Who’s Controlling Who?

I think (really I know) that I’ve mentioned in the past how I have recognized when I get that desperate, grasping, panicking feeling about something, it is never from God.  It is always me stressing about making sure I am getting what I want or what I think I need, and not trusting God to do it.  So, as time goes on, I learn to recognize it more and more quickly, and back off when I’m pushing for something because of that feeling.  Well, that happened last week.

See, I’ve been pretty broke…yes, I know I live in a tent and all, but between the staph infection bills and having to get a new car (another story for another day) and the unexpected shortage of work I’ve been having, well, let’s just say I’m not really getting ahead.  I was “making it” before when I had rent, and now I’m “making it” without it.  So, God knew what He was doing because if I had rent right now, well, I’d be gettin’ kicked out for not paying it or going into major debt one of the two.

In response to this, I have been evaluating whether it might be time to get a “real” job instead of all of the random things I count on, especially since I cut out the nannying, which to be fair, is part of the reason (not all of it) for my shortage of work, and was a decision I made myself. 

But, in all of it, I have not felt out of God’s will.  At one point, I asked Him if He wanted me to be out pounding the pavement looking for work, and I got a “No.  Just keep doing what you’re doing.  I’ve got it.”  So, I’ve been doing a lot of writing that I felt was God-inspired, and, let’s be honest, a lot of relaxing.

So, a friend of mine brings up a job that is about to come open at the same place she works.  She said it’s a great environment, the same position she holds, just in a different department.  She works closely with them, and says that if she were looking for a job, she would want that one.  She asks if I would be interested, and I said, well, maybe.  She told the supervisor for that position (who she is good friends with) about me, and that girl seemed excited about the possibility & said she would keep a lookout for my application.  I’m thinking this is God’s provision and a great opportunity at this point. 

When the job posted, my friend sent me the link and the job code to apply online, but for over a week, I couldn’t get the website to come up.  So, after that week, I started to get panicky…did I mention I’m really broke…so I called my friend.  “Can you get the website to come up?”  She tries, and she can’t.  So, she said she’d call HR and see what the deal was, and I said OK.  She wasn’t at work yet.

But a couple of hours later, I realized that I was having that feeling I started telling you about…the one where I am graspy and stressed out about missing something I need.  The one I get when I am trying to control God instead of letting Him take charge of my life.  So, I let go.  I called my friend.  “Don’t call HR.  If I’m supposed to get it, it will work out.”  And she didn’t.

Two days later, she calls me – the supervisor for the position called her and was flipping out because she just found out that the HR website had been down since the job posted so as of yet, they had 0 applicants, and need to fill the position by a deadline.  So, the supervisor asked if I would forward my resume directly to her.

Haha.  Thanks, God.  When I let go, instead of me grasping for making sure I got my resume to these people, THEY were grasping for me to get it to them.  Now, this doesn’t mean I’m going to get the job.  But even if I don’t, it was a lesson of how letting God handle stuff instead of pushing because you’re scared is much more effective. 

As a disclaimer, I think that sometimes God wants us to push.  I’m just starting to recognize when I’m pushing because He wants me to and when I’m pushing out of fear and distrust that He can handle it.


The Everything Sale

There’s been a lot going on in my life for the past little bit.  I don’t really think I’ll be getting into all of it, at least not in this post.  Maybe soon.  But for now, I just want to tell you about the everything sale.  Trust me, this post will be long enough with just that as the subject.

Circumstances in my life recently have been causing me to desperately seek the face of God…to seek what He would have me do at every juncture.  I knew there were things that I needed to change and do that I was not being proactive about. 

Well, if you don’t know me, you probably also don’t know that I have a history of moderately drastic actions, like quitting jobs with no idea of what I’m going to do and moving to places where I don’t know anyone and breaking up with fiances (yes, that’s multiple), etc.  Some of these things, I really felt like God wanted me to do.  But some of them, I just did because I got bored with things they were, felt that I couldn’t handle another minute of the status quo.  And so, in this last season of desperation I’ve been going through, I was trying to be super-cautious about what actions I took.  If there was drastic action to be taken, I didn’t want it to be just because I was bored, I wanted it to be because God called me to that action.  However, I was considering a few different types of action.

Drastic Action #1) Changing jobs – which I’m actually kind of doing.  I think my Play-Meter has run down on the whole nanny-ing thing.  I can’t seem to engage with the kids anymore.  I just want to look at them and make sure that they are still living and breathing when the parents get home.  That’s not really a super good nanny trait.  So, I’m slowly phasing out that season of my life.  (Although, right now, I’m kind of sad about it because last night one of my girls asked me if I could bring my cat and a business card with me the last time I come.  So sweet!)

Drastic Action #2) Moving to a tent – Yes, I seriously considered this.  It would have been temporary because I am no good in the cold, but I was thinking it would give some time to pay off the already minimal, but seemingly impossible to pay off debt I have.  It would give me freedom from the responsibilities of living in a structure, namely cleaning and paying rent.  The Lord’s Prayer does ask for our “daily bread.”  I’ve been wondering if having my “bread” for a month to come is an extravagance that we just take as the norm in our society.  I was thinking that living in a tent would force me to only have my daily bread, literally.  You can’t store food in a tent unless it’s in an impenetrable container.  The animals would rip your tent up.  Living in a tent would also minimize distractions so I could do something useful, like write a book or work on my art or spend more time getting smarter instead of working so much and taking care of stuff.  However, ultimately, I didn’t feel good about this option.  I felt like it catered too much to my desire to spurn resposibility and my sometimes unhealthy desire for solitude.  It would be a temporary fix, because as soon as I was faced with the reality of responsibilities, the same challenges would arise.  Living in a tent would have been my version of running away.

