"Show me Your strong love in wonderful ways, O Savior of all those seeking Your help against their foes. Protect me as You would the pupil of Your eye; hide me in the shadow of Your wings as You hover over me." Psalm 17:7-8

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Roar of My Defender

"For whom the Lord loves, He disciplines."  Hebrews 12:6
This week I happened to be reading in the book of Amos and his vision of the Lord immediately captured my attention. 

“This is his report of what he saw and heard:  The Lord roared – like a ferocious lion from His lair – from His Temple on Mount Zion.  And suddenly the lush pastures of Mount Carmel withered and dried, and all the shepherds mourned.” Amos 1:2b

Grieved by sin, including that of Judah and Israel, His chosen people, the Lord warned through Amos of impending doom.  Through Amos, the Lord said, “Of all the peoples of the earth, I have chosen you alone.  That is why I must punish you the more for all your sins.  For how can we walk together with your sins between us?  Would I be roaring as a lion unless I had a reason?”  Amos 3:2-3

Always first, the Lord warns through His prophets.  “The Lion has roared – tremble and fear…”  Amos 3:8a.  “Seek the Lord and live, or else He will sweep like fire through Israel and consume her…”  Amos 5:6a

I’ve always loved the image of God as the Lion of Judah, as Aslan in Narnia.  I’ve pictured Him in this way and derived comfort and a sense of being protected by His powerful but furry paws!!  As a matter of fact, the Lord recently reminded me of an experience I had as a young child.  I was in the bathroom of my home and in a very vulnerable position (you can guess) when I heard the roar of a lion.  I thought at first I had imagined it, but it terrified me nonetheless, and I’ve never forgotten the memory.  I asked the Lord when He brought this to my remembrance recently what it meant.  He, much like Aslan spoke to Lucy, said to me, “Terry, that was Me roaring over your life long before You knew Me!!”  I cannot tell you how this thrilled me.  To know that at a time when I felt afraid of most everything, including God (for I never felt I could keep myself in a state of being forgiven), He was there, my strong defender, roaring to hold back what would have otherwise destroyed me.

I have not associated a ferocious Lion roaring in response to His chosen one’s sin however until I read this passage in Amos.  As I read the sins enumerated in list after list by Amos, several hit me between the eyes, convicting me of my own sin.  I realized that I had judged a brother and spoken out of turn in a hurtful manner and needed to repent.  I heard the prophet’s warning loud and clear.  Tempted to feel guilty as in former days, to shy away from the fierce Lion, able to destroy me with His breath of fire, I trembled, then pressed my weeping face deep into His mane anyway!!  The Father has done such an incredible work in me of revealing His Abba heart for me His little girl, that I had no choice but to turn to Him in faith, and accept the forgiveness and restoration He offered.

His kindness (understood!) leads me to repentance

He spoke gently to me, “Terry, I desire for you to walk upright in your healing!  I am holy, and with the revelation of my tender heart there also comes a deeper revelation of my holiness.”  Fearing God and loving God simultaneously and continuously is honestly a new concept, better put way of life for me.  To fear Him without fear, by that I mean fear which causes me to distance and hide myself, to revere in a manner that causes drawing near to God to receive correction without shame, penance… – resuming intimate communion with Him even as He dries my tears, that is new.

He Makes All Things New -- Spring!!

From this point, I then entered into a time of “Tending My Heart” with God during which He revealed what led me into the sin confessed.  You see there was in me a “trigger,” if you will that He saw and desired to address.  He got below the hurtful action (sin) to the heart of me the sinner to do even more healing!!  He AMAZES me!!!  He showed me why the behavior of a fellow believer so irritated me, what in my background He desired access to in order to put truth in the place of a lie I had long believed.  Not only did He lovingly forgive me, but He continued to bless me with still more healing!!  So you see, an appreciation of His holiness, His being other than anyone else, led me not only to repentance, but into a greater experience of being loved and deeply cared for.

I plan to post the “Heart Tending” guidelines I received during SOZO so you too can apply the principles to tending your own heart with the Lord.  It will change your life forever I promise!!

In the Shadow of His Mane
Loving His Roar,

For more spiritual refreshment visit Spiritual Sundays at http://bloggerspirit.blogspot.com/ 

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, A Bulwark Never Failing

Lord, how I love You!  For you have done such tremendous things for me.

The Lord is my fort where I can enter and be safe; no one can follow me in and slay me.  He is a rugged mountain where I hide; He is my Savior, a rock where none can reach me, and a tower of safety.  He is my shield.  He is like the strong horn of a mighty fighting bull.  All I need to do is cry to Him – oh, praise the Lord—and I am saved from all my enemies!

