Running south on Guy Street, past Olivia Baptist Church, 5 dogs surrounded me. I was afraid of dogs as a child, but not now. I was just sort of concerned that I might have to stop running and mess up my time, and lose my count on the tenth of a mile points I had mapped out in my head on that route. Beware of dogs... Philippians 3:2
Having already been to two church services that Sunday, and with only enough time left for a mile and a halfer, I had to hurry to be on time for the night service there in my home town. I wasn't really concerned when the high-strung mongrels surrounded me, creating a ruckus. I told them to be nice dogs and go away, and they looked like they were about to cooperate. But, then the bulldog came running into the pack with a look that said, "I'm going to show you I mean business, Sister!" Yes, he got the point across that he was not like the other four nervous mixed breeds. He grabbed hold of my calf with his bared teeth three times. I can't believe his teeth didn't penetrate my skin. Just a scratch and minor bruising.
I think he just wanted to scare me. Either way, he wasn't prepared when I shook him off my leg and into the ditch. The other four dogs ran slinking to the curb. The owner came out and gave him a whipping. In the irritation of the moment, I wasn't satisfied. I was thinking, "Kill the viscous mutt!" That was my last trip on foot down Guy Street!
I can remember my firstborn, Matt, playing little league football. He was a tough one. Once, he was tackled pretty hard and his mouth and teeth were a mass of blood and grass. I started towards him across the field, but held myself back when I heard the coach say, "Shake it off Matt, come on boy, don't let 'em stop you like that!" And, with a pat on the back, he sent my boy back out on the line. I stepped back silently, deciding maybe a bloody mouth wasn't a reason to stop playing after all. He's 25 now, and still hasn't stopped, "Shaking it off."
Embroiled in my own physical struggles now, I have found myself time and again trying to do just that, "shake them off." I find myself seriously thinking sometimes that I am going to shake this disease. But, reality grabs me, and pain shakes me right back. I have to admit that I am not capable to shake this in and of my own self. Alone, I am defeated. I have no strength. That hurts my pride. I have always been strong and independent. I would have shaken it off long ago, if I could have done it, in and of myself. But, this beast has me by the teeth, and only God will be able to loose the grips of what has me handicapped.
Dis-abled. Yes, I was "dissed." I was so angry when I was forced off my job. I felt like a dirty dishrag, tossed out as useless. It was like a friend told me several years ago in a former teaching assignment near Atlanta. She noticed that I spent 60 hours a week at work. (I always had a key to the building.) And, she told me I wasn't that needed. She told me that when I worked myself to death, they would step over my body to hire a replacement. I couldn't believe she was so jaded. I was needed. I was sure of it.
It didn't take death to show me I was not that needed. When I got a job in North Georgia, I had to finish out the contract year there of course. And, at the end of the year, I watched as my entire accumulation of Science materials were shoved into a storage closet, since they wouldn't be re-filling my position. I had worked hard for 7 years acquiring and building up all those Science resources to see the students learn. They meant nothing when I was gone. Then, here in my last position, when I refused to leave my job after I was unable to move around easily, and the numbness had set in my lower body and legs, they took my class away right in front of me, and placed me in an auxillary position until they could convince me to sign the disability papers.
Having to ask for what I want is difficult. I never realized how much I relied on being able to take care of things myself. Now, I have things that are in the storage building out back, and in the attic: books, papers, stuff. It feels like they are gone forever. I can not get them myself. I have to ask for them and hope my husband or son will know what it is I am wanting, and that they will be able to find it in the middle of all that stuff. Resources mean nothing when they are not at hand. I always liked to prowl through my stuff and find something to do. Whether building models, or experiments, or constructing timelines, organizing photos into albums, or just putting together puzzles; I was always busy. Now, I miss something that seems so insignificant even writing about it.
But, being dis-abled is not any different for me and you. I just have a firmer grip on what it is I am not able to do; the big things and the smallest things I am no longer able to do. Before, I thought I could do anything. Now, I know that it is not me who is able, but Jesus Christ in me working who will change the course of this disease; in His time.
Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
2 Corinthians 12:10 Therefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
****This is 4nd in a series of ten on "Blogging by Faith." As you read one each night, remember that nothing lasts forever. I do not know how or when God will heal me. But, I know I am healed by His Word. I will be healed for whatever purposes God has for my life. Time is irrelevant. Believe with me!
