Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Spiritual warfare montage

This isn’t, obviously, really a montage; just a collection of Bible verses that tell a story, with a prayer tucked in amongst them.  If you know of a better term for this than “montage,” I’d be happy to learn what it is . . . please leave a comment.

(Scriptures are from the NIV)

Psalm 24:8
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty,
the Lord mighty in battle.

Ephesians 6:12
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Isaiah 54:17
“. . . no weapon forged against you will prevail,
and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
and this is their vindication from me,”
declares the Lord.
(No weapon can prevail because it is God who created the blacksmith who forges weapons, and it is God who has created the destroyer to work havoc [Isaiah 54:16] — God created them, and God controls them, and they cannot stand against God’s own beloved children.)

Romans 8:31-32
What then shall we say in response to this? [God’s sovereign power to work for good, and His predestined plan for our salvation.] If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?

Romans 8:38-39
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

James 4:2-3
You want something but don’t get it.  You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want.  You quarrel and fight.  You do not have because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

Matthew 6:32-34
For the pagans run after all these things [food, clothes, material provisions], and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 7:7-11
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
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!

Luke 11:13
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 the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.

John 14:13-14
And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

John 15:7
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.

John 15:16
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.  Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.

John 16:23-24
In that day you will no longer ask me anything.  I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.  Until now you have not asked for anything in my name.  Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

1 John 5:14-15
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears us--whatever we ask--we know that we have what we asked of Him.

Dear Lord Jesus, 

Thank you for your word, your truth, and your mighty salvation that comes from your unfailing love.  Thank you that you never fail.  Thank you that your purposes will be accomplished perfectly—your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Thank you that you are faithful and good.  Thank you that you always keep your promises.

Please help us to abide in you.  Please help us to study your word and learn your promises so we can ask in your name and receive the good things you have for us.  Please form our hearts to seek you and find you and love you and rejoice in you.

Lord Jesus, your word says that you are the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).  This is amazing and wonderful.  You have paid in full the entire mortgage for all the sins of the world.  It is finished.  The victory is won.

Lord Jesus, please pour your great salvation over the men of earth.  Please grant repentance unto salvation.  Please demonstrate your glorious mercy through the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, that men may bend their hearts to you and find forgiveness, grace and freedom from the bondage of the enemy’s lies.

Please Lord Jesus, save people everywhere who yet stand in need of your salvation, and especially the ones we know and love.  Draw.  Rescue.  Cleanse.  Heal.  Restore.  Comfort.  Prune.  Use us for your glory.  Thank you, Jesus, for who you are and what you are able to accomplish.  Thank you for how your past triumphs assure us that your kingdom will indeed come in righteousness for all eternity.

Lord, we are lost without you, but you came to seek and save the lost.  Apart from you, we can do nothing, but you will never leave us nor forsake us.  Thank you, Jesus.

Amen.  Amen.  I have brought it to you, and I leave it with you.  Amen.

Psalm 33:13-15
From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind;
from His dwelling place He watches all who live on earth—
He who forms the hearts of all,
who considers everything they do.

Psalm 33:22
May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you.

Psalm 28:7
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped.
My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Three helps, when you're working on forgiving

Back to forgiveness, again.

Sometimes I think that when Jesus told Peter that he should forgive seventy-seven times--or seventy times seven times--the point was not so much that people would continue to sin against us, and need to be forgiven many times (although they surely would).  Rather, I think the point may have been that as many times as a wrong reoccurs to us, as many times as we remember and feel a twinge of pain, we need to forgive.  Again and again and again and again and again and again and again.

Forgiveness is hard.  I've written about this many times already.  It's hard to forgive when somebody doesn't apologize.  It's hard when somebody apologizes, but continues to repeat the offense.  It's hard when somebody makes excuses, or transfers the blame back to us.  It's hard when the offense was something we feel that we would never do--we know better--and it seems that the offender has absolutely no defense for acting so inappropriately.  Forgiveness is hard.

