Friday, October 6, 2017

Stories

Everyone has a story, but in the hustle and bustle of life, we tend to forget that. The woman who just cut you off in traffic? She's a single mom, working two jobs, and she's afraid her oldest boy is experimenting with drugs. She's at the end of her rope, desperate for help, but feels all alone. That checker in the grocery store who didn't greet you with a smile? He's desperately trying to save enough money to go to college, but the boss keeps cutting back his hours. He feels trapped. That little old lady walking sooo slowly across the intersection, making you wait an extra 5 seconds before driving on? Her husband recently died, and she's afraid she can't live by herself any longer, but she still devotes her free time to knitting gloves and hats for the homeless.

If we could see each person's story, then maybe we would realize that we are all connected, and we all share one core story: we are each just trying to do our best in a sometimes cruel and harsh world. So, the next time someone tries your patience, take a step back, look at them as a real person, and realize that they are just like you. Then smile and wish them well. You'll feel better for it, and so will they. And that's no small achievement in this world!

This post is part of the weekly Five Minute Friday link-up.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Depend

When you are chronically ill, you learn a lot about dependence. Because you can no longer depend on your own body or strength. Before I became ill, I was quite self-sufficient. I was physically strong, and could easily handle tasks that others might have found difficult, such as stacking wood or moving furniture. Now that I am ill, simply getting dressed is tiring!

So, since I can no longer depend on myself, whom do I depend on? Well, pretty much everyone else! First of all, I depend on my husband. He does all the household chores, inside and out. He buys groceries. He picks up my - numerous - prescriptions. He walks the dog. He brings in firewood for me. He pretty much does it all - and, bless him, he never complains! (Yes, I'm married to the perfect man - sorry, ladies!)

I also depend on my friends. Since driving is physically taxing, I depend on friends to take me to all of my medical appointments: physical therapy, massage, mental health counseling, etc. It makes a huge difference when I can get a ride, as it saves me so much energy! I also depend on my friends to pray for me. Their support and encouragement is something I cherish. I really do have great friends!

Of course, mostly, I depend on God. It is God's strength that keeps me going, day after day after day. Being chronically ill is hard, both physically and mentally. But I have learned that God is with me, even on the bad days - especially on the bad days! God carries me through. God holds me. God catches my tears when I cry. God gives me the strength to carry on.

My chronic illness has taught me many things, but one of the most important things is that I know whom I can depend on!


This post is part of the weekly Five Minute Friday link-up!

Tips for Traveling for a Medical Appointment

When you are chronically ill, traveling can be difficult. But you often need to travel to see specialists. This is an article I wrote for The Mighty, an advocacy site for people with disabilities. I hope it is helpful.

Tips for Traveling for a Medical Appointment

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Dear White Christian Evangelical

Dear White Christian Evangelical - let’s talk about something that I know is near and dear to your heart: the pro life movement. I know that many of you feel very strongly about this issue, and I imagine that many of you have even marched in protests for this very issue. So, let’s do a little thought experiment, shall we? Let’s imagine that your church has banded together with many other churches in your city to march in a protest on Pro Life Sunday. 

You get permits from the city to block streets and for permission to march through the streets, as is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution. So, bright and early that Sunday morning, you gather with hundreds of your fellow believers. There are choirs providing music, people carrying pro life signs, and a general feeling of pride that you are standing up for something you believe in. The time comes for the march to begin, and you start walking through the streets, which are typically full of cars this time of day. But the police have blocked off the intersections, and are standing guard to make sure no one interferes with your right to protest. You feel good about that, too, and even smile and thank the police, even though you know some of them might not be pro life. But you don’t worry about that, you just keep marching. 

Then, let’s suppose you turn a corner and see an angry crowd of counter-protesters. One of them walks up to you and says, “Why don’t you like cars? What do you have against people who drive on the streets???” 

You’re a little confused by this, but you reply, “We are marching agains abortion, not cars or drivers.”

The man replies, “No, you’re obviously protesting cars and drivers! Look, you’ve blocked off the streets, preventing people from legally driving there. I pay taxes to support the roads and to allow people to drive! You hate cars and drivers!”

You think to yourself that this man is kind of a loony, but you want to be clear, so you try again: “No, I’m not against cars and drivers! I have a car and I drive. This protest is about abortion!”

The man comes right back at you with “Abortion has nothing to do with blocking the streets and preventing drivers from legally driving on them! You hate cars and drivers! Your protest is against cars and drivers!!”

Now you’re really getting mad. You know why you’re protesting! Everyone in the march knows why they are protesting! It’s about abortion! So you try telling him this one more time, but he still doesn’t listen. “You’re protesting cars and drivers!” he retorts, vehemently.

