Thursday, October 28, 2010

Progress Report

After a rough few weeks of setbacks in September, the last two weeks have brought renewed, slow health gains.  The new asthma inhaler at the beginning of the month helped, but last week the doctor made one more change which seems better still.

My new best friend

Last week also started 30 days of "My Life the Science Fair Experiment" as a prescription sinus irrigation compound replaced the previous plain saline solution.  And yes, that's just as much fun as it sounds.  [Smile.  It's not so bad and does help.]  This is reportedly the last resort for sinus infections and generally effective, but it is too soon to know how well it will work for me.

(If any readers live in Conroe, Texas, and have special prescription needs, Richie's Pharmacy, my doctor's choice for fulfilling this order, provided excellent customer service, fast shipping, and patient answers to all my questions.)

With the recent changes, I have been able to drive myself on a few short errands to the book drop, ATM, and the like.  My comfort and stamina limit for occasional chauffered outings or visitors at home has not really progressed beyond an hour to an hour and a half, but the pain and recovery time are less than they were a month ago.  For the last two Sundays, I have even been able to participate in worship at our nearest evangelical church.

We have one more doctor's appointment this week, on the day this posts, with a new specialist.  My asthma and lupus doctors feel it's important to make certain asthma is the only respiratory issue, and it's possible that a physician from a different discipline will have new insight or recommendations on continued treatment.  Depending on the outcome of that visit, I may have two weeks off from medical appointments before the next round commences.  That would be a welcome respite.

That's the generally positive update on physical health.

Internally, there are growing pains today.  As the necessary holiday discussions begin, I'm feeling frustration over the need to plan possibilities yet avoid commitment and disappointment in likely disappointing others.  Thanksgiving and Christmas are the next landmarks ahead on the trail, and we don't at all know whether our particular path will move toward or away from time with family on those days.  We do know it's still very important to minimize stress and not overdo, even if that should require a "no" to good and important activities.

Truthfully, we don't know whether I'll feel like eating out at a restaurant for our Saturday date or going to church on Sunday.  A month ahead seems like an eternity.  Day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment are the way decisions happen here.  On the day of this writing, there have already been several course corrections as energy waxed and waned for no obvious reason.

Perhaps this is a good frustration, though.  It is the humbling of my pride and independence, the pruning of cultural confidence in plans and calendars, the reminder that every desire and plan is "if the Lord wills."  It is another opportunity to trust God to meet my family's needs as well as my own.  It is good for me to learn, again, Elisabeth Elliot's favorite lesson, "Do the Next Thing."  Anything that heightens my sense of dependence on God, as this does, is a good thing.

That's the progress report: mostly positive and not entirely comfortable, but that's ok.  Even good.

The LORD is good to those who wait for him,
   to the soul who seeks him.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Slow Down and Chew

Ebony and I have a bad habit.  We eat too fast.  He has an excuse in the indeterminate amount of time he fended for himself between his previous home and rescue by animal control.  My mother blames my tendency to speed-eat on a decade of 20-minute school lunches.  My sisters seem to eat like normal people, however, so I'm not sure that's it.  I can slow down if I try, but I don't always think to do so, unless it's in a social setting where I'm self-conscious.

If I'm not careful, I can do the same thing with Scripture, scanning the pages and chapters to get it done and cross it off my list.  Eating too fast is unattractive and not very healthy; taking the same attitude to the Bible is downright wrong.  And yet I may slip into it unless I actively choose not to.

That's one way memorizing portions of Scripture helps me: it slows me down to savor the nuances of the words.  This slow, focused immersion in a text brings to light patterns I had not noticed before.  In last week's verses, Lamentations 3:22-27, one session brought out attributes of God.  Another highlighted the word "good."  Another showed me the contrast between the book title and the ideas presented.  These precious, beautiful, empowering promises fall smack-dab in the middle of Lamentations!

The effort to learn Bible verses by memory, whether successful or not, also helps saturate my thoughts with God's truth.  So many false ideas accost me during a given day, whether from the media or my own background and sin patterns, that I need to invest time in replacing them with something better.

