Lessons from the Shingles

From my May 2016 Journal. Shingles, Day 9.When I came down with the shingles*, I had no idea what was in store for me in the days to come. But I determined right from the beginning that #1) I would have a positive attitude and #2) I would do my best to learn something from the experience.

With horrible nausea, I made two trips across town to the doctor, throwing up four to five times that day. Even with anti-nausea meds, I was barely functional. Finally the doc switched me to Phenergan. With one dose my life became bearable. I could tolerate the rash, the nonstop headache, the eye pain, and the loss of appetite. I thought of chemo patients and wondered how they tolerated such an assault to their bodies.

A book I read recently on healing mentioned that our perception of pain is related to the highest point of discomfort along with the final outcome of the ordeal (whether negative or positive). During the nausea, I thought I’d die. But as soon as it was under control, I suddenly thought, “Well, that wasn’t so bad!” How interesting is that!

As for lessons learned, so far the only thing I’ve come up with is this:

Before this all started, I heard a question posed on the radio: Who are you? My super-spiritual answer was “a daughter of the King.” But that’s not what my honest answer was. My initial response was related to what I DO: I’m an inner healing prayer minister.

In this last nine days of inactivity, I pondered the question again. I was perfectly content at this point with not being capable of praying with people. My identity this week had nothing to do with ministry. I felt no loss as to who I was. I was too sick to care. Would I have responded, “I’m a sick person”? Is that my identity or my condition?

I am loved. That is enough.

And so I’m grateful:

  • For a husband who’s taken excellent care of me.
  • For the little kindnesses from friends—a meal, a card, a run to the pharmacy, a visit.
  • That my pain has been very manageable.
  • For doctors and nurses and pharmacists and medicine, and a country where such is readily available.
  • For flexibility to cancel appointments without loss of job security.
  • For a comfortable couch, soft pillow, warm blanket, and a kitty for company.
  • That I only have a mild case of the shingles (I’ve heard horror stories).

Day 19, A few observations:

  • Schedules and to-do lists have become irrelevant.
  • Pain management easily takes front and center.
  • Time takes on a different dimension. I’m nearing three weeks of time standing still. One day is like every other—bed to couch, to attempt to do something, to couch. If something gets done, that’s good. If not, oh well!
  • I’m grateful for beauty—the moon, the roses, the trees and grass that I can see through my window, and the sunshine on my face when I sit on the deck for a few minutes.
  • It does no good to try to rush the healing process. You’ll just relapse.
  • Going down is quick. Getting back up takes effort and time.
  • Sleep is necessary.
  • Spiritual disciplines decline in direct proportion to how sick one is. I can gauge my recovery process according to how much I focus on prayer.
  • You can’t teach another person the lessons you’re learning. It will just be information to them until they experience it for themselves. (This is true for everything in life I think.)
  • It’s okay to just be—sometimes that’s all you can do. But it feels quite unproductive—which is my inner default drive—to do, do, do, produce, manage my goals, serve others. It’s hard to serve others when you’re self-focused.
  • Multitasking is no longer an option.

Observation after 5 weeks: I don’t like to talk about illness once I’m through the worst of it. Leave it alone please; let’s move on to something else. You have it far worse than I do. I don’t want to be the center of your focus and attention. Why? Where is that emotion coming from I wonder?

After 7 weeks: Following the shingles, I had laryngitis for four days followed by a full-blown cold, and then I lost a crown while out of town. I’ve had to fight to stay positive, but occasionally I leak! When it’s obvious I don’t feel well and I can’t hide it, people will ask and comment. But when it’s not obvious, I don’t like drawing attention to myself. But expressing it somehow helps me feel better. I watch my friends who have chronic pain who can be matter-of-fact about it—especially if asked—and others who verbalize it constantly, all the while declaring, “. . . but I won’t complain.” When does declaring facts morph into complaint? It starts, I think, in the heart.