Drastic Action #3) Selling all my stuff – And we have a winner.  Sort of.  See, I already did it.  But not really.  Haha.  Confused yet?  I’ll start at the beginning.  For the past 3-4 years, at various points, I have felt like God was telling me to sell all of my stuff.  A couple of times, I have half-way done it.  Sold a few things on Craig’s List, told my friends they could buy anything of mine when they came over.  I even sold a few things that I really wanted to keep.  That’s good enough, right?  I guess I just never really looked at it like disobedience when I “sort of” did it, but that’s what it was.  I don’t think I ever fully acknowledged that when God said “everything”, He meant that He did not want me to put any limitations on it.  But I did.  I always said things like, “OK, I will be willing to sell everything except for my keyboard and my favorite mirror.”  It’s a really great mirror, all right?  And, in addition to putting limitations on it, I never went out of my way to sell anything.  Never advertised everything as being for sale…just kind of told friends and stuff.  In other words, I didn’t really leave it in God’s hands.  I was sort of passively willing to do what He said.  And so, when I was seeking Him out, God kept bringing all of this back to mind.  Reminding me of places in my journals where I have written down that I felt like God wanted me to sell my stuff.  It’s written down multiple times over the past few years.  I can’t deny that I have heard it.  I never wrote that God wanted me to sell some of my stuff.  So, God had been reminding me of all of this.  And then I went to hear John Eldredge speak about his new book, Walking With God.  His book is about listening for, recognizing and obeying the voice of God when He speaks to you.  (The Eldredge’s keep cropping up in my life, don’t they?)  After leaving his talk, I couldn’t ignore the voice telling me to sell all of my stuff.  I tried to ignore it.  And I tried to argue with it, and I tried to pretend I thought it was just me trying to do something stupid because I was bored again.  But I couldn’t convince myself of that.  Every time I prayed, “Do you REALLY want me to do that, God?”  It was like God was screaming (not audibly), “YES, I told you that a long time ago.”  It still seemed a little silly to me, like I was trying to prove myself or something; honestly, I was somewhat worried about what people would think…that they would think I was trying to be special or get some sort of award when it wasn’t like that at all.  I wanted confirmation.  And so that night, I tried to go to bed without doing anything about it.  I thought I was justified in wanting confirmation.  But I couldn’t go to bed.  I was uncomfortable.  I knew what God wanted me to do.  Finally, I got up.  I went to the computer.  I posted an ad.  “Everything Sale” it said.  That was a Sunday night, so I knew I would have to re-post it before the weekend came so it would pop back up on the list, but this was sort of necessary for me.  I couldn’t back out once I put it out there for everyone to see.  I was still hoping for a little confirmation, though. 

So, the next morning, I was talking to my mom on the way to work.  She was telling me that she had bought herself a laptop.  (This is related, I promise.)  She was giving me all of her reasons, and I could tell that she was still sort of justifying it to herself…that she felt a little bit guilty for buying something moderately expensive and also pretty much unnecessary.  I should insert here, that I have never, once in my life, seen my mom purchase anything large that was just for herself and completely unnecessary.  My mom was excited when she got to buy a new washing machine.  She sent me pictures of it, if that gives you an idea of her purchasing history.  She always ends up doing practical things with any extra money she gets.  So, although this is NOT related: Mom, when you read this post, I give you permission to NOT feel guilty about buying yourself a laptop.  You deserve it. 

Anyway, so we were talking about that, and she said something about spoiling herself.  Or maybe I made that up.  I don’t want to lie.  Maybe I just thought something like, “Sometimes you have to spoil youself.”  When we got off the phone, I continued to think about this, and I thought about how I spoil myself all the time.  Not that I necessarily buy big things, but I do buy myself just things.  And I thought about how the reason for this was because I feel like no one else is going to do it.  If I don’t spoil myself, no one else will.  So, I wasn’t really thinking about that in conjunction with God.  I was not particularly listening for His voice at that exact moment.  But after this thought, I immediately felt like He spoke: “You’ve never given Me the chance to spoil you.”  And I knew that was God.  He was telling me why He wanted me to sell my stuff.  I have been so busy acquiring things for myself that I have never let Him have a crack at it.  This was confirmation #1.

Then, that night when I came home from work, I was cooking some supper and I stuck Alias in the DVD player.  I have the boxset and I just watch them in order.  It’s not quite as mundane as watching a movie over and over because it takes so long to roll back around to the beginning.  But I still don’t stare at it, so I was more like listening to it.  Anyhow, I put in the DVD where I was in the series…I didn’t look for a particular episode or anything; it’s just where I was in watching it.  Well, if you don’t know Alias, there’s a point when she disappears for 2 years, and when she comes back, all of her stuff has been destroyed in a fire.  She has nothing.  And she’s talking to someone and says something like, “You know, there are benefits to losing all of your stuff…all the paper…and sweaters I was never going to wear….”  This was confirmation #2.  Some of you might think it’s a little out there to think God was talking to me through Alias, but what are the chances that I would be on that episode out of all the discs from all the seasons…and that I just happen to watch it the night after I put all of my stuff up for sale because God told me to? 

