Prince of Peace:  The Third Week of Advent

Prince of Peace: The Third Week of Advent

Emmanuel…God with us….

Are you? Where?

The sweet baby across the street….the one with the dark wisps of hair that curl at the ends; the one who can light up the entire room with one enthusiastic grin; the one who just took his first steps a couple months ago; the one with whom our whole church has fallen head-over-heels in love….he’s flown in a life-support airplane to a hospital three hours away.  The specialists talk of his weak heart, the layers of scar tissue, that his pace maker is just pacing way too frequently for anyone’s comfort.  His poor momma buried her first baby five years ago in October.  She sits in his pediatric hospital room, the same hospital where she painfully survived the dying breaths of her first child, holding his hand, reeling from blow after blow, holding her shattered heart in her other hand.

Emmanuel…God with us….

Where…..are you?

We ache.  We scream. We write lists of questions for you, and we have excruciatingly few answers.

We come back, as the calendar reminds us, to the Holy time, the sacred time, and we expect a vision, a touch, or maybe just a brush from you.  We would settle for an inkling of your presence.  Just a slight nod from the Creator of the universe to know that we aren’t abandoned on the careening ball of grief, chaos, and disaster.

The lights twinkle in the windows of their house, as if they are awaiting the sounds of a toddler’s squeals.  Our lights twinkle back in salute to the pain and emptiness of the fallow emblem of Christmas celebration.

The wind whistles through the unused fireplace as we all camp out on the couch watching our favorite Christmas movies. Our family hunkers down for another sick Saturday at Christmastime.  The stomach flu has entered our house, and we brace ourselves for a wave of illness to sweep us off our feet for the week leading into Christmas.  I scour over an almost-complete knitting project and unravel an entire skein of yarn to find a mistake that I made 24 rows ago, and I shudder with defeat.  My life feels like the unraveling blanket in my lap, as I search desperately, trying to locate the source of my malfunction.  Where in the world did I go wrong?  How in heaven’s name can we fix it?

The kid with the stomach bug perks up enough to slap her brother on the head, and our cozy movie-watching morning turns into germ-infested wrestling match on the living room floor.  I helplessly watch the violence, raise my voice to a pitch that matches the chaos of the moment, and throw up my hands at a loss for how to remedy any of these broken situations….

I glance out the window, and my brain keeps bumping into the reminder of that fragile life that hangs in the balance. That sweet baby should be cuddling on his couch with his mommy but instead is trying to keep his little heart in rhythm in a hospital room three hours away.   Turns out he is throwing up today too.

I glance in my lap at this blanket that I have been working on for months that seems to manifest all of my brokenness and inadequacies in the pattern of knits and purls that feels entirely out of rhythm with my ultimate goal of a seersucker pattern made of perfect diamonds of royal blue, cranberry red and charcoal grey. This is not turning out like I had hoped it would. 

I glance over at my children smacking each other on the couch next to me. They just can’t seem to be friends no matter how many strategies I use to bring peace to our home. 

My poor brain, trying to balance life and illness, working endlessly to cope with chronic pain and lack of blood flow, trying to bounce back from the destructive rhythm of anaphylaxis and epinephrine shock, mixed with the constant passing out as my heart rate doubles when I stand up. Doubles.  I just can’t stay conscious, no matter how many pills I choke down morning, noon, and night.  My doctor says that I am the sickest, most treatment-resistant patient she has ever treated. 

And peace teases us, like a distant concept on the horizon, maybe present in the houses down the road,  but not in our two little houses, blinking SOS signals out for someone to decipher, for anyone to give us answers, solutions, peace.  We need it now.

Our desperate situations feel like painful juxtapositions to the week of peace that presents itself before us.  Peace?  As we try to balance life and death, malfunctioning brains, dislocated joints, broken hearts, faulty lungs, heaving stomachs, and faltering knitting projects, we shudder at the foreign concept of peace.

