Tuesday, April 28, 2015

How Sure Is Your Footing?

      I thought I had an infinite ability to be lazy.
      Now I realize that I'm just  a marathon type of lazy person. (Oxymoron) and not an infinite slug.
      I have a dilemma.  I have had foot pain for a number of weeks now but my fear of doctors is greater than the inconvenience of the pain I'm experiencing.  I've had foot pain many years ago and finally, with some anxiety, went to a podiatrist who almost never used invasive procedures.  It turned out that I had Plantar Fasciitis and it could be handled with inserts.
      So this time around, I diagnosed my own foot problem - similar pains except this time it is in my heel instead of the arch of my foot.  I dragged out a couple of  inserts I bought way back when and wore them over time until I realized each one  was making my pain worse instead of better.
     This time around I have found that walking around in my sock feet and/or staying off of said feet causes the pain to virtually disappear. (Right now I have absolutely no pain).   But wearing shoes (with or without inserts) increases the pain to the point that I can hardly walk.  (The busy weekend I had just two days ago being a case in point).
     So yesterday I sat around all day long.  And virtually no pain last night or this morning.  My husband (patiently) listened to my detailed recital of all my foot problems over the weekend and my comparative ease yesterday and made this suggestion:  why don't you cancel your activities for a few days, stay off your feet - since that makes the pain go away - and see if your foot will heal?
    Cancel my activities?
    It's not like I'm overbooked here.
    I'm retarred and I don't even garden...
    Besides, I don't want to cancel my activities.  ONe day sitting on my duff is fine but two or three or four?  Plus, there are at least three things I feel I HAVE to do this week - they can't be put off.
    But if severely restricting my activity works and I don't have to go to a surgeon (um, doctor) then ...   I wrestled with that decision this morning and finally canceled activities for today (although maybe not for tonight!).
    But I didn't like it.  Two weeks ago I put almost everything on hold because I was sitting with a sick in-law for several days.  Now it's my foot.
    Call me "Unreliable".
    Call me... um... "Old".
    But then it hit me - maybe there is more to this than just what I can see.  Maybe... just maybe... God wants me to be still.  (So I can finish confessing all my uncharitable thoughts over the past couple of weeks while I was playing temporary caregiver?  So I can better put myself in the unlucky person's place who was temporarily dependent on me for a few days?)
    I know that God has a purpose for everything He allows or sends our way.  (I don't think He sent this foot problem my way - I think overeating, lack of exercise, standing on my feet for 30 years in the classroom, and the natural aging factor sent this "gift" my way). But still He can use whatever situation I find myself in.
    So last night I sat up until 3 a.m. - it's hard to sleep when you've done nothing all day long - and I read for a couple of hours in the book Cold Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace.  Mr. Wallace was the one who led the conference this weekend that I was privileged to attend.
   And now I have time (!) to read his book.
   Mr. Wallace is well-educated, articulate, and sharp.   He has worn many hats in his lifetime but his primary career has been that of a police detective.  He worked his way up from an officer on the beat to homicide to a cold case detective.  Cold cases are murder investigations that have been unsolved for years and/or decades.
   In the numerous cases he has worked, he has found that DNA has not been helpful. Sometimes DNA even works against the detective by eliminating all the known suspects, leaving the police with no other avenue to explore.
   By the same token, a murder case of twenty years ago can be so "cold" that there are no witnesses around to interview when the case is being re-examined.   No new scientific data to shed light on the case?  No old eyewitnesses still around to talk to?
   How can you solve a case like that?
   In his book, Cold Case Christianity, on his website coldcasechristianity.com/, and in his blog, pleaseconvinceme.com/, Mr. Wallace shows the average person how to apply cold 
case detective  skills to evaluating the reliability of the Gospels, the authenticity of the
 eyewitness accounts of the life of Christ, and  the information concerning the resurrection
 of Christ.    Using examples from cases that he has worked as a detective makes this a
somewhat different  and fascinating   look at an old story through a new lens.