So I have to check my attitude periodically. It is easy to get discouraged when the endpoint is unclear. What helps is to refocus, go to the castle of my heart, if even for a moment. It’s like a reset button. I cannot begin to imagine what it’s like to fight against cancer or to come to the end of one’s life with no hope of recovery from illness or aging. No wonder people turn crotchety!

So, Lord, help me to pass this test and learn my lessons.

*Shingles: an acute, painful inflammation of the nerve ganglia, with a skin eruption, caused by the same virus as chickenpox. Mine attacked the right side of my temple in the trigeminal nerve and my right eye (where I’ve battled with flare-ups ever since). I’m so thankful for an excellent ophthalmologist.

Shingles 2

Peaches keeping me company

I’m a Recovering Pharisee

You will never understand the heart of a Pharisee unless you realize that he sees the plank in his eye as belonging to others (Erwin Lutzer in Who Are You to Judge?)

eye plank

From my 2016 Journal. I am a recovering Pharisee. I identify more with the law than with grace, with Martha more than Mary, with the big brother rather than the prodigal son, with self-righteousness over God’s righteousness. Had I been at the synagogue the day Jesus healed the crippled woman (Luke 13), I would have been the Pharisee condemning Jesus for working on the Sabbath. Self-righteousness is my continual default. I cringe when I read this verse:

 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: (Luke 18:9 NIV)

Thankfully, I’ve come a long, long way in shedding my Pharisaical robes, but I’m not there yet—and won’t be until I get to heaven. Whenever I think that I’m “better than” I’ve crossed the line into self-righteousness.

So, I explore this thought:  If I choose the God path, does that make me superior to those who choose to resist God? My inner Pharisee says yes. But I know that is arrogance.

I am responsible for my own faith, my own choices, my own reactions and responses. I don’t know another person’s heart—not really. We are each accountable to our own master—be it God or Satan or money or pain. Since I’ve chosen God as my master, then I only answer to Him. It is not my job to judge another person’s choices or motives. I might know and recognize that they’ve chosen a poor master, and I can urge them to reconsider their choice, but they may be bound in chains and may not know that freedom is available to them. Why get upset and rage at them for not opening their eyes—when they are truly blinded by the god of this world and cannot see until the God of Heaven opens their eyes.

Lord, remove all stubbornness, pride, arrogance, self-righteousness, and feelings of superiority from my heart. Give me the heart of the sinner who beat his breast and begged God for mercy.

 

Am I Not Enough?

From my 2016 Journal. I’m feeling disgruntled today, agitated, pacing, complaining. Jesus invites me to sit with Him for a bit. “I’m weary of working with people whose hearts are closed. Soulmate is a mythical beast.”

“Am I not enough?” Jesus asks.

“Am I not enough?” the Holy Spirit queries.

“Am I not enough?” the Father says.

And my heart cries out “I want You to be. So why am I not satisfied? Why do I cling to the illusion that flawed human beings are capable of meeting the deepest longings and intimate needs of my heart?”

“It’s not fair to expect people to be God to you,” observes Jesus. “That’s idolatry.”

And so I repent.

Be Jesus to others but let go of expecting them to be that to you.

I Have a Question

From my 2011 Journal. My husband says he’s going to inscribe on my tombstone my favorite question: How does this make you feel?! My skill as a counselor is often based on how effective my questions are, so I’ve started taking note of some of God’s questions in the Bible, for He is a master “questioner”! Obviously He didn’t ask them because He didn’t know the answer, but rather so His clients would examine themselves and face whatever they were feeling or believing, or trying to avoid or hide.

To Adam:

            Where are you?

            Who told you that you were naked?

            Have you eaten of the tree?

To Eve:

            What have you done?

To Cain:

            Why are you angry?

            Why are you sad and dejected?

            If you do well, won’t you be accepted?

            Where is your brother?

            What have you done?

To the disciples on the road to Emmaus:

            What is this discussion you’re exchanging between you as you walk along?

To the disciples after the resurrection:

            Why are you disturbed and troubled?

            Why do such doubts and questions arise in your hearts?

To Mary at the tomb:

            Why are you crying?

