"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

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Thorn in My Side

She left a message, “Mrs. Anderson, your HIDA Scan came back normal.  There is no need for surgery at this time.”  Click.  End of sought after explanation for pain bending me into a fetal position many a midnight hour.  I know I should give thanks – believe God has once again granted healing.  But, instead I feel vague disappointment.  What do I want really??  Someone to affirm that indeed there is something amiss, a diseased part of me in need of removal?  A thorn in my side easily captured in a surgical pouch and extracted once for all out my belly button?  Maybe a little proof the pain is “real”, and a heaping side of TLC, please?

Paul wished for the same – thorn removal, that is.  In 2 Corinthians 12:5b-10, Paul says, “I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses.  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.”

Some theorize Paul’s thorn may have been impaired vision.  No one really knows.  In my case, the way I see things definitely correlates with the degree of pain I feel, particularly in the night seasons.  Suffering intensifies when my view of God distorts.  Admittedly, I’ve struggled to keep Him in focus lately!!  He’s been trying to teach me to refrain from speaking the truth unless directed to do so.  The more I’ve desired to speak into situations begging a verbal spotlight, the more He has insisted I remain silent, and still!!  As circumstances have grown more chaotic and demanding, all I’ve been told to do is hunker down and be quiet.  This has felt nothing like lying in green pastures beside refreshing still waters.  Rather, like abandonment under fire in a battlefield trench.  I’ve questioned and at times resisted His command to “rest,” in effect asking, “Are you kidding?  How can I ignore this situation, not advocate, not act?  This hurts!!”

I am keeping my grandson this week and have observed he often draws attention to his minor cuts and sprains and tells elaborate stories behind barely visible scars.  Beneath these superficial flesh wounds lies a heart that yearns for notice and aches for validation.  He requests salve, ace bandages, Band-Aids, and Tylenol frequently. His headaches are migraines, his blisters festering sores threatening to become gangrenous.  What he really needs is an awareness of God’s constant loving gaze, of His outstretched arm, of His power to save.  Like Hagar, He needs to see the God Who Sees (him).  So do I!!  I need a fresh view of God who never abandons, forsakes, forgets, ignores, overlooks.  I need to see God who notices everything down to the most miniscule details and acts accordingly, freeing me to rest and follow His lead.

I’ve noticed the pain in my right side aggravated by the load I carry every work day.  On that shoulder I carry the tools of my trade in a weighty black bag.  With those tools I assess other people’s condition, document what I see, mediate healing of minor illness.  Then I offer hope.  I carry these patients in my heart beyond our biweekly meetings, right alongside my family members.  At times, the weight of my living and calling threatens to bend me double and crush me.  And yet, have I not prayed on brighter days to know Christ, the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings?   I call to mind that Christ’s heart broke on the cross and spilled from His pierced side.  Surely He understands the thorn in mine, and knows when it’s best I keep silent and still, believing.

Silent & Still In His Shadow,

Friday, February 1, 2013

Shiny-Side Up!

Mist softened all angles, subdued colors, and quieted the roadside landscape.  Mystery veiled fields ripe for adventure.  We drove on an Impressionist’s canvas, my son and I, towards the launch site, caramel truffle coffee filling the car with fragrant steam.  While crossing a wooded finger of the lake my phone rang, informing us to meet at a new location, Hewitt Park.  Events unforeseen, fog and keys locked in the pilot’s truck, reset the hour and site of departure.

A runner moonwalked backwards round the perimeter of the park.  Meanwhile, my son and I waited for balloonist and passengers.  He listened as I talked of how it feels to fade appropriately into the background of my adult children’s lives, graceful, alone, thankful.  I explained that in new day’s mist, isolated unto God, my eyes of faith open wide on realms of promise and possibility.  Then we talked again of the hawks, “prayer triggers,” reminding me to intercede for my grandsons, and of how many we had both seen in a few weeks time.  Oh the heart of God for these boys!!