Death bound me with chains, and the floods of ungodliness mounted a massive attack against me.  Trapped and helpless I struggled against the ropes that drew me on to death.

In my distress I screamed to the Lord for His help.  And He heard me from heaven,  my cry reached His ears.  Then the earth rocked and reeled, and mountains shook and trembled.  How they quaked!  For He was angry.  Fierce flames leaped from His mouth, setting fire to the earth; smoke blew from His nostrils.  He bent the heavens down and came to my defense, thick darkness was beneath His feet.  Mounted on the cherubim, He sped swiftly to my aid with the wings of wind.  He enshrouded Himself with darkness, veiling His approach with dense clouds dark as murky waters.  Suddenly the brilliance of His presence broke through the clouds with lightning and a mighty storm of hail…

He reached down from heaven and took me and drew me out of my great trials.  He rescued me from deep waters.  He delivered me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me – I who was helpless in their hands. 

On the day when I was weakest, they attacked.  But the Lord held me steady.  He led me to a place of safety, for He delights in me.  (Psalm 18:1-12, 16-19)

Safe in the Shadow of My Defender,
For more spiritual refreshment visit Spiritual Sundays at http://bloggerspirit.blogspot.com

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Praising My Savior

My story and song, praising Him all day long.  Only a few things I enjoyed and thanked God for today:

* Morning kissing earth with rosey lips
* Mother bird nesting high in a barren tree –meditating on life below
* Highway shoulders wearing blue stoles and bonnets

* Buttercup faces just before bowing for the night to pray
* Pansies blowing me a kiss on the way into work
* Spring running barefoot in fields in a bright green dress
* Poems standing on street corners
* Slow gait of elderly people
* Art of a child
* Philosophy of a child
* Paint peeling on split railed fences
* Spotted horses, tails swishing, noses raised

Flying Into Spring

Giving Thanks in The Shadow,

For more spiritual refreshment visit Spiritual Sundays @ http://www.bloggerspirit.blogspot.com

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Grateful Heart

So much to be thankful for:
* breath of God on a spring morning
* cat’s greeting and rubbing silky against me
   while I read the mail on the driveway
* new songs in my head when I wake
* images of God all around me
* a call FROM my daughter
* thoughts of my grandson in  the womb and
   the Spirit of God at work in him
* hot pasta and parmesan
* my son beside me, doing sit-ups and listening
   to me
* midweek day off
* the first of the knock-out roses unfurling
 Loving Life in the Shadow,

Providence in the Tent with Me

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out!  Who has known the mind of the Lord?  Or who has been His counselor?  Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?  For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.  To Him be the glory forever!  Amen.”  Romans 11:33-36
The lessons I learned in surgery I learned in the coarse of scrubbing surgical sinks and mopping up blood and guts from operating room floors.  I learned them while pushing a stainless steel cart of cleaning supplies with a mind of its own, dressed in an absurd costume.   I strived for excellence in this position, hoping to hide my self-consciousness behind a surgical mask and a job well done.  Meanwhile, God worked.  He stripped me of a lot of false notions and masks typically worn by well-meaning, insecure persons.  Naked and vulnerable I lay upon the operating table, and God went to work on my beliefs and attitudes.  I learned I was to function out of His acceptance which had nothing in the world to do with my performance.  I learned race, socio-economic status, level of education, experience, age, appearance, mean nothing.  God revealed the level playing field I really live on.  How can one truly love in the absence of this revelation??  I learned prejudice and compassion are incompatible.  I learned beyond the limits of “my compassion,” there is genuine compassion flowing from the heart of God, and all men need it.

God cleansed me of much pain, pride, prejudice while cleaning surgical sinks

Similar to what we affectionately called "The Battle Cart"
I learned the simplest of people are often the kindest and wisest.  I came to appreciate that the work of housekeepers, garbage collectors, transporters, and other minimum wage workers keep hospitals in operation.  Ed, Gwen, Boomer, James (Hook), Josh, Leandra, and others were some of the best teachers and facilitators of the Kingdom of God advancing in my life.  While privileged to peer into the open chest of a man undergoing heart surgery, to witness a beating heart chemically and thermodynamically slowed to allow for a surgeon to repair it, I still consider my experience behind the mop to be of supreme value to me as a nurse.  I admit to often asking God, “Who am I, Lord, that I should be invited into such a holy place with You?”  That question still reverberates in my heart. 
I've Seen I AM and I begin to know who I am

Heart Surgery Continues in My Life

I’ll likely never forget the sound of bone being sawn in two or of metal joints hammered into place, nor the smell of cauterized flesh, blood, and cleansers used, nor the awesome sight of a human body laid open to view.  In fact, often I pinched myself – the experience for me that unbelievable.   Most assuredly the companionship of God known in this place where as a cleaning woman I stood upon a stool and looked inside a living being, where fears the size of mountains were surmounted changed my life forever.