To Peter on the shore of the Sea of Galilee:

            Peter, do you love Me?

What question is Jesus asking me today?

Question mark

Self-Righteousness 101

beauty salon

Photo by Delbeautybox from Pexels

From my 2015 Journal. It was time to find a new hairdresser. Mine was located on the other side of town, her prices went up, and I wasn’t always satisfied with her work. I wanted to find someone closer and cheaper and more consistent. So on the recommendation of someone in our neighborhood, I hopped on my bicycle and rode to the nearest salon, appointment at 9 a.m.

I arrived at 8:59 a.m. and the place was locked up tight. Maybe the owner was in the back. No problem. I can wait one minute. Or two or three . . . or four or five. Eventually, a lady sauntered over from the parking lot and unlocked the door. I moved closer. “Did you want to come in?” she mumbled?

Well, duh!

No greeting. No explanation as to why she was late, why she wasn’t there ahead of her clients, place unlocked and ready to receive customers with a smile. Phones were ringing, and off she went while I sat on a chair and waited, apparently no a/c on yet in the July heat. I was hot in more ways than one!

A couple minutes later, another worker moseyed in, put down her purse, opened up her iPad (really!?) and then I calmed down when I realized she was putting on some music for the establishment. Watch watch, wait.

Finally at 9:10 a.m. Miss #1 looks up from her computer and asks, “Are you Karen?” (Hmm. I’m the only one in the shop. Were there others expected? I suppose she could have assumed I was a walk-in. Still no explanation why they’re late.)

Miss #2 calls me to her chair. She’s friendly, sweet, asks questions, not too chatty. I like her. But I’m still steamed that she’s not professional enough to arrive on time and respect my schedule.

The price is right, the haircut fine (as far as I can tell), and I like her as a person. (I had no further interaction with Miss #1, the manager.)

So what’s wrong?

I need to tell them how to run a business, I fume inside. How do they expect to maintain customers if they can’t act professionally?

And so I leave the premises and ride around the neighborhood, praying as I go. I don’t want this angry emotion. It’s unprofessional! And so I hand Jesus the ball of fire that is burning in my palm. And He smiles. He knows there’s more. I know there’s more. What is underneath this anger? Is it disappointment? I have no time crunch. Why should I be upset about wasting a few extra minutes in my day?

“It’s because they’re so unprofessional,” I whine to Him. “I wouldn’t do that. I always arrive well ahead of my clients. What would they think of me if I showed up late without an apology like these two ladies did?”

And then, “Oh!” I exclaim in chagrin and embarrassment. “I know what it is. It’s self-righteousness—the ‘I’ syndrome.” Ugh. What an ugly word.

What does self-righteousness look like? I see myself wearing a large, shapeless, colorful but gaudy dress. Not too shabby, I think. It has color, it hides my unsightly curves, it’s functional.

“Would you be willing to let Me have it?” Jesus asks.

“Uh . . . okay, but I’ll be rather unclothed then.”

I pull the garment over my head and hand it to Him. And then wait. And wait.

I know that when I give Jesus something, He often likes to give me something in return. “Well, aren’t You going to hand me robes of righteousness instead to put on?”

“Nope,” He replies.

I’m a little taken aback. Isn’t that what Scripture says?

“I already gave them to you . . .” He softly answers “. . . when you accepted Me into your heart.”

I glance down then at my body and gasp. I am clothed in a dazzling white, sequined wedding gown, “adorned as a bride for her husband.”

Chagrined, I realize I had thrown a gaudy shift over top of my beautiful gown. Not pretty. “I’m so sorry, Jesus. Please forgive me for disrespecting Your gift.”

And so I think back to the ladies at the shop. It no longer matters that they came in a few minutes late and didn’t have the people skills to greet me warmly at the door. Perhaps this is my new mission field.

Postscript: I have since found a phenomenal hair stylist. Her name is Cindy Harris and she has a PhD in hair design (I didn’t know there even was such a thing!) I highly recommend her for all your makeover needs.

