Sunday, April 29, 2007

Comments (post-study Eph. 1)

I want to take this opportunity, while in the stream of reading Ephesians, to take note of the prayers I've made.

I prayed for power, and to be aware of the experience of grace.

They say that reading the bible is spiritual. This must be another example why that is the case. After praying those things, what took place? I remembered something significant that I honestly hadn't thought of in many years. I saw the impact being clearly both (especially) a dispensor of power, and, greater awareness of grace.

And while it is true that the Word is living and active the action in which I really made progress, was prayer. In the book of James it says "You do not have because you do not ask." I have been so reluctant for a long, long time to pray because I was afraid that in anything His answer would be "no." I couldn't stand the thought of it. Or I was disgusted to think I might have to give up something I didn't really want to. Both of those issues of course are ones of lacking trust. The LORD showed the power of His Word to me not in reading it like when I first believed it, but this time instead by the new task of praying on what I believed. I had no choice, but to ask. Since belief was completed so long ago, He knew that was the only way left for me to grow. He wanted to show me what He could do when I thought He should be listening. Those worries of hearing the answer "no" were issues of trust that had kept prayers to a minimum, but trust is a lot better since I remember where my alabaster box has gone.

Once that box has been broken, I'm not sure it must be re-broken again even if the power of it had been long-forsaken. What do I do now with newly made precious items that once I would have placed carefully inside the box? I have a new system set up in memorial of the meaning of the box. My mind has been transformed in function; it is more like a post office rather than a holding-tank. Whenever worries are refreshed, or new worries arise, I have a stack of pre-made address labels on the counter from which I take one and slap it on. Those labels read:

Jesus Christ
c/o God the Father
Right Hand, HEAVEN (zip code) Trinity

So they don't stay with me very long. The shipping costs are high... they are always high. It would be much easier to hold on to them rather than go through the fuss and emotional expense of surrendering and sending them off. However there are a lot of benefits of having them cleared up & out, and, just like a post office, life brings shipments of His response care-packages, rain, sleet, hail or snow.

So the most interesting question left to ask before I read on in Ephesians, is, if that's chapter one then what's the rest of the book going to do to me?

Ha ha.

Does He really know, does He really care?

The authors of Lady in Waiting used the visual of an alabaster box that contained all a woman's expectations and hopes of marriage, but for me I saw it then and also now as methodology by which Jesus would be selected as Lord of my whole life. Why stop with just those specific expectations? I knew it could be all of my hopes, my ideals, my fears... everything.

Just to bring it to Jesus was a big deal; carrying it in my hands, feeling protective of it as I transport it there because of the value of the contents, and setting it down, all were good. Surrendering it, was... a good thing. But the book described the custom with a detail of breaking it, too. Breaking it, so to spread a pleasant aroma at His feet like spilt perfume.

For me the process could not have been permanently effective without the added step of breaking it.

Leaving those items poured out as a mess, unable to gather up again, left me with only Jesus to look at. He knew what was spilt. He watched me bless Him with it. Now He would have to be real with me in response.

So I traded my cares for loving Jesus... whom I had been told, loves me.

No more do I have to mess around with re-reading doctrines of grace; no, no no.... This is superior to everything I learned. It's actual relationship. Somewhere along the way I forsook and forgot it though I never lost it. I am glad to just be living in a relational way with Jesus again. No more fear, no more stress, no more complication.

Waiting for Jesus, and watching for Jesus -- that's all I have to do. Letting Him prove Himself to me.

Friday, April 27, 2007

I remember!

Last Tuesday night I went to the women's bible study working through Mark and we discussed 14:3-9. In the passage was the word "alabaster." "Alabaster, alabaster," I kept mulling over to myself, "I've studied that word before somewhere." No longer was this an ordinary story of another jar, now in my memory I remember the story of that alabaster box!

The story was told in a Christian living book called "Lady in Waiting." It was the first Christian publication beyond just the bible I had ever read in the year and a half since realizing that I was a Christian. Some other Christian group on campus started a ladies' bible study and to me, culture shock indeed! The concept of studying the bible to change my life, prayer requests and opening prayers before studying, all of it, brand new to me.