If only we were residing in ordinary time, one that doesn’t tease us so painfully as we hang in the balance, dangling willy-nilly between life and death, hope and despair.  If only the lights didn’t twinkle so brightly, offending us with what feels like machine-gun fire of tiny slaps in the face as we cling to sanity in the midst of critically insane situations.

Emmanuel….God with us….Prince of peace?

Where

are

you?

We try to create a Neiman Marcuesque Christmas, with a perfectly vertical tree, the star at the top twinkling with pristine clarity and color coordinated ornaments. We decorate the piano, the mantle, and the ridges of our roof, and we convey to the rest of the world that we “have it all together.”  Full disclosure?  We are missing Joseph in our nativity.  Joseph–the adopted father of Jesus; the one who also spoke with the angel Gabriel; who sacrificially allowed his name and identity to be slandered for the sake of obedience to the call of God. He’s GONE. Our Christmas tree has crashed to the floor three times in the past week, assaulted by disorderly, brawling preschoolers.  My head feels like it is going to explode with all of the pressure of Christmas activities and the over-stimulation of seizure-inducting blinking lights.  Peace?  Where?

Maybe we are looking in the wrong places.  This Spirit of the Lord whispers, look inside.

Then I see a peace that doesn’t depend on what is happening to me.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives.    John 14:26

The world is broken and shattered, and some lives manifest the dissonance more convincingly than others.  We see the chaos more clearly in mental illness, physical illness, senseless tragedy, financial hardship, abuse, and broken families.  Here we are, in this world of chaos, uncertainty, unraveling lives, infant and child death, debilitation chronic illness, divorce, sex slavery, injustice, and poverty.  And yet there is this truth imprinted on our hearts:  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you:  and it is true.  John’s not just trying to appeal to our warm, fuzzy emotions at Christmas.  He is telling us a vital fact regarding the presence of the Spirit, which is the direct result of Christ’s Advent, sacrifice on the cross, and defeat of death.

There is peace.  There is this deposit given to us:  The deposit of the Spirit.  This Spirit of God wraps us in indestructible peace as we go through the most brutal, deepest, darkest valleys of the shadow of death.  This is the peace that rules our hearts as we navigate a world that aches, yearns, and screams for the second coming of Jesus.  This is the peace that keeps our hearts pumping as they feel like they are being ripped out of our chests by betrayal, loss, abuse, or confusion.  This is the peace that allows us to laugh after a night of weeping.

I glance out the window again, and my heart resonates with the longing and pain as our lights twinkle with our neighbor’s, boldly shining in defiance against chaos.  I imagine a twinkle of the secret that is housed in the hearts of those in whom the Spirit of peace resides.  Whatever happens, however chaotic our lives, we will rest in the peace that rules our hearts and long for total restored order where there is no death, no pain, no suffering, and complete world peace.

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Becoming a Master of Disguise

Becoming a Master of Disguise

Lately,  I have been working on developing my make-up skills.  I am learning the secrets of bronzer, lip color, and the art of eye make-up.  I think that this is because I have been desperately trying harder and harder to not appear as sick as I feel. I know people who feel frustrated when they hear “But you don’t look sick.”  When I hear people say this statement to me, I think to myself smugly, “Good,  I’ve been working hard to achieve this goal. I better not look sick.”

I have been putting entirely too much effort into disguising my illness.  In fact, the irony of it all is that I have been pouring almost all of my sorely limited energy into disguising my illness.  I work so diligently on hair, fashion, and make-up that I end up collapsing in bed because I used up all of my POTSie, Masty, and Zebra spoons for the entire day in the 30 minutes that it took me to get ready.  Pointless, right?

Here’s the other kicker–I get so wrapped up in trying to convince people that I am able to be well and self-sufficient that I end up sicker, and I actually have the nerve to get mad at people for believing me.

 

I actually get mad at people for believing me! That’s crazy, right?  I want to look normal, be treated normally, and fit in with the general population, but I also expect people to read my mind when I feel like I’m dying.  I’m learning something revolutionary: People don’t read minds.  Well, generally they don’t.  There are those empaths that are so intuitive that they can see past my BS in a nano-second.  I have about three of them in my life, and thank the Lord, my husband is one of them.  Other than the psychic-seeming empaths, however, 98 percent of the population do not read minds.

