Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Miracle

There is a song by the Christian group Casting Crowns, called “Praise You in This Storm” and this is the first stanza:
I was sure by now
God You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
Stepped in and saved the day
But once again, I say "Amen", and it's still raining

And the part about wiping our tears away really hit me this morning. I used to view my illness as a “storm” that I had to get through, but the “storm” has now lasted 12 years, so I had to come to terms that my life is now just very different than what it used to be, or what I hoped it would be. But what got me thinking was that even though God hasn’t healed me, he has wiped away my tears! And that’s quite the miracle: that I could go from a life of sports, travel, and activity, to a life in a rocking chair and that I can still say that life is good, and that God is good!

There are many songs and sayings that speak about God’s transforming power:
  • He makes beauty from ashes
  • Joy comes in the morning
  • He turns mourning into dancing

I used to think that for those to be true God would have to heal me. Only then would He make beauty from the ashes of my illness; only then would I have joy; only then would I dance. But I have come to realize that the true transformative power is when we are still in the midst of pain and suffering, yet we have beauty, joy, and dancing.

Think about it. Which is the greater miracle: God healing me so that I go on with the life I had with a single “God did this for me” testimony, or God meeting me here and now – in the middle of my struggle – giving me strength and courage, and a testimony of God’s daily intervention in my life?

Now, to be quite honest, I would have preferred the healing!! J Nevertheless, I do think that He is working a miracle in my life: He has wiped away my tears, and in their place he has given me joy and a victorious spirit, even as I walk this very hard road that I would rather not be on. By not healing me, He is instead using me to show people the truth of His love and care for us. It sounds crazy, I know! But I do really know how much He loves me and cares for me, because I have to depend on Him every minute of every day. He has not ever abandoned me, even when I couldn’t feel Him. He has been with me every step of the way, holding my hand and guiding me – and some days He has flat-out carried me!

This is the miracle: that I can sit here in my rocking chair, too weak to do much of anything, with my former life gone, and all I loved to do taken away by this disease, and I can still say “It is well with my soul!” He has, indeed, wiped away my tears, given me beauty, given me joy, and set my feet to dancing (metaphorically, at least) – and yet I am not healed. It’s a miracle!

Monday, October 12, 2015

On Anti-Islamic Protests

I have been reading about a movement in the U.S., of armed “Christians” demonstrating outside of local mosques, shouting anti-Islamic slogans, and telling the people there to leave the U.S. – people who are U.S. citizens, and have a right guaranteed in the Constitution to practice their religion. There are so many things wrong with this whole situation that it’s hard to know where to start! But I’ll try.

First off, let’s talk about the whole “Christians with guns threatening people” thing. What are the two commandments that Jesus said Christians must follow, to uphold all the law of the Bible? (1) Love God with all your mind, heart and soul; (2) Love your neighbor as yourself. It’s #2 that is key here: as Christians, we are called to love everyone as much as we love ourselves. (A corollary, the Golden Rule, is also key.) And, in case anyone is confused about who their neighbor is, Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan, which emphasizes that everyone is our neighbor. So, these Muslims, who literally live in our neighborhoods, are most definitely our neighbors, and we should be loving them, not threatening them with guns.

Closely related is the very important teaching of Jesus that we are to love our enemies. We are supposed to pray for our enemies, not threaten them or take up arms against them! Even if you have been so brainwashed by Fox “News” that you think all Muslims are your enemy, as a Christian your required response should be to love them and pray for them, not take up guns and threaten them. For a Christian to pick up a gun and confront those he considers his enemy violates one of the primary teachings of Christianity.

Now let’s address another of Christ’s commandments: He tells us we are to “make disciples of all nations.” Tell me, how does threatening someone with a gun and yelling hateful slogans at them lead them to Christ? (I’ll just leave that thought here…)

Furthermore, those who are attending these protests are actually doing exactly what Al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban want them to do! Extremists who use terror in the name of Islam preach to their flocks that America hates Islam and is at war with Muslims. Imagine their joy when they see pictures of Americans doing just that! It is fuel to their fire of hatred. These anti-Islamic protesters are unwitting dupes of “Radical” Islam. If you really want to quench the fires of hatred, then pour out love on Muslims. Don’t give the Taliban/Al Qaeda/ISIS any “proof” that America hates Islam!