All I could remember last Tuesday night of that study long ago, was a song by Avalon that said everything about how my faith in Christ had grown... It was "Can't Live A Day." It was my strength for the commitment I had made, and I listened to it over and over.

That is, till last night, when I cracked open the book again. Funny, I remembered the content of the story of the alabaster box, without the heart of its meaning. There on a mere page three I remembered how when I was 21 I cried tears, and I cried tears again. Immediately I felt a desire to fall at His feet like I had back then.

Now, I remember! I remember everything that I had been through. The book encouraged me that I could trust God to bring me His selection of a husband, if I would only trust Him to do it.

Then, I met Ben.

Just as the LORD had encouraged me to step out, He coorespondingly caught me and proved His majesty, His long-suffering kindness, and the greatness of His inheritance, by letting me get to know such a wonderful, wonderful man. I knew that the LORD loved me. I knew that I could always trust Him. And I knew without a doubt, that He was real.

How could I forget this? I don't understand. What happened, to me?

The LORD deserves my heart. More than anything else in the whole world I can find, even noble, even wonderful things... none of them compare to the greatness of Jesus.

Lady in Waiting, Jones/Kendall

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Exegete Ephesians (ch. 1)

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

Paul was chosen by the will of God. Am I also chosen by the will of God?

To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul chooses peace and grace as the first two blessings for the Ephesians. Why grace and peace?

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

Every spiritual blessing. Does that mean any of them have been detained from my grasp?

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

Wow-the grasp of the beginning and the end. Chosen before time, with a view to our perfection when we see Him at His return.

In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

It was love that ordered his pleasure and sovereign selection of each believer to be His son. And, His grace, his unmerited favor, is freely dispensed in Jesus.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

The richness of grace is: redemption and forgiveness of sins. What was put into effect, and when? His will is put into effect, when Christ returns. God uses Christ to accomplish His pleasure, which to us is a mystery (something not fully understood).

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.

His plan orchestrates every element. Paul was chosen by God, along with all the other very first Christians. His selection of Paul is designed to praise His glory.

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory.

The Ephesians were also included in Christ. Paul and the apostles were the first to know Jesus and were selected by Jesus Himself, face to face. The Ephesians were also selected, but by a different method; they were included by hearing the gospel, also so that his glory is praised.

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

Paul is sure that the Ephesians were included in Christ as he, by means of hearing news of their faith in Jesus coupled with their evidential love. He knew that having believed in Jesus, they became God's posession, and deposited with the Holy Spirit. Once he heard this news of the faith they had, he thanked God for it. He also prayed for the Spirit of God to give wisdom and revelation, and that their hearts would be enlightened so that they would know better the hope that comes from their faith in Jesus. That hope is composed of a rich and glorious inheritance, and an incomparable power, being a saint.

That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

The power of a saint is the same in might as that which raised Jesus from being dead, back to life. His resurrected quality of life is superior in every manner, dominating over every other force. He has ascended to the presence of the Father. The fullness of Christ is the body of Christ.

Great first chapter!

My Take Away: When Paul hears of faith in Jesus and the love that marks His disciples, he thanks God for them, and he prays for them to receive wisdom and revelation, and also that their hearts would become aware of hope, a hope which is a calling to inheritance and mighty power.

My Application: To pray for power, and to be made more aware through my own experience of the richness of grace, to praise His glory that I have a guarantee. He calls me His posession, and my destiny is to be holy and blameless.

My Wondering: Is this power accessible in this life? I'm hoping the next chapters will answer this.

Friday, April 20, 2007


Psalm 143

O LORD, hear my prayer,
listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness
come to my relief.
Do not bring your servant into judgment,
for no one living is righteous before you.

The enemy pursues me,
he crushes me to the ground;
he makes me dwell in darkness
like those long dead.

So my spirit grows faint within me;
my heart within me is dismayed.

I remember the days of long ago;
I meditate on all your works
and consider what your hands have done.

I spread out my hands to you;
my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.

