Category Archives: Chronic Illness

Yahweh’s Deep Love

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Yahweh turned rivers into wasteland,
springs of water into sunbaked mud;
Luscious orchards became alkali flats
because of the evil of the people who lived there.

Then He changed wasteland into fresh pools of water,
arid earth into springs of water,
Brought in the hungry and settled them there;
they moved in–what a great place to live!

They sowed the fields, they planted vineyards,
they reaped a bountiful harvest.
He blessed them and they prospered greatly;
their herds of cattle never decreased.

But abuse and evil and trouble declined
as He heaped scorn on princes and sent them away.
He gave the poor a safe place to live,
treated their clans like well-cared-for sheep.

Good people see this and are glad;
bad people are speechless, stopped in their tracks.
If you are really wise, you’ll think this over–
it’s time you appreciated Yahweh’s deep love.

You called out to Yahweh in your desperate condition
He got you out in the nick of time.

He spoke the word that healed you,
that pulled you back from the brink of death.

So thank Yahweh for His marvelous love,
for His miracle mercy to the children He loves!

~thoughts from Psalm 107, The Message

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The Grace of Catastrophe

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After seeing my favorite opera on the Big Screen yesterday,  “Les Miserables,” I have been singing Fantine’s song and thinking of Jean Valjean’s choices in life.  I read Les Miserables while taking a Humanities course in college.  I fell in love with Jean Valjean, if it’s possible to love a fictitious character.  He is a type of Christ, being willing to step into our mess and carry us through to life (think sewer scene here).  So many fantastic metaphors in that story!  No wonder, outside of the Bible, we’re told Les Miserables is the next favorite story of God’s redemptive power. 

It brought to mind this article I’d bookmarked months ago.  What happens when life becomes messy?  Does grace cover catastrophe?  Oh, yes!  Read on, if you need some insight. THIS is what we can learn, if willing, through the messiness of life:

Life in the Midst of Mess

Jan Winebrenner

What We Really Believe

A. W. Tozer wrote, “The difference between a great Christian life and any other kind lies in the quality of our religious concepts . . . i.e., what we think of God, what we believe about Him.”

Nothing so challenges us to examine what we believe about God like catastrophe.

That our idea of God corresponds as nearly as possible to the true being of God is of immense importance to us. . . . Often only after an ordeal of painful self-probing are we likely to discover what we actually believe about God.

We face difficulty, and we have to ask:
Do we really believe God is strong and faithful?
We face pain and illness, and we wonder:
Is He as good as I’ve always been told to believe?

Death comes, and weeping, and we ask: Is heaven a reality? Is prayer effective? Does God really hear? The struggles and disasters of our lives prompt us to ask these questions, and dozens more. Every tragedy, every crisis, offers us this:

It can be a means of grace—an instrument used by God by which we can cease floating passively on all manner of external attractions. It is by the grace of catastrophe that people sometimes come to themselves and see what is before them as if for the first time. Catastrophe can, like a mighty wind, blow away the abstracting veils of theory and ideology and enable our own sovereign seeing.  ~Eugene Peterson

It is the testimony of the ancients, as well as contemporary saints, that the greatest lessons of faith have been learned against the backdrop of suffering. The theology we say we believe takes root in soil watered by tears and bears fruit in lives characterized by peace and righteousness, lives that delight in the person of God Himself.

The “grace of catastrophe” comes through in places where our theology is tested, our faith forged, our knowledge of God made personal and practical, and our love for Him impassioned.

On the Brink

John Piper wrote, “Every moment in every circumstance we stand on the brink between the lure of idolatry and the delight of seeing and knowing God.”

Our stance is never more precarious than when we are in pain
—any kind of pain.
The voice of God whispers in our souls, “Love Me, worship Me, trust Me.”

But His soft words are hard to hear over the raucous voices in our culture and in our own hearts—voices that shout at us to berate God, to ignore Him and move on in search of other comforts, if there be any—any that don’t wear off after a few minutes or hours.

Still, Jesus calls us to come close, to cuddle in His love and rest in the certainty of His goodness and His sovereign power. He invites us to take comfort in all that He has promised to be to us—savior, friend, healer, lover.

