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Posts Tagged ‘Pain’

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The photos came in, by text, one at a time. With each vibration of my device, my eyes struggled to focus, struggled to understand what I was seeing, struggled to understand how the destruction in the images had occured.

My beloved beasty had used our bathroom baseboards for teething purposes, in a most destructive manner. The floor was littered with bits of MFD.

Upon getting home it was obvious that the beast was in a stressful state, panting and drooling.

Our family put our heads together, and agreed that she had been acting strangely for a number of days. The physical  investigation of the beast began, checking to see if she was in pain, ailing from an injury or illness. All I could see was a tooth that looked like it might have a cavity.

The following day beasty and I visited her vet, for confirmation of a tooth ache.

After careful physical examination of the beast, from head to tail, many questions, and a review of her history, the vet said he felt the main problem was not physical, but emotional.

The problem began last week, as my daughter and I prepared to leave for a trip. We were gone three days.

The vet felt that anytime we leave the house, for the next few days (weeks, maybe even months), our beast will fear that we will not return, and the anxiety will surface.

As I drove home from the vet I thought about how, when something is not right, we humans look for physical evidence to solve the problem. I also thought about individuals I know with physically debilitating illness, suffering and pain, who have nebulous diagnosis such as anxiety, that seem to illicit no more than raised eyebrows from family, friends and work places.

I thought about people who have not been physically well, yet no medical test has been able to diagnose the problem, nor a cure (this seems an especially daunting reality, as there is no medical confirmation that it is not all in their heads).

I thought about students I have encountered, going through struggles like divorce, death, moving, developmental disabilities, abuse, etc., that cause pain that no cast or bandage could ever make right.

I thought about individuals who have struggles to see purpose in living, purpose in their life. How getting out of bed takes it all out of them, and the hope of climbing back in is what keeps the smile on their face and the spring in their step all day long.

Then I thought of some of the destructive things these people have done, to themselves or those around them. The negative attitudes, sharp tongues, risky behaviors, and self harm.

Why do we turn our anxiety, our pain to destruction?

Perhaps, like my beast, there is a hindrance to communication. Perhaps, there is fear of being viewed as weak, as lazy, as flawed, as crazy. Perhaps there just are no words, in oral language, to say what is happening.

Perhaps all that is left are wordless sighs and aching groans …

“Meanwhile,
the moment we get tired in the waiting,
God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along.
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.
He knows us far better than we know ourselves,
knows our condition,
and keeps us present before God.
That’s why we can be so sure
that every detail in our lives of love for God
is worked into something good.”

Romans 8:26-28

Praying for those whose difficulty in life does not have a diagnosis, a cure, or those whose groans come from such a deep inner agony, that their story is told through the destruction at their feet. May God, who we trust will work all things (even groaning and aching things) for good, bless each one today.

Amen.

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“Depression is an ink that stains everything it touches
A black hole that swallows all that comes near”
-The Beaver (movie)

I do not personally know the truth or fallacy in the quote above. I do know that as I look back at times when I was sad, when I was feeling downcast those words are so true. Looking back on those periods in my life, I can see the stains that were left on those around me, even today.

It is easy to forget, or not even be aware, that we are part of a bigger world than just ourselves, and that things that happen to us, affect those around us. It is the relational evidence of the scientific fact that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. So when we are overwhelmed with pain or sorrow or frustrations, we are not the only ones to feel the effects … all those closest to us feel our reactions, and then they, in turn, also respond.

As a mom (I cannot speak for dads) I am naturally predisposed to guilt. I can look over the well-intended mothering that I have done, and see errors that I made that will surely result in therapy for my kids in years to come. Yes, I have forced them to clean their plates, at times. Yes, I yelled at them more than once (a day). Yes, I sent them to their rooms to await discipline … and forgot them. Yes, I made them clean their rooms. Yes, they are all aware that that their not at all skinny parents have skinny dipped (that one may send them to therapy for longer and sooner than any other, if their faces turning green when they discovered this is any indicator).

