Sunday, January 20, 2008

From Despair to Hope and Rest

By the time it came to the edge of the Forest, the stream had grown up, so that it was almost a river, and, being grown-up, it did not run and jump and sparkle along as it used to do when it was younger, but moved more slowly.  For it knew now where it was going, and it said to itself, “There is no hurry.  We shall get there some day.” 

—A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner

On the first warm day of spring this year, I went out to my favorite forest preserve for some quiet reflection.  I followed the bark-chip-laden path, winding through the almost bare trees.  Here and there signs of spring dared to poke through the damp brown: a little green on the forest floor, a few buds, and patches of bright, happy blue-bells heralding the coming of warmer days.  I hiked around the bend when the brown gave way to a great grassy expanse that took my breath away: a new, spring green, a fresh-after-the-storm green, a glowing with dew-jewels green.  Draped around it the quiet stream beckoned.  “There is no hurry,” it seemed to whisper.
 It reminded me of Pooh’s river, which draws a beautiful picture of growing up—and also a picture of our faith growing up, of trusting in God, of learning to rest in Him.  But I find many times that I am more like the “little streams higher up in the Forest, [going] this way and that, quickly, eagerly, having so much to find out before it [is] too late.”  I fight, I wrestle, I wonder why God doesn’t act sooner.  Often, I reject His rest.  It is not the gift that I want.  I want change!  I want action!  I want it now!  God offers instead the power, the strength to weather the storm, the deep rest of abiding in Him.

Martin Luther said, “it’s not by reading or writing or speculating that one becomes a theologian; it is rather living, dying, and being damned that makes one a theologian.”  

I find in his words someone who understands the constant struggle, the testing of life, the questions that come, and the relief of knowing I’m not the only one.  This is the truth he realized when he read Psalm 22:1, later quoted by Jesus, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 

When I struggle, I often feel as Paul did, hard pressed on every side.  I read the stories of Jesus healing so many, yet live with a husband God has chosen not to heal.  And then my children—how do you read story after story, “Jesus healed…Jesus healed…” and not feel slammed into the wall by the daily “no” you face when your chronic illness is not healed?  Do you hope God’s answer is “not yet?”  Do you wish for the relief of death?  Do you resignedly accept your “fate,” or do you continue to allow yourself to be emotionally beat up by unanswered prayers, hoping this time…  What kind of hope carries you through, carries you beyond? 

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:8, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed.”   And he wrote this only 3 chapters to the verse after proclaiming in 1:8, “ We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia.  We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.” 

How did Paul go from a deeply despairing man to one who did not despair, who was not crushed, who knew he was not abandoned, and that destruction was not his end?  He continues, “Indeed in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.  But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.  He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us.  On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers…”

Paul had good reason to despair, who wouldn’t?  He was imprisoned, flogged, and “exposed to death again and again.  Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move, I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers.  I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.  Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches…”  2 Corinthians 11:23-28. 

He despaired—and then he relied on God, gained strength to go on, and found he did not despair.  This is the comfort we pass on one to another.  When we find a God so reliable, so trustworthy, so unmistakably loving and sovereign that we can turn to Him in the most severe trouble, fix our eyes and our purpose on Him, and believe Him when circumstances deny His existence, then we have found the secret of comfort.  And in our prayers and in our love, we can carry a battle-weary brother or sister into the presence of the God who heals us by His wounds.  

The Psalmist cries out,

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?

And Isaiah calls back,

“Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God’?  Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” —Isa 40:27-31

You can almost feel the river growing, gaining strength as the Psalmist continues,

Look on me and answer, O LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;
my enemy will say, "I have overcome him,"
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
for he has been good to me. —Psalm 13

Winter is sometimes very long.  But spring is coming, and the love of our great and sovereign Lord is unfailing.  We know where we are going.  And there is no hurry when we rest beside the quiet stream, where He restores our souls.  

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

He's Normal!

"Did you just call me normal?" Dave asked.
"No, *I* would never call you normal! But these test results say otherwise..." I replied.

Sorry. I have to brag on my hubby for a bit. Back in September, Dave was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. His A1c (3-month blood sugar average) was 8.9. That means his average glucose level over the 3 prior months had been above 200. Even his fasting levels were 180-220, which meant his liver was kicking glucose into his system overnight. Definitely not a good thing!

I received the news with all the eagerness of a cat in a tub of soapy water. I was done. After seven years of Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses, I was not ready to learn about yet another illness. But after I had my little rant I put on my game face and went with him to diabetes education classes. Thankfully they did the classes one on one for us so Dave could avoid perfume exposures from other classmates.

Everything seemed insurmountable to me. I knew I couldn't realistically keep track of what he eats, because one of the problems with Lyme is sleep that refuses to regulate. I can't watch what someone eats while I'm sleeping! With his memory struggles, would he remember what to eat, and when he had eaten, and to track his blood sugar?

