Sunday, November 30, 2008

Yet

How much longer, oh God?
My soul leaps inside me, aching to dance and sing.
Yet my limbs are weak and my throat is parched.
Surely this spirit is tenacious and full of passion.
Yet it's captor is feeble, so feeble the captor envelops this spirit.
Oh to be free, not always pleading to the captor,
"What do you need? What do you need? What do you need?"
Your Word comforts, yet my eyes sting,
to hear You speak is joy and pain.
This spirit swells inside me, begging to be revealed,
the more it grows the more the captor wastes away.
Do not let my soul be taken down with this body, oh God!
Free me from these chains, i beg You free me!
I know that You are good,
yet pain skillfully makes me forget.
But i see that You are good.
You show me You are good,
i see it all around me.
Yet when will Your goodness sweep away this pain?
Because i know the depth of suffering, i know the height of joy;
yet i beg for the suffering to cease, for this gift to pass from me?
The juxtaposition of this soul in this body is maddening.
Good and evil, light and darkness all mingled in one little being.
I may never understand this paradox,
just as i may never fully understand Your love.
You are loving me, though my body begs to differ.
I believe, Lord. Help my unbelief.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Granted/Given (Charidzomai)

29For it has been granted [charidzomai] to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,
Philippians 1:29

The Greek word charidzomai means, "to give graciously" or "to bestow on one a favor or kindness". Same usage in Gal. 3:18, Luke 7:21, and Luke 7:42. Pain and suffering a gift? Really? I can say with honesty that although this pain has not been easy, it has been a gift that brings me much joy in God. He has given me countless opportunity to completely trust Him. All i need do is let go of all and curl up in His arms. It has been made clear that the weaker i become, the more glory it brings Him.

Hebrews 12:2, "...who for the JOY set before Him (Jesus) endured the cross..."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Weekly Memory Verse

Philippians 1:29

29
For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sarro Contento Nel mio Tormento...

... in Italian means, Content in my Torment. Paul says it better:

12
I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.
13I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:12-13

video

"Every Little Thing" by Delirious?
Images by Jon Jonson, Jennifer August Lynn and Google Images.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Weekly Memory Verse


Pick up the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, with me.

1Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Hebrews 12:1-3

"Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!"
Eugene H. Peterson, The Message Bible

Friday, November 14, 2008

Gifts

Last Friday God gave me a gift (you might recall from the November 9th post). I kept it secret for fear of jumping to conclusions. For the past 3 years i have had chronic pain, which is continuous pain every moment of every day.

Friday evening i had NONE. I fell asleep with little trouble and did not wake once in the middle of the night.


Saturday i had NONE. I have been doing dance physical therapy which has consisted of light ballet at the barre. Saturday i danced (and i mean DANCED - was listening to Linkin Park if that gives you a better idea) and afterward had no pain!


Sunday i had NONE. I picked up my pastor's two year-old son when he began to cry and although i am weaker than i used to be, i had no pain.


Monday i had N....
I walked up to campus without Miss Bluebell (my scooter) taking the stairs and walking in between classes with no pain. Just a little fatigue that might have been from the cold i had - yes, no pain
but i had a nasty cold. I wondered what God had in store. Am i healed, is this a short break from suffering? That evening i got my answer. The neuropathy came back full force sending electric pain through my arms, legs, neck and eyes. Tuesday i had the worst headache to date accompanied with quick, sharp pains as if someone was stabbing a wire hanger in my eyes... no more wire hangers!!!
Okay sorry, anyway...

Three days without pain was such a blessing! Health is a gift. It reminds me of what Pastor Brian has been talking about on Sundays. We pray for what we want from God as if we are lord and He serves us. That is so backwards! He is Lord and we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). He blesses us everyday with food, clothing, shelter, friends, family, health and fellowship with Himself. If He has taken something from us, it is also for us to do a good work amidst adversity. We take for granted the things we are blessed with everyday that others may go without. Unfortunately, it is when God takes away that we realize what He had given.

