Encouragement

Here are more of the quotes that encouraged me while recovering from a bike accident this summer.  Sometimes encouragement comes from a book, from something a family member shares, or from a post on Facebook.  These quotes were just what I needed to hear:

He gives the best, and brings sweetness out of that which is harsh, forbidding, and wholly unpromising.  –Derek Kidner

Faith is not primarily a function of how you feel.  Faith is living out and believing what truth is despite what you feel.  –Timothy Keller

To avoid facing our low sense of worth, we try to compensate by building self-esteem.  Self-esteem is a way to be in control of our image in order to protect our sense of something missing within our hearts.  Through self-esteem, achievements are a way of creating hope.  Esteem for self rises and falls based upon the grade of our last performance.  Sadly, we forget that our value is inherent at birth.  –Chip Dodd, The Voice of the Heart, pg. 29

Never stop believing.  Miracles happen every day. –Unknown

 

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Help When In Need

As you may know, I had a bicycle accident in Jackson this summer.  I ended up with two sprained wrists, a sprained ankle, bruised ribs and a contusion of the liver.  Since I was alone at my dad’s house I had to drive myself to the hospital and back, and didn’t get to bed until 3:30am.  In addition to being unable to breathe deeply for the next three weeks it was extremely painful.  While at the hospital I was not able to take any pain killers because I would need to drive myself back to the house.  When I arrived home and tried to open the bottle of pills I couldn’t twist the cap or hold it to twist with the other hand.  I thought, “What would Daddy do?” and put the bottle on the kitchen counter and whacked at it with a hammer until I got it opened!

That week was difficult; I could barely get in and out of bed, walk, breathe or even stay awake.  I’d arranged for a plumber to come to the house for repairs, but slept most of the time he was there.  My body was really in shock.  It helped me relate to what my dad had suffered with COPD, and what my mother had undergone with cancer regarding CT Scans and awaiting results (the doctor had originally said that I had a blood clot in my liver completely unrelated to the accident, but later decided it was trauma related).  When I drove back home to Buffalo (normally a 6-7 hour trip) it took 10 hours because I had to pull over to sleep so often.

I’m doing much better now, although I’m still strengthening my left wrist and hand through occupational therapy.  My problems were nothing compared to what others have:  I pray every day for friends that are dealing with cancer and other serious illnesses, and can’t even begin to relate to the struggles and fears they may have.

But I do want to share about the faithfulness of God in my hours of need when I wasn’t even sure I could get through the night.  In my normal, daily devotions He spoke very clearly and assuredly to me.  The first verse is the one I read while lying in the emergency room, awaiting various tests, and it gave me the peace and certainty that He was in this with me and would see me through it.  It was June 26 so I’d looked up Psalm 26:

Examine me, God, from head to foot, order your battery of tests.  Make sure I’m fit inside and out so I never lose sight of your love, but keep in step with you, never missing a beat.  –Psalm 26:2-3 (MSG)

From there, everything else I read the rest of the week was equally timely and encouraging, and was right in my regular readings each day:

Just as Joseph and the psalmist keep turning to God and trusting Him to turn evil into good, so we, too, must keep looking to God in difficult times.  —One Year Book of Psalms, 6/27

Since all that I meet shall work for my good, the bitter is sweet, the medicine food:  though painful at present, ’twill cease before long; and then O how pleasant the Conqueror’s song.  –John Newton

Show us your mighty power, come to rescue us!  Turn us again to yourself, O God.  Make your face shine down upon us.  Only then will we be saved.  –Psalm 80:2b-3 (NLT)

Now I will take the load from your shoulders; I will free your hands from their heavy tasks.  You cried to me in trouble, and I saved you; I answered out of the thundercloud and tested your faith when there was no water in Meribah.  –Psalm 81:6-7 (NLT)

Happy the child who in thunder-claps detects the Father’s voice.  There is no fear in love, because perfect love casteth out the fear that hath torment.  –F. B. Meyer

Yes, there were thunderstorms that week in Jackson when I was sleeping nearly all day and night.  And yes, that last quote had my Word of the Year in it–“cast!”  I”m thankful He met with me in my need and assured me of His presence.