Well, I was a little more settled about the whole thing after that.  I did have moments of half-panic, thinking, “What if this sells?” (Specifically my keyboard.)  And I thought maybe I would just have an exception and say I would sell everything except for that.  But as I thought that, I felt God clearly impress, “Trust me.  Trust me with what sells.”  I did make an exception for my computer, just because it has personal info on it that I didn’t really have time to take care of, so it was not for sale.  Just thought I should list that to be truthful…but I felt like God was OK w/ that.  God wasn’t OK with exceptions on the keyboard, though.  Or on my favorite mirror.  After the keyboard, I didn’t try that one out on Him.  I figured He was pretty much set on “everything”. 

I had two ideas of what God was trying to do, with Biblical examples to back them up.  One was Abraham and Isaac.  Maybe God just wanted me to be willing to sacrifice everything, like He just wanted Abraham to be willing to sacrifice Isaac. 

The second example was a little more frightening.  Gideon’s army.  You know, they were completely outnumbered already, but God told them their army was too big, and through a series of events cut it down to basically nothing so that He could show them His power.  I thought maybe God wanted to show me just what He could do if I was cleaned out.

So, Friday came, and I re-posted my ad.  But I still had the issue of what selling all of my stuff was supposed to look like.  I didn’t feel like I was supposed to walk around my house and price everything I own.  I kept feeling like God wanted me to tell people to pay what they wanted to pay.  And I kept thinking, “Surely not.”  I mean, “Take what you want and pay what you feel you should” is like an invitation to be taken by the opportunistic, right?  Some Joe could decide to pay five bucks, come back with a truck and load my house up. But it was the only thing my spirit felt comfortable with.  I got a grocery bag, stapled the top shut where there was just a small opening, and put a sign on it that said, “Pay what you feel led to pay.”  And I made a deal with God that I wasn’t going to look in the bag until the sale was over.  I kind of think God wanted me to do this so that I could be sure my obedience was not dependent on what I thought I might get out of it. 

Pretty soon after the sale officially started, some people drove up.  There were 4 of them all together: a man, his wife, a friend of theirs and their six-year-old daughter.  They came in and asked, “So, why are you selling everything?  Are you moving?”  I told them why.  They didn’t seem shocked or weirded out by it.  They seemed nice.  They also seemed hesitant to purchase anything – like the idea made them a little uncomfortable as buyers.  I told them not to be hesitant…that’s why I was doing it.  The lady said her sister had been looking for a futon for her son.  I had a futon.  So, they decided they’d buy it.  The husband and friend said they needed to go to the store and get change, though.  I offered for the lady and her daughter to stay here while they went, so she did.  We probably talked for 30 minutes, at least.  It was more like someone came over to visit than like I was having a sale.  I’m not very good at community; it reminded me, as I have been reminded so often, that when I am doing what God asks, He opens the doors of communication with those around me.  The guys came back, and they asked me more than once if I was sure about this.  I said yes, so they loaded it up, dropped something in my bag, and went on their way. 

I was kind of like, “Wow, first shot was my couch…I wonder what else is going to go?”  And then the day went on.  And on.  And on.  And that was it.  All day.  No one else even came.  It’s kind of humorous, actually.  I’m calling it the “sacrificial couch”.  It’s like I just had to have a token of my willingness.  I guess God was after the Abraham/Isaac effect.  I looked in the bag at the end of the day.  Fifty bucks.  So, I’m down one very ordinary futon, but I’m up $50 plus a level of obedience that I didn’t have before.

There is also something freeing, even though I still have my stuff, about knowing that I was willing to walk away from it.  (Or let it walk away from me.)  It’s kind of good to know that if I had to, I could.  Or that if someone steals something from me, maybe I can still be loving to them, because I don’t have that thing in a place of priority that takes precedence over seeing a person who needs Jesus.  And I realize that if I am willing to get rid of all of my stuff, then why should I worry about my stuff? 

Someone told me today that they were impressed by what I did…that it says something about where I am in my relationship with God.  I almost interrupted them with saying, “I don’t think it does.”  We both started laughing, and she was like, “Explain how it couldn’t.”  I said, “Well, if God has told you to do something multiple times over three or four years, is it so great when you finally do it?”  She said, “Well, I see your point.  It could be looked at as three or four years of dis-obedience.”  Exactly.  And, is it so great if I finally do it, only because I am at a point where I finally feel such a desperate need for God that disobedience does not seem like an option for me, because I know it would take me out of His plan?  I didn’t feel capable of handling being out of His plan right then.  Like, sometimes, when things are going pretty good, I think I can handle a little bit of disobedience.  “Oh, I’ll just deal with the consequences.  Everything is mostly going smoothly.  I can probably deal with whatever problem it brings up.”  What a ridiculous attitude.  The truth is that I am NEVER in control so much that distance from God should seem like an acceptable option.  I don’t guess that very many people learn this before they get desperate, though.

This has also taken me back to an example from a book that I’ve mentioned in my posts before.  I’ve stolen the excerpt from my “Rebellion” post, so as not to have to re-explain the situation here:

If you’ve ever read Prince Caspian of  “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C. S. Lewis, you will recognize the upcoming reference.  (Although classified as children’s books, the spiritual truths conveyed in these books are relevant and applicable to people of any age.)  In the story, the children are on a difficult journey…no path seems easy and some seem virtually impossible.  They are at the crossroads, if you will, possibly lost, and they all know it is imperative to take the quickest route.  They are having a bit of discussion (actually more like an argument) about which is the best way.  Lucy, the youngest of the group, suddenly states that she has just seen the lion Aslan (the allegorical representation of God), and that He wants them to go up.  The others do not fully believe her, thinking perhaps she saw a lion, but not necessarily Aslan, and, besides, Up is, in this instance, seemingly the most difficult and impassible direction.  Lucy is the only one who has seen Him, but she knows, without a doubt, what Aslan wants them to do.  However, she is out-voted, and they go the logical way…the way that makes sense, practically and responsibly.  Soon enough, they are attacked by the enemy and must re-trace their steps.  Lucy sees Aslan again, and He tells her that even if no one else will follow Him, she must.  She is the only one who can see Him at first, but this time, they have no option other than to believe her.  There is no alternate route to take.  Aslan leads Lucy, and the rest of them behind her, down paths they would’ve never seen, paths that they presumed were absurdly dangerous and that seem at any moment they will cause them to dive off a precipice.  He does not lead them down the “safe” roads, although with Him leading, they are safe. 