Answer me quickly, O LORD;
my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me
or I will be like those who go down to the pit.

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.

Rescue me from my enemies, O LORD,
for I hide myself in you.

Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
lead me on level ground.

For your name's sake, O LORD, preserve my life;
in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.

In your unfailing love, silence my enemies;
destroy all my foes,
for I am your servant.

Monday, April 09, 2007

From the Vault

A couple days ago I went through some of my old notes looking for more insight into a question. It's stuff that I wrote back in 2002 during the beginning of my studies of the bible. I read it to know what salvation was, and if there was confidence to be had for application to me and others.

I can see how hard my mind was working back then, trying to integrate all of what I read into a single concept. I enjoyed looking through my drafts, at the things that I crossed out, and the rewrites I made for months and months trying to put human language to the salvation message, devoid of error and compact in communication.

In the eyes of today, I judge a lot of my language atrocious with evangelical fear of evil. But, at the finish of those eighteen months of intense study I penned a page of thoughts on a topic that I since have not followed up on... something that intrigues my mind now just as it did when I left it.

I was trying to use scriptural truths to minimize the distance between hearing about Jesus, and being forgiven of everything. I used substitution for equal truths.

"Previous argument: that belief = receiving God's love (1 john 2:3, 2:5)
Furthering the argument: God's love = Jesus being given to us

'I want you to be merciful; I don't want your sacrifices.' Sacrifices are not needed where sins have been forgiven (heb 10:18), and loving God with all your heart is more important than all sacrifices (Mark 12:33). God did not want sacrifices, nor was He pleased with them (heb 10:8). But sacrifice is what we are doing when we obey God's law, it is an act of worship (rom 12:1).

Now you say 'I know that I fail to love God and men, so I fail to obey the law.' But when Jesus obeyed the law He credited it to our account. He did love God with all his heart and love men. The law's requirements have been met by Jesus.

What is love? This is how we know what love is: Jesus laid down his life for us (1 john 3:16). This is how we know that we love one another: that we would lay down our life for someone else's (john 15:13).

"If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us." (1 john 4:15-16) Belief engages God's love for us.

So, if we know about the standard of love, and the standard of love is Christ (and we believe that it happened), then we have known God's love. If we know God's love, the bible says we have been saved in a reliable sense. Moreover, knowing:

the standard of love,
that the standard was Christ,
that the law commanded love,
that the sacrifice for the law was paid,
that he credited it to our account,
that there was a need for sacrifice for our disobedience,
that the sacrifice requires spilling of blood,
that Jesus spilled his blood when he laid down his life,

then knowing about God's love = the blood of Jesus (personally applied).

God's restoration to, in us, is a restoration of love."

I was trying to prove the righteousness transaction taking place by means of simply knowing and believing that God loved us by sending his son; John 3:16 -- the most common gospel phrase.

Some people like to read their bibles for the reason to distance people away from good standing with God. As I look back, I am thankful that my aim has always been to shorten that distance -- and that the scriptures allowed me to do so.


You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more. Ps 10:17-18

Why is it that God came for the broken and for the sinners? The oppressed, those without, etc.? Why does he call himself their God? These are the kind of people who find it hard to believe in a God. Their circumstances aren't as good as others. Things aren't improving and they can't make headway in life. To me, it seems people like this would doubt that a God could exist. If He did, then why would He let life be so bad? On the contrary, if life was good, I think it'd be easy to believe in God. Isn't that surely His most loyal following? Those who have everything they want, for whom blessing is real. Hopes have been fulfilled. The jump to faith in a good God, or a generous God, is not so difficult. Life is cheery like the gospel is cheery.

So it seems to me God is claiming to be all about a group of people who want nothing to do with Him.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The long-overdue story of his birth

The last time I saw my doctor, on Tuesday March 6th my doctor said, "Oh, by the way, don't have the baby this weekend because I won't be here." I said I had no intention of doing so because my mom and dad were gone and had to get back in time.

On Saturday March 10th I checked in at 10:00 AM or so, and then they hooked up the heartbeat monitor. I was checked and was 2 centimeters. Time to get up and make the contractions harder.