  I highly recommend his writings and hope to share what I am learning through this blog.
  The most important thing in life, in my opinion, is to know that your world view is resting 
on solid footing, in step  with all the reasonable facts that are at our disposal.
   Ironically one foot problem =/ is giving me time to secure my religious footing amidst
 a world  full of deception.  And that is no small thing!
  As Paul wrote back in the first century: in everything give thanks!  So today I am 
thanking God for foot pain,  forced inactivity, and time to reflect.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Hymns and Funeral Home Fans...

The past week and a half have been a bit of a roller coaster ride.
I don't like roller coaster rides at theme parks; I certainly don't like them in real life where there is no ticket taker with a measuring stick to ensure that you are tall enough to be allowed on the ride in the first place.
This morning I am so thankful, even buoyed up by the sparkling new day outside, the gorgeous sunshine after days of overcast skies and intermittent rain. I am grateful that this day is open for me to do whatever I want to do; that I don't have to cope with my sister-in-law this morning (and she with me!)
And yet....
I have gained some wisdom and it's this: the curtain will be raised on the next act in my sister-in-law's life sooner rather than later and it won't be good. Today is, I believe, just a small intermission in the drama of her life and consequently in the drama of all our lives.
The doctor took her staples out yesterday so she insisted on going to her house to resume her normal life. But she was seriously dehydrated Tuesday night and still running a fever when Phil took her home yesterday so how normal can her life be?
She lives by herself although she has neighbors who try to watch out for her. Over the past week or so, we've seen her take too much medicine and not be aware that she was doing it. We've seen her consistently eat almost nothing and drink almost nothing - some days a small container of yogurt, half a cup of black coffee, and half a can of TAB and nothing else until supper time where she would eat a little more but not much.
Yet for the most part, she is lucid and able to control her own affairs. She is the older sister and the dominant personality in the family. And she has long prided herself on being the master of her fate, the captain of her soul - although she would never put it that way.
But that's what it boils down to. No matter what topic arises in conversation, she has seen a documentary on t.v., heard about it on the radio, and/or read a book about it. In the past whenever she held forth on a topic, she was usually right and had info none of the rest had at our fingertips.
She was witty, beautiful, and outgoing and to some extent still is. (Part of the reason she wouldn't eat much was because she knew she wasn't getting much exercise and she didn't want to gain weight) She also has a generous heart and a will to help others - she has blessed quite a few people in her home town.
But her wit and wisdom have turned into self-serving monologues that tend to keep others at arm's length. And at this point, she is captaining her ship right onto some serious shoals and we know it's just a matter of time before either she calls us and is forced to ask for help again or someone else calls us on her behalf...
And, seriously, how do you navigate your own ship from this world to the next when you need help accomplishing the simplest things and you are perhaps a little too dependent on pain meds without realizing it?
Don't we need a Savior?
The sweetest time that I have had throughout this past week and a half came last Friday night while I was sitting in the car waiting for Phil to take care of a little task for friends who were away for a few days. There in the stillness of the night, just as I was about to become impatient, God met me.
I don't know how else to put it. One minute I was starting to fret and the next hymns from my childhood just started running through my mind - songs I haven't sung in years.
Silly songs like "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam..." smile emoticon
Childhood songs like "Jesus Loves Me," and "The B-I-B-L-E, Yes, That's the Book For Me!".
Girl's in Action (G. A.) songs like "We've a Story to Tell to the Nations."
Campfire songs like "I Have Decided To Follow Jesus."
And hymns that I associate with my grandmother's little country church (where the singing was less than stellar as I recall smile emoticon Songs such as: "There Is Power in the Blood," "Rescue the Perishing," and "Christ Receiveth Sinful Men."
