believer, discipleship, eternal life, life, personal comments, personal testimony, Serving Mentally Ill Christians, spiritual lessons, understanding, Very helpful, wisdom

Mannequin Logic

For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

1 Corinthians 15:22

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 

Ephesians 2:4-5

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins.

Colossians 2:13

Mannequins have always have had a odd effect on me– somewhat similar to clowns (which really make me uneasy.)  I also had a small artist’s mannequin–it was flexible and the theory was you could pose it.  And of course there is the story of Pinocchio, a puppet who became a boy (I wonder if he regarded “toothpicks” as his cousins? LOL)

The Bible uses this imagery to explain exactly what happens when we first believe.  His Spirit works on us, or in us, to bring us back to life.  Talking with any sincere Christian and they’ll describe their repentance/conversion using a remarkable metaphor–resurrection of the dead!  Now that is dramatic.

We the “cast-off” mannequins have suddenly come to life.  We understand things from a revolutionary new way.  Jesus has worked and crafted his new children and brought them to life.  The Holy Spirit has done something so radical that it defies any explanation except through the Word.

Life is so very different now.  I see it through new eyes.  I am no longer seeking to be energized by drugs, alcohol or a selfish lifestyle.  The emptiness of that past life no longer disturbs me.

I still have problems.  There are difficult issues of depression and BP that challenge me.  Somedays I can’t get out of bed and life is hopeless.  Meds help me work through this black mood.  I pray and worship and I am lifted up from my dark pit.  Friends who understand are a blessing.

But this wonderfully radical truth of coming to life is by far-and-away the most awesome thing that has ever happened to me.  I was like that mannequin in the mall, vacant and empty.  Not alive.  But Jesus touched me, and now I live.

It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!”

Romans 8:11-12, The Message

Mannequin logic can only be understood when the Holy Spirit moves in!

affliction, Bible promises, brokenness, despair, difficulties, disease, God, hope, Jesus Christ, Linda Kruschke, pain, trials

Focus on a Known God

Note: I recently posted this on my blog, Linda Kruschke’s Blog, and right away I knew I needed to post it here at Broken Believers, too. I hope it will encourage many here.

Some things in life are unknown. Right now I’m facing the unknown of health concerns. After multiple tests, doctors still don’t know what is causing recent symptoms. I do have a list of what it is not. Whenever a test reveals that it is not something else I’m told it is good news. And I know that for the most part it is. But the difficult news remains that we don’t know what it is.

I thought of this post this morning, but decided not to write it because, frankly, I get tired of complaining about my health. I know there are a lot of people worse off than me, and I’m sure it gets old for others to hear about my various maladies.

Then I went to my list of blog subscriptions to see what others had posted for today. I clicked on a post by one of my favorite bloggers, Karla over at Out of Eden Ministries. The post was called “at the beginning going low.” She starts with a discussion of how Rahab the prostitute appears in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:5, and goes on to talk about how God makes the insignificant into a significant part of His plan. Karla writes:

Phone calls and prayers and prostitutes and a scarlet cord and you, yes you. Your life, your love, your pain, your prayer, and your hunger for more. All significant in the plans and the hands of God.”

I immediately knew I had to write this post after all, because although it starts with my insignificant struggle with pain and its unknown cause, it doesn’t end there. It ends with a focus on the known. What I thought of to write for today was how, even though I don’t know what is wrong with me, God does. And even more importantly, I know the truth of what God has revealed in His Holy Word. Here are some truths that I cling to, that I choose to focus on, as I face my insignificant struggles.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 (NIV).

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 2 Corinthians 4:17 (NIV).

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 1 Peter 5:10 (NIV).

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV).

My own struggles are light and momentary in the grand scheme of the universe and God’s plan. Though I will suffer a little while, Jesus will restore me and make me strong. He will use my sufferings for good in the big picture of His purpose. He has plans to prosper me spiritually, and He will faithfully fulfill this promise.

(You might be wondering why certain words are bolded in the above verses. These are the words I remember and that I used to find these verses on Biblegateway.com, since I seldom remember the actual chapter and verse of the scripture that I have stored up in my heart.)

