Monday, January 30, 2006

Some thought-provoking quotes...

On why God allows pain and suffering...
“Theologians have battled this discussion for centuries and have yet to come up with compelling reasons for pain that fully satisfy those who are hurting. But for me, it has been reduced to one simple explanation: healing is temporal but grace is eternal. Given a choice, I will take grace every time.” (Mariane Holbrook)

On integrity...
"Surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of man he is." (C.S. Lewis)

On the cross...
"The cross cuts deeply into our lives, but it can be known only as far as the knowledge of our sin goes. If we don't make our sin known to ourselves and others, our experience of the cross will be a shallow, sentimentalized version of the real thing." (John Fischer)

On Forgiveness...
"The only thing harder than forgiveness is its alternative." (Philip Yancey)

Monday, January 23, 2006

A Unique Gifting

This weekend I had to miss church, so once again I spent time listening to Rob Bell from the Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids.

During the message, titled The Flames of Heaven Rob said:

"You have by God been gifted in some unique way and you have a divine responsibility to do something with that for the common good. In essence, the rest of us suffer when you aren't true to how God made you."

I love that quote especially because I think too often we believe that unless we serve God in a certain way, we aren't fulfilling our mission. But in reality everyone's way of serving God is as unique as our personality is.

So my way of serving God may look differently than your way of serving Him, but in the end we're all fulfilling our purpose in the body of Christ.

The danger though, as Rob pointed out, comes when we aren't true to how God made us and in the sermon he went on to say that if there's an unfilled need in the body of Christ: "somebody, somewhere, buried somthing." Challenging words, but true nonetheless.

"Now there are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but it is the same Holy Spirit who is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service in the church, but it is the same Lord we are serving. There are different ways God works in our lives, but it is the same God who does the work through all of us. A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church." (1 Cor. 12:4-7)

Friday, January 20, 2006

Cry Out To Jesus

It's been three months. Since October 19th I've been fighting against myself to get well and I'm still fighting. In many ways I'm more tired today than I was in the initial days following the surgeries. And it's not over.

Yesterday I was told it will still be another couple of weeks before the wound closes (which is way longer than it was supposed to be) and until that happens I won't be fully well. I'm still fighting off an infection in the incision and now because of my weakened immune system I've caught a bad cold.

Today I was totally wiped of any energy and as a result spent most of the day in bed (which doesn't happen very often). In the midst of feeling absolutely miserable and very discouraged, "Cry Out To Jesus" (lyrics below) started playing on my ipod and if you've ever heard the song, you know it's hard not to be encouraged by listening to it.

So once again I find myself crying out to Jesus and once again I'm finding that He's enough. And I'm being reminded that even when I walk through very dark ,and honestly sometimes very lonely days, He's with me. As Third Day sings so beautifully, He meets us wherever we are. Cry out to Jesus.

Cry Out To Jesus (Third Day)
To everyone who's lost someone they love
Long before it's their time
You feel like the days you had were not enough
When you said goodbye.

And to all of the people with burdens and pains
Keepin' you back from your life
You believe that there's nothing
And there is no one who can make it right.

There is hope for the helpless, rest for the weary,
and love for the broken hearts.
There is grace and forgiveness, mercy and healing
He'll meet you wherever you are.

Cry out to Jesus. Cry out to Jesus.

For the marriage that's struggling just to hang on
Have lost all of their faith in love
And they've done all they can to make it right
Again stil it's not enough.
For those who can't break the addictions and chains
And try to give up but you come back again.
Just remember that you're not alone
In your shame and your suffering

There is hope for the helpless, rest for the weary
And love for the broken hearts
There is grace and forgiveness, mercy and healing
that meets you wherever you are.

Cry out to Jesus.

When you're lonely and it feels like the whole world is falling on you
You just reach out, you just cry out to Jesus

Cry to Jesus.

To the widow who suffers from being alone,
wiping the tears from her eyes.
For the children around the world without a home,
Say a prayer tonight.

There is hope for the helpless, rest for the weary
And love for the broken hearts.
There is grace and forgiveness, mercy and healing
That meets you wherever you are.
There is hope for the helpless, rest for the weary
And love for the broken hearts.
There is grace and forgiveness, mercy and healing
That meets you wherever you are.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The good, the bad, and the ugly

Because I've been on antibiotics on and off for the past three months, I've had to start taking a supplement alongside of my medication.

