molding my heart in respect to those two ideas?

So that it is no wonder to you what caught my eye when I read Isaiah 55:6-7 this morning?

Seek the Lord while He may be found;
Call upon Him while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
And let him return to the Lord,
And He will have compassion on him,
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.

Sometimes – too often? – it’s easy to sort of rather skip over or simply scan verses which speak of the “wicked” or the “unrighteous” thinking that they don’t apply to me.  (I have, after all, been made clean by the blood of Jesus.)

Yet today a voice said, “not so fast!”

Because something stood out.

v. 6 speaks of seeking the Lord

v. 7 tells the wicked to forsake their ways and thoughts.

“Thoughts” was what first caught my eye…

It’s the contrast. Notice the contrast. Seeking God versus following our own way; calling upon God versus carrying on with our own thoughts…

Focusing on our thoughts (or the Enemy’s) takes our eyes off of God. Where they belong.

And God’s thoughts and ways are so much better! (see v. 8)

My focus holds one thing at a time.

Either my (own human-tendancy) thoughts, which are too often negative, hopeless, distracted, overwhelmed or outright sinful…

or God.

Oh that I would forsake – to turn away from and let go of – my own thoughts to seek God.

Turn my eyes upon Jesus…

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guide me

The Lord alone guided him,
And there was no foreign god with him.
                                                          Deuteronomy 32:12

Oh, Lord, guide me.

Guide me in this dream…

Confirm again this call… or else reveal the change of it into something new.

May I not look to my feelings nor my imagination nor my own faulty logic.

May I not make gods of them.

For false gods would they be.

Foreign, strange and powerless.

Instead, I turn to you.

To your words, your truth, your voice, your vision and the wisdom of your people who are also hearing from you.

Help me to hear.

Help me to see.

Guide me, O Lord.

Confirm again this call.

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Call. Confirmation. Choice.

I wrestle with the call.

May 4th changed everything.

Last July everything seemed so clear. God was birthing within me a new dream and as I sought and prayed everything seemed so clear. I blogged about it. A couple of times. Including here and here.

I began to make plans for working out a long-term plan for my future tea business. But in January my health began to deteriorate and I sought an appointment with my specialist on the other side of the country. On May 4th I received the devastating news that not only had I regressed and not only would I have to re-start the treatment that could give me my life back, but that I could no longer have tea. No tea.

I questioned and I cried and I stumbled… and I came to peace. Peace that my dream could still be fulfilled even without tea passing my lips. But the journey has been more difficult than I anticipated. As I’ve recounted before (namely here and here), I am realizing more and more how insanely difficult this is for me… to serve and share and teach the wonders of tea but not drink it.

Can this be right?

Is this dream still valid?

How can someone run a tea business and not drink any tea?

It’s like asking an alcoholic to open a bar or someone with Celiac to open a bakery…

Or maybe it’s more like telling a nearly centenarian with an equally old and barren wife that he will birth an entire nation? Or telling a man who can’t talk without stuttering that he will lead a nation and that he will essentially become a “voice” for that nation? Or revealing to a man that he will rise to a place of great prominence only to see him sold as a slave and then wrongly imprisoned, now the lowest of the low?

It seems as though I follow a God who loves to play in irony.

Yet still I wonder, is God still calling me to this dream of a tea business?

Is the dream still valid?

Because I know that God can do the impossible. I’ve seen it time and time again in the Bible, in history, in the lives of others and in my own life. I have an Ebenezer Hand full of rocks to prove it. I have a gift list of 2,511 gifts (and counting) to chronicle it. And if that’s still the dream, still the call, I will still follow…

But I also know that sometimes God puts us onto one path so that we can meet up with another path, one that would have been out of reach (or not as clear) from where we originally started. And I can say with certainty that had I not delved into tea like I did the past year and not started enjoying it as much as I did, then the doctor would have never picked up on the fact that the medicine I had been taking was in the wrong form and not working properly for my body.

So was that the point? Was that the endgame?

Or is this dream still valid?

I’m still wrestling with the call. Hoping for a re-confirmation.

And grateful that God reminded me this afternoon that even if I’m groping for him in the dark, He is still here. Still present.

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For awhile I thought I was hiding from God’s call. Ever since I saw the sermon title on the church sign early on last week, anticipating this past Sunday’s edition to our current “Hide and Seek” series, I began to wonder. I mean, I’m not doing anything towards my call right now. I’m rather standing still. Or so I thought.

And Sunday when he preached about Saul hiding in the supplies (1 Samuel 9-10), I began to question whether I was also hiding. Not actively fleeing like Jonah, but simply hiding among the luggage. The baggage.