The memory method that seems to work best for me is one I've heard from multiple sources.  First the learner reads the verse aloud 10 times; then she says it (with help as needed) 10 times; then she continues to review until it sticks.  It's surprising how well this works, even when I think I'm too tired to learn a new verse.  For me personally, the extra step of copying the text out by hand helps, but that's part of my learning style.  Others can learn straight off the page of their Bibles.  An existing melody for two verses of last week's portion also helped tremendously; otherwise six verses would probably have required longer than a week.

Sometimes I truly am too tired or hurting to retain the verse, but while I am working on it I can't be thinking rubbish, and that's a victory in itself.  With or without long-term retention, the process is its own reward. My hope is that someday the practice of Scripture memory will reset my mind's idle state or screensaver to truth and away from falsehood.

Daily learning and review shapes my prayers, as well.  Slow meditation on a few verses shows me how to praise, what to confess, what obedience looks like, and how God's Word connects with my loved ones' needs so I can make truer requests for them.  Usually my own felt need drives my choice of verses to learn, but the review process often links them up to other peoples' concerns.  This is one way I learn to pray "according to God's will," by praying His breathed-out Word.

The Bible verses committed to memory are also my most portable ones, even when I still need the cards.  This is my Scripture for stoplights, grocery lines, and walking the dog; for waiting rooms, pre-op, and dentist's chairs; for tooth-brushing, dishwashing, and laundry folding.  There are so many moments and places I can turn my heart towards the Lord but might not recognize without a habit like Scripture memory.

While I am by no means a stellar or even consistent practitioner, when I work at learning Bible verses by heart it enriches me.  When I neglect it, I am impoverished.  Scripture memory slows me down to see better, saturates my thoughts with truth, shapes my prayers, and sets my thoughts towards the Lord when my hands and feet are busy.

Please read this as a testimony, not a sermon, and one which reflects my failures and false starts as much as my successes.

How about you?  Have you tried this discipline?  How does it help you?  Please feel free to share your own experience or current memory goals in the comments or by e-mail so we can learn from each other and I can learn from you.

holy experience

Monday, October 25, 2010

Gratitude 10: The Nearness of God

Saturday afternoon, Husband calls from the backyard, "Sweetie, get the camera!"

At the door, ready to hand it out to him, I see him crouched by the lantana and blue mistflower, cupping something carefully in his hands.  Slowly he approaches me, and I see it is a large monarch butterfly.

My excitement over the photo op quickly morphed into sadness.  The lower edge of one wing was damaged, as if it had been gnawed.

She said, "Oh, no!  What can we do?  He's going to die like that, unable to get to the plants or evade the birds or go to Mexico with his friends!  This is awful!"

He said, "I think he's old and very weak.  The wing doesn't look too damaged for him to fly, so maybe he just needs food to recover his strength.  I'll put him in the flowers so he can eat, and maybe he'll be all right."

That he did.  So very gently, he set the butterfly in the blue mist, where like an infant suckling it immediately found the nectar.  The dog was outside as well by this time, so I stayed and watched as the wounded insect crept around the flowers and ate.  He did look happier, at least, if not stronger.

Storms soon broke here, and waves of rain and thunder and tornado warnings passed through.  I have not seen the butterfly today, but he's still in my thoughts.

As I asked the Lord what to make of this curious encounter, I remembered this:
"The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
         And saves those who are crushed in spirit" (Psalm 34:18).

And this:
He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
       he drew me out of deep waters.
  He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
       from my foes, who were too strong for me.
 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
       but the LORD was my support.
  He brought me out into a spacious place;
       he rescued me because he delighted in me (Psalm 18:16-19).

And this:
 "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:9-11).

Today, then, I give thanks for the nearness of God to those with broken wings,
for His grace to rescue and restore us,
for a husband who shows me God's gentleness,
for butterflies and sunrises,
for rain and protection in the storms,
and for a day when the groaning of Creation will be satisfied in freedom and redemption.
(Gratitude list 1501-1506)

May you know His nearness in your need and call today.

holy experience

Friday, October 22, 2010

Marah: A Meditation on John 11:1-12:8

This post continues the theme begun in Delay: A Poem earlier this week.

