Thursday, October 25, 2012

Down the Migraine Spiral

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. 
Psalms 23:1-6

      Today is not the first time I have walked through a dark valley. I have been through valleys where the walls were constructed of pure, unchecked emotion; the Valley of Depression. I have walked in valleys darkened by despair, by fear, by worry, by troubles within myself, and by the trials of others whom I love. The dark vale I have walked through the most frequently, however, is the Valley of Pain.

      In this place, I find my world can narrow to an almost infinitesimal point. At other times, I pace restlessly and babble inanely, unable to concentrate or even sit still; these are the times when my world expands and I am tossed about in an ocean of anguish. Still other times, the most frequent times, the pain is merely the backdrop before which my life is played out. I have been told I have migraine headaches, cluster headaches, headaches caused by nerve damage, and possibly others, any one of which may blend seamlessly into another at any time. Often, a headache is the first thing to greet me in the morning and invades my last moments of awareness before I fall asleep.

     As I type this, I am on two preventative medications and have take two separate abortive medications. The pain has been blunted to the level of what I call a "functional migraine," meaning I can still perform basic duties or anything that is fun or distracting (like writing), but multitasking is impossible without my becoming confused or anxious. Perhaps my words meander, perhaps they may make sense: I know not. I type to distract, not to communicate  in times like these. On days like today, normal activities must be dimmed and my standards have to be lowered, but I can get through the day. This is a good migraine day. A bad one sees me never quite being functional and unable to move from whatever spot the pain crossed the threshold between "functional" and "full-blown." Those days are not my favorite.

     None of this is fun, and that is just a quick overview. However, in the midst of this valley of darkness, God is there. He is teaching me to trust Him through it. He is showing me that I truly cannot find my way alone --I need my Shepherd desperately. It is only by following hard on His heels that I can hope to through the gloom. It is He who lights the path, and if I take my eyes off Him even for a moment, it is easy for this foolish sheep to lose my way and be swallowed up in the shadows. Pain stalks me relentlessly here, but when my concentration is bent on following my Shepherd, I find that it can fully engulf me but it cannot destroy me. Even if the rest of my life is spent battling various headaches and the resulting fatigue, at least I know I do not fight alone. He is with me. His rod and staff are a comfort to me. He, too, has walked through the Valley of Pain--and come out alive on the other side. Because He has trod this path already, I know that He knows the way through. And so I will gladly follow, no matter how long and grueling the journey is. He is worth it, and what's more: He understands.

For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 
2 Corinthians 4:6-11

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


As he was drawing near--already on the way down the Mount of Olives--the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"
And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples."
He answered, "I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out." 
Luke 19:37-40

     I wonder at times if I am too hesitant with my praise or too cautious with my requests? I have seen God do mighty works in my heart and in my life, but I think sometimes I have been reserved about giving Him the credit that is His due. I am ashamed by that.

     He is teaching me, also, to be more bold in prayer. In this area, too, I have been conservative, afraid to ask for things that are too big or too specific. In a recent meeting, another believer stated this as "saving face for God." This is what I do, too, or perhaps I am really saving face for myself, afraid to ask publicly for something only to have it withheld. I am also ashamed by this.

     Would it not be better to cry aloud to God from my heart, heedless of who is listening; to talk with my Father as if it were He and I alone in the world? Would it not be better to present my requests without fear or shame, knowing and even loudly declaring that such requests are His to grant or deny as He wills? Should I not praise Him with unabashed zeal regardless of what He does or does not grant? Nowhere in His word can I find one of the "superheros" of the faith who was not bold, almost reckless, in speaking with the Almighty.

     Take Moses, who was hesitant to obey at first and even asked, "Oh my Lord, please send someone else," yet he was later found to have the audacity to ask, "Please show me Your glory!" Isaiah, once his lips had been touched by the burning coal from the altar, was quick to shout, "Here I am! Send me!"even though his mission was often to preach to those who neither heard nor cared. Hezekiah, through Isaiah's invitation, asked for the shadow to go backward ten steps as the day increased, and Gideon asked twice for an incredibly specific sign with his fleece. Many other prophets and Jesus's own disciples asked without trepidation for healing and even for the raising of the dead. So I know that there is no request outside the reach of my God. So why do I hesitate? Am I waiting for the stones' song to ring out?

     Father, today I triumphantly declare Your greatness!.  You are not good because of my circumstance; You are good regardless of it. You are the Rock, the Mighty One upon whom my faith is built. There is no God like You and I serve You proudly and with relish. May it be that I always proclaim the works of Your hand, Your incredible love, Your power, and Your praise without fear. You have been goading me to walk more boldly and I have only just begun to get my feet wet in it. Grant me the courage to immerse myself completely!

