Because I am human, I am weak. Because I am weak, I pray.
Somehow I got poison ivy.
It’s really irritating and I hate it.
A few nites ago I awoke around midnite irritated and itchy. No surprise, that’s what poison ivy does. I was so very tired, but of course couldn’t really sleep. Fumbling around in the darkness, not fully conscious, I grabbed a tube of hydrocortisone cream in hopes to relieve the itch. I applied some to the back of my right hand which was giving me the most fits.
I’m no doctor or scientist, but I can now tell you from experience, that hydrocortisone does not relieve the itch of poison ivy. In fact, it exasperates the itch by about 14,000. That’s my conservative estimate. It heightens irritation. And it causes a nice burning sensation that makes you wish you were merely holding a blowtorch two millimeters from your skin because that would be relief compared to the chemical burn I was experiencing.
So I prayed.
I lay there and prayed in agony.
And I thought of my nine year old daughter, Gabriela. She has suffered from eczema to a terrible degree most all of her life. It affects her sleep, concentration, fun, you name it. Sleeping next to her one nite, I realized how much of the nite she spends scratching and not sleeping deeply. It can flare up due to stress, being tired, heat, eating the wrong food, full moon…
It hit me that she goes through the pain I experienced a few nites ago about everyday. It hit me how easy it is to lose the sense of what she fights through on a daily basis. How easy it is to lose empathy for this thing I don’t go through. Sometimes I fall into just wanting her to suck it up. But it’s really hard, and I can’t know what she actually goes through.
But now I have a glimpse. And for that I am thankful. Going through what was only mere minutes of suffering has been extremely helpful in understanding Gaby and being more patient and understanding. The very next nite we had house church, and for whatever reason she broke out right before we even got started, and it was very, very easy to take her home and find some relief as the intense “steroids-applied-to-poison-ivy-rash” incident was still painfully fresh in my mind. I even felt it was a chance to care for her and practice this new found empathy.
For the record, we have had our most success with her skin this year thanks to an excellent doctor/healer, a wonderful supplement, and stricter nutrient ingestion.
May we try to be just a little more understanding today of our fellow human being made in the image of God who may be suffering in ways we do not know or understand. Though it may make no sense to you, it is real to them. We are all so different in our nature and nurture, that what may be traumatic to me will roll off your back. And vice versa.
P.S. I got sunburned yesterday.
So we all have probably talked about the whole praying for a good parking spot thing. Should we? Shouldn’t we? Does God care?
Well, this isn’t really about all that.
I was thinking more of the liberation of not needing, or even wanting, a parking spot close to the entrance. It saves energy, time, and perhaps even…prayer. All three of those can be used for other things.
Since my wife acquired a FitBit, she has been religiously tracking her number of steps per day with a goal of six miles’ worth. This is quite the challenge with her sit-at-desk job. So, whenever we’re out, she parks at the first space we find, usually in the back of the lot, so as to get an extra couple hundred steps in.
I too typically park far from the front door, as I enjoy walking with my healthy, semi-hairless legs God gave me.
When you don’t really care about where you park and, therefore, don’t even look, it takes a small bit of stress out of your day. It’s a non-issue. You’re happy with whatever. Walking is nice, but close is fine too.
What I especially enjoy is when people circle the lot a few times looking for that sweet close spot AT THE GYM!!! Hahahaha. Wow. No need to wear yourself out with that 30 yard walk/warm-up before you exercise. Seriously, people.
Anyway, the point is not parking spots or exercise, it’s a metaphor for our lives of course. The more that’s off the table the freer we are. The less we need or want, the more liberty we live in.
My mom has bad knees. She has one of those stick people in a wheel chair cards hanging from her rear view mirror. There’s some spiritual metaphor there too.
Here’s an equation we could use for measuring personal liberty:
100/Needs = Freedom
(Using only positive integers, for simplicity’s sake, makes the highest possible score 100)
It shows that the fewer things you require to be happy, the greater freedom you live in.
Something concerning I’ve noticed the last few years or so is people in conversations who ask no questions whatsoever.
I’ve had convos with a few people who excel at the skill of never asking anybody anything about their life or well-being. I say “skill” because once you take notice of it, you realize that it actually seems to require great effort to take such little interest in someone with whom you’re conversing. It’s utterly draining to constantly be the receiver of information without an outlet for pouring anything out. And heck, I’ve taken a class on listening, and I’m still worn out by “Never-Ask-Any-Questions ‘conversationalist’ person.”*
Some people are awesome at question asking. You’re genuinely interested in others, and it shows through your thoughtful questions. There’s some of you who inspire me and I hope to be as good a question-asker as you someday.
