Monday, February 24, 2020

What 'Love One Another' Doesn't Mean

        As we wrap up this last week in February, the month we celebrate 'love', I want to blog on what I've seen or experienced myself, as what 'love one another' doesn't mean.  This command, love one another, is addressed directly to Jesus’ followers. Christians are to love one another. This doesn’t mean that we don’t love people who are not Christians. To the contrary, we are to love everyone always. We are to love our neighbors regardless of race, religion, age, or political affiliation.  Love doesn't mean agreeing on issues that are biblically wrong, but it means loving the lost towards Christ.  Romans 5:8 is our example towards this goal, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 

      "Having God's unconditional love doesn't mean you have his unconditional approval." [M. McPherson]

       I'll begin with the sinful, hurt of gossip.  Proverbs 11:13 "gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret."  I've been on the receiving end of gossip from a friend about another friend that was struggling with a low point in her life.  I immediately said, "STOP, that is gossip and I won't listen to it or be a part of it."   That is how we stop sin in its tracks and show love for the victim of the gossip thread.  As Matthew Henry says, " In the lips of a slanderer and backbiter there is as a fire, not only to brand his neighbor’s reputation, to smoke and sully it, but as a burning fire to consume it."  Proverbs 16:28 "A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.  There is a difference about gossip in that it has a destructive motive without care or concern for the spoken of.  May we always choose to be peacemakers and build each other up, in and with love.

      Next, I'll confront the issue of sincere love, because the bible has much to say about it.  Romans 12:9 says "Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good."  A person who was once a friend of mine and to me before conflict arose, now says they 'love me' yet won't refer to me as 'friend' anymore.  That is not sincere love but a twist on semantics.  1 Peter 1:21-23 "Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God."   When we are born again, we can love with purity, sincerity, and deeply from our hearts.

        Also, churches can have an inclusive nature that is not welcoming to new people.  This is not healthy or good for the church itself or for people seeking to find the right church home.  The body of Christ is made up of sinners who have been redeemed from their sin-debt through Jesus, but they are not perfect, fail daily, and are forgiven.  God never gave a list of pre-requisites to the command of 'love one another'.  Love is the first step to showing someone to Christ and hopefully towards accepting their gift of salvation.

       Lastly, let me discuss how church can fail to meet our expectations, in regards to loving one another.  "Why are we surprised by failure in the body of Christ?"  So many people I know personally want to know God more but their scars from the Christian community keeps them at a fragile distance.  To them I say, "“If you’re waiting for our church to disappoint you, I promise you we will. In spades. We’re a bunch of sinners.  But if you’re looking for friends who will show you their wounds too, who will go to Jesus with you and trust God to heal us all together, then that’s who we want to be." []  The hurt is real out there, but we can't let people keep us from God's invitation of eternal love and hope.  "With each year’s demographic reports, we hear how people are exiting religious communities at a rapid clip. Curiosity around general “spirituality” is on the rise, but fewer and fewer people have any interest in belonging to actual churches. "  May we recognize our own sinfulness as we encourage others to be a part of our Jesus-led lives and churches, so they might have the same hope and saving grace that we have been given.

         May we love one another in all the 50 ways the bible says to. "By obeying the Spirit, through the Word of God, the believer can love like Christ does. He shows that unconditional, sacrificial, forgiving love to fellow believers, but it doesn’t stop there. He also shows the love of Christ to friends, to family members, to coworkers, etc. Even enemies are the recipients of Christ’s love. Those who love like Christ in the Holy Spirit’s power will give evidence that they are disciples, or learners, of Jesus Christ." []