I wrote in the other post that I felt a certain kinship with Lucy, and I still do – like God is always trying to make me walk off of cliffs.  Only they’re not really cliffs at all.  But today, He reminded me that if I walk off of cliffs when He asks me to, others will follow me there.  Just like in Prince Caspian, when Lucy saw Aslan again, and he tells her that they must go his way now, this is how the conversation goes:

“Yes, wasn’t it a shame?” said Lucy.  “I saw you all right.  They wouldn’t believe me.  They’re all so….”

From somewhere deep inside Aslan’s body there came the faintest suggestion of a growl. 

“I’m sorry,” said Lucy, who understood some of his moods.  “I didn’t mean to start slanging the others.  But it wasn’t my fault anyway, was it?” 

The Lion looked straight into her eyes.

“Oh, Aslan,” said Lucy.  “You don’t mean it was?  How could I – I couldn’t have left the others and come up to you alone, how could I?  Don’t look at me like that…oh well, I suppose I could.  Yes, and it wouldn’t have been alone, I know, not if I was with you.  But what would have been the good?”

Aslan said nothing.

“You mean,” said Lucy, rather faintly, “that it would have turned out all right – somehow?  But how?  Please, Aslan!  Am I not to know?”

“To know what would have happened, child?” said Aslan.  “No.  Nobody is ever told that.”

And so that is where I am.  I don’t get to know what would have happened if I had obeyed without three years of disobedience first.  But I get to know what happens now.  And I’m pretty excited about that. 

Now, aren’t you glad that I limited this post to one subject?  Is anyone wondering if I know how to write a short post? 

Spiritual Symptoms

You might remember a while back when I talked about all of the various and seemingly unrelated physical symptoms I had that I started trying to target in prayer.  If you don’t, you can read about it here.  After a season of consistent prayer and improvement, God impressed upon me a course of action that completely healed all of my symptoms.  This course of action was to eat all organic food, at which point they all disappeared.  But what the course of action was is really insignificant to this post.  It is the process I want to talk about.

I am a Christian, and I have eternal life because of Christ.  However, I am still spiritually sick.  This is evidenced by symptoms such as confusion, anger, fear, impatience, depression, selfishness…the list could go on.  Anything that cannot fall into the categories of one of the fruits of the spirit, as listed in Galatians 5:22-23 (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control), is a symptom of the sickness.  As with my physical symptoms, my initial reaction is to medicate.  Only not with pills, but with things and personal effort and self-help-type mindsets.  This does not work.  The symptoms continue.  My second reaction, as with my physical symptoms, is denial.  Ignore them.  If I just keep plugging along maybe I will be able to limp through and no one will notice that something is wrong with me.  This does not work either.  Eventually, they get bad enough that everyone can tell, and you are never really fooling yourself so you are miserable the whole time. 

With my physical symptoms, I eventually came to the place where a) I asked for help and b) I stopped denying the symptoms and started trying to target them in prayer, which all led to God providing a complete cure. 

I started recognizing yesterday that this is a great model for doing the same thing with my spiritual symptoms.  If every time I feel discouraged, frustrated, afraid, etc., I immediately begin praying against these things, God will work a change in my life.  And these are all things that we can know are not of God.  God gives us promises in His Word that He didn’t just stick in there as cute quips.  Promises that mean things and that mostly I pass over instead of recognizing them as true because He said they were true. 

And I believe part of the process is finally realizing that I can no longer hold up the banner of “I’m OK,” and have other people believe it…which is the same point I got to with the physical symptoms.  I wasn’t OK and it was starting to show.  The same is true spiritually…I had to get to the point where I knew I couldn’t fool people into thinking I was great all of the time.  And then to the point where I knew I could not fix that under my own power.  I have no idea how.  The bottom line is that I tried everything my self-sufficient nature could think of and it usually makes it worse.  So, the only thing I have left is to turn to God and ask Him to fix me when I am behaving in a manner contrary to what I know God has called me to.  I find that even asking Him to fix it somehow gives me the patience to step back and evaluate what I am doing, how I am acting.  It’s a constant check on me. 

 If I say to myself in the morning, “Today, every time I feel those negative feelings, whatever they may be, I am going to ask God to help me fix it, overcome it and change it,” then my first realization is how much I am having to ask God to help!  I found that I am very good at the “denial” part of this…just like when I started trying to target my physical symptoms in prayer, I was amazed at how many I had.  I tried to ignore them for so long that I hadn’t even realized how bad they had gotten. 

But however bad our symptoms may get, they’re no match for God when we just let Him have at it instead of trying to take it over ourselves. 

Virtually Symptom Free

I realized yesterday that I had not written to update the status of my physical state since I discussed the acknowledgement of God’s power over the physical as well as the spiritual.  If anyone wants a reference for what what we’re talking about here, check out my Technical Difficulties  and my Last Lesson from “Captivating” posts. 

