Thursday, January 24, 2008

Forgetting Desperation

When I am scared or things aren't going according to my plans, I get this feeling in the pit of my stomach, which feels a lot like heartburn, but is actually a desperate realization of how deeply I need God. Its like when I used to be scared of flying (before I took a trip to China and flew on a plane just about every other day for two weeks straight - that got me over that fear real quick . . .) But when I WAS scared, I would be praying from nearly the moment I got on the plane until the wheels touched the ground. I would try to read, watch Friends reruns on Delta Horizons, or drink my diet coke without spilling (something that's apparently hard for me to do while flying) . . . but I couldnt focus on anything but the realization that if we fell, I would certainly not make it through the crash. So I would pray and feel desperate for peace, reassurance and safety in the Lord's arms, and in the knowledge that He held the plane in His hands.

Right now, I feel like I need that same reassurance - that He is holding my very life in His hands, and that He will bring me safely through now as He has every time before. I know this is true right now, when things arent going how I imagined they would. The REAL danger comes, however, when things ARE going according to my plans. I quickly lose sight of that desperation and begin believing that I have things quite together on my own. I mean, after all, I'm 23, happily married, enjoying my husband and friends, love my family (even my in-laws!), have a nice new house, a job I adore and church I love . . . so clearly I'm doing a pretty good job on my own right? The problem is that it's just not true! EVERY good gift is from above, which means that when things are going well, it has nothing to do with me and everything to do with God. Which, in turn, means that I need to be looking to Him every moment, not just when I'm scared or hurting.

I think that's why God sometimes lets hard things happen to us. It teaches us the value and joy of utter dependence on and desperation for Him. Without fear, I wouldn't know how to seek comfort in the Lord. So I pray that somehow I might be able to hold on tightly to this feeling of desperation, and keep it close to my heart even when things start to look right again . . .

Monday, January 14, 2008

Mama D's House

On Saturday morning, I drove to the Dream Center for our weekly visit to Herndon Homes to visit the kids . . . I arrived there before Jeremy, so Pastor Paul insisted that I come with him to Mama D's house. We drove down the street to a dilapidated structure, and I felt my apprehension grow as Pastor Paul warned me that the house would smell badly (Mama was bedridden and had no bladder control) and that she rented her rooms to prostitutes and drug dealers . . .

Pastor Paul squeezed his Bronco into the tiny driveway, I took a deep breath in (to fit through the door) and nearly stepped in a pile of something nasty (either vomit or diarrhea - I didnt double check). The first thing I noticed upon entering the house was that it did, indeed, smell strongly of urine (along with a hodge-podge of other equally gross and unmentionable scents . . . )

Mama D was out of bed that day, smiling widely at us from her wheelchair, several men were passed out on a dingy looking couch, a pregnant woman stood in the middle of the room, and an adorable little boy (probably somewhere between one and two) ran up to us as soon as we entered the door. Pastor Paul lifted the boy into his arms, telling me he was soaking wet (although apparently even having pants on at all was a big step up). I was somewhat surprised at the level of delight everyone seemed to share at Pastor Paul's visit. For some reason, I assumed that people like this would rather not share the same space as a conservative white pastor who disapproves of their lifestyle. To the contrary, Pastor Paul was obviously close to all of these people, calling them by name, kissing their foreheads, and playing games with their children.

After joking with everyone a little, hugging all around and passing out food, Pastor Paul insisted on grabbing hands to pray. We gathered around a small stove, the only source of warmth in the old, drafty house. Somewhat hesitantly, I held Mama's wrinkled hand and laid my other hand on the shoulder of one of the men passed out on the couch. As Pastor Paul began talking to the Lord, people began emerging from rooms all over the house, asking to join in our prayer, and adding their own prayer requests to our list. One of the men requested that we praise the Lord that he had been released from prison the day before (he was arrested for drug trafficking and aggravated assault): his two sons, who were grinning widely, flanked him on either side. A woman walked in from outside wearing dirty Sponge Bob slippers and asked us to pray for Mama D's health. A white woman emerged with a nasty black eye and asked to join our circle as well. . .

After prayer, the woman with the black eye thanked Pastor Paul and gave both of us hugs. Pastor asked her where she got her black eye and she sheepishly responded "from my man"
"Is he still your man?" Pastor asked. Looking down, she murmured a quick "yes" in response, bursting into tears. Pastor Paul pulled her into a hug, and tears welled in his eyes as he whispered to her that she was worth more than that and that "real men do not hit their women." My own eyes blurred with tears as I realized that this was probably one of the only times in this woman's life that she had been treated as worthy of love, as a daughter of a King . . .

To tell you the truth, I cannot remember ever feeling as overwhelmed by what the love of Christ in action looks like as I did at that moment. Like so many of the disciples and Pharisees, I have a tendency to disapprove of and avoid these people and their lifestyles - yet over and over again, these are the very people and the very places where Christ chose to spend most of his time and ministry. As we left, I hugged each and every one of them, kissed the little boy's forehead and walked away changed by having encountered the face of Christ in the place I least expected it . . .

Friday, January 4, 2008

Midnight Revelations (aka Healing Stones)

I came to a realization last night . . . actually, that's not entirely true -- it would be more accurate to say that I NEARLY came to a realization. It was one of those moments when you are on the verge of understanding something important about yourself and you try desperately to grasp it but it never quite crystallizes . . . All I know is that I realized there are deep parts of me that still hurt and still need healing - these parts just remain hidden most of the time, hovering below the surface like the iceberg that sunk the Titanic -- and I got all of that from a fiction book! That's exactly why I love reading fiction - it has this ability (when its read at just the right time and is well written and insightful . . .) to both transport you and resonate with you. I love reading when it helps me escape my everyday to exciting new places, but I also love it when it makes me realize things about myself, about my life - when it transforms my heart and teaches me new things that help me grow as a person . . . books have, for some reason, always been able to do that for me - and that's why I love to read so much.

The book that brought me to the brink of realization was "Healing Stones," the first book in a promising new series (I'm always excited to find a series I enjoy) The book is about a young woman who is caught in adultery (like the woman in the Bible who is brought before Christ . . .)She loses her family as a result of her sin, and goes to see a quirky Christian counselor to deal with her hurt and figure out why she turned outside of her marriage in the first place. The interesting thing about the book is that it definitely deals with some edgy issues which are often not dealt with in the Christian community (adultery and forgiveness, counseling and medication for Christians) In fact, the book itself is set on a Christian college campus, where a debate is raging between conservative Christians and more "liberal" Christians who allow room for debate of issues, doubts, and forgiveness of sins.

The story itself was well-written and interesting - I was most touched by those passages when Demi(the main character) was visiting Sullivan (her counselor), because his advice and words offered insight into my own past and my own pain, as well as offering a glimpse into ways you can heal and grow in your faith in Christ and yourself. Healing Stones is a wonderful book about the forgiveness and healing offered by Christ, told in the midst of an interesting and riveting plot, surrounded by believable and personable characters.

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