This is the challenge we face with each day as we step out into life.

Will we seek God and take our refuge in Him
when our path is littered with broken dreams?
Or will we turn elsewhere?

We have only these two options when catastrophe strikes. If we choose God, then catastrophe becomes for us a special grace-gift, ushering us into the place where we can experience God in ways we never before imagined. We find ourselves poised on the brink of life’s greatest discovery:

that God is the ultimate presence in the universe, and that knowing Him, interacting with Him, by faith, is more satisfying, more exhilarating than anything the human heart ever hoped for or imagined.

(Go here to read more…)

A Season of Funk

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Who’s to say when the season ends?
God.
Who’s to say when the crying stops?
God.
Who’s to say when it’s time to move on?
God.

Not you.
Not me.

God.

You may give a “buck up” message to help someone “get past” their crud.
But, unless you’ve walked their path (and no one has the exact same path),
You have no idea the length of time it will take for them to be able to “move on”.

And, believe it or not, some people are created to grieve.
You might not like that, but it’s biblical.
Some people are given hurt after hurt after hurt to be an example of the reality of a sinful world.

You can’t know who that person is…and it’s way too easy to say, “Get over it!”

God determines the seasons of our lives.
WE are to be compassionate in whatever season we find others…

Mourn with those who mourn.
Rejoice with those who rejoice.

YOU are not God.
I am not God.

He determines the times and the seasons…
…the epochs of our lives.

Love covers a multitude of sins…even self-pity…
Be gentle, compassionate, forgiving…let the fruit of kindness be ever on your lips.

Grace, people.

With a Grateful Heart

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The LORD is good to everyone.
He showers compassion on all His creation.
~Psalms 145:9

For the LORD Most High is awesome.
He is the great King of all the earth.
~Psalms 47:2

Praise the Lord!
Give thanks to the Lord,
For He is good,
And His loyal love endures!
~Psalms 106:1

In everything give thanks.
For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
~1 Thess. 5:1

If these words are true, and I believe they are, we can give thanks in all things.   It may have been a tough year, maybe the hardest you’ve ever endured.  The news declares much of the world is suffering.   Personally, you may be suffering more than you ever imagined possible.  It doesn’t make sense to you and you’re wondering how to give thanks in this

God is still God.
And you are still His creation.

All the people of the earth are nothing compared to Him. He has the power to do as He pleases among the angels of heaven and with those who live on earth. No one can stop Him or challenge Him, saying, ‘What do you mean by doing these things?’ ~Daniel 4

He has the power to do as He pleases…and sometimes, what He pleases is not at all pleasurable to us.

However, if the words are true —
And again, I believe they are —
We. can. give. thanks.

How?
When the pain is unimaginable…
When the loss is too great…
When the tears won’t stop…
How do we do it?

When all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew you had better things waiting for you in eternity. Do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord, no matter what happens. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that He has promised. ~Hebrews 10

With our eyes fixed on Him…NOT on the circumstance:

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how He did it. Because He never lost sight of where He was headed–that exhilarating finish in and with God–He could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now He’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. ~Hebrews 12

With patient endurance.
Don’t throw away your confidence in the Lord.
Don’t lose sight of where you’re headed.
You can put up with anything along the way…just as your Savior did.
Know: better things await you in eternity.

With a grateful heart,
I can give thanks in all things,
Knowing this is God’s will for me,
In Christ Jesus…amen.

Catastrophic Grace

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We build our lives hoping the dreams we imagine will come to fruition. 

We take the steps needed to have
A fulfilling career,
That house on the hill,
A loving family.

Whatever the dream,
We reach
To attain.

And then,
Somewhere along the timeline of life
An unexpected tragedy occurs.

For some, the tragedy comes early.
Others have plenty of time living the dream before it erupts.
Either way, as we live on this earth, life will crash in around us.