This morning as I sat with my open hymnal, those old hymns plus words from a more  "citified"  hymn spoke to my heart:
Be still, my soul! the Lord is on thy side; bear patiently the cross of grief or pain. Leave to thy God to order and provide; In every change He faithful will remain. Be still, my soul! thy best, thy heavenly Friend, thro' thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
"Leave to thy God to order and provide; In every change He faithful will remain.." (Be Still, My Soul)
Years ago I acquired a BSE, an MSE, and six graduate hours above that. I have spent most of the years of my adult life promoting education and reading every book I could get my hands on. I have enjoyed all types of music - especially the modern choruses. And I don't know that I have ever valued the "old-timey" hymns that my grandma sang enthusiastically off key while fanning herself with a Funeral Home fan in a swelteringly hot country church.
Until now...
This is the bottom line: throughout the lows of these past 12 days, it has been those old, long discarded, "corny" hymns of humid summer Sundays and mosquito- ridden week night revival meetings that God has used to minister to my troubled heart; it has most definitely not been lessons learned at a professor's knee or facts gleaned from my honor's paper or all the books I read during my post graduate summer seminar on world cultures - as interesting as those things were.
No. The truth is: we are not masters of our fate nor are we captains of our souls. How can we be when we gradually lose the ability to recall and/or master the simplest of tasks?
The Bible has it right: My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalms 73:26)
Today I am so thankful that I learned this truth at my mother's knee and heard it warbled off key ad nauseam in my grandmother's small church where harmony was not at a premium but gritty faith was.
Please keep praying for my sis-in-law.
Sinners Jesus will receive;
Sound this word of grace to all
Who the heavenly pathway leave,
All who linger, all who fall.
Sing it o’er and over again;
Christ receiveth sinful men;
Make the message clear and plain:
Christ receiveth sinful men.
Come, and He will give you rest;
Trust Him, for His Word is plain;
He will take the sinfulest;
Christ receiveth sinful men.
Now my heart condemns me not,
Pure before the law I stand;
He who cleansed me from all spot,
Satisfied its last demand.
Christ receiveth sinful men,
Even me with all my sin;
Purged from every spot and stain,
Heaven with Him I enter in.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

God... Are You serious....?????

They say confession is good for the soul.

This is the deal: I fell in love with the Bible study, What Love Is...(as everyone knows by now.) So when I finished it in early March, I immediately started right back on session 1. (As everyone knows by now...) And I loved it just as much as I had before!!! Week one and week two and the first three days of week three were great! Uplifting beyond words! Just like before!
But then...
The workbook and the Scripture didn't change but life did....
Suddenly a relative needed help while recovering from a nasty fall and subsequent surgery. I'm the only one in the family not working so I didn't hesitate to volunteer.
I knew everything would be a little different but it would only be for a few days; plus I'm a loving kind of people-person - so I really had no doubt that I could do it. I understood that the "patient" thinks my personal beliefs are unenlightened and that it's her job to educate me. And it's pretty obvious that she thinks she has the low down on every topic under the sun. (But I know she doesn't ... because, actually, I do... And since we hardly see eye to eye on anything we can't both be right.) And I knew that she was a bit demanding and not prone to express appreciation- although I'm sure she feels it. And I knew that she has a tendency to talk non-stop for,,,, well... hours at a time. But it would only be for a week or two at the most so while I wasn't jumping for joy over the temporary assignment, I wasn't too worried either.
In fact, looking back I can honestly say that the things that did cause me unease were mechanical issues such as how we would manage the bathroom thing. Or the eating thing. Or the being woozy-headed while walking thing. Or the re-bandaging the wound thing.
But I always fell back on this thought: it's only for a few days so how hard can it be?
Well, it's this hard: by the end of my third day of cheerful, selfless,loving care giving ( /= )I was literally wondering whose head I should beat against the wall - mine or hers... You may think I'm kidding but I assure you that I'm not.
And during the day before that, after one particularly testy and prolonged monologue where I received unwanted instruction on everything from A to Z, I opened my Bible Study workbook only to get this message: lack of love for a brother or sister is a sure sign that you are not in fellowship with God.