Sickness in the house.
Unaccustomed weakness,
Sleepless nights-
"We must send for Him."
A message sent -
"Your friend is sick."
No demands.
He knows the need;
He loves us;
He will come.

Counting the hours,
The miles-
The patient takes a turn.
Lamplight vigil-
Not much time left.

The messenger returns,
"This sickness is not unto death,
But for the glory of God,
For the glory of His Son."

He’s coming.
I knew He would!
Or else-
The official’s daughter-
A healing at a distance?
"Not unto death…"
He loves us;
He will heal my brother.


Within hours,
A sudden change
For the worse.
Where is He?
Why hasn’t He come?
Unexpected delay wakes
Doubts of His love,
Not knowing
His underestimated love
Wakes deeper faith.

Lazarus dies.
"Not unto death?"
Remembered healings…
Perhaps still-?
What agony of despairing hope,
As days and night blur
In the perpetual midnight of my tears.

One day passes,
The third day-
Soul takes flight,
Hope gives out,
Shut away with Lazarus
Behind the stone wall of death.


Children running,
"He’s coming!"
Too little, too late.
Sitting here,
Surrounded by these shards of shattered dreams,
Left staring at the gaping wound
Where Love once was…
Why does He come?
He didn’t love enough
To keep Death away.
Why now?

Let Him come, then.
And let Martha meet Him.
I doubt He even notices
I’m not there.
If He really cared,
He would have hastened to our need.
How could I have been so foolish
As to trust Him?

"This sickness will not end in death…"
If He deceived us once,
What of the rest?
I should have known
It was too good
To be true.


"The teacher is asking for you, Mary."
He noticed.
Have I misjudged Him?

Half-blind with tears,
Crumpling in a heap at His feet,
Full of compressed questions,
Accusations exploding into sobs--
If you had been here…"

The look on His face…
But the bow splintered
In my mouth,
The shared pain in His eyes
Puncturing my bitterness.
He did love Lazarus.
Surely He could have –

"Remove the stone."
Now? After four days?
A cryptic prayer,
A shout-

Fresh tears,
Ashamed to rejoice,
Ashamed not to…
He does love,
Loves me,
Loves us.
I believe;
Have mercy on my unbelief.


A banquet-
Jesus there.
No sitting in the house this time!

I will trust you
With my brother,
My sister,
My tears.

No more playing it safe,
Holding back a little something
Just in case.

Empty me of every last hoarded drop
Of cherished treasure
That keeps me at arm’s length
From You.

My all is Yours.

The relic of my doubts-
Perfume purchased for the corpse
Partaking of the feast-
Alabaster doubts
Shattered at His feet,
The expensive fragrance
Of true faith,
The costly lesson
of trust against all evidence.

Marah no longer.
Made sweet by merest contact with His feet,
Whose sweetness fills the house.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Resurrection in Our Backyard

The fall monarch butterfly migration has arrived in north Texas.  I have consistently counted five at a time in the blue mist flowers.  On Wednesday of this week there were 10!

They remind me of a quote of unknown origin which came to me through Elisabeth Elliot's excellent book, A Path Through Suffering:

"What the caterpillar calls the end of the world,
the Creator calls a butterfly."

May all your endings, kind reader, become doorways to such beautiful new life.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Delay: A Poem

Ann Voskamp features "The Spiritual Practice of Feasting on His Word" this week on her regular spiritual disciplines series.  As I was sifting through ideas, an article on Jesus' tears at Lazarus' grave reminded me that poetry is one way for me personally to "read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest" the Scriptures.  Creative response only proceeds from a slow steeping in the passage, and the crafting of the poem (or song or painting or story or drama, if you have another bent) requires still further meditation.