I have given and been given gifts over the course of my years that have been life changing; for both me and the other person involved in the transaction. There are meaningless transactions and there are significant exchanges. The old saying, "It's the thought that counts," has more truth than we realize. Have you ever regifted...three decades after receiving a gift? If you have, then you get my meaning. My life has been quite transient, changing perhaps. I have not held onto many things from my youth. But, I do have a few things in a trunk: letters, pictures, books, gifts. This means that the ones I held onto were important enough to be held onto by me. This is saying a lot. I have never had much of value in objects, and I have never found much value in objects. So, the tiny little dolls I held onto for 30 years, and then gave to a child could be said to be gifts of love, though they were re-gifted.
One was a precious little German doll. I remember seeing it in the drugstore my Mother shopped in regularly. They gave "Professional Dollars," little paper coupon type collectors items to children proportional to the amount spent by the parent. My Mom gave these to me and I collected them until I had enough to buy something... eventually the doll. So, it made me feel happy to be able to give something of such value... though it may have been cheap at the store, it was valued by me. Also, I have given gifts that were quite expensive and meant nothing to me. I did not value the giving, and did it out of obligation.
The point I am making is that value is in the giving, and the receiving. One of my favorite authors said,
"If instead of a gem, or even a flower, we should cast the gift of a loving thought into the heart of a friend, that would be giving as the angels give." ~George MacDonald
The TED Talk above by Stacey Kramer is a spectacular truth that we often fail to understand. We often joke about wanting to return some of the "gifts" that God has given us, and some gifts are not non-refundable. So, looking at it from this perspective now, what gifts do you value most in your life? Not the trinkets, or appliances, or musical equipment. Not the clothing, cars, or even college education funds. But, what life altering circumstance has been placed in your path that you have learned to value? Thank the Giver for the gift.
2 Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.
In this verse, the word unspeakable means not expounded, or not explained. This is the gift that Stacey Kramer is talking about above. Those things that are unexplained are simply blessings and gifts that are unidentified. They are still in the package. Mystery gifts, not because we don't see them, but because we don't know why they are here, or how they got here. Idiopathic Gifts. Fortunately, the mystery always unravels in the end, and retrospective reveals a greater purpose in every life.
There are two sides to every coin. We come to Christ “Just as we are.” But, somewhere beyond redemption, 12 changes are transacted by the ultimate price paid on Calvary. Three bodies were hung up on trees, three bodies were brought down and buried, and one body rose up out of the earth. From one side of the Cross to the other a colossal change took place in the lives of millions of followers in the 20 centuries since.
Yes, twelve changes take place in the lives of those who lift Jesus up today. From the moment we are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, we experience a turn-around in the elements of our spirit man. All of us have spirits; some just haven’t flipped the coins that were paid and accepted the “change.” One man threw the coins on the ground… at the feet of the judges who condemned Jesus… Judas. Another, Peter, accepted the change that would be transacted in his life and turned over the coins to a new existence. Paul, in 2 Corinthians 4, outlined a dozen of these two-sided coins Christians have turned over since redemption.
1. Hidden Things/ Things Manifested (2 Corinthians 4:2)
We exchange craftiness and deceit for truth. We walk in the truth of God’s Word.
2. Blinded Minds/ Enlightened Minds (2 Corinthians 4:4)
The lost are hid in the darkness while the Christian walks in light.
3. Proud Boasting/ Servanthood (2 Corinthians 4:5)
We no longer live our lives for ourselves, but become servants of God,
living for Him.
4. Frail Bodies/ Mighty Power (2 Corinthians 4:7)
Our spirits walk in unity with the spirit of God, though we are just human.
5. Trials/ Triumph (2 Corinthians 4:10)
We go through trials like Jesus, so we can have the victory like He did.
6. Death/ Life (2 Corinthians 4:11)
We carry the cross of Jesus, manifest His death in our lives, and receive
the rewards of eternal life with Him.
7. Past/ Future (2 Corinthians 4:14)
Jesus was raised up in the past; you and I will be raised up in the future with Him.
8. Grace/ Thanksgiving (2 Corinthians 4:15)
His grace operates through our thanksgiving.
9. Outward Man/ Inward Man (2 Corinthians 4:16)
Even if our body is failing us physically, He breathes life into us day by day.
10. Affliction/ Glory (2 Corinthians 4:17)
Our afflictions will lead us to an unimaginable glory to come.
11. Seen/ Unseen (2 Corinthians 4:18)
We know that there is more to this life than meets the eye. There are things unseen.
12. Temporal/ Eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18)
We don’t place our hope in the physical life now, but in the ethereal life in eternity.