Illness. Disability. Alcoholism. Addiction. Death.  Flood. Tsunami. Fire. Hurricane. Tornado. Earthquake. Miscarriage. Infertility. SIDS. Accident. Abuse. Molestation. Rape. Murder. Betrayal. Adultery. Divorce. Termination. Bankruptcy. Depression. Slander. . .

Self-induced or brought on by another’s choice . . . no matter . . .

It is by the grace of catastrophe that people sometimes come to themselves and see what is before them as if for the first time.  Catastrophe can, like a mighty wind, blow away the abstracting veils of theory and ideology and enable our own sovereign seeing.  ~Eugene Peterson

As if for the first time, we see. The winds of change, the stormy gusts of tragedy blow away the abstracting veils of all the theory and ideology we have assumed. Or, determined. No matter how you came to your personal belief system, it is in shambles from the catastrophe that has overtaken your existence.

Now what?

I do not understand the mystery of grace—only that it meets us where we are, but does not leave us where it found us. ~Anne Lamott

The huge unaswerable question is formed,
And finally breathed: Why?

As the writer of Ecclesiastes laments,
“Everything is meaningless, utterly meaningless!”

Nothing in this life under the sun brings fulfillment.
Nothing brings meaning.
All may be lost in a moment.

Life isn’t like a book. Life isn’t logical or sensible or orderly.  Life is a mess most of the time.  And theology must be lived out in the midst of that mess. ~Chuck Colson

In the midst of the mess:
A glimpse of eternity,
A flicker of light,
A bubble of clarity…

A Divine Architect?

Notice the way God does things; then fall into line.  Don’t fight the ways of God, for who can straighten out what He has made crooked? ~Ecclesiastes 7:13

What is He designing?
What is He working out for you, or in you?
What is He doing…is it for you…or for Him?

For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels–[everything] got started in Him and finds its purpose in Him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. ~Colossians 1:16-17

Whatever it is.
Whatever He is doing,
There is purpose in it.

And the purpose will be found in Him, alone.
For everything we try to create in this life will be meaningless,
Until God brings meaning to it.

It’s all about Him.
It’s not about me.

Not I But Christ

(Meet the music minister from my church, Scott Dyer…
and listen to one of my favorite songs!  Just hit play.

Great book on this subject:  Bold Purpose)

God Is In It

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I feel scared. 
I’m uncertain of the future. 

“One day at a time…one moment at a time…”

Don’t think future, think now.
Yes, that’s what I’ve learned.
To survive in traumatic times…think now.

I gave what I knew to give, but it wasn’t enough.

“Stop beating yourself up, Michelle.  It’s done. 
You’ve sought forgiveness.
A new normal will come…eventually.”

“…to accept the things I cannot change…”

I tried to create a life of serenity for my family, but how could that be when in my innermost being I did not feel peace?  I was continually striving…trying to reach a place outside of this realm.  Perfection.

As long as my body would allow, I created a faςade of peace.
As long as my mind stayed intact, I could do this thing called Life.

Life comes through death…

Death to self, yet alive to God.

Poignant memories teach:

On good days I’d gather the kids together and we would take off for a park or a nature trail. Someplace to explore to our heart’s content. I remember the time we were exploring in a nearby creek and all of the sudden Al disappeared. He popped up a moment later exclaiming, “Wow, that was deep!” He lost his shoe in the muddy bottom, but we weren’t staying in the water any longer! The murky water had become a dangerous place to play, not being able to discern where the next hole would appear. Both boys were upset. They didn’t understand the danger involved. In their minds the adventure had just begun. But, being the adult and having such young charges, I knew I had to call an end to the exploration. We had been going long enough. It was time for showers in the backyard and snacks in the treehouse. Another fun day homeschooling. We would write about our adventures later, after dinner, and maybe make a “special book” entitled, “The Day Al Disappeared.”

Maybe that’s where I am now…
Writing the story, “The Day Michelle Disappeared.”

I tried too hard. That had always been my way. Hadn’t I already learned the dangers from striving to be the best?  In my second year of teaching I had my first meltdown.  A couple of years down the road, another one almost led to a nervous breakdown.  The cause: working hard to be the best.  I resigned from teaching, due to stress, and started having babies…but, the cycle didn’t end.