For me, any discipline that makes me slow down and chew the thoughts, the sentences, and the words enhances the pleasure of the feast.  The benefit comes chiefly to the writer-creator through the process.  In this context, the aesthetic excellence of the finished product is not the chief end.

In my study times over the years, the same Biblical account of Jesus and Lazarus' family which Makoto Fujimura's essay discusses has generated two poems, or something like poems.  The first appears below.  I pray it encourages you to explore the possibilities of your own creative response to God's Word.


Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.  When therefore He heard that he was sick, He stayed then two days longer in the place where He was (John 11:5-6).

He loved them, so He waited…
    Until the last moment,
    Beyond it,
    Until death had firmly taken hold,
    Until hope had gone
        And mourners filled the house.

He loved them, so He waited…
    Until impossibility
    Made room for Glory.

holy experience

Monday, October 18, 2010

Gratitude 9: Communion of Saints

"I believe in... the communion of saints," profess Christians in many worship services for the last two millennia and around the globe.  As I understand it, this phrase refers to Scripture's teaching that all who have believed in Christ (including those who have come before and those who follow after, as well as the present generation), are "one body," "made to drink of one Spirit," and "one in Christ Jesus."  Some key passages would include Jesus' prayer in John 17 and Paul's writings in Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12.

The Bible is clear about this unity of believers, and the doctrine is not so hard for me to accept, but the experience of this mystery over the past week and a half has alternately taken my breath away and knocked the wind clean out of me.  A great blessing of this oneness is the capacity, from my own living room, to participate actively through prayer in Christian work around the world.  Furthermore, a post I hadn't planned to write, shared on a day I hadn't planned to post, can become an arrow in God's hand straight into the need of a friend mere hours before that need came to a crisis.  Because of the oneness of believers, I can taste the sweetness of others' answers to prayers and benefit from other Christians' experiences, however far removed in time and space.

However, oneness with the body of Christ also means I taste the salt of my brothers' and sisters' tears when they lose loved ones or receive word that, yes, the tests showed cancer.  I taste the sour tang of hopes disappointed, again.  I taste the bitterness of anger, strife, and dissension in the household of God.  The whole body suffers in the fracture of a single limb.

Thanks be to God that our Lord Jesus Christ has already tasted the full flavor spectrum of our experiences.  We are His body, after all; He lives the sweet, salt, sour, and bitter with us.  With Him we can do all these things.  It is He who holds us all together for His glory.

On this basis I give thanks today by faith. . .
for at least 3 clear "yes!" answers to prayers for others this week;
for the multitude of other prayers still pending;
for the Spirit's intercession with and for us;
for answers before we even ask;
for God's grace to turn these crumbs into a meal for someone else;
for tears for others to drive away self-pity;
for a Day coming when all true hopes will be fulfilled;
for a remedy for all fractured relationships at the Cross;
for real communion with those who pray for me and for whom I pray;
for Christian fellowship beyond time and space;
and for the clarity and mystery of the creeds.
(God's endless gifts, #1365-1375)

"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, 
and the love of God, 
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, 
be with you all" (2 Cor. 13:14).

holy experience

Friday, October 15, 2010

Surrender: A Poem

Thy will be done— 
Four little words,
Mighty in the divine fiat
To tumble mountains,
Overthrow kingdoms;
Open prison bars,
Shut lions’ mouths;
Strengthen Gethsemanes,
Cheat death of its prey.

Mere syllables—
As You wish,
A verbal curtsy—
To unleash the Lion of Judah
Into the jungle of my circumstances.
On close inspection,
Wasn’t the back door of His cage
Open all along?
Yet in meekness
The Lion waits,
Until I bid Him
Do His bidding.

Thy will be done
The noblest petition,
Choosing His choice;
The one prayer
Never refused,
Always heard,
Had for the asking.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Christmas in October

Ah, fall!
The newly crisp morning air kissing cheeks until they blush...
The green leaves just beginning to fade yellow or flame saffron...
Children's recess shouts and laughter and the drilling drumline of the marching band drifting in on the breeze...
Halloween candy and high school football...
The sweet strains of Christmas music in the air...