 

 

God is Real–Part Four

How do I know God is real? I’ve experienced Him in extraordinary ways; it’s as simple as that. To read what I’ve written in previous posts of this series, click here:

God is Real–Part One (a baby that nearly didn’t make it to birth)

God is Real–Part Two (a specific healing, and one that was not a healing)

God is Real–Part Three (a hurtful e-mail)

God is Real–Part Five (a zany miracle)

Here is another example of my experience with God, proving Himself real to me.  Years ago I had a skiing accident and tore my ACL.  It was repaired and I recovered well, with the help of physical therapy.  Then, several years later (perhaps 20 years ago now) I went to a couple’s home for a farewell party and their dog came running out to greet us.  Since it was heading towards my bad knee I twisted to avoid it.  Just like that, my knee gave out, for the first (and only) time since surgery.  I couldn’t walk on it and was soon in surgery for an arthroscopic procedure to see what was injured.  The ACL was broken loose and balled up in the center, so the doctor removed it through the tiny incision.  I was supposed to undergo physical therapy for a few weeks, recover from the surgery, and then have the ACL repaired.  For a while I was getting better, and no longer needed to use crutches.  But after about six weeks I realized I was getting worse again and eventually had to use crutches again, due to the pain.  Surgery was not possible until we could discover what was going on with the knee.  After bone scans, a spinal tap and more physical therapy, it was decided that my knee had developed Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD).  As I understand it, it’s a nerve related disease with no apparent reason for the pain (it is now known as “Complex Regional Pain Syndrome).  It has to do with messages being relayed by the nerves back and forth from the brain.  We decided against knee surgery to repair the ACL and, in fact, my knee was very stable, surgery didn’t seem necessary, and it was not recommended with this new problem of pain.

Now fast forward a few years.  They had said that “RSD” could develop anywhere in my body, and when I needed surgery in both shoulders for bone spurs, they were reluctant to do the procedure, and put it off as long as possible, for fear that RSD would develop.  But the pain was getting worse and we eventually decided to do one shoulder; the result was great.  We waited six months; I healed up from the surgery and had no RSD causing further problems, so we decided to do the other shoulder.  However, as soon as I began to recover from the second surgery, I became aware of the fact that “RSD” was now in several areas–both knees, my neck, and both shoulders.  I couldn’t reach for items in the kitchen cabinets without deep pain; it hurt to open a door or even carry a purse.  I could hardly function in normal ways.  One night, I prayed to God, “I can’t handle this.  You’re the only One that can heal me, and I ask you to heal me.  I can’t function.”

Lo and behold, when I awoke in the morning the pain was gone, 100%, even in my knee.  I knew I didn’t need to take the Tylenol that I has been taking each morning.  There was NO pain.  I didn’t take anything for over a month.  And then the pain returned, but only in the knee.  Why?  I believe He allowed the pain to return in one area in order to remind me that everyone has some kind of pain.  Think about it:  you do somewhere–relational, financial, spiritual, or in some other area.  Somebody you love has died, or will die soon.  Some relationship is not quite what you’d hoped it would be.  Parenting is hard.  Jobs are difficult.  You’re frustrated with politics or the church or your community.  Everyone has pain.

I’ll never forget the fact that God healed me overnight, and that it lasted a full month.  I’ll never forget that others around me are hurting, too.  I’ll never go running to another doctor to see if he or she can heal my knee; I already know that God is the One who can heal it, and He will if He chooses.  Previous to this I had gone to many different doctors and was receiving suggestions coming from lots of people about how to find healing.  I no longer need to run around to every doctor and clinic.  I’m OK with the pain; I can live with it and be thankful every day that it isn’t my back, or a more serious condition.  I use a great knee brace when standing for any length of time.

Do I ever go to doctors any more?  Of course, but I’m no longer looking for answers to this knee problem.  Why doesn’t God heal every disease and pain for good?  I don’t know.  He will when we arrive in Heaven, assuming we have trusted Him with our lives and salvation.  But I do know, for certain, that He’s real.  I’ve experienced His instantaneous healing more than once.  A month without pain was heavenly, literally; how much better will the real place be!

Three Essential Truths

I’m sharing quotes from my journal again this week.  Here is another true quote.  I know it’s true because I’ve experienced it personally in deep, personal ways you can’t even imagine.  God is real and Present; He changes hearts and minds.  He performs miracles–physical, relational, emotional, spiritual–that only He can perform.

