Butterfly Sparks Designs

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

2012: Praise.

For the past two years, God has given me a word for the year. 2010 was Breakthrough, 2011 was Dreams.

One night this past November, as I was in excruciating pain and had been bedridden for weeks, I heard the word for 2012.

Praise… 2012 is going to be all about Praise.

That’s such a God thing to do, isn’t it. Seriously? To give me a word like praise on a night like that. I tried to talk him out of it for a couple of weeks months, trying to convince Him that we could focus on praise later.

God, you can raise me like a victory banner on a battlefield, you can allow me to multiply your Kingdom and you can give me a melodious voice to proclaim your majesty. I want you to do that. But for now, God, can you please just let me weep? Can you just let me grieve for a minute? Can you stop time and just stay with me for a while while I catch my breath?

He did.

And since that time, He’s been faithfully showing me that the scars on my body and on my heart are unexpected pathways to joy. I’m learning to trust Him in a brand new way.

But that’s not the whole story. I tried to think of beautiful words that I could post about the year of Praise, to convince you that I have it all together. To convince you that I am as strong as so many of you tell me I am. The fact that so many of you have written to me and shared that I inspire you to a greater faith just makes me chuckle. Because my faith has been so intermittent through this journey. If you only knew.

The truth? The praise that I have for God’s miraculous healing of my body from cancer is quite possibly the highest praise I have ever brought to God. I feel a depth of gratitude and utter thankfulness that I don’t have never experienced before. I can’t lift my hands high enough or sing loudly enough to reach the level of praise that my heart has for Him. 

But here’s the thing. It coexists with a deeper sense of suffering…and fear… that I have ever experienced in my lifetime. A heart cry for further healing from the pain, the horrible swelling (lymphedema), and the deformity of my body. A grief that goes deeper than I can describe, and that I am ashamed to admit in light of the amazing blessings revealed in this journey. Yet I can’t bow low enough or cry deeply enough to convey the level of pain and fear that I feel.

What is wrong with me? I have been wondering how the high and the low can coexist, and asking God to show me what it is about Him that I don’t trust. Trying so hard to “do it better”, to be more “holy”. Surely, those two things shouldn’t exist at the same time if I’m a “good Christian”, right?

And as I seek and pray for wisdom and peace, I keep coming back to Jesus’ agony in The Garden. (See my last post.)

There, in the Word and in The Garden, I find Truth.

Jesus asked God for the cup of suffering to be taken from Him if it were God’s will. He was in so much anguish that His body released bloody sweat. I believe that He was afraid. He longed to please His Father, and He would have done (and did) everything God ever asked of Him. Yet His fear and His faith were both present in the Garden that night.

There is a very powerful Truth present here.  The very place from which a few weeks later He would ascend to Heaven was the place He now cried.  And we are told in His Word that to this place, one day He will return (Zechariah 14:9).  

And guess what else? God could have resurrected Him with a perfect body. But He didn’t. Jesus arose fully restored except for one thing… His scars. So everyone would know who He is.

So whether I “feel” it or not, I choose to praise Him, no matter what.

Because I know that the very place that I find myself broken now is the very place from which one day soon, I too will arise. And my scars will ensure that everyone knows who He is.

So with gritted teeth, a lump in my throat, a tear-streaked face, and a heart full of hope…

I praise. 

Because He is faithful. Because He is grace. Because He is love.

Because He is worthy.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

After He Was Strengthened.

I wonder what the angel said.

We aren’t specifically told that the angel was Gabriel, the same angel that told Mary she would give birth to the Son of God, but I like to think that it was.

I imagine the passion of a father racing across town to be with his son in the emergency room.

God, sending His angel Gabriel, to Gethsemane.

“Hey, Gabriel, 34 years ago I sent you to tell Mary that she, a virgin, would give birth to Jesus, the King of Kings. Now, I send you to earth again. Go to him, He's in the Garden. Hurry. My Son is crying.”

I wonder what he said to Jesus. Well, we will never know for sure, because the Bible is silent about it. But we know whatever it was, it strengthened Him.
Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22: 39-44, NIV)
Wouldn’t you think that after Jesus was strengthened, He would have quickly dried his eyes, offered a brave smile, and passionately resumed His mission? But it didn’t happen that way. Before He rose from the anguish, He cried even harder.  So hard, in fact, that His own sweat turned bloody. This happened after He was strengthened.

My Jesus, after receiving encouragement, prayed even more earnestly and cried harder.

Me too, Jesus. Me too. 

Perhaps we're meant to learn that the richest hope permits the deepest suffering...

Perhaps we’re meant to learn that the deepest suffering releases the strongest power...

Perhaps we’re meant to learn that the strongest power produces the greatest joy.

In the deepest part of my soul, I long more than anything to live in the fullness of His power alive in me, and to further His Kingdom.  But for tonight, from my personal garden, with a strengthened heart, I cry out even harder to Jesus:

My God, My Jesus, bind up my wounds, erase my fears, and deliver me from disease and pain.  Breathe life into my dry and tired bones.  But not before you teach me how to die, Lord.  Not before you teach me how to die.