Saturday, February 15, 2020

The Power of Touch

          This week's blog is an extension of last week's theme on the weakness in my extremitities.  I had said 'the loss is greater than one could imagine' so I want to expound on what that means.  There is so much that our hands and arms allow us to do that we take for granted.  It's no secret that a pat on the back, a warm embrace or a touch on your hand can make you feel special but what if you can only accept those kinds of love and not give them anymore.  It's an awkward, uncomfortable feeling of what you might call sensory deprivation.
         It is true that it's better to give than receive, but sometimes you just have to be on the receiving end and give in other ways.  I've never been a touchy-feely kind of person but in some ways I regret that now.  I no longer have the ability to reach out and give someone I love a hug.  The best I can do is to lean into their embrace of me.  One person recognized that and said, "I love that you lean into my hug."  Another loss is the ability to reach out and shake someone's hand.  It is awkward on both sides, I hate that I can't and the other person feels bad that they assumed everyone could shake hands and put me in that position.  It's okay and not a crime.  People either get cowardly and avoid me from then on or they switch to a friendly tap on the shoulder or a fist bump my hand.  The latter is preferred.  One last touch I miss is reaching out to pet and love on my animalss by my own power.  My dog rides in my lap in the van and that touch of closeness is priceless.  When I ask, my caregivers will help me pet my furbabies with my hand.
         In a world where so much of our interaction is virtual — Facebook, e-mails, texts — physical contact is more precious than ever.   "Touch is a much more sophisticated system than we ever realized," says Matthew J. Hertenstein, Ph.D."  Touch can boost your immune system and other studies have shown that touch helps asthma, eases migraines, and leads to a more restful night's sleep.  "Scientists are discovering that you don't have to touch another person to receive a sensory lift. Next time you're feeling low, cradle a steaming mug of coffee or tea in your hands." [Good Housekeeping] 
        Even back in biblical times, touch had significant meaning and power.  From the garden in Genesis 3:2-3 "The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”  At Mount Sinai in Exodus 19:12 "Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, ‘Be careful that you do not approach the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain is to be put to death."   In Matthew 8:2-3 " A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy."  In Luke 24:38-39, Jesus used the power of touch to prove himself real by  "He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?  Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”
         So you can see through the many examples I've mentioned in this blog, that the power of touch has great significance.  I encourage you and myself to go out and touch your loved ones, others lives and everything that has breath with love.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Weakness Revealed

        "Weakness" is not something that is part of our wants in our will of life, but it is a needed necessity as part of God's will for us.  Weakness is a good place for the Spirit to begin it's work in us.  Romans 8:26  "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans."  We would rather hide our weaknesses from others and let the Spirit work on an invisible level.  1 Corinthians 1:25  "For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength."  The trouble with our hiding is that pride and anger can get a foothold and sin can take root, where God wants to use us and be glorified.  Ephesians 4:26-27 "In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold."

        So this week in my blog here, I will start my journey of sharing some of my hidden weaknesses to encourage others in their struggles.   I've been encouraged to do this by Paul's verse in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 "“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

         As many of you know, I have Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, type 2c.  The way this disease progresses is by damaging the nerve's myelin sheath.  The nerves that are damaged go to the muscles and cause the muscles to atrophy.  The distal muscles are affected first, so that's why my feet turning in and falling were my first symptoms.  The weakness progressed to include my inability to walk around age 25.  So, we come now to the great reveal that only a few close people in my life are aware of, to my knowledge.  Maybe others know by assumption, not facts.

         This blog reveal has been on my heart and mind for years, but pride has held me back.   Psalm 27:1  "The Lord is my light and my salvation— whoshall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whoshall I be afraid?"   So, I will be bold, brave and write without fear about my weakness for God's glory.

         My disease progressed to affecting my arms and hands about 10 years ago.  I haven't been able to use my right arm at all since then and very little with my left arm.  With that loss, I lost my ability to physically write by a pen or pencil.  This loss is embarrassing and greater than one might imagine.  Anytime I have to sign my name, write a check, send a thank you note or greeting card, or fill out paperwork... then I have to ask someone else to do it for me.  Such a simple task, as coloring, I cannot do. 

          I used to have great penmenship.  A friend wanted to leave a note on a guy's car once when we were teenagers and she said, "You write it for me, you write better than me."  When I worked in the lab, one of my tasks was to fill out the log book for specimens received.  Even back then, I could feel the loss of writing coming in the near future.  So, I would rest my hand a few minutes and continue on.

         One year, my dad took me to the DMV to renew my license, now known as identification, and I was asked to sign my name.  After an aggravating discussion with the clerk about how I couldn't sign, my dad put his hand on mine and signed my name.   The clerk was satisfied and as we left I said,  "Sometimes you have to act stupid to please Stupid."