The best teacher…The best wife…The best cook…The best mother…The best bible leader…The best friend…The best gardener…The best decorator…The best neighbor…The best daughter…The best sister…The best (whatever).

And my prayer?  The one that would fall from my lips at the end of the day:
What do You want me to do, Lord? 
Show me, anything…I’ll do it.

I thought I was crying out as a willing servant.
In reality, I was still working to earn His approval. 
Someone’s approval…please!!

Life takes us by surprise,
And we learn to embrace what is meant to be,
rather than what we meant to create.
Determination only takes a person as far
as their body and situation will allow.

~Gitz

I did what I could do in my own effort for as long as my body allowed. Then, I had no choice but to give in to my weakness. I couldn’t keep going. It was done. Although I didn’t know it at the time, and continued to grieve the loss of ability, I waited for the day my health would return.  It didn’t happen. Not then. Not while I still had children to nurture and a husband to help. 

The stress from constant disability took its toll on all of us.  When  the deep settled peace doesn’t dwell within, one pulls from wherever and grabs anything close enough to bring serenity.  The filling of a vacuum.  Even if it’s a false serenity, it relieves the angst for a while. 

However, eventually, the pseudo-peace wears away and reality sets in. 

The husband has gone. 
The children are raised.
For better or worse. 

And now…bitterness seeks to take root in the soul.

How does God deal with your bitter heart?
He reminds you that what you have is more important than what you don’t have.
You still have your relationship with God. No one can take that.

~Lucado

“Hello. My name is Michelle.
I’m a believer in Jesus Christ and I’m Celebrating Recovery from shame
Due to sexual abuse as a child and performance-based religion.”

“Hi, Michelle!”

Where is Your Sting?

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The sting of death seems to permeate my existence these days…

The death of a marriage.
The death of a friend.
The death of a family member.

I suppose, with all the grief, it only makes sense for me to spend time in 1 Corinthians 15 and the 23rd Psalm. You see, I homeschool my nieces and a nephew and death has hovered around them for a few months now. Their beloved uncle, Andrew, has been suffering from melanoma for about a year. He went home to be with our Lord early Friday morning. As with Gitz, Andrew was very young.  Only 33.

I have always had a longing, a deep-seated desire, to be with Jesus. I’m not sure why, other than my love for Him. However, it could be the picture on the front of my childhood New Testament. Jesus is walking, holding hands, with many children — smiling — it appears He’s answering questions. As imagined at ten years of age, my mind takes me to the wonderful assurance of That Day when I will get to walk with Jesus. I will see Him face-to-face…on The Day He has fixed in His book.  The faith of a child…

I believe that with my whole being.
I believe I will walk with Him.
One Day.

He will call me Home when the time is complete.
When my days have been spent and the job I have to do on this earth is over.
I, too, will be with the Lord.

However, for now, I will continue to teach.  I will ask my little family members to read the 23rd Psalm with me.  I will describe Heaven in biblical terms.  They will understand that a river flows from the throne of God with trees growing on either side.  We will talk about the fruits that change every month and the leaves which are given for healing.  We will imagine what our rooms will look like and what questions we may have for Jesus.  And we will come to understand where our Hope lies. 

Our hope is not in this world, this life, this existence.

Our hope is in another place and time.

We can endure this momentary light affliction:

Ravishing cancer,
Ripping divorce,
Scraped knees,
Devastating loneliness,
Aching limbs,
Torn families,
Chronic fatigue, 
Hard labor,



The abuse of a world gone mad…

The results of sin run amuck…

We can endure, for as long as He determines.

And then…

We’ll go home.

    We’ll see Jesus.

Just like Gitz.

    Just like Andrew.

For we know…

Andrew playing with Twelve-Twenty Four

Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable….For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. Now when this perishable puts on the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will happen,

“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

 

 My deepest condolences to Don, Esther, Pamela, Betty, Burton, Katie, Emily, Zachariah, William, and J.T.  We have this assurance, we will see him again.  And, for now and evermore, he is wholly complete.  Thank you, Jesus.