I never told anyone in surgery that as a little girl often I played doctor under a makeshift tent in the neighbor’s yard or living room.  We stretched a blue ribbed spread over all available chairs or objects to create this medical facility.  Our Red Cross tent seemed to sprawl for miles, and under it I felt a child’s joy in saving others from the brink of death with a plastic stethoscope and thermometer.  Did I dream of being a doctor or nurse someday?  Not in the way some dream of the profession they desire to pursue, but I did dream of saving, educating, helping others, and felt valuable when pretending these roles.  Under that little corduroy tent I had the confidence of a super hero saving lives, the wisdom, compassion, and fortitude of Florence Nightingale sacrificing herself to help others.  Cooling the brow of siblings and friends in my make believe clinic filled me with a sense of mission.  Much like grading homemade worksheets and tests did when we played school.
Wish our tents had been so elaborate, but they felt like this!
Could have easily been some of my patients under the tent!

When it came to life outside this pretend medical world – to real life doctor visits – I was as yellow-bellied as a fuzzy spring chicken.  The sound of paper being rolled out on an exam table struck terror in me.  I knew, following that maneuver, I’d be hoisted up on that table, stripped, held down and examined, and most assuredly flipped like a pancake for a painful injection in the backside.  At the hint of alcohol in the air my legs turned purple; likely due to holding my breath or fear-induced tachycardia.  I suffered from frequent bouts of tonsillitis as a child and this routine was all too familiar to me.  There were a few pleasant associations however.  I recall paging through the worn blue pictorial Bible story book found in most pediatricians offices in that day.  As a Catholic I knew only that God existed and mysteriously and invisibly loved and cared for me.  But this book with its colorful illustrations, with Adam and Eve in a Garden, with a snake coiled around a tree, with an ark full of animals under a rainbow, with bearded men and women and children in strange clothes, and at the end a cross and a Man in shining garments with outstretched arms ascending into the sky – intrigued me.  It also momentarily distracted me from what lay ahead.  Providence sat with me in that waiting room, introducing Himself, if only into memory at the time.  Again, I see another glimpse of Him behind the scenes.

Oh to be sick, heaven and hell rolled into one – the best of times and the worst of times.  Lollipops and maybe another reward for bravery on the way home from the doctor’s office, the doting attention of Mom, special foods and drinks (served in bed!), entertainment to distract, time off from school all glorious.  However, shots or an upset stomach, or vainly imagining I might have small pox or some other dread disease, seemed constantly to threaten bliss.  I recall having a tonsillectomy at around five years of age.  It seemed to me it would take weeks to open all the presents.  Ice cream and balloons, being held and comforted, kissed – a dream come true.  Warped as it sounds, I both dreaded getting sick and loved it at the same time.  Perhaps that provides a clue into one of the redemptive facets of illness:  it positions us, often on our backs, to receive tender loving care.   In many cases, it forms the earliest memories of grace for us.  For at a time when most vulnerable, hair disheveled, breath in need of refreshing, we receive unconditional love, comfort, and healing from the hand of a caregiver.
Because in surgery very little interaction with patients occurs, I determined I might prefer to venture into bedside nursing.  There were of course a few memorable moments of patient care in surgery.  I remember a child brought back to surgery for either tubes to be placed in the ears or a tonsillectomy.  To lessen the trauma of entering this frightening theater, the child was permitted to cling to a much loved security blanket until under anesthesia.  Inadvertently the little blanket was discarded with surgical drapes into a biohazard box in the operating room and following surgery taken out to the dock to be loaded on a truck for permanent disposal.  An hour or so later the nurse in PACU realized the blanket had disappeared and alerted the housekeeping staff.  Several of us gowned and gloved and headed down to the large trailer three quarters full of biohazard boxes to look for a needle in a haystack.  Eventually the blanket and child were recovered, and in a small yet significant way care shown to the tiny patient.

I learned in surgery that apart from God I can do nothing (John 15:5).  Apart from Him I’m a frightened little girl running from her own shadow as fast and as far as her little legs will carry her to point of exhaustion.  With Him and through Him I can do all things.  In His shadow my own shadow disappears, and I’m safe.  The shadow of my shame no longer dogs my steps to taunt and haunt me.  Under the shadow of the Almighty I can scale walls, climb mountains, leap buildings in a single bound, soar on wings of eagles.  I am free, kind of like the little girl under the shadow of that blue tent, but now with the power and life of God in her to fulfill her co-mission.