When writing those posts, I had been battling overwhelming physical symptoms in a lot of random areas, to the point that I was worried they were about to become debilitating.  A few of my symptoms at that point had been going on for years, but this year a lot of fun additions had been occuring, and rapidly worsening for several months. 

Through the lessons mentioned in the other referenced posts, I had started treating each physical symptom as a spiritual attack, immediately claiming the power of Christ’s sacrifice and the authority that He gave us over evil, in addition to praying to God for healing.  I know this sounds crazy…especially if you’re not a Christian.  But Christ did give His followers authority over evil, and our skeptical society has caused even Christians to roll their eyes at this kind of talk.  When you begin to speak of demons purposefully causing people pain and suffering, people start dismissing you off-hand.  Well, dismiss me if you like, but I know what I know.  I know that before I started rebuking the power of evil in Jesus’ name and asking God for healing, I had been feeling worse and worse for months.  And I know that after I started doing this, my symptoms went on a dramatic down-swing, and are now all but gone.  I no longer have the shooting pains in my head, the terrible headaches, the dizzy spells, the blurred vision, the tremors, the twitches, the fatigue, the random other pains or any of the many other crazy things I had going on.  The only lingering symptom is one I have had since I was a teenager (general body aches) and it’s even decreased. 

I know that there is an extreme this can be taken to, and someone could read this and take it to mean that if we just had enough faith and prayed enough, we could get rid of all of the bad things in our lives.  It could be interpreted that I’m saying there’s a demon under every rock, hiding our keys from us and making us sick.  I don’t think this…I think that discernment is gained through prayer and intimacy with God.  Only through maintaining a relationship with Him can you know if something is a spiritual attack or just plain life happening.  I think most of us take this to the other extreme, though, and treat nothing as a spiritual attack.  When we do this, we deny God’s power and allow Satan a stronghold to get working on.  We just live in our trouble, not realizing we have been given the authority to get out of it.

I’m feeling like I’m saying words that are not strong enough to convey how important I think this is, and like I’m not really getting my point across or like I’m leaving something out.  I’m not sure.  I just wanted to give God the glory publicly for my healing.

I also want to say that I think there was a lot that went into this healing.  My boyfriend had been praying for me rigorously, and had been encouraging me to do the same for months before God opened my eyes to the spiritual implications of my physical problems.  I also wrote my Technical Difficulties post before I came to this kind of understanding.  I think there were many factors necessary for all of it to occur.    I’ll mention things that I know were definitely all necessary, but I cannot exclude the fact that there are probably tons of other miniscule things that had to happen.  Consider this a skeleton list.  First, someone else praying for me with a belief that I did not have at that point.  Second, my opening up about my difficulties and being humbled by asking for help.  Third, listening to God’s voice when urged to read a book that I did not have any interest in reading, which led to the breakdown in my mental blinders to God’s power.  Fourth, acting on this newly rejuvenated faith with constant prayer.  And the fifth, I believe, is no less important…giving God the props for it. 

Here’s to You, God.

Why God Is Better Than Santa Claus

I’m aware that it is nowhere near Christmas.  However, I couldn’t pass up using this anecdote now… 

Last week I was baby-sitting for some kids I keep pretty frequently, and the 6-year-old girl was getting settled in for me to read her a book.  She likes to match the stuffed animal she sleeps with to the book she is reading at night.  So, this particular evening, she had chosen a winged unicorn book, and was getting all cuddled up with her stuffed, winged unicorn.  When I came in from tucking her little brother in, she was frowning and pulling on the stuffed unicorn’s wings. 

“What are you doing?” I asked.   

“Trying to pull his wings off,” she said.   

“Why?” I asked in return. 

“Because they’re scratchy, and I want to sleep with this one.  I wanted him to have snuggly wings.”   

*Pause in dialogue while super-nanny tries to remove wings without destroying unicorn.* 

“Yeah, those wings really don’t come off, do they?” I said. 

“No,” she sighed.  Then she added, “I told Santa Claus I wanted a unicorn with wings and he didn’t even know what I meant.” 

There was a bit more conversation about this, but I think, for my purposes, you can guess where I’m going here.  Santa Claus didn’t know what she meant.  Enter God’s advantage over Santa Claus.  God knows what we mean, often when we don’t even know what we mean.  The Bible says, “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”  (Romans 8:26)  Not only does He know what we mean, He knows whether or not we actually need what we mean. 

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”  (James 1:17)  I kind of figure that all of the things I ask God for are not necessarily “good and perfect.”  Thankfully, He’s smart enough to edit, smart enough to read between the lines and I don’t have to qualify my requests.  If I wanted a snuggly, winged unicorn and forgot to insert “snuggly” into my request, I am not going to be disappointed by scratchy wings if God finds my prayer within His plan for me, and grants it.  He’s going to know I didn’t want scratchy wings.  I’m not saying that God gives you everything you want.  If you think that getting everything you want is the best thing for you, then we have other things to talk about.  I am saying that the prayers God does answer do not have to be accompanied with a spec sheet.  He knows the specs before I do.  He knows the specs better than I do.   

There are a lot of other reasons I could think of that God is better than Santa Claus.  Maybe I’ll come up with a top ten list before Christmas.  But for now, this is where I will leave you. 