Forgiveness is also necessary.  We all need grace.  God tells us in His Word that we are to forgive, because He has forgiven us.  In God's eyes, sin is is sin.  Even what we might consider a very small sin is enough to separate us from fellowship with the Lord.  When Jesus died on the cross to pay the price for our sins, He died for the little lie, the selfish attitude, and the stapler stolen from the office desk just as surely as He died for the drug runner, the sex trafficker and the serial murderer.  We all struggle with the temptation to consider that our own sins are less offensive, less serious, and that other people's sins are much worse, especially the ones that hurt us.  However, Jesus doesn't see it this way.  To Jesus, a prideful Pharisee is just as guilty as a cheating tax collector, perhaps even moreso if he refuses to acknowledge his faults.  Every sin is fatal if it is not forgiven.  Jesus actually said, "If you will not forgive others their sins, my Heavenly Father will not forgive you your sins" (Matthew 6:15).  This is awfully serious business.  We often talk about how we need to forgive for our own good, which is completely true.  We will be miserable as long as we cling to our grudges.  But beyond that, beyond the truth that forgiving is a release that is good for us, we need to forgive because God commands us to, and there are dire consequences if we refuse.  Forgiveness is necessary.

Because forgiveness is both necessary and very difficult, I've come up with three helps, things you can think about and work through if you need to forgive and are having a difficult time with it.

1.  Learn this truth:  Hurt people hurt people.

When people have been hurt, they often hurt others; it's like dominoes.  People who are bullied turn into bullies.  People who are abused turn into abusers.  People who are neglected do not learn how to show compassion.  A person who is having a very difficult day might turn and lash out at someone else, perhaps even a completely innocent party.  We can never predict which straw will break the proverbial camel's back.  All we know for sure is this: when stress mounts up, at a certain point it breaks a person.  (As a corollary, one should try to be a person who alleviates stress, as much as rightfully possible, rather than yet another in the chain of people heaping stress onto someone.  If you add to someone's stress, even in a very small way, there is always the chance that it will be your action that becomes the last straw.)

Healthy people do not go around hurting others.  Damaged people are the ones who hurt others.  You may not see their internal damage.  You may be hurt by someone who seems to be much more fortunate than you: stronger, richer, more popular, more beautiful.  Think about it, though.  People we call "spoiled" are those who have always been catered to, always given their way, always allowed to have what they want.  But what do we call them?  "Spoiled."  Something spoiled is ruined, damaged.  What would have been good has gone bad.  Some people have been hurt by their upbringing.  They were never  taught to be sensitive to others, never taught to sacrifice for someone else's good, never taught to be humble, or to listen, or to apologize and make things right.  Indulgence itself is a type of hurt because of the bad results it produces.  People who have been indulged as children grow up ill-equipped to navigate life, handle disappointments and interact with others.  In this way, even seemingly fortunate people can become very insecure, and thus meaner than ever, as they have negative experiences in adult life because of their lacking skills.

Pain and insecurity make people unable to see past themselves to attend to the needs of others, breeding selfishness, which manifests in hurtful behavior.  Whenever someone hurts you, remember that he or she is merely failing to compensate for his or her own past hurts.  This should help you become more compassionate and more forgiving, as you seek to demonstrate Christlike love.

2.  Learn people's backstories, when you can.

Learning about someone's backstory can also help you in the forgiveness process.  When you understand more about where behavior comes from, you can have compassion on the person who offended you.  Sometimes you might find yourself needing to forgive other, additional people as you learn backstories, because, as we mentioned, hurtful behavior is a domino effect, and there was always another domino behind the one who hurt the person who hurt the person who hurt the person who hurt you.  Ultimately, the original domino was Satan, who introduced sin into the garden of Eden.  He is the origin of all the hurts in the world.  In the end, God is going to deal with Satan and get rid of him forever.  In the meantime, the rest of us must have compassion for each other, and forgive each other as we struggle together under the cumulative effects of sin.