Nursing in the Shadow,

Enjoy more inspiration at http://www.bloggerspirit.blogspot.com 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Amazing Grace

Do you ever let grace totally overwhelm you?  Today, I immersed myself in thinking about and singing about God’s grace.  Oh what JOY!!  There are a few worship videos at right on the subject that I hope will fill your hearts with the wonder of God’s grace!!  I’m dedicating my post tonight to Sherrie!!  I love you deeply, my friend!!!!
My Gratitude List for 3/24/11:
* a prophetic first-time visitor to Life Group
* anticipatory joy over a prodigal’s soon return
* praying believing
* diving into a Chipotle bowl at 9:45 pm
* God’s kindness which leads to repentance
* Chris McClarney’s worship music
* overcoming the enemy’s attempts at robbery
* leaning hard into Jesus to overcome
* friends comfortable with being themselves
* God’s unfailing, unchanging, unbelievable love

Hidden in the Shadow of His wings,

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Today's Gratitude List

* Mom’s silver knot ring on my finger
* spinach salad, bed to fresh strawberries
   and walnuts
* midday nap
* dust, smudges, everything not in place:
   time off
* stirring Sunday sermon
* my front door teased by spring wind
* B&W family photos keeping vigil
* drifting in and out of dreams
* toasted cheese sandwich with champagne
* faraway bark of neighborhood dog

God The Builder

Hebrews 3:4 – “For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.”

With the threat of Y2K on the horizon, I sold my home in Lufkin and packed my children and belongings bound for Crockett.  I left behind the home my late husband and I built with counters and floors he labored to lay, with stucco front, with glass block window in the bathroom we shared.  The morning of his funeral God filtered in on a thousand rays of glory shine through that window, and infused me with grace and courage for life beyond the death of my spouse.  My parents feared I might be on the verge of a breakdown for on the day I buried him I attended worship beforehand, having seen the Lord and not died myself.

Eight years later and forty-five miles away, I purchased an acre and a half a few blocks from my parent’s lake house.  The kids and I moved into their home for the year it took to build a home of our own.  With their help and that of other family and friends, the house slowly took shape.  The heavily wooded property sloped dramatically.  We hired loggers who came in and raped the land of the timber leaving behind a disaster to clean up.  In the days that followed oily appearing water surfaced.  An underground spring supplying trees and lush vegetation now bubbled up making mud soup.  The contractor determined to build the home on pier and beam and did extensive dirt work to level a pad to support the cinder block foundation.  Many stories regarding the building of this house took place between this paragraph and the next.

Several years into living in this house I noticed the floor in the family room seemed to give a little when I walked in front of the sofa.  For months I dismissed this change, but finally determined to crawl under the house with my Dad to survey the cause.  On opening the small access door a musty smell greeted us.  Flashlights in hand we crawled toward the center of the house to inspect the underside of the floor.  Growing in the moist sand every variety of mushroom and fungus surrounded us.  Colossal toadstools of all colors thrived beneath the house.  On looking up we noted the subflooring had a mottled appearance, particularly in the vicinity of the den.  Thankfully, the supports remained firm, but the flooring required immediate replacement.  First we treated the entire underside of the house with Clorox bleach drying the area thoroughly with fans to kill the mildew.  Next, my Dad removed and replaced the flooring from the topside.  Finally, he put a moisture barrier (tar paper) on the underside of all flooring and likewise covered the supports.

This took care of the present damage, but in order to preclude this from happening again, the crawl space needed light and air circulation.  He removed covers from all vents put in place during winter months.  Then he installed two large exhaust fans in the access doors on both sides of the house.  Cross ventilation and more light made the space inhospitable for all but daddy long legs which congregated under the house by the thousands!!

As in houses, so spiritual foundations must be properly laid and maintained in order to prevent compromise.  We must invite and permit the wind of the Spirit to continually and freely circulate and the light of God’s Word to radiate to keep our life in the Lord sound.  Barriers to corruption and decay need to also to be put in place.  There are times when our foundation may need attention or maintenance – times when our Christian life seems unstable like the springy floor of my living room!  On those occasions we need to ask our Father to enter the crawl space with us to examine and reveal any problems in need of immediate attention.  Abba may well need to replace lies with truth, to uncover hidden festering wounds, to heal and repair brokenness.  I am so thankful the Lord builds and rebuilds when necessary a spiritually healthy, secure environment for us to live in.