So I walked in the hall. The the contractions went away altogether for about twenty minutes! Crap, I thought, a sinking feeling taking over. Maybe this wasn't it?

The nurse prepared to check me again and she warned me, "Your doctor is not on call today. The doctor who is taking your case won't let you stay if you aren't making progress. He'll send you home." And then she said I was still only two centimeters. Time to go home.

I was bummed. But hungry. So I got a burger with the works and felt a million times better (hadn't eaten yet). We were feeling like we was robbed when we walked back in through the front door. Then about two hours later, the water broke!

That was a pretty exciting moment. It was like my golden ticket; they couldn't throw me out now.

Checked back in at six thirty p.m. Now I was 3-4 centimeters. The doctor came in and suggested petocin since even though I was in authentic labor they still were not going by the book because they were too irregular. Before they started the drip I remember the contractions starting to get really painful. Like I planned I dealt best with the pain by not breathing so that I could concentrate. Ben already knew that I liked silence and not to be touched or be coached. I had a different nurse and she said, "take a deep breath," and I ignored her. I held my breath the next time and she looked at Ben and said, "You can be reminding her to breathe and talk her through it." So Ben felt a little uncomfortable for a second and then when the contraction started he timidly said, "That's it, remember hee hee hoo hoo." And I found that incredibly distracting. The next contraction I got my chance to reestablish order; everyone was engaged in small talk so no one individual could be targeted and I said "SHHHHHHHH."

"I need to concentrate," I explained civilly.

There. So the contraction came again and I still wasn't breathing so the nurse said, "Okay, you have to breathe because the baby needs oxygen to cross the placenta during a contraction." That immediately made me breathe through every one from that point on, even though I didn't like it.

There was a moment when something happened with Elijah.... All of a sudden he did the mightiest kick against my tummy during a contraction and since the monitor was turned up loud already there was a huge "boom!" It scared me and I started to cry and I asked the nurse what that was and she said "what was what?" So I explained what I felt and she didn't answer. Then she said "Maybe you want to remove your children because it's been proven to cause trauma to children to hear their mother be in pain." I thought, okay, maybe I should think about that. Then I reasoned that if I could keep perfectly silent as I had been then there would be no need for it.

Time began to drag and I asked if I could be checked to see how I was progressing. The nurse told me that I should try and be checked as little as possible because interfering is always a bad thing. So I waited some more and then I said, well, what if we talked about some of the non-epidural pain-relievers to take the edge off? She said, "Okay, you need to know that they are all narcotics."

"Oh, that's right, there's a consequence of introducing that to the baby and that's not good; okay."

"No, what I want you to understand is that the first time you get injected the effect is very powerful but each time you take it subsequently its effectiveness wears off. So if you want to pace yourself you may not want to start it now."

So I thought that was good advice. The contractions went on for a bit again and I thought I better get an idea of how I was progressing through this petocin stuff so that I could pick the right time to start meds, if they would be needed at all. The nurse left the room for a little bit and I said to Ben, "I need you to help me. If you think you know what I really want, and it's not happening, I need you to speak up for me. Can you?" He said he would do that.

"So, how long then do you think I have left?" I asked her.

She answered, "I have no idea. My guess is, if you keep it up you could be having your baby by maybe 12 or one o' clock." It was only about 8 PM. That seemed like a really long time to me. More contractions went by, and I said, "Maybe I should be checked." And she replied, "If you want to be checked it's up to you. But remember that it's not good for keeping down the risk of infection." I turned my head away, feeling at a loss of what to say. I waited about twenty minutes and then suggested being checked again. No positive response. I thought of my girls, sitting over to the side of the room. I was starting to get tired, and the contractions were starting to have a new additional pain to them. I knew that if I had the epidural, then I could smile the rest of the time, and enjoy my girls, even have them sit with me. It wouldn't matter if it were one or five hours, once it was in. No more worry.

"What about an epidural?"