There are certain periods in our life together, when I thought I was hiding my own disappointments and sadness with life’s circumstances so well, and as I look back, and look at changes in their lives, I am aware that too were stained by my sadness. It is such a guilt-ridden thing when I see those stains that they wear, because of me. My inability, at times, to manage and deal with events in my life better, have permanently stained my children …

I am coming full circle now, though. And I am looking to see purpose in suffering, I am looking to see good from bad. I am looking to see that something positive, not just negative, can come from those stains. And I am beginning to see it.

I see a daughter’s sensitivity to a friend who is being stained by sadness and illness in her home. I see a son’s expression of his friends need of God. I see a daughter’s desire to go to those in desperate pain and need, in a place I would not want to go, to show love and mercy. Those times of sorrow for me, that were permanently etched into the beings of my children, have altered their hearts. They have been able to take the stains that I have caused, and are wearing them as certificates of accomplishment and experience. And these stains are being used to reach out to others, more desperate than their mother ever was.

The redemptive way that God can take our pain, and mold it into something beautiful for others is something I do not expect to ever understand this side of heaven. But, I am thankful that the stains I may have caused, have not swallowed the futures of my children.

“God Himself will be among them,  and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes;

and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain;

the first things have passed away.”

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”

Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.

I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.

He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son (daughter).

Revelation 21:4-7

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The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I think that Longfellow might have been living in the Pacific Northwest when he penned the verses above.

The forecast for this week has been rain, and the chance of rain from day to day, has been anywhere from 70-100%.

The morning awakenings, of lighter skies brightening my bedroom windows, last week, have been traded for the dark of early January mornings.

I do not like cold, and dark, and dreary. It is weather systems like this that can literally and figuratively put a dark cloud on my days.

Now there are times when I can appreciate, and even feel refreshed by such weather forecasts. In the middle of the summer, after weeks of hot sun, and no precipitation, awakening to the gentle rain of summer is a most joyful experience. Times like that, when there is good purpose in the rains, I can understand, I can appreciate their appearance.

This week, in the midst of the dark and dreary, I have had pain brought to my conscious thinking. Not my own pain (other than when I stubbed my toe on the corner of the wall, yesterday), but the pains that occur throughout life, like seasons of rain.

My daughter had me proof read a paper she had written on the purpose of pain.

“It is hard to evaluate why God allows anyone to suffer. I highly doubt that I can adequately scratch the surface of the complexity of this issue, but an attempt leads to the learning of others and myself. I believe God allows suffering to occur as an unfortunate byproduct of his gift of freewill. Without free will to choose our own path, we would never experience those moments in life of all-consuming bittersweet joy, the kind that bubbles up somewhere in the center of the continuum of delighted laughter and contented tears where you cannot help but suddenly surrender to the depth and magnitude of the mysteries of life and be present. You cannot rightly know one without the other – a world without pain and only metaphysical joy is mutually exclusive to people who are bound to perspective rooted in familiarity. God does not desire suffering for us, but in giving us choice he is also obligated to let us deal with the consequences.”

When I read the line “you cannot rightly know one without the other” I was reminded of thoughts I had last Sunday, as hubby was preaching, and said, “I do not pretend to understand God’s economy” (in reference to God sacrificing His own son, for the sinful nature of humanity.

It made me look at the gifts of people. Gifts that would never be used, never be needed, were it not for pain.

Without sickness, we would not need those who heal.

Without sorrow, we would not need those with compassion.

Without conflict, we would not need peacemakers.

In pain can be found people who attend to the need. They are, in effect, the reminders that “behind the clouds is the sun still shining.”

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false_advertising-img-685I remember well the day that my oldest daughter was faced with the realities of false boasting of advertisers.

It was the Butterfly Barbie. She was shown on the TV advertisements flying through the air (not a hair out of place), her sparkling wings looking gossamer soft. What we brought home from the store required human assistance to soar, and her soft-looking wings had a plastic backing. A great learning opportunity that purchase was for this budding consumer.

False boasting of advertisers have always existed. Whether it is a toy, a hamburger, wrinkle cream or weight loss plan these cons are everywhere, leading people, and their hard-earned money, astray.