Cindy’s Total Image Salon located in Oasis Salon, 745 S Church St, Suite 301 in Murfreesboro, TN.

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Mountaintop Experiences

DSCN3170 wilderness mountain

The Transfiguration (Matthew 17)

One day Peter, James, and John, closest earthly friends of Jesus, climb to the top of a high mountain. They’re dirty, tired, sweaty, hungry, and thirsty. The journey is long and arduous, and they are clueless as to why Jesus is leading them here. It’s nice to be away from the pressing crowds, though, where it’s quiet and they can feel the wind and have time to think about all that’s happened so far. It’s a high mountain, and it takes all their energy to climb, and they wonder when they’ll ever reach their destination. The privileged three might miss their families, but it’s exciting to be singled out to spend quality time with their Rabbi.

And then it happens—Jesus’ transfiguration, meeting biblical heroes Moses and Elijah, the enveloping brilliant light cloud, the very voice of God in their ears. It’s overwhelming, it’s exhilarating, it’s terrifying, it’s unique in history.

But this mountaintop experience is not meant to be the norm—in spite of Peter’s suggestion to create shelters for the three of them. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and they are not permitted to share it with anyone—at least for now. This is a “between me and God” holy moment—it’s nobody’s business but theirs. And there’s a purpose for it—maybe to strengthen their faith or to give them courage or enlightenment. Maybe Jesus is bursting with excitement and wants to share His true story experientially with His best friends.

And now it’s time to come down from the mountain. They can’t live there, but it’s now part of their story that shapes how they think and feel. They are different for having experienced it. And when the time is right (after the resurrection and not before), they will be given permission to tell others—it’s a testimony—both theirs as a witness and a verification of who Jesus is.

What mountaintop experience have you had? Did you tell someone, or have you kept it between you and the Lord? Why?

 

Anger Water

Pour forth the overflowings of thine anger. Job 40:11 ASV

Anger is a hot topic—literally. Some people visualize their anger as white-hot or like red flames. But this verse in Job references anger as “overflowing.” It makes me think of a liquid metaphor where there are different kinds of anger:  there’s the slow, low, simmering kind and there’s the roiling, boiling kind. They’re both hot to touch.

Boiling waterDepending on the vessel (the type of soul one has), anger water can be contained (as in a pressure cooker or cooking pot) or it can cause a meltdown (if placed in a plastic container for instance—I know by experience). What difference would it make if the container were made of steel or cardboard or glass? Most of us are not capable of holding onto anger for very long before we feel its effects in our body,  and our “overflowings” spill out and burn others. Or as a Facebook meme stated, “If you don’t take the time to heal from what hurt you, then you’ll bleed all over those who didn’t hurt you.”

In contrast, God’s anger is slow, longsuffering, patient. God’s vessel is capable of withstanding the hottest heat without exploding. It’s best to siphon off our anger into His vessel because He can hold it. But eventually even His anger reaches the “overflowing” stage. (See the book of Revelation.)

I DON’T HAVE TO . . . I GET TO

ToiletYears ago, Scott and I attended a concert at the Tivoli Theatre in Chattanooga. I don’t remember now which groups performed, but the lyrics from an old Gospel song stuck with me for a long time. The refrain was “I don’t have to . . . I get to.”

Here’s a sample from my own list:

  • I don’t have to cook meals for my family . . . I get to.
  • I don’t have to pray for people . . . I get to.
  • I don’t have to clean the toilets . . . I get to.
  • I don’t have to love my enemies . . . I get to.

Another good phrase to use is:  Isn’t it great that . . . ?

  • Isn’t it great that we have dirty dishes? It means we have food to eat.
  • Isn’t it great that my hair is frizzy today? It means I have hair!
  • Isn’t it great that it’s raining today? It means that the flowers are drinking.
  • Isn’t it great that I have a toilet to clean? It means I don’t have to squat over a hole in the ground (seriously)!

Now your turn . . . 

