Kneeling in God’s Presence

Kneeling in God’s Presence

Today at service we learned some difficult news.  It has been a trying week for our small church family.  Many issues have confronted and troubled several members of the congregation. In addition we also learned that our church is losing the lease on our building.  The building has been sold and the new owner is not going to renew our lease.

During the service, as the pastor detailed the trials being faced by so many, he asked that we all kneel as we prayed for God’s help with so many problems.  The pastor worded the request that those of us capable should kneel.

I have tried many times to kneel as I prayed.  The pain quickly overcomes me.  I remember I had asked the pastor about kneeling and how it disturbed me that I had so much trouble kneeling in prayer.  He told me at that time that he felt God understood and that I should just pray in a manner I was physically capable of.

This morning before I left for church I grabbed my Bible.  Normally I don’t carry it with me on Sunday but today for some reason I grabbed it.  It is covered in a pink quilted cover that really isn’t my style but I wanted to protect the book as best I could and that was what I had so I have used this fabric cover to protect my Bible.

I looked at that Bible as everyone was moving to kneel and I realized I could kneel on the book.  For a moment I questioned if that might be an offense to God.  But then it occurred to me, the book would not touch the ground, only the quilted cover would.  The thought then came to my mind that God asks us all to lean on His word and use His word as our foundation and comfort.

That was what I was doing. I was using His word to help me finally kneel before Him. I felt that God not only allowed this but that He approved of my action.  I was finally able to completely join with the other members of my church family and kneel in God’s presence. I have no intention of doing this on an ongoing basis but for today God heard my unspoken prayer and allowed me to participate.

His word comforted my body as His presence comforted my heart.

I have been homeless before.  I know losing the lease on a building for my church may not be the same thing but it has been a comfort to have a home for all the members of our family to meet and commune. I found in my journey to find my own home that there are often many temporary residences that house us along the way.  In these temporary homes I have found friends and relationships that I now know were part of God’s plan.  I can only assume this too is part of His plan.

Just as God found a way for me to lean on him to kneel in His presence, he will lead us to the home he desires us to share as long as we continue to lean on Him.

A Difficult Day

Today’s service at church made me profoundly sad.  I was rather blindsided by my reaction.  I knew what the topic of the sermon would be prior to attending but I didn’t give it a second thought.  I guess that’s why I’m surprised to feel so sad.  The series is about family, and today spoke about a husband’s responsibility.  All through the service I kept thinking this message doesn’t apply to me anymore, I’m all alone.

I try very hard to remain grateful.  After all I have seen so many changes and blessings in the last few months it is selfish to not be humbled and grateful.  Today just reminded me of what I will never see again I suppose.  It’s more than grieving the loss of my husband, when I lost Gabe I lost my family.  I rarely see my son, and when I do it is usually tense and uncomfortable.

We took pictures after service today.  Family pictures.  I was the only person there without a family.  Out of kindness everyone jumped in as my church family but the truth is it’s not the same.  Not a person there has ever curled up on the couch with me to watch a movie, or come by just to sit and talk for no reason other than wanting to spend time with me.

I miss that so much.  It’s incredibly hard to accept the fact that my life will always be on the peripheries of others. I no longer have a family to center my life around and I find I’m having trouble with that.

Lord I ask you to help me with the strength to accept it.  I’m rarely morose so I suspect there may be a physical cause to this sadness and if that is the case I ask you to please stop whatever is causing this.  And Lord help me to remember the many, many reasons I have for joy and all the blessings I have received.   There are so many and I am so humbled to be the recipient of your grace.

Forgive me Lord I’m whining like a petulant child.  I don’t understand why things are this way but it really doesn’t matter.  I do understand that there will come a time when it will all make sense to me and it is my responsibility to trust you and have faith in you.  So Lord I just ask that you lift this sadness and allow me to return to my normal self and help me to continue with whatever you ask of me.   Your will be done Lord, Amen.