This questionless conversation is something I’ve recently been able to name, and now I notice it all the time. Like when you’re shopping for a certain kind of car and all of the sudden you start seeing that kind of car all over the place, but mysteriously never saw many before.
Questions affirm people. They show that a person is interesting and worth knowing. They show you’ve been listening. You may not be a pro question-asker, but if you ask none, then you’re not interested in the other person. You’re that person in the picture up there. The great information disseminator of self. Admit it, if you never ask people anything about themselves, you’re just kinda weird.
Jesus asked a lot of questions.
I’m just sayin’. He did.
He asked 307 questions recorded in the gospel accounts. Of the 183 questions He was asked, He only directly answered three of them. Perhaps our bumper stickers should read “Jesus is the Question” instead of “Jesus is the Answer.”**
Questions cause people to think. More than answers do. We get the answer and then we stop thinking. Stop asking someone questions and you’ve probably stopped thinking about them.
So anyway, this is just kind of an outlet for me to get this stuff out of my head, but I do hope it may turn a light on for some or someone you know. Sometimes we just don’t notice these things in ourselves. “Visually-impaired places,” I believe they’re called. No wait, “blind spots.” Perhaps you could start noting how many questions you do ask in your next few conversations, and check to see if you are indeed interested or uninterested in other people. Make sure you’re not Mega Monologue Man, or…….I can’t think of any “W” words right now…
But hey, enough of me talking about myself, why don’t you talk about me for a while now?
*I’m referring here to informal conversations not spiritual direction or counseling, just to be clear.
“God, I thank you that I am not like the other people…”
Last nite, as my yoga session at the gym was ending with quiet stillness, lying upon my pink mat with hearts, I was convicted. The Holy Spirit exposed to me, in clarity, my sin of comparison. That I’ve fallen back into my default nature of comparing myself with people when I see them, instead of simply loving them via seeking their flourishing and looking to encourage, affirm, and call out anything positive.
Ruach showed me how much it’s been pervading my thoughts and captivating me. Being a 4 on the enneagram, I so want to be the most specialest person in the room! Therefore, to size everybody up, to judge if I am indeed the special of the hour, is a great temptation to me. When not keeping this in check, it is quite destructive and confining.
Comparison requires and eats so much energy that could be used for more constructive applications. How love desires to use that available fuel to celebrate others and call out their positive attributes.
So what if someone is awesomer than me. Great! When I’m in a healthy place in this fight, I see people and naturally look to encourage them and call out whatever greatness I see, hence, championing them as Jesus has championed me. He always encourages. The Spirit always comforts.
I read somewhere that, upon entering a room of people or having people enter our area, that it is in our human nature to automatically judge them as a threat or an opportunity. A threat to extinguish, or an opportunity to exploit. Or even worse, the third category of “inconsequential”-neither threatening or exploitable. A nobody. But in the kingdom of God, with a regenerated heart, new nature, and cultivated spirit, I believe we can see everybody as opportunity–for blessing. For encouragement. For affirmation. And, thus, for joy-building. It transcends comparison, freeing up all of that would-be wasted energy to see others more clearly, and to be a conduit, rather than a dam, of God’s love.
To hell with comparison. It robs me, and even more so, others, of way too much.
To heaven with celebration, blessing, and joy-building.
Last nite I was down in the basement chillin’, listening to some tunes, when Zayra (my 8 year old daughter) came down to see me–an hour after she was suppose to be sleeping. She said her throat hurt, so we cuddled for a while as we listened to the end of the album.
I asked her, “What should I write about tomorrow?”
And she responded immediately, as if she had been holding back a sermon, just waiting to share it. So I thought I would pass it along to all of you. Maybe it’s just what one or two of you need to hear today.
Here it is:
Life has difficulties. Difficulties are hard. They make life more challenging than it seems.
But you’re never alone because everyone is with you. God and Jesus are with you. They love you.
There are challenges in life, so you need to step up and work on them. You need to agree and do things you don’t want to do.
You’re enemies have a soft spot down in there, and they love you, but they just don’t show it or know it.
Poor people have pain and suffering. So please help them.
