Where Am I Going?

                          “God doesn’t want to take you where you can go; 
                              He wants to take you where you can’t go.”

I don’t know what your reaction is to that statement but I cringed when the pastor said those words yesterday.  That’s some pretty scary business right there.  It was amazing how rapidly my mind came up with excuses not to take that to heart.  See that’s what we as humans do best – make excuses.  But we don’t call them that.  We call it caution; we call it being practical; we call it being moderate in the Lord.  God forbid, after all, that we should be radical Christians.  Let’s face it folks, Jesus was a radical in His day – why do we think that we don’t need to be radical in our walk with Him?

I’ll be the first to admit that being radical makes me want to run and hide. Radical isn’t mainstream.  Radical isn’t fitting in; radical is standing out, being different.  But isn’t that what God is calling us to?  He wants take us where we can’t go on our own because there we have no need of Him.  But if we allow Him to take us where there’s no way we can go on our own; it’s there in that place that God can work.  His work, not my work or your work.  There. In that place. It’s about Him. Not us.

We were having a discussion in Sunday school yesterday about reckless abandon. The focus was on the old familiar story of David and Goliath.  Was David being reckless in going out against the giant?  If you’re in a solid relationship with God and you know without a doubt that He’s calling you to something…is there then such a thing as reckless abandon?  Is it reckless if God is calling you to it?  Did David put God on the spot there by declaring that God would go with Him in battle? Can God be put on the spot?

What do you do if you feel God calling you to go where you can’t go and there’s people who try to dissuade you, like Saul and the soldiers did with David? What if trusted authorities don’t agree with your calling?  Should you still go?  Or what if they try to suit you up like they did David only to find out that the suiting up does nothing but hinder you in your calling?  Do you, like David, toss off the conventional and go out with no armor, trusting in God to be your armor?  Or do we use that dissuasion as our cop-out to avoid going with God where we can’t go?  Do we soothe our conscience by telling ourselves that the older, wiser, seasoned authorities don’t think we’re capable so we must have just been imagining that God was calling us to go?  

I know I’ve got a lot of thinking to do.  And examining my life to see where God might be trying to lead me where I can’t go but is hindered by my resistance. 

My prayer for you this week is that you would go where God wants you to go. Go where you can’t possibly go in your own strength.  GO!!
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Comfort Care

My soul is in agony. 

It’s torn around the edges. 

Jagged sharp edges that cut into my heart no matter how I twist and turn. 

Grief will do that to a person.  I guess.  

It’s done it to me.  

Every time I think those jagged edges have been smoothed…something comes along to remind me, they haven’t been sanded smooth.  Those edges will be there the rest of my life, ready to slice into my consciousness at any reminder of painful memories.  Whether those reminders come by smell, sight, hearing, or feeling.

What, you ask, has any of this got to do with the title?  

“Comfort care” is hospital speak for patients who have crossed that invisible line that all of us has in our journey of life.  The line between life and death.  The line between hope and grief.  The line between medical cure for the living and medical comfort for the dying.

This past weekend, I helped take care of a patient just placed on comfort care.  My heart hurt for the family.  I knew the helplessness, the pain that was written all over their faces.  I knew the hollowness carving a dad-made hole in their hearts.  There was only so much I as a nurse could do to bring the comfort to both the patient and the family in my care.  With one glance at their faces, I was transported back to my dad’s bedside. Comfort care is a time of grief and pain for the family.  Isn’t it typical of our paradoxical life that we attempt to muffle death by soft choice of words?  But Death hovers, mockingly threatening to disrupt life as we know it.  

Folks, I admit I left the hospital this weekend, struggling.  Fighting against God’s comfort care.  I wanted to savor the taste of the anger, the bitterness, the pain of loss and I wanted someone to blame it all on.  And so I mistakenly railed at God.  

      “Why, God?  I thought You said You took away Death’s sting, Death’s victory.  
       So why is it still able to sting deep within my soul?  Where are You when 
       Death is hovering?  Where are You when Death laughs at our helplessness?”

God was waiting there in the midst of my spitting fury.  He wasn’t deterred by my raw anger, my visceral pain, my biting bitterness.  And when I stopped screaming, He spoke. He soothed the pain with the balm of His presence.  He told me it’s okay to hurt, to grieve, to weep but to please allow Him to be right there in the pain with me.  

I still hurt yes, but it’s not a consuming chasm now that I allowed God to enter into it with me.  He created me.  He knows the depths at which I feel.  He knew the depths of pain that family was in this weekend.  He is here.  He knows what pain and loss feels like. We need only to invite His Presence to speak into our pain.

Free Falling

Ever feel like you’re free falling?  Ever feel like the ground is rushing up at you, your parachute malfunctioned, and you have no wings?  The force of the fall is sucking the breath out of you.  But you’re at the mercy of gravity – there’s nothing you can do.

Except….God says “I bare you on eagle’s wings and brought you unto Myself.”  I’m told that a mother eagle does that for her eaglets.  When the young ones are learning to fly, the mother will swoop in underneath them and carry them back to the nest when their little wings have tired out.

