Tuesday, June 30, 2009

ba da ba ba ba

Thank you, Jeremy Martin. Your story made my yesterday.

“Yes, this is a life-and-death situation,” Martin said. “I am getting ready to die because these guys are taking my money. We’re not playing around, here! Can you send a cop out here? Is this normal that you just take calls and not send a cop?”

Poor Jeremy got into quite a pickle when his McDonalds didn't cut the mustard...

...I believe this story proves that not receiving the correct amount of cash back will change your life...

Okay, I'm out of puns.

Monday, June 29, 2009

and as i wait for You, maybe i'm made more faithful

"But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for Him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like His own, using the same power with which He will bring everything under His control."

- Philippians 3:20-21

Friday, June 26, 2009

when i survey the wondrous cross

A woman stumbles on well-worn sandals, tripping through streets so crowded she feels the warm breath of the man behind her, the jab of a woman’s elbow cutting into her ribs. She shoves her body through the small openings between groups of people, nearly crushed as throngs of people push to be near the man in the center of the chaos. For twelve years she had been subject to bleeding. Only hours before, she heard news of this man, a man with powers so great, they say it takes only a physical connection to him to be healed. Doctor after doctor after doctor; four thousand, three hundred and eighty days. Just one touch. Her desperation to be close to this man nearly suffocates her, this time it is different. This man is different. Just one touch. Heart racing, she sees the man’s disciples in the corner of her eye, but their image blurs. Just one touch. The fabric of the man’s cloak swirls in front of her, its texture just within her grasp. She reaches out her fingers and grasps the hem. Just one touch. The cloth is soft against her skin, as it slides and is released. Her bleeding stops. The man stiffens. Who touched me? The people who hear him crane their necks to see what he is referring to. The woman feels her heart rate quicken, she turns one shoulder against the flow of people to find an escape. One of the man’s disciples looks at him, Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you. The man shakes his head immediately, Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me. The woman feels nauseous as his speech reaches her ears. She will not be able to go unnoticed. Her legs buckle, and she collapses at his feet. Her lips tremble violently as her mouth moves to form words. She stares at him, memorizing the angles of his face and the kindness of his expression. Dirt and sand sting her eyes as the crowd rustles anxiously around her, but even as tears pour down her face, she can’t take her eyes off of him. She explains why she had touched him, and how she had been instantly healed. The disciples watch her, watch him. The crowd waits. Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.

The cameo of the unnamed woman in Luke 8 leaves a lot to be desired, the details of this story are left for our imagination. But that one day, a woman threw her body through multitudes, hoping on a miracle. With the touch of one man’s hem, her hopes were fulfilled.

This life is rough. Thinking back on all that my family has gone through in the last year alone brings tears to my eyes; yet, what we have suffered does not even begin to compare with what thousands and thousands have gone through and are still experiencing. Many have battled cancer, have watched helplessly as their child suffers inconceivable physical pain, have lost loved ones and have known heartache so severe every inhale seems to stop the pulse for a second, sometimes two. Just one touch of his hem, one touch to take it all away is what we pray for.

In a land far from modern America, darkness comes over the land as a man hangs on a cross, dripping in blood, so disfigured even those closest to him would have difficulty identifying his body. With his last breath, the man lifts his head toward the sky and cries out, “IT IS FINISHED.”

Death has been swallowed up in victory.

One day we will not have to crawl through a wall of people to touch a piece of his hem. We won’t be limited by the hope of one touch, but we will know the constant presence of our Lord and Savior. “He will wipe every tear from [our] eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” You guys, I can’t even begin to imagine. The battles we face on earth have been fought for us and won. This life is temporary, and we have hope of a beautiful, beautiful eternity because of what Christ has overcome. Death has been swallowed up in victory. Thank you, Jesus. THANK YOU.

“Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. We also know that the Son did not come to help angels; he came to help the descendants of Abraham. Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people.” Hebrews 2:14-17

Thursday, June 25, 2009

summertime and the living is easy

I believe that the greatest trick of the devil
is not to get us into some sort of evil
but rather have us

wasting time.

- Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

divine goodness

"When Christianity says that God loves man, it means that God loves man: not that He has some 'disinterested', because really indifferent, concern for our welfare, but that, in awful and surprising truth, we are the objects of His love. You asked for a loving God: you have one. The great spirit you so lightly invoked, the 'lord of terrible aspect', is present: not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, nor the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist's love for his work and despotic as a man's love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father's love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes. How this should be, I do not know: it passes reason to explain why any creatures, not to say creatures such as we, should have a value so prodigious in their Creator's eyes. It is certainly a burden of glory not only beyond our deserts but also, except in rare moments of grace, beyond our desring; we are inclined, like the maidens in the old play, to deprecate the love of Zeus. (Prometheus Vinctus) But the fact seems unquestionable. The Impassible speaks as if it suffered passion, and that which contains in Itself the cause of its own and all other bliss talks as though it could be in want and yearning. 'Is Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him.' (Jeremiah 31:20) 'How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I abandon thee, Israel? Mine heart is turned within me.' (Hosea 11:8) 'Oh Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not.' (Matthew 23:37)

"The problem of reconciling human suffering with the existence of a God who loves, is only insoluble so long as we attach a trivial meaning to the word 'love', and look on things as if man were the centre of them. Man is not the centre. God does not exist for the sake of man. Man does not exist for his own sake. 'Thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.' (Revelation 4:11) We were made not primarily that we may love God (though we were made for that too) but that God may love us, that we may become objects in which the Divine love may rest 'well pleased'. To ask that God's love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God: because He is what He is, His love must, in the nature of things, be impeded and repelled, by certain stains in our present character, and because He already loves us He must labour to make us lovable We cannot even wish, in our better moments, that He could reconcile Himself to our present impurities - no more than the beggar maid could wish that King Cophetua should be content with her rags and dirt, or a dog, once having learned to love man, could wish that man were such as to tolerate in his house the snapping, verminous, polluting creature of the wild pack. What we would here and now call our 'happiness' is not the end God chiefly has in view: but when we are such as He can love without impediment, we shall in fact be happy."

- C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

time in between

I wanted to post a super quick update for my readers, all six of you (hey, Grandma!), with a little explanation of what's happening.

Most of y'all know how difficult the past few weeks in particular have been. Currently, cluster headache episodes begin around 5 P.M. each day and last, on average, until about 11:45 A.M. the next morning. On Sunday, my mom and I left town on a medical-emergency-trip because, after so many rounds of clusters this year, my health has been declining rapidly. I say all of this to justify a severe lack of "real" blog posts since, well, I started this site and especially lately. The last few days, all blogging attempts have been limited to post-it notes in doctors' waiting rooms and transferred via hotel internet in small amounts at a time (so as not to upset my BFF Nick, who totally just waved from the front desk).

Tonight will mark the sixteenth consecutive evening of "suicide headaches." Over the last year, we've charted the cluster cycles and a normal one lasts around thirty days, stops for about four weeks, then pops up again unwelcome after the three week break has come to an end. They're rare, complicated, stubborn little things, but since my three minutes in the business center is ticking away, a description of what the heck a cluster is anyway will have to come later. Google, yo.

So much about my life right now is rather unstable and inconsistent except, however, my God. Knowing you guys are praying for me and my family means more than I could even begin to describe, especially during the thirty seconds I have to end this post. (Hang on, Nick!)

These times are my in between days: praying for relief from the pain and hoping for answers; but it comes down to this: "the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us.... But even if He doesn't, we want to make it clear to you" that we will praise Him despite it all.

"But it's the time in between
that I fall down to my knees,
waiting on what You'll bring
and the things that I can't see.
I know my song's incomplete,
still I'll sing
in the time in between." - Francesca Battestelli

I love you all so, so much.

Monday, June 22, 2009

my conviction

"...when pain is to be borne, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all."

- C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Friday, June 19, 2009

they tell me, "return!" but to whom can i return...?

I was listening to Afshin Ziafat a few nights ago and heard about Mehdi Dibaj for the first time. (You can hear all of what Afshin said HERE.) Below is the end of his message where he gives a little of Mehdi Dibaj's history, and then quotes directly from Dibaj's confession:

Mehdi grew up a Muslim, converted to Christianity, and was imprisoned for ten years when they found out about him. At the end of his ten years, they issued a death sentence for him. There was another pastor, Haik Hovsepian, who found out about Mehdi’s death sentence and decided that he’s going to throw himself out there. He started making a stir, and he brought it before the international community, before the UN. And because of pressure from the outside world, the Iranian government was forced to release Mehdi Dibaj. Three days later, there was a price to pay. They found pastor Haik and they abducted him and killed him for doing that. I saw a video of Mehdi Dibaj at pastor Haik’s funeral service in tears saying, "I know how Barabbas feels now, because I was set free, because someone died in my place.” Five months later they found Mehdi, abducted him and he was martyred for his faith. Mehdi Dibaj, one of the greatest leaders in the Iranian underground church.

