Spiritual lesson from a botched colonoscopy

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Our Father has a sense of humor.  Even with colonoscopies.

It was the dreaded 10-year purge by puke-worthy prep liquid ritual of aging.

D Day – 2:  give up my beloved fruits and vegetables.  I started to feel ‘OTHER’ when I dined with my colleagues at school.

D Day – 1: no food after 11:59 am.  I stayed in my classroom during ‘lunch’ so I wouldn’t have to WATCH my colleagues enjoy their food.  Pity party continued all afternoon.  Got home and endured my Purge Cocktail. Happily chugged 32 ounces of water right afterward as directed.  Looked forward to warming some vegetable broth (I’m vegan for 18 out of 21 meals a week) to nurse AFTER that my ordeal.  Only to find out that the reason they restrict one to chicken broth is that it’s LIGHT colored and my veg broth is DARK.  And dark colors are ‘verboten’. Nothing but peppermint tea for me rest of evening.  Meanwhile, Mike enjoyed his dinner.  And wine.

D Day – my only consolation for the double horror of round 2 of the prep liquid is that ‘At least I won’t have to do this for another 10 years!’.  Famous last words.

Matthew 6:25-27  Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Once my morning beverage was behind me, the ‘what ifs’ taunted me.  I listened for a while:

  • The doctor who was to do the procedure had told me that he lived in Asheville and commuted the 45-50 minutes to my local hospital.  ‘What if he is sick?  or has car trouble?  or there is traffic? If he can’t make it in, they’d have to RESCHEDULE me!  And I’ll have to drink that stuff all over again!’

I fought that fear with facts about God’s providence and control over every single molecule in the universe.

The worry gremlins probed again:

  • ‘What if there is a tree that has fallen down in the middle of the night, after all that rain?.  It might block our egress off of the mountain onto the 4-lane to the hospital?’

Again, by faith I reminded myself of who God was, meditating on His command:  Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)   Whew! Once down the hill, I thanked our good God.

We arrived at the hospital on time at 7:15.  All went well.  The staff was friendly and competent.  The doctor poked his head into the prep room to greet both of us.  The procedure went well from my point of view.  Quicker than both Mike and I expected I was wheeled back into the prep room.

Then the ‘bombshell’.   “You weren’t cleaned out enough.  I could not complete the scope.  I’m afraid we’ll have to reschedule you. Soon.”

Rats and double rats!  That’s putting it mildly.  I responded to the gastrointestinal expert with something a little more reflective of how I actually felt.  I had not anticipated this possibility.  In fact, I had not even WORRIED through this scenario.

As Mike and I were driving back up the mountain lane to our house, I contemplated yet another round of this ‘hardship’. Suddenly I saw the absolute futility of worrying about possible negative outcomes.  A chuckle escaped.  Mike looked over at me in the passenger seat, eyebrows raised.  I explained:

“Michael, you and I worry about different things.  But worry is worry, no matter what flavor.  I suddenly see that I wasted energy angsting over what might occur to cause me to have to go through that awful prep, all over again.  I think God is showing me that I cannot predict anything, so why should I bother mucking around in possible negative futures?  He’s sovereign, one way or another.  Better just to relax and trust Him.  Usually what I worry about never even comes to pass.  And if He has an event planned for me, then He will provide the grace to enable me to live through it.  Today, apparently, was more TRAINING that I needed.  He’s trying to teach me NOT to worry, but to rely on Him.”

Mike nodded in agreement.  He recognizes that each day contains these kinds of lesson plans. Part of God’s daily spiritual ‘workouts’ to make us more like our Big Brother, Jesus.

But do you know what?  There’s a happy corollary to this pattern of God’s, His unpredictability in some things.  He has unimaginably good and joyful plans for us, too:

1 Cor 2:9 (NLT) That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”

So….what did I learn from this to-be-repeated unpleasantness?  Simply that there is absolutely NO good reason to worry.  May God help me remember that!

 

 

Pursuing or pursued?

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passion

Today it seems as though everyone is chasing after something.  Twenty years ago the rousing motto meant to motivate Christians and humanists alike was ‘Pursue your passion!’.  Christians added a further motivation, something to the effect that ‘where your greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need’, this then is where God is calling you.

