Saturday, January 17, 2009

Meditations on an Insulin Pump

I got my 3rd insulin pump this week. The first few years I had diabetes, I gave myself 3 to 4 shots a day. Then I got my first pump in either 1999 or 2000. I can't remember for sure. Other than the tubing that connects the pump to my stomach, it doesn't look much different than an old school pager.

The insulin pump is a lifesaving invention. If you are a type 1 diabetic who doesn't have one, I'd encourage you to pursue getting one any way possible. For us, it meant taking out a 2nd mortgage on our house to pay the deductible for my first one, but I've never regretted that. Thankfully, we have better insurance now, but pump therapy is still an expensive endeavor.

Despite the wonderful advancement it was for me to get my first pump, I remember well my first night with it. I'm not one known for overly emotional outbursts, but I sobbed to the point of not being able to speak I was so upset to have it. There was an emotional transition for which I wasn't prepared. When giving myself shots the first 3 or 4 years I had diabetes, I had to think about my diabetes several times during the day. But then I had hours in between meals and shots that I could forget. But my pump changed all that. I had to wear it 24 hours a day and could only remove it for the three S's--showers, swimming, and sex. And the first day I got it, I felt the weight of the pump against my wasteband second by second, minute by minute, and hour by hour.

I was a diabetic. I couldn't escape it. I had no relief from dealing with it. And I just wanted to be normal. I had learned up to that point how to deal with the interruptions of checking my blood sugar and giving myself shots. But the pump caused me to deal with my diabetes at a whole new level--I could never get away from it.

In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul speaks of the glory of all we have in Jesus. He goes on and on--the ministry of the Spirit is glorious, there is no comparison to the beauty of the ministry of Jesus to us through the cross, this glory doesn't fade, we are being transformed into the glorious image of Christ, and we are FREE.

Then in 2 Corinthians 4, Paul says this:

7But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

That's a really big "but". We have the treasure of this incomparable glory stored away in jars of clay. Clay pots--not golden treasure chests that stand the test of time, but breakable clay pots that eventually return to the dust from which they were created.

We are breakable. In fact, we are all breaking down. My insulin pump has become to me the symbol of that. I have an incurable condition that in all likelihood will one day hasten my death (though I'm free of complications at this point). Verse 10 often comes to mind when I look at my pump. "We carry around in our body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body."

I love the idea that there is something about my body breaking down that lets me point to the life I have in Jesus all the clearer. You'd think it would be the opposite, but it's not. By God's good plan, He has given us the incomparable glory of Christ to carry around in our broken clay pots. And the greatness of the treasure isn't marred by the fragility of the vessel. This is a great paradox on which to meditate.

*Special Note: Our family has lost a loved one after a 2 year battle with cancer, bringing this passage to mind in new ways. I'll be away from the blog for a few weeks. Thanks to those who read PT for W regularly. I appreciate your prayers for safe travel for us all. And I admit to some anxiety as I prepare to fly with my two young, active (and not always obedient and immediately responsive) boys. I appreciate your prayers for our family these next two weeks.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ted Haggard in Newsweek

This article on Ted Haggard made me very sad. I deliberately try to avoid current controversies on this blog and have no desire to debate and/or discuss Ted Haggard as an individual. I think our response to him as a larger Body of Christ is simply to love him and his family in ways that are consistent with I Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 4. Part of that is that we who do not know him or his family keep our mouths shut about his situation.

But he said something in this article that struck me on a deeper level that has little to do with him personally. He mentioned his estrangement from the church where he had pastored for years, and though he can see it from the windows of his house, he and his family now don't attend church anywhere. And that is just plain sad.

The Haggard family is just one of many families who have similar stories. Some might say this is his former church's fault. Some might say it's the Haggard's fault. It's definitely the church's fault. But who is the church? It’s not church membership or denominational status. It’s not the building or the programs. When the Apostle Paul presents the church in Ephesians, he is simply talking about all those who are IN CHRIST as he has described in Ephesians 1-3. The church is the people—not the building, the programs, the denominational bylaws, or the membership roles.

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Eph. 4: 4-6

Here it is the great summary of why we all must eagerly pursue unity (Ephesians 4:1-3) with other believers despite all the dysfunction most of us have witnessed in our church experience—because there is only ONE Body. Paul is talking about the Body of Christ, which is made up of all those Christ has reconciled to Himself—i. e. the Church. You and I have an obligation that extends well beyond the boundaries of our particular “church”. We have an organic union to all those who are in Christ no matter where or when they lived. All believers, past, present, and future make up one Body. And the ramifications of Paul’s point here are extensive.

The church is a whore. That’s a bold statement, and yet the Scriptures teach this pretty clearly. Consider the book of Hosea. By God’s own order, Hosea marries the harlot Gomer and has a child with her. She then has two other children with different men. Hosea receives her and her children despite her adultery. Eventually Gomer leaves him again, returns to harlotry, and eventually becomes a slave. Hosea buys her back in public auction and brings her back home, not as his slave, but again as his wife. And God uses Hosea’s life story as a picture of his pursuit of his own people.