She became silent. "You want an epidural?" she asked with a tone of disbelief. More time passed. I looked at Ben. He looked at the nurse and said, "We're getting an epidural." He had a little twinkle of protectiveness in his eyes. She said, "Okay, I'll start the paperwork." Five or ten minutes passed and I asked, "Did you call the epidural guy? Is he on his way?" And she paused and said, "Um, I have a lot of paperwork to do and when it's all done then he will be called. Why don't you get ready to sit up now."

When I did sit up I was in jaw-trembling pain. The epidural guy came and put it in, and the girls were sent out while he did that. The nurse said, "okay let's get you laying back down so that it can administer." The epidural-guy was still in the room. She layed me on my back and roughly put in the catheter very, very fast. The epidural guy comforted me with his words, "In about 10 or 15 minutes, you should start feeling the effect. Maybe 20."

As soon as the catheter was shoved in she snapped on gloves quickly and checked me. "Hmm, I'd say, 9, or 10, good job." Then she jogged over to the nurse's phone and said, "I need the doc, I need ___, STAT." I said, "So, this means it's time to push?? I had my last baby with two pushes." The doc came in and she said to him in a faux-calm tone, "She had her last baby in two pushes," and he started rushing, putting on his stuff. "Feeling a lot of pressure?" Um, maybe, I thought, but whatever I thought could be pressure I had been feeling for maybe an hour.

I thought of the nurse and wondered if maybe she would say no to my girls coming in so I looked at Ben with the most commanding voice and said "Ben, go get the girls!" I didn't want her to tell me that I couldn't have them.

So it was time to push. About ten minutes into the pushing all the pain of the contractions went away. But it didn't deaden the pain of delivery, and that one got worse and worse. I got to the point where I didn't feel that I could push any longer. It was starting to tear. So I kind of quit. Then the nurse said, "You are the only one who can push this baby out." She was right. I realized that if this baby was bigger than the other two and I was going to tear, I'd have to choose to tear, so I set for it for the remaining ten minutes. Each time I pushed I screamed and I didn't care if I was loud. The nurse told me to stop screaming, and I ignored her. In those ten minutes I was thinking the doc was regretting not having the option to prepare with an episiotomy, so instead he was massaging the area. He kept rubbing his fingers in a circle between me and the baby's head. In my mind I pictured it more like someone hanging off the rim of a basketball hoop. Just hanging out. And the second or third time he did this I yelled "Get your hands off me!"

I was told later that he immediately threw his hands up like he was being arrested. He remained calm and didn't get mad. What a cool guy.

Things were a whole lot easier once he quit that, though. The baby came out in a total of only 20 minutes, twice as much as the last baby (still, pretty quick). Then, it was all over! Elijah cried immediately robustly but not too loud. When he looked in my eyes, though, he stopped crying. What I good baby. After I greeted him I said, "Did you hear your mama screaming baby? Well, it's all over now." He was born at 10:18 PM.

After they took care of Lijah it was just me and Mel and the nurse in the room. She said, "I need to get you upstairs now." So I said "Oh, my husband just took the girls downstairs and he'll be here in a just a moment." She replied, "Well we can't wait we need the room." So Mel packed up the stuff and the nurse said I had to go to the bathroom. She came over to help me out of the bed but my legs truly were dead. I went to stand up and... nothing. So I locked my knees and somehow made it. She came in and said, "Now if you can't go to the bathroom I'm going to have to cath you again," and walked back out. So, I had my marching orders apparently.

Before she left me in my new room I said, "Thanks for helping me get the pushing done. I really needed that." I was truly grateful for the help she had given me. But later I thought through the whole experience and realized she must have been upset when she realized I was right about needing to be checked more frequently. In one hour I went from 5-6 cm to 10. We could have followed her anti-meds, anti-epidural advice if she would have only checked me sometime after the petocin was started. That epidural was absolutely useless except maybe five or ten minutes of relief. Her goal was my goal so it makes no sense that we were at odds. I don't know what it was about me that she decided wasn't right. But in the end it doesn't matter. I was floating and peaceful and so pleased that I had a little boy. Everyone was quiet. And I was content.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

This One Hope

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven. Acts 1:9-11

They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. Matt 24:30

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. 1 John 3:2-3

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