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It’s only a flesh wound

April 11, 2014

I’ve got a hangnail.

I know, I know…many of you just cringed.  It’s the same cringe you get when someone mentions having a paper cut or scraping a knuckle or biting the inside of their mouth.

Teeny tiny little owies, those are.  Too bad they don’t have teeny tiny little pains to go with them.

But nope.  The nature of those sorts of owies is to annoy you with far more pain than seems reasonable for such a seemingly insignificant wound.  Not only that, but those sorts of wounds are prone to infection and re-injury.

This means you get to feel like a total whiner because you’ve got a pain you can’t stop thinking about, let alone stop accidentally bumping or re-biting.  You see folks in wheelchairs or with casts and think, man…I really have nothing to complain about.  And then you chomp down and chew off another piece of the inside of your cheek.

Well, ok…you might complain a little bit about that.  Or maybe a lot.

It seems to be our nature to judge pain by the size of the wound that produced it.  Small wound should equal small, pain, right?  A big wound justifies big pain.  But a small wound that produces big pain?  Surely someone is being overly dramatic about it.  It can’t be that bad.  After all, it’s barely visible, it’s so small.

Even the tiniest wounds can open doors for systemic infection if they don’t receive appropriate consideration and attention.

And the rules for the body are the same as the rules for the soul.

 

 

When the marathon turns uphill

April 8, 2014

It’s one of those times that before I start writing, I’ve got to get my head right.  Ever have those?  Where you know you have to find the solid ground for a moment before you go swimming out over your head?

So I’m sharing my solid ground, so you can get a firm foot too.  If you don’t usually read the bible, or don’t know much about it, what I’m about to post here is a short passage written by the Apostle Paul to the people in Philippi who believe in Jesus.  He’s encouraging himself and them at the same time.  The version I’m quoting is The Message, which is actually a paraphrase that uses modern language.  You’ll find it pretty easy to understand, I think.  I don’t read paraphrases a lot, but today I need it right where I live, and so there you have it.

12-14 I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

15-16 So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.

17-19 Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal. There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I’ve warned you of them many times; sadly, I’m having to do it again. All they want is easy street. They hate Christ’s Cross. But easy street is a dead-end street. Those who live there make their bellies their gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetites.

20-21 But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.

via Philippians 3 MSG – To Know Him Personally – And that’s – Bible Gateway.

 

There.  That’s better.

So why did I need to get my head right?  Because today I’m having to dig into faith that isn’t yet sight.

Some people say that seeing is believing.  In the upside down world of the kingdom of God, believing is seeing.  I’m not talking about wishful thinking.  That’s what human-powered hope is: wishful thinking.  The best it can produce is an emotional reaction, and maybe a bit of delusional thinking.

Eh, no thanks.

I have a goal.  When I take my last earthly breath and then my first one face-to-face with Him, I want to be trailing miles and miles of people who’ve had an encounter with His goodness, mercy, and love through me.  I want sick people dancing in vitality and health.  I want broken people laughing and twirling in their wholeness.  I want found people rejoicing that they are no longer lost.  I want sisters and brothers, fellow Light Workers, beloved ragamuffins all, each with their own trail miles and miles long.

He is my prize, and those trails are my gift to Him.

Today I went to my physical therapy appointment feeling pretty apprehensive.  When asked how my knee was, I told the truth.  A week ago it was doing well with really positive signs of progress, but after a particularly aggressive therapy session (purposefully, to build up some muscles to help me go down the stairs more normally), it never really recovered well and has since deteriorated to pre-surgery stiffness and pain.  My physical therapist went right next door and talked to the PA I usually see, who was willing to work me in.   The PA whipped out his handy little numbing needle so he could then whip out his ginormous needle.  He removed 22ccs of fluid from my knee and then shot some cortisone in there.

It hurts like the dickens now, but I know from having this done last September, it will probably feel a lot better tomorrow. Cortisone is pretty amazing stuff when you need to get bossy with inflammation.

And welcome to why I need to get my head right:  I can’t even count the number of injured/painful knees I’ve laid hands on and prayed over and saw healed on the spot.  God is in the business of healing, and He lets me participate, which never ceases to amaze me or get me seriously jazzed.  And yet, here I am, limping and climbing stairs like a toddler, one thumping step at a time.  This knee has been prayed over many times by myself, friends, and ministers who operate in a powerful anointing for healing.  I’ve hoped, I’ve believed, I stepped out in faith…

…but my knee still hurts.