I have lots of baggage.

A trail of failed plans, unfinished starts and deflated dreams. A broken body that makes cooking dinner difficult many days let alone opening a restaurant. And a tea restriction.

I thought a lot about Saul the past two days. And a lot about baggage.

Was I hiding among my own baggage?

And, really, is seeing “baggage” there in the passage merely an anachronistic reading colored by today’s pop psychology terminology?

The NIV uses the term supplies in 1 Samuel 10:22. The NASB (among others) uses baggage. The Complete Jewish Bible uses equipment.

Wondering if I was reading too much into it, I looked up the Hebrew. When in doubt, go to the original language, right?

The word is keliy.

You know, I had a theology professor my freshman year of college who was absolutely driven berserk by the abundant use of the words thing and stuff. “Don’t be lazy!” he would rant at us, “there are more specific terms. Use them!” I think if Doc Fetters had been teaching us in Hebrew instead of English, he would have been ranting against the word keliy.

Keliy basically means an article, object, apparatus, vessel, implement… It’s a “thing” which is variously translated vessel, instrument, weapon, jewel, stuff, thing, armor, furniture and baggage, among others, simply based on context.

Keliy is stuff.

Saul was hiding among the stuff. So it doesn’t necessarily mean “baggage” in the way we think of it – and even the way I’ve heard it preached in the past (although not this week, not specifically anyhow).

Still, I continued to ruminate on Saul hiding among the stuff.

And this is what I realized:

  • Saul was hiding among stuff.

Duh, right? But really. Stuff. Objects. Saul had been called to be Israel’s first king. And when the time came to step up he was hiding among… objects. He was with things rather than with people. The people he was called to lead. Maybe it’s not so much what exactly the stuff was, but simply in that he was with it rather than among the people where he should have been… makes one think…

  • The stuff was there for a reason.

Being the curious type, I wondered why there was baggage there. I mean, it’s not like all the tribal and clan leaders had just flown into LAX and were down at the baggage claim discussing their new king… or were they? The people had gathered for this all important occasion. They had asked for a king and now they were getting one. So yeah, I suppose there would have been luggage and supplies for traveling (and camping out) for this all-important meeting and coronation. And speaking of coronations… the NIV translation uses supplies, right? If they are seeking God and choosing a new king and setting up a kingly covenant and all, isn’t it likely there were supplies for that? Oil, perhaps, or even supplies for a sacrifice?

The point is, whether it was literally the supplies to be used for the coronation or simply the luggage required by the people in order to make it to this important event, that stuff was there for that event. For the coronation.

And if my health and body issues are really baggage is it possible to see them more in the way of supplies? As part of the whole deal? As stuff to work with rather than around?

Because isn’t it in my weakness that God shines all the more?

Now there’s some stuff to think on…

(Sorry, Dr. Fetters!)

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Ever since I awoke this morning three people have been on my mind.

I owe them letters.

And what I mean by “owe” is that I want to write to them and to respond to them. I’ve wanted to do this for a day and for a few weeks.

Three different people. Three different perspectives.

And today is the day.

And though some are expecting a response, some are wondering if it will ever happen and some have no clue what to expect, it is and has been my deepest desire that my words are not mine alone. But that wisdom and encouragement come from God via me to them.

So ever since I awoke these three have been on my mind and I’ve been thinking of them and their situations and, most of all, praying about it. Praying for words and wisdom. Praying for God’s hand to lead my hands as they type…

And then I sat down for my sit-down time with God. My Lectio time. And I could not hold back my smile when I saw the verses.

Psalm 139:7-10, which read:

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.

It was a gentle reminder and response to my morning prayers. God’s spirit is with me. God’s presence is here. God’s hand does lead and God does hold me fast (“hold me fast” is the NIV rendering of the end of v. 10 that I memorized as a child).

Even more so, I think the words speak to my friends.

For they are not alone, either. And whether they ascend to heaven or make their beds in Sheol, whether they take the wings of the dawn or dwell in the remotest part of the sea… whether they are climbing new heights in their relationship with God or they feel as though they’re going through hell, whether they long for wings to fly away from situations or literally go to live in the remotest parts of the world… Even there, God is. Whether they feel alone or are (physically) alone, they are not alone. Not really. For God’s hand still leads. God’s mighty right hand still holds fast.

And as though a reminder of God’s presence and guidance wasn’t enough for me. And as if seeing these words as needed in their lives wasn’t enough, either… there is this:

It’s Psalm 139.