When the bottle of bio-k was first handed to me I thought it was some kind of a sick joke. The bottle reads (and I kid you not): "this product contains over 50 billion live good bacteria."

And with the one sentence the skeptic in me emerged. First of all, when has eating bacteria sounded like a good idea? Second of all, how do they determine what's good bacteria and what's bad bacteria? And lastly (and most importantly), how can this possibly taste good?

No one could answer my first two questions and I answered my third one after I tasted the stuff- let me tell you, bacteria tastes horrible (big surprise I know)!

But now I'm the first to admit that it works. With all of the medication that's been put through my system to fight the infections I should have run into some other problems by now, and I guess thanks to the bio-k (and prayer), I haven't.

As I was eating the ghastly stuff last night I couldn't help but see a spiritual parallel in all of this.

You see there have been many times in my life when God has placed me in a situation or has allowed something to happen, and to be honest it looks pretty bad. Yet through it all, God promises that it will be for my own good. And just like the idea of consuming over 50 billion live bacteria doesn't sound right, the skeptic in me often doesn't believe that the situation could possibly be good for me.

But time and time again I've been proved wrong. It has been through the trials and the unknown and the tests that my faith has grown and I've been brought spiritually to the place that I'm in today.

This is exactly what James was talking about when he wrote:

"Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything." (James 1:2-4)

So in the same way that I consume live bacteria in order to build my immune system, we as Christians often have to walk through dark or troublesome times to build our character and grow more Christ-like.

And after the testing is over, the blessings flow:

"God blesses people who patiently endure testing. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." (James 1:12)

Simple stuff, but sometimes I know I need a reminder just the same.

So today I'll willingly swallow another jar of bio-k because I know it's good for me. In the same way, I'll willingly go through this time of testing, knowing that the results will be good and the rewards to follow will far outweigh any temporary discomfort that I experience here and now.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

My Current Top 20

Listed below are the current most played songs on my itunes. Some are really old, others are fairly new. Some I've posted comments about below them, others I've let the title speak for itself. Topics are random, but overall I'd say the music is pretty good ;)

1. Heaven Hang On (Shaun Groves)
During my illness this quickly became one of my favorite songs to listen to. Even though none of the situations really described mine, I really connected with the song.
2. Swallowed In The Sea (Coldplay)
It's Coldplay, enough said.
3. Cover Me (Bebo Norman)
4. Wholly Yours (David Crowder Band)
5. History (Matthew West)
6. The Fight Song (Sanctus Real)
7. I Can Trust You (Rebecca St. James)
The lyrics of this song absolutely blew me away the first time I heard them and to some extent, they still do. In one song Rebecca had the ability to capture what I think most Christians struggle with all the time.
8. Lovely (Michelle Tumes)
If you haven't heard the music of Michelle Tumes, I highly recommend doing a search to find some of her albums. This song is one of the most beautiful that I've ever heard.
9. Less Like Scars (Sara Groves)
This is an older song, but it's still one that I really connect with. Again, brilliant lyrics.
10. This Mystery (Nichole Nordeman)
11. Heaven (Paul Wright)
12. City of Blinding Lights (U2)
13. I Can't Do This (Plumb)
14. You Found Me (Kelly Clarkson)
I've never watched American Idol and I don't think I ever will, but Kelly Clarkson sure can sing!
15. Which To Bury, Us Or The Hatchet (Relient K)
16. The First Cut Is The Deepest (Sheryl Crow)
17. Your Love Keeps Me Alive (Skillet)
This is a Skillet song from "back in the day", but it's still one of my favorites.
18. Only (Shaun Groves)
19. We Live (Superchick)
A good reminder of how precious life is.
20. Like Like You Were Dying (Tim McGraw)
I think this is the only country song that I've ever liked. Enough said.

So now it's your turn, what songs are currently in "high rotation" on your computer/mp3 player/CD player? Leave a comment to share your music wealth with the rest of us...

