Dec 31, 2008

My Faulty, Puny Image of God

Is our God big enough? Theologically, yes. But because I cannot wrap my human mind around Infinity, my image of God is, frankly, marred. That's where faith comes in because it is in the Unseen, the unfathomable.

My faulty, puny image of God causes me much unnecessary anxiety. I am presently faced with a choice about an upcoming trip. Most people would be envious of our destination. It dropped into our laps practically for free. We have been scrimping and saving in bits and pieces for over a year to have spending money. If I miss it, I will be throwing away a rare opportunity and deeply disappointing the person who loves me most.

But I have a chronic illness that for some reason is aggravated by travel. Thanks to the limitations of traveling via frequent flier miles, this trip has a rigorous start: 3 days and 4 cities to get there. My gut tells me I'm gonna bonk. My husband tells me I'm setting myself up to fail. My God tells me that if I miss Plan A, he has Plan B ready and waiting, full of favor and grace and perhaps even more glorious than Plan A.

Please allow me to wax theological for just a moment: We can never get around God's will. But He has what I believe theologians call a "perfect" will and a "permissive" will: Plan A and Plan B.

In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve missed Plan A. They sinned and ruined it. Plan A was for them to populate the earth with good, kind people who had never fallen and to set up God's glorious Kingdom full of light and love right on this planet. That didn't happen.

But in my humble opinion, Plan B, set up from before the beginning of time, is even more glorious. God became flesh and dwelt among us. He died a criminal's death for you and me: By one beautiful, horrific sacrifice Christ atoned for all men, for all sin, for all time. God's Son was raised again to sit at the right hand of God and will one day come again to defeat evil once and for all. He will rule with power and set up that perfect Kingdom on a New Earth where pain and loneliness and decay and suffering are demolished forever. God has revealed, and will continue to demonstrate to a watching universe who would never have known otherwise, His infinite love and kindness by the death, resurrection, and ascension of His Son.

OK, theology lesson over.

Now back to my trip -- and any decision you may be facing. Many years ago, I took a trip that made me so sick that I could have died. Other trips have left me confined to bed for months. Some have had no ill effect at all. (You can understand why I feel like I'm playing Russian Roulette here. Don't want to miss God's will on this one!)

What if I had discerned and chosen Plan A and not traveled at the wrong time on the wrong trip that made me so sick. What if I had never made some of the other choices that led to the development of my illness. I could have had a much easier life. But I never would have had the depth of compassion and understanding that I do now. I wouldn't have the ability to look across a room and see the pain that someone was hiding inside. I wouldn't have insight and hope to offer others who have suffered. There is no way I would know God in the intimate tender way that He has revealed Himself to me, and I certainly wouldn't be writing this blog. I believe I would be of much less use to God in general.

So maybe Plan B is Plan A after all. Maybe we're not big enough to screw up God's will for our lives. Maybe it all does turn out for the best even if it doesn't feel like it in the moment. Maybe the world is safe because God has it all under control. Maybe I am safe. Maybe, even if the worst happens, I'll be glad about it one day.

Maybe God is big enough. And maybe you and I can both dare to believe it!

With love,

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Dec 22, 2008

Holiday Foo Fray

During holiday celebrations it can seem that everyone brings a covered dish and an unresolved conflict. ( FOO, by the way, is an acronym for "Family Of Origin," and when we're in the FOO fray ... look out!) Unless you're five and Santa Claus remembered everything on your list, Christmas can be kind of a bummer.

There is definitely an ideal portrayed in the media that we all fall short of in some ways. One silly example is that it took me forever to find a Christmas picture without smiling faces to put in this blog. Try Googling "Image - Christmas fight" or "Image - Unhappy Christmas" and you get smiling faces, Norman Rockwell pictures, and cats wearing Santa hats. I think I may have done permanent damage to the search engine!