Yes, you read that right.  At my house, October means the start of Christmas music.  If you, like me, have spent approximately two decades  participating in church and school choirs, you probably understand.  For the rest of you, October (right after the fall concert and All-Region auditions) is when the music fairy visits choir rooms everywhere under cover of darkness to fill the folders with songs of silver bells, sugarplums, and a Savior.  Actually, in 2010 it's termed "seasonal" music, but when I was in school "Christmas" was still the standard usage.

Usually, Messiah choruses are the first into the player, but this year I, um, already started listening to those in, ahem, late summer.  Or maybe August.  Or, uh, July.  Instead, the earworm of the day is "All Is Well," from the first Michael W. Smith Christmas album.

As I look around me and read through my prayer list, I am thankful for this song stuck in my head.  It is a sermon I need to hear now and not to save to go under the tree in a couple of months.  It has been a challenging season here, and all around me friends are ill, discouraged, bereaved, struggling with difficult jobs and relationships or the lack of either, and generally groaning with the rest of the sin-sick creation for the glorious freedom and redemption yet to come.

Even so, even with all the pain of life, all is well for the children of God.  Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, was born into our pain as a vulnerable infant.  He took up residence in the joys and sorrows of our days and knew them in every respect except sin.  That sin He bore in a horrible death on a cross so that those who trust Him might bear His righteousness as a gift.  The grave could not hold Him, but He rose on the third day and later ascended to the right hand of the Father until the time is right for His return in glory.

Until then, He remains our Immanuel, "God with us."  All truly is well because of Jesus.

Lord, we believe; help our unbelief.  Make each soul reading these words especially aware of Your presence with him, with her today.  Amen.

"All shall be well,
and all shall be well,
and all manner of things shall be well."
       -Dame Julian of Norwich (c.1342-c.1416)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Gratitude 8: Thanks, Y'all!

Yesterday as I read about Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian oh so gently lifting Jeremiah out of a muddy cistern, his kindness and encouragement made me think of you.

Some of you know me personally, yet you come here anyway.

Some of you know me not at all, yet you come here anyway.

Some of you visit from places I've never been and cannot go now, and that does my heart good.

Your prayers upheld me with peace through my asthma check-up Friday.  (It yielded one immediate medication adjustment and two action items for the next month, both of which involve other doctors.)

Whatever else Providence has in store for you today, please know that you are a blessing to me.  I appreciate you and the time you choose to spend here.  Because of you, I'm not just talking to myself.  Well, because of you I'm not just talking to myself on the blog.

"I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy....  And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God" (Philippians 1:3-4, 9-11).

holy experience

Friday, October 8, 2010

Book Review: Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado

Max Lucado's newest book, Outlive Your Life, draws principles from the first 12 chapters of Acts to inspire Christians today to make themselves available to God for a legacy that will outlast any single lifespan to impact generations and communities.  With readable prose and well-chosen illustrations, this book informs readers of global poverty statistics and needs, inspires us to action, and ignites the imagination with the wide variety of change agents he describes.

This is a quick read, with the stories, illustrations, and short chapters generating a "just one more page" effect.  I enjoyed the book and was encouraged by how creative our God is and how varied His people and their modes of service.

That said, maximum benefit from this book may come from interaction and response, not simply reading. The final 23 pages comprise a discussion guide with solid questions to spark conversation and specific application ideas.  It would be an ideal book for a small group, couple, or friends seeking a more outward-focused, missional lifestyle.

As the book says, "No one can do everything, but everyone can do something."  May those who read it find their "something" and take the first obedient step.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, October 7, 2010

True Trust

This morning's Scripture portion in my Bible read-through calendar for the year juxtaposed Isaiah 20 and Jeremiah 28-30.  Reading these two in one sitting illuminated common themes I might otherwise have missed: true hope vs. false hope (or trust) and true prophets bringing bad news.