Here's a trick:  if you aren't going to be able to learn someone's backstory, for whatever reason, make up an imaginary backstory for that person.  Imagine what kinds of past life circumstances and events might have induced you to fall into such a behavior pattern yourself, and then attribute those circumstances to the person who was hurtful toward you.  Be generous.  Don't say, "I would never do that, no matter what!"  You would not do it based on the knowledge and experiences that you have had, but what if you lacked a lot of the knowledge you have, and had totally different experiences?  Also, think about what kinds of things could have been different in your offender's past, that might have averted the problem.  Grieve for the offender that things were not that way.  (This exercise might also open your eyes to be more thankful for your own situation.)   Be gracious and cut slack in the same way you wish people would cut slack for you in your own failings which, while they may be completely different, certainly do exist.  Because all have sinned.  Yet, in Christ there is always hope.

3.  See people in terms of what they can become with God's grace, rather than defining them by a collection of their past mistakes.

People change.  God works miraculous transformations in people's lives.  Choose not to characterize a person by something he/she did that you didn't like, defining him/her as a "bad" person forever after that.  Instead, pray for the person to change.  Believe that God is able to change him/her.  Have faith.  Expect to see our good and glorious God do good and glorious things.  Accept and affirm change when you see it.  This will help you forgive.

The Bible says that we are to forgive others in the same way that God forgives us, in Christ Jesus.

When we speak of forgiving as God forgives us in Jesus Christ, the big take-away is that forgiveness is costly and painful.  God forgave us in Jesus when Jesus was crucified and shed His blood to pay the price for our sins.   Don't expect forgiveness to be painless.  Forgiveness is a form of suffering that we choose to share with our Savior.

A corollary take-away is that God knows everything about us, understands our weaknesses and has compassion on us (Psalm 103 -- He remembers that we are dust).   Just as His perfect wisdom is part of His grace, the more we understand about a situation, the better we will be able to extend grace.

Another corollary take-away is that God knows what we will be like in our redeemed, perfected state, and He is willing to work with us and help us until we attain perfection, which won't be until eternity (1 John 3:2).  We are called to trust God, to work with Him on our sanctification (becoming more Christlike), and to grow in the grace we receive from Him, extending it to other fallen beings in the world around us.  Believe that God is working in others, just as He is working in you.

If you still struggle to forgive, spend some time meditating on how much you have been forgiven.  When we grasp what great things the Lord has done for us, it frees us to love as we have been loved, totally undeserving.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Oh no. Medical bills again.

So.  Shawn went for a physical.  You know, that basic physical, the one you're supposed to have every year, that is "covered" under your insurance plan, even though you have a high deductible.

And . . . he got lab bills for about $700.  Yep.  Insurance denied two of the three basic labs that go with the physical.  Because they are denied, not only do we have to pay for them, but the costs don't even get applied to our deductible.  Of course, these are the jacked-up rack rates for the services, the inflated rates that are billed because the provider knows that the insurance company always "adjusts" to what they call "allowable" expenses.  The problem, for us, is that our insurance adjusts nothing if it denies coverage and washes its hands of the whole situation.

The doctor, in the office, told Shawn that she thought this would be covered.  Of course, she didn't say that it would be covered for sure.  A doctor would never place herself at that risk of liability.  But she said she thought the labs would be covered.

We, as consumers, have no way of knowing.  If we knew ahead of time what labs the doctor was going to ask to run, maybe we could call the insurance before we went to have them done, but that's not generally how it works.  Anyway, even if you do call the insurance to try to check on what they cover, they are very dodgy about what they will tell you.  I know this from experience.  My frustration with insurance representatives is superlative.

The insurance company just slides along under the rider that says, "coverage is subject to change without notice."  So there's that.  That's what you get when President Obama invites the insurance industry to write the policy on how insurance works, after everybody is required by law to purchase it.  It's unfair, and it shouldn't be legal, but it is legal, because the insurance industry got the privilege of designing the law.

And yes, the doctors are overcharging, because if they don't, the insurance companies will drive them into bankruptcy.