     Today I ask without fear that You would grant my husband a job that would be a reward to him for years of hard work. May it be a job that will allow for family time, be an asset to his reputation, and be a financial boon and reward. We earnestly await Your word in this matter, laying all at Your feet and trusting that if you do not grant this request it is because You know better what he needs than we. I have asked for a number, Lord, but I choose to keep that between my family and You. This is my fleece in this matter, and I ask it knowing that You will do what is best and also knowing that we can only hope to receive if we ask. Whether You give or You withhold, we will magnify You. May the stones never drown out the tumult of our praise! 

I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together! 
Psalms 34:1b-3

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Without Excuse

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Romans 1:19-23

     I could happily hike every last hour of my life in and around the Brainard Lake Recreation Area of Colorado. I am not well-traveled, I admit, but there is something I love about the hush of this particular place, an impression of serene seclusion spiked with the scent of evergreen. The entire area is a feast for the eyes from the stately spruce trees to the peculiar, lime-green lichen on the stones. As I strolled, thrilling in the piny fragrance, I spotted a grey jay peering down in curiosity from a branch while I, equally curious, peered back up at him. A golden-mantled ground squirrel posed teasingly on a fallen limb just long enough for me to ready my camera but not quite long enough to release the shutter. Small streams murmured a muted tune as they ambled along the rocky ground while the bare tops of mountains poked their heads just above the treetops as if straining to gain a better vantage over the scene. It was a glorious hike and I reveled in it.
     As I reflect back on all that splendor now, I cannot help but wonder how a place that is so marvelous, so replete with evidence of its Creator largely unobscured by concrete, plastic, and metal, how can such a place be so full of spiritual blindness? I'm sure a person could argue for the Big Bang theory or some other theory common to modern science, but then a person could also display their absolute confidence in unproved theorems over the abundant evidence of mere common sense. Such a man as this has much more faith than myself, albeit in the wrong things. For I firmly believe that it takes a much greater measure of faith to believe in that which my very senses deny, to believe that all the intricacy of creation came about by mere happenstance. It takes a faith bordering on fantastic--and indeed, it is rooted in fantasy--to think that the marvel of the spoken and written word, the capacity for complex thought, the conscience and the ability to reason all evolved from some more primal, base creature.
     The capacity to accept, and therefore also to reject, one's Creator is hardwired in the brain of Homo sapiens, and it is silly, really, to go poking through the bones of primates in an attempt to find the imaginary moment the ancient brain drifted from the genus Australopithecus and discovered it had evolved into a separate genus altogether. It is funnier still to hear the media latch onto these rather mediocre and uninteresting discoveries, calling them an "early species" of human and thus exposing their complete disregard for elementary school science classes in which we are all taught that genus and species are the final two categories in which each individual creature is distinguished from others in their class.
     Oh, do not worry, my friends... I can laugh at these things because I once swallowed them whole and so I can find amusement in that for I find that I am most ridiculous of clowns. I have to admit that even when I was a wholehearted proponent of evolutionary theory, the one fine difference between what is commonly called "species" and the actual meaning of the term did always chafe. At the time, I brusquely ignored it in favor of the "enlightened" view I felt I was adopting. I was educated, intelligent, beyond such foolish myths as gods and devils. I was the new man, no longer in need of a god to guide me. I would shake my head at the simple, naive beings who had that need of a god as a crutch; poor things unable to stand alone. I marveled in the wisdom of man, who had created himself! A world which had just incredibly formed itself out of chaos, evolving from nothing into everything! It was astonishing! And it was not until late in my 20s that these idiosyncrasies began to do more than chafe, they began to be revealed as glaring holes in the theories. It wasn't until I remembered the meaning of the word, "theory" that the theories themselves began to crumble. I had chased ghosts and found them to be wisps of mist. I had rejected God as a myth and then found that I was rejecting reality instead. In my utter horror of being foolish, I had embraced a myth and become a fool.  It was a humbling experience.
     Now that I know Him, I can see Him everywhere--and I know that I was without excuse. I did not need to be told about God; God  was telling me about Himself in every majestic oak, in each immovable boulder, every gorgeous sunset and every mighty storm. He was teaching me about Himself through His creation when I would not look into His word, and so when I came to read and believe the Bible, I knew I was firmly without excuse. He had been teaching me all along. It was me who was not seeing or hearing, but He was no less there. His fingerprints and His nature are indelibly stamped into the world He created, and to fail to see it is to be spiritually blind. He opened my eyes. It is my prayer that He will open many more in the days to come. May our species no longer worship the creature--ourselves--but instead our Creator. He has given us His world and His very word that we may know Him. May it be that we, with open hearts and in humility of mind, may we come to worship God in spirit and in truth.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  Romans 8:18-23

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.