Safe in the Shadow,

For more spiritual refreshment visit Spiritual Sundays at www.bloggerspirit.blogspot.com 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Hear Him, Live, and Write

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” Colossians 2:6-7
On the first eve of a writing conference God revealed He had lessons (gifts) for me not mentioned on the conference syllabus.  He informed me that long before I planned to attend, He planned for me to download A Thousand Gifts on my Kindle.  He appointed the book along with fellow conferees to serve as both curriculum and teachers delivering perfectly timed messages.  During breaks in the conference and at night, He drew me repeatedly back to the book.  I realized He intended to give me more than “my money’s worth,” as both His daughter and steward of His story!!  To my surprise, His agenda didn’t include dynamic and inspiring speeches on nonfiction writing, rather whispered messages on gratitude – the entry point into joy and the abundant life.  In the face of my dashed expectations and ingratitude, the Giver of Every Good and Perfect Gift spoke and on this evening captured my attention.

I spent most of the day assessing, evaluating, critiquing, and comparing writing conference A to writing conference B.  Mind you, I have only attended two writing conferences!  My eye roved about the facilities, flitting from dated d├ęcor, to persons in attendance, to an overstocked book store dominating the room.  I smelled the world – dank carpet, subtle greed, dust collected on messages drawn from an elementary book on writing delivered in monotone.  I replayed in my mind the amount spent on this conference and for a time got stuck!  On entering sleep deprived this tired hotel, a battle with disappointment ensued.  My focus on getting what I paid for, what my friend paid for, threatened to prevent my receiving anything from this conference.

By the grace of God, my traveling companion was on a different page and wavelength.  This helped me to begin to hear – to tune in to the voice of God, which on occasion rose from the floor where lay a woman with a spinal cord injury, humbly receiving, teachable, and delighted to be present. As the day wore on, God continued to sober me directing me to engage in people watching with an open mind.  This provided fodder for the lessons taught later that evening.  I looked long at the professor and his wife seated at the table beside us, at the creases deepening again and again in the corners of their eyes as they smiled.  Both relished being taught in the company of people who shared their interest.  Retired and now exploring a new outlet for the expression of their lives, these model students often glanced back at my friend and I and beamed as if to say, “Life is so good!”  Behind us sat a woman who had attended multiple events put on by this organization.  She had nothing but praise for the hosts.  Each conferee spoke of their passion behind writing and contributed food for thought, rounding out the speaker’s shallow address.

God began identifying attitudes and lies impeding me from receiving His best at this conference.  First He pointed out that I felt I had been “ripped off,” “taken advantage of.”  Underlying this feeling an equally unpleasant feeling (lie):  that due to my naivety, gullibility, and stupidity I had wasted money and time in coming for the weekend.  Beneath this, doubt that I had indeed heard and followed God in registering for this conference (in seeking further training as a writer).  Satan approaches from every angle to undermine God’s promise that as His sheep I hear His voice.  In addition, feeling God must be frustrated/disappointed with me for grappling with and expressing these feelings (complaining).   Finally, regret over inviting my friend to join me in attending such a costly event given the sacrifice on her part.  On agreeing with God, He encouraged me to open my hand and let go of all the aforementioned feelings.  Then He said, “I brought you here to hear from me – not from speakers.  I have secrets to share with you out of this experience, gifts to give, and fellowship for you to enjoy with your friend!  Shift gears and listen, sweet daughter of Mine.  I love You!!”

My Sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me
With renewed enthusiasm I set out to listen and to mentally compile my own gratitude list for God’s gifts on the trip!  Frequently, I confessed my desire to humbly hear, to walk freed from a critical prideful spirit, to discern truth and righteousness.  The following is an abbreviated gratitude list for all God gave me:

* Forgiveness for complaining
* Holy Spirit counsel, repeated attitude adjustments, His love, patience, mercy, viewpoint
* Delicious dinner at Bruno’s Italian Restaurant overlooking the canal in the company of
   my dear friend
* A luscious late night piece of chocolate cake
* Visits until after midnight with my friend
* Perspective on things happening in our world (Japan, Libya, Waco…)
* An understanding of how feelings and lies beneath them hinder hearing God’s voice
* An understanding of how quickly God can remove obstacles to hearing if asked
* What I need to know about writing summed up in three words:  Hear Him, Write!!
* A friend who points me to Jesus, who suggests, “Let’s be thermostats.”
* Time away to rest
* A soft pillow and comfortable mattress (our prayer beforehand)
* Late check out, discounted room, a kind housekeeper who opened the door for us
* Encouragement to always reward the reader – represent God well by giving readers
   valuable inspiration/insight for their time (and if applicable money)
* Lots to think about regarding travel and devotional writing
* Next steps in the journey I’m taking with God as a writer
* A change of heart – opportunity to practice heart tending (SOZO) with my friend
* Opportunity to share our dreams/vision for parenting adult children and for
* A room full of passionate students with a message from God glowing in their hearts
* Two Hershey kisses in the candy dish on our table
* So, so, so much more (including a reminder not to use too many adjectives!!)