          Even though I can't physically write with a pen anymore, God has blessed me with computer adapted technology to write here on my blog, by email and on Facebook.  A friend told me not long ago in bible study, "but you paint a beautiful picture with words on your blog."  Just this week, I was filling out paperwork for a doctor's appointment on my computer and I got to sign my name myself by using my cursor and moving  my head. It didn't look far off from what my hand used to do.

           God gives us all we need to fulfill His purposes through us.  We may not have all we want or what we once had, but God's provisions are right, according to his will and purposeful.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Recharging and Restarting

        Hello again, friends and family.  I want to share my thoughts and what I have learned over the past month or so, that made me return to blogging.  I was urged in my heart to consider, "what if I took the pieces of my life, no matter what the world says they are worth and began to use them to help others flourish for the sake of Christ."  I believe God has blessed me with shareable moments in my life and a way through blogging to not only benefit me, but others as well.
        Tim Keller says that "meaningful work is taking the raw materials we are given and assembling them in a way that causes other people to flourish."  That is not only what I want, but my blog's goal.  "Personal fulfillment is biggest when we're involved in something bigger than ourselves, something for the good of others."  My blogging is not just a personal joy and reward, but it is one of the few tasks left that I can do alone without help from anyone and also, enrich the lives of others.  That is huge for me and I know it won't last forever.  So, one reason for returning is to do it while I can.  I exist for a specific reason and no one can express my thoughts from this life, like myself. 
         So, why did I take time off from blogging?  Well, there are a few reasons.  When I began my blog again after my fall, I was in a place of doubt.  I didn't think I would regain strength, but I did.  I didn't think I would survive the year, but I did.  I doubted God's faithfulness here on earth back then, but thought more of his eternal goodness coming to me.  So now that I am again in a time or season of wellness, I still felt the need for a break.  I wanted to have a short season and pull back to listen to God's will for me.  God has encouraged me through reading, "Made for This: 40 Days to Living Out Your Purpose", a bible study called "Stuck", and verbal messages from friends and family. I've been told that if your showing god to the world, you're on the right track.  May God have his way in and through me and let me have the courage and obedience to follow through with it.
         So, what will be different about my blog going forward?  I plan to be intentional by being more open, sharing hidden struggles and more memories on a personal level.  I've asked myself, "What has god given you here to show his glory?"   He has given me a natural gift to blog to show his supernatural powers that have blessed my life.   "What if we ran our race, despite our thorns and sin , and let God straighten us out."   1 Corinthians 2:9 "However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”—    the things God has prepared for those who love him— these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit."
          We all need to embrace our uncertainties and weaknesses.  In my upcoming blogs, I will write about certain weaknesses that I have felt called to write about, but my pride has held me back from doing it.  As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ''But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."   Some of our darkest moments are intended for good and those messiest of places can be our most fertile soil, in which we can share the gospel of Jesus Christ.   Our sufferings are useful, as in Romans 5:3-5 " we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces
perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."  Our suffering is like our hurt for heaven, because we know life is short and temporary, earth is not our home and suffering is a privilege we share with Jesus.  2 Corinthians 1:5  "For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ."
            Every calling has a cost, but offer yourself as a living sacrifice, dedicated to a service that is  pleasing to Him.  We must kill our fears and uncertainties because they are from the devil.  Romans 12:1  "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship."  

          I look forward to writing next week's blog and reading your comments.  Thank you for sharing this journey with me.  XOXO

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Identity and Dependency

Daughteryour faith has healed youGo in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Mark 5:34

         Today's blog is about true identity and dependency, from my perspective.  I want my life to touch God, like the woman literally did in Mark 5:34, and be rewarded in eternity with no suffering.

  Who am I?
 Thankfully over the past 48 years, my identity has changed but my true identity has never changed since I was saved and born again.  My true identity is founded on being a follower of Jesus Christ, a daughter of the King of kings, a redeemed and forgiven soul, a chosen elect of God's family and a witness for the Kingdom of heaven.  Praise the Lord!  My earthly, temporal identity has revolved around being my parent's only child and daughter, a student to many different schools and universities, a friend to many, a wife and ex to one man, a parent to many animals, a relative to quite a few, being a lab tech, and a few more things that were enjoyed in this life but will pass away too.

