Paranoia

Gentle Reader,

He must grow greater and greater and I less and less.

– John 3:30 (Phillip’s)

Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that they aren’t listening.

Carl, the FBI agent who lives inside our Echo Dot, told me that this morning.

That’s the joke in our uber-connected and wired society: Someone is always listening. Or watching. Or selling your information to Cambridge Analytica. Nothing on the internet is private, no matter what we like to tell ourselves. We’ve structured our lives, from work to relationships, around this convenience that zips through the ether, so complete disconnection isn’t really an option, unless you go ahead and plop the tin-foil on your head, purchase a compound in the woods and go full Mountain Person.

Me, I get the paranoia. It’s a not-so-lovely companion to the fear that’s constantly buzzing in my veins. Is this person truly kind, or is it an act? Am I safe right now? Who can I trust? Where can I go?

You’ve read this here before but I’ll write it again: I came so, so close to deleting this blog. As in, my finger was hovering over the button as recently as three-and-a-half weeks ago. It seemed a natural, logical choice to make. After all, I had already deleted all of my social media posts, including photos and memories that I will never be able to access again. Why not do the same here? Anything to make the anguish of past months cease.

Make myself small. Keep quiet. Don’t rock the proverbial boat.

This is a far, far cry from what my favorite camel-suit sporting Baptist meant. John didn’t quit doing what God had designed him to do when Jesus came on the scene. He wasn’t saying, “Well, they like him better. Guess I’ll go back to the desert and eat some locusts.” Did his work culminate in the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry? Yes. We do see him gradually fade, eventually dying at the hands of a weak king.

But John didn’t quit.

He didn’t stop being John.

His job was to point the way to the Messiah. In so doing, he made a lot of people angry. You can’t call people a brood of vipers (Matthew 3:7) and not make some enemies. There was probably a lot of gossip about John. A lot of vicious rumors. A lot of people trying to block what he was doing.

He just kept going. Not as a superhuman, devoid of emotion or struggle. As John sat in prison, surely knowing that his execution was immanent, he sent some friends to ask Jesus if He really was the Messiah (Luke 7:18-23). Jesus didn’t seem to mind the question. He sent John’s friends back to him with comforting assurances. Scripture doesn’t tell us how John responded to this, but I don’t think it’s too far a stretch to imagine a relieved smile stretching across his tanned face as peace washed over his soul.

Smallness before God is completely different than smallness before people. One is the position of a servant, devoted to carrying out the mission of the Master. Sometimes carrying out that mission involves wrestling with our weaknesses, the things that God is kind and gentle enough to have compassion for. The other is the position of fear and sorrow, allowing someone other than the Master to rule. And that, we call idolatry.

The right response to the feeling of paranoia is to bow before God. We don’t need make ourselves huge so we can squash others before they squash us. We need to sprint to the Throne of Grace, prostrating ourselves at His feet, asking Him to remind us of the proper order of things. Truly, what can anyone do to you if you are wrapped in the arms of the King? In the grand scheme, very little.

You’ll hurt. You’ll cry. You’ll want to rage at people and make them feel as bad as you do. You’ll be tempted to check out and give up. That’s all normal. That’s all part of being a human. Thankfully, blessedly, we have Someone ever-ready to encourage and uplift us.

All we have to do is bow before Him and nobody else.

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The Detox Diaries: All is Well if God Be Mine

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Gentle Reader,

There is something about the King James rendering of the first part of this verse that gets me: My flesh and my heart faileth. The term “may” in all the other major translations leaves us with some mental wiggle space. We see the word “may” as “this might happen, but it might not.” No. My flesh will fail. My heart will fail. I will come to an end.

That’s a super-morbid way to start off, isn’t it?

When you deal with chronic illness, whether it’s migraines, M.E., liver disorders, Fibromyalgia, POTS or anything else, you’re faced with mortality. Your body doesn’t work correctly, no matter how much you want it do. The broken, fallen nature of this world is apparent every time you look in the mirror and see the bags under your eyes. Or when a wave of nausea washes over you. Or when it feels like someone smashed you across the face with a brick.

My flesh and my heart faileth.

BUT.

And “but’s” really are holy things.

The word “portion” here in this verse is the Hebrew cheleq (khay’-lek), meaning “portion, share, part, territory…tract, parcel (of land)…one’s portion, one’s possession…award from God.”

My flesh and my heart faileth…BUT…God is my possession.

He is my reward.

I find that immensely comforting. All this suffering, it isn’t for naught. There is a prize at the end and it is the Lord Himself.

We don’t necessarily understand the importance of family and inheritance rights during the time when this Psalm was written. The Promised Land was carefully and specifically divided up amongst the various Israelite tribes. Those broad divisions were further broken up along family lines. Even women could inherit land, a radical concept in the ancient world (see Num. 26:33; 27:1-7; 36:1-12; 1 Chr. 7:15; and Josh. 17:1-6). Each person had a place to call his or her own. Everyone would inherit something, whether by blood or by marriage.