I see two reasons for my dysfunctional behavior of covering up my pain:

The first reason for my need to pretend is that I feel the need to prove myself, perform, and not inconvenience anyone.  I have an ingrained sense of responsibility to protect people from my “needy” self, so I desperately try to convince everyone that they don’t need to be concerned about me.  This is probably because I have never felt worthy of nurture or care, and nurture and care make me squirm like a worm-digging, mud-pie building kid forced to don a stiff, unyielding fancy suit at a formal wedding.  Receiving care just doesn’t feel right nor does it feel natural.

My second reason that I can see is that we live in a culture of rugged individualism and fierce independence.  Western society struggles to see the need for interdependence, believing that the stronger we are individually, the more we are able to stand on our own two feet without any support from others.  This is one of the reasons why we as a society are so sick.  We have grown to isolate ourselves more and more, creating a bunch of little one-person-islands trying to pretend that we are content to “go it on our own” yet secretly hoping that someone will see our pain.  I have trended toward giving in to the pervasive message that our society is sending out:  Be strong; do it yourself.  This is not the truth of being created in the image of God.  We were created for relationship, to do life together, to be interdependent, and to grow and learn in community.

What I have attempted to do in creating this facade of independence is insanity.  Here’s the truth:  I am sick, and I need care.  I do not feel well, ever.  I actually feel like I have been hit by a truck, and then again by a city bus, and once again by a freight train.  Ninety-five percent of the time,  I have a fever.  If I stand up for more than two minutes, my brain stops working, my legs give out, and I will fall.  On a good day, I get hives when I am exposed to any kind of fragrance, chemical, or food.  On a bad day,  I will have difficulty breathing and will experience anaphylaxis.  I am on hard-core pain killers to manage the pain caused by my constantly over-extending and dislocating joints, and I frequently have breakthrough pain.  Every task, including walking ten steps down the hall, requires the energy that I used to expend on a 10 to 20 mile run.  I give myself pep-talks to brush my teeth or help my children brush their teeth.  I am better physically if I am lying in bed all day, but I am better emotionally if I am able to be out and engage in the world.  There is no cure for my illnesses, and despite what I try to to communicate,  I am not feeling any better this Holiday season than I was last year.

It’s not a pretty picture.  My illness, like my trauma, does not make people feel good.  That’s why I try not to let it show.  I want to make people feel good.  But here’s the deal:  In trying to make others “feel good”,  I am preventing myself from being known, making myself even sicker, and staving off actual relationships.  And then everyone feels even worse.

There is beauty in our messy, broken lives.  There is no real beauty in a facade.  Our false selves are hollow and ultimately push others away.  Our false independence creates in us attitudes of either arrogance or self-hate.  Our rugged individualism creates walls that end up being prisons.

So here I am, make-up-free, flat on my back, declaring that I am not okay.  I need people, and I need nurture, and sometimes I need people to sit with me in my suffering.  Within my Spirit, a voice whispers that we were all created for this kind of fellowship.

This blog post in obviously only a first step in my “coming out” process.  I stand in this liminal space, here in the blogosphere, declaring my need for interdependence, vulnerability, and truth, and I will carry it into the real world.  I will reach out to one person, and then another, and then another.

It might require baby steps.  I don’t plan on stopping the application of make-up, but I do plan on re-prioritizing.  Looking like I am well does not need to be my first priority.  Being daily transformed to the character of Christ, being authentic, loving my children, just connecting with others moment-by-moment, and taking care of myself spiritually, physically, and emotionally: These need to be my priorities.  If I am living into these priorities, then I am moving in the right direction.

We are not doing anyone anyone any favors by pretending that we are “okay” when we truly are not okay.  We are not protecting others, we are not protecting ourselves, and we are not protecting God.  We are stunting our growth and killing our relationships.  So, friends, as we step into reality and truth, let’s start trusting one another a little bit more, let’s lay down our self-sufficient pride enough to risk “looking sick” and making ourselves and others a little bit uncomfortable.