God’s Touch

I haven’t had a chance to write much in a while, which is sad because there is so much to tell.  It has been an astounding couple of weeks.  I will try to explain the highlights and perhaps another time share some of the amazing little miracles I have experienced.

The most important news to share is that I completed my commitment to God by finally being Baptized.  It was wonderful to finally make that last step of public commitment.  I have jokingly told people that the devil put up a fight for me because the next morning I became very, very ill.

I was supposed to be spending my time with some schoolwork and packing to move into my new home.  I have been waiting for many years and lived through incredible difficult times waiting for this move.  It is a realization of 5 years of patience for a decent home and I was excited to have a new beginning finally.

Instead I contracted a pretty bad respiratory infection that turned into pneumonia.  Friends packed and moved for me while I hacked away feverishly shivering in bed.  By Sunday I was slowly mended and had invited friends and family over to see my cluttered new place.  I young girl from church came to help me prepare the meal and we shared a wonderful afternoon of laughter, conversation and terrific food. I was content and at peace for the first time in a very long time.

I was also exhausted.  By 8 o’clock that night everyone was gone and I crawled into bed only to find I was having extreme difficulty breathing.  The illness had returned with a vengeance leaving me wheezing and gasping for breath.  Meg, my caregiver, stopped into check on me and determined I needed to go to the hospital.  She was on her way to work and wouldn’t be able to stay with me so she called my pastor, Darrell, and he took me to the hospital and waited with me while the Drs. poked and prodded.

My oxygen levels were in the low 80’s when I arrived and I sounded like there were tons of people surrounding me shredding newspapers by hand every time I took a breath.  There wasn’t much pain unless I began coughing so overall I have had worse experiences but the dizziness and weakness were a little foreign for me.

This was a new physical failure I had yet to experience for myself and I was beginning a strange learning curve.  With all my other physical limitations I have learned where my limits are.  I didn’t have a clue with this one.  I had no frame of reference to build on and consequently I waited too long to get help and it advanced rapidly.

It was odd for me in many ways, but the most unusual was the lack of pain.  I had always used pain as my barometer and this condition is not painful per say just uncomfortable and I was curious.  I was never really scared.  I idea of death doesn’t scare me but pain does and this was not painful so in a way I was fascinated.  I determined if and how much help I required based on my level of pain.  So, what do I do when pain is not a part of the equation I wondered?

This ignorance about my physical condition created an experience for me I wanted to share with you.

I’ve seen this condition in others.  I recognized the symptoms.  There came a point that I knew something was happening to my body I just didn’t know what it was. I remember telling Darrell something was wrong and then things started going odd from that point.  I could hear the voices.  Darrell was speaking to me and the nurses were calling my name but I was unable to respond.  I could feel my body jerking in an effort to move but I was not able make anything function.

I couldn’t see a thing and that frightened me.  I was completely incapable of opening my eyes or speaking or even moving in more than twitching movements. I became angry and started yelling at myself “Open your eyes, you’re fine.”

I kept wondering if it was real because I felt fine.  I wasn’t in pain so it couldn’t be anything serious I must have just been overly dramatic.  I was so mad at myself and began fighting.  I can’t say who or what I was fighting with, myself I assumed but anger was overcoming me. There was nothing wrong with me so I needed to stop being a wimp and open my eyes and speak to the people in the room but for some reason was totally incapable of doing anything so simple.

I was aware that Darrell had risen from his chair and had come to my side.  I knew he was speaking but I did not hear his words, however I was conscious of them.  I kept hearing the nurse call my name and asking me something but the only word I recognized was my name. Then I felt Darrell place his hand on my shoulder.

I had an immediate reaction to Darrell’s touch.  It was like watching a movie when suddenly the camera zooms in to focus on something small and minute like a flower in the middle of a battlefield running amok with mass chaos.  Nothing mattered but that touch.  Every bit of focus I had was on that touch.  All of the anger and frustration quickly began to dissipate.  The confusion lifted and some clarity returned. In that touch, all the negative was overwhelmed by a sense of warmth and comfort.