Last Lesson from “Captivating”

OK, so we’re almost done talking about this book.  I think.  The third major perspective change I got has to do with spiritual warfare as it pertains to the physical world.  I know when you start talking about spiritual warfare, some people tend to look at you crazy…the thought that there could actually be demons attacking and angels defending us seems a little out there.  I’ll just say that I am a firm believer in it, and think that the devil is out to thwart our growth and God’s plan for us at every turn.  I think I’ve had this mental block, though…a block that made me think that only spiritual things are attacked spiritually, and physical things are just, well, as they are.  So, I would generally only pray spiritual prayers.  “Lord, teach me patience.  Guide me in my decisions.  Show me how to be like You.”  Rarely, if ever, would I allow my prayers to overlap into the physical realm, as in, “Lord, help me find a new job.  Give me more energy today.  Heal me of my sickness.” 

A compartmentalization of God…I guess I forgot all of the miracles He worked both in the persona of God in the Old Testament and in the flesh of Jesus Christ in the New.  Well, last week I mentioned all of my physical symptoms in my Technical Difficulties blog.  I won’t list them again, but my point is that I had never seriously prayed about them.  My boyfriend has been trying to get me to see it this way for a couple of months…to see my healing as something to pray diligently for; even that this is something God has allowed in me in order to teach us how to pray as my symptoms have worsened.  I had been praying about it at his prompting, but I don’t think I had much belief that it could affect a change.  I think he started me down the road, and that is why I asked for prayers last week.  But the real shift in my mindset did not occur until after I wrote that blog, as I was finishing up “Captivating,” by John and Stasi Eldredge.  Stasi is writing at this point, and talks about a book on spiritual warfare that she was reading.  The book was called “Bondage Breakers,” by Neil Anderson.  I don’t know anything about that book except what she says.  She says that in the book she was reading, it tells a story about a woman who had dizzy spells.  This woman began reacting to her dizzy spells as if they were a spiritual attack, commanding authority over them in Jesus name, and her dizzy spells stopped.  Stasi says that when she read this, she told her husband that she had dizzy spells, too, which he did not know as she had never mentioned it.  She decided to begin responding to hers in the same way this woman did.  She says that at first they worsened, but she kept praying every time.  And then she had one so bad that she fell down, and she prayed anyway.  And it was the last dizzy spell she ever had. 

It really was like God put this story in here just for me.  I don’t even think if He had used any other symptom, it would’ve had the same effect.  My dizziness is the newest severe symptom…I never really had these dizzy spells until this year.  It’s also the one that seems to be getting the worst the fastest.  A couple of weeks ago, I had one while I was driving and had to slam on the brakes (there were no other cars) because I thought I might drive off the road if I didn’t.  That was the worst one I’d ever had, and it really worried me.  How could I make a living if I couldn’t drive?  Two days later I read this story.  My dizzy spells a spiritual attack?  This was a new concept to me.  It broke down the mental block I mentioned earlier, relegating God to His spiritual realm in my mind.  It reminded me of something I should already know: that just because something manifests physically does not mean it can’t have spiritual roots. 

I’ve heard a fable before about a man who was drowning.  The man began to pray for God to save him.  Just after he prayed, a boat came by.  They tried to help, but he waved them on, “No, I’m waiting for God to save me.”  Then a rescue helicopter flew up.  “No, I’m waiting for God to save me,” he said.  This man prayed for God to help him out of a physical situation, but then expected supernatural means.  If I were the man, with the mindset I was hanging on to before this shift, I would have been praying, “Lord, help me be OK with drowning.  Help me handle it with grace. ”  Not a bad prayer, but just a little incomplete, if you actually believe God can keep you from drowning at all. 

After I read this, I was discussing it with my mom.  She, in turn, told me a story about a woman who was going to volunteer where she works (a Christian non-profit agency).  The lady had gone through her volunteer training, and was scheduled to start her weekly volunteer shift, but she woke up that morning, and her son had a 104 degree fever.  He didn’t have any other symptoms, but they still rushed him to the emergency room.  The doctors didn’t find anything wrong with him.  They sent them home, and, in a couple of hours, the fever was gone.  Her son was fine the rest of the week.  At least until the next time she was scheduled to volunteer, and then suddenly, her son came down with another 104 degree fever.  No other symptoms.  Doctors couldn’t find anything wrong.  Three weeks in a row this happened only on the day she was supposed to go volunteer.  After the third week, the woman directing the center at the time told this lady that she thought it was a spiritual attack.  She told her next time, just to pray, and come on in anyway.  The following week, the son did have the fever again, but the woman prayed, and went on to volunteer.  The fevers never recurred.  Clearly, Satan will use any method he believes effective in keeping us down, keeping us immobile, keeping us inert. 

I am not pronouncing God a magic charm for healing or for anything else, but I am now acknowledging His power in all areas.  I think that sometimes it is beyond our comprehension why we may not get prayers answered, but I don’t think He ever meant for us to not pray them, whatever the subject.  I have been praying, since this, every time I have a single symptom, for God to protect me, to heal me, and for Satan to stop trying to defeat me.  And I’ve felt better.  The symptoms have not disappeared, but they have been noticably more infrequent and less severe.  You can say whatever you want about placebo effects and the power of positive thinking.  I’ve tried the power of positive thinking before and it didn’t do a darn thing.  God’s doing something…not the least of which is teaching me about His power and His love. 

