Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The hidden infection...

I was lying there in the dentist chair for the third time in three weeks. I needed a root canal and the tooth just wasn't cooperating. The dentist showed me the x-ray of the tooth to reveal a pocket of infection that had eaten away at the root and completely closed off the canal. There was a real concern that the infection might enter my bloodstream if not attended to. I'm no dentist, but that didn't sound good.

The thing is, I had no idea I had a problem. Oh, I had an occasional tenderness on that tooth if I touched near the root, but how often did that happen? The real reason I had gone in was because my crown had a tiny chip at the top that looked like a piece of pepper was constantly caught in my teeth! I just wanted to fix the spot. My real problem was much deeper and I had no idea. Now I sat and listened to the dentist tell me if he couldn't get to the root, I could always pull it. Wait - it's my FRONT tooth!!!! That might have been cute when I was 5, but it wasn't nearly as adorable now that I'm over 50! I started praying for God to make a way where there was no way!

After what seemed like forever breathing in that delightful gas that makes it not seem so bad, the dentist finally finished and put in a temporary filling. He then told me he had almost at the point of giving up when he 'broke through' and found a passageway into that root and the problem. With a smile he gave me a prescription of painkiller and a HUGE bottle of antibiotic. I mean HUGE!!! Good grief! Just how bad was this infection?

Thankfully I have had little pain and this morning was mulling over the Random Thoughts that came from my visit(s) to the dentist. I was thinking about how the infection had been there for a while and was weakening, even destroying the root of my tooth...the very foundation. It had hardened the tooth to the point that there was no longer any life flow to my tooth. I had no idea since the tooth had a crown - a false front - on it. Man, I just knew I'd get a good blog out of this one.

Then it happened. My blog went from theory to reality. Out of the blue I ran into someone who had wounded me years ago. When that person came into sight, I felt the familiar stab in my gut of dread at having to deal with them. I just wanted them to go away. Yep, you know where this is going....God spoke to me - this person was my hidden infection. Dadgum it God, can't we just leave this in the theory stage?

I tried to ignore the pain and hurt caused by what happened - honestly can't even remember exactly what it was...but I remembered the pain that was associated with this person. I remembered how inferior they'd made me feel, how less of a person. There was a wound there and evidently it had been growing even though I wasn't aware. Seeing them again was like poking my tooth, proving that the problem was still there.

To be honest, I have noticed areas of my life where I'm not as "soft" as I once was. I'm not as open and much less willing to put myself out there. Oh, I put on a good front - sort of like my crown - but it was only masking a heart that was becoming harder and harder despite my best efforts to stay tender before the Lord. The "canal" has been closing since the hurt began.

I'm not supposed to tell these things, am I. Bitterness is an infection that we don't like to talk about. No one wants to reveal the yucky parts of their character, but if I am honest with myself they are there. Even though I have repeatedly worked on this area and tried to forgive, I guess I left a little infection at the root and it is destroying my foundation.

So here I am, admitting that I've got an infection that threatens my Christian walk. Now what? Gee, I wish I knew. I just know that God never reveals the "yucky" parts of our life in order to shame us or to beat us up with our failures. If He reveals it, it's so that He can do a work. We often call God the Master Physician...never thought of Him as the Master Dentist before, but I guess it fits.

To be honest, I'm looking forward to dealing with this about as much as I was looking forward to the root canal....but I know it's something that must be done. I don't want the infection to further harden me, nor do I want it to get into my "blood stream" and destroy me completely. And I will admit it, I DON'T want it to cause me to lose my front tooth...lose "face" as it were. (Funny how I'm more worried about that than something that could destroy my life!)

Perhaps a future blog will tell the tale of how God "healed" my hidden infection....for now I think I need to take another dose of "antibiotic" from His Word. Looks like I'm going to need a HUGE dose of it this time...and maybe some comfort from the Holy Spirit to help me through the process.

Happy healing everyone.

Matthew 5:44-45

But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Jeremiah 17:9-10 (Message) 9-10"The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out. But I, God, search the heart and examine the mind. I get to the heart of the human. I get to the root of things. I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be."


Psalm 139: 23-24 (NIV) Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

I have a big but...

I have a confession to make. I have a big fat but. No, I'm not referring to my rear-end; although it does present problems at times. That part of my anatomy actually follows more in the direction of my father's family - not really large but having a tendency to get wider unless submitted to consistent exercise. Once my son even told me, "Mom, it's not that you have a big butt...it just gets a little wide sometimes." Gee, thanks.