It is such a relief that false boasts do not exist in the Christian community …

Go visit a Christian book store, and you will find the equivalent of a ‘self help’ section. Attend a Christian conference, and you will leave believing that ‘you’ can do anything. Show up at a Christ-centered church on any given Sunday, and you will be reminded of the boundless power of the Holy Spirit within you.

So, are those examples of (well-intended) false boasting?

Lets check the king of understanding what it is to boast …

The apostle Paul (I like him),  he was a man who refused to boast about what he did, what he would do or what he could do. As a matter of fact 2 Corinthians 12:5 tells us what he would and would not boast about :

“I will not boast about myself,
except about my weaknesses.”

Hum, ever been to church and heard someone get up and boast about their weaknesses?

Ever been to a Christian conference where the key note speaker addressed weaknesses?

Ever bought a how-to book at the Christian bookstore that explained how to share your weaknesses?

I’m doubting that any of us has experienced that sort of boasting.

Maybe this is why, when non-believers are asked why they do not go to church, a common response is hypocrisy. According to and article in USA Today, a “survey of U.S. adults who don’t go to church, even on holidays, finds 72% say “God, a higher or supreme being, actually exists.” But just as many (72%) also say the church is “full of hypocrites.””

Are we being humbly real?

Or are we pretending that we have it all together?

Our friend, Paul, goes on to explain his rationale regarding boasting about his weaknesses in verses 6-10 :

“Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Don’t we all have a thorn in our flesh?

We do not know what Paul’s thorn was, but we know that Paul used this painful (thorns hurt) thing to keep him depending on God to be his strength in weakness.

I’m not sure that I could have such a positive perspective on pain … I’m not sure that Paul did ALL THE TIME … but I do know that when I am struggling, when I am in pain, when I am hurting, it is then that I rely more on God.

Maybe others need to see, not the lie of perfect lives, but the reality of pain …

and that it can draw us to our heavenly Father, so that His “power is made perfect in weakness”

Boast in this :

we are weak

He is perfect

There’s nothing false about that!

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I was excited to put a Christmas gift to good use, and immediately separated all of the parts contained in a gift box including coconut-scented body scrub, body butter, shower cream, a bath bar and a new puff. I am calling it :

memories of summer sunscreen

and I love it! Could there be a better scent for the monsoon season of the Pacific Northwest, than something that reminds ones nostrils of summer?

As I entered my shower I excitedly tossed my old shower puff … resembling more of a shower afghan, it was so stretched and misshapen. The new, replacement one was still almost round, and firm and delightfully clean.

I poured my memories of summer sunscreen coconut-scented shower cream onto the puff and smiled in anticipation of smelling better, and feeling cleaner that I had in months!

“OUCH!” I declared, audibly, in my private steamy oasis. That new puff lacked the benefit of having been softened by daily use, it’s edges were stiff and it’s effect was harsh to my tender, early morning, skin. I needed to alter my use. I needed to apply less pressure. The puff and I needed to come to an understanding of middle ground. I had not realized just how much pressure I had been putting on my old puff until I replaced it with the new, and like the idiom,

a new broom sweeps clean,

a new puff also rubs clean … and rough.

My epidermis is sensitive, and this was quite a violent way of cleaning the dead skin cells from the surface of my body!

Did you know that (according to http://www.kidshealth.org) we lose about nine pounds of skin cells every year … without breaking a sweat! Our skin, the human body’s largest organ, has an important job to do as it protects our bodies, holds everything together and gives us the ability to experience the sense of touch.

It was almost tempting to reach into that trash can and retrieve the old puff … but … I knew that the new one would probably clean better, removing the dead skin cells, so as to allow those below them to surface, so as to allow my skin to do it’s job well, so as to allow my skin to breath.

Even now, just a few days into using it, my skin feels more smooth.

The pain is worth it for the gain!

So it can be with any rough, painful, unexpected adjustment in life. The adjustments of today could pain off big time … in time. But, reaching back into the trash can of the past, means we are still dealing with the dirt of yesterday.

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet.
Only through experience of trial and suffering
can the soul be strengthened,
ambition inspired,
and success achieved.”