I am learning that I am falsely assuming that others want to hear that I am well when I am not.  I am learning that more often than not in my relationships, people ask because they care.  I am learning that as a body of Christ, we meet each other’s compassion with truth, not false images of wellness.  Our healing comes in our vulnerability, and our deceptions worsen our sicknesses. An old AA adage goes as follows:  “You are only as sick as your secrets.”  What if we lived in the open?  What if we laid down the masks? What if we met compassion with honesty and actually lived in community?  I know that my own life would look radically different, and I know that my load would feel undoubtably lighter.   We cannot bear one another’s burdens if we are not willing to disclose to others our own burdens.

Love has two sides:  Grace and truth.  Let’s meet others with both compassion and honesty as we live authentic, vulnerable, facade-free lives.

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Picking Up The Pieces

Picking Up The Pieces

Have you ever felt like your life is in shambles, and Christmas cheer stands in stark contrast to the pieces of your broken life? You might be closer to the heart of Advent than you know.  Join Jordan and Megan McFall as they journey through the scriptures that paint the Christmas story, and experience the Christ Child who came to restore hope, peace, joy, and love to our messy and chaotic lives.

This study is divided into four weeks following the themes of hope, joy, peace and love. Each week we will journey together daily looking to reclaim these things in our lives.  In addition to the daily devotional and reflection times throughout the four weeks, in the back of the book there are guides for four small group sessions as we encourage you to not go through this journey alone.  Use this study with a group you are a part of, or invite new people to join you as you embark on the journey of picking up the pieces of Advent hope, joy, peace and love.

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Book Review: Unforced Rhythms

Book Review: Unforced Rhythms

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When I received Gwen Jackson’s book Unforced Rhythms in the mail, I hesitated to show the book to my husband. The idea of even questioning the appropriateness of daily devotions seemed almost heretical. Growing up in an extremely strict, rule-based Christian background, I believed that the necessity of that daily hour with Jesus first thing in the morning was almost vital to salvation.

I remember my children’s daily devotional book that I dutifully read every morning as an elementary school student, and my 38 journals that I filled with daily prayers as a teenager. I grew up believing the rule that I must spend daily time with Jesus in order to call myself a follower of Christ. As a result of the echoes of my early doctrinal obligations, I approached Jackson’s book with great fear and trembling, looking cautiously at the sky for a lightning bolt to strike my head.

As I opened Jackson’s delightful and illuminating book, however, I hungrily began to devour her truth-based, liberating presentation of discipleship, Christian formation, and conformity to the character of Christ.

While the idea of questioning daily devotions seemed outlandish to me, I also have struggled for my 32 years of faith to follow a daily devotional schedule. As an artist, a writer, and a creative individual, I believe that I might trend toward a more seasonal, yearly rotation, as Jackson highlights in her book. I will spend hours, days, and even weeks in a state of prayer, scripture study, or worship, and come out renewed, strengthened and restored.

No single day looks like the next for me, especially as someone with debilitating chronic illness. One day I might be too ill to open my eyes, and the next I might be able to spend a few moments outside with my children. Life situations force me to be more flexible with my schedule as well, making a daily routine of scripture study and prayer nearly impossible. Until I read Jackson’s book, I lived in a sense of guilt for my inability to spend extended daily time in prayer and scripture study.

As I read Jackson’s words, I discovered that I have fallen victim to a lopsided view of Christianity, as my early years were filled with a stringent worship of piety and a pathetic neglect of manifesting the love of Christ in relationships with others. I had fallen into the sinkhole of believing that spiritual disciplines, rather than Jesus Christ, were the answer to my brokenness. I had lived in a spirit of pharisaical legalism and missed the actual relationship that Jesus desires to cultivate within us. My practice of piety produced arrogance and a sense of elitism rather than the actual fruit of the Spirit, and therefore made no positive difference in my life. In fact, I bore it like an over-bearing heavy yoke, and not the one that Jesus offers to share with us.