Community Shared Agriculture and Thanks

I have to thank my friend Jody for bringing Community Shared Agriculture back under my radar.  I read an article on it in the newspaper early spring, but completely forgot about checking into it after that.  So, last week I get an e-mail with a form attached for signing up.  Way cool.  If you don’t know, Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) is basically a “subscription” to whatever is grown at a local farm.  The farm I signed up for grows organic vegetables and a few fruits as well.  This farm (called Eco-Gardens) allows you to order a full or half share…a full share is half a bushel and a half share is a quarter bushel, which is plenty for me.  It’s reasonably priced, too.  I would definitely spend more money buying a quarter bushel of organic vegetables at the local store.  Not to mention, I don’t have to shop.  On the sign-up form, there is a list of what these guys grow, and you rate how much you want (or if you want none), and each week your quarter bushel shows up w/ something.  Woo hoo!  It’s gonna be like a surprise package every week!  I’m really stoked about this; can you tell?  For someone who doesn’t like to shop (ME!), this is great.  I don’t have to go decide what vegetables I get, I just go get whatever I get.  So, this isn’t just a local thing…these CSA’s are all over the place.  Mine supplies vegetables for 26 weeks…that’s half the year.  Not bad.  So, if you like supporting local agriculture and prefer to get fresh vegetables or are trying to eat organically with a little bit less expense, I encourage looking into it.  I’m excited to figure out how to cook spaghetti squash when that comes in….hmmm.  And also interested in how they get watermelon to fit in a quarter bushel. 

 And for anyone who read my last blog and is praying for me, thanks.  I have actually felt like a person the last 2 days, and although my human reaction is to say, “Well, the severity of it was probably on the way out anyway,” I know that’s just Satan’s argument because he wants me to deny God’s power.  While my symptoms have not disappeared, they have gone back to being manageable.  So, thanks for praying.  And also you don’t have to stop if you don’t want to.  

Technical Difficulties…in a couple of ways

So, I’ve had a blog in my drafts for three days…I’m trying to put 6 or 7 pictures in it, and this being my first effort towards this, I have had a bit of a time.  I can put them all in there, but I can’t make them sit where I want them to sit.  Instead of appearing where I put them, they all line up horizontally out into the middle of nowhere off of your screen when I preview it.  I’ll figure it out eventually, but this is the reason nothing new or “significant” has appeared.  I’ve been having my own personal “technical difficulties” as well in that I haven’t been feeling so great, and whereas usually I would have probably spent the time to figure it out by now, I have just been going to bed when I get sick of trying.  If there are any Pray-ers out there, I wouldn’t shun a few prayers coming my way.  I don’t like to complain, but maybe it’s good for the soul to ask for help, and I KNOW it’s good for everything to get prayers, so here’s what you can pray for.  I don’t have any officially diagnosed illness, because I’ve never bothered to try and get diagnosed.  I’ve seen people go through diagnoses for random, seemingly unrelated symptoms like I have, and it is a long, frustrating, expensive and often fruitless process.  They get diagnosed with Fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which are basically untreatable, so what’s the point of getting diagnosed?  They are basically just words for the medical world to admit that you have the symptoms you claim you have.  For me, it is frequent muscle aches, headaches and dizziness sometimes accompanied by difficulty to focus, heart palpitations, muscle twitches that keep me awake at night, shakiness, muscle cramps.  All of these range from mild to severe and are completely unpredictable as to when they will come and go, and are just the common ones.  On any given day, I may have all of these or a combination of random other symptoms.  This week it has been back, foot and joint pain in addition to these and accompanied by extremely low energy levels.  I went to bed at 6:30 Tuesday night, and still took a nap when I got home from work on Wednesday.   I don’t talk about this stuff because I feel that people will think I am a hypochondriac or I am trying to get attention.  I look healthy.  I’m young – I’m strong.  Lately, it just seems they are worsening, and it takes a lot of my emotional energy just to maintain a level of non-descript mellow-ness, which I think can be interpreted as disinterest or laziness or disdain.  I’m not sure how to combat this.  (For those of you who know me, you know that I am not really an excitable person to begin with, so for me to say I’m mellow, it’s getting pretty extreme!)  So, here’s me asking for your prayers.  It’s hard for me to be weak in front of people.  I like to have it all together.  But I can’t see your faces, and I guess that makes it easier, which is sad, and I know not how it is supposed to be in God’s plan.  God would have us support each other face to face and confess our weaknesses so that we can be strengthened.  I’m not blaming anyone else, it’s ME who wants to be strong.  No one else is making me.  Thanks for listening.

Feminism and the Bible – Feel Free to Comment

Original post is below, but find my first response to Annie Laurie Gaylor’s article (also below) here: Women and the Bible – Genesis 3:16, and the more responses to it here: Women and the Bible – Church Roles and here: Women and the Bible – Heroines.