Once upon a time, health insurance got involved in health care and started messing everything up.  The insurance companies started telling doctors what they could and couldn't do, and how much they could charge.  A doctor would provide a service that cost him $10 to provide.  He would charge, say, $17, so that he could make enough money to pay the rent on his office, compensate his receptionist and his nurse, earn his own salary to support his family, buy malpractice insurance, and make payments on his medical school loans.  Insurance got involved and said, "No!  We will only reimburse you $8.50 for this service!"  Well, obviously, the doctor couldn't remain solvent in that scenario, so the next time he performed the same service, he looked over his numbers and figured, "Insurance reduced my rates by 50%, so in order to remain viable, I will need to charge $34."  And he did.

This back-and-forth parry in rates and reimbursement went on for years, inflating medical costs ridiculously, until many people simply could not afford to get medical care, but the insurance executives continued to profit off the system while doctors struggled to provide healthcare to people who were desperate enough to brave the billing process, and often the doctors simply didn't get paid (which induced them to raise their rates even more, because the money has to come from somewhere, and if half the people are going to default, the people who actually pay their bills must become the financial backbone of the system).

The system was broken beyond repair.  Health care costs were skyrocketing.  Many people had no way of paying their bills.  People began to get angry that it was so difficult and expensive to receive health care.

What would you think the answer to such a problem would be?

Doesn't it seem obvious that insurance is a totally unnecessary layer that inflates costs while enriching savvy business executives while providing no real service to anyone?  Doesn't it seem obvious that health insurance needs to be phased out, and some other (ideally non-profit) system invented to help communities help each other out with medical costs?

Apparently not.  Apparently all the smart people in President Obama's cabinet thought it would be best to pass a law requiring all American citizens to purchase health insurance, or else be fined by the government.  This must be unconstitutional.  How can the US government possibly say that its citizens have to buy a particular product?  The government can tax its citizens, but how on earth can it mandate a particular purchase?  And slap a fine on anyone who fails to comply?  Seriously?

But, unconstitutional or not, they decided to write The Affordable Care Act (which brings to life all of the horror of Orwellian doublespeak).  Not only that.  They invited the insurance companies themselves to send in representatives to write the policy.

And then, after it was passed into law and turned out to be terrible, they feigned surprise that big business had not written a very nice policy.  Also, they did nothing to try to fix it.

This is why the democrats lost the last election.  It is not because we have a country full of mean-spirited people who want to wipe out Mexicans and Muslims and homosexuals.  Most Americans are much more live-and-let-live than you could even imagine.

It's because average people are fed up with being forced by law to pay $1200 per month for health insurance that still has a $6000 deductible, and then going to the doctor for a basic physical--which was supposed to be the one thing that was covered--and coming home with a bill for $700 that will not even be applied to that $6000 deductible.

This is why Hillary lost the election.

In case you were wondering.

(And I did not vote for Trump.  But I certainly did not vote for Hillary.  And when I heard that Trump was working to repeal Obamacare, I actually felt a glimmer of hope.  That hope has not yet come to fruition.)

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The very best advocates

When you pray for something for a long time, and God's answers come slowly, you can get discouraged.

A thousand years might be like a day to God, but a slowly moving timeline can be like a traffic jam on I-95 to us, feeble little creatures that we are.  Have you ever been stuck on I-95?  I should just ask, "Have you ever been on I-95?"  Because if you've been on it, you've been stuck on it.

While we're on traffic analogies, here's another one.  Have you ever been a parent, in a car, on I-95 headed to Florida, or perhaps Cape Hatteras or Myrtle Beach?  And have you had a gaggle of young ones in the backseat, eagerly anticipating their fantastic vacation?  And have they ever asked, over and over, "Are we there yet?"  Of course, as you sit at a standstill while the fuel fumes rise around you, and you try to calculate the likelihood of death by heat stroke and asphyxiation if you turn off your car (and thus the car airconditioning) against the likelihood of  running out of gas and being stranded forever on this congested corridor, your anxiety is already high, and you are wondering the same question as the kids, although in different terms, and every aspect of life seems tortuous.  In fact, you berate yourself for ever imagining that going on vacation was a good idea, anyway.