Of course when God takes we can petition (an appeal or request, esp. a solemn or humble one to a deity or a superior) for relief. That is where we must go; to the cross asking for relief yet wanting first God's will to be done. Hand me the cup, Lord.

Last night at prayer meeting we read John 6:13- 21 - Jesus feeds the five thousand. It was an awesome reminder that by our own power nothing is possible - we do not have the resources. So we bring it to Christ to accomplish what we cannot. It is comforting to know that He will relieve the issue when He sees fit. It is a gift and a blessing to see how he brings us to our knees and how He answers our prayers.


12
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Romans 12:12

Monday, November 10, 2008

Weekly Memory Verse.

Monday is for Memory.
Pick up the sword of the Spirit, which is the word Of God, with me.

For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do
.

Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Cup and the Glory

Suffering is an interesting beast. It is not a realm you enter voluntarily. It can take you over until you don't have suffering, it has you. When suffering has you, it can grow to a point that you can no longer identify what hurts, just that you hurt. From suffering, sorrow is born and to add insult to injury God seems so far off.

I have been reading,
The Cup and the Glory by Greg Harris. I am only on the third chapter and already i have been convicted, rocked and reminded what i am suffering for. It has been so good to hear from a spiritual leader who has also known intense chronic pain.
He talked about James and John's request to Jesus in Mark 10:35-41.

35(AG)
James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus, saying, "Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You."

36And He said to them, "What do you want Me to do for you?"

37They said to Him, "Grant that we (AH)may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory."

38But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able (AI)to drink the cup that I drink, or (AJ)to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?"

39They said to Him, "We are able." And Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink (AK)you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized.

40"But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; (AL)but it is for those for whom it has been prepared."

41(AM)Hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John.

I began to feel indignant as well when i read this the first time. How presumptuous, i thought. But Harris goes on to show that this took place about a year after the Transfiguration. They had seen, "the kingdom of God after it has come into power" (Mark 9:1) and wanted to be a part of it. What they did not understand - what we do not understand when we ask to be close to God - is what that meant for their lives on earth.

Harris writes: "God sometimes allows suffering and sorrows so deep we would question His love for us if we did not have repeated promises in His Word of His unfathomable love - and even then darkness so overwhelming we still question Him...

... our prayers focus mostly on the removal of the very elements God uses to bring us to the point of blessing. Is it any wonder why Paul would say, "We do not know ["understand"] how to pray as we should" in Romans 8:26? We pray for greatness and blessing from God, and then for relief from the divine procedure that accomplishes this. On top of that, we usually blame God for unanswered prayer, while all the time He is in the process of answering what we glibly bring before Him."

A year and a half ago i had a better understanding of this than i have the past few weeks. Not because i was wiser then but because i was less selfish. I saw the fruit God had produced through my suffering - fruit for the benefit of others, not necessarily for myself.

Friday night i read to the end of the second chapter which was this prayer:

"Please pass me the Cup, Lord. It's as necessary for me as it was for You. Give me strength and courage because what i ask is a fearful thing to me. Change me into a vessel fit for receiving not only what You would have for me, but also whom You would have me become. I have no strength to do this but by You. Strip me of me, and replace it with You. Have your own way with me. Thy will be done on earth - my earth, my life - as it is in heaven. Amen."

Having prayed this similar prayer before and seeing how God worked it out, i was cautious. Trembling, i affirmed i want to be close to Jesus. I do not deserve to be close, let alone at His right or left hand, but i desire to be close. Not for the blessings to my benefit but to sit at His feet in awe.

What does that cup look like for me here on this earth? God only knows. It could be more suffering, it could be blessing. It could be never knowing the physical cause of my suffering and being plagued with it until i go Home. There are days that i want nothing more than to breathe my last breath and be Home with Christ. It grieves me that i get so selfish and forget that God knows what the cause is, when this started and when it will be finished. He wants to bless me, if i'd just get out of the way. My soul is secure, so what am i to worry for?

That night God did give me a blessing, a gift. Gifts are pleasant surprises, not guaranteed, not a right. That is what makes it a gift.



