My Scars, His Scars

Two years ago I chose to have lower back surgery. I was at the end of a very long list of options. The signs were clear. God had spoken. Yet I still had to walk into the hospital with my own two feet. I authorized the surgery and paid the Doctor to cut me open. I literally signed up for the pain I would bear to be healed. There was no easy way around it. One anesthesiologist, two surgeons, several hours of surgery, a back brace, physical therapy, and four months of recovery. I chose it, not easily, not without trepidation. But I made the conscious choice. And I have the scars to remind me—of the chronic pain I endured for nine years, of the surgery, of the sacrifice to be healed.

Cross

Two thousand years ago Jesus made a choice—not because He needed healing, but because we did. In the Garden of Gethsamane, Jesus, with blood for sweat, chose to go to the cross, not easily, not without trepidation. He walked the path alone, watching his “friends” flee or betray. There was no easy way around it. A kiss, a flogging, a cross-bearing walk, a crown of thorns, and nails. God called. He answered. A world needed Him and He made the conscious choice to pay the ransom. His scars remind us—of the pain He endured, of the sacrifice.

I realize it’s almost laughable for me to associate my comparatively minor scars to Jesus’. I can’t fathom the anguish, the physical pain, the cost. However I know God uses the physical realm to penetrate my tiny brain and provide a minute peek into Who He is and what He experienced. Paradoxically, while nothing I experience remotely touches what Jesus suffered for me, Jesus can relate to everything I experience.

Sometimes we must purposefully walk through a painful occurrence to be healed. I’m so glad my Savior purposefully chose the cross. My scars are a tangible reminder of His scars.

What tangible reminder of His scars do you have?

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Between

life between

Sometimes we long for the big moments.

But life is lived between.

Between mountains and valleys.

Between highs and lows.

Between birth and death.

Life takes place in the routine of the everyday.

The ordinary.

The monotonous.

The moments “between.”

As a parent, life exists between birthdays, graduations, and weddings.

As an employee, it’s between projects, promotions, and job changes.

As a student, it’s between tests and semesters.

As an athlete, it’s between games and seasons.

For the disciples, it was between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday.

Between celebrations.

Between “Hosanna” and Christ’s Resurrection.

It was in the between the disciples experienced joy and sorrow, pain and healing, rejection and acceptance. In between, they learned and grew and their faith was tested and took shape.

As Christians, we live between the resurrection and the second coming.

We experience joy and sorrow, pain and healing, rejection and acceptance.

In between, we learn and grow and our faith is tested and takes shape.

*This post was inspired by my (pastor) husband’s Palm Sunday sermon.

10 Things You Should Know About PMS (for Men)

Confusion Meter

For ease of writing (and reading), I assume you are a husband married to a wife who possibly probably experiences PMS on a regular basis. However, this information can be applied to any and all women, such as sisters, mothers, girlfriends, etc.

1.       It’s not all in her head. It’s real.

2.       Each woman has a specific combination of symptoms unique to her. Learn to recognize your wife’s.

If you aren’t sure, ask her. But be warned, she must be approached lovingly and not during high PMS time (a term I coined to describe “the worst days”).

3.       Not all symptoms are physical. Mental and spiritual symptoms also exist.

In my last post, I encouraged women to read Lorraine Pintus’ book Jump off the Hormone Swing. If your wife isn’t a reader, it may be worth your time to skim through it for a glimpse of what she may experience.

4.       Satan will use this time of the month to mentally beat up your wife, and thus, drive a wedge between you and her.

Do not allow her frustrations or attitude to rub off on you. Listen to your wife in an understanding way and choose not to take her harsh words or actions personally. Gently guide her.

5.       This is a great time to seek God’s face.

God provides many opportunities for us to rely on Him. Ask Him the best way to love your wife during this time of the month.

6.       Let your wife cry.

Crying releases the built-up tension that may otherwise cause a fight. Tell your wife it’s okay to cry and hold her while she does so. (She doesn’t know why she’s crying; there’s no use asking.)

7.       There are things your wife can do to lighten the symptoms. Help her find what works for her. (i.e. clearing her schedule, taking a nap, taking a walk, eating less sugar and more protein . . .)

Ask your wife, “What can I do for you right now?” Or chat with your wife during a non-PMS time. Tell her you are there for her and want to help. Another tip: It may be beneficial to restrain from making any big decisions during PMS (less chance for conflict).