Aren't you so incredibly thankful that God is not like we are?  We must be, to Him, like those impatient children in the back of the vehicle, whining for the journey to be over.  But God is not like the frazzled, discouraged parent.  God is calm, compassionate, capable and completely in control.  Yes, He is.

Still, even though God is who He is--wonderful, merciful and powerful beyond our wildest conceptualizations--waiting is hard.  Continuing to pray while we wait is hard.  As baby steps result in tumbles and bruises, it can be tempting to give up hope that these feet will ever be fit to run a marathon.

But Jesus told His disciples always to pray and never give up.  We must do the same.

He is good.
He is attentive.
He is not only resourceful, He is actually The Source of everything.
He is gracious.  He pours out grace bountifully.
He delights in bringing His will to pass.
He delights in delighting us with His glory.
He loves us.
He is for us.

He is for us.

"What shall we say about such wonderful things as these?  If God is for us, who can ever be against us?"  (Romans 8:31 NLT)

How do we know God is for us?

"Since He did not spare even His own Son but gave Him up for us all, won't He also give us everything else?"  (Romans 8:32 NLT)

And that's not all!  No, there's more!

The Holy Spirit intercedes for us before God the Father --

"Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words . . . the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."  (Romans 8:26, 27b ESV)

The Holy Spirit is not the only part of the godhead advocating for us as we pray.  Jesus Christ Himself, at the right hand of God, is also interceding for us.  If God is for us, who can stand against us?  And if Jesus Christ is interceding for us, who can condemn us?

"Who is to condemn?" asks the Word of God, going on to explain:  "Christ Jesus is the one who died--more than that, who was raised--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us."  (Romans 8:34 ESV)

This points back to Romans 8:1 -- "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."   Jesus deflected our condemnation by dying for us, and He stands at the right hand of God as a remembrance of this victory.

The price has been paid.  The death was died, the blood shed.  Jesus did it.  It's settled.  God triumphed.  Jesus rose from the grave to eternal life, and the devil, sin and death have no power over Him or His.

Since God is for us, and Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are actively interceding for us, we will absolutely experience the goodness of God's unfailing love.

God is invincible, and we belong to Him, so everything is going to be okay.

"Everything is going to be okay."  That doesn't mean trips to Hawaii or fancy houses or delicious steak dinners or good grades or sports victories or financial blessings or escapes from calamity or healing from diseases.  Maybe sometimes those things will happen, but they definitely won't always happen, because although those are all nice things, they are not important things.

Important things are things like knowing God, understanding how Jesus' death and resurrection made our forgiveness and salvation possible, growing in faith and holiness, being filled with the Spirit, and advancing the Kingdom of God.  These are some of the things that God deems important.

God desires for all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  (see 1 Timothy 2:3-4)

If we share in His desire, and we labor in prayer for that desire, wouldn't that be what He's talking about in Romans 8:32?  If He gave His own Son for us, did not spare His own beloved Son, how would He not also give us "everything else"?   If He purchased our admission into Heaven at the price of His blood--paid for it in full--He's going to help us get in.  Our God is mighty to save!

As we labor in prayer for the souls of those we love most, let us also remember what Jesus told His disciples just before He was crucified:

"Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son."
(John 14:13 ESV)

"If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it."
(John 14:14 ESV)

"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, He may give it to you."
(John 15:16 ESV)

If there is anything that we can believe is according to the will of God and the name of Jesus, it is this: That the triumph of the blood of Jesus shall be made known when the Holy Spirit shines the light of truth into a formerly darkened heart, unmasking deception, trampling down evil and saving a lost soul.


Thank you, Lord, for Romans 8.
(And all the rest of the Bible, but today I am especially grateful for Romans 8.)

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Grape juice and the stomach flu

There's a thing going around the internet right now: They tell you to drink grape juice to prevent the stomach flu.


Yes, grape juice is supposed to change the ph in your digestive system so the stomach flu germs can't grow there.  That is my ultra-scientific explanation and interpretation.

It must be 100% grape juice, no juice mixes or artificial flavors.  Welch's is often named (and may be behind the whole thing).

