Sunday, June 10, 2018

Thankful for migraines?

This month, I have been trying to focus intentionally on thankfulness.  Over and over again in Scripture, God commands us to rejoice and give thanks.  I have been woefully deficient in this for many years. 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 - Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Philippians 4:6 - Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving present your requests to God. 

Colossians 4:2 - Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving. 

Ephesians 5:18-20 - And do not be drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.

I've heard many pastors talk about giving thanks in all things.  No matter what our circumstances, we can always be thankful to God - for His love, our salvation, justification, His presence, His provision, and so many other things.  And while it is hard to give thanks to God when life is hard and painful, I have tended to think of thanking and praising God through pain as "a sacrifice of praise."

But this morning, I woke up with a bad migraine. Bad enough that I was crying while driving to get my groceries.  I admitted to God that I am having a hard time being thankful, because I really miss my husband and was in such excruciating pain. As I was talking, I admitted that I really don't know how to be obedient to Ephesians 5 - how to give thanks for all things

How do I give thanks for a disease that leaves me in terrible pain, plays with my emotions and contributes to depression, and causes me to miss out on social events and has caused me to lose countless friends? How do I give thanks for something that negatively impacts every aspect of my life? 

Oh, I can be immensely grateful that I just went 17 days between migraines - possibly the longest I've ever gone between attacks since my diagnosis in 2005. I can be grateful for my medicine and for ice packs and for a loving husband who takes care of me even though care-taking during illness doesn't come very naturally to him.

But how can God expect me to be thankful for the migraine disease itself?

Well, God gave me an answer today at church.  I wasn't sure how I was going to make it, but Grandma really wanted to go to church, so I took meds and prayed for strength. Boy, am I glad I did.

Our pastor was preaching from Mark 2, and near the end of the sermon he started talking about how two of the hardest things for us are submission to the Word and suffering.  But it was what he said next that struck me right in the heart:

"We can thank God for our suffering, because anything that brings us to the throne of God, to get us to admit that we can do nothing on our own, to get us to rely on the strength of Christ, is worth rejoicing over."

There it is.

My answer.

Straight from God, to my heart.

I can be thankful for my migraines, because they cause me to admit my own weakness.  They cause me to rely on God.  I can only rely on His strength when I admit my own weaknesses.

So thank you, Jesus, for giving me migraines.  Thank you for giving me something that leads me to your throne. Something that leads me to sit in your lap and hold on while you carry me.

2 Corinthians 12:9 - And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness."  Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Hi, gorgeous!

I went to our local zoo today. Alone, since my husband is out of town this weekend.  It was over 90 degrees at 9 a.m., and I got ridiculously overheated, had a major headache by the time I left an hour and a half (and 3.25 miles) later.  But it was worth it, for a few reasons.

First, I got to see the new baby bobcat. 


He's just over 6 weeks old. And absolutely adorable.  Because I arrived just when the zoo opened, I got to enjoy a few minutes alone with him in the baby nursery.  I just wanted to cuddle!

I made today primarily about the big cats.  I was able to make eye contact with almost every one of them. 

Samson, the head lion, chilling out on his pedestal.

The white Lioness, who had just been enjoying some, er, private time with the other African lion.

The Bengal tiger (who had the best idea and was hanging out in his personal pool) and Cheetah


And one of the mountain lions, who had great fun playing with me. He "hunted" me by sneaking up and jumping up at me against the fence when I walked up. Boy, did I jump!! Then we ran back and forth (each on our own side of the enclosure, of course) and made lots of eye contact with each other. He might have been lonely, because his mate and their babies weren't in the enclosure with him today.

My husband always teases me, because whenever we see the big cats, I have a tendency to coo over them, speak to them, and, in general, wish I could lay down and snuggle with them. 

Today, I kept greeting them with, "Hi, gorgeous!" They are truly majestic creatures. And, with so few people around, I almost always was able to talk to them alone.

At one point, after talking to the mountain lion, telling him how wonderfully gorgeous he was, I felt God prompting me.

You know how excited you get to see each of these amazing big cats?  How big you smile upon seeing them? How you long to put your arms around them?  That's how I feel, too. 

My first thought was how amazing it was that God and I both get so excited about these cats, how wonderfully made they are, how powerful and glorious.  I was feeling so thankful that my Father and I shared this love together. It was like the feeling I got when I was a kid and starting loving history as much as my Dad.  It's wonderful to know that you take after your daddy in some way.