Let me tell you what I don’t believe.  I don’t believe that my condition is God’s will.  I don’t believe that He is withholding healing from me.  I don’t believe that He inflicted this on me, and I especially don’t believe He inflicted this one me to teach me some sort of lesson.  I don’t believe that the work of the devil is stronger than Jesus’ finished work on the cross.  I don’t believe that I haven’t seen the healing because I don’t have faith.

So why is my knee still like this?  I don’t know.

It is highly possible that in the near future I’ll once again lay hands on someone’s hurting knee and see them healed while mine still hurts.   If I that happens I will wholeheartedly rejoice with them.  I told Him long ago that I would be about His business if He would be about mine.  I have to leave it there and trust Him.  And I can’t entertain that hissing voice that says that I am disqualified for praying for the healing and wholeness of others if my own is compromised.  Shoot, I wasn’t the One who qualified me in the first place.

But sometimes I do have to remind myself that there is a goal, and I’m running with purpose.

And even if I run with a limp for a while, the prize is worth it.

 

I see, said the blind man

April 8, 2014

I was in the fourth grade when I got my first pair of glasses.  I probably needed them for a long time before that, because once I put them on, I was shocked to find out just how much of the world I’d been missing.

The neighbor’s work van had writing on it.  Big letters, actually.

There were wires stretching from one telephone pole to another.

The trees had individual leaves.  Like…all of them!

I really had no idea.  How could I?  Until I had corrected vision with which to compare my old compromised vision, how would I know?  Poor vision was my normal.  I had found ways to cope so that it wasn’t obvious to others that I couldn’t see, but eventually the demands of my life—seeing the chalkboard in school, for instance—made my predicament very apparent.

And here is the kicker:  since my normal was my normal and I had never experienced vision more clear than my normal, I would have been hard-pressed to believe that anyone else could see more clearly than I could.  Not because I was only a 4th grader, or because I was stubborn.  And not because I didn’t trust the word of those around me.

I simply had no frame of reference for it, and you telling me all about your vision wouldn’t have done a thing to change mine.  I might have found your claim interesting, but it wouldn’t have changed the fact that my eyes could not focus in a way that my brain could turn into sharp, comprehensible images.  I had a hardware problem, not a software problem.

Once I got a pair of eyeglasses, that all changed.  I suddenly had an experience that shifted my normal.  I could put my glasses on and see, and take them off and see how much I couldn’t see.  My standard for clear vision got an immediate upgrade because I received some serious revelation!

It occurs to me that when we talk to people with whom we have differences of belief and opinion, we often attempt to talk them into our point of view.  We may believe that we see more clearly, that our standards are higher or more moral or ethical, and perhaps they are.  But when we’re butting up against another person’s normal, we’re asking them to see clearly without the corrective lenses of revelation and experience.

Revelation is not the same as information.

When someone expresses a belief or opinion that differs from yours, do you stop to really listen without arguing and trying to convince them of your own position?  What are they saying?  Why do they believe what they do?  What is the basis for their belief?  Don’t listen through your own lens and judge them according to what you believe they are saying or your beliefs of why they believe what they do.  Ask them.  Be respectful enough to listen to the answers…and compassionate if they suddenly discover they don’t have any.  Not every blank hole in the universe is waiting to be filled with your opinion, no matter how confident you are in the correctness of it.  God leaves room for tension and waiting and desire.

We’d do well to do the same.

 

We thought…you was…a TOAD…

April 6, 2014

Three nights ago they were a loud, high-pitched, cacophonous chorus emanating from the creek that runs behind my house.  It’s rather remarkable that something as tiny a spring peeper could make that much noise.  Then again, it’s always rather surprising just how loud any frog of any size can be.  God made ‘em noisy.

The next night, two nights ago, the amphibious choir disappeared.  It was quiet, save the occasional guttural thunk! bellowed out by an older frog.

Tonight it is silent in the creek.  No peeping, no thunking, no trilling, nothing.  I wonder where they went?

I wonder this every year, usually several times a year.  Spring peepers aren’t just for the spring in the south, I’ve noticed.

I’m glad humans mature faster than frogs.  I’m also glad we skip the weird tadpole stage.  I’m not sure how one would diaper that.

When my kids were small someone once told me that the days are long but the years are short.  I can’t begin to express how true this is.  Tonight I looked across the table at the Sparkette, the last of the Spark-lings, and thought wow…she’s so beautiful.  When did that fiery little spunk of a redhead become such a smart and lovely teenager?  A young woman, really.

Of course, in spring peeper terms she’s probably about four days old.

 

The tension

April 6, 2014

Sometimes life seems like a giant I Don’t Know.

Most of the time I’m at peace with that.  I don’t have to know.

