Monthly Archives: October 2011

“Nothing is ever easy.”

I’ve already said in various ways how this semester has been a growing experience. It has shown me a lot of my weaknesses and strengths (even though I feel like the “weakness” list is much longer…), I’ve been tested in a lot of ways and often failed. But when I get an answer wrong on an exam or an assignment, I usually remember the right answer after that better than all the other correct answers given.

It’s a little wearying when you finally wake up and realize that life is not and never will be easy. As one of my favorite authers writes often, “Nothing is ever easy.” Nothing of any importance anyway…it’s easy to oversleep, to lay around in pajamas all day, eat a bag of chocolate, and watch TV. But anything of significance usually takes work – some more work than others. Nothing is ever easy.

Jesus knows we’re weak, and so He gives us work and challenges and valleys to make us strong. You can’t develop muscles and strength unless you do weight bearing activities. You have to tear apart the weak muscles so that the muscles can grow back strong. It hurts. It is hard. Nothing is ever easy.

And that’s part of the bargain of being a child of God. Jesus wants us to bear fruit. “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” What struck me when I read this is that Jesus doesn’t just want us to bear some fruit…it’s not, “Oh, look at those nice three apples you’ve got growing there, good job!” When we DO bear fruit, His response is to prune us, so that we will bear even more. Merriam-Webster defines prune as, “to cut off or cut back parts of for better shape or more fruitful growth.” Cutting isn’t a fuzzy-feel-good experience. It’s painful.

In nursing, we learn right away that immobility is a bad, bad thing for our patients. Being bedridden puts patients at risk for pressure ulcers, collapsed lungs, edema, depression….every system of our body suffers, causing a quick downward spiral. As a nurse, my job is to get these patients up and mobile as soon as possible, but this is often met with resistance. If the consequences are so terrible, why don’t patients want to get out of bed?

The answer is simple… Pain. It hurts.

They want to stay in bed so they won’t hurt. But in the end, their body wastes away. The loving thing to do is to get these patients moving. And while there are many diplomatic ways to accomplish this, I’ve seen many patients aggravated with their nurse for making them move around. Working in a nursing home, I had many of our residents try to get me to help them move around, instead of them using their own muscles. When I helped them (because, that’s the nice thing to do, right? Lift someone out of bed because it hurts them to use their own legs?) I, without realizing it at the time, was doing them a disservice by taking from them the opportunity to become stronger, to heal.

Jesus has to do that a lot with us…pull us out of bed, make us walk on our own (while being right there to take care of us when needed), allow us to hurt as we move weak muscles… And I often whine and complain to Him, just like my residents used to do with their nurses. I expect Him to carry me, and become upset when He tells me to walk twenty feet on my own with only His supervision.

Christians often fall into the trap of believing that because we have Jesus, life is going to be easy and good. But life isn’t easy, because Jesus loves us and wants us to grow strong and capable and whole. We do ourselves a disservice by falling for Satan’s lie that our lives should be perfect, and that something is obviously wrong when it isn’t easy. Hard times aren’t seasons to simply survive, or get through…they are times to be Alive, to grow, to be active. “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” If we go into survival mode every time a rainstorm hits, we’ll spend a majority of our lives hidden inside, wasted.

So how will you live your life, rain or shine?

Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriad’s of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.

~Jonathan Edwards

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All Hallow’s Eve or Samhein?

Out of all the holidays, I have the least experience with Halloween. When I was little, I looked forward to dressing up as a dalmatian or ballerina and going trick-or-treating with my friends. However, with the mixed opinions among Christian circles about Halloween, my parents later chose to take the more conservative path and not celebrate it at all. Most of my friends were quite disapproving of the holiday as well, so after the disappointment of the first year at not being able to go up and down the neighborhood for free candy, I never missed it much. Since then, my parents have let my little sisters go trick-or-treating, but the holiday was never focused on in our family and my sisters are honestly not that impressed with it.

As a Christian, how the supernatural is approached/dealt with (or NOT, as is usually the case) is a matter full of emotion and strong opinions. Is it ok to participate in Halloween celebrations? Is Harry Potter a gateway for our children to begin pursuing witchcraft? What about our attitude towards horror movies?