But then, God nudged me (as if with his elbow), saying,

Yes, I love these animals. But I feel the same way about you.  I get excited every time I see you. I speak to you, no matter who is around, and put my arms around you and snuggle.  Whenever you get excited and express your love for these cats, remember that I am excited for you and love you, too! 

Thank you, Jesus, for the reminder.  I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  I am the daughter of the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, Almighty God.

I'm never going to apologize for how happy these cats make me. Because now, every time I look at them, I'll think of God looking at me.  And when He does, He smiles at me and says, "Hi, gorgeous!"

~R

Psalm 24
The earth is the LORD's, and all its fullness,
The world and those who dwell therein.
For He has founded it upon the seas,
And established it upon the waters. 

Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD?
Or who may stand in His holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol,
Nor sworn deceitfully.

He shall receive blessing from the LORD,
And righteousness from the God of his salvation.
This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him,
Who seek Your face. Selah

Lift up your heads, O you gates!
And be lifted up, you everlasting doors!
And the King of glory shall come in.

Who is this King of glory? 
The LORD strong and mighty,
The LORD mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O you gates!

Lift up, you everlasting doors!
And the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The LORD of hosts,
He is the King of glory. Selah

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Hard day

Mom,

Today is Mother's Day. It is my fifth Mother's Day since I had to say goodbye to you. I keep waiting for it to get easier, but it doesn't ever seem to. I miss you so very much it still hurts. It hurts to breathe, to remember, to cry.

I wish I could talk to you again. I wish I had you here to tell me how to navigate being a wife. I wish you could tell me how to have joy when it feels like everyone around me is getting to become a mother, while I'm stuck in this place. This place of chronic illness and depression and exhaustion. I wish you could tell me that someday this enormous pain that comes from being childless and living with sexual dysfunction would go away.

I wish I could talk to you, because I don't have anyone else. There isn't anyone to listen except my husband. But he's a man, and it's painful for him because he blames himself. And so he can't comfort me because he can't comfort himself.

I wish you were here, because you are my mom and you always knew how to make me feel better. I love you so much. I know you are perfect in heaven, but I wish you were here with me instead.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Random ponderings on John 2

I read through the second chapter of the Gospel of John tonight. I've never really spent much time in deep thought about what happened when Jesus and the disciples went to a wedding in Cana along with Jesus' mother.  Until tonight.

The story, if you aren't familiar, goes like this:  Jesus, His mother, and His disciples were invited to a wedding feast in Cana, in Galilee.  While they were there, the guests drank all of the host's wine. Jesus' mom, Mary, came to tell him the wine had run out.  Jesus responded, "What's that to me and you? My hour has not yet come."  But Mary goes to the servants and tells them to do whatever Jesus says. So Jesus tells them to fill these huge jugs with water and serve it to the headwaiter.  The water became wine - the best wine of the day, in fact.  This was the start of the miracles Jesus performed and showed His glory for the first time, and the disciples believed in Him.

I've heard this passage preached many times, but tonight I had some new questions.

1. Did Mary actually expect Jesus to do something "supernatural" about the wine problem?  John states that this was the first miracle, "sign," that Jesus performed. So did Mary tell Jesus about the problem and expect a miracle?

Or is it possible that Mary expected something far more practical, like sending Philip and Andrew to the market in Cana to buy more wine?   The text doesn't really say.  There's part of me that chuckles at the possibility that Mary was telling Jesus because she thought He'd do something "normal," and then He responds by miraculously changing water to wine.  Granted, I think it is likely that Mary, who knew that Jesus was God in the flesh, was asking for a supernatural act.  But it still makes me giggle.

2. Why did Jesus perform the miracle at all?  I mean, when Mary first came to Him, He responded that it really wasn't His problem, and that His hour hadn't come.  If Jesus really didn't want to start performing miracles on that day, He certainly could have done nothing.  He hadn't performed any signs before that day, so I'm sure another day wouldn't have been a big deal.  So why do it at all?

My husband joked that it was the power of a nagging Jewish mother to get her son to act. :-)  Again, chuckles. It makes for a funny scene in my head, that's for sure!

While I don't have a secure answer to my question, I suspect that there's a clue to the answer in John 2:11- "This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him."

According to the first chapter of John, Andrew was following Jesus because he had been a disciple of John the Baptist and was there when John declared that Jesus was the Lamb of God.  Peter came to follow Jesus because Andrew told him that they had found the Messiah.  Philip received a personal invitation from Christ to follow Him.  And Nathanael was in the group because Philip told Him they had found the one of whom the prophets and the Law spoke - the Messiah - and Jesus told Nathanael things he couldn't have known if he were simply a man.