Wednesday, November 5, 2008

An Imagination Too Small

This week i have been totally rocked... again.
This Sunday Shoreline Church celebrated our 3rd anniversary and Scott preached from Ephesians 3:14-21 as has been done every year, beginning with the first service.

14
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

It was awesome to look back at how God has grown us individually and as a body. I was amazed at the growth of my sisters Meredith and Beth (2/3 of the Triad), encouraged at the relationships that have been build with my brothers and sisters yet my vision was short. I was pleased to see the growth of my brothers and sisters yet I looked at myself and only saw pain and loss.

The past three years of my life have been crazy and i'd like to share a synopsis, not to boast in my suffering but to boast in what Christ has seen and grown me through.

I was baptized July 3rd 2005, then then pain in my hands began. I was a Sunday attender, too shy to join a small group Bible study; nor did i understand that i was to search out scripture myself.
December 2005 i packed my belongings to be put in storage while my abusive, drunkard roommate was in Las Vegas. I slept on a mattress in the dining room of a friend while searching for apartments.
January 8, 2006 the pain in my hands became too great. Both were numb and tingling with sharp, stabbing pain, stiffness and electric pain that traveled from my fingers to my under arm. Although two doctors wanted to do surgery, none of the 12 doctors could tell me what was causing this pain. I was a bartender at the time. I began dropping beers yet oblivious that one was no longer in my hand until it hit the floor. Needless to say i couldn't work any longer and one can't get an apartment with no income. So i slept in my car... until it was towed because i couldn't pay the registration. I then stayed with another friend who promptly kicked me out because the guy she wanted, liked me. He was a "Christian" and convinced me that sex outside of marriage is okay as long as the two people care about each other. Praise God for the wisdom to get rid of him.
Finally, June 2006 i was accepted to CSULA apartments (i confess that the only reason i decided to come back to school was so i'd have a roof over my head). Then financial aid confused something and i was given an eviction notice. This happened three more times.
February 2007 State disability said i had depleted their resources and they would no longer support me. I applied for Social Security and did not receive benefits until that July. Thus a couple more eviction notices.
In the next year i tried several times to get a job and i kept one for 9 months until the pain in my hands was too great.
May 2008 the pain spread to my whole body. I have been waiting since then to receive the proper Medicare that would allow me to see a specialist. I did go through the emergency room and saw a neurologist but because i had to go through a county hospital, I am still waiting to hear about results.

The symptoms since May are as follows:
sharp stabbing pain -- occurs in random parts of the body including, joints, abdomen, face and eyeballs;
dull pain -- in muscles and joints;
headaches\migraines -- can last over a week;
muscle weakness and tremors;
loss of motor skills;
dizziness -- vertigo and nausea;
numbness and tingling of the limbs;
fatigue;
electric\nerve pain -- moves throughout the central and peripheral nervous system -- electric shock can start at the sacrum and move all the way down the back of the leg through the bottom of the foot or start at the back of the neck and radiate to the face. I have even felt my retinal nerve light up.


Looking back on all of this would be depressing except for the one thing that has carried me through -- faith in my Lord Jesus Christ.
Although it doesn't look it to the naked eye, God was present through all of this and provided for me -- more than I will ever know -- everything that I needed. It was very hard to see in the beginning; however, in the summer of 2006, God provided me a family of which to love me through. He loves, nurtures, provides, and gives wisdom through this family. I am eternally grateful and love them more than i could ever say. That alone is a miracle coming from the girl who was once mute and stoic.

As for the physical pain, it started when i accepted Christ and i never thought to look back. I followed Him like a child not knowing where it would take me or what it would cost. With Him was where i wanted to be.

A year ago i asked God to give me more suffering if it meant advancing the Gospel. That is growth! Who prays like that except through the Spirit? Although i saw fruit and wanted more, i did not know of what i asked. Boy did He deliver.

In the past couple months i got selfish. I knew this pain was for the greater good but i didn't want it anymore. It is comical how we pray to be close to God and then pray for relief from the divine procedure that accomplishes this. The reason i could not see my own growth was because i was too selfish to see past the pain and suffering to see how God has and is working through it.