I want you to hear his confession before an Islamic judge who called him to renounce Christ:

"With all humility I express my gratitude to the Judge of all heaven and earth for this precious opportunity, ...I am a Christian. As a sinner I believe Jesus has died for my sins on the cross and by His resurrection and victory over death, has made me righteous in the presence of the Holy God. The true God speaks about this fact in His Holy Word, the Gospel (Injil). Jesus means Savior 'because He will save His people from their sins.'

"...In response to this kindness, He has asked me to deny myself and be His fully surrendered follower, and not to fear people even if they kill my body, but rather rely on the creator of life who has crowned me with the crown of mercy and compassion. He is the great protector of His beloved ones as well as their great reward.

"I have been charged with 'apostasy!'...They say 'You were a Muslim and you have become a Christian.' This is not so... People choose their religion but a Christian is chosen by Christ. He says, 'You have not chosen me but I have chosen you.' Since when did He choose me? He chose me before the foundation of the world. People say, 'You were a Muslim from your birth.' God says, 'You were a Christian from the beginning.' He states that He chose us thousands of years ago, even before the creation of the universe,... The eternal God who sees the end from the beginning and who has chosen me to belong to Him, knew from the beginning those whose heart would be drawn to Him and also those who would be willing to sell their faith and eternity for a pot of porridge.

"I would rather have the whole world against me, but know that the Almighty God is with me. I would rather be called an apostate, but know that I have the approval of the God of glory, because man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart... They tell me, 'Return!' But to whom can I return from the arms of my God? Is it right to accept what people are saying instead of obeying the Word of God? It is now 45 years that I am walking with the God of miracles, and His kindness upon me is like a shadow....

"This test of faith is a clear example. The good and kind God reproves and punishes all those whom He loves. He tests them in preparation for heaven. ...The God of Job has tested my faith and commitment in order to increase my patience and faithfulness. During these nine years he has freed me from all my responsibilities so that under the protection of His blessed Name, I would spend my time in prayer and study of His Word, with a searching heart and with brokenness, and grow in the knowledge of my Lord. I praise the Lord for this unique opportunity. God gave me space in my confinement, brought healing in my difficult hardships and His kindness revived me...

"They object to my evangelizing. But if one finds a blind person who is about to fall in a well and keeps silent then one has sinned...

"Jesus Christ says 'I am the door. Whoever enters through me will be saved.'...He is our Savior and He is the (spiritual) Son of God. To know Him means to know eternal life... I have committed my life into His hands. Life for me is an opportunity to serve Him, and death is a better opportunity to be with Christ. Therefore I am not only satisfied to be in prison for the honor of His Holy Name, but am ready to give my life for the sake of Jesus, my Lord, and enter His kingdom sooner, the place where the elect of God enter everlasting life... May the shadow of God's kindness and His hand of blessing and healing be and remain upon you for ever. Amen.

With Respect,
Your Christian prisoner,
Mehdi Dibaj"