God’s people have broken their covenant with him throughout history. But God has relentlessly pursued his church (both individually and corporately), not because of her beauty or worthiness, but for His own glory. As Paul said in Ephesians 1, God has lavished his love on us to the praise of his glorious grace. He is sanctifying the church, rooting out her sin and transforming her into the beautiful bride that he will present to Jesus at the marriage supper of the lamb in Revelations.

God is doing a beautiful thing in and through his people. The church will one day be presented spotless before God. But she’s certainly not there yet. The church is a mess. This should make sense to us since She’s made up completely of individuals who are all messes. The problem with the church is that you and I are in it! Each of us in Jesus’ Body were by nature children deserving of God’s wrath (Ephesians 2). Each of us has no righteousness to offer God on our own. Each of us was saved by God’s grace and not our good works which Isaiah likened to filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). It’s really important that we have a Biblically informed understanding of just who exactly the Body of Christ, the Church, is. If we don’t, we are going to be disappointed and disillusioned by Her, likely to the point that we give up on the whole idea altogether.

However, if we understand the Church, both the good and the bad, as Scripture presents her, then when she fails us, we understand that this is just her nature. And we fight for unity in her anyway, because we know she is Jesus’ Body. There’s a great line from a song by Derek Webb in which he sings as Christ would about his church. “You can not live for me with no regard for her. If you love me you will love my church.”

It’s his Body. You can’t say to Jesus, “I like your Head, but your Body I can’t handle.” It’s his BODY bought with His own blood! God chose this picture to communicate to us something deep and beautiful about his people. We are one with each other and one with Christ. Therefore, we HAVE to deal with the Church. We cannot cut ourselves off from her and expect a healthy relationship with Christ. It’s all one glorious, supernatural entity. To believe the gospel means that we are in Christ. And to be in Christ means that we are supernaturally connected to his Body. Therefore, to reflect well on the gospel, we must diligently pursue unity with his Body for we are ONE.

But having that core conviction (which I do) and figuring out what it looks like in practice is hard. I think this must start with reconciliation and restoration among individuals in the Church before it ever moves to the corporate structure. So I am meditating on how to diligently pursue unity one on one first. Paul gives us a nice outline in Ephesians 4:1-3. I'll write on that another time.

I hope that the Haggards are able to find community in the church, in the purest sense of the term.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Path of Loneliness

I remember well my reaction twelve years ago when a friend first gave me The Path of Loneliness: Finding Your Way Through the Wildernes to God by Elisabeth Elliot. I was desperately lonely, having broken up with the man I thought I was going to marry, and struggling with the edges of depression that threatened to close in on me. I did NOT want to read a book on loneliness. I did not want to face my loneliness head on. I wanted my loneliness to end--with a man whom I would marry. I somewhat resented my friend for giving me the book and my God for letting me be in that situation. I read the book begrudgingly, too stubborn to really open my heart to all that was in it.

God was much more gracious to me than I deserved, giving me a wonderful husband not long after that. For some reason, while many of my friends had to deal with loneliness for years, I got to put it off for a long time. Then when we started trying to have kids, I was faced with the same threatening edges of depression after miscarrying and having a time of infertility. I read The Path of Loneliness again, and though I was happily married, the book resonated with me in a way I didn't expect. I reread it a third time when preparing for a Bible study with older single women in our church. We had a deep, fruitful discussion when we got together as a group. I was moved yet again through my study of the book even though I was a wife with 2 young children and way too little time to myself to consider myself lonely.

I love Elisabeth Elliot. Often, when I think about the great cloud of witnesses from Hebrews, that group of faithful, battle-weary believers who have gone on before us and cheer us from the sidelines, I think of Elisabeth Elliot. She is my one real female hero of the faith. She understands the pain and struggle of the Christian walk, especially the particular battles a Christian woman faces. And her writing always moves me.

She opens the book with a poignant story of flying on an airplane a year after her 1st husband's death and being overcome suddenly with a wave of emotion as she watches a man on another row retrieve something for his wife.

Only the most ordinary of gestures, meaning almost nothing, I suppose, to them. But for me, sitting by the window looking out at the cold stars, it speaks of a whole world that is lost to me now. A man and a woman. Together. His hand stretched toward her to help. (p. 12)

Whether widowed or never married, if you've been alone, you can likely identify with her . After several other moving examples, she ends the opening with the question, "What is to be done with loneliness?" This is a question we ALL must answer--single, married no kids, married with kids, empty nester, or widow. Some situations dictate we face our loneliness head on while others allow us to mask the underlying issues that loneliness exposes. But the heart issues that loneliness exposes can only be masked for so long. At some point in our lives, all of us have to deal with it.

This book is not for people who want pink fluff to mask their problems. Elisabeth Elliot exposes our hearts, asks hard questions, and peels away our superficial solutions. But her answers are so RIGHT. Reading this book, I felt the pain of the brutal exposure of my deepest fears, but in turn I felt the great hope that God is bigger than the worst circumstance life can hand me, spoken by someone who has lived it and earned the right to speak with such boldness. She paints a beautiful picture of the value of our suffering when offered up to God.