The same Psalm which was read within hours of the birth of one friend and within hearing of another. The same Psalm which was a springboard for encouragement in a cramped van and was preached again recently as we sat side by side with our knowing smiles.

The same Psalm.

The same God.

Do you see it? Do you see why my heart thrills to praise this morning? How good God is? How wonderfully and intricately woven this is? How God provides what I need to hear when I need to hear it?

God is good.

And I am not alone.

They are not alone.

You are not alone.

Just. Look.

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Today has been a rough day. My highest symptom day all year, in fact. I went to bed at 9:15 last night, had trouble falling asleep and then woke 3 times – before 11:15 PM. After that I lost count. But it was tossing and turning and being dizzy and having dreams within dreams within dreams and many of them dizzy. I’ve been very dizzy all day, unable to make it out of bed until 11 and spending almost all the rest of the day either sitting up in bed or in the recliner at that special angle that seems to help a tad. Plus all my main areas of fibro-pain have been super hot spots today. Neck, back, wrists and legs all painful and not letting me get comfortable or really rest. That spasm-spot in my back was acting up, too, though (thankfully) less severely. Then there was the pounding headache that started yesterday and continued all day today. Plus a handful of other random symptoms including hunger, nausea, hot flashes, shaking, teeth grinding, fatigue and fibro-fog.

So suffice it to say it was a difficult day.

Early on my friend sent me a message that included a line about how appropriate it was that today’s Lectio included a line about God as our refuge.

Reading is difficult when dizzy and with a pounding head… so it was much later in the day until I was actually able to accomplish looking up the verses and doing today’s Lectio. But I was looking forward to it. After all, if there was ever a day I needed refuge, it was today. If only from the torments of my own broken body.

But I found no mention of “refuge” when I read Psalm 40:4-5, which says:

How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust,
And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.
Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders which You have done,
And Your thoughts toward us;
There is none to compare with You.
If I would declare and speak of them,
They would be too numerous to count.

I thought it was me. I thought that perhaps, with the dizziness and pounding head I had somehow missed the word “refuge.” I looked again and I still could not find it. I even glanced over the rest of the Psalm. But no “refuge.”

But when I reread my verses, I noticed the interesting wording of that first line.

How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust

The way it reads, the word “refuge” could easily fit in there where “trust” is.

Knowing my friend often uses a different translation than I do, I pulled out my handy iPhone and looked up some other translations. (My iPhone is especially convenient when I’m dizzy because I can hold it up eye level and don’t have to move my head to look at it.) Sure enough, the Amplified Bible uses both “refuge” and “trust” in that line.

So I switched to my Blue Letter Bible app and looked up the original Hebrew. It’s mibtach. It means “trust, confidence, refuge.” The outline of biblical usage shows it is used as the

  • act of confiding
  • object of confidence
  • state of confidence, security

But really, what the Hebrew told me was the same as what hit me when it first came to mind that mine said “trust” where hers said “refuge.”

Refuge is trust.

I had never connected the two like that. God has been working on my trust issues (in our relationship and in general) for the past few years. And because God does good work, I can clearly say that I am trusting my Lord much more – and much more readily – than I used to.

Yet still, when I pictured “refuge” it was always and exclusively as a shelter. A place to hide. Honestly, as I realized today, I would image a secure place where I would run in and cower and tremble alone in the dark knowing the walls were sure and firm.

But that’s where it stopped.

It never occurred to me that trust was a part of it. That making God my refuge really means that I’m trusting God. Actively. (And not alone.) Trust is an act of confiding and if God is my trust then God is the object of my confidence.

And yes, I’m dizzy and tired and scattered and in pain and so this may not make sense written out and I’m quite sure it won’t have a neat and tidy summation or wrap-up here at the end. But the point of tauta logizomai is to encourage you to also think on these things. So consider this revelation with me. God is my refuge. God is my trust.

And consider what a great and loving God we have, one who knows us best (and loves us just the same)… who speaks the right words at the right time… so that today of all days, when I most needed a refuge – physically from the symptoms, mentally from negative thoughts and emotionally from falling into despair – on this day God not only showed me again where to look for my refuge, but where again it is that I am to place my trust.

And I have reason to trust.

Oh, so many reasons!

Just in case you missed it – I didn’t – notice how the Psalm, like my thoughts did naturally after my revelation, turns to praise God:

There is none to compare with You.
If I would declare and speak of them,
They would be too numerous to count

Too numerous to count? Indeed. Yet I’m counting anyway. If for no other reason than to remind myself that God is my trust.

2,366 reasons to trust. And still counting…

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