Helen Keller

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For the next week, I will be featuring guest posts, as I spend my regular ‘writing time’ preparing for a speaking engagement. If you feel led to pray for me in this regard, I would so appreciate it, and specifically that Pinterest does not pre-occupy my writing time 😉 … I am so weak !

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The guest post today is a video of a song I have been listening to since it’s recent release.

This song is written and performed by Plumb, the stage name of Tiffany Arbuckle Lee. Tiffany says this song came out of her high school years when she suffered terrible physical pain, brought on by anxiety, as well as a tough season she had recently been going through. Through these experiences she has always called on God, and He has always been there with her.

“Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”
Isaiah 40:28-31

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imagesAs I sat down to write this post, I was tempted to title it ‘nothing’ because that is what I felt I had to offer … nothing.

Nothing is a place of emptiness, overwhelming, and discouragement. It is a place that each of us finds ourselves in from time to time. It can be a sense or feeling of lack of energy, lack of desire, lack of ability … it is a lacking.

When I think of nothing, I think of Moses.

When God called Moses to be the tool in freeing the Israelite people, “Moses said to God, “I am nobody (the personification of nothing). How can I go to the king and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?

Moses felt the task was far too overwhelming for someone like himself to accomplish. He did not feel that he had anything to give, to offer … that he had nothing to give.

Then “God answered, “I will be with you, and when you bring the people out of Egypt, you will worship me on this mountain. That will be the proof that I have sent you.” Exodus 3:11-12

Basically, I think God was pointing out the obvious to Moses … that this task was not one that God asked of him because Moses was the only way, but because Moses needed to learn to offer himself, no matter how small or how pathetic his offering was … his job was to offer, God would take that offering and multiply it, as only he could do.

That is all any of us is called to … to offer ourselves, our gifts, our hearts … the rest is in the hands of our God who knows the pain that is in the offering.

The following is a post by Brian McConaghy, Founding Director of Ratanak International (Ratanak), whose goal is “to help the Cambodian people rebuild their country and in so doing show them the love of Jesus Christ in a tangible way.” I love what this organization is striving to do, to honor our Creator and His creation … an impossible task, guided by a God of possibilities!

Being Broken
Phnom Penh, 2:45AM, I’m up and wide-awake with my mind racing. So many issues, so many problems, so much hurt in this country it is completely overwhelming. I am once again confronted that I just don’t have the resources to deal with this place. How on earth can anyone cope with being called to serve and love such a country?
It is easier to love Cambodia from afar. Being here the issues, the trauma, the brokenness is personal, up close and overwhelming. The magnitude and complexity of the task is so far beyond any skills I bring to the table.
I get up and kneel to pray for all that is before me – how can I possibly keep loving this place? Tears come quickly as I think on the 23 years of hard work through civil war, poverty and trauma, as I contemplate the magnitude of all that remains to be done. I see the faces of individual lives so in need of hope. Have we even made a dent? Shouldn’t we be farther along after so many years …of struggle? Shouldn’t at least some of the issues be solved?

In prayer my mind stops racing, calm returns as I once again confront the fact that this is not about me or my skills or even my expectations. I am called to serve this place and embedded in this process is the call to be broken for it even as Christ is broken for it. How could I possibly love Cambodia and not know grief? So re focusing on the tasks at hand I bring the issues before God and hand them to Him for it is His skill, His determination, His love for these people that is relevant not my pathetic offering. Yet in this context Christ reveals that He will do more than I could ask or imaging even with my pathetic efforts. Irrespective of how I feel, He counts my efforts as gold and honors even my frail attempts to serve. How I ‘feel’ about my service to Cambodia has absolutely no bearing, whatsoever, on the value God places on it. He is in the business of doing great things with our little. And so, as I re focus, there is a strange comfort in grieving for this place – a strange beauty in the thought that I may just be privileged to share in a tiny portion of the brokenness of Christ for Cambodia. The tears turn from those of grief and hopelessness to those of a strange joy – of being in the fight for this nation – of being counted a warrior by God while being but a child. What a privilege.

I should get back to bed for an hours sleep before getting up to tackle the challenges of a new day. But I’m calm once again, content in my brokenness for this place and resolved to keep going. For Cambodia is not my burden – it is Christ’s.
Brian.

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