Karla’s post made me realize that I needed to listen to the prompt in my spirit to post about my struggles and the known promises of God that I choose to focus on, because there just might be someone out there who is struggling too and needs to know that God is with them. If that happens to be you, then hold onto the promises of God and He will see you through.

depression, despair, despondancy, difficulties, helpful, life lessons, lost causes, medications, mental illness, personal comments, suicide, transformation, understanding, Very helpful, wisdom

In Pursuit of Happyness

By CARONAE HOWELL, From the New York Times, dated July 20, 2009

flight1
To fly away

I’m the kind of woman who spends entire days thinking of nothing but birds: woodcocks, goldfinches, kingfishers. I look for loons everywhere I go. Sometimes I find herons in Central Park and they are mysteries. There is one thing in this world that I envy: the hollowness of bird bones. In the three milliseconds of liftoff, a bird separates itself from its problems. The sky is the freest part of the world.

I have always been depressed, and I have always wanted to fly — not to emulate Superman or to travel faster. I want to fly because of the elation. In my dreams I am a butterfly or a fairy or a honeybee. Depression, for me, is when you want to be a bird, but can’t.

There is a specific moment in which I became a woman. It was February — always the worst month with its aching light and its slip-induced bruises. I had been trying to fall asleep for at least four hours. At 3 a.m., I found myself sobbing and shaking and confused, sitting on my metal dorm bed in the bird-with-a-­broken-wing position. I dug my fingernails into my forearms, leaving shell-shaped trenches behind. I have the kind of skin that refuses to heal, just stays eternally raw and mottled. It was five weeks into my fourth semester.

In late January, a freshman hanged himself in my old dorm. I found myself asking, really, how hard is it to suddenly find yourself perched on a sink, rope around your beautiful neck, ready to fly? How hard? My dad drove through four states to pick me up the next week. On the way home I had tea and ice cream. He asked me if I remembered the time he took too many of his antidepressants. I did not. Nor did I remember my uncle’s suicide (gun to the cerebrum) or my sister’s delicately sliced arms and hips. These were things I had only been told. The space between my skull and my irises hurts sometimes — hurts like the shatter of a tiny bird that has fallen midflight.

And so it was that sour February night that I took the delicate step into the adult world: realizing that I was too depressed to stay at college was realizing I had not only lost my flock; I had fallen from the air entirely. Michigan has many birds. My favorite might be the wood duck, with its banded neck and flat little wings. When I watch birds take off, I hold my breath. They always make it to the sky.

Every Monday morning at 9 I see my therapist, mug of green tea and honey close at hand. I take new pills now. I have a routine: oatmeal in the morning, Wednesday nights with my father. I tell my therapist about Toni Morrison’s “Song of Solomon.” Who isn’t searching for their people? I arrange my thoughts. (No, I have never been in love and I am, in fact, afraid of men; I panic in Times Square; I grow attached to almost everyone I meet.) I have feathers and questions.

I moved to New York City for college in 2007. School did not grow me into an adult, nor did voting for the first time or doing my own banking. These things were not confrontations. How did I arrive at the place where I could look at my disease and say, “Yes, you are here, but I will not let you take the joy out of looking for birds”? I like to think it was New York, or my newfound discipline, but it was a more internal revolution. I acknowledged my traumas: I was not crazy, just damaged. I was molting. Columbia gave me many new things: a copy of the “Iliad” with a note saying the first six books should be read before orientation, a job in the oral history office, a sense of time management.

But without my sanity — without joy — these things had little value. I knew nothing until I knew I was hardly living. Hobbes and Locke and all the philosophers in the world could not matter when each day was insurmountable and burning. In my year and a half at Columbia, I began to learn how to love myself. I tell my therapist about my earliest memories and the bizarre geography of my family. I’m anxious and I have no self-esteem. But I am mending. Fifteen lost credits is a small price to pay for happiness. Perhaps I am learning how to fly. My bones may not be hollow, and joy will never come easily, but the beauty is in the struggle. The birds are everywhere.

Caronae Howell, Columbia, class of 2011, history major

affliction, caregivers, disease, fibromyalgia, frustration, Linda Kruschke, pain

What’s Your Pain Number?