Just as the faith of salvation comes through hearing the message of the gospel (Roman. 10:27) so the faith to trust God in adversity comes through the word of God alone.  Only in the Scriptures will we find an adequate view of God’s relationship to and involvement in our painful circumstances.  Only from the Scriptures, applied to our heats by the Holy Spirit, will we receive the grace to trust God in adversity.

In the arena of adversity, the Scriptures teach us three essential truths about God:  (1) God is completely sovereign; (2) God is infinite in wisdom; (3) God is perfect in love.

As we become so convinced of these scriptural truths that we appropriate them in our daily circumstances, we learn to trust God in the midst of our pain, whatever form it may take.  It doesn’t matter whether our pain is trivial or traumatic, temporary or interminable.  Regardless of the nature of the circumstances, we must learn to trust God if we would glorify God in them.

In order to trust in God’s sovereignty, love, and wisdom, we must know Him in an intimate, personal way.  David said in Psalm 9:10, “Those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you” (ESV).  To know God’s name means coming into a deeper personal relationship with Him as a result of seeking Him in the midst of our personal pain and discovering Him to be trustworthy.  It’s only as we know God in this personal way that we  come to trust Him.  — Jerry Bridges, in Trusting God, as quoted in How Great is Our God, 3/28/16

 

Emotional Leaks

These are the final quotes from my “Word of the Year” notebook last year, regarding the word “Pain.”

…’emotional leaks’ cause fatigue and drain a person’s energy…an emotional leak is any area in which we are not fully trusting God…was my problem the waves themselves, or was it my reaction to the waves?  Were the pain and discomfort and tiredness I was experiencing caused by my circumstances I couldn’t control or by the leaks — the lack of trust — in those situations?  — Carole Mayhall, Lord of My Rocking Boat, pg. 97

God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are they even like ours.  We aren’t even in the same neighborhood.  We’re thinking, “Preserve the body.”  He’s thinking, “Save the soul.”  We dream of a pay raise.  He dreams of raising the dead.  We avoid pain and seek peace.  God uses pain to bring peace.  “I’m going to live before I die,” we resolve.  “Die, so you can live,” He instructs.  We love what rusts.  He loves what endures.  We rejoice at our successes.  He rejoices at our confessions.  –Max Lucado, Grace for the Moment, 12/4

Everybody Prays

Here are more quotes from my Word of the Year last year — “Pain.”

Everybody prays whether he thinks of it as praying or not.  The odd silence you fall into when something very beautiful is happening or something very good or very bad.  The ah-h-h-h! that sometimes floats up out of you as out of a Fourth of July crowd when the sky-rocket bursts over the water.  The stammer of pain at somebody else’s pain.  The stammer of joy at somebody else’s joy.  Whatever words or sounds you use for sighing with over your own life.  These are all prayers in their way.  — Frederick Buechner, Listening to Your Life, pg. 211-212

I might also add — whose name do people call out when something really horrible or wonderful happens?  People call out the only name that really can answer to these extreme situations.

All around us we observe a pregnant creation.  The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs.  But it’s not only around us; it’s within us.  The Spirit of God is arousing us within.  We’re also feeling the birth pangs.  These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance…If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter.  He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.  So what do you think?  With God on our side like this, how can we lose?  –Romans 8:22-23, 26, 31 (MSG)

Growing Pains

I’ve been sharing quotes using the word “pain,” my Word of the Year for 2015. Here are a couple more from my notebook:

Superstition and idolatry form a tough crust over the topsoil of our hearts, making us unreceptive to the merciful words of salvation that God speaks to us.  Plowing is a metaphor for the repentance that prepares our hearts to receive those words.  Without the pain of the plow, the seeds God wants to sow in our lives might never take root.  In that sense, the process of plowing is every bit as necessary as the process of planting.  And every bit as merciful, although it never seems so at the time.  — Eugene H. Peterson, Conversations, pg. 1151

Growth calls into action new parts of our minds, our emotions, our bodies.  What we experience at these times often feels like pain.  We aren’t used to stretching ourselves in these ways.  But the pain shouldn’t surprise us–our muscles ache whenever we take up new activities, and they’re stretched in ways they aren’t used to.  Athletes get some muscles when they begin their training.  Similarly, as we’re in training in the Christian life, it stretches us beyond ourselves, and that hurts.  But this kind of pain is very different from the kind that’s inflicted by torture.  Growing pains are the kinds we don’t regret, because they lead to a fuller life, not a diminished one.  –Eugene H. Peterson, Conversations, pg. 1808