VISION, LIMITS, AND OBITS

IMG_4641 (2)From my 2011 Journal. We’re teaching the life of Elisha in Momentum (Sunday school for grades 4-6), and our leader Lori challenged us to ask ourselves 3 sets of questions.

#1 Write down a sentence that describes the vision you have for your life.

That’s a tall order! I’m sure it’s changed over the years [and perhaps has changed since I wrote this 8 years ago]. At first I thought of the word “prayer” and then “service,” but I think even more than that, the word “obedience.” I’m more of a rule-follower than a leader. Another word that comes to mind is “peace.” All these words have been my pursuit since childhood. Can they be melded into one sentence?

My Vision Statement:  I will prayerfully pursue inner peace while living a life of obedience in His service.

#2 Where do you limit yourself? and Where do you limit God?

Unlike my youngest daughter, I don’t like change. I’m not inherently adventuresome. I limit myself physically. I don’t get outside as much as I’d like to enjoy nature. I’m content to stay inside where it’s sterile and comfortable. [I’ve since then deliberately made that change.] I limit myself when I doubt that God is working in another person’s life. I limit God when I cannot see the big picture or when I don’t ask for big things. I’m Elisha behind a plow, plodding along. I have no imagination that God has a much greater work for me to do. [Again, thankfully God has grown me in these areas.]

#3 Write out your own obituary.

Besides the stats of where I’ve lived and what I’ve done and who my surviving relatives are—I suppose Lori means for what character traits will people remember me. The truth? Or what I hope they remember me for? Okay, here goes. . . .

She liked things done her way. She liked simplicity and minimalism. She neglected exercise. And she had a terrible memory. She loved spicy food and anything African. She accepted people at face value and tried to learn something from everyone. She was hardest on her husband and expected more from him than from others—but she eventually relaxed on that one and decided to let God be his Holy Spirit.

She loved prayer, but never felt like she mastered it. She had a driving passion for purity, obedience to God, mind renewal, helping others come to emotional healing. She enjoyed writing—for herself—and used to crochet and cross-stitch. Mostly she enjoyed reading, and when younger, climbing trees. She adored her family. She enjoyed baking, but not cooking on a routine basis—especially for picky eaters. Using her resources for God was extremely important to her. She loved monkeys but not dogs, and she tolerated cats. Sunsets, rainbows, a full moon, cloud formations, and the African sky. She liked to work on the computer—especially when creating words on a page, and even data entry. But most of all, above all else, she LOVED GOD.

Now it’s your turn. I’d love to hear your responses to these thought-provoking questions.

God the Father

For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” (Rom. 8:15 NASB)

From my 2011 Journal. For a long time I’ve tried to figure out my picture of God the Father. And all I could get was seeing Him sitting on a giant throne, stern and stiff and still, sort of like Abe Lincoln’s marble statue in Washington. And seeing Him on the throne is all well and good, but that doesn’t show me the “Papa/Abba” side of Him. Sitting on the throne is His job—King, Ruler, Sovereign Judge over the Universe.

Dad 2We’re often told that our view of God looks a lot like our view of our earthly father. I adored and respected and admired my dad, but we never had a close, intimate, soul-to-soul relationship. I always felt safe and protected, and he taught me a lot, but it was never the warm and fuzzy sort of nurturing feelings. He just didn’t “get” little kids. Okay, so maybe there’s an element of truth there about my view of God the Father.

As I prayed this morning, I asked God for a new picture—one that demonstrates His love for me. And this is what I saw:  I’m snuggled under the covers, ready for bed, and God the Father is sitting beside me, bedtime story in hand, answering my most puzzling life questions that arise at the end of the day when all is quiet and still. There’s deep love in His eyes. His kiss on my cheek is gentle. His hands tucking me in are careful and kind, but most of all, full of love for me, His child. I’m safe and warm, no fear, no worries or needs. He’s taking care of me. He loves me. That’s Who my Papa is. By day? King of the Universe. At night? The reader of stories, the delight of my day and night. Thank You, Abba, that I’m your child.

What does Father look like to you?