Even when it Hurts, Hillsong United

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Where was GOD?

This morning (so early that no one should be thinking deeply or pondering the eternal questions of life) I read an article by Fox News which posed the question, "If God is real, Why did He not Stop the Storms?" And I braced myself to read the comments.  Comments that said things like one of them who succinctly put it, "Because he does not exist"...There were some comments that offered bad theology and there were many comments that spewed anger and hatred--a lot of energy expended on someone who was "not there." 

My pastor in church on Sunday said that anyone who believes that God played any role in those storms as being causative or a form of judgement did not know the God of love and compassion.  Do I think that God sat down and said, "Yeah, the bars in Houston are too full on Saturday nights and the churches are too empty on Sunday mornings....I think I'll wash Houston off the map." NO, nothing like that.  I do not think that God was thinking of any one person or group of people to pour upon His wrath.  HOWEVER,  I do believe that God designed this created Earth with an end in mind.  He did not want this sin corrupted planet infected with death, disease, and savage cruelty to go on forever.  In His mercy for His children He built an end ...a period on the sentence whose subject is "Earth"...so that he could introduce a NEW Earth, one free of the horrors we see almost daily now, upon this planet.

It has been said in science that things, when left to themselves, will proceed from complex to simple...in short, that all things on their own will wind down to an end...that this created Earth has built in limits on its longevity.  God designed it that way because He knew when He made it, that mankind would made wrong, sinful choices and that would botch up His intended desires for mankind.  God desired (and still does) to give His creatures the choice to love Him or to hate Him and do whatever their sinful hearts and bodies desired OR to decide to obey His laws.  And then to take those who chose to love Him...even in the face of pain, heartache and disaster...to a newly designed creation.  One in which sin and death could not and would not taint.

Yes, the end is near.  As storms and natural disasters increase, so will the savagery of man...and those who step back and take an honest look will have to know, that something is going on!  A climax is about to occur.  And so it will.  But only after wars and racism and hatred and plagues of illness have had their say and their "day in the sun"....and the sun itself will cease to shine. Stars will fall from the skies...and God has given mankind chance after chance to see the writing on the wall.  God is trying to tell us--after writing it out all clearly in the Bible for us didn't get our attention--"Heads up people....the end is around the corner. Are you sure you don't need me...yet?" Every flood. Every earthquake. Every child dying of starvation..Every cancer, etc. etc. ALL POINT TO ONE THING:  Things here on earth are bad and they are getting worse and our time is running out.

Look around you.  "The signs of the times."  What does that phrase mean? It means God has designed thing on earth to be signs that people can read in order to be able to hear God's messages to us about the time in which we live.  In Romans 1 it says that Nature itself gives evidence of a Creator so even if we live in the farthest jungle we are without excuse...we are responsible only for the amount of knowledge we have been given. And the Creation speaks about a Creator.  And now, in these times we see that something big is happening. It's just around the corner.  

And you, children of God in TX and FL who have been through heartache, hardship and loss---have you not seen ways that God has worked in all of this to meet your needs, keep you safe? That, on the perspiring face of every volunteer that has gone there to help, the love of Jesus smiles.  That they are His hands of help to  YOU, His beloved ones.  Maybe you lost relatives or a home you worked hard to purchase....baby pictures, antiques, paintings...all gone.  We cannot pretend to fathom the depths of God puposes...but we can glean from Scripture about His character... that He is a God of love, mercy, compassion, justice, wisdom, forgiveness.  Sometimes, as I have learned in my life that He leads us through a wildfire in a dark night...He leads us by the hand...He alone know the path out...All we can do is to trust the wisdom of His leading and the fact of His mercy and love for us.  After all, He, Himself entered the burning forest and came to lead His beloved out. Yes, it's mighty hot in those woods...and very dark.  But He is our only hope.  The only one who has entered the forest to rescue His people.

I had cried out to God --as many did--"God where are you? Why didn't you direct that storm back out to sea for good?"  I had prayed--as I pray about every pending storm, "God keep us safe. Don't let this storm hit us" and I thought, "Do I really think that there were no prayers offered up in Houston by God's people who have His ear as much as I?  Why did God spare me and why did God not save them?" And God comforted my heart with the phrase "Individual mercies." God did not spare the entire state but He made sure that His people got what they needed --and I'm sure there were some amazing stories of God's provision there.  And the people I've talked to online spoke of the awareness of His presence and their sense that the rest of the country was praying for them. And from their lips poured out gratitude and this was also true of Hurricane Irma victims in Florida.