In the Isaiah reading, Israel has put their trust in African military might to rescue them from Assyria, and Isaiah gets to depict the disappointing news that their allies will not protect them.  In Jeremiah, a false prophet preaches quick liberation from domination by Babylon, and Jeremiah is commissioned to tell the people of Judah that restoration will come, but it will take a lifetime, so they need to settle in and work for good in the land of their exile.  In both these cases, contrary perhaps to our expectations, the true prophecies say things will get worse before they get better; the true hope is in God, not in human helps or a happy turn of events.  The ultimate expression of this true hope is in Jeremiah 30:22,
"'You shall be My people, 
And I will be your God.'"

As I was considering asking for your prayers for my next doctor's appointment Friday morning (asthma/allergy doctor), these readings changed the content of my request.  The Scriptures showed me that my trust is not as true as it needs to be on the medical issues we're still working out.  Last week the lupus doctor seemed frustrated because my medication level was up and my activity tolerance was down.  His frustration discouraged me, and I realize now that I was hoping in my doctor and hoping for short-term good news.

If God moves you to pray for me, would you pray first for true trust? That my hope would not be in the skill of my physicians, my own analysis and presentation of symptoms, medications, or compliance with doctors' instructions but in God's character and Word?  He is the one who gives wisdom and insight to the doctors and who ultimately determines the efficacy of their prescriptions.  He has not promised me good health now, in this body, but He has promised good.  He has also promised that the tough times are not for always, and that body-soul-spirit wholeness is coming, even if it takes a lifetime.

Also, would you pray that my life, attitude, and words would proclaim truth about God?  True trust will (or should?) produce a hope and peace that don't vary with the circumstances but stay firmly fixed on God's constancy and faithfulness.  My community is pretty small right now, but I long for God to be glorified in my interactions with my doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and family and through this blog, notes, and e-mails.  Sometimes that requires courage to say what is needful even when it is not what is desired.  It always requires confident dependence on the Lord, and so I ask your prayers..

As always, thank you so much for sharing your day with me in this place.  Thank you also for your prayers.  Please feel free to let me know in the comments or by e-mail how I can pray for you, too.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Staycation Photos

Blogger and I were having technical difficulties to start the week, so here are the visual aids for Monday's post.

For the first few days, this La Quinta (prettiest one ever!) was our home base:

Big Al brought the outdoors in through some photos of his trail treks, starting with an old railroad dam built to refill steam locomotives:

This is Ebony's new snack food friend Ajax:

Back home at Wits' End, the power-tool project of the week was a shed makeover.  There are no photos of the actual radial-saw and nail-gun part, as I was busy programming 911 into the speed dial.  No bloodshed this time, only splinters.

May you find eyes to see beauty and opportunity around you wherever you stay today.  May you find joy in time with the people you love, even if it looks different than you expect.  There are always moments to celebrate, if we only look for them.

"This is the day which the LORD has made;
         Let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118:24).

Monday, October 4, 2010

Gratitude 7: Making Lemonade

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4).

For the first few days of our staycation, I was struggling physically and feeling sorry for myself about it.  My husband had time off work, the weather was as beautiful as it gets for north Texas, and we had sent Ebony to "camp" (an outstanding boarding facility near our home) so we could relocate to a hotel in town for a few days to hit our reset buttons to switch over to vacation mode.  We had hoped at least to have some nice dinners out, but I didn't even feel like leaving our room except for breakfast and the housekeeper.

Al had a great attitude about it (better than mine), bringing nice dinners in and watching movies with me.  He enjoyed some long walks on new trails and brought me back photos.  We changed my lupus check-up so I could be seen sooner and he could take me, and he gladly spent an afternoon running necessary errands.

While he was exploring the great outdoors one day, I was washing my mind out with Scripture, reviewing memory verses to replace the negative attitude with Truth.  One of the cards in the queue that day held Philippians 4:4-8, the first sentence of which was the correction I needed:  "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!"

Rejoice in the Lord.

Rejoice always.