Realizing you can’t make him understand, you move along, and you all finish your march. But the next day, the news is full of stories about all these people who are protesting cars and drivers. They interview people on the streets, who are all angry that you want to deny them the right to drive on public streets. The story gains national attention, and suddenly the president chimes in, calling you all “Anti-American SOB’s!! Streets are made for cars!!” 

You think, “But, but, we aren’t protesting cars and drivers! It’s about abortion! Can’t they see that? Aren’t they listening?? We know what we are protesting, and it’s not cars and drivers!!”


Ok, end of the thought experiment. Do you get my point, yet? Just in case it is beyond you, let me be perfectly clear - this is exactly the situation with the NFL protests. These players are not against the military or the flag. They have stated that over and over. Many, many veterans and current military have spoken out in support of these protesters’ right to fee speech. And the players have also been perfectly clear as to what the protests are about: police brutality against people of color. Maybe you should believe them, instead of trying to put your words in their mouths. #TakeAKnee #BlackLivesMatter

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

I Don't Hate Donald Trump

I Don’t Hate Donald Trump

Ever since he announced his candidacy, Donald Trump has been in the news. His horrid statements about grabbing women’s genitals, disparaging remarks about Mexicans, and encouraging his supporters to beat up protesters were all over the news. His actions as president - stripping away environmental protections, deporting mothers and fathers who immigrated illegally but who have been model citizens ever since, removing all statements about climate change from government sites, banning Muslims from certain countries from entering the US, ending the DACA program, etc - are deplorable. His statements about Charlottesville, where he said that there are “very fine” people among the rioting Nazis and KKK members who were marching and beating people up, are beneath contempt. Everything he has said or done in the past 18 months makes me want to punch him in the face.

But…I’m a Christian. One who takes seriously the words of Jesus to “love your neighbor as yourself” and to “love your enemy.” If I truly believe in God, a God of ultimate love, a God who created everyone and loves everyone, then how can I hate Donald Trump? Now, honestly, I do feel hatred toward him. But, because of my beliefs, I don’t want to. I am called to love everyone, without exception. And that includes Donald Trump - and the Nazis and the KKK. How do I not hate someone who is so contemptible?? How can I not hate someone who is doing irreparable harm to the environment and to people?!?

In order to try to not hate him, I’ve had to pray about it. In my prayers, I realized that God loves Donald Trump - just as much as God loves me! Trump is a child of God, no less than I. God is helping me to see Trump as God sees him - as a profoundly broken and hurting human being. If I step back from viewing Trump in his public persona, and look at him as a person, all I can do is pity him. He must be so very unhappy, deep down inside. He must be so very insecure. He is so desperate for attention that it is truly pathetic. He has all this money; he’s had all these beautiful wives (and he has cheated on at least his previous two); he has all these people who tell him every day how smart and great he is (yes, he literally has staff members who collect positive news stories about him and present him with a folder each morning); he’s the freaking president of the United States! He seemingly has everything going for him. Yet it’s clear to anyone who looks at him that he is really nothing more than a scared, insecure, playground bully. It really is -  to quote Donald Trump himself - “Sad!”

Now, I’m not excusing his awful behavior. I’m not denying that his words and actions haven’t hurt people and the environment. I’m just saying that Donald Trump is a broken and hurting human being, and shouldn’t I - as a follower of Christ - feel sorry for him? Shouldn’t I have pity on him? Shouldn’t I love him? And, gradually, God has helped me to not hate Trump. I hate his words, I hate his actions, but I do not hate the person. (At least, when I step back from my knee-jerk reaction to him!) 

Part of what has helped me reach this point of not hating Donald Trump, is the idea that a mature Christian doesn’t see “us vs. them” - a mature Christian realizes that we are all connected, and that if I see “evil” in someone else, I should see my own evil as well. (Jesus taught this when he said that we should remove the plank in our own eye before we judge someone for the speck in theirs.) I know that I am a flawed human being - I am selfish, I am often slothful, I have been known to deeply hurt others with my words. My flaws may be different from Trump’s, but I still have them. If I can see the flaws in myself, and still love myself and still give myself grace, I should be able to do that for another human being, especially since that is was Jesus commanded us to do.

Again, let me reiterate: I am NOT excusing Trump’s words or deeds! I am NOT saying that we should not criticize him in his role as president. As a Christian I am compelled to oppose most of his policies for the harm they do to people and the environment. I will still #resist with all my heart and soul! But I no longer hate Donald Trump, the person. He is a sad, pathetic, little man, who is massively insecure. He is truly pitiful! And God sees this lost little child, and God loves him! And, dear reader, I’m trying to do the same.* 




*In all honesty, I still want to punch him most of the time! But I’m gradually moving beyond that, and with God’s help, I will learn to not just “not hate” Trump, but even learn to love him as God does. I the meantime: #RESIST!!!!!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

When the Healing Never Comes

Imagine that you’ve spent your whole life as an athlete, competing in school, in college, and into adulthood. Imagine that for you, sports are an expression of praise and worship, in thanks to the Creator who gave you such a strong, athletic body. Now imagine that at age 45 you are struck down by a mystery illness that leaves you unable to work out - at all. You can’t even take a walk. And eventually, you can’t work anymore, and you have to give up a career that you loved, along with all of your volunteer activities. You can’t even go to church anymore. In fact, you can’t get out of the house except for medical appointments. Imagine how that must shake you to your very core. Welcome to my life.