God works within this declining planet....He saves. He provides.  And sometimes....yeah, sometimes often, ...there are night of sleepless, lonely pain that does not abate or relent.  I have night like this.  These are my own Harveys. And it is in the times of deepest pain that I'm most aware of His love for me and presence with me. Individual mercies.  God meets His people at the greatest place of their need but that is often IN the storm.  In the pain.  In the heartache.  Where was God?  He was right there...holding your hand. 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

"I Thirst"

I spent last weekend in the hospital with hyponatremia (low blood sodium) and low potassium and magnesium.  They padded my bed rails with blankets and put me on a heart monitor...my numbers were so low that seizures and cardiac arrest were real dangers.  They got the potassium and magnesium levels improved with IVs but it was too dangerous to give me saline IVs.  It can cause the fluid to leave your brain and can actually kill you.  So they changed one of my diuretic meds and put me on a SEVERE fluid restriction.  1 Liter a day.  That is two 16 oz water bottles...in a 24 hour period.  I have Sjogrens which means I do not have saliva and my mucus membranes, including my eyes, were as dry as dirt.  My windpipe was so dry that when I breathed it stuck together.  I could barely talk as my mouth had not a drop of moisture in it.  It was hell  and it does not surprise me in the least that the only complaint that Jesus uttered on the cross was "I thirst"  ...I understand that...when you are mouth breathing due to stress and pain ...panting...your mouth gets even drier. 

Image result for pic of a glass of water
I begged and I confessed, I cheated in those days of extreme thirst.  I sneaked sips of water here and there....Finally my sodium level slowly climbed.  They also had me on a "heart Healthy" diet there which meant reduced calories and fat and it made 1/2 the menu off limits to me.  Finally after three days I made it home.  When I left they told me I had to continue the 1 ltr /day limit  (YEAH RIGHT!!!)  ...I knew that no matter how motivated I was, I would not survive with that little amount of fluid.  So I told myself I will do 1.5 liters and not count my AM coffee.  And even that I could not really stick to the plan.  I had labs done on Wednesday and I deliberately drank more than I was allowed to.  You see, they had changed a medication that the nephrologist believed was at the root of the problem.  I thought, "if I'm on  a better med, and maintain the fluid restriction, I will not know which factor is the important  one."  SO I drank some beyond the prescribed parameters...still cutting A WAY back from the way I used to consume fluids but drinking at a tolerable level for me.

Wed's lab results were in when I saw my cardiologist on Friday and he gave me the good news that my numbers were still not in the normal range but were very close to that and he was happy with that.  So my plan is to not drink anything unnecessarily...but if i am dry and miserable, I will have some water.  I bought a one liter bottle and sip on that all day long....trying to put time between each sip. 

Current diet wisdom makes it sound like the more you drink, the healthier you are.  I"m here to tell you that it ain't necessarily so.    Maybe I have kidney problems.  Or maybe my meds are affecting my body's ability to flush water out and the result is that my body has so much fluid in it that the kidneys cannot handle the load and fluid backs up into my tissues.  My stomach looked 9 months pregnant.....until I finally, on the new med, was able to get rid of some of it.  And my weight?? I thought i was well into the 200's again and was heart broken over that.  But once I got that fluid out, and my heart healthy diet did it's work....I was in the low 190's....very close to my first goal of weight loss.

Turns out that water, like medicine, can be abused and over indulged in.  When my nephrologist asked me "How much do you drink?" and I told him "8 glasses a day" (actually I drank way more than that but was embarrassed to admit it) he said to me "WHY???" and I said "that's what you are SUPPOSED to drink" and he said to me, "But not YOU!!"  I really wonder if I have some kind of kidney issue going on. When I see him in October I will ask him about that.  But for now, I am glad to once more be in charge of what I drink. I have to drink wisely and with as much restraint as I can muster.

There is another factor at play here.  And it is one you may not have heard of.  There is a condition called "Psychogenic Polydipsia" which is a disorder when people are excessively thirsty and drink massive amounts of fluids daily.  Not surprisingly, people with schizophrenia (SZ) are the most commonly affected.  Partly this is because the class of AP (anti-psychotic) meds we take cause extreme thirst and a feeling of a thick, pasty tongue.  Also since I stopped smoking, my water intake has really been a replacement for that habit. I'm never without a drink in my hand and never get into the car without a good supply of water with me. I enjoy drinking water and iced tea. and in a life where I have very little to bring me pleasure, I really zealously guard my "right" to drink what I want....But kidney failure is a high price to pay, isn't it?

Friday, September 8, 2017

A Good Post from 2009 - God's Incredible Designs

Something that I’ve been thinking about:
God made me to be exactly who and how I am.
Now, that may seem like a no-brainer: but really is it? Because, you see, He’s chosen to make me with blue eyes, brown hair,….psoriatic arthritis…and schizoaffective disorder. This was not the “luck of the draw” – it was a deliberate choice that God made.

Now some people will say, “Well, we live in a sin-tainted world…there is sickness and disease that came with the Fall.” That is true but God also says,
“The One forming light and creating darkness,
Causing well-being and creating calamity;
I am the LORD who does all these.”

These illnesses are not a “random” germ that I caught when someone sneezed. They are genetic illnesses that were programmed into my DNA. God gave them to me as surely as He gave me blue eyes. When His hands fashioned me in my mom’s womb, He arranged that DNA and then stood back and said, “It is good.”

Now I can hear the ethernet seething with murmurs against the “injustice” of this…but wait a minute! Firstly, I know that God is good and that He loves me…He’s shown me this time and time again. Secondly, I know that He is infinitely wiser than I can fathom; so from these two facts, I must conclude that He is up to something beyond my full comprehension that will be for my ultimate benefit and He has already granted me glimmers of understanding that corroborate these facts.