But none of these disciples had "seen His glory" in person.  They were all following Jesus on the hope that He was, really, the promised Messiah.  They thought He was, but this was the first time that Jesus was revealing His power and glory, and so they believed in Him.

No matter what the true answers to my questions, I am comforted by the fact that Jesus never rebuked his mom for telling the servants to obey Him.  Jesus could have simply not acted on the problem, or used a practical solution, or He could have told the servants that it wasn't His problem and to figure it out on their own.  I am glad that He was willing to intervene in a seemingly insignificant problem.

It gives me more confidence that I can come to Him with my own petty, insignificant problems.  He won't turn me away or tell me to figure it out for myself, or tell me that it's not worth His time.  God cares for me, and that means that I can come to Him about everything.

Don't take my word for it - take God's word:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  ~ Philippians 4:6

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.  ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Titles

What we call ourselves can be revealing.  How many of us call ourselves "losers" or "stupid" or "disgusting"?  Who do you know that insists on being called "Doctor" or who gets upset if you call them "Ms." when they are really a "Mrs."?  [As an aside, we had two professors at my college who were married to each other - the husband was "Dr. ____" and his wife was "Dr. Mrs. _____."]

We give meaning to titles, because they reveal something about who we are.  We call ourselves names that we think reflect the truth of our existence.

I've been thinking about this tonight after spending more time in John 1.  In the final verse, Jesus calls himself "the Son of Man."  I wondered why He chose this particular title. So I started searching the rest of Scripture.

It turns out that the first time that phrase was used to refer to Christ was in Daniel 7.  Daniel saw "one like a son of man coming with the clouds."  This "son of man" went before the Ancient of Days, was given authority to rule over all things, that all peoples, nations, and kingdoms would serve Him.  And His kingdom would be everlasting and could never be broken.  This passage is an important messianic prophecy - concerning the Christ, the promised one who would redeem Israel.

Jesus used the phrase "Son of Man" to refer to Himself more than any other title.  In Matthew 9, he told a paralytic man that his sins were forgiven.  The Pharisees were, as usual, very persnickety and complained that Jesus had no right to say that.  Jesus responded that, "in order to show you that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins," he told the man to take up his mat and walk. And he did.

I find it fascinating that Jesus' words mirror the prophecy in Daniel.  Almost like He meant them to, huh? :-)

In Acts 7, the apostle Stephen proclaimed that he saw "one like the Son of Man" at the right hand of the Father in heaven just before he was killed.  And the apostle John, in his vision of heaven, heard someone talking - when he turned, he saw "One like the Son of Man" standing there, and John fell at his feet.

One of our Bible's commentators suggested that Jesus only used the phrase "Son of Man" because it was an innocuous term that wouldn't arouse the ire of the Jews.  While I certainly understand the potential validity of this explanation, it strikes me as a bit unsatisfying.

I mean, wouldn't you think that the God of the Universe could avoid arousing anger grammatically by simply using the first person?  I, at least, am pretty sure that if I can see that potential, the LORD could, too.

No, I don't think Jesus called Himself the "Son of Man" over 80 times simply as a grammatical turn of phrase.  I cannot be totally certain, but I think that the term was chosen very specifically to emphasize the enormity of the truth about Christ:

The Word that existed in the beginning, that was God Himself (John 1:1), who created all things (John 1:3), became flesh (John 1:14) - became, literally, a son of Man - and dwelt among us!!

The God of all creation forced Himself into human form, with all of the pain, suffering, desires, and temptations (Hebrews 4:15 - For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.).

And why did He do this?  Why did He "who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.  Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross"?  

Well, friend, He did it for you.  Because He loves you.
By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.  In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. ~ 1 John 4:9-10

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. ~ Ephesians 2:4-9

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. ~ 2 Peter 3:9

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. ~John 3:16-17

Pretty cool, I think. :-)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Confession

No, I'm not going to make some weirdly inappropriate confession on social media, so don't get excited.