I was in awe of how gentle that touch was.  It generated a warmth, not heat, but warmth.  A comforting warmth, like the welcoming sensation of climbing into a warm bed on a cold night.  It encompassed me and drew every iota of my attention away from the skirmish of my emotions.  I basked in that sensation.  Once Darrell removed his hand my eyes once again obeyed me and slowly opened.  I was able to make my body respond again to my mental requests. Physically I had returned from a place I had never been before. I never even knew it existed.

I don’t know what this experience was.  Darrell said he thought I had passed out.  I may have.  I have no frame of reference.  I don’t believe I have ever passed out before so it very well may have been the case.  But what was odd was that I was aware during the entire episode just incapable of response.

The next day Darrell came to visit me at the hospital.  I told him about this experience.  He told me he remembered what had happened and that it was his touch I had felt.  As he prayed for me he laid his hand on my shoulder. I had felt the touch of the nurses but they didn’t really register.  In Darrell’s touch it was an immediate and totally encompassing awareness of warmth and gentleness. Nothing else mattered.  It was God’s touch I felt through Darrell hand.  I have no doubt.

I think I finally understand the phrase lying on of hands.  There is a power in the human touch that when combined with the peace of God’s presence creates awe in everyone that is a party to that alliance.  I remember complaining to God in a moment of despair this last week when I felt so ill and alone.  I told him that I now knew He was always there but there were times when I wished he could send a human counterpart.  I have discovered that we, (people) are at our most divine when we are in tune with God’s will.  I never doubted that God was beside me.  But the sensation of that touch was a physical manifestation that confirmed He was in the room.

There were selfish times since that moment when I hoped that my illness would take me.  I have felt the comfort of His presence and long to return.  It appears that is not his will, so I will patiently wait until it is my turn.  Until that time I guess I must find why he wants me here and what he wants me to do. But I believe the first thing He wants me to do is share how God touched me.  Unfortunately I am inadequate and know of no words that can explain that feeling of warmth and serenity other than to say, it is worth everything.

A Lesson Learned

One thing about becoming a Christian is recognizing and confessing our own failings.  Admitting, confessing and asking forgiveness is not an easy thing to do for most of us and I am no different.  I find myself in the position that is embarrassing and I am not quite sure how to react.  I try to share the positive aspects of being a Christian on this platform but I also need to share the responsibilities. 

God asks very little of us considering what He have given us in exchange.  The First commandant states “Thou shalt have no other God before Me”.  I am not sure that I have broken this commandment but I feel compelled to question myself and ask forgiveness for I fear that I have. 

Our Church is beginning a food pantry project and we are in the very beginning stages.  I shared a wonderful meal with my pastor and his family last night and we discussed this project.  One thing we discussed was our mutual desire for a certain young man to take the leadership role for this project.  We both felt he is ready and excited about this mission. 

After I returned home last night this young man called me.  We spoke at length about the project and I spoke some words that this morning I deeply regret.  I mentioned to him that developing and operating a project like this is an accomplishment that would “look good on a resume”.  To some this may seem like a trivial comment, the truth however is that I fear it is a grave error many of us make.

This project was conceived and desired as an opportunity to serve God’s will.  When any of us bring worldly thoughts of accomplishment and pride it lessens its value to God. We do not enter God’s kingdom with our works but with our faith.  I cheapen this young man’s value when I invite him to entertain the thought of pride.  Not pride in his work because we should all be allowed to feel good about what we do, but pride can be a dangerous thing.

There is a very tricky trap that surrounds pride.  One of the best things about being a Christian is the ability to change and become something that God is proud of.  Sometimes however in that process we begin to forget about pleasing God and begin to look towards the world to acknowledge our accomplishments rather than God.  This is the trap I am afraid I have fallen into and have encouraged in another.

I have asked for God to forgive me and I will speak to the young man tonight and ask his forgiveness as well.  But I decided to post about this on here because I need to remind myself that it was God’s grace that saved me.  Nothing I had done was worthy of his love, yet He saved me anyway. 