Mark 10:35-41 shows James and John, who had both seen Christ in His glory at the Transfiguration, asking to sit with Him in His glory. Not knowing fully the cost, they still knew they wanted to be linked with Him eternally.

A Prayer For President Obama

A Prayer For President Obama

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Romans 8:28-39

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Mindlessness - a medical condition...

Lately i've been feeling dim-witted.

I forget and lose things almost constantly. People ask me simple questions and i cannot answer, or if i can it comes out in bad grammar. Sometimes i loose control of my motor skills; including my lips and tongue so when i talk it comes out in gibberish. I'll be listening to a conversation and when someone asks my opinion, i am unable to recall what was the topic. I can be talking and either forget simple words or even forget what i was talking about mid-sentence. I've even gotten lost in my own apartment.
This began happening about a year ago and has progressively gotten worse. At some point i just started playing dumb - dumbing myself down in social situations to soften the blow to my pride.
Pretty soon i had an alter ego that was taking over so that i myself forgot that i am a smart woman. Since this has gotten worse as the pain in my body has grown and become electric, i assumed there was a connection somewhere. So i started research on the effects pain has on the brain.


Pain is a warning sensation to your brain that some type of stimulus is causing or may cause damage, and you should probably do something about it.

Pain perception, or nociception (from the Latin word for "hurt"), is the process by which a painful stimulus is relayed from the site of stimulation to the central nervous system. The steps in the nociception process starts with the contact with stimulus. Next is the reception of that stimuli where a nerve ending senses the stimulus. Then a nerve sends the signal to the central nervous system; this is transmission. The relay of information usually involves several neurons within the central nervous system. The brain then receives the information for further processing and action in the step of pain center reception.
Nociception uses different neural pathways than normal perception, like light touch, pressure and temperature. With n
on-painful stimulation, the first group of neurons to fire are normal somatic receptors. When something causes pain, nociceptors go into action first.
Three classifications of pain are:

Acute pain- caused by an injury to the body. It warns of potential damage that requires action by the brain, and it can develop slowly or quickly.

Chronic pain persists long after the trauma has healed. Chronic pain does not warn the body to respond, and it usually lasts longer than six months.

Cancer (or malignant) pain is associated with malignant tumors. Some physicians classify cancer pain with chronic pain.


People with unrelenting pain don't only suffer from the nonstop sensation of throbbing pain. They also have trouble sleeping, are often depressed, anxious and even have difficulty making simple decisions. Researchers at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, found that in a healthy brain all the regions exist in a state of equilibrium. When one region is active, the others quiet down. But in people with chronic pain, a front region of the
cortex mostly associated with emotion seems to never turn off. The region is stuck on full throttle, wearing out neurons and altering their connections to each other. The areas that are affected fail to deactivate when they should. This constant firing of neurons in these regions of the brain could cause permanent damage.

When neurons fire too much they may change their connections with other neurons and or even die because they can't sustain high activity for so long. If you are a chronic pain patient, you have pain 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every minute of your life. That permanent perception of pain in your brain makes areas in your brain continuously active. This continuous dysfunction in the equilibrium of the brain can change the wiring forever and could hurt the brain. It is hypothesized that the subsequent changes in wiring may make it harder for you to make a decision or be in a good enough mood to get up in the morning. It could be that pain produces depression and the other reported abnormalities because it disturbs the balance of the brain as a whole.


After learning more of what is happening to me biologically, i am reminded of God's power in my life! By medical standards i should be d
epressed. I have chronic pain, little income and basically live alone. Even though i definitely have days when i cannot get out of bed, it is not because i am depressed – it is from pain and fatigue. I am comforted by the blood of Christ and the family He gave me. Although, because of distance, it is hard to be around my family more than a few times a week, they encourage me, spur me on and pray for me constantly. Clearly i am unbalanced, but hope in Christ and the support of my brothers and sisters brings me joy!

Praise be to the God and Father of our LORD Jesus Christ!
(Don't check out, this is good stuff! Even if you have read this a thousand times you won't regret one thousand and one!) In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into the inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in Heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief of all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:3-7