Even though my hopes for the content of our staycation had been disappointed, I ought to and could rejoice anyway because true joy is "in the Lord."  The Lord Jesus Christ is the same, just as faithful, just as loving, just as true, just as kind.  Whether my immediate visible circumstances are happy or troubled, still I can rejoice because He is my joy and the ground of my rejoicing.  He is the "always" of joy, the sweetness that turns lemons of trials into lemonade.

My strength did take a turn for the better towards the end of the week, and last night we were indeed able to enjoy a nice dinner out at a restaurant, but I hope by God's grace some progress had been made in true joy even without that.

May you find grace to rejoice in the Lord always today, and may He transform all your lemons into lemonade.

Glimpses of gratitude for this week, #1172-1186:
  • A lovely local getaway to start our time off
  • A patient, loving husband
  • Photos to bring the outdoors in
  • Ebony did terrific at the kennel.  For the first time ever, our shy dog thoroughly enjoyed the group play sessions, playing chase and wrestling and even helping another shy dog adjust to the new place.
  • Feeling better today than I did a week ago
  • Lemonade lessons
  • Watching movies together with my honey
  • Watching the Dallas Cowboys win
  • Pizza and frozen yogurt
  • Gorgeous fall weather
  • A.'s enjoyment of playing with his power tools to rebuild the shed doors before he repainted the whole structure
  • Time away from the computer
  • Date night at a restaurant
  • My sister cooking a gourmet supper for us Saturday night
  • My new stuffed animal friend Ajax, who followed A. home from the pharmacy last week.  (Ebony regards him as a tasty snack food.) 

holy experience

Friday, October 1, 2010

Is Worry a Communicable Disease?

Love Casts Out Fear

Perfect love,
The bouncer,
Gives fear the boot—
Not on the guest list
For the prodigal’s feast.
~crm, 5/2009

It is no secret that anxiety is one of the besetting sins that nips at my heels as I walk with Christ.  At low, no-major-crisis, everyday levels, it's fairly easy to ignore and socially acceptable.  In the storms when I feel overwhelmed, the intensity nearly paralyzes and distracts from everything else.  In every degree, however, it is sin and reflects my lack of trust in God's power and goodness.  (The commands not to fear or be anxious abound in Scripture; why should disobeying these fall in a different category from not murdering, stealing, or coveting?)

That said, I realized last week that I had come to believe that while my anxiety was wrong and needed replacing with trust, at least it didn't hurt anyone but myself and my relationship with God.  (As if not hurting others makes it better: it's not so bad; I'm only sinning against God.  Sure, that makes sense.)  Then I noticed that a close friend without a natural bent towards worry has learned to fret.  And I noticed how furrowed my brow and tense my jaw after a phone call from another friend who gives me a run for my money in this department.  Now I wonder if this sin is so harmless to the souls around me as I had thought.  Is it possible that worry is as contagious as grumbling, bitterness, or idolatry?  That all sin is against community?

Seeking and receiving forgiveness, I apologized to the friend I'd influenced towards worry.  By God's grace, may this realization add urgency to my battle to exchange anxiety for confidence in my strong God.  Scripture memory is a strategic weapon for me in this fight, as is gratitude.  Intentionally filling my mind with the good and true leaves less time in the day and room on the hard drive for worried thoughts.  I am learning also to ask for the helping prayers of those close to me, which deals a blow to pride at the same time.

It is not easy to unlearn a 38-year habit, but it will only be harder to break after 42, 57, or 73 years.  Now is always the best time to repent and seek other contagious qualities more in keeping with the legacy I want to leave.  When I spend time with family and friends, interact with medical and pharmacy staff, chat with our neighbors, exchange greetings with those sitting around me at church when I can attend, the fragrance of Christ is the impression I hope for.  It's His light, joy, peace, and gentleness, not fretting and worry, I hope you see shining through the cracks in this clay pot.

Those who have come to these words today no doubt have a variety of sin habits to fight, some similar to mine and some different.  It is my prayer that my journey gives you some fresh perspective and commitment to keep fighting in the strength of the Lord, for others' good as well as your own.

May the Lord's love and life in us continue to drive out our variegated sins until the Day we are truly like our Love when we see Him face to face.