There’s a painful beauty in living in the tension between the seen and the unseen, the now and the not yet.  I love the sense that there’s so incredibly much to see and know, and yet, something tells me that I am not yet equipped to comprehend it, or even perhaps withstand it.

But then there are the days when that tension feels nearly unbearable, and my faith longs to become sight.

Those days are usually the days when I’m on pain and suffering overload, and there are no answers.  Hope seems fragile and slippery, and comfort elusive.

I realize that it’s not “spiritually correct” to admit to those days.  But while we’re all wandering around sucking it up with our SC faces on, we set ourselves up for feeling like there’s something wrong with us, like we’re the only ones trembling beneath the weight of the It’s So Hards and the I Don’t Knows.

The truth is we all shake in our shoes, at least at times.

Because sometimes it really is so hard, and we just don’t know.  And it’s painful.

It’s on days like these that I am glad that Jesus put on an earth suit and came down to walk among us.  Those are the days when I sit empty-handed and aching, and whisper “You know”.  And I know that He gets it.  He really knows.  And He’s willing to keep me company, no matter where I am, no matter what I see or don’t see.

The best part is that I don’t have to sit long before one thing becomes clear…

…His company is actually better than seeing and knowing.

 

Quiet but not silent

April 5, 2014

Some nights there are no words.

The memories of the day slip by like a steam of water flowing through my fingers, never stopping to define itself.  My hands glisten in the flow, and I bend my head close, hoping to hear its whispered secrets.

But the stream rushes on, rippling across my palms, singing in a language I cannot comprehend, laughing as it swirls away from me on its journey.

I don’t know where it’s going.  I don’t know what it’s saying.

Perhaps no definition is necessary, and the laughter is a reminder that sometimes it is joy to simply be.

 

 

Tell me, tell me

April 3, 2014

If there’s one thing to be said about the human race, it’s that we sure do find ourselves fascinating.  And for good reason.  We really are.  Quirky, intelligent, emotional, relational, adaptable, and opinionated.  Designed to reflect God.

It seems like there’s no end to our appetite to know about ourselves.  What we think about ourselves isn’t enough; we want to know what others think about us, and how we measure up.  If we measure up.

Lately my Facebook newsfeed has been packed with just-for-fun quizzes that are supposed to tell me something new about myself.  Occasionally I’ll take one, but more often I don’t.  It’s fascinating to me, however, just how desperately we want to know who we are and where we fit it.  We’ll pursue that knowledge even when we know it’s goofy and useless.

There are loads of quizzes available. Here’s a small sampling you can take if you so desire:

What Fruit Are You?

Which Peanuts Character Are You?

What Color Are You?

Which 80s Cartoon Series Are You?

Which Fairytale Creature Are You?

Which Nerdy Sidekick Are You?

What Career Should You Actually Have?

Which Children’s Book Are You?

These are for laughs, but they reflect our insatiable hunger to see our uniqueness and define ourselves.  It’s not a bad thing to understand who we are.  But if we’re not careful who gets opportunity to provide input to our questions, we can find ourselves swimming in a sea of hurt.

It’s easy to forget that the world around us is largely under an enemy influence.  That enemy doesn’t want us to see our true potential, and definitely doesn’t want us to fulfill it.  That means we’re continually bombarded with the temptation to think wrongly about ourselves.  We’re also bombarded with the temptation to think wrongly about God, because it’s only when we discover who He is and how He sees us that we positioned to become the best versions of ourselves.  Without His influence in every part of our thinking and believing, we’re prone to pride and false humility, which are different ends of the same spectrum of Bad Idea.  We’ll think too highly of ourselves, or far too little.

But Jesus.

He really changes everything.  Because of Him we have access to God and to the realm of supernatural realities and power.  Because of Him we are uniquely gifted and called to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth.  We are carriers of His love, grace, and peace.  We are counter-culture culture counters.  We are light workers.  He wired us each differently to reach a different part of His world and transform it.  He wants to think His brilliant thoughts in our minds.

We’re not cookie cutter people.

You’re not a cookie cutter person.

There’s never been anyone quite like you on the face of the planet, and once you’re gone, there never will be again.  You have an audience and a sphere of influence that is uniquely yours.  If you’re waiting on someone more qualified to step up, forget it.  God didn’t place “someone more qualified” there. He placed YOU.  He gave you those kids, those coworkers, those friends, that family. You have far more impact on them than you realize.

So rise and shine.  Get up and dance.  Sing your song.  Open your arms.  Open your heart.  Remind those around you that they are God’s Happy Thought.

Because that is what we all really want to know.

 

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