It is my greatest desire to live this new found life that God his graciously given to me in a manner that God finds pleasing, and if that includes publicly admitting my accomplishments, it also means publicly admitting my failings.  I have invited you to join me on my walk of faith and that should also include my stumbles.  I know God will forgive me and that is why I am willing to share my experiences both good and bad with you.  Perhaps some might learn from my errors. 

Thank You Lord for the chance to learn this lesson.  Amen

Idle Moments

My power went off this morning leaving me quite a while to do nothing but sit here thinking.  I rather enjoyed the time spent waiting for the repairs to be made.  Peace is hard to come by sometimes and when life steps in and forces it on you it can be a rather pleasant surprise.

So in my solitude, spent under the blankets trying to keep warm, I began to reflect on how my life has changed since Dec 15th when I asked God into my heart.  The first and most obvious change was the realization that I had not once considered suicide.

That may sound like a desperate thought but the reality of living with a painful physical condition is that I often (pretty much daily) found myself wondering if or when the pain would become too great, how I would end my own life.  I used to keep a constant vigilance on my pain medication just in case I wanted to use it as a final release.

I admit I’m a bit of a miser when it comes to my pain meds.  The fear of addiction scares me more than the pain, so I tend to push the limit of my pain tolerance before I succumb to the haze of Percocet.  I can make a 30 day supply last for 6 months if I need to.  I would horde my medications and refill them anytime I felt I was running too low should I decide to succumb to the desire to take them all at once.  I never let my bottle fall below half full if I could manage it.

When I was first diagnosed my Dr. told me that a very large percentage of patients with my condition die from either drug overdoses of pain meds or suicide, and counseled me about methods of pain management other than medicinal.  I must admit I am grateful to have found a physician that cared so much.  I bless the day I met her.

As my condition continues to slowly advance I am using more medication but I am way below average considering the severity of the damage.  I have found ways to adapt to accommodate my limitations.  But, I am the first to admit depression was a constant battle prior to Dec 15th.  Even with anti-depressants the reality of my future seemed so dire that suicide was a daily consideration.

This morning while I was forced into idleness it dawned on me that I had not counted my pain medications even once since Dec 15th.  Nor had the thought of suicide even remotely crossed my mind.  I no longer take the antidepressants either.

I came to realize that my depression was not so much the fear of the pain, but the isolation I felt due to my limitations.  Don’t get me wrong, I have a healthy respect for the pain, but the fear of being alone and in pain was more than I could handle.  Now I know I will never be alone in the pain.

When the pain comes I find myself talking with God and soon, (more times than I can count) the pain simply fades.  In addition, I have found a family in my church that fills me with more joy than I have felt in a very long time.  I never have feared death.  But I have feared pain.  Now I know that I needn’t fear either.

I am curious how long this latest prescription will last.  So far my 30 day supply is on day 86 and I have barely touched any medications for pain.  I think I prefer God’s method of pain management to pharmaceuticals.  Following God’s path I can live my life rather than sleep through it in a haze.  Thank you Father.

 

 

Pain

Have you ever noticed that when you are really, really hungry food tastes so much better?  I don’t mean the kind of hunger you feel when you’ve skipped lunch, I mean the hunger you might feel after missing the ability to eat for quite a while. Or perhaps only having something like ramen noodles for days then suddenly being given a home cooked meal.  It just tastes phenomenal!

Pain is like that.  When living with pain on a daily basis  it can become relentless at times.  I’m used to pain.  I have a medical condition that means pain is never far from my mind.  There is a magnificent upside to pain like this though.  I am rarely complacent. Any day without pain is a gift that is cherished beyond measure.

Tonight I had an episode that was very painful and unfortunately was witnessed by several people unaware of how severe my pain can get.  Try to imagine a charley horse in your back.  It will cause the muscles in your back to clench in a knot so tight that it restricts the nerves to both legs leaving you unable to walk.  The restriction of the nerves gives you the sensation of an electrical shock that continues constantly until the muscle finally relaxes and allows the synapsis to fire normally once more, leaving you weak and shaking.  That is a common occurrence for me.