8.       Provide a “Stand Back 5 Feet” sign for her to wear.

Seriously, watch the calendar. Ask your wife to keep you apprised of her “schedule.” I know of one lady who marks the calendar with a star as a signal to her family.

9.       God created your wife this way for a reason.

Physical shedding of blood is necessary for new physical life just as the shedding of Jesus’ blood was necessary for new spiritual life.

10.   PMS is not fatal – you only wish it was!

Instead of looking at it as a curse, see it as a blessing! Embrace her femininity. Praise God for the miraculous way He created our bodies.

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. 1 Peter 3:7

Women: Click here to read “10 Things You Should Know About PMS (for Women).”

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

10 Things You Should Know About PMS (for Women)

1.       It’s not all in your head. It’s real.

2.       Each woman has a specific combination of symptoms unique to her. Learn to recognize yours.

I admire those ladies hardly affected by their monthly cycle. Not so with me. Almost every month “Alien Barb” arrives leaving me wondering which persona is the real me.

3.       Not all symptoms are physical. Mental and spiritual symptoms also exist.

For more information on this, I highly recommend Lorraine Pintus’ book Jump off the Hormone Swing. Click here for a link. Lorraine is an expert in PMS both researching it extensively and experiencing elevated symptoms pre-menopause. I found her book enlightening and freeing.

4.       Satan will use this time of the month to beat you up mentally.

Are others’ character flaws more irritating? Are you having a heightened number of thoughts about what a terrible wife, mother, teacher, co-worker, __________, you are? Are you more discouraged than usual because you aren’t accomplishing as much as you think you should? These thoughts may be aggravated by Satan. He knows and uses your weaknesses.

5.       This is a great time to allow God to soothe you.

For every negative thought you have, God has a spiritual truth. Search for it. PMS reminds us how dependent we are on Him and His presence. Pray and let Him comfort you.

6.       It’s okay to cry.

Crying releases the built-up tension that may otherwise cause a fight.

 7.       There are things you can do to lighten the symptoms. Figure out what works for you (i.e. clear your schedule, take a nap, take a walk, eat less sugar and more protein, etc.).

During this time of month I try not to make any life-changing decisions or have any serious discussions if at all possible. Of course, life must go on; but if you search for me, you may find me locked in my bedroom in a self-imposed “time out.”

8.       Wearing a “Stand Back 5 Feet” sign may deter others from triggering any symptoms.

Seriously, be willing to state to those you love, “Just a warning: it’s that time of month again. If I seem edgy or frustrated or easily provoked, please be understanding.”

9.       God created us this way for a reason.

Without the shedding of our blood, there can be no new physical life. Without the shedding of Jesus’ blood, there is no spiritual life. I defer to Lorraine Pintus’ book.

“As a woman, God wove into my body a sign of holy redemption. My monthly cleansing [is] an earthly picture of the spiritual cleansing of the blood of Christ. My blood [is] shed often—I [need] regular cleansing. But His blood was shed once for the cleansing of all mankind.”

10.   PMS is not fatal – you only wish it was!

Instead of looking at it as a curse, see it as a blessing! Embrace your femininity and uniqueness. Praise God for the miraculous way He created our bodies.

BONUS: PMS is not an excuse for sinning.

Men: stay tuned. My next post is “10 Things You Should Know About PMS (for Men).”

Psalm 139

How to Approach Sin

The glass slipped and then . . . CRASH! In an instant it shattered. I sucked in my breath and surveyed the damage. Broken parts in various sizes covered most of the floor. I wondered how I would ever pick up all the pieces. There were too many. It covered too much ground.

I recovered from the initial shock, sent up a quick prayer, and started in.  Experience took over. I knew how this was done. I put on my flip flops, snatched the garbage can, and reached down. First the biggest segments. I cautiously grabbed those with my fingers and threw them into the trash. I worked slowly, methodically so I wouldn’t miss any or inadvertently be cut. Next I swept the smaller pieces. With the place of impact as the center, I made a wide circle with the broom and worked inward. Glass had made its way to places I didn’t think it would reach. Lastly, I folded a paper towel, wet it down, and wiped the floor, carefully covering every inch. I repeated this last step with several paper towels until they showed no signs of slivers. My concern was that one of my family members would step on a shard, not right away while we were all walking delicately, but later, after we’d forgotten about the break.