No, I'm referring to my "but" - the thing that keeps me from saying yes to whatever God puts in my path.

Oh, I can pretend that I am submissive to His will, but if I listen to my conversation I find that I really do have a big but and it is getting in the way! I'd love to go on the next mission trip, but......, I'd volunteer to help with that outreach, but......., I'd support this area of ministry, but....., even - "I'd do more with my kids, but.....

See what I mean? I have a problem with a big fat but that keeps butting into my serving God!

The question is, do I really believe that I am bought with a price? Do I really believe that Christ is not only my Savior, but my Lord - my Master? If so, I have got to get to a place where I realize that I am not my own, and if I believe this then when He puts something in my path my only real option is to say yes.

Oh, I completely understand the problems of not having the money or resources; but if He's called me to it then He can make a way - even if I have no idea how He'll do it. As I heard someone say today, God creates the opportunities, it's up to us to step out and accept those opportunities. The question is, am I willing to let God use me? Am I willing to trust Him?

Make no mistake; living life like this will NOT be easy. But God isn't interested in me having a life of ease. He's interested in developing the Kingdom of God in me. He's interested in seeing me become what He created me to be. So what if I have to experience a little discomfort in the process. As I'm discovering in my exercise, sometimes it takes a little sweat and pain to get rid of a big (or wide or flabby) but that tends to get in my way.

How about it? Anyone else out there dealing with a big but? Maybe it's time to deal with it and trust God. I have to wonder what will happen when we all start to say yes and kick our big fat "buts" to the curb.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV) "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies."

Isaiah 43:19 "See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

You are what you eat....

I sit here nursing a headache that plagued me most of the night and despite medicine and an icepack, still woke me well before the sun peeped over the horizon. I had done it again...I had a "bad eating" day yesterday and today I was paying the price.

Now don't get me wrong...I am in no way a health nut that lives on berries and granola. I love a good burger, and cake is a weakness of mine; but lately I've been trying much harder to watch what I eat. I am trying to drop a few of my middle-age-spread pounds and get back to my "fighting" weight as it were. In doing so, I've been a LOT more careful about what I eat...well, most of the time. There are days when I fail, like yesterday, and today I can feel it.

You'd think that by my age I'd remember that what I take into my body makes a difference, but I still fall prey at times to whatever is "easy" or "looks tempting." Yesterday it was a huge bar-b-que sandwich - make that TWO huge bar-b-que sandwiches - and a really big handful of sugary creme-filled cookies. It sounds awful now, but at the time it was easy and sounded good, so I ate them.

A couple of weeks ago I did something similar...I woke up and was feeling kind of lazy so instead of fixing myself something for breakfast, I decided to eat one of those Swiss Rolls that look so yummy and all I had to do was open the package. Immediately after eating it I felt awful - not guilty - just yucky! My body almost yelled at me, "What are you doing to me?!?!?! Couldn't you have at least eaten cereal?!" After a night of rest, instead of reaching for something that would fuel my day, I chose junk. Bad move. It took hours to shake that sluggish feeling and get on with my day.

All this food...make that junk-food...has got me thinking. If what I put in my physical body makes such a difference, doesn't it make sense that what I put into my spiritual body makes a difference as well? My physical body will rise up and yell at me with a headache or that weighed down feeling. My spiritual body sends me signals, too if I'll just pay attention. I start to worry, I feel a lot of self doubt, I get jealous...you get the picture. I just feel yucky.

Don't get me wrong. I see nothing wrong with eating that snack cake occasionally or those cookies. The key is that FIRST I have to have consumed what my body NEEDS to function, then I can have the treats on the side in moderation. My problem comes when I reach first for the easy option and then realize I've stuffed my day's intake with junk. I only have some many calories in a day; I can choose to use them on junk or on something that will fuel my body. (Honestly, no one needs too much sugar in their tank!)

This takes planning. If I don't decide ahead of time what to do, when I am tired I will almost always pick the easiest option. That snack cake will seem too enticing and those cookies will seem an easy source of energy if I don't use my head and realize both are just empty calories and will only serve to pull be down.

Spiritually, I also have to think ahead and make decisions of what I will and will not do. Otherwise, I will be tempted to go with the flow or just fill my hours with sweets (you know what I mean - junk tv, computer time, etc.), and I will find I've filled up on junk with no room left for the nutrition of the Word and time with God. Before long I'll feel yucky and out of sorts and wonder why!