Jackson masterfully holds the tension of honoring spiritual disciplines and acts of piety while also allowing space for readers to step into the freedom from slavery to those spiritual practices. She beautifully shares both the grace and the truth of the love of God by allowing believers to step into identity as accepted and welcomed sons and daughters of God and then calling those believers into intentional growth and transformation.

I believe that Jackson’s book and her message are vital to the spiritual growth and global impact of today’s church. I also agree with Jackson that we each need to evaluate not only our own person life rhythm but also if we are worshipping Jesus or the doctrine of personal piety. I appreciate that Jackson creates space for us to see ourselves as unique and individual, while also created in the perfect image of Christ, and that she offers the chance for us to imagine what growth in Christ-likeness might uniquely look like for each of us.

I would like to better understand the different types of individuals and personal life-rhythms as I felt that I could fall into each category during different seasons of life, or even on different days. While some people might easily classify themselves, I was left wondering what my life rhythm truly is and where I stand on my personal needs for spiritual disciplines. I sense that life rhythms might hold a bit more complexity than presented in Jackson’s book. I appreciate, however, that Jackson acknowledges the complexity of each individual, and I am compelled to study human personality types models more deeply in order to more fully understand my life-rhythm.

Overall, Jackson’s book profoundly impacted my understanding of God, allowing for grace and freedom in the light of the truth of Christ found in the Word of God. I believe that as I am set free from unrealistic expectations that don’t fit with my individual personality, I will better be able to grow more fully into the character of Christ. Unforced Rhythms is bound to impact individuals profoundly and deeply, empowering us to live more fully into the character of Christ, uniquely manifested through each of our beautiful personalities.

When we keep postponing the inevitable

When we keep postponing the inevitable


Knitting has become a constant in my life over the past year.  I made Lily a blanket earlier in 2017, and now I am working on one for Elijah.  I am doing a color-block pattern with a seersucker stitch.  It is a bit more complicated and involved than I had planned, but it is coming out quite beautifully, albeit imperfectly (but hey, life lessons, right?).

I am not one to prepare my yarn.   Before they even start knitting, some people roll their yarn in tight little balls and then put it in a yarn holder.  When they do this, they will never have to deal with knots or tangles.  This is so incredibly smart.  Planning ahead pays.

I struggle with patience.  It takes quite a bit of time and energy to roll yarn into balls before the project has even started.  I typically impatiently want to dive right into my project, without any further adieu or delay. I don’t want to spend time preparing my yarn because I don’t see any immediate reward for my effort.  I like to see the fruit of my labor immediately.

What is the outcome of my haste? You guessed it!! I am half-way through this blanket for Elijah, and I am stuck.  I have been pushing back my tangled gray yarn for about a week. If you are familiar with knitting or crochet and are impatient like I am, you might understand this concept.  You can postpone total re-rolling of your yarn just by making a few alterations and shoving the tangled mess back just enough to finish the next row.  I would knit the 160 stitches of one row until the string was taut against the inevitable tangled disaster.  At the end of each row of stitches, I would face a decision:  Would I really hunker down and commit to untangling the rest of the yarn, or would I shove the tangled jungle of grey yarn back just far enough for me to tackle the next 160 stitches?  Would I do the dirty work of getting to the root of the problem, or would I do just enough to get by, delaying the inevitable?  You see,  I knew that at one point or another I would have to do the hard work, but I was willing to kick that proverbial can down the road just a little bit farther.

My tangled mess was not going away.  I would have to face it.

So on Wednesday, this week, after about a week of shoving the tangled yarn farther and farther away from my project, I decided that the looming inevitability of disaster was too overwhelming.  I would face it head-on, stop my knitting, and really get to the root of my yarn problem.  Untangling that mess took hours.  I mean, I spent an entire day untangling yarn and not knitting.  But it had to be done if I ever wanted to actually finish my project.