And once home, late afternoon bird song outside my window, children’s laughter making merry in my ears, my active imagination that follows sounds until they are well out of earshot, and time to finish reading the book He put in my hands….  Thank You Lord for a fresh and priceless lesson on gratitude which opens wide the heart to receive and hear from You!!
Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and 
mighty things, which you do not know.  Jeremiah 33:3

Heart tending in His Shadow,

Visit Spiritual Sundays (http://bloggerspirit.blogspot.com) for more spiritual refreshment.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Providence Behind The Scenes

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those
who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."
Romans 8:28

I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe in coincidence.  Coincidence, the occurrence of events that happen at the same time by accident but seem to have some connection, leaves me wanting!  Providence, on the other hand, explains the Unseen Hand behind coinciding events.  This wonderful word means divine guidance or care.  When capitalized, Providence means God conceived as the power sustaining and guiding human destiny.  Catching a glimpse of Providence behind events, seeing by faith Providence at work behind the scenes adds to life’s mystery the love of a PERSON working all things together, at all times, for my good.

The past few years I’ve been employed by a local hospital which happens to be named Providence.  From the moment I stepped through the doors of this hospital to interview for a nurse tech position, I somehow knew life would never be the same.  By faith and with the insistent encouragement of a friend and fellow nursing student, I applied and soon found myself reporting to the surgical department.  Little did I know that Providence (the Lord) had planned for me to undergo months of “heart surgery” while gaining experience as a believer in the medical profession.  Have you ever entered a surreal setting in which it seemed all sights, sounds, and forms of stimuli were at once bombarding you right and left, yet in slow motion?  I have.  Surgery for me represented culture shock, sensory overload, and daily reality checks in the company of strangers comfortable in this sterile world that totally terrified me.

I recall my first visit to the locker room to don scrubs.  The memory causes me to laugh now, but at the time I could easily have lost control of all emotions and done anything but laugh!!  I pulled on clothes not my own, covered my shoes and my head with the prescribed disposable coverings, and looked at this clown in the mirror who felt so incredibly silly, like an imposter in this get-up!!  My own eyes frozen in fear stared back – the look of sheer panic did nothing to cheer me on.  Still, by faith I stepped out of the safety of that locker room into the inner corridor designated for surgical personnel and patients only.  I might as well have stepped off a plane in Siberia or set foot on Mars.  I found myself totally outside my comfort zone in the Twilight Zone!

I have to backtrack for a moment and tell you of my first visit to the break room of this department.  While I would have preferred to remain invisible, that not possible, I hoped to at least make a good first impression on coworkers.  So I strolled into the room where a number of OR staff were talking shop and eating the strangest of fare, and just so happened to choose the funny ha-ha chair.  I don’t really think that this chair had a name, nor was torture for the sake of everyone’s entertainment on the menu, but it just so happened that when I planted my rear end on this chair the hydraulic base immediately took me for a ride nearly to the floor.  My chin now level with the table edge, I looked around the room like a two year old child and surveyed all eyes on me and wide grins beneath them.  Never good with timely comebacks, I’m sure I said something equally ridiculous to my circumstance, and then laughed nervously in an attempt to recover composure.  Hopefully, you begin to see the work of Providence in me, for you see God had me exactly where He wanted me.  Surgery to deliver me to the uttermost from performance-based thinking and living was well underway!!

While I’ve already alluded to the terror I felt on entering the world of medicine, I must say Providence, The Heart Hospital, supernaturally appealed to me.  Following my husband’s sudden death twenty years ago from an MI, I found myself compelled to take CPR, to issue warnings regarding signs and symptoms, and to share the comfort I received from God as a young widow with many.  I didn’t consider nursing at the time, but heart disease had touched my life and left its mark.  Add to this experience, my Mom suffering for years with CHF, and it is easy to understand my growing desire to somehow make a difference in the lives of people dealing with heart disease.  More so than these events, Providence chose the perfect time, perfect location, and perfect conditions for beginning a new work of liberation in me.  He drew me to Waco, to MCC to study nursing, and to Providence Hospital where He opened a position for me.   My lack of confidence as a nursing student screamed in protest, but God carried me over the threshold of that hospital, and began equipping me to stand by faith on the threshold of heaven with the hurting and dying.