   How did I get to where I am?
I was raised with expectations and not given a disability excuse to be any less than I could be.  During my school years, I did well, even when other students thought less of me because of my limp walk and braces.  For example, when I had to transfer to a high school with no stairs, I felt the need to prove myself and establish my reputation as a smart kid.  In my world history class, we played Jeopardy the day before a test to prepare ourselves.  Obviously with no one knowing me, the first game I was picked last for a team.  From then on during the school year, I was picked in the first 3 rounds.  How typical is it for us to care how the world around us, thinks of us.  Moral lesson:  Be confident and proud of who you are, regardless of the judging of others that don't matter.

    Did my planned path change? 
Yes, it did.  Ever since 10th grade, I geared my classes and plans toward being a pharmacist.  I graduated 13th in my high school class and then went to UCA for 2 years.  Then I got hit with the curve ball that I prayed for, I got engaged about the same time I was accepted into pharmacy school [twice].  I had to choose because marriage involved moving to Dallas, where there was no pharmacy school, or choosing a career path alone.  I chose marriage because I was so in love and thought it would last forever.  With my knowledge of knowing my disease was progressive, I knew working wouldn't last forever and relationships are more important.  I switched gears, I got married, took a year off from school, then pursued a degree in Microbiology.  In August 1994, I graduated with a B.S. in Microbiology from NIU.  After 2 years of sending out resumes and numerous interviews, I got my dream job with the State of Missouri, Dept. of Agriculture, Diagnostic Lab in Springfield, MO as a Lab Tech 2 with a focus on DNA testing.  This was a job that God knew I could do for just the right amount of time, 5yrs, before having to go on disability.  Moral lesson:  Follow your dreams but don't quit when the winds move you into a different direction.  Follow your heart over money or career, if needed.

    How do you go from an independent life to a totally dependent one?
First, none of us are totally independent.  As it says in John 15:5 "apart from me you can do nothing."  So as strong as you are today, you are disillusioned by your physical strength. “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). He supplies our very breath. He also meets our needs “according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). God gives and takes away, over time or in a flash, according to His will, not ours. 
  Secondly, I am a woman of action, not excuses.  My disease is one in which there is automatic qualification for disability.  I could have sought out a government paid-off life, but that is not who I am or what I am about.  God didn't give me the brain-power and drive to sit on the sidelines and waste  away.  Happiness comes from growth and purpose.  God has blessed me with true joy and happiness throughout my life.  Sometimes in life, you have to be your own encourager.  I've felt ugly and I've felt beautiful, I've felt dumb and I've felt smart, I've felt weak and I've felt strong.   Guilt and shame come from people, not God! 
  Thirdly, God isn't trying to break me by making me progressively weaker.  God is teaching me to rely on Him and his provisions.  God knows my heart and that if my will was done, I would strive to be self-reliant and self-sufficient.  That's not his will, for any of us. "He doesn’t want our suffering to debilitate us, but when it feels like too much to bear, the promise of eternity and Christ’s presence keeps us from despair "As human beings, we often have a difficult time perceiving what the Lord is doing in our life. We are limited by the passage of time, the confusion of present circumstances, and a lack of understanding regarding God’s goals and His means of accomplishing them."  " The Lord doesn’t want us to simply grit our teeth and bear hardship; He desires that we trust Him and bring glory to His name through our dependence." []
   Fourthly, I am writing these words in this blog mostly for myself.  I feel unhappy because I don't long for or have growth and purpose anymore.  I am gritting my teeth to try to get through each day but trying to stay strong in God's will for me.  It is so hard to be not only blessed by others but to have total dependence as well on them.   God  wants us to grow in Christlikeness, but He doesn’t want to break our spirit.  As this is my last blog, I ask that you pray I will finish strong this journey He has purposefully set for me.  May I live boldly, peacefully, and effectively for His glory.