If the old saying "You are what you eat" is true, I need to take a good hard look at what I consume both physically and spiritually. As one commentary I read put it, "Our body can work only with the food it is given." I only get so many calories and hours in my day. How I use them is up to me.

Oh, and by the way, after a healthy breakfast and some water, my headache is gone.

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread." But he answered, "It is written, "'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" (Matthew 4:1-4)

"Give us this day our daily bread" (Matthew 6:11).

For a good article on spiritual food, check out this link: Spiritual food

Monday, July 11, 2011

Which prefix are you?

Perhaps it's because the beginning of school is just around the corner...(I'm sorry for that reminder to all my teacher friends)...or perhaps the Lord is trying to show me something. Either way, I woke up this morning with a word rolling around in my head - complete with thoughts on its meaning and how different it can be simply by the addition of a prefix.
 
The word is "courage."
 
The dictionary definition of courage is this: courage – noun

1. the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.
—Synonyms
1. fearlessness, dauntlessness, intrepidity, pluck, spirit. 
—Antonyms
1. cowardice.

I have heard it said that courage is not the absence of fear, but it is facing that fear and going forward anyway. To me, courage has always meant strength.

But this blog is really more about what happens to the word "courage" when you add a prefix...see, I told you it was related to school.

If you add the prefix "dis" to the word "courage", you get a totally different picture. "Dis" means

1. "lack of, not" (lack of courage) ; 2. "do the opposite of" (opposite of being courageous); 3. "apart, away" (apart from courage).

If you add the prefix "en", you get this: “to cause to be in” ( to be "IN" courage );  "cause to be, make" ( to make courageous ); "put in or on" ( to put on courage ).

There's a lot of words out there that fall into both categories - unfortunately it seems that more fall into the "dis" category than the "en" one.

The Bible talks a lot about courage and encouragement. You can follow this link to see just a few of the verses - (Courage). One of my favorites is Psalm 43:5 - "Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God." While it doesn't use the words "courage" or "encouragement", it definitely is talking about them. You could almost substitute discouraged for disturbed!

In 1 Samuel 30, you find David encouraging himself: "...But David encouraged himself in the Lord" (1 Samuel 30:6 KJV). If you read the entire passage, you find that this was no small task. They had just returned from battle to discover that their city had been burned and their wives and children taken. I'm not sure I would have had the strength to do as David did then.

I have recently been thinking that we all have a mission in life - to encourage those around us. Sometimes we manage to do that...other times we do not. Encouragement isn't just a bunch of "happy sounding" words. To encourage is to speak TRUTH into situations...it is to somehow strengthen those around you....and that is sometimes a little painful.

This summer I've been hitting the gym on a regular basis and I'm learning a thing or two about strength training. There are times when my trainers (Thanks Tamesha, Nan, and as of today - Bentley!) tell me to do something that is downright hard! All the while, they are pushing me (encouraging me) to go a bit farther than I think I can. They smile understandingly when I complain and then tell me to do another set. They don't let me give up. They are helping me get stronger...building me up. I'm thinking I'd like to be like them - only as a spiritual trainer. I want to encourage those around me, and myself, to push beyond our comfort zone. I want to see us all become strong in the Lord and in courage.

My question in all this is a simple one - which prefix am I? Have I become an ENcourager or a DIScourager. Since God encourages us and the devil discourages us, I need to know who am I working for? Do the words of my mouth strengthen those around me or feed their fear? Which prefix will I choose to be? Which will YOU choose to be?

Ephesians 6:10, "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might."


THOUGHTS FOR REFLECTION:
1. Which prefix am I? EN or DIS?
2. Do I seek to strengthen those around me daily? Do I purposely use not just empty words, but TRUTH that builds up?
3. What about the words I say to myself; are they words of faith or failure?
4. Find at least one verse that builds you up and meditate on that today.


More quotes on courage:

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex... It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.

Albert Einstein

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.
Mark Twain

It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.
Mark Twain

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.
Winston Churchill

You cannot build character and courage by taking away a man's initiative and independence.
Abraham Lincoln
How few there are who have courage enough to own their faults, or resolution enough to mend them.
Benjamin Franklin

One man with courage is a majority.
Thomas Jefferson

We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

There are no easy answers' but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right.
Ronald Reagan