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

pit dwellings

Her little toe traces the outline of a shadow as it darkens beneath her heel, chilling the mud. The color deepens, capturing the little ankle as it sinks into the surface, pulling it close, pulling it closer. Mud splatters while the foot flexes, the little toe gently rebelling against the tug, slipping into a chilling puddle of rain. Her arm stretches subconsciously to rub the water out of her eyes as it beats against her raw skin. The water streams down her soaked clothes, pulsating, rhythmically beating as it forms rivers, dripping to the ends of her fingers to join the other drops in the oceans already formed from tears such as these. The bumps laying on her skin rise, silently protesting the storm, though the storm has raged to a state long past familiarity. Her heart wails earsplitting cries, never heard, never known, only swallowed by the velvet black surroundings. The foot begins to lift again and again, begins to stumble through the darkness. Her shoulders ache with the pressure, her back surrendering to the load it carries by collapsing against the wall. The wall cools the shoulders, gently massaging the trembling muscles, hugging them tight, hugging them tighter. She rests her neck against the firmness of the cave until the relief begins to fade and the tightness presses her chest; until suffocation generates panic in her round, unfocused eyes. Her nails claw into the surface of the wall, brushing against a crevice. The crevice rotates the body and helps the little toe shove its way inside. The ankle submerges into the crevice and the wall and the mud; the foot jumping to settle the weight, teetering as it transfers its position, shoving the body towards the sky. Her arm fumbles to find its way, groping mounds of dirt as it oozes through thin fingers, oozes to clothe the shivering carcass. Eyes scan the wall, gravity clutching her gaze and focusing it on the pit below. She stares down at this place she has become so inclined to, a place she grown so accustomed to, and allows her foot to slowly slide down the side of the wall, throwing her body back towards the center of the place of which she has made a nest, a home. The ground opens, welcoming her home, hardening to form concrete as her flesh crumbles above it, the mud turning to rocks, inviting her again to the place to which she thinks she now belongs. The rain plummets from the sky, silencing her screams, quieting her small questions why. Her hair bleeds into her scalp as her fingertips raise and propel her body back upward. Her body hurls itself forward, gasping for air as her ribs heave, catapulting every breath into the small crack in the wall; and she climbs. Sobs vibrate through the weariness of her bones as she struggles, struggles against depravation. Blinking through the rain, she hears the shallow whispers snatching her foot, wrapping lies around her ankle, grabbing hold of her little toe as it battles to continue working. The water screeches into her veins, shrieking as it swims through her body. Her back squirms to hold firm, tightening her neck so her eyes cannot drift down again. She locates her last tiny breath squeezing its way through her lungs, repelling through her throat, tickling the edge of her tongue. She tilts her head back and stares straight up. A solitary tear stained against her nose begins to melt. Her wet eyelashes harden; her arms shrug as little bumps drop back into the skin. Her shoulders soften against their frame, as a warm sensation begins to warm her tender back and slip down her spine. Her eyes flutter as they keep staring up, flashing with the reflection of light now radiating against her pale cheeks. Her foot continues to trek up the wall, fulfilling the last steps with renewed strength. Her ankle rubs against the final inches of the cave, allowing the little toe, bruised and broken, to glide into warm grass, surrendering into the light, absorbing every ray as it, at last, rests peacefully in the embrace of the sun.

"He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God." - Psalm 40:1-3

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

You are my hiding place

We must go everywhere. We must tell people that no pit is so deep that He is not deeper still.

They will believe us because we were here.

- Betsie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place

Monday, June 15, 2009

never, never, never in vain

Earlier this evening, after a cluster headache episode ended, I stopped pacing and plopped down on the tile in the center of our living room half crying and upset because of the pain, half ticked at the family cockatiel who took that exact moment to start chirping "pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty bird" as loud as his amazingly tiny vocal chords can screech. The phone rang, and I let it ring. It was an altogether pathetic fifteen minutes. I had been home alone for over seven hours, and at the time, I didn't feel like getting up or studying or cooking or moving at all. I wanted to sit on the floor with my oxygen tank and enjoy my private pity party. I realize my problems could be so much worse, but it was a very melodramatic fifteen minutes for me. Like I said, pathetic.

I heard my cell vibrate against the tile signaling a new text. I flipped open the phone and read a Twitter update from John Piper: "Never, never, never in vain: 'Whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord.' (Ephesians 6:8)."

Never, never, never in vain. Not the right actions we choose even when they're hard, not the physical pain we pray will end, not the continued fight for God's glory when it feels like we're stumbling around and only making mistakes. Never, never, never in vain.

Ephesians 6:10, a few verses after the one Piper references, starts the well-known description of the Armor of God: "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might." Through verse 17 is a list of all that you 'put-on' in order to "stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."

This chapter brings up various, deep theological topics, but when my dog crawled onto my lap as I sat on the cold floor this evening, my sleep-deprived brain jumped instantly to 2 Corinthians 9:8, and in so doing, started processing the central ideas of this random rambling of a post. Now it's nearly 1 AM, and any attempts at intellectual brilliance have been stifled by the sleeping pills that are telling me to get back in bed.

But back to 2 Corinthians and, hopefully, my point. "God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work." He tells us to be strong in Ephesians, but if you flip back to Corinthians, it's clear God specifically gives us exactly the equipment to use. He doesn't throw us onto the battlefield with a laugh and a good luck. "All sufficiency in all things at all times." Sufficient, according to Mr. Webster, means "enough to meet the needs of a situation or a proposed end." But taking that a step further, Romans 8 says "the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express." So it's not just a matter of meeting our needs, a one-size fits all dose of strength. I may be wrong, but "intercedes for us with groans" gives the impression that the help we receive is incredibly personal. Awesome, right?