I am very aware of when I am at risk for one of these attacks and typically avoid going out in public.  Tonight it couldn’t be avoided however.  To be honest, I would not have given up going out this evening.  I made a choice to risk an attack or enjoy my life.  I chose to spend time with friends and do not regret that choice one bit!  The pain will pass.  It always does.  But, for the short time when the pain is absent it is like enjoying the feast after a long and tiresome fast.  Everything tastes phenomenal!

Tonight I did endure a painful few hours, but more importantly I shared a few hours with stimulating and interesting conversation with a couple of people that are very special to me.   A very welcome trade in my book.  I have a great advantage because of my physical condition.  It allows me the ability to cherish times that others take for granted.  I think it is God’s way of giving me great joy.  Without the pain I doubt I would appreciate the good things in my life as much as I do.  It may sound strange I guess but I am grateful for the pain.

Thank you Lord for reminding me how precious life truly is!

Cleanse Yourself and go before God

Jan 19, 2014

Cleanse yourself and go before God.

Something unusual happened to me this morning.  I began my morning reading of the Bible.  For the first time I found myself tremendously excited to be reading this material rather than reading merely to gain information or understanding.  While waiting for my ride to arrive that would carry me to Church services I found I was keeping a very observant eye on the time.  I was not watching to ensure I was ready when they arrived, but that I was frantically trying to absorb as much as I could before the knock came at my door.  I did not want to stop.  For the first time I was entranced.  I was reading for pleasure, not instruction.

I had read about Joseph in Genesis 41 where he was called before Pharaoh.   The phrase “Cleanse yourself and go before Pharaoh” stuck in my mind.  Mentally I found I kept changing the phrase to “Cleanse yourself and go before God”.  I know that was not the correct wording, but I could not get that out of my mind.  This may seem odd to you but it had special meaning for me.  Nothing for me is simple.  Bathing for instance tends to require someone assisting me due to my handicap and various difficulties.  Usually I wait until Meghan, my caregiver, is here because of the trouble I have bathing myself and the pain that goes along with that much physical activity.

Well, that phrase stuck in my mind.  I’m not sure where it came from but I kept hearing it.  So, I did just that.  I cleansed myself and went before God.   I managed to bathe myself and dress for Church without assistance.  Surprisingly there was very little pain.   After I bathed I began reading once more while sitting on the bed waiting for Missy to arrive.  I was loathing the thought of relinquishing the book.  Everything was so clear and interesting.  I was fascinated with the incite I was receiving and didn’t want to stop.   I felt Joy.  I felt excitement.  I felt anticipation.

This may sound weird.  It does to me.  But, I finally understood what it meant  to feel joy in the presence of God.  I tried to compare it to welcoming a very special visitor.  The effort we would expend to ensure our house was clean and our finest was set before our guest because of the honor we felt to be chosen as someone they would visit.  If the Queen was coming for a visit to your home, what would you do to prepare?  Yet, this is God.  He may know our weakness and yes, forgive that weakness, but the honor of his presence far, far out-weighs a visit from royalty.

All day today I found I was strong.  I was able to accomplish many things I have not been able to do on my own for quite a while.  I cleaned my home, albeit not well enough, but much, much more than I have been able to do in a very long while.  I prepared a meal, something I rarely am capable of doing, and even made my own bed.  The last chore was one of extreme faith for me.  Last week I had attempted that feat and injured myself severely.  I spent days taking heavy doses of pain medication to recover.  The act of even attempting to change my sheets and make my bed was frightening, yet I succeeded and without pain or injury.

I kept hearing this voice in my mind saying cleanse yourself and go before God.  So I kept doing more things that normally I have great difficulty doing. All day I have been smiling, busy and content.  Now as the day is winding down I find I am at peace.  I will soon go before God in my prayers tonight feeling I have heard and responded to His word.