Sometimes analogies slap us in the face.  This analogy was so obvious that I could not deal with my knitting without thinking about my life.  How many issues in my life do I shove aside, just trying to get through the next day?   How many unresolved relationships, loose ends, and places of brokenness do I stretch just a little bit further down the tight thread of my anxious life knowing that one day sooner or later I will have to face the music of my hurt and chaos?

Procrastination: How much healing in my life am I avoiding, thinking that I have more important issues at hand?

This week I am too busy to allow God to heal me from my bitterness from the wound that keeps oozing.  I’m just going to keep putting more bandages on it so I don’t have to think about the infection.  Tylenol works to control the pain, so I can keep going like this for a bit longer. 

I have too many projects going on right now to really deal with the hurts that keep popping up.  They happened 25 years ago.  I’ve made it this far without really hashing it out; why drudge them up now?  I will keep playing wack-a-mole. 

I am too busy with all of these ministry ventures to dig into my woundedness from that arrow.  Even though it hit my heart, and I feel the pangs of it’s aftermath every day, I can’t commit time at this point to allow God to break into that particular wound.  It would be way too inconvenient. 

These postponements work for a while.  They have worked in my life.  There are issues that are safe to deal with, and then there are wounds that are too risky to open up.  In the short-term, healing would take more time and energy than I am willing or feel able to invest. It seems practical and even wise to just push the tangled mess back far enough to get through the next row of stitches.

But, really, are these delays helping or hurting? Are they stunting our growth and binding us, paralyzing us in our process of maturity and sanctification in Christ?  Are they sending us around the same mountain over and over again, as we never really move forward?  We hold in one hand this life that keeps advancing and growing, and we hold in the other a tangled disaster of bitterness and brokenness in which we are unwilling to really let God do His deep healing work.

I’m there, or else I wouldn’t have had the looming sense that my tangled mess of yarn isn’t really just about a tangled mess of yarn.  I wouldn’t have looked at the postponement of the inevitable in my knitting project and seen the tangible reminder of a more pervasive pattern in my life.

I fall into the mentality of the “tyranny of the urgent.”  With little kids, a growing congregation, and a gnarly chronic illness, I fall prey to this mentality.  I put out the most pressing fires.  I fight the battles that throw themselves at you each day, and I don’t have the bandwidth to go digging for the deeper battles that are waging under the surface.  I live on the defense, boxing gloves hovering around my face, trying desperately to block the constant barrage of blows.  And as I do this,  I hear whispers that the more pressing matters are the ones that I am avoiding.  As I block the blows of the surface, I miss the deeper wounds of the heart.

So I did the hard work with the yarn.  I spent the day unraveling the mess.  If only life were that simple.  One day of unraveling and digging out the knots, and you are set to knit on, unhindered for the rest of your life! But if I can take the time with my knitting, putting my project on hold to do some dirty work under the surface,  I can take some time out with my life, letting God do some deeper healing that I have been kicking down the road.

I hear a whisper in my soul saying that the hard work of true wound-healing will be worth it.  A deeper, richer, fuller life awaits on the other side.

When prayer doesn’t produce physical healing

When prayer doesn’t produce physical healing

This past week, Jordan and I traveled to Franklin Tennessee for an ecumenical conference that was centered on prayer, the Holy Spirit, and re-imagining church.  The conference describes itself as being an “effort to gather pastors together under one roof to convene conversations, curate content, call to prayer, and inspire a new generation of men and women who long to be a part of a great awakening.”  It was a gathering of clergy and lay-leaders who are passionate about a fresh spiritual awakening and revival in the church universal.  Speakers came from around the globe to share their experiences and theological insights on awakening, prayer, gifts of the Spirit, and the empowered Church.

We were encouraged that pockets of spiritual wildfire are breaking out across the globe as God’s people are stepping up and remembering the greatness of the all-powerful God that we love and serve.  God’s body is not sizzling out or dying off.  We are coming alive as we re-connect to the Vine and experience fresh expressions of church in an ever-changing culture.  This is great news!