If you have fibromyalgia, suffer from migraines, or have some other chronic pain illness, I think you can develop a skewed view of pain. Then when you go to the doctor because of some new or acute pain, and they ask “What’s your pain level on a scale of 1 to 10?”, I wonder if the answer is the same as it would be from someone who is otherwise healthy. I think that it may not be. I think when you deal with chronic pain what level of pain you consider tolerable – because there is no choice but to tolerate it – is much different than the person who is accustomed to living with a zero pain level.

It used to frustrate me when doctors would ask what my pain level was because I had no frame of reference for what was a 3 and what was a 9, or anything in between. Finally, several years ago, a pain specialist gave me a pain chart that I found very helpful in that it provides a description of each number on the pain scale. (I had to chuckle that they include “0 – No Pain” on the chart because I have no idea what that is like and wondered what the point of including this on the pain scale, except maybe to torment those of us who can never honestly say we are at 0.)

Anyway, I thought I would share this pain scale here, for those of you who have never had a doctor who was kind enough to give you a somewhat objective frame of reference. (I say somewhat objective because, as I said above, I think chronic pain can skew your view of what is tolerable pain.)

  1. Minimal = Pain is hardly noticeable.
  2. Mild = Feel a low level of pain; aware of pain only when paying attention to it.
  3. Uncomfortable = Pain is troubling but can be ignored most of the time.
  4. Moderate = Constantly aware of the pain but can continue normal activities.
  5. Distracting = Pain is barely tolerable; some activities limited by the pain.
  6. Distressing = Pain preoccupies thinking; must give up many activities due to pain.
  7. Unmanageable = Constant pain that interferes with almost all activities; often must take time off work; nothing seems to help.
  8. Intense = Severe pain makes it hard to concentrate on anything but the pain; conversations difficult.
  9. Severe = Can concentrate on nothing but the pain; can do almost nothing; can barely talk.
  10. Immobilizing = Pain is excruciating; unable to move except to seek immediate help for pain in emergency room, etc.; bedridden.

I recently experienced a pain in my side and abdomen that was different than and in a different place than any pain I have ever felt before. After talking to an advice nurse on the phone, I went to urgent care because she said I needed to be seen right away. She was concerned that it might be appendicitis or gall stones.

Once at urgent care, the doctor asked me the million dollar question, “What’s your level of pain on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst pain you’ve ever felt?” I really wish I’d had my handy pain scale with me. If I compared the pain I was in that day to the worst pain I’ve ever experienced (which happens to be a 10 on the above scale), it really wasn’t that bad. I think I told him it was a 3 or 4. But based on the above scale it was more like 6 or 7.

It turned out I don’t have appendicitis, though they still haven’t figured out what is wrong. But as I thought about my experience with this urgent care doctor, a guy who didn’t know me at all, I wonder how seriously he took my complaint of pain since it was only at a level of 3 or 4. I wonder if someone else coming into urgent care whose “worst pain ever” was only a 5 on this scale would have answered his query much differently.

Reducing pain to a number doesn’t seem that helpful to me. Does a subjective number that is skewed by the patient’s prior pain experience really help a doctor with a diagnosis? I don’t know that it does. So I think I’m going to print off this pain scale on a small piece of paper that I can easily carry in my purse so that the next time I’m asked that question, I can pull it out and have an objective description of my pain for the doctor.

christlikeness, following Jesus, friendship, God, kindness, Linda Kruschke, love

Love as an Action Verb

When I first started writing this post in my head, before I had posted it on my blog, Linda Kruschke’s Blog, back in 2009, in my head the title was “Love Is an Action Verb.” But as I thought more about it I realized there is more than one kind of love, and that love AS as action verb was just one – and in my opinion the best – form of love.

Four Kinds of Love

In our impoverished English language we use the word love in many different ways. I love my spouse, I love my dog, I love chocolate, I love my new shoes, I loved that movie I watched last night, I love God. Surely we don’t have the same feelings about all of these things, yet we use the same word. In the parts of the Bible that were originally written in Greek, there are four different Greek words that we translate love:

  • Storge – refers to the love that is felt between family members and close relatives.
  • Philia – refers to the love that is between friends.
  • Eros – refers to deep emotion or passion that is felt between lovers and spouses.
  • Agape – refers to the kind of love that God has for us and is what I mean by love as an action verb.