My theme is oblation--the offering up of all we are, have, do, and suffer. ... I hesitate to prescribe a method for so solemn and vital a spiritual transaction ... but a very simple thing has helped me. It is to kneel with open hands before the Lord. Be silent for a few minutes, putting yourself conciously in His presnece. Think of Him. Then think of what you have received in the four categories mentioned (are, have, do, suffer)--the gift of a child, for example, or years later, the empty nest; the gift of work on the inability to work; marriage or singleness; pleasures or burdens; joy or sorrow. Next viusalize as well as you can this gift, resting there in your open hands. Thank the Lord for whatever aspect of this gift you can honestly thank Him for .... Then, quite simpley, offer it up. ... Lift up your hands. This is a physical act denoting your love, your acceptance, your thanksgiving, and your trust that the Lord will make something redemptive for the wholeness of the Body, even for the life of the world.

Do not look for dramatic effects. There may be no discernible result ... It is a mistake to measure such things by introspection. He heard and answered. That is all there is to it. Let the anwswer be manifested in His own time and way.

I think then you will begin to know the strange peace that is not the world's kind.

Read this book. It's powerful.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Insincere Confession

If I’ve done it once, I’ve done it a thousand times. “I’m sorry for [whatever], but you [had it coming] …”.

I pretend to confess and repent of a sin against someone, but instead of stopping with my confession, I add a justification of my actions at the end. To be frank—that simply is NOT repentance. Instead, I’m trying to give a reason for my anger/bitterness/insensitivity or whatever it was that I did. But repentance is recognizing that my hurtful statements were wrong. Period. I don’t ever have justification for sinning against another.

I can easily recognize insincere confession when someone does it to me. It's much harder to see it when I do it to others. In examining myself, I see that my justifications usually come from one of two basic points of views.

1) You hurt me first.

And maybe the other person really did hurt me. The problem is that I am called to be like Jesus. Jesus--who endured the worst at the hands of men without ever sinning against them in return. I must overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). There is never justification for returning evil with evil.

2) I was having a bad day.

I justify myself because I was tired, sick, or upset about some legitimate problem. But, once again, Jesus is my example, and though He was tempted in all ways like we are, He did not use it as an excuse to sin (Hebrews 4:15). Women might say, “But He never had PMS.” I agree, but He certainly experienced physical and hormonal changes (like 40 days fasting in the wilderness or six hours nailed to a cross with only vinegar to drink) that would apply even more physical/emotional/hormonal pressure than the average bout of PMS. Jesus can fully identify with our temptations to sin. He can also fully equip us to overcome them without sin.

I was convicted of my attempts to wiggle out of conviction by this statement on C. J. Mahaney’s blog.

“When I have sinned against someone, a sincere confession is required. A confession that is sincere and pleasing to God will be specific and brief. I have learned to be suspicious of my confession if it’s general and lengthy. A sincere confession of sin should be specific (“I was arrogant and angry when I made that statement; will you please forgive me for sinning against you in this way?”) and brief (this shouldn’t take long). When I find myself adding an explanation to my confession, I’m not asking forgiveness but instead appealing for understanding.”

Wow—how true!! And how convicting!!

Friday, January 02, 2009

On Props

In the Gospel of Ruth, Carolyn Custis James mentions how Naomi and Ruth are without the normal props that most women had in their society--husband, children, and/or wealth that gave them status and security. I'd quote it here for you, but I loaned my copy of the book out and can't find the quote online. I was struck by her use of the term "prop". Consider Random House's simple definition of the term.

Prop: a person or thing serving as a support or stay

Naomi and Ruth didn't have any people (like husband or children) or things (like money or land) serving as a support in their lives. But the Sovereign God of the Universe showed Himself the only prop a person needs in their story. We all know the great way that story ends.

But for the purposes of this blog, I'd like to ponder for a moment the props (or lack thereof) in our own lives as women. Some of us have many props--and we often look to them to give our lives identity and meaning. Maybe it's your husband, your children, your church ministry, or your status in your community. Others of us have no props--we don't have husband, kids, money, or status--and we are lost without the conventional supports our society uses to assign meaning to our lives.

My question is what is your prop? And if you have props, do you see past them to find your identity in Christ Himself? Or do your props seem so vital to your identity that you can't imagine life without them?

If you don't have the normal props, how do you view yourself? Do you feel lost, in a holding pattern, waiting on God to give your life something in which to find your identity?

I've mentioned in other blog posts that I've been studying through Ephesians, and it has convicted me daily on this issue. Where does my life get its meaning? Where do I find my security and sense of purpose? Can I walk confidently into a room simply because I know who I am in Christ? Or do I need clothes, money, jewelry, husband, well-behaved children, or some other prop to give me confidence?

The Apostle Paul spends a long time in Ephesians 1 telling us the long list of spiritual benefits we have in Christ. Then he ends the chapter praying that we would know the great power at work in us who believe, which is the same power that raised Christ from the dead. If you are struggling with your identity (either because you have too many props in your life or because you have too few), I encourage you to take some time studying Ephesians 1 and praying through who you are in Christ. He is the Prop. And through Him, we have EVERY spiritual blessing that is possible (Ephesians 1:3). All other props will inevitably fail you.