Anyone who thinks that scholarly theological discussion is dry or boring has never experienced training under the brilliant theologians who taught at the New Room Conference hosted by Asbury Seminary’s Seedbed publishing company.  There was nothing “dry” or “boring” about the teaching that took place during this three-day conference.  In fact, as someone who has massive adrenaline dumps into my bloodstream due to my HyperPOTS,  I struggled to keep my heart rate under control as my passion and zeal were ignited throughout this dynamic three-day gathering.

I discovered something interesting this past week in Franklin:  When you attend a gathering with a focus on the power of the Holy Spirit and prayer, and you are in a wheel chair, you will have many people who want to pray over you.  This is not a bad thing.  It’s a wonderful thing.  I need as much prayer as I can get, and I certainly long for healing.  When it is 11 PM, and you are trying to get out the doors so that you can get to your air b&b to sleep, however, you might have a tendency to “duck and run.”  I may or may not have whispered to Jordan, “Quick! Run now! Don’t make eye contact, just push me to the car as fast as you can.”  I was exhausted.  There was not a single prayer that was prayed over me that didn’t deeply minister to my heart, mind, and body.  I loved it all.  And I needed rest.

One might think that if you go to a conference like this with physical ailments, you are likely to make it home completely healed.  If you get home, and you are still wheelchair dependent, maybe you didn’t have enough faith.  Maybe the right people didn’t pray for you.  Maybe God forgot to listen.  Surely something went wrong, right?  I mean,  GIANTS in the faith prayed over me.  I was prayed over in song, in English, in tongues, given words of prophecy, wept over, had countless people lay hands over me, and yet……I still came home in a wheelchair, still needing the same routine of medications, still passing out,  still needing a feeding tube, still completely drained of energy and physical strength….still waiting. 

And guess what?  I couldn’t have asked for more effective prayer.  My hope is restored, my joy is restored, my spiritual and emotional strength are restored, and I recieved a better and deeper healing than I could have ever dreamed possible.

Sometimes God heals our phyiscal bodies.  Sometimes He takes away our diseases.  Sometimes He raises people from the actual dead.  Sometimes He says,  “Little girl, arise!”, and people physically, miraculously stand up.

Other times, when He says, “Little girl, arise,”  the child inside of us who has been beaten down and cast aside rises up and is healed.  And He tells our broken hearts just the things that they have always been longing to hear:

“You are loved.”

“You are not, and never have been, the problem,”

“I am proud of you.”

“My light pours through you, and shines out of you.”

“Will you trust me while you wait?” 

Let me be your Father.”

Guys, there are things more important than physical healing, and I think that I figured out what some of those things are this past week.  God wants to restore the years that were stolen from me through trauma and abuse.  God wants to fill my heart to overflowing with hope, joy, and all good things that come from Him.  God wants to pour out His light and life through me in the midst of my suffering in ways that show that in my weakness, He is sufficient.  God wants to restore my identity and help me find myself in relation to Him.

My physical illnesses are surface issues.  Yes, they suck.  Yes, they can be heavy and painful.  Yes, I desire to be healed from them.  But I want God more than I want physical healing. In the midst of my pain, suffering, and illness,  God is enough.  If physical healing never comes, God is still enough.  No, He is more than enough.  He is the Giver of every good and perfect gift because He is every good and perfect gift.

After a compassionate, Spirit-led, wonderful group of individuals prayed, sang, and prophesied over me on Thursday, one of them asked,  “How do you feel now?”  I knew that He was referring to how I felt physically.  Was I healed?  I took a deep breath, and I said, “Quite honestly,  I feel quite a bit worse now physically.  Praying takes a lot of energy. But my heart and my mind are renewed, and emotionally and spiritually, I feel like a new woman.”  I am not sure how he felt after that prayer, if those precious people who deeply interceeded for me felt like they had failed, or that I had failed, or that God had not come through.  I hope not.  Their prayer changed me.  It strengthed my hope.  God flooded me with joy, heart-rest, and spiritual strength as they sang and prayed over me.  I have never felt more loved by Jehovah Rapha, my healer-God.