Now, it sounds like we came just as we were, and put on the wedding garments. Matthew 22:11-14 All that remains is for us to accept the change. Allowing the spirit of God to work in our lives completes the transaction. This is the reason that we do not need to wait until we “get our lives straightened out” to come to church. We come just as we are, and Jesus will make us just like He is. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. Philippians 1:6 He who began a good work… will perform it!
Nature has always been a source of consolation. When I can get outdoors, I always feel better than when I am tied up indoors. Today has been a good day, with little pain. I was so sleepy because I woke up around 5 am before Larry left for work. But, I took a nap around ten and woke up feeling rested. I was able to walk around outside in the yard for about 20 minutes when the rain slacked off, and enjoyed the water world that a rainy day can become.
Otherwise, I am enjoying my new fish tank. Fish seem like such insignificant pets, but they are tiny bits of nature who hold you captive by the spark of life within them. Nothing is ever truly insignificant when it changes your focus. What may seem meaningless to others, may add meaning to your life. So, aside from the fish I already put in the tank: Anastasia & Sir Galahad (the pink & blue parrot fish,) Saphira (the fire mouth,) Jabberwocky (the Jaguar,) and John Caesar (the Black Convict); I now have five Tiger Fish and two Silver Hatchets. I discovered through research that the Tiger Fish can actually be identified as male by the layer of red on the dorsal fin and the red nose. So, it turns out all of mine but the smallest are male. I named them Bob, Bob, Bob, Bob, and Barbara Ann, respectively. I just knew that would be the appropriate thing to do. LOL.
As to the Silver Hatchets, since they are so thin and transparent, and since they love to float above all the rest of the fish at the surface of the aquarium world, I gave them archangel names: Gabriel & Raphael. Gabriel is the larger of the two. The names seem appropriate to me, if you know anything about the angels in history. Only two "good" angels' names were recorded in the Bible: Gabriel and Michael. Of those two, we see Gabriel performing as a messenger most. And, it is he that is credited historically to be the one who will blow the trumpet one day. Though all angels are messengers, which is the meaning of the word angelos, Gabriel seems to be a direct harbinger of good tidings from God. I like that. We all need a little good tidings, don't we?
There are two other angels not mentioned in the 66 books of the Bible, but they are found in the apocryphal books of the Bible, Ariel and Raphael. Oral Jewish tradition carried the names down, even though they weren't recorded per se in Scripture. Ariel is mentioned in Isaiah 29:1-7, and is used metaphorically for Israel or Jerusalem, who is to be punished by God for the fall of the nation. But the angel Ariel is said to be a demi-urge type angel of the earth, creation, and healing. But, he was a fallen angel. Raphael is an angel of healing as well, though unfallen. God Himself is known by the title Jehovah-Rapha, which refers to His healing power. Rapha is the Hebrew word for healing. So, with the names Gabriel and Raphael, I have a harbinger of good tidings and healing. Those are definitely good names for such pretty fish.
Why does all this matter? It doesn't within the fish tank. It is in the world outside the tank, and inside my head that it matters. The Bible says, "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." Philippians 4:8 I like to think about angels coming with healing in their wings, and about Messengers from God with Good news. For, it is God after all who gives us richly all things to enjoy 1 Timothy 6:17; not angels.
For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) 2 Corinthians 5:4-7
I have chopped this little selection out of a larger discussion on mortality and immortality, flesh and Spirit man. You see, whatever it is that ails you in the flesh, in my case my health problems, may cause you to wish to be "dressed" or clothed differently. Right now we are all dressed up in flesh, or mortality. We don't long so much to have this mortality taken off, so much as to have our new Spiritual bodies spring out of these earthly shells into new life, immortal and limitless. It is life we are wanting, not death.
If you watched the movie Avatar, you see the same idea. The protagonist is handicapped, and through the avatar he puts on a new body in a virtual world and is able to run and really live again. So you see, we love nature for the life that is in it. We love living animals because they have life within them. The natural world is bits of life all around us, messengers of the life that is within us, and that Spirit of life is our greatest gift.
Much of love, hate, passion, envy, all are written in the face. It seems from even a dog's gaze that you can see into his soul. Chihuahuas often seem to have human emotion and thought just from their habit of watching you. Babies learn to read the face of a parent. Asian students are taught that it is disrespectful to meet an adult's gaze when spoken to directly. American children are taught to "look me in the eye when I speak to you." Europeans typically enjoy gazing at people's faces, even those of total strangers. It is considered a compliment in some cultures to watch strangers. Autistic children usually do not make eye contact.