That may sound overly dramatic, but to God be the glory for the DRAMATIC changes He has made in me.  I write of these changes out of a compulsion to do so.  I write to reveal Providence behind change – not the changes themselves.  I write because God who lives in me longs to express His desire to liberate all of His children into their destiny and purpose on the earth, to love them lavishly in the process, and to fill them with unspeakable joy on seeing Him over and over working behind the scenes of their lives.

 Only recently did it TRULY dawn on me that during every minute of every day God has been working in me (and around me), completing what He began.  I’ve read verses promising God’s ceaseless activity on my behalf countless times, but to know on the cellular level that this is indeed my reality – always happening -- is quite another thing.  It is to be in touch – in touch with His Presence.  And it is glorious.

This awareness of God, ever for us and at work, is progressive in nature, and will be so until the day of Christ Jesus, but it seems to me that of late God is “popping up all over the place.”  His doing so is not new.  He has been here from the beginning, evident in His works (creation), and in His tireless working.  The problem lies with me (us), with perception or better put reception.  Like an old television set with foiled rabbit ears, we tend to have poor reception, and often don’t detect what is really happening in our world, both our inner world and the world we live, breathe, and move about in.  We are receivers (recipients in every way), and until we really explore the meaning of that with God, somehow we miss out on the abundant life and exceeding joy He longs to bestow.

Perpetual change describes well the hospital where I work.  Construction and remodeling are ongoing seemingly without interruption.  During my time in surgery, we often congregated at the one window in that world of stark artificial light, and watched the building of a multi-story employee parking garage topped with a heli-pad.  Like children gathered around an anthill, we discussed as though experts all the phases from ground up, and laughed at times at the actions of the workers below unaware of our intrusive eyes.  The daily ritual of men in colorful hard hats lined up at the taco truck tickled us.   Sometimes we amused ourselves with made-up dialogue for random scenes observed through this porthole to the outside world.   This provided a welcome break from the gravity of what went on in this department.  I welcomed the distraction from remembering the faces of gravely ill patients wheeled by on gurneys.  Here at this window, believe it or not, I also did a lot of soul searching.  Directly below the window were large compacting trash receptacles.  Many times I looked out over the medical waste and those handling it, and then beyond at the new construction.  Metaphors were everywhere.   As a member of the cleaning crew in surgery, I started my career in the best place possible.  Providence (God) saw to this.

And I Know He Watches Over Me!
 One experience in particular lives on in memory.  I stood alone for a moment at this window I’ve described and while looking at the waste below, the dam on my tear ducts broke unexpectedly.  About that time, Ed, a coworker, walked up and noticed I was crying.  I had over time gotten to know Ed fairly well and we enjoyed a mutual exchange of encouragement and prayer.  He had a penchant for making me laugh – for helping me not to take life too seriously, desperately needed at the time!!  He also on occasion shared his grief and sorrows.   More than once I tried to “fix” things for Ed, to be a diplomat.  I set about trying to mend and mediate relationships, to right wrongs in surgery (on a small scale, mind you), to fix people or the way they treated one another.  Surely I was good for something in this interim time here in this department – even as a pip-squeak ORA.  I kind of saw it as my mission, I think – to bring about something good, particularly since I seemed to be failing to fix matters at home, and my heart was broken in two over it.  I probably redoubled my efforts on the job to in part to feel I had some value and purpose in life beyond motherhood – there at that window I came face to face with my inability to fix or save anyone.  I don’t recall if it was raining outside that day or not, it seems like it was, but I do know that internally dark ominous clouds swirled about and cast a gloomy shadow upon my heart.  I risked sharing that day my sadness over my son’s loss of the desire to live.  I didn’t say much, but just enough to release a small measure of the pain in me, and to open my hand in humility to receive.  Ed didn’t say much either, but much was communicated, and for what seemed an eternal moment, I received God’s understanding and comfort.  I came through my first heart surgery humbled, experiencing through members of the “cleaning staff” the friendship of God, appreciating them for who they were, who WE were, in this messy world of ours.

Safe in the Shadow,

For more spiritual refreshment visit:  http://bloggerspirit.blogspot.com/

Friday, March 4, 2011

Mighty Breath of God Breathe in Me

How does a woman become a writer for God’s glory when she fears man’s disapproval or worse disinterest; when, by nature, she is a conflict avoider, OCD peacemaker (perceptive of everyone’ emotional undercurrents), and unable to abide with being misunderstood?  How does a woman who has lived emotionally under a banner of abandonment, proclaim the faithfulness of Abba Father, who promises to never leave or forsake us?  Sounds impossible, doesn’t it?  Well, humanly speaking, it is.  BUT GOD. 