You have to drink your grape juice before you exhibit symptoms, if it is going to work.  Do not--I repeat do not--drink a bunch of grape juice after you have begun vomiting.  Dark purple is not a good vomit color.  For heaven's sake do not give 100% grape juice to a vomiting child, if you value your towels, bed linens and carpeting.

The first to fall will fall.  This preventative is a family thing: when the first person gets sick, as soon as the first person gets sick, everyone else should start drinking copious amounts of grape juice.  By copious amounts, I mean an 8 oz. glass with breakfast, lunch and supper.  That's a lot of sugar.  Cut out all other sources of sugar.

I actually tried this recently, and it seemed to work.  Hallelujah!

I love grape juice.  I love the way it looks, the way it smells and the way it tastes.  When I tried this preventative, it was actually a bit late for prevention.  Although I'd not vomited, I was definitely feeling very funky, and things were "off" to the point where I would not be able to claim the label "prior to symptoms."  However, when I poured up my first glass of grape juice, even the wafting scent seemed to calm my stomach a little bit.

A memory flooded my consciousness, a memory of childhood stomach flu.

When I was a child and I came down with the stomach flu, my Grandpa Rainbow always used to appear on the doorstep with a brown paper bag of presents to cheer me on my day home from school.  I remember this.  My bedroom had a window that looked back at the portico outside our front door, and I remember hearing the shuffle of someone walking up to the door as I listened listlessly on my bed.  I remember hearing the doorbell ring, and my mother conversing with the visitor in the front hall.  Then my mother would come into my room with the brown paper bag of gifts.

Usually there was a small craft or activity, something I could do quietly in bed while I was recovering.  Once there was a Laura Ingalls Wilder book, On the Banks of Plum Creek.  Always, there was a bottle of Welch's grape juice, just for me.  I assumed that this was simply because Grandma and Grandpa Rainbow knew how much I loved grape juice.  Now I'm wondering if they knew something special about grape juice.

My mother (who valued her towels, bed linens and carpets) would never let me have the grape juice right away.  "This is too strong for you," she would say.  "Does it even appeal to you?" she would ask.  Well, it did.  Still, I had to wait before she would let me have it.  I remember it as one of the first and best things I imbibed as I was getting better.  I remember the luxurious pleasure of a glass of grape juice and a soft boiled egg on white toast.  I had forgotten, but I recently remembered.

Oh, my dear old grandfather, with his floppy cap and the slight hunch of his shoulders.  He'd float up to the house in his big old boat of a green Chrysler, faithfully deliver the goods to the front door, and then go back to his car and float away.  What a blessing to have a grandfather and a grandmother who cared when I was sick and did what they could to cheer me up.

Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for Grandpa, who was so kind and faithful.  Thank you for Grandma, who probably had the inspiration to send him out on the mission in the first place.  And thank you for the grape juice, the fruit of the vine, that made me feel so much better.

Thursday, February 2, 2017


Today I come to my computer simply to process.

Since the beginning of the year, I've been wondering why I blog.  Why do I come back, again and again, to write where so few stop in to read?  Why don't I take a blogging course and seek an audience?  Or, if not that, why don't I pull myself off the internet and write in privacy?


I have no answers.

This past weekend, I cried a lot.

The weather has been gray, for one thing.  I've thought, more than once, "This isn't even any better than Syracuse."  But it isn't just the weather.  It's a weariness in the battle for faith, gratitude, hope, joy and the salvation of souls I love more than life itself.

Weariness.  Grayness.

In the past couple of weeks, a young man, 18 years old, committed suicide.  His brother found his body.  This forces me to confront my deepest fears.  It knocks the breath from my lungs.  The gray sky looks grayer.

In the past couple of weeks, a young woman who was trying to conceive did conceive.  Then she miscarried.

Does it ever seem like people are just dying left and right?

When it's cloudy, it often feels like God has turned his face away.  I know this is not true.  It's just a feeling.  We can't trust feelings.