And let’s get this one thing clear: the vast majority of Muslims do not hate Christians or America, and are not “at war” with Christianity! The so-called “Muslim” extremists of Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and ISIS do not define Islam any more than the KKK or white supremacists/Nazis define Christianity! To attack all Muslims as anti-American is ignorant and hateful.

So, let me summarize:

  1. American Muslims have a Constitutionally guaranteed right to practice their religion here.
  2. Christ teaches us to love our neighbor as ourselves, not take up arms and threaten them.
  3. Christ teaches us to love our enemies and pray for them, not take up arms and threaten them.
  4. Christ teaches us to make disciples of all nations, not take up arms and threaten them.
  5. Terrorists who use Islam preach to their followers that America hates Islam and Muslims. People who stand outside of mosques with guns, shouting anti-Islam slogans, are doing just what the Taliban/ISIS/Al Qaeda want!
  6. Terrorist Muslims do not define Islam any more than the KKK/Nazis define Christianity. Most Muslims do not hate Christianity or America. Don’t give them any excuse to change that!

Basically, it comes down to two things: Christ’s teachings are diametrically opposed to the actions of those who take part in these protests; and those who do so are doing exactly what Islamic terrorists want them to do. So, these protesters are NOT Christian, and are actually supporting Islamic terrorists.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Jesus, Bring the Rain?

There is a very popular Christian song called “Bring the Rain” by the group Mercy Me. This is the chorus:

Bring me joy, bring me peace
Bring the chance to be free
Bring me anything that brings You glory
And I know there'll be days
When this life brings me pain
But if that's what it takes to praise You
Jesus, bring the rain

Those last two lines: no. Just no.

First off, God doesn’t “send” bad things into our lives, for any reason. Bad things happen to us because we live in a fallen world, full of fallen people. But God doesn’t send those things to us. They just happen. Asking God to “bring the rain” is heretical, at best, and self-destructive, at worst.

But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that bad times are God-sent, and so it’s something we can ask for. As someone whose life has had more than its share of “rain” I can say without question: DO NOT PRAY FOR HARD TIMES! Even if “that’s what it takes to praise” God! It sounds so spiritual for someone to say, “I’m so glad I experienced that (cancer, loss of a job, etc) because I’ve learned so much about God and His love!” But, ask the parent who lost a child if they’re glad their child is dead because they’ve gained so much insight into God’s love through coping with it. Ask the husband who lost his wife and the mother of his children to cancer if he is glad his wife is dead, because through her death he learned more about God’s love. The answer would be a resounding “NO!”

It’s certainly true that through hard times we can learn more about ourselves and about God, but you’d be a fool to ask for these difficulties. Certainly, because of learning to cope with my illness, my relationship with God is deeper than it was before I was ill. But, without a doubt, I would still rather be healthy and living my old life than living this one. The life I have now is HARD!!! This life is a battle. Every. Single. Day. I struggle just to get out of bed. I struggle to make it through the day, without wearing myself out. I struggle to keep depression and despair at bay. Do you really want that?  Really?? Maybe I’m not spiritual enough, but I’m NOT glad I’m suffering this undiagnosed illness that has robbed me of my job, my hobbies, my volunteer work, my very health! Yes, I am glad that I have learned wonderful things through this struggle, and I’m eternally grateful to a God who has been able to bring some good out of it, but I am not glad I’m ill and disabled. I’m not glad that this is how my life has ended up. I am not thankful for this illness. I am only thankful for a loving God who has been with me every step of the way, and who daily gives me strength.

Asking for “the rain” to fall in your life is silly and pseudo-spiritual. If you really knew what it was like to face life-altering struggles, you would NEVER ask for them! For me, knowing more of God is not a fair trade-off for my health and all that its loss entails.  Maybe that makes me a poor Christian or not spiritual enough, but I’m just being honest. I would trade my newfound spiritual growth for my old life – in a heartbeat. In my old life, I knew God and His love for me. I walked with God, I served God. Maybe the depth of my knowledge wasn’t as great as it is now, but I certainly lived a spiritual life, even as a healthy person. So why would I want an illness that has taken away so much of my life, just so that I could feel God’s love a bit more? Sorry, but to me it’s just not a fair trade-off.

So, just stop “praying for rain” – it’s just not good theology, and it’s a false spiritual attitude. God doesn’t send you hard times, and those hard times you do end up going through could rob you of your husband/wife, your child, your health. Do you really want to lose those things in your life? No sane person would. And no loving God would send such things into our lives.