As I cleaned, it occurred to me the approach I took toward removing the obsolete item resembled the approach I take toward sin in my life.

Sometimes when the Lord reveals an issue that needs dealt with, it appears too big to tackle (like when the glass first shattered). But it must be addressed; otherwise the effects will still be scattered all over the floor. Not only is it a mess, but it’s a potential cause for injury to me and others.

Steps for Removal

Confess the sin, pray for guidance and begin. It’s easiest to start with the obvious. For example, if I am dealing with an eating problem, I throw away the tempting food (candy, chips, ice cream, etc.).

Next, look around for the smaller issues. In my example, I examine the wrong thoughts which lead to bad eating habits (it’s more work to eat well, bad food tastes better, etc.) and devise a plan.

Lastly, ask God to reveal the underlying issues (the slivers that can’t be seen but will cause damage). In my wrong-eating example, God may show me I am using food to feel comforted or I am not exercising self-control. These must be addressed lest I slip back into the same sin pattern.

After these steps are complete, I can walk freely.

walk freely

Many who know me know I talk about food issues regularly (see more at http://foodliesandtruth.blogspot.com/). However these principles can be applied to all areas of life including financial, parental, marital, and others. Which area in your life needs attention?

Instant Gratification and Glimpses of Progress

I enjoy vacuuming—mostly because I can. For years I could not push a vacuum due to lower back issues (read: pain!). So each time I vacuum now, I praise the Lord for pain-free living.

Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t vacuum on a regular basis—it’s not my job. That has been delegated to one of our children. However, we purchased a new vacuum a few months ago, and since then I have tried to vacuum at least one room each week. I find it gratifying because I can see the results. They are immediate. I like that! I start with an empty bin and when I am finished the bin is full. Thirty minutes. Dirt collected. Done. Finished. Complete.

P1010600.2        P1010596.2

I think that’s why we like projects or mission trips—something with a start and a finish. Instant gratification. Immediate results. My husband was excited when he returned from Liberia. Clean water pumped to a school. One hundred fifty households with new water systems. Pastors’ conference taught.

But life isn’t always like that. Most ministry takes place in day-to-day living. It’s not sensational or even noticeable.

My husband says the most difficult part of ministry for him is the apathy. We can’t impart the desire to follow God into others. I, too, have found that to be true. I have counseled some ladies for years and seen little to no fruit of my labor. The same can be true of parenting. It’s difficult to repeat myself (sit up straight, say “thank you,” don’t fidget) over a span of six months, a year, ten years . . . with seemingly little results. Yet that’s what God calls us to.

Deep-rooted change and character building, being molded to the image of Christ, takes time (for those we are reaching out to AND for us!). So we persevere. Then one day we look back and realize:

Our children are demonstrating compassion, love, and thankfulness

A beautiful, once-broken lady leads a Bible study

We are more patient and forgiving

While we wait for significant results, let’s look for glimpses of progress:

Little Johnny says, “Thank you,” without being told.

Neighbor Betty shares a Scripture with a young mother.

One room in the house is clean right now—as evidenced by a full vacuum bin.

Just for Fun

Panic

If you, like me, tend to panic regularly over anything from being five minutes late to thinking about whether or not your sixteen-year-old will be in a car accident, you will be delighted to hear of the well-kept secret that today, March 9th, is National Panic Day.

For years, I’ve stuck to the motto, “Why put off ‘til tomorrow what I can do today?” I have panicked at any sign of mishap or problem. Thus, my panic abilities have flourished. I’ve mastered them to the point that panic comes quickly and easily.

So discovering a precise date set aside for panicking purposes has opened a new possibility for panic practicality.

Since learning about National Panic Day, I have been saving my panic sessions. When I feel the urge to panic begin to rise, I simply write down the reason for panicking and stick the note in a jar. Today, National Panic Day, I will spend the day reading my notes and panicking! By accumulating my urges to panic for one specific day a year, I save time, energy, and resources.

I’d like to thank those involved in designing this day. I’m a better person for it. (My family thanks you, too!)

Now I’m off for a long day of panic.

Wait!

These notes . . . they all seem like ridiculous reasons to panic.

Maybe I’ll go shopping instead. 🙂

 

*Note: The idea for this blog came from a post on Edie Melson’s blogsite http://thewriteconversation.blogspot.com/