I'm thinking about a verse I just read in the Gospel of John.  I'm doing an inductive study of John for my personal bible study right now, and this particular verse struck me.  The context is that the priests and Levites came to ask John the Baptist who he was - in particular, whether he was the promised Messiah.  Verse 20 of chapter 1 states:

"And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, 'I am not the Christ.'" (John 1:20, NASB)

The dual emphasis on the confession stood out to me.  John confessed who he was not.  He did not deny that the truth was the Messiah was yet to come.  He confessed freely that he was not the Christ. I have been thinking about why God emphasized this.

What came to mind were two verses from later in Jesus' ministry, when He was talking about the end times.  In two different passages, Jesus told his disciples that people would come saying, "I am he" and "I am the Christ," and Jesus warned the disciples not to follow those people (Luke 21:8, Matthew 24:5).  These liars tell people that they are the ones sent by God, but then feed them lies, deceptions, anything but the truth.  These people confess - testify - that they are men and women sent by God, but they are not. Their confessions are lies.

But here's the thing - if we are truly in Christ, we can freely confess who we are.  And who we are not.  There is no condemnation (Romans 8:1), because we "formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.  But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Ephesians 2:3-9).

We can confess who we are in Christ.  We are sinners (Romans 3:23), broken and in need of repair, slaves to sin.  Formerly.  In Christ, we are redeemed. We have been bought with the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:13).  We are called the sons and daughters of God (John 1:12).  We are not perfect.  We are striving to become more like Jesus.  We are beloved.

I don't have to put on pretenses and "fake it."  I don't have to try to pretend to be something that I am not.  God gives us grace so that we can say freely, "Yep, I'm a total screw-up. But God loves me anyway. And I am ever striving to be like Him."  I can have confidence in who I am in Christ.  I can confess freely how I have screwed up. But I can also confess how God is shaping me and how He is freeing me from those screw-ups.

Friends, you can have confidence, too.  Study the Word and see who God says you really are.  Confess and do not deny, but confess who you were, who you are and who God is making you to be.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mom

Happy Mother's Day in Heaven, Mom.

Are you celebrating with your daddy today?  Or with your father-in-law?  Or maybe you are celebrating with the little girl you lost so many years ago, who never had a name here on earth.  Do you get to hold her in your arms and tell her how she was never far from your heart?

This is my second Mother's Day without you. In twelve days, it will be your 64th birthday. It's been 19.5 months since you slipped the bonds of this world. 

I miss you more every day. I miss your laugh, especially that hearty laugh that brought tears to your eyes when something really tickled you.  I miss your sense of humor, how you teased and giggled and made our pastors laugh.  I miss your stories about your second graders, your preschoolers, your first grade Sunday School class, the kids you grew up with.  I miss how we used to lay on your bed and talk late into the night.  And laugh.  I miss the daily (and sometimes more than daily) phone calls.  I miss talking to you about Scripture and church.  I miss getting your advice on, well, everything.  I miss calling you to talk about recipes and getting your advice on how best to cook something.  I miss calling you when I am lost as to how to be a better wife, to get your wisdom that came from 40 years of being a phenomenal wife to Dad. I miss your love and support when the fact of infertility and physical dysfunction seems crushing.

There isn't anyone who can fill the massive hole in my life since you've left.  I try to hold on to the memories, though some of them have already faded away. Your voice is already hard to hear. Though sometimes I still remember how it felt when you touched my hair. I watch certain movies because I know you loved them. I'm learning a little German because you studied it in college, and it makes me feel just a little bit closer to you.  I keep the ceramic Christmas tree that you bequeathed to me so many years ago constantly out on the end table in our living room because you and I both loved it so dearly. 

This week has been so hard without you, Mom.  The hours spent trying to support Aunt Chris as Ernie was dying. Worrying about Great Aunt Wilma as she was in the hospital. Worrying about your mom as she was in the hospital with pneumonia.  Going to Grandma & Grandpa's house that was empty of both of them for the first time in 65 years.  Visiting Grandma at her new home, trying not to cry at seeing her so weak and confused.

This week has been so very hard without you. I miss you so much, it hurts to breathe.

On this Mother's Day, I am so grateful for everything you were and everything you did for me. You were kind, generous, loving, passionate, funny, humble, godly, a faithful wife, a joyous mother.  You were not perfect - you were deeply human.  You lost your temper and made mistakes with the best of them. But you were always  there for us.  You taught me the value of generosity, the joy of faithful servanthood, and the glory of living a grace-filled life. 

All that I am, I owe to you and Dad.  I want so much to curl up in your arms today. I hope that you can feel my love in heaven. I love you with all my heart. You were my best friend.

And you are, now and forever, that ultimate title of love - Mom.