I can say that I have the privilege of knowing the depths of God’s compassion and the strength of His helping hands, in ways that most people cannot comprehend. As I’d thumbed my nose at Him in anger and went, for fifteen years, stumbling around in a darkness comprised of my own illness, rage and defiance aimed at God; I then experienced the mind-blowing brilliance of His mercy as He welcomed me back to His arms without hesitation, once I’d run out of my own resources and turned back to Him.

I daily experience the power of His sustaining hands as my own strength is so tremulous and faltering. When pain overwhelms me, He always grants me just what I need to empower me to get through that moment, those days…every minute of every day. When my illness leads me to do something rash or dangerous in the blindness of psychosis; He always has protected me and gotten me to a place where I could receive help…even in the years when I was still stumbling in blind rage away from Him.

I have even come to the point where I have thanked Him for this illness. I think He must think a lot of me to entrust me with such a heavy load. I also thank Him for endowing me with it because it has granted me the privilege of knowing Him in numerous ways that most people could not grasp. I have to depend on Him heavily every moment…and while, to some people, that may seem like a weakness or a “crutch” – it puts the power of the Almighty God constantly at my fingertips…So that makes me a vessel that contains a pretty amazing strength!

I also think that when I get to heaven, there will be extra benefits waiting for me because of what I’ve suffered on earth. I will appreciate, as few people will, how marvelous that new body and a healed mind will be and how valuable they are! I do know that almost no one I know has such a longing for heaven and as much of a minute-to-minute consciousness of it as I do. So all in all, I cannot—nor do I—get angry at God for giving me these difficulties or this pain. There are LOTS of times when I do climb onto His lap and lean my head on His shoulders and cry, but He’s more than good at understanding that and that too has grown the intimacy of our relationship, so I wouldn’t trade even those tears.

So when you hear the words of the doctor as he diagnoses you or your child or spouse with a mental illness; remember my words here…and begin to look for reasons to rejoice. God does not make mistakes; nor have accidents; nor does He make junk!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Furnace of Affiction

 I may have mentioned this fear of mine to you in the past: I am terrified of big storms because once before in Hurricane Sandy, our basement flooded.  Back then I was more able bodied and was able to save most of our stuff....but now? I can barely get down the flight of stairs.  Carrying things to safety is not possible.  If the power goes out and our sump pump then stops, water rapidly can fill the basement.  And when that happened before, it was only a day or two before the smell of mold began.  I have bad asthma and that is a guaranteed problem.

So I worry. I look at the tropical weather report.  I anxiously look to see where Harvey is predicted to track.  And I pray.  I beg and beseech God to intervene and to steer the storms away from me.  But yesterday the wrongness of my fear began to impress my heart. God KNOWS what I need....and even if I lose everything--like the people in Houston--He is still God; He is still good; He is still sufficient; if He is all I have, then that is enough. And I hear His voice quietly asking, "Am I enough for you Cynthia?" "Can you not face anything if I am in your center?"

The question often troubled me: Were there not people in Houston, praying as sincerely as I have been? I'm sure there were.  So WHY then did God not answer their prayers and how is it that I think and believe He will answer mine?  And I think God has given me the answer to that question.  Yes,  they suffered terrible loss and there is much tragedy.  But God has assured me that He is providing Grace and meeting daily needs for His people.  He is giving them individual mercy--even though the big picture is very bad.  And some of them probably are being schooled by God through this to see that truly He is all they need.  

Today's devotion by Joni Eareckson Tada was based on these verses:  "Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior."         Habakkuk 3:17-18

Rejoicing in the midst of loss, heartache and an uncertain future is  a CHOICE.  And two of the statements that God has given me in this past year are:
"God will not lead you where the Grace of God cannot keep you" and "What God does not take us from, He will take us through."

It's a matter of choosing to trust; choosing to rejoice  and of asking God to carry us day by day, minute by minute.  

And something else has occurred to me today.  The story of the "Fiery Furnace" is a classic tale of God's provision.  But do we really think about the courage and faith it took for Daniel's three friends to respond this way:

Daniel 3:16-18 (NKJV)

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”

Yes, it took a lot of courage and trust to respond this way.  They were SURE of the ability of God to save them.....but they were willing to say that regardless of how it turned out, they would choose to believe in and obey God.  And what did God do?  He did not whisk them out of harm's way. NO....He allowed them to actually be thrown into the flames...and THEN God saved them!!  Not only that, but He visited with them in person amidst that fire!!
So storms may come.  But my God will provide and will save in the long run.  "Worst" thing?  That would be not to survive the storm....but really that is an awesome thing because then I get to see my Lord and be with Him forever.  So God is able to stop a storm (and I confess, that is still my first choice) but even if He doesn't--He is still God.  He is still Good, and He will meet our needs a moment at a time.

People of Texas: You are in the school of Pain (as Andrew Murray calls it) but God will bring you through this if you trust Him to.  I grieve your losses....but really, you have some things to gain too: a certainty of God's love and provision; greater, stronger faith and a level of intimacy with the Almighty that you never imagined was possible. You are all in my prayers.