So much is revealed in the human face that communication via print changes the experience somewhat. Stripped from the experience is any body language, as well as voice inflection, tone, and pitch. But, somehow meaning comes across and connections are made, even when speaking to total strangers.
I have never been aware before how many faces there are. There are quantities of human beings, but there are many more faces, for each person has several.
~Rainer Maria Rilke, Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge
I think that the beauty in a face is in the ability to express emotion; the range of expressions. The hand is not a palate. The arm cannot express emotions. The legs, though often admired, are not a natural canvas. But, the human face can be molded and shaped, and reshaped in a moment. It is a natural canvas written and rewritten every moment to reveal our inner thoughts.
Interestingly, I have noticed that I can identify my sister by her hand alone. Many people create a canvas of tatoos on their body, but this doesn't have the same effect as the face and is permanent, unchanging. Also, I don't think any are really original, as someone else always has the same. But, take the human smile. No two are the same. Each one is the unique product of one person's joy. And, God created this natural canvas for the sole purpose of communication.
It matters more what's in a woman's face than what's on it.
~Claudette Colbert, quoted in Kindling the Spirit by Lois P. Frankel
My son, Travis has come a long way through the work that his teachers and I have invested in him over the years. He has Aspergers Syndrome, a highly functioning form of autism, and this anomaly strangely tends to remove any hint of facial expression as a form of communication. Not only does he not tend to reveal his emotions in his face, but if a smile tries to escape, he often tries to stifle it, or hide it with his hands. I have a funny picture of him smiling at his graduation in a quite unguarded comical pose. But, this was a result of something funny my sister said, just before the camera was snapped.
In an attempt to get a smile out of him, she said something slightly off color that left a mental picture, the kind you would want to delete instantly from your mental screen as it was an "unsexy" image. He laughed out loud and closed his eyes in an attempt to "unsee" what she had said. The effect Aspergers has on him is that it hinders his outward communication and social skills. Though he is of normal intelligence, this is unidentifiable normally. Intelligence is measured via speech and expression. He, like most men, typically only speaks up on topics that interest him. He is interested in football, video games, swords, geography, and things like that. If he feels knowledgable abot a topic, he is likely to speak up. He is very knowledgable about the Bible.
Oddly enough, outside of school, differences for children do not show up in most situations. Take a child who is mildly mentally handicapped. This is not usually something that friends would be aware of who hang out with the child. They have a learning difference that affects how they understand school work. They typically are taught "common knowledge" tasks and can take care of themselves as well as the next person. They often have good social skills, and are very expressive visually. Whereas, a child with Aspergers may be easier noticed because of the lack of speech and communication. My son did not go to his Senior Prom. But, then again, many people do not go to their prom. That's not really that unusual. But, he may never be able to engage normally in a standard job interview. Adults with Aspergers are typically very skilled in some areas, like computers, and hired through a non-standard interview.
I think your whole life shows in your face and you should be proud of that.
I have to wonder at the fact that humans have such a wide range of facial expression available to them. It is also fun to watch a baby mimic the expressions of his parent. The Bible says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalms 139:14 It is remarkable too, as Lauren Bacall said, that so much of who we are and what we have done shows up in our faces. Here on our faces, we have a written book, that is ever changing. We write the stories of our lives, and the indelible record of the people and situations we have experienced leave their print on our face. But, over top of that imprint, we have the ability to mold and shape a million expressions to communicate with our fellow travelers in the universe. We are truly blessed to have the ability to communicate with our faces.
"You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and
read of all men" 2 Corinthians 3:2
2 Corinthians 11:16-33, 12:1-11
Yes, everybody plays the fool sometimes. Here you see Paul playing the fool, illustrating for the early church two things: first the foolishness of bragging about what God has done through your life, and second the fact that the best thing we have is our weakness and dependence on Christ. It reminds me of the story C. S. Lewis tells at the end of the chapter titled Faith in his book, Mere Christianity.
"It is like a small child going to its father and saying, 'Daddy, give me sixpence to buy you a birthday present.' Of course, the father does, and he is pleased with the child's present. It is all very nice and proper, but only an idiot would think that the father is sixpence to the good on the transaction."
The fact is, as Lewis makes the point, everything we have is given from God. How can we boast of what we have received?
But, Paul continues to explain that the strength of Jesus is illustrated best in our weakness. So, when we are compelled by our own need to turn to Christ, we then end up with more strength than we would have had, had we not been deficient to start with. This too can be illustrated with C. S. Lewis' anecdote of the six pennies, for the boy now is six pennies and/or a gift for his Father richer in the deal. That is all we have to boast of, the pleasure in sharing the gift, is it not?!