While my fears were doing the proverbial bull-in-the-china-shop run in my mind, Dave was taking the bull by the horns and reading labels. Lots of labels. I think he knows every grocery store aisle in town now (especially the 24 hour one, which turns out to be a good place to walk in the winter as well). And walk he does--twice a day many days. He may not go far or fast, but he goes, and he doesn't give up. He's shown incredible discipline in his eating, which for anyone is difficult--but for someone with the struggles of Lyme Disease to overcome, it's downright phenomenal.

I knew he was making good progress when the other day he came out sporting his jeans that hadn't fit for awhile. But neither of us knew how well until his check-up this week. Down 18 pounds since September (35 since summer). Cholesterol down 18 points. And his A1C--a whopping 5.9 now! He's actually in the "normal" range! (That doesn't mean he can stop all the changes though, it means keep up the good work!)

It's funny how what I thought was the last straw to do us in (or at least me!), became the catalyst God used to help Dave make important health changes. We never expected results this positive--the education classes were encouraging him to get to 6.5 or 7. Anyway, I am so proud of Dave's hard work this fall, and we are praising God for seeing us through and enabling Dave to focus on the needed changes.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

More than all of these...

Dave took Anna shopping the other night, she loves to wander through the sewing and crafts section, and Dave's so sweet to take her. She oohed and aaahed at all the colors of yarn and thread (she's been wanting some big spools of thread, and doesn't know many await her for her upcoming birthday!). Then she turned to Dave and said, "Do you see all of these beautiful strings? (she calls them string). I wish I could buy them all! But even if I owned every one of them, I would still love you more than all of these."

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Mascara in one hand...dart gun in the other

We have a rule in this house. If I pick up the darts, there's only one way my son can get them back. Via the gun. I don't really care which one. The single loader. The 6-shooter. The machine-gun-like rapid shooter.

So of course, he shoots at me. Frequently. It's bonding time. The morning after Christmas Day, he caught me full in the tushie with the rapid-shooter. Velcro darts. And I had on my new, softer-than-a-fur-coat baby blue microfiber nightgown. I looked like a porcupine when he was done!

I got him back though, and not with darts. We watched Jurassic Park a few nights ago--he had always wanted to see it. Afterwards while getting ready to read science to the kids, admiring pictures and bookmarking the pages, I saw my opportunity. Imagine the head of a vicious-looking fruit-bat baring it's teeth and looking very similar to a velociraptor peeking it's head around the corner! So I quick flashed the picture at Zac while roaring, and oh my goodness! I wish I had a picture of his face when he jumped back and screamed! Poor kid said I gave him a heart attack! Bad Mommy! Bad Bad Mommy!

Since then he has missed no opportunity to try to get me back--I'm not sure my crime will ever be paid for. That must have led up to this evening's showdown. Even though my oldest is going on 11 years next month, I still don't always have the bathroom to myself. But that was ok; I had the darts. (He shot them at me, giggled, then said "oh crud!" as he dropped the gun and ran for cover). I knew he'd be back. So I got ready for my homeschool group meeting with mascara in my right hand, dart gun in my left. I found out I'm not all that bad a shot with the left hand either!

The mascara, on the other hand, needs some work. But I have years to work on that. With his rapid-fire questions today centering on such "light" topics as whether he'd have to enlist in the army when he grows up, or get married...oh, and what's the proper way to get to know a girl? and what if the government doesn't know who I am? (are you following this conversation?!)...I need all the dart-gun fights with him I can get.

So fire away, my boy, with the darts...or the questions. I'll try to be ready as often as I can.

Merry :-)

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Need a Good New Year's Resolution?

It's funny how things coincide sometimes! On Sunday our pastor mentioned some of the resolutions written by 19-year-old Jonathan Edwards, back in 1722-1723. Then today I received a link to all 70 resolutions!

Who was Jonathan Edwards? According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) is widely acknowledged to be America's most important and original philosophical theologian. His work as a whole is an expression of two themes -- the absolute sovereignty of God and the beauty of God's holiness."

Truly, his resolutions are remarkable and inspiring at any age (and at 19, almost unfathomable). I'll post some below, but for the full list, go to

RESOLUTIONS of Jonathan Edwards (1722-1723) Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God's help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ's sake. Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.

1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God's glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriad's of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.

6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.

10. Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.

14. Resolved, never to do anything out of revenge.

19. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour, before I should hear the last trump.

20. Resolved, to maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking.

25. Resolved, to examine carefully, and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and to direct all my forces against it.

28. Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.

29. Resolved, never to count that a prayer, nor to let that pass as a prayer, nor that as a petition of a prayer, which is so made, that I cannot hope that God will answer it; nor that as a confession, which I cannot hope God will accept.

53. Resolved, to improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer.

56. Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.

58. Resolved, not only to refrain from an air of dislike, fretfulness, and anger in conversation, but to exhibit an air of love, cheerfulness and benignity.

60. Resolved, whenever my feelings begin to appear in the least out of order, when I am conscious of the least uneasiness within, or the least irregularity without, I will then subject myself to the strictest examination.

68. Resolved, to confess frankly to myself all that which I find in myself, either infirmity or sin; and, if it be what concerns religion, also to confess the whole case to God, and implore needed help.

70. Let there be something of benevolence, in all that I speak.