It seems fair to say that people of all stripes and walks of life seek something.  The thousands of possibilities fall into several predictable categories like:

  • safety
  • peace
  • health
  • work
  • meaning
  • relationships
  • security
  • identity
  • control over one’s future
  • freedom
  • acceptance

I’m sure some of those are worthwhile.  Who doesn’t want to reap the benefits of clean water and the cessation of war. But as significant as may be these many directions in which we focus our life’s energy, maybe it’s more important to do a 180 and ask a different question.  Instead of what vision we place in front of us, how about considering who might have US in His sights.  Who might be chasing US!

“….surely your goodness and mercy shall pursue me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.”  Psalm 23:6

I was looking up the Hebrew word ‘pursue’ in a different passage and when I scanned all the places God uses this verb, I came across the familiar and beloved 23rd Psalm.  My mother used to joke about the 3 angels, Shirley, Goodness and Mercy when she talked about this well known promise.

David’s prayer reminds me of a more contemporary vision of divine pursuit. You’ve heard of the poem, The Hound of Heaven.  The image is of a God who WILL have His way, who never stops persistently tracking us, setting up roadblocks to direct us to the point where we give up and ‘reluctantly’ yield to His will.

CS Lewis admits that when he finally gave in, exhausted, to God’s decision and deliberate ‘hounding’ and handed over his life to this God, he did so with great reluctance.

“You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? The words “compelle intrare,” compel them to come in, have been so abused be wicked men that we shudder at them; but, properly understood, they plumb the depth of the Divine mercy. The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.”  (taken from his book, Surprised by Joy)

I don’t know how you look at your life, but I for one am glad that God has and continues to pursue me.  If there is a driving force in my life, it seems to be one ceaseless message.  In the Old Testament Hosea sums up this directive best:

Oh, that we might know the LORD! Let us press on to know him. Hosea 6:3

and in the New Testament, Jesus exhorts us to follow the sane and life-giving goal:

Matthew 6:33 – Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteous way……

Yes, justice and peace are important and we should pursue them in God’s strength and in His way.

But our significance comes NOT from what we pursue, but from WHO pursues us.

 

 

 

God’s protective glasses enhance sight

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I’ve never been tempted to glance or gaze at an eclipse.  But were I to, I’d be sure to use protective glasses. As dangerous as a solar event might be, gazing at the world with the naked eye is far more so.  Especially perilous is this unfiltered sight during our current upside-down times when the majority of institutions consider ‘good’ what God calls ‘evil’. (see Isaiah 5:20)

Solar Eclipse glasses

Yet often I unwittingly and quite stupidly look at the world around me without protective glasses.

I’m talking about spiritual glasses, God-glasses:

  • Psalm 16:18 – 19  I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.

What can we draw out of King David’s example and implicit counsel? Much!

Keeping our two eyes on God at all times:

  • requires looking toward God no matter what is going on in the world.
  • implies that ‘shaking’ or troubling instability is normal.
  • enjoins agreement between the eyes to look primarily and firstly at God.
  • assumes glasses are meant to assist BOTH eyes to see the same thing, equally well.
  • indicates seeing God PLUS! Since there is no mention of stumbling or blockage of visibility, looking at God is a kind of looking through or by means of God, but safely and accurately to where one is going. It includes a correct understanding and truthful contextualization or framing of what is going on around. In the natural world, people use the sun for this purpose. Other than those special eclipse-viewing occasions, one doesn’t just gaze AT the Sun.  We see BY means of the Sun.
  • results in a glad heart, a rejoicing self, a peaceful body.  Viewing the world THROUGH the filtering knowledge of God is mental and emotional sanity and physical health.

What alternatives are there for understanding all things, if you reject God-glasses?  Without access to the Creator’s view of the world, one is left to take in and make sense of everything through unprotected eyes.  Jesus diagnosed this condition and warned, “But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness..” Matt 6:23a

  1. resulting in harm
  2. resulting in poor vision and no sense of location OR direction
  3. resulting in fear and depression, due to unfiltered content
  4. resulting in confusion in moral issues
  5. resulting in suspicion of others, isolation during this life, and loneliness
  6. resulting in resignation because of ignorance of Holy Spirit power and other resources available to the spirit-born Christian
  7. resulting in cynicism when unable to glimpse reflections of God’s goodness and glory
  8. resulting in forever death with concomitant permanent isolation

So why doesn’t everyone take advantage of these glasses?  Is it because it’s difficult or costly to secure a pair?

Not difficult for those empty or poor people, the ones who know their vision is lacking or harmed.