Out of curiosity, I did some research on the origins of Halloween to refresh my knowledge. “Halloween” is the modern name of what used to be “All Hallow’s Eve,” celebrated before Saints Day on November 1st by the Catholic church. But it’s origin goes much further back. Originally Halloween was a Celtish holiday called Samhein (pronounced “sow-en”). It spanned over a time of three days where the gates  between this world and the “supernatural” world were open and the spirits could cross back and forth. It was a time of celebration, where spirits of the ancestors were welcomed back. The Catholic church, instead of abolishing the people’s sacred holiday, turned it into the day of celebrating saints that had since died.

And now we have “Halloween.”

So what do we do with it? Having both celebrated Halloween as well as opted out of the celebrations at various times in my life, I personally think it’s a fun holiday…an excuse to dress up (but I do find the creepy, gory costumes/decor distasteful and uncreative…), get free candy (who doesn’t love that?), carve a pumpkin, and try various recipes involving pumpkin in some way…. I think it can be a innocent, fun, and enjoyable time.

On the other hand, I think our culture has an unhealthy fascination with the supernatural… I see it in the mass amounts of horror movies being filmed, the vampire obsession, and in the over-the-top Halloween decorations littering the lawns… Don’t get me wrong, I love fun decorations, a thrilling movie, and I’ve read and enjoyed Harry Potter and Twilight. I love fantasy novels with wizards and magicians…but those all take place in another world…there’s no uncertainty in the fact that those things won’t happen in real life.

It’s the demonic aspect that does cause me to shudder…because unlike zombie apocalypses, vegetarian vampires, or a magical school of wizardry, demonic activity is very real. I broke one of my cardinal rules yesterday of not watching horror movies by watching the movie Insidious, and it made me think about the whole Halloween debate again (in my defense, I didn’t think it was the type of horror movie it turned out to be…). While I can’t say I’m happy I watched the movie, I’m not sure I regret it either. It caused me to examine my thinking about my attitude towards the supernatural. In the end, I simply felt sad…sad, because while people watch that stuff for entertainment and love the thrill of being scared, those stories in many cases are reality. Demon possession is real, hauntings happen, and the supernatural is very present.

Maybe I take it more seriously because I’ve known people who’ve had multiple “supernatural run-in’s” throughout their lives. A situation was so bad at one time, that my pastors literally prayed over one of the member’s house. Since then, there were no other incidences. As a Christian, I’m not scared about being possessed because the Holy Spirit is within me, but Satan is more than happy to attack us in anyway he can. I guess what I’m trying to say is that this stuff is legit, and it destroys people’s lives. And yet we approach it flippantly like it’s all a game.

So I guess what I’m saying is I’m more of a spooky jack-o-lantern, cute napkins with bats saying “eek,” and ominous looking purple cats kind of girl when it comes to Halloween. I don’t see a reason for me to ban it, but I also respect those who do choose to. An unhealthy fascination with demonic/supernatural is not good, but I also think it’s easy on the other side to sin by judging those who do choose to celebrate the holiday. I guess what it comes down to is a matter of Romans 14.

“Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.”

I find it interesting that it was the church’s fear of cats as something “evil” that caused them to kill tens of thousands of them, allowing rats and mice to multiply, leaving Europe as a whole wide open to the Black Plague, which was carried by the fleas on the backs of those rats and mice.And what about the Salem Witch Trials? How many girls innocently died during that time? I wonder how many of them were in actuality children of God…

It’s easy to demonize anything we choose to. It’s also easy to not take demonic activity seriously enough.

I love what C.S. Lewis writes in regard to this,

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”

These are a few of my favorite things…

When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad

The Sound of Music has been one of my most favorite movies since I was as young as four years old…I believe it was one of the few movies I insisted my parents buy for me (I never asked to actually own many movies…Mulan and The Prince of Egypt were probably the only other ones I asked for). One of my earliest memories is running back and forth across our backyard in Kansas during a thunderstorm singing, “Doe, a deer, a female deer…ray, a drop of golden sun!” at the top of my lungs…

…back when life was simple, when watching Disney’s Robin Hood rescue Maid Miriam from the bad guys exhilarated me, when being able to spell my full name without accidentally writing the “r” backwards was an accomplishment to be proud of, when I would fearlessly dance around the room to my parent’s “Point of Grace” CD wearing my ballerina dresses…

Some things don’t change as we get older though…and watching The Sound of Music and listening to the soundtrack without it getting old is one of them. I think there’s a lot of wisdom in periodically thinking about some of our “favorite things.” Remembering the little blessings and joys that God sprinkles throughout our life and thanking Him for His loving generosity…

” Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

So in the spirit of remembrance, I present you a few of MY favorite things. In no particular order whatsoever…

Lovely scents that permeate a home…autumn spices, decorations, and colors…

My baby girl, Lucy…

Morning runs on the beach…time spent on the beachl..salt water and waves…blue-green ocean water…sand castles…

My BFF since junior year of high school. My inspiration and greatest supporter and encourager. Life just wouldn’t be the same without her.