This present world, this present darkness that surrounds us, hurts. No denying the days aren't always blue skies and sunshine. The person who believes becoming a Christian immediately makes one immune to grief is an idiot. Just sayin'. But we do have confidence that even when our actions seem pointless and our pain, futile - they're not; it's not. We serve a God who works through us to use our weak, ordinary, measly human state so He's magnified.

"Now may the God of peace... equip you with everything good that you may do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever." Hebrews 13:21

Our God has our back (and our front) and is constantly supplying us with all that we need to serve Him. Plus, in serving Him with what He has provided, we're also giving Him glory. Which when it comes down to it, that's ultimately our life purpose, correct?

Somewhere between the chant of "I can't do this" and "It's too much" comes Christ's promise, "My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” I love that His power is the same power from Ephesians 6:10 from the beginning of this post: "Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might." I've always read Ephesians 6 with the initial mental image of a glorious, well-built war hero. But His "power works best in weakness." The scrawny, sick, distracted, wounded, well-meaning, average, terrified soldiers are supplied with the strength to conquer and keep on. We tend to act as if we have to pull ourselves together before we are able to serve. Surrendering to Christ starts now, in our current condition, to be used immediately, especially in the hard times. And we know that we have all sufficiency at all times, having enough to meet the needs of our proposed end.

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." (Romans 8:18)

So let's stand up in the strength of His might, wipe away the tears from the pain and fear of what we feel we can't handle, and start moving with the knowledge that in the pursuit of Christ, our actions - heck, our lives - are never, never, never in vain.

"He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible." (Hebrews 11:27)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

six seven eight, triple nine, eight two one two

I placed my textbook on the table and curled up into the booth in the far back corner. A skinny, middle-aged man slouched over an oversized black briefcase one table over. Out of the corner of my eye, I observed him as he stared at the floor, talking into his cell, cheeks growing a brighter shade of pink every few seconds. “Baby, no. I can’t do that... What? Baby, there are people around! ....No, don’t do that. ...Okay.”

I glanced over as he began pounding out the beat with his empty coffee cup and started whispering the lyrics, "Girl, you know I miss you / I just wanna kiss you / But I can’t right now so, Baby, kiss me through the phone / I’ll see you later on / Kiss me through the phone / See you when I get home.”

Please note I’m not a Soulja Boy fan in the least, but never have I regretted not having a video camera as much as in that moment. When he cleared his throat, straightened his tie, and in the most dignified manner started on verse two (“You my future wifey... Yeah, you could be my Bonnie; I could be yo’ Clyde”), I had to bite my tongue and walk outside to keep from laughing out loud. Priceless.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

so say it somehow

If you’re reading this, you probably know bits of my story already. I started this blog for several reasons, but mostly because I am humbled and completely overwhelmed by those who have prayed over my family, kept up with us, and served in absolutely selfless ways since my health collapsed a few years ago.

Avoiding the general subject of my “health issues” has been my primary means of coping through the hard times, but this method has proven itself the easy way out. At the same time, I’m learning that pretending to be fine all the time can be just as damaging as whining or falling apart in public. In the course of the last few months, it’s been brought to my attention how many people are masquerading heavy hurts behind a smiling face. Their stories need to be told.

So many are physically sick and struggling and heartbreakingly lonely in their current trials. Knowing pain and talking to those who have experienced the worst of tragedies, I’ve found after many conversations that all who have suffered at some point consider “I understand” and "This too shall past" (though well-meaning) as some of the worst sentences ever uttered. We can never truly know what someone else has known. But one purpose for this blog, which has been set on my heart so heavily, is to prove we’re not alone. Those with physical illnesses, etc., know what it’s like to be isolated and judged, defined by their physical condition alone, and constantly written off as worthless, useless, despite knowing wholeheartedly they’re not. This is our battle, and we're going to win; however, I can't sit still knowing what lies are being told to those who face pain. If these simple sentences deflect one of Satan's, wasted they're not.

I’m just a high school student from the suburbs aching and restless to serve my God. What, if anything, will come of this little corner of the Internet? Time will tell as I gather the words, and so say it somehow.

this could be the start of something new

A word is dead
When it is said,
Some say.

I say it just
Begins to live
That day.

- 1212, Emily Dickinson