I find the best way to handle things with difficult family members is to pray very specifically ahead of time. For example:

"Dear Lord, keep Aunt Jenna and cousin Mark sober this year. And if they do drink, give us the strength to set loving but firm boundaries."

"Papa God, if Martha insults me, please help me to remember that Your opinion of me is the only one that matters, and You call me Friend, Beloved, Clean."

"Jesus, we don't have the money to get the things we'd like this year. May we keep the focus on You and may love be enough. Thank you for always providing for all that we need."

I love to pray Scripture. Praying God's Word back to him is one of the most powerful things we can do. For if we pray anything in accordance with His will we know He hears us and will give us what we ask. His Word is his will so it's a sure thing (John 14:14). I plan to revisit this topic in the future, but for now let me share a prayer that I have loosely based on Romans Chapter 12, verses 9-21. It is about loving well and I believe that if we love well this Christmas, we can count the holiday a success no matter what the outcome. (I usually pray this for my marriage, but I believe it works for any relationship.)

Dearest Papa God, make my love sincere -- the real thing, although I may hate what is evil in ________[name], let me instead hold fast to that which is good in them. Show me how to give ________ precedence and honor. Oh that I might be aglow and burning with the Spirit, for that is the only way to truly love. Help me to be be patient in suffering and constant in prayer. Give me hospitality in my heart toward _________. And if they should be cruel in their attitude toward me, may I have the strength to bless and not to curse them. Create harmony between us, and help me never to consider myself superior, just because I have a different set of hangups. Instead, may I readily adjust to things the way they are, and give myself to humble tasks. If possible, as far as it depends on me, let there be peace in this place. Amen.

May God give you love for Christmas!


Dec 15, 2008

Fantastically Fragile

To most people, strength is beauty and weakness repulsive...
But God is attracted to weakness.

"God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong" (1 Corinthians 1:27).

God gives and commands special treatment for the weak, the brokenhearted, the contrite, the dependent. So why is it that when we come across someone like this we are disgusted or at least uncomfortable?

I have a friend named Donna. Donna is attracted to weakness. In a pet store full of beautiful birds, she fell in love with the one-legged bird that preferred to hide under his newspaper all day. When she chose from a litter of kittens, she looked at the runt, the one that might die, and said, "I want that one." What a beautiful picture of God.

When you are down, when you are at your worst, when you feel like a bug that has hit the windshield of a car. That is when God says, "I want that one," and points at you.


You can stop reading here. But, if you'd like to dig a little deeper, I selected some encouraging Scriptures. Most are paraphrased for simplicity. Each is linked to take you directly to the original Scripture if you want to see it:
  • Psalm 12:5 - God arises and protects the weak.
  • Psalm 72:13 - He pities the needy and saves them from death.
  • Ezekiel 34:16 - God searches for, binds up, and strengthens the injured.
  • Romans 15:1 - God commands us to "bear with the failings of the weak."
  • Hebrews 5:2 - Jesus subjected himself to weakness when He came in the flesh.
  • 2 Corinthians 12:9 - He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
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Dec 2, 2008

The God Who Heals

Jehovah Rophe.
"The God Who Heals."
That is the name of our God.
Healing isn't just something God does.
It's something He IS.

I believe God can't touch a life without bringing healing into it. But it is not for us to say when or what that healing will look like. Sometimes it takes the form of emotional healing. Other times, God heals a character defect, or a relationship. At other times God heals a sin problem. Jesus still heals physically just as he did when he walked the earth, And He still performs the ultimate miracle of redeeming a soul from eternal death.

"Then why am I still in pain?" you may ask. I have no adequate answer other than to tell you that suffering is an extremely valuable commodity in the economy of God's Kingdom. Therefore, your reward will be great (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). God stores up every tear in a bottle in heaven (Psalm 56:8). E
ven though God knows, that if we could see what He sees, we would actually choose the same suffering for ourselves, He weeps with us anyway (John 11:35).

"[God] said, 'My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.' So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me" (2 Corinthians 12:9).

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