If you’re like me, you’re thinking “Yeah but would God have to wait so long to swoop in?” What if it’s all up to us, about us giving up control?  What if God waits for us to reach that point where we cry out, “Catch me, Father, I’m falling!”?  Just as we have no control over gravity, we have no control over God and His plan for our lives.  Sure we can refuse to go with Him but we can’t control our circumstances.  

Life is about giving God free reign in our lives.  It’s about free falling into God.  Letting go of our flimsy parachutes of self-will, pride, and stubbornness.  Picture a child being tossed in the air by her dad.  Does she trust that he will catch her?  Absolutely, the child is giggling at the exhilaration of the toss, never doubting that her dad will catch her and save her from crashing to the ground.  That’s how God wants us to be.

Scary? Yes!  Easy to let go of ourselves? No!  Free falling into God’s arms goes against everything within us.  Satan would prefer that we think our self-made parachutes will serve us well and save us from the crash. Don’t believe him.  If we listen to him, we will end up splattered all over the ground of Ruin and Regrets.  God can still swoop in at that point and put us back together again if we let Him.

Loving the exhilaration of the free fall and anticipating God’s arms encircling us…even when the future is unknown, even in the middle of our intense battle, even in the vacuum of our grief.  Free falling into God’s arms amid the gravity of pain, of doubt, of financial distress, of rocky relationships, of consequences from past sins, of shame, of uncertainty, of the vortex of life’s daily demands.

It’s possible – you just gotta be that little child again and believe without a doubt that your Father is going to catch you.

Gotta go – it’s time for me to free fall without a fight to hang onto my flimsy parachute! Join me on this journey into God’s arms?

Lamp Post Ponderings

I was at my school yesterday sitting outside studying between classes.  And as usual my mind wandered to anything but lab tests and lab values and lab diagnostics and lab blah blah blahs.  I saw this light post alongside the main entrance to the school.  And I immediately thought of the lamp post in the Chronicles of Narnia. 

The evening I came to school for orientation over a year ago I felt a lot like Lucy stumbling into Narnia the first time.  I was excited and enchanted but yet knock-kneed with apprehension. And not sure if I really wanted to proceed beyond the lamp post. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had all these lofty idealized imaginations.  And if I would have had an idea of the actuality of nursing school….I’ll just say it out loud…I may have chickened out.  Actually, make that…I would have chickened out.  

I told my Mom last night that I mourn the loss of my life as I once knew it – that was in reference to a really good book laying out in broad daylight calling my name.  But no, I had to turn away from that book and stick my nose in the textbooks instead.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy studying.  But there are limits to things, right?  For some reason, this semester really has me feeling like I’m running at my max and yet never getting anywhere. And supposedly this semester is when things were supposed to lighten up for us part timers in the evening/weekend program.  I just hope that somehow in all this studying there’s actually some things sticking in my brain. 

Life as a nursing student is…, you know what, I don’t have any words to really embody what it is.  It’s blood and sweat and tears, lots of them.  It’s exhaustion, exhilaration.  It’s studying till you’re cross-eyed, till your brain hurts with all the info you’ve inundated it with.  It’s sleep deprivation.  It’s 4 hour lectures after a day of work.  It’s memorizing a myriad of medications that all sound the same but have different adverse effects.  It’s nightmares that you overslept on clinical day and now a patient died because you weren’t there on time to intervene.  It’s crying without warning at the smallest thing.  It’s frustration.  It’s missing out on fun social stuff.  It’s working weekends instead of chilling on Saturdays and going to church on Sundays. It’s neglecting your family, your friends, and in my case, your horse. And the list could go on. 

Like Narnia, the land of nursing school has its enchantments too. Nursing school is also giving a patient a back rub, holding their hand and listening to them; it’s seeing a baby enter this world and cuddling with them in the nursery; sometimes it’s simply the joy on a patient’s face when you bring them ice water or the sigh of relief when you help them bathe.  It’s satisfaction in a good grade. It’s laughing till your sides ache at jokes that only nursing students think are funny.  It’s the fun of horrifying your family/friends over dinner with tales of gruesome sights and facts that you thought were just pretty intriguing. It’s lifetime memories made with your close knit nursing class.

The most “enchanting” experience is the opportunity to work with patients.  Which I might add is also the “scariest” thing as well.  To realize that this is someone’s loved one that you are ministering too and that they are entrusting into your care.  And too, the fact that I’m carrying not only the reputation of the school on my shoulders but more importantly, God’s reputation is at stake in me and the way I conduct myself.  For better or for worse.  

I’ve had some really good discussions about faith with my patients.  You know we Christians can tend to be like Elijah and think that there’s only me left anymore. No one else is serving God anymore.  But let me tell you, I’ve been blessed by the expressions of faith in God that I’ve heard coming from patients.  The ones that make me tear up are the words of faith and trust I hear coming from patients who have been diagnosed with some kind of terminal illness.  

I’m working on the cancer unit right now.  It’s a place of sadness.  But yet numerous patients have left an impression on me at how quick they are to say “The Good Lord has a plan in all this.”  Or, “God knows what He’s doing.”  It’s a challenge to me because I don’t know how quick I would be to say that if I’ve just received a diagnosis I wasn’t expecting and one that I know doesn’t have a cure.