As in all things, God chooses the least likely candidate, a person after His own heart, and then He calls that person to do what is only supernaturally possible.  I am the woman spoken of above, delivered of much and becoming a writer for God's glory.  My Great Physician, Counselor, and Best Friend took it upon Himself to undertake training me to express His life dwelling within through the penned word.  He called me to write while He heals, counsels, trains, and perfects me -- to live from now on in a contented state of becoming, of permitting Him to complete what He began.

He initiated the process of my becoming a writer by first pulling down walls and teaching me to trust Him in the sweetest intimate encounters a human being can experience and survive.  Then, not long ago, He anointed me for the divine task (writing in the Spirit for His glory, and the encouragement of others), and gave me the assurance that I had ears and a heart to hear His voice.  The rest is history – HIS STORY.  Much like David, who went from shepherd boy to king, God has taken me, His anointed, on paths I never dreamed I would walk, assigning new roles and responsibilities en route to my God-appointed “destination.”  He blesses me with opportunities for the development of a true servant heart, and continues to patiently teach me how to travel light, relying only on the Holy Spirit.  He coaches me daily in becoming child-like, and a student (of His life and ways, of other people, of life in the world around me).  He gently unpacks my emotional baggage and grants incredible breakthroughs, to equip me to truly care for, comfort, encourage, and heal others.  He liberates me to speak unselfconsciously of the joy He has given me, living free under His banner of love and belonging.  As His beloved reporter, my prayer is to faithfully exhale the transforming messages He has breathed into my life experience with Him.

I am so thankful to be on this journey with my God and King, with My Daddy, sitting on His lap and listening with adoration, mesmerized as He lovingly transforms me into the image of Christ by His very breath.  In His shadow I’ll ever blissfully abide.

"For You are my refuge, a high tower where my enemies can never reach me.  I shall  live forever in Your tabernacle; oh to be safe beneath the shelter of Your wings!"  Ps. 61: 3-4
 "I lie awake at night thinking of You -- of how much You have helped me -- and how I rejoice through the night beneath the protecting shadow of Your wings."  Ps. 63:6-7

Tonight we worshiped as Daddy’s little girls down on the floor at Bible study.  Each one co-created a painting of a tree with Father God.  His life breath was repeatedly exhaled through a straw, blowing paint across a canvas, and forming a unique intricately branching tree.  To the tree, leaves and blossoms were added with a Q-tip dipped in paint.  Note that Q-tips, generally used to clean the ears, were applicators -- a reminder that hearing God is essential to blooming and fruit-production.  (Hey, I never overlook a symbol!!)

I experimented earlier in the day with how best to "paint-blow a tree," and during that exercise God spoke using several object lessons.  During my first experiment, I started with non-diluted acrylic paint.  Due to the viscosity of the paint, I had difficulty coaxing it to "grow," and produce branches.  I thought about the importance of "consistency" in my faith walk with Jesus.  Through this first stunted tree, God revealed that in order to move forward with Him in creating a flourishing life (a tree with a beautiful crown atop its trunk), we must consistently abide in The Vine, and yield to the flow of the sap of the Holy Spirit in us.  Otherwise growth is stunted.

The second principle I learned with experimental tree #2.  With this tree, I used diluted paint and tilted the page I was working with to take advantage of gravity.  Instead of resisting the paint's movement with a flat sheet of paper, I facilitated the creation of long graceful branches culminating in fine twigs as the paint ran and I blew it in the desired direction.  Of course, there were still surprises!!  At times my breath took the branch on an unexpected detour or split it into two new branches.  Such is life when we cease fighting the gravity of our circumstances and flow with both the "tilt" of life and the breath of God taking us in unforeseen directions.  This branching by His design produces a tree (united life) that can support extensive foliage and fruit for the shade and nourishment of many!!


Blow Mighty Breath of God!!!

Job 33:4 in the Amplified version says:  “[It is] the Spirit of God that made me [which has stirred me up], and the breath of the Almighty that gives me life [which inspires me]” Not only does God breathe life into our physical bodies, He breathes life into our dreams and desires. He breathes new life and inspiration into our hearts.  Scripture also teaches, “It’s not by our might. It’s not by our power. But it’s by His Spirit (the living breath of Almighty God).”  I thank the Lord for establishing and anointing me, for entrusting me with the care and influence of others for His Name and Kingdom's sake!!

Try to pay attention in coming days to your breathing.  As you do, picture inhaling the breath of God (in prayer, Bible study, all forms of communion with Him), and then exhaling His life thorough yours.  It is a beautiful picture of the true Christian life of unbroken intimacy.  You might also like to listen to a few of the videos at right that correspond to this article.
Abiding In His Breath and Shadow,