Agape is a kind of love that is about giving, not about getting. God showed us what agape is by His incarnationa as Jesus Christ and by His death on the cross to pay for our sins. Agape is not just a feeling, it is what God is. He acts towards us in the way that He does not because of how He feels about us, but because of who He is; because He chooses to love us with an agape love.

Agape is a type of love that we can, if we choose, combine with any one of the other three kinds of love. We can go beyond how we feel about others and truly love them in the way that God loves us. C.S. Lewis put it this way in his wonderful book Mere Christianity:

“The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you love your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find out one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.”

Agape and Philia

A couple of years ago, I went to the beach with some old friends and had an opportunity to practice agape with someone towards whom I feel philia. Before I left home for the weekend, I received an email from one of my friends saying it would be really great if the house we were renting was all warmed up, with the water turned on and 7-layer bars baking in the oven, when they arrived. These friends had a much longer drive than I did, and she knew I would arrive at the house several hours before they did.

I can tell you that I did not feel like driving by myself at night in the pouring rain to Cannon Beach, I did not feel like hunting around outside in the wind and rain for the water valve to turn on the water, and I really did not feel like baking cookies in the gas oven in a kitchen I am unfamiliar with. But I chose to do all of those things anyway because I love my friends and wanted to make them happy. I combined the philia I felt with agape I have learned from God and received blessings in return.

Agape and Eros

In our society today a high percentage of marriages end in divorce. Often the reason cited is that one spouse doesn’t love the other anymore; that feeling they had when they met is gone. The type of love that can disappear in a realationship is eros. Now eros is important for couples to be attracted to each other and get married, but it cannot, by itself, sustain a lifelong commitment. To create a lasting marriage, a couple must combine eros with agape. Each spouse must act as if they love the other even when they don’t feel like it or are angry or annoyed by the other spouse. A simple text to say “I love you,” a special dinner that your spouse likes, doing housework to lighten the other’s load, a hug and a kiss at the beginning and end of each day – all of these actions are examples of agape.

Who do you need to love (agape) today?

Each day we need to make a conscious effort to incorporate agape love into our interactions with those around us. Who is God calling you to love today? Don’t feel like it? As Nike would say, “Just do it.” After all, love as an action verb can be a blessing to others that is returned to you in even greater measure than you give.

believer, pain, Serving Mentally Ill Christians, spiritual lessons, TheNorEaster, trials, understanding, Very helpful, will of God, wisdom

Safe in the Mouth of Danger

In my dream, I had a vision.

An angel of the Lord led me down to the depths of the sea.

“What do you see?” the angel asked.

I said, “I see a boy, a child, in the mouth of a shark!”

“Yes,” the angel said.

“But, he is terrified!” I said.

“He will be grateful,” the angel said. “Watch.”

As I gazed upon the frightened child, a great white suddenly attacked the shark. The child began to climb out of the mouth of the shark, but he had set his leg upon its jaws and the shark bit down and took off his leg. The child, however, was able to swim away safely because the great white was devouring the shark.

“How is this possible?” I asked the angel.

“Do you not know?” the angel responded. “Have you not heard? With God, all things are possible.”

“But,” I said. “Why was the child not spared this danger in the first place?”

“You will see,” the angel said. “Come.”

A moment later, we were on dry ground.

“Was that real?” I asked. “I am disillusioned.”

“What do you see?” the angel asked.

“My leg is gone!” I proclaimed. “I was the child!”

“Yes,” the angel said.

“But,” I said. “How can I live without my leg? I lost my leg!”

“But, you did not lose you,” the angel said. “And that is precisely what would have happened had you not lost your leg. If the shark had not swallowed you whole, the great white would have attacked you from the side. You would have been devoured and destroyed. Instead, you have been spared.”

“Why?” I asked. “Why have I been spared? Why am I still here? Why must I suffer so much?”

“You suffer,” the angel said. “Indeed, you exist, to give hope. Now, go. And teach God’s children how to walk with a limp. Strengthen your brothers. Encourage your sisters. Show them how to survive A Dark & Stormy Night.”

“Yes, my lord,” I said, bowing my head in respect as the angel vanished from my sight.

When I woke up, I recorded my vision, that my brothers and my sisters may yet understand why they, too, must walk with a limp.

“Do you not know? Have you not heard?
“With God, all things are possible.”