My daughter and her husband pulled up behind the balloonist, and we all stood round and watched as an enchanted carriage took shape out of a wicker basket, yards of fabric, and warmed air.  We gazed mesmerized into the animating balloon, swelling round with invisible gravity-defying breath.  Preparation for flight took a little longer than usual as the balloon had the day before undergone inspection and been hastily packed away.  Minor delays and interruptions affecting flight path, God-planned details.  And so as a cool January breeze blew upon the warmed balloon it set sail on an uncharted voyage (humanly speaking!).

Over creek and forest, highway and lane, neighborhood and field, the balloon drifted magical across the sky.  Her shadow traced a God appointed path across the landscape.  Friends of the passengers later remarked they had seen them on their way to church soaring colorful.  Twenty minutes into the flight, my daughter attempted a panoramic of the view below with her new I-Phone, a birthday present received the day before.  Like sand in an hourglass, the phone slipped from her grasp, plunging many stories into a wooded area bordered by fields.  The flight continued, and after a celebratory mimosa following safe landing beside the Overlook, we determined to believe God for yet another miracle.

We drove and took the exit near where the phone dropped, searching for an entry point into one of the fields bordering the cedar thicket.  No trespassing signs forced us to walk beyond where we parked in search of an opening.  Tall weeds and brush surrounded this side of the field, but undeterred we cut a path through and soon entered the plowed field, aerated, damp, and spongy.  Across furrow and hill we traversed sinking in mud, the “forest” looming ahead.  Thankful to have made it to the edge of the woods we talked of searching to the right of where we stood, fanning out to individually look for the phone.  Of course the tiny patch of woods viewed from above now stood tall, thick, and spanning ominously who knows how many acres in front of us, faith-defying!!

I repeated to myself my word for this year, “BELIEVE,” and forged ahead at a snail’s pace.  In fact a snail would have fared better in a forest so dense with low-lying prickly branches and abusive undergrowth.  Small clearings were few and far between.  And after several minutes of covering only a few yards, likely walking in circles, I exhorted myself, “Hope against hope!!”  I looked up for guidance.  I looked down to ensure no snake had found me.  Then I looked around for a tiny phone lost in a big wood, and for a glimpse of family to reassure myself I wasn’t as alone as I felt in that moment and location.  I ended up calling for my son, and gave up searching solo.  He pointed out that we were standing along a fence line, and suggested we separate by about six feet combing the area parallel to each other.  Dead ahead stood a giant of a tree, ten feet in diameter, unyielding branches barring my passage.   Obstacles, delays, time spent strategizing, all determining future steps.  I ended up following my son who soon met up with my daughter.  He had been calling her number repeatedly to try and guide us to the lost phone.  She remembered silencing her ringer the night before, and that the phone was all but out of batteries.  At this point, we all undeniably understood finding the phone would be sheer miracle.

Two seconds later, my daughter praying continually, “Am I getting hot or cold, Lord,” spied something white!!   Could it be her pearly white phone??  She reached to recover only a piece of Styrofoam.  However, my son looking in the same direction spied something silver, her phone shiny-side up a few feet away!!  He picked it up and turned it over revealing seven missed calls, and not a scratch or blemish on its surface.  We gave a shout of praise to Jesus who led us to the phone in less than thirty minutes, with breadcrumbs of grace, allowing for the search to go on only long enough to delight us in His goodness and humor and love!! 

Turns out the phone failed to video the view on descent to earth, but we nonetheless all enjoyed a breathtaking panoramic of God, invisible made visible, like the air that lifted that balloon above the treetops, wind borne on wind.  We planned how to tell such a fantastic story to family back home over Sunday lunch.  Unaware of the gratitude threatening to explode from our hearts, Joe the cook prepared a traditional Thanksgiving feast with all the trimmings!!  God, like us, just couldn’t keep His glory hidden.

He rearranged plans, celebratory meals, gift-giving, timing, weather, orchestrating an in-flight phone drop.  Undoubtedly, He intended delight, both His and ours!!

Amazed in His Shadow,
Terry and family