But if you think you don’t need any glasses to see fine….

eyeglasses

And you’re more concerned by how you might look goofy in the world’s estimation wearing God-Glasses…..

At the least it’ll cost you your pride, your already-mapped out plan for your life and your reputation.  At the most, it could cost you your pilgrim life.

Question: How badly do you want to see correctly?  How badly do you want true and lasting health and happiness?

Are you a one-thing person?

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Psalm 27:4

One thing I ask from the Lord,
    this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
    and to seek him in his temple.

I’ve been distracted on and off this week by various good things.  We spent some delightful days with friends Joe & Mary in the rich, rolling farmlands of southwestern Missouri.

48 - Mary talks to chickens

Before this week I actually thought I had NO relationship with Missouri! Come to find out, not only was one of my daughters-in-law born in St. Louis, but also I had spent a week in St. Louis at a foreign language conference 3 years ago.  And I learned that Ferguson is part of St. Louis.

One topic that pulled away my energy and gaze was the possibility of modifying our eating/exercise routines.  It turned out that Joe cooks and eats ‘paleo’, following a certain gal’s version of food choice/prep. He also introduced us to the ‘Happy Body’ workout routine.  I devoured both books prominently perched in their kitchen.

What I noticed was that for a few days, my mind obsessed and was jazzed more by THOSE topics rather than in the eternal matters of MEGA value.  Listening via podcast to some God-centered talks by John Piper and others brought me back to my senses.

Yesterday, on our last leg of the trip home, I was meditating/reading Matthew 6:33: But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

When you start to look at the significance of EACH word in a verse, fresh insights pop.  Here is what jumped out and sunk in for the first time:

  • SEEK – we don’t spend time hunting for something we don’t value.  So Jesus is saying in effect, “Make my kingdom your treasure”
  • SEEK – the objective is not obvious to the casual observer.  Effort and focus are needed. ‘Duh!‘, you say.  I realized that I can’t see/seek more than one thing at a time.
  • FIRST – heretofore, I thought first was more ‘chronos’-oriented.  But I looked up the Greek word for ‘first’ and it’s PROTOS (Strongs 4413), which means – ‘above all, top priority, chiefly’
  • KINGDOM – hmm, what am I going to do with a kingdom when I find it?  Certainly not conquer it, nor visit it as a tourist. I’m seeking a kingdom in order to find the King. He is what’s important. And if I find the King, I will be submitting to Him.  Lots of implications here!
  • HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS – not mine.  My life is not to be about adding more ‘subtitles’ or beefing up my résumé.  Who am I trying to impress? (if I’m honest, it’s YOU!)  But seriously, if I find this Kingdom and submit to this King, then I’ll be wearing the uniform/the colors of one of His gals, not my own colors.  And compared to those clothes, even my best show-offy threads are but grubby, stinky, fit-only-for-the-bin rags (see Isaiah 64:6)
  • ALL…ADDED – did you notice that there is nothing else we are counseled to seek once we have found His Kingdom? Everything we need (the stuff we angst over and which Jesus gently takes to task both His listeners and us His readers)

Here are some other verses that back up this ONE-THING orientation I sense God is calling me to cling to:

Luke 10: 40 to 42But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

After those verses, I can see that this ONE-THING focus is really about adopting or choosing a ONE-THOUGHT or ONE-TRACK mind.  In fact the Greek word for worried is MERIMNAO  (3309) or ‘thinking about many things’.

My favorite verse in the entire Bible – Psalm 84:11 actually addresses this mental posture as well.  God promises NOT to withhold any good from those who walk/live uprightly.  And wouldn’t you know it, ‘upright’ or TAMIYM (Hebrew 8549) means to be all in one piece, to be integral as opposed to scattered.

All the above to say this:  that when other stuff is front and center in my mind, I give away pieces of my life.  When I’m focused on Jesus, His good news, my status as an adopted child of the King, all that God the Father has given me, including the forever presence of my supernatural Counselor-Comforter, then Life and ‘Shalom’ return to me.

Father – thank you for reminding me each time I’m sucked away by some other compelling, luring, competing possible ‘first thing’.  Thank you for the vivid contrast I feel when you bring me to my senses, once again.  May I not wander off any more THIS day.  And when I awake and it’s a new day, be so kind as to remind me straight away of WHO and WHAT is my ONE THING, so I can live and feel WHOLE.  Amen!

Mag Obsession

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