A friend of mine sent me the article below (included after my comments), which accuses religion and specifically the Bible of being the main opponent to women’s rights, and the main proponent of women’s denigration. The friend who sent it to me had seen it because an acquaintance of her’s posted it. She sent it to me out of sadness, wanting to know if I would be interested in helping her refute its claims, not out of a sense of “rightness” but out of a sense of clearing God’s name. Any time I read stuff like this (whether about feminists or gay rights or any of your current hot-button issues) purporting the Bible as a tool of hatred, it hurts me. It mostly hurts because sometimes the accusations about the way people have interpreted the things the Bible says are true, and there ARE people who will take verses in the Bible and use them to undermine a woman’s worth…people who claim Christ as their Savior. People have mis-interpreted a lot of the Bible a lot of the time, but I don’t think their mistakes should be projected onto God or the Bible. My initial thought when I read my friend’s message about helping to answer this article was, “Oh, that’s going to take a lot of time.” When you get to the article below, you will see why. The article states much about historical figures and lists some Bible verses that I have never heard, and others, that I, honestly, have never myself found quite satisfactory explanations of. This is quite a task. Then I thought about my prayers to God lately, which have greatly been about wanting to follow His will and learn His ways and help to grow His agendas. I realized this was a direct, serious answer to this prayer. God, apparently, did not think I was kidding. And so, the research must begin. I was thinking about the best way to begin what seems to be such a large task, and it made me think of my boyfriend. My boyfriend is what you would call a “conspiracy theorist”, although the more you know about the things he learns, the less they seem like “conspiracies”, and the more they seem like “causes”. However, he is one of the few in that circle who presents all theories and knowledge in the light of Christianity. The conspiracy world, as a general rule, chucks God altogether. So, poor thing, he kind of gets it from both sides: the Christians think he’s crazy for his conspiracies, and the conspiracy buffs think he’s crazy for his Christianity. He gets quite a few messages asking him questions and making accusations, etc. He’s coined his responses as “neo-apologetics,” because it is apologetics in the true sense of defending the case of Christ, but taking in consideration information that most main-stream Christians have never even heard, which is necessary when dealing with people in that avenue. He has started just taking each message that he gets, researching each accusation or question, and responding in as much depth as he can to every point. It takes some time, but it also teaches him a lot. I think the same would be true with my friend and I trying to do the same with this article. I was listening to a lecture on intelligent design this morning, and the guy giving the lecture on it was saying that he finally stopped being afraid of science when he realized that every time someone gave him a scientific question from a secular viewpoint, it made him research it, and inevitably would only end up strengthening his point and his belief. He began to realize that he NEEDED the opposing viewpoint questioning him in order to not stagnate in his growth. If we respond to this sort of thing with his attitude, and with the intent not of proving someone wrong, but of proving God loving, I think we could affect a change. So, yes, I said, let’s get after it. Scary…but purposeful. Who better to combat this kind of worldview if not women within the Christian culture? C.S. Lewis says in some of his writings that if you can’t state what you believe in a clear way, then you don’t really know what you believe, or at the very least, not why you believe it. I always feel that I am completely inadequate at stating what I believe AND why, and those statements by Lewis have convicted me. Doing this will definitely aid in changing that. If anyone has any helpful information that would contribute to our understanding of how to best state the truth about God’s view of women, please feel free to comment. I just read this article about an hour ago, so my research has not yet commenced…I have ideas and a few verses in mind, but it is yet a long way to go in any structured form or finality, especially taking in consideration all of the points raised in the article. I’m sure if I read the book written by the article’s author, I would have quite a few more points to study. Ah, well…first things first. Pray for us to be open to God’s wisdom!

Here is the article:

Why Women Need Freedom From Religion
by Annie Laurie Gaylor

Organized religion always has been and remains the greatest enemy of women’s rights. In the Christian-dominated Western world, two bible verses in particular sum up the position of women:

“I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”–Genesis 3:16

By this third chapter of Genesis, woman lost her rights, her standing–even her identity, and motherhood became a God-inflicted curse degrading her status in the world.In the New Testament, the bible decrees:

“Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.”–1 Tim. 2:11-14
One bible verse alone, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” (Exodus 22:18) is responsible for the death of tens of thousands, if not millions, of women. Do women and those who care about them need further evidence of the great harm of Christianity, predicated as it has been on these and similar teachings about women?Church writer Tertullian said “each of you women is an Eve . . . You are the gate of Hell, you are the temptress of the forbidden tree; you are the first deserter of the divine law.”Martin Luther decreed: “If a woman grows weary and at last dies from childbearing, it matters not. Let her die from bearing, she is there to do it.”Such teachings prompted 19th-century feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton to write: “The Bible and the Church have been the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of woman’s emancipation.”

The various Christian churches fought tooth and nail against the advancement of women, opposing everything from women’s right to speak in public, to the use of anesthesia in childbirth (since the bible says women must suffer in childbirth) and woman’s suffrage. Today the most organized and formidable opponent of women’s social, economic and sexual rights remains organized religion. Religionists defeated the Equal Rights Amendment. Religious fanatics and bullies are currently engaged in an outright war of terrorism and harassment against women who have abortions and the medical staff which serves them. Those seeking to challenge inequities and advance the status of women today are fighting a massive coalition of fundamentalist Protestant and Catholic churches and religious groups mobilized to fight women’s rights, gay rights, and secular government.Why do women remain second-class citizens? Why is there a religion-fostered war against women’s rights? Because the bible is a handbook for the subjugation of women. The bible establishes woman’s inferior status, her “uncleanliness,” her transgressions, and God-ordained master/servant relationship to man. Biblical women are possessions: fathers own them, sell them into bondage, even sacrifice them. The bible sanctions rape during wartime and in other contexts. Wives are subject to Mosaic-law sanctioned “bedchecks” as brides, and male jealousy fits and no-notice divorce as wives. The most typical biblical labels of women are “harlot” and “whore.” They are described as having evil, even satanic powers of allurement. Contempt for women’s bodies and reproductive capacity is a bedrock of the bible. The few role models offered are stereotyped, conventional and inadequate, with bible heroines admired for obedience and battle spirit. Jesus scorns his own mother, refusing to bless her, and issues dire warnings about the fate of pregnant and nursing women.There are more than 200 bible verses that specifically belittle and demean women. Why should women–and the men who honor women–respect and support religions which preach women’s submission, which make women’s subjugation a cornerstone of their theology?When attempts are made to base laws on the bible, women must beware. The constitutional principle of separation between church and state is the only sure barrier standing between women and the bible.For more information about the treatment of women in the bible, read the books Woe to the Women: The Bible Tells Me So by Annie Laurie Gaylor and The Born Again Skeptic’s Guide to the Bible by Ruth Hurmence Green.