According to the Psalmist, the Infinite and Majestic Creator puts Himself in the position of being an inheritance. When all is said and done, when the heart ceases beating and the brain stops waving; when the spirit exits the body, those who walk in relationship with God will not lose anything. Instead, we gain everything.

In his commentary on this passage, Matthew Henry writes:

 All is well if God be mine.

Yes.

Comfort one another with these words. – 1 Thessalonians 4:18 (NKJV)

My journey to faith. (15)

To read all the posts in The Detox Diaries series, go here.

This post also appeared on the Far East Broadcasting Company Gospel Blog on June 2, 2014.

31 Days of Brave: Style

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Gentle Reader,

Style is about more than clothing.

It is everything.

Style is the way each of us expresses our essence, the intrinsic or indispensable properties that serve to characterize or identify something. It is the difference between “talking” and “speaking.” It is bound up in the words chosen to compose a written sentence. It is found in the books we like, the songs we hum, the shoes we wear out. It is shown in our hand gestures, the causes we are passionate about, in the things that drive us. Style is the person.

Bravery embraces style.

I am learning to celebrate my own sense of style. I am learning to be the person God made me to be.

Do the same, dear reader.

My journey to faith. (15)

 For all of the posts in the 31 Days: Brave series, go here.

They Call Me Auntie

Gentle Reader,

Mother’s Day can be at the very least awkward for Infertile Imeldas. There is a whole range of emotions and thoughts associated with the topic, as wide and varying as the women themselves. Many people aren’t quite sure how to approach a woman who deals with infertility on a regular day, let alone this holiday set aside for celebrating mothers. It can be a tense mess.

As one of those Infertile Imeldas, I want to offer up some encouragement to those of you who live in this circle with me. I don’t at all wish to diminish the hurt and confusion that many feel, but I do want you to know that:

1. Your value is not determined by your uterus.

I don’t know why God allows some women to conceive easily and others not at all. I can’t begin to solve this mystery. However, I do know that you are a complete, whole, worthy woman. Eve was not a woman because she had children. She was a woman because that’s who God made her to be. Children are awesome, but there is so much more to the feminine identity, existence and experience than being able to carry one for 9 months. We are prone to forget that Eve was tasked with caring for creation just as Adam was – there were things that she was meant to do, that only she could do. Adam was incomplete without her. She was the final, climactic piece of God’s creation. She was not made only to bear children. She was made to reflect something of God that Adam didn’t.

2. You are vital in the lives of children.

There are so many kids out there who are desperate for a stable, loving influence in their lives. Or who just need someone other than Mom and Dad to talk to. Be that person. Reach out to those kids, whether they’re in your neighborhood, your workplace or your church. If you don’t have any contact with kids, volunteer somewhere. This world is a messed-up place and there are so many kiddos aching for love. You can give that to them.

3. You need to focus on the good in your life.

It’s so easy to become bogged down in disappointment. We don’t have the eyes of God, the eyes that see the whole picture. We can spend so much of our time wondering, “Why?” Even though I have come to believe that dealing with difficult situations and emotions, getting it all out on the table, is a good thing, at some point you have to let the crying cease. You have to make the choice to look up to God and around at what He has given you. There is so much to be thankful for! He has blessed you in so many ways! You can keep picking at the scab and let yourself become bitter, or you can enjoy life.

4. You need to find an outlet.

I don’t want to stereotype the gentler sex, but we are, in general, creative sorts. We need to be involved in nurturing something or someone.There are innumerable ways in which to do this. What are you interested in? What have you always wanted to try? What project would you like to tackle in your workplace? Don’t let that energy and talent go unused and wasted.

5. You are part of a family.

If you are married, never forget that you and your husband constitute a family. If not, you are still someone’s daughter, someone’s sister, someone’s cousin. Moreover, you get to play a fabulous part in the family of God: the Auntie! You get to listen, hug, kiss, spoil and love all sorts of children – and you get to send them home with the get cranky.

6. You are loved.

God is not punishing you. Let me repeat that, loudly: GOD IS NOT PUNISHING YOU. You aren’t being denied children because of some sin. Read John 9 if you don’t believe me. God adores you and has so much wonder and good in store for your life!

Above all, dear sisters, we must remember that our plans can’t hold a candle to His. We must remember that every “no” that falls from His lips ensures a greater “yes” sometime in the future. Maybe the doors will open for you to adopt. Maybe they won’t. Maybe one day, miraculously, you will find yourself pregnant. Maybe you won’t. Whatever does or doesn’t happen, we need to walk this road with our eyes firmly fixed on the One who intimately knows the way we are traveling. Let us each take His hand and grasp it tightly. We do not know where this journey will take us, but we must rest in the love and wisdom of the God who knows all.

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