Whew, don’t ask me how all this came from a glance at a regular old lamp post.  My only answer is “Behold, we are fearfully and wonderfully (and mysteriously) made.”

Whatever lamp post may be at the entrance of your Narnia, may you have the strength and the courage to walk past it and embrace with awe the enchantment that your Father has called you into.

Top O’ the Mornin’ to Y’all

I’m loving these gorgeous mornings God’s been sending our way!  Now those of you who know me well, know that this gal is not what you call an appreciative human being in the mornings.  But this kind of morning is one that makes me glad to be alive, and that’s even before my first cup of coffee!  Now that folks is a miracle of God – the fact that I’m loving the morning before I’ve even had my coffee.  So if you’ve been having doubts recently that God is capable of working miracles, He’s doing one right here in me (and not only in adjusting my morning state of mind, He’s doing much more awesomeness in my life, just sayin’…)

These mornings remind me that I have a fresh dose of God’s grace for the day. Grace for the stress that’s bound to make me tense, grace for the overwhelming demands of studying, grace for the times that I want to react in anger, grace for the temptations that come my way.  And the list could go on.  It’s amazing how quickly I can go from standing out in the fresh morning air with this calming gratitude and worshiping in God’s overflowing Presence to an uptight, stressed-out, ungrateful, frustrated grouch.  My human-ness is what brings me back again and again to God’s grace, His loving mercy.

The verses that God’s been bringing into my consciousness many times in the last week are Lamentations 3:21-26

            “Yet will I still dare to hope when I remember this:
             The unfailing love of the Lord never ends!  By his mercies we have been 
             kept from complete destruction.  
             Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day.
             I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope 
             in him!”
             The Lord is wonderfully good to those who wait quietly for salvation 
             from the Lord.
             So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord.” 

If you read the previous chapters, you’ll find that Jeremiah was overcome with grief and lament.  But yet I love how he switches his tune and says “Yet will I still dare to hope when I remember” that the Lord is so merciful and great in his faithfulness.  I don’t know about you but when I’m grieving and hurting, I struggle to “dare to hope”.  You with me sister?  It’s hard to turn to our Father and hand Him our hurts and tell Him that we’re hoping in Him.  Even if He doesn’t magically make our wounds all better right in the here and now.  Even if He leads us into more pain, even if we don’t feel Him with us in our grief. 

Who’s willing to bite the bit and join me in this journey of daring to hope in our Father and His unfailing love and faithfulness?

Top of the mornin’ to y’all!  And may you be filled with many cups of coffee in the days to come!

Just a little note: I wrote this in the afternoon/evening – my most coherent time of day. In case you were wondering how I managed to string coherent words together right away in the morning. But in my defense…I did start this in the morning hours. Cheers!         

Wild Child No More

You know the story of the demon-possessed man that lived wild until Jesus cast his demons into a herd of pigs?  Some things in that story stood out to me the other day when I was reading. 

Just a quick run down refresher of the story.  (If you’d like to read it for yourself, it’s found in Mark 5.) In the land of the Gerasenes there was this man who lived among the tombs screaming and hitting himself with stones.  He couldn’t be restrained with chains and shackles, no one could control him. Jesus docks at the shore and this wild man comes racing to fall at his feet and the demons began shrieking.  They knew their time was limited I guess.  These spirits begged to be cast into the pigs nearby instead of into a distant place.  Don’t you find it intriguing that the demons who were embodied in ONE man sent a herd of TWO THOUSAND pigs into the lake.  By the time the people came rushing out of the city, this wild man was calmly sitting with Jesus, completely sane. The people of the land of the Gerasenes were afraid when they saw this wild man turned sane and they begged Jesus to leave immediately.  Jesus got back into the boat and the wild man turned sane begged to go along with him.  But Jesus told him “No, you go tell your friends what wonderful things the Lord has done for you and how merciful He has been.”
Do you think this guy even had friends?  It appears to me that everyone was freaked out of their skin over this guy.  Why do you think Jesus told him to go tell his friends?  The other thing that stood out to me was the fact that even though he begged to stay in Jesus’ company, Jesus denied him that request.  Why?  Isn’t it a good thing to want to stay in Jesus’ presence?  Does God push a person out of the nest like that?  I mean you’d think that this guy was that much of a newbie that it would have been better for him to stay with Jesus right?  How many times do I laze around in God’s presence soothing my conscience that I’m doing what’s good when really He’s pushing me to get out there and tell my friends how merciful my Jesus has been to me?
What about the things that Jesus wants to cast out of me?  Do I beg Him to let them stay nearby in the herd of pigs rather than being cast to a distant place?  I love how He says “sure” and promptly sends them into the lake when all along I thought I was gonna get to have them hanging around on the hillside nearby me.  
The other thing I had to think about is the people’s response to the change in this man.  The change itself – when Jesus gets a-hold of me is my change noticeable enough to scare people?  Or do I come across as the same person as I was before Jesus invaded my life?
I don’t know about you but I want people to know that Jesus has changed me from a wild child into a sane person who scares people by the change that Jesus has accomplished in me.