You shouldn’t try to be perfect because, to God, you don’t have to be. God loves you even when you’re not perfect.
OK, that’s all I have to say.
When we come to the place where we can joyously “do no work” (Lev.23:3), it will be because God is so exalted in our mind and body that we can trust him with our life and our world, and we can take our hands off them.
Rest is one primary condition of Sabbath in the body. If we really intend to submit our body as a living sacrifice to God, our first step may be to start getting enough sleep. Sleep is a good indicator of how thoroughly we trust in God.
-Dallas Willard & Don Simpson
Since his only means of going to God was to do everything out of love for Him, it did not matter to him what work he was given to do, provided that he did it for God. It was God, not the work, that he considered. He knew that the more such work crossed his natural inclinations, the more valuable was the love that made him offer it to God. He knew that the pettiness of the thing did not diminish in any way the value of his offering, because God, having need of nothing, considers only the love that accompanies the work.
Let everyone who professes to be a Christian worker pause. Ask whether you are leaving your mark for eternity on those around you. It is not your preaching or teaching, your strength of will or power to influence, that will secure this. All depends on having your life full of God and His power. And that depends upon your living the truly branchlike life of abiding–close and unbroken fellowship with Christ. It is the branch that abides in Him that bears much fruit, fruit that will abide.
Remain in me, and I will remain in you! The branch can’t bear fruit by itself, but only if it remains in the vine. In the same way, you can’t bear fruit unless you remain in me.
I’ve said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and so that your joy may be full.
We are capable of so much.
We are meant to live at such a high level of awareness of the divine and live the life which that awareness offers us.
We can get really good at just about whatever we set out to master. It’s only a matter of single-minded focus combined with consistent practice over a long period of time.
Think of how good you are at the skill of driving. It’s incredibly easy because most of us have been practicing driving almost daily for over twenty years.
What are you choosing to practice daily?
What are you getting really good at and mastering?
(Some of us have gotten really good at talking about ourselves.)
I mean, think about it, we could choose something random like jigsaw puzzles, and choose to dedicate a significant portion of our every day to master the skill of putting puzzles together. Not sure why you’d choose that one, but hey, you could conquer the art of piecing together 10,000 piece double-sided jigsaw puzzles if you so desired.
What about spiritual matters? Does it work the same way in that realm? Neuroscience is showing us that it does. Did you know that just thinking about something, like practicing a particular song on the guitar for instance, is the same as actually, physically doing it, as far as your brain is concerned? Many great athletes, like Michael Jordan, utilized the practice of visualization and reaped the benefits because he was literally practicing even while away from the basketball court.
Why is prayer so important and emphasized in Scripture? Could one reason be that God has always known that it rewires our brains for more peace, joy, happiness, and love? (Unless of course you’re constantly praying for someone’s cruel death or misfortune.)
Meditation and prayer has got to be the simplest and cheapest means for wiring yourself toward God and peaceful living. Think of how good you would get at this if you chose to practice it everyday, no matter how short the duration, for the rest of your life. Imagine your state of consciousness twenty years from now. Heck, even five years from now.
I believe we are made from Love to love. To love God, be filled with Love, and love all other people. Do you ever think of what it takes to become more loving? How do you become more loving? More like God? I mean, what else is there? Why else are we here? What is the point of our existence?
It is what we do, with intention, consistently, over a long haul that molds us, wires us, and defines us–not what we do only occasionally. I say “with intention,” because I guess you could do something daily and still suck at it and not be molded by it. Just because I have fathered two girls everyday for close to a decade now does not necessarily mean I am good at it. Perhaps I have done without intention, much thought, or presence.
I think of how God desires to bless us with His presence, guidance, and peace if we just make ourselves available to Him. If we choose to create the space for Him to work in us what He wishes. One way this looks for me, personally, is carving out 30-60 minutes everyday, no matter what, to sit in God’s presence in order to soak in it, listen, and pray. When I’m doing this, I feel superhuman–maybe because I am, due to more of the supernatural flowing thru me!
But when I remain “unplugged” consistently over time, I am weak, drained, and pathetic.
What is it for you, that if you did everyday, say, the rest of this year, would bring you closer to oneness with God and make you more like God? Are you willing to let some things go in order to do this? Why or why not?
What if our #1 objective everyday was to know God “more better”?
What if we read something Jesus said everyday, and thought about it all day, for the rest of our lives? Just thrown’ that out there.
Would it be worth the time?