And I just wanted to look up at the Heavens and yell, "God! Are You SERIOUS???? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Do you KNOW what I'm having to put up with??? And besides that, SHE STARTS IT !!! EVERY SINGLE BLINKING TIME!!!! I DON'T BRING UP THE CONTROVERSIAL STUFF!!! AND I SURE DON'T EVER GET TO FINISH IT ... BECAUSE I CAN HARDLY GET A BLOOMING WORD IN EDGEWISE!!!!"
However, I didn't yell (out loud anyway). Instead I finished day four's lesson because I didn't want to fall behind...and took some aspirin...
Amazing how quickly a Bible passage can lose it's luster...
The next day's lesson was, truthfully, even worse. I opened my workbook and this appeared before my mutinous eyes: Jesus told us that there is no greater love than to lay down your life for someone else.
Seriously?? Lord, I am contemplating laying HER life down... not mine...
However, I quickly realized that it was okay because this passage would apply to someone who was in a war zone or a robbery or something like that and therefore was not likely to happen.
I resumed my lesson and the author got to me, as if she had been reading my torqued little mind. Basically I encountered words to this effect: if we just look at that verse in John as if it refers to our physical life only, we've missed the point. Having to die physically to protect someone is not likely to happen to most of us. Plus physical death is actually easier than laying your life down day by day in little ways and large ways for the sake of others.
I cried. Not a lot but enough to show me where my heart was. Tears of self-pity. Tears of wounded pride. Tears of selfishness.
Not repentant tears and not confessional tears.
I came face to face with my own heart and immediately looked away. Soon afterwards I went home (venting all the way), proceeded to eat chocolate (by the barrel full), and watched a movie (Jane Austen).
This morning was beautiful and the patient was sleeping so I sat outside on a screened-in porch, surrounded by the delightful music of birds in spring. I didn't have an excuse not to do my Bible study so after some procrastination (where I nursed my grudges from the previous days) I opened up my workbook (with some trepidation) and read this:
"You may be in a place where the Lord is calling you to lay your life down for another in a specific instance. If this is you - even if it seems like the most insignificant of ways - respond to God about what He's asking of you."
Well...I did...
My response took up a closely written page - I couldn't even begin to fit it into the answer space provided on the workbook page so I didn't even try. Ha!
And then I read the next question:
"You may need a deeper understanding of the love that God poured out on you. You'll never love others if you haven't first grasped His love. Spend more time asking the Lord to open your eyes to the way He's poured His love out for you."
"You'll never love others if you haven't first grasped His love..."
Okay, Lord, please open my eyes and show me Your love that you have poured out on me...
And this is what He showed me: this current trial was a lavish outpouring of His love...
I cried again. This time with repentance and gratitude. While He continued to open my eyes.
He showed me that it was His plan for this unpalatable task to clash with the very lesson I was working on at this exact time in this exact week,month,and year.
Not because He hates me (or my long-suffering in-law) but because He wanted the words on the printed page - guidance in truth and instruction in how to both receive love and give it away - He wanted those words to move from my head to my heart.
And because He wanted me to see the paucity of my own ability to love so that I would discard my pride and reach out for a deeper in-filling of His.
That's it. He just wanted to pour out more love on me and my pride was preventing Him from doing that. So He put me in a situation where pride had to go out the window.
Now that I've been a caregiver for a whacking four whole days, I can honestly say that I don't know how stuff like this ever works on the strictly human level - I tried and just couldn't make it happen without gritting my teeth and/or wanting to do bodily harm to the one I was supposed to be loving.
But now I know how it works on the supernatural level: you admit you stink at selfless loving. That's the first step. Then you ask Him to fill you up to the brim with His supernatural love until it just slops over onto those around you. That's it: step 1, step 2. He does the rest. (Note: you don't ask Him - through gritted teeth - to give you more love for the one who is driving you crazy - which is the way I had been going about it).
By the way, I highly recommend the Bible study - What Love Is... by Kelly Minter.
I just thought I'd mention it in case I haven't told you already...