Monday, January 09, 2006

Prayer Request

Hello faithful blog readers and friends,

As many of you probably know, the past few months has been quite a roller-coaster for me with my surgeries and the complications that followed. As the open wound left from the second surgery got smaller and smaller, I figured that everything would be okay and that there wouldn't be another infection. As it turns out, I was wrong (it's not the first time either).

Today I went to the doctor and he confirmed that yes, I do have another infection. I don't know what the long term implications of this is, all that I do know is that it's obviously not good for my health and I really need the Lord's healing.

So here is where you come in. I am a firm believer in the power of prayer and I would really appreciate it if you could join me in praying about this- praying that the infection would heal before it becomes a problem and praying that the wound will finally close. Thank you.

Your sister in Christ,

Friday, January 06, 2006

2006: Stop doing, Start being

If there's one thing I've learned over the past few months from being out of a normal routine, it's that 'fly bys' with God just doesn't cut it for me anymore.

I'm not saying that before I didn't spend time with Him, it's just that the time I spent was lacking in both quantity and quality.

Yesterday I came across a verse in Colossians where Paul wrote:

"Let your roots grow down to into Him and draw up nourishment from Him, so you will grow in faith, strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught."

That can't happen when I'm rushed in the morning or trying to grab a few moments at night. Originally I had the idea that this year my goal was to read through the entire Bible again, but I've changed my mind on that.

No, this year I want to spend more time in the quiet with my Jesus. If I happen to get through the Bible in the year, then great. But if all I 'accomplish' during that time is being still before Him, then even better.

It's time that I stop putting the focus on doing with God and instead put the focus on being with God. And that's what I pray 2006 brings for me.

"What makes for a good [life] story is not necessarily a thrill-a-minute plot, but an eye for detail, loaded moments. It's the so-called mundane that is most often chock-full of the eternal." Linford Detweiler (The Art of Being)

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Unsettling Questions, Unfound Answers

Since I couldn't make it out to church this past Sunday I grabbed my ipod and spent time listening to a message from Rob Bell titled "Praying With An Ache". In the sermon Rob said: "Often prayer is asking God about things." Not asking for things, but asking God about things.

This one sentance captured what my spiritual journey has been like for the past couple of months. To be honest, I've had a lot of questions. I've also had a lot of doubts. And to tell you the truth, even though I still don't have a lot of answers, I've come to the point of being okay with that.

Maybe I've just matured, but I've realized that I'm never going to know why God allows some things to happen. And in that goodness is found, because I don't think I'd want a God who I could understand.

Because if I could understand God, that would mean He isn't much bigger than I am. While part of me would love to know why certain things happen, the other part of me is relived that Someone who is so much bigger than me is in control.

If I were to be as big as God, I'd hate to think about what that would mean for the fate of this world. Even with the assistance of glasses, my eyes can only see so far. I may have two legs, but even they will only walk a fraction of the distance needed to cover the earth. My brain may be able to function properly, but even I have trouble keeping up with my own life, let alone the lives of billions of people worldwide. God is so much bigger and for that I am grateful.

That may mean that some of the big questions go unanswered, but I think I'd rather deal with that than the alternative. I think Jim Carrey's character in Bruce Almighty had it right when he realized that playing God wasn't such a good thing.

And so I'll question and when God answers, I'll rejoice. And when He doesn't, I will trust. But I won't stop asking. To quote again from Rob Bell:

"A Christian doesn’t avoid the questions; a Christian embraces them. In fact, to truly pursue the living God, we have to see the need for questions. Questions aren’t scary. What is scary is when people don’t have any. What is tragic is faith that has no room for them." (Velvet Elvis)

And Keeping With My Resolution...

I love to write, but lately I haven't been doing enough of it. So one of my resolutions or goals for this year is to spend more time with a pen and paper in hand (or in this case a keyboard).

This blog is a result of that. I'm still keeping the one at the MAD Radio site up and running, but while that will be used for radio show info. and such, this will be more of a personal journal.

Some days I may have nothing to say, other days this page may be flooded. It's my intention that the topics will mostly be spiritual, but then again, who knows? And what defines spiritual anyways?

I hope you enjoy your visits to the Divine Contradiction. Feel free to give your feedback (positive or negative) through the comments!