I’m still waiting for physical healing.  I have a sense that it is not yet time. And I am okay with that.  I will keep asking, and I will keep readily welcoming prayers for physical healing.  But of this I am sure: God provides special blessings in the waiting times of our lives.

As I wait,  I embrace this promise from Isaiah 40:31: Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles.  They will walk and not grow weary.  They will run and not be faint.


 

Who is my Enemy?

Who is my Enemy?

Do you ever forget what battle you are fighting?  I think that I get so angry, so self-righteous, so indignant, so flame-throwing, nail-spitting mad, that I just close my eyes and throw fists every which way I can muster, hitting innocent victims, and only accomplishing more self-hatred.

Oh my,  I’m fighting hard.  I’m fighting the people I love the most.  I’m fighting those who are trying their hardest to help me.  I’m fighting against my own body.  I’m even fighting God who loves me more than I can ever imagine.  I’m blindly lashing out because I am spitting’ mad. 

And by golly, I sure feel like I have all the reasons in the world to be mad.  So in indignation,  I spit in the face of anyone who challenges me for lashing out.

But in my anger, I am having a free-for-all flow of aggression. I have no aim, no real enemy.  Thus, everyone who is actually for me becomes the enemy.  I become the enemy. God becomes the enemy.  But the real enemy remains totally unchallenged, and I imagine that he is doing a little victory dance as I blindly let my fists fly at my most cherished allies.

Why is it so easy to forget?

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood [all the people who love you and care about you, your own body], but against rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12, additional comments my own). 

I gravitate toward the softer, sweeter ideas about God and the spiritual world.  I fail to consider the reality of evil, darkness, and dun-dun-dun….Satan.  No one wants to hear about that guy.  I certainly don’t.  Why don’t we?  It doesn’t feel good.  We can’t comprehend evil.  The nature of the unseen realm is that we….wait for it….can’t see it.  We can’t see it, and we can’t wrap our brains around it.   So it must not be there, right?

But wait….why does it feel like I am being hit from all sides?  Why does all of this fighting feel for naught?  Why does evidence show that prayer actually is effective, powerful, and meaningful?  And why in the world is the Bible (you know,  God’s own Spirit-breathed, life-giving word) so hyper-focused on these ideas of Spiritual battle?  Why do I feel like a warrior if I’m not actually created to fight a real, bonafide enemy?  (Hint:  I’m pretty sure my enemy is not other people, my own body, my family, or the medical world).

Maybe I’m the only one who has fallen for this sugar-coated, palatable, white-washed Christianity.  Maybe I’m the only one who has started cringing at any mention of “forces of evil,”  “weapons of the enemy,” and any scripture that refers to life as warfare.  So if I am writing only to myself, it is still worth it. I’ve got some major lessons to learn.  Everyone else can just read along and eves-drop on my internal conversation if you would like.  But based on some conversations that I have had,  I get the feeling that I’m not alone.

I need to start fighting the real enemy again, using the weapons that I have been gifted with from the Father of Lights, who gives wonderful gifts to His children.  He, who has filled us with perfect love that casts out all fear (1 John 4:18), has called us to go forth into battle with our eyes wide open.  And the great thing is that we have a complete set of armor to wear into battle. (Ephesians 6: 14-17).  We are fully equipped, empowered by the Spirit of God, with the Son of God at the right hand of the father interceding for us.

But I’ve got to stop fighting the non-enemies.  As long as I am fighting aimlessly, I will always be defeated.  And as long as I forget who is my real enemy, I will keep fighting aimlessly.

So today, I draw the line in the sand (this may be like my 35th line in the sand–Good thing God is so patient and long-suffering):  I will put on the armor: truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and the word of God.  I will allow the Spirit of God to open my eyes, and I will fight the real enemy.

I don’t know what the outcome will be.   There’s no guarantee that it will result in physical healing, the absence of mental illness, complete resolution of trauma, or the absence of suffering in life.  It will result, however, in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).  And honestly, I don’t think that I could ask for a better life than one filled with all of those gifts.

So watch out, Satan.  I’m no longer turning a blind eye.