When I first became ill, I had no inkling that I’d never get better. But as the weeks stretched into months, I started desperately praying to God for healing. Friends prayed for me. Family members prayed for me. People at my church prayed for me. And I was not healed. In fact, doctors didn’t even know what was wrong with me. I needed a miracle, and I didn’t get one. As the months turned into years, and the healing prayers remained unanswered, I had some deep soul searching to do. How could God allow my sports - something that I used for God’s glory - to be taken away from me? Why wouldn’t God heal me, when God is the Great Healer? Who am I if I’m not the physically strong and able person I always was? What was God doing in my life??

After much seeking of God, and many sessions with a Christian psychologist, it finally came down to what I believed about God: did I believe God loved me and that God wanted the best for me? Did I trust God? I had always thought I trusted God, but this - this was life shattering. Could I trust God in this?  I slowly began to realize that yes, I could - I could believe God loved me and I could trust God for my life. So I said, “I trust you, Lord,” and suddenly I felt a weight lift off from my chest, a weight I didn’t even know I was carrying. I felt free - free from having to have the answers, free from having to pray for my healing. If I trusted God, then either the healing would come or it wouldn’t, and either way, I knew that God was with me. I drew on the inspiration from the story in Daniel about the three Israelites who were going to be thrown into the fiery furnace if they didn’t bow down to foreign gods. My paraphrase of their expression of faith was this: “I know that God is well able to heal me, but even if He doesn’t, I will serve the Lord.”

I came to the conclusion that whatever God wanted out of my life, whatever purpose there was, my being healthy was not critical to that purpose. Apparently, God’s plan for using me for the Kingdom didn’t rely on my health or my physical strength. And I discovered that being disabled has some advantages - for one, I have the luxury of time. I have the time to spend in the mornings praying and meditating. I also discovered that God wanted me to write. And while I can’t write for very long periods of time because of my illness, I can write something each day. So I started this blog where I share my insights about what I learned in this difficult journey. And it turns out people are encouraged by what I write. And through the wonders of technology, I am able to encourage people via Facebook. Many times I’ve shared thoughts or quotes and people reply that what I shared was just what they needed to hear that day. So, even though I’m stuck in a rocking chair at home, God can, and does, still use me! 


I could remain angry, bitter, and confused as to why God doesn’t heal me. I could live daily with questions and spiritual unrest. But I choose to trust that God is who He says He is - that He is love and He is trustworthy. I choose to live in faith, trusting God to care for me and to help me each and every day. While I still would love to have a healing miracle, God has given me a different miracle: God has given me peace. And that is truly a gift!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Speak Up, Speak Out, Speak Life

Proverbs 18:21 - the tongue has the power of life and death
Proverbs 31:9 - speak  up and judge fairly, defend the rights of the oppressed
Isaiah 1:17 - learn to do good, seek justice, help the oppressed, defend the cause of orphans fight for the rights of widows

I have been contemplating the importance of speech, lately. Given the political and social climate in the U.S. since even before the election, where hate speech has become rampant, and our own president insults and degrades others, I’ve thought a lot about the power of speech, both good and bad, and what my own speech might look like as a result. 

We all know that words can hurt. And we all know that when the speech of our leaders is degrading, insulting, and even hateful, then those people who have long harbored hateful feeling feel emboldened to speak up, themselves. It is no wonder that every day we see some video posted on social media of some white person shouting to a racial or religious minority to “go back to where you came from!” It’s no wonder that we literally have Nazis marching in our streets, spewing hatred and bile.

So, to fight this, I’ve been speaking up and speaking out. I call out racist or bigoted posts or comments on Facebook. I speak the truth about God’s love for every single person on the planet. (See Proverbs 31:9 and Isiah 1:17) Even further, I am endeavoring to spread love and peace through my daily interactions with strangers - I compliment the checker at the grocery store on her earrings; I tell someone I like their hat or their tattoo. I just try to be nice to people, as a counterbalance to all the anger and hate that is in social discourse right now. It may not seem like much, but if I do believe that the tongue truly has the power of life or death, as it says in Proverbs 18:21.

So speak. Speak up. Speak out. Speak life.


(This post is part of Five Minute Friday.)