Snowfalls…the beautiful scenery of snow covered branches…the cold winter wind…snow angels…the magic of the Christmas season…advent.

Having curly, crazy hair…

Stupid, random text arguments with my little brother, Logan.

Wide open spaces…hiking…the outdoors…exploration…adventure…possibility.

Thinking…reflection…philosophy…new ideas…challenging thoughts…intellectual discourse…

“A wonderful thing is a Tigger!” Getting to be called “Tigger” one week out of the year…

A good book…bookshelves full of theological books…a fantasy world in which to escape for a time…thought-provoking authors…inspiration…

Words of affirmation…loving sisters….a precious family…a warm, secure home to return to…

Sunsets…wistful dreaming…vibrant colors…watching clouds…taking walks…barren branches…

Working out…running…getting my heart rate up…endorphins…a natural high…

Getting to study sciences like anatomy and physiology as well as microbiology…understanding how the human body works…

Rainbows…little reminders of God’s promises and love for us…hope amid darkness…

Being a nursing student…getting to wear red scrubs…

Having art drawn for me…artistic friends…

Dallas, TX…diversity…cultures and variety…home.

Baking…cooking…hospitality…planning parties….

New friends…nursing friends…having a bunch of girlfriends for once…My boys…(some of them)…my Dallas childhood knights in shining armor who take care of me…from the bad guys and, most of all, from myself.

My oldest, childhood girlfriends…the ones who’ve been with me through thick and thin and could blackmail me if they wanted.

Diet Coke….caffeine…comforting beverages…

Sunlight…tanning and dark skin…warmth…sunshine streaming through the window while reading…sun rays causing the pool water to sparkle…afternoon dreaming as sunbeams waft the room…

It’s easy to forget such simple gifts…what are some of your favorite things?

Morning musings on wine and digestion…

Spurgeon has been one of my favorite preachers since I began to really study theology on my own…I find his sermons challenging, blunt, loving, and encouraging.

I read this particular passage at a timely period…nursing school consumes so much of my time. Finding time to truly meditate, digest, and ponder God’s Word has been a challenge. Yes, I’m able to stumble out of bed and groggily read through a passage with a cup of coffee…but usually that’s followed by falling back asleep for a much needed twenty extra minutes of sleep before class or clinicals. But like Spurgeon pointed out, our souls won’t be nourished by simply putting food into our mouths…I can put the most nutrient-rich foods in my mouth, but if chewing and digestion doesn’t follow it, it will do no good to my body.

“There are times when solitude is better than society, and silence is wiser than speech. We should be better Christians if we were more alone, waiting upon God, and gathering through meditation on his Word spiritual strength for labour in his service. We ought to muse upon the things of God, because we thus get the real nutriment out of them. Truth is something like the cluster of the vine: if we would have wine from it, we must bruise it; we must press and squeeze it many times. The bruiser’s feet must come down joyfully upon the bunches, or else the juice will not flow; and they must well tread the grapes, or else much of the precious liquid will be wasted. So we must, by meditation, tread the clusters of truth, if we would get the wine of consolation therefrom. Our bodies are not supported by merely taking food into the mouth, but the process which really supplies the muscle, and the nerve, and the sinew, and the bone, is the process of digestion. It is by digestion that the outward food becomes assimilated with the inner life. Our souls are not nourished merely by listening awhile to this, and then to that, and then to the other part of divine truth. Hearing, reading, marking, and learning, all require inwardly digesting to complete their usefulness, and the inward digesting of the truth lies for the most part in meditating upon it. Why is it that some Christians, although they hear many sermons, make but slow advances in the divine life? Because they neglect their closets, and do not thoughtfully meditate on God’s Word. They love the wheat, but they do not grind it; they would have the corn, but they will not go forth into the fields to gather it; the fruit hangs upon the tree, but they will not pluck it; the water flows at their feet, but they will not stoop to drink it. From such folly deliver us, O Lord, and be this our resolve this morning, “I will meditate in thy precepts.” ~C.H. Spurgeon

I am reminded again of the necessity of meditating on God’s truth and truly allowing it to soak into my mind and live it out. I have a long ways to go, but awareness is a start. As the apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 3:12,

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”