We are trying a new church.  It has been a conflicted process.  We loved our old church, but it was so small, so very small.  I felt lonely there, useless.  There were no children.  It was easy; no responsibility, minimal disagreements.  But oh how lonely it was.  I've lived here for over three years now.  I want some roots.  I want to feel like I belong somewhere.  I want to matter to someone.

This is all about feelings.  Am I ruled by my feelings?  I try so hard to be be good and base my actions and decisions on truth, not feelings.  And yet, feelings are here, all around me.  What am I supposed to do with them?  How do I determine which feelings are from God and which are from the enemy?  Sometimes I can tell, but often I cannot.

I have no answers.

Last Sunday, for the first time, we attended Sunday school at this new church.  The class was about Job.  Eight or nine years ago, I taught a class on Job.  It was excruciating, not something I wanted to do.  The process scared me.  The topic scared me.  Yet, by the grace of God I grappled with that book, and I learned.  By the grace of God, we all learned.  The intensity of the experience has never left me.  So, when Shawn and I appeared in this Sunday school class about Job, for the very first time, to my horror, I found myself answering question after question that the teacher asked.  I was mortified.

Dear God please help me learn to keep my mouth shut.

I have no answers.

Between the embarrassment of Sunday school, the grief of the suicide and the miscarriage, the weariness of seemingly unanswered prayers, and the grayness of the skies, I spent the remainder of Sunday sobbing on my family room sofa.

But Monday surprised me by being a very good day, filled with laughter, sunshine and precious family time.  Dear Lord Jesus, how does it all work?

Today is also sunny, bitter cold but blue-skied.  Today I finished a prayer journal.  By finished, I mean all the pages are full of writing.  This is a sadness to me, because I had hoped that the matter of prayer for which I began that journal would be resolved by now, over two years later.  It is not.  Admittedly, I had a premonition that this matter of prayer would require more than one journal.  I wondered how many journals it would take.  Two?  Twenty?  As I neared the end of this journal, I wrote less and less, hoping that I would not have to carry this matter into another volume.


It reminds me of our nightmare kitchen saga.  When that began, the contractor said it would take 4-6 weeks to remodel our kitchen.  To make a long story short, it took over four months, over 16 weeks.  During that time, I measured the progress against the tablets I use to disinfect the retainer I wear at night to keep my teeth straight.  Every morning, I pop the retainer into a container with 1/2 a fizzing tablet to disinfect and clean it.  These tablets come in sheets, and you tear off the edges of the packets to get them out.  Each time I got a new sheet of dental tablets out of the linen closet, I would think, "Maybe the kitchen will be done by the time this sheet of tablets is gone."  Time after time, it did not happen.  Eventually, it did.  Oddly, I have no memory of where I was in the sheet of tablets on the day we gave the contractor his final check and he went away.

A nagging fear plagues me, that I will start notebook after notebook, and fill them up with prayers, and there will be tedious weariness and discouragement before anything happens.  I could die before anything happens.  Somebody told me that.  I think the person meant to encourage me with the thought that there is still hope, even after my life is over.  That is, surely, a point of hope.  But I want to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13).  I suppose the truly living ones are those who are raised to new life in Christ, and their land is heaven.

I want.

I want resolution, restoration, joy.

Joy does not depend on restoration.  Joy is joy, with or without restoration.  Joy is confidence that God is good.  God is in control.  God has good plans for me, and he will bring them to completion, according to his almighty power.  Joy is being full of gratitude that God is faithful and good, and I do not need to worry about outcomes, because he is on my side, for me, fighting for me, and he is invincible.  There will never be an outcome that is outside of God's control and God's purpose.

I will not give up.  I will not stop trusting.  I will not cease to give thanks to the Lord for who he is and what he has accomplished through Jesus' sacrifice and resurrection.  These are two immutable facts: the existence of God with all of his attributes, and the victory of Christ, accomplished once for all.

Dear Lord Jesus, please tell the devil that I am your baby girl, and he needs to get his dirty hands out of my life.  Dear Lord Jesus, thank you that you have already paid the price so I can be yours.  Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for today's sunshine.

I will start another notebook.